<![CDATA[THE INTOXICATING JUXTAPOSITION BETWEEN PAST AND PRESENT... - Blog]]>Sat, 21 Apr 2018 06:41:41 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[The Desperation and the Joy - Holiday Book Shopping List]]>Sun, 03 Dec 2017 03:06:32 GMThttp://tonyamacalino.com/blog/the-desperation-and-the-joy-holiday-book-shopping-listThe desperation and the joy: endless hour of the last minute is up on us! I've put together this quick list of my favorite books from this year. Perhaps you will find a bit of inspiration within these digital stacks for your own shopping. If you have suggestions of your own, please leave the titles and authors in the comments section!
All images link to Amazon.

Graphic Novels

Some of these my kids introduced me to. Some I stumbled onto at comic cons. Each of them showed a flair for storytelling that I found endearing and just a little bewitching. There's some amazing work being done out there. My graphic novel TBR pile is gargantuan! (PS - MOnstress is not intended for children.)

Kids / Young Adult Books

The first two my son passed along to me from Oregon Battle of the Books. The others I got from author talks. THE HONEST TRUTH  is a book I will probably remember for the rest of my life. All of them, however, stayed with me for a long time after I finished them.


My day wouldn't be complete without a couple articles from Archeology Magazine and a couple of hits of folklore. The Russian book has some gorgeous paintings for the illustrations. And the Norse book is, of course, by Neil Gaiman and I could swim in it for days!


I read a ton of business-related material every day, but most of it isn't in book format. These two by Mike Michalowicz are brilliant, though. (Even if he does get a little slap-happy with his chosen metaphor in book one...)

Grown Up Books

This summer I loaded up on the all the classic books in my genre that I've never gotten around to reading, but really want to. But above even those, these two book are coming with my on my holiday vacation. I dearly love both of these authors and have heard awesome things about their books. I can't wait!
Hope that helps with your shopping! If you have any suggestions for me or the rest of the reader group, please share them in the comments section! Have a great holiday!

PS - All links are Amazon affiliate links.
<![CDATA[Crystal Mosaic Books - Complete Catalog]]>Tue, 30 May 2017 00:05:10 GMThttp://tonyamacalino.com/blog/crystal-mosaic-books-complete-catalogThe Macalino Authors (a.k.a. my family) publish under the imprint Crystal Mosaic Books. While we have a collective website at www.macalino.com, I put this quick catalog together, so that you could access all of our books from one page. Thanks so much for staying in touch and supporting our work!

Tonya Macalino

The Shades of Venice

Stand Alones

The Gates of Aurona


Raymond Macalino

Picture Books

Damien Macalino

Picture Books

Super Moo Graphic Novels for Emergent Readers

Helena Macalino

Picture Books

The Wish Fish Early Reader Series


<![CDATA[A thank you ...The Macalino Guide to gifts for readers of all ages]]>Tue, 06 Dec 2016 20:28:19 GMThttp://tonyamacalino.com/blog/a-thank-you-the-macalino-guide-to-gifts-for-readers-of-all-agesSignings and reading events bring my family of authors together with readers from all over the globe. We have such a great time chatting about our shared love of books and learning people's stories! What an amazing community to be a part of.

In thanks for all of you sharing your thoughts and passions with us--and for your support of our own writing endeavors--we have put together this shopping guide of six books for every reader age group represented by our works. Hope it is helpful! 

​Here's to another year of inspiring one another!

(Want to continue the sharing? Add your reading suggestions down in the comments box. Be sure to mark the appropriate age group!)

Picture Books
Reading Level: 0-6 years

The Macalinos

Damien and the Dragon Kite
(Raymond Macalino and Andras Balogh)
Percy’s Planetary Surprise
(Raymond Macalino and Andras Balogh)
​What If an Alligator Ate an Avalanche
(Damien Macalino and Eduardo Paj)
The Reflection
​(Hélena Macalino and Justyna Pawluczuk)

Our Favorites

​(David Wiesner)
Fifty Degrees Below Zero
​(Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko)
Lady in the Water
​(M. Night Shyamalan)
Waking Beauty
​(Leah Wilcox and Lydia Monks)
​(Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess)
When a Monster is Born
​(Sean Taylor and Nick Sharratt)

Children’s Graphic Novels
Reading Level: 6 – 10 year

The Macalinos

Super Moo #1: Boom, Boom, Splat
(Damien Macalino and Eduardo Paj)

Our Favorites

Babymouse (Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm)
(Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm)
(Raina Telgemeier)
El Deafo
(Cece Bell)
The Silver Six​
(A.J. Lieberman and Darren Rawlings)

Early Readers
Reading Level: 5 – 9 year

The Macalinos

The Wish Fish #1: The Mouse Bird
(Heléna Macalino and Milena Radeva)
The Wish Fish #2: The Chipmunk King 
(Heléna Macalino and Milena Radeva)

Our Favorites

Mouse Tales
(Arnold Lobel)
Lionel and the Book of Beasts
E. Nesbit and Michael Hague)
Space Cat
(Doug Cushman)
Leo the Lop
(Stephen Cosgrove and Robin James)
Lulu and the Brontosaurus
(Judith Viorst and Lane Smith)

Chapter Books
Reading Level: 8 – 12 years

The Macalinos

The Gates of Auròna #1: Into the Hare Wood
(Tonya Macalino and Maya Lilova)
The Gates of Auròna #2: The Anguana's Tale
(Tonya Macalino and Maya Lilova)

Our Favorites

The Spiderwick Chronicles #1: The Field Guide
(Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black)
(Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake)
Odd and the Frost Giants
(Neil Gaiman and Brett Helquist)
I Funny
(James Patterson, Chris Grabenstein, and Laura Park)

