Thom on January 18th, 2017

What a difference two weeks make.

I’m writing again. Or at least pre-writing again. This last weekend an old short-story of mine jumped back into my memory entirely unbidden, and my mind immediately said, “Hey! Welcome! You deserve to be at least a novella, and you’d sure be fun to write!” It’s going to be a sci-fi/space opera crossed with The Scarlet Pimpernel, and I’m knee-deep into world-building. I’m also still trying to decide whether or not to change up the point of view. The short story is first-person-sidekick; it’s from the point of view of a narrator telling us the adventures of a larger-than-life character he tags along with. That could work amazingly well, or it could be too limiting. I’m not sure yet.

I also finished re-reading my two most recent novels, and while they still need some work, they’re both better than I remember. Good enough that I intend to put in the work to get them fixed up and polished for some sort of publication. Of course I have special plans for one of them, and that’s the next piece of the puzzle that’s revitalizing my enthusiasm for writing.

I’ve been accepted to be part of the FutureScapes Writers’ Workshop at Sundance I mentioned in my last update. In many ways this sounds like it will be a three-day, intense peer-reading group, but with professional writers, agents, and editors also offering feedback and/or directing the groups. This is a major jump outside my comfort zone, but I’m hopeful it will also give me a solid assessment of where my strengths and weaknesses lay as a writer and how close I am to being marketable. And, it’s entirely possible I may meet some fellow writers with whom I might be able to continue peer-reading afterward. It’s hard to say just what will come of this, but I’m quite hopeful.

Meanwhile I continue to prepare for my two panel discussions at LTUE next month. As a panelist/moderator I’m getting an entirely new perspective on the conference and what goes on behind the scenes. Some of it’s positive, and some of it’s insight into who I don’t want to be as a writer. Perhaps I’ll understand their perspective better when I’m in their shoes some day, but I do think a gracious and patient attitude will take me quite far–if I can cultivate one. I understand the desire for self-promotion, but I hope I never lose sight of what symposiums like LTUE are trying to accomplish. If that no longer meets my needs in the future I hope I have the decency to simply thank them for what they’re doing and walk away rather than grousing about it and trying to get them to become something different than what they intend.

In any case, I’m looking forward to this year, while nervously hoping I’ll be able to add my bit and play my part well. I’ve sat in panels in past years thinking I could answer the questions asked as well or better than the panelists, so now I get my chance to do just that. Put-up or shut-up time.

All in all, I’m feeling a bit of a rush right now, and feel more like a writer than I have in some time. I usually feel this way after LTUE each year, so feeling this way before can only be a good thing, if I can hold on to it. And if I can get past planning to write into actually writing.

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Thom on January 17th, 2017

It seems like about this time every year I’m struggling to maintain enthusiasm. Winter, whether white or brown, just isn’t exciting anymore, but it’s still too cold to really get out and enjoy things. There’s nothing significant coming up to look forward to, either. And to top it off, this year everyone’s had a chance to catch their breath after the election and are getting back into full-throated posting about just how terribly evil and degenerate the other side is. Even my more moderate friends can’t seem to resist the urge to slip me the meme-pic middle finger at least once a day. (If you catch me over-generalizing and over-simplifying your beliefs in order to criticize or ridicule, please call me on it! I’d like to think I wouldn’t do it on purpose, but I realize that, even unintentionally, it still kinda hurts!)

My hometown is currently locked in an inversion, or something, and blue sky is rare. The valley is usually blanketed in a thick, soupy fog or smog hovering a few hundred feet off the ground. Sun-sighting are rare.

In any case, January 2017 is in full blah mode. Which makes it a good time to look at the brighter side of life. So, where do we start?

Well, for one, people are still composing amazing music so that we can party like a pirate:

Or perhaps just get a little cheerful bounce in your step (and appreciate the best, most musical use of a slide projector ever):

And if that’s not enough, I can always go for the gratuitous baby animal picture!

Photo by Allhailfintan

So smiles, everyone! Smiles!

Thom on January 13th, 2017

I sometimes have to wonder if people ever listen to themselves. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people quote the idea “An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth leaves the whole world blind and toothless.” Perhaps I’m just not understanding the nuance there, and perhaps they’re actually advocating a blind and toothless world, but I thought the whole notion was that such reciprocity is a bad thing.

