Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Witty's Year End Book Review 2013

With almost a full year clocking as a full-time librarian again surrounded by books, books, dvds and more books, it's about time I finished up for this calendar year and promote another year end book review!

To be fair, the rules have changed: during a period when I was out of libraries and relying on my own time and pace for books worth reading/promoting, I pretty much covered any title I'd read over the years to fulfill the Best Fiction, Best Non-Fiction, Best Graphic Novel et al.  This time, I had a whole library to work with (insert grin here), so this time I will focus on the books released this 2013 for once.

Best Fiction

The Ocean At the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman.
Ever since the Black Orchid 3-parter really, I've been into Gaiman's literary style: knowing the fantasy tropes of superheroes as well as magic, playing and deconstructing stories and then putting them all back together again for the sake of the story itself.  Although Mike Bruscell had to remind me when Sandman came out it was the same author and worth pursuing.
Ocean was the first book in a few years that was geared more for adults - Gaiman's last few were juvenile/young adult - and it's a flashback-based tale of a mid-40s man returning to the place of his youth drawn by a re-emerging memory of what happened when he was seven.  A lonely young boy who gets befriended by a girl living on a farmhouse with her mother and grandmother who talk nonsensical (anyone familiar with Gaiman knows the trope he's playing with here) but who are at least the only other ones aware that an inter-dimensional monster has arrived in their corner of the world.  While this monster is disruptive, it's easy to deal with... problem is that monster causes a mess that brings nastier monsters into the world to clean up...
All of Gaiman's favorite tropes are on display here - the love of cats, the vastness of the universe, the magic of perception, the monsters that try not to be monsters but just can't help themselves - as well as a sense of this being a personal tale, related very much to the author's own childhood and to a sense of loss when that childhood ended.  It's a very good book to read.
Also, when I named my new cat Ocean... well when you read the book you'll understand why.
Runner-Up (I think I do this once in awhile): The Human Division, John Scalzi

Best Non-Fiction

The United States of Paranoia, Jesse Walker
I get into conspiracies, but for all the right reasons...  Growing up I read books about UFOs and ghosts and the Bermuda Triangle and Loch Ness Monster, the strange and unusual, upon which I noticed the bits of conspiracy and cover-ups surrounding some of the events.  By my middle-school years I had "graduated" to more serious stuff like JFK's assassination and the Church Committee findings.  While reading these conspiracy theories I quickly grew to recognize the folly behind a lot of them: some of the conspiracies get so convoluted in their setup and explanations, and relied on thin wisps that half the time weren't even real, that they made little or no sense (sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one).
This year Walker came out with a book reviewing the prolonged, twisted history of conspiracy thought in the United States itself: the fact that even since our colonial days, our society has been fearful of "the outside threat", the shadow figures below or above us, the belief that someone or some group had it in for our own, for our nation and communities.  Walker does his best to explain the mindset of how perfectly rational people would believe irrational conspiracies: the make-up of the American mindset that allows us to handle the real world while believing that alien shapeshifters from the moon Europa are harvesting our ova.  At least, Walker tries to explain: I think it's all a plot... yes a plot...

Best Graphic Novel

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh

It's not the most beautifully drawn work in the universe, but Brosh writes in a clear, refreshing, horrifying fashion.
Taken from her ongoing blog, each chapter delves into a particularly unusual moment during her life or delves into particularly painful observations.  Above all, for me, are the moving two-parter chapters she writes about her chronic depression: arguably the most insightful, illuminating description of what depression is really like and why it is so hard for those of us enduring it to ever explain it to people who never experience it.  Where the character representing Brosh describes the emotional void/distance that overwhelms you... the flatness of your emotional state itself... Look, these words I'm using barely even describe it right.  Brosh's words do.

Saddest Thought That is Going To Bother Me Forever

Elmore Leonard is dead and I'll never find out if Foley and Sisco ever get back together.

Best Humor-Horror Anthology That Includes A Short Story I Wrote

Strangely Funny, Sarah E. Glenn (editor and submitter)
Okay, so I'm shilling my stuff!  Glenn and co-editor Gwen Mayo were kind enough to add "I Must Be Your First" into the first anthology printing from their Horror & Mystery LLC publisher.  Some of the stories I found very good - "Best of Taste" by Edward Ahern, "One Scareful Owner" by Catriona McPherson, "Criticus Ex Machina," by Glenn - and some of the others very dark and unsettling.  Some of the online reviews on Goodreads have been okay... but I'd... we'd like to get a few more... especially with 4 or 5 stars attached!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

200th Post: Also, Caturday. Also, New Cat

For my 200th post on this blog, here's a picture of a cat.

This is the cleanest picture I can get at the moment.  The cat is damn wiggly.

The month before Halloween, Tehya my Pretty Kitty developed a severe case of lung cancer and I didn't realize it until it was too late the week before.

It had been two years since I lost Page my Silly Kitty to skin cancer, the Monday before Thanksgiving.

On Halloween night, sitting around my apartment complex - in an empty place - wondering where all the trick-or-treaters were, I hear this meowing.  At the base of the stairs was this little kitten, clearly hungry, wanting attention and food and love.

With nothing else to do, I raced out to Publix for packets of cat food, paper plates to put 'em, and put the food out.

A trio of cats emerged from the bushes to partake, and before I knew it me and my neighbors had settled into taking care of two cats, the meowy kitten and an older (by a year) grey cat.  Both of them were literally skin and bones.  We fatted them up and they were content.

The black-and-white kitten quickly grew brave and learned to race up the stairs to my apartment, and finagled his/her way in past the door to check my place out and recognize I had cat toys still about, and got to wiggling about on the floor contented and purring.

After more than a month of doing this and finding out no one else had reported a missing kitten or twelve, of figuring out the poor things were most likely abandoned - ferals are NEVER this friendly - and in need of a home, noting I only had the budget for one cat to join me, I succumbed to the inevitable that the kitten I had nicknamed Wiggle was my cat, and took him/her today to the vet to proceed adopting it.

The nurses told me Wiggle was a girl cat.

Wiggle is more nickname than name.  I needed a good girl cat name.  The nurses suggested I get one from a book.

My smartphone has ebooks on it.  I opened up my Nook reader and the first book up was by Neil Gaiman.

Her name is now Ocean.  If you've read Neil's book, you'd know why.

My Wiggle Cat.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Anniversary: Twenty Years Ago, I Became a Master...

We've come up on the moment in my life I officially achieved Librarian certification...

I earned my Masters degree in Library and Information Science at the University of South Florida (GO BULLS) on December 14, 1993, after a rushed year and a half of 36 semester hours, graduating with a 3.75 GPA, all As and Bs.

Within a few weeks I got a part-time job at the Clearwater campus of St. Pete JC (now a full-up college with 4-year programs), which lasted until April 1994 when I got a full-time job offer with Broward County Libraries for their new North Regional branch in Coconut Creek.

Twenty years a librarian.

Long crazy years.

More crazy years hopefully yet to come.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I Survived NaNoWriMo 2013

Next step: surviving a December, January, February, and March of finishing and editing the works I've started.  Sigh...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update To The Update 11/26/13

This is a thing now.

