Saturday, December 23, 2006

First Paying Writing

During the course of my career, people have often asked me how I got my start in writing. Well, I learned at an early age you could get paid for it. As long as you're willing to do the work that goes with it.

So here, as best as I can remember it, is a facsimile of my first paid writing at age 6.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

People, You've Gotta Read This Blog!

Don McCue is a friend of mine who has a wicked sense of humor. To know him is to love him. His latest blog about "The Great Goose War" had me rolling on the floor. It's a treatise on how the animal world, popular opinion, and bureaucracy take both "individual" and "action" out of individual action.

We both grew up in small Oklahoma towns. This wouldn't even be an issue there.

Go read it, have a chuckle, and let Don know you stopped by!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Coming On DVD Dec. 19! Perfect Gift For Kids And Families!

I've been reading the Alex Rider books for four years now and am a big fan. I've been ordering the books from Amazon UK because they were coming out a year earlier there, then picking up the hardcover here because they didn't come out in hardcover in the UK. There was no new book this year because of the international popularity and because Horowitz is working on a new series. He's a busy guy.

The movie came out in limited release in America, and never even close to Oklahoma. So I missed it. But I'll be picking up the DVD for myself and for Christmas presents.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

At Amazon

Alex Rider Is Back! And His Life Is On The Line!

Fourteen-year-old super spy Alex Rider swings back into action in Point Blank, the second in the thus-far six-book series written by Anthony Horowitz. This time he’s matched against a South African madman, Dr. Grief, and his sadistic second-in-command, Mrs. Stellenbosch, who run an elite school high in the French Alps for trouble-making teenagers.

For those who may not know who Alex Rider is, he was dragged into the spy business by his uncle’s murder in the first book, Stormbreaker. Alex lost his parents in a tragic accident that hasn’t quite been explained, then raised by his uncle Ian, who Alex thought was a bank manager and led a very quiet, sedate life.

However, in that life Ian Rider also managed to see to it that Alex was raised very independently, taught how to drive, scuba dive, shoot, and fight in martial arts. As well as learning several languages. Looking back on his life at one point in the first book, Alex came to the surprising conclusion that he’d basically been trained to become a spy.

But not at 14.

In the first book, Alex was lured by Blunt, the taskmaster of MI6, the spy agency, and Mrs. Jones, his assistant, into avenging his uncle’s murder. When he’d turned them down, they’d blackmailed him by telling him they would send him away to foster care instead of staying with Jack Starbright, his live-in keeper. Alex had reluctantly gone along with the opportunity to go on a mission. After a few weeks of intensive training, Alex went out into the field and proved himself to be a natural spy and survivor.

After that mission, though, Alex told Blunt and Mrs. Jones that he never wanted to be a spy again.

Point Blank opens up with the exciting scenes readers have come to expect from Horowitz. A friend of Blunt’s is murdered by a mysterious assassin known as The Gentleman, and the murder is made to look like a terribly tragic accident. Before the man had died, though, he’d brought a matter to Blunt’s attention: a special school for boys of wealthy parents that promised to correct those boys’ bad behavior.

Meanwhile, Alex has discovered that going back to school after being a spy is hard. He’s bored. Nothing has the edge to it like it had when he was constantly in fear for his life. Spotting a drug dealer in action on the school grounds, Alex goes after the guy and his partner. The resulting action puts the bad guys into jail, but it also endangers Alex’s independence. He’s once more reliant on Blunt and Mrs. Jones to pull him out of trouble.

They want something in return, though. They want Alex to investigate the mysterious boarding school in France known as Point Blanc. When Alex becomes disagreeable, they again threaten him with taking his independence away. Having no real choice, Alex agrees to accept the mission.

Before he can go to Point Blanc, though, Alex has to adopt a new identity. He becomes Alex Friend, the recalcitrant son of a supermarket king who’s worth millions. Alex is just supposed to be there long enough to soak up some of the family history, but nothing ever comes easily to Alex. In not time at all, he’s nearly gunned down and almost hit by a fast-moving train.

Then he’s off to Point Blank to become a student, and he’s stepped into one of the most dangerous situations he’s ever been in.

Horowitz is an accomplished writer. Besides books for kids, he’s also written a few for adults. In addition to the Alex Rider series, Horowitz is currently working on a five-book series called The Gatekeepers, and a series off books about The Diamond Brothers, a pair of private investigators who get involved in wild adventures.

Horowitz also writes for BBC television. He contributed scripts to Midsomer Nights Murders, Hercule Poirot, and he created Foyle’s War.

In 2006, the first Alex Rider novel, Stormbreaker was made into a movie. It’s coming to DVD in December 2006.

I’ve read all of the books and am now reading them to my 9-year-old son for his AR program, which just proves how cyclical the books really are. I was introduced to them by a 12-year-old in one of the classes I taught on writing and fell in love with them. I’ve followed the books for the last four years, buying them from England because they came out there a year ahead of the American release. That appears to be changing since Alex Rider has become an international phenomenon.

The action and verbal sparring is suggestive of a young 007 (which is also being done at this point, but those books are set in the 1930s, making it a little hard for today’s readers to understand). The gadgets that are part of Alex’s arsenal are provided by Smithers, Alex’s own version of Q. So far they’ve included things like a yo-yo that could operate as a mechanized grappling hook. A Discman that had a saw CD that could cut through concrete walls. And an exploding earring.

Point Blank is loaded with a lot of over-the-top action that Horowitz deftly describes without missing a beat. Dr. Grief and Mrs. Stellenbosch are perfectly creepy villains. And the actual evil plot could have been ripped from today’s headlines.

My 9-year-old and I usually read 20 minutes a day in the morning while he has his breakfast before he goes to school. He had a hard time waiting between reading sessions because his active mind was constantly working to figure out how Alex was going to get out of his latest jam, and to figure out what was really going on.

Through all of the action, though, Alex emerges as a complete and unique character, despite the immediate comparisons to James Bond. Alex has his own troubles, and his parents’ deaths are mysteries that plague him and keep cropping up throughout the series. These are great books for adult readers as well as middle-graders. There simply isn’t enough of this stuff – this good – out there. If you haven’t discovered Alex Rider, this would be a great book to start with.

Especially if you see the movie and you and your kids want more teen spy action!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ah, the vagaries of the human heart. When I talk about love and what it means, I get all kinds of responses. Many women cut loose with Oprah-speak, Dr. Phil-speak, and Dr. Laura-speak. Whatever pop psychology that is currently being turned out into the world. I talk to men about it, and most of them don’t want to talk about it at all, or immediately tie it to the present sexual climate they have in their relationships.

Poets have written volumes on it. Wars have been fought because of it. And divorce lawyers have made mints. Not to mention the latest dating/sex gurus that are on tour.

So what is it about men and women that we can’t speak our minds? Women I know tell me that it must be great to be married to me. They tell my wife that as well. I’m a writer by trade, so I speak my mind. But I don’t think that’s why I’m as communicative as I am. I see myself as a student of the world. I’m constantly learning, and no matter how hard I try, I’m not going to be able to understand it all. But I put forth the effort because I have to, because that’s the way I am. I’m ADHD, and explaining what I think I understand to other people – the sheer act of putting it into words – helps me understand things a little better.

