Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Witty's Year End Book Review 2021

Ahhh, where did the time go?

Things picked back up at work, which included an uptick in ordering more science fiction novels and nonfiction titles, and involved reading a few more titles than usual just to keep up with the hottest authors and current topics.

That all means I'm still promoting a narrow list of things I liked most this past 2021. This has actually taken me longer than usual because I really couldn't figure out a Best Fiction novel to choose from even though there were a couple I liked well enough. Rather than leave the category empty I had to think it over. So here goes.

Best Fiction

Zoey Punches the Future In the Dick, David Wong

There's a trope called Exactly What It Says On the Tin, where if a book title reads "Kaiju Fighting Robots" and there's 50 foot monsters fighting 50 foot robots, then HELL YEAH that's what we're looking for. And this novel goes exactly into the zany, hyperkinetic comic book craziness the title tells us it'll do.

It's Halloween season in a crazy superhuman-filled metropolis where Zoey - a young woman turned criminal overlord - gets attacked by a zombie claiming she's responsible for its death and an impending apocalypse. Now targeted by other crime lords who don't like Zoey's attempts to convert her empire into a force for good - as well as a new threat calling itself the "Vanguard of Peace" - she has to solve this mystery, get prepped for Halloween, avoid cyborg cats, and survive to the next novel in this new crazy-ass series.

Written by the guy who brought us John Dies At the End and This Book Is Full of Spiders, this book - sequel to Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, which I hadn't actually read yet, I only ordered this book for my library because the title was hilarious - does a good job of creating its own world with quirks and decent literary twists. It does provide relevant commentary on the horrific nature of online trolling and the emotional toll it takes on its victims, as Zoey copes with a threat calling itself Blowback that turns out to be just a handful of loathsome trolls who don't represent anybody but themselves. If you're trying to find something to read that's not as ponderous as most of the current sci-fi / fantasy market, this could be a fun alternative.

Best Non-Fiction

The Cruelty Is The Point, Adam Serwer

A lot of the non-fiction books I've read and place here on my blog as best reads all happen to document the rise to power of one donald trump, a bankrupt businessman/con artist who rose to the Presidency on a mountain of lies and a broken political system that let him bluff his way in. Where most of those books documented the atrocities trump committed once in power, Serwer - writer/editor at The Atlantic - takes a larger view to examine the mental state of a nation that willingly accepted this overt bully/demagogue promoting an agenda driven by Cruelty as his platform. Anchored by the essay that gives this book its title, Serwer delves into the various racial and sexist world-views underlying the American psyche, and exposes the rage and hate that trump and his ilk feed on for profit and power. As important a read as any other books on trump's violent rhetoric and abusive behaviors.

Runner-Up: Hiding in Plain Sight, Sarah Kendzior

Similar in focus to Serwer's essays, Kendzior documents not only trump's psychosis but also looks at the parts of America - the Red State regions abandoned by an American culture and economic system of the 21st Century that they distrust out of religious and racist world-views that dominate there - that are never going to accept the more liberal Blue State regions that cannot comprehend how those regional Americans are so hate-filled and contrarian.

Best Graphic Novel (or Ongoing Series)

Wonder Woman Historia Vol. 1, Kelly Sue DeConnick (author) and Phil Jimenez (artist)

Normally I'm a Batman fan first and foremost, but lately there's been a lot of great work done with Wonder Woman as the primary hero of the DC Universe, and it's all capped by this recent release on the Black Label (magazine) format, a massive retelling of the origin of that comics' universe Amazon culture, the emergence of Wonder Woman's mother Queen Hippolyta, and a war between gods and genders. 

What's knocking everyone off their feet is the work Jimenez put in as the artist. Arguably one of the most detailed illustrators in the business, inspired by greats like George Perez and drawing in a similar style harking back to Perez's tenure on Wonder Woman in the late 1980s, the first issue already has been hailed as a masterpiece of graphic art.

While less a story about Wonder Woman and more about the history - hence the title - that would lead to her "birth" as the Amazons' princess warrior, there is well enough here to entice readers who don't even follow comics to pick up the title. Like most Black Label works, this is NOT a comic book for children and its depictions of abuse gets brutal (given the themes of male-on-female violence, this is unavoidable). 

And again, the artwork on this is incredible: Any one panel of Jimenez's art could stand alone as a framed work on museum walls. This is arguably the best-drawn comic in ages.

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

Guns of the South, Harry Turtledove

One of the few advantages of Twitter is that well-known authors occasionally take to the tweets to make their voices heard on the issues, and Mr. Turtledove is one of them. As a writer of Alternate History (AH) novels - and with an academic degree in Byzantine History, which does explain a whole lot of his interest in What-If narratives - he does have knowledge about the rise and fall of empires/civilizations, and if anything the 21st Century political landscape is full of that requiring his observations. So tweet he does, and often I tweet/retweet his stuff with follow-up commentary by him, so it's all good.

