Little Book of Secrets

Hello, friends!

So I recently saw a writing prompt on Fiction Can Be Fun.  It sounded like fun, so I decided to make some fiction based on it.

The prompt had to do with journals.  Specifically, the scenario involves somebody either losing a journal or finding a journal that belongs to somebody else.  My initial thought was what would happen if somebody found one of my journals, full of my weird Sci-Fi world building notes.  Then I thought of another idea that was even wackier than that.

I want to emphasize a few points: this story is 100% fiction.  Additionally, the fact that this story is set exactly twenty years ago today is pure coincidence, and I do not mean to make light of what happened exactly twenty years ago tomorrow.  And lastly, this story is not to be considered canon for the Tomorrow News Network universe.

LITTLE BOOK OF SECRETS

The Washington Monument stood tall and proud in the distance.  On the opposite end of the National Mall stood the Lincoln Memorial, less tall yet equally proud.  But neither the Washington nor the Lincoln would be included on this field trip.  Nor would the Air and Space Museum, nor the Natural History Museum, nor any of the other fun and exciting museums of the Smithsonian.  There wouldn’t even be a quick stop at Union Station to see all the trains.  The young man wandered away from the group, feeling morose about this trip to D.C.

That was the moment when the young man found, lying abandoned on a park bench, a travel-worn journal with the following words etched in gold on the cover:

Property of Talie Tappler
Reporter Extraordinaire
Tomorrow News Network

The young man picked up the journal, not entirely certain what he was meant to do with it or how he was going to return it to its rightful owner.  He thought perhaps there might be an address or phone number on the first page, but the instant he opened the journal the pages started flapping by impossibly fast—and there seemed to be an impossible number of pages, too—until they settled on a page marked with the current date: September 10, 2001.  There, scribbled in a loose and carefree handwriting, were the words: “interview with President Gore” with Gore’s name crossed out and replaced with “Bush” and a question mark.

Curious, the young man turned to the following day.  It just said “W.T.C., Pentagon” and “get lots of B-roll,” whatever that meant.  When the young man tried to flip forward to the day after, the pages started flipping ahead by themselves once more, as if propelled by a strong wind.  How many pages could there possibly be in this thin, little journal?  How many days—or years, rather—could they cover?  Many strange names and terms were penciled in for future dates: housing bubble, COVID-19, Thwaites Glacier, 99942 Apophis….  And further into the future: Galactic Inquisitor, Othniel’s Object, Reginald Zaphiro, Starship Virago….  The words “attack of the Planet Eaters” were surrounded by stars and hearts.  That was scheduled for a date in the mid-30th Century!

The young man snapped the journal shut, feeling confused and disoriented.

“Pailly?  Quit your lallygagging!  Let’s go!”

“Sorry, Mr. Chester!” the young man said, quickly stuffing the journal into his backpack.  He’d have to figure out what to do with the strange little book later.

Available Now: The Medusa Effect

Hello, friends!

Today is the day.  The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella is available now.  Click here to buy, or you can read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Litho is a peaceful, isolated colony world on the frontier of space.  Nothing bad ever happens there.  So when a reporter from the Tomorrow News Network shows up, nobody takes much notice.  Nobody except a young colonist named Milo.

Milo is a bit of a news junkie.  He knows all about the Tomorrow News Network, a news organization run by time travelers, and he knows all about Talie Tappler, the reporter they’ve sent to Litho.  Talie has a reputation for covering war, chaos, and galactic devastation.

So why has Talie come to Litho Colony?  What big, breaking news event has attracted her attention?  Milo doesn’t know, but he’s determined to find out, because whatever Talie Tappler’s big story is, it cannot be good news.

In yesterday’s posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, I admitted to feeling a bit of anxiety over this whole “published author” thing.  I’m dealing with a touch of imposter syndrome.  However, when I think about the larger universe of Tomorrow News Network and all the stories yet to be told, my anxiety fades, and my eagerness to keep writing takes control.

So dear reader, there are a few things I’d like you to know about the Tomorrow News Network series going forward:

  • First off, you won’t have to read the stories in any particular order.  This is a series about time travel.  Be a time traveler.  Feel free to dip in and out of the timeline whenever and wherever you please.
  • As the series progresses, you may notice minor (or not so minor) inconsistencies in the story universe.  Pay attention to these inconsistencies.  They are not mistakes.
  • Don’t skip the bonus story at the end of The Medusa Effect.  That little bonus story will give you a clue about where the universe of Tomorrow News Network is heading.

