Moving Away From the USA

The US Healthcare System? Not my favourite. After literally living in a healthcare facility while The Good Wife managed the place for a couple of years, I got to see a lot of the waste, greed, and corruption firsthand.

The Good Ray

I haven’t watched the show, but I like the title.

And of course it’s my luck that she happened to be incredible in pre-nursing, top of her class in every class. With all the insurance and turning people away for care and all of the horror stories I’ve read on sites like Quora… It’s not the best work environment for an empath.

On a lot of those same posts, I’d see comments like “If you don’t like the way things are done here, then leave.”

So we did.

We actually did it. We left everything but a few bags and our two pets and moved to the other side of the world. The move was a lot of firsts. First time flying over 10 hours. First time crossing the International Date Line. First time in the Southern Hemisphere. First time in New Zealand.

Yep, I moved to New Zealand, about as far away as you can get from Uncle Sam, without even visiting first. And not to a big city either. Nope, I moved to the bottom of the South Island (New Zealand is two large islands if you didn’t know, and a third smaller one)  to a city called Invercargill, which is just about the southernmost city in the world. Hence the U in favourite.

Portland to Invercargill

I paid less than that for two people. Bad job, Google.

It’s possible to move away from the USA, and for some, it might be the right move… But it’s not easy.

I had a lot of trouble finding information about the country and the immigration process. It would’ve been nice to have updated info all in one place. So that’s exactly what I’m going to try to do.

The Thinnest Air (Minka Kent)

Book Review: The Thinnest Air by Minka Kent

This is an Amazon First Reads choice for June 2018. The original review can be found at https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2991V3FQL61V8/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1503953408

The Thinnest Air (Minka Kent)

One thing that IS “in thin air” in this review is spoilers, so don’t worry about finding any here.

This book was pretty good. No Dark Knight (Or the book version of that, whatever that is) and it took a bit to get to the suspense, but at least it existed. Plus, the author tried to add at least SOMETHING in most of the early chapters to keep things interesting and so you’ll remember, “Oh yeah, this is suspense, and there’s a baddie, and I’m going to figure out what happened with THE INCIDENT.” And you probably will; just remember, the journey IS the destination. Especially on road trips.

When it comes to adult content, I’d say this is a PG-13. Do NOT judge it by the opening scene, because it opens up with a light sex scene that made it seem like it would be frequent, but even here it was offscreen, as were the other mentions, which were infrequent. Sort of like I-Robot, if that dated reference makes any sense anymore. There are a couple of F-tomic bombs, but considering THE INCIDENT and the situation they were dealing with, a lot of them seem justified, though I know there are readers out there that don’t want to be anywhere near that blast radius.

POV WARNING! While there isn’t much adult content, I can’t, in good conscience, continue this review without the following POV Warning: This is written in first person present tense and alternates between two characters. I still don’t care much for this style–especially with more than one protagonist getting the I’s–but sadly, it seems to be getting more popular and I don’t see it going away anytime soon. Unfortunately. However, It only ever goes between the two main characters, and I think it switches every chapter. That makes it predictable, but for me that’s in a good way, and better than trying something experimental like switching to THE BIG BAD’S point of view and talking on eggshells not to give them away.

The first character, Meredith, is the younger of the two sisters and is your typical naive, pretty girl, but coming from an unusual background made her stand out a little bit. I definitely preferred her chapters over her sister’s, as she gave me reason to be empathetic, though she made plenty of stupid choices along the way. But hey, that’s life, and we all do dumb things from those old Geico commercials every now and then.

Greer, the older sister, took some getting used to. She reminded me of Marcy Long from Fallout 4, so yeah… Not the most likable of people. The author made sure to frequently show that she was intelligent, but that was counteracted by her doing some really stupid things. I’ve known people like her and they’ve always rubbed me more like a deep tissue massage than a relaxation massage, and her perspective irritated me at times but it seemed to get better as the story went on. At least the POV changes mean it doesn’t follow her the entire time, which made it so I could deal with her at the first until that “Acquired Taste” phenomenon kicked in.

As for the plot, there was nothing especially unusual or groundbreaking here, although I did like the way the timeline worked. Meredith’s story started a few years in the past and built up to the present, touching up on a few major events that happened over the years. Greer’s started at the present and went over each day after the incident, and eventually, Meredith’s overlapped so that you could find out what she was up to while Greer’s was still a few days in the future. If this sounds kind of confusing like the Flashpoint, it’s really not, but I don’t want to do the math.

