Thank you for visiting!

You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my fantasy adventure series. Visit the Edge of the World! Come for the view, stay for the adventure!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It is not the teller, but the tale-

There existed an era before the Internet, television, and even the telephone. It was a time when stories and ideas were conveyed through writing. Letters, books and scrolls. You have probably seen printed books, written on paper. They are still common, though I wonder if that will remain the case. That, however, will be another story.

Printing is even a relatively new invention. Machines that did the work of the scribe. The scribe. A person devoted to the hand copying of letters, books and scrolls. Tediously placing ink on paper or thin animal skins, the stories and ideas of the past were maintained and transmitted. New stories and ideas were added, over time.

There existed an era before that. A time out of time, in which storytellers collected and passed on by word of mouth the ideas and stories of the past. The divisions we are familiar with did not exist. Science, religion, history, and fiction were all melded into the stories handed down from the past. Into the mix were added new tales to teach and to remember.

I am among those who tell tales. I am a story teller. It is a delightful task, and a mystical experience. Mystical, because I intentionally open myself to the sense of all of that history, and even prehistory. I suspect not all tellers of tales open themselves in this way, but I have a mystical bent. I feel that it enhances my experiences, and hope that it adds dimension to my tales.

Some years ago I would sit late at night and write by candlelight. I would use a pen which had to be dipped into ink to charge the nib for writing. I did this intentionally, writing by the same light that untold generations before me used to write. I did this intentionally, using a technology that was archaic. Pens of metal, pens of glass. Even pens of quills plucked from birds, though those are surprisingly difficult to use.

I was intentionally reaching back across history while writing into the future. Standing hand in hand with a long line of the tellers of tales, stretching from campfires eons dead through the moment of my life and onward into an unknown and little guessed future. I felt it, mostly because I wanted to feel it. Mysticism is rooted in the imagination.

In a discussion with atheists who happened to be scientist, or perhaps scientists who happened to be atheists, I recalled to them a documentary I had watched that described the telling of tales in remaining societies that exist outside of the world of the written word. People who teach their children with spoken words as they sit around camp fires. The tales told contain the whole world.

I proposed that the story is the primary mode by which humans have come to know the world for a very long time. My scientist friends agreed, but seemed to be of the opinion that a more 'scientific' mode of communication would be better. I am not sure what they meant, but they missed my point. I was suggesting that if they wanted their precious science to be known, really known, by the whole of humanity, it would have to be given to them in stories.

They seek to cleanse their science of that which is mystical, hoping to purify it and remove the stain of such artifacts of the past. That is unfortunate, and sad. I believe that science has much to contribute to the tale, but a story devoid of mystery becomes nothing more than a list of words. Yet the ongoing tale has been made strong by the order and structure given by science. We all err if we discount too readily any aspect of the tale.

Indeed, the tale grows rich and diverse in our modern time. It is informed by many disciplines, each a wealth of knowledge. It is made broad by so many modes of telling the tale. Technology has made the world small enough for us to experience a great deal of it in the short span of our lives. By making it small it has made the world even more vast in our experience than the world of mysterious unknown in which our precursors dwelt.

Technology has given us tools to tell the tale in ever changing ways. The transition from scribes tools to printing presses was revolutionary in human history. The transitions of our own day will bring forth revolutionary changes that will challenge the imagination. Yet the imagination is powerful, and will embrace these mysteries and distill them into marvelous tales. Whatever the tools, the storytellers will be there to gather the past and hand it on to the future.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

iPhone fail-

Yesterday my iPhone began running rough. Transitions and scrolling were not smooth. I figured it was some issue with the Internet. Late in the evening it got worse. Then, to bed. I plugged the phone into the charger. Minutes later it rebooted itself. I checked it, shrugged, and went back to my pillow. It did it again. It makes an unpleasant sound in the night when it reboots, so I shut it off.

This morning, upon starting up, it rebooted itself again. I did a search. MacRumors had a thread on the subject. The solution? A restore. Hold down the power and home buttons for about 25 seconds. The phone goes into restore mode. Connect to iTunes on your computer. iTunes detects the phone in restore mode, and provides instructions. My restore took about 40 minutes. It was relatively painless.

Unfortunately, the thread I used to learn the fix did not have any indication of the cause of the problem. I found several other threads with similar advice, but no indication of the cause. We shall see if the problem comes back. Most users complained of this type of issue after doing some unorthodox or unauthorized software or hardware modifications. I haven't done any of that, so I am hopeful I have found a solution.

If you have a smart phone that syncs with some kind of program on your PC, as the iPhone does with iTunes, it is a good idea to let them talk to each other once in a while. Backups need to be run, and software updates made. Though this modern technology is pretty smart, the operator must still be involved once in a while.

I have found that just a little regular maintenance on my tools keeps them sharp and ready to use, whether a knife or an iPhone. Just a suggestion. Keep up on your updates, and backup frequently.

Monday, December 12, 2011

News from the Edge of the World-

One of my readers reminded me that I haven't done an update on my current novel in progress. It is the fourth novel in my Edge of the World series. Up until recently I had been making good progress on this novel, and regular updates were occurring as I wrote. Then changes came upon me.

Good changes. The Endless Move to Medford, Oregon, had another phase begin. Our plan had been to sell our home in Felton, California (near Santa Cruz) and move to Medford to ease our retirement life. Living in Medford is a lot less expensive. Additionally, we anticipated buying two homes, one for my wife, my mother-in-law, and myself. Another for my daughter and her family. Hopefully, with a situation to provide temporary housing for my sons, should they need a fall-back position.

The first phase had some bumps, and consumed the better part of a year. Selling a house in a bad economy is challenging. That challenge was met, and we got moved. We bought a house, and for a time lived all together in too little space. That was phase two. Phase three began about two months ago, and we eventually completed the purchase of a second home here in Medford and got my daughter's family moved in.

Phase three, unfortunately, consumed a surprisingly large amount of time. That challenged the writing process, which fell by the way-side. Additionally, cold weather moved in. My place of writing has most recently been my van, the Mobile Man Cave. It was quiet, and away from the crowded house in which we all lived. Phase three cleared the house and allowed me to 'move in,' but the change left me without the privacy of my little cave. I am still getting settled, and reforming my writing habits.

On the positive side, I have been collecting notes and developing my plot lines. I have made minuscule progress, but progress nonetheless. Now the Holiday season challenges my work. That, and I still don't have a place of my own. The departure of my daughter's family has caused a flurry of re-decorating and moving stuff. I am still trying to find a place of my own to use in winter months.

The work will continue. Book four will get a name, and be brought to a point of conclusion. The tale will be left with several directions which can become additional books, depending on how things progress in growing my readership.

That has proven to be a great challenge. I have faced some discouragement in learning that my paltry beginning marketing efforts have netted few results. For a naturally reclusive person this social networking is a difficult task. Lacking funds, I must market at a grass-roots level. That is not a bad thing, just not particularly fast.

During this process I have discovered an online community of self-published writers. Some have gained a degree of success, after considerable time and effort. Most are where I happen to be. We are essentially hobby writers seeking to make something of our work. When I elected to accept that perspective I overcame my discouragement. I could continue in that vein, and strive to gain a readership over time.

It is unfortunate that I cannot easily transition into a retired person able to rely on an additional writing income. I now have two homes to pay for, rather than one house paid off that was rather overloaded with family. This new situation is much better, but I need income. I am looking for work. Writing would be preferable, and I would gladly put in the hours pounding the keys if I could make the money needed. Unfortunately, it does not look like that will work.

So, book four will progress, and be finished. I will continue. However, the Endless Move to Medford is demanding my finding employment. That will impact my writing. Until my readership increases and funds allow me to pour some more resources into marketing, my writing will remain a hobby. A pleasant hobby, one which has put me in contact with some very nice people, but still a hobby.

Spread the word! I don't mind stocking shelves, or any one of a number of jobs I have recently applied for. I would rather, however, be writing. Writing stories you all would enjoy reading. Michael Lockridge, at Barnes and Noble online. Adventure is waiting!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Not to Wear-

I am not particularly fond of network television. I am not particularly aware of fashion. My taste regarding (and application of) clothing is rather rudimentary. Clothes keep me warm and help me to not be unduly offensive to other people. So, I have not gravitated to such shows as What Not to Wear. My wife, however, has been watching the show for some time.

