It has been far too long since I have written in this blog. My apologies.

Dearest Readers,

I must say that the trials and tribulations of day to day life and the reliance I have on technology set me to thinking. Thinking about when I was in high school twenty odd years ago. Was life truly simpler in a day and age of no immediate connectivity? The reasoning behind this train of thought was simple. I am a steampunk. We go through life in this genre thinking of the Victorian age as a golden era of craftsmanship and technological wonderment. Reflecting upon this, I took into account my own life as a teen in the 80’s and a young man in the 90’s.

In the short time I have lived, technology has boomed beyond the dreams of humankind. I know we’re all wondering “where’s my flying car and ray gun?” But let’s look seriously at what we’ve achieved since 1992 – a mere 20 years ago:

The internet – with its ever evolving organic nature has supplanted nearly all other forms of communication – this blog case in point. It has given us the ability to cross oceans and speak with people face to face, share information and art, ideas and concepts that before its inception would have never seen the outside of ones own personal circle of friends. Now are circles are widened in scope and although the term “friend” is looser now thanks to facebook, those acquaintances we’ve made through social media have changed all of our lives. so piece two segue…

Social Media – it can be argued that this is a plague on society and interpersonal relations. Let’s be honest, for some it is. But utilized properly it is an amazing tool for new live interpersonal contact. I have made more actual people face to face through conversations initiated in social media during the last two years than I have in years. Let’s not forget the power of reconnection. I have now been able to chat with folks and friends from my youth that I missed but would never have been able to find otherwise using analog means. The benefits of talking through type or skype instantaneously with people for business and friendship is enormous. That brings us to the object we all take very for granted – cellular phones.

Cell Phones – I can remember breaking down on a highway in 1992 meant walking to the nearest town or exit and praying there would be a pay phone then praying again that a collect call would be accepted on the other end of the line so you’d get some help. Now, I sit in my car and have conversations over my bluetooth to family, clients, students, friends and I don’t even think twice that I may break down and not be able to get help. The worst case scenario is you have no battery life or signal in the middle of nowhere. Then we’re back to where we were 20 years ago. But honestly, there are few places signals are not available. Where they are you can use devices that incorporate all three of the recently mentioned pieces of technology.

Smart Phones/Devices – if you had told me in 1992 that I’d be able to hold a computer in my hand more powerful than a room full of desktops at my university, I would have thought you watched a little too much Star Trek. Now here I am knee deep in the “i” technology with my iPhone, iPod, iTunes, iBooks, etc. My colleagues work with iPads in their arms and there isn’t a single person I know that can function in business or school without a laptop. The smart devices are the utter culmination of our technology. The ability to use portable computers is very much a Star Trek thing. I am as big a geek as they come and Star Trek was a religious experience for my friends and I in high school. The tablets, communicators, touch screen computers that 20 years ago were the science fiction I dreamed about are all now science fact. The big question is what are we doing with it?

Well, for those of you that think technology and internet devices are the realm of satan himself, let me assure you that you are wrong. Like all tools, in the wrong hands they are deadly, take for instance a pen. You can start a war with a well written word using nothing but a simple pen. In the Victorian era, that was all it took. However, that pen was relatively single function. It could only record physically what you thought. Emergency personnel not be able to use a pen to analyze the components of an accident in an instant and form a conclusive course of action with individuals involved in said accident based on the data your pen could access concerning their medical needs. Police officers could not attain instant photographic information to aid in the capture of a criminal while on the beat from a pen.

So in the wrong hands, credit thieves, perverts and creeps, and criminals of all kinds now have a new tool to create havoc. In the Victorian age crime and horrors did still exist, but were far harder to solve. I propose that with current technology, Jack the Ripper would have easily been routed out before so many kills had taken place.

Perhaps this is why I do so love the steampunk genre. Taking the technology from the now, which I find wonderful and miraculous, combined with the high level of craftsmanship of an age gone by is a concept I am very enamored with. I’ve spoken to the punk side of the disposable nature of our current state, but I am still confident that with proper use the wonders we have developed over the last 20 years will continue to enrich our lives. If we let them. Remember that the Victorian era gave us freedom of thought and technology we would be lost without such as electricity. Let’s not let the technology we have today be considered anything less than a tool for positive change and a mind-opening possibility.

Yours in Art,

Jason

 

I cannot elaborate on what this great man has meant to me more than by sharing some of the inspirations that have allowed me to become the writer and artist I am.

