Series Complete

Please don’t tell anyone, but my three book series, Seals of the Ages is complete. The last book, Riddle of the Keep, is back from editing, and will be available in the next few weeks.

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The first two, The Druid and the Flower, and Ashima take the reader on a special journey, some hundred years or so after the world collapses from an economic disaster. The few who remain build a new world, only to find that the remnants of the past cannot so easily be put aside. Each book stands on its own story, no cliffhangers at the end. That cannot be said about the end of any chapter, as each give good reason to jump into the next.

In the final book, Magic has come to humanity. But the Seals that were there to protect this newly healed world are about to fail. What was old must become new again; what was hidden must be show. An evil force wants nothing more than total destruction; one man, the Druid, and his small band of followers are the only obstacle in its way.

Loss, love, adventure, betrayal, Magic, conflict, soul gripping choices, and that’s just the first few chapters. So please, don’t tell anyone. Here is how the last book starts.

 Chapter 1 – The Hunt

 

From the Book of Last Days

What is the greater sorrow?

Is it when many grieve for the one,

or when one must grieve for the many?

 

“Sean, let me go with you, please?”

“For the umpteenth time, no.”

Brendan rubbed the horse’s nose. “He’s going to miss me. How’s he going to get a carrot without me around?”

Sean tightened the cinch strap. “You spoil him. He needs a rest from all your carrots.” The look on Brendan’s face told him he had said enough.

Brendan’s head went down. “Oh, come on. Let me come. Jason won’t mind.” He looked over at Jason, who was already in the saddle. “Will you?”

Jason looked down at Sean, and then back to Brendan. “It’s your brother’s decision. I would take you any—”

“No. How many times do I have to say it?”

Brendan kicked the ground and ran off, as his father and mother came out the door. His mother grabbed him and gave him a hug. “It’s okay, sweetie. We’ll make a rhubarb pie, and you can have all you want.”

“I don’t want any rhubarb pie. He’s mean. I hate him. And I hate his horse.” He tore away from his mother and ran inside the house.

“I’ll go talk to him,” Sean said.

“You’ve done enough,” his father put his hand up. “He’ll be fine.”

“Sorry.” Sean hung his head.

“He just wanted to go hunting with his big brother,” his mother added. “What do you expect when you tell him all those stories?”

“Next time. I promise.”

His parents exchanged glances. “The two of you go on,” his mother said.

Sean kissed his mom on the cheek and gave a shame-filled glance to his father. His father patted his shoulder. “Have a successful hunt.”

Sean and Jason headed off.

“Hey, Sean,” his father called. “Don’t forget about the vest.”

*****

The hunting had turned out more successful than planned. They got what they needed a few days ahead of schedule.

And last evening they had celebrated his birthday and the success of the hunt. He wore the vest as he had promised his father and mother. It was a vest that held a secret, a most important secret, they had informed him, which was why his father had reminded him to wear it on his twenty-first birthday.

 What a disturbing dream, but in some strange manner it wasn’t a dream. It came from the real world, from events he had lived; yet another part of him told him he could not have done so. His parents said there would be more to explain when he returned. There were things he needed to know and see, but first he must experience the knowledge of the vest. The vest was passing along real memories, impossible memories.

What the hell did castles have to do with what he needed to know? There were certainly no castles around here, or anywhere else in the world he knew of. The old Ruins were the remnants of a castle. When it had been built or who built it was now lost to the ages. His mother used to read them stories of those lost ages, stories filled with incredible technology: flying machines, boats that went under water, weapons of immense power, which in the end all but obliterated that age. It was hard now to tell the facts from the myth. His world had none of that; the most powerful weapon now was a sword or a bow. Of course, Magic was a whole other matter.

He chuckled. All this was probably a side effect from Jason’s bad cooking. He looked over to where Jason still snored on the other side of the small fire pit, a pit barely holding on to its last smoldering coals. He tossed a few pieces of wood and the fire started up again; a few larger pieces, and it was back to being a productive fire, chewing at the wood like an animal who hadn’t eaten for a long time. He grabbed the kettle, and walked down to the river. A morning wash was in order; the water was invigorating on his hands and face, with one last scoop of water back over his hair.

Such great autumn colors, the deep red of the oak leaves and the yellow of the birch stood out against the stands of evergreens and the rolling hills on the other side of the river. The oak looked stately and strong, which was why he preferred it when he needed to craft any intricate designs in his woodworking projects; its strength made it easy to work with.

Mixed in with the oak trees was a smattering of maples; that wood was hard and difficult to mold, but he so loved the fine grain, a grain that made any piece of furniture stand out. A few elms with their purple hue stood in a stately pose close to the riverbank; they added a special beauty to the landscape, and held a color in contrast to the reds, yellows, and orange that dominated the area. Farther down the river a young buck was taking a drink. On either side of the buck, a number of small trails went off into the woods, no doubt used by the local fauna to access the river. He wanted to stand there and take it all in until the sun went down. The buck lifted his head, caught a glimpse of him and darted back into the woods, a clear indication that he too should get on his way.

