Do You Know Anyone Who’s Immortal? One Day You Might.

Google the phrase “can we be immortal” and see what you get. Better yet, let me save you the effort. You’ll find article after article describing how science is getting close to achieving immortality for mankind. And this is not just a futuristic, far-fetched idea. For example, check out this headline: Why Immortality is Already Within our Grasp and How we Could Achieve it. Or how about this one: Want to live FOREVER? You just have to make it to 2050, experts say.

Before we go further down this road, its important that we define immortality. Some futurist include in that idea the possibility of transferring our consciousness to a synthetic body when our biological body wears out. That’s not what we are talking about here, and for the record, I don’t think that’s possible. We are talking about biological immortality which is the absence of aging. Or as I refer to it in my book, The New World, “conditional immortality.” It is “conditional” because a person can die under certain circumstances, for instance, if you stop eating, or if you suffer serious trauma to the brain. But absent those kinds of eventualities, a person who does not age, will live forever.

By the way, as a side note, I borrowed this term from the world of biblical studies. Some biblical scholars believe that Adam and Eve, the first humans created by God, were conditionally immortal. That is, they didn’t age, and absent other factors, like the ones described above, they would live forever.

So, the question is can we stop, or significantly slow down, the aging process. Now before you assume all these headlines are coming from bloggers living in their parent’s basement, consider who is making these claims. Among them is Ray Kurzweil, Google’s chief futurist (wouldn’t you love to have that title!). Take a look at this headline from Business Insider; Google’s chief futurist Ray Kurzweil thinks we could start living forever by 2029. The year 2029 is when he believes the process will begin, but he sets his sites on 2045 saying, “The nonbiological intelligence created in that year will reach a level that’s a billion times more powerful than all human intelligence today.” Essentially, he believes that nanobots will replace our immune system, fixing the problems that cause aging in the cells. (It’s what the Pittsburgh Virus did to Raisa in The New World.) He notes that scientist are already using biotechnology to turn off the fat insulin receptor gene in animals. Without that gene activated, animals can eat larger quantities of food without developing diabetes or gaining weight. (Sing me up for that test study when they start on humans!)

Will all of this translate into immortality for human beings? I have my doubts, but even so, we may see our life span begin to grow in the next decade. Here’s a question, if it does, how will that change society. I speculate about that a bit in my second book, The Ten Thousand. Check it out on Amazon, or read the first two chapters at Booskie.

Background vector created by pikisuperstar – www.freepik.com

Comparing COVID-19 with the Pittsburgh Virus

Medical photo created by kjpargeter – www.freepik.com

Okay, so I’ve resisted this for a while, but with so many people reminding me that my book, The New World, is about a virus which fractures our American republic, I decided I would weigh in on the subject, contrasting the Pittsburgh Virus with COVID-19. So here are six differences between the two.

