Book Review: Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey from The Dragonriders of Pern

Book Review: Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey from The Dragonriders of Pern
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Spoiler Free Summary:  Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey is essentially the prequel book that explains the origins of the Dragonriders of Pern series, which is my favorite all time series. Humans have finally arrived at their new home, a planet they immediately being to colonize. But this perfect planet is subject to Thread, a substance that consumes nearly everything it touches. Mankind uses genetics and a bit of fantasy inspired ingenuity to create its defense: dragons.

Cover image from this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Character:  I read this before I’d even gone to college. It was the second attempt I made at reading McCaffrey (I was much younger and much less a fan of reading the first time I tried). My brother recommended that I read this first so I better understood the world of Pern, and I think it was wise and is wise for readers who like a little more context to things. I mention this here because I don’t remember the character’s names. I know there was a young boy who discovered the small lizards. This felt a bit like Flight of the Navigator meets Mac and Me. (If you can remember either of those movies, you’re old, but you’re awesome!) I loved the way the story evolved from a sort of sci-fi frontier story to a planet threat story to a sci-fi fantasy blend. The characters were a major part of that. As you get to know these characters, you start to invest more in more on them and then the plot. No, I can’t remember these particular names after some 15 years (or even 20), but that only means they weren’t the once-a-generation memorable characters that F’lar and Lessa and Jaxom and Ruth are.

Exposition: I will say this is where I feel McCaffrey is weakest. It’s not to say she’s more offensive in this regard than anybody, but there is a lot of data in this story, and the reader has to be patient. Fans of deep worldbuilding and hard science won’t actually mind a bit. But for someone like me who is more attracted to character, there will be segments of the story that drag down the pace.

Worldbuilding: This. Is. How. It’s. Done. Everything about this story is meticulously thought out and organized perfectly. The foreshadowing is perfect. The usual price for worldbuliding of this caliber is a bit more exposition than one would normally like. For a world this realistic, I’ll happily accept a few pages here and there that make it possible for me to immerse myself in a story.

This Camera Press image was found on McCaffrey’s New York Times obituary and used for this review.

Dialogue: I actually remember liking the dialogue in the story. This is unique because of how long it’s been since I’ve read it. I remember how the conversations and banter helped me connect more and more to the characters. It was the first story that showed me dialogue can do more than offer backhanded exposition.

Description: Like all sci-fi, this is meticulous. That means it’s a bit more than I personally prefer, but it doesn’t drag down the story. Sci-fi (in my estimation) tends to focus on details that bring worlds and events to life, and McCaffrey is not different.

Overall: Whether you’re starting the series or just want to see a great origin story, Dragonsdawn is a must read for fans of both sci-fi and McCaffrey. If you have someone you think will enjoy Pern, I do actually recommend they read this first. It really helped me wrap my head around the planet before I jumped into the main fall arc. Even if you’re just looking for something to read, you can’t go wrong with this book.

Thanks for reading

Matt

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Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 12

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 12

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 //

“I want to make sure I understand what happened.” Mr. Eckleman pointed at Paul. “Trevor was apparently talking about your mother.” He turned his finger toward Jordan. “You hit him for that, but Trevor said Jordan was the one talking about your mother, so Paul hit Jordan.”

Both boys nodded.

Mr. Eckleman shook his head and looked at Paul. “You’ve been warned about fighting, Paul.”

“I know,” Paul said softly. “Am I going to be expelled?” That’s what the principal had said the last time Paul got into a fight. 

“But I said it was ok!” Jordan leapt up from his seat. “Look, I’m fine, and he said he was sorry.”

“That doesn’t mean he didn’t do anything wrong.” Mr. Eckleman just kept staring at Paul. “Why did you come in here to confess?”

Paul thought for a moment. “I don’t want to be that person anymore.”

No one else said anything. The silence grew every bit as uncomfortable as Mr. Eckleman’s stare. 

“I’m angry all the time.” Paul wasn’t sure if Mr. Eckleman wanted him to keep explaining, but he just couldn’t tolerate the quiet another moment. “I don’t want to be angry, but I don’t know how not to be. I think someone gave me a hint, but even then I’m not sure how it works. I just want to change.”

Paul realized he wanted to sit down and read Romans. No matter how infuriatingly short Nobody’s visits were, they always left him with advice that helped. Nobody’s questions were infuriating, but the answers gave Paul options he hand’t considered. 

“I want to try something new,” he said. “But I guess that doesn’t really matter here.”

Mr. Eckleman smiled. “I wouldn’t say that.”

“You’re not going to punish me!?” Paul was shocked. Maybe he was going to get one last chance. 

“I didn’t say that either,” Mr. Eckleman replied, “but given what you’ve said combined with Jordan’s desire to help you, not to mention your science teacher, who seems to be the only adult in this building you respect, I’m willing to reduce your punishment.”

