Eloise and Avalon: Ebook is released

7 12 2016


Greetings fans and readers! I am very excited to announce that my new novel, Eloise and Avalon, has been released from Double Dragon as an ebook. It’s available here for purchase. And here is the gorgeous cover designed by Angi Shearstone from artwork supplied by Michelle Bouchard. Michelle also did some lovely sketches which appear in the text, but you’ll have to wait for the print version to see those. I’ll keep you posted on when it is available.

Eloise and Avalon is part romance, part science fiction, part social commentary. In other words, pretty much what my readers have come to expect from me. To summarize the story, Eloise Smith is a history geek. She rebels against her family’s plans for her to devote herself to the subject she loves. In doing so, she finds herself drawn to the brilliant and reclusive Peter Avalon, an iconoclastic professor of history (and damn near everything else). She develops the classic student crush, devoting herself to him as his assistant, and kicking herself for succumbing to a cliché case of unrequited love. Eloise eventually discovers that not only is her love not unrequited, but Peter Avalon is not at all what he is supposed to be.

Pi-Sigma Avalon is indeed a historian, but from a world eleven hundred light years away and twenty-two thousand years into Eloise’s future. And he isn’t supposed to be there at all.

The prototype time/space transport device developed by the Thalesians has been judged by their scientific and philosophical councils to be too dangerous to risk using. But Avalon cannot resist the temptation. Just one quick jump, back to Old Earth, the lost world of their past, shrouded in mystery. No one need know. But he stays much longer that he intends, and comes back profoundly changed.

Eloise returns with him, and she confounds Thalesian expectations of what primitive humans are supposed to be like. So does the information Avalon brings back, blowing the carefully crafted theories about his people’s origins completely out of the water. The consequences of Avalon’s unauthorized expedition threaten to throw the peaceful, orderly society of Thales into chaos. And if the philosopher monks of Eden are correct, Avalon and Eloise face an unimaginably challenging future which cannot be avoided, because it has already happened.

I’ll be at both Arisia and Boskone promoting my new book (look for me at the Broad Universe Dealer’s Table), and hope to have copies in local independent bookstores. And, of course, it will be available at my local library. If it’s not available at yours, ask for it. Please!

The Old and the Useless

30 11 2016


We have a new member appointed to our town’s Municipal Budget Committee. He’s a piece of work. Last week he showed up to the meeting pumped up on liquid courage, and he told the committee and citizens in attendance what was on his mind. He’s going to shake things up and call people out, get rid of the fat in the budget and save the taxpayers money. Sound good? One of his first proposals was to eliminate all printing costs (a whopping $25) since, as he put it, “It’s 2016 and we don’t print things anymore unless you’re an old, useless person.”

After a moment of incredulous silence, it was pointed out to him that the various committees and boards in town are required by law to post their meetings in public places. Documents like the voter list are required by law to exist in printed form. In fact, before them on the table, was a copy of the budget they were reviewing. Printed on paper. Because it is easier to work with a printed document than trying to scroll back and forth on a device. But maybe I think that because I am old and useless.

During a discussion about how to make police officer salaries more competitive with surrounding towns so we don’t lose so many good officers, our man dismissed the supporting data as “irrelevant” and called a fellow board member an “asshole”.

Like certain other celebrated individuals in the political sphere, he does speak his mind, unfettered by respect, decorum, or an understanding of the facts.

He won himself several reprimands during the course of the meeting for dropping F-bombs. And there were more moments of stunned silence as he displayed his utter lack of understanding of how the law affects the budget. For me, the most telling moment was when he proposed eliminating the Heritage Commission (saving the town a grand total of $600). His justification? “It’s 2016, people. We don’t need history anymore.” I kid you not. Exact quote.

Our vocal advocate for frugality at all cost read a statement at the beginning of the next meeting, at which he grudgingly apologized for his behavior, but went to great length to justify it, waxing righteous and defensive about his tough upbringing, and how he pulled himself up by the bootstraps. He has a thick skin and presumed others wouldn’t be so sensitive about his brutal frankness and honesty. He’s fighting for the taxpayers, and after living here for a whopping ten years he knows everything he needs to know about what’s good for the town and what the taxpayers want.

