I believe that one telling characteristic of a person is the music they enjoy. So how could I not feel the same way about my characters? I think about how Alex likes Motown and bubblegum music from the 50’s and 60’s, just like I think about how he likes sports and physics and making a really good pizza from scratch. For me, this is part of the process of getting to know him.
I’m in the process of updating my music page on this blog. I’m including a little description of how each song is referred to in the book, and adding a short excerpt from the chapter that contains the reference to that music. Then, for every song, I’ve found a live performance that I think shows a little of a the personality of the singer or of the song itself. I’ll admit that I’ve had a lot of fun seeking these out. Often the quality of the video isn’t as good as the more glossy clips, but I’ve picked each one for a reason. At the end I am including links to places to buy the music, or learn more about it, and in some cases I am adding related bits about more contemporary music. As always, interested readers are encouraged to support all the artists and websites.
Here is my updated entry for “Fame”,  the first song on the z2 playlist. Enjoy!
FameFebruary is music awards time and the novel z2 begins with hero Alex Zeitman sitting dejectedly in a hospital room watching the 1981 Grammy Awards.  Alex likes his music uptempo and he’s rooting for Fame, made famous by Irene Cara, to win song of the year.  He’s just torn his ACL and his dreams for playing professional basketball are going up in smoke, and to make the evening even more miserable Christopher Cross with his soft rock sound of “Sailing” ends up winning in every major category. Christopher Cross even beats out Pink Floyd for album of the year.  What is the world coming to?

Later, leg elevated and packed in ice, he was taken to a local emergency room. Several other players came along and tried to lift his spirits before the doctor saw him, before the doctor told him that it was likely that more than his evening had ended. His anterior cruciate ligament, commonly called the ACL, had been ruptured quite badly, and he was absolutely out for the short remainder of his college basketball career. The coach was sympathetic enough, even though Alex suspected that the man was mainly relieved that it hadn’t been a sophomore or junior who had been injured.

The hospital staff settled him into a room, having insisted on keeping him overnight for observation. The last of his teammates left, not knowing what more to say. So as he waited for the new pain medication to kick in, he morosely watched Christopher Cross receive a Grammy for song of the year on the tiny television. Alex had nothing against the soft rock song “Sailing” that seemed to be sweeping up the awards that night, but frankly being in a sailboat wasn’t an image that moved Alex much. All that sitting still. He would much rather have seen Pink Floyd win best album. And for best song? He guessed he had been rooting for “Fame”. It was catchy. With a beat. The way Alex preferred music.

Did you really think that fame would make you live forever? He laughed at himself. Of course not. Alex thought about his hopes and dreams for playing some pro ball before he got older and had to move on to something boring but acceptable like coaching high school ball. The doctor had just counseled him that a lengthy program of rehabilitation would help him recover eventually and that surgery was of course possible. But Alex had to face the fact that there was no real excuse for devoting himself full time to his own recovery. With no professional team to pick up the expense, it wasn’t likely that he or his folks could justify all the money for the sort of surgery and rehab it would take to get him back to where he had been. He hadn’t been that good. And, even worse, he’d still be prone to knee injuries for the rest of his career. It just didn’t make sense.

So twenty-two-year-old Alex Zeitman lay with his sandy-colored head on a hospital pillow and sadly watched the end of the 1981 Grammy Awards as he let go of a dream. Crowds wouldn’t cheer as he flew down the basketball court, or be amazed as his sturdy, lightly freckled hands performed spectacular physical feats that would, maybe, have had people remembering his name, at least for a day. He would not play basketball for a living after all.

Check out this video to see why Alex was cheering on the song “Fame.”
You can purchase the music to Fame here.

The fact is that I started each of my novels off with a special song. Click to read about x0’s “Time After Time“, y1’s “A Whole New World“, c3’s “A Texas Kind of Way” and d4’s “Lights“.

Alex Zeitman is, of course, made up of a good bit of Sherrie Cronin, as are all my characters, the sympathetic and the less so.  My tastes in music run more towards stirring lyrics and less towards rhythm than Alex’s tastes do, but in February 2014 I was pretty sure that Alex would have joined me in cheering for Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”.  It’s a haunting two-sided song, yet it has that mesmerizing tempo that Alex loves. I was glad to see it win record of the year, and to know that in spite of Alex’s concerns thirty-two years ago, good music has hardly died!

None of live videos of “Somebody That I Used to Know” that I could find had very good audio. My favorite is this one of Gotye performing the song in Brussels in February 2012 along with guest vocals from Noemie Wolfs from the Belgian band Hooverphonic. Great fun.

What stays the same?

mayan numbers 300

Can you figure out how to write the number 20 in Mayan?

The story behind z2 is that of a clever 26 year old Maya woman who devises a puzzle to hide a secret she has promised to protect. I did a fair amount of research on Maya culture as I prepared to write z2, but it was only after I finished the book that it occurred to me that I had simply assumed that at least some of the Maya enjoyed riddles and brainteasers  Why? Well, the truth is that I assume that some people from every culture that has ever existed have enjoyed puzzles.

