What to authors do when they’re not writing? In an earlier post, I said we “get real,” meaning think about our books and their characters and do things to make them realer in our minds. Of course, by the time you write and publish your book, you can almost touch the people and things in it, they’re so real to you.
In that earlier post, I shared an imaginary interview with a character from The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, an award-winning visionary fiction novel of mine released in early 2011. Doing a spoof interview is one way of making characters real and sharing that reality with others. Another way is making a video. The video below is my take on what the characters of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy look like.
Not familiar with the book? Here’s a two sentence summary: Tomorrow morning, a nuclear holocaust will destroy the planet. Two people carry the keys to survival: a teenage boy and an intergalactic traveler. The date is 2199, or thereabouts.
When we’re not doing things like creating the above, we writers write. I’m working away on two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy. The books are in production with an early 2012 release date planned. If you liked The Angel, you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.
WHAT DO AUTHORS DO IN THEIR SPARE TIME? We “get real,” meaning think about our books and characters and make them even more real in our minds. When I write a book, it’s like I’m in a play, and playing all the parts. I know what each character feels and how he relates to the other characters. I get a clear image of how he looks, moves, and speaks. Writing is a wonderful experience, when it’s going well. If I’m blocked or the words don’t flow, I’d just as soon chew on steel wool. Or cockroaches, or something.
A two sentence synopsis of the book: Tomorrow morning, a nuclear holocaust will destroy the planet. Two people carry the keys to survival: a teenage boy and an intergalactic traveler.
Here’s an “interview” I did with a character from THE ANGEL, Sam Baahuhd. The interview turned this into a short story while I was writing it. (The pieces I write don’t always do what I expect.) Sam’s being interviewed by a TV station of his time. The year is 2199.
What does Sam Baahuhd look like? This is as close as I could get. It’s impossible to convey how masculine Sam is, or how hunky.
Sam Baahuhd, Headman of the Village at Piermont Manor, c. 2199
Here’s what the station’s advertising says about the following interview:
WNYC’S STAR REPORTER MEREDITH CARLISLE INTERVIEWS VILLAGE HEADMAN SAM BAAHUHD.
Join Meredith at Piermont Manor in the Hamptons! Our favorite investigator visits one of the poorest areas in America and one the USA’s greatest and oldest stately homes. Tune in at 3 PM for a view of life in the 22nd century.
WNYC––NEW YORK CITY’S ONLY NETWORK
At the shoot on the estate:
“Meredith, I don’t like it here,” my stylist says, backcombing my hair furiously. I sit at my dressing table on the estate’s lawn. I’m Meredith Carlisle. But everyone knows that.
“Did you see all the trees driving out here? Weird,” he whispers.
“It was very weird.” I turn to the rest of the crew. “Everyone: This is the country. They have trees in the country. We’ll do the show and get back to New York.”
“They don’t have that in the country,” Alfred, the director, points at the stone mansion stretching as far as we can see. “I’ve been trying to figure out how to get it all on camera.”
I stare at the enormous structure. The mansion is like a wedding cake made of granite. Breathtaking. “We’re at Piermont Manor. It was constructed in the 1800s, four hundred years ago. Nobody gets in here. We had to agree to interview this idiot to be allowed in. Who is he? Sam who?”
My crew edges toward the van. They’re freaked out by the acres of lawn and all the trees. The lack of skyscrapers. I take control.
“Alfred, where is the man we’re supposed to interview?”
“I asked those guys over there,” Alfred points to a group of very large men standing on the other side of the lawn. He cowers a bit.
“What did they say?” My crew’s undue nervousness is irritating.
The whites of Alfred’s eyes glint in the sunlight. “I don’t know what they said. They speak a foreign language.”
“Great. Why didn’t anyone find that out? Alyssa, you’re the production manager. Do we have a translator?”
“No, Meredith. I’ll try to find one.” Alyssa looks around helplessly.
“Oh, wait. Someone’s coming.” My jaw drops. I can’t stop looking at him. He’s the same as the mansion. Breathtaking. A huge man. Shoulders like forever. That chest. He strides out forcefully. Something wafts from him. Manliness.