“Death doesn’t exist. It never did, it never will. But we’ve drawn so many pictures of it, so many years, trying to pin it down, comprehend it, we’ve got to thinking of it as an entity, strangely alive and greedy. All it is, however, is a stopped watch, a loss, an end, a darkness. Nothing.”
Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Come

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
Ray Bradbury

“Why is it,” he said, one time, at the subway entrance, “I feel I’ve known you so many years?”
“Because I like you,” she said, “and I don’t want anything from you.”
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
Ray Bradbury

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”
Ray Bradbury

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Well, here we are, Dearest Readers,

The path to book two is fraught with bumps and curves. The blocks have been frequent, the distractions aplenty and the motivation there but untimely. That being said, I am 24,000 words in and the story keeps getting better. Chapter 1 – 12 have now made me realize just how different characters can be. I started this series with a contemplative young man attempting to define his world. That sensibility worked so well for a first narrator. He gave us the description of where we were and why with an introspective nuance that left me wondering about details but not missing them because he gave us what he noticed.

For this novel, I’ve changed narrators. Jules will be our guide into the next portion of the adventure. There’s more action and travel in this second of three novels in the series. Jule’s perspective on the word is thoroughly explored and his very straightforward take on society is evident. There are more twists and turns by far in this novel as we follow the pursuit of truth about fairykind on a whole new level.

It seems that the Harcos were just the tip of the glacier. Without spoiling it for you, suffice to say, there is much more to this earth and her inhabitants than simply growing on it, certain species have not adapted, but assimilated to the earth herself. There are forces at work on this planet we can only dream of. Things that connect us we cannot perceive. Someone can perceive, manipulate and utilize in unimaginable ways the natural forces around them.

It’s not magic, it’s biology, physics, geology, and chemistry that allow for the seemingly miraculous things around us. Take for instance how mystifying our world still is to us. There is so much in the ground itself that we cannot comprehend. Many have assumed, theorized, even attempted to discern the inner workings of her. She, this fabulous orb that spawned our race and the race of fairy, has yet to in our own age, be tapped to a fraction of her potential. In this story, we will see how it was tapped, used, improved, and made to create wonders within itself.

I won’t say that the book is remotely an environmental statement. The central theme is more of the same from the first book, “What humans do not, can not, or refuse to understand, we will attempt to control. Our fear drives us to pretend that we are in charge of this planet. It allows us the definitive justification that we can destroy at will because what we create in the aftermath of destruction must be better than the earth itself could have done.” This quote from the new novel reemphasizes the point of questioning human supremacy and brings about the possibility of our own flaws that we have discovered through our own scientific might.

The element of steampunk that resides subtly in the novels is my way of bringing about the realization that Victorian craftsmanship and sensitivity to art as functional should be explored. The novel takes place in a fictitious world that may be running in parallel to ours on some other dimensional plane. That does not negate the fact that we should really take a good long hard look at how we handle technology, particularly in America, as a disposable thing. It makes little sense that we should ignore our own shortsightedness toward craftsmanship and art as vital parts to a higher cultured society.

I do hope to keep you all updated as to the progress of the novel and even the third as I go forward. Keep visiting the blog for more updates and commentary from my little world to yours.

Yours in Art,

Jason

Punk: Effecting social change by protesting with your very lifestyle.

What is the biggest issue infecting the society around us: planned obsolescence. The rapidity of change in technology and the need of everyone to have the latest, shiniest, fastest toy on the market is overwhelming. To top it off, entertainment is our biggest growth industry. Not the solid entertainment of culture like theatre, art, or even film. The biggest new thing is the escapism of the computer.

For decades, we’ve been warned that our youth have had their brains warped and fried by these screens. From the onset of the television to today’s instant gratification motivated society. If the computer doesn’t react instantaneously, we become upset and even enraged. I have fallen into this trap many times myself. Just this morning, I was praying, actually calling upon a supreme being to heal my computer so that I could continue with my life. My work, my art, my pictures of life, my very memory and creativity is reliant upon this conglomeration of plastic and circuits.

I find this slightly disturbing. The virtual instant world is our reality more than the tangible. So how do we change it? Embrace it and alter it. Modify the world around us to be handcrafted and beautiful, not disposable. This is a tenant of the art of steampunk.