Adult Books

The Macalinos

Our Favorites


The Macalinos

Our Favorites

Writing / Publishing

The Macalinos

Our Favorites

<![CDATA[Farewell Jacobsen's Books]]>Tue, 12 Jan 2016 21:37:42 GMThttp://tonyamacalino.com/blog/farewell-jacobsens-books​Once upon a time…
Because isn’t that how all the best stories start? With once upon a time?
Once upon a time, two young mothers took gambles on their dreams. They created businesses in a quaint little downtown in a quaint little city called Hillsboro. One of these young ladies—we’ll call her Tonya—opened a soap and lotion business (Rustling Sage) and sold her wares in a charming boutique aptly named The Artfull Garden. The other young lady—we’ll call her Tina—opened a bookstore from the inventory she had amassed in her online bookselling.
This legendary bookstore was known as Jacobsen’s Books & More.
​Kay, the owner of The Artfull Garden, suggested to Tonya that she would be wonderful friends with Tina as they were both in the same time of life and both loved books. Tonya dug in her heels. Tonya did not like being told who she might and might not get on with. (Tonya was much feistier in those days!)
“You will really love her!”
“Will not.”
“Will, too.”
“Will not.”
“Will, too.”
​But finally it came to pass that Tonya accomplished her dream: she published her first book. Blushing and stuttering, she approached Tina about carrying this little blue tome in her shop. Tina was gracious and kind and welcomed Tonya and her little blue tome with open arms. With help from Kay, she and Tonya planned out the book launch for this book, SPECTRE OF INTENTION, and hosted it in Kay’s shop.
It was a wonderful success.
​This was not the only wild scheme that Tina would agree to over the years. (Tonya is full of those. But to be fair, so is Tina!) As Tina grew and developed her business and her outreach into the community, Tonya closed down Rustling Sage and turned her focus to book publishing, issuing three more tomes with Tina as her home bookstore for book launches, writing classes, literacy fundraisers, and a two-year author reading series. Tina even gave Tonya a key to the shop, she was there so often!
When it became apparent that Jacobsen’s had truly become a part of the Hillsboro community and needed more event space, Tonya and her family (along with their friend Brad Cameron) came down after hours and moved bookshelves, furniture, and books – lots of them. Tonya and Tina even snuck out of the motherly duties one night and redecorated the front end of the bookstore!
Overall, it is estimated that together Tonya and Tina coordinated nearly fifty events together in their five-year run as partners in crime. (Pictures below.) Running your own business, whether publishing or bookselling, is always an emotional rollercoaster. It was invaluable to have someone with whom to share the ride. But the bookselling industry has been in a tough place these last few years and it looks like that ride has finally come to an end. Tonya-and-Tina will now become Tonya and Tina (even though no one is quite sure which name belongs to whom).
​So farewell to my partner-in-crime.
And hello to my dear, dear friend and hello to the endless possibilities that lay before a brilliant, ambitious woman with dreams enough to build a community on!
“You will really love her!”
“Will not.”
“Will, too.”
“Will not.”
“Will, too.”
“Yeah, Kay. You are right. I really, really will.”
<![CDATA[The Lost Kingdom of Guge: Extinguishing the Spark of Possibility]]>Wed, 01 Jan 2014 20:45:14 GMThttp://tonyamacalino.com/blog/the-lost-kingdom-of-guge-extinguishing-the-spark-of-possibilitySo Spake Mo…

It is an ancient story, a heartbreakingly familiar one.

Once upon a time in the high reaches of Tibet, a spare prince laid the foundations for a kingdom on the high cliffs north of the Indian Himalaya on the south bank of the Sutlej river. Tsaparang, the capitol city of the great Guge Kingdom, ruled largely unopposed from these highly defensible spires for nearly 700 years. As the Muslims swept through the surrounding lands, Guge grew with the influx of Buddhist refugees. Gifted artisans from the Far East, the Near East, and all the conquered lands between joined together in Guge to create a uniquely international mix of Buddhist art that can still be seen today on the walls Tsaparang’s great ruins.
image credit: bobwitlox
Most famous of their artistic creations were the Silver Eye of Guge, statues so cunningly crafted that no seam from their forging could be detected. The silver-eyed gods and goddesses were highly prized through out Buddhist lands.
Pictureimage credit: PericlesofAthens
What exactly transpired to end 700 years of culture and prosperity, we can’t be completely certain, but there are legends. In the legends, the Jesuits came. The last king of Guge welcomed them sometime in August of 1624 and encouraged them to set up a church in the city, even converted to Christianity himself. His brother, the abbot of the most powerful monastery in Guge, protested and finally declared an all out war. Aligning himself with neighboring Ladakh, the abbot betrayed his kingdom and guided the enemy through a successful siege. The king, unable to watch his people suffer any longer at Ladakh hands, surrendered. He, his family, and his traitor brother were all beheaded. 

Pictureimage credit: bobwitlox
It is believed that the cave in the walls of Tsaparang which holds the decapitated remains of thirty individuals is the final resting place of the king and his retinue.*

Guge did not long out live its king.

Pictureimage credit: bobwitlox
The Ladakh were harsh masters and nature grew harsher still. The last king had ordered work on an aqueduct that would bring water from the melt off of the holy mountain. Legend claims that this angered the gods whose lands lay between and they punished his hubris with the destruction of his kingdom and by taking away all the waters from the once bountiful land around the spires. Angry gods or no, the land soon grew arid and inhospitable and the descendants of refuges became wanderers once more.

And the kingdom of Guge vanished.

And with it, the art and the culture…the dreams of its people.

