Friday, December 26, 2014

Rip it down

Tis over. The rush and the crush of the Christmas season has come and gone. The presents have been unwrapped and the paper and bows strewn around the room beneath beloved tannenbaum by tiny little hands that now rip at colorful packaging. The day is done, the wrapping scooped and shoveled into the trash.

Now what? From what I've read around the wonderful world of the Facebook, many are ripping all the decorations down. "Time to put is all away." "I want my house back." "I can't stand the mess." Somehow, I just can't fathom this. Although this was not how I was raised, it is more than just tradition for me. Now, being a good Catholic boy raised by the good Sisters, there is a proper time to take down the saggin, wilting tree. (Ours is fake, but gorgeous, and we don't suffer the needle problem).  No, the only proper time to take down our beloved Christmas tree is on the sixth of January when the Wise Men found the Christ child.

Religious notions aside, taking down the tree and packing all the decorations away is a sad time for me. The front side of Christmas is all hustle and bustle. Everyone is running around doing the shopping and decorating. There isn't time to sit and enjoy what you have done or to enjoy the spirit of the season. Christmas is the last gasp to hang onto something before the cold and dreary winter season blankets the world. I like to hang onto the dark green tree covered with shiny globes and white lights as long as I can.

I sit here this night, the day after, knowing for me that Christmas is not over. For me, Christmas is not just a day, or even an event. It is a feeling that lasts longer than a notch on a calendar. My Beloved and I sit in the soft, twinkling glow of our tree and relax, putting the hectic pre-holiday behind us. This next week of lights and decorations is my Christmas. But, I guess you'd expect that from an old retail guy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

In my lifetime

I have lived in a world that has changed dramatically throughout my lifetime. I was born in the days of the Cold War. For you environmentalists, I'm not talking about the fight over global warming. The world war had ended only a decade before (give or take), and the world was divided into two camps. It was us versus them. It became a decades long struggle for territory and political gain. It took many years and thousands of lives before the game was settled, at least for some.

Fifty years has come and gone and a tiny island is cemented in the past. The lone satellite of Cuba has remained committed to its fervent revolution. Well, at least its leaders have. Fidel Castro has remained a thorn in the side of the most powerful nation in the world. And his people have suffered for it.

So what has changed? How has the foreign policy of the US tilted that nation away from its revolution? It hasn't. That's the point. It's always been said the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome. Although I have no 'dog in the fight', this has always been a subject that has sparked my imagination. I fully understand there is a long line of Cuban nationals living in the US that will do everything in their power to fight the change in policy. I won't fault them for it.

What I will ask them to consider is this: where is the outrage of the Cuban people who still live on the island? Why is it the only ones objecting are the ex-pats and their families who are tucked away on US soil? Their outrage is at history. Fidel Castro and his regime is faltering. The island is changing right before his eyes; an agonizingly slow process, but it is a process nonetheless.

Where better to be than at the vanguard of this change? The US has been able to do little to the Cuban leaders other than to keep their people impoverished. It's time for a change. The change will take time. Not everything will happen overnight, or in a year, or even in a decade. But their revolution is grinding to a halt. Its legs have given way and all that will be left as the Castro brothers die is a vacuum to be filled by someone else.

If you want to effect change on a tiny island ninety miles off our shores, it seems the only way to do that would be to actually stand on the island, without a rifle in your hand. It's time the Cuban population who lives in the US swallow their hatred so they can help their people into this century.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Twilight before tomorrow

I watch as the sun sets, its rays slipping below the horizon. My abode, silently lingers on the threshold of tomorrow. I feel the heat lapping from the hearth, tickling the stockings hanging by a cut nail in the mortar.

Above, I hear the slumber of young ones, tucked tightly beneath a winter's blanket to fend off the cold. I long for the call of a pillow, soft as new-fallen snow and I slide between linens cool to the touch. I snuggle close and inhale the breath of My Beloved as she nestles deep within her comforter.

Before I am able to surrender to night's lament, an unnatural call beckons from beyond my wall of solitude and my curiosity is bent upon exploration. My eyes behold the solitude of a pristine world caressed by the kiss of a winter's moon. The crescent light reveals a tiny traveler whose cherub face sings to his herd in the silent world.

His flight of fancy screams skyward, rocketing above the fold in which I am now embraced. My eyes, once tired and dreary widen to embrace the magic of his world. I fall back onto my bed as the sounds above me tap their way across my rooftop. I am aghast.

As quick as a dart, I dash from my room toward the halls below. My thoughts outpace me as I scamper down the stair, the rails aglow, polished by the light dancing from the chimney. I stop and stare in amazement as my visitor steps cleanly across the hearth, its bricks laden with fresh-cut wood, his cloak awash in pillows of soot.

His thick hand straightens his cap as he turns, his eye inspecting the table for his work this night. His cheeks are alight with a thousand years of joy as he slings his pack to the floor, its contents now a torrent of treasure awash across the worn, broad planks. The sparkle of wrapping and bows, enlivens my soul.

My chuckle slips to his ear as he turns and winks, his nod an acknowledgement of the secret we shall both keep this night, a night that lifts my heart to the heavens. He is gone in the blink of an eye and I am left with only the crackling flames dancing upon the logs on this winter's night.

"Twas the Night Before Christmas"

Monday, December 8, 2014

The List

It's that time of year again. Yes, I'm asked to put up a list so my family will know what to tell Santa to get me for Christmas. I'm fairly certain Santa already knows this, as we have been long-time pen pals since I was a wee lad. Okay, so Santa never actually wrote back, but hey, he gets a lot of letters. He can't respond to them all.

As I have grown older, my list gets shorter and shorter. It has almost been non-existent for years. Occasionally I run into something I need. The last couple years it was a two-wheel dolly, some might call it a truck, for around the house. It only took Santa three years to get it here. Most years it consists of the same few things, simple for most, I grant you, but needed or wanted by an old man.

What is difficult for me each year is making others understand I don't really require much. I'm about as simple as it comes when the subject of presents comes around. My joy on Christmas morning is watching others open their gifts, my children and theirs, my grandsons and My Beloved. If I get a tube of socks and a nice bag of licorice, I'm happy.

So, now comes the list my family has been begging me for.
Black socks
Black licorice (Twizzlers suck, don't bring that crap)
A nice bottle of bourbon to keep me warm during the winter
A nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (does the same thing the bourbon does)
Ear buds - my cheap $4 pair quit working, one side of it at least

I don't have a lot of material needs in my life. I truly enjoy the season for what it is, commercialized and all. The nice thing about it is it is not confined to a single day, but it is a season to be enjoyed. As a retailer, I do wish it didn't start the way it does. Those who work in stores and restaurants must give up so much of their time for the good of the business they work for. It is a thief in the night to their holiday.

Okay, one last thing. I was the beneficiary of my parent's record collection this year. Yes, actual records that hold music. Most of these albums are older than I am, their songs spanning the years of the fifties and some in the early sixties. A phonograph/turntable to hook into my stereo system to hear these again would bring back a lot of memories.

I hope everyone gets what they want or what they need. Remember, Santa's watching.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Time to leave the village

Several years ago, the expression 'it takes a village to raise a child' became popular in the United States. It was a result of a quote from Hillary Clinton which went on to become a book. I believe much of the trouble in society, Ferguson, MO notwithstanding, is a direct result of this thought process.

Now, a family or person can't entirely go through life without help in the modern world. In urban areas specifically, one needs the physical help of grocery stores, utilities, schools and all the inter-workings of the structure that supports those entities. But that's where it needs to end.

I believe too often the village is a detriment to parenting and the family structure. It has become a place to put the blame when things go wrong. One's child will always be exposed to outside influences, but how those influences are controlled is the job of the parent. Reactions such as 'I didn't raise my child like that' doesn't hold water if you have no idea where your child is at ten o' clock at night. Those who have teenagers or even younger that are out on the streets late into the evening, isn't being a parent. Biology, has nothing to do with being a parent. It is my conviction that the parents of Michael Brown did not truly know their own son. It's one thing to shoplift; it's another thing to bully a store clerk and confront a police officer. Video evidence in the carryout points to that. Or, they didn't care or take responsibility for that.

I am not naive enough to realize ones child can, and will do things outside for their upbringing. At some point, they will be on their own and they will make choices, some good, some not so good. I'm a parent. I've been there. I also know there will be instances where a single parent has to work and can't be with their children. It's life. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to put food on the table. These are the parents that need the safety net of support.

