In 2034, one of the most popular forms of entertainment is "mindgaming". Rooted in role-playing games like "Dungeons and Dragons", mindgamers are connected directly to a central computer and play the game within their own minds, resulting in an experience that is startlingly realistic while being guaranteed completely safe.
Eric Arne, the creator of mindgaming, is hosting his final game. He has invited seven of the top players in the country to be a part of his scenario. But as the game unwinds, things begin to go wrong. First, one of the participants dies, yet the game continues. Then the technicians are locked out of the system, just as they discover that one of the players is an imposter. And finally, someone tries to take over the mind of one of the players.
As the truth slowly comes out, the players -- and one in particular -- realize that if they are to survive the game, they must battle an enemy they cannot see, and they must do so within the context of the game.
Mindgames is available in two formats, an e-book for Kindle and Nook (for $7.99 USD) and a trade paperback (for $9.99 USD), from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
28-year-old Kelden Scott has just gone through his second messy divorce. On the spur of the moment, he leaves Chicago, his wealthy family, and his comfortable job to begin life fresh in central Illinois. Over the next year he battles substance abuse and sexual addictions, gets caught in the middle of the battle between Christians and gays, and ultimately learns what it truly means to love.
This novel is cast in the form of a four-movement symphony. Each section is subtitled as though giving performance instructions, reflecting the overall tone of the section. Each chapter includes an original pencil illustration, which can also be seen on this site in the "Art Gallery".
The background to this page is a portion of the blueprint I created when envisioning the Penthouse, the top-floor apartment designed by Antonio "Tony" Garza and built by David Cervenka.
I have also written a complete companion symphony. Go to "The Music Room" on this site to listen to an electronically realized version of the "Kelden" Symphony (Symphony #1) on Soundcloud.
The Eros Variations is available in two formats, an e-book for Kindle (for $9.99 USD) and a trade paperback (for $12.99 USD), from Amazon.
The Fire and the Light
Sima Varlëen, son of one of the Lesser Rulers of Tûl-Selixha, has been haunted by disturbingly realistic nightmares for as long as he can remember. As he and his twin sister, Arriah, grow up in an out-of-the-way corner of the kingdom, he almost succeeds in ignoring these visions of danger and death, including, possibly, his own.
Until they start coming true.
As a mysterious, charismatic visitor from Var-Selixha, south of the mountains, begins to gain influence over the kingdom - a man who has figured prominently and chillingly in his nightmares, Sima finds himself a reluctant leader of a band of outlaws. When tragedy strikes those he loves, Sima travels beyond the northern mountains to learn of the ancient evil that stirs outside their borders and the equally ancient power aligned against that evil. Drawn into this battle, allied with three races of Selixhan myth, and torn internally by the war between the Fire of Zilkhârâch and the Light of Ârvah, Sima - himself barely come of age - must face all the horrific power of the legendary sorcerer-king Âl Dwarak, thought destroyed centuries ago but now resurrected.
It is a battle he, his friends, and his new love may not survive.
The average hard-cover novel, about an inch thick, runs between 50,000 and 70,000 words. This novel - actually a trilogy - runs over 450,000 words. It was the first novel I ever completed, and it took me about six years to do so. In 1983, I sent the manuscript (along with a reading fee, of course), to Scott Meredith, a major literary agent who represented (among others) Marion Zimmer Bradley, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, Norman Mailer, and Carl Sagan. Mr. Meredith ultimately rejected my manuscript, but not without an 8-page discussion of its strengths and weaknesses. And while it had plenty of weaknesses, the most encouraging thing about his letter was his statement that had the market not been glutted with fantasy trilogies at the time, he would still have been willing to take a chance on it.
So while I put the manuscript into storage for over 30 years, I have not yet given up on it. When I have finished with The Eros Variations, I intend to return to my first novel and rethink it, paring it down to a more reasonable length. It might still be a trilogy, but not quite such an unwieldy one!
Other works in progress
Cameron ("Cam") Chandler returns home from a business trip to his remote seaside home to discover his artist wife, Genni, missing. As he, their friends, and the authorities search for her, he is forced to reevaluate their relationship and rethink what he knows - or doesn't know - about her.
I've written the opening to this several times, changing names and spellings as I've gone (his wife's name is Gwyneth, but she goes by a diminutive that I'm not sure should be spelled "Jenny", "Jeni", "Genni", "Geni", or some other way). This will probably be the next novel in line - I think I'd like to alternate science-fiction/fantasy with mainstream.
Starfire has always followed the teachings of the Brotherhood, the spiritual leaders of the People of the Way. But when the Eldest Brother announces that their ancestral enemies have once again found them and that they need to leave everything they know and migrate to another place, she questions his pronouncement. What if their enemies - whom they have been fleeing for generations without seeing them - no longer exist? Or, if they do, what if they no longer bear them ill will, and are seeking them out to reconcile?
The Brotherhood rejects her arguments, however, and as punishment for her apostasy, she is left behind with an uncle who claims he is too old to go into exile yet again. As they face an empty land and an uncertain future, he tries to keep her from rejecting the teaching of the Way and wallowing in bitterness and anger.
Then their pursuers actually do arrive, and Starfire learns that they are better - and worse - than she was taught. She is drawn into their culture, leaving the teachings of the People behind. But she cannot escape them completely. An underground pocket of believers in the Way soon arises, one traced back to her uncle. Now in a passionate relationship with one of the invaders, Starfire is forced to choose between her uncle and her new lover. And things get even more complicated when her childhood sweetheart suddenly appears, seeking her in defiance of the Brotherhood.
My initial description of this was "if Barbara Cartland had written Star Wars". That no longer resonates with anyone, since almost no one in the current generation knows that Barbara Cartland was one of the original and most successful romance novelists of the '50s and '60s. And this was not originally going to be so "heavy". Nor was it going to have such spiritual overtones.
Bye Bye, Miss American Pie
Christopher "Kit" Thomas leaves his home and job with nothing but the clothes on his back and an old guitar, seeking meaning in an America that is going through the turbulence of the '60s.
I've been playing with this novel since the early '70s. Originally titled Kit, it is intended as a picaresque novel - that is, a series of adventures experienced by the main character. (Don Quixote and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are two famous examples of picaresque novels.) My thought was to have Kit wander around the country and get involved in such things as the Civil Rights movement and the Woodstock and Altamont rock festivals (this was conceived well before Winston Groom's 1986 Forrest Gump). Kit would keep running into a fellow wanderer, Barb (whom I'll probably rename something a little more exotic, like Raven). And it would be as much a spiritual journey as anything else.
Although I had always planned on using Don McLean's 1971 song "American Pie" as a loose roadmap for Kit's inner and outer journey, I didn't actually choose that phrase from the song as the title until much later.
All the Pain and Glory
A story told through a variety of media, including diary entries, letters, student newspaper articles, and (possibly) traditional narrative, following four years in the lives of a number of teenagers, from their entry into high school in 1966 to their graduation in 1970.
The late '60s have always felt like our country's "coming of age". I want to parallel the changes in the country during that era with the changes that high school students have to wrestle with.