All This and Fraud Too

This clip is instructive. Although it was part of a fictional television series, you are deluding yourself if you think this was composed in a vacuum.

Don is trying to get his dream job. When Don tries to go through the front door, he gets “oh, you’re the fur guy,” and “I threw out your portfolio” and “I ignored them. That’s my message to you.” That’s the modern job search in three sentences. Don Draper, of course, turns out to be a legend, but so far, the boss is never going to know, because it’s far more important to stomp on people than it is to find new talent.

Keep this in mind the next time you see a job ad that asks for “passionate guru rock stars.”

Since the front door approach isn’t working, Don has to employ subterfuge. So he admits he’s skipping out on his boss, admits he was lying about being in the building for a meeting and then gets the boss drunk at ten in the morning and lies twice more in order to get a job that didn’t exist until he lied it into existence.

Keep this in mind the next time you see a job ad that asks for “passionate guru rock stars.”

Black out.

Unemployment is a Growth Industry

You might be tempted to think the new policy of the freelancer platform Upwork is unique. Charging individuals to apply for jobs is a spectacular business model if you’re in a position to gatekeep those applications. It’s exactly like the lottery. You’re monetizing desperation. You are plugging your income potential right in to the human survival instinct. It doesn’t take much for the average person to notice the similarity “pay to apply” to the Internet’s other big business model.

Now let us all ponder a question together. If your income and growth model depends on monetizing job applications, do you have any incentive to get someone a job? Let me make it even more sinister. If your income and growth model depends on monetizing job applications, do you have any incentive to verify ads for freelancers or employees are even genuine? Once you have crossed the line between the productive incentive of earning based on success and rent-seeking, you have no incentive to do anything except make sure you collect a larger and larger share.

I once proposed that you are more valuable unemployed than employed. This would neatly explain the rise of the professionally jobless in our country. There are roughly six million of them, and they will never work again. Why? Because it is better for the rent-seekers that way. They have concluded there is more economic opportunity in keeping them out. The exact same dynamics were in play when equity firms decided to burn Toys R Us to the ground and destroy 30,000 jobs. Toys R Us was worth more dead than alive.

From an employment standpoint, so are you.

The overarching problem that we face here is that practical economic reality is not responding to market forces any more. If you have more experience, more demonstrated achievements and more skill, you should have a multiplicity of job opportunities. Firms should be competing for your talents. But they aren’t. Why? They don’t have to. Most companies have no idea how to convert your skills into anything productive, and that’s fine because they likely have a stable, entrenched business and have long since done away with their competition.

For example, what real boots-on-the-ground incentive does Google have to hire anyone, regardless of their talents? They have none. Google brings in $372 million a day. The company has been on auto-pilot for at least ten years. They make few, if any, physical products. They don’t even have a phone number. Their entire company is made up of people babysitting computers. Any hiring they do, if they do any hiring at all, is guaranteed to be for some middle manager’s hobby project. They have no competition, so there is no reason for them to compete for talent.

The same is true of nearly all the other companies in the Fortune 500. Disney, Apple, Nike, Verizon. Their revenues are on auto-pilot. Their competition is either non-existent or limited to a handful of other companies that are neither a short or long-term threat. Ultimately, the only time any of these companies experiences any real need to hire is if someone in the management hierarchy retires or moves on, and those openings can be easily filled after everyone in that branch moves up a level and the entry level desk is filled with a visit to the nearest Ivy League campus. Or the job can just be discontinued and the money pocketed by shareholders.

If you’re making $372 million a day why would you even answer your phone? You wouldn’t. You wouldn’t take even a remote chance on upsetting the status quo.

Unemployment is a growth industry. Imagine the money that can be made if we get a really big sponge and just soak up everyone’s last dollar! Resumes, new clothes for the five interviews you have to endure, books and seminars on how to improve your personal brand, premium memberships for all those online sites that promise you offers from multiple companies at once. Just think of the power you could wield with a platinum membership!

How do these “we’ll find you a job, little camper” companies stay in business if their customers are successful and cancel their monthly plans? They don’t. They have a direct, vested financial interest in keeping you unemployed.

In other words “We make $372 million a day and no, you can’t have a job.” Leaving aside the fact wages have been stagnant in this country for 46 years, if that is what we get from every major employer in the United States, we’re adrift on the ocean. Water everywhere and we still die of thirst.

