Monday, March 27, 2017

The First Page: Alan 2 by Bruce Forciea



Title: ALAN 2
Author: Bruce Forciea
Publisher: Open Books
Pages: 278
Genre: Cyber-Thriller

A brilliant artificial intelligence (AI) scientist, Dr. Alan Boyd, develops a new program that integrates part of his brain with a computer’s operating system. The program, Alan 2, can anticipate a user’s needs and automatically perform many tasks. A large software company, International Microsystems (IM) desperately wants the program and tempts Dr. Boyd with huge sums of money, but when Dr. Boyd refuses their offer, IM sabotages his job, leaving him in a difficult financial situation.

Dr. Boyd turns to Alan 2 for an answer to his financial problems, and Alan 2 develops plan Alpha, which is a cyber robin hood scheme to rob from rich corporations via a credit card scam.

Alan and his girlfriend Kaitlin travel to Mexico where they live the good life funded by plan Alpha, but the FBI cybercrime division has discovered part of Alan 2’s cyber escapades, and two agents, Rachel and Stu, trace the crime through the TOR network and Bitcoin.

Alan 2 discovers the FBI is on to them and advises Alan and Kaitlin to change locations. A dramatic chase ensues taking them to St. Thomas, a cruise ship bound for Spain, and finally to Morocco. 

Will they escape detection? They will if Alan 2's Plan Beta can be implemented in time. Or is 'Plan B' something altogether different than it appears to be, something wholly sinister that will affect the entire population of the world?
Watch the trailer at YouTube!

The First Page:
Bang! Bang! Bang! The flimsy apartment door rattled on its frame with every blow.
“Kaitlin, don’t even think of answering that!” Alan growled through his teeth.
Kaitlin shrugged her shoulders and moved away from the door toward the living room where Alan sat at a table full of electronics gear.
“Dr. Boyd, are you home?” shouted the voice on the other side of the door in an Indian accent. “I want to talk to you. I have a very good offer. Please, Dr. Boyd, it will only take a minute, and I think you will be quite pleased with what we have for you.”
“Go away; leave us alone,” Alan shouted. “I don’t want your offer.”
But Dr. Boyd, we do pay very well. We are great admirers of your work.”
“I don’t care and I don’t want your money,” said Alan. “Now go away before I call the police.”
“Think about it, Dr. Boyd; I will be in touch.”
“Incessant bastards,” said Alan as his attention turned back to his work. “I’ll cherish the day they leave us alone. Kaitlin, come over here and help me with this injection.”
Alan rolled up the sleeve of his t-shirt while Kaitlin picked up the syringe containing the gadolinium contrast. She pinched an ample section of skin and plunged the syringe into his arm. The needle stung like an angry wasp, causing Alan to grimace.
“Can’t you be gentle? You’ve done enough of these by now to get the hang of it. You shouldn’t jam it in like that!”
Kaitlin rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I think I do pretty well considering I don’t have any medical training,” she said while jerking the syringe out of his arm.
“Okay, okay. Just take your position at the console.”
She sighed, plopped onto a small task chair and rolled over to a makeshift wooden table holding a desktop PC and a large high-definition monitor. She had been through this process countless times before.
Alan entered a large metallic structure in the center of the living room. The box-like structure, made of aluminum, dominated the rectangular room which was devoid of furniture. Its dull silver hue contrasted the blank walls. He closed the door and climbed into a chair that looked like it came from an early Gemini spacecraft. The stiff plastic chair, sandwiched between two large metal discs, afforded a good deal of postural support but little comfort. He sat down and slowly slid his head between the thick metal and plastic arms of a large U-shaped device. There was just enough clearance as he wriggled his head to achieve the perfect position. He pulled down on a large metallic tube suspended above him so that it surrounded his entire head. He positioned the tube so that the rectangular slit lined up with his visual axis, allowing for a line of sight to the monitor located outside of the tube. The small fMRI scanner had taken a good deal of time and money to cobble together, but it was the only way to capture the needed information from his brain.



