z2: synopsis and my 3 favorite excerpts

I’m talking a close look at my older blogs, making sure that they are up to date and that they represent my earlier novels well. I’ve added my latest book synopsis and placed a few of my favorite excerpts on a page for permanent reference, and thought I would post these improvements as a blog post as well. Enjoy!

z2 is the third novel in the loosely interrelated collection known as 46. Ascending. Each novel tells the tale of an otherwise normal person coming to terms with having unusual abilities. This page contains a short description of the book z2 followed by three of my favorite excerpts from the first part of the novel. To read more, please purchase z2 at smashwords.com, at amazon.com, or at Barnes and Noble.

Alex once walked away from a rare ability to warp time, thinking it was only a young man’s trick to play basketball better. Now, as a father and teacher, he needs to relearn the skill quickly before the past begins to destroy his own future. To protect his daughter and his most promising student, he must stop the school at which he teaches from turning the clock backwards to an era of white supremacy.

alexAn old high school friend is in desperate need of Alex’s unique gifts to help solve an ancient Maya mystery. As the puzzling artifact offers a rare chance to bridge the past and the future, its story begins to intertwine with the growing tensions at Alex’s school. As both situations take dangerous turns, Alex knows that he must learn to control his temporal talents before he runs out of time.

Excerpt 1:

“Dad. I did not flirt with those boys, okay? Ick. They’re wannabe skinheads. Look, I was nice to them when I talked to them, probably nicer than I would have usually been. But that’s just common sense. Who’s going to give you information if you’re rude to them? Come on.”

Alex had to agree that made sense. He got that Teddie was angry at Ms. Johnson’s accusation, but he wondered if she resented being accused of flirting, or resented being accused of flirting with these particular boys. Either way, from Teddie’s point of view she had done nothing wrong.

“Shouldn’t you have told the boys you were asking about their projects on behalf of the school paper?” Alex prodded gently.

“Oh, that would have gotten me a lot of information. Those kids really believe that all school-sponsored activities are part of a liberal propaganda machine, dad. Seriously paranoid people.”

“Well, you’ve made yourself quite an enemy in Ms. Johnson, dear. I don’t think she’s a fan of mine either, now.”

Teddie winced. It was hard enough being a freshman without always having to worry about how every little thing you did seemed to reflect on your teacher father. It got tiresome.

“You know, dad, I don’t think Ms. Johnson is the kind of friend you want anyway. I hear that she tows the line in front of the administration, but in the classroom when no one is there except students she comes out with some pretty racist things. I mean she always phrases them like discussion questions, so if they get repeated they don’t sound that bad, but her class spends a lot of time talking about things that make some of the kids uncomfortable.”

“Teddie, I think you’re exaggerating. If that were really the case, honey, kids would be speaking up, to their parents, to the department head.”

Teddie had her you-adults-just-do-not-understand expression firmly on her face. “Dad, if a kid reports her then she twists it around like they were just having a class discussion and that this kid is saying stuff because he didn’t do well on a test or something. And that kid can usually kiss a good grade from her goodbye.”

Her dad gave that possibility some thought. “I think the other history teachers would know and be involved if this lady was really crossing a line.”

More of the look. “Dad, you need to get out of the science department more. Word is that most of the Early Gulch history department pretty much agrees with everything Ms. Johnson teaches. The others keep their opinions more to themselves, but they don’t object. The few that do, like Mr. Hanson who left last year, they’re not lasting very long. I think there’s some group or organization out there that has all of the history teachers involved.”

“Now who sounds paranoid?” her dad kidded.

“You know what they say. Doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. I’m sorry I put you on Ms. Johnson’s radar. Be careful, Dad. I think she likes hurting people that don’t agree with her.”

Excerpt 2:

Stan tried to control his enthusiasm the next morning as he woofed down breakfast at the hotel and supervised the loading of the trucks. The department head had chastised him by phone the previous night for even opening the box, and for doing as little as brushing off most of the dirt. Stan had expected that response, and he was willing to take the criticism. He hadn’t spent twelve years of his life swatting mosquitoes just to take a back seat while some senior faculty member flew down here to do the honors. This was his research. These were his kids. They all deserved their moment in the sun. Yesterday, he had taken it.

Today, however, they would back off and show professional restraint, as they concentrated on photographing and measuring and recording data while they all waited for more expertise before anything further was disturbed.

There was lightness in Stan’s step as he helped unload the two trucks and made his way to the cave’s small entrance. “You first, Dr. Drexler,” Nelson said politely. Stan wasn’t even all the way in when he noticed mud tracks he was sure neither he nor his students had made. No, come on, he thought. Surely we did not have intruders last night of all times.

