Escapism Is Rearmament

You probably heard all of the knocks against escapism growing up. Stuff like: “Grown-ups don’t waste their time with that kind of stuff.”

Like what? Reading a book?


With all the ugliness and strife in the world, who wouldn’t want to escape? That’s where we come up with some of our best ideas.

Escape . . . removing oneself from confinement or a dangerous situation. 

And yet escapism gets a bad rap. It’s seen as retreat, a frivolous diversion into the unreal. Avoiding real life and real responsibilities. 

Even the dictionary seems to hold this view:

…habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity…

But that’s not what we do. We aren’t forced to flee to these imaginative worlds by marauding enemy hordes (though the enemies of civilization, intellectual and physical, do fit this bill). We seek to escape to somewhere better, even if only for a little bit, to recreate ourselves. 
Recreation = re + create

Retreat is running away. 

Escape is rearmament.  Continue reading “Escapism Is Rearmament”

Call for Beta Readers

So I finally finished the second draft of my novel. This took me forever because life gets in the way. 

This isn’t my first novel, but it’s the first one I’m going to try to put out there. I’m proud of it, yes, but it’s not about me. 

It’s about you. 

So with that in mind, I am soliciting feedback and asking for beta readers. 

If anyone is interested in reading through my manuscript for the purposes of critiquing and offering their impressions, please let me know! The best ways to do this are:

  1. Shoot me a message from my Contact page. 
  2. Email me at
  3. Message me on Twitter or Gab.
  4. Smoke signals or semaphore. 
  5. Comment on this post. 

I can’t pay anyone, but I’m also not imposing deadlines or asking for a line-by-line typo search. 

And I’m always, always, willing to return the favor. 

If you are interested, please tell me:

  1. Your timeframe (I have no hard deadline, but I’d prefer by the end of July at the latest).
  2. Your preferred format (Word, PDF, stone tablet, and so on).
  3. Your SSN and credit card info (just put this in here to see if you’re paying attention).

So what’s this book about, anyway?

It’s about 870 pages (rimshot, please!). 

Okay, let’s try that again. 

It’s called The Rust Man, and here’s my pitch *adopts movie trailer guy voice*:

There is a shadow over the Habsburg Empire. Newly powerful after victory over the invading Ottomans, a corruption has taken root, targeting the Empire’s most valuable treasure: it’s children. 

When the daughter of an English noble goes missing somewhere in Vienna, the locals know who to call for help: There is a strange ex-Janissary with a skill for finding the lost, a savage warrior with noble grace, renowned for battling the unnatural. 

He is their secret weapon: The Rust Man. 

But what he uncovers goes beyond runaway children and straight to the heart of the corruption, an age-old struggle that brings him face-to-face with the one foe who has bested him before. 

I call The Rust Man a historical fantasy/horror with a side of Castlevania. Check out Chapter 1 here and let me know if you’re interested. 

And thanks in advance. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and @DaytimeRenegade

And check out my Instagram here

Book Review: Nethereal (Soul Cycle Book I) by Brian Niemeier

Take the good parts of Dune and Star Wars, mix them together with a heaping dollop of Dante, a dash of high fantasy, and a whole lot of horror, and you’re beginning to almost approach Brian Niemeier‘s self-published Nethereal, book one of his three-part Soul Cycle series. 

Is it sci-fi? Is it science-fantasy? 

Who cares? It’s fun. 

Nethereal reads like the best console or pen-and-paper RPG you never played. Imagination abounds. 

Fitting, as Brian is a figure in the burgeoning #PulpRevolution

Nethereal focuses on space pirate Jaren Peregrine and the crew of his ship, the Shibboleth, as they seek revenge against the Guild, a quasi-governmental entity that dominates the Spheres (think: planets). 

Jaren is half-Gen (think: Elf), and the Guild destroyed his race, and his family, and now they’ve got to pay. Chief among Jaren’s crew is mercenary Teg Cross, steersmen Deim Corsurunda and Nakvin (no last name given), and the mysterious Vaun Mordechai, a late addition with mysterious motives. 

