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Hobbies In Quarantine

Can’t go out. Going to the grocery store feels like I’m putting my life at risk. I can’t just watch Netflix or be on Facebook all the time. They’re about to outlaw going for walks, and in Toronto they are now handing out $7500 fines for going to the park…not that we should anyway.

In times such as these hobbies are important. People are learning to sew and are making face masks. People are learning to bake for themselves in huge numbers. There is something very comforting in homemade bread and buns. If there is one good thing that comes out of this crisis – and I think there will be many good things, actually – is that people are re-learning how to make and bake and do things for themselves. The kind of things our grandparents always did for themselves, but we’ve found it easier to just go shopping instead.

That’s changing now, since shopping for anything but necessities has been cancelled, and the necessities are getting hard to find.

Keeping yourself occupied with hands-on, practical things is important to maintaining ones sanity while in isolation. I’ve been learning to work with leather and make knife sheaths. I’ve also been learning to make knives.

Here’s a sample of what I’ve been making. Made from bulk, raw materials, not from a kit.

Handmade knife with leather sheath made by the author.

I used to find apocalyptic books entertaining. I don’t anymore.

Does anyone else feel this way?

Some of my favorite books over the years have been: Lucifer’s Hammer, Alas, Babylon, Childhood’s End, and One Second After. And who will ever forget great classics like The Day of the Triffids, On the Beach and A Canticle for Lebowitz. I loved these post-apocalyptic books. I’ve read them all more than once. I even wrote one myself about 4 years ago: The Girl With No Shoes, about time travel and a civilization ending plague.

And some of my all-time favorite movies have been The Quiet Place, The Bird Box, Signs, and I Am Legend, to name just a few. I own the DVD of Signs and binge-watched The Bird Box three times one week on Netflix about a year ago. I loved it.

But now that I feel like I’m in one, I no longer find them so entertaining.

I’ve had a few co-workers make comments along these lines (over the phone, of course, while on con-calls). One said that he “feels like he’s a supporting cast member in a sci-fi movie.” Another one said that she “feels like she’s been dropped into a sci-fi plot.” These comments all came unprompted, without a leading question. I found it interesting because I was feeling the same way. When I commented on this to my brother, he quipped: “What took you so long? I’ve felt like I’ve been in a dystopian nightmare ever since Trump got elected.”

I was really looking forward to the release of The Quiet Place II this March in movie theaters. But I never got the chance. All the theaters closed due to the virus the same week it was released. (Does anyone else see the irony in that?) Maybe Netflix will stream it, but I no longer care. It’s going to be a very long time before I’ll be in the mood to watch it.

In the past I’ve had to watch these movies alone or with a friend or one of my adult kids, because my wife doesn’t like them and will leave the room if one is on. She much prefers stuff like Call the Midwife, Doc Martin and Downton Abbey. At Christmas time she binge watches cheesy Hallmark holiday romances. Shows that usually put me to sleep before the opening credits are done.

Like everyone else around the world, my wife and I are in self-isolation at home. Fortunately we both have jobs that are suitable for work from home. My work sent us all home with our laptops two weeks ago and told us not to come back until further notice. My wife’s employer sent them home with their computers and telephones last week. She’s setup in the dining room and my ‘office’ is now in the living room.

We won’t be going out anytime soon, and there is suddenly a lot of time after work to read books and watch TV. And I have absolutely no interest in apocalyptic books and end of the world movies. My wife found out that Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, has a new series on Netflix: The English Game, about soccer in the 1870’s. She wants to watch that.

Sounds good to me Honey. I’ll make the popcorn. And after that’s over, I’ll even watch Call the Midwife with you.

** I would like to give credit where credit is due. The idea for the muli-coloured circles isn’t mine. I saw something similar posted on FB, only it used very old movie references like Logan’s Run and Soylent Green, that few people under 30 would recognize. The original FB posting wasn’t shareable, and the person who posted it wasn’t able to tell me who made the original. I took the liberty of re-drawing it and using up-to-date movies. Please excuse the colouring outside of the lines.

Reading Not Cancelled

Everything, it seems, is being cancelled. When hockey gets cancelled in Canada, and football is cancelled in the UK, you know things are getting serious.

But the cancellations are for a good reason. Social distancing is the best way to curb the spread of this virus. Social distancing and self-isolation is the responsible thing to do. I saw a thing on FB yesterday that made me laugh so hard it brought tears to my eyes. It went like this:

“Our grandfathers were called to storm the beaches of Normandy. We are being called to sit on the couch. You can do this.”

