Reflections of Divinity

~ Reflections of Divinity ~
~
You are the voice of reason,
I am the one that’s insane.
You are the bringer of joy,
I am the one filled with pain.
You are the one that gives,
I am the one who gains.
You are sunlight so bright,
I am the moon on the wane.
You are the essence of pure,
I am a spreading, dark stain.
You are the glow of warm sunlight,
I am the dismal dark of cold rain.
You are the most delicate moth,
Irresistibly drawn to my flame.
~

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An issue, clear cut.

Have you ever heard the expression, “This issue is black and white”?  It essentially means that whatever the issue is, it is so clear cut that there is no possibility of misunderstanding.  It is so obvious we can’t mistake right for wrong.

However, before we decide the nature of right and wrong we need to clear the slate and start with no assumptions at all.  This means we have to root deeper and deeper into fundamental issues.  We have to dig through layers of societal debris that cover our core being.  We have to dig until we find our real self.

People often say something like this, “The issue isn’t gray, but black and white for me.”  I must ask where statements like that came from. Why is black bad, and white good?  Is it because we’re diurnal creatures who hunt with our eyes, and fear the darkness for the predators it hides? Since this perception of black being bad and white being good is so ingrained into so many cultures, it probably does boil down to something as rudimentary as our most primal fears.

But now I must ask you this.  Has humanity not evolved at all since our most primitive of days of hunter and hunted?  Why is the time we’re programmed to kill still considered a better time than the time we’re programmed to gather close within the company of those most special to us?

Maybe the whole black and white thing is completely reversed.

Before we follow the path so neatly marked out for us by thousands of years of programming by man, not by god, and not by our divine souls, we have to recognize that it really is a planned path.  If we can’t see that, then we are doomed to never progress.  We’re doomed to follow a path that does not lead to understanding, wisdom, or salvation.  We’re doomed to follow a path that leads to our children’s obedience to an utterly broken humanity.  A cruel collective in which there are a very very few with absolute power, and a vast multitude who will never be more than unwitting slaves.

If individuals can’t break free, what chance is there for humanity?

Personally, I am not willing to walk that predetermined path any longer.  I am going to raise my voice and question things that are so obvious we shouldn’t question them.

If you’ve read Beltamar’s War, do you recognize that sentiment? Perhaps more importantly, do you understand why this is so important to me? Do I scare you?  And if I do, why?

Let me leave you with this thought.  The easiest place for wrong to hide, is within the guise of right.

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Integrity

A short while ago, I tweeted this.

Intergity, when our heart knows right, and we do it, when our heart knows wrong, and we don’t.

Before you continue reading, be warned this post contains graphic imagery which might disturb you.  If you’re squeamish, please stop reading now.

The issue with integrity isn’t right and wrong at all, it is that we are trained to perceive things a particular way.  If we’re unable to determine that we’ve been trained, then how can we ever know if what we think is right really is?

How can someone who has been indoctrinated since birth break free of the bonds their indoctrination binds them with? How can they do something they’ve been taught since birth to believe is wrong?

This frames one of the many things I hold against every organized religion I have encountered. Dogma. Ask any free minded person what they think about something as elementary as a prohibition on eating the flesh of pigs and see what they say.
Religiously based morals are not based on right and wrong, they are based on mental control.

At its most fundamental level, morals must break down to matters of life and death.  Yet even there, where are the clear lines defining the one from the other?

We all think we know we shouldn’t kill sentient beings.  But sometimes we also know that is the only right thing to do.

Years ago my wife accidentally reversed over a kitten sleeping behind one of the rear wheels.  The kitten’s spine and rear legs were crushed, it’s stomach burst open, emptying its entrails and most of its organs, which remained attached.  We heard it mewl, I got out of the car.  A single glance told me the only right thing to do was to kill the kitten in order to spare it a slow, cruel death.

My wife had stopped the car halfway up the driveway.  Along with her, our two young children were craned forward trying to see.  I indicated she should reverse the car out of the driveway, my intention being preventing our young kids seeing the painful death of the kitten.  She reversed back about 20 feet and stopped again.  All three of them still craned forward.

By now I was extremely angry since every passing moment was unnecessary agony for an innocent animal.  I made a very emphatic gesture at her that meant “GET THE #$$%^ OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW!!!”  After looking momentarily affronted, she finally reversed out of the driveway and down the road to a point the children could no longer see.  I closed my heart and crushed the kitten’s skull with my heel.  It died instantly.  But that instantly came many seconds after the determination of right and wrong had been made.

What would an unquestionably ethical religion like Buddhism have had me do?  Let the kitten suffer, while appeasing my conscience with mental mumbo-jumbo about the ebb and flow of life from one state to another in reincarnation?

The only absolute, is that every absolute has exceptions.

That is the fantastic thing about our true soul. It knows what is right, and it encourages us to do it, it knows what is wrong, and it encourages us to not. All we need to do, is hear its voice.  But to hear, we first have to learn to silence the ambient noise of a society gone deaf.

The problem, is the things we’re taught, not the things we know.

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Giving thanks, where thanks is due.

This post is based on a recent email conversation.

I have to say that the generosity of honest reviewers never ceases to amaze me. They  spend their time for no reward other than being transported out of our troubled world into a world that only exists in the mind of someone else.  And then they spend still more of their time compiling words that give away both everything, and nothing.

Honest reviewers are courageous.  They talk about both the good, and about the not so good.  They don’t sugar coat their words, but neither do they coat them in bile.

