Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas gone so soon

Being a totally manly man who wears real jeans (by that I mean original Levis, etc), boots (sometimes), and flannel on occasion, winter would seem to be the season that brings out my manly tendencies. I have to shovel the snow, tote the wood to burn (in my gas fireplace since I don't have a real one anymore) and do the masterful work of decorating the outdoors for Christmas. Yep, that's totally a man's job. I own tools too. Lots and lots of tools.

But the Christmas season also brings out some unmanly traits. It has the propensity to turn me into a blubbering fool when it comes to the sentimental moods of the season. I love to sit around our huge Christmas tree with My Beloved as we watch all the campy, funny and all-but-predictable holiday movies on all the women's channels. You know, Lifetime, Hallmark and the Family channel to name a few. The usual plots are the poor unfortunate woman who is lonely, or the handsome fella who is just as lonely and bitter at the holidays. They then find the spirit of Christmas and fall in love...yea! If it wasn't for the Christmas season I would totally ignore each and every one of these films at any other time of the year and ridicule anyone who watches them.

Unfortunately, I also like to listen to the three radio stations that play non-stop Christmas music from before Thanksgiving until December 26th. Then, they just shut down and go back to the other stuff. Since you only get to listen to those songs for less than two months each year, I miss them when they go away. It's so abrupt. I actually listen to more music this time of year that any other time.

Unfortunately, the Christmas season ends quickly and is replaced by the holiday season as we slide into the new year. I'll miss Christmas, until next year. (I also like to say yule. I'll miss that too).

Hope everyone's Christmas was a good one.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Thanks for nothing

We're alive? Did we make it?

Apparently the world hasn't ended as was predicted.  Perhaps we can now put this crap behind us. It would also be a very good idea if we could just ignore the next ten crackpot, doomsday scenarios that come down the pipe.

If an asteroid has dead-aim, I'll listen, other than that... I guess that means I'll have to pay that credit card bill after all.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


As a grandfather I tend to see some things in a different light than perhaps I did many years ago. As adults, we see the world through unfiltered eyes. The harsh reality of the world we live in is laid out before our eyes daily. We see not only the blessed events and happy times but the pain inflicted on others by events beyond our control. Sadly, there are times when these events affect the children of our lives. Such are the circumstances that happened in Newtown, CT.

We live in a complex world and too often, myself included, we tend to think we can make problems go away with simple solutions. I was part of a long discussion with other authors yesterday after the shootings in Newtown. The thoughts were wide and varied and showed me that we all see things differently based on our own circumstances. Several voices came from outside our world; by that I mean outside the US. Authors from the UK and one ex-patriot living in Mexico gave the rest of us a view from the outside.

It's simple to chant the slogan to ban all guns or put schools in a fortress. But those same actions come with their own set of problems. We live in what was described to me as the most heavily armed country in the world outside of a war zone. If that is true, it is truly sad for us all. Citizens owning guns should not be the norm. It should not be a right but a privilege to own a gun, the second amendment be damned. Any fool can get a weapon virtually without a permit or training but one must carry a license at all times to operate a motor vehicle and for identification.

We live in a complex world and, unfortunately banning guns won't solve the problems we face as they are woven into the fabric of our society, interlocked and intertwined with a host of other issues. All we can do is adapt and move forward and punish those who commit these crimes and pray for the victims and their families.

Friday, December 7, 2012

'Tis the Season!

One of my Christmas traditions is not getting out Christmas decor until the day after Thanksgiving. Some of that is because we have a small amount of Thanksgiving decor to display in the short month between Halloween and Thanksgiving, but also I do not want to rush the Christmas season along. The retailers do enough of that, unfortunately.

While I do get the outside lights put up during a warmer spell in November, I do not light them up until after Thanksgiving has been put in the books for another year.

Kudos this year to Handsome Son, Eric the Tall, and Wonderful Daughter for the big-time assistance in getting the outside done this time around, owing to my physical limitations. Punkin and Punkin Bread also helped do some manual labor in getting boxes from the crawl space. They are always eager to help.

