It's autumn at home! Fall has always been my favorite season, likely because it's the shortest season in my climate.

I've lived in the high desert most of my life. We don't get many of the seasons in their proper order, though they sometimes will all show up in the same day. I loved rain here, when thunderstorms are rare and cloud cover barely lasts the day.

Fall, though, fall is easy to miss. We get some glorious color changes, to rival anything in the east, but it lasts all of a week, and never at the same time of year.

The newest trees in front of the high school have the most vibrant wine-red leaves right now, so strong they almost glow. All the cottonwood's silvered branches are shot with gold, and the apples are blushing. So much is still green, but the elms are going bald. Our marigolds still glow red and yellow and the dahlias are still showy.

Even the mornings broken clouds: all blue and grey and fawn, and only just shading the mountain rises in golden light. The day was warm but with just the hint of northern chill in the wind.

It's autumn here, and it's what I look forward to every year.

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After a stressful day, I'm likely to be found on the internet.

But after an especially stressful day, I turn to books. Novels, usually. It's not strictly for escapist reasons, though I may choose a genre book, but whatever media I find, I can't not think about it. But it does get my mental track onto something a little healthier than mentally damning the Ford 350 trying to swipe me off the road because G-d forbid he wait the extra 1.2 seconds for me to get by.

Instead I can quibble with someone I'll never meet about their choice to have only one significant female character in an 950-page novel, even though a good half of the action supposedly takes place in a world with equal representation.

Why are there so many people who think that's not a problem?

See, with reading, I can get my gander up over something both socially relevant *and* remarkably trivial. But what's been considered 'stressful' in my life is generally from a complete lack of anything intellectually challenging or a distressing emotional event. Critiquing literature is good for the former, not so much the latter, which is why I don't do it. In the second case I instead I read to not think, maybe something I've read before, maybe something just compelling, so I don't think about it.

Perhaps avoidance is a different kind of stress. But it's not something I like to handle. Reading to forget doesn't count as any kind of relaxing, because then it just hits you later.

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Autumn Leaves

I'm a member of what I've heard called "Generation Y", "The Millennials" or "Generation Why". (Admittedly, the last is my favorite).

Can you draw a conclusion? The first generation to grow up with technology and the rise of the internet. I tend to believe our use is more healthy than the this next generation, who can't get off their phones for ten seconds, given that the phones and internet have combined, and they don't even have to distract from each other. But while I don't have a tablet, or even a smartphone...

...well, yes. I spend too much time on the internet.

Living in a small town is much easier, mentally, connected to the internet. I've never been one to have all that many close friends, and none of my school friends are hear anymore. It's hard to only have good conversations in person once a month. Speaking of--another generational name is the "Boomerangs," because the economy keeps sending us back home.

The internet is an escape from that. I can talk with so many people who share my interests, and introduce me to new ones. Unlike driving, where I'm exposed to all people, and the majority are stupid: while there are, of course, more stupid people on the internet than perhaps anything else, groups of smart people have also formed their own pockets of sanity where we discuss cool things like literary critiques and Dr. Who inspired knitting. Geek crafts are the best!

Given that my time on the internet is spend on mental health, professional advancement, and education, I don't think I suffer too much. It's not like there's anything else to do. But perhaps going out for a walk while the leaves are falling might be a better way to refresh than the artificial light of the computer screen.

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black eyed susans, dry in autumn

You want to limit my top peeves? Because I have plenty of peeves, and they shift ranking depending on what's annoying me at any particular moment.

But at this moment, I'm not a fan of online tests taht make me feel stupid. For example, user-created Word Dynamo quizzes, on one of the dictionary websites...I may be signed up for it, but I can't even remember where it is, for starts. But then I try to answer the questions too quickly and miss the ones I know I know. Or when the words have no context: like the SAT and other high school standardized tests, I'm fully convinced they're cheating.

Oh, and Solitaire. You know, sometimes it is impossible to win, and then Microsoft tells you how dumb you are.