Pictureimage credit: ccdoh1
So Spake Me…

The abbot had his reasons. I’m sure the king did as well. Religion was just as much a game of politics then as it is now. In the end the reasons don’t really matter, we are only left with the results: the destruction of a heritage, the extinguishing of possibilities.

The abbot could not allow for other possibilities, other ideas, so he shut them down at the expense of all ideas. At the expense of life.

It is an ancient story, a heartbreakingly familiar one. One that continues daily from the destruction of Buddhist artifacts in Afghanistan to the taunts on the playground.

Pictureimage credit: bobwitlox
In those self-righteous days of my feminist youth, I believed that one day I would have to fight like a she-cat to maintain the possibilities of my future daughter. And in my heart-of-hearts, I believed I would lose against the prejudices of a society that could not allow other possibilities.

I never considered that it might be my son that would find himself shut off from so many of the wonders the world has to offer.

Don’t paint…unless it’s monsters.
Don’t write…unless it’s battle scenes.
Don’t think…unless it’s about sports.
Don’t dance…unless it’s the drunken bounce.
Don’t sing…unless it’s rap.
Don’t play music…unless it’s heavy metal.

Don’t stop to enjoy a beautiful garden. Don’t wear flowers on your shirts. Don’t let color into your wardrobe. Don’t enjoy the company of girls. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.

Pictureimage credit: horizontal.integration
Stay here in the little narrow space we’ve designed for you or we will wage war on you. We will taunt you. Or will we will taunt others who try to escape on T.V. or in books, so that you will fear to peer beyond these cardboard walls.

Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. So much beautiful art, so much amazing culture that we will never know. I see it disappearing already.

I can’t stop it completely. And I wouldn’t. We find a measure of our strength in life through our gender roles. And I would never deliberately subject my children to the taunts I endured when I walked in their shoes. (And if you think this sort of idea extinguishing can’t take a life just as well as the abbot’s armies, you are wrong.)

But what I lack in bravado, I make up for in unabashed enthusiasm. For what greater motivator has there ever been than joy?

Pictureimage credit: Wellington College
Yes, my daughter, it’s fascinating that the Segway can stand on two wheels!
Yes, my daughter, you are powerful when you figure it out for yourself!

Yes, my son, you created a beautiful arrangement of flowers!
Yes, my son, you can fly to moon on the wings of your own voice!

Yes! Yes, you can.


Pictureimage credit: Tortured Mind Photography
<![CDATA[Sharing a Story, Sharing a Life: Speech from the Launch of STEALING LUCIFER’S DREAMS]]>Mon, 02 Dec 2013 05:10:38 GMThttp://tonyamacalino.com/blog/sharing-a-story-sharing-a-life-speech-from-the-launch-of-stealing-lucifers-dreamsSo Spake Mo…
On the evening of Friday the 15th of November nearly 50 people converged on Jacobsen’s Books & More in downtown Hillsboro, OR to help me celebrate two milestones: the launch of my first book in two years, STEALING LUCIFER’S
DREAMS, and my cresting of “the hill,” my fortieth birthday.

It was a chance for me to share what stories have meant on my journey
thus far and how the people around me have helped to shape that story.
For those of you who couldn’t be there that night, this is for you.
So Spake Me…
When I was a kid in southern Idaho, my folks would take us out to the hills nearly every summer weekend to go rock hunting. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this hobby, it is where you wander steep, sandy hillsides—mostly on your own backside—in one hundred degree weather, dodging gopher holes and giving wide berth to rattler-concealing shadows. 
It was awesome!
And the purpose of all of this? Like an adventurer in the days of old, you are searching for treasure, hoping to be the one who finds that one piece of agate, that one piece of quartz that nature shaped with enough startling ingenuity to become a piece of art—with the help of a rock saw and whole lot of patience!

Now, rock hunting involves a lot of walking. All day long, my sister and brother and I traipsed along behind my parents offering up endless examples of leverrite for their inspection. There’s a lot of leverrite on those hillsides. Leverrite? You know, “Leave ‘er right here.” And occasionally in that ridiculous heat we would fall asleep only to be tossed in the backpack with the rocks. (My parents were apparently Herculean in strength—one of those genes they didn’t pass on.)

But the parts of the adventures I remember the most are the stops. Perching on the crest of a hilltop, looking out over that shock-blue sky, the curve of the hills, the twisting patterns of dry creek beds. With the wind the only sound and not another soul around as far as the eye can see—and out there that is for miles—my mind would wander and wonder. I couldn’t have possibly been the first to rest against this boulder, to look out over these hills, those mountains. Who was here before me? Where were they going? 
What was their story?

In that moment, it was almost as if I could feel the ghosts of those people milling about me, whispering, Remember me. Remember me because your story is built upon mine. Remember me because to forget me is to forget the meaning of my life. Remember me. Don’t let me be lost. Remember.
I carried that sense forward with me. I carried it to ruined castles in Austria, to winding canals in Venice, to abandoned temples in Greece and Turkey. Remember me. Your story is built upon mine. Remember me.

Picturephoto credit: Roberto Verzo
I think in a way, the whispers of that voice are true: we do learn a little more about ourselves when we learn the stories we are built upon. Stories are our connections to each other, our way to make sense of the world and our place in it. If our souls are an intersection of all the relationships we have ever been a part of, then stories are our definition of these relationships, our understanding of who we are—even when these stories aren’t true. Even when we know they aren’t true.
Facts fade. There is a story in my family of an uncle who, when he was young, left a burning barrel full of garbage unattended in high winds and burned a workshop down to its stone walls. I have had a variety of relatives adamantly tell wildly different version of that story. In some it was his brother’s fort that burned. In others, the burning barrel wasn’t involved at all. And that’s only two generations. But that story certainly helped define me as someone who would never leave a burning barrel unattended. Or at least would be very nervous when she did!

