Wednesday, May 31, 2017

All the Time in the World

Mackenzie Mortimer just wants to go home. An accident had flung him into the far future where he had an incredible adventure in The Tomorrow Paradox yet now he longed to return to present-day Serenity Valley, USA. But something had gone wrong. He looked around. This wasn't Serenity Valley, or even America. Mackenzie found himself in occupied Belgium in-between the Nazi invaders and the Belgian Resistance. Lost in a dangerous world where life is cheap and death lurks around every corner, the 21st century teenager finds his modern suburban values at odds with a world at war. He arrived as an innocent boy but, if he survives, can he leave unchanged by the horrors of war?

🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻     🔻 

She knelt, pulling a knife from her boot, and pressed the sharp blade against Mackenzie’s neck. “Or, I can slit your throat now.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“Don’t get any ideas. I’m a light sleeper and I sleep with my knife under my pillow."
*        *        *        *       *       *
The tip of a black leather shoe poked Mackenzie in the shoulder. He awakened, chilled by the cold floor beneath him. Mackenzie’s eyes followed the black patent leather up from the shoes, along the black trousers, and up to a brown shirt accented by a black scarf secured through a leather knot and a black cross strap running from the right shoulder down to the left hip. A badge displaying the black Lion of Flanders on a yellow shield adorned the shirt’s left cuff, and above it was an armband emblazoned with an intimidating swastika.
*        *        *        *       *       *
"He’s not a spy. He’s a young boy who will blunder right into the hands of the Nazis if he isn’t helped.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“I didn’t ask you to come. This isn’t a game. If someone describes us to the Gestapo, they will hunt us down and kill us.
*        *        *        *       *       *
“You didn’t have to kill him. I would’ve found a way to get us out of here.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“You have a lot to learn. I hope you live long enough to learn it.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“In this war, we are all soldiers... not everyone wears a uniform.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
"He’s been like a brother to me for my whole life, yet he’s so brainwashed that he’d believe it was his duty to send the girl I love to her death.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
Flora gazed at her with hardened eyes. “There is no such thing as childhood. Not in Belgium since the Occupation. Not in Europe since the war began. Childhood is a time of innocence; the Nazis destroy innocence wherever they find it. They trample it beneath their jackboots as they march across the continent.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“Innocence, once lost, can never be restored. My childhood is gone forever, as is the childhood of every boy and girl who hears the sound of a storm trooper’s boots.” Flora shook her head. “No, Monique, we fight for their unborn children so they might grow up in a different world, in blissful innocence, unable to imagine what we are living through. We fight for the future; the present is damned.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
"Maybe where you come from, people can stand on a street corner and say whatever they want. But not here; not in occupied Belgium. Here, there are consequences for speech; serious consequences. People who say the wrong things disappear. These are scary times."
*        *        *        *       *       *
Flora looked away. “There are times I try to recall what life was like before the war... those mundane days, when the littlest of things would seem like the end of the world. We got upset over the most unimportant matters, yet I know there were times of unbridled happiness... even if I can’t remember what such joy felt like. Each day the war goes on, it steals the joy from our lives until we have nothing left.” She stood behind his chair and placed her hands on his shoulders. “I’m sorry, Mac.”
*        *        *        *       *       *
“Oberführer Trommler, I am Finn Peeters and this is my friend, Jan Martens. We’ve uncovered a suspected Resistance member in our midst. He is an American teenager living in Antwerp. His name is Mackenzie Mortimer.”

🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺     🔺

All the Time in the World: Some people have it, and some don’t. Available now at these fine retailers:

Even better: Get all 3 books! The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer Young Adult SF trilogy in paperback, Kindle, and EPUB:

The 25th Hour (Book 1)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trumped: The Return of Democracy

I’m happy I lived long enough to see this day. I wasn’t sure I would. I knew it would come, eventually. I’ve always had faith in America and its institutions, even if I’ve lost faith in some of its populace. Our long national nightmare is not quite over but the rest of the American people have begun to awaken. Beginning with President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey eight days ago and the appointment of former FBI head Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russiagate, American democracy will be saved.

This is not hyperbole, or melodrama, or an overreaction. Over the past five months, American institutions have been under assault from both foreign and domestic enemies, and America has come the closest it has ever been in its 241-year history to its collapse as a failed state and transformation into an autocratic dictatorship. The campaign to destroy American democracy may have been instigated by and backed by Russia and its former KGB mastermind Vladimir Putin but its implementation was carried out by an American citizen and his coterie. The plan was simple, and not original: it has been implemented many times by Russia in many countries around the world. 

