Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Poet in Chains

Ah, poetry lost. Or poetic prose lost. That’s the sequel, right? First poetry, then the novel. Let’s not talk about the rise of the novel. If I do, I will have to remind myself that I spent far more of my life reading Clarissa than I ever wanted to. And Northanger Abbey was shit too. The problem with most satire, I find, is that it tends to be indiscernible from the content it is attempting to comment on. This, in my opinion, is the problem with most American animated comedy shows. It isn’t satire. It is outlandish fiction. Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was satire. A Modest Proposal was satire. The Simpsons is a bunch of Yahoos gallivanting around.

I had begun to write about my poetry when the computer died. It is one of those rare moments in modern technology when it didn’t manage save my lost work. A pity, I was enjoying writing about the poet inside me who rages against the twelve-bone cage I keep him in. About the worlds, words carved on the bars til the stark white of the bars, invisible in the meaty darkness, is lost beneath the scrawl of symbols to which we agree to give meaning. The poet inside me who rages loudly because he sees through my eyes when I read the poetry inside the words of others and it is flint to the tender of his muse. The poet who rages so that his words may be loud enough that some may drip from my fingers, slip from my tongue.

It has been a long time since I wrote a poem. I rarely consider my lyrics to be poetry as well. There are aspects of poetry in them, but they aren’t poems in truth. Sometimes they come close, the poetry of my song, “Roots,” is one of the reasons I am so proud of it.

I’m tired of playing
at being a tumbleweed
I want to put down roots
and grow into a tree

Poetry, well, creative writing in general, should show and not tell. It is uninteresting to say, “I want to stop living a nomadic lifestyle and settle down with a good woman and lead a good life.” It would make for a boring song, and terrible poetry. Instead, we fill the page with metaphors, make a river of meaning that flows around the boring dam of blunt prose and create images that slip under the skin and gnaw on the imagination of the reader, the listener.

I do not do this enough. There is a reason I describe the poet within me as caged. I don’t write poems as I used to. My lyrics don’t satisfy the part of me that never hung my bachelor’s degree in creative writing on the wall. I never wanted to tell the world I was a poet, I wanted to show them.

Yet, here I am, six years beyond that black cap and stage, unwritten, unpublished, unseen. The poet of me has been reduced to a mediocre lyricist, the author to a personal blogger more introspective than concerned with the world at large. The amateur songwriter barely braves the stage. Perhaps what I need is to call myself to arms. Perhaps I should rage, rage against the dying of the light.

I have the training, I have the texts still, hoarded and boxed and set upon quiet shelves where they can hardly mumble between the tight borders of their covers. The poet lies chained, his bowels devoured eternally by the eagle. His muscles emaciated, his ability squandered, his breath short, hard, fast. He tires quickly, but longs to bring fire again to the world. The light hurts after so long. It seems safer in The Cave.

I am thankful for, and humbled by, the words of a few who stir that prisoner within me. They breathe poetry, whether they know it or not, and remind me that I can, and have. There is a voice in me that once knew song. It sings still, but sotto voce from the depths. If I close my eyes I can linger in the echo of its majesty.

Don’t fear that I don’t give myself credit where it is due. I just know that there is room for improvement, room for the captive to spread his legs, stretch out his fingers and pour verse into the cup of life. There is a voice to shape and define, coax into an eloquent sound skilled in both melody and harmony.  There is freedom to be found for the poet in the twelve-bone cage.


For the curious, or interested, dance class went well. I had a private “lesson” with one my most frequent students, a woman in her 50s. She hasn’t attended class in a month and a half, but it turned out to be for the best. The rest allowed much of what she had learned to settle and set in. Rather than teaching her anything specific, we simply danced for an hour, going through as many styles as I have taught her. She danced better than she ever has. I am, however, out of shape. I haven’t danced that much in a long time.

I almost skipped my normal class. No one showed up for the first 15 minutes and I was just getting ready to put away the furniture when one of my recent regulars arrived. I began to teach her the “basic” for Argentine Tango, as much as I know of it when another one of my teen regulars showed up. Finally a second lead, another regular also arrived; he was a half hour late.

We went on to review and learn more West Coast Swing. Since they were regulars and youthful, I made certain they weren’t uncomfortable with poor language and relaxed my filter. I have a lot of respect for propriety, but it makes me somewhat distant at times. Our lesson was both fun, silly, and fairly amusing. Rather than counting the beat, I sang syllables to the rhythm I was dancing, cracked jokes, and made myself comfortable. At one point the whole class fell apart because the three of them were laughing so hard. The first follow who arrived actually walked outside because she started snorting.

I don’t relax my filter that far very often. It was nice to feel that comfortable around people. It isn’t just that I use words like “fuck” more often, either. I just feel more, what’s the word Rapscallion used. . . corybantic. But that’s not right either. Less saturnalian. Perhaps carefree is simply good enough.

No matter what, I enjoyed my evening.
And a thousand words, goodnight.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dance, Dance, Dance

Today I dance. It’s that day of the week. I think it’s been just over a year since I started teaching in this little whole foods café tucked away in a tiny suburb of an already tiny town. For 51 Tuesdays I have jiggled the key the owner’s gave me into the stubborn lock on the front doors, cleared the furniture from the café floor and turned it into a cozy swing dance hall. I have taught East Coast Swing, Lindy Hop, West Coast Swing, Charleston. My students have ranged from those who have claimed beauty to those who prefer wisdom. I have regulars who attend often and random groups from out of town who appear for one night, swelling the class until it almost spills out the doors.

I have been dancing for 11 years now, and teaching dance for 6 years. I started my freshman year of college. Swing and ballroom dance sounded like fun things to learn and I added them to my schedule, along with fencing. At the time the only opportunities for ballroom dancing were in the classes (beginner’s only), while a local club hosted a swing dance with an hour lesson and three hours of dancing once a week. So I took beginning ballroom four times from three different teachers and swing twice.