Honest reviewers are easy to spot, but incredibly hard to pin down.  They’re easy to spot because their reviews don’t contain generic, nonsense catch-phrases that could be {and probably have been} used to describe an encounter with a particular brand of laundry soap. They’re incredibly hard to pin down, because every honest author wants their attention. {Dishonest authors have no interest in honest reviewers, their only interest is in 5 star reviews, the more generic the better, and they all seem to have lots of these.}

Honest reviewers are humble, invariably putting the needs of the work they’re reviewing ahead of their own needs.  They are often authors themselves, but they seldom plug their own work, and if they do it is relevant to the review.

In this burgeoning world of self-publishing, honest reviewers hold a very high position on the publishing totem pole.  Yet they seldom receive any compensation other than a “free” copy of the work they’re reviewing. “Free” is a word that should not be used, for it comes at such a significant cost of time.  Honest reviewers do a lot of work, and they get nothing in pay.  I’d like to see some creative way to rectify this bizarre situation, but I don’t see how without compromising their integrity at worst, or casting a shadow of suspicion on it at best. {For now, I make a point of personally thanking them if I have some way of contacting them.  I also try and ensure they have the opportunity to read my up-coming work before it is published, but I question whether that is an adequate reward, or even a reward at all.}

In summary, writing honest reviews is a largely thankless task.  So, to every honest reviewer, please accept my thanks.  I’m sure every honest author joins me in that sentiment.

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Multi-Tasking.

Though some of us like to think we’re great at juggling jobs, the research simply doesn’t back up this little bit of self-delusion.

When it comes to multi-tasking, humans are terrible.  This is not only my opinion, it is backed up by vast amounts of research.  Sadly, most people simply don’t realize just how much time they waste trying to do more than one thing at a time. It is a staggering amount, and since few of us have any spare time, it is something we should look into.

A minute saved, is a minute earned.  If I’m correct in that assertion, then spending a few minutes reading about how much time you’re wasting “multi-tasking” might be the most sensible investment of your time that you ever make.

To get you going, here is a seeming thumb-suck piece of information. Except it isn’t.  The average office worker loses 17 minutes of productivity every time they switch the task they are working on.

Unfortunately, time isn’t the only thing we lose when we multi-task.  We also lose effectiveness.  What does this mean?  It means that we do each of the jobs we task switch between worse. Period.

I came up with what I think is a rather neat analogy that illustrates human multi-tasking.  It is based on the other term often used to describe multi-tasking, namely juggling.

Imagine we’re juggling three reasonably complicated tasks.  Imagine that each of those tasks is a colored ball, and that we’re juggling them with one hand.  Pretty impressive, right?

Wrong.

Yes, it looks impressive to see one hand magically holding three separate balls aloft.  However when we analyze it, it is anything but impressive.  For the sake of this analogy let us assume work is happening on the task whenever a ball is physically in hand.  This casts  the impressive feat of multi-tasking in an entirely different light.  Why?  Because the maximum amount of work the hand can do is limited to 50% of its time.  The hand spends half of its time empty, doing nothing useful except switching to the next task.

Were this analogy to carry into the real workplace, multi-tasking workers are actually wasting a staggering 50% of their effective working time.

Now for the bad news.  It turns out the analogy does in fact translate into the workplace.

And the more research you do, the worse it gets.  I’m not going to do that research for you, you must do it for yourself.  However I will point you toward just one article on the subject, titled “The True Cost Of Multi-Tasking.”  That article opens with this line, “You could be losing up to 40% of your productivity” – I think they’re being too generous.

If you still think you’re a great multi-tasker then let me pose this question.  How many people can you hold a decent, one-on-one conversation with at precisely the same time?  There is only one answer, and that answer, is one.

If you don’t believe me try doing this.  Take two cell phones, dial any two people you know, place one cell-phone on your right ear and the other on your left.  Now talk to both of them at the same time about two different subjects.

There is only one answer, and that answer, is one.

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Streams, of Time

Time is an interesting thing.  We spend it without consideration.  We mistakenly think we’re investing time, yet for what return? The reward of time spent is never time gained. Time, something we can never replenish, seeps from our grasp, until we run out, at last.

In the past I thought love might be the fuel on which souls operate, but I now see now this is likely incorrect. Love is the product of souls, not the fuel they consume. Soul fuel is time, and time is finite.

Time is like a river flowing by, we can sit idle on its bank, or we can dive in and swim with its flow. Idle spectator, or active participant, in the question of our time only we may make that choice.

Likewise is time in separate streams.  We have clocks with which we measure it, and those clocks compensate for time differences between disparate parts of this infinitesimally small place we so arrogantly term, “our world”. Yet our clocks cannot combine two time streams into a river, or a myriad time streams into an ocean. Only Fate, an instrument of the universe can accomplish that.

Sometimes Fate is as a cruel blade, cutting us away from the ones we love. And sometimes Fate is a threaded needle that sows together timelines that once were separate.

Are we the masters of our destiny, or is destiny the ultimate master of us all? For you, the only one that should decide that, is you.

As these thoughts pass through my mind, prompted by the difference in the timelines of myself and those most precious to me, I find myself hoping Fate might assume its role as needle, and thread our timelines together.

Just a hope, but hope springs eternal, or so someone said.

Your swimming companion, in another stream.

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The Facets, of Character.

What elements lend life to imagined character?

Katie Salers, a young lady I had the good fortune of meeting on Twitter, recently published a review of Beltamar’s War. I am sure she would appreciate it if you’d pop over to her blog and read what she has so generously shared.

In her review, which I enjoy and appreciate a great deal, Katie raised some important points about Malmaxa. I would like to focus on one question in particular. Namely, why does Malmaxa present such a large cast of characters? I’ll try and answer without revealing any spoilers.

More than anything, Malmaxa is about people.