Stories are a kind of magic. Their truth transcends fact and in that their power is unquestionable. And the oldest have immense power. They take us back through time and remind us, not perhaps of the precise facts of events, but absolutely of the greatest that humankind, that we, are capable of. And of the horrors people just like us can and have brought into the world. The magic in every story is its ability to transcend generations, to give us a space outside of time where we can decide anew who we want to be. 

Picturephoto credit: Kean Kelly
Is it true that Marco Polo brought home a bride from Kublai Kahn’s court? Is it true that the Venetian people shunned her so powerfully because of her foreign clothes and her strange religion, that she became a shut in, only to kill herself upon hearing false news of his death? Probably not. But think for a moment of her corpse laid to rest in the basement of the family palace, Ca’ Milione. Think for a moment on her story. Now, tell me you didn’t reflect just for a second on how you have treated immigrants in the past and how our culture is currently treating those of alternate religious persuasions even now.

Picturephoto credit: meritxell-anfitrite
We are made of stories. Stories of remembrance, stories of shared adventure, stories we never lived, but instead share through books and movies and songs. They tie us together. 
And for that I am grateful.

Picturephoto credit: chris.chabot
Because I have gotten to share some amazing stories with each of you. And this last two years between books has been filled with some particularly wild ones! Obviously, I won’t get a chance recognize each and every one of you tonight the way you each deserve and the way I wish I could, but there are a few I absolutely need to recognize. And I’m going to take the chance to do that now.

Of course, first are my parents, Jon and Susan. If it’s any indicator, they travelled all the way from Jerome, Idaho to be here tonight. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving me the space to let my stories come to life and for encouraging me along this mad path. I love you!
My family, Ray, Damien, and Heléna put up with a very distracted Mommy, but they are always there with hug and a goofy story. They are my heart and soul and make every minute of this possible.
Now, there is a particular group of people who have held my hand emotionally and physically through the last eight years. These guys are the shoulders I cried on, the guys who pitched in with the kids, helped keep the household going, even did a covert remodel on our bedroom. I have been blessed with the most amazing neighbors and I don’t tell them often enough how much I love them and how much their support has meant through the post-pregnancy crazies, my surgery, and even just the madness of everyday life: Dana and Brad Silvers, Marisol and Reed Levick, Lisa and John Ohnstad, Amy and Corey Weinheimer, Lynn and Jason Horihan, Jay and Ginger Cox, Mike and Christy May, and Senaida Perez. Thank you. After 40 years, a girl has lived a lot of different lives, enough to know that this kind of convergence of really special people just doesn’t happen all the time. 
Is anyone here from the Tuesday Night Write In crew? Doug and Dawn Sellers, Maggie Rivera, Pam Bainbridge-Cowan, Brad and Leah Wheeler, Brad Cameron, Ed Seymour, Traci Taylor, etc. These are my fellow castmates from the set of “Cheers” over at Primrose & Tumbleweeds. For all the conversations on writing, history, psychology, government, politics, beer, family, and whatever else wanders into our path…thanks for giving me a place to come home to!

A book doesn’t happen without some people with some very specialized skill sets. Please help me thank my cover designers Lisa Holmes and John Vincent and my editors, Rob Richards and Teri Watanabe. I’ve heard rumors that we will be seeing tomes from all of these folks in the next year or two, so keep your eyes peeled!
Once you’ve become published, your career landscape changes and those first few years require an enormous amount of focus and emotional fortitude. In other words, you get depressed a lot. I want to thank my amazing friends Tina
Jacobsen and Brad Cameron, and the rest of The Myth Makers literary group for keeping my butt moving and my chin up. You guys are incredible friends. Not sure how I got so freaking lucky. Truly.

This is going to seem like a weird detour, but if any of the ladies from The Artfull Garden are here? Kay, Kelly, LaVonne, Sue, and the rest of you, thanks for making Rustling Sage Bath & Body products so much fun to own and operate and for being so understanding when it came time turn my focus more fully to my writing. Mental hugs to all of you for your support!!!

I saved a very special group for last: my NIWA family. Can I get a show of hands? See, that is how you know you are part of something amazing. Indie publishing was a wild frontier when we stepped onto the scene. Through the generosity of their big hearts and monumental sacrifices of their time, these guys have put together a really amazing support system for us dream chasers out there. Like a real family, we may bicker and pick every once in a while, but we always pull together in the end. And that mountain moves. Thanks for taking me in!

Speaking of which, there are bookmarks coming around the room. If you love the magic of stories, drop by McMenamin’s Grand Lodge on February 2nd. These guys are putting together a huge author event to support local literacy. This—shockingly enough—is a pet cause of mine. We authors do signings all over the Northwest. And every time we do we have an appalling number of people announce, “I don’t read.” Right in front of their children. It’s painful and painfully consistent. I hope you all can find the time to come out and show the community how important we really think literacy is. Cause if we don’t, who will?


So that’s all of my official thank yous, but please know how much it means to me that each and every one of you took the time to make it here tonight. That’s the best birthday present a girl could ask for: people to share in her story.

<![CDATA[Albion: The Promise of the Once and Future King]]>Fri, 01 Nov 2013 18:42:15 GMThttp://tonyamacalino.com/blog/albion-the-promise-of-the-once-and-future-kingSo Spake Mo…
Albion. The name of the isle in the time of the Greeks gods, the isle populated by the sons of Albion, the giants.