And besides, he whined, this was an adult meeting, so he naturally assumed that adult language would be no problem.

One hardly knows where to begin.

We live in a culture that worships youth and treats old age like a fatal disease that no one ever wants to admit they have contracted. This culture is obsessed with novelty and innovation. It applauds celebrity and delights in seeing authority figures torn down and humiliated. Impatient, angry, self-righteous and self-obsessed. All flaws of the youth it idolizes.

What use has youth for history? It doesn’t involve them. Rules just get in the way of what they want. And what they want is what everyone should want, and anyone that disagrees is an asshole. Especially old people who try to explain to them why youth doesn’t always know what it is talking about.

Don’t misunderstand me; youth also brings energy, fresh ideas, challenges and courage to a society. We older folks often get set in our ways and need a bit of shaking up. But youth undisciplined, with no respect for the past and those who have lived it, is a forest fire.

Age brings experience. When you have lived and made mistakes and seen bright ideas go wrong, seen what works and what doesn’t, it gives you a measure of wisdom (glaring exceptions acknowledged—they are often those old enough to know better who emulate the worst qualities of youth). The older members of a board or committee tend to know why there are rules, how to work within them, and the unfortunate consequences of ignoring them. Living in a community for many years, especially when your family grew up there, gives you insights into how that community works, the variety of viewpoints and the different kinds of people. You learn (one hopes) how to respectfully disagree, to remain on friendly terms in spite of differences, and to find common ground.

When you know the history, you understand the present. You neither have to reinvent the wheel, nor rediscover fire. Those who fail to remember the past and who do not learn from history get to make the same disastrous mistakes over again.

Looking back at that committee meeting it is clear to me who are the old and who are the useless. They are not the same people. But perhaps our mouthy, yapping, young puppy will mature and understand better how to be an effective member of the community—if he is willing to learn from his mistakes and listen to those older and more experienced.

Old dogs don’t have to learn new tricks; they already know the best ones.

Worth a Thousand Words

21 11 2016
Eloise works as the lowly assistant to History Department secretary Genevieve Hague while she waits for the reclusive Prof. Avalon to return from sabbatical

Eloise works as the lowly assistant to History Department secretary Genevieve Hague while she waits for the reclusive Prof. Avalon to return from sabbatical

But what’s that worth in dollars?

This new novel over which I have been laboring long and mightily is called Eloise and Avalon, a work of science fiction, philosophy, and time travel. The time travel stories I have read have always left me feeling dissatisfied. Either the author pleads us to don the suspenders of disbelief and just enjoy a fine tale, or they try to box up the paradoxes with convoluted explanations that raise more questions than they answer (at least for me). I applied myself to the problem and this is the result.

The heroes are scientists, philosophers, and history majors. It’s about a geeky woman who gets the classic crippling crush on the brilliant professor, kicking herself for falling into the same old tired cliché. Unrequited love. Pathetic. Then she finds out it isn’t unrequited. And the professor isn’t your garden variety bachelor academic. He isn’t even properly human. He’s a historian, all right, but from a world eleven hundred light years away and twenty-two thousand years into her future. And he isn’t supposed to be there at all.

When Avalon goes back to his own time and world, he has to face the consequences for his illicit expedition. Eloise complicates things by returning with him. Neither of them are prepared for what ultimately arises out of their relationship with each other, the experimental vehicle Avalon absconded with, and a future that has already happened but must still be fulfilled.

The ebook will be released in January, and I’ll be crowing about it at Arisia. The print version will be out in time for Boskone in February. It’s the print version I’m truly excited about. Because it will be illustrated. Okay, not glossy full-color panels, but black and white images that will bring the story and characters to life.

It was pure serendipity.

As much as I would have loved having Angi Shearstone do the cover again (she did the artwork for Awake Chimera), in my present financially challenged position, I couldn’t afford her. She’s a pro, and, like the rest of us, deserves to be paid what she is worth, which is plenty. (That’s a whole different blog). We did work out a deal for her to do the graphic design for the cover, for which I am exceedingly grateful.

