Thursday, November 1, 2018

5 BOOKS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER READING


I've been reading and enjoying books since I first picked up Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak back in Preschool.

And since that was . . . well, a great long time ago, I feel like I'm an amazingly well-read person. As a matter of fact, I'm so darn well-read that I thought that I would put together a list of the five books in which I feel everyone needs to read at least once in their lives.

Of course, I'm not really all that well read, so this is more like a list of really cool books that made me feel like I was someplace else and could forget the troubles of the world around me.

I'd like to add that I'm listing single books, not a series of books. Those will be on their own list to come soon.

So here you go, in no particular order, 5 books you need to read . . . if you haven't already.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE BY MAURICE SENDAK

One evening Max dons a wolf costume and causes all sorts of mischief throughout the house. As punishment, Max’s mom sends him to bed without supper. As he lies in bed, the room around him transforms into another world.

There is a boat nearby and so Max sets sail. He finds himself in the land of the Wild Things, fierce monsters who make Max their king. It’s not long though before Max is homesick and he must leave the Wild Things. So he sails back to his room, to find his supper waiting for him . . . and it’s still warm.

This is the book that put me on the path to reading. I didn’t learn to read on this book. If I recall correctly, the books I learned to read on were the Berenstain Bears. While my memory has always been fuzzy, I do recall my older brother teaching me to read and I’m pretty darn sure that the Berenstain Bears were involved.

So while the Berenstain Bears may have taught me how to read, Where the Wild Things Are taught me to love reading.

I wanted to be Max. I wanted to go to the land of the Wild Things, be their king, and join in on the Wild Rumpus.

Where the Wild Things Are was a great escape for me as a kid. I didn’t really have anything to escape from, but I sure did enjoy the escaping.

HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY BY DOUGLAS ADAMS

Arthur wakes one morning to find his home is about to be destroyed to make way for a bypass. So, still in his bathrobe, Arthur decides to have a bit of a lie down in front of the bulldozer that is, as I said, about to destroy his home.

Then, to make his morning even more confusing, Arthur’s friend, Ford Prefect shows up, talks the workers into not destroying Arthur’s home, takes Arthur (still in his bathrobe) to the local pub for a pint, tells Arthur that he (Ford) is actually an alien, and then explains that the Earth is about to be destroyed to make way for a new hyperspace bypass.

Soon a fleet of Vogon Destructor ships arrive and blow up the Earth.

Luckily, Arthur and Ford survive by hitching a ride on one of the Vogon ships, but without the Vogon’s knowledge.

And that’s just how the book starts.

There’s all kinds of wacky stuff happening in this book. You’ve got Zaphod Beeblebox, the Galactic President who steals the Heart of Gold, the only ship in the galaxy with an Improbability Drive. With him is Trillian, or Tricia McMillan, who is not only the only other survivor from Earth but is also someone Arthur had previously met at a party. You have Marvin, a very depressed robot. And you learn the secret behind Earth and how white mice are connected.

Plus, you’ll never look at the number 42 the same way again.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a lot of fun. It was the first book I read that made me laugh out loud, and I read it at least once every two years. Other than the story and the characters, what I love most about this book is the style in which Douglas Adams writes. I love the way the man constructs a sentence. He’s a huge influence on me and my writing.

LONESOME DOVE BY LARRY MCMURTRY

Augustus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call are two of the most famous Texas Rangers in history and the best of friends. They are retired and living in the small town of Lonesome Dove, Texas when an old friend and fellow Texas Ranger, Jake Spoon, arrives with tales of Montana and how a man could get rich if he were to drive a herd of cattle north and start themselves a cattle ranch.

They both decide to do just that. Woodrow’s reasoning is simple, he just needs the adventure and something to do. Augustus, or Gus, has different plans. The only reason he’s going along is for one last chance to see Clara, his once true love who is living in Nebraska.

Along the way they are beset by storms, Indians, bandits, and other such challenges.

This was the first western I ever read, and I’ve found that I couldn’t have picked better. McMurtry has a way of writing dialogue that makes the characters feel real.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read the book, and I’m starting to think that maybe I’ll add it to my list of books to read this year.

THE HOBBIT BY J.R. TOLKIEN

This is a story about a hobbit. A hobbit who, like all hobbits, craves nothing more than a well cooked meal and a nice pipe. What hobbits don’t want in their life is adventure, and this hobbit, whose name is Bilbo, was no different.

But then the wizard Gandalf shows up at his front door with thirteen dwarves and the promise of adventure. The dwarves are on a quest to reclaim their ancestral home deep within the Lonely Mountain. But first they have to kick out the mountain's current occupant, the dragon Smaug.

