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2001: A Space Odyssey Turns 55

55 years ago, a movies transformed science fiction films, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Written in collaboration with legendary science fiction author Arthur C. Clark, who has second billing for the screenplay and wrote the novelization, the movie is based on Clark’s short story “The Sentinel” in which an object is dug up on the moon and sends a signal to an unidentified alien world, leaving the main character to wonder who will receive the alarm that humans have left the Earth.

Other Sci-fi films have tackled serious questions such Forbidden Planet, with it’s exploration of the human mind and it’s powers, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, whose themes cover the human propensity for violence and war with a draconian solution.

2001 Delved into more than social warnings. It contemplated the existence, place and future of human beings. It also introduced HAL 9000, the artificial intelligent computer who speaks and acts as if human, and in the end succumbs to human foibles to tragic ends.

The meticulous detail Kubrick put into all his films produced ground breaking special effects that won an Oscar and continue to stand up to this day. There would have been no Star Wars, Silent Running or any other modern sci-fi movies without 2001. The measured pace of the spacecrafts contrast with whizzing space battles, yet create the reality of space travel as had never been seen before. Astronauts have said viewing 2001: A Space Odyssey is like being in space again.

I’ve viewed the film over two dozen times, first in Cinerama with its 180-degree screen that wraps around the audience and fills the peripheral vision with the illusion of three dimensions without glasses, then in standard theaters, drive-ins, scan-and-pan broadcast TV before wide screen, VHS, DVD and Blue-Ray, which I watched again this week.

It was one of the major influences on me as a youth and a reason I became a writer, a teller of stories that expand the imagination.

Chat-bots are sending false message around social media - beware

If you receive a direct message on social media that starts with, “Hi”, you are likely connected to a chat-bot, not a real person. Chat-bots are computer programs that troll social media for accounts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. They then generate message to accounts in attempt to gather personal information, ask for money or hack into accounts.

I spend 45 years in the computer field, decades of which involved physical and online security and privacy. I’ve engaged with some of these chats to see where they led.

After “Hi”, they ask how you you’re doing. If you make a response like, “Fine, I’m going on vacation to The gulf” the bot will say something like, “I’ve been to the gulf. What will you do?” A response like “Snorkeling” will cause the chat-bot to say, “That sounds like fun. Do you enjoy snorkeling?” It will ask questions and give responses in what can seem a conversion with a real person. The goal of the criminals who use chat-bots is to get personal information from you about where you live and what you do. The more data it collects, the more it can build a psychological profile of you to sell or use to exploit you.

Eventually, the conversation will get around to, “I’ve got something I want to ask you. Do you have WhatsApp so we can chat?” If it were a real person and they actually had a question they could just ask it in the direct message. You will often be asked to give an email address, a phone number or send money for some cause or problem.

These chat-bot messages can be found across social media. They may appear to come from a friend or follower. If you see the patterns above it may be a chatbot and your friend's account has been hacked. Look for the warning signs and be cautious.

Dragons Unremembered wins triple awards

Dragons Unremembered cover. The first I volume of The Carandir Saga.
Dragons Unremembered, the first volume of my epic fantasy series The Carandir Saga, won three medals at The BookFest Awards; Silver (second place) for Literary Sci-fi and Fantasy and two bronze medals (third place) for Fantasy Action & Adventure as well as Fantasy Dragons & Mythical Creatures.

The announcement came at The BookFest semi-annual conference held in Los Angeles in the Spring and Fall. Hundreds of books in multiple categories are submitted by authors from around the world.

The Carandir Saga consists of Dragons Unremembered, Half Awakened Dreams and Covenant With the Dragons, which won third place for Literary Sci-fi & Fantasy and Honorable Mention for Epic Fantasy last fall. It’s set in a world shaped by dragons who taught humans to farm, to fish, to work the forge, to read, to write, and all things they needed to know.

One dragon named Baras fell from grace when he taught the forbidden knowledge of magic to sorcerers called the Barasha, the servants of Baras, who used the arts for evil. This sparked a war between the dragons in which Baras was subdued with a magical crown weilded by Avar the Great, chieftain of a northern people. The Barasha were destroyed, or so it was thought.
Avar founded the monarchy of Carandir in the south, a land where people of different genders, gender orientations & identities, colors and ethnicities have the same rights, opportunities and freedoms.

