Let’s turn back the clock a few years.
…just for fun.
For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s 1999. Everyone’s prime concern is Y2K, and whether or not our computers are going to self-destruct on New Year’s Eve.
In other news, the human population on Earth has surpassed six-billion people. Two idiots just shot up Columbine High School. SpongeBob SquarePants has hit children’s faces everywhere. And J.K. Rowling just published Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
What a year, 1999.
Feels like centuries ago.
So about that J.K. Rowling Harry Potter book. How’d J.K. get so famous, anyway? Did she debut on Amazon with ten-thousand five-star reviews? Did Dumbledore himself hand-deliver her new book to readers across the world?
See, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban wasn’t a self-published book. J.K. (deservedly so) had a traditional publisher, just like pretty much every other author on the planet in 1999. Between a powerful marketing team and an already fervent fan-base, J.K.’s new book couldn’t fail. It wouldn’t have mattered if no one on the planet left her an Amazon review. Her success was all but guaranteed.
Here we are, two decades later.
Everything is different.
Back in 2007, the game changed. Amazon.com (you’ve heard of Amazon, right?) debuted a little something called Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP. What’s KDP, you ask? It’s a program that allows anyone to publish anything at any time. Writers who would never have come close to publishing a book suddenly had access to publish ALL their books. Instantly. The five companies who’d previously controlled nearly all the publishing in the world shivered in their boots. The market they’d cornered for decades had suddenly opened up.
…to everyone in the world.
And so began the flood. Authors, poets, and illustrators invaded KDP in force. At first, tens of thousands of new, self-published books hit Amazon. And then…millions more. Anyone who wanted to publish something, no matter the quality of their writing, had an easy outlet to push their novels onto the scene.
Sounds great, right? Freedom for authors everywhere! The creative masses, liberated!
Doesn’t KDP sound like the most amazing thing ever?
When the flood of new books hit the world, everything seemed great. Writers were no longer shackled to the five big traditional publishers. Thousands of fantastic new books landed atop the market…which never could’ve happened without KDP.
But along with thousands of good books came tens of thousands of really bad ones.
Poorly edited books.
Books with misleading descriptions.
Books with horrible art, lousy plots, and just plain crappy writing.
A new challenge arose. Readers who’d long been funneled into book-buying decisions by the big five publishing companies faced a whopping armada of new titles. “Which books are good?” they asked themselves. “How do I know if this epic sci-fi thriller is amazing…or total crap?? Which new authors are legit, and which ones are just here to make a quick profit???”
The answer lies in the stars…
Before Amazon, before KDP, the average reader would’ve almost never posted a book review. Reviews were something handled by professionals, most of whom worked for newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals. Readers’ only engagement with books was to buy them, read them, and maybe tell a friend or two about them. That’s it. Nothing more.
But it’s not 1999 any longer.
It’s not even 2007.
Nowadays, we’re in a new era. Self-published books outnumber traditionally published works. Thousands of new novels hit the web every single day. Many are sub-par, but many are just as good…in some cases even better…than what you’d find in bookstores around the world. And yet many of the best books by the most talented writers fall into the shadows. Why? Because no one reviews them. No one clicks the little ‘write a customer review?’ button.
No one cares.
So why should you?
Why should readers, having already paid for and read their book of choice, give any thought to posting a review for a book they enjoyed?
Like any product on Amazon, more reviews means a brighter spotlight.
In the case of a good book, a brighter spotlight means the author (of the book you just enjoyed) is more likely to produce additional good books.
Which is what we all want, right?
Without the marketing power of a traditional publishing house, the burden falls on the author to promote his or her own work.
And the biggest promotional tool available? The Amazon review system.
Even better, the average review takes 60 seconds or less to complete. Don’t believe me? Check this super-fast tutorial.
There’s even a handy tool to help readers decide how many stars to give.
It’s simple, really.
If readers want good books, it benefits them directly to leave honest reviews for what they read.
Otherwise, the market will continue to be invaded with sub-par, poorly-edited clutter.
…which no one will be able to distinguish from genuine, well-written books.
I’m a reader, too. And as a reader, I’m heading to Amazon to leave an honest review for every book I can remember reading.
And I’m doing it today.
I urge you to do the same, fellow book-lovers.
Get in there. Click a few stars. And move on with your lives.
I remember one Friday.
A smoking hot Friday in the dead of July.
A hazy Friday. A humid southeastern US Friday. A Friday that promised to be hotter than Lucifer’s jockstrap.
Most Fridays like this one, I’d have been busy in my workshop painting. Or writing. Or mashing buttons on my Xbox controller.
But this Friday was my first truly free day in a long time. My son was away at summer camp. I didn’t have any plans. Any lunch dates. Any ideas. Somehow, someway, none of my borderline-alcoholic buddies had rung me up for a long afternoon of pounding scotch and making fun of my non-existent dating life.
In short, I had no effing idea what to do.
I guess maybe I should’ve known it was going to be a different sort of day. I’d woken early – long before the crack of dawn. And I never wake up early. Bright-eyed and bursting with directionless energy, I’d trotted outside my tiny apartment and breathed the already-warm air.
I’ve been locked up in here too long, I thought.
It’s time for something different.
Flashback to a few years prior. A ex-girl of mine, a marathon runner, had mentioned a trail she liked to run. “In Suwanee,” she’d said. “Beautiful, wooded trail. Eight miles one way.” Back then I’d never cared much about running. I mean, I worked out and all, but usually in my garage. Or my attic. Or in an overpriced, sweat-scented gym. It’s not that I didn’t like the outdoors, just that I’d never much cared for sprinting along smoking hot sidewalks in the brutal Atlanta heat.
It hit me then.
I’d no idea why, but the idea of running bounced into my thoughts.
I remembered what my ex-girl had said. No, not that time she said I was an ‘real sh*thead.’ I remembered something else. The trail she’d talked about. The Suwanee Greenway. The place runners go to run when they don’t want to pound pavement.
And I realized I lived in Suwanee now. I’d just moved there. Not two weeks prior.
I gotta find this trail.
When I get ideas into my head, I go overboard. It’s either a fault, a virtue, or maybe both. Like that time I started a foam-sword fight club behind my house. Or joined an MMA gym and pounded my hands against heavy bags every day until they bled. So now, as I realized I might live near this fabled Suwanee running trail, a new idea took shape:
I want to run.
I crashed into my computer like a breaking Pacific wave. My fingers moved like the wind, my search terms as sharp as seagulls’ beaks. ‘Suwanee Greenway running trail’ I hammered into the keyboard.
“0.1 miles away” said Google Maps.
I’d had no idea. I was pretty much an idiot. Sitting outside my apartment door, not a hundred meters beyond the stand of pine trees behind my parking lot, sat the Suwanee Greenway trail. It’d been there all along.
In a flurry, I popped into my ugly orange sneakers, slid into an even uglier tank top and shorts, and sped out the door.
I’d never been a runner before. I liked to keep active, don’t get me wrong, but I’d never felt the urge to run. Not in the summer heat. Not in the woods. Not alone. There seemed no reason to run other than to feel my heart hammer against my ribs. To get shin splints. To hurt.
And then I found it. I found the Greenway. The fabled land of trees, creeks, and north Georgia swamps.