Purchase Information:

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About the Author


Bruce Forciea is known for taking complex scientific concepts and making them easy to understand through engaging stories and simple explanations. He is an Amazon Best Selling Author and author of several books on healing and biology, along with science fiction thriller novels. His fiction writing draws on a diverse and eclectic background that includes touring and performing with a professional show, designing digital circuits, treating thousands of patients, and teaching. His stories include complex plots with unexpected twists and turns, quirky characters, and a reality very similar to our own. Dr. Forciea lives in Wisconsin and loves writing during the solitude of the long Northern winters. 

Website & Social Links:

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dominion: Fire & Ice by D.A. Hewitt





Title: DOMINION: FIRE AND ICE
Author: D.A. Hewitt
Publisher: Double Dragon eBooks
Pages: 372
Genre: Science Fiction

It’s the year 2075. Lunar mining and processing facilities have prospered near the lunar south pole, where the Moon’s largest city, Valhalla, rests on the rim of the Shackleton Crater.

Dominion Off-Earth Resources has beaten the competition into space and is ready to establish its monopoly with the opening of the orbiting space resort Dominion. But Pettit Space Industries has a secret plan to emerge as a major contender in the commercialization of space. The upstart company is training the first space rescue squad at a secluded off-grid site in Barrow, Alaska.

The rescue squad gets nearly more than it can handle when its first mission involves the Pope, who’s traveling to the Moon to establish the Lunar See. During the rescue attempt, they discover Earth is imperiled by an asteroid large enough to cause mass extinction. Using the unique skills taught during their training, skills emphasized by the great psychoanalyst Carl Jung, these Jungi Knights must elevate their game if they are to save both the Earth and the Pope—while not getting killed in the process.


The First Page

The bus chortled as it slowed, the magnetic-drive treads slowing their frenzied snow-gyrating pace. “Barrow, Alaska,” the driver said cheerily enough. “Only five percent of the world’s land mass is as far from the equator. Average temperature in January, minus twenty-five Celsius.” White billowing clouds churned briefly from the exhaust. The engine cut off. The driver stood, facing his six passengers, and said, “We’re here.”

I grabbed my bag, slung it over my shoulder, and headed for the front, shivering reflexively.

“Last chance to back out,” the driver added as the last of us stepped onto the frozen snow. His breath lingered as white mist. He looked questioningly at us and played with the door control, flapping it at us, taunting us.

We were standing in front of a Quonset hut, bundled in parkas and survival clothing, enough to keep us warm for days in the most extreme climates. And I counted Barlow, Alaska, as one of those.

“Go on—get out of here!” the tallest of us barked at the driver. I didn’t know any of their names, but from what I’d gathered from the sparse chit-chat on the drive from Prudhoe Bay (no reason was given for why we hadn’t continued the flight from Juneau to Barrow instead of the drop-off and subsequent bus ride in), this guy was the most gung-ho among us.

The driver smiled. “I’ll be back to pick up any dropouts.” He closed the door, picked up his comm device, and spoke briefly into it.

One moment, we were staring at the bus—I can do this, I will do this—and the next we were all spinning in response to a deep voice projecting out from where the Quonset hut door had slammed open.

“The sheep have arrived!” the voice boomed.

He stood in the doorframe as the door banged against him in the stiffening arctic wind. For a moment, he seemed stuck there, his massive shoulders too wide, his girth too large to fit through. Then he took a step back, spun, and said, “Follow me!”

I’d been thinking my life was getting stranger and stranger as of late, and the next thing that happened cemented that thought-trend in my mind, because we stepped into a room heated to tropical temperatures, the ground covered in sand. The room took the entire width of the Quonset hut. One other door on the opposite wall from the door we’d just entered was the room’s only other exit.

“Throw down your stuff anywhere,” the bulky man said, dropping his parka, revealing himself to be wearing only green shorts and a white muscle shirt. His chest was enormous (ah, the booming voice), and he thumped it when he caught me looking at him. He appeared Polynesian. His skin was dark and his black hair was tied back in a ponytail, thick and scruffy.

