Thursday, July 31, 2008

A New Incarnation

Space Pirates has become Thieves' Honor, a stronger and less laughable title, though I will keep the list of SP episodes in the sidebar for a while.

Still hard at work on the rewriting, though I need to call it a night, take a couple aspirin, and work the kinks out of some tight shoulder muscles before going to bed.

Two more days until vacation. By the way I'm almost falling asleep at the desk, you'd be excused for thinking I'm not pumped about the upcoming time off.

I'm excited. (yawn) Really. I am.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poetry, Science Fiction, and Future Plans

The poetry chapbook for the Club's 2008 contest is complete, as of about 4:45 p.m. today. Whoo Hoo!

I needed close-ups of faces and flowers and foliage. Since I couldn't find quite what I was looking for in the various graphics available to me on CD, I used some of my own photos for the cover and on some of the interior pages. The end result is quite nice, if I do say so myself.


Johne Cook a founding editor (ahem, pardon me, a founding Overlord) at Raygun Revival magazine--a great resource for folks who like a bit of pulp in their science fiction, along with some excellent artwork--has invited me to submit Space Pirates as an upcoming serial, and I'm going to do it.

Therefore, if all goes well, there will be no more episodes of SP posted here. The crew of the Martina Vega are moving on to other skies, but they will still be the same pirates you know and love--with a few twists, so those of you who've already read the first fifteen episodes will find the material fresh despite the familiarity.

Raygun Revival is free to download, so wander on over and check it out. While there, you might read Johne's own piratey tale, The Adventures of the Sky Pirate, a serial adventure. (See why Space Pirates needs a new moniker?)

Much as I need to wander the blogosphere and visit my friends, as soon as I finish this post, I am returning to the Vega so that I may have the first chapter ready by the weekend. Wish me well!


Three more days of work this week, a Saturday spent at a family reunion, and then the rest of the following two weeks is mine, all mine. I intend to do a lot of writing then, and some editing, and (I hope) a bit more blogging than I've done of late.

So, from my desk in Arkansas, in near-100-degree heat even at 9:00 p.m. (thank God for air conditioning), I'm signing off for the night, and I'll see y'all soon.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Poetry at the Boys & Girls Club

Though the deadline for our annual poetry contest was July 3, I've been working on it throughout the month:

1) collecting all the entries from the other Clubs around town,
2) getting the poems judged,
3) sorting and redistributing the entries back to the kids,
4) contacting the winners,
5) transcribing the winning poems into documents on my computer,
6) roughing out the chapbook,
7) taking photos of the winners, and
8) putting poems and photos together in the chapbook.

The book isn't finished yet; more photos are needed, and I have a section at the back of the book that needs filling. It will contain a few pages of quotes and photos regarding the nature and definition of beauty, this year's contest theme.

One boy--Isaiah--has entered the writing and photography contests in the past, put his heart and soul into the effort, but though he has received honorable mentions, he has never won.

The phone call:

Me -- "Hi! I'm calling from the Boys & Girls Club to let you know Isaiah won first place in the poetry contest."

Mom -- (gasp) "Oh, wow! That's great! He's right here; do you want to tell him yourself?"

Me -- "Absolutely."

Isaiah -- "Yeah?"

Me -- "Hey, this is (Keanan) from the Club."

Isaiah -- "Yeah?"

Me -- "Guess what?"

Isaiah -- (still suspicious and uncertain; he probably thinks he's in trouble) "I don't know. What?"

Me -- "You won first place in the poetry contest."

Isaiah -- (a gasp that mimics his mother's) "No way! No way!" (his voice a little distant as he yells back at his family) "No way! I won! I won the poetry contest! No way!"

Me -- "Yes way, dude."

Isaiah -- (choked up) "That's awesome."

Conversations like that make the effort worthwhile.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Space Pirates, Episode 15

Previously on Space Pirates:

Captain Kristoff ordered a little tea brewed, just in case he needed to drug someone among the three passengers on his ship. They've been trouble from the time they came aboard, and the trouble's not over. A constable is tailing the pirate freighter. And someone is sneaking out of quarters.

