For those of you in the Orange County/Los Angeles area—this coming Tuesday evening (January 21, 2020), I will be reading from and discussing my novel, The Oedipus Murders, at Lit Up Orange County, at Bardot Coffee, 662, El Camino Real, in Tustin, CA. from 7-9 pm. Also featured will be award-winning author Nancy Klann and author of Welcome to Hollywierd, Dennis Copelan. Come on over for an evening of literature and discussion!
Fifteen years ago, my political thriller/sci-fi novel, I, Carlos was published in hardback by Seven Locks Press. It was an instant success, and I did book signings in west coast bookstores from San Diego to Seattle. I’d only been writing for a few years and had two previous thrillers and an academic book on brain injury under my belt at the time. I was still working, both as a professor and for the county health department, and it had taken me a couple of years to write the novel. I quickly sold the screenplay rights, although I’m still awaiting the production of a film.
I, Carlos began as my idea about how to create consciousness in a computer. At the time I wrote the novel, I had studied the topic quite a lot, particularly from a neuroscience point of view, since I had done research, written, and taught in that field. In addition, I’d read books by philosophers such as Daniel Dennett, David Chalmers, and Owen Flanagan on their view of what consciousness was. I was particularly intrigued by Dennett’s theories about how self-consciousness could “emerge” from a narrative without it having to be directly programmed (either by a programmer into an AI, or by genetics into a brain) and by the neuropsychological work of Michael Gazzaniga, demonstrating people’s tendency to create coherent narratives about their actions even when their brains are deprived of input as to why they did something. I developed a general understanding of consciousness having two parts: one is the so-called qualia, which are our sensory experiences, which may be intimately tied to the physiochemical qualities of our nervous system. The other is the narrative structure in which we sense ourselves as a character acting within a coherent story about our lives. I tried to explain my ideas in a couple of unsuccessful attempts to publish in philosophy journals. I was, perhaps, ahead of my time, because in 2016, the psychologist, Lee Roy Beach, along with Byron Bissel and James A. Wise, published A New Theory of Mind: The Theory of Narrative Thought, which was a more or less complete theory of how the core of conscious experience has a narrative structure, and how that is related to brain function.
Discouraged with finding an academic journal willing to publish my ideas about consciousness, I decided that I would put them in a novel. What was most problematic about my theory was the question of how to give a computer sensory experiences. For the novel, I solved this by placing a computer chip within a live brain, so that the chip presented the narrative and the host’s nervous system produced the sensory experiences. I invented the idea of “neurostories” which were essentially stories, with images, played on a computer chip attached to the neurons in someone’s brain. The character would feel as though he or she was acting out the story, with his or her own nervous system providing the sensory experiences to accompany the story on the chip. In I, Carlos, the protagonist has a heart attack during his neurostory experience and becomes partially brain dead, with the computer chip, which contains the neurostory, taking over his consciousness, leading him to believe that he is a character in the story.
I had the foundation for a provocative novel, but what I still needed was a plot. Since neurostories were, in fact, films going on in one’s head, I chose, what I considered to be the all-time best thriller, Frederick Forsythe’s The Day of the Jackal, which was both a best-selling novel and a highly successful film in the early 1970’s, and was about an assassination plot against French President, Charles De Gaulle. Of course, I couldn’t copy the plot or scenes directly from Forsythe’s book or the film, loosely parallel to that of The Day of the Jackal, but set in early 21st century Los Angeles, instead of 1960’s France, and gave the character the identity of the famous—and real—international terrorist and assassin, Carlos the Jackal. I made Carlos’ nemesis in the novel, Detective Nyles Monahan, be the opposite of the dashing Carlos. He’s a middle-aged, obsessive, careful, cop, who I imagined as resembling Dustin Hoffman, in his role of the investigative reporter in the film Agatha.
It’s now 2019, fifteen years after the first publication of I, Carlos. The publishing world has changed. eBooks are now more popular than print books. My publisher, Seven Locks Press has reduced its publishing output to the occasional classic from its backlist and has given me back all the rights to my novel. Given the new digital age, I decided that it was time for both a paperback edition and an eBook edition to come out.
I’m looking forward to the day I, Carlos is made into a film. The ideas behind neurostories are still viable and I am even more convinced that the theory of consciousness described in the novel is close to the truth. New research in neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and medicine is making implanted computer chips a reality and I firmly believe that we are approaching the time when artificial intelligence will achieve consciousness. In fact, I have written a new novel, Ezekiel’s Brain, which will come out in late 2020 or early 2021, based on this idea. It is the first in a series of science fiction novels involving a future group of conscious AIs who explore the galaxy and an AI copy of a human brain, named Ezekiel, who is part of their ship’s crew.
