LATEST ARTICLE WOWS ME

” . . . ominous scenarios of catastrophic galactic alignments, savage solar storms and other deadly astronomical phenomena which could spell the end of humankind.”

 

LeRoy man publishes book, plans signing

By Randy Johnston

 

Special To The Osceola Edition

LEROY — Market master for LeRoy’s Farmers Market and Planning Commission clerk, Brian Cool, is now a published author. 

His debut novel, “Reset by Marian Evans,” was released in November and is available at Entity photography and art gallery in Marion and on Amazon.com.

Cool’s inspiration for the novel, an intriguing blend of fantasy and sci-fi, is the current fascination with end-of-the-world myths, prophecies and predictions popularized by articles, books and movies appearing almost daily. 

They paint ominous scenarios of catastrophic galactic alignments, savage solar storms and other deadly astronomical phenomena which could spell the end of humankind.

The story of Willow living in the year 2112 on Aerda, sister plant to Earth, may parallel a cataclysmic finale for our own planet. As readers follow Willow’s adventures, they glimpse Cool’s personal vision of what’s to come for us. Is it impending doom, or a new beginning?

The novella-length work, about 130 pages, is enhanced with a striking collection of eight full-page black and white illustrations by local artist, Steve Mann. They let us peer into Willow’s world and bring her tale to life.

Cool, a LeRoy resident for 38 years, lives with his wife on the family centennial farm. Mann lives in Reed City with his wife and family.

What’s next for the creative pair? Cool is already working on a second sci-fi novel he plans to publish in 2012. Mann is considering a number of projects including a series of cartoons and a memorial portrait of a U.S. Marine who died in Afghanistan.

To meet Cool and Mann, stop by their next book signing at Entity to learn more about the collaboration between author and artist and pick up an autographed copy of “Reset.” 

Cool is Entity’s Artist of the Month and both he and Mann will be at the gallery Dec. 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Visit Cool’s blog for free writing tools and a schedule of future promotional activities. Contact him through his blog with questions or comments about his work or to post reviews of the book. (www.becool2112.wordpress.com/) If you have a project that requires illustrations, a book cover or other artwork, contact Mann at (231) 250-5777 for a consultation.

Entity is at 202 E. Main St., Marion. If you are interested in exhibiting your work in the gallery or learning more about the Artist of the Month program, call owner Susan Hall (231) 743-9895.

 

Note: the newspaper version included an image of the front cover.

Excerpt from the 1st Chapter of RESET

 

“The terrible great invisible eye of God never blinks–the empty infinite mind behind, never thinks.” Maeva Endival

 

 WILLOW AND THE ROCK GOD

 

Dusk. A grubby little green wooden boat was beached on the narrow spit of pale sand below me.

This was the easternmost tip of a semitropical islet–part of an old chain of volcanic islands. My spirit hovered like a lazy kite over the point of land, floating directly above a tall, dark, and precariously balanced construct of thick chunks of sea-worn shale.

Bloated purple clouds in a race south, lashed by thick whips of lightning, would carry their burden over the point, and yet a little further out to Mother Sea.

Whether blown ashore by salted breezes, dragged there by the tides, pulled by the force of gravity, or pushed there on the snouts of porpoises, this battered rowboat had caught the last possible stretch of beach before being swept further out to the merciless sea, and capsized in the south-going gale. A few late-flying seabirds veered away from the skiff, casting suspicious glances back as they came down to land a short ways to the west, near a pair of rotting right whale carcasses.

White rimmed waves toyed at the little boat, but seemed only to nudge it even further ashore. Lying as if thrown there, like some ragged discarded doll in the bottom of the boat, was the twisted body of a young woman. There was something hauntingly familiar about her, even from my point of view high overhead. She wore military boots, and several layers of thick clothing that had soaked up a good deal of water. Under her head, toward the prow, dried blood stained the floor of the boat. I watched her for a few minutes, looking in vain for some sign of life.

And there was something unsettling about the little rowboat. I’d seen it before somehow, somewhere, felt a connection to it. The craft’s rugged little blue outboard leaned upside down in the prow. One end of a long nylon cord was tied around the shaft of the prop. The other end was lashed to a bracket on the nose of the boat. One of the oars was gone, missing from its socket. The other was locked in place, with the paddle end resting inside, pressed up against the young woman’s waist.

It’s me—

The body in the boat had my dark skin, my sooty black ringlets of shoulder length hair, my mannish chin, and my high cheekbones. My blood. I realized that the clothes were mine, stuff I’d scavenged along the way, mostly for its insulating value. It would be later before I would see the deep scabbed-over gashes up the left side of my neck and jaw.

I’d first thought of my floating consciousness as ‘something new’ when I had found myself, lighter than the wind, shimmering, draining upward, but it was the island that was new–to me at least.

There was no immediate sense of danger in my mind when I came to realize that I was looking down on my own body from a gull’s-eye view. More than anything, I was amazed, except I couldn’t see whether or not I was breathing. I found it strange to perceive the lightning and the last reddish tinges in the clouds on the western horizon, but neither hear the thunder, nor feel the howling winds.

