Author Archives: Mark Gardner

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior.

The debate rages on

It’s the last day of March, and I haven’t posted anything this month. I guess if I’m gonna do it, I’d better REALLY do it. Fasten your seat belts, we’re off…

Some people will skim this and make their own decisions about who I am as a person. They will draw unfounded conclusions about me based on scant data. The digital vaccine passport is the latest buzz topic. I’ve seen well-thought criticisms and reasoned arguments for and against be reduced to replies such as “you’re and idiot.” While these attacks against discourse reveal more about the attacker than they do about the attacked, there is nonetheless public discourse about the topic.

From what I can see, there is really only one argument against the digital vaccine passport. It’s the same argument that has plagued modern society for generations: balancing the potential health benefits of legislation versus the problematic limiting of personal freedom. That pretty much encapsulates the arguments. Some will characterize voiced concerns as a desperate attempt of ideologs clinging to their backward belief system in a futile attempt to prevent the world from progressing. These people would equate racism, bigotry, sexism, and hatred to the vaccine discussion and minimize the debate.

Political ideology is the new religion (I know, this has been said before and decades ago). Misinformation is the tool and trade of the oppressor. The oppressor holds firm to no one ideology, religion, or political affiliation. They hold firm to one thing only: power. They wish to consolidate and preserve power. Sometimes this is via wealth. Sometimes this is via cancel culture. The methodology may be different, but the result is always the same: to oppress others.

Let’s get a few things straight. Vaccine passports are nothing new. Many countries require vaccines and proof of vaccine to gain entry. Let’s also touch on the ideological aspect of this: Airlines, restaurants, grocery stores, and theme parks are private entities. In the United States, they reserve the right to refuse service or entry based on anything not protected by legislation. Most employment is regulated as an at-will agreement (no one is forced to provide notice before quitting, and no one is forced to employ someone they don’t want to except for legislative protected reasons).

I see that you’re nodding along. Yeah, most people do agree with this until it directly affects their personal freedoms. Debating public good versus personal freedom is not the point of this post. Some of you are also nodding your head and have made a conclusion about my political affiliation or ideology—Stop. Don’t do that. I will tell you about my political affiliation and ideology—it may or may not surprise you.

I am a pretty staunch libertarian, but I’ve run for office as a Republican. I attend a graduate liberal arts college, but I’ve had a long career in conservative radio broadcasting. What? You thought that I was just an author? I’m afraid not. I, like most humans, am many things. I’m an artist. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m an educator. I’m an activist. Wasn’t it Meredith Brooks popularized by Alanis Morissette who said, “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover. I’m a child, I’m a mother. I’m a sinner, I’m a saint. I do not feel ashamed. I’m your hell, I’m your dream. I’m nothing in between. You know you wouldn’t want it any other way”? Yep, I just quoted song lyrics. The point is that there is no single way to describe me. Just because I believe in one way about one particular topic, doesn’t mean that you can generalize how I might feel about another topic. And quite frankly if you do, that’s damned offensive. Never in the history of humankind has stereotyping ever been a force for good.

The problem we have in modern society is absolutist practicum. The idea that there is only a for and against argument for any one topic or dilemma. If someone is against the COVID-19 vaccine, then they must be for everyone dying of pestilence. This strawman argument has no business in this discussion and is a frequent tool of the oppressor. I don’t fly since the events of 9/11 not because I’m mad with the surrendering of personal rights and the utter lack of effectiveness of the TSA, but because flying is damned expensive.

I’m opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine not just because forcing it on a population is a gross violation of personal rights, but because I have underlying health concerns. And who are you to criticize me for being cautious about taking a vaccine that has no history of effectiveness against a virus that has a 1.8% mortality rate in the United States? (Johns Hopkins 2021) Some of you have dismissed me as a crackpot. I imagine some of you are calling me an anti-vaxxer. Once again, absolutist practicum. Just because I question or criticize the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t mean I’m against all vaccines. I’ve had discussions with my hematologist, oncologist, and my primary care physician about the COVID-19 vaccine. The opposite is also true, just because someone chooses to get the COVID-19 vaccine, doesn’t make them “sheeple.” There are a variety of reasons why someone would be eager to get the COVID-19 vaccine, just as there are a variety of reasons not to do so. Attacking people based on their decision helps no one and doesn’t further the discussion in any way. All it does is reinforce ideology and turn people who may have been influenced one way or the another into extremists.

When we minimize a person’s discourse on not just COVID-19 vaccines but any topic, we minimize their voice. When we minimize someone’s voice, we minimize ourselves and our ability to empathize. And let’s face it, our planet is plagued enough by apathy and selfishness. Bigotry and hatred. Intolerance and injustice. The various -isms that are hot topics in academia and the world at large. As someone smarter than I am once said, “try to be a fountain, not a drain.”


