Thursday, July 31, 2014

Salt City Steamfest, Space Balrogs, And Clockwork Tinkers--It's On!

I remember a word of advice I gave to my son a few weeks before he embarked on a two-year assignment for our church.

I told him he should volunteer for things. "If someone asks for help, for volunteers, you should consider doing it. You never know what can happen when you do."

And so when a friend asked if I would be on a panel tomorrow at Salt City Steamfest, I said, "Yes!" I thought I'd be part of a team that tries to persuade a group of convention attendees that the point of view presented by my team was superior to the other points of view. I mean, how hard can it be? After I agreed, my friend then put my name on his website and it was only then I realized I had volunteered for an adventure! I'm not part of a persuasive team--I AM the team and I'm battling a couple of intellectual heavyweights.

I will be part of the Space Balrogs! What's Space Balrogs? A good question, indeed. Here's their website: HERE. In short, it's a troupe of authors who present fun and funny interactive convention events. I'm not a full-fledged member, but I guy can dream, can't he?

So, if you're at Steamfest at 5pm tomorrow night (1 Aug 14), drop by the panel. I'll be arguing the topic: 

Steampunk Smack-down: Airship Pirates vs. Clockwork Tinkers vs. Mole People

I'm officially Team Clockwork Tinkers!

It's going to be a blast! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How'd Opening Night Go? Let Charlie Davenport Tell You...

We opened last night--couldn't have asked for a better opening show! The crowd was fantastic! We got all our lines (well, 99% of them...), and no props fell. And to explain just how great did it go last night? I'll let my own lines tell the tale:

"Holy Toledo! I've never heard an audience whoop it up like that!"

"Course she looks all ratty now, but once we get her cleaned up and dressed proper--"

"I tell you, that girl's worth a million bucks!"

"That poster's terrific, ain't it?"

"This is great, Annie. Just great. Come on, B.B., we gotta send a lot of telegrams to the newspapers."

"All right, everyone--time to get ready for the show. Move it!"

"Tell the truth for a change, Dolly!"

"There's no business like show business!"

That's pretty much how the opening went, give or take a little. And, if you'd like to see the show, we're performing tonight, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and next Monday. Better hurry! Annie's getting her gun!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

To Penny And Scott...


To Penny And Scott

The announcement of your mother’s passing is difficult news to hear, be it for those who knew her personally, or for others, like myself, who know only some of her children. Losing a mother is tough, for a mother is given a sacred call, a call to nurture, to protect, to teach, to love unconditionally. And when that person has left us, there remains a void, a space that can never be filled or replaced.

Since losing my mother several years ago, I’ve wondered which is harder, losing a parent as a child or as an adult. Having experienced both, the answer is far from a simple examination of the facts. I hardly knew my father, not his personality anyway. As a child I knew him as a father who worked hard and who built things. In the four decades since he passed, I’ve gotten to know of him, his work ethic, his history, the incredible man he was, but getting to know him personally, well…that will happen at a later date.

But my mother—oh, I knew her well. She was both father and mother to three children, raising them alone. She was my protection, my advocate, my security, my friend. As I get older and many of my childhood friends are beginning to lose their parents, I hope they realize what a blessing it’s been for them to be able to just have a conversation with them, to tell them of their day, or how the grandkids are growing up way too fast. I hope they’ve taken advantage of that elusive element that slips through our fingers like sand on a beach and that, once gone, can never be recovered—the element of time.

I remember at my mom’s viewing someone asked me a question of how long we lived in that mobile home we parked in front of the house that my dad was building and never got to finish before he died. I told them I didn’t know (I was only four or five at the time we lived in that mobile home…). I told them I’d find out. I actually turned to look for my mother to ask her that simple question, a question she knew, but she was gone, and not only gone for that moment, but until we can again talk of such things.

So, to Penny and Scott and your family, I feel for you during this time. From what you’ve written I sense a love for your mother that is hallowed, and from what I know of you, she did a great job at being a mom. I pray for your family during this time and for the times that will come when you’ll miss her so much that your hearts will ache. When moms leave us, there remains a void, a space that can never be filled or replaced.

And, when you think about it, that’s really a good thing. God bless.

* Photo used without permission and will be removed if asked

Monday, July 28, 2014

Kevin J. Anderson's "The Dark Between The Stars"...A Book Review


If reading were like eating, I feel like I just finished a buffet dinner, complete with appetizers, main courses and desserts.

I just finished Kevin J. Anderson's The Dark Between The Stars and I am full! 

But not the "I'm full and I never want to eat anything like that again," or "I'm glad that meal is over full." I'm full and glad that I'll be able to feast yet again.

