Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Way To Meet Authors!

I'd heard about this online site but hadn't given it much attention. Then, in the newsletter I get from Bantam/Dell at the beginning of every month, I noticed an article about authors meeting fans at Second Life ( and answering questions about upcoming books.

Personally, I think it's a really cool idea. Lately, George R. R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire something-ology -- no one knows for sure how many books there will be) and Diana Gabaldon (The Voyager series) put in appearances there.

For more info:

The problem I see is that authors habitually find distractions in life that keep them from staying at their writing. Second Life has got to be one of the largest distractions ever invented. So far, I've managed to resist going there.

But now I know there are homes for writers on the islands!

Two New Books I've Added To My TBR Pile!

These are new releases that caught my eye. The Last Days of Krypton was a selection because of the Superman connection.

However, Brom's book, Devil's Rose, seized my imagination immediately. I've kept track of his career. He's one of those artists whose work is immediately striking and I was blown away as I flipped through this book. It's the story of an undead Texas Ranger tracking down escaped demons.

I'll review them as I get to them, but I wanted to help let people know they're out there. I didn't even know they were coming.

Nearing Grace Special Offer!

The first two respondents to this posting will receive a movie poster each. One is signed by the director, Rick Rosenthal. And the other is signed by actor Gregory Smith. The studio will mail them directly to you.

Nearing Grace is old school storytelling with the fresh, caustic edge of today’s viewpoint. The movie is set in the 1970s, though it doesn’t go out of its way to nail down that time period. It’s only through observation of the material (like Henry’s old Thing car and period-piece costuming and pot being the drug of choice for teens) and the absence of today’s teens accouterments (like cell phones and video games) that I noticed the time difference at all. (In fact, it was weird seeing the main character get a hand-delivered letter instead of a text email.)

Gregory Smith stars as Henry Nearing, a teenager in his final year of high school who’s just lost his mother. The emotional turmoil over this loss is in nearly every frame of the movie, and it’s effective. The opening montage sets up the loss and effectively brings the reader into the story.

The loss of his mother is also handled really well, not overbearing and not treated too trivially. Her death affects Henry, his father Shep (David Morse), and older brother Blair (David Moscow). Blair runs off to become a dope-smoking hippie type that wallows just a little too deeply in finding himself. Shep quits his teaching job, grows his hair longer, and rides a Harley through town at all hours of the night. Strangely enough, a lot of people’s lives end up being somewhere off-kilter like this. Maybe a lot of people would feel this behavior was over-the-top melodrama, but I grew up in places where this was considered fairly normal.

In the meantime, Henry’s crush on local teen heartthrob, Grace (Jordana Brewster), blossoms and goes out of control. She’s all he can think about – even after he sees her with her current boyfriend. Henry’s best friend Myrna (Ashley Johnson) wants to move their friendship to a physical level, and she’s the most open and honest person Henry knows. Still, he doesn’t want to jinx his chance at Grace and he doesn’t want to endanger his friendship with Myrna. I felt like grabbing Henry up by the scruff of the neck and shaking him because he was just so infuriatingly dense about the whole thing.

Very aware of the fact that Henry is infatuated with her, Grace at first does everything she can to get him into trouble with her boyfriend. I really resented her character at this point. The part was played to the hilt, and Jordana Brewster looks amazing.

The movie may seem longer than its 105 minutes, but it keeps grinding away at the emotional context. Everyone watching the film is going to remember high school years and what they were like.

One of the best relationships in the movie is the one between Henry and his father. David Morse delivered a solid role and played the part of caring father and absentee parent wrapped up in his own grief very well.

Myrna, the best friend, is as hot and daring as she is doing best friend stuff. She tempts Henry sexually and makes fun of him because of his compulsive need for Grace, but she never steps away from him completely no matter how fed up she is of his behavior and shortsightedness.

Director Rick Rosenthal has been involved with the movie business for years and in a number of levels. While directing Bad Boys, he helped make Sean Penn a household name. He got his start directing with Halloween II and later returned to that franchise with Halloween Resurrection. He’s directed several television episodes, including Law & Order, Smallville, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Nearing Grace isn’t an easy watch. There are too many scenes in it, as well as characters, that remind me of times and things that I was involved with. I suspect a lot of other viewers will enjoy and cringe at the same experiences. It’s as much a walk down memory-lane for the older viewers as it is real-life experience for the younger viewers. The fact that it’s pseudo-realistic in so many ways also extends the life of the film and tends to make it timeless.

