Guest blogging: Xenomorph cupcakes!

Check it out! I’m over at Mike Munz’s website makin’ Xenomorph cupcakes for y’all.

SO GROSS.

SO GROSS.

Posted in Current Events, Guest Bloggin' | Leave a comment

Ronald Bog Frog Blog 3.17.15

No frogs today.

My kid told there was a report of a pheasant behind the school.
I suspect this is the same pheasant that was staring at me through the window the other day while I was eating lunch.
He is not sure. Needs to bring binoculars to school and do I have any he might borrow?

Alas, I did not.

Posted in Current Events | Leave a comment

Liebster Awards: Ten Question Blog-Hop

“The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Liebster is German and means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. Awesome! Blogging is about building a community and it’s a great way to connect with other bloggers and help spread the word about newer bloggers/blogs.”

A friend of mine, who has appeared here before, Jill Corddry has tagged me in this blog hop and gave me ten questions to answer. I am, in turn, tagging my friend Candy Sunick, to answer questions in her own time.

For now, here’s my spiel:

1. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Successful? I dunno. I’m aiming for NYT best seller status I guess. Who isn’t? But honestly, I’d take “Author. Good with dogs.”

2. What genre do you write?

Humorous science fiction. Think Douglas Adams crossed with Erma Bombeck.

3. What’s your favorite procrastination tool?

I really like to ignore my writing by gardening and makin’ stuff – like garden stones or chocolate bars. I like to bake and paint stuff too. Pretty much anything that lets me create something new and not be in front of a keyboard while I’m doing it. I’m gearing up to teach myself some basics in carpentry too because if I’m going to procrastinate, the least I do is get a nice set of built-ins out of it.

4. Who or what inspires you?

At the risk of sounding like a complete poseur, I’m going to say quantum physics. I love reading about quantum theory. I find the whole multiverse idea fascinating. And reading actual scientists spell things out and say “You know, this might could happen” it’s empowering in a weird way. It’s empowering to know that the universe is this crazy messed up bunch of energy and lots of things are theoretically possible. It blows my mind.

5. Can you talk about your current WIP?

Absolutely. I am finishing up the main draft of Wizzy Wig, the second book of the Thanatos Rising Series. It’s about Jake Denny. He tries to impress this girl with this goofy physics experiment but instead of coming across as charmingly geeky he ends up twisting space-time all out of whack and finds himself on the wrong side of everything. Toesy comes back to help straighten everything out – or at least he would if he hadn’t rescued a fatalist sugar glider from a fate worse than death and gone on the lam from litigious accountants.
There’s a spider too. It’s pretty fun.

6. Drinking and writing…yea or nay?

For me probably nay. This is because tasty alcoholic beverages make my thoughts run fast and my jaw loosen. I talk. A lot. If we’ve ever sat and had drinks together you’ll know that what I’m saying is an understatement. Talking my thoughts out on a keyboard doesn’t have the same effect as talking to a table full of people.

7. Is there a book you wish you could claim as your own?

Yes and no. I’d love to be able to say I can write as hypnotizing as Sir Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimen in Good Omens, or like Christopher Moore in Lamb, but I don’t want these books to be mine. They are too fully someone else’s.

8. You can have ANY super power you want … what is it?

The ability to stop time. Think of all the naps you could get in.

9. What are your thoughts on self-publishing vs the traditional agent method of getting published?

Ugh, I’ve got fifteen pages of notes in my head about this train wreck of a sport. Here’s what I suggest: write a damn good book. Then prioritize what you really want out of a publishing contract. From whom will you get said contract? That’s Plan A. What is a step down from Plan A? Well that becomes Plan B. Then you work your way all the way to Plan Z if you have to. When you get to the bottom of that list (and you will), write another great book and start from the top again. Don’t stop trying and don’t be a jackass. Write a good enough book and you will get there.

10. How did you get started writing?

Mainly to hear myself think. I have lots of things thinking around in my head and it helps if I write them down, that way I don’t have to juggle them between important ideas. Sometimes I come up with people to talk back at me. This, it turns out, is what most people call “character building” – I did a lot of “character building” as a child. It took me about 35 years to make it look like a normal thing though.

So there you are, my ten questions answered and another round of questions will go to Candy Sunick. Candy and I have been in writing cahoots for a few years now. Here are her ten questions:

  1.  Where do you like to write?
  2.  How do you shut off the world around you to concentrate on your WIP?
  3.  What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  4.  How often do you write?
  5.  What’s your favorite movie? Book?
  6.  In three sentences, describe your favorite character from your WIP.
  7.  You fell out of writing practice for a while. How did you find the spark to get started again?
  8.  Do you think you’ll ever stop writing again?
  9.  What is your perfect length of time to sit down and write during the day?
  10.  Where do you get your strength to stay focused on writing?

