Still alive. I had surgery about three weeks ago--my fourth in roughly a year, as it turns out. The upside to all the cutting is that I've now learned enough medical jargon to fulfill my dream of writing Boogie Schnauzer, Dog M.D. The downside, of course, is that I have such terrible dreams.
But I'm better now and hopefully my dreams will improve and whoever has my voodoo doll will stop poking it long enough for me to write another book.
Rumors of my abduction have been moderately exaggerated. I'm still here despite evidence to the contrary.
For those of you wondering when my next book is coming out...I have no idea.
Bad answer, I know.
I have several works in progress--including the third Hunter Chronicles book--but health issues have derailed my writing efforts over the last year or so. And no, I'm not that old.
Fortunately, I think doctors are finally honing in on the problem. Looks like it's either a parathyroid or kidney issue--not sure yet. Either way, I'm hoping to be back to full steam by the end of summer. I'll keep you posted.
If you are reading this, you are most likely the worst kind
of person. A turd. A blunderhead. A jack-a-napes. A one-eyed-lily-hustler. You,
my friend, are an adult and there’s not a more horrible creation on the face of
all of God’s green earth.
I know. I used to be one.
Wear a suit, a tie. Sit. Do things that rhyme with “sit.” Do
what you’re told. Tell others. Use words like “greenhouse gas,” “Boolean,” and
“rectal thermometer” with a straight face.
Maybe you’ve read Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in
Wonderland, and The Jungle Book,
or at least seen the movies.
I’m talking about what happened after Charlie, Alice, and
Mogli grew up.
Take Charlie for example.
Back in the sixties Willie Wonka could clearly see that the
tides were turning for chocolate factories, particularly his American-based
holdings after the FCC forced him to shut down the Television Room what with the
Mike Teavee incident and all. Lawsuits came aplenty. Willie chose Charlie as
his successor and hotfooted it out, leaving Charlie with a magic boatload of
But a Golden Ticket and an honest, good-natured disposition
does not a CEO make.
The FAA confiscated the great glass elevator for improper
licensing and safety violations. The FDA forced Charlie to destroy all edible
trees and rivers of chocolate due to health concerns and unsanitary conditions.
The real low point for Charlie came when the NSA raided the factory and
deported the Oompa-Loompas who, as illegals, were stealing jobs from Americans.
Operations ceased overnight, forcing Charlie to issue an IPO in order to raise
funds and keep the factory afloat.
Charlie was getting sick of three letter acronyms, and had a
few choice four-letter words he wanted to share—a bad sign that the disease of
adulthood was upon him.
At some point, the magic leaves our lives.
Alice grew up to become a politician. She ran for president
and chose the Cheshire Cat as her VP. He was all smiles and vanishing acts. She
declared Iran as the new Red Queen and swore to slay her with her vorpal sword.
At the age of twenty, Mogli was arrested for public
urination. He spent years drifting through the legal system.
In his later years, Charlie, as CEO of Wonka Industries,
spent much of his time in board meetings crafting mission statements and
sipping water from recycled bottles. He looked over graphs and itemized
reports. And sometimes—only sometimes—he thought about Willie and wondered
where the magic went.
Being an adult sucks. I know. I used to be one. Like Peter
Pan, I refuse to grow up. I will laugh when someone says “rectum” and cry when
someone does something mean. I will wrestle with my kids and wear sweatpants to
work because I want to. And also because I work at home. I will have fun even
if everyone else is serious and I will smile just because.
A few weeks ago, someone asked me what the whole "toast thing" was about in Return to Exile. Maybe you remember this. Sky was trying to convince Crystal to help him rather than hunt the Gnomon and he related the story of Nathaniel the Noteworthy, Samuel the Simpleton, toast, and the Tourmaline of Foresight.
In the first draft of Return to Exile the story of Nathaniel the Noteworthy and his encounter with Samuel's delicious toast was far more extensive. An entire chapter in fact. Only a few bits survived. I've included that chapter below to give you another glimpse of how the story evolved over time.
Keep reading if you like delicious toast.
