What an amazing time we live in!

Please pardon the unbridled enthusiasm.

Today, two major rulings were handed down from the Supreme Court, and both are just amazing, considering the political climate. And it just seems like almost anything is possible in the U.S.A. I have this weird urge to yell “Yes, we can!” at random passersby in Pittsburgh.

First, the Gay Marriage ruling which affirmed our faith in humanity–though at only a 5-4 majority.


This is a truly weird argument to even be having in a first world country as developed as the United States of America. We have essentially been refusing constitutional rights to a segment of the United States because we find them weird or strange. It’s quite frankly always been absurd, and watching this happen over the past decade or so has been at times frustrating. But I can still remember when Ellen came out, and I remember what it did to her over the short term (she certainly rebounded). And it has been amazing to watch so many prominent people come out to the public and deal with the mixed bag of reactions and show so much perseverance in the face of such opposition.

I cannot imagine what this decision does to the many LGBT citizens of the United States. I cannot imagine how it feels, but I hope they feel as hopeful as I do. Just amazing.

As a person born in the South, I know this is not the end of the bigotry, insults, and ignorance regarding the LGBT community in the United States. But I am so enthusiastic about what is going to happen to the USA over the coming decades. I hope, so strongly, that our next generations can look past this type of petty bigotry and focus on the real problems and bright future of this country and our species, really.

Second, the ACA (ObamaCare) ruling.

I’ve read and been exposed to many opinions on the Affordable Care Act. Some are reasonably unbiased, such as those that try to break down the pros and cons at sites like this.  However, the majority of opinions I’ve heard on this are polar and extreme, and the “repeal Obamacare” crowd have been really disturbing.

This is a country of possibilities and one that tries to reward hard work. While I can understand some of the motivations and quite frankly the jealousies of people who dislike “handouts”, I find it utterly disturbing that reasonable health care to prevent much of our population from dying unnecessarily is so vehemently fought against.

I have had people try to convince me that the system rewards the undeserving. I have had people try to convince me that the system taxes too much. I have had people try to convince me that it is a downward spiral into communism and anti-Americanism. And all of these people have been conservative Republicans.

Here’s the reality of the United States:

  1. In order to accomplish the American Dream, we almost universally have to go to college in order to get degrees. This has been made more expensive by political party initiatives to defund campuses, which have been setup by conservatives as adversaries of conservative policies and ideology. Massive defunding of grants. Massive defunding of subsidies and massive burdens on the American citizens hoping to better themselves and their prospects. The result has been an enormous debt load that many students will struggle to pay off for decades. This causes extreme pressure on entrepreneurial activities because people under extreme debt are typically risk averse, which means less new companies, less innovation, and less pursuit of the American dream.
  2. We have one of the lowest tax rates of the developed world.
  3. These low tax rates are honestly burdening our long term strategies for developing our future generations to be productive members of society. We are cutting education and science budgets, and we are setting ourselves up for failure. We are banking on an economic model commonly referred to as “Trickle Down Economics” that has repeatedly shown itself to be ineffective at generating economic stimulus, while models that drive consumer spending have always been shown to be successful. Essentially, if you want to kickstart capitalism, you need to make sure economic benefits are not being hoarded. You want money flowing throughout the economy, and this means getting money into the hands of consumers (i.e., by getting them better jobs and kickstarting new innovations and items that will entice spending)
  4. We have a political system so polarized that it actively turns citizens against each other over religion, abortion, or whatever else will galvanize mostly ignorant people to turn up at the polls to protect some hyper-inflated sense of doom, despair, and paranoia.

ACA enables the United States capitalistic machinery by lowering the barrier of entry into the market place for all fields, across the board. Wait… what? Medical care remains one of the most expensive industries, and it is also the most mandatory for our survival. You get cancer without medical insurance, it’s a death sentence. You get an infection without medical insurance? Probably going to die there too. And every person will run into a health problem at some point in their life. Just like car insurance, medical insurance helps alleviate societal burdens, especially on the impoverished, to ensure a functional economically productive system.

The concept of subsidized health insurance may seem “communistic” or “socialistic” to some, but like public roads, automobile insurance, or most other subsidized or government-sponsored programs, the end result is lowering the burden on American families struggling toward the American Dream. It is penicillin for retarded economic growth. It is saving lives–many lives that may influence our economic activity in ways that may not seem immediately obvious.

