Congratulations to Carla L., Jody G., and Ashley W. for winning The Private Sector Goodreads giveaway. Your signed paperback copies are in the mail!
Saturday's the last day to enter the Goodreads giveaway for you chance to win one of three signed copies of my new dystopian thriller, The Private Sector.
The story speculates a tax-free society with no social services and a nearly nonexistent government. A political dream or a corporate nightmare? You decide.
If you haven't signed up, here's your last chance. Use the direct link below. Good luck!
When determining what kind of world my dystopian future would look like beyond the obvious political and economic troubles, I pictured a place in which time has dissolved the racial divides we still currently struggle to overcome. Skin color has integrated to the point where differences are no longer substantial enough to merit delineation. Still, I felt it important to include a form of segregation along with the economic divides, one that clearly pointed out our need to take a look at the ways we continue to define “us” versus “them.”
For that, I used a social experiment that took place in 1968, beginning the day after Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder, as my inspiration. Grade school teacher Jane Elliott, an advocate for human rights on many fronts, decided to show her eight-year-old students, all white, the effects racism truly had on society—not only on the people being discriminated against, but also those imposing the discrimination. She segregated her classroom by “blue eyes” and “brown eyes,” first convincing the children that blue-eyed people were intellectually superior, and thus offering them privileges the brown-eyed children were denied, such as longer recesses, more food at lunch, and being seated at the front of the classroom.
Resistant at first, the children soon changed their attitudes toward one another. The blue-eyed children began to treat their brown-eyed peers poorly, teasing them and putting them down, and the brown-eyed children showed an immediate drop in self-esteem.
The next day, Elliott told the children she’d lied the day before—that brown-eyed people were in fact superior—switching their roles. Interestingly, the brown-eyed children suddenly behaved exactly as the blue-eyed children had before the tables had been turned. It seemed that it took little provocation to create a racist society. For those curious to see the experiment in action, PBS has the full 46-minute Frontline exposé available here.
Watch the first ten minutes in the video below.
Those familiar with the experiment probably recognized the significance of the blue-eyed “deviants” in World-Mart. No different than anyone else, save a negligibly higher immunity to antibiotic-resistant superbugs and their tell-tale icy-blue eyes, the deviants are the future’s slave laborers. They are believed to be intellectually inferior to “normal” human beings, and they are treated as such.
When I set out to write The Private Sector, which prequels World-Mart by about forty years, I was excited to explore the deviants’ origin as “designer children” available only to the wealthy. People marvel at how beautiful their eyes are—the pale blue color being an unexpected side effect of the particular genes manipulated in an attempt to create a future immune to the diseases killing people off in droves. When they fail to prove society’s answer to the plagues, some begin to demonize them as abominations, the sickening result of man trying to play god.
What underlies this shift is my own personal observation that humankind is predisposed to an “us” versus “them” mentality. Even with actual race taken out of the picture, we find a way to create meaning out of petty differences, a reason to treat others differently.
A reason to feel superior, be it physically, intellectually, or morally—and we use it to justify mistreatment, neglect, and downright hatred.
We see these behaviors resulting not only from differences in skin color or other genetic traits, but in egocentric nationalism, anti-feminist attitudes, and discrimination against homosexuals and the transgendered. In no time during documented history have we not seen evidence of a socially imposed underclass. The first natural response to this might be to question why.
My question, and the question I raise in my World-Mart series: Why do we continue to allow these types of attitudes to rule the masses? More importantly, what can we, as socially responsible human beings, do to eradicate the “us” versus “them” mentality once and for all?
My prequel to World-Mart, dystopian thriller The Private Sector, is now available on Kindle! Check back for more formats and vendors.
The man wore a trench coat with the collars turned upward to mask his face, and a wide-brimmed hat obscured the upper part of his face. He looked around and over his shoulder while he walked. He carried something in one hand, but Dianne could not tell what it was until he stopped at the brownstone she had been studying, checked the address, and flicked a lighter. She backed a step from the window when she realized he held a Molotov cocktail. He looked around once more while he lit the fuse, and then he launched it through a downstairs window.
Dianne watched helplessly as the flame exploded inside and fire erupted through the broken window. The arsonist ran into the alley, was out of sight for only a minute, and then emerged wearing a firefighter’s uniform.