Good luck Candy!

Thanks Jill!

Lookit how cute she is!

Lookit how cute she is!

Jill Corddry started telling stories at an early age, and her parents get credit as the first to recognize her writing ability (and encouraged her accordingly). She even managed to use her BA in English for many years as a content writer for a few dot coms in Seattle. These days Jill finds a few spare minutes to write in between taking care of twin toddlers and soaking up the California sunshine. Her short stories have most recently been published in Out of the Green: Tales from Fairyland, an anthology by Urban Fey Press; the Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus, ananthology by World Weaver Press; and Demonic Possession, an anthology by James Ward Kirk Fiction.
For more info, and occasional updates, check out www.facebook.com/jillcorddryauthor, www.jillcorddry.com, or follow her on twitter @JillCorddry

 

Posted in Blog Hops, Current Events, Essays | Leave a comment

Shaye Whitmer: Jedi Master

This is my friend Shaye:

He looks like a regular guy, doesn't he?  PSYCHE!

Shaye Whitmer: doin’ stuff and bein’ cool.

He looks like a regular guy, doesn’t he? Well what if I told you THIS IS ALSO MY FRIEND SHAYE:

I bet you be all like "WHAT THE WHAT?!?"

I bet you be all like, “WHAT THE WHAT?!?”

Well just you prepare to be all like, “WHAT THE WHAT?!?” Because that, my friends, is no lie. Shaye Whitmer is a Jedi Master.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Everyone likes to dress up now and again, he’s just one of those crazy cos-players.

But that’s where you’d be wrong because Shaye does not play around. Not only does he teach people how to fight like Jedi, he makes his own lightsabers. For realz, CHECK IT:

Sadly, physics is still too much of a mystery to make this all-powerful.

Sadly, physics is still too much of a mystery to make this all-powerful. It must settle for being the coolest thing ever.

Now, making lightsabers isn’t for the weak-willed namby pambies. Nope. You have to be a dedicated to the art of geeking out about tiny electronic whatsits to attain such mastery.

Tiny electric TECHNICOLOR whatsits.

Tiny electronic TECHNICOLOR whatsits.

How did he do it? Well I’m glad you want to know! Because I asked him. Here is the wisdom he imparted upon me:

At what point did you decide to ramp up your hobby to such awesomeness?

It started when my wife got my son a Hasboro lightsaber that lit up and made sounds—you know the retractable tube one? Well, Son #1 got that and Son #2 wanted in on the action so we got him one too (one has to be fair). The kids are wailing on each other and I thought to myself, “WHY DON’T I HAVE ONE?!” Unlike my kids, I have a salary which meant that could get whatever I wanted. After 3 months of dithering and searching I bought a pretty fancy one.  It’s made of metal, lights up and is rated strong enough to tackle a tree.

After I got it, I realized there were a few things that it didn’t do which I thought it should. It changed colors on impact, made sounds, and had a sound font that you could change but it could not flicker or shimmer and that annoyed me. So I decided to upgrade it. I searched the internet and found a few forums that dealt only with lightsabers.  I tried something and failed. I was undeterred, because I found a sound board that could give a lightsaber the shimmer I desperately wanted. I figured I could install it myself and in so doing teach myself more about soldering and electronics.

I bought it (didn’t break it) and installed it into a hilt that I had picked up and gutted for that very purpose. I used my first saber for reference and put everything in the new gutted housing the same way. I was delighted and reveled in my own success. It was not as bad as I thought it would be and I attained my goal. Darn skippy…

Then I learned about this other board that could do everything the other boards could do, combined, more sounds schemes and it could change colors! To this I said “WHAAAAAAA? COLOR CHANGING BLADE?! Can I haz it?” Sure I could! The only catch being I had to install this waaaaaay more complex beast on my own.

This was a big step! New battery types, new LEDs, soldering on to LED stars 3x as many solder connections and joints. It was a bit terrifying. I got another lightsaber (similar to the one I bought initially), ripped it apart and started drilling holes. To say I had issues was an understatement but I did it. Then upon completion, I knock loose some parts on the circuit board.

“CRAP.” Said I and sent it away to be fixed (and it only had to go to Issaquah, hurrah). When I got it back, I made a few changes and finished it. It worked! Relief and self satisfaction flowed through me. Where once I had only one color per saber, I now effectively had 16777216 color variations. I was content…for a time.

WP_20141004_19_44_58_Pro

And BOOM!

Color.

Color.

 

Changing.

Changing.

 

Blade.

Blade.

Why? Why do you build lightsabers?

