A Great Wild Mercy video (Non-Fiction)

My day and writing my next novel have kept me busy this year. However, my wife and attended a concert by Carrie Newcomer and John McCutcheon last Saturday. Our first post-pandemic concert was worth the trip to Dominican University. We’ve been fans of Newcomer for years, but this was my first time hearing McCutcheon’s songs. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I liked how he mixed storytelling with his music.

As I expected, they touched on their religious beliefs, but they weren’t overbearing. Newcomer’s songs, to me, are about the human condition, not proselyting. While she may turn to religion for help, I look elsewhere.

Overall, it was an enjoyable evening. I’ll leave you with this video of her opening song, “A Great Wild Mercy.”

‘A Fire in the Shadows’ nominated for two Indieverse Awards (Non-Fiction)

A Fire in the Shadows nominated for two Indieverse Awards: Best Novella and Best Voice Actor.

My book, A Fire in the Shadows: A Bolingbrook Babbler Story, received two Indieverse Award nominations today: Best Novella and Best Voice Actor for Rachanee Lumayno.

This is the first year for the Indieverse Awards, which is organized by indie author Kristina Carmela:

That’s what the Indieverse Awards are all about.

Did you know that not all book awards accept indie author submissions? This is because sometimes we are seen as less than for choosing our own path. Not everybody sees the immense value and beauty in a story that is brought to you directly from the author.

So that’s why the Indieverse Awards were born.

They were born to shine light and celebrate indie authors! This is a space for us to share our favorite books, our favorite characters and our favorite indie authors. It’s where we can continue to help support the indie community and find our next favorite book, character and author.

While it may not be as big as the Hugo and Nebula Awards, it’s still an honor to be nominated for two awards. Especially after how rough last year was for me with losing my ideal job and getting a crash course in job hunting/networking. Heck, I almost canceled the production of the audiobook version, but now I’m glad I pulled it off.

Readers will vote for the winners in November. They’ll announce the winners in December. I’ll post more details when I have them. Regardless of how the voting goes, it is an honor to be nominated.

Now to pick up the pace to finish Revenge of the Phantom Press

Quick Life update (Non-Fiction)

I’m still here, but life has been keeping me busy.

Books: still working on Revenge of the Phantom Press, and I’m about halfway through the rough draft. You can read a short excerpt if you subscribe to my newsletter. I’m also reworking the blurbs for my published books.

Life:  A friend of mine is hospitalized. She’s stable, but it’s a serious situation. Since I don’t believe in higher powers, I can only hope she pulls through this.

Last week, someone tried to break into my home. They failed, but now I have to buy a new door. The important thing is that we’re okay.

My posting might be slower for a month or so, but I’m still here, and I hope to have more book news later on.

They left out an important detail about Brian Dunning… (non-fiction)

A few days ago, I was recovering from being under sedation and my wife was driving us home. During the drive, I decided to check my email, knowing it would be a bad idea to hit Reply, or make an impulse buy. To my surprise, I noticed an email from two men I knew from my time in organized skepticism. When I opened it, even in my altered state, I realized they weren’t emailing me, but spaming one of the James Randi Educational Foundation’s old email lists.

They started by writing about their fond memories of James Randi and The Amazing Meeting. I only attended two TAMs, but I still have fond memories of meeting Randi. I also loved the two TAMs I attended. Besides the speeches, I was fortunate enough to attend the last Skepchick TAM party, attend Penn Jillette’s first bacon and doughnuts party/concert, and perform at the talent show.

They eventually dropped out of the skeptical movement, like I did. But the letter goes on to say…

Meanwhile, the charlatans of the world have not gone away. Indeed, we see more pseudo-psychic nonsense than ever, with alleged psychics being only a phone call away, ready and eager to take money from grieving or worried people.

While I would have changed “phone call away” to “video chat away,” the paragraph seemed true.

Which brings us to why they were they spamming an old JREF mailing list? Were they announcing the creation of JREF 2.0? Were they announcing the return of TAM? Announcing the start of skeptics streaming service? How were they going to carry on Randi’s legacy of fighting fakers and debunking nonsense?

By joining forces with Brian Dunning, the host of Skeptoid podcast, of course. The authors revealed that were members of Skeptoid’s board and started their fund raising pitch. They mentioned his YouTube videos, documentaries, and speaking engagements. One author wrote, “Brian is, in many ways, the intellectual successor to Mr. Randi.”

Despite my state of mind, I knew the letter omitted some details. Like his attempts at rapping, and, more concerning, his felony wire fraud conviction. Dunning was a member of eBay’s affiliate program, and had the second highest revenue of all the affiliates. How did he do it? Cookie Stuffing! He used a web cookie to get credited for eBay transactions he had nothing to do with. Worse, if a user went to eBay from a legitimate affiliate’s link, Dunning’s code would overwrite the affiliate’s information, and replace it with his. So he gained a good part of his fortune by defrauding eBay and their affiliates. (Rebecca Watson and Ars Technica provided more detail into the scheme.)

A convicted fraudster leading an organization fighting fraud doesn’t inspire confidence. Nor does sending out a fundraising email that doesn’t include an unsubscribe link or a physical mailing address. My author newsletter has both, despite not having access to the resources Dunning has.

As much as I admired Randi, the cult of personality around him was unhealthy. I have no desire to join another one. (That’s a subject for another post.)

I’ll stay on this side of the deep rifts instead.