I follow the talented Mr. Anderson on various social media sites and was fortunate enough to "win" an audiobook copy of his book. The usual length of audiobooks I choose is somewhere between eight hours and 12 hours. This book takes over twenty-one hours to finish. And now that I've finished it, it never felt like I've been listening that long. I don't know if "It's a fast listen," is a recognized phrase, but for me, in this case, it's true.

From the very beginning, I was hooked. A kidnapping in space lets us know that humans will not change even hundreds of years into the future. We're also provided a slew of human (and other species...) weaknesses that create the various story lines that run the length of the novel. I also feel the need to include that I'm reading this as the first book in Anderson's The Saga of the Seven Suns or The Saga of Shadows worlds. I was not familiar with these worlds when I began this epic, but I don't believe I needed to. I did not feel like I was missing anything by not reading the previous books in the saga. So if you're in the same situation, don't let that stop you from picking up the book.

I haven't included specifics in this review, maybe because there's a lot to digest. It's been a long time since I've jumped into a big story like this and even longer since it's been a science fiction story. Even though I'm full, I know I'll be going back to this particular buffet as soon as I can.

* Photo used without permission from:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Pleasant Green Taylor, A Real Pioneer...

Pleasant Green Taylor

Pleasant Green Taylor

At church today I did a little web search on my ancestors. There's some pretty cool stuff out there. And because it's Pioneer Day weekend where I live, I did some research on my Great Grandmother's father, Pleasant Green Taylor.

The guy was amazing!

In our religion there are certain events we remember, stories of people who lived long ago and the things that happened to them. Born in 1827, Pleasant experienced persecutions, poverty, theft, the death of his father at a young age, like most of the early members. He also was there when the cornerstone of the of the Nauvoo Temple. He remembered how the saints felt after Joseph Smith was taken to Carthage and saw the messenger come into town with news of the Prophet's death. He crossed the frozen river from Nauvoo and made his way with his family to Utah as a pioneer. And this is only a summary of his early life. He lived to be 90-years old.

He lived and experienced the history I've known and studied for years. I knew many of my ancestors came to the state with similar histories, but reading it today, it made it real.

So I thank you, my Great Grandmother's father. Thanks for everything!


* Photo used without permission from:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Maytag...Pretty Dependable

Eleven years ago, this month, actually, we moved into our house. It's exciting to move into a new house and what made it more exciting was it was brand new. We did a lot of the sweat equity and even got to pick out everything inside...floors, paint colors, light fixtures, and even the appliances.

We picked Maytag.

The dishwasher's kind of falling apart, but it still works. One of these days we'd like to see it replaced, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. Unless it dies, of course.

But, it's the washer and dryer that I thought of today as we did our usual Saturday laundry. I realized that for all of those eleven years we've averaged three or four loads of laundry a week. After loading in the second load of the day, I went to the Maytag website and wrote them a little note which basically says the same thing I'm writing here, only with fewer words.

We've never had a problem with the washer and dryer. We thought about six months ago that the washer was dying. It was making a horrible sound. Turns out, the kids had left a Lego® piece in one of their pockets and it was rattling around in the washer basin. You'd never know that a small piece of plastic could generate such a terrible sound.

I suppose if our washer and/or dryer stop working, we'll replace them. When that time may be, I don't know. But if the past is any indication of the future, it might be a long, long time. Looks like our Maytag appliances were a pretty good purchase.

Friday, July 25, 2014

But, I've Always Had Eyebrows...

Whenever I do a show, it's time to put on the make up. I don't normally put on make up--only when I'm on stage. Still, I believe (and she will back me up on this...), I wear more make up than my wife.

Still, there's one thing that freaks people out whenever I put on stage make up. 

I suddenly have eyebrows.

Since it does freak people out, I decided to take some before, during and after selfies of my make up transformation. Here you go!

The before picture...

Base added...

Eye's done...

One eyebrow...

And the other...

Until it's all done.

As you can tell, I'm not an expert at applying make up--I'm completely self-taught. But after so many shows, directors and stage managers seem to be okay with how I look. And, after I'm done with my make up application, I have to say, everyone's pretty much right--I do look freakish with eyebrows. 

The funny thing is, I've had them all along.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Days Of 47 Parade...One Century After The Original

Many of my friends are posting on social media today about their ancestors. You see, where I live many of us can trace our family roots to a remarkable group of people who left their homes, their jobs, and many times, other family members to join others of their faith, far away, in the west

Today my state celebrates Pioneer Day, which is weird because the 24th of July is not the date our state achieved statehood. It's the day Brigham Young rose from his sick bed and told those with whom he traveled that they have traveled enough. This was the place.

I've always been amazed that the famous church president chose such an amazing place. The weather is is wonderful (except for those days it gets too hot...). There's beauty in the mountains and the plains. It's an incredible place.

