Friday, August 30, 2013

The Truth About William Hurt's Head

Important things like this keep me up at night.

Several years ago when I was a production artist, I had a friend who worked at a competing printing company. They had huge contracts. One of their clients was the "Sci-Fi Channel."  They go by "Sy-Fy" now or some silly thing, but I refuse to play along because they're embarrassed about their "science fiction" origins. Now, they're all about reality shows ("Are You America's Next Top Alien?")  and movies with killer titles like "Sharkoctupus Versus Whorepedo."

Anyway. The Sci-Fi channel was promoting their "Dune" television series. My pal's company printed up tons of promotional bags. William Hurt got wind of it. Stopped the presses. I imagine it was as exciting, if not as honorable, as a journalist shouting to his publisher to shut down production because a larger story just broke.

Well, the reason was definitely "larger." And it nearly broke the printing company. William Hurt's head-shot wasn't as prominent as he wanted it to be. He demanded it be larger than a bus, more prominent than his co-stars.

Well. First...William Hurt's forehead already looks like it's carved outta' granite and should be on Mount Rushmore. His skull could stop traffic.

Second, thousands of dollars were laid to waste in the aftermath of Hurricane Hurt. Countries coulda' been fed.

Third, a good friend of mine has worked with William Hurt in the past and verifies that Hurt's ego is indeed larger than his head. My contact's identity shall remain undisclosed, but call this secret source "Deep Throat (if you guys are too young to understand the reference, go google 'Watergate')." I'm super-stoked that I have a secret source because I feel like I'm exposing things people need to know. Maybe not. (But, honestly, it's also sorta' a juvenile thrill to be able to drop the term "deep throat" in a non-porno manner on my blog and get away with it. Remember, I'm twelve years old at heart.).

Fourth, what's up with celebrities, anyway?

If self-important and wealthy celebrities would invest as much time in promoting worthy causes instead of pumping up their images,'s the limit.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mashing Up Fairy Tales With Mary Waibel

Hey, gang, welcome Mary Waibel, author of Quest Of The Hart. Quest is a YA fantasy with fairy-tale elements stirred in. It's the tale of Princess Kaylee and her epic quest to save the love of her life, Devlin. But instead of my blathering on about it, let's see how Mary describes her book:
A reverse Sleeping Beauty tale where the princess goes on the quest to save the prince.

Princess Kaylee has never had to fight for anything. Her entire life has been arranged, even her marriage. But when Prince Devlin falls under an enchantment, she finds she is willing to do anything to save him, even if it means fighting a dragon.

 Devlin's own sister, Princess Arabella, is behind the deadly plot. She wants the throne and will use any means necessary to gain it. Her perfect plan unravels, leaving Devlin caught in a magical sleep that is slowly spreading through the kingdom of Breniera. All Arabella needs to finish her spell and claim the crown is a drop of Kaylee's blood, but obtaining the single drop is proving more difficult than expected.

 To save her betrothed, Kaylee embarks on a quest to find an ancient sword and gather a drop of dragon's blood, while trying to stay out of Arabella's traps. But Arabella's traps aren't the only danger. Time is everything. For once the last inhabitant of the kingdom falls asleep, the spell will be sealed, and not even true love's kiss will break it.

*Mary, the thing that struck me most about your book is you give equal time to the villain of the tale, Arabella, as you do your heroine, Kaylee. The chapters alternate between them. Just curious about your mind-set here. Do you believe Arabella's equally as important to the tale? Or do you just like writing about Pure Evil?

LOL! While I'd love to say I did it because I wanted to explore the dark side of things, the truth is, I needed (or wanted) another POV besides Kaylee's, and couldn't use Devlin as he was asleep for most of the book. The idea of Arabella came to me, and I loved it- gave me a chance to let you see a bit behind her actions.

*There are many elements of fairy tales in your novel. There's the heroine who can talk to animals. Evil and good witches. Magic spells. Princes awakened by kisses. Too many more to list. Was this intentional, part of a master plan? Or were they lucky coincidences?

I set out to make this a retelling, and included many of the traditional fairy tale elements. I even re-watched Sleeping Beauty to brush up my memory of what happened and in what order :-)

*I have to say my favorite character is Aureal. He's not the traditional stereotypical prototype for this type of character and I found his portrayal refreshing. If you want to keep his identity quiet for fear of spoilers, that's fine. But tell us what you can!