As individuals, people are complicated enough, yet what really makes us who we are is not ourself. We are who we become because of our interactions with others. It is our perception of their actions that shape the raw gem of our inherent personality.  Each interaction polishes our personality into the multi-faceted, ever changing jewel our character becomes. Considered in that way, were we to interact with only a single person, the finished jewel of our character would only have a single facet. And perhaps more than anything else, that single facet would be a mirror of the person with whom we interacted.

That is highly unrealistic.

In reality nobody is limited to acquaintances with just one or two people. Yet in literature we artificially constrain our antagonists and protagonists to few interactions. Why? To keep things simple? What a terrible motivation! Do we truly think so little of our audience that we limit our writing to simplistic views, and even more simplistic characters?

In life itself there are more colors than black and white, yet in many books those two shades are often all that is required to classify any character dwelling within. Why not allow the individuals that fill the pages of literature to blossom, gradually revealing the spectacular variations of color, texture, and shade dispersed throughout humanity?  Real people have depth, and real characters, though imagined, should also be deeper than a shallow pool.

Katie’s review made mention of specific character development in Beltamar’s War several times. I’d like to highlight two instances in particular.

The first was Katie’s mention of Adelmar, the antagonist, of whom she said, “I actually loved them all. Even Adelmar. I hated him for a bit. However, something changed. I became interested in him. I wanted to know more about him.

In our lives nobody is simple, even the people we dislike the most are incredibly complex. Indeed, we might find ourselves wondering why they are as unpleasant as they are.  Or perhaps we might look at that coin from its other side and ask ourselves why we dislike them as much as we do. We might even question whether the apparent failing lies within them, or with us.

The second instance is where Katie insightfully mentions the aspect of forbidden love between Faroene and Beltamar. Katie notes that Beltamar is matched to Daniskira and goes on to say “Normally this would bug me. Here, it didn’t. I wanted to know more.” Earlier in her review Katie said this, “I really do not even know what genre Beltamar’s War is in… Fantasy?” Great point, Katie. The overriding reason I framed this tale in the guise of the Fantasy genre, is that it encourages the reader to step outside of their normal, comfortable, safe, and ultimately judgmental box in order to examine ideas that would normally be taboo.  Fantasy allows the reader to loosen the reins and consider thoughts with a mind more open than usual – and in wanting to know more about something she would normally abhor, Katie has done precisely that.

Our world is divisive. We are trained from a very young age to look on anyone who doesn’t approach life the way we do with deep suspicion. In fact, we’re so effectively primed to be prejudiced against difference that we don’t even realize we’ve been trained! For Malmaxa to work, the reader needs to throw out their preconceptions of how people should behave, and instead focus on why they behave the way they do.

In Malmaxa, I try to plant the desire to understand motivation. I hope to have the reader opening a dialog with themselves in which they say, “I can see where they stepped wrong, but now I want to understand why they don’t realize they have.” That Katie vindicates my efforts truly delights me.  She sees how one of the most troubled people in Malmaxa is more than a monochromatic monster.  Katie also recognizes taboo behavior, but rather than judging it out of hand, as we are so prone to do, she struggles to understand why.  Thank you Katie!  {Please don’t misinterpret this as my advocating any particular behavior.}

In reality, people are extremely complicated. Shouldn’t it be likewise in literature?  I believe characters should have the opportunity for more than superficial depth. And thus the apparent plethora of characters in Malmaxa. Every named individual in the tale has purpose.  Every one of them is the grit upon which others polish their facets, gain their depths, and reflect their vision of light back onto everyone with whom they interact.

To me, character is much more than a one-dimensional reflection glimpsed from a flat mirror. Character is a precious, multi-faceted gem into which we must peer deeply if we are to appreciate its real beauty. My writing uses the mechanisms I’ve discussed in trying to achieve this depth, and thus the large cast of characters. Of course, it is entirely up to Malmaxa’s readers to decide if I am successful. I wonder if it is even possible to be successful, or whether my ambition in this regard has made me overstep my bounds.

Finally let me say that I would be happy for you to judge my efforts, though I’d be as unhappy for you to judge me.  If you’re tempted, then why not start reading Beltamar’s War right now, right here on my blog in your web browser?

Posted in General, Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Facebook “Friends”.

Perhaps because we harbor fears of being different there is something deeply gratifying in finding someone whose thoughts align with our own. I recently found someone like that, an author using the name P J Fox. For this I thank David Grigger, who happened to mention @PJFoxWrites on Twitter. Among the many interesting posts on her blog is one about Facebook Friendships, you should pop over and read it.

Since friendship is important to me I have written about it before, indeed I’ve even written a poem about what friendship means to me, which I’m fairly sure is different to what friendship means to you.

Friendship is so much more than an alert out of nowhere that someone now “likes you”, or likes what you’ve just said. Yet that seems to be what social media sites such as Facebook attempt to reduce this rare and special thing called friendship to.

I can see that Facebook works for certain people. For example, my wife uses it to keep in touch with some of her family and a few of her friends. Note my choice of words, “some of her family and a few of her friends” – she specifically doesn’t accept friend requests from anyone who happens along. What my wife doesn’t use Facebook for is a marketing platform to reach a wide audience of people who, as easily as a mouse-click, can like her or the things she has to say.

Friendship is so much more than allegedly agreeing with a single random thought. Friendship is so much more than the explicit expectation you will reciprocate for “likes” from someone you don’t know and will probably never meet by “liking” something they have to say in return for them liking something you said. Friendship doesn’t happen in a mouse-click, it just doesn’t. Friendship takes something the social media effectively steals from us, while simultaneously fooling us into think it is granting us. Friendship takes time.

