Book Review for Michael J. Sullivan’s “The Age of Myth”

On a personal note, I must mention a few things before I get into what I think about “The Age of Myth”. As an aspiring author, there exist many bridges I have yet to cross. When people read my work they often mention they enjoy it, such success is what I can be happy with, for now, as I have yet to sell over a dozen copies of my first novel and am still working on its re-write and my next one (a fantasy novel). I critique literature all the time, for an annual short story contest, and enjoy analyzing stories’ plot structure, character and scene development, over all delivery, literary techniques.

I think I first came across Mr. Sullivan when searching for fantasy titles on Amazon, however it may have been when I read an article he wrote for Writer’s Digest. Within the article he mentioned several great tips for authors and explained a few things writers can benefit from with Goodreads. He also mentioned his blog and I checked it out. I even dropped him a few lines and he communicated with me, to my surprise.

Since then he shared “The Jester” with me, which I read and gave him some feedback on, not that the story was in dire need of a grammatical redo. I purchased “Theft of Swords” and read, maybe, the first fourteen pages, and liked it. He accepted my friend’s invite on Goodreads and since then I have promised myself that I will impress Mr. Sullivan (as well as others) with my fantasy novel, by the end of 2016. He answered a few of my e-mails and even gave me advice from time to time on writing, so I appreciated the communication. He is and will remain one of my top five favorite authors; I like a lot of published authors, living and gone, so narrowing down my favorites is not always easy.

As I do what I can to learn what I want to know, in the real world, with science, and as I read, study writing techniques, write stories, and work a job which does not involve writing or any varied form of erudition whatsoever, my hobbies are important to me and keep me busy. Like many, I have my reasons for my own goals. These things being said, time continued to fly by during the last parts of 2015 and the first of 2016, and I really wanted to read and review a book written by Mr. Sullivan.

Already owning one or two of his books, they were the e-book editions, and I realized that I usually read physical books with much more fervor than e-books. I inquired as to which book would be  a good start to read out of the books Mr. Sullivan has written, and he let me know that he was working on a set of five books, the first one being a good one to read, as it was a stand alone novel of sorts. From what I understand, there may also be a sixth book of this series on the way, according to wiki.

Excited, I decided to get my very own copy of “The Age of Myth”, pre-ordered a signed copy for myself  and another copy for my alpha reader weeks before the book’s release date. I simply could not wait to get my hands on that book – June the 27th just could not have come any sooner. Low and behold, however, June the 27th did come, and I received the two books I ordered within good time.

I gave my buddy her copy and began reading mine, could not really put it down without at least finishing the chapter I was on. One thing I liked about “The Age of Myth” was the chapter setup. Each chapter was not too long yet usually nearly a story all its own. I am no speed reader, so to have already finished the book within a 6-month time frame is somewhat of an accomplishment, for me. I think I read about a chapter a night and maybe two chapters on some days.

Usually, when I do a book review, or when I read a book I know I am going to want to do a review on or for, I take notes while I am reading the text. Often times this is because of independent author books which can easily contain many stylistic and ‘flow of story’ questions. Knowing that this is Mr. Sullivan’s first book published by a major publisher, and congratulations to him for that, for we as fans are all happy for he and his wife’s success, I could not wait to see whether I would have much to say about the writing style or story structure.

Little did I know, beta readers read pre-release manuscripts and the publishing team considered their opinion before the book’s publication. It was not simply critiqued by an editor, re-written, and thrown on the shelves with a price tag; a great deal of work went into the final published manuscript of “The Age of Myth”.

I took notes, anyway, and they only spoil the story, which in many regards, impresses me. I found close to nothing at all that I would change within the confines of the book’s cover, and resorted to keeping a short summary of events chapter by chapter. Awesome cover. The book painted a real world in my imagination, as if these events actually occurred during some time frame in geologic history. The sole thing I would mention on the text if I were a beta reader would be the double mention of the straw hat – I am not sure, yet I think we heard of the same hat twice or more, and the second time it could have been mentioned in a revised way.

Other book reviewers mention the impressive  ending – I could not wait to experience what they were talking about. I did. For me, the conclusion was like a grand finale in an action film. Magic meets science fiction with nature. Characters which are godlike and can weld the forces of nature go to war with each other, standing for and against the political demands of a ruler. Michael J. Sullivan uses beautifully created characters; the book presents many conflicts and dilemmas, all finding satisfactory solutions. The ending was very impressive, and I am amazed with the gifted talent and creativity of Mr. Sullivan.

One thing I enjoyed about “The Age of Myth” was the way the ‘good side’ won within nearly every conflict. Characters do incur tragic deaths, and there are things that happen or happened to innocent people, however as I clung to my favorite characters within the stories, they usually survived, after all.

One thing I did not see the book portray was an in-depth relation to Old English or rhunic-like writing, and not too many poems. The hard, honest truth has been, and probably will be, that close to no one will ever actually ‘out do’ professor Tolkien, his studies with the origins of English, his historical contributions to fantasy which has inspired us all for decades.

A more positive look upon this work has to do with its readability. If you enjoy the writing style of John Grisham, you will absolutely love this book (given you are wanting to read about magical gods and prehistoric survival stories as well as court-room thrillers). It was simple and straight-forward enough for reading within a small amount of time, while still being able to present an intriguing world with life-like characters.

In regards to the characters, as said, they seemed real. The book uses three main groups of characters including people (Rhunes), god-like people (Fhrey), and god-like people who weld the forces of nature with magic (Fhrey which are Miralyith). These three groups do not always get along, due to territory and social reasons, yet witnessing their interactions was a fun and enjoyable experience.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a fantasy novel. As far as comparing it to other fantasy tales goes, I hope people read it for what it is and appreciate it for the value it holds individually. I think of it as separate from other fantasy stories and I like it that way. I also enjoy the works of Margaret Wise and Tracy Hickman and plenty of other famous authors, however I like to think of “The Age of Myth” as separate from other works and styles. I like it for what it is, all by itself, and cannot wait to read the next four or five books in the series when possible.

The map in the first book is somehow helpful to visualize where the humans and gods travel. The book also includes an Author’s Note before the first chapter and a Glossary of Terms before the Acknowledgements section in the back of the book. The glossary is helpful and worth reading before reading the book, as the characters and places are easier to understand with even more ease that way.

Without further ado, I will share my chapter by chapter summary of the book’s entire text. If you are planning on reading “The Age of Myth” and do not want to spoil the story, skip over the blue text. If you have already read the book and want to read a quick summary of events before reading the next book during the summer of 2017, come back and read the blue text (all hypertext in this review, burgundy). I may do such a thing, too.

Chapter 1, “Of Gods and Men”

Incredible. A father and son duo are presented with a dilemma and tread on forbidden soil to find better ground for hunting and farming and are found by a group of characters. The son is Raithe, and his father is Herkimer. A god, a Fhrey, sees the two men, or what the Fhrey call Rhunes, and order them to drop their weapons. There are two slaves with the Fhrey. Herkimer would not drop is sword even after pleading to leave, and one of the Fhrey kills him. Raithe attempts to avenge his father and is able to do so when one of the slaves, Malcolm, bonks the Fhrey over the head with a big rock. The other slave leaves with the dead Fhrey’s horse to go speak of these events to his brethren, so Malcolm and Raithe now have met and will endure many adventures together. They spend the rest of the day giving Herkimer a proper burial and flee by swimming across a cold river to hike through a dark forest.

