Wassail, traveler, and welcome to The Gable Grey -- a place of retreat, of renewal, and of resistance: a tree-shaded refuge in Dark Times. Now pass the threshold, and rest from journeys! For a cold wind is blowing; and here, if you wish, you may hear tidings of the world without...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Iceman Cometh: 2009

Christmas night... 6 days to go in 2008. I will not post again until January. Much work to be done at the store, and here at home: rolling away the remnants of this Yule, not to be seen again until November 2009 or thereabouts.

I am pissed. I lost pretty much all the writing I got done last week. It was only a few paragraphs and some scattered editing, but it was good work, done in a good spirit. Windows updated and I apparently had not saved my work, only minimized the fucking window. Fuckfuckfuckfuck-frickin'-fuck.
Can't even think about picking up where I left off. Where I left off is now in an alternate reality, some corkscrew dimension where I actually behave like a sentient biomass. What the hell does one do when one's own gross incompetence is the reason for one's artistic malaise???
I mean, fuck.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Song of the Woodland Wolf

No carle the axe whetteth on oak-laden hill;
No shaft the hart letteth to wend at his will;
None heedeth the thunder-clap over the glade,
And the wind-storm thereunder makes no man afraid.
Is it thus then that endeth man's days on Mid-earth,
For no man there wendeth in sorrow or mirth?

Nay, look down on the road

from the ancient abode!

Betwixt acre and field

Shineth helm, shineth shield.

And high over the heath

Fares the bane in his sheath;

For the wise men and bold

Go their ways o'er the wold.

--William Morris, The Roots of the Mountains

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Eyeing the saddle, though not back in it yet

Been writing some this week, fleshing out a chapter in my novel The Woodreeve's Tale. The plot grows more complex, despite my initial wish for a simple, straightforward adventure narrative. The Woodreeve's apprentice, the Witch, the thanes, even the Black Paladin are all beginning to demand a more sensitive approach to their motives.

It is becoming the bane of my writing. I can no longer write simple characters. They clamour for my attention (even the undead ones do). But no matter. I'm enjoying myself, and that -- more than any narcissistic need for validation via publication -- is at the moment what's got me writing again.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New DVD's reviewed below!

Tropic Thunder, Doctor Who: Season 4, and Mongol are now rated and added to my movie list.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Additions to the MERP Library

At last... after being MIA from my Middle-earth Role-Playing library for over a decade: the perils of the Gorgoroth Plateau are at my fingertips once again. Gorgoroth is a wonderful read, if the land it details is not particularly accomodating to adventurers. Just reading about the treasures on display in Sauron's Forge gave me goosebumps... not that any PC's (even Dwalin, even -- dare I say it -- the legend that is Roon Dorozhand, son of Roon, et. al.) would survive its traps to see them.

I also managed to acquire (at embarrassing cost) another copy of Minas Ithil, this time with its accompanying City Map. The city of the Tower of the Moon is profoundly valuable to adventures in and around Mordor, though without the City Map it is much less so. At any rate, I now have all the ICE publications that cover the Mordor area, with the exception of the small adventure module Gates of Mordor. I will skip that, though, because it looks boring.

What I envision -- among the other campaigns that will most likely never materialize -- is a series of adventures centered at Minas Ithil, circa. T.A. 1640 or thereabouts. Just the thought of adventuring in the lands most heavily under Sauron's direct influence gives an edge to adventures therein that other settings lack, unless they be Moria, the maze of warrens beneath Mount Gundabad, or Dol Guldur.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two Emperors

Caesar's Palace, Vegas, baby!

I lost two dollars. :(

Four days in Vegas was one too many... might have been better if it weren't a company business trip. But the food was good, and I went to a showing (my one and only, probably) of Cirque du Soleil's "O" at the Bellagio. It was very strange, very beautiful, very European. I enjoyed it immensely, and would easily go again, were I (again) given a ticket.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Apparently issue #4 of Other Minds online magazine will be ready

for download August 1. That, according to the site news. I will believe it when I see it, given their penchant for being late with nearly every issue. It should be interesting, though, since the entire volume deals with the Dwarves. A brief summary of the coming issue can be found at the site, the link for which is near the bottom of this Web page.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I've been on a bit of a Doctor Who kick this year.

