Monday, December 30, 2019

I Woke Up Troubled This Morning

Greetings, to all my friends and neighbors out there in Internet land! And, for those family members who meet the three criteria (above the daisies, able to use a computer, and both aware and interested in my blog), I hope you don't have to go to the dentist today, unless it's for a social visit.

I woke up troubled this morning. For some reason, I was listening (just in my memory banks) to the first lines of Joan Baez singing "The Ballad of Joe Hill" at Woodstock, 50 years ago last August. I have no explanation as to why that should be so, but, to help clarify, I both listened to the song again, and did a bit of research on Joe Hill.

I already knew he was an early 20th century labor organizer, who was executed under dubious circumstances. What I didn't know was that most of his work was as a songwriter, putting revolutionary words about organizing (at the time, unions were a revolutionary concept) to the tunes of popular songs. One of his works, "The Preacher and the Slave," was set to the tune of the hymn "In The Sweet By and By." His song bewails the practice of those in authority offering poor workers starvation wages, while encouraging them to keep working hard, because they have a reward in heaven.
(Parenthetically: I have not verified this from other sources, but the single site I referenced claims that the term "pie in the sky" originated with this song. I will leave the proof of this as an exercise for the reader.)
(Also parenthetically: Without doubt, the practice of denying a worker appropriate wages is wicked in itself; to cloak greed with the promise of a heavenly reward multiplies the evil. Going beyond the employee-employer relationship,  James tells us that religious words are worthless, if we offer them to a brother or sister in place of providing for their physical needs.)
And I thought: I have food, shelter, and clothing, as well as other comforts that the rest of humanity throughout time, as well as most of the world today, could only dream about. I also have the hope of glory, which is Christ in me. So,
Why then, do I find myself praying so fervently for the things I need to make it through the day?
 I'm not sure, but I think it's because I'm troubled about our country.

There may be a lot of leaders out there, working hard to bring peace, but the noise that reaches me here in my home is that of factions fighting for power at the expense of all else. Long ago, I decided I was NOT going to try to follow political parties, or attend to ANYTHING that seemed to be divisive. Even so, the noise reaches me. I have heard that there are some saying that NOW, TODAY, is the time for active opposition, whether to a government policy, or to a civilian faction espousing some other point of view.

Admittedly, I may hear more about this than some of you, since my one remaining hobby is owning and operating (and reloading for) obsolete (also known as CHEAP!) firearms. However, apart from what seems to me to be a ludicrous battle raging over gun control, I'm also aware that there are some fairly significant issues of freedom of speech and freedom of religion that appear to be on a collision course, and I don't see that as having a good outcome.

It's not all one way, of course, and it hardly ever is. A couple of weeks ago, the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, a magazine I have long had great respect for, and one of the tiny number of magazines I subscribe to, posted an editorial titled "Trump Should Be Removed from Office."
(insert firestorm of reaction here)
Figuratively speaking, that is. This blog post does not have the bandwidth to actually carry a  firestorm of reaction. Pretty sure you need 4K, 5G, 3D VR, and lots of other alphanumerics to convey a  firestorm of reaction.
(Also also parenthetically: This isn't the first time that Christianity Today has spoken out against a problem with the behavior of a sitting president. The editorial quotes criticisms made in 1998 regarding the seeming inability to tell the truth on the part of then-President Clinton. At the time, he was assailed by Ken Starr's Whitewater investigation, Paula Jones' sexual harassment claims, and final proof of his dalliance with a 22-year-old infatuated intern, Monica Lewinsky (who probably paid the highest price of all concerned.)) 
For me, the great issue with the Galli editorial is that he went beyond identifying problem behaviors, both in the White House, and from the seemingly unquestioning evangelical supporters of the administration, to pronouncing sentence on the president: he should be removed from office. THAT, in my opinion, is NOT within the purview of the editor-in-chief. YES, identify the issues, and tell it like it is! Absolutely! But, DON'T pronounce the sentence. As Galli correctly states, that decision rests in the hands of the Senate, with the impeachment process, and with the electorate, if he remains in office.
Perhaps I am mistaken. I am not in the Trump camp, and thus as unaware as possible about all of the fragrance surrounding, etc, etc. When I was 19, I was a Democrat; by the time I was 33, I voted Republican. I considered affiliating with the Libertarians, but they are just a little bit crazier than I wish to be considered.

Regardless of all, I woke up troubled.

Part of today's study was Psalm 12, and it helped, a bit.
1 Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be,
For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
2 They speak falsehood to one another;
With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak.
3 May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
The tongue that speaks great things;
4 Who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”
5 “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy,
Now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.”
6 The words of the Lord are pure words;
As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.
7 You, O Lord, will keep them;
You will preserve him from this generation forever.
8 The wicked strut about on every side
When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.
May all of good will be found in the safety for which we long. 

Peace be on your household.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Letting Go of Pride: Dancing Like a KING!

Greetings, to all my friends and neighbors out there in Internet Land! And, to you few family members who stumbled on this, I hope you already have all the necessary supplies to put together your Thanksgiving feast.
We are low on table salt, ourselves, but, as my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, stands between me and the salt with a flaming sword in her hand, I guess that's just the way it's going to be. 
If any of you, friends, family, whatever,  find yourself looking for a place to eat food and give thanks tomorrow,  come on by the house. If it ain't already cooked, I have discovered that a pressure cooker can do wonderful things in a short amount of time.  If we run out of chairs, we have plenty of floor space.

I have some surprising news for you: I am not a king, nor any sort of ruler.
And yet, I wish to have the attitude of a king!
(King David, to be exact).

When reproached for abandoning himself to the joyous celebration of the LORD's mighty power and deliverance, and appearing to be without dignity, he replied:
"I will be more lightly esteemed than this and will be humble in my own eyes..."
If you want to look it up, it's II Samuel, chapter 6. The quote above is the first part of verse 22, but you need go back at least to verse 12 to get the context.

I'm not sure exactly when the idea of kingly humility became desirable to me. I know, FOR SURE, it wasn't a part of my make-up as a young man. I could give you example after example of how I sought glory and avoided humiliation, but I'll limit it to this one:
It's 1971. I'm a brand-new 18 year-old college freshman, and I've just gone for a successful job interview, which was part of my financial aid package. I'm exuberant! On my way back to my car, I cut across an medical building lawn. Midway across, I stumble over an irrigation valve, somewhat hidden in the grass. Thinking fast! I decide I don't want anyone watching out the windows to be amused at my clumsiness, so I start acting like I walk that way, in a hippie-dippie dance of joyous celebration of life, or something. 
Twelve years later, I'm about to be a parent for the first time. And I suppose I have learned to let go of supposed pride a bit by then. Evidence: one of the promises I made to myself was that I was always going to be honest with my son; and that if I ever made a mistake in my treatment of him, I was going to promptly admit it to him; and do what I needed to do to make it up to him. You know what? I'm reasonably sure that's one promise I've kept, with all my kids.

