tree, halfmoon, branches

Tree House Tales due out before Christmas!

Tree House Tales

THT is a collection of my short stories, anecdotes, original art and short extracts from four of my Narenta fantasy novels.

Most of the stories are fantasy. Most of the anecdotes are humorous.

One short story, "Shadow Harper" was previously published in Spencer Hill's "UnConventional, Twenty-Two Tales..."
One anecdote, "Baffled By the Green Door" was previously published in "Stories from the Inkslingers".
Everything else is untouched by human eyes--except the author's eyes, the beta reader's eyes, the editor's eyes...

Here is THT's table of contents -- subject to change.

FANTASY, MOSTLY                                                                                9
“Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.” -- Jules de Gaultier
I Need A Horse                                                                                             10
A Sailor’s Tale                                                                                                 12                 
Sisyphus                                                                                                         15     
Circles                                                                                                             19     
A Garden Mosaic                                                                                             22     
Daisy & the Paper-Mice                                                                                   23
The Windowed Door                                                                                        27
Luckiest Hunter Ever                                                                                       29     
  Story Outline. Story-Telling Suggestions.
The Dragon’s Tail Tale                                                                                    32
No Substitutions                                                                                             38     
Winter’s Season                                                                                              41
The Smashed Fairy Song Cycle                                                                      56
Dream, With Joey                                                                                            59
A Dream With Bowling                                                                                     63
The Queen of the Tor Shee                                                                             65
Shadow Harper                                                                                                67
The Pumpkin Smasher                                                                                  71     
Gajit’s Research Expedition                                                                             80
Dingle    Finish the story challenge.                                                                 87     
The Last Battle (novelette)                                                                              89-114

“This Marks the End of Fantasy Mostly”                                                        115
The Witch’s ORIGINAL Gingerbread House (art)                                           116-117
NOTE: 12-15 thumbnails of my artwork will be scattered randomly throughout.

REALITY, WHATEVER  THAT IS                                          118
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." --Philip K Dick
Preteens, Horses, and Aliens                                                                        119
Baffled By The Green Door                                                                           123
Fandom 101                                                                                                  128                                                     
A Fannish Internet Sub-Creation of a                                                           136
Hyperdimensional Pocket  Universe    
Sherry’s Cake is Major Hit at Coffee Hour! Film at 11!                                  140
EgoBoogling                                                                                                  142  
Catzis #1   (with cat illos)                                                                               145
Catzis #2   (with cat illos)                                                                               147
Rainstorm Coming                                                                                         150   
Hurricane Hazel                                                                                             152   
Between Worlds (Interwoven Memories of Ocean City New Jersey)            155

END  OF  REALITY…                                                                                       157

Extracts from Four Narenta novels:                                                              158

Narenta # 1:    Seabird                                                                                   159                 
Narenta # 2:    Earthbow                                                                                162
Narenta # 3:    The Gryphon & the Basilisk    (forthcoming)                           166
Narenta # 1.5:    Marooned  (forthcoming)                                                     173

How I Write                                                                                                    175
                      A Smidge of Plot. A Glob of Character
                      Khiva the Stoah (“stow-hah”)  from Earthbow; G and B         176
                                Bert-and-Marsha-from-Hoboken  (Marooned)                   176

The End, "elegantly adorned"                                                                          178
Cat on Caffeine

Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House"

I'm a member of "Library Thing" and tonight I was browsing discussions like

What Was The Scariest BOOK You've Ever Read and How Did It Affect Your Life And Reading Habit?

No one had mentioned the actual scariest book so I did:

Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House" is part ghost story & part psychological thriller, blended so thoroughly even a careful reader may wonder what is reality & what is mental illness.

When I was in 6th grade, I plucked a volume of Reader's Digest Condensed Books from a living room shelf. Never steal from your parents. This could happen to you.

Just the first paragraph frightened me, It's also the last paragraph. "...whatever walks there walks alone."

But then there's...
the something knocking on bedroom doors with booms as loud as cannonballs. (never to be seen or described)
The something that isn't there that held Eleanor's hand. (never to be seen or described)
The something in the garden that makes Theo shriek, "Run!" (never to be seen or described).

Jackson knew the secret of creating elemental terror in her v/i/c/t/i/m/s readers. Less is more. Limit description & the reader's imagination will do the rest. And do it better than any author because our imaginations are fine-tuned by our personal experiences.

I didn't sleep for two nights. I pressed my back into one corner of my bedroom and spent the hours staring at the door, hoping that it didn't boom. Staring at each wall in turn, hoping that wallpaper wouldn't appear & then begin sobbing & gibbering to itself...

The Haunting of Hill House

p.s. After reading the book, you may wish to view the film. Be sure it's the 1950-60's(?) B&W version!

See additional commentary at ModernGothic.
DE Book Festival

Dragon Warning! (from a writerly writer)

This just suddenly appeared--not unlike a Pern dragon returning from Between

Dragons Unstoppable

Come see my author board, "Ima Writerly Writer Who Writes" at Pinterest!
Below are a few of my captions.
They make more sense when you see the pictures, at the link waaaay below.