As manager of a Blockbuster Video franchisee, I enjoy some authority to determine my store's inventory. Taking undue advantage of such authority comes natural to me, and I have been surreptitiously adding DVD episodes of older Doctor Who to our BSI (Basic Store Inventory) library. I've also been acquiring the recent seasons, starring Christopher Eccleston (Season 1) and David Tennant (Season 2 - current).

I must say that the current Who offers incredible writing that pays homage to the older stories and feel, without relying too much on it. There's Daleks and Cybermen aplenty, and our beloved Sarah Jane Smith even figures prominently in one storyline (She has aged incredibly well. After-effects of too much time spent in the TARDIS, I suppose.). But the stories are wholly modern, wholly their own, and anyone without any prior experience with Time Lords, and with an imaginative brain, can enjoy it. And David Tennant is probably the best Doctor to date... with one notable exception.
There is only ever one Doctor for me, of course: Tom Baker.

In 1980-1983 I lived in Stringer, Mississippi. I was 10 years old in 1980, and
effectively marooned in a backwater with little or nothing to do save rely on my own imagination for entertainment. (That, admittedly, has been my salvation throughout much of my life.) We had 2 television stations we could receive regularly: a local NBC affiliate, and a PBS station. Somehow, that PBS station managed to get hold of steady episodes of the Tom Baker years of Doctor Who, which may have saved science fiction for me as a form of intellectual entertainment. I was able to watch Tom as the 4th Doctor in the afternoons after I got home from school. Tom's performance and personality left a deep impression on me; and how could it not? He was only being himself, and he is a very force of nature, Tom is.

I have been pleasantly surprised to see that many guys (Yep, they're all guys. The ladies just never got it. Science fiction just isn't generally something the womenfolk care for or understand. I've known a couple of exceptions, but they are rare.) smile and get this wistful, glazed-over expression when they find out we've got Who from Pertwee, through Baker, and some Davidson. They often had the same experience I did as a child: Tom Baker, and the Third and Fifth Doctors bookending his tenure, opened up a window into another, alien dimension for us. And it was marvelous. We're all getting older, but some things never will change, no matter how many regenerations we live through.

Thank you, Tom, for being our Doctor.

Friday, June 27, 2008

New Directions

We are on track for the move to Montana next year. Housing prices up there have settled somewhat, though they are still rather higher than those in Mis'sippi. But median incomes are higher, as well, so that's encouraging. Even if I stay in the same line of work I'm in now (retail management), I can expect to start about 10k higher than what I currently make.

But I am on track for a career change, as well. I took my Praxis I test earlier this month, and did very well on the first two parts; still waiting on my grade from Part 3, the written exam. I am looking into emergency teacher certification possibilities for the coming school year, but whether or not I become a teacher this year, I will continue to pursue my certification in the interim, between now and our move to Missoula. Next will be Praxis II, subject area specialization test.

We still have much work to do on the house first; primarily, painting the outside. That will have to wait until the autumn. Meanwhile we've redone one of the bathrooms and have been boxing up numerous books, clothes, and paraphernalia that we won't be needing over the coming year.

We're both very excited and very nervous, but feel more alive than we have in months.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Today the DNC did what needed to be done. The question of the Florida and Michigan delegates to the Democratic Convention is settled. Billary and her obnoxious supporters will probably blather on with their usual political posturing and platitudes. But today, for all intents and purposes, Barack Obama became the Democratic nominee for President. And the Carlisle household couldn't be happier.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things.

So it's a good life here. The wife and I are more in love than ever. I mean, it's a solid relationship. No what-if's. It's one for the books, this marriage. Our kid is amazing. Girl said the Pledge of Allegiance the other day. The whole thing. Standing in her pajamas, holding her flag in one hand, the other hand over her heart, said it loud and proud. Three years old, going on thirteen.

