The world gains a new future by following an old path
I'm an engineer with a life-long interest in books and writing. Originally from England, I've lived near Toronto, Canada, for many years and where I hike, run and take wildlife photos whenever the weather will let me. In my writing, I like to capture the humorous side of life even when the times sometimes don’t seem to warrant it. For this website and my new series of books, The Modest Proposal Institute, I've returned to one of my earliest loves -- science fiction.
The schedule for my new cozy mystery, and the one that follows, has been pulled forward. Instead of one by February 2021, I’m doing two by March 2021. That’s a ‘challenging schedule’ as the management used to say in the projects field. Normal people said it was ‘crazy’ and as it was the normal people who were doing the work, they were usually right. This is just a long way of saying, I’m placing this blog on hold for at least three months while I attempt to meet the ‘challenge’.
I have to do this because the new book has been so successful and I don’t want to lose all the 10k+ readers by leaving it too long for a follow-up. It’s like having a hit single, you have to catch the market while it’s hot. So, until April 2021, I wish you a pleasant winter (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, or a pleasant summer, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere) and Happy Holidays whatever you celebrate.
After the past weeks of launching my new book onto the waiting world, I’m now returning to planning the second series of The Modest Proposal Institute.
As you will know, if you’ve been following my posts, I’ve been considering using a Variable Probability Drive (VPD) to transport the heroes during their adventures. However, one of the difficulties I see of a VPD is that setting the probability only slightly off one hundred per cent would take the ship’s crew to a point where they already exist, though they may be wearing something different or have different jobs. After all, if there are an infinite number of parallel universes then somewhere close to me as I type this is another me who is watching TV or fixing the car. ‘He’ is 99.99999% me but not ‘me’. And nor are the circumstances he’s living in. Today in the 100% world it is dark, overcast and dry. In the 99.99999% world, it may be sunny, with blue skies and showers.
As well, while ‘he’ is almost the same as ‘me’ in many ways, the ways in which he is different may have affected him profoundly. Our outlook on life and our health may be different, for example. If I was able to move into this almost but not quite 100% world, or vice versa, would we become one? Could two of us exist in the same universe or could a probability traveler exist in a bubble created by the travel machine and, if so, how? If you have thoughts on any of this, please do comment and tell me your thoughts.
Meanwhile, there’s always The Modest Proposal Institute boxset to keep you amused until I’ve written series two.
Last week, I wrote of all the trials and tribulations I’d suffered while loading my new cozy mystery story, In The Beginning, There Was a Murder, onto Amazon and how that was preventing me developing the theme of my next The Modest Proposal Institute series. Sadly, things haven’t improved this week. While the new book is doing well, it seems to be more trouble than any of my previous books. All this is a long way of saying, this post is about my new book as well. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible — I promise.
This week has been long hours filled creating Amazon ads, developing launch campaign emails (makes me sound like a candidate for political office), booking promotional spots, and generally marketing my new book. I’ve done these things in the past but this time, I think I know what I’m doing and it has taken a lot more time. Perhaps that’s what I was doing wrong in the previous times I did these things:-)
I have a logo now for my Miss Riddell Cozy Mystery series, which brings me to the next major step in my author career — learning about branding. I hope any of you who are considering a career as an author are taking notes. You have to be part writer (the easy bit as I have discovered), part advertising executive (Mad Men here I come), and part Marketeer. I’ve learned that I only really like the ‘writing a rough draft’ part of the ‘writer’ part. Oh well, until next week, here’s the logo the Marketeer part of me has developed:
This week, I’ve been entirely focused on my new cozy mystery novel, In The Beginning, There Was a Murder. Chances are, if you’re reading this, cozy mysteries aren’t your ‘thing’ so I’m warning you right up front this post is not about The Modest Proposal Instituteseries one or two. I’m too shell-shocked to even think about anything but the new book. Here’s why.
First the new book has to be formatted before it can be uploaded to Amazon. I’ve had others do this in the past but I bought formatting software to do it myself and the new book has been my learning experience. Now I’ve finished the formatting, I can say with an almost straight face it was easy. Loading up the ebook file to Amazon went well. The paperback file didn’t go at all. Some time, and some hair, was lost fixing that.
I set up a Facebook page for the cozy mystery series, The Miss Riddell CozyMysteries, if you’re interested. That went well, by comparison with other. I write this blog on WordPress so I felt confident I could quickly set up a Miss Riddell Cozy Mystery WordPress site. It turns out, I couldn’t. My brilliant plan was to write a Miss Riddell blog post from the new site today — maybe it will be next week, or next year. Either WordPress changed or I did but one of us no longer matches the other.