…Fine. I’ll do the math. But NOT in Common Core. Say the present is Day 0. Greer starts at Day 0 and eventually moves to Day 1 and then Day 2 and so on. Meanwhile, Meredith starts at negative 3 years. Then she goes to negative 2 years and 11 months or something, and eventually gets to Day 0 when Greer is on a later day. So Meredith could be on Day 2 while Greer is on like Day 8, and you can see how THE INCIDENT plays out better this way.

Besides that, there wasn’t anything that really stood out as either especially bad or good. The story was well-told for the most part, and the reveal doesn’t completely come out of the secret sewage monster hole in left field. Instead, it’s something you can figure out if you’re paying attention without missing that single clue about the off-color red of a woman’s shoes in Chapter 2 or whatever nonsense a lot of modern-day authors like to try these days to make themselves look clever and trick you.

Overall, I’d say this is an entertaining book, and for me, it was a quick read. Still, if you’re looking for something safe yet enjoyable, I don’t think you’ll go wrong by choosing this one.

How Every Writer Has Their Own Method

Pretty much the same method I use, minus the past about having to use libraries and notecards.

A Writer's Path

How many of you remember the dreaded research papers you had to write in high school?  Raise your hand.  Better off, don’t raise your hand.  That’s too reminiscent of being back in school.  But anyway, I’ll tell you this: if I never have to write another research paper in my life, I won’t complain.

What I hated the most about the process was how formal and rigid it was.  When I was in school, the Internet was still pretty new, so we, the unfortunate victims, spent hours in libraries using dusty reference books that served better as paper weights and taking notes from pages with tiny print.  We had to write on 3×5 notecards in pencil.  We needed to come up with an outline, and this was to be done the proper way with the numbers, letters, Roman numerals, and I don’t even know what.  The rough draft was written…

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Ancient Stories I Once Wrote

The Tale of Tyrel, a Male out of Jail.

So this rough diamond appeared on my Facebook page today. I thought I wrote this for college for a challenge, but I guess I did it nearly ten years ago, where the challenge was to use only ONE rhyme sound (and near-rhymes) as often as possible and create some sort of story. 

A later version of this ALSO had 21 syllables in each line, but I have no idea where it is but I’ll post it when I find it. But for now, enjoy the Director’s Cut!

Ancient Stories I Once Wrote

The Tale of Tyrel, a Male out of Jail.

My name is Tyrel, and I’m going to tell, of a time that I easily got out of jail.
How did I prevail? I can’t merely tell and I have to say that you would probably fail.

One day the guard Dale, was walking and fell, and while he did wail his lip started to swell.
He said “Oh holy grail! Why be I so frail!” I sensed in him ail, the visage he had being all white and pale.

As slow as a snail, I reached through the rail and grabbed what felt like it must be a bell.
This holy grail, meant you this frail male Dale? Your ail where you fail will make me prevail!

With time growing stale, there was not time to wail, quickly I had to blaze this dead trail!
At first all went well, then a yell “You aren’t Dale!” the source of the yell, something I must quail!

Like the first-class mail, this Dale saw me sail, out of the jail, and straight out of Hell!
I stayed on a trail, ‘til I knew it not well, and suddenly ran into a rather large male.

“My name’s Christian Bale.” I heard the male tell, a man no mistake was not a frail Dale.
Cared I for his tale? Not when fresh out of jail, and I told Christian Bale “Go straight down to Hell.”

Not knowing Bale well, the male grabbed me with a yell, “Now you go to a place where no cab you can hail!”
And with that Christian Bale threw me into a deep well.

But I fell on… a whale?
Ha, Christian Bale! Tyrel did prevail, he never can fail, you slimy old snail!

On that whale I did sail, down an underground trail until I arrived at the town of Fontraile.
Thank you kind whale, sending me through the dell, my means of escape from that old wretched well!

I walked through Fontraile, a town hard to spell well, could you believe who I saw, Ha, not Christian Bale!
It was Walter Winchell, reporter tell-tale, and beside then I inhale a kind of good smell!

“Hi Walter Winchell, my name is Tyrel, I wonder have you any baked goods to sell?”
“Tyrel, and a male… I wonder are you the same that I heard did sail out of jail?”

“I did sail on a whale, and met Christian Bale. Know you that he would yell at a male reading Braille?
“Surely you aren’t well, for I know Christian Bale, he built a monorail for those needing Braille!”

All was not well, I could easily tell, and I knew I must bid Walter Winchell farewell!
“Farewell sir Winchell, you’re right I’m not well, I ate a blue scale with a taste rather stale!”

Away from Fontraile, I did flail with no trail until I fell over a yellow lunch pail.
A yellow lunch pail? Within Ginger Ale? Through what sort of veil had I Tyrel fell?