I shall sleep.  The important thing is... I still gotta write.  The novel's barely half-finished.

NaNoWriMo Update 11/26/13

You know how you get down to the wire and then all of a sudden there's like 153 different things distracting you from getting something done?

Well, for me, not really.  I mean, I'm at 48,000-plus words with 4 days to go.  I ought to hit 50,000 words for NaNo sometime tonight.

As for a workable novel... well, yeah, it's gonna need editing...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update 11/17/13

As of right now, I got to 40,000 words on the month, at a considerable fast pace getting to 50,000.

On the best part, I've finished one of the stories making up the anthology, which gives me a good feeling.  It was a doozy of the story too, which took a lot of time to finish up. The other stories shouldn't take as long in terms of time and words.

So, doing good.  How are you?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update 11/14/13

I've gotten to 29,000 words last night, was hoping to reach an even 30,000 but felt too damn tired.

The story anthology idea has given me a lot of incentive in terms of getting me to finish the individual stories in their own time and pace.  I'm about done with one, still juggling 4 others with it, after which I can focus on one of those 4 and and continue on.

Getting the 50,000 word count will be easy this way.  Getting the stories I want in this anthology is proving to be trickier.  But that's what the editing process will be for...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update 11/6/13

Currently left the word count at 14,000 or so words by November 5th.  I am technically a little ahead of the curve: last Saturday was a huge burst of writing that's gotten me this far.

The project itself is not a novel, but a collection of stories placed in a created universe.  I'm mostly in on one story at the moment, about 2/3rds done on it.  I've started four other stories that will make part of the anthology, and hope to have at least 8 of the stories completed to within the 50,000 word count for NaNo.  I may exceed it by adding another story or two.

But the key point is, I've got the groundwork set.  Now I've got to get the framework mount and the drywall placed.

Friday, November 1, 2013

I Miss Tehya and Page This Time Around for NaNoWriMo

I'm glancing about the room as I type, looking at the spots Tehya would be sitting while I worked on the laptop.

When I lived in New Port Richey doing the NaNo writings at home, I would be at the dining room table, and Page would on occasion hop onto the table and sniff around, working her way towards the laptop before I would pick her up and rub her belly until she would wriggle free and meow in frustration at me.  Tehya would usually find a spot underfoot and stay there.

I have no muse at the moment.  I must write now with a sad heart.

I miss my kitties.

Friday, October 25, 2013

About My Cat Tehya

My first full-time job was at Broward County Libraries, they had opened a new Regional Branch which was a joint-use with Broward Community College's North Campus.  This was back in 1994 (Good Lord: 20th anniversary is around the corner!).  One of my co-workers was Judi, with the college but part of the Reference team on the second floor.  She was active with the local cat rescue groups, rounding up strays and abandoned cats for re-adoption.

By 1999 she had convinced me - and my personal budget was steady enough - that I ought to have a cat in my life.  She was at the time counseling a newly-caught feral mom and three kittens, so I came by for a looksee.

The mama kitty and two of her kittens were calicoes, a special hair color pattern of motley black, orange and white (the male was black: it's rare for calicoes to be male).  The mama was pure feral and avoided people.  The kittens were skittish but if you held one and petted one they weren't too vicious about it.

There was one with a pretty little orange stripe running up her nose to a point just behind her ear line.

I asked to adopt her and went looking through the baby name books in the 929.44 shelf range.  I was a librarian and I was going to show off with a cool name.  I went with Tehya: it means "precious" in Native American.

Tehya was jumpy, flighty, inquisitive, skittish, clawy, scratchy, and meowy.  She was also pretty.  I quickly nicknamed her "Pretty Kitty".

Because of her meowing and clawing at the doorways, I came to believe that she felt herself lonely and was seeking companionship, so about a year later I asked Judi for a second kitten and brought home Page, a kitten born of a litter from an abandoned mom cat.  Page was more well-adjusted to people and more relaxed around me.

Tehya hated her.  I had completely miscalculated the situation - Tehya didn't want a friend, she wanted to hunt - and didn't realize that Tehya needed time to adjust to the idea of another cat in the house.  In time the two developed a guarded but accepting relationship, but never became the closest of friends.

Tehya and Page quickly got used to a few things... such as me moving half across Florida as by 2001 I was moving into a condo in Coconut Creek, and then moving out of South Florida altogether to Gainesville to work at UF Libraries in 2003, to moving down to New Port Richey to work in the Pasco Libraries system by 2006.  They adjusted as best they could - in particular they LOVED an apartment in Gainesville we lived in for seven months that had a wide screen porch overlooking a forest full of SQUIRRELS - and settled in fine each time.

Page had become the talker of the two, as Tehya went relatively quiet most of the time.  Tehya instead became the jumper, the climber.  When I moved into a huge house in Gainesville that had an open alcove to the kitchen and dining room areas, Tehya would find a way to leap on top of the cabinets and then leap ACROSS to the pavilion over the dining room.  Getting her down took forever, but she loved it.
I made this on I Can Has Cheezburgr site...
When I got to bed at night, Page would be first to bed with me: jumping on my right side, and sliding herself butt-first against my arm near my waist.  It would take a few minutes, but Tehya would jump onto the nightstand next to the bed, access the situation, and come over to my left side where she would knead my upper arm, pushing my shoulder to open up a little so she could curl up head-first in my arm.

A few years after moving to New Port Richey, Page developed a bump on her hindside.  At first I thought it was a bad reaction to one of the booster shots she'd recently gotten and that the inflammation would go away.  But it didn't.  By the time I got her back to the vet's, the bump had gotten worrisome.  And it turned out for good reason: the bump was cancerous.  We tried for surgery, but the biopsy revealed the tumor was malign, and indeed within a few months the bump had returned.  Page wouldn't have survived any chemo... I didn't have the budget, I was unemployed at the time... this was the Monday of Thanksgiving week 2011.  I had to take Page in... for her... last visit.  God curse me for a coward, I couldn't stay to watch.
The last picture I ever took of Page, five days before her skin cancer got bad enough to...
With Page gone, Tehya became a bit more expressive.  She'd meow more often, at least that I'd noticed.  Where Page would join me on the recliner arm, Tehya preferred the headrest: without Page, Tehya would jump and check my lap first.

This year in January I got interviewed for a librarian job in Bartow and got it, meaning another move.  Tehya didn't mind it too much but missed the large porch she had access to in New Port Richey.  She'd still jump onto bed at night, with a new bed alignment she'd jump on my right side where Page used to be, jump right onto my chest making me go "ooof" and then checking out my left side before coming up to curl in my arm like always.

A month ago she started coughing bad.  Like a hairball wasn't coming out right, if at all.  I took her to the vet here in Bartow and he checked her out: she seemed healthy, was eating well, her lungs sounded normal.  I didn't think she needed an x-ray or bloodwork.  The vet gave me meds for her system to help with any hairball issue, and after a few days of taking it - she actually ate the pills I stuck in the meat! - her cough went away.