Since moving to Medford, Oregon, and getting settled in our new home I have spent a bit more time watching some of the shows she likes. My own pursuits tend to be a bit reclusive, and the lack of shared experience can be problematic. Watching the shows she likes is a way to correct this. Hence, I have come to watch What Not to Wear. I have found it surprisingly interesting, but not for the fashion aspect.

The premise of the show is that people nominate a friend or family member for a make-over. The two hosts of the show gather up the nominee and proceed to teach that person to shop for fashionable clothing. Then comes a reworking of hair and make-up. The show is seemingly exclusively focused on females, presumably because a large percentage of males are fashion neanderthals, such as myself.

The hosts are witty and constructively critical. More importantly, they are compassionate and seem sincere in declaring their charges as 'beautiful,' and seeking to help that person to find their beauty. I have been fascinated to see how relatively small are the changes these people make in the dress and rituals of preparation to achieve a significant result.

What is the cost of all of this? The hosts provide a $5,000 card for shopping. The hair and make-up stylists are contracted, and quite skilled. On the whole, it is not something most people could afford to do for themselves. Still, the message is better than I expected.

I perceive fashion as a dictatorial market driving force, compelling people to constantly replace the material things in their lives with new material things, ultimately to the point of excessive debt and impoverishment. It is a social force that allow people to establish a pecking order without resorting to violence and bloodshed.

The show in question presents fashion as a mode of self-expression within the confines of a nebulous set of rules, establishing self-esteem and esteem among other people. I suspect that the quest for the definition of the set of rules is part of the fun, if this kind of thing can be fun. I see that it might be, but money seems to be the key to success. How unusual.

In a similar vein I recall finding a bin of socks in a sporting goods store, at a very nice discount. I asked why the socks were discounted so much. "Oh, those are last year's stock." was the answer. Fashion, in sporting goods. How is it I never saw that before? "I can't use those crampons this year. They are last year's model! What will all of the other ice climbers think?"

I may never be sold on the idea of fashion. I certainly don't expect to ever be fashionable, and am untroubled by that prospect. I am, however, a bit more positive on the idea of encouraging people to embrace changes in their lives to find better ways to live. If fashion can serve in that capacity, perhaps I can embrace it to that degree.

I still have little fondness for network television. However, my wife seems to enjoy sharing her viewing experiences, and I can't deny that I have found some things interesting. People doing puzzles on an island. People traveling around the world at an insane pace. Women going shopping and getting their hair and make-up done.

It could be worse. She could like Jersey Shore.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Endless Move to Medford-

The Endless Move to Medford (Oregon) entered into a new phase several weeks ago, and that phase is just coming to a close as we near Christmas. As a consequence, I have had less time for blogging, writing my novel, and promoting my completed writings. I thought at this point I should get back into the swing of blogging with an entry about the move.

I retired two years ago from a career in corrections. I worked the line in the Santa Cruz County Jail for twenty years. Twenty years of direct inmate contact proved to be all I could handle. There is a degree of stress to the job. I was ready to get out of jail and move on to a new phase in my life. Unfortunately, our house in Santa Cruz needed some serious repairs, and costs in that area are high. Living there on my pension was not a viable decision.

So, a move was in order. The sale of our house, which required borrowing some money and getting the repairs done. The sale of our house in a very bad economic time. It was tedious, and difficult, and quite challenging. It was done, and we finally got moved to Southern Oregon. In fairly short order we found and purchased a house that would work for us.

My daughter and her family moved along with us. Indeed, they preceded us to Oregon by the better part of a year. There was a long transition period where some of us 'camped' in the house being sold, and the others made due with temporary housing of various sorts. Career changes. Changes in location. A lot of stress, and it is much better looking back than going through. However, it is done.

Too many people in our new house, but again we were living in a transition. The final phase was searching for and purchasing a second house. Now that is done, and my daughter and her family are pretty much moved in. They still have the task of settling in, but we are well on our way to completing this long, long move. The adventure included a great many changes.

We rented a total of five storage units over the course of the move, sometimes moving things between units and sometimes from state to state. We rented a number of moving trucks. We boxed and loaded and stored and un-boxed a lot of stuff. There are still a lot of things in boxes. The move seems endless. The garage of our present home is a warehouse in which items are moved about in what  is sometimes like a game of real life Tetris. Yet, over time there has been progress.

Our real estate agent in Santa Cruz was Bill Cree. Our real estate agent in the Medford, Oregon, was Tom Kohan. They were great to work with, and went the extra mile in providing great service. We met and worked with a lot of other various people in this whole, long process. Almost every experience was pleasant, though often expensive. Resources came and went, what needed doing got done, and we moved ever toward the goal.

The support of family was also of great value. Financial assistance. Assistance in moving. Lending items during the transition to help smooth out the bumpy ride. The extended family also bore a lot of stress as a consequence of our move, for which I am sorry but thankful for the diligent shouldering of the burden. Now that we are on the other side of the move I hope that we can begin repaying the investment, even if it is only in the form of paying it forward.

Hopefully we will soon complete this project, this Endless Move to Medford, and begin settling in. There are new projects on the horizon. I have more books to write, and need to find some kind of work to provide resources to build toward the future. The future, with new challenges, and more transitions.

It should prove interesting.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Reading on Mobile Devices-

I switched to electronic books for a number of reasons. The cost became reasonable, the experience proved pleasant, and it became possible to carry a library wherever I went. That portability has gone just a bit further with the purchase of my first smart phone. In this case an Apple iPhone 3GS. Not cutting edge, but a nice tool.

I just finished reading the fifth volume of Randolph Lalonde's Spinward Fringe series. A space opera, a sub-genre of science fiction. The first volume is free. I read the first four volumes on my Nook, and enjoyed the experience both for the quality of the work and the quality of the reading experience on the Nook. For the fifth volume I decided to try the iPhone. I downloaded the iPhone Nook reader application and was ready for truly mobile reading.

Granted, the screen is small. However, the fonts are readable, and I can change the phone to landscape mode (held sideways) to make it seem a bit more book-like. The phone screen is back-lit, which can be nice in low lighting. The Nook screen is more like paper, and not back-lit. You have to read it like a book, with a light source. However, you can read the Nook in full sunlight, like a book. Phone screens tend to wash out in full sunlight.

The small screen was not problematic. The only problem is turning "pages" a bit more often. That simply requires a tap or swipe of the screen with one finger. That is not terribly difficult, and becomes routine very quickly. One night I wanted to read in bed. My wife was already asleep and it was dark. I fired up the iPhone, turned down the brightness, and read in comfort. The phone fit well in one hand. Delightful!

Since I carry my phone just about everywhere, I had a book to read anytime I wanted. That was quite convenient. Though the Nook allows me to carry a huge library with me at barely the weight of a paperback novel, it is still large enough to require someplace to put it when out and about. The phone was less of an issue. I am accustomed to carrying it, and hardly notice it when not in use.

I recommend ebooks highly, and trying out using any of you mobile devices that can serve as a reader. Many of you have such devices. Even if you have a Nook, or a Kindle, or one of the other ereader devices, try your other smart devices out as readers. You will get more out of the tools you have chosen and add versatility to your life.

You can get free reader applications that will download to your computer and your mobile devices. For example, the novels I have written and published with Barnes and Noble can only be read on a Nook reader or any epub friendly reader. Kindle readers cannot read my books. However, if you have a mobile device that can download the free Nook reader from Barnes and Noble, you can download and read my books.

Using similar creative applications of applications, you will find yourself free to download content from a great many sources. (My books included, I would hope.) These are tools that can allow you greater freedom in shaping your own life and how you live your life. Power to enhance your own experiences in your own way.

So, try new stuff. Write about it. Share well.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


It was time. I was due, and it was time. Time to upgrade my phone. The Apple iPhone 3GS was available from AT&T for free. I like free. So, I went. I talked to the people. I got a new phone (and a new contract) for free, in a very relative sense of what 'free' actually means. The contract really was no problem, since I find AT&T adequate and affordable. So, free was pretty much free.

