Monday, November 16, 2009

If you read ONE book this year...

...make it Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Windup Girl".

Paulo Bacigalupi is a new writer to me, as his previous (award-winning) work has been largely short fiction, but with his first novel, he has absolutely NAILED the world I was trying to create in "Mai Shangri-La". Best of all, he's created his future world in Bangkok, as I did in "Mai Shangri-la". Worst 0f all, his vision of that world is, if anything, even darker than mine.

As a school librarian and a writer, I'm going to quickly correct my ignorance of Bacigalupi's previous work. I stand in awe of his vision of the future, of the intricately detailed world he has created in a single novel (it reminded me in this sense of "Dune"), and of the absolutely visceral nature of his writing. Move over Stephen King. I've got a new literary muse to follow!

Reading "the Windup Girl" won't make me give up on my own writing, and it won't make me try to emulate Mr. Bacigalupi's style, but it will make me rethink the old "show, don't tell" mantra. Bacigalupi is a master at this. I've lived in Bangkok for 25 years, but in apparently a single short visit before writing "the Windup Girl", he captured the very essence of what makes living in Bangkok a constant love/hate thing - and he shows what it could be like in 50 years.

Thanks so much, Paulo Bacigalup - for both entertaining the Hell out of me for the past week - and for giving me a new reason to get back to my own writing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Tipping Point...

...on global recognition of the Freight Train bearing down on us.

NO, if I read Stuart H. Scott's body language correctly yesterday. Addressing students at International School Bangkok yesterday, Scott literally choked up when he reached a slide showing the impact on agricultural capacity in the US at a projected "best-case" future of 600 ppm atmospheric CO2 .

More on Scott, his Interfaith Declaration on Climate Change, and the Climate Project, as I learn more about them. They are just part of the cascade of opinion, research, prognostication and exhortation to action that are beginning to - finally, bring us to the tipping point on real action.

The question is, is it in time? Inform yourself, and then start taking action. NOW

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting the word out... person at a time.

Unfortunately, I'm preaching to the choir, but hey, I'll "build my network", as my "techfolk" colleagues put it, whereever I can..

I wrote James Howard Kunstler a couple of days ago to tell him his new book had kept me up until midnight (a rare occurrence since I became a father, and grab my sleep when I can). If you aren't ready to take a chance on an unknown author, the do NOT miss "World Made by Hand ", in which Mr. Kunstler lays out a possible scenario much like mine in Mai Shangri-La, but much more elegantly put. My kudos to him for keeping up the energy on this front.

James Kunstler wrote me back within a day, and his words have given me fresh energy and hope. "Persevere", he says, and he's absolutely right. Those of us who have woken up to smell the coffee need to keep up the fight. Eventually we'll reach the critical mass needed to bring about real change.

I wrote a new blog-post in my "professional" blog yesterday too, in answer to the focus question for the launch of a new SUNY course we're running at International School Bangkok. The theme of my post was that there are strong competing issues with "flavor of the week" technology that we should be thinking about - the environment being right at the top of the list.

I compared weighing the importance of technology integration over other issues to Greg Craven's "big decision grid", and mentioned his book "What's the Worst that Can Happen: A Rationale Response to Climate Change". Surprisingly Greg Craven too, got back to me within 24 hours. It seems that even he, as a published author, obsesses over whether anyone is reading his book. Take heart, Greg, the word IS getting out. Slowly, slowly, but getting out.

Pass it forward....

Friday, August 21, 2009

Time Flies When Y'er Having Fun...

... and MONTHS have slipped by since I've posted here - but three recent events have brought me back;

1) I actually got an email from someone who's read Mai Shangri-La and liked it! (perhaps being kind, she mentioned the heavy environmental front-loading, but goes on to give it a thumbs-up as a story) That got me thinking that I really need to keep MSL alive - and to move beyond it.

2) I came across a GREAT blog rebuttal to every climate-denier argument. Coby Beck has been blogging about the climate change since 2006, but this post, originally from July, 2008, at "A few things Ill-Considered" is a classic . How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic has it all.

3) I discovered a whole universe of "post-apocalyptic" fiction on what's becoming my favorite 1st stop reference center - Wikipedia. As a librarian, I know all the arguments for and against an open-source repositories of information, but for a quick and thorough overview of just about any topic, Wikipedia is, in my book, unbeatable.