“My name today is Mister Chenga,” the Polynesian announced. Whenever he spoke, everyone’s head turned to him as though his voice subconsciously demanded our attention. “Take off your clothes to your underwear and then take a seat.”

“Where do we sit?” one of the girls—the short blonde—asked with what sounded like a Russian accent. “There are no chairs.”
 About the Author

D.A. Hewitt is an award-winning author of four novels and over a hundred short stories. One novel was awarded a gold medal from the Independent Publishers Book Awards for best regional fiction. He attributes his success to hard work, honing a skill and providing an outlet for his passion for writing.

Born in Michigan, he lived for 25 years in North Carolina before returning to live in his home state. In addition to enjoying sky diving and mountain climbing, he is a proud veteran of the US Marine Corps and has earned a degree in mathematics.

Mr. Hewitt admits to a fascination with the work of Carl Jung and of the Gnostic religion. He’d always thought intertwining these topics in a science fiction novel was a stretch, but one day the storyline of Dominion came to him. He wrote the novel in a stream of consciousness. “It makes sense, tapping into the collective unconscious,” Mr. Hewitt says, “very much like Carl Jung might have predicted.”

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The First Page: Sealed Up: The Course of Fate: Book One by Steve Dunn Hanson




Title: Sealed Up
Author: Steve Dunn Hanson
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 402
Genre: Action/Adventure/Suspense

The Da Vinci Code unsettles. SEALED UP shakes to the core!

 

UCLA anthropologist Nathan Hill, in a funk since his young wife’s death, learns of staggering millennia-old chronicles sealed up somewhere in a Mesoamerica cliff. This bombshell rocks him out of his gloom, and he leads a clandestine expedition to uncover them. What are they? Who put them there? No one knows. But, self-absorbed televangelist Brother Luke, who funds the expedition, thinks he does. If he’s right, his power-hunger will have off-the-charts gratification.
Striking Audra Chang joins Nathan in his pursuit and brings her own shocking secret. As they struggle through a literal jungle of puzzles and dead ends, she finds herself falling in love with Nathan. Her secret, though, may make that a non-starter.
When a shaman with a thirst for human sacrifice, and a murderous Mexican drug lord with a mysterious connection to Brother Luke emerge, the expedition appears doomed. Yet Nathan is convinced that fate—or something—demands these inscrutable chronicles be unearthed.
And if they are . . . what shattering disruption will they unleash?
Intricately layered and remarkably researched, this enthralling suspense-driven and thought provoking tour de force begs a startling question: Could it happen?

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Amazon



The First Page:

NAJA, CHIAPAS, MEXICO
Nacom was dying.
Guanacaste trees filtered the twilight into gold slivers that shimmered across Laguna Naja. The lake bore the name of the Lacandón Maya village nestled against it. Kish squatted on the ribbon of beach that framed the giant pond and stared at the darkening blue water. His black hair hung like string around his face, and his white tunic draped him like a sack. Koh Maria told him to wait there. She said her grandfather wanted to speak with him.
Kish knew what Nacom wanted.
“Who will follow a nineteen-year-old shaman,” he groused. Guttural growls of howler monkeys sounded like mocking laughter, and his shoulders slumped. A sharp tug on his tunic pulled him from his petulance.
“Now,” Koh Maria said.
Kish followed her to Nacom’s hut where she pushed open two square-ish boards hinged to weathered posts.
About the Author

I've lived in places that grew me . . . from a small Idaho farm town, a run-down neighborhood in St. Louis, and a middle-class southern California community, to Sydney, Australia, and Bucharest, Romania. My experiences are as varied as the places I've lived. I have a hopper full of "reality" including being a volunteer jail chaplain and flying with a U.S. presidential candidate in his small plane when an engine conked out. And all of this is fodder for my writing.

My latest book is the action/adventure/suspense novel, Sealed Up.