Pursued by the Guild, Jaren and crew meet a rebel force and end up commanding the mysterious, powerful Exodus, whose unsettling cargo takes them through the depths of hell…and beyond. 

Even stranger is Elena, a half-woman, half-machine who appears to be the Exodus’ source of power. 

I don’t want to spoil anything here, but suffice it to say Nethereal is one of the most imaginative works of fiction I’ve read in a long while. 

And the heroes are–gasp!–heroic!

I do have nits to pick–this is the Internet, after all. Some of the characters are a little tough to connect with, particularly Jaren, who beyond single-mindedness really has little else going for him–I don’t quite get why he is such an inspiring leader. Deim is similarly inscrutable. And I did feel some of the characters’ attempts at glib humor fell flat. 

The world and its structure, culture, and mythology is a little confusing too, though the glossary included helps, and things begin to make more sense as the story unfolds. And Marshal Malachi is a bit disappointing as a villain. 

But the rest of the villains provide one of the deadliest, vilest, and flat-out creepy rogues gallery you’ll find most anywhere. Each player has their own goals and motivations–and reasons for stabbing their purported allies in the back. 

So why do I say “science-fantasy”? Aside from the immortal Gen race, there is a substance called ether that the spaceships run on (hence the name “ether-runner”). This ether can also be manipulated via Workings (think: magic); indeed, it is through Workings that the steersmen control the ether-runners. 

There’s also gun fighting, swordplay, warrior-priests, demons, the undead, body-swapping, necromancy, and heavy theological discussions about life, the soul, and everything else that matters.

The pacing is brisk, which helps a book of this scope keep from getting bogged down. And I can offer it the highest praise any book can get: Nethereal was incredibly difficult to put down. I cannot wait to start book two, Souldancer.

Highly recommended. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and @DaytimeRenegade

And check out my Instagram here

One Year of Failure

Oh my goodness I’ve been writing on this stupid blog for over a year.

My first post was published on May 14, 2016. So I missed the official one-year anniversary. So I failed at commemorating the occasion. Big deal.

Here’s how I opened that post:

Hello. My name is Alex, and I’m a failure.

And that’s okay.

If you’ve never failed at anything, that probably means that you haven’t tried anything.

So you see? I’m merely living up to expectations.

All kidding aside, it’s always cool to look back and see that you’ve been doing something consistently over a long period. I’m going to claim victory on this one, since it’s the longest I’ve ever kept a blog.

And you know something? I’ve actually learned a few things during this time. Things I’m gonna go share because this is a blog and pompous, long-winded explanations are what people do: Continue reading “One Year of Failure”

The Rust Man: Chapter 1

Presented, without comment (save this one) is the first chapter in what I’ve been working on the past year or so. Enjoy!

Part I: Red Circle

Chapter 1

The boy ran through the forest, away from the horrible sound of those rattling bones. He was so frightened that, for a moment, he even forgot who he was.

Heinrich. My name is Heinrich. I am Heinrich von Eppanhof, son of Johannes von Eppanhof. I am from Vienna, capital of the most powerful empire on the continent.

And a skeleton is chasing me.

There should be no such thing, he knew. Skeletons were supposed to stay in the ground, notwithstanding what the Scriptures say. And he didn’t believe, couldn’t believe, that such a fate was what lay ahead in the resurrection.

At least the thing was away from Ilsa. But Ilsa, clinging to a rock in the Danube, was not out of trouble. Not yet. If he did not find help soon, she would learn that the depths of those normally placid waters could be just as deadly as any monster from the depths of her nightmares. But there would also danger in whatever help he may come across; anyone wandering in these woods at this late hour might be a worse kind of monster. The human kind.

He would have fought the skeleton, of course, but like a fool he had left his sword at home. I won’t need it, he had told himself. The Empire is safe. What danger could there be in spending a romantic night by the river with the one he loved?

Now he could see what a stupid, cosseted scion of nobility he truly was.

Soft. I am soft and I am paying the price. His father would be disappointed in him. As usual. Even now, racing for his life through the forest, he could hear his father’s stern words: “A man must always be prepared, Heinrich. What were you thinking?”

Right now, Father . . . right now all I am thinking about is how to stay alive.

