Author Feature The Augmented Man by Joseph Carrabis

The Augmented Man by Joseph Carrabis is based on Joseph’s research into helping traumatized children and combat PTSD sufferers to heal. It’s a sci-fi military thriller set in the near future. 

1 April 2053


Trailer closed his eyes and sat at the end of the bar where the cigarette-burned, cheap black Formica countertop met the wall. He eased himself onto the last stool, tucking into the corner in the dim light, a spider hiding out of sight at the edge of its web. His fingers hovered over the cigarette burns closest to him as if divining their cause, sensing them like small, unhealed wounds, seeing the people involved, learning if each burn was an accident or intentional.
The door opened and he smelled the cool April evening on his skin. It was followed by the alcoholic breath and sweat of two men and a woman they supported between them.
Trailer brought his attention back into the bar, collating the activity immediately around him.
The barkeeper, a heavy smelling man gnawing a toothpick, his face somewhere between needing a shave and growing a beard, walked over to Trailer. “Yeah?”
“A beer. Whatever you got.”
The man grunted and walked to the other end of the bar. When he left, Trailer opened his eyes. A river of tattoos flowed up the man’s left arm. An old style claw prosthetic served as his right, its hinges and catches polished like silver and glinting in the mirrored bar light. He wore black jeans and a tie-dyed t-shirt over powerful shoulders and an ample gut. Trailer closed his eyes again as the man returned. It seemed to Trailer that the man swam upstream in a river of his own sweat.
He placed a bottle of Coors in front of Trailer. “Six.”
“Six. Six dollars.”
“Can I run up a tab? I’ll probably stay a while.”
The man shook his head. “Uh-uh.”
Trailer handed him the money and nodded at the prosthetic. “Amazonas?”
The man eyed him and shook his head cautiously. “Loreto.”
“I was there, too.”
The man eyed him a moment longer then nodded as he walked away. “Uh-huh.”
A five-man band walked onto a stage surrounded by a plexiglass cage reinforced with steel fencing, closed the cage door, set up and tested their instruments.
A woman screamed from a room hidden by a beaded curtain.
Trailer stood up. The barman caught Trailer’s shirt in his claw. “You gonna drink your beer or what?”
Trailer stood a head and a half taller than the barman. He said nothing, closing his eyes when the woman screamed again.
“Eddie, Bill?” the barman called out. “We got ourselves a pretty boy here.”
Two scar-faced men got up from a table near the door and walked towards Trailer. He shook his head slowly, searching with his ears as a blind man might search out a strange sound. He moved his head from side to side and made a sound, quiet and deep in his chest, a great cat purring. His head snapped back and shook. He whispered, “No…no,” as if tasting something tart, bitter, something he wanted to spit out.

A Bite of… Joseph Carrabis

Is it important to include all shades of belief and sexual orientation in a book?

Excellent question.
The first and necessary response is “Of course not! Only if some aspect of a belief or sexual orientation is necessary to the plot and moves the story forward.”
I recently took a course about writing characters with beliefs and such different from your own. A major problem with the course was the unrecognized bigotry and prejudice of the instructors. I kept listening to the language they used and asked questions (based on my experiences in psycholinguistics, anthrolinguistics, and cultural anthropology). It seemed the instructors were more going from their gut than any research about minimizing and subjugating language.
This gets into the question of sensitivity readers, as well. Some authors I know have had their manuscripts gutted by sensitivity readers who had no concept of a story or its setting.
Example: A reader thought my use of “motorcycle momma” demeaning. That phrase is used in a scene taking place in a biker bar with the protagonist surrounded by bikers. I had to question if the reader ever entered a biker bar, hung out with biker gangs, et cetera. A reader thought a military scene homosexual in nature because one male appreciated the fit of another male’s dress blues.
I cancelled my contract with that publisher because their readers left much to be desired.
That noted, do a sensitivity read and make suggestions that makes a book stronger, increases the power of the story, et cetera, and I’m there with pen in hand and please tell me more.

What is worse? Ignorance or stupidity?