Britian. The name of the isle in the time Trojans, when Brutus of Troy conquered the giants and settled there after years of war and exile, bequeathing it his name.
photo credit: (c) nc burton
The island nation that once ruled as far as her boats could take her. It is a place where myth and history intertwine in a rich, misty landscape all too conducive to growing stories larger that the lives that might have originate them.
photo credit: (c) skinnyde
Arthur. Whether he rose from dream or flesh, he rose in a time when the Celts needed a hero to cling to. When the bands of Saxon mercenaries invited by Lord Vortigern became the swarms of Saxon invaders, when the Celts lost their homeland to these invaders, Arthur became the light, the courage, and the memory their righteous last stand against the godless savages.
We all know how creative memories can be.
Especially when we NEED to believe.
And we have always needed to believe. More story than history, only the vaguest scraps of historical data remain from this time of limited literacy and endless siege to provide any glimpse of the basis for the King Arthur legend. Was he, Artúr mac Áedáin, the son of a Scotch-Gaelic warlord? Was he, Arturus, the anthropomorphization of a forgotten ancient Welsh bear god immortalized in Ursa Major? Was he, Ambrosius Aurelianus, a Romano-Briton of noble parentage orphaned during the Saxon invasion? Was he, King Arthwyr ap Meurig ap Tewdrig, a Welsh King of the House of Bran? Was he, Lucius Artorius Castus, a Roman cavalry commander from the Scythian steppe? 

photo credit: Gustav Dore from Lord Alfred Tennyson's The Idylls of the King
We can’t know truly know.
And yet we carry forward 1,500 years the mythological memory of this man as a symbol of the golden age of Albion.
Albion. The land of giants, of giant dreams and giant possibilities of the best humanity can achieve.
Arthur. The leader who fought at our sides to preserve this golden dream. The leader, who, despite his fall, despite our own fall into darkness through the weaknesses of our humanity, promises to return in our hour of greatest need.
We wait. We dream. And in our dreams we find our hope.
Albion: the promise of the Once and Future King.

image credit: Edward Burne-Jones
So Spake Me…
The King Arthur myth has always fascinated me. For the story to have survived so long, so vividly in the collective mind of Western culture suggests to me that beyond the smaller, specific tales contained within it—the battles, the quests, the trials, and the loves won and lost—the King Arthur story contains a very special vessel: a promise.

image credit: Chretien de Troyes (Keith Busby, Terry Nixon, Alison Stones, Lori Walters, ed), Sir Thomas Malory, Marion Zimmer Bradley

That sounds so small and simple, but truthfully it is as large as the infinite human imagination. That vessel carried the dreams of the conquered Celts in Arthur’s own supposed day; it carried the dream of an idealized courtly world in the medieval/early renaissance days of Chretien de Troyes and Sir Thomas Malory; it carried the dream of feminine power in the more modern day of Marion Zimmer Bradley.

image credit: (c) BBC/Syfy Channel - The Adventures of Merlin
And then there is today. Here and now, when we receive the story once more through the eyes of Merlin from the BBC, it doesn’t matter that it isn’t high literature. What matters is that this ancient vessel carries forward the dreams of a new generation in the language of their own storytellers.
What I find most fascinating is which dreams this generation chooses to lay in the chalice. While I watch with my children, I see many: The dream that should the child strive hard enough, he can overcome a broken home, an unredeemable father and go on to become a good, even great human being. The dream that should the child stand resolute in her convictions and steadfast despite overwhelming wrongs, her wisdom will raise her up to a place of respect and admiration. The dream that we might all have the chance someday to cleave to an unwavering friend, one who stands by us throughout the nightmare days, and reminds us relentlessly of all we are capable of being.
In a time when so many feel lost, isolated by the trauma of a broken family, cut off by insurmountable debt, shut away by a social media society, these dreams of rising above, of finally being seen for who we truly are, of being valued soul-deep by a friend we can trust until death-do-us-part, these dreams are the chivalry of our own age.

image credit: Arthur Rackham from Alfred W. Pollard's The Romance of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
Even 1,500 years later, we still need to believe.
We still need to believe in the promise of Albion, in the promise of the Once and Future King. 
And the promise is simple: 
Humanity can achieve amazing, beautiful heights, and though we may fall, we will find our way to rise up once again.

image credit: Edward Burne-Jones, The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon

<![CDATA[Lake Titicaca: The Lost Origins of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, and Mankind]]>Tue, 01 Oct 2013 20:05:11 GMThttp://tonyamacalino.com/blog/lake-titicaca-the-lost-origins-of-the-sun-the-moon-the-stars-and-mankindSo Spake Mo…
Alright, go ahead, get it out. Breathe… Worst playground  joke ever. Yes, this is probably the reason we never learned about the place in school. How exactly would the teacher introduce it? No one knows the origin of the name either, so translating it to English as “Rock Puma” (the lake being in the shape of a puma chasing a rabbit) or “Crag of Lead” is not academically sound.
But that’s a shame, because this lake so high up in the Andes along the Peru/Bolivia border has a fascinating heritage. It is essentially the birthplace of
photo credit: thibhou
According to Incan tradition, the creator god Viracocha rose up from this very lake after a great flood. It is here that the sun, the moon, and the stars obeyed his command to rise. And here, the Adam and Eve of this story, Mallku Kapac and Mama Ocllo, either came to life from Viracocha’s stone sculptures or were birthed by the Sun god—as his huge footprints on his Isla del Sol commemorate.
This lake, this source of creation, is also the bed to which retired Incan souls return when their journey is done.
photo credit: wallygrom
This lake is the home of ancient peoples with ancient memories. The Uros people came long before the Incas wrote their story. They saw the rise and fall of powerful civilizations, including the Tiwanaku from whom they are likely descended. When the great fortified city descended into awe-inspiring ruins, the Uros found their safety on the lake. They survived. They were clever. They crafted mobile islands made of totora reeds, escaping with their entire village at the first signs of danger.
They still live on them today.