He stood at the edge of the sidewalk while sirens began to blare in the distance. Flashing red lights swept through the street with the fire truck’s arrival, and the arsonist joined his colleagues when they began to fight the growing inferno. Dianne backed completely away from the window, terrified that someone might see her despite her standing in a dark room. The thought of being caught as a witness to the crime brought about a sudden sense of paranoia, and even from her distance and the barriers between them, she feared someone would hear her loud, panicked breaths.
She retreated to the hallway and hid against the wall, then leaned back for support, dizziness giving way to a fear of passing out. She’d heard stories of corrupt firemen starting their own fires when business was slow, but this was the first time she had actually witnessed it. She wished she had the money saved to be able to call a police officer and file a report, and she even considered shouldering the debt in the name of all that was right and good in the world, but thoughts of what might become of Junior should she fall into criminal debt held her back. John had proven himself thoroughly unreliable, and it was unlikely her father would be willing to bail out two daughters in as many months, even if she happened to have been arrested for a noble cause.
“Junior, no!” She darted into his room, where she found him peeking behind his closed curtains. She pulled him from the window and swept him into her arms. “You’re supposed to be in bed.”
He tried to squirm from her hold. “I wanna see!”
“We need to stay away from the windows.”
“It’s too dangerous, sweetie.” She quickly searched for a reason he might be capable of appreciating. “The fire could trigger an explosion, and if we’re up against the windows, we could get hurt.”
“Can we watch from my bed, then?”
She shook her head. “It’s just too dangerous.”
He whined for a few seconds, resisting her attempt to hold him close then resting his head against her chest with a defeated cry. His hair smelled of the shampoo she’d used earlier that night to wash his short hair, and it was soft against her lips when she kissed his head. She cringed at the sight of red lights strobing rhythmically through the cracks between the closed curtains.
Talking about drugs can be a delicate undertaking. Talking about personal addiction is downright scary. For those who've never experienced a drug addiction, it can easily present as a show of weakness. Only idiots become addicts, right?
Sadly, no level of intelligence or common sense makes a person immune to the threat of addiction. I've harbored my secret for a long time now, afraid of what people might think when they found out I was a spice addict.
A few years ago—I honestly can't tell you exactly how long ago it was—a friend asked me that fateful question: "Have you ever tried synthetic weed?" As a former pot smoker, I was skeptical. There's a legal alternative to marijuana? was what first came to mind. At the time, there were no laws against its distribution or use. My next thought: Well, if it's legal, it's got to be safe.
My first experience with spice was surreal. I hadn't remembered pot making me feel so dissociative, so disconnected from my body. It also made me feel exceptionally relaxed, euphoric, and inspired. Despite having chronic lung issues, I started smoking it regularly.
And then things began to get interesting.
The government began outlawing the specific formulations chemists were using to create that artificial THC. In turn, chemists began changing their formulations—tweaking the molecule here and there every time the government added the most current one to its list. By that time, I'd become so familiar with the drug, I could only assume the illegalization was merely an attempt to keep people from enjoying the pot-like drug.
But, you see, every time the chemists altered the drug, it became just a little more potent and a little more addictive. It became more dangerous.
By the time I finally quit, I might as well have been addicted to crack (I can only assume; I've never smoked crack). The highs would get so intense I'd be nearly out of my mind. I would notice my lungs would go several seconds at a time refusing to heed my mental command to inhale. My heart would race, and I'd feel certain I was going to die. I'd throw away the pipe and whatever spice I had left, determined never to put myself through such hell again.
Then, five minutes later, I'd be digging it all out of the trash, craving the euphoria that came before that terrifying hell.
I wrote The Hidden Valley on spice. Enough said.
When I quit, I thought I might lose my mind before I licked my addiction. I replaced spice with alcohol. Even though alcoholism runs in my family, it had never been a problem for me. Yet, for reasons I can only associate with my previous addiction, I became an alcoholic. By the time I quit drinking, I was blacking out regularly, exacerbating my lupus, and destroying my digestive system. When I finally hit my rock bottom, it nearly killed me. Literally.
I share all of this with you today on my one-year sobriety anniversary.
