My children have always been fascinated by stuffed animals. I didn’t realize how big an issue it was until my 3 year old grand-daughter was playing with a huge stuffed dog of my daughter’s and ripped underneath the arms on both sides. Don’t ask me how she managed that but she did. My 13 year old daughter is the owner of the dog and was most upset. She used duct tape to seal the tears and now it looks like the 4 foot stuffed dog wears silver deodorant. As my daughter complained about her niece’s lack of care around her stuffed pals I began to take account of just how many stuffed animals we have in this house. There are hundreds of them going back to my wife. How did it get so out of control? It started with my son and a stuffed raccoon he named “Ricky the Raccoon”. Every night he needed to have the big (2 foot) doll with him when he went to sleep. Five years later his first sister came along and soon wanted Ricky for herself. That didn’t fly. Unfortunately they no longer made the big raccoons so I bought the 1 foot size they made and named it “Little Ricky”. She never took to him in the same way and the fight ensued. My son was also into Pokémon at the time and had won a 3 foot tall doll of Charmander. the little, cute fire Pokémon. His sister wanted it and he refused to share because he feared what she might do. It turned out he was right to be afraid. She took her markers and colored all over his belly and face one day. It was impossible to clean. Then my son and I were at a local carnival. I have never been good at carnival games and so I stay clear of them. One of the places had a Charzard, the more evolved form of Charmander hanging in the “Look at this prize that is impossible to win” section. My son said he wanted to win Charzard for his sister to make her happy and also so she would leave Charmander alone. I’m a considerate Dad but this was a money pit, plain and simple. It was raining and there were hardly any patrons at the games. The game had something to do with throwing rings and I knew there was no way to win. I also knew this person probably didn’t pay much for the doll and was currently making no money. While my son wasn’t looking I asked if business had been slow and the person said it had. I pulled out a $20 bill and said, “Here’s the deal. My son wants that Charzard up there. You can have this bill up front and we will play your game. But when the game is over, no matter what happens, we walk away with that doll. Otherwise we could just walk away now.” It was probably not the best deal either of us had ever made but on that rainy Wednesday we agreed. My son and I didn’t come close to getting the rings in the right places but at the end the fellow running the game said we were, “Close Enough” and he awarded us the Charzard. That was it. My son was beaming. He didn’t want to stay at the fair any longer. We drove home and when he saw his sister next, he gave it to her. She was so happy she colored on it too. A few years later that same daughter was into the Power Puff Girls. At one point she insisted we call her Bubbles after the blond one. At our local supermarket was a claw machine…an evil claw machine that held a large Bubbles doll. I tried to win it and I might as well have been throwing rings. My son tried to win it and had no better luck. Every time we went there we would each put a dollar (of mine) into the machine and be disappointed. One day we were paying for my groceries and there were some teenaged boys over at the claw machine. They had managed to capture the doll and had it thrown to the side while they tried for more. I excused myself for a minute and went to talk to the boys. They were frustrated because they couldn’t get the one they wanted and only had a “Stupid girl doll”. So I said, “Hey, I’ll give you $5 for that girl doll and you can keep playing.” They were on that like flies on honey. I came back with the doll and was a hero. Music played. People cheered. The crowd went wild. Ok Maybe I’m exaggerating a tad but she slept with it every night for years. Then her own little sister came along and wanted Bubbles. In a fit of anger the youngest one tore one of the pig tails off her head. That was major drama. Now that same youngest daughter is angry at my grand-daughter for tearing her dog. It’s funny how these cycles repeat themselves.
I have recently had some inquiries about where people outside the USA can find “The Sapphire Crucible”. Amazon.com and .co.uk, have both the Kindle version and Print format. Amazon.ca and .com.au only have the kindle format. You can order the print version from CreateSpace at https://www.createspace.com/pub/simplesitesearch.search.do?sitesearch_query=sapphire+crucible&sitesearch_type=STORE I am told by my publisher that they ship internationally. I don’t know why the other sites only have the Kindle version but this still allows you to order a print copy. Enjoy the read.