What I did feel, was that my soul had been strained through muslin and distilled into vapor, and all I could sense of myself now, was pure energy. I-I must be dying then. A chilling terror slowly began to besiege my mind. Even so, I sensed that it was accompanied by only the shadows of Fear’s physical manifestations, which when I could not feel my heart racing on adrenaline, couldn’t even close my eyes to the scene below, my whole reality became a deep dark well from which was building an ancient and unutterable scream.

Along with the dread, fueling its fire, was coming a strong deep love for this body below. I wanted nothing more than to be back down there, back inside my skin. I began to panic, sought to claw my way back down through the air. Thinking that maybe I could dive in through my ear, or bellybutton, I tried to get my arms to work. They felt as if strapped to my sides, or not there at all.

But apparently just wishing it was enough. Sinking slowly toward the little boat, I sensed a slight tugging from an elastic blur of silver energy, stretched between my floating consciousness and my seemingly lifeless body.

I kept sensing another energetic presence nearby, like the sense of being stared at from behind. My thought patterns began to oscillate through the oddest blend of warps and spastic jumps. Visions, memories, and dreams flashed in and out of my mind, threatening to overload my limited consciousness.

The boat lurched to one side as a last white-capped wave rolled in from the retreating tide. I watched my limp body roll face down in the grimy wooden hull. To my relief, I found that I could rotate my focus away for the moment, let something else attract my attention.

I was trying to calm myself as I slowly descended, by focusing on the images around me, and giving my imagination a bit of free rein. Down the beach to the west, the trio of seabirds, an ordinary family of gulls, was made suddenly extraordinary being the first birds from our world to come to the shores of this new place. Seemingly unbewildered at having found an island in their flight path, the birds tipped their wings into the brisk breezes and played their game of hopscotch down the strand past the whale remains, in search of a little luck, and then a likely spot to spend the night.

A kilometer to the west, the beach became rocky where the island rose more sharply up from the salty waters. Another kilometer, and there was no beach at all where the island met the sea at an almost right angle. The red cliff rose higher and higher as the western coast curved further out to the north.

 

Surely this wasn’t the first time a soul had to come back from on its way to whatever awaits us after death, to find a way back into its cage. Closer . . . I slowly continued to spin until I was facing a dark stone giant.

From above I hadn’t been able to tell what it was, but the huge stones of the point had been piled up and cleverly balanced to resemble a man, facing the sea. The sky was suddenly lit by a series of lightning flashes that gave the titanic statue the illusion of movement. A single long piece of shale took the form of an outstretched arm, pointing west.

Almost there now.

I was ready to beg for entrance to my own body, but I felt a definite smoothing shift in my perceptions as my consciousness easily reentered, home. There was an almost comical click, a physical wave of relief mixed with various aches, then darkness.

 

Girls’ summer camp, and I had the luxury of one of the little canoes all to myself. Camp owned a large land tract where the Nigger Brown Creek met the upper northeast branch of the Altalanta. Despite the creek’s regrettable name, I liked it for its deep narrow languid channel beneath the alders and  willows.

My favorite thing to do at camp so far had been my own special brand of cloud gazing. I’d paddle up to about where the creek quickened, and turn the canoe around. Let the serene currents carry me back down the kilometer stretch, while I lay on my back on a blanket in the bottom.

Watching the sky, the clouds and branches sliding by overhead, gave me such a feeling of freedom in my heart, it would carry all my thoughts away–thoughts of life at home, of Mom, and of ‘Darrell Dee; the-real-deal’. What a jerk!

It wasn’t often that the other girls came this way. They’s no bus to haul your butt, and no trailer to haul your canoe. This lent me a sense of solitude that I almost felt guilty over. Why ain’t I more like the other girls? I crossed my arms under my head. I could be if I tried. Could at least look the part.

Above the arching alders, a particularly large dark cloud was rolling across the sun. I was happy for the shade it gave–this was my second trip and the morning was warming. The cloud was slowly changing form as it lolled on. The canoe scraped the root of a submerged log, sending a shiver up my spine.

I came to the one long straight stretch where there were no overhanging branches. I was coming to feel the familiar sense of weightlessness that made the canoe disappear beneath me. We were traveling in the same general direction, the cloud and I. It was halfway across the sun when it took the shape of an immense floating bear.

We were flying through an eternal sky. I watched curiously as the huge bear slowly turned, as if to face me. As it turned, churning and billowing, it stretched its limbs outward. The whole cloud was expanding, causing the illusion that it was coming closer, and its back legs reached down to meld with another cloud below it, as if it were trying to stand.

The bear-cloud seemed to lean forward, and as it opened its mighty jaws, I had to remind myself, it’s only a cloud. I’d almost, for a few seconds, been expecting a deafening roar to come out of those jaws. As it was, the sun was now pouring out of them, in brilliant silver rays, like the eye of God.

