I just got back from a vacation – seven nights on a Royal Caribbean cruise to the Caribbean. I don’t think I really realized just how much I really NEEDED that vacation… and I don’t just mean from a “wow a vacation would be nice” way.. but in an actual physical health way. I hadn’t realized just how much pressure I’ve been under and how it was affecting me.
When I was at SOE, the stress was much more of a “fight for your life” type of stress… a “you are in a death trap and the end is inevitable” type of stress. When I was at the end of my time there I actually had lost over 30% of my hair and was suffering from heart arrhythmia. (both verified by my doctor.)
This time the effect was much more subtle and much more… well.. private. I do not want to go into details here, but suffice it to say that by the third day of the trip it was VERY obvious that my body and brain needed the physical rest. The odd thing is, I wouldn’t trade my current job for anything in the world. I love my boss, my coworkers, my teams.. just everything about it. However, it’s now plainly clear that I have to figure out how to manage pressure… in a way that DOESN”T have a bad effect on my time for work.. which is nearly impossible.
So… if anyone has any suggestions, I’m open to ideas!
Now.. on to other things. Before I left on the trip, I asked folks for book recommendations. I thought I might tell ya’ll what I took and do a brief review of each.
So here’s what I read:
Talking to Myselves – autobiography of Jeff Dunham
Firefly Rain – Richard Dansky
Angelology -Danielle Trusonni
Orcs – Stan Nichols
As an author myself, I’m sensitive to writer’s feelings, but I’m going to be honest in my opinions …
” Talking to Myselves” by Jeff Dunham
This may seem like an odd choice, why would anyone want to read the autobiography of a comic.. and a ventriloquist at that? Well, I’ve long been fascinated by ventriloquism, and since the days of Paul Winchel and his side kick Jerry Mahoney, I’ve loved to watch good vents work.. plus, a little known fact about me.. I’m also a ventriloquist… and won many a 4H “share the fun” contest as well as performed at churches and schools when I was a teenager and in early college. I gave it up, tho, when it became too “weird” and ended with me being shunned and made fun of by peers. BUT.. I do love it.. and still find myself wandering over to the websites of various figure makers and thinking ‘what if…”
So.. back to the book. I have to say I COMPLETELY enjoyed this book. It was a unique look into the mind of a person for whom stand up comedy is an artform and an artform he has chosen to pursue in a unique way. It hurt my heart to see him run up against many of the same prejudices that I did (albeit in a much smaller way) from people who see ventriloquism as a “dead medium” or “quaint” vaudevillian skill. It made me smile to see he’d started from the same books and records I did when I was just about the same age as he was. I don’t think I realized just how far he had to travel to make himself the “overnight success” he was with Achmed the Dead Terrorist.
Overall, I STRONGLY recommend this book to anyone who wants to see what kind of hard work goes into being a successful stand up comic.. and even how much harder it was for someone who’d selected the path of ventriloquism as his medium of expression!
“Firefly Rain” – Richard Dansky
I picked up Firefly Rain for two reasons 1. the back cover piqued my interest and 2. I know the author.
Richard is a great guy who is on the path I hope to be on myself one day – a game designer turned author. So I was curious to see what sort of fiction he would produce.
The story is roughly about a young man who returns home to a small town after not making it in the big city. But this isn’t your normal “coming home” story. When he gets there, the first thing he notices is while there are fireflies all around the area, they do not venture even one inch on to his property.
The mystery of the fireflies is woven through this nicely put together thriller/light horror story. The pacing kept me turning pages and the imagery was vivid . I even jumped a bit when the supernatural elements turned up a the heat a bit.
The only problem I had at all with the story is I saw the ending coming from quite a ways off. The up side of that was, even tho I knew it was coming, the pay off was satisfactory.
Additionally, there was the time or two I felt a bit like I did when I watched Amityville Horror… I think I was more scared than the protagonist was.. or should have been! I found myself thinking “and WHY exactly would ANYONE stay in a house where that sort of thing is going on.. and how the HELL can he even think of falling asleep after all that has happened?” LOL!