Ignorance because, to me, true ignorance is an unwillingness to learn. Ever since my teens I’ve loathed people who refused to learn and those who refused to do something (which I define as “incompetence”). To clarify, I define “ignorance” as an unwillingness to learn and “incompetence” as an unwillingness to act.
Do something. You may succeed, you may fail, you may do it and decide it’s not for you, and at least you’ve learned you can do it. You’re no longer incompetent. You may suck at it, but at least you know how to do it.
I know how to paint a house. I suck at it. But if I have to do it, I can do it.
People unwilling to learn are also at the bottom of my list. This stems from my teens and I found it repeatedly in the business world; people who’d rather stick their heads in the ground than learn a new methodology which would save their jobs, company, or industry.
But stupidity? True stupidity? Meaning someone who doesn’t have the cognitive horsepower to understand or do something? Those people I can work with, and gladly. They are a gift. They teach us so much about ourselves and our ability to understand the “other.”
Which brings us back to the first question, essentially about writing from a foreign (to yourself) viewpoint or orientation. An amazing example of this is Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon. If you can read that book without your soul being ripped from you, there’s something wrong with your heart.

Do you have any marketing tips for fellow writers?

First, figure out why you’re writing. Do you just want to say you wrote a book and got it published? Excellent! Use any of the online, free publishing tools and you’re done. Good job!
Are you writing because you have something to say? To whom? Decide that, you’re into marketing.
Do you want people to read your book? How many? A few? Friends, family and fools? Publish through LuLu or something similar and give your book out as gifts.
A lot of people? Again, you’re talking marketing. Do you have a background in marketing? Were you any good at it? If you were, then why are you writing books? A successful marketer makes far more money in a month than most authors do in a year (lots more). But most successful marketers burn out and never want to go near marketing again (seeing myself in a mirror, there). Again, if you were a successful marketer you know what’s involved in marketing anything. Do you want to do that again? For yourself? Really? I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Are you (un)lucky enough to find a publisher? Big Caveat there, folks. Find other authors with that same publisher and ask how much marketing that publisher does for them. Does the publisher continually push marketing schemes which end up draining the authors’ budgets without bringing in sales? WARNING, WILL ROBINSON! WARNING! WARNING! That publisher isn’t publishing books, they’re selling authors marketing schemes. Stay away.
Find a publisher who’ll handle all aspects of your product (your book is your product); interior design, cover design, blurb, promotional materials, keyword buys, et cetera, and charge you nothing. Someone or some group calling themself a “publisher” knows how to take a book from manuscript to available digitally and physically and won’t charge you to do any of it because that’s what a true publisher is. Everybody else is a book producer who provides a finished product and then relies on you to do much if not all the sales work.
Book producers are fine, just know the difference before signing a contract. There are lots of sharks in the water looking for fish who are thrilled someone wants to “publish” their book, and I’ve talked with many authors who’ve spent hundreds to thousands of dollars on “publisher” suggested marketing schemes that returned zero profit.
Again, check with other authors under the same publisher. Did they contribute anything beyond a finished and accepted manuscript? Then stay away from that publisher.
Along the same lines, ask to see a sample marketing plan. What does the publisher do? How long will they promote a book before giving up on it?

Joseph Carrabis has been everything from a long-haul trucker to a Chief Research Scientist. He’s taught internationally at the university level, holds patents in a base, disruptive technology, created a company that grew from his basement to offices in four countries, helped companies varying in size from mom&pops for F500s develop their marketing, and most of this bored him. But give him a pen and paper or a keyboard and he’s off writing, which is what he does full-time now.
His most recent novel, The Augmented Man, was published in March 2021 by Sixth Element.
You can find most of his published work on Amazon (and he wishes you would. He wants to know your opinion of his work, specifically how he can do it better). You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest, Instagram, BookBub, YouTube and his blog.

Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Four Hundred and Ninety-Four

He was dawg sick when we found ‘un. Didn’t know the mountains breeds fevers at this time o’year. But we made a sled of pine branches and took ‘un home to Maw.
She fixed ‘un up good, and the next time we went back to the cabin, he were splitting’ logs by day and teachin’ the little ‘uns their letters by night.
Come spring he was gone, and if’n Maw looked kinda sad we minded our own.
Summer was just colourin’ the woods when a burro toiled up the track.
He brung his stuff, and come back to Maw’s fireside.

©️jj 2021

The Affair of the Dartymuir Dog. Part Eight

The adventures of Piglock Homes and his sidekick Doctor Bearson.

