The Research Behind Egypt Rising

I’m very excited that Egypt Rising is tentatively scheduled for August release by Eternal Press. I started the novel because my granddaughter was studying Egypt in her sixth grade social studies class. Her teacher assigned her a novel to read that had some Egypt content, but I realized that the students really spent most of their time studying ancient Egypt and virtually no time on modern Egypt.

So, I decided to write a novel set in modern Cairo at the time of the overthrow of President Mubarak. I’m a news junkie, but I needed to refresh my knowledge of the chain of events. I began by reading accounts written by foreign journalists and then added some Egyptian journalists. It became clear that the month of January 2011 was when everything came to a  boiling point, so I decided that most of my novel would take place during that month.

I had traveled to Egypt with my wife a few years ago, so I had a sense of Cairo, particularly the chaos. I read as many modern studies of Egyptian culture as I could find, including some scholarly studies. I also read travel guidebooks to get a sense of how far away key tourist sites were from each other. I also read books on contemporary Egyptian music and food as well as decoration so that I could describe some of the delicacies my character ate as well as homes she visited.

Finally, I read some accounts of journalists caught up during riots so I could describe how my main character felt when she was caught up in a large demonstration. The other aspect of the novel, the references to Atlantis and Edgar Cayce didn’t require much research since I’ve read science fiction for years. I personally believe that we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to understand how Ancient Egypt sprung up in the desert as a full-blown civilization replete with a writing system and advanced (for the time) technology.

Too many modern YA novels lack a strong female character who is not beautiful. I’m a bit tired of the Sandra Bullock trick of having really pretty women just look bad at the beginning until they get a new haircut and contacts. My main character is short, overweight, and definitely not beautiful. Still, she has a number of attributes that are far more valuable including intelligence and courage.

Everything You Know Can Be Learned From Minecraft©

My grandson and I are excited about the upcoming publication of our new novel, Journey to a Different Dimension. It’s an adventure story in which three teens find themselves thrown into the game of Minecraft© without any resources except their own courage and intelligence.

One reason the game is so popular (over 9 million people play it) is that it really puts players to the test by forcing them to survive in a hostile world where they must display their intelligence and their courage in equal parts. The game tests players’ survival skills by requiring them to search for and collect the raw materials they need to build shelter and feed themselves. In multiplayer games, the players must learn to cooperate.

While it’s not a unique concept to have players thrown into a game, what we hope makes this novel unique is the relationships that develop among Paul, Ryan, and Tiffany as they fight for survival in a world where they only can die once, and that means a permanent death.

Another aspect of the game appeals to creative players because they can design their own elaborate homes, build farms, and even design complex machines using what is called Redstone technology. We hope that readers will learn even more about the game so they can increase their enjoyment while also enjoying a novel as a pure adventure.

Unlike many books on the market, we made the choice not to put Minecraft© in the book’s title in order to comply with the game company’s copyright and brand policies. Hopefully Minecraft© players will find the book (available very soon on Amazon) and enjoy it. Keep checking back on this website because I’ll announce publication shortly and even include a copy of the book’s cover.

So, whether you want to become a doctor (cure people with potions), become an engineer (build with Redstone technology), learn to work cooperative in the fast-paced world of Silicon Valley (multiplayer mode), learn to farm, or learn to problem solve under pressure, you can learn those skills in Minecraft© or read about them in this novel.

Seeing The Forest And Not Just The Trees

I saw a documentary entitled “Manhunt” last night. It’s the story of several female CIA analysts, experts in pattern recognition, who helped track down Osama Ben Laden. The theme is how most people just see thousands of details while a few are able to see patterns. What makes the task harder is that details keep coming in that alter whatever working hypothesis is in place. One key takeaway of the movie is that being an analyst can be a very lonely job because if you’re ahead of the conventional pack, you tend to be a target.

For many years and for many companies I served as an industry analyst. It’s a fascinating job because you get paid to learn something new every day. I’ve never worked with so many brilliant people. Industry analysts are experts in specific areas of technology and charged with predicting the future. Now predicting what will happen five years from now in an area like cell phones or tablets is difficult enough, but these people have to be able to actually forecast demand in the form of how many units manufacturers will ship. Our major technology companies base their budgets and marketing plans in part on these numbers if they trust the analyst’s ability and wisdom.

I distinctly remember one time when Apple hired me to forecast demand in a few key industries. What struck me was that these were industries where the company was already strong. Why not look at numbers from other industries and look for clues? In other words, they weren’t thinking outside the box and forecasting other places where they might grow. I should add that this was before Steve Jobs returned to the company.

It’s very easy to think inside the box and assume that the future will be very much like the present, only sleeker. Think of the old Jetsons’ cartoons.  People traveled in personal airplanes that looked an awful lot like cars of the 1960s as an example.

I spend most of my time working on novels nowadays, but the writing is very like my analyst days in many respects. Instead of studying thousands of details and trying to see a pattern as I did as an analyst, I reverse the process and create hundreds of details, hoping the reader will see patterns so that the novel’s conclusion, while hopefully a surprise, will make perfect sense when the reader thinks about details that might have been missed or dismissed as unimportant with the first reading.

I’ve written a detective mystery entitled SILENT PARTNER that now is being evaluated by some publishers. I’ll let everyone know when it finally is published so you can evaluate for yourself just how successful or unsuccessful I’ve been in providing a pattern that makes sense and, perhaps, in forcing you to think outside the box.