Website & Social Links

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Monday, January 23, 2017

The First Page: Fighter Pilot's Daughter by Mary Lawlor




Title: Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War
Author: Mary Lawlor
Publisher: Rowman and Littlefield
Pages: 336
Genre: Memoir
Format: Hardcover/Kindle

FIGHTER PILOT’S DAUGHTER: GROWING UP IN THE SIXTIES AND THE COLD WAR tells the story of the author as a young woman coming of age in an Irish Catholic, military family during the Cold War.  Her father, an aviator in the Marines and later the Army, was transferred more than a dozen times to posts from Miami to California and Germany as the government’s Cold War policies demanded.  For the pilot’s wife and daughters, each move meant a complete upheaval of ordinary life.  The car was sold, bank accounts closed, and of course one school after another was left behind.  Friends and later boyfriends lined up in memory as a series of temporary attachments.  The book describes the dramas of this traveling household during the middle years of the Cold War.  In the process, FIGHTER PILOT’S DAUGHTER shows how the larger turmoil of American foreign policy and the effects of Cold War politics permeated the domestic universe. The climactic moment of the story takes place in the spring of 1968, when the author’s father was stationed in Vietnam and she was attending college in Paris.  Having left the family’s quarters in Heidelberg, Germany the previous fall, she was still an ingénue; but her strict upbringing had not gone deep enough to keep her anchored to her parents’ world.  When the May riots broke out in the Latin quarter, she attached myself to the student leftists and American draft resisters who were throwing cobblestones at the French police. Getting word of her activities via a Red Cross telegram delivered on the airfield in Da Nang, Vietnam, her father came to Paris to find her. The book narrates their dramatically contentious meeting and return to the American military community of Heidelberg.  The book concludes many years later, as the Cold War came to a close.  After decades of tension that made communication all but impossible, the author and her father reunited.  As the chill subsided in the world at large, so it did in the relationship between the pilot and his daughter. When he died a few years later, the hard edge between them, like the Cold War stand-off, had become a distant memory.

For More Information:

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The First Page:

The pilot’s house where I grew up was mostly a women’s world. There were five of us. We had the place to ourselves most of the time. My mother made the big decisions—where we went to school, which bank to keep our money in. She had to decide these things often because we moved every couple of years. The house is thus a figure of speech, a way of thinking about a long series of small, cement dwellings we occupied as one fictional home.
It was my father, however, who turned the wheel, his job that rotat- ed us to so many different places. He was an aviator, first in the Ma- rines, later in the Army. When he came home from his extended ab- sences—missions, they were called—the rooms shrank around him. There wasn’t enough air. We didn’t breathe as freely as we did when he was gone, not because he was mean or demanding but because we worshipped him. Like satellites my sisters and I orbited him at a dis- tance, waiting for the chance to come closer, to show him things we’d made, accept gifts, hear his stories. My mother wasn’t at the center of things anymore. She hovered, maneuvered, arranged, corrected. She was first lady, the dame in waiting. He was the center point of our circle, a flier, a winged sentry who spent most of his time far up over our heads. When he was home, the house was definitely his.
About the Author

Mary Lawlor grew up in an Army family during the Cold War.  Her father was a decorated fighter pilot who fought in the Pacific during World War II, flew missions in Korea, and did two combat tours in Vietnam. His family followed him from base to base and country to country during his years of service. Every two or three years, Mary, her three sisters, and her mother packed up their household and moved. By the time she graduated from high school, she had attended fourteen different schools. These displacements, plus her father?s frequent absences and brief, dramatic returns, were part of the fabric of her childhood, as were the rituals of base life and the adventures of life abroad.

As Mary came of age, tensions between the patriotic, Catholic culture of her upbringing and the values of the sixties counterculture set family life on fire.  While attending the American College in Paris, she became involved in the famous student uprisings of May 1968.  Facing her father, then posted in Vietnam, across a deep political divide, she fought as he had taught her to for a way of life completely different from his and her mother’s.