As the little train rattled busily through the countryside, the sun made its lazy way over the horizon and by the time they reached Ashbaconton it was well on its way to being fully dark.
The engine huffed importantly as it bustled into the station, before whistling once and subsiding into steamy hissy stillness.
“What do we do with the hamper, old chap?”
“Leave it here. I will be transported back from whence it came. But by all means remove the linen bag you will perceive beneath the scone crumbs and the empty jam and cream pots. It contains a little light supper for later.”
Bearson did as his small friend recommended, although even he thought the bag heavy for a light supper. Being wise to Homes, he made no comment merely lifting the bag by its convenient handles.
Outside the station, a uniformed constable awaited them, beside a high-wheeled gig. The gig was shining in the yellow light that streamed out of the station, and the horse in the shafts was equally well turned out. But neither of those things were what had Bearson’s jaw drop until it bounced against his cravat. No. It was the person who sat at ease on the driver’s seat, with the reins held in sensibly gloved hands. It was a woman. A woman dressed in male clothing and obviously intending to drive three male creatures across Dartymuir in the darkness. Yore stopped in his tracks.
“What is this?”
“Your conveyance,” the constable spoke woodenly.
“But. But.”
The female woman laughed, it was a soft musical sound oddly at variance with her sturdily masculine appearance. Her voice when she spoke was educated, and lacked the strangely rounded vowels of the local patois.
“If you want to get to the Fan of Feathers tonight, myself and Artos here are your only option.”
Homes strode over the the carriage and looked up at the driver. Something passed between the pig and the human woman, and he smiled. He bowed in the grand manner.
“Very well, madam. We are in your hands.”
Bearson decided that now was not the time for argumentification. He gently placed the linen bag in the footwell before climbing aboard. He too bowed to the driver.
“Aloysius Bearson at your service ma’am.”
The woman laughed again. “Pleased to meet you, Doctor Bearson.”
While he was trying to figure out how she knew he was a doctor, Bearson busied himself stowing away the bag and hauling Homes up into the high carriage.
Yore still stood as if transfixed and Holmes leaned over the side of the gig.
“Come along, Yore. We don’t have all night. We need to be out on the muir when the sun rises.”
Yore literally shook himself so hard that spume flew from his lips. He fixed the constable with a glare.
“You need not think you’ve heard the last of this.”
“Leave the poor man alone. I doubt that candidates to drive across the high muir in darkness are in abundance.”
Yore made a very rude noise with his bottom before climbing aboard, still grumbling beneath his breath. When he was settled in his seat, the woman looked around and the yellow light from the station lanterns illuminated her face Bearson was struck by her beauty and the refinement of her features.
“By gad,” he muttered. “I wonder who you are my proud beauty.”
Homes put a trotter to his lips and Bearson subsided.
“I think we are ready to proceed.” Homes was scrupulously polite.
The woman chucked to her horse and the gig moved steadily away from the lights of the station up the darkening hill that led to the heather-clad soughing uplands of Dartymuir.

Piglock Homes and his sidekick Doctor Bearson will continue their investigation into The Affair of the Dartymuir Dog next week

Jane Jago

The Monastery

Our feet release the singing
Embedded in the clay
We hear the song in rosy dawn
Or at the end of day
The singers are no longer
This place is not their home
But their praiseful chanting
Echoes from the stones
We climb among the ruins
Sleeping in the sun
Where their voices echo
Whose race is long since run
Our feet explore the old path
To pass what was their home
Where ghostly voices sing in praise
From bones beneath the loam

©️jj 2021

Out Today – The Night Librarian

It was very quiet in this area of the stacks, so quiet that if you listened carefully enough you could hear the books breathing. This portentous silence was broken by a rhythmic squeak as a trolley loaded with grimoires and magical texts was pushed firmly towards the dark corner wherein such resided.
“It’s no good you being like that,” a determined voice said. “It doesn’t hurt being shelved. It’s not as if any of you are chained. Although if some of you keep misbehaving…”
The rhythmic squeal stopped and the trolley rounded a corner, being pushed by a dumpy girl with a determined looking chin. As it neared the shelves where arcane and magical volumes were shelved the squeal started up again.
“Does somebody want to be shelved on 99b?”
The dumpy girl began shelving volumes with practiced efficiency. She handled the books with care and respect, but would brook no resistance nor any other tricks. One of the grimoires snapped its covers at her and she slapped it firmly.
“Start that with me and I’ll chain you.”
If it was possible for a book to look abashed it did so, coming quietly to hand to be slipped into its accustomed place.
Once the grimoires were tidily placed in their proper positions, the Night Librarian closed the steel doors around their stack and locked them with a hugely ornate key.
On her way back to the centre desk, she paused briefly at travel and pointed an imperious finger. There was a bit of scrabbling as the books reshelved themselves in their proper order, followed by an embarrassed silence.
“Papua New Guinea, since when have you lived between Jersey and Guernsey?”
A dog eared volume leapt from a shelf and scuttled off. The girl regarded the now tidy stack for a moment before permitting herself a small smile.
She turned on her heel pushing the now empty trolley to the store room where it would be filled by the day staff who were far too busy to ever shelve books.

