Mesh: Where does Miramar Technical High School Come From?

When I introduced Miramar Technical High School in Mesh, you might have wondered if a school like this could exist. Not only could it, it already does. Miramar was inspired by real-world schools like Deep Springs College in California and the Putney School in Vermont. Boarding schools have different reputations, but some of them can be amazing places. Recently, 60 Minutes did a story on Deep Springs College in California and it illustrates Dr. Gray’s teaching philosophy to a tee:

Deep Springs was built on a kind of formula: take a handful of the best and brightest, put them in the middle of nowhere. Add rigorous academics, labor, and autonomy and you’ll get future leaders. 

It’s not for everyone. A particular type of person finds all this appealing. Content practicing Brahms and bailing hay. Casual, brainy, indifferent to sleep.

“What else typifies a Deep Springs student?” “We’re typically pretty awkward. In the real world, we’re definitely not the cool kids. What else? We’re not delicate, usually. We’re not usually some delicate people.”

That’s almost exactly what I said about Miramar:

Doctor Gray, you’ve been on Forbes’ Billionaires List for over ten years. You’ve created several world-class businesses, almost from scratch. Why did you leave all that behind to start running a school in San Diego?”

“Good question,” Gray said. “After my first billion dollars, I sat down with some of our top minds to ask: ‘where do we go from here?’ Their answer was that old quote: ‘A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.’ That’s my job now: planting those trees.”

“But what does that mean? After a hundred years of business and culture disruption, the public can’t help but wonder what those trees might grow into. I understand you and the school are working to solve this problem.”

“Absolutely,” Gray answered. “Along with our other projects, we’re creating new tribes to carry America through the next forty or fifty years of innovation.” – [Mesh Chapter 2.2]

So Miramar Technical High School, like many other parts of Mesh, comes from a real place. Kids, especially Stars in a Jar, really do benefit from boarding schools. Some schools really are raising the next leaders of America. Will you be one of those Stars in a Jar? Is Mesh really an accurate depiction of where the future is headed? There’s only one way to find out: we have to get there together.

Write on!

New Draft of Mesh Done

Just a quick note – I’ve been re-drafting Mesh for a couple of weeks now. Pleased to say it’s about 90% done and out to Beta readers to catch their feedback while I finish it out. I’ve already had one random lit agent express interest, so my hope is to have a final draft in her hands in a week or so.

Thanks for being a part of this journey. Write on!

The Hidden Cautionary Scifi Tale of Mesh

The Hidden Cautionary Scifi Tale of Mesh

I ran across this article on Sunday and it reminded me that I haven’t talked to you about the moral of Mesh. Yes, Virginia, there’s a moral. In fact, there’s a hidden cautionary scifi tale within Mesh.

Within the story, I talk about kids inventing a world-changing technology. By the end of the book, you’ll be scared by the implications of that technology. That’s my intent. Why should technology scare you? Let’s talk about that. First, let’s discuss the article itself and then we’ll talk about how Mesh connects.

Is Technology Making Things Better? That’s a good question. For geeks, we focus on what could be, not why it should be. We’re wired that way. Civilization follows behind, happy to reap the rewards of our curiosity. As a result, humanity has run a rabid, manic marathon of discover for two centuries now. Are we better off because of these new inventions and possibilities?

“We face a growing array of problems that involve technology directly or indirectly,” as Dr. John K. Davis of California State University, Fullerton states. “[T]he core problem is that we’re becoming more powerful but not more wise. The growing gap between our technological power and our wisdom is the ultimate cause of all these problems. We are clever enough to create problems we aren’t wise enough to avoid. ”

Dr. Davis is focusing on something I knew would be important to talk about when I started writing scifi four years ago: the Why of technology, and not just the What. I disdain scifi that’s little more than a sophisticated toy catalog. If you’re going to have laser swords and starships, I want to know why you have them. I want to know what this technology can do to push the human condition forward. Continue reading “The Hidden Cautionary Scifi Tale of Mesh”

Stars in a Jar: Jackson Oswalt – Fusion Kid

Jackson Oswalt - Fusion Kid

Last night, I saw another story that fit right into the Mesh universe. Jackson Oswalt created nuclear fusion in his home lab, and he’s just a kid. Let’s talk about his awesome accomplishment, and then we’ll talk about how this fits in the Mesh universe.

