When You’re Strange

Don’t you just love the Doors? But this isn’t about music, except one more passing reference. Ray Stevens would be aghast. I think the song lyrics might as well be “Everyone is strange in their own way.” 

For decades now, my wife has said I’m strange. I welcome the epithet as an amusing truth. “Why Be Normal?” the buttons and stickers ask. Just so. There is a time and place for eccentricity and normality. Earning a living, of course, may require a modicum of the latter—depending on the work one does. It certainly did for the day job from which I retired some time ago. But let’s get back to strange.

We had met before, my wife and I, at one activity or another of the Buddhist organization we both belonged to. Attending that Halloween party at a mutual friend’s house quickly took us to level of intimacy neither of us had expected. An intimacy that only a few years later led to marriage. A marriage not without its challenges at the outset, but that’s another story. That’s a central part of the memoir, Waiting for Westmoreland. This is a teensy weensy memory about our strange beginning.

We’re both into sci-fi. That inspired our costumes for the party. She came as an alien. Hair an unnatural shade, with face and exposed flesh covered in matching shiny silver. An alternating black and silver diagonally-striped lame knit of sorts covered her torso. I came as Gully Foyle, Alfred Bester’s protagonist from The Stars My Destination. I couldn’t quite master the tiger face tattoo, so I just lettered my forehead “Nomad” in black grease paint. You’ll have to read the book to understand. I added a long maroon caftan and a walking stick to complete the image.

We danced together, we danced alone. I danced around my head-high staff to the thrilled amusement of another partygoer. Thirty is a great time to indulge and flaunt one’s strangeness. It’s never left me. It just manifests in many other ways. What’s life without letting loose the strictures of normalcy. Lighten up. Have fun! She did and I did, mixing our facial paint that Halloween night.

I miss those Halloween trick-or-treaters at our suburban home in Virginia. My faces were way more scary than those who came for candy. Alas, with the seclusion of our dream home in New Mexico from a well-traveled street means we see no children on the annual event. But there are other ways to bring out the strange. Perhaps a topic for another day.

 

Stardust–Joni Mitchell May Have Been Right

Nearly 50 years ago Joni Mitchell sang of the famous festival of Woodstock. She said in her counterculture song of the same name, “We are stardust.” Now there are scientists who say we may indeed be made of–or at least include in our DNA, not just an inheritance from Lucy millenia ago in Africa but from dust particles blown by galactic winds across the Milky Way.

Supernovas and star-birthing nebula’s may have expelled matter across the universe, hither and yon. Up to one-half of the atoms surrounding us may have intergalactic origins. Making us, in some respects space travelers. Perhaps this explains the abundance of people we refer to as “space cadets.” Perhaps their genetic heritage includes more than a fair share of dust from deep space–with an abundance not simply of dark matter but what might be called, “dumb matter.”

Aside from the pejorative humor, I suspect that this article might form the basis for some interesting backstory–or even a plot line, in a future story. If you get to it first, congratulations. The article is out there; it’s not mine.

Harley, the Blind Therapy Dog

 

Yes, it’s time once again for the #WATWB monthly feature. You may have noticed my affection for dogs. This is another post about what they bring us humans. Warning: if you are sensitive, this might move you to tears–albeit not sad ones. It’s about a therapy dog that is blind, having had to have her eyes removed due to glaucoma. That doesn’t stop her from bringing joy and consolation to children in the hospital. Read the story here.

This month’s cohosts of the We Are the World Blogfest are  Simon Falk, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Inderpreet Uppal, Sylvia Stein, Damyanti Biswas. Please visit their sites for more stories of happy news.

Blind dog visits girl in hospital
© LAUREN PETRACCA/The Greenville News Harley, a yellow lab who lost her eyes to glaucoma, visits with Maryann Jarnagin, 16, at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville on Thursday, July 13, 2017.