I, Carlos is speculative. It is both a political thriller and a science fiction novel. It seems to me to be as fresh in 2019 as it was in 2004. I hope you’ll agree.
In order to reach as many readers as possible in this celebration of I,Carlos’ fifteenth anniversary, I have lowered the price as far as Amazon will allow: the paperback edition is only $10.95 and the Kindle eBook is an amazing, 99 cents! The price will eventually go up, so take this opportunity to read—or re-read—this fantastic thriller, soon, hopefully, to be a movie.
To buy I, Carlos on Amazon, click HERE!
As some of you may know, I had my science fiction novel, Ezekiel’s Brain accepted for publication by NewLink Publications, a small-press sci-fi publisher. It’s a philosophical novel about artificial intelligence, which first threatens and then exterminates the human race, then continues to populate the solar system with new AIs. It probably won’t be out until late 2020 and the publisher has first option on a sequel and has asked for one, so I’m putting together ideas for it. I’m also working on a paper for the Western Division of the American Philosophical Association on “Philosophy in Popular Fiction.” As part of my research on both of these projects, I’m reading lots of philosophical and sci-fi novels. It’s amazing how much the two genres overlap. The great classics in sci-fi, which I regard as Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, Herbert’s Dune, Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, and LeGuin’s, The Left Hand of Darkness, are known to have a philosophical bent, but so do almost all of the novels of Philip K. Dick. I’ve discovered Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Haldeman’s The Forever War, both of which make powerful, and opposite, statements about the military and war. Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, while not usually classified as sci-fi, very well could be, given its main character being a highly intelligent gorilla who teaches a human lessons about how our cultural mindset leads us to destroy our own planet. Along with books, such as Ernest Callenbach’s futuristic, Ecotopia, Ishmael addresses the destruction of our planet and how a different philosophy about man’s place in nature could lead to a different outcome.
My upcoming novel, Ezekiel’s Brain includes some eco-sci-fi themes, although that isn’t its main focus. A few years back I wrote a novel called, The Peacemaker, which I subtitled, “An Ecological Science Fiction Novel.” The Peacemaker is about the destruction of a planet by overpopulation and overindustrialization with no care for the environment as its central theme —that and the destructiveness of war—and it shows genuine ways out of our environmentally destructive way of living, although the novel is based on twin planets, neither of which are Earth. I’ve always offered The Peacemaker at the ridiculously low price of $0.99 as a Kindle book and the paperback for only $13.95, so that it would reach as many readers as possible. For the next few days, I’m slashing the prices of these books even more so my fans and newsletter subscribers can get them at little or no cost. I’ve reduced them as far as Amazon will allow. For three days only, the Kindle edition of The Peacemaker will be FREE on Amazon. The paperback will be reduced by $5.00 to just $8.95!
If you like sci-fi or are interested in ecology and saving the planet, this is your chance to get a groundbreaking novel, based on the twin disciplines of Deep Ecology and Biomimicry for nothing or next to nothing! Don’t miss this opportunity.
The Peacemaker can be found at Peacemaker on Amazon
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A few years ago, when I was still publishing others’ works, I reviewed an absolutely beautiful book of poetry called “The Chapbook”, written by Charles Bane Jr., poet and historian, about whom the Huffington Post wrote, “Charles Bane Jr.’s work does not only stand on the shoulders of giants, it shrinks them, makes them less daunting and more manageable, and translates their seemingly forgotten ideology into a modern tongue.” I was contacted by the author, who wished to publish a small book of short stories on Kindle and asked if I would publish it for him. I read the stories and was awestruck by the author’s prose presentation of profound experiences and thoughts in his compelling stories. I immediately leapt at the chance of publishing his book of stories. Now, four years later, I saw that this precious, small book was languishing on my publishing company’s backlist and no longer getting the attention it deserved. I have chosen to offer this book of stories, called “I Meet Geronimo and Other Stories” for free for the next three days. I hope all of you who are lovers of literary short stories, ones which have the power to compel your attention and absorption, will take advantage of this offer and download the free kindle book. It can be found at I Meet Geronimo on Amazon.