Paul nodded. It was already more than he deserved, and he knew that. 

“Instead of being expelled, I’m going to suspend you for two weeks,” Mr. Eckleman continued. “I suggest you use that two weeks to do whatever it is you’re planning to do to let go of that anger. If you’d like access to our counselor, we’ll allow that.”

“Thank you, Mr. Eckleman,” Paul said. Then he turned to look at Jordan. “I’m still sorry I hit you. I’m sorry that I didn’t ask what happened.” 

Even in that moment, a part of Paul wanted to track down Trevor and beat him. It was such a powerful desire. I don’t want to be angry anymore!

Jordan shrugged again. “Like I said, it’s ok.”

Mr. Eckleman smiled again. “I’m not actually sure what happened here, but I’m encouraged by it. We’ll call your mother to pick you up.”

The principal dismissed Jordan and had Paul sit in the waiting area until his mother arrived. While he waited, he used his phone to read Romans, trying to see what Nobody was getting at.

The answer the the question Nobody asked was pretty easy to find. 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” The verse was Romans Chapter 5 Verse 8. 

Paul considered the last thing Nobody had told him. “Nobody deserves forgiveness. That’s why it’s a gift.”

It only took Paul about 45 minutes to read Romans. With nothing better to do, he started reading it again.

His mom appeared after Paul got about halfway through his second pass of the letter. She stood in the doorway. Her long black hair flowed over the her shoulders and nearly blended with the purple Lularoe dress she wore. She looked at Paul with brown eyes that shimmered in unshed tears. 

Paul hated that look for some reason. Why did she have to look at him like that? Did she hate him? Was she disappointed in him because he was turning into someone just like his dad? Was he destined to grow up to be just like the man he hated? 

Paul got up and walked past her on his way to the car. He heard her take in a sharp breath as if she were about to say something, but he didn’t give her time. He walked to the car and got in. He wasn’t particularly interested in reading the Bible, but focusing on his phone seemed to keep his mother from trying to talk. 

He was doing it again. He was ignoring her. He was avoiding her. Why was he so afraid? 

“I’m sorry.”

Paul’s head shot up. He hadn’t noticed his mother had pulled over.

“Every time you defended me,” her voice caught, but she kept speaking. “You’d protect me, and all I could do was patch you up, but I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Paul forced himself to look out his window. He couldn’t look at her. He couldn’t watch her bury her face in her hands and cry. 

After a moment, she found the strength to talk a bit more. “I couldn’t keep trying to heal you when I was the reason you were hurt.”

“Let’s just go,” Paul said sharply. He still couldn’t bring himself to look at her. He didn’t want to see her cry. It hurt him, and in strange way it made him more angry. What did he expect her to do? What did he want from her? 

“I shouldn’t have stopped coming in to help you.” She rushed the words out. “But it was worse because I never should have let him lay a hand on you in the first place.” The last word ended in a wail. She dropped her head onto the wheel of the car and sobbed.

Paul could look away all he wanted. He even shut his eyes. But he couldn’t block out the sound of his mother’s weeping.

“I couldn’t stand to hear you crying,” Paul said. “I couldn’t stand to see you hurt.”

He finally turned to look at her, and tears streamed down his face. “That’s why I did it, Mom. I was trying to protect you, and it never worked.”

In some random parking lot in the suburbs, a mother and son held each other and wept. 

“I’m sorry,” Paul said between sobs. “I’m sorry I was so mean. I’m sorry I avoided you.”

His mother gently pushed him away to look into his eyes. “You don’t owe me an apology for anything! I did this, understand? I failed you.”

He still wanted to know why. He still couldn’t understand why she never left his father. He couldn’t understand why she ever married him in the first place.

“I deserve it,” she continued. “I know you hate me, and I deserve that, but I still love you.”

The 2021 State of the Weech

The 2021 State of the Weech

Greetings all,

This is now the fourth year of my eight-year commitment to go all in on becoming a successful author businessman. My annual State of the Weech is just one way I use to track that, and it’s also how I let everyone know what I’m up to.

For a number of reasons, 2020 was a big setback for me as an author. With COVID, all the conventions I intended to participate in were cancelled. This meant the money I would earn there wouldn’t come. I was only able to release one title, my Christian memoir about my mothers death titled Testimony: A Trial of Faith. I genuinely thought I’d release Betrayed last year, but there was a huge gap because I had to simply save up money to pay for editing. I will have to continue to do that (more on that below).

While 2020 was hard on conventions and making progress on additional drafts, it did allow me to get a bit more writing done (if only a bit). I’m positive Betrayed will be out this year. I’m hopeful it will be out in the next three months, but that’s not a guarantee.

With all that said, here are my plans for what I hope is a rebound in 2021.

