Wednesday, October 31, 2012


It's Halloween, folks, and that means it's Zombie Preparedness Day.  They're coming.  They'll be at your door tonight.  Will you be ready?

Zombie Walk 2009 © Katja Sarijeva and Piak

Zombies have largely been myths and legends over the years.  People have disregarded them as nothing more than fictional mayhem, a fun little scare to conjure during the late autumn months when the pumpkins ripen and the corn is ready to eat.

Zombie Walk 2009 © Katja Sarijeva and Piak

But we're now finally taking them seriously.  We're preparing for them.  In fact, today in San Diego, hundreds of Marines, Sailors, Soldiers, police, firefighters and folks from other disaster response organizations will conduct Zombie Apocalypse Training.  That's right - real life training for a zombie apocalypse.  Their goal is to train for preparedness in the case of a natural or man-made disaster.  Or, you know, a zombie outbreak.

Zombie Walk 200 9 © Katja Sarijeva and Piak

So what makes a zombie tick?  Why do they act the way they do?  They're slow, shambling, stumbling; they're after your brains.  But why?  Steven Schlozman, MD, an assistant medical professor at Harvard Medical School explains:

Well, that was comforting.  Or disturbing.  Whichever.  If it helps prepare you in any way for the impending apocalypse, I have done my job, and I'm proud of that.  Helping humanity through troubling times.  That's my job.  That and occasionally scaring the bejeezus out of folks.

But how did zombies get that way?  We've heard of zombies for centuries.  There has to be some kernel of truth behind the legends, some ghost of reality that caused people to repeat these stories and perpetuate the myths.  Let's go to Haiti to find out:

Again, a bit disturbing.  But on Halloween, that's a good thing, right?  I think so.  In fact, what's the holiday without a whole lot of gore and a little terror, anyway?  If you aren't scared at least once today, you're not living.

We plan on getting scared.  Plenty.  We have a list of great horror movies lined up for tonight, including some pretty good zombie flicks like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead.  Yea, we like a little comedy with our horror around these parts.

How about you?

Update:  The House of Dalar was in full zombie mode last night.  Those little trick-or-treaters really earned their candy, let me tell you!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Banned Books

This week, September 30 - October 6, 2012, is Banned Books Week, so what better time to take a look at books that have been banned over the years in various countries?  I'll select a few examples, and discuss a bit about why they were banned.  Should be not only fun, but hopefully insightful.

Several classic science fiction novels have been banned in various countries, including some of the most iconic examples of the genre: Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, both by George Orwell; Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley; and Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.  Those are some pretty heavy hitters, and books that are now on many educational reading lists.  But why were they banned?

Brave New World was supposedly banned in Ireland for "references of sexual promiscuity," and in fact many books in many different countries were banned for similar reasons, including Frankenstein.  Obscenity seems to be a common theme for those pushing to ban certain books, and one does not have to look very far to find examples of books banned for obscenity as recently as this year.

I get the obscenity angle, the push to keep society (and children, of course) as Puritan as possible.  Many countries, the United Kingdom and America especially, have been quite prudish regarding this sort of thing.  But while it's understandable to shield those not mature enough to handle certain situations from them, it's another altogether to push an agenda of morality on a country's citizenry.  Banning something on moral grounds indicates not only mistrust in people to make rational decisions based on the content for themselves, but also behavior that stifles the ability to learn rational decision-making.  After all, if one is shielded from anything deemed inappropriate, how can they learn the process of identifying it as such for themselves?  "Because I said so" works well with toddlers.  They have limited experience with making sound decisions.  But once a person matures to the point where they are supposed to make decisions on their own, that is no longer a viable reason.

George Orwell's works have been banned for much more obvious reasons: they are outright political satire, and were banned because of their criticism of communism and corruption in government.  Stalin knew Nineteen Eighty-Four was a clear jab at him and his leadership, and enacted a ban on the book throughout the U.S.S.R that continued through 1990, when it was edited and re-released.

These are clear cases of the suppression of free speech, and key indicators of those governments' stances toward that basic human right.  Interestingly, communist-led countries were not the only ones to ban Orwell's books.  Allied forces banned Animal Farm during parts of World War II because of its critical look at the U.S.S.R., and was deemed too "controversial" to print during wartime.

Many other books have been banned for any number of reasons, with "subversive material," "hate literature," "insulting material," and "unflattering portrayal" of individuals, religions, governments, or populations cited as reasons.  Books as old as the Bible and as innocuous as dictionaries have been banned.  Generally, it appears that if a book contains anything someone somewhere would find objectionable, it's going to get banned.

And that's a shame.  A book may not be tasteful or politically correct.  It may be lewd, inappropriate, or offensive.  It may even be downright vile or provocative.  And none of that matters.  It's still just a book.  Words.  Nothing in any book should exempt the actions of a human being, capable of making conscious choice to commit those actions.

We've seen this tested recently, with the terror attacks in Benghazi, supposedly linked to outrage over an amateur movie.  We've seen calls to limit offensive or provocative speech.  Will common sense prevail, or as Fahrenheit 451 alluded to, will they one day come for our books in an effort to suppress dissent, quell unrest, or create the illusion of peace and prosperity?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Brave New World

Aldous Huxley's science fiction masterpiece Brave New World is set further in the future than many such stories, reaching clear to the year 2540 AD, or "632 A.F.," as it calls the year.  It's one of the earlier "utopian" novels, and in my humble opinion one of the best.  Of course, that opinion is shared by many lovers of literature, so it probably counts for something.  It's sometimes referred to as "dystopian" fiction, but is more a negative look at a false utopia rather than the portrayal of a dystopian society.

Huxley was already a well-established satirist when he wrote the book, which probably attributes to the impact it's had on society.  Satire needs an honest, critical look at a topic, something it shares with well written science fiction, and Brave New World is a great example of this.  It's less obvious now, so removed from the year 1931 when it was written, but the world of the future with its sociological, political, and economic changes certainly resonated with then-current world events.  In fact, the names of all the book's characters were taken from influential and well-known figures of the time.  Many, such as Lenin, Trotsky, Mussolini, and Hoover are still widely recognized historical figures.

One of the best gauges of a novel is whether it passes the test of time, and Brave New World does.  Many of the topics addressed throughout the book are still important and controversial today.  Mass production was a relatively new concept at the time Huxley wrote it, but the book's critical look at consumerism and affinity for material goods is as relevant today as it was then.  Religion as we understand it is almost nonexistent in the book, with Henry Ford as the only real deity remaining, another nod to the effects of consumerism.  Vestiges of traditional religion remain, but are fragmented and few, with many modified to reflect a purely secular society.  Similarly, the concepts of family and individualism are ghosts of what we know them as today.