And while the rent-seekers cultivate their vested financial interest, they show you a prize gallery of jobs and tell you success is only a credit card number away.

While You Face the Inquisition

Following up on my last post, I just wanted to point out something. We’ve all experienced how– conscientious employers are about getting that absolute top candidate. They are put through four interviews and meet every level of management before a hiring decision. They get their offer in writing, to emphasize how fortunate they are to have achieved this greatest of all summits in our ultra-competitive global economy. They got the job!

And on their first day, they are issued a toy gun and invited to go play with the other employees.

Clearly the hundreds of applicants who didn’t get the job weren’t quite Ivy League enough. It neatly closes the door on any challenge to my assertion the modern workplace has no adult supervision.

Don’t you wish you could go play toy guns with all the other kids (and get paid) while six million people are trapped in that unique pride-swallowing siege that is our mental hospital job market?

Black out.

The American Job Market is a Mental Hospital

By the time you finish reading this article, someone will have committed suicide. There is a 20% chance they will have taken their own life because they couldn’t find a job.

We labor under a number of myths in these United States. Among them is the belief that any man who can’t find a job is either defective or has himself to blame. It’s his fault. Either he doesn’t have the skills, or failed to get an education, or isn’t likable, or has a bad attitude. There’s a reason he can’t find a job, and whatever that reason might be, it must be his fault.

It’s certainly a convenient conclusion if you stand to gain from that man’s desperation. After all, how much easier and cheaper is it to hire a man who has no confidence in his worth as an employee? Once you’ve done away with his hard-won qualifications (and their effect on his price), you can portray your reluctant offer of employment as an act of unusual generosity instead of a transaction of money for labor. In the former, the man is expected to be grateful for your benevolent forbearance. In the latter, it’s an arrangement between equals.

Well, the very last thing some people want is arrangements between equals.

To say this disease has reached a perverse and sadistic magnitude in the American job market would be kind. The fact is teenagers are now being asked if they have experience when they apply for part-time summer employment serving bagels. As we all know, training someone to serve bagels is expensive and not always successful, and Heaven help us and the stock price if Timmy or Susie forgets to upsell that second $0.75 tablespoon of cream cheese.

Some might be tempted to put this sudden scrutiny of every defect a human might possess down to malice or hostility. But it’s simpler than that. Hiring managers are not playing keepaway with your livelihood. They are avoiding their responsibility because they are paranoid and mentally stunted. The American job market is corrupt to its core because these people are never held accountable for the arbitrary decisions they make about other people and their careers.

When I apply for a job, I assume I have about 30 seconds to explain how I can use decades of intricate senior-level technology skills and achievements to provide synergy and enterprise value to deliver cross-media solutions for an ever-changing market and an expanding global supply chain. That or I can say something like “my technical talents are just like Lord of the Rings but with dinosaurs.” The truth is it doesn’t matter what I say. The person reading my resume doesn’t have the slightest clue what any of it means. All they know is I’m not qualified. For any job.

Workers of the past, like my parents, had a very powerful tool at their disposal. It was called the “benefit of the doubt.” Hiring managers didn’t assume they were liars, nor did they assume they were unable to do the job, or for that matter, any job. They weren’t treated with suspicion. They weren’t accused of being grown adults who somehow managed to accumulate a ten-year employment history and a graduate degree without a single “marketable skill.” When they sat down for a interview, the hiring manager took what they had to say at face value. That’s why they got good jobs and kept them long enough to pay off their houses. It’s why I grew up in a stable two-parent home with enough to eat and a swimming pool.

Workers of today, by contrast, are presumed to be filthy, scheming frauds. That’s one reason, among many, employers so often schedule interview tribunals that resemble confirmation hearings for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Employers are on a mission, you see, lest one of you unqualified mongrels get past them and get your grubby hands on a paycheck or two. Once you’re employed, you have legitimacy, and that simply cannot be allowed to stand. They know you’re hiding something, and by God they’re going to make you admit it if they have to schedule second and third interviews and require a security clearance as part of your background and credit check.

And while this shrill, accusatory circus drags on, nearly six million working-age people who want jobs in the United States sit idle, unable to support themselves or anyone else. That’s more than the combined populations of Chicago, Houston and Sacramento. Think of the immense volume of productivity going to waste right now in this country! What could those people be contributing if they weren’t being blocked from getting a job by childish, irresponsible “managers” who won’t accept the responsibility that comes with employing adults? Everybody thinks the gig economy is some new innovation. It isn’t. The gig economy is six million people holding the employment equivalent of a garage sale so they can feed themselves.