What’s a VCR? a.k.a. Dreams Are Weird

There isn’t anything new to report on the writing front. No upcoming appearances due to COVID cancellations. I’m still working on my YA novel for my graduate degree. My family’s is doing fine. Nothing to really blog about—except the weird dream I had last night…

Erika and I were in high-end VCR sales. Like high end for the 1990s—nothing less than $250, and the pièce de résistance costing a cool $999. The shop was an artisanal boutique—think PKD’s The Man in the High Castle character Robert Childan, as played by Brennan Brown. Anyway, Erika and I wined and dined clients interested in purchasing a VCR at high-end eating establishments. The actual store itself was virtually identical to a franchise RadioShack I worked at in the late 90s and early 00s. (That RadioShack even had an expensive eatery a few doors down.) I told you: dreams are weird.

Anyway, Erika and I were the regional sales leaders. Unlike the RadioShack I worked at in rural Arizona, this shop was more like Robert Childan’s Americana. As I recall the dream, I think it was a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (one of the places I lived at as a child). Erika and I won a regional sales contest, and the prize was a trip to a certain California amusement park. You know, the one that’s only a 6.5-hour drive from my house. The one owned by the company that is the singular cause and benefactor of the shambles that is US copyright law.

The amusement park wasn’t the mecca to capitalism that I’ve been forced to endure for the last twenty years (Erika is a superfan, and I have three children), it was a cross between that and a 1990s version of Kennywood or Cedar Point, but like the VCR shop, the amusement park was in a suburb of Pittsburgh or Chicago (there was a Harold’s Chicken Shack and an Eat’n Park outside the gates). The dream fades as dreams do, but for some reason, Erika and I were separated. We were supposed to meet back at our hotel—which was the doppelgänger of the Hilton Garden Grove (CA), but more like the Royal Sonesta Portland (OR) with the urban façade, bird motif and casual music events. My favorite manager from the Hilton Garden Grove was managing this dream hotel.

Somehow, I’m not sure how, I lost my smart watch at the park, and ended up taking the subway back to the hotel—a reminder of a hotel I stayed at when doing Phoenix Comicon years ago. I don’t know the disposition of my watch, or if I ever reconnected with Erika because I woke up. (Or if I got any amazing cookies like from the Hilton Garden Grove.) That’s it—that’s the end of my dream narration. Did I say that dreams are weird?

I told Erika about my dream in response to her telling me that she had a weird dream. I started out, “So, we were high-end VCR salesmen.” She replied, “What’s a VCR?” I won’t bang a drum to “kids these days” not knowing technology like a landline or a VCR or a cassette tape. My oldest is a Millennial, and he knows what each of these technologies is, but there is definitely a disconnect there. But Erika was born in [REDACTED], and her first gaming system was a Nintendo. In fact, her Super Nintendo is in a box in the garage with my Super Nintendo. Plus, when she was a child in the 80s or 90s, her parents owned a video rental store.

I just kind of looked at her incredulously and replied, “You know, tapes, Blockbuster…”

“Oh,” she responded, “I thought you meant some sort of virtual reality thing. High-end VCRs, huh?”

I nodded.

She returned my nod. “Yeah, dreams are weird.”


It’s been a While

Hey, everyone! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

2020 kicked everyone’s asses. Mine included. I’m on my last semester at Prescott College and I expect to graduate with my Master’s in May. A discussion board post for class reminded me that I haven’t posted for quite a while. A few things are happening here. It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve been in a funk for a few years, and quarantine didn’t do me any favors. I hope to have a few posts up soon and update this dusty blog. I didn’t meet my 2020 reading goal, but it’s a tradition that I post a year in reading review. I’ve also got some news on a few writing commitments to share. I’ll probably blah blah blah about my garden, so that’s only a month or so away. I hope to be posting about appearances for 2021. Until next time, Salud!


Quarantine Update – AKA What a difference a decade makes.

Well, it’s actually been eleven years, but I digress. I made a comment on Twitter, and a person or two liked it. Aubrey was sitting in Erika’s lap, and in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a secondary player can follow the active player around. Aubrey kept running away from Erika while she was trying to fish, causing the screen to shift and Erika’s view of the fish to be obscured.

Erika exclaimed, “Ugh! Fishing with a four-year-old in Animal Crossing is just as bad as it is in real life!”

I grabbed my phone and retorted, “Oh, I dunno.” And pulled up one of my favorite photos of Alyssa and me “fishing” at Lynx Lake.