The movie is based on the book of nearly the same name by Scott Sommer. It was published as Nearing’s Grace in 1979. He died at the age of 42 after producing three more novels and a collection of short stories. He also wrote movies and television episodes.

The overall theme of the movie is about coming-of-age, but Rosenthal shows that arrival on several different levels. Henry deals with his fantasies and romances, separating the two, and finds a way to deal with his family. The movie is slower paced and gets to the ending at a leisurely tempo, but Rosenthal clearly knows what he wants to say and gets the job done admirably enough.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New Headline on MSN.Com

News is all about brevity and getting information across quickly, but sometimes I have to question what journalists and editors were thinking when copy makes it into print.

This just in at

Report: Grand jury probing magician David Copperfield

All I can think of is how embarrassing, uncomfortable, and -- possibly -- painful that could be. Especially in such a public forum. And by amateurs!

If Copperfield couldn't disappear before, I bet he'd learn how to do that now!

Special Halloween Episode Coming Tuesday Night Fox 7p.m.!

It's no secret that Bones is one of my favorite television series. I love the characters and the cast. The big thing that draws me to this show, like Numb3rs and House, is the ongoing relationships that spin throughout the episodes.

They do a lot of serious shows throughout the season, but they also do some just for fun as well. Last season they did "The Headless Witch in the Woods" that would have been a great Halloween episode.

Unfortunately, the series was pre-empted nearly the whole month of October last year for sports events. I really thought that would kill the fan base, but we have remained steadfast and loyal.

And we're going to get rewarded! Series star Emily Deschanel is going to spend nearly the whole episode dressed as Wonder Woman. Given that her character, Temperance Brennan, is almost totally lost when it comes to pop culture, this promises a lot of laughs. At one point, she seeks reassurance that Wonder Woman could kick Catwoman's butt. Her boss, Dr. Camille Saroyan (Tamara Taylor), dresses up as Catwoman.

Co-star David Boreanaz plays Super Squint, his take on the scientists that make up Brennan's team.

But we also get the very beautiful Angela Montenegro (Michaela Conlin) as Cher.

Tuesday night at 7, I expect to relax and cruise through this episode for some much needed insanity. I encourage you to do the same.

Preview of Next Week's Episode: episode title "Mummy in the Maze" S3E5 air date Oct 30 2007A Halloween pumpkin patch maze becomes a lot scarier when the mummified remains of a young girl are found in it. Booth and Brennan go to investigate, and are shocked to find that the victim has been dead for over a year. To make the situation even creepier, a second body is found at a Halloween amusement park funhouse, again mummified, but this time dead for approximately two years. Booth and Brennan get wind of a third missing girl and link her to the person who killed the other two girls. They must now race to find the killer before he or she strikes again this Halloween.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

This Book Is A Steal At!


It's almost like getting paid to buy the eBook! Buy either or both of these titles and receive 110% of the purchase price back in your Micropay account as a store credit.

"Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula" by Loren D. Estleman

"Destiny [Rogue Angel Book 1]" by Alex Archer

I'm Getting To Write An Avenger Short Story!

I grew up reading the Avenger novel series. There were originally 24 books published between 1939 and 1942. When the series was reprinted in the early 1970s, after the success of Doc Savage and The Shadow, it was so popular that Ron Goulart was hired to write 12 more of them.

(This is the first cover of the 1970s paperback series. I still remember buying it off the spinner rack.)

Richard Henry Benson was an adventurer. Then his wife and daughter were taken from him and killed. His suffered a breakdown that left his face dead and pasty gray. He found he could move it into any shape he wanted to, and even mold it into the likeness of other people. He became the man of 1000 faces, a crimefighter with a singular style.

(This is the original 1939 pulp cover.)

Moonstone Books is doing an anthology of new stories, and I get to write one of them. I found out about the anthology while I was in San Diego. I also learned that the anthology was closed.

That was a bummer. But I held out hope anyway and sent emails off to the appropriate people to express my interest.

That was the first of August. Now, at the end of October, I got contacted and am officially going to write one of the stories. I also get paid a few hundred bucks. How cool is that?

My persistence paid off in a dream coming true and a paycheck!

(This is the cover to the DC Comics take on the character. By Joe Kubert, no less.)