It had an unexpected benefit: over the years, there have been times with ALL my kids when they disagreed with some decision I had made, and they didn't like it, and so forth, rinse and repeat. However, I found that I was always able to say to them:
Listen, I know you think I'm wrong about this. Maybe I am, but I don't think so. But, you KNOW that if I find out I'm wrong, I'm gonna admit it, and I'm gonna fix it. Right?
Grudgingly, maybe, they agree, and the situations resolve. I think of it as if I have been making deposits in the First Trust Bank of Papa's Kids for all these years, and I have enough of a balance that I can draw on it. (And I have no idea how often I've been wrong. Ask my kids.)

So, on Monday, I was Papa-sitting three of my grandchildren:

Brave (3), Blue Bird (1), Bro Bro (6)

Through misunderstanding of my instructions from Mama, I put all three of the kids down for naps at noon-ish.

Heath, which is Bro Bro's legal name, was flabbergasted. Let me cut to the chase: he could not imagine that his mother had told me to put him down for a nap, and he wanted me to check with Mum. I did NOT want to disturb Mum, who was on a Mission From God, to ask about something that was perfectly clear in my mind. After a somewhat protracted discussion, which NEVER, EVER escalated to temper or tears, Heath accepted that I did, in fact, have the authority to put him down for a nap, even if that seemed utterly ridiculous. And he went to bed.

About 10 minutes later, Mum called to check on status. I passed along that I had just gotten them all down for bed. With alacrity not found in most inhabited regions of the universe, she quickly disabused me of the idea that Heath was to take a nap. Mum was dreadfully apologetic, thinking the error was hers, but it wasn't. I was even able to identify where I went wrong, as if it mattered. But, what I did next, DID matter.

I joyfully dragged my ancient carcass up those blessed stairs to the boys' bedroom, and summoned Heath. I told him that he was right, and that I was wrong, and that Mum had just clarified things for me. 
And I told him how impressed I was that he had been so cooperative, and BOTH parts of that statement are true! He HAD been cooperative, more so than could reasonably be expected for a young man in the first grade, and I WAS impressed with the way he handled my error.

I passed the information along to Mum and Dad when they returned from their (successful) Mission From God, to emphasize what a wonderful character their first-born son demonstrated. And then, Papa Pat got the Great Big Blessing.

Dad praised and encouraged Heath for his behavior, and gave him some other examples of adults who made mistakes, and needed to fix them (which the Mission From God was designed to redress), and then he said:
"And you know how when I make a mistake, I always admit it to you and make it up to you?" Heath nodded, enthusiastically. "Well," Dad points to me, "he's the one who taught me to do that."
Beloved, beloved, beloved: in my heart then, and now as I recount it to you, I am dancing like a king.
May you find such moments in your life.

Peace be on your household.

(P.S. Evidently, I am supposed to explicitly state that when you click on a book link here, Amazon knows that you were referred by me. And, if you actually BUY the book, I get some paltry amount (2.39%, I believe) for having made the referral. I thought it was public knowledge, because it's right there in the referral link, industry standard, etc, but evidently, I have been negligent. SO: if you click on links here, to a product on Amazon, Amazon will know I referred you!)
( 'nother P.S. Will I have reviews coming soon? I surely hope so! Laura Montgomery has an EXCELLENT relatively new release in her NWWWLF series; Shami Stovall has not one but TWO books about PIRATES! that are just great, with a third one in the works and there are others with longer wait times. Behold, I shall hide nothing from you: multiple facets of the universe have gathered together with the obvious intent of pounding the Chattahoochee Pattersons into powder and casting us to the winds. Were it not for the steadfast love of my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, I do not have a clue of how I would have been able to keep breathing in and out. We WILL prevail!)

Friday, November 22, 2019

RED Friday: Until They ALL COME HOME!

Today is RED Friday:
(Until they all come home...)

Now, I probably had the easiest duty in the world; stationed in Ludwigsburg and Stuttgart-Bad Canstatt, March 1972 - September 1975, with about a half-million other troops. Our main role was to make the Soviets think twice (or nine times) before they rolled the tanks through the Fulda Gap, and it worked. We had a tense moment when they detached my unit in preparation for a Middle East deployment in 1974, or thereabouts, but I guess the threat of the US muscle did the trick then as well. So, no tissue damage (apart from that inflicted when I drove the car into the river on October 15, 1973; but that's another story).

Even so...
Even so, although I ETS'd 2 SEP 75, I don't know how long it was before I really came home. For sure and certain, that ignorant, arrogant, sniveling 19 year old who got off the plane at Rhein-Main never came back. The very SLIGHTLY wiser 22 year old who replaced him was a much better citizen!
I jumped straight out of the Army into college, but it took a VERY long time before I could start a sentence with anything but "When I was in the Army..."

What I'm saying is that there is more to coming home than just putting on soft clothing and re-learning the language of civilians. I confess: for me, it was relatively easy. It still took time, though.

So, this morning, when I put on my RED shirt,  it is not only for those who are eating in mess halls across the oceans, who check duty rosters to see what the other "duties as assigned" might be, who even this very day might have some unexpected physical, emotional, or even spiritual trauma thrust upon them.
Those FIRST, of course. They are, after all, serving as guarantors of the freedom we have, resting here in relative comfort, relative safety. Whether they are facing active combat, or serving, as I did, as a promise of the lethality that can be unleashed on those insane enough to cross the line, they serve us.

But SECOND, I wear RED for those who have not yet been able to come home, all the way.

Remember everyone deployed; until they all come home.

Welcome Back!

Peace be on your household.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Dealing With Stuff I Don't Like

Long, long ago, I used to think that Stuff I Didn't Like happened to me because I was trapped in some incomprehensible cycle of small happiness, followed by disaster. As a result, I was fatalistic; Stuff I Didn't Like kept happening.
It looked a lot like this (except not nearly as pretty):

The Cycle of Life

Later, I believed that Stuff I Didn't Like happened to me because God was mad at me. As a result, I tried to stop doing things that made God mad, and hope He ignored me; some of the Stuff I Didn't Like stopped, but an awful lot kept happening.
It looked a lot like this:

Angry Jehovah, Sistine Chapel

Much later, I realized that most of the Stuff I Didn't Like happened to me because it was a logical consequence of my behavior. As a result, I changed my behavior; almost all of the Stuff I Didn't Like stopped happening.
It looked a lot like this (except I'm smiling, not crying):

A sign that no longer bothers me

For the last several years, I realize that just about all of the Stuff I Don't Like comes as a result of loving people, and they make their own mistakes, which causes them pain, and random things also happen to cause them pain, and I don't like it when people I love are in pain. As a result, I realized that the only alternative was to stop loving people; therefore

Stuff I Don't Like is going to be with me forever.

