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.)

Is it over yet?

I admit it. At least once a day now I type “election news” into my search engine and hold my breath. I can’t help myself; it’s a little like not averting my eyes from a traffic accident as I pass by. Now what, I mutter as I clench my muscles while the headlines roll in.

stressedImagine my stressed-out surprise today when the second news item was about how much stress this election is causing us all. Yes, according to ABC News nearly half ( 46 percent) of likely voters “describe the election as a source of stress in their lives, including roughly equal numbers of Clinton and Trump supporters. Nearly a quarter, again among both candidates’ camps, say the stress is serious.”

Well, it looks like we finally all have one thing in common and you’ve got to love what it is. We all can’t wait for this thing to end.

Because I can’t do anything to make November 8 come any faster, I’m thinking about what I can do to try to make November 9 better. The best thing I can think of is to can say this.

Please vote.

Whatever you believe or don’t believe, no matter how much you do or don’t like the choices in front of you, we are all going to feel better on November 9 if this election has the greatest percentage of registered voter turn-out ever. We’ve all heard all sides, more times than we wish, but if many of us hide under the couch that day then we will all have to wonder if the outcome reflects the difficult choice that the majority of our people would have made if forced to choose.

Yes, many of us aren’t going to be completely happy about everything. That doesn’t mean we should not weigh in on the real choices before us. And yes, roughly half of us are going to have to work hard to understand what in the world the other half was thinking. I remain hopeful that everyone, myself included, is capable of making that important effort and moving forward.

Florence and the MachineWhile dealing with my own stress, I’m also in the process of looking at the last song referred to in each of my books. This sort of thing keeps me entertained. Because d4 is in part a book about working for the greater good, and finding the balance between that and ones own desires, my hero Ariel goes through much as she struggles to do what is right. As it all comes together in the end, I have her listening to one of my favorite songs, Florence and the Machine’s “Dog Days are Over”.

But because everything takes me back to politics these days, playing the video that I link to in the electronic version of the book makes me think hard about this particular election. If you haven’t heard the song in awhile, check out this from the 2009 British musical event called “T4 on the Beach. ” It does a wonderful job of showcasing lead singer Florence Welch, a nice job of capturing the crowd and even a decent job a making you feel like you are on the beach outside of Somerset, England. And in spite of all of its Brexit issues, right now England seems like a relatively peaceful place to be.

Because “Dog Days are Over” makes my personal list of top ten favorite songs ever, I smiled the entire time I wrote the scene of Ariel’s rescue and the comfort provided to her by this music. Enjoy a short except below, and then, don’t forget to vote. The dog days will be over soon.

(From Chapter 28) Ariel thought that the beautiful small Icelandic town of Seyðisfjörður would now always be one of her favorite places on Earth. As Toby’s rented speedboat made its way to the barren, snow covered docks in the deepening afternoon twilight, the many wooden buildings stood out in the remaining light, beaconing with the offer of comfort.

It had been difficult to hear each other as Toby used the expertise he had gained from years at sea to speed them safely back to Iceland, so talk on the trip back to shore had been minimal. Rather, Mikkel had gently placed earbuds in her cold ears, and then put his own dry, warm hat over her head while he played a song for her. It was Florence and the Machine singing their anthem of happiness “Dog Days are Over.” The message that her ordeal had finally ended sunk in as she enjoyed the music. Fatigue and emotion took over, and she let herself cry in relief.

Rooms were available at the small hotel in town. Better yet, there was a liquor store, and—bless these fine people—it was open too. The thoroughly chilled, damp foursome received food and care, and warm, dry clothes all around. Thankfully, they were asked remarkably few questions about why they had needed to rent a boat this time of year in the first place, or why two people had left the harbor in the morning and four people had returned before nightfall.

 (For other oblique election commentary see my posts Everything is Going to Be Alright,  Our brand is crisis?, and We need to talk about this, just maybe not so much)

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.

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.)

Carried Away

It is a world filled with those who seem to go crazy about everything from the inane (Emojis) to the disgusting (zombies, still? Yes, apparently. 2015 did see a movie called Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse).

So as I work my way through posting about the songs in d4, it was kind of refreshing to listen to lyrics about getting carried away by love. Or lust. Or even just complicated human emotion with no Emojis needed. I have to admit that the lyrics to Passion Pit’s “I Get Carried Away” aren’t totally clear to me, but I like the feel of the song, and many days that is more than enough.

From Chapter 18. “Fine.” Ariel’s tone was colder already, and they said very little while the valet got the car. “Was this whole weekend just so you’d have something to do while you waited for this meeting?” she asked as she pulled out into traffic.

“Don’t be ridiculous. I brought plenty of work with me,” he said, immediately realizing that perhaps that had not been the best response. “Ariel, this has been the best two days I have had in a long, long time, and that is the truth. I had no idea that this was going to happen when I told Cillian I’d stick around for this Sunday evening get-together.”

He gave her a helpless look but she ignored it, turning her music up instead so that it was plenty loud enough to prevent any further conversation. Unfortunately the song that happened to be playing was Passion Pit’s new hit “Carried Away.” Ariel liked the song, but today the lyrics hit too close to home. Mikkel didn’t say another word, but she saw him smiling as she changed the song in irritation.

I was impressed by this simple yet well done video of Passion Pit performing “I Get Carried Away” at Lollapalooza Chile 2013. You get nice close-ups of the performers and also a few chances to enjoy the energy of the crowd  responding to the music.

I also like this far more widely circulated video of Passion Pit performing “I Get Carried Away” on Saturday Night Live in October of 2012.  It’s fun as well, with close-ups of all the band members as their love of music (and their lack of showiness) come through.

Finally, you can also listen to or buy Passion Pit’s “Carried Away” here at Amazon.

 

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.”