 

 

 

 

The Fountain–a Kindle edition available July 10 on Amazon

Cover of The Fountain, Kindle book
Coming on Monday, July 10th–The FountainA seven-story fantasy and sci-fi collection of short fictionOne quarter the size of an average novel, it’s perfect for summer reading or when you have a few minutes to spare but not a couple of hours or more.

Reminder: If you pre-ordered The Fountain, it will be automatically delivered to your Kindle device, the cloud reader or  your app on Monday. You can still pre-order it today or wait and order it on Monday. Just to pique your interest, here’s a brief excerpt from “Lily, an Amazing Dog.” Want to know more, check out the Amazon page or look back at the first post about the book here, with brief highlights of each story.

 

The first incident came on a morning walk past the retirement home, along a tree-lined boulevard. A flash of sun off a sliding glass door across the street caught Roger’s eye. A lady in a green dress stepped through the door onto her fifth floor balcony. She smiled and waved, seeing Lily with her plushy frog. It’s a retriever thing—Goldens can go nowhere without carrying something in their mouth. The matron began watering a potted ficus. He looked away momentarily.

A loud sound of rending metal drew his attention back to the building. With silver hair streaming and dress flapping like a flag in a stiff wind, the woman plunged from the collapsing balcony. Lily barked at the sight, dropping her frog. In that brief moment, a shimmer appeared in the air. The woman disappeared into the flickering space, never hitting the ground. Lily barked again, before picking up her frog and moving on with the walk as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

BTW: We don’t usually run ads here but Amazon Prime day is on July 11. So why are we promoting this? Assuming you read lots of books, you may want to sign up for Kindle Unlimited. What’s the big deal? Big discount: Kindle – Up to 40% Off Kindle Unlimited. KU is a program by which, for a monthly fee, you can download as many books as you like each month. But you must be a Prime member to get Kindle Unlimited. If you are NOT a Prime member, click this link to join: Prime Day 2017 – 30 Hours of Deals. This second link will show many more specials on this annual Prime Day. You can begin getting them at 9 PM the night before–July 10th.

First Review of The Fountain

Cover of The Fountain, Kindle bookThanks to D.G. Kaye, for her wonderful review of The Fountain short story collection, which is on pre-order from Amazon Kindle right now. It will available on July 10, less than a week from now. See her full review here and the highlights below.

If you enjoy short stories in fantasy/sci-fi genres, and stories that make you think then look no further than Maberry’s tales which will engross you with stories about karma, greed, time travel, aliens and muses.

In this book you will read stories about: a dog with extra sensory perception, a writer battling his own sub-conscience, a wizard who wonders if the spells he casts for others will work for himself, a man who experiences 2 lifetimes by opening a closet door. These are just a few of the stories to stimulate your reading appetite.

Maberry is a prolific writer who knows how to keep a reader captivated till the end and finishes his stories with an unexpected twist. This book also offers an excerpt to the author’s next upcoming novel. As in true Maberry style, he leaves us hanging in anticipation with more to come. A great read!

Falling teen caught by park goers

The co-hosts of this month’s We Are the World Blogfest are: 
Belinda WitzenhausenLynn HallbrooksMichelle Wallace, Sylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein. Please visit their sites too.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one posting this, but it’s what I found. I thought it exemplified the #WATWB criteria of a good news story. People responding to a person in distress, including one man who himself injured his back in an effort to catch the girl dangling from a gondola at a Six Flags in upstate New York. No one, it seems, cared about the race or religion of the girl. No one, it seems, cared about her politics. Some reports say the 14-year old herself contributed to her predicament. That too is beside the point of the good Samaritans, isn’t it?

The Fountain and six more short stories coming soon

It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here! A seven-story fantasy and sci-fi collection of short fiction. One quarter the size of an average novel, it’s perfect for summer reading or when you have a few minutes to spare but not a couple hours or more.

Check it out at Amazon, where it’s available for preorder. It will be delivered to your Kindle device on July 10. NOTE: you can download a free Kindle app to enable viewing on tablets, phones, computers, etc. You DON’T need a Kindle reader per se.