You can't completely divorce yourself or your family from the world. But you can to a great degree control how those influences affect your children. It's time to wake up, put on your best walking shoes and leave the village. When the village is burning down, you can watch it from afar.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ferguson

As a rule, I don't normally comment on social issues, although I have done so in the past. Tonight, we await the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri on the killing of a black teenager by a police officer. Is it a tragedy? Yes. Do I have a pretty good idea of what will happen after the announcement? Yes again.

The problem is no one on the outside has all the facts. They think they know, but they don't. To that end, the crowds will react, likely with brutality and rage if the police officer is not charged. It is unfortunate that many times when a black person is killed by a police officer, it is not taken by the black community that it could actually be the fault of the black citizen, be it a teen or an adult. The police officer is always at fault. He or she is not given the same consideration of innocence they demand for their own. Why is that?

Police are in place to keep order. Police usually patrol areas where there is disorder and crime. In my opinion, if you get into a scuffle with a police officer, whether you are guilty or not, you should understand you risk getting tased or even shot. If you get into a fight with police, you are a stupid human being. I understand the history of blacks in this country. I've been alive for a long enough time, and grew up in the sixties during the start of the civil rights push. Do I agree with equal civil rights? Oh, absolutely. However, there will always be pockets of uneducated bigots where ever you go, be it north, south, east or west. It is an aspect of being human. Most gravitate to those like themselves.

I'm fairly certain what will happen if the police officer is not charged by the grand jury. The streets of Ferguson will become a riot zone. Businesses will be looted, windows broken and televisions stolen. What does that have to do with a grand jury probe? Nothing. The people of Ferguson will do nothing but hurt their cause and the cause of blacks and civil rights everywhere in the eyes of the rest of the country if they again clash with police. If you want to protest, protest. Carry signs and yell your disagreement with the decision. Anyone who simply takes advantage of the situation to riot, is simply hurting their own community and the small business owners trying to provide a service to the community and eek out a living.

If that comes to pass, I for one, won't feel sorry for them or their cause. Protesting is a right guaranteed to each citizen, but rioting is nothing but wanton blood-lust, and it's about time the leaders who demand equal treatment under the law, and rightfully so, begin to understand this.


Monday, November 17, 2014

A Thanksgiving treat

I usually try not to plug my books a ton on my blog, well, at least as far as posting about them. If you didn't notice, they do line the margins. You did notice, didn't you?

Anyway, for the next two weeks through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Sands of Nevertime, the first book of The Last Elf Prophecy series is on sale for ... a dolla ninety-nine ($1.99). That's 33% off the regular price. Hey! What a deal!

In all seriousness, for those who have followed along with this blog for the many years I've gone on rambling about things, this is my little gift to you. I hope those who truly enjoy the fantasy genre will give it a try. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving season, or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year.


 Sands of Nevertime at Amazon.com

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bag it

Well, my first vacation, stay-cation in six months leaves me the tasks of all the things I haven't had a chance to do for months. Not that I mind. I like working around the house. Not that I wouldn't mind a beach-filled trip somewhere, but cleaning the basement and insulating the garage is task work that I enjoy. It feels productive.

The basement is challenging because of what it is. It is a gathering spot for all the things we save. This year we cleaned out much of our largest crawl space, some things tossed while others gave us a little jingle in our pocket from a yard sale. As I tackled the smaller space today, I looked at what was there. Although this is where our seasonal things are, much of it can go away. I like 'go away'.

But, why is it there in the first place? I come from a time where we saved things. My Beloved did as well. We weren't well off, and we could generally find a use for something down the road. It's the, "I think this could be used" mentality. I am very guilty of this when it comes to the workbench. Since I fix things on my own, my mind tends to work this way. Unfortunately, that mentality has worked its way to other things.

As I pulled out the decorations for the upcoming seasons, I kept pulling out bags. Bags? Yes. Bags. We have red bags and blue bags and now-dingy bags from places we traveled to. They'll come in handy. Well, they didn't. They've sat in the crawl for a decade. Guess what? It's time they go away. The truth is, they are just now in the way. They hold no memory of what they were. They just are. They take up space. They need to be moved to get to something else. They are clutter.

One of the great joys of getting older for me is finding you no longer need much of what you have accumulated over the years. All that stuff becomes an anchor around your neck. When you think of the Christmas decorations we all have, how much of it really comes out? We likely leave 2/3 rds of ours in the tubs they are stored in. Each year we think our homes will become the showcase for the season. We'll have the perfect holiday because we will decorate to the nines. But then we don't. It's a chore, and then we have to take it down again.

Of course, I can't just start pitching things. My Beloved certainly has a say in what stays and what goes. This river I travel is her life as well; we paddle with two oars and not one. But we've both come to the realization that we aren't dirt poor and we don't need to save every scrap. Some things hold memories and anchor us to the past, while others are nothing more than an anchor to our happiness.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Left behind

Today was a day like any other. Well, almost. Today I forgot to take my cell phone with me when I left the house to go to work. (Does it make me sound old if I say 'cell phone'? Should it just be 'phone' or 'cell'?) Anyway, there I was winging it along the highway on my way to work.

"Crap", I thought. How am I going to call My Beloved on my way if I don't have it? What happens if I get in a wreck? What happens if I get a flat tire? What happens if someone texts me on my way in? What happens if someone calls and can't get hold of me?

You know what? None of that mattered. I was free! I was liberated from the cell; liberated from the constant contact the world now expects from everyone. If it were within the realm of possibility, I would almost certainly give it up. I do however, need it for work. That is the drawback. Other than that, I didn't need it. No one called me at 6:15 in the morning. I didn't get in a wreck. I didn't have a flat and I'm certain My Beloved wasn't up to answering the phone that early in the morning anyway. Calls very early or very late usually mean bad things have happened.

You know what? It felt good! We have turned our lives into one, giant connected mess. What happened fifty years ago when someone had a flat tire? The got out of their car and fixed it. They didn't feel the need to call or text everyone they knew to let them know what happened. So you had a flat? Who cares? It wasn't a crying spectacle the whole world needed to see or hear about. Needed to call me? My work has a phone. Text me? See previous sentence.

The world doesn't need all the drama and hysterics many use their cells for. I for one, was glad to have left it behind for a day. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Asleep

This is a little longer of a ramble than I usually write. I try to keep them short and simple. After all, most would think I'm rather simple. *insert smiley face here*. This is a piece of flash fiction I wrote this afternoon. It is more of a writing exercise in first person. I shared this with my Facebook friends earlier today, so I thought I would share it with the rest of the internet. I hope you enjoy.


To Fall Asleep


  The wind that had punished me throughout my walk lessens, the snow now falling softly from the black, night sky. How I miss the stars of summer, their warm light both a blessing and a curse to my eyes. Would I have had a different path on life’s walk, I would certainly have wished to count the stars among them. But it was not to be; such was not my road, a farm boy from the Midwest who dreamed of greater things.
   My tattered coat surrounds me in warmth, shedding the chill that swirls about the street corners, their asphalt surface hidden beneath soft powder. My boots push through it easily, though it clings to me just below my knee. I feel its presence against my skin, a touch, a kiss to let me know it shall invade my world should I hesitate. I pull my cloak tighter as I trod these sullen, winter streets of a place I now call home, a place I have no attachment to. It is only the place I live, the place that shelters me.
   The barren streets are sparsely lit by the occasional lamp that throws its soft luminescence into circles upon the shadowed snow. It is only the hidden rolls, the curbs of this urban environment that take my attentions from my meandering path. Much like the varmint holes of an unplowed field in the days of my youth, they alone conspire to slow my progress, to press me to falter. I shake the powder from my hair, my beard now as white as that of an old man at the end of life’s journey.
My thoughts drift back to this day, this day a year past. It is but a carbon copy of what was; the brisk winds rambling down the city streets as winter’s white laid its blanket again across the cityscape.