To keep reading grab your copy of The Night Librarian by Jane Jago which is out today.

Cover by Ian Bristow of Bristow Design.

Life Lessons for Writers – VIII

Yes, it’s me, Jacintha Farquar, the unfortunate mother of the abominable Moons – that’s Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IV to officialdom and ‘IVy’ to those fools who think him capable of stepping out of his self-centered and self-satisfied little world long enough to offer them some tenuous parody of friendship.
Well as always I have to go around behind him like the proverbial pooper-scooper cleaning up the mess he makes and, specifically, I have been asked to contribute to this blog to try and remedy some of the dreadful drivel he spewed here in the past about how to write.
He has no fucking clue – seriously!
Go read his book if you don’t believe me, no not that god-awful supposed sci-fi thing ‘Fatswhistle and Bucktooth’, I mean the laughably titled How to Start Writing a Book . I did my best to try with that too, but you’ll see if you take a look at it.
Anyway, back to the task in hand and one thing I see many of you writers struggling with is people having social intercourse. No, get your minds out of the gutter the lot of you! That means conversation, discussion, argument – communication between people.

Life Lessons for Writers – Eight: Social Intercourse

In the world of writing you don’t call it that of course, probably because the schoolboy giggles would get the better of you and then you’d not write a bloody word for the next week. You lot call it ‘dialogue’.
Do I really need to take you back to school, sit you down and explain simple things like where to put commas in dialogue and the difference between a speech/dialogue tag and an action tag? I hope not, but if you need that then stop trying to pretend you are writing a book and go and look them up so you have the faintest notion of what I’m on about.
Let’s assume you are over the baby gate and romping along at least at school pupil level here.

First thing to remember is to avoid ‘talking head’ syndrome when the reader has no idea of where/how the conversation is taking place. Begin by setting the scene, tell us where the chat is happening and who is present:

Mary and Tom sat down for dinner at their dining room table with their daughter Ella and her new boyfriend Paul.

Next important point ‘said’ is good. Consider:

“This tastes lovely,” Tom exclaimed.
“Thank you, dear,” murmured Mary.
Ella tapped her plate with her fork. “Well done, Mum,” she cheered.
“What is in the pie?” Paul wondered.

You get the point. Of course you wouldn’t just put in ‘said’ for all those which brings us to the third point, use action to indicate who is talking where you can:

Tom smiled across at his wife. “This tastes lovely.”.
“Thank you, dear.” Mary blushed, she had been working on the meal all day in honour of this special occasion.
Tapping her plate with her fork, Ella drew everyone’s attention. “Well done, Mum.” She lifted her glass in a toast.
But Paul didn’t seem to notice, he was poking at the food on his plate. “What is in the pie?”

Hardly brilliant prose, but you can see how it brings the conversation to life.

Next point, try to keep your conversation appearing real. Now that means you leave out all the repetitions and ‘um-ing’ and ‘er-ing’ that we all do in natural speech, but it also means you don’t have your characters declaiming speeches full of posh words at each other either. If you have a character who does that they will seem like a pompous twat to your reader!

Oh yes, one more thing. Don’t do this, it drives me bloody potty, like scraping a fork over a plate:

After the happy couple had left Mary and Tom cuddled up together on the sofa.
“Oh Tom, do you think they will be as happy as we are?”
“I’m sure they will, Mary, they seem made for each other.”
Mary sighed and looked thoughtful.
“Well, Tom, I am not so sure of that as you seem to be.”
“What do you mean, Mary?”

People do not use each other’s names all the time in conversation when it is obvious who they are talking to.  Do. Not. Do. It.