Another interesting look at societal issues is Huxley's application of genetic modification.  The structure of DNA wasn't yet explored when he wrote the book, but he did an excellent job of describing artificial selection of traits and qualities that we see today.  His breeding and conditioning system is eerily similar to today's cloning and stem cell research.  Such a thing is common with breeding domestic animals, but becomes far more controversial when humans are brought into the discussion.  Huxley's stark look at human castes, where humans are born into distinct, predetermined roles, from the privileged "Alpha" literati to the mindless worker drone "Gammas," "Deltas," and "Epsilons," is as relevant to this discussion today as it was then.

There are dark undertones of ostracism and segregation throughout the book, as we learn of the splintered fragments of civilization who live outside the bounds of the established World State.  The obvious differences between those of normal society and the character of John the Savage are larger than simple appearance and culture.  There is a fundamental difference in thought between the two, which is something that drives both plot and narrative.  "Savages" are outcasts, and are thought of as lesser beings as compared to those in the "brave new world," but when John comes to visit, he only accentuates the hollowness and lack of substance in their utopian society.

More than just a dissertation on societal issues, this book is a critical look at real world problems that arise from an exploding population and the constant need to ever improve and expand the concept of humanity, while feeding our insatiable desire for materialism and comfort.  In fact, it's been argued this novel is a better prognosticator of future dystopia than Orwell's 1984.  It is a must-read for not only science fiction lovers, but for all members of society.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mission To Mars!

As you've probably heard by now, NASA's newest six-wheeled rover Curiosity landed on Mars this month.  No small feat.  There were so many things that could have gone wrong, and didn't.  Instead of disappointment at what might have been, we have an awesome robotic machine tearing up the Red Planet's soil, taking samples, pictures, and data of all sorts.  Outstanding!

Curiosity was launched from Earth on the Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle on November 26, 2011.  It landed in the Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012, after traveling 354 million miles to get there.  Not only did it make it there, it landed within a mile and a half of its target landing spot, which is a damn fine bit of accuracy for something that far away.  Curiosity is scheduled to explore the planet for at least 687 Earth days, or one Martian year, and cover a distance of 3.1 by 12 mi miles.  It's nuclear powered, and has the fuel to function for about four Earth years, so we may see more of it than just what's planned.

Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle © by Official US Air Force

I've put together some links and resources to follow Curiosity's mission there.  NASA (Twitter handle @NASA) is the ultimate source of all things Curiosity, but not the only one.  The NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (Twitter handle @NASAJPL) manages most of the robotic missions exploring Earth, the solar system and the universe, including this one to Mars.  Curiosity itself shares a lot of information, with the Twitter handle @MarsCuriosity, on Facebook, and on Google +.  Of course, it's not live tweeting and posting from Mars, but don't tell it that.

It has already sent back some amazing footage, including the hair-raising decent onto the surface of Mars, and the first 360 degree panoramic shot of the surface.  Even more amazing is seeing ourselves from the perspective of another planet.

Earth From Mars © NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA named Curiosity's landing site on Mars for the late science fiction author Ray Bradbury, calling it the Bradbury Landing Site.  If only he could have seen it happen.  Bradbury was hugely instrumental in sparking and nurturing our interest in the Red Planet.  I think he would have loved to see these wonderful pictures sent back from the planet he wrote so much about.

Wall of Gale Crater © NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

So what's in store for Curiosity in the future?  Well, besides the beautiful pictures of the Martian landscape and the view from there into our galaxy, we can expect quite a bit more.  Its mission is to explore the planet's "habitability," to determine if it ever had an environment that could sustain life.  Most of this research will be conducted with soil analysis, studying rocks, soils, and Martian geology to understand chemical composition and forms of carbon there.  This will help assess what the environment was like there in the past, and could lead to the discovery of life there.  At the very least, it should tell us if life on Mars was ever even a possibility.

Wall of Gale Crater © NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In addition to exploring the geological and mineralogical composition of the surface and near-surface, it will study and catalog the organic carbon compounds and chemical building blocks of life (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorous, and sulfur) on Mars, giving us an understanding of the biological processes that have happened there.  It will also study the atmospheric evolution processes from the present state and distribution of any water and carbon dioxide it finds there.  This will go a long ways toward determining if there was ever life on Mars.

Wiggle in the Gravel © NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity is much larger than the previous rovers we've sent there.  It also has over ten times the mass of scientific instruments they had, so its capacity for learning and discovery are far greater than ever before.  It has more missions than they did, and more capacity to send its findings back to its home planet.  Until the next mission is launched in 2016, it's our best shot at discovering life on Mars.

So is there life there?  Was there ever?  Were the conditions ever right for it?  Some folks think so.  In fact, some think life on Earth actually originated from Mars.  With Curiosity, we may soon find out the answers to those questions and many more.

Update:  Found a wonderful film/animation of how Spirit and Opportunity got to Mars.  Well worth a view, preferably full-screen.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Who Wants To Live Forever?

An awful lot has been said throughout history on the subject of immortality.  Religions of all denominations proclaim eternal life as the successor to death.  Spanish explorer and conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon was obsessed with it.  Humans for millennia have been trying to achieve it.  And it's a major theme in speculative fiction, from Dracula to Highlander.

Immortals come in a number of varieties: deities, vampires, ghosts, zombies, alien races, observers, and even humans who, through science or magic, have escaped the grasp of death.  Some forms portray immortality as gruesome; tales of warning perhaps.  Some laud it as the holy grail of all life.  And all make us question our own feelings when faced with such a possibility.

A recent news article - where Russian scientist Dmitry Itskov is working to create a humanoid robot, capable of housing artificial brains which contain a person's complete consciousness - got me to thinking about this subject.  This project, if successful, would allow the human consciousness to escape the body before death, and live on forever in the body of an avatar.  Some of our wildest science fiction could soon become reality.

Da Vinci Vitruvian man, © Luc Viatour (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Aside from the initial knee-jerk reaction of not wanting to die, it's an interesting quandary. One could quite realistically choose to avoid death, but could one choose to give up that borrowed time later on? There are many ethical and moral questions to be pondered here besides simple immortality. What about things like human relationships and sex? Since a venture of this nature is so incredibly expensive, what of the implications of Itskov suggesting that such cybernetic immortality can be exchanged for a price? At what point does one's intellect and contributions to society factor into the equation? And when will the ability to choose potential immortals be bought and paid for? Almost immediately after implementation, one would assume.