Well, before old Bilbo knows it, he’s whisked off on the one thing in life he wanted the least . . . an adventure. And as it turns out, he quite liked it.

This was my first foray into the whole swords and sorcery genre, a genre that for the longest time was really the only type of book I read.

I just recently re-read the book for the first time in two decades, and you can find all my thoughts about it HERE.

THE STAND BY STEPHEN KING

Somewhere in the California desert, in a secure military base, a virus is accidentally let loose upon the world. A virus that sweeps across the planet and kills practically everyone it infects.

But some survive.

In America there are two groups of survivors. Those called by Mother Abigail, and those called by Randal Flagg.

Mother Abigail is 108 years old and lives in Hemingford Home, Nebraska. Soon after the virus devastates the country, certain survivors begin to dream about her and journey cross country to get to her. Mother Abigail and the other survivors who find her, set up a community in Boulder, Colorado. But they know that their existence won’t be easy. In order to life free and in peace, they must first do something about Randall Flagg and his followers.

Randall Flagg. The Dark Man. The Walking Dude. He is known by many names, and he is the personification of evil. His goal is to eradicate humanity, and he’s gathered a group of people in Las Vegas with plans to do just that.

The Stand features a large cast of characters, but not too large that you can’t keep track of everyone. Stephen King weaves their stories masterfully, bringing them together by the end.

This is the book that made me fall for the Post Apocalyptic Survivor stories. Plus, it’s one of Stephen King’s best. If you’ve not read any Stephen King, this is a good place to start.

So there you are, 5 books you need to read . . . if you haven't already.

The problem with this list is that my memory just ain't what it used to be.

What I've listed here are the five books that immediately spring to mind when I think of the books I love.

I'm sure once this has been posted for a few days, another few books will pop into my head and I'll then curse myself for not including them on the list. So don't be surprised if a few months down the road you see a new post entitled 5 More Books You Should Consider Reading.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Once upon a time, I used to write this web comic with artist friend Harold Jennett called Variety Smack.

On Halloween the year we launched we did this strip (click strip to enlarge):


I always found it funny - as a kid - that Charlie Brown was given rocks for Halloween. As an adult, it made me both sad and curious.

I mean, what is it about this town that would single out this one child and give him rocks for Halloween?

What is wrong with these adults that they feel the need to punish this poor kid?

What did Charlie Brown do to deserve such treatment?

I don't know that we will ever have that answer. But the strip above takes a guess.

On that same Halloween in 2011, Harold was bitten by the prairie dog of inspiration created the follow, which I have always loved ... and still do.


Monday, October 29, 2018

HALLOWEEN READING: FANBOYS OF DOOM

Okay, first word . . . .

ZOMBIES!!!!

Alright, that may not excite people the way it once did, but still . . . .

ZOMBIES!!!!

Fanboys of Doom is a short story that explains what it would be like for a comic collector to live through the zombie apocalypse and still want to collect.

Life following the zombie apocalypse is no bag of chips.

That is unless you're former Police Officer Alex Ringo and you've discovered the resting place of the most valuable comic book of all.

Desperate to add the Holy Grail of comics to his mobile man cave, Alex will risk being eaten alive by a bevy of zombie fanboys to gain his prize.

(More after the cover)



Fanboys of Doom is fast paced, fun, and is full of zombies getting shot and blown up and such.

This isn't your average, dark, slow, grinding, gritty, everything is terrible, stark, depressing zombie tale.

So yeah, you should read it, and read it now. You'll have it read by the end of the day, easy.

You can pick it up by clicking here, or by clicking the cover image above.

Thank you for your time, and if you happen to live through the zombie apocalypse, may your life still be fulfilling like Alex Ringo's.



Friday, October 26, 2018

BATHROOM READING


Hello everyone.

My name is Steeven, and I read on the toilet.

And really, is that so wrong?

Is it?

Because if I go by the folks I interact with on a daily basis, it is.

People seem to have a real problem with it. In fact, some folks have a real problem with the bathroom in general. Why are they so uptight?

For example, I'm heading to the restroom the other day and I pass a fella in the hall, this is a guy I know, and he asks me:

"Where you off to?"

So I reply with:

"Gotta pee."

To which he gets all uncomfortable and says:

"OK, that was way too much information."

Really? Was it really too much information? Because I'm sure I could have gone into much more detail.

How should I reply when asked again so as not to make him uncomfortable?

Antiquing?

Slot car racing?

Origami lessons?

I don't know, I suppose I could have just said I was going to the restroom. Could it be possible that he had an issue with the word "pee"? I mean, it's the sixteenth letter in our alphabet. Does he go through life omitting that one letter in his correspondence?