Second peeve at the moment: "breath" vs "breathe." One is a noun, the other a verb. And they're pronounced differently. Why are you mixing them up, online writers? So what if you're offering your work free and for fun? Also, I want to become a grocer, just to have an express lane requiring "10 items or FEWER," thank you very much.

At the moment, I don't have a third peeve. I'm in too good a mood to think of one. The door is open, wind blowing the cafe's colorful umbrella inside waving it's struts like a stick figure clinging to it's shawl in a tornado, and the sun is out, to Pink's "we fight we break up, we kiss we make up". No I don't know the title to that song.

How can you have a peeve when you can keep the door open at work to all the great big world out there?

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Happiness Is Only Real When Shared

If there's a single idea that I simply can't stand in which, I can't or can only just bear to read it's the concept of The Chosen One.

And I find it difficult to articulate exactly why.

I think in part because it's so easy. Once you know that this story has a Chosen One, you know the Chosen One wins. Even in Star Wars, when the Chosen One goes evil, he still gets what he wants. Well, okay, that's not the best example, because I've never been a very big fan and I've only seen the original trilogy (the 'good' one) in bits and pieces, though I think I've seen more of it. And that's the story after the Chosen One's story is over.

So the Chosen One always wins. That removes a significant layer of tension right there. Not that you don't know most protagonists are going to win, or at least survive, in genre fiction. It's conventional storytelling, and I don't mind that. But Chosen Ones are born through prophecy, which by definition is true. And with some (even if vague) detail. Which is more information than I really want to know.

And worse, what the Chosen One does is right. I think that's my biggest issue. Because it's the Chosen One. He or She is going to save the world, has to be the one to save the world, and so no one else can tell them no. Generally, they can't be wrong. Even if they make bad choices, the absolute worse consequence is a slap on the wrist.

Okay, so I confess I haven't actually read many Chosen One stories. I tend not to be a big fan of genres that use that trope, and I avoid those stories that use it.

But I realized recently that I stopped reading Harry Potter when the Harry Potter as *the* Chosen One showed up. Not that he wasn't all along, but in some ways that could be justified by chance, accident. Lord Voldemort can't kill him by the Power Of Love (which I also find a more than a little aggravating, because it's so passive in that instance) and Harry has to deal with it. Instead, it turns out that all along Harry has been the Chosen One, and is the only one who can destroy Lord Voldemort. Yeah, there was some 'confusion' if it could be Neville, but since Harry Potter main character and what it says on the tin, even the other (good) characters don't consider it.

I haven't read even the fifth book and after all the commercialization, really have no interest in the series anymore. It makes me sad, but that's the way it goes. I have read both defenses and attacks on the later books, and I have to say the attackers have stronger arguments.

Maybe it's not as bad as that. But I've been burned enough, and unless it's the most awesomest of awesome books ever—and feel free to leave recommendations—the concept of the Chosen One is the idea that up with which I will not put.

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That cover is not the right book, nor do I know why it pops up. Mine (rather, the library's) was authored by Dorothy Cameron Disney and George Sessions Perry. The library version just has green library rebinding with a nifty almost tropical pattern.

Of course I found it when they sent me to straighten the mystery shelves, though I've managed to avoid them for so long. But at least I didn't have to go far, only through the H section...otherwise my reading list would be even longer.

"When glittering Jenny Iverson, New York career woman and owner of a successful cosmetics business, invited herself to one of the labor Day week-end parties that climax the season for summer residents along the Connecticut shore, she not only wrote her own death warrant, but also sealed the fate of at least two other persons in the group of sophisticates who were to have shared her company during the holiday." 1942

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Because I love to read, and it gives me such access to such a wide world.

Especially cats who don't really know they're cats. And despite their reputation, they love attention and cuddling, and, of course, they are just so eccentric.

I can talk about all sorts of niche-y type things, things that friends and family either don't know or care about, and would think me weird for even knowing. And so many people have such a great sense of humor with their intelligence online (at least on the sites I visit).

House plants
Greens and cleaner air. What's not to like?

