21 December 2012

George and Martha

by James Marshall

This week Moose’s aunt and uncle had us over to celebrate our birthdays and Christmas. The Christmas present they gave us was the complete collection of GEORGE AND MARTHA stories by James Marshall. I had read a few of the stories but I absolutely love having them all and reading them all. They are cute and just make me laugh. I can’t wait to read them all with Moose.

GEORGE AND MARTHA is about two hippopotamuses who are best friends. (Though they appear to be married at times, they are just good friends.) They have disagreements and disappointments, but they always manage to reconcile by the end of the story. Within each picture book there are three or four stories some only two pages long. The artwork is bold and adds so much more to the story. One of my favorite stories is the first one where George hides the pea soup in his loafers under the table. The idea behind him putting the soup in his shoes just makes me giggle. I also love the one where Martha gets her picture taken in a photobooth. Picture large nostrils and really small, beady eyes.

I didn’t realize how many James Marshall stories I knew until I started looking him up for this review. He is the illustrator for the hilarious Viola Swamp/Miss Nelson stories. He wrote and illustrated the GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS is a Caldecott Honor book, and he also illustrated THE STUPIDS. While the books are classified “for children” they are perfect for adults as well. GEORGE AND MARTHA are sure to make you laugh, and smile.

19 December 2012

Wassail

Sorry I didn't post a story on Sunday. I just couldn't come up with an idea I liked and I am tired of posting stories that I don't really like. I will still try and write a story every week, but I won't guarantee it, especially these next few weeks.

Yesterday I went to a department potluck. I was feeling slightly ill because one of my coworkers had been cooking brats all day. His cooking secret, beer. I don't drink and haven't been around alcohol very much, but I could smell the beer. Everyone could smell it. And it was making me sick to my stomach though the majority of my other coworkers couldn't get enough of it.

I was looking forward to the potluck. One of my coworkers made wassail. I love wassail and I don't get it too often, unless I buy the Stephen's Citrus and Spice. Homemade wassail is wonderful. I would say 90% of the people who came to the potluck had no idea what it was. The few of us who did know were explaining it to everyone. I was so confused as to why no one knew what the traditional drink was. I was talking to my boss later that day and we came to the conclusion that my coworkers, including my boss, didn't know what it was were the ones who drink alcohol. Those of us who knew what is was didn't. (Though there was one fellow, who makes the beer and brats, who knew what wassail was.) It was just an interesting coincidence. Or maybe it was a correlation, but everyone who tried the wassail wanted the recipe so I think it turned out well.

14 December 2012

Servant of a Dark God

by John Brown

I read this book several years ago and I keep trying to write a review that does the book justice. I heard John Brown speak at the writing conference Life, the Universe, and Everything a couple years ago. His panel on writing a killer story is what really made me interested in his book SERVANT OF A DARK GOD. I do at a caveat that while the main character is a teenager, this book isn't shelved YA. The story is grim and delves into some of the dark sides of human nature. I am sure that there are young adults out there that would have any issue but don't expect it to be like Brandon Mull or James Dashner.

The story follows that of young Talen who is forced to take a good look at what he thinks to be wrong and write. There is a group of people known as soul-eaters and they aren't exactly the people that Talen was led to believe. Not only that, but he learns the truth about the harvesting of souls. There is so much to this story that deals with the magic of souls and the beings who seek to be in charge. . . and that’s where I get stuck. I just can't find a succinct way to explain it, but that is what I love about this story. There is so much going on that it left me breathless at times. How John Brown was ever able to boil it down into a query letter or pitch is beyond me.

This book is fantasy and it reminds me of some of the classics, without being full of tropes. SERVANT OF A DARK GOD paints a beautiful world with vivid characters I came to care about, even if I wasn't supposed to. It is fresh and unique and I look forward to the rest of the series when they come out, though don't let that stop you from reading this book. You will want the time to digest it and possibly reread it a few times because there is so much there.

12 December 2012

Sequel and LTUE 2013

This week has been really good. I finished writing my sequel for Eidolon, though there is still a lot of work to be done. I got hung up for a few weeks because I wasn’t sure I liked where the story was going. Eidolon has turned out so cool I was worried that the sequel wouldn’t be nearly as good. I’ve never written a sequel before. As I said, there is still a lot of work to do, but at least I have the basic story down so I only have to fill in the details. I think that this story is going to turn out really neat as well, I just have a lot of work to do with it. But I am once again excited at how the story is developing. I just hope my beta readers like it as well, though it will still be a month or two before most of them see even the draft.

The other happy thing that happened this week is that I get to present a research paper at LTUE in February. The best part is the fact that I get to present with my Dad. We wrote the paper together over the summer. We had a lot of fun together trying to come up with the topic and then going back and forth as we wrote. I have a little experience when it comes to waiting for the results. (I am still waiting to hear on one of my submissions and in January it will be 2 years.) When we submitted the paper in October I was kind of hoping to hear back quickly, but I wasn’t surprised it took almost two months. So now Dad and I get to prepare our presentation. This will be the hard part for me, but the easier part for my father. I am so excited.

09 December 2012

*Key to Peace

Intro: I had an odd dream that involved a key. The key was important and it was something that was limited to a few number of people. I had a few ideas for this and this is the one that I went with.

The key hung on a chain from the Mayor’s belt. Every Mayor wore the key, a sign of who they were. It wasn’t that the key was a symbol of the Mayor’s mantle, but rather the key was charge. The key weighed on Melissa Clayton’s belt and her shoulders, bowing them under the responsibility. As a child she thought she had seen the key but it hadn’t been significant. Now that she bore the key she wished she had put aside the goal of becoming Mayor.

Melissa sat behind her desk, tapping the key on the wood. Supplications littered her desk. This family wanted a larger ration of flour. A young man wished for a ring to propose. A child was asking for a new blanket. Melissa continued tapping.

“Is everything alright?” This came from Bradley, her Second. He was leaning against the doorframe.

“I feel like the sky is about to fall,” she replied.

Bradley’s gaze flicked to the key. “I think you’re just stressed. You should come back to bed.”

In addition to Bradley being her Second, he was also her lover. Marriage was expected, but there just hadn’t been time, and she had so many other commitments, like the key. That trumped every other situation and was her future, not Bradley, even if she wanted it.

“I have lots of work. I’m sorry if I woke you.”

His bare feet padded across the floor. His robe was open to his waist and she appreciated the view. He knew that. When he was behind her, he wrapped his arms around her shoulders.

“I always have a hard time sleeping when you aren’t in bed. It makes me feel like I am shirking my duties.” He kissed her neck. “You should work me more, make me exhausted, so I can sleep.”

Melissa’s breath caught as he continued seducing her.

“Come to bed. Those can wait. It’s not like anyone is starving or dying. At least no one outside of those expected and they are taken care of.”

The tapping of the key started up again. She stared at her hand and the brass rod. It looked like a trinket, bobble, nor a key. Keys were an archaic technology.

“Let it rest.” Bradley reached out to still her hand but Melissa slipped the key away and broke from his embrace.

“I’ll come to bed when I can. Keep the bed warm for me.”

She stood and kissed him, taking her time to taste. As she walked past she slapped his butt.

“Come back,” Bradley said.

Melissa walked through the streets. There were a few people out, picking up the trash and washing. The Commune was getting ready to celebrate its four hundredth year. She had been working Bradley non-stop during the day and he often fell asleep on the couch while waiting for dinner to arrive.

At the wall she rested her hand against the cold metal. She grew up in the Commune. Outside of their peaceful world was anarchy. She knew because she spent five years outside as part of her training. She looked up.

The sky sparkled with the planes exploding overhead. The Commune existed as humanity’s last hope. And yet, the key tugged at her. She walked along the wall, feeling the divots in the wall. No one knew what they were for, except the Mayors. She walked all the way around. The imperfections were evenly spaced save one place. Three-hundred and ninety-eight divots and one hole.

“It is time.”

She pushed the metal rod into the hole. Already she could feel the wall humming to life. Her life was for the greater good of the city. With the last Mayor in place, the wall would slowly grow outward, spreading the commune and peace. The four hundred year test period was at an end.

“Goodbye, Melissa.”

Melissa turned and looked at Bradley.

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m not. I knew I couldn’t keep you forever.”

“Marry a nice woman. Make her happy. Forget about me.”

“Never. I wish you would have married me. I don’t mind being a widower.”

“But you deserve a family. Marrying me would have prevented that.”

“I guess we’ll never know. I love you.” He waved as her mission as Mayor was ended, with her life. Her mind melded with the others who had given their lives. They would live forever as the collective mind focused on peace.

07 December 2012

The Queen's Thief

by Megan Whalen Turner

This week it was really easy to decide what to review. The reason I chose THE QUEEN’S THIEF series is because the author Megan Whalen Turner is coming to LTUE this year. I am really excited because this is one of my all-time favorite series. This is another book that my grandmother introduced me to. I read them when I was in college. At the time it was only a trilogy. The books aren’t written like most YA books, especially the last one, A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS. There are four books in the series: THE THIEF, THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA, THE KING OF ATTOLIA, and A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS.