Besides Ginger Ale, there was also a quail, within that lunch pail that I did also unveil.
It had an odd smell, that oddly placed quail, so I tossed that stale quail, right over the rail.

Over the rail came an overweight male, with the appearance of one who once went to Yale.
And on the drail of the male was the very same quail, that stale quail that I’d tossed right over the rail!

“Make reason prevail, do not send a quail, over a rail for someone you may nail.”
My look did look stale, and I wanted to bail, but I tripped on the lid of the yellow lunch pail!

Then the male from Yale, I did hear him yell,
“By chance are you he whom they tell is Tyrel?”

I ran from sir Yale and he could not prevail,
And boy did he wail, “TYREL! TYREL!” As he chased at pace that could rival a snail.

My name is Tyrel, I escaped from jail, but how Yale knew, I couldn’t quite tell.
I ran down a path with no trail, when there in a sudden I read “Welcome to Crail.”

Inside of Crail, I moved like a gale, when all of sudden it started to hail!
And it fell, fell, fell, all over poor Crail! Oh how swell, how swell was the this gale around Crail!

“There is Tyrel, the bloke from the jail!” I heard some angry old townspeople yell.
I backed up and did quail, it seemed I would fail, when I thought I could take the near brail and rappel

And rappel I did well, away from Crail and the ever enlarging golf ball sized hail!
I thought it went well but I could never foretell that below would be something unwell…

The frail male Dale! I could instantly tell, that things were about to become quite unwell.
Above they dumped ale, in one was a nail, and below was to fail by the frail male named Dale!

They would never prevail! Tyrel would not fail!
Then came the male from near Yale with the quail.

He yelled with the gail, “Ha ha, Tyrel, you’ve been Caught by the snail!”  and seeing the snail, I must have done fail.
And he threw down at me the yellow lunch pail, And I fell, fell, fell… Right on top of the frail male named Dale.

“It’s over Tyrel, now come back to jail! Do not force me to pell you, Tyrel!”
“Aren’t You the frail Dale? You cannot prevail!” I taunted, I shouted, I laughed and did yell.

But Dale did flail out, a sheet of chain mail, and an item I did know was meant to impale.
“I give in frail Dale, I’ll go back to jail! But know it was from you that I escaped from that Jail!”

The townsfolk of Crail, they cried and did wail, “Hooray bad Tyrel, you’ll go back to jail!”
The fat male from Yale, he brandished his quail, “Goodbye grim Tyrel, I will see you in Hell!”

My arms did not flail; I did not yell, I was simply defeated, brought back by male Dale.
And now where I hail, is back in that jail, while outside grins smugly that once frail male Dale.

My name is Tyrel, and one day I’ll tell, of the time when forever I got out of jail.

Mark of FIre by Richard Phillips

Book Review: Mark of Fire by Richard Phillips (Top Review on Amazon!)

Link to original posting here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2DAJD85CY4S4C/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B06ZYW8B2D

Looking for a fantasy story with an intricate magic system, a solid plotline, and of course unique names you’ll never hear anywhere else? Then this is a good choice for you. But if you want deep characterization and powerful emotions, you likely won’t find it here. Despite that, I’d still call it a worthwhile, quick read.

For those worried about content, there is some violence of course, but it never goes into extreme detail. And I think that the only swearing used is the ones made up for the story, so not too much to worry about, unless the mere mention of something being a swear word offends you.

As for the story itself, this one took a bit to get going, and definitely improved later on. But I nearly put it down in the first few chapters. There were so many proper nouns after the prologue that I didn’t bother trying to keep them straight, and there are a lot of named characters I’m still not sure about. So if you’re wondering which ones actually matter, focus on Arn and Carol, who are the protagonists. It generally sticks with them from a 3rd person perspective, with occasional visits to Mr. Not A Good Guy and a few randoms as well. And because a lot of names appear upfront, I was surprised when one of the guys who seems like he’s kind of just a terdmonkey is really THE BIG BAD. At first I figured he was more of an advisor like Jafar from Aladdin (Which I guess if he’s THE BIG BAD he really IS like Jafar…), until it became clear that nope, this is THE GUY.

Anyway, The King Joffrey of the story decides to be a buttmunch and starts a long chain of events leading a group of people leaving the region and going… I’m still not sure what their goal was. Honestly, I was a little confused on how the main plotline got started in the first place. I felt like it was rushed through far too quickly.