The fourth time I took ballroom it turned out the teacher was only teaching because they could find no one else to teach the class. This was clear because she was teaching out of an old dancing manual, referencing it regularly throughout any one session. I helped out on the sidelines, once even teaching an East Coast Swing class for her.

One day, after class, she came up to me, and said firmly, “This is my class.” In the pause that followed my mind raced with stuttering apologies. I thought, “Gah! I’m sorry. I’ll try to stay with the class.” My mental deference was unnecessary, however. Her next words were, “But I only teach this because they can’t find anyone else. You’re better at this than I am. Do you want to teach it?”

And that’s how I ended up teaching accredited courses for the University of Idaho. I taught three semesters of ballroom and one semester of Strictly Swing, as the course was called. My so-called supervisor, (who never attended any of my classes), was astounded by the quantity and quality of my student’s reviews of the class. The director of the department couldn’t believe it.

If someone were to ask why I thought I had such an excellent response, I would say, “Passion.” I loved what I was teaching and taught it mindfully. My passion kept me from be insecure or overly arrogant. I didn’t rush my students and taught them what I felt mattered: how to dance.

I taught them waltz, tango, salsa, cha cha, foxtrot. But more importantly, I taught them what was the same about them all. I gave them the foundation, and made them practice that foundation no matter what style they were being taught. By the end of the semester my students could learn everything I knew about foxtrot in a single class. It’s the foundation that made that possible that I am passionate about.

The foundation of social dance has very little to do with your feet. It isn’t about fancy moves, aerials, or costumes. Dance is about communication and connection. Connection with yourself; connection with your partner; and eventually, connection with the music. As I see it, your feet are for keeping time, and as anyone who has danced for a long time knows, as long as you can keep time, it doesn’t really matter what your feet are doing. The steps and timing define styles, to a degree, and serve as a tool to teach you to move with the music. At a certain point, you achieve a level where you can make that movement even if you’ve left the “rock-step” far behind.

Communication and connection are the two major reasons why people use dance for couple’s therapy. They may be the only reasons, any other is likely a sub-category of one or the other. Dancing is conversation. It has its own discourse, its own story and it changes between partners, style, individuals, songs. (I once wrote a 17 page graduate paper on the rhetoric of social dance.)

It is the two Cs of dance that I am truly passionate about. I love taking up a partner who knows herself well enough that she flies across the floor at my slightest touch, as if she could read my mind. Can she follow? Obviously, but the reason she can follow isn’t because she knows the steps. It’s because she’s connected to her partner and herself.

If we can’t connect the different parts of our own bodies, dancing (and communication) becomes impossible. If we are disconnected from ourselves, then the movement we’re seeking gets lost in translation. Toes get stepped on, a turn goes awry, a requested spin fails to happen. It doesn’t matter if you are lead or follow. If your movement isn’t centered and connected with in your own body, your partner will not move with you.

The reflection of that connection becomes a dance. I move and my partner moves seamlessly. We turn together, like a top released with such momentum that it is only through force of will that it comes to a stop. Connection becomes communication. I lift my arm up and away to suggest an outside turn and voila, my partner has performed an outside turn.

Through clarity of self, I have provided clarity in my request. I knew what I wanted and how to ask for it. My partner is prepared for our conversation and knows how to listen. Together we take an era of song and tell a story with two voices. In spite of lead and follow, there is no dominance in dance. At the end of the day, I can only suggest and she choose to listen. Anything else is a breakdown in communication.

In spite of the fact that I am teaching tonight, I miss dancing. I miss the atmosphere at a social dance. The strange faces that stand out in the crowd, the simplicity of the request and the eagerness to say yes. We go to these places to dance. There is no pressure, no meat market. A dance is at its purest, just a dance. When it is over, our two ships in the sea of bodies will part and go back to following the currents of our lives. There is no awkward rejection because there is no misunderstanding of why I am there. I want to dance. That is all.

My class doesn’t have that atmosphere because it is just that, a class. We don’t have the attendance (or space) to host a true dance each week. My dream is to recreate what I knew back in my college days, the four hours of dancing every Thursday night. It is hard to start things in this town. Harder still because there is such a slight population. (One would think a town of 7,000 would provide more interest, but no.) But I will continue to make the effort. I will give the gift of my passion to anyone who shows up to my class and I will give the world and their lives a chance to tell a better story because of it.

If you ever have a choice between dancing and not dancing, learn to dance. It has endless benefits.

Just dance.

And a thousand words, goodnight.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Escape to Seven Words

Even had I wanted to write this weekend, the events of the last two days made that impossible. I barely had time to take the dogs for a short walk Saturday and a short river walk Sunday. I would happily take another couple days off, if I could. I suppose, however, that I shouldn’t complain too much. Come Friday, (or Miraday, as we now like to call it), I will have ten days off in a row. I will be using five days from my PTO, two weekends and the Labor Day holiday. I am likely going to do some kind of “staycation” as people around here like to call them. I am not certain that particular crossbreeding of parts of the English language should be encouraged. Much like the person on the mastiff forum who seriously wondered about breeding a mastiff with a Pomeranian. There are things in this life one should just never do for the sake of humanity, let alone the poor animals.

Were I intending to travel, I did just get a new car! My dad and I drove two hours Saturday to a big car sale down in Mead, Washington, where I traded in my 1999 Honda Accord and picked up a 2002 Ford Escape. I am now a prince in white Ford. Haha. Sorry, bad joke.

I did not drive the Honda down on Saturday, so the salesman offered me a good trade-in value having never seen the vehicle. I warned him that no one would want to pay $1200 for it, but he made the offer and put it down on paper. In the end, he saved me a lot of money. The registration and the license plate expired this month, for one. Apparently it is cheaper to register a new car. There were also a variety of aesthetic and mechanical issues that I hadn’t taken care of and now no longer need to worry about. This is good.