When I manage to keep writing, I'm happier. And I get better the more I write. And my stuff is not nearly as bad as I think it is.

As above, there's such a great sense soon as I start drawing or painting. Now, it's never in advance, thinking about my art, but when I actually sit down and just start.

Especially art museums of course. For instance, it's very difficult to appreciate the modern artists through tiny reproduced in a textbook, but when you can see the brushwork...

And visiting the actual items used by people thousands and thousands of years ago. Like everyone else with an overactive, easily fired imagination (who's inspired by old things) it gives me the shivers

My mom made these orange/ricotta cheese version that was just so rich and sweet and delicious...I suppose I could call this cooking, but a representative is easier.

Early mornings
I've been waking up at six in the morning for the past few days, so I can have the house to myself for at least half-an-hour. The sky is still dark except the slight burn of gold along the mountains. It's still cold and even the animals are quiet. It's a beautiful time to work.

The dreams I remember are fascinating, and bright and beautiful and so many others have described. And then there's that moment where you can't quite remember what's real.

Exploding Head Syndrome
This is real. It means that when you're just on the edge of sleep you suddenly hear this great loud bang, usually, and it shocks you awake.

I have that. Now, it makes me happy, one, because of the name--which you can't deny is awesome. And two, it only happens occasionally, so while I get a great jolt of adrenaline and half to go double check all the house locks, I can still get back to sleep.

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Canal boat sinking

The small class on the highlight of all Rockland High School field trips take notes as the manatees bob roundly in the water. When Molly remembers how they have those fat little fins, she wishes she could give the big one a hug, and leans over the edge a little to catch a glimpse of the cow-sweet eyes.

“Heh, look how many scars they have,” her boyfriend says, nuzzling her hair like he always does. “Bet if I had a boat I’d go fly’n if I hit that fat one.”

“You are so immature, Howard,” she answers. And pulls away.

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I can't say my mom's "big dumplings" are all that weird, but she didn't make them for me until I was in college, and they were a little different.

And not like those described by the taker of the photo, who refers to pork and onions, the so-called 'big dumplings' of our family still have the potato dough, but are filled with hamburger. And when they are finished boiling, you fish them out of the water, plot up some butter and sprinkle them with sugar. That's why I began to think of them as a little odd, sugar not being my condiment of choice with hamburger of any kind.

Maybe it's because we're Norwegian.

I mean, as far as I've found googling--which I acknowledge to be less than totally reliable--hamburger may never be used by anyone else in this kind of thing. So maybe my family just does it wrong. And generally the family style calls for butter and sugar topping everything from the lefse to the milk mush.

I love the family recipe book. At least for great-grandmother's Depression-era recipes. Simple, good, and filling. Perfect college fare.

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I should trust my instincts.

I passed over this book twice in the library: taking note, but not making the commitment. It caught my eye when I pulled it from the new collection first, and then again when I was shifting the fiction section.

When I finally went back and checked it out, I had high hopes. Romance can work, and magic is almost always fun, right? And, hey, knitting!

This book isn't even powerful enough to make it a wall-banger. I still couldn't finish, but more out of exasperation than any passionate hatred. But it was bad enough that even though the whole experience was more than a couple months ago at this point, I simply can't let it go without at least talking it out.

"Casting Spells" is a book about blonde (don't forget) Chloe Hobbs and her magical knitting shop, in her magical town, with her magical friends, where nothing bad, especially crime, ever happens. But when a voluptuous (remember--voluptuousness=wantonness) blonde is murdered, handsome cop (remember good-looking *and* crime-fighter) Luke MacKenzie must come to town and mediate on how odd everyone might they're magical but of course they're totally not because I know better. And then together they will fall in love and solve the mystery. (Or is it the other way around? I didn't quite get that far.)

Well, first I have to introduce the main character's knitting shop with a quote from the book:

"Blog posts about the magical store in northern Vermont where your yarn never tangles, your sleeves always come out the same length, and you always, always get gauge were popping up on a daily basis, raising both my profile and my bottom line."

