Listen to Pilot Light

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Feeding Hungry Ghosts

Everyone ready for 

Pchum Ben (បុណ្យភ្ជុំបិណ្ឌ)

In Cambodia, the 15 days prior to the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar, at the end of the Buddhist lent, or Vassa, lead up to Ancestor's Day or the Hungry Ghost Festival. The last day of the 15 is Pchum Ben and starts a two-day public holiday.

On the first day of Pchum Ben, the gates of hell are opened and the devil releases all the ghosts, some of who are ancestors of the people. Monks chant the sutras in Pali (not Khmer) before the gates of hell open releasing the hungry ghosts. 

As the ghosts with serious sins cannot receive food during the day, food offerings (usually Bay Ben -- balls of sticky rice and sesame) are presented at dawn.

Wat Neang Kok, Cambodia

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The story of a story

When J. Lee Porter and I were writing CRYPTO SHRUGGED and researching the Bitpat series, we made a trip to Colombia -- the scene of some of the action. The stories we envisioned were about the global ramifications of cryptocurrency, in big and small ways.

We managed to spend time in both Cartagena and Medellin. Both were great, but in completely different ways.

In Cartagena, we managed to rent a place in the old district, just walking distance from the Walled City. We went there several times, and an idea for a short story, actually based on some experiences Jeff had in Mexico, started to bloom. In Medellin, we talked about how it would develop. At the end of the trip I was flying back through Cartagena, so I got a room in the walled city and revisited some of the places that inspired us.

The short story, INVISIBLE FORTUNE, worked well enough that we made it into an audiobook, narrated by John Witstijn, who did an incredible job.

To let people know it exists, I took the photos and videos I'd taken on the trip and combined them with John's intro to the book and some of my music, to create a teaser that's also something of a travelogue -- an introduction to Cartagena. I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Covering New Ground

Hot on the heels of CRYPTO SHRUGGED J. Lee Porter and I are working to wrap up the second book in the Bitpats series. This one is called CRYPTO CITIZENS. Naturally, we still are looking at the implications, the political, economic, and social ramifications of implementing blockchain, but this time the issues that come under our microscope are those of citizenship, surveillance (both government surveillance and surveillance capitalism) as the world tries to monitor international travel and implement smart cities.

As with so many things, smart cities act as a double-edged sword, and the goals set for them, such as being able to adapt to the needs of the people, also mean anticipating those needs, which, in turn require watching how people use the existing resources. When combined with a desire to preserve "order" within a community, the results can be satisfying or terrifying.

Citizenship is something that is considered a birthright and a privilege, yet it can also be perverted into something more sinister. A person from a certain country is bad, and one from another is good. It's a matter of generalizing so that people are easier to deal with. The problem is that, taken that way, citizenship becomes degrading.

The natural reaction to that is for people look for ways to have multiple passports, or perhaps none at all. This is a complicated topic, and our new novel can only begin to explore some of the issues involved. But we make a start. And, in future books, we will pursue that more.

While we edit, Elizabeth Mackey designed another wonderful cover for the upcoming book. We are definitely excited and hope you are too.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Mapping the terrain

As part of planning out the trilogy of mysteries I'm writing that feature Ron Anejo I needed to create a map of the island of Kayakoo, where the story takes place. To a certain number of people, my fictional island won't seem quite so fictional, but that's how it goes.

Kayakoo is located in the West Indies, near the southern end. It is one island of several in the country and not that far from Onion Island, which is a part of St. Voracious. Just a day sail if you are so inclined.

The boat you see is Ron's Danish fishing boat, MeinGott. Here she is in close up.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Listening in

I'm about halfway through the draft of the first of the new stories featuring the world's best Caribbean boat bum, Ron Anejo. While I'm working on those, I wanted to make sure everyone knows that the original story is available in audio as well as ebook and print. Paul Aulridge did a fine job of bringing the story to life and if you prefer listening to reading, give it a try.

And the cover art is by Dagny.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Improbably Popular, So Maybe Not Impossible

A number of years ago, when I had a studio in Anaheim, California, I write a song I called AMERICAN DREAM. It was a result of being bombarded with ads and news coverage of the Miss America pageant. I wasn't a fan and so, wrote a tribute to women who didn't fit in the mold—women who didn't wear their hair right; women who used their heads for thinking. (Meaning no disrespect to the women in the pageant who do think... it was just that at the time, that didn't seem to be what won over the judges.)

I arranged it and recorded it as a rock song. As with so many songs recorded by independents, not just my songs, it went nowhere.

In more recent times, when my friend Harper John came to visit me in New Mexico. Harper John and I had formed a band in Hong Kong (The Lapsap Blues Band) and even after we went our ways, we collaborated. He went to The Philippines and I was in the Caribbean, almost exactly on opposite sides of the world. Then, when I was in New Mexico, USA, we decided to record an album called WORLDS APART. I came across this song again, and I asked him to sing it. He did and, as he does, he began messing with the lyrics. Soon the song had left the borders of the US and expanded into IMPOSSIBLE DREAM. Indiekline, our new band name, wasn't a rock band, but alternative, sort of folk rock, so the new arrangement was softer, more expressive.

Still, not much happened with the song (or the album). But Harper John went to Canada and continued to perform it. Eventually his version became a staple in his repertoire. Because he still riffs on it (happily) and writing down the lyrics would be a waste of time. Happily, it gets requested at his performances a surprising number of times. That pleases us both, because it is a song we both like. And his changes, his way of adapting everything he sings to current events and the current mood, keeps it alive.

Here is a video of him jamming on the song with some friends in Canada. it's as rough as Harper John's attitude. I hope you enjoy it.

Breaking News: Harper John has just entered a very unusual song of his Kyrie Eleison, Hallelu (an anthem to the universal common soldier)  in the prestigious SEARCHLIGHT 2019 music contest up in Canada 

If you'd like to vote, public voting begins on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019, at 3 p.m. ET until Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, at 2:59 p.m. ET. The public can vote once per Posted Song per day during the Opening Round Voting Period.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Back to the Caribbean

My friend and colleague, J. Lee Porter and I have finished the first draft of book two in the Bipats series: CRYPTO CITIZENS. It follows on the heels of CRYPTO SHRUGGED and looks at the ramifications of smart cities, surveillance capitalism, and of course, blockchain technology. It is a story of global intrigue and the fight for individual freedom. This story takes place in Mumbai, Ecuador, Singapore, Mexico, Venezuela, and Somalia, as well as the US and Europe and even out on the oceans.

We are working through the manuscript, and when it's done it will go to the editor and so on, but expect to get it out this year.

We are hoping to find someone who is interested in this struggle to find a meaningful balance between the implementation of technology and maintaining our individuality to write an introduction. To that end, we are reaching out to some key people. Unfortunately, key people can be difficult to reach, and it is an uphill battle to get them to read unpublished books. But it was ever so.

Meantime, I'm working on a trilogy of mystery stories that feature my favorite fictional character, Ron Anejo... the hero of my THE LEGEND OF RON ANEJO. He's still in the islands, based on the mythical island of Kayakoo at the lower end of the Lesser Antilles, and sailing his old Danish fishing boat, MeinGott. Even his dog Groucho gets involved when, in the first book, a land developer from Miami is killed. The working title for this one is Death by Jumbie Eyes. And if you don't know what jumbie eyes are, they are also called crab-eyed seeds and used in Obeah, the offshoot of voodoo practiced in the Caribbean.

It will be a fun story. I hope to have all three ready to go midyear.