But then I took a trip to New York City - a personal vacation, one I hadn't had in years due to the lack of employment - this past weekend and when I came back Tehya seemed to have stopped eating.  Mom and Dad noted she'd still eat her meaty stuff but left her dry food untouched.  She'd eat her snack bits - ever since we moved to Bartow she constantly parked herself in the middle of the apartment with the insistent look of "give me my snackage" - but that was about it.  But this week, she just... stopped eating.  Everything.

By Wednesday I was concerned enough to schedule an appointment for Thursday afternoon.  I tried different meat flavors to see if it was just a flavor issue.  Tehya was losing interest in anything other than sleeping in spots on the floor where she'd be out of the way.  There would be occasional meowing, like she wasn't happy.  Like she was in pain.  And she wouldn't stay on the bed even if I picked her up and put her there with something comfortable to lie on, like my pants or a towel (her usual comforters).

Thursday afternoon couldn't come fast enough.  When it did, we got bad news: the x-rays spotted a lump in one of her lungs (the source of that cough), and her bloodwork showed low platelet counts.  The vet didn't want to give me absolute confirmation that it was cancer, and suggested bringing in an ultrasound guy to check Tehya on Tuesday.  The vet tried to give Tehya an appetite stimulant pill to help with her eating so that she'd regain some strength.

At home, I kept trying to feed Tehya.  She'd drink some of her water, but the food... no, not a bit.  I tried rubbing my finger in the wet stuff and rubbing it against her mouth to make her taste it, she refused.  Tehya's meowing got worse.  Deeper, hurting.  Mournful.  She didn't jump into bed to sleep with me.  When I woke up in the morning and picked her up, she was lighter, fragile... weak.  Her purring wasn't contentment, it was anxious, painful... more growling and grunting than ever before.  She insisted on sleeping in one spot now, a place on the futon where she would try to fall asleep, but meow in pain and roll around into another position to find some comfort...

Further efforts to feed her got worse.  Her body temp was getting cold.  I called the vet's this afternoon and asked him bluntly how certain he was that lump was cancer.  He said he was certain.

I took Tehya - my Pretty Kitty - in for one last visit.

I brought with her a toy that Tehya liked.  A green cloth fishie toy that she would use as a pillow whenever she lay on the living room floor when I'd watch television.  We waited in a small room while the vet took care of the other appointments he had that afternoon.  While we waited she lay down in the cat carrier, using the fishie as a pillow.  I rubbed that orange stripe on her forehead.  I always rubbed it from the day she was a kitten, and I'd have her in my arm or lying nearby I'd reach over and trace a finger along that stripe from her nose to her head and she'd purr like mad and lean her head into my arm as I rubbed that stripe.  She tried to purr this time but it came out like a wheezing grunt.

The vet finished his scheduled cases and then came into the small room.  We were the last one for the day.  I waited as the vet took Tehya for the catheter for her foreleg.  I was given a minute with her one last time while the vet went to get the shots.  I wasn't going to chicken out like I did to poor Page... poor Page, she died alone, I will never forgive myself for that... but I was bouncing between tears in my eyes and snot out my nose.

The vet came in with two needles.  He asked if I was ready, I said no... but that it had to happen anyway, Tehya would starve to death in pain... He gave her the needle to put her to sleep... but her eyes stayed open... less than a minute later, he slid in the second needle.  Tehya just... stopped.  Stopped.
Tehya's fishie.  That and her photos are all I have of her now.  I can't remember how Page meowed at me sometimes...

I returned for the first time in years to an empty house.  No expectation of a friend, a cat, someone who waited for me for more than just food or snacks or ear rubs or anything...  This is the loneliest I've been in ages.

Dear God, I should have taken better care of you Tehya, of you Page.

I'm not in a good place right now.  I hope to God Tehya and Page are, and that they're finally getting along.

Hug your pets.  Do your damnedest to let them know you love them.  Please.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Plans for NaNoWriMo 2013 Confirmed

I am currently configuring my outline of ideas for the 2013 NaNo run.

I will go with my strengths of short-story writing and go with an anthology/collection of stories from the same 'Verse.  About 5 stories at 10,000 words each would do.  10 stories at 5,000 words as well.

You might have a pretty good idea which 'Verse I'm talking about.  The tricks will be 1) finding the time now that I'm full-time employed and 2) keeping up with the enthusiasm.  That has ALWAYS been the problem.


Also, a picture of me at the New York Public Library with the Lions.

Let's do this thing!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013: Getting Prepped

And then, it was time... for Tampa Bay... to prepare for...

NaNo Time!

In truth, I really need to get a couple of other things finished before I go storming the castle as it were.  But I'm feeling really good about this year getting something to the 50,000 word count and making it a doable publish-worthy novel(la).

LET'S GO!  FRIDAY NOVEMBER 1ST!  I want to see all of you signing up.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Miss Shardtober

To all the Champion Server players who teamed with Witty back in the day when we had an MMO we could play with pride... To the players of City of Heroes...

Dear NCSoft: I hope your company's stock sinks to pennies on the dollar, so we gamers can buy it all up AND BRING CITY OF HEROES BACK.

This is Champion Server.  We will return.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Polk County Symphony Goes Live

Film at 11.

Type in catalog.mypclc.org at your browser's address bar.

Catalog is available for searching.

This will be the default library page for most of the Polk County libraries - we're still all city-run - but over the next month or so we'll design and put up individual pages, so the Bartow Public Library page will look a little different.

This has been a stressful week for all involved.  How's your week been?

Monday, September 16, 2013

What It Means To Change The Library System

This will be the fourth time in my career where I will be at a large library system changing over the cataloging/circulation database.

When I was at Broward County after 1994 and before 2003, it was when they switched from a Web Cat to a CARL (I think it was Dialog @ CARL, but it's been so long...).  It was better networked, more menu-driven, more GUI friendly.

When I was at the University of Florida Libraries from 2003 to 2006 it went from WebLUIS to ExLibris / Aleph, which provided more coordination with online databases, a proto version of Integrated Library Systems (ILS).

When I was at Pasco County Libraries from 2006 to 2008 it went from CARL (with a DOS-style text-only variant for circ staff, compared to the Internet-friendly OPAC screen) to CARL.X, with a more ILS and keyword-friendly format.

Here at Bartow Public Library, as part of the Polk County Library Cooperative we're switching from SirsiDynix Horizon to Symphony, the company's ILS solution.

Timing for me is apparently everything.  I bet if the Library of Congress hires me they'll decide a few months later to switch over from LC to another cataloging system altogether.

Why the switch?

Each change in the systems were due to changes in technology.  GUI or Graphic User Interfaces weren't really feasible until the mid-90s when the operating systems improved to be more GUI oriented (Win 95, anyone?), hence a lot of library catalogs were text-based commands rather than selected commands up until 1996 or so.  With the spread of the Internet came more online databases and the need to integrate journal and magazine and newspaper articles into search results, needing the ILS formats from 2003 onward.  With the advent of e-books and digital printing, the need to integrate e-book collections in OverDrive and NetLibrary alongside the print catalog is a must, which is where Symphony is the choice PCLC is going with.