May 1 (or sooner): Betrayed: Book Two of the Oneiros Log. I’m almost done with the Beta Draft (as in only a few chapters away). From there I send it out to Sara for the proofreading. I’m also going to send this draft to willing Advanced Readers in exchange for an honest review. I’m pretty optimistic about this goal. I have to save up the money for edits, and I have to save up the money for the cover, but I think May is feasible.

These are sure things in 2021. I am about halfway through the discover draft of Discovered: Book Three of the Oneiros Log, and that will be my main project when Betrayed is published.

A quick update on projects I mentioned last year:

Sonnets for my Savior: I completed it, but I doubt it will be more than a series of blog posts. I’m not a poet by trade, and getting feedback has proven difficult. I was happy to have the idea and see it through, but that’s about where it ends.

Musings on Christianity: I also finished this blog series, but again getting participation proved more difficult than I’d imagined. I was happy to study my faith and research questions in a scriptural way, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable releasing this as it’s little more than my personal pondering.

So those projects are probably being left where they are.

Now for projects I am planning to work on in the near future:

Discovered: Book Three of the Oneiros Log. As I said above, am I’m about halfway through the discovery draft. I’d be over the moon if I got this book out in late 2021, but that’s super ambitious at this point. It is my next primary project when Discovered goes to print.

The 1,200: As I said last year, I’m meaning to get to this project. It needs some rework, especially considering current events in real life. But I still think it’s a good story. So I’ll make those edits and I’ll get it out there as soon as I finish Oneiros.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody: This is Christian Science Fiction. I’m posting segments each Sunday as part of my Testimony series. Since this is fiction, I will be publishing this when it’s finished. I’d expect this will be released sometime next year.

New Utopia: This story (pitched as Mistborn meets Avatar), needs revisions and edits, and I’ll jump on them as time permits. This will not be published before 1,200.

Mercer: This is a series I intend to write. I’ve come to realize I’m actually happier working on a large product and a small project at the same time. It gets more titles out and makes me feel more productive. Mercer is going to be a bunch of small novellas written like episodes of a TV show (I call Mercer Dresden Files meets Bones). I will start working on this on the “sooner” side of things, and it may come out before 1,200 (though I don’t think so).

Perception of War: Images of Truth: I did get a few thousand words added to this very large discovery draft, and I will finish the discovery draft of this before I do any revisions to 1,200. I really love this series as a whole (Sojourn in Captivity is basically a prologue novella to the series). I hate starting new books before I finish a draft of one I’ve been working on, so I will get Betrayed to print, finish Discovered (so those who love the series can see how it ends) and then get straight to work on this. 1,200 will probably come out first but this will become the main priority when Oneiros is done.

Leah Saldawn and The Nick of Time: The discovery draft is done. I’ll probably get this out one day, but it’s a very low priority for a few reasons. First: it’s targeted to a 12-15 year old audience, which is way outside my current marketing group. Next, I have so many other projects I’m looking forward to, so this one just isn’t that high on the priority list. It’ll get out there someday, but I wouldn’t anticipate it coming out anytime soon (as in the next three years).

My publishing goals: Discovered (guarantee 2021 release), Betrayed, 1,200/Mercer, Mercer/Images of Truth, Mercer/New Utopia. You see Mercer there a lot because it’s indented to be a constant series with me. I’ll release Volumes in smaller chucks (paperback) and Seasons in larger Omnibuses (box sets). The idea for Mercer is 12 novellas (episodes) / three volumes per season. The goal is to release a bigger project and then a Mercer episode in a sort of pattern. I’m not sure how it will actually play out, but it is the goal.

As for my eight-year goal? Well, I’m actually selling more digital copies than ever before, and that’s encouraging. Hopefully, I’m still losing less money each year. Again, after eight years, if I’m not making a profit or breaking even, I probably need to rethink some things. With COVID, 2020 became far more about marketing, and I’ve seen some positive results. I’m still working toward the dream of making this a full time gig for me. At the halfway point, it’s a little discouraging to see how far I still have to go, but it doesn’t change my drive.

If you’re interested in helping, the best way to do that is to purchase one of my books, read it, rate it, and review it. You can take it to the next level (if you like the book) by recommending it (or buying it) for a friend. In addition to God’s will, which I will always cheerfully submit to, this dream of mine isn’t possible without loyal readers.

That brings me to those of you who are loyal readers. I thank God for all of you. It’s great getting emails from some of you and seeing your reviews. It’s wonderful to know there are a few of you out there supporting me, and I truly hope your ranks grow.

I’m still grateful to God for what he’s done in my life. I have a wonderful wife and three great sons. I’m in good health. I have an amazing day job. In short, I’m truly blessed. I pray God blesses you all, and I hope you’ll continue this journey with me.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review The Adult Learner by Malcolm S. Knowles, Elwood F. Holton, and Richard A. Swanson

Book Review The Adult Learner by Malcolm S. Knowles, Elwood F. Holton, and Richard A. Swanson

The Adult Learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development (Sixth Edition) is essentially a summary view of Andragogy.