photo credit: abmiller99
So Spake Me…
Some names simply do not translate well. I should know. I grew up with the surname “Buttcane.” Hysterical, I know. No child should know that many “inappropriate” jokes by age 8—to use my daughter’s favorite word. To all those people out there who deliberately name their kid Bambi, Starlight, Tequila, or Legend, you do not amuse me.
Imagine living in a small rural town and you come up in the lunch line:
“Tonya Buttcane.”
“No, Butt-cane, like your bottom and a walking stick.”
“Oh, um…”

photo credit: Make Way For Cupcakes
And then the substitute lunch lady turns beet red. Or, on the subject of substitutes, let’s say your teacher has the audacity to take time off. The substitute is calling roll. You are staring at your desk with a firm grip on your chair.
“Jane Friedman?”
“Rory Becker?”
“Tonya, uuuh…”
And the whole class shouts, “BUTTCANE!”

photo credit: tim ellis
Bet you just can’t wait to try a stroll in those shoes, can you? Needless to say the day I got married wasn’t just the happiest day of my life, it was also the day a huge tension fell away from my shoulders. I would no longer have to identify myself using that slur, no longer have to suffer through the awkward silences or the grown men and women who thought they were world-class comedians and so very creative tossing out lewd jokes I’d heard ten times by third grade.

My brother and sister still carry the name. They claim it is a nearly faultless character gauge. I can’t argue with that. The worst of the comedians tend to show up right away as people to watch out for. A newly hired pharmacists who launches right into an elementary school knee-slapper? Didn’t last more than a couple months before she was caught dipping into the controlled substances cabinet for a little extra take-home pay.
It is effective.

photo credit: Jonathan Bruck
In more ways than one. The names we carry, the words with which we are labeled, they shape us. Thrown in our faces over and over and over, the jokes, the tension, the stress for a child of having to call yourself a “bad word” every time you introduced yourself. Polite people cutting you off before you have to state your whole name to spare both of you the discomfort, it molds your perception of yourself, your relationship with the world around you.
Anger, resentment, self-loathing, a vicious need to establish respect. The three of us Buttcane children were gifted academically, but speaking for myself alone, that is where I found my power. The snickers stopped abruptly when you were the only person capable of helping them pass the next Trigonometry test. And I didn’t help anyone who snickered, believe me. When you are that angry, that desperate for peace from all the teasing, compassion isn’t high on your list.

photo credit: www.primeeducation.com.au
That took decades to fade. It will never fade completely. As my neighbor once said, it’s like we keep all of our old selves inside of us. Sometimes our inner teenager, our inner sixth grader, our inner toddler takes over. It passes and those that truly love us, forgive us. 
Sometimes we even manage to forgive ourselves and those young children who found their own power through words. Not really realizing what they were doing with that power. Not sophisticated enough to understand the enormity of what they wielded.

That’s fair. Most adults aren’t either.

photo credit: jk5854
We don’t often dive beneath the surface of the lake, don’t plunge past the sound of the verbal spells we so casually cast. But in our heart of hearts where our secrets lie, we understand the meaning behind that surge of adrenaline: 
There is power behind words, hidden temples and cities beneath the surface of that collection of letters. From these the word, the universe is created. 
Watch which ones you create with yours.

photo credit: Rich Childs

<![CDATA[Lost Places: Time and Progress Erode the Landscape of Collective Memory]]>Mon, 02 Sep 2013 04:23:25 GMThttp://tonyamacalino.com/blog/lost-places-time-and-progress-erode-the-landscape-of-collective-memorySo Spake Mo…
Through an expanse of years, shattering a divide of incredible distance, I listened to words of Michael Wood last night. He served as my guide we traced over the British and French landscape, as we traced back into the legend of Arthur, the Once and Future King.
photo credit: neilalderney123
Let us begin with Merlin, the blonde-haired boy with no father whom King Vortigern ordered sacrificed in order that the king’s tower might finally stand. I know this tale well. It sits on the shelf in my son’s room in the voice of Jane Yolen. This young Merlin bravely saved his own life by convincing Vortigern that the tower fell each night because it was built atop two warring dragons. The king’s men released the dragons and the red slew the white in mortal combat, predicting the triumph of the Welsh over the Saxons.

Dr. Wood walks with us to the hilltop, overgrown with bushes and trees, only the faintest remnants suggesting an unnatural arrangement of stone ever stood watch here. Dinas Emrys, Fortress of Ambrosius, Tower  of Merlin, Place of Emrys. Follow the broken wooden signpost hidden by a thatch of greenery. Climb to the top of that hill and be where the legend began.
photo credit: jessie owen
Let us end with Arthur, a leader to inspire the splendor of Camelot, a noble king who ruled from a round table where all voices were equal. Let us end with Arthur on the field of Camlann where he lay slain. Let us listen to him three times beg Sir
Bedevere to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake. Let us watch him float into the mists in the arms of his sister Morgan Le Fay as she bears him off to Avalon, our Once and Future King.

Dr. Wood walks us to the intersection of the Gaelic Fionn mac Cumhaill cycle of the magical sword,  the cup of eternal life, and the king who will rise again and the Scotch-Gaelic war hero Arturius (Artúr mac Áedáin) who died in the battle at Camboglanna, a roman fort along Hadrian’s famous wall. Follow our guide into a gentleman’s potting shed where the relics of this historic site lie propped against the wall remembering a time when they had housed heroes who would inspire hearts for thousands of years to come.

photo credit: neilalderney123
So Spake Me…
My children know more about funerals than weddings. And just recently we were back in Idaho at the family homestead for another. Our family has its traditions. A remembering before the funeral, a potluck after. It’s a time for stories, a time to reconnect with family members you’d nearly forgotten you shared a story with at all. A time to remember you are not alone in all of this.

