If I’d only known then …

I’m making an effort to get out more. Specifically, I’m working to engage with other writers, both in person and online. I want to broaden my base of knowledge before I start on my next writing project, one I hope will keep me happily making up stories for many years.

It occurred to me today, while listening to a woman describe to us how she sold her first novel to HarperCollins, that much of what writers crave to know is “what do you know now, that you wish you’d known then.” We give this advice, and we ask it of others, almost endlessly.

I found myself visiting with the woman next to me, who is on chapter one of her first book. “Who is it you are writing for?” I asked her. It’s a question I wish I’d spent more time pondering, back when I was in her shoes. If I’d only known then how helpful that question is. I tell her so, and she nods in appreciation. She is doing what we are all doing at this meeting –  gathering little grains of information from others to soften our learning curves.

Our speaker is Heather Newton, author of Under the Mercy Trees, a book about a southern family. She lives nearby, and published Under the Mercy Trees in 2011 after spending years writing it. She is now sending her second novel to an agent to market.

Yikes. I started writing in 2011 and have written six books since them. I’m certain mine are not of the same literary quality, but I wince when I hear her best nugget of what she wishes she’d known back then. That’s right, she thinks she rushed too much, and sent her first book out before it was the best it could be, squandering opportunities to impress. There is a wisdom in that, of course.

One of the oddities of self-publishing, especially electronic books, is that it can be a never ending process. Hidden typos that reveal themselves can be fixed at any time, and all recipients point forward get the improved manuscript. The first time I made such a fix I felt guilty, like I was cheating by correcting something supposedly etched in stone.

I’ve long since gotten over that. Why penalize myself and my readers for having missed something initially? It serves no purpose.

In my case, my books were born with links to supplemental material, such as music and photography that tied into the story. I thought it was clever and fun, but it gummed up the works for some readers and turned out to be almost impossible to maintain. So, over the last couple of years, I’ve been going back and eliminating the links and the references to them. In the process, I clean other things up too, as I find them, because why not.

I am almost done with this process on d4, the last of the books to contain links. I’m pleased with the result, and will probably do some advertising and giveaways to celebrate this new and improved manuscript. What a shame I couldn’t have gotten this final version in front of my initial readers. Wouldn’t those reviews be better? More copies have been sold?

I can’t go back in time, any more than I can see the future, no matter how often I write about characters who can. Would I have written better books if I’d only known then what I know now? Of course I would. Hell, I’d have lived a whole better life with that kind of knowledge.

Or, at least I like to think I would have.

 

 

When the future becomes the past

 It was the most likely and the least messy alternative. As she realized that, it became a near certainty, and then the wave of time washed over the moment and the soon-to-happen became the now and it then it became the past…

Of all the things I wrote in d4, this is the one scene I remember the best. I feel this wave of time washing over me whenever long anticipated moments finally happen. In that instant, all the worries and fantasies and hopes and dreads suddenly don’t matter because it has happened the way it will and I feel a magic in that transition.

Yesterday, I published One Too. It’s done, it happened, the water has drenched me and moved on and now there is only the story of how it was. I’m still acclimating to the fact.  Readers can find my book electronically and in paperback now (and for Nook and through iTunes in a few days.)

Above right is one of the many iterations of the d4 cover that was not used. This one featured a wave inspired by the excerpt above, but although the wave lasted in my memory, it didn’t make the final cut. I like the lightening bolts and clouds, but the eye in the sky was a bit much. Jen at Mother Spider and I struggled with this cover almost as much as we did with the cover for z2.

Below, are a few of my favorite excerpts from the new book, along with links to the blogs nice enough to host my work last week. I wonder if any of these scenes will stick with me two years later like my image of the wave of time did.

Lola’s quiet moment of gratitude is interrupted by a armed men in a mysterious black SUV on Author Linda Nightingale’s blog.

Ariel explains to her family the ways she can, and cannot, see the future at Readeropolis.

A dour Irish psychic tries to come between Lola and her daughter at Let Me Tell You a Story.

Violeta is frightened during an icy conversation with her boss’s lawyer at The Avid Reader.

A man afraid of the telepaths of x0 decides to stoop even lower to get the information he wants on Author Deborah A. Bailey’s blog.

Lola and Alex make a pact to keep no more secrets from each other at Sea’s Nod.

Cease worrying when you can and write about what you know

We are all human, analog creatures, never completely this or that, and we all slide in and out our of better selves as we make our path in this world.

Every so often I write something I like. I reread it and think I’m not sure where that came from but that’s profound. Then it passes, of course, and I go on writing normal stuff.

I had that experience when the lead sentence here showed up while I recently wrote a post about world peace for my qigong instructor and friend at Flowing Zen. None of us are completely this or that, and it’s worth remembering in our current heated political climate. It’s also worth remembering as we each reach inward, embracing ourselves for what we are.