The first step was to tear down the democracy’s institutions. Putin’s surrogate began by attacking the credibility of the incumbent president of the United States. Donald Trump made the outrageous claim that President Barack Obama was not an American citizen. He insisted Obama had not been born in this country, that his birth certificate had been faked, and that he was therefore not legitimately president of the United States. Trump then ran for president himself, violating all political norms by attacking his primary opponents, not on policy positions, but through argument ad hominem. “Low-energy” Jeb Bush. “Little hands” Marco Rubio. “Look at that face” Carly Fiorina. “Lyin” Ted Cruz. He compared Ben Carson to a child molester and called Sen. Lindsey Graham “one of the dumbest human beings I have ever seen.” Once he had secured the Republican nomination, Trump turned his attention to the Democrats: “crazy” Bernie Sanders and “crooked” Hillary Clinton.

Throughout the campaign and into his presidency, Trump relentlessly attacked one of the greatest institutions of democracy: the fourth estate. He claimed the media were “dishonest” and their reporting was “fake news”. His spokespeople pushed “alternative facts” while he stood at the podium and dubbed the media “the enemy of the people.” This is how tyrants come to power and stay in power: by subjugating and controlling the press and with it the free flow of information. His goal was to turn the people away from the truth and to replace legitimate news sources with his version of the truth: alternative facts.

Trump took another page out of Putin’s playbook by attempting to discredit the judiciary, another pillar of democracy. During the campaign, Trump attacked  U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, arguing the judge’s Mexican heritage should disqualify him from hearing a civil case against Trump. When Republican-appointed Judge James L. Robart issued a temporary injunction against Trump’s illegal “Muslim ban" executive order, President Trump attempted to delegitimize him by calling him a “so-called judge.”

Immediately upon entering the White House, Trump began his presidency by ordering his press secretary Sean Spicer to lie to the public about the size of the crowds at his inauguration. Lying became a hallmark of the Trump administration. As with many autocratic, banana republic  tin-plated dictators, Donald Trump embraced nepotism, turning his election into a family affair. His son-in-law Jared Kushner, and weeks later his daughter, Ivanka, were installed in offices in the West Wing of the White House. As is the practice of many banana republic dictators, Trump brought his own private security team to the White House, yet he still drained the U.S. treasury siphoning millions of dollars for Secret Service security for Trump tower in New York, his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and his adult children on their worldwide business travels.

Trump continued his attack, this time on American values by installing a white supremacist and anti-Semite as his de facto Chief of Staff, a move that spurred the alt-right movement and led to dozens of physical attacks against Muslims, Jews, gays, and blacks. For the first time in its 241-year history, America is no longer seen as the bulwark of freedom and democracy. Instead, comparisons were made to the early days of Nazi Germany. There was a sense of fear among minorities in America. The land whose harbor bore a great statue welcoming immigrants was now, under President Donald Trump, closing its door on refugees from the Syrian civil war.

Less than three months into his presidency, Donald Trump fired all of the country’s U.S. attorneys general -- including the man he had promised not to fire, Preet Bharara, the New York attorney general whose jurisdiction encompassed many of Trump’s businesses. Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she raised questions about Trump-appointed National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s inappropriate ties to Russia. Trump fired FBI director James Comey, the man investigating Trump’s ties to Russia, after he asked Comey to drop his investigation into Flynn and to pledge his loyalty to Trump. This is what autocrats do: they make anyone who gets too close to the truth disappear. But that’s not how democracy operates. America is a nation of laws, not of men. And in a democracy no man is above the law, not even the president.

This is not the end; it is merely the beginning of the restoration of our democracy. It will not happen overnight. The truth must come out, and it will set us free.  Robert Mueller will use his broad powers as special counsel to ferret out the truth over the months that follow. We will learn who else within Donald Trump’s coterie had dealings with the Russians, and there will undoubtedly be new names added to the list that already includes Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump campaign aide Carter Page, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump advisor Roger Stone, Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, Trump advisor J.D. Gordon, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The investigation will also reveal who in our government played a role in the attack on America. We already know Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was told about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election 10 weeks before the election and resisted the Obama administration’s proposal that eight senior lawmakers write a letter to state election officials warning them of the possible threat posed by Russian interference. We already know that a month before the Republican party nominated Trump, when then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a private conversation with top Republicans that Donald Trump was on Putin’s payroll, that current Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan “immediately stop[ped] the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy,” according to the Washington Post. Who else high up in our government knew what was going on? What did they know and when did they know it?

