So Much Stuff I Can't Recall

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Snow Deer 2: Return of the Venison

Okay, we don't eat venison, so maybe that title's a little bit mean...

Two deer in the meadow across the way this morning.
They didn't bolt when Phil and I went out to wait for his schoolbus. Must be some good eatin's over there.

(By the way, if anyone's getting rid of their old digital camera with even a halfway decent optical zoom, lemme know. I've got some portion of $85 burning a hole in my pocket...)

Mikesell : 12:06 PM : 1 snarky remarks

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Little Time, Big Money

I joined PayPerPost.com at the beginning of February. In less than a month I’ve made (with this post) $85 with them. That’s four posts ($50 plus 15 plus 10 plus 10), averaging over $20 per post. (I averaged less than $15 with short stories last year ... so this would be more.)

Will I have earned enough money to buy the Mac OS X “Leopard” upgrade for my PowerBook when it comes out and stabilizes in a few months? Here’s hoping. (A RAM upgrade would be nice too, but let’s not get crazy...)

Of course, that’s just if I blow the money on me. Dina’s been resting her ThinkPad on the nightstand by the bed recently, headphones on and listening to NPR podcasts as she drifts off to sleep. Maybe she’s hinting she’d like an nifty little iPod Nano. Or maybe she’s just tired of my Ira Flatow impersonation (“...and this is Science Friday...”).

Then again, March has several family birthdays (with more in April – another Nano opportunity for Dina – and so on, at least one a month, through the summer). And there are some trips coming up. And bills – there always seem to be bills.

Whatever, the extra money will come in handy. (What would you blow it on?)

By the way, this is sponsored content.

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Mikesell : 6:58 PM : 0 snarky remarks

Might I Actually Watch (and Enjoy!) a Reality Show?

Darn, but if this doesn't sound interesting: Stephen Spielberg's On the Lot.
The hourlong series from Mark Burnett, Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Television centers on an elimination-style contest among aspiring filmmakers that culminates with the winner receiving a $1 million development deal with DreamWorks.

If Spielberg can offer constructive analysis of why the non-winners aren't advancing to the next round (and it's not so much can he, as will he), I'm thinking this'll be a winner (though it'll be a big hit, regardless).

via infuze


Mikesell : 2:51 PM : 0 snarky remarks

February Update: Reading and Writing

Well, I'm at 10 books for the year (9.33 actually, since one of the graphic novels I read -- only at 7 books if you don't count graphic novels ... but I do -- was one-third of a complete work), 2 non-fiction. It's about where I want to be.

Finally made my third submission for the year (the non-fiction deal called TAXES; already been accepted in two markets -- federal and state -- and both of them are paying markets, so woo-hoo! for me). The fourth I hope goes out by the end of the week. Looking at March and April I've got a piece of work ahead if I enter all the short-story contests I plan to. Fortunately I have material to work with for all but one of them, so that's something. (Just got to write the stuff...) Here's the deadline run-down:

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Mikesell : 12:47 PM : 0 snarky remarks

Monday, February 26, 2007

Name That Rumor

Payperpost is running a bit of a “name that rumor” event right now. Something big – big news they say – is coming in the next few weeks, and whatever could it be? Free ponies for everyone? Quicker payouts? T-shirts, ball caps and keyfobs at the company store? (Is there even a company store? If not, maybe that’s it.)

So if you’re starting a rumor, it has to be plausible. That probably knocks out the ponies (don’t worry SPCA / PETA, no real ponies will be harmed). Quicker payouts, that’d be sweet, though; or maybe lower some of the requirements for participating (Google Index Scores of 8 look mighty far off when you’re sitting at a lowly 4). Swag is always nice, though having you pay to advertise something that pays you to advertise sounds convoluted. Maybe it’s free t-shirts and ball caps for everybody (maybe with a picture of a pony). That’d be just fine. Maybe it’s gift certificates for Marie Callendar’s – mmmmm ... pie.

At any rate, if you want to hear the news first-hand, sign your blogs up with PPP. And yeah, this is a sponsored posting. If the big news doesn’t have a sponsorship element will you hear it here? Maybe, maybe not. So sign up, already, and get in the know.

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Mikesell : 6:47 PM : 0 snarky remarks

Oh Deer!