He looked around quickly. Everything else they had found over the last few days was completely undisturbed. Only the ornate box and its half disintegrated bit of cloth covering were completely gone, as if they had never existed.

You have got to be kidding, Stan muttered to himself. Locals? For christsakes, did one of my students tell somebody? Then he had a second thought. Was there any chance at all that any of the five students could read hieroglyphics from this region that well?

Because Dr. Stan Drexler of course could. He had studied nothing but for the last twelve years. And even though there was a fair amount of local variation and he had only gotten a quick glance at it, there are certain words that anyone who has ever loved archaeology knows, at least in the culture where they have expertise. “Treasure” is one of those words. Even higher on the list is any phrase that translates roughly as “the greatest treasure ever.”

Excerpt 3:

Alex and Xuha continued their tennis workouts into the summer, with Xuha growing stronger each week, as he became a better left-handed player. Finally, after two and a half months, he felt confident enough to try a few gingerly hits right handed.

“I think I will always practice left-handed too. It seems to me the flexibility could be a real asset on the court. For injury, to give my arm a rest or even for just for throwing off an opponent.”

Alex agreed. “If I were you I’d focus particularly hard on serving with both hands. That’s where you’ll get the most impact I think.”

And so the two of them worked on serves, first right handed and then left handed, comparing the advantages of each against various hypothetical opponents as they worked. They finally quit when the June sun rose high enough for the Texas summer heat to take over the morning completely.

“That day you got attacked. You still have no idea who they were or why they attacked you?” Alex wondered aloud as they both gulped water and gathered up their gear.

Xuha shook his head. “I mean, I can guess. It’s pretty obvious around school who might be inclined to do that. But they didn’t say anything to me and no one has threatened me since. I try to stay out of trouble.”

“You do,” Alex agreed. “But given the way you fought the first two attackers off, I’d guess you’ve been in a fight or two before. I have to admit, I had no idea you could move that fast, and I work with you physically.”

Xuha grinned. “I don’t like to fight, but I can if I have to. I know this is going to sound kind of odd, and I’m not sure that I’m explaining it all that well. But if it’s a situation where I really have to, or really want to make my body do something, you know, hit a ball or hit a person, it’s like everything almost slows down a little for me. So then I can do it. Does that make any sense?”

Alex just looked at him strangely.

“I tried to tell this once to another boy I played soccer with. He was like really scary good and he was trying to help me, give me tips and stuff, and I was afraid he was going to think I was crazy, you know?” Xuha made a crazy face. By now Alex had gotten used to the boy’s odd facial humor and he just ignored it.

“But this soccer player didn’t think I was crazy at all. He said that’s exactly what happened to him sometimes on the soccer field.”

Now Xuha really had Alex’s attention.

“He told me he wished he could control it, you know, like make a kiss with a pretty girl last longer, but it didn’t seem to work that way. It just happened when it needed to and he said that he thought that maybe all great athletes could do that sort of thing when they played, even if they didn’t quite realize they were doing it.”

“That’s a very interesting theory Xuha. Do you think that maybe some people become so good at a sport because they can do that? Or maybe they get really good first and then this technique follows?”

Xuha shrugged. “I’ve heard some people describe something like it right before a car crash or other kind of emergency. You said you used to be quite a basketball player, Mr. Z? So, did you ever have this happen to you?”

Alex smiled. “Maybe a little. I think I have an idea at least of what it is you’re talking about.”

“Okay. So anyway, that’s what happened to me during that fight you saw. Like I didn’t ask for it or anything or tell my body to do it, but these guys just started moving a little slower, you know, slower to me and it made it easier to defend myself.”

“I wish that could have somehow protected you from the idiot behind you whom you couldn’t see.”

“Me too,” Xuha said. “For that kind of protection I have to go to my alternate plan.”

“What’s that?”

“Don’t piss people off and stay out of fights.”

My job is to get wiser

It has been just over three months now since I became unemployed. It’s a big deal for me, even though it was my own decision, made once I decided that if I made my life much simpler, I had enough to get by.

I knew that my job provided more discretionary income than I would ever have again.  I knew that it provided a social circle of sorts, and a reason to bathe regularly. I was prepared for a lack of all those things. I felt like I’d always had it in me to a be poor unwashed hermit, so no problem there.

I didn’t realize that my job provided reference points for the passage of time, and that after so many years with a typical job, I would be disorientated without those familiar markers. My husband, who made this same plunge three years ago, saw what was coming. Of course, for the past three years he had been using my work schedule to mark his own days.

