I nuked my Twitter account

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I meant to get this done a few weeks ago, but it was hard to find an app that could handle my entire archive of almost 28,000 tweets. Which, when you think about it, is a lot of bullcrap to be talking about in short bursts. That’s got a lot to do with why I wanted to scrap the whole thing.

My apologies to anyone who RT’d or Fave’d my stuff in the last couple of days. I’m really trying to minimize my digital footprint with regards to insubstantial things. I am friends with groups of people in wide circles (some writers, some fellow Christians, some general old friends, etc) and will use Twitter to engage in discussions with them as I see fit, but for the most part I wanted to really scale back my presence on there because it’s dumb, it’s a mob hive, and its rules are ever-changing with the intent punishing people @Jack doesn’t like.

So yeah, all my tweets, boom, gone. Nine years’ worth of them. I have an archive, so that’s fine. But they’re not hanging out there in cyberspace, reminding me that I have put a lot of junk onto the Web in the last decade.

Happy Monday, peeps.

Recent Reads, Fever Dream edition

This is a big update so let’s keep it quick:

The Last Wish, Andrzej Sapkowski. This is from The Witcher, a popular Polish fantasy series that started in the 90s, became a video game, and will soon be a Netflix series with Henry Cavill. I got a ways into the audiobook before I caught the flu and spent a whole night dreaming CRAZY stuff about The Witcher while trying not to barf. So I couldn’t finish it. But it was interesting.

Squanto, Charles River Editors. A seasonal pick, and a really good one. It relies on a lot of original sources, which are rare enough, so it paints a more accurate picture than the footnote stuff you get in school.

The Witch Elm, Tana French. An extremely talented author, this book had a strong hook and gorgeous writing, but it wandered and ultimately failed to land for me.

Skyward, Brandon Sanderson. Love this dude, love his stories, this was one of his quicker-paced books and was really well done.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson. She’s a famous blogger, known for her humor, so I picked this up. It was really hilarious in parts, but like most blogger books, it got repetitive in tone and moral.

Veritas, Quinn Coleridge. A supernatural semi-frontier story in 1890s Colorado, featuring a main character who is a blind-mute. The latter half delved into a lot of darkness and torture but it was overall a good read and I will pick up the sequel.

Dragonwatch: Wrath of the Dragon King, Brandon Mull. A favorite series of mine, though apparently these are now coming out eighteen months apart? Bummer to wait that long. Typical good middle grade fantasy, though the ending cliffhanger involves a main character getting amnesia, and I kind of hate that as a plot device. Nevertheless I will read the next one…when I’m halfway to my next-next birthday. ūüė°

Heroes get remembered, legends never die.

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While it may be premature to call Michael Crichton a legend after ten years, the man was certainly prolific, productive, and proficient. I will always heap praise on his imagination as well as his technical knowledge, his zeal for research, and his ability to take that which is “commonly known to be impossible…”

…and make me believe that it is not only possible, but about to happen.

Time travel. Cloned dinosaurs. Alien probes that give us godlike powers¬†by accident. Gnarly aggressive gorillas that really don’t want us taking diamonds from Africa. And that’s just a small sampling of his work that I’ve read.

The man had the #1 book, movie, and TV show in America at the same time in the 1990s. He wrote novels to pay his way through medical school because oh yeah, he was a freaking doctor.

When I hit seventh grade, and was just about tired of middle grade/young adult books (keep in mind that¬†Harry Potter¬†wasn’t a thing yet), I made the jump to big-time sci-fi so I could read THE LOST WORLD and then JURASSIC PARK. (Oops. Order, and such.)

Then I gobbled up whatever else of his I could, partly because I was much less picky, and partly because I didn’t know why I liked what I liked, only that I liked it, and I didn’t have this idea in my head that I only had time to read the best of anything. Some of his stuff wasn’t the greatest, but most of it was, and it fueled my drive to tell my own stories.

Granted, I made up a lot of stuff that he would have researched, but hey, baby steps.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of his passing due to cancer. It was significant enough in my life that I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news.

I’m just glad that he left so much of his time and work for people to enjoy even after his death, in the form of books. The fact that they’re good, and historically significant in American culture, ensures that many future generations will have the chance to enjoy them as I have, and that makes me happy.

