Category Archives: General

Things we talk about with no other particular category.

Happy Halloween, and Amazing News

Happy Halloween, everyone!

I hope you’re having a great time scarfing down candy and small children (for the Gingerbread House-dwelling witches among our readers).

To celebrate, we have a new story by yours truly to get you in the holiday mood.

First, however, some news.

In the next week or so, this site (There By Candlelight) will finish being transitioned over to the company site for There By Candlelight Press. All of the personal writings and blog posts from both myself and Jennifer will be moved to our personal sites (www.jennlyons.com and cmikelyons.wordpress.com although my own will change once I purchase my own domain name).

Both of those sites are live now, and you should check them out and re-adjust any ‘followings’ you may have to them.

Additionally, you should know that Jenn’s first book, Marduk’s Rebellion, is available for purchase (currently from Amazon and Smashwords, with other sites to follow as they propagate through). Check out her site for details and how to purchase, or just to congratulate her on a job well done.

Her second book, Blood Chimera, will be available in 2014 from World Weaver Press.

Now, as promised, here is a Halloween Story for your amusement: The Claim.

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Brunch! is over, and other updates.

Well, my idea of having Brunch! The Page Where Spam Goes to Die was cute and all, but sadly the spammers aren’t very clever. They keep sending me the same six or seven basic messages over and over, rather than keeping it interesting. As a result, I’ve decided to take down the Brunch! page and simply squash the spam as it comes in.

With a HAMMER!

In other news, the first week of my serial novel read-along-as-I-write-it was a success, in that I wrote just over 2200 words. Today’s update is complete also, bringing us to 2700 words. It is up here on this site (here) as well as on my Watt Pad account, should you wish to get your reading done that way.

Lastly, let me just say that driving around on brakes that are failing is quite the ‘exciting’ experience. I don’t recommend it.

-Mike

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Back from the dead, new Thing happening

Hello faithful readers (both of you!).

Yes, I’m back. I know it’s been a while since I posted anything. Life has been happening. I finished a novella, decided to upgrade it to a novel, then decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do right now, and started another book. A ‘trio of four’ as DNA might have said. Maybe.

Who knows.

Anyways.

Back in February of this year, Chuck Wendig put up a blog post about how to write a novel in a year. It turns out, it’s not that hard if you break it up into small chunks. He recommends 350 words per day, five days a week.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Here, with you. This is, mind you, in addition to the other books I’m writing offline. However, here online, I’ll be posting between 350-500 words per day. Yes, it’s a serial novel! And you thought those days were over, didn’t you? Admit it, you totally did. That’s okay, I did too.

Starting today, you can head over to the Serial Novel page and follow the progress. It’s free, it’s only 500ish words a day, and it’s free. Did I mention it’s free?

It’s totally free.

So kick back, crack open a cold bottle of Liquified Flobotinum, and enjoy!

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The Blame Game

On December 14th, 2012, a man picked up several firearms, went to the school where his mother taught, and began killing people. This was a horrible, horrific event that shocked and sickened me to my core. That this was not the first time something like that has happened in no way lessened the horror.

In the aftermath, as I watched the feeds on Twitter and Facebook, I began to notice two trends.

The first trend was people expressing their emotions: offering condolences to the families of those slain, or expressing their disgust and outrage, as personal tastes dictated.

The second trend I noticed was people using this as proof that either all guns should be banned, or as an example of why every American should be packing a gat on their hip. Some day, I will find the humor inherent in the fact that both the pro- and anti-gun lobbies are using the exact same event as ‘proof’ that their beliefs are correct. Not today, however. It’s still too close.

But then I made the cardinal mistake: I replied to the FB post of an acquaintance.

I really should know better.

My acquaintance posted a link to an article on Thinkprogress.org titled, “It’s Easier for Americans to Access Guns Than Mental Health Services.” I responded flippantly that there are many things in America it is easier to get than mental health services. Then I sarcastically named a few, including garbanzo beans (because I really like that word. Garbanzo).

An acquaintance of my acquaintance then jumped in to berate me for ‘making mental health care seem ridiculous.’ This surprised me, as that was not the point of my reply at all. All I was trying to do was shine a light on the fact that the author of the original article was using this tragedy as a platform for his own personal anti-gun stance, and doing so in a deliberately misleading and frankly absurd way.

‘Guns are easier to access than mental health.’ No s#!t, Sherlock.

