Metapost: Current Comments

By popular request, we finally have a comment widget on the side that will only post the most current comment per "active thread", instead of having a half dozen XYZ commented on the Twilight thread of the week. I owe much gratitude to Husband, who basically devoted his entire day to this and who does not, technically, know Javascript despite being able to code me up a widget on short notice. Husband is awesome.

Quirks of this script include:
  • The widget may display between 1 and 25 "current comments". The deciding factor here is the 25 comments contained in the RSS blog feed page that the widget is loading.
  • The widget may display less than 25 comments. The deciding factor here is comment density: if the last 25 comments on the blog were on a Twilight post, only 1 comment will show. 
  • The widget displays a piece of the web address title, and not the actual blogger title. This is a quirk of the RSS blog feed page and cannot be changed no matter how much it bugs me. 
  • The widget guts were recycled from a snipped posted by the ReviewOfWeb folks, credited in the widget, who are quite clearly also awesome.

For those of you who use Blogger -- and I think this widget will only work with Blogger feeds, but I could be wrong -- here is the final code. Feel free to reuse.

<script style="text/javascript">
  // Global array variable to control for post uniqueness.
  arr = new Array(25);

  // Array function. Returns true when post already exists.
  function ArrayContains(arr, title)
    for (index = 0; index < arr.length; index++)
      if (arr[index] == title)
        return true;
    return false;

  // Comment function.
  function showrecentcomments(json)
    // Set to 25 to process full feed.
    var numcomments = 25;

    // Increment through each feed item.
    for (var i = 0; i < numcomments; i++)
      var entry = json.feed.entry[i];
      var alturl;
      if (i == json.feed.entry.length) break;
      for (var k = 0; k <; k++)
        if ([k].rel == 'alternate')
          alturl =[k].href;

      // Get post url to check for uniqueness.
      checkurl = alturl.split("?");
      checkurl = checkurl[0];

      // If post has already been processed, skip to next in loop.
      if (ArrayContains(arr, checkurl))

      // Else continue processing.
        var linktext = checkurl.split("/");
        linktext = linktext[5];
        // Limit substring to keep on one line.
        linktext = linktext.substr(0,30).link(checkurl);
        if ("content" in entry)
          var comment = entry.content.$t;
        if ("summary" in entry)
          var comment = entry.summary.$t;
        else var comment = "";
        var re = /<\S[^>]*>/g;
        comment = comment.replace(re, "");
        document.write('<b>' +[0].name.$t + '</b> commented on <br/>');

        // Add checkurl to global array now that the post has been processed.
        arr[i] = checkurl;
<script src=""></script>
<font color="999999"><a href="" style="color: rgb(153,153,153)">Widget </a>by <a href="" style="color: rgb(153,153,153)">ReviewOfWeb</a></font>

Open Thread: What Twilight Vampire Would You Be?

Today's Open Thread is inspired by Gelliebean's awesome comment:

I would have loved it if that was how Twilightovampirification worked - whatever you were before the change, it makes you More. More beautiful, More average-looking, More self-centered, More caring, More shy, More violent, etc. Bella as that kind of vampire might become haughty, obsessed with personal appearances and staring into mirrors for hours on end; she might be neurotic, baking manically for three days straight in a desperate effort to buy the affections of someone, anyone who would tell her they appreciate it and thereby prove to her that someone needs her and cares whether she's even there or not....
Name one "good" thing and one maybe-not-so-good thing that could come from forcing your three-dimensional personality through a two-dimensional strainer. (Mixed metaphor or just dreadful analogy? You decide!)

I'll start. One major trait of mine is that I stay really busy. The Meyer-Approved version of this would probably be that I'm the one taking care of my vampire family by constantly modifying our clothes to be more "modern", forging our important paperwork, maintaining several "vampire sighting" blogs to spread disinformation and discredit the actual sightings, and generally working myself silly 24 hours a day to make sure that all my in-life plot holes were neatly tied up. (Sample "todo" list: @asap Convince Mike that my sparkling wrist was body glitter. @someday-maybe Learn hypnotism.)

The Dark-Twilight consequences is that I'd get so busy that I "wouldn't have time" to go hunting on schedule with the others (I have to get these passport photos finished!) and I'd probably be prone to snapping and gobbling down the occasional yappy terrier. Those things would be like popcorn for me. So I guess I'm trying to say that my single-minded devotion to Stay Busy At All Costs would probably disconnect me from humanity and lead me to have difficulty managing my vampire-y urges.

Your turn!

e-Reader: pBook to eBook Conversion (The Lazy Way!)

A couple of months ago, I blogged about a home-method to cut and scan a book into a PDF file. The method was, I noted, a laborious time-sink best suited for folks like myself who were absolutely fanatical about converting their library into electronic form. It was also best for "image" books -- even with an OCR software like FineReader it was very likely that a home scanner's results for a mass market paperback book would be just dark enough or skewed enough to seriously lower your OCR accuracy rate.

Well, 1DollarScan is here to save the day. You take the number of pages in a book, round up, and then divide by 100 and that's your cost for the cutting, scanning, and PDF emailing goodness for that book. So if your book is 236 pages long, that's rounded to 300, so it's $3. If another book is 367 pages long, it's rounded to 400, so $4 for that book. Both books mailed together would be $7 total.

I've used this service for a "test" book and the results are above. They supposedly don't scan front and back covers, but in this case they did. (I think they just say they don't in case your cover is a hardcover that won't fit through their scanner's feed. And yes, they do accept hardcover books.) The scans are super crisp and very clear and bright, although as you can see there is some bleed-through from the previous page.

The service also claims to layer the PDF with text conversion (so that it's searchable), but in my sample the conversion was iffy -- searches found some instances of a word, but not all. One thing that is very good about this service is that if you are OCRing your PDFs into text for epub or mobi or Word or whatever conversion, the bright scans and perfectly-aligned pages are very easy for FineReader to handle and there are a lot fewer errors to be corrected after a scan-and-convert.

The downside to the service, of course, is that you don't get your book back. Since I've been cutting, scanning, and recycling anyway, that's fine with me, but it won't be fine with everyone. Something to keep in mind.