It’s honestly a little difficult to define andragogy, which is roughly the education of adults. This is a very important book for me in my day job because I teach military students. While reading this, I found myself asking a lot of questions because there is a time for self-directed androgogical learning is absolutely appropriate in some situations. However, a more pedagogical (pedagogy being the education of children) is sometimes more appropriate.

The comparison (and the book) aims mostly at helping one understand the intricacies of andragogy and when it is most appropriate.

It would be easiest to help you understand the distinction in the approach. Pedagogy is instructor centered and student dependent. The student is ignorant. This isn’t an insult; it’s a simple clinical term used to describe a student who has no experience or prior knowledge on a subject. This is where instructors in front of students speaking content originates from.

The problem comes when that student grows and moves on to higher education. I hope you all have had better education experiences than I have (though I feel I had some great teachers in my time), but most of my college classes were pretty much a continuation of high school and even grade school teaching methods. Andragogy seeks to be student centered and instructor facilitated.

This is my goal as a teacher (though I feel compelled to say my students may not agree).

The trick is that student centered learning must come student driven motivation. It’s an instructors goal to motivate learning for its own sake, and that’s where the rubber meets the road in ecucation.

This book gave me a lot of insights into what I call the points of friction in teaching military students, and there are several unique challenges that come with my job. I think anyone interested in teaching or even people curious about researching ways to learn would be interested in this title.

After I finish a few other books I have on education (which I read as part of my training), I’ll want to look for a more application-based book on adragogy because this book was all-in on theory. Still, having a theoretical base to work with, I can now test some ideas and see if some of these concepts will make me a more effective educator.

I know this isn’t my typical sort of review, but I review the books I read, and I just finished this last week. I promise I’ll have a more traditional review for you next week. Speaking of which, I wonder if you’d like to participate in that?

You see, I haven’t finished reading any of the three books I’m reading, which means I’ll need to go to my back log. Which would you prefer to see me review? Mistborn, The Wheel of Time, or the Dragon Riders of Pern? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,
Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 11

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 11

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 //

Paul scrubbed his hands more fiercely as he thought. There was enough to think about considering he was ditching English at the moment, and he was probably going to be expelled if he got caught. This was his third fight this year. 

He was just. so. angry!

“Who have you become because you choose to hold onto your anger.”

Paul’s mother told him his father was beaten as a child. She said that’s why his father beat them. Did that mean Paul would grow up to hit is kids?

He remembered standing over Jordan.  He already hit kids; he was just the same age as they were at the moment. 

A wave of remorse hit him. He rushed out of the bathroom just as he started to weep. 

I don’t want to be that way!

Even as he hated himself for being a bully just like his father, he tried to justify his actions. Jordan had it coming. He was talking trash about Paul’s mother. 

None of his justifications stood up against his firm belief that no one deserved what had happened to him and his mother. 

Lockers zipped by, becoming little more than a streak of red. He wasn’t even sure where he was going, but something pulled at him. He turned into the principles office just as he realized what he was planning to do. 

The secretary yelped as he blew by her into his office. The principal, a plump bald man in his sixties, looked up, and his face became red with anger. Paul froze, suddenly unsure what he really meant to do. 

After another second, Paul noticed who the principal, Mr. Eckleman, was speaking to. Jordan sat across from the administrator with a bag of ice against his right cheek. 

“I’m sorry,” Paul told Jordan while taking a deep breath and using a sleeve to dry his tears. “You didn’t deserve that. No one deserves that. I’m a monster. I’m just like him, and I don’t want to be. I think I’m cursed, but that’s not your fault. It doesn’t matter what you said. I shouldn’t have hit you.”

“What is he talking about?” Mr. Eckleman’s question drew Paul’s attention.

“I don’t know,” Jordan said. 

“You told me you got into a fight with Trevor,” Mr. Eckleman said. 

Trevor? Paul stood there trying to piece the clues together. 

“You said that Trevor was talking about a classmate, and you stood up to defend him.” The principle pointed at Paul. “So why is the person you said you were defending in here apologizing to you?”

Paul’s head spun. Did Jordan lie? Why? Why lie to protect him? Maybe Paul wouldn’t be expelled. Maybe he’d get away with it. Except, he didn’t want to get away with it.

Paul looked at Mr. Eckleman. “I’m not sure what Jordan said, but I’m the one who him. No one else should be punished for what I did.”

“So, who hit Trevor?” 

“What?” Paul didn’t mean to ask the question out loud, but he really had no idea what was going on. 

“I hit Trevor,” Jordan muttered. His brown eyes shifted to Paul. “He’s the one who said that stuff about your mom. He was really being a jerk about it. I told him to knock it off, but that only made him say something worse, so I punched him.”