Chapter 2, “The Mystic”

The story introduces Surri, the mystic, and Minna, her large white female wolf. Surri meets Persephone, a major character in the tale. Surri informs “Seph” (Persephone) that a wave of death of sorts is on the way. The reason Surri traveled to Dahl Rhen, a Rhune village surrounded by a large wall, was to relate this information. When Seph asks of Tura, the ancient mystic, Surri informs her that Tura is no longer living, that by Turra’s request Surri cremated her.

Chapter 3, “The God Killer”

When Raithe avenged his father, killing Shegon, word spread and he was known as the God Killer. He and the ex-slave, Malcolm, travel through the dark forest living off of bugs and tree bark or the occasional rabbit. After a week or so, while starving in front of a fire, the two hear noises far into the woods. Somewhat alarmed, they search out the noises, thinking it could be leshies (forest spirits). They find a travelers’ lodge and smell cooked food. Of course they would take their risks – they were hungry. In the lodge, Raithe admits to avenging his father and Malcolm tells a fancy story. A large man challenges Raithe. Raithe wins the fight, and he and Malcolm eat cooked food.

Chapter 4, “The New Chieftain”

Within Dahl Rhen, a man named Konniger challenges Seph’s husband, Reglan, the current Chieftain of the Dahl, and wins, killing the man. In doing so, Konniger disappoints Padera, the oldest woman of the Dahl.

Chapter 5, “Before the Door”

Fhrey which practice magic are Miralyith who learn the Art. In this chapter, Nyree, a Miralyith, speaks with her daughter, Arion, also a Miralyith. Students of the art play a prank, flooding a celebration with a great deal of water. Arion is to train the son of the Fane, prince Mawyndulë, in the ways of the Art. It is a prestigious invitation for her to do so. Upon her departure she meets Trilos and converses of the door to a garden which protects the oldest tree. We learn later that Trilos has a special connection with those whom can use the Art.

Chapter 6, “Rumors”

Seph talks with Surri about speaking with Magda, the large oak, on the cover of the book (again, nice illustration), for advice. The Fhrey have supposedly attacked and burned two other Rhune villages; Konniger decides to keep the inhabitants of Dahl Rhen there.

Chapter 7, “The Black Tree”

Seph, Surri and Minna trek to Magda. Raithe and Malcolm hiked through the forest and found Dahl Rhen. Seph and Surri were found and attacked on a steep, slippery waterfall by three men from the Dahl. Raithe and Malcolm defend the women; two of three men die; and the last one returns to the Dahl.

Chapter 8, “Asking the Oak”

Seph, Minna, Surri, Malcolm, and Raithe make it to Magda. Surri says the tree says three things. They are to follow the wolf, heal the injured, and welcome the gods.

Chapter 9, “Tight Places”

After leaving Magda, Surri and Minna leave the others to go home. Seph, Raithe, and Malcolm attempt to follow a ridge back to the Dahl and get lost and attacked by a pack of black wolves. Surri and Minna come back and help fight off the wolves and lead the other three to a big water fall where all five leap. They find an old Dherg cave with a hard-to-open door and stay there. The wolves find the door but cannot get inside. The big bear, Grin, a possible demon or symbol of Death, tears three of the big wolves apart, including the pack’s leader, which Surri seemed to know, Char, and leaves. The cave includes Dherg writing and a glowing emerald, along with an old shield Raithe trades for the one he had. Raithe continues to carry the sword he attained from avenging his father, made by Fhrey, as well as the halved copper sword of his dad.

Chapter 10, “The Galantians”

Seph, Raithe, and Malcolm make their way back to the Dahl to answer questions about the two dead men on the waterfall slope, and the Galantians, a rebel group of Instarya Fhrey, come to the Dahl in search of the God Killer. Raithe explains to their leader, Nyphron, that he avenged his father. He and Nyphron have a sword fight, and one of the Fhrey puts a stop to it. Seph welcomes the gods.

Chapter 11, “The Tutor”

Arion tutors prince Mawyandulë with juggling rocks to teach him the Art. He seems to miss the point as he has trouble juggling them even when he can command them with the Art. Gryndal, a pompous Miralyith, is introduced. Lothian, the Fane, sends Arion to retrieve Nyphron, and he sends Gryndal with the prince to secure the frontier, eventually.

Chapter 12, “Gods Among Us”

This chapter is where I had the ‘hat question.’ On page 176, ‘a big’ could have been ‘the big,’ if the straw hat was the same hat as mentioned before. Nyphron and the Galantians are in the Dahl with Surri, Minna, Raithe, Malcolm, and Seph. Seph speaks with Konniger in a lodge meeting. Seph tries to give good advice and Tressa, Konniger’s wife, and others, think Seph is trying to take over. Seph denies the orders of the Chieftain to ask the Galantians to leave.

Chapter 13, “The Bones”

An important chapter, woman speak about the politics of the Dahl together in a round house. Raithe and Malcolm are there, as well as Surri, and all are sewing wool. Surri asks for bones of a chicken to attempt to predict what may happen. She burns them at dusk and reads them. The bones seem to indicate that a wave of death is on the way. Surri thinks Grin is coming to kill off the Dahl, or maybe worse. She hears a big bear scare a flock of birds.

Chapter 14, “Into the West”

Arion travels with Thyme from Estramnadon to Alon Rhist. Thyme is her guide to get there. She, at one point, falls off her horse into a pool of water, proving that even a Miralyith can experience physical harm. Thyme stays there and Arion departs alone with no soldiers, as she has mastered the Art. She burns a lock of Nyphron’s hair to find is local and soon finds Dahl Rhen.

Chapter 15, “The Lost One”

Women organize to go to the well in the Dahl, as Galantians camp out near the water. The sexy, well-endowed Moya meets Nyphron. More Fhrey arrive in search of the God Killer; Nyphron sends them north. The Fhrey let Nyphron know Arion is on her way to retrieve him. Surri enters the lodge to ask Konniger about Grin, as she intends on performing an exorcism to release a Morvyn (evil demon). Surri is told to leave before she has a chance to speak with Konniger.

Chapter 16, “Miralyith”

Arion travels to Dahl Rhen. She finds Nyphron and he will not return with her to the Fane. Arion bonks other Galantians into an invisible wall and binds Nyphron with the Art to bring him to the Fane. Malcolm bonks her head with a large rock from behind and she falls to the ground bleeding. Seph tells Nyphron not to let his giant kill the Miralyith (heal the injured). People bring Arion to a bed to heal in the lodge. Surri bandages Arion’s head while Arion is sleeping.

Chapter 17, “The Boulder”

Imaly speaks with Fane about Fhrey upheval. Fane sends Gryndal and the prince on a quest to secure the frontier. Gryndal speaks with Trilos about the Art, the door, and a boulder.

Chapter 18, “Healing the Injured”

Arion awakens in bed to learn of the woman caring for her and has lost her powers with the Art. The women care for Arion in shifts. Arion holds conversations with Surri.

