Review: The Greystone Chronicles: Book One: IO Online (2/5)

The Greyston Chronicles Book One: IO Online Review

Image via Amazon

TLDR: If you’re looking for a group-based litrpg to tide you over until the next Ascend Online book comes out, The Greystone Chronicles might do that for you. If, however, you want your heroes to be more than mildly inconvenienced or if you like villains with a hint of nuance, this is not the book for you.

Review based on the Audible production, so I apologize if any character or location names are spelled incorrectly. Mild spoilers, though not much more than you’d get reading the full book description.

Let’s start with what The Greystone Chronicles: Book One: IO Online does well. The group dynamics between the protagonist, Alexander, and his party (Brick, Max, Sasha, and, later, Laney) are generally enjoyable. You have the boisterous dwarf who enjoys fighting and drinking, the loot-hungry archer, and the female healer who is alternately amused and exasperated by the boys around her. These are familiar fantasy and litrpg troupes that are, if not new, at least still mildly entertaining in this iteration. [Read more…]

The Sleeper

Image via Flickr by Aoshi_88

Prompt: I was absolutely sure she was waking.

I was absolutely sure she was waking. Her eyelids fluttered. She stretched her back and scrunched her face, but then something changed. A soft sigh whispered from her sculpted lips and she settled back onto the pedestal.

“Oh, so close. I thought that one was going to work for sure.” The game show host threw an arm around my shoulder and squeezed. “Better luck next time, Charming.” He steered me toward the camera crew. Lights blinded me. Or maybe those were tears. “How does it feel to know you aren’t really Snow White’s true love?”

“I, I – ” My throat closed and I had to clear it. “I can’t believe it.” I looked straight into the camera. “I don’t believe it. You must have done something, changed something.”

The host chuckled and shook my shoulder. “Sour grapes are not becoming your highness. Now, I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait in the back while the other candidates try their lips. Did I say lips? I meant try their luck!”

I tried to shake off the host’s grip and return to Snow, but he passed me off to two brutes who carried me from the room. As the door closed behind me, I heard the host addressing the camera. “Well, there you have it. Things are really getting interesting with the favorite officially out of the running! Who will wind up with their happy ending on this season of Who Can Wake the Sleeper? Find out, after the break.”

Call me Claire

Call me Claire

Image via Flickr by mulan

10 minute flash fiction

prompt: Call me Claire.

“Call me Claire one more time and see what happens,” the girl hissed. Her brown eyes flashed, her frizzy hair stood on end as if charged with static electricity, and her hands tensed into claws.

“But Clai-” the boy, who had recently landed on his backside for saying that word, managed to swallow the “R.” He tried again. “But that’s your name.”

“Not anymore, Mickey” the girl who was not Claire said. She stood up very straight and swept her scarf back over one shoulder, striking a regal pose. “From this day forward, I shall be known as ‘Clairiforth Bellweather III.'”

Mickey nodded solemnly, rose to his feet, and dusted himself off. “Alright, but it’s kind of a mouthful. Do I have to say the whole thing every time?”

“Of course not,” Cairfiforth Bellweather III said with a mischievous smile. “Just call me Claire.”

A Meditation on the Subject of Whole Assing

Image via Flickr by The Huntington

Image via Flickr by The Huntington

“Don’t half-ass two things, whole ass one thing.” – Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

For the last three years I have split my time, creative energy, and care between writing and yoga instructing. In many ways, these two art forms complement one another. As a yoga instructor I have large stretches of free time during the day in which to write (or avoid writing by manically cleaning the house). As a writer, I’ve honed my ability to tell stories, which I frequently use to elevate my class from a calisthenic mediation to a true lesson. Yet, despite the overlap, I can’t help a niggling worry that I am short-changing each by pursuing the other.

Part of my problem is mental. Sometimes I think of myself as an aspiring writer who teaches yoga to pay the bills until my writing will. Then the next day I will think of myself as a yoga instructor who writes. This distinction may seem trivial, but I am a firm believer in definitions and their power to shape our world.