Cover of The Fountain, Kindle book

You’ll find humor, twists and more in The Fountain. Like what? Here’s an example:

  • Karma can be painful in “The Fountain”–when a plunderer meets a long-dead shaman.
  • A family adopts a retriever with special talents in “Lily, an Amazing Dog.”
  • A vampire has a strange problem, in “Alfred’s Strange Blood Disorder.”
  • A perennial favorite, dimensional travel, with a strange twist in “The Closet Door.”
  • What could that column of fire be, rising from the Atlantic off the Outer Banks? Read “The Flame” to find out what it meant to troubled writer Carson.
  • A wizard casts a spell that works well for a princess, but will it be as good for him? Check out “The Wizard.”
  • Finally, “The Fribble” offers an alien encounter of an odd sort, to a pharmaceutical company rep searching for new drugs in the Amazon Rain forest.

Later in July and August, we’ll have some discount days and some free days. Watch this space for announcements.

By mid-September, we’ll make it available in other digital formats–ePub for Nook, Kobo, etc., and on iBooks for Apple readers.

Living with a dog

Just a short something today–very short. Other things are demanding my time. Still, you may find this amusing if you, like my wife, thinks your dog licks too much. When she makes that observation to Max,

Max, watching window TV

he ignores her admonition and continues. I, on the other hand, may note this variation on an old expression:

Cleanliness is next to dogliness.

Kind of goes right along with “Dog is my copilot,” seen on some car’s bumpers.

The Dog in the Yearbook

This month’s co-hosts for WATWB are Emerald BarnesEric Lahti, Inderpreet UppalLynn HallbrooksPeter Nena, Roshan Radhakrishnan. Please visit their sites too.

For this month’s We Are the World Blogfest, consider how much help our service dog companions offer to those of us who need them. Everyone’s familiar with drug and bomb sniffing dogs. But service dogs use their eyes, ears and noses for much more than security or law enforcement. They provide much-needed assistance to humans with disabilities or diseases. Read this item from WTOP News, a TV station that serves the DC Metropolitan area, including Northern Virginia, where this story comes from about a high school in Stafford, Virginia.

 

A junior with type 1 diabetes has a service dog that accompanies him to school. The dog lets him know when his blood sugar is getting off–too high or too low, 30 minutes or more before it becomes a medical issue. Amazing what dog’s noses can detect–upcoming seizures, cancer, and now the chemical clues that the person he serves needs to take action on his diabetes.

In addition to serving as Schalk’s primary spotter, Alpha has been a joy for his classmates.

 “There’s a lot of people you can tell they are having a rough day, but just seeing a dog in the hallway really brightens up their day. Alpha’s become such a big part of the school environment.”
Naturally, service dog “Alpha” accompanied 17-year old  A. J. Schaik to the photo shoot for his high school yearbook. The yearbook staff was happy to include a headshot of Alpha in the yearbook too. For more on the story, check out this news item.

HS student and his service dog in the yearbook

 

The Clear Stream of Reason

What can you do with a writing prompt? Almost anything. Consider this short passage from Rabindranath Tagore,

“Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into dreary desert sand of dead habit”

You could go somewhere with “reason,” “dreary desert,” “dead habit,” or more–especially if you examine the entire poem. Here’s a link to one of many layouts for it (I have no idea how Tagore originally presented it).

I went with “the clear stream of reason” to create a scifi backstory, which likely has no relation to Tagore’s point of “Let My Country Awake.”

The clear stream of reason flowed from the mind spring of Thallos. All who partook of its waters found enlightenment–the wisdom of the ancients. The colonists knew nothing of this. They came to raise crops, assuming the stream to be a great resource promising productive land. They weren’t entirely mistaken, but were surprised when what they planted evolved into something quite different than expected. Nutritious and flavorful produce, but not the same as they had grown on their former planet. After consuming the harvest for a time, they began seeing each other and Thallos differently. With a new awareness, they realized the plants had been enlightened by the waters as much as they had.