Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What's in a Word? - This One Goes to #11


Today's Top Ten Tuesday Topic is "Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Buy/Pick Up A Book."  If perchance this is your first experience with Top Ten Tuesday, you can find more information here.

When I was an irresponsible teenager child, there was a game we used to play called "Never Have I Ever."  If you've never heard of it, the rules were fairly simple - you would form a circle of chairs, one less in number than the number of participants.  The remaining person would then have to come up with a statement beginning "Never have I ever."  Anyone who had done this thing would then have to move to a new seat, while at the same time, the person in the center was trying to take one of theirs.  Those who likewise have not done this thing get a free pass for the round and remain seated.  Once all the seats are filled, there is hopefully a new person in the middle and play continues.

Now, there is a reason for me bringing up this game, and you may have guessed it already...

"Never have I ever bought a book because of a word or topic printed on the cover or within its pages."

If we were playing the game right now, I wonder how many others wouldn't get out of their chairs? I mean, it seems a fairly logical thing to me not to buy a book merely because a word caught your eye - flip through a book to see if you're interested, certainly, but not buy.  Say, for example, that you are walking through a bookstore and you spot a book called "Bacon".  Now, you may go to pick up the book, only to find that it is actually written by a vegetarian and is full of pictures of sad piglets.

This probably wouldn't be what you had in mind.

Therefore, here is my list of "Top Ten Words/Topics that Pique My Interest when Browsing Books."

1. Bacon - Do I need a reason? It's BACON!

2. History - For most of my life, I have been fascinated by history, so anything with this in the title will at least get a glance, especially those books about early European history or pre-revolution America, though books on the Civil Rights Movement rank fairly highly as well.

3. Mythology - AKA History that People Made Up to Make it More Interesting

4. Ireland/Irish/Gaelic - As my pen name might indicate to those of you familiar with the name, I'm Irish.  And by Irish, I mean I'm American of mostly Irish descent, so I'm trying to make up for the bit of me that isn't (I kid... somewhat)

5. Barbecue - It will become quickly apparent that I was hungry when I came up with this list, so my list may be somewhat biased.

6. Dessert - See?

7. Military/Army/Navy/Marines/Air Force - While I'm not much of a military buff, I do like books about them, especially the ones with photos and diagrams.

8. Fantasy - Most of my time at bookstore is spent wandering the science fiction/fantasy sections (or the used books, which are always a treasure).  My attention used to be primarily on the sci-fi, but has of late switched over to fantasy, as is evidenced by some of my previous lists.

9. Comics - While readings through the comics on a Sunday afternoon has its own charm, I've always preferred the collections.  Stories that would take weeks to play out in the paper can be seen all at once as a whole, and there's always those ones you missed or forgot about to look forward to.

10. Sale - What can I say?  A good bargain might make me consider a book I wouldn't otherwise buy.  After all, if I don't like it, I'm not too far in the hole as a result.

Bonus 11. Out-of-Print - Rare books!

There you have it!  This one's a fairly easy one (unless you procrastinate to look at cats, as I did), so I invite you to post your own lists in the comments below, or the link to your blog post so I (and my handful of readers) can read it there.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Quick Update - Housekeeping #2

This is going to be very brief - one of the reasons I started this blog was to provide an avenue for my creativity besides my novel writing - however, since I began this blog, I haven't worked on my novel.  Therefore, I am taking a brief hiatus from Thursday posts in order to have some more time to work on that (you wouldn't believe how long some of these take to write!).  I have two short stories in the works, the first of which will be posted May 16th, at which point I will resume my Thursday blog posts.  In the time between now and then, I will be working on my novels and so hopefully I will have some additional excerpts to share as well.  I hope this finds you in good health, Ciao!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Not-So-Great Expectations - Top Ten Tuesday # Ten

Today's Top Ten Tuesday Topic is "Top Ten Books I Thought I'd Like MORE/LESS Than I Did".  If perchance this is your first experience with Top Ten Tuesday, you can find more information here.

At some point or another, it is highly probable that you, dear reader, will try something new, only to find that it doesn't meet up to your expectations. Perhaps you find that the regional specialty that came so highly recommended contains anchovies, or the cake you just ordered, maybe the one shown here, inexplicably contains that red dye that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.  Also, you're allergic to red dye, so it really isn't your day.

Alternatively, there may come a time where some dish that you have had some misgivings about turns out to be delicious - so delicious, in fact, that you eat nothing else for the rest of the meal, leading your friends, family, and possibly even the wait staff a little worried about you.

Alright, so that last bit is a tad exaggerated, but it is an entirely plausible scenario, and the same can be said of books. We've all picked up a book at some point that either didn't live up to our expectations or surpassed them entirely... well, maybe not all of us, but the odds are in my favour.  Therefore, here is my list, which I have tried to split between disappointments and pleasant surprises, but that hasn't worked out so well.


1. American Gods - Neil Gaiman: Originally recommended to me by a friend, I bought this book with high expectations.  Taken as a whole, the plot of this novel is amazing.  However, there were numerous elements within the story that I found distasteful or downright repulsive.  Still on my shelf as I don't have a book to fill its slot, but it's going to find a new home once I do.

2. The Great Train Robbery - Michael Crichton:  For similar reasons as American Gods, only this one I picked up because I'd read some of his other works and enjoyed them, so I expected better of this one.

3. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley: I'm not sure why this story rubs me the wrong way, but I simply haven't been able to enjoy it. I generally don't like darker stories, as will become apparent because up next is...

4. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson: I can't think of anything unique to say here, so I instead will point out that the Mazda logo looks like an owl.