   My hands caress her warm cheeks as I brush away the snow from her face. I lift her head as gently as I would a newborn, held within the touch of a mother’s grace, and cuddle her softly upon my lap. I pull back her tangled, pepper-black hair, letting her face glisten in night’s stillness. Her eyes search for meaning as she looks past my face into the dark sky. I shelter her from the cold flakes as I hold her head.
   “Who’s there?” she whispers.
   Her lips tremble as her words slip into the night. Her breath rises in a soft cloud and I feel its warmth upon my cheeks.
   “Is that you, Peter?”
   “It is, my love.”
   “Oh Peter. What has become of me?”
   “It’s okay. I’m here. I’ll always be here. We’ll always be together.”
   “It won’t be that way for long. I won’t be here.” Her eyes focus on my face for a moment, perhaps a last fleeting memory before she looks again to the heavens hidden behind the overcast night.
   “I’ll be here with you always,” I reply.
   “Peter, do you remember that day we went down to the shore? It was such a lovely time.”
   “I can still feel the warmth of the sun on my face. You were so beautiful.”
   “You make me blush, Peter. I was never that pretty. But, but you always made me feel that way.”
   “You were always my first love. You know that.”
   “I wasn’t though. There was another before me.”
   “There was never anyone before you.” I brush the flakes from her dark eyelashes as I peer into her eyes. “Once you find your forever person, there is no one before, no one after.”
   “Peter, do you see the sun? I feel it. It feels so warm.” She rolls her head toward me. I see the strain it takes for her to do so. “I’ve missed the warmth, Peter. I’ve been cold all day.”
   “I’m holding you now, love.” I press my cheek down to hers. Her skin is flush with night’s chill. I will hold her life little longer. “Just feel the warmth of my touch, that touch we have shared for a lifetime.”
   “Do you hear the water, Peter? Can you see it? See how it rushes to our feet? It makes my toes feel numb.” She blinks, her lashes depositing a white dusting on her cheeks. They linger for a moment before her fading warmth turns them to a tear rolling down her cheek.
   “I wish our daughter’s wedding would have been on the beach. I tried, you know.”
   “I know, my love.” I wipe the remnants of the tear from her face. “I remember.”
   “Such a day it was. God had given us that day, Peter. She should have been married at the beach.”
   “You would have gotten wet in the surf.”
   “I wouldn’t have minded.” Her eyes find me once again, an inquisitive look on her face. Her lips relax as a smile embraces her. “Remember how beautiful she was?”
   “I’m cold, Peter.”
   “I know love. You’ll be warm soon.”
   The darkness that surrounds us begins to reflect a new reality, harsh and penetrating. The azure lights create a pattern of chaos in our once silent world. Commotion fills the void that encompasses us.
   “Peter? What’s going on?”
   “Just the lights of the city, my love.”
   I turn as I hear the sounds of footsteps rushing through the powder, shoes scraping against the pavement beneath. A dark figure now looms above me as I cradle her in the soft snow.
   “Is everything all right?” The police officer kneels down beside me as he tilts his cap away from his face. “Is she okay?”
   “Peter? Who’s here?”
   “Just a friend, my love.” I brush my fingers against her cheek as she looks again to the night sky, the falling flakes blue against the flashing strobe.
   “Is there anything I can do?”
   I shake my head, knowing it is only a matter of time.
   “Peter? What is that light?”
   “What light, my love?”
   “It’s beautiful. It’s warm, Peter.” She rolls her eyes to me again, scanning my face. “Are you coming with me, Peter?”
   “Not tonight, my love. But I will join you soon.”
   “I love you Peter.”
   I watch as her face turns to the side and her eyes close for the final time. I am at a loss, a numbing sense of emptiness begins to overtake me as I feel a hand upon my shoulder.
   “I’m sorry for your loss.” His voice is strong, but I know his words ring true. “I’ll call and we’ll get her moved inside.”
   “Thank you.”
   “What’s her name, Peter? I’ll need it for the reports.”
   “I don’t know her name, and my name isn’t Peter.”
   “But ... “
   “I’ve never seen her before tonight.”

   I remember that night a year past so vividly. It was a night like any other winter’s night in a cold city. I push through the snow, the soft powder that covers a harsh world nothing more than the blanket in which we wrap ourselves to fend off the night.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Room for one more

This year begins a new path for someone very special to me. My grandson, Ragin Cage begins his first year of school, kindygarden actually. I was sceptical as to how well he would adjust. He has always been a free spirit, a wanderer. He is one to explore the world around him. It is a trait we share. He doesn't sit still for more than a few minutes unless he falls asleep. When he visits us, even the television doesn't slow him down much.

This would be so different for him, a rigid (sort of), highly structured environment. The one thing that I was sure of however, was that he would make friends. He loves to be around other kids, often those a little older than himself due to his half-brother. He loves to be around him. They play and rough and tumble it all the time. When he sees others kids, he makes a bee-line for them. They are always his new best friends.

But to my surprise, he seems to have fit in well and is becoming used to an organized routine. He has a new best friend from school who has already played and been a guest at his house. It is tough to watch from afar. I know he will do well. He's a smart little boy with a big heart.

Now, he will be exposed to so many new things, so many new adventures with learning and classmates. I just hope there is still room for his Paw-paw.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Waffle House

This morning, I took a side trip to a place I've only been one other time. After a morning errand run, I happened to visit a local Waffle House in a small town outside our capitol city. I sat and ate, had a light conversation with my mother-in-law, and watched.

The early breakfast was a visit to Americana. It was nearly a trip back in time to a fifties or sixties diner. The floor was tiled and slightly slippery, the booths close together, but not too close as the main counter with stools ran down the middle from end to end. The sounds of potatoes frying and spatulas scraping a grill echoed off the wall. America had been awake for a few hours and the visitors were slipping in and out. It was the consummate place to watch America as many of those who make up the middle of the country were in attendance.

There was a Black couple, my guess is a woman with her father. She wore a name badge holder on a lanyard around her neck which makes me think she works a government type of job. She was dressed for work in an office. Her father, possibly retired with the current mode of dress, slightly styled and casual. A police officer slipped in and ordered a meal to go, as did a bus driver from the transit authority. The only thing missing from the uniformed sector was a postal worker.

Two older white couples sat quietly in their booths as the staff of ladies wandered back and forth with coffee pots and plates filled with eggs and potatoes and toast ready to fall off the side. A trucker in a dump truck walked across the lot and in. He was appointed, as one would expect with boots and jeans and a pot-belly that was slung low across his belt. A bald guy with a beard sat across from us, his arms spread across the two stools beside him. A regular it seemed, he traded jokes with the waitress while she tried to school the new girl who was timid, but had an engaging smile. She'll be okay. She just needs a few shifts under her belt.

Along the wall of windows to the front, an older Black man talked with a younger man. I couldn't determine his race simply by the color of his skin. I would guess Latino, but I could be wrong. He wore his black hair pulled back and weaved into a ponytail. I had the feeling they worked together. Again, I could be mistaken. Others came and went with nods and smiles. There was a distinctive din that hovered above the room. It was conversation.

So what does all this mean? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps everything. It was middle America in the morning. An early Autumn day underway, but no one cared that the mix of people was anything more than it was. In that short hour, we lived together, ate together and talked together as one people, because that's who we are.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What's next?

Writing is by its nature, a solo task. Yes, there are many others that contribute to the overall work, such as cover designers, editors, proofreaders and all the others that help to put a book together. When one does not have a publisher, all that falls on the shoulders of the author to put it all together. (It is the wave of the future in the world of writing and publishing).

When you finish one book, somewhere along the line, you need to begin the next one. That can involve a tremendous amount of trepidation on the part of the author. No matter how wonderful he or she thinks they performed with the last project, it is still the last project and a new one must begin quickly. Often, it is about the momentum they are working to achieve. The thought process often is a deep look inside wondering if he/she can match the quality of both the story and the actual prose. Did the last book make me a better writer than I was before I began it? Did I grow as a writer? Will this next work exceed my own expectations for overall writing and give the reader a quality experience?

On my website, robertthomasbooks.com, I have a WIP section. I don't use it as often as I should, but it is there. A 'WIP' is a work in progress. From time to time I put excerpts of what I am currently writing up for readers to get a gauge of what is coming along.

Here is the latest from the next book in the Last Elf Prophecy series. The working title is 'Awakening of Lillestrom'. I hope you enjoy it. And as always, feedback is greatly appreciated.




Friday, September 5, 2014

The view from above

And on the eighth day, God created NASA that we might see his handiwork in all its glory.

With thanks to the website Stumbleupon.




Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My eyes are full

I hate my brother-in-law.

I have recently lost about fifteen pounds. I suppose at my age, that's a good thing. Okay, I have been trying, somewhat. I was doing fairly well last winter up until about February. Then, I swelled like a dried sponge in a Jacuzzi. I wasn't out of control, mind you. With my job, I'm on my feet almost all day. I likely walk forty miles a week. And mind you, it's not a stroll down the aisle.

I decided it was time to lessen the waistband. One of my problems over the years is I eat with my eyes. (It really hurts when I get a fork caught in one though). I'm not a big guy, five-eight, but I can eat a large pizza without any issues. That, is the problem. When I've eaten, I eat to fill up. Then, I go on my way. I'm not a snacker when I'm at work, which is a lot, although I do tend to 'graze' when home. It's something my wife snickers about. Fridge to basket of candy to cupboard with snacks to juice... When's dinner?