I don't know if I have ever been at the forefront of the curve on developing technology, or any other aspect of modern life. I recall a friend who bought the newest of everything. He was young, single, and had a good disposable income. None of those have applied to me for a great many years. I pick up stuff over time, and ride far back from the cutting edge.

Anyway, I have an iPhone. Not the 4GS, which is costly. The 3GS. It is wonderful. I can check my email anywhere. Granted, I have already set the device to avoid needlessly updating everything over the cell network. I have the cheapest data plan, and really don't need to update that frequently. Costly. However, I now have power far beyond what I had with my orphaned LG View.

When linked to a WiFi network I can do lots of stuff for free. Watch videos. Update my blog as if I were on my computer. Send and receive texts and emails. I can now better understand how so much of the world has bypassed the desktop-laptop-mobile evolution and simply jumped in with mobile devices. This thing is a little computer. Granted, typing on it is not altogether pleasant, but then it is not my primary device for communication.

This power is now available to multitudes. The 'third world' does not exist in the virtual realm. Will this expansion of communication lead to broader freedoms and the exportation of 'democracy?' Perhaps. Or, will the Powerful Elite use the tracking capability of these devices to further control the populace? These are interesting times.

Banking is done over these devices. Not just communication, but commerce. I recently read of Africans who figured out how to use their cell phone accounts to create virtual banks and exchange networks. The cobbled grass-roots system was so successful that the phone and banking industries in those countries are attempting to capture what had evolved and turn it to their own purposes.

So, here I am, still behind the cutting edge, far back on the curve. Yet I have more power and greater connectivity than ever before. It is rather nice, very useful and often interesting. Most importantly, I am having fun.

Perhaps it is time I find out what 'Angry Birds' is all about.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Participation vs Competition-

My driving style has changed over the years. Like many young people, I drove rather competitively in my youth. I tried to ace out that guy weaving in and out of traffic. I refused to give way to that jerk trying to edge a few spaces ahead when traffic was getting bogged down. I fought for position, even if it was just one car length.

These days I watch for that guy weaving in and out of traffic. I try to make room so that he (or she) can just move right on past me. I figure my sleight adjustment of position and speed won't significantly impact my own journey, and this person is just going to do what they are going to do no matter what I do. If nothing else I have made sure that Mr. Bob-and-weave will have his accident somewhere far from me.

I give way. I try to make the journey of others around me go more smoothly. I have found that giving way does not make me late to my destination. In more than one case I have pulled into a parking lot at my destination and found Mr. Bob-and-weave just getting out of his car. He gained mere seconds at the cost of great risk to himself and others. Seconds.

What has happened is that I have switched from viewing my journey as a competition to one of participation. How can I make traffic flow better? What can I do now that will make the shared journey go more smoothly? They are usually tiny things. Mostly just not insisting on having something of little value, such as one car length.

My perception has altered. I actually perceive traffic flowing better as a consequence of my new attitude. Is this just an illusion? I really don't know. I don't particularly care, as long as my experience is made better. As long as my participation seems to me to make things better, things are better.

Today (while driving) I realized what I was doing, and gave it a name. I came up with the title for this blog as a description of what I was doing. Participating in the journey I was sharing with all of the people on the road. We may not all have had the same destination, but for a time we were all together and moving in the same direction. It cost me very little to try to make the journey better for all of us.

I have to wonder if this kind of thinking could be applied to other situations. Granted, in a game or in a true survival situation head-to-head competition may be the better way. However, in most of life participation might well be the better choice. Politics? The economy? My local community affairs?

My purpose in the future is to keep an eye out for opportunities to be a participant rather than a competitor. It will always come down to little things. Small courtesies performed to make my journey and the journey of those around me a bit more pleasant. Kindness need not be costly, and courtesy is an affordable luxury.

Live long. Live well. Choose wisely.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Farewell, Steve-

Lots of people will be blogging farewell to a creative and powerful figure of our era. I, too, wish to express my appreciation for the man and his work. He has truly impacted our world. I have visited the Apple campus, a nexus of innovation and creativity. I have been directly and indirectly involved in Silicon Valley, and the amazing culture it spawned.

I am particularly amazed at all he did toward the end of his days. Pancreatic cancer is particularly painful, and to do battle for so long is truly impressive. I have a dubious honor in that I had an attack of acute pancreatitis years ago. I sampled the pain. It is a most amazing pain, and for him to work through that kind of pain on a regular basis for years is astounding. That, and continuing to perform at a high level in a challenging industry.

He will be missed. Missed by multitudes, around the world. And rightly so.

I now turn to another page. In the course of my own career I never met Steve Jobs, but I met other people. People not so high up on the scale of human achievement. Dregs, actually. In particular, winos. Drunks. Wasted humanity. Failures as deep as Steve Jobs was successful.

I watched them die, over time. Penguin. Pathfinder. Scotty. Scotty was a particularly nice guy. Vodka Ron. Ron would often continue conversations with me that we had never started. Others whom I could name. One took the name of Harry Blackstone Jr., and was a magician at the end of his magical rope. One went by the name of Sarge, with some unclear military background.

Some were broken warriors. Others just took a wrong turn at a bump in the road of life. A few had college degrees somewhere in the past. Others had failed businesses, failed relationships, or just failed life management decisions. All found themselves at the bottom of a bottle. I never saw any of them that got in this deep make it out, except Pathfinder. He just quit. Got a job and a place to stay. Then died.

I choose to sometimes remember these forgotten humans. Steve Jobs earned the honor of being remembered by multitudes. That is good and right. I remember him, too. The others, those who did not fare as well, will go unremembered. I choose to sometimes remember them, not for their successes or failures, but for their humanity.

Human, just like Steve. Farewell, Steve. You ran a good race. Rest in peace.

Friday, September 30, 2011

I/O Magic Technology Review-

I/O Magic 3.5 IDE/SDA Enclosure, to be exact. First a little back story. Trust me, this may someday be useful information. My scintillating report will embed the information in the back of your mind where it will come forth when technical disaster strikes. It will, someday. Someday.

My wife's desktop computer finally gave up the ghost-in-the-machine, so to speak. Within the cold case lay a hard drive, filled with data. Photos and stuff. Important, in a personal kind of way. Now inaccessible. What to do? The Geek Squad geeks said it would take around four hundred dollars to even determine if the machine could be rebuilt. Recommendation? Yep. The computer retail section.

My wife now has a rather cheap Toshiba laptop, which even in it's cheapness is far better than the machine she just lost. However, the pictures and a few other things remained inaccessible. What to do? See the Geeks, again. Prospect; $100 to pull the data off to the media of our choice. We already have a portable hard drive, so that would be the total cost.

We later stopped by Office Depot to pick up a USB hub, one of those things that gives you a few more USB ports. Part of the Toshiba's cheapness was having only two USB ports. (Office Depot was next door to the hardware store where we were shopping for, uh, hardware.) I inquired as to the cost of getting the data off of the hard drive. It was $50, but I would have to buy a housing to make the hard drive an external hard drive.

"You can use this I/O housing." said the tech. "In fact, if you used this you could probably retrieve the data yourself." We left the store with a four port USB hub and the I/O Magic hard drive enclosure. Once I got home I followed the clear instructions and had the hard drive out of the old computer and into the new housing in about fifteen minutes. The kit includes everything you need, including cables, a power supply and very clear instructions.

As to using the drive, there were no instructions for that.  Fear not. It was much like plugging in a thumb-drive or any other USB file saving device. I searched the old drive, found the files we wanted, and moved them to the new machine. Total time, less than an hour.

Now we have a spare external hard drive. I haven't done anything with it, yet, but I figure I could reformat the device and use it for extra storage or as a back-up device. The old computer still has some usable memory, a DVD drive, and a wireless interface that can be cannibalized. Parts is parts, you know.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seeds of our lives-
I once worked for a time for a gentleman who sold bee keeping supplies. I built some of his personal hive boxes for him. Being a retailer, he would quality control parts to be sold. The parts that were not of sufficient quality to sell to the retail public were set aside. These he would have assembled (by myself and my friend Sam) to use for his own bees. "My bees don't really care that much." he said.