5. Crime & Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky:  Upon reconsideration, I think it is more likely that I don't enjoy these because of the main characters' deliberate placement of themselves in a position that is at odds with that which is considered moral.

6. The Awakening - Kate Chopin: I honestly couldn't find anything to like about this book, despite the fact that the professor of the class for which I read it said it was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

Pleasant Surprises

7. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins: As I have stated in a past blog post, I knew absolutely nothing about this book when I picked up to read it, so it would make sense that I wouldn't have very high expectations of this book.  Still, it did beat my initial assumptions about it based on the summary on the cover.

8. Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen: Ok, here we go - the reason I didn't expect to enjoy this one was because it's "for girls".  Yes, a tad immature, but I was a fairly immature person at the time I first read it.

9. Merlin - Stephen R. Lawhead: Merlin was far, far better than I expected after reading the prior book, Taliesin, which was honestly something of  a mental beating to read.

10. Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer: Around the time I read this, I was going through a bit of a sci-fi phase... as in I read almost nothing else.  So when I was handed this book and told to read it, I was somewhat dubious about it since it was about "faeries".  But I enjoyed it, so my worries were unfounded.

And there you have it!   I know there are a few items on this list that some of you may disagree with - if so, leave a comment below, I'd love to see your opinions!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Aunt Elinor had a Point - Top Ten Tuesday #9

Today's Top Ten Tuesday Topic is a rewind, meaning I can choose any past topic I wish.  Therefore, my topic for today is "Top Ten OCD Bookish Habits". If perchance this is your first experience with Top Ten Tuesday, you can find more information here.

Anyone and everyone who reads for pleasure has their own little quirks about how they read and treat their books.  In some cases, these are more extreme (see Aunt Elinor, Inkheart), but they tend to be fairly harmless.  I myself have my own collection of them, though none quite so... eccentric as Aunt Elinor's.  At least, I don't think they are... good heavens, now I'm in doubt...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why I Don't Write Poetry (An Exercise in Nonsense) - Improv #3

I was sitting here deciding what I might write,

when suddenly, out of nowhere, I had a dreadful fright.
There crept into my mind some unwelcome doubt -
Have I already run out of things to talk about?
I've not been at this long, much less than most,
I mean, isn't this just like my 19th post?
It's my 20th, really? Well, fancy that,
have ten weeks really gone by like that?
The time just flew by, I must be getting old,
but as the alternative's being dead, I guess that means I'm sold
on the whole aging business, but then I've got no choice
...why's the web saying that choice rhymes with DuBois?
That's a Western Pennsylvania thing, I'm in New Jersey
which rhymes with... well, nothing, but I suppose that's a mercy.
Just another Thursday, waiting for the time to be six,
and then home to West Milford, which is only kinda the sticks.
But that's not me complaining, just observing the facts,
...what was this post about? Better retrace my tracks.
Oh right, what to write about, that was the point,
but now it seems this whole post's just a bit out of joint.
As you can plainly see, I've only been rambling
and my metre, like the subject, is just sort of ambling.
But writing poetry's not my game, I'd rather be poked with needles,
and metres are for Rita's in songs sung by The Beatles.
Now how did they rhyme those?  They don't sound at all alike.
But then, when you're The Beatles, I guess you do as you like.
Anyway, you know those images, the ones with the vases?
I keep squinting at this post and looking for faces.
There might be a couple, but they're a bit of a stretch,
and I'm just stalling while I look for the sketch
that I did for this post, it was a couple of cats,
and I even drew a couple in adorable hats.
But my computer, it is saying that they just don't exist.
If any techies might be reading could you maybe assist?
Ah well, I guess I'll just have to consider them lost,
and my intended subject for this post out the window, is tossed.
I'm not sure about the grammar of that last... what's it again?
Couplet - Wikipedia, you're truly my friend.
And now I think we're finally reaching the end,
it's been a couple hours since the first lines were penned.
But one thing I should tell you, 'fore I shut my trap.
The metre's a little easier when read as a rap.
And so in closing, with the last line of many,
the pug's just there to be cute (as good a reason as any).

And there you have it!  Another post done, though not the one I intended (there really was a drawing of some cats I meant to share).  Still, I hope you enjoyed this, odd as it may be.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Picking 10 - Top Ten Tuesday #8

Today's Top Ten Tuesday Topic is "Top Ten Favorite Books I Read Before I Was a Blogger".  If perchance this is your first experience with Top Ten Tuesday, you can find more information here.

Seeing as I have only been doing this for some two months, I am presented with something of a overabundance of choices.  Therefore, this list is pulled from my Facebook page.  Not because I couldn't pull up a list otherwise, but because I thought it'd be interesting to see what I have on there:

1. The Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare - To truly appreciate this book took me three re-reads and a BBC adaptation for me to come to understand this story... I'm still not sure I do, but I enjoy it anyway.

2. For the Time Being - Annie Dillard - If you've never heard of this one, here's a quick rundown - FTTB is a stream-of-consciousness novel about the author's experiences... with everything.  Well, not everything, but whatever came to mind at the time.  It's not for everyone, but it's a refreshingly different read.

3. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
4. The Three Musketeers - Alexander Dumas
5. Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe - Growing up, I was obsessed with adventure novels.  If there were adventures on the high seas, daring heroics, sword fights, and/or enormous battles, I read it.  These three were some of the best... and they're still on my shelf now.

6. Night Watch - Terry Pratchett - I've mentioned Pratchett several times, but I've actually only been aware of him for a few years.  I was introduced to him at college... and promptly read most everything he'd written through the course of a summer.  I've read this one every time I go on a vacation.