And now, on Space Pirates:

Kristoff took a step backward around the corner and flattened himself against the wall. Drawing the knife he kept at his belt, he angled the broad blade to catch a distorted reflection of the corridor. A form in a long white dress stepped from the room and hesitated. A blond head turned left and right, as if seeing if the coast was clear, then the form moved toward him.

He moved back two more steps and without a sound slipped into the supply closet to stand between shelves of linens on side and a small pantry of canned and dried foods on the other. Through the crack between the door and the jamb, he watched the woman—Rebeka Bat’Alon, according to the passenger manifest—pause at the corner, survey the guests’ common room and beyond it the empty guest galley, then step out far enough to look down the forward companionway to the cargo deck. She moved to the aft stair and descended.

Kristoff slid his knife back into its sheath and tapped the talk button on the radio three times in quick succession, standard alert signal for the Vega crew, then he quietly closed the closet door behind him and took the forward stairs.

Corrigan met him at the bottom.

“The airlock,” Kristoff murmured. “You go around that way”—he jerked his head in the direction of a stack of smuggled fine wine especially ordered by the governor of Port Henry—“and I’ll meet you there. Don’t do anything. Just watch what she does.”


Kristoff put a finger to his lips. Corrigan nodded.

The woman’s slight shoulders were hunched, her head bent, in her concentration on the hatch batten. The lock was on Corrigan’s list of repairs, but for now the door was sealed with a keyed padlock, and the woman was clearly unprepared to wrestle with it, her tools inadequate to the job.

From the other side of the cargo deck, Corrigan looked at Kristoff; Kristoff shook his head. Each man took a position behind freight—Kristoff was concealed by metal cases holding legitimate medical supplies—and waited until the woman, cursing under her breath, gave up on picking the lock and instead pulled a small torch from somewhere under all that lace and froth, and burned through the hasp. She caught the pieces before they hit the floor, gasping at the hot metal cradled in her hand. Setting the lock at her feet, she looked around once more.

Kristoff breathed slow, deep, silent.

She stepped into the airlock, looked up, closed the door, and through the port she could be seen reaching for something over her head.

Clumsy spying if he ever saw it. Why not conceal the device in her cabin?

Oh, yeah. All those spiders had been caught already.

Zoltana, Zoltana, Zoltana. You wanna catch us, you need to find a new way of tracking us.

Well, putting a flesh-and-blood spy on board was new. Two points for the extra effort.

A faint throat-clearing came from the far side of the deck. Kristoff lifted his head just enough to see Corrigan’s ugly mug grimacing and contorting as if the man were having a fit. No, just trying to waggle his eyebrows. Or maybe wink. He nodded toward the aft stairs. A pair of leather shoes, sturdy with thick soles, descended and then a pair of dark-clad legs attached to the shoes. A pause. A bandaged hand gripped the railing.

Ah. Either the lover or the idiot. Not that there was much difference between the two. A lover pretty much became an idiot sooner or later.

A few more steps, an awkward turn, and the lover came around the corner. He shuffled a little, favoring the side where a couple cracked ribs troubled him. His pale eyes shone from a multi-colored face, the bruises still purple and black, a small one on his forehead already turning a sickly yellow-green around the edges. He stopped, looked around, moved toward the airlock, all the while keeping to the wall and setting his feet slow and careful. The floor of the cargo deck was made of metal mesh or sheets with rings set into each side so they could be lifted and placed as needed over the hold below, and a firm footstep could set the floor rattling.

The seal around the hatch gave a little pop; the man flattened to the wall then winced, grabbing his ribs, but never made a sound.

Kristoff looked at Corrigan. Now.

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Monday, July 21, 2008

Busy Birthday

I'll write more later this week, and reply to comments (thanks for stopping by!). This has been a looooong day, but a good one.

Though not a "big" birthday, it's odd, because I certainly do not see myself as a mature (ahem!) 37, more as a young and insecure 25.

But, as Tina Turner sang, what's age got to do with it?

Wait a minute. Not age. Love.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Juvenile Entertainment

I'm not one to linger around YouTube, but here's the link to a fun, smart, interesting video that made quite a sensation about a year ago. It's called "American Toy Boy," and it's the work of an Etch-A-Sketch artist. Prepared to be amazed, and watch it over and over, share it with friends and family, revisit it (as I just did) a long time later.