We've been homeowners for three years now. That's no small feat these days, when so many poor stiffs got in over their heads and lost it all. (Gotta read the fine print, folks. Look up "adjustable" in the dictionary, if you're not sure.) We were smart enough to stay current on our mortgage so that we were able to refinance at a low fixed rate before the evil adjustable rate kicked in. Got an overall lower payment, too. So now we're sitting pretty, mostly, though utility rates keep going up, up, and away... And though there is still some Katrina cleanup left in the Back Forty of our 1.3 acres, the rest is looking 10x better than it did when we moved in. My cypresses and Japanese red maples are flourishing; the pear tree looks to be loaded down again this year; the last of the dead pines fell last week, and is but a sliced-and-diced memory. The Poulan and I are a formidable timber-felling team.

My job is a cake-walk, almost. Getting quarterly bonuses now. My store is in the black, has been for over a year. ZERO turnover. Established customer base. Yeah, I have job security. And I rather enjoy being the boss from time to time. (My people don't mind, either. I'm mostly a big pushover. Surprise, huh?)

We've got a fish tank, two indoor cats (Titus and Zoe), two Basset hounds (Earl and Beulah), and our gorgeous Siberian husky, Misha, a veritable spirit come down to us from the boreal world. Eyes blue as Arctic ice. She lies at my feet now, resting from her vet checkup; Wolf and her Master.

Everything is great. So why am I so mother-flippin' restless? Is it not enough to enjoy life, to be content? Apparently not. I have been without a challenge too long. I have been without adventure for too long. The wife is feeling it, too. We love our life here; we've worked hard for it, sacrificed; we appreciate so much all we have.

But there is talk within these walls, and the M-words keep coming up: Moving. Missoula. Montana.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008


What? You know it's true!
Anyway, a new addition to the MERP library: Creatures of Middle-earth (1st edition). This volume is important mainly for the information on Valinorean hounds in Middle-earth (cf. Huan in The Silmarillion) and Elvish horses (like Asfaloth, and the Mearas). Haven't actually received the book yet, but I won it from a reputable seller I've dealt with several times before.
Currently I'm reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Definitely one of the most readable biographies I've ever tried.
If you haven't watched "The 11th Hour," well, get off your tail and go rent a copy. Better yet, go buy one. My nearest Wal-Mart has them for $5, which is almost a crime for this important documentary on the state of our planet. Buy four or five and give them to your friends (and even family, if you dare). You can get some idea of the film here: http://www.11thhourfilm.com/.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The First Ship

So it was that for the first time in over two thousand years, a ship left Valinor, bound for Middle-earth. Its Telerin crew busied themselves with their work, and little heeded their two charges, who sat huddled together, gazing ever eastward. They did not look back.

They found the Straight Road soon enough; and as the roiling waters of Belegaer lashed the coasts of Middle-earth, the Teleri and their passengers at length beheld dark islands. The Noldor knew them not, though indeed they had seen those forested slopes long ago, in their adventures in the land now beneath the wave: Beleriand. Thus they passed Tol Morwen, and Himling, and at last beheld a line of low, mist-shrouded peaks on the eastern horizon. They were come to the Firth of Lune, an arm of the Sea that split the Blue Mountains in twain. The ship passed the forested flanks of the mountains, an Elvish country still in this Fourth Age of Middle-earth, the Age of Men. It was the month of Gwaeron, and the new green of Spring had not yet come to the North; a hard rain fell as the vessel weighed anchor at the quays of the Harlond.

No other ships could be seen; and there waited two only to greet the travellers as they disembarked. One was a tall Elf, clad entirely in grey garments. The wind off the Firth whipped his long fair hair; his sea-grey eyes lowered only slightly at the approach of the Noldor. He grasped a long, leaf-bladed glaive as a staff.

At his side stood a shorter Elf, clad also in grey, though he wore a shirt of shimmering scale-mail. His hair was red.