That said, Guns of the South is one of Turtledove's better-known What-If novels: The Confederate army under General Lee is facing defeat in early 1864 due to lack of supplies and lack of rifles. A group of men calling themselves "America Will Break" (AWB) show up with an offer of a new, rather lethal weapon they call the AK-47, more advanced and deadly - and literally futuristic - than the Union repeating rifles. Along with oddly packed rations most 20th Century people would recognize as Cold War-era MREs and guarantees of unlimited supply of both, Lee accepts the deal... and leads to the South utterly defeating the North within weeks. With this sudden change of history - where Confederate success means their dreams of a slave nation continue - the timeline we know of by the 21st Century becomes a darker, more treacherous place... especially when Lee and the other Southerners find out who the AWB really are and what they really want.

What makes Turtledove's efforts here intriguing is how he doesn't fall into the traps most other AH/What-If authors fall into: The one little "For Want of a Nail" moment doesn't always end up with clean and unrealistic happy results that bad AH novels fall into. For all that the AWB hoped for - that their time-travel events would create a slave-controlling empire that would ally with them in a future war of their own making - it doesn't change the historic global trends of slavery getting outlawed. Indeed, the European powers - Great Britain especially - that hesitated siding with the Confederacy against the United States now have a reason to openly oppose the new Confederate nation that still propagates a slave system. Defeating the Union doesn't stop slaves in the South from fleeing for safe havens further north. And for all that slavery did promoting racism in the United States, the AWB's more hateful views become shocking to Southerners who prided themselves on more genteel behavior.

Turtledove's novels cover a lot of major historical events - the American Civil War, World War II (he comes up with some doozies for "Hitler Wins" scenarios including lizard aliens), the Age of Exploration, etc. - so he has a bunch of novel series to go through. It'll be worth a look.

Best Work Including Stuff I Wrote

Strangely Funny VIII, edited by Sarah Glenn (Mystery & Horror LLC)

Many thanks again to the publishers at Mystery & Horror LLC, who accepted this year a story about 2020 aptly titled "War Of the Murder Hornets." It's about Murder Hornets, a legitimate imported death machine from Asia that contributed to a lot of madness the previous year (and are still around as a looming threat). Because 2020 was worth that kind of horror.

In some ways, 2021 was too.


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

In the Running: ALA Councilor at Large

I've mentioned a few times before that I am a professional librarian.

This isn't just about working full-time as a reference librarian: Professionalism requires keeping up with the skills and training, as well as contributing to the job title by engaging in regional, state, and national organizations.

I've been very active with the Florida Library Association, working on committees ranging from establishing Standards And Outcomes for our public libraries to maintain their ethics and professional standards, to the Scholarships committee that rewarded funding to new students to our MLIS programs at public universities (Florida St. and South Florida).

I've also been with the American Library Association, paid member since 1993 (my graduate student years), and had been active within the ALA with Reference & User Services group from time to time.

All this to say that for 2022 I'm hoping to be more engaged with ALA by running for a Councilor-At-Large position.

CHICAGO - The American Library Association (ALA) announced that 68 candidates are running for 34 at-large seats on the ALA Council.

The following candidates were accepted by the Nominating Committee (listed alphabetically by last name):

(you'll have to scroll down a bit...)

Paul Wartenberg
Reference and Technology Librarian
Bartow Public Library
Bartow, FL

I am campaigning on the pledge to 1) uphold library standards of public service, 2) uphold librarianship's three rules of Time And Space, and 3) the judicious application of library ninjas to hunt down overdue patrons.

I kid a little. I am campaigning on promoting effective public service, and to ensure our libraries support our communities so that our communities can support us.

Balloting for ALA elections begins on March 14, 2022 and will run through to April 6, 2022. Individuals must be members in good standing to vote in the 2022 ALA elections. I also need to make sure my membership dues are in to remain a candidate.

For my fellow ALA librarians out here, I hope I have your vote. It'll be a tough election with 88 candidates for 34 openings. We'll see how it goes!

Thank you for your consideration!

Sunday, November 28, 2021

NaNoWriMo 2021 Results

 Well, I reach 50,000 words last night!

With it comes... a firm and hearty handshake!


/hits self

This is the part I keep messing up. Once the time constraints of NaNo are done with, I lose track, I lose focus, I LOSE what I was doing.

Keep kicking me, readers. Remind me to FINISH THE DAMN THING!

I'll see ya in December.

Monday, November 22, 2021

I Survived (I Think) Lake County Comic Con 2021!

Once, long ago, before the dark times, before the pandemic, I would make convention visits to Clermont FL for a Sunday comic con.

While the COVID situation remains fraught - even with the vaccinations and the booster shot I just got last week - it seemed safe enough to make a return trip. Except this year they weren't doing it at the Clermont center - I didn't ask but I expect the city couldn't afford yet to have it open - so it was in a meeting room at a gated community (Trilogy Orlando) north of Clermont. 