Woke up to about half an inch of snow on the ground. As I was checking online for school-closure bulletins (2 hour delay), a deer with its dark brown winter coat on bounded across the meadow beside our house. When I looked out just before hustling Phil off to the bus, the deer was back, hanging out at the far side of the field.

It didn't leap away when I came out with my camera, so I got these pix:When Phil and I went out, I got these pictures of deer tracks in the snow: 1, 2.

Then the boy threw a snowball from behind my shoulder (sneak attack!) and pasted the inside of my glasses. Where he learned tricks like that I'm sure I don't know...

Mikesell : 12:22 PM : 0 snarky remarks

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Does This Make Phil a Man?

This morning Phil read the Torah before the assembly ... well, he read a passage from Deuteronomy in church as part of Kids' Club Sunday. That's the same thing, though, isn't it?

Listen* and read along:
8 But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.

--Deuteronomy 7:8-9

Sorry about the sound quality. I wasn't on the soundboard this morning and there wasn't time to run an audio check.

*Right-click the link and select an "open in new tab/window" option.

Mikesell : 4:26 PM : 2 snarky remarks

I'm #162,064,570

I finally got myself a MySpace page. What'll I use it for? Who knows. But I'm in the top one hundred sixty-two million, sixty-four thousand, six hundred and that can't be bad.

So stop on by. Be my friend. Whatever it is people do on MySpace, feel free to do it. Enjoy!


Mikesell : 12:07 AM : 1 snarky remarks

Saturday, February 24, 2007

SpongeHat PhilPants

Here's Phil in the big, yellow, foam hat Dina brought back from her recent conference in Austin, Texas.Okay, so his pants don't feature prominently in the photos. He was wearing them. Honest.


Mikesell : 1:42 AM : 0 snarky remarks

Friday, February 23, 2007

PayPerPost Update

So, prior to this post, I’ve run one ad as part of the payperpost.com program. It took (what felt like) a really long time to get it approved, but it was really just over a week. And someday soon I’ll be fifty dollars richer. Or less poor. Whichever way, fifty bucks is fifty bucks. Yay for President Grant.

I’m still learning the ropes, figuring out the “system,” but it doesn’t seem too difficult. Right now there are a lot of ads I’m not “qualified” for. Big money ads. Thousand dollar ads. Man, that’d be sweet.

There are lower (but still decent) money ads for things I’m not all that interested in pitching. Credit loans, insurance, mortgages, things that smell, if not scammy, at least like you might get taken advantage in the fine print. Might just be me, though. I’m skeptical about things.

Which is why, I suppose, it took me until after the first ad cleared before I considered running a second one. This one. For PayPerPost itself.

According to their marketing info, PPP charges a 35% commission on the ads you run. (Guess that $50 is down to $35.50. Still, $35.50 is...) Apparently other companies take a larger cut -- yikes! PPP also requires you to disclose the ads. Fine by me (yeah, I'm going overboard with the in-text notes and the category tags; the graphic/link at the bottom is the only one required). But they welcome all-comers (big blogs and ones like mine) and it’s always nice to be wanted.

Want to be wanted, too? Check out PPP’s blog marketing program.

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Mikesell : 12:11 AM : 1 snarky remarks

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

How Adorable Is This?

Couldn't put the link in the title, so click here.

JAKARTA, Indonesia - The first Sumatran rhino born in captivity in more than 100 years arrived in Indonesia on Tuesday with a single task — to breed and help save the endangered species from extinction.

The 5-year-old rhino, Andalas, was flown from a zoo in the United States to Jakarta's international airport. After a checkup he was to travel another 12 hours by truck and ferry to a rhino sanctuary on Sumatra island, where females Rosa and Ratu await.

"He is young and still full of energy," said Arman Malonongan, Indonesia's director general of forest and wildlife conservation. "Let's just hope he falls in love there."
Read the full story, see more photos.


Mikesell : 12:10 PM : 1 snarky remarks

The Wittenburg Blog

If you hate the magazine, you'll hate the blog.

Don't be a hater.

Mikesell : 11:15 AM : 0 snarky remarks

Little Help Here?

Here's the deal. When writing, if you use a word as a word (for instance the word word), you italicize it. But how do you show the plural of a word used as a word -- for instance, should you want to say that the second sentence in this paragraph has four word's?