It was sudden and real, another flash inside his head, a blue light blocking the entrance to that castle door. Someone was there outside the door, someone he knew, but older … no, younger. It made no sense, two men in the same place, a younger and older version of the same person, someone he knew … get a grip. Okay, he would do the cooking from now on.

Could it really be that the vest was planting memories inside his head? His father had explained there would be things to show him on his return, things that made up his heritage.

He filled the kettle and headed back, placed it on the fire, and readied the dark roasted beans for a morning brew. He smiled. His mother had ground the beans for him, saying he would be too sleepy to do it himself. He glanced at where the bucks were skinned and drained, hanging high as they cured, the skins drying nearby in the crisp autumn air.

Jason sat up. “Mornin’. Brew ready?”

“Slow down, big fella,” Sean answered. “I was up half the night keeping the fire going so you wouldn’t freeze to death.”

“You just like watching the stars,” Jason said. “And you need me for an excuse.”

“Watching stars. It’s amazing I could see any with the noise hammering my head from your snoring,” Sean said. “I did have some weird dreams, however.”

Jason made his way to the river for his wake-up wash. Sean had the morning brew made and poured when he returned. “Here you go.”

Jason took the mug and sat on a piece of log near the fire. “That dream of yours … you probably had a nightmare about the last buck we took down.”

Sean bowed his head. “Ya, I felt bad about that one. Didn’t know he had a buddy.”

“They all have buddies, or mates, or parents, or whatever bucks have. He’s food, not fun, you know that.” Jason took a gulp of his brew, and threw a piece of wood on the fire.

“I know. Still, the other buck looked at me as his buddy fell, daring me to kill him as well; it was not one of my finer moments.” He looked over to where the venison hung. He had insisted he skin and prepare him alone, and Jason had accepted what he’d needed to do.

“Look, you and I know that if we find a fawn while on the hunt it’s going home with you; that goes for lost young wolves, foxes, wild turkeys, and even baby skunks, not to mention the blinker. Your brain might be six feet above the ground, but your heart is much closer. And if my memory is correct, I’ve been on hunts with you where each of those events has happened.” Jason refilled his mug, and topped off Sean’s. “So don’t be too hard on yourself. Killing’s hard stuff, but necessary.”

“Ya, I suppose you’re right … I’d almost forgotten about that blinker mouse.” He shook his head. “Sniffy … ya, Sniffy. He loved to disappear and then reappear again. That mouse knew he had Magic. He hung around for quite some time before my dad made me let him go.”

“I wonder why,” Jason said. “One second he would be on the floor, and the next second he could be in one of your pockets looking for a treat.” A hot spark flew down near his boot. He stomped it out. “Well, all the meat we need is hanging over there. You want to head back home?”

“Hell, no. Plus the meat can drain for a couple of days in this cold. And it’s my birthday week,” Sean answered. “I could stay out here forever. You got something you need to get back to?”

“All right, then. It’s not our fault we’re such good hunters.” Jason laughed. “And our families don’t expect us back for another couple of days … you going to tell them you’re moving out?”

“I’m not moving out. Just need a place of my own. A room next to the wood shop. I want some alone time.”

“Try living at my place. Even the house gets into the screaming,” Jason said.

“Would drive me crazy.”

“I love it. It’s my family. Been that way all my life.”

Sean shook his head. “I just need alone time. Or maybe I’m selfish.”

“What do you want for breakfast? Bacon, or bacon? Eggs, or eggs?” Jason returned with a cast-iron frying pan, ample strips of bacon, and one big hand cradling four eggs, with room to spare for another one or two.

“I love my family, too. But it’s time to get out on my own.”

“We are out on our own. Even have to cook our own breakfast. You made the brew, I’ll make the breakfast. Sit back and be alone while I cook you up a feast … Oh, what was that dream of yours? About women, I hope, and one of them playing with that curly hair of yours.”

“Nothing so exciting. It wasn’t a dream. I thought so at first, but no. This was different. It’s still there—a vivid memory of an enormous stone building, like a castle. Magic, of some sort, was at play, and a person who was both young and old. And, get this, I was totally aware of why he was that way.”

“Must be my cooking,” Jason said.

Sean laughed. “Now, there’s a thought.”

They finished breakfast, cleaned up, fed the horses and the pack animals, checked the meat and hides, and replenished the wood supply for their fire.

Sean had already tucked his birthday vest back inside his pack, so as not to soil it. An older, darker-colored vest now covered his shirt, one more suitable for hunting and working.