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Have you been enjoying Fire and Wine, which is available in three consecutive downloads on my fan page at caseydorman.com? Well, guess what? Nyles Monahan, the retired LAPD detective in Fire and Wine is the protagonist in two other mysteries: I, Carlos, and Chasing Tales. I, Carlos is still available only in hardcopy from third party sellers, but will soon be coming out in paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon. Right now, though, you can obtain both paperback and Kindle versions of Chasing Tales, and the Kindle version has just been REDUCED TO $0.99! To get your copy of Chasing Tales for under a dollar, go to Chasing Tales on Amazon. It’s a great story about Nyles’ best friend, Father Tom O’Flannery, who is accused of molesting children decades earlier. When Father Tom’s main accuser is murdered, Nyles flies to Boston to try to uncover the real murderer and clear his friend’s name. It’s an exciting mystery that takes Nyles back to his childhood haunts of Boston’s Irish sections of Dorchester and South Boston and has him confronting the full power of the Boston Catholic Archdiocese. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, especially its surprise ending.
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Welcome back to the exciting second installment of my novel, Fire and Wine. This installment covers chapters 17-28 and is available in PDF, .mobi, and ePub for download below. If you haven’t yet read Fire and Wine, Part 1 (Chapters 1-16), you can access it Here
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Welcome to my fan page newsletter. If you’re looking for my new novel, Fire and Wine, see below for instructions on downloading it.
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Most of you know me as an author of mysteries and science fiction, or the occasional attempt at a literary novel, perhaps even as a political commentator on my site, Lost Coast Review. I’ve also been a publisher, publishing eight books—six novels and two books of poetry—by other authors. With my own work, I’ve had six different publishers who published six of my novels and one nonfiction academic book, and have self-published the others under my own imprint, Avignon Press. I’ve had a lot of experience. I thought that I would share some of what I’ve learned with you.
Many writers are unsure whether to self-publish or to seek a publisher. It’s a good question and there is not one simple answer. The main advantages to publishing with a publisher are that they may be able to get your book more exposure, mainly reviews by noted media, and they give your book and you, as an author, more prestige. Reviews—in major media or by well-known reviewers—lead people to your books and may be necessary for such things as acquisition by libraries. I’m not talking about Amazon reviews, which readers won’t know about until they’ve already gone looking for your book and which are often regarded with suspicion because they are filled with reviews by family and friends and “reciprocal” reviews with other authors. A New York Times review or LA Times Review or NPR review or interview will go a long way to getting new readers. A positive review by Library Journal, School Library Journal (for children’s books), Kirkus, Booklist, or Publisher’s Weekly is almost necessary for getting your book placed in libraries. Major publishing companies may be able to get such reviews, smaller ones usually can’t. You can purchase some of them, such as Kirkus, while some of these, such as Publisher’s Weekly’s Booklife reviews are free and available to self-publishers and small-presses. Major publishers have a big advantage, though. Academic books, such as the one that I published through Johns Hopkins University Press, virtually require a well-known publisher, such as an academic press or similarly respected press, and they will almost always secure reviews for you, which will at least get your book in university libraries.
In terms of prestige, getting a publisher in the future is harder if you’ve only self-published. Some organizations, such as Mystery Writers of America used to exclude self-published authors, but now place more emphasis on the money a book earns. Agents are also more positive toward authors who have previous works published by publishers, but mainly if they are major publishers. Speaking of agents, they are harder to secure than a publisher, but are still required by major publishers. I’ve had two big-name agents, neither of which were able to sell my books to publishers (they were my two earliest books), and I got a small-press to publish one of them and self-published the other.
I find that small presses are the most ignored avenues for publishing among the writers I know. I’ve had success with a couple of them. I’m not talking about vanity presses. Small presses are publishers that charge the writer nothing, pay royalties but not advances, and help with marketing, but to a limited extent. The field is full of scams, unfortunately, the most egregious being those that charge you for editing or those that require you to buy a certain number of books. The latter type of small press makes virtually all of its money by selling to the authors themselves and does little to market the book to a wider audience. The bonuses from a legitimate small press are some marketing, good editing and cover design, publication of the book in several formats, including audiobooks and sometimes hardcover books, and a return policy for books sold to bookstores. The audiobook provided by my latest publisher is high quality and professional with an actor reading the book. Many small presses use print-on-demand and don’t offer hardcovers, at least in the initial offering of the book. There are some that offer digital first and paperback if they get good digital sales. A few are digital only. They may also set you up or assist you with book signings and appearances, but in my experience, that is mostly something that you have to arrange yourself. Although they charge you nothing, you will probably do a fair amount of marketing yourself at your own expense, sometimes a greater expense than you earn in royalties from the book. Contrary to rumors I have seen bandied around the internet, I have never had a small press ask to have the copyright of my book placed in their name. I have had no difficulty receiving the full rights to my books after the contracts have expired and have self-published three of them at the end of the contract period.