It looks a lot like this:
Acceptance, Forgiveness, Restoration;
Things we all need, 
To give and receive.

 Peace be on your household.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Cold Weather Management, Two Sick Kids, and Hallucinating

Greetings to all of my internet friends and neighbors, as well as those who I know primarily from other things that the Net. And to my family who just happened to stumble on this blog post,  I do so hope that everyone has at least one warm blanket.

Yesterday I wrote about the generosity of the Atlanta Air Authority, and their decision to donate a complete HVAC system to one lucky veteran, who turned out to be me, The house is now survivable, even comfortable enough that company can enjoy hanging out with us. Doesn't cost much to run, either.

I also talked, a bit, about my need for coffee most days, but particularly when it's COLD.

Some of you may know this about me: I bought my first motorcycle right after I got out of the Army, and followed that up with at least seven more bikes.

My current machine is a 1985 V65 Sabre; 

65 cubic inches is 1100 cubic centimeters, or near enough to make no difference, and that 's what I ride, when I ride. And it's COLD!
One (!) of the reasons I like coffee so much. There are others.

And because of my fondness for the brewed goodness, yesterday I decided I'd see just how reliable the pot was, with respect to giving me the same amount of brew all the time.

And because I tend to collect friends who also like to Know Stuff and Find Stuff Out, my offer to describe my research methodology was taken up.

But, you won't get it today, Cedar, nor anyone else who is looking for it, because Papa Pat is seeing things, and hearing things, (but NOT believing they are real! A significant point !) and making ATROCIOUS errors, because he hasn't slept since Tuesday.

Okay, Cedar: you asked, AND you shall receive! In a bit...

Procedures and mechanics for this amusing little exercise will be transferred from scribbled lines on a small collection of 3x5 notepad sheets to storage on my laptop  computer screen, and distributed to those without the foresight to opt out. No time-frame has been established as to just when that will be accomplished. Here’s why:

Wednesday (just after midnight), I get a prayer request from Granddaughter Alexx in Charleston, WV.
Alexx and our grandson Esan

My new great grandson Aki is sick. and having difficulties breathing.
Aki still has the new car smell, 
and his tags have not been reemoved 

 So, of course, I pray, and offer words of encouragement. I promise to stay in touch. Later in the morning, I make sure that my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, prying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA,  knows what’s going on.
But, I don’t get back to sleep that night, and a nap just doesn’t work out for me that day. No problem!

Thursday (also just after midnight), the phone rings again. I have JUST begun to drowse, but when I hear that our precious Miss Evelyn is sick, and the call is a request to come sit for older (sleeping) brothers Heath (6), and Eliott (3), while Miss Evelyn went to the Doctor with her Mommy and Daddy.

Is Miss Evelyn not the most adorable little gurrrrll?

Her Daddy, Mommy, and Heath, and Eliott

Heath and Eliott make NotASound throughout the night. I read, eat a brownie, make a cup of coffee and drink it while making mediocre French toast, and then  welcome the family home when they return around  5 AM with a not-frightening diagnosis, and an appropriate treatment plan. Hugs and kisses to all, ad I’m out the door, to go home and catch up on my sleep.

Except, I don’t. For reasons unknown to me, I didn’t sleep, once again. And the impairment of my cognitive functions, as well as losses in physical coordination, mean that I absolutely don’t get behind the wheel of a car. I just looked at my watch: 9:42 AM. That means it’s taken me WELL over an hour to get this in coherent form, because I keep making mistakes. I’ve looked up at the screen multiple times to discover that I’ve had finger or book, resting on the keyboard.

So, I’m closing this now, and I’m going to go to sleep. I hope no one knocks on my door or calls me. I might say something rude.

Papa Pat Patterson

Peace be on your household

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Atlanta Air Authority and Keurig: 19 degrees? No prob!

19 degrees this morning, as my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, left for work around 6:30 AM. Brrrr!

It's a couple of days after Veterans Day, and with that as a prompt, coupled with the FREEZING temps, I'm thinking with gratitude in my not-frozen fingers and toes about a particular act of generosity. It was just two years ago that the folks at Atlanta Air Authority provided this semi-impoverished veteran and his family with a brand new, comprehensive heating and air system; I won the system at a local Veterans Day event. Good-bye and good riddance to sweltering in the summer, and huddling around space heaters in the winter.


I grew up in a home without those luxuries, and remember how awful it was to get out of bed on a cold Georgia morning.
So, thanks again, and for folks living up here in Cherokee County with me, check out their website at the link above or their Facebook page.

Another thing that gets us through the cold mornings (any morning, actually) is a great big cup of hot steaming coffee! We have a coffee maker that makes a pot at a time, but mostly, we use a Keurig K40. It's an older unit, but it still works well. Or does it?

You ever look down at your coffee cup, and say, "No way is that a full cup of coffee!" Well, I have, LOTS of times, and it also seemed that sometimes I get a bigger amount of coffee than other times. So, I decided to check it out.

Test equipment:
Keurig K40, measuring cup, digital scale
Reusable K-cup, Folgers coffee, and a big cup to save the results

 I took careful notes, and followed good procedures, but I'm not going to document those here. If you want to see how I made sure I was getting good data, let me know, and I'll send you my methodology.

First, I ran several cycles of just water through, with an empty K-cup in place. I ran five cycles each in the three capacities of Small Medium, and Large. (Actually ran six on the Large setting.) For accuracy, I weighed them with my scale set on the 'grams' setting, and then converted the results to ounces in the spreadsheet.
Then, I ran one more cycle at each setting, by size order, to see if there was any  variance due to switching settings.
Finally, I brewed one cup of coffee at each setting, using one scoop of Folgers in the re-usable K-cup.

Here are my results:

Gross weight in grams Net weight in grams Net weight in ounces
Water Small Medium Large Small Medium Large Small Medium Large
Run 1 224 287 352 171 234 299 6.03 8.25 10.55
Run 2 222 296 351 169 243 298 5.96 8.57 10.51
Run 3 225 294 351 172 241 298 6.07 8.50 10.51
Run 4 227 291 351 174 238 298 6.14 8.40 10.51
Run 5 223 290 348 170 237 295 6.00 8.36 10.41
Run 6



Run 7 228 293 350 175 240 297 6.17 8.47 10.48

Coffee 218 284 335 165 231 282 5.82 8.15 9.95

As you can see, the machine gave fairly reliable results. If I was funded, I'd repeat this using coffee each time, since that's what we really care about, but one run was all I wanted to do sine I'm financing my own research. (and, if you look at the picture, the brewed coffee is all in the big green Bubba cup. No wastage!