Is this true? I recently stumbled on a book called “Ancient Puzzles: Classic Brainteasers and Other Timeless Mathematical Games of the Last 10 Centuries” by Dominic Olivastro, and I am treating myself to copy. Reading through the reviews, it appears that riddles, mental games and brainteasers indeed span all continents and several millennium, not to mention being common among more trivial divisions like age, gender, religion and educational background if any.

Yes, things keep on changing and generally that is good. It’s also true, however, that some things do stay the same and I’m glad that a love of puzzles is one of them.

Of course, in z2, the puzzle has more to offer than just the satisfaction of solving it …. but that’s another whole part of the story.

z2 out in paperback

There is something more permanent about a novel once it is printed on paper, and so it is a big moment when a tale that has lived only on machines now sets in your own two hands. Over the last few weeks my third and latest novel z2 came out in paperback and I still am gazing at it in wonder.

Let me be clear.  I do love my kindle. It is wonderful to be able to carry hundred of books with me on a trip, particularity seeing as traveling and reading are two of my very favorite things to do. And it is wonderful to be able to subscribe to a half dozen science fiction magazines for pennies a day and never have to decide whether I should throw any of them in the trash when I am done leafing through them, or whether I should add them to the giant stack of things I might read someday.

paperbackBut I also like books. I like to read floating in the swimming pool and sitting in the sun and when all electronic devices have to be turned off until the captain says otherwise. I like to touch and smell the written word, and it brings me no end of joy to see my own work in print.

If you are not a fan of e-readers and have considered reading z2, please check it out on Amazon here 🙂

Check here for news on y1 making it to the semi finals of a contest and here for news on x0 making it onto 1670 people’s to-read shelf on Goodreads.

More ways to read

z2 final May 2013Interested in reading z2 but don’t use a Kindle? Visit the new z2 on Smashwords where it is available in all sorts of formats you can download or read on screen.  Also check out z2 on Goodreads where you can get a pdf or an epub file for the first 75% of the book for free.

Coming Soon: z2 will be out in paperback at amazon.com June 16, 2013.

Time and hate

Z2 JH3 - CopyAfter you finish writing a book, you find yourself spending an amazing amount of time writing about what the book is about. This place wants a 500 word description.  That ad must be 80 words or less.  Nope, only 200 characters allowed here and spaces count.  It is an annoying process that results in sub-optimum word choices and bad phrasing.

But it has forced me to distill down to few words what each of my books truly concerns, and that is a worthwhile exercise. Just today a friend helped me realize that z2 is, more than anything, about time and hate, and about what time does to hate. (You can read her review of the book on Amazon.com here.)

Time can funnel hatred into a concentrate that is far more lethal than the original emotion, or time can allow hatred to evaporate into the vapor that it always was.  The first process is scary, the second is uplifting. Case in point.  According to PoliceOne.com, the police chief from Montgomery Alabama recently apologized to U.S. Representative John Lewis who was among the freedom riders in 1961 who were beaten during the civil rights movement while police did nothing to help them.

light clockUnlike the recent scandal in British Columbia wherein BC Premier Christy Clark’s staff cynically suggested that she could get some political quick wins by apologizing to previously wronged ethnic groups, presumably Police Chief Kevin Murphy had nothing to gain from his apology other than, in his own words, doing the the right thing.

z2 is also about hope. Hope that Kevin Murphy was sincere.  Hope that leaders in BC might one day apologize for past wrongs because it is the right thing to do.  Hope that we all will be a little better, with time.

First Review for z2

Waiting for that first review to come from somewhere, anywhere, is one scary experience.
Luckily, z2 is off to a fine start, and I am posting fellow author Bob Craton’s review of z2 below.
I should add that I don’t know Bob personally, but I am a fan of his books, we’ve exchanged some emails on writing websites, and I very much appreciate that he seems to enjoy my books too.

Bob Craton‘s review is posted on Goodreads here and Amazon here.

Feb 06, 13
5 of 5 stars false
Read from February 01 to 05, 2013

I’m a big fan of this author’s first two books, ‘x0’ and ‘y1’, so it is no surprise that I love this third volume of the series. Once again she has put together a marvelous tale. I don’t know of anyone doing better in the genre of magical realism than she does. All of the books involve the fictional Zeitman family with a different member featured in each volume — Lola (wife/mother) in the first, Zane (son) in the second, and now Alex (husband/father). Each character is a very real and believable person who just happens to have a special ability.

The author is unafraid of tackling serious social problems, in this case racism, and she does so without being preachy. She also does a lot of research so the facts in the ‘realism’ part of magical realism are always accurate. (That makes those of us who just make stuff up as we go along feel lazy.) I don’t give spoilers so all I will say about the story is that there are two subplots, each with its own set of characters, and that the story-lines merge and the characters meet each other.

As before, the ending is very upbeat and optimistic. As a skeptic, I would not expect such happy endings in the real world. In the Zeitman family’s world, however, the conclusion shows the way things could be — and should be. I find this approach very encouraging.


light clockz2 is now available for kindle at Amazon.com and will be out in paperback and available in all other electronic formats through Smashwords.com in a few months. Please click here to check out the cover and short description and “like” the book while you are there.

I am excited about this latest novel!  The storyline itself allowed me to include more of my first true love, science fiction, and I’ve now been writing long enough that I felt comfortable trying a few new story telling ideas as well. This one is going to be fun.