As a consequence I got to know some beekeepers. One beekeeper kept a tray full of clover seeds in his truck. As he traveled around he would cast those seeds out to provide flowers for bees to use. His bees. Somebody else's bees. He didn't really care. He was seeding the future.

I also knew another fellow who would cast seeds freely from his vehicle. Let's say he was a horticulturalist dealing in herbs of a questionable legal status. In those days the status was really not in question. His motivation? Hey, you never know when you will need herbal fortification to improve the quality of music or movies. Seeding the future.

In my back yard I have some bird feeders. The seeds I have used are not the sterilized kind. Birds are sloppy eaters, and the have 'planted' some interesting things growing abundantly around their feeder. Some have grown up to provide even more seeds. The sloppy eating habits of those birds have provided even more seeds for them to eat. They were seeding the future.

Stories have seeds. I gather them wherever I go. I write them down in a little note book. I sometimes record them in my phone. I have emailed them to myself, and lost far more than I have saved. Where are they? Somewhere out there, seeding the future.

So, next time you are out there in the real world and do something a bit embarrassing or slightly off, you needn't worry about what may come of it. Just change your perspective. If beekeepers can cast out clover seeds, and fringe herbalists cast out future experience enhancements, it must be a very good thing to cast out story ideas into the world.

Relax. Be yourself. Seed the future. I will try and write it down.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spam Sushi-

The comment management software I am using is called Comment Kahuna. It is free, and though rather rudimentary it does the job. You can create profiles which include a user name, email and website information that is auto-filled into the various blog comment forms you will be filling out.

The process begins by entering key words for which the software will search. The user interface is clear, simple and easy to use. Lists of blogs are generated and you simply tab through them to read and add comments. It all works rather well, and I have found a lot of blogs I otherwise would not have ever found.

There are some weaknesses in the software. It logs where you have been, but does not use that information to eliminate blogs you have commented on from the list. So, as you tab through you will see the same blogs come up again and again. If you run several separate searches using the same or similar key words you can find yourself thumbing through a great many blogs you have already seen.

This free software is a marketing ploy. You will subsequently receive offers to buy a more robust and automated software. The marketing is not too aggressive, and I find it easy enough to simply read the offers and delete them. I do read them, since the software marketer offers bits of advice with his pitch and some have been useful.

I have enjoyed using this product. I have been to blogs I otherwise would not have visited, and learned some things I would otherwise not have learned. Some are just a lot of fun to visit, and even my least positive experience taught me a few things about how to do this.

Karen, who was clearly critical of my marketing approach, offered the advice to make a sincere and genuine comment, and not add my link to my book right in the comment section. She suggested that I instead have a clearly placed link in my blog. I immediately modified my blog to have such a link, which I simply had overlooked before.

Using her helpful criticism I modified my way of doing these things. On blogs that are obviously personal projects and not intended as marketing vehicles I would not include a direct link to my books. However, on such sites as are obviously not just information sharing venues but vehicles for marketing I would place a link following a suitable comment.

As a consequence of using Comment Kahuna I have also discovered a community of independent self-publishing authors. Some, like Randolph Lalonde, have achieved sufficient success in independent publishing to quit the day job and write full-time. Most others are still building a following. Many purchase, read and revue other independent publisher's works.

However you use Comment Kahuna you gain what are called back-links. I don't fully understand how all of this works, but ultimately it makes your own website or blog more visible. You gain higher and higher placement in search lists. In other words, you shine brighter and people can find you.

If you are marketing yourself or a product on a very tight budget Comment Kahuna will prove to be a useful tool to add to your tool box. Since it is free it will cost you nothing to try.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Spam Maggots

So, did I mention I have been learning to promote my book? Yes? Well, I won't mention my book again this week. What I am learning about right now is Social Networking. This does not relate to Social Security, which is often in the news these days. Neither is it about Socialism, which might or might not be the same thing. No, this is about reaching out and meeting people both online and in real life.

I have spent part of the last week probing various blogs and web sites seeking people who might want to know about my book, which I said I wouldn't mention until at least next week. I tried to find blogs related to fantasy adventure and reading and things like that. Well, mostly those two words in particular. I found some. I read them. I posted a response here and there and a link to my book. The one I am not mentioning.

It was slow going.

I have been the recipient of SPAM over the years. Indeed, I have been constantly surprised by the number of people on the Internet interested in the size of part of my anatomy, how many people think I need reproduction Rolex watches, and how much I want to work from home, (which I pretty much do now.) So, I didn't want to become a Spammer. That would be bad.

Still, I sought a tool to assist me. One quite affordable was my thought. I found one. It was free. I find free quite affordable, so I downloaded it (after checking reviews and finding out if anyone had been killed or maimed by this particular software.) I tried working with it today. It really is a good tool for what I am doing.

Now what I don't want to do is leave a general comment in broken English with a very obviously unrelated link attached. That, I do believe, is SPAM. Not good. However, if I actually read the article, and deem the writer as one who might genuinely want to read my book, that is not Spam. Not really.

I tried to be respectful. For example, I read the article by a lady who was a writer and reader of fantasy literature. She should have been a good choice. I discovered that she was coping with a mental illness, and that the writing was as much a therapy and compulsion as anything else. I did not post there. Sure, she might like my book. You know, the one I am not mentioning. However, it just did not feel right.

It felt like SPAM.

Even so, I used the software to find a lot of sites. Interesting sites. Sites where I could leave a nice message relating to the material being covered and also refer to my book. Yeah, that book.

So, as I move on in my Spam-free adventure and get to know this software I might just eventually write a review. Some of you may have works you want to promote. Without Spam, of course.

Meanwhile, if you feel the need to drop a link to your site or product in the comments below, feel free. Just comment first in fairly sound English, with a related and nicely presented link. Oh, and don't post anonymously. I won't authorize anonymous posts with unrelated links.

That would be SPAM.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Electronic Book Readers-

One of my Facebook friends asked me when my books will be out in print. She wanted to read my works but did not have an electronic book reader. Unfortunately, the traditional way of getting into print is a long and arduous process, with winning an agent who must win a publisher and then the whole publishing circus.

Alternatively, I could go with a print-on-demand service. If someone orders my books a copy will be printed and sent to them. Not a bad system. At this point in my publishing adventure I am not prepared to shell out the hundreds of bucks to get the document formatted for print on demand. My budget for all of this is small. Ebooks are an affordable option, and the one I chose.

Ebooks have a lot of advantages. They all fit on smart phones, devices like the iTouch media player, pad format computers, and computers of all sorts. Most of these devices simply require you to download an ereader as an application or standard piece of software. These devices have various advantages and disadvantages.

For example, the smart phone you have with you always. Therefore, you will have any books you have loaded on the device with you wherever you go. The disadvantage is the size of the screen. Some people will find reading on a phone (or iTouch like device) difficult. Others will find it pleasant. I know of one woman who has read many books on her iTouch, and finds it just fine as a reader.

My reader of choice is the Nook, sold by Barnes and Noble. When they reduced the price to my chosen trigger point ($150) I bought one. The first model. I like the paper-like screen, as I can read it in full light and not get the computer screen wash-out common with phone and computer screens. By the way, the current prices have units below $150.

To get started it is easy to download a reader to your computer. There are quite a few free books available from various sources. They are easy to download and open with you reading software. Give computer reading a try and see how you like it. If you have a smart phone, try a reading application. The cost of getting started is quite low.

From there a reader can move on to evaluating other electronic reading devices. Sony has a nice one. Amazon has their Kindle, which was first on the market and still an excellent device. Kobo, which had been associated with the Borders distribution network, seems like an adequate device. Of course, there is also the Nook. Prices vary depending on the device and the features you might prefer.

If the cost of the device is of concern, don't forget the free books I mentioned. There are a lot of books out there that will cost you nothing. Paper books will never disappear, but the convenience of ebooks will grow on you. With the right kind of account you can often download a book in minutes, and be reading right away.

