On Playing Silly Games And Not Giving Up

Jewel Pirates

Just clicking away

What makes for a worthwhile past time? Lately, I’ve been playing a match-3 game on facebook. I’ve reached the end of the second tier (level 45 or so) and have hit a snag…I’m pretty sure you can’t win this level without buying something. What make it interesting is that I’ve come this far without really learning how the game works.

Now it isn’t too much of a problem, in that I only get four lives or so, and therefore, can’t play very long at a time, at least as long as I am stuck at this level, or as long as I refuse to give them any money. So in my many attempts–probably over 100 on this level alone–I’m finally learning some strategy.

Until now, I’ve been playing mindlessly. but this level is much harder than the previous ones, and my just-click-anywhere strategy does not work.

Interesting. When there is nothing at stake, I can fail without self-incrimination. I’m even learning to recognize when I’m not going to win long before I run out of moves.

I have to wonder what else I’m doing mindlessly instead of paying a little attention to what actually works and when, learning some strategy, and making the effort to do well instead of just doing.

I’ve made the effort to write something, anything, on 750words.com as discipline, with complete permission to write crap, braindump or even notes for the current work in progress. It’s amazing to me that the Muse will show up to play when she does not show up to work.

There’s a lesson in that, somewhere.

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Review: Strange Arrivals by Holly Lisle


Ten Tiny Twisty Tales – Fabulous Fantasy Flash Fiction

Holly Lisle wrote the first two fo these stories as part of an exercise to teach folks like me how to write flash fiction: how to find a story, characters, a conflict and a twist, and write it all in 500 words  Each of these stories is a gem…a fairy, a dragon, an alien, a princess, a possessed ring, a skeleton, a room of one’s own.

Each story is complete in its tiny crystal, and it shows how well-trained Holly’s story building is. If you needed a reason to choose her other products, like the How to Think Sideways class I’m now taking, this would reassure you  she knows whereof she writes. This book is a lot of bangs for one buck. Get yours today.

Yes, I get a nickel if you buy from my link. Literally, a nickel. Thanks! ;-)

 

 

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Review: The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Steven Baxter


I waited a long time to start reading this book, although I pre-ordered it the day I saw that it would be available. I don’t like to read about war, and having read the first book, which ended on a very sour note, I did not want to spend a lot of time there. I won’t comment more on that, but this is not Starship Troopers, the first science fiction book I ever read (1960?), though I can hear echoes of the Grand Master here and there.

But I started reading, only 100 pages a day, to give me time to keep up with some other projects, and I’m glad I did. I feel like the story has just started, not at the beginning where the point was to walk through the world and see what there was to see, but to be in the true Long Earth.The sequel starts out ten years later, having allowed the story world to marinate in its own juice and bring out the flavors, like lasagna or banana pudding eaten on the second day.

Unfortunately, as much as I loved moments of the book, the over-arc did not happen for me. The book is episodic in ways that kept me from really getting involved with the characters. Individually I love each one, but overall, it’s like watching a security camera from a distance. I could see what was happening but I kept waiting for a story to emerge, not that they just braid together like a bunch of mouse cords thrown in a box for a year, all tangled up but not functional. I got the feeling that the point is that the world is just so big that we can just surf through it like stressed-out tourists on a 500-worlds-in-a-week tour.

That’s not what I wanted.

The thing that I most love about Terry Pratchett, my writing hero, is his way of twisting the narritivium to include allusions to the Round World in whatever he writes, especially when it is set in the Round World. This book has me cackling every so often with a smirking bit that makes sense in the context, on many levels but is so much funnier if you are in on the joke, a twist on a favorite phrase from Robert Heinlein:

“THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LAUNCH.” (p. 190) as a corporate slogan of Gap East 1, an experimental space station in the universe near the Gap, where some random asteroid took out the entire Earth, not just the dinosaurs. One character notes that this earth is like an on-going science fiction convention (a con) with the same constellation of nerdy personalities and brilliant problem-solvers. I so want to go there, just to be in that heady environment.

Pratchett and Baxter must have cut their eye teeth on the same books that I did, and they are much more famous in the nerdosphere than I even aspire to be. All through this book, like sesame seeds on a bun or nuts in banana bread, are little references to here and now, things that will likely be so dated in 20 years that nobody will know what it means, and somebody will write a thesis on it, like the book I once saw on the allusions in Ulysses by James Joyce.

I so wanted to love this book, but just didn’t.