7. The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien - As much as I love his other works, The Silmarillion is my favorite.  A rich, colourful tapestry of mythology... and that's the best I can describe it.  You'll have to read it for yourself - that's the best plug I can give it.

8. The Time Machine - H.G. Wells - I would find it difficult to say that any of Wells' works are better than the others but, if I had to, I would have to choose this one.  Wells explored ideas that hadn't really been touched upon by authors before then, and time travel was one of the ones he did best.

9. Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton - The book is as good as the movie! Possibly better!

10. Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen - Jane Austen was a brilliant writer and, while I haven't read her other works yet, I have seen most the BBC versions... and I plan on reading those too.

And there you have it!  Not the most in-depth I've gone into a list, but a fun one to put together.  I invite you to take a look at your facebook likes (if you have any), and see if there's any surprises there.  You never know!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Alma Mater - Photo Log #1

Most anyone you ask would agree that the place they chose to go to college had an enormous impact on the rest of their lives.  When determining whether or not that impact was positive... well, that's a point you'll see a bit more variation in opinions on.  Whether for good or ill remains to be seen, but I chose Geneva College.  These pictures are from my tour before I enrolled, hence the pristine and vacant lawns.  As I'm swamped for time thanks to Camp Nanowrimo, I'd like to share a little about the place, the people I remember, and what I learned there.

Geneva is a fairly small Christian college in western Pennsylvania (Beaver Falls).  I primarily chose to go there because my sister was already going there so I had a built in "safety net" in case I decided I didn't like anyone else enough to befriend them (my apologies to my sister, who I know reads this blog).  Fortunately for the both of us, I proved less of a recluse than I expected and made the majority of my friends there.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Decidedly Unromantic - Top Ten Tuesday #7

Today's Top Ten Tuesday Topic is "Top Ten Characters I Would Crush On If I Were Also a Fictional Character". If perchance this is your first experience with Top Ten Tuesday, you can find more information here.

I don't know what twist of fate lead to the choosing of this particular topic, but I would very much like to find the individual who's responsible and dump a bucket of water on their head...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Words on a Page - Short Story Improv #2

While not technically an improvised piece, the story that follows is a sequel to my first and, thus far, only improv piece, Stories Over Tea.  It isn't necessary to read that story in order to follow this one, but the two are meant to go together so I would recommend reading that one first if you haven't already done so.

~ Jacob Miller sat in his living room, staring at the notebook in his lap, its pages no less blank than they had been when he asked his mother for it some three weeks ago.  Their emptiness seemed to mock him, laughing at his failure at getting so much as a word on a page... well, that wasn't entirely true, he'd written his name at the top, though he felt a little silly about it now.  That sort of thing was for school projects.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Recommended Reading - Top Ten Tuesday #6

Today's Top Ten Tuesday Topic is "Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most."  If perchance this is your first experience with Top Ten Tuesday, you can find more information here.

Upon discovering today's topic, I was rather pleased as it offers slightly more freedom than the last few topics have done (at least, according to my fairly strict interpretations of them).  As I can draw upon literally any book I have ever read (except maybe textbooks), I am not limited by restraints such as whether or not the book or its author happens to be one of my favorites.

Also, since I rarely ever recommend books to anyone, I can basically make up a list of whatever I want, though I can and will point people to it if they ask for my recommendations for books to read.  Therefore, without further ado, here is my list of Top Ten Recommendations:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Screams in the Night - Novel Excerpt #2

As is always the case with these novel excerpts, a certain amount of preparatory information is necessary.  This time, I am pulling from Teind, my first and most complete novel.  From within the same universe as Underking, this time the focus is on Faeries... no, not pixies, fairies.  The difference is that one is a flittery, empty-headed thing and the other is a collection of creatures ranging from the noble to things born out of nightmares (like the Banshee).  The scene that follows is from early in the story, shortly after two of our protagonists have gone to report a kidnapping and attempted murder by drowning...

Jacobs got home to find his wife had gone out shopping.  Sighing, he kicked off his shoes and slumped into a chair.  His call in to the Sheriff’s office had gotten nowhere, despite the fact that he’d left out most of the weird parts.  Shouldn’t they at least have promised to check up on things to find out what was going on?

But no, they hadn’t, they hadn’t even had the decency to pretend to care.  The man who had picked up the phone must have been someone new. He’d sounded like a fresh-faced brat and his attitude confirmed it.  Apparently, the sheriff was just taking in anybody who could sit in a chair without falling over.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Good Reader or Bad? - Top Ten Tuesday #5

Today's Top Ten Tuesday Topic is "Top Ten Books I HAD to Buy... But are Still Sitting on My Shelf Unread."  If perchance this is your first experience with Top Ten Tuesday, you can find more information here.

Today's topic proved to be fairly difficult for a number of reasons.  First, there is the fact that I tend to read books immediately upon purchasing them.  Well, not immediately, as that would technically require reading it while walking out of the store, but in the popular sense, I do.  Secondly, Wikipedia is of no help here at all as I have to own the books so I can't just list titles that sound promising.  Barnes & Noble might be helpful, but that would probably be cheating as I won't have owned the books long enough for them to count.  I'm not counting books that others have purchased for me as gifts either, so that severely limits the field.

Finally, I'm inventing reasons why this is proving difficult in order to put off actually trying to create a list.  Unfortunately, I've just run out and no longer have anything material prepared with which I could forestall the inevitable.