Earlier this week, I had a phone conversation with my primary editor.  She told me I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.  The book is done.  It’s finished!  I told her no.  I appreciate the sentiment, but no.  The universe of Tomorrow News Network is huge and weird and complicated. I’m not finished. I’m just beginning.

† Well, I’m not perfect.  Some mistakes may be actual mistakes, but the most obvious inconsistencies—was Earth destroyed or not?—those are deliberate.

Waterloo (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends, and welcome back to the A to Z Challenge.  For this year’s challenge, I’ve been telling you more about the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, W is for:

WATERLOO

Pro tip: if you ever meet a time traveler and want to learn more about how time travel works, ask who won the Battle of Waterloo.  Among chronotheorists (scientists involved in the study and practice of time travel), Waterloo is one of the most famously “unstuck” events in history.

As Talie Tappler explains:

Time is time, right?  It’s such a simple, self-evident thing, and yet time is one of the most difficult concepts to explain in words.  But I can tell you this: time is an awful lot like a living thing.  It’s constantly moving, constantly shifting and writhing like an angry snake.  Every moment in time exists in a state of flux.  All possibilities exist.  All possibilities are real, even the mutually contradictory ones–especially the mutually contradictory ones!

Today, you can know for certain that Napoleon won the Battle of Waterloo; tomorrow, you may find yourself equally certain that Napoleon lost.  History changes and changes again, and you never even notice because, of course, as history changes your memory changes with it.

We chronotheorists call it the historical uncertainty principle, because you can never be certain about a historical event unless it is being observed.  Observation!  That’s the key!  Observation forces all those mutually contradictory possibilities to collapse into one singular historical reality.  And the more people who observe an event, the more certain it becomes, and the less likely it is to change later.

As I said in a previous post, the Tomorrow News Network has over 900 quadrillion viewers.  It’s true that the Tomorrow News Network is a bit of a mystery to most citizens of the galaxy.  In some corners, T.N.N. reporters are feared, even hated.  But whatever else the Tomorrow News Network might be, whatever else they might represent, I think we can all agree that 900 quadrillion viewers is an awful lot of observers observing historical events.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, did you know space aliens have an alphabet too?

Talie Tappler (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends.  My theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge is the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  The alphabet being what it is, we’ve had to wait a long time to meet this character.  But finally, the day has come. In today’s post, T is for:

TALIE TAPPLER

Don’t let that cute smile fool you.  This woman is the living embodiment of bad news.  Talie is a journalist and a time traveler, and as the Tomorrow News Network’s most prominent “reporter extraordinaire,” she is sent out to cover the biggest, juiciest, most exciting and most devastating news stories throughout the space-time continuum.

I have been working on Tomorrow News Network for almost ten years now, and right from the start there were three important facts that I knew about Talie.

  • Her Professional Vanity: Talie tends to fuss over her hair and make-up, and she dresses in a manner that some might describe as “business sexy.”  Talie is what people in the news business call on-air talent.  Her look is part of her job.  The Tomorrow News Network has over 900 quadrillion viewers, so reporters must always look their absolute best on camera.
  • Her Timeless Perspective: In many of the stories Talie covers, people suffer.  People die.  But from Talie’s point of view, this is just history, and isn’t it thrilling to see history unfold exactly as it should?  You can forgive Talie if she seems a bit insensitive at times.  Or maybe you can’t.  Either way, Talie has no intention of interfering with historical events, no matter how desperately you beg for her to intervene.
  • Her Secret Enemy: [REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED].  But while Talie does believe in the public’s right to know, there are some things that must still be kept confidential.  Everyone is safer that way.

Whenever I talk about Tomorrow News Network, I struggle to describe Talie’s role in the series.  In some ways, she’s the protagonist.  She is the character most prominently featured throughout the series.

But in some ways, she’s more like a recurring antagonist.  Characters like Milo Marrero are desperate to find out what the future will be; Talie is the one keeping the future secret.  She’s the one stopping people like Milo from achieving their goals.

So should I call Talie my protagonist or antagonist?  As one of my beta-readers once said, Talie is definitely an “agonist” of some kind.  But as another beta-reader suggested, perhaps another literary term would suit Talie better: she is “the herald,” the character whose arrival initiates change, the character whose appearance signals that a story is about to begin.

Because if you ever have the misfortune of meeting Talie Tappler, you can be certain that she’s come for a reason, and whatever that reason is, it’s unlikely to be good news.

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, there once was a human colony named Earth II.  We’ll find out what happened to it.

S.P.Q.R. (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends, and welcome once more to the A to Z Challenge.  My theme for this year’s challenge is the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, S is for:

S.P.Q.R.