PS: if you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll get a free eBook, God to Smite Bolingbrook, which includes a satirical article about a Brian Dunning reality TV show, “Behind Bars: With Brian Dunning.” I’ll also send updates about my Urban Fantasy Series, The Bolingbrook Babbler Stories

Podish-Sortacast: Spooky Stories this Saturday

On a lighter note, FtB’s Podish Sortacast this Saturday is about spooky stories. The plan is to share some spooky stories and talk about why we like scary stories.

I won’t be there,  but I did record an excerpt from my work in progress, Revenge of the Phantom Press. It’s Book Three of my Urban Fantasy series, The Bolingbrook Babbler Stories. If you want to be one of the first people to hear an excerpt from my book, or want to hear other scary, or want to enjoy a fun conversation about scary stories, Check out the Podish-Sortacast this Saturday at 16:00 Central Time.

Fanaticism in the name of resistance is a vice (non-fiction)

After Hamas’ raids into Israel, I’ve read some writers defend it because it resistance against the Israelis government’s treatment of the Palestinian people . Like this example from  Somdeep Sen, an associate professor of at International Development Studies at Denmark’s Roskilde University:

In fact, what appears to be the largest military response by Palestinians in decades was an inevitable development, an act of resistance and a reaction to the suffering of the people of Gaza under a brutal blockade and occupation. It is part of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, and it solidifies Gaza’s place at the heart of it.

The implication of these arguments is if oppose the attacks, then you’re against the Palestinians. I strongly disagree. Hamas does represent the Palestinian people. They won one election in Gaza, then consolidated power by killing the opposition. This is their war with Israel and they seem to regard the two million residents of Gaza as human shields.

You can oppose both Hamas’ recent massacres and Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians. You can denounce war crimes committed by both sides. You can mourn the deaths on both sides.

Hamas’s “operation “ didn’t advance the Palestinian cause or weaken Israel. Dropping bombs on ambulances or shooting into a rave isn’t resistance. Turning Gaza into an open air prison isn’t protecting Israeli.

I don’t know what the long term solution is. I know there are people on both sides who want a just and lasting peace. I also know there will more bloodshed in the coming days.

I think the Jewish-Arab group Standing Together is on the right track with this statement:

We must not buy into the illusion that security can be achieved through military action. There is no future here—for any of us—without ending the occupation guaranteeing independence, freedom, and security for both nations.

Video: Pirated books used to teach LLM AIs (Non-Fiction)

This video by Alyssa Matesic has a good overview on the subject of AI companies using pirated books to teach their programs:

I played around with an AI program while working on my next book. While the rephrase functions gave me some ideas, the purely generated text was laughable at best. I stopped using the program when the company added a function to generate entire books in minutes. I didn’t want to support flooding retailers with poor quality books.

I’m not opposed to LLM AIs in general, but there are many quality, legal, and ethical issues to be sorted out.

What are your thoughts?

Podish-Sortacast Episode 21: Transphobia

Transphobia is the subject of this month’s Podish-Sortacast. Catch it this Saturday at 4 PM US Central.

As atheists, we’ve noticed how the religious right has chosen to demonize transgender people; as skeptics, we’ve noticed how they’ve “secularized” their rhetoric to have more universal appeal. Unfortunately, a lot of our fellow atheists and skeptics have been suckered in by the latter. We’ve covered this quite a bit on our blogs, but so far we haven’t covered it via the vodcast. Let’s change that.

I plan on joining my fellow FTB members on Saturday to discuss Trans panic occurring in the UK and the US. Even if I can’t make it, you should still watch it because I’m sure it will be a lively and important episode.

Some good news for a change (Non-fiction)

As some of you may recall, my company laid me off back in March. Fortunately, they rehired me last week. I went back to the office on Monday. It was surreal in some ways, but  I appreciated that my former teammates made my return possible. It’s not my old position, but it is a position.

Over the past four months, I learned more than I ever expected to about LinkedIn, job interviews, and how to produce an ATS friendly resume. I also discovered how good my company’s health care policy is. As much as I would love to be a full-time writer, I didn’t have the savings or the killer marketing instinct necessary to make it possible. I’ll have to wait for my retirement for that to happen.

There were lots of difficulties during my job hunt. Though too many would credit a higher power, I feel I got this point with the help of other people. I appreciated the support from my friends and family. The advice and training I received from JVS/JCFS pointed me in the right direction, and kept my spirits up whenever an interview didn’t go well. Being part of the Kol Hadash and Freethought Blogs community also encouraged me through the stressful times. We are in this together.

Now I need to adjust to my new work hours and my new creative writing schedule. I’m making progress towards finishing the next book in my secular Urban Fantasy series. I might beat George RR Martin to publication again. 🙂





Quick life and author update

It’s been a rough few months for my wife and I. She’s trying to balance a health issue and maintain her business. I’m still job hunting, which has many emotional swings. Especially this past week. Still, we’re hanging in there, and I’m now optimistic that I’ll find a new position soon.

Also, my new novel, Revenge of the Phantom Press, is progressing. I’m up to 23,000 words, and the first draft might end up at around 100,000 words. The pace of the story is an improvement over The Rift. My first incomplete draft of The Rift was close to 100,000, and I’d just gotten to the first weredeer scene. In contrast, I’ve already written some major scenes for Revenge. Now I’m getting to the fun part.

It’s possible I might get a first draft complete by next year. Then it will be a matter of finding the right editors.

If you want to learn more about the three currently released books in my Urban Fantasy series, go to https://bolingbrookbabbler.com. (I’m also working on a web page redesign.)

So that’s where I am right now. I hope things are going well for all of you.