COUNTING THE STARS WITH DAD

•June 16, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Man looking up towards the Milky Way. Eyre Peninsula. South Australia.The last licks of orange glow on the horizon signaled nature’s transition from day to night. Sitting on a deserted beach, on an isolated key, deep in the Everglades National Park backcountry, I watched the heavens as the stars began to appear one-by-one. Eyes darting frantically, I tried to count each star as it appeared. When stars began to emerge by the hundreds, I was quickly overwhelmed. Closing my eyes, I lay slowly on my back. After a brief visual break, I opened my eyes and tried to absorb the vastness from horizon to horizon. Usually, what floods my mind in these contemplative situations are big thoughts about my place in the world or reflections on how insignificant our tiny planet is in the cosmic scheme of things. But, what dominated my current introspection were not wispy glimpses of answers to life’s eternal questions, but clear visions of camping with my father.

Like so many young families in the early 1960s, mine had started camping as an inexpensive vacation-my mom and dad encouraged and outfitted by dad’s already camping co-workers. At one and a half years old, I was dragged along for all the fun. As the story goes, the first trip was a miraculous success-though it rained most of the two weeks and I’m told I spent most of my time in the tent in a highchair. It couldn’t have been all that bad; the Koelsch’s began a yearly ritual akin to migration that brought us to that same Lake George, New York campground each summer for nearly ten years. There
I caught my first fish (a “sunny” on a bamboo pole that we cooked in a metal Band-Aid box), paddled my first canoe (a beater of a Grumman the livery guy tried to blame dad for denting), and went on my first hike (a ranger-led scramble to the precipice of Roger’s Rock). Lake George was full of memories of the beginning of my love affair with the outdoors.

But, this evening, lying back on the sand on Pavilion Key, relaxing from a day’s kayaking, I recalled a very specific camping image of my father. Mind you, it was family-style tent camping we did at Lake George-three burner Coleman stove, big coolers, cotton sleeping bags with animal print interiors, mattresses that took half an hour to blow up, and a canvas tent that took an hour to erect once you figured out which pole went where. The drive-in campsite had the typical “Fred loves Wendy”-carved picnic table and slightly crooked grill-covered stone fireplace. It’s really just the fireplace that is important to this memory. That’s where dad would sit in a lounge chair and tend the campfire after his family was safely tucked in the tent. Several hours later I would half-hear that familiar tent zipper sound and dad would crawl in next to mom. Always being the curious type, the following morning I would ask dad what he did after we all went to bed. “Trying to count the stars,” he would say.

Dad’s sitting out at night wasn’t just an occasional occurrence. It was something he would do almost every night they weren’t playing cards or socializing with other campground acquaintances. And, each morning, following my question, he would answer with the same, what some people would describe as child-like, enthusiasm: “Trying to count the stars.” Sometimes he would tell me how many he counted that evening-but, the number never really seemed to matter as much as the actual counting. The quest was not for ever truly quantifying the heavens, the quest was the unrestrained joy he found in the trying. It was his continual enthusiasm and sense of wonder that
drenched my brain on that clear night in the Everglades. And, at that moment in my memory, I felt closer to my father than I would have if he were sitting on the beach next to me.

Indian Guide HandbookBeyond our Lake George days, we spent outdoor time together through our participation in the YMCA Indian Guides program. Each of the father-son “journeys” we shared was permeated by dad’s National Geographic Magazine sense of adventure. He skillfully applied his excitement and fed my imagination in ways that made each trip even more rewarding. There was the father-son canoe trip on the Wading River in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens-where an hour of no contact with other canoes and a small “search” plane overhead added a certain “edge” to our trip. And, there was that frigid winter night hike in the Poconos that revealed several well-formed bear prints in the snow’s icy crust. We had photos from some of those trips in a box somewhere, but lying there looking at the night sky I realized that the memories and feelings I cherished the most were not captured on film. They were captured in my heart and reflected in the stars.

Those stars brought me a real gift that evening-a renewed closeness to my father and an understanding of why I could love the outdoors so much. Still lying on the beach, I broke into a appreciative smile and again began to count.

NOTE: this essay originally appeared in Canoe & Kayak Magazine.

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Praise from Kirkus Reviews for Delphys Rising

•May 3, 2019 • Leave a Comment

cropped-kip-two-books-beach.jpgI was excited to receive a positive nod for my newest novel, Delphys Rising, from Kirkus Reviews. Here are some of the highlights:

 
“Koelsch (Wendall’s Lullaby, 2017) narrates in a simple style, deftly moving between characters to weave an intricate story of personal growth, relationships (both human and interspecies), and political and military intrigue. The protagonists and supporting cast are all given weight. Although individually this makes them stand out less, it grants the tale a holistic depth to match the gravitas of its subject matter. The dispersed character focus may rob events of some of their urgency, yet the plot, without ever becoming predictable, gains enough momentum to pull readers in.
 
An unusual tale in which the standard environmental bent gets unexpected complexity.”
 
