Monday, June 2, 2014

News got you down? Not feeling that great? Need a pick-me-up?

1. “Things have been extremely difficult around here…. The adventures of the Mendez family provided a wonderful distraction. And the ending filled me with hope, for some inexplicable reason. I love the warmth and togetherness of the family.”

Here are a baker's dozen comments from readers and reviewers of one or another of the six Distant Cousin books to date: the stories of the human extraterrestrial Ana Darcy and her family. Not only have many people have found them refreshing and uplifting, more than a few have come to think of the characters as members of their own families!

2. “Toward the end of this novel I found myself thinking I was reading about my good friends and not some characters in a novel. I'm hoping there is a 5th in the series, I'd like to know that my friends are OK. This is a fun and exciting series to read.”

 3. “We've watched Ana come to Earth, cause some trouble, get into some trouble, settle down, get married, get into more trouble, have two wonderful kids, etc., etc. I've really enjoyed watching the characters grow and become part of my family.”

4. “It's always a pleasure to read a book where the character is so fleshed out that I feel I would know him/her if I met them on the street. Not only would I know them, I'd have invited them to lunch so we could chat!” 

5. “The books flow so easily you feel like you are a part of the family. You want to be a part of the family. However I am so sad that I have read the last one. My mom loved them and has read them all 3 times already.  I will be taking them on my vacation with me so I can read them all again.”

6. “I stayed up and read the last half of DC4, really enjoyed it. I love her kids! and that cat. I want that cat but no way I could sneak it in past my neighbors LOL.... My sister wanted me to let you know that she has read DC1-DC4 in less than a week. She really enjoyed them and said if you weren't already writing DC5 she'd hunt you down....  We both were getting a kick out of Darcy and Matt.”

7. “I love Darcy. I can’t wait to see what happens next. It is indeed a page turner, a cute and funny book with lots of laugh-out-loud parts.” 

8. “Awesome!!! I am 3/4 through this book and am literally dragging my heels about finishing it. I ration myself. The story and characters are just so captivating.”

9. “I have truly enjoyed Ana's adventures. It leaves me wishing I could meet her. I love how you bring seemingly unrelated things together so neatly.”

10. “I like stories that focus on the characters, and not around a central plot. It makes the characters seem more real and it's easy to become emotionally invested in their well-being. How can you not like a story when you are actually worried about the characters?”

11. “I would recommend the book to any of you who like science fiction with some romance and adventure thrown in. No little green men/women will be involved, but there will be characters about whom you will care a great deal.”

12. ”A couple of huge successes that are excellent movies are E.T. and Close Encounters. These have a strength of character and plot that pushes your intellect forward while engaging your heartstrings at the same time. Distant Cousin does it, too.”

13. "I loved the storyline for Distant Cousin. I fell in love with Ana Darcy."

All at Amazon, inexpensively!
Excerpts, photos, & maps in right column, 2/3 down the page

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Distant Cousin: Two Worlds Daughter now published!

Distant Cousin: Two Worlds Daughter is finally published!

Somehow (?), a friend of my wife learned of this: 

"AWESOME!!!!!!!  I will download it on my iPAD* this weekend.   DH and I are heading to New York city for some work and for some fun with B____ and family.  AND I need my Distant Cousin nearby on the airplane :)

An ER surgeon friend emailed at 4 a.m.:

"Damn! The first chapter got me hooked (again). Hopefully I'll have the fortitude to wait till tomorrow to continue. I still have some work to do."

That's the whole idea-->

"I think that having fun is a social function.... I think about the reader who has to put up with these pages.  He needs to have fun, he needs gratification; this is my moral.  Someone bought the book, paid money, invests time: he has to have fun." 
                                                                  --Italo Calvino

For those unfamiliar with Ana's stories, a quick intro:: 

"The most distinguishing trademark of Al Past's Distant Cousin books is their obvious similarity to some of Steven Spielberg's best movies. Ana Darcy is much like E.T. without the Disney cuteness or childhood orientation. She is an E.T.-type character for an adult audience. The sense of wonder we all had the first time we watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind is magically reincarnated. Reading all the Distant Cousin books is like playing a movie in your head. This is the way we want life to be. This is the way we want Americans to respond to aliens if they ever arrive on Earth. Life should always be like this." (Floyd M. Orr, PODBRAM) 

In the sixth tale of Earth's first extraterrestrial and her family, Ana Darcy Mendez finds herself on the other side of the world with her husband and children out of town, when both her extraordinary children suddenly face major life decisions--even deadly danger. We have all heard of teenagers who did things they barely survived, that shaped their characters--and that their parents never knew of. What sort of decisions will Ana's children make? And will their parents ever find out?

