Friday, March 30, 2012

Excited for the return of HBO's A Game of Thrones

I think that I would be remiss in not admitting my outright excitement for the return of this Sunday's "Game of Thrones" on HBO. I know that I have, from time-to-time taken different looks at Mr. Martin's books. I was not impressed with A Dance With Dragons as an example...but that comes from me being frustrated that I feel Mr. Martin has turned into a capitalist who seeks to milk every penny from his franchise as opposed to giving us the story that so strongly permeates the first three books of his series.

Season two is all about the book A Clash of Kings. And this my friends, is a masterpiece. For those of you who haven't read the books and are concerned that there is no one to step in and fill the void left behind by the death of Ned Stark, I want to assure you that the tales of Westeros do not stop with him. I'm looking forward to seeing Tyrion, Cersei, Jaime, and Daenerys develop. I'm interested in new characters...Milisandre of Asshai, Stannis Baratheon, and Daenerys' dragons (which will become characters unto themselves).

If I had to say one thing about George's fantasy, it's that it got me interested in reading the genre again.  I had wandered into general fiction (which still makes up the bulk of my reading list).  I'd read most of Vonnegut's books, I'd explored non-fiction by reading Hawking, read some young adult (and didn't find it necessarily to my liking), but I hadn't read fantasy (the stuff that I read as a kid) in years.  George changed that with his books. And he seems to be the one that I kind of stick with because, as I've explored other fantasies, they all strike me as knockoffs of what George managed to do, and I wonder how long that trend is going to continue.

I'm really not a fan of knockoffs.  Just to illustrate what I mean by this term, I've heard that "Divergent" is a knockoff of "The Hunger Games"--I've read the Hunger Games...but not Divergent. Again, it's only what I've heard from reading what people write online. I honestly don't care because I'm not going to read Divergent anyway. But it may serve to illustrate my point.

George's story is first and foremost about power. It's an epic that really kind of reinvented fantasy by introducing a psychological component. Instead of a black and white struggle of good vs. evil, it is a complex examination of real world characters who pursue their own interests. I'm excited to dive back into this backstabbing, power-grubbing, drama-filled murderous tale of the most flawed human beings and their struggle to outdo one another by screwing each other over in the most hate-filled ways.'s like looking at our own government.
I shall be participating in the A-to-Z challenge starting this Sunday. Have a great Friday and Saturday.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

One man's journey down the path of atheism, part 2

Last week, Mr. James Salmonsen spoke of the first part of his journey down the path of atheism. You can find that post HERE.  Now he is ready to talk about part 2 of his journey.


Greetings readers. In my previous article, I told of my first steps toward anti-theism. I left off as I went into college where I identified myself as “spiritual” instead of “religious”.

The next leg of my journey took me a few years of school and study. I had left the LDS church, although I still found myself defending it from some truly IGNORANT people. When I say ignorant, I don't just mean they “just didn't know”. I mean they had a few scoops of dipshit in them too. I had one guy ask me if it were true that when Mormons were married in the temple, doesn't the guy performing the ceremony get to have sex with the woman first?
During this time, I took my first astronomy class. (That's the one without the horoscopes). This was the first time I realized exactly how BIG the universe was.

Big is such an inadequate adjective. We do not have a word that can describe how large the universe is, because with our limited human minds, we cannot even CONCEIVE of how large it is. I could throw a number at you – 28 billion light years in diameter – 300 sextillion stars – a large factor of that number in planets and moons. All of this is irrelevant, because humans are not capable of visualizing such space. And this, my fellow insignificant specks – is just what we can see with our most advanced technology. It is possible there is more. There has been speculation (no proof) of layer upon layer of alternate dimensions. What if our universe is to the whole of reality as a single galaxy is to our known universe? No proof as of yet, but an interesting thought. Suffice to say, what we DO know of the universe is quite enough for my point.

Before you go catatonic thinking of that, I'm going to go into reverse. The same concept of infinite outward space going the other direction. The SMALLEST thing visible to the naked eye is just the start of what we have learned about the (lets call it) microverse. Things we can can only see with an optical microscope are huge compared to things we can see with an electron microscope. We can drill down further to protons and neutrons and make accurate hypothesis toward their nature. And, we have hypothesized things even smaller. But, you get the idea. The normal human brain cannot conceive of these things.

Next, we can talk about other forces. Gravity: force so strong that light can't escape. Temperature: 15 million (estimated) kelvin in the heart of our teeney weeney star we call Sol. (100 degrees Celsius = 373.15 kelvin) Mass: Stars so great they almost equal the diameter of our entire puny solar system. Time: Billions of years (estimated) from the birth of this universe until now. With the possibility that we are simply in a cycle of expansion and contraction of our universe that has been going on infinitely.

Please click HERE for a nifty animation demonstrating size. Don't play with this while under the influence of hallucinogens.

I remember explaining this idea to my LDS mother during a visit home from college. This was the same trip where she asked me if my girlfriend thought I was a virgin, and I burst out laughing. (Mother had some revelations that day.)

The sum of all human knowledge in reality is small. It is fragile. It is incomplete. Much of it may be wrong. We have expanded that knowledge and applied it in ways that would have been inconceivable to people even 200 years ago.
Faith had no part in the construction of this marvel, at which I sit to impart
this supreme knowledge to you, instantly, from hundreds of miles away.
Do not tell me that being an atheist means I do not believe in something bigger than myself, or that the world holds no joy or wonder.