I also weighed the coffee grounds, before and after brewing. There was 13 grams of water in with the grounds, which accounts for the differences in the water v coffee output.

I was only checking to see if the Keurig was reliably putting out the same amount of brew at each setting,  and that appears to be the case. My subjective opinion earlier that it wasn't enough coffee is likely due to perspective, both from the cup size (I use a GIANT cup) and from demand (when I want coffee, I want a LOT of coffee!).

It was fun. I ran this as I was eating my breakfast, which was a big bowl of pinto beans and rice, the heart of EVERY good breakfast! And I didn't spill NOTHING, which is good. I was writing my procedures and the results on the tiny pages of a notepad, and it reminded me of the days when I was doing research that really DID matter, and how spilled pinto beans could remain with a researcher for years...

Peace be on your household.

Friday, November 8, 2019

R. E. D. Friday again, 11/8/19

When I think about RED Friday, I remember my brother Garvin Ray Bell, who taught me about RED Friday. Ray, you passed into glory on my birthday, five years ago. As long as my brain can commemorate Red Fridays, I'll be thinking about you, and your beloved bride, Pepperr.

Today is RED Friday:
R emember
E veryone
D eployed...

This is written specifically with US troops in mind, but, with any necessary modifications, it may be applied to any nation's military.

Listen to me: while you read this in the comfort of your home, they are still out there.It does not matter whether or not you think the reasons for that are good or bad; they are our family.
Every one of them is someone's granddaughter or grandson, son or daughter. Some are husbands or wives, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. Every one of them is a volunteer.
They joined up because they saw it as a path to a better way of life, personally, and probably because they had service in their blood.

So, on Friday, let it be a RED Friday. Wear something red, and Remember Everyone Deployed.
Until they all come home.

Peace be on your household.

Friday, October 4, 2019

"Star Marque Rising," by Shami Stovall

And, for those of you running an ad blocker, here's the cover image:

Nicely done, eh?

And here's the link!

Much condensed versions of this review may be found at Goodreads and on Amazon (I'll add the link in when it posts).

Greetings to all my internet friends and neighbors, and to any of my family checking in, it’s going to be a lovely day!

Shami Stovall is a (relatively) new author, and her work deserves much better treatment at my hands than it has gotten. She sent me a copy of this book, pre-pub, for my review, and it just didn’t happen. It got placed in the queue, but then it got lost, and then, and then, and then. And, as a result, I missed out on a WONDERFUL read.

Let us first consider what I regard as the core of the book: the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

In the classic formulation, two prisoners, A and B,  are arrested for a crime committed jointly. Separately, each is offered a chance to confess.
If they both remain silent, then they will both be convicted of a lesser crime, with a one year sentence.
If they both confess, they will both be convicted, with shared responsibility, of the greater crime, and each be given a two year sentence.
If A remains silent, and B confesses, then B goes free, and A takes the whole rap, getting a three year sentence.

Since the original formulation of the dilemma, there have been many refinements and modifications to fit all sorts of situations, including investment strategy, sports, addiction, and international relations. In some cases, it’s formulated as a zero-sum game (whatever one wins, another has to lose), while others are less-than-zero sum (everybody loses, but a least-loss scenario is possible). It really has some fascinating applications!

I encountered it twice in an academic setting. The first time was in a study of group dynamics, for a counseling class; the second was in some dip-stick business class that I never, ever should have been taking. However, I DID gain insight into the human condition in both cases; I particularly recall seeing a brittle, manipulative classmate attempt to use smiles and hugs to control the revulsion reaction of another colleague. Making social dynamics explicit: wow, what a feeling!

Now, in “Star Marque Rising,”  Stovall posits the Prisoner’s Dilemma as a drinking game among the characters, but ALSO (brilliantly, in my opinion) constructs the story to make it obvious that the same dynamics are driving the actions of the main players.

I don’t often get really, really goofy when reading a book. I read LOTS of books, many, many more than I review. But, in reading THIS book, I got really, really goofy. What I WANTED to do was to call the author up, and say “I JUST SAW WHAT YOU DID THERE! IS THAT WHAT YOU REALLY DID? PLEASE TELL ME THAT’S WHAT YOU REALLY, REALLY DID!”

No, I did not call the author. It was Stupid AM in the morning! Besides that, I don’t have her phone number. Besides that, my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, was asleep in the bed next to me, and she would have been highly disturbed and offended to be woken up by hearing me squee on the telephone to an Unknown Woman.

So, I emailed her instead. Much better choice.

Now, returning from Cloud-Cuckoo Land, let me give you some nice summary statements about the book:
It’s a space opera. It starts on a filthy, corrupt, violent and vile space station, moves to a freighter (the Star Marque), lands on a planet, and goes other places. Lots of sentient beings die, some with explicit gore, others silently, and many of them don’t really deserve it.
Clevon Demarco is the protagonist. He received significant bionic upgrades as a child, but has been making his way as a loner on the aforementioned vile space station. He has no money, and no friends, and no future.
Then, he gets rescued by the cops. And, as part of the price of his rescue, he joins them.
The boss is (seemingly-super-woman) Endellion Voight, who apparently makes it her practice to cruise the universe, rescuing sad-sacks like Demarco, and incorporating them into her team.
And, way, way off in the Far Country (I speak figuratively) live the Special People. They own everything worth owning, they run everything worth running, and if you aren’t a Special People, you are, at best, a tool of the Special People.
And if you can’t figure out that this sets up a GREAT framework for a story, you haven’t read many great stories.

I’ve tried (a little) to analyze the difference between this and a YA. The things in common are the Hero’s Journey, exploding spaceships, good guys and bad guys. However, this digs deeper into motivation than you’ll see in YA, and there is an occasional foray into sexuality that librarians don’t believe YA’s know anything about. It’s not porn, though, so don’t seek this one out for THAT.

It’s a smashing good read, and the beginning of a series, and I hope that others are much nicer to Shami Stovall than I have been.

Peace be on your household.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Completed Books, Awaiting Reviews

Greetings to all my internet friends and neighbors, and to all my family members who may have stumbled here, Bebe is now a great-great-grandmother! Aki Alexander Emiohe was born yesterday, the first great-grandchild for my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, and me.

Welcome, little one!

Now, to the matter at hand: I was slightly successful the other day in sneaking in a few words about Laura Montgomery's "Simple Service," although in no way could what I wrote be termed a proper review by Papa Pat. Still, you have to prime the pump.