So why do so many people feel it necessary–their duty even–to fight hate with hate? It’s by no means limited to the reaction against Donald Trump, mind you, but it’s the case that is thrust in front of my face every day right now. Whatever happened to “Love Trumps Hate”? Did they really expect if they just showed enough love it would keep him from winning the election? (Except I didn’t see a whole lot of love then, either.) But it seems like since Trump did win, that convenient slogan has been completely discarded–after folding, spindling, mutilating, shredding, and jumping up and down on a few times, just to be sure.

Want to start an instant hate-fest? Just mention publicly that you don’t think Trump is so bad. You don’t even have to say you like him or support him or voted for him. (Heck, in some places you merely have to be white and male, and people will just assume–and it would be nice if assuming was all they’d do!) Accept an invitation to perform at the Inauguration? You’d think they’d single-handedly strangled every animal at the pet store. Let it be found out that you gave money to his campaign? People will organize themselves to not only destroy you, but any business you are related to. Never mind that their actions are more likely to harm all the innocent workers of that company who may have voted the other way. No, we must do everything in our power to punish anyone even remotely connected with Trump.

Don’t they realize that such behavior is driving people who don’t like Trump, but favor fair play and decency, into Trump’s camp? I didn’t vote for Trump. I don’t like the guy. But come on, people! Right now it’s hard to believe he’s really as big a threat to this country as people who think it’s perfectly okay to kidnap and torture a special-needs man because in their minds he represents Trump supporters, and hence Trump! In what universe is this okay? How do people accomplish the mental and moral gymnastics necessary to excuse such behavior, let alone support it?

You don’t quash hate by out-hating the haters.

It’s like all the people out there who are convinced if they just hate Israel hard enough it’ll convince Israel to start playing nicer with the Palestinians–while never holding the Palestinians to the same standard.

The trouble with hate is that the people you hate can always point out reasons why they are simply reacting to your hate. And round and round we go. Where it stops, nobody cares.

I don’t deny that there were plenty of Trump supporters who were motivated by hate. Their hatred of what the Left has been doing is well documented. But it’s baffling how the Left thinks it’s going to work to reciprocate that hate. They seem completely ignorant of the fact that not all of the Right’s hate is unjustified. The Left has been hating on people for years. No one really knows who started it any more. But more importantly, no one seems interested in stopping it. Both sides have guns to the other’s head and are insisting the other drop theirs first.

Ain’t gonna happen.

But like I said, this isn’t just about Left vs. Right. It’s everywhere. You can’t support cops without people hating you for hating blacks. You can’t support blacks without people hating you for hating cops. People can’t just dislike rival sports teams now. They have to hate them. People can’t just watch a movie and say “Meh, wasn’t for me.” They have to shred them and anyone who likes it. I see it in my own kids when something they’ve loved for years suddenly becomes popular (okay, perhaps I do this a little, too…).

I don’t know much, but I’m pretty sure this continual hate-fest is not going to improve our society. It’s not going to make us safer. It’s not going to help us deal with the problems with the environment. It’s not going to improve relations with countries that don’t like us. It’s not going to make the Internet a better place.

So why do we keep doing it? An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth won’t leave us blind and toothless, because it would require a lot of self-restraint we don’t possess to stop there.

It’ll leave us dead.



Thom on January 6th, 2017

I’ve not written a thing since the last update. I intended to, but first I decided to do some reading. I decided it might be good to go back and work on one of my previous manuscripts some more, and so I started going through the last two novels I wrote, starting with the one I thought was my best work, written two years ago. I immediately saw it could still use some work.

About that time I discovered there is a writers workshop sporting some big names coming soon to a mountaintop near me–and it’s affordable. It’s also by audition only, which also makes things interesting. I’m debating whether I can spare the time and money, but in the meantime I decided to see if my more recent manuscript might be better to submit, as the application requires the first 1500 words of a work you’d like to workshop. So I pulled up my more recent manuscript, “The Merchant Prince” (still the functional, borrowed title), and began reading to see if the opening was any better.

It was. I’m still reading. I’m both encouraged and dismayed by what I’m seeing. I’m encouraged that I’m enjoying it. I’m finding several scenes delight me. I’ve even laughed at some of my own jokes. It’s not only not as bad as I remember, but it’s actually fairly good!

I’m dismayed, however, that I wrote that over a year ago, and I’ve been unable to write anything decent since. I read what I wrote then and have to question whether or not I can even write that way anymore. What happened? Did I over-think things? Did I try to change too much too quickly and only succeed in making my writing both too deliberate and no longer enjoyable? I’ve been about to give up writing for several months now, only to find that I used to be much better than I am now. That hurts.