By midday, minus their bows, they were back out tracking animals, with a minimal invasion of the animals’ habitat, as their real hunting was over. Late afternoon they went for a ride along the river, did a little fishing, and carried back a few hardy brook trout for dinner. As the sun dipped to the west they were back at the fire, each with an ale in hand.

“What’s next for you?” Jason asked. “Set up a woodworking shop here in good old North Wind Clearing?”

Sean clinked his mug against Jason’s before he took a swallow. “Well, maybe that trip we talked about.”

“Port Tern?”

“Ya. Check out the craft schools, learn a little more about woodworking, maybe metallurgy—I could use a good sword. Plus, it’s time I saw a big city. Time you did.”

Jason nodded. “I’m in. But Vera’s not going to like it.”

“We’re just friends.”

“You might want to let her know that,” Jason said. “My guess is she sees it differently.”

“I’ll talk to her before we go … It’s time we both went our own way.” Sean took a long measure of his ale. “I hate confrontation.”

“If you’d stick to an ale and a kiss only now and again, you wouldn’t be in this mess. And more ale than kisses.” Jason had a grin on his face that lit up like a harvest moon. “We’re both destined to inherit our farms from our fathers, so I say we get a year or two of travel in before we fulfill our duties.”

“Oh, I know what’s expected of me. But maybe I can do more with woodworking than I can with a farm. Maybe my little brother should get the farm; he loves the place even more than I do.”

“He loves his big brother. We should have brought him along; you—”

“No, he would have been a nuisance,” Sean said.

“Okay, okay. Someone is feeling too smothered by his family.”

“Sorry. I love him. I love them all. But I need to be alone for a while and sort out my life.”

“Hey.” Jason picked up the keg and refilled Sean’s mug. “This is getting way too serious.” He raised his mug. “To adventure, ales, and new kisses.”

Sean took another long gulp. His friend’s heart was as big as he was tall and broad. And his friend loved to hunt as much as he did. Leather boots up to the knees, a knife tucked in the right one, pants down inside the boots, a leather belt and a leather tunic; he very much looked the part of a hunter. Best friends didn’t come any better. “You’re the best.” He held up his mug. “And to my family, may they always know I love them and never know that they love a selfish brat.”

*****

A few days later and their week of hunting was over, the time gone by much too quickly, and the last few days a grand vacation; they were now on their way home. He should be jubilant, and he was, but as he rode along he could not shake the notion that something was amiss. What could be wrong?

He let go of the feeling, hummed a song as the horses trotted along. There was nothing to worry about—a beautiful day, an easy gait for the stallions. He would have his own place, talk to Vera, and maybe find some woodworking course in Port Tern.

 It was a little before noon when they arrived at the diverging path that gave them each a different direction home. They split the meat and pelts, slapped each other on the back, gave hugs that comrades would give to comrades, and headed off on their separate ways.

Sean smiled now as he rode on alone; a picture of his family came into focus. He would soon show them the bounty of his efforts; they would be pleased, and later, just before bedtime, he would share the stories of the hunt with his little brother.

The familiar smell of the cool salt air hit him as he turned around the last set of hills. He halted his horse and pack mule and took a deep breath. “Ah.” He patted his stallion on the neck and continued on past the huge lake where he often fished. Maybe he would take his brother fishing tomorrow, after all the chores were done. His brother was such a pest, but he loved him more than life itself. He knew he should be spending more time with him, and he would from now on; it was one of the things he had promised himself as he sat around the fire pondering his next journey. Down a low hill, and the road allowed him a glimpse of the ocean. He was almost home.

He entered the Bearagan farmstead and dismounted; odd, a dead silence. Where was Frizzy? She should have barked her welcome by now. Blood all over the steps leading to the house. Something was wrong, very wrong. The main door stood open. He ran inside. It was as cold inside the house as outside. The door had been open for some time. More blood, Brendan on the floor. Sean’s legs gave way, and he crumpled to his knees. “Nooooooo…” His brother’s face was cold to the touch, the color gone from his cheeks. So much blood; where had it all come from? There, a stab wound, and another, stab wounds all over his small body. The tears came, streaming down his face. What had happened? His heart pounded; he shook his head and rubbed the tears away. His mother had slid down the wall, one hand still holding a knife, blood on the wall, one of her arms completely cut off. Should he pick it up? Oh, dear gods! His two sisters lay nearby, their hair matted with even more blood. They had suffered the same fate. A few inches from his older sister’s head, a hair band sat in a pool of blood. He looked down again and touched his brother’s chest; bending low he kissed his forehead. The rusty essence of blood saturated the air. He sat back on his heels and shut his eyes. He gulped, pain exploding in his chest; a silent scream made his head pound even more, forced his mouth wide open, his face arcing to the ceiling. He rocked back and forth, holding on to his brother, forced his eyes open again and stared at the scene, helplessly transfixed in some impossible moment that would not pass. He wiped more tears from his face.