You know those disclaimers? The ones saying ‘Consult a doctor before beginning any new exercise routine?’ Nah. I don’t listen to ’em, either. My feet hit the trail and within moments I’d forgotten everything else about my week. About my plans. About my life.
Yeah, it was hot. And yeah, the humidity made me feel like I was a macaroni noodle tumbling in about-to-boil water. But I didn’t care. Suddenly, as if my sneakers had worked some strange magic, I felt the pendulum move inside me.
I’m going to run.
I want to be a runner.
I overdid it on that first fateful day. I ran six brutal miles in one direction, and walked six miles back. By the end, my breaths were ragged, tortured things. My calves were knotted up like old oak trees. My skin, which I’d forgotten to cover in sunscreen, sizzled the same as bacon in a cast iron skillet.
But I felt good.
No, not just good.
Let’s talk about the Greenway. It’s a place I wished I’d found a decade earlier, but was happy to discover when I did. They call it the Greenway because all eight miles hunker beneath the trees. In some spots, in the heavy shade beneath birch trees, the air is a full ten degrees cooler than in the sun. In others, the trail is almost dark even during midday, and the leaves so dense as to blot out the sun entirely. Parts of the trail are paved in wooden planks, and others with a softer-than-concrete asphalt/rubber hybrid. And in many places, the Greenway runs alongside creeks, small rivers, and a sopping wet marshland stocked with geese, ducks, bluegill, herons, and even the occasional beaver.
Twelve miles later, I spilled back into my apartment. My body ached. I was cramped, hungry, thirsty, and tired. But I also felt sublime. The ‘runner’s high’ my ex had talked about turned out to be a real thing. I felt as if I were floating among the clouds, my sneakers like Hermes’ winged shoes, my muscles singing with pain and pleasure.
Sure enough, not long after I finished my first run, a buddy called me. I rehydrated…and then spent the rest of the evening out on the town committing treason against my liver. I’m sure I didn’t once shut up about my experience on the trail. To my buddy’s credit, he just smiled and nodded.
On that day, something had changed.
It was as if I’d reached back into my childhood and stolen some of the freedom my ten-year old self once experienced.
Out there on the Greenway, I’d been in heaven. No phone. No bills to pay. Not a care in the world beyond the next place my ugly orange sneakers landed.
Since that day, and for the last four years, I’ve been out there running. I use the Greenway most days, but also a number of other nature trails. In autumn, when leaves blanket the ground and the wind begins to bite, I’m alone in a season of my own. In spring, when every bird in the universe descends onto the marshes, I run to their raucous music of their honks, quacks, and cheeps. Most times I keep moving fast. But some days I stroll along without a care. Some evenings, I’ve only got enough daylight for three little miles, while others I head out early to conquer the entire trail. I prefer to run when I’m alone, but on particularly pleasant days I’ll find other people running with me, walking their dogs, or wheeling their twin babies along in awesome bicycle/stroller hybrids (here’s to you, bicycle/stroller guy.)
The absolute best days are the first days of the Atlanta winter…just before twilight…when crickets, owls, and leaf-stomping squirrels surround me. No one else is on my trail. No one else exists in the entire world. It’s just me and the road ahead.
And I’m as close to Heaven as I’ll ever be.
I run, and I also drink wine.
Join me on my bounce between bottles right HERE.
Ten Terrifying Ways to Break Up…
I used to think ‘ghosting’ was only for people who were dating. Usually, at least the way I understood it, one person in a relatively new relationship would suddenly cut off all forms of contact—i.e.; they’d ghost their partner.
Ok. Well. I was ghosted by my husband of seven years. I came home from work to find all his clothes, electronics, and a few pieces of furniture gone. He didn’t leave a note or anything. At first I thought we’d been robbed.
The next day, his lawyer called me. I was being served with divorce.
The only time I ever saw him again was about two months later in the courtroom. He didn’t look at me, speak to me, or acknowledge my existence.
To this day, I still don’t understand.
Kicked to the Curb
My ex, who fancied himself an MMA fighter, always liked to play wrestle and box with me.
It didn’t bother me much until one time he play-kicked me in the knee and blew out my ACL.
I was on crutches for seven months afterward.
Straight Outta the 50’s
Shortly after getting married, my new husband informed me that my body belonged to him.
In other words, he meant he could have me whenever and however he wanted.
I suppose some women might find it flattering to be desired that much.
But I’m pretty sure our vows didn’t include, “To have and to hold…and to have sex with whenever you want.”
We’re still married, but we haven’t been intimate in years.
One Story. Zero Winners.
My former girlfriend was high-maintenance.
Beautiful, but vain.
Smart, but ignorant.
She used words like ‘bae’ ‘fleek’ and ‘nice burn.’
She looked great in heels, but refused to pump her own gas.
She took two and half hours to put on her makeup…only to later decide she wanted to stay in.
They say beauty comes at a price.
And that price, my friends, is just too high.
What about Pokemon?
She said Dragon Ball Z is stupid.
I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
Long & Hard Road to Recovery
My ex was a self-admitted porn addict.
She (yes, she) watched the stuff several times every day. She used it for her own private pleasure, and she tried to get me to watch it wayyy more than I normally would. I guess she thought everyone would have the same reaction to porn.
I really didn’t mind at first. We were still kind of in the ‘honeymoon’ phase of dating.
But eventually it became such an integral part of her life that she couldn’t orgasm unless she watched highly-specific scenes at the same time as having sex.
All the porn had the opposite effect on me. I eventually lost my attraction to her.
I don’t think she minded breaking up that much. It wasn’t like I could do any of the things her favorite porn stars could do.
She used hashtags.
Every text she sent me had #winning or #loveforever or #youforgottotakeoutthegarbage or any one of a million other things.
It was only mildly annoying at first. But then she started using them in actual conversation. As if holding her fingers up to make a # sign and saying ‘hashtag – don’t talk to me right now’ was an effective means of communication.
I pity her next boyfriend.
He’s in for a #surprise.
Now THAT’s how to Break a Heart
One day while doing some spring cleaning at our house, I found a stack of letters handwritten by my husband. I couldn’t help myself. I read them all.
They were love-letters, and were addressed to ‘the love of my life’ and other adorable terms.
While reading them, I was absolutely positive the letters were meant for me. I felt my heart swell up with so much happiness I thought I’d burst.
But when he got home and I smothered him with affection, he looked at me with a blank stare.
He hadn’t written the letters to me. They were for his side-girl, Tristin, who I’d never known about before that moment.
They’re married now. Still kinda stings when I think about it.
I used to believe her teeth were real.
I mean, she was only twenty-eight.
But those chompers of hers…fake. All of them.
Turns out she was a recovered meth addict.
I’m glad she got past it.
But even gladder I got past her.
Sharing isn’t always Caring
He decided he wanted to get into the nudist lifestyle.
He wanted us to go nude camping, attend naked music festivals, and join all-nude social groups.
I tried to play along at first, but it quickly got weird.
The final straw—he suggested I sleep with several other men during a camping trip.
It wasn’t just about being naked. It was this weird cult-like fad populated with ugly, unshaven people who wanted to sleep around.
Read five MORE brutal breakups right here.
And get more than one-hundred of the most unbelievable breakups HERE.
I recently decided to join the modern world.
And *gasp* create an Instagram account.
I use it mostly to promote my art and post pics of my obese cat.