A Note on Curiosity
from the secret writings of Professor Anastasia Livingstone, Founder of the
Livingstone Institute for Science and Mathematics at Arkhon Academy)
Now curiosity is a curious thing, and
native curiosity is even more
curious—it being such a rare nativity for even a curious person to possess.
Take for instance the notorious “Nathaniel the Noteworthy”. Being a common
bloke—a non-native curioso, if you will—Nathaniel was obsessed with finding the
infamous “Tourmaline of Foresight” (a rare gemstone said to be owned by one “Samuel
Nathaniel searched high and low for the
gem, traveling from Prestwitch to Germanium in northern Umpshire, until he
finally found the Tower of Lowdunderkis, clambered through the Portal of
Perfectus the Imperfect, and entered the Edge, where said Simpleton was
said to live.
As those of us who have traveled
through the Edge can attest, the path was fraught with peril. Nathaniel
crossed the Fiefdom of Fidorkun the Fearful, clawed through the Catacombs of
Karakus the Cantankerous, and swam the length of the Ingubriate Ocean.
In the Ingubriate Ocean, he only
narrowly avoided the Kraken of Trajukistan with the help of Rubber Duckus the
Ineffable from the Cape of Lost Hope (not to be confused with Rubber Duckus the
Effable from North Emblin, Dorchester County whose drowning in the dregs of an
overlarge tea kettle was as tragic as it was unsurprising).
On the Beach of Bungled Dreams,
Nathaniel found the Gibbering Pool of Unhelpful Insights and plunged into its fathomless depths. He emerged, confused but determined, and continued on
through the Forest of Unfailing Faithlessness until he reached the Desert of
Deplorable Deforestation and bought a map off of Oliver the Indirect.
He wandered for twenty years.
After twenty years, Samuel the
Simpleton—who had been watching the wandering from his cottage twenty feet
away—asked Nathaniel if he was lost, whereupon Nathaniel admitted that he was,
in fact, lost and finally asked for directions. Samuel invited Nathaniel in and
they had a dialog that went something like this:
“Would you like some toast?” asked
“Do you have jam?”
“No; no jam—just toast.”
“How can you eat toast with no jam?”
“How can you eat not toast with or without jam?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“What’s that not supposed to mean?”
“I don’t really know what it’s supposed
to mean or not mean; how could I know?”
“How could you not know?”
Nathaniel stared at Samuel until Samuel
shifted and broke eye contact.
“Um…I have butter…” Samuel admitted.
“Oh, butter’s great then, thank you,”
said Nathaniel as Samuel handed him a piece of buttered toast.
Nathaniel took a bite.
“This toast is quite delicious,” said
Nathaniel, who hadn’t tasted toast in a good long time.
“Thank you. The secret is to not burn it,” said Samuel, his voice
full of confusing portent.
Nathaniel took another crunching bite,
the sound echoing in the awkward silence as bits of toast fell and lodged in
his beard, which was quite long after twenty years of wandering without a
After another bite—and another minute
of awkward crunching—Nathaniel decided to take the conversation in hand.
“I have come for the Tourmaline of
Foresight!” he trumpeted dramatically.
Samuel looked up from his toast and stared at Nathaniel until Nathaniel shifted and broke eye contact.
“I knew this day would come,” said
Samuel as he took another bite of toast.
“Oh? Did the Tourmaline tell you that?”
asked Nathaniel, impressed.
“No. (chew, chew) Oliver told me you
were coming after he sold you the map.”
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
“Sooo…can I have it then?” asked
“The Tourmaline of Foresight; can I
“And what would you do with it once you
“Why, I would ask it questions about
the future and it would answer them. Am I going to be rich? Am I going to find
true love? Will I ever have toast this delicious again? What’s the point of it
“What’s the point of all what?”
“All…this,” said Nathaniel, waving his arms around.
“No, no; this! What’s the point of all
this! This world! This time thing! This life!”
right, I’m with you now. So you would ask the Tourmaline questions and you
think it would give you answers, do you?”
“Um…yes; that’s the point of the
Tourmaline of Foresight, isn’t it?”
