Author Meet (Facebook)

Interested in talking with me and dozens of other authors in the upcoming Wrath and Ruin boxset for fantasy and science fiction? We’re all going to be on Facebook on October 21st to chat and share stories and fun.22424254_1900534546862447_197940755966492414_o

Click on the image above to see the times that authors are going to be online. Many of us will be online for hours to chat, so feel free to stop by any time!

Advertisements

U.S. Education and the Unlikelihood of Upward Mobility in the U.S. in the Next Era

For those of us working in academia, these are trying times. For futurists, like myself, who try to predict trends and impact of social pressures, emerging technologies, legislation, economics, etc., these are truly alarming times.

There are three converging forces that will impact capitalistic countries in remarkable ways. The first is the increasing technological requirements that jobs will require. Technology, including robotics and AI, are extending human reach, increasing efficiency, and essentially allowing a single person to do the jobs of potentially hundreds of people through automation and autonomy. This puts a downward pressure on job demand because there is less need for more workers to produce the same amount of goods and services. It puts at least an equivalent if not greater upward pressure on supply of products and it also tends to make businesses far more profitable. This results in cheaper products (great for consumers) and higher profits for companies. I know this area very well because I work in software for autonomy and distributed AI. I see what’s coming in a way most people don’t or can’t.

The first converging force noted above causes a second force to amplify a problem here. Businesses have been rewarding executives and management persons with increasingly larger shares of corporate profits. This has caused a pretty massive wealth divide in the U.S. The ratios of corporate executive earnings are absolutely phenomenal in the U.S. and have changed dramatically over the past century. CEO to an average worker pay tends to hover around 350:1 now. There are exceptions, and that’s great, but in general, companies are looking at their executives as the profit drivers. With the first force, automation, they’re not exactly wrong. If you can automate your entire work force, the only people who matter are the people who are managing the autonomy. Everyone else is essentially replaceable and can be paid low wages. A famous infographic based on recent surveys became a viral hit and is worth watching

The second force is exacerbated by the lax corporate merger environment and the willingness to accept oligopolies and even monopolies that discourage competition and increase profits. This is a very anti-capitalist situation because the entire idea of capitalism is to encourage diversity in the market place, not to centralize entire industries in everything from steel to sunglasses, from cable TV to radio, from newspapers to military contractors. John Oliver did a really good job at describing the current corporate merger and acquisitions environment in his segment here:

The third converging force is an effect of the current budgeting for education and outsourcing. Education in technology and automation, especially, can help offset the effects of the second force (profit concentration in executives and management) by creating a skilled workforce that make companies more diverse in skills and more effective and efficient at creating and maintaining new products or business services. In the U.S., this has, so far, been a sort of saving grace in hubs such as Silicon Valley, Austin Texas, etc. However, we see a major assault (sorry, but I can see no other way to really characterize this right now) on Education funding.

In preparation for the proposed tax cuts for wealthy persons, especially, in the current FY18 congressional agenda, the House and Senate are looking for places to cut spending in order to make the Republican tax cuts have a smaller bottom line effect on budget. There does not appear to be any real economic driver in the current plans, as far as I or anyone else can tell, that would reduce our actual debt. This is really more about maintaining the status quo of gaining debt about as quickly as before while also providing for a truly massive tax cut to the wealthier segments of the U.S. You can read more about the recent House bill to cut Education funding here.

I am in the current middle class but I grew up in the poor and lower middle class. I earned my PhD through a variety of helpful public programs and working multiple jobs waiting tables and applying for my own research scholarships. One of the programs that greatly aided my ability to attend university when my parents could not afford to pay my tuition was the Pell Grant system. The current Republican plan approved in the House will cut 78.3 billion dollars from Pell, directly, to remove this education option from the poor and middle class and would reacquire 3.3 billion from the Pell surplus that helps pay for the program.

The latter would remove Pell Grant availability for an estimated 900,000 students in the U.S., putting greater pressure on social mobility and removing many poor and lower middle class, especially, from entering the skilled worker workpool. It essentially contributes to a growing wealth inequality in the U.S. It also removes the possibility of a majority of the U.S. workforce participating in the skilled labor force, will impact U.S. GDP since we will have a much less educated workforce to create new small business or realize technological innovations, and will ultimately force us into the absolute requirement to outsource nearly all of our technical innovation and high skilled labor. The results of cutting Pell, especially, will be to put more students in debt, so that they are less likely to leave their first job and are beholden to student debt payments. It makes them more likely to accept pay cuts and disproportionate incomes compared to upper management.

