Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Real Big Brother

All the recent controversy about what the NSA and other government agencies know (or could know) about U.S. citizens has given me cause to stop and wonder what they might know about me, and how much I  should care.  After a cursory study of articles on the subject, I’ve decided my fear of Big Brother surveillance could be better spent in other areas.

It doesn’t worry me if our government knows where my calls originate, where and whom I call, and if I utter identified “trigger words.”  While I wouldn’t want the content of my private conversations made public, I have nothing to hide as it relates to this level of data.  I understand there needs to be a balance between privacy and protection, but even here, I tip the scale in favor of protection.  Technology may be one of our few effective defenses against terrorism of any origin. 
What really freaks me out is what Amazon, Facebook, Walmart, Lowes, Harris Teeter, Target and dozens of other companies who develop profiles on their customers know about me.  It’s as if they follow me around with a clipboard taking notes on my activities, interests and shopping habits.   Even if I didn’t browse the internet (which I do), they know what a retired, married, middle-aged man living in the North Carolina mountains is likely to find interesting.  What’s even more amazing is these electronic retailers and social networking sites share information as effectively as the FBI, NSA and Homeland Security… probably better. 

I woke up Wednesday morning to an email from Harris Teeter reminding me that Thursday was senior day (an age classification that seems to shift lower each year), providing me with a list of grocery items I frequently purchase, and pointing me to BOGOs of those items I was overdue to buy.   Then, when I signed on to Facebook, the right sidebar filled with ads for products and services selected specifically for me.   An ad for sliding barn doors was at the top--not exactly a widely popular item.   The prior evening I had wondered what a barn door would look like separating our den and sunroom.   I think I searched for examples on Google, but I’m not positive.  Could they have read my mind? 

At this point, I think Amazon knows more about me than most of my friends and family members.  In fact, I expect Amazon and other retailers will be soon offering electronic eulogies for departed customers in an effort to extract one final sale.  Mine would probably go something like this:

"Donn was an avid Packer fan.  He recently ordered an Aaron Rodgers NFL jersey, size extra-large.  Unfortunately, the deceased struggled with his weight later in life.  His Brett Favre jerseys had been mediums."    

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Finding an Old Friend

I found an old friend in my attic today.  Yep, right there behind the Christmas decorations.  My 1970's vintage Pioneer turntable had been tucked away since I'd retired to the mountains eight years ago.  He (Yes, I refer to it as he) was the best money could buy back then.  Not that I had much money in the 70's, but a quality sound system took priority over eating.     

Vinyl is making a comeback, at least for sentimental saps like me.  If you're willing to spend 3X what a CD costs, you can still get vinyl albums.  I had stored away dozens of my favorite 33s from years ago--The Eagles, Simon & Garfunkel, Jan & Dean, The Beach Boys, The Stones, Carole King, Santana, Earth Wind and Fire, and many more.  So, I can add to my vinyl collection when I have an extra 35 bucks to spend for an album that captures my attention. 

I couldn't wait to clear away a space for my old friend and fire him up.  After a few minutes figuring out the tangle of wires, I was ready to go.  When needle landed on Tapestry, memories flowed.  Music does that for most everyone, but when you hear these songs played on a turntable in the same perfect, yet not-too-perfect, sound that you first heard this music, you truly are taken back 40+ years.  The music takes you to your dorm room, or to your first car, or to a sofa at your girlfriend's house.  You've memorized each track on the album--and even now, you can sing the first few words before the record skips ahead. 

I think I'll keep my friend in a prominent spot next to my 21st century sound system.  In fact, I'll even display the faded album covers containing my well-protected 33s.  At my age, memories are a good thing.         

Saturday, November 14, 2015

So starts another day...

    The sun peeks over the tree line, its warmth not yet felt. The morning wind bites at my face as Milo pulls me across an open field, seeking the perfect spot, unfazed by the year's first frost crunching beneath our feet. Minutes later, she sniffs, she coils, finally depositing a steaming loaf of recycled kibble... So starts another day on the mountain.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Short Stories & Novellas - Finding New Readers

If you’ve read 11 novels or more last year, you’re in the minority—at least in the U.S. 