“The world needs janitors” is always going to be true, but so is the fact that those janitors can only keep doing their jobs if they are alive and healthy. Additionally, the offspring of those janitors may also have huge potential to change the world for the better, and you want them to survive too. Someone under ACA could be the person that eventually cures cancer. Someone under ACA is likely to be a future President. Someone being treated under ACA may give birth to the person who launches us into space mining, interstellar travel, neural repairs, or any number of ideas that will fundamentally change America and the world for the better. Someone struggling through life may finally be able to afford to participate in the American Dream and have a little more hope.

These are the types of promises that Americans clung to when Obama was elected. Hope and change. And we just got confirmation on two of them. More equality. Better lives. A better place to live and raise our children.

What an amazing time to live in!

On the Future of Game of Thrones

So, I need to revisit some of my theories from my last post on GoT.


I was on track on almost everything, even the spoiler zone concerning Jon Snow in the finale, and my predictions for next season (and the next book) appear to be mostly in tact. My only miss so far was on the timing of Stannis’s death and that he might take Melisandre with him. That he was doomed was obvious. That his downfall was so much quicker and cleaner than the one he experiences in the book (George R. R. Martin did not reach this doom yet in his books as he was too busy writing about Brienne wandering with Podrick) was actually a welcome addition, in my opinion.

Anyway, what does all of this mean? What are we going to see next?

The Resurrection of Jon Snow into the Azor Ahai

I feel like this is inevitable. You were not tortured with the blandness of Jon Snow for so many books for no reason. The Ned Starkiness of Jon Snow needed to die in order for him to be born again into what humanity needed him to be. And if you think about it, this death fixes so many things about Jon Snow’s loyalties and burdens that only a Stark boy could possibly torture himself with. He died. The contract of the Night’s Watch oath is ended. His death frees him from any such requirement to stand at the wall and defend it according to its archaic principles. He can be the hero he was born to be. Melisandre saw the resurrection of a minor character (who had been returned multiple times by the Lord of Light). All she has to do is apply her affinity to the Lord of Light, and we should have a much different Jon Snow on our hands.

Here are my predictions for what we are going to see for Jon Snow.

  1. He no longer has any need or compulsion to do right by the Night’s Watch. They’ve killed his old self. When Melisandre brings him back, he is going to have a huge chip off his shoulder, and he’s going to be angry and at least relieved of much of his guilt. He can now freely join the real world, the world south of the wall and away from the walkers for a spell. Melisandre will likely smuggle Jon out of Castle Black and into the Wildling army.
  2. The Night’s Watch is likely to be overwhelmed by the Whitewalkers early into next season. Without Jon’s leadership, they’ll put up a mostly ineffective fight. Ollie will be butchered and by the end of the episode, he’ll pop up with those glassy eyes and zombie features, just so you know he got his just rewards for betraying the Azor Ahai.
  3. In the books, Jon Snow is on his way to attacking the Boltons with the Wildling army when the Night’s Watch mutiny happens. This is in response to Ramsey threatening Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch after the Stannis army is overwhelmed. The show has no such premise yet. If Jon Snow is still going to lead the Wildling army against Winterfell, we’ll probably have a Ramsay message to provoke it. This is pure speculation though, but if it holds true, I would expect Jon Snow to have a part in Ramsay’s death (though I would really love for Theon to be the avenger).

Sansa Stark

Sansa appears destined to join Brienne outside Winterfell. Brienne is a woman of principles, and she will stop at nothing to fulfill her oaths. I like her in the show so much more than I liked her in the books.

The meeting with Littlefinger will be tense, but he had no idea who Ramsey really was, and Sansa should ultimately forgive him (though I have a feeling she is going to throw a fit). Her character arc has been weakened significantly by her interactions with Ramsay. But the interactions with Theon and watching Theon come out of his shell are going to be fun to watch, I think.

I hope Ramsay and Brienne do not cross paths too early. Brienne’s fight with the Hound showed that she has a touch of ruthlessness when pushed too far, but the Hound still had a code and he telegraphed everything. Ramsay is not such a character. If he is alone, she has a chance. If he is with multiple people, she may die horribly. Let’s hope they simply don’t cross paths until Brienne is fully aware of who and what he is (and he is alone).

