July Goings


Here’s the deal – I haven’t written anything here in FOREVER. It’s no one’s fault but my own; that I know, and there’s no excuse I’m going to post here that would make any difference. If you’re looking for excuses, there is an endless ocean out there from which one can cull. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they are all customizable in every degree.

I know I owe you the rest of the “Tourmaline” story. That’s a given. And here forth I’m not going to make any promises to you, but more to myself. The next installment of “Tourmaline” will be released before Wednesday night (July 5th).

Q: What is the consequence if you don’t make good on this “promise”?

A: Yep – you gotta have consequences; that’s a given. So, if I do not fulfill this promise, then no chocolate and no games for a week. I think that’s pretty good. And for me that’s some motivation.

In other news, Jer and I are moving along on the Wheel of Time. We’re on Book V. You can follow along here.

All moving along as planned. Again, Wednesday. You’ll see the next “Tourmaline” installment before that.

-lp

Prepping for IT


And I just watched the trailer for It, and damn, that looks pretty good. I have a certain way of seeing things when it comes to horror films (*and really it’s that I just have standards. Can you blame me?) It doesn’t count if the movie uses sudden movements and loud sudden sounds to freak out the watcher.

No, I’m sorry, that’s not scary; it’s annoying.

Anyone will jump at that kind of stuff. Ridiculous. So yeah, if you want to make a real horror movie (not a “jumper”), it is my personal opinion that you need to really build something scary as opposed to zipping a sudden jump-out-at-you scene. Session 9 does this well. This one looks pretty good. I’ve always been a Stephen King fan, especially after reading his memoir on his craft, On Writing. When I was a kid, there was a period of time in which I was on a King kick, reading several of his strong novels one by one because I couldn’t get enough. The first one I read was Misery, then Cujo, I read Skeleton Crew and one or two others. I remember one of my favorites was Needful Things.

Anyhow, back to the film. It was a book I had always heard about and have wanted to read. I think back then it seemed like just too big. The size was something that, at the time, turned me off since I wasn’t ready for something like that yet. But here and now, many years later, I would very much like to take on that challenge.

And, if you haven’t seen the trailer, you should. In fact, here.

As you know I’ve been reading the entire Wheel of Time with my brother. We just finished Book Three; incredible thus far. I know I’ve dropped the link before, but since I’m already in the habit, HERE IT IS again. You can go here to follow our progress as we roll through the entire Wheel.

Other than that, life is dandy. I finished the first draft of a short story I had worked on for a couple of weeks and it was a relief to get it done. I also had some great writerly friends of mine give me some great feedback on that story. One of those even sent me some of her stuff back so I could get a look at it. I’m slowly getting my way through it, though, good stuff.

Finally I’m listening to the serial podcast S-Town by This American Life. My wife and I got into Serial when that came out last year, and it was really good. But, you had to wait for a week for each episode to come out. In S-Town, all of the episodes are already out. You can, if you’re so inclined, “binge watch them.” I must admit, whatever little skepticism I had about this cast was dusted and washed away after the first (maybe two) episodes you watch. I can’t say any more that that. Here’s the CAST if you want to go ahead and try your chances.

Other than that, folks. It’s back to writing.

Keep at it. No complaints.

-LP

On Reading


Not by any standard would I consider myself the most well-read person around. But, in my circles, I would say that I could hold my own, well, at least with regard to fiction. I’ve been more connected to reading in recent years, more so than I was when I was an adolescent. I was living a different life then, running around with different thoughts. But, regardless of that, here I am,  a responsible reader, and I guess in writing this, I’m trying to find out several things. One is what that means – a responsible reader? After that it’s about the role reading plays in my life. The truth is it takes work. Why do it at all?

Going back early enough, I remember my dad reading to me. Pictures, first, of course. Those were what got me, but it wasn’t long before I was grabbing the books which tended to be heavier on the words than the images. Some titles still come to mind – the basic fairy tales, of course, The Adventures of Frog and Toad, Where the Wild Things Are, and others. He would take me to the library and I would come home with a hefty selection of books, all which I would read by the time we went back the following week. I remember very clearly a period in my youth during which my father and I would close the day by lying in bed together (single parent), each with a night light on our respective sides of the bed, reading. It was just us, quiet and alone, floating amid the winds of our unique literary destination. I would be reading something suitable for me, for where I was in life, for the kind of life I wanted to live. There was one particular series of books (which I haven’t even voiced thirty years, come to think of it) called Dakota King by Jake Mackenzie, an action-packed mystery series for young adults which always had the bad guy get caught in the end with his picture (a real-life mugshot) on the last page. I couldn’t get enough. Once I read the series, I recall spending more and more time looking for when the next book would come out. Then there was that weird period during school when the Scholastic Readers order forms would be passed out. I always thought the books were pretty expensive, and I would usually pass them up. But my dad always made me feel that it was okay to order what I wanted, which I knew wasn’t fully true. Dad, I wanted somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 books. Nah.