That's a term that only a very few readers will understand. In the days before municipal water supplies existed, water came from a well, and the wells supplied that water via a hand pump. In order to create the needed suction, you poured a bucket of water down a pipe, and then pumped away. You always made sure the bucket was left filled after using the pump!

So, here are a few more buckets; these are books I have read, and am waiting to be able to review them. My hope is that by writing these thumbnails, I'll break through the block. If that doesn't work, it will at least make a down-payment on what I owe the writers for the work they put in.

"Simple Service," Laura Montgomery. Since I have already written a few lines about it here, I'll cut and paste and edit what I said about Laura Montgomery's excellent book "Simple Service: Martha's Sons, Book One." The series Montgomery has started is called "Martha's Sons." This Martha is a person of literature, living on a planet that was not what they were looking for, and thus designated as NWWWLF. She has multiple sons and daughters, and two of them in particular are the main characters of this compelling book, addressing themes of family loyalty and conflict, the difficulty of living on a planet which requires extensive terraforming, the tendency of oligarchies to resort to ever-more repressive measures to keep in power, all giving us a lovely, lovely back-story to her "Waking Late" series.

"Death's Talisman," J. F. Posthumus. She's not a bad person; not at ALL! In fact, she does her very best to rise above the wild oats sown during an admittedly wilder youth, when she was wont to smite her enemies. Now, she's with child, and she is discovering things about the baby daddy, and her mama is a bit of a nutter, and...goes on from there. I have no excuse for not reviewing this one earlier; I've had it at least since July 8.

"Star Marque Rising," Shami Stovall. I feel THE WORST about not getting this one reviewed earlier. Not only have I had a copy since last February (I think), the writer is fairly new to the scene, and deserved better treatment at my hands. The book is a glorious, exploding spaceships, evil empire space opera, with a bodacious twist: Stovall has incorporated The Prisoner's Dilemma into the writing, both literally as a drinking game the characters play, and as the primary framework for the story. I found it to be brilliant.

"The Replicant War," Chris Kennedy It COULD be argued that this is the last Dragon review, except I didn't review the entries for the category that included this as a finalist (Media Tie-In). Most, but not all, of the CKP books I've read are in a different storyline, featuring mechs and aliens; what sets this one apart is that gamer geeks discover that the hot new game they are playing is really happening. I don't think I qualify as a Gamer, but I do recognize the appeal of an immersive experience that takes you away from the demands of work and study.

"Gold on the Hoof," Peter Grant This is the third installment in the story of Walter Ames, a former Confederate soldier who heads west to make his fortune. Grant does a magnificent job of making the seemingly dull routine of building a transportation company, rebuilding rifles, and selling horses into something exciting. Of course, evil corrupt businessmen, liars, cheats, thieves, and thugs with guns have something to say about how things are done as well.

"Bob's Saucer Repair," Jerry Boyd Mild-mannered Bob finds intergalactic love, and a chance to make a few bucks, when his mechanical skills allow him to get a discombobulated spaceship working again. This is PRIMARILY told humorously, but there is sufficient intrigue and gun-play to raise it far, as in WAY, WAY far, above the level of a 1960's Disney movie.

"Operation Flash, Episode 2: Hinges of Fate," Nitay Arbel. One of the MANY attempts on Hitler's life succeeds in this timeline, and Germans are given the chance to redeem Germany before the Allies do it for them. I was stationed in Germany from March of 1973 to September of 1975, and visited some of the places discussed in the book. The book does two things for me: it refreshes the horror I experienced when touring the museum located at the site of the concentration camp at Dachau, near Munich, reminding me of the evil of the murder factories put in place as a policy matter; it also reminds me that there were a significant fraction of decent Germans who resisted. I personally served with a former Wehrmacht soldier, Herr Gerhard Schroff, and a former Luftwaffe clerk, Frau Elsie Geist. Neither had been Nazis.

Small rant, by me. I also spent time in East Berlin, administered by our former allies in that conflict. In 1975, it was VERY easy to see the iron fist, because the velvet glove was awfully threadbare.  Yes, evil exists, and it must be resisted by people of conscience.
It's too easy to think "I never would have supported such an obviously wicked government!" Before we get TOO self-righteous, though, remember, among others, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney. They died, because they were working to make it possible that babies like my new great-grandson would be able to vote one day.
June, 1964
This was not NATIONAL policy; it was, however, an act supported by local policy.
Just something to keep in mind.

Okay, those seven books are those I have read, but not been able to review, from authors who have entrusted me with their works. In addition to those, I've also re-read some Heinlein, who I tend to go to when I need inspiration, and so on. Besides these, there are at least that many which are in the queue to be read, that I haven't gotten to yet. I will.

Peace be on your household.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Hymn to Physical Pain: Rudyard Kipling, 1932

Greetings to all my internet friends and neighbors,  and welcome to my attempt to get SOMETHING, ANYTHING, in print.  And for any of my family checking in, this is a story you have not heard, although the subject will be familiar to you.

I've just finished Laura Montgomery's excellent book "Simple Service: Martha's Sons, Book One." I'd like to review it for you, but alas, I have found that attempting to review ANY of the several books I've read immediately results in a bad outcome for me. It seems that an even greater burden comes upon me at the moment I open the word processor, trivializing the writing of reviews, and I can't proceed. It's just writer's block, I know, and it will pass. It has always done so in the past.

But: here's the progression I followed: the series Montgomery has started is called "Martha's Sons." This Martha is a person of literature, living on a planet that was not what they were looking for, and thus designated as NWWWLF. She has multiple sons and daughters, and two of them in particular are the main characters of this compelling book, addressing themes of family loyalty and conflict, the difficulty of living on a planet which requires extensive terraforming, the tendency of oligarchies to resort to ever-more repressive measures to keep in power, all giving us a lovely, lovely back-story to her "Waking Late" series.

The story is quite engaging, but it was the sub-title that kept center-stage in my mind as I finished the read this morning. In fact, I had quite convinced myself that the name of the book was "The Sons of Martha," enough so that I had a moment of difficulty locating the right file to open, as I shifted from one Kindle platform to another. And that lead me to Kipling.

Not that Montgomery references Kipling in the book; the only identifiable reference is to one James Shirley, who wrote "Death the Leveller," presumably some time before his own death in 1666; I feel certain that a post-mortem poet would find it difficult to get published at that time, leveled or not.
I had actually conflated two of Kipling's poems in my memory. For some reason, I had remembered the SUBJECT of "The Sons of Martha," but had assigned to it the title "The Hymn of Breaking Strain." So, it was to that second poem I went first, quickly to disabuse myself of the mis-attribution. However, once there, I discovered the poem which constitutes the title of this blog post, "Hymn to Physical Pain."