The series follows Eugenides, a thief who goes by the name Gen. Because of his bragging he is captured and then is required to steal on demand. Gen is one of the characters that I loved from the beginning. He is clever, witty, and the loveable rogue. As the series continues and Gen matures, he becomes even greater, which I didn’t think would be realistically possible. The narrators change over the course of the books, which puts the characters in different light. I can’t really say too much because there is just too much and I don’t really want to give away any of the surprises.

There are surprises in the book and it is fun to follow the lines and see how everything ties together over the course of the entire series. And can I just say, Gen only makes thieves even more likeable. I will be rereading the books, and probably buying them, before LTUE in February. Go Gen.


05 December 2012

The Past Year

Another year draws to a close and as I always do, I go back over what happened during the year. This year my husband stayed with the same company. In the five years we’ve been married he’s had 4 jobs. I on the other hand, changed jobs in March. I was talking with my older sister recently and she asked me if I was nervous about visiting her over Christmas. Every other time I’ve gone on vacation for more than a week I have lost my job. I said I wasn’t worried because the company closes between Christmas and New Year’s. I doubt that I will be laid off when everyone will be on vacation. (Fingers crossed. I don’t want to tempt fate.)

A few more things we did this year. This year we celebrated our 5th anniversary. We went to Monticello, Utah for a family reunion and met up with some of my cousins that I hadn’t seen in a few years. I had an essay and a short story published and one of my manuscripts was picked up for publication. I survived a car accident. And so much more. When I think about everything that occurred this year I realized that I am pleased with everything that I accomplished. I don’t have any regrets about what happened this year.

There were also a few times when life didn’t pan out exactly as I hoped. There were plenty of tears and frustrations. Some dreams may never come true no matter how much I try. But, at the same time some there are still plenty of dreams and more than enough happiness. I have no idea what next year will bring, but I am sure that there will be plenty more adventures and tears. And that is the way it will always be. The adventures will be far more fun and far outlast the tears.

Happy Birthday ( ' ' )

02 December 2012

*Blind Effects

Intro: Look, I got all three posts in this last week. This story came from a conversation I had with Moose. He fell asleep while I was driving and when he woke up I made a comment about "Nice to have you back." He replied with "But I didn't go anywhere."

“Were you watching me while I was sleeping?” Charles suppressed a yawn.
“No,” Martha said. “You went somewhere, again.”

Charles rubbed the heel of his hand against his forehead. “I feel like I’ve been through a war.”

Martha pushed herself up on her arm, her black hair falling to the pillow. “You look like it.” She ran a hand across his face, smearing the dirt.

“How can you see?”

“I turned on the light when your body disappeared.”

“What time was that?”

“About two-thirty.”

Charles fumbled on the bedside table and picked up his watch. He felt the face and let out a sigh.

“Only two hours. I still have time.”

Martha swung her feet out of bed and pulled Charles after him. When she had been in college her room had shown her priorities, anything but cleaning. Working part time and going to school, in addition to her community choir, left no care for cleaning. Marrying a blind man had changed that. She had met him in college. He was new to the city and had a hard time getting around. She always found him sitting in the back of the auditorium listening to the choir. She’d found him attractive and cute. Clueless but not helpless.

Charles stumbled and Martha caught him. The left leg of his pajamas was shredded. She half carried him to the bathroom and deposited him in the tub.

Once he was clean, and bandaged, they sat huddled together on the couch.

“I dreamed, but I don’t remember what it was. I think, I think I could actually see. But I don’t know. I just remember the loud noises. Gunfire.”

“How do you even know what gunfire sounds like?”

He opened and closed his mouth a few times. “Like in the movies.”

“We’ve never seen a movie with guns. They don’t even make movies with guns anymore.”

Martha shook her head. “I think we need to go back to the surgeon. This started happening when you had your surgery.” She shivered. “I keep thinking that if we could eliminate war and create clones, we could return your sight.”

“But it isn’t returning my sight. I never had any to begin with. It’s been this way since I was a child.” Charles pulled her close. “I’ll make an appointment with the doctor.”

That afternoon, Martha found herself frozen before the glass doors of the hospital. The lack of violence hadn’t made hospitals obsolete like everyone had hypothesized. Not even the new methods of childbirth had been as miraculous.

“Are you coming?” Charles asked. His helmet shone in the light. They couldn’t return his sight, but he wasn’t completely hopeless. Martha wasn’t sure what the scientificness was behind the helmet, but it kept him from running into things. It also caused headaches, which was why he never wore it at home.

They were shown to the examination room where the doctor was waiting for them.

“I understand something is wrong. What can I help you with?” Dr. Matthews asked.

“I am not sure. Martha is the one who can explain it.”

Martha shifted on the padded chair. “Ever since the surgery Charles has been disappearing when he sleeps.”

Dr. Matthews tapped his computer. “Disappearing? As in he doesn’t respond to you?”

“As in his body is no longer there.”

“Sleepwalking?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

Martha gripped her knees. “No. One minute he is asleep next to me, the next he is gone. He returns the same way, only it’s like he’s been somewhere else. This morning he came back injured.”

“With your husband’s condition it isn’t surprising that he would be injured. No offense.”

Charles merely snorted.

“I just don’t want you to worry about nothing. I can prescribe a sleep aid.”

Martha scooted forward on her chair. “This only started happening after his latest surgery. I want you to make sure that there hasn’t been any complications because of the new sensors.”

“There is nothing wrong with the sensors.”

“Dr. Matthews, I would like my implants to be checked out.” Charles said. “I don’t like what has been happening. I don’t like waking up beaten and bruised.”

“Charles, you have always been accident prone. I remember hearing about how your mom used to bring you in all the time because of your accidents.”

“Yes,” Charles licked his lips. “Accidents like what I have been going through. I went through surgery when I was a child, to stop the nightmares.”

Martha clenched her hands, just as transfixed as the doctor.

“They implanted my brain, to keep me from Traveling. What did you do to me?”

Dr. Matthews moved away from his computer and clasped his hands. “It’s not the implants that are failing. Your being pulled back to your time.”

Charles rested his head in his hands. “I don’t want to go back.”

“You have to. You weren’t supposed to be here for this long. You have to go back and tell them what you found. Tell them about the side effects of dimensional travel. They have to find another way of escape. I can maybe give you two or three more days.”

Martha covered her face with her hands and wept.

Charles wrapped his arm around her. “I thought I could stay. I didn’t mind living blind if it meant I could live with you.”

30 November 2012

Samurai Shortstop

by Alan Gratz

Many of you probably know by now that I am fascinated by the Japanese culture. During my long commute I listened to a book called SAMURAI SHORTSTOP by Alan Gratz. While I loved the story and the characters, what really made the book interesting for me was the historical aspect. In the version I listened to, the end had research information. The historical information is all about baseball and the change of Japan from Samurai to modern times.

SAMURAI SHORTSTOP follows Toyo at turn of the century Japan. The book starts with him helping his uncle commits suicide. As a samurai, this ritual death is fitting, but it leaves Toyo feeling confused as to where the old traditions fit in the new society. Japan isn’t like other countries. They didn’t gradually move into technology, but was rather thrown into it in 1876 when the old rulers were over thrown. Part of the new society involves the sport of baseball. About twenty years have passed since the change of society and people still have that awkward feeling about the changes. Toyo enters high school hoping to join the baseball team and from there learns that the old traditions of his uncle and the seemingly contradictory behavior of his father are more similar than he first realized.

As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed SAMURAI SHORTSTOP. The characters were vivid and I thought it was well told. Many of the situations in the story were based on true events. I like sports movies, but this book just added an extra element of a whole ‘nother culture. Comparing samurais to baseball was something I never considered. As an American, I know I will never truly understand what being a samurai truly means. We just don’t have anything to compare it to, but I do have a little more of an understanding that I use to.

28 November 2012

Breaking Deals

Sorry I didn’t post this weekend. I just didn’t think about it. We spent the weekend with family. We are lucky that our extended families live fairly close so we can visit them both. I think we do a good job of spending our time between them. I am excited that over Christmas we will be visiting more family. That will be a nice trip.

As with every Thanksgiving, we go shopping on Black Friday. We never go for the big ticket items. That would just be insane. The only deal I ever go for, every year, are the socks that are 1/2 off. Somehow Moose and I decided to take my mother-in-law to Wally-world. There were some items that she wanted. I actually went to Wally-world last year with some family and stood in line for one of the big ticket items at midnight. I knew what it could be like. My mother-in-law was shocked. She couldn’t believe how many people were there and what they were buying. I think my favorite was the sale DVDs and Blu-rays. The people stormed the display and carried away armloads of movies. They would take them to another aisle and sort through, discarding the ones they didn’t want. I know this, not because I saw it, but I came across the aftermath. We wandered through the aisles and found stacks of movies that people had just discarded. I don’t think I will ever go after one of the big ticket items. I don’t think saving money is worth it. Truthfully, I am not that interested in the big ticket items. I am more than happy to use my outdated technology and save all of my money, not just half.