At this point in my life, I could no longer believe in a higher power. I was no longer “spiritual” in the sense that I believed in some entity out there watching over us. It makes no sense that an entity so powerful - so impossibly unknowable – cared if any of the billions of human beings:

  • Went to church on Sunday.
  • Had sex before marriage.
  • Stole items from each other.
  • Mumbled wishes in the night.
  • Believed in one or another of the hundreds of religions on the planet.
  • (Insert any religious belief here)

At this point in my life, I was agnostic. But, I still had a way to go.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Discussing the A to Z challenge with Ms. Tortured Artist

I am sitting in Cafe Pretentious and talking with Ms. Tortured Artist.

"How's it goin?" I ask.

"It iz going," Ms. Tortured Artist replies.

"Good. Good. Are you joining the A to Z challenge?" I ask. "I'm gonna have a Pixar theme with goofy dancing gifs!"

"Pleaze. I am a real writer. Real writerz...they do not do thiz thing...theezze childish blog memez and blog awardz. I only put thingz on my webzite that speak of my writingz...which no one in ze werld has zeen before. I bare my zoul, and people will someday know I am ze next Ztephanie Meyer. I am ze next Zuzanne Collinz."

"Oh. Well in the meantime, you don't have a job right now and have plenty of time. Since you're a nobody like me, maybe you could do these memes and participate so people don't view you as stuck up. You know...kinda like working at Wal-Mart is beneath you even though there's lots of people that work at Wal-Mart."

Ms. Tortured Artist glares at me.  "I'm not ztuck up! I'm just mizunderztood. My evokez pazzion. A young woman...she lozes her first love to the zea, but he comez back...only zhe iz in love with another. He comez back from the zea for her."

"Ah! Mermaids. I love great mermaid stories. There's a gazillion of those. I read one where--"

"--HOW DARE YOU? It iz notz mermaidz! How dare you dizzmizz it az if someone haz written thiz before!?"

I swallow. "Uhh...There's something like 900 mermaid stories alone on Goodreads..."

"When I get an agent. When I getz my book deal. You will all zee. You will all be jealouz of my zuccezz. I zhall be famouz! And it iz you who will ztill be doing theze memez while I am zigning bookz for my fanz. No one can write like me!"


Don't forget to sign-up for the A to Z challenge ladies and gents. There's only a few days left. Unless...ahem...of course you are the Tortured Artist. Then I wish you well with your massive agent and book deal plans. But let's be honest, if you were the Tortured Artist, chances are you wouldn't even be visiting my website as that would be "beneath" you. :P If you don't know where the sign-up is, click the button on the right sidebar. It will take you to Alex J. Cavanaugh's website and from there, it's easy peasy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Wanted: Dead or Undead by Angela Scott


This weekend, I read Angela Scott's book Wanted: Dead or Undead, and I loved it.

I award it five stars out of five. It's a quick, smooth, entertaining read. The first thing that amazed me was the language. Angela creates a southern accent in everything, including the prose between all of the dialogue. It isn't annoying. Rather, for me it immerses me completely in the atmosphere of this apocalyptic world.

Several times, I found myself picturing some of the old west skits in the classic Star Trek series.  The zombies were so gross and so evil, that even when they weren't attacking, I could feel their presence in the world. I knew that this wasn't a traditional western...and that's why I kind of pictured the Star Trek westerns in my head as opposed to real westerns (like the kind Clint Eastwood makes). Things were just different. One stepped removed from what I was used to. And it had the effect of making everything fresh and exciting.

Angela approaches zombie lore in a brilliant way. Her heroine (Elisabeth a.k.a. Red) is like a composition of Michonne from the Walking Dead and Sara played by Shirley MacLaine in the movie Two Mules for Sister Sara.

Angela approaches her zombie apocalypse like most writers. She doesn't explain it. And the story is about survival. Where it gets clever, is how the characters survive and through the strange powers that Red manifests.

The tale doesn't get too scary. But there are definitely some shocking moments. And Angela does not hold back on the gore. But honestly...who reads a zombie story and doesn't want gore?

Buy Angela's Book HERE
Visit Angela's Blog HERE

Monday, March 26, 2012

Showtime's Shameless. Writing so good, it soars.

Shameless is one of my favorite shows. It's created for Showtime and is the story of a very dysfunctional family that somehow, manages to find love and function despite extreme poverty. It's a story of survival and opportunism and is probably one of the most heart-breaking, yet uplifting shows I have ever seen. The scene below, in the pilot episode, made me tear up. This writing is incredible. Please watch the embedded clip and get ready for some seriously heavy romance. Grab a tissue. This is a conversation between Fiona and Steve (who loves Fiona so much). Fiona is a girl who has been denied her childhood because she has to care for her brothers and sisters. Mom left; dad's a drunk, and it's only her. And life hasn't been kind. Not one bit.
FIONA played by Emmy Rossum
STEVE played by Justin Chatwin
Steve: "Hello"
Fiona: "If that wasn't bullshit, what was I wearing?"
Steve: "Huh?"
Fiona: "First time you saw me...if that wasn't a lie."

Steve:  "Black top with gold trim, black shiny jeans, thin shoes...straps...sandals...with your hair pinned high. Dangly gold earrings that made me smile. A big watch...too big. So subtle arm movement looked great. And you were dancing next to a red-haired girl in a green dress."