And while many people jump at the idea of living forever, many others are repulsed by the idea. The thought of always being around, outliving anyone you ever cared about, watching as those around you die off one by one is something they'd rather not face. To those of this opinion, it's a horror - a curse, not a blessing at all.

I intend to live forever. So far, so good.

- Steven Wright

That's my opinion on the matter too. While death is said to be the last great adventure, I'm not quite ready to give up adventuring where I am just yet. I'm having far too much fun. I don't think, even after pondering it as long as I have, that I'd be too disappointed with immortality. I think I'd kind of like it. After all, it'd give those "back in the day" stories some real meat, wouldn't it?

A lot of this argument centers around quality of life. "I wouldn't want to outlive my usefulness, my ability to really get out and live!" we opine from the comfortable sanctuary of the couch. We say this, while hiding the fact that not only haven't we been anywhere or seen anything special in longer than we care to admit. We love the adventurer, the world traveler, the guy who gets into these fantastic, chaotic situations around the world, but we only love it because we can watch from the safety of our own little world.

A symbolic gravestone in Foulden Churchyard,  © Copyright Walter Baxter 

And it seems the main argument is that we'd have to sit around for all eternity watching our loved ones die, but really, that happens even now. And we continue to live and move on, as does the circle of life. We're constantly making new friends, losing track of some of the old ones. Would immortality really change this pattern? I don't think it would.

So how about you? How does Itskov's possibility of cybernetic immortality strike you? Is it the coolest idea ever? A nightmare too horrible to consider? Some combination of nightmare and dream?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Writing Advice from the Masters

So there's a lot of writing advice out there.  A lot of it's great.  Some of it stinks.  I've even thrown my two amateur cents into the ring from time to time, whether good, bad or otherwise.  It all has some merit, though, when weighed with a grain of salt or two.  After all, many great authors differ greatly with the advice they give on writing.  And one can still learn from mistakes and bad advice, just as they can from the good.

On that note, I thought it fitting to compile some advice clips from the masters of the craft, those to whom we look to as the ultimate experts of the trade.  Here are ten authors talking about various aspects of storytelling.  Enjoy and learn as I did.

Ray Bradbury on writing persistently:

The most interesting part of this is how he would send short story after short story out, and wait for the rejections.  This is something I've done countless times, and at about the same ages.  Always the rejections.  I looked forward to them, to each one, hopefully with some tidbit of personal advice upon which to learn and grow.  I have close to 300 of them from short stories alone, most collected during my teens and early twenties, tucked away as mementos to perseverance and to giving my heart and soul to writing.  Most of the time between then and now has been spent writing, honing, perfecting; not trying to get published.  I've been too often in parts of the world where it was just not conducive to querying.  It's always been on my mind, even in places as foreign as Afghanistan, as quite a few rejections will testify to.

Elmore Leonard on hard work, characters, descriptions, and rhythm in writing:

"I made myself get up at five o'clock every morning to write fiction.  I had a rule that I had to begin writing, get into whatever the scene was, before I could put the coffee on.  If I hadn't done that, I don't think I'd be sitting here today."  That is a pretty powerful impetus for sitting down on your ass and cranking the words out.  Probably makes most of us, even the more successful ones, a little chagrined, more eager to jump back into a story again.  He's absolutely dead on - at least in my case - about writing four pages for every one quality page.  Writing is rewriting.  The one thing I can't agree with is writing longhand.  I've done it before, and just can't stand it.  Give me a good ol' word processor every day of the week.  That way I can go back and change a word mid-stroke when I realize it wasn't the best choice to use.

Stephen King on writing short stories:

So interesting his view on why people don't read short stories as much anymore.  He attributes it to laziness, which is probably a large percentage of the truth.  The other percentage, I think, is the way stories are promulgated to the public.  We aren't satisfied with a single peek at something.  We have to have more.  Even a movie or a single book isn't enough.  We have to have trilogies and series and goddamn sagas!  Let it never end!  And yet a short story does just that.  It's like the one night stand of literature, that fleeting kiss in the night, never to be continued, but only remembered for its fiery brevity.  I absolutely love short stories.  And in today's world of short attention span theater, and fear of commitment, I don't know how the short story isn't more popular than it is.

Kurt Vonnegut on writing short stories:

Short, sweet advice, just like a short story.  But it's some of the best advice I've ever heard.  And the thing is, all these words of wisdom are just as applicable to writing novels as they are to shorter works.  We see professionals in the literary business talking about how stories just don't start fast enough, that there's too much pre-story or world building, or character development happening before the actual story starts.  Vonnegut's advice on starting the story as close to the end as possible is just as good in these cases as it is for a piece of flash fiction.  Start with the action, make your characters want something, and then take it away from them.

Neil Gaiman with advice for new writers:

His advice, apart from going out and actually living and seeing the world is spot on. If you want to write, you have to write. The elves aren't going to magic your book into finished form. You're not going to get a sudden epiphany one day and churn out a book, slavering over an old fashioned typewriter like the classics. You're not friggin' Snoopy, sitting on your doghouse, pecking out that great work of literature without a flaw. You're going to make mistakes. You're going to write absolute crap. God knows I have. And you'll learn from it. You'll edit like there's no tomorrow, and when you're done, the finished product will look nothing like what you started with. And it's all because you wrote, and wrote, and wrote. And wrote some more.

Margaret Weiss talks with R.A. Salvatore on collaboration and how gaming affects fantasy books:

The most interesting part of this interview for me is hearing about collaboration. A story of any size is very personal; it's probably one of the most intimately personal pieces of creativity there is, and sharing that with anyone can create some complex and often problematic issues. It appears that one of the reasons why Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman have been so successful writing fantasy together is the way they have worked together. Each person has specific tasks and goals, each a certain chunk of the story they are responsible for. With less overlap, there is less a chance that the artistic vision of one author will clash with that of the other.

Louis L'Amour talks about historical accuracy and research in writing:

One thing he mentions later in this interview is his trademark lack of profanity. While he grew up in among a very rough crowd, he never saw the need for it. He didn't feel it was appropriate to use profanity, and that using it was often a crutch for a "lack of real skill". While I'll sprinkle my stories with profanity where necessary, L'Amour has a very good point - one shouldn't have to use it at all to get the point across. In the end, I'd opine that it's fine if used as a part of one's style; not if used as a crutch.