Every time I build one, I set out a new skill to learn and apply. The next one I built was also a color changing saber, but I wanted an illuminated crystal section that glows and matches whatever the color the blade glowed. Had to learn more about resistances and diodes to make sure I didn’t blow the LED’s. I also wanted to do a shroud (which covers the outside of the saber). I learned them and it was good.

Shaye likes to do things in batches because one custom lightsaber hilt is not enough.

Shaye likes to do things in batches because let’s be honest, one custom lightsaber hilt is not enough.

Both of these were heavily modified versions of sabers that already existed. I felt that I did not need to depend on other companies to make hilts, and that I can do it myself. Currently I am working on a bent hilt (like Count Dooku) and a one with a full chamber reveal where the entire hilt comes apart with an even fancier illuminated crystal designed in CAD and 3-d printed. To do these, I needed to learn how to use MOAR TOOLS *grunts*, a metal lathe, and milling machine were new additions in knowledge in my repertoire.

Shaye Whitmer: Learning new-fangled skillz!

Shaye Whitmer: Metal Lathe Master

Somewhere in the middle I learned to make belts and armor too. I am a bit of a neo-Renaissance geek.

Best kind of geek there is.

Best kind of geek there is.

 

What kind of reaction do you get from people when they see the stuff you’ve made?

People are usually pretty impressed, more so when I swing it around and can hit things with it. It helps that my fencing and kendo background also lets me know how to use them. They say “it must be hard to make those”. It only becomes hard when you make it complex and push yourself. People then ask about how long it took that’s when things get a bit crazy.

And the trading card. Did I mention he has a trading card?

Did I mention he has a trading card?

 

Okay seriously, how many people have asked you to make them a lightsaber?

I’ve had surprisingly few serious requests. A few people have though. If you include the classes and summer camps I teach, I suppose <20 or so? The hardest part was establishing the cost of my time. I have come to possess a pretty unique skill set.

Jealous much, Vader?

Jealous much, General Veers?

I’d say that “unique skillset” is kind of an understatement. Do you think you’ll ever get to a point where you decide that you’ve done what you wanted to do and move on to something new?

Now that is a question. In my brief time in the hobby, lighting solutions have changed 2 or 3 times. It is always evolving. As long as there is something new to learn, I’ll likely keep at it. I do enjoy learning new things though at some point, I would like to get back into blade smithing. That is another thing entirely.

Yes, yes it is. What are you making next?

As of right now, I’m still working on the curved hilt and my reveal hilt mentioned above. I have another hilt laying around that I made that I might do something with. I’ll likely take a break for a bit and build a hilt for a commission. Then, tinker with some new ideas. I suppose in the short term I should finish my Halloween costume! The Borg. Trying some new techniques to apply with my art students.

I don’t know about you but I can sleep better at night knowing that when the Empire eventually takes over the galaxy you’re one of the good guys. Thank you, Shaye, for sharing your incredible hobby with us!

And this post wouldn’t be complete without a big thank you to Danny Ngan for the action shots! Check out more of his work at Danny Ngan Phtography. I recommend you go there right now because he also does Roller Derby portraits and Roller Derby is cool.

Posted in Comics, Current Events, Fun Links, These are the people in your neighborhood, This really happened | 3 Comments

Pacific NW Blog Hop!

 The lovely and talented Nicole Persun invited me to participate in the Pacific NorthWest writers Blog Hop. Check out her blog here.

And without further ado, here’s my blog hoppin’ goodness:

1) What am I working on?

Currently I am working on the sequel to Double Blind. I’ve been working on it for a while now and I’m so excited to get it done that I could literally spit. I haven’t but that’s because I don’t want my son to start doing that too. He’s taken up as many bad habits a 9 year old boy can. He’s really good at making explosion and laser noises. This is what he sounds like most of the time:

 

The book is called Wizzy Wig the second book in the Thanatos Rising series. Jake Denny is still hopelessly in love with Pizza Girl. Even though they are officially friends now, he still doesn’t know how to talk to her. His chit-chat always seems to end up focused on what he knows best: video games, Kung-Fu movies and theoretical physics. When Pizza Girl remembers one of his experiments and decides to help him out, the resulting twist in reality puts everyone in danger (or as in the case of some really tall people, bad 80’s movies). Toesy knows what is going on but he’s busy trying to save a fatalistic marsupial from a crazed accountant.

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Anyone who has read my writing knows I have a very distinct voice. (I am told that voice swears a lot but I’m trying to cut down on that.) My work is very different from other Sci-fi because the stories don’t hinge on the science part. The science is there to make things interesting, for sure, but mostly the story revolves around the characters. One of whom is a gigantic sentient cat who has grown thumbs.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I really like spending time around my characters. I love writing about them because I love hanging out with them. If I don’t write down the funny things they do, no one else will ever know them. And when you love a character so much that you want to share them with other people you have to write about them. It’s either that or prescription medication and I’m far too lazy to for that.