"Welcome, lords," said the tall Elf. He did not bow. "I am Galdor, and am appointed to speak for Cirdan. Your errand is known to us, and we will aid it as we may." He nodded at the red-haired one beside him. "Seregon will be your guide, for a little while. Some store of provisions has already been prepared for you, and some other things that may aid you, should you cross paths with Men or Dwarves. But you should avoid them if you may, and shun the roads altogether. Indeed, Seregon will take you over the wild lands to the south-east of here." Then he spoke in hushed tones to Seregon for some moments before turning to the Noldor again. "You will meet a Dunadan, one of the dwindling race of Numenor who still dwell in the North: Hallatan, son of Halbarad. He will know more of your first task than I." He studied them a moment more, frowning; then he said, "May the grace of the Valar go with thee." Then he was gone.

"My lords Celegorm and Gwindor," Seregon said, almost eagerly. "Follow me!"

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Redemption of the Feanorians: Essay, Part 2

Of that council held in the high place of Taniquetil, no tale tells; but ere the Sun thrice passed the Gates of Morning, Gandalf in his shining robes came down the green slopes, and hurrying along the gilded streets of Valinor he came even to the Halls of Mandos. And Elrond and Galadriel looked after him and wondered.

Long Gandalf spoke with Mandos; and leaving that place which is called the Halls of Awaiting, he at last made his way to the house of the Valier Nienna, from whom he had learned much of pity and patience in long ages ere the rising of the Sun and Moon. And with her were several figures, cloaked in grey, forlorn as it were amid the splendours of Aman.

"Long your spirits have dwelt in Mandos," Gandalf said. "But rejoice! For you are given life again, for good or ill. Yet it is not without price: for you are not yet given leave to dwell in Valinor, which you forsook long ago. The wide lands of Endor shall be your home again; and you shall find that much has changed since the wars of the Silmarils."
At that some stirred, as if at the memory of some blow. But Gandalf said, "Much is changed, I said: but much also has not. The Age of Men has begun, yet many of the ills that the Black Foe bred linger still to trouble the Kings of Men. You will go to Middle-earth, much as I did, as a counter to those evils. But my work is done. I was the Enemy of Sauron; and though his realm is now ended for ever, and I have returned at last to find rest, work still there is to do. You are sent to finish that work, or perish in the trying; and in that the World may find redress for the evils you wrought upon it, now three Ages ago."
"We will go," they said.
"Good!" said Gandalf. "But do not be too hasty, as a good friend of mine used to say. (You may be fortunate enough to meet him one day.) For you will find little welcome among the Elves, and less so among Men; for the latter for the most part shun the Quendi, and even the descendants of the Elf-friends of old remember your fell deeds in their tales.
"Moreover," he went on, "though you are charged with righting the wrongs of Ages past, yet you are forbidden to meddle in the affairs of Men, or of bringing power to bear against them for your own gain. You will not know the strength you possessed in your youth; indeed, your bodies in Middle-earth shall be a shadow of their beauty here in Valinor. Of material things you shall have only what you may carry, and live as I and my fellow Wizards did for long years, making no permanent abode for yourselves. Your greatest allies shall be secrecy and stealth. Your haunts, the wild places: those forsaken by Elves and Men; though you may at whiles have succour of the few who will know of your errand."
"What, then, is our errand, lord?" asked one.
"That shall be revealed to you in time," said the wizard. He glanced at Narya the Great, the Ring of Fire which he still wore. "I will come to you unlooked-for with counsel, or to those in Middle-earth who have ears to listen to my words. And when your errand in Middle-earth is done, or you perish in the attempt, then you will at last be brought before Mandos, and judged."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Redemption of the Feanorians: Essay, Part 1

The dawn of the Fourth Age in Middle-earth sees the departure of Gandalf and many of the Eldar; the renewal of the Numenorean kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor; and the end of the realm of Sauron. But though Sauron and the Nazgul are utterly vanquished, yet still the memory of Darkness troubles the lands. The fate of Urzahil of Umbar -- the Mouth of Sauron -- remains unknown. Horrors still walk the halls of Khazad-dum. The Goblin-king of Gundabad still holds the Angmar Plateau and the Gundalok Shelf under his sway. Evil spirits haunt the Tyrn Gorthad, the Barrow-downs, as they have for over fifteen hundred years. And Dragons still lodge in the Grey Mountains, and tryst upon the Withered Heath.