Chuck Palahniuk with a succinct analogy on writer's block:

Slightly crude or not, his point is made. And that's really the thing. Many writers advise one to write every day, to write nonstop. But Palahniuk's advice is simpler: if you don't have anything to write, there's no sense trying to force it out. But I think it goes deeper than that, and is something that is nuanced in what he says here. Many writers have tons of great ideas, filling their heads and overflowing onto the written page, whether they like it or not. But they don't have those ideas without living, without gaining experiences, because those experiences are what feed the ideas necessary to write.

Garrison Keillor with some advice to writers:

"Get out of the house," he says, and he's right, because writing isn't just about the author. In fact, I'd argue it's exactly the opposite. Writing has almost nothing to do with the writer, and everything to do with the reader. It's the reader's experience that brings a book to life, not the writer's. If you don't go out and experience life, relate to others, stay tuned to what's happening in the world, you'll end up writing a bunch of self-absorbed pretentious crap that nobody wants to read.

John Irving with encouragement to new writers:

It's tougher today than ever before to break through in this industry. The competition is not only an increasingly larger number of writers, but it's also tougher. The talent pool is larger. But that shouldn't mean discouragement. Rather it should be incentive to work all that much harder. It takes a lot to really produce a quality work of art, no matter the medium, and the higher the competition level, the better the best work is going to be.

Watching these videos, we get rather common themes from them. Write often. Read a lot. Get out there and live. Persevere. Write a variety of genres and lengths. Experiment. But over all, write, write, write. And then write some more.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Finding One's Voice

I find it odd, this thing called voice.  I read quite a wide variety of authors, both classic and contemporary, and with the good ones, no matter the genre, voice is always king.

Fellow Pacific Northwest native Tom Robbins, of which I've spoken before, has one of the most distinguishable voices there is.  His voice is magnificent!  It rises from whatever depths necessary to envelop the reader with pearls of wisdom, still wrapped in the gooey funk of the underdeep.  He grabs the reader by the stack and swivels, and woos you face to face with his wisdom and wit, whether you like it or not.  He's the only author I know who shatters George Carlin's plea on writing:

The only story I know of where clouds are important was Noah’s Ark!

- George Carlin

Tom Robbins does better than that.  "A rank of ample black clouds had been double-parked along the western horizon like limousines at a mobster’s funeral. Rather suddenly now, they wheeled away from the long green curb and congregated overhead, where, like overweight yet still athletic Harlem Globetrotters, they bobbed and weaved, passing lightning bolts trickily among themselves while the wind whistled 'Sweet Georgia Brown,'" he writes in Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates.  And in another novel, I forget which at the moment, he describes clouds as "nuns having a pillow fight".

That's voice, folks, pure voice.  Few others can equal that ability to trick images to leap into our minds from a few carefully placed words on a page.  None can mimic that exact cadence and poetry he employs.  And even if he's just talking about the weather - something writers are constantly advised not to do - you want to keep on reading.

Robbins isn't alone in displaying a unique, discernible voice.

Stephen King has a voice.  So much so that people called him out on his pseudonym Richard Bachman, because after a few novels they had it figured out, just by the sound of the voice.  His voice is one of the things that sets him apart from other authors, and one of the main reasons I believe he's had so much success.

David Eddings had a unique voice as well.  So much so that one could easily identify the author just by reading a few passages of his character's dialogue.  His dry, sardonic humor seeped into his characters so well that it made them easily recognizable and made them react in familiar manners when faced with obstacles in the plot.

And that, I think, is one of the problems of having such a distinctive voice.  All authors put so much of themselves into their work that it shows through in every character, every passage of narration.  But by doing that, they give it a sense of sameness, of consistency.  And while this is good for the overall tone of the book, it has a tendency, as we've seen with some of Eddings' writing, to give all the characters a similar voice.  And if they all sound the same, it's hard to make them unique.

A certain adaptation to character is needed.

It would be nice to have a certain way of adapting to whatever voice was needed at the time, a kind of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse way of slipping into a character and making it your own.  To create characters with a sort of schizophrenia, allowing completely different personalities to seep into each.  This is why perhaps, a pool of writers such as in a television series allows a more diverse group of characters.  It's easier for different writers to focus on different characters, instead of pouring themselves into each one.

And it seems some characters lend themselves more easily to voice than others.  I have one in particular who is so insistent on being an individual that he stands out easily from the others.  He's less subtle, I guess, which helps.  He's a little harder to write because he's over the top a bit, and yet I don't want him to come across as too much so.  It would create too much of a caricature out of him, when what I really need is just the emotional energy he provides.

I think a distinctive voice comes down to two things, and both stem from copious amounts of writing.

The first is experience, simple time spend pounding the words into story.  The more you do that, the more your voice begins to take shape and the less it imitates your sources of inspiration.  You begin to see how to hone your writing, to delete excess words, identify overused words, and craft tighter sentences.  All of this lends to your voice, making it more distinct and more identifiable as yours.

The second thing necessary is an understanding of your characters.  The more a writer knows about a character, the more distinctive their voice becomes.  When they're loosely shelled out, with vague goals and moods, they're harder to define.  They have no substance, no value behind what they do and say; they're simply doing or saying those things to advance the plot.  When that happens, they fall short as believable characters.

In the end, it's just hard work.

It takes time to hone one's voice.  Time spent cloistered away from living companionship, lost with those who live only in your own mind.  It takes hours and days and months and years sitting there, crafting words, blowing them up, and crafting them all over again.  Even a cursory look at the great writers will show that they put their devotion to writing above all else.  They prioritized it, even when they had to work other jobs to put food on the table.

They say it takes 10,000 hours of doing anything to master it.  I think I've easily surpassed that mark, probably years ago.  But I think that's just the first tiny step in the longer journey of honing one's voice and mastery of storytelling.  There is always much room for improvement, and still so very much to learn.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Art of Profanity

Let's talk a bit about dirty words.  It's been on my mind lately, especially after a #kidlit chat on Twitter regarding swearing.  It's an interesting - and often polarizing - topic.  It's one quite fascinating to me.  Of note, be advised this post contains quite a few, so if you're squeamish or you aren't really old or mature enough for the higher caliber words, please see your way to the door.  This is a discussion for sensibly minded adults.

"Some guy hit my fender, and I told him, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' but not in those words."