RIP, Mr. Crichton. And thank you for your labors.

The Synchronicity of HallowThankMas

You guys, I love this time of year. I love having a huge holiday to look forward to each month. Decorating, making treats, smelling the seasonal smells and seeing the seasonal sights…yeah, I’m one of those guys. The rest of the year is one huge giant slog, with an intermission in July for some crucial birthdays. Other than that, we’re all counting down to the Big Three:

Halloween!

Wherein we embrace death, the universal destination of life. The price that all men must pay. That innate fear within humanity. Some approach it with varying degrees of severity; I prefer the whimsical touch, with an understanding of the reality of death, of the necessity of fear, and our ability to live joyfully in spite of these two things we can’t control.

Thanksgiving!

That mighty feast of the harvest, wherein we take a look at how full our lives really are, how we have reliable channels to sustenance, an abundance of rich and delicious things to fill our bellies. A day of friendship and family and football and food comas…in my adult years so far, I have come to understand the innate value of all of this, especially in such a tumultuous world. Did my parents worry about my future the way I worry about my children’s? Perhaps. ‘Tis only human. But on this day, and in this season, I set aside the worry for what is to come, and revel in gratitude for what has already arrived.

Christmas!

O, thou art the grandest of kahunas. (Kahuni?) That capstone of the year, bursting with color and magic and fulfillment of wishes…of TV specials and blinking lights and mystery gifts in the living room…where reindeer fly and fat men pull one all-nighter and the bank account gets mugged like a cripple in a bad part of town. And the music! Oh, we could gush for days about the music. But we’d rather just listen to it.

Much like Thanksgiving, the lens of adulthood shifts the meaning of Christmas for me. I had a few rough ones in my twenties, on my own, short on funds, trying to make sense of certain trials in my life. While I still chase that childhood feeling, and see my boys lap it up like I did, the deeper meaning is clearer to me. Keeping Christ at the center of it is crucial, because ultimately it’s a holiday about God keeping a promise He made to us.

There is a synchronicity among these holidays, perhaps unintentional, but one that I find all the same: we live in a world where forces can exert their will on us, and we can’t always fight back, and at times we may despair because we know death is at the end of the road.

Yet we also live in a world of plenty, and with our cup running over, we can reflect on the bounties of life, and their real value.

Because ultimately this life is fleeting, and though death comes, its sting is gone, swallowed up in the fulfillment of a divine promise.

I love that we get to remember those things every year. That we dress it up in a parade that smothers all senses, with colors and tastes and smells and heart-shattering joy.

I can endure nine months of the hard, cruel grind of life if I know there’s a respite at the end of the road. Three gory, gracious, gift-laden months of respite.

I love you guys. I love this time of year. I love this life–especially when it’s going great, and even when it sucks.

I hope you love it too.

31 Days of Inktober

Well, I finally participated in Inktober, and did 31 original pieces. It was fun and I learned a lot about my skill level. Thank you for following on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram as I revealed new ones.

I will definitely do it next year, and will probably even follow the official prompt list.

For now, I am setting aside my drawing pad and taking up the keyboard to participate in NaNoWriMo. See you on the other side!

Shusterman’s waterless disaster novel is anything but dry

Neal Shusterman is in my top 10 of all authors, and it will be hard for anyone to edge him out for a long time.

Between the 4 Unwind books, the Skinjacker trilogy, the current Arc of a Scythe books, and such standalones as CHALLENGER DEEP and BRUISER, he’s proven himself competent and capable at delivering on the promises of his big ideas.

DRY is another standalone, co-authored with his son Jarrod, which I admit gave me a moment’s pause when I first heard about it. Was it mostly Jarrod? Was I in for an entirely different treatment from the eleven other Neal books I had loved?

I needn’t have worried, as DRY lands just as well as anything else the elder Shusterman has done. I would very much like to hear from both of them about their process and how they worked together to tell this story.

The premise is that Nevada and Arizona suddenly pull out of an arrangement with California that supplies most of their water.

Immediately society goes to hell, and people go feral, an idea that Shusterman explored back in Unwind, but this is a more grounded treatment.

DRY doesn’t depend on future tech or massive changes to the legal landscape of America. It’s not a “after [crazy thing X] comes [crazy thing Y], which parallels our reality.” Instead, it’s “we are very much on the cusp of this, because California has a water problem that they aren’t addressing.”