Years of turbulence followed.  After working in Germany, Spain and Japan, Mary went on to graduate school at NYU, earned a Ph.D. and became a professor of literature and American Studies at Muhlenberg College.  She has published three books, Recalling the Wild (Rutgers UP, 2000), Public Native America (Rutgers UP, 2006), and most recently Fighter Pilot’s Daughter: Growing Up in the Sixties and the Cold War (Rowman and Littlefield, September 2013).

She and her husband spend part of each year on a small farm in the mountains of southern Spain.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

The First Page: I, Angus by Mike Hartner





Title: I, Angus
Author: Mike Hartner
Publisher: Eternity 4 Popsicle Publishing
Pages: 260
Genre: Historical Fiction

During a time of civil strife and purging the North has lost more men to Wars then it ever did to Nature.

Angus has grown up learning that his life is better off with only him and a family. But is that really in the Grand Plan.

The North needs someone to build community.

But first, Angus needs to be forged... beaten, shaped, bolded and trained.

Watch as Angus hits both lows and highs across the lands of England, Scotland and France, before meeting a challenge of new land.

BUYING LINKS:


The First Page

It is a few days before my fifteenth birthday, and I have been scrubbing the castle floors all morning. I stand and the wind blows hard in my face, moving my reddish-orange hair from in front of my hazel eyes as I stretch my 5-foot 7-inch frame and look out the window.
The sky is dark and gloomy, but I can’t smell the rain yet, so I know a long time will pass before it pours down on our shire in North Scotland. In the far distance, I observe something moving toward our castle. It’s not long before I recognize my da’s charger. I can see others giving chase, although they’re quite a ways back. I run to open the gate and lower the drawbridge. I yell for my sister Janet to help me, because cranking it upright in a hurry is no small chore for one person.
The drawbridge has just been lowered when the hooves of Da’s horse, Spirit, come galloping across it. My sis does her part, and we quickly raise the bridge and race to the stallion and its rider. We arrive to hear the sound of arrows hitting the drawbridge and men yelling imprecations.
The heavily lathered stallion stands impatiently. On the horse’s back is its owner, Sir Donald Mackenzie, my da’. He is doubled forward, holding on to the mane, with an arrow in his upper left shoulder and another sticking out from his right calf. He wears a blue bonnet, along with a plaid kilt depicting our family’s lineage. A true archer, Da’s bow dangles on his back, diagonally between his shoulders.
The men on horseback, of which there are four, think better of trying to ford our moat, and they ride off. Lucky for us they don’t know that at that moment we are alone in the castle. Sis and I remove Da’ from the horse, and supporting our father between us we hurry him to his bed, where she begins ministering to his wounds.
I wonder what has caused this terrible event? My father had left several days ago with my much younger sister, Alice, to take her to a neighboring laird who had offered to have her schooled. I had watched my da’ the night before give Alice a family heirloom. It wasn’t much, but it was a locket that his great-grandmother had passed down to my grandmother who had passed it down to my mother, who was no longer with us. I remember Da’s telling us once that the tiny case had been given to our family on the occasion of an aunt’s marriage into the Clan MacDonald. I’d seen the engraving it held: two shields together, with their crests, one on the front, one on the back. And I recall Alice's telling him, as he fastened it to her neck, that she’d forever wear it proudly.
I’d learned, however, not to believe much of what Alice said of late, as she was always coming up with whatever she thought would gain her purchase. But Alice was the oldest daughter—now eleven while Janet, who is every bit as tall as her and twice as strong, is but nine—so the keepsake rightfully should go to her.
Da’ was onto her though, and I think he’d worked out something with Laird MacLaren to see that she learned manners and honor as much as anything. Aye, but I also thought it might do her good to get set down a peg, as the MacLarens were wealthy landowners and not to be trifled with. It crossed my mind as well that Da’ hoped she might find a man of some stature someday who’d marry her, which would solve all the problems with Alice’s odd ways, as she never seemed happy with what Da’ provided for her. No matter, she would be schooled, and if nothing else she’d see other girls her age and how they acted. She would come back a better person—if she chose to return at all, which I highly doubted.
Da’s ride should have been a day out and a day back, with a day in-between to enjoy the hospitality of the laird. You see, this is the North of Scotland, and all of our families know each other, and no one just comes and goes, even if they are not related.
My da’ is hurt bad, and even with Janet and me by his side, the conditions are grim, as there is only so much we can do. I bring him food when sis has it ready, but I take it away when it isn’t touched four hours later. All he can do is let out an occasional groan.