It can be a bit surreal, not just dealing with the unreality of the loss you’ve just been dealt, but that expansion and contraction of time where you share a closeness
just as much through what passed before your memory began as through what   passed since last Christmas Eve—divorces, health scares, the blossoming of children into young adults, the fading of the parental guard into infirmity…or  death.

And the loss of our story.

photo credit: Lies Thru a Lens

 I can see that field of corn stretching on for miles under that vivid blue sky. I can picture the bull snake my uncle vacuumed out from behind the wash machine for my screaming aunt. I can picture the coyote that took down their loyal dog, because for him it wasn’t a game. It was survival.
It was survival. The fierce determination, the relentless drive that kept my mother, my uncles, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents chipping away at that ruthless land until they had claimed more than a thousand acres of sagebrush for fields and roads.

photo credit: Tonya Macalino
A tiny little cottage in the woods next to the original schoolhouse. My great-grandparents and then my grandparents lived in that schoolhouse. So much history there.

photo credit: Tonya Macalino
The trees that held my grandmother’s beloved owls; the spooky root cellar where my eldest uncle would snitch jars of jam, the outhouse (indoor plumbing simply wasn’t private!), the stone shed my uncle burned down with the burning barrel still placed like an altar before it as a reminder for every grandchild who came after.

photo credit: Tonya Macalino
The pig sty that held pigs as big as horses (I swear!). A random garden gate leading to nowhere but the memory of a mythical strawberry garden.  An apricot tree draping over the passage to a henhouse that purportedly once held hens.

photo credit: Tonya Macalino
So many places for cousins to scheme and to dream. Under the draping bows of the pines, we hid from prying adult eyes and lived other lives. On the wooden slider swing painted a peeling turquoise we sang and laughed and gossiped. Never underrate gossip. It is those stories which an inter-related scatter of individuals into a family strong and united.

photo credit: Tonya Macalino
Those places. The landscape of our stories. Dr. Wood might take us to a tidy dollhouse home with neatly painted siding and precisely trimmed trees. He might tell us that here once stood the original schoolhouse handed-down through generations until the lack of regulation on methane gas pollution from the neighboring dairy farm drove the final owners from their home. He would show us a place devoid of a red and black shag carpet, with no bear skin rug from the night a black bear wandered into camp and scared the pants off my uncle and my grandpa. No part of this pristine new property would be constructed of the stone picked by hand from the fields (where it grew faster than the weeds!).

photo credit: Tonya Macalino
There’s nothing left for the archaeologists to dig up. The new owners cleaned up thoroughly after us.  The only remains are the small woods that my great-grandpa planted for my great-grandma out in the middle of the Idaho desert. But those trees no longer hold shadowy secrets of generations beneath their bows. In fact, they look embarrassed to be there with their skirts hiked up so high you don’t have tilt your head to look up them.

photo credit: Tonya Macalino
So I sit instead up on the hilltop of my cousin’s family homestead and I grip his shoulder as he looks into a future without a father, without a grandfather for the children of his newly broken home. I hold tight my other cousin who suffered the same loss only three years before. I look out into the huge crowd at the top of this hill and I look out across the miracle miles of fields that no longer belong to my family, but are still so painfully beautiful to me, and I know that we will carry our own story forward, maybe not with perfect accuracy, but with perfect meaning: watch the damn burning barrel when you light it, bust your ass until you’ve created a miracle in the desert—even if it takes generations, never stop learning (even if you have to move into the local schoolhouse to do it), and if family calls—because a good Orth never actually comes out and asks for help—you drop EVERYTHING and you go.
Because in the end, family is everything.

photo credit: Tonya Macalino
Here’s to my family, from Idaho to Oregon, Colorado, California, Texas, Germany, and beyond. Through all the times we didn’t think we’d make it through, to amazing joys that have set our hearts free for that one perfect moment.

This story is ours.

Additional Reading
Michael Wood's In Search of Myths and Heroes - King Arthur
Wikipedia: Dinas Emrys
A Date with Dinas Emrys
National Parks: Dinas Emrys
Wikipedia: Camboglanna
Wikipedia: Historical Basis for King Arthur
Wikipedia: Fionn mac Cuumhaill



<![CDATA[Life in a Small Town...Or a Deserted Island...Or Long-Distance Space Voyager]]>Thu, 01 Aug 2013 23:51:47 GMThttp://tonyamacalino.com/blog/life-in-a-small-townor-a-deserted-islandor-long-distance-space-voyagerSo Spake Mo...
Far away, on the island of Floreana on the outer edge of the  Galapagos, two lovers came to settle, to build their hermitage and live out their philosophy. Everything in their grand experiment from the shape of their garden, to their meatless diet (carefully reinforced by the removal of their teeth before they departed Germany), to their nudist lifestyle  followed Dr. Friedrich Ritter’s mystical re-interpretation of Nietzschean and Taoist philosophy. His mistress Dore Strauch-Koerwin cleaved to Dr. Ritter’s  philosophy long before their departure, embracing a swinger lifestyle and ultimately leaving behind her husband (and Dr. Ritter’s wife) to cross two  oceans.
photo credit: American Weekly
For a time their sculpted world remain isolated and perfect, visited only by the wealthy and curious for Dr. Ritter did publish papers on his grand experiment. The pair were not unknown. But the situation in Germany after WWI had left many people seeking somewhere to start a new life. And so came former soldier Heinz Wittmer, his pregnant wife Margret, and Heinz’s son Harry. 
The Wittmers were the sturdy, practical sort and set immediately to establishing a homestead. They did not pretend to be the philosophically rarefied sort of company Dr. Ritter and Dore would easily tolerate.