The frustrations above, however, are but shadows compared to MailerLite. This is quite possibly the most unintuitive software ever created, at least to me. With lots of help from fellow authors and MailerLite users, I now am able to set up my author ‘campaigns’ (fancy MailerLite name for emails), landing pages (fancy term for webpage), and automate the mailing sequences for both. It’s possible I might even be able to take the training wheels off some day in the distant future. As I said at the beginning, I’m shell-shocked by software. I haven’t been so frazzled since software appeared in our lives in the last century! Oh well, next week I promise to return to thoughts on the next series of The Modest Proposal Institute.
Recently, I had some discussion with a reader about creatures with different DNA being on Earth alongside creatures like ourselves — if the probabilities had worked out differently. And, of course, my heroes using a Variable Probability Drive in the next series of The Modest Proposal Institute would be sure to stumble upon such an Earth eventually. My thoughts at the time were that such creatures may be useful to us because they could convert things that had little value for us into things that might. The example I used was of a silicon-based lifeforms eating rocks and excreting metal ores in highly concentrated form.
It’s possible, however, that they may be more intelligent than us, or were intelligent sooner than us, and, consequently, we might be the ones being used as processing plants — though perhaps not if their DNA was as far removed from ours as a silicon-based one would be. But what if their DNA were either carbon- or closely related element -based and we and they overlapped in our needs? Competition for resources is what has driven us to fight each other from the beginning, as it does every other species. We’re fortunate no other creature on Earth has ever come close to us in intelligence and we’ve had a ‘relatively easy’ time of it. What if we’d a more closely matched competitor?
One suggestion was the idea of ‘islands’ (not islands in the sea) where we inhabit and other ‘islands’ they inhabit. It’s an attractive idea. Nature does this in everyday life by having herbivore species that inhabit the same landscape but eat different foods so they don’t compete. Our two different DNA tribes could do the same. The reason there are no Neanderthal or Denisovian humans left on Earth is probably that we out-competed them for the same foodstuffs. A stable world of different DNA creatures would have to have widely different needs or one of us would eat the other’s lunch. I see plenty of opportunities for conflict around the margins of these two ‘islands’ even if we couldn’t actually eat each other. Until next time, remember that The Complete Modest Proposal Institute Boxset is available to read for FREE on Kindle Unlimited, #KindleUnlimitedBooks, and Book 1 is only $0.99 on Amazon right now.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my next books are a cozy mystery series. While working on those and developing themes for the second series of The Modest Proposal Institute I thought satirically of merging the two for a whole new series of Science Fiction Cozy Mysteries. An idea I thought too absurd to be taken seriously. Today, I discovered that books like that actually exists!
The books that share this theme don’t have their own category in Amazon yet but I can see this ‘genre’ has possibilities. The close-knit community of a space station or moon- (or mars-)base, with all its inevitable tensions, would be an ideal setting for a cozy mystery and has the added advantage of some unusual ways to commit murder. And not only murder; affairs, thefts, and all the other earthly crimes would be likely to occur under the pressure-cooker stress of isolation and the possibility of immediate death if something goes wrong. All things considered, I can’t understand why it isn’t already a huge selling category — other than the two diametrically opposite audiences, I mean.
Sci-fi books do include murders, of course, but they’re generally thrillers with lots of action and violence. It seems those two categories work well together. I avoided making The Modest Proposal Institute overly violent because I wanted the inevitable rolling out of Earth’s near-future and the collapse of Western nations to be the central theme. My next series takes place after that period so it can include more threatening environments for the heroes and more thriller-like responses from them. Very like my old favourite, Dr. Who when Tom Baker was the doctor. Check out DrWhoOnline for information about all the many Doctors. Sadly, series two won’t be a sci-fi cozy mystery just yet. It would make this writer’s life much easier:-)
I often ‘joke’ that the only part of book writing I like is doing the rough draft. Every other part is just like work. However, there are degrees of ‘don’t like’ that are worse than the others, which is a long way of saying that this week I’ve been learning how to do Amazon Ads properly. The days have been full days and all of it felt like work. When I become a best-selling author, I’m paying someone else to do the advertising and marketing for me. There are way too many spreadsheets and tables to fill with data for any sane person’s comfort!
I’m using The Modest Proposal Institute Boxset as my guinea pig for the ads in the expectation it will boost sales even as I’m learning the online advertising craft. We shall see. It better because I’m developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my whole arm doing the data entry. Not to mention the numbness in the rear end from sitting for hours on end. Should any of my readers be thinking of becoming an self-publishing independent author I will give some advice — start with a bestseller so you can subcontract right away.