Next up will probably be further integration into non-traditional resources, such as video and audio streaming.  Just think of having to keyword link various menu selections to The Avengers DVD/Blu-Ray...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Trickiest Part of Creating a New Library Web Page

Is making sure you're putting the best available links on the main page.

And that you're not missing anything.

And that you're not being paranoid about missing anything.

I thought I'd gotten this "oh no I'm doing something wrong" mentality out of my system ages ago.  But I guess being in the first year of a new job is still nerve-wracking about... you know, not screwing up something.

Anyway, the libraries in Polk County are updating our catalog/circ systems (switching to SirsiDynix), which means new websites across the board.  I'm helping out with some of the web design.  And getting nervous about it... :/

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Update: Into The Blue Again

Okay, I got a rough draft of the first three chapters of Into The Blue Again done over the Labor Day weekend!


Granted it's only about 40+ pages (double-spaced) so far, but it's something, and it's mostly coherent, and I've got a good feeling about how it'll finish up.

So I've decided to start shopping for a cover artist to make sure I've got all my ducks in a row before self-publishing it.

With that as an incentive I hope to finish this particular project before NaNoWriMo starts this November...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Anniversary: Tenth Year of my first Self-Published Work

This snuck up on me as I was getting to bed last night: Gee, ten years ago I was working at the University of Florida Libraries and... OH YEAH that was when my book got published!

I had actually finished completing the last story I wanted to add to the Last of the Grapefruit Wars anthology back in May 2003.  Submitting the work to the Print-on-Demand service Xlibris went pretty quickly because I had enough of my stuff lined up and because I sped through the editorial process (there are glaring grammar goofs I spotted when the print version got out, my bad).  Anyway, on September 2003, boom, actual print copy of the book showed up on my doorstep: two hard-copies and twenty paperbacks.  Seeing it available on Amazon.com a few weeks later was part of the thrill.

There was a particular thrill to getting something actually in print, in hand, the feel of the book itself.  I suppose with the advent of ebook publishing that feeling may fade, although the need for print books may never truly die off... but that's another issue.

So... um, for anniversary celebrating... should I offer an autographed copy or something?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Into The Blue Again

Title of my Labor Day weekend writing start-up.  It's NOT a 3 Day Novel Project - somehow, putting in for it seems more stressful that if I hadn't - but the good news is I'm writing something.

Here's the start:
"That's never a good sign."
"What is?  You talking to yourself?"

...It'll get more interesting by Chapter Three, I promise.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Elmore Leonard Writes His Last Death Scene

He tipped his hat, looked upward with a tear in his eye.  "I do believe that men meet their moment with dignity and grace."  He didn't say much after that. - Not Elmore Leonard

One of the greats of modern American literature passed away this morning.  Elmore Leonard, who started off with Westerns moving up to modern-day Crime Thrillers, had been ill for awhile it all finally caught up with him.

Hate to say it was the movies that got my attention.  His works seem to translate well into film and it was the series of caper flicks post-Tarantino (Hollywood loves to beat a genre to death) - Get Shorty, Jackie Brown (off of Rum Punch), and Out of Sight - that led me to finding his print works on the shelves and diving in.

I've got a personal love for Out of Sight, both movie and book, and if anyone says anything bad about either I will hunt you down.

In terms of writing, Leonard is one of the go-to mentors who provided a decent list of rules.

  1.  Never open a book with weather (note: his take that to anyone going with "It was a dark and stormy night").
  2.  Avoid prologues.
  3.  Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
  4.  Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said”…he admonished gravely.
  5.  Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. 
  6.  Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
  7.  Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  8.  Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  9.  Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
  10.  Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Doing The "I Got The Book Today" Dance

This came in the mail this afternoon:


Please turn to pg. 251 and begin reading...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ask A Librarian. You Know You Want To...

The Ask A Librarian service in the state of Florida just turned 10 years old this year.

You ask, "Gee what is Ask A Librarian" and I tell you it's an online chat service where you login for free, ask a question about a current problem or research itch to resolve, and viola a librarian will magically appear within your computer and grant you three wishes find out the answers to the questions you've got as well as provide citations and links to supporting materials.

It's helpful for times that the libraries may be closed: physical libraries can close between 5 pm to 8 pm in the evenings: AAL stays on until 9 pm for general, some universities stay on until 11 pm.  Or you may be stuck at home or at work when the question comes to you and you need an answer for it.

I know some of you are saying "but gosh, you can just Google it anymore or heck even go to Wikipedia for the answers," and I'll note that's partially true: however, not everything on the Internet is accurate, informed, or itself researched to any degree of academic criteria (ESPECIALLY don't believe anything you read in the Comments section of a blog entry).  Wiki may be a decent summation/encyclopedic site, but it's still dependent on editing by persons not always certified or qualified to make the entries you find, and may not go into the detail that some people - especially college students - require.

Librarians are providers of information: we are the sorters and sifters and the hunter/gatherers of raw data roaming the information savanna.  You might be able to Google, but you may not use the right search terms, or you may go for the first hit that appears without recognizing you're clicking an ad site and not a research site.  Librarians know what we're looking for: we ask you the Interview Process to whittle down what you are and aren't looking for in order to a) find the right book, b) find the right link, c) find the right answer.

So please, support your library and give the Ask A Librarian service with your local library (it may be under different names, but the service should be the same) a try.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Pains Of Self-Marketing

One of the biggest decisions in a wanna-be author's life of getting published and read these days is the decision to either go the old route of "get agent, get publisher interest, get reviews" or the newer tech-savvy route of "get self-published, get reviews, maybe get agent and publisher afterward".

The old route was tricky, messy, disheartening: getting an agent was one thing, but it was still no guarantee of getting a publisher who would get that book on the market for you.  But getting the publisher was a huge boon: the publishers had ties to established reviewers, and publishers had the financial means to market and promote.  The new route is satisfying in that you get your book out there right away, on your terms: bad news is, you don't have the financial means of marketing (ad space is costly) and you don't have access to a lot of the major reviewers (some will review self-publishers but they're swamped with thousands of self-published authors already).  You're usually reduced to social media like Facebook and Twitter, and most of the time it's just spreading the word to the 80 or so online friends you've already earned.

The toughest part is the self-promotion: most writers are artists at heart, and while there's a part of us that's eager to show off, there's the other half that's defensively private about ourselves and our craft.  We're not also keen on shilling ourselves: it somehow rubs against our integrity.  Advertising always has something... disingenuous about it, like there's too much exaggeration and hyperbole.  Just blogging about it here, half the time posting "buy my book!" isn't as eager as it may read: I half-treat it like a joke, with a bit of dread that somehow I'm just not "getting it" in terms of sincerely looking for readership.