We have collected enough Christmas decor over the years to choke a small foreign country, but as it is Mrs. North's favorite time of the year, this is allowable.

Each year we switch around what goes where, and there are always boxes that go either partially unused, or not used at all, but the decor in those boxes will make an appearance over the course of a few years. We have concentrated the tree decorating to a good combination of handmade ornaments from the kiddies' early years, as well as some ornaments commemorating places we have visited, and adding "name" ornaments as the family grows larger. Thanks, Sainted Mother, for starting that particular tradition. It continues to be passed on to the new generations.

Christmas is always a time of nostalgia, and, for me, nothing brings back that warm, fuzzy feeling like getting out certain decorations. My favorites for years have been the red-and-white children carolers candles holding a Christmas song book; the pine cone snowmen with the plastic hat; the pine tree candles; Santa and Mrs. Claus candles; and the snow-covered bottlebrush shrubs and pine trees in several sizes.

The candles have never been lit, only used as figurines.

Last year when my Mother-in-Law came to live with us, one of her myriad boxes included more of the carolers, a few snowmen candles, and some deer candles, which I had not seen before. Though she is no longer with us, her carolers and other candles figures have once again seen the light of December's days, and will for many more years to come.

A couple years ago, The Stache bought me a few lead figurines very similar to ones we had when we were growing up. He found them at a flea market, or some such. A man pulling a sled, on which can sit either a mother and child combination, or a larger, adult-like figure. There was even  "rope" for the man to pull the sled along. This year I made it more difficult for the man to pull the sled, as I have managed to put both the other adult and the mother-child combo on the sled together. Let's hope it isn't uphill both ways in the snow for him!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Writer's Interview

Hello rambling followers, and welcome to my first writer's interview. I am part of a group of enigmatic authors who, quite simply write some of the best works you will wrap your eyes around. They are a diverse group whose range covers everything from romance and erotica to mystery and sci-fi.

Too often the world of publishing and authorship is a privileged club that lets in only a select few. If your name is high-profile or you carry celebrity status, you can literally write your own ticket whether you can form a coherent thought or have the ability to string together three sentences or not.

With that in mind, I would like to introduce fellow author Brian Dockins. Brian is currently living and writing in the great state of Texas. He currently has twelve titles in print as ebooks available through with several also available as paperbacks. His primary works are fantasy-fiction with a notable series, Department of Magic (DOMA).

Without further adieu, may I present Brian Dockins; Author...

1. What was the pull for you that made you choose fantasy as your primary genre? Was it a certain book or series?

I’ve always liked fantasy. When I was nine years old, my dad gave me a copy of the Hobbit, and from that point on, I read almost nothing but fantasy. My love for that genre stems from the fact that anything goes. The characters have all the normal hang ups of a normal person, but there’s always that one other layer (the magical one) of identity and problems. I began reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series in the mid-90s and have been following that. One aspect that struck me about his series is that there are literally hundreds of characters, and weaves their stories together in this elaborate tapestry. It’s hard to keep track of them all sometimes, but that’s what wiki’s are for.

2. What book of yours are you the most proud? It doesn’t have to be your best seller, but what is your best writing?

The book I’m most proud of is of course my first book. I had written several ‘novels’ before that one, but they never made the cut. I never felt like they were ready to be published. My first book, Betrayal of Magic, was the first story that I felt passionate about. After numerous edits and rewrites, I finally published it last year.

3. What is your most current published work?

My most current published work would be Second Exodus, Book 6 of my Department of Magic series. I released that volume in August of this year, and I’m hoping to have Book 7 out by Christmas. 8 and 9 will follow in January and February.

4. What sets it apart from other books you currently see in fantasy? What about it says to the reader; pick me up and read me.