One dollar per 100 pages (rounded up) does add up, especially when the burden of shipping is on the buyer. I will say, though, that I've been able to send the following groups in USPS flat rate post boxes (the largest one is $15):

$73 for 23 books at $15 shipping = $3.82 per book
$66 for 28 books at $15 shipping (with 30% discount coupon) = $2.18 per book
$64 for 26 books at $15 shipping (with 10% discount coupon) = $2.79 per book

It's not a magic bullet for cheaply converting the books you've already bought once into electronic format, but it is significantly cheaper than re-buying everything in a new format for your e-Reader. What's more, it's an attractive option for books stuck in "orphan" status, such as when the author is dead but the owner of the rights is in question and the public domain cutoff is increasingly further away.

Author Interview: Bill See on "33 Days"

Ana: Today we have Bill See introducing his novel, "33 Days: Touring In A Van. Sleeping On Floors. Chasing A Dream". I haven't read this book myself, but Bill was kind enough to agree to guest blog about the book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Bill, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

Bill: "33 Days" is a coming of age, on the road story about an indie rock band's first tour in a beat up old van across the U.S. and Canada. No soundman, no roadies, all they have is their music and each other’s friendship. They beg from the stage for a floor to sleep on and are never sure they’ll make enough gas money to get them to the next town.

"33 Days" captures the essence of what it is to be out of your own for the first time in your life and chase a dream, back to a time in life when dreams don’t have boundaries, when everything is possible. The tour is one of those now or never experiences. Take a shot at making the band work or leave it all behind and go your separate ways. Every one of us has that moment where we have to decide to either live our dreams or give up and regret it for the rest of our lives. "33 Days" touches that part of us. Out there the road is filled with yuppies, brothels, riots, spiked drinks, DJs with no pants, and battles with racism. They set out on the road to discovery to drink in all they could and maybe sell a few records. They grew up instead.

Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

Bill: At its heart, it's a story about friendship held together by the shared discovery of the healing powers of making music together. Individually, these guys are losers. But together they believe they’re capable of great things. It’s not that they believed that music could change the world, but it did change theirs. It saved them. They'd all been living a lie, living someone else's dream. Things had become desperate at home and they've all come to that moment at the crossroads where you have to decide to live your dreams or sigh in resignation and toe the line like everyone else. And I think they've all realized something very sinister and irreversible happens when you sit on your dreams and deny what's at your core. In the end, it's as much about summoning the courage to try and go out and make it as it is a cautionary tale about the perils of sitting on your dreams.

Who's it for? Well, I guess I had two age groups in mind. One was where I am now which is in my mid-40s. I wanted people who read "33 Days" to sit up in the middle of their lives and look back and ask themselves, "Did I fire my shot? Did I seize my moment?" And it's also for anyone in their late teens or early 20s facing their future and standing at their own personal crossroads of their lives.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book?

Bill: Well, it's twofold. It's, in part, culled from the journals I kept while my band Divine Weeks toured in a van back in the 80s. That makes up the majority of the day by day events of the tour. And what was extraordinary about finding those journals was the voice I'd written in at the time -- the voice was so electric and alive, and running over with that glorious mix of bravado hiding sheer terror that's so a part of the fabric of someone finally liberated from madness and hitting the road for the first time in their lives. I did everything I could to retain that voice and not add any acquired wisdom.

The book is also based on a letter I wrote to my sister who'd been given up for adoption at birth and then reappeared in my life about 12 years ago. She'd asked me to write her something to explain what she'd missed growing up with our mother. So, that letter is a large part of the first chapter of the book and details the motivations for the discovery of music as a form of salvation from the madness I grew up around and the impetus for summoning the courage to go on that first tour.

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!” which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

Bill: 33 Days has been called a "quest" novel, and it's certainly a coming of age - on the road - book. When we climbed in the van, we set out to have our own Kerouac "On The Road" experience. So, when I sat down to write "33 Days" I wanted to write something you'd go searching for after reading "On The Road" and wanted more journeys that go off the map. The other thing was I wanted to dispel some of the myths about what's it's really like to be in a band. Ninety-five percent of us never get out of the garage. Another 4% that do get out of the garage never get more than a marginal amount of success. And 1% end up superstars but everyone assumes that's what it's really like. You know, the Learjets, the groupies, being on the cover of Rolling Stone. That's not reality for the overwhelming majority of us who play for love of music, not for profit margins. Music is our lifeblood and we play because a crucial part of us dies when we don't.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have published other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Bill: This is my first book. I am, first and foremost, a musician. A lifer. But I've always journaled and have been sitting on this story for a long time. I guess you could say it started hurting too much not sharing it. I've got a few more ideas about where to take this for a next book, but right now I'm fully committed to promoting "33 Days" and possibly turning it into a movie.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

Bill: 33 Days is available on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and on Apple's iBookstore.

I answer every email personally at Follow me on Twitter @33days, or like 33 Days on Facebook. The 33 Days website is here. The book trailer is also there on the book's website along with other videos, photos, interviews and music that's kind of a nice companion piece to the book. And I've got a blog here.

Ana: Thank you, Bill. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers? And is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Bill: Thank you Ana. Yeah, folks can go to the 33 Days website and click on the "Book Excerpt" tab or just click here to check it out.

Narnia: Oral Traditions of the Church of Aslan

Narnia Recap: The children have made their way to the home of the Beavers and prepared a sumptuous meal to serve with a side of exposition.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 8: What Happened After Dinner

   "AND NOW," SAID LUCY, "DO PLEASE TELL us what's happened to Mr. Tumnus."
   "Ah, that's bad," said Mr. Beaver, shaking his head. "That's a very, very bad business. There's no doubt he was taken off by the police. I got that from a bird who saw it done."

This is completely off topic, but I was a little shocked this week to see the Witch's cadre of wolf thugs referred to in the text as "police", especially given how much text is spent analyzing the non-legitimacy of the Witch's reign.

Review: The Meowmorphosis

The Meowmorphosis
by Cook Coleridge

The Meowmorphosis / 978-1594745034

I *like* the Quirk classics; I liked Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and I liked Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Having a soft spot for The Metamorphosis, I fully expected to like The Meowmorphosis... and I did! Until the halfway point when suddenly everything went horribly wrong.