That's what writing is all about, folks. Dream and reach for it. There's no replacement for that.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Caught My Interest!

Sounds like a Buffy-type series. So I had to have it. Women's paranormal romance isn't just for women any more. I find I enjoy a lot of the stories and the characters -- can be -- just as action-driven as any of the books for guys that I read.

Check them out. Let me know what you think. And if you're already reading them, tell me what you like.

Meredith Fletcher's New Book Hits Shelves in November!

If you like action-oriented romances, you might give this author a try.


"Fletcher can write sexy, but she's at her best when the action heats up and bullets or fists go flying. Once the story gets going, ATHENA FORCE: VENDETTA is a fast-paced, page-turning ride."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oklahoma Native Sterling Gates Featured in New DC Comic: Tales of Sinestro Corps: The Anti-Monitor!

I've known Sterling for years, and I'm happy to be able to help celebrate his recent success. This is his first published comics story for a major publisher, and he's part of one of the biggest events in the DC Comics world currently taking place to reshape those worlds.

The story is called, "Fear is a Baby's Cry."

Sterling is a great guy and a Tulsa native. You can get his story here:

And you can pick up a copy of the comic here:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Soon To Be Robert De Niro Movie!

Don Winslow has written one of those classic crime fiction novels that people will read and talk about for years. The fact that Robert De Niro is going to star in the movie based on the book will undoubtedly propel The Winter of Frankie Machine to a whole new level of exposure.

The author has already had book/movie success with a previous novel, The Life and Death of Bobby Z. That movie is currently out on DVD.

Winslow also happens to be the real deal when it comes to crime writing. While in his twenties, Winslow helped break up a theft ring in movie theaters where he was a manager. After being put undercover again, and again succeeding and breaking up a theft ring, he was offered fulltime employment as a private investigator.

As a P. I., Winslow went international and handled cases in London and Amsterdam. Later he worked to train counterterrorist teams and became part of a forensic anthropology group that specialized in arson and fraud investigation. He used those experiences to write the novel, California Fire and Life.

Winslow wrote five critically acclaimed mystery novels featuring Neal Carey before going to the stand-alone crime novels he’s known for now.

The Winter of Frankie Machine grabbed me in a hammerlock from the first few pages and refused to let go. Maybe I was influenced by the fact that I’d learned De Niro was going to play Frankie Machine in the movie version, but the character is so interesting that I think I would’ve been caught up in the story even without knowing about the movie.

The book opens in such a casual, almost genial, fashion that I at first was lulled into a casual reading. And I know that doesn’t explain the “hammerlock” statement I used at all. It’s just that the character description is so well done that I had to follow along behind Frankie and find out everything about him.

The first 50 pages or so calmly delineates Frankie “the Machine” Machianno’s life concerning his job at the bait shop he owns, the friends that he goes surfing with every morning (and one of them is a police detective), his daughter who has decided to extend her college experience by attending medical school after graduation, his ex-wife who would rather still call him than the plumber when the sink stops up after she blocks the garbage disposal, and his hair stylist girlfriend who won’t make an honest man of him.

Frankie’s life on an average day is so filled with turmoil that I just couldn’t see how any criminal activity was going to be hammered into any non-existing gaps. In fact, as a father with grown kids and working in two professional fields while trying to find time to do things that I enjoy, I may have empathized with Frankie’s life more than most readers will.

But it’s this layering of the character that I truly appreciated about the book. Within those pages, Frankie Machine became a real person to me. And this is exactly the kind of character that Robert De Niro plays so well.

Even as complicated as Frankie’s life is, however, things become even more complicated when young members of the remnants of the San Diego Mafia come to him and ask him to interface for them regarding a conflict between them and a much larger section of the Detroit Mafia that oversees business in San Diego. They’ve been running pornography studios and stealing from their own partners. The trouble kicks in when they set Frankie up to take a fall that rightfully belongs to them. At least, that’s what it looks like on the surface. Frankie quickly finds out that they’re actually brokering a deal to get him assassinated.

Once Frankie finds out what the real score is, he swings immediately into action. He gets everyone he loves out of harm’s way to level the playing field. Then he works on figuring out who wanted him dead. And he hunts the hunter. If he can ever get his sights on the guy who hired the hit, Frankie plans to put a bullet in his brain for causing him problems. With everything that’s happened, most readers will agree that the solution is warranted.

At this point the book mixes between ongoing story and the history that swept Frankie into a life of crime. It also details the people who might have reason to want him dead.