My wife agrees with some of the women who have told her that they enjoy the way I’m in touch with my feelings, but she also points out that as communicative as I am, I still don’t always listen and it’s usually my socks that are found lying around the bedroom. Also, I suffer from the male blindness syndrome of not being able to find my keys, my wallet, or a favorite shirt when I’m trying to head out. I’m more communicative, but at the end of the day, I’m still limited, still male. She’s okay with that, though, and it’s part of what makes me attractive to her. Frankly, it’s my guyness that makes me look on her with love and desire. Even without the physical relationship, though, we’d still be good friends. I’m really glad everything has worked out the way it has.

But what do you do for women who want to understand men? You buy ‘em Men, Love & Sex: The Complete User’s Guide for Women by David Zinczenko with Ted Spiker, of course!

Zinczenko is the editor of Men’s Health, a magazine devoted to helping guys understand all there is to know about being a guy, and how to get the best out of that Y chromosome that makes us so alien to the female of the species. He’s written op-ed pieces and articles for several metropolitan newspapers and USA Today. And People magazine listed him as one of the 50 Most Eligible Bachelors. This is obviously a man who knows men.

Ted Spiker is a contributing editor at Men’s Health and an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Florida.

So why are they spilling their guts to women?

Because, as Zinczenko mentions on several occasions throughout his book, men tend to be sedentary and won’t bring change in their lives unless they have to. Therefore, it’s up to the women to bring about the change in a man that he needs but doesn’t know how to reach for or is too frightened about do. Yep, you read that right. Men get frightened about relationships. That’s another point Zinczenko makes in his book.

When it comes down to it, Zinczenko says, men and women really want the same things out of life. It’s just that too many people (on both sides of the gender line) don’t know that. They tend to accept that they’re just “different”.

Men, Zinczenko contends – and rightly so from where I’m seated, can’t fathom their own feelings about things. And then, even those few that are blessed enough to truly know, lack the words to say it to anyone else. Even among themselves. Part of being male is being a guy who has no weaknesses. We’ve all got to be tough guys. Which means that we’re not going to tell even each other when things aren’t going so well for us health-wise, financially, or in relationships that we really care about.

Five thousand men and women were polled for answers to the questions posed in the book, so it’s not just a personal memoir that Zinczenko has put together. It’s well researched, filled with the burning questions that women want to know – as well as the surprising answers men have given.

One of the most attractive things about the book is its presentation. First of all, it’s only a little over 200 pages in length. It’s a fairly quick read, but it doesn’t stint on information. As a further enticement, the chapters are short as well, and the pages are broken up into sections dealing with Q&A topics.

A chapter is generally outlined at the beginning, then broken into three or more questions from women that detail that topic with clear, insightful answers given by Zinczenko and supported by answers from men. As a result, there’s an awful lot of dialogue in the book, and we all know how much we like to gossip and listen in on other people’s conversations. This book lends itself to that, almost like sitting across an aisle in a restaurant and eavesdropping on the couple seated at that table as they discuss private matters.

The book gets further divided up by sidebars tossed in by the author. Almost every chapter contains a “Say This, Not That” section, a “What It Means When” section, a “Male Mysteries” factoid that breaks men’s reactions to different things down into a percentage, a “Wondering Woman” section that offers another short but defining question, and a “Say This Tonight!” featuring quotes by men and women.

The book, cleverly disguised of course – unless you don’t mind people knowing what you’re reading, is the perfect material for subway rides, trips to the dentist, anywhere that you’re going to have five or ten minutes at a stretch to devote to it. The sections are just like Hershey’s Kisses, easy to pop one down, and before you know it, you’ve read a whole chapter!

As a woman, you’ll find a lot to talk about with your girlfriends. As a man (and yes, I do recommend this book to men as well), you’re going to find out a lot about yourself – primarily that you’re not the only one who thinks or acts a certain way. Of course, that doesn’t excuse some of how you think or act, but at least you know it’s not just you.

You can read the book from cover to cover if you want. Or you can read through by chapters. With 25 chapters to choose from, all of them titled tantalizing questions from Must-Know lists, you can just dive right in and begin your education. The material is definitely worth more than one trip through, though. Learning comes along in layers, and the more you get introduced to and understand, the more you’ll be able to discover on return visits. Plan on buying this one and putting it in an easy to get to place.

I found out a lot about myself as I read the book. Men and women are different, but we want the same things. The journeys we take to get them can be quite different, though. Men, Love & Sex: The Complete User’s Guide For Women is the perfect field guide for the trip across the wide gulf that separates the sexes.
The Da Vinci Code seems to have established a new breed of thriller that appears to be here to stay. The idea of all these secrets tumbling out of the past that endangers the present-day world on a scale that’s unheard of, or ripping away our religious beliefs, and usually presents some faction of the Roman Catholic Church as the bad guys can – on the surface, at least – seem a little far-fetched. But thriller readers keep reaching for them as they spill out onto the shelves.

Unfortunately, not all of the writers are capable of backing up their painstaking historical research and deep thinking with the kind of action that thriller readers long for. It’s one thing to present a ton of background information, history, legend, and possibilities, but it’s quite another to do so in a manner that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time.

Eric Van Lustbader’s new novel, The Testament delivers the action in spades, and spins the twists and turns on a dime. I first encountered Lusbader when he was writing fantasy, a trilogy about the Sunset Warrior that had Asian flavors. From there he went on to write the wildly popular Nicholas Linnear books as well as other books with heavily researched Chinese and Japanese backgrounds. Lately he’s managed a return to the fantasy genre with his books about The Pearl and even penned a new Jason Bourne adventure.

The book opens with a provocative battle between a warrior of the Church and armed men who pursue him for the secret he carries. From just the first few pages, I knew I was in good hands. I wasn’t going to spend all of my time clambering around musty bookshelves looking for ancient secrets or ferreting out hidden puzzles and codes. All of that has its place, of course, but I do enjoy a white-knuckled plunge through two-fisted adventure.
After the prologue, the action shifts over to Dexter Shaw. He immediately comes across as a man on a mission, and one with a ton of secrets he’s carrying around. Both are true. He meets with his son, Braverman (hereafter called Bravo), and they immediately get into one of their usual fights. Dexter wants to tell Bravo something that he considers vastly important, but Bravo says they’ll talk later.

That chance doesn’t come. Only a short time later, Dexter confronts one of his long-time enemies and barely escapes with his life. A few minutes later, he’s killed.

Bravo gets the news and can’t believe it. His father is dead and his sister has been blinded in what everyone is calling a tragic “accident”. Bravo knows what happened wasn’t an accident. In the hospital, his sister reveals his destiny to him, that he has to find and protect whatever his father left hidden out there for him to find and protect.

Backtracking his father’s movements and contacts quickly puts Bravo in touch with Jenny Logan, who has a multitude of secrets of her own. Even as they’re making introductions, mutually deciding not to trust the other for reasons of their own, they’re attacked by the Knights of St. Clement, who are the bad guys that killed Dexter.