Therefore, here is my list:

1. Nanny Ogg's Cookbook - Terry Pratchett - Yes, technically it is a cookbook, but there's a section in the back on etiquette and dwarf culture and some of the recipes themselves are stories as well.

2. Collins Irish Dictionary - Can you really even READ a dictionary?  I mean, sure, it's nice to know that Magairlin means "orchid", but there's no plot there!

3. Digital Photographer's Handbook - I recently acquired a new camera and I've been meaning to go over this in order to better understand the nuances of good photography.  However, I haven't had much chance to use the camera so the book goes untouched.

4. Anansi Boys - Neil Gaiman - Ha! I found a book with a plot, that is meant to be read from front to back in a single or consecutive readings!  I read the first chapter or so of this and promptly bought it... haven't touched it since.

And that's it!  I haven't been to a bookstore in a good while so I haven't gotten many new books and I read all the ones I bought already.  I'm not sure if I should feel proud of this or glad that I haven't let (many) of my books go neglected.  Either way, I'm done - I've read everything else on my shelves that qualifies.  In order to make up for this, I invite you to recommend books to read in the comments, which I will go through and see if there's anything I feel like buying... and then letting dust collect on.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Spring" Cleaning - Housekeeping #1

In the interest of preserving my sanity and providing myself with a slightly more rigid structure for this blog, I have decided to devote every 12th post to housekeeping.  I have thus far managed to keep to my intended twice-weekly schedule, but this will provide me with more tangible goals, which are just the sort of thing I am going to need if I am going to keep this up.

That being said, these posts will include information about upcoming posts, pageviews, the latest adventures of Kevin, anything else blog-related that comes to mind, my other creative projects., and an occasional special announcement.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Matter of Time - Top Ten Tuesday #4

Today's Top Ten Tuesday Topic is "Top Ten Books at the TOP of My Spring TBR list!" If perchance this is your first experience with Top Ten Tuesday, you can find more information about it here.

At last! A topic that I don't need to rely on Wikipedia!  Huzzah!  And there was much rejoicing.

Silliness and Monty Python references aside, there are a great many books I am hoping to read in the upcoming months, though only time will tell how many I will actually manage to read, time ultimately being the determining factor.  Nevertheless, here is my list of books that are my top priority to read this spring:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Thoughts on Dystopian Fiction - "Book Review" #2

Last night, as I was wasting away the time I was supposed to be using to come up with and write a blog post by looking at cats and watching videos on YouTube, it occurred to me that there was a post I had been putting off writing since before I had even begun blogging.  It was that or take up a friend on their suggestion and write a blog post about the effects of sleep deprivation on the mind and body... but a few minutes' research on the subject had me very interested in going to bed.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Glorious Wikipedia! - Top Ten Tuesday #3

Today's Top Ten Tuesday Topic is "Top Ten Series I'd Like To Start but Haven't Yet".  If perchance this is your first experience with Top Ten Tuesday, you can find more information about it here.

Doubtless, without the creation of Wikipedia, this would be a very difficult topic indeed.  Not because I can't think of any series I'd like to start, but because I can't remember their names half the time.  Now, one would think that the library would be a suitable alternative but... well... you see, the only connection between words like "voluminous" and our library is that they have a dictionary that contains them.  That is, if they have room for one.  If I had to work off of what they had, all you'd have to read would be a list of items mostly consisting of "the guy (or girl) who does the thing, the name's on the tip of my tongue, honestly". This would not only be highly embarrassing, but also fairly boring, and driving my readers to boredom is fairly low on my list of goals for this blog. Luckily, with the assistance of the Internet, I was not only able to find the names of the series, but I found ten. Huzzah!

Therefore, without further ado, my list:

1. Dragonriders of Pern - Anne McAffrey
For most of my life, a collection of these books has been sitting on the shelves in my sister's room (and several other rooms as well, I think). I have technically started this as I found a portion of one of them within a textbook my dad brought home one day. Dragons are generally interesting, and dragon riders more so (see Eragon, How to Train Your Dragon, etc).

2. The Ender Saga - Orson Scott Card
As this series has been recommended to me several times, I suppose that at some point I will have to pick up one of them and read it. Only knowing what I've been told (and what I've read about them online), there is a certain worrying similarity (at the surface at least) to Starship Troopers, but I am hopeful the similarities end there because, frankly, that film was terrible.

3. The Tales of Alvin Maker - Orson Scott Card
As is going to become readily apparent, I haven't read much by Orson Scott Card.  In fact, I haven't read anything. This one I found while researching Ender, and I find the concept intriguing.

4. The Pathfinder Series - Orson Scott Card
This series I discovered via a friend's Amazon wish list.  It's also what I ended up getting him for Christmas since it seemed interesting enough that he wasn't going to hate it and thus associate me with bad gifts. Therefore, I suppose it is only fair that I should trust in my gift-giving choices and read it for myself.

5 & 6. The Sword of Truth - Terry Goodkind; The Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan
Frankly, I know almost nothing about these two series beyond the fact that they follow the "The _______ of the _______" title format (Lord of the Rings, Return of the Jedi, March of the Penguins, etc).  However, as they're often trotted out as examples of "must read" series, I intend to find out why.

7.  Dune - Frank Herbert
After Twilight, Dune is probably the series I've heard the most about, either through television, friends, or the Internet, which has spawned countless memes about "the spice," most of them involving cats.  Even without the cats, I am intrigued to find out more about it, and reading seems to be the best route to do so.

8. The Prydain Chronicles - Lloyd Alexander
When I was little, I remember seeing Disney's The Black Cauldron for the first time and not getting it.  Years later, I saw it again and, while I enjoyed it more that time, I still didn't understand it all that well.  I've long known that the film was based on a book series, but have yet to read it.  However, I intend to, at least to find out how that story was supposed to go.