Granted, I’m reading in the part of the story I never really had a problem with. It’s the last half of the novel I’m not so sure about. The plot gets a little…wonky…for lack of a better term. I’ve had some ideas how to straighten it out, but I’ve been too busy with other projects to work on it. Now I’m thinking I’d better finish reading it with my year’s distance before I do anything that drastic. Perhaps it’s not as wonky as I remember.

It’s a little bizarre reading something you’ve written long enough after you’ve written it that the story is familiar but the details are new and fresh. It’s surreal–and a little Pygmalion-esque–to find myself admiring my own writing. But it’s also encouragement at a time I most need it.

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Thom on January 4th, 2017

I recently saw a meme pic on Facebook (and Oh, how many of my posts originate from those) stating “Why teach my daughter to be a lady when I can teach her to be a warrior?” I’m pretty sure I know what they’re trying to say here, but at the same time I just can’t help but take exception to the oversimplification of the issue. My first thought was that this is a false dichotomy. Why can’t we teach our daughters to be both?

Furthermore, I don’t think this meme pic would get the same response if we reversed things: “Why teach my son to be a gentleman when I can teach him to be a warrior?” Somehow I doubt there’d be any virtual high-fives over that. But why not? What is it about being a warrior that is attractive in the first place? And why would that only be attractive in girls? On the inverse, what’s wrong with being a gentleman or lady? Have manners become so completely passé in our modern society? Certainly there is ample evidence that it is so.

And that’s what worries me about this meme pic. The implication seems to be that it is virtuous to fight, to get into other people’s faces, to offend, to insult, while being genteel, persuasive, patient, forbearing, and diplomatic are something to be avoided.

Mind you, it also seems to be that being “a warrior” is only a virtue for certain people, for certain ideologies. Can anyone deny that Donald Trump is a warrior? And yet so many of the tactics he uses are decried by people who employ those same tactics–and worse–and call it “getting it done.” We want our side to be warriors, but the other side still needs to be ladies and gentlemen.

There’s one major problem with this line of thinking, besides the obvious hypocrisy. Warriors go to battle with one purpose in mind–to destroy the enemy. They’re not there to turn enemies to friends. And if the enemy proves more powerful, it is the warrior who will be destroyed. I’m pretty sure, based on the number of “War is Not the Answer” bumper stickers I see around that people don’t really believe that fighting should be the only option. Indeed, I hear calls for diplomacy, dialogue, and understanding continually in our relations with other countries and powers. No one seems to think that every international disagreement should be resolved by sending in the Marines, especially the Marines.

We don’t need warriors–at least not people who are only warriors.

We need ladies and gentlemen. We need those who have manners, who are diplomatic, who can withhold judgment and seek for understanding rather than just lashing out at the slightest perception of slight. We need those who can take a potential enemy and make of them a friend instead.

There is a section of scripture in my church that explains what I mean:

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

In short, there are times when there needs to be enough of a warrior in someone to be able to step up and say what needs to be said, to correct someone in their errors. However, it needs to happen only after the softer approaches have been tried. And when that sharp correction takes place it needs to be followed up immediately with increased love and understanding so that the subject of correction realizes you are not there to make an enemy of them. It’s the “love” part of “tough love.”

These days we only seem to know the “tough” part, and completely disassociated “love” from the equation.

I’ve seen plenty of women who are warriors–and warriors only. However much they may be lionized by their like-minded ideologues, they are just as roundly rejected and mocked by their enemies–and both sides have indeed made it clear they are enemies. Ultimately they accomplish little of value, and only succeed in pushing the two sides even farther apart.

Do what you want, but I would prefer we teach our children–daughters and sons–to be not just warriors, but ladies and gentlemen, diplomats, scholars, open-minded, tolerant, and persuaders. When warriors are needed it is generally too late to salvage the situation in any positive manner. Warriors should be our last resort.

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Thom on December 29th, 2016

Practical Psychology presents the F.O.R.D. method of building rapport and keeping conversations going. There’s some good information here, though it still kind leaves unanswered how you get yourself to talk to people in the first place. Still, it’s worth a gander:

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Thom on December 27th, 2016

Dianna Cowern shows us how to bend light in our own back yard! Yet another cool video from The Physics Girl:

Thom on December 25th, 2016

Here’s a little Christmas story I’ve been working on just for fun. I’ve never tried posting short fiction on my blog, so feel free to leave me feedback on how easy or hard it is to read in this format. Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays, and thank you for your friendship.