Kirkus Reviews
 
Read the entire review (slight spoilers) at Kirkus Reviews

IndieReader Approved and 4.5 Rating for Delphys Rising!

•May 1, 2019 • Leave a Comment

IR Sticker Approved Sticker 2I’m excited by the recent editorial review of DELPHYS RISING posted by IndieReader! Check it out below:

 

The visionary Dr. Evan McMillon has been working on Midway Island in the Pacific, with little oversight, for the American military. Will his project in human-dolphin communications produce a new, ingenious weapon? An ocean away, at a swim-with-the-dolphins resort on Tortola, Jasmine Summers, believing McMillon dead, has been raising their son, the unusually gifted Hanau. As Dr. McMillon’s military program reaches its culmination, Han undertakes the search for a father who may or may not be alive. Han, Jasmine, Evan, and a set of well-drawn secondary characters, are inexorably drawn into a suspenseful web of good intentions, unintended consequences, and grave implications.

In 1959, Robert A. Heinlein defined science fiction as “Realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.” Kip Koelsch’s DELPHYS RISING stands as an exemplar of Heinlein’s definition, and, even better, as darn good storytelling.

One of Koelsch’s strengths rests in the creation of intellectually, emotionally and psychologically credible characters. By showing enough without telling too much, he also allows the characters unpredictability. As a result, we don’t know what choices they will make; this, in turn, amplifies the story’s dynamism. While young Han reads emotionally as a few years older than he is, overall Koelsch creates characters with a presence and believability, reminiscent of Philip Pullman’s work. Most satisfying, Koelsch manages the unspoken between characters deftly, especially between McMillon and Commander Ramirez, and, to great effect, between Admiral Collins, Director Shaw and Secretary Hulme.

COVER FINAL FRONT ONLYKoelsch times his revelations carefully. His restraint is one of several pillars that support this novel. While this is not the first fictional exploration that draws on the allure of human-dolphin communications, strong storytelling, excellent pacing and a highly original plot make the work stand out. The story turns unexpectedly, building gradually and well. Underlying themes of free will, the nature of communications, and the power of relationship are carried along briskly in a story that sharpens in intensity, gravity, and the sense of danger as it goes along.

While Kip Koelsch’s novel DELPHYS RISING, the follow up to Wendall’s Lullaby, is not the first fictional exploration on the allure of human-dolphin communications, strong storytelling, excellent pacing and a highly original plot make the work stand out as an exemplar of the thriller/sci-fi genres.

~Ellen Graham for IndieReader

Sinkhole (short fiction): Part Three

•April 20, 2019 • Leave a Comment

A sexy FBI agent aiming a pistol.When Erik’s eyes finally adjusted to the bright spotlights shining into the sinkhole and at the cube, he could see that the FBI agents had drawn their weapons. He slowly raised his hands and shouted, “I have ID.”

One of the agents made a beckoning wave with her handgun and Erik slowly reached into his pocket. He withdrew the military ID and tossed it among the skeletons. “I’m with SOCOM at MacDill.”

The agent again waved her gun. The intent was clear and Erik again put up his hands while another agent moved to recover the military ID card.

At that moment, Erik sensed his body slowly sinking into the cube. His feet had already disappeared into the silver monolith. He couldn’t turn his head or move his arms or shout, but he could see that the agents and scientists in sinkhole had not noticed his change in position. Their movement was so slow as to be barely perceptible.

Now buried up to his waist in the cube, he could feel the cold sweat of panic bead up under his clothes. Still no reaction from the FBI team. Still no response from his body. Still no sound when he tried to yell.

Swallowing hard as his chin reached the top plane of the cube, Erik noticed the one agent had not yet reached his ID among the skeletons. Are we all moving in slow motion? And there was still no acknowledgement of his sinking–of his being absorbed into the monolith.

Poised to sink even further, Erik reacted instinctively–taking and holding a deep breath. The process seemed to slow even more. And with his eyes about to disappear the oxygen in his body seemed to run out. The world went black–or more accurately, silver.

3D rendering. Faceted silver robot face with eyes looking front on cameraIt seemed like forever. It seemed instantaneous. Stretched to the horizon before him stood thousands of silver beings–human, but silver. Naked. He looked at himself–ending at his feet. Also naked, also silver. It was most definitely his body–except for the color.

Taking a slow deep breath of the dry air, he returned his eyes to his feet. His silver feet were flecked with red grit. He was standing on dusty, red ground. Looking out over the heads of the still silent silver beings he could see the red dirt stretched beneath them–and hazy red mountains in the distance.

Only one thought came to Erik’s mind–Mars.

3D Rendering Planet Mars Lanscape

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Sinkhole (short fiction): Part Two

•April 19, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Erik looked at Caroline sleeping soundly in their hotel bed and felt the tug of comfort–the warmth of her body and the calm of her gentle breathing.  But he couldn’t stay. He. Could. Not. Stay.

The local police had restricted access to their property. The county sheriff had restricted access to his street. The state police were simply bypassed by the FBI—-who evacuated a perimeter a mile in diameter.