The action is fast and furious. Lustbader is a seasoned pro at getting the most bang out of his buck when it comes to this kind of writing. His character-building is spare, done in the rush of events that move with the speed and urgency of whitewater rafting. I had a great time trying to keep up with the rollicking plot, back-and-forth dialogue, and all the back story that kept cropping up when it was necessary.

An interesting note is that not only do the good guys buy the farm in this book, but so do some of the villains. The hit team that first goes after Bravo and Jenny are extremely memorable, and their back story fits right into the tale, deepening the characters effortlessly and giving them more reasons to kill our hero and heroine than simply, “I’m the bad guy. It’s my job.” In fact, I was surprised when I felt sorry for them. That was totally unexpected.

The crux of the plot revolves around “The Quintessence,” a miraculous element that brought Jesus Christ back to life – unknown to anyone else. Although there is a testament (which gives the book its name) written by Jesus that outlines the rest of his life. The Order of the Gnostic Observatines chooses one person for life to be the keeper of this most fabulous of secrets that promises immortality. Dexter Shaw was the last keeper of the testament, and he’s left that dangerous job to Bravo.

The Testament is a great thriller read. It’s a little light on history and legends compared to The Da Vinci Code (but even that book got some things wrong, as evidenced by the writing that swiftly followed publication), and other practitioners like Steve Berry, but what Lustbader offers is what he’s been selling all along: fantastic action that zips along at a breakneck pace. Will it change your life or give you more research at your fingertips than any of the other Da Vinci-style thrillers out there? No. But what the book will give you is hours of reading pleasure and vicarious thrills. And just enough of a puzzle to keep you turning the pages late into the night.

When it first came out, Project Snowblind didn’t really hit my radar. I saw it on the shelves, but I hadn’t heard much about it. The game was written up in the magazines, but no one I knew was talking about it. Before I shell out $40 to $50 bucks for a game, I want to hear it’s great from someone I know. But somehow the buzz about the game never picked up.

The box art looks good, but at the time the shelves were filling up with first-person shooters wrapped in special forces lore. I figured it was just one more and took a pass. I think a lot of people did, which is a shame because it is really a great little game.

Project Snowblind was developed by Crystal Dynamics, the same nice folks who gave us the Legacy of Kain games, the Gex games, and the latest Lara Croft game, Tomb Raider Legends. It was published by Eidos, and Eidos has now taken Crystal Dynamics in a partnership.

This week we got snowbound in Oklahoma. Ice storm swept in and locked the city down cold. Two days without school, without the daily rat race of taking the kids somewhere they had to be. So my wife and I laid in enough groceries to get us through. She’s a school teacher so she was off work, and I work at home. On Thursday morning, being the beautiful and sweet woman that she is, she made a mercy run. Bought junk food, soft drinks, and Project Snowblind, which is appropriately named for the situation we were in (these are merely two of the several reasons I married her! The fact that she feeds us video games and has a wicked sense of humor!).

She and my nine-year-old promptly sat down and started wiping out the bad guys. I had a deadline so I couldn’t play, which was a real bummer. But I took the occasional peek at the game as they played. It looked good. It looked intriguing. They died in places I really didn’t think I would have.

Thankfully, I have strong willpower. I didn’t ask for a controller. I walked away until I got my work done. Then I sat down to take up the good fight, to save the world one more time.

In Project Snowblind I started out as Nathan Frost, a true warrior’s name. I was in command of a special forces unit responsible for helping restore the peace in Hong Kong after a band of terrorists calling themselves the Republic started causing problems. That was cool. I love hitting the ground running in these games.

The problem was, I kept hitting the ground. Dying. Again and again. Then I remembered that I had a team and quit trying to Rambo my way through the game. Maybe my reflexes aren’t what I remember them being. It had been a while since I’d played a game this demanding. So I started slowly taking the battlefield, inch by inch, and relying more on my team. After all, they were all around me and turned out to be pretty good shots.

So I was feeling pretty good about taking out all the bad guys in less time than it had taken my wife (she’s no slouch when it comes to gaming, but I have an edge on her because I don’t get vertigo from the spinning camera action from these types of games that she does; so I beat her time because my stamina is better; yay me). About that time, the game shifts to a cut-scene. Nathan Frost tries to save a fellow soldier who’s been wounded. Before Frost can get them clear, they get blown up.

I get blown up. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’d done something wrong. But the military quickly scraped all my pieces together and rebuilt me into a super-soldier. (If I’d read the back of the box, I’d have known that. But I didn’t read the back of the box, and I never read the instruction manual. If a game is good, it’s got an interface that trains you on the job.)

I got cool vision powers and a type of super-speed to start with. But more powers kept showing up as I powered through the game. In short order, I could power up and become nearly invulnerable, see in the dark, revive myself after a death experience, and turn invisible. I was king of the battlefield. As long as I didn’t get too cocky. Because then I would get dead. Just to remind me that super doesn’t mean I can’t be killed.

The graphics in the game are really good. I play on a 42-inch screen and there was no graininess, only smooth color and movement. The camera angles overlap nicely, providing fluid movement and the best seat in the house for any engagement. The sound is also good, providing a lot of the immersive feel of the game.

The action is piled on, constantly throwing me into the path of danger. But that’s the only way I could play the hero to my troops!

Project Snowblind is a fantastic game for enthusiasts of first-person shooters. The game has a plot, and the characterization is deep enough to pull you in, and the overall storytelling compels you to finish the game – or die trying! I really liked the super abilities, but the game was designed well enough that those abilities didn’t make the game too easy once you employed them. In addition, you can drive vehicles, making for some hairy action that is a total blast. It’s not Halo, people, but then nothing is. But for a change of pace and some sheer fun, pick up Project Snowblind. I see it everywhere from $10 to $20, and at either price you get great value.

Just remember: shoot first, ask questions later, and keep your head down!

You are The Wheel of Fortune

Good fortune and happiness but sometimes a species of
intoxication with success

The Wheel of Fortune is all about big things, luck, change, fortune. Almost always good fortune. You are lucky in all things that you do and happy with the things that come to you. Be careful that success does not go to your head however. Sometimes luck can change.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.


I consider myself to be fairly well-informed when it comes to news matters. I keep up with breaking news on, and I supplement that with occasional magazines in the store that catch my eye. Usually I pick up magazines that offer additional coverage of a news story or someone who wants to offer a different take on what is actually going on.

After all, I am a writer. I need to know more about what’s going on – or at least think I do – than most people. To me, the world is an immensely interesting place. I rely on books, movies, and fact-based DVDs like this one to keep me on top of my game.

I even check out the BBC websites and other internationals news sites to see what’s going on in other parts of the world. Still, no matter how hard you try, there’s simply too much going on to keep abreast of it all.

It doesn’t help when a story is casually brushed under the rug and kept out of the news.

That’s what’s been going on down in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican town that has grown large enough to straddle the border between Texas and Mexico. “This city kills people,” says Charles Bowden, author Juarez: The Laboratory of Our Future.

The figures vary, but most experts and political activists agree that over 400 young Mexican women have been kidnapped, raped, murdered, and tossed out into the desert in the last 13 years. In addition to that, over 4000 more people have gone missing in that same time period, and most – if not all – of those are presumed murdered as well.