The longer I scroll through the thousands of daily photographs, the more I learn.
For instance, did you know nearly every Instagram user can be dropped into one of seven categories?
The 7 Instagram Personality Types
THE FOODIE – Pretty normal, I guess. I mean, most people like to eat their dinners. But some people, I’m assuming gourmet chefs mostly, prefer to dress up their food to look better than most supermodels. The Foodie type of Instagram user makes a pretty compelling argument. When faced with the choice of eating a brick-oven pizza or simply photographing a brick-oven pizza, I always… Wait. No. I think I’ll just EAT it. Thanks.
THE ANIMAL LOVER – This archetype of social media user is without a doubt the most common. In fact, most Instagram users are Animal Lover types in addition to whatever other type of user they might be. Whether it’s dogs, cats, sleeping dogs, sleeping cats, gifs of dogs and cats, funny-faced dogs and cats…the variety is almost endless. My day definitely isn’t complete unless I scroll through Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to find at least a 50% ratio of dogs & cats compared to every other type of post. Hey, I get it. My cat’s cute, too. Only she’s too fat to fit in a single photo frame, so I’ll make a nine-part Instagram photo series to encompass her beautiful body. K?
THE SCRIBBLER – The number of artists (and photographers) who flock to Instagram is staggering. It’s what drew me to the site, and what keeps me there. Every day, I find dozens of amazing drawings, paintings, tattoo art, and sculpture to die for. But…and this is a BIG but…to get to the good stuff, one must pass through legions of Scribblers. Yeah, you got it. We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of actual third-grade pencil pieces. For my own protection, whenever posting art of dubious quality, I always tag it with #WIP (work in-progress) so my followers won’t know just how much I really suck.
THE SEIZURE-INDUCING GIF MAKER – Oh boy. Now we’re getting somewhere. I’m not sure what compels people (mostly ladies, sorry) to make half-second long repeating gifs of themselves gesturing aimlessly into the void. I’m not sure I wanna know. If you stare at the wrong gif too long, I’m convinced you’ll catch cancer. Or Ebola. Or maybe you’ll just die a little bit inside. Whenever surfing Insta videos, I always make sure to keep a bottle of Ibuprofen handy. Because I’m going to get a headache. It’s only a matter of time.
THE MODEL – Yes, you’re beautiful (or so heavily filtered no one can tell the difference.) I get it. We ALL get it. It doesn’t matter where I tumble on Instagram, I see you there in my feed, looking hot, wearing almost nothing, covered in tattoos, doing something funny with your mouth. Look, I’m not complaining. NO one is complaining. But the philosophical part of me wonders what you (yes YOU, model girls) get out of posting dozens of hot selfies every day. Is it validation? Cash? An unending stream of creepy dudes DM’ing you for sex? I’m assuming you get all three. I’m just wondering if it’s worth the effort. Maybe the old saying is true – if a hot girl bounces through the forest and no one’s there to see it, did she really happen?
THE WANNABE MODEL – For every one person willing to put in maximum hours working out, tanning, dressing up in uncomfortable-looking bikinis, and applying the best possible filters, there’s ninety-nine more people who say, “F it. I’m doing this my way.” I’m talking about you, girl who just woke up and took a 6AM selfie. And you, guy in the gym who’s obviously on steroids. And yes, you too, single mom of three kids who’s just fishing for a compliment (or twenty.) Look, we can’t all be beautiful. Despite the hashtags #everyoneisbeautiful #plussize #bringingunibrowsback and #Igaveupworkingouttenyearsago, perhaps it’s best if we leave the modeling to the
most willing to sell their souls for cash most beautiful people out there.
THE PERFORMANCE ARTIST – You’ve seen them. They perform glorious physical feats, leap to incredible heights, and paint themselves with peanut butter and hot dogs. I admit I’ve watched some pretty cool ones. Like the guy who stood on his motorcycle seat while going 100 mph, or the other guy who fell off his motorcycle while going 100 mph. I’ve seen a girl beat a tree to death, a dude somersault over two cars, and a woman bounce her boobs to the beat of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller.’ Narcissism, man. It’s a beautiful thing sometimes.
THE MUSICIAN – Usually a DJ for some crappy downtown club, he really, really, really wants you to check out his mixtape.
THE LONELY MOM – “Hey, guys! I’m stuck at home with seven children. And I’m going to Snapchat bunny ears onto ALL of them!”
THE CAPTION QUEEN – Usually…and I’m only being honest here…it’s a teenage girl posting a pic of herself looking sad while complaining about tomorrow’s math test.
For more fun, here’s my list of Top 7 Facebook personalities.
And I did one for Twitter, too.
Stay tuned for next week’s HUGE article, ‘The Zero Types of Linked-In Users’
In a far and ancient land, Emperor Chakran dreams of conquest. His desire to resurrect the evil, world-ending Ur casts a dark shadow across an unsuspecting world. But as his army butchers its way across the realm, leaving only a vast, storm-riddled graveyard in its wake, a small band of warriors rises up to oppose him. They know what will become of the world should Chakran succeed. They know the Emperor is but a puppet to the true evil – the Tyrants of the Dead.
Follow Rellen Gryphon, Garrett Croft, and Andelusia Anderae on their voyage to stop the darkness.
If they should fail, the sun will die.
…and the night will forever reign.
Tyrants of the Dead – The Complete Collection includes all three epic volumes in the series:
Down the Dark Path
Dark Moon Daughter
Books to give as gifts.
The world’s funniest breakups.
This spring from April 23rd – April 26th, get all my best non-fiction books for $0.99 or less. Read ’em. Love ’em. Review the heck out of ’em!
Being a dad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
It’s much, much better.
Long ago, in the months before my son rocketed into this world, I dreamed of all the challenges I would surely face. I was younger then, and full of doubt. Let’s be honest…I was frightened. I thought to myself, ‘Raising a kid is going to be the hardest thing I ever do. How can I possibly be a guide for another human being? Everything will change. And it’ll happen in ways for which I can never prepare myself.’
I was wrong. And right. And everything in-between.
Not long after my one and only son (the G Man) arrived, I realized three things:
- I’m not frightened to be a dad – I’m thrilled
- This is going to be far more exciting than I’d expected
- Also…I’m about to be a single dad
Just like that, it happened. The G Man was only two-years old when he and I found ourselves thrust out of our suburban paradise and into a tiny apartment. Suddenly, his life completely changed, and all my expectations for child-rearing flew right out the window. It wasn’t as terrifying as it sounds. The word I use to describe it: spectacular. We were broke. We were cramped into a tiny space. We lost all our previous friends and family. We were two dudes on a tiny island.
And it was mostly awesome.
Somehow, we survived. Three-thousand trips to the local park. A million-and-a-half hours spent poolside. Strep throat. The flu. A few hundred band-aids. A rescued Japanese maple tree. Four-hundred thousand fish sticks. And several Christmases, just me and him, waking to our annual two-man treasure trove of gifts.
Here we are, five years later. We’ve left our tiny apartment and moved into a slightly-bigger-than-tiny-house. We have cats. Most weeks, we treat ourselves to Taco Tuesdays and breakfast-for-dinner Thursdays. We do all the ordinary dad/kid stuff, only we do it alone instead of within a typical family unit.
This is our life.
