Category Archives: Life

Settings

There was a discussion recently on kboards.com about whether writers “live” near where their books are set. Since I write mostly fantasy and science fiction, that would definitely be “no.” Yet a lot of writers do seem to write about places near where they call home. Stephen King is a perfect example of this, with so many of his books set in Maine. Others seem to go the opposite way, and I fall into this bunch. I like to write about places I’ve only visited, or even places that I’ve never been (but would love to see.)

An example of this is Heart of the Witch. I based the continent of Argessa on Australia; there is coastal rainforest, a mountain range, and then a large desert in the heart of the continent.  The closest I have come to rainforests comes from travel to tropical parts of Mexico, Hawaii, and walking through swampland and forests in Florida. The only mountains I’ve been on include northern Arizona, California, Nevada, and also the Alps in Switzerland.

I can count the number of times I’ve been in the snow on my fingers, and yet I set much of Journey to Landaran in an alpine setting in the dead of winter, with snow everywhere. Yes, I had to confer with beta readers who were more used to wintry weather to check my facts. But I can tell that that coming from a hot desert, I know what it’s like to get cold, because I get cold easily!

For me, I’m fascinated by that which is new and different to me. I’ve always had a love of forests–my grandmother had a cabin at Silver Lake in northern California, and I absolutely loved the place even though there was no electricity. Or toilets. (We did have a sink, which drew water directly from the lake.) I was also an exchange student in Germany, and lived for a summer in a tiny village in the middle of the Black Forest. I think that’s why these kinds of settings are so much richer and more interesting to me. I can write about deserts, sure. I’ve lived in one my entire life. But I do love variety. And what better excuse to travel than for research? I’ve visited San Francisco enough times that I feel pretty confident writing about it. When I dreamt up a story about Mayan ruins, I researched them, and I was finally able to visit a Mayan ruin a few years back.

We are formed by that which is familiar to us, but also that which is foreign and strange. “Write what you know” might be a popular axiom, but I’d add “Don’t be afraid to wander abroad into the unknown.”

Oh, and today’s featured image? That’s a picture I took from a helicopter tour of Maui.

Maui

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Help for a Pup with a tumor

I’ve been hit hard by some things this year. In May, one of the cats was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and had to be put down. Then the other cat had a lump on her tummy–it turned out to be an intestinal hernia, and required surgery. Then the youngest of our animals, Toriko (also known as Puppy) was diagnosed with an aggressive mouth tumor which required immediate radiation therapy. And then the oldest dog had a benign tumor on her side which had to be removed.

Boy do they mean it when they say pets cost money!  I racked up over $10,000 in vet bills very quickly.

Then I lost my day job. Not good.

So I’ve set up a GoFundMe for Puppy’s vet expenses. Any donations are appreciated, no matter how small!

Thank you to everyone. I’m generally not one to ask for help, but I’m feeling a bit buried.

https://www.gofundme.com/HelpToriko

Puppy

Now I know what a Hurricane feels like!

Okay it was actually a microburst during a monsoon. In Arizona, you can sometimes get a tiny localized torrential downpour and near-hurricane force winds during our thunderstorms that blow in first with a dust storm, then a downpour and lightning, and then just as quickly are gone. This means wind speeds of about 70 miles an hour, and I really do mean torrential rain–I think we got an inch in a half hour.

(Shot of Microburst from helicopter East Valley, 8/31/2015)

storm

A microburst only hits a tiny area–maybe a mile radius. It hit our neighborhood–the noise was so loud, I thought it was hailing, but instead it was raining–sideways, because the wind was so strong. Afterwards, my neighbor’s tree was in my yard, my two large garbage canisters had been tossed down my side yard and broken, the ceiling fan on my back porch was mangled and broken, my barbeque had been shoved against my AC unit, and anything that wasn’t nailed down was against the side wall. Along my street, about two dozen trees were uprooted and torn out of the ground. A street light was blown over in another neighbor’s yard. Across town where another microburst hit, a semi-truck was blown onto its side onto a car on the freeway. This is about the closest we come to a tornado here.

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I went for a drive to check my parent’s house which is in the next block over, since they were out of town. No damage over there whatsoever–looked like all they got was a bit of rain.

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More pictures, including a shot of that semi truck:

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Middle Age and Death

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My partner and I like to go out to eat sushi once a month. We’ve been going to the same place for years, and we know the owner like family. This last time, we were chatting with the woman, and my partner mentioned a funeral she had to attend last month when her uncle passed. The restaurant owner came back with some wise words, “I hate when you get to that part of life when it’s no more weddings and babies but all sickness and funerals.”

I feel like I’m at the threshold of that life. I’ve hit middle age.

I don’t know if middle age is really a number. I’m 44, which isn’t really that old, or at least so I like to think. Maybe it’s more of a life experience kind of thing. I still like to go to kids movies and rock out to punk and alternative music. In my head I’m still just out of college. But my body? Errgh. I had to have foot surgery in March because the pain of a fallen arch had grown too much. Even now that I’m fully recovered, I still have pain, which means I’ll probably have pain now for the rest of my life. That sucks!