About the Author


Mike Hartner was born in Miami in 1965. He’s traveled much of the continental United States. He has several years post secondary education, and experience teaching and tutoring young adults. Hartner has owned and run a computer firm for more than twenty-five years. He now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with his wife and child. They share the neighborhood and their son with his maternal grandparents.
Mike’s latest book is I, Angus (The Eternity Series Book 4).
For More Information

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The First Page & Interview: Beethoven in Love; Opus 139 by Howard Jay Smith


Title: BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139
Author: Howard Jay Smith
Publisher: SYQ
Pages: 385
Genre: Literary Fiction/Biographical Fiction

At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past. 
As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.

Purchase Information:

Amazon


The First Page:


By all accounts my funeral was a grand success.
     Despite the snow and slush soaking through their shoes, all Vienna turns out. Twenty thousand mourners or more, accompanied by the Imperial Guards, guide the grieving to my grave.  Streets crowded, impassable. My coffin, lined with silk, covered in flowers, rolls through the chaos on a horse drawn bier. Paupers and princes; merchants and mendicants; menials and musicians; clerics and commoners; they all come for this, their Beethoven’s final concerto.
     As if they ever owned me or my music…
     Plaudite, Amici, Comoedia Finite Est. Applaud my friends, the comedy is over.  Inscribed herein rests my final opus.
     Ja. Yes, they are all patrons and lovers… Lovers of my music, the very music the gods have forbidden me to hear. How cruel.  To suffer my last decade without sound – any sound except the incessant surge of blood pounding through my veins - an eternity inscribed on the calendar pages of my life.
     And so it is, these celebrants, anxious for one last encore, crowd the alleys and streets of the Hapsburgs capital in throngs not seen since the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte and the French Grande Armee oh so many years ago.
     The cortege rolls on past the taverns and cafés of this fair city where dark beer, schnitzel and sausages reward the day. Ah, the saints and sinners of Vienna have always loved a good party, never mind the excuse. 
     Are they singing?  Alle Menschen werden Brüder. All men will become brothers.  They must be, yet I hear nothing.  
     I wonder if she is among them.  My muse; my love; my passion; my sacred fire; will she be there to safeguard my voyage through Elysium? 
     Or is she too denied me as was the sweet sighs of love and the embrace of family stolen by gods capricious and uncaring?  Are they so vengeful? So embittered by spite?  Like Prometheus, have I dared too close to revelations reserved for them alone?
     The clouds grow ever darker, ominous.
     Must I embrace death silently ere my last symphony suffuses the stage? Is this my end?  To be cast out as by our Creator as history’s cruel joke, a deaf musician?  A composer unable to know the vibrancy of his own scores?
     Tell me why your Beethoven, your servant whose hearing once surpassed all others in sensitivity and degree, must suffer such humiliation and torment?
     Are the crowds laughing? Ja oder nein? Yes or no. I know not. Am I such a failure, such a disgrace to be shoved off the stage without your mercy or compassion?
     As surely as the warmth of summer vanishes and the leaves of autumn crumble beneath the crush of winter, has all hope been stolen? Can I escape this fate? What path must I travel?  What tasks of redemption are to be mine and mine alone?
     Come death; am I to meet your shadow with courage? Must I depart in this winter of anguish before the renewal of spring?
     Can I not find release from this cycle of sufferings like a saint or a Hindoo holy man following the dance of Shiva or a Bodhisattva, back bent upon the path of the great Buddha?              
     The last echoes of joy inside my heart are already fading. Will I never hear or feel those vibrations again?  Never?  Nein. Forever.  Lost for eternity in the fog on the road to Elysium; that is too hard, too harsh.
     But surely a loving father must dwell in the starry canopy above. Are you there, oh sweet Isis, my goddess of compassion? Help me, help guide me.
    Please Providence; grant me this, my final wish… Grant but one day, just one day, one day of pure joy to your poor Beethoven. 
     Is this too much to ask before I embrace darkness forever? Oh, to be in her arms once again.


