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We didn’t have a Middle School and Life Sucked Then Anyway!

We also didn’t have a Kindergarten. Oh, we did for two weeks. The elementary school decided to experiment with a preparatory class and my mother enrolled me. There were seven unfortunate children who had to miss out on two weeks of warm Autumn days that could have been better used playing outside in my then rather unformed opinion. About the only thing I remember was that one girl could count to twelve and it made me quite angry, since I could only count to five. I could see no reason for going higher. I only had five fingers on one hand and had to use the other hand to tick them off when counting. That’s about as much as was necessary in a small town of that era.

I couldn’t read either. I understand that children are more or less expected to have mastered calculus and classical literature by the time they enter first grade today. If not, they’re out of luck, since most of the teachers they’ll encounter won’t have the time to teach them. There is something to be said, however, for waiting until that special, critical-period of brain development that is reached as a child matures. My first grade teacher was a blessing. She had many years of experience at unlocking the mysteries of the printed word for her charges and once given her special kick-start, I became an inveterate reader.

Not having an actual flashlight at the time, I would take a D battery, a piece of wire and a flashlight bulb that I’d retrieved from a discarded light and contrive to hold them together with one hand while I turned pages with the other underneath the covers of my bed until long after my mother had told me to turn the lights out. She probably knew, but had the grace not to disabuse me of the notion that I was pulling something off.

It was really difficult to stop reading after bed time, I enjoyed it so much. Among other things, I learned that my imagination was far better at visualizing characters and scenes without pictures. When you’re given a picture, it limits the possibilities. When you watch video, you’re locked into a different mode of processing. It’s passive rather than active and I’ll submit that it leads to a different type of brain development. Perhaps not better or worse, but different.

Our fly-over-country, small-town school system was limited by the sparse population of the area. There was an elementary school that covered grades 1 through 8 and a high school that covered four years. The best I can say about the over-all experience was that it didn’t completely turn me off on the idea of learning. I was skinny and not a member of the popular clique (our town was so small that we only had one). I found much of the social dialogue then, as now, to be trivial. The teachers were either first years or on their way out of a mostly unsatisfactory career. I had a measure of success playing basketball for our high school, but what really saved me was when I discovered science fiction.

What a great find! I could hardly wait for my mother’s monthly drive to a nearby town for supplies. I could go into one or the other of two department stores that sold paperbacks and spend my pennies on reading material. (Yes, I am that old and books often sold for less than a dollar then.) The only problem that I had, was I’d often have my purchases read within a few days and then have to wait for the next shopping trip.

Given that pleasant experience, it’s now natural for me to be overly enthusiastic about e books. The convenience factor is wonderful. I will usually load up two or three novels in preparation for an airplane journey.

I tried my hand at writing early on and created a book on an electric typewriter that I still have somewhere – the book, I mean; not the typewriter. It might eventually find its way through the scanner and OCR process to be re-edited. As I recall, the plot wasn’t bad, but the execution was horrible. The writing process was painful, even with white-out. I felt that the introduction of computers into the writing process was a great advance, freeing authors from the fear of making mistakes.

I actually used an IBM 360a to write my dissertation in grad school. The machine was several tons in weight and occupied a huge, air-conditioned room in the university computing center. Using it was fun. I keypunched cards and kept them in a cardboard box in order (if you dropped the box and spilled the cards, you really had trouble). Then I’d carry the box over to the submission window after midnight and anxiously wait for the output in about 12 hours or so. The word processing program had only two commands: capitalize a letter and start a new paragraph (with the first letter capitalized). Corrections meant you had to retype the entire line on a new card and stick it into the box in the right place.

So, you can see that today’s computers and software are things that I really appreciate. I fell into the habit of writing about spiritual issues first, then succumbed to blog posts. My blogging led to my first Kindle book, a 280,000 word compilation of posts entailing funny stories and various observations about real estate sales.