Yet, not all accept this idiology. Some traitorous nobles plot civil war to gain control, oppress the rights of women and expel or kill all whose ancestors came from different lands so that only those the nobles consider pure are allowed to live in Carandir to make the monarchy great again in their eyes.

All the while, some of the Barasha who survived conspire to steal the crown and release their master.
All this is wrapped in a grand adventure with histories, legends, music and engrossing characters; good, bad and simply weak — rather than as a dry lecture.

I am very happy to have the book recognized for its action & adventure and its unique magical creatures. There are no elves, dwarves, hobbits, orcs, Ents or any other Tolkienien characters in the story.
The honor I am most proud of is for Literary Sci-fi and Fantasy.

Some think literature means those old, boring books they were forced to read in school and immediately forgot after the exam.
Others feel it has to be a contemporary story in which the format is the most important aspect.
Yet literature is neither inaccessible to those without advanced degrees, nor does it consist of books filled with dense prose and convoluted structures.

Literature is simply fiction that explores the human condition and allows readers the opportunity to consider their own lives. It can be found in contemporary stories, westerns, historical novels, science fiction, fantasy, detective stories or any other setting.
The science fiction novel Dune examines some who seek noble causes while others seek selfish gain. The Lord of the Rings looks at strength, courage, service to others and tyrany. The western Broke Back Mountain explores intense and forbidden love. All are literature.

There are, of course, books that are pure rollicking escapist fun. They are just as valid. A good story is a good story, and stories bind societies together.

Fantasy Book Corner Norway reviews awared winning Covenant With the Dragons

June at Fantasy Book Corner Norway posted a review of Covenant With the Dragons on her Instagram account. June is an avid reader who loves fantasy and writes an excellent book blog.

Her Review of Covenant With the Dragons reads in part:

"This was a little hidden gem of a series I probably never would have discovered without bookstagram. And I thank David for gifting me a copy. I love to discover new indie authors with books I don't normally find in a bookstore... I really enjoyed how the author has built up a great universe with an immense detailed world, complex characters and exciting plot. All wrapped up well in the final installment and the story takes on a lot of twists and turns as you are drawn into the world. Many twists I did not see coming. Tragedy's, love, family and magic. All woven together. Thank you for the opportunity David. And what a wonderful tale you have created."

Covenant With the Dragons was released in September and in November as the third and final volume of The Carandir Saga. It won third place for Literary Science Fiction & Fantasy and honorable mention for Epic Fantasy at The BookFest Awards in Los Angeles, a bi-annual conference devoted to independent publishers.

You can read the complete review on Instagram at This is a wonderful blogger. I'm following her to discover new titles.

Which to use - didn't or hadn't

Didn’t and hadn’t both refer to events in the past. Which you use depends on the context.

If the action in question cannot be completed, use the past simple form of didn’t. The action occurred in the past and can't be changed in the present.

If there’s still a possibility for the task to be completed, use the past perfect form of hadn’t. The event occurred in the past and can be changed in the present.

Assume there are three people, Tom, Mary and Joe.

Example 1 - “Tom read Marys’ report where she spoke with Joe who said he didn’t finish painting the wall.” This implies the painting of the wall was not completed and Joe is no longer capable of doing so.

Example 2 -“Tom read Marys’ report where she spoke with Joe who said he hadn’t finish painting the wall.” This implies the painting of the wall was not completed and Joe has the ability to do so.

This second example doesn’t tell the whole story, however, because we don’ know what Joe’s intentions are. You could write, “hadn’t yet finish painting the wall.” This indicates Joe intends to finish. You could also write, “hadn’t finish painting the wall yet.” This implies Joe could finish but has shown no indication he wants to.

Star Flurry AstorThis plant is a Snow Flurry Astor, a perennial considered by some to be a weed because the leaves have serrated edges and it grows wild. Yet, it is beautiful and natural. In North America, we have inherited an attitude prominent in the Victorian era in which everything must be classified, ordered and controlled. Victorian men were convinced they could turn nature to their desires and tame it for their benefits. Victorian gardens are planned and layout out systematically. Everything goes in its place. What does not fit in the scheme is torn out.

