My sincere thanks to everyone who helped make the Shattered Abacus two day promotion so successful! Readers downloaded a grand total of 4,272 copies!! These books are a joy to write, and my attempt to create a world of friendship, empathy, adventure, and love (and a little quantum physics) for young at heart readers. Thank you!
Orville Mouse and the Puzzle of the Shattered Abacus, and Orville Mouse and the Puzzle of the Capricious Shadows were both honored as finalists in Young Adult Fiction in the 2017 International Book Awards. Three cheers for Orville, Sophia, and Proto!
I am constantly surprised by the things I don’t know. There are so many of them, the list is endless, infinite, and really, really long. Like the Janko keyboard I used for the cover of Orville Mouse and the Puzzle of the Last Metaphonium. When I searched online for a weird piano keyboard that matched the one I was seeing on the Metaphonium, I found the Janko piano made in 1882. Awesome. What I still didn’t know is the Janko keyboard is still being produced and played. So cool. I reached into the world of the unknown and pulled out a cool piano. Nice. Enjoy this video!
I just finished the storyline (7k words of plot) for the next Orville Mouse book, Orville Mouse and the Puzzle of the Last Metaphonium. So I sat down and designed the cover. I’m retired, but I was a graphic designer and artist for over 35 years. I wanted the Metaphonium to be on the cover, and I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like (I describe it at the end of Capricious Shadows) but how to create one? I wanted it to have a half dozen rows of keys, but not normal piano keys, they had to be oddly shaped. I went on line and found a very strange piano made in the 1880s called the Janko keyboard. EXACTLY what I was looking for!! Have to wonder about that… but I digress. After I found the Janko keyboard I did a search for brass dials, old wooden doors, glass tubing, and a bunch of other little design elements. Two days later I had the final cover.
I’ve often said the things we take for granted prove to be the most interesting. The idea that a bird gets smaller and smaller as it flies away from us, eventually just blinking into nothingness. Curious illusion. Let’s think about dreams. We’ve all had them, we all know what they are. In my dream I’m running through a meadow filled with glorious wildflowers on a sparkling summer day. Lovely. I turn around to check on the huffing grizzly bear who’s pounding after me. Okay, too stressful, let’s ditch the grizzly bear, there’s just a beautiful broad meadow, wildflowers, and snow capped mountain peaks in the distance. Done and done. Then I wake up and think, “Oh, pish posh, that wasn’t even real, it was all in my head.” Then I think, “Wait a minute, how could a huge sunny meadow and a mountain range fit inside my head?” Silly, right? But how does that work, exactly? In the dream I am experiencing a lovely meadow and a vast mountain range. It’s there, I see it, I feel it, but when I wake up I realize the three dimensional space I was experiencing did not really exist, it was all thought, only an illusion. Then I step outside my front door in Anchorage Alaska and gaze up at the beautiful snow capped Chugach mountains. They seem so real. So very real.
Not what you think. Tricked you again. This is a confession. At 66 years old I decided to learn how to throw playing cards like a ninja. You just never know when an assassin will crash through the window while you’re playing a game of Old Maid. I went on YouTube and learned all about throwing cards, then began my training as a card throwing ninja. Practice, then more practice. Then more practice. Finally I could throw a playing card about 120 feet. Not that I carefully measured it or anything nerdy like that. Next step, throw the card and stick it into a sheet of styrofoam. Very hard to do, I could only stick about half my cards in. I know, if I throw even harder it will work better. That’s when my arm and shoulder began to hurt. Badly. Did I stop? No, pain is only an illusion to a ninja. Well… up to a point. Finally I had to stop because it hurt so much. Owie. Couldn’t do much with my left arm so I decided to let it heal on its own. It got somewhat better after four months but still hurt a lot. Finally my non-ninja wife said, “You need to go see a physical therapist.” Sigh.
My first day of physical therapy was fine. The second day she began twisting and bending my arm in all manner of impossible directions, stopping just before my eyes popped out of my head. “PT also stands for Pain and Torture.” Ha ha. PT humor. Then came the exercises. “This is supposed to hurt a lot, right?” “Pain and Torture, remember?” Then big bags of ice on my shoulder (cold shoulder, get it?) and electricity (think Young Frankenstein “It’s alive!!”) Two weeks went by and my arm was getting stronger, the pain lessening. Say, she might be on to something here. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel I doubled down on the exercises. My arm kept getting better, it was almost normal again. That’s where I am today, and my therapist said in another few weeks I’d be back to my former card throwing ninja self. Sweet. What did I learn? Something I already knew, but needed to be reminded of. Below is a quote from a previous blog posting titled “My Steamy Blog”. You’d be amazed how many hits that title gets. It sums it up quite nicely.
“The world is the perfect mouse trap. Here we are. There’s a big wide road ahead of us filled with obstacles, the sign reading, “Highway to Happiness”. People peer down the road, see the big scary jagged obstacles and say, “Waiter, more pie please.” After nine pieces of key lime pie, “Unnggh. That didn’t really help.” Every attempt we make to avoid going down that road has perfectly disastrous results, and that is the perfection of this world.”