I am proud to embrace this philosophy of altering our need for the fast-paced with the beauty of finery and craftsmanship. The fact that I am able to reach a wider world with this is enriching. That you, Dearest Readers, may take a portion of my diatribe as worthwhile makes technology viable and useful rather than disposable. Let us all not get so use to throwing things away here in America and other civilized nations, lest we throw ourselves and our culture away.

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-maurice-sendak-20120509,0,4823266.story

In order to make one understand what human nature is, a person must be cultivated from his/her earliest sections of life. Just as the psyche is forming the ability to understand complex thoughts and concepts, it should be nurtured by images and words that provide tools for how to be human. Maurice Sendak understood this and profoundly more. His images guided generations of people to Where the Wild Things Are. Here in this world we could be a little boy searching for the way out of life only to discover that we need to be not only involved, but caring and cared for to survive.

Maurice brought us conflict and resolution in dream worlds where the most extraordinary things kept us laughing and questioning ourselves and the wider scope of society. He was controversial in his art; pressing the limits and being banned in some circumstances because he would not compromise his integrity of vision. Milestones take us to new heights in the world of art, not only illustration. When we reflect upon such things as his thread of the horror faced by children in the world, particularly the Holocaust. The Washington Post quotes him in today’s paper with several wonderful memories of how he helped us all realize our inner power as people.

An admitted obsession with “children and their survival” and the “humongous heroism of children” fueled a career of groundbreaking darkness in children’s literature. President Bill Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts in 1996, saying, “His books have helped children to explore and resolve their feelings of anger, boredom, fear, frustration and jealousy.” – Washington Post May 8, 2012 Becky Krystal

Not restricted to the singular art form, Maurice pushed the limits of all artistic expression to make his message known, as the Washington Post also reports.

In addition, Mr. Sendak worked in film, television and opera. In the early 2000s, he collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner on a restaging and book adaptation of Hans Krasa’s children’s opera “Brundibar,” which had long been associated with being performed by children imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp.

“The Holocaust has run like a river of blood through all my books,” Mr. Sendak once said, explaining that as the child of Jewish immigrants from Poland, the Nazi death camps were never far from his mind.

Mr. Sendak’s greatest achievement was to elevate the picture book “to an individual, contained art form that integrates words and illustration,” said Cathryn M. Mercier, director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College in Boston.

Just as significant, Mercier said, was Mr. Sendak’s success in introducing a dark, often surreal vision to a field long dominated by cuteness and the preciousness of childhood.

Mercier said the Sendak trilogy of “Where the Wild Things Are” (1963), “In the Night Kitchen” (1970) and “Outside Over There” (1981) “crashed open the gates” for what themes authors could address in children’s literature. – Washington Post May 8, 2012 Becky Krystal

Ms. Krystal reports so well his life and work, I did place a link to the LA Times above, but also please follow this link to the Post article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/maurice-sendak-author-and-illustrator-of-works-about-childrens-survival-dies/2012/05/08/gIQA8lXMAU_story.html

My earliest memory of Sendak’s work was reading Where the Wild Things Are to my sister when she was a toddler. Growing up in an artistic family, we were surrounded by works such as this to inspire and educate us. I later went with her to the film version and we sat in awe as to how it still spoke to us in this form. In fact, the film seemed more for us as adults than it did for the children who sat around the theatre seeing images of amazing creatures but not understanding the nuances of the psychology behind the story and image.

I, for one, will always teach my children the power of thought, dreams, and challenging oneself. I have Maurice Sendak and my parents to thank for that since they taught me and he reinforced it with beauty and meaning.

Rest in Peace. May the muses guide you to eternal rest in the dream of beauty.

Writer S.J. Chambers said (I’m paraphrasing) that steampunk should be considered an art form in a literary panel we were on together at the first Florida Steampunk Exhibition in Daytona Beach, FL. Why this stuck with me is because I am an artist. Defining myself as that, this chief portion of my persona “artist” what on earth does that mean?

artist |ˈärtist|
noun
a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.
• a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.
• a person skilled at a particular task or occupation: a surgeon who is an artist with the scalpel.
• a performer, such as a singer, actor, or dancer.
• [ with modifier ] informal a habitual practitioner of a specified reprehensible activity: a con artist | rip-off artists.
ORIGIN early 16th cent. (denoting a master of the liberal arts): from French artiste, from Italian artista, from arte art, from Latin ars, art- .