Steev Hise ( describes himself as a cultural artist. He claims to focus on the “appropriation and recontextualization of pre-existing cultural artifacts in other words, making new art from the old.”

After watching his work in On The Edge: The Femicide in Ciudad Juarez, I think he’s more of a journalist than he might perhaps realize or want to own up to. His portrayal of the problem in that city is at once matter-of-fact and moving. His investigation into the causes is extremely well thought out and presented in a manner that is easy to understand. Even if the subject matter is so hard to take.

I live in Oklahoma, which practically puts this problem in my backyard, yet I hadn’t heard about it other than an episode of “Criminal Minds” last year that didn’t lay out as many facts as Hise’s DVD does. Expect to hear more as Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas star in Bordertown when it releases at the theaters.

Hise interviews several people during the 58-minute documentary, and all of them are a combination of passionate and jaded. They know this story intimately, and it still moves them, but you can tell they’re just tired of telling it and watching as it falls on deaf ears. They know, but they wish everyone else knew too.

The first problem in Ciudad Juarez is the abject poverty. Many United States manufacturing corporations have built plants there, but most employees make less than $4 a day. But that’s more than the $1.90 a day earned by most employees. When you see the footage of the streets, you can tell poverty has a stranglehold on the city and is grinding it back down into the dust.

That problem is immediately coupled with neglect. Too many people don’t want to get involved. No true investigation has been done because too many of those in official positions don’t want to know what’s really going on. Mexican police don’t start acting until 72 hours have passed after paperwork has been filed about a missing person. In 2004, Special Prosecutor Maria Lopez Urbina filed charges against 81 policemen for being negligent or incompetent.

As a result, when pressured, Mexican police have started prosecuting the first man they can find who was associated with the murdered woman. Usually it’s the husband or a family member. Many of these men are innocent of the charges, but they’re tortured into a confession. Fearful for their own freedom, many choose not to get involved.

Corruption has always been a problem in Mexico, just as it’s been a problem in all countries where organized crime exists. Criminal enterprises are profitable, and there’s usually enough to pay off several people. Policemen don’t make enough money as policemen to support their families, so everyone knows they’ll be taking bribes somewhere down the road.

Migration is still another problem. With its proximity to the United States, many people flood into Ciudad Juarez with the hopes of working at US plants or crossing the border illegally and finding work there. Many of those interviewed bring out the fact that women get hired for those jobs more than men do (because they come from a culture where women are trained from birth to be docile), creating a disparity between the sexes that causes any number of problems in the home. This increases the incidence of domestic violence.

The DVD brings out the fact that Free Trade (North American Free Trade Agreement) causes friction and Mexico is totally unprotected. Globalization has hurt many smaller nations, and I can see where that’s starting to hit home in the United States now as jobs are outsourced and benefits fade away. Mexico, once a country that was known for corn harvests, now imports, a move that put over a million independent farmers out of business.

In addition to putting together a presentation about an important problem that simply isn’t getting enough attention, Hise has produced a moving body of work. His camera becomes our eyes, and he triggers the questions we have as we learn more about the murders and the conditions that exist in Ciudad Juarez.

I certainly got more than I’d intended when I asked to review this DVD. It’s something that’s going to stay with me for a long time, and probably something I’m going to write about again.
In the meantime, read up on the problem. You’ll find that women’s rights are largely ignored in many African countries, too, which is why the United Nations is putting embargoes against them. But the scary part is that eventually this kind of treatment isn’t going to be localized in certain parts of the world, but be a global phenomenon. And one that isn’t limited to region, race, or religion.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Iron Man Animated Movie Coming January 23, 2007!

I saw part of the trailer for this one on the Ultimate Avengers 2 DVD and got excited. Now that I've seen the latest trailer
I have to admit that I can't wait. It really looks like they've done this one right. I love being able to watch these DVDs with Chandler!

Monday, November 20, 2006

007 Is Back! And He's Shaken, Not Stirred, In This Blistering Remake!

When Ian Fleming first wrote the novels about him back in the 1950s and 1960s, James Bond was a tough-as-nails, take-no-prisoners spy for the British Empire back during the days of the Cold War when nuclear threat loomed everywhere. Sean Connery played Bond that way in the beginning and never truly got away from it, but over the years, Bond got softened up and too chatty. Pierce Brosnan offered up the excellent Goldeneye in the movie version of 007 and followed that with three pretty good Bonds. Unfortunately, Ian Fleming didn’t live long enough to see more than two of the James Bond films, so we don’t know what he would have thought of Hollywood’s take on him over the long haul.

In fact, Casino Royale had been made twice before. Once for television (an atrocity, by most fans' standards) then again as a feature movie starring David Niven (which most fans want to forget although Fleming himself actually suggested using Niven as 007). This third incarnation of the movie adapted from the book hews more closely to the original plot.

The movie going audience seems to be split over what to make of the newest British super-secret agent who’s just been licensed to kill. Daniel Craig is going to remake the franchise and bring it back more to Ian Fleming's original creation. Craig's Bond is cold, calculating, and driven. A hard, bloody job takes a harder, bloodthirsty man who brings everything to the bottom line no matter what the cost. Craig even looks as rough-and-tumble as Connery did in the early movies. He has a predator's body, heavily muscled and lean. His eyes are those of a hunter. Whoever his fight coordinator is has done a wonderful job of getting Craig up close and personal in his technique, and working with the film crew to catch the savagery of the hand-to-hand battles. There is an action and immediacy in these scenes that hasn’t been shown before. Many moviegoers are likening it to Matt Damon’s work in the Bourne movies, and that isn’t far off the mark. It’s all very well done.

Daniel Craig has done a lot of different things, including being in a Tomb Raider movie and other action films, so he has quite a bit to bring to the picnic. Also, at 38, he should be able to carry the role for a few movies. Martin Campbell, the director, gave us Zorro with Antonio Banderas and Brosnan's first Bond film, Goldeneye. Bond writers, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day) return for this movie as well as the next, but Paul Haggis (Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Flags Of Our Fathers) joins them. The writing is tight and moves quickly, letting the action and the camera take most of the work and setting up some deftly done character exchanges and plot revelations.

The plot in Casino Royale shifts and evolves, begging a little patience from the audience but ultimately rewarding it. The movie actually "feels" as though it's come to an ending three times, with mixed results, before finally cutting to credits. I was actually ready to go twice shortly after a couple action sequences, and the third “ending” was almost telescoped too far from the action. I started to feel punch drunk from the rollercoaster ride of expectation. But after all was revealed, the endings stayed true to form for the Bond books.

While in Madagascar, Bond -- newly risen to double-oh status in a dark, cold prologue that really paints a gritty picture of what 007’s work is al about -- is hunting a terrorist funding network through the only contact MI6 has been able to ferret out. Almost immediately, the film plunges into headlong action that takes advantage of parkour (, the free running style that's gotten so much attention in France. These sequences are awesome, and even when you see them you'll have trouble believing them. Of course, they're helped along by some CG work and stunt gear, but nevertheless, it's a romp that ends in a fiery shootout at an embassy.