Many years ago (I’m dating myself here) I loved playing Tetris. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game, it has puzzle pieces in different shapes that you must use to form a continuous line in order to get points. As you progress in levels, the pieces come faster and faster. I realize it doesn’t sound particularly exciting but it was strangely addictive. Writing and everything that goes along with it is very rewarding but also very time consuming. As a result I rarely find time to play games anymore. That doesn’t mean that they have gone away, mind you. They have morphed into new strangely addictive games. I’m not talking about the “Call of Duty”, Tom Clancy, shoot ‘em up games my son is addicted to playing. They are fine but I seem to have lost the hand-eye-coordination necessary to handle the constantly changing action. As a result, I die quickly and usually don’t know how. For this my children give me the title of “Nube”. I don’t quite have the terminology down but I know enough to know it is not a compliment. No, the games like Tetris now are ones like “Jewels, Candy Crush, Farmville” and I know there are others but I guess I’m too much a Nube to know them. Usually the premise for these games is simple. “Jewels” is a lot like Tetris but you have to line up jewels of the same type to get points. I don’t know what Candy Crush is but I know I’ve sent like a thousand lives to friends requesting them. The only reason I have any knowledge of it is because my wife installed it on my phone so she could keep playing after she ran out of lives. Apparently you combine things to make new candies and advance through a virtual board game. Here’s the twist. You only have a certain number of lives and then you can’t play anymore until you do one of two things. Either wait however long to get more lives (I’m told this is excruciating) or purchase more lives and keep playing right away. Friends have told me the game is like crack and it is the most addictive one out there. Some have had to force themselves to quit playing simply due to the obsession with it. My wife is smart and just plays it on my phone when she’s out of lives. I don’t know anything about “Farmville” except it seems many of my friends are inviting me to play it. Perhaps I would try them if I wasn’t so afraid of becoming hooked. Whoever thinks up these games is brilliant. How do they make them so addictive? I suppose the only way to find out is to play them but then I open myself up to being caught up in that digital world. These games are not bad. They just are time consuming. That is really what any gamer is looking for anyway; something to fill their time and make them forget their worries. Considering the hustle of everyday life and the lack of negative side effects like actual drugs, perhaps these games aren’t so bad after all. Yet I cannot help but wonder…how do they make them so addictive?
I had been working on Book 3 in the Sapphire Chronicles called “Mandrean Revenge” but mostly stopped some months back in order to concentrate on marketing the first two books, “Quest for the Red Sapphire” and “The Sapphire Crucible.” I have finally set aside some time to return to my true love, writing, and find myself confronted with a problem. It has been so long since I wrote the previous chapters that I have forgotten what elements I have already added and what ones have yet to be revealed. You can’t talk about topic B if topic A was never introduced. I tried just continuing on with the story as it has been plotted out in my head for years. Doing this became one-dimensional as my storyboard had disappeared for this book. Finally I reached the point where I wondered, “What are the other characters doing right now? Did I already mention this or do I still need to?” As I was lying in bed the other night I realized what I needed to do. I had to read everything I had written over again in order to find out where I stood and storyboard out the progression. So I set to work. I’ve read through the first few chapters and found the writing to be markedly better than what I was adding on at the end in my “free time”. A sinking feeling settled in my stomach that every writer feels when they know they have to rewrite something. Now I must finish reading what has been written in order to find the place where I need to perform reconstructive surgery. This is not a crisis and is definitely fixable. What it tells me is that writing is not a multitasking job. When you are going to write; write. When you are going to promote; promote. And so on. Writing is a fluid symphony of expression. When you are on a roll (you know that feeling) you need to just go with it. Let it flow. Edit it later. Just get the good stream of ideas typed before your mind moves on and you end up looking for the end of a rope in the dark so you can follow the path once again. It doesn’t seem like it should be so hard when you consider that writing is the actual fun part of the whole process. Yet there are so many other things pulling your time and attention away that writing falls on the back burner of time management. I enjoy rereading my work as I find little tweaks each time that add to the story. But when you are nearly finished with a book and can’t remember what elements you’ve added, you know your pen has been down for too long. It is time to dive into my world and set things right. From now on, when I start a book, I’ll finish the book before I turn my attention elsewhere. It sounds easier than it is but I refuse to sacrifice quality for multitasking.
