10 Books That Have Stuck With Me

I’ve seen this meme (or ones like it) on Facebook, G+ and over at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds. I like it. It means a bit more than “favorite,” because sometimes they are and sometimes they’re not.

1. Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny – Lots of firsts here. First Zelazny for me. First real run in with the anti-hero. And Morningstar was the first character I can remember making me ache with a sort of deep, helpless loneliness. “Almost. It’s always almost morning” breaks my heart every time.

2. The Bachman Books by Stephen King – In particular, “Rage” and “The Long Walk,” but mostly “The Long Walk.” These books came in early in my fascination with the human mind pushed to its limits, and what happens afterward.

3. IT by Stephen King – Like him or hate him, you can’t claim that King doesn’t have a way with memorable imagery. IT was probably too long, but it did a lot of things right. He captured childhood very well, both the energy and the isolation. IT itself evokes the fear of the unknown very well. And of course, poor Georgie. “We all float down here.”

4. Heinlein Juveniles – They sort of clump together in my mind. Not the storylines, but the experience of reading them. They definitely had a strong impact on me as a kid, some in what I now consider to be negative ways (Starship Troopers) and others in more positive ones (Have Space-suit, Will Travel).

5. The Handmaid’s Tale  by Margaret Atwood – Hopelessness. Totalitarianism. Fear of religion and government. Beautiful language. This book really has it all.

6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury –  My first dystopia. This book helped me to learn that I have an existential horror of ignorance, particularly willful ignorance and destruction of knowledge. Montag’s impossible choice, to turn away from everything he knows or continue doing something he has realized is wrong, fascinates me.

7. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – Truly a marvelously crafted book, and it plays into my fascination with distrust of authority. Other themes, such as doing the right thing even though it’s hopeless, also resonate with me.

8. Growing Up Weightless by John M. Ford – This book is beautifully written, and also deals intimately with a lot of the themes of childhood. Changing but being afraid to change. Strangely overlapping inclusion and isolation. The feeling that one’s parents are both vital but also alien. In addition, Ford’s consideration of the effects of extraterrestrial living on the everyday reality of life is exhaustive and fascinating.

9. Iron and Silk my Mark Salzman – The only memoir that I would say really “stuck with me.” Salzman’s story of his trip to China to teach English is fascinating. Salzman is an American who has studied Chinese and China, studied Chinese martial arts, and plays the cello. His frustrations with the bureaucracy, making friends, experiences of Chinese home life, and his studies with martial arts teachers paint a complex and living picture of life in China in the 1980s.

10. Stone Monkey: An Alternative, Chinese-Scientific, Reality by Bruce Holbrook – I partly fibbed in #9. There are memoir aspects of Stone Monkey. The value in this book wasn’t the specifics so much as the approach to thinking, and the concept of polar-completeness as an alternative to binary or extreme/spectrum thinking. It’s also interesting from the point of view of an outsider learning about another culture and way of thinking.

Dapper Dragon Soaps are live on Etsy

Dapper Dragon Soaps are live on Etsy

The shop has gone live at Etsy, with six varieties of shaving soap.

I’ve also been updating the website with additional information, links, and a soaping-focused blog.

Dapper Dragon is live

Dapper Dragon is live

I’ve managed to put together the basic website for Dapper Dragon Soaps. I plan to add more content on a pretty regular basis, once I am finished with the initial rush of soap making.

My Etsy store has been configured as well, but there are no active listings, yet. That’s for 3/15.

Dapper Dragon is Approaching and Picking Up Speed

My soap hobby cum nascent business is gaining momentum lately. I’m getting pretty excited about it. I have a planned launch inventory, though who knows if it will be enough. I guess I’d rather have too little and have to reorder and adjust, than order too much and take a big loss when the line doesn’t take off.

I’ve reserved the doman DapperDragon.com. I’m in the midst of setting up the site using Joomla. The logo is 50% done.

I’ve got an initial scent line-up, too:
Dapper Dragon – An old-school barbershop/cologne smell, with a twist. A blend of citrus oils and canteloupe, combined with smooth oakmoss, and spicy lavandin and black pepper.
Ice Wyrm – Peppermint and rosemary, with a hint of black pepper in the background.
Lavender Lizard – A mix of French lavender and lavandin, with notes of oakmoss and black pepper. (I’m starting to see a trend.)
Blood Orange
Jasmine & Vanilla

If things continue to go well, I see the site launching in 4 to 6 weeks!

Writing and Soaping Update, 12/04

As I suspected, my NaNoWriMo novel didn’t hit 50,000 words during November. C’est la vie. I has, however, hit more than 20,000, and gotten to the introduction of the central tangle of conflicts that will drive the rest of the story. So I’m pleased, and I’m still making progress.

On the soaping front, things are going well. I have shaving soap samples out to a few people that agreed to test for me, and a few more lined up. That’s pretty exciting for me, and it looks like early 2014 is still a realistic goal to open up shop. I’ve also been focusing a bit more on face/hand soap, with an eye toward extending that part of my product line.

This has involved learning some things about cold process soap that I didn’t know before. Such as, the temperature of your ingredients really does make a difference. Not so much because of functionality (it will create soap either way) but because of the rapidity of trace (setting) and the “gel phase” process. I made a batch of soap for cold process and combined them when the oils and lye were both pretty hot. It traced rather abruptly and started a gel phase right away. Usually you have to insulate a soap and leave it overnight for that to happen. (Or make it by hot process.)

So, I ended up with a functional but messy looking soap:

Strawberry Shortcake Handsoap

Not exactly consistent.

I have a nice new silicon mold now, and plan to try making a hot-process batch. I think that HP soap that is done in a shallow container like the one I received this week will be easier to handle than the tall cylindrical molds I had been using.

Oh, and the Dapper Dragon himself is starting to take shape!

The Dapper Dragon

Bubble pipe, of course!