When I wrote The Private Sector, I wanted to process all I'd gone through with the spice. Those who've read it will know the main character's sister, Jenny, is a hard-core addict to an imaginary drug called the silver serum. The silver serum whisks its users away from reality, into a heavenly realm that vaguely mirrors the world around them. They hear music and dance with angels. They float through the clouds in a dazed euphoria. Then the hell hits. The angels become demons. The euphoria transforms into panic. Its abusers promise themselves they'll never use again … but they do because it's just too damn addictive.
While I never fell to the lows Jenny does, the silver serum is an exaggeration of my experience with spice, just as The Private Sector is an exaggeration of certain political movements. While neither may be real, what they represent is. They're extremes to genuine issues.
We writers are constantly integrating tiny pieces of ourselves into our work. While we might alter certain experiences or attributes to distance them from us as people, the grain of truth is still there. The truth here is that I was a spice addict for somewhere between one and two years, and then I was an alcoholic for a good year after I quit using the spice. I've been so transparent about other aspects to who I am, it was time I became transparent about this ugly piece too.
Today, I have guest author Eric Turowski here to share about his new release, Inhuman Interest, a paranormal thriller. Eric will award one randomly drawn commenter a signed copy of the book, plus a $25 Amazon gift card (US/Canada only) and a second randomly drawn commenter a signed copy of the book (US/Canada only), so be sure to enter using the Rafflecopter box below.
For more chances to win, leave a comment and visit other blogs hosting this tour. You can find a list of participating blogs, go here.
About the novel:
Thirteen words in a want-ad turn Tess Cooper’s world upside down after she signs on as a paranormal research assistant to the mysterious Davin Egypt. He reveals a world of grave robbing, clockworks artifacts in blue amber, antique revolvers that fire strange ammo, and powerful forces beyond human comprehension.
As ancient occult energies threaten to destroy her city, Tess must use her journalistic instincts to stay one step ahead of the public works director, Drew Dawson, whose agenda seems bent on destruction rather than maintenance. And possibly murder, but will anyone believe her?
Yeah, right. When garbage trucks fly.
If Tess teams up with the hunky police lieutenant, Kirk Gunther, and the pale, oddball Mr. Egypt, they might be able to save the city in time. That is, if Egypt even wants to. And if Tess overcomes her phobias long enough to do battle in Granddad’s 1983 Subaru Brat.
Things are about to get icky.
I watched Angie wobble away and marched myself toward the stonewalling the cops would give me when I felt the soles of my flats slide. Pinwheeling arms didn’t help me get my footing, and with a tiny cry, I went down.
And down, and down, and down.
Snow slid up my shirt, up my pants, and something less cold but more wet. I thrashed around, succeeding only in getting more snow inside my clothes. Not falling, but sinking. I sank into a deep hole. And then I realized it wasn’t a hole but a grave.
Angie came rushing back, as much as she could rush on her stumpy, little legs. “Tess, what the hell happened? I heard you screaming and—oh, my God.”
I expected her to kneel down and help me out of the loose soil and slush, but instead, she whipped out her camera. The little motor whined as she took about six hundred shots. “I think I got the image for my Christmas cards this year.”
“Ange, help me out of here!” I pushed against the soil with one foot, and felt it sink deeper. I tried with the other one. Then I plunged in up to my neck. My arms found no grip, either. It was like quicksand, even though quicksand doesn’t really exist. I knew that. Worse, a horrible, horrible smell drifted up from below. Decomp, rot, death.
About the author:
Newspaper founder, bookstore owner, artist, musician, and man-about-town Eric Turowski writes lots of mixed-genre books when he’s not too busy playing laser tag with Tiger the Cat and his fiancée Mimi deep in the Central Valley of California.
You can learn more about Eric at http://www.ericturowski.com.
Connect with Eric online through Twitter and Facebook.
Every advancing generation will say it: Things just aren’t what they used to be. We all allow that which we knew and loved growing up to color our views on changing times. When we’ve lived is as important as where or how we’ve lived: I’ve no doubt my parents thought about as highly about my teenage clothing choices as I feel about the saggy ass look. I’m sure a similar case can be argued regarding my generation’s Queensrÿche, Metallica, Marilyn Manson, and Tori Amos versus whatever noise the kids these days are calling music. Times change. Tastes change.