Did I mention I hate my brother-in-law?

Anyway. I began to taper off. Quit eating with what my eyes saw. Portion control. As the weather warmed and the pool opened, I was able to start swimming again, although that has fallen off due to work. My ten year old weight machine was uncovered, the clothes and everything else hanging from it were removed and it was taken to the basement. There, it's usable. I began working out again. I was consistent a couple years ago until a foot and other nagging joint injuries got in the way. I decided, I will always have those nagging 'slow-me-downs' as I'm not getting any younger. Along the way, I've dropped fifteen pounds.

My brother-in-law sucks!

My Beloved and I went to dinner the other week with friends, to a family-friendly restaurant with plenty of televisions. Then, the food was put before me. That's the issue we all have in fat America. More and more eat out on a regular basis. The entree should be the biggest part of the meal, but all the sides and salads are just as big as the entree. The potatoes are as big as the steak which is as big as the fries which are as big as the appetizer and the desert as well. And we eat it all. That's why we are all overweight. We eat it all.

Now, my brother-in-law has always outweighed me. He is just a bigger, stockier guy. He has often had twenty to thirty pounds on me, yet he always wore a smaller pant size. We were together with our wives the other night at a festival in the heart of the city. He has lost weight as well, and he still has a smaller pant size than I do even though he still his heavier than I. I lose fifteen and my pant size remains the same. It's just not fair. I've had the same clothing size for over twenty years. Sometimes I just stretch it out more.

Did I mention I hate my brother-in-law?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

OVER REACTION!!!!!!

It is evident by simply watching the news, social media and nearly everything else that pushes stories and incidents toward us, we have become a nation of OVER REACTORS!!!!! REALLY? HOW CAN THAT HAPPEN? OMG!!!!!

So, how did this happen? Well, several ways actually. We are assaulted by news and stories every hour of our day. It comes from the news, internet, social media. Nearly everyone is connected 24/7. With that, comes opinions; knee jerk reactions to all of these stories. Social media itself is the great unfiltered media the world has never seen. Everyone has a say, and too often, those 'says' are without the facts. We react solely on the first evidence we see and hear. Too many puts their thoughts and reactions out for consumption without validation.

Everyone is guilty at some point. Take the incident in Missouri for instance. How many people really know what happened? How many picked sides based on scant evidence or simply word of mouth? A white cop shoots and kills a black teen. The black community shouts outrage. How much evidence has been presented as fact? The shouts of a cover-up are everywhere. Well, police don't release all the evidence to the public in any investigation. But, it's not the black community that is always at fault. How many white citizens sat on their couches and just assumed the black teen was breaking the law and has to face the reality of his choice. Don't break the law; don't get shot by a cop.

As well, the recent 'no tolerance' rules is schools is as much at fault. No tolerance means there is no gray area. That premise in itself is completely flawed. A young man was recently suspended from school because he wrote an assignment for class that included him killing a dinosaur with a gun. The no tolerance rule for guns was thus violated. If that is a sample of the lack of intelligence of our teachers and instructors in schools, no wonder our kids are turning out dumber and dumber. If that story is to be believed, then all the schools are guilty of being hypocritical. They couldn't teach most of the subjects they are mandated. Just consider how teachers and staff can and do act at school sporting events. Often their actions are significantly worse than a student writing a story about a gun. Is it tragic that there is any violent acts committed at a school? Sure, but bullying is a trait of humanity.

Think about this; all history books would have to be removed from the schools because every one of them contains our history; the history of warfare, world-wide. Guess what a war has ... guns. Can't teach that. Can't teach American history, a history of a country rising up and shooting their masters. Can't teach Civil War history, the story of, as most believe, a revolt against slavery. With guns. Can't teach world history; every country is and has been at war. The geography books would likely also have to go for the same reasons. Any course that teaches religion would also have to be removed. Religion? Really? Yep. There is more persecution based on religion that any other factor in world history. Perhaps the math books might be saved. They might be the only ones without references to guns and warfare.

Our world is never just a case of black and white. It is always filled with gray shadows that lurk just beyond what we can grasp.




Monday, August 18, 2014

Slouch potato

I jumped in another car the other day to move it, and I almost ended up in the back seat. What-the-heck, I thought. How in the world does anyone drive like this? Then I started to think about it in a larger role. We (not me) have become a world of slouchers.

Think I'm kidding? Look around you the next time you are: 1. shopping in a grocery store; 2. driving down the road; 3. sitting at a gathering with your family and friends, or 4. just walking down the street.

People don't stand up straight any more. They slouch. They're spines are curved from bending over too much. They're chests are sunken because they don't keep their shoulders back and their heads up. It's become more than just poor posture. It's 'the thing'. Slouch and try and look cool. Somehow, I missed the memo that slumping down is cool.

Have you ever seen people sit in chairs they are trying to out to buy? It's pathetic. Men specifically, throw back the seat as far as they can. They need to put their feet up on something. If it's an office chair, they lower it as far as it goes. I've seen guys 6'3 trying to sit looking cool with their knees up their noses. To me, they just look stupid.

It's almost as if guys are in a movie and are trying to scope out the scene. Yeah, I'm cool. Let's pretend we're cops and scan the bar for bad guys. It's definitely a man thing. Of course, I don't think much of that. I say it's time to 'man up' and stand up. And for the women? Do you actually think any of this is cool? Or sly? Or whatever the current word is now?

I say unto you, men of America, it's time to stand up and take back your trousers! Of course, they don't call the them trousers anymore either. I guess I'm just old. Well, at least I stand up straight.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Sea of Doubt

It is with great sadness we hear about the passing of Robin Williams. His is nearly an immeasurable talent. I am old enough to remember his start back in the seventies on the sitcom Happy Days. Now, I don't follow celebrities, but he was one of the few I would stop and take note of when I happened to come across him.

He became much more than just a comedian. He was able to launch himself into a world of television, film and stage with equal success. His dramatic performances were as punctuating as his comedic routines. Few in any field of endeavor are able to perform at such a high level at both ends of the spectrum. Think about your favorite dramatic actor or actress. Could they pull of, regularly, the histrionics of Robin Williams? To do it once is an accomplishment. To do it for a lifetime and improvise at the drop of a hat is something completely different.

We all know he suffered from his demons. However, it is nearly unfathomable for the average Joe, myself included, to understand the depths of emotional trauma he suffered throughout his life. We all ask ourselves, how can a man who has such a gift, a gift freely given to others suffer such pangs in a sea of doubt and depression? When one encounters another in life who is spontaneous, we are instantly drawn to that person. They have the 'it' factor we all dream about at some point in our lives.

But for these people, there always seems to be an underlying 'miss' in their lives. Even the personalities of John Belushi and those of his ilk, suffer from illnesses most of us are simply unable to understand. Our minds can't grasp how one who makes us laugh, only seems to be crying on the inside.

There are others whose stature rises above Robin Williams, though I don't know that there are many that are more beloved for the profound intrusion he made into our lives. It should keep us all on guard. Sometimes the funny man on the outside, is the sad man on the inside.

His voice is now quiet, but his memory shall never be.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

BTS

It's starting yet again. It has been many years since I felt the pangs in my stomach, the thought of returning to school after a fun summer, gut-wrenching. It's not that I didn't like school, but I had a lot more fun not being there.

Of course, it was different 'back in the day'. We went back much later than kids today. It has only been a few years since the first day has migrated back to August. For me and my siblings, after Labor Day was the norm. I'm not sure why the change, but, oh well. In the retail game which I play now, it gives me a little more time between school and getting ready for Christmas. The more time between, the better.

Of course, back in my day (oh lord, here it comes), we didn't have air conditioning in any school I went to. We opened the windows. I was in an elementary school last year that had no windows on two sides of the building. I felt so closed in in that place. It was ridiculous, not to mention architecturally an awful design. (Since I was in architecture in college, I can say that). Gone are the days of staring out the windows or just letting the sun come in.

Perhaps that is one of the problems with schools. They seem so sterile now, almost like hospitals. With air conditioning, I suppose school in hot August days would be acceptable, but what fun is that. Of course you do get out earlier and enjoy the last week of May. We didn't get out until after June 7th, as a general rule. (It just rains in the last week of May around here anyway).

Speaking of BTS, it's a huge shopping season. Take it easy on us poor workers who are flooded by customers. You outnumber us ten to one. We can't be everywhere at once and help everyone every second of their trip in. We are there to give you wonderful service, not to be your servant. We'll run out of things because everyone wants all the same stuff. Don't blame the staff, it's not their fault. Didn't get that eraser for ten cents? Get over it. It's an eraser.