Lazy is good.

Lazy is good.

4) How does my writing process work? 

I write according to the Law of Diminishing Returns.

I write about 75% the way through a manuscript then turn around and trash about 60% of that. Then I write about 15% more and trash 7%. It keeps going like this until the manuscript is so close to being finished that the average person will not be able to tell that it still needs work. Then I edit about twelve more times, just for kicks.

And that’s it for me. I am officially tagging:

Kari Neumeyer
Kari
Kari has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School and has worked for news outlets in Washington state and the Czech Republic. She grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television. Now she lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her beau, Rob, and their dog family.
In her spare time, she volunteers teaching an adaptive martial arts class to adults with developmental disabilities at the Max Higbee Center, fostering a love of creative writing to Whatcom Young Writers, and walking shelter dogs at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley. She blogs about dogs at KariNeumeyer.com.
Mike Munz

An award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Michael G. Munz is also fascinated with Greek mythology. Michael also possesses what most “normal” people would likely deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though he prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none. Or mostly none. There are exceptions. He dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguini.

Read more about Michael on www.michaelgmunz.com and on his blog, Geek Notes.

And Jill Corddry
Jill Corddry
Jill Corddry started telling stories at an early age, and her parents get credit as the first to recognize her writing ability (and encouraged her accordingly). She even managed to use her BA in English for many years as a content writer for a few dot coms in Seattle.
These days Jill finds a few spare minutes to write in between taking care of twin toddlers and soaking up the California sunshine. She has stories published in Lakeside Circus, Bewildering Stories, in the Demonic Possession anthology by James Ward Kirk Fiction, and an upcoming anthology by World Weaver Press. She is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and the California Writers Club.
Or follow her on twitter @JillCorddry
Posted in Current Events | 1 Comment

Guys and Dolls

My daughter is a hoarder of tiny things. She has about seventeen hundred bags, purses, carrying cases and whatnots in which she stores all the little hoo-haws. When she’s playing something like “Dolls going to a tea party” and she’ll pack a bag full of dolly clothes and food. Sometime she plays “Hello Kitty and Lego Friends go to the store” and I find all the little Lego Friends girls and seven or eight Hello Kitty people stuffed into a small backpack. Sometimes she plays “Dinosaurs vs Little Peoples” – and we find a bag full of…well, you get the idea.

After a few weeks of studious playing, she reaches a point where so many toys are packed away in so many bags that she can’t find anything. And then we have to purge.

Today was a purge day.

We do this bag by bag. We empty one out on the floor, go through all the stuff, ooh and ahh over the toys we haven’t seen in weeks, then put everything back where it belongs.

Here is a good example of what I’m talking about. About three bags in, I found this cute little purse:

Oh look! It's already packed with stuff ready for the tea party!

Ooo, very fancy!

I like that little purse. Doesn’t it look like it’s packed with stuff, ready to go to a tea party? I thought perhaps it was so opened it, expecting to find some plastic animals, maybe a Hello Kitty or two.

BUT NOPE:

lookit here see

That’s a cap gun and some playing cards.

Apparently, she’s been playing 1920’s era Chicago Gun Moll.

Posted in Current Events, Found things, My Kids are so awesome, This really happened, TTYFAtH | Leave a comment

Crows are jerks.

A curious thing happened to me at the beach today.

We brought our lunch, as many do, and ate it before the sand became too much of a temptation for the kids. After lunch, we packed everything away and zipped up our bags because there were two crows loitering in the nearby drift wood. I’ve been mugged by crows before. It isn’t fun.

As I suspected, the crows waited for us to get about 20 feet away before they tried helping themselves to our leftover lunch. Ha ha! They were diappointed.

Later on, I saw another family emerge from the trial and settle in near where we had our stuff. Like us they ate some lunch right away. Like us, they then went to play near the surf. Unlike us, they did not zip their lunch sack closed.

Within minutes the same two crows settled in. By the time we’d crossed the beach, the lead crow had successfully broken into their cheesy poofs. I know this because he had one stuck on his beak and he was waving it proudly in the air.

The crows that hang out in state parks are complete jerks. They’ll steal your sandwich and come back for your potato chips if they think you’re stupid enough. Small hungry animals can be jackasses too. One time, a squirrel chewed a hole through my tent to steal a package of graham crackers. Now I got a regular tent and a squirrel tent because some asshole squirrel was jonesing for graham crackers.