We did get one item, and amazingly, we were able to walk into the store at 10:00 and didn’t have a problem. We bought a new fridge. If all goes well, we will be moving into a house in the beginning of the year. I love the area where we live, but the building itself comes with plenty of extra . . . features. A year and a half is plenty of time to live in front of a mink farm. I will not be sad to say goodbye to the flies.

21 November 2012

Life is Good

It is hard to believe that another Thanksgiving has come. Granted, it is early this year, but it is still hard to believe that the end of the year is approaching. This Thanksgiving has really made me think. With my accident a month ago I never thought I would appreciate my safe, short drive to work. I drove over 100 miles a day for almost two years and I never had anything happen. No flat tire, nothing. I drive 30 miles a day and I total a car. I am thankful I was able to walk away with nothing more than bruises.

This year also marked the achievement of getting a contract for a novel. Part of the agreement I have with Moose is that I have to submit a manuscript twice a year. To be honest I love to write, but I never thought I would actually succeed. With Moose’s encouragement I submitted, and low and behold after my fifth submission I was accepted by someone. It is still hard to believe that in less than six months I will have a book on the shelf, and not just a story in an anthology. I have always wanted to be an author, but my realism had me become a technical writer. I love what I do, but the idea that I could actually be an author . . .

And finally, Moose and I celebrated our 5th anniversary this summer. Every day, Moose makes me laugh. He does more of the house work and has always supported my plethora of hobbies. As I hear statistics of the number of failed marriages, I am thankful that Moose and I have put forth the effort to make our marriage a success. I married the best man for me and he brings out the best in me. I am lucky to have such a wonderful man. Life is good.

18 November 2012

*Set You Free

Intro: I have always felt bad that lawyers have a bad rap. There are some that are skuzzy, but there was a time when there was more honor to the name of lawyer. There are plenty of good lawyers out there.

“Did you kill Mr. Jorge?”

“Yes.”

I couldn’t keep my pen from slipping on the paper. My client already had my signature. I was under his spell. Not for the first time, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I thought I was better at reading people.

Mr. Trent sat across the table from me, his hands clasped and resting on his knees. When he first approached me about representing him in court, I had done my own research on them. He was divorced, his wife remarried, but overall the relationship between exes was better than most. The couple could almost be friends and happy; they just couldn’t be married and happy.

“Tell me about your relationship with Mr. Jorge.”

“He was my neighbor. We shared a property line.” He shifted on his seat, never meeting my gaze. “I found him stealing my water to irrigate his lawn. He’d been doing it for years.”

“How did it escalate?”

The man looked up, and met my gaze. “I asked him to stop. He didn’t.”

“So—” I motioned, not sure I wanted him to continue.

“I killed him. I calculated it out. Over the course of fifteen years, he had stolen almost two million dollars’ worth of water. I gave him an ultimatum give me my money or I take him to court.” Mr. Trent rubbed the back of his neck, his hands brushing his worn collar. “He burned my field then told me I didn’t need any more water.”

I flipped through my papers. There had been some damage to his property, a third of an acre. Mr. Trent had sixty five acres. From the reports it showed that it was probably a lightning strike.

“I was tired of the problem. I took my gun, and shot him.” He held up his hands as if sighting something in the corner of the room.

I put my papers down. As a lawyer it was my obligation to represent my client to their interests. I always told myself that I would never defend a guilty man. I wouldn’t become a lawyer that could be bought. But my signature was on a contract that tied me from divulging information told to me in confidence. That would be about the same as testifying against yourself.

“Is something wrong, Mr. Hunsacker?” Mr. Trent pressed his hands against the table. There was a glint in his eye that made me sit back in my chair. “You wouldn’t be thinking about turning me in, would you?” He reached down and pulled out a piece of paper. “I have a piece of paper here that says you will represent me fairly.”

I nodded, my stomach sinking. My career was over. Mr. Trent let out a smile and sat back.

“I’m glad we see—”

“I am sure you will be much happier with someone who wants to see you go free. If you will excuse me. I am leaving.”

“You’ll never work as a lawyer again.”

I ran my hands along the paper. “Not in a court. But I am sure there are plenty of innocent people who could do with a bit of advice.”

As I walked out, I felt a little lighter.

16 November 2012

How Dare You

There is no review this week. I was told Thursday evening that girls between the ages of 10 and 16 do not read books over 200 pages. I was told that I write short, inconsequential books for girls between the ages of 10 and 16. My first thought "How dare you!" Granted, my emotions tend to make my memory foggy. It wasn’t meant in that tone, but this isn’t the first time that this fellow has made a comment to that effect. He explains that his audience isn’t the typical reader. His audience prefers deep books. Every time I bite my tongue. Yes. I write science fiction. I don’t claim that it is literary, but I don’t appreciate it being brushed off completely. Besides, I purposefully try to write for an older audience. I am writing for people who don't want to read about child heroes who can't rely on any of the adult characters. If teenagers enjoy my books, I won't complain. But I am not writing with them in mind.

There is an underlying thought that if something isn’t based in real life, that it is considered more fluffy. I have mentioned in another post that the genre doesn’t matter. Books are a hot topic. Think TWILIGHT. I don’t know how many times I hear people bashing that book. But it doesn’t matter. Yes there might be better things for people to read, but if they are reading, if they are finding enjoyment out of it, then that is a success. There is nothing wrong with adults reading YA books. And for the record, I was reading 800 page books when I was in Jr. High. Saying 10 to 16 year old girls don’t read books over 200 pages is insulting. I may have to bring my sister to meet the fellow. She would put him in his place. (And there is nothing wrong with books under 200 pages either.) Judging someone on what they read is the same as judging someone on their socks. Noticeable at times, but in the long run, often hidden by trousers and only the person that wears them can truly decide if they are clean. We can always make comments, but truthfully it is none of our business if they are striped or ankle height.

14 November 2012

Soufflé

There is a soufflé in the oven. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever try to make a soufflé (and this is my third time). When I married Moose I thought I was a pretty capable cook. Granted my meals mostly consisted of rotating between five or six meals and trying a new one every other week. Moose loves cookbooks. He spends hours perusing the ones we have and whenever we go to a book store. I have always loved cooking but Moose’s enthusiasm is infectious. It helps that he plans the meals, prepares the shopping list, and does the dishes if I cook. I don’t know if I will ever be as good as my mom or mother-in-law, but I am getting a lot more confident. One of these days I am going to do beef wellington, crème brulee, and homemade pasta. If I can make those consistently I will really feel like a good cook. (I have already been working on my sushi skills. Mine aren’t pretty, but they taste pretty good. Moose doesn’t even use Tabasco, which is a good sign.)

This is also just a reminder that the Kickstarter campaign is still going. There are some really cool incentives, including ARCs of the TM publishing books. And you might be part of the group that gets to vote on the covers of the books, including mine. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1756979258/tm-publishing-emerald-sky-magazine

11 November 2012

*Blast Off!

Intro: Another attempt at Space Opera.

“Take the helm while I weld the hull shut.” I jumped from the chair and hurried to the back. “We can’t go saving anyone when we’re taking in space.”

“But, Mom!”

“You can do it. Just dodge the blasts.”

The ship shuddered as another bolt slammed into the hull. My husband had built the ship, using the various technology from the different civilizations we visited as orphans passed around from group to group.

“Sorry!”

I steadied myself against the bulkhead and took a breath. My mag boots kept me upright, this time. The ship rolled and I hooked my arm around a support. When the ship stopped twisting I took a second to orient myself. As long as the ship was just moving forward or turning slowly, the broken gravity generator wasn’t a problem. I had promised Jackson two years ago that we would fix the generator. When we saved up enough money, he always chose something else to fix up. When he was old enough I would drop him off at the colonies. From there his life would begin. He didn’t want to accept it, but that was how it had to be.

I grabbed the tool bag, breaking the magnetic connection and drag it behind me. I slipped a mask over my head, connecting it to my suit. After a minute the suit was pressurized and I opened the blast door that had sealed when a bolt ripped through the metal.

“There’s another one coming through the gateway. I can’t outrun all of them.” Jackson’s voice came through the intercom in my helmet.

I checked the pressure in the room. It was holding steady.

“I’m on my way.”

My boots clanged as I hurried up.

Jackson was white-knuckling the wheel. Five ships was more than she could expect even her husband to take.

Another blast sent us into a spin.

“Help!”

When my hands took control, Jackson moved out of the way.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” I said.

Jackson helped secure my belt then strapped himself in. I spun the wheel and dove out of the way, towards the gateway.

“If we leave now, it could take years for us to come back.” Jackson said. “Dad may not be alive when we make it back again.”

I nodded, my teeth gritted against the force and my vision blurred. “I know.”

Jackson worked the switches in front of him. “Boosters ready.”

Blasting through a gateway was roulette. We didn’t know where we would end up, or even if our ship could withstand the pressure. My husband was dead to me. Jackson was the only reason I looked for a body.

“Last chance. Do we stay?”

Jackson shook his head. “Thrusters engaged.”