Once Winslow gets going in the action sequences, he doesn’t let up. Although the book tends to be understated in some areas, it excels in the violence. I love both sides of the book, the expansion of the present day story as well as the events in the past that touch on Frankie’s character and belief system.

Overall, the book is a fantastic read. I found myself sitting there turning page after page, totally mesmerized by the characters and the way the plot neatly escalated into a point of no return. This is just good crime fiction.

After reading the book, I can’t wait to see de Niro pull this role off. This is one of those he was born to play.

Winslow has created a crime novel that is an absolutely splendid marriage of real life and fiction. If you like crime stories, this is one you need to read. But make sure to carve out plenty of reading time to get through it. Once you start, you won’t want to put the book down. It’s that good.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

No Free Lunches -- No Free TV!

Mid-February 2009 will signal the death of free television.

On that date, whatever it is, television stations will no longer broadcast "free" television. Analog television sets, those with rabbit ears or antenna, will no longer receive signals. They'll be cut off from all those ethereal signals that have been sent around our world as well as beamed into new galaxies. (I guess all those alien freeloaders are gonna have to get a converter box, too!)

America has grown up with free television (once a family bought a base set to receive, which was the same way for radios). We've welcomed television into our homes for free for decades. Of course, then many people became concerned with the trashy mouth, violence, and sex our little friend brought into the home, but that's beside the point.

In the 1970s, many of us chose to "upgrade" our regular television experience with more channels and better pictures. I usually paid for cable from that time on, but there have been occasions where paying the cable bill was impossible. If you have to choose between eating and watching television, I guarantee you'll go find that pair of rabbit ears you've kept mothballed for just such an occasion.

I never once thought that free television would go the way of the dodo.

Roughly 10% of the population depends on analog television sets to keep up with their favorite programs (and they're already stuck with local favorites only, no Home & Garden TV so they can't drool over the homes of others, no FoodTV so they can witness all the great meals they're missing out on, no CourtTV so they can keep up with all the court gossip, etc).

I have to wonder what this is going to do to people on fixed incomes and college students, people who normally have a lot of time to fill during their days. Will this mean they'll once more be on the street making nuisances of themselves? Didn't we give them free TV to keep them home? (yes, this is sarcasm, so don't send me hate mail.)

Television has been called the opiate of the masses, by paraphrasing a quote by Karl Marx, who said that religion was the opiate of the masses. Generations of television watchers have followed shows faithfully, rejoiced and lamented as their shows were allowed one more season or axed.

No matter what, there was always more television.

In downward spiraling economy periods in the United States, there's always been an accompanying upswing of dollars spent on entertainment. Evidently the worse our lives are, the more we need to be entertained: amused, cajoled, scared, etc.

That entertainment has usually come with a low price tag. Movies started matinees where prices were cut back in the early days. We now have dollar theaters (and even 50-cent night!) for those who have neither cable nor air-conditioning.

It's going to be interesting to see what this new change does to everyone. I think we should demand the right to add and subtract CHANNELS, not packages of channels, if we're going to be forced to pay for television.

You see, as long as I had a choice, I didn't feel like I was getting gouged. And to be truthful, I've kept cable television in the house for my kids to watch cartoons and to feed my wife's football addiction. I can live without it. DVDs have changed my television watching habits dramatically. Wait a year, buy the boxed set. (Which is the way comic books are training their readers -- don't buy monthly, buy the graphic novel, but that's another rant.)

And once we're all captive audiences, what are they going to do to the cable prices? Remember when gasoline was a CHEAP fuel? We're going to tell that to our grandkids and they're just gonna roar with laughter -- then peddle their bikes to work.

Best Buy has pulled all their analog sets off the shelf. You're not even gonna have them for camping trips when you're close enough to a city where you can catch the local broadcasts.

Electronics shops are going to get fined thousands of dollars if they have an analog set on the shelf without appropriate signage telling prospective buyers that the television is a dinosaur whose days are numbered.

Is it really that hard to provide analog AND digital? Cell phones carried both signals for a while. Some still do.

I prefer cable, but I also prefer having a choice.

I guess I still do. I could always rip the guts out of the television and make a nice aquarium.

The flatscreens make it a little more challenging, and you'd have to get skinny fish that never wanted to turn around, but it could be done.

So I guess maybe I still have options.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Man Versus Dinosaur!