So I asked Michelle Bouchard if she would be willing to do the cover for me. She’s an emerging artist, still building her portfolio and perfecting her own style and works. She’s worth a whole lot more than I am paying her, but then again, an awful lot of us are in the same boat. Landing the big contracts that get you paid what your work is really worth is like playing musical chairs in a stadium full of people with only five seats. (Yet another blog.)

I sent Michelle the ms so she could look it over and get an inspiration for the cover (to be revealed at a later time). I got a printed copy back with some very useful feedback and suggestions. But something else as well—Michelle had doodled in the margins. I was delighted by these offhand sketches. I got inspired myself.

I contacted Double Dragon and worked out how I could include illustrations. The ebook won’t have them, but I am excited to announce that the print version will. Michelle turned the sketches into several finished pieces that will grace the pages here and there. I hope this is a gateway for her to get more work as an artist because damn, she is good. Wait until you see the cover.

I’ll be keeping you all posted throughout the process and include links to purchase here on the site. In the meantime, I have other books which you may not be aware of, and a short story in a newly released anthology called Live Free or Ride.

Books always make a great gift. Buy early and often, and help support your friendly neighborhood author, and artist.

The World has not ended.

9 11 2016


I ignored the news last night and binge-watched West Wing until bedtime. Got up this morning and avoided going on line for as long as possible. I puttered around, made coffee, let the dogs out and gave them their breakfast, got the dishwasher loaded, filled the bird feeders. I was in no hurry. The election results would wait until I was ready to address them.

When I sat down with my laptop and a fresh cup of coffee, I checked our local news source to see if the results were posted. There was a race for State Rep I was particularly interested in. Disappointing news. A pity. And of course I could not avoid seeing the results of the Presidential election.

Well, it looks like the DNC backed the wrong horse.

I remember back in primary season how the polls showed that voters had a marked preference for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton to beat Trump. And in fact, Clinton lost to Trump by a margin eerily similar to the one predicted by that very early poll. If the DNC and the media had treated both Clinton and Sanders as equally viable candidates, and given equal coverage to both instead of pushing Clinton, the news might be very different this morning.

But that’s neither here nor further. It is what it is, a reality we must accept.

I went onto Facebook, and my eyes watered from all the heat and venom spewing out. HRC supporters pointing the finger at third party supporters. Third party supporters shouting back. Everybody wringing their hands and rending their garments. Never have I seen so much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Which gives you an idea of the general political persuasion of most of my FB friends.) I suggested that this might be just the kick in the pants that the country needs, to get out of its complacency and start paying attention. We need to work to get a Congress elected that can put a collar on this monkey.

A few people “liked” my comment; the rest shouted me off the stage.

Okay, I get it. The nation (at least the sane, progressive, and moderate segments of it) is in shock. This is their worst nightmare. They need to process it by having a meltdown and pounding the pillow in futile protest. They need to scream and find scapegoats. They need to indulge in emotional hysterics for awhile before they can settle down and think rationally again. I get it. I felt that way when Sanders lost the nomination to HRC. I’ve already had my period of despair, hopelessness and grief. This development is just the logical next step in our march towards disaster.

I even think this might be a good thing. If HRC had been elected, Trump supporters would have had a tantrum, and then crawled back under their rock to plot their next attack. The rest of the country would have sighed with relief and settled into the status quo, accepting without a squawk our continued slide to the right into never-ending-war and ever-growing-income inequality. The frog would sit complacently in the gradually heating pot until it scalds to death. Oh, and yay, feminist victory, a vagina will be sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office. Totally worth it.

Trump’s victory is like the temperature of the water in the pot suddenly soaring upwards, and the frog reacting by jumping out. Holy shit, people, we have to do something!

Yes, the flying monkeys have landed in D.C. There will be havok. They will lob their foul droppings around the White House. It will be a gawdawful mess to clean up. People will get hurt and fear will run rampant. Thugs will consider this the green light to enforce their ignorant prejudices with violence. It will be ugly, no argument.