So what do these three things have to do with the theme of this blog (which is ostensibly about pitching my novel Mai Shangri-La, but is really about the rapidly degrading global environment and our probable future if we follow this path to its logical conclusion.

The connection? I never really thought of Mai Shangri-La as a "post-apocalyptic" novel - but looking at it that way puts it in a whole new light - and opens up a whole new arena for promoting it. To that end, I registered with Wikipedia, and made my very own first contributions to that growing body of "open-source" information.

My first Wikipedia edit? I added Mai Shangri-la to the "ecological catastrophes" section of "List of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction". Now to sit back and see if anyone decides that my little novel just doesn't belong up there with my favorites like Sean McMullen's GreatWinter Series, or Margaret Atwood's "Oryx & Crake"...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reading for the Future

I spent the Songkran vacation upcountry (well, it's looks like "downcountry" on a map, but it's distinctly UPCountry). The house is only about 20 years old, and so has power (usually) a telephone (sometimes). and a television which manages to deliver Thai soap-operas 24/7. There's even an instant-on water heater in the shower (when there's enough water pressure to turn it on). The last couple of times I've tried to connect to the web from there, though, I've spent way too much time tinkering with connections and setup to make the effort again. This time, I decided to just go Cold Turkey. I packed a briefcase, the backpack I usually haul all my laptops bits around in, and, for good measure, the conference bag picked up at Learning 2.0 - with BOOKS, and every day I treated myself to a couple new volumes.

First of all, I decided to catch up with some of my favorite novelists, and also to try on a couple of new ones. I started with Joe Hill's first novel (Heart-Shaped Box) and found out that indeed, the nuts don't fall far from the tree (and no offence to either King or Hill. I own every novel King's written and a lot of his short fiction. I think he's vastly under-rated as a novelist because of his selection of the macabre as his vehicle). Hill's prose is so much like his Dad's (Stephen King, if you didn't make the connection) that my reaction was a bit like it was on reading a Richard Bachman many years ago. ("Hey, this guy writes just like Stephen King!).

My appetite for the bizarre truly whetted, I went on to read the first two volumes of the Marvel version of King's "Dark Tower" opus ( the Gunslinger Born and The Long Road Home). Now there is a reading/viewing/imagining experience! I think I'm hooked on graphic novels.

Just to vary things a bit without really giving up on the theme, I read "Vampire Academy" by Richelle Mead. It's a YA, and as such, I couldn't fully relate, but it's good enough to recommend to my HS readers looking for a followup to Stephenie Meyer. Still, perhaps I should have reversed the order of the reads. After Hill and King, Mead was a bit of a letdown. I've still got a new Neil Gaiman in hand, though (Gaiman and Reaves' "Interworld"), and a day left in the break. I've saved the final chapter of "Heart-Shaped Box" but maybe I'll still get to another really thought-provoking read.

I did, of course, offer myself a bit of that along the way. To counter the spare plot and predictable dialog of the YA, I turned to one of my favorite writers of recent years. I missed his work when he first hit big, but since "The Road" (written, coincidentally, at pretty much exactly the same time I was doing the first draft of my own "road-novel" - this one) I've been a McCarthy fan, and the real joy in missing him in the '90's is going back to catch his earlier work.

This vacation, it was time to read "Cities of the Plain", the final book of McCarthy's Border Trilogy. As usual, McCarthy absolutely transports me to the lean, mean and sometimes desolate world of his 20th-century America, and in "Cities" I found a world that I could relate to on a truly personal level. I grew up in a small Canadian version of John Grady Cole's New Mexico ranch. I spent the first seventeen years of my life trying to escape the farm, and yet, oddly, I find myself in the new millenium, harkening back more and more to that world. Being globally connected is great, but McCarthy connects his characters to the world in an earthy way that resonates with me in ways that silicon sentences and digital data just can't replicate.

Heading into this break, I figured I also would have some time on my hands (like during the 13 1/2 hour drive down) when I wouldn't be able to read, but I could listen, so I downloaded several new titles to my phone (I don't have an iphone, so need to list on my O2). I recently listened to "One Second After" and decided I wanted something along that line, so I had 12 hours of "Apocalypse 2012" (Lawrence E. Joseph, 2009) to chew over.