He looked from one family member to another. A jolt of realization hit him; his father was not here. He pushed to his feet, and rushed from room to room. “Dad … Dad?” He continued calling as he wandered from the house to the barn, and there he stopped abruptly, one more scene straining to break his grip on reality—his father lying faceup on the ground, sword in hand. Beside him, Frizzy lay on her side, blood on her maw, her fur covered in blood. He fell to his knees for a second time, picked up the sword, and gently placed his father’s hand upon his chest to meet the other hand already there. He held the sword against his own chest, opened his mouth, and looked up, making no sound other than a desperate release of air.

He could tell from the freshness of the blood that they had been killed only hours before, sometime before the light of morning. A broken lantern lay next to his father’s body. It had all happened at a time when he should have been here to help protect them.

He cried some more for them, and then he cried for himself. His selfish act would forever haunt him.

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Transition

The wind has more to it than summer might want to be a part of; this is no gentle breeze, soothing and soft to usher in a sunny day where children might frolic in the park, or an old man with shorts and sandals might walk his dog in a slow stole, so slow that the dog would look up now and again to let the old man know they were all but not moving.

Hawk

Of course there were signs of what was ordained to happen before this morning. Not an omen of ill winds, though some might see it that way. It is more a celebration of what the summer has accomplished.  Some weeks ago the dogwood and the red oak had turned crimson along with the maples; the birch and hickory, not to be outdone had picked gold and bright yellow as their favorite hue, with the mountain maple picking a color in-between the others. Even until now, they have all held their leaves. One or two might have fallen, but the rest have held fast, a small rest in time and change where one season might get ready for the next.

It makes me wonder if there should be a time for people to ponder their seasons with greater speculation and planning; after all, there is but one turn of that wheel, and there is so much to learn should progress be measured by knowledge gained, or time well spent, or better still how much love was given to all that was encountered, especially should that measure be exacted by having lived the opposite of such encounters.

Nature does not do it by measurement, though I have heard that the turning of the leaves might be a signal for creatures that live with the trees to prepare for winter; the trees care about what sit upon their branches and live upon their leaves, to at least give them counsel of things to come. Much smarter than humanity.

We give more importance to the next sale of shovels and plows, pictures and warnings of old storms, fear of some cold that would not be feared but for having been delivered in a manner to do just that, as if we do not know enough to shelter from the cold as we do from the heat, such nonsense allowing us no place to sit on the bridges that must be crossed over, no time to contemplate, ponder, meditate on done and yet to be done. It’s why the time moves so quickly at the end. Where once only pulled along by what might be, now we are pushed and pulled as in some frantic race, pushed by all behind who dare not look at what is to come, pulled by a dire need to lay it all down, find refuse from what is finally understood might well have been a meaningless pilgrimage to nowhere.

The seasons know best, and the wind is purposeful in its job. There’s no reason to rush ahead to what is destined to be; let the transformation be as natural as day into night, or night into day. It’s not to destroy, rather to be what it is, an arbiter of change; and so, the leaves sail down and rattle on the ground, sweet smells lift and make the big Dane sniff the air. The Rat Terrier is more concerned about what makes the leaves move—monsters maybe. I chuckle with delight when a tiny whirlwind of leaves gives the Rat Terrier reason to jump to where you might think his next jump will be on the big Dane’s back, for refuge. Of course it could be the pup in him is having fun with the boy in me. The big Dane lays down on a clump of leaves and takes it all in; his time in dog years is past mine. He’s saving his energy to race the Terrier about the yard but still another round.

The sun gives a special sparkle to the ripples on the pond where leaves have gathered to take a final washing. This is a special time, transition from one season to another. The next season is no better no worse than the one before; each knows its duty and its way. Preparation is the key. You cannot take the leaves of summer into the heavy snows of winter, every birch knows that, and many bear the scars of having misread the change.

We could learn much from nature, were we not so human.