What a way to make me resent your character. Knitting is perfectly easy if you have magic! I don't have magic thank you very much, and dangnabbit, that's just not fair. So why am I supposed to think that she actually works at this, that she ever actually had to *learn* knitting. I'm not sure I am. And this supposedly has a side of murder-mystery to its romance, so of course the male lead is an out-of-town cop who also has to comment on the heroine's shop:

"Her shop was a top link on websites and blogs from neighboring New Hampshire to Malaysia with all stops in between. Okay, so maybe it was like reading Sanskrit (apparently knitters had their own language), but I was able to translate enough to know Chloe's shop was something special...

"...According to the posts I read online, Chloe was Elvis and Sticks & Strings was Graceland, which I would probably chalk up to being a suburban legend if it weren't for the fact that the noise level at the front of the store could cause hearing loss."

Which quite fortuitously leads me to point number two (especially since, well seriously, "hearing loss"???).

Yes, the story is told in alternating first person. I've found I'm a little iffy on first person in the best of times (positive example: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison), but alternating first person should be forbidden on pain of death. Okay, so I think many things should be forbidden on pain of death, but fortunately I'm not in charge of these things, nor will I ever be. Anyway...alternating first person=bad. Yes?

Because when it's used, especially in romance you get gems like these:

"They were all vying for the attention of a tall, skinny blonde, one of the disheveled types who always seemed on the verge of a meltdown."

That's how Luke first observes Chloe--by they way, she's actually mayor, which is why he has to opportunity to give this description--as he thinks 'that's totally not my type'. Totally. Like never would I be attracted to a lady like that in a million, zillion years. Never. Sure, I believe him. Seriously, Ms. Bretton, talk to your publishers. This is marketed as a romance, so as soon as we get Luke's point of view, we *know* that he's going to fall in love with her. If she's observing that he doesn't act attracted to her on a physical level, that's fine. But when he does it? It's just...just...ugh.

And not even fifteen pages later he finds Chloe asleep and snoring and doesn't even try to wake her (as we learned in Twilight, that's not creepy *at all* remember) and tells himself this little gem:

"Cops notice things. It's an occupational hazard. Noticing details about a woman's appearance was part of a detective's job description. It didn't mean anything.

"Not even if the cop in question found himself standing there with a stupid grin on his face."

These two characters switch viewpoints several times a chapter (but only after the first fifty pages or something) so it's only a matter of hours from "totally not my type" to "omg hawtness".

Actually, if the alternating first person were between Chloe and her "best friend" whatshisname--call him Elf, because he is, naturally--it might have worked. Because Chloe's been stringing him along since forever, as all male, non-gay best friends must be in love with the main character, and I would like to have seen him get with some nice girl of his own in a real relationship based on something more than lust. Maybe that happened later in the book? But not from his point of view. No, we get Luke's, so we can see everything twice.

Wait, I haven't gotten to the squicky yet.

That poor Chloe, from a long line of witches, has no magic herself but was raised by the village. Sweet right? Chloe thinks so. Except her family line (at least the women...WOMAN POWAH!!!!) are in charge of this ancient spell that protects the town from exposure to the pedestrians. And she has to give birth to a girl by thirty-five or something to keep the spell going. Or get magic herself, idk. But the locals totally raised her out of the goodness of their hearts and just love her so much.

At that point, I really did feel badly for Chloe. In that whole setup she's definitely the victim, and her so-called saviors are only exploiting her. But was this explored? Well, not in the part I read. She never questioned anything they'd done.

But she does tell Luke about her parent's death, and of course this changes him. See, he's a cop (in case you forgot--didn't I tell you that it was important?!) and often hears sad stories, but her's touches his heard. And so does she:

"She told her parents' story without embellishment or self pity."

I'd rather hope so. She was, what? a few years old at most? Firstly, she shouldn't know any embellishments, and at this point in her live, self-pity would be rather pathetic (now, if she ever seemed like a rounded character or even thought about her parents...). We've had her first person. We know that she doesn't have any reason for self-pity.