- Woody Allen

That quote shows - not tells - a scene far more effectively than if it were written exactly how it happened. We know in one sentence what Allen actually said. We know he swore at the guy, even though he mentioned nothing about swearing. It's a great example of how to create a mental image of the profanity without saying anything bad at all. Masterfully done. If Allen had said he'd told the guy to go fuck himself, it wouldn't have been funny, and furthermore the scene would have been instantly rendered mundane and forgettable - just some guy yelling profanities after a car crash.

So very obviously, we often don't need to swear to get our point across.  Many times the point is made even better without profanity. Actor John Ratzenberger, best known for his role of Cliff Clavin in Cheers, reportedly once said about a project, "There are times over different projects when I've asked the writers why people are swearing for no good reason. I tell them that it would be funnier if there weren't these swear words." That's true. Cussing for cussing's sake is stupid. Sometimes less is more.

But sometimes it's not. Sometimes we need a larger shock to the system. Sometimes our intention is not humor as in the quote above, but rather horror, or revulsion, or any number of the baser emotions. And sometimes the "dirty" words are just the best damn tools for the job.

Consider the scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, where Steve Martin's character, after a horrible debacle trying to find a nonexistent rental car and a journey from the middle of nowhere, across highways and even a runway, returns to the agency counter and has to deal with a smarmy agent who has no desire to help him at all. Watch:

If it wasn't for that barrage of eff-bombs, this scene would have been nothing.
It would have been a forgettable part of the movie that pushed the plot along, and tried perhaps unsuccessfully to endear us to Martin's character and his plight. The swearing not only personalizes his problems to the viewer, but also positions the dialog to enable him to tell her how much he doesn't appreciate the way her company treated him. It also sets the scene up perfectly for that succinct and very vital punchline: "You're fucked." Without it, the scene falls limp, destined to be forgotten with every other harried airport/car rental/bus station/train station scene out there. It doesn't, precisely because of the obscenities. Could the scene have been rewritten to conform to "PG" standards? Certainly. Would it have been as funny and memorable? Hell no!

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (Lee Ermey) in Full Metal Jacket would not have been nearly the character he was if not for his colorful language. Without the carefully constructed obscenities, the character of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) in Scarface would have been just another two-bit gangster. Profanity was one of the traits that made both those characters living, breathing people instead of cardboard cutouts. The use of colorful vocabulary is not vital to round out every character, but for those it was.

"Obscenity is whatever happens to shock some elderly and ignorant magistrate."

- Bertrand Russell

Obscenity is what we make it. A word is only as inflammatory as people take it to be, and that varies from circle to circle. One person may interpret a word very differently than another person. And obscenity can be starkly different culture to culture. Swearing in most Eastern European cultures is fairly acceptable, and most Slavic languages have a wide range of very colorful swear words. In many parts of Asia, however, it is not. Many Asian and Pacific languages don't even have a direct translation of some of the more vulgar terms.

Really, dirty words are just "dirty"; no word is inherently a dirty word because they're all just words. Though to some we assign more value than others, giving them varying degrees of power and influence. They're given power by those who use them in certain ways, and have power taken away by others who use them differently. If a word offends, it's because of the experiences and prejudices of the reader or listener that it does.

"Vulgarity is the garlic in the salad of taste."

- Cyril Connelly

This quote serves to show that profanity is a vital part of language. Like garlic, it adds spice, and like garlic, a little usually goes a long way. There's a fine line between use and over use of any word, and this is particularly the case with words that aren't acceptable vernacular in all parts of society. The more inflammatory the word, the more punch that word delivers, but only if used right. If used wrong, it has the opposite effect, which is a bad thing.

Another aspect of vulgarity is its propensity to lend itself to unique and imaginative forms. Run of the mill profanity is mundane, and as a result, often falls into the category I mentioned above, "cussing for cussing's sake". You can take it out and subtract nothing from plot, scene, atmosphere, or character. The imaginative stuff you can't. Describing someone as an ass-clown, or saying they were engaged in some kind of asshattery or another, evokes images which can't easily be explained with other words. Saying "tomfoolery" instead of "asshattery" isn't quite the same. It's too innocuous, too innocent. Saying they were juveniles engaged in delinquent behavior is similar, but not nearly the same. Not by a long shot. It may convey meaning, but it does shit-all for the tone. And inventive swearing makes for the best insults, by far.

Don't get me wrong; this type of colorful wordsmithing can be done without the use of profanity.  Tom Robbins, one of my favorite authors, applies colorful, imaginative forms to all his writing, but it is truly an art to do it the way he does. Not many can imitate him successfully, and profanity often does in one word what takes a paragraph of polite words to do.

Use, of course, varies between not only characters, but authors themselves. When you get to know a writer, you start figuring out what you're going to get when you read their books. You understand the words they use, how they use them, and how they work for that author. Consider Chuck Wendigan author who wields curse words like a samurai wields a katana. It's largely because of his irreverent love of profanity, and dark, twisted writing style that his books are so great to read. Constant swearing works for him, and quite well. It doesn't for everyone, and if it doesn't work for someone, then trying to force it will probably end badly.

No matter if certain words are off limits for you, whether uncouth, blasphemous, racial, or otherwise obscene, they all have a purpose.  As long as they serve their intended purpose, they're a necessary part of a story, even the "dirty" ones. I think so anyway, but that's just one idiot's opinion.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review: Slaughterhouse-Five

Kurt Vonnegut's best known work is part war memoir, part dark comedy, and part science fiction.  None of those genres make the book what it is.  Stellar writing, satire, and a voice like no other are what make this book one of the finest pieces of literature ever to be penned, and Vonnegut one of the finest novelists to put pen to paper.

The books' plot is jangled and fragmented, and follows a quite nonlinear narrative.  The main character, Billy Pilgrim, jumps around from one point in his life to the next, without real pattern or reason.  He has become "unstuck in time".  He's quite fatalistic, resigned to his fate, and simply along for the ride much of the time.  He is so not because of any negativity, but because he's seen his death and he knows why it happens.  There is nothing he can do to prevent it and he knows this.

We follow him as he jumps between life on the planet Tralfamadore (where he was kidnapped by aliens, thus unsticking him in time), to Dresden, Germany during World War II, to his life before the war and after it with his wife and son.  The jumps are at random, but allow him to have a realistic view on his own life and death without becoming pessimistic.