These are the questions Americans demand be answered. There will be many complex and shocking details yet to come. Already, we have seen President Donald Trump invite Russian spies – and make no mistake, that’s what Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak are – into the Oval Office, along with Russia’s state-controlled propaganda press who no doubt placed electronic listening devices there during their visit, while the American press was specifically excluded. We’ve already seen President Donald Trump reveal code-name Top-Secret intelligence to the Russians, thereby endangering the lives of the men and women who procured this information and jeopardizing our relationship with the nation and its intelligence agency – Israel’s Mossad – that gave us this highly classified information. In fact, that action alone jeopardizes our relationship with every country with whom we share intelligence, as they will no longer feel safe entrusting us with their secrets.

The destruction – or “deconstruction” of American institutions, as Trump’s de facto Chief of Staff Stephen Bannon describes it – is nothing more than slow motion treason. Next month, June 19 will mark the anniversary of the day Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for giving Top-Secret information to the Russians in 1953. How will we deal with similar treason in 2017?

Some Trump apologists argue giving Top-Secret information to the Russians is not treason because the president can declassify any intelligence information; others argue a president cannot be criminally indicted (an open legal question). To me, these arguments echo President Richard Nixon’s justification "When the president does it, that mean's it's not illegal." I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now.

The investigation will continue into 2018. If Trump has not resigned, it is likely the Democrats will take control the House of Representatives and begin impeachment proceedings. One might reasonably ask why the Republicans would not want to hold impeachment hearings immediately. After all, even if Trump were to be impeached and removed from office, the Republican vice president would take over and the Republicans would still control all three branches of government and be able to enact their legislative agenda without this distraction. Their reticence therefore cannot be partisan; there must be another reason. They’re not putting party ahead of country, so what is it? As I asked, Who else high up in our government knew what was going on? What did they know and when did they know it? Impeachment hearings would eventually get to the truth and answer these questions, and there are some who do not want their roles publicly known. However, with today’s appointment of a special counsel there will be an investigation and the truth will come out. This is just the beginning.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The final novel in The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer Young Adult SF trilogy has just been published! Click here to learn all about the series, and for links to order the books in multiple formats (paperback, Kindle, EPUB, Nook, iTunes, and more!)

Available in paperback, Kindle, and EPUB! Order the whole trilogy now:

The 25th Hour (Book 1)

The Tomorrow Paradox (Book 2)

All the Time in the World (Book 3): order from:

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Plastic Girl in the Wheelchair

In 1997, Mattel wanted to make its line of Barbie dolls more inclusive and relevant to modern girls so it added “Share-a-Smile Becky” as one of Barbie’s new friends. Becky and her shiny pink wheelchair were a smash success. Mattel sold 6,000 Becky dolls in the first two weeks and won praise from disability advocates. But then art imitated life.

It’s not as if Mattel hasn’t had its share of Barbie flops and fiascoes. When Mattel released "Totally Tattoo Barbie," who came with temporary tattoos, outraged parentsfeared the new Barbie doll would lead their little girls to one day get tramp stamps of their own. Who could forget Barbie’s dog Tanner, the mutt that could eat his food and “poop” it out for Barbie to pick up with her pooper scooper? Tanner and his companion "Forever Barbie" ended up being recalled because the magnets in the scooper were a choking hazard. There was the politically incorrect "Teen Talk Barbie" whose catchphrase “Math class is tough!” raised feminist hackles. Then there was "Pregnant Midge," whose cutaway torso revealed a curled up baby. "Pregnant Midge" was marketed as having a detachable magnetic stomach that allows easy “delivery” of the baby. Some parents objected, concerned the doll might encourage teenage pregnancy. "Growing Up Skipper" was another Barbie friend, designed to enable little girls to skip right past puberty.  Mattel advertised Skipper would “grow from a young girl to a teenager just by turning her arm – and sure enough, a pair of rubber breasts popped out of her chest. But for maximum “oops” factor, it’s hard to overlook Mattel’s licensing deal with a popular cookie company: it released a black Barbie as part of its Oreo deal, but "Oreo Barbie" drew criticism because Oreo is a derogatory slang term for a black person who “acts white” (i.e., black on the outside and white on the inside, like the eponymous cookie.