I recommend you give it a try. And, while you are trying, have a look my own works. I have enjoyed writing them. I would love for you to read them.

(Note: at present I am unaware of any way to read epub format writings on the Kindle. My works are not currently available in Kindle format.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Non-articulated Dreams-

I think that dreams, and the pursuits of dreams, are important in the life of a human. Most of the happiest people I have known (a sadly small number of people) were people who identified their dreams early in life and focused on fulfilling those dreams. Many others I have known have just drifted through life, much like I feel I have done.

Am I a happy person? Not so much so as I would like. Why is that? I don't think that I truly identified my dreams early in life, and those I had I did not nurture. Dreams need to be identified, then fed and pruned and given liberty to grow. I knew little about that in my youth, and apparently it was not a priority with those who were tasked with educating me.

Do I find fault with those people? No, I don't. I was not neglected with malicious intent. I was not neglected through laziness. I don't think I was neglected at all. I suspect that the idea of finding your own passion and letting it become a dream, then growing that dream, is just not a common concept.

Dreams are, in many social contexts, considered frivolous wastes of time. One must be practical, and responsible. You can't go off following dreams and still manage to live a good life. You have to earn a good living, and buy a house and all of those other things that make up the American Dream. Oh, wait. There's that word again. Dream.

I had a really good childhood. Our economic status was sufficient that I was not compelled to dig my way out of poverty just to get an even start with most other Americans. There were plenty of resources, had I a dream and a will to see it fulfilled. I simply had not gathered the skills of dreaming. Day dreaming, yes, but not the kind of dreaming that gives direction and motivation and fulfillment.

Yet I have attained to much I value. A good family. A nice home. My children are reasonably balanced human beings who are generally liked and respected. None of our troubles are the consequences of miscreant misbehavior. In retrospect, these are dreams I never articulated yet achieved nonetheless.

They are my non-articulated dreams. I have even achieved some whims that never really attained to the status of dreams. Like writing a novel, and seeing it published. Indeed, I have written and published three novels, and a collection of short stories. I had a whim of being a writer, but no real dream.

I cannot change my past, yet I sometimes wonder. What if I had really dreamed of being a writer? What if I had learned what it might take to become not just a writer, but a professional writer? I can only speculate, but it might have been an interesting life. More satisfying that the one I now live? I really can't say.

What I like to do now is encourage people to follow their dreams. Granted, a dream may not be practical, but that is part of the nurturing and pruning. The dream has to be given shape and fed the necessary resources to live in the real world. Shaping your dream will shape your life, and I suspect that it will be all the richer and more fulfilling for the effort.

There are, of course, dream killers out there. They will challenge your dream. It won't be practical, at least in their minds. It won't be responsible, this dream-chasing. As to those, I recommend you examine their lives. Do they seem happy? Do they appear to be fulfilled? Does their idea of practicality and responsibility contribute to a truly good life? If not, I suggest you distance yourself from them. They may poison your dream.

The road to dream fulfillment will, of course, have challenges. Roads always do. Those challenges can be incorporated into the dream, if you are creative and committed. Overcoming them will add richness to your dream, and give it context.

Dare to dream. Dare to follow your dreams. YOUR dreams.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Self-Promotion is not my thing-

So, it has been a busy time for me. For a retired guy I am working a lot. Not seeing much money, but working a lot. I have uploaded all of my completed novels in the Edge of the World series to Barnes and Noble. I also finished compiling, editing and uploading my short stories. These are the compiled short stories from my blog, Short Stories by MLockridge. They are now available as an ebook.

Though I have had enough sales so far to say I have had some sales, I am not seeing any current revenue to augment my rather sparse pension. I am very thankful for that pension, having invested twenty years of my life in a dangerous and unpleasant environment to win it. Still, there is little money from the books thus far.

So, the books will need a little promotion.

This amounts to promoting myself. I have never been so inclined. It is a learning curve the whole of which I must climb. Social networking, both online and in the real world. Meeting people, and talking myself and my books up. I suppose some people gravitate to this kind of thing. I much prefer the thought of taking my Mobile Man Cave down by the river and just watching the water flow down to the sea.

I have set my foot on this trail, however, and I intend to see it through. So, I have begun gathering materials and preparing to go out there and do something. What, I am not entirely sure of, as yet. Still, a few ideas. Barnes and Noble book store in Medford seems a good place. I can go and have informal meet-the-author events there. Perhaps some coffee houses would be good venues. I hope to participate in a gamers convention at a local game shop, being present as a local author of fantasy adventure novels.

I am just beginning to collect a list of upcoming events in Oregon and Northern California which might serve as suitable venues. The how-to of all of this is a thing I will have to grow into. Book events, storytelling conventions and the like seem to be related and interesting to me. How to promote through attendance is something I will have to develop.

Meanwhile, due to the limited funding of my retirement I am exploring some employment options. I have a qualification test this weekend for a job that could serve well enough. I will provide details as those become prudent and available. If the hours are right I can gain a bit of income, some of which can support the whole promotion process.

It really is rather fun, and it is healthy to have a challenge to face. I look forward to seeing how it all turns out, and will certainly keep friends and readers posted.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Keep Moving Forward-

The past month or two have been busy. I have been committed to editing, formatting and uploading my novels to Barnes and Noble through their Pubit program. Along with continuing to move into a new home, with all of the chaos and the yard work and this and that and the other.

Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my Edge of the World series of Fantasy Adventure novels, is on sale. So are the following two titles. Plus a little set of rules for a super simple war game I wrote up.

So, I have been away from blogging. It is time to turn that around, now. I am pretty much on my own for promoting my novels, and every source I come across focuses on Social Networking. Blogging is a part of that. Most of you blog readers already know that. Indeed, most of you are far better at this social networking thing than I am. This is going to be work.

Not that I mind the work. Indeed, this is the best thing I have done in the way of work. Granted, my revenue from these efforts has not been sufficient to buy a cup of coffee, but I have made a few cents already. Income that can be measured in actual dollars lies at the other end of some serious promotion. That, and continued writing.

I recently visited our local Barnes and Noble book store and talked with the people there. Though supportive and encouraging, they had nothing to offer with regard to promotion other than the social networking thing. There are no in-store promotions for ebooks, and that is quite understandable. The brick-and-mortar book store makes money selling physical books, along with a lot of reading related items.

Some ideas are percolating in my cogitator, however. Ideas that will allow me to use their venue to a mutual advantage. I have signed up for Twitter and am expanding my presence on Facebook to prepare for this very low budget promotional tour. It may net only a few readers, but every reader has friends. With social networking that makes for potentially viral expansion.

I visited a local game shop, as well. Astral Games of Medford, Oregon. I talked with Aaron, the owner. We have a shared audience, in that many of the games he sells and promotes in his store are Fantasy Adventure games. My Edge of the World series is a Fantasy Adventure. Somehow, I feel that at least a few of his customers will take some interest in the novels. At least, that is my hope.

It is quite likely I will frequent his store for "meet the author" events. Indeed, I am also considering little "meet the author" events at coffee shops and other locations. Probably just an hour here, an hour there, as time permits and opportunity provides. Chat with people and invite them to read my works.

With my desire to travel I can see incorporating informal "meet the author" events in any travel adventures I might take in the years to come. I don't imagine the return on these little events will be particularly great, but over time I hope that at least a bit of traffic will come back to my Barnes and Noble offerings.

Whatever the case, I must keep moving forward. Come along with me, won't you?

Monday, July 25, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to publication-

Today was pretty productive. I have completed the final edit on all three finished novels in my The Edge of the World series. I need to get them into epub format, so I researched that. I found a plug-in for Open Office (after a lot of "buy our product" web searching) and got it downloaded and installed. Being free was a good thing.

Next I selected a file to turn from a odt file to an epub file. The file happens to be a short piece I wrote as a give-away once I am published. I then viewed that file in the Adobe Digital Editions reader. It looked pretty good. I moved the file onto my Nook ebook reader. It looked pretty good there, as well. Not bad, so far.

That done I then established a Facebook presence for my work. That went pretty well. Next, a web site. I just went with a free Google site, and it is just a framework at this point. Still, I got a lot done.