The Age of Men is beginning; but what power can mortal Men bring to bear against these ancient evils, legacies of Sauron and Morgoth? Gandalf is gone and the strength of the Three is but a memory. The remaining Wizard in the West, Radagast, is increasingly tied to his little home of Rhosgobel nigh the eaves of Greenwood the Great. Of the other Istari, Alatar and Pallando -- the Ithryn Luin, or Blue Wizards -- little more is known than a rumour of power and terror in the East of East. The remaining Eldarin lords -- among them Celeborn, Cirdan the Shipwright, and the sons of Elrond -- are more concerned with their own shrinking realms in these mortal lands. And the Valar... well, who beyond the Bent Seas can know the mind of Manwe?

But the thought of Manwe upon Taniquetil has not forsaken Middle-earth. Indeed his thought dwells ever upon it; and the more so after the return of Galadriel to the Undying Lands. And even as Elrond Half-elven walks the streets of Valinor with his kin, Olorin who was Gandalf, Mithrandir the Grey Pilgrim, comes to that high place, and there holds counsel with the King and Queen of Arda.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dark Times

Borden whole milk is $5.35/gallon at Wal-Mart. Gas is at $3.17/gallon and climbing here in Laurel. The news this morning for the housing market is not good: home values are posting record declines. I'm afraid much of the equity we had in our home is eroding away as I type this.

We in our arrogance thought we could police the world; we believed the military-industrial complex when it told us that war is a necessary evil. Now the war machine is draining us of blood and treasure, with no end in sight.

In our blindness we thought that capitalism is best left unchecked; now the system is devouring itself.

If you're not a gardener, now might be a good time to look into it. That, along with livestock farming. A mule might be a good investment in the near future.

Reverend Wright is correct: the chickens are coming home to roost.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gotta love the Royal Mail

Checked the mail today, and lo! A white parcel from Essex: Far Harad: the Scorched Land finally arrived unlooked-for. The seller had already pursued a claim with the Authorities. Glad this was resolved to my satisfaction, some three months after the auction close.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Last of the Feanorians

I have formulated a new approach for a Middle-earth campaign, one that could span hundreds -- if not thousands -- of years, and allow the player characters to be part of the Tolkien literary canon. Well, kind of.

I propose a Third Age campaign, with a party of adventurers consisting of what are usually a short-lived PC racial type: Noldor. Anyone who has participated in Middle-earth role-playing knows all too well the crippling limitations of a low level Noldo, regardless of profession. Noldor are, as "High Elves," handicapped by a very small number of background options that keeps them from becoming too powerful in the game, something the Turambar (Gamemaster) must be sensitive to, given that the Wise and the Great in Middle-earth -- especially in the familiar Third Age -- are so rare as to be legendary. (Remember Boromir's superstitions concerning the Lady Galadriel, the greatest of the Eldar still in Middle-earth? To him, she was little more than a witch, until he actually passed through Lothlorien.) You just don't typically meet the likes of a child of Finrod Felagund on the streets of Pelargir or Tharbad or (worse) Bree-hill.

That being said, I propose to abandon this careful approach almost altogether, and allow the beginning Noldo PC six (6) background options, instead of the usual two. This is in large part to allow for a realistic fleshing out of the character, due to the circumstances of their lineage; and here I must turn to some grey area, though it is largely an area where JRRT alone has held forth.

