Annual Thankful Report

Another year has gone by and suddenly it is time for the annual Thankful Report. I started the practice three years ago, as a way to celebrate the publishing of my first novel, eHuman Dawn, released on 11/26/13. So much has happened since then and it's always interesting to re-read the previous year's report and see what happened and take stock of where I'm going.

2017 was a big year for me as a writer. I decided to leave my agent and publisher behind, taking back the rights to the eHuman series. The reasons for this were many, and some day maybe I'll share them, but essentially I knew it was time to set out on my own and seek new representation, as well as a new publisher. And since I had a new project, I went for it.

As a result, I didn't finish the eHuman trilogy. Instead, I rewrote the first book and will spend the next year doing the same to the second one. I want to give the entire series a reboot with my signature on it. In addition, there are many new developments in technology and the story will benefit from incorporating what has been discovered.

I spent most of the year querying agents for my Egyptian trilogy and man, that was excruciating. The process took hours and hours and hours. In exchange for my efforts, I received 56 rejections. Well, 57 actually, since one more came in yesterday that I'd sent out four months ago and completely forgotten about. There is nothing worse than this phase of writing and to all of you going through it, my heart is with you. We suffer together as fools, but don't give up. I know everyone says that, but after my 56th rejection in August, I was ready to quit, never to pitch again. But for some reason I got the notion to get on Twitter and look at what agents were asking for. It was #MSWL time and I thought maybe, just maybe?

Turns it wasn't #MSWL that would be the ticket to publication, but #pitmad, short for Pitch Madness. To participate, I had to come up with two, 140 character pitches for the story about the last native Pharaoh of Egypt. On 9/5/17 and editor from a small publisher asked to see the first three chapters. I checked out her company and decided to share. A week later, she asked for the whole manuscript. I was elated, only two agents in 56 had even asked for partials, so to share the entire story was a thrill.

Then, on October 1, 2017, I got an offer for my book. I sent them the rest of the trilogy and by the end of the month the entire trilogy was under contract.

Somehow, even without an agent, I still get to begin the great work of creating a beautiful story with an editor by my side. We've just begun round one and while she had a ton of suggestions, I couldn't be happier. This is what I wanted--an editor who loves my story and has an eye for creating beautiful literature. It won't be easy, but I'm grateful that 2018 will be the year of polishing, beautifying, and improving evermore as a writer.

As I edit the novels for publication, I'll be taking a break from social media for the world of Facebook and Twitter have fallen into a place of discord and it distracts me from the beauty and awe of the world. I do not think artists can create truth and goodness unless we're open and vulnerable. To be in that space requires trust and social media at the moment only serves to divide. Besides, I need to use that time to write.

There will be posts from time to time, mostly pictures of my family and the beauty of life on Earth, or articles about cool technology, and I'll still write for Medium.

I hope to have a new novel for you next summer...and for that I am incredibly grateful.

Modern Money: Much Ado About Nothing

Money is actually nothing. Did you know this?

In general, when people think of money, they either feel they don’t have enough, or fear that someone might take their wealth. One of the wisest things I've ever heard was that both the rich man and the poor man have nothing but a $1 at the end of the week. The poor man might have used his money to buy bread, while the rich man bought a third yacht, but still, they each only have $1 until the next payday. 

No matter how much money we have, we never feel we have enough. Thus, humans spend most of their lives fretting about money and most of the crimes against humanity and the planet are done in the name of money.

And yet, what exactly is money? In our imaginations, we often think it looks like this:

But the US dollar hasn’t been backed by gold since 1971, when the United States stopped selling gold to foreign official holders of dollars at the rate of $35 an ounce. As of now, there aren’t any currencies in the modern world completely backed by gold, or anything else, other than promises and goodwill.

In reality, modern money looks like this:

It's kinda cool, all those 1's and 0's floating around in cyberspace. But it's certainly not shiny and you can't touch, taste, feel, or smell it. Money is now an extra-sensory experience.

This means that when we fret about the size of our bank account, we are fretting about a fictional number, one that has meaning only within the context of the story of the culture of which it exists. The cultural story of money depends on how various types of work and resources are valued. In America, if you write software, a big number gets sent to your bank account. If you teach children how to read, a MUCH smaller number is written into the bank account. And if you care for the elderly or the sick, well, your number is so small, it’s almost laughable.

It’s the same with expenses. If you live in California, a HUGE number is taken out of your bank account for your mortgage or rent. If you live in Alabama, a much smaller number is equated with the four walls and the roof over your head. In the end, the value of work and goods is completely irrelevant and totally out of any one person’s hands. Economists like to think that it's all about supply and demand, and at it's most basic, most monetary value is based on this. But demand is a fickle thing and supply can easily be manipulated. In spite of our desire for a simple equation to govern the economics of our society, the fiction of money is based on the group mind, the social order, and the will of those “in charge.”

What a strange thing to fight wars over. Numbers, written into an account by a computer. What a strange thing to covet. Numbers, arbitrarily assigned based on profit. Yet what is profit if money is merely a story? Money is a messenger, the great storyteller of our times. For the way labor and resources are monetized within a society will tell you the moral values of the culture in question.

If you look at the American story of money, it’s fairly horrific. Even though money is a complete fiction, 43.1 million Americans live in poverty according to the latest measure. According to a supplemental poverty measure, the poverty rate in 2015 was 14.3 percent. It appears that Americans have decided that a decent number of us aren’t allowed to have a number written into their bank account big enough to provide shelter, food and clothing. That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it. No food? Too bad. Even if you work, your work is devalued. No big number for you.

Yet there are some that we do value in our society. It was reported this week that Microsoft co-founder Bill GatesAmazon founder Jeff Bezos and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett have collectively more wealth than the 160 million poorest Americans, or half the population of the United States. It appears that the American story of money definitely likes these three guys. They’re special. So special they get a number so big that it is equal to half the “money” number in the whole United States. Hungry? Go ask them for a hand-out. All three have foundations that will write a few numbers into your bank account. But not too many, because, well, that's our story and we don't want to disrupt it with too much generosity. That would make the numbers less valuable, you see.

There is a saying that you can’t worship both God and Mammon. I’d agree, yet God for me isn’t some old guy sitting up in heaven watching us fight, kill, maim and destroy in the name of numbers loaded onto a computer. To me, God is the Life around us: Workers who labor, animals who graze and provide us food, water that flows from lakes and rivers into the oceans, and land that provides food, minerals, and precious, oh so precious, metals. Life is people and planet. If we worship life, then profit is merely a tool to help us exchange our work for goods and vice-a-versa. If we worship profit, or Mammon, then we will kill Life. It’s really that simple.  

Take the polluting of the Earth. There is no solution until profit is no longer worshipped.  No accords, agreements or promises stand a chance against the worship of Mammon. Think about it and you’ll see that keeping the Earth alive requires some number in some bank account somewhere to go down, and damn if that’s going to happen. Thus, the Earth will be depleted, mined, and polluted no matter what an individual has to say. 

The irony of it all is that story of money is ours, albeit we have created it with a group mind that borders on the psychotic. I imagine this is the result when we worship Mammon over Life--our minds go to rot. But here’s the kicker—this just might be the only way to stop our own self-destruction. Choosing Life over Mammon and having the courage as a group to create an entirely new story that honors all three things: profit, planet and people. When we decide to worship Life, we free money to flow into the world and do its job, which is simply to allow the exchange of labor, ideas, goods and services. Money should drive innovation as an exchange, not as a weapon.

Money doesn’t want to be worshipped. Hell, it doesn’t even actually exist. All this pain is over nothing.

Nothing at all. How crazy is that?