Just read what this fellow is up against:

It reeks of desperation, these pleas, this constant litany: read me, recognize me, buy me, buy me again. On an authorial scale, being relatively unknown and resolutely Mid-list is like spending a few years on the floor of a deafening concert, angling for attention from every quarter, stuck in a sweaty throng of the equally disregarded, ultimately reduced (en masse and from the obstructed view seats) to holding up a lighter and screaming at the bass player–who couldn't possibly give less of a shit, even if he could hear above the distortion and tinnitus and quart of hastily guzzled Jack Daniel’s...
In fact, I’m almost certain my years-long squat of self-promotion has been entirely pointless. If I could have back every minute I've spent on social media and apply it to churning out actual prose, I would probably have finished at least one bestselling swords-and-incest fantasy trilogy instead. Maybe even two. In any case, it’s pretty clear that whoever reads what I post (a diminishing coterie, to be sure) has either already bought whatever book I’m flogging, or never had any intention of doing so in the first place. Everything else is just more white noise, a narcissistic armada of turds floating down the center of the Hudson, or the river of pixels, or the throat of the cybersphere. We've all heard it before, seen it before, been pitched everything from Sham Wow to rote sham. We've sat through a lifetime of fifteen-second commercials in order to watch the ubiquitous YouTube clip of some Khaki Dad taking a Wiffleball to the nuts. Like everyone else, I am truly and deeply bored by the incessant marketing and self-promotion that comprises a majority of any day spent in front of any screen...
Writers are an odd lot. A volatile mix of bravado, insecurity, insatiable need, unusual discipline, and occasional talent. Despite that fact that writing itself is a lonely, obsessive, and mentally unstable vocation–just the sort of pursuit that lends itself to anti-social habits and behaviors–authors are likewise expected to be great in front of a crowd, hilarious at the podium, and engaging at the lectern. They are expected to represent the worth of their prose through expressions of personal charm. Which is, of course, completely ludicrous. But since the collapse of publishing (or at least the explosion of dire, whiny articles about the collapse of publishing), publishers themselves no longer spend the requisite money to advertise the existence of all but a handful of titles.
So, as a self-employed independent contractor of suspect means, you either have to get out there and market yourself, or choose to remain silent and hope for the best. In an industry where 150,000 titles were published last year, hoping for the best tends to be a failing strategy–if not a bit naive. Therefore one is forced to ask themselves, “If I am not going to make the effort to publicize my own work, why aren't I a third-year law student instead?” Further, and most damningly, “If people are not reading what I write, why am I writing at all?”
For me, the answer is pure communication–an intellectual exchange. Telling a story is the first step. Having that story read and enjoyed and interpreted and understood is the second. Obviously I would like to do so on the largest scale possible. Forget bestsellers and movie rights and relative fame and huge advances (although all those things would be nice in their relative ways), the bottom line is that if I am not communicating with a sizable group of readers, if I am writing in a vacuum for a static body of acquaintances–spending six hours a day in front of a laptop for ten years suddenly seems like a masturbatory and delusional exercise.
The great white hope of writing is to reach the point where you no longer have to pimp yourself at all, where you tap into a weird alchemy in which you suddenly have enough name recognition and sales that word-of-mouth and momentum do all the work for you. Then you can sit back and troll Facebook, posting cake recipes and cat pictures and acting like your royalties are preordained and that you are way, way too cool to flog yourself ever again–as if you ever had.
Yeah, I want to get there. But mainly because I love writing, I love what I do, and I don’t ever want to go back.
That said... Yes, I am STILL working on finishing up my damnable first novel.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Got Q and A'd for Strangely Funny

Sarah Glenn, the editor to Strangely Funny, spent time to ask me a few questions about me, my writing process, favorite authors, etc.

She asked me the peanut butter question, which I warned her NOT to do...

Anywho, check out her blog: she's interviewing all the other authors who committed a story to the humor horror anthology NOW ON SALE!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Strangely Funny is Officially Launching!

Tell your friends!  Wake the neighbors!  Feed the kitties!  It's LAUNCH PARTY TIME for Sarah Glenn and Gwen Mayo's baby!
I'm the second-to-last story in: "I Must Be Your First".  Fans of Catriona McPherson, David Perlmutter, Suzanne Robb, Rosalind Barden, and Jon Michael Kelley (with a ton of other authors) should take a look-see as well.

While you're at it, please take a moment to peruse my other works, Last of the Grapefruit Wars (Kindle and Nook), Welcome To Florida, and The Hero Cleanup Protocol.  Danke (It's German for "I'm BEGGING YA!")

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pre-Ordering Strangely Funny now on Amazon

This is a thing now.  While the ebook is ready for download, the print paperback version is available to pre-order and early shipping for those preferring physical copy.

I wonder if the Snoopy Dance GIF works on a blog page...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

On Catriona McPherson

She's the best-known of the authors contributing to the Strangely Funny anthology.  A British author, she's published rather recently a new mystery series (Dandy Gilver) and a couple of other mystery thrillers here and there.

We've got some of the Dandy Gilver books on the shelves here at the library.  I'm gonna have a look-see at my fellow contributor.  She's got a decent fanbase and a slew of good reviews (and a couple of awards) so it should be good reading.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Update: eBook versions of Strangely Funny now available!

Woot!  Whoop!  Huzzah!

The print version is still a week away, but thanks to the tireless efforts of the editors Sarah Glenn and Gwen Mayo, various ebook providers are now offering downloads at $2.99 for the Strangely Funny humor-horror anthology.

Amazon link here.

Smashwords (which includes ePUB versions accessible to Nook, iPad, and other formats) link here.

Yes, I know my name does not appear as a contributor on the Amazon and Smashwords pages, but I assure you my short story "I Must Be Your First" is published.  The other authors listed are better known, one of them an award-winning mystery writer Catriona McPherson (she won for Best Historical Novel in 2012 for Unsuitable Day For Murder), so I don't mind not being on the marquee.  What's important is that 1) I've been published outside of my self-publishing efforts and 2) hopefully other people reading for the other authors will see my story, like it, and follow up after my other works.

So again, Yay and Woot!  Feeling good today. :)

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Getting Closer To Publish: Update on Strangely Funny

The editors just sent me a galley to proof, which was awesome I must say... I spotted a glaring grammar goof (say it five times fast!) and asked they change one word to another so it wouldn't be so glaring.  Otherwise, everything seemed to be in place.

Some of the other stories in the Strangely Funny anthology look to be well-done, so this is looking to be a great print.  Spread the word to people (and libraries) to keep an eye out for it, publication is scheduled for August... um, not sure of the exact date yet but hey when you see me jumping up and down you'll know...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Words Into Chapters

I may have to break a chapter I've planned down into two in order to make the pacing work.  Although it leaves the story a bit unbalanced.

In short, I'm coming up with more excuses to avoid finishing off the last two (THREE) chapters of the rough draft.  Tell me to keep working...

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Master Writer Passes: Richard Matheson

News is out that Richard Matheson died today.

Basically, he's THE horror writer of the Sixties and early Seventies.  Before Stephen King, it was Matheson. His literary work covered novels, shorts, television screenplays, movie adaptations.

Matheson's greatest contribution was the updating of the horror setting from the 19th Century (or earlier) to the 20th.  A lot of horror and fantasy by the 1960s had been stuck in the era of Edgar Allan Poe and Hawthorne, in some gothic nighttime landscape of ruined castles and decaying nations.  Matheson brought the horror into the suburbs and cities: his I Am Legend not only redesigned the vampire genre, it basically launched the concept of a Zombie apocalypse (and redefined the concept of just who the monsters really are), and doing it in a world most readers would see as their own (amplifying the horror).  His heroes no longer soldiers or priests or barons in pursuit of the supernatural: they were common blue-collar workers or office drones, suddenly confronted with a real-time terror that wouldn't go away with prayers to a distant God.