Dinosaurs. Heh.

As I was working today, I got a note from Ron talking about the corporate names for dinosaurs (dinosaurs and baseball fields will hereafter be named after their corporate sponsors instead of having cool names).

I started thinking about the fact that it's a good thing men and dinosaurs didn't live at the same time. Man would have died out in nothing flat.

Why? you ask.

Because by the time some poor human yelled, "Look out, Ugg! It's the Carcharodontosaurus!" or "The Carcharondontosaurus is gonna get you, Grunk!" they would have already been an appetizer.

And nobody would hunt with anyone who had a lisp or a stutter.

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Giant Dinosaur Found!

I love news like this. Just saw it and was wowed. I mean, they've found these teeny, tiny dinosaurs, and we missed a GIANT one?

They first found it in 2000 and started digging it up, and only now decided it was a giant dinosaur? I'm thinking a five-year-old with a beach shovel and a pail would've figured that out in an afternoon!

Also, I love how it's named. There are two Mapuche Indian words that mean "giant" and "chief" and it's also named after the corporation that's helping fund the excavation. If that trend continues, will dinosaur names change when there's a hostile corporate takeover? Is there a contract written somewhere that covers the licensing of the dinosaur's name so it can't just be used willy-nilly? Now I'm curious.

And if you read the article, there's a comparison of the size differential between North American dinosaurs and South American (Patagonian) dinosaurs. I have to wonder, are they trying to incite a case of dinosaur-envy?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Storm Lover!

I love storms. Wind storms. Torndoes. Rain storms. All of them.

It's probably some kind of genetic breakdown. My ancestors were probably the ones that went running out of the cave and hooted and hollered at the sky. Probably a lot of them got zapped by lightning or carried to faraway places by tornadoes.

Which is why there are so few people who share this love with me.

Storms seems to wake up something primeval in me. I never feel more alive in my life than when I'm in the middle of a storm. I'm competitive by nature, but not even a hotly contested game gets my blood up like a storm.

I can remember when I was growing up in Ada one year when tornadoes were touching down all around us. My wife and I were living in a trailer house. The wind got up so bad that we were rocking on the blocks.

She panicked and wanted to go to her parents. She refused to drive because she was shaking so bad. I get calm during storms -- except for that crazy excitement that zings through me. I was content to sit back and see what happened. In the end, she told me I was going to take her or else. So I took her.

And it was so cool! I drove through rains that were absolutely torrential. I could only see a few feet ahead of me. Thankfully no one else was on the street. Huge signs from buildings got ripped free and went spinning through the air like Frisbees. I had to dodge huge dumpsters that had become wind-powered and went sailing across the road.

I had a blast. I was totally at home in my very own Irwin Allen disaster pic. (This was YEARS before Twister came out! And that night, if there'd been any around, cows would have FLOWN, baby!)

My wife hated me. I just couldn't help myself.

But my favorite storm is the electrical storm. I can sit all night and watch the pictures scribed across the sky. It's like Momma Nature gets out her Etch-A-Sketch and gives me a private showing of her darkest dreams, then shakes up the whole world just to do it all over again. I love the flashes, the stark images, and the cannonade of thunder when it strikes so loud and so close that I feel like I'm being bombarded by some kind of sonic death ray.

Those are always good times. For me, at least.

So what face of Nature is your favorite?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Cars I Drove In My Youth

People say they want to know more about me, about where I came from, about what I did. Today's blog is about the cars I started out driving.

Blame it on the Numb3rs episode I watched last night. But here they are.

My first car, when I was 17, paid for it myself although my dad told me what to buy, was a 1967 Chevrolet Impala. Mine was brown. These things were land yachts. I mean, HUGE. But I put an 8-track in and I was in heaven. The 8-track cost me $26 back then and I thought that was outrageous.

But the Impala had a rebuilt engine that didn't stay that way. Six months later, I had no car. So I got another, a 1969 Chrysler Fury that my dad also recommended to me. It was a box but it had a 383 engine that would tear up the highways where I grew up.

Still, I hated it. I got rid of it as soon as I could.

My brother Johnny covered the interior with shag carpet, hung fuzzy dice from the rearview mirror, and jacked up the shackles in the back so much that it rode as hard as a log wagon and actually rolled off the road with him. Back in the 1970s, those upgrade packages could turn any vehicle into a showcar. Especially when you threw in speakers that could have doubled as wardrobe armoires!