A few years ago as I was re-reading an old sci-fi novel from the ’50s and had the thought that, “I could write as good a story as that.” This led to “The Time of the Cat.” This full-length book combines some of my favorite elements from other authors, namely smart cats, alien invasions, advanced weapons (thanks to Stanley G. Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey” for the splinter-gun idea) and psychic ability (James H. Schmitz’ Telezy character among others). It also owes a lot to my studies of quantum physics and new-age energy healing including extensive out-of-body meditation.

I deliberately chose to write it in the first-person-immediate mode. In real-life, you never quite know what is going on, not being omniscient, of course. This was a challenge, but it did allow me the opportunity to emphasize the fast-paced action of much of the story in a way that readers have told me makes it difficult to put the book down.

I now find that the primary problem facing today’s author is not writing or publishing – that’s easier than ever, but marketing the book. That’s a cat of a different sort entirely.

You can find a video trailer on this page and also the links to both Kindle and Amazon (if you prefer the old-fashioned paperback experience.)


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Preview of “The Second Wave”

Update: The second book in the Gaea Ascendant series is now available at this link: Second Wave

I’m leaving the rough draft for your preview – below.

Preview – rough draft of the first four chapters of The Second Wave – Gaea Ascendant: Vol. II (c) 2015 E. S. Martell

If you’ve read “The Time of the Cat”, you should have an idea that Dec isn’t through with the aliens and vice versa. I’m currently finished with the second book. Here’s the first four chapters for you to sample. WARNING! This is my first draft, so the writing is going to be rough. My writing path involves getting the story down and then fine-tuning it considerably, so please don’t expect finished work here. This is about 10k words. Comments are welcomed!

Click here to read:

“The Second Wave” Preview Page


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Four Easy Steps to Create a Video Trailer for a Book Promotion

I’m somewhat sleepy today. I spent several late hours working on a video trailer. Since I’m just starting to promote my latest book, “The Time of the Cat,” I don’t have many sales, although a bunch of free copies have gone out on Kindle. With no real income on this project as yet, I thought that I’d try my hand at creating my own trailer rather than spending my cash.

Now, I’m not unfamiliar with making digital videos, but I’m absolutely not a video person. I once spent around $5 million setting up a post-production studio for a company, but that was in a different life and a long time ago. Even so, I never got into the production end of the business.

So, when you’re a novice and need video on-the-cheap, what do you do? Well, I have an Animoto subscription that I purchased for another project about a year ago. I’d done one video using it and then had ignored it. However, I remembered that I’d had a good experience with the software then, so I logged back in and set to work.

There are a number of steps that you should probably take when creating a video. The first is determining your target audience. My book is science fiction/adventure with heavy action throughout, that more or less predetermined my audience profile. As a result, (see the fourth step, part g below) I selected a musical track that features hard, driving, techno-type music with a heavy beat. It might not be your cup of tea, but I felt that it fit very well with the action theme of the book.

The second step is to script the video and I should probably have made that a formal step, but, hey, the book itself is a pretty good script – I just tried to pick some of the characters and highlight scenes and locations to integrate.

The third step is to come up with the video content. I simply used my existing artwork or artwork I created with a couple of paint packages, along with a few public-domain pictures and some pictures that I already had.  The story is centered around a complex alien invasion and the aliens are pretty nasty and scary. I believe that your imagination is a far better medium than my art, so I tried to just hint at their characteristics to give you a starting point.

I also used sections of the wonderful cover art that was created for me by Kris Krygier. I selected portions of the picture, cropped them and saved them to show the space theme and the main characters. With the pictures of Dec, Liz, Jefferson (the cat) and one of the nastier alien forms, I simply showed them as they were drawn.

Fourth: With all of my materials gathered into one folder on my computer, I uploaded all of the artwork at once into the Animoto video creator. This is a great piece of software and is very easy to use. As a long-time programmer and software designer (started with the Apple II in the Paleolithic), I usually find software easy to learn. I’ve got a test for good software; if it can be used in a few minutes without reference to any instructions, then the design is excellent. Animoto fits that category and so I’m not going to try and describe how to use it to you. You’ll be able to figure it out, trust me.