But to provide a bit of timeless food for thought, I also tried out one of our new MP3 CD audiobooks. This gave me another 9 hours of "Zen and Now" a recently published followup to the classic "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". For anyone who has ever read and mulled over Robert Pirsig's reflections on "Quality", "Zen and Now" is a great followup. Mark Richardson offers up his own road-trip along with unique insights into Pirsig's philosophy, and details of the Pirsig's personal journey that, as a rider myself (and with several motorcycling incidents detailed in my own book), I found absolutlely rivetting. A "must-read" (or listen. Actually, this is one of those titles that I find huge pleasure in going back to again and again to listen while the miles spool by). Don't miss it!

Of course (and not, in any way comparing myself to any of the above), do yourself another favor, and try out a new and yet unknown author and order your copy of "Mai Shangri-La" (Amazon). Do me a favor, and write an Amazon review if you find the book has any redeeming qualities. I'd love to write the final instalment of the Mai Shangri-la story, but unless the first book reaches and audience, I'll probably never get to it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One Second After

One Second After, by William R. Forstchen, is the first book in two years to have jarred me from my preoccupation with the threat of climate crash. For the first time since reading McCarthy's "The Road", I have had to admit that society's collapse could come from a completely different tangent than I have been obsessing about. It could come "like a bolt from the grey" as an EMP

If my postings here have not convinced you to buy my book, then go with an established writer, and get "One Second After". Read it in hard copy, on your Kindle, or listen to it in an audio version - but make it the NEXT book you add to your lifetime reading plan. You owe it to yourself, to your children, and to all our futures. The future is "Mai Shangri-La", but we'll never have to face it if Forstchen's dark vision comes to pass.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Earth's Hope - and Someone who's Inspired Mine

His name is John D. Liu. You can Google him and find nearly 1000 references to his work over the past decade. But you need to go to the source to really get the message.

Check out either the blog or the website (in particular, the video "Lessons from the Loess Plateau" for "Earth's Hope", the foundation that John has most recently spearheaded in his efforts to disseminate the global ecological lessons he has learned in China and Africa over the past 2 1/2 decades. The image that fronts the website, says it all. We - every citizen of the world today, need to become contributors to "Earth's Hope" - before the promise of that hope is lost.

My novel, "Mai Shangri-La" (available at Amazon) is my rather dystopic view of one global future if we maintain "Business as Usual" in our relationship with the environment. John Liu has shown me that there is another possible future - and it literally is...Earth's Hope.

Educate yourself. Buy my book if you want to be depressed about what could face us. Join "Earth's Hope" if you want to become part of the solution!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mai Shangri-La - available at

Mai Shangri-La

- an Amazon Print On Demand Title

Why Did I Write "Mai Shangri-La" (Reprise)

Somewhere in the deep, distant past, I wrote about this, but even if it's here in the Archives, it's time to bring the reasons to the top of the heap again.

Why did I write "Mai Shangri-La?

1) Because the world is going to Hell in a Handbasket, and most of us still have our heads in the sand about it. If I can convince ONE reader to be more aware of the possible consequences of modern society's "full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes" behavior - and to take some kind, any kind of concrete action to change his or her behavior, the effort will not have been in vain.

2) Because I want to be able to look my son in the eye when he asks me "where were you when the world was going into the toilet, daddy?" and at least say, "I was working the bathroom plunger, son, to keep the crap from overflowing..."

3) Because I've always wanted to create something that would live beyond me. I've collected books since I was a kid, and many of these old friends have now outlasted their authors - but that doesn't diminish their appeal to me.

4) Because I just had to give writing a shot; to see if I could be the next Frank McCourt. SOMEBODY has to be his succesor - and it would sure be nice to have a way to keep a bit of cash coming in after I hang it up as a teacher...

There was more - a lot more, but that's the gist of it.

Buy my first book to help give me that initial "Boost". Buy my SECOND one (in the pipeline now) only if the first gives you some pleasure, or insights into "the meaning of life" I'm not looking for (much) charity, here.. ;0)


Monday, January 12, 2009

Buy this Book...

...and help a struggling new author establish a "real" presence on Amazon:)

I need a few sales - and more importantly, a few Reader Reviews, to fuel my next round of Agent Queries. I'm hearing that chapters 1-4 really need excising, but I'm busy right now getting the sequel (The Wayback Machine) ready to submit to ABNA 2 - and the deadline's close!

But as they didn't really ever say "It ain't over 'till it's Over." In the world of POD, I can keep tweaking this thing forever until I get it right - IF I've got a basic vehicle to work with. I think so - but I need some outside opinions. Looking forward to yours!