My next car was pretty cool. It was a 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Mine was green over green. I really liked that car. It drove well. Plenty of speed. And handled like a dream. I kept it for a couple years. It was the first car I ever had to make payments on.

I was working at Solo Cup Factory in Ada then. I was making $90 a week. My payments were $56.16 a month, so it averaged out to $14.04 a week (which was 1/6th of my check!). I owed a 3-year note to the bank, but I paid it off early. I hated having payments. I still do. All our cars now are paid for. I'd rather save up and buy something completely than owe for it.

I mounted a CB radio in it and evaded Smokey all the time. I didn't roll the double-nickle on the highways, dude!

But Smokey and the Bandit with Burt Reynolds and Sally Field came out in 1977. I wanted to be Burt, and I wanted Sally. Man, she was hawt!

I couldn't afford the black and gold Pontiac Trans Am that was featured in the movie (sticker price $8250 new, with the gold honeycomb wheels). So I bought a one-year old 1976 Pontiac Formula.

The Formula had the 400 engine and a four-speed Hurst shift that was AMAZING. I learned how to power slide, run through gears like a madman, and feather a clutch like nobody's business. If I could have back any car I've owned, it would be this one.

I did eventually get a Trans Am. A chocolate one that I drove for about four years. It was an automatic. I had the big bird on front, but I missed the four-speed. However, at the time I was living in Oklahoma City and shifting all the time would wear you out.

Jim Rockford drove a gold one in The Rockford Files. Mine was silver with the distinctive Formula markings you see on this one.

To tie everything together, Sally Field and James Garner starred in a great romance movie called Murphy's Romance. According to Sally, the onscreen kiss she shared with Garner was the best kiss she ever received in a movie.

My kids act like I've always been Dad. They don't think of me as driving a fast car, or doing stuff that I shouldn't have been doing. Which is why I cringe when their uncles start telling stories. Especially about me and motorcycles.

I can still scare them to death with my driving when I get in a hurry. They think I don't know what I'm doing, but I learned to drive with rear-wheel traction and in back roads where you could do all kinds of things you can't do here in the city. I love driving and I love going fast. I just don't do that with kids in the car. Most of the time.

Hope you enjoyed the tour down memory lane! Now I want another muscle car!

Friday, October 12, 2007


I love this television show. In addition to offering fascinating crimes stories all backed through with mathematical formulas and information I had no idea even existed, they also all hinge around strong family relationships.

The centerpiece of these relationships is the father/son/son triumvirate of Judd Hirsch, Rob Morrow, and David Krumholtz. Judd Hirsh plays Alan Eppes, the father, who is a retired city engineer struggling with the loss of his wife. Morrow stars as FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Don Eppes. Krumholtz delivers an amazing portrayal of mathematical genius Charlie Eppes.

The cast that surrounds them has grown and deepened. This is the show's fourth season and is just as strong as every. Tonight's episode centered around "drifting" and illegal street racing. You can always count on traditional cops and robbers stuff with a mathematical twist, and episodes like this that jump into more cutting-edge territory.

Tonight's episode was one of the best ever, and it's introduced another character, a mechanical engineer, that I would definitely like to see more of because of the way he fits so well with the regulars.

The highlights of this series, though, are those episodes with Lou Diamond Phillips playing an FBI sniper. When the Eppes brothers team up with him, there are as many laughs as there is drama.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Merline Lovelace's Newest Codename: Danger Thriller On Shelves!

If you like fast-paced romance with more than a hint of danger, witty dialogue, and heroes and heroines you can root for, I'd like to take this moment to point you in the direction of Oklahoma author Merline Lovelace's newst book, Stranded With A Spy.

Merline is an ex-Air Force colonel with over 20 years of service. She talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to action and military operations. More than that, she keeps herself up to speed on all the developing technology.

The Codename: Danger novels are pure fun. They're lightweight and easy to read, but written to evocatively that they keep you glued to the page. Exactly as the author intends them to be. I've been reading them for years and haven't been disappointed yet.

If you've been following the series, the newest one is out. If you haven't tried them before, feel free to jump into the books with this one. They're all written so they're stand-alone adventure.

But pull your seatbelt on. You're in for a supersonic rush of adventure!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Teen Trackers!

Okay, this just sounds like a real area of brutal contention to arise.