The downside of publishing with a small press is that you only receive a small percentage of sales as a royalty; in my experience between 15-30% of the “net” received for the book (price paid by the book store or online vendor), or a smaller percentage, e.g. 10%, of the list price of the book. If you self-publish, your return on each book, particularly eBooks, is substantially higher. With self-publishing, you are able to manipulate the price of the book to offer discounts, occasional free digital books, etc, which you can’t if you have a publisher (although the publisher may do so of their own accord). You may find yourself better able to obtain reviews than the publisher is, although nothing stops an author from seeking reviews on his or her own for a book published by a small press. The downside of self-publishing is that you have to edit, format, obtain a cover, etc. all on your own and at your own expense.
For self-publishers, and even those who are thinking of publishing others’ works, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), formerly CreateSpace, is the easiest route. The service is free, including purchase of an ISBN number, although then the publisher is listed as “Independently Published.” If you purchase your own ISBN number, then it is listed as you or whatever name you purchased it under (e.g. Avignon Press, for me). Kindle Direct Publishing offers a Word formatting template and about 25 cover templates, which allow you to upload your own pictures, or even your own covers if you have designed one. They charge relatively little, less than most small presses, for author copies, and you should order in bulk, as that reduces shipping costs, compared to small or individual book orders of author copies. A major bonus is that if you later discover that there are errors in your book, you can, at any time, revise it and republish it for no cost.
When I published other’s books, I sometimes used Ingram Spark, which is part of the Ingram company that distributes books. Ingram Spark offers some things Kindle Direct Publishing doesn’t: a hardcover option, a return policy for bookstores, and eBook distribution across more sites than just Amazon. For books sold on Amazon, you get a better royalty from KDP, so it may pay to use it for the Amazon listed book and Ingram Spark for a copy sold via other outlets. Comparing the copies of paperback books printed by KDP and Ingram Spark, I couldn’t really tell a difference. Ingram Spark doesn’t have cover templates and you must design you own and I found it hard to fit my designs exactly into their size specifications and it took several tries. You can design a cover on KDP and if you can copy it, use it for Ingram Spark as they are the same size. Unlike KDP, Ingram Spark charges you for changes to your book, once it has gone to print.
I know that this is too much information for anyone other than an aspiring writer. I hope for those of you in that category, it was helpful.
The best example I can give of one of my books sold by a small press is The Oedipus Murders, published in September of 2019, by Black Rose Writing. It is available in paperback, audiobook and eBook formats. The audiobook is offered for purchase, but also via Amazon’s Audible program. If you subscribe to Audible you can do a 30-day free trial and get the book, as well as another book of your choice, for free and even if you unsubscribe before the end of the 30 days, you can keep your audiobooks. Try it, below.
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Welcome to the newest edition to Casey Dorman’s Fan Page newsletter. Today, I have a special treat for you. Below is the first chapter of my political thriller, 2020, revised and updated. At the end of the chapter is a link that allows you to go directly to Amazon and download the entire novel for FREE! You can also skip ahead and download it for free on Amazon right now by clicking here.
Remember, it’s only free for the next three days.
2020 is an “alternate reality” novel, about an autocratic United States president who has shredded the nation of its freedoms, imprisoned dissidents, declared the country a “Christian Nation,” and who is willing to go to any length to win the next election. Luke Evangelista, a down-and-out writer with a conscience, goes after the president when he learns that a supposed terror attack was actually staged to rally support for the president in the upcoming election. 2020 is both an edge-of-your-seat political thriller and a sophisticated analysis of the kinds of rebellion that can bring such a dictatorial leader down.
Rivera Sun, Author of “The Dandelion Revolution” says 2020 is “a parable for our current predicament, offering the lens of fiction as a way to see options, possibilities, and dangers looming in our political horizon.”
Leslie Bohem, Emmy Award Winning Screenwriter and Producer, says, “2020 scares me. It’s so utterly credible, so damn possible, that it sent me running for cover—only to find that there is no cover. Don’t say Casey Dorman didn’t warn us.”
David P. Barash, professor emeritus of psychology, University of Washington, and National Book Award nominee, says, “Casey Dorman’s 2020 is both terrifyingly relevant and downright plausible… It’s also a genuine thriller, with Rashomon-like twists and surprisingly fun to read.”