So far, the Escape is great. It has plenty of room for dog, camping gear and sundry. There’s a roof rack, so I can borrow the kayak mounts and kayak from my parents and go play wherever I want, not just down the river outside the house. That’s definitely happening over my vacation. It handles our driveway better than my dad’s old truck does or the Honda did, and has good clearance and 4 wheel drive, so I need not worry about scraping nor how bad the road gets in the winter. These are all good things.

I now have two things checked off my list of short-term goals. I have my dog. I have my vehicle capable of towing. Now I just need to find a catamaran and a girlfriend. Getting the reliable things checked off the list first. The lady can come when life decides it is time. I am not wandering with my eyes closed though! Mira just fell right into place when I decided to look for a dog, she happened the perfect mix of a couple breeds I was considering. The Escape fell into place when I started looking. My dad was down in the area on a job, stopped by the lot and told the salesman what our criteria was. They didn’t have anything on the lot and by the time he got home, the salesman had called to say they had the Escape just arrive. It is exactly what I want. I told my dad, “If only I could be so lucky in finding a woman.”

Be careful what you wish for, right? Well. . . I have a song about that too.

Ella, what do you have
against taking chances
I’d be willing to risk
getting what I wish for
if you would only give me one

Life moves forward and I have no reason to complain. Don’t fight the current. Put a kayak in and go with it!

I am going to cheat on my word count now. When I was driving down to Mead on Sunday I had lyrics running through my head and had to text them out. Safe? Unlikely. Kept my lyrics? More important. Ha. The following selections are what I like to call tidbits, meaning incomplete pieces of something I may or may not finish later. I don’t know that I will ever write the song about chances and statistics, but perhaps. I like the sentiment. I know I want to write “Seven Words.” Note the excessive wind in here? That’s because they’re rough drafts.

If you lay out a deck of cards
statistics say
there’s a higher chance
monkey became man
than the cards turn up
in the order that you played
What I think this means is
the chance that there’s someone, somewhere
out there just for me
is a sure thing,
yeah, a sure thing.

Seven Words
(Dedicated to Kvothe and Denna)

There are seven words you can whisper
to make any woman fall in love.
I’m still searching for my seven words
and the one to say them to.

May I have this dance with you?
No one moves me like you do.
Hold on, I’ll never let you fall.
With you, I am naught at all.

The idea of seven words comes from Patrick Rothfuss’ novel, The Name of the Wind. (More about the book in my recent post of reviews.) In it Kvothe is told by two of his teachers who study the power of words and names that there are seven words that will make anyone love you. Whether it is true or not, I like the idea. It also makes for an interesting challenge, making a song from it. If you hadn’t noticed, each line has seven words. Here are a few seven-word lines from the books that Kvothe says to a couple women. In context, they’re very strong lines.

I’m just wondering why you’re here. (Denna)
For all that, she lacked your fire.
I need you to breathe for me. (Denna)

What do you think? Does your heart have a seven-word key?

And a thousand words, goodnight.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Sorry Freya, It's Miraday

Do you remember
the last night we spent together?
I can’t, those days are foggy now
but the memory of your smile
still carves rainbows from the clouds

It is Friday, finally. This week has been a long but good one. Mostly I read, specifically the Blood of the Falcon volumes from Court Ellyn. You can read my review in the previous entry. It helped me get through the days, as there was very little actual proofreading to do and more time than usual to waste. I took a half day today so that I could take Mira to the vet. In order to do so, I “worked” through lunch for the first four days. I never realized what a difference that one free hour made in making the day shorter.

Not having to be at work didn’t really make the morning any shorter. Mira decided it was playtime around 5:30 and didn’t calm down to sleep again until I finally forced myself out of bed at 7:30. Needless to say, being in bed involved hanging one arm over the side and playing tug of war with my eyes closed, letting her out, letting her in, collapsing back into the sweet arms of my mattress, only to fling myself away in order to keep the puppy from eating the Labs’ food. She discovered that she could reach where we’ve been putting it and knocked the whole bowl off. It is one of those self-feeding dog bowls, so it isn’t exactly small.

It was nice to sit and drink coffee with my dad while everyone else had started their day at work. I reveled in it a little, squirmed happily inside and had another sip of my ghetto mocha. If I were any less of a morning person, I would be in Florida eating someone’s brains.

It turns out that Mira loves the vet. There are new people and new smells there and a pretty lady who gives her treats while the nice old man sticks her with a needle. She was so busy with the treats and licking the vet tech’s hands that I don’t even think she noticed getting her shot. Everyone at the office adored her, but then, she’s a puppy and most people adore puppies, let alone people who have dedicated their lives and careers to caring for animals.

After the vet we went to work just to take her around for a visit. My co-workers hadn’t seen her since she was 18 pounds and she weighed in at 30.2 today. That was three weeks ago, for the record. The appointment took 15 minutes, tops. Getting in and out of a building that employs 350 or so women took an hour and a half. I barely made it home and back in time to grab lunch with a friend of mine before we headed back to work. I clocked in at 1.

There isn’t any particular reason for me to be here, quite honestly. My day continues much like my week. You may have figured that out by now, having read as much as you have to get to this point in my post. I look forward to going home to my pup and taking the dogs for a quick walk down the river before the sun slips behind the mountains and takes most of its warmth with it. We have 30+ degree shifts in temperature daily around here. I almost always leave for work in a light jacket and end up in a t-shirt by the time I get in the building. Last week it was 40 degrees when I left for work and it hit 80 that day, give or take a few degrees.

I don’t mind the wobbly temperature. I am not a big fan of the heat. I like four seasons and find beauty in them all. I am still enjoying the summer, but I have fond memories of drinking red wine in front of a blaze winking at me through the glass of a wood stove and I can’t wait to see Mira bounding through the snow as she meets it for the first time.