“Maybe (crunch, crunch, swallow), I’ve
never really asked.”
“I really think you’d be much happier
with the Carbuncle of Self-Loathing,” said Samuel as he stood from the table,
walked to an old clothes hamper and started pulling out indescribables.
“Carbuncle of Self-Loathing? I didn’t
swim the Straights of Stygian Stench to find the Carbuncle of Self-Loathing! I
came for the Tourmaline of Foresight and that’s what I shall have!” declared
“Just so, just so. Ah! Here we are!”
Samuel returned to the table clutching a soiled handkerchief in one hand and a
yellowed sock made up of more holes than sock in the other.
He opened the handkerchief and dumped a
yellow stone upon the table. At the same time, he upended the sock and a purple
stone tumbled from the toe.
“I give you the Carbuncle and the
Tourmaline!” said Samuel dramatically.
“You give them to me?”
“Figure of speech; more dramatic than
saying ‘lookie here’.”
“Now, you may ask each stone one
question, and whichever pleases you more is the one you may have.”
Nathaniel leaned over and picked up the
purple gem. Holding it to his eye, he asked, “Am I going to be rich?”
A moment passed, and then an image
appeared in the stone, swimming up from its murky depths. Nathaniel gasped as
he saw his future self rolling in a pile of gold coins.
Satisfied, he set the purple gem aside
and picked up the other.
Holding it to his eye he asked:
“What’s the point of all this?”
“Try giving it a little shake,” said
Samuel, “sometimes that helps.”
Nathaniel shook the gem and returned it to his eye.
Watery smoke swirled in the jewels
depths, and then, from somewhere deep within, words floated to the surface:
You mean this cottage?
Nathaniel’s brow creased as he dropped
the gemstone from his eye.
“Um…can I see that first one again?”
Nathaniel left the cottage a moment
later. Using the purple stone, he avoided the Bickering Bats of Whitmore, slid
past the Stagnant Swamps of Revolving Revulsion, took the stairs up the Cliffs
of Maddening Madness, and returned to Prestwitch, Dorset County, where he was
greeted—as he knew he would be—by a beautiful farm girl whom he knew was, in
reality, a rich princess in hiding. They later married and Nathaniel became
rich beyond his wildest dreams—as he knew he would.
Now, after hearing this story, most
people assume that Nathaniel the Noteworthy left the cottage of Samuel the
Simpleton with the Tourmaline of Foresight in hand. After all, the stone he
possessed showed him the future: he married a princess, he became rich, and he
never did have toast as delicious as Samuel’s again.
But in this, most people are mistaken.
The difference between the curioso (the
natively curious) and the non-curioso (the non-natively curious and the
uncurious) is that the non-curiosos are constantly looking for solutions—someone
to tell them what to do and what’s next, even if that someone is a pushy stone. They look to the future as a set
thing, a place full of answers.
This was definitely the case with
Nathaniel the Noteworthy who, it should be said, was most noteworthy for being
The curiosos, on the other hand, are
constantly looking for the next question.
They look to the future as a place they explore and create.
For them, the future is not set—it is only possible.
Samuel the Simpleton was called Simple
not because he was stupid, but because he asked a lot of questions—a
characteristic the uninformed all too
commonly equate with ignorance, when, in fact, the opposite is the case.
The Tourmaline of Foresight had the
foresight to know that a life full of answers is a life without choice, for a
person who supposes they know an answer always acts on that knowledge and
creates a future that mimics the answer they thought they had. Thus, they do
not act, but re-act to their own presumption of knowledge, or to the answer given them by
another, no matter how wise and all-knowing that other might be.
A life full of questions, on the other
hand, leads to nothing but choice for
questions acknowledge multiple possibilities, and thus, multiple answers that
can, in turn, lead to more questions and more choices.
It is for this reason that questions
are to be encouraged, not dismissed. For, if we run out of
questions, the future really will be
set in stone.
A life full of answers—the life of the
non-curioso—is a boring life.
Just ask Nathaniel the Noteworthy who,
after only two years, took the Carbuncle of Self-Loathing and walked
into Fallowmere Lake, never to be heard from again.