This YouTube clip is from Duel, a made-for-TV movie directed by a relative unknown by the name of Steven Spielberg.  Matheson's screenplay played on the fears of driving alone, of being stalked by an unknown force (we never see the driver in full), of a civilized man (an office worker taking a work trip) being stripped of manhood in a stark and dangerous desert land, of the mundane horror that some other human - some bland nobody - can be a monster.

RIP, Mr. Matheson.  ...Just don't mind if we, uh, shove a metal stake into your heart to make sure...  WATCH OUT HE'S GETTING UP HE'S


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Shamelessly Creating a Facebook Page

As I get closer to finishing my first novel's rough draft, I'm setting up a promotional page on Facebook to get some self-marketing underway.

Just gotta get a better banner image posted... I tried inserting one and the dang thing kept telling me the pixel size was too small, and it wasn't, I SWEAR the pixels were over 600... and still it wouldn't aaaaaaahh /headdesking

Okay, this was the banner I was trying to post:

Is it too small?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Heroes, Robb Stark's Fall, and Who Will Win The Game of Thrones

NO SPOILERS: You've either read the books and know what happened, you've seen the episode and know what happened, you've seen the Twitter response and know what happened, etc.

As I've posted on my political blog, there was a bit of a bother among Game of Thrones watchers during the Red Wedding scene, the key turning point in George RR Martin's fantasy epic.

I've seen the Twitter explode over a major television episode before, but not like this where the fandom was seemingly "OMG How could they do this?"  And one of the tweets caught my eye: someone arguing that Robb Stark - one of the key victims of the massacre - was meant to be the hero of the story, the avenger of his fallen father, etc.

But the thing is if you pay attention to any of the High Fantasy tropes, even when Deconstructed, you might notice that Robb Stark was never meant to be the hero of the story.

I found a wonderful blog covering the Song of Ice And Fire series in more detail, and the blogger Shamus concurs about Robb not being the hero:

Robb was one of the best hopes for restoring order to Westeros and saving many of the characters I love. But Martin knew that Robb wasn't the person that needed to do these things. He’s not one of the heroes of this series. He was always a secondary character. His success would have felt like a betrayal to the structure of the story. Instead, Martin used Robb’s character as best he could. He sacrificed Robb in spectacular fashion, and that sacrifice advanced the plot of these books tremendously. Everything changed.
Robb was what's known as the Decoy Protagonist, someone set up early in an epic story to make people think he's the hero who will save the day... only to fall at the machinations of the major villain(s), making it seem as though our likable characters will never see any justice or victory at the end of the struggle.

Robb Stark is being set up as the decoy right off the bat: eldest son of a martyred lord (the fallen Good Father archetype) who rises up against the wrongful king (the bastard Joffrey and his Lannister family) who killed his father.  He wins battles early on through sheer luck, using his youth to attack and escape in ways the more practiced, older opponents can't conceive.  He marries out of love and personal honor than for politics (which is the first big clue readers and viewers should learn is a BAD IDEA in fantasy novels based on pre-Enlightenment values of marriage).  He's got the looks of a king, the ideals of a just ruler, the aspirations of a messiah/savior figure.  Everybody just looooooves Robb Stark.  If this were fanfiction, he'd be a Marty Stu.

Except, as the blogger Shamus noted, Robb Stark was never a Point-of-View character in Martin's narrative.

Martin's writing style for this series has an interesting take: rather than go by a singular character's POV (either First or Third), he's sharing that duties across 31 major characters, any of whom could be the hero (and some already clearly the villains... and some already dead and awaiting zombie status).  We never see the tale told from Robb Stark's perspective: the closest we get is his mother Catelyn, and she's a rather unforgiving sort (half of her actions lead to the disasters befalling her family, and before she too dies at the Red Wedding she'd regretted some of them) even in her POV telling.  We see things happen to Robb, with actions and characters elsewhere affected by and affecting him.

Mixed into all this is The Hero's Journey, the Jungian/Campbellian method of storytelling that lends itself best to High Fantasy (and pulp fantasy) literature.  In most respects, Robb doesn't fit the cycle at all: his call to adventure is more an act of vengeance against the family that betrayed his.  While it falls into the narrative of Seeking Justice (SEE the legend/myth of Horus), Robb is not out for any Enlightenment nor is he setting the natural balance of the world back in place (i.e., the return of the Rightful, Once-Promised King).  In some respects he doesn't fulfill the Prophecy.

That all said, you can see why Robb Stark was doomed, much in the same way Boromir was doomed, much in the same way 80 percent of Sean Bean's characters are doomed (okay, I kid, by the by that clip's NSFW), etc.  It just wasn't going to be Robb to save the world/fulfill the Hero's Quest.

...That said, WHO WILL?

Since I'm not Martin, I can't say for certain where his story is going to finish up (two novels remain), and of the surviving characters with POV power there's a good number who could qualify.  Except for the fact that we've already seen a handful of POV characters die, meaning it's not the body armor expected to protect said character(s) to even make it to the final chapter.

The obvious choice of being the Hero is Daenerys Targaryen.  A bit of a gender flip but she qualifies: the prophecy of the Prince Who Was Promised fits her (birth under the right stars, her childhood, her travels, her proving her mystical dragon power).  As the last known member of her royal family, it's her throne by blood-right.  She's undergone various journeys of self-discovery (the Hero's Journey) that has unlocked more magick to her, has suffered setbacks but survived.

By sheer volume of POV chapters, Tyrion Lannister (also the most popular character yet) could by that designation be the most likely candidate of being the Hero.  The unliked and unloved member of a powerful, corrupt family, the one member with any recognizable decency as a human being, quick with words, adept at politics, victimized not by his actions but by a world that can't handle a dwarf as lord or hero...  It would again be a twist on the concept of Hero (you were perhaps expecting someone 6'4" with broad shoulders, a gleaming sword and amusing comedic sidekick?) to have him end up surviving the whole mess and uniting the kingdoms under a peaceful rule.

Another candidate is Jon Snow, bastard son (as generally believed) of the Fallen Good Father figure of Eddard Stark.  Treated coolly by his adoptive mother Catelyn, Jon is nonetheless on great terms with the Stark family.  Jon accepts a Call to Adventure by volunteering to do his service as Night Watch on the Wall (a key stronghold against wildlings and the zombie-like Others), and undergoes many unnerving quests and tests of character.  It was Jon who insisted on the children adopting a set of orphaned direwolves (mystic animal guardians associated to the Stark crest).  With Robb as the decoy hero now fallen, Jon now fits the bill as the heroic heir of House Stark.  Given no one really knows who his mother is, that Eddard refused to reveal the secret, that Eddard was present at his sister's mysterious death, said sister having been abducted/raped(?) by the Targaryen heir... there's a very reasonable fan theory that Jon may be the Prince Who Was Promised.  (note: there is a slight problem with this as Jon is getting stabbed to death at the end of the latest novel.  He could, of course, survive the ordeal... something a Hero does in the Campbellian cycle).