And then on top of that, I had to put down one of our pet cats yesterday. She was fairly old for a cat (12 years) and had cancer in her throat, poor thing. Looking at the rest of our pets (we have 6 others), they’re all heading into that “senior” period for animals, so there will likely be more deaths in the future. The oldest is a Shiba Inu who is 14. She has skin issues but is otherwise quite lively.

I’m grateful that I have a kid, who will be heading off to college in a few years. I see how it is for friends who don’t have children or are single. Life really does seem to climb an apex and start heading down after that nebulous midpoint.

Not sure what I think about it yet. But yeah, it definitely sucks to get older.

RIP, Dokuritsushin. (“Doku” for short).

Back! Sort of.

Ugh, what a month it’s been!  I didn’t really make much of an announcement, but I’ve been away since late March due to surgery. I had a painful arch condition which I had to get fixed, and then I was basically homebound (and even chair-bound in the beginning) and on paid meds. So no, didn’t get any writing done last month.

But I’m recovering now. And slowly trying to get back into the groove of things.  I wrote the first words on the second Spirit Mage book that I have in a month. The book is currently 57,000 words long, so I’m about halfway through it. Last month I published Ogres At Alcatraz Isle, and this month there will be a sale on this title as well. I also plan on releasing a science fiction short story two-pack in a couple of months.

So yes, I’m still here!  Just writing, or trying to.

Ever hear of generational theory?

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I’m feeling off lately. I’m getting surgery next month, home life is chaotic, and the slow pace of writing is frustrating me. Not to mention the fact that the news seems so depressing these days. Talks of truce between the Ukraine and Russia but people don’t have faith it will last. An Arizona woman recently killed in the whole ISIS mess. And don’t forget cyberterrorism!

Generational theory (first outlined by Howe and Straus) says that there are four “Turnings” in a cycle that covers four generations, or about eighty years. Each generation is shaped by the circumstances of their birth, and also affects the generations following them. Trends swing back and forth during the span of this cycle, from a more restrictive, controlling society to a looser, more permissive one. Each cycle begins with a more stable, conservative “High,” then a cultural “Awakening,” a turbulent “Unraveling” and finally a “Crisis” which resolves to start another High and another cycle.

Right now, according to Howe, we’re in the 4th Turning. This Turning is when the big events occur–the last 4th Turning started with the Great Depression and extended through World War II.  The 4th Turning before that was the Civil War, at least for the U.S. And the 4th Turning before that was the Revolution.

So having read a lot about this, I listen to the news and wonder if the next big conflict is about to begin. There’s Europe and the threat of economic collapse, and Russia trying casually take back the Ukraine. That mirrors pre-World War II Third Reich a little closer than I’m comfortable with. Then there’s the Middle East, particularly Syria. One extremist group may not be able to draw the whole world into a conflagration, but they’re certainly pissing off quite a few countries. Somehow it feels like more than sabre rattling this time. I guess only time will tell.

Perhaps it’s the writer in me that listens to these stories and imagines the larger story of it all, feeling like society has been moving through Act II for some time and is gearing up for Act III and a giant climax. That all the economic struggles, the political struggles, the environmental struggles will all suddenly crash down on us. Maybe to be resolved.

Or not.

Glug, Glug, what a Monday!!

Why am I saying “Glug, glug?”  Check out the news reports for Phoenix today: 

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/heavy-rain-snarls-morning-commute-phoenix-area-25344433

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I live in Gilbert (on the East Side, as we call it, across the Salt River from Phoenix) and I commute 25 miles into Phoenix every morning. Normally in the morning with traffic it takes me 45-50 minutes to get to work. Today?  An hour and a half. I couldn’t even GET to the nearest freeway because the streets were flooded. Not that it would have mattered. EVERY SINGLE FREEWAY in the metropolitan area had closures, and it would have been impossible for me to get to work that way. So it was down to surface streets. And half of them had closures, anywhere they crossed under a freeway or a train track or pretty much anything else, or where Phoenix’s lovely drainage system had turned the road into a river.

So yeah. That was a fun morning.

Just to put some perspective on things, in my area we typically get 8 to 10 inches of rain PER YEAR. So yes. We just received SIX MONTHS worth of rain this morning. And it will continue to rain throughout the day today. And more tonight.

Uh, I may need a boat to get home, lol.

My one bright side is I’ve lived here all my life. I know where the washes and rivers (dry most of the year) are, where the low laying parts of the Valley, area, and where there are bridges over these low areas. So I was able to get to work when other coworkers who live near me couldn’t. And I’ll know how to navigate home if things are bad later. But man, it does make for an exciting day. Half the schools were even closed due to the rain (not my kid’s, and we live just down the street from it so she’s good).

More pictures to share: (courtesy of various local news sites: )

freeway2  I-10, our main freeway through Phoenix. They don’t even know how many cars were submerged there. (Everyone got out okay.)

freeway Same freeway, exit ramp.

mesaI love this one. This is only a few miles from my house. That’s a park.

ScottsdaleDog park on my way to work.

Anyways, I’ll see if I can post more pictures tomorrow. House is safe and dry so far. (Cats are scared and hiding under the covers.)