Chapter 19, “Waiting on the Moon”

Gifford, the cripled man, gives Roan a nice clay jar. Moya, not wanting to marry a certain man, tries to convince Seph to become Chieftain. By the rules, a woman can become Chieftain so long as a man can represent her for battle. The woman have a long conversation and Raithe and Malcolm learn more about sewing wool. Raithe goes to the forest to chop down a tree, and the Instarya Fhrey, Sebek, challenges him to a sword fight. Sebek uses two short swords in combat. Sebek won the sword fight three times, leaving Raithe alive. Raithe goes back to working on the tree with a real axe, something he had yet to use before, as back in Dureya Rhunes only had sticks with rocks on them for felling trees.

Chapter 20, “The Prince”

Gryndal and Mawyndulë set out on the frontier. They discuss politics and the practice of the Art. Gryndal speaks of Mawyndulë’s father, the current Fane, Lothian, and speaks of his possible assassination. Upon finding the extinguished grounds of a Rhune Dahl, the two discover a few men and a woman, hiding under some boards. Gryndal uses the Art to knock the boards away and snaps his fingers, exploding and killing what was left of that Dahl’s clan. Gryndal and Mawyndulë travel on toward Dahl Rhen.

Chapter 21, “The Full Moon”

Surri and Arion talk about Grin. Arion sees Surri light a candle with the Art, something Arion thought was impossible for a Rhune to do. Surri leaves Minna with Arion and departs to perform an exorcism on Grin, to remove the morvyn from the bear.

Chapter 22, “Curse of the Brown Bear”

Surri and The Keeper of Ways, Maeve, set out to find Grin. Konniger and Seph have a long conversation on Maeve’s daughter with Reglan, Seph’s deceased husband. Later we figure that Maeve’s daughter was probably Surri; Seph had no knowledge of her husband’s being unfaithful. Therein lied the reason the baby was left in the forest; people thought the baby may have turned into a bear. Maeve had previously taken dead bodies to the bear, as people died during a hard winter. Seph, Raithe, and Malcolm follow Minna towards the cave to try to save Surri and Maeve.

Chapter 23, “The Cave”

Surri and Mauve make it to the cave.  They wait for him, and Surri puts salt on the ground to deflect the demon. Arion wakes to exit the lodge and is sore. She finds Nyphron and bargains with him, forgiving him for her head injury, sending him and the other Galantians to save Surri and Maeve from Grin. The Galantians agree to go, as it will keep Arion from trying to bring them back to the Fane.

Chapter 24, “Demons in the Forest”

Maeve and Surri wait in the cave for Grin. Maeve thinks Surri is her daughter. They talk about the hard winter and continue to wait for Grin.

Chapter 25, “Trapped”

A great deal of action occurs in this chapter. As Seph, Malcolm, and Raithe are running through the night, Minna breaks free and runs to the cave. Konniger and a bunch of his drunk men ambush and surround the other three. ‘Stuby’ tries to save Seph and Konniger kills him. During the attack, Malcolm delivers a blow to Konniger with a shield, and Seph flees by Raithe’s recommendation to the waterfall cave. Konniger chases her all the way there in the darkness.

As Malcolm and Raithe fight off the attacking men, the Galantians enter the scene and annihilate the attacking Rhunes only to travel down a path to Grin’s cave. In the cave, Grin knocks Maeve into a wall hard. The bear tries to get Surri but she is too close to the wall. Minna enters the cave and bites the huge bear in the rump; Surri calls the fire spirits with a clap of her hands, setting Grin on fire. The bear flees; we eventually learn that she jumps off the waterfall burnt and stinky.

Once the Galantians get to Grin’s cave, Maeve is for sure deceased and Surri and Minna are okay. Malcolm and Raithe try to find Seph in the waterfall cave. The chapter ends with only Seph and Konniger behind the waterfall in the darkness, him trying to find her while she is both exhausted and terrified.

Chapter 26 “Beneath the Falls”

Surri and Minna check on Maeve who speaks and dies. Raithe, Malcolm, and the Galantians find Surri who agrees to lead them to the Dherg cave to attempt saving Seph. Grin finds Konniger and tears him to pieces. She tries to enter the door of the cave. Seph finally figured out how to open the cave’s stone door, and Grin gets trapped in the door as it is closing. The huge bear would have been able to open the stone door, however Seph beat the bear repeatedly with a shield. Grin died, staring into the emerald of the Dherg cave. Seph sleeps on the shield.

The Galantians, Raithe, and Malcolm find Seph. Raithe finds Seph sleeping on the shield and thinks she is not alive, kisses her on the forehead waking her up. Nyphron and the other Galantians marvel at the inscriptions in the cave and their small goblin creature acknowledges the markings as old Dherg inscriptions.

Chapter 27, “When Gods Collide”

The grand finale of the book is within this chapter. The final events take place in Dahl Rhen. Seph, Malcolm, Raithe, and the Galantians return to the Dahl to find the Rhunes organized in a group in front of the lodge dismally. Gryndal steps out with  Mawyndulë to face Arion and the Galantians. Gryndal brings Nyphron to his knees with the Art and orders the Galantians to slay the rhunes. Arion uses the Art to protect Seph and the others. Gryndal uses the Art to kill the Nyphron’s small goblin creature. Gryndal and Arion battle each other with the forces of nature. Surri catches Gryndal on fire, which distracts him. Minna attacks Gryndal, tearing his facial piercings, distracting him more. Raithe saves Minna from Gryndal’s ‘ground magic’ move. Gryndal attempts to strike Raithe with a bolt of magic from the sky; Raithe deflects the bolt with his shield, directing it to Gryndal. The bolt paralyzes Gryndal, and Raithe chops of Gryndal’s head. Arion forces Mawyndulë and his troops to return to Estramnadon. Nyphron’s giant was placed in a magic bubble and Arion had forgotten to release him. After Gryndal was dead, Arion released the giant. Malcolm had thrown a spear towards the prince which stuck into the front of the lodge. Surri thanks Raithe for saving Minna and Seph hugs Raithe.

Chapter 28, “The First Chair”

The inhabitants of Dahl Rhen were without a Chieftain, Shield, or Keeper of Ways. Persephone (Seph) declares herself Chieftain to the crowd, which approves, and Raithe as her spokesperson for battle. Seph announces Brin as the Keeper of Ways, Raithe as the shield, and grants Malcolm full citizenship of Dahl Rhen. Seph declares Surri the Mystic of Dahl Rhen. Seph requests the Galantians to stay in Dahl Rhen, as well as Arion, once she was awake. Malcolm was the slave of Nyphron’s father, Shegon, who Raithe killed. Malcolm admits to Nyphron in the conclusion of the book that he attempted to throw the spear into the lodge five feet to the right of the prince – the spear jabbed into the lodge a foot to the left of Mawyndulë.

Chapter 1 of the “Age of Swords”, book two of “The Legends of the First Empire”, “Broken”

This chapter contains the bonus text from the book to be released in the summer of 2017. Roan tries to make a brace for Gifford’s week leg. It fails and he falls. A terrible storm comes to the Dahl and people hide in the food storage. Seph, Arion, and Surri had traveled to Magda for advice. The storm passes and people come out of the storage hole. Something outside of the Dahl is bombarding the barricade/front door.

The people involved with the publication of the final draft of “The Age of Myth” clearly passed the ‘high bar,’ they set for themselves in regards to the book’s publication. A wonderful book, I could not put it down while reading page after page, chapter after chapter, of events involving conflicts with Fhrey, Rhunes, and other characters.