But this is Twu Wuv:

"My hand touched his, and we both jumped back as silver-white sparks crackled through the space between us."

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'Cause I have trouble with plots.

Dark Trail

Plot? I work on much more organic level.

As in, I can barely write. I don't think I've written a word of fiction for several months.

Plot plot plot. Plot. Climax! Plot.

Yeah, I got nothin'.

Okay, seriously now.

Let's start with a girl.

No, wait, a boy. Guy.

Has a brother, ahh, twenties? Maybe don't want to get too far away from my realm of experience, or too close to previous characters.

Okay, so there's a character. That isn't plot. I need to get him at least in a situation. Say he's on the lower social strata...and I just looked at my bookshelf and saw "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell" so let's make him magical! I've never written magic before.

So that's not a plot, and might be too close to Rogue Agent Gerald Dunwoody. Maybe he stole it?

Call him Blake for now. Blake the anti-hero? Don't think I can make that work. Guess he's just a little confused with not-so-great friends who stole the magic and dumped it on him for safe keeping. Which will get him in trouble. Let's put him space! That's a bit much. Here we have a character and situation and impetus.

What happens next? Find out in November!

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I have no imagination.


Oddly enough, asking for a new animal by combining three is a popular one in art classes. Or at least it was in the classes I remember. They didn't have to be pets, at least, but the idea was still to use real-life references with originality.

I hated that assignment.

The straight truth is that I don't have that kind of creativity. I've always preferred working with what's *there* already. I'm too practical for the fantastical and can't let go of "this wouldn't work"--the details just get me all tangled up.

But I do have a favorite tri-creature.

Diana Wynne Jones' book Dark Lord of Derkholm has griffins physically eagle and lion, but mentally the children of their *human* parents. (Their father is a magical cloner). So two of the children are human, but the rest (at first) are griffins of various colors and sizes and magical abilities.

Kit is my favorite. He's the first, the biggest, and the darkest. The book itself skews toward campy humor, and slightly satirical, and then it takes a darker turn--

I must like this style, I just realized its similarity in that way to the Rogue Agent series. --

Anyway, Kit is my favorite, but especially paired with his human brother, Blade. The two of them join up, with the rest of the family to help their father be the "Dark Lord" for a series of tours from a world like ours wherein the tourists pretend to be part of heroic groups. Of course, these themed battles really do destroy their world. And Kit and Blade learn magic (from a giant old dragon).

It's been so long since I read those two books. I need to read them again! I guess I don't dislike this prompt so much anymore.

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Rusty Truck

I'm not sure I was a person until after high school.

So my advice would be: at least go out once. Talk to people on occasion. Read better books, because even though you read all the time already, no one takes you seriously unless you can quote random Latin literature. Make up is actually wonderful, and makes you feel pretty, as do clothes and shoes that at least fit. Cut your hair, it looks bedraggled and ridiculous. Smile more. Sneak into pictures on occasion: it's more flattering than sneaking out. Wear shorts and skirts more often, so at least you're equally freckled. No, I guess learning to drive earlier really wouldn't change anything. Apply to better schools, even if you can't afford to go. You can always wave the acceptance letter in naysayers faces.

Are you kidding? I wouldn't say any of that!

Well, maybe I should have talked more with my friends. At least gone hiking more often, up in the local mountains of which there were many. Gotten lost near A's house, up in the hills. And also, the smiling and wearing make up was good.

But, remember that time with A, when we went up past the pond that we used to visit when we were younger and still caught frogs and lizards? Only it was summer this time and almost completely dry, so we went exploring. Those old gnarled posts of juniper wood with strings of barbed wire weren't of enough of a deterrent when it's late afternoon and we were completely bored. And we walked past the rusting truck, although maybe you should have dared to go nearer, and then you might remember more than it was orange.

Her cat ran lightly alongside.