Then, it happened. Now, a while back I had to change my title. The original title of volume one was The Inn at the Edge of the World. That's because the story begins at an inn, which happens to be in a place called "The Edge of the World." I liked it. It scanned well. It felt right.

Subsequently I learned that someone else had written a book called The Inn at the Edge of the World. I considered going ahead, then I learned that the book was becoming a movie. So, I changed my title. I shortened it to The Edge of the World. I even decided that the name could be the overarching title for the series. Yeah, that should work.

So, I am doing some follow-up research on my chosen title. What did I find? Yep. Mr. Anderson beat me to it, both for a starting title and a series title. Great.

Looks like another title change. Maybe Choo Choo Charlie and the Train Robbers. That wouldn't relate at all to the story, but at least it isn't taken. Just a second. Hmm. Well, that particular title is clear, but Choo Choo Charlie is a property of Hershey's. Crap.

On another note, I figured I would use this blog as my primary blog associated with my efforts and publishing my works. I am probably doing this all wrong, but being ignorant and somewhat obtuse gives me great freedom.

I can't wait to see what happen next.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thoughts on the creative process-

Humans are creative creatures. Some more so than others, but as a species we are very creative. I have most recently been exercising my own creativity writing my "Edge of the World" series of fantasy adventure novels. Many people I know are creative in other ways, but the compulsion to create is rather common among humans.

What is created is not necessarily common. It is fresh and new. It is creation.

My daughter, Beth, is a quilter. She has a knack for selecting and combining patterns and colors that is quite magical. My wife, Linda, is a decorator. Sadly, I have been unable to provide for her the rather expensive canvasses necessary to fully exercise her art, but she does phenomenally well within the limitations of our current circumstances. She would have much greater freedom if I had been gifted with the ability to create wealth, but that has proved to be a gift that is lacking.

I can, however, write. I have done so from childhood. Had I the courage and foresight to follow that natural ability I might have had a writer's life, but I took different paths and am only now striving to turn a hobby into a profession. The paths I have traveled have been formative and informative, and I do not regret them.

The "Edge of the World" series began as a short story, a piece of what is called "Flash Fiction." A very short story of just a few pages. I had an image in my mind, and if I had developed my skills in drawing I would have sketched it. I did not have sufficient skill in drawing, so I wrote that story. It was later published in my blog, Short Stories by MLockridge.

Subsequent experiences in my life revealed I had an issue with depression. I sought counseling for this issue, and the counselor provided tools for me to use. One tool was to start a project and see it to completion. Apparently the focused effort would aid in managing depression. In this case it proved to be true.

I decided to take my short story about The Edge of the World and turn it into a novel. I sat down and wrote. I wrote a lot. Over 100,000 words. I edited and polished and finished the work. Along the way I got the depression under control and as far as the exercise was concerned, I was done.

However, the story continued past the end I had selected. So, I began the sequel. Like the first novel it flowed from me rather smoothly. I think it did so because I had spent so much time over the years just thinking about the story and a lot of the writing had been done rather informally in the back chambers of my cluttered mind. I just had to drag the first volume out and dust it off. The second was almost as easy.

Now that I had two novels I started seriously contemplating publication. I knew that the traditional route to publication was arduous and long. I just didn't need something like that in my life. This whole thing was intended to aid in managing depression, not cause it. So, I searched for other ways to do this.

With the advent of the Internet a lot of options had opened up. Self-publishing electronically and being listed in a major catalog looked like the right thing. Barnes and Noble offered such a program, and at little cost. This might just work, I thought.

In researching I found a lot of friends on the Internet who were at various places in this same process. I studied their models for doing this business and read some of their works. One thing that I observed that would make this whole project somewhat lucrative was having more books in the series.

More writing. The third novel did not flow so easily. It was more work, with more thinking and more editing. Indeed, I need to give it at least one more run-through to comb out the tangles and give it a nice shine. The third novel led to the beginnings of a fourth, which in terms of small volume electronic publication meant a few more bucks. Also, I really am enjoying the process of building a series of novels.

I began the fourth novel yesterday. However, I decided I needed a tool for creating something from scratch. This book has not been bubbling on a back burner of my brain for a considerable time. So, I checked on tools I could use. Fortunately, the Internet gives me access to a lot of back burners in a lot of bubbling brains, and I learned that I already had the tool I needed.

I write in Open Office, a suite of free tools downloadable on the Internet. I found that some people use their presentation software to do storyboarding. This is a bit like outlining a work, but more graphic and a bit easier, at least for me. I began writing slides which can be displayed a number of ways, and I can move them around on the screen. Pretty cool.

The tool I needed was right there in the suite of software I already used, and it was free! (Thanks to the several people who recommended this suite to me. Consider this "paying it forward.") I have spent several hours working on my storyboard, and it is going great!

I figure I will have enough to work with in another day or so, which will (I hope) be a sufficient break from the editing of the third novel to allow me to return to it fresh and ready to work. If all goes well I will be able to upload the first three novels to Pubit and get them out in the Barnes and Noble catalog.

Of course I will also have to get a Facebook fan page set up with the hope of having a few fans to read it. Also, a web site of some kind. And there is all of the promotion work I will have to do myself because I don't have a traditional publishing house backing me. Oh, and accounting, assuming I actually see some revenue from this adventure.

Whatever happens, I am not depressed and I am having fun. It seems like I have already won. If others enjoy the work and I make a few bucks, that's cool as well.

Monday, June 27, 2011

We didn't even know we were part of the problem...

As I shared recently, I attended my high school reunion. That event took place in Ashland, Oregon. Though born in Grants Pass, Oregon, I spent my early youth in southern California. The Artesia and Lakewood districts of sprawling Los Angeles. My family moved back to southern Oregon, to Ashland, just before I entered the sixth grade.

Those were good years. It was a nice town with considerable interest. A college town. A tourist destination. At the heart of the town is Lithia Park. The park extends from the town plaza up a narrow little valley, and is centered on Ashland Creek. Indeed, most of your time visiting the park will be spent walking along paths beside this fast running stream.

When I attended my reunion I intentionally parked near the top of the park. I had to walk the length of the park back to town, and back through the park when I left the reunion. It was a nostalgic journey, and a very pleasant one. Much was the same. Many long standing landmarks and features were either the same as I remembered or somewhat improved.

One of my recollections of childhood in Lithia Park was running on the unmarked and unofficial trails. These were steep trails, and one of the pleasures was to slide down the steep paths like dry trail skiers. Our skis were tennis shoes, and the 'snow' was the sliding surface of the hillsides.

Those trails are closed. Some are fenced to deny access. There are signs encouraging visitors to stay on the marked and official paths. The free-form adventuring of the past had caused erosion, damaging the park we so loved. In those long-ago days it did not occur to us that we were part of a problem. We were hurting something we greatly valued, and didn't see it at all.

I am sad to see the loss of such freedom, but recognize and accept the necessity of doing so to protect the park. It is a beautiful park, and worth preserving. Young people will simply have to find other adventures to share in building their young lives. I am sure that they will.

I wonder if the college has unofficial adventures in urban spelunking still available? That was fun, too.


I related in a previous blog that I am what I call an 'a-social' person. Not anti-social. I don't dislike humanity in mass or in individuals, though I have met a few individuals who may challenge that. I simply do not have a strong need for human interaction. Seclusion is comfortable for me. Even relative isolation. I would make an excellent hermit, assuming that there is some standard to be met to become a hermit.

I haven't really checked.

Knowing this about myself I work against my natural tendency to withdraw into books and games and stories, and have at least some social interaction. As a consequence I actually have a family, and they seem able to tolerate me well enough. I cherish them for themselves, but also for keeping me human.

So, along comes my 40th high school reunion, and I decide to go. Why? Because I was socially involved during those years and longed to renew those old ties? Not really. I dreamed of piloting (or at least crewing) on a star ship during those high school years. Reality did not often intrude on my inner world. I interacted with my fellow inmates of the high school as reasonable politeness required, but did not build a lot of strong bonds.