Available for Kindle, in a fine trade paperback, and Amazon UK in paper.
Kindle edition $2.99 (free for Prime), $12.42 in paper

NOTE! The Kindle editions are now $2.99. You can enjoy the entire set for less than the price of volume 1 in paper! See Amazon!

For more information:

The covers make the Distant Cousin books look like science fiction, but the author disagrees...mostly. 

Why would Kindle Board members tell the author "You suck?"
 Why would another Kindle Board member say it again

What do authors and writers say about the books?

What's the deal with the series' main character?

You can "Look Within" at Amazon for a few pages if you like, or you can read the whole first chapter, which sets the main story nicely:

To those who have enjoyed the books, and to those who discover them and enjoy them, please pay it forward and tell others. I'm a terrible messenger and anyway, I have more stories to write.  Thank you so much!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Guess what? J. K. Rowling actually wrote Distant Cousin!

OK, she didn't, actually.

But we were amused, along with probably thousands of other indie authors, to hear that The Cuckoo's Calling received some excellent reviews but sold only about 500 copies in the United States.

But then, of course, once it was revealed that the book was really written by J. K. Rowling, whose other books threaten to throw Earth out of its orbit, then it sold out immediately, and can't be printed fast enough. (The Kindle edition could not possibly have sold out--not possibly!)

So we are tickled to note that (1) The Cuckoo's Calling has earned an average of four stars at Amazon over 126 reviews...and that's with a big-league publisher, editors, marketers, and designers, and (2) tickled to note that Distant Cousin has a higher rating (37 reviews, even including a few sock puppets), AND (3), tickled to note that Distant Cousin costs less than a third as much!

What a funny business book publishing is. But there are still some wonderfully entertaining books out there waiting to be found for those willing to experiment a little!

From a reader at the KindleBoards: "'I'm another one of the ravers. These are 3 soon to be 4 books that I can't imagine anybody not liking. There is something for everybody in them."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Google salutes the Roswell alien but misses the real alien: Ana Darcy!

Today only (July 8, 2013) the Google Doodle commemorates the alien crash incident at Roswell New Mexico of 66 years ago (and the continuing festival which celebrates it).

Unfortunately, Google has missed a more interesting (and more verifiable) alien. Her  arrival and landing (in Texas, only a day's drive from Roswell), which bears some outward similarities to the cute little animated figure above, is told in Distant Cousin. On the other hand, readers have agreed, her experiences are vastly more entertaining, cute as the Doodle may be.

This is the perfect occasion to invite you to meet Ana Darcy, the first alien to return to Earth!

Reader comment: "What makes a book outstanding to me is that I am sad when I come to the ending and the characters stay with me for a long time after reading. This series is one of the few that is on my "Must Read" list when others ask me for book recommendations."  

In case the Google Doodle above is not cataloged somewhere, clicking on it on July 8, 2013 produced this search.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Ana notes the Roswell UFO Festival: amusing but not impossible!

The 66th anniversary of whatever it was that happened near Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 is being observed now at the Roswell UFO Festival. Something crashed on a ranch near the town, and what with one thing and another it got blown up into a huge alien "first contact" controversy.
We won't review the history. Most people are familiar with it. If not, you can look it up at Wikipedia, and check out the festival here.

Ana Darcy, our Distant Cousin, neither believes the "crashed and hidden alien" story nor thinks it ridiculous. For one thing she is, after all, an alien who came to Earth, and before 1947, in fact. She was born and grew up on a planet 25 light years away, and in fact came here in a manner not unlike the putative alien or aliens who crashed.

For another thing, her people still tell the story of their transposition from Earth to Thomo millennia ago. They KNOW there are aliens out there, or were: they've long since lost track.

So Ana doesn't find this legend nearly as silly as some of us do.


If you'd like to see what Ana first saw on Earth, it's here.

If you'd like to learn a bit about OUR winsome alien, it's here.

If you'd like to know why two readers have told Ana's chronicler "You suck!" that's here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why doesn't Ana know how old she is?

Ana Darcy, our Distant Cousin, has never been able to say exactly how old she is. There are, as she has been known to state in several of her chronicles, just too many variables. 

 First, her home planet, Thomo, has days (and years) slightly different from ours. More importantly, Ana traveled twenty-five light years to return to her people's planet of origin, Earth, and she did so mostly at the speed of light.

As we know, Albert Einstein was the first to point out that time slows down as speed increases. Ana's interstellar vessel took approximately a year to accelerate to roughly 96% the speed of light, which it maintained until it began slowing down, taking approximately another year to do so.