 

It was on May 17th, 2009. Grandma was with us. You can’t see it in the photo, but if memory serves, we had a bag of Kix cereal. I didn’t want to actually catch a fish that day, and I remember sticking a Kix on the hook and casting it. Four-year-old Alyssa would reel it back in, I’d put another on the hook, and she’d eat a handful. Then, repeat – It was a great day.

I had just finished up my very first semester at Yavapai College. According to my transcripts, I had a 4.0 GPA. I was working at a Fox News Radio affiliate back then, and the paycheck was pretty good. We owned a house in an unincorporated area between Prescott and Prescott Valley then. Anthony was doing well at a local charter school. I probably weighed about 225 pounds or so.

What a difference a decade (eleven years) makes.

Today is April 5th, 2020. I’m avoiding writing a discussion board post for my graduate degree. It’s due tomorrow. I finished that degree at Yavapai College. It took me three years, and my final GPA was 3.49. I think I was .01 short of the dean’s list or something. I also got my Bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University. It took me… wow, five years to finish that one. Losing a job, a house, and a cancer diagnosis derailed that one. Not that it matters, but my final GPA was 3.51 – enough for the dean’s list. I got fired from the Fox News Radio Affiliate twice. We bought a new house – going on 3.5 years here. My weight has been a major issue partly due to the cancer, and partly due to the fact that I lovefood. I’m about 280, and not happy about it.

Anthony and Erika are both getting their associate’s degrees from Yavapai College this summer. Anthony should be starting his bachelor’s in the fall. Alyssa is now fourteen, and is a hell of an artist, musician, and actor. Many of you who have met us at an event have seen her artwork. This proud dad brags any chance he gets. I’m working on my MBA, with an eye on my PhD. If everything goes as planned, I’ll get my MBA spring 2021, and start my PhD that Fall. I’ve got a great job that allows me to telework during the coronavirus crisis.

Anyway, Aubrey, like any four-year-old, wanted to see the photo I showed Erika. The interaction went something like this:

“Is that me in that photo?” Aubrey inquired.

“Does it look like you?” I replied.

“Well, yes, but…”

“Ah,” I said. “Do you remember fishing with me?”

“No,” she replied.

A smile crept on my face, and I looked to Erika. We’ve been married twenty years, and together longer. I knew that she knew what I was thinking. We couldn’t go to Lynx Lake due to quarantine, but we have a nice back yard…


 

I hope everyone reading this is safe. A dear friend of mine lost her husband recently, and I’ve read of others in the same situation. My mother-in-law, who has spent every weekend at my house since Aubrey was born is having a tough time distancing from us. Since Anthony is working at Fry’s (Kroger), we felt that it wasn’t safe for Erika’s mom to spend the weekends here. I only go into work one day a week, and there are only about four people there when I do. Because of my Leukemia, I’m not any safer, but family.

There is a lot of anxiety out there right now. There is a lot of misinformation. There is a lot of people worried about their friends, loved ones, jobs, communities, etc. We need to have compassion for our fellow humans. Animal Crossing will only take us so far :) We need to be better. We need to do better. As Alyssa is fond of saying, “Love wins.”


Verde Valley Comic Expo

I logged in to check on something, and noticed that I reached 1000 posts two posts ago. Also that I hadn’t posted anything since January. Next week is spring break for me, so I might do some author related stuffs – I dunno.

I’ll be at the 5th annual Verde Valley Comic Expo on March 21st. I’ll have an artist that I work with in attendance. His name is Mario Diaz, and this will be his first show selling art, so be sure to show up and buy something from him. You can get one of my books too, I guess. My friends, L. Fergus and Meg Mac Donald gave me some of their books to sell, and of course, I’ll have Erika’s children’s books on hand to sell. You know, the ones illustrated by the amazingly talented Alex Rudolph. Oh, and Alyssa will be there a actually selling her art. It’ll be a busy table!

Check out Mario’s Instagram and Facebook. (He says he’s more active on Insta.) You might recognize the rain/city/woman with umbrella painting from the Spanish-language collection of my stories.


Hiatus and Other Hspprnings

Hey, everyone! I’ve already mentioned my 2020 hiatus on Twitter, and an interview back in November, but I didn’t post about it here. So, here it is: I’m working on my Master’s degree this year, and it’s back-to-back-to-back studying, essays, meetings, etc. I’ve only got two appearances this year: Fandomania in August, and The Verde Expo in March.

