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Friday, April 20, 2018

The New Look


I became obsessed with redesigning the website. I blame video gaming.

I don't game anymore because there's other things to do, but I've spent many o' hours unblinking and sleepless in front of God of War. I'd finish a level at 2 in the morning and just peek at the level, you know, just to see what it was like. Next thing it's 4 in the morning and I still haven't blinked. And that was on a work night. That's what it's like to be a grown up child. The website redesign wasn't that bad--I did blink and did go to bed--but nothing else was got done until it was finished.

Now I need you.



Brandon Sanderson's website is what got me thinking. I started reading Sanderson's Mistborn. Dude is a prolific writer with ratings like I've never seen. Over 260,000 Goodreads reviews on Mistborn alone. That is redonk. More about Brandon another time.

What I liked most about his website was a section on where to start. He has so many books that it's mind-boggling. I don't have near as many, but I found the suggestions helpful for new readers with what book to begin and why. So I need your feedback on what I've done. Take a look at the website and give me your thoughts. There's a little something in it, you know, for the effort.

A giveaway.

I'll draw 3 names from all participants. Each winner will receive a free download of any of my works. Name it and it's yours. Here's what you do.
1. Go to the website (below)
2. View the website
3. A link at the bottom of the homepage will take you to a short survey
4. Fill it out and my gratitude is yours to keep

BERTAUSKI.COM




Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Find the Inner Horse


I'm not a horse person.
Horses come up a lot in my writing because I know a lot of horse people. I sleep next one. When we go to the barn, I usually stand outside the fence. These are 1,500 pound pets that can stampede you; they can kick you, bite you, rip your head off and stomp your guts out. 
That's what I think, anyway.
None of that happens. Oh, they can kick and they can bite, but they don't. The thing they can do is communicate. As prey animals, their sensitivity to their surroundings and each other is off the charts. They even seem to perceive our emotions with hyper-accurate sonar. Not hard to believe since our emotions are often expressed in subtle postures. 



Recently, I did a session with a horse friend who developed Unbridled, LLC, a program that practices Equine Assisted Learning. She doesn't ride her horses. Instead, she interacts with them in a way that provides insight into the honesty of their communication and how that reflects our own way of living.
I find the best way I can interact with the world is being honest with my own feelings, no matter how yucky. I see some real self-centered shit in my everyday living that I'd wish would just go away. I've got to recognize the ickiness before I can work with it. However, it sometimes takes me days, sometimes weeks, to know what I'm really feeling. My poor wife will ask me what's going on. I'll probably have an answer by June. 
By the end of my horse session I found myself warmly connecting with 1,500 pound animal that was heart-warming and pretty damn honest. He didn't stomp my guts not one time. I'm still more of a dog person. And, yes, dogs can rip your face off.
But they're so damn sweet.




Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sitting in a Tree



First comes love. Then comes marriage...
Let's be honest, no one ever sang that song as a compliment. It was jealousy. I admit it. I was the one who wanted to be up in that tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g the class hottie and not my dumbass friend, so I was going to sing him into embarrassment. Which never worked. But we were in third grade or high school, I don't remember. Point is, eventually we all get up on that limb and get busy. There's love. There's marriage. And then a baby. Not always in that order, but it happens.
Then what?
My wife and I have had a pretty good run over the years. We started dating in high school, hit some rough road, worked it out, grew up and got careers, had kids, watched them grow up and hit some rough road, work it out and then move out. Now we have dogs. 
So you figure after 30 years of relationship work, we would be over the hump and hiking downhill, holding hands to fetch a pail of water. 
A teacher, Zen or otherwise, once mentioned that relationships are one of the best vehicles for spiritual growth. That's where our buttons are revealed. Anyone who can push our buttons is showing us where our work is. They are our Buddha. What better Buddha than your spouse?
A parent, sure.
After more than half our lives together and raising two kids and paying off a house, we still find that our relationship takes work. Expectations clash, desires go in opposite directions, body parts don't work the same. But we're lucky. We're both willing to put in the hours to make a go of it. Seriously, we're totally lucky.
Most people get married when they're still kids--early twenties, late teens. And twenty years later, we're not the same people. So I got lucky. We're still interested in making a go at it with each other after all these years. So here's to luck. And to the work.
And to K-I-S-S-I-N-G.









Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Inheriting Earth


Bugs, man.

Every year, I participate in a STEM event. My students help me drag hissing cockroaches to the stage and we stand around with them crawling up our arms and watch.

Disgust. Fascination.

Some people take off running. Seriously, literally. I have older students that ain't scared of anything, grew up in rough neighborhoods and take care of business. But they will back up on a hissing cockroach. But here's the thing. At this STEM event, (almost) everyone touches one.

The most fearless are the little girls. No joke. The cuter, the more fearless. They walk up and put their hand out and we plop a giant hissing bug in it. And they just stare.

It's the adults who are terrified. They will pull a kid in front of them. Then the kids start daring them to hold one, start daring each other. Eventually, most of them touch one. They start by petting one with their finger. It's shiny and smooth, doesn't bite or sting. Then they might put one on their sleeve. And then, holy shit yeah, hold one in their bare hand.

Bug on skin.

We're learning and facing fears. It's creepy, it's fun. It's Fear Factor, sort of. If everyday could be like that.



bertauski.com 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Holidays Are On Fire.

Claus: Rise of the Miser

The fifth installment in the Claus Universe is coming to town. 




It started with a letter.
The boy who wrote it wasn’t much different than other little boys, full of hopes and dreams and puppy dog tails. He took a blank piece of paper and a pencil and, with his tongue between his teeth, wrote in very neat cursive.
Dear Santa, it started. All letters to the North Pole start that way, sure. It’s what followed that made all the difference.
Dear Santa, I hope you are warm. I will leave you a blanket when you stop by my house. I do not want anything for Christmas. Can you bring my mother something? And if it is not too much, could you maybe give me a ride on your sleigh? I understand if you can’t.
Seriously, he wrote that. If I could cry, I would.
How many seven-year-olds don’t want anything for Christmas except for their mom to be happy? I’ll tell you, none. That’s how many.
He wrote that letter in looping cursive letters and sealed it in an envelope before taking it to his mom because he didn’t want her to read it. Not that he was embarrassed. He believed letters to Santa were like birthday wishes. If you told someone, they didn’t come true.
Precious.
Santa Claus, North Pole, he addressed it, because everyone knew where Santa lived. He gave it to his mom and she put a stamp on it. The next day, they took it to the post office. And that was it.
Well, not entirely.
His mom actually opened it before they mailed it. It wasn’t just her curiosity that got the best of her. He wouldn’t tell her what he wanted for Christmas, so you know what she was thinking.
She ended up bawling.
Of course, Santa didn’t wake him up when he stopped by on Christmas. There were no magic sleigh rides, but his mom did seem happier in the morning, so the boy got what he wanted. Minus the sleigh ride.
I wasn’t around when all of this happened. In fact, I wasn’t anywhere. But I have a copy of the letter. I know what he did and what she did, the details of their memories, the way he sealed the envelope, how he tried to stay awake on Christmas Eve, and how his mother cried.
But like any good iceberg, there’s way more to the story beneath the surface. It started with the letter, but it has a lot to do with a mother’s love.
And a very fat man.



DECEMBER 1ST

Merry, merry!