Yeah, that's the best rule I can find online: italics, then a non-italicized apostrophe-s (or is that apostrophe-s?). [source: 1, 2, 3]

I'm leery of using the "it's on the internet" excuse, but I can't find it addressed in any of my grammar/punctuation/style books. Anyone have a Chicago Manual of Style handy and can help me out?

(I'm working on a story where this is an issue and the deadline is rapidly approaching...)


Mikesell : 9:32 AM : 1 snarky remarks

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Brief Heroes Rant

Okay, love Heroes. Was a bit concerned with the episode they came back with after Christmas break, but things have shaken out fairly well (that Parkman is so math-challenged that he couldn't put together one: the Haitan is always around when my powers are blocked with two: I can't read H.R.G. (how much is that a X-Files C.S.M. rip off?) at the paper factory and come up with three: have someone take the Haitian out of the warehouse so I can do my Kreskin bit, is beyond me, but they seem to have gotten past that now).

Still, one thing remains: the guy's name is not pronounced And-o, all you scriptreaders. Your characters have only heard him and Hiro pronounce it On-doe, so forget what you-the-actor have read. He's not wearing a nametag. He doesn't have a hockey jersey with his name on the back. You have no idea how his name is spelled. On. Doe. Say it with me, people: On-Doe.

Thank you for your attention to this brief Heroes rant. That is all. (Unless you have a rant of your own; in which case, sound off in the comments.)


Mikesell : 1:16 PM : 3 snarky remarks

Contest Starting, Voting Ends

Dragons, Knights and Angels magazine has announced the theme(s) of their 2007 short story contest: 1. Secrets, 2. New Life -- or choose both themes and enter twice. Not sure if that means a story about the secrets of new life (a la "Herbert West, Re-animator") is a no-no, or if it gets entered twice. Entry fee: $5 (with over $125 in prizes). Last year a number of good entries that didn't make the final three were picked up after the fact. Since DKA is a paying market, there's a possibility of re-couping your investment even if you're not a prize winner. So don't be a scairdy, crank up your steampunk Underwood and get going!

The voting period for Infuze magazine's "Best of 2006" poll is winding down. (Polls close at midnight EST on Thursday night, February 22nd.) If you haven't voted, get on over there. My poem Saint Francis and the Birds is doing well in the count according to recent voters, so consider voting for the excellent poems of Mike Duran (Seasons' Dance) or Marcia Lee Laycock (One Winter's Day), instead. Share the votes. Sharing makes friends.

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Mikesell : 9:28 AM : 0 snarky remarks

Take That, Mavis Beacon

While it's not quite Typing of the Dead, Diseased Productions' Word Shoot: Spell Fast or Die is a spiffy little game that rewards fast -- and accurate -- spelling. Fun stuff, Maynard! Check it out.

(Hint: Typing detonate at the appropriate time kills all enemies on screen; guess what fullhealth does and how much easier the game would be for me if I even once remembered the l in health?)

via: TitleTrakk


Mikesell : 12:55 AM : 1 snarky remarks

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Four Word Movie Review of Bridge to Terebithia

Dis a freakin pointing.

If you've read the book (which I haven't), you may be pleased with the movie (from what I've read at imdb, it's a fairly faithful adaptation). Going solely on the marketing (what was I thinking?), the movie doesn't live up to its promise. Instead of being about the power of fantasy, it's merely about the escapism of make-believe. Yeah, buy me a ticket to be reminded of that. Sheesh.

Right up there with Happy Feet in the bait-n-switch ending department that ultimately undercuts what it was (supposedly) shooting for to begin with.

Not to spoil too much, but imagine Field of Dreams where when Kevin Costner's daughter starts choking near the end, Archie Graham can't step across the chalk line to become Burt Lancaster and save her because, as Ray "Shoeless Joe" Liotta might remind us, "We're just pretend."

Do yourself a favor and read the book first. 'Cause at least then you'll have read a book. And that's a good habit to get into.

On an up note, AnnaSophia Robb is fabulous. She reminds me here of a young Watts, Mary Stuart Masterson's character in Some Kind of Wonderful. (Let's hope she continues down that route instead of becoming the next damaged Lindsay Lohan wannabe promising child star.)

Mikesell : 6:40 PM : 2 snarky remarks

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Meet Philip Trump

Just got done playing a round of Spongebob Monopoly with Phil. He won by $65.

Or, as Phil puts it, he won. (Period. End of sentence. Full stop.)