I was interested. I am familiar intimately with physical pain, and slightly knowledgeable about the sad fact that Kipling suffered terribly from abdominal pain for the last 20 years of his life. In fact, four years after this poem was published, Kipling died after surgery to repair an intestinal hemorrhage. So, why does he write a hymn to it?

My first, quick reading lead me astray. I thought he was praising the remission of physical pain, which I can absolutely understand.

Subsequent, more careful review set me straight. Here's what Kipling is saying:
Physical pain is good, because it takes our mind off mental/emotional pain, which is far worse.

Hmmmm. I'm going to have to think about that one. As it happens, my current age matches that of Kipling when he wrote this poem; he was only 70 when he died. (ONLY 70? When did 70 become too young to die in my mind?)

My last bout with the intense, captivating pain that is referenced here was a few months ago, and I can absolutely testify to the fact that it drives every other thought from your mind. Surgery brought an end to my pain (want to see a picture of the incision?) but that wasn't available for Kipling. Frankly, I can't imagine enduring the intense degree of torment he must have felt for any length of time; I was only hospitalized for a week or so before they finally opened my belly, and until then I was watching the clock like a monomaniac, and ringing the bell for the nurse to come put the stuff in my IV IMMEDIATELY.

But Kipling says the other pain, that of his soul, was worse. I know he lost a daughter to pneumonia in 1899, and his son was killed in 1915 in WWI, after Kipling had used his influence to get him a commission in the Irish Guards. For the rest, I can recommend to you The History Guy's YouTube presentation.

I guess this will, ultimately, be my takeaway: I am EVER so glad that all I have is physical pain. I'm not denying or trying to minimize it; people who are close to me can verify that there are times when it is all I can do to drag myself out of bed. (Fortunately, those times are rare!) But, it IS just pain, after all. It's not suffering, it's not misery. Those are additives, which I can choose or not.

And today, I choose not.

Peace be on your household.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Sword and Blood: Vampire Musketeer #1, Sarah A Hoyt

And, for those of you running an ad blocker, here is an older cover:

This review is also found on Goodreads, and on Amazon.

“To me, musketeers! To me, of the king! TO ME, MUSKETEERS! TO ME, OF THE KING! "

Why in the HECK do they call them Musketeers? There is not a musket in evidence, EVER, in any of the literature or the movies. It's all swords and swordplay, and dashing to and fro.

Here's what I think: I think this is all elitist propaganda, designed to convince us that the ferocity and training of heroes is supreme. That's crap. If you want to triumph, ask the guys who are 5'6" and 130 pounds to get the job done, and the moderately sized sized non-heroic people will use muskets (or the modern equivalent) to win yer war for you and save civilization. Average guys, not some privileged small- brained aristocracy with feathers in their hats, flouncy capes, waving around sharp pointy things.


France, the jewel of the world (HA!) is overrun with vampires. Since this is before America, they have no one to turn to for rescue, and so they make a truce with the enemy.

Wow. Couldn't see THAT one coming, could ya? The French making a treaty with the enemy? Oh. My.

And of course, Athos, one of the Famous Guys With Sharp Pointy Things gets bitten, and then we are off to the races.

Secret truth, here: there is a good reason he became a Famous Guy instead of living out his life as a Fabulous Aristocrat. It seems he killed his wife by hanging her, and has since then been filled with remorse. Seems he had spotted the sign of the COLLABORATORS (this is before the treaty) on her neck, and strung her up.

The incompetent Fabulous Aristocrat can't allow himself to do a competent job of his impulsive act, though, and carelessly leaves her body intact, instead of whacking off her head, driving a stake through her heart, burning her body to a crisp on the barby, etc. He's a Fabulous Aristocrat, and can't be bothered with doing things correctly, so, picking the absolutely worst choice available due to a combination of fear, shame, and the grinding edges of a broken heart, he runs away from her inviolate corpse to Paris. where he allows himself to marinate in guilt, brandy, self-hatred and doubt, while becoming a Famous Guy With A Sharp Pointy Thing.

Because there are no other options. It's a planned economy.

Meanwhile, D'Artagnan, a brave and talented, though unschooled, member of the country gentry arrives in Paris in the nick of time to hook up with Famous Guys With Sharp Pointy Things. They are killing vampires, and that's what he wants to do, since the vampires have killed his parents, among others.

Lots of running around and hiding secrets from friends and enemies, and some fighting.

Turns out that having yer blud sucked out is a lot like sex, at least for some people in some circumstances.

Wow. Never saw THAT coming, either!
(Okay, I jest, I jest. I know that there are certain tropes that are essential to the story, and that one is key. If you don't include the sensual aspect, you are betraying every writer in the genre since Bram Stoker, and also eliminating a lot of the reasons the vamps aren't all killed in about 15 minutes after discovery. Everybody wants good sex, it seems, and in a country formerly ruled/heavily influenced by a celibate clergy, vampires mean you can dance around the issue in confession. A bit. Until you die, or turn. )

BUT! Where do the vampires come from? What's the origin myth? It's been a LONG time since I read "Dracula," and I don't follow the genre, but I recall nothing about the origin of the monsters in Bram Stoker's . The Sparkly Vampire literature, of which I know nothing at all, may give a back story, but the letters of Jonathan Harker don't mention it. (I could be wrong about this. It has been some years since I read the original.)

I LOVE a good back story, and TA-DA!!! "Sword and Blood" provides it, quite nicely, thank you very much. AND that's one of my two favorite things about the book. Well, three, if you include 'it gives me an opportunity to mock the French.'

My favorite thing? Read the BIG WORDS at the top of the page.
( In my opinion, it's quite as well done as "Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!")

We Dare: An Anthology of Augmented Humanity, Chris Kennedy, Jamie Ibson, eds.

And, for those of you running an ad blocker, here's the cover image:

A condensed version of this blog post may be found on Goodreads, and it has been/ will be submitted to Amazon as well. And,  HERE'S THE LINK to THAT!

Greetings to all my internet friends and neighbors, and for those of you who are counting down with me to the Dragon Awards, YOU ARE TOO LATE!!! HAHA AHHHAHA!!!!! And to any of my family checking in, you might want to check out two oldies but goodies : one for “Leader of the Pack,” by the Shangi-Las, and the other “Leader of the Laundromat,” by the Detergents. 
Aw, shucks, watch the entire “I’ve Got A Secret” episode from 1964. We watched it back then, after all!