The World in Solemn Stillness Lay

The shutters rattled under the relentless assault of the north wind. Brother Rasmus pulled his blanket tighter about himself and tried to concentrate on the bundle of vellum huddled close to the single candle on his small table. The pages were not his; they were part of a new bible being prepared for His Eminence the Cardinal, but Rasmus had borrowed them for the night, ostensibly to check them for any errors in his illuminations.

The real reason, of course, was that it was Yuletide. His work that day had been in the Gospel of St. Matthew, and he felt it would be appropriate to prepare for the holy day to come by reading the section pertaining to the Blessed Birth. He treated each leaf tenderly, and Cardinal Lucian would be none the wiser.

A soft scratching came at the door, tentatively at first, then more insistent. Rasmus groaned under his breath. “Coming, Harlequin,” he called, rising stiffly from his stool. He opened the door and a tortoiseshell cat forced itself inside the moment the gap was large enough. The cat technically belonged to the entire monastery, but Harlequin had attached himself to Rasmus. It was probably for the best. The other monks tolerated the cat, but complained whenever he made a mess or interfered with their work. Or worse, when he made them a present of a dead mouse or a bird, which was often.

Rasmus wasn’t entirely fond of Harlequin’s hunting either, but he knew the creature was only behaving as God had made him; he was created to be a hunter, and one could hardly fault him for that. Still, Brother Rasmus loved all the creatures that lived in and around the monastery and wished that Harlequin could learn to live in peace with them. Which was why his brothers in the order sometimes jested that he should have joined the Franciscans.

“I assure you there’s no mouse here,” Rasmus told the cat as he closed door again, “but you’re no more likely to believe me tonight than any other night.” Indeed, the cat was already poised next to the door of Rasmus’ cabinet, the only other furniture besides the table and bed, head expectantly cocked to one side, listening for the tiniest of noises that might reveal a mouse hiding inside. The cat might stay like that for an hour or more before losing interest; it lived to hunt.

The wind continued to howl outside Rasmus’ small tower chamber, carrying a torrent of snow along with it. Did our Lord and Savior come into the world on such a night as this? he wondered, then remembered that Palestine was more moderate of climate. And besides, he reminded himself, no one really knows when Our Lord God was born.

He felt the chill in his old knees, despite his robes and the blanket he wore, as he returned to his stool and resumed his reading, mentally laboring through the Latin, which had never come as easily as his native tongue, no matter how much practice he had as a monk. He didn’t mind. It was its own form of meditation, and it was always good to meditate upon the Holy Word. And even better to meditate upon the story of the Holy Birth.

When he looked up again the tallow candle had shrunk by the width of a finger. He hadn’t been aware of the passage of time, not that it mattered. He wasn’t ready to go to bed yet; all he would be able to do is lay there, anyway, listening to the wind tear at the shutters while time crept by at a snail’s pace. Better to put his mind to work so that the time would pass more quickly. He would retire after the midnight bell, announcing the start of the holy day.

Something struck the shutters, not heavy like a stone thrown from the grounds, but still solid enough to be more than wind and snow. The noise was followed by something fluttering against one of the wooden panels. “What was that?” he asked aloud to Harlequin, who was now curled up on the pillow of Rasmus’ small bed. The cat was asleep, his brows knitted in a look of concentration that the monk found amusing. How could sleeping be such hard work?

Since the cat seemed disinclined to answer he arose from the stool to find out for himself. He gripped the latch on the shutters, steeling himself for the cold blast to come. Carefully opening one side, he peered out. There, pressed tightly against the hand-span of snow that had collected on the window ledge, huddled a dove, brown and gray against the icy white.

Surprised, the bird fluttered its wings, and Rasmus saw that one barely moved, hanging from its side at an odd angle. Only the incessant wind kept the injured creature from falling from the ledge. Thinking quickly, Rasmus pulled off his blanket and covered the bird before gently gripping it through the cloth and drawing it inside. He held the bundle against his chest with one hand while he refastened the shutters against the night.

He looked around his tiny room for a place to place the poor bird, and finally crossed to his cabinet, opening the side where he hung his other set of robes. He lowered the blanket to the bottom of the cabinet, letting the loose end pile up before setting the bird, still wrapped in the blanket, atop the makeshift nest. Gently he pulled back the blanket until the dove’s head emerged.