Mikesell : 5:44 PM : 1 snarky remarks

I Should Have Complained Sooner

Yesterday I mentioned that I had yet to receive my review copy of Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide. It came in today's mail.

This is a honkin big tome. Not as big as the full-blown Writer's Digest Writers' Market, but easily on par with WD's Novel/Short Story edition. I thumbed through quickly to see if the magazines I was published in last year were listed. Most were (Ray Gun Revival, a late starter last year isn't), though some of the payment info is out of date -- again it's possible it was changed or arrived too late (if at all) to make the 2007 edition. Still, compared to WD, it has many Christian-targeted publications the big guys miss. As a place to begin your market research, it's an excellent resource.

The accompanying CD was a bit of a disappointment, though. While it contains all the information in the hard copy, it doesn't take advantage of its new-media presentation (these appear to be production documents, Word and PDF -- the PDF has the printer's trim marks on the pages). Entries aren't hyperlinked from the table of contents or index. Websites and email addresses aren't linked, either. You can fix the latter by turning on the Autoformat "hyperlinks" option in Word, then running the Autoformat (get yourself a cup of coffee while it runs), and then Save As'ing to your hard drive, but that's a lot of work for something that would've been a not-too-hard fix for the publisher to make. The CD adds some value to the book, but I can't help thinking it could have added a lot more.

Bottom line, this is a great resource for a writer targeting Christian audiences. If you're thinking and hoping and praying that this is the year you'll make it into print (or make it into print more), get yourself a copy now. (The year's almost 1/6th over, for crying out loud.)

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Mikesell : 2:50 PM : 0 snarky remarks

Friday, February 16, 2007

CFBA Friday: Christian Writer's Market Guide

I had hoped to have been able to review a copy of Sally Stuart's Christian Writer's Market Guide for this week's blog tour. I had wanted to compare it to the Writer's Digest Writer's Market, maybe work up a grid of pros/cons, haves/have nots. Definitely a critique that was lucid, intelligent, and well thought-out.

To (further) paraphrase Judge Chamberlain Haller, "Denied."

My copy didn't arrive this week. Probably in the cargo hold of a Jet Blue or Delta flight out on the tarmac somewhere. <sigh>

Linda Gilmore's got the specs on the book over at Musings from the Windowsill. Dee Stewart highlights one of the ways the book can be put to quick use at her Christian Fiction blog. Check the CFBA blogroll to see who's got what-else going on.

And be sure to stop by Sally Stuart's website, too; lots of good stuff there.

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Mikesell : 7:05 PM : 0 snarky remarks

Writing Contests Galore

There are a couple fiction contests I'm in the middle of pursuing: Relief Journal's Daily Sacrament and the ACFW's Genesis.

Now Michelle sends me an announcement for the James Patrick Baen Memorial Writing Contest.
Since its early days, science fiction has played a unique role in human civilization. It removes the limits of what "is" and shows us a boundless vista of what "might be." Its fearless heroes, spectacular technologies and wondrous futures have inspired many people to make science, technology and space flight a real part of their lives and in doing so, have often transformed these fictions into reality. The National Space Society and Jim Baen's Universe magazine applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor this short fiction contest in memory of James Patrick Baen.
I don't have a story in mind at the moment, but you never can tell when inspiration will hit. If you've already been clobbered, get your story in by April 9th (no entry fee).

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Mikesell : 2:08 PM : 2 snarky remarks

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Knowledge Is Power

SafeNow.Org has provided a handy online guide to some very important Homeland Security clip-art-based warning signage.

Forewarned is forearmed. If you find yourself four-armed instead, step away from the radiation. Then blow your terrorism whistle.

via: Monkey Outta Nowhere


Mikesell : 10:24 AM : 0 snarky remarks

Happy Valentine's Day

Hallmark.com wouldn't let me personalize a card to send you-all tonight, so go here and view the one I picked out. Pretend I personalized it just for you, visitor to/reader of my blog. Also, pretend it cost $4.99.

Hope your Valentine's Day was happy and fun and your sweetie wasn't half a continent away. Or, if so, it was a smallish continent like Australia.

Mikesell : 12:17 AM : 3 snarky remarks

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Important Words from Wilbur

If you've got a copy of Brandilyn Collins's Violet Dawn handy (you do have one somewhere right? If not, get one now so you'll be ready for the upcoming Coral Moon), turn to page 303. It's the beginning of Part Four and it's dated February 17, 2007. Shades of things soon to come.