I was about to bring my arm up to block the light, when a sharp tug on the side of the canoe brought me completely back out of the clouds. Immediately, another stronger tug downward threatened to capsize me. Two sets of furred black claws curled over the top edge of the aluminum trim. A splash of water drenched my mid-section. A deep snorted grunt came from over the edge and sent a wave of panic through me as another vicious pull rocked the narrow craft.

I rolled with the canoe, and would’ve broken my nose on one of its ribs if I hadn’t already had my arm halfway up to shade my eyes. I had only a split second to glance up at whatever was trying to tip the canoe. Its hairy jaws split in a wide sharp-toothed grin under deep-set green eyes. 

It roared as it dipped its clumsy head in toward me!

The canoe started to bob, causing the strange animal to lose its grip. The side of the canoe came up and struck the underside of its jaw with bone wrenching force. I heard a cry and a splash, and— 

 

A dream! . . . No. That really happened. Six years ago? Seven. I opened my eyes to blackness, closed them again. They hurt. My cheek was pressed into something wet and wooden. I couldn’t move at first. The way I felt made me want to sink back into delirium.

I was finally able to get my left arm to move enough to put my gloved hand up under my head as a pillow. I rolled onto my left side, slowly–painfully. I saw a quick succession of bright flashes behind my eyelids and thought there was something really wrong with my brain, but some seconds later came the telling crack-boom-rumble of thunder. The murmurous rolling in and out of the waves was drawing me back under.

I brought my knees to my chest, tucked my right hand in my thighs–it was the only defense I could muster against the bone deep chill, before darkness again settled mercifully over me.

 

Third times’ charm Willow–last chance now girl. It was mama’s voice, or perhaps my own. I woke slowly to the sound of waves, odd visions clearing away in the dark. I opened my eyes to a blurry, floor level vantage point. With night having settled in, there wasn’t much to see; dark wooden planks stained with splotches of something blackish.

The cold-blooded painful reality of my situation was slowly sinking in.

I must have slid my left glove off in my sleep, and my hand was cupped protectively over the back of my head under my hood. It took a bit of effort but I pulled my stiff left arm out from under me enough to get my upper body onto my elbows. An empty canteen rolled away.

My biggest concern when I first found myself stranded in the small boat on the strange island was the goose-egg at the base of my skull–and the fact that I couldn’t remember how it got there. I could feel the sticky mess of dried and matted blood that clung to my hair. The pain at the site of the wound was itchy and intense, while the pain beneath it filled my head with an ache like kidney stones on the brain.

My next concern was the grinding empty pang of my belly. Must’ve been in this boat a long time. The wetness in my pants attested to this as much as the dryness in my throat. Wonder what woke me, the growling coming from my belly, the pain banging around in my head, or my own stench?

Most of the angry clouds had disappeared to the south, and a three quarter moon was high on the rise. I turned my head, painfully, to survey the situation. Dimly I began to remember acquiring the old boat from the abandoned cottage up the Hexarkana. I saw my pack, precariously perched on the boat’s back seat, saw the scattered .38-caliber rounds from one end of the boat to the other, and in the midst of them, one pistol, half submerged in water.

Shadows swam in the dark before my eyes as I lurched up onto my hands and knees. I’d formed a simple plan–get up and get out of the boat fool, or else lay here and die. I had never felt so weak, but I’d never been one to deny a matter of fact, or to turn down a challenge.

I crawled to get over the edge. I could make a successful effort at standing with my feet on the ground. The boat rolled back toward the sea when I took my arm off it. I was glad to see that it wasn’t going anywhere. If I’d had to make a grab for it, I might have had to let it float away. As soon as I could, I would pull it farther onto land.

For the moment, I’d be better off on my knees, using the side of the boat for support. I edged sideways out to the back of my little ark, feeling worse than ever, nauseated and quaking with cold, a cocktail of aches rattling around my head. As the faculty of memory struggled to reestablish itself, I had to suppress the nagging question of whether the will to survive was equal to my present agony, especially in the light of the last few years. It would’ve been just as easy to reach for the pistol as the pack; end it now, or prolong the misery?

I’m not ashamed to say that I knelt there and peed my pants. I’d already done that and worse anyway, in my coma.

I kept pumping my fists until my arms were finally awake. I took the glove off my right hand, and pulled the other back onto the frozen left. My right hand trembled, but worked enough to fumble the clasp open on my pack. If memory served, Life itself, in the form of candy bars and an extra canteen was within reach.

I pawed the flap out of the way and started raking through the neatly stowed supplies, not caring that half of it was spilling out onto the damp floor.

I sat there leaning into the boat for a few minutes letting the water and sweet chocolate soak into my system. With my elbows resting on the boat and my head in my hands, I wasn’t yet letting myself hope for too much. After a few minutes, I took three aspirin. Then for good measure, swallowed another.

I was still chilled through to the very bone, but realized that the air was only cool, not frigid. It’s just that I was damp from urine and sea spray, from stem to stern. At least my pack was waterproof. One of my totes was strapped to a plastic sled in the back of the boat. I just couldn’t remember how it got there, or why it would be flipped upside down.