The Metamorphosis is a classic tale of a young man who wakes one morning to find that he has changed into a gruesome insect creature. His family, who previously depended on him entirely for their livelihood, react with varying degrees of kindness, revulsion, and hostility to Gregor in his new form. As Gregor spirals into madness and depression, and as his family become more cruel to him, he finally dies to serve them. The novel is incredibly depressing, but a powerful look at family dynamics and how they can change depending on who is the provider and who is the dependent.

The Meowmorphosis starts out great by staying true to the Quirk format: the story is the same, but with a few key differences; namely Gregor is now a kitten instead of a disgusting insect. Cute! And this set-up works incredibly well; I was fully prepared to give the book 5 stars while reading this part. The sadness and depression that Gregor suffers through his transformation juxtaposes nicely with the fluffy kitten material and it's all very delightful.

About halfway through the novel, however, the author completely abandons Kafka's premise and sets off on his own. Gregor escapes the house and joins a cadre of cats on the street, and these cats are impossibly long-winded and pompous. There are pages and pages of text that feel more like filler than anything else, and all I can say when the author criticizes German writing for being ponderous, that people who live in glass houses shouldn't write dull, monotonous filler dialogue. I suppose it's meant to be parody, but sacrificing the reader's enjoyment of the text to make a point seems detrimental to me.

When the novel then starts throwing in references to the original source text by claiming -- and I *think* I have this correctly -- that the "anxious dreams" that all the men-cats had prior to their transformation was a dream of a man turned to a cockroach, I gave up. The people in The Meowmorphosis dream about The Metamorphosis. It's layers upon layers, but since it's all conveyed in huge, deliberately wordy blocks of dialogue, it just couldn't hold my interest.

Two stars for the awesome beginning, which I will treasure. No stars for the massive mood shift halfway that caused me to give up in frustration.

NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.

~ Ana Mardoll

View all my reviews

Twilight: It's All About The Protagonist, Baby

Twilight Recap: Bella has pleaded with Edward for the truth behind the incident and promised that she won't reveal his secret to anyone. Unwilling to trust her, Edward has stalked silently off, leaving Bella alone in the hospital corridors. Comment of the Week goes to Hapax for her Dr. Seuss rendition of Twilight. I heartily recommend that this proud tradition be carried on by as many posters as possible.

Twilight, Chapter 3: Phenomenon

Today will be an interesting contrast to Bella's behavior over the last few weeks. While she has been largely deferential to Dr. Cullen and his son Edward, preferring to let her (legitimate) issues with them air out through passive-aggression and carefully veiled word games, now that the Cullens have disappeared from the scene, Bella is going to undergo a bit of a personality change -- not so much from her character thus far but very much so from her character when dealing with the Cullens. Hang on to your seats.

Metapost: Footer Bar

In keeping with this month's focus on website tweaks, you will notice that the Header O' Buttons has been duplicated to live down as an additional Footer O' Buttons.

Why would you want a Footer O' Buttons? Well, there's a ROT13 button down there, easy to access if you're typing out a comment. There's also a Google Search box down there, again easy to launch mid-comment. Since both buttons launch a new window or tab, you won't even lose your comment. Groovy!

Are there easier ways to do this with Firefox plugins? Oh my goodness, yes. Does Ana's work limit the use of Firefox plugins for security reasons? Alas, yes. Is this all an elaborate ploy to turn the blog into Ana's one-stop-shop homepage? Probably.

So why are the rest of the buttons down there? Ana requires symmetry or her head explodes. Sad but true.

(Weirdness: I cannot get rid of that little blank space under the bar. My Test Edits page displays correctly and my text comparison tool says that my HTML for that site is essentially identical to my HTML for this site. It's driving me nuts. Any HTML gurus who want to tell me what I'm doing wrong will be greatly appreciated.)

Metapost: Newsletter Subscriptions

I've decided to start a newsletter courtesy of MailChimp (who also handle the newsletters for Mark Does Stuff). If you're interested in signing up (and I hope you are!) there's now a link in the upper button happy land.

I *hate* getting newsletters on a near-daily or even weekly basis, so I can promise you that I won't abuse your email inbox with spam. I really cannot fathom a scenario that would cause me to send a newsletter out more than once a month, and probably not even that often.

So why should you sign up for the newsletter at all? Well, I know that something like 70 people are subscribed via the RSS feed link but don't comment on a regular basis. I'm not sure how often you Awesome-But-Silent gentlefolk are checking the recent posts, and I can imagine that major stuff might get lost in the RSS shuffle of 20 New Posts! (19 of them about things you don't care about!) fun-ness. I feel like a newsletter would be a neat way to bridge the gap between "how do I find out if something major is going on over there" and "I don't want to waste my whole day finding out".

So what kinds of things will go in this newsletter? Well, announcements about new deconstruction series, for one. (Claymore can't last forever, you know.) And announcements if Ana ever gets off her cushion and releases that book she keeps talking about. And announcements when a deconstruction finishes (knock on wood!) and the posts are compiled into an easy-to-download-and-hoard-on-your-hard-drive form. And, ummmm... I can't think of anything else. Well, eventually I have to go in for a back surgery, so you'd probably get an announcement about that, too. (You can see why I don't expect this to be a weekly spam thing.)

Anyway. Newsletter: It exists, it's going to be awesome, and there's a button. I can't promise that signing up will increase your odds of finding an adorable fluffy kitten in your front garden, but I'm not going to say that it won't, either.

(Feel free to treat this thread as an Open Thread for today.)

Metapost: Easy ROT 13 Access

Some of you have noticed that I've been using ROT13 for triggery stuff in the comments so that no one has to get bowled over with something super-sad when they were trying to read happy Narnia and Twilight stuff. If you're not already familiar with ROT13, there's a good explanation at Wikipedia. Since it's kind of a pain to open a new browser and zip over to the ROT13 site every time someone posts, I've added a button to the site bar up top. Note that this site is already pretty spoiler-heavy, so I really only use for trigger-warning stuff, but that's just me. The rest of you can use at your discretion.