This year I brought some new items for sale: Mousepads with my "Definitions of a Witty Librarian" design. I also planned on giving away a Witty Librarian coffee mug in a raffle... except I forgot to pack the bloody coffee mug!!! (AAAAAAAAUUUGGGGHHH)

Missing from this photo: THE DAMN COFFEE MUG

And so, emotionally scarred by my failure to forget ONE THING that I always do whenever I go on these convention runs... I set up table and got to work! By... sitting there and waiting for customers to come to me, because I was working solo this Sunday.

I did have time to walk the floor once in a while (bathroom breaks)...

They had me in the corner of the room with the local chapter of the Ghostbusters! So every time the kids came by they played with the proton pack and made flushing noises (the traps disposal)...

I have to admit I also play a lot of Pokemon Go, and the thing is there's a mission requirement to get past Level 40 where you have to capture 200 Pokemon. Good news is, the Trilogy's center had three Pokestops you could load with Lures to draw in more than 200 Pokemon all day long... sooooo...
I also needed to take a picture of my Pokemon buddy at one point,
 which got photobombed by a Shinx!!!

In the good news category, I caught interest from a number of readers looking for new titles, and I made sure they left with at least bookmarks to think about buying one or more of the Strangely Funny books. Even better, two of them bought the print copies! One bought the first volume of Strangely Funny, and the other bought the last copy I have of the History and Mystery Oh My edition.

Nobody bought the mousepads though, so I have a glut at the moment. Anyone need a Witty Librarian mousepad?
This is what's on the mousepad, if you want it, drop me a line...

So here's hoping this was a safe and healthy comic con for all attendees, and that our Thanksgiving will be one of fun with family and friends!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Lake County Comic Con Sunday November 21: Be There And Be Square!!! ...Wait is that how it works...?

 Hola and opa, faithful followers of this blog!

I will make an Author's appearance at the upcoming LAKE COUNTY COMIC CON this Sunday November 21st opening at 10:00AM! It's at Trilogy Orlando in Groveland, FL, (exact address is 100 Falling Acorn Ave, Groveland, FL 34736 so you can GPS it) with tickets going for $8 a person.

This is slightly to the northwest of Clermont (emphasis on north), where I've been to previous comic cons this time of year.

I'll be selling copies of my story anthology Last of the Grapefruit Wars as well as volumes of the Strangely Funny anthologies containing my works, especially the latest work "War of the Murder Hornets!"

This year I'm including Witty Librarian mousepads for sale, and I will be holding a raffle drawing of a Witty Librarian coffee mug!

Some lucky winner will get this official Witty mug!!!

I promise to be fully vaccinated for the event - getting a booster shot this week - masking up and socially distancing, and I hope to see you there with appropriate CDC-approved style!

Monday, November 1, 2021

NaNoWriMo 2021 May GOD Have Mercy On My Soul

 I'm doing it. I swear to GOD I'm gonna finish a novel for once. I SWEAR TO THE ALMIGHTY KOALA OF STAR TREK THAT...

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Starting that Podcast: Book With the Blue Cover

Well, I taught that class on Podcasting... and I still missed a step or two.

But I started this, a brief introduction to Book With the Blue Cover, and let's see how far this can go.



Please comment where you can! I'd love the feedback! If you can't post here or at the Buzzsprout location, tweet me @PaulWartenberg kthanx.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Writing Update for September 2021

For a submission update, the flash fiction I submitted for "Dose of Dread" did not make the cut, alas.

With October around the corner, I need to start planning for November's NaNoWriMo

I am still working on revising my self-published works for an updated anthology down the road.

I need to focus.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Star Trek: Living In the Lower Decks

image from CBS Interactive

I once wrote about the Star Trek franchise being an optimistic, hopeful view of humanity's future (was that five years ago already? Happy 55th Anniversary then):

It spoke of the future: At a time humanity was threatened with nuclear war, environmental disaster, or worse, Trek suggested we would outgrow our worst demons and answer to the better angels of our nature, that we would achieve space flight and do so in ways that would let us explore the cosmos. That we would meet races like Vulcans and Klingons and myriad others, and that despite the differences we could blend, co-exist, share our wonder of the universe.

Star Trek is a reflection of the whole Earth: that we are a diverse species as humans, clinging to this small blue/green rock covered with air and water, facing daily challenges to survive but still looking upward and outward, dreaming up warp drives and seeking out exoplanets that might share other lifeforms. The drive to improve ourselves and improve our futures...

So that being said, another thing that science fiction geeks like to do with beloved franchises is to pull the thing apart, nitpick the errors and inaccuracies, what the literary academics like to call Deconstruction of an entire 'Verse of beliefs...

...and then put it all back together again with a sly awareness that we still enjoy the damn thing.