As the definition  by the app on my Apple dashboard points out, this word has various connotations. For the medium of steampunk, to be a steampunk artist, one must understand steampunk as art. So, art, that nebulous thing we can never quite define no matter how many dictionary apps we look at. In my mind as a practitioner of art, art is the perfect blend of the organic and the composed. (Even that sounds nebulous)

Let me elaborate. The organic portion of an art is its ability to change, adapt and become individualized for each practitioner while retaining the overall premise of the initial art form. Foe example – painters work with some form of liquid media which carries pigment. Steampunk artists work with Victorian themes and whatever else their imagination/experience provides. This weekend at the FSEE I saw everything from reenacting costumes for a steampunk version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to a mobile replica of the Time Machine by H.G. Wells. The varied costume and even folks without personas were made welcome and accepted for their presence as much as for their art.

The crux of this is that steampunk as an art needs really to fulfill, in my mind, a few precepts:

– Spanning generations and cultures.

– Open to varied interpretation by practitioners.

– Available to be accessible to those people outside of the direct practice of the art.

Steampunk truly accomplishes this by not only the examples I’ve cited, but by its growth. As we watch its insurgence to the wider market, it will change and morph and become a different but valuable portion of our culture. I am watching that happen, but that, dearest readers, is another blog post.

Please think about the above comments and reply as needed. I’d love your input on this discussion.

Dearest Readers and Friends,
I have of late been privy to discussions/debates concerning the nature of a genre I have become increasingly fond of over the last few years: Steampunk.
Coming into this thoughtful fantasy, I was amazed at the shear variety of work that was “steamed”. I had grown enamored of Datamancer’s functional art, Dr. Grymm’s delightfully crafted sculptures, the cosplay of conventioners and the like. Perhaps my favorite portion was the rebirth of interest in classic imagineering from the very era steampunks emulate.
The literary works and art of the genre inspired me as I thought of my own life; I have been enthralled by gears and clockworks my entire life. As a child, Lego building blocks Co. introduced a line that was about creating working machines with visible gears and mechanics. It was called Technics. I bought all I could find with my paper route money. I continued to purchase these sets up through my late teens. Peering through my sketchbooks (which I have saved all from age 12 on) I found gears etc were a constant theme. Even of late, my wife would laugh when we passed shop windows with clocks, I’d always have to stop and stand in awe.

Perhaps it is the focus of what we do as artists that makes steampunk so appealing as it now hits the mass market in so many ways. Time is what defines artists. Artists are who define time. We are the keepers of history, so why not imagine our own history? We have created parallel universes, altered states of being, images and words that capture the imagination of this generation like the turn of the last century was captured by Verne, Lovecraft, Doyle, Mieles and others. The fact of the matter is, this generation of faceted time where instantaneous is not fast enough, steampunk flaunts patience.

This brings me to the case at hand, what and who defines “steampunk”? I do. You do. Anyone who practices the art of change and rebirth of imagination does. I will refer to the end of the word first since it is the one that is taken for granted most. We all know where the steam portion came from and yet we forget the better, more important portion of the genre; punk. In the late 1970’s children from England rebelled against the class system by rehashing old icons of hatred (neo-nazi), self-mutilation (piercings with odd objects in obviously distasteful methods and odd hair), wearing clothing inappropriate for a respectable youth (rips, tears, leather, etc.) all in reaction to one phrase, “There is no future.” They saw their lives as over and the confines of their system daunting to the point where the outward manifestation of their angst became a statement to the generation before them, “This is what you’ve left us with. No way out and no future.”

When the genre hit New York, the term “punk” was coined by Lou Reed. By the time it reached our shores it had lost its meaning. It was marketed. It was recorded. It had a future. The premise still held on in a spark: youth discontent with a system they had no control over.

We now come to steampunk. Not created by youth. Created by artists. A literary genre that is defined by the discontent with the rampant view of technology and the world in general as disposable and temporary. Adults began to recognize that we too could form a group of outsiders determined to define time and space as not linear, but flowing with imaginative possibilities and colliding in a whirlwind of now and then. History itself became a playground. The craftsmanship of days gone by with the current ability to have information in an instant gave birth to what we have now.

I am a steampunk artist. I write, illustrate, sculpt and enjoy steampunk. I have always been a slave of time and yet now, we walk together creating amazing things that intrigue others. Is my book or my art just “putting goggles on something and calling it steampunk?” No. It is subtle. It is not like others in that there are hints of altered time and snippets of advanced tech in a Victorian setting. It was said once to me that the reason my writing worked so well was that the steampunk comes out quietly as if it is just a fact of life, not like a hammer over the head proclaiming its existence.

That being said. My version and perception of how the genre is handled varies even within my own work. Sometimes I like the hammer blow of difference. The bottom line is that this genre is punk. It is about making a societal statement in the way that best fits you. If you want to be subtle and just wear goggles, do it. If you want to outfit yourself in a fully automated steam powered suit and walk through the city streets, more coal to your fire, my friend. Anyone should be able to express him or herself in whatever fashion is befitting them. No one should narrow a definition to the genre. Least of all me.

Yours in Art,

Jason Robert LeClair

Dearest Readers,

It occurs to me that you may need a hook to catch you into this book. Let me offer you the first chapter here on the blog and also on FaceBook.

 

 

Chapter 1                    My father’s son

 

All young men wish to change their circumstances by excelling past what they know and the places they have been confined to all their lives – no one more than myself. I had thought if I changed my life it would place me outside the stigma my father had created before I was born seventeen years ago. If only thoughts and wishes were the same as the truth.

I grew up not knowing my father terribly well. Most of my memories with him happened prior to my eighth birthday. In the last ten years, no one in the world has seen nor heard from him. It may sound like exaggeration, but the world as a whole has been searching for my father for a decade.

Three years ago, September of 1915 on the Monday before my fifteenth birthday, my father resurfaced in my life.  He made contact with me despite the stupendous risk to himself considering the worldwide turmoil for which he was responsible. I say contact, but nothing was even close to correspondence. I simply received a package and a card. It wasn’t, truthfully, intended for me. The package was addressed to my guardian, Professor Clerc.

I was living with my godparents, Professor Clerc and his wife Dr. Clerc; the dearest friends of my father from his time teaching at Adams University in Cambridge. They were entrusted with my custody after my father disappeared.

I was coming home that dreadful afternoon from school after a particularly torturous day of being ridiculed, shunned and generally abused. Besides what the instructors did, my classmates also bullied me on a regular basis. My godfather spoke with the headmaster at school several times on this matter, but it did nothing to change the opinions of the faculty, staff and students.

Hermius T. Anstruther, Fa.D. is still my father. Nothing can change the fact that fate has given me the distinct place in history as the only son of the most infamous scientist in the history of the North American Empire. It wouldn’t be quite as bad if he, had discovered radio waves like Tesla, or light bulb filaments like Edison.

No, Dr. Anstruther made the world question the human superiority on this planet. In this age of thought and rebirth of science so many great thinkers have given humanity more to believe in and more conviction of humans inalienable right to be the premier species on the globe. There I go speaking like my father.

 

As I remember it, almost three years ago on that fateful day, the package day, there was a boy on the stoop of our flat. His face was ruddy and healthy with a stick propped on the stair next to him. I imagine he had been playing ball with it at some point that day.  The boy seemed impatient. He was staring down at his feet twiddling and skipping while he sat holding a five dollar bill in his left hand. He glanced back and forth from the stick as if he wished only to go on playing the game he had started before being interrupted to sit on my stoop. The bill was jutting its blue-green face from underneath a brown paper package wrapped in far too much twine for its size.

“Professor Clerc?” the lad asked hopeful before he looked up and realized I was just a few years older than him.

I replied wearily with a twinge of suspicion, “No, but can I help you?”

“This package is for him.  I got this fin here to sit on these steps almost all day waiting for him ‘cause the guy who gave me the package told me I could only give it to Professor Clerc, and he’d know if I did or not. Which was awful creepy but I did like he asked me. I’m still here waiting for him,” rambled the boy.

“Did the man give his name when he gave you the package?” My curiosity was getting the better of me. Professor Clerc was so boring and uninteresting. Who would give him such a mysterious package? Who, also, would take the time and trouble to message so oddly a university history professor?

“Nope,” he answered abruptly.

“A card perhaps?” I queried further.

“Oh, yeah, he did and told me to give that to him, even though I can’t read one side of it, ‘cause it’s just a bunch of lines,” he finished this last sentence by putting out his hand and showing me the card. The card must have visibly disturbed me, because the boy backed off slightly at my reaction. I had seen that writing before, years ago.