When I feel like I am primarily a writer, I am more diligent about writing everyday. It’s not always fun. Writing feels like pulling teeth as often as it feels like legos snapping satisfactorily into place. But I do it and my teaching suffers. Not a lot, but it’s noticeable. Maybe I’m teaching the same sequence as last week because I haven’t gotten my own ass to the mat as a student in all that time. I could be using an old playlist or my delivery is just a little off because I’m not quite in the rhythm of the class.

When I feel like I am mostly a yoga instructor it’s much the same, but in reverse. I make it to the studio as a student, study yoga, and teach some phenomenal classes, but I don’t write much. Though, in truth, it’s rarely that binary. It’s a spectrum from fully whole assing one thing, to half-assing both right in the middle and there’s the trouble.

You might justly question my premise by asking, “Why can’t you do both well? Does it really have to be one or the other?”

There have been stretches of time when I felt like I could whole ass two things, where I committed myself to studying and practicing writing and yoga while also teaching yoga professionally. They never last. The truth is: I only have so much time, creative energy, and gumption. If I were to put in enough time and effort into both arts to feel like I was doing the best possible job at both, I would be working somewhere around 60-80 hours per week. That kind of schedule is possible, but it’s hard to sustain, particularly because so much of that work needs to be self-motivated.

So, what’s the solution?

I believe it’s a pivot, in one direction or the other. Choosing to “whole ass one thing,” as Ron would say. But which way? That’s the question.

In a way, I’ve already spun the wheel by applying to several fully funded creative writing MFA programs. If I get accepted to one, and choose to go, I will be committing to honing my craft as a writer and will be paid for doing so…

Yet, I almost hope I don’t get into any of them. Part of me compares the hours I’ve spent grinding out pages to the hours spent teaching and knows which I prefer. Please don’t misunderstand. I do love writing. Like right now, when this question feels so urgent it’s burning the back of my throat. Writing helps me sort things out. I find its precision and craft beautiful.

Yet, I don’t generally stand up from a hard session at the keyboard feeling better than when I sat down. Usually the words either come or they don’t. There are breakthrough moments where I get passed a place where I was stuck, and that feels fantastic, but most of the time it’s more consistent than that. When I teach yoga, on the other hand, I almost always feel better by the end of class than I did at the beginning. In fact, I feel better at the end of the day when I teach four classes than I do on my day off. Exhausted, yes, physically and emotionally, but deeply content.

Again, with the information you now posses, you might question why this is even a struggle. “That sounds like a pretty clear indicator,” you might say. “Why don’t you just devote yourself to yoga for a while? You can still write when the urge strikes, right?”

I might just do that. I can feel the my heart spiraling closer to that conclusion, but there’s another factor. I am afraid.

Right now I make enough money to support myself in what my mother calls “a holding pattern.” I’m not worried about feeding myself or paying my bills, but I’m not putting much aside. Looming household expenses like buying a new furnace, or reroofing the garage, threaten to wipe out my meager savings. Committing to being a yoga instructor feels like committing to that uncertainty.

More than that, however, is learning to value a different type of knowledge. Wisdom and a deep knowing in one’s body might sound laudable, particularly in my circles, but in society’s eyes, it sure doesn’t beat the prestige of a master’s degree. As much as it pains me, I am a creature of society. I am a rule follower. I want to think well of myself and want others – particularly my brilliant, well-educated family – to think well of me. Somehow, trying to make yoga more than just a holding pattern doesn’t feel like it’s as legitimate a pursuit as writing. Part of me knows that my family will value me and think well of me no matter what I decide, but fears of being thought less than I could be blend with my more practical money worries into a potent fearful soup.

So, what am I to do?

Well, today, I submitted my last MFA application for the year. In February I will take a break from writing regularly to see how it feels. If the urge strikes, I’ll write, but I won’t force myself to the keyboard. I will take this time for myself and my yoga practice. We’ll see what happens from there.

3 Things You Won’t Learn in Yoga Teacher Training

Yoga teacher training is a transformative experience. You will learn about the body, the asana, practice dialogue, and skim the surface of an ancient knowledge system that it takes a lifetime of study to even partially comprehend.

This post isn’t about any of those things.

This is about the little things that you have to live through (or read here) to know about. The true secrets of yoga teaching.