The percentage of Americans reaching this reading plateau has declined from 43% in 1978 to 34% in 1990 to 28% in 2014.  Nearly a quarter of Americans didn’t read a single novel last year (1).    Possible reasons for this decline are many, but it sure isn’t due to a lack of supply.  The number of new authors who pen their first work each year is in the tens of thousands, and quality books from both new and established authors continue to percolate to the top of best seller lists.  

Reading takes time, and many activities compete for the time of potential readers.  The average American spends an alarming 11 hours a day on electronic gadgets --TVs, smart phones, PCs/tablets, radios, DVD players or other devices (2).   If you sleep eight hours, that leaves little time for family and other interests.

Avid readers have at least a couple things in common.  They tend to make reading a priority, setting aside time each day to read.  They also have typically been ardent readers most of their lives, becoming interested in books at a young age.  This could have been the result of parents reading to them as toddlers, or becoming interested in a young adult series as a preteen or just having an active curiosity that reading satisfied.
I believe short stories and novellas provide a means to get more adults interested in reading. Short stories have a compact and pointed plot and typically can be read in one sitting.  Novellas are works of fiction of intermediate length and complexity between a short story and a novel.  In today’s electronic media world and consumers’ desire for immediate gratification, short stories and novellas are stepping stones back to reading.

I’ve written several novels, as well as a collection of short stories, and have recently decided to focus my time on shorter works.   This decision was driven in part by a desire to target new readers.  I talk to many people who are willing to invest the time required to read short stories, but are unlikely to ever read a 350+ page novel.   I also enjoy writing short stories and have received literary contest recognition for several of them.  

I’m a couple weeks into writing my first novella, and it’s progressing well.  Unlike with novels, editing goes more quickly.  Changes and improvements can be made without tearing through hundreds of pages.   On the other hand, space is precious and words can’t be wasted.  Character and plot development must be crisp, yet compelling.

In the coming months, I plan to release my first novella and then turn my attention to publishing my second collection of short stories.  In the meantime, I hope both new and veteran readers check out the short story of the month here on my blog.   And if you’re so inclined, go to Amazon and download IT GOES ON-A Collection of Short Stories.  Hopefully, the dozen stories will inspire you to read a dozen novels next year.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Baby Boomers - What NOT to Post on Social Media

     There’ve been many articles written about what not to post on social media, specifically what you shouldn’t share on Facebook. It seems that common sense isn’t all that common when it comes to socializing over the internet.  Here are some items often recommended NOT to post:

  • Your birthdate, including the year.   Identity thieves love this.
  • Telling everyone when you’re leaving town, or posting the locations (usually restaurants) that you’re visiting.  This just begs “come rob me.”  
  • Pictures from your employer’s New Year’s Eve party with your arm around the boss’s wife. Your next performance review may not go well.
  • Voicing support of your brother’s decision to file for divorce, only to find out the next day that they’ve made up.  Family dinner at mom’s next weekend should be interesting.
  • Pictures of your food.  Everyone, please stop this! 
  • Photos of you glassy-eyed at the receiving end of a beer bong.  And you wonder why the job interviews have dried up.
With all this advice already out there, what makes me think I have anything to add? Well, most of these articles have been written with the upwardly mobile, younger generations in mind, not giving full consideration to folks like me--retired baby boomers. I’ve discovered through personal experience and through the mistakes of others my age that there are things that just shouldn’t be posted by those over 60, or by anyone for that matter.   Here are just a few:

