I still don’t know….

The father went to the island council, where all of the elders met each season to decide where they should grow which crops, or in what waters the largest fish might be caught, or who may attain the right to marry in that year. The father begged the council, “Please, do not let my child die. We know that the great Domingo will soon arrive. Surely, he will pass us without harm, so long as we do not hook him. There is no wrath he can have against us, for he cannot leave the sea. Let me work thrice as hard, and produce as such, so that our little son may live.”

“Ah,” the eldest of the council said. He spoke in a slow and old voice. “When I was a young man, I gave up my child without argument. For I knew then, as I know now, that it is for the good of the island. Fear not, for you will have a home of your choosing, and fields of your own liking, if only you lose a son.”

The father looked at the ground, and then looked at the council. “We may sit and praise the grape Domingo, but really we are harming our own selves. To become dependent on another for your own source of well-being is to sacrifice your soul. For what may we possibly learn, if we only wait for another to arrive and provide so that we may have it easy?”

“Leave now, you blasphemous fool,” the eldest of the council said. The others joined in chorus, “Leave now. Leave now. Leave now.” They jeered and pointed with spindly fingers.

The father bowed his head and left. He went home and gathered his fishing gear, his rod and his hooks and his weights and his lures. He picked up his little son and carried him out of his crib. He walked to the ocean and sat in the sand.

Soon, the sun had set and the stars had shone and the sun had risen for the new day.

“Today,” the father said, “I will catch the great Domingo.”

Update on attempting to get published

So I wrote a book called Gaia’s Dream, and it’s about an alternate world where retail space is won through corporate-sponsored gladiatorial combat. If a company’s team wins in the arena, they earn the right to lease retail space from the Rulers of the Sphere. The size of the retail spaces vary, and the wealthier corporations only go for the bigger spots, which are of course more expensive. But that’s only a small part of the story.

It gets really interesting when one of the main characters…I guess he’s a main character, named Gat Jones, starts killing people with shadows.

Have you ever read Philip K. Dick’s VALIS? Or the Nag Hammadi Codexes? Or any of Plato’s work? If so, you’re probably familiar with the idea of dual worlds. There is a perfect form for everything. You look around and see triangles. From whence do the triangles come? They come from the realm of forms, the perfect realm (I know I’m simplifying it, and I also make up my own words for stuff), where there exists the perfect triangle.

These ideas are reflected in ancient cultures across the world. For example, Norse mythology speaks of different levels of reality. We live in the middle world, and there are four above and four below. Even within these nine levels, there are different layers (think about dreams, and where your mind goes when they happen; or thought itself). In the bible, there are eleven different layers of heaven. And nine gates to hell.

Back to the dual ideology, there is the perfect realm, from whence all things come, and the imperfect realm, where all things exist. There is Light and there is Chaos. To tie this into the ideas of the Norse, there is only one layer of reality in Light, because that is the perfect realm, but there are many levels of reality in Chaos, where we humans, and all creatures and forms of matter, make our home.

The shadows that Gat creates in Gaia’s Dream are a reflection of the different layers of reality. Friendship City, where the story takes place, has drifted to become a shadow of itself. It is not fulfilling its true purpose. The shadows that Gat uses are the lost souls of those who might have had a life and had a purpose, if only the denizens of Friendship City had taken their true course, or line of destiny, or fate. And that is what motivates Gat. He wants to destroy the city, because he believes that it is too late to save it or change it.

Mary Gold, the gladiator who must stop him, does not really know what motivates her. She wants to stop Gat, but she doesn’t know why. It is as though she exists in a different layer of reality than anyone else, and therefore has no frame of reference from which to judge her own frame of mind. She looks around and sees fools, and knows that she is not a fool, but this knowledge does not come from the reality that she exists in.

So that’s a little about the book I wrote.

Query Letters are fucking hard

It’s true! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

The book is easy to write, compared to the query letter. My book is solid, but I have no idea how to get someone else interested in reading it in under a page, without giving away too much. My wife says I should think about what I like about the book, and try to get that across.

So what do I like about it?

I like that I wrote it. I like the strong female lead (so few of those). I like the fact that the antagonist uses interdimensional aliens to consume souls. Maybe I should make that more clear, eh? Instead of saying he uses shadows, I’ll say cool thinks like “interdimensional.”

Or I can just repeat the same word over and over:

Raccoon raccoon raccoon raccoon.