A tradition of Pioneer Day is, of course, the Pioneer Day Parade. People begin camping out days in advance to secure a prime viewing location. I once ran a 10K race and we ran along the parade route, so technically, I've been in that parade. As a youth, I participated in the Youth Parade. We dressed as vegetables. I think I was a giant corn or a bean.

But my mother takes the cake when it comes to having a cool parade story.

You see, when she was in high school, her high school marching band was invited to march in the 100 year anniversary of the famous Pioneer Day parade. Though my mom's no longer with us, I do have a couple of pictures. She played the tuba (or baritone or sousaphone...) and I believe you can spot her in the top picture. I think she's on the left, between the two tall men, one playing a sousaphone and the other playing a trombone. Of course, this may not be her, but I like to think it is. Then I can say, "See kids--that's your grandmother! Right there and she's marking in the Pioneer Day Parade in 1947."

And they will agree with me that that's pretty cool.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Danyelle Leafty's "The Curious Leaf"...A Book Review


But a wish, once wished, cannot be unwished. It finds purchase in our hearts and waits, remembering even when we forget.  Danyelle Leafty, The Curious Leaf: An Adventure in Wishing (Curiosities) 

I met Danyelle for the first time at Westercon, but I had seen her novella on social media before that (you can download or buy a copy of this book: HERE). When I finally got a copy of this story, it intrigued me. A wishing adventure?

Sure, why not?

As I began the story, I thought it was a children's tale (and it is...), but as with most good writing, the story expands beyond a simple story about a flower who wants to fly. It's about life and how we as humans view change, desires, restrictions, hard work and facing the unknown. No matter what you've experienced, there's a part of this story with which you can connect, can identify and relate. 

I enjoy stories where, as I'm reading, I do not know how it's going to end. Could the flower and its companion meet a grizzly end, thus confirming an age-old adage to "be careful for what you wish for?" Or will the characters ultimately find fulfillment and peace after their struggles? In my opinion, it could have gone either way and proved a satisfying story.

The Curious Leaf is a fast read, but it contains so much more than what's printed on the pages. At least it did for me.

 * Photo used without permission from:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jack London's "The Sea Wolf"...A Review


My wife got the audiobook for Jack London's The Sea Wolf for our kids school and when I saw it, I just had to download it.

I'm glad I did!

But, to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about reading it. The last time I read a book about a sea voyage (not counting Kevin J. Anderson's excellent novel Nemo...) was Herman Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor and I had a really tough time getting through that.

Of course, I read Melville's book as I was just beginning grad school and I'll bet if I read it again, it wouldn't be as difficult. So I thought maybe this book might be similar even though they were written roughly a century apart.

I was wrong.

I found The Sea Wolf had an incredibly contemporary feel, at least to me. The story was engaging, even  considering the different styles of today's adventure tales. If I lived in 1904 when this work was published, it would be the equivalent of the latest summer blockbuster. Imagine, people excited to read a new novel the same way we think about wanting to see a new movie. There's an innocence in that.

If you haven't read The Sea Wolf, I highly recommended it. London packs his relatively short story with adventure, intrigue, betrayal, and even a love story. So, if I do go read Billy Budd, Sailor again, I think I'll also re-read this one.

* Photo used without permission from:

Monday, July 21, 2014

Blast You, Ghirardelli!

Okay, I admit it. I enjoy eating Ghirardelli chocolate chips. I like them in cookies, in muffins, in cupcakes (and cakes...), or just by themselves. I like all the various kinds the chocolatier produces, but I'm especially fond of the dark.

After all, dark chocolate is good for you. Really! I read it somewhere!

I don't eat a lot of chocolate, other than an occasional chip. I mean, after eating this stuff, a lot of what's out there doesn't even compare. So, imagine my shock when I was notified today that "Big Chocolate" has sneakily made changes to they way they operate. 

And I am none too pleased.

It seems, at some point in the past, when we purchased a package of the deliciousness known as Chirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate, we were buying 12 oz of the addicting almost black ambrosia. And unbeknownst to us, a change was made. No longer do we buy a 12 oz package--oh no! We're only getting 10 oz and for the same price!

Oh, the humanity!

The change was so subtle we don't know when this crime was committed, and a crime it surely is. Still, I'm not so worried about today, but it's the future that troubles me. Will we one day be required to spend the same amount for 8 oz? Or 6 oz? Or, Heaven forbid, 4 oz?

If so, that will be a dark day indeed!

Oh, and my own serving them right out of the bag!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Call...A Short Story

Time For A Short Story

Just look at these two pictures. They're sweet! Now, what kind of a story can I come up with using 500 words and these two cute pictures?