Seabird Necklace

Poetry art: original poem on found image "woman reading"
Cats, commas and claws
A marvellously detailed B&W portrait by Lukas Holas. Isn’t this amazing? Aside from photographers with telephoto lens who ever gets close enough to a bird of prey to see such detail?
Well, people in fantasy tales do...
Never wrong a writer. Remember, we know your name--and we know how to use it.
A friend found the matching shirt for me at a fantasy/SF con several years ago. We've known each other since just a few years after I began to write. The shirt "encapulates my personality". Her shirt would require bunnies.
Being an author can be murder.
1st lines of a micro-story:  "We straggle to a stop within the last sheltering trees & study the cliffside blocking our way. The slanted crease we thought a passageway is... "
Ooh. This needs to be glued to my forehead....
"Book Living" Great furniture. First rate companions. Speaking of companions, I found three definite vignettes is the painting. Possibly two more...
"Open book", by Plum leaves.  Those are truly magic words!
1st lines of a ponder about a picture:  "Evocative painting! See the broken stone arch? Who built it?  Why build it in the midst..."
Seaglass Logo

Ocean City NJ: Cafe Beach Club

When my family began vacationing in Ocean City, NJ we used to stay at the Impala Motel on 10th. It's now the Impala Island, I suppose just in case any visitors thought they were on safari rather than at the shore.

Stingray Motel (our usual place in 70s 80s)

The Stingray Motel
Later my grandmother and I stayed at the Stingray, most frequently in June when it was easier for me to get permission to take my vacation. It was also easier to get wet during our annual visits, since OCNJ weather in June is often "unsettled". One vacation week, I believe it rained every day. We kept ourselves occupied.  :-D  Just being in Ocean City was the point.
(stuph re The Beach Club and its Cafe below)

It's been a very long time since I've visited OCNJ, as regular readers already know.
Since my most recent visit, the Stingray morphed into the Beach Club. I hope the new owners have kept the "Stingray tradition" (?). Whatever that was...
... Oh, I know! Being a motel. Being on the boardwalk. Being in the "correct" Ocean City aka the one on the N Jersey shore.
Yup, that pretty much covers it.  ;-D

Beach Club office entrance at night A

The Beach Club entrance next to their parking lot.
If you walked up the street on the right, you would end up on the boardwalk.
The Cafe Beach Club is a bit upscale though I guess not for a resort town.Actually the various Cafe Beach Club menu contents must total several 1000 words. This is not quite as impressive as it seems since there's a lot of mix-and-match involved. As in you can get any of these half dozen seafood entrees prepared in any of these six ways. Ditto, meat entrees. When each is described in detail, it eats up lots of words. Please forgive the pun.

The last line on each page of their online menu says
"Full Menu Available for Take Out"
The entire menu? Good idea for our next island-wide shindig!!!

July 31 2014: An update describing my Ocean city New Jersey vacation is long overdue. Sorry about that! There were extenuating circumstances--largely medical issues & "lifestyle" issues keeping me busy for over a month. I WILL post a post-OCNJ vacation up date RSN! Much of the update will be photos.

This entire blog entry is dedicated to Demaris, as old old work friend & occasional con-going fellow traveller! This will be Demaris' first time in Ocean City, New Jersey.

Beach Club pool
Presidents Day, Feb 13 2014, Snowstorm

Delaware's "Presidents Day" Snowstorm

Over more years than I can count, AKA maybe even more years than I am old, Delaware has been socked with its biggest snowstorm around Presidents Day. Last week, a friend said that the worst snow was over for us. I reminded them of our semi-traditional snowstorm. (It skipped last year) I think I made a mistake when I brought it up.

To all the snowflakes outside,
"Hey, guys! That wasn't an invitation!"

I just posted this at FB:
Get Out Your Calculators, Wilmington, DE!
Feb 13 2014. At 5AM we have 6.9 in so far. (MUCH more than they predicted by this point!)

Prediction: Next 6 hrs = 2-4 more inches. "Heavy snow mixing with sleet/rain beginning about 8AM. " //
"Today" (aka from noon on) Heavy snow mixing with rain, then changing to rain.  3-5 add'l inches expected. //
"Tonight" (aka Thurs evening to midnight) Rain/snow = 1-3 inches.
Winds mostly NNE betw 20-30MPH throughout.
After posting that, I took my own advice & did some totals. When I added the minimums (2, 3, 1) to the 6.9 inches we already have that brought our predicted snowfall to 12.9 inches.  When I used the maxes (4, 5, 3) instead, the total was 18.9 inches.

Of course, even 18.9 inches is nothing for a Prez Day Storm. I remember one that weighed in--literally--at about 30 inches several decades ago.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

That may have been one of the heaviest snowfalls in February but it wasn't the most m/e/m/o/r/a/b/l/e  nightmarish.
Here's a running account "STORMS, SYNOPSES AND CEILINGS" from February 2003
when I lived in my previous/late/unlamented apartment.

Prez Day Snowstorm 2003

Prez Day Snowstorm 2003 Part 2

Prez Day Snowstorm 2003 Part 3
Prez Day Snowstorm 2003 Part 4

I don't think I mentioned this in the emails above but at some point I was frantic enough to call the local fire department. (No. Not via 911.) They actually sent out a ladder truck and someone inspected the roof. I don't remember exactly what they said. It amounted to the snow being to thick for them to identify where the leak was and they were sorry but they couldn't commit the time to shifting it. Someone hazarded a guess that the storm pipes might be clogged with leaves or frozen solid. I was dubious. The ceiling sound and the early leak started long before the snowstorm.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Ending with the following, already emailed to many of you
I just got off the phone with a friend who lives in North Dakota . He said that since early this morning the snow has been nearly waist high and is still falling. The temperature is 32 below zero and the north wind is increasing to near gale force. Wind chill is -59. His wife has done nothing but look through the kitchen window and just stare. He says that if it gets much worse, he may have to let her in.
Keep warm & safe out there! Don't do anything I wouldn't do--like venture outside for the next 2-3 days.

