Excerpt 2: The Last Travels of Sir Michael Zazu

Another slice off the narrative roast:


Yak at Ledar” by TravelWayOfLife is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Thank you Jesus, the hard-working nomads of Engywha uryot’ha, and the sacrifice of one spit-roasted yak. The nomads had done some construction in the center of town, rearranging the tents and tables to accommodate most of the village. Like lines of ants summoned to the hill, we all traced through the sands to the tent cluster, eager to pounce on this festivity. Had to admire their modular prowess, puffing up the “rooftop” and seamlessly linking their tents. They must have given their interior decorators some purpose, evidenced by the descendent aubergine fabrics, torch illuminated, resplendent ceiling accouterment.

We gathered around low tables, not much more than darkened sheets of wood upon brick. Not much used, easy to stow and re-use. Can’t just peel off the yak and eat it on the spot. Could still smell it lurking in the air, the aromas having come to rest in our new hall. I try my best to immerse myself when given the chance, but I didn’t try that hard here. Found Clean and other fast friends in a matter of moments. I bowed out of courtesy, ready to capitalize on desires long accumulating in interest here.

“You looking quite happy, Sir Michael,” noted Clean.

“Looking forward to the feast you all put on. Great timing for my arrival, right?”

“Quite,” he added. “They’re serving.”

I snapped my gaze toward whatever activity began at a nearby table. Two husky nomads set down a heavy red chest on a table. Kids, being kids and all, squeezed in through the cracks, barging in between the seated adults. You’d think they wouldn’t take to grown-up food. Prayed within that they honored guests, travel writers, and elders first. In that order.

“What’s in the box?”

Continue reading “Excerpt 2: The Last Travels of Sir Michael Zazu”

How to React to Unsolicited Parenting Advice (Without Exploding!)

In my previous post, I discussed people giving parenting advice. But those lessons aren’t learned overnight.

In the meantime, you might have to endure such gems as:

“Only ten pounds at four weeks? You should start feeding her cereal.”

“I don’t see what all the fuss is about — if your newborn can sleep at night on his stomach, let him!”

“Back in my day, [insert any comment whatsoever here].”

“But where am I supposed to find castor oil?”

If I had a nickel for each time I heard things like that, I’d have a lot of nickels. But since that’s not how any of this works, here are some helpful ways to cope with unsolicited parenting advice:

Continue reading “How to React to Unsolicited Parenting Advice (Without Exploding!)”

The Only Two Things You Need to Know About Giving Parenting Advice

As I was gearing up for fatherhood, my friend Josh (who blogs over at The True Chew) warned me about two things:

You’re going to get tons of parenting advice,” and “You’re gonna hate it.”

Wait, what? Hate parenting advice? At first I laughed, figuring “it’s just part of the experience; I’m glad people want to help.”

But no. I was quite wrong. It’s like sand. Sand is great in its own time and place. Great for beaches. Great for sandboxes. But not for gas tanks. Not for diapers.

In light of the above, there are only two things you need to know about giving parenting advice to others:


“You put SAND in my diaper?”


  • Give unsolicited parenting advice


  • Not give unsolicited parenting advice

Easy, eh? The key word is unsolicited, or in layman’s terms: “My child’s cry is not your invitation to offer advice.” If they can repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” then they should do the same to “Didn’t Ask? Do Tell!”

I know, you may have the experience, the fatherly/motherly wisdom, the history of mistake-making that you don’t want to see people repeat, etc., but set those aside for one moment and hear me out: You may mean well, but it’s far better to do well.

Here are two ways how:

1. Give solicited advice

Parenting is a journey. For me, I reserve the right to make dumb mistakes and grow along the way. I’m still learning when to persevere and when to pause and ask for help. Lemme get my learnin’ on, k?

2. Give some space

What a great favor to do for parents in taking “entertain/prep for company/be presentable” off their plate. No effort required. There’s a time and place for company too (of course!), but trust me, if you’re letting me have time and space, you’re giving me a gift that money cannot buy.

Thanks in advance. Really.

Know someone who should be reading this? Share below!

Why I Won’t Be Self-Publishing (and Maybe Why You Shouldn’t Either)

I don’t know a lot of people. But I do get a lot of questions from them:

“Do you ski?” (If you give me skis, yes.)