My jaw drops farther as he gets closer. Also, my nostrils twitch. He’s dirty. It’s real dirt, not something applied by the makeup department. He appears to be sweating copiously. He takes off his hat. His graying hair is matted where the hat’s brow band pressed it tight.
“Hello there?” I extend my hand, despite my disgust at his grimy paw. “You must be Mr. . . “ I search for Alyssa and she mouths the pronunciation. “Baaaaah-huuhd.”
“Mr. Baaaaah-huuuhd.” I smile broadly.
“Ma name i’ Sam Baahuhd. A’m th’ headm’n o’ th’ vil’ an’ o’ersee’er o’ th’ big house.” He nods at the mansion.
“Oh,” I say. “Who?”
He repeats what he said.
“Do you have anyone who speaks English? I don’t speak your language.” He’s very appealing close up, if filthy. My heart flutters.
“Ah fergot tha’ yer not o’ th’ Hamptons. Been out here s’ long, we got our own way o’ talkin’. Ah’ll pretend yer th’ hooch man out at Jamayuh. Ah always speak proper English when ah’m w’ him. Canna make a deal otherwise. Can ye understand me?”
“Yes, Mr. . . .”
“Baahuhd. Ye say i’ like this, with th’ air comin’ from here.” He presses my belly, forcing the breath out of me. I feel faint. Something comes off of him, like a force. It’s wonderful.
“Baahuhd. I see. Well, we’re set up for the interview,” I indicate a couple of club chairs set on the mansion’s front terrace. “Any chance of us getting a peek inside?”
“Nah. Jeremy’s got ‘er wired up. Get any closer ‘n’ ye are an’ ye’ll nah go nowhere again.” He smiles, showing surprisingly white teeth.
“Yeah. An’ more. D’ ye know Jeremy Egerton?” I shake my head. “He’s the lady’s son, Mrs. Veronica Egerton. Ye know of her?”
“Oh, yes. Veronica Edgarton is famous. And rich. And beautiful. She’s the general’s . . .”
“Aye. She owns th’ big house an’ the village an’ all th’ rest around here. An’ me, too.”
“She owns you?”
“Might as well. Ye know why yer here t’day?”
“Yes. To interview you.” My cheeks tremble from smiling so much.
“Nah. Yer here because Jeremy Egerton sent word to let ye in.” He looks me in the eye. It’s terrifying, though thrilling. “If Jeremy hadn’t tol’ me to let ye in, ye woulda been chased back to th’ city th’ minute you set foot on this place. That was three hours ago, out on th’ road. Jus’ so we get straight on it.”
“Certainly, Mr. Baah . . .”
“Baahuhd.” He walks to one of the chairs and sits down. “OK. Le’s get this goin.’ Ah got work to do. What ‘er yer questions?”
“I thought that the natives of the Hamptons didn’t like to be asked questions.”
“We don’. Usually, we shoot before we get t’ askin’ questions. But ah figured this was a chance t’ say some things we don’ get t’ say.”
“And what’s that?”
“That we’re not animals. We’re in th’ Hamptons because we was born here, jus’ like ye were born in th’ city. Weren’t our fault. Weren’t our fault that we don’ have schools an’ have to work like we do. Weren’t our fault that we got nothin’.
“We risk our lives seein’ that the lady keeps that,” he tosses his head toward the mansion. “An’ we get very little thanks fer our trouble.”
“You risk your lives?”
“Yeah, lass. Th’ Hamptons is a dangerous place. We get th’ people who run away from th’ cities. Th’ people escape from th’ torture camps––there’s one o’er at Jamayuh, th’ next town down. We got the hooch runners an’ them that deal in the weed and mushrooms. An’ th feds. All of them is dangerous, an all of them want this place.” He smiles. “Coupla times a year, they come t’ get it.” The smile broadens. “Ain’t got it yet.”
“You fight to keep the estate for Mrs. Edgarton?” I’m shocked, but I shouldn’t be. The Hamptons are like the Wild West once was.
“I got plugged three times so far. Not countin’ the nicks.” He rubs his chest where he’s been shot. “Ah’m scarred up lak an ol’ bear. It’s war out here. Jus’ like in the cities.”
“We don’t have war. What are you talking about?”
“Whad’ya think th’ smoke runnin’ along the horizon is? There’s a war.”