It was Trevor? Trevor was the one who called Paul’s mom a whore! Rage filled Paul. He wanted to find Trevor and beat him. He wanted to find him and punch him until he never though to … Nobody deserves that!

Even while standing in the principal’s office, Paul couldn’t help himself. He was somehow every bit as ashamed as he was angry. How could he know something is wrong and yet want to do that very thing so much?

“Trevor told me Jordan had said all that stuff,” Paul whispered. “I didn’t even think about it. I just tracked Jordan down and started hitting him.”

Paul’s voice cracked as he gave the confession. “Jordan defended my mom, and I beat him up for it.”

He really was just like his father. He deserved to be expelled. If anyone deserved to be beat up, it was Paul. Maybe that’s what God was doing. Maybe God knew that Paul was going to grow up to b a monster, so he let Paul’s dad beat him up for it like some sort of advanced punishment. 

“It’s ok.” 

Paul’s eyes were closed against the tears, but he clearly heard Jordan speak. 

“What?” This time Paul meant to ask the question out loud. 

“I said it’s ok,” Jordan repeated. “I don’t really know what happened, but everyone knows you went through some bad stuff. I get it.”

“But I hit you! I threatened you.” Paul couldn’t fathom it. All he’d done, for apparently no reason, and Jordan said it was OK? Why?

“It sucks, and I’m mad about it,” Jordan said. “You wouldn’t even listen, but I figure Trevor just lied to you.”

“But why are you saying it’s ok?” Paul shouted the question. It didn’t make sense! What idiot gets beat up and just brushes it off?

… to be continued …

Book Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson The Fourth Read Through

Book Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson The Fourth Read Through
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Image taken from Amazon for review purpose.

 The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson  is the first book in The Stormlight Archive. This was my fourth time reading this book. I wanted to read it before reading The Rhythm of War.

I used my normal format when I did my third read through, so for this review, I want to focus on things that stood out after four read throughs.

First: Kaladin is freaking awesome! I can read this book a million times, and I will still love every word of his arc. This arc (in and of itself) is on the same level as that of Jaxom and Ruth and Rand al’Thor.

Second: Shallan’s arc gets progressively more annoying. I actually like Shallan as a character, but that is in spite of this book’s arc. First, Shallan was the character who taught readers a Rosharan economics lectures, and that is brilliant world building, but it’s not why I read Stormlight or Sanderson.

Third: No matter how annoying, the most rewarding details are in Shallan’s arc. For those who have read RoW, her arc still has little connections that make RoW more interesting.

Fourth: As progressively annoying as I find Shallan (again, just in this particular book), I find Adolin comparatively more endearing. There is indeed a scenario in which Adolin actually becomes my favorite character. If I really had to sit down and contemplate it, he might already be my favorite. Dalinar is up there. What about Kaladin?

Fifth: Kaladin was awesome in this book. He becomes epically awesome in Words of Radiance, but the last two books really tested my patience with Kaladin. I get his character flaw. As a service member with many friends who have PTSD, I completely understand, but fantasy is typically an extreme. I’m glad Kaladin (as reported by Sanderson) has turned the corner, but seeing Kaladin at his best makes me more frustrated. I’ll probably do a comparison between Kaladin’s downward arc and Rand’s. Both are similar, and maybe some will feel differently than I do, but here I’ll say that when Rand was falling into despair, I felt sad for him. I understood his pain and hoped he’d find a way through. With Kal, I simply got more and more annoyed, and that’s not good. I’ll probably even feel more strongly about this as I read Words.

BrandonGray
Image by Nazrilof taken from Mr. Sanderson’s Website for this review.

Sixth:  This book currently lands at third best in the series for me. Shallan’s arc alone is enough to bring it down, but I also acknowledge I have RoW higher (number two) at the moment than other readers might. I was talking to my brother who made some good points. He wasn’t such a fan of the science lesson in the middle of RoW that is Navani’s arc. I liked the science of the arc (if not the character decisions and reasonings). So again, a lot of how these books rank for readers will greatly depend on how much they like world building.

Overall: Any book I read more than once is (at worst) very good. If I read it every time a new book in the series, I hope that speaks for the quality of the story overall. This book still had me sitting in my car for 20 minutes simply because I didn’t want to stop listening to it. It’s that powerful. I honestly hope to start reading this series with my sons soon, but my wife will want to finish reading every napkin Tolkien ever sneezed on first, which I can probably understand (it’s her favorite series).

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 10

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 10

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 //

“Not once!” It was true, sort of. Sure, since the divorce and that last beating, his mom had given him everything he’d ever asked for. She made what he wanted for dinner. She never told him what to do. But neither did she ever once say the words, “I’m sorry” or “Forgive me.” 