  • Don’t post any photo of you in a swimming suit.  Sucking in your gut doesn’t hide man boobs or saddlebags, and no one wants to see this, not even your spouse.
  • Don’t “like” or comment on photos of your nieces or nephews at college parties with their friends.  This is creepy, borderline voyeurism, and will lead to a series of “unfriends.”   
  • Don’t tell everyone the details of your hernia surgery or any other senior rite-of-passage procedure.  No one cares what you’re now able to lift.
  • Don’t relive the past again, again, and again.  By now, those who cared to know that you campaigned for Walter Mondale already know.
  • Never, never, never mention sex--even in passing comments. I don’t care if every Saturday night you and your partner warm up body oils and drag out your dog-eared copies of the Kama Sutra handbook; no one wants these images haunting their minds.   
Unfortunately, my advice will not likely change the social media behavior of most baby boomers.  Frankly, even I don’t adhere to all of it.  It seems one of the by-products of aging is that your inhibitions dissipate.  The filter from mind to mouth (or to keyboard in this case) becomes very porous. Who hasn’t overheard older patrons in the Walmart checkout line expressing their opinions on topics that would best be discussed in the privacy of their home (or not at all). 
What older folks have always felt free to say in public they now post on social media.  It’s a fairly new phenomenon, and I suspect it will only get worse. Today’s boomers are the first senior citizens to use social media.  Facebook, Twitter, and other internet outlets have given us all the opportunity to make fools of ourselves on a daily basis.   

Well, I gotta run now.  My wife just showed me the most adorable photo of our dog sleeping on the sofa with her paws over her eyes.  I gotta get this Tweeted out right away.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Supernatural Forces & Sports

According to a January 2014 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, 55% of football fans believe “some type of supernatural force” plays a role in the outcome of sporting events.   The same survey indicates that 33% of football fans have prayed for God to help their teams.  Not surprisingly, many football fans believe their mere attendance and support of their team plays a role in the outcome of games.

My wife and I are headed to Lambeau Field today for a Packer/Chargers game.  My wife’s family is from Green Bay and has had season tickets since the 50s.  We are fortunate enough to go to one or two home games each year.  I haven’t kept detailed records, but I’m sure the Packers have won a vast majority of the games we’ve attended.  Still, I doubt if Packer management would be interested in rewarding my attendance at future critical games. They likely believe  the arms of Favre and Rodgers played a larger role in the victories.

I can’t ever recall actually praying for the Packers to win.  I did whisper a silent prayer for Aaron Rodgers to return to play when he went down with a shoulder injury against the Bears during the first series of a Monday night game in 2013.   However, I must confess the prayer wasn’t so much for the Packers to win as it was to get Seneca Wallace off the field.  My wife and I didn’t fly 1,000 miles to watch a backup quarterback.

The Chargers are a good team and Phil Rivers’ skills can’t be ignored, but I doubt if the Packers will need divine intervention to win today’s home game.  The Chargers are 2-3 in the early season, and the Packers have yet to be tested at home or on the road for that matter.  I suspect the Charger fans will need to solicit all “supernatural forces” they can muster to keep this game close.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Who's been rescued?

I love dogs.  I've had one most of my life.  

Growing up in Illinois, my first was Duke, a golden Cocker Spaniel.  I remember him mainly through 35mm slides taken by my dad, me sitting on the front porch with my arm around Duke's neck. 

Then there was Tippy, an over-sized beagle.  I can still picture Tippy hunting rabbits in the field behind our home. Once on a trail, she'd howl, her head springing up above the soybeans to catch a glimpse of where  she was headed.

Married with kids, our first family dog  was Rhett, a sable Sheltie.  Rhett was a beautiful dog and our only AKC registered pet.  He was very smart, having been trained by my wife and daughter. For hours, he'd herd the kids as they played soccer in the backyard, anticipating their moves and heading them off.  In the evening before going to bed, you could tell him, "Pick up," and he'd traverse the family room, picking up his toys and putting them into his bed in the corner of the room.  

Rhett passed when our son and daughter were in college.  A true member of the family, his loss hit us very hard.  My wife Carol and I wanted to take time before becoming emotionally attached to another pet, but the waiting lasted less than six months.  One weekend when my son was home from college, he scouted out Sheltie breeders in the area and found one less than 20 miles away.   That afternoon, 10-week-old Deacon came home with us.   He could've been Rhett's twin.  With the kids at college, Deacon was raised by Carol and me.  He was our dog, but admittedly, Carol did most of the caring for him. The three of us spent a lot of time together over the next eight years as my wife and I transitioned toward retirement.  