Fbzr bs lbh unir abgvprq gung V'ir orra hfvat EBG13 sbe gevttrel fghss va gur pbzzragf fb gung ab bar unf gb trg objyrq bire jvgu fbzrguvat fhcre-fnq jura gurl jrer gelvat gb ernq unccl Aneavn naq Gjvyvtug fghss. Vs lbh'er abg nyernql snzvyvne jvgu EBG13, gurer'f n tbbq rkcynangvba ng Jvxvcrqvn. Fvapr vg'f xvaq bs n cnva gb bcra n arj oebjfre naq mvc bire gb gur EBG13 fvgr rirel gvzr fbzrbar cbfgf, V'ir nqqrq n ohggba gb gur fvgr one hc gbc. Abgr gung guvf fvgr vf nyernql cerggl fcbvyre-urnil, fb V ernyyl bayl hfr sbe gevttre-jneavat fghss, ohg gung'f whfg zr. Gur erfg bs lbh pna hfr ng lbhe qvfpergvba. *teva*

Update: And if the button looks a little homemade, that's because it is. I put it together in Adobe Photoshop and if you'd like to re-use it elsewhere, yea verily, you are more than welcome to.

Tropes: The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing

I know I usually devote Thursdays to a one-off deconstruction, but nothing really hit me square between the eyes this week, possibly because my "viewing time" was mostly taken up with Priest, which left me largely feeling meh, and some gawd-awful Conan the Barbarian TV show that Husband found on Amazon Prime Video and which he coaxed me into watching because he finds it amusing when I scream in frustration at the television. (Just to give you a taste: the female love interest can't say "I want to have sexy times with you," she has to keep saying, "I want to make sons for you." Because it's a Primitive Culture, natch. *strangled gargle at the back of my throat*)

So I thought instead I'd talk about something I like, with a side ramble into why Darker and Edgier is something that crops up so often in the deconstructions around here. (Here's looking at you, Twilight.)

Metapost: Site-Wide Comments with Google Friend Connect

So you want to ask if anyone has seen a specific commentor lately. Or you want to point out that the site layout is an abomination before god and that all right-thinking people hate it. Or you just want to leave your comment before you dash off to a celebrity yachting event, but Disqus is acting flakey and you can't.

Never fear! A new sidebar has been added to the right of the blog that contains comments that can be seen across the site. This has the advantage of letting you post a comment that you want everyone to see, regardless of blog topic (like, "Hey, has anyone seen Ana lately? She needs to get off her cushion and post something useful."), and should additionally work when Disqus is down. Unless Disqus and Google go down at the same time, in which case you should probably assume that the Zombie Apocalypse has begun and start hoarding water in your bathtub.

We'll see how this goes and if it gets any use at all -- if everyone utterly despises it as a site-wide conversation engine, then we'll get rid of it and try something else. Let it not be said that I'm resistant to change. I'm especially fond of dimes.

Author Interview: Paul Collins on "Mack Dunstan’s Inferno"

Ana: Today we have Paul Collins introducing their novel, Mack Dunstan’s Inferno. I haven't read this book myself, but Paul was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Paul, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

Paul: I am going to cut to the chase on this one. Forgive me for straying off topic, or going off on a tangent. Mack Dunstan’s Inferno was inspired by Bowling for Columbine where actor Charlton Heston was challenged by Michael Moore. At that time, I was looking at Dante’s Inferno and I found myself musing about what today Divine Comedy would feature. Instead of mentioning long dead figures of history, modern celebrities would have a place. I wanted to take subtle aim at all the celebrity literature being promoted by the 500 channel universe. Mack Dunstan’s Inferno is my reaction to celebrity gossip, or celebrity driven media culture that we have become.

Ana: I imagine Dante would have approved. What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

Paul: I wrote this manuscript back in May, or June 2004, and finished at the end of February 2005. At that time, I found myself reading eastern thinking. I devoured Hermann Hesse, explored Ayn Rand’s fiction, not philosophy. The Upanishads followed, including Mahabharata and Ramayana, both translated by William Buck. I find myself gravitating towards eastern thinking. It amused me when I meet people who go on about our society being run by extraterrestrials, or a more powerful alien species. Conspiracy theories have replaced the explanation once offered by mainstream, organized religions. For example, if you want the answers in 2011, you go to No one ever thinks of their world being one giant illusion. I would like to leave the message behind Mack Dunstan’s Inferno -- we live in a world of illusion, life is what you make it, and if you need another lesson, the smoke and mirrors after death will give it to you.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rock star fame, what motivated you to write this book?

Paul: As I said before, Mack Dunstan’s Inferno is a reaction to our celebrity driven culture. If you looked for wisdom in the 500 channel universe, you will find Oprah Winfrey, American televangelists, or investment gurus, all offering smoke and mirrors. Everyone, or everything, seen on TV, or the movies, is heavily marketed. We are brainwashed from every source imaginable. Mack Dunstan’s Inferno is today’s Divine Comedy with all the celebrities, captains of industry, and Wiseman to keep the smoke and mirrors alive. I love reading the masters of literature. If I can find such an author who wrote a book that I never heard, that is my element of discovery. I don’t find today’s fiction, or nonfiction, very interesting. Last year, I discovered the Mark Twain 2010 Autobiography and I read every page and loved it. This year I came across Alexander Dumas’ The Last Cavalier. I strongly feel today’s books have the promotion, the timeliness, but lack the substance of the previous generation. Mack Dunstan’s Inferno is my reaction to today’s 500 channel universe and celebrity driven culture.

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!” which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

Paul: This is my fourth book and probably my last one too. I am not mainstream. If you look at Hemingway in his time, he was fired from the Toronto Star for literary incompetence. I don’t think things have changed. We have the same talented writers being paid by the media chains, offering candy coated propaganda, instead of substance. There are still lies being told in the world of politics, the media, Kitsch from mainstream publishing houses, and no melody to hum from today’s music industry. Thus, I feel my feeling for eastern thinking has reached its point and will be pushed aside for another Harry Potter book, or yet another addition to the Twilight Franchise. I am just going to be honest about it, I have nothing to lose.