In the past five years or so, our entertainment media empires have exploded with content - movies, television shows, crossover materials - to fill the expansive and still-growing streaming capabilities that the Internet and high-quality video have reached this 21st Century (It's 2021, people!). Among them is/was/not sure of their current status Paramount Studios and/or the CBS network competing against the likes of Disney-Plus, which currently sits on so many franchises - Marvel, LucasFilm (Star Wars), Pixar, Disney's own empire - that Paramount/CBS had to hit back with one of the biggest franchises they own with Trek.

As a result, in the past three years they've come out with a new series ST: Discovery, followed up by a sequel/rebirth of Next Generation with the series Picard, and soon to include a reboot/prequel of the Original Series involving Captain Pike, Number One, and Spock called Strange New Worlds.

Into THAT mix of new content came an animated series fitting into the Original Timeline (yes, this is a problem with multiverses now) just after the Dominion War (ST:DS9 and ST:Voyager, also the movie ST: Nemesis) but before Picard's series. Thing is, this animated show was getting put together by people who worked Rick and Morty, a show that went out of its way to Deconstruct other shows and genres in a sometimes vicious (almost sadistic) fashion.

Star Trek: Lower Decks does indeed Deconstruct a lot of the known tropes for both science fiction and Star Trek itself... and yet for all of the gore, body horror, high-pitched screaming, and psychological trauma (not the audience, I'm talking about the in-show characters) the show is actually doing a good job of showing WHY the Trek Universe works the way it does... and why it's not a bad thing for humanity in the long run.

And it's actually a good show. Lemme get into that a little more.

The thing about space is that it's big, really big, and in that vastness of space there's millions of stars and hundreds of thousands of planets. A space that big requires a big Starfleet to explore and patrol it, meaning hundreds if not thousands of starships to trek it.

While the major shows of the Trek 'Verse either involved the crews that oversaw epic adventures (the Enterprise) or dealt with galactic crises (Deep Space Nine) or survived insane journeys (USS Voyager), there are still a lot of minor, almost common tasks that the rest of the Fleet works on. As the opening quote to Lower Decks notes:

First Contact is a delicate, high-stakes operation of diplomacy. One must be ready for anything when humanity is interacting with an alien race for the first time...

That is where the Enterprise gets involved. Alas...

But we don't do that. Our specialty is Second Contact. Still pretty important. We get all the paperwork signed, make sure we're spelling the name of the planet right, get to know all the good places to eat...

And the "we" in that opening narration is the crew of the USS Cerritos, a California-class starship that's not as glamorous as the Enterprise (the flagship of the entire Federation) or battle-tested as the Defiant, or even as quirky and durable as Voyager. Cerritos is part of one big happy Starfleet Bureaucracy, keeping up with the aftermaths of major battles and contacts and scientific findings that the major league starships resolve on a weekly basis.

The ship itself is part of a class that's easily interchangeable, one of a hundred named after small towns and cities in the state of California (a nod to the human-centric (actually American-centric) nature of Starfleet in spite of the hundreds of humanoids that make up the crews). The Cerritos is also not exactly in the best of shape, more like a 3-star hotel where the Enterprise would be a 5-star luxury resort.

And as the show highlights with most episodes, the Cerritos doesn't get any of the glamour gigs, dealing with supply runs, taxi services, minor planetary disputes, and finding out how bad the drinks are at the local Klingon coffee shop on Rigel VII. This ship is kind of like the lower deck of the Federation fleet itself.

What we get then is a show about the mundane, day-to-day activities of a large-scale employer that just happens to be a quasi-military exploration fleet that basically involves cleaning out holodecks of bio-refuse (oh yeah, the Internet of the Future is still for porn), daily maintenance checks of those sliding doors that don't magically open when they're supposed to open when you're ready to leave a room, and signing off on timesheets for the midnight shift in the astronavigation lab who really all goofed off in the bowling alley on Deck 10 instead.

You know, all the stuff that the important cast members don't have time to do because they're fighting the Borg or engaging in espionage against the Romulans or dating plasma ghosts from 19th Century Ireland. (Yes, that reference gets made in this show)

So we're stuck with the "lower deck" ensigns of Starfleet, such as Brad Boimler, an energetic newcomer out of Starfleet Academy who's a little too eager for promotion and too naïve to realize how dangerous the galaxy out there can get. Desperate for promotion, he's one of those extras you see on the bridge handing PADDs (the Tablets of the 24th Century) to another extra to make it seem like people are working.

He's been teamed up with Beckett Mariner, older and more experienced, who ought to be an officer by now except for her reckless disregard for regulations and diplomacy. Where Boimler wants to step up, Mariner wants to step out, and seems only to be in Starfleet because there's nothing else out there that gives her the opportunities to "explore new worlds" and "kick ass."

Filling in the Engineering side of things is Rutherford, a human who suffered an injury before all this and received cybernetic implants to help him function. He's the tech nerd of the group, more interested in making sure those sliding doors open properly rather than worry about a zombie infection or a bridge officer turning into a god.