So Mattel was due for a winner, but it looks as though it won’t be “Share-a-Smile Becky;” after 20 years on the market, Mattel has thrown in the towel and discontinued Becky. The problems began when Barbie fans discovered Becky’s wheelchair didn’t fit through the doors of the Barbie Dream House... or its elevator. In fact, nothing in the Dream House design was handicapped accessible: it was a disability nightmare. Becky’s wheelchair didn’t fit inside any of Barbie’s vehicles, either.

Mattel announced it was “looking at the accessibility of all Barbie accessories” but concluded it was too complicated to redesign Barbie’s world to fit Becky. Mattel had succeeded in creating art that truly imitated life. Now little girls who played with Becky would understand what life was like for the handicapped navigating their way through non-ADA compliant buildings. Becky faced the same accessibility problems as real disabled girls. But unfortunately for Becky, there is no Americans with Disabilities Act for dolls. Mattel reportedly toyed with the idea of shrinking Becky’s wheelchair so it could fit through the doors of Barbie’s accessories like the Dream House but in the end the toymaker decided this month to pull the plug on Becky. After all, wheelchairs are clunky and she just didn’t fit in with Barbie’s perfect world.

Cue Rod Serling’s voiceover: a cruel life lesson about disability and inclusivity as a plastic girl named Becky is wheeled off to the forgotten corners of The Twilight Zone... Sponsored by Mattel.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Action-Packed Adventure!

I’ve authored many books and short stories and I’m often asked which is my favorite. I usually answer whatever I’m working on at the moment, because that’s where my enthusiasm will be. But there’s one book that may well be my best; I believe it’s certainly the most important I’ve written. If you have a moment, I’d like to tell you about it.

The book is part of a three-book series I crafted for teenagers and young adults. I wanted to re-create the adventure series of my youth but tailored to the modern reader. Anyone who grew up watching HBO and cable TV, and exploring the nether regions of the Internet, would find books from my childhood too tame and rather boring. So I sought to create a poignant adventure series, packed with action and cliffhangers, that would deal with issues relevant to young people today.

Our protagonist – I won’t call him a hero because he doesn’t want to be one – is a teenage boy; one part Peter Parker, one part Archie Andrews, and one part Marty McFly. It’s a coming-of-age story told in three books. In the first novel, The 25th Hour, 13-year-old Mackenzie Mortimer finds a pocket watch made by his long-missing inventor-grandfather. He discovers the watch can freeze time around him, which comes in handy dealing with bullies and school lockdowns. Of course there’s a girl: not Vanessa,  the one he’s infatuated with from afar, but his BFF Marlene who’s struggling to free herself from the friend zone.  Mac learns his first coming-of-age lesson: With great power comes great responsibility.

In the second book, The Tomorrow Paradox, Mac learns the hard way that the watch can be used to travel through time. Life in the future is very different but some things never change: Mac still finds action and adventure at every turn; and of course, there’s a girl: Gemma, a clone who’s legally considered property, not a person. Didn’t we fight a civil war over that? Mac learns the second coming-of-age lesson: If you have the power to make a difference when no one else can, then you have a moral obligation to do so.

But it’s in the just published conclusion, All the Time in the World, that Mac learns his most important coming-of-age lesson. Mac experiences fascism firsthand in occupied Belgium; encountering the Resistance, the Hitler Youth, the SS, and a concentration camp. These experiences change Mackenzie Mortimer, just as writing about them had a profound impact on me. I hope it’s the best book I’ve written; I know it’s the most important. You can order All the Time in the World now from these vendors:

Even better: Get all 3 books! The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer Young Adult SF trilogy in paperback, Kindle, and EPUB:

The 25th Hour (Book 1)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Leopards Roaming the Halls of Congress

I don’t care if you have no interest in politics. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat. Regardless, you’re a human being, and human beings get sick, and at some time in your life you will require expensive medical treatment and/or surgery and hospitalization. That’s a fact. It’s not an “alternative fact”, it’s not political propaganda, it’s common sense.

Today, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will dramatically increase the number of people without health insurance. Let me repeat that: millions of American citizens will lose their healthcare coverage because of what their congressmen did today. You could be one of them.

For those who do not lose their coverage, the bill passed by the House today will raise premium prices of individual plans over the next two years far more than any increases if Obamacare were to remain in effect. Let me rephrase that: Your premiums are going up much, much higher than they would have because of the bill these congressmen passed today.

These higher premiums will effectively price people with pre-existing conditions out of the marketplace, despite a last-minute amendment to “reduce the impact of the higher premiums”. Let me rephrase that too: If I reduce the amount of poison I plan to give you, I’m still poisoning you. The amendment would provide funding for only 5 percent of those currently insured with pre-existing conditions; the remaining 95 percent are screwed.