The paranoid American workplace is nothing if not profitable. Wages have been stagnant for 46 years. Hiring people sight unseen from 11,000 miles away to pretend to do jobs in American companies sure looks impressive on a spreadsheet. The fact that it is yet another example of the kind of magical thinking that gave us the professional disaster we are currently experiencing is never acknowledged. It’s much easier to blame the guy with no job than it is to face facts. You’ll notice the candidate from overseas doesn’t have to sit in front of a tribunal and answer questions about ping-pong balls.

The starvation and suffocation underway in our nation isn’t helped by the continual celebration of the so-called “unemployment rate.” The brilliant numbers would seem to indicate anyone who wants a job can get one, when nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask around. It won’t take long for you to find a number of people who are qualified for numerous jobs and yet have been looking for weeks, months or even years with no success. Not only have they failed to find jobs, they have very likely failed to get a response of any kind from dozens, hundreds or even thousands of applications.

Even if they do manage to get past the fortress between them and a human being who actually took the time to read their resume, they’re certain to run into the aforementioned inquisition, where they will be politely informed by the nine people interviewing them their application has been turned down in a 5-4 decision over font preference.

And even if they manage to get an offer, what do they really have in a world where companies posting record revenues turn around and fire hundreds of highly trained and established employees a few weeks later? A job is the foundation upon which grown adults build marriages, families, homes, educations and retirements. Those are lifetime achievements they expect to fund with their paycheck from a job likely to end abruptly for reasons completely beyond their control. They’d be better off building a greeting card factory in a volcano.

Since nobody wants to face the unemployment disaster, it might be instructive to move on to the people who are employed and see if they can find any joy in their work day. I’m fairly certain I don’t have to explain to you how fast that investigation will end without success.

You might be tempted to think my flippant tone is meant to be funny. It isn’t. This isn’t funny. This isn’t funny at all. It is estimated that 20% of all suicides are the result of inability to find a paying job, and suicides in the U.S. are up 30% in the last 18 years.

American hiring managers are paranoid and corrupt, and they have turned our workplaces into a psychiatric ward where half the employees are being driven insane by impossible workloads and the other half are terrified they are going to lose their jobs and homes at any moment.

This state of affairs will be the end of us if it isn’t addressed. Leaving aside the deteriorating morals of our society and the increasingly adversarial political climate, no nation can survive if its wealth and opportunity are cheap prizes won over a roulette wheel guarded by a psychotropic-addicted mental patient.

Black out.

Black on Patreon

I think I’ve come up with a pretty good explanation of this “Picturecast” thing. On my all-new Patreon campaign, I wrote this:

I’ve done comics, but they don’t have music. I’ve done novels, but they don’t have illustrations or animation. I’ve even done an audiocast, but without visuals, the story can’t live up to its potential. If I put my studio to work drawing or animating the characters, it’s too expensive.

My vision is art, animation, music, sound effects, voices and story in one package, and published where someone can actually see it. Now if all that sounds familiar to you it should. What I’m building here is an animated TV series!

That really does a much better job of explaining the Picturecast than saying it’s a combination of an audiobook and a comic, even though that’s also a good description. So, here we go. LadyStar is on Patreon, the Picturecast is in production, and when I’m not doing videos, I’m going to be advancing the book series with new titles.

The Official LadyStar Site is also back up and live. I’m going to set aside some space to organize Picturecast episodes there and make at least one page a headquarters for the videos. If I can figure out how to do it, I’ll be publishing them on Facebook and anyplace else that will host videos as well (Instagram?). Black out.

Start with Incompetence

The more I consider the current state of the American job market, the more I realize that its most astonishing failures are simply the result of incompetence.

American business management doesn’t train employees. Why? Because they don’t know how. They can’t find qualified candidates for jobs? They don’t know how. They can’t build a quality product and make money with it? They don’t know how. They use layoffs as a routine cost-cutting measure? They don’t know any other way.

This is all quite strange considering the obsessive and paranoid mechanisms workplaces have established to weed out anyone who isn’t quite frankly perfect in every possible way. We’ve all been treated to stories of how employers scour social media, conduct paid background checks, perform credit checks, insist on excessive references and so on. It’s almost as if they are more interested in disqualifying candidates than hiring them.