Making this a four-team ensemble is Tendi, the token alien crewmember that provides the diversity of Trek philosophy (IDIC). She's actually from the "sexy alien" category: The green-skinned Orion women who add that allure of seduction and intrigue to the Trek 'Verse... Except Tendi is the sweetest, shyest, and least sex-obsessed crew member on the Cerritos (she was a little shocked to see Mariner's naked Olympic holodeck program).

It's through their viewpoint we witness the goings-on of a regular Starfleet cruise: The weekly crises resolved with the right application of technobabble; the quick fights over Prime Directive/Non-Interference quandaries that are resolved through insane troll logic; and the reality that Starfleet operates on a kind of repetitive ennui that requires a healthy balance of holodeck fantasizing and a lack of micromanaging in the workplace.

What makes Lower Decks work as a series is that its efforts at Deconstruction are not meant as dark or dispirited mocking, but a kind of deliberate examination of "what would it really be like for the day-to-day operations of Starfleet, away from the dashing heroics of the original show and its spiritual successors?"

One episode for example focused on "Scotty Time," a Trope about how Trek engineers would inflate their deadlines for repair jobs that would get finished earlier and make them look like miracle workers. In the Lower Decks, it's become a dirty little secret to have your projects use "Buffer Time" on the calendars so that you'd have time to juggle that project with other hobbies beneficial to the ship - or better still fix any emergencies that crop up while you're working on the main task. When the Cerritos' Captain Freeman finds out what "Buffer Time" means, she's enraged because she thinks the crew is deliberately slacking off work (and hurting her chances at promotion), and then sets immediate deadlines for projects to make her crew work faster. Instead, because the deadlines are too swift, too arbitrary, and too inflexible to allow responses to emergencies, the Cerritos turns into a chaotic mess. "Buffer Time" had been happening for so long, no one could remember how much time was needed to calibrate a sensor array.

By the show's own logic, Buffer Time was a necessity: it allowed the crew (employees) to work at a pace they inherently knew could let them function while allowing enough time to handle the crazy space stuff along with it.

Another episode delved into those nightmarish episodes that would happen where a crewmember or guest-star would suffer an accident that would cripple them... or infect them with an exotic incurable disease... or turn them into salamanders (oh, yeah, THAT was when I quit watching Voyager, ye Gods. Why can't we go to Warp 10?! It'll turn us into newts!!! (We got better. SHH!!))

When Boimler gets phased improperly during a transporter upgrade test, he's assigned to a transport ship under Division 14 to take him to a "retirement" spa called The Farm for treatment. These "accidents" to crew members have been so common that Starfleet did develop a protocol for handling it. While the episode careens into a crisis when the other passengers are convinced - because they've been en route for months - that there is no Farm, the matter is resolved when the transport finally arrives to an exotic, Risa-like planet that does take care of the injured personnel as they were promised.

Mixed into all of this is a critique of the serial storytelling of the early Trek series, how weekly escapades and epic movies would ignore the ramifications of those events down the line. As television narratives evolved in the past 20 years to allow for continuity - for novel-styled story arcs that ensured a coherent, developed history would emerge from what we watched - what were stand-alone episodes for TOS and TNG now seem antiquated, and leaving behind issues that the "lower deck" crews like the Cerritos would have to clean up after.

In this, the animated series' Deconstruction is more deliberate, and raises legitimate issues regarding the idealism of Star Trek's philosophy. The contradictions of "exploration and discovery" behind Starfleet curtailed by a Prime Directive that insists on non-interference with "lesser" yet sentient races. The sporadic threats of one-off villains like Pakleds coming back years later as serious threats. And the abuse of flare lighting in holodeck movies, okay, the emotional conflicts of allowing family members (Mariner is secretly Freeman's rebellious daughter for much of Season One) serve on the same ship.

But I come to praise Lower Decks, not to bury it. Underneath the snarky witticisms, gag replays of Trek's less-noble plot points, and obvious physical humor, there is some legitimate character development AND 'Verse development for a complex, overwhelming universe as Star Trek's entire franchise. For all the craziness the ensigns go through, you see how the excitement and challenges of space travel keep them going, even in the vastness of bureaucratic inertia where they work. That for all the eldritch horror (and repetitive cleaning chores), there is still Hope that humanity (that may seem a bit speciest, but it's the only way we can define the nature of Starfleet itself) will prevail.

It gives me hope that somewhere down the line they can plot out a decent crossover moment with Dr. Who and Star Wars and DC Comics and Marvel Comics and... and... YES, I KEEP HOPING FOR A MASSIVE CROSSOVER, DAMMIT. IT'S IN MY BLOOD!

In the meantime, Season Two is streaming... somewhere. CBS Access or some such. BINGE IT while you're buried alive. BIIIINNNNNGGGGEEEEE IIITTTT!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Keep Writing August 2021 Moments

Well, I finished a story today for another Strangely Funny anthology submission. It's a vampire story but it's NOT in the same 'Verse as my previous vampire (actually dhampyr) tales. We will see how it goes and if this time I win that damn t-shirt!

