The second book in the series, “What War Brings” is scheduled to be released in 2014.
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I look back on my post from February and it feels like a century ago.
Back this winter, I had begun to work on the second draft of “What War Brings.” I heavily re-wrote the first six chapters and was extremely happy with where things were going. My plan was to have the second draft completed by mid-spring.
Then, my Mom’s health took a sudden turn for the worse. Thankfully, we were able to get her back home to Michigan from Florida, and into Hospice care. On May 14 she passed away at her home with myself, my Dad, sister and brother at her side.
Since March, I haven’t written a single word for the book. My head and heart just haven’t been in it. In fact, the only thing I've written since then was Mom’s eulogy, which I gave at her funeral and I’ll post here to give a glimpse into who my Mom was. A helluva lady. A force of nature.
It’s been a few weeks since then. Things are not yet normal. Suspect they won’t be for some time. But slowly the old itch is returning. The itch to write.
Ready to get back on the bike and finish the book.
Thanks for your patience.
- - John
For those who knew Mom well, you know that right now she’s looking upon us on this day and saying… ‘oh, for cryin’ out loud.”
In truth, that’s a slightly tamer version of what she’d actually say, but you get the idea.
Mom was not one to mince words, and ‘for cryin’ out loud’ was one she used often if us kids were doing something stupid, if us adults were doing something stupid, or when she was generally annoyed with a particular situation – which happened often whenever Mom and Dad were driving together, and Dad was behind the wheel.
She didn’t use the phrase too often – but I suspect she’d be saying it today because Mom was not yet ready to leave this world when she did. She still had things to do, projects to complete, euchre games to play and republicans to poke fun at.
In writing this eulogy, I struggled with how to best describe my Mother. No easy task. For me it was like trying to describe a color, or a sensation. How do you describe the color green, or the warmth of a loving hand?
In the end, the answer did not come from me, but from a wonderful Hospice nurse who swept in and took care of my Mom in her last days. In an amazingly short amount of time, Jennie quickly got the perfect sense of who my mother was and in a moment that will remain with me forever, gave me the words I couldn’t find myself.
She said: “Your mother isn't the type of woman who just lets things happen. She’s the kind of woman who takes the world by the throat.”
And that’s Mom to the letter.
She lost her first husband to tragedy when she was just 31 years old with 3 kids. Think about that for a moment… a stay-at-home Mom losing her husband… in 1963. But she powered through her grief, took care of her children, went to school, got a good job and rebuilt her life from scratch.
Later, she would meet and fall in love with Jack. Dad, to me. A man quite different than her first husband. She would say later that her first husband was quiet and rarely spoke. Jack, on the other hand, well, she was pretty sure that from the moment she met him, Jack never shut up.
There are many great memories I have of Mom and Dad. But one of the best – one that I think best describes who they are together, took place at a little hole-in-the-wall bar near our family home in Eagle, Michigan. I was… maybe ten at the time. I had a burger and played the shuffle board game while Mom and Dad sat at the table. Then, out of the jukebox, came Bob Seeger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll”… and Mom and Dad began to dance. It was magic when they danced. Every move, ever subtle little cue, every knowing look between them told the world that they had a togetherness only few ever experience. I saw that magic, and so did everyone else in that room because everyone had stopped and were watching my Mom and Dad dance. In the near 50 years they were together, my parents might have bickered, might have disagreed about Dad’s particular driving skills or the choice of color for a new chair. But oh… how they loved each other, and how they danced.
When Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and told she had two years or less – with an emphasis on less, she didn’t lie down and accept the hospital’s cookie-cutter treatment. Their so-called “standard of care”. Instead, she went to work, researching available clinical trials. When she brought information about a new treatment called Proton Therapy to her doctors, they’d never heard of it. As you can imagine, Mom educated them. Within weeks, she and Dad would arrive at the University of Florida Health and Science Center in Jacksonville and she would begin proton therapy treatment – a process that involved a near daily routine of climbing into a massive terrifying machine that looked like a doomsday weapon from a b-grade horror movie.
It was a tough go for her, requiring a strength I cannot fully comprehend. But there is no doubt in my mind, or anyone else’s, that Mom’s failure to accept the status quo single-handedly extended her life.
She would not only meet the two years (or less) she was first given. She would blow right past it. Three years. Four.
She and Dad would travel to Europe. Sail the Mediterranean. Drive to Yosemite. Winter in Florida. There were Holiday dinners. Family gatherings, and endless home improvement projects.
She took the world by the throat. Even as her physical strength began to give out.
In her last days, Mom was not yet ready to leave this world. And she had fears, of the unknown. Of what was next for her. If… there was a next for her.
We spent her last hours at the cabin, holding her hand, whispering our love for her and saying our goodbyes.
Sometimes she said a single word in reply. A nod. Often, there was no response at all.
But then, an hour before she died, with all of us in the room, Mom suddenly opened her eyes, looked at each of us and with a smirk – an actual smirk, said, “you all keep saying goodbye?”
Now, maybe she said those words because she was sick and tired of hearing us say it.