Arya Stark

The blindness is going to be an interesting transition that she will be taught to embrace and harness. The blinded thing will continue throughout next season, and she will learn to use the blindness to be a pitiful, easy-to-trust person who kills with ease. She’ll pretend to drop her list, and she will start killing everyone they have asked her too. If the blindness is relieved, expect the list to be back on and Needle to pop out. I just hope she doesn’t kill her teacher. He’s an interesting character.

Tyrion, Varys and Daenerys

They’ll solve the Harpy problem within 4 episodes. Seriously, you are looking at a dream team of smarts, as far as Game of Thrones is concerned. Of course, when the Queen gets back, she is going to be unnecessarily furious with Varys and will almost instantaneously want him executed for his role in spying on her. But Varys and Tyrion will talk her out of his potential execution, once she is rescued from the Dothraki by Jora the Explorer and the stud muffin.

The Dothraki are likely to be a component of the army that Daenerys will be flanked by. I have a feeling that Daario Naharis is going to die during her rescue and Jora is likely to reveal his doomed skin. What happens then is anyone’s guess. Anyway, the important part is that Daenerys is going to be sailing to Westeros with Tyrion and Varys by her side, as well as an army of Dothraki and Unsullied. She’ll be in a very strong position by the end of next season, I think.

The Lannisters

Their days are assuredly numbered, but they’ll limp along. Cersei and the Reanimated Mountain are going to kill the High  Sparrow and her holier-than-thou cousin. And when Jamie Lannister returns with her murdered daughter, hell will have no fury like a Cersei scorned. Jamie may be nearly choked to death by Cersei’s creature for failing her.

In the books, Jamie leaves her to her own devices in the hold of the Sparrow while he tries to right the lingering problems in Westeros. In the series, he travels to Dorne and tries to rescue the princess. I have a feeling Cersei is going to end up killing her uncle and maybe even Jamie for failing to come to her rescue. Without his good hand and a penchant for stumbling into trouble where he really would need a sword, I think Jamie is in trouble for next season. Tommen’s health is likely to decline and his reign will likely end naturally at a young age, due to his stress over the High Sparrow issue.

Anyway, that’s enough speculative musings for now ;). Feel free to comment!

BTW, interesting interview on the Targaryens origin story. http://www.businessinsider.com/origins-targaryens-george-rr-martin-game-of-thrones-2015-6

On Stannis, his daughter and his doom

I love Game of Thrones. I really do. It’s the reason my wife and I subscribed to HBO, and it’s really the catalyst that jumpstarted our love of several HBO series and documentaries on the channel. So, like millions of other GoT viewers, I find myself thinking about the characters and plot, and the significant events and story arcs of each character. This includes the current Sansa house-of-horrors return to her childhood home and the recent death of Princess Shireen.

Now, I’ll go ahead and tell you that I think the HBO series has done a better job of telling this story than either of the past 2 books from George R. R. Martin has done. So, feel free to stop reading right there if you like, but I can tell you that I was getting physically agitated while reading the drawn out Brienne wandering chapters, and there were just so many unnecessarily lengthened portions of those books that seemed to have no other purpose than to agitate the reader. Hate me for my opinion there, but when I love a book, I tend to reread it several times, and these last two books have almost no chance of ever being reread again (by me).

Anyway, back to the point of this post. Stannis and Shireen. When episode 4 of Season 5 aired, my wife and I were watching the “affectionate” scene between the two, and I said “Oh, dear.” She gave me a puzzled look and I immediately said, “the only reason for the writers to write such a scene for such a man would be to set up her imminent death.”

Here’s the scene in question.

Season 5, Episode 4, Stannis and Shireen

For some viewers, this was seen as a redemption scene–something to give viewers a rallying point to root for him to succeed–but Stannis is hardly someone to root for. He’s going to die, and it’s likely to be a sacrifice when he realizes just what Melisandre is up to. As George R. R. Martin has said, Melisandre has her own agenda, and to me, it has been eradicating the Baratheon line.

Wait, what?

Melisandre killed Renly, and she convinced Stannis to take part–an act that started him on a darker path. From there, he lost more of his humanity and a complete loss of sight when it came to what kind of dynasty he possible could or should create. He then endorsed her efforts to kill off more of the Baratheon line when she brought Gendry to his castle and nearly executed him (until Davos saved him). Davos could not save Shireen, but he may have helped save some visage of the Baratheon line with Gendry. Anyway, she convinced Stannis that the ends justify the means. And he went deeper into the darkness. He killed his devoted subjects in public burnings. And he slid deeper into the darkness.