We slid our goggles in place as the gateway illuminated space around us, sling us into the distance.

I let out my breath as the pressure lessened.

“We have a problem.”

I removed the googles and stared at the backs of the five ships. “Throttle full.”

“It is,” Jackson replied.

I pried my fingers from the wheel and let my hands drop. A blast cracked the glass. I reached out and held his hand. I fumbled with the belt. “Get out. Get out of the belt.”

“It’s not going to do any good.”

“Do it!”

I dragged him behind me.

“You will survive.” I shoved the helmet at him.

“Mom, no!”

I used my shoulder to shove him to the stasis pod.

“No!”

Jackson had just enough sense to move his hand out of the way as the door slid shut. The pod hissed as the seal took and was ejected. I heard the glass break and took my last breath looking through the porthole as the pod blasted towards the gateway. Another orphan of the war.

09 November 2012

CLANNAD

I wasn’t sure what to review this week. So I decided I would do something a bit different. I am going to review one of my new favorite anime series. As a quick definition, anime is simplistically described as Japanese animation/cartoons. As I believe I have mentioned before, just because they are animated doesn’t mean they are all suitable for children. The anime I want to review is called CLANNAD. I had seen previews for it for several years and I finally got around to seeing it. (Though we haven’t watched the AFTER STORY yet. It is next in our Netflix queue.)

CLANNAD follows Okazaki Tomoya a delinquent senior. He doesn’t get along with his father, and doesn’t enjoy school. On his first day of school he sees a girl talking to herself. He runs into her several times and learns she wants to be part of the drama club. Her name is Furukawa Nagisa. She is weak and had to be held back her senior year because she was so sick. He decides to help her resurrect the drama club which has been on hiatus. Tomoya enlists the help of those around him so that Nagisa can fulfill her dream of performing at the school festival. Though there are only two main male characters and five female characters, even Moose enjoyed watching it with me. The AFTER STORY takes place when Tomoya is an adult and his decisions with his family. (Or so I think from what I’ve seen. I haven’t done too much research because I don’t want to ruin anything.)

I knew this show was going to make me cry. Even the brief previews I’ve seen of it make me cry. What I didn’t expect was how much I would laugh. Tomoya in particular is a straight forward fellow who speaks his mind, and enjoys a good joke. Though he is a delinquent he is a lot deeper than first expected. The other characters also have depth and aren’t just straw men. I really came to care about all of them and what they were doing. The anime is suitable for any age, though it might be a bit serious for a young audience. It is an anime I will own.

07 November 2012

The Right to Vote

As I am writing this, I don’t know who has won the Presidential Election. But it doesn’t matter who wins. The fact of the matter is I am glad I live in this country and I am glad I was able to vote. I didn’t always appreciate living in America when I was younger. I dreamed of living in another country. In college I had a map next to my bed with everywhere I wanted to visit. As a graduation present to myself I went to Scotland. While I was there I realized that America is a pretty good place to live. The older I get, the more I realize I live in the perfect place for me. Other people may be happy to live outside of the country, but I will always be glad when I can come home to the Land of the Free.

As far as our government goes, I have no complaints. Our judicial system may be a little rough at times, but when compared to the alternative, I really don’t have any complaints. There will always be people who take advantage of the system, but that isn’t the systems fault. I cherish my right to vote and live how I want to live with the safety provided. Between the two, I will always choose laws over anarchy. God bless America.

04 November 2012

*Late Night Talk

Intro: My husband and I have been watching a cute show called USAGI DROP (BUNNY DROP). It is a cute story about a 30-year-old bachelor taking in his 6-year-old aunt. I have read stories like this before but this has been my favorite because of the relationship between Daikichi and Rin.

I walked to my car, smelling of French fries. My hair and face was covered in grease. Four weeks into the job and I was already looking for something new, though I knew it was probably helpless. It had taken two months for me to find my current job and it suited my needs, to a point. Two of my coworkers walked by laughing and joking with one another. They were both in high school.

“Tony, can you give us a lift?”

I pulled the key from my door and looked at them. “I thought you got your license, Bill.”

Winston punched Bill’s shoulder. “Having a license doesn’t mean his parents trust him with a car.”

“Get in,” I said as I leaned across the seat and unlocked the door.

The two climbed in, bouncing on the seats a little.

“I don’t get it,” Bill said.

“You don’t get what?” I asked, already regretting the question.

“You have a college degree in something important—”

“Public Relations,” I added.

“Right, you’re old—”

“Thirty-two.”

“Why do you work at a fast food restaurant and drive a crappy car?”

I ran my hand along the worn and patchy steering wheel cover, staring at the dark streets. I should be getting home immediately, not driving these two. That is what their parents should be doing.

“It was work sixty hours a week, or leave. I left my job. It wasn’t worth the time.”

“How much money were you making?” Winston asked.

“What we make in a month I was making in a week.”

“Why did you leave? That’s just stupid.”

I shrug, not really wanting to talk about it but knowing they wouldn’t leave me alone otherwise.

“There are more important things than money. The money wasn’t worth what I would have to give up.”

“Like this car?” Winston slapped my shoulder.

“I like this car. It’s reliable and easy to fix.”

I stopped in front of the house I drove to at least three times a week. Winston hopped out of the back and waved as he ran up the stairs and into the house. Bill lived four blocks away. He didn’t get out of the car when I pulled up.

“Can I ask you something, personal?” Bill asked.

“Sure.” I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel. It was almost two in the morning. I hated getting home late.

“What would you do if your girlfriend was pregnant?”

The tapping stopped. I stared at the dark house.

“Do you think she is?”

Bill shrugged. “I think she might be.”

“So” I cleared my throat. “You’ve had sex?”

Bill nodded.

I turned towards him. “Do you think your parents will mind if you come with me for the night?”

Bill hunched down in his seat and motioned to the black house. “They’re not home. If one of them was home the light would be on.”

When I made it home I paid the baby-sitter and made sure she drove away. I led Bill into the apartment.

“You have a kid?” Bill asked. He was standing at the mantel.

I pulled off the greasy shirt and tossed it on the washer to clean in the morning.

“That’s Steph, my daughter.”

“How old is she?”

I pulled a sweatshirt on and sat on the couch. “She’s seventeen.”

Bill turned to stare at me. “That’s my age. You’re not old enough to have a kid my age.”

“You asked me why I took the lower paying job, it was that, or lose my daughter. I needed a job fast, and this is the one that worked. I only work nights once a week. The rest of the time I get to work while she’s at school. Her mother, my ex-wife, has turned to alcohol and is unable to be a guardian, let alone a mother. I could have kept my job, but I wouldn’t have known my daughter because I would be working long hours. I had already wasted too much time on unimportant things. I have enough saved up that with my income from this job, we can live fairly comfortably. We’ve both sacrificed, but she wanted to know me. So let me tell you what your options are, if your girlfriend is pregnant.”

Bill sat down on the chair, and I stared at what I had once been. I tried to think through what would have helped me at that age. The only thing that came to mind was how scared I had been. Life was never going to be the same, whether Bill made the same choices I had at his age. Being a father at sixteen would make his life difficult. I only hoped he could end up as happy as I was living in a two bedroom apartment with my daughter.

02 November 2012

Battlefield Earth

by L. Ron Hubbard

I found BATTLEFIELD EARTH, by L. Ron Hubbard, for 50 cents at a used bookstore. I had seen the movie in High School, and heard the book was much better. I kind of knew what to expect but the book had so much more. There are some many cool ideas with it that I would have never thought of. The races and societies are unique and refreshing. It is also hard science. Though I didn’t understand all of the technology, it was presented in a way that I could almost believe in the year 3000 some of it could be around.

The idea is that mankind is an endangered species. An alien race known as the Psychlos has enslaved the humans so they could mine the Earth and retrieve the minerals. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler is a human who is taken by the Psychlos. From there he is given the opportunity of a lifetime. He learns everything, including how to defeat the Psychlos. The Psychlos are the only race who have the technology of transshipment, teleportation. Even after the humans get the technology, there troubles are far from over.

I can see why some people may not like this book. It isn’t so much action as science and political. (For those of you who have seen the movie, there are significant differences. The biggest difference is that the end of the movie is only halfway through the book.) If you like science fiction and haven’t read this, than you are missing a work that has influenced a lot of other authors. I am glad that I bought this book and it will be one that I reread occasionally, just because I know each time I read it, I will understand another piece of the puzzle.

31 October 2012

Accident

Some of you can probably guess what I am going to write about today. Last Friday as I was driving to work, I lost control of my car, tipped on my side, 50 feet off the road. I’ve never had a ticket and I’ve never been in any kind of accident. The situation was terrifying, but the miracle was I walked away with only bruises. When people talked about car accidents I didn’t understand. I have a photo on my phone that I keep looking at, partly because it almost seems like a dream. I keep going over what I could have done differently, which all leads to the same results, only some of them are worse.