And for me, that was the overall theme of this story; important events were rushed through. As this will be a trilogy, normally going quickly through some of these early events isn’t a problem as there’s a lot to cover. However, setting and description was crafted with great detail, and I would have preferred less setting and more focus on the characters and their motivation. Life-altering decisions would frequently be made in half a page or so with minimal discussion, sort of like,

“Hey, I have this idea. But it will affect the lives of thousands of people.”
“Hmm, I’m not sure about that. We should consider all our options.”
“I already did. This is the best. We should do it.”
“Well I’m convinced.”

And I’d be left scratching my head wondering how such a huge decision was made so effortlessly.

This feeling of being rushed through made it so we don’t get as much insight as I’d like into the characters. This book is strong when it comes to the storyline and action sequences, and if that’s what you like you won’t be disappointed. However, It felt like this series was originally going to be a book or two longer but was cut to fit into a trilogy. Usually, I have the opposite issue for Fantasy giving too much, like side characters that don’t really matter getting 100 pages of useless side battles. But for once, I would have liked MORE, as I was frequently surprised at how quickly battles and escapes played out, and how the characters didn’t discuss them very much.

The magic system was definitely unusual and one of the strong points, but I’m still not sure how powerful spells can actually get and the effect these ultra spells will have on the caster. There’s a lot of the usual stuff: The Avatar collection of Earth, Wind, & Fire (But strangely, no Water that I can recall…), but also some MASSIVE spells like changing the weather in September (Ha! Like the song…) and nearly insurmountable ones with an enormous area of effect I’m not sure how they can stay maintained. I’m assuming this will probably be covered in the sequel, but for now it was a little bit perplexing.

Still, I didn’t have any trouble reading to the end after I got through the first section. So if you love Fantasy and reading for action sequences, you’ll probably love this story, and while it has its flaws, I will likely see the trilogy through to its end.

Bachelor Seattle

Bachelor Seattle

*Disclaimer: No, I’m not single, I’m happily married, but this is how an old school SEO dating page would look!*

Bachelor Seattle

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Get the Bachelor Seattle you deserve

Some Bachelors Seattle don’t listen when you talk about yourself. I do. I take note of appropriate conversational cues and respond respectfully and appropriately. As the best Bachelor Seattle, I talk for the right amount of time using only top-quality topics. You don’t have to worry about bulling lulls of awkward silence, because as the ideal Bachelor Seattle I know what to say and when.

As the prime Bachelor Seattle, you can expect amazing datesBachelor Seattle

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Kramerica

Kramerica’s Freeways

Someohow, Kramerica made it to my hometown.

In one week, I had the privilege to see both sides of how the American government works. Somehow, they can be both incredibly efficient and painfully inefficient at the same time. It all depends on the job.

It’s a given that the government can’t get simple things done. So much so, that you have to preface any difference as the exception. Well, this week was one such exception.

Driving towards Portland in the morning, there’s no escaping traffic. Even if you get up at 5AM. But there was always one part of the morning commute that was relatively pain free. The first three miles or so where the the freeway expands to a third lane was rarely congested because us peons would have the chance to expand. Until this week. Tuesday was normal. But on Wednesday, it was stop and go right off my exit. I figured it was an accident. Then I got to this gem:

Traffic Revision

Read: Misery Ahead

Okay, so they were going to do some roadwork. The third season of the year, road crews blocking every conceivable path to a destination. But no, there were no cones or trucks on the side of the road. Instead, as I was about to change to my usual lane, I was greeted with this:

Black out lane-lines one and three, and a four-lane highway becomes a two-lane comfort cruise.

Yep, somehow, they took away an entire lane overnight.. Overnight. Without warning even. And this wasn’t some temporary, orange cone job either. It had paint, egg bumpies, and everything. Like it had always been that way. And it covered more than a mile at two major merge points. Overnight!

Meanwhile, last winter there was a piece of a city dock that broke off from the rest of it during a major winter storm. They retrieved the 20-foot piece and set it right next to main portion. Fixes were supposedly supposed to be done in about 3 weeks.

Fast forward over 8 months, and it’s still not done. One of my coworkers got curious and wrote the city because the broken dock was part of our walking path. And he gets a message “Greetings, We had an engineer assess the structure and compare the winter damage against current codes for in-water structures and work. The engineer’s estimate reported that it would cost $1.1 million dollars to construct a new dock for the badly degraded long section that parallels the river.”

Million Dollars

With all the inspections, re-engineering, coding fees…

Over a million dollars. To fix a 20 foot section. They went on to say that it would end up costing less to build a new one, so it will remain closed indefinitely. 100 years ago if a dock broke, someone could just put a few two by fours and a piece of plywood over it and fix it in a few hours. Now? A crew of engineers and more than I’ve made my whole life.