What I am is a worrier, among other things, and I know in my heart that it is tied to my story-telling abilities. If you want a mind that makes up exciting scenarios from everyday events, well then, you get a mind that sees exploding cars, intricate scams and paranoid plots around every corner.

But there are limits to how much worrying a healthy person can do, and, to be honest, recent events in the international arena have catapulted my concerns to an unhealthy level. That’s where coping mechanisms come in.

Last November, I developed a new habit to calm my mind. I already do qigong, which is wonderful for creating calm, and I do a good bit of yoga as well. Gardening helps also. But sometimes I’m sitting at my computer and I read something disturbing and I need a quick reboot without leaving my seat. Sort of an “instant calm.”

And that’s when I play solitaire. I go to the World of Solitaire site, zip through a two minute game while breathing deeply, and somehow I’ve trained myself to emerge calmer. I don’t know why it works, but for me it does.

“Where do you the get the ideas for what happens in your stories?” It is a question I get asked. Okay, I do get many ideas from the things I worry about happening. But every once in awhile, I am able to get one from something that kept me from worrying, like in the scene below.

I got a real kick out of how my psychic hero Ariel finally sorted out a particularly complicated set of future probabilities. I hope you enjoy it too.

She wandered back into the hut she shared with Teddie and Vanida, and sat the kitchen table. She was trying to save the last bit of battery on her phone and her computer, so she aimlessly dealt out a hand of solitaire from a deck of cards that had been provided. She had played the game years ago on a computer, which made it more fun because it was easy for the player to redo moves.

But this would work to relax her. She started the game, doing the obvious first then moving on. Okay, now put the red five on the black six. Wait, which red five? They were identical choices. She went down one path. Not so good. Try the other five. Much better. She’d win going that way.

Geez, this game is like my life with premories, she thought. One choice is insignificant and another makes all the difference and you can’t tell the two kinds apart. And, you can’t tell which of your important choices will yield a good outcome for you because it’s not always about good decision making. Sometimes it really is random.

She kept dealing and thinking and replaying and after awhile she wasn’t so much paying attention to the cards as she was in a sort of trance. Teddie was the Two of Clubs and her mom was the Queen of Hearts and for some reason she was the Nine of Spades. The man who ran Reel News was the King of Diamonds, of course, but there were two of them; no, not really, the Jack of Diamonds was pretending to be the King which made no sense.

The worst of it was that the Ten of Clubs was trying to get that Jack to kill Queen of Hearts who could only be saved by the King but he wouldn’t know it and the Jack of Hearts who was Nell could stop the King of Diamonds but only if the Queen of Clubs who was Yuden did some random thing she probably would not do.

Ariel leaned forward and put her head between her knees and took deep breaths until the dizziness subsided. She could do this, use this, to see the arbitrary combinations and how the little things worked together in ways in she’d never understood before.

She dealt again. And again. A different sense of how events tied together began to connect for her as she used the cards to sort out a complex tapestry that would have confused her logical mind.

After awhile Camille came in and lit the gas lamp, saying nothing. A little later Fernando brought her a sandwich. She mumbled thanks but never touched it. She just kept playing.

Not long after Teddie and Vanida tiptoed by her as they went to bed. Sleep came early in a world without electricity. By then, every card had taken on at least one identity or location or time. Some had many of them. It didn’t matter. After a while the confusion subsided and the interrelation of all of them made perfect sense to something deep within her brain.

(Images shown are from the various victory images used at the World of Solitaire website. They add an extra bit of fun to the game.)

(For a companion piece to this post, see Worry about those you love and write about what you know.)

Should I hope for calm or cheer on the storm?

djiThe words “The Dow hit 20,000” may not mean much to you, but if you are lucky enough to have some savings invested somewhere, you probably do know that it is worth more on paper today than it was last October. And you are probably happy about that.

But does this high-rising Dow really mean that our country is on the right track? That could be a possible explanation, if it weren’t for the fact that the stock market is far too moody to behave so simply.

In my opinion, the health of stocks as a whole is a sort of aggregate thermometer of how calm the wealthiest parts of America feel. Money, big money and big institutions, appear to care little about politics and a lot about predictability. The stock market fumbled and finally did it’s housing-bubble fizzle on George Bush’s invasion-laden watch. Then it rose steadily in the midst of Obama’s alleged socialism. I think that those with a lot of money understood that life was stable then, and that there was no real socialism to be found.  Stocks floundered in the late stages of the election, hating the whole mess right along with the rest of us. They likely would have risen in relief at the election of either candidate.

moneyI don’t think Mr. Dow (actually short for an index of large companies known as the Dow Jones Industrial Average) got overly excited until Mr. Trump began to put forth his cabinet nominees. As their wealth and ties to institutionalized money became apparent, major investors began to consider that the next four years could be exceptionally good for big business.

But will they be?