Moose told me that I will never forget, and truthfully, I don’t want to. There is something surreal about being so out of control. As a writer I am always trying to make my characters believable especially their reactions to situations. I don’t know if I will ever have a character in a car accident, but by being in what could be a life threatening situation and the thoughts that go through your mind afterwards. (Though I hope this is the only time that I experience this.)


Happy Halloween!

28 October 2012

*Once Spring Comes

Intro: There were two snowstorms this week. I know that it isn't even Halloween yet, but I felt like writing a snowy story.

The snow drifted down, reflected in the headlights of the train. Martha pulled the sled along behind her as she trudged along the side of the tracks. The firewood pressed the runners down so far the front of the sled pushed through the snow like a plow. As the cars trundled past she counted them. Unlike walking along the side of the road with horses and carriages, Martha had little fear of slush splattering her. She was already wet from the day’s journey. Spring could not come soon enough.

When she reached the divide in the track she turned west, the snow now blowing in her face. She hunched her shoulders, wishing to readjust the scarf around her neck. She’d already tried once and it had only allowed more snow in before settling back exactly where it had been. The soft wool was soaked through and scratchy.

A light to her right caught her attention and he adjusted her course. Walking from the tracks to her small home was dangerous with limited visibility. She was just glad the lamp had kept enough oil. She knocked the snow off her boots as habit and pulled the sled inside with her. The snow from the logs fell to the ground in small trails. The lamp in the window she would leave lit, but never the fireplace. She’d lost a house that way.

The remnants of her last gathered firewood went in the fireplace, while the snow covered wood went in the corner to dry. She used the lamp to start the fire. The fire gave enough light for her to examine her cottage. It looked exactly the same as she had left it. Ever since her husband and two sons died from the plague three years earlier, it always looked empty and felt cold.

She put a pot of water on to heat and methodically removed her outerwear. She exchanged every wet article of clothing for a dry, albeit, cold one.

She ate a dinner of stale bread and salted meat and sat on her bed. Winter was half over, and already she felt the strain of waking each morning to the cold, empty room. Last year it had only been for the last two weeks. Once spring arrived she was able to forget the troubles as she worked as a medicine woman of sorts. With the faint firelight dancing on the walls, she curled up in a blanket and fell asleep.

A wail woke Martha. The fire was embers, and her breath misted before her. She sat up, the blanket still wrapped around her shoulders, and listened. The wail came again. The window was frosted and it was too dark to see anything anyways. She moved to the door and opened it a crack. The cold air forced in, but the snow and wind had calmed. The wail came again, louder.

“Who’s there?” Her voice cracked from disuse.

Something bumped against her legs. She scurried back and looked down. An albino cat crawled out of the snow and collapsed on the dirt floor. Martha stared at it. She hated cats. She always told her children not to feed them. They were excellent mousers but did not belong indoors. The red eyes looked around, unfocused. Like many albinos, Martha realized it must be nearly blind. It wailed again. Not a meow, but moving and heart wrenching. It seemed to sense the direction of the warmth and crawled towards the fireplace.

As it approach a coal Martha scooped it up in a panic. “Careful.”

The cat wriggled and she nearly dropped it.

The draft from the door made them both shiver.

Martha moved to the door and looked out at the snow. She shut the door and moved to her bed, pulling her now dry scarf off the rack. With the cat wrapped in the scarf and the fireplace walled off by firewood, a safe distance away, Martha climbed back into bed, the cat at the foot of the bed. Martha fell back to sleep.

Fur up Martha’s nose woke her. She batted the cat away and frowned. She put the cat back on the scarf at the foot of the bed. The rest of the night was a battle of where the cat would sleep. By dawn the cat was asleep at the foot, cradling part of the scarf between its paws. Martha woke and got to work, devising something the cat could eat. She soaked some of the salted meat in hot water to soften it. As she stared out at the sun, she realized that this was the first sunrise of winter she’d seen since the death of her family. Before she had remained in bed long after she should have risen. She turned to the cat on the bed and set the meat down.

The cat raised its head and seemed to look right at her.

“This does not mean you can stay in the house once spring comes.”

26 October 2012

The Persecutor

by Sergei Kourdakov

I was trying to come up with another good book to review for Halloween. I don’t typically read much horror, but THE PERSECUTOR kept coming to mind. It isn’t horror, but some of the events that happen in it are horrifying. The novel is an autobiography of Sergei Kourdakov, a member of the KGB who turned Christian. While there are debates about the accuracy of the book, there is no denying the emotional impact it left on me when I read it in college.

THE PERSECUTOR takes place around the 1950s in Russia. During this time Christianity was persecuted. Sergei was raised to join the KGB. Even from his childhood he was taught the best way to break people. As an adult he participated in dozens of raids that sometimes ended in death. During these raids he was often struck by how the Christians reacted. In turn this influences him to look beyond what he had been taught over the years to learn more about the people he persecuted.

This book doesn’t gloss over the violence, but neither does it glorify it. Instead it offers the facts. I remember being glued to the book, wondering what was going to happen next. The idea that one human being can be so vicious to another is terrifying. Whether the book is true or not doesn’t concern me, because it is a story that I believe could be true. The book was published in 1973 a few months after Sergei Kourdakov died suddenly, though there are a lot of theories behind that as well.

24 October 2012

Back to Real Life

The last two months have been spent preparing for one conference or another. In addition to that I was working on a research paper with my father that we are hoping to present at a conference come February (we should know more next month). I have also received back the second round of edits from my editor. I am still really nervous about my novel. My editor has been really good to work with, but I still wonder how good my story is. As I go through these edits I am glad when some of the comments are positive. They are just the boost I need to think I can actually do this. I have even started telling people that I am an author. I knew I qualified for that term for some time, but there was just part of me that didn’t feel worth of that title. I have wanted to be an author since I was young. The idea that I actually get to do my dream job, even if it isn’t full-time at this point, is still just amazing.

I work with a bunch of engineers. For one of them I am pretty much his personal secretary. I type, copy, and send emails for him. Because I do all of his typing, I am learning a lot about the company. I bring him the typed pages and ask questions about what I’ve typed. The other day as I was asking questions, he asked if I had finished college. I explained that I was a technical writer. The conversation continued with him subtly hinting that I should go back to college to become an engineer. This coming from one of the coworkers I respect the most actually meant a lot. He has strong opinions about who should and should not be hired and if he thought I would make a good engineer. That meant a lot coming from him. If I didn’t already do my dream job, I just might think about it. I mean as a daughter of an engineer with lots of engineers in the family, maybe it is just in my blood.

Though I enjoyed all of my conferences, I am kind of glad I’m back in real life. I have 12 months to finish my grand plans for next year.

19 October 2012

Wait Until Dark

with Alan Arkin and Audrey Hepburn

I thought I would review one of my favorite Halloween time movies. WAIT UNTIL DARK is a great suspense film. It is clean and the violence is limited and not overly graphic. It has Alan Arkin and Audrey Hepburn. It was made back in 1967 and will remain a classic, as far as I am concerned. There are still places that do it as a play, and I have always wanted to see it live. It was originally written as a play and it takes place in a small apartment, with a kitchen, including a refrigerator.

The movie starts out with a man sewing bags of heroin into a doll and giving the doll to a woman. The woman then passes the doll onto to a man when she realizes that she is being watched. The man, Sam, has no idea that the doll is more than that, takes it home and forgets about it. The man’s wife, Susy, is blind and is still trying to accustom herself to her new trials. Three men track the doll to Susy and start terrorizing her while trying to get a hold of the doll. Susy is trapped in her own apartment and doesn’t even know who she can trust or even if they are in the apartment with her.

The movie is rather startling, so it might not be the best for younger children. I remember watching it in Jr. High and being a little creeped out, but really enjoying it. If you are looking for a good suspense film for Halloween, this is a great choice.

17 October 2012

Coffee and Kickstarter

Due to religious and personal reasons, I don’t drink coffee. I have never had a cup, and truthfully, it has never smelled appealing to me. The same can be said for my family. Because of this, I have never made coffee. My company provides free coffee. There is a coffee pot a few feet down the hall from my office. As I was walking by Tuesday, I noticed that the coffee wasn’t going into the pot, but rather trailing down the sides. I knew that was wrong. I grabbed a handful of paper towels and tried to stem the tide while trying to figure out how to work the coffee pot. I turned it off, but that didn’t do anything. I got another two coworkers involved, but they had just as much experience with coffee as I do. Finally, one of our other coworkers walked by. He grabbed the second, empty coffee pot, and told me to move the full one out of the way. Whoops. I am just glad that there were three of us who didn’t even think about the second coffee pot. It made me laugh.

So Kickstarter. My publisher has a Kickstarter campaign for their magazines. Their magazines are really high quality and a lot of fun. They already have two issues out and all of the stories are high quality. The Kickstarter has some really cool pledge gifts. (One of which are advanced reading copies of their books, mine included.) If you want to learn more head over to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1756979258/tm-publishing-emerald-sky-magazine

14 October 2012

*Lost Humanity

Intro: It is October and I always feel like I should do some creepy story. This is my take on zombies. The virus infects those who are compassionate and intelligent, and it feeds on the compassion. Those who aren’t so much are for some reason spared. What kind of society would that make?