That family was not prepared to deal with the horrible truth of nature. We could not sit there and watch the crows rummage through their lunch bag, even if it would have taught them a valuable lesson about wildlife.

We clapped our hands. We ran at their bags. We made shoo-shoo noises. The crows flew away.

15 feet away and waited.

Because crows are smart like that. They knew they weren’t in our stuff. They knew we would eventually go away. And when we did, they’d be all over those cheesy poofs like woodland critters to snack foods.

I looked around for the family but I didn’t see them anywhere. Also, I couldn’t actually remember what they looked like other than the lady wore black and red and she had fluffy hair. There was a husband too and he probably had a beard? Hell, I don’t know. I had no idea where they went.

My plan was to run over there and cover up their backpack before anyone saw me sneaking around in their stuff because AWKWARD.

I ran. Or I tried to. The sand was dry and very sluffy and it was less of a ‘run’ as it was a ‘moderate sashay’ but I sashayed as fast as I could. Fortunately the lady left a sweatshirt nearby (it was red!). I grabbed that and tucked it around the bag that held their lunch and hoped it was crow-proof. I then backed away quickly before the family returned. The cheesy-poofed crow sat three feet away and glared at me. For two seconds we locked eyes, and I knew we were thinking the exact same thing:

Asshole.

I broke the staring contest first and I hopped it back to our picnic area as quick as I could, holding my hands out from my body so it was clear that I totally wasn’t stealing anything at all, I promise, OMG don’t yell at me or anything.

No one ran up to me shouting “Stop thief!” by the time I was halfway back to our site so I put my hands down and stopped trying to run away. I didn’t really know what to do with my hands then so I put them in my pockets. And as I slipped my right hand into the pocket of my jeans I felt something amiss. My hand was not as heavy as before. My finger was lighter. The small silver ring I wear next to my wedding ring was gone!

Two heart-pounding seconds later I knew exactly where it went. I knew with the kind of certainty usually reserved for when you’re in line at the grocery store and you can’t find your wallet because it’s sitting at home on your desk.

My ring was in their stuff.

The sweatshirt must have pulled it from my finger when I tucked it around their lunch bag. Now my poor ring was lost in their stuff and how on earth could I go back and look for it? I still didn’t know where they were and there was no way I was going over there again. They would catch me for sure and what could I say? Sorry, a crow made me come over here, and long story short, I had to go through all your stuff?

No. Just…no. My ring was gone. There was no socially acceptable way to go back and look for it.

Brian wasn’t so sure. He searched all over our site. He searched the backpack. He searched his pockets (I don’t know why). He searched in wide circles around their site but saw nothing of interest so he came back. Eventually, he too gave into the universal of truth of what had happened. My ring was in their stuff and we could not go back and look for it unless they were there.

We waited, stretching out our time as much as possible. Ten long kid-whine-filled minutes they still had not come back. We gave up. The ring wasn’t worth much. What matters is that we successfully defended their lunch from crows. Sure we paid the price for it but that’s gonna happen when you mess with nature. You don’t walk away scot-free. We let it go and focused on getting ready to hike out.

In the middle of de-sanding kid feet, a familiar looking woman came walking down the beach toward us. I couldn’t tell if it was the right woman though and Brian hadn’t seen her up close so we stalled long enough to see where she would sit. She sat down at the scene of the crime. Bingo!

I waved and ran over, trying not to appear too crazy as I explained the previous ten minutes of my life. She looked skeptical until we got to the cheesy poofs part and she pulled the torn bag of chips from her lunch bag. After that things started looking up.

We found my ring. She thanked me for defending their lunch. I thanked her for not thinking I was insane. And in the end everything went back to normal. But I’ve learned my lesson.

Don’t friggen’ mess with crows.

They have weird karma.

Posted in Current Events | 1 Comment

Halloween Gardening

I took my daughter to the garden store with me way back in April. She likes to garden, or at least she likes to pick all the flowers, so I took her with me in hopes that it would spark and interest.

Did you know that the Disney corporation has a whole line of gardening-BS geared toward kids? I didn’t. It took her approximately twelve seconds to find the Princess themed seed packets, mainly because they’re pink and have Princesses all over them. She picked out Snow White pumpkins seeds. We got home and planted them. As soon as the package became recycling, she lost interest and wandered away.

Later in the season I somehow got conned into buying Cinderella pumpkins as well. Interestingly, Cinderella pumpkins are not actually Disney themed. It’s just the type of pumpkin they are. She didn’t care. Now we have ALL of the pumpkins ever.