“What do you do for Apple?” (Not going to say.)

“What was Iceland like?” (Cool. Literally.)

And since I’ve kicked my book back into gear, some people have asked, “Hey, will you go with self-publishing?” And the answer to that is no. Here’s why:


“People won’t be able to get enough of my ‘Goku meets Monster Rancher’ fanfic saga!”

It’s not that self-publishing isn’t a good fit for me.

It’s that I am not a good fit for self-publishing. Me. Myself.

Here’s the thing about self-pubbing: it works when you already have an audience, friends, a large crowd of people drawn to you. To your personality. To your good looks.

Where you can post that you went shopping and bag a grizillion Facebook likes, or fart an inanity on Twitter for infinite retweets, or best yet, post your boobs on Instagram and earn a million new followers by magic.

So your slashfic is some monstrosity of a run-on sentence with nary a variance in sentence structure? Doesn’t matter: if people like you — they will love your work.

I know what I’m about, son – it’s none of the above. I’m not a popular person. I’m a crank dyspeptic and curmudgeonly millennial. I’m far from internet famous, nor am I a social media guru — unless I post pics of my baby daughter, who is doing wonders for my brand.

But I know I write reasonably well, so there’s that. And I’ve found that those who know me least seem to enjoy my writing best. There’s a thought. And there’s a crowd that won’t be reached by me marketing “me.”

Thus the reason I’ve decided against self-publishing: my self. 

Here’s Where—not Why—Gay Characters Don’t Belong in Star Wars

If you happen to follow Star Wars intently enough, i.e., familiar with recent Star Wars Expanded Universe books, then you may have noticed two things about the latest novel, a lead-in to The Force Awakens:

  1. Star Wars: Aftermath features a gay protagonist
  2. Star Wars: Aftermath is receiving some backlash

This makes for a hazardous syllogism, highlighting where—not why—gay characters don’t belong in Star Wars.


Holding hands” by Kristina Alexanderson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Gay characters don’t belong in the Star Wars universe as shields against criticism. And that’s it. They’re fine otherwise, and I’m not here to argue why they shouldn’t belong.

But in place as “criticism-deflectors?” No.

Aftermath is picking up its share of positives for people who like the author’s style, fresh takes on Star Wars, and appetite-whetting for the new film. There’s also a share of folks detracting for that same writing style, plotting, the novel’s artistic merit, and gay characters.

Fair enough, unless the narrative becomes “You’re a Homophobe if you Don’t Like Star Wars Aftermath.”

That’s not fair to the art of criticism, the author, his work, his reviewers, the gay community, the Star Wars community, the gay Star Wars community, or anyone. If gay characters are shielding a work from otherwise fair criticism, then you’re doing it wrong. (As for unfair feedback? Also doing it wrong.)

Here’s a hypothetical: think back to The Phantom Menace, everyone’s favorite Star Wars prequel, with its numerous criticisms. Anakin. Jar Jar Binks. Midichlorians. The amazing dialogue. Jar Jar Binks.

If a single line of dialogue had made Qui-Gon Jinn the first openly-homosexual Jedi Knight, would critical opinion of the film have changed? Should it have? Would it not be reckless to assert that “You Only Hate the Prequels Because You’re a Bigot”?

Gay characters will—and do—have their place in Star Wars canon. Just not as the deflector shields for critical turbolasers.

Excerpt 1: The Last Travels of Sir Michael Zazu

Figured I’d post a chunk off the ol’ narrative blob, just for kicks. Enjoy.


mountain goat climbing” by SuprisePally is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Thirst-crazed, stomach withdrawn, calves aching from hours of pressing my toes into the only flat surface available, I may have covered another mile around, if that. Scaled much less. Quit by mid-afternoon to enjoy some sudden sun, bucking off the swirls of fog. Had to take in my breath from exhaustion, but it’s worth sparing for the view. The once towering columns below had been reduced to spindles, gleaming in rare beams, reflecting into a multidimensional glare upon the lessening lichen, beckoning the tiniest of blossoms in reply. I enjoyed the sun. It spoke to me. Admonished me for an errand like this, restoring me from repressed fatigue. Pulled out the phone, ready to call in and give up or something, I don’t know. No service here. For the better and best, I’m sure. Maybe two more days. There’s water enough for that.