Order was not restricted to gardens. From the Victorian attitude, people are also classified, ordered and controlled for the benefit of those in power. Herein is a root of racism, misogyny and the destruction of the environment we all depend on for survival. People who fall outside the norm are treated as weeds. They are stripped of their human rights and respect to benefit those who have ordered our society for their short-term gain. Diversity in the garden is condemned. Diversity in society is persecuted.

It is time to stop planting lawns and promote meadows, both for flora and people.

Write what you know and know a lot

In a masters course, world renowned and award winning author Salman Rushdie said authors should writer they know, and authors have to know a lot. He went on to say authors need to research the subjects and people in their books with journalistic skills.

Writing what you know can entail emotions. You have likely experienced many emotions in you life, both good and troubling. This is material to draw upon. You can also extrapolate and heighten emotions and experiences you have had. You may want to write about a character who has a broken arm. You can research broken arms and read accounts by people who have broken an arm. To bring about the emotional response, think about a time when you had a toothache or other injury. Mentally transfer the pain to an arm and multiply it by 100.

Yet, writing what you know can go beyond emotions when you create situations and cultures that are not your own. Another thing Mr. Rushdie said is if white people can only write about white people and black people about black people and men about men and women about women, the form of the novel is dead.

To write about cultures or people outside your personal experience requires you to both study the subject in detail and speak directly with people of different communities. Mr. Rushdie sites a major female character in one of his books who is strong and competent. He is not a woman, has not personally experience the exclusion many women do, has never given birth. He talked to woman and used a historical woman who was strong in the ways his character is as a role model to effectively create a whole and compelling character that people believe in.

Writers Can Change the World

Artists and writers have been subject to persecution, banishment and death over history when they stood up to prejudice, tyranny and injustice and changed the world.

Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist changed child labors laws in 19th century England. His story was unpopular with industrialists and politicians who profited from the practice. When people read the story that was serialized in a magazine, they leaned a truth they were unaware of and demanded change. The Politicians were forced to pass laws protecting children from what was de facto slavery.

That is one of the roles of art in society. The shock of the new. The voice to speak out when it's unpopular because it's right.

Everyone must decide what they want to do with their lives and whether they want to stand up and possibly be ridiculed or worse. Some have died because of their views. Murders of journalists in Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and other dictatorial nations is on the rise, yet journalists continue to expose what is really happening outside the propaganda.

Vladimir Putin falsely claims his forces are liberating Ukraine from Nazis and are not bombing hospitals and launching missiles against civilian apartment buildings. Anyone in Russia today who says it's a war or contradicts what Putin says can be arrested and disappear, never to be seen again. Yet, journalist, authors, poets and individuals have courageously stood up and told the truth.

Democracies dies through complacency one step at a time. It is regained when individuals stand up.

Help bring Covenant With the Dragons to bookstores

I’m getting ready to release Covenant With the Dragons, the final volume of my epic fantasy series The Carandir Sage. The evil dragon can wake at any time. Civil war rages. Missions to seek aid are thwarted. A young princess born away from the strife is tempered to return and face the evil. It is.

Up to now, the books have been available on Amazon and in physical bookstores through a process called print-on-demand. It sounds great. There is no upfront printing costs because books are only printed when ordered by bookstores and libraries. The orders pay the printing costs plus my profit.

Unfortunately, it costs up to 40% more per copy than if the books are printed ahead of time in a batch and there is a grave risk. Since the 1940s, bookstores have demanded the ability to return unsold copies to publishers. When this happens, I must cover the printing and shipping fees. Up to December of 2020, I had only had 5 books returned and the profit from other sales more than covered this. That December, a bad player with an Amazon store ordered 200 books and promptly returned them all. Other independent published have had the same thing happen to them. I have no control over how many books are printed and distributed with print-on-demand. I can’t even restrict who orders books. In January of 2021, I had to pay an unexpected $2,000 in U.S. finds for those returns. I was forced to mark all of my books as nonreturnable to protect myself. This means that sellers like Barnes & Noble in the states, Indigo in Canada and others will list the books in their online catalogues where books are paid for at the time customers order them, but will not stock them in physical stores. That and the higher retail price I have to charge puts me at a competitive disadvantage.