It is well known that all Quendi (Elves) can die, but that their spirits do not leave Middle-earth, as do the spirits of Men. Rather, they travel to the Halls of Mandos, until they are released back into the world. How this happens it not perfectly clear, but it can be assumed that they are reincarnated. I have no literary evidence to support this idea, but it is known that the Glorfindel we meet in The Fellowship of the Ring is in fact the same Glorfindel who dueled a Balrog to the death in the Cirith Thornonath. There is no reason evident to suppose otherwise, and it has further been written elsewhere (I disremember where) that he was released from Mandos, and returned to Middle-earth with the Wizards (Istari) in T.A. 1000. It can be supposed that he did not just walk bodily out of Mandos, but that he came into the world again through a natural birth-mother. Just the same, it can be supposed that his spirit was "gifted" a body to house it, the same as those Maiar who would become the Istari gained their bodies. Glorfindel died, but was allowed to come back into the physical world, and was somehow given a body towards that end.

Now, what I propose is a similar circumstance for my Noldo characters: they can actually become Elves that are written of in the Quenta Silmarillion. I am not yet sure just how such elven PC's would come into Middle-earth -- whether they are born to mothers there, or come over Sea after being given bodies again. That, ultimately, may not matter too much. What does matter is that they must be Noldor: for that plays into the heart of the adventure, their raison d'etre: the redemption of the Feanorians, by the last of the Feanorians.

I am not yet certain of the PC's goals. They will certainly have a Quest to achieve, or Quests. But it will be a campaign that could span an Age, and breathe new life into both my own circle of adventurers, and into characters mentioned only cryptically, some in passing, in the mythos of the greatest epic fantasy of all.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Leaving for another business meeting in Tuscaloosa today, and will return tomorrow. I suppose I do not mind as much this time around, knowing what is in store -- namely, free meals and free Guinness. Whatever else his shortcomings may be, our company owner/CEO knows how to entertain the troops.

My great-aunt died last week, my grandmother's older sister. She was 92. What a vibrant, strong, forceful woman she was! I had not seen her in almost 20 years, I think, and I did not go to the funeral. Two funerals in six months was enough.

It is an odd feeling now, looking ahead to a springtime minus an aunt, a grandmother, and a great-aunt. There is a strong feeling, mostly unspoken, among my family that there has been a slow generational shift, a turning of a wheel, a turning of a page in our family book somewhere. It is not a bad feeling, just odd. Now it is our parents -- mine and Adrienne's -- who are patriarchs and matriarchs, and it is to us that guidance is looked for more and more.

But the sycamores and cypresses and maples are planted. Soon my Naith will be green with life again, and Belle and I can watch it transform together. Meanwhile, the RT's -- the red-tailed hawks -- have disappeared: nesting. The mews needs building. This may be the year that, at long last, I yield myself up to the hawk.

Whatever else may happen, all is right in the world.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Here It Comes

At last... Issue #2 of Other Minds online magazine is available for download! It's quite large, so get ready to use an ink cartridge or two. The focus is on Numenor, which for me is less than desirable but still leaves it a valuable resource.

The daffodils Belle and I set out last November have come up... nearly all of them! When I showed her, and the memory came back, she kind of stared at them in awe and softly said, "Wow." My little gardener and lover of dirt pies!

So: Halls of the Elven-king arrived this week. Great background info. on the Sindar and Nandor, especially doomed Oropher and the reasons for the various relocations of the center of elven power in the Greenwood over the years. There is too little about Thranduil and his Queen in the primary sources (JRRT's writings). Well worth having for those whose focus is, like mine, on Wilderland. Well, focus for the moment -- that may change to the Morgai or Sturlusta Khand tomorrow.