My dad always liked westerns, and the only author I recall him reading is Louis L’more. He would go through a ton of those. It wasn’t my thing at the time, but it was his, and that was good enough for me. I liked dragons and time machines and treasure hunts with ghosts. He liked shoot-outs, and tavern gossip, and riding around on horses going after the outlaws. Growing up, I realize that those were simply the stories my parents grew up with. My mom recalls fondly of how there was a clear distinction between the good and the bad back then. The hero wore the white hat and the bad guy (or just “the bad”) wore the black hat. That was it. The hero always saved the girl and there always seemed to be a variation of “riding off into the sunset,” – saving the day.

It was then that I think I sort of came into the idea that each person’s penchant belonged just to that person, and it didn’t have to agree with anyone else. As long as you enjoyed turning the pages and you were into what was in your hands, that really was all that mattered.

Fiction has always been my reading priority. Non-fiction was always there to tell me how the world was, and I just wasn’t interested in that. Firstly because that shit’s boring for the most part, and secondly, how the hell does anyone know what the “real world” is made up of? This is not me making an attempt at bashing non-fiction, nor is my adamant rejection of the genre altogether – no, I’m just saying, in my own way, that it wasn’t my thing.

Once you realize that there’s a way for you to fly, you just want to go ahead and do that. That’s what my mindset was, at least, when it came to fiction, and that all started at an early age. I found out I could fly.

Here’s where I think reading is important, and this is simply my opinion here. There’s nothing I’m going to throw in here which has to do with statistical data or valid case-study proof. This is just me. It’s important for parents to read to their kids so that children understand that limits are a product of the mind. It’s important to believe in possibility – not in what can’t be accomplished, but what can be. It’s important to foster in the mind of a child that she/he can choose what path to take and, though there may be consequences for his/her choice, there may also be great reward. The stories we read to our children, the narratives which they are exposed to will sharply define the manner in which they process their choices in the future. Again, there’s no science there; just my opinion.

Let’s take Where the Wild Things Are for example. We have our protagonist, Max, a kid who dresses up as a beast, creates havoc in his house and is sent to bed. His room unfolds and transforms into a jungle where he meets other similar beasts called “Wild Ones.” He plays with them and is raised to the level of “King of the Wild Ones.” Why not tell our children that it’s okay to break rules once in a while? It’s okay to ask questions and test things out? It will not destroy your relationship with your parents, you will not be punished severely or beaten. In fact, most importantly, you will make a courageous choice and you will learn something. Perhaps many of us may get into the habit as parents of simply telling our kids that they need to infuse their heads with more and more data so that they don’t fall behind in life. This is an idea I not only disagree with, but think is sad. We’re so consumed by giving them more to carry oftentimes, that we fail to allow them to be themselves and explore the outer limits of their own thoughts.

Non-fiction certainly has its merits, and those should be recognized for what they are, primarily education. I’m not counting the textbooks we receive in our high schools. No, those are written for a particular purpose (yes, as are all non-fiction books), and ultimately the knowledge therein is paid for by the state (unless it’s a private school). The beauty of non-fiction comes down to choice, and it’s not a digression I’d like to take too far down the Rabbit Hole. Basically, the freer your society, the more choice you have – ideally. In that understanding, reading of non-fiction is best done with desire. Making a kid read a book about the American Civil War in American History class when the kid really has only a minor interest in Canadian history if anything, is not helping. What I’m getting at here is that non-fiction reading should be done out of desire for it to stick. Yes, an educated populous sounds like a pretty cool idea, but A. (you may be able to tell) I’m really not interested, and B., data and knowledge only comes to the mind easily if people want to learn.

Personally, I’ve never been a big data person. I just don’t care enough about it. How many people really voted in the election, what the percentage of Hungarian speakers in Uganda is, how many World Series the Oakland A’s have won, where the next Super Bowl will take place, or whose research on Second Language Acquisition is the most prominent, etc. does not matter to me. I know what I know for my job and that’s about it. I don’t have any hobbies that really require me to know a lot of data. Some people just want to know stuff to compete with others. This happens in business and politics. When one side comes up with a particular argument, the opposing side has a counter-argument already prepared. That thinking has never been my strong suit. Why do I care if someone else has a different opinion than mine? It just sounds like puerile thinking.