I have started a Kickstarter campaign to print a batch of Covenant With the Dragons with a lower price and get it into physical bookstores through a distributor. This will allow me to make appearances again where I use my decades of theater experience to engage customers and sell lots of books. My stretch goals include printing batches of all my titles to get completely out of print-on-demand.

There are just 16 days left to reach the goal. If you could make a donation it would help greatly. Even small amounts add up. Whether or not you can make a donation, you can help me by sharing this message with people you know who might be able to.

What does "Show don't tell" actually mean?

Some writers misunderstand the phrase, “Show don’t tell.” One is distant and vague. The other is specific and involves readers in the story. You could write:

It was a hot summer day when Mary walked to the beach. She wanted see Tom and hoped he was not still mad.

This tells readers about the day. It presents a superficial look at the situation. The characters are not engaged. Events happen in a vacuum. This is want’s meant by telling.

Consider something different:

Sweat dotted Mary’s freckled face as the summer sun blazed down on her. She shuffled past the row of brightly painted houses on her way to the beach. Tom’s angry scowl from the night before came to mind; his jaw tensed; his face red. She was certain he would be on his surfboard as he was every day. Was he still mad? Would he talk to her? A tingle churned from her stomach to her chest.

Both examples give the same information. This second one allows readers to see Mary and Tom. It places them in a physical space. It also demonstrates both character’s emotional states with physical descriptions. The passage will have greater impact and stay with readers longer. This is what is meant by showing.

Foreshadowing is subtlety

There is a fine line in writing between foreshadowing and telegraphing. Foreshadowing consists of facts, incidents or dialogue that appear to be insignificant at the time, yet prepare readers for future events in the book.

For instance, a character might say, “Sara used to deliver newspapers in college to support herself. She had a great arm and could put the paper on a porch every time. She was always good with her hands. I remember how she wanted to be a sculpture from the beginning. Her job let her stay in school where a professor noticed her work and suggested she enter the state competition. That was the beginning of her art career.”

On the surface, the conversation seems to be about Sara as an artist because it moves from throwing newspapers to Sara being good with her hands to Sara being able to stay in school because of the job to Sara’s big break so she can become an artist. Her ability to throw newspapers accurately is hidden within dialogue and will fall to the back of the minds of readers until a later scene where Sara has to throw a key to a character who is trapped in a cage. The seemingly unimportant fact about her ability to always hit a porch with a newspaper leads readers to believe she can toss the key accurately. Without that piece of dialogue, the reader will not believe Sara capable of this act.

Foreshadowing can be taken too far. If the dialogue had said that Sara practiced throwing objects because she was always worried she would come across animals caught in cages where she couldn’t reach them and wanted to be able to knock the cages open. Her throwing ability in the piece of dialogue would become as import as her art career and readers would be waiting for Sara to encounter something locked in cage. When the scene comes where Sara finds a person locked in a cage where the key is hanging on a shook, readers will think, “Oh, yes. Sara will throw that key into the cage.”

This becomes telegraphing and removes the suspense. When Sara tosses the key, readers will have expected it instead of being surprised when she comes up with the solution. Her action is now mundane instead of satisfying.

Foreshadowing is all about subtlety.

David A. Wimsett's Historical Women’s Novel Wins First Place at The BookFest Awards

First place winner at The BookFest Awards
Beyond the Shallow Bank, my women’s historical novel with elements of Celtic mythology, won first place in the Magic, Legend and Lore category and third place for Historical Fiction at The BookFest Awards for Spring 2022. The awards ceremony took place on 2 April 2022 in Los Angeles as part of the semi-annual conference. The ceremonies and panel discussions were held online this year.

Beyond the Shallow Bank is told through the perspective of an artist named Margaret Talbot who fights her way into the male dominated world of publishing in the late 19th century to become a magazine illustrator. In 1901, she suffers a life changing crisis and comes to a small Nova Scotia fishing village where she meets another woman rumored to be a selkie, a magical being from Celtic mythology who walks on the land as a human and swims in the sea as a seal. With the influence of the villagers, and Margaret’s own self-determination, she strives to discover who she is and what she truly wants.