One thought about my Variable Probability Drive I’ve been considering during my training sessions is what would a world be like with species that didn’t share our DNA. So far as we can tell, we and very other living creature on this planet share the same DNA. Suppose, a comet or meteorite had delivered a package of different DNA here? The species that share DNA find it hard enough to get along. How would we co-exist with something quite different? Any thoughts? Beyond the obvious one of ‘we’d get along badly’ I mean.
The Complete Modest Proposal Institute Series boxset is back in Kindle Unlimited so, for those of you in Amazon Select, you can read it for FREE. For everyone else, it’s still available on Amazon at the low, low price of $5.99.
Much of my time right now is taken up with the soon to be published Cozy Mystery, In The Beginning, There Was a Murder, which I’m planning to publish on November 15, provided the world hasn’t ended due to the American Presidential Election. However, I’m still considering how the Modest Proposal Gang get on in their new universes and your ideas would be welcome. You might even become a character in one of the books, if that was something that interested you.
I dispersed the heroes in different directions because I want a wide variety of unusual places to write about. I’ve spent my life reading history and that suggests many opportunities for alternate realities but it can’t be just that. I’m looking for seriously different and just not quite finding it yet. An Earth where the Ice Ages wiped out human beings would be a great starting point. Which species would become ‘top dog’ and how would they compare to our travellers when they arrived? Douglas Adams, in ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, has his hero, Arthur Dent ask at one point, ‘Why is no one ever pleased to see us?’ and it’s a fair question. Would the ‘top dog’ on an Earth without people, be pleased to see us? I suspect not. Any more than we’d be pleased to see an evolved and armed lion appear in our midst. Here’s your chance to float some ideas to me:-)
I’m going off topic again this week because I’m closing in on finishing the first book in my Miss Riddell Cozy Mysteries series and I want to let my readers know when that is coming out. I mentioned it some weeks ago and said it would be out in mid-October or thereabouts. However, I’ve noticed there’s something going on out there in the wider world that will absolutely blitz any promotional activities I do for the new series. To be clear, the USA is having a Presidential Election and from mid-October until some days after November 3, nothing else will get noticed. I will, of course, continue to ignore this pointless waste of time and money because no matter who wins, the government always gets back in — as we used to say way back in the Sixties and Seventies. Nothing since then has changed my mind.
To cut this long story short, I will now release the first book in the series, In The Beginning, There Was a Murder, around November 15, provided most of the irrational screeching has died down by then. As you see, I’m not missing my schedule, just consciously and sensibly delaying it. It will be available for pre-order on my Amazon Author Page about a week before November 15. If it sounds interesting, visit my page and order it. How will you know if it is interesting? Easy, I shall tell you about it here in this Cole’s Notes version.
Pauline Riddell is twenty years old, just out of college, and in her first job at an armaments factory. The time is 1953 and the place is Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, UK. The Korean War is hot, the Cold War is cold, and World War 2 is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Her friend is murdered and for various reasons, she becomes unhappy at the way the Police investigation is going. She decides to do some investigating herself and the rest is history. If a look back in time and a puzzle to solve are your passions, then remember to look out for it, coming soon to an Amazon near you. I haven’t finalized the cover yet but here’s one of the covers being considered. Tell me if you like it.
One of the problems I find myself running up against in writing from the standpoint of ‘probability’ rather than ‘improbability’ is it is much harder to think of it as humorous. My favourite all-time science fiction series are the ones by Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I know it’s an odd kind of sci-fi but that’s what it is and I love it.
My own series, The Modest Proposal Institute, has a dry, ironic flavour that is somewhat humorous but it isn’t funny the way The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is. That’s what I was looking for in the second series. However, that’s when I discovered the problem I mentioned in my opening sentence. Why is that? I’m not sure but I think it has to do with the thought that ‘probable’ is uncomfortably close to ‘actual’, whereas ‘improbable’ is too fantastical to be dangerous. Or maybe I’m just struggling to find anything humorous to say in 2020:-)
Traditionally, science fiction has dealt with the possible and likely, even the monsters we conjure up are usually not far away from things that already exist. I mentioned Dr. Who’s Daleks the other week and what are they but individual tanks. The Aliens in every movie often look just like something that shows up on a camera trawling the depths of Earth’s oceans — Loch Ness Monsters for moviegoers. They may be monsters but they’re too ‘real’ to be funny. What I was planning was things that are so improbable that they’re funny, like the Douglas Adam’s Bloodbladder Beast of Trall. It hasn’t come to me yet. I’m too focused on my new series of cozy mysteries, perhaps. If you have ideas for real monsters that are so unreal they’re funny, let me know in the comments below. You’re monster might get into the first book.