* * *
It’s a Tuesday night, and the G Man is relaxing on the couch. He’s in the middle of reading literary classic, Calvin & Hobbes – Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons. Meanwhile, I’m in the background painting something on a canvas. It’s a pretty typical evening for us. We skipped Taco Tuesday in favor of our latest dinner invention, a little something G Man calls, ‘Chicken with onions in its butt,’ which tastes even better than it sounds.
During a lull in my painting progress, I lean back in my chair and consider the night. As far as weekday evenings, it might not get any better than this. Our bellies are full. We’re listening to an uber-relaxing album – Slayer’s Seasons in the Abyss. It’s almost bedtime. But not quite.
What’s next? I wonder.
The G Man is at his most impressionable age. I remember being his age (seven) and it was the same for me. Everything my friends told me, I tended to believe. Everything I saw on TV, I absorbed as if it were utter truth. As I look upon him now, I understand his vulnerability. The things he learns during his next few years, he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life.
This is the task for which I was born, I think. I must become both teacher…and student.
The G Man looks up at me. He sees me staring in his direction, and he’s annoyed.
“What?” he asks.
“Nothing,” I reply. “Just thinking.”
* * *
And it’s true. I think too much.
Some of the things I worry about:
- Will the G Man get bullied?
- Will he be a bully?
- Will he like sports?
- Or science?
- Or both?
- Will he continue to be hard on himself?
- Or will he find the same confidence I did?
- Will he keep reading books?
- Or will he become an iPhone zombie – addicted to social media, selfies, and rabbit-eared Snapchat filters?
- Will he think critically? Will he study every situation based on its own merits?
- Or will he see something on the internet and automatically believe it’s true?
These, and a thousand other questions stew inside me. But like all things, they quickly pass. I can’t yet answer these questions. And ultimately, no matter the subtle lessons I try to instill in my son, he might very well do the opposite of what I teach.
And it’s ok.
When I look around myself, I realize we’re in a tough world. Actually, it’s always been tough. As a whole, humanity has a tendency to group-think, to segregate into specific herds, and to compel each other to believe what the rest of their chosen herd believes. It’s not particularly healthy. To be honest, it’s poisonous. The worst part of this isn’t what the adults decide is truth. It’s that the adults tend to pass the herd-mentality on to their children. They don’t teach their children how to think – rather they teach them what to think.
Believe what mommy and daddy believe.
Go about life the same way.
Love the same things.
HATE the same things.
As I look upon my son, I understand something. All the small lessons I worry about on a day-to-day basis…they’re just that – they’re small. The real lesson is singularly large.
BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BE
Be what you want to be. Easy to say. Sometimes hard for parents to accept, and often even harder for kids to comprehend. For me, what this means is my son doesn’t have to live up to my expectations. He doesn’t have to follow in my footsteps. If he doesn’t want to go to college, fine. If he decides he wants to become a god-fearing, bible thumping preacher, ok. Go for it. If he looks at his life and decides what he really wants is to be a beach bum who smokes weed all day and kicks sand in society’s eyeballs, I’ll shut up and deal with it.
It’s not a parent’s job to mold children into perfect little statues. Quite the opposite.
It’s not even our job to prepare them to become a integral part of society. Society doesn’t care about people. Only people care about people.
It’s our job to open our children’s minds to possibility, to teach them to adapt, to accept risk and reward, and to know the difference between belief and truth. Above all these, it’s important to teach them how to think critically, especially when dealing with us. We aren’t the unfailing gods and goddesses our children think we are. It’s ok to let them see us fail. Actually, it’s essential.
And sometimes the best way to teach these lessons isn’t with ‘we need to talk’ conversations, but instead through subtle everyday interactions:
He asks a question? I ask my son the question right back.
He wants to discuss a topic about which I know very little? I admit I don’t know and we research the facts as a team.
He asks for my help with something? I challenge him to resolve the problem by himself.
He asks for a tough answer regarding religion, politics, or sex? I don’t surround him with my own biases, but instead open the door for him to decide on his own.
I realize this thinking is in the minority. A quick observation of other parents reveals a wide spectrum of techniques, many of which include healthy doses of indoctrination. That’s fine. It’s the way it always has been and always will be.
As for the G Man and I…we’ll be doing it our way.
We’ll have plenty of questions. But not always the answers.
We’ll be individuals, not clones.
And we’ll definitely invade Hyrule while wearing shoes.
For more stories about me and the G Man, go here.
Countless Worlds Destroyed by Vampiric, Star-Eating Aliens
Welcome to the official Eaters of the Light glossary. Herein you’ll find descriptions and blurbs for every major character, place, historical event, and technological advancement appearing in the Eaters of the Light book series. This appendix is for all the folks who’ve read the books AND for those who are thinking about it. Fear no spoilers! No major event taking place in any of the three books will be revealed.
Scroll down to begin!
Aly Armstrong – Sister to Joff Armstrong, Aly isn’t the naïve girl she pretends to be. It’s all an act ordered by Earth’s government.
Babar – A brave pilot from the planet of Hermes.
Callista (Lightbringer) – Cal, a powerful artificial intelligence made of nano-light particles, is created to accompany Joff Armstrong during his voyage between the stars. Little does Joff know, Callista serves many purposes her makers have not yet revealed.
Castyn Clarke – An ice cold news anchor for the Dusktime Dispatch, Castyn tells only the stories her government pays her to tell.
Doctor Abid – He’s not a real doctor. But he is tasked with preparing Joff for his voyage into space.
Doctor Tiana – Abid’s beautiful assistant, her appearance is copied by Callista in the hopes of charming Joff.
Griff – A nano-light AI similar to Callista, only less powerful and with more inhibitors to his personality.
Hephast – The Emperor of a powerful human settlement on the garden world of Sumer.
Joff Armstrong – A young farmer from Earth. He enjoys his simple life and loves his family, but he’s meant for much greater things.
Kira – A soldier of planet Hermes. She’s fought the Strigoi her entire life, and doesn’t want anything to do with Callista Lightbringer.
Lukas Mosk – A smuggler working for off-world weapons manufacturers. Lukas’s real mission is to aid the settlement of Ebes in its battle against the Strigoi.
Mahtim (Captain) – The second in command of planet Hermes’ military. He believes he should be in complete control.
Maliah – The Calipha of planet Hermes, Maliah trusts no one, least of all Callista. She desires only to maintain her iron grip of Hermes’ affairs.
Maura – A human woman from the Sumerian city of Mercuria, Maura is in love with Joff Armstrong.
Mina – A young pilot of planet Hermes. She has to choose between leaving her daughter behind or abandoning her position in the war.
Rami – Commander Strope’s little brother. Rami is a young, prodigal scientist who accompanies his big brother during all his battles.
Samison – Husband to Maura, also a skilled astronomer and physicist.
Siraya – A lonely young woman who keeps her great-grandfather’s artifacts secret from the powerful Arcadian government.
The Strigoi (aka: the Varkolak) – A vampiric alien race desiring the death of all light in the universe. They typically appear as three-meter tall skeleton machines, but they have many other forms unknown to humanity.
Strope – The Commander of planet Hermes’ interstellar fleet. He’s young, brash, and brave. He also keeps too many secrets.
Sylpha Frost – The leader of planet Ebes’ military. She’s willing to do anything to destroy the local dark planet – aka: the Strigoi homeworld near Ebes.
