Mission 51- Preface

I continue to promote the book I am writing on Inkshares.com. It is called Mission 51. If you are a Sci-Fi fan, I think you might want to check it out!

Here is another snippet from the book. This is the Preface. I hope you enjoy it!

 

Mission 51: Preface

A Note from the Author:

I met Dr. Linda Deltare during a birding festival at West Virginia’s New River Gorge in the spring of 2010. I was struck by the enthusiasm of this elegant, eldery lady who was following a constellation of plain old Starlings at the time. She looked away from her binoculars and exclaimed to anyone in earshot, and that would be just me, “Did you see how they responded to the leader’s chip call!?”

Since no one else was nearby, and since I was uncertain whether her question was rhetorical or not, I felt obliged to respond. “No, I didn’t. To be honest, I’m not that tuned-in to communication behavior in flight.”

She started an animated ramble about it until she stopped herself short, apologizing. “I’m sorry. I get carried away by that sort of thing. I have been interested in communication theory since my college days, part of my Master’s work and doctoral thesis.”

“Oh, please go on,” I told her. “I may not know much about it, but I’m interested. I love learning new things about bird behavior.” What I said was true. I was interested. I never lied to Dr. Deltare. Or almost never.

So we had a nice conversation about this and other similar avian topics as we worked our way back to our group of fellow birders. We then encountered each other on and off for the next few days, establishing a comfortable acquaintance. At the end of the festival, we exchanged the typical farewells. “I hope we run into each other again some day at another birding event.” I meant it. She impressed me as a smart, pleasant and interesting lady.

Curiously, we did run into each other, time and time again over the next few years, at almost every birding event I ever attended! I saw her at the Cape May Maygration in New Jersey. I saw her at the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge in the North Carolina Outer Banks. I saw her at Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania, at Merritt Island in Florida, at Magee Marsh in northwest Ohio, and again at the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Our little acquaintance gradually grew into a warm friendship. We shared each other’s cell phone numbers and email addresses. So after that, I was not as surprised to see her at other birding events, as we both obviously shared the hobby and passion. But really, looking back, it was a little weird seeing her everywhere I went.

One day, she even showed up in my home town of Winston Salem, at one of our regular Audubon activites at Bethabara Park. I was really taken aback at her presence, surprised at how far she must have come for such an unimportant event. After an enjoyable morning of birding, I asked her to join me for lunch and she readily accepted. It was then that she finally unloaded the burden that she had been carrying, and for whatever reason, she had apparently decided to hand it over to me.

“Ferd,” she said with a coarse cough, while lighting up a new cigarette using the dying ash of the one she had just finished, “I have something very important I need to tell you. I have never told another living soul what you are about to hear, but I am so old now, and I may be dying. I simply have share what I know with someone I can trust. From the first time I met you, I felt you could be that person. Over the years of following you and getting to know you better, I am now convinced you are the one.”

“Well, gee, thank you,” I said, not knowing exactly how to respond to that.

“No. Don’t thank me. This is nothing to be thankful for.”

I looked at her expectantly while she obviously gathered her thoughts.

Eventually she started, “I have been working for the government for a very long time, initially against my will and always under duress.” She proceeded to spin a fantastical tale about an alien from space, about government conspiracy, about technology and large corporations, about danger to herself and her family. She told me how she was the only one who could communicate with the alien. She called him by name. I nodded understandingly, wondering where she was going with all this craziness, and listened patiently to her very interesting story. We sat there for hours while she told her tall tales, a long story spanning decades. At times she became visibly anxious, and she frequently looked over her shoulder in a comedy of suspicion. I was absorbed and fascinated by the energy of her story-telling, and frankly, by the story itself. She spun a good tale! Lunch turned into dinner. When she finally finished, she said, “I know this must be very difficult to believe, and I will find a way to provide you with evidence, but the government has me under regular surveilance, and now I’m afraid they will have you under surveillance as well. They probably already do. I’m sorry.”

Now, I have heard this sort of thing before. I am a doctor for god’s sake. I had made my diagnosis hours previously. This was a classic case of Paranoid Schizophrenia, heavy on the paranoid with a solid persecution complex, and clearly out of touch with reality with a fascinating, complex delusional construct that was consistent with her obvious intelligence. The only part that didn’t fit was her awareness that this would be difficult for me to believe, and that I would need evidence. I find that most Paranoid Schitzes aren’t that aware of and sensitive to the viewpoint of others.