I started to gather enough reason, and energy, to repack a few of the items I’d strewn. I also retrieved the empty .38 and soon had it resting on the back seat, reloaded with dry rounds. Lightning flashed, and the echoing of gunshots came from the depths of my mind, in time with the crackling thunder.

I looked up from the boat, away from the water–finally able to turn my attention to my surroundings. Everything was just as it had been in my unconscious visions–the electric silver moon, the stack-stone giant, the dark distant cone of an old volcano. So where’m I?

Worry about it in the morning. I groped down to check under the tarp–it was neatly secured over a nice little pile of split hardwood, and I recalled clearly, stacking the firewood there in the back, and covering it exactly as it was now. What came after that? I think . . . No, I know. I had then pushed the boat into the cold currents of ol’ Narcsip’. By then I’d become good with the craft and had no trouble avoiding the more formidable ice floes.

With these clear memories came a sense of relief that my brain–indeed my whole sense of identity–was intact, at least for the moment.

I began shaking convulsively with cold and adrenalin. Since I’d so far found my body in unbroken condition from the neck down, I leaned into the boat and stood. Getting my sense of balance back, I began to jog in place to get my blood flowing. I was sure I’d have made a pathetic sight–also sure there was no one to see me.

It was just a feeling, possibly nurtured on the solitude I’d grown accustomed to, but I had never before felt so alone. The island’s only other inhabitant was the great stone sentinel–the Rock God.

I took up a small armload of firewood from under the tarp, and soon had transferred several loads of the cordwood to a cluster of huge black boulders several dozen paces inland. That brought my temperature up enough to worry about other uncomfortable things.

I stripped the soiled clothes off the bottom half of my body and stashed the .38 in my coat pocket. The sea had finally sent its waves to rest. Without double-checking to see if anyone was around, I waded out into the chilly waters. A towel and my only dry pants hung folded over the side of the rowboat. The moon’s reflection broke away from me in dozens of long brilliant crescents as my legs slowly disappeared.

I went out no further than I had to. The water wasn’t as cold as I’d feared, or else I was colder. I worked my shirt and jacket up under my armpits, careful not to dump the pistol, and squatted in the water to wash up. I was almost finished when a sudden shudder of the ground beneath me put me off balance. I quickly changed my position to a tiger crouch to keep from falling over into the water face first. Another tremor followed–the boat tilted slightly back and forth as I watched.

 

By the time I pulled the fuse on the mini-thermite, I knew the meaning of the old phrase ‘my goosebumps got goosebumps’. Shaking with bone-deep cold, I tossed the sparkling hissing tablet into the pyramid of waiting wood. The fire flared and crackled away in a matter of minutes. I felt a momentary flush of shame as I recalled Tuva’s admonition to some of the guys at Fort Clifford, “No good spirits visit the fireside lit with gasoline.” Just this once old friend? The wind lifted growing tongues of flames in a blue-green-gold vortex that danced and bowed.

I wrapped myself up in my one dry blanket and folded the tarp about me. In the seclusion afforded by the jumble of giant stones, I was soon warm and dry, if not cozy.

A great crashing noise shook me awake in the night, just as the moon was about to disappear over the horizon. Echoes of the sounds flew away on the sea breezes. The strange surroundings gave me a moment of terror, and I leaped to a shaky crouch, my old snub-nose drawn and cocked.

Tremors in the ground were fading away. To my left was the heaped ruin of rocks where hours before, the giant stone sentinel had stood.

I poked at the fire’s remaining embers, threw on a couple small chunks of wood, and settled back into my nest to wait for the coming sunrise. When it finally dawned, still characteristically crimson from stratospheric dust, it was noticeably brighter than what I had become accustomed to since the catastrophe of last fall.

 

Over the next week I recovered, and watched in daily disbelief as beneath my feet, the island rose, slowly but surely, up and up from the depths of the ocean, coming up for air like some gigantic primordial sea turtle. The beach where I’d landed became a high dune, and the western cliffs became a four hundred-meter sheer drop to the sea.

I wandered around a bit at the outskirts of the island, cautious out of old habit, and always on the move. All the gear and supplies I’d stowed on the rowboat, in several plastic totes, were in good shape. Of course, the outboard would never run again. If I had to stay here, at least I had all the comforts of camp.

Tremors gently rocked the island daily. The tops of palms and other trees would appear out in the surf in the morning; by night, a waterlogged forest had climbed up out of the waves. There were outcropping rocks in places where I could cup an ear to the cold stone to hear the deep grumbling, and mournful song, of the shifting aerth below.

There were actually two islands at the start. I had beached between a pair of dead volcanoes. A long bridge of land eventually emerged between them as the soggy ground arose from the sea.

I walked the circumference of the western island in a single strenuous excursion on my fourth day here, before the two became joined. After that, it became impossible. Every day, the island’s acreage would increase exponentially. By the end of the first week, the total amount of land that I couldn’t explore on my daily wanderings doubled. By then I’d started a map on one of the tablets of paper stashed in a tote under the overturned boat.