I ran across the field between the buildings, keeping myself as low to the ground as I could while trying to be fast. The sound of gunshots ricocheted around the buildings. The magazine of my gun had been empty for over a week, but no one else knew that. I could keep my hand steady and bluff through my teeth. People moved out of my way. The problem wasn’t the people, it was those who could no longer be classified as such.

No one was sure where the virus had come from. Considering the scientists were the first to fall victim, I had my guesses. It had taken a few weeks for people to understand what was going on. The virus didn’t so much as eat the mind, but the humanity.

I saw a shape moving in one of the broken windows and rolled to the ground just before the bullets impacted. My time on the streets before the penitentiary had taught me well. Though no one was fast enough to dodge a bullet, I had the scars to prove it. It wasn’t dodging a bullet if you moved before the trigged was pulled.

I climbed through a broken window and made my way upstairs. The man stood at the window, his gun trained on the field outside. The butt of my gun struck where skull met spine and he crumpled. I took everything that was useful and left the empty gun behind.

Back outside I pulled out a compass and continued on my trek to the inner city. My shoes made little noise as I crept. A dark shape raised out of the grass in front of me. The man’s face was twisted, deformed from where he’d been injured. The virus slowed down the healing process, leaving wounds open and festering, through the blood remained clotted. Instead of being a liquid, blood more of welled and thickened when meeting with oxygen. Most of the time, the easiest way to kill a virus infected man was to open a hole to their heart. The blood would clot and cause a heart attack, that or in the brain. Though sometimes that just caused lack of motor control.

I brought my gun up and the man halted, his head tilted sideways.

“Move on.” The man said. “We have no business with you.”

I moved so I could look around. Despite my precautions I had wandered into the middle of one of their camps. I could see computers and electronic devices glowing faintly. The virus seemed to feed on compassion and intelligence. It seemed to do with the chemicals released in those types of situations. Therefore they had the technology, because they were the smart people. Criminals like me were less likely to be infected, but we weren’t the smartest of the bunch. I had dropped out of school when I was fifteen.

The man took a step forward and I raised my gun.

“Do you think that is going to stop me?”

If I couldn’t kill him with the first bullet, I was dead. The blood clotting was an advantage when it came to other wounds, because it kept them from bleeding to death.

“Just kill him. He isn’t worth it.”

I turned and fired. A woman sneaking up on me was thrown backwards and hit a building. She stood up, shook herself and stared at the hole in her side. A black gob dropped to the ground.

I ran, firing whenever anyone got too close. A bullet to me across the arm and I dropped my gun. I continued to run the people behind me hobbling, blood clots having moved through their bodies and ended up in their legs. I heard one of them drop, probably from a clot reaching their heart. I didn’t stop. Just when I thought I too would succumb to a heart attack, the sound of pursuit ended.

I crawled into a building and lay there gasping. With no humanity left on the planet, I realized that I might not want to actually live through the night, but I refused to let those monsters win. I would kill everyone if I needed to. Tomorrow I would make it to the inner city, and once I was there, I would take control of the humans left to their senses. From there we would stop the virus. I heard a faint noise and looked up. The man I had met at the clearing was standing over me, my gun in his hands.

“Goodbye.”

12 October 2012

The Outlaws of Sherwood

by Robin McKinley

When I was in elementary my friends and I would spend our days playing make-believe. We would go to someone’s house and run around, pretending to be whoever we wanted. My house was often chosen as the stomping ground because it was well shaded in the afternoon, had several good climbing trees, and plentiful sticks. The majority of the time we pretended to be part of Robin Hood’s merry men, only we were the traditional Robin, we played Robin McKinley’s version, THE OUTLAWS OF SHERWOOD. One of the big reasons behind this was the fact that there are some awesome heroines. (Though I actually played the character Much most of the time. I always liked him the best.)

In THE OUTLAWS OF SHERWOOD, Robin isn’t necessarily an outlaw by choice. As he is headed to the fair to be with Marian and Much he encounters a group of foresters. They challenge him to an archery contest. Unlike many of the other versions, Robin isn’t that good of a shot. He is a fletcher by trade, but that doesn’t mean he can hit what he is aiming at. He actually wins and the other foresters aren’t happy. When Robin tries to defend himself he accidentally kills one of them and is branded an outlaw. From there his band grows. There are the favorite, familiar characters, but as I mentioned earlier, the females are strong and competent.

I was the only one of my friends to actually have read THE OUTLAWS OF SHERWOOD. Though I read it as a child, it is a pretty heavy book. I wouldn’t recommend for an audience that young. It has a few slower bits, but part of that is because it goes into the political side of things including the Crusades. Whenever I see this book I have such fond memories of running around the back yard using the trimmed apple branches as swords and quarterstaffs as we acted out the story.

10 October 2012

Psyching Out the Guys

Every day at lunch I play dominos with a group of guys. Sometimes there are only two of us, but lately we’ve had as many as six. The game consisted of us trying to get the open ends to equal a multiple of five. There is some skill involved but mostly it is the luck of the draw. There are certain dominos that are good (like the double five, blank and five, and double blank). Since I am the only female that plays, whenever a spectator cheers for someone, it is usually me. The guys don’t care. We all take our turn at winning and losing.

I try and get stuff done on my lunch break, and I have never been one who just sits around. I like to be doing stuff, even if the stuff isn’t productive. Normally I write letters during my lunch break. I have written my flash fiction stories. I folded origami (one handed at one point, just to see if I could do it). I draw pictures. Whenever I bring something else with me, the guys kind of laugh. One week I was writing an especially lengthy epistle to a friend. They kept cracking jokes and would then look at me expectantly. I ended up winning a couple of games. They good-naturedly grumbled about me being more potent when I had other things to focus on.

So what am I doing now? Yesterday I took some sewing. There is a bunch of hand sewing that needs to be done on our costumes. They just asked what I was working on and the game was on. I ended up winning by one point. It’s so nice of them to let me play.

07 October 2012

*Fluffy Bunny

Intro: Moose said I should write a story about a boy who has a volcano that is his bodyguard. I laughed and decided instead of a moving mountain, he could have a cloud.

Tama looked over his shoulder. The small cloud was still behind him, looming. Tama scowled. It would stick out like a sore thumb. One cloud amidst a clear sky. At least in Hawaii his bundle of emotions had been well camouflaged most of the time. There were days he sent it to hoover over the volcano. There was nothing to do about it now.

He hitched his backpack higher on his shoulder and walked through the school gates. It was November. The school year started months earlier. Texas contrasted with his homeland of Hawaii, but since his dad had the job with Lockheed Martin, they no longer had to rely on other’s charity in order to each every day.

The sunlight faded for a moment as it disappeared behind the cloud. No one even glanced his direction and as Tama continued walking the sun became visible again. A sharp wind whipped his clothes and blasted his face, his shoulder length hair blowing behind him.

Other students milled about the school, waiting for the bell to ring before actually setting foot in the institute of learning. Tama looked around and felt his heart drop. He liked school. He was good at school. But no one here seemed to want to be here. His enjoyment would stick out like a sore thumb. The schools here were different. Instead of having middle schools, they had Jr. Highs. He was joining the Sophomore class and once again he was on the bottom of the totem.

A few drops of rain struck his head and the surrounding pavement. He stared up at the cloud and frowned. He schooled his loneliness and focused on something else. When the bell rang he joined the herd flowing into the building.

At lunch, Tama ate outside. The cloud had shifted from a dark foreboding, to a pearl gray of hope. A group of boys swaggered up. They were in Tama’s classes and one of them was a loudmouth. The others just kind of swarmed around him, never saying much, but never far from him. Every time one of the teachers called on him, he made a sarcastic remark, and then gave the answer. At first Tama thought the other boys had been feeding him the answers, but in the second class, math, he realized that they were more the strong, silent type.

“You’re new. What’s your name?”

The cloud overhead bristled. None of the boys looked up and Tama looked away.

“I’m Patrick.”

Tama looked at the outstretched hand. “Tama.”

Patrick sat down and the other boys arranged themselves around him. Tama eyed them and Patrick merely shrugged. “I’ll help them resolve their issues when school is done. My parents don’t like it when I skip school to help the dead. By the way, nice cloud.”

Tama opened his backpack and pulled out a box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts. His dessert. “Want one?”

The cloud could have been mistaken for a fluffy white bunny.

05 October 2012

Hazardous Tales

by Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale is an artist, turned author. I love his books, which include illustrating RAPUNZEL’S REVENGE and CALAMITY JACK and writing YELLOWBELLY AND PLUMB, and THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. With his Hazardous Tales, Nathan Hale makes history fun, for all ages, especially for children. So far there are two tales, ONE DEAD SPY, and BIG BAD IRONCLAD! These are graphic novels that will catch anyone’s attention and leave you wanting to know more about what happened.

ONE DEAD SPY is about Nathan Hale, not the artist, but the first American Spy. During the Revolutionary War, Nathan Hale was an officer. He is also the man who said “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Though he ended up being hanged by the British (you learn that at the beginning of the book). There are quite a few amazing stories that happened during the war that people may not realize. My favorite is about moving large cannons across a frozen river.