I wrote a book about prescience, the ability to see into the future and understand the true likelihood that an event will or won’t occur. Constructing the plot of d4 forced me to spend quite a bit of time considering how such an ability could work.  What’s more, several of my characters were attempting to use their prescient skills to make money in the stock market, so I ended up learning quite a bit more about Mr. Dow Jones and all his friends, too.

crystal-ballI think the market will get very nervous if our new president’s ill-considered interactions with foreign governments raise the possibility of an international crisis of some sort. I think the market will become unhappy if the 2016 election results are tied more firmly to Russian influence, and a rocky period will follow until the matter is resolved, possibly with the president’s removal.  I think the market will level out and become bumpy if internal protests and unrest continue to grow, or if the 2018 election proves that the majority of the American people truly do want a regime change.

How likely are these events? Well, my talented and courageous character Ariel could answer that question if she were real, but alas, she is not. As her creator, I have no ability to foresee the future. My confidence that the 2016 election could not possibly turn out the way it did certifies that I should not be trusted to make predictions.

But I do have investments. Thanks to a 401K and several years with one company, I have a little account, some financial security and a personal interest in seeing the stock market happy.

And, I have a passion for social justice. I want to see my nation at peace, behaving with compassion and inclusion within our borders and outside of them. I want to see the current administration hamstrung as much as possible regarding its horrible agenda and I want to see it exit as quickly as it can.

cropped-lightening-2These two aren’t compatible interests. I could hang on to my little investments for four more years, hoping that politics goes smoothly and that I will make more money. Or I could sell everything now while the Dow is happy and then hope for the worst for our current regime. Or hedge my bets and do some of both. Oh, if I only knew how this all was going to go.

That’s why the stock market is a gamble. I don’t know what the next four years will bring and neither does anyone else. But I do know that I have to go with my principles instead of my pocketbook. I’m going sell investments and move funds to safety, and then sit back and cheer on any storm that returns America to the compassionate values that I hold dear.

And That’s Why They Play the Game

red-soxWe are traveling during the final games of the regular baseball season, and it’s causing my husband a great deal of hardship. His beloved Red Sox have been on fire, winning eleven games in a row, and he has had to content himself with replays seen on my computer and games viewed on a small screen in the middle of the night. Worse yet, no one here in Europe cares.

So it has fallen to me, as a good travel companion, to listen each morning to the endless remaining permutations of possibilities for Red Sox success. Over one breakfast, Boston had at least secured a wildcard slot. By another, they had to lose every single remaining game to not win their division. Various future scenarios offer home field advantages, and each loss by other successful teams in the division changes the formula. The configuration even left him temporarily rooting for the hated Yankees this weekend as they played a team close on Boston’s heels.

I don’t really care about baseball, but I do care about him, so I try to pay attention while he speaks. Still, my mind wanders.

riverWe’ve been on the road nearly two weeks now and in a macro sense the vacation has gone as planned.  You know, we’ve shown up where we were supposed to be, when we were supposed to be there. No glitches. But that’s sort of like the Red Sox showing up to play their games, isn’t it? Yes, being there is essential, but it is the other stuff that makes it interesting.

Who could have predicted that the Douro Valley would be such a frustrating place to drive that we would be content to make several dinners out of our breakfast leftovers rather than brave the roads? Who could have guessed that a full moon rising over the Portuguese countryside would inspire us so much with its beauty?

One might have guessed that the GPS would get us into trouble, but who would have thought we’d manage to high center our rental car so thoroughly on a tiny mountain road that it would have to picked up by hand and moved? I certainly didn’t see that one coming.

p-seaNor did I imagine the twenty or so whales we got to watch playing in the late afternoon sunlight of a boat tour, or the wonderful custard-filled tarts that are everywhere. I didn’t know that hot coffee in a big cup would be quite that impossible to find or that a single difficult-to-use espresso machine could frustrate so many half-awake people at once. Why is the air circulation here so bad? Why is the bread here so good?

The original idea for my novel d4, outlined many years ago, was that everyone at some point in the future develops prescience, and they all know what tomorrow will bring, as well as the next year and the next decade. Every human understands how they will die, and when. My overall thesis was that this society would be sad and bored.

My feelings about predestination and freewill have changed a lot in the decades since I thought this one up, and I like to think that my story telling abilities have improved also. I recognize now that such a tale would be hard to tell well and I like the array of my partially prescient characters in d4 much better. But the original story idea has me thinking.

roadIn an hour or so, Boston is going to play New York, and they might clinch the title in their division. Computer models have them likely to win by three points, and odds makers are favoring Boston heavily. You don’t have to be a sports fan to recognize that in spite of this, the Red Sox might well lose tonight. Because of that, my husband can’t wait to watch the game.

And a year from now, the things I will remember most about this trip will be all the wonderful and the difficult things that surprised me. They will be what made the trip interesting. Tonight, I’m thinking about how we don’t show up just to be somewhere. We show up to find out what happens once we arrive.