I saw no sense in trying to map the ever-changing and expanding shoreline, so I started with the part of the island that made up what I called ‘the spine’. It stretched away from either end of the tombolo to link the two highest points, the jagged rims of the worn volcanoes. It would take weeks at the rate I was going to get to the east end.

 

In a small dense wood, was a flowing crystal spring, home to tiny white shrimp, between two of the formidable ridges that made up much of the island topography. The water I tasted there, gurgling up from under algae-draped rocks and huge old roots, was so sweet and clear that I decided to scout around for the best campsite within a few minutes’ walk.

Making ever larger circles, with no small amount of effort, I found a spot up the side of one of the long forested ridges. A natural stone stair led up to a narrow but protected ledge half way up the slope. The ‘perch’ was some seven paces long and three to four paces wide–just enough room for my tent, a tarped-over table and chair, and a cookfire. Someone had made camp there before, though the evidence was not recent. I found ashes and cracked bones at about a hand-span down when digging out the most obvious spot for a small fire pit.

This seemed to be one of the wildest spots on the island, and as far as I was concerned, that was fine. A small clearing where several huge old trees had come down, between my new camp and the spring, became an excellent spot for a garden.

There were other signs around of a bygone civilization–I came across something new, and usually puzzling, every day. There were trails and stone roads, sprawling old orchards, circles of standing stones, and the occasional aerthwork. There was also a remarkable trio of tall polished red-stone spires far to the east. As I discovered them, I would map and sketch them.

 

The Afterword for RESET

 

“I wrote this story to poke a bit of savage fun, by comparison, at our dangerously presumptuous society, and at man’s tendency toward willful and widespread forgetfulness.”

EX POST FICTO: THE END OF THE OLD WORLD, AND THE NEW JERUSALEM

A green world, home to thinking beings, and ruled by unseen forces: so like Earth–Aerda.

Sexually conflicted, black, and a woman: the perfect antihero(?)–Willow.

Stories have a life all their own. Originally planned as a long short story, Reset took hold of me and did what it would, causing me to set aside several other projects, as it grew and grew into this little book. I’m glad it did, I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it, but it left me with the odd question of, “what to do with it?” I liked it just the way it was. I look at its brevity as one of its virtues. There’s no shame in taking only as much space and time to tell a story as is necessary, quite the opposite.

What then does one do with a book–technically an over-long novella–a hair over 43,000 words? Same as with anything just outside the mainstream publishers box; let it moulder and die, self-publish, or go to the good old Vanities.

A born do-it-yer-selfer, I was led to self-publish for several reasons, artistic freedom being not the least of them. I was aware of the concept through our town’s farmers’ market committee, which is opting to self-publish a cookbook. Also, our family is putting together a book of my father’s stories, poems, and letters, as a bit of our family lore.

Many self-published books fall into some wayward niche–a small subculture of readers prefers the novella, over any other length, for instance–and sales aren’t always the driving force. They may be passionate, some are good, many are comparatively bad. Something plagues them; a lack of this, too much of that . . . .

A writer ultimately seeks to create that which will be deemed classic, maybe something Ray Bradbury’s firemen would love to torch. In aiming for timeless-ness though, I am often aware that an equally important goal is timeli-ness. One without the other–while achievable and admirable–was not my idea for Reset. While I will always write to produce works aimed for my grandchildren’s grandchildren, bless their unborn hearts, perhaps none will be as ‘now’ as is this story.

One reader described Reset as the perfect post-apocalyptic dream. We’ll have to wait for Armageddon to verify that, but by then it may be too late. Another said that the only thing I should change about it is to get it published. Keeping in mind that speed is ofttimes a mix of blessing and curse, the quickest way I saw to do that happened to be self-publishing.

Reset was cooked up partly as ‘welcome to my world’, which is really Marian’s world (more about her in a bit), and partly in response to the challenge to “write something better,” when I complained to several people about the mildly nauseating storyline from the movie ‘2012′. So I started with a plausible disaster recipe, pulled a couple of old but still edible plot lines out of the brain-dump, stirred in some well aged legend, added spices, let it simmer, and here you have it.

I wrote this story, to present the Great Spirit, or God, whoever, as a mostly mechanistic force, ultimately unknowable, super-instinctual, neither good nor evil, functionally all-knowing and all-powerful, but somehow unthinking, and even unfeeling. And to hint at some of the qualities that this Great Spirit might favor in a person–in addition to the simple likelihood of their survival, in the wake of comet El Vaca–when It chooses to reset the game on one of Its living planets.

I wrote this story to poke a bit of savage fun, by comparison, at our dangerously presumptuous society, and at man’s tendency toward willful and widespread forgetfulness. I wrote it to further the argument against all future war, and to advocate for some sort of planetary defense against killer comets, as a much worthier objective.

I won’t apologize for use of the metric system throughout. They say the United States is the only country in the world not totally committed to adopting it, but that we encourage the voluntary use of it. I guess I have to appreciate not being forced to use one particular system over another, and I do wish that tendency toward choice might proliferate deeper into a few other areas of the government. But so few Americans use the metric system, so few volunteer. Maybe in a hundred years. If we’re not all using it by then, I shudder to think why.