Retired less than six months, I lost Carol in an auto accident.  My life stopped.  Carol was the nucleus of our family and my best friend for 35 years.  I didn't think I could go on.  I didn't want to care for myself, but I had to care for Deacon.  My family, my friends, and Deacon kept me moving and looking forward.  

Inseparable, Deacon and I lived alone the next two years.  If I took a trip, it would be by car with Deacon as my copilot.  During this time, we met Claudia.  The three of us became friends, and months later, we became a family.  Deacon was glad to settle down, but he was getting older, and unfortunately, arthritis was stealing what years he had remaining.  Just short of his 13th birthday, his mobility became limited and his pain increased.  It was a hard decision, but I had no choice.  It was time for him to rest. 

Claudia and I wondered if we wanted to grow old with a pet.  More importantly, did we have the energy and patience to train a pup?  We waited more than a year as we considered what to do, but as I said, I've always had a dog--at my feet, on walks, on vacations.  Finally, it was time. 

We discussed what breed of dog to get and eventually decided to adopt a rescue, focusing more on size and temperament than on breed. It seemed like the right thing to do. It was hard selecting our pet, knowing that the dogs we didn't choose faced uncertain futures. We ended up adopting ten-week-old Milo, a black Lab/Terrier mix.  Her face and floppy ears were adorable.  She was high energy, but once we picked her up and looked into those brown eyes, she became ours.  

We call her "Our Little Lab." She's a year old now and brightens every day.  Still high energy, she keeps us moving and active.  Milo loves walks in the woods, fetching balls, and playing tug-of-war with tree roots and branches.  She's settled in at 35 pounds--not too big, not too small.  At night, she calms down (per the attached picture) and cuddles.  I can't imagine a better pet.  I'm not sure if we rescued Milo or if she rescued us.

I think of the plight of dogs and cats in rescue shelters every day when I look at Milo.  We have our hands full with our little Lab and adopting another pet isn't an option.  However, we've decided to dedicate profits from the sale of my books to North Carolina animal shelters. This hasn't been a huge amount of money, but hopefully it's enough for a few more Milos to rescue their new owners.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Two lucky dogs - Others need your help

These two lucky pups found a home in their final hour.   Read the uplifting Yahoo News story at the link below.

City and county shelters receive tax dollars to operate, but in most cases, funding is insufficient to address the needs of abandoned and unwanted pets. Non-profit organizations provide much needed support for everything from hosting web sites to feeding, spaying, and neutering of dogs and cats.  

Some shelter pets, like these two dogs, find permanent homes.  A few others find their way to foster homes or to no-kill shelters, but most are not so fortunate.  A  donation to your local shelter or to a non-profit supporting your local shelter can buy time for a cat or dog, and might even give them a new lease on life.          

Monday, July 6, 2015

Swing Thoughts

Golf is one of my vices.  It costs too much, it
takes too much time, and I stink at it.  Still, I play.

I watched the Golf Channel the other day and saw an instructor working with a high handicap golfer like myself.  He encouraged the golfer to develop a few swing thoughts that he could take from the range to the course.  I took the instructor's advice and came up with these:

1.       Address the ball with shoulders square and down the target line.
2.       Keep stance square or slightly closed.
3.       Position the ball slightly forward using long clubs, back with shorter irons.
4.       Don’t stand too close to the ball.
5.       Don’t reach for the ball.
6.       Arms should hang down, but not too close to your body.
7.       Keep the same spine angle throughout swing.
8.       Bring club straight back and down target line.
9.       Extend your arms, keeping your left arm straight.
10.   Don’t cup your right wrist at top of swing.
11.   Keep a firm but not tight grip with right hand on club.
12.   Think tempo… 1 up, 2 at top, 3 down.
13.   Drop the club down on the inside of your arc.
14.   Don’t cast the club.
15.   Avoid dipping your head.
16.   Don’t drop you right shoulder on the down swing.
17.   Keep your eyes on the ball through impact, don’t look up.
18.   Hit down on the ball at 2:00 o’clock.
19.   Don’t try to lift the ball, by scooping it at 5:00 o’clock.
20.   Focus on leaving a divot in front of ball.
21.   Keep head of club square at impact.
22.   Follow through down the target line.
23.   Keep your balance as you shift your weight to your front foot.