Ah, Aureal. Yes, he's quite unusual for a dragon. Again, I didn't want the tradition fire breathing image, but while he may not breath fire, he is still quite fearsome, especially after listening to Trevor's tales about the beasts.

*Do you have empathy for Arabella? I hate to admit it, but I did have a smidgeon. She has a point about the unfairness and sexist nature of her kingdom's laws! It's a feminist book!

I do have to say I have some empathy for her. Enough that I am working on a story of her own- a redemption tale, if you will. You'll have to stay tuned for more on that!

*Sounds good, can't wait to read it, Mary! Along these lines, obviously the female characters are the strongest in the book. The nominal "hero," Devlin, spends most of the time lying around in a coma or looking handsome. Tough essay question time...Explain to my (admittedly few) male followers why they should pick your book up. Pick your pencil up....NOW! You have five minutes...

It has hot chicks. In leather. :-) Seriously, though, if you enjoy quests, sword fights, magic, and a race against time, you should give Quest a try.

*What's next on Mary's keyboard?

Currently I am working on the first in a two book series. It's a paranormal romance with faeries and sorcerers/sorceresses. I'm working on another fantasy trilogy and a YA contemporary romance. (My muse doesn't like me to be idol!)

*Sequels to Quest Of The Hart?

Charmed Memories, a companion novel, released 8/9/13. It follow Kaylee's brother Trevor as he searches for his missing princess. And I just signed the contract for Different Kind of Knight, a third in the series, to released in Winter 2013/14.

Well, all well and awesome! To buy Mary's great fantasy
books, follow the links to her blog:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Reluctant Readers Unite With Kai Strand!

Well, author Kai Strand's ready to start a revolution and I'm right behind her burning bras and killing the pigs. Wait...

That's not quite right. But I agree whole-heartedly with her excellent post. Time for me to shut up and let Kai tell it. And her new book sounds thirty shades of awesome!

 Reluctant Readers Unite! 

Anymore, kids are raised to think if they don’t read a minimum of twenty minutes a day they will end up as an adult begging on a street corner somewhere. That there is no success for an adult who didn’t embrace Catcher and the Rye or Animal Farm in their high school years.

But here’s the thing: it’s the adults in our lives pushing the reading. Elementary school teachers dutifully check our weekly reading logs and give us that disdainful look when we hand them an empty graph. Middle school teachers test our comprehension so often we no longer understand what we were supposed to understand in the first place. And analyzing the dreaded required reading in high school is enough to turn even the most passionate reader off of books for the next twenty years. It becomes a chore, like laundry or taking out the trash that we no longer look forward to.

Why don’t they just let us choose our own books and review them?

This is what I read. This is basically what it was about. This is what I liked about it. My favorite character was _____ because ____. I didn’t like _____ because ____. If I could improve one thing in the story it would be _____.

Reading can and should be fun. You should be able to choose the type of book you like to read and you should be able to tell someone why you like it. Do you enjoy war stories that depict what trudging through the jungle of Vietnam or hiding in emptied buildings in small town France during Word War II was like? Do you like graphic novels because you’d rather not read that the character has a lazy left eye and wears a studded collar when you can simply see it and get straight to the dialogue? Do you like fantasy because of the requirement of suspension of disbelief or the possibility of magic? Do you prefer a short book because you don’t have a lot of time to read and by the time you get to the end of a long book, you’ve forgotten the reason the character started their journey in the first place?

If you are a reluctant reader, I encourage you to try different types of stories and in different formats. Listen to a book you download from the library to your iPod. Read an electronic book on a Kindle or your phone. Talk to other readers about why they liked (or didn’t like) a particular book. Often their passion for a story will help you better decipher the book as you read it.

I can’t make your homework go away or change it to be more fun. For that I’m truly sorry. However, if your enjoyment of reading has been hampered by years of the wrong sort of reading, I encourage you to try something different. There is no better way to broaden your world than to lose yourself between the covers of a book. Then write a review on Amazon or Goodreads to say how you felt about it. Chances are if you do this often enough even your boring homework will become easier.