Ana: Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

Paul: There are no plans for another work. I do have a satire for today’s Hollywood, but I have my doubts. I love old Hollywood, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock, and the original Twilight Zone. I feel everything good has been done and that is why you’ll find me reading the masters of literature and enjoying the golden age of Hollywood. As for my books, I would welcome a second edition of any of my books. I just don’t have any expectations for it.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

Paul: Readers can buy my book EVERYWHERE! You’ll will find Mack Dunstan’s Inferno at Amazon, B&N, Chapters, or at iUniverse. Mack Dunstan’s Inferno and Mystery of Everyman’s Way are my best work. Prescience Rendezvous and King without an Empire were when I was an evolving author. Reach me at Facebook, Twitter, or at My web site is

Ana: Thank you, Paul. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers below the jump.

Claymore: Human Life, Human Death

Claymore Recap: Teresa and Clare have been hunted down by four top-ranked Claymores who have instructions to take Teresa's head. One Claymore is a young novice named Priscilla who has been severely traumatized in her short life and now has to come to grips with the realization that she's not as strong as she previously thought. 

Claymore, Episode 8: Awakening

In many ways, Episode 8 is a microcosm for the Claymore series as a whole: we see the evolution of Teresa's mercy and how it both strengthens and weakens her, as well as the life and death of a Claymore.

Twilight: Gaslighting 101

Twilight Recap: Bella has been taken to the hospital where she has met with the movie-star-good-looks Dr. Cullen. Carlisle has assured her that she's safe to go home, and has managed to be as suspicious as possible when confronted with Edward's lie that he was right next to Bella at the time of the accident.

Twilight, Chapter 3: Phenomenon

I want you to imagine something with me for a minute. Imagine that you are a sparkly Twilight vampire. Imagine that you've spent almost one-hundred years on the run, moving from place to place, picking up and then shedding an identity each time. Each time you move, it becomes just a little harder; each time you pick up roots and put down somewhere new, you vow to try your hardest to blend in for as long as possible this time -- even if it means having to live through the boredom that is junior high school in order to maximize your potential time at the latest address.

eReader: Device Comparison Shopping

One of the things that people often ask me is, "I'm thinking about buying an eReader. Can I ask you a few questions?" I'm not sure why they ask me this, but Husband says it might have to do with the fact that I own five or six of them. I can quit anytime, you know.

Ahem. Anyway. The answer is always: "YES!" I love talking about eReaders. It's getting me to shut up about eReaders that's the hard thing. However, sometimes I think I should write all this down into a nice big blog post so that people can read all this at their leisure.

The problem with writing about eReaders, though, is that there is always a new line coming out. And even if I do have five or six, that's such a minuscule portion of the market that it's still very safe to say that (a) I don't know everything about what's out there and (b) even if I did, my knowledge would very quickly be out of date. So understanding that, let's talk about some general stuff.

1.  Device Form Factor
So first let's talk about the form factor of the devices out there. The big differences out there are screen size, screen type, navigation type, weight, and integrated reading software. Don't worry, it's not nearly as confusing as it sounds and I want to say right now that your best friend for comparison shopping is going to be this Wikipedia link here on the comparisons between eReaders. So now what does this all mean?

1.1  Screen Size
Screen Size simply means how big is the reading area. Most eReader screens are 6", which is about the size of a mass market paperback book. There are a few dedicated 7" (notably the Sony PRS-950) and 5" (the Sony PRS-350 and the PocketBook 360), and these are good if you want a large screen area for PDF documents and things that don't reflow well, or a small device for carrying around at all times. However, 90% of users will be perfectly happy with a 6" screen.

1.2  Device Weight
Device Weight is equally pretty simple -- it basically comes down to how much the device weighs. This will vary widely, in part because screen size is not the same as device size; there's going to be space around the screen for holding it, and that space can add a lot of weight quickly. In general, lighter is better -- the plastics that eReaders are made from are pretty darn sturdy, and you're going to want to be able to hold your reader with one hand without getting wrist fatigue. Anything under 7 oz is probably fine for the average user, and even I can use the 10 oz Sony PRS-950 without trouble.

1.3  Screen Type: LCD or eInk?
Screen Type is something of a biggie. The first big question is: LCD or eInk? LCD is basically a computer screen: it glows in the dark, it shows color, it works poorly in full sunlight, and some people find it straining on the eyes. eInk is basically grayscale paper: it doesn't glow in the dark, it doesn't show color, it works perfectly in full sunlight, and some people find it relaxing to the eyes. If you go LCD, your options are a tablet (like the Nook Color) or a smart phone. (Or you can also read at the computer.) If you go eInk, your options branch a little further.

1.4  Screen Type: eInk Regular or eInk Pearl?
With eInk, there are a couple more choices, notably: eInk Regular or eInk Pearl. Most new devices -- the Sony PRS line, the Kindle 3, the Nook Simple Touch, and the Kobo Touch -- come with "pearl" screen. Many older devices and third-party lines, including the PocketBook line, have "regular" screens.

eInk Pearl creates a cleaner, sharper image than eInk Regular. Since Pearl screens are available on most newer devices, it's usually just as cheap and easy to get a Pearl screen than a Regular one. However, if the device you have your heart set on isn't a Pearl device, you may not end up noticing or caring -- for most people the difference is only noticeable for books with pictures. Here are some photographs I took to demonstrate the difference:

eInk Regular (PocketBook 360)

eInk Pearl (Sony PRS-950)

1.5  Navigation Type: Touch or Keys?
There are two types of screens: touch screens and non-touch screens. Touch screens mean that you can use your finger (and possibly a stylus, depending on device) to navigate your library; non-touch screens come with keys or keyboards for device navigation.

Of the non-touch eInk devices, the biggies would be the Kindle 3 and the PocketBook 360. The Kindle 3 has a built in physical keyboard that is used for device navigation; the PocketBook 360 has a direction pad and 3 dedicated buttons, all of which can pull double duty via short-press and long-press and which are customizable in terms of which key does what.