“I’ll give Professor Clerc the package for you, if you want. He’s my guardian. I live here.” I said abruptly. I was eager to get that note and compare it to a book I keep in the Clerc’s study.

“I don’t know. That guy who gave me the package was pretty serious and very scary.”

I spoke with renewed confidence and tried to persuade the boy to give me the brown paper clad mystery parcel .

“I promise, I’ll deliver it. Unless you want to wait here for the next two hours until Professor Clerc gets home.”

“Two hours?!” the boy sounded exasperated. “I’ve been here all day. My buddies are playing an’ I’m here all day.”

“Are you sure it’s worth just a fin then?” I asked realizing I was getting his thought process started. Then I jingled a few dimes in my hand as an offering.

“You know, you’re right.” He paused, “You promise you’ll give him the package?” I shook my head as he cautiously handed the box with the note and looked around to make sure no one watched him give it to me rather than Clerc.

I looked at the card as the boy snatched the coins from my hand and ran off to play as the day grew slightly darker in the autumn twilight of September.

Father made it a point to teach me things at an early age about places and people most any parent had never even heard of. When I was five, he had written me a note in Futhark, the ancient written language of Nordic tribes. Only my father would write in Futhark knowing how it stifled me the first time he used it.

We would pass messages and letters to each other in this or some other dead written script for fun. I tucked the package beneath my arm and with the note still in hand, hurried to the study.

I was out of practice with Futhark and needed my reference guide. The giant tome of language that I took from the shelf in the study was my fifth birthday gift. An odd gift for a five year old, but my childhood was odd in the first place.

The book was marked at the section on Futhark with a note I received from my father on my fifth birthday. Tattered on the edge and yellowed where it had lain outside, I struggled to remember what it read. My father was a great riddler. He always had a great deal of fun developing quirky thought problems for people on special occasions.

As I retranslated the letters on the older note, I remembered the whole phrase before I finished:

 

The search for knowledge must never end. Thirteen autumns will pass before the flame of truth lights your way.

 

Moving to the new note, the handwriting was the same, but there were new symbols. It was definitely another piece of the riddle begun ten years before. I began the translation and noticed writing on the back of the paper. I suppose I had been too caught up with the fascination of my father’s letter to notice that on the reverse of the note was a letter in Father’s unmistakable scrawl.

 

Clerc, this is for Cavan when the time comes.

 

No signature, but still no doubt who had written it. I longed to run outside and see him. I wished to scream at him for leaving me, to beg to go with him wherever it was he was hiding. This was all fantasy. The boy who had the parcel and note was long gone, who knew how long he had been sitting there. This could be the end of a long chain of messengers that led to the eventual delivery of this secretive box.

Those were the thoughts that kept me in the study. I was tempted to leap out of my skin with joy-filled panic at the thought that my father was near or even coming back for me. Everyone in my life had at this point thought him dead. I knew that translating this note was now my only key to finding Father, if in fact he was still alive.

Sitting at the large desk by the window and grabbing one of the fountain pens from it’s stand, I began translating letter by letter, dividing it into words, then phrases, then sentences.

 

Either by choice or by fate, the son will follow the path of his father.

You must go out into the world to find your truth.

These few truths I found on my path may guide you on yours.

Only you can choose whether to trust in fate.

May this flame light your way to me at journey’s end.

 

I lost control over my hand and the pen as I finished the last four words. Ink spattered out of the tip as I pressed it too forcefully into the page placing dancing dollops on Professor Clerc’s new marble blotter. I hadn’t been paying attention to my surroundings as I looked up and saw the professor standing only a few feet from me and a now very ink laden desk.

“Cavan? What on earth are you doing? And what’s that you’re writing?” came the stout voice more with concern than chiding. He looked fatherly, plump in the middle with a hairline on constant retreat for the last decade. Though he and Dr. Clerc had no children of their own, they treated me mostly as their own. His manner toward me was always of sage counsel and mentor while avoiding getting too close. I never knew if it was out of respect to my father or his discomfort with children below the age of eighteen.

“Cavan. Are you alright?” was the continued query.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine, thank you. I just, I was, you see I…” continuing to stammer my response, I hid the Futhark note in my pocket before the professor got a further look at it. I continued to improvise, “…I was just looking at this book Father had given me years ago. I always loved his riddles.” I lied.