Am I making more of this than I really should?

Because I don't think I am.

Frankly, I'm sick and tired of being ostracized for wanting to take those few moments in life where I get to be by myself to enjoy a good book. Why is that so wrong?

The fact of the matter is, people, we all poop. Each and every one of us. No one wants to talk about it, but we do it every day.

We don't seem to have a problem showing toilet paper commercials where someone pours a beaker of blue water onto a strip a toilet paper, then adds a roll of quarters atop it to show how strong their toilet paper is. Well guess what, folks. The quarters represent poop.

I actually have people burst into fits of giggles when they see me go into the restroom with a book under my arm. Yeah, okay, I mean, I might as well be holding a sign saying "I'm going to be a while!" But I like to read and the toilet in the perfect place to get some of that done.

And God forbid anyone see me carrying a large, hardback novel into the restroom.

I'm here, I read on the toilet, and I'm not going anywhere.

Get used to it.

#jointhemovement

Get it?

Photo by Hafidz Alifuddin from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/gender-88808/



If you like the free content I put out there each week, and feel so inclined to throw a little bit of support my way, it would surely be appreciated.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

WHAT I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP


If I could have any job in the world, I think I would like to be a professionally paid writer, or podcaster.

Actually, that's not true. If I had my choice then I’d like to just skip the whole job thing altogether and be someone who's independently wealthy, but just happens to write and podcast.

I need to get started on that. I have to make a plan. A plan to become independently wealthy. It shouldn't be too hard. Right?

Step One: Get a great big bunch of money.

Step . . . well, that's pretty much it.

Okay, so I have the plan. Now I just need to get out there and do it. I gotta go out there and get the money. Legally, of course. I don't condone thievery.

I don't need much money either.

I don't think I could live an extravagant lifestyle. I just want to have enough to get the things I want, and then not have to worry about money ever again.

What do I want?

Well . . . a slightly larger house. We live in a relatively tiny place at the moment. I'd like to have a place that has a finished basement that would act as a playroom/tornado shelter. I'd like there to be four bedrooms, two bathrooms, one kitchen, one family room, one dining room, and an office (for me to do my writing in). Maybe a two-car garage. Of course, then I'll need two reliable cars to put in that garage. Maybe a four-door sedan and a truck. Nothing fancy or too expensive. Just reliable.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I'd add a sound-proofed studio for the podcasting and the drum set I'd have to buy.

Plus I'd like to have a nice big TV.

But that's it. That's all I want.

That and the ability to pay any bill that might surface, to pay the way through college for my three kids, and then still have enough left over for whatever life throws my way.

That's all.

That's not too much to ask . . . is it?

Okay then. So now I know what I want, and I have a plan. I just have to do it.

Or I could just focus on the writing and the podcasting, appreciate what I have, surround myself in the love of my family, and just live life.

So yeah, I'll go back to my first answer. If I have to work for a living, then I'd like to do it writing or podcasting.

Or as a Space Ranger.

Wow . . . choosing a career is tough.

Monday, October 22, 2018

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING


Pretend you want to be a writer.

You have a great idea for a story and you've begun to bang it out on your computer.

But you have some questions.

How do I publish my story once it's complete? Where do I publish it? Should I just do an eBook or should I do a physical copy as well? How do I format it? Where can I get a cover? Do I need an editor? How much will all this cost me? Can I make some money off of this? How much could I make? Could I make a career out of writing? How do I make a career out of writing? Do I need a blog? What about just a basic website? What do I need on my website? Can I use Facebook, Twitter, etc to sell my book? Can I quit my job? What font should I use? Should I hire someone to put it all together for me? If I have a blog what should I write about? Won't that take away from writing my book? Do I need to be out there in front of everyone all the time so they don't forget who I am? Would it be more worth my time to shop to a publisher? How do I shop to a publisher? What's a query letter? I never went to college, should I taking some writing classes?

And I've barely touched the tip of the iceberg.

What you'll find when you start asking questions is that there are a crap ton of people out there who have the answers.

Some folks will answer all of these questions for free. Some folks will want you to pay for their wisdom.

The problem is that there is so much out there, from so many people, that it's more than difficult to discover who you can trust and who is just trying to make a buck. And the folks who offer their advice for free, how do you know if they even know what they're talking about.

It can be enough to make a person just want walk away from the whole thing without even trying.

Myself, I'd turned on the flood gates and let all the free advice that was out there drown me. In time I've come to just ignore it all.

Of course what that means is that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Take this blog for example. First off, it's on Blogger. I see nothing wrong with that myself, but i know that there are a lot of people out there that would just love to line up and tell me what a moron I am for using the free service. They want to tell me that I can't trust that all my content will still be out there in a year if Blogger (or any site like it) decides to just up and pull the plug on things.