We get introduced to Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), the terrorist banker that is Bond's true quarry, in a threatening scene that shows what he is up against and the dangers he faces on a daily basis while laundering and investing terrorist profits. He has an oddity, as most Bond villains do, though his isn't of a homicidal nature. He has mismatched eyes and one of them weeps blood.

Bond picks up Le Chiffre's trail in the Bahamas, providing a nice scenic backdrop to action and beautiful women in swimwear. Bond’s infiltration of the Ocean Club to get the information he needs is simple and direct, but with all the finesse of a sledgehammer at work. This is Fleming's raw Bond at work that so many of the moviegoers haven't ever witnessed because they haven't read the books.

The encounter with Solange (Caterina Murino) is pure Bond with the way he uses her to get information he needs, then quickly walks away from her. Later, when confronted with the matter by M (Judi Dench returning to the role she has claimed as her own in a way no one else has), she tells Bond that normally she would tell an agent not to blame himself. But she says she knows that she doesn’t have to tell him that. It’s a cold moment in which today’s movie audience gets a glimpse of the real Bond, the agent that Fleming wrote about. For him, a mission is always about success and his own survival. Nothing else – no one else – matters.

Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) is one of the most interesting Bond women we’ve ever gotten to know through the course of a movie. Typically, we don’t get the complete story of the women that pass through 007’s life, but we don’t really need to. Vesper Lynd’s story isn’t that way. By the time we reach the end of the film we wish we’d gotten to know her a little more because she seems so much like Bond.

But a Bond film is about action and intrigue, and Casino Royale -- to shamelessly employ a pun – delivers in spades. Things don’t go as 007 would have them, but they do get where he needs them to be. The chemistry between 007 and Mathis is awesome, especially the way the other agent so coldly deals with objectives that get in their way, and I hope he gets to come back for the next movie. Although, with the way everything is written, you really don’t know.

The action and plotting quickly adds layers of complexity, providing a great bit of storytelling that somehow even manages to make the protracted card game interesting even though it should have passed much more quickly. Then the endings begin, and with them some leaps in the plotting that are a little weak and stretch the willing suspension of disbelief. Not that it matters at this point, because we’re firmly aboard the rollercoaster.

Casino Royale is the start of the new Bond franchise. The coming movies are going to be interesting, and this movie undoubtedly sets the tone. As yet, the tech is realistic, not over the top, and there’s no mention of Q. A few of the familiar elements are missing, but 007’s CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter is on hand, so there is a not to continuity. Divided though the camp may be, Daniel Craig looks like the 007 for this generation, and he’s off to a blazing start.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Absolutely One of the Best Series for YA Readers Out There!

I couldn't help myself. I had the second book of The Last Apprentice series on hand. I sat down and read it. I didn't mean to. I was just going to turn a few pages at lunch. It hooked me. Wouldn't let go. Kept revealing more and more about the characters and the world. I was weak. Helpless to resist.

Now I probably gotta wait a year before another book comes out. Arrrrggggghhhhh!

Read my reviews posted at Amazon,, or Bookhound. Then read the books. In order.

I also had a surprise today. I got an email from someone who works at Renaissance Learning, the fine folk who put the Accelerated Reader program into the schools. Christopher saw my review somewhere and was kind enough to write and tell me where I could suggest good books that could be added to the Accelerated Reader lists.

So I added both of the books.

This is just to let you know that people do pay attention to your writing, and that you can make a difference in what happens in your world!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

New Blu-ray Reviews Up At Amazon

Please click on MEL'S SHORT (AMAZON) REVIEWS to look at this. And gimme a vote if you think about it!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Reviews Are Up!

Check out reviews for the books above. Hundred Dollar Baby is the new Spenser novel, and Drive is a noir short novel that moves out at mach 1 speed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New Young Adult Series On My Radar

Just read the first book of Joseph Delaney's Last Apprentice series. Set in the English villages of three or four hundred years ago, the books tell the stories of a young boy named Thomas Ward who has become the apprentice of the Spook -- the man responsible for chasing away ghosts and binding boggarts and witches in earthen prisons lined with salt and iron.

This isn't Harry Potter, folks. Delaney spins a mean tale that had me glancing over my shoulder while reading more than a few times. Kids who scare easily shouldn't read these because they've got a touch of Stephen King lurking in the tales, but adults can enjoy them too.

A short review is up at Remember to vote for me! Longer reviews are posted at and at

New Rogue Angel Cover

This one is coming in March '07, but I thought the cover was awesome and wanted to show it here. This is the kind of cover that will make people pick up books.

Friday, November 03, 2006

New Reviews Are Up

At Amazon

Go to Amazon for short reviews. Remember to vote for me!

You'll find longer reviews on most of these books at and at


Thursday, November 02, 2006

On Bookshelves Now!

Alex Archer's new ROGUE ANGEL book is out. Grab one, then grab one for a friend. It's almost Christmas and the book will make a great stocking stuffer!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Geoff Johns, Comics Writer and Screen Writer, To Visit Norman, Oklahoma October 28th

Comic book fans will get the rare chance to sit down with one of the hottest writers in comics this weekend.

Geoff Johns will be the guest of honor at a Norman fundraising dinner to benefit the Christopher Reeve Foundation on Oct. 28. The dinner will be one of only two appearances Johns will make during a short visit to Oklahoma.

"The Christopher Reeve Foundation is doing ground-breaking research in a field that is important to me and millions of others," Johns said.

"Christopher Reeve served as inspiration to all of us, overcoming his tragic accident to do work that will benefit all of mankind."

Johns is one of the hottest creators in comics. He is currently writing "Green Lantern," "Teen Titans," and "52," a weekly comic series exploring what happens when DC's three biggest heroes -- Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman -- step aside for a year.

Johns is also joining forces with legendary director Richard Donner for a new Superman storyline in "Action Comics" in October. Donner, who directed 1979's "Superman: The Movie," starring Reeve, will co-write the book with Johns.

Last month, Johns won a Wizard Fan Award for Best Writer in Comics and is widely considered one of the top creators in the field. He was also consulting producer on the "Blade" TV show.
Johns, who lives in Southern California, said he is excited about visiting Oklahoma.

"I like doing the convention circuit, but it's more rewarding to meet fans in their hometowns, on their own turf. It's more fun that way!" Johns said.

Attendance to the fundraiser, which will be held at a Norman restaurant, will be limited to only 10 people. The charity dinner is planned in conjunction with an exclusive signing at Speeding Bullet Comics in Norman.

"We wanted to keep the number of guests small. This ensures that the dinner remains intimate, and that everyone who attends will get to visit with Geoff," said Annette Price, owner of Speeding Bullet, which is sponsoring the dinner. "Getting a writer of Geoff's caliber to this part of the country is not something that happens everyday, and will be a real treat for fans."

Tickets to the dinner are $200 each, with 100 percent of the money raised benefiting the foundation and its research. Guests will be asked to make their checks directly to the Christopher Reeve Foundation. Tickets are tax-deductible and can only be purchased at Speeding Bullet.

People are urged to buy their tickets as soon as possible. Tickets will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis.

The dinner will be from 8 to 10 p.m., following the store signing that day from 3 to 6 p.m. The store signing is free, however, fans are encouraged to arrive early, as heavy attendance is expected.