(For more vacation-inspired epiphanies see Our Brand is Crisis on my z2 blog, Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria on my x0 blog, and The Moon Rises on my c3 blog,)

 

 

 

Bulletproof

Every so often one finds a song that they really like the first time they hear it, and they still like it dozens if not hundreds of times later. I’ve got a few of those, and La Roux’s “Bulletproof” is one. So when I was assembling my largely-female-indie-artist playlist for d4, I was delighted when my music expert recommended it.

Why so much love for this song? It’s always hard to say why you like something. I’m a “words” person when it comes to music, and the lyrics are just so clever. You’ve met this guy. You know this lady. You’ve seen the dynamics. But it’s more than that. The very concept of being bulletproof appeals to something deep within. It doesn’t just mean being immune to his manipulations. It also means not being afraid of icy ski slopes or catty store clerks or traveling alone. The lyrics speak to me about being stronger; for the next presentation at work, for the next nasty book review, for the next thing that strikes fear into me whatever it is.

Yet it is more than the lyrics. The infectious beat and sing along melody is part of what make it all work for me. I found this video from a live performance at the Isle Of Wight Festival in 2010 and it captures every bit of that. I can hardly keep from waving my arms along with the crowd while I watch.

No, I can’t explain why I like this song so much. But I hope you enjoy it too, as well as the short excerpt from d4 showing how I mentioned the song in my book.

She decided to take Friday off work, and Eoin did not object.

“Any special plans?” he asked.

“No. Just preparing,” she said. He didn’t ask for more.

The day turned out to be one of those unusual winter days when the sky is bright blue and the temperature climbs into the sixties. Ariel smiled at her good fortune as she took the little car the company leased for her and headed north out of Dublin, planning to drive for as long as it sounded good, and then to stop and do yoga somewhere along the shore.

Ireland doesn’t have much in the way of sandy beaches. Much of the coast is ancient granite and volcanic remains, and much of its rocky core is old limestone, formed from the remains of tiny sea creatures that led happy lives nearly half a billion years ago, back when Ireland was located near the equator and no mammal had yet set foot on the Earth. Ariel reached for her music, and spent a minute picking her song. She decided on “Bulletproof” by La Roux; it was the perfect choice.

 She drove far enough to find a rocky bit of shore that was deserted, spread out her mat, and worked on clearing her mind. The poses came to her in a random sequence, without thought. The table. The cat. The bow. The plough.

Her goal was to calm down, and gather her strength. To make herself as bulletproof as possible.

Downward dog into a cobra into a sun salute and repeat it again. Warrior poses. Low warrior. Warrior two. Warrior three. She had skills, she had advantages, and she had back-up. She finished her routine concentrating on balance, holding a strong tree pose while she gazed at the far horizon.

She was ready. Now, she needed to go do what needed to be done.

You can also listen to or buy La Roux’s “Bulletproof” at Amazon.

Words we need

You’ve noticed a lot of things we don’t have a word for. And, if you play word games like I do, you’ve also noticed a lot of reasonable letter combinations that don’t make a word. I mean, I get that wiqxm isn’t going to be in the dictionary. But what about lete? or dife? These would make excellent words. Why isn’t anyone working to pair these two needs together?

27-Courage-22Well, it turns out that there are people who are.  Recently I joined a group of speculative fiction writers who meet weekly to bounce ideas off of each other. I shared with them how when I wrote d4 I really needed a word to describe a memory of the future. I tried out “premory” and the more I used it the better it worked for me. In the end, premory and premories made it into my book 64 times and the story read the better for it.

Sharing with other writers in my genre has been wonderful in many ways, and one of them was discovering that night that every single one of the other writers in the group had done the same thing. Sometimes you just have to make up a word. I’m told by one of our more literary members that Shakespeare did this all the time, and we use some of his creations to this day. (Dishearten. Eventful. Eyeball. Seriously, eyeball.)

Well, new words have to be created somehow.

On the flip side, there are a ridiculous amount of words that most of us do not know. I stumbled on a wonderful blog post the other day called “Emotions We Feel but Can’t Explain” on a blog called The Girl who Feared Oblivion. It’s a fine blog and a fun article and it introduced me to JAOUSKA (a hypothetical conversation that you compulsively play out in your head), RUBATOSIS (the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat) and any writer’s favorite, FINIFUGAL (wanting to prolong the final moments of a story).

Yes, I aspire to have my readers experience finifugal as they near the end of my books, and then to have them engage in a little jaouska as the hold conversations with my characters.

And yes, I aspire to create the words lete and dife in my next novel, or at the very least ot and le. There is no questions that ot and le both need to become English words, and the sooner the better.

 

A radio wave is that long?

emsRadioWavesOne of the things about writing magical realism, at least the way that I do it, is that you are always trying to explain mystical, magical things in terms of believable science.  I am fascinated by this fuzzy boundary between the astonishment of the enchanted and the astonishment of what modern science tells us.