One thing I would like to mention before concluding this review are the quotes preceding each chapter from “The Book of Brin”, written by the character Brin, who has historical insight throughout the tale. She learned many things from a woman and possesses a notable memory. They offer intriguing insight on events and are a wonderful addition to the beginning of each chapter, as readers try to consider what is going to happen next. Each quote is like a deep thought or maxim, and I looked forward to reading each one. Also, there is a note about Mr. Sullivan and his family in the back of the book, with information on how to contact him on the web. His blog is here. E-mail Michael J. Sullivan at michael.sullivan.dc@gmail.com. Find him on facebook at author.michael.sullivan and on twitter via @author_sullivan.

All in all I give this book five of five stars, as nine out of ten readers probably will or already have. I cannot imagine the amount of work that went into its final presentation. I am happy I read it and will enjoy thinking about the exciting story for a long, long time. I am happy Mr. Sullivan has achieved his goals and hope he continues to find success, am sure he will. Amazing. Awesome. I am very impressed.

A File Handle Project

Recently, I learned a few things with woodworking. One project I did was a handle for a file. Here are some photos and a few words describing the process I used for the final product, which you can see in the first photo.

wood handle

The small grip notches sawed into the corners are stained with ebony polyurethane. The rest is coated with clear coat poly. This next picture is of the file from Home Depot and the block of wood I used for the handle. You can see the guidelines I drew on the handle with a .7 mm gel pen. The file itself is a nice one and worked great for what I needed it for, even came with a lifetime warranty. I used the pen lines for sawing out the grooves with a hand saw and also used the saw to make some small grip marks.

han-3

The photo below shows the file and the handle after I sawed the block of wood and before I sanded it.

han-4

This next photo shows the handle after it was sanded with a course sand paper a few times and then a finer grit sand paper afterwards.

han-5

This next photo shows the handle with ebony poly on the grooves.

han-6

After I took the photo above, I put the handle in a jar full of polyurethane with it wired to a weight. I customized the lid of the jar to hook up a break bleeder to it which uses a pressure gauge. Every six hours or so, I increased the vacuum to 17 pounds, for a day or two. The air leaked, gradually, however it was an attempt to stabilize the wood with poly. I let the handle sit in the jar under the vacuum for five days, even though it was not really under much pressure due to a slightly leaking seal.

The wood soaked in the poly, nevertheless. I removed the handle from the poly and wiped it clean with a napkin. I then cleaned out the hole for the file. I baked it at 200° f for an hour, letting out the air every ten minutes or so. I let it cool and sanded it with a course grit paper to remove the heat bubbles. I could tell that not too much polyurethane soaked into the wood, which is the hole point of stabilizing it, so it will last longer. While under vacuum, I did see bubbles come out of the wood, which means it was at least partially stabilized.

After I sanded it well to remove the heat bubbles, I could see that the poly did not fully penetrate the wood. The harder a wood is the more difficult it can be to stabilize it; I do not yet have a vacuum pump which runs off an electric motor, which may have been able to produce a stronger vacuum. I do have a pump of such a nature on the way, however I think my efforts with the file handle have come to a satisfactory conclusion.

I sanded it once more with a finer grit sand paper to get it smooth and coated it with clear coat polyurethane one last time. It came out smooth and glossy and is nice enough for me. Here is a larger photo of the final product.

wood handle

Thank you for reading this post; I hope you enjoyed the photos. This was a fun project and I cannot wait to learn more with woodworking. There are plenty of different wood hardeners and stabilizers out there, as well as many kinds of wood, some of it soft enough for proper stabilization. If I ever make a small wooden car or Christmas ornament, I will be sure to post some photos of those projects here on jcm3blog. Thank you for reading; we always appreciate your feedback. 🙂

 

 

Shawn Before Dawn, A Story

I rolled over and looked at the alarm clock – it was 4:58 AM. “Today is an important day,” I remembered. I turned off the alarm before it sounded and slammed the four fluid ounces of coffee I sat by it the night before. I went to the restroom, shaved, showered, got ready as quickly as possible making sure I did not forget anything I considered the previous day. Today is important. My boss is buying me lunch and may even further explain why his daughter left me.

The sun was not yet up and the traffic still sparse. I pulled into the gravel drive, as always, and parked in a familiar place. In only fourteen short months I had moved up in the construction company my boss owns and runs from Laborman to Crew Leader Assistant to Crew Leader. My crews always operated in an efficient and timely manner. They ate my egg burritos like Pavlovian study dogs. Recently I was given the responsibility of an entire project and am currently over three crews in the process of demolition and reconstruction of an entire wing of a colossal warehouse facility.

I am minutes early and I know it. I make a habit of it and no one complains or is ever surprised. For this reason I have the key to the trailer office, our companies temporary onsite headquarters. Today would not be so bad. My crew knows how to do what they do well, and we have our goals to meet by the end of the day. I turn the key to open the trailer and it breaks off inside the keyhole. Just what I need. Closed to half an hour until I see a living human and I am stranded with a sack of egg burritos.

I sat on the wooden steps and watched the dark blueish purple misty sky fade into the orange of dawn behind scattered clouds of thin fog. I thought back. Not too long ago I decided to give college a rest for a while and move back in with parents until I found work. I found work and met Mallen. She and I worked for a small restaurant which sold pizza and tacos; she mentioned her dad owned a construction company.

“Damn,” I thought, “Just when there was no chance of moving out.” I enquired of the difficulty or chances of my working for her father and she said I could probably hire in as labor with no experience, that he was hiring about a dozen workers during the next four weeks.

I am not the kind of guy that ignores the chance of love. This time it did not work out, yet I at least gave the woman no cold shoulder. Mallen mentioned she was in nearly my same situation as she was living with her parents and wanted to find a place. She would starve and die before working for her dad, even though he was probably the single most powerful contractor in our city of over 4,000,000 people.

I got a newspaper and road around with Mallen a few afternoons in a row and we found an inexpensive flat and signed a 3-month form. I went to work for her dad and ‘kicked as much ass as possible,’ so to speak, always being on time and getting as much physical labor accomplished as humanly conceivable. I thought she and I got along fine. I never really noticed how intelligent Mallen really was, nor did I notice that she did not speak her thoughts very often.

Our place was fine and included two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a study room, four closets, and a small television room with two couches. She moved plenty of stuff in there including kitchenware and plenty of personal belongings. I kept my work clothes, an old radio, an alarm clock, and a few changes of clothes, only. We were never more than companions, if that.

Still on the wooden steps, I cannot help but remember the night Mallen changed the locks. After work I went to a local bookstore and got a coffee and a best seller. Gotta love that John Grisham. It was late in the evening and I went to a bar. I don’t drink, but the sandwiches there are great and only cost a few dollars a piece. The bartender had no problem telling me of his life’s career, and I had no problem eating five sandwiches and enjoying four complimentary iced apple sodas.

It was 1Am by the time I headed back to the flat. I knew Mallen had been looking for a new job and was interviewing with the airport. When I got back, the locks were changed and there was a note on the door: “Got the job – Mallen.” I was confused.

Sleeping in my truck that night to go to work on Saturday morning was no big deal for me. It was the surprise. Was she okay? Did we not even have a chance at this thing called love? Surely there could have been a spark. If nothing else, I could have grown to like her more.