I mentioned the passion found in the self-publishing crowd, which is what I was talking about when I said that this story took hold of me. ‘Willow’ Walker, one of a few survivors of a worldwide catastrophe, comes to accept it after she finds herself stranded on the island of a technologically advanced group of descendants of the ancient Far Seers, who have come back from an alternate reality where they have dwelt for two thousand years. For me it was several months of taking another woman to bed, and watching her story unfold on the backs of my eyelids.

RESET is my first novel, several others are in early stages, and several shorter stories are going into submission stage now. Much of my writing experience comes from a year as news reporter for the Waterfront of Missaukee County, Michigan. Recent nonfiction work includes, writing newsletter articles, and producing the notes from meetings for three different organizations, one of which is a paying gig.

Yes, my name really is Cool. German immigrant ancestors adopted the spelling because they thought it would be cooler than K-u-h-l. 

I originally wrote and planned to publish this story using a pen name, Marian Evans, for several reasons, but decided to publish it under my own name for several others. The perceived benefits of using a pen name, compared to the real complications involved, are hard to balance. Growing up with a name like Cool, I knew it was likely that some people would think my real name a pseudonym anyway. I mostly wanted to avoid any limelight that would inevitably follow someone who writes as well as I hope to. I also wanted to avoid any controversy provokeable by the uneasy thoughts I might put on paper.

So, I created Marian, and she wrote Reset. I think she’s good, if a little strange. But alas, “words weren’t made for cowards,” says Happy Rhodes. Heeding her advice, I must take the credit, the blame, and any fame, if people recommend this story to others.

—What’s that? Umm . . . Marian asks me to note that she was NOT conceived and created by me.

Fine fine–I don’t think I need to point out that (shhh) her initials are M.E. In return, she may be kind enough to refrain from explaining, yet again, that it’s just as likely that she created me, and that I am but a crazy dream of hers.

Her name sounds like another writer, whose name and works are as liquid on the page, who was obliged to publish as a man, that her words might sell. I always wondered what that says about a man, which is all I meant to point out through the similarity to the late great Mary Ann Evans-Cross (one spelling). She had skill and grace with the written word that far exceeds my own.

Writing is my therapy for being human–after all, writers aren’t cut from perfect cloth, so there are many things I do not know. One more thing I was trying to do with Reset was to answer myself the riddle; why do we have this universal fascination with doomsdays? Precognition en masse? Or is this morbid obsession linked by some strange dynamic to the instinct of species preservation (the granddaddy of all instinct)?

There is no real rationality behind the gut feeling that it would be a bad thing if our species ceased, at some future date. Though we would understandably prefer the end, if it is to be messy and inevitable, to come after our own, preferably natural, passing. In reading speculative tales, we experience mourning for even the implied death of humankind, even if it is presented as a billion years away. Looking to the past or the future for meaning, we may think it would be a waste of all that we think we have accomplished, or may accomplish. But would it? Really? Will we ever know?

I don’t know that we have ever accomplished anything, or ever will, or if we are even meant to. We may be the meaningless byproducts of an infinite meaningless, a possibility not easy to meet head-on. The end of our own species by our own hand would then be as unimportant as all the other extinctions that we continue to cause.

Whatever the case, we are driven to bring meaning and purpose to our own lives, in part because we can’t answer the big questions definitively, so we speculate on our own potential, and most of us find a reason or two to live and love, and to have hope for our species. Maybe that isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t wish for it to be–not because a God wouldn’t grant it, nor would an infinite meaningless–but because of the obvious and simple fact that instinctual behavior is tied so intricately to survival. There seems to be reason enough in that. No matter how instinct developed in us and all other animal life, and regardless of the fact that it may exist for no more than its own sake, the will to live at least gives us the opportunity to ask the big questions. If there are unknowable answers to some, so be it.

One question leads to another and twenty, as usual, and I am not much closer to answering myself about, why the doomsday obsession? I will try to take what cold comfort I can from appreciating all the more, the questions I can answer. And to be thankful for, as an aspiring writer, the stories born where our reason meets our instinct.

Now it’s done, but other questions remain. Like: why would the bears in the story wear collars? And, what was happening off the island with the scattered seeds of humanity? And why was there no contact with two of the other three hidden islands? And—

Wait—

Marian is telling me another story.

Gotta go!

Second Batch of Free Tools

ID-entity Builder

This post dedicated to Susan O. Hall

WRITERS — Here are more PDF’s to print and integrate with your files. I meant to get this posted before now, but township and village business take precedence, Christmas approaches, grandson turns seven, garlic needs planting, and ‘sun chokes’ (Jerusalem artichokes) must be dug, cleaned and stored.

The downloads below provide a system for writers to build fictional characters. Use to breathe life into all characters from minor to major. Again, simple, fast, self-explanatory, effective, and free!      

I offer this small suggestion for using the ID-entity Builder system. The sheets use a numbering system to make it easy to add as many blank sheets of ruled paper as you need, to expand each character as much as is wanted.  Use the record sheets for the bare-bones info. Expand on ideas taken from the sheets, by writing descriptions that can then be woven in with the scenes and settings in your story, to give the story legs with which to walk on its own into your reader’s imagination.