Nobody’s masked head nodded as if conceding the point. “But with all the times you’ve run off or changed the subject, how could she do more than she’s done. And what has that really done for you? Where has your resentment led you?”

Nobody pointed at the mirror. “Who have you become because you choose to hold onto your anger.”

Paul turned to look at his reflection in the splintered mirror. There was that face again. His own face. A face that looked far too much like the face of the man Paul hated more than anyone else. 

“She doesn’t deserve it!” Paul spun back around as he spoke, even if only to hide the all to horrifyingly familiar scowl he knew he wore. 

“Did she deserve the beatings?” Nobody asked. 

“Nobody deserves that!” 

“What about Jordan?”

Paul wanted to lash out, but how could he? Right after declaring nobody deserves a beating, how could he justify beating someone?

“Now we move on to the more interesting question,” Nobody said. He glanced at a black device on his wrist. It would look like a smart watch if it had any sort of light or symbols, but as far as Paul could tell, it was just a black rectangle about the width of a pencil.  “What are the wages of sin?” 

“What?” Paul asked.

“You’ll remember when you think on it. Look to Paul’s letter to the Romans to refresh your thoughts,” Nobody said. He started to make his way back into the stall.

“I never finished it.” Paul said. “I put that Bible away and forgot about it.”

Nobody stopped, standing at the entrance to a simple bathroom stall. “Liar.”

Paul knew it was pretty stupid even trying to lie to a man who could read his thoughts or had some way of knowing everything. How did he know Jordan’s name?  

“Nobody deserves forgiveness,” Nobody said. “That’s why it’s a gift.” 

Nobody shut the door. Paul darted at the door as quickly as he could, but the temperature swung again, and a flash of light forced him to shut his eyes and turn away. Even as his eyes adjusted to the light, Paul flung the door open. His tennis shoes plopped into a small puddle of water. The toilet seemed to be completely unaffected by whatever Nobody had done. 

His science teachers, the only teachers who treated Paul like a normal human being, had talked about experiments and measurements, but Paul didn’t have any equipment. He wouldn’t know what to measure for anyway. Maybe I should start with temperature, Paul thought to himself as he continued to look around the stall. He dropped down to a knee to look behind the toilet.

“What are you doing?” 

Paul’s head spun around to find a boy standing at the bathroom’s entrance. He seemed equally amused and disgusted. 

“I lost something,” Paul said getting up and washing his hands. “Have you seen a watch?”  

Paul didn’t own a watch, but at least it explained why he was carefully looking around a toilet in a public bathroom.

“No.” The answer seemed more like a cough, but he went on about his own business. 

Even as Paul let the water run over his hands, the questions about how Nobody moved around seemed to fade behind the last thing he had said to Paul. 

“Nobody deserves forgiveness. That’s why it’s a gift.”

Paul frowned in confused anger. If nobody deserved forgiveness, why would anyone forgive anybody else? And if people were always forgiven when the didn’t deserve it, why would they ever stop doing things that bothered other people?

Paul scrubbed his hands more fiercely as he thought. 

Book Review: Dragon Fate by E.E. Knight

Book Review: Dragon Fate by E.E. Knight
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The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Dragon Fate by E.E. Knight is the final story in the Age of Fire series. War has cost every species, and ancient magic is now being used to take the war to a new, terrible level. The age of dragon rule has become a desperate fight to avoid extinction, and now the three must unite, or everything will fall.

Character:  I think this is where a good series is separated from a great or amazing series. In Wheel of Time or Mistborn or Dragon Riders of Pern, the final books of the series culminate a growth that leads to an added level of fulfillment. I felt the three met their growth in the fourth (arguably the fifth) book. While there was a lot of great action and cool stuff going on, the characters journeys had ended. When a character’s magic dies, the story dies with it. Now that sounds like I hated this book, and that’s not true. I very clearly remember enjoying this story. It felt like bonus footage, but I don’t for the life of me remember anything that happened. That’s because I remember things (and I think most readers remember things) in relation to the characters. Oh! I couldn’t believe it when Character let go of his fear/hate/bias/ego and did that thing! This may have been much better as a visual medium (anime/movie). You see, the visuals take over, and it’s still enjoyable. However, in the written medium, the storyteller has no real power to maintain the wonder. I suppose there are some who want to read pages of fights and action. I’m just not one of those people. I love it in a movie or anime, but it’s still more powerful when the peak action aligns with the peak of the character’s arc. This is why I remember liking Age of Fire, but it’s not anywhere near my top favorite sagas.

Exposition: Again, the above section may feel like I hated it, but that’s not true. The story still flowed beautifully. There wasn’t any drag or long blocks of exposition. Knight is a real pro at balancing content with information.