“There’s no war. If there were, the government would have told us about it. President Charles says everything is fine.”
He nods his head and smirks. “When ye drove in, did ye happen t’ see big round bowls cut out o’ th’ ground,” he uses his hands to indicate large depressions, “all lined with cement? An’ wi’ long pointy things stickin’ out of ‘em, aimed at the sky?”
“Yes. They’re all over the place. President Charles said they’re satellite dishes to help our screen reception.”
“No, lass. They’re atomics. An’ they’re set to go off t’morrow morning. Early. All over th’ world.” He’s looking at me steadily. He’s so magnetic I almost believe . . .
No! I can’t believe what he’s suggesting. The president would lie? There’s going to be an atomic war? That’s treasonous. We’re in the Great Peace. Everyone knows that. A niggling thought about my daughter’s third grade teacher disappearing comes up. No, she took a leave of absence.
“I’m not going to listen to this.” I turn to Alfred. “Pack up, we’re going back.”
“No,” Sam says just a little bit louder than normal. Everyone freezes and looks at him. “Yer gonna get ev’ry thing ah say, an’ yer gonna play it on the tellie today. Tha’s why Jeremy let ye’ come out here. You gotta tell the people wha’t happenin’.”
“A nuclear war starting tomorrow? The government would have told us.” I’m shaken. For some crazy reason, I believe him and know that I’ll do what he says. “What will we do? Where can we go?”
“Yer gonna go back an’ show ‘er on th’ tellie,” he says to the others. Then he turns that million volt gaze on me. “Fer ye, there may be a way out. Yer a pretty thing. Ye could be one ‘a’ ma wives.” His smile is mesmerizing.
“Wives?” The idea seems worth considering.
“Ah got four. Ye’d be ma fifth, but we gotta big house. The stable, yon.” He points to a barn.
Fifth wife to . . . His dirty hands make up my mind. “No. I’ve already got one ex-husband. I don’t need to be married.” I regret the words as I say them. There’s something about him.
“OK. Ye’ll take th’ camera back t’ the city an’ play ‘er today. Ye need t’ tell the people to . . . to run. Or t’ stand. They’ll die, either way. But they d’serve a warnin’. Tis only fair.
“Tha’s what ah got t’ say. Now git. Ah’m done wi’ ye.”
I watch his back as he heads toward the stable. Broad shoulders. Easy gait. Powerful.
I feel drawn to him. No. I made the right choice. We have to get out of here.
“We’ve got the van packed, Meredith.” I hop in as it pulls away from the mansion.
“You know we can’t play what we got,” Alfred says as we jolt down the rutted road. “It’s treasonous. Everyone knows that the Great Peace is baloney. We’re in a war. But it’s covered up. This will blow the cover. The feds will kill us.”
“Yes, we can. Sam said to,” I’ll do what Sam told me to do no matter what. “We have to give people a warning.”
“Why, Meredith? There aren’t enough bomb shelters in the world to save everyone. We’re going to die.”
And then it sinks in. If what Sam said is true, we’ll die tomorrow.
I should have taken his offer. He wasn’t scared about what’s coming. He must have a shelter or something. “Turn around! We need to get back to the Piermont estate.”
The van shudders to a stop.
“What’s that?” There’s something in front of us. A vehicle across the road. Another vehicle pulls up behind us. Black figures are moving toward our van.
“What is it, Alfred?”
“Open the door,” a black-clad commando yells. “Give me the cameras.” We give them to him.
“I’m Meredith Carlisle of WNYC. Those cameras are the property . . .”
“I don’t care who you are.” He uses some very rude language, and tosses something in the van, slamming the door. It clatters on the floor. I see a digital timer counting down.
After the explosion, the commandos gather near the flaming remains of the van. “We got the treasonous materials. Should we look at them?”
“Nah. The president said everything is all right. That’s good enough for me.”
I’m posting a message about something very important. My husband and I watched the film INSIDE JOB last night. INSIDE JOB won the 2011 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. It came out in DVD this week. You can get it on Netflix.
“The financial practices that laid the groundwork for the global economic crisis are traced to their sources in an examination that lays the blame for the collapse at the doorstep of many who are still in power. Predatory lending, credit default swaps, and financial deregulation are subjected to close scrutiny and criticism in a primer on the situation that affected the lives of millions.”