The plot is merely secondary to the reading experience, though.  What shines through is Vonnegut's ability to tell a story.  I think one of the paragraphs that shows that ability the most is how he describes a minor character near the end of the book.  He doesn't write a word about how she looks, but he doesn't need to.  When he writes that she is "a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies," the image in the reader's mind is crystal clear.  He has no need to enhance an image of her using any physical descriptions because she is already fully formed in the reader's mind.  With a single sentence, he accomplishes what most authors need several paragraphs to do.

And this is common throughout the book.  Many times he never really says what is going on directly, but rather talks about how a character relates to it.  And every time, the reader gets a clear vision of what is going on, without actually reading it.

The book has an intimate feel to it, as though Vonnegut is sharing an inside secret with only a single reader.  At several points in the book, he breaks the fourth wall and explains that he was there when a particular thing happened, inviting us to believe the whole as recounted memoir, and not just scattered incidents serving as inspiration for a work of fiction.  It makes it that much more believable, even when he explains that the alien Tralfamadorians can see in four dimensions, and have already seen every instant of history, past and future.

It's an interesting look at a wide array of colorful, interesting characters, more a study on human nature and personal interactions than classic story line.  It's a look into behaviors, and into our very souls.  We find ourselves drawn into the story not only for the plot and characters, but the way Vonnegut puts words together. All authors have the same words to use.  Kurt Vonnegut was better than most at arranging them in a pleasing manner.

So it goes.

It's available on Amazon, should you somehow not have it in your collection.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Forgot my Phone

It's a pretty common phrase nowadays: "I forgot my phone."  Hear it quite often, as a matter of fact.  Everyone has cellphones, everyone's life is practically tied to them, and they're little, often misplaced, items.  Along with that phrase, you'll also hear ones like "my phone died," or even "I lost my phone."  Happens all the time.

The technology is on the way to make those phrases obsolete, to throw them right in with "I would have called, but I didn't have a quarter," "I couldn't get a hold of you because your phone was busy," "I couldn't find a pay phone," and "I can't find the number because I don't have a phone book."

Pictured below, what we use today to write messages, take pictures, watch videos, read books, buy items, pay bills, retrieve information, and play games.  Among other things, such as actually talking to someone located elsewhere.

Ramsbury: telephone box, © Chris Downer

I think the end result will be a merging of several technologies, the first of which is "wearable, depth-sensing perception."  We're also seeing more of these sorts of advances with contact lenses supporting alternate reality.  Soon the two will merge, creating the first non-device-centric communication ability.

The next data point in this progression is implantation.  It's bound to happen.  We're seeing how this can be integrated with surgically implanted intraocular lenses.  Now imagine this, but fused with cellular phone, Internet, and GPS technology.  You'd quite literally have the virtual world available in front of you at all times.  Your phone would be with you at all times, because it would be a part of you, accessible with the touch of an imaginary button.

Of course, not everyone likes that.  Many would love to be able to escape from connection, to disappear into the woods on an extended camping trip, or go on vacation, without the need for a constant link to home, work, friends, or family.  Like it or not, we're connected, and that connection will only get stronger.

It's the future of communications, the forefront of the virtual world.  The only question is, how soon will it get here?  How soon will that connection fuse with us, allowing us to skip the devices and connect on our own?  Do we even want that?  And if we don't, how long will it be before we do want it?

I'd guess not long at all.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Great Amazon KDP Select Experiment

I'm doing a bit of an experiment.  What's new, really?  Separate Worlds has always been a bit of experimental fun.  It's told from two perspectives, it's a novella in a world of novels, and I threw it to the wolves in an attempt to learn the brave new world of self-publishing.  In that regard, I already consider it a success.  It's hardly a bestseller, hardly selling well at all.  After all, exposure is everything; just ask Snooki.  At least my book's coherent.  But I feel I learned more than if I'd taken the money it cost to publish it and spent it on a college course on self-publication.

And it's still a learning experience, still teaching me things about the business that I'll use, no matter if I self-publish again or not.  There are so many things to be learned about this business, and pecking out words in solitary hardly scratches the surface.

Marketing is one aspect many authors lack experience and expertise in.  It's not their forté; slinging words onto the page and conjuring images in readers' minds are.  But in spite of that - and more and more in today's publishing age - they have to learn it.

And that's where programs like Amazon's KDP Select come in.  Foremost, it's a marketing ploy by Amazon, a way to gather more attention to their products and sell them.  If you're an author, with books available for purchase online, that means it's your marketing ploy as well.

Essentially, when an author enrolls a book in the program, they allow Amazon to lend it to Amazon Prime members for free, while making a small percentage of the monthly fund allocated for it.  Using numbers from their FAQ page - not mine; I wish I had such numbers - we see that:

"... if the monthly fund amount is $500,000, the total qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles is 300,000, and if your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn 0.5% (1,500/300,000 = 0.5%), or $2,500 for that month."

Now, it would be fantastic, downright amazing to reach numbers even close to that, but I'm going to assume the book won't be nearly that popular.  Its success is bound by the number of people who see it and choose to borrow it, and there we come back to that pesky exposure thing.  It will be an interesting experiment, though, and at worst it will offer my book for free to a large number of readers, who will hopefully find a great little story, a great escape from this world through a portal into another, at least for a while.

It's exclusively on Amazon for the duration of this program, as exclusivity to the Kindle is one of the stipulations of the program.  Enjoy, spread the word, share it with friends.  In fact, please consider writing a review on it. You can also spread the word by tweeting or sharing the following blurb:

Separate Worlds, by Jonathan Dalar. When worlds collide, perspective can mean the difference between life and death:

Hopefully I'll have some positive results to pass along in a few months.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ten Technological Advances of the Future

There are a ton of cool technological advances out there, with seemingly hundreds more every day.  Every time I turn around, I'm amazed by what I see.  Our knowledge of what's possible scientifically is expanding at an exponential rate.  What was impossible yesterday becomes a reality tomorrow.

So in light of that, here are a few fun ideas, things we need to develop from the infant technology we have already discovered.  They're concepts we will likely see at some point in the future.  The technology is already sound; all we have to figure out is the logistics.

MagLev Transit

MagLev is magnetic levitation, the science of levitating something by using magnets. Now, imagine that as a full-sized locomotive, pulling cars filled with passengers, merchandise, foodstuffs, natural resources, you name it. Japan is already working hard on this technology, creating bullet trains that have achieved speeds of over 581 KPH. This could easily take over as a viable way of moving people place to place in the future, and could replace air travel for many domestic destinations.