  1. The Pittsburgh Virus and COVID-19 originated half-a-world apart. By now everyone knows the story of how someone at the Huanan seafood market in Wuhan, China was infected with a virus from an animal, and from there it spread around the world. The Pittsburgh Virus, on the other hand, is a uniquely American pathogen. While my book doesn’t reveal details about its origin, it is safe to say that there were no foreign agents or nefarious plots at work behind its appearance. In fact, that’s a part of the tragedy of it all, a country on the brink was pushed over the brink by a chance of nature.
  2. The Pittsburgh Virus was more deadly than COVID-19. In The New World, fifty-eight million people die from the virus in nineteen states. Of course, in fiction viruses will almost always be more deadly than in reality, otherwise they contribute little to the story. While any life lost is tragic, thankfully the predictions of COVID-19 deaths have not panned out as the early models suggested.
  3. The Pittsburgh Virus was contained more effectively than COVID-19. COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic. Politicians and pundits have argued over the wisdom of travel bans, but travel has clearly contributed to its spread. The Pittsburgh Virus, on the other hand, was contained by enacting strict travel restrictions which effectively quarantined a block of nineteen states. The advantage of setting my story sixty years in the future is that I could justify the extreme response to the crisis more easily. After these last few weeks, that response seems more realistic than ever.
  4. The Pittsburgh Virus genetically altered a portion of the population. Now, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that COVID-19 won’t alter our DNA, creating genetically enhanced people. The truth is, however, that viruses do change our DNA. According to ScienceDaily.com, “viral genetic material comprises nearly 10 percent of the modern human genome.” Of course, that’s the cumulative effect since the beginning of time, so chances are one virus will not make a big genetic splash except on the pages of books like mine.
  5. The Pittsburgh Virus fractured the nation beyond repair. In The New World, it was the trigger that led to America’s ultimate demise. At this point you might be saying, “Have you seen social media lately?” I’ll grant you that our nation is more polarized than it has been in a long time, and COVID-19 has contributed to that, but we are not on the brink, and COVID-19 won’t put us there. That’s not to say America is not changing in ways that are troubling. Many of you have responded to my book by noting how it reflects the contemporary political landscape in one way or another. Thankfully, the comparisons are tenuous in my opinion.
  6. The Pittsburgh Virus is fictitious, COVID-19 is not. This is the most important distinction. Viruses abound in dystopian literature because they provide the author a way to change the world in ways that advance the story. But in the last few weeks, we’ve seen how a real pandemic impacts lives in devastating ways. Standing in line outside the grocery store with people wearing masks has felt a little dystopian to me. Living in a city where restaurant dining rooms are barren because people are afraid to gather has been, up to this point in my life, the stuff of fiction. Now it’s reality, and it is a reminder to all of us how fragile our society is.

By now you are, no doubt, very familiar with COVID-19. If you are not as familiar with the Pittsburgh Virus, click here to buy The New World, and read about it.

Delivering The Ten Thousand

I have two children. They are both unique and wonderful in their own ways. But here’s the thing; they didn’t show up at the same time, and that means my wife and I experienced their births in different ways. You can never have your first child a second time. It is equally true, however, that the second child comes with its own set of unique challenges and rewards. 

The Ten Thousand will be available on Amazon, May 1st.

What does that have to do with being an author? Publishing my second book was a lot like having a second child. Here’s what I mean, publishing for the first time is full of first time experiences. The first time you complete a manuscript. The first time someone reads what you’ve written. The first time you see your story turned into cover art. The first time you hit the “publish” button on Amazon and see it listed right along with all the other books. The first time you make a sale. The first time you get a review, and on it goes. 

Okay, so now comes along book number two. On the one hand, you feel more confident because you’ve been down this road before; it’s not so scary. As a pastor, I have visited a lot of couples in the hospital after they’ve welcomed a new child into the world. It is always easy to figure out if it’s their first child or one further down the line. First-time parents will barely let you get close enough to see the precious bundle of joy. Second and third-time parents will often hand the baby off to you to hold for a while, so they can get a break.

And so it was with writing my second book. There’s less of a learning curve. There’s more ease moving through the process, and I can even change the way I did things the first time around. But there’s a flip side to this. When I wrote my first book, I didn’t have another book to look after. Taking care of a newborn is difficult enough as it is, but when you’ve also got a toddler running around, your time gets divided in uncomfortable ways. And that’s what I had as I worked on my second book, a toddler that needed to be looked after. 

Many people (including myself at one time) think being an author is about writing a book. That’s like saying the being a parent is about bringing a baby into the world; it’s only partially true. If you’ve ever had a child, or watched anyone who has, you know the hard work begins once they get here. After a book is written, it has to be promoted, or no one will ever read it. And here’s what I learned along with a lot of first-time parents, it’s hard work. 

Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not complaining. Learning to promote my book has been fun, and I’m still learning by trial and error. But I didn’t appreciate the time and focus it takes. So, book number two got set aside for a while as I helped book number one get up on its feet, taking its first few steps. As a result, my second manuscript lay half finished and neglected for weeks. I felt like a bad parent who had given too much attention to one child, and not enough to the other. When I got back to it, I had to read it from the beginning to get back in the story’s flow so I could finish it.