She handed me two sealed letters, which she made me promise to not open until both she and her sister were dead. She made me put them in my pocket immediately. Then, after looking over both shoulders, twice, she placed a funny little pyramidal object in my hands, and closed all my fingers around it. “Guard this with your life!” she said, with a very intense look in her eyes. “And never say a word about it to anyone!”

I promised her I would do as she asked. After that was settled, she seemed visibly relieved and strangely worried at the same time. “Promise me again. Don’t show those letters or the trangula to anyone. To anyone! Hear?” I assured her again it would be our secret, and I meant it. I was only a friend, not her doctor, but I always honor confidences. Or nearly always.

But I now feel I must unload this stuff myself. Linda is dead, and someday I will be dead, too. The story must be told.

She gave me those two letters. I will include the first one as the first Appendix to this book. This is the letter where he/she explained how after her death I would come forth with her “documentation and evidence” to bring the “discoveries, secrets, and lies” “into the light.” The second letter contained very specific directions to a very specific location. I followed those directions. I went to the place where the evidence was supposedly hidden, and I found no such thing. All I found in the safe was a toy spaceship and an old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure.

Now all I have are the words of a probable Paranoid Schizophrenic, and I did have that interesting little pyramidal object. But it would be crazy of me not to tell her story. I know too much.