Fiona: "Yeah yeah. Jenna. It was Jenna's birthday. So you were...were watching her...who's a lot better lookin' than me."

Steve: "You think so? Really?"
Fiona: " how come you're not stalking Jenna?"

Steve: "Because you-y-you think like that and Jenna doesn't. Jenna dances for an audience and you dance like there's no one else in the room. Your life's not simple, Fiona and you can't stop it from showing me 'cause you're no fake, you're not lost, you don't need finding. This whole city belongs to the Jennas, but I'm sick of them. I swear Fiona you're nothing like anyone I've ever met! You make me want to enjoy my life again! Are you there?...Fiona?"

It's writing that's so good, it soars. Please please watch the clip. You won't regret it. The embedded video is unwatcheable on Apple iPad and iPhone. I assume it has something to do with flash. Also the video comes from a Chinese server because YouTube had embedding blocked for the exact same video clip. So I went to a lot of trouble to show this to you guys!

Happy Monday.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The noble houses of A Game of Thrones

I'm getting very excited that HBO's Game of Thrones is returning with an action-packed, fantasy-filled, second season. I do like the world of Westeros, so I wanted to chime in on the different houses. HBO did videos for each one to get people interested in picking a side. But, I'm not going to show those even though I watched them. As a reader, I haven't picked a side as much as I've enjoyed all the story arcs. Here are the houses from my perspective.
House Lannister. The only one of the Lannisters that I like is Tyrion. He's clever and smart. Yet Jaime has shown remarkable growth after he had his sword arm cut off. I still don't much like him though. The Lannisters are smug and pretentious. They all have lily white skin, blue eyes, and blond hair. I would liken them to Hitler's "master race" with all the superiority that issues from such a statement. I think that this house would appeal to anyone that could identify with the need of feeling superior to someone else exclusively because of beauty or wealth and not ability. Lannisters are manipulative. They are the people that plot and plot if not against you...then each other. You can't trust a single one of them.
House Baratheon. I did like King Robert even though I thought he made a terrible monarch. I also like Renly (his younger brother) because he's gay and that (in my book) makes him more open-minded and understanding, because he has had to live in a world where people just assume that everyone is straight (and that this is natural). The Baratheons are a tough, honest house. This means that they won't lie to you. It also handicaps them because they assume everyone is like them and that's not true. They tell it like it is whether or not you care for their opinion. And they do know how to party. A Baratheon is the kind of person that would have your back in a fight. They have honor and I think that would be important to me in this world.
House Targaryen. Daenerys' brother died in season one and he was condescending, pompous, demanding, and evil. Daenerys herself has these same traits, but to a much lesser extent. Like about 5% of what her brother had. This I think seems to be at a tolerable level for someone that is a ruler of many people.  She's also cool-headed, intelligent about what she does, and seems to be quite calculating.  She's also fiercely loyal to anyone that serves her just so long as you do not cross her.  I also like that.  She's got your back even more so than a Baratheon.  I like Daenerys (not necessarily her house) and if I had to choose, I'd be in her camp and would predict that she would make the best ruler on the Iron Throne.
House Greyjoy. I hate this house. I wish George had not included it. Theon is a waste of skin (the irony is that he gets skinned). Asha sucks. They are a bunch of backstabbing, power-grubbing, rapists and murderers who live on the sea like pirates. I just really can't say anything I like about the Greyjoys. They are as likeable as a squid (shown prominently on their banner). I honestly can't say anything good about this house. There only existence, it seems, is to get involved with Daenerys at some point because as it is, her story has gotten boring.
House Stark. I loved this house. They are romantics. Loyal, honest, knightly, and hard-working. The decimation of the Starks leaves a sour taste in my mouth because they were legitimately good people.  And in A Dance with Dragons, Bran is doing some weird spiritual thing with trees that makes me wonder if George is smoking weed. I don't get how any of Bran's powers are even remotely tied to the story. Everytime he goes off on a Bran chapter, I think, "Okay another waste of fifty pages where some crippled boy flies around and teleports through trees but doesn't do anything and no one cares one cares."

Anyway, Season 2 starts on April 1st. I'm really excited because it's sexy, romantic, cunning, dangerous, and all around riveting. And I'm most excited about the new character of Melissandre (sp?). She's just dang cool.

Which house are you?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One man's journey down the path of atheism

James Salmonsen at the Bellagio
Today, I am having a guest post written by my best friend, James Salmonsen. I have known James almost twenty years, and he is a very intelligent, articulate man. He wants to talk about his atheism. But I do want to tell you that James has many facets. Another of them is his cooking which is as good or better than Rachael Ray.

James does not mean to offend with this post (he can be snarky). Merely he seeks to explain his beliefs and the events that occurred in his life that made him believe that there is no God. If you are interested in one man's journey down the path of atheism, please read on and comment below:

* * *
Greetings readers.  My name is James and I am proud to say that I am the source of some inspiration for Mike.  For those of you who have read Mike's blog for some time, you will have undoubtedly read something posted by Mike that we have talked about and it subsequently became a blog post.  Mike is one of the three roots in my life, and he has asked me to guest blog occasionally.  “Go off on an atheist rant” I think were his exact words.  I may guest-blog about other things in the future, but for now.....I shall rant.