Yes, we can. The isolation won’t be fun, but it is the socially responsible thing to do. Even if you are not in a high risk category, you can still become contagious – so this is about protecting other people as well.

The good news is that reading hasn’t been cancelled. And with the entire world going into quarantine, restaurants, bars and all public events closing, there is going to be a lot of time to read.

This week, from March 16 to March 19, 2020, I am giving away for free the Kindle version of “Aliens, Spaceships and the Occasional Latte”. Available on Amazon now. It is a fun, escapist read that is by no means serious SF and has nothing to do with viruses, so I hope people will find it a refreshing and enjoyable diversion.

This is the first book in my Jack Winters series, about a detective and a group of alien smugglers who come to Earth for our coffee and have all kinds of adventures around the galaxy.

The second book in the series is also available now – “Coffee To Go, With a Spaceship.” The 3rd book is planned, and I hope to have that ready later this year.

Various promotions will continue after the free giveaway ends March 19. After March 19, I will raise the price up to 0.99 in both the US, Canadian and UK markets. (0.99 Euro for UK, and 0.99 USD for the States and something like 1.35 in Canada – whatever the conversation rate works out to.)

The book will be featured in a series of online promotions and email blasts between now and April 5, with BooksGoSocial, Bargain Booksy and BookSends. The price will remain at 0.99 throughout this time and to the end of April.

Please drop me a line and let me know what you think!

Stay safe and stay healthy… and don’t forget to wash your hands!

A New Jack Winters Adventure

In response to the overwhelming demand from my readers, I’m planning the 3rd book in the Jack Winters series. Actually, truth be told, I’d planned on continuing the series from the very beginning. Readers have been asking me when the next is coming, and I expect to have it out in the first half of next year – by spring of 2020.

Thanks to my readers, the first two novels, Aliens, Spaceships and the Occasional Latte and Coffee to Go, With a Spaceship have been a tremendous success and I’m excited about continuing the series.

I will keep readers updated with news and progress. Keep an eye out for future posts on my website!

Thanks!

Mike

Jack Winters is looking forward to his next big adventure!

Handmade camp knife

Okay, this is has nothing to do with my latest novel, but it’s still fun. I made the blade from 01 tool steel and used brass for the bolster. I grind and polish the pieces by hand using a belt sander and files. When I’ve finished shaping the knife, I heat treat it in a small forge. Heat treating the steel after the knife is shaped makes the steel really hard so it will keep a tough edge when sharpened. After the heat treat I cut out the handles from slabs of micarta and attach them using brass pins. Then I give the steel blade and handle material all a final polish by hand using a very fine grit sandpaper. I finished this last week.

When I get stumped on a plot point or where to go with a character, it helps me clear my mind by going out to the shop and making a knife.

Camp knife with brass bolster

Is The Truth Really Out There?

Or, more to the point, is anything or anybody out there at all? Given the nature of my novels, I’m often asked if I really believe in aliens. But that question can mean a couple of different things:

  1. Do you believe in aliens?
  2. Do you believe in UFO’s?

These are two very different topics. ‘Do you believe there might be other intelligent beings out there in the universe somewhere?’ – OR – ‘Do you believe that the UFO phenomenon is real – that UFO’s are real and they are spaceships visiting us from other worlds.’

Many serious scientists, notably those involved in programs like SETI, believe there may be, even likely is, intelligent life in the universe other than ourselves. They do not necessarily believe in UFOs. I fall into that camp. I am agnostic when it comes to aliens – I think there could be other civilizations out there. We just don’t know and programs like SETI are looking for scientific evidence for that.

But do I believe in UFOs?

Nope.

And here’s why. If UFOs really are visitors from other planets, then they aren’t very smart or seem to be very confused about what their mission is.

Consider this: The aliens either want us to know about them, and are here to reveal themselves to us, make contact, hopefully just to trade or engage in cultural exchange and other benign activities.

Or, they are here on a secret mission and don’t want us to know about them.

Either way, they seem to be doing a lousy job of it. If it is a secret mission, then they’ve screwed up big time. Thousands of people are on to them, and if the UFO conspirators are correct, then apparently the US Government knows all about them too.