Kai’s most recent book, King of Bad, is a young adult fantasy and perfect for reluctant readers:

Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA.

He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the Supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?

Buy it:
Publisher, Amazon, Barnes and Noble Add it to Goodreads

About the author:

When the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fire and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died, the end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers and short stories for younger children Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Visit Kai’s website,, to download companion materials for her books or to find how to contact her.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Who Would Win In A Fight? Doctors Or Ice Cream Truck Drivers?

Several posts ago, I told y'all about the odd little bump in my palm.

Things progressed from my blissed state of ignorance to "Oh, my God, I'm turning into the Elephant Man!" My body was mutating faster than the lead character in "The Fly." My wedding ring finger bloated, ached, looked like Popeye's forearm. The finger felt like it was broken. I managed to wrench my wedding ring off. The ring had magically transformed from a perfect circle into an odd oval.

I hitched up my big boy britches, finally went to the doctor.

She took a look at my palm, basically shrugged her doctorly shoulders, and proclaimed it as "Trigger Finger." Sounds like an Old West gunfighter's ailment. Fastest bump in the West. But it's a growth on a tendon that causes finger pain.

Her advice? Nothing you can do about it. Just live with it. It won't go away.

Wasn't really the diagnosis I was hoping for.
Years ago, I went to a doctor for chronic headaches. He asked me if I saw "funny little men" at times. I said, "What?" Next thing I know, I'm dropping trou and letting him probe my back-side. Now it's true I'd just turned forty and he said it was time to check the prostate. But it wasn't what I signed on for. Don't think he found any "funny little men." And I'm pretty sure this was the origin of the myth about aliens giving anal probes. Didn't cure my headaches, though.

I used to have blind faith in doctor's diagnoses. But I've since come to accept that a doctor's diagnosis is nothing more than an educated guess. Silly of me to have thought otherwise. Just like in any field, there're doctors who don't have a clue. Sorta' like when you were a kid and there were great ice cream truck drivers and bad ones. The good ones used to invite you into the back of the truck and let you check out the secret operations. Back then we simply didn't care if they were serial killers. Never crossed our minds. They were COOL.

Chalk it up to the innocent ignorance of youth. Or just ignorance.

But I think a standard of professionalism should be upheld for both doctors and ice cream truck drivers. All fields, really.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hanging out with and Meradeth Houston

Let me introduce you to Meradeth Houston, my friend and author of Colors Like Memories, a very good YA fantasy romance. The book and she are both pretty dang cool. Let's hear that applause!

Thanks so much for hosting me, Stuart! It’s been awesome getting to know you and your books.

*You're very welcome! SO clue in the uninitiated. What's a "Sary?"

A Sary is a child who died before they were born, or took their first breath. They’re offered the choice of staying a spirit on the other side, or to gain a body and serve as cosmic counselors against suicide.

*I really think it's kick-ass you made up an entirely new supernatural entity.

LOL! I get people going “but google didn’t know what I was talking about” all the time! Or people asking me if I write about sari—the Indian dresses. Personally, I like making things up from scratch, so I can make all the rules (ahem, my OCD side coming through there a little!).

 *OCD creates awesome writers, Meradeth! I'm not much for tear-jerkers, but your book is. Dang you! Apologies? Explanations? Don't make me act unmanly!

I’m not trying to go for tear-jerker, promise! I guess I just tend to do that. I’ve had other people tell me they can’t read my books because they don’t do sad. And to be honest, I’ve avoided books I know will require a box of Kleenex (The Fault Is In Our Stars anyone?). Still, I’m just not really a funny person, so I guess by default the emotion I get is sad. (Insert sad trombone sound here…)

*So. Two different angles of romance going on in your book. Tragic romance. New romance. Preference?

Book #4 tells all. But I do have a soft spot for happy endings, if that’s enough of a spoiler for everyone.

*I was totally caught up in Julia's watch over her "project. Couldn't wait to see how it turned out. It brought real suspense to your excellent tale. (Not really a question, Meradeth, but elaborate!).

Marcy was really fascinating for me to write about. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how her story would play out until the end, myself. I got to the scene at the end (I don’t want to spoil it, eep!) and wasn’t sure how it would go. So, yeah, she’s quite the train wreck, but also such a sweet person I was glad Julia could be there for her. (Can you tell that I kind of get hung up on my characters being “real” in my head? Does that make me crazy? I always wonder….)