1) Poop Before Class

Is that too graphic for you? Well, too bad. I could not be more serious about this. As a yoga student, it’s embarrassing to disrupt class by dashing off your mat to use the bathroom but it’s doable in an emergency.

As a teacher, you can’t just leave your class in pigeon and run to the bathroom. People would notice. So, if you need to answer a call of nature 15 minutes into class, prepare to work your Mula Bandha and hold that shit. Or, take my advice, and use the bathroom right before class. Start a minute or two late if you have to, it’s better than the alternative.

Trust me. [Read more…]

The Quiet Ones

flash fiction, gangster

Image via Flickr by Kent Wang

10 minute free write

Prompt: He was scheming, everyone knew that.

He was scheming, everyone knew that just by looking at him. From the slicked back hair to the pencil stash, upturned nose, and half-closed eyes, James Donovan Malone looked like trouble. The trouble was, no one could catch him at it.

Neighbors would watch warily as he walked his glossy doberman around the block. He didn’t use a leash. James walked with this hands behind his back while whistling Twisted Nerve (a song from a 1969 British Horror film). His doberman, meanwhile, just trotted along by his side in a perfect “heel.” Also, although they walked together two or three times per day, no one every saw the dog squat.

There were other whiffs of the unnatural about him as well. For example, he never had any guests or visitors, was never seen in anything other than a three piece suit (even in 90 degree weather), and never seemed to leave the house, except to walk his dog.

“It just ain’t right, I tell ya,” Molly Hanson said as James walked by with his dog. Molly was a retired ER nurse with frizzy white hair, a care-lined face, and an eye for the unusual. She was also the neighborhood gossip-in-chief. “There’s something funny going on with that boy.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jeremy, her worthy opponent (in checkers and just about everything else) demurred. “He seems quiet enough to me. Better than the last neighbor we had. Remember all the loud music and parties?”

“That’s the problem.” Molly jumped a red piece over one of Jeremy’s black ones. “You always gotta watch out for the quiet ones.”

The Sweet Life of Lane the Necromancer

Image via Flickr by Marco Hazard

Image via Flickr by Marco Hazard

10 Minute Flash Fiction

Prompt: My life is almost exactly like the story of Cain and Abel, except I’m a necromancer, which is amazing.

My life is almost exactly like the story of Cain and Abel, except I’m a necromancer, which is amazing. Imagine, my brother Axel is just minding his own business and then wham! Baseball bat to the back of the head. Ressurect and repeat. It’s very theraputic.

The best part, though, is when God asks me where my brother is after I’ve killed him. He’s all like, “Lane, where is your brother?”

And I’m like, “He’s right over there, playa’.”

“Why is he green?”

“He went to a rave last night and got painted.”

“He smells like rotting meat.”

“I try to get him to shower, but no. He has to be ‘all natural.'”

“So, there’s nothing fishy going on with that bloody baseball bat in the corner?”

“No, sir…ma’am…whatever  you are.”

“Well, alright then. Keep your nose clean, Lane. I’m watching you.”

At some point I’m sure it’ll figure things out and put a curse on my forehead. Isn’t that what always happens to Cain in the stories? But, even then, I’ll just summon a pet for company.

Yep, being a necro is pretty sweet.


The Old Warrior

Image via Flickr by reynermedia

Image via Flickr by reynermedia

10 minute flash fiction

Prompt: When you fight a war, war is always missing.

When you fight a war, war is always missing. Or at least, the war Rolf expected when he joined the army. Rolf snorted. His head had been filled with minstrels songs and his inner eye fixed on glory, gold, and women. It’d been a good dream…for about for about three minutes.

Almost as soon as his name was on the paper, the hell began. The army took his clothes and cut off all his hair to prevent lice. They gave him a sword and some stinking hide for armor and sent him to the front.

Grizzled now, red-eyed, shaggy, and long in the tooth, Rolf took another long swallow of ale and glared at his mug. His nose ran into his mustache, but he didn’t care. He’d had the shivers for three days, and a healer told him that drinking was the worst thing he could do for his condition. Rolf took another swallow.

