Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Witty's Year End Book Review 2020

You might think with a year-long pandemic - things at the library quieted down right quick by late January - I would find more time to read. Also, that my early year surgery that forced me to stay home for most of a month would leave me with that kind of time as well. Sad to note: the level of anxiety and stress in the midst of all that kind of reduced my reading habits this year. It wasn't I did not have the time - no longer wasting weekends at the movies, for one - it was that I lost a lot of focus to read. I'm sorry.

I did read *some* this year, and so in that regards I will list what I read as suggested reads to pass along to the seven people who follow this blog, thank ye. It's just... honestly? This wasn't a competitive year...

Best Fiction

My rules on what I like each year isn't that the work HAS to be from this year - I do try - sometimes it's an older published work I re-visit that regains my interest. That said:

Monstrous Regiment, by Terry Pratchett

Another of the Discworld books I've become fond of, this is one of the later works where Pratchett's world-building - especially the fantastic politics of the various nation-states engaged in border clashes - expands to make it a more realized realm. On Discworld, the Narrative matters and the Gods are real. The problem with the small nation of (looks it up) Borogravia is that their god Nuggan has gone mad, been mad for ages, and His insane proclamations have weakened the faith of the population, which still has to abide against his Abominations. It's led to a state of constant war with neighboring kingdoms, which has also led to the literal depletion of Borogravia's manpower... to the point where the young women are signing up for the latest war in order to get into (or out of) conflict to rescue their loved ones. Or so it seems.

Playing on the trope of Sweet Polly Oliver - with an actual Polly (this is how Discworld rolls, son) as the protagonist - the main characters find themselves the last standing military unit against Zlobenia. Relying on the military tropes as both parody and metaphor, the lads (or ladettes, however the case may be) must rely on their innate skills - vampire, troll, Igor, Joan of Archetype, what have you... just not their feminine ones, which becomes a plot point later - to break the cycle of madness (and free a soul they don't realize has been trapped by faith) and end the war. 

Where the book excels is Pratchett's subtle yet elaborate wordplay, and his willingness to tweak tropes for all they're worth. For example the vampire Maladict (whom Polly thinks is the only real man in her regiment) had traded out the addiction for blood to an addiction for coffee (the mainstay of any marching army, what what). When one of the bad guys (yes, he's a guy) steals the regiment's supply, it forces Maladict into withdrawal mode, mimicking the shell-shocked Vietnam trooper with increasingly powerful hallucinations that Maladict can broadcast. It's in this confused state that Polly herself can imagine "Copters in the LZ" even though she has no idea what a 'Copter or an LZ is. It also allows her to hallucinate walking with Death (yes, he's a Reaper Man) because after all every soldier walks with Death (plus he's contractually obligated to appear in every Discworld story). It's just that Polly's the only one on Discworld who told Death to keep quiet while they walked.

It's not one of Pratchett's best Discworld novels (Small Gods, Guards Guards, and Hogfather are far superior works) but it's an enjoyable read that's easy to get into even if you're not a hardcore reader of the series.

Dishonorable Mention: The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child

I'm sorry, but... I tried, I really tried to read a number of these books about an ex-military MP who walks the Earth getting into violent adventures. But it's just... almost all the same damn thing. He shows up, gets into fights with the locals, uncovers a conspiracy, occasionally has sex with a woman tangibly involved in the matter, wipes out the big bad's merc army in a gunfight, sometimes heads off in an epilogue to take out a corrupt government official who violated the oath of service to America, and goes wandering off to the next book. Half the dialog isn't dialog it's just the narrator writing "(This character) said nothing." I guess it's like Mac and Cheese for a large number of readers, but it's just overheated Revenge Porn. The Punisher does it better, dammit.

Best Non-Fiction

Very Stable Genius, by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig

If you follow me on my political blog, you might notice I am not a fan of donald trump (I refuse to capitalize his name as English grammar requires. The SOB obsesses over his name's presentation and the smaller I can make it the better).

So a lot of non-fiction I've been reading the past four years have been "What The Hell Happened" history/political science books focusing on the disaster that has been the trump Administration. Very Stable Genius is coming towards the end of trump's one-term tenure, and it looks back at all of the chaos and damage that occurred. Most telling is the ninth chapter where Rucker and Leonnig detail how - in an attempt by the Defense and State Departments to explain to trump just what is actually happening in the world - trump hijacked the meeting to spew his unfounded diatribes about our foreign allies, which all ended with trump - a draft-dodging self-obsessed whiner - insulting military officials to their faces:

Trump by now was in one of his rages. He was so angry that he wasn't taking many breaths... "I wouldn't go to war with you people," Trump told the assembled brass. Addressing the room, the commander-in-chief barked, "You're a bunch of dopes and babies." For a President known for verbiage he euphemistically called "locker room talk," this was the gravest insult he could have delivered to these people, in this sacred place. The flag officers in the room were shocked. Some staff began looking down at their papers, rearranging folders, almost wishing themselves out of the room..." (p. 136)

You might notice the book's title - trump's own words describing himself (like 74 percent of anything he says, it's a lie) - is a sharp rebuke: Everything in the pages details how trump is an unstable, self-absorbed fool. And it's someone who was put in charge of the United States for four painful years.