NY Pedestrian in snow 2013
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Last minute update: it's now 7AM & we're up to 9.3 inches.
dune path, beach path


People are leaving multiple spammish comments after some of my entries--"Multiple" as in between 6 and 100--forcing me to increase blog security. Please do respond to my entries anyway! I love comments! Just sign your comment with a name, avatar handle, etc. LJ's software notifies me immediately when there's a screened comment. Since I'm on the computer a lot--sometimes even writing--I approve screened comments quickly. All comments are approved unless the sender is selling shoes or something equally embarrassing. Note: People 5+ time zones away from my corporate headquarters may notice a delay in service.

My "ocean-longing" comes to life in mid-spring and lingers for the next six months. All summer, depending on my degree of homesickness, I either dodge network weather spots given by reporters standing somewhere in Ocean city or else hover by the TV trying to look beyond the reporter to catch any bit of the town. Mostly I walk away from the brief broadcast blinking back tears.

I think about OCNJ all day over the warm months, wondering naively why I'm not there. How can this be? I was supposed to live there! I decided that long ago while still in high school. I would teach math at Ocean City High School. I would grade the papers at the far end of the Music Pier,                       (see pix)
OC_Music_Pier by DBeards

and use a clam shell to keep the ocean breeze from stealing them away. And I would have a horse, stabled who knows where but not on the island.

Based on dozens of OCNJ photo albums and carefully dated loose pictures, my last visit must have been in the early-mid eighties. How then can it be about three decades since I last visited my beloved Ocean City, my true earthly hometown and the place I was supposed to be living for the rest of my life? On one hand, it’s a puzzlement.

But it does have a rational answer. In the mid-1980’s, I began haunting speculative fiction conferences instead of “visiting home”. Armed with the unpublished author’s essential “One Minute Elevator Pitch”, I s/t/a/l/k/e/d/ searched for either a publisher or literary agent who would take on my Narenta books. I could afford either my yearly visits to Ocean City or annual searches at SpecFic conferences for someone who would publish my books. Not both.

That wasn’t a great trade-off, but it would work out okay in the long run. After 2 or 3 years of persistent A. manuscript submissions by mail, B. attending conference writing workshops and C. “publishing industry-related” panels in pursuit of publication, someone would offer a contract for my books and I could resume visiting my beloved town. Win-Win.
Summary of Millenium PhilCon programming
ABOVE: Millenium Philcon programming summarized

Who knew? If the books brought in enough extra income, maybe I could afford to make my home in Ocean City after all! Maybe I would write drafts of new Narenta novels on the Music Pier. A much better prospect than my original dream of grading high school papers!

Why the abrupt change in my focus? To answer that, we have to back up to the 1970’s when I began writing. I had something I needed to offer to others but especially agnostics like the one I had been before 1970. The direct approach wouldn’t do it. At least proselytizing had worked on me only to the extent I ran from it.

Instead, this scared little agnostic was “infiltrated” by the words of such fantasy authors as C S Lewis, George MacDonald and Charles Williams. I delighted in retelling myself the most meaningful fragments of their stories and eventually what I felt were the best parts of my own stories. Remembering, feeling again with each retelling, the awe at the touch of God's presence--like in Lewis's The Horse and His Boy.*  Or being touched by the mere title of Dorothy Sayer’s book, “The Consciousness of Battle”. And learning through sweet experience (and oddly enough my own writings) that Charles Williams had it right when he wrote of the Joy of the Obedience.

Others--like the me I used to be--needed to know about this! Others, wary of argument but open to a subtle hint in a work of fiction, for instance tucked within the camouflage of fantasy. Or as some author named L/o/u/i/s Lewis called this subterfuge,slipping ideas "past watchful dragons".

Even while writing fantasy, I can convey only a hazy glimpse of what it felt to be overpowered with awe at the touch of a Presence. A Presence that I profoundly felt but could neither hear nor see. So filled with awe that to this day I can only characterize it verbally with inadequate and misleading phrases like “overpowered with awe” and “My spirit bowed within me”. There are no words fitting for what cannot be described. “Words are clumsy.”** No easier to communicate is how, years later, I was suddenly surrounded by Love--Love that finally irrevocably cast out my longest fear. A profoundly “real experience” demonstrating within me for all time that the “clumsy words” written down by Julian of Norwich (and later paraphrased by T S Eliot) “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well",*** are true beyond hope. Have always been true.
Evidently, I'm not the only person who knows what it feels like to be overpowered with awe. (Note that she used the same phrase I did!)
"My spirit bowed as I felt the Holy Presence, and I drank it in ... breathed it in ... and rested."
                                                                                                              ~~ Grace Adolphsen Brame

A decade ago, I asked the leader of the “Written Remains” writers group why she had given it that name. I wish I could quote her answer but, in essence, she said that we authors create characters, emotions and whole scenes in our thoughts but in the end only a collection of keyed-in words on a screen remains.