How could it cost so much? And take so long? They’ve already proven they can work quickly… That’s when I realized the truth. The government can work efficiently….

But only when they’re making life miserable.

Bizarre Things People Say to Authors

I plan on doing one of these on my own before too long. But for now, here’s just a smidge of what us Bookfolk go through.

A Writer's Path

by Lev Raphael

Nobody tells you that when you publish a book, it becomes a license for total strangers to say outrageous things to you that you could never imagine saying to anyone.

I’m not just talking about people who’ve actually bought your book. Even people who haven’t read your book feel encouraged to share, in the spirit of helpfulness.

At first, when you’re on tour, it’s surprising, then tiring — but eventually it’s funny, and sometimes it even gives you material for your next book. All the comments on this list have been offered to me or other writer friends in almost exactly these words:

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How a Business Book Applies to Writing

Recently, I read The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. And even though it’s a tool hijacked by Amway recruiters,  it has some solid principles of good business strategies that I’ve always personally stood by. But what about the writing itself? Not so great. While it’s a world I don’t plan on entering, it got me to think about writing, and how if you want to use writing as a business (aka, make money with it) some of the ideas translate well to quality writing.

They have 5 laws of “Stratospheric Success”, which I’ll draw from to make “The Laws of Stratospheric Novel Writing”(No aliens required). To keep it simple, I’ll only use three. And like many laws, you break it, you buy it.

  1. Be authentic

As easy as this sounds, it’s one a lot of people have a hard time following. As a youngling, I was one of them. I remember writing stories growing up and being obsessed with the Flesch reading ease test and the grading level it gave in Word. But since this isn’t actual people, but a program (and an old one at the time), it’s not like it could actually read or interpret my words. So how do they do it? With MATH!

206.835 – (1.015 x Average words per sentence) – (84.6 x Average syllables per word) = Readability Ease

And for grade level,

0.39 x Average words per sentence +11.8 x Average syllables per word -15.59

So obvious, how could I miss it? 206.835, of course! Using MATH to figure out if words make sense! I wonder if the reverse is true…?

0x =   Sox Wow! It is!

And trying to adjust my writing to increase my grade level to make me feel smarter did no favors to the writing. Phrases like “As soon as he had a grand enough inferno initiated” for starting a campfire doesn’t do much good for he, the fire, or the reader.

This is often the case when authors try to write to please someone else. And whether that someone else is your friends, publishers, or an imaginary audience, changing to try to fit someone else’s ideals usually means lower quality for everyone. And if you don’t believe me, agent Chip MacGregor touched up on this in a recent blog post.

2. Take constructive criticism

This is mostly for trying to get your work published, since if you’re writing for fun or for yourself, who cares what anyone else says? Giant pizza-cats planning to turn the universe into a litter box from within the sun’s core? Sure.

But for query letters, competitions, and the like, if you want someone to look at it and they have an idea to improve it, it could be for the best. Of course, some people will find problems in everything, even Jack Black’s best song in the world. So when that happens, look back at number 1; are they trying to change the story to something that’s no longer yours? You might be better off ignoring it. But if they genuinely want to help you make your story better, keep the advice in mind.

3. Read!

While it’s true that a solid way to get better at your own writing is to read, there’s another reason for that. You want people to read your work, right? Other people want the same! Wow! What a coincidence!

Reading is in essence giving back to the community. Like taxes. Or something good that’s the same thing. Tom’s shoes maybe? No, more like stuffed gorillas.

Reading other authors helps in a lot of ways. It helps them feel valued. Or get a bigger paycheck. But it also helps you. You can get positive inspiration–things that you’ll want to add to your own writing–or negative inspiration–things you definitely don’t want in your own writing–that will improve your writing either way. Plus it can give your Netflix queue a break.

And always remember, vigilantes break the laws for the greater good!

Using Double Meanings To Foreshadow Plot Twists In Comics and Stories

The true motive behind writing Mysteries; outsmarting people.

A Writer's Path

by Pekoeblaze

Well, although this is a quick article about foreshadowing plot twists in comics, stories etc… I’ll have to start by using a TV show as an example.

As such, this article may contain some mild SPOILERS for the first season of “Game Of Thrones”. Likewise, I’ll also be describing a slightly disturbing scene from the show (albeit one that isn’t quite what it appears to be).

The night before I wrote this article, I started re-watching the first season of “Game Of Thrones” (with a plan to re-watch the first three seasons) and one of the things that really surprised me was the number of subtle clues about future parts of the story that I noticed in the early episodes. Most of these were really cleverly handled and they can probably teach us a lot about foreshadowing.

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