Just finished some pleasure reading, a young adult book for girls that I think boys will enjoy just as much (and adults, too): The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. It has the lyrical qualities of a fairy tale, and it's long enough to surround the reader in another world, long enough to make that world seem real and go-to-able.

By the way, my copy of The Dangerous Book for Boys arrived this past week, and I look forward to diving in. I noticed there is also a book for girls, but haven't checked that out yet.

Which reminds me: I need to make some real progress on the story for my niece. I've added some scenes she hasn't read yet, but I promised to have the little notebook filled by October, and I'm just not sure (shock, horror) where the story's going to go from here.

I'm hand-writing it in a small, spiral-bound notebook with conveniently numbered pages; so, aside from my terrible penmanship, it's almost like reading a real book. Now, if only I could tell a real story!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Slushies, Anyone?

Just finished reading the latest round of submissions for Fear and Trembling, an online horror magazine. Probably 75% received a "yes" vote from me, with a couple of requests for revisions.

I volunteer as a slush reader, and so am allowed to put in my two cent's worth of opinion on whether or not a piece fits the magazine. In the past couple of weeks, we've had two poems and several stories submitted, but I've been too busy or too tired to get to the pile.

F&T does not print stories with sex, gore, or excessive foul language (an occasional hell or damn makes it into print). One of the submissions, however, bulged with vulgar language. Did the author not read the guidelines?

Several weeks ago, there was another story with not only language but overt sexuality. Again, how could the author have read the guidelines and missed the obvious?

Because we seek to please a wide audience of sophisticated readers, we choose not to offer stories whose sole purpose is to offend or shock. While our stories may be frightening and may include harrowing scenes, stories we present to our readers will not offend traditional Christian values. Under no circumstances will we consider works that include R-rated language, disturbing violence, or graphic sexuality.

What our stories must include, in order of importance to the editors, are: engaging characters, interesting situations, emotional relationships, and satisfying resolutions.

Sounds plain enough to me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Space Pirates, Episode 14

In this latest installment, there's very little dialogue, except for the internal kind; we spend a lot of time in the captain's thoughts as he walks from one part of his ship to another. Stick around, though, 'cause we learn a lot about him, why he does what he does.

And now, on Space Pirates:

Kristoff scooped up his radio and the wafers.

Finney called to him on his way out the door, “If you’re passing by the galley, ask Sahir to send up Haldis with some lunch.”

“Will do. And you make sure your gun’s oiled and loaded.”


Haldis was dispatched to deliver sandwiches and a drink to Finney. Sahir waved a knife at the teapot on the back burner—the chandimay tea was ready—and Ezra reported that the guests were quiet in their cabins. In the engine room, Alerio didn’t look up from his magnifying glass when Kristoff tossed the two wafers and a handful of spiders on the table along with the other devices already piled there.

Kristoff needed to check in with Mercedes—he could use some painkillers for the headache, constant since yesterday—but Wyatt’s suspicions repeated in the back of his brain, and so Kristoff went first to the passenger cabins. This part of the ship was less utilitarian, with soft lighting and warm colors, a thick rug running the length of the corridor, and little glass trays of scented oils warmed by the lamps so that the quarters smelled like a sunlit garden. The cabins, too, were more luxurious and colorful than the crew berths. The decorating had been the doctor’s idea. “Comfortable passengers make calm passengers,” she’d said when she first approached Kristoff for the funds, “and no ship needs happier passengers more than a pirate freighter.”

If Kristoff could have had his way, there’d be no passengers, but taking on guests was necessary; the Martina Vega needed the illusion of having nothing to hide.

He hadn’t started out to sail on the other side of the law. Back in the academy, he’d been one of the best, a straight-up kid, ready to serve God, government, and the granny next door. He was so intent on service that at first he didn’t see the shadow, didn’t hear the subtext of the politicians’ speeches. Only after he made captain did he begin to understand. By then, government changed, demanding tribute like a greedy child in a sandbox, taking its own toys and everyone else’s, too, and then declaring everyone equal, now that they had nothing in common.

Nothing in common. Yeah, it was a bad pun, but it was true.

Out here, in the expanse, even an old tub and ancient tech were valuable. They meant freedom.