I thought I was being smart when I planted them in the far garden bed. I thought when they grew, they could run along the fence line and take over the ugly side of the yard. I don’t know why I thought this. We live on a wicked steep hill. Everything about my yard requires a retaining wall. They weren’t going to run horizontally along the hill. They were going to run the way gravity wanted them too.

In June, they climbed under the fence and staged a full-on attack on the driveway. By July, they were putting out pumpkins. Like, a zillion pumpkins. Like, what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do-with-all-these-pumpkins quantities of pumpkins. I could cook some but the rest I am going to have to give away. Maybe the kids will like them.

I tried counting all the pumpkins to get an accurate total. But like I said, the yard is wicked steep. And did you know that pumpkin vines are super pokey? It took me three tries until I gave up and decided to just write names on all the pumpkins I saw.

This is what they look like now:

R's are apparently a problem for me.

R’s are apparently a problem for me.

Check out the spines on that vine.

Check out the spines on that vine.

There are others, but I’m not diving into a patch of super-pokey pumpkin vines to find them. We’ll find them when fall rolls around.

If you are growing pumpkins and you want to do this, it’s dead easy. All you have to do is find a large needle or a push pin or something sharp (I think I used a dull steak knife for the first one which is why the R is all messed up). Then scratch whatever you like into the skin of the pumpkin. It doesn’t have to be a name. I toyed with the idea of doing a spiral or something until I got poked too many times and gave up.

Anyway, take your pin (or needle or steak knife) and cut down through the thin outer layer of skin but not into the flesh. Don’t push too hard. If you make too much of a cut your pumpkin won’t heal right and it may rot.

Now leave them alone. The pumpkins will do everything else. And if you really want to freak your kids out, don’t tell them what you did.

Posted in Current Events | 3 Comments

Blog Hop: Writers on Writing

I don’t often write about writing but when the opportunity to participate in a blog hop arose, I pounced on that sucker like a cat after a mouse. The concept of a blog hop is fun and, once I understood what the heck I was doing, pretty easy peasy lemon-squeezy.

So here it is, my first ever blog hop tour (although I hope it’s not the last). Writers writing about writing! A huge thank you to Fiona Leonard, author of The Chicken Thief for including me!

Where do you like to write?
I used to write at the kitchen table which required me to pick up everything several times a day so we could actually use the table for meals. It was a pain in the nether regions. Last year for my birthday (a significant birthday only because it ends in a zero) my parents built me a beautiful writing desk. I now write upstairs at my fancy desk and I haven’t cleaned it off since I moved upstairs. It’s wonderfully messy. And as an added bonus, I sit in the window that overlooks our street so I get to spy on the neighbors as well.

BEHOLD, THE MAJESTY OF MY BIRTHDAY DESK.  It has never been this clean again.

BEHOLD, THE MAJESTY OF MY BIRTHDAY DESK.
It will never be this clean again.

Which part of researching your current novel was most interesting?
I write goofy stuff based on science. The current book I’m writing is based on a quantum physical thought experiment which has far reaching implications into the multiverse theory. (I swear it’s not as boring as it sounds.) Plotting for the novel has been an exercise in brainstorming ideas. Basically I came up with a long string of “What if it were possible to do this?” And so far, everything I’ve read is telling me, “Hey, it is possible to do that!” It’s somewhat mind-blowing.

One notable example was the research I did on multiverses. I was reading about the Inflation model of the universe and how, if we could find gravitational waves that would basically prove the existence of a multiverse. The book explained it all so well that I started having this weird existential crisis. There really could be a multiverse. Which meant that there really could be another me out there somewhere. Another me, another you, another President Obama—it was so real to me that I couldn’t concentrate on other things. I had to step away from it before I went over the deep end and started wearing underwear on my head or something. So I put the book down and decided to read the news for a while. Unfortunately, I switched over to the news at the very moment that astrophysicists from BICEP2 were getting all twitterpated over the detection of gravitational waves—basically proving the crazy-town theory I was currently freaking out about. They have since dialed it back to say that maybe they didn’t find what they thought they found but for about a week, everything I knew about the world was completely pear-shaped.

How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose them?
Names are super important to me. I name everything as distinctly as possible so there is no chance of getting confused. Even our dog has a last name.
Choosing names is interesting. I have a running list of names in my head that I really like but if none of those fit the character, I tend to default back to scientists. I name a lot of things after scientists. I like scientists. They have interesting names.