There's going to be a lot of books written about this era. Rucker and Leonnig's book should be one of the first ones to reach for.

Runner-up: The Public And Its Problems, by John Dewey

As part of my efforts to keep up with Pragmatism as a philosophy, especially with an eye towards promoting it as a political philosophy to counter the darker (cough Randian Objectivist cough) ideologies consuming our nation. I'm still re-reading it to see what I can translate into modern world-view explanation.

Best Graphic Novel (or Ongoing Series)

Wonder Woman: Dead Earth (Black Label), by Daniel Johnson

Part of DC Comics' efforts to re-imagine their main characters with edgier, more mature stories, the Black Label brand includes this retelling of Wonder Woman in a post-apocalyptic future where she emerges to find her attempts to save the World of Men had failed. Worse, the nuclear war that consumed the planet had turned her paradise into a monstrous realm that has abandoned any hope of peace at all.

In the same narrative take as Sejic's dark vision on Harleen, Johnson as writer/artist employs a stark and harsh art style similar in my mind to Frank Miller's work. It's the first time I've seen his artwork and I am impressed by it. I am going to keep an eye out for future works. 

Runner-up: Solutions and Other Problems, by Allie Brosh

It took about 7 years, but Brosh returned with a follow-up to her Hyperbole And a Half with another essay-styled series of comics about the everyday dramas of coping with the world. Where the earlier book's artwork was crudely pixelated work (the strength of the stories is Brosh's writing and observations), the new work is cleaner, sharper in tone as the writing itself gets sharper with experience.

Best Work by Someone I Email, Tweet, or Chat With on a Regular Basis 

The Last Emperox, by John Scalzi

Keeping up with Scalzi's Interdependency trilogy, which I started reading back in 2017 with The Collapsing Empire, the third and final volume focuses on the eventual collapse of a naturally-occurring hyperspace system (The Flow) and how it affects a galactic-wide human empire suddenly forced to find other ways to survive.

Intermixed with the efforts to discover the new portals to a shifting Flow network, Scalzi's main characters have to contend with the political backstabbing of an empire still driven by intrigue and ambition, where the bad guys from the first two novels have succeeded in seizing control of the one planet (End, literally at the end of the Flow) that has a sustainable human environment and are gathering the other Houses to overthrow Empress (well, Emperox to avoid the gender bias) Grayland and condemn billions of humans who need to reach End.

Some of the characters - including the villains - remain rather predictable playing out their roles in a Space Opera environs (did one of the baddies twirl a mustache at one point?). Scalzi still crafts a believable 'Verse with relatable characters and satisfying plot twists. There's no new ground really broken here - the themes of humanity, futurism, our relationship to the environment, these are all regular tropes of most science fiction - but it's a story well-told. 

Expect the SyFy miniseries in the next two-three years.

Best Work Including Stuff I Wrote

I did not get published this year, alas. Self-publishing even one of my short works seemed... wrong. I am struggling to keep my head in the writing game... I may have something published by next year, we will see.


Thursday, December 17, 2020

It's The Most Saturnalian Time Of the Year 2020

Welcome back to another year of the Roman celebration of the Winter Solstice!


I need to hire someone to do a better graphic design for the Saturnalia season.

Say what you want about the failings of Roman politics,
they knew how to throw a shindig!

Happy holidays to you all, ya pagans!


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

NaNoWriMo 2020: The Reckoning

Keeping it simple: Yes, I reached 50,000 words this time.


It's a second third fifth attempt at finishing a novel set in my superhero Talents 'verse, and here's hoping that this one finally has the kinks banged out of it so I can edit it into a coherent work.

There's roughly half a novel done in this, but it'll need so much more plugged in to make it sensible. I shouldn't crow too much, still working it, still writing it...

I will update on this - with more consistency and focus - so that I know I will get this one done...

Io Saturnalia to ye now!


Sunday, November 1, 2020

It's NaNoWriMo Time 2020 Edition

 Once again, America, November is the time to cram 50,000 words into one day's work!