Oh, there’s one more part of legislation passed by the House today: it gives wealthy Americans-- the top 2 percent --  a $300 billion tax break. I guess billionaires need help paying for their healthcare more than you do. And it does this by taking $880 billion from Medicaid: you know, the program for poor people earning less than $11,880 a year.

The exact dollar figures of how much this new bill will cost taxpayers and how it will affect the federal budget, as well as estimates of coverage losses and premium effects will be calculated and announced by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) next week. Normally, a bill is not voted on in the House of Representatives until the CBO has had time to calculate this information and publicly release a “CBO score” so lawmakers and the public know the precise effects of legislation being voted on. But not this time. For political reasons, the bill was rushed to a vote on purpose before it could be analyzed and these facts could be made public.

As I said at the outset, I don’t want this to be a political rant because it affects every American citizen regardless of party affiliation. If you bleed, you will be affected. If you ever get sick or need a doctor, you will be affected. If you are ever a patient in a hospital from this day forward, you will be affected by what these politicians did today. So there are two more things you need to know. First, this was a Republican-sponsored bill, which all but 20 Republicans voted for. All 193 Democrats in the House voted against it. President Trump tweeted “If victorious, Republicans will be having a big press conference at the beautiful Rose Garden of the White House immediately after vote!” Yes, they are celebrating taking away health insurance from millions of people, raising everyone else’s insurance premiums, and giving a tax break to the wealthiest Americans.

The second thing you need to know, is that the House bill must now be voted on in the Senate, which is also controlled by Republicans but by a much narrower margin, and then signed into law by the president. As President Trump has already expressed his support for the bill, only the Senate can block it from becoming law. I suspect every Democratic senator will vote against it and that there will be enough rational Republican senators to vote with them to defeat this. But what you need to think about, as an American citizen who is likely to need a doctor or hospital at some point in your life, is why the people you elected to Congress ever tried to do this to you in the first place. Because you know leopards don’t change their spots; they’re going to try to do it again.

Black Bags

There was a knock on my door this afternoon. I peered out the second-story window and saw a strange man with a clipboard. He had parked an unmarked white van in my parking space: no logo or name on the van, just a nondescript off-white van. I came downstairs. The man had returned to his van but instead of pulling out of our complex he merely pulled into the guest space opposite my front door. He opened one of the two rear doors of the van and removed a small tool satchel. I thought how convenient it would be for a would-be burglar to load up the van only a few feet from my front door.

The stranger then walked around to the back of my building and stopped beside my screened patio and crouched. Now usually, if someone knocks on the front door and no one answers they assume the homeowner isn’t home and they leave. They don’t move their car a few feet away, go back for some tools, walk around the building where they’re less likely to be seen, and crouch behind a screened enclosure a foot away from a sliding glass door. So I came up behind him and asked him what he thought he was doing.

The man claimed to be with the electric company. I pointed out he wasn’t driving an electric company van; he didn’t follow the electric company’s standard procedure of placing an orange plastic traffic cone in front of and behind the parked van; and he wasn’t wearing an electric company uniform. I told him to try again. He showed me a keychain with the letters of the electric company -- not the corporate logo, just the letters of its acronym. I told him I hoped he hadn’t wasted too many quarters in the gumball machine to get it. Try harder.

He revised his story. He said he was a subcontractor for the electric company working for a local firm. Of course, his nondescript van didn’t have that company’s name or logo on it either. I pointed to the cable junction box and told him for all I knew he could be stealing my cable or, and I gestured to the metal box attached to my wall he had pried open, planting a bug for the NSA. He replied he wasn’t smart enough to work for the NSA. I agreed. “Maybe you’re just an inept burglar,” I suggested.

He showed me his clipboard with a paper that included the date and time, and the words “customer gave consent” below them. His new explanation was that he was here for a scheduled appointment to replace the electric company’s “on call” box that has been there for 30 years. I pointed out I hadn’t scheduled any appointments with the electric company; I didn’t know about any scheduled appointment; and therefore I certainly had not given my consent, despite what the sheet of paper said. I told him I would call the electric company and if they legitimately needed to replace the device then I would schedule an appointment to do so. I sent him packing.