The details: Last week, Guinness certified Jackson Oswalt of Memphis as the youngest person ever to successfully create nuclear fusion. “[J]ust hours before his 13th birthday in 2018, fused together two deuterium atoms using a fusor that he had built and operated in the playroom of his family home in Memphis, Tennessee, USA. Jackson’s achievement was verified by, The Open Source Fusor Research Consortium, on 2 February 2018 and confirmed by fusion researcher Richard Hull, who maintains a list of amateur scientists who have achieved fusion at home.”

So, we have fusion power now? No. As this article points out: ‘Sadly, fusors are not likely to see commercial use to solve the world’s clean energy needs. A typical fusor cannot produce the neutron flux that a fusion reactor would be able to, and the energy input far outweighs the potential energy output with technology as it stands.’

Jackson Oswalt - Fusion KidThat takes nothing from Jackson’s achievement. According to Guinness, ‘Jackson was inspired to build his own fusor after reading about teenager Taylor Wilson, who had also created his own fusor. As he writes on, “One day I had a sudden epiphany. I realized that I could be the absolute best at whatever videogame, but in the end it still wouldn’t mean much.”

I got excited by that. Mesh is inspired by Taylor Wilson, too! I’ve been talking about kids like Taylor Wilson and Jackson Oswalt for three years now. My novel takes place at a special technical high school filled with kids like Jackson Oswalt. Miramar is based on other real-life schools that immerse kids in different technical disciplines.

In Mesh, those kids are Stars in a Jar. They’re in high school but they get to build whatever they want. If they invent something cool, they graduate Miramar with six-figure jobs waiting for them. They build software apps in VR using artificial intelligence. Imagine what a kid like Jackson could do with an AI at his disposal.

Kids like Jackson are special. With the right support and focus, they can change the world. Sadly, they’re also vulnerable to collapse – that’s why it’s critical to protect and nurture them.

Congratulations to Jackson Oswalt and his nuclear accomplishment! It looks like he’s got all the help and support he needs to change the world. We’ll be watching to see what kind of amazing things he does next.


Mesh and the Scifi Book Deal Adventure – Part Three

Mesh and the Big Book Deal Adventure – Part ThreeClick Here to Read Part Two – Ugh, what a weekend. I’ve been incredibly scatterbrained as of late, so thank you for understanding that I haven’t blogged as much as I want to. I want to give an update on MESH, but do it in a scifi way. I decided to start by asking: How Do You Say ‘Ouch’ in Klingon? The answer is: it’s a trick question, there is no word – Klingon’s aren’t supposed to admit they feel pain. Here’s what is going on.

If you’re interested in being published, you’ll want to pay attention to this. For authors, there’s the effort of writing, and then there’s the effort of getting paid for your writing. Two separate skillsets and they each demand their own level of professionalism and diligence. That said, you can do everything write right, and still lose. That’s not weakness, that’s life.

The Process

The overall process for getting paid with a mainstream book deal goes like this: Write book > send query letters to Lit Agents > Get requests for manuscript > Send manuscript > Lit Agents like book, send offer of representation > Deal signed, Lit. Agent sells book to publisher > Publishing deal arrives 

That’s a very, very, VERY high-level version of the Mesh Scifi Book Deal adventure. I wanted you to have that so you understand where we are in the process. Part Two of the blog post was about getting to Step 4 in the process above. However, we’re still very far from Step 7: Publishing deal arrives. Want a real-world example? As mentioned about a month ago, I sent MESH off to a lit agent in response to a request for the full manuscript. I’ll tell the rest of the story here:

Continue reading “Mesh and the Scifi Book Deal Adventure – Part Three”

Mesh and the Big Book Deal Adventure – Part Two


Mesh and the Big Book Deal Adventure – Part TwoGood news, everyone! I have an update on the ‘Big Book Deal Adventure’ I started for Mesh a couple of months ago – some good news to share. Actually, strike that – this isn’t good news, it’s GREAT news for the writer game. Here’s what’s going on:

So the mission has always been to write a novel, find an agent, and get a book deal. In professional terms, it’s the difference between getting hired by a large company versus being an independent contractor. There are pluses and minuses either way, but I decided a long time ago that I’d rather go the professional route and get a book deal. Here’s the next installment of the story:

Our hero, Jackson, was rejected by many, many book agents. Like many other authors, he knew that this was part of the process. Jackson knew he must keep pushing forward, even though it felt like he was pushing cold, wet laundry up a mountain.