An attraction of social media, and I think this extends to most of social media platforms, not just Facebook, is that it tricks us into thinking, “I can say something personal to all my friends at the same time!” Obviously, this is an enormous time saving. Just think how much time it would take to call each of our friends and say the line we can so easily post to social media.

There are a couple of fundamental problems with this premise.

First, an issue that ardent users of social media seem to have completely forgotten… Something you shout to the world is in no way “personal”.

Equally important, if you were to actually call each of your friends and tell them exactly the same thing… Well you would be extremely insincere, indeed if two of your friends discovered you’d told them precisely what you’d already told all your other friends they might even consider you to be shallow. Would they be wrong?

Which brings me back to the most essential element of friendship. Friendship is personal.

There simply isn’t a quick and easy path to friendship. Friendship takes time, energy, synergy, and commitment to build. Friendship is one-on-one – it is not one on many. Even in the smallest group of close friends, there are people who simply would not associate with each other if it weren’t for their real friends in the group.

And that is OKAY!

We are all individuals, we are all unique, and we should all accept that friendship is something incredibly special that we invariably share with a single, unique individual. Every friendship we have is as unique as the person with whom we share it.

If, as so many of us are, you’re entwined in social media don’t mistake what can barely be termed an acquaintance for a friend. There is an enormous difference between the deeply satisfying joy and contentment actual conversation with your true friends brings, and the momentary, yet horribly addictive little surge of pleasure an alert informing you someone has “interacted” with you on social media brings.

Perhaps that leads us to another significant difference between social media acquaintanceships, and real friendships.

The stimulus of social media is addictive. All those innumerable little alerts social media constantly feeds our appetite for interaction mislead us into thinking people we will never know actually care about us. Not only do they not care, but us expecting someone we’ve never had a one-on-one conversation with to care is unrealistic in the extreme.

Juxtaposed to social media’s addictive little “someone cares” alerts, along with its urgent requirement for a response in order to show we care back, is real friendship. Real friendship is not addictive. Real friendship places no demands on you in its regard. Real friendship is not established in a single mouse-click, and it is not so easily broken as with another. Once real friendship is established, time’s passage ceases to matter. Literally years can pass between conversations with your real friends, yet you can pick up precisely where you left off so many years ago.

How much time can pass between “interactions” in social media? Hours? Days is pushing it. And as for weeks… well the prevailing wind of social media has completely changed by then, and “Sorry mate, but who are you again, and more important, what can you do for me?” will likely be the response you get.

Now please don’t think I’m saying true friendships cannot form on social media. I am not.  However I am saying that regardless of where friendships form they require the same stimulus to growth and development.  Personal interaction, commitment, understanding, and most especially time.

How many true friends do you actually have, versus how many acquaintances you have on social media?

If you’re on social media at all, I know the second number is greater than the first. Often vastly greater.

Now allow me to pose a question. Which number is more important to you? If you answer honestly, after anything more than superficial consideration of the question, you might learn something about yourself.

I know I have, and furthermore I don’t think I particularly like what I just learnt.

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What lies between the lines.

I recently wrote,

One of the downsides of being a writer is that not only do we write words that aren’t there, fully expecting people to intuitively see them, but we also tend to read words that are never written.

Which brings me to this post, which is in fact a review of “Beltamar’s War”, the first book in my epic series, Malmaxa, by one David Grigger, or @DaveGrigger as he appears on Twitter where I met him, in the virtual sense of that word.  David kindly gave me permission to republish his review here.  It was originally published on Medium.comGoodReads and Amazon. (The links will take you to those websites respectively).

Why am I re-publishing David’s review here?  Foremost, as this is my blog I like to post things that mean a lot to me. This review means an enormous amount to me.  Why?  For the very reason highlighted at the top of this post.

We write things “between the lines”, in anticipation people will see them…

It becomes very disheartening when nobody seems to see the thoughts we think we have hidden in plain sight.  David was the first reader to really see between the lines in my writing. As such he has earned a very special place in my heart.  David, just so you know, it is for people like you that authors like me do what we do.  Thank you!  As partial payment of this Karmic debt I will be sending you a free copy of “The Pilgrimage” per this offer.  However your copy will be rather special, it will be printed not electronic, and it will also be be signed (I’ll email you for your preferred mailing address nearer the time.)

Now, without more of my unnecessary verbiage, here is David Grigger’s review of my magnum opus, exactly as it first appeared on GoodReads.

۷۸۷۸۞۷۸۷۸

By Dave Grigger.

my full review is extremely verbose.
why? Because that is how my mind works.
swirling chaotic seemingly unrelated thoughts & ideas
converge in my mind in such a way, that most just shake their head
and that is ok

this pre-mini review is for those that can’t/won’t invest time in reading full review.

condensed version.

10 out of 5 stars.
Unique & completely without comparison.
regardless of your “preferred” genre,
will make you laugh, cry & become TOTALLY invested
in the characters & the storyline.

twitter version: top notch eye opening unprecedented finely crafted work of art. Regardless of preferred genre, anyone will enjoy.

now for those who want the full story
I offer this:

start hear
!won

wtf?!
what in the world does that mean?
at first glance it appears to make no sense.
and how does this relate to a book review.
allow me to explain.

C.G. Ayling has posted the beginning of his book here:
http://cgayling.com/malmaxa/samples/m…

being the crazy synchronicity anomaly twitter is, i don’t remember
how i first came upon the author. i do remember loving his tweets.

so i followed.

the more enamored i became w/his mastery of the english language;
the more i wanted to read.
occasionally he would provide a link (the one above)
and at least three (possibly more) times i started to read.
first few lines and i knew.