I don’t want to give anything away, because you should read it. I will only say these things about it:

1) The characters are great. Well-rounded, distinct in tone, and even though it’s mostly written in first person, the alternating viewpoints are clear.

2) The audiobook had six or seven narrators, which helped to expand the focus of the instant drought, and show how it affected so many people.

3) The book works well as a commentary on our society, in terms of emergency preparation, entitlement, self-interest, and the things people will do to each other when law and order go out the window.

I will say, in the end, that it was kind of a hard book to read, because it was so devastating, and so many people suffered. The Shustermans don’t cushion the blow with this story; if California were to lose its water supply in real life, millions of people would suffer, and the book allows us to safely examine that without the massive toll.

Final note, there is a content warning: numerous S-bombs and blasphemous exclamations litter the text. Convincingly so, but there. It would be a PG-13 movie.

Read on.

Ichabod Crane was not a sexy dude.

I wrote about this back in 2013 on my old blog, and it’s a good time to revisit this subject.

Washington Irving’s best-known tale is¬†The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,¬†featuring lanky Connecticut schoolmaster Ichabod Crane versus the ghost of the Headless Horseman.

Everyone has heard of the story, due to its staying power over the centuries (Irving wrote it in the early 1800s) but Hollywood tends to butcher the important parts.

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The two most recent adaptations were Sleepy Hollow from 1999, wherein Ichabod Crane is a sexy supernatural detective played by Johnny Depp, in his pre-Jack Sparrow days.

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Later he was played by Tom Mison in the TV show “Sleepy Hollow,” which was a wild, wild departure from just about anything having to do with Irving’s classic (other than Ichabod, Katrina, and the Horseman.)

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Apparently Jeff Goldblum portrayed Ichabod in a for-TV version of the movie back in the early 1980s. This version of the character was closer to accurate, even if the story wasn’t.

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To date, the most correct portrayal I’ve seen is the animated Disney version from many many decades ago. Both the character and the story are directly adapted from what Irving crafted.

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I bring this up because I usually read¬†The Legend of Sleepy Hollow¬†in October, and have for the past five or six years. Yesterday I plugged in the audio (I have the version narrated by Tom Mison, funnily enough) and as always, it’s a striking feat of language and emotion and storytelling.

This story always draws me in, and not just because Irving was a fantastic writer; I found out back in 2015 that I actually have a ancestors buried in the Old Dutch Church Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York. (Their names were Dirke Storm and Gregoris Storm.)

Naturally this has fueled my imagination for some time, and I’ve poured that fuel into a story idea that I’ve been kicking around since my twenties. I’ve tried tackling it before, only to fail, but this is the year that I can make it happen.

So my NaNoWriMo novel is called SLEEPLESS HOLLOW. It’s a modern-day follow-up to Irving’s original story, one that treats it all as historical fact, and accurately portrays the characters he created.

I won’t get into too many details for now, just know that SLEEPLESS HOLLOW is going to be my big release of 2019. It will be about a year before you guys get to read it, but check back here for updates and snippets as I write and illustrate it.

And if you need something to hold you over in the meantime, head over to http://www.gutenberg.org and grab a free ebook copy of Irving’s¬†Legend.¬†Fall in love with it like I do every time I read it.

There is more to be discovered in that sleepy little villa…

Reading Update! October Edition.

As per usual, I am burning through audiobooks at work (thanks largely to my library’s OverDrive selection–they don’t have everything I look for, but they have so many things I end up wanting to read and it is good to branch out.)

Obviously the October theme is the spooky stuff, whether horrific or whimsical. I am interspersing these reads with other stuff. Here is what I have been into:

SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT by Derek Landy. Heard about this years ago, finally got around to it, truly a delight. Middle-grade fantasy about a girl, Stephanie, in Ireland who inherits her rich uncle’s estate, only to end up in a sorcerer war. The eponymous Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton of a wizard who died a long time ago and is now a detective. He and Stephanie team up for an adventure. Hilarious wit and dialogue, great characters, and the story itself was plain but fun. I will read another.