I had great fun learning more about the simple radio waves that keep me so entertained while I drive, and then tying this information into my theory of how precognition works. Enjoy the excerpt below, taken from a conversation held when my prescient hero Ariel first meets the Inuit Siarnaq, who shares her gift.

Then when you are done reading, let NASA tell you a few surprising things about radio waves.. 

“So we must be tuned to different frequencies!” Siarnaq continued on, pleased with his discovery. “You understand science. You understand radios.”

“I studied them in school, don’t remember much.”

“Well, I work a lot with radios. They are an important part of communication here in my world. Do you know how long a radio wave is?”

“Long. Like maybe feet long.” Ariel was pretty sure of that.

“You people still know what AM radio is?”

Ariel rolled here eyes. “Yeah. It’s the stations you turn to for sports.”

“Okay,” Siarnaq agreed. He pointed out the window. “The waves for AM radio are like from here to that building down the road.”

“Really? That big?”

“Your FM radio waves?” he went on. “More like just from me to you.”

Ariel got the analogy. “So I’m an FM radio seeing things more closely and you’re an AM radio seeing things further away. How cool is this? What are other waves? Microwaves? Longwave radio? Are there other kinds like us, but in other frequencies?”

“I don’t know,” Siarnaq shrugged. “Lots of other Inuit tell the future, but they all use tools for their fortune-telling, and no one seems as sure about their predictions as I am.”

Never Enough

Greedy characters in books and movies are usually the bad guys. So I find it odd that in real life many people are willing to overlook or even praise greed in their leaders. Why is it not okay in fiction to want more than you need, more than you can use, and even more than you can have without hurting others, and yet to some this becomes an admirable trait in the flesh?

I see some of these people and I just want to scream “Listen to him! He sounds like the villain in half the movies you saw last year.” But no one enjoys being screamed at, so I keep quiet and write about greed instead.

I enjoyed the Metric song “Gold, Guns, Girls” before I began my first draft of d4. As my character Baldur evolved and greed became his defining characteristic, I knew that this wonderful song had to become one of my hero Ariel’s favorites. It shows up like this in Chapter 20.

Once he was inside her apartment, he waited patiently. She wondered what his instructions were if she ran. She saw no point in finding out. Going to work for Baldur was exactly what she needed to do right now.

Once she boarded the plane, Ariel put her earbuds in and turned up her music. The last thing she wanted was to make polite conversation. She treated herself to every snack in the well stocked little jet, but forced herself to avoid the alcohol, tempting though it was. She needed to stay sharp.

A courteous co-pilot checked on her twice, but otherwise left her alone. She laughed aloud when Metric’s song about insatiable greed, “Gold Guns Girls,” came on and wished she had a set of speakers with her so that she could blast the song out for the whole plane to hear.

For my link to a performance of this song, I picked this concert in Montreal in 2012. It’s a simple, clean video of excellent quality, but my favorite thing about it is how well you can see Emily Haines’ face as she performs. She is a serious artist, but an occasional hint of smile let’s you see how much she is enjoying herself. It’s fun to watch.

You can also listen to or buy Metric’s “Gold Guns Girls”  at Amazon.

(If you enjoy reading about how the favorite songs of characters in a book can enhance a story, check out my post on mortality and the early rock classic “That’ll be the Day” at It’s never too late till it is on my blog for the novel c3.)

d4: synopsis and my 3 favorite excerpts

I’m talking a close look at all of my blogs, making sure that they are up to date and that they represent my novels well. I’ve placed a few of my favorite excerpts from d4 on a page for permanent reference, and thought I would use them as a blog post as well. Enjoy!

d4 is the fifth novel in the collection 46. Ascending, which will ultimately consist of six loosely interrelated tales about five very different family members who each discover that they can do the extraordinary when circumstances require it. The stories are designed to be read in any order as they overlap in time and build upon each other in all directions.

This page contains a short description of the book d4 followed by three of my favorite excerpts from the first part of the novel. To read more, please purchase d4 at smashwords.com, at amazon.com, or at Barnes and Noble.

Book Description:
A clairvoyant young woman finds her visions of the future to be a nuisance, Ariel altuntil she discovers that she is hardly unique. An entire group of seers has learned how to profit from their knowledge in ways that Ariel has never considered. Another group is obsessed with using their talents to understand a dark future they cannot ignore.
An alliance with either crowd looks dangerous, given that they both seem a little crazy. There is no possible way to help them both. Worse yet, each group is convinced that Ariel is more than a potential asset; she’s the one thing that they must have in order to succeed.

Excerpt 1:
“You want me to move out of London? But I’ve only been here six months!” Ariel could hear the shrillness in her own voice, and she understood that it was not warranted. The company was well within its rights to ask her to transfer if she wanted this promotion and new assignment. It was just that it was such a surprise, and Ariel didn’t deal well with surprises. They almost never happened.

