Saturday, July 31, 2010

Children No More: the afterword

I've printed parts of this before, but with the book now appearing and us trying to raise as much money as possible, I thought folks might find this interesting reading. Enjoy.

My first goal in any book is to tell a good story. In the course of doing so, themes naturally arise. Sometimes, those themes are clear only in hindsight, when the work is complete.

Other times, as in Children No More, they appear the moment the story idea pops into my brain.

The use of children as soldiers is one of those topics that few people like to discuss. Depending on what you read and watch, you can go a very long time without bumping into it. Do a Web search on the subject, however, and you'll find that children are fighting and dying every day. Hard numbers are, as you might expect, difficult to come by, but groups such as The International Rescue Committee ( estimate about 300,000 boys and girls are involved today in this horrific practice.

I find this deeply disturbing. I think everyone should.

I understand that in the catalog of the world's woes, a cause with only a few hundred thousand sufferers may seem like a small thing. Numerically, it certainly falls way below hunger, disease, poverty, and many other vital issues our world must address. But these are children, children that adults are turning into soldiers, and that is simply wrong.

I must confess to a special connection to this cause because of a personal experience--not, I hasten to note, as a child soldier. I have never experienced anything as bad as what these boys and girls undergo.

I did, however, spend three years in a youth group that trained boys in how to be soldiers. The group's intentions were good: To use military conventions and structures to teach discipline, fitness, teamwork, and many other valuable lessons. It certainly accomplished many of those goals with me.

The year I joined, however, was 1965, and war was ramping up in Viet Nam. I was ten years old. On my first day, an active soldier on leave showed up and acted as our drill sergeant. That day, I saw my first--but not my last--necklace of human ears and learned the ethics of collecting them. That day, I stood at attention in the hot Florida sun while this grown man screamed at me and, when I cried, punched me in the stomach so hard that I fell to the ground and threw up. He put his boot on my head and ground the side of my face into my vomit.

That was not the worst day I had in those three years. It wasn't even close.

My worst days with that group were nothing compared to what the child soldiers endure. Nothing.

The basics of this novel sprang into my mind a few years ago while I was driving with my family back from lunch. I knew it would involve child soldiers, the story of how Jon changed from the gentle boy he had been into the hard man he became, and the challenges of reintegrating child soldiers. I also knew in that same flash of insight that the book would let me depart from the classic outsider hero story structure and instead force Jon to do the one thing outsider heroes never do: Stay after the fighting is done. All of this was secondary, of course, to the story, but it all arrived at once.

I grew up believing in a number of virtues that my mother taught me were essential American beliefs. One of the most important and powerful of them was something that seemed--and still seems--so obvious to me that I have always held it close: Each generation owes the next one a better world. We owe our children a better life than the one we enjoyed.

When any group makes its children into soldiers, it is abandoning that responsibility. That group is wrong. This practice must stop, and we owe it to the former child soldiers to help reintegrate them into their societies.

I hope we pay that debt.

Friday, July 30, 2010

What's better than a Cone Man in the yard?

Why, a Cone Man in the yard with the world's cutest dog sitting next to it.

Yes, Holden and the Cone Man are now friends.

One shudders to think what strange plots they might be concocting. Fortunately, I don't think the cone speaks dog.

Children No More is now available from Amazon!

As you can plainly see in this screen capture:

I'm quite excited!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cranking it up: The Children No More press release is going out

After way more time than we had planned, a delay due largely to my day job workload, we drafted the press release, everyone involved agreed on a final version, and Baen (and some of our volunteer team) are now distributing it.

Here's an image of the release. Click on it to see a larger, readable image.

The updated Children No More Web site will be live within a day or so.

We're rolling on this project now. We have only a few weeks of shelf life to sell enough copies to convince booksellers to keep the book on display. The more we sell, the more money goes to Falling Whistles.

If you want to get involved and promote the book so we can help those kids, now's the time do it. Let's get busy!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

His tentacles were so shiny

I try very hard to be nice to servers in restaurants. I tip at least twenty percent, I strive to be organized, and I'm generally appreciative of their hard work. Sometimes, though, you get a strange server who tests your resolve. A few years ago, several of us, including Sarah, had one of the weirdest servers in my experience. After much hushed discussion, we concluded that he had to be an alien visiting various U.S. cities as part of an advance scouting team. We further surmised that his real body had many tentacles, and they were all shiny.

If you'd seen him, you would agree.

As any writer will tell you, it's all grist for the creative mill.

Now, go read Sarah's A Year in Prose post from yesterday.

That's my girl.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Where the cone is now

The giant ice cream cone has developed its own following, and several of those folks have demanded to know where the great one is living now. Who am I to deny them this information?

Here's the cone in its current resting place, a spot in the yard along the driveway at my house.

The picture is a little fuzzy, so I considered reshooting it, but in the end I decided the oddness it added to the cone was a good thing.

The cone is even more conesome at night, as you can see in this photo:

The woman in the picture, by the way, is Jain, she who makes the amazing art balls I've mentioned in multiple previous posts. If you don't own one of Jain's balls (a fun phrase to write if there ever was one), you should pop over to her site and order one ASAP; all right-thinking Americans should have one of Jain's balls (still fun to write).

Jain agrees with me that the cone is awesome and is already considering designs for hats for it for holidays and special occasions. A Cinco de Mayo sombrero for the cone? You bet.

Monday, July 26, 2010

One week from tomorrow

Children No More will officially go on sale. I'm not mentioning this date so I can make more money; I'm telling you so we can raise more money to help rehabilitate and reintegrate child soldiers. If you're not aware of the connection between the two, the short form is that I am donating 100% of the money I receive from sales of the hardback edition of this novel to Falling Whistles to help with this cause. (The long form of the story is in this post.)

A press release will go out soon, and the placeholder Web site will soon contain much more information than it now does. Multiple people are now working hard to have a fair amount of supporting material ready for launch day.

If you'd like to help, you can. You really can.

One way is easy: Buy the book. You'll enjoy a good read, and in the process you will have done a good deed.

If you don't want to do that, send a few bucks to the Falling Whistles folks; you can donate online here.

You can also help by spreading the word. Tell your friends. Blog about it. Mention it to your local bookseller. Whatever works.

Here's the thing, folks: Momentum really counts. Like most books from all but the very top-selling authors, the hardback of Children No More will stay on bookstore shelves for only three or four weeks. Then, newer books will replace it. To motivate booksellers to keep the book on display, we have to sell a lot of them in those first few weeks.

Many worthy causes are vying for your time and attention, but this one is unusual, because contributing to it is as easy--and as fun--as buying a book. Let's help these kids.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's the last day of my vacation

and I'm in a deejaying mood, so let me offer two songs for your consideration.

The first returned to my mind after a conversation in the car on the way back from the beach. We were listening to a mix CD Sarah had made, and one of the songs featured a singer with a very deep voice. He reminded me of the man who sang this song, but I couldn't remember his name or the name of the group. What I could recall was the title of this song. Fortunately, Kyle then remembered that the group was the Crash Test Dummies, and Brad Roberts, the singer's name, popped into my brain.

I have always loved this one. Enjoy.

Listening to that song later that night, I of course could not help but pop over to this related tune, which I also love greatly.



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