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Review: Going Nowhere by Roderick Lowe


When I first started reading Going Nowhere, I thought the title was appropriate, as the first half was an introduction to the French village of Lecul in the Lot district, a land that time, map-makers and tourist guides forgot. I’ve lived in very small towns, not in France, but much the same, where anyone who is not a fourth or fifth generation resident is an outsider, which is also true in this story.

A childless couple of English school teachers, Peter and Jennifer, get lost here, and on impulse after their fourth annual visit,  decide to buy a quaint stone place and remodel it as a vacation home, a move that makes them feel less mundane and ordinary. They have various adventures as they try, mostly unsuccessfully, to fit in with the locals who good-naturedly take advantage of their lack of knowledge of French language, customs, and exchange rates. They have many adventures with country-style fun: a snail race, a billy-goat drinking contest, and a trip to watch cemetery swamp-gas lights.

Things speed up a bit when the French government re-discovers the village as a site for construction, a point that is kept secret from the English and other non-locals. But Peter and Jennifer are privy to a secret about the village as well, one they might share if they were in the loop. Tension ensues.

This is fun, if very leisurely, and has a number of author comments about both the foibles of the French and the English. The characters are drawn in broad strokes, as works best in comedy, and most of them are sympathetic, representative of types expected in any village.

The author, Roderick Craig Lowe, is  familiar with the landscape of the village, having lived in France since 2003. His sense of humor is understated and subtle. The writing is enjoyable and perfect for a few relaxing afternoons.

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Cosmology: My Babylon by James L Wilbur

My Babylon by James L. Wilbur

My Babylon by James L. Wilbur

Guest Post by James L. Wilbur, author of
My Babylon: Complete (The Eschaton Cycle) (Volume 1)

Cosmology

I have a difficult time describing My Babylon to prospective readers, especially ones well-versed in the genres of Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy, and Magical Realism. I find myself describing the book by what it isn’t. One way it’s unlike Urban/Paranormal Fantasy is that it doesn’t stop to spell out its cosmology. It seems to me sometimes that writers in those genres only write in order to tell you about their cool take on some critter from popular fiction. “These are my vampires, my werewolves, my ghosts, my penanggalan,” or whatever monster they come up with, and in the midst of showing you how cool they are, they miss the story.

You might call My Babylon Magical Realism, but it has more overt fantastic elements than you’ll ever find in that genre.

I won’t lie to you, My Babylon started with the cosmology. Although, unlike most others, the cosmology is based loosely on an actual religion called Thelema*. I know most of you have never heard of it and I’ve spilled enough ink in other places explaining Thelema. So go ahead and Wikipedia it, or check out my blog, scrollofthoth.com. You can even sign up for my mailing list at jameslwilber.com and get the book of commentary on My Babylon, which does some explaining as well.

But since My Babylon never stops to describe the world in which it exists, I thought I’d indulge myself. Here’s a list of the major players in the story.

Gods: The gods that show up in My Babylon are the pagan gods most of us are familiar with. The god Thoth has a presence in the background, but the only god that actually shows up is Isis. The gods are powerful beings that exemplify Jungian archetypes, such as: the trickster, the healer, and the wise old man. They can be called upon, supplicated, but seldom controlled. They are eternal and, for the most part, live outside of the struggle between the Demiurge and the rebellious angels. As Isis says in Book Five, “No matter how much you change. No matter if the tower falls. The river (Nile) keeps flowing. We remain.”

The Host: As in the Host of Angels, the servants of the Demiurge. They are creatures created to obey. More often than not, the Demiurge uses them to lay waste to his enemies. They represent order and the status quo. They can be summoned and controlled. Angels are also manifestations of the often lauded human characteristics, such as strength, honor, trust, and humility. In a Freudian sense, they are the super-ego.

The Demiurge: Referred to as God with the capital G, the Demiurge is the creator being, the center of the Abrahamic religions – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam–but can be found in other faiths as well. Some see him as a benevolent and forgiving lord who wants to look after his creation. Others see him as a tyrant who represents all the bad characteristics of patriarchy and blind devotion to “the way things are.” It is the Old Testament deity, more concerned with the success and obedience of his tribe than spiritual growth.

Michael: AKA The General, the commander of the Host, responsible for holding back the forces of Lucifer and the Beast. Michael has a human representative on Earth. At times it seems this person is Michael’s direct manifestation. At others, just his eyes and ears on the material plane.