A physicist friend tried to answer the question of how that might affect Ana's age by imagining twins, one traveling between Thomo and Earth, and one staying behind, and comparing the relative difference the traveler experiences. His answer is below. (He thanks Wikipedia for its help. let us note.)

If you are math-challenged, as Ana's chronicler is, this will seem like Greek to you, and you are excused. If you are adept at mathematics, then this might answer the question that even Ana cannot figure out, as good at math as she is.

Difference in elapsed time as a result of differences in spacetime paths

The following paragraph shows several things:
Let clock K be associated with the "stay at home twin". Let clock K' be associated with the rocket that makes the trip. At the departure event both clocks are set to 0.
Phase 1: Rocket (with clock K') embarks with constant proper accelerationa during a time Ta as measured by clock K until it reaches some velocity V.
Phase 2: Rocket keeps coasting at velocity V during some time Tcaccording to clock K.
Phase 3: Rocket fires its engines in the opposite direction of K during a time Ta according to clock K until it is at rest with respect to clock K. The constant proper acceleration has the value −a, in other words the rocket isdecelerating.
Phase 4: Rocket keeps firing its engines in the opposite direction of K, during the same time Ta according to clock K, until K' regains the same speed V with respect to K, but now towards K (with velocity −V).
Phase 5: Rocket keeps coasting towards K at speed V during the same time Tc according to clock K.
Phase 6: Rocket again fires its engines in the direction of K, so it decelerates with a constant proper acceleration a during a time Ta, still according to clock K, until both clocks reunite.
Knowing that the clock K remains inertial (stationary), the total accumulated proper time Δτ of clock K' will be given by the integral function of coordinate timeΔt
\Delta \tau = \int \sqrt{ 1 - (v(t)/c)^2 } \ dt \
where v(t) is the coordinate velocity of clock K' as a function of t according to clock K, and, e.g. during phase 1, given by
v(t) = \frac{a t}{ \sqrt{1+  \left( \frac{a t}{c} \right)^2}}.
This integral can be calculated for the 6 phases:[15]
Phase 1 :\quad c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )\,
Phase 2 :\quad T_c \ \sqrt{ 1 - V^2/c^2 }
Phase 3 :\quad c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )\,
Phase 4 :\quad c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )\,
Phase 5 :\quad T_c \ \sqrt{ 1 - V^2/c^2 }
Phase 6 :\quad c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )\,
where a is the proper acceleration, felt by clock K' during the acceleration phase(s) and where the following relations hold between Va and Ta:
V = a \ T_a / \sqrt{ 1 + (a \ T_a/c)^2 }
a \ T_a = V / \sqrt{ 1 - V^2/c^2 }
So the traveling clock K' will show an elapsed time of
\Delta \tau = 2 T_c \sqrt{ 1 - V^2/c^2 } + 4 c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )
which can be expressed as
\Delta \tau = 2 T_c / \sqrt{ 1 + (a \ T_a/c)^2 } + 4 c / a \ \text{arsinh}( a \ T_a/c )
whereas the stationary clock K shows an elapsed time of
\Delta t = 2 T_c + 4 T_a\,
which is, for every possible value of aTaTc and V, larger than the reading of clock K':
\Delta t > \Delta \tau\,

What's unusual about Ana's notion of language and math education?

A reader writes:
Very well written and includes interesting tidbits about foods, scenery, events, etc which add to the story. I found it hard to put down and then thinking about the story while doing other things. Loved his writing style and imagination.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ana finds a poem about perspective: distance and light make anything artistic!

Ana's husband Matt has no problem agreeing that his wife, who traveled here from another planet, after all, knows a great deal more about perspective than he does. He readily understood Ana's instant liking for the poem "Distance and a Certain Light," by May Swenson.*

Consider: in the news these days (June 2013) is that one of our interplanetary probes is going to take a photo of Earth from Saturn this coming November. People who follow such things cannot wait to see how Earth, the "blue marble," might look from the rings of Saturn--it's a matter of perspective, isn't it? It will be a perspective we've never had before, like the famous photo the astronauts took of the Earth from the moon.

Ms. Swenson's poem goes beyond the obvious, however: junkyards, garbage barges, rubbish dumps, can all look lovely from the right altitude. In fact, the poem points out, many an ugly, decomposing thing can be charming, as under a microscope, for example. The poet does not mention it, but Ana well knows that even the planets and stars are not permanent: our bodies, in fact, are made from elements produced in stars, and very likely will end up going around again in some form or other. The people of Ana's planet celebrate this cycle. We can too!

See many more in the column on the right, under the LOVE sculpture-->