There are some steps in the video creation process that you must take in sequence, though. a) I first selected the style of video that I wanted — a flashy, quick-change-of-images style. b) Then I arranged the pictures in the order that mostly followed the story-line. This arrangement is just a suggestion to the style I selected, since it sticks pieces of pictures in the background at random and repeats itself at times. c) It does allow you to “highlight” selected images and the effect of that is to expose them for a little longer to the viewer. I used that to place emphasis on the cover art and the main characters of the story.

After that was done, I went back and d) added some sub-titles to some of the pictures in the video. I didn’t want too much text; it’s not necessary. The pictures are more or less self-explanatory and the idea is to get you to want to read the story anyway.

Finally, e) I stuck my picture on the front as a logo and f) set up a link to the book’s page on Kindle. Both of these actions are easy to do. Animoto provides a special logo set-up that allows you to choose the animation effect and it also provides a “call-to-action” button setup that creates a link to an external site. Before previewing the production, I g) selected the background musical track from the extensive list provided by Animoto.

All that was left to do was to h) click on the Produce button and decide where to place the video. I chose Youtube and my book blog: Animoto also provides a convenient Tweet button so that the video link may be easily promoted.

Creating the trailer was a snap; a three-hour, after midnight snap. I’m sleepy this morning, but pretty satisfied with the result. Here it is — turn up your speakers and watch, then let me know what you think.

Find it here — Kindle Store


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How to Find the “Right” Book to Read for Entertainment

Let’s face it. The old book, “The Confetti Generation” had it right. We’re suffering from an over-abundance of information. At this point, there is so much noise in the market that finding a book that you will enjoy has become largely a matter of chance or good marketing.

With all credit to best-selling author, John Locke, he’s very good at selecting his target audience and writing specifically to them, but he’s even better as a marketer. In his own telling, he somewhat magically spring-boarded a timely blog post about a public figure into a lot of book sales. That was an act of pure genius. He’s proven it by both replication of the marketing steps involved and, more convincingly, by reaching the pinnacle of sales on Kindle. His rationale for pricing at $.99 is perfect. His books don’t have to be as good as conventional books selling at the more common $10.00 price point or above; those books have to prove they’re ten times better than his. In my opinion, Locke’s strategy amounts to creative marketing. While some think that his “loyalty-transfer” blog posts game the system, the end result is that readers find his books and that’s what counts.

This brings me to an interesting point. The best-written book might be lost in the huge noise-to-signal chaos that the change in the publishing model has created. It used to be that books had to convince a publisher to devote considerable resources in order to get them to market. This scheme of things, while undesirable from some aspects, meant that most of the products out there were at least moderately entertaining.

The problem with the publishing-house model was that there just isn’t room for every author and all topics. A publisher ignores some books, simply because they aren’t interesting to the editorial staff or fail to meet some other criterion-Du-jour. The new digital-publishing model is one that has bypassed this bottle-neck. Today, anyone can publish a book. E-publishing has delivered an unprecedented amount of power to any author. All that is needed is the desire to write. (I’m not addressing talent yet.)

The negative aspect of this unconstrained transfer of power is obvious to anyone who has spent time browsing through e-book titles. There are simply more out there than it’s possible to read.

I’m a fast reader, but I don’t have a lot of time and that limits me. The upshot is that I, just as you, have to carefully select the books that I choose to gift with my time. Even if money weren’t an object and one could buy all of the books one wanted, time remains the problem. Personally, I’ve purchased a lot of e-books and have read all of them with the exception of a few cases when the writer’s style and/or ability left me high and dry.