I cannot stress enough that as a futurist, the current legislative agenda, especially as it pertains to educating the next generation of scientists, engineers, teachers, manufacturers, and skilled labor force, is remarkably appalling. I’m very worried about where our workforce is going to be in the future, and with where we are heading in regards to barriers of entry for business and growth. We are entering an era of technology, automation, and even growth into space. If we continue down this path, we will not be as competitive on the world stage in an age of technology and automation, and we are going to be especially non-competitive in anything other than investment and wealth management for expansion into new areas like space. This will be largely due to the fact that we’ll have fewer skilled labor to compete in technological areas.

What can we do?

Ultimately, all we have power to do right now is vote, protest, and make our voices heard. Contact your congressman or congresswoman and ask them to fight for a skilled technical workforce. When it comes down to the next election, try not to allow yourself to be pigeonholed into single issue voter categories such as abortion rights or gun control. Instead, look toward the future, and try to make sure the candidates we are electing are on the right track in regards to the economic mobility and happiness of our future generations. Otherwise, we’re all just spectators to history and the progress of other countries who value education and a skilled workforce.

 

GoT Predictions (Season 7)

game-of-thrones-season-7-poster-3

We’ll get to the significance of this poster later

So, as a reminder, I made a list of predictions back in Season 6. I wanted to revisit those, see what I predicted incorrectly and also post what I think is going to happen in the rest of Season 7 and onto Season 8.

First, I’ll speak to my previous predictions, some of which were wrong.

Season 7 Predictions (from last year)

Past prediction #1. People with Valyrian weapons are going to be setup as heros. Brienne has one. Jon has one. Arya now has one. Everything is being setup for these men and women to be the tip of the spear in the defense against the whitewalkers. Still on track with this prediction, but we’re not going to see this in full bloom until Season 8.

Past prediction #2. Jon and Dany did team up, even if the alliance is looser than it will eventually be. Jon and Dany will eventually marry. That’s mine and most people’s predictions and has been mine since probably season 4 or so.

Past prediction #3. Neither Tyrion nor Jaime has killed Cersei, and I don’t think it’s going to happen this season. I think it will happen next season, and I’m still rooting for Tyrion to do it, but Jaime is the more logical candidate.

Past prediction #4 (with new direction). My wall prediction is changing due to the posters that have been released. My previous prediction was that the wall would be compromised by Bran passing through it with the mark (the same mechanism that doomed the previous three-eyed raven when Bran passed through the door and doomed Hodor). I think this is going to get a bit more complicated now that we’ve seen episode 5. Essentially, the northern hero group is going to kidnap a white walker to show Cersei. Their plan is hopelessly flawed and dumb. This is obviously not going to go well and is very poorly thought out.

The Night King is going to catch Jon Snow’s group in a melee (as you can see from the preview). What happens next is the prediction. I think at least 2 people are going to die here and possibly 3. At least Thoros (the drunken Fire God priest who has been bringing his friend back to life). Don’t worry, Gendry is going to survive. He is the Baratheon connection to the Starks and I think he’ll survive the series and be one of Jon Snow / Aegon Targaryen’s closest friends.

There should be two people joining this battle to save the day. The first should be Daeny. She’ll be joined by at least one dragon and possibly two. She wants to see these whitewalkers for herself, and she gets more than she bargained for. Look at the teaser poster above. That is not one of Daeny’s dragons. Not anymore. That’s an ice dragon.

I think during this melee with the Night King, Jon Snow is joined by Daeny who helps them whisk away a white walker, but she loses something very precious to her. I don’t think it will be Drogon. I think we’re going to lose one of the smaller dragons to the Night King.

And I think that this dragon is going to be the thing the Night King uses to down the Wall. I’m not sure if the books are going to play out this way, but I do think the show is going to play out this way based on the production materials and general direction.

I have a feeling Jon Snow is going to continue on to Winterfell to see how things are going. I’m skipping ahead of things though. Let’s just stick with the past predictions and how we’re moving along.

Past Prediction #5. Arya’s kill list will become complete by the end of Season 7 was my original prediction, and I was wrong. The remaining list when I made the prediction was: Cersei, The Hound, The Mountain, Ilyn Payne, The Red Woman, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr. I feel like Beric and Thoros might die in the melee with Jon Snow and the Night King in episode 6 or 7 of Season 7. The Red Woman seems safe for now, but she has already told us in a talk with Varys that both he and she will die soon. I think they will both die in Season 8, and the Red Woman may die bloodily to Arya to show the power of the old gods to kill each other and new gods (The Stranger over the Fire God).

I still think The Hound and The Mountain are going to kill each other in combat. And I really, really want The Hound to embrace the Fire God and burn his brother The Mountain to death (bringing their arc full circle). If The Hound survives the Clegane Bowl, good on him, but it should complete his story arc.