Guns are physical, manufactured items. I’m not an expert on firearm factories, but I can’t imagine it takes more than maybe half an hour to manufacture a Glock on the assembly line? And given the asking prices, I predict it costs somewhere in the vicinity of $50-$100 to make one. On the other hand, to ‘manufacture’ a therapist takes years and years of college, and tens if not hundreds of thousands in school loans. And once you’ve ‘made’ your therapist, curing someone of whatever mental ailments they suffer from isn’t instant, that also takes time and money. It has been a while since I last looked at the prices for an hour of therapy, but back then it was around $200. For $200, I can get a LOT of garbanzo beans.

But as I sat here and thought about this semi-argument I was almost having with a complete stranger, I started to think about what this says about us as a species and a society. I composed several follow-up posts in my head, and although I never posted them, they got me to thinking.

See, here’s the thing. Right now, a lot of people are blaming this tragedy on guns. Leaving aside the absurdity of blaming the tool for the way in which it is wielded, this is simply the latest in a long line of excuses that society has come up with in order to avoid having to put the blame for events like this where it actually belongs.

In the ’60s, it was Rock’n’Roll music. If someone killed someone or committed suicide, it was Rock’n’Roll’s fault. In the 70s, it was Heavy Metal. In the 80s, the cause of every evil was Dungeons and Dragons. In the 90s it was video games, and in the 00s, it was violence on TV and in the movies. And now, the fault lies with guns.

It is interesting that we’ve moved beyond the social and are now blaming the method, but that’s not the point. The point is, we keep pointing fingers at things that are, at best, peripheral influences on unstable people and crying ‘Satan is in the Rock’n’Roll/Heavy Metal/D&D/Video games/Violent TV shows/Guns.’

The fact is, sometimes people go crazy. They’re broken. Maybe it’s environmental, maybe it’s genetic. Maybe it’s a chemical imbalance, maybe it’s a non-supportive home life, maybe it’s stress. But people sometimes go nuts. And sometimes, when they go, they take others with them. It’s horrible and sad and scary, but it’s not exactly ‘news’ that sometimes people snap.

So why do we blame these other things, these external forces? Why does society feel the need to point fingers at rock’n’roll or heavy metal or video games or guns and cry ‘Demon! Unclean!’?

I ask this, but the truth is, I know why.

Fear.

Each and every one of us, in the darkest hidden parts of our minds, where we don’t like to go and hate to even acknowledge that we have, we know that the guy who picked up a gun or a knife or a bomb and killed a McDonalds full of people could have been us. ‘There but for the grace,’ and all that.

But we don’t want to believe that it could be us. Our subconscious minds, quite often, refuse to even accept the possibility. But if ‘crazy’ is a result of environment or stress or genetics, all these things that we tend to believe we have no control over, then we have no control over going crazy. And that is simply unacceptable.

So we find other reasons. Reasons that we, ourselves, don’t do. “That kid who did these terrible things played video games,’ your mind says. “But I don’t like video games, and I don’t play them. Therefore, if video games are the reason he went insane, then I’m safe. It can’t happen to me.” And just like that, we have rationalized away our fear that we could be next and put the demon of insanity into the sacrificial pig of things we don’t like, things we don’t do, and things we’re safe from.

A man picked up several firearms, went to the school where his mother taught, and started killing people. And because someone doesn’t like guns, it’s the guns’ fault.

Obviously, that’s horsecrap. People were going insane and killing each other long before we had easy (or any) access to guns. If there were no guns, that man (he was 24, according to the news report I read) could have gone into a liquor store and bought several bottles of Everclear and made Molotov cocktails out of them. Or made a bomb from various products found at Home Depot. Or picked up a knife (20 of the 28 people he killed at last report were children).

We are all descended from someone. We all live in environments and we all eat and breathe. We all have stress in our lives. So if those things cause insanity then we’re vulnerable. You are vulnerable.

But if you don’t like guns and don’t own one, then guns are a ‘safe’ target. Guns can be the culprit, and you are secure in your invulnerable ivory tower of sanity.

Good luck with that.

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New Year, New Start

Hello all,

 

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year (for our Occidental friends. The Chinese have to wait a little longer I’m afraid).

Mine was… less than ideal. This has been the worst December I can remember. BUT! It is time to put that all behind me and get back into the swing of things. So, new year means new challenges both for myself and others. You know what that means…

 

Another Flash-Fiction challenge! Yes!