The dove didn’t move, watching the monk intently with one black eye that glimmered in the candlelight. Only the pulsing of its heartbeat gave any indication it was alive, it held so still. Rasmus decided to leave it like that, partially wrapped in the blanket, in case it found it soothing. It wouldn’t do if the bird became alarmed and tried to fly in the tiny room; best to keep it still.

He resisted checking its wing. Yes, he might better assess the damage, but then what? Did he have the slightest idea how to heal a bird’s wing? Better to leave it alone for now and hope that rest would be best for the delicate creature. Rest, and perhaps some food.

He shivered, and remembered he had needed that blanket to stay warm. Slowly, as to not alarm his new guest, he took the spare robe from where it hung and slipped it on over the first. The dove turned its head to watch him, but did not otherwise move. He wondered at its gender. He thought it might be female, but he couldn’t give it a name if he might be wrong.

“You are a patient one,” he told it. “Or perhaps just very frightened. You are safe here. I will go and see if we have something a bird might eat. You will need your strength.”

He retrieved the candle from the table and made his way down the spiraling stairs leading to the bottom of the tower. The rooms of his brothers in the order were silent, and light under only a few doors. The great stone structure of the monastery was dark and chilly, throbbing with the wind. His heart beat harder in his chest as he descended to the main floor. He wasn’t as young as he once was, and that many stairs took effort. He welcomed it, however, as it also meant more body heat building up beneath his robes to warm his old bones.

He caught movement at the periphery of the candlelight as he approached the kitchens, accompanied by the whispers of tiny feet as mice scrambled out of sight. He wondered why Harlequin had to come all the way to his room to hunt mice when there was undoubtedly much better hunting down here in the kitchens.

Something about that thought bothered him, but he pushed it aside, instead trying to remember where the items he sought would be kept. He found a small saucer and a handful of wheat kernels, a small hunk of bread and some sunflower seeds, hoping at least one would be something the bird might eat. After a moment’s thought he added another saucer that he would fill with snow to melt for the bird to drink, just in case.

Once he was satisfied with the provisions he had gathered he turned to make his way back up to his tower room. A little gray mouse, little bigger than his thumb, sat in the middle of the stone floor, chewing on a wheat seed Rasmus must have dropped during his foraging. Its tiny eyes gleamed in the candlelight, reminding the monk of the dove’s. Then, realizing it had been spotted, the mouse stuffed the rest of the seed in its mouth and scampered out of sight.

It was then Brother Rasmus realized his mistake. Harlequin was still in his room, asleep on the bed. Rasmus had not closed the cabinet. If the cat were to awaken, the little dove would be helpless. The monk’s heart pounded with sudden anxiety for the defenseless dove. What had he done? It was no kindness to invite the poor thing in only to become Harlequin’s plaything.

He hurried as quickly as he could to the tower stairs without spilling any more food and began climbing, his ears straining for any sounds of a struggle. But all was silent. He was too late already. He only hoped—though a faint hope at best—that Harlequin had been quick about it rather than toying with the poor creature. The poor, unfortunate creature he had most assuredly doomed. He offered up a prayer to St. Francis of Assisi for the dove as he climbed.

His room was quiet when he arrived, puffing and red-faced from the exertion. Harlequin was no longer on the bed. The monk expected to see feathers all about the floor, but there were none.

Puzzled, he checked the cabinet. There lay Harlequin, curled up next to the dove on the blanket. The dove, untouched, had not moved. Its dark eye blinked once.

Rasmus sighed and offered up a quick prayer of gratitude for the little dove’s safety. But he still had a problem. Harlequin seemed to view the bird as a potential companion instead of a midnight snack, but would it last? Could he be trusted? Would it be better to remove the cat and close the door? Or had the Good Shepherd granted him a small miracle that he would be faithless to doubt?

He had seen Harlequin kill on numerous occasions; mice, birds, lizards—he hunted anything that moved. Doves were larger than his typical victims, it was true, but he doubted the cat was all that afraid of a dove that couldn’t even escape.

After a moment’s deliberation he decided to simply watch for now. He set the saucer of food within reach of the dove, then scooped some snow from the windowsill into the other and held it above the candle until the snow began to melt. His room was warmer than outside, but that was not saying much, and the snow melted slowly. Rasmus placed the saucer of water went next to the food. The bottom of his cabinet was becoming crowded.