(is informed this is not the one with the t-shirt giveaway) AW FFFFFFFFFFFFFF--

In the meantime, I saw a Twitter posting for submissions to something called "Dose of Dread" tied into a Dread Stone Press, a sort of flash-fiction submission (between 500-1000 words) looking for straight horror. I do have a horror story of sorts sitting around that's EXACTLY within that word limit, so first day of it (Sept. 1st) I should put in for it. (I also wrote on the fly a humorous flash-fiction about how I first confused it as "Rose of Dread" and we'll see if the editor has a sense of humor) 


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Good News: I FINALLY Heard Back From the Royal Palm Judges for 2021 (w/Update)


Bad news is I didn't make Semifinalist status on my Fiction short story "War of the Murder Hornets," and on three of the political blog articles I submitted for the Non-Fiction Short category.

Odd news, I still have one blog article under consideration. We shall see...

Update 8/14: Nope, that last blog article also missed the Semifinalist cut with the Royal Palms. Alas.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Updates on Writing August 2021

1) Still have not heard from the FWA Royal Palm judges about my five submissions this year. They HAVE started sending out notifications to others who I see online crowing about getting Semi-Finalist status, so perhaps in another week or two...

2) I had submitted a work I've done a few years ago - "Road Trip to Vegas" - to an annual Mensa fiction issue (I am a member since 2001) and just heard back that I didn't make the final cut for that. They did have 130 submissions this year, which is really tough to compete against.

I may just end up putting "Road Trip" in with another story collection to self-publish. I am looking to cancel my deals with XLibris because those books never did sell well, I needed to update Last of the Grapefruit Wars to a better collection, and this may be my next big project for the month.

3) Mystery & Horror LLC is reopening submissions for the next Strangely Funny anthology. I have a funny premise and need to flesh it out. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Witty Librarian as a Superhero Minifigure

If you ever worked with HeroClix or any RPG dice game, you might understand what this is.

An online friend from City of Heroes crafted this on Hero Forge's website, where you can design and purchase 3D figures to enhance your figure collection for RPGs. It's about as tall as a finger digit, yet the detail for that size is eye-catching.

Now I gotta put it somewhere the cats won't chew on it. ;-)

Monday, July 26, 2021

Camp NaNo July 2021 Results

Short take: I couldn't finish the project again.

Long take: Every time I tried to sit myself down to write, I couldn't do it. I felt no inspiration, no spark, could not find the words to commit to the story even though I *know* where I want that story - and several others I've left in limbo - to go.

I even took a few days off from work to see about getting a lot of the rough first draft done. Barely got a chapter out of it, and I'm not impressed with what I made.

I've been looking at myself in the mirror a lot lately, coming to terms with a few things, and at the top of the list is the realization that my depressive moods have returned. The pandemic anxiety, general loss of contact with friends in real life, and other unhappy truths about my lack of a social life seem to have left me drained.

So I am going back to the psychiatrists/psychologists to see what I can do to get myself out of this funk (again).

Just in case, if anybody's got a link to a Muse of inspiration, let me know what the arcane rituals are to summon one.



Saturday, July 17, 2021

Updating My Wittylibrarian Art

Still working on getting this definition / logo updated for self-merch and stuff.

So now I need to add this to a coffee mug somewhere... brb.

Update 7/25/21: Okay, got the coffee mug made at VistaPrint, and it got shipped in solid condition, which was way better than CafePress' delivery.

Gonna show this off at work, krewe!!!

I think I got some neat giveaway items for the next comic-con I'll be attending...

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Starting To Get a Little Worried About Them Submissions...

Usually by this time I'd be hearing from the Royal Palm Literary Award judges if my submissions passed the Semifinalist status. I put in five items - four blog articles and one short story - so the odds should favor at least ONE of those submissions reaching this stage. 

They've at least emailed back with a "sorry, your submission couldn't qualify" the few times I didn't reach that stage, so I'm still clinging to the hope that the judges this year were probably overwhelmed by local writers catching up during the pandemic stay-at-home months with their works.

Still... I'd like to know if my Murder Hornet story is wowing the critics...

Camp NaNo July 2021

One more summer of Camp NaNoWriMo to see if I can keep to my personal goal of finishing an honest-to-God novel.

No more self-doubt. No more delays, no more distractions. Who cares if I succumbed to nostalgia and got an Atari VCS this month? I will not play with it until I get the damn novel done.

I have the basics of it, I've got the beginning and the middle and the end. I need to fill the gaps, give my main characters better motivation, describe some of the fight scenes a little better and GET ER DONE.

I will update here when I can on my status.

Good luck, writers!