Also, in the top left-hand corner of the page, is a space to give each character sheet a unique identifier (I use the characters initials).  Use to link to your extra sheets, etc. If you already use an outline to guide your stories, the ID-entity builder will fit right in. 

ID-entity Builder Set

MAIN Character Record Sheet

SECONDARY Character Record Sheet

MINOR Character Record Sheet

Coming Next: Places Builder 

Enjoy, Brian

Connections or Coincidences in Marion–Who Can Tell?

What does the word ‘entity’ mean to you? I had to look it up tonight after realizing what a lame definition I’d given ma the other day when she asked. This is of course in relation to last Saturday’s event in Marion at ENTITY.

Mom thought it meant a ghost. I was thinking along those same lines, venturing that it meant the soul, whether within the body or without. Well, live and learn. Although, I am not sure that a dictionary definition can do justice to this word entity, especially after spending the day at a place by that name.

entity — a real being; reality; existence; a material substance.

Entity, Susan Hall’s place on Main Street, which as far as I can see, combines several parts to achieve the whole–Molly’s A New Day, Sue’s Artist of the Month program, her sales of her photographs, her SO Photography studio, and so on–has a certain something about it. It is a fixed place, yet on the move, existing to achieve its potential. It was a good spot to spend the day–big, bright. Pretty things about. Though, I do think a frame shop in one corner is in order—worth looking into I’d bet.

I signed and sold a few books there on Saturday.

I already knew how I wanted to sign my book–that is, unless people requested something specific. Above my scrawl of a John Henry I penned this, “to envision is to invite change” or alternately, “to envision is to create change”. It means something in relation to the story, as well as to the publishing of it. It was inspired by none other than Ralph Nader, and his new novel.

Novel?  ‘Utopian handbook’ he calls it . . . no really. It has actual people for its characters; Warren Buffett, Ted Turner . . . no really it does. He said so. The title is about as bombastic as it is preposterous, Only the Superrich Can Save Us–and yet, possibly possible. He was interviewed on NPR the other day.

Ralph talked about his newest work (a hard thing for writers to do sometimes, as you just said it ALL in your book, right?), and then, then he mentioned what it was that he wrote when he autographed a copy. I took note, as I hoped to be signing some books myself soon—it was this,  “To imagine is to envision.”

. . . and I thought, Ralph, I love ya bud, but that says nothing. It’s redundant. More than me just saying, “it’s redundant”. Unless there’s some hidden meaning, available only to those who read the book . . .

Anyway, thank you for your endless optimism, and of course for your ceaseless activism. And thanks Ralph for writing the book that will finally inspire the rich folk to divide up their riches amongst us, and thereby save us.  I’ll be optimistic with on you on that for a day or two, a week at most. Long as you don’t mind me mooching off your line a bit. I think I know what you meant to say.

Reporter Randy Johnston came in to talk to Steve and me. That’s three, in as many days. She came to get a story for the Osceola Pioneer newspaper, having seen the recent article announcing the Artist of the month. That’s ME. Marian Evans—and under her umbrella; Linda, Elaine, Steve, and myself.

It was good to meet Randy, and talk with her about a writing group she attends. She too is writing a book. I was thrilled that she made the connection between George Eliot and the quasi alias in RESET’s title.

I’m on a roll here, having gone to the Cadillac News on Friday, just to drop off a flier, and giving an impromptu interview to Jeff Broddle. It was good to finally meet him. I did some reporting for the Waterfront in Lake City, and I will carry that with me always. Newspapers do well to give us these people, who will long be remembered in their community for the way they give of themselves to each story, year after year. Jim Creese, Myrtle Holmes, Jack Batdorf, and Bob Redman, my old boss up in Lake City, are just a few names that come quickly to my mind from papers close by.

I will do as many interviews as I can, not just to promote book sales, but for the chance to meet another writer.

Steve drove. He picked me up on his way. It was a 25 minute drive northeast of home. On our way back home, we stopped at the Shell station in Marion to pick up the latest Marion Press. We both wanted the paper for a copy of Thursday’s article about the book. It’s a publication with roots a hundred and twenty-two years deep, with Jenny Gray at the helm. And what a writer she is!

Later at home, Karen and I were going through the paper–she loves a newspaper too–and she pointed out that, in the story on Christmas doin’s around Marion, Butch and Kate Ruppert were giving horse drawn wagon rides,. We’ll be seeing them soon to help set up lights at the pavilion in LeRoy, and then again next Saturday at Christmas doin’s around town when we will be setting up the LeRoy Farmers’ Market for a holiday sale–they are giving rides there too. What fun! And the article’s byline? Randy Johnston. She writes for three papers!!

Then, Karen pointed out an old familiar name, and we were suddenly saddened to learn of the death of the man who spent a week at our place milling the 10,000 board feet of lumber for our house. Bill Hower died in 2006, but on the anniversary of his death his family had remembered him in the paper, and so now we remembered him again too. A good man there.