NOT for me. not my genre, prolly a little more than over my head.
it just plain didn’t make sense (to me).
so.

start hear = start here, listening
!won = flip & you have “now!”

so by twisting the traditional way most of us are used to thinking,
you have to stop, pause & THINK.

“start listening here, now!”

this disconcerting non-sensical feeling came over me when I tried to read just a few lines.
but once the story unfolds a little bit, it clicks.

why use this technique?
because this is not “just a story”.
this is an alternate philosophy of how things should be.

to allow your mind the latitude to consider what is being said,
you have to be kicked out of your comfort zone.
once out of your element, you are able to see things differently.

you may start to c things in a different light.
because what you sea & what I see may not be the same.
how come i’m doing a review on a book i’ve never read?
well, i did eventually read it.

now for the rest of the story
just so happens that he posted a review someone else had done.
and in this review, it was mentioned how in the beginning it is hard to follow.
but that if you stick it out through the first chapter or two, the payoff is huge.
so then i go back & notice this:

“…my philosophic vision of a world stripped bare of all the trivialities that make humanity act so poorly.” ~C.G. Ayling
philosophy! oh HELL YEAH! now we’re talking. ok, i’ll give it a go.
since i was confident in the review (and the writer) i ordered the book.
and so now the review.

i was in the middle of a book when it arrived. so i just took a little taste.
read the first 8 pages. lot of emotion & detail.
the detail though had me like
how i started this review.

start hear, !won

little bit lost & confused.

but lest you think this is a negative, here is a tweet from after finishing the book:

how many books have you ever read & the next day open it back up & re-read? “Beltamar’s War” by @CGAyling is the first for me.

so i had a plan. went back to book i was reading
(2 days later set it to side 1/2 read, too anxious to start “Beltamar’s War”).
once i started, i knew for me i would need help through the first chapter or two.
so i got out my notepad. wrote names & relationships of the main characters.
when i got at spot i was unsure, just referred to my “cheat sheet”.
after 20 pages i was golden. everything clicked & i was hooked.
so much so that by page 80 this happened:

crying so hard had to close my book & literally sit down. @CGAyling less than 1/4 of way thru kin-ected me to character so forcibly!

and for those that trend towards conspiracy theories.
NO, i am not he, & he is not me.
he is however my sister. (inside joke)

but I digress

another thing I recommend doing while reading this book is pay close attention to every detail.
the craftmanship is impeccable. It is literally a piece of fine art. the care, devotion & time (and there is no way you can convince me this was produced in less than a few decades) is self evident. the characters will become part of your family & you will wear their marks with pride.

i would like to interject just a little food for thought & how it relates to this work.

talking to my parents recently, we had a conversation about families & society. they related that how in their childhood there were not any “day cares” or “nursing homes”. extended families lived together (in smaller homes than average small family lives in now). also, daily baths were unheard of. saturday was bath day.

so with all of our “progress” as a society; are we really better off?
after you read the book, hit me up on twitter @DaveGrigger & we’ll chat.

should philosophy not be your “thing”, that is ok.
This work stands on it’s own as pure entertainment.

As I mentioned earlier & wrote about here: https://medium.com/@DaveGrigger/i-cam…

“but then someone else has a perspective of their work that intrigues me & i say wth let’s see what this is about. and my intuition doesn’t betray me. because the twitter identity is so true & real to the author identity i connect.
in fact i connect so hard that i literally had to close the book & sit down & cry. twenty minutes later (lunch break is only 30) i get up & return to my so called “real life”. My connection to a simple water monger was so real. so true. so visceral as to belie any logic. i still tear up thinking about it.

this all in less than 80 pages in to a book that is closer to 400. when an author can touch me @ that depth that quickly, in a genre not in my repatoire. he deserves special mention. @cgayling is one such author.
my encounters with him on twitter, reignited a passion for words & poetry
i honestly never knew existed. and should you think his interaction is merely a “ploy”. dig through his timeline. if something does not set with him, he will say so. not in a derogatory way, but more of a “agree to disagree” fashion.”

I have not discussed this next bit of info w/the author. Just intuition. But I suspect that a significant percentage of this is autobiographical. This is not just a hobby. Nor is it a quick way to earn a buck. I dare say (though who doesn’t like money) that the main motivation is to take humanity by the shoulders & say “wake the “f” up.

pay special attention to EVERY detail. there is not any frivoulous element here. if it is mentioned it has a purpose. twigs, rocks, trees symbols on the page. ALL have a meaning & a purpose.

now halfway through my second reading this is even more evident. and if I know him at all, i believe the author has elements that won’t come to full fruition until the trilogy is complete. but his mastery of his craft is such that should you only read the first book, you will be pleased. *it is my firm belief though, that if you do take the leap of faith & read “Malmaxa I Beltamar’s War” that you will HAVE to read II & III.

have you ever read a book (or watched a movie) and at the end go “hell, they used such & such plot device to manipulate me.” none of that is to be found here. the characters ring true in interactions with each other & their environment.

if asked to compare to another author, i can honestly say that there is none that compare. this was not crafted for an easy buck. this is a mans soul, laid bare in hopes of helping humanity. as such, there is no equal. many things i have spoken of here i do not have “direct knowledge”. what i do have is an intuitive personality that allow me to connect with a few special people in a way that all would envy if they were to ever experience it.

and speaking of understanding. while reading this book once will be rewarding & fulfilling to you. being half-way through my second reading i am confident in saying that multiple readings will be required to even begin to unravel the full message. the layers & nuances will transend any traditional understanding you believe you have about storytelling.

this is fiction that contains a truth so real, so true; that to stare at it unfiltered would be as if to stare at the sun unaided. you would be enlightened, but in the process also possibly blinded. truth undiluted typically is not palatable. as such it is offered in a format as to which you can suspend disbelief, if even for just a moment so as to understand the universal truth that is held within the protective shell of “fantasy”.