As my brook Cherith dried before my eyes, I hallucinated a taut goat leaping from above me, its hooves scraping the stone as it scrambled downward, covering in effortless reverse within seconds what I’d managed in days. Shook my head and peeked down. No hallucination. A larger figure whooshed by my head, not even inches away. Had I more energy, I would have recoiled in reflex. But I didn’t, pressing myself to watch this figure dive into the maw of Hyandrakar’s dark. I can count the number of suicides I’ve witnessed on two hands now, and I’d give this one a “thumbs up” for style. Did he plunge headlong, having forever lost this prize goat? Deluded into desperation? I’d rather not find out: the result’s the same, and his brain matter is going to rain upon the depths whichever way his cranium hits the wall.

As I mustered the strength to withdraw myself and spare myself the sight of resonant gore, the falling man twisted, gyrating into—of all things—a trajectory, steering himself toward the goat’s rocky getaway. If he could score a hit on the goat falling at this velocity, at this angle, I’d lament not videotaping this. Where is that videocam anyway? I’m lamenting.

Transfixed for a few seconds more, the goat looked up at this plunging man bullet, making a quick adjustment. All in vain, as this suicidal maniac pulled off an open-field tackle on the animal to brace his fall. Again, I willed myself to retreat, knowing that neither creature survived that blow. There wouldn’t be a medic rushing onto this field.

That’s where the “hit” hit me. I’d outgrown the juvenile urge to view the messy bodysplats like this, but that’s not what struck me. That fall. Too calculated. Like an Olympic high-high-high diver making an adjustment. You don’t plummet to your death in style. Not when you steer yourself on the arc of descent. I expected hearing nothing but the silent sighs of death, but the rustle of rock roused me to peek back again.

Good Lord Almighty.

That goat was dead, limp, its neck wobbling as it hung from over this man’s shoulders. Draped over his shoulders. The shoulders of a sure-to-be-dead suicidist. Nope. He sprang up the face of this unforgiving wall. Sprang. Either he got a “Death Dodging Power Up” or he had this plan in the cards all along. His effortless glide upward put to shame what I’d done thus far. And with a fresh kill in tote to boot, something much less manageable than my non-goatskin Horss Truffle Co.® backpack. 

He came into focus, not-dead, not-harmed, and not-fazed. It looked like a decade of wind had etched lines into his chestnut face, and his yellowed eyes flitted to and fro, searching out the cracks in the wall, two handholds ahead of where he would climb to next. His feet and legs bent and contorted to angles uncomfortable, difficult even to draw on geometry assignments. Like watching a basilisk dart across the surface of water, this fellow scarce kept more than one-and-a-half feet or hands touching the rock, propelling himself with almost as much force as gravity had in taking him downward.

I saw him spot me within flits of his eyes. He didn’t flinch. He looked to draw nearer.

This Squash-Themed Spice Latte is Better than Pumpkin — and Starbucks HATES It!

Pumpkin Spice? More like bumpkin spice.

You’ll never guess which squash is about to quash a coffee classic (since 2010) — it’s leaner, meaner, greener, and healthier too(!)

Gourd-lovers, Ugg-wearers, and coffee-photographers agree: zucchini spice lattes are poised to be this fall’s beverage of choice, according to Gourdman’s Coffee Digest.

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 12.40.41 PM

Zucchini Spice Latte?

“It like, just, you know, brings more of the other seasons,” enthused grad student Korinthia Green, 28. “I like how the green reminds me of summer, spring, and some parts of winter.”

“Zucchini spice is richer in vitamins, irons, antioxidants, riboflavins, free radicals, and organics, making it a clear health #win over pumpkin spice,” claims food scientist Zak Bentham, 14.

Not everyone is thrilled about 2015’s Best New Flavor.

“It sucks,” asserted Braham Teeter, owner of Starbucks Pumpkin Patch and Farms in Hickwood, NE. “What’s next, Acorn Spice Lattes? Potato Squash Spice Lattes? Butternut Squash Spice—wait, that actually sounds kinda good.”

Still, every squash deserves its season, and this fall, it’s all about the #ZSL.