Being pursued by a merchant constable wasn’t exactly living in liberty, but one of these days he’d take the Vega beyond traveled space, beyond the known. With enough fuel and rations, maybe the crew could survive long enough to be forgotten. Maybe they could return to a space that had buried their list of misdeeds under those of newer and more urgent crimes. Maybe they could live in peace.

The rebels in the Riva Mountains—maybe they would win. Yeah, and maybe angels with flaming swords would appear, or a meteor would land smack on top of the government troops, or all of their guns would jam at the same time, or—

The door to one of the passenger cabins whispered open.

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Resumes and Job Searches

Mom's been on a couple interviews; so far, not so good. She has another interview lined up for next week.

Me? I've just updated and printed a few copies of my resume, checked the job listings in the newspapers, printed out a list of employment agencies, and am going to start looking at jobs I would never have considered, mostly because I'm not 100% qualified for them.

I'd like to have work near my home, but I'd much prefer to work at home. A hermit in the making.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Word About Advice and Point of View

Remember that cliche about opinions: Everyone has one?

Here's another old saying: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

After reading the opening pages of a novel that I freelance edited--twice--I'm wondering where my advice went. Down some literary drain, I guess.

POV (point of view) is one of the simplest things to get right, yet one of the most difficult concepts to communicate.

Definition of POV: The story or scene is told from the point of view of one character in the scene--and ONLY from that person's perspective--or it is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator (an objective imaginary individual who sees all and knows all, and communicates that to the reader).

For an example of third-person limited POV, check out the various Space Pirates episodes on this blog. All that fancy term third-person limited means is this: The reader is not jerked from character to character in a mind-hopping exercise, jumping first into one character's perspective and then into another character's thoughts, but is led through the scene (or the entire story) by one character, knowing, sensing, and experiencing only what that character does, and only as that character encounters it.

There is no telegraphing--"If only Johnny knew that his greatest enemy lurked in the shadows"--and there is no "Meanwhile, back at the ranch." The reader knows only what his guide (the character) knows.

I do not have eyes in the back of my head. Therefore, I cannot describe to you any actions occurring behind me, unless I can see them reflected in a mirror, a window, etcetera, or hear the noises or smell the odors associated with those actions.

Makes sense, right?

Then why do writers insist on sloppy craft, and have a character describe the expression on his own face? He can tell you that he's frowning, but unless he can see himself in a reflective surface, he cannot describe his own facial contortions.

He can't tell you what he looks like from the back or the side--or, to tell the truth, from the front. He lives in his own skin; he needs an outside source, a mirror or another person, to help him visualize that skin from more angles than he can see with a tilt of his head.

Anyway, I'm reading this published novel, and there are POV switches all over the place in a single scene. After several pages of being in the hero's perspective, we leap from his POV to his friends', back to his, and then into the sight of his enemy, way up in an apartment window, an enemy the hero doesn't even know is around, let alone watching.


Yes, I have a soapbox about POV. I'm a writer and an anal-retentive editor. POV switching is the mark of a lazy writer or an immature writer. Even the so-called greats wander into POV hell on occasion.

It didn't use to be a problem for me; nowdays, though, if the writer hasn't done the hard work and fixed the POV problem, I won't finish the book. Yep, it's that big a deal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Space Pirates, Episode 13

Previously on Space Pirates: Captain Helmer Kristoff and crew are hauling smuggled cargo to the Provincial Militia, a group of independent colonists who are living in the Riva Mountains, beyond strict government supervision and happy to be so. Kristoff has no particular ties to the Provincials; the smuggling is just a job, but a dangerous one. Meantime, he has three suspicious guests aboard the Vega, and whole lot of bugs.

And now, on Space Pirates:

Corrigan entered the cargo deck and set a massive toolbox next to an ancient forklift. “Hey, Cap. Finney told me to look sharp. The Orpheus is still behind us.”

With a nod to Wyatt, Kristoff closed his fist over the deactivated spiders, strode across the cargo deck and bounded up the narrow steps to the catwalk, his boots clanging on the metal mesh with enough force to sway the railing.

On the crew deck, Ezra stepped out of a supply closet, and flattened himself against the wall to avoid Kristoff. “Captain—”


“Something wrong?”