And if you'd like to join me in my quest to write an engaging short story, here are the rules:

1) Use both photos in your story.
2) Keep your word count 500 or less.
3) You have until next Tuesday night to link up your post.
4) Use the Blue Link to add your story at: Leanne's, Debb's, or Tena's websites.
5) Have fun, don't stress, and let those creative juices flow!

So, let's have some stress-free creative fun!

The Call

The coffee Dan ordered grew cold as he sat at the deli catching up on several e-mails on his phone in preparation of his upcoming day. No rest for the wicked, the twenty-eight year-old corporate lawyer liked to say. 

The call came in and he almost ignored it. He didn't recognize the number, but he decided to answer it because the area code originated from when he attended law school.

"This is Dan," he spoke into his Bluetooth headset as he quickly returned to his mail app after getting the call.

"Mr. Sparks? Dan Sparks?

"This is Dan Sparks," he said as a mild wave of panic washed over him. He didn't recognize the voice, but he knew this was not an ordinary call, not a sales call, not a client's call or a friendly call. This woman, whoever she was, was all business. "Who may I say is calling?"

"I'm Trisha Bradshaw from Arizona Family Services."

She paused, maybe for effect, maybe not. Maybe she wanted him to respond, to say something.

"And what can I do for you, Ms. Bradshaw?" Dan said, his mind racing to find a reason for this woman to be calling him on his cell phone.

"Mr. Sparks. I don't have a lot of time. I have some news for you that may be hard for you to hear. Do you remember Janice Munk?"

Did he remember? That name was forever burned into the living fibers of his heart. The only girl he'd really ever loved, who he had broke their engagement--how could he ever forget her? "Um..." he stammered. "Yes, of course. What exactly is the reason for this call, Ms. Bradshaw?"

"I'm calling to notify you that Janice Munk passed away two days ago."

Dan almost dropped the phone, him having long ignored those previously so important e-mails. "I'm...ah, I'm sorry to hear that." He wanted to say more, but all thoughts in his mind vanished--all thoughts, that is, except one: why would an employee of the Arizona Family Services need to call him with this information.

"I'm sorry you had to hear this from me, but it's important you know. I have other news that may be even more difficult for you to hear.

More difficult? This woman can't be serious. "And what might that be?"

"Mr. Sparks, before Janice passed away..."

"Excuse me, can I ask from what?"

"Certainly, she died after being struck by a car while bicycling."

Dan couldn't speak. The thought of that amazing, beautiful woman no longer alive began to rip his already pained heart in two. The news also brought back years of guilt he had tried to bury.

"Mr. Sparks, I apologize but I need to continue."

"Yes, please. Go ahead."

"I need to tell you that Janice leaves behind a four-year old daughter, your daughter, Mr. Sparks."

"But, she said she didn't have it," Dan almost whispered. 

"Apparently, she did. You're a father."

"A father," Dan said and he began to cry.

Word Count: 500

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Day In My Home Town...

I didn't take a lot of pictures today, but the ones I took I like. 

At the end of each day I pick out a picture to use as my "Pic Of The Day." And, as it happens sometimes, there are a couple of pictures vying for the honor.

Tonight as I scrolled through the two dozen or so pictures I took, I picked one then thought about the rest. The pictures tell a story, a story of one day for one person in one town.

When I wrote earlier that I like today's pictures, it isn't necessarily that they're great shots. They're okay--not exceptional as far as quality. However, the people and places in these pictures are. 

We live together, bound by family and culture. We gather and laugh and experience the roller coaster of life together. And so, I give you...

A baby falcon,

A father and his beautiful daughters,

A troubadour,

An interesting building,

A sign,

A main street,

A memory.

My day in my home town.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tagged...I'm It!

A friend of mine tagged me (and several others...) in a Facebook post, the post I've included here. This isn't the first time I've been chosen to participate in such an exercise of social media tag.

Usually, I don't reciprocate.

But, this one's pretty simple and I don't want to disappoint my friend, especially since he was so kind to include me along with a stable of other authors.

So, here's my addition to the game!

Title: Speckled
A collection of short stories including many different genres

Chapter 1: The stars, at least the ones Talukua knew all his life, were gone.
Chapter 2: Jenny was so tired, so tired.
Chapter 3: "Sure enough, that Jason don't know nothing."

And there you have it.

A couple of observations. I use a lot of passive voice in my first lines of things. Of course, these are the first lines of three different short stories so maybe that has something to do with it (sorry, Dave, for the deviation of the rules...).

And, my first lines are not as "kick butt" as Dave's. Then again, I'm not as tall as him, nor do I have his hair or the ability to grow a mustache.

Thanks, Dave! This was fun!