I kid, National Novel Writing Month spreads it out over 30 days. That makes it 1667 words per day, more manageable ya?


I'm going to finish working up on a superhero novel that I've been TRYING Gods help me to get done over the past ten years, and this year I'm feeling it because I am no longer distracted by other story ideas in me head. This is it, kids, I got this.

If you're a writer in Polk County, there's a Lakeland Region you can join and share in various Virtual Write-In gatherings! Look for USA::Florida::Lakeland and sign up with us.

See the rest of you on November 30th when I've got 50,000 and a semi-coherent novel of doom!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Award

It came today in the mail!


I have Mal lying in repose behind it so you can see the white text more clearly on his black fur.

(hmmm) (contented sigh)

It feels good, getting recognition at something artistic - painting, writing, photography, singing, performing - you enjoy doing.

Thank you, Florida Writers Association, for this accolade!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

National Black Cat Day 2020

Say hello to Mal the Crazy Kat (or Krazy Cat, one of the two) the Pan-Furr of the house!


You'll notice he's fixated on the snack that's about to drop into his belly!

(My online friends call their Black Cats "Pan-Furrs" because they're more fur than usual panthers, well you'll understand it when you see it)

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Back Open For Business

Just to note today we re-opened Bartow Public Library for the public to come inside.

This is one of the riskier parts of the COVID-19 Pandemic, as the spread of the virus works best indoors in close quarters. A lot of the things the library staff has to do now involve:

  • Making sure everyone is masked. Masks work to reduce the spread of the virus (via the moisture of our exhaling breaths). Most everyone who came in wore masks... but some refused to cover the nose, which still allows for their exhales to cause issues. Cover the mouth AND nose, please.
  • Wiping down the computers especially the keyboards and mice after every person's use.
  • Enforcing the social distancing such as the six-feet-apart rule. We're trying to mark off where people need to stand at the service/Information Desk.
  • Putting checked-in items to quarantine for at least 72 hours.
  • Trying not to stand too close while helping patrons, especially at the computers where a lot of the patrons uncomfortable with using computers insist on us helping by hand. We're trying to set up a virtual sharing between the staff computer to patron workstation to provide remote help.

So far, most of the other libraries in Polk County haven't seen outbreaks in them. I think one library in one of the smaller communities had a person test positive, they had to shut down for a week. We'll see how things play out in Bartow and how the patrons return to our building over the next couple weeks. It was quiet today, a brief rush during the afternoon when parents came in to use the computers and check out stuff for their kids.

Praying things stay safe for the staff and for the city. The COVID numbers are spiking as the flu season shifts into gear. That's the best we can do for now, muddling our way through the pandemic... 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Royal Palm Literary Awards 2020: Award Ceremony

Having submitted a Finalist in the category of Short Nonfiction: Article or Blog, with "Seven Reasons NOT to Invade Iran" from my You Might Notice a Trend political blog, I waited and watched last night's Royal Palm Literary Awards via online presentation (hi, pandemic!) for the results.

Which was this:


They haven't published the full list of winners - which covers Fiction and Nonfiction, Poetry, Published and Unpublished works - but I'll update this site with a link when I can.

This is a good, nice feeling. For a writer, there is some satisfaction when you get a work printed even when it's self-published like on a blog because there's the enjoyment of having committed the writing to paper (so to speak) and put it out there for entertainment or enlightenment or both. There is a lot of satisfaction (well, depending on how much of a perfectionist the writer is) when any work is lauded by peers.

Thank you, Royal Palm judges. I know it's tricky to give accolades to politically-tinged writing, and I am grateful you are wise enough to be open-minded to judge a work on its quality.

Now, back to blogging! (writes op-ed about how gun nut militias are ruining PT Cruiser's reputation as a cool retro car) ...What?


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Bartow Library Status September 2020

I need to announce that the library where I work opened to Curbside level service today.

What this means is:

  1. Patrons cannot enter the library (yet). Our computers and study rooms/meeting rooms are unavailable.
  2. Patrons CAN call to place library items on Hold for Pickup outside the library door. We will have a cart set up where they can retrieve the items when they call us to say when they are there. We have a driveway at the door so they can just pull up like drive-thru.
  3. Patrons can send us requests to print and copy materials, and also scan and fax documents to other locations. We would have to pickup their items to copy and return them via that doorway cart. We will charge for copies and for faxing (scanning is free, yay Internet).
  4. Patrons may not be able to browse our New Fiction/Non-Fiction shelves, but we provide notebooks of current release information left at the doorway cart so they can see what's available and call us to request those titles for Curbside.

