The Lives of Tao — Book Review

The Lives of Tao, written by Wesley Chu, is an absolute winner.  A science fiction book that reads more like a modern thriller, The Lives of Tao has it all–action, suspense, comedic relief, and characters you want to stand up and cheer for.

The book starts out with a bang and doesn’t let go.  After the initial action scene, which I won’t spoil for you here, the star character Roen wakes up hearing voices in his head.  And like any of us, he assumes he has gone around the bend.  But unlike any of us (I assume) he has a brain passenger, an alien life form named Tao.  Tao is in the middle of a civil war that has raged for millennia and peace is not on the horizon.  Roen is out of shape and unruly, just what Tao doesn’t need.

Throughout the book, Chu reframes the history of the Earth as we know it through the eyes of the two warring factions of the alien race called the Quasing.  The Genjix and the Prophus have been warring for centuries over the direction they should take the human race.  Many famous ancients are seen in a new light as you find they were really hosts to a Quasing.  The problem the Quasing have is they can’t survive in the Earth environment for more than a few minutes.  When their host dies, they have to find a new host or they perish as well.  And the other problem they have, they can’t just force their host to do what they want done.  They must persuade, cajole, and encourage.

Because Roen is so out of shape and unruly, Tao has his work cut out for him.  He even calls for back up help in the form of Sonya, another human who plays host to a Quasing named Baji.  Tao and Baji have been friends and allies for a long time.  The interplay between hosts and their Quasing provides for many a chuckle.

I love the pace of this book.  The characters are well developed.  And within a few sentences, I was hooked on the action.

I finished this book in just a pair of evenings–I would have finished it all in one but I had to work early the next morning.  As soon as I read the last page, I went over to Amazon and ordered the sequel.

The Lives of Tao rates 4.75 out of 5 stars for me.

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Ghooost Card Game Review

So about a year ago I picked up a copy of Ghooost Card Game.  Manufactured by IELLO and designed by Richard Garfield, this is a fast paced game that delivers fun.

The family style card game features a variety of Halloween style characters that aren’t too scary for the kids.  The goal of the game is to get rid of all your cards.  Each player has to lay a card that us equal to or higher than the one the player before them played–special note: if you have multiple matching cards then you can play all of them as if they were one card.   This discard pile is called the Cemetery.  If you can’t play a card, you get to pick up the whole pile of cards in the Cemetery.  Your goal is to get rid of all your cards.  During the first have of the game, there are a pile of cards that haven’t been used.  After your turn, you must pick up enough cards to get your hand back up to 4 cards.  Once all the cards from the draw pile have been played (the draw pile is referred to as the Crypt) then the second half of the game begins.  After this point, the first player to play all their cards, wins.

During play, there are a few cards which have “special” actions or powers.  If a player plays any red card, the next person must also play a red card equal to or higher than the played red card on the Cemetery pile.  At any time, you can play multiples of the same card as if it were just one card.  If you lay down two or three matching cards, it immediately becomes your turn again.  This is a good way to get rid of cards.  If you happen to play all four matching cards of a particular number, it is referred to as a quartet.  When you do this, those four cards and all the other cards in the Cemetery are immediately removed from play forever.

If you empty your hand, you win.  After a player wins, the remaining players continue playing until everyone has won except the last player.

Pros:  The game is easy to learn, easy to play and quite fast paced.  The game plays fairly well in about 15 minutes after you know how to play.  Kids and adults both will enjoy the characters on the cards.  You can play just one hand or multiple hands–your choice.  Even my six-year-old can play–the box says 8+ but younger kids will catch on quick.

Cons:  I don’t like the rule that play continues until one “loser” is left and everyone else is declared a winner.  This seems a bit harsh to me for a kids game.  Easy enough to fix–just play until one person wins that hand and then stop right there.

Overall Rating:  I give this game an 80/100.  The game is loads of fun but can become a bit routine.  Great card game for occasional use.  Definitely will stay on our shelves.  Really good for parties–up to six people can play and it doesn’t take a long time.


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Great News

I just was informed that my short story, “An Assassin’s Tool” will be published in the next issue of New Realm magazine.  I’m sure you will enjoy it.  You can subscribe to New Realm over at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Give the story a read and let me know what you think.  I love feedback.

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Know Your Audience

spartanhelmetaSeveral years ago, I became enamored with the Spartans.  I especially liked their obsession with laconic wit. In a Wikipedia entry under the term “laconic phrase” it is described as a concise or terse statement.  These laconic phrases often had a biting edge to them.  And so, when I came across the story of the group of Samians who came to Sparta in search of aid I instantly knew what I wanted my blog to be named.

Said Samians were in need of food.  Upon reaching Sparta, they went before the Spartan magistrates and pled for assistance.  Their speech was, in the typical fashion of the day, long and flowery.

The Spartan magistrates were unimpressed by the speech.  They claimed they could not remember the first part of the speech because it was so long.  And so, the Samians got wise.  They studied their target audience.  In a second meeting with the Spartan magistrates, they simply walked into the room, showed a bag and said, “The bag wants flour.”