One constant I’ve noticed through the years, however, is the slow but steady decline in overall quality in nearly all popular products. I’ve grown to understand that if a product or company alleges something is “new and improved,” there’s no “improved” about it. “Improved” is code for “made with cheaper materials or ingredients, and we hope you won’t notice the change in quality.” Dress up a seedy move with pretty words, and maybe most of the population won’t take notice. Even more, the latest generation won’t notice. They’re already accustomed to a level of quality those of us who know better can only reminisce about.
In the world I’ve built for The Private Sector and World-Mart, “quality” is just a word printed on a label. When corporations control everything, monopolies slowly take hold right under the noses of the masses, and with those covert monopolies come zero quality control. The whole world is new and improved. Complacency allows such changes to take hold.
The same complacency has anesthetized society as we currently know it, and the problem is nothing new. Things just aren’t what they used to be, and we’ve let that happen. Complacency has placed blinders on all of us. It has allowed words like “new and improved” to go overlooked—or, even worse, taken at face value. It has allowed the American Dream to go dormant, overall quality of life to take a nosedive, and far too many people too caught up in either surviving or one-upping the Jonses to notice.
What does “new and improved” mean to you? What kind of world do you see when you step outside your home, go to work, pick up your kids from school, or go to the supermarket?
What kind of world do you think the children of tomorrow will see?
Is it a world you’d want to grow up in?
After much anticipation, my loose prequel to World-Mart, The Private Sector, has finally been released. The Private Sector takes place roughly forty years before the beginning of World-Mart, back when corporations are still on the rise toward absolute rule; “deviants” are still “designer children,” society’s answer to the plagues of antibiotic-resistant diseases crippling the world; people still live aboveground; and the effects of climate change have only begun to show.
Imagine, if you will, a tax-free society. Government as we know it is nearly nonexistent. The public services we currently rely upon—police, fire departments, public works, primary and secondary schools—all belong to the private sector.
And none of it comes cheap.
Imagine your house happens to catch on fire. Better have the right insurance and enough money saved up for the co-pay, or your provider will let it burn. How about if someone breaks into your house? Same deal if you want the police to come running.
Just be careful—the provider wars are alive and well, and if you choose the wrong company, someone might just stop by to make an example of you to your neighbors.
I wrote The Private Sector in response to the rhetoric that circulated during the 2012 presidential elections, rhetoric about significant cuts to taxes and government size, rhetoric that took a decent idea and took it to its extreme.
My response: Be careful what you wish for….
About The Private Sector:
The world of corporate greed runs rampant after the government collapses, leaving police, fire, and social services in the hands of the wealthy. Debtor prisons for the lower and middle classes overflow and quarantine camps have filled to capacity, turning the streets into a personal battleground for terrorists fighting against a world headed toward ruin as resources run dry and civilization becomes ruled by The Private Sector.
“A versatile literary maestro, Lane’s characters breathe, her language sings, and her plotting is nothing short of remarkable. You owe it to yourself to give her a read, no matter what kind of fiction you like. You’ll love her work. I promise.” –Trent Zelazny, Nightmare Award-winning author of Fractal Despondency and Butterfly Potion
“In the tradition of 1984, Leigh M. Lane delivers a terrifying vision of the future—a horrific future that may not be so distant after all….” –Lisa Mannetti, Stoker Award-Winning author of The Gentling Box and Deathwatch
About the publisher:
Eldritch Press is a publishing company based out of San Antonio Texas. It is a relatively new, press, but its owner believes in building the company one person and one book at a time, with quality at the heart. Eldritch publishes different genres from fantasy, horror, contemporary women literature to poetry. The owner, Michael Randolph is a horror author and Active member of the Horror Writers Association. He is also a sponsor for the 2015 World Horror Convention.
The Private Sector is available in paperback through Amazon, but will soon be available through multiple retailers.
New Special Edition! Calling all die-hard Poe fans....
Finding Poe is a riddle to be solved, and this edition caters to both those who feel up to the task and those who may have read the book but failed to solve the puzzle embedded within the story.
If you’re a Poe fan, you’ll already know he was the father of the deductive detective story. Many scholars will argue that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series was inspired by Poe’s Detective Dupin stories.
This book asks the reader to assume the hat of the deductive detective. Throughout the text, there are numerous clues to direct the reader toward an alternate speculation about Poe’s untimely death. Before you set out to solve the riddle, however, you must first find the question….
Click here for details.
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