In interest of having a dog that promises to grow about 72 pounds in the next 6 months and living at the end of a bumpy 2-mile long dirt road, I am car shopping for the next couple of weeks. I am currently looking into a Ford Escape, but am also considering a Nissan Xterra. I currently drive a Honda Accord, which doesn’t have the greatest clearance ever and can’t tow a boat. If you haven’t been reading long, my current dream is: dog, truck, sail boat. Got the dog. Working on the SUV, since a truck isn’t the best way to haul a mastiff. Since it’s August, I think I will hold off on the boat until next spring. Plenty of time to save some money and let Mira grow so I only have to buy her a life vest once. You didn’t think I was going to leave her behind when I went sailing, did you?

I suddenly had this amusing, but likely practical, idea of training her to know the commands “port” and “starboard” so she’ll lay/sit on whichever side needs weight. Probably wise. Otherwise we are probably all going swimming. Hopefully she figures out fast that she needs to be laying down. If not, she may be one of the few mastiffs ever to learn why that long metal bar is called a boom.

In the meantime, I am planning on starting Mira on group puppy classes next month. It will be good for her to socialize with strange dogs. She has met a few but none since July. No problems socializing her with people, however. We have guests in and out regularly. I am going to do my best to have one of the best-trained pups out there. Maybe not show quality training, or dog dancing, but the kind of behavior and manners I expect from a dog. I can’t stand it when people have poorly trained dogs. It is a disservice to dog, owner, and any potential guests.

I hope you enjoy your weekend. Play hard.

And a thousand words, goodnight.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Extensive Sci-fi/Fantasy Book Reviews

I have read 56 or so digital novels since November 17, 2012 and I think it is time to build a list of recommendations. Do professional readers exist? I think that would be awesome. (And it’s what my company pays me to do while I’m waiting to do actual work anyway.) I am only going to list my absolute must reads, and the very few “don’t bothers” that slipped through my extremely picky, “I only read good books” filter. I will include a full list of what I read at the end for the morbidly curious.

I expect that the must read list will be listed by author. Most of them were series that I devoured the way a dog eats, well, just about anything. More inhalation than mastication. Two of the series I’ve already inhaled twice. Court Ellyn’s books are likely next on the re-reading list, in spite of the fact that I just finished the second book yesterday.

So, in no particular order, a few authors I demand. . . err, highly recommend you go read. Also, I buy everything on Kindle for PC, so it is fairly reasonably priced, if not amazing. (Ellyn’s books are worth way more than she charges.)

While I am a huge fan of Brent Weeks and Orson Scott Card, I am going to start with a few I think of as lesser known.

Go read The Name of the Wind. Right now. You can thank me later. Patrick Rothfuss creates a vivid fantasy world full magic, music, and some swordplay. The story is framed by a “humble” innkeeper name Kvothe. Kvothe hasn’t always been humble, however. He’s in hiding and a wandering storyteller has hunted him down and convinced him to tell his true story. Kvothe, his adventures and misadventures, love for music and a woman he thinks he could never have, his friends and enemies are all so human that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a fantasy novel. I read this book straight through, finished, downloaded the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear and read it straight through. I did very little else until I was finished. Less than six months later I read them both straight through again. I am anxious for the third installment.

When you’re done with Rothfuss’ novels, I hope you’re into epic science fiction. In Her Name: Redemption, by Michael R. Hicks was the first honest to god straight sci-fi novel I’ve read in ages that won me in a heartbeat. It begins in medias res in the middle of an intergalactic war between a race of alien warriors and humankind. The war, which appears to all intents and purposes to have no reason but the genocide of the human race, is truly a battle seeking the redemption and salvation of a species a hundred thousand years old. The main character of the original three books is captured as a child and is raised by the aliens, becoming the first human not only to understand, but to become one with their people. The trilogy chronicles the end of the war and his part in it.

I later read In Her Name: First Contact, which tells the story of the beginning of the war. It had me asking questions that were never answered, like, “Is the main character of the first three a descendant of Ichiro?” Hicks introduces us further into the culture and mind of the aliens, exploring their intentions versus those of humanity. After I finished this trilogy I went back to read Redemption again. Less than three months after I first read it.

I want to introduce Court Ellyn to you next. She’s a Kindle author and as I mentioned before, I finished reading the second volume of her first efforts yesterday. Her Blood of the Falcon books are already on the top 100 epic fantasy list on Amazon and it’s easy to see why. The story follows (mostly), a set of twins, one who becomes a mage and the other a knight. It is a high fantasy epic, with warring kingdoms and intrigue at a level that I personally find much more palatable than George R. R. Martin’s. There are elves, dwarves, humans, dragons and ogres, but they exist in a familiar but unique fashion. One of my favorite things about Ellyn’s books is her unapologetic magic system. Mages, or avedrin, as she calls them, have the potential to be nigh omnipotent. Kieryn, the mage-twin, calls upon fire, lightning, tears the earth asunder, and never misses a mark with an arrow. But neither does it make him invincible. He’s powerful, but he can be hurt and he can be dangerous, even to himself and his compatriots. I would read (and will read) her novels again before I ever consider touching Dance of Dragons.

Finally, I consider The Legend of Eli Monpress another must read. Rachel Aaron creates a world where magic is a form of animism and wizards speak and bond with the spirits of the world. Eli, the protagonist, is a quirky, unique wizard-thief whose main goal is to achieve a 1,000,000 gold bounty on his head. He usually turns into a hero in the process of trying to steal the world from under your feet. It is a fun series, with loveable characters and fascinating interactions with the physical and spiritual aspects of its fantasy world.

I wish there was more from The Galactic Mage by John Daulton. Magic literally meets space age science. It was interesting and fun to read. Especially when the spaceship encounters the teleporting space-travelling castle. . .