At least we didn't stop. Even we came across the bleached bones of some poor cow and could only regret that it wasn't the skull. Wasn't it a pelvis? The grey-green sagebrush wasn't too dense for walking, and we came up across that hill. After that, wow, we could see so far--the Warners dropped along the horizon looking even less looming since we were so high. It was a little scary then, because we turned around and it was sunset, and we didn't know where we were.

This is what happens when you don't have a trail. Even the fences were out of sight. Of course A knows the area better than you do, so the frisson of nervousness was better off ignored. Keeping back in a straight line from where was the logical thing to do.

Before long we came across the horses that belonged to A's neighbor--the last home on this side! Nothing but wilderness on the other. I wish she hadn't told us that, although we were still probably close enough. Still, it was good timing since the dark was really falling. We followed the barbed wire line around the horses and made our way to the end of the road and the cat wasn't with us. Even as long as we stayed the cat just didn't come back. And it was full dark and the cougars had been really active over the past few months. A waited anxiously by the sliding glass doors, but then we had to go home. If we hadn't gone too far, no one would have been lost. That's always the first thing I remember.

But when A called too late at night, it was because the cat found her way home.

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Fear's Feelings !!!

What am I avoiding? Answering this prompt.

What I'm avoiding is too important, and I can't face up to it yet. I don't want to think about it, I don't want to talk about it. If I can't face it, I'm going to lose everything. If I haven't already.

Avoidance comes too easily. You know? It feels safer to not make any decision, to not commit. But that's a decision too, and the most dangerous one in the long run.

So, instead, I'm practicing. Because failure is so much worse.

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I would never, never say "I told you so"! Especially with a "Hah!"

In fact, I assure you I will go out of my way to assure you that you weren't entirely wrong, and in fact had many good points. Surely there were mitigating circumstances.

No, I promise I'm not laughing at you. No, really, just a tickle in the throat, you know.

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I take things as they come--and therefore am terrible at ranking anything, unless it's traumatized my in its awfulness or something.

I can't say Despicable Me is the absolute funniest movie I've ever scene, because I've never been able to keep track of such things.

However, Gru was far more amusing than I expected, and the trailers really didn't do it justice. The minions managed to stay on just this side of cute without (too often) becoming completely irritating...a fairly significant feat, considering they were very nearly irrelevant to the movie.

I loved the names of the girls, too. Margo, Edith, and Agnes, and their growing relationship with Gru as "Daddy" was actually remarkable touching.

While the humor was the level you'd expect from this kind of movie, the timing really helped it work for me.

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Character is the first thing I look for when reading, but a definite, clear setting is a close second. Fortunately, I've been on a reading kick lately, and actually have an example that covers both.

The Accidental Sorcerer by K.E. Mills (pseudonym for Karen Miller) has strong characters that are fully part of their entirely fictional fantasy world. Which is especially interesting because I don't think the world is given a name.

I think that indicates how strong a fantasy setting it is. In this book, the first of the Rogue Agent series, three different countries are in play: or rather, primary protagonist Gerald Dunwoody moves from Ottosland to New Ottosland, the colony, which is entirely surrounded by the desert country of Kallarapi.

Never, in any of these settings, is the audience given a rundown of the political system, the laws, the culture or the population statistics. Instead, the characters move through their surroundings, and like people reflect only on what immediately impacts them. So Gerald doesn't really think about how his government operates, but as a third-grade wizard and cog of bureaucracy, we learn about out it operates on a day-to-day level, and more importantly the attitude the government has to its function. Gerald's whole story begins when, at the factory he was sent to inspect , there is an explosion as a result of lax safety standards. Instead of the illustrious company being investigated, Gerald is fired.

Because he is only a third-grade wizard, several self-important first-class wizards go out of their way to make him further miserable--a very clear class structure that is only emphasized by his absent-minded, genius-inclined best friend Monk who is so far up the social ladder that, while he cannot directly get Gerald out of trouble, he can make the others back off. However, when his own stunts go awry, he isn't immune from the consequences.