Ilyn Payne was the executioner at King’s Landing. I believe Arya will kill him before all is said and done but that will be in Season 8, not 7. Cersei will die at the hands of “the younger brother”, as Maggy the Frog’s prophecy predicted. BTW, I believe Cersei is going to lose the baby in a miscarriage (the prophecy was very specific about the number of children she will have), and this is going to drive her even further into crazy town. Again, Cersei is in Season 8 at this point.

But I don’t think the list is the end of the names for Arya. There’s a big name on her list. She just hasn’t voiced it yet, and I think you’re going to see that this season. Let’s talk about that next, because it’s going to be fun!


New Predictions

New Prediction 1. Littlefinger is going to be added to Arya’s list. His chaos games are simply not possible in Winterfell. He’s vastly overestimating his ability to drive a wedge between Sansa and Arya, and he doesn’t quite seem to grasp that Arya is especially dangerous. She’s not just someone who can fight Brienne to a straight-up draw. She’s the kind of person who would never intentionally get in the fight in the first place. She’s a faceless one, and she will be Littlefinger’s killer. This is going to happen in Season 7. This is too juicy and fun for them to hold off on this one, and let’s face it, it’s time. Littlefinger’s game is played out.

Why? I think Bran is going to have something to do with this. Chaos is only a ladder if everyone is clueless. If you have someone omniscient thrown into the mix, then that person isn’t susceptible to chaos. If a plan requires chaos, then an omniscient slices through it. Bran bumbles his way through social interactions. He’s going to reveal Littlefinger and Sansa has never completely trusted him after he gave her to Ramsay. The three Starks will all turn on Littlefinger, but it’s going to be Arya who kills him. It’s her role. Sansa will sign off on it though. She’s the leader of the Stark family (Jon Snow is unlikely to remain “Jon Snow” for much longer and his real family name will switch to Targaryen, likely Aegon, since it’s a popular name in that family to signify power, conqueror, etc.

New Prediction 2. Dragon battle. No, I’m not talking about Dragons vs. the Lannister army. That was obviously a mismatch. No, I’m talking about Drogon against at least 1 of his siblings (Rhaegal and/or Viserion). I’m not sure which will be the one to turn into an ice dragon. We may see Drogon have to battle both. Rhaegal and Viserion are inseparable. If you remember, they were chained together in a dungeon while Drogon got to go around eating sheep and children (you remember this scene, right?)

It would of course make more sense for Drogon to be chosen by the Night King since he is the bigger and stronger one, but I think opportunity presents itself and the Night King gets to keep one of the others. My best guess is Viserion. Why? Because he/she is named after Daeny’s crazy, power hungry brother. This is one of those names that never should have been given out. What was Daeny even thinking here? Anyway, I think we’re going to see Drogon kill a sibling dragon in melee. We may even see Drogon have to fight both Viserion and Rhaegal, and I think maybe even all three die by the end of the series. If the latter happens, I think you’re going to see three new eggs lain by one of them though (whichever one chooses to be female, as dragons can apparently choose their gender, if you remember).

Again, due to promotional materials, I believe the wall in the TV series will fall to one of these converted dragons. I do not believe that Bran will accidentally bring the wall down, and I do not believe that the Night King will do it with his own powers. I think Daeny’s participation in the kidnapping attempt on a white walker will result in her losing a dragon.

New Prediction 3. Tormund and Brienne. It’s going to happen. Too fun to pass up, and it’s a fan favorite pairing at this point. This has to happen. It just has to. Unfortunately, it is not going to happen until Season 8 though.

New Prediction 4. Some more characters that are middling characters will die off. Benjen Stark (the guy with the flaming flail and Ned’s brother) will die off heroicly, probably saving someone in this melee north of the wall. He’s been due a good death in his state of undeath. Beric is going to survive the same melee, I think, but I don’t know why. His flaming sword trick is supposed to be saved for Azor Ahai, but the TV series is using this for effect for some reason.

In the legends, the original Azor Ahai plunged his sword into his wife’s chest to create that flaming sword that was used to smite the white walkers. Now? You can just turn it on like a lightsaber. This could have setup some really intense drama. Imagine if the only way Jon Snow/Targaryen could activate his full Azor Ahai powers was to plunge his sword into the heart of the woman he is destined to be with–Daenerys, and that she would offer herself willingly and with love, as this woman did 10,000 years ago with her husband, the original Azor Ahai. Well, you’re not going to get that–for better or worse. Maybe Beric’s only purpose will be to teach Jon how to do the sword trick or something–not that he really needs it since he can just use his Valyrian steel sword to kill whitewalkers without even needing a flaming blade.