And one more thing I had in school you likely didn't; nuns. God bless them, every one.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Who am I?

It occurred to me sometime this evening that many (or some, outside of my family) may not know who I am. And by that I mean, who is this rambling50 guy?

As this blog has been going for nearly seven years, I think most have a respectable idea of what I am about. However, it isn't always easy to read between the lines for some. So, I thought I'd make this fairly simple ... this is me. (Wow, seven years).

I am an aging, 56 years old by last count, husband, father and grandfather. My family means everything to me. I would not be anything without the love and support of My Beloved; she is my world. Well, other than someone who doesn't sit still long enough to have a normal conversation. I am a grinder. I push. I set my eye on a job to do, and I go after it. Case in point, over the past couple days, I (aided by My Beloved) have ripped off a house full of cedar siding and pulled up room after room of carpet. I am a very hands-on kinda guy. I'd rather get my hands dirty when it comes to work. It is serenity; a mind-easing state of bliss. A good work-up of sweat is a beautiful thing.

I have been a retail manager for thirty years. It is hard work with a demanding schedule that changes from week to week. This type of work means having your eye on many things at once. Running a store is a complicated task. But, it has been a good life, one that keeps me up with the times. Training a new generation what it means to 'go to work' has had its rewards. In turn, they keep me on the ball. Otherwise, I wouldn't know an iPad from a crescent wrench. (Yeah, I used to run a hardware store. An awesome job, by-the-way).

I am fairly conservative by nature. I believe the world doesn't owe you anything. To help the poor is noble, but to help the lazy and intolerant is ridiculous. As a Catholic who doesn't really go to church, I still hold the beliefs instilled in the days of my youth. Nuns can make a deep impression on the heart of a little boy. They did with me. The religious world is by its nature, a man-made institution trying to explain a Godly existence. They fail often, because they are human. Clergy aren't divine. They suffer from the same failings as the rest of us, but to cover up what the Church systematically seems to have done, makes me hang my head in shame. THAT, is not a failure of religion, that is a failure of faith.

As I cast my eyes on the upcoming decades, I know my world will change. The world spins below us and our memories recede, and those close to us fade with it. However, what should never fail us is a spirit of adventure; a spirit of learning. Move forward or coalesce into nothingness. I believe one should strive to learn something new every day. I see the world these days often through the eyes of my grandson. He's five years old. Nearly every day is an adventure, a new experience, a new way to see the world.

It is through his eyes, his spirit of learning and adventure that I try to experience the last decades of my footfalls on this blue marble. His eyes have invigorated my spirit these past few years and to a point, influenced my writing. As an author, it gives perspective; it gives enthusiasm to the solitary existence of writing, for writing is just that; a lonely proposition where you rely on yourself to pull the load.

I am a writer, along with all the responsibilities that come with every thing else we face in this world. I hope those who read these pages continue to follow along on my thoughts on just about anything ... in no particular order.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's a racket

Now, I don't usually get steamed up about many things too quickly, but this did it to me today.

It has been a long-running argument over the years on whether the price of gasoline is true or if it is just a big racket, a hoax on the American public. There have been studies over the years by official government sources and the like that says, no no no. I find it strange that almost every year there seems to be a refinery problem that suddenly drives up the price of gas when the American public begins to get back out onto the highway after a long winter.

Here's my thought ... it's a rip-off. Why? Well today we found gas for $3.18 a gallon. I haven't seen that price in ages. My Beloved said, it's Thursday, and gas always goes up just before the weekend. I looked at the gauge and we were sitting just above 1/4 of a tank, and she hates to go below a quarter. We filled up and drove a couple miles down the road as we were on our way to rip ceder shingles off my son's house. It was a wonderful day for it; beautiful weather. Anyway, we stopped at an intersection close to his home. The price on the electronic marquee read the same as the station down the road, $3.18. As we sat there waiting for the light to change, guess what else changed.

Yup, you got it. The price of unleaded gas shot up to $3.55 per gallon. Now, I can see gas going up some, but to increase the price nearly 12% in the blink of an eye is just a sham on the public. It is nothing more than price-gouging, plain and simple. I'm all for free market, but it's about time the oil companies fess up and admit they are in collusion to fix the prices at the retail pump. That's illegal.

Perhaps it's time they are regulated like utilities as that is what gasoline has truly become. If government is that blind to what is happening, then they are part of the problem. Hmmm. Government that doesn't know what it's doing ... naw, that just COULDN'T happen.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Two-wheelers

Share and share alike, as the rule goes. I live in an area where cycling seems to be growing every day. Fact is, I spent many a day as a young lad rolling through the neighborhoods with my buds. The rules of the road weren't too important back then. In fact it was dangerous to ride on the city streets. There were no bike lanes or signs for cyclists back in the stone age. It sure was hard to peddle with stone tires.

But times have changed, and changed dramatically. There are bike tours throughout the city; rides that span county lines and paths carved out with tax money to join towns throughout. On the surface of that, I don't really have an issue with it all. Many cycle because it is cheap transportation. Others like the exercise. Cycling and the gear that goes along with it is big business.

So why am I writing this? Because I have a peeve about it. (Not that I gripe about much). If we are to share the road with our two-wheeled brothers and sisters, why is it that they never, ever follow the rules of the road. Riding a bicycle on city streets requires bike operators to follow the same rules of the road as the four-wheelers. Ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a cyclist stop at a stop sign? I'll tell you; never. And boy, if they get in your way when it's their fault, you get the sneer and stare. It's the, 'hey, I'm a cyclist' look.

I know you're there. I steer clear of you. Actually, I want nothing to do with you. You don't belong on busy major thoroughfares any more than a pedestrian, but since you are, why not follow the rules of the road for once. Less chance of getting killed that way.

(I'm fairly certain I'll hear from a few cyclist friends on this one).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fantasy book trailer

Little by little as a writer, I'm learning to do things in this electronic marketplace. There are many ways to reach an audience, but they can be very challenging and time-consuming. Writing is work, but so is trying to market a product. 

Marketing tools change on a daily or monthly basis. Just as Facebook has changed their algorithms and limited the reach of both personal and business pages, those who strive to find a niche with their voice must learn to adapt and find another channel. 

I hope you enjoy this video and view it often as the mood strikes. It was fun to put together and a wonderful learning experience. 





Oh, and buy some books!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Buy this book

Back in May, I posted a ramble about a new anthology due to be release. It is titled, 'The Bitten'. The book is an anthology, a collection of short stories from twenty-eight authors of the Raptor Retreat Press. All these works revolve around vampires and werewolves. Why? Because one of our members, Brandon Hale writes in that genre. He is a phenomenal writer. His primary series is titled, 'Day Soldiers', and it is fantastic.

If you saw the previous post, you know why I and others are pushing for you to buy this book. Brandon was recently diagnosed with cancer, and we are working to help him cover his expenses. Being an author is a truly dedicated calling, but it does have its drawbacks. There is no guarantee of income. Writing is a business. It requires tremendous amounts of time and effort to both write, edit and market your work. This ain't easy folks. To that end, we have all donated our time and energy to write, edit, and promote this book for him with all proceeds going to help him cover his expenses.

Without further adeau ... The Bitten is now live at Amazon.com


If you're interested in seeing the story I contributed, check out 'Old World Vintage'. 

There is some tremendous writing in this book I an urge anyone who loves stories about horror with all kinds of flavor to pick up a copy. You'll get a great book, and help someone who needs a hand.

Thank you.
#vampsforbran

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hump year

These last few days marks a monumental  year in my life. I remember years ago doing the math to see how old I would be when the twenty-first century came in. I thought that was going to be old. In fact, it was anything but, and now the next decade and a half is rolling along.

I have always joked that middle age is ten years older than whatever age I was. That's sort of hard to do at this point. Even I can't believe sixty-six would be considered middle-aged. It was good for a laugh and it worked for years, but it seems that I must once and for all face the facts. Middle age has caught up to me (assuming I'm going to die at 112 years of age).

I must now admit, I am one year past the 'hump year', the double-nickle, the Nixon speed limit. I have crossed over the hill and I sit perched looking at the downward side, one step beyond its crest. It's a steep drop, a long slide down. But you know what? I've decided to go down at a run. Life takes each one of us on a differing path. Some struggle more than others, and though I have had several bumps along the way, I decided years ago I would not live a life of fear.

So bring it on; bring on the 'old guy' problems. Let the AARP do their best to chase me down the streets. I plan on staying one step ahead. If my brothers and cousins can do it, so can I.