Satisfied he had done all he could, he returned to his study of St. Matthew, alert for any stirring from either creature in his cabinet. The candle burned lower. The wind slowly slackened. Time crept steadily toward the midnight hour. Harlequin lay with his paws tucked beneath him, head erect. He might have been standing guard had his eyes not been closed tightly. The dove now slept, its head resting on its breast.

The chapel bell struck midnight, announcing the arrival of Christmas day.

Rasmus rubbed his eyes and glanced once more at the cabinet. The two erstwhile enemies slept side by side, breathing almost in tandem. Can I leave them like that while I sleep? he wondered to himself. I cannot keep my eyes open much longer. Can I leave them in the care of the Prince of Peace? Our God does not keep them from eating one another at any other time. Does it matter to Him what day it is among we mortals?

The monk’s eyelids drooped, and he sighed. “Saint Francis, carry my prayer to the Good Lord who knows every blade of grass and every sparrow, and will one day make the lion and the lamb lay down together,” he prayed, “I am a tired old man. Into His care I commend these two creatures who He hast sent to be my guests this night. May this peace prevail between them.” He then crossed himself and made ready for bed.

He blew out the candle, and as his head met his pillow he vowed to awaken at the slightest sound from the cabinet. Sleep took him quickly, and if he kept his vow or broke it he was not aware.


Light, gray and diffuse, crept around the edge of the shutters as the morning came, and the first awareness Brother Rasmus had was of a weight against his legs, pressing down the blankets. Harlequin. The cat had awakened in the night and come to lay next to him as he often did. But something was wrong with that somehow, though his mind couldn’t quite conjure the reason.

Then the monk’s eye flew open. The dove! He sat up in bed, startling Harlequin from sleep. The room was near dark, and he could barely see anything at all in the cabinet. He willed his old and bleary eyes to focus and penetrate the shadows.

The dove was gone.

In a panic the monk furtively searched about the floor of the room, across the covers of his bed and his robes laid out for morning, expecting to see blood and feathers, but could find none. His sparse room was as it always was. His frosty, frantic breath hung in the air.

A soft cooing drew his attention to the window. The dove perched on the window sill as if waiting patiently to exit. Rasmus sighed a wispy fog of relief.

He arose stiffly from his bed and slipped on his robes against the cold. Then, making gentle, soothing susurrations he slowly approached the bird, hoping to examine its wing. Looking at his patient now he couldn’t remember for certain which wing had been injured; both looked equally whole, tucked against its sides. Rasmus drew too close and the dove hopped away sideways along the sill, fluttering its wings in symmetry.

Could it be well so quickly? Perhaps the injury hadn’t been as bad as he feared. Rather than trouble the dove further he moved to the cabinet, examining the saucers of food he had placed there. Only the sunflower husks remained, scattered about. There was also no sign of the bread, but it was just as likely Harlequin had eaten that.

“Well, my little friend,” he said softly, “you appear to be eating, and your wing seems to be getting better. Dare we find out just how much?” He returned slowly to the window and carefully reached for the latch on the shutters. He undid the latch and pushed out the right-hand shutter, then watched for the dove’s reaction.

Stepping with delicate feet it moved toward the light of morning through the open window, where it stood, blinking at the gray sky. It looked back at Rasmus as if asking a question, then turned and launched itself into the air. Rasmus anxiously stepped forward to watch and leaned against the sill, heedless of the cold snow beneath his hands.

The bird, easily traceable against the unbroken blanket of white below, glided effortlessly toward a nearby copse of naked trees where it lighted on a branch with a fluttering, whistling flurry of wings.

A guttural meow next to his feet drew his attention inward. Harlequin looked up at him expectantly. “You wonder where your friend went?” Rasmus deciphered for him. He bent and picked up the cat, lifting him to the window sill. He pointed to the tree. “See? There he is. You were an excellent nursemaid, I must say.” Harlequin purred and bit at the cuff of Rasmus’ robe.

The morning was cold and crisp, the sky a mottled mass of hazy grays, but the snow and the wind had both stopped sometime during the night, leaving a glimmering fresh coat of white over the ground, hiding the tracks left in the previous snowfall. The world outside was still, smooth and peaceful.

Brother Rasmus stood at the window, taking in the fresh, clean Yule morning, unaware of the cold until Harlequin began to squirm. He put the cat down gently, then closed the shutter. “You’re right,” he said to the mottled orange and gray cat. “I’d better get ready for morning vespers. It would be disrespectful to Our Lord be late for the celebration of His Holy Birth.