Over at the Scenes & Beans blog the past few days there have been some oblique comments made about events in the novel. (Wilbur Hucks got ranty about the trial and other things yesterday.) Will more trial info leak out as Saturday approaches? Stay tuned.

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Mikesell : 5:23 PM : 1 snarky remarks

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Shout Out: Courtyard Marriott

Dina headed down to Austin, Texas, yesterday afternoon. (Well, first she headed up to Portland, then down to Phoenix, and then over and down to Austin.) She got in 10:30ish and set about finding her hotel.

She had reservations with a Courtyard Marriott hotel via Priceline, but unfortunately the chain doesn't have a private airport-hotel shuttle service in Austin. So she bought a ticket for a third-party shuttle (name omitted because I can't remember it, not to protect their anonymity), gave them the name of the hotel, and headed downtown. When she arrived at the Courtyard, she discovered the Hilton Austin (site of the 2007 ACA Conference and today's destination) right next door. She also discovered that she had given the shuttle driver the wrong address: her Courtyard was back the way she'd come, much closer to the airport.

But the guy at the front desk [name will be updated in the near future, I hope] went ahead and comped her the night's stay (the Priceline fare is nonrefundable/already paid and the shuttle had long since driven off). Didn't have to. Could've charged her the going rate. Or called a cab or recalled the shuttle. Or laughed and laughed and laughed. But he didn't do any of that (at least he didn't laugh while she was around).

So thanks, Courtyard Austin Downtown/Convention Center. You've made friends.


Mikesell : 9:15 PM : 0 snarky remarks

Friday, February 09, 2007

A B C D ... me, meme, me

A - Available or Married? Married

B - Best Moment? See above

C - Cake or Pie? Pie -- sweet, sweet pie

D - Drink of choice? Black Cherry & French Vanilla Diet Pepsi

E - Essential Item? Swiss Army Knife

F - Favorite Color? Blue

G - Gummi Bears or Worms? Bears, unless chocolate pudding and Oreo crumbs are involved

H - Hometown? San Jose, Calif.

I - Indulgence? No thanks (can you still even buy those?)

J - January or February? February

K - Kids & names? Yes & Phil

L - Life is incomplete without? Oxygen -- also, pork

M - Marriage Date? No, did not bring a date to my Sept. 3, 1988, wedding -- what kind of cad do you think I am?

N - Number of Siblings? 3

O - Oranges or apples? Apples

P - Phobias/Fears... see earlier meme

Q - Favorite Quotation? "The suspense is terrible ... I hope it lasts," and pretty much everything else said by Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka.

R - Reason to Smile? The Joker's rictus-inducing laughing gas

S - Season? Winter

T - Tag three people! Angie, Jenny, Mike

U - Unknown fact about me: But how would you verify?

V - Vegetable you hate? Brussels Sprouts

W - Worst habit? Gulden's mustard, occasionally kraut

Y - Your favorite food? Nachos

Z - Zodiac? No, I am not the Zodiac Killer

Blame Michelle.

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Mikesell : 12:02 AM : 1 snarky remarks

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Anthologized Man

Just got an email that my story "The Fortunate Purgatory of Arthur MacArthur" is up for inclusion in the anthology, Distant Passages, Volume 2. No word on projected availability date, but if you'd like to check out Volume 1, here's the deal. Thanks Bill and Selena and Mir and all the rest at Dragons, Knights & Angels Magazine and Double-Edged Publishing.

In other anthology-related news, my poem "Saint Francis and the Birds" is currently leading the pack over at the Infuze -- Best of 2006 poll. Unless there's a ton of last-minute, eBay-style sniping, my inclusion in the Top Ten is secure, so here are a couple other poems to consider: Most likely there's at least a week left to vote, so head on over. (All the poems up for consideration -- and more -- can be found here.) Enjoy!

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Mikesell : 2:48 PM : 3 snarky remarks

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Now (over)Hear This

Internet pal Heather got me hooked on the Overheard in the Office website a few weeks ago. Sample:
Coworker: I'm trying to open an email attachment and the virus software isn't letting me because it says it has a virus. Can you come turn off the virus software so I can open it?