3D Printing

We've seen the advent of 3D printing using a specially engineered composite material to create semi-functional objects, accurate to within 40 microns, or smaller than the width of a human hair.  We've seen it expanded to include 3D metal printing, where metal powder is layered into the form needed and then forged at high temperatures. It's grown to include everything from ceramics to chocolates. The next step seems to be identifying a process that's cost-effective for mass use.  Just think of how this could change the dynamics of merchandise as we know it, how we purchase what we need.  And as soon as we make the leap to printing food items and human organs, it will completely renovate the business of living.

Augmented Reality

We've seen this in its infancy already.  Mobile virtual information available upon need.  Augmenting such things as eye glasses and phones with this information.  In the future, saturation is the key: the ability to reach any and all information needed instantly.  Couple this with technology below, and we'll have the ability to integrate the virtual world seamlessly with ourselves.


Nanotechnology now allows us to view things on a scale smaller than that of the microscopic, down to the level of single atoms.  We're already working on nanoengineering, designed to create anything atom by atom, as small as imaginable.  In just a few years, we could be able to create fully functional engines, electrical circuits, and complex machines, the size of just a few molecules.  Imagine doctors with the ability to inject a camera into your blood stream and send it completely through your body, even through capillaries, looking for diseases or other health issues.  Imagine the ability to create specially adapted devices allowing us to remove tumors, cancerous cells, etc., all without cutting a patient open.

Wireless Power

This is not a new concept.  Nikola Tesla imagined the technology around a century ago.  And we're finally seeing practical applications.  You can buy wireless phone chargers, where you can charge your phone without actually plugging it into the source of power.  The next step is unplugging completely, providing wireless power around the globe, allowing us to unplug for good.

Mind-Controlled Bionics

It's already possible.  It's already been done.  And the ceiling doesn't have to end with recreated body parts.  Integrating these prosthetic appendages permanently into the human body is the first step, but from there, this technology can be adapted and expanded to exploration and discovery, controlling machines to go where humans can't, and yet controlling them as though they were extensions of our own bodies.


It's the stuff of science fiction, the Holy Grail of science, but it's getting a lot closer to reality than fiction with recent technological advances.  Although this appears at first blush to have more military and government applications, it's something that would benefit many areas of society in practical application.


The applications for this go beyond business meetings and teleconferencing.  Think of this in educational terms, where students could go beyond seeing an illustration of something in a textbook to actually seeing it, actively participating in something, no matter where they were.  And the prospect of this as a logical evolution of entertainment is pretty exciting too.  If you thought 3D changed movies, just watch as this sort of technology replaces it.

Force Fields

This has more applications than just space travel.  Sure, the immediate evolution is that to protect astronauts, but here on earth it could be just as effective, and advances could provide the ability to more effectively protect against radiation.

Machine Translation

Although this is showcased in a military setting, the possibilities of it are endless.  From here, it's quite possible we'll see this technology grow smaller, and even embedded or implanted in us, creating the ability to speak in one language and be understood in another.  In the future, it may be entirely possible to go anywhere in the world and face no language barriers whatsoever.

Yea, folks, we live in some exciting times, and I'm stoked to be a part of them!  What are your thoughts?  How do you see these technologies adapted to our future?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Short and Sweet

Words: they say a picture is worth a thousand of them.  Fair enough, but I think sometimes the exact opposite is true.  Sometimes nothing can portray emotion as well as a few simple words.  Consider the shortest story Ernest Hemingway ever wrote.  As legend has it, he was once challenged to write a story in only six words.  The result, as many know, is one of the most poignant, touching stories ever written.  Hemingway himself is rumored to consider it his finest story ever:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Wow.  Adding more words wouldn't add anything else to that story.  It wouldn't heighten the pain, the loss, one feels when reading that.  More verbiage wouldn't add to the broken heart you know the mother, the whole family, suffered.  Six words is enough to know they moved on, but only out of necessity.  Six words is exactly enough to convey a punch to the gut.

Ernest Hemingway, © Penn State

I think Hemingway would have scoffed at those who say 140 characters isn't enough to adequately express oneself on Twitter. I think he would have loved Twitter. I'd have followed him for sure.  He was a master at saying exactly what he meant, and only that.

There's something to be said about brevity.  It's partly why literary agents want only a one-page query.  It's why we are told to hone, tighten, shorten, to turn the whole story into a synopsis.  To create a few-paragraph back cover blurb, and then take that blurb and shorten it into an elevator pitch.  Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has some excellent advice on creating elevator pitches.  Author David B. Coe shows us how to pare a blurb down, trim it to the bare essentials, leaving nothing but a concise pitch line.

These are things every author needs to do, if nothing more than the ability they lend to edit the story itself, and make every word count.  Kurt Vonnegut's advice on the matter was, "Every sentence must do one of two things, either reveal character or advance the plot."  Elmore Leonard's was a little simpler: "I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

It isn't easy, but then again, no one who's written anything worth a damn ever said it was.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Touring the Blogs

Recently, a couple of people have passed on blog awards to me, and I thought it was time to look into that subject a little deeper, and pass them along myself.  I'm normally a little reserved about doing this thing myself, which is probably why I've put it off for so long.

There are a large number of blogs out there, and many that are helpful, entertaining, insightful, creative, or intriguing in some way or another.  These awards are designed for the little blogs, to get them more attention.  So, to that end, here are two more.

The Versatile Blogger

Guilie, who maintains the blog Quiet Laughter, passed this one along to me, and I have been a little slow to pass it on myself because, well, 15 blogs is a lot of friggin' blogs!  It's taken a while, but thank you again, Guilie.

The guidelines behind this one are threefold:
  • Thank the awarder and link back to them
  • Share 7 things about myself
  • Pass this award to 15 blogs I've recently discovered
The seven things about myself, well, that's easy.  Seven non-incriminating ones?  Yea, I can do that too.  Here goes:

1.  I once was nearly run over by Mario Andretti.  True story. I was walking down the paddocks area at Laguna Seca Raceway with my dad and a couple of friends during the Indy race when he barreled up from behind on a moped.  Dad hollered for me to watch out, and just in time.  Let's just say it's a good think I have cat-like reflexes.  And there's a damn good reason people use the expression "drive like Mario Andretti"!  Bonus tidbit: I've also been around that track in the pace car.  Very fast, and very fun!

2.  I'm a beer snob.  Four wonderful years of living in Southern Spain and touring around Europe completely ruined American mega-brews for me.  There are so many fine styles around the world, but one of the best things about the Pacific Northwest is that it's the micro-brew capital of the world.  Bonus tidbit: I can make a pretty decent micro-brew myself.