The focus of the book is Gerald's time in New Ottosland. Unlike the mother country, New Ottosland follows Tradition with the capital "T". They speak the same language, every building is an exact copy, and every king is named Lionel and every queen Melisande--as are the first male and female heir. Gerald's problem is the new King Lionel disbelieves in any need for advisors or anything other than strict obedience.

And war is brewing with Kallarapi, the desert that surrounds New Ottosland. Given descriptions of turbans, camels, and very prominent Holy Men and gods, at first glance, Kallarapi might read as the stereotypical middle-eastern backwards country. But holy man Shugat is, well, if not good, especially to our protagonists, at least right. Kallarapi is a fully independent county--it represents mostly how backwards New Ottosland has become.

The beginning the The Accidental Sorcerer is in many ways whimsical. There's a great deal of witty banter, and wry observations on the fabric of society. But the strongest part of the book, the most moving, is that there really is evil in this world, and no one can be perfectly good.

Evil is human, and there is death--and it actually affects the characters. Someone is tortured, and changed forever. Everyone is actually impacted by the end, and there is no magical healing.

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The hardest part about my hometown is trying to imagine it through objective eyes.

Looking west to Alturas

After driving hours on a narrow highway, winding through mountain passes and long, summer-dry valleys, any sign of civilization is a relief.

Even if there aren't all that many. But it's hard to stay awake this late, and the other town was gone before it was even there, it seemed. A paper-cutout ridge of mountains lines the horizon on the east side, improbably snow-capped. There really only seems to be this one main street--oh there are intersecting streets, but they don't seem to lead anywhere. Exploring further, there are likely only churches left to find.

All the streets seem too wide for the lack of traffic, and does anyone actually live there? Wait, two jean-clad people of indeterminate gender have just stepped from one of the stores. It's an old-fashioned main street: two-story, western-style facades, one-building blocks, and none of the stores particularly stand out. Although the Title Co. seems to have been repainted recently--as opposed to anything else, but it doesn't look much like a Title Co. at second glance, whatever a Title Co. may be.

Then there's the flashing yellow light: "FIE TUK CROSSING"

Over the railroad tracks and already more than halfway through town. But signs, finally, of not being in the Twilight Zone remake: there's a RiteAid! a Shell! And a Quiznos!--how sudden. Their bright, professionally designed logos and plastic colors seem dropped from Mars.

Fortunately, the incongruous sight passes quickly, and after the flashing red light intersection--the only one in town, the road continues, and real civilization is only a little more than a hundred miles away.

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A vivid imagination can do wonders for your state of mind.

Cubicle Panorama

I have a lot of affection for my hometown.

That said, I don't want to stay here for the rest of my life. And as much as I enjoyed being in the suburbs in college, I never really met anyone.

But more importantly, I'm very good at entertaining myself. I see no reason to define myself by what I do. If I have to take a job that isn't exactly what I'm looking for...I'll manage. I've always been able to generate interest simply by doing, by learning. So if I do end up in a cubicle, I'll just put a few pictures on the wall and resolve to work the situation into the next Great American Novel.

The environment, culture, feel of a place: those things have always had the greatest effect on my mood. If I can't go out, get some sunshine, meet my friends at the great little shop on the corner...I stay home. And the inside of any place gets the same stale feeling when you haven't left.

Whatever I end up doing, I'd better be somewhere I can live.

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Grudges take far too much effort to sustain.

Two little girls in a park near Union Station, Washington, D.C. (LOC)

I've never been able to keep them.

One night in the second grade, I was driven to write in my diary. The injustice was simply too great. We'd been best friends since the day after we fought in kindergarten, but there were some things I simply wouldn't put up with.

Yes, I did like spaghetti.

It was her dad who asked, we had spaghetti, and she, beyond all reason, got angry with me! This was beyond all bounds. I loved spaghetti, and I was the guest--surely I deserved it. She had no right to be angry.

The rest of the night went no better. And when I wrote that diary entry, I knew it would simply have to be the end of that friendship. I was simply practicing the language for the passive-aggressive letter that would be the only true way to express my deep disdain for the situation.

We're friends still, nonetheless.

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