IT chick, shocked: No!
Some funny stuff there. Also, salty language and subject matter inpropriate for ... well, I don't know who it would be appropriate for.

Don't miss sister sites Overheard at the Beach...
Bimbette looking up at cliff face: Hey, do rocks eat other rocks?
Guy: ... Huh?
Bimbette: Do rocks eat other rocks? You know, so that they can grow into bigger rocks...
Guy: Are you serious? No, rocks do not eat other rocks.
Bimbette: Then, like... How do they get bigger?
Guy: [Silence.]
Bimbette: Like, what do they eat?
...and Overheard in New York
Fat college guy on cell: I only read books with robot insects on the cover. If it doesn't have robot insects, I slap a sticker on. Pride and Prejudice? Robot insects on the cover makes it better.
Sometimes the titles given to the quotes are as funny (or funnier) than the quotes themselves. For instance the Beach quote above was posted under the title "The Answer Is Sedimentary, My Dear Watson." Heh heh heh.

Again, if you have language and content concerns, stay away. If you can ignore the offensive ones -- and have time on your hands (they're addictive) -- check 'em out.

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Mikesell : 2:51 PM : 3 snarky remarks

Were You Aware of It? Remote PC

Was going to title this post “Reach Out and Touch John Hodgman,” but something like that might send the entirely wrong people to my blog. Instead I nicked the title from a recurring feature in Hodgman’s Areas of My Expertise. And now you are aware of at least that much.

Remote PC is a utility/service that allows you Remote Access to your Windows XP/2000/Server 2003 SP4-running computer from a remote location (Vista and Mac, no luck; Windows ME users, pffft, sorry).

Why might you need this? Say you’re traveling and realize the night before the big presentation you’ve forgotten an important file/e-mail back at the office. Or, possibly more likely around here, you’re traveling and the kid’s wigging out and whatever it is the child wants exists only on your desktop back home. Connect to your office/home PC via laptop or other computer and--Voila!--problem solved.

A 30-day free trial is available as are several service plans (beginning at $4.95/month), depending on your needs.

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Mikesell : 10:38 AM : 0 snarky remarks

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Submission #3: Postponed

Been working on a non-fiction piece this week.


Had hoped to have it filed this weekend, but we're still chasing down deductions. Next week for sure.

Mikesell : 11:53 PM : 0 snarky remarks

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Comment Ahoy!

Comments have been down for the past few days. Sorry if you've been unable to get through. But I just got one -- and double-checked -- and they seem to be up again.

For the moment.

So if you've tried to get snarky since the 30th and gotten the old "oh dear, what can the matter be?" message from Blogger, now's your chance.

While it lasts.


Mikesell : 1:02 PM : 0 snarky remarks

Friday, February 02, 2007

Book Chat with Robert Liparulo

I mentioned yesterday that one of the books I finished last month was Germ by Robert Liparulo. Today, more on the book and Five Questions with Robert.

I admit I had a hard time getting into the story. Might be my fault, I'm more of a mystery guy, not so much a thriller junkie. Despite the fact that the opening chapters were a high-speed freeway chase with guns blazing and tech gear glitching and blood and mayhem and intrigue, it took me three concerted attempts to get through the first forty or so pages. A lot was happening, but it didn't feel like a lot was happening.

That's probably a rotten thing to say, but I know there are readers who will put a book down and never pick it up again (or buy it in the first place) if they're not immediately grabbed. To those people I'd say, give it time. (It took me about six tries to get into The Lord of the Rings, so Germ's in good company. And I was reading an advance review copy, so it's possible changes for the better came before the first edition went to press.)

Things take a turn around Chapter 20 -- when the adrenaline-pumped opening is done, the stakes have been established (Liparulo's not foolin' around, folks), and most of the important backstory has been divulged -- and I found myself more immersed in the story. Cliffhangers began to appear at the breaks and, suddenly, the next three- to five-page chapters became must-reads.

I finished the book in a couple late night sittings. Up past 1am the final night to find how it all turned out. I'm happy to say I liked the result. Worth the initial effort, definitely.

If you're looking for a story with action, suspense, and more gooshy moments than a CSI marathon, give Germ a read.

And now, Five Questions...
  1. Common writing advice is to "kill your darlings," those characters, scenes, moments, sentences in a book that are brilliant but just don't work with everything else. Anything in Germ that wowie-wow-wowed you when you wrote it, but had to take one for the team and ended up being cut?