9. Allan Quatermain - H. Rider Haggard
A long time ago, I attempted to read King Solomon's Mines but never really managed it.  I got about five pages in, put it down, and never picked it up again.  The time has come to find out what I missed (or narrowly avoided).

10.  The Robot Series - Isaac Asimov
Similarly to The Black Cauldron, my desire to read this series is based on a film "adaptation" and my curiosity to see the story as the author intended.  This is doubly true in this case as I, Robot was originally not written with any connections to the Asimov stories at all and what elements of the stories they did include were only added in later.

And that's my list!  I didn't talk as much about the series themselves as I originally intended, but that's okay.  While I do hope to enjoy all of these books, the primary reason I want to pick them up is often relational rather than rooted in their content (see #4, for example).  With that in mind, I'm going to do something I haven't really attempted yet - I'm going to ask a non-rhetorical question!

When you discover a new series, what has (or would likely have) greater influence on your decision to read it - the plug on the back (or inside if it's a hardcover) or other's opinions/recommendations of it?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Meeting in the Dark - Novel Excerpt #1

Before I send you off into the world of Underking, a little back story is due.  Rather than give you the first part of the story, I have chosen a scene from a bit further on as I felt it would be more interesting.  As a result, there are things you must know.  Previous to this excerpt, our protagonist Joshua Hopkins has determined that it's high time he investigates the abandoned coal mine behind his house, which he has decided must be full of dwarves (or that he's hallucinating - he's a fairly cynical practical teenager in that respect).  So, guided by an apparently magic rune stone (hence the accusation of cynicism), he descends into the mine. However, his little adventure takes a turn for the worse when he realizes something is following him.  Now, running through the dark, he's not watching where he's going...

His feet slid out from under him, losing his footing on a puddle he hadn’t noticed.  Scrambling for a handhold, he slid on his back and found himself falling feet-first into a hole.  It was a short drop, maybe a foot at most, but it knocked the air out of his lungs as he continued to slide.  Trying to protect his head, he lost his grip on the flashlight, and it bounced away in front of him, leaving him in darkness.

He couldn’t tell how long he slid down into the darkness, being tossed to and fro as the seemingly endless hole carried him deeper into the earth.  He was sore and battered and probably bleeding from being flung against the rough stone surrounding him.  He could only hope it ended soon.

At last, the hole opened into a larger space and he was flung out, landing in what seemed to be wet sand.  A quick check found that he still had all his limbs and, thankfully, nothing seemed to be broken.

Now there was just the matter of trying to figure out where he’d ended up.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Problem with Being Dead - Top Ten Tuesday #2

Today's topic for Top Ten Tuesday is:
Top Ten Authors That I'd Put On My Auto-Buy List

Upon reading today's topic, there was a certain amount of tangent thinking that took place before actually considering the topic itself.  When they were coming up with the topics for TTT, I'm sure Broke and Bookish didn't mean for "auto-buy" to be taken literally, but I did so anyway.  After all, the idea of boxes suddenly appearing on your doorstep with crisp, new books in them does have a certain appeal to it.

However, this train of thought merely served as a delay in admitting that I had a slight problem with today's topic.  That is, the majority of my favorite authors are dead and, with the exception of the Tolkien Estate, it is unlikely that they're going to be releasing anything anytime soon.  Calls to several of their former residences resulted in voice mails from some confused current residents.  There was one voice mail from Alexandre Dumas' house that might have been angry.  I can't be sure, it was in French.

All kidding aside, I did manage to rally and come up with a list of authors who I would buy anything they published. It's not quite ten, but close with Wikipedia's help where I couldn't remember a name.

  1. God - Seeing as I don't subscribe to Nietzsche, God still counts.  Easily the most-published author all time, I would gladly read any further writings He puts out. At the very least, it would certainly be amusing to see how they worked out the copyright on that one.
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien - Granted, he is actually dead, but his son Christopher has done a commendable job ensuring that anything his father meant to publish comes to light.  Be it further ventures into Middle Earth, short stories like Roverandom, or translations of classics like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I am up for anything.
  3. Terry Pratchett - Seeing as I have read every book in the Discworld series (except maybe I Shall Wear Midnight - I honestly forget), it would be remiss of me not to include him.  Hoping for more of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg or Moist Von Lipwig!
  4. Brandon Sanderson - Thus far, I have yet to come across anything by Sanderson that I didn't enjoy immensely, and I am hoping the trend continues.  The Way of Kings is an excellent read, if you have the constitution to make it through its 1200+ pages.
  5. Eoin Colfer - I have immensely enjoyed the Artemis Fowl series thus far.  Still have a ways to go but I'm curious to see what else he publishes.
  6. Suzanne Collins - While I do have my reservations about the Hunger Games trilogy (which I will put up here, eventually), I enjoyed them enough that I would gladly give her next book a go.
  7. Cornelia Funke - If you have not yet read the Inkworld books, do so!  They are excellent books, taking a brilliant concept and carrying it to fruition masterfully.
  8. Stephen R. Lawhead - I haven't read much of Lawhead yet, mostly just the Pendragon Cycle, but I intend to keep going having gotten a taste of his work.
  9. John Green - Seeing as I have read all of his books; am subscribed to Vlogbrothers, Crash Course, ReadIt1st; and have a ticket to Vidcon, John Green certainly is deserving of a spot on this list!
And there you have it!  Almost made it to 10, but I couldn't think of a 10th. If you'd like to suggest a 10th, feel free!  I may just give them a try.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Preview of Things to Come

Kevin asks me to remind you all that keyboards are not placemats, and should not be used as such. Personally, I say have at it - he's been using my undershirts to try and make a hot air balloon. I'm not sure if I should be indignant at the abuse of my clothing or worried that he's succeeding.