Well, I am happy to say, baby number two . . . I mean, book number two has been successfully delivered and will be available on May 1st. Like a proud parent, I go to my Amazon author page (it’s like an Amazon nursery for your books) and look in on my two literary children from time to time. And also like a proud parent, I won’t stop you if you’d like to see them too. 

And just so you know, book number three, The Heir, is coming along nicely. I don’t have a delivery date, but I hope the more I do this, the more efficient I get. Stay tuned for more on this in the months ahead.

Are We Ready to Connect Our Brains to the Cloud?

Brain-Cloud Interface joins the Brave New World

Do the letters B-CI mean anything to you? Probably not, but they might mean something to your children or grandchildren. The abbreviation, B-CI stands for brain-cloud interface which many are calling an internet of thoughts, or a ‘global superbrain’ as some have described it.

I stumbled across this idea in research for my new book, The Ten Thousand, and while I don’t use these ideas directly, it was too interesting not to pass on (and who knows, maybe it will show up in a book someday.) I won’t bore you with the details, but the B-CI idea was first introduced as something more than science fiction in March of this year in Frontiers of Neuroscience and has gained worldwide attention ever since. Here’s why. Future technologies called neuralnanorobotics will enable neural activity in the human brain to connect with external data storage and processing.

The applications of this kind of technology are both fascinating and a little bit scary. Scientists are suggesting that in the next several decades, information can be directly transferred from the human brain to a cloud-based supercomputer. Likewise, information can be downloaded from the cloud to a human brain. You think kids have it easy today with access to Google, wait until they just have to think it, to know it.

It’s not all about education and knowledge, however. If we can upload and download information from our brains, we can share someone else’s experiences or memories through what is called “transparent shadowing.” (I think there might be a lot of wives who will want their husbands to experience childbirth.) The article in Frontiers of Neuroscience suggests that such an application of this technology will hopefully “encourage and inspire improved understanding and tolerance among all members of the human family.” No doubt, but I can’t help thinking about the more sinister or hedonistic applications that this kind of technology will inspire. The internet has been used in both wonderful and hideous ways. There’s no reason to think B-CI would be any different, no matter how Utopian those developing it might make it sound.

Every generation has to deal with the brave new world technology is foisting upon us. How we face it may say something about who we are. In recent years I have made an effort to think of technology as my friend and not my enemy. This mindset has made my life easier and less stressful. But when I consider connecting my mind to the cloud, I think I’d rather write about it than experience it.

Are There Secret Tunnels Under the White House?

In my book, The New World, Raisa and Alexander escape the White House (for a night of dinner and dancing) through a secret tunnel. Of course, this idea is not new. The 1993 movie Dave showed the President sneaking out of the executive mansion via a tunnel that surfaced in Lafayette Square. The 1997 movie Murder at 1600 claimed that Lincoln had a tunnel built to Lafayette Park. The movie was based on a book by Margaret Truman, daughter of President Harry Truman, leaving one to wonder if she had some insider information.

It’s fun to write about secret passageways, especially in the nation’s capital; the possibilities for intrigue are plentiful. But are there tunnels that the president can use to leave the White House secretly? Answering that question is a little bit tricky. Of course, there is plenty of speculation online about underground passageways and bunkers in Washington, D.C., but how much of that is true?

After some research here’s what I can say with some certainty. In 1987 a tunnel was dug which connected the West Wing with the East Wing. It was purportedly used to give secure access to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center which is located beneath the East Wing. Nixon is said to have used this tunnel to visit Reagan in the West Wing.

Beginning in 2010, a tunnel was excavated near the West Wing. It took more than two years to complete. According to officials, the tunnel is being used to access utilities. Others have speculated that it’s a new White House bunker or command center.