Here’s the first chapter–
Mahmoud Nagi’s thoughts were on the assault rifle on the floor of the back seat of his Toyota. He could almost feel the solid wooden stock of the gun pressing into his hands, as if it were willing itself into his grasp. His mind was spinning like a pinwheel, consumed by anger, then reversing itself, thinking about the consequences of what he was planning to do. He couldn’t clear his head. The three shots of whiskey and the line of cocaine he’d snorted before he’d left his apartment weren’t helping, but if he had a clear head, he wouldn’t go through with his plan.
Terry MacMillan was going to pay for what he’d done: whispering behind Mahmoud’s back, making wisecracks about Mahmoud’s religion, poking fun at his beard—until Mahmoud had shaved it off—implying that Mahmoud was a terrorist, a jihadist. MacMillan deserved to die. Mahmoud was a Muslim, born in America to Iraqi parents, but he’d never taken his religion seriously. His parents had made him attend the mosque as a child, but as soon as he’d become a teenager, he’d refused to go, as had his older brother and sister before him. He hadn’t opened a Koran since he was 12 years old.
Terry MacMillan had told his fellow workers at the store that Mahmoud was a fundamentalist. Everyone in the country these days was ready to believe such accusations. People at work looked at Mahmoud with fear, whispering behind his back. His coworkers were spurred on by government messages to “look for signs of radicalization among the Muslims in your midst.” His superiors at the store had warned him that his presence was disrupting the work environment, suggesting that he should either quit or he might be fired from his job. His car had been spray painted with the words “Muslim go home.” Mahmoud’s home was here, in the U.S., where he’d been born. But now he felt as if he no longer belonged in the country of his birth. If a terrorist was what MacMillan and the others wanted him to be, that’s what he’d be… at least for MacMillan. He didn’t want to hurt anyone else, but Terry MacMillan was going to pay for the pain and humiliation he’d inflicted on Mahmoud.
He’d visited encrypted ISIS sites, learned where to buy a gun, how to carry out an attack, but he wasn’t swayed by the ISIS propaganda, wasn’t ready to kill scores of people he didn’t know. He only wanted to kill one man. And if he got in and out quickly enough, perhaps he’d be able to do so and live.
The lights from the Galaxy Club were ahead of him, a band of blinking orange lights chasing one another around the edge of the overhanging roof of the former warehouse turned nightclub. He pulled into the parking lot, parked near the street, his Toyota headed outward so he could leave with ease.
Manny, the familiar guard, stood at the entrance to the club, checking IDs and closely eyeing those entering, but not patting them down. Mahmoud sat in his car and reached for the assault rifle. He brought it around his seat and placed it on his lap. With a practiced motion, he removed the two pins holding the stock to the rifle’s barrel. Putting the pins in his pocket of his leather jacket, he loosened his belt and pulled his pants far enough down to place each half of the gun in the loops he had sewn into both pant legs—something he had learned from an ISIS video. Then he sat, thinking about what he was about to do.
He unscrewed the top of a mini bottle of whiskey and downed the contents in two quick gulps. The liquid was warm going down his throat, like calming medicine. He waited for the effects of the alcohol to hit him. He opened the car door.
Manny recognized Mahmoud from his recent visits and waved him through. Inside, the crowd was thick, the music loud. A disc jockey was on the stage spinning records. The dance floor was packed with bodies, young people bobbing and weaving to the throbbing beat of the music. Mahmoud began to hunt.
Terry MacMillan was standing at one of the bars, his back to the bar and a drink in his hand. Twenty feet away was the door to the men’s room. Mahmoud slid along the wall, keeping himself hidden behind the oscillating bodies on the dance floor until he reached the restroom door. He stepped inside an unoccupied stall and closed the door, then unfastened his belt and pulled the two parts of the rifle from his pant legs. He put the pieces together and replaced the two pins. He checked the magazine of the AR-15 to make sure that it was fully loaded. Then he stepped out of the stall, his rifle held, barrel downward, next to his right leg.
MacMillan was still standing at the bar, gazing at the dance floor, his drink in his hand. There were others standing on either side of him. Mahmoud raised his rifle and grasped it in both hands, one hand on the trigger, ready to fire. He began walking toward his prey.
At first no one noticed. Then one or two stepped back, some pointing, some starting to yell and run. Mahmoud continued marching straight ahead, his rifle aimed squarely at Terry MacMillan. He wanted MacMillan to see him before he fired. Wanted him to know exactly who killed him. He wanted MacMillan to feel the fear that would come from thinking that he had been right about Mahmoud being a terrorist. MacMillan turned his head in the direction of the commotion; then he saw Mahmoud. He said something to the man next to him, then dove for the floor.
“Allahu Akbar” Mahmoud yelled. Then he began to fire.
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