Anyone who has looked for a job in the last five to ten years has experienced the inexplicable delays, the unresponsive hiring managers and recruiters and the cumbersome, exhausting siege job candidates are forced to endure. And even if they succeed, what do they have? They are guaranteed to be underpaid, overworked and have no job security at all.

From a social and political standpoint, America is a warehouse full of gunpowder and dynamite right now. People are angry, frustrated and scared out of their minds. And when I say people I mean a lot of people. This broken thing we call the employment market is the box of matches in that warehouse. This is the thing that will be the end of us if we don’t get it locked down in a right now hurry.

It’s a complex problem, which means there are no easy solutions, but the one thing we need to put an abrupt stop to right this second is this perfidious myth that it’s the workers who are to blame. We have the best educated and most skilled workforce in the history of the human race in this country. Tens of millions of Americans have college educations, and the overwhelming majority of the workforce is literate and capable of all kinds of creative solutions to the problems we need to solve as a country.

This alternative theory that Americans are a bunch of feckless layabouts with worthless degrees and no skills is a message designed to consume what’s left of your hope for a brighter future. It’s patent nonsense perpetrated by lazy managers and shareholders who don’t want to pay their dinner check.

Our future may be as simple as something I read in a discussion of automated hiring the other day: “In the future, nobody has a job, but they can’t find anyone to blame but themselves, so they just starve to death quietly.”

While I don’t want to encourage people to spend all their time looking for someone to blame, I will point out there are millions of people in this country who not only want work, but are qualified to do amazing things, and they are all sitting idle because there is no practical way to penetrate the fortress of confusion corporate America has erected around gainful employment. And again, even if someone manages to achieve the impossible, they have only layoffs and pay cuts to look forward to.

Is that the country you want your kids to grow up in? Me neither.

Jacks Full of Aces Preview Chapter Three

The following is a free preview chapter from the upcoming fifth book in my Starships at War military science fiction series Jacks Full of Aces

This preview contains spoilers for Strike Battleship Marines and Fleet Commander Recon.

“Hearts wasn’t kidding when she said we were in for a treat on the lab deck. Look at this place!”

Zony’s astonishment existed on several levels. For one thing, she was only one deck below the main signals facilities. Everything she was seeing had been built quite literally right under her nose. Secondly, Annora had only been posted to Chief Medical Officer for a few weeks, and it seemed she had gotten her house in order, so to speak, just as fast as Sabrina Mallory acquired her ratings for force command. While Doctor Doverly wasn’t officially a Chief Sciences Officer, all of Argent’s science personnel and facilities were technically under her command, along with the enormous warship’s entire life support system.

Zony and Captain Hunter looked through the corridor-length bay window into the ship’s main spectrometry lab. The facility was easily three times the size of the executive conference, with enough precision equipment to outfit two observatories and an aircraft manufacturing plant. Spectrometry was the major deck fifteen facility on the starboard side of the ship, while stellar cartography occupied the port side main platform. The doctor had scheduled a demonstration for the senior staff, and it looked like she had the juice to make it a blockbuster.

Unlike smaller vessels, Skywatch capital ships had fully capable scientific research facilities alongside far better than average medical units. Destroyers and lighter vessels were all designed for maneuverability, and reducing tonnage had exponential benefits for ships operating in high-energy drive fields. The results were predictable. Several classes of warship ended up being designed around their weapons, with any extra capacity being discarded in favor of better acceleration, better energy envelopes and more rapid evasive turns. The most prominent example of this philosophy was none other than the refitted DSS Rhode Island, a ship included in a battle formation for subspace warfare and built around the best weapons for that role. Battleship-class vessels, on the other hand, were always bound to have excess capacity due to their much heavier engines and the manpower needed to operate them safely. Crew numbers added significantly to a ship’s bulk due to the realities of life support. Despite shipwrights’ best efforts, most of those increases produced excess capacity due to the realities of geometry.

When it came time to decide what to use the extra displacement and tonnage for, factions developed rapidly, as was the case with every ship design. The doctors and scientists who successfully persuaded their superiors that a full suite of exploratory scientific instrumentation could be pressed into service to give ships like Argent a military advantage ultimately prevailed. It wasn’t long before nearly all the ships of the line had laboratory and experimental facilities of one kind or another. Argent’s science deck and hospital deck were as spacious and as well equipped as any other ship in the fleet. Only Argent had Commander Doverly, however.