Do you read your reviews? How do you respond to the bad reviews (if you get them)?
Absolutely I read reviews. People tell you not to but I don’t know any writers that actively avoid them. I like reading how people react to my writing because it gives me such a kick when they say nice things. I even like reading the critical things people say—as long as they’re not malicious. You can do anything with malice except shake your head and move on.
Everyone gets bad reviews, even if it’s just one. They can be hard to read until you learn how to find the information in them. One lady reviewed Double Blind and said that she didn’t like it because there was too much swearing and that “women wouldn’t act like that.” While that is certainly a valid opinion, it was clear to me that she wasn’t part of my target audience. Her review actually helped me define who my target audience is – something I’d been trying to pin down for a while.
And even though she didn’t love it, she still read the book and gave it three stars (despite the swearing) so she must have liked some part of it.

What are your favorite books to give as gifts?
Anything by Sir Terry Pratchett—most especially the Wee Free Men, the Bromeliad Series or any of the Night Watch books. He is truly a master of story-telling.
I also like Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore but there’s a select group of people that would enjoy that.

I also pass books along. I like to give away books that I’ve received and enjoyed from other authors in the area. I take a lot of books travelling and leave them in book exchanges. I’ve gotten a lot of fun books that way myself!

That’s it for me today but check out the next authors in the hop!

Arleen Williams

Fancy Glasses and all!

Fancy Glasses and all!

Arleen Williams is the author of three books. Running Secrets, the first novel in the Alki Trilogy, is about the power of friendship in helping overcome the dysfunction of family and life. Biking Uphill, book two of the Alki Trilogy, invites the reader into a world of undocumented immigration, where parents are deported, and a young girl is abandoned to face life on her own. The Thirty-Ninth Victim is a memoir of her family’s journey before and after her sister’s murder.

Arleen teaches English as a Second Language at South Seattle College and has worked with immigrants and refugees for close to three decades. Arleen lives and writes in West Seattle. To learn more, please visit www.arleenwilliams.com.

And also presenting:

Kari Neumeyer

Kari

Kari Neumeyer thinks Groucho Marx was onto something when he said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

Kari’s name rhymes with safari. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School and has worked for news outlets in Washington state and the Czech Republic. She grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television. Now she lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her beau, Rob, and their dog family.

In her spare time, she volunteers teaching an adaptive martial arts class to adults with developmental disabilities at the Max Higbee Center, fostering a love of creative writing to Whatcom Young Writers, and walking shelter dogs at the Humane Society of Skagit Valley.
She blogs about dogs at KariNeumeyer.com. Read her new book Bark and Lunge: Saving my Dog from Training Mistakes, on sale now!

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The gods are back. Did you myth them?

Hey everybody I’ve got a guest poster!

I know, I’m as shocked as you but it’s true.

He’s a fellow Booktrope author and an all around good guy. He’s got a new book out this month and he’s here to do my bidding entertain y’all while I’m out in the yard battling spiders. Stick around after the post for information on his new book Zeus is Dead.

Watch out for the venomous winged kittens.

And you should probably watch out for the venomous winged kittens.

Let’s all welcome Michael Munz!

***

So when I landed on Tiffany Pitts’s lawn, freshly flung from the official Zeus Is Dead Launch Tour Catapult™, she graciously said she was more than happy to have me guest post. “Great!” I said. “What would you like me to do?”

“Wax my car!”

“Er, I meant for the guest post.”

“Look, Michael, have you seen The Karate Kid or not?”

“But I heard wax-on, wax-off can make you go blind! Can’t I just write something instead?”

She regarded me a moment, and sighed. “Give me a list of the top ten most hilarious books you’ve ever read.”

“No problem!” I said.

“WITHOUT mentioning anything by Douglas Adams, Dave Barry, or Terry Pratchett.”

“…You’re bitter about that no-car-waxing thing, aren’t you?”

“DANCE, writer-boy!”

So I acquiesced, with the caveat that I might also include some books I haven’t read yet, but plan to as soon as I’m able. So here we go, in no particular order (because I’m peculiar like that):

The Mall of Cthulhu (Seamus Cooper)

This one almost had me with the title alone when I passed it on a display at the end of an aisle at the bookstore. It got me to pick it up, and the back cover description did the rest. A short version: A barista with a folklore degree and the FBI agent he saved from a nest of college vampires ten years ago must prevent a cult from awakening the Old Ones and turning an unsuspecting shopping center into The Mall of Cthulhu. Comedy and Lovecraft, mixed well.

The Princess Bride (William Goldman)

This is, of course, the abridged version of S. Morgenstern’s classic novel*, which William Goldman published before we all knew it to be a classic movie. While Goldman’s introduction and framing is a bit slow, once he gets to “retelling” the story, it’s quite excellent. It also features the “Zoo of Death,” which didn’t make it to the film.