They had not been allowed to return to the undamaged portion of their home–to pack a bag, retrieve a wallet or grab a phone. Luckily, one of the local sheriff’s deputies allowed him to make a call to his commander at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. A courier (in this case a very junior second lieutenant) from the U.S. Special Operations Command met him at the local Hampton Inn with a new military ID, an encrypted cell phone and a plain envelope. Inside the envelope were $500 in twenty dollar bills, a credit card in his name and printed orders from much further up his chain of command.

3d illustration of metal cubeIt wasn’t the orders that roused him from his hotel bed. It was what played repetitively through his mind. It was an image–the gleaming, stainless steel monolith surrounded by skeletons. It was how his eyes were drawn past the bleached bones and into the cube.

Into the cube? He shook his head as he pulled on his grey Navy sweatshirt. Yes–drawn in. The warmth of the sweatshirt wasn’t enough to stop the chill of cold sweat running down his back. His eyes were drawn past the bleached bones and into the stainless steel—-but that’s where sense morphed into emotion. Feeling. Was it a feeling?

Quietly, he unlatched the chain on the hotel room door and slipped out without giving his slumbering wife another glance.

A few minutes later Erik stood outside and in front of the Hampton Inn–staring blankly. Focusing on the visual memory, he was again drawn into the cube–into the hazy transition from sight to…It was a feeling. The emotion he found in the silver mist of the cube was indistinct–not dark or light. Powerful, yet undefinable. Unclear, yet strong enough for him to leave his bed and his hotel.

In those intensely introspective moments, Erik hadn’t noticed that his eyes had closed, but he did notice when they opened—-and quickly narrowed in the blinding glare of spotlights.  Through the raised hand that quickly shielded his eyes, he now found himself not standing in front of the hotel, but at the bottom of a sinkhole standing on top of a large stainless cube surrounded by skeletons and more than a dozen alarmed FBI agents and analysts.

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Sinkhole (short fiction): Part One

•April 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

“Wake up!” Caroline shook Erik hard. During two tours in Iraq he had learned to sleep through most anything. Caroline’s prodding and shouting was nothing.

“Erik!” This time her prodding was amplified as the whole house shook and the explosive sound of splitting wood cracked the air.

“What?” He mumbled and rolled upright—-eyes widening.

“The house!”

“We need to leave!”

Grabbing the mag light under his nightstand and Caroline’s hand, Erik headed for the bedroom door. Then the front door.

Outside, lights were on in every neighbor’s house but theirs. People filled the street–staring at their house. Mainly staring at the half that now appeared to be falling into the crumbling earth.

“Sinkhole. We’ve already called 911.” A neighbor shook his head. It was an all too common occurrence in modern Florida. Karst topography close to the surface, water drained from the underlying rock for a growing, thirsty populace (and their lawns).

Erik looked at Caroline. “Stay here.” He trotted off towards the hole. A few neighbors joined him with their big flashlights.

At the edge he looked at the two rooms of his house now dangling off the edge of what looked like a 90-foot wide collapsed cavern. The flashing beams of multiple flashlights played across the hole like a Hollywood premiere—-until more than one stopped on a single spot under the far edge.

“A stainless steel refrigerator?” shouted one of the neighbors.

Erik shook his head. “No”

Darkness theme of loneliness and death is Truth of Life. human skull in cemetery on the pile carcass plant and dry leaves on dark background which has dim light and copy space.Deliberately placing his feet as he skirted the hole for a better look, Erik jerked to a stop when he could make out the brightly lit object. It was a stainless steel cube–approximately ten feet by ten feet by ten feet. Surrounding it were at least a dozen bleached, human skeletons laying prostrate before the monolith.

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5-STAR REVIEW: DELPHYS RISING

•March 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

5star-shiny-hr readers favorite

Delphys Rising by Kip Koelsch follows on from the author’s first book, Wendall’s Lullaby, and tells the story of one man’s determination and obsession to communicate with dolphins. It has always been known that dolphins are highly intelligent and that they communicate with one another via clicks and high-pitched noises, but can humans decipher these sounds, and can they respond so that the dolphins understand? Bee is a dolphin who may just be able to do that. Hans is a nine-year-old who can identify the dolphins through their sound and Dr. Evan McMillon might just have invented a means to perfect the communication with Delphys. But other forces are at work, and ghosts from his past seem determined to destroy his life’s work.

 

COVER FINAL FRONT ONLYThe author has crafted an amazing scenario that seems all the more plausible because of his skillful and knowledgeable writing. The characters all come across as authentic and credible, and the whole scenario leads the reader to believe that such a center exists. The setting is in Tortola, and the writer describes the scene perfectly which transports the reader to the dolphin world. I have not read the first book by Kip Koelsch, but Delphys Rising is a stand-alone book and it did not deter me from enjoying and relating to the story. It certainly encourages the reader to pick up the first book to relate to the origin of the story and to the transition of Dr. Evan McMillon. The writing and the dialogue flow well, making this an enjoyable read from the start. An author to watch.

–Reader’s Favorite, 2019

 

 
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