You’ll never see the card coming. I am a shadow, I am the wind, I am the card throwing ninja.
I know, I stole that from a Paul Simon song.
A funny thing happened on the way to my frozen Alaskan mailbox last week. I slipped on the ice, fell and whacked my head. I got up, got the mail, came back inside, sat down at my desk and began editing the Capricious Shadows. Then I lost consciousness. Fortunately I was sitting at my desk instead of juggling chainsaws. I found myself dreaming, then woke up with no idea what I was doing, why I was at my desk. I wasn’t sure if I had written the Orville and Bartholomew books sitting next to me, or what they were about. I shut off my computer. I was terrified. I had a sense of self, but everything else was very fuzzy. My wife wasn’t home and I had no idea where she was, or how long she had been gone. (she was on a weekend quilting retreat on the Kenai Peninsula) I wondered if I’d had a stroke, then remembered falling on the ice. So happy to remember that. After about five minutes or so everything started coming back. My daughter and her husband took me to the ER for a CT scan and everything was fine. Big relief. Good to go. Go home, get some rest. I was fine, but couldn’t shake that dreadful feeling of not knowing all the details of my life for those very scary ten minutes. I was on to something. Why had I been so scared?
I’ve often said our sense of identity in this world is a little like the Uncle Remus story of the Tar Baby, rolling along and picking things up that stick to it. We are born into the world with no immediate sense of self. Soon we learn we have parents, that we’re a boy or a girl, what race we are, what color, what country we live in, what language we speak, our religion, and on and on and on. Are we tall or short, athletic, good in school, attractive, outgoing, introverted? The career choices we make, who we vote for, what kind of ice cream we like. You get the idea, these hundreds and thousands of little facts form a very complex mosaic we call us. The other thing I’m very fond of saying is, “If you take away everything that is not really you, what is left?” Take away all those things stuck to the Tar Baby, and what is left? Hmmm… I could tell you the answer, but that would be cheating.
Just kidding, the answer is in this old post from The Real Stories Behind Bartholomew the Adventurer and Orville Mouse.
“Another Saturday Night and I Ain’t Got No Body…”
Posted on February 21, 2015
Ahh, the ever popular out-of-body experience (OBE) – the Near Death Experience (NDE) without the pesky near death part. I remember reading Dr. Raymond Moody’s book Life After Life when it first came out. Wow. This was what I was looking for — people who had actually experienced “the other side” and who talked about it in non-mythical terms. What to believe? I’ve met people who don’t believe anything and I’ve met people who believe everything. I’m in the middle. I believe my own experiences with the caveat that everything I’m experiencing could be an illusion. Even though I read Life After Life over and over, part of me still said, ”Mmmm… I dunno… maybe.”
My real metaphysical paranormal journey began when I was in my early 30s, starting with self hypnosis. I think I may have been trying to quit smoking or something. Another example of chasing the magic deer. Self hypnosis turned into dream analysis and meditation, psychic phenomena and lucid dreaming and on and on. When I was first practicing meditation I had two out-of-body experiences. They were completely spontaneous and not of my own volition. I tried for a number of years after that to duplicate the experience but could not. Quite possibly because I didn’t really want to have another one.
I woke up one night in the corner of my room. Floating next to the ceiling. OMG, not LOL. I was as awake as I am now, but floating in my room watching myself and my wife sleeping in our bed. I was brand new to this sort of thing and had no idea what to do, but I was aware of two things. The first was, this was not the time for me to be doing this. The second was, I was electric and I was my true self. There’s a question I used to ask myself – a little exercise of mine. That question is, “If you take away everything that you’re not, what is left over?” Answer? It was the part of me that was floating up near the ceiling. I was a field of awareness. Okay, how do I make this stop? I vaguely remembered reading something about NDEs where they traveled around just using their will. It worked. I started floating over and down towards my body. When I got close to it, I just sort of popped back into it. I was back in my body and my heart was pounding like a bass drum on the 4th of July (!!). This is important – there was absolutely no break in consciousness or awareness from the time I was outside my body to the time I was back in my body. I was not waking up from a dream. I was completely awake the whole time. It was no different than opening the door to your car and climbing in. The instant I was back in my body I could feel my heart pounding. The same thing happened the next night, but by then I was an old hand. I popped right back into my body and it never happened again. The experience was frightening, but it taught me something that changed my life forever. The personal human consciousness can exist outside the physical body. The door had been opened. Unfortunately I have no answer to the question, “Who opened the door?”
It’s taken me 66 years to build the mosaic that I fondly refer to as me. During my five or ten minutes of memory loss, most of that was gone. It gave me great empathy for people suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, people for whom memory loss is not just an intellectual concept. The bad news is it’s very, very scary to lose our closely held earthly identity, to lose that solid ground we are so used to standing on. The good news is, we are far more than that. Something we forgot the day we were born into this world.