And then there was the following article.

ENTITY PRESENTS December Artist of the Month: Brian Cool

MARION — Brian Cool, an author from LeRoy, is ENTITY’s artist of the month and will appear there on Saturdays, December 3 and 17, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Cool has written his debut novel, “RESET by Marian Evans.” It’s a true northern Michigan creation. Photographer/designer Elaine Edstrom of Traverse City produced the cover.  Artist Steve Mann of Reed City penciled the interior illustrations.  The painting on the front cover is the work of Traverse City artist Linda Smith.  So, one might think that Cool’s book, has something to do with the tip of the Mitt.  It’s actually a work of science fiction—an adventure in another time, on another world, but the story poses universal questions.

The author and his wife live and work close to the land, on their family’s sprawling centennial farm. Their home, which the couple built, is a round house of cordwood masonry with a sod roof. “Occasionally we let the goats up there,” says Cool.

Cool is a self avowed Jack of all trades: Master Citizen Planner, woodsman, gardener, Market Master for the LeRoy Farmers’ Market, clerk for the LeRoy Planning Commission, and amateur builder. So when does he find time to write a book?  Come to ENTITY and find out.

On his blog (www.becool2112.wordpress.com/) Cool says, “this is a chance to promote the talents of my illustrator Steve Mann, and the artwork of Reset cover painting artist, Linda Smith, as well as the work of cover designer Elaine Edstrom, all of whom contributed invaluably to make this a work to be proud of. We are all excited about this opportunity,”

Some of the “Reset Crew” members also plan to attend.

The article was accompanied by a picture of the front cover.

It is not lost on me that my first outing to promote this book with a public appearance and all, is in Marion, and there is a scene in the book that was in part inspired by an interesting and controversial true story from near Marion, and the title includes the name of a fictional author, Marian.

I should have been a day or two quicker on the fliers, because what was also not lost, is what a slow day it was, except for one burst of everyone-all-at-once. All of which I was prepared for, since I was prepared for almost anything.  Sue had said it was common for the place to be empty for long stretches. She’s got a few ideas to turn that around.

Me too, next time I’m there–free homemade cookies and gourmet coffee! I will offer a free workshop on self-publishing–I’ve learned a few things that others may find helpful. So why not pass it forward? And I’ll offer a printed pack of my Tools for Writers, for sale.  I made the tools in an attempt to write better, and keep organized. The first set, MS Tracker tracks all of the important aspects of publishing each story. The second set, Identity Builder, helps flesh out the character skeletons in your mind. I’m working on a third set called Place Builder.

Steve left his portfolio up there at Entity for people to peruse. He will take orders from it for prints. Or, he will render a portrait, based on photos. He’s very good at re-creating an old faded photograph of some lost loved-one, enlarging it or changing it as requested. Uncanny.

One of the most common questions I get on my book is about the title.  Of course I’m not the first to use such an odd kind of title.  There is a long-standing–though rarely used–tradition in the field of fiction, especially sci-fi, to do what I was attempting. I wondered if the technique had a name. I couldn’t find one, so I made one up (until someone smarter tells me otherwise). The Latin name quasi alias, sounds as good to me as anything else might, meaning roughly ‘fictional author’, or, ‘as if written by another’.

The title RESET by Marian Evans is like, Pandora by Holly Hollander a novel by Gene Wolfe, or I am a droid by C-3PO by Mark Cerasini, or Rules of the Universe by Austin W. Hale by Robin Vaupel. These works are clearly only titled as written by another, as the true author’s name appears on the cover.

A similar case would be Washington Irving’s Rip van Winkle “taken from the posthumous papers of historian Diedrich Knickerbocker”. Knickerbocker was the name originally used by Irving as a sort of gimmick to present his satire.  These are not quite pen names.  But they are another tool in the writer’s bag of gimcrack and gnoodlery to use to invite the reader to suspend belief, and give-in to the story as early as possible.

Rained all day.

There weren’t many people out walking the streets of Marion. Driving either. We’ll stir up a bit more of show next time I‘m sure. I’m just glad to help in my own small way, to add to ENTITIES identity.

Brian

Free Tools for Writers: First Batch of Free Tools

MANU-TRACKER

I hope that you find these tools useful.  I’m glad to give them away. Just don’t redistribute them as your own.

Over the years I’ve created a few tools to help me write. These aren’t computer programs, or fancy smartphone apps. They are PDF’s. Print them off and integrate these into your filing cabinet.  I’m fanatical about conserving paper, but there are times when you want, crave, and need, a physical piece of paper in one hand and a pencil in the other.  Thanks to the Egyptians, we can do that. Now write.

The downloads below provide one system for writers to track their submissions.  Use it to follow every piece of work you produce, from its first draft, through the submission process and beyond.  Simple, fast, self-explanatory, effective, and free!             Brian

Manu-Tracker set

Publication Submissions Sheet for One Shot Deals

Individual ms Submissions Sheet

General ms Submission Sheet

Publication Submission Sheet