“The Orpheus.”

“I thought we were done with her.” The liaison fell into step behind him.

“You know Zoltana.”


“Enough said.”

“What do you need me to do?”

“Go to the galley, see if Sahir has any chandimay tea. Tell him to brew up a pot and keep it handy.”

“Who are you planning on drugging, captain?”

“Don’t know yet. Wyatt thinks we best not turn our backs on our passengers. You get that feeling?”

Ezra didn’t answer right away. Kristoff turned to face him.

The liaison’s neck and ears reddened. “Uh, no, sir. Just a couple fools and a girl, that’s all.”

“All the same, chandimay tea, and an eye on the guests.”

“Aye, sir.”

Ezra took the starboard companionway, and Kristoff continued on to the wheelhouse. He kicked open the door and dropped the spiders onto the console apron beside the pilot. “Am I still the captain of this boat, Finn? Why’re you sending messages through Corrigan?”

“Nice bugs, sir,” she murmured. “Studying to become an entomologist?” Using the knuckle of her left forefinger, Finney tilted a screen toward her.

“I have a radio. You know—radio? And why are you whispering?”

She unclipped hers from her belt and held it out to him. “Button’s sticky.”

He pushed the talk button. It hesitated on depression then slowly popped back into place. He lowered his voice. “Sure you didn’t spill coffee on it?”

“Check yours, captain.”

He did. It stuck.

He grabbed a screwdriver from the tool locker and opened both radios. Trapped between the contacts were transparent circuits roughly the diameter of the tip of his finger. Wafer bugs.


None of Zoltana’s crew had been that close to him. Surely he’d have felt it if somebody had removed the radio from his belt and then returned it—and he’d almost guarantee Finney wouldn’t let anyone near her if she didn’t invite it.

He frowned.

Maybe she did invite it.

Maybe one of those clean-cut, academy-trained Orpheus crew had caught her eye. Exactly how close had she allowed those bluecoats?

“Mine was working fine up until Zoltana arrived.” Kristoff tossed the wafers on to the console and reassembled the radios. “When did you notice yours was, uh, acting up?”

“When I tried to alert you to the Orpheus in our wake. Alerio’s gonna check the other radios.” Finney spun the wheel, and the deck tilted.

Kristoff grabbed the bar above his head and braced his feet. “The asteroid field is about a couple hours out—”

“Zoltana has probably already thought of it—”

“You can outrun her.”

Finney slanted a look at him. “The Orpheus is twenty years ahead of us in design and technology. The best we can hope for is a really good trick.” She gave one of her almost smiles. “And, if that fails, we get to use our guns.”

“Didn’t know you were so bloodthirsty.”

“I’m not. But I do like to shoot things.”

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Road Home

Been away from the blogosphere a while -- all that busyness did occur (is still occurring), just a little later than I thought. Good news is, only three more weeks of Summer Program, and then two weeks off for my own version of summer vacation. Can hardly wait!

Wouldn't it be cool if we humans truly could see where we were going and where we had been, at the same time?
We may not always know what lies ahead, but we can check our progress.

Almost home...

...a pause, a turn at the crossroads...

...a cruise past the funeral home (there's probably a metaphor in that somewhere)...

...home at last.
Plain, unassuming, comfortable, quiet, HOME.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Space Pirates, Episode 12

Thought I was going to slow waaaaaay down on the blogging, give myself a break for this month, put Space Pirates on hiatus, but it just ain't happenin'.

For those of you who happen to stumble upon this site, Space Pirates is an ongoing work of fiction presented in short episodes on a frequent but irregular basis. I have fun with it; hope you do, too.

Also, I'm eagerly awaiting the final comments from a couple more readers so I can make revisions and get that puppy out the door to some agents and -- I'm confident! -- a willing publisher. (Note, July 8: I must have been having a one-sided conversation with myself. "That puppy" is the fantasy manuscript I've been writing. Just never said so in the paragraph!)

That said, please stayed tuned.


Previously, on Space Pirates: The Martina Vega, captained by Helmer Kristoff, was boarded and inspected by the crew of the Orpheus, a freighter constable captained by Iona Zoltana. The Vega's illicit cargo escaped detection, but the constable crew planted a few interesting devices. There is also a governor's daughter and two men aboard, passengers who are more than they seem.