Moving on from the activities of my cleaning figment - as I stated in my initial post, one of the purposes of this blog was to share some of my previously-written works with those who are interested.  Therefore, I feel it is appropriate to announce that, in 7 days, I will be releasing a short excerpt from one of my long-form works, up to 2,000 words, for you to read.

The tricky part is deciding which one to pull from.

I have, to date, three novels in the works, four if you include one that I lost to hard drive death but could get down on paper again fairly easily if I so chose.  However, I don't feel that one is as well thought out as the others (and one of them is barely thought out at all), so I shall not be putting it into the rotation for consideration.

That being said, here are the two possibilities that you may find some tantalizing bits of waiting for you:
Teind: In the woods of Pennsylvania, Fairies have made for themselves a new home.  Only, these aren't the cute, flittery things that little girls like to imagine.  In fact, if you bring up flittery little things in the presence of some fae folk, they'd probably beat you and leave you in a ditch.  These are the old faeries, found in the really old tales from before the pixies went and ruined everything, and there's no guarantee that they're nice.  One brave (or very foolish) faerie has gone and made a wager he can't keep, and it's up to a ragtag group of fae folk - and some humans they drag into it - to set things right.  But the Teind must be paid, and they will soon find that the lives they might save might just be their own.
Underking: Dwarves. Hardy, industrious, reliable folk.  Master craftsmen, proud warriors, lovers of sagas and song... and that all-night waffle place on I-79.
Josh Hopkins thought his life couldn't get much weirder when his family moved into a big old house in Middle-of-Nowhere West Virginia, but that was before THEY showed up.  Now, he has to corral seven dwarves (not those dwarves) around under his parents' nose, which might be fun if they listened.  But it's not all fun and games, having your very own party of dwarves.  You don't get a reputation for being great warriors if you don't fight any wars, and one's about to break out right under their feet.
 And there you have it!  If you so choose, you may vote for which of these you would like to see, but I shall make the decision on my own if there aren't sufficient votes either way.  This is all I will  be posting for today, as it has been rather hectic and I have a burning desire to sit down and read a book.  That, and I think Kevin got himself stuck in a tree.

One final note - I have surpassed 100 views! Yay! The total right now is 108, with views from four countries!  Thank you to those of you who are taking the time to read this, I truly do appreciate it!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

This Might Be Cheating... - Top Ten Tuesday #1

Since I have restarted blogging, I've come to wonder what I was thinking in choosing Tuesdays and Thursdays as the days on which I will write as these are the longest days of the week.  If I meant that they somehow defied the standard progression of time and lasted 25 hours instead of the usual 24, this would be "fine", if regrettably insane.  Rather, I mean they are the days on which I spend the most time at the office.  Still, I plan to stick to my schedule regardless of the inconvenience.

As this is my first foray into Top Ten Tuesday, it may also be the first you've heard of it.  Therefore, a quick rundown might be due:

Top Ten Tuesday is a blogging feature conceptualized by the writers of Broke and Bookish.  The rules are simple - each week, there's a new featured topic which you can use to create your list, and then you just link it back to them.  It isn't necessary to come up with ten items for your list, but ten works best both functionally and alliteratively.  Two would be too few, twelve too many, and anything from twenty on up would be considered Cruelty to Bloggers unless it is a very broad topic.

Today's topic is "Top Ten Favorite Characters in X Genre".  Now, the likely assumption would be that the "x" is meant to imply "insert your own choice of genre here".  However, I have decided instead to see it as the algebraic "x", a variable with no set value except when one is applied to it by either the formula or the person working on it.  Thus, I am simply going to list my top ten favorite characters - thankfully, they're mostly characters from fantasy novels, so I am only cheating a little.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cheap Chocolate Day Eve - "Opinion" Piece #1

As I am sitting here, nibbling away at a heart-shaped cookie given to me by a coworker, it would seem appropriate to talk about Valentine's Day, Chocolate Awareness Day, Singles Awareness Day or, if you're really not feeling celebratory, Thursday.

Upon further consideration, I don't think I will.  Besides the fact that the origins of the holiday are dubious at best, there's something about the concept itself that I don't like.

Anyway, let us instead consider the part of the holiday that (almost) all of us can agree that we enjoy...

The chocolate.

Chocolate is, at its base level, a blend of cocoa and a sweetener.  It's slightly more complex than that but this will suffice for now.  The most popular form of this confection, milk chocolate, has an additional base ingredient but if I need to tell you what it is, then you may turn in your diploma(s) and look forward to a successful career as a reality television star... or perhaps a politician.


Chocolate got its start in the Americas, and has since spread to every corner of the world, except maybe North Korea, though I am somewhat unsure on that point. Kim Jong Un didn't get his figure eating sushi, after all.

This does lead to a question - why?  What is it exactly about chocolate that has lead to its rampant popularity?

The most obvious answer would be flavour, but is that all?  Thanks to the increasing connectivity provided by easier travel, immigration, and the internet, different cuisines from around the world have spread to places they wouldn't have been able to in the past. However, chocolate has outdone many of them (for example, more people will willingly eat chocolate than, say, sushi despite the increasing availability thereof).  Even other sweets with equal distribution aren't nearly as popular. Think about it - if you were to offer someone a chocolate bar or a lollipop, how many do you think would take the lollipop?