The Christopher Reeve Foundation, founded in part by Christopher Reeve, is recognized as the premier spinal cord injury research organization throughout the world.

Speeding Bullet will also donate 52 cents to the Christopher Reeve Foundation for every issue of "52" No. 1 sold. The comic retails for $2.50.

Speeding Bullet is one of the top comics shops in the Southwest and was honored with a Will Eisner Spirit of Retailing nomination in 2005.

For more information, visit, or call
(405) 360-6866.

For more information about the Christopher Reeve Foundation, visit
What's For Dinner?

Last night my nine-year-old Chandler came home with his school portfolio. He was supposed to share it. So I looked it over.

Homework, examples of his writing in journal form, and questionaires he'd answered were included in the packet. I read all of them with interest. You really don't know how your child's mind works as a parent because you tend to think you already know.

Plus -- you simply don't ask the right questions.

On one of the questionaires, Chandler was asked if he'd rather be:
a) lizard
b) buzzard
c) snake

Personally, I would have pointed out how limited the selection of the species were. But that's how I think.

Chandler went with it and gave them an answer. That's my boy: always one for answers.

He chose a snake.

Below the question and answer, the kids were supposed to state why they chose the animal they did.

Chandler's answer was simple and well-thought out. He replied, "I bet mice would taste better than ants and dead animals."

All things considered, I have to admit that he's probably right.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Justice League Heroes! It's Cape And Cowl Time, Baby!

Last week a momentous occasion sent me, my 9-year-old, and my 17-year-old churning through the streets of Gotham, er, Norman. Justice League Heroes released and we had to have it. We haven't been united in a group effort in a while.

We had a blast, because the game wasn't at the first two places we looked. Aha! We were stymied! Evil was afoot!

But in the end, we prevailed. (It's 'cause our hearts are pure and we have bodacious superpowers!)

The game was a blast and had the whole family playing during Fall Break. Read my longer review at and a shorter one at

Don't forget to vote and comment! I'm slowly heading to a Top 1000 Reviewer slot at Amazon!

New Reviews Posted!

Okay, people, visit me at for my latest reviews in short form, and at for the longer ones.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Jacob Taylor And His Family Need Help

Jacob Taylor was first diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) when he was only 2 years old. He enjoyed almost 5 years of cancer-free life but then relapsed with ALL in 2004 and again in 2006.

Jacob is currently undergoing chemotherapy to get his body ready for a much needed bone marrow transplant. He will have to travel to MD Anderson in Houston, Texas for his transplant. He will have to stay there for two to four months.

Please help us ease his family's financial burden so that they can focus on Jacob's recovery. Thank you.

You can make check donations to:

Jacob Taylor Fund
C/O Bank of America
3600 West Main
Norman, OK 73072
Acct. 00304256521

Friday, October 20, 2006

Meredith Fletcher's New Book!

Coming in December 2006, Meredith Fletcher's new book. Check out this exciting author!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

SoonerCon Returns In 2007!

SoonerCon was an absolutely fantastic SF/fantasy convention back in the 1980s and 1990s. I loved going. Always took my whole family.

This coming summer -- June 8, 9, and 10 -- I'll be taking them again. I just found out today that they're going to do a con.

You can buy tickets now and save yourself $10 or get in at the door.

Check out the details at

I really recommend SoonerCon if you're interested in SF, fantasy, anime, gaming, etc. I'll keep you updated as I find out more details.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

New Reviews Posted

I've got new reviews posted at and Please feel free to go there and check them out. And vote! I love the votes. One of my goals is to become a Top 1000 Reviewer at Amazon.

Want To Hear A Scary Story?

Check out the month-long, weekly scary tales at They're one of the most respected book reviewers on the internet these days.

Enjoy. And leave a light on at night!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Looking For A Few Good Reviewers

I've got advance copies of the third ROGUE ANGEL book for FREE! If you'd like to have one FREE to review, please send me your mailing address. All I ask in exchange is a review on your blogspot and a posting at and/or Barnes &

Limited copies. First come, first served.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Book Got Canceled Today

Just got the news today that this book is canceled, so even though you can pre-order it on Amazon, it's not going to happen.

I don't know any of the details involved with the decision, only that all three of the novels initially ordered were canceled. So my novel will disappear...Without A Trace.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bones -- a TV series review

Wednesdays at 7 p.m. Central time

Last year I fell in love with this series. Sharp writing. Engaging characters. Good, solid mysteries with off-beat science and always a tug at emotion. If you want to know how good storytelling is done, check this series out. The first season is coming out on DVD in November. I've got my set pre-ordered. Looking forward to watching it again.

The series features Emily Deschanel as Temperance Brennan (if the name sounds familiar, that's the name of Kathy Reichs's main character in her bestselling novels). She's an ex-foster kid who struggles with understanding anything that isn't science and matter-of-fact.

David Boreanaz stars as Special Agent-In-Charge Seely Booth, an ex-special forces warrior turned FBI agent. He's got heart and can read people the way Brennan reads bones.

They're aided and abetted by Dr. Jack Hodgins (T. J. Thyme) who specializes in soil, bugs, and plants, Zach Addy (Eric Millegan) who is Brennan's graduate assistant, and Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin) who is an artist and can reconstruct a face from a skull.

The series is deftly written, always a mixture of emotion, science, humor, and relationships. I learn something with every episode, and I always feel emotionally drained and buoyed at the same time. Always get the good with the bad.

The team works out of the Washington Smithsonian and only deals with cases involving bones that can't be identified anywhere else. Although that seems to be a little more lax this season. Still, the fantastic layman's science (this year's Hodgins and Zach Mr. Wizard moment with an artificial skeleton made of sediment and covered in SPAM and burned in a high-intensity fire rivals last year's frozen pig shot through a woodchipper!) and the quick pacing moves the stories along.

If you haven't seen this series before, check it out. Booth and Bones (Brennan's nickname by way of Booth) are still looking for her father -- who may have killed her mother, and the romance between Hodgins and Angela is heating up. Even more exciting is the antagonistic relationship between Bones and her new boss, Dr. Camilla Saroyan -- who just happens to be one of Booth's ex-lovers.

This is TV worth staying up for!

New Project Up And Running

If you've ever wanted to peer over a writer's shoulder as he put a book together, I invite you to go to I'm working on an as-yet-unnamed juvenile novel there to show interested writers how I put the pieces together.

Feel free to comment and ask questions. Email me if I miss them.

New Review Up

Go to for my latest review there. Thanks for helping create traffic!
Just Trying To Help Out

I found this on Rinda Elliott's THE WRITE SNARK wordpress blog( and thought I would help out. Apex is a science-fiction/horror magazine that has come out of nowhere and been gaining favorable reviews. Apparently the editor needs a little help. I read his letter. I was moved. So I print it here in the hopes that it helps make a difference.

And, yes, I'm subscribing.

From Rinda:

Now, for some difficult news. You all know how much I like Apex Digest. Great writing, wonderful editor who has become a friend of mine — every issue has had stories that stuck in my mind long after I finished them. I caught this post on his blog today and I’m sharing because it had to be a difficult post.