Dr. Ritter and Miss Dore Strauch-Koerwin, source unknown
But more immigrants were soon to arrive. Enter the Austrian Baroness Eloise Wagner de Bousquet with her two German lovers Rudolf Lorenz, a former business partner, and Robert "Bubi" Philippson, one of their salesmen. The Baroness soon announced her intentions to build a luxury hotel Hacienda Paradiso for tourists—the reality of which became a two-room corrugated-tin hut. But the fame of the now “Empress of Floreana” and Dr. Ritter, the Philosopher brought the yachts to the bay nonetheless.

Baroness Eloise Wagner de Bousquet and Robert Philippson, source unknown
What they shared in fame, they did not share ideals. Petty infighting began. The Baroness’s men deliberately caused Dore’s beloved donkey to be shot by Heinz Wittmer. Deliveries of food and clothes were confiscated by both Ritter and the Baroness. Accusations and theft ran rampant. Violence threatened. 
But the jabs did not remain merely between households. Dore whose  condescension had always kept the Wittmers carefully at bay, now pleaded for  Margret to visit more often as Ritter became verbally and physically abusive.  Lorenz ended up on the Wittmers’ doorstep beaten and deathly ill, a victim of  Philippson’s rage for failure to do the Baroness’s bidding.

Lorenz's passport, Lorenz on the island, source unknown


And thus paradise ended.
While harboring the ailing Lorenz, Margret Wittmer received a visit from the Baroness. The woman left directives that Lorenz was to watch over the Hacienda while she and Philippson join some friends and sail on to the South Seas. Overjoyed to finally be rid of her, Ritter advised Lorenz to sell what he could and make ready for the next ship able to take him back to civilization. Lorenz took the opportunity to make his escape from the island.

Wittmer's house, source unknown
Nearly a year later, vegetarians Ritter and Dore sat down to a meal of canned chicken—their usual source of protein, eggs, having been exhausted. They had recognized that the meat was spoiled and had taken precautions, but the next  morning Ritter woke with signs of botchalism and after a rapid and excruciating
decline, he succumbed. Dore returned to Germany shortly thereafter.

Dr. Ritter before leaving Germany; Dore Strauch-Koerwin on the boat after Ritter's death
How simple. And yet…
The Baroness and Philippson were never heard from again. And the boat that the Wittmers’ claimed whisked the pair away? Researchers can find no evidence of a yacht traveling through the islands at the time of their disappearance. All the while, journal entries record that Lorenz feared for his life in their presence and that Philippson and Ritter engaged in violent altercations before the disappearance. Despite the yacht claim, during life, Ritter put forth the hypothesis of a double suicide due to the failure of their hotel. After his death, an article he had written sloppily accused Wittmer of murder. Disagreeable or desperate?

sensationalism in the popular press, photo credit: Men's Daring Action magazine
And Lorenz? He never made his escape. His mummified remains along with that of his ship’s captain were found on the desert island of Marchena. Were they swept off course when the motor cut out and simply marooned? The boat and the cabin boy were never found.

Nuggerud (ship captain) and Lorenz in life, their mummified remains on Marchena, source unknown
As for Ritter, Dore and the cats had eaten the same meal. Neither showed any signs of ailing. In addition to damages of verbal and physical abuse, Dore at this point firmly believed the Baroness and Philippson to be murder. And while she believed the now absent Lorenz to be involved, some speculate she may have suspected her lover’s involvement as well. Certainly she knew of Ritter’s intention to leave her and his rekindled relationship in his wife back in Germany. Or was it really because she couldn’t bear to leave his side that it took her nearly two days to seek help for his condition?

Dore and Friedrich, photo credit: Hancock Expedition
The last surviving member of the colony, Margret Wittmer passed away in
2000 at the age of 95.
And she never did tell.

Margret Wittmer, source unknown
So Spake Me…
So I stumbled across that story when I was researching the Galapagos Islands for Kaitlin and Cam’s story SPECTRE OF INTENTION and I had to laugh. And not just because I have a morbid sense of humor.
As a teenager back in the one-stoplight town of Jerome, Idaho, I’d often speculated about how even more humiliating it must have been in those ancient medieval villages when love affairs ended badly. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, they all lived within a one-mile radius of each other and never, ever moved away. Mortification and hatred…for life.
But this story, it just kept going. Backwards, then, into my even younger days preparing a model of a Martian colony. A gold-plated dome to keep out the radiation, mechanical solutions for drinkable water, breathable air, my friend Rene and I researched deeper and deeper as our clay and foil colony came to life. But then we hit a show-stopper. NASA didn’t believe conscious humans could make the trip. They suspected that six months locked in a tin can with another human being would drive anyone stark raving homicidal. And that was going to need one hell of a workaround, more than our 7th grade minds were up for!
Now couple all that with the fact that the players in our story were already at the psychological fringe of society. A man who removes his own teeth least he be tempted to eat meat…but then builds himself a set of metal ones—just in case. A woman who declares herself empress of the island…but then takes her power from abusing the lovers in her traveling harem.

Those mummified remains never stood a chance.

Additional Reading
Unsolved Murder Mystery: The Galapagos Affair, Who Killed “The Baroness?”
Satan Came to Eden
The Wittmers of Floreana
The Last Days of a Paradise
Love, Jealousy Add to Mystery of Death on “Enchanted Isles”: Tantalizing Bits of Galapagos Drama Told as Bodies are Found
What Happened on Galapagos? The Truth of the Galapagos Affair as Told by a Lady from Cologne
Debunking the Baroness
Galapagos Affair 
The Lust Mad Empress of Galapagos