The main character in Tomorrow News Network is Talie Tappler.  She’s a journalist.  She’s also a time traveler, and there’s a common stereotype about time travelers that definitely applies to her.  Everywhere and everywhen time travelers go, they always wear or carry an antique watch.  The more out of its own place, the more out of its own time the watch can be, the better.

Talie’s pocket watch is about as out of its place and out of its time as anything can get.  When Milo Marrero first sees Talie’s watch, he notices the image of an eagle and the initials S.P.Q.R. are engraved on the brass casing.  Milo’s accustomed to seeing the corporate logo of A.E.I. everywhere he goes, so he assumes S.P.Q.R. must be some other interplanetary mega-corporation.

Some of you, dear readers, may already know just how wrong Milo is about that.  For the rest of you, allow me to explain.  S.P.Q.R. stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus, which is Latin for “the Senate and People of Rome.”  In ancient times, the letters S.P.Q.R. were stamped on Roman currency or carved into Roman monuments.

Also, apparently, the letters were engraved into the brass casings of ancient Roman pocket watches.  Except… wait, the Romans never had pocket watches, did they?  That sort of technology wouldn’t appear on Earth until many centuries after the fall of Rome.  So where did Talie’s watch come from?  How did she get it?

I’m not going to answer those questions.  Not yet.  I can only tell you that I have longterm plans for the Tomorrow News Network series, and eventually I do plan to tell the story behind Talie Tappler’s watch.

And speaking of Talie Tappler, next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, we will finally meet T.N.N.’s infamous “reporter extraordinaire.”

Journalistic Integrity (Tomorrow News Network: A to Z)

Hello, friends!  Welcome to another episode of the A to Z Challenge.  For this year’s challenge, I’m telling you more about the universe of Tomorrow News Network, my upcoming Sci-Fi adventure series.  In today’s post, J is for:

JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY

Tomorrow News Network has lots of weird aliens, cool planets, and gigantic spaceships.  Also, time travel.  Plenty of time travel.  But in a sense, T.N.N. isn’t really about any of that stuff.  Really, this is a series about journalism.

They say write what you know.  Just about every aspiring author has heard that advise at some point.  Well, I’ve spent over a decade working in the news business.  It’s an exciting and important job.  It can also be a frustrating and depressing line of work, depending on what happens to be in the news today.  The news business is what I know, so that’s what I write about.

Which brings us to the issue of journalistic integrity.  To quote my main character, the time traveling news reporter Talie Tappler:

You have to understand: we at the Tomorrow News Network have a policy.  We report the news.  We do not make the news, or remake the news, or interfere with the news in any way.  […]  It’s a matter of journalistic integrity.

Talie’s sense of journalistic integrity will be a source of conflict in most (if not all) of the Tomorrow News Network adventures.  She is a time traveler.  She knows the future.  When she shows up to cover a newsworthy event, she knows already what’s going to happen.  She knows who will suffer, who will die, and who will stand triumphant in the end.

And Talie will not interfere.  She will not meddle with history.  She will not alter time.  All Talie will do is smile coyly and tell you, “It’s a matter of journalistic integrity.”

Next time on Tomorrow News Network: A to Z, I will very awkwardly try to tell you about Kotta kottomira without revealing what those words mean (because that would be a major, major spoiler).

P.S.: A while back, I wrote a guest post for Fiction Can Be Fun about the real life origins of Tomorrow News Network.  So if you want to know more about how I’ve incorporated my work experience into my Sci-Fi writing, please click here.

Tomorrow News Network: A to Z

Hello, friends!  At long last, I’m ready to announce my theme for this year’s A to Z Challenge.  And that theme is:

Tomorrow News Network is my own Sci-Fi adventure series, featuring time traveling journalist Talie Tappler, her cyborg cameraman Mr. Cognis, and the many high-profile news stories they cover across the space-time continuum.

Robot uprisings?  Alien invasions?  Mass extinction events?  Talie and Cognis will be there.  In fact, being time travelers, Talie and Cognis tend to show up before such cataclysmic events occur.

For the A to Z Challenge, I’ll introduce you to some of the characters (M is for Milo Marrero) and settings (L is for Litho Colony) that will appear in Tomorrow News Network, book one.  We’ll also explore some of the big concepts (J is for journalistic integrity) and small details (D is for digi-stream downloads) that will feature prominently in the Tomorrow News Network series going forward.

So on Wednesday, April 1st, we’ll kick things off by meeting a faceless mega-corporation that’s mining alien planets for their resources.  Also on Wednesday, it’ll be Insecure Writer’s Support Group day, and I’ll reveal my secret ulterior motives for picking my own story universe for this year’s A to Z Challenge.