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A Leaf

A Leaf

by

Russell Loyola Sullivan

Autumn

A small buckled leaf

It skates across the deck

Bits of green still cling

Perhaps it is early to the fall

There’s a crackling dryness from the sound it makes as it moves

The brisk wind that carries it tells only of winter

The chipmunks know the truth of it

Or again it might have been the nuts that tipped them off

And so we take the time to tell each other

I know the drill but seem less inclined to join in all the preparation

Perhaps I do know more than I could tell

I merely pause and hope it might slow down for me

Before a long repose might find its rightful place to claim its time

You don’t think of such happenings in spring or summer

It’s our way to believe that things will not die when growth should be in favor

Yet that too my time has though me to be weary of

Still you best not be out of kilter with the ways of nature

Like having your dinner for breakfast

Or your breakfast for dinner

Such nonsense that even a child might see though the silliness

A shiver to the wind

That’s my acceptance

I enjoin the coolness

Anticipate the hoar frost to come

Smoke upon the ponds

Stillness as even the trees return to slumber

I will find them there

We might find each other

Let me see all your colors in full bloom

Let me feel the wind upon my face

Let me smell the lingering decay

Let me lay with you in sweet repose

Let me awake one more time

Where we might do it all again

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Going into the Darkness

oil-lampIt’s one of my favorite times of year, when the light gives way to the darkness. Growing up in Brent’s Cove, Newfoundland, without electricity, cars, or TV, it was even more profound. As children we were in bed by eight o’clock, nine at the latest in the summer, and with that one-half hour special time in Newfoundland, the light easily lasted until nine or so during those summer months.

As winter clocked in, and the hands moved back, the darkness would sweep in at four. On went the oil lamps and maybe a Tilley lamp for its extra brightness. For children that meant we were up even after the lights went on, a novelty, a feeling of being a bit adult.

Of course the only light in the cove would be those lamps, and they barely cast a glow more than a few feet out the windows. Such a rare occasion where clouds had gone missing, the view of looking up in a crisp autumn sky allowed a few of the stars that would put Disney World to shame.

The kitchen would be where we all gathered: supper, schoolwork, prayers, the radio, even bedtime stories were told in the kitchen. All the other rooms would be chilly if not cold, as the only heat was the kitchen stove, and the only other room to get any heat was the funnel room directly above, from the hot smoke as its moved up the funnel and out through the roof. There was an oil stove in the back of the house, but that was only lit on the coldest of days. Each of us had a hot water bottle to be tossed under the sheets a few minutes before bed time.

All of the windows were single pane, and Jack Frost left many a painting on them as the kitchen fire died down. But while the fire lasted, the yellow light of the kitchen bathed us all in its glow, and the wood stove drove back the whistle of the winds attempting to creep in.

Curtains were drawn, even though there were no neighbors so close as to even need curtains; yet, it meant the family was tucked in and cozy, as we indeed where.

And so I love going into the darkness, even to this day. Yes, it also holds the holidays and the holy days, the celebration, the sharing, the merriment that is so special to that time of year.

This time of year reminds me that we are indeed the sum of our experience, the places we have been, the people we have known, and the choices we have made. Going into the darkness is a time to reflect on what our life has meant.

I looked out this morning, my dished done, my coffee made by six, ready to slide the door open and allow the dogs to wander about as I enjoy my first few sips. The darkness stopped me. Yes, it was an overcast day, and so it had snuck up on me. It gave me pause to think what this dark season might offer.

I asked the universe for a favor. Please allow everyone to at least once find serenity and peace as they go forth into the darkness.

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Retribution

He walked past a barroom. Barrooms used to be a place where he could find escape and solace; not so much for the wine and beer, rather it offered the chatter of the living and the lively, even if the reality of the situation might in fact be different. And the lighting was always to his liking, dark woods and plenty of shadow where yellow light ate up the spaces in-between the solid and the ethereal: the atmosphere which gave no care to daylight and what it might want. Here was where the nighttime kept its vigil, no matter the time of day.

Cat for Friday 13th

That was all before a greater darkness found a way inside his already lost soul, darkness so deep and penetrating that silence would be a resounding clamor of unbearable screaming in comparison. It would be easy to blame it on a world gone mad with its insatiable greed, gluttonous consumption, immeasurable waste, venomous hate, and its blind devotion to an absurd self diagnosis on the value of self. It might be easier still to assess no blame, but to allow that what had unfolded must unfold. It was the nature of things.

The pain in the right hand had all but dissipated. Ice did that to pain. One would expect that warmth would be best, as warmth was what the soul best fed on. Maybe the body craved cold in derision of what the soul might want. A smile spread across his face. This was as close as he would ever come to being a philosopher. He shook his hand and moved the fingers. Good enough for what he needed to do.

He passed another barroom and turned down a dimly lit street towards the docks. He could smell the smoke and stale beer from this one; this bar did not follow the rules. What he was looking for did not follow the rules. It would appear he was in the right place.

Retribution would not change what he had left behind. There was no going back to that place: green eyes, as emerald green as a southern ocean, with a smile that … that would be no more. His fault in her death was what had claimed the last piece of him. No matter that all of his planning, all of his ability, all of his cunning, all of his efforts would not have changed the outcome. And that alone lay all the blame upon him.

He would join her if the gods had not blocked such a reasonable and doable escape. More than join her he would have made a grand exit and let the world see what retribution should really look like. He would have given them a display to equal the burial of Pompeii, and then end himself.