Now, where do I sign up for that Golden Buckeye Card?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Treasure boxes

I inherited the tool gene from my father, and likely a lot of his habits when it comes to fixing things. My dear brothers, bless their hearts, couldn't hammer a nail with a screwdriver. (Uhm, cause they'd try to). My workbench is very much like his. Okay, it actually is his. I took it from the garage when the booty was split up. The bench is unique in that the top of it is actually two sections of bowling alley bolted together. I have a good idea of where it came from, but nothing to back up the story. He built a cabinet beneath it to store the big tools. It all fits in my basement quite nicely.

Now, neither of us are/were hoarders, by any stretch of the imagination, but there hasn't been a nut, bolt or screw that I've likely not gotten rid of over the years. Someday, that'll come in handy! I have two mis-matched storage drawers that hold tacks, screws, miscellaneous parts of things that could come in handy for other usages down the line, and various other clips, washers and metal things.

I am a fixer mostly. I don't build much from scratch but I can fix a lot of things. All those little pieces come in handy. As I was digging for a couple of screws this night, I pulled out two very special boxes that reside below my second work bench. You see, I built another bench across from the bowling alley; two benches that flank a slop sink. It comes in really handy.

But back to the boxes. They are special in nature. Each time I rifle through them, it brings back memories of my father. They aren't very large, but I would consider them antiques. Inside them you'll find silcock parts, washers, drawer knobs, a boiler drain valve, one child-proofing drawer latch, and numerous miscellaneous parts of things long forgotten. But, these two little boxes have been my savior many times over. Just when you need it, the right part just seems to show up in them.

Believe it or not, they are the cardboard bottom halves of two Velveeta cheese boxes. That's right, two brown, cardboard cheese boxes as long and wide as a rubbery brick of Velveeta cheese. They had been in my father's garage for over thirty years and they have been with me for fifteen. Sometimes I think he sneaks the small part I'll have trouble finding into one of them just in the nick of time. It's amazing how much those little boxes can hold. I don't have the tops, they are long since gone to the ravages of time and sharp tools. But I have the bottoms, my own little treasure boxes with more memories than any box can hold.

What am I working on?....It's a secret.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My own friend

We had a short but interesting discussion at work yesterday. Could you be friends or very close friends with yourself? Imagine, you, a perfect copy of you, with all your debonair charm and every wart you possess. You know your passions, your hang-ups, your wit and style.

You meet yourself in a bar, or at work, or in church. Casually, you get to know each other. If you want to keep it simple, you don't have to look exactly like each other. You don't even have to look remotely close. Boil it down to everything else about you.

Now, after meeting each other and hanging out, you get to develop more than an acquaintance relationship. You begin to become bros...or whatever the female equivalent of that is. BFFs I would guess. Now, you take the big step, as your proximity to each other continues to grow, like every good relationship, each of you begin to let your personal guard down. The personal guard for most of us is your filter; what comes out of your mouth, whatever intelligent or inane thing that may happen to be.  I for one, wish some of those I knew, had a filter in the first place. Perhaps they misplaced it in the birth canal.

Anyway, you see where this is going. It's more of an intellectual question. I'm not asking anyone to change themselves in any way. You are who you are, smiles, failings and all. No one knows us quite like we know us. I for one have a difficult time determining if I would be that close to myself or not. It's not that I'm not the most wonderful person running around on the planet, it's just that I have a fairly sarcastic personality outside of the business world, and I might offend myself with too many off-hand comments meant to be funny. If I'm in the wrong mood, I may not think myself too funny. I might call myself a jackass behind my own back.

All in all, I think I could manage a friendship with myself. I do tend to be someone who has only a very small circle of friends, a few very close from days gone by. I just don't know if I'd be my own best friend. I'd probably talk to myself at a party though. I'm kinda funny, in an off-putting sort of way, of course.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

CN

As I have joined the march of television at an early age, way back in the advent of the black and white era, I feel as though I might, just might have something to say about today's cartoons.

These past couple of days, we have been watching two single-digit munchkins. More than happy to do it. But when it rains outside, that leaves inside. What do kids want to watch? Cartoons. And lots of them. I won't complain about that. I grew up on cartoons in the sixties, saw a few in the seventies and worked in a toy store in the eighties. I have been surrounded by them for most of that time.

Now, I don't understand the fascination with most of the Japanese creations that seemed to surface in the nineties, but everyone has there own likes and dislikes. And now, with having my grandson around on a regular basis, I have been exposed to new ones for several years. However, what passes for cartoons on the CN is nothing more than crap.

Sure, my cartoons had their share of funny violence and space-blasting, but what I have been watching on the tube for two days is so far below amusing it is bewildering. Where did this stuff come from? Now, being in the book business, I see all levels of bad put out there for consumption. But, isn't this stuff supposed to have someone in charge of quality control? With the advent of more television channels than anyone could watch, it appears the gatekeepers have all gone for a beer and left the door open to all levels of drivel.

There are a few good ones out there I suppose, just not on the CN, at least as far as I can tell. They seem to have everyone else's trash pile. Where's Tom and Jerry when you need them?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

More than beauty

We are creatures of beauty, at least we want to be. Some of us just have more of it than others. I for one, don't consider myself beautiful. (Ruggedly smart and handsome, okay, I'll give you that one.) Actually, I'll call myself slightly above average, perhaps. But what of others?

The more I am exposed to social media, be it Facebook or Twitter or one of the other web societies, I run across a particular saying, rather often. And, it is more often than not, directed at girls and women; she's beautiful. Now, that's a really nice thing to say. Is it deserved? Perhaps, but why say it?

Is there no other compliment due a young lady or woman who has just come through an achievement or life event? I would not argue the saying to someone who is posing in her wedding gown for her day. It is, after all, what many women live for. It can be the defining moment in their lives, or at least one of them. Every woman wants to look beautiful on that day. Tell them they're beautiful, by all means.

To many, I think it is a reflex. It is just what they say to everyone. In this season of the graduate, I have come across this many times. A young lady graduates from high school or college, another defining moment, and regularly, beautiful is the compliment. Now whether it is deserved or not, that is a shallow compliment to someone who has just achieved a life event.

One other thing I shall offer in this ramble, that compliment mostly comes from women, to women. I challenge you ladies, mothers, aunts and grandmothers of the world, it's time to do better. Beauty is a concept and it changes from culture to culture, but it's not the only thing. Congratulate the success, not the package.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Write or wrong

Several years ago when my brother and I began this blog, it was for fun; it was an attempt for an aging man to chronicle his thoughts as he journeyed through life. As 'Ramblings' approaches 20,000 visits, albeit many, many returns from the same viewers, and has in excess of 500 posts, it has become a little more than what it started out to be.

Although I still chronicle my thoughts on various subjects as we spin along on our blue marble, it has also given rise to a writer's heart. I have been writing for over two decades. It began with The Crystal Point trilogy and has since blossomed to several books and short stories. It has been a long journey to get to this point, and it is one I shall continue as long as I am able.

The publishing industry has changed dramatically in just a few years. The powerful publishing houses that have ruled the roost have seen their influence dwindle with the advent of the ebook. Publishers were the kings of the written world, but in a real sense, they were also the gatekeepers. It was they who decided who was let into the club. What the ebook has done is open a wondrous world of high caliber writers to the public. Unfortunately, it has also allowed barnstorming by those who couldn't string two sentences together coherently. But in a way, there have always been crappy books on the shelves, no matter who the gatekeeper has been. What one person thinks is a five-star, another thinks it belongs in the toilet.

Today, my sixth novel, Decimation of Allingaard, is now available on Amazon.com. It is the second book in an epic fantasy series. It has truly been a labor of love and diligence to bring this to you. I hope you enjoy the effort.

And thank you for following along.




Monday, May 26, 2014

Day's end

As we celebrate this memorial weekend, many give thanks to the long list of brave men and women who gave of themselves that we would be free. There is no greater sacrifice that can be wrought than to give of one's self for the betterment and freedom of another.

We are a free country as much as from their efforts as anything. But we as a people seem to be reaching an impasse. Our military and our police forces are reactionary in nature. That is the way of things. That is the way the world works. Something bad happens, and we respond. But we as a people, are a growing populace. We span the continent from coast to coast. We number nearly 325 million strong. Our security can't be guaranteed. That has never been the intent anyway.

We are continually bombarded by stories of shootings, massacres, and terrorist threats. We want safety. We want someone to protect us. We see news stories of demonstrators railing and protesting against the police and military for not seeing everything coming. Why wasn't that person who killed the children at the school known about? He should have been stopped. The police failed us. Everyone has their own cause, their own way of looking at the world and its troubles. We call attention to war and famine and disaster, and we protest because the government didn't or doesn't do something about it.