Worldbuilding: Knight may be a pro with exposition, but he’s a master world builder. I will say that fans of meticulous world building and lore will love this saga even more than I do. This story completes the “history” of this world, and that gives it a value that (even if I don’t appreciate it) I have to acknowledge. In fact, if you’re a writer and you want to pursue sagas like those of Tolkien, Jordan, or Sanderson, you should definitely add this series to your list to study and emulate.

Dialogue: This is probably Knight’s weakest area. That’s not to say he doesn’t have his moments (book 3). But I don’t remember any of those charming moments or powerful conversations. The dialogue just sort of moved the story along without really impacting it. That’s good in that it didn’t drag the story down, but it’s bad because it didn’t elevate the story either.

Image by Ebert Studio taken from the Penguin Random House website bio for the author. This image was taken for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Description: Knight is great with landscapes, scenes, and fight sequences. He provides a set and lets your imagination fill it in, which is exactly what I look for in description. He probably leaves more to the imagination than some readers would prefer, but I was more than satisfied.

Overall: As I started thinking about this series, I remember how I enjoyed it and that the ending satisfied me. I’d compare this series to a visit to my favorite fast food place. The meal wasn’t better than anything I’d ever had, but I was satisfied, and I know I can always go to it if I’m feeling the desire. While I view this as a compliment (and not even a back-handed one), I can acknowledge that it’s not the resounding praise I’d want if I wrote a six book saga. But we can’t all write Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. By comparison, a great many other stories would be found lacking or (in my opinion worse) derivative. However, on it’s own merit, there’s nothing wrong with a book series that was just “good” rather than “great.” That’s what this series is. I’d certainly recommend it to any who haven’t read it, and I’d especially recommend it to aspiring authors who want to study world building and point of view writing.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Buy The Journals of Bob Drifter

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 9

Visits From A Man Named Nobody PT 9

PT 1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 //

Four

Oct. 17, 2024, 2:31 p.m. 

22.9 Years Ago

Jordan Bieliel lay on the grass as his nose oozed blood. Paul loomed over him with clenched fists. 

“Get up, punk!” It was an effort not to leap on the skinny kid and just whale on him. 

The scuffle quickly drew the attention of a crowd of students, who circled around the fight on the school courtyard. Adrenaline surged through Paul, who hoped Jordan would fight back. 

Instead, the younger kid looked up at Paul. “What’d I do?”

“Don’t act like you don’t know!” Paul stalked toward Jordan, who scrambled back while raising a hand to fend Paul off. “Trevor told me what you said!”

“Trevor’s a liar!” Jordan said. “I never said anything!”

Paul stopped, staring down at Jordan. He was a head shorter and had to weigh 20 pounds less than Paul. As the years passed, Paul grew taller and stronger. He looked like a younger version of his father, and he hated himself for it. 

Paul was about to ask why someone would lie when students started scrambling away. 

“Teacher!” Someone shouted. 

Paul didn’t wait to look around. He took off running. He’d been warned about fighting the last time. He knew the risks, but he was so angry. 

He called my mom a whore! At least that’s what Trevor had told Paul Jordan said. Nobody insults my mom!

Paul comforted himself with the thought that’d he’d at least given Jordan a solid punch. Jordan didn’t even run or try to fight back. Idiot! 

Paul ducked into the school’s science building, his favorite building. It was the only place he felt like the world made sense. He skidded to a stop just outside a bathroom and darted inside. He didn’t think anyone had followed him, so maybe he’d avoid getting into trouble. 

Paul looked at his fist where a splotch of blood sat on his knuckles. He deserved it! Paul told himself as he started washing his hands.

Then his hear leapt up into his throat as he felt the temperature in the bathroom shift from normal, to freezing cold, to burning hot and back again in the blink of an eye. The mirror in front of him fractured. Something flashed behind Paul, and he spun around.

It can’t be! I imagined it! 

It had been almost three years since Nobody had visited. It had been so long that Paul had convinced himself that it was all his imagination. Even as Paul tried to cling to that thought, Nobody stepped out of the stall in front of Paul, who noted a small puddle had formed in that same stall.

Even after three years, not a thing had changed about Nobody. It was the same pea coat. The same gray slacks. He even wore the same stupid red bow tie. The opaque mask hadn’t even faded. Almost three years had passed, and it seemed as though Nobody had stepped right out of Paul’s memory. 

“You … you’re not real,” Paul whispered.

“If I’m not real, where’d that Bible in your night stand come from?” Nobody asked. “More interestingly, where’d that note in the Bible come from?

Rage filled Paul, and he charged the man. Nobody caught him in an embrace. Paul didn’t want a hug; he wanted a fight. He wanted to beat Nobody to death.

“You abandoned me!” Paul shouted. As strong as he’d become, he couldn’t free his arms from Nobody, who simply held Paul. No matter how he struggled, he couldn’t gain any leverage. 

Nobody was strong, but he was strangely gentle, only using the energy necessary to keep Paul still. Paul was easily one of the biggest kids his age, but he was still a teenager in the grip of a grown man.