Over all, I very much enjoyed the story and was satisfied when it was done. I would recommend this as great airplane/cruise/vacation reading as it’s a nice escape from the day to day.
Thank you Richard! I look forward to more
“Angelology” – Danielle Tussoni
So after I finished Firefly Rain, I was ready to dive into my next story and I chose Angelology.
Angelology has as its premise an interesting concept of angel hybrids living on earth. There is some basis for this in the Bible with the talk of the Nephilim and such. But Angelology takes it a step further.
You can definitely see that the “DaVinci Code” had an effect on the author as there is a convent hidden away with mysteries in its shelves and ties to a secret group of people, but I’m sorry to say that’s where any comparison ends.
I desperately WANTED to read this story. It’s a topic that’s interesting and the overall concept seemed intriguing.. however the writing was so substandard I just simply couldn’t get through it.
It seemed as though the writer was in such a rush to get the idea out.. she hadn’t worked out the entire ’story” part. Again and again she used alot of what the Turkey City Lexicon ( http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops/ ) would call “fuzz” when she encounterd places where she needs her characters to do things, but hasn’t devised a reason why they would do it… other than they need to for the story idea to work.
“Fuzz” was so rampant in this story that on ONE page the author used “Somehow” or “Didn’t know why, but..” or a similar bit of fuzz THREE times. The two main characters “somehow” felt they had to talk to each other, and “didn’t know why, but” felt they could trust each other… and “somehow” ran into each other on the stairs…so on and so on.
I gave her the benefit of the doubt and hoped “somehow” their forced actions would have a reasons, but by half way through the book, it didn’t appear that would happen.
Additionally, the author “told” rather than “showed” me things. I was “told” that the main character felt nervous, rather than being shown her nervousness by the way she acted. A little bit of this I can write off as a young writer and an editor that isn’t experienced enough to tell them how to correct it, but after a half book of this, it actually served to distance me from the characters. I felt like I was observing them from far away rather than being able to “get into” the action of the story.
Then finally, her characters “somehow” kept acting completely out of character! For instance, our young nun who had been in the cloister since she was a child and very definitely loved it… “somehow” didn’t think she should raise an alarm when she came across a strange man standing in the convent’s private and sacred library!
I do not recommend this book. I’m sorry to say I only got through half the book, and that’s too bad as lately I’ve had a bit of interest in “angel” lore and “angel” based fiction.
“Orcs” – Stan Nichols
I picked up Orcs a long time ago as I really do enjoy traditional fantasy told from an alternate view point. I think Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mist of Avalon was the first I read like that and so have a soft spot for it.
Orcs was a fun romp through a fairly traditional and, dare I say, cliched fantasy landscape. In short, a warband of Orcs finds themselves at odd with the evil queen and set about to save themselves and the entire world as they do.
I have to say, though, aside from the occasional superfluous comment about “My how sharp and yellow your fangs are”, there really wasn’t much reason for the main characters to BE Orcs. At any point the term “Orc” could have been replaced with “human” and there wouldn’t be any difference to the story.
Additionally the action and the plot felt VERY much like a DnD campaign. The band of orcs got smaller and smaller, and yet they managed to take on major strongholds of entire races of beings with no problem. The author spent a lot of time describing each and every blow of each and every battle, but each battle seemed to be one on one, even when the chars were invading fully populated fortifications. But our heroes always managed to beat whatever was coming.
Finally, the arrival of “Seraphim” – a human char who would show up on his white stallion whenever the players… errr.. characters…needed a nudge in the “right” direction and who would then just as mysteriously vanish – felt WAY too much like the Dungeon Master popping in to make sure his players were moving in the right direction.
Overall I felt it was pretty predictable and, as a game master of many many years, it felt very familiar. I could nearly predict what was going to happen chapter by chapter.
That said, I didn’t dislike it. I didn’t love it either, but I did finish it and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good DnD romp with LOTS of bloody fighting in it.
So that’s my reading list for my vacation.Next I’ll do a write up review on the cruise itself .. I *may* even post pictures!