It's not a full opening, but given the risks of indoor spread of COVID, this is the safest we can be while giving our Bartow community more support than we've been able the last five months.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Going Online With Library Patrons

 The problem with the ongoing pandemic - how it restricts the availability of indoor locations, the problems of cleaning contact surfaces that include TABLES and STUDY ROOMS as well as KEYBOARDS and MICE of our public computers - is how to make the library effective for our patrons when our patrons can't come in.

One thing we are doing at Bartow Library has been creating online videos and activity links. We did a lot of Online Storytime readings for our youth literacy and read-along families. Our librarian in charge of the book discussions has been using Zoom since May and has been gaining more chat members.

She's also involved in teaching our exercise and Tai Chi classes, so she's asked us to make and present a YouTube video to share with the class enrollees she still has signed up.

So I just wanted to share that here as well, try to get the word out, and let any library users know your public library near you should be doing similar things you can follow!


Keep an eye out for more stuff!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

International CAT Day 2020

I have been reminded on Twitter that today is International Cat Day.

So with that, I give you ALL THE CATS!














Sunday, August 2, 2020

Still Wondering About Muses

I never did find out if there was a Muse rental service out there to get me inspired during my writing efforts...

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Update on Royal Palm Literary Award Submission 2020

I've previously reported I reached the Semi-Finalist status for a Royal Palm Literary Award in the Non-Fiction Blogging category, and I am happy to report that I received word today that it's now a FINALIST in that category!



The article "Seven Reasons NOT To Invade Iran" qualifies now to reach First, Second or Third Place. However, not guaranteed: I learned a few years back that there can be more than three Finalists in most categories, so I have to remain optimistic but guarded this time.

Still and all, good news, keeps me motivated, what what. Back to writing!

(Naps on a Saturday during a thunderstorm) ...dammit...

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Caturday July 4

How my cats decide who gets to be in the sunroom and who gets to fold the laundry.


Ocean gets the day off and Mal gotta work it.

Happy 4th of July, America!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Camp NaNoWriMo for July 2020

Plans are made.

Plots are frayed.

Snacks are out-laid.

Rhymes are hard.

;-)

I shall keep all informed this time. I really want to get a novel done, really truly madly deeply.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

FWA Royal Palm Update June 2020: Semifinalist Status


Notified today that in the Non-Fiction / Blogging category, my political article "Seven Reasons NOT to Invade Iran" made it to the Semifinals.

This is a good step from last year, when a submission or three then didn't even get any reply notification other than questions about my link formatting. I figured then I had improperly submitted the attempts, that's on me, my bad. This means that the formatting I did THIS year worked proper. Properly!

If you recall the previous attempts, what I have to wait on now is the Finalist decision (the grading gets tougher) and if I make that I'll get the invite to the awards / banquet (IF the association is holding a conference this year, given the uptick in pandemic cases I doubt October will be safe..).

Wish me luck, peeps.


Monday, June 8, 2020

Anybody Good With Zazzle?

Hola, peeps. I gave up on Cafe Press as a place to market Witty Librarian merch - the coffee mugs kept getting cracked in shipment - so I'm switching over to Zazzle to see if things are better over there.

So um, I uploaded my Witty quote banner to the site and got it attached to a coffee mug and... well, now I'm trying to figure out how to transfer that banner JPG onto other items like mousepads, t-shirts, and SUVs.

Anyone got any tips on that? The instructions all keep saying I need to transfer to a Template format but it's not giving me the ability to upload to Template. Unless I missed a step somewhere...

Friday, May 8, 2020

You Say It's My Birthday: Yeah Actually It's a 50th Birthday

Having gone from this:


To this:


To this:


To this:


To this:



And... that's not all the photos of my 50 years - there's one or two from my college days I can't find at the moment, some from my days in Pasco Libraries, and a few more - but this gives you an idea how long it took for me to get a good beard going and then how quickly it went grey.

Ouch.

As for all the stuff I'd like to do for a birthday present to myself, the one thing I want to do is travel and see more of the world... but now is not a good time to do that. (sigh)

So in the meantime, here's cake:




Also, still trying to write a story or two. Or twelve. And get a damned novel finished. And...

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

National Library Week 2020

This would have been - April 19 through April 25 - National Library Week.



Sadly, we are in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that has closed down our library to the public. We need to promote Social Distancing to reduce the risks of spreading the infection (and this virus is proving very easy to catch).

What I can do from here is to encourage everyone to keep reading through any of the ebook services our libraries subscribe to. Bartow for example has an Overdrive account, so you can either use the direct URL on your desktop/laptop to visit https://pclc.overdrive.com/ and plug in your library barcode and PIN numbers, or install the Overdrive Libby app on your tablet/smartphone and login through there.