Publishers Weekly Booklife Prize said, “Wimsett's novel is quickly paced without the events of the story feeling rushed… Engaging characters and the right amount of fantasy help elevate the novel above standard genre trappings while retaining enough of the conventional elements of historical fiction. Margaret is an engaging protagonist…”

Nova Scotia writer Susan Haley, author of a number of Canadian titles including A Nest of Singing Birds and Petitot said, “The wonderful romantic plot of the book with its magical twist and turns gives substance and resonance to Margaret’s multiple dilemmas. Beyond the Shallow Bank presents a delightful picture of a Nova Scotia fishing village with all its characters: the madman inventor and the man who carries the ashes of his dead wife around with him. Beyond the Shallow Bank contains descriptive passages of the sea which are wonderfully poetic. The writing in this book has both depth and psychological complexity, as well as humor, in the interactions of its large cast of village characters. Perhaps best of all, for the lifelong reader, it is a book to sink into, put down reluctantly, and wonder about long afterwards.”

Writing a Synopsis

Writing a synopsis for a novel can feel like a daunting chore. How do you capture a long story and the essence of the characters? It seems impossible.

Yet, any novel can be reduced to a single sentence. The Lord of the Rings is 1,200 pages long with The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. It can be described as, “A seemingly insignificant character succeeds in stopping an evil that would destroy the world.” This is the core of the story. Of course, there’s a lot of action and characterization in the book. Many things happen. J.R.R. Tolkien created an entire world that feels so real one can imagine stepping into it. There is lore from ancient days and songs. Many cultures are presented. The book has battles, hardship and humor. There are many themes expressed. All of this supports the main core.

In writing a synopsis, look to the core of your book. What are you trying to say? What is the main story line? Who are the main characters? If the agent asks for 1,000 words try to give them a 500-word synopsis. That's two single spaced pages. Agents will appreciate it because they are very busy. Just as importantly, a short synopsis demonstrates that the main story line follows an arc and that you have a grasp on your story.

You may think that if they just knew the minute details they would be enchanted. That is not the case. They will use your synopsis to sell the book to publishers and they have less time than agents.

Your query letter and synopsis are the first things an agent will read. They have to demonstrate that you are writing at a professional level and one indication is the ability to present the major themes in clear and concise language.

David A. Wimsett is the author of women's historical fiction, science fiction and epic fantasy novels.

Protecting your data is protecting your writing career

There is no pain to match that of losing a manuscript or those perfect paragraphs you just finished. I started writing with pen and paper, then moved to a manual typewriter before I entered the holy land with an electric typewriter. Wow! I never worried about the typewriter breaking down because everything was on paper and I never lost a word.

Then, I began using a word processor. It certainly made edits easier, though I still write by hand occasionally and put it into the word processor. I couldn’t see a downside until the first time the computer crashed while I was working and several pages were lost to the ether. This was followed by an incident where I meant to delete a word and accidentally deleted an entire paragraph in the days before undo. It was an interesting sight, a man screaming, “No!” while physically pulling up on the delete key. One morning the hard disk failed to boot. fortunately, someone had hidden all the razor blades.

Today, we can undo mistakes while the machine is running, but machines and disks still crash. Worse, computers are now vulnerable to viruses and ransom wear attacks. A good defense is to back up a copy of your data. The best defense is to back up your entire drive, data, programs, settings and operating system.

There are many external hard drives and software that can allow you to easily do just that. They plug into a USB port on your computer. Make sure to buy a USB3 device as they are 10 time faster than USB2. Special backup software can then make a complete image of your drive, like an electronic photocopy, so that a single file, a directory or the entire drive can be reloaded to return you to a safe state. In this way, if you lose a file you can retrieve it. If you are infected by a virus that cannot be removed with virus protection software, another subject, or a ransom ware attack takes over your machine, the last image backed up can be reloaded to write over any virus or ransom ware encrypted files and you are back in business. The worst-case scenario is that you lose the data since the last backup. Even this threat can be reduced if you periodically save important files to a USB drive or to cloud storage while working.