“You’ve never been abandoned,” Nobody whispered. “Just because you haven’t seen me, it didn’t mean I wasn’t there.”

Tears started to fall from Paul’s eyes, and his anger faded.  “I was so angry! I was so alone!”

“We feel alone sometimes, but it doesn’t mean we are,” Nobody said. “You had your mother.”

The comment hit a nerve in Paul’s heart. He managed to shove himself away from Nobody. “But she just let it happen! I called the police! I saved us! What did she do?”

“So were alone because nobody wanted you, or were you alone because you didn’t want to forgive your mother?” Nobody asked. “How many times has she tried to talk about it?”

“Shut up!” Paul yelled.

“How many times has she asked you to forgive her?” No matter how loudly Paul shouted, Nobody’s tone didn’t raise a bit. 

The Rubber Tree Plant: The True Challenge of Being an Author Businessman

The Rubber Tree Plant: The True Challenge of Being an Author Businessman

I play cards with my wife’s grandparents every Thursday. Today, the wife’s cousin (who lives there) asked m how the business was going. I told him I was happy at how it was growing. Then he asked me a question that stumped me, and I’d like to share my thoughts with those of you who wish to become authors.

He asked me what the hardest part was.

Is it the writing? I don’t think so. It certainly isn’t the hard part for me. Whatever I’m doing from day to day, I have to think I type somewhere between 1-3 thousand words a day. Now only a portion of those words are for my career as an author, but I don’t think it’s hard to write (at least not the way that I think of it). Now I don’t want to go off on a tangent about why some people may struggle with writing, but I want to establish that writing isn’t actually that difficult.

Is it the editing? Well, I hate it, but it’s not actually hard. It’s tedious. It always feels like I’m just looking at evidence of how bad a writer I actually am. However, when I sit down and get to it (after I’m done moping), it works out.

It’s not the designing. It’s not the marketing (though I still have a long way to go).

So what, then, is the hardest part.

I realized the hardest part is the grind. I affirm I could take any hopeful writer and help that person get a book published on Amazon in less than a calendar year. I would only require that individual promise to spend at least two hours a day on said book. Outside of that, I could help anyone. But hidden in there is another example of the grind.

I’m aware of at least a dozen people who started a book. What happens though is people start out with a burst of inspiration and ambition. It’s like a person who just chugged a Red Bull. Sure, you start off hot, but you eventually burn out, and that’s my point.

The people who start a book and the people who finish writing a book are only separated by one factor: They keep going.

The people who finish a book and the people who get published are only separated by one factor: They keep going.

The people who don’t sell any books and the people who sell hundreds of books (or more) per month are again only separated by that same factor: They keep going.

I can personally attest to the first two above assertions. Several people started writing books when I had started writing my books. I kept writing, and they stopped. They had their reasons and excuses, and I’m not here judging them for those decisions. I’m only stating that, with the blessings and by permission of God, I finished my book because I kept working on it. I got it published because I kept looking for ways to make that happen.

Now, I currently only average about eight sales a month, so I’ll understand if you don’t think much of this little motivation blog I’m writing. However, when I first started selling books, I was amazed whenever I sold a book. I’d go months without selling a single copy of anything. Then I started working on my marketing. I started studying and acting on what I learned. This has lad to a small, but steady, increase of my sales per month average.

The tough part about being a writer doesn’t actually have anything to do with the difficulty of any one task. Even if one argues editing, writing, or designing is hard (even if I respectfully disagree), it’s still not that difficult. But writing every day, day after day, for years. That’s hard. The commitment it takes is ludicrous.

I’m here to tell you it still works. The effort usually reaps equivalent rewards in time. Now I’m still limited to the time God allows me to be on this Earth, but while I’m here, if I keep working toward a goal, it usually happens.

Determination, I propose, is the only real distinction between people who accomplish a goal and people who don’t. This isn’t an absolute. I can train every day for the rest of my life, and I’m not making the 49ers roster. Talent and genetics plays a role in some areas, but not writing. Over the long haul, almost anyone can do almost anything with enough time and effort.

This is my message to you all today. You can choose to give in to despair or disappointment, or you can choose to keep going. You can accept that what you were doing is no longer intrinsically motivating and decide you don’t want to do it anymore. You have that right, and I won’t mock you for it. I just don’t want you to feel like you will continue to fail just because you have failed. Indeed, you will fail if you stop trying simply because you succeeded once.

I have to finish the Oneiros Log. I have to finish Images of Truth and revise and publish a whole bunch of other novels. They can’t be purchased if I never make them available for sale. So if you’re discouraged, please consider this motivation I offer to you. If you still want that goal, keep pushing. Keep working. If you stop, you’re guaranteed to fail. But you might succeed if you just try one more time.

Thanks for reading,

Matt