It now takes me about 45 seconds to hit the ball.  I frequently freeze in mid-swing and start over.   I’ve put the list on my iPhone and study it in the golf cart between shots.  I am getting better, but for some reason, it’s harder for me to find playing partners.    

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What defines you?

When I turned 16, I received our family’s 1962 Ford Galaxie as my first car. The vehicle was nearly seven years old and had more than 100,000 miles of wear.  It couldn’t have been less cool.  A four-door with red plaid bench seats, it was white except for a little rust behind the rear wheels, and it had a puny six-cylinder engine that could barely drag the behemoth-of-a-car down the road.  Dubbed “the white whale” by my friends, it was quite possibly the least admired car in the high school parking lot.  Still, I had hope for the car. 

I spent my junior and senior years trying to turn the white whale into something it wasn’t—a cool ride.   I sanded, primed and painted the rust spots, removed the gaudy Ford hub caps and replaced them with chrome baby moons.  I moved the three-speed gearshift from the steering column onto the floor and raised the sagging rear end with a lift kit.  As a final touch, I added a reverberation unit and rear-mounted speakers to the AM radio, making the “over and over” part of Tommy James’ Crimson and Clover echo throughout the car.  I was proud of the improvements, but in the end, a ‘62 Ford Galaxie was never going to be a ‘69 Chevelle SS.   Even when it was new, the Galaxie wasn’t a cool ride.  How could it be?  The police car driven by Barney Fife on the Andy Griffith show was a ‘62 Galaxie.

Somehow, I made it through my high school years in spite of my vehicle.  In a way, that car made me stronger.  I had friends, even girlfriends, and matriculated to college on schedule, unimpaired.  Unlike other teens whose identities were formed by their vehicles, my car never defined me. I focused on sports, hanging with my friends, and studying just enough to get into college. I retired the white whale a few years later, trading it in for a late-model Mustang.  It was sad seeing it sitting on the lot as I drove away in my new car, but it had served its purpose.

In many ways, I’ve become that ‘62 Ford Galaxie.  Now 62 years old, my body has years of wear and a little rust around the edges. I find myself spending a fair amount of time and money patching myself together.  I do whatever I can to fight the forces of gravity, but like the white whale, my sagging frame could use a lift kit. I don’t have the option of trading in my aging body for a newer model, but I can choose not to have my age define me. My wife Claudia and I avoid standing still. We hike, garden, golf, and travel. After retiring, I took up writing and have self-published several novels with the help of Claudia as my editor. Our friends, families, and community activities keep our calendar full.  

Like they say, “Sixty is the new forty.”  They (whoever they are) probably aren’t referring to appearance, but more to the way sixty-plus people think and act.  Sixty is younger than it’s ever been.  Just during my lifetime, the life expectancy of U.S. men has risen nearly ten years--to 79¸ and a 65-year-old today will on average live another 20 years.   With 10,000 people turning 65 every day in the U.S, we are a force.

These stats indicate my body has a lot of mileage left, so I’d better take good care of it.  If only there was a way I could add a reverberation unit.    

Thursday, June 11, 2015

CYBER ONE - It's Here

I get the biggest rush from the arrival of the first shipment of my new novels. It's exciting to tear open the box and see the actual covers for the first time.  The awakening aroma of freshly-cut paper signifies the months of work are really over.  The urge to post one of these annoying photos, showing the books neatly stacked inside, is difficult to ignore.  I apologize.  It's as much for me as it is for you.

Copies of CYBER ONE - A Miles Stevens Novel #2 arrived yesterday, and in plenty of time for BookFest in downtown Sparta, NC on June 27th, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  If you're in the area, please stop by and visit with the dozen local authors stationed up and down Main Street, discussing and signing their latest books.  