The most famous “secret” White House tunnel that appears to be based on facts, connects the White House with the basement of the Treasury building across the street from the East Wing. The granite vault deep in the Treasury basement was to be used in the case of an attack during WWII. Plans were underway to build a bunker beneath the East Wing, but after Pearl Harbor, a tunnel was excavated to the Treasure basement while the East Wing project was ongoing. The East Wing bunker eventually finished and became the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.

There seems to be little dispute that this tunnel exists. It was kept as a wartime secret until Republican Congressman Clare E. Hoffman discussed it in the House of Representatives in late 1941. Since then, it has been public knowledge.

Now here’s where my story comes in. According to one source I found, the basement of the Treasure building is also connected to the Treasure Annex, which is across Pennsylvania Avenue. No one is sure why a tunnel was built to connect the two buildings, but people speculate that is was for security or because of the unpleasant D.C. weather. The fun part of this story is that the tunnel is said to lead to a locked door at the back of Treasury Annex. This door is at the end of a long, narrow alleyway that empties on H Street two blocks from the White House. This is where Raisa finds herself with Alexander when she emerges in public for the first time after being taken from her home.

From the East Wing to H Street

If you go there today, you will find an alley, with a ram-proof vehicle barrier and bulletproof secret service kiosk. Is this an alley, which leads to a door, which leads to a tunnel, which leads to the White House? I know there’s an alley, as to the rest, I can’t say for sure, but it makes for a great story.

The “secret” alley on H Street.

An American Monarch?

In my book, The New World, a monarchy replaces the fallen American government, at least in the nineteen states that have banded together calling themselves the New World. But how likely is it that a monarchy would take root in the land of the free and home of the brave? Perhaps more likely than you think.

Consider these titles, all within the last several years, and note the publications from which they come.

  • America Needs a King – Politico Magazine
  • The Case for a Monarchy In America – HuffPost
  • Stop Fighting it. America is a monarchy, and that’s probably for the best. – Washington Post
  • Consider a Monarchy, America – The New York Times
  • Why America Needs a Monarchy – The Federalist
  • The Americans who think a monarchy would solve their political problems – The Guardian

When I first dreamt up the idea of a monarchy on American soil, I never imagined that people were actually talking about it, but they are, and I find that fascinating.

So what are they saying? Instead of summarizing and providing commentary, I will simply paste some quotes from these various articles. Now, to be fair, some of these articles and opinion pieces are satirical, but most are not. Either way, they provide a fascinating peak into a subculture that most of us haven’t seriously considered.

“Our political system has been irrevocably poisoned by political partisanship.” – Sean, a monarchist on Reddit as quoted in The Guardian

The notion that something is deeply wrong with how our government works is inescapable, so it’s no surprise that people are searching for alternative ideologies. – The Guardian

In 2018, the New York Times cited a study conducted by a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which discovered “‘robust and quantitatively meaningful evidence’ that monarchies outperform other forms of government”, and provide nations with “stability that often translates into economic gains”. – The Guardian

We threw the baby out with the bathwater when we kicked the monarchy out of America, and we ought to bring it back. – The Federalist

In America we’ve combined power and reverence in the office of the presidency, but legal authority and veneration compliment each other about as well as Scotch and back pain medication. It’s safer to ingest them separately. – The Federalist

The government is basically a giant Human Resources Department with tanks, and the president is in charge of it. A monarchy saps that ridiculous self-importance. – The Federalist

Indeed, the modern history of Europe has shown that those countries fortunate enough to enjoy a king or queen as head of state tend to be more stable and better governed than most of the Continent’s republican states. By the same token, demagogic dictators have proved unremittingly hostile to monarchy because the institution represents a dangerously venerated alternative to their ambitions. – The New York Times

Doubtless, entrenched republicans will respond that hereditary rulers may prove mad or bad. But democracies have dynasties, too. America may have thrown off the yoke of King George III, but Americans chose to be governed by George Bush II. – The New York Times