It did not take me but a few days to find a new place. My crew leader at the time helped me find a one-bedroom flat and I signed another form. Then I had no distractions. I could work, work, work, then sleep, eat, and work some more. As happy as I was, I was still confused with Mallen. Again, I just thought we may have been able to grow closer together, somehow.

Only seconds had gone by and I saw my boss pulling up in the glowing dawn of the morning. Before, he simply said, “Like she said, Shawn, she got the job.” Knowing that is all he would probably say again, today, at least I’ll get a nice lunch and a chance to thank the man.

“Good morning Shawn!” hollered Mr. Bruno, “Sleeping on the job?” “I am sorry, sir. I broke my key in the lock.” I stood and removed the broken piece from the lock and he unlocked it. “Just there for a second I bet you thought my daughter got another job,” chuckled Mr. Bruno, and it was hard not to laugh.

We went about our normal routine and my crew got a great deal of work done that day. Noon was approaching. I gave them the burritos and went to find Mr. Bruno. We made our way to a Deli and he got us both a couple of roast beef sandwiches with smoked parmesan and sautéed peppers. Good stuff.

“My apologies for my confusion, Mr. Bruno. Thank you for buying me lunch and, as always, I know you know I am grateful to be able to work for you.”

“I understand your confusion. Mallen wrote a letter for me to read to you when I mentioned you showed concern.”

Mr. Bruno read the letter to me and it was mostly about being career oriented, human dominance and all. She said I was a nice, hard-working fellow and was sure I would find the right woman, eventually. She would be working two jobs for a few weeks and then for the airport on a longterm basis if all went well, that plenty of people seek leaders in the world, and we both are surely ‘doyens of our herds.’

“So she did not think I was moving to fast or not fast enough or that I was cheating on her or anything. This abrupt separation was solely career oriented and had mostly to do with us both being headstrong.”

“I think that about sums it up,” said Mr. Bruno, “And I see you shaking in your boots there, fearless ‘doyen.'”

“How so?”

“Are you not concerned of your performance at work?”

“I planned to enquire nonchalantly.”

“Well, I want you to know that you are one of my best. Keep up the good work and you will have less and less to worry of. I gave you the promotion because of your good work and ability to lead others, to get the job done right and make our customers happy when the situation presented itself. Three weeks from now we are signing a new contract. You will be a part of it, just below the head foreman. As for Mallen I think she will be fine and appreciate your understanding. Everything okay?”

“Yes sir, Mr. Bruno and thank you.”

“No problem.”

We went back to work and all went well. A few weeks flew by and I was on the new jobsite in no time and we all did great. Two years went by and I moved up to foreman, and was responsible for over two hundred workers. I had put Mallen out of mind, completely, bought a small house not too far from the city, and all was well.

Then, I happened to see Mr. Bruno and his wife at the grocery store one evening when I went to get a frozen pizza. A world of words could have come from my mouth… the weather, work, anything, and I heard myself say, “So, how is Mallen?” I felt about as brilliant as a broken lightbulb at midnight. Mr. Bruno’s wife grinned and looked to Mr. Bruno. He said, “She worked six and seven days a week for 22 months for the airport and started her own business in our neighboring state. She would not even let me introduce her to anyone.”

Somehow relieved, I asked, “What kind of business did she start?”

Mr. Bruno said, “A construction firm.”

··· Post Story Relations ···

The story above is one I enjoyed writing. When reading about writing, we always hear, “Write what you know.” For me, I like to consider what I do not really know much about, research the topic, and go from there with character, setting, and plot development. This time, though, I went with something I am more familiar with. I may not have included very much fancy description and totally refrained from the absence of the passive voice and broke plenty of grammatical rules (hidden verbs included), however I thought the story was fun and hope you enjoyed reading it. I have always found it a difficult thing to write a story in the present while speaking about the past without the infamous passive voice. At least, I hope, it was fun.

I must mention, though, that I wrote this story from an idea from a writing prompt. The real story I submitted to here, was for the Your Story competition held every eight weeks or so by Writer’s Digest. I always check out the contest and read the winners, yet hardly ever make the time to enter. After all, I am working on another book. It is my first full-blown novel. It has been exciting so far, and I hope it will be fun to read for all ages, fantasy. The Your Story prompt this time really sent my thoughts into other universes. It was almost hard to believe that so few words could inspire so much possibility.

My first thought was to go with a discussion between lawyers, then a receptionist speaking with a disgruntled man, then many others. In the story I submitted, which was to be under 700 words, I stuck with dialogue only. After about 550 words I was done, even though I figured I would really have to trim down a first draft to enter. Surprise surprise. I probably could have been more eloquent with the use of our wonderful language – at least I sent them something. In case you have never heard of the word ‘doyen,’ I found it with a thesaurus. I knew it was a rare word for some, the next best thing to a neologism (like jobsite or colloquialisuhm).

As I am not as refined with dialogue stories as many and surely am not the leading master of this planet’s prose, I wanted to write out the story in a fun and rewarding way for my readers and myself as well. I like to use ‘he said’ and ‘she said;’ call me a third grader, but I dislike nothing more than dialogue which confuses the speakers only seven lines into a thirty some-odd line script we commonly see in best-selling novels.

So, I hope you read and enjoyed “Shawn Before Dawn”, and I also hope you take part in Writer’s Digest competitions such as their annual writing competitions and Your Story, no matter your skill level. I plan to become more involved in the world of literary appreciation/presentation, eventually, will die trying if I never meet my goals. I do appreciate you for reading and please, let me know if you entered the Your Story Competition or others. I love feedback and am always happy to hear of others’ attempts in regards to their efforts. 🙂

Shelves

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The above photo is a picture of some shelves that I have spent the last couple of weeks constructing. I have wanted to put together a nice set of shelves for months now and I finally have. I got the 1×12’s from Home Depot, as well as the polyurethane. The shelves are 5′ wide and 7′ tall -huge for me. I cut the grooves in the shelves with a jig saw. I sanded the shelves really well with a course sand paper, then I ‘poly’d’ them. I coated them one side at a time, letting them dry over night, so they did take some time to do. After I had the first coat done, I sanded them again with a more fine grit sand paper and coated them once more, the same way, one side at a time, so they could dry well with no drips.

I put them together carefully by drilling small holes and using 5/8″ wood screws. In all honesty, they are not as stable as they could be. I may eventually re-enforce them with additional hinges. The small ones seen in the picture were found on Amazon. I like the way they look, for now. What started out as a quick throw together project to have something to put the few books I have on ended up being an effort for a new piece of furniture. I liked the way they looked, so I decided to share the above photo. People I know ‘endured’ my talking about how they were coming along, so now I can happily share these photos with them.

Thank you for reading and viewing my efforts in regards to these shelves. Now I have something to put my books on. 🙂 Let me know what you think. Now that these are complete I plan to continue with my study of literature and writing the novel I am working on specifically designed for the enjoyment of readers of all ages. It is a fantasy tale that leaps from reality to a magical, tropical world and back to reality again. My goal is to have it complete by the end of the year.