A: I’m right!

B: No, I’m right!

A: No, I’m right!

B: Nah-uh!

A: Ah-huh!

Umm..no.  I’m not going to get into the whys and the why-nots here. I’m saying that you should read non-fiction if that’s your thing. If you love it, then do it. Period.

The truth is no one reads today. By “no one,” I mean much fewer people than in the past. I don’t think that’s simply my opinion; I would say that’s probably statistical. Reading is something that the people of the modern (“technically savvy”) world are not okay with. I mean they do read, but it’s different. They read on screens all day long, and it’s really not reading; it’s more like scanning. It’s sifting through data. Have you noticed how long articles are any more? They’re not. They’re über short. Why? Well, overall our attention spans have shortened. We do more “reading” on our phones than ever before and, it’s absurd the number of daily distractions we have to meander just to keep our focus on one sentence any more. Our phones are going off, everywhere we go, there are other people’s phones. Screens are ubiquitous, and the regular noise of society has graduated from a buzz to a growl, it seems.

Reading quiets the mind, and silence tends to be a scary place for the younger generations of today’s world citizen – those who subsist in the daily pool of noise and Twitter updates. I’m not talking about reading from a screen; I’m talking about reading leisurely from something on paper – a book, a magazine, even a good old-fashioned newspaper. This isn’t me saying that you should sit in a room in total silence. This isn’t full meditation, but in all honesty, I would be inclined to liken it to the activity, and perhaps even say that it can be seen as a type of meditation. It’s one of the few activities of the modern day when it’s just time with yourself. And this can take effort these days. It can take a struggle, a fight, and the enemy are your distractions.

We are inundated with them. In the 70s, the average person would be exposed to somewhere around 500 advertisements a day. That seems like a lot. Imagine 500 people trying to see you something in one day.

No longer.

We are now up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 5000 ads a day (Johnson, 2006). That’s not all. That’s just the number of people knocking on your eye door demanding that you look at them. That number does not reflect all of the times our eye balls seek out our own screens: cell phones, tablets, Kindles, mobile game consoles (PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, etc). This is us (more and more the younger generation) seeking out (sometimes with almost animalistic determination) our screens (KXAN, 2017).

That’s why I mean you have to struggle. You very literally have to fight off every tendency your body has to look, listen, or place your attention elsewhere. It takes a degree of courage sometimes to tell others that you’re reading or that you’re planning to read. You can’t go out; you can’t play; hang at the bar, whatever. Your time is your time, and this is how you’re going to use it.

That’s a different direction that where I’d want to go. Let’s just say that if you’re not a reader, you may want to start it up. Don’t keep your head down as you pass a library or a bookshop and think, Ah, maybe next time. Next time, I’ll totally going inside and then…Then I’m gonna really make the effort to …read. Don’t make it a chore.  Reading should be something you very much look forward to.

Okay, I’m closing here. I hope you find the time and the gift to read to yourself, for yourself, by yourself.

Doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you do it for yourself.

References:

  1. Johnson, C. (2006, September 17). Cutting through advertising clutter. Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cutting-through-advertising-clutter/
  2. KXAN. (2017, January 23). Woman stomped to death after fight over cell phone. Retrieved from: http://wspa.com/2017/01/23/women-stomped-to-death-after-fight-over-cell-phone/

Armada – a letter


ArmadaArmada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dear Mr. Cline,

Thank you for this book. I don’t know how long it took you or how many times you had to go back and edit, tear, toss out, emit, or rewrite, but however long it took you, you should know that from this reader’s perspective, your work was worth every drop of time you put into it.

You of course know of the old writing adage that (good) writing is rewriting, and from my experience reading this book, you’ve done your share.

I have been reading all my life, sci-fi and fantasy, mainly and have for as long as I can remember, been into all manner of game, movie, and geek lit. There are authors out there who are my heroes, just as there are games out there, movies, short stories, songs, and t.v. shows that have truly captured my imagination and helped me mold the way I see things in the world – the present, the future, myself, and all the possibilities therein.

RPO was one of those. I listened to the audio version, read beautifully by Wheton. What a well-crafted, intensely real story. It was so taken by the characters, the dialogue, the world, that I felt that I was there. Each page, each witty quip not only brought me back to the people, backdrops, and senses of my childhood, but helped me incorporate those memories into a game-tweaked alternate futuristic potential. One in which I got giddy goosebumps about. Thinking about that book now just excites the hell out of me. There are no words – it was bad ass. RPO is a book I’m still telling friends about. I’m almost to the point where, if they haven’t read it, I just figure my relationship with them is meaningless and isn’t worth pursuing.

