Tough Choices: Running Away to a Circus, Abbey, or Cave…

The week leading up to vacation almost did me in.  The week before the week leading up to vacation was even worse!  This is the evidence I’ve long been seeking that my destiny is to either run away and join the circus, convert to catholicism and become a cloistered nun, or live in an internet enabled cave.

Everything is better with Monty Python. Even running away. Read the rest of this entry »

My Frickin’ Awesome First Book Review: Scourge of the Betrayer

I’ve never written a review before, and Jeff Salyards has never published a book before.  We’re even.  Somehow, I think my review is going to be more awesome.  Anyone can publish a book, right?  You know, like hundreds of pages in a row, with character, plot, and all those other literary terms driving a story.  Agent, editor, illustrator, publisher (other people helping).  That sort of thing.

Publishing is a team sport.

I’m doing this review of Scourge of the Betrayer all by myself.  Consider that.

Book Review Blogging. Alone.

I started reading Scourge with an open mind.  My friend, Dawn, had invited me to the book signing last week.  It was compelling to listen to Salyards talk about his process of writing, and what it took to get this debut of his onto the shelves.  I’d heard it was a great read, but I was worried I wasn’t going to like it.  I’d have to tell my friend it sucked, or lie; neither outcome so comfortable.

Quite the opposite!  I believe my reaction was “Holy shit, he can write!”

All Empires crumble.
All Kingdoms die.
Bloodsounder’s Arc Book One

I delved into the first couple of pages and dropped right into the story, captivated by the turns of phrase, descriptions, dialogue, and entertaining characters.  Those are the elements that are most important to me, so I’m not asking for much.  I mean, I’d previously read a few sci-fi/fantasy efforts that were just ridiculous, like the author felt he or she had to recreate the entire world or it didn’t count.  Binstavalerd is chair, and mugstobbabeast is horse.  Plus no one has a mouth and everyone talks and eats through their belly buttons…AKA umbillipieholes.  Sort of similar to going to IKEA, but no cheap bookcases.

Salyards, on the other hand, immediately drew me in with the opening sentence’s description of Captain Braylar Killcoin, as seen by our narrator, Arkamondos: “dark hair slicked back like wet otter fur…”  I know exactly what that looks like.  And hey, I like otters.

Wet otter fur, yo.

Arki is a young scribe hired to take us on a mysterious journey, recording the deeds and misdeeds of the Syldoon soldiers.  We don’t know much because Arki doesn’t know much.  We listen, observe, and get a feel for place and personality.  We learn as he learns.  I wasn’t overwhelmed with epic worldbuilding, or turned off by a bunch of weird crap thrown in for effect.

Another description, besides wet otter fur, that captured my imagination introduces Glesswik (pg. 3): “a long face, splotchy and deeply pocked as if it had been set on fire and put out with a pickaxe.”

Getting ready to put out a fire…on your face!

You’re thinking about that right now, aren’t you?  How could you not?  It’s brilliant.  And funny.  There’s a lot of unexpected humor throughout the book, though it’s certainly not a comedy.

So, through Arki’s narration, we get to know this small band of soldiers, the merciless Syldoon, that are on a questionable mission.  There’s a package.  What’s in the package?  Where are they going?  Why?  I was antsy to know, and pulled along by the easy flow of a natural storyteller.  The characters really struck me, especially Lloi, Arki, Braylar and super crass Mulldoos.  The economy of words and characters really impressed me; it was all sculpted precisely down and no blathering on about nonsense.  There was a lot of violence, foul language, gallows humor, and even some supernatural in there to keep it lively.

Braylar’s flail is badass, for sure, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it in the next book, as well as Braylar’s relationship to it.

(Am I the first person to notice the possessive “Braylar’s” has almost identical letters as Salyards?  Salyarbs, or Draylar’s would be cleaner.  I digress.)

As the story unfolds, it also gains focus and intensity.  We gain a clearer picture of Braylar’s path; we see Arki grow and evolve.  There are emotional twists that paint the world through showing, not telling, and which flesh out the characters richly.

When it was done, I was already looking forward to the second installment, which is bothersome because it won’t be out for another year.  Write faster, Salyards.  No pressure.

I highly recommend Scourge of the Betrayer to others.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Here is a fantastic guest blog by Jeff Salyards.

Squeezing the Charmin, Making the Donuts, Insulting your Mother

We’ve been running ragged for as long as I can remember.  My kids and I are tired of our schedule, but not willing to give anything up, so we keep going until one of us drops.

Someone in this picture is winning, but I really don’t know who.

It’s like a game.

I think I can win this game.  I have more weapons in my arsenal (money, car keys, smartphone, calendar, lock on the outside of the basement door, etc), while their strongest ammunition is youthful verve and willingness to band together with their profound precocity. To conspire. Against me.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! I’ve got this one in the bag.

Sometimes when we come home from being away all day, we just veg in front of the television for awhile and wait for our vestibular systems to calm their business down.  This is also when we decide if we have good attitudes or if we’re going to descend into chaos.  As they get older, we all choose chaos less, but it’s always creeping around our perimeters.

“It’s not magic! It’s physics. The speed of the turn is what keeps you upright. It’s like a spinning top.” Says Deborah Bull. Well, F-U Deborah Bull. It *is so* magic! And maybe overscheduling. But mostly magic.

Last week (haven’t posted in a few days on account of the game), we settled in for our electronic meditation time.  We were in good, yet tired, spirits.  Companionable even.  I don’t like the kids watching tons of commercials, so we usually opt for DVRd stuff, or pre-recorded programs.

Not this day!  We were letting it all hang out

We were planning to squeeze the Charmin,

Even Bob Dylan can’t help himself.

make the donuts,

This is an actual book cover. It exists. Fresh Hot Glazed Make those donuts! Make them good!

and ponder the burning sensations in our nethers and taints.

I vote “entertainment”. I mean, no one is going to get out of this alive. Death, with or without explosive medical diarrhea, is a certainty.

Drug commercials are some of the most entertaining.

We didn’t wait long before the first meat hook claimed a Beeler victim.  Of course it was E, my 6 year old.

“We need one of those Roomba machines!”

I know the kids have been wanting one since they saw it on America’s Funniest Home Videos, or AFV for true fans of the show.

We have cats, the boys have ideas.

It’s a versatile vacuuming robot machine. Also takes on the fight between good and evil.

“What are you talking about? I asked him.  “You don’t even vacuum!”

Crickets. Sometimes they punctuate silence.

I continued to fling feces all over his great idea.  “I think the person who vacuums should decide if we actually need a robot to help us vacuum.”

“So,” no beats missed, “dad needs to decide if we get a Roomba?”

Ouch.  His aim is true, the black-hearted brigand.

N snorted.  I don’t know how I should have interpreted that.

Schrute knows. N doesn’t. N needs to stop laughing at his mom’s expense.


I do vacuum.  They just don’t realize that I do it after they go to bed.  Punks.

They thoroughly appreciate Jeff, so maybe it’s a chromosomal magnetism thing.  Perhaps they are repelled by girl cooties?  I’ll have to think on this some more.


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