An interesting possibility is Bran Stark.  He's endured a near-death experience, made a cripple, gained the ability to warg (use his vision to tap into his joined direwolf and even into other people), has prophetic dreams of his father and a mysterious three-eyed crow.  He's enduring a painful journey into exile with most everyone thinking he (and his surviving youngest brother) is dead.  He's demonstrated some decent leadership skill for someone his age.  He's more akin to Luke Skywalker than most of the other characters (save for Dany, whose mystically tied to her dragons), which is why I like him as a candidate.

That's what I've got as the candidates to win the Game of Thrones.  Best of all possible worlds: Jon and Daenerys marry as co-rulers, with Tyrion as the wise Hand with Bran as the court wizard.

I just hope to the Seven-named God it's not Littlefinger... 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Just Wondering

1) Just wondering if there's any flash drive makers that market a $1 drive.  Nothing huge, just 16 MB at least (we're in the GB range nowadays).  We need cheap flash drives to sell at libraries for patrons needing to save stuff to disk.

2) Just wondering if I should teach evening classes instead of afternoon.  Afternoon turnouts have been pretty quiet for my basic computing courses.  Something between 5 pm to 7 pm (8 pm is when we close up, so it can't be that late).

3) Just wondering if I can get this rough draft novel DONE this Memorial Day weekend (BACK TO WORK YOU FIEND).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Local Authors Event: Barnes & Noble at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel

It's from 2pm to 4pm.

Attendance is MANDATORY.

Everyone show up, or else you get an Incomplete on your report card.

Here is location.  Map provided.  If you get lost you will be stuck in East Pasco.  Gods have mercy on you if that happens.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Coming Attractions At This Saturday's Local Author Event

Just a reminder to the seven people reading this blog, I've got the Local Authors event at the Wesley Chapel Shops At Wiregrass Barnes & Noble this Saturday (May 18th) from 2 pm - 4 pm.

As part of promoting my self-published works while there, I'm also going to promote the horror-humor anthology that's publishing my short story submission.  I asked the editors if they had a flyer available so I can promote that anthology and here it is:


If you zoom in you'll see my submission - "I Must Be Your First" - listed as the third title!

Yes.  Feeling chipper, I must say.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Regrets I've Had a Few

And the thing I'm regretting right now is not keeping on file any of the training handouts I made for Microsoft Excel from when I taught computer classes at Broward Libraries.

...Gotta go re-type it by hand... mutter grumble explaining Autosum all over again mutter mutter...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Things I Learned At Florida Library Association Conference 2013

1) The hotel where the convention is being held sells $12 sandwiches.  Note to self: pack a lunch next year.

2) About half of the librarians I worked with between Broward County Libraries and UF Libraries are retired or going to retire this year.  I did not do a good enough job keeping in touch with a lot of them.  :(  P.S. if any of them cross this blog, please get in touch with me...

3) It's less a question of keeping up with new technologies - although you really have to - and more a responsibility to make sure you train your library patrons to be comfortable with said new technologies.

4) No, seriously, $12 sandwiches.  It's cheaper to walk down the street to the McDonald's.  Plus you get more exercise.

5) I decided against bringing my Nook eReader device with me (it functions as a tablet as well, although not as effectively as an iPad).  Turned out to be a bad move: I realized I was out of email communication with everyone for most of the day!  ...still shaking off the withdrawal symptoms...

6) The primary thing being discussed at the conference sessions - at least for this day when I attended - was community outreach, keeping libraries involved with their communities.

7) I saw a 3D printer for the first time.  I bowed and prayed to the Maker Deity, the provider of All Things Plastic.  And It made for us a miniature plastic Mayan temple.  Because It could.

Anyone got any questions about the conferencing experience?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Update: Writing and Marketing April 2013

1) Still working on finishing up a novel idea from 2010 NaNoWriMo.  Need to get it done soon and edited and uploaded to ebook before May because...

2) Local Authors event at Barnes & Noble at Wiregrass in Wesley Chapel FL on May 18, 2013.  From 2pm to 4pm.  It'd be nice to have a new book to promote alongside the published stuff like Last of the Grapefruit Wars, Welcome to Florida and Hero Cleanup Protocol.  Before which I'll be...

3) Attending the Florida Writers Association meeting in Lakeland FL this April 16, where I'll be asking about post-meeting for quick hints on self-marketing with a Facebook page perhaps or other methods.

So I'm off to work!  Just three more chapters to go!

P.S. it'd be real nice if I can get support of people in the Tampa Bay area to come to the Local Authors event at Wiregrass.  I mean, just to show up: the last two times I've done this, turnout was shamefully low.  :(

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I Submitted a Short Story to a Horror Humor Anthology And All I Got Was This Writer's Agreement

...'cause I really don't need another t-shirt at the moment.

Wait, am I just admitting to the possibility I might have an honest-to-God story published somewhere?

The small-press Mystery and Horror LLC is starting up an anthology collection titled Strangely Funny.  They put a call out for submissions, got shared on Facebook, and I gave it a look-see.

I'd like to think I'm good at writing humor stories - the handful of comments I get back on my self-published collection Last of the Grapefruit Wars are for the funnier stories I wrote (my absurdist office golf tale is an award winner no less) - so I set myself down, pounded out a tale about a vampire coping with a slayer-wannabe breaking into his home, and submitted it.

They were nice enough to send back a Writer's Agreement to secure permission to include that story.

Now it's not a 100-percent guarantee it will get printed - if they get better submissions and lack the room I'll understand - and of course the editors can revamp - heh I said vamp - that story as they deem necessary.  I'm okay with the editing process just as long as they keep the core component - that Christopher Lee is a badass - of my story intact.

Meanwhile, they're still taking submissions for that Strangely Funny anthology.  Deadline is June 10th 2013.  It wouldn't hurt to submit something, you think?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Bartow Public Library links

I've added two links to the Bartow Public Library over to the right of this blog.  In particular is the link to the Friends group, the volunteers who support the library 24/7 (excepting holidays of course).

Please visit.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Planning Ahead

For the summer movie season, that is.

I am a geek and this IS a geek-oriented blog.  So Relax.

I gotta plan ahead now because 1) I'm back to being hours away from my circle of friends for movie-going, 2) I want to see a couple of movies with my nephews, especially since we shared an experience with watching Star Trek back in 2009 (has it been that long already?).

So, to consider:

May - Iron Man 3 on May 3rd.  Trailers look very good.  The quality of actors and personnel behind the camera are good.

Star Trek Into Darkness on May 17th.  This one I want to see with my nephews, to follow up from 2009.  But I also want to bring my friends along as well, especially so I can introduce Tommy to Tommy (long story).

June - Man of Steel on June 14th.  The weekend most likely, as well it's mom's birthday and all.  I'm not entirely sure that casting Amy Adams as Lois Lane was a good idea.

Monsters U. on June 21st.  To my mind, this was an unnecessary prequel to a well-loved movie that worked well as a stand-alone.  I usually trust Pixar, but this one... I might could wait for the DVD...