She was talking about writing fiction in general. About the inevitable frustration authors experience when we try to record even a fraction of our inspiration. We are given visions of evocative settings and histories and cultures, all populated with characters none of whom existed an hour earlier but who now live vibrantly in our thoughts. Past a certain point, we "see" new character details rather than choose them. First, we wonder about our characters' pasts--and then we know, often in more detail that we will never need for our story. Writing fiction resembles pruning more that using Miracle-Gro. Eventually, as she said, we turn to our keyboards to transform whatever we can into mere words. Words are too clumsy.

The limits of language are never more frustrating than when our initial inspiration is mysteriously gifted to us. Gifted with such inspiration, we must use it. Not "must use it" because it's an obligation but "must use it" because we cannot do otherwise. That kind of inspiration fuels creativity to a white heat. So gifted, so burdened, speculative fiction authors in particular don't, or rather can't, stop coming up with new details once characters and plots mature. We may even be drawn to try our hands at the “subcreation**** of whole worlds. I think, I hope, God smiles at our efforts. Charles Caleb Colton wrote, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

Yikes! My apologies for straying so far off topic!

Given what I had experienced and its profound ramifications, I feel obligated to “pay forward” whatever I can in the hope of helping a new generation of wary doubters. Not by offering a detailed description of my experiences--I still can’t do that even inside my own head—but by sneaking fragments of those moments into the lives of my characters. Speaking of characters, the peskier ones sometimes "tell me" things about themselves I never would have guessed. In my wip Da Boid da Tree-Rat n da Loser, I suddenly "knew" that a main character had himself experienced awe and delight when he was only seven.

What does this mean? When I reread my work, I find hints of varied experiences tucked into Seabird and Earthbow, and my later WIPs: The Gryphon and the Basilisk, Marooned and Da Boid da Tree-Rat n da Loser. Sometimes, I know I did that bit of tucking after laborious attempts at wording and many revisions. Sometimes, mysteriously sweet, I read a sentence or even a scene and think, When did I write this? or How could I have written that? This happened all the time when I first started writing. Less now but then my output is also less.

I began my first Narenta fantasy novel Seabird in 1979, followed by Earthbow in the very early 80’s. I moved on to The Gryphon and the Basilisk, simultaneously postponing my annual trips to Ocean City until my earlier novels found a publisher. The “finding” didn’t happen until the end of 2006, when David Wood sent me an email beginning, “God is a card sometimes.” Gryphonwood Press published Seabird in 2008 and Earthbow two years later.

It’s now January 17 2014. I stopped attending conferences a couple of years ago. The only attractions they still offer are the nightly bardic circle filksings. Being part of a bardic circle, singing half the night away, is beyond great! I miss the comraderie terribly. But not enough to spend approximately $1500-$2000.

I still haven’t returned to Ocean City. During the decades since my last visit there, convenient public transportation has pretty much evaporated between where I live and my seaside “hometown”. Every year, when the ocean-longing comes on me, I spend days searching the web, looking for a way to get to OCNJ and back without a car (I no longer drive) and without resorting to the nearly $1000 charge to hire a town car for the short trip there and back.

I am after all retired on disability and living on a pension plus social security. For decades, trying to get Seabird and Earthbow published cost me thousands of dollars for conference membership, my hotel room, food and transportation. But I’ve never taken a penny of the novels' meager earnings once they were finally published. Not that I'm above that! I mean, why bother? Neither Seabird nor Earthbow have attracted more than a handful of readers.  I’m fairly sure that I’ve purchased at least half of the copies sold—as gifts for friends or acquaintances and what were supposed to be ARCs.

Why so few sales? What's lacking? Any form of useful PR. Pretty covers, great descriptions of my novels, and uniformly good reviews at Amazon mean nothing when potential readers have no idea that my books or even myself exist. If only readers were clairvoyant! Anyway, what’s a few hundred dollars back in royalties, compared to the over fifteen thousand I spent on conferences--to say nothing of the emotional rollercoaster created by those futile decades of effort? Sure I could use the money. Semi-disabled senior citizen on a pension & social security, remember. But all I ever wanted was to be read--actually being given a chance to pay forward to others those same precious hints of love and awe I had been given.

This summer, I will be returning to my seaside hometown. After much worry about my budget compared to all the expenses, I came to the conclusion that I had better go while I can still fully enjoy the visit. I’ve had a balance problem all my life and it seems to be getting worse--to the point that I’m worried for the first time ever about falling on the boardwalk.


I used to bike from one end of OC's 2.5 mile boardwalk to the other and back most mornings, pausing en route only long enough to take pictures. Totally out of the question now. My legs are too weak--to say nothing of the accumulated damage to my knees after decades of falling.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with AMD (macular degeneration). So far, thank God, my central sight appears to be unchanged! AMD blesses some people with snail pace degeneration like this. Then maybe some time later—or not—that same person’s central vision can deteriorate within months. There’s no way for ophthalmologists to predict what will happen with any given patient. I suspect that others diagnosed with AMD are, like me, praying for advances in stem cell research.

AMD is my real spur for visiting Ocean City now while I can still enjoy it. If nothing else I’d like to still see well enough to search for the little shop in which I discovered my actually-nothing-like-a-seabird-on-a-chain necklace.***** It's a reminder of the days when I would come home from work—open my spiral notebook-- and marvel at what I had written the previous night!
Seabird necklace closeup jpg

p.s. Funny story. Maybe three months ago now, I had Paratransit take me to a local shopping center so that I could take care of some bank business and shop for shoes. I had built enough time into my schedule to enjoy the semi-rare treat of eating out.