To start, I would like to tell the story of my path to anti-theist.
All people on earth are born not knowing and therefore not believing in Gods.  The random chance of what family one is born into usually determines which religion one believes in – if any.  My random chance placed me into an LDS family living in Montana.  I was made to go to church on Sundays, I went to seminary before school and attended different LDS functions up into high school.  
As a Mormon, I grew up knowing that other religions in the US viewed my religion as a cult.  I knew from my study of the Bible and the BoM, that Mormons believed everything that most Christians in America believed in, plus a little bit more.  I remember often wondering why these sweaty evangelical preachers on Sunday TV were so full of hatred towards us when we were so similar.  This thought in retrospect was the first yellow brick down the road to anti-theism.

I do clearly remember when I started to lose faith in my religion.  It was because of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart.  Younger readers will not know those names - but fortunate you! - there is Wikipedia.  Go ahead.  Look them up.  Also – here is a picture of that toxic, crypt keeper look-alike Tammy Faye Bakker (wife of Jim) for your viewing pleasure while we wait.

I believe it is quite possible she contracted cancer from all the make-up she wore.

Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart are the #1 and #2 reasons why I left the LDS church.  It certainly wasn't because they had any relevant arguments against the LDS faith.  It wasn't due to fear of their version of the all-mighty sky-father sending me to eternal torment.  It's because both of these religious leaders at the time were caught in sex scandals and Bakker was caught embezzling MILLIONS as well! 

At first, my mind said, “HA!  Take that you hypocritical twats!  You are on TV ranting about the immorality of MY religion, and you are out committing adultery, stealing and lying?  You are the leaders of your churches and you're just a couple of con men!  Mormons believe in the same things you do, and you're supposed to tell us how God wants us to behave?  How dare you try and instruct anyone on how to live right!  Hey.  Wait.  We believe in the same things you do......Hold on just a minute...rewind.”
Buy the book that critics say
is “a mind-blowing sci-fi read from
start to end.” $4.99 from Amazon
now. Begin your journey today.

Before that time, I was too young to realize something.  We are all just people.  All of us.  Preachers and Bishops and Elders aren't special.  They have no special knowledge.  I saw these two con men fall, and that made me look at my own church's leaders.  They were just people too!  Once I realized this fundamental (pun intended) truth, I stopped taking their word as authority and started looking at the ideas they were teaching me instead.  The more I looked, the less I believed, because it simply didn't make sense.  It looked more and more like fairy tales, mythology and fantasy writing.  I started THINKING CRITICALLY – and knowledge is the death of faith.

From this time into my early college years, I had officially in my mind left the LDS church.  I identified myself as “spiritual” and not “religious”. 

The next breakthrough concept I had, cured me of that “spiritual” phase.... and will be the subject of my next guest-blog.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Star Wars Blogathon Challenge

Today, I'm posting my entry into Briane Pagel's ingenious Star Wars Blogathon that is happening at his blog located HERE. The goal is to post a 250-word story in which a character from one of your works in progress tries to write a Star Wars fan fiction. The key is to get this done BEFORE March 25th, so I'm squeaking in a few days under the wire. My entry is 248 words.


    “What are you working on, Kat?” Jordan asked his sister.
    “An ‘ode to Luke’s face’,” she said. “He was so handsome in Star Wars that it was difficult getting used to how much he changed when we watched Empire right afterwards. I still liked him…it’s just his nose was all I could notice for like the first hour of the film.”
    Jordan chuckled. “Yeah. He got messed up because of a huge car wreck in Corvette Summer. That’s why they invented the whole Wampa ice creature sequence. It was Lucas’ attempt to explain away why Luke’s face got all mashed up.”
   “So that wasn’t originally going to be part of the film?”
   “Nope,” Jordan said.
   “Well that sucks. Instead of reissuing Star Wars, Lucas should reboot the first three films and just hire actors with faces that aren’t messed up. Then there’d be no need for a Wampa ice creature.”
   “Who would play Luke?” he asked.
   She took a long hard stare at her brother who had sandy blond hair, blue eyes, and a slender build. “You could, but I doubt you could act.”
   “And why do you say that?” he asked defensively.
   “Because jocks don’t have the head for it.”
   “Okay, you either grossly complimented Lucas just now by saying that the actors that he hired for his Star Wars films were really good, or you just insulted me by implying I can’t possibly act with any ability. Which is it, Kat?”
   She smiled and said nothing.
Before the accident in "Corvette Summer"
After the accident from "Corvette Summer"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

H.R. Giger's Alien movie concept art revisited in Prometheus

H.R. Giger is in my opinion, a mad genius. I own a couple of his "coffee table" art books, and they are scary stuff. I own Biomechanics, H.R. Giger's Alien, and his Necronomicon. In reading about him, I discovered that within his lifetime he has rubbed elbows with just about every major artist in the world including Ridley Scott and Salvatore Dali. He's had a girlfriend that committed suicide, is the atypical primadonna with huge demands and uncompromising work ethic, and is notoriously difficult to work with.

But his art captures my imagination the same as artist Michael Whelan (if you don't know who this is, you could google his name). Or, you could just visit my post that I wrote on Michael Whelan HERE. I also talk about him extensively on a post on general cover art featuring books by Patrick Dilloway, Cindy Borgne, and Andrew Leon. You can find that post located HERE.

In my ever growing excitement for this summer's Prometheus, I revisited the afore-mentioned H.R. Giger's Alien, and it looks like to me, from the trailers that are now available for viewing online, that Ridley Scott is revisiting the ground-breaking artwork that this crazy guy created for 20th Century Fox (that was scrapped from the 1978 film). Here are my comparisons.

First off the Alien Pyramid concept in which H.R. Giger originally wanted 20th Century Fox to use on the planet LV-426 (NOTE: You can click on these to make the picture bigger for your viewing pleasure).
Contrast this image above with the one that I pulled from the Prometheus trailer below:
And then there is H.R. Giger's Alien Heiroglyphics which also got scrapped from the original 1978 film:
Compare this with the heiroglyphic sequence that I captured from the theatrical trailer in which Michael Fassbender utters "Tell me that you can read this..."
And of course, they are still going with the original design for the derelict spacecraft, the space jockey pilot, and the interior of the ship--all of which was designed by H.R. Giger. Since the derelict spacecraft features so prominently in the trailer, I'm not including screen captures of it. But it is identical to the drawings below. Note the odd shape of the portals that lead into the derelict spacecraft from the original Alien movie. They are intentionally shaped like a vagina because H.R. Giger uses a lot of phallic symbols and vaginas in his artwork (and I mean tons).
Interesting, eh?

Monday, March 19, 2012

A King has his reign, and then he dies.

Those are the words spoken by (I believe) Noomi Rapace's character at the start of the amazing second trailer for Prometheus, which was unveiled at Wonder Con just this weekend. Knowing just a smidge about this film, I think that the words are chilling because the context may be a double entendre.  The "king" may also refer to man's domination of the universe and how it may eventually end:
And here is the viral Weyland Industries birth of David the Android
that was also released this weekend.
For those of you who are new to my blog, ‘Prometheus’ is a sci-fi film based on the Alien universe. It stars Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace and was shot on the RED Epic cameras and the Element Technica ATOM 3d rig. It releases in June 2012.

Director: Ridley Scott
Producer: Tony Scott
Cinematographer: Dariusz Wolski

Dariusz Wolski had this to say about the Epic camera and his work on Prometheus:
"In my opinion, the new Red Epic camera is about to revolutionize all spectrums of the film industry.
I am amazed with the quality of the image and the fact that you can shoot 5k at 120fps without compromising resolution, and...most of all...the size of the camera. 
Combined with the Element Technica Atom 3d rig, we will be able to shoot a 3d movie with the flexibility of a conventional cinema camera. 
I don’t see anything that comes close to it at the moment. I can’t even imagine the potential Epic will have on the big blockbuster industry as well as independent cinema."
HERE is my post on the TED video wherein Peter Weyland explains the myth of Prometheus.
HERE is my post showing Prometheus fan art.
HERE is my post of the entire Prometheus plot. Warning: SPOILERS! But it's epic.
HERE is a link to my Christmas Post wherein I embed the first Prometheus trailer.
HERE is my first post on Prometheus.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Whisper of Memory by Brinda Berry

Today I would like to welcome author Brinda Berry. I read her first book called The Waiting Booth and reviewed it HERE. Now, she's back with a sequel and it's very exciting.

From Inside the Flap...

Weapons training and winter formals… a deadly combination

All Mia ever wanted was to fit in at Whispering Woods High. But being a portal-finder who dates a guy from another dimension sort of makes it hard. A month ago her brother disappeared, and agents from the IIA began policing people’s movements through dimensions. She’d trusted Dr. Bleeker from the local university when he’d told her the IIA were the bad guys. But even a girl with an extraordinary ability to sense things can make mistakes.

Now two people are dead, and as a portal gatekeeper for the IIA, Mia needs to find Dr. Bleeker before he hurts anyone else. And her boyfriend Regulus, an Agent for the IIA, carries secrets of his own. Between learning about weaponry, finding the perfect dress for the winter formal, and catching bad guys, who has time to fit in?
Brinda is running a contest to celebrate the release of her new book. She is giving away romance trading cards and a Kindle Touch. The giveaway ends on April 30th so please enter below and win win win.
Check out the cool romance card
Now Brinda has a question for you.

High school senior Mia Taylor and her friends seem to draw trouble like a magnet. Did you have anything out of the ordinary happen to you during your senior year? As for me, my senior year was pretty boring. I guess the highlight was that I graduated. Oh and I thought my senior class was one died through all three years of high school (and it was a big class). So maybe that's somewhat out of the ordinary. Most high school classes have one or two deaths by the time the average kid reaches graduation. Oh and we had six valedictorians. How dumb is that?

Please be sure to check out Brinda's blog located HERE.
Follow Brinda on twitter @Brinda_Berry

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Can you help me spot the cat?

I got this email from my friend William. Supposedly there's a cat in this picture. I've looked at it but can't find it. My eyesight isn't all that great. You can click on the picture to make it bigger. If you find the cat, please indicate where it is in the comments :).
Have a happy Thursday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Envisioning 15 ways to change up fantasy fiction

This isn't a list I got from somewhere online. Rather, it is my own list that I compiled after looking at Brent Weeks' new fantasy series and finding things that I'm growing tired of. Note that this list is not indicative of his fantasy. is indicative of all fantasy that I've read. Read this as "Mike has already seen, read, and done this many times and is ready for something fresh." As a writer, you might possibly spot some red flags in your own writing from a person who is well-versed in the genre.

1) Stop making your villains gay. I hate reading about some horrible evil nasty terrible incarnation of pure evil who is also homosexual while the hero is comfortably heterosexual. And stop doing unnecessary things to male genitalia just to make your villain repulsive. An example of this is in the movie Immortals. Why on earth did Mickey Rourke's character insist on castrating men that worked for him with a huge hammer? There are other ways to be gross.

2) Stop portraying barmaids as sluts with big boobs.

3) Stop portraying dwarves as alcoholics. Not every dwarf in fiction needs to consume huge tankards of ale or beer.

4) Why are all thieves either named "Rat" or have something in common with the animal of the same name?

5) Why are all knights Caucasian? Have a black man or a black woman or a Hispanic as a hero. And having them be a prince is just boring.

6) Why are all elves graceful? Just stop it. Have a clumsy fat elf. And if you're going to use elves...just use them. Don't try to be clever. George R.R. Martin uses "Children of the Forest" and it's just stupid. They are frickin' elves. You're only fooling people into thinking they aren't elves if they haven't read any other fantasy.

7) Why do all male heroes hook up with a woman who is a virgin? Why can't a hero hook up with a woman who's been around the block a few hundred times? Or...even one that's plus-sized or wears a size 14 toga.

8) Heroes having babies. I'm tired of the pregnancy trope. Why can't a hero and a girl get together and say, "Hey...we don't want kids. They're a nuisance and will get in the way of our adventuring." And then have them use magical contraception that religious groups in the world they live in try to pass laws to make them illegal to obtain.

9) All villainous rapists seem to be men. In fantasy, women can be empowered with magic. Why can't they go around raping men and have people badmouth the evil woman rapist?

10) Women as healers. This is always bullshit. How about a man that is a healer and a woman that is the warrior?

11) Single women. Every woman the hero meets is single and available. How about having the hero be already married and the women he meets already married? They just need to get together to do a job. And if they get romantically attracted to each other, then bring on the adultery baby. Does a hero need to be likeable to get the job done? Nope. He or she could still slay a dragon and then cheat on their loving spouse.

12) Multiple volumes consisting of 1000 pages or more. Just stop. No one needs this kind of space to tell a story. No one.

13) Wizards and magic are frowned upon. Oh stop with the closeted wizards that have to "come out". It's getting old. Give me a society where wizards and magic rule everything, have it ruled by women, and men who want to play with swords are the ones that are shunned. But I don't want another "magic school" story. Lev Grossman, J.K. Rowling, and others have beaten this to death.

14) Weak magic. The hero slays a dragon after 500 pages and finds a ring that can turn him invisible. Invisibility sucks. How about a ring that blows up mountains, destroys cities, and turns people into salt pillars? Give me some real powerful sorcery...stuff that destroys armies and summons legions of demons. Think big or go home.

15) The end of the world is prevented. How about it happens and the hero fails and everyone dies? That would be cool.

*End of rant. If you have the time, please check out Briane Pagel's blogfest with writing prompts and Star Wars questions. You can find it HERE.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Fame brings out a person's true colors

George R.R. Martin is one of the most successful writers alive. And he's now filthy stinking rich because of that success. I think his behavior with regard to his fans is pretty atypical. Here are some words of "encouragement" for you from him:
No, I will not come to your convention, thanks for asking.
No, I will not read your manuscript/ galley proof/ book, but good luck with that.
No, I will not write a story for your anthology, I am a year behind writing stories for my own anthologies.
No, I will not write a preface/ introduction/ foreword for your book.
No, I will not do an interview.

No, no, no, no, no, no.

In my opinion, fame brings out a person's true colors.

So, how will you act if the day comes when you have money, an agent, a book deal, and fame? If you're in YA you could be super polite (super fake), never follow anyone on twitter (except other celebrities), never visit anyone's blogs, say things like "goodness me...I'm so busy..." and when someone wants to legitimately talk with you, you'll refer them to "Your Publicist."

Know any authors that fit this bill?

Here is the real mind-bender. Maybe arrogance is the whole point of fame.

Maybe the people that behaved this way were ALWAYS arrogant and couldn't stand being mediocre. It beat them up. They knew they had to HAVE FAME to have an excuse to be arrogant. Without the fame, being arrogant just made them look like jerks. But with it, people get a free pass.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Lucky 7 Meme

I have been tagged by Lisa Shafer for the Lucky 7 Meme. Please visit her blog if you have the time by clicking HERE.

1. Go to page 77 of your current Manuscript.
2. Go to line 7.
3. Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs - and post them as they're written. No cheating.
4. Tag 7 authors.
5. Let them know.

“Not at all,” she said.
Dustin scrambled down from his perch on the bleacher row just ahead of where Jordan and Jess sat. “Hope you’ve got a condom,” he said. “You’re so getting laid tonight.”

He just shot him a sideways glance, “We’re not even dating.”

“It doesn’t look that way from where I’m sitting but…okay.” Jordan got up and walked with him out of the stadium to wait for the ladies a little closer to the restrooms.
This excerpt is from SLIPSTEAM and at a point where Jordan (the main character) is behaving particularly shallow. He grows up quite a bit during the story.

Seven authors who I'm tagging to complete this meme:
1) Angela Scott at Whimsy & Writing.
2) Charity Bradford at Charity's Writing Journey.
3) Hart Johnson at Confessions of a Watery Tart.
4) Dalya Moon at her author website of the same name.
5) Donna Hole at her website here.
6) Patrick Dilloway at the Grumpy Bulldog Blog.
7) Briane Pagel at Thinking the Lions.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Thoughts on writing science-fiction and fantasy

I read an article on the science-fiction blog io9 about this autistic savant who spent 20 years creating a fictional city called Urville. Here are some pictures that he drew (go and see the rest at this link if you are interested in the full story). In a nutshell, he envisioned everything including its own fictional history and how it was impacted by events in humanity's real timeline.

I started to think of how many stories there must be to a place like this, and I wonder if this person will ever get around to writing fiction about it or about the lives of the people who populate it. I think that world-building can be taken to an extreme. I'm sure for the guy that made this city, it felt real to him. For me, world-building is the funnest part of fiction, and it's where I start with my stories. But there are definitely other approaches.

Brandon Sanderson seems to focus a lot of attention on unique magic systems for fantasy. For myself, I dislike unique magic systems. They seem to slap me in the face as the author is trying as hard as he can to be "clever", and I hate it when an author tries to be "clever."  I think to myself that maybe they'd like it if everyone they met looked at them and said..."Oh you're such a clever writer...look at you being clever" and then just pinched their cheeks.

To use a writing analogy...I liken it to using some other word as opposed to "said".  The word "said" is fine, don't get rid of it, I like it. But sometimes you get authors who have characters who are "retorting" and "cajoling" and "exclaiming" and "replying" and all that jazz.  Just give me plain old "said". I take the same view with "magic". Just give me plain old sorcery with spell books and fireballs that form the backbone of the genre. Don't use a wyvern...just give me a damned dragon. Stop trying to be "different". J.K. Rowling just used wands and spell books. Look at how that worked out.

The fantasy and science-fiction that I have studied that makes an impact on me has taken the clever route on the world-building. Ringworld by Larry Niven is one example. The world in the Rose and the Prophet by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman is another. A third is David Eddings' Belgariad. And a fourth is George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire". All of them have amazing worlds. Sure, Eddings had a unique magic system but I liked his world more than the magic system and it really wasn't all that clever. It was just like psionics in Dungeons and Dragons.

And then there are those that say that development of character and romance is the most important. My only problem with this is that some people go overboard on character development to where the story is their reactions to what other people are saying and doing and it goes on for hundreds of pages with nothing happening.

When you set out to tell a fantasy story, is your first step to envision the character first? Or do you build the world first? or do you come up with a magic-system first? Or do you do something different from these three things that I haven't touched on in this post?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

1Q84 Book Two by Haruki Murakami

First, I want to remind people that may not know, that Defying Gravity by author Cherie Reich is FREE all day today if you have an e-reader. Please click here to find out how to get yourself a copy.
This is not a book review although there are some things I will be talking about that could be considered spoilers.

I just recently finished book two of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.
I talked about book one in this post here.

In this particular novel a dowager (wealthy woman) hired Aomame to kill the head of a religious cult. His name was Leader. The dowager pointed out to Aomame that this man is guilty of raping pre-pubescent girls. As an empowered woman, Aomame felt that she could kill this man and avoid the justice system altogether which might be pre-disposed (because of the role of men in society) to treat this man kinder than he deserved. The only thing is, when she went to do the deed, she discovered that the Leader was IN FACT the victim in all of this sexual abuse from a cult that followed him. The man was in tremendous pain, was being raped while he was in a catatonic state as a devotion to the gods they believed in (called the Little People) and he wanted to die.

So she performs the most troubling assassination of her life.

As usual, the book is chock full of memorable quotes that make me think Murakami is a profound philosopher and not just a writer.

Additionally, Murakami includes a short story in his novel called the Town of Cats. This in itself is an accomplishment. I've seen other writers like Patrick Dilloway, who incorporate short stories into the greater length of their novel to illustrate a theme.

My post on Patrick Dilloway's book Where You Belong, is located Here.
The genius Haruki Murakami

I do put it on the same level as Murakami's writing. Only Murakami does not write literary fiction. But Murakami was up for a Nobel Prize and did sell a million of his books in Japan.

 If you would like to read Town of Cats, I will embed the link here to the New Yorker excerpt. To give you some background on it, one of the main characters goes to visit his father in a nursing home. He reads the "Town of Cats". This story is about a man who comes to a city that is deserted. But by night, it is occupied by intelligent speaking cats. Think "dogs playing poker" and you've got the image. But they smell the human amongst them and go searching for him. The man hides from the cats and evades them until daylight when the cats all leave. Later, he finds that he cannot escape because the train no longer stops there to pick any passengers up. So he is stuck in the town of cats.

This story is an allegory of 1Q84 which is a reflection of the real world 1984. However, there are subtle differences. The sky has two moons. The Little People are gods. And Aomame will never meet her true love  as long as she remains in 1Q84. But the way out of 1Q84 back to 1984 is no longer an option. That way is closed.
Murakami says through one of his characters, "Once you pass a certain age, life becomes nothing more than a process of continual loss. Things that are important to your life begin to slip out of your grasp, one after another, like a comb losing teeth. Your physical strength, your hopes, your dreams, your ideals, your convictions, all meaning, or, then again, the people you love: one by one, they fade away."
Maybe that's the purpose of life. To learn to cope and accept loss and to be thankful for the things that we do not lose. Maybe it is (like Aomame) to accept the fact that we cannot always get what we want and that the way home may be barred. Maybe Murakami is saying that it is just as important to find meaning in a world where we are alone among cats. What do you think?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group March 2012 Edition

It's time for the March edition of the blogfest that never ends. Alex J. Cavanaugh thought this up, and he's currently touring through the blogosphere promoting the latest book in his sci-fi space opera. It's called CassaFire, and if you like might want to check it out.

I think the insecurity I have with my writing these days has to do with wondering whether or not my ideas are as fun and interesting as I think they are. I have a lot of fun spending time with my characters. A lot of fun thinking about them, and designing scenarios for them that work within the greater plot/storyline I've built. But what if people read about Jordan and boring. Is anything ever gonna happen? Is he ever going to become interesting. My first book comes out in two months. I guess I'll find out.

Anyway...that's it. Now I'll go and check out yours.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Is there anybody out there?

Another school shooting.
People starving because they don't have enough money for food.
Gay teens committing suicide.
Men legislating what a woman does with her body.
Gross class inequality.
A presidential candidate attacking college education.
A talk show host using the words "slut" and "prostitute"
to describe a woman in support of free contraception.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only one that has a problem with this.
I wonder if I'm the only one asking the question, 
"Is there anybody out there like me?"

Monday, March 5, 2012

The You Can Play Project

It's odd sometimes how fiction can echo real life, or one can follow the other. My book that is coming out in May and the sequel that I have finished and is out to beta readers Donna Hole and Jeff Adams (embedded links to their websites) features a protagonist who is among many things, a gay collegiate hockey player (in the first book he's in high school). In the second book, he plays on the Cornell hockey team as a forward and one cares. They just care about his skill. He's fully out, everyone likes him, and he leads a healthy life as a student athlete. But was I really writing fiction? At the time that I first started drafting it over a year ago...I might have been tempted to say yes.

Now...not so much. The world is changing, despite the rhetoric from the right-wing that would have Santorum stripping homosexuals of their human rights.

I can't say how happy I am (and a little stunned) that the NHL is THE FIRST organization to step forward and make it known that a man's sexual orientation should not matter in sports. It's a person's ability to play that should be measured.

Please go and visit the You Can Play Project and voice your support (or do so here in the comments). Locker rooms and sports venues should be free of homophobia. Athletes should only be judged on skill and work ethic.

Anyway, this is a great public service announcement. Go check out the background on this fantastic movement by reading the article at the Washington Post. Have a great Monday.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Please welcome Alex J. Cavanaugh and CassaFire

“This sequel to Cavanaugh's first novel, CassaStar, delivers on the promise of its predecessor, combining military action sequences and political intrigue with strong, memorable characters. Reminiscent of the action-driven stories of Robert A. Heinlein's early fiction…” - Library Journal

Alex J. Cavanaugh is the most famous person I know. And today, he's consented to an interview.

Q: Where did you get the inspiration for Byron and why did you decide to use telepathy?

Byron came from my obsession with science fiction movies and TV, most notably the original Battlestar Galactica. He has a bit of Apollo in him with a dash of Starbuck for the attitude.

I always thought telepathy was cool - the ability to talk to another in total privacy or when that person isn’t even present. Think of the minutes you’d save on your cell phone!

Q: In what ways can we expect Byron to grow in CassaFire?

A: It begins twenty years later, so age has already brought some wisdom and maturity. (Funny how that works.) He’s kept others at a distance since the loss of his friend and brother, but as the story progresses, he realizes he can’t continue on that path anymore. Not when he meets an awkward young man in desperate need of a friend. Certainly not when he meets a talented and attractive female pilot named Athee. Besides, she won’t let him remain aloof and private!

Q: What do you think was the most difficult part of the book to write?

A: The entire first draft? Seriously, I’d never even planned to write another book.

But the most difficult part was satisfying the fans who all clamored “We want a female character!” Athee was challenging, especially writing all of the aspects involving a man-woman relationship. I have a good handle on the guy's side but I didn't want to mess up the woman's point of view.

Q: How do you feel a writer should approach a sequel?

A: With caution! I know we should write what we want, but we have to keep the fans of the first book in mind. They are the ones we need to please.


Q: What advice do you have for anyone that wants to write a space opera?

A: Know the genre. Read authors like Timothy Zhan, Alan Dean Foster, and Orson Scott Card. Watch those types of movies and TV shows as well. The genres of space opera and adventure are lighter. They aren’t heavy on tech stuff and often spill into other genres such as westerns. (Firefly, anyone?) Mostly, space opera is all about the fun. And if you can’t have fun with your science fiction, why bother?

From Alex==>Thanks again, Michael. Anyone else struggle with the first draft? Think a sequel is scary? Still wondering about the ‘Ninja Captain’ part? That explanation would require a whole new blog post…

Cool prizes up for grabs!
Please visit the author’s site and leave a comment during his book tour for a chance to win CassaFire, CassaStar, and a CassaFire tote bag and mug!

by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities.

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Available now!
Science fiction - space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9827139-4-5, $15.95, 6x9 Trade paperback, 240 pages
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-6-9, $4.99, available in all formats

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:

Praise for CassaFire:
“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the manyStar Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

Please visit Alex at his blog HERE
Purchase from Barnes and Noble HERE
Purchase from Amazon HERE
Purchase for Amazon Kindle HERE