The clattering grew closer, as did that chill, that icy blast of inhumanity emanating from the skeleton. It was like a smell; not aggressive scent of decay, not exactly. It was aggressive, yes, but aggressive in its complete emptiness, as though the skeleton inhabited a void that drew in the life and warmth surrounding it.

One slip, one loss of ground, and that emptiness would be upon him. And what then?

But the moon was his friend that night, her light filtering through the trees to guide him with a silvery finger. He always thought of the moon as a her, mysterious and seductive in the night sky, coyly revealing only one side of her face to her waiting earthbound suitors.

More flighty mooning, his thoughts yet again turning to tales of lords and ladies, love and adventure. No wonder both his father and Karl his sword instructor thought him an unserious boy.

He was a man, or would be soon. And he had to start acting like one.

He hopped the gnarled branch of an oak, hoping that the thing behind him would trip, falling to the ground in an explosion of lifeless bones.

But when he peeked over his shoulder the thing still followed, grinning malevolently and holding aloft a long, thick bone. Where that bone came from, Heinrich couldn’t say; the skeleton seemed to have all of its in place. But that was a mystery to ponder on another, safer day.

He turned back and found himself face-to-face with a tree that had seemed to leap into his path. With a grace he did not know he possessed he spun, skirting the tree and continuing his flight for at least a few moments more.

Suddenly he was out of the forest and onto the road, bursting from the wilderness in a spray of leaves and branches. The sight of that hard-packed dirt, so familiar to him, had never been so welcome. And there, a little further ahead, he saw the shadowy form of someone walking towards the city. A man. A large one.

The man carried no torch. Who wanders down the road without light? Heinrich thought, even with the moon so bright? But a drowning man did not scoff at the lifeline dangling before him, even if it lead up into the unknown.

“Help!” he screamed, panic giving his voice strength. “Over here, help!”

A strong wind blew towards the city, stray leaves swirling along the road. The man’s cloak fluttered around his legs like folded wings. He stopped moving and turned, but did not come running.

Heinrich opened his mouth to yell again, but something hard struck his head, cutting off his cry. He fell to his knees as though in prayer before toppling forward with his face in the dirt. Next to him, a long bone fell to the road with a heavy thump.

He lay, wondering what the skeleton would do to him and how much it would hurt. But before the panic overtook him he felt an odd calm envelop him like a warm blanket. Things will not be so bad on the other side, he thought. There would be no pain and no sorrow, no skeletons chasing him through dark forests. He would see his mother again . . . Continue reading “The Rust Man: Chapter 1”

Earning by Doing

Every parent has dreams for their kids: Success…health…happiness…fulfillment. 

We want these things not for our own benefit–I hope–but because we love them so damn much. 

And in trying to ensure that these things happen, we expose them to things that we hope enrich their lives. 

My son loves music, for instance–listening, singing, dancing. He’s fascinated by my guitars and drum set, and has expressed interest in learning something

So we signed him up for piano lessons. 

It went great! He really enjoyed his first lesson, and took to it readily and eagerly. My wife and I were thrilled, especially since we had just taken my mother’s piano off of her hands after my parents’ recent move. 

Of course, our son’s teacher wanted him to practice at home, ideally three times per week. Why wouldn’t she? And why wouldn’t my wife and I?

Simple, right?

Quiz time: In two months of taking lessons, guess how many times he practiced?

If you said “Zero,” consider yourself a winner. 

“It’s boring!” he’d say, finding something else to do. He also thinks most things are boring, including school (my son!), so we took this with a grain of salt. 

But you know what? Even with incentives from us and his teacher, he would not touch the damn keyboard to save his life. 

So here came a fatherly conundrum: Do I force him to stick with something he clearly doesn’t enjoy because I know it’s good for him, or do I seek other learning avenues that appeal to him?

My boy is what you’d call “strong-willed,” which research has taught me really means he’s big on independence, autonomy, and choices.

In other words, he doesn’t like being told what to do without a reason and a say in the matter

He also responds best to experiential learning.

Sounds familiar…

Mind you, he’s not quite five, so I’m not exactly having a structured debate with him. But I do try to listen to him and treat him like a human being. And I’d rather not create the association in him of “music” with “negativity.”