*This does not actually exist. Go ahead, ask for it in the bookstore and see how they react…

The Order of the Stick (Rich Burlew)

This one’s actually a webcomic, but it’s an excellent comedic fantasy saga. While the idea of stick figure characters may sound simple, it’s a style choice that works great for the story, and the art is really detailed in its way. It began as a D&D-themed comic that swiftly grew a storyline, which soon bloomed into an epic. The characters are rich, the storyline is intriguing and complex, and, what’s best, it’s really funny! OOTS also leans against the 4th wall in a way that influenced my writing in my own comedic fantasy novel, Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure. (Wasn’t that a subtle plug? But seriously, give OOTS a look! It’s well worth it.)

When You Are Engulfed In Flames (David Sedaris)

This one goes in the category of books that gave me a chuckle. I’m told this isn’t the funniest of Sedaris’s books, but so far it’s the only one I’ve read. It’s a charming collection of essays. Sedaris’s writing has a very easygoing voice that calls to mind lazy Sunday mornings.

Seinlanguage (Jerry Seinfeld)

Okay, so admittedly I’m reaching way back in time for this one, because I read it in the mid-nineties. (You take away my Adams, Barry, and Pratchett and it turns out my comedy-reading experience isn’t as wide as my non-comedic reading.) The only thing I remember about this book is Seinfeld’s statement that a date is like a job interview that could end in sex.

Good Omens (Neil Gaiman …and Terry Pratchett)

Aha! A loophole! I can mention books written by Neil Gaiman! (Where’s your messiah NOW, Tiffany?!) An imaginative and hilarious story about the apocalypse that almost wasn’t, then was, then wasn’t…or was? (I won’t say where it ends up without spoiling the plot, after all.) It’s also got a demon named Crowley…

Calvin & Hobbes (Bill Watterson)

The whole freaking collection. I can’t pick just one book, though the 10th anniversary collection with Watterson’s commentary is especially fun to read for writer fans like me. Oh, and if you’ve never heard of Calvin & Hobbes, which is one of the best comic strips ever, then for crying out loud, fix that!

Mogworld (Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw)

And now we’re into the first of the “comedy books I really want to read” section. I only know of Croshaw via his “Zero Punctuation” video game reviews on TheEscapist.com. He flings the snark, in witty fashion, the way a monkey on crack might fling…um, other stuff. But then Jonathan Charles Bruce dropped his name in a review of my own writing, and low and behold, I find out he’s got a book, too. So I’m curious.

Year Zero (Robert H. Reed)

This one I literally just heard about this week. Aliens love Earth’s music, copy it to spread it around the galaxy (without our knowing), and then realize they owe Earth zillions of dollars in royalty payments.

Guards! Guards! (Terry Pratchett)

Now, technically, Tiffany said only that I couldn’t list Pratchett among the books I’ve read, so I’m taking shelter in that one, especially because this is the book people always try to hit me in the head with upon hearing that I haven’t read it. Seriously, I’m getting permanent welts.

Special Mention Bonus 11th Item!

Double Blind (Tiffany Pitts)

I didn’t think I should put this on the main list for fear of appearing as if I were just buttering up my kind, wise, and talented host, but I do have to mention it, as this novel is the only one I’ve encountered with a cat as one of the point-of-view characters. It’s a risky concept, but one she pulls off beautifully, capturing the, ah, enlightened self-interest and animalistic viewpoint you’d expect from a cat in a way that’s both fitting and hilarious. Seriously, check it out.

…I mean, after you try Zeus Is Dead.

Hey, I’m not a saint.

***

More hilarity awaits you in the new book Zeus Is Dead, A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure!

I see what you did there, Muntz. TECHNICALITIES.

Michael Munz: Geek-Bard

ABOUT MICHAEL G. MUNZ

An award-winning writer of speculative fiction, Michael G. Munz was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Washington State in 1977 at the age of three. Unable to escape the state’s gravity, he has spent most of his life there and studied writing at the University of Washington.

Michael developed his creative bug in college, writing and filming four exceedingly amateur films before setting his sights on becoming a novelist. Driving this goal is the desire to tell entertaining stories that give to others the same pleasure as other writers have given to him. He enjoys writing tales that combine the modern world with the futuristic or fantastic.

Michael has traveled to three continents and has an interest in Celtic and Classical mythology. He also possesses what most “normal” people would likely deem far too much familiarity with a wide range of geek culture, though Michael prefers the term geek-bard: a jack of all geek-trades, but master of none—except possibly Farscape and Twin Peaks.

Michael dwells in Seattle where he continues his quest to write the most entertaining novel known to humankind and find a really fantastic clam linguine.

Find out more about him at michaelgmunz.com. While there, it wouldn’t hurt to get a FREE copy of Mythed Connections, the spiritual prequel to Zeus is Dead.

Contact Michael on Twitter/ Facebook

Find Zeus is Dead on  Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

 
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