I was just watching “World War Z” and I started to think. Since the whole Zombie Apocalypse is a popular theme these days it seems like there are major questions that need to be raised. Wouldn’t they starve to death? You never see them eat anything in these movies. But I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that one. Let’s just say they eat humans. If they change them into zombies by biting them then wouldn’t their meal change while they chewed? So maybe they eat other zombies. I don’t buy that one either. In no zombie movie do they ever turn on each other. It’s sort of like a zombie fraternity. They seem to stick together. I know I’ve touched on this next topic before but why do they never get cold? Is zombie season only in the summer? They don’t dress warmly and don’t seem to put much thought into their apparel. That’s going to lead to some really cold zombies come winter in the colder climates. Why don’t they dehydrate in the heat? They never seem to stop for a drink. Even though they’re “Undead” and all, their human bodies must need some sort of replenishment. What do they do in their spare time? You never see them sleep. Being a zombie has to be a pretty boring life. When you’re not chasing one of the few healthy humans around you seem satisfied spending your time walking aimlessly around parking lots. It’s kind of like when Laser Pink Floyd lets out in the real world. It sounds pretty boring. “Hey, it’s night time. No humans around. I guess I’ll stumble about…Hey, its morning. No humans around. Maybe I’ll stumble over here.” Sounds dull. Maybe they’ll finish off the humans and start their own entertainment. They could make shows like “Survivor – Zombie World”, “The Amazing Zombie Race” and “Dancing with the Zombies.” Although it might be hard to make that work since zombies seem to have no interest in television. If they were bored enough they could always play “Catch the Human” with one of them pretending to be the human and the others giving chase. The zombie idea is played out. With sincere regards to my friends who write in that genre, the suspension of disbelief is simply not there anymore. We’ve had zombies who can’t be killed, zombies who can’t handle sunlight, zombies who eat the dead, zombies who have to be burned and zombies who can fall in love. That pretty much covers the zombie gamut. Sadly, good storylines are often replaced by CGI effects and makeup. It’s time for something different. As readers and watchers we need something that is either realistic in the “This could really happen” arena or the other end entirely like Tolkien where it’s a totally different world with totally different rules and you can set your imagination free. I know where my vote goes.
If only more people in this world were like Bander Greenlith. He is one of the two fraternal twin brothers in “Quest for the Red Sapphire” and “The Sapphire Crucible.” For those of you unfamiliar with him let me paint a picture. As elves go he his big and strong. He chops down trees for a living. In some ways his greatest weakness is also his greatest strength. He is not the most intelligential fellow that has ever been in a book. The bad part of that is he is easily led astray, particularly by his brother Rander. Bander can be tricked and cajoled into many things. If he actually spent the time to consider the matters, he might act differently. On the other hand, Bander never gives matters serious thought unless he is forced to do so. He is blissfully ignorant and sees no reason to change. While some people value money and others think only of power, Bander is happy so long as he is well fed. A good meal in vast quantities will do more for his mood than all the gold in the world. In this way he is a simple character and one who is easy to like. Many fans have told me he is their favorite person in the stories. As the books go on, however, we learn that there is much more to him when he is forced to consider the situation at hand. He is thoughtful and does not get caught up in the drama of their trials. When everyone else is analyzing every angle of a problem, he looks at things from a basic level and often finds the obvious points that have been overlooked. It is not always the most intellectual person in life who comes up with the answers. It is sometimes the simplest, most logical one who sees things clearly. Bander is a reminder that we shouldn’t need many material things to be happy. If you have good food and good family and friends, there isn’t much more you need. The books have plots and subplots with many different characters trying to further their own position in life. Bander is along for the ride and there to help at a moment’s notice. What more could you ask for? He’s an honest, generally happy fellow. If more of us were like him, I think it would make for a happier world.
Hunter: Seeking The Storyteller
By Jessica Walsh & Briana Lawrence
This is a fantasy story about “demons” who leave their own world and enter ours. The term “demons” is used to describe anyone from the alternate world whether they are friend or foe. Two “Hunters” (people who track down demons) named Fagan and Alix are given a tip to meet an old partner at an abandoned house with some important information. They arrive to find their friend shot to death and several demons hiding on the premises. They capture the demons and take them prisoner in their warehouse holding cell. Their names are Dox, Cyn and Haven. They each have very special abilities. Dox can move through the shadows and is literally the monster in the room when you sleep. Cyn is actually human but had a demon surgically placed within her without her knowledge that enables her to control plant roots and use them as weapons. Haven is a young man with a dragon tattoo on his arm which signifies a real frost dragon coexisting within him giving him tremendous power but little insight other than to not trust people and stay on the move. Beyond trying to figure out the murder of their friend, Alix has an ulterior motive in keeping them alive. The demons have knowledge of “The Storyteller”; a demon who can change your past, the present or the future all through sketches that appear in their notebook. Another demon arrives named Mira who fills in many of the blanks for the partners. She is not there just as a source of information; however, Mira seeks to recruit them all to help stop a war about to commence in the demon world that might spill into ours. She also promises a meeting with The Storyteller. There is action and drama as conflicting personalities try to work together with extreme difficulty. I’m not a spoiler but I can tell you there are some surprises and twists at the end that will make you yearn for the sequel. The writers do a masterful job of creating characters so dissimilar that you need to follow closely to keep track of them all. As the story moves along you learn more and more about each of them. The plot is gripping and holds your attention. This is a nice piece of fantasy writing with a fresh take on the theme.