Tabir – Husband to Joff Armstrong’s sister, Aly. Governor of the city of Arcadia.
Wendall Wight – A sicario tasked with assassinating anyone unwilling to help the causes of Planet Ebes.
Arcadia – The largest city on planet Sumer. The humans here live decadent, opulent lives.
Atreya & Kokab – The binary stars around which planet Sumer orbits.
Donva – A highly-advanced Earth city located roughly near modern-day Colorado.
Earth – Hundreds of years in the future, Earth is largely depopulated. Wars, evacuations to off-world settlements, and famine have changed everything.
Ebes – The large human settlement founded on planet Ebes faces the most direct threat of extinction by the Strigoi.
Grave B-7 Black – A giant Strigoi homeworld in the Andromeda Galaxy. Rumored to house enough weapons to destroy millions of stars.
Grave DD-9 Ebon – The largest source of Strigoi in the Andromeda Galaxy. Grave DD-9 boasts a mechanized moon used to create weaponry for the war against humanity.
Hades – The home galaxy inhabited by the Strigoi. All of Hades’ stars and life have been destroyed. Only the Strigoi remain.
Hermes – An icy cold planet in the Andromeda Galaxy. Hermes is the vanguard of human resistance against the Strigoi. Its people worship the small, remote star of Sufi.
Lun-Dun – The ruins of London, destroyed by nuclear fallout after a massive exodus from Earth.
Nosfera System – The source of the Strigoi infestation in the Milky Way galaxy. Nosfera houses a giant, planet-sized weapon used by the Strigoi to kill stars.
Sumer – A giant planet many thousands of light-years from Earth. Sumer has no native animal life, only giant plants and trees.
Zeus & Hera – The binary stars shining on planet Ebes.
Events of Historical Significance
The Exodus – A period of two-hundred years during which millions of scientists, humanitarians, doctors, and scholars abandoned Earth for the hope of a better life among the stars. Many believe the Exodus was triggered when a few select people became aware of the Strigoi plan to annihilate Earth.
Technology & Weapons
Coffin Engines – These massive Strigoi craft can turn large swaths of interstellar space into graveyards, destroying light, planets, even gravity.
Death-Beams – Deadly ‘dark’ plasma weapons used by the Strigoi. They both burn and freeze whatever they touch.
Dream Makers – Tiny devices capable of triggering powerful hallucinations in humans.
Hypo-Chambers – A device which allows humans to exist in stasis while traveling through deep space.
Interstellar Rings – Whenever large groups of humans want to travel at FTL (faster than light) speeds through space, they take their journey using powerful Ring transport ships, which have their own gravity and boast immense food & energy supplies.
Gamma Suit – A super-powered battle-suit constructed for Callista, it’s far more powerful than Joff’s original Vezda suit.
Sabre – The universe’s most advanced interstellar warship. The Sabre packs enough weapons to destroy entire Strigoi planets.
Scythe Ships – Fast and armed with terrifying death-beams, the scythes are the primary warship used by the Strigoi. They’re made of the same bone-like substance as the Strigoi themselves.
Skypads – Small, flat, and sticky, Skypads can be adhered to any surface and used as video screens and high-powered computers.
Sprites – Tiny floating sprites flutter around humans’ heads, providing them information, entertainment, and guidance.
String Reprogrammers (S.R.’s) – Powerful missiles capable of turning all matter in a given area into something else. For example, rock could be changed into hydrogen…or light. S.R.’s can also make stars go supernova.
Tombspire – A giant Strigoi construct capable of tearing wormholes in deep space.
Vezda Suit – A powered battle-suit constructed for Joff to wear during his fight against the Strigoi. Virtually indestructible, it boasts a powerful array of weapons and movement systems.
Xiphos Warships – Slender and swordlike, the Xiphos ships are planet Hermes’ first line of defense against the Strigoi hordes.
The Eaters of the Light trilogy is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle form.
Buy it today.
…plunge into the darkness between the stars tonight.
If you like fantasy more than sci-fi, you’ll love my Tyrants of the Dead glossary.
The stars will fall, one after another.
Their last light will be an echo of everything that could have been…
…but now fades out of reach…
The Eaters of the Light
Breathers of darkness.
Builders of tombs, vast and empty, in which to bury all life.
All three books are available here.
A cool glossary for the Eaters of the Light series is here.
Get your spring reads right here. This week only (April 9th- April 12th) All titles are $0.99 or FREE.
If you are serious about your photography, always have your camera with you and take advantage of every opportunity. This shot was while my wife was at the doctors office. I just took the camera and wandered around the parking lot edges – proving you never know what you’ll find if you’ll just get out and look!!
Find Larry Winslett on Facebook and Flickr. His photos are available as prints and fine art cards.
* * *
For previous Fine Photo Friday submissions, go here.
Interested in submitting your work to be featured on Fine Photo Friday? Go to this Facebook account and send in your submission via message!
People love a good breakup story.
…especially if it’s true.
So here we go again. Readers of 101 Reasons to Break Up and 101 MORE Reasons to Break Up will find this to be the funniest (and perhaps most tragic) entry in the series. Newcomers will be shocked.
Truth is, I had no intention of writing this.
But readers kept sending me more and more breakup tales.
And every time I mentioned the first two books at bars, hockey games, and on Facebook, people reacted by telling me the details of their own personal heartbreak.
Who am I to say no?
These 101 stories are from real life. Contributed by strangers, friends, frenemies, and one tale from my own life, these are some of the funniest, harshest, and most absurd breakups you’ll ever read.
And if you’re new to the series, you can pick up all three books in one big book:
For about half of the paintings I create, I begin by drawing a detailed pencil sketch.
My favorite subject to draw is beautiful women. And demons…let’s not forget demons.
During the painting process, often many of the subtle pencil textures are lost. Paint flows atop soft pencil strokes, hiding much of what once existed.
For this reason, I like to photograph my sketches before I begin painting atop them. The original sketches are almost separate pieces, and I cherish them as much as I do the finished product.
So here we go…
Every pencil sketch I’ve photographed in the last 12 months…
To keep up with my latest art, follow me on Facebook.
My Review of 75 Random Things – Part 2
(Every item on this list was suggested by friends and strangers on the internet.)
Season 1 of the TV series ‘Fortitude’ – Great acting. Super interesting buildup. Vastly disappointing ending.
Jack Daniel Honey – Not bad for a party drink. It’s mildly palatable and inexpensive. But once you try higher end whiskey, you’ll never want to drink Jack Daniel anything again.
The city of Chicago – I miss living there, but only during non-winter seasons, which means pretty much only half the year. I have a feeling I’ll end up returning there one day.
The Song ‘Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor’ by Flight of the Conchords – Hilariously sums up trying to land a date by going clubbing.
Washing Dishes by Hand Instead of using a Dishwasher – Dishes get cleaner. Not much more work. Saves money. Ends arguments about how to stack dirty dishes. Sign me up.
Peeps – As a child, I loved Easter for the sole reason of devouring entire boxes of sugar-coated marshmallows. As an adult, same.
Putting Peeps into Burritos – No. Just no. Stop.
The TV Nature Series, Blue Planet – You think outer space is fascinating? Wait ’til you watch this series and see what lives on the ocean floor. Awesome, awesome show.