Saw a red-tailed hawk late yesterday afternoon. Been thinking about the whole hawking thing again. I reread the chapter on squirrel hawking in McGranaghan's The Red-tailed Hawk last night. Sounds like a blast. May need to get Buteos and Bushytails to whet my appetite on the subject for a while, or at least until I get off my ass and get the mews built.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Adrienne miscarried two days ago.
Funny, how people react when you tell them. They feel like they must say something, but after all, what can one say? I don't know what I myself would say, or have said. The most religious nod their heads vigorously, almost reassuringly to themselves, and say, "It just wasn't meant to be. There's a reason for everything."
That actually makes it harder. The juvenile splinter of Christianity still worrying my psyche grasps at that, wants to believe it, needs to believe it; but that leads to other questions. I know that the only reasons for something like this have nothing to do with a cruel, callous myth lurking about the corners of the universe. The reasons are rational, material, biological (emphasis on the -logical, mind you). That is a bit more comforting. This miscarriage is not part of some greater plot by a Jewish tribal sky-god with nothing better to do. It just happened. Happens all the time, and for no spiritual or cosmological reasons; and only that allows me to sleep peacefully at night in the face of much of life's random, mindless disappointments.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I am going to be a father again!

We are very excited, nervous, anxious, all that. Already there is a name list. Most everyone knows by now. Some are happy, some are elated, some are cool. I am by turns happy, elated, and cool, myself.

But two will be enough, I think. Belle is already more than a handful. Do I want a son, or another daughter? With three girls in the house, I'd be very well taken care of! But a son... hmm. Whole new set of challenges, there. We shall see in about three or four months exactly what direction the Carlisle family will take.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Things are getting back to normal around here, which is what I like. I've planted two new bald cypress trees in the back corner of our property, in a low area near several others I planted last year. Cypresses -- bald cypress, mind you, not those upstart "Leland" things -- are among my favorite trees. They seem to symbolize the wild Southland for me. I also planted a dwarf Japanese red maple, probably my favorite ornamental tree. I may be done with tree-planting for the year, unless I can find another sycamore to go with the two I put in the back yard last winter. Adrienne will file papers if I come home with any more saplings hanging out the bed of my pickup. But I do love my trees.

Roon is still waiting on our copy of Far Harad to arrive from Britain, though I have virtually no hope that it will come. After the 8th, if it has not arrived, I will contact the seller about a refund or some other solution. I did get my copies of Dol Guldur and Teeth of Mordor, and they were all I hoped they would be, and more. Dol Guldur has a wealth of information on lesser Elven-rings that Sauron took from Ost-in-Edhil and bestowed on various underlings, and a cool story cycle about Gandalf's sojourns into the Hill of Sorcery. Imagine Gandalf utilizing a Fell Beast to escape from Khamul the Easterling, Second of the Nine! Fun, wonderfully imaginative stuff, to be sure. It also has -- thank the Valar! -- an encounter table for southern Mirkwood, which (I might add) the actual various Mirkwood modules do not.

Am I writing? A little, touch-ups to the children's story, but nothing more. I did have a great conversation with the Laurel writer Cleveland Payne, who actually was kind enough to give me a signed copy of his latest book, The Silver Pendant. Cleveland is a true gentleman, and is very encouraging and willing to share his experiences with the publication industry and whatnot. It's inspiring to see a fellow author from Laurel making good.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Home Again

Well, I'm back.
I'm waiting on several adventure modules to arrive. I won a copy of Far Harad: the Scorched Land last month, from a seller in Britain, but they were out of office until 7 January and the book did not ship until the 8th. I have not received it yet, and am becoming anxious.
I won a copy of Dol Guldur last week, much to my delight, for only $31. (It would have gone for much more, if the seller had not misspelled the title as "Dol Goldur" in the listing. He/she also forgot to tag it "MERP." Fool.) It is supposed to be one of the best of the "Citadels" series. I cannot wait to plumb its depths. Now all I need to complete my books on Mirkwood and Wilderland are the Citadel module Halls of the Elven-king (moderately expensive) and the adventure modules The Necromancer's Lieutenant and Denizens of the Dark Wood. Then Geliad and Galamael can travel the length and breadth of Wilderland, from Gundabad to the Gladden and the neighboring areas.
Yesterday I won a copy of Teeth of Mordor, which will nearly round out my Mordor-centric group of modules. All I will need next to finish that area are the Campaign module Gorgoroth, and the adventure module Gates of Mordor. (I also need a map to go with my Minas Ithil module, but I may have to actually buy another copy of that book to get the map.) Gorgoroth will prove to be a tough acquisition, but it will be worth it; even more so considering I once owned it, years ago. It is a good book, a fun read, even if the possibilities for adventure in the environs of Mount Doom are limited. I would not mind having a smaller campaign/adventure setting for that area, using player characters of Gondorian descent.
Of course, considering the fact that (for all my gaming resources) I cannot get anyone together for a single gaming session, planning a campaign around the Mountains of Shadow may be an exercise in futility. But it is fun to think about, if nothing else.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Death Comes for Us All