Of the touch eInk devices, the biggies would be the Nook Simple Touch and the Kobo Touch. The Nook Simple Touch has two page turn buttons (right and left side); the Kobo Touch has no buttons whatsoever. (Well, except a power button, I suppose. Those don't count.)

Of the hybrid eInk devices, the Sony PRS line has both touch screen navigation and dedicated buttons across the bottom, which can be customized if you load the PRS+ environment to the device. This is the device style that I personally prefer -- touch for easy library navigation and buttons for options menus and page turns.

NOTE: Since the Sony PRS touch screens are infrared, they can be used with a fine-tip stylus and they can be placed in a water-proof pouch (and then navigated via the button interface). I'm not sure if this is possible with the Nook Simple Touch or Kobo Touch models.

Of the LCD devices, you get touch, period. And it's probably going to be capacitive touch, which means the wide rounded-tip styluses.

2.  Library Management
So now that you've had a moment to ogle the pretty readers, it's time to talk about how you plan to load books and navigate to them. There are a lot of different ways to approach library management, and this is one area where the devices are very different but not always clearly articulated.

Do you like to buy one book, read it, archive it forever, and then go on to the next one? If so, then just about any reader will work for you, and probably your biggest priority will be buying one that integrates easily with your store of choice and maybe even has WiFi or 3G support.

Do you own hundreds or thousands of books and the appeal of an eReader is being able to carry around your entire library with you at all times? Do you care intensely about tweaking the covers and shelf tags until they're perfect and being able to organize books by series or genre or any number of other criteria? If so, then my advice to you is to go straight to the Sony PRS models (not the PRS-350, though, because it doesn't have an expandable SD slot) or the PocketBook models.

Why do I say that? Well, the Nook readers and the Kobo readers and -- to the best of my knowledge -- the Kindle readers all basically dump your entire library into a big old bucket. Some of those readers, most notably the Nook, do support shelving books on the device itself, but the process is slow and tedious and can't be backed up and you will lose all your tagging during a firmware update. I. Have. Done. This.

The Sony PRS readers, in contrast, allow Calibre (which you should totally use to store your 1,000 book library) to send metadata to the device with the books, and this metadata is organized into "Sony Collections". Currently I send several types of metadata with each book to my Sony device: whether or not I own the audio book, whether or not I've reviewed the book yet, where I bought the book (or if it was sent for free in exchange for review), the genre of the book, and the series and series number of the book.

This means that I can go into my Collections view and see a list that looks like this:

Clicking on "fiction (adult literature)" will show me all the books in that category. (I have a whole bunch of these that I named myself because I'm OCD about library management and "fiction (adult literature)" needed to group closely with "fiction (children literature)" and NOT be split by "non-fiction (arts and crafts)".) Clicking on "audio (yes) (Audiobook)" will show me all the books in that category -- some of which are also included in the "fiction (adult literature)" category. This is a very powerful way to use and access a large library, and it's something that -- as far as I know -- is unique to the Sony readers.

Now, I also mentioned PocketBook above, and that's because PocketBook models support folder browsing (as does Sony if you've loaded the PRS+ environment). Folder browsing can get you the same thing that Sony Collections gets you if you don't have a lot of nested folders. Folder browsing worked for me when I only organized books by genre, but once I started adding extra layers like "reviewed?" and "audio book?" then it became cumbersome.

Obviously I'm in favor of Sony readers because of the Collections capability. Will you need collections? Possibly not. My husband does fine without collections, partly because he has a very small library of eBooks so far, and partly because he only loads what he knows he wants to read soon to the device. I'm the sort of person who feels like she has to have her entire library with her at all times because god forbid I not be instantly gratified the second I want to read The Picture of Dorian Gray on a whim. But it's worth pointing out that the Sony line-up makes you pay more for this privilege.

3.  Other Stuff To Think About
OK, so now we've talked about library management and device form factor, here are some miscellaneous things to keep in mind. None of these will (probably) be deal-breakers, but they're things you want to think about moving forward so as to not get taken by surprise.

3.1  Fonts
You might want to check out what kind of fonts come with your proposed eReader. Most readers will come with a serif font and a sans serif font, but they may not be good versions of either. Some readers will let you load new fonts -- the PocketBook models do this, and the Sony PRS models do after you've loaded PRS+ to the environment. (Before that, you're stuck with a whopping ONE font and Sony expects you to like it. *eyeroll*)

3.2  Key Mapping
If your device has keys, you might want to check out the key mapping options available to you -- i.e., how customizable is the device? I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but the PocketBook 360 lets you do this, as does the Sony PRS models after you've loaded PRS+ to the environment. One nice thing that you can do with the Sony models is map "take a screenshot" to a key -- I use this a lot when I want to remember a page or quote from it later. (Sony supports good highlighting and note-taking and export of same, but I just kind of like screenshots for some weird reason.)

3.3  Book Formats
There are about a billion ebook formats, but unless you've been hoarding old Microsoft LIT files and the like, you will really only care about three: mobi, epub, and pdf. So let's talk about those for a second.

The mobi format is the format that the Amazon books come in (for the most part). A rule of thumb is that no readers can read these books except the Amazon readers. (PocketBooks can, but only if they are DRM free. We'll get to that in the Storefront section below.) The mobi format is slightly less sophisticated than the epub format in terms of what can technically be done with them, but for 99% of books, this will not matter. The important thing for you is that mobi converts (via Calibre) cleanly to epub with pretty much no loss or clean-up needed.

The epub format is the format that everyone else's books come in (for the most part). A good rule of thumb is that all readers can read these books except Amazon readers. The epub format is slightly better than the mobi format for reasons that will be invisible to most readers who aren't tech heads. The important thing for you is that epub converts (via Calibre) cleanly to mobi with pretty much no loss or clean-up needed.

The pdf format is the format still used for books that have very specific layout needs (columns, images in relation to text, and so forth). As a general rule of thumb, you really want to avoid reading pdf on your eReader, but if you simply must, the Sony PRS-950 is your best bet (large screen and great zooming options). The Nook and Kobo try to reflow the pdf and the result is pretty dreadful, in my opinion. The important thing for you is that pdf converts terribly -- very messy and with lots of clean-up needed. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either flat-out wrong or thinking of a special type of pdf file that most pdfs aren't.