The doctor hadn’t had the time to investigate the Dunkerque before the X-Ray Tango engagement, but now she had finally gathered all the research in one place, and she wasn’t going to let her chance escape.

Unnatural light glared through the reinforced and radiation-proof observation bays along the corridor leading to Argent’s chemistry and genetics labs. The bluish color made the entire deck look as if it were experiencing electrical discharges not unlike a small lightning storm. Zony and Hunter peered around the corner and found that the glow was being caused by a video recording of the phenomenon Doctor Doverly had encountered aboard DSS Saratoga.

The hatch opened with an antiseptic hiss. Annora stepped into the corridor looking particularly pleased with herself. She was wearing her regulation white lab coat and MEDCOM badge opposite her silver commander’s rank insignia on the lapel. Hunter had to admit that despite the doctor’s talent at commanding the crew, she looked far more at home here in her three-deck scientific and medical empire.

“I knew we walked away from Saratoga too quickly,” Annora announced. “Come on in. Moo and Yili are already here.” The captain and Zony followed the doctor into the fourth spacious lab area they had seen so far and took a seat at the makeshift combination lab counter and meeting table.

“What the hell were they doing out there on the Sarn Frontier unescorted?” Moo replied. “We searched the logs and Northern Banner orders for hours and didn’t find anything except the disaster buoy, and even that didn’t have a word from the captain.”

“We know who was responsible,” Yili added. “The only thing I can think of is they were conducting some kind of experiment. But of all the places–”

“Exactly. If you’re going to pop off some weird alien contraption, why would you start at the edge of hostile space in a missile cruiser designed to operate in a battle group?” Moo replied.

In the video, the recording showed Annora aiming her modified ATMAS handheld squarely at what at least appeared to be the source of the disturbance. Hovering a few inches over one of the non-reactive metal tables in Saratoga’s main lab was an impossibly bright strobing light source. It looked as if it were not quite solid, and occasionally emitted a thin spidery bolt of electrical energy. It wasn’t moving, but it was obviously highly energetic.

“Whatever it was, it was ionizing everything in the room, including the metal,” Doverly reported.

“Was it hot?” Hunter asked.

“Negative. No temperature increase. But it was emitting high-energy ultraviolet radiation. Saratoga’s lab is shielded, of course. We were able to contain the phenomenon with an isolation screen.”

“Has it been here all this time? Ever since the rescue?” Zony asked.

“It’s a distinct possibility. This has to be the phenomenon we all experienced when Moo and the captain were on the Magellan mission. This is what caused the disturbances and the gateways we all used to communicate. Watch this.”

In the video, the camera pulled back and then was pointed around a corner. The next corridor was lit by a single fixture. The metal bulkheads were painted clean white with several warning symbols along one side indicating access to a safety airlock. The picture froze.

“Recognize that?” Annora asked.

Zony and the others looked quizzical.

“This is the same deck I saw when the scanner energy reflected back on us at Magellan,” Moo said. “Same notices. Same color and geometry. It must have created some kind of transit gateway between our paladin’s position and Saratoga’s hull.”

“What were those freighters carrying at Magellan?” Zony asked.

The colonel pulled up the library computer interface on his handheld. The device created a scrambled ultrawideband communications field that activated the security interface to Argent’s cephalon matrix. Within moments, the colonel had access to all the records of the Magellan ambush mission.

“We never got a clear reading on everything inside those freighters, but take a look at this.” Annora watched as the marine officer brought up the paladin’s scanner data and displayed it on one of the auxiliary screens. “Here. We had just activated a millisecond SRS burst. That would have given us a ping at best. Mass and position. But the instant the short range scanners activated, it caused the phenomenon.”

“You had the same experience aboard Dunkerque,” Annora mused. Zony’s eyebrows raised in recognition.

“That’s right,” Hunter said. “Zony’s short range scanner improvisation. She used the scanners to match the communications frequency harmonics being generated by my commlink.”

“Good thing we set those things up to broadcast the owner’s position and status,” Annora added. “With the help of the fleet’s most sound-sensitive signals officer, we could track Jason’s location across dimensions.”

Moo was cycling through Argent’s records of Zony’s experiment aboard Dunkerque. “Here. This is the timecode where the SRS emissions matched the automatic beacon’s communications frequency.”