So, if you like sci-fi or horror and have had thoughts of checking out Apex, now would be a great time to giving them a try. And if any of you are familiar with the magazine and think it’s great, spread the word.
This is my own personal horror story. In it, I play the guy whose pride won’t let him ask for help when he sees that he needs it. I might have waited too late, even now. Hubris can be a complicated personality trait. It’s one that I’m struggling with at the moment.

See, I’m having to come out to the public that Apex needs help. That I need help. Like, within two weeks.

Those who know me that my hubris is a personality flaw.

But this damn magazine means too much to me.

The story starts out well. A nice guy, me, starts a science-fiction and horror magazine. He loves it. He puts his own money into it. To his delight, the critics respond well to the stories. It goes into Barnes and Nobles. It starts breaking even. Who cares if he has a small debt from starting it? He’s paying that back and things are golden. He is proud of his magazine.

You see where this is going, don’t you? The word “pride” is your cue that things are about to go south.

This nice guy loses his job. He has four months of unemployment, but he keeps putting the magazine out. That small debt starts to get bigger. But he keeps his writers and artists paid and delivers the magazine on time. The printer is understanding and lets him slide on payments.
If the nice guy had asked for help then, he wouldn’t have needed to slide on payments. But he has a lot of pride and thinks he could tough it out. Then the nice guy gets a new job, which proves his point. He starts paying down the debt to his printer.

If this weren’t a horror story that would be the happy ending. There would be butterflies and fuzzy kittens. But this is a horror story.

We never see the printer’s POV, so we don’t know why the email is sent. All the nice guy knows is that the printer wants all of the money and wants it now. He doesn’t have it.

At the moment, I don’t know how this story will end.

All of Apex’s distributors rightfully expect their copies of the magazine within the next couple of weeks. Apex subscribers rightfully expect their copies within the next couple of weeks.

If I fail to get Apex #7 out to the distributors and subscribers, the story ends. I’ve begged and borrowed as much as I can. Now I’m dropping my pride and admitting that I need help publicly. I need 200 new subscribers to create the revenue required to pay off the debt to the printer.

Tell me how my story ends. You have the power. It’s sort of like one of those cool “choose your adventure” books from childhood.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Television Round-Up For The Week
I love some of the television shows that are on out there, and others I enjoy watching a lot. Due to deadlines and classes, I didn't get to watch much this week. Yet. I've got CSI: Miami, Bones, House, and a few others waiting on me. I'll get to them.
But after the rain canceled Thurday's ballgame (and I had the forethought to put on a big pot of chili), Sherry and I got to stay home and watch CSI and Shark's premiere.
Here's my report card.

CSI is off to a truly weird start. Notice the picture above. This is where the episode ended. With the murder of an unknown guy (Danny Bonaduce from The Partridge Family -- how's that for weird right off the bat?). Only there's been a model made of the murder scene -- a dollhouse -- that exactly matches the crime scene. And Catherine Willows evidently got drugged at the bar and date-raped. She does her own crime-scene gathering.

The dollhouse thing is intriguing, but I know it's a gimmick. Still, if they pull it together I know it'll be good. The other plot involving Catherine I feel is just wrong. Gathering evidence herself is going to break the chain of evidence -- no witnesses, and she's definitely prejudiced. Unless she figures she's after a serial rapist and thinks she'll catch him on a DNA cold hit and not have to talk to anyone about what happened to her. But, again, I disagree with that. Catherine is an ex-stripper. Ex-strippers are targets for sexual predators. Even if Catherine had never been raped, she'd have known women who were. Hiding it doesn't fix it. She has to tell someone.

The opening sequence with Circus de Soelil was awesome. Amazing visual stuff. Too expensive to do all the time, though, even for the #1 rated TV show. William Petersen has elected to shave the beard off, which jars a litle. Then they've evidently decided to keep his relationship with Sara Sidle quiet -- at least for the moment.

However, Grey's Anatomy (watched the first season and loved it) beat out the season opener. It's going to be a tough season for both shows as they go head-to-head. TIVO anyone?

Shark stars James Woods, who I just love to watch act. There's no one else who chews through dialogue and frenzy better than Woods. I like the idea of him being a big-time defense attorney who becomes the head of a high-profile prosecution team working out of the district attorney's office.

The story moved along quickly and introdueced Sebastion Stark, his motivation to give up defense work, and his sixteen-year-old daughter who is there to alternately take care of him and drive him crazy.

There was nothing new here, nothing absolutely fantastic. But it's James Woods, people. You can't go wrong with James Woods. For the moment, it is the season's most watched new show.

Numb3rs is off to a flying start with its third season. Except for the whole cliffhanger ending that I truly didn't expect.

I love this show for the characters (the relationship between the dad and the two sons, one a math genius and the other an FBI agent is dynamic and remains fresh even after the previous two seasons).

Also back for the season-opened, Lou Diamond Philips' sniper character. Mucho cool. The three of them together pursuing the bad guys are just phenomenal.

This time around, Don and Charlie are after a spree killer, a former high school teacher and a teen football player. She's got an agenda they put together at the end of the show -- right before the cliffhanger.

This show also made math cool and won the Carl Sagan award for raising the public perception of science. If you're not watching Numb3rs you should be.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Another Review Posted At Amazon Today

Busy day. I've got a lot on my plate lately.

I really enjoyed this film much more than I thought I would have. Being familiar with the story, I expected zero entertainment value. Figured I could turn it on and off at my leisure. Instead, I was mesmerized, and it was a nice 90-minute feature that took me straight through to the end.

George Clooney co-wrote, acted, and directed in the film. Much more talented than I'd believed. He hit this one dead-on, and got six Academy Award nominations for his efforts. Not a bad haul.

If you haven't seen it, it's worth a look. You'll find my review at:

New Review Posted At Amazon

I'm finishing up a review for where I write DVD and HD DVD reviews and posted a short one about this HD DVD at Amazon. I was really impressed with the transfer and look forward to other old movies that are favorites of mine getting the same treatment.

You can find the review at:

Thanks for voting!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I had a lot of fun reading this one to Chandler. It's fast-paced, full of mystery, and has a feel-good quality that we both enjoyed.

You'll find reviews posted at (a long one), and a shorter one at You can get to either through links on this page.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

New Product Placement At Amazon

Went to Quartz Mountain this weekend to do a workshop (had a great time with a wonderful bunch of ladies!) and got to try out my new Microsoft Streets & Trips 2006 With GPS locator. It worked amazingly well.

For my review, go to:

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Next ROVER book is out in March 2007!

Wow, I'm really excited about this one. This is the cover my brilliant editor Brian Thomsen wanted for the first book but we didn't get for some reason.

Maybe it was because -- as it turns out -- this cover is PERFECT for the book it's on.

For fans of the series, you get both Edgewick (Wick) Lamplighter and Juhg in this one. Juhg follows up clues left by his mentor, the previous Grandmagister at the Vault of All Known Knowledge, and gets to read unpublished adventures of Wick's earlier journeys.

Early readers of the books have had a great time with them.

I'm going to sponser a contest to give away a few free copies of the book (some of them are already gone to websites that are going to post reviews) when it comes out.

Stay tuned!