Then we see the opposite side of things shouted across the headlines. Big brother is lurking everywhere. He spies on us through the street cameras, the internet and the phone lines. They are intrusive. Our very lives are a spectacle on display. They know our inner-most secrets. With the advent of knowing everything across the world the second after it happens, we are terrified in our homes.

Well, guess what folks. You can't have it both ways. We are not the only free peoples across the face of the globe. Our neighbor to the north, Canada, and most of the European countries are just as free as America. They have their own concerns. Though they have a way of life that is different, what we share is remarkably similar.

Then why are we the target of terrorism? Simple. It's because we as a people have always stood up for the underdog. We may have the big stick, but we often use it against oppression. As a matter of history, I wish that were always the case, but sadly, it doesn't always work out that way. Our leaders have been just as underhanded as those of other countries. That's what makes us the target, and not Denmark. We have a history of coming to the rescue. Others see us as the bully for that reason.

But to think we can stop all the woes of the world is simply irresponsible. Foreign policy is complex. What helps one, offends another. One can not simply bury one's head in the sand like an ostrich. If we ignore what happens beyond our shores, we are deemed to suffer the same fates as our forefathers. Incidents like Benghazi will always happen. It is a different world, a different war we fight in the twenty-first century. And it is a reactionary war. We will always be one step behind.

Our services, both military and domestic have a tremendous burden placed upon them. They are our guardian angels, and our saviors. They deserve both respect and admiration for the call of duty they have answered in our place. On this day, I thank the men and women who have given of themselves that we would be free. And we are free. A camera over our heads doesn't change that fact.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The nod

I consider myself a worldly sort of fellow, (okay, not really, I live in Ohio). So I was rather surprised when I read a detailed article on the internet the other day. Okay, it was something stupid that someone probably put up on Facebook or some other cultural abyss, but everything has a grain of truth, right?

Even after twenty-two years of wedded bliss, I still find it amazing that I completely don't understand the opposite sex. The post in question had to do with 'the nod'. You know, that slight bob of the head that men sometimes exchange as they pass. A few weeks ago, okay, maybe a couple months ago, I forget, I'm getting older, I exchanged 'the nod' with someone I passed on the sidewalk. My Beloved asked if I knew him. I answered no. I don't think she quite understood. Apparently, women do not do 'the nod'. It almost sounds like a Seinfeld episode. (If there was one, I missed it).

It is such a simple gesture. I find it hard to believe it's only a man thing. There are basically, two types of nods. The first is an upward tick of the head as you acknowledge someone. This one is generally reserved for someone you know, but not always. As with the second type, it is used in passing. Number two, is a slight downward motion, keep it slight, as you pass another. There is no hard-fast rule or reason to do so, you just know, and if you are the recipient of 'the nod', it needs to be returned.

I suppose, it's a guy thing.

By the way, book two of the Last Elf Prophecy; Decimation of Allingaard will be available in about ten  to fourteen days.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

What's a cover to do?

To all those who follow along with my little blog, I appreciate your patience with this little game I have played. It has been fun for me to string you all along. Sometimes, we poor, bumbling authors just need to build the suspense, soooooo....

Here it is, the cover for book two of The Last Elf Prophecy; Decimation of Allingaard


I hope to release the book itself within the next two weeks. Look for it on Amazon and it will follow as well, Barnes and Noble and iTunes as well as a couple other outlets. I hope the wait has been worth it for those who enjoyed the first of the series, Sands of Nevertime.

Thanks for playing along....

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Almost ready

A few more days ... the cover for book two of The Last Elf Prophecy will be fully revealed.





It's getting closer.....

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pay it Forward for Brandon

Pay it Forward was not only a wonderful movie, it has become a life lesson for many. I had never actually heard the expression, before the movie in 2000. It was based on a novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Heide. In recent years, it has also been noted that it was a philosophy of Woody Hayes, long-time football coach of Ohio State University.

But what does it mean to you? What does it mean to me? To me, it means doing something for someone who just needs a hand up, or someone who finds themselves in a difficult situation. It is with that in mind....



I have a friend that is an author. His name is Brandon Hale. He has a wicked sense of humor and is the author of multiple books, most noted being the Day Soldiers series. As is the case in life, not everything is fair. Not everything is just. We have to roll with the punches. Well, Brandon has received a heavy blow, recently being diagnosed with cancer. With the passing of my brother, it is something I can contribute to for a better outcome for another.

Twenty-eight authors have banded together to launch this anthology to benefit Brandon. He writes in the horror genre about vampires and werewolves. Each of us have lent our talents for this benefit to our fellow author and friend. For many of us, writing this type of story is a little bit out of our comfort zone, but I think you will find our efforts are well worth the read, twenty-eight short stories about vampires and werewolves.

The Bitten will be released within a few weeks as we are ironing out the final details. I will pass along a definite date once it is nailed down. All proceeds from the sale of this book are for our friend, that he is able to walk into the night, and fight vampires once again.

I hope you will pick up a copy. It will be available through Amazon.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What will cover it?

I have learned over the years, the writer's primary focus should be putting out the best story one can. There is a tremendous amount of 'pouring one's soul' into the story, the writing, editing, character development and everything else. At the end, the author should feel tremendous about the product produced. Then it's ready, right?

Not so fast, mon ami. Say what? Yep, there is still a monumental decision yet to make. The world is a visual place, and the advent of the internet and ebooks makes it even more so. Nothing grabs a potential customer, yes, you all are customers, like an outstanding cover. 

It's true. One of the first things a reader will fixate on is a visual cue; the image on the book. The book cover. It is your handshake to the reading market. Hello, look at me. My image tells you what you are in for. I'm exciting, I'm romantic. I'm an adventure. That is what you want to convey to prospective readers.

The problem is, no matter how gifted an author may be, most, are not designers. They have limited knowledge of how or what to design. Most can tell you what looks great, or what appeals to them, but they can't design it. What does happen, is, most hire the cover design out to artists and illustrators. Then, like most other design projects, after some give and take, a final design is settled upon and the launch countdown begins.

So, what is this? It's the launch countdown to a cover reveal....




You just don't get to see it all yet. But, it's coming, coming soon. Book 2 of The Last Elf Prophecy.

Stay tuned.....

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cancel nap time

In a recent article posted on line, a kindergarten class had it's 'show' canceled by the administrators of the school. Now, we know all things posted on line are absolutely true, (uh huh), so I'm guessing this one is too.
Actually, this was passed on by a source I trust, and therefore believe it to be the case.

Now, why would anyone want to cancel a kindergarten show? Well, according to the administrators, the expectations of learning in the twenty-first century are forcing them to focus solely on developing these kindergarten students for college and careers.

Really? A single two day show for five-year-olds is interfering with their preparation for college which is still fourteen years away? If this two day show is interfering with their curriculum that much, they should make sure they do away with 'nap time'. Some of the reasons listed for this decision are: keeping them from becoming stronger readers, writers, co-workers and decision makers.

If those are your reasons, you have a severely limited view of how to educate children. Let me see...making them stronger readers; nope, learning lines read from a script wouldn't do that. Writers? Okay, I'll give them this one, unless one of them is writing the script for the play. Co-workers? Naw, working together to put on a play or show does nothing to help little children become better co-workers. Decision makers? Letting them think about how to do something or be in the right place at the right time has nothing to do with that. They obviously won't be making major decisions on the production, but that's not something they would be doing anyway.

I often complain about teachers and administrators, even though I am fully aware that there are many tremendous teachers out there. But, such knee-jerk reactions from administrators always leaves me scratching my head. Too often, many lack a prime measure of living and growing in the world...common sense.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Read for life

As one would assume, I have a vested interest in books. Mostly mine, as I would like to sell a million and be filthy rich, but, that takes time. What I'm rambling about today is not the books themselves, but what you do with them; reading.

My Beloved and I were watching a show the other night, an investigative show about a crime. I think it was one of the 48 Hours types of shows. Detectives were trying to make the girlfriend of the suspect spill the beans, as it were. It was a contrast in speech, to say the least. The detectives spoke normal English with full sentences. They weren't using 'big' words. It was just common vernacular. The girlfriend however, almost couldn't put a sentence together without using any phrase or dialect that didn't come off the street.

As I listened to her, I closed my eyes. If I were to pick her out of a lineup simply by her speech, I wouldn't have been able to tell you if she was black, white, southern, northern or anywhere else specific. Did she have an education? Likely from the street. Then the thought crossed my mind; I wonder when the last time this person picked up the printed word in nearly any form and read it? I'm sure she simply looks at the pictures in The Enquirer, and that's about it.