As I mentioned before, Gendry will survive the series. I think he’s necessary to keep the Baratheon line going.

New Prediction 5. Jon will declare his undying loyalty to Daenerys by the end of Season 7. I don’t think they will be married yet, but I think he will pledge to serve her in some way after she saves his butt in the North (and loses one of her children/dragons doing it).

That’s enough for now. When the season is over and I see how far off I am, I’ll make another prediction/wrap up post. Really great season. Short but really great! 😀

Winter is Coming (GoT)

But what does that really mean? We’re all expecting a showdown between the White Walkers and the Targaryens, and by a plurality here, I mean Jon Snow and Daenerys of course. But what if there is more to this? Are we expecting such a straight-forward ending, really?

There are some pretty great fan theories out there, and I’ve talked about some of my own plenty of times before (just check the got category on this site). However, I came across a really neat one from Nerd Soup regarding the motivations and lineage, really, of the White Walkers. It makes for some interesting watching, so please feel free to take a look.

George R. R. Martin has said many times that he hates good vs. evil tales that paint one side as overwhelmingly good and another side overwhelmingly bad. Any characters that we have previously had who could clearly be put into these molds have been mostly killed. Joffrey. Ramsay. On the other side, Ned and Robb, Catelyn Stark, etc.

So, what is up with the Night King?

There’s a lot of backstory and lore here, but the books have not presented the White Walker story in any meaningful way. They seem like a menacing force of evil. The show runners on HBO have said they look at the Night King not as an evil king but as Death himself. I think this is too simplistic, and quite frankly, I’m hoping they are simply misleading us intentionally, as they had to do to build suspense and disbelief about Jon Snow’s death.

The video above does a good job of presenting an alternate path forward, one that I hope is closer to how the series ends up. Instead of Good vs. Evil, humans have reneged on an old pact written during the creation of the Great Wall. It does not really make that much sense that a species of creature who live in winter and ice would be subverted by an ice wall. If anything, it makes more sense that they created it.

After all, the children of the forest did not appear to possess any true ice magic and were more focused on life and fire spells, which you can see in the series. So, they just don’t seem to be a likely candidate. Then, there is Brandon Stark “the Builder” and founder of House Stark, who is supposed to be the human architect of the Wall. However, a wall 700 ft tall and 300 miles long made from ice from a frozen lake doesn’t really seem like the best material men might use and it certainly would have taken a long, long time for men, even with the help of giants and the children of the forest (who don’t seem to do all that well in the cold).

Which leaves a far more likely builder–the White Walkers. They literally have ice for blood in the books and various ice magics. Would it make more sense for them to have built the wall to create a buffer line between men and the extreme north and they are only raising an army to attack again due to the continued presence of the Wildlings in their territory, the birth of the dragons which are igniting fire magic again, the strengthening of the Lord of Light (a fire magic deity), and the loss of the human sacrifices from Krastor that were helping them reproduce (according to Martin, White Walkers do not reproduce naturally but instead must convert a human child).

Don’t get me wrong. There are many theories about the White Walker motivations, including getting back at the First Men, the link between Bran and the Night King, and even the first Night’s King and the supposed White Walker bride that he had on the wall. But, I think it’s worth thinking about the White Walker motivations.

Since I’m in Portugal for another week, I’ll miss the first episode tonight. So, if you’re back home and streaming or watching, I’m a bit envious, but I’ll catch up and then we’ll figure this out together!

Honest reviews

Damonza_Lucifers_Odyssey_1BI love honest reviews. The good and the bad. Reading both are guilty pleasures of mine, but I’m going to call out a recent one because I think it does a great job of highlighting one of my absolute biggest disappointments about Lucifer’s Odyssey. Here’s the last paragraph:

Honest Opinion: After reading “Lucifer’s Odyssey”, I probably would not have bought “The Goblin Rebellion”. The writing style is simple and direct, and leaves the story feeling like a skeleton. That would have been a mistake. “The Goblin Rebellion” is worth reading, but one cannot begin to comprehend the storyline without the events in “Lucifer’s Odyssey”.

Lucifer’s Odyssey was my first novel, and I paid for an extensive edit of the novel from someone who had worked with David Dalglish and other authors I trusted. Since it was my first novel, I didn’t trust myself or my impression of the book, and I wanted to learn more about editing and really listen to this editor. I knew the story was controversial, and I really wanted to do it justice. The editor ended up recommending that I focus on show not tell and completely rewrite the book and try to make the characters not ramble on about what was going on in their heads or “preaching” about the meaning of what was going on. I was worried, but I was also completely invested. I agreed to rewrite, and for the most part, he really did help the book be more fun. I think the action of the book especially went to another level.