Insurance companies are now encouraging parents to install "teen trackers" on the family car. These self-contained cameras mount behind rearview mirrors and film road conditions as well as what the teen is doing at the time.

Check out DriveCam's tech at

Courts have ruled that children living in their parents' homes have a right to privacy. Therefore, it's against the law for parents to invade the space of their children and do drug search and seizures or simply check up on their kids. I've never agreed with that one, but I've never felt the need to invade my kids' space either. When they turn into teens and get around friends who smoke and drink, I do the human breathalyzer thing, though. I'm pretty good at it and I'm diligent.

Can you imagine the invasion of privacy suits that would result from this?

But, even without the legal ramifications, the whole idea of packing a camera onto the car for the kids seems a little far-fetched. For one, I don't think they're going to be relaxed while driving. I wouldn't be.

For another, I'd be tempted to go all Evel Knievel about then and would probably die after saying those famous words, "Hey y'all, watch this!" We've already trained our kids to show out for home movies! Isn't that so cute?

Plus, if there was an accident where guilt was kind of sketchy and your teen might actually get off, here's proof of their mistake. Or cops who might make a ruling one way would change their minds after seeing the footage -- or take MONTHS to render a decision. (Football red flag review anyone? And boy, hasn't that helped the game out! Now everyone's having to start 30mins early to get the game in by bedtime.)

Furthermore, and I think this is the most important one, I think a whole underground economy would spring up with thieves stealing these cameras (most of them are located OUTSIDE the car). Just go to any mall and pluck video cameras like plump grapes to sell to pawn shops. Can you make it any easier?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chandler's Birthday!

Chandler, my youngest, turned 10 today.

And his birthday has been indicative of how screwed up things have been of late. He is finally out of his hard cast -- for the moment. More on that in a second.

He started out happy. I told him an old joke that I updated for current times. It was originally told about General George Armstrong Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

I'm currently reading the Spiderwick Chronicles to him. He's enjoying them. Today we read about how the goblins massacred all the dwarves.

So on the way to school, I asked him, "Do you know what the dwarves said when they looked to the north and all they saw was goblins? And they looked to the south and all they saw was goblins? And they looked to the east and all they saw was goblins? And they looked to the west and all they saw was goblins?"

"No," he said.

"Damn, that's a LOT of goblins!"

He thought that was uproariously funny. He's a generous kid.

My 18-year-old and I took him out to lunch for his birthday. He ate seven pieces of pizza. My 10-year-old. More than he usually eats.

That afternoon we got a phone call from the doctor. Tomorrow Chandler has to go in for a bone scan. Happy Birthday! They're worried that the growth plate might have been damaged in his leg after all. He broke the big bone near the ankle joint.

If the growth plate is damaged, he could end up with one leg shorter than the other. Of course, they can operate on him and put pins in his leg. Which is another set of problems.

We'll know more tomorrow.

So I took the family to dinner at BJ's. He had a great time. Unfortunately, he was the only kid that could be here. My daughter lives out of town. The two older boys were with their girlfriends. My 18-year-old was at work.

My wife and I sang Happy Birthday to him. He blew out his candles by himself. Not much of a birthday compared to all the others he remembers. But he didn't complain.

I just watched him and realized that it sucks to be the last kid at home. And there's nothing I can do about it. Kinda matches up with other things I've got going on right now that I'm trying to deal with.

But I love him and I trust that everything is going to be all right.

Monday, October 08, 2007


In an effort to create new content that's not always book and DVD-driven, I've decided to try to post every day about something. Occasionally I'm going to dip into news articles. Like today.

For those of you who don't know, Blackwater is a HUGE international private security firm that's being hired by the United States government to help out with effort in Iraq. They first came to public attention down in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit.

Private security firm translates into mercenaries. Guys who lay their lives on the line for money to provide security or an imposing threat. In some ways, the whole idea is interesting and at the same time scary.

It's interesting because it's one of those jobs fiction writers always have lurking in their novels, dark, brooding men with dangerous reflexes and a higher sense of national pride or need for adrenaline. It's scary because the Blackwater mercs don't operate under the same rules of war that are in place for the American serviceman. They've got a blank check to do whatever it is they've been hired to do.

I don't know enough about what they're doing to make a judgment call about them regarding whether they're a good thing or a bad thing. I know that their jobs are dangerous, and I know that they've gotten into considerable trouble over in Iraq after a suspicious shooting that resulted in the death of 17 Iraqi nationals. That's all still being sorted out.