“We will still have special meals on week-ends,” he declared. “Drink a bottle of wine, grill a nice piece of fish.” I laughed at him.  “We can do that any time now.”

“Yeah, but we won’t,” he said. “You’re going to need this.” He was right.

motion 2I didn’t realize that my job provided a sense of purpose, even if that purpose was only to pay the bills. I have a higher purpose, I thought.  My real purpose is to write. I didn’t consider how writing is basically a manic-depressive activity for me, filled with bursts of creativity and action interspersed with doubt and lethargy. One’s purpose needs to be solid, a guidepost that doesn’t wax and wane to a bipolar rhythm.

So I’ve kind of informally been seeking a purpose, and oddly enough I think I’ve found one. It probably was my purpose all along, I just didn’t think of it as such.

My job is to get wiser. I actually think that is everyone’s real job, but I also think it’s not my business to tell other people what their purpose is. So  …. I’ll stick to me. I’m on a mission to become a wise woman. I’m not sure exactly what the process involves, but I’m pretty sure that it includes a lot of writing, reading, helping others, being close to nature, taking good care of my self, traveling, learning, and meditating. It might involve a lot more.  I don’t know. I’ll find out.

I figure that a would-be wise woman takes wisdom wherever she finds it. So now my life is a classroom and, as a full time student, I make little notes to myself wherever I go. People in town may think I’m a little crazy.

A wonderful local yoga studio has provided me with lots of material, not to mention a few more reference points as I try to make it to my favorite classes. “We are naturally drawn to movement,” the instructor said the other day, talking about how all the flashing blinking lights in our lives hold us mesmerized. “But remember that there is no movement without stillness.”

motionIt sounded very Zen, but in fact the man was talking good solid physics. There is no motion if everything is in motion together. You do know that the earth is zipping around the sun at nearly 70,000 miles an hours, don’t you? You don’t? How could you possible not notice traveling at 70,000 miles an hour? It turns out it is pretty easy when everything else moves with you. Have one thing stand still (or as good old Einstein pointed out, assume you are standing still and the other thing is moving 70,000 miles an hour in the other direction) and the motion becomes apparent.

That’s it.  You need motion. You need stillness. You need reference points. Way to go, physics! Way to go, yoga! Way to go, universe!

If I’d only known…

star trekIt you had to pick one thing out of the original Star Trek series to have in your own life, what would it have been? Beam me up, Scotty? The replicators? Warp drive? Well, we didn’t get those, did we. At least not yet. Face it, we got the equivalent of the com badges, those marvelous communication devices that let the whole crew talk to each other all the time no matter where they were.  No, it wouldn’t have been my first choice either.

Yesterday, I finally finished reading Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth’s 1952 science fiction satire The Space Merchants and its sequel, Pohl’s 1984 The Merchant’s War. I enjoyed the first novel quite a bit and the second only somewhat. The Merchant’s War had so damn much potential that I felt cheated when Pohl left so much unaddressed, unexplained and unsaid.

But back to the first book, because that is what I want to talk about here. I could find no date at which the story takes place. We only know that it’s far enough in the future that a man has been sent to Venus, and laws and government structure are substantially different. Pohl and Kornbluth create a world that is believable enough, if one lives in 1954, and that is the trouble with writing science fiction. Things change, even over the lifetime of a book. Twenty or thirty years after a book is written, we do have a better sense of the trajectory we are on. Yesterday’s future world looks unrealistic and even silly today.

growing bolder 6The Space Merchants biggest failure to predict has to do with electronics, which plays almost no role in the story.  There are no computers, there is no internet. Communication is essentially what it was in 1950, only the characters are talking about rocket ships instead. You have to ask yourself how could they not have known? Then you ask yourself, how could they have?

Think quick. Your new novel takes place sometime around 2090, although you aren’t going to give a date. Let’s say it’s a medical thriller.  Or an alien invasion.  It doesn’t matter. It’s the future. I’m going to read your novel in 2055. I really am. Now, you take a good hard look at society today and tell me what the most significant unexpected change in direction is going to be over the next forty years. No extrapolating current trends. This has to be something that is basically new or in its infancy now. The world will center around it by 2055. Any story of 2090 will seem silly if you leave this out.

Got it? Me neither. There are definitely days when I think writing romance novels would be easier.

(For more about The Space Merchants, see my posts on this amazing book at I Know Sexism When I See ItThe Kinky of the Future, Through the Eyes of Another, and Predicting the Future or Shaping It.)