Below are some more photos I took to better see the beauty of the shelves. The wood is a ‘soft’ wood, which I believe is white pine. I love the way it looks. I also like the way the curves in the shelves came out. Surely there are plenty of structures that far surpass my skill. For me, however, these were a lot of fun to put together and I am proud of them. They are complete, for now. Click on the diamond at the end of the post to check out the ‘Your Story’ competition held by Writer’s Digest – it is one of my favorite contests. 🙂

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New Peppers

Recently, I added a few house plants to my home gardening effort. My basil plants are fine and I just re-potted them. My grapefruit trees are still alive, about 3″ tall, and totally healthy. Here are two photos of the new pepper plants I welcomed home a couple of days ago.

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The plant above is beautiful, as it has dark purple leaves. Its small sphere-like fruits are black pearl peppers. They turn burgundy and then red when they are ripe. I am not sure how hot the are, yet I am sure I will put a few of them with a dish once they ripen fully. I plan to keep the plants healthy and watch them grow day by day, as a hobby.

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The above photo is of chili peppers. While no huge amazing site for many, to me, they are amazing. Mostly because I am happy to have them and cannot wait to maintain their health. The plant is about eight inches tall, currently. Though the peppers look ready to eat, they turn orange and then red before they are fully ripe, from what little I read about them.

For a long time, I was not very good with house plants, as they usually died within ten weeks or so. Now, I keep my gardening simple and feel like some form of a master botanist. 🙂 My secret? I use Miracle Grow. I also change out the soil every eight weeks or so and keep gardening notes on a calendar. I water the plants once or twice a day and make sure the water can easily drain from the bottom of their containers.

When re-potting the plants, I submerge them in water to loosen most of the soil from the roots. It sounds so easy and even seems so, however it has taken some practice to get better with gardening. Some plants are easier to keep alive than others. If you are new to gardening and want to grow something from seed, I suggest pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin flowers are large yellow-orange flowers and pretty amazing. Their small curly vines are fun and like to wrap around whatever is near them, such as long growing sticks or thin rods.

Let me know if you have any gardening photos to share – the more the merrier. Have a nice day and thank you for visiting jcm3blog.

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Around 1.1.16, I put some seeds from a super-huge grapefruit in the window seal. The grapefruit was about 1/2 a gallon in size. They took about seven weeks to germinate. The photo shows two seeds, each with two sprouts and two roots. I think they are twins.  The last time I tried to grow some grapefruit trees they only lived about six weeks, however I think these have the chance of living longer. For now, they are babies. We’ll consider their birthday to be 1.1.16, and we’ll see if they are over ten inches tall by 1.1.17.

Happy blogging. 🙂

Happy Birthday Baby Grapefruit

The Amazing Tale of Jen and Luke

Once upon a time there were two young children, Jen and Luke. Jen was in the 3rd grade, Luke in 4th. One day, upon entering a school bus to ride home after school, Luke was unable to find a place to sit in the bus. He walked up and down the entire aisle of the school bus, and no one had a place for him to sit. Luke looked up to the bus driver; she was checking out the various controls of the bus to safely depart.

“You can sit here with me,” said a small voice coming from behind Luke. Luke knew he could get in trouble for not being seated in the bus when it was ready to begin moving. He felt short on time. Luke turned to his right to see a precious young girl with brown hair in a white dress with pink and purple flowers on it, and he sat with her that day.

It was nice of Jen to let Luke sit with her, and he appreciated it. Jen was curious about 4th grade, and Luke told her all he could. During the next few weeks, Luke sat with Jen every day on the bus, and they got to know each other rather well.

Both children made exceptional grades and always finished their homework. Jen’s neighborhood was near Luke’s. The first school bus stop was not too far from their school, and nine children got off the bus there. Jen and Luke’s bus stops also both let off about nine children. Upon speaking of their parents, Jen and Luke realized that all four adults did not get off work until five, much less did they ever get home before then. Jen and Luke usually used this time to watch television or do home work or to take a nap.

“What if we get off at a different bus stop?” asked Jen. “That sounds like fun,” said Luke, “We could walk home together. I do not think it would be a big deal, so long as the bus driver did not notice.” “What if we ask her to keep it a secret?” asked Jen. “She could get in trouble,” said Luke. “As long as nothing happens to us,” said Jen, “I do not think anyone would know.”

The next day Jen and Luke spoke with the bus driver. She was not a school teacher, and everyone loved her. She had a great sense of humor. Their bus driver’s name was Ms. Elms. She was large and jolly, over 50 and still cool as hell. “We don’t want you to get into trouble,” said Luke. “Don’t worry,” said Ms. Elms, “If they catch us, we’ll just tell them you got off on the wrong stop by accident.” This idea amazed Jen. She was happy because she never really got to see certain parts of their city. “Don’t go through with this unless you promise you guys will walk home safely,” said Ms. Elms. “We’ll stay safe,” said Jen, and Luke knew he and his new buddy were in sure need of remembering to stay out of trouble.

That day (Tuesday) Jen and Luke got off at the first bus stop with other school children. They walked home, hand in hand, taking in the amazing scenery. Most of their trip entailed walking by businesses and safely crossing streets. When they eventually came to Jen’s neighborhood, Luke said, “That was pretty fun, and it is only 3:30 pm.” “I’ll still have plenty of time to do my homework,” said Jen. The two said their goodbyes and walked home safely.

The next day they nodded to the school bus driver and Luke gave her a green apple blow-pop when no one was paying attention. No one said anything; their secret was safe. All students seated and Jen and Luke able to speak, the bus was in motion. “I want to do it again,” said Jen. “Oh sure,” said Luke, “It was fun and we did not get caught. No harm done.” “On Tuesday,” said Jen. “Why the hurry?” asked Luke, “The shops in that part of town are not going anywhere, and we should not do it too often or we’ll surely get caught.”

“You are right,” said Jen, “Tuesday is a good day to walk together, though, because it is the one day our parents just don’t get home early. Also, there was something peculiar about the flower shop we walked by.” “That flower shop does arrangements for weddings and funerals, big expensive stuff,” said Luke, “I see their advertisements all over.” “Not that one,” said Jen, “The one that sells small gifts.” “Oh,” said Luke, “It did look interesting, now that I think about it. You mean the one with the baskets in the display window?” “Yes,” said Jen, “I want to go in there. It seems there may be a reason.” “Okay,” said Luke, and they both considered the next few days.

Friday evening, Luke asked his dad if he could do extra chores for some money. “What do you want the money for?” asked his dad. “I am not sure,” said Luke, “Maybe just to save or to buy a new book to read.” Luke knew this would be difficult, his dad would by him a book for doing chores in no time. “I know better,” said Luke’s father, “What’s her name?” Caught off guard, Luke said, “Jen. We are just close friends, but I want to get her something special.” “No problem,” said Luke’s Dad.

That weekend Luke cleaned the backyard for his dad and re-stacked a leaning woodpile. His dad gave him a twenty. He thanked his dad and promised to do well in school. On Monday, Jen and Luke spoke briefly with Ms. Elms, mentioning that they only wanted to get off the first bus stop on Tuesdays. Ms. Elms agreed to it, and Luke gave her another green apple blow pop. “Where do you get these?” asked Ms. Elms. “When I stay with my grandmother,” said Luke, “She gives me a 50 ct. sack of them for mowing her yard.” “Are they all the green ones?” she asked. “No,” said Luke, “There are purple one’s and pink ones, too, but I save the green ones, because there are fewer of them in the bag.”