Some honorable mentions, though if I don’t mention it all, it’s still worth reading:

-       If you like graphic, dark sci-fantasy, try Heroes Die. Fascist future Earth and alternate fantasy world abused for entertainment of the masses.
-       The Lies of Locke Lamora and sundry are another fun fantasy story about con-men and their misadventures. Well worth the read.
-       Kevin Hearne’s series about Atticus the last living druid is a easy-going, conversational urban fantasy full of old world gods, monsters, and their general quest to kill him. He gets in trouble, even when he doesn’t mean to. I don’t really like Urban Fantasy. Especially since it’s fully of nauseous romance between leather clad witches and their vampire lovers or detective stories. Not for me. But Hearne’s books are fun to read. Full priced though, even on Kindle.
-       Jonathan Moeller is a Kindle author who needs an editor but still writes good books. I like his Ghost series, about a woman who belongs to a secret group of assassin/spies who work for the good guys. À la Robin Hobb, Brent Weeks.
-       I offered to be a beta reader for the sequel to Vaetra Unveiled, so I would be remiss not to mention it. A soldier who discovers late in life he’s a mage. Whoops.

As I said before, if it isn’t mentioned, it’s still worth reading. I just wanted to highlight some of my favorites. I am going to warn you about the shitty books I had to wipe off my shoes next. Don’t read them. Or do. The smell takes a while to go away though. I warned you.

Don’t waste your time on Tracing the Shadow by Sarah Ash. Some anti-mage inquisition and a heroine who could have been awesome, but fell flat on her face, in my opinion. It is one of those books you put on the end of a bookshelf and keeps falling over because you don’t have book ends.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman can go do unmentionable things to itself. Grossman cornered Narnia in the wardrobe and went after it like a Catholic priest chasing an altar boy. The content of the book is about as graphic. If Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund met Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Summer Tree, went to a school of magic and got into drugs and turned into hapless ennui filled 20 something emo kids, you would have this book. Do yourself a favor and don’t.

Fire Mage and Sun Mage by John Forrester should have been one book, to begin with. Might still be decent for your preteen. But I would rather give my preteen (had I children) Tamora Pierce’s Alanna novels, because then we could both enjoy them.

The Scion of Abacus is a decent read. Better marketing ploy, but I lost interest because of its serial nature. Same reason I only like watching TV shows if they’re on DVD.

Karen Miller’s Empress was ok. I don’t think it’s for everyone, though. Read a sample and some reviews before you try it.

I don’t know that Tracy Hickman can write without Margaret Weiss. Embers of Atlantis is meant to be a new D&D urban fantasy setting with dragons, blah, blah, blah. Potential, unmet. C’est la vie.

That’s likely more review than you care to read in one sitting, but that’s what happens when I let all my reading stack up for eight months without writing about it. I hope you enjoy some of what I have recommended.

Surgeon General’s Warning: I can’t stand Stephen King or Robert Jordan, so if you’re a fan of either, consider taking some of what I didn’t like with a grain of salt. I still don’t recommend Tracing the Shadow or Fire/Sun Mage, though.

And a thousand words, goodnight.


Inheritance, Christopher Paolini
The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan
The Throne of Fire, Rick Riordan
Heroes Die, Matthew Woodring Stover
Blade of Tyshalle, Matthew Woodring Stover
The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
The Wise Man’s Fear, Patrick Rothfuss
The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
Tracing the Shadow, Sarah Ash
Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch
Empress, Karen Miller
Hounded, Kevin Hearne
Hexed, Kevin Hearne
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, N.K. Jemisin
Hammered, Kevin Hearne
The Lost Gate, Orson Scott Card
Pathfinder, Orson Scott Card
The Black Prism, Brent Weeks
The Way of Shadows, Brent Weeks
Shadow’s Edge, Brent Weeks
Beyond the Shadows, Brent Weeks
The Magicians, Lev Grossman
Ender in Exile, Orson Scott Card
Songmaster, Orson Scott Card
Vaetra Unveiled, Daniel R. Marvello
Tricked, Kevin Hearne
Timecaster, Joe Kimball
White Shores, Jay Swanson
The Spirit War, Rachel Aaron
The Scion of Abacus Part 1-4, Brondt Kamffer
The Legend of Eli Monpress (3 book omnibus), Rachel Aaron
The Galactic Mage, John Daulton
Sun Mage, John Forrester
Stravaganza: City of Stars, Mary Hoffman
Stravaganza: City of Masks
Soul of Tyrants (Demonsouled), Jonathan Moeller
Raven’s Shadow Book One: Blood Song, Anthony Ryan
In Her Name: First Contact (3 book omnibus), Michael R. Hicks
In Her Name: Redemption (3 book omnibus), Michael R. Hicks
Ghost in the Storm (The Ghosts), Jonathan Moeller
Ghost in the Flames (The Ghosts), Jonathan Moeller
Ghost in the Blood (The Ghosts), Jonathan Moeller
Fire Mage, John Forrester
Embers of Atlantis, Tracy Hickman
Demonsouled, Jonathan Moeller
Child of the Ghosts, Jonathan Moeller
Blood of the Falcon, Volume 1, Court Ellyn
Blood of the Flacon, Volume 2, Court Ellyn

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Quotidian

Life goes on. I drift in circles on its river, caught in an eddy that takes me out and back to shore without ever going anywhere. Occasionally I escape from eddy into another, then drift again, lazily spinning in place. I wait most of my days for the freedom to shed my flip-flops and dig my toes into soft grass and fine sands. It is at the tail end of the sun’s intrepid path across the sky that I gain this freedom. I bask in it, revel in it, then cuddle up with a small black dog and let the chemicals of Morpheus wash me away into whatever worlds he has in store for me. While I don’t have nightmares, I don’t think my dreams are kind to me. I rarely wake feeling rested.

This isn’t to say that life isn’t good. I am taking steps toward my goals. I have given my personal life more purpose and companionship. Work is where I wallow in the sluggish turning of tepid waters. I dislike work.