Alright, that’s your bloody lot. I’m not paid by the word for this you know, so bugger off the lot of you and let me get back to Netflix and pernod – one of my favourite cocktails…

Jane Jago’s Drabbles – Four Hundred and Ninety-Three

Noodle stood scratching his head.
“Sup Noodle.”
Scrappy peered shortsightedly at his chum.
Noodle pointed excitedly.
“Look there.”
“Look where?”
Noodle ran across the lawn, dragging Scrappy behind him. He stopped beside a molehill.
“Look. Wassat?
He pointed a shaking finger at something glinting in the earth.
Scrappy’s pointed nose stopped a scant inch from the shining. He grinned.
“Whatjer fink it is Noods?”
“Is it a trapped star?”
Bertha appeared like magic.
“No it ain’t. It’s the gagement ring Missus Bigger lost last summer. You dig it up and put it on the patio. She’ll be pleased.”
Noodle dug.

©️jj 2021

Coffee Break Read – Breeders

I am breeder number thirteen. In the last ten years I have given birth to seven children. I have never been permitted to see any of them, although I was lucky enough to hear each one cry as it was carried away to the nurseries. I know my babies must be healthy, because I am still here. Those who cannot bear viable infants do not stay. We do not know where they go.
Of the original twenty breeders brought to this place, only I and number eight remain. There have been many others. Some have stayed. Some have gone. Some have died. We currently number eleven. I am the only one who can read and write fluently. Those who raised me until I was brought here had me taught. At that time it was not forbidden.
I count myself lucky. I was raised by foster carers outside this place, and, although I have never been loved, I was raised carefully. Some others are not so fortunate. They have been wrenched from their families because they are fertile. They have had names. They have had mothers and fathers. They have known what it is to be loved. I pity them.
The keepers are not unkind, but we are little more than vessels to them. They consider our physical health carefully; as our only function is to provide the children the rich and powerful cannot make for themselves. Our mental health is less of a consideration, but as long as we perform regularly, and without complaining, they have no reason to make us miserable. Indeed, when it was discovered that I am literate, I was given books, and writing supplies, on condition that I made no attempt to teach anyone else these skills. I am too thankful for the solace to be found in reading to defy this prohibition. I also have my herb garden from whose produce I make simple remedies for female ailments. This is encouraged by our keepers.
For as long as I have conscious memory I have presented the world with a face of mild compliance. It is the hardest thing of all to do, especially when you burn inside. But it has kept me alive. Most of the other women in this place think me odd in the extreme, as I keep myself busy all day; they prefer to spend their days eating sweetmeats and their nights pleasuring each other. All the time, they speculate about the men who come to leave their seed in this place. This speculation is as bad for the mind as sexualised idleness and too much sweet food are for the body. If girls grow fat, keepers will restrict their access to foods, and drive them to the gymnasium for exercise, but if the minds of the same girls are clouded with foolish dreams about the fathers of their babies who is to care?
I have one friend; she is breeder number eight, the other survivor of the original intake of twenty girls. Mostly, number eight and I keep to our own company, although of late we have been joined by number sixty-two, a small, pale girl who had a hard time birthing twins, and seems to find our company a solace.
In order to retain our sanity, we decided long ago never to think about the men whose seed we incubate. We also try not to think about the babies.  Putting men out of our minds is easy, as we never see one. The seed is brought to us by the midwives, who implant it in our wombs with painful devices. And if there should be a difficult birth requiring the aid of a doctor, the doctor’s face is hidden. I have my babes easily, as does number eight, so I have never been even that close to a male person. The truth of the matter is that as far as memory serves me, I have never actually seen a man. The only time I can even remember having heard male voices is when we are gathered together and forced witness extreme punishment being meted out by the masked minions of the Enforcer.
Not thinking about the babies you have borne is more difficult, and I think all breeders have many wakeful nights wondering where our children are, and hoping they are loved. My friend and I never speak of it.
Eight and I take as much healthful exercise as we are allowed. We like best to run in the gardens, although this is not always possible. When we must stay inside, we run on the mechanical roads, and practice the hand-to-hand combat we learned from our friend, number two. She was an exquisite oriental girl who taught us the beautiful dance that is called Tai Kwon Do. She also taught us to balance our minds, and tricks to enable us to always present a calm exterior. When she went away, we were sad, but hid it in the ways she had taught us.
In the evenings, or when we are heavy with child, I read out loud and number eight makes exquisite embroideries. It is not such a bad life; at least we have companionship.

The opening of The Barefoot Runners by Jane Jago. You can listen to this on YouTube.

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