3.4  Battery Life
The rule of thumb here is that you can get maybe 8 dedicated hours out of an LCD device. The eInk readers last a lot longer, but not as long as you'd think. The Nook Classic, for instance, will tell you it has a week of battery life, but it really has about 16 hours, which is about two days on a long car trip. The trick here is that a "week" of reading is measured in only about 2 hours a day. So while you may hear "week" and think that's more than enough for me! just understand that doesn't take into account what your actual use may be on, say, a long plane trip or something. Overall, though, battery is pretty unimportant to most users -- buy a wall charger or a car charger and you'll never have to think about it.

4.  Store Integration
Last thing, and this is a bit of a biggie: where are you going to buy your books from? It's potentially a major question or possibly not a big deal at all to you -- but whichever way you swing will depend on a few factors: namely, delivery and DRM. But let's cover a couple of general rules.
  1. You do not have to buy eBooks from the store associated with your reader. 
  2. You can -- theoretically -- match any reader with any store. But some stores have more management overhead than others.
4.1  Delivery
Delivery is something that a lot of stores offer to sweeten your link with them through the device. Amazon Kindle books can be bought directly from the Amazon Kindle reader and delivered to your device over the WiFi or 3G; this is true for the four major stores and their readers -- Nook, Kobo, and Sony PRS-950.

Sounds convenient, right? Well, it can be if you're just wanting to buy, read, and archive. Lots of people do that and it works great. But if you want to buy, tweak the cover to be just right, tweak the metadata and tagging, read, and retain on your device forever, the direct delivery is going to be useless to you because you will have to download the book to your computer, tweak it in Calibre, and side-load it to your device by plugging to your computer. So whether delivery is a useful feature will depend on you.

4.2  Digital Rights Management
DRM essentially means that the book is locked down and you have to have a key to open and read the book. Most books come from a bookstore with DRM in place, but not all. Not all eReaders can read the same DRM formats -- i.e., not all eReaders carry the same key types. Here's a quick chart:
  • Amazon: Books have Amazon DRM applied. Kindle can read Amazon DRM only. 
  • B&N: Books have B&N DRM applied. Nook can read B&N DRM and Adobe DRM. 
  • Kobo: Books have Adobe DRM applied. Kobo can read Adobe DRM only. 
  • Sony: Books have Adobe DRM applied. Sony can read Adobe DRM only.
Now, didn't I just say that in theory any book can be read on any device? That's because -- in theory -- removing DRM is fairly easy. If you're interested in the theory of DRM, googling "Apprentice Alf" or "I love cabbages" would be instructive. Do keep in mind that DRM-removal regulations vary from place to place and you'd be advised to look into those details in advance.

Then, also, there are a lot of independent stores -- like Baen and Smashwords -- that provide DRM-free books that you can buy and support. 

But let's say you won't want to remove DRM but you still want a specific DRM-wrapped book. So where should you buy from in that case? Well, if you don't want to remove DRM, you have two choices: You can go with the Amazon store if you want an Amazon reader or you could go with the Kobo store for the B&N/Sony/Kobo readers.

Why the Kobo store? The Adobe DRM they carry can be read on the B&N, Kobo, and Sony readers. The B&N store, in contrast, can only be reader on B&N readers. The Sony store also carried the Adobe DRM, but the Sony store is (currently) quite awful and all right-thinking people hate it. OK, that's an exaggeration, but I don't like it myself, plus I don't like that you need the Sony Reader software to download the books you buy.

So now let's break down the stores:

4.3  Amazon
Most eBooks are priced the same regardless of store because of Agency Pricing, but Amazon seems to be able to coax a sale out once and awhile. I definitely recommend using Amazon to store your Wishlist and using eReaderIQ to send you alerts when the price comes down: generally, when the price goes down at Amazon, it goes down at all the stores. An odd quirk of the Amazon store is that it doesn't download your books to all your registered Kindle devices (computer, eReader, phone, etc.) but rather only to the one you select. Note that Amazon has page syncing and note syncing across devices.

4.4  B&N
B&N probably has the best online library management -- you can sort your purchased books by author or title, and you can also archive things as needed. B&N also lets you download books to your computer with the press of a button, which is nice for backing up data. Once a book has been purchased from B&N, it's available for download on any registered Nook device (computer, eReader, phone, etc.). Note that B&N claims to have page syncing (but it doesn't work) and no note syncing across devices.

4.5  Kobo
Kobo's online library management leaves a lot to be desired in terms of sorting functions, but it's basically a poor man's B&N and it's worth noting that the Kobo team seems to be very open to internet forums and consumer suggestion, which bodes well for future growth. They also offer coupons from time to time, although it's worth remembering that coupons don't work with Agency Priced books. Kobo lets you download books as ascm files which are opened in the Adobe Digital Editions program where the "real" download takes place. Once a book has been purchased from Kobo, it's available for download on any registered Kobo device (computer, eReader, phone, etc.). I'm fairly certain that Kobo does not support note syncing.

4.6  Sony
Sony's store can only be accessed through their Sony Reader software. For that reason, I've not really used the store much at all. Sorry about that.

5.  Information Overload!!
Please don't be scared by any of the above -- buying an eReader should not be a scary experience for you at all. It should be fun! There's something to remember here: First, pretty much all the eReaders on the market are very nice eReaders and while your first purchase may not be "perfect" for your needs, it will probably do very nicely. Second, you pretty much can't screw up too badly -- if you buy the "wrong" eReader, you can resell it for a fair chunk of your investment online. 

So what you really want to know is: what eReader should I buy? 

If you want an LCD device for color and backlit reading, I recommend the Nook Color. It's ~$250, and you can slap an SD card in, run CM7 off of it, and then you have an Android tablet that works very nicely. From there, you can load any store -- Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Sony -- off the Google Market and you've basically got 4 readers in one. If you do get into using Calibre, you can also use the Library in the Cloud function and the Aldiko app supports Adobe DRM.