I went to the reunion because I thought going would be interesting, and I do recall (vaguely) some pleasant interactions with people during those high school years. I went. I am glad I did. I went to school with some very nice people. With the span of our time apart being far greater than the few years we were together, it was somewhat like meeting these people for the first time.

One of my friends from those years, and several years before high school, came and spent a lot of the reunion time with me. Jerry Ross, one of my best friends. He expressed a positive recollection for that friendship, something that I share with him. It was a good friendship. One that we would like to continue, after a small four decade absence from one another.

I also learned that another good friend from those childhood days did not survive to attend this event. Manuel Ortega was a valuable element in my formative years, and I am sorry I could not see him again.

Having moved back to the Rogue Valley after many years away I may have opportunity to renew friendships from ancient days. I may have opportunity to build friendships that ought to have been, were I less engaged in realms of fantasy and my own imagination and involved more with living human beings.

That remains to be seen. I no longer just read about star ships and fantastic realms. I write such stories. With publication beginning in a matter of weeks I may be just as far away as ever.

I hope not. The class of 1971 deserves a better friend than that.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I have  been away from blogging for a time, now. Selling a house. Moving. Buying a house. Busy. Now I am sold, bought and moved. Now I have a house. Now I have a lawn. Two, in fact. One in front, one in the back. Pretty well established. Coming back nicely from the time of neglect during the process of the sale.

Nice features. Concrete perimeters to fend off the attempts of non-lawn to take over the lawn, and the lawn to expand beyond the desired limits. A programmable watering system. Yep. Water and mow, mostly.

I have been watering and mowing. Trimming. Doing stuff. Not such amazing stuff, unless you are familiar with my philosophy towards lawns. I think they are an unnecessary thing, an absorb-er of time, money and energy. Yet now I have two, and I take care of them.

Life is made interesting by contradictions.

I do like lawns in parks and on golf courses. People earn their livings caring for such lawns, and many are quite beautiful to see and enjoy. Home lawns, however, are different. They are taken care of by people who have already put in their time earning a living. Precious non-working time is spent on lawns. Fine, for those who love lawns. Some of us have other things to do with our non-working time.

Now that I am retired, however, I find it is not so bad. After all, I am not spending a lot of my time working and working over-time. So, if I burn a few hours of each day puttering about the yard it is actually rather nice. The 'settling in' is still taking place, but once we are established I can get back to my writing and finish the process of publishing my books. Plus my World of Warcraft time, of course.

Oh, and blogging.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Two Business Ideas-

Being retired from working in the jail I have a bit of time on my hands. One of the things I have done with that time is think about starting a business. Now, I am not a businessman. I have not earned my money by going into business and doing business and getting paid for the business I did. I have usually had jobs. I have tried a few of those business like Amway, including Amway. They didn't work for me.

Why not? Because I am not a businessman by nature. The doing of business does not grab me and inspire me and get me up raring to go in the morning. Still, I sometimes think about business. I have ideas.

Here are two of them. Feel free to grab these ideas and make them real for you. If you are truly business oriented these could be really good. I would come to these businesses and do business, if I wasn't already busy.

Ready? First idea: A restaurant that specializes in artisan breads and sauces to dip them in. Yep, that's it. Bread. Really good bread, like the stuff we get in Pescadero whenever someone goes to Pescadero. Which is not often. Artichoke bread. Really good stuff.

So, anyway, back at Savory or Sweet n' Sour or whatever the place gets named, bread is sold. Bread and a nice variety of sauces crafted fresh every day right on the premises. The bread could be made elsewhere by artisans who make bread and be brought in. The sauces, however, are made right there.

The customer buys some bread, or a variety of breads, and gets to help themselves to little bowls of the various sauces. Then they dip and eat. And drink lots of the beverages also available on the premises. Good bread and savory sauces demand pairings with teas, wines, and beer. Pairings could even be recommended in a suitably snooty fashion.

Idea number two: A little bar. In Japan there are little businesses like tiny cocktail bars and little sushi bars and the like. Places that hold ten to twelve customers. Intimate. Artful. Tiny.

I was thinking of a little whiskey bar. Ten seats, six at the bar, four at little tables. Maybe call it Hole in the Wall or something cute like that. Lots of polished wood. Behind the bar a very nice collection of whiskey. Reasonable prices, of course, as much so as things like single malt scotch can allow. Three main servings: Whiskey, water, and whiskey and water. Oh, and ice is available.

Two ideas. Why don't I do it? Well, I am not a business man. I lack the money to risk, and more so I lack the drive to take passing fancy and give it flesh. Even simple businesses like this require time and money and effort. Do I really want to have to craft sauces for hours every day? Do I really want to stand behind a tiny bar hour after hour, serving single malts by the ounce?

No, I don't. But, if you do, let me know where you are running these businesses. I will stop by and patronize your establishments.

If I'm not busy, of course.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Knitting together a story-

I am near the end of my third book in the fantasy adventure series I am writing. Still not published, but getting closer every day. I had just resolved a scene and come up with a next scene, kind of an interlude. I have the final scene of the book finished in my mind. In between was a gap. What to write to fill that gap?

Due to some recent real-life matters largely beyond my control (much like life in general) I had some time to kill. The writing has been good in this time, since it has been productive. However, I rather like having something to do with my hands when I just "sits and thinks." I sometimes whittle to fill that need, but this winter I took up loom knitting.

So, being in need of some sittin' and thinkin', I took up my loom and began to knit a bit. It works wonders. I wrote the interlude in my head, or at least got a good outline with some flesh on it. I wrote the final scene and did a rewrite, also in my head. Dropped the knitting to make some notes. Picked up the loom again and started looping yarn and turning the stitches with the little hook.

While I looped and stitched I thought about my story so far, and some other stories that had influence on the tale. Tale. "Spinning a yarn." Yarn is used in knitting. Hmmm. Hercules is in a recent scene, though not really Hercules. Just a guy loosely based on Hercules. One primary character is a Pinocchio. What stories to look at in my memory and imagination for that next scene?

Snow White? Perhaps. Sleeping Beauty? Yes, that will work. A previous scene in the series would serve as foreshadowing for that idea. You know, where a hint of 'what is to come' is dropped into the story and later comes about and you as the reader go "Ahhh, yes!"

So I sits and thinks and sits and knits and this outline forms in my head and I drop the knitting and make notes and then I take up the loom again and knit on as I thinks.

The knitting is working really well. I can't cut myself, don't have to sharpen anything, and I don't get wood chips all over the place. When I need to drop the work to make a note or something it is a bit less involved, since I wear a protective glove on one hand when I whittle but don't when I knit. I don't have to find a safe place for the knife, take off the glove, yada yada.

The masculinity thing is no issue, since I have a creative mind and have read lots of stuff and I am as good at justification as anyone else. For a lot of centuries in a lot of cultures men were weavers and tailors and textile manufacturers more so than women, so who is to say that my knitting isn't a manly thing? Also, I can use manly colors to make manly scarves and blankets. Manly.

Now I have my bridge scene in mind and notes made, but I am making some progress on the blanket piece I am working on so I keep knitting. It is pretty relaxing, just looping and stitching and stuff... Oh. Here's an idea. Yes. I will make a note. Hmmm. That won't fit into the framework of book three.

I just knitted myself into book four. Cool! I think that book four should be about four scarves, three hats and at least one full-sized blanket long.

I need to pick up some more yarn!

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Man Walks into a Bar in Heaven-

How sufficient is the grace of God? For those who don't know, the grace of God is that bit of forgiveness he has for where your Do's are not greater than your Don't's. In other words, it is His forgiving your sins not because you do enough good stuff to erase the bad stuff. It is simply because the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient as a sacrifice to pay for those sins. All of them. Forever.

How sufficient is the grace of God? I had an image in my mind of walking into a bar in Heaven. (The bar is symbolic; it's something that shouldn't be in Heaven according to traditional perspectives. Just run with this.) I see sitting at a table Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Billy Graham, and any Pope of your choice. (It is sad that I know the first names of two human monsters and not one name associated with a Pope.)

