Max Barry is Coming to America with a New Book

Providence cover

Max Barry is one of my favorite novelists. I can actually say I’ve read every book he has published. His new book, Providence is coming out on March 31st. He is coming to the United States for a book tour. Here are the details from his latest letter:

A lot has happened since I was last in the US. The world became a dark dystopia ruled by corrupt oligarchies. Data-driven marketing companies sucked up our fears and turned them into products. The book publishing industry fell into crisis.

Ha ha! I’m kidding. It was all like that already.

If you’ve never seen me in person, boy, are you missing out. I mean, the accent alone, you can’t even imagine. So what happens at these things is first I talk about whatever’s on my mind. I’ll be traveling with my daughter this time, so, you know, brace yourself for some insights on what it’s like to take a 14-year-old Australian around the US on book tour.

Then I read from the new book a little. But not for long, because, really, you can read it yourself. That’s why we printed all these copies.

Then comes my favorite part, where people ask questions about whatever. Writing, NationStates, why Australian Rules Football is the greatest sport in the world: you name it. This is really the bread and butter of the bookstore event for me. Any kind of situation where people will sit and listen to my opinion on things, that really works for me.

Come see me here:

  • San Diego, CA

7pm @ Wednesday April 1st, 2020

Mysterious Galaxy

  • Beaverton, OR

7pm @ Thursday April 2nd, 2020

Powell’s Books — Cedar Hill Crossing

  • Seattle, WA

7pm @ Friday April 3rd, 2020

Elliot Bay Book Company

  • San Francisco, CA

3pm @ Saturday April 4th, 2020

Borderlands Books

  • Mountain View, CA

2pm @ Sunday April 5th, 2020

Books, Inc.

  • Denver, CO

7pm @ Monday April 6th, 2020

Tattered Cover — Colfax Avenue

  • Chicago, IL

7pm @ Wednesday April 8th, 2020

The Book Cellar

  • Washington, DC

7pm @ Thursday April 9th, 2020

Politics & Prose — Union Market

I also sign books. The new book, older books, you name it. I will sign anything not nailed down. Although if all you want is a signed Providence, you can contact one of the bookstores and we’ll arrange that without you having to leave home. I mean, that’s not my preference. But I want you to know that option is available.

Max Barry


Maybe I’ll see you at one of these.


Coronavirus Fears are Out of Control

The media has created a fear of the Coronavirus (covid-19) that is out of proportion worldwide. All the talk of pandemic and global fears causing the DOW to drop more than a thousand points today, all on emotion.

According to medical sources, this season’s flu has a mortality rate of around 3%. The mortality rate of the Coronavirus is between 1-2%.

Why aren’t we freaking out about the flu? It’s crazy.

There hasn’t been a single case in the United States resulting in death. Most of the deaths, and all but one so far have been in China, have been as a result of people already being in poor health when they contracted it.

The World Health Organization declined to declare the outbreak a pandemic today, as well.

Let’s not let fear get the better of us.


Funny how easy it is to not do something. The longer you keep from doing it the more impedance builds up. It might be working out, or keeping up a blog, or writing a piece of fiction. Or maybe you put off making a call to a close relative and then it started to become a thing because you had gone so long without calling.

Last summer, I had managed to run a streak of almost four months where I posted five days a week. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep it up forever. But what surprised me was how sudden it happened and how easy it was to not post anything. I had a run of bad luck physically. Multiple doctor visits for different things.  Pneumonia really knocked me on my butt. But even before that I had stopped blogging when I herniated myself. It wasn’t like I had to exercise in order to blog, but the two became linked somehow. Then I ended up going to Oklahoma to work for several weeks and after I returned I got sick.

But the only way to confront this kind of impedance is head on. You pick up the phone and call and try not to make a big deal about how long it’s been. You get out your workout clothes and start back slow and easy. You post something to your blog and make a new commitment to doing it regularly. Maybe not five days a week.