But we can’t just fall back on our fainting couch and resign ourselves to being ravaged. We need to fight back. Big time. We need to trade our lattes for strong black coffee and take a good long sniff. No more complacency. No more grumbling over the news and then changing the channel and reaching for another nacho. We need to pay attention to who is running for congress, including the local races that “don’t matter.” Because now they do. We have to strengthen local government by electing people of conscience and dedication, because these folks will move up the political ladder and start challenging the fat cats in the big offices. We need to support them when they do that. Unite behind moderate and sane candidates at all levels. Vote every two years, not every four. Spend less time on entertainment and celebrity intrigue and educate ourselves in the way government and politics work so we can effectively push our own agenda of tolerance, equal rights, peace and compassion.

We need to fight for the principles we believe in with the same monomaniacal, quasi-religious fervor as the other guys. That is how a democracy is supposed to work. It is participatory. That means citizens have to participate. Not sit back and let somebody else do the heavy lifting.

And if it shocks us into action, galvanizes good people of conscience and ethics into participating in politics again, then maybe a Trump victory isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Live Free or Ride Reading at Gibson’s

26 10 2016

LiveFreeOrRide_FrontCoverGibson’s Independent Bookstore in Concord will be hosting an event celebrating the release of New Hampshire Pulp Fiction‘s new collection, Live Free or Ride dedicated to the venerable Concord Coach.  Authors in attendance include Dan Brian, Dan Szczesney, S. J. Cahill, and Concord’s own Kevin Barrett.  Yours truly, Justine Graykin, will be  reading from my story in the anthology, “One Last Ride.”  It has a ghostly element to it, most appropriate for the season.

Be at Gibson’s Bookstore on Main Street in downtown Concord, Tuesday November 1st at 5:30 pm.  Pick up your copy of Live Free or Ride and get it autographed by the authors.  Hear them read aloud and enjoy the wonderful, warm and friendly atmosphere of Gibson’s.

You can also place an order for the book by following this link.

Other scheduled readings include a reading and signing on Saturday, November 5 at 3 pm at the Toadstool Bookshop in Milford, and looking ahead, and at the Toadstool Bookshop in Keene on Saturday, January 21 at 2 pm.

When Monkeys Fly

21 10 2016


It is very easy to get sucked into other people’s drama. It can come of an honest desire to help. It is someone you care about. It is an opportunity to do some good in the world, to ease the tension and suffering. These are healthy impulses which can lead to happy, life-affirming results.

But they can also lead you down a rabbit hole. Before you know it, you are the victim of emotional vampirism. Your attempts to help come to naught, and the demands for more drain you until you have nothing left to give to anyone else. That’s when it’s time to dig out to sunlight and leave the rabbits to fight it out among themselves.

Volunteering for an organization can be that way. It’s a worthy cause, and you do your best for it. Good feelings all around. Sensible organizations work that way. Fanatical organizations keep demanding more, then lay a guilt trip on you when you reach your limit, whether it be donations of time, money, or labor. They cry, “How can you let down the people depending on you? Don’t you care? Or are you too selfish to give of yourself to this important cause?”

Politics did this to me. I got all enthused and worked hard for the organization, gave money, even pushed myself way beyond my comfort zone to canvass door-to-door. My efforts failed, but never mind, I and my fellows did our best. Now I am expected to continue my efforts. The telephone doesn’t stop ringing and my Facebook feed is packed with exhortations. I am told repeatedly that I must continue to be active even though my enthusiasm is gone. The fate of the world depends on it. Don’t I care? Or am I too selfish to support this vital cause?

And then there are the appeals for donations: heart disease, breast cancer, various handicaps and disabilities, the police chiefs, the firefighters, child abuse, domestic violence, civil rights. The list goes on and on. Each one thinks their cause is special and can’t I even afford a $15 donation? No, I am breathlessly waiting to see if I will be able to pay the mortgage this month.

Wisdom is knowing the difference.

Wisdom is knowing the difference.

It can happen with friends and relatives. Occasionally it is a direct appeal (or assault) and I feel obliged. Usually, though, it’s just me seeing someone in trouble and wanting to help. Because we do have an obligation in this life to look after one another and not ignore suffering when we are able to do something about it. Again, I do my best, but there are times when I see the rabbit hole closing over my head.