If they are not on a secret mission and are here to reveal themselves, make contact, then that is not going very well either because the vast majority of us rational people don’t ‘know’ about them. It’s still a big secret only the conspiracy theory people and the US Government seem to know about. And the government is involved in a massive cover-up to keep it from the public.

If aliens from other worlds are really visiting us and want us to know about them, then HOW could the US Government cover that up?

I mean, wouldn’t it be a simple matter for our alien buddies to make themselves known and initiate cultural contact? Why don’t they just land a big ship in Times Square, or the front lawn of the White House, or Red Square for that matter.

Or how about in front of parliament in Ottawa? Canadians are generally pretty nice and aren’t as likely to start shooting.

But conspiracy believers will say they don’t do that because they aren’t ready to reveal themselves, or we’re not ready for them yet, so they still have to keep their presence secret. Well, if that’s the case we still have a big problem because they’ve been photographed and spotted literally thousands of times. And they seem to be obsessed with hanging around top secret US government airfields and stuff – and getting spotted.

Again, not very smart of them.

But no, apparently they only reveal themselves to fruitcakes. Because from the documentaries I’ve watched about people claiming to have met or been abducted by aliens, the people involved don’t seem to be entirely well balanced.

And why is there NEVER any hard evidence? Just stories by crazy people.
Sure, lots of pictures but those are easily faked. Of course, this is where the conspiracy believers will say – “but there is hard evidence…and the US Government is hiding it and keeping it from the public… and they’ve used the tech to build spaceships that get us to Mars in 3 days… and there is a colony on Mars already…but it’s all a secret because people can’t handle the truth…”

Yup, you can watch documentaries on Netflix where people go into great detail ‘proving’ these very things.

But here’s the thing. Suppose for a moment that all this is true. I don’t think the cover-up is necessary any more because I’m pretty sure the public is long passed caring. What I mean by that is not that people wouldn’t be interested, it’s just there wouldn’t be panic in the streets. If the ‘truth’ came out, most of us would watch it on the morning news shows while drinking our coffee, mumble something like: “It’s about time the government finally came clean on UFOs”, then finish getting dressed and get on with our day. Sure, it would be cool, but we’d hardly panic.

Maybe the aliens coming here are cadets, spaceship pilots in training, and that would explain all the rookie mistakes they seem to be making.

Well, I think I’ve ranted enough. I’m sure the US Government has a lot of secrets they are keeping from us. I think they have to – how could they function otherwise. But I don’t think UFOs are one of them.

I think all that stuff that gets spotted in the sky, sometimes hard to explain, is exactly what a rational person would suppose. Advanced aircraft technology that the US is working on. Think about it – at any given time the Air Force must be working on the next generation of technology, and of course it has to be kept secret. And of course they have to test fly this stuff. When they first started working on stealth bombers, it would have been top secret and someone who happened to spot a test flight might easily mistake it for a UFO. I mean, after all, we don’t have anything like that on Earth, right???

And interestingly enough, the vast majority of so-called UFO sightings are in and around vicinity of military bases.

And I don’t think aliens who have the ability to travel light-years across the galaxy would be all that interested in how our jet engines work.

I think they’d be coming for cultural exchange…and our coffee, of course…

Do aliens drink coffee?

Thanksgiving ‘Give-away’

sci-fi detective noir
My alter-ego staring down the bad guys.

Exciting news! The Kindle version of Aliens, Spaceships and the Occasional Latte is going on sale for 99 cents! Okay, maybe that’s not exactly a free give-away as the blog title might suggest, but I thought the title was catchy, and it is still almost a give-away. Cheaper than a Latte, that’s for sure.

The promotion will be on November 18 and then again the 25th, featured on Booksends and Bargain Booksy.

 

 

 

Summer Fun 2018 Promos

Summer fun

I’ve got a promo running this month for a couple of my books, The Girl With No Shoes and Aliens, Spaceships and the Occasional Latte. The picture to the left with the cute pink flip-flops has nothing to do with anything, but I like it for its winsome cheerfulness.

The fun starts this week. I’m giving away the Kindle version of The Girl With No Shoes for free, from August 6 to 9. You can download it from Amazon here. After that, it goes on sale for 99 cents for the rest of the month.

Aliens, Spaceships and the Occasional Latte will be free (Kindle version) starting August 7 through to the 11th. Then it goes on sale for 99 cents to the end of the month or longer if the promo is going well. Download it from Amazon here.

Be sure to get your copy! I hope you enjoy the books as much as I loved writing them.