“We Dare” is one of the books I was reading when the Dragon dropped in, and disrupted all the plans that were in place. Now, that ended a week ago, and I haven’t been QUITE idle since then. In fact, almost as soon as the last review was filed, I grabbed up some Heinlein I keep for just such occasions, and lost myself in the tales of The Man Who Sold The Moon, and so on. Quite lovely. In fact, I doubt that I have reviewed those oldies, since I only started doing this a little over five years ago, and I really don’t know when I read some of his works. But, that’s for another time.

There ARE some others that were high on my list of TBR&R, and they will come in as rapid a fashion as I can honorably do so. So, Jennie, Mackey, Laura, Doug, Peter, Jerry, Chris, Nitay, Robert, and all of the others: YES, I have your books, and I am champing at the bit to get them into my brain and the results out of the ends of my fingers. Everybody else, all of you who have been patient,  have been patient, and have been patient, I’ll put out a request for new materials as I clear up space.

“We Dare: An Anthology of Augmented Humanity,” is a collection of fifteen stories from fifteen authors, and MOSTLY, the only thing they have in common is that they deal with implications of a world in which human beings are able to receive machine enhancements. Not a new concept, it received popular attention with the 1970’s series “The Six Million Dollar Man.” Good thing, or bad thing? It depends on who you ask, it depends on what you read.

“A handsome young cyborg named Ace
Wooed women at every base.
But when ladies glanced at
His special enhancement
They vanished with nary a trace.”
("Alpha Centauri," Firaxis Games)

Some who read this may be old enough to remember purchasing vinyl LP record albums. One of the marketing approaches was to take two hit songs by a group, add 10 mediocre songs, and form a playlist: the first song on side A was a hit, the last song on side B was a hit, and all the stuff in between was mediocre filler. That’s not the way these books are put together. ALL of the stories are good stuff.

KADE by Christopher Woods. The protagonist of “This Fallen World” has, somehow, managed to live to a ripe old age. He’s still a rapscallion, as much as his 90 year-old, much-abused body permits him to be. Rather than augmentation in the form of repairs and enhancements, he is offered a chance to start as a new adult, with additional features. However, this world is run by corporations, and they don’t like competitors to get advantages.

TAMING THE BEAST by Kevin Steverson. Sadly, I am not familiar with the universe this story is drawn from. I hope that changes sometime in the future. Here we have Gunny Harper, who has been given prosthetic legs to replaced the destroyed originals. The problem: while they are good for some activities, there is no way that he can operate with the pain which remains. The Beast referred to in the title is an obstacle course. If the Gunny can’t beat it, he is going to retire.

TANK by J.F. Holmes. The tank is a former cyborg soldier in the Army, now a NYC cop. The question is: are you still a human? He doesn’t really know the answer to that, but an encounter with a similarly enhanced criminal, and an astoundingly nasty criminal, and some criminals with suits and nice jobs, all conspire to force him to discover the answer.

CRADLE AND ALL by Quincy J. Allen. The corporation, no matter where it’s located, is always concerned about the bottom line. Who decides about the ethics of the situation? Usually, that’s someone else’s job. However, when we are referring to our own children, that answer isn’t good enough.

DO OR DIE by Jamie Ibson. “All problems can be solved with the proper application of C-4.” Or, Deton-8, in this future. Except, not really. Some jobs require a proper application of heart, In fact, without the heart, the jobs aren’t really worth doing. In this universe, people born with neurological conditions that are debilitating and ultimately lethal are, shall we say, re-purposed. But, the heart comes over, regardless of whether the pump is included.

YELLOW IN THE NIGHT by Philip Wohlrab. “The King In Yellow” is one of the creepiest, multi-level stories, ever, so why NOT add to it? These enhanced warriors KNOW they are being lied to from the beginning, but they also know the mission orders are valid. They hope the lies aren’t going to mean they don’t have a chance,

THE CHAOS OF WELL-SEEMING FORMS by Rob Howell. The Hatfields and the McCoys, or the Montagues and Capulets, on Mars. Howell can take a bizarre set-up like that, and ALMOST make you cry. Probably WILL make you cry, if you read it when you are alone, instead of in the car while waiting on teen-age girls to buy their school supplies.

FORTY ACRES AND A MULE by Luke R. J. Maynard. There is such sadness associated with this term; it comes from an attempt by the victorious North to provide the former slaves in the defeated South with property, that would have ended much of the economic disparity that prevented access to inherited wealth. In this story, we see the retirement longed for by a man given the strength of the mule by his enhancements.

IMPERFECT MIND by Jason Cordova. In a hard, cold, distant future, children born with imperfections are dumped into people warehouses until they age out. Then, they get dumped anywhere else. However, some of them get picked for other things, other uses that the elite might have for them. That could be anything, really; sex slave, dog food, whatever. One young girl gets picked to test-drive a cyborg-soldier package. It gives her the chance to experience love, for the very first time. And that’s what makes this story particularly nasty. I wish I could not draw a line between this fictional piece, and the brutal reality of the child soldiers; I really, really wish I could not do that.

BAG MAN by Jack Clemons. This one takes place in my semi-adoptive home town, and I recognize the place names, have visited a number of them, and I would prefer that we could find a path so that things will not work out this way. Humans with vastly modified brains and bodies do rough justice(?) for money. The choice of a theme park for some of the action clearly has nothing to do with the fact that it was the setting for gang activity in real life. It’s a sheer coincidence. But things won’t work out this way.

COME UP SCREAMING by Kevin Ikenberry. Captain Mairin Shields commands an armor unit used as a screening force for an assault team trying to re-take a formerly human city. In addition to her conventionally-acquired skills, she also has access to the memories of an ancestor who also drove a tank. This reminds me of a comic-book series from my youth; the tank was haunted by the ghost of Jeb Stuart, I believe.

ANGEL by Robert E. Hampson. I did my medic training at places found in this story. Some of my cadre could very well have been the models for medic sergeant Martin. He was given experimental nano-bots to save his life, and they do that, repeatedly. Not sure it really works to his benefit, in the end, but it sure does allow him the opportunity to pay it forward.

TO DUST by Marisa Wolf. Ignored and abandoned, and going insane. Who HASN’T had that experience? Well, hopefully, none of us. But even if that’s the case, you don’t just up and quit. After all, there are your comrades, and they are depending on you.

If you recall, at the beginning of this review, I said that anthologies no longer use the recording industry practice of placing the hits at the beginning and at the ending of the book. However, if I were to be persuaded otherwise, the next two stories would be the best evidence. Each one is excessively wonderful. Taken together (they are a pair), they are almost unbearably great.

NOW YOU SEE ME by Kacey Ezell. Ezell cheats, and it’s not fair. This is a collection of stories about enhanced humans, people who are given special powers, sometimes contained in their own skin, sometimes by being coupled to machinery. There IS such a thing, you know, and I have experienced it:
 I’m a biker. 