We're also sharing connections to various FREE ebook and online resources that have made themselves available to the public during this pandemic, the link to which is on our library website https://www.cityofbartow.net/library and through THIS particular link (the URL is so messy you're better off just clicking the link I made).

I wish we were doing our library services directly to the public, but right now safety and health ought to be our priorities. So I do hope everyone is doing well.

We can always do our Library Week next year.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Submitting To 2020's Royal Palm Literary Awards

Just to note as a member of the Florida Writers Association, I can submit currently written works for consideration with the Royal Palm awards.

Right now, I've put in two blog articles from my political ranting site, which hopefully may impress with insight, wisdom, and the appropriate use of various curse words (I *said* it was political ranting, dammit).

I may yet have an unpublished short story to submit for the April deadline, so we'll see how that goes.

Good luck to ye all, by the by, who are writing and getting away with it.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Current Status of Bartow Public Library March 2020

With all that is happening in the world right now, one thing we need to do in Florida and the United States is to stay at home and avoid public places. A public library is as public as you can get, so my city of Bartow's library was ordered closed to the public back on March 17th. Sorry I haven't mentioned it until now.

(Staff is still coming to work because there are off-desk tasks we still need to perform to keep the library functioning. Until such time that the city orders us home if the COVID-19 outbreak gets any worse)

We still have a number of online resources available through our library webpage at https://pclc.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/bartow and we're trying to encourage people to use our Overdrive eBook access.

As for my previous workplaces Pasco County ( https://pascolibraries.org/ ) and Broward County ( https://www.broward.org/Library/Pages/default.aspx ) they're closed to the public until further notice, too.

Stay healthy, everybody!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

It's Saint Patrick's Day 2020 And You Know What THAT Means!

CAT VIDEOS!

(fails to dye Mal's hair in green)

I am now covered in many scars ow ow ow ow ow ow.

Verra Well. Videos of my favorite Irish-themed movie, The Quiet Man!




Thanks.


Saturday, February 29, 2020

Caturday Leap Day 2020

Every four years is an extra day, February 29th, and this year it falls on a Caturday!!!

Right Mal?


Krazy Kat is too busy rolling to care.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

It's Super Bowl Sunday! Also Known as Mal's BIRTHDAY

To anyone out there who adopted River, Simon, Zoey, Jayne, and Inara, this is their birthdays too and I hope they are doing well!

Just not as crazy as this panfurr.


The cupcake sadly is not cat-friendly, but I will let Mal know how tasty it is OMNOMNOM.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Caturday With Mal February 2020

This is a big birthday weekend for Mal the Krazy Kat, but for now he's content sitting on the recliner bopping me in the face with his frickin tail.


Tomorrow should be a slightly crazier day, what what.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

This Morning

I have to go in for surgery to scoop out a growth on my Pituitary Gland.

So, in possibly a bad idea of tempting fate, I offer you this.


Offer up all the Unitarian prayers you got, fellow librarians and writers.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Writing Motivation for Short Stories

There are a few simple tricks:

1) Write something simple. A short story doesn't require a lot of details or characters or sweeping Big Ideas to captivate a reader. Just write, something with a beginning, an event, and an end.

2) Write something for your character. You may, in your lifetime, invent a person that you think is cool and/or witty and/or fun to be with. So, give that character a moment in time to be all that. Hopefully other people will read it and like your character too.

3) Write something that gets an idea from thought to paper. Don't let the idea stay bottled up in your head. Commit to paper. Read it with your own eyes, and find the language to make that idea flourish.

5) Stay consistent.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Plans for 2020 As a Librarian and a Writer

Just a brief list of things I need to do this new decade.

Writing:
Cancel my publications with Xlibris and reprint the short story collection in an updated work with newer stories and better editing. In this regards I need to finish two stories - one needs editing and one needs writing - to round off the collection.
Finish an extra story or two for submission to a particular online press that has certain story requirements. More on when I get those done.
Finish the NaNo novel from this past November 2019 because of the unfinished projects floating around in my head its one I feel best about getting done.

Librarying:
Take care of ongoing paperwork and responsibilities at my library, obviously. :)
But also get things prepared and ready for hopefully a new City Librarian (director) to take over operations
Once that's settled, get back into my reference librarian and tech assistance outreach.
Provide assistance to the FLA Scholarships committee I am currently assigned to. It's a big responsibility.

Personal:
Cope with a major surgery later this month.

So... well, the days are packed aren't they?