How did I find these books both good and bad? I first started reading science fiction when I was in high school and that was a long time ago in a galaxy far – well, you get it. I would walk into a store, go to the book department, browse a bit, pick up some good-looking books based largely on the covers and then count my money to determine how many I could buy. You can do essentially the same thing today digitally from the comfort of your couch. The catch is, you can browse for hours and hours without running out of titles, or at least until you get tired and pick what you hope is the best out of a limited subset of the offerings.

The dilemma becomes, do you depend upon blind luck (which may lead you to a dud of a book) or slick marketing (which may take the place of good writing)?

I hope you aren’t expecting me to provide an all-encompassing answer here, because I’ll be d****ed if I can figure it out, especially this late at night. The best I can come up with is to read the reviews; but what if the author has paid for good reviews? There you are again — the victim of marketing.

So, what’s an aspiring author to do? How does he (or she) reach readers that might enjoy his work?

I may be dead wrong, but I think my writing will keep you entertained. My first sci-fi book, “The Time of the Cat” is now available on Kindle and Amazon via CreateSpace. As you can see, I’m working at the marketing aspect of getting you to read it with posts like this one. I really can’t help you with the time element, the book is slightly over 108,000 words and reading it will take however long it takes. But! But, I can help with the money a little bit! I’ve set up a free download promotion on Kindle for the next few days (October 7, 2014 October 11, 2014!)

Here’s the link: Kindle Store: The Time of The Cat

Here’s the Video Trailer link

Now for the shameless, begging part (you just knew it was coming): If you read the book, please take the time to review it. That’s the only way others will know if it’s worth their while.


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What does it take to create a book cover?

For my first Kindle book, “The Real Estate Blues,” I simply got out some acrylic paint and whipped out a rather clumsy drawing that captured some of the elements of the book. Inasmuch as that book is a series of almost 400 essays with a huge range of topics, it was impossible to cover every element. I touched on the basics, though. The cover contains a doghouse that relates in two ways. A number of the essays contain humor, including stories about dogs. For the second part, it sometimes seems as if the real estate salesperson is often just a step or two away from figuratively being in the doghouse. That’s not to say the agent has done anything wrong, it’s just that when things don’t go as desired from the seller’s or buyer’s point of view, the agent makes a convenient scapegoat (deserved or not). My total cost for this cover was really just my time (cheap and it shows!)

For my science fiction book, “The Time of The Cat,” I found a wonderful, freelance artist, Krzysztof (Kris) Krygier and he turned out to be great to work with. We communicated in a series of brief messages and I eventually sent him the first 50 or 60 pages of the book. Based on that, he turned out a great idea that conceptualized the main plot device of the book — the idea that aliens had installed a network of matter transporters across the Earth and on various moons in our solar system. From there the effort simply required clean up and fine tuning.

The final design incorporated one of the more dangerous aliens, my male hero – Declan Dunham and his romantic interest and co-fighter – Liz. She may look soft and feminine in the picture, but don’t let that fool you. She’s as tough as he is and probably a better shot, too. There is one other character that simply had to be on the cover and that is the orange Tom cat, Jefferson, for whom the book is partially named. He didn’t seem to fit into Kris’ drawing, but he eventually found a home sitting on top of one of the transporters on the back cover. He’s got a rather supercilious air with an attitude of “Don’t mess with me!” and that suits his personality perfectly.

To give you an idea of the steps involved, I’ve created a gallery (found to the right of the screen) that shows art in each of the various stages of design and clean-up. I don’t want to encourage Kris to charge me more, as I’m using him to develop the cover for the next book in this series, “The Second Wave,” but I felt that his product was well worth every cent that I paid.

It seems to me that the reader’s first experience with a book is the cover. I know that, in contrast to the old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover,” I am drawn to a book by several things, the title, the author, and the artwork on the cover. Unfortunately, my experience has been that some very good and well-written books have cover art that doesn’t add to the reader’s enjoyment.