If you want an eInk device and don't intend to ever have more than ~50 books on it at a time, I recommend the Kobo Touch for ~$130 at Best Buy. It's not the most powerful reader on the market, but it's a good price for a "starter" reader, the books you buy at the Kobo store will be delivered to the device, and you'll be able to switch device manufacturers later to Sony or B&N (if you want) without having to worry about DRM issues.

If you want an eInk device and do intend to stock it up with hundreds or thousands of books, I recommend the Sony PRS-950 but it's worth noting that it's about $400 from Amazon (you can find it as low as $200 at some Best Buys) and the model has been discontinued. I *think* the Sony PRS-T1 will be the same functionality but with a 6" screen and a ~$150 price tag, but since those models won't be released for another month or so, nobody actually knows for sure one way or another.So you might wait and see on those.

But! This is all just my opinion. What you really want to do, before making any decision, is get a second one from the good folks at Mobile Reads. They even have a forum just for this question: Which Device Should I Buy?

And -- as always -- you are welcome to email me with any questions you might have! (Did I mention I like talking about eReaders?)

Author Interview: John Whitehead on "Paradise Motel"

Ana: Today we have John Whitehead introducing their debut book of poetry and illustrations, "Paradise Motel". I haven't read this book myself, but John was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. John, how would you describe your novel to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your novel about?

John: "Paradise Motel" is an exploration of reality. The question I always ask is, “How can we know what reality is?” which feeds into the question of whether or not the material world is all that there is. I don’t believe it is all there is. Is there a spiritual dimension? Is there a non-physical dimension that operates behind people and the universe? That’s how I’d describe it. It’s an attempt to describe the way I see the universe as the interacting of various dimensions and non-material planes with materiality.

Ana: What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?

John: The theme that I’m trying to aim for is “What is truth? How can we know reality? Is there something beyond physical reality?” Of course, I believe that there is. I would agree with the great thinkers such as Albert Einstein and Carl Jung and others that there is an overarching Mind, with a capital M, and we are part of that. The question is always “Who created what?” Some people argue that our minds created the universe, other argue that something created our minds and we’re part of that. What I’m trying to look at is what is it that is there? We don’t really know. I think you make a mistake if you believe that everything ends at the shopping mall, in other words, materialism. The present state of materialism, and I state this in the book, is the enemy of spirituality and the ultimate search for truth.

I hope it will make people think about something besides what they see on a daily basis. There are numerous studies being done by various universities, professors, and scientists on whether consciousness survives death and whether or not near death experiences are real. And there are thousands of case studies that seem to indicate that something survives death. And I hope that people think about, what happens to them when they die, should they live this life in a better way? My answer to that would be, yeah, we should live this life filled with love and compassion for one another. And move away from the murderous world around us where, on a daily basis, people, animals, and plants are destroyed wantonly. And I would hope that reading something like this would force people to question how they live their life.

Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book?

John: My great influences in terms of poetry were T.S. Eliot and Dylan Thomas and as far as painting goes, Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali, and Picasso. One person who had a tremendous impact on me is Rod Serling, the great award-winning writer of Broadway plays. He wrote the Twilight Zone. He emphasized how important writing was and how writing should touch on moral issues. Everything Serling wrote touched on morality and how we should live our lives. He was always questioning what people were doing, especially the state and the government.

Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?

John: I don’t think anything occurs in a vacuum. What I’ve written is influenced by all the people I’ve mentioned. If I could be Dylan Thomas or Francis Bacon, I would, but I can’t. There’s a lot of originality in what I do, but it’s greatly influenced in all those who have come before me. Anybody that appreciates writers who wrote about the dark side of human nature and tried to uplift people beyond where they are would appreciate this book.

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other novels? If you have published other novels, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?

John: I have published more than 30 books, mostly dealing with legal or religious matters, so this is new for me. However, the poems are not new. Many of them were written over a period of years. The illustrations are ones I created primarily over the past year. As for the future, I have several books in the works, both fiction and nonfiction, including a graphic novel, which will be another new venture for me—but is proving to be a lot of fun.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?

John: People can get copies of Paradise Motel from online booksellers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, iTunes, etc. I can be reached at or on my Facebook page.

Ana: Thank you, John. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers? And is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

John: A reader recently asked me whether there was a particular reason for the religious imagery in my poetry—there are many allusions to Biblical stories and images of angels, demons, and God—or whether religion just factors heavily into my worldview. It was a good question and an important one, I think.

While religion is certainly part of my worldview, I think that any art, in a sense, is an attempt to find meaning in life, which is also a big part of the God thing. Like they say, there’s no such thing as atheists in foxholes, which is probably true. In the end, who knows? But a lot of the religious imagery is me searching and some of it’s subconscious. When I look back at my poetry, I say, “I don’t know where that came from.” One day I sat down and wrote it. Some people would say it’s God-inspired, but I’m not sure I think that human beings are God-inspired. They may be. I think we’re all born with that “search.”

Think of Francis Bacon, a strident atheist who drew the Crucifixion over and over. Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion is one of the greatest paintings of all time. He was fascinated with the Crucifixion, and I think that is a search for meaning.

What gives us meaning? That’s what the poetry is about. We’re finite beings and I think the question is always, “Do we need an infinite reference point to give us coherence and meaning?” That’s the debate between atheists and religious people, no matter what the religion is. What gives us meaning? Most people would say an infinite reference point, whatever that is.

A sample of "Paradise Motel" is available on Smashwords.

Narnia: The Clean and Tidy Poor

Narnia Recap: The four children have found their way into the magical land of Narnia, and have traveled as far as Mr. Tumnus' house, only to discover that he has been arrested by the Witch. Now the children are lost, cold, and hungry, and must decide what to do next.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Chapter 7: A Day With The Beavers

   They were all still wondering what to do next, when Lucy said, "Look! There's a robin, with such a red breast. It's the first bird I've seen here. I say!--I wonder can birds talk in Narnia? It almost looks as if it wanted to say something to us." Then she turned to the Robin and said, "Please, can you tell us where Tumnus the Faun has been taken to?" As she said this she took a step toward the bird. It at once flew away but only as far as to the next tree. There it perched and looked at them very hard as if it understood all they had been saying. [...]
   "Do you know," said Lucy, "I really believe he means us to follow him."