I looked forward to seeing this film because my family and I––like so many of the citizens of the United States and the world––were negatively impacted by the recession and financial meltdowns in recent years.
I also wanted to see the film because I am an economist. I hold a BA and MA in economics and was a doctoral student at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business in economics, public policy and business. I’ve held a number of professional positions in economics. What’s happened in the world economy is of extreme interest to me.
Was INSIDE JOB a good film? Oh yeah. Surgically good. Brilliant. The causes of the financial meltdown which filmmakers Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs examine are difficult. Derivatives, credit-default swaps and many other financial concepts are explained using diagrams and clear language. You will understand this! Too well, probably.
In addition to its intellectual content and interviews with people who were running the show as it collapsed and before, this film is very well presented. The bites of theoretical material are interspersed with shots of the cities and buildings associated with high finance. The “work hard, party harder” culture of the ultra rich is presented in flaming color and sound. The editing is snappy and the sound track is snappier. The interviews are crisp and illuminating, or very painful and illuminating.
One of the things that INSIDE JOB makes very clear is that what happened in 2008 isn’t the fault of either political party. Its roots have been there since the 1980s, spanning many presidential administrations, with presidents belonging to both parties.
Why am I writing this? Because the conditions that caused the meltdown haven’t been fixed. Even though the world economy still reels, structural changes have not been implemented. Not a single perpetrator has gone to jail or even been charged with anything. It could happen again.
Watch the film. In all probability, you are not among the mega-rich who sailed through the crises and came out in better shape than before. In all probability, you were hurt financially, just like I was. It behooves us to fully understand what happened.
I’m writing for another reason. I was deeply embarrassed and ashamed to watch the interviews of the top names in economics interviewed in the film. These include the heads of business schools and departments of economics in some of our best universities. Turns out they weren’t giving the government sage advice to preserve our economic well-being and prevent the crash. Many were well-paid advisors to the financial institutions that nearly broke this country.
Economics is a mathematical discipline. It was when I was in school, and it was becoming more so by the year. The guys and gals in econometrics and the truly mathematical forms of economics were the top dogs. If you didn’t shine in those fields (I didn’t), you were subjected to a more than subtle put down.
The problem with mathematical analysis is that it seldom matches the messy reality that we humans create. As the mathematics become more pristine, their relationship to what they’re describing grows looser. So we have economists saying that derivatives were safe and stabilizing. It looks like the most conservative branches of economics, personified by the non-interventionist monetarist policies of the late Dr. Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago, have taken over the profession.
Friedman advocated a free market economic system with little intervention by government. Nonintervention in financial markets is what we had in the crashes of the 2000s. That’s what we’ve got now.
Not all economists felt/feel like Friedman, but they seem to have been shouted down. Some economists value compassion, alleviating human suffering, and promoting justice and righteousness.
I feel sick at heart over what’s become of my profession.
I urge you to see INSIDE JOB and take what action you feel appropriate to curb misuse of power and corruption in high places. [Hint: The answer isn’t deregulation and political polarization.] I’m writing my senators and the president himself and demanding that our government do what its supposed to do: govern and protect the citizenry.
THE ANGEL & THE BROWN-EYED BOY is a sci-fi, fantasy, thriller set on the planet earth’s last day. It presents a dark and doomed planet with secrets hidden everywhere. It’s characters are an amazing crew that will haunt you. One reviewer called it, “A future world only heartbeats from our own.”
While THE ANGEL & THE BROWN-EYED BOY has this science fiction/fantasy aspect, it is also the story of a troubled young man’s coming to grips with his family, which has to be the most dysfunctional in the world’s history. He has hours to do it before the nuclear Armageddon.
Most of all, THE ANGEL & THE BROWN-EYED BOY is a love story between Eliana, the angelic dancer who came to earth to save her own planet, and Jeremy, the tech genius, revolutionary, and heir to a fortune. Their love flames in this novel. It’s one of the great love stories, with love reaching through time and space.
I hope you enjoy it on Valentine’s Day or any other.
My new fantasy, The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, takes place on the eve of nuclear Armageddon near the end of the 22nd century. The setting is a dark world, in which a ruined United States barely survives on a ruined planet, which is soon to become really ruined. Early readers have commented on how believable my imaginary world is. For instance, award-wining author Todd A. Fonseca said, “It is a world not that many heartbeats away from our own, making the premise chilling.”