My intent and desire, then, is to have a cover that adds to the overall experience of the book. I hope that my (and Kris’) effort meets with your approval!  Should you need artwork with a fantasy or science fiction theme, I highly recommend Kris. He can be found on


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Why Do We Like Stories About Monsters?

I’ve got two problems. I love to read and I’ve always been overly optimistic about human nature. I hope for the best, but lately, it seems that just about everyone has set out to disappoint me. My wife tells me to just ignore the news, but the blasted stuff is so compelling. Compelling deliberately, because viewers and clicks sell advertising. Still, no matter where you look, you see examples of blind hatred, self-destructive antipathy, gross incompetence, and stupidity on Idiocracy levels.

Have you noticed that TV is usually several days behind in coverage of current events and it’s also pretty one-sided – the side depending, of course, on your choice of channel? My other news source, the Internet, is a hotbed of  “outrage porn.” No matter your personal predilection, you can always find at least one slant on a news item that really ticks you off. Unfortunately, whether you read one side’s view or the others or maybe even both, there’s a high likelihood that the actual facts don’t warrant either interpretation.

Despite all the divisiveness, I keep hoping that everyone will eventually get together and begin treating each other like they’d want to be treated themselves. It just never seems to happen in real life. People continue to find trivial things to disagree about. These little disagreements turn into big ones and the next thing you know, someone is dead or there’s a war somewhere or some people are being repressed violently by another group.

Humans apparently need enemies. It’s probably a result of our tribal origins. Despite wistful thinking or willful blindness, many humans think that their lives aren’t complete unless they have someone to hate, denigrate and fight. Perhaps it’s a neighbor who belongs to a different political party, church, race, sexual orientation, or maybe just combs their hair on the wrong side. It’s really all the same; they are worthy of hate because… You fill in the blank. If you don’t like being reminded of this, good! At least I got a response.

This sad state of affairs made me think, what would happen if humans had an external enemy, one that poised a serious threat to all of us. Would we pull together and stand as a group? This thought happened to become mixed up with another idea that I had. A few years ago, a French artist placed a non-working door on the blank side of a building. Today, the door gets mail delivered to it and the city maintenance people keep it clean. It’s become an established part of its neighborhood in Paris. When I read about it, my first thought was, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if there were a functional matter transmitter hidden behind the door?”

Both of these ideas came together in book form and, naturally, they created a situation that required a man of action to deal with the alien enemies that just had to come through the matter transporter. I mean, what’s a matter transporter good for unless it provides access to the Earth for inimical creatures from another world? That’s where Declan Dunham came in. He’s competent and a good fighter, but he’s always been rather unsuccessful with women (although that’s about to change.) He also makes strategic mistakes at times, but he is definitely the man for the job when it comes to interfering with plans to invade the Earth.

Thanks to Dec, I realized that I like reading because it’s fun and a relaxing use of free time. On the other hand, writing is stressful, takes a lot of time and is a lot of work! To help him through this story, I spent my free time writing which inevitably cut down on the time available for reading. My goal was to work hard so you could spend your free time in an enjoyable manner. I made my characters risk their lives, so you can have fun. But, as I wrote, I realized that I was exploring what humans might do, if faced with an outside enemy. The story also deals with what it might be like to have our current system of living broken, forcing us to reset and rebuild in a new pattern. I sometimes think that we may have trapped ourselves and a full reset of our society might be necessary to progress.

I believe that most people aren’t in a position to take definitive action regarding things they don’t like about our world. Dec rather inadvertently finds himself in a situation which demands that he do something. Now, you can follow him through his difficulties from your armchair without working up a sweat. Trust me, it’s a lot easier that way. Who knows, perhaps you’ll come up with a thought that will lead to a whole new way of living for all of us.

Declan hasn’t stopped with the events in the first book. He’s now back up to his old tricks, busily trying to create as much havoc as possible in the second book of the series. The Second Wave will be released in December, 2014, so please watch for it! If you’d like an email notice that it’s available, connect with me using the widget on the right side of the screen.