July - I'm hesitant to go with The Lone Ranger movie, mostly because I'm questioning the idea of casting Johnny Depp - I know he's a good actor and all - as Tonto like it was some kind of artistic move.  So for July 5th I'm probably going with Despicable Me 2: I found the first one delightfully wicked.

Pacific Rim on July 12th. Kaiju.  Giant mecha.  Geekgasm.

I'm surprised about seeing The Wolverine - with a bankable character and bankable actor in Hugh Jackman - sitting so late in the summer blockbuster line-up at July 26th.  Especially since the plot - Wolverine in JAPAN! - harks from one of the more popular story arcs from the 1980s.

August - sadly one of the weaker months even though it's usually wide-open: I guess I don't understand how family summer vacations from schooling works (since most kids won't be heading back to class until near about Labor Day).  August 16th seems to be it for the summer with Kick-Ass 2 - I liked the first one - although I've heard (not read) that the graphic series sequel was pretty nasty.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Why This Movie Didn't Win Best Picture I Will Never Understand

Ladies and gentlemen, It's St. Patrick's Day.  Time to break out the green ties, the Irish jokes, and the Quiet Man DVD:

The YouTube clip provided is the epic donnybrook that climaxes the movie.  Legend has it the producing company Republic Pictures insisted on the movie having a 90-minute cut no excuses.  John Ford couldn't figure out how to cut anything else out of the story - that's how good the movie was turning out - so what he did was preview an uncut film to the studio heads.  Right at the 90-minute mark - somewhere within the first three punches thrown in the fight between Danaher and The Yank - the film ends.  "What the hell?" the studio heads cry out.  "Well, you wanted it 90 minutes long no matter what," Ford answered.  The studio heads dropped their insistence on it being 90 minutes long.

Which was a smart move by those studio heads.  Republic, which tended to work on low-budget thrillers and Westerns, received their only Best Picture nomination in studio history with The Quiet Man.

Still planning to make a visit to Cong, County Mayo, Ireland some day...

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Not Really Off-Topic Over Here: Things I Learned at MegaCon 2013

this will be cross-posted to my political blog

With the goodness that is having a full-time job, I was able to afford another trip to the Orlando convention center for yet another MegaCon.

Things to note:
I'm pretty sure I noted this last time on my other blog.  There's a big early crowd showing up (by 8 AM) waiting for the main floor to open (10 AM).  There's a big open area where they had us lining up for the 10 AM opening.  They could have easily hired one of the cosplay groups - the 501st Legion, the GhostBusters, someone - to perform a couple routines on the floor while we wait.

You should never really go by yourself.  While going solo frees you up to go in any direction you want and figure out what discussions to attend or not, you do end up feeling a little left out and without anyone to share jokes and running commentary about all the costumes.
It's also hard to ask total strangers to take photos of you, especially when there's a very cute Wonder Woman cosplayer who did a very good job on the outfit, most of them are just half-heartedly sewn together but damn... anyway never had a chance to pose with her, if I had a wingman with me he/she/other gender could have taken the shot...

Also wik: Saturday is Costume Day.  ALWAYS go on Saturday.
AND always have someone on hand to help you with your costume.  Even the most durable helmet from a anti-libertarian video game requires a little duct tape.  Especially on a busy day like Saturday.

If you ever go to a comic-book / scifi / anime convention and decide to dress up yourself for Costume Day, don't be surprised if you get everyone and I mean EVERYONE asking you to stand and pose.  I accosted those two kids who came dressed as GLaDoS and Companion Cube to get a picture for this blog entry, and before they and I knew it a large crowd of other picture-takers surrounded us and kept them posing for minutes.  I spotted them later near the Signing area trying to stay out of the rush of traffic and GLaDoS told me they kept getting asked to pose over and over wherever they walked on the floor... and she was getting tired of gripping the Portal gun.  So if you plan on wearing an awesome costume... energy drinks.  And comfortable shoes.

That Stormtrooper was with the 501st.  He was working the target practice game area - yes, go ahead and snicker - and had just gotten hit in the inner thigh with a nerf bullet.  (No, not that kind of nerf)

There was another R2 unit working the floor again.  Those R2 droids are incredible, and everyone stops to pose and take pictures of them.  There's a group that build them, and I joked at the Jedi working the gateway there that if they unleashed all those R2-D2s onto the convention floor they would conquer all.

Ah, Deadpool.  My old nemesis.  How far you've fallen.  Tacos.  I ask you, why not the combo platter and get the burrito and enchilada as well?

Note that I mentioned earlier about going solo to the con.  I noticed they were offering a Speed Dating event in the afternoon, so I circled over to where they were hosting the event (over in a small corner of the convention hall, by the by.  What I found was a lopsided turnout.

There were about 15-20 women lined up for the event.  You can see it was kinda sparse.

And there were about 30-40 men lining up.  Not an honest balance of turnout.  Dear organizers: you might wanna have an online booking to see about what the turnout will be like, so you can go a little out of the way to get about 20-30 more women interested in showing up to date guys dressing up like Jayne and Riddler and... and... well there WAS a Hugh Jackman lookalike as Wolverine, ladies.

Not pictured: the huge swarming crowds.  Foot traffic again was difficult as people would either bunch around a table or vendor pavilion or else stop right in the middle of the floor when they bump into some friends.

Also not pictured: the awesome Artist Alley area where the struggling self-employed comic artists and craftspersons showed off their work and sold stuff.  Sadly, one of the artists I like to see at the MegaCon was unable to attend: Jennie Breeden's budget keeps her limited to the number of conventions she attends, and she made the decision to skip this year in order to attend some of the West Coast ones like in Seattle.  Well, that just means I had to waste my convention money buying prints from Jen Broomall, okay?  You see, I don't need... sniff... I don't to be slavishly devoted to one artist to... to... wait, what do you mean Jen doesn't have any Wonder Woman artwork?  /sulk  Well, okay, Peter V Nguyen has something with Wonder Woman in it...

Also also not pictured: the official Special Guest Artists area had its ebb and flow and well and I found myself in front of Amanda Conner's booth.  Basically the artist that showed women can draw the Good Girl stuff just like Adam Hughes can, and with a bit more taste and whimsy in the artwork.  I purchased a print she did of Catwoman but while I did she tried signing the MegaCon media guide I had innocently placed on the table while digging out my wallet.  She'd just been signing anything in front of her, poor thing.  I suggested she didn't need to autograph that, just the Catwoman print, so she did and I congratulated her on the great work she did on Power Girl and she said she had fun doing it.

Also also ALSO not pictured: Patrick Stewart and most of the regulars from Star Trek: Next Generation.  One, that would have cost me money: Two, there was no way to see Patrick Stewart at all considering the long line waiting to see him in the celebrity Signing Area.  The line for him circled the room.

Any other observations?  Oh yeah.  The shuttle bus service from parking lots to convention hall is helpful (parking is on one side of the convention grounds, away from the West Concourse that they always use), but it gets stuck easy in daytime traffic (the convention center is on a major city road).  Building an elevated transit car system - call Disney they can hook you up with something - would ease the regular traffic and make it easier for people to get to and from convention halls and parking lots.

That's about it.