Russia’s Influence over the U.S. Election – I don’t know what they did. I don’t care. The kind of people influenced by stuff they read on Facebook? They were going to vote the same way regardless.
Dreadlocks – They look cool, but smell kinda like mildew.
Seat Warmers in Cars – For the ladies, I hear they’re great. But for guys, they
burn warm all the wrong parts.
My New Cat ‘Bacon’ – Athletic. Mean. Bitey. Adorable.
My Recently Departed Cat, Sticky – Athletic. Scratchy. Sweet. Blind. And now she’s planted beneath a Japanese Maple tree.
Text Messaging w/ Old People – Pretty much the most painful thing ever. Hurts my eyes to read the awkward things my dad types into his phone.
The Movie ‘Game Night’ starring Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams – Pretty damn funny. I’ve come to realize anything with Jason Bateman will be good. Ditto Rachel McAdams.
Twizzlers – Yes. The perfect candy for…everything.
Aussie Licorice – It’s sticky like honey and tastes like engine oil. No thanks.
Sting (the musician) and his latest tour – Did you know tickets are $600? Nope.
Small Talk – Does anyone really want to talk about the weather? Or the latest TV show? Or how your cousin’s mom’s former roommate is doing? No. Let’s skip to something deeper, kay?
The Book ‘The Wise Man’s Fear’ by Patrick Rothfuss – I loved book one in the series ‘The Name of the Wind.’ But book two? Dreadfully slow. Wanders to strange places while making the main character utterly unlikeable.
DYI Plumbing – You might save thousands. Or you might end up doing your laundry in the backyard and taking showers using a teaspoon.
Robert Mueller – FBI Special Counsel – Sounds like the most difficult job in America. Dude gets slandered on a daily basis.
Ménage a Trois Wine – The California Red is good. The Rose is even better. The Silk and Dark varieties are pretty bad, kind of like drinking wine-drenched cotton balls.
The Introvert vs. Extrovert Discussion – It sometimes feels like an excuse for people to talk about themselves at length on the internet. It’s ok to be either or even both. Most people really don’t seem to care.
Cracker Barrel Pancakes – Too dry. Also, they’re super stingy with the syrup. Bring the whole bottle, baby.
The video series ‘The Lion’s Blaze’ – I will never be as flexible as the skinny dude. Never.
The Kids’ Movie ‘Early Man’ – Pretty funny. A bit sentimental, but refreshingly devoid of cynicism.
Drinking Organic Milk in place of Ordinary Milk – Prepare to spend a TON more on milk. But the flavor difference is worth every penny.
The Restaurant ‘Outback Steakhouse’ – Terrible, dry cuts of beef. You’d eat better steaks and save money just by pan-searing them at home.
James Veitch’s ‘This is what happens when you reply to spam’ comedy sketch – Freaking hilarious. We all want to do this, right?
Men Peeing While Sitting Down – Why would anyone want to sit on a toilet unless they absolutely had to?
The Art of Allen Williams – Dark and beautiful. He’s a wizard with graphite and a master of artistic anatomy. Just go here.
Fake Fingernails – Ladies, I have just one question. Why?
Beards – Love ’em. But had to shave mine off for the summer. Too warm for muggy days in the Georgia heat.
The Movie ‘Sicario’ starring Emily Blunt & Benicio del Toro – Probably the most intense movie I’ve ever seen. That ending…wow. You owe it to yourself to watch this late at night with zero distractions.
Angry Orchard Hard Cider – Good when on draft. Not particularly tasty out of a bottle.
The #_____LivesMatter Movements – My position is that no lives matter. Yes, really. None of us have any real value to the universe, so technically we should all treat each other equally. (But we never will.)
The Album ‘Kingdoms Disdained’ by Morbid Angel – Thumpy, ferocious, and superior to most metal albums of the modern era. Even so, not much variety within the album. Basically eleven very similar tracks.
The Theremin, a musical instrument – Weird and haunting. Search for ‘Armen Ra Theremin’ on Spotify and see where it takes you.
Finding Stray Girlfriend Hairs all over the House – Women shed more than cats. Or dogs. Or any mammal on Earth. I need a scientist to explain this phenomenon.
The Movie ‘Cloverfield Paradox’ – Not bad at all. Interesting premise, good actors, sharply suspenseful. But somehow in the end a bit unsatisfying. The whole experience feels like one big cliffhanger.
The Album ‘Sleep’ by Max Richter – Soft, serene music meant to help people relax and sleep. The tracks are repetitive and atmospheric, and yet soothing. I use this album for writing epic fantasy and sci-fi books, but if you’re an insomniac, you might want to try it for yourself.
Bras – If I were a woman, I’d like to let my ‘girls’ fly free. Ladies, you have my sympathies.
Aberlour Scotch – One of the smoothest, brightest, and flavorful scotches you’ll ever drink. Try the 16-year and live happily ever after. Here’s my complete rundown of the best scotches on the market.
The Movie ‘Swiss Army Man’ w/ Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe – It goes strange places right from the beginning and never truly comes back to something meaningful. That said, it has some pretty hilarious moments.
7-String Guitars – I don’t like playing on any other kind. Saves me the trouble of re-tuning my strings.
Bing (the search engine) – Sometimes I end up on Bing accidentally. I shudder and click right back to Google.
Homewood Suites Hotels – You’d be surprised by the number of active prostitute rings thriving in various Homewood Suites’ rooms. Yes, really.
Being an Author – Don’t do it. Seriously. It’s not a path to happiness.
The Video Game ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ for the Nintendo Switch – My kid was alllll kinds of hyped up to play this. But after an hour or two, he came to the same conclusion I did while watching him play. Boring. Same old, same old. Everyone else loves this game. We don’t get it.
The Renaissance Festival – Good, cheesy fun. Nightmarish parking. If you go, go when it’s cool outside.
Match.com – Boring
Plenty of Fish – Same as Match, but even duller
Bumble – Pretty damn good
Tinder – Gross
The Album ‘Thinking in Textures’ by Chet Faker – Smooth. Relaxing. Although not particularly inspiring.
Magic, the Gathering – The best game ever created. Great art. Great rules. Constantly evolving. Better to play face-to-face than over the internet, however.
Ketchup – Hey, if you like it, that’s ok. Some people get too uptight about other people’s condiments.
Teachers Carrying Guns in Schools – Do it if you want. Turn every school into the Wild West. My kid won’t be attending.
The Video Game ‘Ghost Recon Wildlands’ – Quietly one of the best shooting games ever made. Realistic, balanced, and addictive.
Bartenders Who Know Everything About Their Customers – A wise policy on the bartenders’ behalf to maximize tips. But I once knew a woman who told her bartender too much (she was cheating) while not realizing the bartender was BFF’s with her husband. Be careful what you talk about, people.
Anal Bleaching (Special thanks to the person who suggested this) – I get it for porn stars…sort of. I just want to know who came up with the idea in the first place. Sasha Grey?
The City of Deerfield Beach, Florida – If you like volleyball, sand, drinking, and pretty girls, you’ll love this neat little beach community. If not, try Naples.
Bangs – Easy hairstyle to maintain. But at what cost? 🙂
The Restaurant ‘PF Chang’s’ – The food is really good. The drinks are amazing. The wait-staff is bad. Really bad. And I’m the most merciful diner ever. The lesson? Don’t hire and underpay teenagers if you want to appear upscale.