Fortunately, the impedance didn’t effect my writing too much. I finished my last editing pass a few days ago and sent out the piece to a friend of mine for a beta read. It feels finished. I want to be done with it and move on to the next project.

Finishing that project has brought me to a new starting line. I’m healthy again. I’m going to start exercising regularly next week and I’ve started working on my next project.

Part of this reboot comes with some changes. If you have been following me you may have noticed a name change, both for me and for the web address. I decided on using a pen name and I bought a new domain name for the blog. I had been doing some ancestry research and discovered I had three grandfathers with the name Hieronymus. Hawkes is another family surname and I like the alliteration. I have a new Facebook page and a new Twitter persona. I’ve been on Twitter for almost twelve years, so starting over is a bit daunting.

My new project is a piece that I started while I was working on my MFA, just for a palette cleanser in between edits. It was something that was as close to universally liked as anything I had written before. I only have about 7000 words, but the ideas are solid and the thing has some real potential. I debated throwing it all out and starting over. I’m actually still debating that, but I did some work on the opening chapter and I may keep it.

I am toying with the idea of cutting some of it out and creating a short story out of it as a teaser for the novel. I would have to cut it down by about half to get where I would need for the word count. It would be a good exercise.

A Marriage (Divorce) Story

a marriage storyShortly after this show went live on Netflix we heard so many good things about it. Getting nominated for lots of awards and starring two of my favorite actors, Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver. A couple of reviewers did a best of list for 2019 and they both had A Marriage Story in their top 5. They both mentioned that it was funny.

I’m not sure what movie they were watching but neither my wife nor I found anything funny about the show. It started out warmly, with each partner writing down all the things they liked about each other. Then of course, the wife refuses to share and off we go on a course, that in hindsight I should have predicted. The title of the show threw me off. So did the movie poster. They look happy don’t they? I thought this was going to be about their marriage. They both have a hand in the union getting to where it had, to a point where the movie opens with the pair at a marriage counselor. Spoilerish stuff follows:









Now, don’t get me wrong, Johansson and Driver were both fantastic in their roles. The writing was good to a point, but the plot . . . awful may be too strong a word, but we found very little to endorse other than the acting. It was one bitter, mournful scene after another. We kept waiting for something good to happen, even one thing, but no. It kept spiraling down, chapter after chapter, to a heartbreaking ending. Two narcissistic protagonists, one openly self-centered, the other keeps her narcissism covered up until things get out of hand. Although, both actors are great at their craft, the characters they portray are sad and unable to communicate with each other in any way that matters.

I am honestly dumbfounded that it is getting such recognition. It really is not a story about marriage at all, but the slow shattering of a marriage, that potentially could have been salvaged if they had managed to be honest with each other and talked about their issues instead of letting them fester. Of course, that would have made for a very different movie, one that would have earned the title of the show. This one really should have been called A Divorce Story. I grew up in a house where my parents divorced when I was 6. I’ve been through one myself, but having been married happily for going on 27 years this time, I have an idea how to make one work. The movie was truly cringe-worthy at moments. I can’t recommend this show to anyone.

Dark Energy? Maybe not.

dark energy

(Image: Volker Springle/Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics/SP)

I am feeling validated by the news that came out today regarding Dark Energy. A team of astronomers at Yonsei University (Seoul, South Korea), together with their collaborators at Lyon University and KASI (Korea Astronomy and Science Institute), showed that the key assumption in the theory is based on erroneous data. I had been saying all along that the measurements were suspect.

I posted this back in February 2011:

Why do I Love Science Fiction?

The whole story is here:

New evidence shows that the key assumption made in the discovery of dark energy is in error


I have been saying this from the beginning that it seemed to break the Simplicity principle. Most philosophers believe that, other things being equal, simpler theories are better than more complex ones and the Dark Energy theory was reliant on a lot of long range measurements that were open to a wide array of issues that might interfere with them. It seemed to leap to a conclusion based on data that was not very robust and to me, on lazy science.

