I’m excited to announce I will be releasing a new book later this year. The new book, code named Project Departure, is unlike anything I’ve done before. Inspired by my love of Kerbal Space Program, a tendency to write with dry and silly humor, and my propensity for building worlds (as seen in End of the Past), Project Departure will be a funny, thought-provoking series set in a fictional solar system world where everyone wants to go to space, but nobody knows quite how to get there.
Project Departure will follow a cast of characters known as Bearkles as they make their mark on history and pursue not only flight, but moving off of their little planet and inhabiting other worlds. They will aim for the stars, mostly because it will be their greatest achievement, and because some of their neighbors are really, really annoying. The series will be fully illustrated and begin with the first book later this year.
As part of the project I have also launched a Patreon page that offers unique bonuses, benefits, and insights into the work. For more information join the Disparia Books Discord server or check out the FAQ page HERE.
Before you go, be sure to take a peek at the teaser prologue and chapter one found below!
What happens when you don’t like your neighbors? You move (or you take every opportunity to annoy them until you’ve worn down their will to live and they move before you do). But what happens when you don’t like any of your neighbors. Like, any of them? And then what do you do if moving halfway around the world is too close? Easy, you move to another planet.
Or at least you would, if you could get there. Jumping can, at best, only get you a meter off the ground. Jumping off a cliff might technically make you feel like you’re flying, but that flight won’t last long. And you can’t really drive there since nobody’s built a road to the moon yet (and that sounds pretty difficult even if you use sticky tape and stuff).
With enough mental fortitude, hard work, and determination you can do anything you want. If that thing you want just happens to be going to another planet, you’ll eventually do it. How? That’s the easy part, figuring out the technological bits. The hard part is the dream.
Or is that the wrong way ‘round? Is the hard part the technology and figuring out how to get there? Hmm, that’s worth considering. Either way, you’re bound to reach your goals eventually, as long as you don’t ever give up.
Just don’t forget the pudding.
The sky was most certainly blue—that overt fact had not escaped Larry’s grasp. It was blue every day, unless it was raining or snowing. That it was blue was interesting. Why it was blue was more interesting. Try as he might, however, the eight-year-old Larry could not find the answer. Every raised hand during his classroom studies was met with the same terse reply from Henrietta Able, Larry’s second grade teacher:
“Put your hand down and pay attention to the material!” Her voice grated and cracked on occasion, like a lifetime of hostility had broken her vocal chords but not her determination to see excitement in children doused and stomped into oblivion.
So the answer to why it was blue would remain a mystery (at least for now). But that was fine. It wasn’t the blue sky that captivated young Larry; it was the night sky. At night the blue vanished like a thin mist, like a curtain pulled away from the true sky. That sky was black. It was also shiny, colorful, active, and exciting.
Every day during school Larry would spend his time with his chin resting in his palms, his elbows on his desk, his eyes turned towards the window and up towards the sky. Sometimes it was sunny and the bright light would cause him to squint until his nose and brow were deeply furrowed. Sometimes it was cloudy and the abstract shapes would drift by, coalescing into imagined shapes, then pass quietly out of sight. Sometimes it would rain or snow and the deep layer of gray would block his view but not his imagination.
There was much more to the world beyond the terrestrial one that he was familiar with. There had to be. Birds soared through the sky with ease, something no Bearkle had done before. Clouds drifted by seemingly weightless yet bound to a steady track through sky, guided along their invisible highway by an unseen hand. And what was beyond the mundane terrestrial world? Larry didn’t know.
Stars. Planets. Asteroids. Other floaty things. Astronomers and scientists had discovered, studied, catalogued, and reported on these objects for hundreds of years. Legends from dead civilizations mythologized the objects in the sky and incorporated them into their views and beliefs of the realms beyond daily reality. These objects were seen, studied, and incorporated into each culture. But they were not well understood. No Bearkle had left Earth’s surface for more than a few seconds, and when they it was usually because they fell off something and were quickly reminded that when you lose contact with the ground there is only one direction you can travel—down. But knowing that they were there and understanding what exactly they were besides transient lights and objects in an untouchable ether were two different things. And try as Larry might, pushing his brain muscles with all his effort until sweat pooled in his hairy, gray, furrowed brow, he could not learn more about them through sheer willpower. He could not…
“Larry Kaldrin!” Ms. Able shouted. “Get back in your seat this instant!” Larry shook the cloud of imagined images from his eyes and focused on the reality around him. He was standing at the back window in his classroom looking out on the blue sky and the feet of the towering Origin Mountains. The window looked west towards the mountains where the late morning sun had fully bathed the green, gray, and white mountains in intense light.
“Sorry Ms. Able,” Larry replied. Though he said sorry, that his eyes remained focused outside suggested his words and feelings were in conflict.
“What do you think you’re doing this time?” Ms. Able asked.
A few birds, dark against the brightening sky, darted back and forth playing or chasing each other. Watching them, Larry answered, “I’m watching the birds.” He said it matter-of-fact as though it was justification for not paying attention.