It was years before he even knew they had a daughter, a daughter who did not know about him. That didn’t matter. The dark past that had so engulfed him and the woman he had loved so dearly now came to seek the last link of the two of them. He could not let that happen.

No lights now.  No sounds. A pale moon rising above the hills on the other side of the harbor gave all the light he needed. He found a place to sit where the devil himself would not be able to find him, and there he waited. Minutes turned to hours, and midnight had him stand and shake off the stillness. The lights appeared. He knew who she was: the Star Sampler. Four decks high, four captains who would sail her round the clock. She wouldn’t dock here. He knew that. She would sit at a pier full of light where men and women would scurry to serve who sat below deck.

He boarded the small dingy and started the motor, an almost silent motor. He hit the shadow aft of the huge vessel, and was onboard even before she cut her engines and commenced sliding into the dock.

What happened next was planned and carried out to precision. He slipped back into his dingy and pulled back into the shadows even before any alarm was sounded. The six of them where here for a meeting on how to best find and capture his daughter. Her skills had been touted over every media facility. A girl with special ability. A girl that would change the world for the better.

He knew better. She was no longer available for appearances. The six who came to plan how they would claim her would miss their first meeting. The one who had ordained the meeting was next, but that needed a different outcome. He shook his hand. It appeared he still needed more ice: perhaps the bar with the stale beer and smoke.

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I Love Violence

                     From the early days of black and white TV where cowboys shot each other all the time, to the iconic cool of Cool Hand Luke, the machine guns of Elliot Ness and The Untouchables, on to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, I was fixed to the screen. Many books I have read contain violence: Dune Trilogy, the Wheel of Time series, the works of Terry Brooks, also Terry Goodkind, the Godfather, et al.

Violence 3 - PixabyI won’t pursue any possible connection between TV, movies, and book violence, to reality. I’ll leave that to the experts. Our society, no matter where you might look has a background of violence, fear, and a struggle for survival. The bedtime stories we tell our children are often laced with darkness and fear. Our heroes are most times men and women who had fought, probably killed—thought portrayed as self-defense—and survived.

Of course that is the story of our past, and it might someday be muted by voices screaming for an end to violence, but, I deeply believe, we have some ways to go before such stories are forgotten. Mankind must first make a shift in its view of what path humanity must take, and then truly embrace a great change. And I even believe such change is happening, even on a global scale. I get that we are bombarded by violence from all over the world; the media splashes it in our faces with the force of Niagara Falls while we stand at the bottom looking up. Yet, I also believe there is a groundswell of change, folks who are looking for connection, compassion, a better way to live. That is not to say it will all happen tomorrow. Far from it; we have a long way to go. It is a mistake to take the changes that have happened in technology and make the assumption that the psyche of human kind should turn on the same cycle. It is a long way back to when the troglodyte when looking for a new cave; it will be a long time before we have cast off the shell of that fear and violence that marked our survival and evolution.

Does that mean that we should stop making violence the focal point of our entertainment? No! Why? Because it’s not going away soon. I read somewhere along the way that the best way to change an organization is to join it and change it from the inside. This is one of those instances where such action might ring true.

I write Fantasy. I have just finished my third book, and it ends the short series. Each book has a story of its own, and yes each one contains violence. But I was careful to not present violence in a gratuitous manner. I ensured that the consequences of violence where felt by the hero and the antagonist alike; I blurred the lines further where the hero might do bad, and the antagonist might do good. The story was of course the central purpose, yet I feel I give reason to pause for many readers who might sit and ponder about violence, while I hope they also find my stories entertaining and engaging.

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Romance

Lavender

I love my internet. I love my computer and my cell phone. But none of them have any soul, any ambiance, any spirit. Yes, I know that’s a lot to ask a cell phone, yet, a candle is very capable of delivering just that.

Our world, for all it offers, has become cold and distant; and of course I get the irony of global warming and overpopulation. We seem afraid to be romantic, as if being hard and distance will serve to protect us. I don’t mean fall in love romantic; there is lots of that, though I scarce use the word romantic.

I love fireplaces. They are of course inefficient for heating purposes, and I’ve seen many jammed shut with a stove poked in its innards, not a thing of beauty any more, not something I would have. I would rather cut three rooms from my house than go without a fireplace.

All lighting in a home should be yellow, so should the lightening in a business for that matter. It is so much more inviting and comfortable. Plus the shadows cast by yellow light give depth and texture to furniture and fixtures, pictures and paintings. No shadow is what deserts are all about; you can see forever there but there is nothing to look at.

Spirit and soul is much about smell. It doesn’t need to be aromatherapy.  Lavender oil is one of my favorites. Sandalwood and Jasmine mix well with other oils to create incredible fragrances. Citrus and mint have distinctive characteristics, while juniper and rosemary are subtle and know well how to infuse a room. And Eucalyptus is in a class all of its own. The combination and degree of subtly for these oils and herbs is endless; and the misters available to deliver the aromas to the surroundings are inexpensive yet extremely effective.