    With most of my writing, I’d say no. I tend to write slowly, methodically, editing as I go. I also have a very clear picture of the story in my head before I start writing. Germ, however, was a bit different. I really enjoyed the characters and the story. As a result, I over-wrote. Originally, I had more backstory of Julia and Donnelley's, more about her mother, more of Kendrick Reynolds's role in the creation of biological warfare and Karl Litt, and his search for Litt of the years. My original word count was about 200,000. By the time I killed my darlings -- tightening the writing and picking up the pace -- I had about 135,000. I killed off a whole bunch of children.

  2. If the director or casting agent for "Germ: The Movie" asked you to appear in a cameo, what character would you most want to play (and why)?

    Even though I’m not of South American decent (but rather Italian), I’d like to play Jorge Prieto, the escapee from Litt’s camp who faces Gregor’s wrath and the Deadeyes. He’s a tragic figure, who just wants to get home to his family, or at least let his family know that he had been kidnapped and did not simply abandon them. He’s a man of principle.

  3. Among my favorite scenes in the book was the one that took place in Sweaty Dave's comic book store. Were/Are you an avid collector? What titles? What impact, if any, did they have on your creativity?

    Larry Hama is a friend of mine. He wrote many of the Wolverine, X-Men and G.I. Joe comics. I do collect Wolverine and X-Men, plus anything Frank Miller does. Larry inspires me to be a concise writer. He’s a master of word economics. Frank’s work inspires me to do my best. He really is a genius, so visually minded, and he knows how to share what’s in his head -- the most difficult part of the writing (or any artistic) process.

    When I was a kid, I collected Tales From the Crypt and a weird comic that didn’t last long called Plop. It featured stories of people who always got their comeuppance in the end. Real black humor.

    Sweaty Dave is based on a person who once stalked Larry all around New York and through several conventions. James Byron Huggins and I laughed until we were sick when we heard Larry’s Sweaty Dave stories.

  4. Who'd win in a biowar fight, Karl Litt or Sato Matsushita, the plague-maker of Tim Downs fame?

    Oh, I’d have to say Karl would. As nasty as Sato is, Karl’s got this German (in fact, Nazi) blood flowing through him that makes him tough as nails. Couple that with the insanity that losing his family triggered -- he’s a man with nothing to lose and those are the worst to face. I have to say, though, Plague Maker is a great book and Tim is a terrific writer.

  5. Any further adventures for Julia Matheson? And if you're not working on that, what are you working on?

    I would like to revisit Julia’s world—eventually. The producers who bought the rights asked about a sequel, which got me thinking. So, my answer is a resounding... maybe.

    I just finished Deadfall. It’s the story of a group of guys who go up into the Canadian wilderness to get away from it all. They’ve all had a really rough year. They encounter some rich gamer punks who are terrorizing a small town with a new weapon one of their father’s companies developed. Very high-tech. So now these guys, armed with only a bow and arrow, face off with these young people with very little moral values -- and a big, nasty, seemingly unstoppable weapon. Oh, and the good guys are also trying to save the townsfolk.

    It’s full of the same sort of action/adventure/suspense I put in [first novel Comes a Horseman] and Germ, but it’s very different from those books, as well, in that it all takes place in a small area of Northern Saskatchewan, there are no cops, and no big conspiracy. My intension was to write a very entertaining, fast-paced story that is also intimate and character-driven. I just finished it this week, and I think I hit the mark. We’ll see.

  6. Thanks for playing along, Robert.

Be sure to check out robertliparulo.com for more on the thrillers, "Germ: The Video Game," a chance to win an iPod Nano, and more!

And visit other CFBA sites (see sidebar) for other blog tour stops.

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Mikesell : 1:01 PM : 0 snarky remarks

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Books in January: Better than Expected

Last year I barely managed to read (an average of) three books a month. At the beginning of this year even that sounded like an ambitious goal.

Imagine my surprise when I checked my Excel spreadsheet of Books Read in 2007 (you have one of those, don't you?) and found I'd read five last month:Average length: 288.4 pages.

And, as of today, I've read the first 13 of the 31 stories in The Collected Short Stories of Flannery O'Connor.

Reading and writing/submitting things. Who'd'a thunk it?


Mikesell : 5:21 PM : 2 snarky remarks