And now, on Space Pirates:

Captain Iona Zoltana stood on the bridge, hands clasped behind her back, and watched the Martina Vega glide away from the Orpheus. The old boat veered to port then ascended to the next plane on the grid, on course for Port Henry per the registered flight plan and the cargo manifest. For a near wreck, the tub was a sweet goer.

Good pilot, too. Every time Zoltana saw Finney’s work, she mentally deposited a few more credits into the bribery account. How much before she could lure the pilot over to the right side of the law?

“Lieutenant McNair, as soon as the Vega drops past that moon’s horizon, follow her.”

“Aye-aye, captain.”

The Vega’s sturdy silhouette entered the penumbra of the moon, was lost for a few seconds, no gleam from her hull betraying her position, and then she reappeared, silhouetted once more against the light of a star. Per orders, Lieutenant McNair altered course.

“Captain.” An ensign saluted with academy precision. “Lieutenant Mars reports at least a dozen spiders already inoperable, and a dozen more emitting uncertain signals.”

A cold chuckle rolled from Zoltana’s throat. “Of course they are.” Turning at a crisp right angle, she stepped down from the bridge and entered the lift. “Thank you, ensign.”

A silent five seconds upward, and the hatch on the surveillance and navigation deck hissed open. Only three crew per shift manned this deck, a larger and more comfortable version of what would be called a crow’s nest on an old tub like the Martina Vega.

As soon as Zoltana stepped on deck, all hands stood at attention. There were no salutes; those were saved for formal occasions, and this was a workaday matter.

“Lieutenant Mars”—Zoltana descended the two steps onto the deck—“tell me about our spiders.”

The crew returned to stations. Mars waited beside his console. “All but five are out of commission, ma’am, but their signals are garbled. The tracker in the airlock has been untouched.”

She took the offered palm-sized scanner and read the screen: a virtual blueprint of the Martina Vega, with the decommissioned spider locations in red, the garbled ones in yellow, and one green dot indicating the spider in the airlock. “I give us a quarter hour before they find that one, too.”

Two orange dots—one moving through the cargo hold, another in the wheelhouse—flickered a faint signal.

“We wouldn’t have been able to place any, if she were newer. You’d think Kristoff would have pirated a sweeper before now.”

“And ruin his fun?” Zoltana handed back the scanner. “His crew still uses pencil and paper.”

Mars’ eyes lit with enthusiasm. “I’d like to get my hands on some of those old Earth radios they use. Did you notice they’ve been modified to no longer require batteries? So ancient they’re virtually undetectable by new tech.”

Placing a hand on the young man’s shoulder, Zoltana smiled. “Port Henry has its share of antiques shops. Meantime,” she clasped her hands behind her back once more, “have you heard from Omega?”

“Just a few blips, wide apart.” Mars tapped in a sequence on a keyboard, and a large screen split to show the original coded message on one side, the translation on the other. “Best I can tell, ma’am, the Vega’s crew has been a little too—hospitable. Omega’s unable to leave passenger quarters.”

“No need for alarm yet, lieutenant.” Zoltana moved toward the lift. “We have sixty-five hours before Port Henry. I can be patient.”

c. 2008, Keanan Brand

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bubba's New Camera

Here's a shot my brother took with his new camera a short while before leaving for OTS. He finally got a picture of that darn palm tree!

A Sunday News Miscellany

Sunday Funnies: Follow this link to a humorous column entitled "Three Reasons to Ban All Non-Amish Novels", written in the style of Andy Rooney (or, as the main header indicates, Randy Rooney).


Monday, my mother lost her job due to downsizing at her bank. Two or three other employees were also let go at the same time; more had been fired previously, and more firings are scheduled. She did receive a severance package and some material that will assist her in training for and finding new work. She has a mortgage payment, a car payment, and the same household bills to pay as the rest of us, but she's at peace about it. We believe in prayer, in relying on God to meet our needs, and she says Tuesday, the day after the firing, was one of the most peaceful, stress-free days she's had in a long, long while.