The actual publication date of CYBER ONE is June 15th.  The Kindle and paperback versions will be available on on that date.  In addition, the first Miles Stevens novel, MELTING SAND, will be available for a FREE download on June 15th only.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In Good Company

I’ve been told that country music is about life.  If so, country song writers must assume most people spend their lives behind the wheel of a truck, inside bars, or fighting with their lovers.  I get a good laugh at the titles of some of these songs.  I don’t recall ever hearing their lyrics, so I can’t confirm whether these songs are even real.  It doesn’t matter because I doubt the lyrics could live up to the titles.   Here are some of my favorites:  

My Wife Ran Away With My Best Friend, And I’m Missin’ Him
If The Phone Don’t Ring, You’ll Know It’s Me
How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?
Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth, Cause I’m Kissing You Goodbye
I’m Still Missin’ You Baby, But My Aim's Gettin' Better
I’m So Miserable Without You, It’s Like Havin’ You Here
If You’re Lonely When You’re Alone, You’re In Bad Company 

One of the above is not the title of a country song.  I’ll give you a second to see if you can figure out which one it is…. 

Give up?  

The last one is actually a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre, a mid-1900’s French existentialist philosopher, screenwriter, and novelist. Few people know less about French philosophy than I do, but I’ve learned Sartre, in addition to his writing prowess and free thinking, is known for declining the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964.  A decision I can safely say that I will never face.

As a writer, Jean-Paul Sartre probably knew a thing or two about being alone.  Judging by his quote, it seems he also must have felt comfortable being in his own company.  I would guess most writers do.  It’s not a vocation that’s performed well in front of an audience.  Being alone is a requirement of the trade.

There was a period in my life where I was lonely when I was alone. I’d spent most of my life surrounded by coworkers, family, and friends.  Suddenly, within a period of a few weeks, I found myself retired, widowed, and living in a new community far from established routines.  Being alone wasn’t something I was used to, and I handled it poorly. I collapsed into myself, thinking I was the only person ever to experience loneliness. During that period, I was in bad company when I was alone.

I eventually pushed through the other end of that dark period. Several people and activities helped me along the way.  I give a bulk of the credit to meeting a strong, beautiful woman who’d conquered loneliness years ago. She taught me to focus on today, something I’d never been good at doing.

I also credit writing with helping me deal with loneliness. The quality of my writing is debatable, but what it’s done for me isn’t.  It keeps my mind moving, gives me goals, and it shows me that the times when I’m alone I can be in good company.                 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why a Time Travel Series?

The idea of a time travel series came to me several years ago after reading Stephen King’s 900-plus page novel, 11/22/63.  The protagonist, Jake Epping, finds a “rabbit hole” behind a diner that he slips through to travel back to the late 1950s.  From that point, he assimilates into his new surroundings as he attempts to alter the tragic course of events leading to John Kennedy’s death.

King’s method of time travel is magical more than scientific, with the rules briefly described to Epping by Al Templeton, the diner’s owner.  King doesn’t need to provide much detail on how Epping finds himself years in the past; the story is more about Epping’s journey to prevent the JFK’s assassination than it is about time travel.   

In the Miles Stevens series, which includes MELTING SAND and the soon to be released CYBER ONE, Miles and his CIA partners are sent back in time from Department of Historic Intervention (DHI) headquarters in Langley, Virginia.  The DHI uses an actual time machine, with the CIA agents and their possessions being fractured into subatomic particles and shot at multiples of light speed through time to predetermined destinations. The year is 2050, a time chosen for when time travel might actually be possible.

I like King’s premise of going back in time to alter a tragedy, thereby changing the course of history, but I don’t want to write about actual tragedies. Doing so would bring real people into the context of the story, along with real loss and real feelings.  Plus, historic fiction is something I just don’t feel comfortable writing. I don’t have King’s resources to accurately research the actual events leading to epic tragedies.

So I did the next best thing.  I invented disasters yet to occur, those feared as possible, and placed them on the time horizon between today and 2050.  Thirty-five years and the possibility of time travel give me incredible latitude as a fiction writer in subject matter, plots, and outcomes.