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

How I Write: Interview by Writers 4 All Seasons

In honor of getting "War of the Murder Hornets" published in volume 8 of Strangely Funny, my local critique group Writers 4 All Seasons offered to interview me about my process. Here's the clip:



4. Who are some of your favorite short story writers, living or deceased?

I loved reading Ray Bradbury when I was in my pre-teens. I've found compared to some of the other short story writers that I enjoy Bradbury's character developments. He had an economy of style, as though he used exactly the right words to describe scenery and people. He had a rather vivid and also macabre imagination: Bradbury may have been classed as a fantasy/science fiction author but a lot of his short stories were darker and more horrific than anything Stephen King produced...

I also wanted to meet Bradbury to tell him about how when I was younger I was in a middle school story contest where the Second Place winner had plagiarized one of his stories, so I wanted to let him know he only got Second Place among eighth graders, alas... ;-)

Monday, May 31, 2021

Just Released: Strangely Funny VIII Available in Print and Kindle!

Ahhh yeah, volume VIII is officially released!

You can purchase a print copy or you can purchase the eBook Kindle version!

MANY THANKS to the editors Sarah and Gwen for choosing a line from my "War of the Murder Hornets" story as the quote blurb to help sell the anthology! 

"Just want to let you know, so far we’ve got two of the drafted volunteers reporting sick to the base doctor with severe cases of Aw Hell Naw."

-- Paul Wartenberg, "War of the Murder Hornets"


PLEASE do get a copy, the stories from this series are worth the read, and PLEASE leave a good review for us, I do hope you enjoy our twisted tales.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

If I'm Going To Podcast, I'm Going To Need to Learn

A project in the planning at my workplace, still hush-hush, requires knowing how things like podcasts get made.

So if I gotta learn about podcasts, then I gotta listen to podcasts.

So I'm out here looking at a few worth following, and one of the earliest ones I've spotted is this Drunk Librarians, who seem to do book discussions while... um... encouraged by the finest libations a librarian can liberate from a winery.

(I have known many a librarian appreciate a fine wine or twelve. Just not me, I never developed a smell for wine, apologies)

Anyway, I'll be checking that one out, and I'll mention other podcasts of interest when I find them.

When I start up a podcast to see how I'm faring, I'll share the link here.


Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mama Cat Ocean in 2021

To anyone who adopted kittens by the names of Inara, Jayne, Zoey, River, and Simon in Polk County back in 2014, please let them know that mama Ocean the Wiggle Cat is still wiggling and meowing and griping and asking for head rubs.

Happy Mother's Day, Ocean!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

May The 4th Be With You this 2021

Due to Disney Plus, streaming services in dire need of fresh content, a growing comic book and print book industry of YA and adult materials, and an eager audience of Star Wars fandom spreading across three generations now, May the 4th is just about as official a national holiday as anything else.

It has helped somewhat during this pandemic to have our stories and our shows comfort us, to bring us light forth from the darkness.

They made a big deal today about releasing a new animated series The Bad Batch about the aftermath of Order 66. We've got a book series about the sunny days of the grand Republic, before its fall into war and chaos.

But let us not talk of heartbreak and the loss of hope during the Dark Times of the Empire.

Let us talk about BABY YODA!!!



...Yeah, that still hurts, I do need to issue a review of that when I can calm down.


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

National Library Week 2021

April 5 through April 10 is National Library Week!

Take the time to visit a library - PLEASE WEAR A MASK INSIDE A LIBRARY AT ALL TIMES - and check out what you like - BOOKS ARE GOOD, WE GOT A BUNCH ON HAND - and support literacy and community resources to the full - WE MIGHT BE NEAR DOG PARKS, YOU NEVER KNOW.

In the meantime, see if you can spot a fool in this crowd:

I know I overdo the arched eyebrow thingee

NOW GO READ! We'll see you in the summer when our family events take place.


Friday, March 26, 2021

A Lifetime of Writing For Children, Who Became All Of Us: Beverly Cleary Wrote For Us

This is the kind of news a librarian and childhood reader does not want to hear. Beloved writer Beverly Cleary finally passed away this weekend (via Zoe Chace at NPR): 

Children's author Beverly Cleary died Thursday in Carmel, Calif., her publisher HarperCollins said. She was 104 years old. Cleary was the creator of some of the most authentic characters in children's literature — Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse and the irascible Ramona Quimby.

Generations of readers tore around the playground, learned to write in cursive, rebelled against tuna fish sandwiches and acquired all the glorious scrapes and bruises of childhood right along with Ramona...

Her writing style — clear, direct, uncomplicated — mirrored the author's own trajectory. Cleary was still a young girl when she decided to become a children's book author. By the 1940s she'd become a children's librarian in Portland, Ore., and she remembered boys in particular would ask her: "Where are the books about kids like us?"

There weren't any, so she sat down and wrote Henry Huggins, her first book about a regular little boy on Klickitat Street in Portland. Henry Huggins was a hit upon first printing, but her readers wanted to hear more about the little girl who lived just up the street.