I settled on Boston Market. Not far into the meal, I found a broken rib bone in my "boneless" chicken pieces and then a second bone. These were on my fork—not in my mouth or throat. I mentioned this to the manager who apologized profusely. Only days later did it occur to me that I could have ranted and raved and sued Boston Market. And, perhaps, some time this very year, I might be moving to my true hometown for the first time ever.

Guess I’m not litigious. Or maybe I’m just stupid.   ;-D

*"Who are you?" "Myself" said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook. And again "Myself" loud and clear and gay. Then the third time "Myself" whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it.  Shasta was no longer afraid ... but a new and different sort of trembling came over him.
**“…I can still remember it as it once was. I do not need my own words. Words are clumsy things. In my mind I can return earlier, to the first place, my first experience, as perhaps Adam could recall lost Eden…”   --- John Fowles, The Art of Fiction No. 109, The Paris Review 1989.
***The 20th-century poet T.S. Eliot incorporated the Julian of Norwich’s saying that "…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well", into "Little Gidding", the fourth of his Four Quartets poems:
"    ...And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching.”
****a term coined by J R R Tolkien. ("As a Christian, Tolkien could view sub-creation as a form of worship, a way for creatures to express the divine image in them by becoming creators").
*****She felt drawn to one case in particular, where a necklace with a frosty silver pendant like a soaring osprey glimmered. … Wow, the necklace was huge. The distance between one wing tip and the other must be four, five inches. Cool how the chain was fastened to the wings.” ( SEABIRD (paperback) / Seabird (kindle)  Chapter One--An Invitation, p.22.)

BTW, I suspect a shorter version of "Ocean-Longing" will appear in my Tree House Tales collection, coming out some time in 2014

Speaking of Tree House Tales, here are the last few stanzas of my
"Between Worlds" (Interwoven Memories of Ocean City New Jersey)

Distant thunder-rumbles.
The sound. The scent. The chilled skin.
The beloved heartbeat.
I gaze down at the slow throbs,
Mistily visible in their turn
On an always shifting stage.
Humble, each flees before the next
Wishing to take its rest.
Life in black silk rises,
Is lace-crowned, and falls,
Stitching crest to crest.

Shhh… shhh… shhh…
Froth voicing its last note
In the moonlit dance.
A pause longer than a breath drawn in,
The shallow builds its height.
The moon tugs. It tumbles,
Hissing a warning, shhh to younger siblings.

The shy foam dithers,
Caught between demanding swells,
Makes itself small.
Makes itself gone.

A longer crest creeps closer.
Still bright in scar-mooned lace,
Giving shapely life to the turbulence beneath.
Ceaseless motion alive.
Faithful, patient, unending,
Dark water gives freely wave on wave.

Bright and dark together
Shifting beneath the orb glow.
Foam-garbed this way.
Dark-mantled that.

Shifting, shifting, shifting.
Hair tugs sideways,
Coolness on my neck and back.
The water bows to wind’s wishes.
Lesser the light now.
The moon pulls its grey mantle close.

Voices of Sirens call me landward
With fractures of broken chants.
Notes windswept to me
From a hundred open mouths.

Called by bright songs,
Sweet cacophony,
I turn. I gaze.
I shake my head at no one.
Too soon to join the two-way flow.

Down a secret path I go,
Eager for unbound toes
To touch the sand.
To touch the sea.

Steve Parks waves at night
Chr Tree

Congratulations, Mike!

Once upon a Wednesday, I hurried into the local Panera's bakery-restaurant to meet  with my local authors manuscript review group. Frankly, I was a bit of a mess both inside and outside. Half-asleep and a touch grumpy. Dressed like a frump, having dressed in haste. Worrying that my hurried reviews may not have done justice to my fellow authors' submissions.

Those who arrived before me were parked at the front window. (Damage to fenders & glass was minimal.) They had already added another four-person table to the original tables, and they were chatting about books, readings & writing while waiting for late comers. Everything was as it should be. With one exception. A man, definitely not a group member, was sitting with his back to me as I approached. He was intent on whatever he was doing on his laptop and seemingly oblivious to the people rapidly filling up spaces at the doubled table. Was he so engrossed in his work, he hadn't noticed them? Us. Or was he fully aware of us and stubbornly hanging on to his spot because he had arrived first?

Mike turned toward me. I knew who he was at once even without the chorus of gleeful voices from the other authors. After all, he looked just like his picture...
Mike Dunne FB avatar
The soccer goal?  Wedged between his end of the table and the nearest window.

The other members assured us that they could get along without me for a few minutes. Mike and I took advantage of those precious minutes catching up as swiftly as we could, chiefly with stuph we had never been able to wedge into our emails. Mike also solved the mystery of his unexpected appearance. He sometimes traveled north from the home office to update the more far-flung employees with the latest changes in tech. MD has neither confirmed nor denied his role (if any) in flanging employees from the deep south to the Mid-Atlantic states so he'd have an e/x/c/u/s/e duty to head north.

This time, they sent him out in our general direction. Yippee! While he was with us but not in Panera's, Mike had a chance to take in a local soccer match. I assume the players welcomed him, since he was carrying around one of their goals.

We've never had a second chance to meet. Mike consistently works well over 40 hours a week at just one job, and at one time he had a hugely long commute right on out of his state to reach his job. As for me, I don't travel well anymore not unlike r/i/p/e/ c/h/e/e/s/e  a creme brule souffle. I treasure our few minutes even more, and I believe Mike does as well.