As Part One told you, he got what he thought was good news: a lit agent team at a prestigious book agency expressed interest in Mesh. Hooray! Could this be the moment when Mesh finally sees the light of day? No! Due to circumstances beyond almost everyone’s control, the agency imploded in a social media scandal. Agents resigned from the agency in protest, meaning all potential deals were null and void.

Then, the most amazing thing happened: the lit agent team, having gone their separate ways, ended up at a variety of other literary agencies. The person who responsible for recommending Mesh to a lit agent was now a lit agent themselves! More than that, she never forgot MESH and encouraged Jackson to resubmit Mesh for consideration. Then, after many weeks, Jackson received the following email:

Dear Jackson,

I’m digging your submission of MESH and would like to request the full if it’s still available. Please follow the instructions below.

Can’t wait to start to reading!

Huzzah! MESH takes another step forward toward the book deal!

It’s wonderful to see Mesh move forward to the next step of acceptance at a major lit agency in Manhattan. But let’s put this in context: in professional terms it means a recruiter likes your resume, and thinks they may be able to help you get a job. Anyone who’s ever looked for a job will tell you – recruiters who like you are great, but that’s no guarantee of success. The end of the road is when you get a new job, or sign a book deal. Our hero can’t afford to get too comfortable yet.

But it’s still great news, and I’ll post another piece of great news later today!


Mesh: We Don’t Do Racism or Sexism Here

As I work to get Mesh into the hands of an agent, let me take a second to talk about something Mesh definitely does not have: Disrespect for women. We don’t do the ‘Male gaze.’ We don’t objectify female characters, or look at them like creeps. I treat all of my characters with the same level of respect and dignity. No sexism, no racism; full stop.

Does that sound unusual? It shouldn’t. And yet, stuff like the ‘male gaze’ is a thing. The casual sexism, creepiness, and misogyny that flows through male-written fiction is too common to be ignored. For anyone who says ‘this isn’t a big deal,’ you can say “Yeah, it is. Yeah, it is. Yeah, it is.

Here’s the deal: writers are people. Authors’ feelings come through their own writing and not always in a good way. Every writer comes from their own experience, their own perspective. Sometimes their perspective is skewed and it comes through their writing. Sexism in writing isn’t just an old-world concept. It’s still happening. If you start to pay attention, you see guys like this …, or this … , or heck, even this, from the Chicago Tribune.

Someone taught these guys that women only exist as plot devices in a man’s universe. I don’t know how this started. I’ve never seen that memo, but I know it’s there. It’s real, it’s happening. Little details seep into their narrative. The focus on female characters turns them into sexualized objects for … I dunno, somebody’s entertainment but it sure isn’t mine.

Like, dude.

I’ve known many strong women in my life. It would be a disservice to them to let Mesh treat female characters with any level of dignity and respect lower than the male characters. Some writers do that, but I don’t and I think it’s important to say – Mesh: We Don’t Do Racism or Sexism Here.

I’m not alone in this quest. Other male writers, like Terry Pratchett, Hayao Miyazaki, and Brandon Sanderson, follow the mandate to give every character the same level of well-rounded, unsexualized, character development. I strive to do the same with Mesh, it’s that simple.

I wasn’t thinking about sexualizing my characters when I wrote Mesh. Maybe it’s me, but I see that as a good thing. I have a guiding principal when it comes to writing my female characters and I think it’s time to share it with you. Are you ready?

Girls are people, too.