….okay, that might be a bit harsh, but it was really good!

I had to read Armada. It did NOT disappoint. Loved what you did with game culture and dialogue, bringing all the joys of my childhood geekery again back to the forefront of my mind. Before I read it, my brother told me it was basically Flight of the Navigator.

Nah – didn’t believe it. It wasn’t. Rather it magically incorporated some of the flavors from my youth while opening new kick-ass doors of potential as to where games can take us in the future.

Five stars here isn’t really fair. It’s not a high-enough scale for me. I’m ranking your style and skill of ease of storytelling. You simply write the stories I enjoy reading. RPO and Armada are not to be compared as they are different tales with different packages of conflict and resolution.

I’m gonna stop here. I’ll just leave it as a big thank you. Thank you for the inspiration to continue writing, to continue doing what I’m doing, and to continue loving what I love. The gift you provide to storytelling and the fans of your work is monumental and game-changing, I would say. I would say that, along with Stephenson, you’ve added some delightfully florescent colors to the array of what kinds of sprinkles should rain upon the icing of the cupcake of modern literature.

Thank you, and carry on.

– LP

Post Script: I just finished the book nearly an hour ago and I’ll be going through the the general’s RTA mix forthwith.

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Maps and Attics


Maps and Attics

by L.P. Stribling

pent

       Six maps in total were found on that day back in November 1882. Five were thrown to the sea, as the rumor has it, and the final one is still somewhere in the attic of my grandfather’s house. It’s not something I’m proud of – especially considering that the maps were to show the direction to Hell. Every day since I released that information to my best friend during my sophomore year, David’s Travis has been asking me questions about the issue – asking relentlessly.

“Well, have you at least gone up and tried to see it?”

“Of course I’ve tried to go up and see it,” I told him. “Are you kidding me? Yes. I’m not that much of a loser. I mean, I have my moments, but not to that degree. The map might have information to the souls of Hell.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Imagine what you’d be able to do with that.”

“What?” I turned my head and regarded him incredulously. “And by that you mean that you agree with me that you’d burn it if you ever found it. Why does something like that need to be floating around the human world? It’s not like it’s healthy or anything.”

“Oh, no,” he said, and shook himself out of it. “No, actually, I think you should take me with you the next time we go.”

“’We’ go?” It was a sarcastic retort, but he deserved it. The last time I stepped into my father’s attic was about three months ago, and I didn’t want to do it again. It was creepy enough to ward off the devil himself.

David, through some weird aspect of space-time decided to take my sarcasm and bitch-slap me across the face with a monetary value. “I’ll give you two hundred dollars,” he said.

He moved his head closer and raised his eyebrows – Hello? It read. I realized I hadn’t moved, probably still stuck on how ridiculous of a proposition I thought it to be.

“Oh,” I said, “sorry, yeah. Money? Okay, yeah let’s go.” That was Monday. Thursday after school we were up in my grandfather’s attic.

 

The lights within the attic had never worked since I had known about the place. And by since I’d known about the place, I mean they hadn’t worked for my entire life. David wanted to bring some lighters and matches. I reminded him we were going to a small room above my ceiling made entirely of wood and was wasn’t used to human activity. I told him that although I appreciated his concern, flashlights would likely do the trick.

Boxes, chests, thingamajigs, stacks of newspapers and magazines, and all manner of the unclassified had long found their home in the upstairs landfill. I never wanted to call it htat, but the few times my father spoke of the place, that was the word he used. He had never had a good relationship with my grandfather, and he generally avoided speaking about the man. But when he had to, he would carefully choose belittling titles to speak of the man and his habits.

We had spent the first four hours covering as much of the area as we could. The process would have mbeen much easier if my house were big. Unfortunately my grandfather had to have space which would increase cardiovascular health. We started on opposite ends of the place and began to dig, move, lift, and scan. David told me he would be sure put everything back just the way he found it.

“Oh damn,” David said.

“What?” I asked, dropping my third stack of 1970s National Geographic magazines.

“Check out these tiddies!” He unfolded a blatantly 1980s Playboy centerfold and turned it around to face me – some blonde anorexic girl wearing snow boots and a weird feather necklace.

“Eskimo, cool. Is that it then? We started with a map search and you’re going to settle out of court for her? You know she’s probably in her 80s now; I don’t know, some people are into that stuff.”

“Wai-wai-wait, Jake….I found it. Holy shit, seriously. Come’ere.” He was frazzled, his eyes scanning the backside of the confused centerfold.