 

This month’s theme is rebirth. It could be of a person (literal or metaphorical rebirth), a group or social unit, or the world after the turning of the seasons. That is up to the writer. As always, try to keep it at or below 500 words, although a tiny bit over won’t disqualify you from winning the prize.

What is the prize, you ask? Why, a genuine There By Candlelight 100% Authentic often-imitated-never-duplicated Noprize! Yes, you too can win absolutely nothing for participating in this contest! Be the envy of your neighbors.

 

Details:

Theme: Rebirth

Length: 500 words

Due Date: January 31, 2012

Location: Post it on your own site and link it here, or post it here in the comments section, or write it on post-it notes in your bedroom and just tell us you did it. Whatever works for you.

Anyways, that’s it for now. Talk to you later, and good luck with your own endeavors and/or new year’s resolutions.

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In Memoriam

In May of 1924, Eleanor “Lori” Lyons was born. From there, things got interesting.

A devout Catholic, Eleanor had four daughters and three sons before deciding that enough was enough, although she rescinded that decree for a while in order to raise her oldest grandson herself. This bounty of children was sufficient to ensure that she had well over fifteen grandkids, and even a pair of great-grand children. She read from the Bible and the works of great theologians constantly, preached of peace and forgiveness, and nursed a feud with her own sister that lasted over thirty years. She had the instinctive and utterly unconscious racism of her time (“stay away from that area of town, it’s dangerous. That’s where the hispanics live”), and yet her best friends for two decades were the Latino neighbors next door. She was a force of nature in most ways, but she could be pulled around (literally) by a twenty pound dog. She had so many kids she tended to cycle through names when addressing someone, “Listen, Denis, I mean Tom, I mean Matt, I mean Arnold, I mean Mike.” Yes, she included the dog in her list of ‘male names’ when trying to find the right name.

She believed some fairly outrageous things, but she also believed in the capacity for people to be good, if they tried. She took an utterly screwed-up kid and turned him into an adult that is at least well-adjusted enough to fake it in society. She loved her children, even when they didn’t get along. She cried whenever she got into arguments with them. She wanted to make peace, even when she didn’t know how to reach out.

She was in poor health as long as I knew her. Some of it was psychosomatic and hypochondria at work, but much of it was not. Despite this, she kept going and going. She was a stubborn juggernaut of a woman: disease and pain might slow her down but by God it would not stop her. She went to Church as often as she could. She went to the market, even if she had to take a taxi and she walked so slowly that it took her an hour to purchase ten items. She was frail, but immortal.

For the last few years. she needed more help. She lived in a nursing home a couple of miles from her house. She struggled with the concept of the ‘cell phone’ so she could keep in contact with her kids. Advances in technology were never her strong suit: she never once used the Macintosh computer I gave her, instead preferring to write her letters on a thirty-year-old electric typewriter until they simply stopped making ink ribbons for the thing. But she gamely tried to learn the cell phone, and when she needed to, she asked others to make her calls for her. She wasn’t going to let a simple thing like lack of understanding interfere with her life.

Three days ago, they discovered that her kidneys had failed. Her children put aside squabbles and drove or flew out to be with her, although she was on morphine for pain and never really woke up for the last two days. On the second day, she stopped breathing and the nurses told everyone ‘it is time.’ Of course, that’s not how Eleanor rolled, as the saying goes. She started breathing again, just to prove the nurses wrong. Stubborn to the end.

Late last night, she opened her eyes for the first time in two days. Her daughter Theresa was holding her hand. They looked at each other, and then Eleanor passed away.

As with so many things, I think the Bard said it best. “Good night,” and “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Good-bye, Gram. I love you, and will miss you terribly.

RIP Eleanor Lyons, May 4, 1924 – December 1, 2011.

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November Update Update

Yes, there are two ‘updates’ up there. This is an update to the November update, if you will.

As mentioned earlier, I’m participating in the National Novel Writing Month challenge from NaNoWriMo.org.

I have decided to allow folks a sneak peek behind the curtain of novel writing in a month by tracking my output here. Each time I update my word count on NaNoWriMo.org, I will also post those words here on the DWE — November page.

Note, however, that this is a novel I intend to publish some day, so it won’t stay  up there forever. In fact, it will only slightly outlast the NaNoWriMo challenge itself.

Yes, on December 1, 2011, that page is coming down. So if you want to see how a novel shapes itself during creation, check back daily and enjoy the adventures of Alice.

 

Thanks, and good writing!

-Mike

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