The United States has a long history of hiring mercenaries. A lot of people may not know this. George Washington and the War Department hired German as well as French mercenaries to fight in the Revolutionary War. It's not a new thing. And there have been convincing arguments of the years that the federal government has hired mercenaries in the past to influence political situations in other countries. This is one of the first times that these goals have been performed so aboveboard.

Or maybe the world's technology has progressed to the point that it's hard to keep many things secret. Of course, a mercenary's work tends to have more effect if everyone knows he's on the job. A high-profile might be what's called for here.

However, I am going to read more about them. A new book addressing the security firm and their practices has just been released. I'm thinking about picking it up and trying to get a better understanding of how this thing operates.

If nothing else, I'm going to reseach the organization and see how thngs shake out. Fiction tends to follow real life. Even science fiction often imitates real-world situations. Since the private security sector is one of the corporate businesses growing by leaps and bounds at a time when recession and economical set-backs loom, I find it even more interesting.

I want to know what the benefits of hiring people like this are. I want to know the kind of men who do this job. I want to know what benefits these men are getting and what sacrifices they're making (beyond giving their blood and lives). I want to know what kind of training (physical, mental, emotional, and religious -- if any) that they're receiving.

These are the kinds of questions writers start with to build plots and characters.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I Love Kid Lit!
As any frequent reader of my reviews knows, I read a lot of kid lit. Part of the reason is because I have a nine year old. But I buy a lot of books that I haven't had time to read to him yet either. I read those. I can read them faster to me than I can to him.

I tell myself that's so I can edit what's good and what's not before I start reading to him. There’s no sense in both of us being bored. Also, a book may brush up against some topics or get heavy into science or history that I know Chandler won’t be interested in. I know to save that book for later, and it goes in our TBR pool.

If a book is really good -- like The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan or Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series or Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson's Peter and the Starcatchers books -- I force myself to stop and wait until I can read it to Chandler. That way we can both be surprised and enjoy the story.

But sometimes I read books that will take too long to read to him, or the subject matter is still a little out of his reach, or I'll just get so caught up in the story and characters that I really don't have the willpower to resist the magical spell of the storyteller.

Some books -- like the Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books by Jim Benton and the Wiley and Grampa Creature Feature books by Kirk Scroggs and Olivia by Ian Falconer -- deserve several readings. If Chandler's not around, I read through them myself, then enjoy them again with him.

As I've talked to other adults, I've discovered that many of them are reading children's and YA books as well. It's not just me. And some of them don't even have the excuse of having kids. I think there's something magic about kid lit that real readers just never recover from.

Kids' books are just more story and character driven. The action is compressed and moves all the time. And there aren't all those red herrings of relationship problems (except for friendship) to slow that pace down. And you know that good is going to triumph in the end and you're going to have a few chills, thrills, and laughs along the way. Not only that, but many of the books are part of a series. So you get additional adventures of your favorite heroes and favorite worlds. They’re shorter too, and they seem more possible to make a commitment to. I can usually read two or three kids’ books in the time it takes to read an adult novel. I feel like I’m reaching goals faster.

If you’re one of those people who used to read as a kid but just can’t make time for it any more, or you’re overwhelmed by the latest 600-page Stephen King opus, try reading kids’ books. Once you get back in the habit, you may find that you’re ready to make a commitment to a longer relationship with a longer book.

These books, in so many ways, are a return to my innocence. I think they are for all of us who have chosen to be kid readers for the rest of our lives.

What so many of us want to do with our kids is share the books from out youth with them. As many of you have probably discovered, you can’t. It’s sad.

I grew up reading Robert A. Heinlein and Andre Norton. That was back during the days when the idea of venturing out into space was new and exciting. To today’s kids, that’s just a walk in the park. And a boring one at that.

Not so long ago, I read The Cay by Theodore Taylor to my son. He listened to the story, but he just wasn’t as blown away by it as I was. He’s jaded to so many of the stories and characters. Admittedly, I am too. I rarely get blown away by a book these days.

But several of the books I listed in this piece are amazing, and well worth the time to read them.

If you’d lost the love of books but find it again in kid lit, please pass this message on. And give some of the really good books to your local public and school libraries. They’re always on the lookout for good books that will engage young minds.

Who knows? Maybe a parent will pick it up to read to their kid and we’ll keep winning readers back.