A to Z Challenge 2013

Friday, September 30, 2011

Stephen King And Vampire Pirates

Did that title catch your attention? In case you haven't heard, evidently Stephen King has been working on a sequel to The Shining. He's taking the little boy and telling the tale of where this guy is at age 40. And for some reason, he's decided the story includes vampire pirates who live together in a group called The Tribe, led by a woman named Rose The Hat. I'm not making this stuff up people.

Y'know, I'm one of the biggest fans of Stephen King's work. I've read just about everything he's ever put out (including all the Richard Bachman tales). One thing I noticed with his novel Under The Dome however, is that King seems to be tired of writing. The completely implausible ending to that book left me with that impression, that he'd written a long story and got tired of writing it so he just ended things. It was really a tragedy, considering how well developed the story was up to that point.

News like this continues to support the idea that King is bored. He's just throwing out whatever will stick to the wall at this point, knowing that so many people will buy it because that's what we do with Stephen King's works. That might sound terrible perhaps (especially considering that he's the multi-million bestselling author and I'm unpublished LOL), but it's because I'm trying to wrap my head around why a guy that has given us The Stand would ruin what is arguably one of his best books with a vampire pirate-filled sequel.

Am I being overly critical here? Or am I misreading this as some profound joke King is playing on us all?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blog Chain - Do I Dare Continue?

We're back for another round of the blog chain and today's question is brought to you by the letter S...er...okay, by that ever-amazing Shaun Hutchinson, who asks:

What are three books you would tell people that they need to keep reading even if they aren't immediately sucked in by the first page?

This has been truly difficult for me to answer.  I mean I really agonized over coming up with an answer.  The biggest reason is because I am the least patient (and probably pickiest) reader on the planet.  If the blurb on the back cover or the excerpt I find online doesn't draw me in immediately, I'm not likely to give it a try.  And if I read through the first few pages and get bored, I'm probably not going to keep reading.  Yeah, I have no problem whatsoever with tossing a book to the side (which is probably why I'm so picky about picking it up in the first place).  So trying to remember three books that I actually did keep reading (even though every fiber of my gut was yelling "Abandon Ship") and found to be enjoyable later on in the story has been incredibly hard.

The first book I came up with is one I believe I've talked about before - Russka by Edward Rutherford.  I absolutely love this book and have ever since I first read it.  I did not however, love it immediately.  See, my parents handed me a copy while I was home on leave and I cringed.  I had really never been a fan of historical fiction (or even non-fiction for that matter) and yet they were so eager for me to read it that I relented.  I agonized through the first few chapters, not really getting into it but going through the motions nonetheless.  Then somehow it just clicked.  And I raced to the end with a grin.  Oh, and it is because of this book that I now enjoy most historical fiction.

Following on the coattails of that is Hawaii by James Michener.  Okay, I can hear everyone getting ready to throw things at me.  Yes, the guy was a great (awesome stupendous incredible) writer.  But Hawaii was the first time I became exposed to him (once again thanks to my parents) and the sheer level of detail he poured into the book put even Tolkien to shame.  It bored me to tears.  Once again however, I trudged through and in the end found myself loving the book.

My last choice is kind of a cheat, considering Michelle H. beat me to it but my reasons are different than hers.  The book is none other than The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I had already read The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, so I was prepared for Sir Tolkien's avalanche of description (nor did I realize The Silmarillion was a prequel story).  What I struggled with in this particular tome was the concepts he was trying to introduce us to.  I read and re-read and re-re-read passage after passage in this book.  I honestly can't say at what point I began enjoying it either.  I just know that by the end I was loving it and truly appreciating all the work he had put into building his world.

Beyond these three, I can't really think of too many books I've suffered through. The list of books I've put down due to boredom however, would undoubtedly be longer.  If you didn't have a chance to read what Michelle H. had to say, head on over there.  And tomorrow you can look forward to Michelle Mclean's answer.

What books have you almost put down that eventually redeemed themselves?

Oops, I Did It Again

No, you don't have to watch a bad Britney Spears video.  But in case you're wondering why I've been absent so long, it's because I did what ever respectable IT guy does to their own laptop - I hosed it up so good that it wouldn't boot up.

I've been meaning to put Linux on my laptop for some time now since so many of the security tools I use in school rely on that operating system.  Unfortunately, when I had initially installed Windows 7, I used up all the hard drive space which left no room available for Linux.  No problem.  I attempted to shrink the partition that Windows 7 was installed on, which normally would work.  Unfortunately I shrunk the partition too much and bada boom bada bing - No Bootable Windows 7 laptop.

Many troubleshooting hours/days later, I decided to just start from scratch.  Luckily, none of my data is ever saved on my laptop (that's what I have a server for), so I didn't lose anything.  Many more hours/days later, I'm finally back up and running with a newly installed dual-boot Linux/Windows 7 laptop and learning all I can about Linux.  It's like being a newbie all over again.  I do have to admit I like the Linux operating system more than I thought I would.  It's definitely different, but useful nonetheless.

Now if I can just learn how to work it without totally screwing it all up again  :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Being True To Oneself - Imperative

My oldest son is taking a creative writing class during his last year in high school and the teacher gave them an interesting assignment.  They were instructed to write a small snippet. a poem, or something similar that described who they are inside.  Sort of opening the window into their mind, letting their peers have a peek.  My son is more reclusive than most and he also has quite different interests than a lot of kids, so he decided he would just borrow lyrics from a song or something like that (which the teacher did allow, of course).  When I found out however, I put down my foot and made him write something of his own.