The advantage of monarchy is that the institution “extinguishes the hopes of faction” by rising above the toxic partisanship of competing parties and vying elected officials. . . It may be remembered that no British monarch has been assassinated for about five centuries, while no fewer than four American presidents have been murdered in the last 150 or so years. A factor to ponder, I suggest. – The New York Times

[Justice] Scalia says our Presidents are more “George III than George Washington.” He’s right. – The Washington Post

The truth is that the Constitution, as Thomas Jefferson put it, “wears a mixed aspect of monarchy and republicanism.” – The Washington Post

Patrick Henry, the Virginian, said the Constitution “squints toward monarchy.” – The Washington Post

John Adams would later note that the Constitution had established a “monarchical republic, or if you will, a limited monarchy” and that the presidency would naturally excite the “fears, apprehensions, and opposition” of the sort that the English Crown stirred. – The Washington Post

Last month, two media events converged – the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency and the first run in the US of The Crown, the Netflix series about Queen Elizabeth. Both proved remarkably popular (at least on TV), and watching them both back to back, so to speak, I began to wonder if the US would not be better off under a Monarchy as well. – HuffPost

The Monarchy provides Britain with a sense of stability; a final firewall against anything going too far astray. It is not a bad idea. – HuffPost

Legend has it that at the end of the Revolutionary War, George Washington was offered the Crown and the chance to become King of America. He turned it down. Maybe that was a mistake in retrospect. – HuffPost

Indeed, nothing can stir patriotic anger more than the suggestion that the U.S. president is acting like unelected royalty. Yet even before independence, John Adams argued in favor of a “republican monarchy” of laws, lamenting, “We have so many Men of Wealth, of ambitious Spirits, of Intrigue … that incessant Factions will disturb our Peace.” – Politico

While Adams favored a republican monarch with absolute veto powers, today we need a person who can sit above politics and help strengthen our commitment to republican values. We need a king, or something like one. – Politico

So there you have it, the beginning of a ground-swell that will lead, one day, to an American monarchy. Well, maybe not. But it does provide a nice backdrop to the rise of my heroine, Queen Raisa!

If you haven’t yet purchased The New World, you can get a copy here.

Should “Old” Adults Read Young Adult Novels?

I am fifty-one years old. Today I found myself in a conversation with someone who was at least that old (he had gray hair, and it didn’t appear to be premature). The topic of our conversation was young adult novels that we liked, which raises an interesting question – should adults who have matured past the twenty-something stage of life read novels aimed at a young adult audience.

One of my children asked me a similar question not long ago. I was talking about a book I had read (or was reading, I don’t remember) and my son, who’s twenty, said, “Why do you read young adult books?” That’s a good question. I mean, is a middle-aged man reading a young adult book like the kid who’s too big playing in the fun-zone at the mall?

I say, no (no big surprise, right) and here’s why. Young adult doesn’t mean childish, or at least it doesn’t have to. Like any other genre, there are good YA novels and some that are not so good. The good ones are written well and have compelling themes, like any good book. Now, I haven’t always been a fan of YA literature. It was The Hunger Games drew me in. Knowing nothing about the story, I watched the movie and was immediately fascinated by the world Suzanne Collins had created, enough to read the book and the next two in the series.

I’ll admit that I have a thing for dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories, so this was right up my alley. But it was the skillful writing and the treatment of the themes that made the book so compelling, and isn’t that what makes a good book, good? And if it is, why should the audience be limited to the world of young adults?

The characters of YA novels indeed are themselves, young adults, and the themes are crafted to appeal to a young adult reader. But that shouldn’t dissuade an “older” reader from enjoying the literature. It may even add to the pleasure of it; who doesn’t like to relive youthfulness. Young doesn’t have to mean unsophisticated. (I would prefer some of the YA books were less “adult” in their themes and content.) Seeing the world through the eyes of a young person can be refreshing and compelling for those of us who are a little bit older.