Everyone knows that the kitchen is the heart if the house. You can always tell if folks are enjoying each other’s company. If so they are in the kitchen. I firmly believe food being cooked receives the energy of those present, the more celebration, the greater the taste. Every kitchen should have candles. Once the food is ready for cooking, the lights should be dimmed and the candles allowed to dance in the heat and aromas from the preparation.

Music has no less a role to play in making a home romantic and soulful. It doesn’t need to resound off the walls; that’s a party, not a romantic setting. It does need to fit the mood of those gathered and reflect their level of excitement and participation.

We all know that a house is nothing but boards and knickknacks arranged in intricate boxes with doors and windows.

A home is a whole other matter.

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Show me the Money

 

nickle

Pic Courtesy public Domain

The message

As sure as an empty whiskey bottle brings on the dread of a long night, so does a high interest rate on your credit card hint at some possible financial reckoning. And for that reason alone I love credit cards. That high interest rate does not lie. It says you have a financial problem.

It is one of the things I look for when taking on a new client. Few other things tell me more about the state of their financial affairs.

The culprit

The reason for a financial crisis is often more difficult to diagnose than it is to identify, and often it is a challenge to reverse. Most folks experience that easy slide down the consumption slope. I call it that, as we are now a culture that exists on 100% consumption: from the bread we eat, the mortgage payment that goes on forever, the car(s) payment that renews itself every five years or so (I won’t even mention the car lease that squeezes the tiny bit of equity you might think you have in a car to where the search for dark matter is a greater possibility), clothes, utilities, so on and so on. And the slide down is easy as the advertising whisper in our ear that all is well and we deserve everything. It will all pay for itself somehow.

We no longer actually provide anything for ourselves other than money. We are totally dependent on others. Every paycheck has a list of creditors to appease, and a waiting list of items that must be purchased. Any new anomaly to that equation and the darkness of financial distress commences. Once inside its grasp it is easy to assume that borrowing and staying power will turn things around. But the slide continues. The odds are strong that once begun, the ride will not stop. How do I know? One, I’ve been there, done that. Two, for forty years I have witnessed the pattern with a litany of folks and circumstances.

The solution

First let me say that’s it’s not a good idea to try and dry your clothes when you are swimming as fast as you can to make it to the shore, and a shark is on your tail. So, stability is a mainstay to change. I know, an oxymoron of sorts. What I mean is that you need to have a plan, and part of that plan should include a job with some reasonable chance at its continuing. There are a few other factors but the steady job(s) has the biggest impact. And that’s it. You’re done. Congratulations!

To do’s

Ok, ok, here’s the easy part. We’ve all heard the expression, “living within our means.” It’s right, and yet it does not tell a story that has any use. Are my means something that a ten dollar bill can take care of? Is it based on some average standard of living? Is it based on 80% of my paycheck, and the other 20% going to savings? And so you can easily conclude, living within your means is one of those expressions that nicely inscribes a concern, without providing any reasonable answer as to its parameters.

This blog would go on for some time should I expound on an entire plan. So, I will move to central methodology that will make that high interest rate credit card go away—funds. Yes, funds. No, not as funds is often used to depict money; rather as it was meant to mean …  a holding place for money that is to be used for a prescribed purpose.  You need to sit down and create a chart. If you have Excel, then all the better; if not, a notebook will be fine. With thought and a little looking back you will easily trace where all of your money goes: mortgage, car payment, food, clothes, eating out, vacation, credit card, savings, etc, etc..

When you are done you will then go back and mark each one as “set” “variable” “discretionary.” Next, you know when you get paid. Take each paycheck and deposit it into the fund such that there is enough there to meet the obligation when it becomes due. Each and every check will put something into each and every fund on a pro rata basis.

Yes, this will be a challenge at first. This is where you find out if your means can be satisfied by your paycheck. Some things might have to give. Maybe no eating-out for awhile, or maybe a second job, or maybe a bigger change—the house you are in is unaffordable.

The funds will tell you what is possible. It is simple and it works.

Are there other considerations? Yes, but I’ve seen the fund system change lives, take you away from being a slave to bills and the never ending spiral of worrying how to stretch a paycheck.

Is it magic? No, it’s a solution that’s based on logic and common sense. And it works.
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How to pick an author

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image22414277

           Yes, I think it’s fair to ponder what the author of your book is made up of. Is he or she made up of the same things you are? It’s a relevant question. You look for certain expectations in a friend, a love mate, a roommate, a leader. Of course we entertain the possibility of the opposite to ourselves, but that is not so much a complete opposite as it is someone with different attributes and aspirations—we will not ever be happy sitting down to eat with someone who only enjoys devouring sewer rats, while we have a craving for chewing on ants dipped in honey. No, I did not ponder that distinction for very long.