Where was the war he’d been promised? The one he’d looked for his entire adult life? Rolf had seen seven boarder disputes, four nobles squabbles, and two legitimate, all-out, do-or-die wars and still he was looking.

“Cause you’re a damn fool,” Rolf growled at his mug. Because, somewhere in the back of his jaded heart, Rolf stilled longed for war.

Not the war of his youth. Rolf knew there was no glory in it, knew there was only rarely any gold, and he was too old to care much about the women. Even still, Rolf longed for the camaraderie of the army camp. He longed for the feeling of purpose, of doing something grand with his life. He longed for sacrifice.

Instead, Rolf sat in a dockside tavern and drank away the money he earned begging. Until a hand landed on his shoulder.

The Dancing Dragon

flash fiction dragon

Image via Flickr by johanferreira15

10 Minute Flash Fiction

Prompt: She was a dancer by day, dragon by night.

Illusandra Vo Besrucksha held her final posture as the music died. Sweat beaded her brow, ran down arms and legs, and even darkened her water wicking leotard. She gleamed in the bright stage lights like an oiled bronze statue of impossible grace and beauty. Then the crowd was on its feet clapping, whistling, and screaming its appreciation.

Illusandra smiled, bowed, and walked calmly off the stage. Already something was hardening in her chest. Tears pricked at her eyes and she struggled to maintain her smile as the stage manager gave her a plastic water bottle and burbled about how wonderful she was. Finally, when they reached her changing room, Illusandra spoke in a throaty soprano. “Thank you Tina. I’d like to get cleaned up now. And no, no autographs tonight. I have business to which I must attend.”

Tina bobbed her head and sighed. “Still won’t face the fans, Illy? You know they love you right?”

The knot in Illusandra’s chest twisted. They don’t know me, she wanted to say, but it wasn’t true. Illusandra’s dancing was so expressive that she believed her audience knew her inner self better than most. Still, there was one thing they didn’t know and, if they ever found out, it would ruin her.

“Not tonight.”

She opened her dressing room door.

“When -”

Illusandra shut the door in Tina’s face, Crossed to the window, and opened it. Cool air night air rushed over her face and she sighed. Stripping off her clothes, Illusandra climbed onto the window sill and leaped into the night. Her chest unknotted as she fell, her body transforming, growing larger, scalier, and sprouting two enormous, bat-like, wings.

Soaring high over her city, Illusandra Vo Besrucksha reveled in one of the two activities that made her feel truly alive.

The Dream House

flash fiction, old man reading

Image via Wiki Commons

10 minute flash fiction

Prompt: I was an awful man, with my house and my box.

I was an awful man, with my house and my little box of land. I worked hard for it. I scrimped and saved and finally purchased the small two bedroom ranch a week before my wife died. She always wanted a place of her own. For sixty years she worked as a nanny, cooked for me, and cleaned our rented apartment.

“Don’t worry, Johnny,” She always said. “Just a little more. We just gotta save a little more and we can put a down payment on a house. Got my eye on a real nice one down Willow Street.”

I could still hear her voice. Gripping the wooden armrests of my rocking chair, I scowled at the kids laughing and playing in the street.

It never happened. I would get laid off in one recession or another. The car would brake down. The roof would need fixing and the cheapskate landlord refused to do it. Something always came up. Then Alice got sick. Breast cancer. She fought for six years before it claimed her.

She cried when it returned for the last time. “I want to die at home, Johnny, please.”

Tears ran down my temples as I leaned my head back and closed my eyes.

Putting a down payment on this place seemed to give her new life. She sang again, her sweet voice harsh from disuse and chemo side-effects. She had a purpose. She wanted to see me settled before she went.

I made a noise somewhere between a chuckle and a sob and rubbed my itching eyes.

She’d done just that. She helped me move, unpack the boxes, and paint two rooms…then she died. She –

“Are you okay, sir?”

Lowering my hand, I saw a short young woman with dark hair and kind eyes. “I’m not sure,” I said honestly.

She smiled at me and warmth lit in my stomach. “Would you like some company? I was just on my way home from class, but I could stop for a few minutes.”

“Yes,” I said. “I would like that.”