School Shootings – They will continue ad infinitum. It’s who we are as Americans now. Knowing this, I won’t be sending my kid to public school. I suggest you rethink your kids’ education, as well.
Nude Body-Painting – It can be pretty cool, maybe even sexy. But definitely not in overheated rooms. And an age limit is advisable.
The #MeToo Movement – Every single woman I know has a horror story of sexual abuse. Every. Single. One. Which means a huge number of guys are involved. Scary, right?
The Album ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ by Slayer – The best heavy metal album ever made. Try not to bob your head during ‘Skeletons of Society.’
Melania Trump – She signed up to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl and ended up on the mother of all roller coasters.
Bagpipes – Well-played, they make beautiful, mournful music. Poorly-played, they seriously injure eardrums.
Kids Using Foul Language at Home – I’m cool with it. Sometimes. Words are just words. They’re harmless if you want them to be.
Ren & Stimpy – I’d like to personally thank this show’s creator John K. for guiding me through my early childhood. Here’s the complete collection. Worth every penny.
Cream of Wheat – Totally devoid of nutrition. Totally amazing when served with milk and honey.
Next Door Neighbors Who Walk Around Topless – If he can do it, so can I.
For the original ‘My Review of 75 Different Things,’ go here.
For my review of life and humanity in general, try this.
J Edward Neill
This week, lacking any genius ideas, I’ve decided to review exactly seventy-five things.
These things aren’t related. They’re completely random.
They could be movies, television shows, art, cultural phenomena, beer, or maybe even my neighbor’s dog…
My Review of 75 Different Things
The movie ‘Annihilation’ w/ Natalie Portman – Pretty good, but kinda slow in parts. Also, Oscar Isaac has a different haircut in every movie he’s in.
James Vietch is a Terrible Roommate Sketch – Thanks for making me buy my kid a huge box of wholesale rubber duckies.
The Netflix original film ‘The Ritual’ – Liked it. Questions: Can the monster not leave the woods due to the sun? Or is the big beastie forever confined to the forest?
The Gun Control Argument (Everywhere in the US) – Even if you pass sweeping gun laws nationwide, we’re still fucked. This country is absolutely saturated with weapons. You’re 40 years too late to make a difference.
Pornhub – If all the best porn is free and readily available on a giant, hugely popular website, how do porn actors make money??
Plastic Forks, Straws, Cups, Bags, and Takeout Containers – Ban that shit. Immediately.
The Book ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ by Haruki Murakami – This is how memoirs should be written. Relatable. Honest. Quick. Elegant.
Crawlspaces – Never, ever, ever buy a house with a crawlspace. Go basement or go slab.
Turning 41 Years Old – My knees hurt. Stupid flag football league…
The movie ‘Ex Machina’ starring Alicia Vikander – I actually reviewed this for real. Go here.
Divorce – Best decision ever. Why do people get married twice?? Someone please explain.
Flight of the Conchords – Season 1 & 2 – ‘Business Time’ is the funniest song I’ve ever heard.
Veganism – You eat your greens. I’ll eat a bunch of livestock. We’ll get along just fine.
Apothic Red Wine – It’s really only ‘meh’ good. But at $7.99 per bottle, count me in.
Single Fatherhood – Goodbye, social life. Hello, Legos!
The latest two Star Wars movies (Episodes VII & VIII) – Not even remotely entertaining. Maybe I’m just old. Or cynical. Whatever.
The ‘Rogue One’ Star Wars movie – Easily the best Star Wars film ever. Disagree? Fight me. 🙂
Mellow Mushroom Pizza – F’ing amazeballs. Why don’t they deliver??
The Children’s Book ‘The Rainbow Goblins’ illustrated by Ul Del Rico – If you have kids, read this book to them. Over and over again.
Heavy Metal band ‘Slayer’ Announcing their Farewell Tour – All great things must come to an end. …sniffle…
Politics – If you support one party wholeheartedly, you’re kidding yourself.
The Netflix series ‘Round Planet’ – The funniest take on a nature show ever.
‘Witcher 3’ the Video Game – Still the best game I’ve ever played. (And I’ve played too many.)
Balvenie Scotch – If you’ve always wanted to try scotch, but you weren’t sure where to start, Balvenie is where you want to be.
Mad Max – Fury Road – The best action movie ever made. Sorry, Die Hard.
The website Etsy – I thought it was only for girls. But I joined it and it changed my life. Ignorance wasn’t bliss.
Selfies, GIFS, and Snapchat – Are we really this bored with our existence?
Feminism – I support it sometimes. Sometimes not. Trouble is; if you ask 100 people what it means, you’ll get 99 different answers.
Elon Musk proposing a voyage to Mars – If I weren’t a dad, I’d volunteer for the first expedition. Not that I think it’s noble or anything. I just want to drink scotch on another planet.
The Glut of Superhero and Comic Book Movies – Please stop.
Daylight Savings Time – Please stop.
The Album ‘How the Gods Kill’ by Danzig – The best blues/metal album ever made.
Vladimir Putin – Dude has the whole world wrapped around his finger.
Facebook – Use it for entertainment only.
Twitter – Same as Facebook, but prepare for more anger.
Instagram – Use it only if you have more interesting photos than selfies. (Selfies are ok if you’re stunningly good-looking.)
LinkedIn – Don’t bother using it.
The Movie ‘IT’ – So when’s part two coming out again? I’m not sure I can handle the wait.
Amazon Planning a new ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series – Intriguing. But can they top Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies? Probably not, right?
Peter Jackson’s ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy? – The decision to use almost exclusively CGI monsters over real actors killed all three movies for me. Disappointing.
Pandora and Spotify asking me to ‘Click the Image’ during ads – Ha! As if I’m anywhere near my phone while the music’s playing.
Chick Fil-A Waffle Fries – Still the planet’s best.
Chick Fil-A Lemonade – I think I just got diabetes.
DragonCon – Fun, but only if you can find a spot away from the throbbing masses of people. Good luck.
The Art of Terese Nielsen – Awe-inspiring. Just go look at it here.
Kentucky Fried Chicken – I found a chicken’s head in my 3-piece meal last year.
Bill Steer, Guitarist for Heavy Metal Band ‘Carcass’ – The best guitarist you’ve never heard of.
Conan O’Brian Driving Mad Max style to Comic Con – I want to cook my hot dogs like he does.
President Trump – People making fun of him on the internet won’t make him go away.
NFL Football – At some point, it became more of a product than a game. And now I can’t watch it anymore.
The Wrecking Bar, Atlanta – The best craft cocktails you’ll ever have.
Self-Driving Cars – Please let these be everywhere by the time my son turns 16.
The Video Game ‘Zelda – Breath of the Wild’ – Great, great game. Abrupt, unsatisfying ending.
Domino’s Pizza – Better. But still not as good as Pizza Hut or Papa John’s. Which admittedly isn’t saying much.
Kneeling During the National Anthem – Unless you stand every time you hear the anthem (including on the radio or TV) your anger doesn’t matter.
Cracker Barrel – Thanks for turning me into a Stewart’s Orange Soda junkie.
Being a White Guy in Modern-Day America – I sunburn too easily.