Now, The Verde Expo has been traditionally when my next murder mystery would release, but the series contract with Amber Cove wasn’t renewed, so there won’t be a new book for 2020. I have rough drafts of two more novels, and a mental outline of a third. I expect to have the next adventure of Caroline Collins and Tupper Jones out in 2021, most likely at the Verde Expo. I’ll do some shopping of the series, but if I get no takers, I’ll self-publish.

Mental State is still in rough draft, and that could see a fall release in 2021. The next War of the Worlds novel is still looking like a 2023 release after contracts expire. Other things on my “future” plate are another Clockwork Tales with D. Paul Angel. That project is something that I can work on between semesters, so as soon as DPA and I get more going, I’ll let you all know.


Musing from the dead

It certainly has been a while since I posted.

A lot happened in 2019. I got laid off from my long-time broadcasting job in April. (I started that job in November 2007!) Life was difficult this year. I suffered from bouts of apathy, no doubt, depression from my life situation. My writing career seems to have stalled, and I went from getting invited to everything to no one wanting me. (I know it’s not true, but depression has a nasty way of making you believe things…) Of course, I haven’t written a damned thing since April. I’ve kept reading, but Amazon’s odd policies on writers reviewing other works of fiction resulted in no reviews. I’m not sure that anyone read my reviews, but I’m probably not going to do those anymore. Goodreads will be my primary reading portal reporting thing, since I can still leave starred ratings.

I started a new career in September. (I know, broadcasting was my new career.) So education is my new new career. I took a job as a Data Operations Specialist at a local liberal arts college. I didn’t realize how much I hated my broadcasting job until I got the college job, to contrast how much fun this new job is. I’m also going to start my graduate program in January 2020. I received my undergraduate degree in 2017 after five years of NAU, so getting an accelerated graduate degree in a year will be a challenge that I look forward to completing. The educational future for my family and me is looking good.

As for writing, I just got back from an educational training event in Portland, OR. I spent my evenings with fellow writer D. Paul Angel. We ate food and saw the sights in Weird Portland. Yes, I know that “Keep Portland Weird” is an unofficial slogan, but I don’t care. Anyway, with the beginning of NaNoWriMo, I’m going to be writing the next Tupper Jones mystery, and have already written 1500 words of Brass Queen. I’m not sure of the timetable for the Brass Automaton sequel, but it’s revived. (Can you believe that it’s been since 2016 since we wrote in this universe?)

Anyway, I hope to blog more now that I’m feeling better with life. November may be light, since I want to focus on writing two stories for NaNoWriMo. Twitter will be the best place to follow that. So, in closing, it’s good to be back, and I look forward to the challenges of the future.


What Dawn Demands, by Clara Coulson

After watching his city fall to pieces during his archenemy’s last attack, Vincent Whelan is finally ready to take the fight to Abarta. But in order to defeat an age-old god and his growing army of vicious fiends, Vince will have to take Kinsale’s selection of subdued paranormals and somehow turn them into a first-rate fighting force. To complicate matters, the vampires have made themselves at home in Kinsale, and the city’s recovery is threatened by their escalating violence. So when Vince stumbles upon a major scheme in the making, spearheaded by the elder vampire who wants his head on a plate, he’ll have to navigate not only the dangers of Abarta’s next big move but also the rising risk of a vampire insurrection. A cunning trap that could destroy the city. An ancient summoning that could destroy the world. A pair of powerful people determined to achieve their dark ambitions. And the only thing standing in the way of all this chaos is a half-fae with a cop badge, a cool sword, and a massive chip on his shoulder. It’s Vincent Whelan versus the forces of absolute destruction, and the odds are far worse than fifty-fifty.

This fourth book in the series had a slightly different feel to it. Vince seems to have matured between the events of books three and four. I think I like this confident Vince better than the “hidden” one. I will say, that this is the first book in the series to have a cliffhanger ending, and it felt longer than any of the previous books. I’m not usually a fan of the cliffhanger, but Coulson pulls it off without book four feeling incomplete. It’s been fun reading Vince grow as a character, and we learned a lot about the past histories of the world, Vince, and the fae. If I had to find fault, it’s that the recurring villains are getting a little stale. I realize that Abarta is the big bad, and his defeat would likely mean the end of the series, but he seems like doctor claw from inspector gadget. I still love the snark between Vince and Saoirse, and between Vince and everyone who shunned him before his lineage was revealed. Everybody cheers for the underdog, and Vincent Whelan is an underdog I can really get behind. Five stars like the rest of the series, and I can’t wait to read the next book.

