Sunday, May 1, 2016

Matthew J. Kirby's "The Clockwork Three"...A Book Review


Three years ago, or there about, before I began attending writing conventions and functions, I knew very few published authors. But as I've come to attended more and more of these events, I've gotten to know more and more of the stable of local writers more and more. At the last Salt Lake Comic Con FanX, I met Matthew Kirby.

I'd seen his name from time to time. Many of my friends on social media are also friends with him. When I took time and spoke to him at his FanX book signing, I didn't know much about Matthew. I certainly didn't know how successful he's been. Getting a book published by a reputable publishing house is a major accomplishment. Getting multiple books published, well, that shows the man has talent as well as dedication.

I found the The Clockwork Three audiobook at our local library. I quickly downloaded it and began listening. In short, I really enjoyed this story. It's YA, which is something I find myself reading all the time. Many of the local authors I know write YA and they're quite good at it.

The Clockwork Three revolves around three main characters in a fantastical world set in the Northeastern coast of the United States. Giuseppe is an orphan who must earn enough income by playing on street corners to avoid being beaten by his evil master. Hannah works in a hotel to support her family now that her father has serious health concerns. And Frederick is an apprentice clockmaker who is building his own mechanical man. The genius of this story is how Kirby weaves three main characters into one story. This EASILY could have been written as three separate stories. Though each of the children's stories intersect with each other, Giuseppe's story could fill a novel by itself. The same goes for Hannah and Frederick.

Using their collective talents, as well as help from benevolent adults, the three change their fortunes. It's a story of magic, of steampunk, and of intrigue. The audiobook is just over twelve hours long. I listen to audiobooks on 2X speed, but even at that, it felt much shorter. I can imagine it would be a fast read, too.

It's the first of Matthew's books I've read. Luckily for me (and for you...), there's a lot more to read.

* Photo used without permission from:

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Preparing For..."The Big One"

A few weeks ago we participated in an emergency preparedness drill. We were to act as if our area suffered a major earthquake. Like many areas where major fault lines run underneath us, it's good to be prepared, but unlike other quake-prone areas, we don't get a lot of small earthquakes, a la California or Japan. It seems we're living in a place where we either have no earthquakes, or a really really big one.

We began by hearing a recording play over the speakers. We heard a rumbling sound with a message telling us that we were not experiencing an earthquake. Our job--get under our desks. 

From there we took the stairs and then exited the building. We gathered across the street and waited for the "all clear" so we could return to work. The last time we did this I took out my good camera and snapped a lot of pictures. I was pleased with those shots. It was a lot of fun. This time I just took my phone.

The state spent a lot of money to put on this exercise. I believe all state buildings along the Wasatch Front took part as well as many non-government organizations. How effective was the drill? It's hard to say. I suppose practicing what you'll do in an emergency is helpful. I just don't know--if the damage is as bad as some say it will be when "the big one" hits--it might not make any difference.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Goodbye New Job...Hello Old Job

Yesterday I cleared out my cubicle so I could move my stuff to my new cubicle. I'm leaving a new job to one I did a couple of years ago. It's strange to be going back to my old job, but that's how things have worked out.

For the past twenty-two months I've been working an assignment with a different department at work. Where I work they have options when it comes to some positions. For these temporary situations the person chosen to work these jobs will return to the job they were doing once the assignment ends, if it ever does. A few years ago I was part of a computer rebuild team. I left my job for fifteen months and when the computer program was up and running, I went back.

It's happened again. I will go back to the same job, albeit at a new location. It's always hard leaving a job where you work with great people, and where your job impacts people's lives. The work is rewarding. The quality of the co-workers is icing on the cake.

We had a potluck lunch on Tuesday to formally say goodbye. The excellent food was only surpassed by the company in the room. I received notes and cards, and many many well-wishes. I had asked to use a couple of hours of annual time off this week so I could go to lunch with friends, and leave early yesterday. I had to get my stuff home so I could get to my other job on time.

Monday I'll load up the car and drive to the new building. I'll unload and move in and not recognize many. It will take some time to "remember" how to do my new/old job. And on those days when the work will bog down, I'll think back with fond memories of the time when I had one of the best views in our building right in front of me.

And I will smile.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Up On The Roof...

Last weekend I did something I don't do much...I climbed out on our roof so I could clean the rain gutters. Now, is it the climbing out on the roof that I don't do much or cleaning the gutters?

Both, actually. 

I'm not one for heights. When I was a child I was high up on a ladder. The support that held it up slipped and I fell straight down. It was the only time I've ever had a broken bone. I can't remember if the height thing resulted from that or if I had it before. So when I climb out on the west side roof on our house, it's a bit unnerving. 

We used to climb up on the roof of my parent's house all the time. It's not as steep as ours and it's a lot bigger. I never got close to the west side of the house on that one either.