However, Lucifer’s Odyssey was always a meta fiction. There were plot lines and underlying themes that really shouldn’t have been left to “show not tell”, and it was, I think, unfair to readers. There was a complex multiverse underneath and a lot of characters. This was not the kind of book that should have been almost purely show and not tell.

I’ve gone back and made small changes to try to help fix what was done during editing–to let people know that if they can stick with the first book and see their way into The Goblin Rebellion and Shadows of Our Fathers, then I think they’ll really enjoy where the story ends up and the style of writing is more my own and not my original editor’s. As the 2nd and 3rd book were being written and I was processing feedback from readers and friends, I grew more of a backbone and stuck to my guns on the internal dialogue of characters and reiterating major trains of thought. I think it’s for the best. Shadows of My Fathers is my favorite book that I’ve written. I feel like it is more of the style that I hope to write in, with more thoughts from characters and a more natural story flow. The problem is that it is the THIRD book in a series, and the first book is more stressful to read than I think it should be because of our editing decisions.

Oh well, work still continues on the new series. High Fantasy. Elves, orcs, humans, kings and queens, intrigue, plots, necromancers and paladins. I’m not going to promise the series will be “normal”. When you see the eventual book blurb, you’ll see my penchant for enjoying bad guy characters who do good things.


Other things that are going on: giveaways

So, another day, another free giveaway on instafreebie. I know, I know. You may have to send yourself an epub from that site to your kindle account, and that’s inconvenient, but for many, that may be an acceptable amount of work. I sure hope so, because these authors have undoubtedly put a lot of work into writing their novels. Like I mentioned in the last post, I’ll be on the lookout for other sites to be a part of. What’s nice about instafreebie is that it’s inexpensive and helps authors build newsletters and ways to promote their books.

Anyway, last day of this giveaway. There’s a lot of books that seem to lean more into the romance category, but there are also some interesting military sci-fi, space sci-fi, and other genres that I like. Let me know if you find something fun and interesting in here!

unnamed

Website Link, in case the above image doesn’t work.


Anyway, to those of you who review books honestly, good and bad, thank you. You do a great service for readers, and we authors really do appreciate it!

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Giveaways

Congratulations to the five people who won full sets of paperbacks of The Primal Patterns series on Goodreads. I ended up personalizing the copies with autographs and messages, and I hope you enjoy the inscriptions :D!

There are a couple of other giveaways going on, and these involve a bunch of great independent Sci-fi/Fantasy authors. The giveaways are going on over the middle of this month, and you should definitely mosey on over and peruse the selection. Let me know if you find anything good, so I can grab something good for my to-be-read (TBR) pile too!

sff-june1

In the above giveaway, there is also a giveaway for 52 free sci-fi/fantasy paperbacks, including books by George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Hugh Howey and lots of authors. That contest is going on for 2 more months, I believe, and is valued at between 800-1,000 dollar value for the lucky winner.

I do plan on doing another Goodreads giveaway of paperbacks for my own Primal Patterns set, so stay tuned on that if you didn’t win the first full set giveaway!

There are also some really great $.99 deals going on, which includes The Goblin Rebellion out of the Primal Patterns set for a limited time (the duration of this promotion). So, if you want to recommend a friend to the series, take advantage of the free ebook edition of Lucifer’s Odyssey and the $.99 edition of The Goblin Rebellion. Also, check out the list on this site and let me and others know what else you see there that is worth putting on the TBR shelf.

sff-june-99c

There’s another promotion I’m involved in on June 19th, but it’s not live yet. I’ll let you know more about that when it goes active.

Enjoy the free and discounted books and have a great rest of the week!!!

The Rise of the Necromancer

So, I’ve started writing a new High Fantasy series. I have outlined enough material for the first book, and I have created rough outlines for the second and third books.  For now, I believe the first book will be called “The Rise of the Necromancer”. The second book is likely to be called “The Dark Paladin”. There are a couple of possible names of the third book rolling around in my head right now, but the first two are pretty solid (imo). I have a feeling the first three books will likely be called “The Twisted Brotherhood” series, and it will involve humans, wood elves, high elves, dark elves, orcs, demons, and armies of undead.

 

I’ve written over 10k words and I’m pretty excited. I have a very tight deadline for the first book and a target of 60k-80k words. I plan to provide the novel with a box set of fantasy and science fiction from 20 other authors that will be released on January 1st, 2018. So, get ready for something different from me. I’m going to do my best to knock your socks off!

%d bloggers like this: