I am Lance Conrad, author of the Historian Tales series. My currently published books, The Price of Creation, The Price of Nobility, and The Weight of Swords are available through Amazon, Dawn Star Press, and other excellent booksellers. Thank you for reading!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Confessions of a Bibliophile

   I love books.
   I realize that there are a lot of people out there who enjoy books for a variety of reasons: plots, characters, information, escapism, and so on. I love books for all these reasons. Beyond that, I just love books.
   I love the smell of them, the earthy woodiness of the paper and binding glue. I enjoy the heft and the solidity of a hardback. These are things I've never felt from an electronic reader.
   Still, I see the value of having an entire library available on a single device, so I have tried to analyze my reluctance to embrace this exciting new technology. Surely there must be a reason for the intense loyalty I feel for my bound pages. You'll need to bear with me until the end of this, but here is what I've come up with:
   State Dependent Learning - This is a recognized factor in the educational realm. The idea is that your memories are tied together with your physical state and surroundings. The usefulness of this is immediately obvious. Here's some examples:
  • If you're studying for a test, try to simulate the exact conditions of the test, you'll remember the material better
  • If you tapped your pencil when you learned it, you should tap your pencil when you try to remember it
  • If you were listening to a certain song when you read something, hearing that same song will light up the memories you had of that subject and your surroundings
   Just keep this in mind as I bring in the other players. Next we have...
   Perception of Reality - There is a significant part of the human brain that cannot tell the difference between a real events and imagined ones. For proof, you need to look no further than a person getting goosebumps or being startled at a scary movie. While the tiny bit at the front of your brain knows that it is all pretend, the rest of your brain is freaking out thinking that an attack is imminent.
   Sports trainers are just barely beginning to catch on to this fascinating phenomenon. Using mental imagery has often been as effective as actual physical practice in refining reflexes. Wrestlers and dancers who have been out of the game for months due to injury have suddenly burst back on the scene as good as ever, just from picturing their moves and routines as they lay in bed.
   The Wrap-Up - So let's combine these things and re-examine what was really happening during those thousands of hours that I spent reading, my head bowed over a book as if in prayer. My mind believed in what it was seeing unravel in the words of books.
   I have flown. I have dived. I have been wounded and crawling, no friends for miles. I have fought nobly, demons before me and innocents at my back. I have fallen in love and felt glorified as the object of my affection grew to love me as they saw the sincerity of my soul. These experiences were real to my mind and helped form my whole life and character as I bled, suffered, and loved with my companions in history and fiction.
   Through the miracle of state dependent learning, all of these magnificent experiences have been tied together, bound into one universal symbol: books. When I hold a book in my hands I feel the weight of it, I smell the ink and leave fingerprints on the cover. These miniscule experiences trigger echoes in my mind, lighting up synapses and calling up all the emotions and excitement of the many full lives I've lived. How could I ever move past such a bond?
   I love books.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

One American's Take on Ukraine

   The internet is awash right now with stories about the protests in Ukraine and the government's violent and oppressive response. Protesters have died, policemen have died, and everything is gearing up for more violence.
   The newscasters and political analysts are scrambling over each other to offer explanations and predictions. It didn't take long for someone to start saying that this was a U.S. versus Russia issue.
   I have lived in Ukraine and some of my best friends live there. However, I claim no expertise to draw a political analysis of the situation. Rather, as a writer, it is my privilege to take a step back and see the big picture.
   What I have to offer is a story.
   The nation of Ukraine includes some of the best real estate in the world. Almost every conqueror in Western history made a play to conquer and keep Ukraine. It's rich black soil has been washed in blood over and over as each conquering people wiped out the ones who came before.
   The closest it ever came to having its own independence was during the time of the Cossacks, a mixture of freemen, escaped slaves, and landless nobles who were versatile and ruthless fighters. Some have compared them to the mountain men of the American west, tough and hardy.
   It all fell apart when their "ally" Russia came to their aid in their wars against the Polish and the Turks. Russia came willingly to save them, and just as willingly stayed to occupy and rule. This has never been far from the Ukrainian mind.
   When Communism fell over the East, Stalin used brutal force and artificial famines to starve entire cities into submission and break the Ukrainian will. Millions died before they bowed. When the wall fell, Ukraine was one of the first to break free of the Soviet Union. This helped provide the final blow, as Ukraine's fertile fields were known as the "bread basket" of the USSR and provided food for the sprawling empire.
   Still, Ukraine struggled under the weight of corrupt government officials, strong organized crime, and continued interference from Russia. This came to a point when pro-Russia presidential candidate Victor Yanukovich orchestrated a rigged election in 2004, poisoning his opponent, abusing voters, and committing outright fraud.
   Lovely guy, huh?
   These atrocities led to the Orange Revolution, similar to the one going on now. Yanukovich was thrown out and the poisoned Yuschenko took the lead. Internal strife and opposition tied his hands and he was finally run out of the government, bruised and broken. I met him here in the U.S., where his idea of a vacation was going to a farm and working the fields on a tractor, far from press and prying eyes.
   Care to guess who took the reins once he was out of the way? None other than Victor Yanukovich, the same despot who had been pulled from power during the Orange Revolution!
   Now we find ourselves in the same spot. Almost ten years later and the Ukrainian people are still not rid of this oppressive, violent snake in the grass. His policies coincide wonderfully with Russia's goals and prosperity, while somehow completely neglecting his own people.
   My hat goes off to the Ukrainian people as my heart goes out to them. I feel as bad for the police as I do the protestors. Both are pawns in a ridiculous power struggle brought on by a few power mongers, entrenched in key positions. The people of Ukraine have everything they need to be a great and thriving nation.
   If only their government would get out of their way.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Unto the day...

    I read some words today, as I am prone to do. These words were "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." There is something special about that thought. We are a nation and a society that gets entirely lost in time. Somehow, we have managed to spread ourselves out over our own timelines. This is the worst kind of time travel... ever. We anchor ourselves in the past and then reach hard for the future, stretching ourselves beyond our means and straining the present to a breaking point.
    In this twisted system, we place our greatest triumphs and tragedies beyond our reach in both directions. Driven by our memories of successes and failures already faded, our attention is on the future, hoping for its prizes and fearing its pitfalls.
    It's too much to handle and we don't really handle it well. Imagine then, what it would be like if we brought this stretched existence back into focus. Leave only wisps of will and memory to act as guideposts in past and future. With that kind of presence in the present, a man or woman might just be able to cope with the evils of any given day. Imagine the sanguine sleep you would enjoy after a day where you had helped the people right in front of you, forgave the wrongs that threatened to lower your spirit, and worked hard so you could end the day with pride.

    Surely that would be enough for a day.

Monday, February 10, 2014

It begins...

People whose opinion I respect have told me that I simply must begin a blog. Up until this moment in time, I have held back. It is not because of humility, for I have none. It is not because of a lack of things to say, for I have plenty. Rather, it is due to a feeling of mercy for the populace of the internet. Millions upon millions of hardworking, honest people are on the internet every day to find information, entertainment, news, and cat videos. Surely it would be rude of me to inflict myself on these poor people with a blog that will inevitably dissolve into insane ramblings.
Still, I have been assured that almost no one will ever read this blog. Comforted by this, I am officially starting this blog dedicated to The Historian Tales, great literature, lasers, or anything else that might traipse its way across my mind. Thank you, reader, and good luck.