And then Melisandre convinced him to go north to help the men of the Night’s Watch. No, not the Night’s Watch. She was drawn by and to someone else.

“I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor shows me only Snow“, Melisandre in DwD, Chapter 31.

Stannis is as much the one true king as Robert was. They were both usurpers and undeserving, though Robert was strong enough to force himself onto the throne for the rest of his natural life. Melisandre sees the one true king. She’s asked her god to give her a glimpse of the Azor Ahai, the “dragon” who will defeat the white walkers again, and he has shown her Jon Snow. The scene with his sword (undoubtedly the repurposed Lightbringer from the book) being used to kill one of the white walker lieutenants makes sure viewers are sufficiently warned, just as the scene with Shireen and Stannis was laid out to warn viewers what was going to happen to the Princess.


As any reader of ADwD can attest, in a future episode, Jon Snow will be attacked by his own people and perhaps the old human part of him will be no more. We don’t know. If he survives, he will likely be in a different form–perhaps less human and more Azor Ahai. Or maybe the series writers will keep his humanity and Ned Stark’s base tenants, but if so, he’s going to be in constant danger. I think with that scene, Jon will become more like the dragon he needs to be in order to defeat the unnaturally gifted white walker menace.



Now, I only consider a spoiler to be something in the book that has not been shown in the HBO series. Predictions, to me, are not spoilers. I can’t verify any of the following will happen, but I have a feeling the following things will come to take place and I’ll describe why.

1.) Azor Ahai is the reincarnation of the Last Hero and is also the promised Prince. He is also Jon Snow, who is most certainly the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna. Some have speculated that Azor Ahai is a combination of Jon Snow, Daenerys and another due to the prophecy seen by Daenerys in the House of the Undying, where three dragons are mentioned. However, I’m pretty sure this is a reference to the 3 children (Daenerys, Viserys and Jon), rather than any amalgamate featuring Jon and Daeny (e.g. Brann or Tyrion, which are all great, fun theories, but I believe Azor Ahai is specifically Jon Snow).

2.) The Targaryens are the promise of Valyria and the only hope of mankind to fight the plague of the Others. Valyria produced the type of blade that could kill them–that was made explicit via the scene with Jon Snow. Dragon Fire is also going to be a likely killer of the white walkers, just as we saw fire magic being used against the attackers of Brann Stark and his troop. The world needs Valyria to continue, and Daenerys was supposedly made barren by the witch who killed Khal Drogo. This hurts the chances of Jon Snow marrying Daenerys. The truth is that mankind needs the Targaryens to survive, or else humanity must find a way to destroy the Others completely this time. Failure to do either means that in another 10,000 years, humanity is simply doomed. If Jon and Daenerys do marry, then Melisandre or some other R’hllor priest may need to undo her witch-inflicted barren state.

3.) Stannis is going to die, probably in a fire as it will be the will of R’hllor and likely when he has his path to the throne in sight. He’s likely to survive and prosper up to the end. He will either be killed by Melisandre, or he will personally kill her when he realizes what she was really up to (killing the problematic elements of the House of Baratheon for R’hllor, who appears to me to be the God who ultimately protects men from the walkers). Both may actually happen, where Melisandre and Stannis end up killing each other. But Stannis, at the very least, is doomed. He was simply a tool, used by R’hllor, to protect Jon Snow, the Azor Ahai, by stopping the army that would have killed him.

Anyway, that’s enough speculative musings for now ;). Feel free to comment!

Out of one cold winter and into another

Still working on the draft for Cold Winter as I get time. Up to 55k words so far, and the past weekend saw a deep edit of the prologue, which provides a snippet of Alex’s tortuous childhood. If I can stay focused, I’ll hopefully have the draft of the first novel wrapped up by end of summer.

I’m sort of poking around the internet, looking for a new artist since my main one has been AWOL from any kind of email communications about the third part of the Primal Patterns series. If you have artist recommendations, drop me a line!

To the halfway point in the draft of Cold Winter

Good news! Another night of 5k+ words!

I’ve talked with Derek over at Homunculus Editing Services, and he thinks we may be able to fit an edit in before the holidays. That’s good for me; it gives me motivation to get things done more quickly. I am taking PTO from Wednesday to Friday this week at work, and I expect I’ll be striking keys and storyboarding like a madman. Wish me luck!

Updates and Goings On

Wow. It’s been a year since I’ve posted anything. That’s not very nice of me. What the heck have I been doing?