Then the agents I send it to will just say, “Wow, this guy is so crazy, I just have to read his stuff!”

I guess it doesn’t work like that…

Back into the minefields!

Don’t worry. It’s okay. Really.

1st Draft GAIA’S DREAM query letter (book was originally titled Corporate Holdings)

Here it is! Please let me know what you think. Any critiques/suggestions are welcome!

________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Agent,

Hundreds of thousands of years from now, most of Earth is a wasteland. Its last beacon of civilization is Friendship City: a place where the rich rule from the highest levels of the super-structures, and where the poor struggle for survival in the basements. Society there has been stable for centuries, but one man is out to destroy it.

My science fiction novel, GAIA’S DREAM, is complete at 90,000 words, and tells the tale of Mary Gold. She is a veteran in the arena, where corporations hire gladiators to compete for the right to lease retail spaces from the Rulers of the Sphere. She is also the object of unrequited love from a loser fan of hers who makes a hobby out of stalking her. When the military hires her to hunt down the most dangerous person in Friendship City, the last thing she expects is that the suspect is Gat Jones, her stalker.

The military aren’t the only ones after Mary Gold. Colt Wild, the leader of the rebel group Gaia’s Dream, approaches her with a different offer: deceive the military and provide him with whatever information she gleans from them. Mary must decide where her loyalty stands. She knows the Rulers are unjust in their treatment of their subjects, and that the rebels, despite their violent methods, want a better life for those who live in the basements. Will she stand with Friendship City, Gaia’s Dream, or on her own two feet?

The ensuing adventure takes Mary and her squad of gladiators outside Friendship City, where few have ventured before and still fewer have survived. Slave traders, genetically manipulated bandits, and the wilderness of untouched nature take their turns in obstructing the team from completing their mission. The biggest challenge of all comes when they learn that Gat Jones uses shadows as a weapon, and erases his victims from existence itself.

A story by Ricks, Fry, and A. R. Caldwell

He left me and I don’t know why.

I was in a place I didn’t recognize, although I knew it was a tomb. The gravestones spoke of centuries of death. Generations upon generations rested here. I thought of their bones, if they knew what we were doing, and what would become of us should we succeed.

It didn’t matter, when it came down to it, but it comforted me to think that I wasn’t the first to end their days here. I trudged forward, dragging my feet and sword in the dust beneath me. It seemed to swirl in the air and move before me, though the air around me was still.

And there it was, the stone I had been looking for, the stone of my Fathers. Here lay the remains of my bloodline. My cigarette began to taste bitter like plastic before I noticed it was nearly done. I padded it out in the dirt. Perhaps stamping it out wasn’t the best idea, but it was my typical move. The trap I activated with my foot made a stone wall tumble down to my right, and the ceiling crumbled down on my left.

I raised my sword, ready to fight. My handgun would be useless against these foes. The beat on my right was a lion mated with dragon, and the mechanism to my left was death made from stone. The dragon-lion ran two paces and lept into the air with a flap of its wings. I pulled myself behind a giant stone as it slid to a stop and turned to face me with the stone beast behind it.

I would have to fight one or the other, and I charged between them, slashing at the lion-dragon to distract him as I garnered the stone giant’s attention. I lit a certain substance and slid it between my lips and took a deep puff. I decided it’s better to use cold steel, my sword, against a dragon-lion than a rock being born of earth.
It raised tis claws, but I held my ground and my sword was steady. I brought it down from high guard and struck the beast in its muzzle. The stone contraption rushed from behind it and slashed its blade. I rolled out of the way, and just in time, for a chunk of ground raised up from behind me from the blow of the rock guardian.

The lion-dragon was quick on the counterattack. I was quicker to grab the stone, stuffing in my pocket while extracting my flask. I took a long pull from the flask and threw the empty husk at the lion-dragon. As it slashed at the flask I swung, and hacked its paw off with one clean cut. I steadied myself, and turned just in time to catch a wailing blow from a stone fist, sending me sliding across the floor into a wall.

Blood flowed from my lip. I slouched forward only to realize my sword, cigarettes and flask were flung from my body and spread across the room. As I scrambled for my sword, the lion-dragon roared, and drew itself upward, hesitating only a moment before folding its wings and diving directly for me.

I can only thank my ancestors that I had grabbed the stone of ym Fathers in time. I used its power to block the lion-dragon, sending it back against the wall. The stone machine was close behind, but not close enough. The stone of my Fathers brought my will against its own, and proved mine own the worthier.