Yes, women are human beings. That shouldn’t be a revolutionary thought. This shouldn’t be a novel concept. Yet, it seems to be the exception not the rule. So I want to take a moment to assure you, dear reader, that Mesh and any other story I write, sees you as a real person who deserves respect and dignity. The Mesh cast of characters are boys and girls from many different backgrounds and circumstances. Male and female geeks, from all parts of the world, who look through the world with a post-racist lens. They’re people. Not things.

And by the way, none of this is written like a political statement. Treating people with respect isn’t about politics. It’s about being a decent person. I’ve spoken about this before, but I’ll say it again. I want to write stories like Gene Roddenberry did; tell stories where the future we want just is. Get past the hangups of sexism, and racism. If we can do that, we’ve accomplished more than almost any other civilization in history. That’s a future worth fighting for.

So if there’s one takeaway from this discussion, it’s this. Mesh: We Don’t Do Racism or Sexism Here.

When you read my stories, you’ll get treated with respect and dignity. I made sure. There are a lot of exciting things in this universe, but racism and sexism don’t exist here.

Welcome home.

Mesh and the Big Book Deal Adventure – Part One

Mesh and the Big Book Deal Adventure - Part OneNovelists sometimes say that a novel is really two stories – the story itself, and the story about how it got to the market. I’m starting to see the truth of that statement, after this week’s events. Rather than becoming bitter, I’m choosing to see all of this as part of being a writer. Therefore, I’ll tell you about it in the form of Mesh’s Big Book Deal Adventure going forward.

So once upon a time, there was a writer named Jackson who wrote a book. It was called ‘Mesh,’ and he wanted it to be a traditionally published novel, instead of self-publishing it. That meant querying agents. Lots and lots and lots of agents. He sent out query letters for a long, long time.

After many re-writes of Mesh, he started to get responses from agents that weren’t rejections. Some liked the idea of Roman, Zeke, and the rest of the Snow Foxes. But while they were interested, other things in the world were happening.

“Thank you so much for submitting MESH,” the agent assistant said. “I had sent out the partial report … and immediately fell in love with your MS … I’m in the process of looking for another agency so keep an eye out and maybe in the future I’ll have the opportunity to read your full manuscript.”

“Oh wow,” Jackson replied. “She had to find another job? I wonder what-” his eyes fell across a news update about literary agencies closing down. Someone’s ill-formed social media post set off a firestorm of controversy and in the aftermath, the entire agency staff had been terminated. Now, instead of finding an agent to represent Mesh, the book agents were finding new jobs. Bother, and bother again.

Well, Jackson thought. It could have been worse. I could have signed with this agent, been mid-flight in getting a publishing deal only for Mesh to break apart like the Challenger. 

Additionally, the fact than an industry contact ‘loves’ Mesh means that someone else can fall in love with it, too. Like so many other hurdles in life, sometimes the only solution is to press on.

And then Jackson sat down, and began sending out more query letters.

So that’s chapter one of Mesh – the Big Book Deal Adventure. I hope you enjoyed it, we’ll see how many other chapters are written in this saga of daring experience!

Mesh – Forging and Shaping

As promised, Mesh has gone through another round of edits and now it’s ready for presentation to new lit agents. The changes made to Mesh and the process of these edits reminded of something: forging and shaping steel into a sword. Watch this cool video, and then I’ll explain what I mean:

What you may have noticed at 3:37 of the video is how the blacksmith had to go back again and again to heat, shape, re-heat, and re-shape the steel until the design matched his expectations. Sure, there were plenty of times where he could have said ‘done, good enough.’

However the blacksmith has his standards, and when it comes to writing I have mine. Yes, I thought Mesh was done before, but when it was obvious there were things that could be better, I have no choice. I have to go back and re-shape the material, especially if I expect my ‘blade’ to survive the battle.

Forging and shaping Mesh has other benefits: the feedback received now shows Mesh is a high-MG/low-YA novel, not just a YA novel as previously thought. I wasn’t aware that there was such a strong distinction, but there is and it means life-or-death to an agent query. (Click here to read more about why that matters)

So in a nutshell, Mesh is ready for viewing (again). I sincerely hope that the book is ready for the next phase of the journey, but I have to be ready to go back to the forge if it’s not. Thumbs up!