The weekend was good. On Friday I had friends over and we played Dungeons and Dragons in the fire pit with a crackling roar in the center. Saturday I gave away to the challenges of Civilization V, before having dinner with my dad and his company. We were visited by one of his former co-workers, the man’s wife and their two children. One child is four months or so and their little girl is two and a half. She decided she liked me, kissed my cheek and told me I was handsome.

Sunday was busy. I did very little in the morning, but made much of the afternoon. Once my dad had gone to town I took all three dogs for a walk down the river. Mira had no problem swimming across to stay with us. After a few oxbows we got out on the property next to ours and walked back home.

After I put the dogs away, I pumped up the tires on the bike in the garage and tossed it in the back of our white truck. I drove it down the road to a turn off on the river, parked it and rode the bike the half mile or so back to the house. Then I put the kayak on the back of an ATV, hauled it down to the river and unloaded it. Took the ATV back home, walked back to the kayak in the water and off I went!

When I went kayaking last week I took it slower and floated a bit more. I’m not certain why, but I was more motivated to push and get the float done. I still enjoyed it, but it was different than the previous experience. Though the drive and bike ride probably took 15 minutes including parking and unloading, the float probably takes around 45 minutes to an hour. Plenty of opportunities to see what’s around the river bend.

Once home again I decided to load the truck with some of the wood we had split and stack it in the walls of our. . . rustic gazebo. If you can imagine an octagonal gazebo made of telephone poles and a pea gravel floor with a green and brown tin roof, you are starting to get the picture. The fire pit is in the center of this building and a tiny cupola stands at the peak to let the smoke escape. As my dad says, if he ever had to do it again he’d build it a foot taller and the hole beneath the cupola wider. It doesn’t quite have enough draw, especially in the winter.

After I finished stacking wood, I decided to call it a day and spent the rest of the evening browsing the internet, reading a good book on my Kindle for PC app, and playing with Mira whenever she wasn’t napping. The swim kicked her butt pretty well, though, so she was fairly calm. I swear that puppy has endless energy sometimes. I rediscovered our treat ball on Saturday, however, so now she’s getting at least one meal a day in that. Makes her work for it and eat slower. All kinds of win there.

The quest for romance continues, but does not bode well. Current thought is to give up again for a while. The whole online thing continues to feel like hitting my head against a brick wall. Honestly, the only place I have ever had success with that is craigslist. I have been on three dates over the last year and a half via CL, one of which turned into something brief but good. What do you think the difference is? The fact that no one can sit and say, “I’ll wait for him to come to me?”

I wonder what factor contributes most to the lack of response. Other, more interesting prospects? Distance? I don’t particular think being unphotogenic helps. That’s a fact, not an insecurity. I can recognize good pictures of me. There just aren’t many of them. That “ten pounds” the camera hands out makes me look like a lard butt that I am most definitely not.

I keep changing my profile, hoping that I’ll hit on the right words to woo and win. My difficulty there isn’t having nothing to say about myself, but too much. (I’m sure this surprises you.) When I make an effort to be succinct I feel like I am cheating myself and not representing what I have to offer fairly. Oh well. Work in progress, like everything else in my life.

In the meantime, I will go home tonight to a 12 week old, 30ish pound, black wiggling creature who is always happy to see me. Can’t beat that. She’s not much of a conversationalist, though.

Before I close, I’d like to mention that I wrote a song last night. I think it’s pretty good. I called it, Six-string Love Song.

The first stanza:

My guitar’s like a lover
I only call when I’m lonely
I pretend I don’t know
that she waits by the phone.

And a thousand words, goodnight.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Be the Change

Be the change you want to see in the world.

I was listening to Lindsey Stirling’s youtube channel today and one of the comments said, “Justin Bieber’s ‘baby, baby’ has 750 million views while this video only has 7 million. I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.” While I appreciate the sentiment and understand that it was an intentional exaggeration, it brings to mind the complaining we all do. We should ask ourselves, though. Do we want to rail helplessly against the walls of inaction, scream our dissatisfaction into the air? Do we want to watch the world and the days of our lives go by as if we’re staring at a television screen?

I don’t.

So I say, if you don’t want to live on this planet, become a rocket scientist and get us off it. If you want pot to be legal become a lobbyist, or a politician. If you don’t like the way corporations do business, become a better businessman and put them out of business. If you want equal rights for all people regardless of gender, sexuality, race, belief, then become an activist. If you want to keep the government free of the tyranny, (yes, tyranny) of religion, there are activists for that too.

We talk a lot about the time we don’t have. It would be more accurate if spoke of the time we don’t make. How many hours in your “busy” schedule do you spend watching television, an act that eats time without helping anyone achieve a flow state? Or playing video games? How much time do you spend working, chasing a paycheck instead of a dream?

Make the time to become that person who can change the world. Have the imagination and will to follow your dreams. Become a lobbyist, a politician, an artist, a musician, a writer, a lawyer, a soldier, a teacher. Change the world. Start today. At the beginning. I’m not saying the road is easy, but remember that all beginnings are hard. Perseverance is the key to success. Keep working toward that dream.

You can do it. Be the change you want to see in the world.


If you don’t know who Lindsey Stirling is, you should look her up. She is what Nietzsche meant when he said we should be Apollonian and Dionysian. Creative and Dynamic. She plays violin, makes amazing arrangements of a variety of styles of music and the videos are incredible and extremely well done.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

To Read, To Write

Sometimes I wonder if I like reading too much to be a writer. There’s always another book to devour, characters to meet, and worlds to explore with them. There are words to learn and taste, roll over my tongue and get to know their meanings the way another man learns the bouquet of a wine. They are distracting, these stories and words. I get lost in them and in the moment I finish one, I find myself craving another. My own stories lay chewing a bone on the floor, waiting til I am finally ready to take them out to play. They are patient and loyal, but I feel I do them a disservice when I pass them by to sate the insatiable lust I have to consume novels. Yet like an addict, I reach again for the spilling river of symbols that pool against the dam of their covers and I swim, diving deep, anything for another taste of that high, and those lost hours spent in dimensions I had yet to imagine.