Well, as I’ve mentioned in the about section, I earned a PhD in CS with a focus in artificial intelligence, and I’ve had a very busy couple of years pursuing my interests in computer science. During that time, I’ve worked with nearly a dozen PhD-candidate students in one of the finest universities in the world, and it’s been very stressful, busy, and also fulfilling. I’ve traveled a bit around the world (Berlin this year) and the US with trips from coast-to-coast. All that traveling and also my wife quitting her job meant that money was a bit more tight and cutting back on publishing costs became pretty necessary (Lucifer’s Odyssey’s production costs were in the thousands, and I don’t want to produce a poorly revised, edited, and created work).

In that time period, I’ve talked with people from diverse backgrounds, heard their stories, and also caught up on a lot of movies and television shows. I can’t claim it’s all been focused on writing because writing has definitely found its way to my back burner, but during all of these interactions I’ve thought of stories.

I’m still writing fiction in a much reduced mode right now. My main writing outlet has been via open source coding projects and building middleware and software libraries in my primary field of study. But writing fiction is still there as a creative outlet (even if video games like World of Warcraft are invading my limited free time).

I apologize if waiting for the final chapter of Lucifer’s Odyssey has been frustrating. It’s been pretty frustrating for me too: not because I don’t love the characters and story but because so few other people appear to and it’s so expensive to get such a complex book right. It’s more likely that my next book will not be the final chapter of the Primal Patterns saga, but instead the first chapter of Alex Winter’s story. I did extend the rewrite of the Winter Phenomenon/Cold Winter by another 1k words or so this past weekend while my nieces were visiting my wife and I.

Why am I working on Cold winter and where is it going right now? Well, with what I see in book sales and pop culture, the romantic angle is more likely to resonate with new readers. The story is likely to be more simple and less chaotic. I mean, I enjoy Chaos a lot and believe life really does have a delightfully random nature to it, but I’m trying to tone down my randomness a bit. I think it will make readers feel more comfortable and more willing to take a chance with the next chapter or even the next book.

Is it the right move? No idea. I don’t think finishing the Primal Patterns series is going to really boost its sales much at all. The first book is just too hard for the majority of book readers to get into and love. People won’t make it to the third book, and the third book is going to be so vastly different in tone, emotional anchoring and direction that someone who loved the first book may not even like the third. I have no idea.

Anyway, that’s where things stand. I have no idea when either book will be out of first draft, but it’s likely that no novels will be released this year. My financial situation has improved somewhat, and I may be able to afford a cover artist and editing in shorter works. But novels are a lot of work, especially given my time constraints. We’ll see.

Book Review of Scriber

Now that I’m back to writing, I’m also back to reading fiction–hoping to learn and reflect and generally just being entertained. I have a backlog of books that I’ve been wanting to read, and the first one I picked up was Scriber by Ben Dobson. I believe I picked up this book when it was free for a brief period of time. Scriber has an excellent review score and history with over a hundred people posting positive scores to Amazon and Goodreads. For the most part, I completely agree with them. Here’s a breakdown of the story without a lot of spoilers.

Scriber is a story of a classically trained historian, outcast from favor, trying to survive in a medieval fantasy world despite his faults and past. He just so happens to fall inline with a group of female soldiers who have a date with destiny. Scriber has all the right elements of a classic fantasy tale: a larger-than-life heroine, vengeful spirits, lost magic, a moving story and an epic quest. The character building, especially for the protagonist, was extensive, and for better or worse, you understand his motivations and shortcomings. I finished the book, including the epilogue and prologue, in a sitting that was only interrupted by sleep (started on a Friday night and went into Saturday). It held me in sway.

There were very few typos (maybe a handful), and the story was very solid. The only reasons I am not giving this five out of five is because I was never surprised with the story. The flow was very formulaic, and you’ll know not only who is going to die but also who is going to stay together chapters before the action unfolds. This can be a rewarding experience in itself for many readers, and I certainly didn’t mind the comfort of knowing what I was getting into. The other downside to this was that so few of the many characters were fleshed out (and there are a lot of characters). They were one-dimensional except for the protagonist, and this helped with predicting who was going to survive and who was likely to bite the bullet.

Despite those notes, this is solid storytelling by a promising author. I’d definitely recommend the book to any fans of traditional fantasy. And for the price point ($ 0.99), you really can’t go wrong with picking up this book.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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