“He always did have a way with puzzles of all sorts, your father. I would surmise that is the reason for his obsession with what he often called ‘our little evolutionary puzzle’. ” My guardian answered trying desperately not to reveal too much. Every year it was this way always about the time of my birthday, the Professor would become edgy. Well, edgier than normal. His mannerism toward me changed and the tension in the flat rose tremendously. I imagined at the time it had something to do with the package that now lay, still unseen by the Professor, at my feet next to the desk.

How to get it to my room? At fifteen I did tend to be clever, but a parcel wasn’t easy to hide for a boy in autumn school uniform. My jacket was too far away to grab, so lying was my only recourse. It was the one thing I abhorred in the world, lying. In this situation, I felt I had no choice.

Attempting to remain nonchalant, I picked up the parcel along with my schoolbooks and began to exit the room praying Clerc would not notice.

“Cavan? What’s that parcel?” He queried with a tone of suspicion. Here came the second lie within minutes.

“Oh, this? It’s a portion of a project I was working on at school. A sculpture, sir. Would you like to see it?” The last bit came out as a gamble that Clerc would have no interest in my teenage artwork.

“No. No, that’s alright. It looks as though it must be fragile with all that wrapping. Be careful with it. Why don’t you run along now as I have some work to do here. Don’t worry about the language text or the ink; I’ll put it back for you and clean up from that unreliable pen of mine.” He sounded relieved which only spurned my curiosity further.

 

The stairs flew by me as I took them two at a time with balusters flashing in a blur next to my legs as I tore down the hall to my room. I only slowed for a second to pass by the fairy cage. Dr. Clerc had long kept fairies as pets. With my thoughts still on my father I slowed down and looked closely at the two fairies behind the bars. Father always did have a problem with this sort of thing. I remember him saying the same thing every time he passed a pet shop or proper lady’s garden.

“How odd I find that humans keep fairies in cages. If only they knew what they were doing.” He would then abruptly change the subject to the weather or some other mundane piece of conversation.

I realize it was his specialty in science, to study fairies, but he almost sounded like a madman at times when faced with how people treated these insects. I’d grown up all my early years being taught to appreciate the wonder of this world by a man with a very different perspective on the common everyday. Father often pointed out the wondrous things in the simplest places.

I found that this thought slowed me when I watched the fairies in Dr. Clerc’s cage flitter from petal to petal on the silk flowers they had been given to mimic being outside year-round. The little things seemed to speak with each other in twits and clicks almost as a language. Like looking at little winged apes, the two females played, ate and slept in this terrarium all day long. What harm could possibly come of retaining insects in a safe place?

Perhaps it is because they look so human and Father spent so much time studying them that he felt a connection. I remember placing the thought out of my head and continuing on my way to the sanctuary of my room. It’s odd, but I can’t recall that there was much to my room. There was a bed, a desk, stool, and a lamp. The real power of the place lie in two things – my electric Victrola I had received as a thirteenth birthday gift and my drawings strewn about my desk.

After tossing my books to the floor and the parcel and note upon my desk, I walked to my Victrola and placed my favorite record on it – Gustav Mahler’s Seventh Symphony played by the Royal Orchestra. This piece always resonated with me when I needed to think. The music began as power surged through the machine and spun the disk along with my thoughts. Mahler’s notes played on my brain as I picked up the box and note.

What did Father mean by May this flame light your way to me at journey’s end? What journey? Was it life? Did he hope to see me in heaven? Not that he believed in it. Conversely, neither did I. The items in the box must be the clue to solve this riddle of his planned for ten years at least. Taking out the pocketknife I always carried, I cut the twine and ripped open the paper. The sight was as astonishing as it was puzzle box.

It was a box, wooden and carved by hand out of an exotic wood I had never seen with the finest detail that only a master craftsman could have created. The markings were foreign and new to me. Even with all my father’s forcing me to study ancient language, the only thing I could make out was that it might be tribal. There was a mix of symbols and letters, like an amalgamation of Germanic tribal writing mixed with Egyptian hieroglyphics.

My fingers perused the marks as thoroughly as my eyes. I drank in this object with all my senses. It smelled almost of fresh wood, but looked ancient in nature. Not that it was battered and buried, but the markings were so strikingly alien to this world that I felt transported to somewhere else by the mere presence of the thing which rattled as if it contained something.

The reverse side of the note is the only piece of this puzzle that kept me from toying with the box until it opened and revealed its contents.

 

Clerc, this is for Cavan when the time comes.