The second popular theory is the caffeine content, which I'm fairly convinced is bunk.  The average bar of chocolate has only slightly more caffeine than a cup of decaf coffee.  Yes, decaf coffee has caffeine in it, and it's still more than the chocolate so, like I said, bunk.

No, I am fairly convinced the main reason why chocolate is the candy king is because of its versatility.  You can have it as a bar, of course, but you can also drink it, dip things in it, put filling in it, inhale it (I'm not kidding), use it as a seasoning on chicken (still not kidding), and it tastes great with bacon (ditto).  That's just a few of the things you can do with it.  You're never going to see someone make a jolly rancher fountain - it'd look splendid for about fifteen seconds before it hardened and then you'd be stuck with a diabetic lampshade, if you can get it unstuck from the counter.

So in conclusion, it is chocolate's seemingly infinite adaptability that makes it king.  That, and better marketing.  It's really all down to marketing, in the end.

I need to be off now, Kevin's gone and eaten all the chocolate and is turning green... which he's not supposed to be.  He's generally a shade of brown.

Also, the name of this post is a bit of a misnomer.  While there will certainly be lots of leftover candy selling for cheap tomorrow, the BEST day to get clearance candy is November 1st.  See, while your girlfriend/fiance/wife might be disappointed if you buy her sub-par candy, she's probably not going to egg your house for it.

Note I said probably. I can't make any promises.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stories Over Tea - Short Story Improv #1

The story that follows is something I have decided to refer to as an "improv" - a story that I came up with the concept for and then wrote, on the fly with little to no planning. This first one is a story about an old war veteran and a young boy meeting in a coffee shop.  Enjoy !

~ Dr. Ewan Lowe shuffled to the counter of the coffee shop, collected his cup of tea from the barista, and moved to his usual spot – a worn, sagging leather armchair that seemed to have seen as many years as he had.  In truth, it had not seen quite so many, but it was close.  It had been there longer than the shop - Rick’s - even, the last vestige of the house it once had been.

He sat down with a contented sigh and picked up a newspaper, flipping past the usual eye grabbers – the stories of death and corruption and, of course, the page with the pictures of local children doing the things that their mothers and fathers would insist on showing off to anyone who made eye contact.  It was a small town, so he knew most of the parents and which to avoid after the paper came out.  It was a skill, one he was unabashedly proud of.

At last, he found the editorial section and settled in to read.  It amused him how people felt the First Amendment was their ticket to spread their uneducated opinions on every little thing that came up. Still, they were sometimes insightful, and he didn't see any harm in reading.  It seemed someone should.

He was just getting into a rather lengthy (and incorrect) summation of a recent town hall meeting when he realized that there was someone else in his corner.  Peeling down one corner of the paper, he glanced at the person who had intruded upon his solitude.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Inside Out - "Book Review" #1

Having only just resumed the "blogging thing", I found myself at something of a loss regarding what to actually write about.  Not in the general sense, but in the specific.  Specifically, this, my first actual post. Last night's doesn't count - introductions are mandatory, it's what you write after that matters.

So here's something I was thinking about.

For my birthday, my sister bought me a box set of books by YA novelist John Green.  Perhaps this was meant to be some sort of bribe to cut down on the incessant tin whistling, but it was very much appreciated anyway as I am a big fan of his works.  I owned two of his books, Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars (three if you count his zombicorn novella), but now I owned ALL OF THEM.  Well, those works that are solely attributed to him, but that is an acceptable definition of all.  So I have begun reading the other two, An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska.

John's books all deal, to a varying extent, with loss.  Be it because of death, departure, dumpers, or the nigh-unstoppable globalization of manufacturing, it's in there somewhere.  Just as we ourselves must do when facing loss, the characters within must come to terms with this loss however they can.

However, this isn't what makes John's books interesting.  Sure, loss can be a gripping story element - it's difficult to imagine the Grapes of Wraith would have as great an impact if it hadn't been placed in the Great Depression, and it is equally difficult to imagine that Moby Dick would be as interesting a story if Captain Ahab hadn't been driven mad by his desire for revenge against the whale to whom he lost his leg.  ...When put like that, it almost sounds like they were playing poker together.  Unnecessary spoiler:  They weren't.

No, what makes them truly interesting books is the characters.  Only, not the main characters.  Be it the irreverent but likable Hassan, the troubled Alaska, or the Black-Santa-Besieged Radar, they all seem to be far more fascinating than the main character (I make an exception for Hazel, who I find holds her own the best of the narrators).  They seem to act as canvases upon whom the others paint their own stories, acting on their own only as a reaction to outside influence.  Pudge and Alaska; Colin and Hassan & Lindsey; Q and Margo. The stories are different, but this narrative framework holds true for them all.

While this may seem like a fault to some, this isn't the case.  The reason for this is not so much that the other characters ARE more fascinating than the narrators, but because that is how we often imagine others. As the narrators are only human, albeit fictional ones, they do so as well.

John Green is fond of talking about the need to imagine others complexly.   Often, when we look at others, we only see the surface things - those traits that they publicly display.  Other times, we attempt to shape them into what we think they should be, which are often reflections of ourselves.  If we assume that either of these are the total sum of who this person is, we are committing a great injustice because we fail to see them for who they truly are.  It is also unjust to ourselves, as we run the risk of comparing ourselves to something akin to an Ubermensch that we have made them into in our heads.  Colin makes this mistake when he assumes that Hassan is a sort of emotional Achilles, unaffected by anything that goes on around him (despite the dingleberries).