Mike Dunne and I have been writer-friends for about twelve years now. So far as I can remember, we met at the "Critters" site created by Aburt as a place for authors to exchange crits of their works. I joined the Critters Writers Workshop not long before retiring from the university. I'm not sure when Mike became a member but by 2002 Mike had already critted a half dozen chapters of Seabird.

Mike, help! Correct me if I'm wrong in any of this! My brain is slowly altering into r/i/p/e/ c/h/e/e/s/e. Okay, honestly, overripe cheese.

MD is one of the hardest-working Christian writers that I've ever met. He's also a caring husband (wife Nance), caring dad (sons Conor and Shane), and caring puppy stepdad (white German shepherd, Abby). Mike also cares greatly about the welfare of the people of Haiti. If I remember correctly, as part of various church group teams, Mike has labored to make at least a few things right in Haiti three times now. While there, he and the teams to which he's belonged offer their help in any way they can. In one of his Haiti blog entries, he mentioned being teamed with others to work on a stubbornly non-functioning vehicle. None of them were auto mechanics but they did their best together.

Reading about their challenge reminded me of a "The Hitchhiker's Guide" conversation. Three of the main characters have just "strolled off with" the Formula One equivalent of a spaceship. The conversation goes, "Can you fly this?  No.   Can you?  No.   How about you?  No.   Great! We'll do it together!"  And they did! In Haiti that is.  Not so much the HHG characters.

Whether at home, work, church, or in Haiti Mike evidently believes that 12 hour work days can't hold all the work that needs doing, so he tops off the days and weeks with fiction-writing, blog-writing, review-writing, freelance technical-writing, Sunday School teaching, serving as sous chef to his wife Nance and ever-vigilant & caring father to Shane & Conor. Oh and playmate to Abby of course. And ...maybe...plumber.

For an extra added challenge this mid-December, Mike battled a fearsome cold sometimes out on the streets of Harvest Alabama, but mostly at home. The cold, or the cough anyway, may have developed from cheering for Manchester United. Or acting out all the characters' lines from the latest New Kingdoms scenes, before keying them in.

If authors could inhabit their creations

More about "New Kingdoms" in a bit.

Back when our friendship was young--and neither of us were published--Mike was writing what would be his first "lightly-published" story, "The Fire of Iblis". Mike Dunne worked in Dubai and other Middle Eastern, African & European countries for about 12 years. Actually, he and his wife met in a not-the-US country. Beats me which one right now. During part of that time, he learned about pre-Islamic Middle Eastern culture. "The Fire of Iblis" reflects his knowledge accumulated over a decade. He plans to write a series of stories similar to Iblis. Each one will echo the ancient culture of the region but all will be set in--how shall I say this--Mike's fantasy universe of a newly imagined ancient Persia? I hope that's close!

Recently Iblis became Mike's first PUBLISHED story, revised but still named "The Fire of Iblis" and now to be found in Someone Wicked, a PG13-ish horror anthology produced by Weldon Burge's newish fiction publishing company, Smart Rhino.  Go here to read Mike Dunne's Smart Rhino "bio page".

Someone Wicked A

Midway between the two publication dates for "Iblis" (2003 & 2013), my fantasy novel "Seabird" came out. Mike kindly offered a blurb for its back cover. He mentioned the lightly-published version his story at the end of his blub, I suspect to give himself author street cred in the eyes of the casual reader. Given the plot of "The Fire of Iblis", plus the gripping (and slightly gruesome) early chapters of "Night's Edge", Mike had already made his literary bones.
I look forward to the day successive volumes of his New Kingdoms fantasy series--Night's Edge, Dawn's Light and Sunset's Fire--begin to appear on Amazon, B & N, Smashwords, or wherever else he and his publisher choose to place it.

(Hm. Sunset's Fire. Fire of Iblis. The fiery prologue of Night's Edge. What is it with Mike and fire?)

Let's move along to Mike Dunne's own blog and website URLs. Please take the time to visit them!

Mike's original blog. "Stream of Consciousness: Writing, random thoughts, football (soccer), and more...
His current focus here are reviews of other stories in the Someone Wicked anthology. In the past, sports and faith have been common subjects. (I used to be mentioned in August but I went away.   :-(   )
A few months ago, his Haiti Diary entries took over.
Beginning with
and ending here:
Mike Dunne in Haiti October 2010
MD in Haiti Oct 2010
Be sure to check out a second picture taken in Haiti, at:

Mike created a new website within the last month(?)  More or less.

Welcome to Michael Dunne Writes!
“Thank you for visiting my web home. Here you will find information on
my published works,
notes on upcoming projects, and
informative blogs and reviews. “

(Me:  This site has pages for New Kingdoms, a wip short story "Night of the Assassins" and another book review or two. With regard to the "Night of the Assassins" page, here we discover that Mike’s pre-Islam Arabian story, “Fire of Iblis” was only the first of many! Yippee!
(Mike: Do I remember another "Arabian" story that takes place in a secret passage like the kind within pyramids? If there is no such story, please write it! Yes. Now.)


I've never interviewed Mike, unless the brief visit at Panera's counts.
Here* instead is a pseudo-interview based on stuph Mike wrote for Forbes (Dec 11 2013).