My grandmother is dead. She died yesterday morning. This, after trying to kill herself last week via a bullet to the head.

I am numb, detached. I think about it but feel little emotion, except maybe anger about what she did last week.

There has been too much death this past year. Too many folks are getting old and dying, and not enough new ones are around. The rest of us stumble on through the seasons, through the years, "numbly rehearsing the ancient ways in a blur of forgetfulness..."

Children really are the color in a grey world. I can't imagine life without my daughter, Belle. She is amazing. Kid can work a DVD player on her own... at three years old. Damn! I was fumbling with my Atari at age 10.

Anyway, we are off to miserable Texas the day after tomorrow. I am to be a pallbearer; the others are my dad, my brother, my stepbrother, my uncle, and one of Granny's neighbors. She'll be laid to rest beside my Pappaw, who died almost three years ago: 2005, the year of Katrina.

Too much loss these past few years. I am ready for growth, for endless Springtimes.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Gentle Ways of Natural Wizards

I did a little writing last week, though not on The Novel. I was in the bathtub, and my mother-in-law was staying with us, so I was taking even longer than my usual inordinate amount of time in the bath, when an idea for a children's story materialized in my mind. This may have happened because of the children's stories I've been reading to Belle from time to time; but at any rate, the whole story played itself out as I sat there, and so I got out and got to typing as quickly as I could. I was able to set nearly the whole thing down in less than an hour, with only two or three pages left to finish at this time. It is called "Rosie and the Ruby-Red Dragon of Yalobusha," and it is very silly, and probably no one will get it but Belle and Adrienne and those who know us well. It needs illustrations, too, to work to its fullest potential. But I had great fun with it, and it is comforting to know that, even at this slow stage of my writing life, I can still become inspired and can still get something significant done in my artistic field.

Beyond that, I have been considering setting up a separate blog for all things related to Middle-earth role-playing, but so far it is only an idea. I have also been wondering about the possibility of the formation of a permanent role-playing guild, if you will, for those in my close circle of role-playing friends. (You know who you are.) It has been an idea I've toyed with for years, but nothing formal ever materialized; but as Life pulls us off in different directions, such a group may actually become a valuable tool for keeping us in touch, and keeping our collective dreams of Middle-earth viable. I think a good name for such a group would be The Guild of Venturers, after the seafaring Numenorean explorers' group founded by Veantur, and made most famous by Tar-Aldarion. If any of my role-playing friends -- and again, you know who you are -- are interested in this, please let me know your thoughts on how to make such a group functional, or if you think it is even feasible.

As an aside, if you haven't yet visited the Other Minds online magazine for Middle-earth role-playing, you really should. The first issue is available for download, and issue #2 is coming by February, I believe. There is also some information regarding the content of issues #3 and 4, and #3 is going to be focused primarily on Dwarves. That should be of especial interest to my gemologist and educator friends...

Whiles carried o'er the iron road,
We hurry by some fair abode;
The garden bright amidst the hay,
The yellow wain upon the way,
The dining men, the wind that sweeps
Light locks from off the sun-sweet heaps --
The gable grey, the hoary roof,
Here now -- and now so far aloof.
How sorely then we long to stay
And midst its sweetness wear the day,
And 'neath its changing shadows sit,
And feel ourselves a part of it.
Such rest, such stay, I strove to win
With these same leaves that lie herein.

-- William Morris, from
"The Roots of the Mountains"