BIG BAD IRONCLAD! takes place during the Civil War. It involves a man who has to invent the Ironclad, but has a short timeline. There is also a man by the name of William Cushing. He is pretty much a Navy Seal before there were Navy Seals. He was also a huge prankster and ended up using his pranks to help sway the tide of battle. One of the pranks include making a fake Ironclad. Nathan Hale even gives directions for making an Ironclad out of Legos.

Both books are historically accurate. Nathan Hale, the author not the spy, lists the books he used as research. There are some parts, including a magic history book, that is definitely not true, but it is always obvious when he is taking liberty with the dialogue. I love these books, and though I don’t have any children, they will be added to my library. I really hope that he does more in the future. I only wish they were around when I was in school.

03 October 2012

Mad Sewing Skills

With the contest over, I have been working on our costumes. Last year I started the costumes the first weekend in October. I am pleased with how they turned out, but I was really stressed. I always felt like I could have done better, especially on mine. This year I started working on Moose’s costume in August. At this point the majority of his costume is made; I just have to add the trimmings. Mine isn’t as close, but I am more than 50% done, including my prop.

So this year has been a good indication that if I plan early, our costumes turn out better and I don’t pay through the nose for the fabric. Keeping that in mind, and due to the fact that we have really enjoyed planning this year, we have started a list of characters we can try. Some of them are far beyond what we are capable of, but it is nice to think that my sewing skills are improving enough that I would be able to try.

When I was in elementary, my mother signed me up for sewing lessons. I enjoyed it for the most part. I stuck with it for four years. I made some fun and cute things but I never enjoyed making clothes. I could just never get them to fit comfortably. I have avoided making clothes for years. The occasional skirt was as far as I breached into the “fashion” side of sewing. In this costume alone, I would say that my understanding of clothes has greatly increased. And next year, I will be teaching Moose how to sew. In return he is going to teach me how to create props out of fiberglass.

01 October 2012

Hiatus

I have reached the point where I don't really have anything else to say about writing. I am still learning how to be a better writer. I am going to take a hiatus from writing tips until I learn more. My last piece of advice is that writing takes practice. The more you do it, the better you'll get. This is especially true if you have a writing group to help. Writing takes time and effort.

30 September 2012

*Willing Sacrifice

Intro: Something on the darker side. Sacrifice is in the eye of the beholder.

The waves crashed against the cliff sending the salt spray up towards Silver. With his arms tied above his head, Silver stared at the ocean below him. The ropes cut into his wrists, rivulets of blood ran down his arms and body, dripping from his toes. Another wave crashed. The salt burned the sores on the bottom of his feet.

The crowd at the top of the cliff cheered. Silver looked up. The Behemoth approached. The red wave of its destruction moving before it as an omen. The stench brought tears to Silver’s eyes. He had just enough sense to hold his breath as the putrid water enveloped him. His wounds burned. She was going to pay for putting his name forth. He shouldn’t have accepted the wine from her. She was being too nice last night. That should have been a clue.

His breath gave out and he gasped, just as the water receded. The water from his hair dripped into his mouth. He coughed. The action caused him to sway. His body bumped against the cliff. Silver’s attention was focused on the monster between his feet. The rows of teeth were black and rotted. The stench was almost visible.

“Please, no.” Only the words didn’t come. Before Silver had been dropped down the cliff, his tongue had been cut, than seared to prevent him from chocking on the blood.

The Behemoth rose. Its forelegs reached up for Silver. One hand grabbed Silver while the other snapped the rope above his head. He screamed as he fell into the black jaws.

***

The villagers moved away from the cliff. The masks over their noses and mouths kept them from saying anything. The Behemoth had accepted the sacrifice. The red wave brought the needed chemicals to run their reactor. The new widow stood with her child looking down at the broken rope.

“Why did Daddy die?”

She pulled him close. “Because other people wanted him to.”

“Did you?”

She ran a hand down her bruised arm. “It doesn’t matter. He volunteered. That is what the record will show. We all have to make sacrifices.”

“He didn’t sound willing.”

She pulled her son away. “Sometimes sacrifices are more painful for some than others. “

He looked up at her with his one good eye. The bruises would finally have a chance to disappear forever. It was worth the sacrifice.

28 September 2012

Dark Lord of Derkholm

by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones is probably better known for HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, though I don’t know how many people realized that movie is based on a book. Though I love the Howl books, I am a huge fan of some of her lesser known books, especially DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM. There is a sequel, THE YEAR OF THE GRIFFEN, which is also really good, but that is a review for another day. DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM is a fun fantasy novel that is good for all ages.

Derk has been tasked with the job of being a villain. He is a family man with human children as well as griffin children that he created using his magical ability. Now he has to make his house into a lair fit for an evil magician. He and his children also have to provide entertainment to the tourists. A man by the name of Chesney contracts tourists to come for the experience of a lifetime, only those who have to put on the show are not pleased with having their lives disrupted every year and they are going to do something about it. Only Derk and his family are caught in the middle.

DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM has great characters. I love all of the children, human and griffin alike. They are unique and loveable. I love the idea behind the story. I mean it isn’t your typical fantasy novel. There is so much going on that you just don’t get with some other fantasy novels. Though the book is suitable for YA, it has adult characters that aren’t stupid and don’t know what’s going on. If you like this story I recommend the second one, which focuses more on the children.

26 September 2012

League of Utah Writers

Two weeks ago I went to the League of Utah Writers annual fall conference. I was contest chair, which meant a lot of work leading up to the conference. I worked at the registration table most of the time. The best part of sitting at the registration table is everyone has to register. I actually met a lot of people who had entered the contest. I am glad that the conference is over. It is very stressful and a lot of people have great expectations for what I am suppose to do. I would like to think I can live up to every expectation, but some of them are just so unrealistic there is nothing I can do to please them. I didn’t actually get to see any of the classes, because I was always off working somewhere else.

I am no longer contest chair, but I have a new position. A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had some news. The news is that I am the President Elect for the League of Utah Writers. I am in charge of planning the spring workshop this year and in charge of the Roundup in 2014. I have already started planning for both. I am already panicking about both. Once I am done being president I will be taking a break from doing large projects for the board of LUW. Moose also says I will be taking a break. He gets stressed out when I am stressed out. I think I am going to have a blast, stressed or not.

24 September 2012

Fleshing out the World

When creating a fantastical world it can be hard to paint a clear picture for the reader without including your entire worldbuilding bible. No it isn’t alright to do this despite how cool you think it might be. What I have heard from various places is to flesh out the world by adding small details. It is in the little everyday details that really grounds your world. You can specify that they drink coffee and have moon rock powered reactors. You don’t have to explain the reactors but by adding the moon rock portion it gives us an idea of the society. This society is different than the societies that use enslaved magicians and only drink water from a unicorn spring. Through the course of the story you can explain more, but it is small details of everyday life that help define what the world is like. I’m not saying that you can’t have long descriptions about the world, but just don’t include every piece of research that you’ve done. As readers we don’t need to know and it can bog down the story.

23 September 2012

*A Destiny to Grow Into

Intro: I am not sure where this idea came from, but I actually had a lot of fun writing it. I could see this becoming something more, when I have time.

The red sun offered no mercy as it rose to its apex. I shielded my eyes against the glare from the sand. White robes covered me leaving only a slim gap but it was more than enough. Some people wore thin veils but I always found that to be suffocating. I needed some connection to the sun, even if it was blinding.

The weight of the pack pressed me down with every step. My boots, molded from a rubber leather compound would keep the sand from seeping in, since there were no seams or layers, But, more and more trickled in the top with each step.

Meylir was three days behind me, not even a speck of light on the horizon. I was glad to be gone from the city but my water supply was almost non-existent. Taking the time to harvest water was not a luxury I could afford on my trek.

When the sun moved behind me I threw off my head covering. My smooth skin rejoiced at the feel of warmth. I pushed up the sleeve of my robe. The gray tint to my skin was already fading to its natural burn orange color. The back of my head would act as a beacon against the white sand but I had gone 27 hours without feeding and every step taxed my energy. Before that I had feed every half day so I was weak.

When I felt the sand shift under the soles of my boots I pulled my hood back up.

One of the skimmers from Meylir whipped up a sandstorm as it flew overhead, the ground vibrating with the engine feedback. They were looking for me. This brought the total to 17 I had seen, though it was the first one since last night.

By now news would be spreading around the despite security measures. A sun god in the capitol city Meylir. The president Touched, and dying. Or at least it would seem that way. In another two days it would be apparent he was dying but had been chosen. His skin would change from the pasty white to a bronze or golden color. His blood replaced with a clear sticky substance and he would lose every hair on his body. Just like I had three thousand years earlier. I didn’t think I was going to survive. Becoming a god was harder than dying.

When the sun sank to the north I slipped the pack from my shoulders. I had reached my destination. I knew because I couldn’t go any further south. My legs wouldn’t obey my desire. Even gods are bound by laws of nature. My destiny was to be fulfilled.