Yet if she had been paying attention she probably should have seen this one coming. The employees who had come back to work on the days between Christmas and New Years had all been talking about Gloria, a support engineer at the end of the hall whom Ariel had met at a few social events. Clyde Johnson, well known around the office as Gloria’s asshole boyfriend, had surprised everyone, including himself, by proposing to Gloria on Christmas Day.

Everyone knew that Gloria had already accepted a transfer to the Ireland office and guessed that Clyde’s strong dislike of both romance and commitment had been just barely overcome by his strong dislike of the idea of not getting to have sex nearly as often, with his main squeeze located on another island. Gloria had of course decided that she now needed to remain in London to plan the most wonderful wedding ever. Just yesterday she had rescinded her agreement to transfer to Dublin right after the first of the year.

That meant that the company needed someone else to go to Dublin immediately, and almost nobody wanted to go. The Ireland office was mostly about writing code because Ireland’s lower costs enabled Ullow to hire more young programmers while keeping the expenses down. It was something of a nuisance that a few clients insisted on being handled out of the Dublin office, and rumor had it than none of these were clients that would enhance a young engineer’s career.

In fact, Ariel had always picked up a sort of wink associated with these particular customers as well as a “you know, the Irish” tone whenever any of her bosses spoke about the Dublin office. What was it, exactly? Not condescending so much as it was a sort of unspoken understanding that the Irish would find ways to bend rules where the British would not. She got the impression that work that might raise an eyebrow in London was sometimes diverted to Dublin, where eyebrows were by custom less questioning.

Ariel had no objection to Ireland—she knew it had its charms. Unfortunately, she’d heard that the Ullow office was located in the greyest, bleakest part of town, far from anything charming. All of the company’s glamorous wining and dining was done out of the corporate headquarters in London, where the office itself was considerably nicer, the perks were greater and the chance to impress management was much higher. A transfer to Dublin was career limiting and everyone knew it. Only someone with little ambition, like Gloria, would volunteer to go there.

Ariel understood how she made the quickly assembled short list of those being considered to go instead. She was already thought to be bright enough to learn whatever she needed to know and yet, as a new hire being offered a promotion, she would have to go with little complaint. She fought to make her voice more pleasant as she reached for the manila folder that the HR man had been trying to hand her. She gave the man a weak smile as she took out the contents.

She must have touched something once handled by Gloria, because with the touch came the premory that there was a fifty-fifty chance that Clyde wouldn’t even go through with the wedding. With that came the knowledge that whether he and Gloria got married did not matter much at all, eventually not even to Gloria. What mattered was that one Ariel Zeitman, who until today had nothing particularly spectacular in her likely future, was now unexpectedly going to Ireland where she would almost certainly meet people and learn things that would change her forever.

Ariel picked up papers that held the transfer information, and ran her hands over them, willing any information to come to her.

“I’d like to think about it for a day.” She said it as calmly as she could manage.

“We’d like to get the paperwork started before the end of the year,” the man from HR said. “Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, so you have your day. Barely, because we need to know by noon since we are going to close the office early.”

“Sure,” Ariel nodded. “Let me just take this information home with me and I’ll give you my answer first thing in the morning.”

As she stepped outside for some air, she had a pretty good idea of what her answer would be. The nice man from HR hadn’t noticed how firmly she had placed her hand against the wall after handling his manila folder, and he had no way of knowing that it was to steady herself against the kaleidoscope of new visions that came rushing at her while a tiny percent probability of a transfer turned into an almost certainty.

“Holy crap.” Ariel muttered it softly again and again as she made her way out of the building, her eyes half closed as she tried to calm her mind. “Holy crap.” She sat down on the cold concrete steps to steady herself. “Holy crap.” She couldn’t quit saying it.

What Clyde didn’t know, couldn’t know, would never know, was that in making his proposal he might have changed the fate of the human race. Ariel saw herself months from now, learning that thanks to Clyde Johnson’s sex drive, she was somehow being given a chance to play a role in the very survival of the humanity.

There was so much confusion in the premory. She couldn’t see how, she couldn’t see when and as the flashes of little specks of her most distant visions whirled their way through her brain, all she got with any clarity at all was that this decision mattered. A lot.

Yes, she thought she’d accept the transfer.

Excerpt 2:
“Slumming today?” Jake asked. He was one of the senior coders in the group, and loosely considered the coordinator for all work being done on Baldur’s project. He was one of those tall, chubby men with curly hair and a gentle way about him that made the comparison to a teddy bear inevitable. Ariel had already established a friendly working relationship with him, even though he had pointed out more than once that Ariel spent too little time with the programmers.

“Just wondering if you guys will ever actually finish what you’re working on,” Ariel teased him back. Frankly she would like to ask him many more questions about his work, but Eoin had continued to discourage their interaction in myriad little ways.