Demons: The Fallen, the angels that rebelled along with Lucifer. They are creatures who fight for individuality and change. They do not so much as follow Lucifer as share in his ideology. Their goal is to upset order and overthrow authority wherever they see it. Demons can be summoned and controlled. Demons are also manifestations of the darker aspects of human nature, such as lust, hubris, anger, and impulsiveness. In a Jungian sense, they are the shadow.

Lucifer: The first fallen angel, thrown out of the Host for questioning the Demiurge. Lucifer strikes against Michael whenever he can. No direct manifestation of Lucifer has made itself present in My Babylon. His will is carried out by the Beast and Babalon.

Spirits: A cornucopia of lesser beings that follow their own rules and have their own abilities. The fire salamander Mike summons in Book Five is simply a spirit entity.

The Beast: A creature unleashed by Lucifer to act as a catalyst to the Apocalypse and a protector of Babalon. The Beast has a human representation on Earth. Just like Michael’s representative, the person “carrying” the Beast is sometimes a direct manifestation. At other times, it seems the Beast simply guides his actions. It would be a mistake to believe that the Beast serves Lucifer, as that would be antithetical to Lucifer’s belief in total individualism.

Babylon or Babalon: The star of the show and a somewhat unique being. At times it seems she serves Lucifer. At other times, she wants to reconcile with the forces of the Demiurge. She is balance, seeing the beauty of both sides. Like any good whore, “she accepts all and denies none.” Babalon is the personification of universal love, especially erotic love, and sees it as the power to open all people to possibility. She is the standard bearer of the Eschaton, and spreads chaos in her wake.

Are you confused, excited, intrigued? You may notice that also unlike most Urban/Paranormal Fantasy, there are no clear-cut good guys and bad guys, only forces trying to spread a certain ideology. If you’re looking for something different, you wouldn’t go wrong by giving My Babylon a try.

*I said, loosely. Please note this is my own personal view on Thelema. It is by no means comprehensive or pure. In fact, I don’t really consider myself a Thelemite.

—-

James L Wilber

James L Wilber

James L. Wilber describes himself as Anne Rice and Chuck Palahniuk’s bastard love child. He’s a pretentious prick who claims to pen, “literary genre fiction.” Which means he writes smarmy stories about wizards and vampires doing a poor job at hiding his symbolism and metaphor. He’s turned to self-publishing on the correct assumption his stories are just too weird for mass consumption.

My Babylon, a novel about the paranormal and dark desires, is the story of a cursed young man who has an intimate view of the Apocalypse. My Babylon weaves elements of urban fantasy, erotic horror, and real-world occult practices to form a unique personal tale that thrills, terrifies, and even enlightens.

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Jones and the Seven Deadly Dwarfs

This is an excerpt of a work in progress…which means I have no idea where it goes, only that what I’ve written does not quite fit into the story where I planned to put it. I’d appreciate any thoughts about what might be done with it. 

snowboy-7-dwarfs

More art at by onlyleigh http://www.threadless.com/threadless/boywhite-and-the-7-dwarfettes/

He knew it wasn’t Tulip behind the bar. Tulip had gone back to Faery, turned him down for a magic wand and a scrap of gossamer. But he didn’t blame her. He knew exactly how much magic he could make, and it wasn’t his wand that she had fallen for. But he still loved her, even though he let her go to work and support him and the little King.  “Lazy bastard” was Jones’s other middle name.

But now he’d had enough beer that the barmaid made him pay on delivery, as he’d disappeared more than once leaving only his tab. Things were getting a blurry around the edges, just the way he liked them, and if he squinted only a little, Tulip’s face would appear under the barmaid’s big yellow hair and black eye liner. Jones felt that glow of desire flow through him, but he sucked on the beer from his mug to keep from calling out her name. The barmaid–Sally? Peggy?  Maureen? would take his keys if he forgot again.

Then at the base of his spine he felt a peculiar tingle, odd, disquieting–not the kind of tingle that usually got him up dancing and lying to any woman he picked out to take him home that night. It crawled up his back like an army of brain eating ants, spreading across his back and down his arms and legs. Just as the sting of it hit the back of his head, he thought flashback, and shrugged it off, only to go into a full body rush. He leapt from his barstool to ride the waves of Deluge Ions as they surfed his brain. He fell to the floor, and through the floor, down and down and down through the layers of his subconscious.

