Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Short story: An "Out"-standing Chanukah

NOTE: This story (really flash fiction, length-wise) was originally published on Liberty Island website as an Honorable Mention in a Non-Traditional Holiday Story contest. Below is a somewhat cleaned up and expanded version. I made a choice to keep a reference that might already seem dated. Since the story set in the future, there is no telling which memories would survive to inspire the future generations, especially if our society takes a turn for the worse and parts of history get lost to time.


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An “Out”-standing Chanukah

I stand frozen in hesitation, staring at the door of Uncle Jay’s office. It is a standard  six-panel door, painted white, with an old-fashioned doorknob free of electronics, the kind you turn by hand. I raise my arm to knock, then lower it again.

What am I doing here? I am fooling myself. Clearly, this much indecision is a sign that I’m not ready. Maybe I should wait another year. I’d be in college by then, and—

No. I’m not going off to college without letting my family know the truth. It’s not fair, and besides, I don’t think I could hide it much longer.

I glance at a small white rectangular box mounted on the side of the doorway. It’s called a mezuzah. These are legal again to sell in stores, along with Christian crosses. I don’t know what a mezuzah is, exactly, or what it’s supposed to do, but the sight of it makes me feel better. I take a deep breath and knock on the door before I lose my nerve.

“Uncle Jay? Do you have a minute?”
“Sure, come on in.”

I open the door and poke my head inside. The room intimidates the heck out of me, even after all those years. It’s like some kind of museum, only I know the people in the photos so it’s… I can’t even explain it. Like something I have to live up to, but can’t.

Uncle Jay turns away from the photo collage above the bookcase, smiles and waves for me to enter.

“Hi, Eddie. Great to see you. What’s going on?”

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!

2016 has been a special year in many ways, not the least of which is a coincidence of the first day of Chanukah falling on Christmas Eve. I wish Merry Christmas to my Christian readers, Happy Chanukah to the Jews and a joyous season to all.

I link below the post from last year that contains my Chanukah poem. I can admit it now that the poem was written in 2012 after the Republican electoral defeat. It was particularly hard for me to take because I was involved with a local Tea Party at the time and the emotional effect on all of us was devastating. Aside from the story told in the poem, it is essentially a tribute to not giving up. 2016, for all its trials, is coming to an end on a hopeful note for many of us, but the message is still relevant.

Chanukah Reflections, 2015

P.S. Feel free to share with your friends and family members of a different political persuasion. There is too much despair going on in certain circles. It's amusing to watch online, but not from people we care about regardless of politics. Maybe a little perspective would help.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Book Review: Murphy's Law of Vampires by Declan Finn

Marco Catalano and Amanda Colt, you just vanquished the biggest, baddest vampire in New York City. What are you going to do now?

It appears the main characters of Finn's Love at First Bite series have never heard of a certain 90's commercial because they sure aren't going to Disneyland.

When writing to sequels, Finn obviously comes from the Terry Goodkind (of Sword of Truth fame) school of writing: the heroes solve a seemingly impossible problem in one book, only to face an even bigger obstacle in the next. Thus, Murphy's Law of Vampires. Since our heroes are well-equipped to fight vampires, as established in Book One, they must face someone(thing) new entirely. If you're only reading this review to find out if Book Two is just "more of the same," as sadly too many sequels are, I'll tell you right away: it isn't. Go buy it now. It's safe.

Still here? OK.

Aside from a different and mysterious villain, there are some new characters to meet. Marco ends up traveling to San Francisco, and much fun is had at the expense of the West Coast setting and the inhabitants. One can always count on Finn giving us a few extra-quirky characters, but when set in SanFran, the quirkiness actually feels organic (ha!) rather than a literary device. You love them one moment and want to smack them the next, but the point is, you care about them and want to know more.

Familiar characters don't get short shrift in development either. You get deeper inside their heads, understand them better, and some open questions from Book One get explored further or answered entirely. They become more complete, and they also learn and grow as the story goes on. Romance still moves at a snail's pace, but it's better than the alternative and more true to life in any case.

Action sequences are superb, with occasional over-the-top-violence as per usual with this author. All the characterization I mention above does not take away or interfere with action. There's plenty of space for both, and you won't be disappointed in that regard.

Altogether, even though I gave Honor at Stake (Book One) 5 stars on Amazon, I have to say Murphy's Law is better. I can't pinpoint exactly why as I am not a professional reviewer. It's possible that I have naturally lower expectations of sequels and this one surprised me. Or it could be that Finn is now producing a higher quality prose. Either way, it's highly recommended, and I can't wait to see what new challenges Marco, Amanda and their merry crew will face in the next and final installment.

Purchase Murphy's Law of Vampires on Amazon.