“Of course we won’t,” Jake answered cheerfully. “Will Microsoft ever stop releasing frustrating new versions of Word? Will Google stop reinventing itself? This programming gig is long-term job security, baby. Better than building roads because you never run out of a place to put new software. You just buy a bigger computer.”

Ariel gave him an appreciative smile back. She liked Jake for his sense of humor and for the fact that he seemed impervious to office politics.

“Do you have a little time to tell me more about the current direction of Baldur’s latest requests for modifications?” Ariel asked. As she did so, she reached out in what she hoped was a friendly, sisterly way and touched Jake’s arm. “Because I really am trying to be of some use here, both to our company and to our mutual customer.”

Jake nodded, apparently impressed by Ariel’s sincerity.

“Okay. I’ll let the front office people in on some of the secrets.” He winked. “As you know, Baldur is mostly concerned with better tools for making quicker changes to his own parameters. Seriously, one minute he wants the defaults to go one way and two minutes later he wants to be able to change them to do something else, at least under certain conditions and then three minutes later he wants it all to go back to the way that it originally was. It sounds insane, because no one, I mean no one, has worthwhile new information on anything related to stocks that changes that rapidly.”

“So why is he bothering with these requests?”

Jake gestured for Ariel to have a seat in his office as he got up to close his door. He lowered his voice just a little. “Seriously? At first I thought that he just liked fooling around himself with the software, you know. But after a while I realized that he was spending far too much money on our services for that and, frankly, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that thinks play time is all that important.”

Ariel had to agree. “So do you think that the man is a little crazy? I mean, he must have convinced himself that he does need to make changes that fast.”

Jake nodded. “I figured he was maybe, kind of, you know, harmless delusional. One of those weird really smart guys that isn’t totally in touch. So I looked more closely at his trading history. We’ve got all sorts of records from him and his company, so that we can run tests using real life data from the past. I thought I’d look at it and establish that this stuff he was asking us for was basically frivolous, in case, you know, sometime down the road we couldn’t meet his demands. Then I’d have some ammunition to point out to my bosses that this man was asking for a degree of speed and flexibility that just weren’t warranted. I saw it as a kind of CYA thing.”

“I’d be careful,” Ariel warned. “I don’t think Eoin would like the idea of you being able to prove that one of his big clients was asking for things he didn’t need.”

“I know. I didn’t exactly bring Eoin into this little experiment. Ariel, look, if you want me to stop talking now, I will and I don’t blame you. I don’t want to put you on the spot with Eoin and I don’t want to put you in a compromising position just to protect me.”

“It’s okay,” Ariel assured him. “There isn’t an employee in the world that doesn’t occasionally do a little probing on their own. I’ve got no problem with where you’re going.”

“That’s just it,” Jake said. “I’m not going there. I thought I was, but the truth is weirder. Baldur isn’t asking for tools he doesn’t need. Anyone else would be.”

Jake took a deep breath, like he was trying to decide if he should go on.

“Don’t you smoke?” Ariel asked.

“Yeah. Want to join me outside while I have a cigarette?”

Ariel nodded. This no longer seemed like the sort of conversation to hold in the office, and she was starting to have a funny feeling about how this tied in with the close-up visions she had experienced when she touched Baldur’s hand. A cigarette would probably help Jake and fresh air would definitely help her.

Once they were outside, Jake resumed.

“I ran tests using what Baldur tried to do with his current tools against what he would have been able to do if he had the tools he wanted. And then I looked at the same kind of information using Cillian’s investment history and I looked at it against the decisions made by two other big clients from the London office that I managed to get data on. Here’s the thing. If I improved the speed at which Cillian and the other two could have made their parameter changes, it wouldn’t have benefitted any of them. They’d win on a few new trades and lose a few that they originally won—just what you’d expect. You just don’t get new information that fast. Only it looks like Baldur does. He’d have actually done substantially better if he had the tools he wanted.”

“Really?” Ariel asked. “Is he getting some sort of insider information?”

“Not that quickly, he isn’t. And not on every stock traded. His parameters deal with trends. It’s more like he has a minute-to-minute sense of what whole segments of the market are going to do. He still needs us, our machines and our software, to make the millisecond trades, but the faster he can direct that software, even on a second-by-second basis, the better he does. We give him a few more seconds of speed and he starts to beat out everyone else past any statistical probability.”

Ariel’s funny feeling about Baldur Hákonarson was growing. “Jake, do you believe that somebody can, I don’t know, sense the future?”

“You mean like be some kind of psychic? No, I don’t. What I mean is that I didn’t used to believe in that kind of thing, at all. But facts are facts. I just don’t know how else to explain what this man can do.”

Ariel tried to make light of it. “In this case it has to be some kind of speedy crystal ball, doesn’t it, because I don’t think any psychic claims to predict things that fast?” She tried to redirect the conversation. “Is it a good thing? I mean should we be giving Baldur tools to beat out everyone else, even our other customers?”