What I'm Currently Addicted To...
This Is Helping Me Create...
     Collaborating with other authors.
Can't Do Without
     God, family, writing, music...and money helps too.
My Secret Ambition
     Quit my day job and make a living writing.
I'm Known For...
     ...being a great writer, teacher, and speaker.
My Current Project
     Night's Edge - book 1 of New Kingdoms.  Night of the Assassins - short story
My Greatest Achievement
     Achievements do not make one great.
My Biggest Regret
     Not listening to my high school English teacher.
Where I'd Like To Be 10 Years From Now
     Standing in the middle of Alamut or Petra researching a novel.

* The pseudo-interview will stay here until either Forbes or Mike tell me to cease and desist.

"I may not always be right, but I always write."--Mike Dunne
Large X Symbol
Since June, some Scribblings entries have been bombarded with dozens of spammish comments, necessitating
higher security.
When leaving a comment, please sign your name, the handle of your avatar, or whatever you've got. If your response fails to appear, not to worry! It's being held for my approval. Thanks!
G Angel, Charge Over Thee

Meeting of the Wise Men, Lew Wallace

The following extract is courtesy of the Gutenberg Project:

Lew Wallace served in the Civil War. After the war he moved west & served as a judge and governor of the New Mexico territory. He wrote Ben-Hur during this period. The historical novel is considered to be, "the most influential Christian book of the 19th century". It has never been out of print. Eight years later, his Boyhood of Christ was published.
(Some information given above is drawn from the Gutenberg Project and Wikipedia.)

Ben-Hur cover A
The Ben-Hur edition, shown above, has the alternate title: Ben-Hur: an Epic Tale of Revenge and Redemption

Ben-Hur; A Tale of the Christ
by Lew Wallace (1880)
Book One -- II. Meeting of the Wise Men


The man as now revealed was of admirable proportions, not so tall as powerful. Loosening the silken rope which held the kufiyeh on his head, he brushed the fringed folds back until his face was bare—a strong face, almost negro in color; yet the low, broad forehead, aquiline nose, the outer corners of the eyes turned slightly upward, the hair profuse, straight, harsh, of metallic lustre, and falling to the shoulder in many plaits, were signs of origin impossible to disguise. So looked the Pharaohs and the later Ptolemies; so looked Mizraim, father of the Egyptian race. He wore the kamis, a white cotton shirt tight-sleeved, open in front, extending to the ankles and embroidered down the collar and breast, over which was thrown a brown woollen cloak, now, as in all probability it was then, called the aba, an outer garment with long skirt and short sleeves, lined inside with stuff of mixed cotton and silk, edged all round with a margin of clouded yellow. His feet were protected by sandals, attached by thongs of soft leather. A sash held the kamis to his waist. What was very noticeable, considering he was alone, and that the desert was the haunt of leopards and lions, and men quite as wild, he carried no arms, not even the crooked stick used for guiding camels; wherefore we may at least infer his errand peaceful, and that he was either uncommonly bold or under extraordinary protection.

The traveller's limbs were numb, for the ride had been long and wearisome; so he rubbed his hands and stamped his feet, and walked round the faithful servant, whose lustrous eyes were closing in calm content with the cud he had already found. Often, while making the circuit, he paused, and, shading his eyes with his hands, examined the desert to the extremest verge of vision; and always, when the survey was ended, his face clouded with disappointment, slight, but enough to advise a shrewd spectator that he was there expecting company, if not by appointment; at the same time, the spectator would have been conscious of a sharpening of the curiosity to learn what the business could be that required transaction in a place so far from civilized abode.

However disappointed, there could be little doubt of the stranger's confidence in the coming of the expected company. In token thereof, he went first to the litter, and, from the cot or box opposite the one he had occupied in coming, produced a sponge and a small gurglet of water, with which he washed the eyes, face, and nostrils of the camel; that done, from the same depository he drew a circular cloth, red-and white-striped, a bundle of rods, and a stout cane. The latter, after some manipulation, proved to be a cunning device of lesser joints, one within another, which, when united together, formed a centre pole higher than his head. When the pole was planted, and the rods set around it, he spread the cloth over them, and was literally at home—a home much smaller than the habitations of emir and sheik, yet their counterpart in all other respects. From the litter again he brought a carpet or square rug, and covered the floor of the tent on the side from the sun. That done, he went out, and once more, and with greater care and more eager eyes, swept the encircling country. Except a distant jackal, galloping across the plain, and an eagle flying towards the Gulf of Akaba, the waste below, like the blue above it, was lifeless.

He turned to the camel, saying low, and in a tongue strange to the desert, "We are far from home, O racer with the swiftest winds—we are far from home, but God is with us. Let us be patient."

Then he took some beans from a pocket in the saddle, and put them in a bag made to hang below the animal's nose; and when he saw the relish with which the good servant took to the food, he turned and again scanned the world of sand, dim with the glow of the vertical sun.

"They will come," he said, calmly. "He that led me is leading them. I will make ready."

From the pouches which lined the interior of the cot, and from a willow basket which was part of its furniture, he brought forth materials for a meal: platters close-woven of the fibres of palms; wine in small gurglets of skin; mutton dried and smoked; stoneless shami, or Syrian pomegranates; dates of El Shelebi, wondrous rich and grown in the nakhil, or palm orchards, of Central Arabia; cheese, like David's "slices of milk;" and leavened bread from the city bakery—all which he carried and set upon the carpet under the tent. As the final preparation, about the provisions he laid three pieces of silk cloth, used among refined people of the East to cover the knees of guests while at table—a circumstance significant of the number of persons who were to partake of his entertainment—the number he was awaiting.