They are laughing and having some really good beer. It has to be good. This is Heaven. They invite me over to join them. What should I think? What should I do? Hitler and Stalin were rather nasty guys. They were responsible for a lot of people dying in rather unpleasant ways. Some of the Popes (sorry to all of you Pope fans) were not a lot better.

That's the question. (Billy Graham is there just to give some people a righteous dude they would expect to be there. By the way, he admitted to being a sinner.) Is the grace of God sufficient to pay for the sins of someone like Hitler? Most people, even people who don't give much credence to the idea of sin, would consider Hitler a really sinful sinner. His is a high-water mark of sin. Hard to beat, unless you are Genghis Khan or someone like that.

I say, yes. Sin is sin. A little or a lot, it demanded the death of Jesus Christ. Now for those who don't know, Jesus was without sin. The Son of God and all of that. He offered Himself as a substitute for each and every sinner. When it comes down to the whole sacrifice-for-sin thing, He did it for me. Me. My sin, as paltry as my sin may be on the Hitler scale, demanded the sacrifice of the sinless Son of God. And, He did it willingly.

How does this grace thing work? It is so simple that huge volumes of volumes have been written on the matter. You just believe. You believe enough to know that you rightly will stand before God as your judge. What will you plead? Guilty, of course. Then you simply state that you rely on the blood of Christ, and nothing else.

That's what I intend. I have nothing more to offer. Nothing else is sufficient. Nothing more is necessary. The blood of Christ, His voluntary sacrifice, is sufficient. The grace of God is sufficient. I depend upon it.

Who will be there in Heaven? Other than me, I don't really know. If they are redeemed by the blood of Jesus, however, I will certainly be glad to sit down and have a beer with them.

Will there be beer there? Of course. Beer, and really good sandwiches.

It's Heaven, don't you know?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Satire and the Sacred-

I am a Christian. My Christian background, however, encompasses Atheism and Agnosticism. I had a conversion experience and as a consequence I consciously sought to submit the wholeness of my being to the Christian way of thinking and doing.

Unfortunately, like so many things in this world, there is and is not one singular Christianity. Being the spiritual adventurer I was in my youth I sought a broad range of experiences within the Christian community. I have fellowshipped with a lot of believers from a lot of backgrounds. I attended a mission in my early Christian experience and received training. I attended a Christian college for a time. I have seen a lot of Christianity.

Because I do not espouse any one particular narrow view of Christianity I am possibly more open to sacrilegious humor than a lot of my brothers and sisters. I believe both God and the Church are strong enough to stand up to a bit of ridicule and a few bad jokes. I also believe that within satire can be found valuable information.

The satirist is a very perceptive creature. Humorists are, in general. They lock onto inconsistencies and weaknesses in positions and arguments and shine a bright light on them. They point and laugh. Granted, this may be painful if they are pointing and laughing at something you hold sacred. On the other hand, anything you hold to be precious and valuable should be important enough to examine carefully.

If something is so precious as to be deemed holy it should be examined carefully and often. The light of satire can aid in this examination. Institutions and orders provide structure for living out ideals, and can be very good. Idealization beyond the point of critical examination, however, puts these institutions at risk of falling out of order. Without the light of satire, along with other sources of illumination, the flaws can go unattended and the structure will eventually collapse.

Human heroes have flaws, and recognizing those flaws does not show disrespect if they are genuine and factual flaws. If your hero has to be swathed in band-aids to keep up the hero image, perhaps your hero ought to be downgraded to a highly respected regular person. There is nothing wrong with that. A human hero shouldn't really be anything more.

This sanctification beyond examination can happen in politics. It often does. Sometimes it is a leader who deifies himself beyond the realm of examination or accountability. There are a few of those in the world today. I must note that they are not fond of satirists. They don't like lights shining where flaws might be exposed.

Certain political orders are equally uninterested in comic examination. Some political parties are also not fond of the light of satire. A lot of individual leaders and aspirants to leadership don't particularly like being  the butt of jokes. Yet the light of satire and the barb of the lampoon can provide insight and guide a real leader toward better leadership.

I recall that in the jail where I worked there was a fellow worker who could imitate me. I regret that I never had the opportunity to see that. I think it would be interesting. I doubt that I would have been offended, and suspect I would have found it funny. More importantly, it would have been enlightening. Sadly, it is an experience I have not had.

If you cannot see the humor in someone seeking to roast your sacred cow, perhaps you need to adjust your perspective. If someone or something is worthy of sanctification, it is worthy of careful and consistent examination. The light of satire can aid in this examination. Don't waste a resource.

Besides, it might really be a good joke. Laugh often. Laugh well.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Where are you, Robin Hood?

When I think about the pirates who raped our nation and ruined our economy, I get angry. When I think of the politicians who then gave the pirates money and got into bed with them, I get angry. When I see a protracted war in which our government is wringing the life out of our soldiers and then not taking any kind of real care of them, I get angry.

This is not a good kind of angry. I can't do much with it. Since I can't do much with it, there is a festering in my soul. I could get sick as a consequence. So, sometimes I write stories to cleanse my inner self. Unfortunately, a lot of my characters have been killing and dying, lately. Who wants to read that all of the time? It just isn't wholesome.

So, I got to thinking. How about a character who robs banks but never uses a gun and writes the threatening notes in such fine and non-threatening prose that the teller doesn't feel frightened and just gives up the money? And then this character gives the money to a homeless shelter, or a housing project for the poor, or any one of a multitude of fine charitable venues?

Of course, he only targets banks associated with the big corporations that raped the people, and so is simply "redistributing" the bail-out money the government stole from the people to give to the rich. Kind of a Robin Hood guy. Such a fine Robin Hood that really high profile lawyers take his case and get him off time after time. Yeah. And the judges go along, because this is RIGHT and GOOD.

Then more Robin Hoods crop up, and eventually the billions of dollars of the PEOPLE'S money gets moved to better places than the coffers of pirates.

What a ridiculous fantasy. I can't write that! Nobody would believe it.

Then I though I might write an opinion piece. This piece. And then it would go viral, and at least one guy or gal with enough intestinal fortitude would take it and run with it, and the billions of stolen dollars would find their ways to places where they are needed, and not just coveted. And others would copy this criminal and eventually the billions of stolen dollars would return to the people and...

Another ridiculous fantasy. Imagine my work going viral! Who do I think I am? Lady Gaga? Justin Bieber? At least they give something of substance to the world. I am just venting my overtaxed spleen onto the Internet so I don't get some kind of sick.

Still, I have to ask; Robin Hood, where are you? Wouldn't it be interesting? Imagine!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My government doesn't trust me-

The best evidence that my government does not trust me is tax withholding. After I earn money, but before I receive it, they take some of it. They don't trust me to pay my taxes. Granted, I might be hesitant to do so if I could actually hesitate. They don't seem to manage the money very well. Still, they choose to not trust me and steal my money before I even get it.

Then there are the manipulations and lies. Weapons of mass destruction, anyone? Secret wars and secret government and secret this and secret that. Secrets don't imply trust. I have to work hard to see past the smoke screens, spin-doctoring, and outright lies. What a pain.

They won't trust me to carry weapons, which I could easily do quite responsibly. The laws prevent me, a citizen of proven character, from carrying weapons. Criminals by nature don't care about laws, and so carry weapons as they choose. I don't have a choice. If I carry weapons, I become a criminal. I wouldn't mind so much if the cops were readily available to protect me. However, there are only so many of them, and I just don't think I could get a personal escort pretty much all of the time. Has the government made all places safe for me so that I need never be concerned for my safety, and take precautions?

I can't be trusted to protect myself. I have to submit to being a potential victim because I cannot be trusted to protect myself. At what point did I demonstrate that I warrant such a lack of trust? I don't recall any event where I made it clear that I am incompetent. It seems that I am assumed to be incompetent and unable to make sound choices based on nothing at all.

They are probably right. I am just naive enough to think that by living responsibly and honestly I should be able to live in liberty according to my own choices using my own judgement. How foolish of me to think that I am the best director of my own affairs.

I love my country, and I will continue to live here and enjoy such liberties as remain. I am going to keep an eye on that government that does not trust me, however. Trust has to go both ways, and I haven't seen much of worth, lately.