So here it is, as it was told to me by one who was there.

~~~~~~~~~~

I hope you enjoyed that bit from Mission 51! Please check it out on Inkshares! 😀

Dona Nobis Pacem 2015

It’s that time of year again, the gathering of kindred spirits from all over the world, promoting the idea that we can all live together in peace.

This year I am grateful for so many people that have taught me and helped me along the way, impossible to name them all. I will name my parents, who are in their mid-eighties, and still lighting the way for the younger generations, now for their great-grandchildren. I will name my four children, who give meaning to my very existence. And I’ll name Princess Gail, who selflessly provides me with joy, a harmonious partnership, order, and a sense of peace I have never felt before she came into my life.

A special thanks today to my friend Dawn, who actually put together my peace globe this year. I procrastinated myself out of time. I gave her my ideas, and she created a globe much nicer than what I could have done. Thank you, Dawn!

Peace to all who visit this lonely blog, and even to those who don’t. Peace on Mimi’s Blogblast4Peace day, and on every other day of the year. Peace to you and to your friends, family, and even to those who aren’t. Peace to you at this very moment, and at as many moments as possible. May you be blessed with many such moments of peace, and more importantly may you be the source and instigator of peace in your corner of the world.

And thank you, Mimi, for this beautiful celebration! You bring us together to focus on this wonderful ideal. Peace!

Peace Globe 2015

Elk Knob State Park

Elk Knob State Park

Gail and I went with our Forsyth County Audubon bird group to Elk Knob State Park in the North Carolina mountains. We went specifically to look for the Golden-winged Warbler. We were in the right spot, hearing our target warbler on several occasions. But we never quite laid eyes on one. We did see or hear several other warblers, too, including Ovenbird, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, and Common Yellowthroat. Other fun mountain birds included Least Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, and Veery. All told, we finished with 24 species, which is not a big day as far as counts go, but it was a FUN day! We had a nice group on a nice day at a beautiful place!

Here is a pic Gail took of the Chestnut-sided Warbler:

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Indigo Buntings are always cool to see:

Indigo Bunting

Then we decided to take a hike all the way to the top of Elk Knob, an elevation of 5,520 feet.

We encountered this deer along the way. She stayed surprisingly close for quite a while. I wonder if she wasn’t protecting a little one somewhere close by.

at Elk Knob

And at the top, we were rewarded with these amazing views!

Princess Gail at Elk Knob State Park

Gail at Elk Knob

Man, did we get a workout, too! According to our FitBits, we finished with over 15,000 steps, or about 7.5 mountain miles, and credit for 111 flights of stairs!

We are so grateful to be able to enjoy things like this. I hope we can keep doing it for a very long time! 🙂

view from Elk Knob

First Backyard Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Despite the blizzard conditions up north this year, we had not had a flake of snow until today. We are having a few flakes now. Cold weather and snow bring the birds out to our feeders. Among our many visitors today, of 21 species, we saw our first backyard Ruby-crowned Kinglet!

Not the sharpest picture, but the one that shows the ruby crown best:

IMG_0733

Eastern Bluebirds:

IMG_0712

A Carolina Chickadee, a Brown-headed Nuthatch, and the Ruby-crowned Kinglet:

IMG_0721

The Nuthatch and the Kinglet:

IMG_0727

A Downy Woodpecker:

IMG_0752

From the top down, an Eastern Bluebird, a Dark-eyed Junco, a Pine Warbler, and a Carolina Wren:

IMG_0788

Great bird-time at our house today! 😀

No resolutions for 2015

YouTube Preview Image

For some reason I am not motivated to even think about a New Year’s resolution for 2015. Sure, I could set some easy goals, like to improve my diet and exercise, or to write and draw more, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to feel obligated to any of that. If I have a special goal at all, it is to do a triathlon with my son, Kevin, sometime after my 60th birthday in May. But I can prepare myself for that without any particular resolution.

Usually I like New Year’s resolutions. There’s something about starting things fresh on January first. But I tend to set New Year’s goals that I don’t quite accomplish. I lose interest, or I lose my motivation and energy, or unexpected things get in the way. Then it feels a bit like a failure, even if I tell myself that I had made progress in one way or another.

So this year I will not set specific goals. I do want to eat right, exercise more, etc. But I will do that day in / day out, week in / week out anyway. Instead, I will go with the flow, wherever my energy takes me.

See, the thing is, I have a lot of interests, and there is never enough time in the day to do them all. I tend to go in spurts, too. I’ll focus on this for a while, and then on that. And that’s okay. So I’m just going to accept that.

I have to admit that my looming 60th birthday is working on my mind a bit. Not in a depressing sort of way, but acknowledging that time flies and is running out. I only have so many good, energetic years in me. I don’t want to waste any time at all. I even hate that I have to sleep and eat. I really think that this pressure to live life now, while I can, replaces any need for New Year’s resolutions. I am motivated by the ticking clock, and I am motivated to stay healthy and strong for as long as I can. There are a lot of things I want to do!

So, resolutions or not, here’s to a happy, healthy, prosperous, and productive 2015! May all your dreams come true! 🙂

National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo crest

Today marks the end of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. It is the first time I participated, and it definitely won’t be my last!

The point of NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write 50,000 words towards a novel, during the month of November. That boils down to 1,667 words per day.

Well, I didn’t even come close to the goal. I will finish the NaNoWriMo today with 15,780 words, and I am actually quite happy with that!

I wish I could have written more, but work, a trip to visit family, and a visit by family, took precedence. We all have priorities. I’m not a full-time writer.

But wow, did I ever learn a lot! NaNoWriMo forced me to do several things:

  • To decide on a specific genre, topic and title for a novel.
  • To make a good guess at the eventual length of the novel.