In MELTING SAND, it’s a Middle East nuclear war that has Miles Stevens and his partner Terri King propelled back to 2028.  In CYBER ONE, it’s an apocalyptic cyberattack targeting U.S. electrical grids that has Miles and his new team sent further back to 2020 to chase down the source of the attacks.

I think time travel provides a great foundation for an action/adventure series.  The possibilities are endless. Miles’ subatomic particles could travel just about anywhere for any number of disasters yet to occur.  He’s already tackled a nuclear war and an apocalyptic cyberattack.  What's next? 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Meet Miles Stevens

Meet Miles Stevens, the lead character in MELTING SAND and CYBER ONE. 

A 37-year-old, time traveling, CIA counterintelligence agent working for the Department of Historic Intervention (DHI), Gerald Miles Stevens is just north of six-foot tall, with sandy brown hair, dark blue eyes, and a chiseled, athletic physique.  The DHI is a futuristic division of the CIA, formed in 2050, with a mission sending agents back in time to alter tragic events in history.  Miles and the DHI call Langley, Virginia home.  

Miles joined the DHI after graduating from Yale and serving one term as the youngest state senator ever to serve the state of Florida.  His decision to get out of politics was prompted by the loss of his wife and only child in a tragic auto accident.  Seeking an escape from his horrific present, traveling years into the past seemed a good option.  When the president tells him of the newly formed, classified department within the CIA, he immediately signs up.

In MELTING SAND, Miles’ DHI handler, Dr. Robert Jones, assigns Miles to one of the first time travel missions along with Dr. Terri King.  Miles isn’t a ladies’ man, but he recognizes a beautiful woman when he sees one.  He’s even more impressed when the beautiful woman is self-assured, intelligent, and slow to warm up to him.  Terri King is such a woman.   They become more than partners when they are sent back to 2028 to alter the complex course of events leading to a Middle East nuclear war.  

I won’t spoil how MELTING SAND ends, but will share that Miles remains committed to Terri, even as Dr. Jones sends him on his next mission in CYBER ONE.  Longing to be reunited with Terri, Miles is joined by a new team and is sent to 2020 to avert a devastating cyberattack launched by unknown international terrorists, targeting the electrical grids of major U.S. cities. 

In CYBER ONE, Miles continues as a confident, risk-taking, gun-toting, counterintelligence agent, but finds himself a duck out of water in the world of high-tech espionage.  As he focuses on conventional CI tactics to chase down suspects, his team of computer experts sort through binary fingerprints left by the terrorists to help guide his journey.  

Oh, yeah.  There’s also a mysterious, dark-haired, black-eyed female protagonist in CYBER ONE with her eyes on Miles.  All I can say is good luck to her.

I hope you check out the Miles Stevens series and get to know him better.    


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Tales to Tell

I take my dog on a walk most every morning. The path is always the same--out the front door, down a power line path, and then we cut into the woods before emerging onto a road leading back to the house.  It’s about a mile end-to-end, but with a young dog, sniffing every foreign object and eating many of them, it takes more than 30 minutes. 

We pass a huge pine tree in the thickest part of the woods.  It’s approaching 80-feet tall, with the lower branches bare and spiked, green needles only at its peak where it reaches for sunlight.  The tree appears supernatural, so this portion of the woods has been tagged “the enchanted forest.”  I’ve wondered how a lone tree emerges among the thousands of others, growing to such grand proportions.  Is it just a matter of surviving longer than the rest, or was its size genetically determined centuries ago? 

I can only imagine what this craggy, aged conifer has witnessed over the years, possibly even providing a resting place for the early settlers of North Carolina as they made their way over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  If it were only possible to extract thoughts from its fibrous memory, what tales it might tell.

I’m similar to this tree in some ways.  I’m past my prime, deeply rooted in my ways, and slow to give way to younger seedlings.  I’ve also been around long enough to have seen and heard more than most.  There are thousands of stories bottled up within me, too.

I’ll continue to pause and study the tree on my walks.  Its presence and persistence are motivating.  We have much more to share.