All was now ready. He stepped out: lo! in the east a dark speck on the face of the desert. He stood as if rooted to the ground; his eyes dilated; his flesh crept chilly, as if touched by something supernatural. The speck grew; became large as a hand; at length assumed defined proportions. A little later, full into view swung a duplication of his own dromedary, tall and white, and bearing a houdah, the travelling litter of Hindostan. Then the Egyptian crossed his hands upon his breast, and looked to heaven.

"God only is great!" he exclaimed, his eyes full of tears, his soul in awe.

The stranger drew nigh—at last stopped. Then he, too, seemed just waking. He beheld the kneeling camel, the tent, and the man standing prayerfully at the door. He crossed his hands, bent his head, and prayed silently; after which, in a little while, he stepped from his camel's neck to the sand, and advanced towards the Egyptian, as did the Egyptian towards him. A moment they looked at each other; then they embraced—that is, each threw his right arm over the other's shoulder, and the left round the side, placing his chin first upon the left, then upon the right breast.

"Peace be with thee, O servant of the true God!" the stranger said.

"And to thee, O brother of the true faith!—to thee peace and welcome," the Egyptian replied, with fervor.

The new-comer was tall and gaunt, with lean face, sunken eyes, white hair and beard, and a complexion between the hue of cinnamon and bronze. He, too, was unarmed. His costume was Hindostani; over the skull-cap a shawl was wound in great folds, forming a turban; his body garments were in the style of the Egyptian's, except that the aba was shorter, exposing wide flowing breeches gathered at the ankles. In place of sandals, his feet were clad in half-slippers of red leather, pointed at the toes. Save the slippers, the costume from head to foot was of white linen. The air of the man was high, stately, severe. Visvamitra, the greatest of the ascetic heroes of the Iliad of the East, had in him a perfect representative. He might have been called a Life drenched with the wisdom of Brahma—Devotion Incarnate. Only in his eyes was there proof of humanity; when he lifted his face from the Egyptian's breast, they were glistening with tears.

"God only is great!" he exclaimed, when the embrace was finished.

"And blessed are they that serve him!" the Egyptian answered, wondering at the paraphrase of his own exclamation. "But let us wait," he added, "let us wait; for see, the other comes yonder!"

They looked to the north, where, already plain to view, a third camel, of the whiteness of the others, came careening like a ship. They waited, standing together—waited until the new-comer arrived, dismounted, and advanced towards them.

"Peace to you, O my brother!" he said, while embracing the Hindoo.

And the Hindoo answered, "God's will be done!"

The last comer was all unlike his friends: his frame was slighter; his complexion white; a mass of waving light hair was a perfect crown for his small but beautiful head; the warmth of his dark-blue eyes certified a delicate mind, and a cordial, brave nature. He was bareheaded and unarmed. Under the folds of the Tyrian blanket which he wore with unconscious grace appeared a tunic, short-sleeved and low-necked, gathered to the waist by a band, and reaching nearly to the knee; leaving the neck, arms, and legs bare. Sandals guarded his feet. Fifty years, probably more, had spent themselves upon him, with no other effect, apparently, than to tinge his demeanor with gravity and temper his words with forethought. The physical organization and the brightness of soul were untouched. No need to tell the student from what kindred he was sprung; if he came not himself from the groves of Athene', his ancestry did.

When his arms fell from the Egyptian, the latter said, with a tremulous voice, "The Spirit brought me first; wherefore I know myself chosen to be the servant of my brethren. The tent is set, and the bread is ready for the breaking. Let me perform my office."

Taking each by the hand, he led them within, and removed their sandals and washed their feet, and he poured water upon their hands, and dried them with napkins.

Then, when he had laved his own hands, he said, "Let us take care of ourselves, brethren, as our service requires, and eat, that we may be strong for what remains of the day's duty. While we eat, we will each learn who the others are, and whence they come, and how they are called."

He took them to the repast, and seated them so that they faced each other. Simultaneously their heads bent forward, their hands crossed upon their breasts, and, speaking together, they said aloud this simple grace:

"Father of all—God!—what we have here is of thee; take our thanks and bless us, that we may continue to do thy will."

With the last word they raised their eyes, and looked at each other in wonder. Each had spoken in a language never before heard by the others; yet each understood perfectly what was said. Their souls thrilled with divine emotion; for by the miracle they recognized the Divine Presence.


My father and I saw the 1959 film adaptation of Wallace's novel at the old theatre on Main Street, Newark, Delaware. I was a young teenager at that time. We were both greatly affected by the story.
In time, I read Wallace's original novel--something of a feat of patience for a 16 year old. The novel includes beautiful scenes--like the extract above--but it is very long and written in the discursive style favored at that time. You may wish to try it some day. In my mind, it's well-worth the effort.

A Merry*  and Meaningful Christmas to all of you!

SherryT (aka TreeLady)

* "merry" was once synonymous with "blessed"

Christmas Tree

Christmas Flash Mobs, with links

Star Lights

It's ba-a-ck!

I posted this on Scribblings exactly five years and six days ago.

"One Job Done!"

One Job Done!

p.s. According to the original blog post, MikeD's blog had something to do with this.
Mike? Is the following URL usable? Did your original post migrate?

I regret I had to revert to a higher level of security but I had no choice. Since June, some of my entries have gotten dozens of spammish comments!
If your response fails to appear, not to worry! It's being held for my approval. Please sign your name, the handle of your avatar, or whatever you've got. Thanks!