‘Cosmos’, a series hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson – You owe it to yourself (and your kids, if you have any) to sit down and watch it.
The Movie ‘Grandma’s Boy’ – Somehow, it’s still my go-to ‘I don’t know what I want to watch tonight’ movie.
The City of Atlanta – Great food. Good people. Plenty of stuff to do. But the traffic is completely unbearable.
Hobby Lobby – A great store to get bargain art supplies. But the store’s vibe never fails to creeps me out.
The Nintendo Switch Video Game System – Love Zelda. Love the concept. Pretty much nothing else noteworthy. Hopeful for the future. Maybe.
The Electoral College – I don’t care who won or lost the election. The E.C. is archaic. America can do better.
The Movie ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ – My kid and I had no idea what we were getting into when we hit the theater to see this. We were blown away.
The Word ‘Goetia’ – Bear with me on this one. I needed a word to describe some of my art. And somehow I found one. No, I don’t summon demons…usually.
Granny Smith Apples – Does anyone else think they’re too sour?
The Book ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert – I read it as a young man. And then again as a college student. And still again in my 30’s. I just re-read it a few weeks ago, and I’ve come to realize that while I love the book, it’s not the epic work of great fiction I once believed. It’s slow. It’s often tedious. And Paul comes off as fairly implausible. Whatever. It’s still good.
The Movie ‘Blade Runner’ starring Ryan Gosling – Everything a sci-fi movie should be. Dark. Gritty. Serious. Also, Ana de Armas.
Ron White – The funniest comedian alive today. Better than Tosh.0. Better ever than Richard Lewis.
Electric Cars – Can they please be affordable without looking like ugly shoeboxes?
The Big Green Egg Grill – Give me a $50 Weber charcoal grill, and I’ll cook you the steak you deserve without spending $800.
The Lego Ninjago Green Dragon set – Four hours of my life…gone. But at least my son hasn’t destroyed it yet. Oh wait…yes he has. 🙂
Waffle House – Without a doubt, they have the friendliest (and sadly, the lowest paid) staff of any restaurant in town. I always tip them 25%…sometimes more.
If this list annoyed you, maybe this will annoy you even more.
For 75 MORE randomly reviewed things, go here.
Photographing at the Zoo can be a very rewarding experience and good practice for photographing wildlife in the field. The trick of course is to try and make the shots not look like Zoo shots. It’s always best to just go and see what animals are cooperating. Proceed with an open mind instead of thinking you’re going to that great shot of animal “X” today.
Find Larry Winslett on Facebook and Flickr. His photos are available as prints and fine art cards.
* * *
For previous Fine Photo Friday submissions, go here.
Interested in submitting your work to be featured on Fine Photo Friday? Go to this Facebook account and send in your submission via message!
My name is Callista Lightbringer.
Although I’m not human, I am humanity’s last hope.
For a thousand years, I’ve warred against the star-killing Strigoi. I’ve destroyed billions. I’ve snuffed hundreds of their hollow, vampiric planets.
It’s not enough.
Alone, I must find the source of the Strigoi power. I must venture deeper into space than any living creature has dared to go.
And there, in the galaxy known as Hades, I must resurrect the light.
…and defeat the Strigoi forever.
Eaters of the Light
Sequel to Darkness Between the Stars & Shadow of Forever
The night is darkest before the dawn…
The first chapter is free to read right here.
Coming in March 2018
“Can you paint a portrait of me, but as a sexy, armor-wearing warrior queen? And thirty lbs. lighter?”
No. And you mean forty-five lbs.
“Can you paint my dog? He’s really cute. Look how his tongue hangs out the left side of his mouth. I really want to capture him in a painting.”
No. Your dog isn’t cute. Also, you have no money.
“Can you paint a lovely little orange barn with a giant Florida Gators logo on the side?”
Instead of that, can I paint a giant dark tower with a logo of a massive alligator demon devouring the souls of the innocent?
“Can I wait until you finish painting my commission to pay you anything?”
No. Go download something free off the web.
I know why artists do commissions.
At least…I think I do.
For artists who have a strong foothold in the industry, who sell every single painting they create, and who can demand a high commission fee, doing custom-to-client work can be lucrative.
For everyone else, not so much.
In the past, I’ve entertained commission work. The orange barn with the Gators logo? Yeah, that was a real commission I did. I spent a ton of time and materials in an effort to make it perfect. I delivered, and the buyer paid me as promised. Only trouble was – I lost money on the sale. I invested far more time than I could ever hope to recoup. And more than the money, I lost self-respect.
Not college football logos on cheesy barns.
In my humble experience, I find more reasons to turn down work than to accept it.
Oh, you want examples?
Last year I painted a huge wood panel piece for a buddy of mine. I quoted him my fee, spent most of two full nights sharpening the image, and delivered earlier than promised. Now, I love this guy like a brother. But here we sit, six months later, and he still hasn’t paid. I’m not willing to lose a friend over the issue, and so I don’t mention the money anymore. Though I do feel a little pain whenever I see the panel hanging on his living room wall.
No, I’m not bitter.
If anything, he helped me.
When I sit down late at night, a fresh canvas before me, a glass of scotch in hand, and my paintbrush whirling, I’m in my element. I’m right where I want to be. Whatever I’m about to create will bring me great enjoyment. It could be something grand – a giant mural of skulls. Or something simple – a swirly drip-painted tree. It doesn’t matter. I’ll love it because it’s mine. No one told me to do it. No one cares whether or not I succeed.
If I’m creating the piece for a commission sale, none of this is true.
I’ll feel pressure to make it ‘perfect’ as if perfection is something that exists in art. I’ll feel hurried. I won’t feel like a creator anymore, but rather like a business. It’ll become work instead of pleasure. Rather than savor every moment, I’ll want the process to end as quickly as possible.
I’ll hate it.
What’s weird is..
Even though I’ll strive to make the commission look fantastic, I won’t do my absolute best work. My creative engine will go idle, and my brush won’t move with the kind of freedom to which I’m accustomed. That’s just the way it goes. With freedom comes passion. With rigid expectation comes pain.
Not a week goes by without at least one person requesting some kind of work from me. “Draw me a tattoo?” they’ll ask. “Paint a forest scene for my wife’s bathroom.” “Paint my portrait, only not exactly like me. Make me look better.”
Some people want me to do this work for free. Or at rock bottom cost. Or they want to wait until I’m done to decide whether or not they’ll pay.
To a degree, I understand these approaches. Art is a luxury to most people. More important things exist, like utility bills, car payments, and food on the table.
The solution feels simple.
Don’t do it. No commissions…ever. No worrying about other people’s ideas, needs, and wants. Make art a meditative, peaceful thing, a creative avalanche instead of a business goal. Separation from commission angst means not worrying about whether or not I’ll get paid. It means growing my skill organically, not forcing myself into styles I either haven’t yet mastered or have little interest in studying. It means painting at a self-chosen pace, not hustling to push something out the door I never wanted to do in the first place. And it means a friendly but firm “No” to everyone who asks the question, and then peace of mind afterward.
Is it a bad idea to say, “No commissions! Ever!” Yeah. Maybe. I’m probably eliminating a segment of the population who might otherwise be interested in my style.
Am I going to lose sleep over it? No.
I’d rather be broke and free than wealthy and enslaved.
This philosophy applies to much more than art.
It’s life, man.