Ramona Quimby, the most famous of all of Cleary's characters, was unforgettable. Mischievous, spunky and a hater of spelling, Ramona would be the first to tell you she's not a pest — no matter what anyone (especially her older sister Beezus) says...

I read Cleary as a youth, around seven or eight years old, after my family moved to Florida and we went to Dunedin Public Library pretty much once every week. It started with Henry Huggins but moved onto Ramona where even as a boy reader the angst and issues for girl characters echoed a lot of the drama and anxiety of childhood itself.

Along with Judy Blume - with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing anchoring the Fudge series - Cleary was one of the few authors I read who seemed to write FOR children, not to us (in terms of lecturing and preaching). The moral life lessons of her works - in the Ramona series, often odes to the strengths of family and sisterhood - offered in subtle yet recognizable moments.

I think I quoted on this before, but let me quote here from Kate Dries at Jezebel about Cleary's importance and influence:

As an adult, I remember far more of Cleary’s descriptions of the life that influenced her children’s books than the actual fiction she wrote—stories about how she hates the taste of almond extract because it’s all they had to make desserts with during the Depression, or how eating a whole avocado every day from the tree outside her window in college caused her weight to bloom, or what she and her friends asked of each other’s clothes during the lean years: “Is it new, or new to you?”

Cleary’s writing is always matter-of-fact, observant without being unkind. In her limited first-person work, she’s evaluative of herself perhaps more than anyone else, and she allows certain undertones that are mostly absent from her children’s books to creep in...

Remember, as Cleary does, it would be years before “the labels ‘teenager’ and ‘young adult’” would even be used regularly. Back then, to look at young people this way, you had to be extraordinarily interested in understanding the emotional states of an age group that was almost always overlooked. Cleary did; she had a firm grasp of the reality that children have complex inner lives, and this sensibility made her books break through...

That emphasis on writing simply and about life’s minutiae explains why Cleary’s fictionalization of her normal if sometimes difficult life has been so embraced. “For years I avoided writing description, and children told me they liked my books, ‘because there isn’t any description in them,’” she said of her simple style, influenced (perhaps negatively in her mind, though not in anyone else’s) by a teacher who was overzealous with the red pen early on. Her characters are flawed but not overly dramatic: average, but interesting because of it, you might say (or in other words, realistic). Upon reading her memoirs, you can see the specific and broad bits of real life Cleary did use in her books—the “Smells to Heaven” casserole that her friend’s mother served that Jane won’t eat before a date in Fifteen for fear she’ll ruin her breath, or the comfortable home she didn’t have growing up run by Bernadette’s less-involved mother in Mitch and Amy...

Cleary described how her writing mentor encouraged her to pursue writing about 'the universal human experience,' the shared hopes and despairs that we all feel when we're young and curious and worried and envious and learning how to cope. As a writer herself, she gave us characters and stories that showed us how to cope, and we all grew up under her care.

She is one of the reasons I enjoyed visiting libraries. It wasn't until I was a librarian myself in my 30s when I found out Cleary was a children's librarian from Yakima WA when she started writing her stories for her youthful patrons.

Cleary should have won a Nobel Prize for Literature, goddammit.

I am deep in mourning tonight. My childhood physically ended a long time ago, but emotionally and spiritually that childhood stayed with me. A part of that is gone now.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Pi Day 2021

This is the perfect year to celebrate the circumference of PIE.

 I normally don't post political stuff on THIS blog - I do it on the other one - but if Joe Biden wants to go down in history in the Top Ten Greatest Presidents of ALL TIME, he'd better fight to make March 14 an official national holiday.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Getting Accepted for the Next Strangely Funny Anthology

Good news, people! A short story submission to the Strangely Funny anthology series has been accepted for 2021!

It's a 2020 story based on MURDER HORNETS. It might be the scariest story I've ever wrote.


The face of a Murder Hornet means business. And that business is MURDER. AAAAAAIIIEEEEEE.

Future updates on when and where the eighth anthology crops up are forthcoming.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Another Big Birthday for a Big Panfurr: Mal the Krazy Kat!

You might remember the story of how Ocean the Wiggle Cat decided the Fourth Quarter blowout of Seattle over Denver in the Super Bowl was the best time to give birth, and how it ended up with three six tiny little kittehs entering the world! 

Of those tiny kittehs, one remained with me, Mal the Krazy Kat, a mighty Pan-Furr (play on panther) of the house. And a big one too, he's two armfuls to hold!

Here I am trying to talk to Mal to stop him from abusing my face (ow ow ow):

See how mean he is to me?!


Never mind, I snacked him today for his birthday! This makes him... 7 years old now. Time flies when you're wagging that tail.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

You Know The Drill: 2021 Writing Projects





Get a story submitted to the Florida Writers Association's annual anthology!

Get that damn NaNo novel finished!

Clean up your bookshelves!

Wait that's not writing, that's deflection.

Still, it's seven years of dust on that thing, GET IT CLEAN!