Castellan the Black and his Wise Draconic Musings #BrainfluffCastellanthe Black #WiseDragonicMusings #PickyEaters


Even if he flaps around the skies like a drunken harpy, no lord worth the name will ever admit to being a bad flier. So be prepared to follow up a slur on a lord’s flying ability with a fight. Probably to the death.

Castellan the Black, mighty dragon warrior, or Casta the Grey as he used to be known as, features in my short story Picky Eaters, written to provide a humorous escape from all the stuff that isn’t happening on Wyvern Peak… All proceeds for the duration of its publishing life are donated to mental health charities.

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Looking back at April, one of the best things I did was celebrate National Awareness Month. I had promised myself I would read a book about autism, preferably a non-fiction one, maybe a memoir, and I found just the book in Ron Suskind’s Life Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes and Autism.

This 2014 publication by Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is the story of a family, a family turned topsy-turvy by autism. With Owen, Suskind’s son, autism struck at the age of three. Ron and Cornelia, Owen’s parents went from having a typical, “normal” three year old to being the parents of a child who did not speak, often exhibited strange physical acts, and just seemed not to “be there.” Owen’s older brother, Walt, contributed to this book (as did Owen, himself), giving the reader a handle on how autism affects the entire family. Strangely enough, Owen’s parents were able to take his obsession with Disney animated movies, and turn it into a tool used to communicate with their “lost son.” Spoiler Alert: Owen goes on to meet several Disney animators, falls in love, and starts a special Disney Club that acts as a support group for special needs students in college, demonstrating “the true meaning of the words, ‘happily ever after’ .”

Another thing I did was to donate to Autism Speaks after researching the organization that provides research and even assistance to the autism community, something that made me feel good.

At school, I had my classes follow my lesson plan for an “Autism Awareness Day, where my freshmen discussed their original thoughts/opinions/feelings about autism. In the nine o’clock class students discussed in small groups siblings/friends/people they knew who had been diagnosed with autism. In my ten o’clock, we had an autistic young woman, who had shared this diagnosis when she did her Literacy Narrative with the whole class, and her group was blessed with having access to personal experience. All in all it was a good experience for both classes.

I hope to do more next year for Autism Awareness month, but I am warmed with what I learned and shared about autism with others.

Autism awareness card or background. vector illustration.



This year I celebrated National Poetry Month in all aspects of my life, not just in my teaching. It was a rewarding immersion into poetry and a growth experience for me in so many ways.

In my personal reading, I found myself reading old favorites and exploring new poets. I did a “study” of Emily Dickinson’s poem,

“He ate and drank the precious Words–

His spirit grew robust–He knew no more that he was poor,

Nor that his frame was dust–

He danced along the dingy Days

And this Bequest of Wings

Was but a book–What Liberty

A loosened spirit brings.”

As a bookstore owner and a passionate bibliophile, this previously unknown poem brought great pleasure and pensive thought to me as I went on the internet to discover about this poem the critics answers to often asked, minute-detailed questions and interpretations of such obscure lines as, “I taste a liquor never brewed.” from another Dickinson poem, related to the first line of this poem. I spent two hour-long sessions re-reading my much-worn, very marked-up copy of Emily Dickinson’s Poems, selected and introduced by Thomas H. Johnson, which includes much information about “The Belle of Amherst.”

I had planned to re-read my favorite poetry collection, home body by rupi kaur, but time ran out. I did use money earned through professional growth courses to buy three copies for prizes in the Poetry Contest held this month in my Freshman Composition classes (more on this later).

I acquired a new collection of poetry The Hurting Kind by Ada Simon, Poet Laureate of the U.S. which I will read soon, and took down from my TBR shelf and enjoyed, This Poem is a Nest by Irene Latham and art by Johanna Wright.

Overall, I invested my personal time and energies into poetry to the best degree I have since I first started observing National Poetry Month in April.

RAE 5/1/23

Choosing the “Newbie” category and not being good at following audiobooks, I took on the 2023 Audiobook Challenge around halfway through 2023 to read seven audiobooks before December 31st, 2023. This is the second book I have listened to.

Zoe Klein has written a debut novel that keeps the listeners attention, provides excitement in adventuresome scenes, and is lyrical in its word choices and phrasing. The novel introduces us to the main character, Page Brookstone, an archeologist/anthropologist , who meets a couple, Ibrahim and Naima Baraket, who beg her to excavate their living room to discover the source of ghosts/spirits who “haunt” their home. Risking damage to her professional reputation, Page visits the couple and has an “experience” she cannot name that causes her to take on the project amid taunts of being a ghost hunter and kook.

Although Page has doubts, soon an ancient cistern is dug out, the excavation expanded, and finally the discovery of a lifetime–two lovers buried in one casket arranged in an eternal embrace. Also in the coffin are scrolls attributed to the woman, titled “The Scrolls of Anatiya” full of exquisite poetry. The author begins each chapter with these imaginary chapter and verse quotations from Anatiya which bring delight to the reader. Even more exciting, the scrolls identify the male in the coffin as Jeremiah, the Hebrew prophet, the “Weeping Prophet.”

During the excavation, Page becomes involved in a forbidden romance, then is pursued by religious zealots who do not want the casket exhumed, professional cohorts who want to steal Page’s glory, and “relentless critics” who question the authenticity of the scrolls. All this turmoil puts Page’s “dig” and reputation in question, and she and her best friend go “on the run” with the scrolls to translate them and hide them from authorities who demand them. Danger and flying bullets and explosives follow them, leading to an exciting conclusion and a satisfying epilogue.

This novel has been compared to The Red Tent and The People of the Book because of its Hebrew origins. I have read both of those, and Drawing in the Dust far surpasses both of those novels. I highly recommend it to listen to/read for a literary experience.

March/April Classics Club Selection

My challenge for 2023 on classics was to read one every two months. Boy, am I behind! I am counting this novel (with pictures) as a classic because it contains two classic characters, Jane Austin and the poet Shelley.

Published in 2021, this novel by Janet Todd was a gift, a pass-along from a friend who thought that as a Literature major I would enjoy it. And I did. However, this is not for everyone because of its disjointed organization and its “inventive” nature. It presents “the dialogue of the living in vivid conversation with the illustrious dead”–specifically, Jane Austin and Shelley. The novel traces Shelley’s life through the research of his biographer, a character in the story. Fran, a major character, frequently talks to Jane Austin, who operates much like an imaginary friend, and acts as a companion in Fran’s cottage with a special garden. The trio of main characters, all older women, are rounded out by Fran’s English friend and an American author.

The trio’s quest takes them to Wales and even to Venice. As they are joined in their travels by a young, hip African American woman and Shelley’s biographer, who soon become a couple, the group recreates the trips made by Shelley in his lifetime and become well acquainted. So well acquainted that at the end, the three major characters choose a different style of communal living.

This strange, yet appealing book has been described as a “meditation on age, mortality, friendship, the tensions and attractions between generations, hope, and the excitement of change.”

It’s different; it’s sophisticated, and it’s literary. This novel is an experience a Lit major like me enjoys as a special treat.

Monday Musings

(image borrowed from “The Starry Night Elf” a blogging friend, and (I believe) a fellow Texan)

One of the best experiences of my life was going to the Van Gogh Experience when it came to Houston. I went with a neighbor (She drove. I try not to drive in Houston traffic.) and her two daughters, one in third grade, the other in kindergarten. Both girls were darned good artists themselves, and both responded to the exhibits in ways that enhanced the experience I had.

I have always loved “Starry Night,” and if I ever see a print of it, I shall buy it and hang it at Rae’s Reads.

Have a good week ahead.