The physical limitations I feel in the flesh seem to vanish, when I throw a leg over the V65 Sabre in my garage, crank the engine, and move on down the road at the speed of heat. I am AUGMENTED, baby! And although I don’t know that Ezell has ever been a biker, I DO happen to know that she has strapped a big honken jet turbine to her spine, and danced the sky on laughter-silvered wings. So, when she tells you the story of Cary, who pilots a shell, and inhabits a body of a MOST powerful force, she is drawing from her own experience. It isn’t fair! It’s a lovely, lovely story, though, particularly because it’s half of a Rashomon.

NOW YOU DON’T by Josh Hayes. This is the other half of the Rashomon, and I THINK Hayes is a cheater as well. He’s got the perspective of Gage, the other POV in the story of techno-thieves, and his recounting of the sequence rewiring a crashing aircraft while waiting for an explosion are just a little bit too vivid to be completely selected from YouTube videos. Shucks, y’all, this is an excellent pairing of stories, and I would surely love to see more like it, ‘deed I would.

Conclusions: Do not, under any circumstances, plan on missing this book. Also, do not plan on starting it one month, and finishing it the next month, and then think you are going to dash off a quick review.

I’m a die-hard fan of Human Wave fiction, in which people find a way to survive, and technology is our friend. Most of these stories would not fit into that category; there is too much forced on individuals. However, I didn’t find anything here that really felt off; they are all possibilities. While I would hope that the possibility of augmented humanity will mean that those of us who are physically limited will have a shot at turning cart-wheels again, I also know that it’s not likely to be a technology available to everyone with a need. So, we will just take it as it comes.

Peace be on your household.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

2019 Dragon Award Finalist, Best Fantasy: "Spinning Silver"

There are MUCH better reviews of this book out there! I do not believe that there are any BETTER books in this category. Just as good? Sure. But, not better.

And, for those of you running an ad blocker, here's the GORGEOUS cover image:

Is that not a GORGEOUS cover image?

For the condensed version of this review, go to Goodreads. It's also posted on Amazon.

Greetings to all my internet friends and neighbors, and for those of you who are counting down with me to the Dragon Awards, IT’S THE LAST REVIEW! (even if it is a bit of a cheat...sorry.) And to any of my family checking in, okay, NOW you can ask. Please, though: one at a time?

First: what an absolutely GORGEOUS cover!

I suppose there have been others as aware, maybe even MORE aware, of the ticking clock than I have been over the past 25 days. There are people who have had some REALLY important things going on in their lives, and I think it’s worth remembering. While I have been gnawing my leg off to get out of the trap of having to read works nominated for an award (O, woe is me!), other people have awaited the results of medical tests, legal decisions, college admissions, bank loans; all KINDS of things. Right now, in fact, my oldest grandson and his beloved are wondering if they are going to have this baby today, or next week, or what.

So, put in perspective, this has been zip.

Still, it HAS been the defining feature of my August. And, at this very moment, it’s 4:25 PM Eastern, and the voting closes in 7 hours and 34 minutes, and: I’m done.

Sort of.

You see, I’ve got my grandson Tre sitting next to me, and we are eating peanuts so we can spoil our appetites. And, my daughters Carmen and Jennifer just came into town from Washington, D.C., and my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, have MISSED them.

In other words, I have other reasons, beside the deadline, to want this review posted.

And so, I resorted to an ANCIENT reading trick I used last WELL more than a half century ago: after reading enough of the book to find out what the story was going to be, I, um, well, you see…
I skipped to the end, and read the last chapters so I could see how it was going to come out.

There, I said it.

I really just needed to know if the beauty and skill of the first quarter of the book was going to be sustained. I was hoping that would be the case, that the promise of a good story would be delivered on. And it WAS!! I’m not going to spoil it for you, but in this case, what begins well, ends well.

I also grabbed up my resource lists, and I ripped through them to see what Respected Others, and Disrespected Others, had to say about the book. I needed confirmation, you see. And, what I found was that the people who have a good head on their shoulders consistently raved about how lovely this was; the idiots foamed at the mouth. And both of those are ringing endorsements.

So, here we go:

Miryem’s father is a moneylender, and he’s not very good at it. You could call it soft-hearted, if you wanted to, I suppose. However, I spent a LOT of time in sales and marketing, and I’d have to say the guy just isn’t a very good closer. You HAVE to be able to ask for your money.

Particularly when you are a Jew, and most professions are closed off to you; and there is a need for cash, and the Gentiles are prohibited by church law from loaning money at interest.

But, whether soft-hearted, soft-headed, or just not cut out for the job, he can’t get it done. So, Miryem, seeing her mother sick from too much cold and no food, gets the job done. And, it turns out that she’s good at it.

Wanda’s farmer is a drunkard. He borrowed money from the moneylender to get medicine for his sick wife, drank and gambled most of it up, and what he had left wasn’t enough to help. So, she died, along with the newborn babe, and was buried under the white tree. This did NOT improve things for Wanda and her two little brothers; they were just BARELY scraping by, until Miryem shows up to demand repayment of the loan. When she sees they really have no means to repay, she instructs Wanda’s father that she’ll accept a half-day of labor from Wanda in exchange for a half-penny reduction of the amount he owes. Although it is not readily apparent, this deal DELIGHTS Wanda, who will escape beatings from her drunken father, as well as get fed at least one good meal per day, as well as what she can forage from the stale bread for the chickens. As time goes by, Wanda makes a way to earn money for herself, and for her brother as well.

Irinuska’s father is a nobleman. Having married once for love, and then lost her in childbirth, he is resolved not to love again, so Irinushka has a permanent last place, after the step-mother with the huge dowry, and the two tiny step-brothers. She can benefit him in no way, until he is presented with a chance to marry her off to the insane tsar.

I read enough to know that this is an EXCELLENT story, and well-told. I read enough to know that the author has the skill to make a situation look like one thing, only to discover that it’s something else entirely. I read enough to know that this book will NOT be a DNF (Did Not Finish), but a NFY (Not Finished Yet).

Alas, I DO have this deadline. And, in the faint hope that this last review will be of a benefit, I submit it to you, as is.

As for The Question: Is “Spinning Silver” a worthy choice for the 2019 Dragon Award in the category of Best Fantasy Novel?

My opinion: Oh, heck yeah. In fact, the fairy-tale aspect (the story is, I believe, derived from the Rumplestiltskin story) makes this the most charming of the lot. I don’t know if that’s what YOU are looking for in a fantasy; in fact, I don’t know if that makes it a better contender for the award. However, it really is a strong contender.

Peace be on your household.