@DaveGrigger

 

 

 

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If I May.

This is a melancholy poem, motivated by friendships that die beneath the stresses imposed by our relentless struggle to merely survive.

~ If I May ~
~
Each and every day
I try to do the things that matter,
if I may.
I pat my dog,
I hug my children,
if I may.
I hold my wife and tell her,
“I love you, today”,
if I may.
I go to work,
not because it matters
but because I must,
for, you see,
I have obligations to meet,
and bills to pay,
if I may.
A family to feed,
a family to clothe,
a family, to house,
and animals who in me
place their unspoken trust,
and so to work I go,
I must,
if I may.
Though my mood at work,
is far from gay
I try to smile,
if I may.
Woeful hours,
till my workday is done,
and then to home
I’ll run,
if I may.
For what matters
is not the hours misspent
at the place I get my pay.
Oh no,
what matters most,
is my family,
and my friends,
with whom I share
real smiles,
silly speech,
unforced laughter,
and joyful play,
if I may.
With the ones I love,
is where I’d spend my days,
if only
I may.
~

Where do you spend your time? First your hours, then your days? Count the hours spent in the company of those you love, and weigh times scale against the hours you spend away. Which way does the scale tilt?

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Hair today, gone tomorrow.

Yesterday, Julia donated 12 inches of her hair to the non-profit organization, Locks of Love. Locks of Love is an extremely worthy organization that takes donations of hair ten inches or longer and uses them to create hairpieces for disadvantaged children who suffer for any form of medical hair loss.  Can you think of any better way to use the hair you shed? I cannot.

Julia has been donating her magnificent hair to Locks of Love since Elementary school.  Though I can’t be certain of the number of donations she has made, I think this is her 4th.

hair today

hair today

My favorite youngest daughter, Julia, with her locks of love intact.  This picture was taken on Sunday, the day before her donation.

gone tomorrow

gone tomorrow

And here Julia is, a couple of hours after donating her hair.  Though I am unashamedly biased, to me Julia is more beautiful for her loss.  I know that the recipient of her gift, though already as beautiful as every child inherently is, will benefit from its gain.

Hair is something we take for granted.  We should take nothing for granted…

If you’re interested to know more about Julia, and discover for yourself just how wonderful a person she is, then please search my blog for poetry. Much of it is Julia’s. Perhaps my favorite of her poems is “The Wind and the Tree“.  In addition to writing poetry, Julia draws, babysits, and most important of all, she truly cares.

Like all my children, family, and friends, Julia is a constant source of inspiration to me.  Indeed she is also the principle Hero in my epic work, Malmaxa. {Hero is not a typo, but you’ll need to read “Beltamar’s War” to find both her, and why.}

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Fire your TV!

Ever thought of fire, and your TV? Or of setting your TV on fire?  Or simply of firing your TV?  Read on and see my reasons, and my whys.

I spent most this last weekend as I so often do, frantically trying to catch up on work about the house and garden. This weekend’s project entailed cleaning up a massive woodpile generated from the City enforced removal of three ash trees slain by the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle. A tragic loss of tree life, and a lesson in the necessity of bio-diversity that I am sure many will ignore. Many suburban roads that were exclusively lined with Ash trees now have no trees. {I’ll leave that lesson to the reader.}

At our house we like to try and use the things that fall into our hands.  Perhaps, to be correct, I should say the things that were felled into our hands?

I created a border between our property and our neighbor with some of the “better” shaped Ash stumps.

A border from Ash Spines, and from Ash Limbs, a grave?

A border from Ash Spines, and from Ash Limbs, a grave?

Some of the uglier stumps we split, entirely by hand.  There is nothing quite as stimulating as a contest of manhood between a man, his son, and a maul. {It was also a great way to get my boy working, for free!}

We, are lumberjacks

and we’re okay,

our blisters bleed,

and our muscles bray!

An itty-bitty Ash pile that doesn't justice do.

An itty-bitty Ash pile that doesn’t justice do.

I lined a recently created bed in the backyard with some of the better samples of neatly sawn Ash limbs.

ash bone borders, in back yard beds.

ash bone borders, in back yard beds.

And another one too.

ash bones, as borders

ash bones, as borders

Though double stacked, the lumber pile shown a few pictures above is a minor part of the enormous amount of excellent firewood we created. We offered it free to our neighbors, and our son and his friends hauled away at least ten cartloads.  We’re hoping they’ll take more.

one cart, of at least ten drawn away

one cart, of at least ten drawn away

Yet we still had a monstrous pile of “useless” bark and wood. So we lit up our outdoor fire pit and started burning it.

Ash burns hot,

ash burns clean,

and though I’d love to see it rot,

it seems my neighbors certainly,

would not.

A hot, clean, safe, secure, and trustworthy Ash wood fire

A hot, clean, safe, secure, and trustworthy Ash wood fire

Which finally brings me to the point of this post….

My wife commented on how nice it is to gaze into a fire. This got me thinking as to why.  These are my thoughts, which tie in nicely with a post I saw on twitter today that reads:-

stare into the screen & buy what man is selling stare into wilderness and be

Man, as a beast, is a particularly pathetic physical specimen.