What of the lovers waiting their long years to meet and wed, and their daughter, an empath and weapon. What of her grandfather, the general of Earth’s combined forces who keeps the military from abusing the child’s powers? What of his death and its aftermath, with the father lost in battle and the mother but a civilian?

What of Peter and the revolution he joins in order to bring equality and light to all regions of the strange clockwork world he finds himself stranded on, with no memory of who or what he is? What of his friends, the Martha and Frederick Beaver, and Joseph the inventor? What of the well-intended cataclysm that destroys their world?

I can help but wonder what Magnus’ story is, the last descendant of fallen angels and their human lovers. How does he get from his university campus to Europe and what depths does he delve in the search for the holy relics that lock the gates of Hell? What of his companions? What goes on in the mind of Gabrielle, his guardian angel, who gave up her wings to protect him in the flesh?

They whine, the three of them and more, from time to time. One will stand, stretch out its long body across the carpet and sit with its muzzle on my knee looking at me with those eyes only a dog can claim. The eyes that say, “Pet me. Love me. Feed me. Write me.” And I will absently fondle between the story’s ears, and say to them, and myself, “just one more page. The end of this chapter. After I’m done with this book, I’m almost finished.”

My stories will never starve for love, but they may starve for effort. I tell myself that I feed them with all the reading I do. It helps me forge my voice, gives me new words, bits and pieces of tales to break of and add to the mosaic of my own. It could be true, when I finally give my art the attention it deserves.

In the meantime, there’s this book I just started reading. Just one more page.


Monday, August 6, 2012

To Seduce a Writer

A woman asked, “Mister Gaiman, you’re kickass. I was just wondering, what do you think is the best way to seduce a writer? I figured your answer would be pretty spectacular.”

Mr. Gaiman, one Neil, responded with the following:

In my experience, writers tend to be really good at the inside of their own heads and imaginary people, and a lot less good at the stuff going on outside, which means that quite often if you flirt with us we will completely fail to notice, leaving everybody involved slightly uncomfortable and more than slightly unlaid.

So I would suggest that any attempted seduction of a writer would probably go a great deal easier for all parties if you sent them a cheerful note saying “YOU ARE INVITED TO A SEDUCTION: Please come to dinner on Friday Night. Wear the kind of clothes you would like to be seduced in.”

And alcohol may help, too. Or kissing. Many writers figure out that they’re being seduced or flirted with if someone is actually kissing them.

This response immediately struck a chord with me. It reminds me of two instances in my life in particular, with two very different women that ended two very different ways. The first instance was with a lovely young woman from a sorority who happened to be good friends and sorority sisters with another lovely young woman who I had been known to spend the occasional evening kissing. My kissing friend, if you would like, was also what we like to call a “kiss-and-tell.”

One evening I was walking the former home when she began to talk quite garrulously about the virtues of her chocolate flavored chap stick. Having extolled the virtues and expertly smeared the stuff across its intended destination, she asked me if I would like to taste it. I, being a writer and not a fan of chap stick, passed on her kind offer. She insisted I give it a try. I insisted I was really quite ok, thank you very much and walked her home. She was never very friendly after that occasion. It was years before I realized, looking back, that she had made up an excuse to kiss me. If for some godawful reason you think she really just wanted me to try her chap stick, please keep it to yourself. My ego is quite happy with the story the way it is.

Conversely, last year I went on a nice date with a single mother a year or two older than me. We were sitting and talking on what was truly the most vilely uncomfortable futon in history and I asked her a very simple question, one that I am wont to ask: “What are you thinking?” Her response stated her interest and intent quite clearly. “I was wondering what it would be like to kiss you.” The writer in me was quite pleased, understanding that it was quite clear that he was being seduced. Mr Gaiman shows his knowledge quite well. There was both alcohol and kissing involved.

The rest of the evening was quite lovely.

Being a writer such as the one described by Mr. Gaiman, I don’t do well with coy women. I don’t play games nor chase after fleeing hind. I don’t like hunting. I may be a wolf, but I want to play not prey. When I find a mate, we can hunt life together in an effort to live to our fullest together. I want another wolf. Not some long legged deer whose tail flashes as it disappears into the forest.

Perhaps it is because I don’t want a prize. I want a woman I can be proud of, who I can introduce to the people I admire and say, “This one chose me!” A partner, a playmate, yes, put not a prize. A woman should not be hung over your mantle, stuffed and immobile. She shouldn’t be polished and put on a shelf, but lived with, explored, experienced. Give me someone strong, independent, and affectionate by choice.  

My fantasies often linger on the woman I meet who decides that wil ye, nil ye, I am hers. Someone who is willing, when I am uncertain and wonder if we should take a break, to say, simply, determinedly, “No.” (I did that once. It worked.) I know she’s out there somewhere. I have met many women like her. But I’m still waiting. I’m looking forward to that moment, that decision. And the kissing. I’m definitely looking forward to the kissing.



Friday, August 3, 2012

Puppy Love

As of Wednesday, at 10 1/2 weeks, Mira weighs about 23 pounds. She is growing quickly and she is one well-muscled puppy. If that seems big, compare it to Mac, an English Mastiff whose growth chart is posted on 30 pounds at 10 1/2 weeks. Mira gained 2 pounds in about three days, so I am expecting a higher than average growth week for her. Thus far, she’s grown a steady 3 pounds a week. Of course, if this trend continues it means she’ll be over 90 pounds by 8 months. Good thing I know I want a big dog.