I set up the water harvester in a circle. All the water would be pulled to the middle. The machine hummed the sound bringing back memories of my mortal life before I was chosen.

I wasn’t like the President of Meylir. I had been a simple farm boy. Our house had been in the poor section of a city named Tiborn, no longer a speck on any map. I farmed the pollution from the air. We filled tank upon tank of the contamination which were shipped to a facility that filtered the fertilizing chemicals out then disposed of the waste. I never learned how. The day the sun god came and changed me was the day the city was quarantined because of plague. I was the only one who survived the burning.

The chill breeze stimulated me and I removed my robes. The syringe with the sun god formula fell to the sand. I brushed a finger against my eye where I had been injected. Sight, mortal sight, had returned after a hundred years. I could still picture the visions and lessons that taught me what to do.

The water lapped at my knees as I stood in the water. My reserve was gone but with the sun at my back I faced Meylir. In hours the city would see me in my final form. And in a week the new sun good would begin traveling the world, fulfilling his own destiny.

I felt the sun on my back, the water between my toes, and sprouted.

21 September 2012

Farmer in the Sky

by Robert A. Heinlein

My father and I have been working on a research paper together. We are studying the shift of science fiction from space opera towards dystopic and apocalyptic. My father is writing about classic space opera while I am writing about the modern stuff. While I enjoy the modern books, as seen by my reviews, I wanted to review something today that was part of the classic side and one that people may not remember or even have read. FARMER IN THE SKY by Robert A. Heinlein is a juvenile science fiction book published in 1953. Though it was published in 1953 it first appeared in serial format in 1950 in Boy’s Life magazine. The reason why I said it is juvenile is because there wasn’t a YA category in the 1950s but Heinlein wanted to write books that would appeal to the younger audience because they had characters in their teens.

FARMER IN THE SKY is about an eagle scout, which is why it appeared in Boy’s Life. Bill Lermer and his father live on earth which is overcrowded. An opportunity arrives for them to be part of a colony to Ganymede which is one of Jupiter’s moons. There is already a colony set up and when Bill arrives he finds that he doesn’t fit in quite as well as he hoped. They boys are nice, but Bill thought himself to be revolutionary in his thinking and he isn’t. Living on Ganymede proves to be too much for some, but Bill finds it exciting and is even able to do some exploring with some of the other colonists and they find more than they are expecting. I have really condensed the plot down. One of my favorite aspects of this book is Bill’s relationship with his step-sister, Peggy. It is nice to see a book where the step-siblings really get along with each other.

I read FARMER IN THE SKY when I was in high school. At the time I didn’t realize how long ago it had been written. Truthfully, I thought it was written in the 80s. I mean the way it is written is just timeless. The idea of living on one of Jupiter’s moons is still such a fantastical idea. This is a perfect book to get young adults into space opera. Though I recommend it for adults as well.

19 September 2012

I Can Still See You

Tuesday, the 18th, I attended a class on Excel. I used Excel a lot at work and my training has been limited to Google. While using the Google method I’ve been able to accomplish fancy projects, but I don’t know some of the basics. I am using calculus to solve x + 3 = 7. It works, but isn’t very efficient.

Rant begin . . . I have been to classes like this before. Do the exercises on the computer while the instructor talks. It was fun to see if I could guess how the instructor was going to do the exercises. In these classes there is always a variety of people. I was sad to see the lack of respect that some of the students had towards the instruction. I am tired of cellphones. Do people honestly think they are being sneaky when they look at their phones under the table? I don’t even think it is appropriate to leave the cellphone on the table.

The person next to me left her phone on the table. For the first half of the class it was face down. She didn’t even bother with that for the second half. She complained to me at the second break that she didn’t know what to do because she had read all of her email. She ended up leaving early and I was kind of glad. She was just annoying.

I can relate to feeling bored. I really didn’t need to be there for the portion on inserting images. But, there is a certain amount of respect we need to give the instructor and the other students. When the instructor is helping someone one-on-one I don’t see the problem with people checking their phones or brainstorming blog post ideas. We can all do better at showing more respect when in public. And if I see another cellphone during a movie I may smash it. . . Rant end.

I am glad I went to the class. I learned several tricks that I will probably use on a weekly basis if not more often.

17 September 2012

Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

This weekend I attended the annual League of Utah Writers Roundup Conference. I didn’t have much time to spend in the classes, but I wasn’t really expecting to. I did get to listen to the keynote speakers on both Friday and Saturday evening. I enjoyed both nights, but today I am going to talk about my impressions on the Saturday evening speaker, Barry Eisler. If I sound smart, that is because of him. If anything I say doesn’t sound right, that is probably my misinterpretation of the information.

Barry Eisler switched from traditional publishing to self-publishing. This is because he realized the audience that favored digital was larger than the audience that favored paper. He still has paper books, but they are done print on demand. One of the perks to the traditional publishing houses are the distribution channels. It is difficult for an author to get their books on the shelves when you have a name like TOR or Penguin backing you. If you don’t have interest in having your books on the shelf and are content with the digital world, then self-publishing may be the way to go. Amazon offers a hybrid approach. They buy the rights, but you do everything yourself.

The biggest thing you have to remember is the fact that you have to write and finish a good book. That isn’t just saying that you write your novel and as soon as you are done get it out there. You need to make sure it is the best thing that you can produce and then post it. Then write another book. The best marketing you can do for yourself is to have multiple books for people to stumble upon and look up.

Digital won’t completely replace books. There will always be a demand for paper books. Though that demand will be less as the years continue. (That isn’t just from me. He said it, I swear.) Because the demand for paper will go, the way an author interacts with their readership will shift. There are various programs out there that lets an author digitally sign the ebooks. Bookstore signings may decrease over the years, but that depends on who the author is, and what the readership wants.

Either way is good, you just have to figure out which way will get you to where you want to be. There is a place for both. Moose has learned he prefers ebooks while I am pretty sure I will always prefer paper. I hope that publishers really do offer an option that when you buy the hardbound book you get a digital copy as well. That is perfect for our circumstance.

16 September 2012

*Night of Hunting

Intro: I am still trying to recover from the conference this weekend. It was really good. I had a wonderful time, but it means that I have burned out my brains on contest stuff. Next week should be a lot better.

Rain lashed the windshield. Hank thought the windshield wipers were going to fly off and launch into orbit. An oncoming car flew around the corner. For a moment the high beams filled Hank’s vision before he could avert his eyes. The thin fog illuminated like a paper lantern, casting a hazy light an obscuring all details of the surroundings. By the time the car passed Hank needed to yank on the steering wheel to keep the car on the road.

His eyes scanned the darkness even as he tried to block off the pain. When a small silver spark shone in the dark he glanced right and left. He found another glint to the right and turned the wheel. The left wheel slipped onto the shoulder and he adjusted until he was back on. He continued looking for the signs of the road reflectors from his headlights, and being blinded by the other cars.

The usual hour long drive stretched closer to three. His head swam and the moisture in his sock could have been wrung out. Hank pulled to the side of the road and pried his fingers from the steering wheel. The pressure in his jaw moved to throb his temples. Hank peered into the blackness. The headlights penetrated only a few feet into the trees and fog. He wasn’t even sure the road continued in the direction he looked.

He glanced at the hand drawn map and sighed.

“Her saying no can’t be any worse than hunting for clues in the rain. Next time, I’m just going to ask her to prom.”

14 September 2012

The Marvelous Journey Home

By John Simmons

I was a little hesitant to read this book. I am always a little nervous when I read something self-published. I need to fix that bad habit. There are a lot of good writers about there who self publish and I would say John Simmons is one of them. His novel THE MARVELOUS JOURNEY HOME was a touching read. I was invested in the characters and enthralled by the culture. I know a little about Russia from my older brother, but this story delves into a known situation, adoption, and sheds more light on all the aspects. I never thought adoption was easy but the experiences related by the author are beyond what I imagined.

THE MARVELOUS JOURNEY HOME is a non-fiction story about the Knight family trying to adopt from Russia. They already have two boys and want a daughter. After the first potential falls through, Mike and Laura are swept up in the process. As part of the adoption they must travel to Russia twice and both times involve their own set of joys and heartaches. Not only do we have the story from the fancy Americans, but it also gives part of it from the humble Russians' perspectives. It is a heartwarming story about being a family and all that comes with it.

I love the smattering of Russian throughout the novel. I really enjoyed learning about the culture and people. The story is true but at the same time parts needed to be condensed for it to work in novel format. John Simmons explains this at the end. I am glad I read this book. Not only because it is witty and charming but because it broadened my horizons on what I've known about but didn't really understand.

12 September 2012

League of Utah Writers

My life has been taken over by the League of Utah Writers. I am trying to get all of the print material done for the conference this weekend. I actually don't mind doing it. I mean I went to school to be a technical writer and I learned I actually like more of the document design aspect than the editing aspect. I don't think I could have made it as a graphic designer, but I like these little opportunities to actually try my hand at making certificates and things like that.