Can We All Please Calm Down?

I’m not a follower of organized religion. However, I was raised Catholic by two devout parents so I understand the idea of faith. What I cannot understand is the slow deterioration of tolerance around the world for different belief (or lack thereof) systems.

Before you start pointing the finger at the Middle East, let’s consider three recent episodes.

1. In 2010, The United Coalition of Reason paid for a billboard in California that said, “Are you good without God? Millions are.” The organization is a non-violent group of Atheists (as opposed to violent Atheists, I guess) that exercised their “God-given” right to free speech in the United States. The billboard was defaced and vandalized, sparking an outcry over the message. Imagine what would happen if someone spray-painted a roadside cross. I guess free speech is in the eye of the beholder.

2. Over the past few weeks, several thousand Islamic protestors have attacked U.S. embassies overseas, killing several innocent Americans in the process. Their outrage stems from a crappy YouTube video shot in some dude’s basement that depicts Mohammad doing chicks, or something. Apparently the film was funded by the United States government, directed by President Obama, and supported by all Americans which is justification for burning flags and killing people.

3. And most recently, we have the Dr. Pepper ad stirring outrage around the idea of evolution. Apparently, you are no longer permitted to use the term “evolution” when talking about ANYTHING, even important things like soft drinks. Over 4000 comments have been posted underneath the ad depicting an ape “evolving” to a man after drinking Dr. Pepper.

Seriously, dudes. Calm down. Billboards, movie trailers, and soft drinks are not reasons to kill. But if Coca Cola tries pulling New Coke again, it’s on.

Your universe or mine?

Could you exist somewhere else? An exact copy of you, but the “you” that had a bagel for breakfast this morning instead of a shot of Jack Daniels. What if every time “you” made a decision, another universe was created so that “you” lived in both places at the same time, forever?

This is the stuff of great sci-fi and fantasy but it’s also becoming a part of modern science. In fact, Dr. Michio Kaku has become a celebrity on the Discovery Channel as he continues to examine M Theory which is simply the theory of everything. His book, Parallel Worlds is an incredibly stunning look at the possibility that there are not only multiple universes, but an infinite number of them.

In 1995, a television show called Sliders first aired and quickly became one of my favorites. It was tough to get past the acting of Jerry O’Connell but it also starred Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) long before his debut in Lord of the Rings. The premise from Wikipedia is as follows:

The show follows a group of people, called “Sliders”, as they travel (“sliding”) between different Earths in parallel universes via a wormhole-like “vortex”, hoping to return safely to their original Earth Prime. The vortex can only be opened at random but preset intervals on each new world, monitored by a countdown clock on a portable timer that they carry; failure to open the vortex in time would strand the Sliders for 29 years in that universe. While waiting for the timer countdown, the group learns about the differences in the alternate Earth from their own, and often become unwillingly involved in events that they must resolve before they can safely leave via the vortex. As a result of the misuse of the timer in the pilot episode, the travelers have no control over what world they end up in, but continually look for means to repair the timer and find Earth Prime.

The film, Another Earth, had its world premiere at the 27th Sundance Film Festival in January 2011 to raving reviews. It’s the story of, well, another Earth, that slowly creeps toward us, populated with another set of, well, us.

Writers from H.G. Wells, to C.S. Lewis, to Neil Gaiman have crafted gorgeous stories around the idea of alternate universes. And now I have as well. Why? The grass is always greener in the other universe. Or something like that.

9th Circle

This post is more of a congratulatory celebration than anything else. My friend and fellow author, Carolyn McCray, was part of the big Amazon news this past week. Her latest work, “9th Circle” was one of nine offered in Amazon’s new Kindle Serials. From

Kindle Serials are stories published in episodes. When you buy a Kindle Serial, you will receive all existing episodes on your Kindle immediately, followed by future episodes as they are published. Enjoy reading as the author creates the story, and discuss episodes with other readers in the Kindle forums.

Carolyn is a hard-working visionary and it’s no surprise to those that know her that Amazon courted Carolyn for the Serials rollout. She is the marketing mastermind behind the Indie Book Collective and her advice was directly responsible for my recent personal success in the indie book publishing industry.

9th Circle” by Carolyn McCray and Ben Hopkin is available now and you should check it out. From the product page:

Seattle has become the playground for the most vicious killer the nation has ever known, and only autistic detective Robi Darcmel can look past the carnage and into the killer’s mind. As even more bizarre murders occur across the city, Darcmel begins to realize the scope of the murderer’s madness–he is re-creating the nine circles of hell.

On Wednesday, September 12th, 2012, Portal Arcane I – Reversion will be available in ebook and paperback through Amazon. This is my first new novel in over a year and fans of horror/dark fantasy will love it. Hope you’ll excuse the soft sell at the end of this post 😉

Reviews: Oh the Horror!

When purchasing reviews, always use protection.

Everyone and their mother, and their grandmother, has jumped into the fray regarding the recent NY Times article exposing the underbelly of the publishing world that involves purchased reviews. You can read the article if you’d like and feel free to take your shots at John Locke. The truth of the matter is that all companies, major publishing houses included, have been doing this for decades. Not necessarily online, but it’s been happening for a long time. The difference between paying for reviews on Fiverr/Craigslist and “ordering services” from Kirkus Reviews is like debating the difference between an escort and a back-alley blowjob.

But I don’t want to beat this dead horse any longer. Rather, I’d like to take a closer look at the new digital marketplace as it pertains to my livelihood, books and music. In both cases, the consumer can sample enough of the product to know if they want it or not. On iTunes and Amazon, you can preview a song. On Amazon, you can read the first 10-15% of an eBook. If after looking at the cover, reading the description, and reading the beginning of the book I’m not interested, I don’t buy the book. If the song doesn’t grab my attention in the first 30 seconds the remaining three and a half probably won’t either. You are not afforded this opportunity if purchasing a blender online. You can’t “sample” a new HD television before ordering it from Amazon. But for things like music and books, why wouldn’t you?

And now, back to your regularly scheduled witch hunt.

On September 12th I’m releasing a new dark fantasy called Portal Arcane I – Reversion. It’s my favorite work so far. On October 12th, Raising Zombies – Family Life in the Modern Age will be available. If you like my smartass, sarcastic blog, you’ll love this collection of humorous essays and pranks gone horribly wrong. Is it shameless if I warn you in all caps first?