One doesn't have to be an A+ student to get through life and be moderately successful. Think about where this person's life could be if she just picked up a book and read once in a while. Urban-speak to me is simply being lazy. Like it or not, one is judged often on what comes out of their mouth. A person brands them self with their speech. I am overly educated; I am a normal person with a grasp of the language, or I speak like an uneducated slouch.

Opportunity is often what you make of it, or make of yourself.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Peeves

I was going to ramble about something today; had a thought in mind I was developing for a few days. Then what happens...grrrrr

There is a new trend in shopping centers, one that really annoys me. It started a few years ago with the handicapped ramps being installed around not only my neighborhood, but the city. And it has spread. It's another attempt by others to solve a problem that really, doesn't exist, at least in my mind. It's one more thing to spend money on because of stupid people.

It seems now, at the end of nearly every sidewalk coming out of a grocery store, is the set of dimpled panels embedded into the concrete. Now, I believe originally, these were to give traction on the sloped ramps. If that were the case, why the hell are they putting them on completely flat and level stretches of concrete? One set coming from the store into a parking lot, is simply there to vibrate your cart full of groceries and aggravate the hell out of me. You have to slow down to a crawl to get over it.

Another aggravating newcomer to my world is flashing speed limit signs on local exit ramps. For fifty years, the circular exit ramps around our fair town have had nothing but the yellow sign with the curved black arrow. Not a problem. However, within the last five or so years, drivers who are too stupid to know how to operate a vehicle, be it a semi or a car, have caused us to spend tax money to put up flashing lights that weren't needed for five decades.

I suppose the dimpled ramps are to slow us down so we don't get hit by cars as we go into the parking lot. Sigh...just one more way to stop the cull of the stupid. Natural selection folks, natural selection.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What's a WIP?

So it's been a long time since I plugged one of my own books. I am a retail manager extraordinaire by day, and a roving fantasy writer by night. Unless of course I'm working the evening shift and then I write in the day. But, after coffee and toast in the morning, that doesn't leave much time. Night writing is much more suited to my general frame of mind. I think one quirk that I have is when writing night scenes, it is much easier for me when it's dark outside. Perhaps it just puts me in the mood.

Anyway, now that I am about two-thirds of the way through writing the second in the 'Last Elf Prophecy' series, I thought it would be a good time to plug the first book in the series. I released Sands of Nevertime in late summer last year. I was hoping to follow that up with the second book sooner than this, but, life and stuff always seem to get in the way of one's best laid plans. I envy those who are able to write as a full-time career. Someday I hope that I may join that club.


Sands of Nevertime


In the coming months I will be releasing more information on the forthcoming book for this series. I hope you'll pick up a copy of Sands of Nevertime. I don't think you will be disappointed. Enjoy!

Besides, it's only $2.99. What could go wrong?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Zombieland

It's an epidemic. Everything is zombie. You can't turn around without running into a zombie. Well, I  hope you can, because then I'd have to run, and run hard.

Somewhere along the line, these infamous creatures seem to have inundated the world we live it. There almost isn't an area in life where zombies don't reach out and place a dead hand on your shoulder. In just about every aspect of entertainment, zombies rule. There are literally thousands of books to buy featuring zombies. Amazon alone likely has a million books with zombies. Heck, I know authors myself that write zombie  books.

Even the Discovery Channel has fallen to them with the Zombie Apocalypse. If this was on the Sy-Fy channel, I think we'd be safe. But when the Discovery Channel falls, its only one more step before it becomes another also-ran like TLC. (Sorry TLC, you used to be good, now your choice of programming stinks. You need to seriously think about changing your name). Anyway, AMC's, The Walking Dead is a consistently a highly rated series with nothing seemingly ready to slow it down.

So, what does this have to do with me? I don't write zombie books or watch zombie shows. Well, I killed about a million and a half zombies outside over the weekend with my grandson Ragin' Cage. It was the first good weekend as far as weather goes, and the Nerf guns were a-blazing. We swung on the swings so he could get high enough to shoot them from above. We climbed on the neighbor's play yard, our now 'summer home' and held the fort against them. We carried so many plastic guns in our pockets and arms we didn't have enough hands to shoot, but we could have taken down North Korea we had so many guns.

But, we conquered the onslaught, and my world is now zombie-free........at least for now....hahahahahahahahaha! They'll be back........

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Battleground

"Ahhhhh...."

"Stop it, Aspen."

"Come here. This is how you do it."

"Leave it alone."

"Cage, come here."

"Aspen, let me show you something."

"Sqeeeeeee...stop it. I had it first."

"Maw-Maw, he won't let me have it."

"I had it first."

"I want it now. He won't share."

"You have to share."

"I can shoot it farther than you can."

 "Don't hurt him."

"Are you supposed to be off the deck?"

"Paw-Paw said I could."

"Can I have something to drink? I'm hungry."

"Maw-Maw, can I have this?"

"Did you ask?"

"Paw-Paw, he's hurting me."

"Cage, get off that."

Oh, nothing much happening today. We just have our grandsons. How was your day?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An excerpt from the WIP

For the uninitiated, WIP is 'work in progress'. Us writing types use terms like that so we can sound, you know, cool. "Hey, see my WIP? How's your WIP coming? When's your WIP coming out?" See what I mean. Oh well, every field needs its own lingo.

I am currently working on the second book of the Last Elf Prophecy series. The first book is Sands of Nevertime. It was released at the end of last summer. Number two, has been more of a struggle. While I knew where the storyline was, or should be taking me, I wasn't quite happy with it. So, like any good craftsman, I had to go back and revamp it some. I was several chapters ahead when I finally made the decision to add a secondary plot string.

The following is an excerpt from the newly revised chapter four. I have a working title, but I think I'll keep that to myself, at least for a little while longer. 



-   -   -

The scene introduces a new character and plot line that will merge run concurrently with the original plot structure.


   The specks of grizzled white that littering the dark table, streamed through the opening as the hot breezes flowed into the upper chambers. The turret’s black outer walls, pitted and worn from years of sand-blasted abuse bled the heat of the day back into the clear night sky. The stars were sprinkled across the blackness of the heavens as were the grains of sand upon the dark table. Pushed by the evening winds, they slid to a stop at the lip of the tortured black cover.

   The dusty pages, thin and faded, sat undisturbed for years, the sand covering nearly every printed line. Yet, it held a place reserved above all others, in the center of the chamber. The walls, as dark as the outside stone, held their own world; a world of dark magics, a world of manuscripts and tattered volumes that stretched a hundred generations or more back in time.

   The night wind fell quiet and the grains aloft floated gently to the grounds below, yet the sands that layered the lone volume began their dance. As if shaken by thunder, they shifted, flowing like a wave across a sullen dune. The ivory pages burst into motion, rolling briskly, their torn edges humming in the stillness before falling silent. Where they lay open, a single rune hovered in the darkness, turning slowly above the ancient scripts.

   The sound of dangling keys, the rattle of metal on metal scraping against the door plate echoed into the chamber. A single slide and clunk signaled entry into the library as the lock cylinder dropped away. The rusty hinges moved silently, the heavy, wooden door swinging freely in the stillness. The ring was easily removed from the lock, and the keys placed on their iron hook by the door, which was summarily closed behind.

-   -   -

I hope that wets your appetite for what is to come. If you like that, I hope you pick up a copy of Sands of Nevertime, or one of my other books.

Thanks for following along.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Space-Time Fantasy

As most who have followed this blog likely know I am a fantasy writer. I've recently read a certain blogger who discussed the argument of who should be called a writer, and who should be called an author. I won't dignify a response nor name the blogger as I feel his perspective is just, how shall I say it, ridiculous.

I have tried to spread my reading around lately, getting a feel for differing genres. With both work and writing, getting the time to read can be, well, challenging to say the least. The thought behind that was to see if reading other styles would help influence my writing in a positive way. I can say it has to some degree. But, at some point you need to delve back into reading the genre you work in. It injects a measure of fervor back into your own writings.

With all that said, I have recently finished a book by fellow fantasy author John Daulton. John is a solid writer and I was impressed by his novel, Galactic Mage. John has been writing for many years in the world of fantasy, and has taken this world and successfully blended it with the sci-fi genre. The Galactic Mage has married a wizardly fantasy world with space aliens. It was a cool read.



I mentioned previously that I would be passing along works of authors that I have read, authors whose works I have enjoyed. John Daulton is one such author. If you are a sci-fi or fantasy reader, he is more than worth a look. I hope you enjoy this recommendation.