Save for our horrific weapons, many predators will gladly eat us. {I hail from Africa, where predators do indeed still devour humans.} Unfortunately for us, our horrific weapons don’t do us a bit of good at night, when we’re asleep.  And night is the time many predators prefer to hunt…

-But-

Man is the only beast that does not fear fire. {I’m not going to try and back up this statement, but to the best of my knowledge, reinforced by my personal experience, this is true.} With a fire burning, we feel safe. With a fire burning, we feel secure. We trust a fire burning close before us to protect us from the monsters of the night.  Though we’ve completely forgotten the origins of our contented feelings toward fire, the passage of millennia has ingrained this knowledge into our essence.

Fire encourages us to trust that we’re safe and secure.

Fire lulls us into mellow serenity.

Enter the Television. It is also a flickering image around which the primitive clan we will forever be gather close, and stare. Mistaking the TV for fire, we let our guard down.

BAM!

The new predators strike.

Danger!?  What!?  Where!?

The new predators are the corporations who advertise their wares to those rendered unwary by TV, a simulated fire before which billions are lulled into a false sense of safety, security, contentment, and trust.

Put your guard back up if you don’t want to be eaten alive {figuratively, not literally} by unscrupulous monsters far worse than any predatory African beast.

Or better yet, just stop watching TV.  Period.

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Thus Spake Zarathustra

Thus Spake Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche.

A review for all, and for none.

I make no differentiation between authors and artists. To me a skilled author is an artist. Their words capture our minds, then force us to pay the ransom with our hearts.

However, what art is is not the subject of this post, if you’re interested in my thoughts on how art is defined please visit this post.

Art, is amazing in how it impacts us. Equally amazing is the arrogance of some artists. Have you ever encountered one who alludes, directly or indirectly, that if you don’t understand their work you must be an idiot?

I have, entirely too many times.

In this instance, the artist I am referring to is Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche has an impressive ability to wrap ugly thoughts and superficial truths in stunningly beautiful words. Don’t be fooled by the glory of the garments when the concepts they cover are reprehensible.

And thus we arrive at my thoughts on Nietzsche’s work, “Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None”. In this example of his work, Nietzsche takes the firm view that his readers are stupid. In fact, he blatantly states this in as many words with the challenge, “whoever is able to grasp me may grasp me! Your crutch, however, I am not.” I do not consider my readers to be idiots, so I won’t presume to simplify Nietzsche’s words.  As written, they speak loud and plain.

The artistic tactic utilized, that if you need an explanation you’re obviously not capable of true understanding, is clearly illustrated in the tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen.

Since none of us likes thinking we lack the intelligence to grasp some arcane concept, we dig deep into the work in question in order to see what everyone else allegedly sees. And when we dig deep enough into anything, be it a piece of dung or a work of philosophy, we uncover new things, new understandings, new thoughts, and new revelations.

Don’t be fooled.

What we’ve just uncovered isn’t in the thing being examined, it is from somewhere deep within ourself. We are all extraordinarily complex beings, capable of thoughts far beyond our wildest dreams. All we need do is look, and we will see.

“Thus Spake Zarathustra” is just such a work. Yes, “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is full of really beautiful words, artistically combined into eloquent, memorable sentences. However, the thoughts these so memorable sentences express are often repugnant. Examples of errant philosophy? “All that proceeds from power is good”, “The fleetest beast to bear you to perfection is suffering”, “All thy passions in the end become virtue, and thy devils angels”, along with innumerable others.

Repugnant as such sentiments are, the one I personally find utterly abhorrent is this, “Every one being allowed to learn to read, ruineth in the long run not only good writing but also thinking.” Of those two elements, Nietzsche has completely mastered the art of good writing. Sadly, in regarding the second element, that of good thinking, “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is an utter failure.

A further failure is in how often these memorable little sound bite sentences don’t have context with the other memorable little sounds bites so closely packed around them.  At times this is so predominant as to render the work virtually incomprehensible.  Naturally when this happens we find ourselves re-reading in order to find context that just isn’t there.  The result of this re-reading is our learning much of it by rote.  We can quote it, but we don’t actually understand it. {Of course, pretending to understand makes us appear smarter than the person who blurts out, “The Emperor is naked!” Or does it?}

Throughout the work Nietzsche looks down his nose at humanity, and he makes no excuse for doing so. Nietzsche’s arrogance is illustrated in this line, “Ye look aloft when ye long for exaltation; and I look downward because I am exalted.

Perhaps if you look deep enough into this work you’ll find Nietzsche is really saying the opposite of the things he writes. After all, Nietzsche isn’t directly portraying himself as Zarathustra is he? Unfortunately, you’re now looking so deep what you are actually seeing is the Emperor’s new clothes, not the sickly, diseased flesh of the thoughts they conceal.

My opinion of this work, like many of my thoughts, is conflicted. “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is unquestionably a work of literature. The composition of individual thoughts is so elegant as to be breathtaking. The writing style is bold, powerful, and eloquent.  For those reasons, every author can learn from this work.

And then there is my conflicted view…

Please don’t read “Thus Spake Zarathustra” with eyes, heart, and mind wide open as you seek deep, hidden truths. Save such mental and emotional energy for philosophical works that warrant it. Considered as a work of philosophy, “Thus Spake Zarathustra” is simply not worth your time.

I believe we all search for truth, and we all have an unquenchable thirst for meaning. But know this… that meaning does not dwell in arcane works. No, that meaning dwells within your own heart, and it is there that you should seek it.

{PS. While you’re here, please browse around. I label my own work, Malmaxa, as “Philosophy, couched as Fantasy.”  However, please do not compare it with Nietzsche, I fear you will do us both a great disservice.}

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Oblivion’s Forge.

A review of Oblivion’s Forge, by Simon Williams.