I phoned the electric company and explained the situation. I asked the woman on the other end of the line one question: Did you send this man to my home? She said no, the electric company would not send someone unless the customer had requested a repair. I followed up by asking if there was any department at the electric company that might have sent him. She said she could transfer me to the "on call" department, which she did. I spoke to a gentleman named Manny, who actually admitted they had sent the man but that he must have had an appointment because they never send anyone without first calling the customer. I reiterated he did not have an appointment and no one from the electric company had called me. I told Manny the entire situation was suspicious and I wanted upper management to look into it and call me back. Manny asked for my phone number. I told him since I had given him my account number and he had my information on his computer screen he should simply copy it from there. He replied there was no phone number listed on my account. “How then,” I asked, “could you or your subcontractor have called me to make an appointment if you don’t have my phone number in your records?”

The answer of course is they couldn’t. No one from the electric company ever phoned me; they never had my phone number. There was no appointment. I told Manny the entire incident, from start to finish, had been filled with lies and misrepresentations. I added the man was lucky I hadn’t simply shot him when I caught him trespassing on my property, crouched inches from my rear entrance with what appeared to be burglary tools in his hands. I said he was lucky he didn’t leave in a body bag. Okay, that last line may have been hyperbole; I don’t have body bags. The closest thing I have are large black Hefty trash bags and he probably wouldn’t have fit.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Celebrate National Short Story Month!

Did you know that May is National Short Story Month? Amber Book Company plans to celebrate by releasing a new volume of my short stories entitled Shards: The Omnibus Edition. Many of you know me from my social commentary posts appearing on my blog, while others are familiar with my young adult science fiction series The Adventures of Mackenzie Mortimer. Still others think of me as a novelist or epic storyteller, pointing to my four-book fantasy series Halos & Horns and my current ongoing fantasy series, Fangs & Fur. There are even some readers who think of me primarily as a nonfiction author because of my internationally top-selling book Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law, my two Web design books, and my Collected Essays of a Reluctant Blogger and More Essays of a Reluctant Blogger books. But the truth is, above all else, I’m a short story writer.

Shards may sound familiar to you. My first short story collection was entitled Randoms. It was lovingly crafted, published in a hardcover edition with a dust jacket. Unfortunately, the printer had tremendous difficulty printing the dust jacket. Every copy rolled off the printing press with a slightly different hue, making each book and instant collectible and the source of much aggravation and vexation. Ultimately, and with great reluctance, we replaced the hardcover edition with a paperback. My second short story collection, Careywood, was a charitable effort published in a limited print run to raise money to restore a historic mansion. Then, in 2011, almost all of my short stories were collected in a giant 450-page paperback entitled Shards. This mammoth collection included the best of Randoms, the stories from the limited edition Careywood, and a host of new short stories, many of which had been shared in public readings but never collected in print. Shards was to stand as my oeuvre: the complete collection of my short story output.

At the time, it was the largest book I had ever written… Ironically composed of the shortest of stories. But with each new edition over the course of 10 years, Issues in Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law grew to 680 pages. After I completed the four-book Halos & Horns series, the saga was collected in a single omnibus edition, The Halos & Horns Omnibuswhich clocked in at a whopping 904 pages. Suddenly, the 450-page Shards didn’t seem so big any more. And in the five years since its publication, I had written a few more short stories. I wanted to gather these new short stories into a brand-new collection but the Halos & Horns Omnibus had gone over so well that it was decided to create a short story omnibus.

We began with the original 450-page Shards and reorganized the stories by theme. Then we added 300 pages of new material. That’s right, 750 pages of short stories between two covers. Or 191,523 words if you’re counting. We kept the original front and back cover to Shards and christened it Shards: The Omnibus Edition. The themes in Shards: The Omnibus Edition include man’s inhumanity to man; technology in society run amok; freedom; conformity; slice of life; fear; prejudice; revenge; the inevitability of death; sadness and depression; darkness and light; lust; love; regret; repentance; pity; debauchery and selfishness; hubris; obsession; fusion fiction; Christmas; the quest; the trickster; discovery and wonder; alienation (stranger in a strange land); and farewell.

Admittedly Shards: The Omnibus Edition is a mixed bag. Some of the tales are downright hilarious. Some are frightening. And a few are disturbing. There are stories within this volume you will treasure… and others you may wish you had never read. Good writing isn’t about repeating hackneyed memes; it’s about pushing the envelope and extending the boundaries until the reader finds himself well outside his comfort zone. In Shards: The Omnibus Edition you’ll find stories that make you laugh and make you cry; stories you’ll want to share with your children; and stories so horrifying you’ll banish them to the deepest recesses of your mind. So join me in celebrating national short story month with Shards: The Omnibus Edition.