Jake shrugged. “Maybe not, but I don’t see that it’s Ullow’s job to penalize Baldur for being exceptionally good at what he does. And just because I don’t know how he manages it doesn’t make it unethical.” Jake looked a little uncomfortable. “I haven’t come up with a good reason yet to share this information with anyone. Well, except with you today, but could this conversation stay between us, at least until I figure out more about what it is I’ve figured out?” Jake gave Ariel the same friendly brush back on the arm. “Please,” he said.

“Of course.” Ariel nodded. “Thanks Jake. I can do my job better if I know more, even if I don’t understand it either. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to go anywhere. If you ever figure out how he manages this trick, I’d love an update.”

As she headed back inside, she knew two things. The first was that Jake had little role to play in whatever scenario Baldur was involved in down the road. At least, Jake’s touch set off nothing that sent up alarms. Secondly, next week there was at least a fifty-fifty chance that Jake’s wife would surprise him by bringing home a new puppy. A little chow chow, and a really cute one too.

Excerpt 3:
The work portion of the trip would all be at the end, so Ariel tried to enjoy the beginning of her little vacation. She packed a few good books and her warmest clothes, and delighted in a window seat as she watched the late afternoon sun set on her way into Iceland. She found a favorite song on her mp3 player and listened to the pretty shimmer of Ellie Goulding’s voice singing “Lights” as the giant Vatnajökull glacier gleamed beneath her when the plane dipped below the clouds. Ariel thought that perhaps she had never seen anything so beautiful as the various shades of blues that glistened off of the ice in the light of a sun moving low in the winter sky while the song played softly in her mind.

She joined her group at the Reykjavik airport for the evening flight on to Nuuk. The small band of mostly Icelandic travelers was quiet, but friendly, and she felt thankful to live in both a time and place where a woman could easily travel alone. Nuuk was just a quick stopover, and the next morning they boarded the pint-sized plane for Ilulissat, the main tourist destination in Greenland.

Ariel stepped off the plane to her first view of the barren rocks mottled with bright colored lichens that make up the tundra. She had never set foot inside of the Arctic Circle before. Tiny flickers and flashes erupted as her boot touched the ground.

My premonitions are stronger here, she noticed with surprise. The cold dry air? The earth’s magnetic field? There had to be a reason. She added it to her list of things to try to figure out later.

While they were waiting for the luggage to be brought into the waiting area of the airport, Ariel wandered off, looking for a bathroom. She turned into an office and noticed a man’s legs sticking out from under a desk.

“Are you okay?” She felt like she should say something.

She heard him chuckle. “No, I’m in serious need of somebody to grab the other end of this wire. One man doing a two man job.” Ariel saw that he was trying to get some sort of computer cable to go up through a small hole in the desk.

“Let me help.” She came over, pulled the cord through and by acquired instinct plugged it into the monitor where it was clearly intended to go.

“Thanks,” he said with appreciation, as he wriggled out from under the desk. Then he noticed that she’d connected the cable. “A helpful tourist and one that knows how to connect hardware.”

“I can manage considerably more than plugging in a monitor,” she laughed. “IT training here, though I don’t use it enough these days. I’m Ariel. Passing through trying to hunt down the ladies room.”

“You came all the way to the arctic to find a place to pee?” he teased.

She rolled her eyes and when he held out his hand she took it without thinking.

“Siarnaq,” he said and Ariel saw a small spark in the air before their hands touched.

Then for a few seconds, neither of them could have said a word if they had wanted to.

For Siarnaq, the images he saw were so much larger than those he was used to—close-up and huge, like looking at something right in front of your face with a pair of binoculars. Amidst the blur of something too big to take in, he knew that he was finally seeing the future from his own lifetime. The prospect filled him with joy, but the images were just so close that he had no way to make any sense of them, The accompanying knowledge in his brain seemed to be coming at him like hundreds of birds chirping. We must not be designed to see what comes in our own lifetime, he reasoned.

To Ariel, the flickers of the distant future went wild in the corners of her brain, like far off flashing lights too remote for her to see the images that they were illuminating. This man matters in a future too far off for me to see, she thought. I wish I could enlarge these images somehow. We must not be able to see past the next several months. I guess that makes sense.

He let go of her hand slowly.

“You’re a seer.” He said it like he knew it for a fact. He studied her red hair, fair skin and blue eyes. She wasn’t of the People, or at least if she had Inuit ancestors they were few indeed. Had he ever met a seer who wasn’t mostly Inuit? He didn’t think so.

“You get visions of the future?” Ariel’s heart was starting to beat louder. She had never expected to be asking this question, much less to be in this situation for a second time in her life.

The Inuit man laughed. “The world is full of seers,” he said.

I had no idea that would be so good to know, she thought.

Siarnaq added gently. “You have a lot to learn. You’re with the tour group?” he asked. She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. “Today, they give you time to shop and sightsee. Let’s go get a cup of coffee.”