 Interview:

Welcome Howard Jay Smith.  Can you tell us what your book is about?


At the moment of his death, Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past. 

As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.

The first page is perhaps one of the most important pages in the whole book. It’s what draws the reader into the story. Why did you choose to begin your book this way?

“By all accounts my funeral was a grand success.” This line was in my head as the opening of the novel long before I ever started writing.  Even during the two full years I spent on researching Beethoven, I knew that the novel in a metaphorical sense would take place in the moment of Beethoven’s death. True story:  He is in a coma, there’s a thunder and snow storm outside his house.  A bolt of lightning strikes his window.  His eyes open, he sits upright, shakes his fist at the heavens, and is gone. 

To set the stage for the novel, I wanted an opening line that announced quite clearly that we are “not in Kansas anymore.”  In fact the prologue and epilogue for the novel capture that moment described above, the only difference being the perspective from which that incident is told and the level of understanding and transformation that occurs because of what happens in the novel.

In the opening page Beethoven rails about his life at the moment of his death and realizes that if he wants the one day of joy and love he has always sought, he must first come to grips with all of the failings and disaster of that life. In so doing, the first page serves as a literary table of contents for what will follow in the next 375 pages.

In the course of writing your book, how many times would you say that first page changed and for what reasons?

As I noted previously, the first line was in my head from day one and the rest of the page came quickly as soon as I started writing many months later.  It remained intact with only minor editing through the remaining three years of work. But those minor edits were primarily concerned with the use of a single word, “Ja,” the German word for yes.

The hardest challenge about writing a first person narrative about someone as famous as Beethoven was finding his voice inside myself. I know German, having studied it for years in high school and college and from having traveled there.  In early drafts I must have used “Ja,” thirty or forty times on that first page alone.  It was a device, a cheat, so that I could in fact do what Beethoven himself could not do, which is to hear his voice.  Once I was a half dozen chapters into the first draft, I knew I had his voice in my own head and I deleted almost every use of that word, “Ja.”

Was there ever a time after the book was published that you wished you had changed something on the first page?

No. I have been writing and teaching writing for over three decades. My focus has always been to hear the words I write, to revel in their sound, their impact and the exactitude of what they express within the overall structure of the story I am telling.

What advice can you give to aspiring authors to stress how important the first page is?

In the end, all we have as writers is the voice we use to tell our stories.  That voice must be purposeful, advance the narrative, never be boring or redundant and ultimately pull the reader into a dream state so powerful and all-encompassing that the next thing he or she knows is that someone is calling them to dinner.  Anything we write that breaks that dream, no matter how wonderful or brilliant it might be, anything that breaks that dream is no good.  We must throw it out. That dream begins on page one with the first line and should not ever be broken until the last word on the last page. If you fail to hook a reader at the onset, you are doomed.


 About the Author:


Howard Jay Smith is an award-winning writer from Santa Barbara, California. BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139 is his third book. A former Washington, D.C. Commission for the Arts Fellow, & Bread Loaf Writers Conference Scholar, he taught for many years in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has lectured nationally. His short stories, articles and photographs have appeared in the Washington Post, Horizon Magazine, the Journal of the Writers Guild of America, the Ojai Quarterly, and numerous literary and trade publications. While an executive at ABC Television, Embassy TV, and Academy Home Entertainment, he worked on numerous film, television, radio, and commercial projects. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Symphony - "The Best Small City Symphony in America" -  and is a member of the American Beethoven Society.