The wave peaked, and he found himself bodysurfing his way back to Red, who was wide open and waiting, cackling with glee.  Her dead white skin glowed in the blacklight darkness, her red hair writhing and her lips stretched black over her feral teeth.

“I’ll have you this time, Brewster Jones, and I’ve got a little surprise for you too!”

He had to move, to get out of this nightmare before she sucked him in. but lying there,  he couldn’t jump to his feet to do his step to the left that brought him into Faery. He wiggled his left foot, holding it out behind him as he lay on his belly, hoping he’d be gone before the Ions noticed. He didn’t think of anything except to go to Faery, not to Tulip, not to the sprites, but anywhere as far away as a man could get from Red’s ghost.

* * *

Jones landed on his belly in a flower bed—petunias from the smell of it—never a good sign. But the Ions were gone, and his brain sparkles mere ash, which filled his mouth and made him dry. He made a few tentative moves to see if anything was broken, other than the flower stalks beneath him.  In the dark, always a good sign, he could only see the flower bed edging a path to a small cottage where the candle light from inside might be welcoming.

A short, stout girl came out on the porch . “YOU there! What are you doing in my petunias? Get up!”

Jones found his knees and scrambled up, wiping the sticky, ruined flowers from his chest. “I’m very sorry. I…got lost….” He glanced at the cottage and the dark woods surrounding it. “I saw your light and….I must have tripped…”  That was certainly true in one sense, but he didn’t want to explain that to this child.

He took a closer look at the girl, who though short, was not a girl at all, but a woman of substance, muscle, even menace. In her left hand was a lantern, but in the right was a dwarf sword half as long she was.  Standing on the porch, four steps up, she was still below Jones’s eye level, though he was a few inches shy of a princely six feet tall. He looked into her eyes, but her ample bosom nestled snugly in her quilted bodice covered with chain mail.

“Why were you in the forest at this time of night?” She moved the lantern to see him better, keeping the sword pointed straight at his most tender spot. “Are you out of your mind?”

Jones didn’t have an answer. Standing up so quickly after drinking and shifing took its toll on his already stressed body. He smiled, gestured towards her to begin a plausible lie, and then passed out face first on the path.

* * *

When he woke up again, he was propped in a corner, sitting on the stone floor, wrapped in a rough wool blanket that had been used for a goat’s bed or something equally smelly, though not with the stench of recently spewed body fluids. He’d come to in worse places. His head hurt, and his stomach muttered to itself–background noise to be ignored until he could ascertain where he was and what to do about it.

In the foreground were noises of eating: clunking earthenware, scraping of metal, and slurping, munching noises of lips, more than one set of lips. He risked opening one eye. The short end of a heavy trestle table had him effectively pinned against a rough stone wall, which was made of rough stone. The beams of the table did not press against him, but blocked him from moving more than an inch in any direction.

Around this table sat  half a dozen dwarf women, all eating with gusto a meal of vegetables and bread.  They drank from wooden mugs and ate with iron forks. The food smelled good, which surprised him, considering the state of his stomach, and he had a mighty thirst.  He opened another eye and turned his head to get a better look.

They were not paying him any attention, but as he shifted his back to get a bit more comfortable, a sharp boot heel pinned his leg to the stone floor. Until then, he hadn’t realized that he was not only wrapped in the blanket, but tied up as well, with the rope inconveniently outside the blanket and his hands by his sides. Given a few minutes, he could probably wriggle out, but not under the surveillance of that she dwarf.

“He’s awake, Toots!” said the owner of the boot on his shin. Between bites of dark bread and greens, she appraised him, found him wanting, and turned away.

From beyond his line of site, the eldest approached him, gnarled as a century-old grape vine with white hair and dark, splotchy skin. “Want some broth? You’re too dry to eat.”

He nodded, knowing he was dehydrated, though he didn’t care for the way she’d phrased it.

She held a bowl of greenish water, pot liquor from the greens the other women ate, and offered a spoonful. He didn’t spend energy on tasting it, but swallowed it down as fast as she would feed it to him. He could almost feel it soaking through his stomach and into his blood vessels.

“What’s your name, Sonny?” Toots licked the hem of her sweater and began to dab at some of the excess dirt on Jones’s face.

“Jones,” he managed to say despite her holding his jaw and turning it to get to his ear. “Silicon Jones.”

Toots turned his head the other way for a few more dabs. “Want to try a new story about how you got here? You weren’t walking in the deep woods, not with those shoes on.” She nodded towards the fireplace where his clogs perched on the hearth. She released his face with a sigh, and sat back on the bench beside the table, eye to eye with him.