And Brother Rasmus felt like celebrating indeed. Perhaps it had been a small thing, but peace had won out over instinct between two of God’s humble creatures. To him it was a miracle. Perhaps there was hope for all living things, mankind as well.

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Thom on December 22nd, 2016

It feels like I spend much of my time on Facebook complaining about Facebook (And isn’t the first rule of Facebook that you don’t talk about Facebook? No?). As my wife can attest, I have a love-hate relationship with the platform. When it’s doing what I wanted to be on Facebook for in the first place I love it. I get to keep in more contact with a lot of people than I normally would. I enjoy Facebook most when my friends send interesting, amusing, beautiful, heart-warming things my way. I like to see their family fun, even if I don’t know their family. I’m happy to hear about the good things that happen to them. And I appreciate it when they share difficulties and ask for prayers/thoughts/good vibes, and I hope that I’m able to lighten their loads a little as a result.

I don’t care so much for the contention, the cheap shots, the name-calling, the general and specific hate-fests, and out-right fights that also comes my way–and I far too often end up hating myself for allowing myself to get dragged into them. There have been a few bright spots that have come out of such, but they are rare and truly few. I’m often left wondering why anyone would consider me a friend and then slip such Trojan horses into my otherwise happy place. I wonder if they would still consider me friends if they knew how offensive I found such things. Or I wonder if they would even care, in which case why should I consider them a friend?

But I’m still on Facebook, even after a long, hard, nasty political cycle that doesn’t seem to want to die. And that’s because I have friends whose posts fall into the former group far more often than the latter. And when their posts tend toward the latter, they are generally more open-minded and gentle about it. Disagreement and reasoned opposition I can handle. A little dig now and then is okay if you at least balance the ledger with things that make me smile or think or enjoy.

And I am grateful for these people. My life is more full, more rich because of the things you add to it. (As an aside, people may mock the internet as only being good for sharing cat pictures, but give me a cute animal picture any day over ranting and blanket denouncing of everyone who doesn’t agree with the poster on whatever topic has them spewing acid from every orifice today. If we have to have an internet, why shouldn’t it be used to bring people enjoyment and smiles?)

I would much rather have Facebook than not. I’m glad for the lift it brings to my day.

That said, I realize I’m largely a Facebook lurker, a passive consumer. I don’t post a lot. I don’t share a lot. I don’t comment much, and when I do, it’s often a snide remark or joke. There have been times when my friends post more things on my feed than I do. Please don’t take it personally. I just don’t think I’m all that interesting, so I don’t say much. And I’m trying harder and harder to live by the Thumper Rule. In an attempt to balance that I’m trying to respond more to your posts, but that’s a habit I’m still trying to build. I’m as much an introvert on social media as I am in analogia.

But thank you to all of you who still care about me and haven’t given up on me yet. Thanks for all the good things you post and for the glimpses into your lives. Thanks for letting me share mine on occasion, and thanks for taking my odd comments in the spirit intended.

Happy holidays to all, and to all a good
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Wayne Chilcott liked this post
Thom on December 21st, 2016

This has been a tough year. I’ve started writing two books–twice. I’ve not finished either of them either time. The only work I’ve finished this year is a single short story for an anthology that I was misinformed about and stood no actual chance of getting accepted. I’ve struggled to even keep writing. Something happened to me this year, and writing just hasn’t been fun, except for a few brief periods. I don’t know what that something was, but it was a doozy.

It hasn’t just been fiction, either. My blogging has died off considerably, too. I suppose that could be blamed on the election, because somewhere around August or September I got tired of getting political–and found that the political was all I could think to write about. I started far more posts than I posted. I don’t regret that, nor do I see any need to change that. But I still haven’t found much to blog about that doesn’t include politics, so unless I do, expect posting to be light and sporadic.

As I sit here watching my enthusiasm for yet another project die before my eyes I really have to question whether I want to keep writing. I’m not playing for sympathy or encouragement here, it’s just the way things feel right now. Writing got hard, and I’m tired of trying to force the magic. Until something clicks into place again I’m not sure why I should continue to torture myself.

And yet I’ve also got a short story I’m working on, just for the fun of it, that seems to be coming along nicely. I hope to post it here for Christmas.

So who knows. Perhaps 2017 will bring the solution. Perhaps I’ll find what I lost. I’ve given up before, and still keep finding my way back.

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