Once seated, Luke and Jen spoke about school and their parents’ jobs and everything, made it home safely. Tuesday afternoon came and Luke and Jen got off at the first stop. They made their way to the small gift shop and went inside.

Full of fading shadows and small antics, the store was an amazing realm of splendor. Jen and Luke investigated the shelves – Luke noticed a row of dark blue vanilla-scented speckled candles with a small sign which said Homemade with Perfection. Jen was looking at a rack of post cards and noticed a small shelf with diaries. One caught her eye. Luke looked to the back of the small store and noticed a counter with a register. No one was there. “Let me get the diary for you,” whispered Luke. “It’s seven ninety-five,” said Jen, “Surely your lunch money cannot cover that?” “I did some chores over the weekend,” said Luke, “In case we found something here.” “Smart thinking,” said Jen, and she handed the diary to Luke. Luke looked at it and handed it back to her.

The two checked out most of the rest of the store on their way to the counter. Luke noticed a crystal pyramid up on a shelf behind the counter, nearly out of sight. The two children waited patiently in front of the register, and heard a woman’s voice ask, “May I help you?” She came from around the corner slowly, scooting in her rolling, thickly padded chair.

“We wanted to check this place out,” said Jen. “I would like to buy her the diary,” said Luke, thinking the vendor must be some kind of a mystic fortune-teller. “I happen to be a mystic fortune-teller,” said the nice old woman. Jen thought it was kind of funny but refrained from laughing out of respect. “And do you see anything you want for yourself?” asked teller. Her name was Ms. Starble. “No thank you,” said Luke, “Interesting candles.” “My nephew thinks he is going to conquer the world with their manufacture,” said the nice woman. “I suppose I may get one then,” said Luke, and he went back for a dark blue homemade vanilla candle with little glitter-specks of silver shavings.

While waiting on Luke, Jen asked about the crystal pyramid. “What is your young friend’s name?” asked Ms. Starble. “His name is Luke,” said Jen, “And my name is Jen.” Luke found a nice small candle and picked it up to make his way back to the counter. “Luke,” said Ms. Starble, “I am closing early today. Please, flip the ‘Open’ sign on the front door and turn its latch.” Luke did as instructed and brought the candle to the counter.

He handed the twenty to Ms. Starble. He meant business. Ms. Starble opened her register and printed out a receipt and handed the receipt, ten dollars, and some change to Luke. Luke kept the ten and the receipt and offered the coins to her. “You asked about the pyramid,” said Ms. Starble, “It is special.” “Is it for fortune-telling?” asked Luke. “Not really,” said Ms. Starble, “But it does posses an amount of magical power.”

“What can it do?” asked Jen. “Why?” asked Ms. Starble. “Just wondering,” said Jen. Luke gazed upon it and considered just how powerful it could really be. “It can be used for time travel,” said Ms. Starble. “Can we try it out?” asked Luke. “You will have to keep it a secret,” said Ms. Starble, “And you will also have to figure out how to get it down.” Jen laughed a little and Luke asked to come around the counter. The teller let him and he found a small step-ladder and got the crystal pyramid down.

The pyramid was ‘set’ in an old-wood, round frame and stained and polished with a  dark blue enamel. He placed it on the counter and the three humans stood above it, gazing upon its four lustrous sides. Jen and Luke looked to Ms. Starble. “Is there a reason you two would like to travel in time?” asked Ms. Starble. “What if we were grown ups,” said Jen, “So Luke and I could walk down the street together?” Ms. Starble laughed a little and looked to Luke. The pyramid amazed Luke, and he asked if it was even possible. Ms. Starble said it was and both children anxiously awaited the magic. Ms. Starble raised her arms high in the air and said, “Okay Mr. Hocus Pocas, Smooky Wooky Alakashzam!” and Luke and Jen vanished.

The Lunch Time Café was classy. Jen and Luke were sitting across from each other over garlic toast and iced water. They held a pleasant conversation over occupations in America. Their table was outside, and the day endured a hint of spring. Jen and Luke continued to share conversation, as any adult couple would, and their server came to them. Luke looked to Jen who said, “I have had a nice time.” “How much do I owe?” asked Luke, and the server said, “Compliments of the house, Mr. Strong.”

About that time Jen felt as though a spell was wearing off. She and Luke heard a man choking while sitting at a table inside the café. A man tried to give the choking man the Heimlick Maneuver, however it did not work and the man died. Jen and Luke looked to each other and the cloudy scene faded slowly.

Jen and Luke re-appeared before Ms. Starble who had fallen asleep on the counter. She came to and asked what they were doing. Jen laughed a little and Luke said, “We need you to lock us out. We must be going.” Ms. Starble locked them out and they returned home safely, before 4 pm.

Jen loved her new diary and wrote a few lines in it every night. Luke did not really know what to do with the candle and planned to give it to his dad for Father’s Day. Luke gave Ms. Elms a grape blow-pop on Thursday, and Jen and Luke discussed the death of the man at the café.

“Our time travel could have had something to do with whether we are meant to be together,” said Luke. “I think we already knew,” said Jen, “How could the man have died choking if he was not choking?” The two thought about it for a moment, and they decided he had an allergic reaction. “The peanuts,” said Jen, “He was eating peanuts just before he turned red and started choking.” “You’re right,” said Luke, “Maybe we can go back and save him.” “Who knows,” said Jen, “We will have to try to.”

Time flew by and it was Tuesday afternoon. Jen and Luke nodded to the bus driver as they got off at the first stop. The children made their way to see Ms. Starble. She was there and they tried to explain what happened. “We must go back,” requested Jen. “I am unsure that I fully understand your story,” said Ms. Starble. “Do you have something to write on?” asked Luke. “Sure,” said Ms. Starble, “How was the candle?” “I am going to save it to give it to my dad on Father’s Day.” “That way you have time to consider its origin?” asked Ms. Starble. “Possibly,” said Luke, knowing he may have a few things to consider.

Luke sketched out a picture of the café and thanked Ms. Starble for their first journey. It being a Tuesday, he happened to have a strawberry blow pop and offered it to Ms. Starble. She accepted the blow pop, and Jen and Luke explained the mysterious story of how a choking man died while he was still able to breathe. “You two must need to return there after all,” said Ms. Starble as she enjoyed her blow pop. “You may get the pyramid down,” she said to Luke, and he got it down and placed it on the counter. Ms. Starble said, “Okay Mr. Hokus Pokas! Can you please save-us a chokus!” and Jen and Luke vanished.

Once again, they sat across from each other at the table outside dressed casually. Luke raised his hand, getting the attention of his server. “How may I help you?” asked the server. “I do not think the man in there should eat those peanuts,” said Luke. “Why?” asked the server. “Please,” said Luke, “At least ask him if he possibly has a risk of an allergy.”

As the server looked to his right, he saw one of his fellow employees sitting a small platter of peanuts down in front of the large man. Jen and Luke’s server gave them the benefit of the doubt and spoke with the server setting the peanuts down. The large man’s server asked if he knew of any allergens he may have for peanuts. “That is none of your business,” said the large man. “Sir, we are not willing to offer peanuts with your meal if you are going to have an allergic reaction to them.” The man did not have much to say. They brought him toast instead.