Therin-Knite

Clara Coulson was born and raised in backwoods Virginia, USA. Currently, in her mid-twenties, Clara holds a degree in English and Finance from the College of William & Mary and recently retired from the hustle and bustle of Washington, DC to return to the homeland and pick up the quiet writing life. Clara spends most of her time (when she’s not writing) dreaming up new story ideas, studying Japanese, and slowly reading through the several-hundred-book backlog on her budding home library. If she’s not occupied with any of those things, then you can probably find her playing with her two cats or lurking in the shadows of various social media websites.

Amazon
Goodreads
http://www.claracoulson.com/
Twitter


City Before Sunrise out now!

Hey, you. Yeah, you. My second murder mystery with Amber Cove Publishing is out now. I know, I know, you want to know why the series is called “Tupper Jones Mysteries” when the protagonist is Caroline Collins. Really, it’s because I’m a bit of a trickster. You picked up on the fact that I do stuff like naming the FBI agents after pregnancy terms, right? You dig the puns, right? Well, City Before Sunrise has the same level of snark and excitement as Score of Silence. Like more even. I guess I should say something like “Now with 17% more snarky banter!” I took a customer behavior course while getting my undergraduate degree in human behavior, and I know that that statement is meaningless. What isn’t meaningless is that gasp, there’s another dead body. (Do I really need to use “dead” as a qualifier? I mean if it’s a body, then it’s obviously dead, otherwise, it would be a person.) Some of you emailed me and said that the blood in the opening chapters of Score of Silence was too much. Okay, maybe it was. City Before Sunrise has 63% less blood. Like the description says, the team’s back together, and ready to get their man. For fans of Kimberly and/or Tiffany, they have bigger roles in City Before Sunrise. Flat-face, er, I mean Agent Braxton returns with 5% less vein-bulging, red-faced anger. So, get the book. Get two or three so you can give them to your friends. Oh, and just so you know, the rough draft of book three is finished, so expect another Tupper Jones Mysteries book March 2020. (It’s a pattern!) P.S. I could use some reviews on both titles, so you know, please…

Caroline Collins just can’t catch a break.

When an old friend comes calling, Caroline finds herself embroiled in a case involving clandestine meetings, bank robberies, a shady import-export business, and the murder of an FBI agent. And where this fearless female sleuth goes, Tupper Jones is sure to follow–only this time, following could mean a long walk off a short pier into Lake Michigan.

Hot on the heels of the events in SCORE OF SILENCE, CITY BEFORE SUNRISE explodes with action, danger, and a touch of snark. The band is back together and Team Collins won’t stop until false allegations against their friend are laid to rest and the Chicago mob is in need of a new boss.

City Before Sunrise
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Q131CHX/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43471669/

Score of Silence:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B4F7ZD3/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39405579/


Release Party This Saturday!

The Verde Valley Comic Expo coincides with the release of my second murder mystery this year. City Before Sunrise is scheduled to release on March 26th, but you can get your copy early at the Verde Valley Comic Expo on March 23rd! Entry is only $5 ($3 if you bring two non-perishable food items). I’ll be there from 10am until the event closes at 5pm. Last year, I skipped the afterparty with Tales of the Con, but plan on tagging along this year. I’ll also have a Bards and Sages swag bag that the Cottonwood library will be raffling off to support their summer reading campaign. VVCE regulars, Tales of the Con, Everybody’s Hometown Geek, & Arizona Ghostbusters will be there too.

Here’s the description for City Before Sunrise:
Private Investigator Caroline Collins just can’t catch a break.
When an old friend comes calling, Caroline finds herself embroiled in a case involving clandestine meetings, bank robberies, a shady import-export business, and the murder of an FBI agent. And where this fearless female sleuth goes, Tupper Jones is sure to follow—only this time, following could mean a long walk off a short pier into Lake Michigan.
Hot on the heels of the events in SCORE OF SILENCE, CITY BEFORE SUNRISE explodes with action, danger, and a touch of snark. The band is back together and Team Collins won’t stop until false allegations against their friend are laid to rest and the Chicago mob is in need of a new boss.

But wait, there’s more! My daughter and teen artist, Alyssa, will be at VVCE2019 with me. She’ll have framed artwork for sale for only $15. She’s gotta buy lunch from the Copper State Pizza truck, so stop in and buy some of her artwork. For those of you on the south side of Mingus Mountain, she’ll also be at the Teen Art Showcase on Friday the 22nd at the Prescott Valley Library from 6pm – 8pm. The showcase will be her first public appearance ever, so stop on by to either event and say hello.

Here are some links:
VVCE2019 website
VVCE2019 facebook
Cottonwood Public Library
Prescott Valley Public Library
City Before Sunrise Amazon page
Amber Cove Publishing
Bards and Sages Publishing
Tales of the Con podcast
Everybody’s Hometown Geek
Arizona Ghostbusters