3.  I am somewhat the expert on wilderness survival.  As a young man living in Southwest Montana, my buddies and I used to go out camping in the woods.  Day or night.  No matter the weather.  No matter the season.  We never used a tent, never brought much food, if any, and would go for as long as jobs or school constraints would allow.  We'd eat the animals and plants available there.  And many's the time I remember waking up to a bright sunny winter morning as I peeked up through a tiny hole through a foot or more of snow on top of my sleeping bag.  Bonus tidbit: I've touched a wild porcupine on the nose, out in the wild.

4.  I'm a big sports fan.  It's no surprise the Seattle Seahawks are my favorite team, but I'm a sucker for pretty much any sport.  Hockey comes in a close second, with the Colorado Avalanche as my favorite NHL franchise - at least until Seattle finally gets a team again - but I'll watch pretty much anything.  Baseball, racing, rugby, soccer, you name it.  Bonus tidbit: I've been to several NFL Pro Bowls.  Go for the experience, the activities, the autographs, the barbecue, not the game.

5.  I like a variety of music, and it all depends on the mood I'm in.  I'll listen to Rob Zombie one day and turn around the next and listen to Boots Randolph.  The one stipulation is that each story I write has its own special soundtrack.  That way the mood, the feel of each story is the same throughout.  Bonus tidbit: I like a lot of foreign bands and singers.  Much of what I listen to is not English.

6.  I'm not a very big self-promoter.  Weird, because I'm very outgoing and gregarious as a person.  I have few very close personal friends, but a lot of casual ones, and enjoy meeting folks.  I just don't like tooting my horn all that much.  I'm sure that affects how well I'm able to get my work out there for folks to see, and I bet I could prove it too.  Problem is, it's not all about that.  Bonus tidbit: I'd love it if others promoted my writing, but this is probably as close as I'll ever come to asking.

7.  I'm not a very serious guy.  As much as I don't write the stuff, I love irreverent comedy.  Love finely crafted humor.  I just don't do it very well most of the time.  And I've been told only about a tenth of the humorous things I say is actually funny.  Bonus tidbit: that tenth thing is usually pure comedy gold, however!

And now for the fifteen blogs.  I apologize if any have already been nominated for this, but I ain't checkin', and you can't make me.  So here they are in no particular order:

1.  Let's Get Digital - Author David Gaughran is now an established expert on the subject of self-publishing.  He's written the book on it, quite literally, and is also a pretty damn good fiction writer himself.

2.  Unexcused Absences - World travelers and ski addicts Kent and Heather chronicle their meanderings, explorations and adventures as they do what most of the rest of us only wish we did.

3.  The Sharp Angle - Young adult author Lydia Sharp is a prolific blogger, offering advice, tips, industry secrets, reviews and other assorted writing-related goodies on her blog.

4.  Seattle Sportsnet - Alex, fan of all things Seattle talks sports - Seahawks, M's, Huskies, and others - as well as a variety of other Pacific Northwest nonsense.  Some of it's even pretty good!

5.  Bibliophile Stalker - Author and science fiction afficionado Charles Tan links to an incredible amount of resources, information, and sites of interest on his blog.  A definite must-follow for fans of the genre.

6.  Foie Gras Hot Dog - Foodies and culinary explorers Ryan and Julie share recipes, food secrets, and accounts from the quest to find the perfect food for the perfect occasion.

7.  Dave Krieg's Strike Beard - Longtime Seahawks fan DKSB posts analysis, spouts fan opinion and rhetoric, and shares historical moments and achievements on the blog.

8.  Steam & Ink - Author C. J. Ivory runs a smart blog about Steampunk, Victoria Noir, among an assortment of musings, ramblings, reviews, and other fun stuff.

9.  The World in the Satin Bag - Science fiction author Shaun Duke blogs speculative fiction, writerly interests and other bits of interesting nonsense.

10.  Karin Cox's Blog - Editor and author Karin Cox serves up lots of good advice on grammar, writing well, and tips for writers.  She knows what she's talking about, folks!

11.  Seahawks Draft Blog - Seahawks fan Rob Stanton provides analysis, scouting reports, opinion, mock drafts, and other related awesomeness on his blog.

12.  Minetweeps - Author and Minecraft geek Roger Hoyt runs a new blog about adventuring in one of the most addictive time sinks known to man.  Get your geek on!

13.  Fangirl In Training - Fangirl Shelby blogs about baseball and a sundry other weird subjects.  Pictures from numerous games, practices and events make this one an interesting read.

14.  Adventure Without End - Comedy author Tony James Slater blogs about... well, as he puts it, leading a life with no holds bared!  Adrenalin, adventure, misadventure, yep, they're all there.

15.  17 Power - Seahawks fanatics Brandon and Scott run this site, a great place to find analysis, information, and opinion on the team, as well as links to other Seahawk-centric sites and resources.

The Liebster Award

J. W. Alden, who runs the blog Author Alden, gave this one to me. This award is designed to honor smaller blogs which motivate and inspire us, those with under 200 followers.  Thank you, J.W.!

The guidelines for this one are simpler:
  • Thank the person who nominated you on your blog and link back to them
  • Nominate up to 5 others for the award
  • Let them know by commenting on their blog
So, for the five blogs I feel deserve this award, also in no particular order:

1.  JetInk - Author Jettica runs a number of blogs, but this one's about writing, characters, stories, and various other musings from the other side of the pond.

2.  Die Laughing - Author Luke Walker blogs about writing, book reviews, movies, horror, the publishing industry, as well as a variety of other subjects.

3.  Jamie Todd Rubin - Science fiction writer Jamie Todd Rubin blogs all things science fiction and technology, as well as writing and other random musings.

4.  Writings, Workouts, and Were-Jaguars - Author Shiela Calderón Blankemeier posts about writing, the query process, literary agents, and other essential bits of information for writers.

5.  Steph Crawford's Word Barn & Letter Emporium - Author Stephanie Crawford talks writing, words, and other such interests on her blog.

And there we have it.  A bunch of new blogs to run down and follow.  You're welcome.  And yes I am an author, running an author blog.  No, not all these blogs are author blogs.  Some of them, in fact, have a pretty good amount of traffic already.  It doesn't matter.  Broaden your horizons, because if we don't get out of our incestuousness little author circles, the world stays pretty small.  And you're still welcome.