I walked over and stood next to David as he turned the tri-fold page around for me to see. Even in the seconds I spent walking over I didn’t think I would be looking at one of these maps. David wasn’t the biggest humorist of the world, but I sdid still think it was a joke. Besides, what were the odds? And in the middle of an obscure girly magazine, no less? But, the truth was, it was there. It was oddly there.

If we weren’t looking for a map, we would have discarded it, because honestly, if we were looking at this magazine (my grandfather’s vanilla porn stash), we would be doing it for some sick adolescent purpose, and not to uncover the secrets of hell.

The backside of the centerfold was completely black save for three white circles lining the center of the page from top to bottom, each equidistant from the next. In the center of each of the circles was a different colored pentagram the size of a penny. Each of these shapes touched the inside of the white circles at different places.

“I don’t know what to say,” I said.

“There’s nothing to say, man,” David said, “the game’s won.” David rubbed his hands sanctimoniously over the black page once before tearing the page out of the magazine and tossing the publication to the dusty hardwood floor again.

“Hey, man!” I said. It was a gut reaction, but these weren’t his things.

David kept his eyes on the black page while reaching into his pocket and letting two Franklin’s drop to the floor at my feet.

“Thanks, Jakey,” he said. He ran his fingers over the page again. This time the three pentagrams spun eerie opposing paths of their respective inner circles. He turned to me and smirked. “I’ll take it from here.”

 

Summer Reads


Not sure if I’ve ever really come down to it and said, “Yes, this book (these books) is going to be read this summer.” I did just check my Goodreads list and found that I actually do read during the summer – cool. So, I thought I’d toss out a little bit about what I’m reading now and what I’m planning to read this summer.

What I’m reading now –

Armada, by Ernest Cline.

armadaIf you know me, you know I’m into all-things video gamey. After going through Ready Player One, I was hooked on digital/video game fiction (Before I go on, if you are into video games, you MUST read Ready Player One). Okay, back at it.

I’m currently reading Armada, by the same author – Ernest Cline. Talked with my brother and he said he looked it up and it’s basically just like The Last Star Fighter
, which I wasn’t sure of at all. I haven’t read it. Here’s the thing with me and reviews – I don’t really read them. I will read them every once in a while, but mostly, as cliché as it may sound, I read books based on their covers. Yep. This one just looked cool and it had to do with video games, and it was written by Cline, so that’s what I’m doing. I am currently about 80 pages in (somewhere around Chapter 5) and It’s great.

This Summer

Just a Geek, by Wil Wheaton.

whetonI have no idea about this book other than it was written by Wesley Crusher. I like Wheaton; don’t know what it is. He did read the audiobook for RPO (above) which I listened to for the first time (which, by the way, I thought was very well done). He is now the host of several different things going on regarding geek culture. He’s on the Geek and Sundry channel often. He was (and still is, I think) the host of Table Top – a show about table-top gaming. I also watched a great role-playing game that he hosted called Titansgrave. I didn’t really get into Star Trek as a kid, but I do remember young Crusher. I watched Stand By Me as well, but didn’t realize it was WW until much later. Who knows. It will be good to have a look at the book and see what Mr. Wheaton has to say.

2. One Piece – Vol. 42.

I believe the most up-to-date volume is 78 and the adventure with Luffy and crew abord the Merry-Go is fascinating. Can’t wait for this to continue.

And that’s where I am.

What are you reading?

A Wizard of Earthsea – a review


A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Wizard of Earthsea is one I’ve wanted to read for some time. Had no idea what it was about or what her writing style was like.

I’m glad I read it.

However, as soon as I was in a few pages, I thought to myself, I’ve read this before. And, I kind of had read it before, but not before she wrote it. The story is a bildungsroman – something frequently explored in literary fantasy. My first taste of this was in Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World, the first book of the legendary Wheel of Time series. Another more modern and well-known example is Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. These are stories in which we see the protagonist as a child and we learn how she/he grows into whatever he/she grows into. We, the reader, get to go on this journey with him. Again, this is something that works well in fantasy because of the scope of the story.

The story was interesting, and I had to keep in mind that I didn’t read this in the 1960s, when LeGuin originally published it, which, at the time, would have been groundbreaking in the ways of storytelling, I’m sure. It wasn’t a Tolkien production, but it was something of note within the genre. Even my reading it over 30 years after its publication date, this is something I can see clearly.

I thought the story was fair; it seemed to become a bit too inconsistent for me as to where Ged (the protagonist) was going. He seems to be doing something at (view spoiler) for a bit, and then he goes off and does other stuff. But I didn’t get the reasons as to why he decided the course of action he did.

It was interesting. I’ll say that, and I appreciated it for what it was. It’s understood why LeGuin is counted as one of the originals here.

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