There are many choices for backup hardware and software that range from less than $100 to a few hundred. Here is my routine.

I have a 4TB (4,000,000,000,000 byte) USB3 drive that is turned off while I am working so that even if my computer is taken over, the latest backup cannot be accessed. I use a program that places the backup software on a USB dive and makes it bootable so I can start the computer and don’t have to access a possible infected hard or solid-state disk. The program I use starts the UNIX operating system that can read Windows and Macintosh files systems. Once booted, I can save or restore an entire image of my disk to include the boot sector, operating system, programs, settings and data, even if my computer has been corrupted or rendered useless by an attack.

Every Sunday, I shut down the computer, turn on the external disk drive, insert the bootable USB drive and boot the computer from it. There is not connection to the Internet so no viruses can be downloaded. I then do a complete image backup to the external hard disk. This can take several hours so I select an option that turns the machine off when the backup completes.

The next morning, I remove the USB boot drive, turn off the external hard disk, boot the machine normally and begin working. During the day, I will insert a data USB drive and copy critical files to it, then eject the USB drive so an attack can’t corrupt it. Every Monday through Saturday (when I don’t take a day off) I shut down the machine, turn on the external disk drive, insert the USB boot disk with the backup program and boot from it. Then, I perform what is called an incremental backup where only the files that have changed since the last backup are saved. This usually takes less than 15 minutes. The next Sunday, I make a new, complete image backup. In this way, I can recover to the last backup copy I’ve made or to a previous time in history if I accidentally corrupt a file. After three complete cycles, I delete older backup files to save space on the USB drive. At that point, they are no longer needed.

You might say that you store all your data on a cloud and don’t need to backup because the cloud provider does that, however, even cloud computers are susceptible to attacks, or the company hosting your data could have a service interruption or go out of business. A local copy of your work is valuable insurance. Though I spent decades in the computer industry, you don’t have to be expert to make safety backups of you computer. Just follow the direction in the box.

David A. Wimsett spent four decades in the computer industry as a developer, project manager and head of a consulting firm. He recently left to pursue writing full time. His books include Beyond the Shallow Bank – women’s historical fiction with elements of Celtic mythology, and The Carandir Saga – an epic fantasy series set in a multicultural world or gender equality consisting of Dragons Unremembered, Half Wakened Dreams and the forth coming Covenant With the Dragons that will be released in the spring of 2022.

The Worldwide Web is 30 Years Old

It has been some thirty years since people began using the Internet through the Worldwide Web, www.

I first saw the Internet at a research center in the 1980s. At that time, It was used to exchange scientific documents in text form between universities, government contractors and research facilities. There was no general public access.

When the worldwide web was introduced, one intention was for people of divergent believes and backgrounds to have a place to exchange ideas in an electronic town hall meeting so that everyone could better understand how other people felt to foster respect and find solutions to problems built from these exchanges. It still offers that ability, as well as the opportunity to keep up with family and friends, and to learn new things.

Yet, much of the chatter has fallen into commercial advertising with people trying to sell some product and service. In Facebook groups about writing, I have seen thoughtful answers to questions posed by members. Many of these answers have helped me. I have also seen replies in which someone is just trying to sell a service without any helpful suggestions at all.

The Internet has also spawned groups and communities whose members are closed to any opinion that they do not agree with. These people are not willing to listen to facts or opinions that contradict their stickily held beliefs. Some of these people demand quick, simple answers to complex questions and the answer they want to hear is, “It will all be taken care of if you follow these easy steps.”

The truth is, we face many complex issues and different people have pieces of the answers. Unfortunate, there are those who only listen to one politician, one religious leader or one celebrity who they believe to have all the answers, even when they don’t.

This does not have to be the case. All of us, every human being, has the capacity to think critically and understand things, even complex ideas. Some people have expert knowledge in particular areas and others have the temperament to see things in a specific way. Still, given time and effort, we can all use our brains to comprehend intricate concepts.

Like a knife that can be used to cut fruit for a salad or to injure someone, the Internet is neither angel nor demon. It is our actions that determine if it is a tool to help ourselves and others or a wall to cut us off possibilities we want to avoid.