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Monday, January 9, 2017

The First Page: The Heatstroke Line by Edward L. Rubin





Title: THE HEATSTROKE LINE
Author: Edward L. Rubin
Publisher: Sunbury Press
Pages: 223
Genre: Scifi/Cli-Fi (Climate Change Science Fiction)

Nothing has been done to prevent climate change, and the United States has spun into decline.   Storm surges have made coastal cities uninhabitable, blistering heat waves afflict the interior and, in the South (below the Heatstroke Line), life is barely possible.  Under the stress of these events and an ensuing civil war, the nation has broken up into three smaller successor states and tens of tiny principalities.  When the flesh-eating bugs that inhabit the South show up in one of the successor states, Daniel Danten is assigned to venture below the Heatstroke Line and investigate the source of the invasion.  The bizarre and brutal people he encounters, and the disasters that they trigger, reveal the real horror climate change has inflicted on America.  

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The First Page


Daniel Danten didn’t really want to have a family. What he wanted was to be a scientist, to teach at a university and produce original research. But this seemed so unlikely, given the state of things in Mountain America, that he decided to hedge his bets or he’d have nothing to show for his life. So he married a woman he convinced himself he was in love with and had three children. As it turned out, somewhat to his own surprise, he achieved his original goal, probably because he switched fields from astronomy to entomology, a subject of enormous practical concern these days. And now, with a secure position at one of Mountain America’s leading universities, his own lab, and a substantial list of publications to his credit, he spent most of his time worrying about his family. His wife, Garenika, was depressed, his ten year old son Michael was suffering from one of the many mysterious ailments that were appearing without warning or explanation, and his fourteen year old daughter Senly was hooked on Phantasie and running wild. Worst of all, his sixteen year old, Joshua, who had always been such a reliable, level-headed and generally gratifying son, had become an American Patriot.
        On a blazing, early September afternoon, with the outdoor temperature spiking at 130 degrees Fahrenheit, he was sitting with Garenika in the waiting room at Denver Diagnostic Clinic while Michael was being examined by still one more doctor. Garenika thought they would get some sort of answer this time, but Dan was convinced that the doctor would come out of the examining room and say that she really couldn’t tell them what the problem is. Senly was spending a rare evening at home and Joshua was just returning from his field trip to the Enamel, an expedition that, Dan felt sure, was designed to make the participants angry, rather than providing them with information. The doctor appeared and Garenika jumped to her feet.

 



About the Author


Edward Rubin is University Professor of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University.  He specializes in administrative law, constitutional law and legal theory. He is the author of Soul, Self and Society:  The New Morality and the Modern State (Oxford, 2015); Beyond Camelot:  Rethinking Politics and Law for the Modern State (Princeton, 2005) and two books with Malcolm Feeley, Federalism:  Political Identity and Tragic Compromise (Michigan, 2011) and Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State:  How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons (Cambridge, 1998).  In addition, he is the author of two casebooks, The Regulatory State (with Lisa Bressman and Kevin Stack) (2nd ed., 2013); The Payments System (with Robert Cooter) (West, 1990), three edited volumes (one forthcoming) and The Heatstroke Line (Sunbury, 2015) a science fiction novel about the fate of the United States if climate change is not brought under control. Professor Rubin joined Vanderbilt Law School as Dean and the first John Wade–Kent Syverud Professor of Law in July 2005, serving a four-year term that ended in June 2009. Previously, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania Law School from 1998 to 2005, and at the Berkeley School of Law from 1982 to 1998, where he served as an associate dean. Professor Rubin has been chair of the Association of American Law Schools' sections on Administrative Law and Socioeconomics and of its Committee on the Curriculum. He has served as a consultant to the People's Republic of China on administrative law and to the Russian Federation on payments law. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale.
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He has published four books, three edited volumes, two casebooks, and more than one hundred articles about various aspects of law and political theory. The Heatstroke Line is his first novel.

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