Some people you can’t lie to, and Toots was one of them.

“I’m from the Other Side.” He waited for some reaction, but it didn’t come, though he was sure that the others had heard him.  “I know how to move back and forth, at least sometimes.” He glanced around at the cottage. “I don’t always know where I am going to land.”

“That’s close enough to the truth. Why did you come here, then?” She grabbed a brown roll and buttered it, slowly and carefully.

Jones felt hungrier than he had in years. “I wasn’t so much coming here as leaving somewhere else.”

“You’re a wizard, then, appearing and disappearing about the forest?”

“That’s close enough to the truth.” Jones wriggled his shoulders and stretched his neck. “I appreciate that you don’t know me, but could you untie me enough that I could move a little?”

“Not until we’ve decided what’s to be done with you.” Toots looked over her shoulder to the end of the table. “Darlin, Sweetie, you’re up tonight.”

By this time, the meal was finished, and the dwarves at the far end of the table began to gather the tableware, except for the mugs. Another one fetched a pitcher of some amber liquid and filled the mugs around. A third brought Toots a pipe and some leaf, which she lit and drew a few puffs.

“Your being a wizard, we’ll have you keep you tied up lest you work your spell to get away before we have our way with you.”

If she had thought to scare him, she’d done well. He wasn’t against sex with miners, if that was their occupation, but he’d read too many tales of how the rooster who couldn’t service all the hens was fried for dinner on Sunday.

Now he did want to shuffle that step to the left, yet he could hardly move to take a deep breath. But they’d have to loosen him a little even for that, and he’d run with the joke as best as he could.

menopausal dwarfs

These are not quite what I had in mind, but they are close.

The dwarfs’ names are Honey, Sweetie, Darlin, Sugar, Dollbaby, Punkin and Toots.

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Seven Sins – Seven Virtues

Seven must be your lucky number

Seven must be your lucky number

This was just too fabulous not to steal from http://sevenparts-hprp.tumblr.com/

Back to our regularly scheduled sevens.

seven sins

Seven signposts

The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a classification of vices (part ofChristian ethics) that has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct Christians concerning fallen humanity’s tendency to sin. In the currently recognized version, the sins are usually given as wrathgreedsloth,pridelustenvy, and gluttony.

The Catholic Church divides sin into two categories: venial sins, in which guilt is relatively minor, and the more severe mortal sins. Theologically, a mortal or deadly sin is believed to destroy the life of grace and charity within a person and thus creates the threat of eternal damnation. “Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us – that is, charity – necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished [for Catholics] within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation.”

Seven deadly sins in the heart

Seven deadly sins in the heart

According to Catholic moral thought, the seven deadly sins are not discrete from other sins, but are instead the origin (“capital” comes from the Latin caput, head) of the others. “Deadly sins” can be either venial or mortal, depending on the situation, but “are called ‘capital’ because they engender other sins, other vices”.

In the Book of Proverbs 6:16-19, among the verses traditionally associated with King Solomon, it states that the Lord specifically regards “six things the Lord hateth, and seven that are an abomination unto Him”, namely:

  1. A proud look
  2. A lying tongue
  3. Hands that shed innocent blood
  4. A heart that devises wicked plots
  5. Feet that are swift to run into mischief
  6. A deceitful witness that uttereth lies
  7. Him that soweth discord among brethren
Enneagram path of sin

Enneagram path of sin

Another list, given this time by the Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 5:19-21), includes more of the traditional seven sins, although the list is substantially longer: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, “and such like”. Since Saint Paul goes on to say that the persons who commit these sins “shall not inherit the Kingdom of God”, they are usually listed as (possible) mortal sins rather than capital vices.

The seven sins inspire a lot of fan art here represented by Gaia Online

Seven Deadly Singirls

Seven Deadly Singirls

Seven Heavenlies

Seven Heavenlies

Finally, the old TV show characters of Gilligan’s Island were supposedly based on the seven deadly sins.

Gilligan's Island Cast

Gilligan’s Island Cast

  1. Thurston B. Howell III is Greed.
  2. Eunice “Lovey” Howell is Sloth.
  3. Professor Roy Henkley is Pride.
  4. Ginger Grant is Lust.
  5. Captain Jonas Grumby is Anger.
  6. Mary Ann Summers is Envy.
  7. “Willy” Gilligan is Gluttony.
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