My brother is in officer training in Montgomery, Alabama. He's so exhausted that his voice fades away on the answering machine, and he's fighting off illness. Seems to me that more is being required of him now than when he was in basic training -- but he was younger then, and unmarried, and life was (perhaps) more of an adventure. This OTS business is only allowing him two to four hours of sleep each night, and his day is strictly regimented. My prayer is that even fragments of sleep will be refreshing and healing, and that he will have strength and mental alertness to do well in all that is demanded of him.


My father called last night, a little after 9:30, and wanted to know if I wanted my birthday present early. I laughed and asked, "Is it a lawnmower?"

No, he wanted to buy me a stool to use when I'm on the computer (which is sitting on the top of a bookcase, so I can stand; sitting in a cushy chair too long makes me sleepy).

We didn't find a stool that worked, but we ended up getting groceries for his household. He didn't have a written list, and his wife wasn't there, so I hope he arrived home with everything required.

As a result of that late-night foray, I missed Bubba's call.


I really, really want to turn in my resignation, but I still haven't found another job. Despite the rewards of working with kids, there are a lot of stresses incurred by working with this particular set of "grown-ups" who are anything but grown up in their attitudes and behavior.

Months ago, I posted something on this blog about the search for work. I need a certain amount of income, or I'd pitch everything overboard and work at a department store again, or a fast-food restaurant, something almost mindless in the requirements. If I had more skills, I'd go to work for my dad again, but he needs people who can do construction and remodel work without having to always ask what needs to be done next. I can paint, though, and hammer nails. Mindless work, again.


Philippians 1:3-6 (New International Version)
3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 3:19-21

20Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Light on the Other Side

The sun isn't in the photo, but evidence of its presence is there, in the light shining on the other side of the leaf.

Not everything that exists is visible. Not everything unseen is unreal.

Writing Rant

I wandered over to Jeff Draper's blog, Scriptorius Rex, and weighed in on his rant about being aware of time periods and the proper vocabulary when writing about them.

He is reading through entries submitted for a sword-and-sorcery anthology of short stories, and is encountering dialogue that is too modern for the material.

Ever encountered that in your own reading? Or viewing?

In the second half of my previous post, I mentioned A Knight's Tale, which uses modern dialogue and music on purpose, a case of "you gotta know the rules before you can break them." However, most instances of anachronistic language rise from 1) ignorance, or 2) laziness.

This may seem harsh, but if I stumble over that kind of stuff when reading an already-published piece, I am pulled out of the story and will very likely not finish it. All the author's skill is put in doubt after that point, and I generally cannot trust him (or her).

One must trust the storyteller in order to complete the journey.


That being said, I turn around and apply the same harsh judgment to my own work. I nitpick until I drive friends crazy, trying to get stuff right, but I've learned in the past several years to keep the audible nitpicking to a minimum. (laughing)

Tex (Pappy's Balderdash) helped by sending a link when I was seeking pirate-y jargon and nautical terminology for the "Space Pirates" tale. I had enough of a foundation to know what I didn't know, thanks to a father who was in the navy and told us stories, and to my own childhood interest in all things nautical.

My brother and sister-in-law have helped me work through thorny story issues i.e. a sword fight on a battlefield or a climb up a mountain or raising a clutch of dragon young. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. There's no real-world precedent for that last one.)

Jadesmith is reading through the first manuscript in the Dragon series, and she's pointing out places where the dialogue doesn't match the characters. Crucial help.

And, despite grumbling from a few fellow writers who just can't seem to grasp the point of fantasy fiction, or who refuse to read certain archaic words in context and thus understand their meaning, I continue to use old-fashioned vocabulary that fits the time period and the location. I'm stubborn that way.

Always, always, be true to the story. Everything else will follow.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day and a Movie


With all her flaws and tensions, with all her constant struggles over who gets which rights (or who gets more rights than someone else) and the acceptance of new forms of bigotry, with all her forgetfulness and rewriting of her own history, I still love this country.

* * *

Total leap of thought into a new and unconnected topic: A Knight's Tale, the movie that you either "get" or you hate.