But I know my Mom, and I don’t think so. I think maybe she said it because she had just discovered something, caught a glimpse of something that we could not. And whatever it was, she wasn’t afraid any longer. That this wasn’t goodbye. That there was a next. For her. For us.
I’d like to think that’s the case, and that right now Mom, her father and brother, and God, are all sitting at a card table and Mom is educating God on the finer points of euchre.
And I’m sure God will do just fine as Mom’s partner. As long as he doesn’t trump her ace. If that happens? Well, God help him.
In the meantime, we remain on this side of the door, left to live on without her. No easy task.
But I know… eventually, we’ll be OK. Not today. Certainly not tomorrow. Yet at some point we will, because Mom was not one to just let things happen. She not only gave us a beautiful life for the time she was here, but instilled within us everything we need to carry it onward.
For me, she taught me to be fiercely independent. To be compassionate. To finish things. To question. Perhaps most importantly, she taught me how a strong, intelligent, loving woman can change your life.
Now it’s up to us to take the gifts she’s given, and make the most of it. We won’t let you down, Mom.
We love you.
For the seminar, I put together a Prezi presentation. If you're interested in the steps of self-publishing your e-book, here is a link to the presentation:
As I've said before... I think making the video trailers is more fun than actually writing the book!
Enjoy! And if you like it, spread the word!
Time to open a little Jameson's, kick back and celebrate.
But not for long.
There are two authors who influenced me to write at a young age: Tolkien and Clancy.
Back in 1989 as a teenager and trying my first hand at writing, I wrote to Clancy, asking for a bit of advice.
He not only replied with a personal letter, he tried to call me. I was blown away. The letter still sits next to my computer. A little fuel to keep the creative fire lit.
Thank you, Tom. You will be missed.
First, the good news:
I’m in the home stretch (of the first draft) on the second book! Finally seeing the light and the end of the tunnel. And so far, I’m immensely happy with how it’s falling into place. If all goes well, it’s going to hook you on page one and not let you go until the end. And, for me, it's a been a lot of fun to write.
So now the bad news. Well, it’s not necessarily bad news, as the final result was actually kind of good.
Originally I had named the second book “Incursion”. I thought it fitting, with the coming attack on Phobos, and the counterattack by the STO.
Only one problem. Someone beat me to it:
The last thing I want is to bump heads with another sci-fi title. So, back to the drawing board I went.
And in the end, what I came up with was better. It’s an actual line from the book, and pulls together nicely all the various stories that take place along the way.
The new title: “What War Brings”
Sub title: “Book 2 of the Sol War 1 Series”
And… the newly revised and improved cover art.
So there you go! Look for it later this year.
I may be entirely off, but I like to think that it was the success of the movie “Moon” in 2009 that paved the way for the recent indie film, “The Europa Report”. Moon came out of nowhere and proved itself as a smart, entertaining low-budget indie sci-fi movie – a thing not seen (at least as far as I’m aware) in a very long time. And, perhaps more importantly, Moon showed that such a movie could make a profit. Not blockbuster-level profit, but profit nonetheless. And perhaps it was that profit that made people suddenly take a look at funding a small sci-fi movie who wouldn’t have funded such a project before.
Is that how The Europa Report was born? I like to think so, just as I like to think that between these two movies, the future of sci-fi looks especially bright right now.
And perhaps even more importantly, it shows how an intelligent, well-written story can outshine and outclass the GDP-busting, CGI-laced ‘big boy’ movies out there whose marketing budgets are five times the overall cost it was to make The Europa Report alone.
I’m talking to you, Prometheus! God, how I wanted to like that movie.
The Europa Report tells the near-future story of a scientific crew heading to the Jupiter moon of Europa to search for life below the ice.
The film takes the “found footage” approach. Normally, I’m not a fan of that tactic, but here I think it works as you get a sense of their isolation and confinement. This isn’t the USS Enterprise they’re flying, after all. Instead, it’s a larger version of the ISS, with every available space taken and serving a purpose.
Which brings me to one of things I loved about this movie: its accuracy. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory consulted on the movie, and it shows – even in the little things. For instance, when a crew member prepares to leave the ship, it’s told that they will have to wait a half-hour for the chamber to decompress. And, for once… when someone’s spacesuit is torn, their head doesn’t explode. Doesn't happen in real life, and doesn't happen in this movie.
There are dozens of other examples, right down to the water containers they sip from, and each little detail made me smile.
What also impressed me was the lack of cliché’d characters. You didn't have the “smart one”, the “maverick”, the “antagonizer”, the “funny one”, the one with a consistent quirk or pet. They were all professional, all intelligent, and their dialogue rang true.
You’d think with all that accuracy and truism that the movie would be a bit dry. At least for me, it wasn't. The tension was dealt out very well, taking lessons from such greats as Jaws and The Abyss.
In the end, it’s one of those movies that, as a writer, I watch and think, “damn… I wish I had been involved in that.”
It’s my kind of movie. And with its hopeful success, perhaps in a couple years we’ll get Europa’s offspring.
Looking forward to it.
Knocked out a few great pages today...
In print and Kindle format!