 

What time? What did the Professor know about my father that he was keeping from me? As I mentioned before, I hate lying. That stands for lies of omission as well. How long had they kept this from me? Almost as if on cue, Professor Clerc knocked at my bedroom door.

“Cavan?” He asked while I stumbled to hide the box and note.

“Yes, sir?” I answered hoping there was no reason for him to come into my room.

“It will be time for dinner shortly; please do your schoolwork beforehand as you have your lessons tonight.” I had forgotten about my piano lessons. Damn. I hated learning piano nearly as much as I hated the half dozen other instruments I was forced to try. Thankfully that year by Christmas, the piano teacher would give up. The Clercs would finally realize I am not a musician.

“Thank you, sir. I will get my work done.” As I said this, I had no intention of getting my schoolwork done. I took the box and note from the temporary hiding place I had put them in and continued my investigation. The box had no discernable lid or end seam. It had appeared to be carved from a single block. It couldn’t have been because something was inside. I could see it through the only hole in it, which was located at the center.

When the dinner bell rang, I placed the box in its hiding place once more and went dutifully downstairs. For the next two weeks, I searched the object with every means I knew. Magnifiers revealed no cracks or seams. Researching the language did no good as it did not appear in any of the books in the study. I even went so far as to make rubbings of the exterior with conte crayon and paper. Taking these rubbings to the library on Adams University campus, I still had no luck. My interest in the box waned, and it began to collect dust in the corner of the hidden horn compartment of my Victrola.

Every so often throughout the next three years, I would take it out, look it over and place it back in its hiding place. Like my father, it was another mystery I thought would never be solved. It was left to wait for me to care again about solving that mystery.

The wait would be long.

 

Dearest Readers,

“I have of late lost all my mirth.” Not entirely, but certainly I have been less enthused about my individual work than normal. The rigors of my career have caused me to not have the leisure time I so desperately seek to do my writing and sketching. I find that as much as I adore my chosen vocation, the problem lies in that I am spreading myself artistically parchment thin.

Upon speaking with a colleague, she stated, “Knowing you, you’ve got lots of pokers in the fire.”

I responded with, “At this point there are more pokers than coals.”

Although she thought I was joking and we shared a chuckle (mine loaded and forced), I could not have been more serious. Going on the metaphorical, I do not have a lot on my plate, as much as an entire buffet on a tea saucer. As I slowly cross to do items off my list, the slots get filled in with more tasks to accomplish.

I am sorry to sound the slightest bit of a complaining moaner. I do truly mean to simply vent on this forum.

Happiness, for me, is found in the things that inspire me. My family, art, the work of my predecessors these are the charms in my life that persuade me to prevail. I challenge myself to achieve not only to better myself, but to better enrich the lives of my readers. For this, I press forward.

The vast amount of work that seems to daunt my day will soon pass, giving way to a more open time during which I can concentrate on my art and writing. For now, I must draw from the chaos that is my career and allow it to feed future endeavors. To note the tumult and din of the happenings in my life in order to feed the fires of inspiration will be my new goal. Grasping at the dust shooting past me like particles in a beam of light, I will heave my net into the mass and glean from it what information will cause my stories to flourish and my art to shine.

Thank you, Dearest Readers, for your patience as I vent and regroup during the storm of activity I am placed in. I sometimes need to recall the blessing that is my career as it allows me to create and enjoy my daily work instead of trudge through menial tasks and profit-seeking banality that once beset me. For now, I will finish the days set before me and return in a short while to my artistic loves.

Yours in Art,

 

Jason

Well, Dearest Readers,

I know you’re all waiting for book two with bated breath, but tonight I looked at my clock and into my brain deciding that now, at four minutes to midnight, is not the right time to compose a novel. If you’re wondering just how far I am at this point, my estimate is somewhere around one sixth of the way done if this book turns out to be the same word count as the last one.

There has been a delightful glitch to all of this work, a birth. Rather, a rebirth. My lovely and adored wife reminded me of a story I began two years ago and tabled in favor of Broken Silences. I reviewed the synopsis that I had composed and realized while the iron of my brain was hot, I must strike.

No worries, book two will not suffer. In fact, as I write, I find I am ever increasing my abilities in the medium. Like all of the art I generate, the more I do, the more I learn. Practice may not make perfect, but it certainly does make better. So, as I create more works and characters, I hope you’ll be patient. It will be worth it.

I promise. As always, I am,

Yours in Art,

Jason