A WALK IN THE WOODS by Bill Bryson. If you expect this saga of an Appalachian Trail hike to be insightful, fulfilling, or remotely of substance, you should set that expectation aside and brace yourself for accounts of annoying people with bad decision making processes who ultimately bail on the trail without completing even half of it. The only redeeming parts were the historical and scientific tidbits about the Trail, which you can probably read on Wikipedia. This book sucked, read Gary Paulsen instead.

CALL OF CTHULHU by H.P. Lovecraft. I have never read HPL and decided to correct that this year. Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it, it’s a forerunner to the modern horror genre and I see why. Glad I read it, won’t really prioritize other stuff over it. I see why people dig his writing though.

UNDER A GRAVEYARD SKY by John Ringo. Lifted my ban on zombie books to read this. 70 pages in, liking it so far.

And then…

DRY by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman.

Not going to say anything until I finish and write a full review, other than there is a reason why I have read 11 of Shusterman’s books and he is #$%@ing BRILLIANT.

More to come! Stay dreadful.

Recent Reads

Here’s what I have read lately, what I’m reading now, and what I’ll read soon.

Previously…

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RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard. Verdict? It was a good book and deserves its fanbase. Did I get into it? Not really, but not through any fault of the novel; it’s a well-done assemblage of tropes for the young adult “fight the power” genre, and I already have favorites in that sub-category. The apex characters for me are Katniss Everdeen and Darrow of Lykos, and any new character would have to surpass them for me to go crazy over the book.

So check if out if you’re into that, it works pretty well on its own.

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DREAM OF THE IRON DRAGON by Robert Kroese. I’m Twitter-friends with Rob, but if I hadn’t really liked this book, I wouldn’t plug it here. Solid 5 stars, really cool story that starts in space in the future, and ends up with a spaceship crashing in Viking times. Stoked to read the next one.

Content note: fair amount of profanity including F-bombs, normal combat violence, no sensuality.

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THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, BBC full-cast audio rendition. It’s taken me about 15 or 16 years to admit it, but it turns out that I actually don’t like reading these books in their fully-caffeinated iterations, nor do I enjoy listening to them. I like the movies! And these condensed-but-complete radio readings are also pretty enjoyable.

Fun fact, this was recorded in 1981, and Frodo was voiced by Ian Holm, who later went on to play Bilbo in Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. Sam was voiced by Bill Nighy, a.k.a. Davy Jones from the¬†Pirates¬†flicks.

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POWERS OF THE EARTH by Travis J.I. Corcoran. Lamentably I gave it three stars, only because so many of the characters were just caricatures of one form of idealism or another, and the author’s favorites were always heavily presented as the smart ones (though a lot of them were jerks.)

To its credit, the book boasts high-stakes conflict and tension, and a wealth of imagination on the tech-and-science side of things. I can see why it won a Prometheus award for hard sci-fi. But if it lives up to the moniker of “Atlas Shrugged¬†in space” (and it does), then it takes the strengths of Ayn Rand’s classic novel as well as its flaws.

 

And at present I am reading…

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One is a sci-fi about drillers that fight an evil dragon, and one is about how to write sci-fi about drillers fighting evil dragons.

Also:

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In the mornings I toggle back and forth between some Church history books, about the early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Man, we easily forget how comfortable our lives are in the modern age…

 

And coming up…

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds audiobook cover art

The final installment in a Sanderson trilogy, and

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A hike down the Appalachians.

 

Stay tuned, fans.

9/11 at 17 and 34

Not too much to say here, only that it’s been 17 years since 9/11, and I was 17 when it happened. I am now working with a group of youths at my church who weren’t born when it happened.

In the years since, we have constantly been in a hyper-politicized war in the Middle East, first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq. We wanted to crush the terrorist groups responsible. We wanted to remove their ability to ever do this to us or anyone ever again.

Clearly we haven’t achieved this and I don’t know what the answer is. We have a ton of veterans, dead soldiers, and monetary debt, and what to show for it? We keep crushing terrorists and their cells and their leaders and their offshoots in an endless game of Whack-a-Mole. One goes down, another pops up.

If we pull back, they surge and kill civilians. If we keep going, then…I don’t know.

I have spent half my life now in a country funding a war effort. I want to win, and have done with it.

I’m just one person. I don’t know what I can do.

I just want to remember the lessons of that day, remember what the world was like before it, and hope my kids can get a taste of it in the future.

Let’s be better.