Jen and Luke’s server came back to them. “How did you know?” asked the server. “Lucky guess,” said Luke, and Jen smiled upon him. The scene faded and Jen and Luke appeared before Ms. Starble. She was awake and waiting to hear what the children had to say. “He made it,” said Jen, “The man was not allowed to eat the peanuts.” Jen and Luke thanked Ms. Starble, and the children made their way home.

Jen and Luke decided to get off at the right bus stop for a while, and they only went to see Ms. Starble on rare occasion. They grew up together, making good grades and enduring healthy relationships. She became a nurse and a concert violinist, and he became an architect. The Strongs raised four beautiful children, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Flowering Purple Basil

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About a year ago, I got a two Purple Basil plants. I am no master gardener, so I have tried to do well with keeping them healthy. I changed the soil out (Miracle Grow) once ever ten weeks or so and keep low-wattage bulbs on them with a timer. I water them only once or twice a day and ‘mist’ them gently with a spray bottle of water. I also give them those little plant food sticks once every two weeks or so.

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As happy as I have been that the plants even stayed living, I was even happier to see them flower. I did not know they could flower and was pretty amazed. So, I took some amateur photos of them to share. I think they are pretty awesome and cannot wait to see if the flowers make seeds. I am pretty sure they will need to be pollinated – we’ll see whether such a notion is even possible.

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Thank you for viewing this post. I was happy to share these photos with you.

A Book Review for Stephen King’s “On Writing”

“On Writing” was an enjoyable read. I originally purchased the book to read to improve my writing style without considering its entire title “… A Memoir of the Craft”. Even though King explains life experiences from his childhood to near present time, he still includes a great deal of positive advice for writing. Anyone struggling with writing or open to some inspirational thought will benefit from reading “On Writing”.

One reason the book, and Stephen King himself, gives me so much inspiration is the notion of writing about 1,400 words a day or more. This is a far easier idea than trying to set aside a 6-hour time slot to write as much as possible, and way easier than trying to write out an entire project only pausing when necessary. Producing a small amount of work by often habit is more feasible to justify and stay motivated with.

Another notion that I find inspiring is the idea of writing without too much plotting. I agree with King on this one -even if one plots out an entire story or novel, once one writes it out they generally change what goes on (or not) as you write it. If plotting with an outline helps you, go for it. If simply writing without too much thought of the story before you come up with it is the way you write best, go with that. Do what works for you, in other words, even if you’ve heard it many times before.

The next thing I like about King’s advice on writing was to not spend too much time with technique. I enjoy utilizing as much grammar technique as possible, however I do not always adhere to grammar rules as strictly as I would like. Use of the passive voice, colloquialisms, ect. many times are found in my rough drafts. I do not let these things keep me from the story, though, and King reminds us of what is most important when writing fiction. The story.

Many people who have written about “On Writing” mention Mr. King’s near death accident. The story is in the end of the book. He was hit by a vehicle while on a walk one day, nearly died, and was only half through with “On Writing”. Our hearts go out to Stephen King when we hear of his regaining of health after having most of his body shattered and finishing his memoir on writing. Long live the King, indeed.

King mentions his struggles as a young writer such as struggling to pay bills, even when he became an English teacher. Who would have ever guessed that the world’s most famous and respected horror author would be a down-to-Earth family man? I am not sure, however I have more respect for him after reading his honest accounts of his love for his wife, family, and writing. I also found his ideas on drug abuse inspiring. He declares that while many users may think that use helps their creativity, people write just as well without stimulants or sedatives or both. I agree. I may drink a coffee or vape sometimes, however I find participating in creative writing is best without the use of unhealthy substances. I am glad he decided to clean up his life and live in a healthy way, that he could say people write just as splendidly without stimulants/downers or other temptations.

To further explore reasons I liked “On Writing”, I must note that King mentions telepathy. We are not alone as humans; any religion considers the idea. He suggests good practices for choosing a good place to write and being okay with ‘listening’ while writing. He also mentions that he kept this book short and tried to exercise some form of concision with his prose. In my opinion, he did an awesome job. I was able to read a few pages at night before going to bed and had the book finished, paying attention to its every word, in about 40 days (if I can do it, so can you). King mentions a Mississippi scribbler, John Grisham, as being found by his agent, Bill who set King up with Double Day many years ago. Many people think that part of what makes Grisham such a great author has to do with the ease in which we can read his work. I agree and think “On Writing” can be easily read.

“On Writing” gives references to a few dozen authors/books with explanations of their style and why to read them or how to compare them to what we may decide to write. King helps us consider what we are after with our writing and how to achieve success. He also includes two extensive book lists in the end of the version I read.

Early in the book, he mentions going to the movies and considering what was going on in the movie, as well as what could have happened to make the story even crazier or better. I think most people have a pretty creative mind, however part of King’s unique genius, other than his work ethic, is his ability to consider a good story and either stick with it or spice it up a little.

As far as real grammar lessons go, there are not many in “On Writing”. King does mention”Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition”, as well as Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”. He advises a cautious study of these texts, yet mentions that once you have learned enough grammar to write well, there is no need to waste your time with studying too much grammar. By saying this, he reminds us that the story itself is what is most important.

The first part of the book inspired my writing a short story upon reading a few things about Stephen King’s childhood. I put the book down and wrote out an outline, and wrote the story the next day. You can read it here. I also wrote down an outline for a novel with a protagonist and a bunch of monsters, however it may be a while before I get to writing it out, as I am working on some other works of fiction, currently. I’ve kept the outline with a few other novel ideas, nonetheless.

I conclusion I do recommend Stephen King’s book, “On Writing”, to be read by most authors, fans, and readers. It won’t give you nightmares, and though it is no new lesson in English, it will definitely inspire you as a fiction author. Stephen King spent a lifetime working hard and stayed dedicated to his goals as a family man and a writer. He did what was best for him and we should, too, so our reading audience will love and enjoy our work as creative artists and writing masters. What more could we ask for? I hope you enjoy reading “On Writing” as much as I and others have. As said by “Entertainment Weekly”, “Long live the King.”

A Pre-Release Prompt Intro

The Vape Place,

by Myles Stein

Note: This Story is not recommended for people under the age of 18.

“You kids should not smoke. It’s bad for you and people hate the smell of it,” said Professor Worther, from the math department. He passed by Amanda and Jen on his way to an important meeting. “I only smoke an average of seven cigarettes a day,” said Amanda. “Me, too,” said Jen. Jen was blonde. Amanda, brunette. They were outside of a large building donated to their university for the furthering of higher education. “Here we are, outside and not harming anyone, and we cannot even smoke a cigarette without a ‘health complaint,'” said Amanda.

“It is bad for you,” said Jen, “Even side-stream smoke kills thousands of Americans every year.” As she said this, she saw a few people using electronic cigarettes across the way, by one of their college’s cafeteria/lounge buildings. “Have you ever tried vaping?” asked Jen. “No,” said Amanda, “I have seen plenty of people do it; I know nothing about it. I wonder if it really ‘does the trick?'” …

The above two paragraphs are the beginning of an engaging story of two college students who take a summer off to start a new business. It will be in the second issue of “Oval Magazine” and is inspired from a prompt. Be sure to check out the entire publication, once it is released. It may not be complete for a few more weeks (February of 2016, hopefully), however it is sure to be an exciting, enjoyable read. 🙂

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