You see, he is really interested in dark, grim visuals and imagery.  He likes zombies, blood and guts, and all the things that make up great B horror movies.  He's all about the Grim Reaper, and don't let him see anything with skulls on it unless you're prepared to buy it.  He worries all the time that his thoughts are too dark, too weird for most people to accept.  He isn't into really hurting people of course (trust me, we had that conversation.  I had to make sure he wasn't into self-mutilation or something similar), but he does like some pretty dark things.

He tried to tell me that he's Goth.  This began a conversation on the evils of labeling and how none of us are single faceted like that.  What I ended up telling him is that there's no sense pretending to be something other than who he is.  We've had a number of conversations about embracing who he wants to be and being okay with whatever that is.

These continued conversations intrigue me because it's neat to observe my son discover who he is and where he fits in with the rest of the world.  I'm doing my best to guide him, but a part of me knows he has to figure this all out on his own.  Since I didn't have this kind of relationship with my own Dad, I'm ecstatic that I have managed to do a little better in this regard.  The other thing I notice is that observing both my boys makes me re-evaluate myself from time to time.  If I'm expecting them to know and accept themselves, I have to be prepared to do that myself.

Know Thyself.  Great advice.

On the writing front, I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that I was lucky enough to win a copy of the talented Michelle Davidson Argyle's new book Monarch.  That is so awesome.  Having read her self-published title Cinders, I am really looking forward to this book as well.  Thank you Michelle.  I am so looking forward to receiving my copy.

As far as bad news, I am truly sad to say that tragedy has struck my copy of Elana Johnson's book Possession.  It wasn't my fault though (okay, not completely anyway LOL).  I left the book on my desk at work so I could read during my lunch.  I have a small fridge on my desk that works by cooling the interior 30 degrees below ambient temperature.  I've moved to a new office and unfortunately the ambient temperature at night (in that office anyway) must drop really low because the three Diet Cokes I had inside froze and exploded.  When I walked in the next morning, there was Diet Coke all over the desk.  Yes, it was all over half the pages of Possession too.  And though the pages are still legible of course, it's just not the same.  I will have to purchase a new copy because the one I have right now just breaks my heart.  It hasn't stopped me from reading it of course, but still.  

My most humble apologies, Elana.  I should have treated your book with more reverence.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Blog Chain - Fury Of The Storm

It's time for another edition of the Blog Chain.  Today's prompt is brought to us by the inspiring Christine, who has switched things up a bit.  Knowing how much we enjoy being creative (hopefully this is true of all writers), she asks that we write a snippet based on the following:

Since we are all writer's, I thought it was about time for us to stretch our creative muscles and do a little writing. So, take the following topic and go crazy! Show us what you've got. Your story can be as long or as short as you choice. 

The topic: A dark and stormy night

Here goes my take on this fun prompt, so I hope you enjoy it.

Only banshees rode the wind on a night like this.  Everyone else knew to stay indoors, praying to ancient deities for salvation that would not come.  It had been a year or more since Garoth's last visit.  A year of restlessness and observation as they moved about, scratching and scraping the soil for any sustenance.  The warmth he once felt for these creatures died the same day he did.  He no longer lived among the population, instead burdened with caring for them from above.   Garoth hadn't known when he'd agreed however, that the burden would include an occasional murder.

Lightning exploded from the cloud beneath him, and Garoth glided down the jagged bolt with one hand.  He kept the charge alive, reveling in the struggle of controlled electricity against his sooty palm.  The power was heady, a bonus he enjoyed along with god-like immortality.  As long as he didn't make a mistake, that is.  Even gods could be toppled from their thrones, a fact his predecessor had forgotten.

Long moments later Garoth stood on the ground, his heavy boots sinking into the muddy square.  Releasing his grip, Garoth absorbed the lightning with a gesture.  Tendrils danced across his fingertips for a second before disappearing entirely.  The dark blanket of night fell across the land once more, interrupted here and there by half-hooded lamps at each doorstep.  The flames struggled against his wind, but Garoth decided not to snuff them.  Let them believe light would save them.  Only one would suffer tonight.

Pulling in the damp air through beastly nostrils, Garoth detected a nearby quarry.   The unfortunate soul cowered behind a patchwork door in an abandoned barn, unaware how little time was left them.  Focusing the energy within him, Garoth sent a bolt from one raised palm.  The door exploded, the concussion sending the small pale form flying against the back wall.  With a few quick strides, Garoth grabbed the unconscious child by the throat and held her up.  Long blonde hair cascaded across his arm, clashing with Garoth's blackened flesh.  The image gave him pause, something stirring inside as he considered.  Why did it have to be child?

"Still bothered by conscience, Garoth?  You should have remained among them.  Killing you that way would have been quick and painless."

Garoth didn't turn.  "I'll be with you in a moment, Kevor."  His nails bit into the pale flesh, his grip crushing the windpipe without effort.  Energy infused him as he murmured a few words, completing the ritual.  Distaste warred with glee as he turned to face his nemesis, hopefully for the last time.

That's my take on things.  If you haven't read it yet, you need to visit Michelle H. to see her awesome entry.  Tomorrow you can look forward to something just as extraordinary from one of our new blog chain members, PK.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fri...er...Thursday Fun

Since this is my Friday (it's a furlough day - thanks a lot, you idiots that couldn't balance the budget properly), I figure I might as well provide everyone with a laugh or two.  The following Weird Al Yankovic video should tickle just about everyone's funny bone - especially all of us that check email throughout the day, only to sigh at the mountain of spam that gets forwarded to us.  Anyway, this is off Al's latest album Alpocalypse.  Oh, and did I mention I'm going to see him in concert on the 20th with my kids?  Woohoo!