With a burst of fury the stone projected an energy unknown to me at the time. I turned from the blinding flash only to witness molten earth. I tucked the stone away in a small pouch along my belt as I sensed a lions eyes and dragons heaving breath closing on my back. The stone guardian was gone, but I had neglected the beast.

“Fuck you, you piece of shit!” I shouted, for it had taken my partner so many years before. I thrust the stone of my Fathers at it, only to watch the light grow dim. I shook it. Nothing. The lion growl the filled the dark silence shivered my bones.

I sighed and raised my sword. “Come on, you piece of fuck shit.” It lurked still in the darkness. It was a youthful and tacky attempt to invoke fear in me. However, I knew my Fathers would not steer me wrong like my mate of past. I stayed fast with blade in hand. However, a cigarette lay on the ground stern right to my position. It would be dangerous to grab even attempt to grab it due to the fact that a serenaded tail could whip across my path any time.
I did not hesitate what-so-ever.
The cigarette rested between my lips before the beast could blink, and my flaks was but a jump away. The lion-dragon struck with its reamaining forepaw, and I with my sword. It was no match for me, for with the power of my ancestors, I crushed through its flesh as easily as a knife slices butter. I reached my flask in no time. “Fathers be with me,” I whispered as I touched ember to fuel.

But the beast did not explode with my intentions. The lion roared and dragon breathed fire, but neither at me nor blade or stone. A crushing blow of reality swept upon us from above and washed over my proper realm.
I was left abandoned in thought, wandering in the strange lands alone. Flask in hand. For nothing appeared to me now save the desert dunes.

The same old song: The power of familiarity in music choice

Hello there!

I recently heard about a study published this past May. Its title is the same as the title of this post. The study states that consumers prefer familiar music over unfamiliar music, although consumers will say that they prefer to hear new music (I believe that it should be noted that throughout the study, the authors refer to unfamiliar music as “novelty music”). If you want to read it before my analysis, which is a good idea, please follow this link: http://apps.olin.wustl.edu/faculty/goodman/same%20old%20song.pdf.

Done yet? Excellent. Reading below, you’ll find it no secret that I strongly disagree with the results.

First off, something I find very interesting is that the authors totally ignore variety, going instead for what is familiar. They, in fact, admit this in a footnote:

In this research, we concentrate on familiarity, and do not address variety or variety-seeking. Variety
refers to the number of different items in an assortment (Broniarczyk et al. 1998; McAlister and Pessemier
1982; Ratner et al. 1999), and variety-seeking refers to the desire to consume a diverse set of items. A very
diverse assortment could include all familiar or all unfamiliar goods, and a very homogenous assortment
could likewise vary a great deal in familiarity. In other words, high variety does not imply low familiarity
and vice versa.

There is a vast difference between the desire for new music and a desire for a variety in music. Turn on DC101 (for us in the WMA) for a couple hours, and you’ll hear at least two of the most popular songs played at least two times each. Beside that, you’ll hear the same songs within that two hour period repeated multiple times throughout the day. What this shows shows is a strong lack of variety. When consumers say they want to hear new music, it is quite possible that they mean is that they want to hear a larger variety. There are many independent artists that play familiar-sounding music, but the bands themselves would be considered new to anyone who hasn’t heard them. The study did not address this.

Another problem with the study is that the participants did not actually listen to the songs that they chose! They were presented with a list of 48 songs and band names that the authors believed the participants would be familiar with. This list was broken down into 24 songs that are played more on the radio, and 24 that are played less. These were then paired, so that participants would see a familiar song paired with a less familiar (although not necessarily new; something the study neglects to mention) song. The participants were asked to choose which one they prefer, after they had stated whether they like new music or familiar music. Based on this information, the authors determined that participants prefer familiar music.

The authors did not take into account factors such as social acceptance, whether participants were just going along with what was popular, or the “cool factor.” I find the lack of information there very troubling, considering all of the participants were undergraduates, who as well all know are very susceptible to peer pressure. It would be very interesting to see this same study done on a wider age group.

That’s just a couple things wrong with this study. I must be off to work my novel.

In closing, it is very important, not just for personal entertainment but for enrichment of our culture as well, to listen to wide variety of music, both familiar and unfamiliar.

 

Thanks for reading! Please share with me your own thoughts on this study, should you have them :)