The Spartans response?  The Samians needn’t have said ‘the bag’.  Nevertheless, the Spartans did send aid.

And so, with the realization that it is absolutely critical to always keep the reader in mind, I named my blog thebagwantsflour.

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Setting Up for 2015

Just a quick note about my 2015 plans.  I just finished a full length manuscript which will now simmer for 30 days before I begin the first full rewrite.  I plan on writing three more full length manuscripts this year.  I also plan on writing at least 14 short stories.  Each of the manuscripts will go through a rigorous process of rewriting spaced out along several months so that with each rewrite, there will be a month or two for the previous iteration to simmer.  The short stories are each assigned a specific week.  During that week, the story will be outlined, written and then rewritten until I am satisfied.  From there, they are off to various magazine editors for consideration.

That is the plan overview.  To make it happen, I plan on spending a minimum of four hours writing each day.  Saturdays will be five hours of writing.  Sundays no writing.

Aggressive plan–yes.  Possible —  yes.

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Short Story

Writing to The Point

Writing to The Point

I recently came across a book by Algis Budrys, which I had never heard of before.  The book, called Writing to the Point, has been one of those watershed moments in my life of writing.  I have spent many years trying to write and never quite grasping some small detail that seemed to leave most of my works flat or unfinished.  The book is not in print, as far as I know, and I was able to secure a used copy of it from a thrift store back east.  When it showed up, I devoured the book.  After one time through, I realized that Mr. Budrys was teaching the detail that I had been missing.  I won’t try and rehash his work, just trust me when I tell you that if you want to write but have been struggling–give his book a try.  With a little bit of coaching from Mr. Budrys, the work you begin to produce will be much better than you were producing.  With a bit of practice, you may even begin to sell some of your work.

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Working for the Weekend

Many people I know are always “working for the weekend.”  Everything they do during the week is geared to setting themselves up for a great weekend.  I like the idea of planning a fun activity and preparing for it.  Sometimes half the fun in life is the anticipation.  But every week?  It seems to me that such people are only living 2/7’s of their lives.  Why not have some activity planned that you are looking forward to everyday?  Even if it is something difficult.  That way, you are at least living in the day if not in the moment.  Just saying.  Today I am looking forward to helping my daughters work on their homework.  I am also looking forward to working on my current writing project.  I missed the last two days working on my paver project–when I finally cleaned up and got ready to write, I was just too tired to focus.  Not tonight, tonight I am ready to write.

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2 October, 2014 20:24

Here is the front mow strip with pavers.  Sorry the picture is a bit blurry–it was getting dusky and I was tired.  I’ll take a better picture tonight or tomorrow and post it without all the sand on top of the pavers.


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Paver Project

After over a decade of fighting a losing battle against the lawn (read: weeds) in my mow strip, I finally capitulated.  The past few weeks I have slowly pulled out the sod and stuffed it in my trash can.  I can only put a few pieces of sod in the trash cans each week otherwise the cans are too heavy for our local collector.  Reluctant to get dressed down yet again for overloading my trash cans, I have taken the very slow approach.  The mow strip consists of two sides with a tree in a dirt bed in the middle.  My plan has been to replace the grass with brick pavers and leave the tree box alone.  The limit on how much I can put in the trash cans has made it like a slow moving race against time in an effort to get the project done before the snow falls.  A race that I am currently losing.

Upon becoming aware that I was going to lose this race, and lose it bad, I decided to place the order for the pavers and have them delivered.  My new plan was to put in the pavers on the side I have fully pulled the lawn out from and then, when done that side, just pull out the rest of the sod and stack it in the circle.  Each week, as I place the trash cans out in the circle, I will throw a few pieces of the remaining sod in the cans.  It may look trashy, and my neighbors may be irritated, but I need to get this chore done before the snow comes.

The brick pavers were dropped off on Monday.  So on my way home from my day job, I stopped at the local Home Depot and picked up eight bags of sand and a couple other items I needed.  When I arrived home, I immediately got to work.  The dirt was mostly level and I spent a few minutes just getting out the last few tree roots and gluing a cap on the sprinkler pipe that is no longer needed.  You see, this is a hidden benefit of the change, grass demands water while pavers demand nothing.

The work progressed slowly.  I placed the first two lines of pavers down in about an hour.  Each one was carefully placed on a thin bed of sand.  The sand gives the pavers a nice, solid base to keep them level.  Then I hit my first snag.  The sprinkler pipe repair needed pipe glue and mine was bad.  Luckily a kind neighbor happened by and offered to go hunt me down a bit.  He found a can and brought it over.  With that quick repair done, I got back to laying bricks.  And then the rain started up.  Cold rain.  Not fun rain like you find in Hawaii.  I pushed through the cold and wet.  The rain stopped.  And now the light was fading.  Half of the one side was done.

I left the rest until tomorrow.  I think it looks pretty good.  I will post a couple pictures tomorrow of the project.

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Recent Book Release

I recently published a book on beekeeping.  If you are interested, you can find it here on Amazon.  The basic premise of the book is Beekeeping should be both fun and simple to do.  I teach you how to get started and then how to take care of your bees in simple, easy to follow steps.

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