So far she is quite smart and eager to please. I am not sure how she learned “sit,” but she does so on command almost immediately. “Down” hasn’t occurred to her yet, so we just started learning that one and she likes to “Come,” but as with all the commands I need to make sure she will do it every time, not just when she wants to. I have to keep up the training, she’s already started to anticipate the command. For example, I make her sit before she gets her food but she does it automatically now. So the current effort is to put the bowl just out of reach and have her sit and wait until I say okay to start eating it. A work in progress. As soon as the vet clears her for being around dogs, I will start taking her to training classes. A co-worker recommended a woman who helped train their Bernese Mountain Dog, so I will look into that.

In the meantime, the quest for something more than puppy love continues. -grins evilly at the pun- I am making an effort to be pro-active this time and not limiting to myself to what I really want, which is to date a woman who lives in the same town. One of the few bonuses of areas with a higher population is that there are simply more options. Particularly if you’re going to be as picky as I am and avoid picking up women who are overly fond of either booze or transubstantiation.

I know that I should keep an open mind and not limit myself quite so much, but I will be honest, I am afraid of the consequences. But I have dated conservative Christian women a couple times now, (my last two “official” relationships, in fact), and it hurt to be judged critically for the values I didn’t share. My last girlfriend, I loved her family as well, and in spite of helping them paint their house, mowing their yard, and being otherwise helpful, they couldn’t see past what they disapproved of. My ex was so afraid of getting disowned that when her father treated her like a child instead of the woman she was and demanded she never see me again, she chose fear over love. So if I am a bit tentative, forgive me.

Ideally, I would rather meet Ella face to face, get to know her in person and come to appreciate her before we started dating. Even meeting her face to face, recognizing attraction and chemistry immediately and moving forward from there would be better than meeting someone online. But, pardon the utter practicality of this analogy, if you have a nail gun available and you still decide to build a house with a hammer, you are just making it hard on yourself. So, I will continue to keep the online dating option open for now.

Those are the two things of the main things on my mind these days, Mira and potential romance. Beyond that, I want a Forerunner, my sailboat, a new job, and to write sci-fi/fantasy novels and publish them on Kindle. Suppose I should get on the writing part if I want to get around to the publishing part.

C’est ma vie. Enough for now.





Thursday, August 2, 2012

Adventures in Online Dating

I have been messing around with and e-harmony quite a bit recently, keeping my eyes open for potential encounters. I haven’t been getting out too much recently and as I have mentioned before, my options in the area are quite limited. Which is to say, the best way to meet women in Sandpoint is through the bar or church. I don’t really like the bar scene except socially with friends anyway, and I don’t attend church, nor intend to. I try to keep an open mind, but I have been burned too often dating religious women and I think it would simply be easier not to play with fire. I have faith in love. They seem to have more faith in their own self-righteousness than love, most of the time.

I briefly put my letter to Ella up as my profile, but in browsing the web researching how to do a better job I ran across It’s a small business ran by a copywriter, E, from who helps geeks find love via online dating. It encourages geeks to be themselves, and offers advice on how to present one’s geekness in a way that potentially could appeal to a non-geek willing to be tolerant of geekdom. She has a 100 page e-book called You Geek, They Grok or something like that. She had me at Grok. It’s $15 bucks, but I agree with the reviewer who said that it’s not only applicable to online dating, but to resumes and cover letters as well. If you are into online dating, whether you are a geek or not, I recommend it. While it is tailored toward geeks and often makes allusions to rolling twenty sided dice and making saving throws, (Dungeons & Dragons references), I think it is well written, easy to read, and the advice applicable to anyone with a profile, whether it is on Match or LinkedIn. 

If more people used the tools E offers, I think matches made online would skyrocket. I know that I encounter endless profiles that are so blah or mundane that I am not moved to email the lady, no matter how pretty I think she is. And I like pretty girls. I am glad you are a nice, down to earth, woman looking for Mr. Right or Prince Charming or a gentleman, but hey, so is Mary, Sue, Carry, and George. If the only thing you have going for you is a nicer smile, a trim figure, and more interesting plumbing than our friend George over there, than I’m going to keep looking. Maybe Sarah actually has something to say about herself. Let’s check out her profile:

Oh no!!! I'm putting out a World Wide Web bulletin to get everyone's help. You see, I've lost my smile. I'm not really myself without it. I have a couple leads that give me hope that it may have been found, including a vague description. He appears to be between 26 and 36 years old, but may act younger than his age? (fun not immature). He is at least 5'7" (I am 5’4”) not a slender man but doesn’t live at the gym either. He has relaxed/rustic looks with a down-to-earth attitude, values, and personality. He loves music and may be found at concerts. I have conflicting reports that he's either old-fashioned or romantic. He's intelligent with his own career and is goal oriented. Spontaneity and adventure is a given, in most situations. If this person can be found, I can offer a reward of lifetime devotion, long, slow kisses that last for days, midnight massages, a partner that loves to cook and doesn't mind sharing the household chores, someone to leave love notes, a shoulder to lean on, and someone who will hold you at night. If you think you may have found my smile, please e-mail me as I really need it to be myself. Thanks.

I love this. If she never emails me back, I will still have enjoyed reading her words. It was fun, engaging, and endearing. It was charming. I was charmed. Her words resonate with what I want, enjoy, am looking for myself. It isn’t a perfect match, but life isn’t. My beard is about as rustic as my look gets and my idea of relaxed is flip-flops, jeans and a plain t-shirt or button-up with the sleeves rolled up. For lifetime devotion, lifetime kisses and someone to cuddle? I could be happy with a woman who never wore a skirt or dress.

Sarah’s is one of a handful of profiles that I have ever seen with something truly interesting that awakens my imagination. One of the others is the reason I am even subscribed to Match right now, even though, sadly, she took her profile down. C’est la vie. While my subscription last, I will continue looking.

What do you think? If you’re in the online dating scene, would you be happier with more detailed profiles?

P.S. If you’re on my friend’s list and want to check out my profile and tell me what you think (and point out whether or not the pictures I chose should stay or go), let me know and I will leave you a private message with my Match username.

And 877 words, goodnight.