Once I read a book, I draw conclusions as to what I have experienced, and I make a decision if I want to follow this author. Yes, the style of writing has much to do with it; as does the pace, the twists in plot, the development of characters and how they interact. But most important for me is the world that was created: the values, the morality, the love, the hate, the needs, the expectations, and the issues which define who they all are. I don’t want to be in a world where the depraved are the heroes. I don’t want to find myself crying for all the characters who have been tossed aside by the author’s pen just so I am forced to spew up some emotional loss that is planted to cover the failure of the plot to carry me along.

I get it that a good story involves loss, involves the possibility of total loss even. I don’t get it that the plot must end in dread and dire remorse. That’s not a story worth reading; that’s a tale too already fulfilled by the stress of real life and circumstance. I want a story to deliver a promise of a better future, a fuller life, a possibility for growth and redemption.

So, yes I write that way. My first book The Druid and the Flower is very much about love and growth, flawed heroes who must fight even greater odds. And I make sure the lines are blurred even as the obstacles increase. There is no better judge of character than the one who is under pressure. Nor do I spare the good to be saintly or the bad to be the spawn of the devil, for that is also a fallacy. Good people do bad things, and bad people do good things. In the end we must leave it to the gods to decide who in more worthy to dine with the Devine.

In my second book, Ashima, I go one step further. There I take the idea of parental love and lock it into what is more important, survival or freedom? I take the idea of lost and evil and move it to a place where it might be good, and I take power and love to the fire of impossibility where it must choose a path.

I have lived long enough to realize decisions are not always logical, and not all logical decisions are rational.

In my final book of the series, Dawn of Magic, I present a possibility that even now as a race we might have an ability to correct a most perplexing mistake: technology versus the spiritual, what is the best fit?

Come read the first two books. The last will be out in a few months; it is complete, awaiting the final edit. I give away nothing when I promise you that as an author I carry an optimistic outlook for mankind.

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The Emperor’s Clothes

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.”

George Orwell

Sunset

I have a quick tongue which, thank the gods, tends to sway to the side of humor, and in no way results from any pretense of hubris on my part. I have forever considered myself the Jester.

Yet, even there I might now and again make an utterance that misses it mark as humor. And of course there are many who might judge my idea of humor as delusional, if not crass. Once again in my defense it is never my intention to be either. No matter, there will be someone who takes exception.

So, I’ve bared my soul as to my own deficiencies. I try very hard to understand what other folks are attempting to say; in a face to face conversation that is easily accomplished with a question or two and some elaboration on both sides as to intended and understood. There is a civility to good conversation. There should be smiles and laughter, moments of pause, time to digest what is being said and what is to be injected into the conversation. The art of conversation must allow views to be stated without condemnation or vile ineptitudes. Unconscious sputtering argument is not conversation.

Everyone attempting to make a buck is vying for our attention. They will stoop to any tactic which might entice that last dollar from our pocket. They are also aware that the issues which might grab our attention are the best places to poke and prod the coals until there is a raging inferno. It is no longer the message. It’s the ability of the message to grab our attention and sell us. To talk of hyperbole would be to understate tragically what is happening. We as the recipients of all this have become as debases as our teachers. All too fast it has become acceptable to name call, swear, dismiss people with willful contempt while branding them idiots, fools, delusional, stupid, lost, brainless, et al. And that was on one tread I noticed not so long ago on Facebook.

The favorite tool? Fear of course.

I remember as a child and Kennedy was steering a course for Cuba. I was ten years old at the time and it was my first touch of fear that I thought might shatter my entire world, even as I lived far, far away in eastern Newfoundland. Now, I understand and allow that fear is a good tool as it serves a valuable purpose. I won’t pretend to be an expert on the physiology of fear other than to say it gives you a boost in alertness should you need to react. That’s great in your immediate world, dealing with what is close and immediate to your well being. That world no longer exists for most of us. We are adrift in an ocean of information, each wave, someone’s intent that we read their message first. It used to be a sexy model; that no longer works. Fear does work and it is a master at its intent.

This is a short missive so I will not attempt to be detailed about how we are bombarded by the use of fear, and indeed a mass of other tricks of a distorted trade. I am more concerned about how we the people have bought into it. We now spout the woven messages of the day with the same fear in which it is presented to us by the puppet masters, hence my comment above about Facebook.

Perhaps even the notion of civility can no longer save us. It brings to mind the book Lord of the Flies; except this time it is happening to the adults. Fear gives us nowhere to hide; no lock on the door; no gun under the bed will make it go away. But the solution is simple. We must merely look to the source and cry out that it’s just another case of “the emperor having no clothes.”

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