“And with enough power, the captain stepped through the doorway from one dimension to another.” Zony’s voice was full of wonder. “That explains it. When the energy produced by our SRS systems is transmitted at the right harmonic frequency and it encounters this scattering field energy or whatever it is, the phenomenon creates a physical tunnel through space-time.”

“Where time passes 100 to one.” Moo added.

“Or one to 100,” Annora replied. “These frequencies are simple waveforms, not particles. They can be inverted, just like a sound canceling device. In fact, if this phenomenon got into the open air, the lower harmonics could probably create some painful results.”

“That would explain that powerful noise storm on Dunkerque. It even amplified our voices,” Hunter said.

“And this is the nexus for Saratoga’s connection to it all,” Annora said, starting the video again. One the screen, the strange light source strobed and pulsed. “What if–”

“I know exactly what you’re about to say, doctor,” Moo interrupted.

“Oh?” Annora put a hand on a hip in mock annoyance.

“Dunkerque winked out because whoever was aboard that ship didn’t know the phenomenon was affecting them until it was too late,” Moo said. “That’s why she was abandoned and those whatever they were ended up invading the decks and altering the internal life support. But once we got control of it again, Yili provided us with enough power to bring her back into normal space. I think Saratoga was subject to the same thing, and further, I think that’s how she got out into the middle of the Sarn Frontier all by herself. She flew right through that tunnel you just described. It was an experiment, just like Dunkerque.”

“And then whoever was conducting the experiment couldn’t get back because whatever they encountered–” Zony began.

“Either drove them insane or sent them somewhere else?” Hunter finished.

Annora continued examining her handheld. “What if a ship went one way and the crew went another?”

“Or even better, what if someone in control of this technology wanted to transport a crew somewhere else like they did with Argent’s?” Moo added.

The doctor shook her head. “I don’t think it’s that sophisticated, colonel. I think they try to transport the ships, and when they screw it up, it has some kind of strange effect on the crew. It either warps their minds or they don’t go where the ship goes and we end up with empty vessels.”

“You mean they tried to transport Argent somewhere else, wedged the controls and ended up sending our crew down to Bayone’s surface instead?” Hunter asked.

“Or, maybe they tried to transport Argent to the surface and missed,” Annora mused. “Whatever this thing was, it maintained a steady power level, and I had a solid lock on its electromagnetic harmonics. These phenomena must be some kind of energy sink, or perhaps a communications beacon like the repeaters on our jump gates.”

“The free-floating equivalent of our less advanced stationary alternative,” Zony concluded.

“At any rate, captain. I think we’ve found the answer to the vanishing starships.”

“Outstanding, doctor. Now the question is can you re-create that phenomenon and do it safely?” Hunter asked.

“I’ll do you one better. With all the data we got from Saratoga, and the surplus handhelds we’ve accumulated, I think we can block the scattering field and put Atwell’s forces out of business.”

Jacks Full of Aces is set to be released soon. If you’d like announcements on new book releases, be sure to sign up for the mailing list!

LadyStar for Warrior Moms and Warrior Dads Chapter Four: Seeing Themselves in the Story

One of the great strengths of the ensemble model or the “classic” team of superheroes is the wide range of personalities and powers they can develop through the story. Authors like myself recognize many young readers are looking for someone they can identify with and root for through the adventure. That’s why I believe my character ensemble is one of LadyStar’s greatest strengths.

Simply put, everyone who reads LadyStar books will find a character they can follow. Whether they like seeing a shy girl like Talitha Casey navigate a mystery, or they like to laugh at a joke-telling firecracker like Ranko Whelan, there will be at least one hero they will find appealing, and that character will make them feel like they have something to offer too.

Middle grade readers are at a point in life where they are asking important questions about themselves like “where do I belong?” and “what can I do?” These can be confusing questions, especially for someone with little experience, few social skills and the ever present feeling maybe they don’t really fit in. What LadyStar will teach them is to be patient with themselves. It will show every reader that even the 11-year-old “annoying little kid” can be part of the older girls’ adventure and might even have something unique to contribute.

Things don’t always work out for the Ajan Warriors right away, but Jessica and her friends find a way to get the job done. They don’t quit. More often than not, the solution is found when everyone contributes. All the girls find their own answers to the questions of where they belong and what they can do. I wrote these books to give readers a sense of participating in exactly these kinds of adventures, so they can learn what it takes to overcome challenges, put their unique talents to work and achieve the same things my characters do.

Then I discovered I was telling a Noblebright Story.