The fat man sat on the chimney.
His belly full of jelly rested on his legs, with an ache in his back. Claus was getting old.
He knew exactly how old he was but refused to ever say it. When the elven gathered around his birthday cake and asked how many candles were lit, he would say something like enough to light all the Christmas trees in the world or enough to guide my sleigh. Didn’t matter what he said, they laughed and cheered. They loved him.
They loved everything.
Born Nicholas Santa, he was now Santa Claus—a man no longer bound to the laws of human nature. Elven magic flowed through his veins. The story on how that came to be was long and convoluted. There were rumors of his existence and how he got to the North Pole, but no man or woman knew everything. There were shreds of truth in their songs and stories. They knew about the reindeer, but not all of them. They knew about his Christmas Eve trip, but not his practice run. They knew about the presents.
But they really didn’t know everything.
Two hundred was impossible for a human to live, but in elven years it was but a handful of snowflakes in a North Pole blizzard. A two-hundred-year-old elven was hardly a teenager. Despite the longevity, Claus’s back hurt. He should lose some weight, but he lived on the North Pole. The insulation was a necessity. Human limitations still held court in his body.
Perhaps it’s time to end the practice run.
For centuries, he’d taken the sleigh out on the first day of December. It was an abbreviated trip, a quick survey of the world. He would make a few stops, see how societies had changed, who was naughty and nice. Radio personalities always announced his approach on Christmas Eve, whether they saw his sleigh or not. But no one knew about the practice run.
This year was no different.
His body, however, reminded him it was two hundred years older and maybe these practice runs weren’t necessary. He could do the routes with his eyes closed. There were years he’d fallen asleep while crossing mountain ranges. The reindeer knew what to do, probably with their eyes closed, too.
Maybe things ached because he hadn’t been paying attention to his posture, like Mrs. Claus told him every time he climbed into the sleigh.
There was a loud snort.
His sleigh was on a pitched roof, the golden rails buried in the frigid fluff. The house was built into a hilltop. In the summer, the grassy earth would cool the house below. In the winter, it insulated the rooms filled with cookies and candles, steaming cups of cider and hot chocolate. He could smell it through the chimney.
So could the reindeer.
His lead reindeer looked up. Ronin’s jaws worked side to side. His wide rack of antlers—the largest of any reindeer—spanned almost as wide as the roof. His most reliable and faithful reindeer was still missing from holiday lore. All of the other reindeer were accounted for by name and gender, but not the biggest and baddest of them all.
No glowing noses in this bunch.
Claus lifted a gloved hand. He needed another minute to rest his bones. Ronin buried his snout in the feedbag. This was their December fodder, a special blend for long hauls. It would allow them to inflate their helium bladders for the jumps ahead.
Maybe Claus needed a special blend.
The town below was nestled between two white-capped mountains. A blanket of snow rested in the valley. The scene was distorted through the timesnapper distortion field. Christmas lights were smudges of red and green and white. Outside the translucent bubble, time had nearly come to a stop. Snowflakes hung like crystal ornaments.
Inside, time marched to its normal beat.
No one could see him inside the timesnapper. He could circle the world before the second hand ticked on Big Ben. It was peaceful and quiet inside the bubble. Only the reindeer’s grinding molars disturbed the silent night. Occasionally, the harness bells jingled. This was still his favorite time of year.
But it had been so much easier when he first started.
The gifts were simpler back then and joy wasn’t as elusive. Technology complicated things. Humankind had almost caught up with elven technology. They were more of a danger to themselves than anything else. This concern grew larger every year. In the wrong hands, elven technology could change the world.
A chorus of bells rang.
The reindeer were restless. Time might be relative inside the timesnapper, but it was not endless. Santa stood up and stretched. He loosened the black belt around his waist. He’d already given up two notches since last Christmas. He would have to pace himself before Christmas arrived.
The night of cookies and milk.
The winter did not affect him like men in the normal world, but he could still feel the cold. At that moment, though, he wasn’t feeling the nip of winter at all. In fact, it was beginning to feel a bit warm.
He wasn’t immune to illness. The year of 1970 was the Christmas that would never end. He had the flu. Despite the protests from Mrs. Claus, he mounted the sleigh at midnight. The world was counting on him. He took several naps inside the timesnapper, shivering with fever. He was beginning to feel hot.
This didn’t feel like a fever, though.
Water was trickling. Snow was melting from the roof and dripping from the shingles.
The timesnapper has malfunctioned, he thought.
Before he could turn, a great and wonderful sleepiness fell over him. Perhaps the flu was back. He reached for the chimney; then he felt the pitched roof on his back. He tingled all over.
Then closed his eyes.

The last thing he heard was the jingling of the reindeer’s harness bells in the distance.



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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Expectations: A True Adoption Story

I write fiction. I make up stories.
This is not one of them.




This story is true.

Some minor details have been altered and names changed, but the story itself is true. At some point, you won’t believe it. Hell, I don’t believe some of it and I was there. It’s a story about crises. It’s about resolution, about life prevailing.

It’s about adoption.

This is not a step-by-step guide on how to turn lemons into lemonade. I’m not an expert in crisis management or adoption. There was plenty of the luck to make all of this happen. This is just one story.

It happens to be true.

All profits are donated to Through Emma’s Eyes, a nonprofit organization that helps adoptive parents with special-needs children.