What sets my books apart is the fact that I have some very traditional, cliché character-types and creatures, but I place them in a current world setting. The clichés are intentional, but I enjoy that juxtaposing. For instance, I have a scene in the first book where there’s an ogre loose on a highway in California. Ogres are very cliché, but one attacking passing cars on Earth in 2012 is not. The Department of Magic not only has to stop that ogre, but they have to make sure to provide a good cover story to the normal humans who have no idea that this world of magic exists.

5. You have a series; Department of Magic (DOMA). What was the inspiration for that series?
The inspiration for Department of Magic didn’t come from one single place. I actually created and designed the world of Andaloria first, and even wrote two novels set in that world. For my first book I wanted to tell the story of the people and creatures of that world coming to Earth, and what happens to them here. My style of large casts is something I picked up from Robert Jordan. The depth of history that the characters have was inspired by Terry Brooks. This fact will become more prevalent when I eventually get to my other series. Movies have played a big part in shaping my vision of the world of the Department, such as Men in Black and Harry Potter, especially when it comes to the whole idea of a supernatural world that exists but humans are unaware.

6. Is there a common thread or theme that runs through the DOMA series?

I have several common threads that I have (hopefully) weaved throughout the series. One of the primary elements is the diversity of my cast. Fantasy has always been one of those genres where diversity only comes in the different races, such as elf, dwarf, goblin, etc. There never really seems to be much fantasy that deals with diversity among humans. Setting this series in our modern day allowed me to create characters from all walks of life. I have people of every color, age, gender, sexual preference, religious background, and ethnicity. Some of this was intentional, but much of it grew organically from the story I was telling. I feel that it’s important to have characters that every reader may identify with.

7. Will you be continuing the DOMA series or do you have something else in your sights?

DOMA will occupy much of 2013. Book 7 will be out in December 2012, Book 8 in January 2013, and Book 9 in February 2013. After Book 9, I’m going to take a hiatus from that series for a few months and work on an unrelated, short Science Fiction series with a release date in late Spring. I’m hoping to have Book 10, 11, and 12 of DOMA out in the summer 2013. After that, I plan on writing a traditional fantasy series set about 200 years before DOMA on the world of Andaloria. There will be a strong connection between the DOMA series and the new one. I’ve got outlines finished for all of my 2013 projects, so I’m hoping to be able to finish 9-12 projects next year. Let’s just say that 2013 will be a very busy year for me.

8. What is challenging to you as a writer; plot, characters or something else?

My biggest challenge is pacing. As I’m writing, I’m conscious of the events that are coming up and sometimes I find myself speeding up the plot to get to that big event. I have to tell myself to slow it down a little. Other times, I get so engrossed in my characters (even supporting characters) and their development that I find the plot slowing down too much. So far I think that particular problem is balanced well, but I have to keep a close eye on it in the editing and rewrite phase of the writing process.

9. What type of challenge would you like to take on as a writer? What is the ‘big one’ for you?

I think the ‘big one’ for me is going to be my science fiction series that I’m developing. I hope to begin writing that at the first of the year. The mechanics of that type of storytelling will be different for me as will the style in which I’m going to release the stories. The first one will be a larger work, but each additional release will be an ‘episode’ and be much smaller than the large fantasy works that I’ve written before.

10. It seems the world of publishing is undergoing it biggest changes in decades. How does the ‘indie’ author fit into this world? How do you fit in?

I’m sure people have said this in generations past, but I really do think now is a great time to be a writer, author, and publisher. The digital world provides so many outlets and avenues for a reader and an author to connect, and that’s really the key to all of this. I spent several months soliciting agents until I researched the publishing industry more, and then decided to stop trying to get an agent and a traditional publisher and to just do this all on my own. I’m glad I made that choice because I love being in control of my story. I think the old stigma that you have to land one of the Big Six to be considered ‘published’ is fading away, and many people are finding success through self-publishing. I like being right in the middle of this publishing revolution.

I would like to thank Brian for his time and wish him best success with his upcoming endeavors.