People have a tendency to focus on the big things they want in life. “I could be happy if I had that car or house or job.” Those are all important things but they happen with seldom frequency. Waiting on such things leaves us in a state where we are yearning for happiness. Now the little things in life are the ones that sustain you and make you feel happy. What sort of little things, you may wonder? It varies from person to person. Perhaps that little thing is rewarding yourself with lunch at your favorite restaurant. Maybe all it takes is a game of basketball with some friends or having a drink with your pals after work. For me I found a little piece of heaven today when I went to Panera and bought my family a dozen bagels. It was something I used to do weekly but had cut it out of my routine. It is said that “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and that was certainly true today. Wow that bagel was good! It was still soft and warm when I opened it. With just a light layer of whipped cream cheese spread over the top I thought I had just had them for the first time. It was as if they had improved the recipe in the time since I bought them last. That felling of happiness made the whole day feel better. Maybe it wasn’t the biggest thing in the world, but it made me happy. That’s really what it’s all about. The big things in life are what you hope and aspire for but it’s the little ones that make your day special. As a young boy I would eat apples often as snacks. Before I could eat one, however, I always had to wash it and then give it to my mother. She would rub it with a towel until it shined. Clearly it was all mental but a shined apple from Mom always tasted better. It was just a little thing, though. To this day I wash my apples and shine them up before eating and do the same for my children. It doesn’t matter if the reward is food or doing something you enjoy or whatever. As long as you do something special for yourself or someone else every day you will have that great feeling. Those are the feelings you remember and cherish. It could be just about anything but the fact that you did something out of the ordinary will make your days happier and brighter. So do a little something for yourself today. The little things are what sustain you.
I’ve had the pleasure of talking with some fans and have enjoyed the back and forth. What I love the most about writing is finding out how another individual interprets what you have written. How many times have you loved a song and thought it was about one thing only to discover it was about something else. A band I like quite a bit called Matchbox 20 put out a song some years back called “3AM”. I thought it was about a woman calling a man and inviting him over for extracurricular activities in the middle of the night. I saw them in concert a few years ago and the lead singer told the audience that it was actually about his terminally ill mother calling at odd hours with strange requests. Man was I off base. I realize after listening to my readers that my words have one meaning when I put them down on paper and often are interpreted totally differently by my audience. At first I thought that maybe I had done something wrong. It turns out that most of the time the readers not only have plausible interpretations but also are excited about their viewpoint. Painters create their works of art and are trying to portray a thought through image. Yet it is rare that 2 people see art the same way. It’s not a bad thing. I think it means that sometimes there is more there than even the artist realizes. Some of the insights relayed to me have been fascinating. The characters are always seen as different than I envisioned when I created and designed them. The interpretations are fun to hear and inspire me to work harder. Characters I never really considered important to the body of the story become fan favorites. Scenes I put in to take the story from point A to point B captivate the readers. Writing is a wonderful profession and I am so grateful to all those who enjoy my work. I am also grateful to those who did not enjoy the works as much. Their criticism has helped me develop into a better writer. I don’t think you ever are done growing as an author. There are always new things to learn and new ideas to express in different ways. If you have any feedback on my work, I would love to hear it. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is also a link on rivalgates.com. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
I have been working on Book 3 in the Sapphire Chronicles called “Mandrean Revenge.” It will be a more compact book, as much of the groundwork has already been done in “Quest for the Red Sapphire” and “The Sapphire Crucible.” It will encompass the action many of you seem to love in my stories but there will be a new strange dynamic taking hold of the story. There is a part of me that wants to blurt it out but there’s no suspense in that. It should be finished by the end of the summer. “The Sapphire Crucible” continues to sell well and the response has been tremendous. People are anxious to see what happens to Linvin and the gang. I love each of my stories for different reasons. This particular one is great because it fills in a lot of the blanks left from “Quest” and adds new characters and storylines. As I said in my character interview earlier this week on “Sallie’s Book Review and More” http://yesterdaydaugher.blogspot.com/2014/05/dicover-rival-gates-author-of-sapphire.html one of my favorite characters to write in this book is Necromancer. Now I am fully aware that using the name Necromancer is as common in fantasy literature as swordplay. This Necromancer, however, is very different than many in other stories. He has agendas within agendas and you will never know his entire plans. He is helpful and harmful at the same time and always sarcastic. Overall, he is the spicy kick in the “Crucible” story. There are periods of pure evil and there are times of pure hilarity. There are reasons he had to be called just Necromancer. I can’t explain them yet. That’s still a couple of books away! But do read the character interview referenced above if you haven’t already. He’s quite a character.
Fantasy fiction is my passion. This series embodies my love for a good story and action. You will find it to be many things, but not boring! Read what you love and love what you read...