Friday, September 08, 2006

New Book Review Posted At Bookhound

I'm off to Tulsa for a speaking engagement tonight, so wish me luck. In the meantime, there's a new book review up at (Mel's Book Reviews link).

The book is Shane Berryhill's Chance Fortune and the Outlaws, a YA novel about a superhero school. Josh Blevins (Chance Fortune) has no superpowers, but gets in on sheer pluck by claiming to be EXTRA LUCKY. Now that he's can, can he continue to make the grade? I had a lot of fun with this one.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

From the Mailbox

I get a lot of nice letters from a lot of nice people. Most writers do. The people that don't like your books generally don't read them and won't take the time to look up your email or write you to let you know they don't like something you did.

However, on a recent Sunday and Monday, I got these two letters, which I'll share with you. Just to let you know that a writer's life isn't always filled with adoration.

Do you think it's appropriate to be writing Buffy novels aimed at children when you show such intolerance for others by associating with the left behind books? Reeally - an entire book series devoted purely to punishing non-believers and we're to believe childrens' fiction should be left in your hands? Give me a break.

Kind of stung, I have to admit. Especially with no address, no salutation. But I gave my best reply.

I think I'm more generous in my view of the world than some.

Instead of focusing on people who write fiction to support their family and dump on them, I coach little league baseball and basketball and try to make the small corners of the world I inhabit a better place.

Believe it or not, there are many who don't think the Buffy world should be shown to young adults. I'm not in that camp. I believe that young adults should read whatever catches their imagination. Whether it's Buffy or Left Behind. I've even got readers who read both and find no problem with that.

I save my outrage for child molesters.

Then this one (more polite but still vicious).

Good day sir,

I have just finished reading your novel, Paid in blood.

Was disappointed in it.
There were glaring errors in it, (you should research more diligently)
Poor characters I find it hard to believe that a commander would in charge of an entire aircraft carrier.
Ohio class missile subs carry ballistic missiles not tomahawks and I doubt they carry 154 of them
Plot line was not very good either I kept hoping that it would improve it did not.
Characters do not ask the readers to get on their side (no development)

Poor workmanship Sir, you got some of my money but you will not get anymore of it

Ouch! Questioning my research? I admit, I have made some mistakes over the years. (Ask me about the time I had a law enforcement team invade a room, confront 6 bad guys, kill 9 of them and take prisoners!). But I think I responded as politely under the circumstances as I could.

For your edification:

A commander is the XO (executive officer, SECOND in command).


SSBN Ohio Class Ballistic Missile Submarine, USA

The Ohio class submarines serve the United States Navy as the virtually undetectable undersea launch platforms of intercontinental missiles. The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics, based at Groton, Connecticut, has built 18 Ohio submarines, commissioned between 1981 and 1997. The submarines of the Pacific Fleet are based at Bangor, Washington, and those of the Atlantic Fleet at King's Bay, Georgia. The submarines spend 70 days at sea followed by 25 days in dock for overhaul.


Under the requirements of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, START II, which was agreed in June 1992, the number of strategic missile submarines was limited to 14 from the year 2002. Rather than decommissioning these four submarines, the US Navy is converting them to SSGNs (conventionally armed nuclear-powered) submarines. In September 2002, Electric Boat received a contract for the conversion of USS Ohio (SSBN 726), Michigan (727), Florida (728) and Georgia (729). The submarines are being refitted with up to 154 Tomahawk TLAM (land attack) or Tactical Tomahawk (Block IV) missiles and will also be capable of conducting special operations missions with accommodation for Northrop Grumman Advanced SEAL delivery systems (ASDS), mission control centre and 102 special operations troops.

General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems is modifying the Trident fire control system for the Tomahawk weapon control. Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems is adapting the missile launch tubes, developing a Multiple All Up Round Canister (MAC) which will provide storage and launch of up to seven Tomahawk missiles from each of the submarine's 22 missile tubes.

USS Ohio began conversion in November 2002 and this was completed in January 2006, when the ship rejoined the fleet following sea trials in December 2005. USS Florida began the SSGN conversion in July 2003 and rejoin the fleet in April 2006. The conversion of all four submarines is to be completed in 2008. SSBN's USS Pennsylvania and USS Kentucky have shifted homeport from Kings Bay to Bangor to balance the strategic force.

In January 2003, USS Florida took part in Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) experiment “Giant Shadow” to test the capabilites of the new SSGNs. The experiment included validation launches of two Tomahawk missiles, the first ever launch of a UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vehicle) and insertion of a Navy SEALS force. The SSGN will have the capacity to accommodate 66 SEALS.

You can find this at

And I understand that not all books work for everyone. That’s why they make different shoe sizes as well.

Generally I make it a practice not to respond, but I was stressed and felt defensive. Writers write mostly to be understood, I think. And I wanted them to know my point of view. I never heard anything back, so maybe they blocked my responses. Don't know. I shared the stories with a couple friends and they suggested I post it here.

Hopefully this won't attract a flame war.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Kid Story

I designate Wednesdays for stories about my kids (until I run out of them or they become painful).

These two are about my daughter, Montana, who's 20 and married and has become a hair stylist just the way she always wanted (and we always knew she would be).

First, when she was four, her mom bought her some fingernail polish which -- since I was the stay-at-home dad with the writing job -- I ended up having to deal with the most. Anyway, her older brother Matt was seven. In the summer I let the kids stay up late and watch monster movies because it suited my writing schedule better (lucky kids!) and because after they went to bed they didn't dare get up because the movie monsters might be lurking (bad -- but smart -- dad).

So Matt was tired in the afternoon after having gotten up early. He crashed on the couch in shorts and a tee shirt. While he was asleep, Montana broke out her fingernail polish and covered his fingers up to the first joint. She also did his toes. He was a hard sleeper and slept through all of it.

When he woke up, still groggy, he thought his fingers and toes had been amputated and screamed bloody murder! It took a little while to calm him down.

Then, after Sherry and I were married, Montana was eight. We went up to Minnesota (where Sherry's family is from) to meet everyone (lots of brothers and sisters begat numerous nieces and nephews).

While we were in Randall, the big town a short distance from Motley where Sherry's mom lived, Montana was peering around downtown (it's all on one side of the street because the railroad tracks run through on the other side -- see how big it is? It has its own train!).

Abruptly, Montana made a displeased sound and said, "That's gross."

Since Minnesota has that whole casserole thing going on (which is where you prepare a meal, then scrape it into a covered dish, smother it in mashed potatoes and bake it a while longer), I figured she probably had a point (I've since learned to appreciate casseroles and not spend half of my dinner time trying to separate the ingredients back out).

I asked, "What's gross?"

"That." She pointed at the creamery right across the railroad tracks (see! It's big! Even has its own creamery!).

"The creamery?"


"Why is that gross?"

"Shouldn't they do that at the funeral home? Somewhere so people can't see it?"

Then I realized she thought the creamery was a crematorium. After cracking up a while and getting her totally irritated at me, I explained the difference.

There's nothing like the viewpoint of a child. Or even a teenager.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Have I Told You Lately How Much I Love Watching My Son Play Baseball?

At first base, taking away a base hit with those stretchy arms!