There probably isn't a human being on earth (at least, not one who isn't insufferably egotistical) who doesn't carry with them their own fears, insecurities, and secrets.  Some have less than others, some have more, but they all have them, and they are pieces of the puzzle that make up who they are, pieces we usually don't get to see.  If you were to ask them, and they opened up and told you, they probably wouldn't find themselves as fascinating as you do.  To them, they are just themselves.  To them, being excellent at, for example, pottery or writing or taking ideas and spinning them on their heads is just part of who they are.  In fact, they might find you more fascinating than you do.

It's all a matter of perspective - we spend our whole lives inside these little bubbles called our heads and it can be incredibly difficult to understand what is going on in the little bubbles of those around us.  It takes time and trust, both of which can be hard to obtain in sufficient measure.  Wouldn't it be helpful if sometimes to see ourselves as others do - just take our minds and turn them inside out?

~~ As you may have noticed, this isn't your typical book review (at least, not as I imagine them in my head... I haven't read all that many).  I don't have a problem with the typical format, I just personally wouldn't want to write that when I can see that there are better (aka more meaningful) things to discuss.  While it's important as a reviewer to write about what you felt while reading a book, it is equally valid to write about what you thought - either while reading or as a result thereof.  They might not be original - what I've said here has been said before, but it matters no less for it.

A lot of what I like to read doesn't lend itself to the sort of mental exercise that these books do, so there will be some more conventional reviews.  Later though, not tonight.  I think this post has gone on quite long enough, don't you?

Kevin says hello

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Introduction (by Way of Rambling)


Well, not really, he's only here on the weekends to do the tidying up.  His name's Kevin.*

As I am soldiering through this, my first attempt at blogging in some two years, I am surrounded by furniture that is nearly - but not quite - TARDIS blue.  It's a little too purple in tone, but that does little to dampen my enthusiasm for the idea of turning my wardrobe into a TARDIS.  

Which tells you absolutely nothing, except that I happen to like Doctor Who.

For those of you who may have stumbled across this via a friend or perhaps even a particularly specific Google search that somehow brought you here of all places, this will serve as an introduction.

My name is Sean. I'm currently 25, though mentally I am somewhere between 4 and 97, depending on my access to socialization, coffee, and/or sugar.  I work for a newspaper publisher, assisting the people who make sure that the mom & pop shops get a voice too.  In my free time, I like to write (passably), draw (acceptably), play computer games (predictably), play tin whistle (to my sister's dismay), photograph things (amateurishly), and collect items that, to a varying degree, can best be described as "esoteric".  To save you the trouble of looking up this word if you don't know it, I can tell you that it is, essentially, synonymous with "nerdy".
I'm also a Christian, and a conservative republican.  This WILL affect my viewpoint on certain things that I may or may not choose to post on (though I dislike discussing politics, so there's one thing we can agree on regardless of our party affiliation).

Moving on, the purpose of this blog is threefold.  These purposes are:

  1. To entertain.  Whether or not I manage that will largely depend on you... and I'm not going to quote that Russel Crowe film.  When viewed from a broad perspective, he had it fairly easy - Take sword, shove pointy end in other fellow with sword, everyone's happy. I'm just guessing at this point, though I can probably rule out the "stabbing people with swords" thing.  I can't see people lining up for that one and, frankly, it seems a waste of humanity.
  2. To placate relatives.  Okay, maybe "placate" isn't the best word choice but it was that or mollify and I can't spend all night deciding which to use.  Anyway, several members of my family have asked me at numerous points if they could see some of what I've written.  I tend to be... a little bit protective of the stories I write. "Little Bit" being defined here as "zealously as the dragon doth guard his gilded hoard".  Admittedly, this isn't the best way to collect constructive criticism, so this is my... attempt to share.
  3. To create. Writing long form works such as Teind and Underking (which almost none of you know anything about yet) is rewarding in its way, but they have yet to deliver on that most enjoyable sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing something.  This is meant to rectify that somewhat by providing a less demanding creative outlet.
Ok, now that's done with, it's time to move on to the really really important bit - what to expect from this.
  1. Two posts a week, on Tuesday's and Thursday's or Friday's.  This number is both the minimum AND the maximum, barring weekly/monthly challenges.  This isn't replacing anything else, but an addition.  If anything, I'm probably going to cut out time spent on computer games.  This will be the only Wednesday post for the foreseeable future - Wednesday is chill time (if chill time is allowed to mean "trying to catch up my Bible in a Year reading).
  2. Less lists.  In trying to get everything I feel needs to be said (HA!) in this first post, there are an inordinate number of lists. I promise this will be the last one in this post that will be a numbered list.
  3. Shorter posts. I will probably be writing these over lunch, which is a lot shorter than the time I've been writing this.
  4. Content - there will be book reviews, photo posts (with related text, no cop out posts!), thoughts on things I've recently learned, philosophical observations, musical compositions, updates on my life, whatever else I choose to discuss, and maybe some of those Top Ten Tuesday things that my sister does (there will be a link to her blog at some point on this site, if there is not already).
Finally, in conclusion, I offer a warning to my English and Writing major friends - I am fond of parenthetical statements (as you have probably noticed), ending sentences with prepositions, the Oxford comma, and generally writing things as I feel they should be written, regardless of any grammatical rules that might be broken in the process.  This isn't a paper that I'm submitting to a professor, so I will be floating somewhere between conversational and the rambling academic style I sometimes employ when I'm feeling "fancy". Consider yourselves warned.

* Any resemblance to real-world Kevin's is purely coincidental.