I have to take a deep breath, back away, and do some calculations. How much is my help really helping? Do the people involved truly appreciate it, or are they just sucking me in to play a part in their drama? Do I see shades of Machiavelli when I shine a light on their behavior?

It may well be time to invoke that wise old Polish proverb, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

Reflecting on the Sitcom

9 10 2016


For the past few weeks I have been galloping to keep up with the changes and challenges in my life. I’ve had lots of practice since the collapse of my marriage, when the steady-state of misery exploded into a nova. My chief occupation has been trying to figure out who I am and what I do as this freshly-minted single person with a dizzying array of new responsibilities. Plus, I am not as young as I used to be. This has the advantage of equipping me with more than half a century of experience and wisdom. This has the disadvantage of having to cope with reduced strength, stamina, and mental flexibility.

I’ll be turning sixty this December. Most folks my age are thinking ahead to retirement. I am not. I won’t be retiring for a good long time. Quite the opposite.

Now, the most recent episode in this sitcom that my household has become, is the arrival of a new character. She is a sweet girl, intelligent and energetic, but crashing from a collapsed relationship and conflicts with her mother. Come in, I said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm.

She is the best friend of my son’s live-in girlfriend, and comes with a 1-year-old yellow lab who is fairly well-trained, but is still a 1-year-old yellow lab, and behaves accordingly. She arrived with all her belongings, the contents of her apartment, at 11 pm the other night. I am leaving it to the kids to figure out where she is going to sleep and to keep the dog from the destroying the place. I have my room upstairs where I and my cats hang out. I can do my work in peace. My younger son is just starting a new job. My older son just got laid off from his job. Both girls are working. Rent will be paid, plus the new arrival has promised to do house-cleaning. And oh yes, Angi, the artist living our spare room, just had her car totaled and is dealing with the fall-out from that. Interesting times.

On top of all that, yesterday was the big Town-Wide Yard Sale, which I joined in an effort to get rid of some of my excess clutter and earn a little desperately needed cash. Organizing for the Yard Sale was a monumental stress-inducer. I cleaned out the basement, the garage, the garage attic, and the shed out back in an effort to organize and segregate the trash, the surplus, the to-be-used, to-be-stored, and to-be-sold.

The Yard Sale itself was not as successful as I’d hoped, but not a complete failure, either. I got rid of some truck, but not nearly as much as I wanted to. Now I have to figure out alternatives—Craig’s List, charities, swap shop, dump—to move it on. More hassles. Ugh.

But look on the bright side, I did make a little grocery money, and I got several problem areas cleaned and organized. Now there is more room for my tenants to store their stuff. And I have a better handle on what is there (dear god, the stuff my ex saved!). Was it worth the grief and hassle? I suppose. Would I do it again? Not likely.

So after all this sturm und drang I was an exhausted wreck. Last night Angi and I broke into the vodka and cranberry juice. I got nicely silly. My younger son does an online gaming stream on Saturday nights, but because of technical difficulties (which he has been plagued with—yes, there’s been that, too) he had to cancel the stream. Five of us ended up doing digital Card Against Humanity on our laptops. It was a riot. I can’t remember when I’ve laughed so hard, which was in part at least, stress release.

I can remember at one point looking at Angi (after two or three drinks) and exclaiming, “My word! I feel relaxed! This is wonderful!” It was. And the truly grand thing is that I did not drink too much; I drank just enough. I was outrageous (I won two of the rounds) and buoyant, but still in control. I remember everything, and I was not hung over this morning. It took no great act of willpower to shut myself off; I just thought, I feel really good and I don’t want another drink. I’ll pour myself a seltzer.

It is Sunday morning, grey and rainy. I slept in, made myself coffee and had a muffin and a slice of coffee cake for breakfast, sat in bed and did a crossword puzzle and an online jigsaw puzzle, all my cats snoozing contentedly in the bed with me. It’s one o’clock, and I believe I will get dressed and go out for some groceries, perhaps do a few chores. I am enjoying this lovely window of calm in the Bedlam.

This is me, my new life, and I must say that overall, despite its chaos and challenges, I’m quite happy with it.