So, even though this might seem like a shameless appeal for you who are no longer twenty-something to read my book The New World, it’s more of a reflection on why this genre appeals to people outside of it’s target audience. If you, like me, are intrigued by the world of YA literature and want to find some books you might enjoy, here are a couple of links that will help you get started. But first, a word of warning: I haven’t read all of these books, and can’t vouch for them regarding their writing style or content. So, I would suggest that if you find one you are interested in, check out some reviews to make sure it fits your standards and desires.

50 YA Novels Adults Will Love, Too

These YA Books Should Be on Every Adult’s Reading List

10 YA Christian Books to Read

Launching The New World

The New World will launch on October 1st, and I am putting together a team of people to help launch it. Success is rarely an individual effort, and with your help, I’ll get my debut novel off the ground and into the hands of readers. As a part of the team, here’s what you will need to do:

  • Receive a free copy of my book, The New World, to read.
  • Write an honest review on Amazon.
  • Share information about the book on social media.

If you’d like to join the team, I am looking for the first twenty responses. Use the button below and fill out the contact form to join. I will email you a Kindle version of the book unless you specify you would prefer a paperback in your message.

A View from the Top

An important part of the story in The New World takes place in the Capitol building and on it’s grounds. To add as much realism to the story as possible, I researched the Capitol; it’s history and architecture. The Architect of the Capitol website is an excellent resource if you want to investigate more on your own.

The best part of my research was traveling to Washington and taking a private tour of the Capitol, including a tour of the building’s two domes. Few people realize that the Capitol actually has two domes.

The first, smaller dome, was part of the original building. It was originally wooden, and then replaced by a sandstone structure. When you stand in the rotunda and look up at the Apotheosis of Washington, you are looking at the interior of this dome.

Seated above and around this dome is the iconic iron dome that the Capitol building is known for. It was added when the Capitol was expanded to include the wings on the north and south sides where the Senate and House of Representatives meet, respectively. It was thought that the smaller dome was too diminutive for the expanded building, so, a second dome was added. The result is a fascinating feature of the Capitol building; space between the domes.

A stairway consisting of 362 steps leads from the main level to the top of the dome. Along the way you can view the floor of the rotunda from an interior walkway about halfway up. Continuing to the top of the first dome, there is a second interior walkway just below the Apotheosis of Washington, one hundred, eighty feet above the floor. From there, stairs take you to a door that opens on a narrow walkway encircling the top of the dome.

The Tholos (the circular temple-like structure on top of the dome) is directly above this walkway with the Statue of Freedom above that. The view of Washington, D.C., from on top the dome is worth checking out if you ever have the chance.

This is ground level between the domes.
On the right is the original sandstone dome. On the left is the iron dome.
The interior walkway at the top of the original dome, 180 feet above the rotunda floor. Notice the support structures through the windows supporting the iron dome. The painting in the top of the picture is the Apotheosis of Washington.
I have a healthy fear of heights, so this was a stretch for me.
The Tholos. Above this is the Statue of Freedom, but you can’t see it from this angle.
A view from the top.
Now, for the long walk down.

“The New World” Coming Soon to Amazon

Jamie watched in stunned disbelief as the United States Senate abolished the federal government with a single vote. As the seventeen-year-old daughter of a U.S. Senator, Jamie was sure that would be the most shocking news of the day. And it was…until she was chosen to be the first queen of the New World.

Under the visionary leadership of Creighton Ashwill, the New World has taken its first tenuous steps as a monarchy. Still reeling from the devastating effects of a virus two decades earlier, the people are ready to embrace their queen, ready for change. However, not everybody’s on board with the radical new government, least of all Jamie. But, as she’s finding, the tide of history is hard to resist.

Now as the presumptive queen, Jamie must navigate startling revelations about her past, hidden agendas by those in power, and newfound love to discover if her destiny will lead all the way to the throne.

Watch for The New World, book one in The New World trilogy. Sign up to follow my blog via email to get an official book launch announcement. 

%d bloggers like this: