Category Archives: All about books

This is where I plan on discussing any books I have read or am currently reading as well as suggestions and reviews. I might even post a synopsis or two.

Happy Towel Day 2015! and Don’t Forget to Wear the Lilac!

Towels may be employed as cunning camoflauge...

Towels may be employed as cunning camouflage…

For those of you wondering what in Almighty Zarquon’s name I’m talking about, I’m referring to the wonderfully zany, fan-created holiday honoring the late author Douglas Adams. Douglas Adams is a humorous science-fiction author most famous for writing the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, but he also wrote Dirk Gently novels, the non-fiction book Last Chance to See, and even worked on Doctor Who. On Towel Day, fans across the globe don their towels with pride, because, in the words of Douglas Adams:

““…it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

For the uninitiated, I have several suggestions for celebrating Towel Day listed on my earlier post, Towel Day 2015 Approacheth! Also, if you missed it, I wrote a brief flash fiction story in honor of Towel Day titled “The Most Massively Useful Thing.” Photos of myself and my son using our towels in suitably unorthodox manners are included in today’s post.

20150525_TowelDayMB

Monsterbat is ready for hand to hand combat!

This year, however, in addition to honoring Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett fans are also celebrating Wear the Lilac day in honor of the author who died recently from Alzheimer’s. As a fan of Pratchett’s work, I was also deeply saddened to hear of his passing. Pratchett is known primarily for his DiscWorld novels, stand-alone books that nevertheless all take place in the same universe with many of the characters overlapping from book to book. Terry Pratchett’s books are mostly erudite, humorous fantasies.

Why this day and why lilacs? From the Wear the Lilac site:

“On May 25th, certain members of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, and a few others around the city, wore a sprig of lilac. The 25th of May was the day that they remembered those who fought and fell for hardboiled eggs, truth, justice and reasonably priced love, who died – and in Reg Shoe’s case rose and kept fighting – in the Glorious Revolution of Treacle Mine Road”

If you are a Pratchett fan, here are a few additional suggestions.

 

Obviously, wear a lilac.

Read out one of his books! or perhaps watch a movie based on his work, or listen to an audiobook. I personally recommend Going Postal.

Donate or volunteer at a charity that cares for victims of Alzheimer’s.

 

As if that wasn’t enough, today is also, appropriately enough, Geek Pride Day!** Today was chosen to celebrate geek/nerd culture because Star Wars was released on this day in 1977. Go forth and wear those horn-rimmed glasses with pride, guys.

So, if you are a fan of either of these authors, now is a time to honor their memory by celebrating their lives and works. And if you aren’t a fan yet, today is the perfect day to become one by treating yourself to some intelligent and silly fiction. If you do celebrate, I would love for you to share what you’re doing today in the comments, In the meantime, Happy Glorious Geeky Towel Day to you all.

 

*photos taken by me.

 

**I realize that ideally I’d link to something other than Wikipedia, but since I’m discussing obscure holidays on my personal blog I’m willing to let it slide. There actually was one network source, but it was posted in 2013.          

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Towel Day 2015 Approacheth!

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In the interest of spreading the word about this wonderful fan-created holiday, I’m posting once again an explanation and a list of resources and ideas for celebrating Towel Day. “What is Towel Day?” Why, I’m so glad you asked! May the 25th is Towel Day, created to honor the life and works of the late and great author, Douglas Adams, who gave us such jewels as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, several Dirk Gently humorous detective novels, and the non-fiction book Last Chance to See. He also worked on Though Adams died too young, his work lives on after him in everything from books and television series to pop culture references that constantly pop up to the amazement and delight of geeks and fans everywhere.

 

OK, so why use a towel to remember such a hoopy frood? SO GLAD YOU ASKED.

From the Guide:

 

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

 

—Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

 

Anyway…

First things first, if you haven’t read any of his books yet, FOR THE LOVE OF ZARQUON, read one of his books! If you don’t have time to sit down and read, listen to an audiobook. You can check them out of the library. If you can’t do either of those, borrow one of the movies! But seriously, you could finish one of the books in a day, because they are pretty thin as well as awesome.

 

If anyone has read these suggestions before in my previous Towel Day posts, I apologize for the repetition, but consider this an update, ok? Anyway, you three know you are the hippest cats this side of Betelgeuse, so I know you’ll understand.

 

Since the holiday is called Towel Day, the most obvious suggestion is to carry a towel with you all day long. Do it as conspicuously as possible, so that if people ask you why you are carrying a towel to the grocery store, you can tell them all about Hitchhikers. Like so:

Uninitiated stranger: “Hey, why are you carrying a towel in the grocery store?”

You, fan extraordinaire: “Why, I’m so glad you asked! Let me tell you…”

And so on…

 

For those of you already familiar with the book, here are a few more suggestions:

 

*Lie down in front of a toy bulldozer in a tatty bathrobe. (caveat: the TOY part is important here, as lying down in front of a real bulldozer might be hazardous to your health)

 

Wear a bathrobe and pajamas all day long.

 

Drink lots of tea. Possibly eat fairy cake.

 

Try to make the perfect sandwich for lunch!

 

Create a Terran (Earth) version of the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. There are tons out there, but my son and I challenge ourselves to create a non-alcoholic Terran version of the galaxy’s most alcoholic beverage! Hey, he’s a teenager, ok?

 

Speak in Hitchhiker slang all day. You dig that, you hoopy froods?

 

Write some Vogon poetry using the Vogon poetry generator.

 

Take a photo of yourself with your towel and share it on Twitter (#towelday), FaceBook (at the Towel Day FB page), or Flickr (labeled “Towel Day).

 

Donate towels to a charity. Lots of animal shelters like to have towels on hand for their charges.

 

Be very nice to a bowl of Petunias. Water them,  talk to them, plant them in some really nice soil. Goodness knows,  Agrajag had been through enough!

 

Come up with alternate uses for your towel, other than hand-to-hand combat and drying off. I’m thinking mine might make a nice scarf or wrap.

 

Visit other Towel Day themed pages. I discovered this little treasure recently!

 

Create a blog post in honor of Towel Day!

 

Tune in to Nick Page’s YouTube channel for some wonderful animations of the Hitchhiker series!

 

Visit the Towel Day page to discover events in your area and get more great ideas!

 

I posted this early this year so that you should have sufficient time to implement any suggestions that take your fancy. As always, remember you can always borrow materials from your friendly, neighborhood library. And in this digital age, that usually includes that library’s electronic selections as well, instantly downloaded through the magic of the Internet! And if you can’t find what you need on their website, just ask the reference librarian to order whatever you need.

 

So what are you waiting for? Please feel free to make any suggestions of your own here, and I’d love it if you’d share your Towel Day adventures! So, see you in a week, and stay hoopy!

 

 

 

*This suggestion was kindly donated by John Wiswell of The Bathroom Monologues via Twitter. Thanks, John!

 

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Books I Read in 2014

I know this is a few days late for a New Year post, but it’s the first weekend of the New Year, so I think I can get away with it. Anyway it’s my first post of the New Year! I stole… er, BORROWED the idea for this from a blog post by @JohnBooth, author of Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek. I’ve actually read several posts about this sort of thing, but John’s was the most interesting and the one that sticks out in my mind.

 

Also, this past year was the first time I consistently was able to keep track of the books I read, because I was trying to win a free bookstore gift card from my friendly neighborhood library. I know that I’ve posted about books I’ve enjoyed before, but maybe something in my list might be of interest to you. I’m not sure what everyone counts as books, but I count pretty much everything – paperbacks, graphic novels, e-books, and audiobooks. Anyway, Happy New Year!

 

BOOKS I READ IN 2014

1. MIND NOISE by Helen Howell  A wonderful novella by my lovely Twitter pal and fellow #FridayFlash-er, Helen, about a gifted child in a perilous situation.

2. DHARMA OF STAR WARS by Matt Bortolin  I’m actually rereading this right now, so this also doubles also my first read of 2015. It’s a wonderful guide for the layperson who would like to learn about Buddhism in the context of the Star Wars movies. It’s quick and easy-to-understand, offering both an introduction to the philosophy and an interesting insight for the current practitioner.

3. THE WALKING DEAD: volume 1 DAYS GONE BYE (graphic novel) – by Kirkman and Moore    Does this really need an introduction? The obvious inspiration for the hit television series, the graphic novel differs enough to still be interesting to those already acquainted with the other storyline.

4. BETWEEN TWO THORNS by Emma Newman  A lovely fantasy by another #FridayFlash-er

5. LAST GOD STANDING by Michael Boatman  A very odd look at the Abrahamic God as a stand up comedian. It was very weird, and I both hated and loved it.

6. THE WALKING DEAD: RISE OF THE GOVERNOR by Kirkman and Bonansinga  This was actually a novel that I read as an e-book, rather than a graphic novel. I couldn’t put it down. It fulfilled the title’s promise to reveal the origin of the series’ most notorious villain, but I can’t say I actually enjoyed the book because it was so disturbing.

7. HOGFATHER by Terry Pratchett  For those unfamiliar with Pratchett’s work, he’s primarily known for his Discworld novels; these humorous fantasies do take place in the same universe and sometimes share the same characters, but each novel is a stand-alone. This particular book features the Disc World’s equivalent of Santa.

8. BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS by Kurt Vonnegut (audiobook) I checked this out of the library on the recommendation of another Twitter buddy of mine, Paul Weimer. The plot is really, really odd but comes together in an unexpected way. Though I’m generally not a big fan of Vonnegut’s writing, I did enjoy this one.

9. HOOT by Carl Hiaasan  (audiobook) This one I checked out for World Book Night, because it was the book selection I was given to hand out in my local community… as a paperback, not an audiobook. It’s a Middle-Grade novel about a Huck Finn-ish character that gets the new kid in town involved in environmental activism. It was a pretty fun story to listen to.

10. CINDER (The Lunar Chronicles: book 1)  by M. Meyer   This is a science fiction take on Cinderella. Poor Cinder is a cyborg in a society that looks down on them as less than human. I also reviewed this for Functional Nerds, but the biggest warning I can give you is that this series is so AWESOME you will be completely addicted to the world Meyer’s created and the characters in it. YOU MUST READ THIS.

11. THE ENCELADUS CRISIS by M.J. Martinez   I’m just going to link to reviews I’ve already done from here on out, but this book blends fantasy and science fiction.

12. TAINTED by A.E. Rought  BROKEN may have been a gripping science-fiction version of Frankenstein, but this sequel puts it to shame. Another MUST READ.

13. DOCTOR WHO: THE SILENT STARS GO BY (Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary)  For the 50th Anniversary, several novels and novellas were released (or rereleased) to highlight each of the incarnations of the good Doctor. This novel features Eleven, along with companions Amy and Rory, as they face off with yet another set of Doctor Who villains, namely the Ice Warriors.

14. WIZARD by Helen Howell   Another excellent fantasy that hasn’t quite been published yet, but when it is everyone should read it!

15. CINDERELLA: FROM FABLETOWN WITH LOVE by Chris Roberson and Shawn McManus (graphic novel)    This is really cool story about Cinderella as a spy whose cover is as a glamorous celebrity that owns a chain of shoe stores.

16. THE CHRONIC ARGONAUTS by H.G. Wells (graphic novel by Jason Quinn and Russ Leach…) A great story featuring time-travel! Surprised, right?

17. FLATLAND by Edwin A. Abbott  (e-book)  A classic novel that illustrates the concepts of higher and lower dimensions with an engaging story that’s part adventure, part philosophy, and part satire. There’s a reason this is a classic, folks!

18. HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams (audiobook)  This is my favorite book, one that I’ve read and reread many times over, and the audiobook is wonderful as well.

19. SCARLETT (The Lunar Chronicles: book 2)  by M. Meyer  The science-fiction, fairy tale saga of Cinder continues with this original take on Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf.

20. APOLOGY OF SOCRATES (audiobook) Again, does this really need a description?

21. THE GHOST TRAIN TO NEW ORLEANS by Mur Lafferty  This sequel to THE SHAMBLING GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY is full of the same intrigue, creatures, and humor as its predecessor.

22. GOBLIN QUEST (Goblin series: book 1) by Jim C. Hines   I was late coming to this particular series, but it was worth the wait. Jig the Goblin is a reluctant, yet endearing, unlikely hero when a band of adventurers ventures into his goblin cave.

23. DOCTOR WHO: FUGITIVE (volume 1) (graphic novel) This was a great deal I obtained through Humble Bundle, a wonderfully illustrated graphic novel featuring Doctor number 10.

24. THE CROSSOVER by Larry Kollar  When I read this adorably nerdy novel by my Twitter buddy and fellow #FridayFlash-er, Larry, I loved it. Fantasy characters transported to our own mundane world, mixing with geeks and gamesters. What’s not to love?

25. THE RESTAURANT AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE by Douglas Adams (audiobook) See #18.

26. CRESS (The Lunar Chronicles: book 3)  by M. Meyer  Continuing to blend science fiction and fairytales, Meyer introduces the character of Cress, a hacker trapped on a satellite in this futuristic take on Rapunzel.

27. GOBLIN HERO (Goblin series: book 2) by Jim C. Hines  A funny sequel to Goblin Quest featuring poor Jig the Goblin and some of his fellows as they face off against an invading horde of…. fairies.

28. TITUS ANDRONICUS (Shakespeare audio)  This horror play makes the most chilling Stephen King novel look like child’s play.

29. THE ODYSSEY by Homer (Fagles translation)  I borrowed this for a class I was taking online, and what I liked most about this was the how this translation was so easy to understand. I thought I was already familiar with the Odyssey though the other adaptations I had read, but I was wrong. Another MUST READ for the mythology lover!

30. THEOGONY by Hesiod (e-book) A poem about the origins of the Greek gods.

31. 1984 by George Orwell (e-book) Another book in my top ten that I have reread many times.

32. DOCTOR WHO: AGENT PROVOCATEUR by Gary Russell and Nick Roche (graphic novel)   This novel features Doctor number 10 along with his companion, Martha.

33. THE WALKING DEAD: volume 2 (graphic novel) – by Kirkman, Adlard, and Rathburn    See item #3.

34. THE WALKING DEAD: volume 3 (graphic novel) – by Kirkman and Adlard   See item #33.

35. THE WALKING DEAD: volume 4 (graphic novel) – by Kirkman, Adlard, and Rathburn  See item #34.

36. THE WALKING DEAD: volume 5 (graphic novel) – by Kirkman, Adlard, and Rathburn  See item #35.

37. INTO THE ICEBOUND by Larry Kollar  Another book in the Accidental Sorcerers series, you don’t need to be familiar with the other novels to enjoy this story!

38. THE AGAMEMNON of Aeschylus     The first play of the Oresteid Trilogy!

39. THE GIRL WHO TWEETED WOLF (Hobson and Choi: Case 1) by Nick Bryan   I originally started reading this as weekly installments for #TuesdaySerial, but I quickly became enamored with Bryan’s writing style, world, and characters.

40. JERICHO: SEASON 3 (CIVIL WAR)  (graphic novel)  When the cult television series ended on a cliffhanger after only two seasons, the story continued on in graphic novel form. It’s awesome.

41. GAME OF THRONES by George R. R. Martin (audiobook)  An excellent story, heavy on the political intrigue and backstabbing, with a dash of fantasy thrown in. The audio was read well. A very addictive series.

42. BOUND SOULS by Eric J. Krause  A steamy, supernatural romance!

43. JERICHO: SEASON 4  (graphic novel)   See item #40.

44. DOCTOR WHO: TESSERACT (graphic novel) The Tenth Doctor and Martha go on another epic adventure!

45. DEATH WARMED OVER by Kevin J. Anderson  (e-book) When a zombie detective investigates his own murder, aided by his ghost girlfriend and a human lawyer, what can go wrong?

46. CODE BREAKERS by Colin F. Barnes (e-book)   I got this one on the cheap through BookBub (I think) and though it wasn’t my favorite book, it was interesting enough to almost be worth what I paid for it.

47. INTO THE FIRE, PART 1 WOLVES by C. Gockel (e-book)  Humorous and addictive, these novels follow the exploits of the Norse god, Loki, and his human companion throughout this world as well as several others. I raced through this series. The first book is free, but you have been warned: It IS addictive!

48. INTO THE FIRE, PART 2 MONSTERS by C. Gockel (e-book)  See item #47.

49. JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL by Richard Bach (paperback)  A sweet novella about an outcast seagull who learns to transform himself and ultimately teaches others how to progress in their lives.

50. INTO THE FIRE, PART 3 CHAOS by C. Gockel (e-book)  See item #48.

51. INTO THE FIRE, PART 3.5 IN THE BALANCE by C. Gockel (e-book)  See item #50.

52. INTO THE FIRE, PART 4 FATE by C. Gockel (e-book)  See item #51.

53. INTO THE FIRE, PART 5 WARRIORS by C. Gockel (e-book)  See item #52.

54. STAR WARS, THE OLD REPUBLIC: REVAN (audiobook)  The voice work on this audiobook was great, though the story itself didn’t grab me in the same way as other Star Wars stories I’ve read. What’s interesting about the characters, however, is that it features several characters that use both the dark side and light side of the Force at different times in their lives.

55. BLINK by Larry Kollar  (e-book) I was privileged to be given a copy of this humorous superhero story, which is currently being released in installments on the author’s blog. It’s worth a read!

56. SHATTERED SHIELDS (e-book) edited by B. T. Schmidt and Jennifer Brozek  This anthology of military science-fiction and fantasy short stories features strong, realistic characters of both sexes in believable situations and interesting, sometimes heart wrenching, stories. My biggest complaint would be that I wanted each story to last longer.

57. THE RESTAURANT AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE by Douglas Adams (e-book)  Yes, I know I listened to the audiobook and I’ve also read this as an e-book before (2013). I have a problem, okay?

58. DOCTOR WHO: THE STONE ROSE by J. Rayner   This was one of the better Doctor Who novels I’ve read with the Tenth Doctor. Rose and the Doctor visit ancient Rome after Mickey discovers a statue of Rose in the British Museum. Unfortunately, Rose must learn to be careful what she wishes for.

59. DOCTOR WHO: ONLY HUMAN by Gareth Roberts (Doctor Who: 50th Anniversary)  The Ninth Doctor and his companions discover a Neanderthal in modern day Britain. While Captain Jack stays behind to instruct the poor creature on contemporary living, Rose accompanies the Doctor back to prehistoric times to solve the mystery of the Neanderthal’s temporal displacement, only to discover futuristic humans living in the past. I couldn’t stop reading this, and I could never have predicted the plot in a million years. Another MUST READ.

 

Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get to #60. I decided to go to a party that night instead. :)

If any of these selections interest you, you can either follow the links or google the titles. Except for comics I obtained through incredible Humble Bundle deals, I bought most through Comixology because I enjoy their Guided View Reading tech. It zooms in on panels so I can read my comics even on small screens like my cell phone. Audiobooks I mostly checked out through my local library or downloaded for free. I also got several deals on free or cheap e-books through BookBub. A lot of the series, as I stated within the list, I got hooked on through an initial free e-book, so buyer (or consumer of free stuff), beware!

I will try to get back on a semi-regular posting schedule again in the next few weeks. In the meantime, have a Happy New Year!

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Adventures in Nerd-dom

For fans of space epics and super heroes, the first weekend in May was a treasure trove. This past Friday, May 4th, was Star Wars day! Fans around the world celebrated a terrible pun (May the Fourth be with you) as well as a great movie series! Monsterbat and myself were lucky enough to be invited to our favorite indie bookstore, Backlist Books, for a Star Wars party. There were prizes, popcorn, and Star Wars trivial pursuit. The Yoda Soda (green punch) had Monsterbat bouncing off the walls, but it was worth it.

Saturday was our favorite day of the Year, Free Comic Book Day. Once a year, on the first Saturday in May, participating comic book stores across North America give away special ‘Free Comic Book Day’ editions of comics in order to promote this particular art of storytelling through pictures. I looked up the comics ahead of time, so I’d know which ones I was hunting looking for, and decided my quarry quest was for the Buffy/The Guild flip comic as well as the Zombie Kid (spoof of Diary of a Wimpy Kid).

We are fortunate enough to have several nice comic shops in our area. Our first stop was TOYS TIME FORGOT in Canal Fulton, but we had to come back later because there wasn’t any parking. It was worth the return trip.

Next we visited HEROIC ADVENTURES, where we not only got free comics, but Monsterbat received a signed drawing by our favorite local artist, Joe Miller. The store even hired a band to play and they had food and drinks available outside!-

BILL’S BOOKS & MORE was a bit of a challenge – again for parking. It was a small storefront with a tiny parking lot. We ending up circling several times before snagging a spot. Though the store was packed, this was the first store that carried the Buffy/Guild comic and also the Zombie Kid. Monsterbat was thrilled that they gave him the very last Heroclix Thor figure they had!

After that, we drove to HAZEL’S HEROES, and COMICS- CARDS AND COLLECTIBLES. Parking at both places was pretty easy, even though the stores were pretty small. Not only did we pick up free comics, I was able to pick up a first edition paperback of The Time Traders by Andre Norton as well as a paperback copy of Beneath the Planet of the Apes. I also found a great selection of graphic novels, and I left with a brand new copy of Darkman vs. Army of Darkness.
And, last but not least, we returned to TOYS TIME FORGOT. This time I parked by the library a block away (we were going there anyway), and we walked to the store. Their parking lot had two tents set up: one for free comics and another for local artists. There was also a face painter who took requests. After changing his mind several times between having his face painted like R2D2, a dragon, and Spiderman, he settled on becoming an Angry Bird. The artist even had the picture on his shirt as a guide, and we also ordered some comics and bought a fat pack of Magic cards. Though it’s a contradiction in terms, Monsterbat left a very happy Angry Bird.
We tried to hit The Big Read Kick-off party in Massillon as well, but we arrived too late. The Massillon Library was still kind enough to give us a copy of The collected stories of Edgar Allen Poe.
Sunday, the entire family packed up to see The Avengers. As much as I love Super heroes, the Hulk has always been my least favorite. He’s big and stupid and he smashes things. He’s more destructive than helpful in my opinion, and I know Hulk fans will say there’s smarter versions of him but I can’t help thinking of him as just this big, dumb, green guy.
This movie made the Hulk likeable.
Seriously.
That’s quite the accomplishment. I actually loved the Hulk in this! All the other characters were incredible as well, especially Thor. I love Thor. I mean, who wouldn’t love a hunky Norse god with a really big hammer?
As far as other accomplishments go, I’m working on another review for The Functional Nerds. I received my first contributor’s copy, the current issue of Beyond Centauri, which contains my flash story Red Riding Hood Revised. I’m still working on the collaborative zombie story for Choose Your Online Adventures, and I’m working on a flash for National Flash Fiction Day that will tie into their last story, Dust and Death.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for your time! I will be posting writing prompts and other content throughout the week. Have a lovely day.

 

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My Writing Niche- Episode #58: Of Shakespeare and Other Stuff

Play or download episode *here*

Welcome to My Writing Niche, a podcast for new writers. Today’s podcast, #58, was recorded for Sunday, April 29, 2012; and I’ll be sharing some things about Shakespeare as well as World Book Night and my current projects. As always, I will try to put any relevant links in the show notes for this podcast, at ganymeder.com

Relevant Links

http://birthday2012.bloggingshakespeare.com/

The Tempest

Shakespeare Re-told

Much Ado About Nothing

As You Like It

Henry V

Hamlet

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Weekly audio plays

(audio) Hamlet

World Book Night

‘Ender’s Game’ by Orson Scott Card

Choose Your Online Adventures

National Flash Fiction Day

Annual Dandelion Festival

Free Comic Book Day

Thank you for your time. Polite feedback is both welcomed and appreciated, and I hope you have a lovely week!

**image courtesy of hiddedevries via Flicker.

***Slow Burn from the album Blues Sampler courtesy of Kevin MacLeod via Creative Commons Attribution license. More of his music can be found at FreeMusicArchive.org or at http://incompetech.com.

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In Honor of Shakespeare

April 23rd is Shakespeare’s birthday. My son and I celebrated by giving away books for World Book Night; however there’s another party going on in the blogsphere. Between April 23rd and April 30th, bloggers around the world will post about the impact Shakespeare has had on their lives.

Shakespeare was a chore during school. His poetry was beautiful and romantic and I loved it instantly, but reading the plays was arduous. Let’s face it. Plays are meant to be seen – not read, deciphered, and picked apart in a classroom like that poor frog you tried to avoid dissecting in Biology class. Even with the teacher showing old movies, pointing to scenes and explaining, “No, see, it really IS funny!” If you have to explain the joke, the humor’s already lost.

However, Danny DeVito changed all that.

Renaissance Man  – a quirky film about a man teaching Shakespeare to misfit soldiers – helped me see the plays in a new way. Sex, drama, murder, betrayal… well, THAT’S certainly interesting! There was a scene where one soldier, answering his Sergeant’s question about the value of what he learned, quoted the Saint Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. For the first time, I saw how the plays were just as relevant today as they were hundreds of years ago. From that point on, I wanted to watch them all.

Kenneth Branaugh taught me to love Henry V. Derek Jacobi made me love Hamlet. Later on, I watched Mel Gibson’s Hamlet and compared the two. (I still like Jacobi’s performance better. Sorry, Mel.) I visited a small, 20-person occupancy theater to watch a double feature of Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Through library films, audio productions, and (with new understanding) paperback copies of the plays, I fell in love with Shakespeare’s work.

Almost twenty years have passed since I discovered a love of Shakespeare. I see his influence throughout our culture, in the common everyday words and phrases he created, to the multiple adaptations of his plots in film and books. I’ve even massacred dabbled with his plays in short stories – writing sequels and rewriting endings for humorous effect.  If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, William Shakespeare is the most complimented man in the English speaking world.

His words live on, and he is remembered.

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World Book Night 2012

I used to lend books, but now I never do. I only give them away.

Last year I worked my way though the newer Battlestar Galactica via Netflix. When Adama said that he never loaned books- only gave them away, it struck a chord. Half the time I’d never get back the books I’d loaned anyway, and how much does a book really cost compared to the joy of sharing something you love?

Last night was the first time World Book Night took place in the United States, and I was thrilled to be part of it. My son and I adore books. So when I followed a link on Twitter to the World Book Night site, I immediately applied to be a giver.

World Book Night originated last year in the United Kingdom. The premise is simple. By giving good books to light or non-readers, you’ll promote a love of reading in others.

One of my areas local libraries was the pickup point for the donated books. The librarian made it a special occasion to meet the other WBN participants in the area. It was thrilling – and more than a little intimidating – to hear their plans to distribute their favorite books. One woman planned to give them out at the prison, and another was giving them to inner city school children. They picked their titles (from the list of 30 choices) based on what they thought their target readers would enjoy.

My 11-year old son, Monsterbat, helped me promote World Book Night. We wore our WBN pins with pride, and I tweeted during the day about the event. Though we had many things to do that day, he was enthusiastic about giving away books that night. My intention was to distribute them at the local hospital, and he proudly carried a special WBN edition of ‘Ender’s Game‘ inside.

Unfortunately, the hospital staff told me that their policy wouldn’t allow me to give anything to the patients or visitors. However, I left with three fewer copies, because the volunteers wanted books. Monsterbat held the novel out to them as I explained, “It’s the story about a little boy raised to save the world. It’s one of our favorite books, and I’m sure you’ll love it!”

Since the hospital didn’t work out, we then went to the local mall. We approached salespeople with nothing to do or people who were walking or looked bored. We asked them if they read a lot. If they said no, Monsterbat would hold up the book and try to explain to them about World Book Night. Some looked skeptical, and I’d explain, “No, it’s free. We aren’t trying to sell you anything.” A few people turned us down, which really shocked me, because they said they just didn’t think they’d read it. So we thanked them and moved on. Others said they were not avid readers, but when I explained the book’s premise, it peaked their interest and they happily took a copy.

A few people said they were already readers, but I didn’t want to be rude by saying, “Well, nevermind then.” So I still offered them the book, but asked that they please pass it along when they were done. I was a little worried about that, but I think it still keeps in the spirit of World Book Night. Every time someone took a book, their face lit up, and they thanked us. We left with an empty box and light hearts.

I know that the world is just a little bit better today for all the wonderful books that were shared, and I’m so proud that I was able to share this experience with my beautiful little boy.

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Filed under All about books, Current events

Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Part of my new Year’s Resolution involves reading classics that have slipped past my radar, especially ones listed on NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books. Coming in at a respectable #21 on the list, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? has long been in my To-Be-Read pile, yet never dusted off and actually read.

Since there is no way I can read every book I want – nor every great author – in my lifetime, I aim to at least read their most renowned or pivotal work. I have been exposed to Philip K. Dick in short form through manybooks.net, but I’m glad I’ve finally made time to read his most famous work.

One of the first things that surprised me about the book was the fact that there actually was an electric sheep. I had assumed the title was simply a play on words due to the prominence of androids in the story (I’ve seen Blade Runner). However, the main character, Rick Deckard, stresses about his electric sheep throughout the novel. His bounty hunting is a way for him to earn enough money to buy a live animal so he can dispense with the synthetic copy.

After World War Terminus, dust and radiation blanketed the Earth – prompting mass emigration of the survivors to other planets. Humanoid-androids are offered as incentives to colonial emigrants. The humans left behind in the mostly empty cities fear the radioactive dust may make them ‘specials’ – genetically damaged and considered less than human.

Deckard works for the Police Department, hunting down humanoid androids that have fled servitude in the colonies to hide among the humans on Earth. Special empathy tests determine whether someone is  human or not, but are the tests accurate? Can some types of humans fail the test and be ‘retired’ in error? Things become more complicated when J.R. Isidore, a ‘special’ driver for an android-animal repair shop, encounters runaway androids; an encounter that sets him on a course where he will cross paths with Rick Deckard.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It kept me thinking, guessing what would happen next, wondering how the characters would handle their moral dilemmas. In the tradition of truly great science fiction, it kept me asking hard questions. What does the evolution of technology mean for human beings? What does it mean to be human?

However, the ending was a huge disappointment to me. My expectations were almost certainly colored by my memory of the movie version, Blade Runner; a movie that bears little resemblance to the actual novel. The entire novel seemed to be leading up to a confrontation, but the ending felt hollow. Perhaps that was the intent. Perhaps Dick wanted to put the reader in the same frame of mind as the characters throughout the book, but it left me dissatisfied.

I’m still glad I read the book. I recommend it as a science fiction classic, but with one caveat:  Reader Beware.

You may not like the ending.

 

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Review: Excelsior by George Sirois

With Excelsior, George Sirois successfully combines epic fantasy and mythic legends along with alien battles and futuristic technology (think King Arthur meets Star Wars). Matthew, a misanthropic teen dissatisfied with his home life, escapes into the world of his popular webcomic, Excelsior; in which his hero battles for the independence of Denab IV. Meanwhile, Matthew coasts through his classes and his life, hoping the time he invests in his story will one day pay off.

He has no idea.

Soon, his mundane, earthly existence becomes enmeshed in the struggle of the Denarian people that he writes about, and he must learn to find the hero within himself.

I loved this story. In a time when many Young Adult fiction novels seem to center around teen angst, the real strength of this story is how the science fiction elements combine and compliment Matthew’s struggle for personal identity. Don’t be fooled though. There’s plenty of advanced technology, alien battles, myths, prophecies, and legends to go along with his hero’s journey. The pace kept me turning pages as quickly as I could.

There are a few typos, despite the professional editing and proofreading, though not enough to detract from the story. This book is wonderful.

Any fans of science fiction, fantasy, or Arthurian lore would enjoy this book. As a parent, I plan on reading this to my son, as well as for my own entertainment. You should read this book. You won’t regret it.

Excelsior is available in paperback, as a Kindle ebook through Amazon, as well as in multiple formats via Smashwords.

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My Writing Niche- Episode 37: Banned Book Week

Play or download episode *here*

According to the American Library Association, September 24th through October 1st is Banned Book Week. With this in mind, I talk about a post I recently read about a student running a banned book library from their locker, Nanowrimo, what exactly it means for a book to be banned or challenged, questions about banned books, free downloadable materials, and finally a list of banned books as suggested reading to celebrate Banned Book Week.

The List:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (for Nook or Kindle)

His Dark Materials trilogy (for Nook and Kindle)

Sabriel (for Nook and Kindle)

The Canterbury Tales (free ebook- multiple formats)

The Divine Comedy (free ebook- multiple formats)

Paradise Lost (free ebook- multiple formats)

The Godfather (for Nook and Kindle)

Mort (for Nook and Kindle)

Interview with the Vampire (for Nook and Kindle)

The Hunger Games (for Nook and Kindle)

A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (for Nook and Kindle)

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (free ebook- multiple formats)

Animal Farm  (for Nook and Kindle)

The Witches

Shade’s Children (for Nook and Kindle)

The Evolution of Man (vol 1 & vol 2 free ebooks- multiple formats)

The Holy Qu’ran  (free ebook- multiple formats)

As always, polite feedback (critical or otherwise) is welcomed and appreciated. Thank you for your time, and have a lovely week.

*image courtesy of hiddedevries via Flicker.

**Slow Burn from the album Blues Sampler courtesy of Kevin MacLeod via Creative Commons Attribution license. More of his music can be found at FreeMusicArchive.org or at http://incompetech.com.

***Podcast episodes (#7- present) may be downloaded from this blog. Thank you for your patience while I maneuver through these podcasting waters.

 

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Filed under All about books, Current events, Podcast (audio files down but show note links active), Writing Corner