I did not intend to write a political book. At the end of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, I write about the book’s inception. My brother died unexpectedly and tragically three years ago. Two months after he died, I had a transcendent dream in which the character of the Angel emerged. In the days following my dream, the plot and characters of The Angelcame to me. The book’s themes have particular and personal meaning to my brother and me. Essentially, my grief wrote The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy,
But what about the world ofThe Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy? It seems about as political as you can get. Yes, it is. The book hinges on a fictitious second Russian Revolution which occurs in 2097. The former president of Russia proclaims himself Tsar, establishes a totalitarian monarchy, and almost takes over the world. Russia becomes the planet’s major power, with the United States sinking to a third rate entity. (Please note that I picked Russia out of a hat. Could be any big power.) Is this possible? Beats me, I write fiction.
However, historical precedent does exist. The stock market crash of 1929 destroyed the financial markets of that era, ushering in the Great Depression of the 1930s. Desperate economic conditions in Germany supported the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. An aggressive totalitarian state arose from an economic disaster and created world war.
In The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, the second Russian revolution of 2097 occurs because the world economy never pulls out of the slump created by the financial meltdown of 2008. The Great Recession we’re floundering through becomes the Really Big Depression. The world economy spirals downward, creating the same desperate conditions that allowed Hitler to rise to power, resulting in my book’s Second Russian Revolution. The worldwide police state in The Angel is fueled by inept political and economic leadership, intellectual laziness and lack of integrity in the people and politicians, fault finding, blaming others, and a massive preference for force over reason.
The whole planet wimps out and lets the bad guys have control.
Some people may find this similar to our current situation. It could be. When I was writing The Angel, not all of me was consumed by grief for my brother. A bunch of things that have been happening to our world and society were rattling around in my subconscious. We’re in a really bad situation economically. The Great Recession that we’re in is the worst economic meltdown since the Depression of the 1930s. We’ve had the mega collapse of our banking and financial systems. Our housing industry is shot. Foreclosures are through the roof (though put “on hold” at this writing). The economy has not responded to monetary policy––i.e., the interest rate cruises around zero and businesses aren’t investing. Corporations are cash rich, but not spending. Fiscal policy (the correct response when monetary policy fails, and which is also currently known as the stimulus program) hasn’t produced the increased economic growth we’ve wanted. Jobs have not increased to the level needed to reduce unemployment. Our citizens face downsizing, layoffs, outsourcing and who knows what else. We make bankruptcy for individuals harder and more punitive, while corporations are bailed out.
What bothers me most about our current economic and political situation? If you watch the news or any political debate, you’ll see a blame game. “He did it.” “No, she did it.” We live as though our current crisis doesn’t have serious, long term consequences for the well-being of everyone in this country and the world. What is the solution?
WE NEED TO ACT LIKE GROWN UPS.
That’s my prescription for the economic/social/personal/moral issues before us. We need to get that we have problems and must work TOGETHER to solve them. We need to realize deeply and fully that COMPLICATED PROBLEMS DO NOT HAVE SIMPLE SOLUTIONS. We should run like crazy from any politician purporting to solve our nation’s problems with solutions that sound like they came off BUMPER STICKERS. We also need to really take in the fact that PROBLEMS THAT HAVE DEVELOPED OVER DECADES AND MANY PRESIDENCIES CANNOT BE SOLVED IN TWO YEARS. We need to grow up, stop whining, and get to work.
As I reflected on these issues, I realized that large groups of people may be incapable of setting their differences aside and recognizing that really smart, educated, good hearted people may have points of view that are different than their own. Masses of people may not be able to solve problems in an effective and nonjudgmental way. Whining and finger pointing, creating “us” vs. “them,” indulging in hatred and hierarchical thinking may be endemic to humanity. I’m talking about both major political parties, “both sides of the aisle.”
Individuals may become enlightened, cooperative, loving, and effective people, but maybe people in large groups just aren’t capable of it.
Where might this lead? Quite possibly to the world of The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy,The story’s final solution may be what we’re cruising toward as fast as we can. Check it out.