  • To define characters, their internal and external conflicts, and their story arcs.
  • To write dialogue.
  • To choose pivotal scenes through which to tell the story.
  • To determine point of view and voice.
  • To establish my work flow, which for me was to first outline the story before I felt ready to start writing.
  • To find the right physical space, ambiance, and frame of mind for writing.
  • To set specific goals for each writing session.
  • To write in an interesting, story-telling fashion, as opposed to the precise, non-fiction writing that is burned into me as a result of my medical education and career.

15,000 words gets me a long way toward my novel, which I have estimated to be in the 120,000-150,000 word range typical of science fiction stories. Theoretically, at this pace I could finish it in 10 months. Presumably I would get better at it, and faster, so I could possibly finish it in less than 10 months. Then again there is the matter of editing, second and thirds drafts, etc., which could delay the novel’s completion by an unknown amount of time. In any event, I now have a road map for the novel, a growing toolbox of writing knowledge and skills, and a good start!

As a side benefit, I am again more interested in reading. That seems to come and go in my life. But now I will read with a better appreciation of the writers’ styles, and will hopefully learn even more about writing in the process.

If you have ever thought about writing a book, I strongly encourage you to consider NaNoWriMo next year! Start early by deciding on a genre, topic and title. Think about characters, settings, etc. Set up an outline if you like to work that way. There is a lot of prep work you can do before the NaNoWriMo actually starts.

Oh, and BTW, get Scrivener and learn how to use it! (This is not a paid advertisement. I just believe there is no better tool for writers than this outstanding software.)

 

Favorite SD Comic-Con 2014 moments!

A year’s worth of planning and anticipation culminated in our recent experience of the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con! It was everything we had hoped and so much MORE! I can’t begin to describe the energy that lit the place up for the five glorious days of the convention. The extensive programming was way beyond impressive! How in the world can so many artists and celebrities be herded into one place at the same time!? There was SO much going on that I wanted my clones to be in about 5 places simultaneously throughout the entire convention! Though with an approximately 130,000 attendance, all competing for seats in the rooms, we had to carefully pick and choose which panels and events  we really wanted to see. Even so, we did manage to see and do many memorable things while at the Con. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. I had a mission to meet one of the Special Guests that had been invited to this year’s Comic- Con.  Jane Espenson is a gifted writer who has contributed to many of the TV shows Gail and I love. These include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, Battlestar Galactica/Caprica, Firefly/Serenity, Once Upon a Time, and Game of Thrones. She has written for many more. She has also contributed to certain comics. Obviously, she has a direct line to Joss Whedon‘s creative mind, and how cool is that! She has had a writing career that any writer would envy, and she is still going strong, including the current production of her own web series, Husbands (Get a load of the cast!)

Fortunately for me, she was very active at the Comic-Con. She was on several panels, and she offered several signing opportunities. We got to see her at two of her panels and I managed to find her at one of the artist’s signing tables! She was very gracious, and I will remember these moments always! Thank you, Jane!

IMG_4807

2. Anne Rice is a writer without equal! Interview with the Vampire redefined the original literary concept of the vampire, and I was hooked on her after that classic novel. Her rich and luscious descriptions of characters and locations bring her imaginary worlds to life. She is an extraordinary story teller. Countless authors have taken their cues from her work. And her work is voluminous, making vampires, witches, angels and wolf people seem real. She has also written erotica, and about Jesus! It is difficult to place her in any one genre!

Ms Rice is now 72 years young. You would be shocked by the peaceful beauty of her warm and patient smile. She looked at me and Gail in the eyes in a way that made me feel that that moment, and probably every moment, are important to her. I thanked her for the many hours of reading pleasure her books had brought me, and for the delicious memories that remain. She said, “And that’s why I will keep writing them.”

IMG_6715 IMG_6730 IMG_6726

3. Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows currently on TV. It is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, a series of novels written by George R.R. Martin. He is therefore one of the most successful and influential writers on today’s fantasy scene. It was fun seeing his gregarious self up close, and getting his autograph!

IMG_6485 IMG_6492 IMG_2158

4. Cosplay (costumed role play) or at least “dressing up” is a tradition at comic conventions. I really enjoyed seeing so many people in costume at the #SDCC. Here is a YouTube video with a  sampling:

I had a surprisingly great time participating in this. I never intended to have an elaborate costume like in the video. That is not my thing. But since I am such a Breaking Bad fan, am just a little older than Walter White/Heisenberg, and his outfit was easy to replicate, I decided to play along. It was interesting sort of slipping into a (W)alter ego!

HeisenbergFerd 10446015_10154421141645704_921431193473592548_n

5. Evangeline Lilly is famous for her role as Kate Austen in the TV series Lost. We saw her most recently as the woodland elf Tauriel in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, a role she will reprise in the upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Evangeline has written a children’s book, and she was at the #SDCC in part to promote it. We purchased one of the 1,000 numbered copies of a special Comic-Con edition of The Squickerwonkers. We were fortunate to have Evangeline herself sign the book for us!

10514685_10154423511640704_2039254285450945738_n

6. We saw previews of several upcoming TV shows, and there are two that we are now really looking forward to: iZombie and Scorpion. Keep an eye out for these shows this fall!

These were among my favorite moments at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con. And there were many other moments I will long remember. Now it’s time to start thinking about #SDCC2015! 😀

(If you want to see our Facebook photos of the San Diego Comic-Con 2014, here they are.)