Of course, I don't worry about all that. I have backups of everything.

But the fact is, I don't use Blogger for the ease of use (and after a number of years using it, I do find it easy and comfortable). No, I use Blogger because it is free, and free is all I can afford.

It's tough being a writer trying to get things done when you have no money. I once saw a post on one of the various social media sites in which a fellow self published writer degraded the book covers of other writers, stating that they obviously did their cover on the cheap and if so, why bother.

Well, I made the mistake of responding. I asked what is someone supposed to do if they want to write and self publish but just simply can't afford to hire someone to create a professional looking cover for them?

I was told at that point that anyone not willing to put some money toward their book is disrespecting their readers. I tried to explain that not everyone has money, even a little. Again I was told that you have to spend money to make money. If you can't buy a professional cover, if you can't hire a professional editor, then you shouldn't even be a writer.

And while there were a small handful of writers who offered suggestions for how a writer with no money could get these services through trade or other means, the resounding majority message was: No Money? Don't Bother. You Suck. Die.

Well, that certainly depressed me for a few days. I had a really hard time with it. And one question kept coming to me:

So, only people with money are allowed to pursue their dreams?

The answer I found was, in most cases, yes.

And yet, with that answer wedged firmly between the cockles of my heart, I decided that I didn't care. I was going to continue writing. When I finished a book I would put together the best looking cover I could. I was going to edit it myself, as best I could. I would put it out there and market it as best I could.

Maybe, just maybe, people would stumble across it and buy it. Maybe, just maybe, I could then take that money and put it into my writing.

Or maybe no one would buy it.

I had to face that possibility as well. And frankly, I decided that I didn't care.

Okay, that's not true. Of course I would care. It hurts when you spend time creating something from scratch, something that literally came straight out of your brain, something you put your heart into, something you love almost as much as your own family, and you put that creation out there into the world only to get nothing in return but silence.

So yes, I care. But I decided that I was just going to have to suck it up and put it out there anyway.

And so yeah, here's the thing, I have no idea what I'm doing. Am I using my blog the correct way? Is serializing The Adventures of Norman Oklahoma mistake? Should I never say anything to anyone about what I'm writing until I have an actual book out there to sell?

I. DON'T. KNOW.

Because I just don't have the time, or the energy, to spend pouring through the blogs and the podcasts and the tweets that tell me how to do this and what I'm doing wrong. Not anymore.

9 Mistakes You Are Making With Your Author Blog. 10 Ways To Build Up Your Mailing List. 6 Pronouns You Should Never Use.

I just can't.

All that stuff does is slow me down and make me doubt myself. And it is everywhere.

But here's the thing. I think it's great that that stuff is out there. I do think that there are some truly great people out there who have figured out how to make it and have decided to share their experiences with others. I thank them for that. Much respect.

But I think I'm just going to do my thing. I'm going to continue to shout into the hurricane of indie publishing, of indie marketing, of all the people out there with something to sell, and hope that someone hears me.

A few of you have. Thank you. You help make it all worth it.

But yeah. Again.

I have no idea what I'm doing.

Friday, October 19, 2018

SILLY DAD POEMS


My family has told me on more than on occasion that I'm a little odd.

That's okay, they're all a bit odd as well.

One of the reasons they find me odd, and there are many, is due to the little songs I sing or the poems and/or lymrics I write off the top of my head as I'm in the kitchen preparing dinner or some such.

For example, I'll hear something on the television, a word or phrase, and before you know it I'm singing a little dity centered around that word or phrase.

Last night, a four line poem about my daughter popped into the my head, something silly, and by the end of the night, I'd had four more of them.

I have four kids. In order of age from oldest to youngest there is my step daughter, my son, and my two girls.

One of those two girls, the one not the youngest, I have called Noodle since she was born. I don't know why, I just have.

So last night, this crept into my head:

Noodley-Doo
What's wrong with you?
Do you have the flu?
Noodley-Doo


Which then lead to the following:

Noodley-Doo
You do have the flu
I heard an "atchoo!"
Noddley-Doo


And then:

Noodley-Doo
Why are you blue?
Did you lose a shoe?
Noodley-Doo


Which led to:

Noodley-Doo
Where is your shoe?
Do you have a clue?
Noodley-Doo


And finally:

Noodley-Doo
Would you like some stew?
Don't forget to chew
Noodley-Doo


After reciting these to her one at a time, each time one would pop into my head, Noodle told me that I needed to write them down.

And so I have.

I return you back to your regularly scheduled day.