This doesn’t mean the universe isn’t flying apart, or accelerating, but the idea that we couldn’t detect 95% of the universe verges on the absurd on the face. It seemed to me more likely that the measurements were wrong. They made a lot of assumptions. Turns out their assumptions are likely wrong, as I surmised.

I think the Webb (JWST) telescope, which  launches next year will provide scientists with better information with which to make better theories.

Book Review – Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. It is a murder mystery that is wrapped in a story about nature and female empowerment. The protagonist is a young woman who grows up in abject poverty, living in the marshlands of coastal North Carolina. One by one her family abandons her because of her worthless abusive father. He drives them all away until in the end only she is left. She learns barely enough to survive on her own before her father abandons her as well.
The story alternates between two timelines separated initially by seventeen years and they slowly intersect as Kya grows up. The murder timeline is set in rural 1969 Barkley Cove, North Carolina. One of the town peacocks, former football star, Chase Andrews, has fallen off a tower with no solid evidence as to how, but the town sheriff thinks something nefarious has happened, due to the lack of fingerprints or footprints in the marshy land.
We learn a lot about the marsh and how Kya survives, but also how profoundly lonely she is through much of her teens and early twenties. This part was not a hard slog, but it was uncomfortable to see her living in these conditions and very few willing to help her.
The writing is colorful and despite a lot of detail, Owens holds my attention. We pity the young woman, but I didn’t have any real emotional moments until the end of the book. The courtroom drama is well done and the verdict brings all the emotions into a rolling boil.
I won’t spoil the finish, but suffice to say it is not a run of the mill ending. It was satisfying.
Another thing to mention is the poetry that is sprinkled in. It is wonderful and stark and extraordinary. I am not a poetry aficionado, but the poems really struck a chord with me, enough that I wanted to look up the writer. I would buy a book of poetry by her. In actually I already did. I will leave that for you to puzzle out.
The finish is so strong that I can give this book my recommendation.

View all my reviews

Throwback Thursday – Free Your Fireflies of Imagination

793ae-fireflies_orangeThis is from April 2011. I had been on a writing hiatus here for some reason. I noticed a big slowdown in posting here as well.  I have learned a lot since I wrote this, and realize that relying on the muse is not something a professional writer can afford. When things aren’t sparking and you have a deadline you still have to write. There is where understanding how the craft of writing comes into play. The are no hard fast rules for writing, but understanding structure and story design are a must.

Writing regularly does spark ideas. Think of it as a lubricant. It does create a more fruitful mind for creativity.

Not writing has been a weird place for me.  I think about the act of writing during most of my free time now, but my muse has been strangely silent.  I think about the fact that I am close to finishing and know I have a few scenes left to put together, but there is no spark.  This leads me to believe that writing, the actual act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard actually sparks the muse and keeps the creative juices flowing.  The more you write the more these creative pathways open up and tap into that right side of the brain and free the little fireflies of imagination.

I have often heard people ask writers where they get their ideas.  I’ve had people ask me that very question, but from everything I’ve read or every time I talk to other writers they all say the same thing, ideas are the easy part.  Writing seems to snap into place a cable in your mind that lets the creative side of your brain be heard over all the stuff the left side of the brain is dealing with on a daily basis, trying to get you through your work day. (unless you are an artist of some sort of course).

The answer to where do the ideas come from is, they come from the writer’s brain.  It’s almost like a muscle though, it needs to be exercised.  You need to read…a lot!  You need to actually write, not just think about writing or talk about writing.  You need to actually do it!  World building is fun and is a nice creative outlet, but don’t stop there.  Create some characters and give them a problem to solve and write some scenes.  You will be surprised what your mind will come up with if you give it a chance.  The more you do this the more other ideas will pop into your head, stuff you never dreamed of.  Then you get to connect the dots or rearrange the puzzle pieces to make a story outline.  It’s really that easy to get started.

Good luck with your writing!


Clear Ether!