 *Meradeth, "Crazy" is the new cool! Hasn't anyone told you that yet? Okay, I'm picturing the male lead, Edison, as a sorta' male model, kinda' Robert Pattison guy. Please tell me I'm wrong!

Hahaha! Oh, wow, yeah, Edison would fall over laughing at that. He’s decent looking, but pretty normal, really. The Sary as a whole really go for the blending-in thing, so while they’re all “pretty” they’re definitely not model-like. Edison’s a cool guy, and his French is a little swoon-worthy, but mostly he could walk by on the street pretty much like anyone else.

The topic of teen suicide is very powerful. One of your characters struggles with it. Uncomfortable, but important time. Truth?

Whoa. Throw this one in here between Pattinson and kittens? LOL! Actually, suicide plays a role in all my books, because it’s a part of who the Sary are. And, it does have some pretty deep resonance for me. I don’t talk about it much (or at all, really) but I came from an abusive household and moved out of my dad’s house at 14. To say I never thought about suicide would be a lie, but I never got anywhere near as close as Marcy or some of my other characters. I was lucky to have my writing as a way to cope, and maybe in some ways that’s why the Sary have the role they do.

*You have only two choices. Who are your favorite James Bond actors? Make the right decisions. Kittens hold in the balance.

Ack! Two? Hmm, okay, I’ll admit I really like Daniel Craig. Something about him is alluring and gives the character a lot more depth. Also, I’m kind of partial to Pierce Brosnan, not so much for his portrayal of Bond, but just because he’s hot. I’ll admit it. (Hopefully you won’t hold that against the kittens?)

(Sorry, Meradeth. You got one of the answers right. The other choice is horribly misguided. One kitten is at serious risk).

*The flying scenes when the Sarys take wing and soar through the sky. To me, those scenes were written with a poet's eye. Almost sensual, in fact. Were they meant to be sexy? Subliminal hot dreams? Do I need to get out more?

Is it bad that I’m both laughing and blushing? J Hah! In some of the scenes, yeah, there’s definitely meant to be a bit more going on than just flying, but mostly I just spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming about flying away, or at least just enjoying a sunset from 10k feet! Sooo, I guess my answer is sorta, hehe!

There you have it, gang. Go read her dang book, already!

MuseItUp Printing:

Companion Sary Tale:



Friday, August 2, 2013

Spoiler Alert! Hitler Didn't Win World War II!

Sorry. Sorry, sorry if I spoiled it for you.

But it's the way of the world these days. With the advent of the intronets, it's becoming increasingly impossible to avoid spoilers. Some folks regard spoilers as something to be savored, even though it's a somewhat contradictory term. I mean, no one relishes spoiled food, right? Except for maybe "stinky tofu." Less said about that, the better.

I think it's an art form to avoid spoilers. Especially how I like to "binge-watch" TV shows. My wife and I just finished season #3 of Game Of Thrones. Miraculously, I avoided finding out what happened at the "Red Wedding." And it was a true OMG moment. I knew something was coming, just had no idea how devastating it would be. And it was all the better for it.

That was a rare incident. For God's sake, I suffered through two seasons of The Killing, only to have it spoiled before the killer's unveiling.

Spoilers are funny. Seems to me the definition of a spoiler is becoming more subjective.

Recently I was on a movie-buff forum. Someone lobbed out the negatively loaded question, "Hey, what popular movie can you not stand?" Immediately, I fired back, "Titanic. I couldn't wait for that damn ship to go down (too many 'King Of The World' proclamations and all that)."

One guy's response? "Post a spoiler alert! Not everyone knows how 'Titanic' ends."

Huh. I was stymied. Really? So...a fact of life (not the show with Tootie and the gang, but, you know, real life) is now considered a "spoiler?"

I'm reminded of several years ago when I was in the evil corporate world. An artist I was managing--sweet, young, eager, college-educated--couldn't understand why I thought it was an important historical moment when President Obama was elected.

"Because he's the first black president in the history of the United States."

With a blank look, she said, "But what about that Martin Luther guy?"

Suppose I should have prefaced it all with a "spoiler alert."