“Larry, come here.” Ms. Able, who had been standing by the chalkboard writing words that related somewhat to anatomy, slammed the chalk into the rail beneath the board, cracking it in three pieces. She puffed out her bulging and prodigious chest, adjusted her floral dress, and took two steps towards the front of the class. Larry, lingering for just another moment, turned and walked down the center aisle between the separated rows of desks and stopped in front of his teacher. Larry was only eight years old but already he (and most the other students) were eye level with their teacher. Ms. Able was, using only slightly exaggerated descriptions, as wide as she was tall. Her pale green complexion always glistened from a layer of sweat cause by the massive exertion everything seemed to be for her. She wore only dresses out of necessity. The dresses were so large and required so much fabric it was a wonder there were any sheets or pillow cases to be found inside the city of Granite Heights, the city of 5,000 people in which Larry lived.
As Larry neared the hulking mass of Ms. Able the sour smell of old dairy, her distinct aroma, met Larry’s sensitive nose. He scrunched his nose up reflexively to keep any air from passing through his nostrils. “Yef Miv Abuh?” Larry said, the words coming out stifled due to lack of airflow.
“Stand in front of the chalk board,” She ordered. Larry walked around his teacher and stood where commanded. “Flap your arms like a bird.” Larry raised his arms obediently and was about to flap, but hesitated.
“Flap my arms?” He was far enough away from the diabolical smell of his teacher that he could breathe (and speak) normally.
“Flap them!” Her grating voice raised a few octaves and her green face turned a bit brown as she blushed from the effort. Larry nodded, his eyes opening wide. He began flapping his arms quickly up and down. After a few moments his face began reddening and he panted from the effort. The harder he worked the more the kids in his class began to giggle. By the time a bit of sweat began forming under his brow the giggles had evolved into outright laughter. “Enough!” Ms. Able shouted and at once Larry stopped flapping and the children went quiet. “Did your feet leave the ground?” Larry looked down at his feet, lifting one off the ground and inspecting the sole of his brown school-issued boots. They revealed nothing.
“No,” Larry answered.
“Did you hit the ceiling?” she asked.
Larry looked up at the spackled ceiling that was distinctly lacking a head-shaped hole. “No.”
“Did you do anything that could in any way remotely be construed as flying?”
“What does construed mean?”
“Did you fly! Did you fly at all!” Ms. Able’s face had turned from green to brown to red now. Larry tried to take an instinctive step back but slammed into the chalkboard.
“No,” Larry answered.
“Are you at all like a bird?” Larry shook his head no. “Bearkles will never fly. Now sit back down in your seat and pay attention!” Ms. Able pointed vigorously towards Larry’s seat at the back left of the room. As her arm came to a sudden stop the gelatinous bulges that made up her meaty arms did not, jiggling slightly for a few moments afterwards.
Larry trundled towards his desk, hanging his round, gray head low to avoid the stares of his classmates. The first few steps were met with complete silence. By the time he was halfway to his desk Ms. Able began moving about. Just as he sat down she pulled the projector screen from its tidy roll above the blackboard until it stretched towards the floor.
Keeping an eye on Larry and the other on the rest of the class, Ms. Able said, “As you know, students, today we begin our health and anatomy module. We will be covering the Bearkle body for the next two weeks. We will discuss your module project after the slide show.” Ms. Able walked down the wide aisle between the classroom (set wider than most classrooms on account of her impressive girth) and stopped near Larry where the permanent slide projector was stationed on an old wooden platform. “No talking during the slide show. If you have a questions raise your hand and I will answer after we reach a stopping point.” She scanned the room for a moment. “Robert McDonald, please turn off the lights.” Bob McDonald, a wispy Bearkle with dark, intense eyes stood from his seat at the top right corner of the classroom and switched off the lights. A moment later the projector roared to life and a bright square of light filled the white projection screen at the front of the room. A distinct metallic thunk slightly preceded the first image on the board. Ms. Able then pressed the start button on the tape player and a peppy male voice whirred to life.
“The Bearkle body,” The disembodied voice began. “A marvel and a wonder of natural engineering and home to all of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.” On screen was a fuzzy picture of a dozen different Bearkles of varying ages, all of them, smiling as they stood for an informal portrait in what looked like a park or field.
“Next Slide.” This voice was different than the narrator, deeper and with less emotion. Ms. Able clicked the projector and another image appeared. This one was a cartoonish rendering of the inside of a Bearkle’s large, round head.
“Bearkles are unique in the animal kingdom,” The narrator continued. “They might not be the fastest, strongest, or largest creatures on Earth, but they do have something no other animal can claim—a giant brain capable of complex, rational thought housed in a nearly impenetrable fortress of a skull.” There was a pause in the narration as a flourish of dissonant instruments played a bit of fanfare. Coming out of the recorder it sounded like animals being tortured. “A Bearkle is made up of bones, muscles, ligaments, skin, and about 20% chocolate pudding. In today’s presentation we will begin with the head, perhaps the most amazing part of any Bearkle. A Bearkle’s skull is the thickest of any animal on Earth. Inside the thick skull is a secondary layer of a spongey material known as Squidgy Puddo-formus. This combination of rigidity and sponginess protects them from high velocity reading impacts and full contact knitting disasters, things most Bearkles are prone to experience.” Larry, as the recording continued, slowly lost interest and found his eyes wandering back towards the window. The sky was blue and bright, beautiful. His head might have been in the clouds, but his feet and amazing Bearkle brain were planted firmly on the ground.