It stars the late Heath Ledger as the thatcher's son-turned-knight, and includes many other excellent actors -- Alan Tudyk as Wat, Rufus Sewell as the villain Count Adhemar, Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer, Mark Addy as Roland, James Purefoy as the Black Prince, and Laura Fraser as Kate the Farrier (a really cool character) -- as well as Shannyn Sossamon as Lady Jocelyn, the woman over whom the knight and the villain tussle. (She annoyed me, and I didn't see the attraction. But that's just me.)

Back to the movie: It's a taken from The Canterbury Tales and from history, and it adds modern music and a modern/futuristic twist to the costuming, and it all works. Ya gotta know a topic really well in order to mess with it intelligently, and the filmmakers knew their stuff.

I highly recommend its light-hearted, smart fun -- a rock-and-roll homage to the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Another Kid Pic

This is probably the only time in the day these kids were 1) this still, and 2) this agreeable with one another. Even feet can convey personality.

A Look Back, a Move Forward

Yesterday marked the birthday of a long-time friend. In honor of that, I am re-posting something from September 2007 regarding said friend. Hang around after the message for an update.


Back in February, after first being told "I love you" in a friend or sibling sort of way, I responded in the same vein to a friend of the opposite gender. There was uncertainty, a short silence, and then everything returned to normal: weekly phone conversations, occasional visits or outings, and e-mails.

I was not satisfied with leaving things as they have always been for almost ten years. TEN YEARS. C'mon. I have had dating relationships during that time, and all failed to go anywhere permanent because always, in the back of my mind, I wondered, "What if?" I have always wanted more with this person, but have settled for friendship, because that was all that seemed to be on offer.

And my friend has been a true friend, helping me in practical ways during some difficult times, or listening to my rants or my insanity. We have traded advice, prayed together, studied books and shared the Bible together. This person, more than even my best friend of the same gender, has heard and seen me at my ugliest, and remained my friend.

For a couple of years, I've been praying for freedom from a whole list of things, and one of them is fear. One thing I fear is a life without this person somehow in it. I fear rejection -- obviously -- but also derision, disbelief, anything that smacks of "Who do you think you are?" or "You're not my type" or "I just can't think of you as anything more than a friend," all the negative responses.

So, knowing it had to be done, knowing I risked ten years of friendship but also knowing that I needed an answer -- one way or the other -- if I were going to be free to move forward in my life, I declared myself.

It was an old-fashioned declaration: in a letter. At four pages long, it isn't short and sweet, but hopefully it is clear and honest and without chance for misunderstanding. I wrote "I love you" more than once, and without any qualifiers. No "sibling in Christ" stuff. No "love ya like a friend" or anything that softened or changed it. Just I love you. Emphatically.

There is no response yet. There has been plenty of time for one, but instead there is silence. No e-mails. No phone calls. No letter in return. No dropping by in person.

I will not force communication, but I hate the waiting.

The silence is, in itself, an answer.

I hate the loss.

And yet -- and yet -- I do not regret the letter. I do not regret the truth.


I have my answer (see previous post), and I am not unscathed.

However, if this is how it must be, well, then, this is how it must be.

I have angered my friend. I upset the apple cart. I threw a rock in the pond. I robbed someone of something they valued. They thought they had one friend; when I told the truth, they found they had a different friend altogether.

That's what this person thinks now. In a way, it's not an incorrect thought. However, once the ripples have subsided and the pond is quiet again, once the cart has been set upright and all the apples returned, perhaps my friend will see that no robbery at all has been committed. Only change.

If friendship ends, well, other friendships have ended. If discomfort forces us to change, well, growing is never comfortable and rarely fast.

I will mourn the loss, and I will move forward, hopefully wiser, certainly older.

Now, almost a year later, all is well. No, there is no romance, but the friendship, though still altered, is intact.

I've moved on. So much so, in fact, that I forgot this friend's birthday until around 10 p.m. yesterday, something I haven't done in the decade plus that we've known one another. In a strange way, that's progress!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


We were all hanging out on the sidewalk and the bike rack, waiting for the facility to open on Monday morning, and I took a few shots of the kids.

Here's one of those happy circumstances, when camera and subject(s) are in alignment.

Reminds me of the time my brother swooped down the steps in kindergarten or first grade, and stole a kiss from the girl for whom he harbored a crush for much of elementary school.