Enter Legos. 

He’s always been obsessed with them, which is a great thing. There was a particular set, a castle, he’s wanted for months. 

So my wife and I struck upon the idea, prior to canceling piano lessons, that if he did X amount of lessons, we’d get him the set.


And so, with heavy heart, we discontinued the lessons. 

I know I could have pushed him, and I know he not only could have gotten good at piano, but it would have benefited him immeasurably–music is wonderful like that. 
This would be a tougher nut to crack. How do I motivate him? He’s a really sharp kid (everyone thinks their kid is sharp), but he never seems to want to put in the reps. 

Yet like I said, I try to listen to him. 

Lately he tells us he wants to skip age five and go right to six.

“Okay,” I said. “Six-year-olds can read and write.”

This sounds odd, right? Like a non sequiter? And kind of mean? But listen: Ever since we moved, taking him out of the fantastic preschool he was attending, his writing and reading, as it is, has backslider dramatically. 

We’ve been trying to get him to practice on his own using some workbooks we’ve purchased, but to little avail.

“If you can do ten lesson,” I told him, “I’ll get you that Lego set.”

This he could get behind. So I whipped up a list and stuck it to the fridge, letting him check off each successful lesson. 

“You’re going to earn these Legos,” I told him. 

“Earning things is silly,” he said three lessons into our deal, frustrated and cranky. And of course, as he says, bored. 

See, the kid gets impatient when he can’t do something right away. Not surprising. I used to be the exact same way. 

So I leaned on him, explaining why but still being firm. I told him, “Do some now, do some later, do some tomorrow, but you don’t get the Legos until you do ten.” Hey, someone’s got to be the cranky guy at the head of the table

“You’re going to earn this,” I said, “and it’s going to feel so good when you get it.”

It only took the little son-of-a-gun a week to do all ten lessons. 

Now, is this bribery? Of course it’s bribery. But so is our modern economy, truthfully. Except that it’s voluntary. Everyone (theoretically) follows the same rules: Want something? Earn it!

His excitement was palpable as we drove to the toy store. He was so happy, so proud of himself. And I was proud of him. I hope that feeling lasts in him longer than the joy of having that Lego set. 

And I need to think of other incentives to keep him going. For little kids, the extrinsic motivations are more powerful. But I’m going to try to inculcate some intrinsic ones while I’m at it. 

After all, I can’t trust the schools to do this. 

Everybody gets a trophy? Not in my house. 

Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and @DaytimeRenegade

And check out my Instagram here

Sunshine Blogger Award

Well, file this in the “Unexpected, Undeserved, but Welcome” file: Writer, blogger, and all around cool guy (and decent fellow) Dylan Cornelius nominated me for something called the Sunshine Blogger Award. 

The SBA (no, not the Small Business Adminostration) is, from what I can tell, a way to promote yourself and promote others. It’s a “pass it along,” chain type of thing, but not a scam. In fact, you’ll probably discover some cool blogs!

I’ll get into the rules, but first about Dylan: I discovered his writing back in 2013 or so when I somehow stumbled upon his site Questicle, an entry into the chronogaming thing, where people play and blog about video games (or anything pop culture related, really) in chronological order, tracking their development and so on. 

Questicle happened to be about my favorite old system, the NES (yes, I have a soft spot for retrogaming). Dylan wrote short, funny reviews on each game (and he is the KING of funny captions). Through commenting on his site, which I used to read on my phone while holding my then-infant son as he settled in to sleep, I realized Dylan was a cool guy as well as a good writer, and that we had a lot in common. 

He is now doing the same thing he did for the NES with Sega systems on his most recent project Sega Does, and also writes about religious and spiritual matters on Dylan In Transition–you should check out both! 

And now, the SBA rules, cribbed from Dylan:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you 
  2. Answer the questions given to you 
  3. Nominate at least 3 bloggers
  4. Write questions for your nominees to answer

I’ll tackle them in order. 

1. Thank the person who nominated you. Thanks, Dylan!

2. Answer the questions given to you. These are great questions, and I expected nothing less from Dylan. Here we go! Continue reading “Sunshine Blogger Award”