I am not a prolific reviewer for many reasons, one of which is that I really don’t like spoilers. How to take a well-worn, tried-and-trusted premise and somehow hide the fact it is just more of the same, has been rehashed a thousand times before verbiage none of us should ever be forced to read? I’m pleased to say none of those things is a problem with “Oblivion’s Forge”, by Simon Williams, and thus this review.

Oblivion’s Forge is interesting, well written, and magnificently original. It is also of sufficient complexity to keep any reader guessing. Simon Williams lays down the threads of his epic Fantasy series masterfully. (This is something readers should bear in mind before beginning the journey – Oblivion’s Forge is only the first book in an epic series.) Right from the outset you’ll find yourself visualizing the completed picture. You’ll also find yourself constantly revising the image as each new thread adds in another layer. Something nasty awaits, you know it, you imagine it, you anticipate it, and Simon Williams gradually reveals it. Each new character is unique, and each new character is conflicted. Who is good, and who is bad remains unclear throughout. Expect redeemable villains, and flawed heroes, furthermore expect to be confused as to which category each new character belongs.

Simon Williams writing is detailed and thought provoking – so expect to be provoked!

Others who have reviewed Oblivion’s Forge have described it as “Dark Fantasy”. I don’t see it that way at all. To me the work is full of hope. Yes, the characters inhabit a grim, corrupted world, but all of them, even the most delusional, are striving to make the best of their situation. Each of them believes they are on the correct side. Note I did not say the “right side”. Since each strives for success, why does the writing deserve to be labeled “dark”?

If you enjoy complex, deep, and substantive writing, then Oblivion’s Forge deserves a place on your reading list. Oblivion’s Forge deserves to be read with a conscious eye to the finer details.

Are there things about Oblivion’s Forge I didn’t like? Of course, however they are mitigated by the scope of Simon Williams’ vision for his series, of which this is just the first book. I found myself irritated to discover several brand new characters introduced in the closing stages of the work. I feared Simon had run out of original ideas and that these new characters would be used as a deus ex machina device to wrap up the story. Thankfully, my fears proved unfounded.

No, I’m not going to tell why it is justifiable for new characters to be introduced in the closing pages of a book – to find that out you’ll have to read Oblivion’s Forge yourself. So put on your thinking cap, along with your clairvoyants cape, and prepare for a particularly interesting journey.

Also remember to pack your hindsight goggles – you’re going to be using them, a lot!

Bottom line? There are more books in the Aona series, and I will be returning to visit Aona as I traverse their pages. And if they’re as good as Oblivion’s Forge I might even review them!

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INFP, this, is me!

Isn’t it is fascinating how long it takes us to learn about ourselves?

Only yesterday I found myself looking at the Twitter profile of a virtual acquaintance who has had a tremendous impact on me. @DaveGrigger included a personality profile as part of his Twitter Biography that revealed he is an INTP. A while ago I did a free Myers-Briggs profile test and discovered that my personality profile is INFP, my particular breakdown is Introversion – 78%, Intuition – 62%, Feeling – 16%, Perceiving – 49%.

If you haven’t taken this profile test I strongly encourage you to, it is completely free and very well worth the time you’ll spend. I found it fascinating to learn that some of the things we intuitively know about ourselves are more than just in our mind.

Anyway… I’ve known for a long time that I am an INFP, but thanks to David Grigger, I revisited myself and did a little research into something I have never considered before. Simply put, the results astonished to me.

What am I talking about? About how my personality type affects my writing.

Characteristics of writers with the INFP personality profile.

General characteristics of writers with the INFP personality profile.

First, I found the image above.  It describes the general INFP writer. Weird déjà vu. I agreed with most, but not all of it. Which in itself seems to be a factor of the INFP personality. People are individuals, every single one of us. Yes, many of us do fit rather neatly into boxes – such as those defining personality traits. However sometimes we don’t, and that is okay because we’re all unique people. Just like you, there will never be another me.

Onward! A little dissatisfied with the elements on the image that don’t fit my own perception of myself, I continued my research into me. After a few false starts I found a really wonderful website called “Write with Personality”. The website is run by a lady named Andrea J. Wenger, who you can find on Twitter as @AndreaJWenger. Her site is full of amazing information.  It is definitely worth visiting.  Andrea’s site also happens to contain a page dedicated to me!

{Okay, okay… the page isn’t really dedicated to me, but to my Myers-Briggs Personality type. Namely the INFP.  Close enough I say! :)}.

Andrea’s description of the INFP writer is insightful and startlingly accurate. Reading it felt as though someone who knew me better than I know myself had written a description of me. I learnt a lot about myself reading it, especially about my bad habits. {Yes, I was as shocked as you to learn I have more than a few of those!}

The most striking of those bad habits is how I discovered I really am unconcerned with “the facts”. To my mind, facts are irrelevant little things behind which deceitful people often hide. The facts are used to distort things as often as they are used to prove points of view. To me, facts are only important when used as guide-marks toward truths. However, it is also apparent how my disregard of hard and fast facts is not shared by the majority of humanity. I should probably work harder trying to understand why facts are more important than feelings to so many. I probably should…

After reading all about me {isn’t ourself a fascinating subject for almost every human?}, I decided to build my own image of myself as an INFP writer. The most difficult thing about doing this wasn’t being honest, which I find easy. No, it was using explicit words to describe myself, which I find extremely difficult since it feels so strongly like blowing my own trumpet.

Individual characteristics of an INFP writer, namely me!

Individual characteristics of an INFP writer, namely me!

Regardless of my discomfort, my version of my #INFP me appears above.

{PS. If you’d like to find out just how incredibly accurate the Myers-Briggs personality profile is, at least in my case and regarding my writing, head on over to the free sample of Beltamar’s War. I hope it entices you into purchasing my work!}

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