People write about being up on roofs. I can imagine they are writing about the flat kind, where they can see an incredible sights. And even though I don't like being up on roofs, I can't deny the views almost make it whole experience worth it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How To Make A Drum...Or, How To Make A Cub Scout Make A Drum?

Do you remember those days of your youth when even the simplest things could bring such wonder and joy? Maybe it's easy for me to remember because when I was a cub scout, there were no such things as video games, cellphones, computers, or even VCRs (or Batamax machines...). No, we had skateboards, bicycles, friends, open roads, and public parks.

But I think the wonder of a child care be reached even in our electronic age. Case in point, tonight we helped a bunch of eight to ten-year old boys build drums. These drums were rudimentary, and the finish product produced sounds that sounded a little like what you hear when you bang a proper drum. Still, the scouts didn't care. They were excited for the opportunity.

And that tells me something. We took some large cans, some faux leather fabric, some rubber bands, and some paint and let them loose. The only complaints I heard was there wasn't enough red paint. Apparently, the kids liked red (a good sign for the next generation, if you ask me...).

So, how do you get a young boy to make a drum? Basically, you provide the materials and let them go for it. Like I said, I doubt these things will be effective drums, but those kids didn't care. They had a blast putting them together anyway, and there's something important to be learned in that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dave Butler's "Crow Jane"...A Book Review


I've known about Dave Butler's Rock Band Fights Evil series for some time. It's only recently I got around to reading it.

Now I'm asking myself, what took me so long?

The books in this series are fun. They're not too gory or gratuitous. The stories are quick reads, not simple, but singularly focused. Book 3 is called Crow Jane and it's a little different from the previous installments, Hellhound On My Trail, and Snake Handlin' Man. Those stories focus mostly on the band, a group of cursed musicians (some think all musicians are "cursed"...) destined to roam the land playing gigs in seedy bars and fighting the forces of evil.

This one, however, focuses on someone else, a marked woman who has lived since the dawn of humanity, or the Biblical timeline of humanity. I loved it! I loved getting to know Jane, or Qayne, as she was once known. Butler weaves her story masterfully into the modern-day tale. We travel back in time to find out more about Jane, how she became "marked," and how those decisions made millennia ago still reverberate today. She's also an anti-hero we can root for. When Jane and the band meet, each side fights for what they need to survive, and the epic battle is full of twists, magic, and even fire sword-wielding giants. It's quite a ride! And the cover art is killer, too, done by the very talented Carter Reid.

There's monsters and devils, angels and faeries, magical spells and flesh-eating horses. It's the kind of story that could be made into a weekly television series where we enter a world full of imaginative characters and situations. In Crow Jane, we get a better glimpse into one of the evil beings the band has been fighting.

There are more books in the series. I've got one on my Kindle right now. I'll let you know how that one turns out, too.

* Photo used without permission from:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dorene Smith...A Fine Lady


I think one of the saddest things we humans do is deny ourselves the opportunity to get to know more people. I know this because I'm so guilty of doing this. I pass up opportunities that are open to me for a myriad of reasons, but every time--almost without exception--I've taken that chance, gone outside my comfort zone and gotten to know people better, it's been a positive experience.

Yesterday I noticed a flower arrangement on the podium at church. In our culture (and our church...), that usually means the building was used for a memorial service. It means someone in the neighborhood died. When I found out who it was, it made me sad.

I doubt many people had the pleasure of knowing Dorene Smith. I had lived a few houses down from her for over a decade before I met her, and had I not applied for a job on the grounds crew at Lagoon Amusement Park as a teenager, I might not have ever spoken to the lady. I don't know if she knew who I was. I don't know if she knew that my father had passed away twelve years earlier. Maybe I made her laugh, but for some reason, she hired me.

And I think in many ways, that changed my life. She gave me a chance to work hard, get to know some wonderful people, and create lasting memories.

I had never worked at Lagoon before, but I had many friends who had. They, of course, did not work in the grounds department. Everyone who worked there knew of Dorene, but I don't think many knew her. A lot of kids feared her. She was ex-military and she was in charge of getting that placed cleaned on a daily basis. That is no small task, especially when 90% of your workforce is too young to vote. She had to be tough. If she wasn't, well, you know how kids can be. They'd take advantage and the work would not get done.

But, if they had known her--really gotten to know her--they wouldn't have feared her. Sure, she drove a pick-up around the park before it opened and smoked. She had a somewhat gravelly voice and had to yell sometimes to get our attention. Still, if you got to know her you knew she was a funny, funny lady. She'd tell jokes and stories that were hilarious. And she had a heart as big as the amusement park itself.

Dorene retired many years ago and I ran into a handful of times since my teenage years. Every time she would smile (unless she was discussing some stupid thing the city counsel was considering...). I didn't know she had passed on until the services were over. Whenever I think of Dorene, I'll be forever grateful that I knew her and that she was my friend. Yes, Dorene was a fine lady.

* Photo used without permission from: