Monday, July 30, 2012

My SEVENTH YEAR Blogoversary!!!

Hard to believe seven years have gone by...I was with Blogger before Google bought it. And yeah, it has it's faults, but what can I say, I decided to stay here.


My original blog had a theme: the weird/funny side of science. I wanted to create a blog that combined my love of science with the tomfoolery of Seinfeld, and I was dedicated to writing about how science is stranger than fiction.  But at some point, I realized that my heart was in pursuing my dream: writing and trying to get published. My blog limped along for two more years before I decided to shut it down and start over again right here. 


What I discovered was a wonderful world of fellow writers. So I thank you very much for coming here and reading my stuff.


My very first blog post went live on August 3rd, 2005. So in honor of that monumental day, I give you my very post post below. Here's to seven more fun years of blogging-goodness!

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Have you ever been stuck in traffic and you're just not able to hold it any longer? Nature calls, and you can postpone the inevitable for only so long. What about those with medical conditions that complicate things? Or maybe that chimichanga you had at lunch isn't agreeing with you while you're in the car. What's a person to do?

The new Indipod by Daycar is the answer.

It allows you to do your business in the privacy of your own car. This British invention is an actual in-car toilet. What about prying eyes while you engage in one of life's most private moments?


The Indipod comes with this built in inflatable privacy bubble to cover all the windows and such...and it creates a more relaxed and comfortable environment. Plus, I'm sure the bubble protects those outside your car from any malicious odors. Even those foolish to remain in your car while you take care of business are safe...as the bubble completely surrounds you and the air fan masks any embarassing noises you should be making.

How much can this Indipod hold? It has an 8 person-days capacity. In other words....it can hold 8 days' worth from one person or one day's glorius medley from you and 7 of your best buddies.

Leave it to the British to invent a sophisticated product like the Indipod...

I guess the American version, the Bumper Dumper, has some pretty heated competition.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Backworlds and The Amazing Spider-Man

M. Pax: Brains AND Beauty. 
My wonderful and talented friend, Ms. M. Pax, has official launched the sequel to fantastic book, The Backworlds. Time to celebrate!

Craze and his friends continue their adventures in Stopover at the Backworlds’ Edge. See what role chocolate plays in the galaxy this time.

The interstellar portal opens, bringing in a ship that should no longer exist. A battleship spoiling for a fight, yet the war with Earth ended two generations ago. The vessel drops off a Water-breather, a type of Backworlder thought to be extinct. She claims one of Craze’s friends is a traitor who summoned the enemy to Pardeep Station. A betrayal worse than his father’s, if Craze lives to worry about it.

Available for all ereaders from:
Amazon / Amazon UK / B&N / Smashwords
iTunes and Kobo will be available shortly.

If you haven’t read The Backworlds yet, it’s available as a free read from many outlets. See HERE for links. [http://mpaxauthor.com/the-backworlds-series/backworlds-the/]

Inspiring the words M. Pax writes, Mary spends her summers as a star guide at Pine Mountain Observatory in stunning Central Oregon where she lives with the husband unit and two loving cats. She write science fiction mostly and has a slight obsession with Jane Austen. Mary blogs at http://www.mpaxauthor.com/blog/


So go check out her books! If you're a fan of pure science-fiction, you will not be disappointed.


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Who's Better??????

Anyone else catch The Amazing Spider-Man movie yet? I will admit that I was VERY skeptical about the whole reboot. I thought that the first trilogy was too recent, but I love the Spider-Man franchise. Have since I was a kid.

I was completely surprised! It looks like there's a big debate going on right now between the two Spider-Men. Who is the better Web-Slinger? Is it Tobey Maguire or Andrew Garfield?

I weigh in on 3 points:

1) Blinded Me With Science. I have to give the science project blue ribbon to Andrew Garfield here. I know Maguire's Peter Parker was a science genius too, but I just didn't feel like you got to see much of that in practical use. Maybe it has to do with how each Spider-Man makes webs.

Garfield stays more true to the comic book and he uses his scientific skills to make these cool wrist thingies that shoot webs. I never really liked director Sam Raimi's take on Maguire's Spidey shooting webs from veins in his wrist or whatever. I mean, if you're going to go the biological/organic route, why not have the web shooting out of his ass. It's more accurate, right?

2) Nerds 'R Us. Both actors portrayed the geeky, loner, science nerd very well. However, they each had such a different take on it. Maguire is obviously a big time nerd, and he gets bullied by Flash Thompson pretty good. He's an outcast until he gets his powers, and that's when he stands up to Flash. Garfield's version of Peter Parker is a little more brooding. Not as helpless. He tells Flash to stop beating up on some poor kid and the jock then kicks the crap out of Parker instead. 

Here, Toby Maguire's portrayal is actually more accurate and faithful to the comic book. But I kind of like Garfield's take on it a little more. Yeah, he's a geek and a loser, but inside, he's got the heart of a hero. Just not the means...until the spider bite.

3) "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility." I give the edge to the Sam Raimi version here. It's very true to the comic book, but it's the main theme of the first movie and it's carried out from beginning to end extremely well. Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker uses his powers not to fight crime, but to make some money to buy a car to impress MJ. But when he lets a robber go, who goes on to kill Uncle Ben, it's a major turning point in his life.

They did a great job in Garfield's case too, but it just seems the journey from geek to hero isn't as much of a stretch for him. And the part where after his uncle's death and he's listening to Uncle Ben's final message in the form of a voicemail just seemed kinda hokey to me. Most voicemails are either quick and to the point, frantic and incoherent, or drone on and on. Here, the voicemail is profound and just a little too scripted to be believable.

4) Smart Ass! If you've read any of the Spider-Man comics, you know that he is a pretty big smart ass. In the middle of the fight, he's talking trash with zingers and put-downs galore. It's a major trait of his. Tobey Maguire did spew a few one-liners for sure, but Garfield's Spider-Man stays more true to the wise-cracking New Yorker that's deliberately taunting his enemies in order to play with their minds. In the scene where he starts pretending to be horrified at the sight of a criminal flashing a little knife comes to mind. Spider-Man has a sense of humor, and there's little bit of arrogance when he's donning the suit and taking on the bad guys.

Overall, I have to give Andrew Garfield's take on the humorous side of Spider-Man the edge.

Other things of note:

Action: I give the Tobey McGuire trilogy mucho propos. Much longer, more intense action scenes.
Romance: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have much better chemistry, in my opinion
Bad Guys: When you think of Spider-Man, you think of The Green Goblin. I really liked how The Lizard's character tied into Peter Parker's quest to learn the truth about his parents. I'm going with the reptile on this one.
Flash Thompson: I really liked Garfield's bully much better here. He's not the typical caricature of a jock we see torture Tobey McGuire. He's flat and 2-dimensional in the original trilogy. But with the new version, we know that Flash ironically loves Spider-Man (he's wearing the spider shirt) and even shows Peter some compassion after Uncle Ben dies. In the comics, Flash and and Peter actually become best friends.
Spider-Man 3: This movie sucked. Just brought the whole trilogy down. It was a bad movie, and it was not a satisfying way to end it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tragedy at Midnight Showing of The Dark Knight Rises

A mere 13 miles from the Columbine High School Massacre in 1991, yet another horrible mass shooting has taken place. This time at the midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises

12 people dead 38 59 wounded. The youngest victim is a 3 month old that was wounded, but will be fine

James Holmes is the 24 year old shooter who rushed into the theater through an exit door during the movie's gunfight scene, threw a gas bomb, and started shooting people randomly. As of right now, investigators are trying to find out this sicko's motives for committing such a horrible crime.

At his apartment, police found that his place was booby-trapped and also contained buckets of more ammunition. Law enforcement is also looking to see if Holmes has any social media accounts or blogs, working to locate any sort of premeditated manifesto he might have posted. Police are pretty sure he's a lone gunman and any sort of group terrorism link has not be identified.

I'm sure we'll learn more about Holmes as the day continues. His mother, who lives in San Diego, was contacted by law enforcement, and she knew in her gut they had the right man.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure this gruesome event will be politicized. And I'm also sure that the media will fill the airwaves with all kinds of stuff about James Holmes, as we all struggle to understand why. I refuse to post his pic on here. You're about to get bombarded with this evil person's image anyway.

With all of the crazy media buzzing around this story, let's not forget the people who were killed and injured in this shooting. I'm so saddened and angry right now, it's hard to type.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their family and friends.




Monday, July 16, 2012

Real Life Super Powers

Quick Announcement: I managed to successfully merge my old posts dating back to 2005 with this current blog. After doing the 7x7 Award post, I got nostalgic about my past work and decided to bring it back from the vaults.

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Did you know that you live among those with amazing "super" powers? I've listed some pretty incredible and rare abilities that makes many people real life mutants.

Okay, maybe "mutants" is too strong a word, but I think these four extraordinary human talents are otherwordly.

Hyperthymesia: Super autobiographical memory. People with this ability are able to recall nearly all personal experiences in their lifetime - with great detail. We all can remember significant events, but people with hyperthymesia can recall almost EVERY SINGLE DAY. From the mundane to the important, it's all stored memories able to be recalled. They are not autistic savants, but there is a striking similarity between the two conditions. Only 20 documented cases of hyperthymesia have been confirmed.

Echolocation: Human sonar. You think bats and dolphins are the only ones you utilize sound waves to navigate in the dark? Humans can do it too. Blind humans, actually. By tapping their cane on the ground or clicking their tongues, they can actually maneuver around objects. Using their acute sense of hearing, they can actually tell where an object is located, it's size, and density.

Supertasters: Amazing taste buds. My oldest son has this. People identified as supertasters actually have extra fungiform papille (little bumps) on the tongue housing their taste buds. Their sense of taste is much more sensitive than the average person, and scientists believe that supertasters will have a particularly strong aversion to bitter foods like grapefruit juice. Many food and beverage companies employ supertasters to be their...supertasters.

Eidetic Memory: Photographic memory and then some. Those with an eidetic memory are able to recall images (and even sound) with great detail and accuracy. Imagine walking through a massive medieval castle, going through each and every chamber and corridor. And then sitting down with a pad of paper and pencil and being able to draw out the layout with amazing precision. Lots of people have really good memories and employ some type of mnemonic strategies to remember things, but having an eidetic memory is an ability on a whole other level.




Thursday, July 12, 2012

7 x 7 Link Award

I'm SO not a math person, but for this one instance, I'll try to be.

Hope Roberson, author of Writing with Hope, has bestowed a 7 x 7 Link Award to me. What an honor!

The rules are simple: 

RULE #1: Tell everyone something that no one else knows about you.

Hmmm...I really love to sing. I've never received formal training, but I have sung in front of a ton of people up on stage before. Alone. And I got a standing ovation (the good kind). Whether it's karaoke or with a live band, I really enjoy singing. I also spend a lot of time in my car for my job, so when I'm listening to music, I'm often harmonizing with all kinds of songs. 


RULE #2: Link to one of the posts that I personally think best fits the following categories.


Most Beautiful: I participated in the A-Z Challenge for the first time this year, and my theme was steampunk (of course). So I'd have to say my most beautiful post was THIS ONE where I displayed gorgeous pics of some hot ladies in steampunk attire (and one dude to spread the love).


Most Helpful: I got a lot of email thank yous for the post I did on dialog. Check it HERE. After spending nearly a decade edit everyone else's work, I had to share many of the common mistakes writers make when writing dialog. Just remember, you cannot hiss, sneer, or chortle words. So don't use them as dialog tags!


Most Popular: I'm going WAY back to the archives on this one. I did a fun mockumentary in 2006 on a UFO abduction of a redneck named Bob. I got a lot of notoriety on this one, and was even featured in a big newspaper here in St. Louis for it. It's pretty hilarious, and I even did the fun drawings myself. I hope you enjoy it HERE.


Most Controversial: Okay, I'm going back to 2005 on this post I did on a real organization that is against humans breeding. I got tons of hate emails from people associated with the group. I bet the comments are still there too. Read it HERE.


Most Surprisingly Successful: I also participated in the First Campaigner Blogfest earlier this year. I did a steampunk piece of flash fiction. This was my absolute first time doing flash fiction, and it was REALLY hard to stay within that 200 word count limit. The feedback I got was astounding. It was my first taste at how supporting this writing community is. .


Most Underrated: Blogging has completely changed in seven years, so I did a post HERE on blogging. Where it's come from, where it is today, and where I think it's going. Evolution is a weird thing, and here on the interwebs, it happens so quickly. When I first started, blogging was an online diary. These days, blogging is nothing like that anymore. And I really miss my old blog buddies that have disappeared, which makes me cherish those that still crank out posts and all the new friends I've made in the last year and a half.


Most Pride Worthy: In 2007, police discovered the kidnapped Ben Ownby - but their biggest find was a boy who had been missing since 2002, Shawn Hornbeck. Psychics Sylvia Brown and Van Praagh both told the parts of Horback that their son was dead. I was one of the first bloggers who broke the story since it happened here in St. Louis, and I think this is the first and only time I've ever used the F-Bomb in a post. This post got over 50,000 hits the day Shawn Hornbeck was discovered. To this day, it's the one post that has gotten the most hits of anything I've ever written.


Thanks again Hope for helping me take a trip down blog-memory lane!


The Phoenix Blog

Monday, July 9, 2012

Most Hated Protagonists in Literature

Not too long ago, I did post on villains we love to hate.

This week, I've decided to switch things up and talk about protagonists that seem to have struck a negative chord with so many readers, that I feel compelled to write about them.

These controversial protagonists seem to polarize many readers as well. It's very difficult to finish a book whose protagonist gets on your nerves, isn't it? So here's my personal list of protagonists that I just don't like very much.

Waaah! 
Bella Swan - Twilight. Oh Bella, Bella, Bella. If there ever was a role model of how you DO NOT want your daughter to grow up to be like, it's Bella Swan. She's whiny. She's clingy. She's pretty stupid. I mean, she jumps off a cliff because Edward doesn't love her. She's trying to off herself to get a vampire's attention. That's just great. What irritated me the most was how she complains about damn near everything. The weather, Edward hates me, Edward loves me, where is Edward, I need more attention. I am proud to say that I finished Twilight, however. As a whole, the book was very poorly written, and the fact that I hated Bella made it even more of a chore.

You're all phony!
Holden Caulfield -Catcher in the Rye. I actually love this book, but I've met so many readers that hate the protagonist, Holden Caulfield. The dude is cray-cray, and even ends up in an institution. He's super judgmental, whiny, hypocritical, and he's most definitely a psychopath. Despite his wackiness and his brooding angst that gets annoying, I think the reason why characters like Holden and Bella are so popular is that teenage audiences can relate in some way to them. Holden is angry at the world, and there sure is a lot of that going on right now. For Holden, I think the reason people both hate and love him is because through his crazy, you see some truth there.

This dragon makes this not-Star Wars
Eragon - Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle). This one is probably the author's fault. Eragon himself is not a character I hate. I guess I just hate the way author Christopher Paolini wrote him. He's a walking cliche and Star Wars ripoff. I think Paolini just took the basic premise of Star Wars and put dragons in it to write his book. He's a lonely farmboy who dreams of adventure, raised by an uncle. And when fate comes a-knockin' and kills his uncle, Luke Sky..., I mean, Eragon must go and find his destiny. After five days of training, he learns to kick everyone's asses. He goes off with the help of a wizard to rescue a princess. Sound familiar? I actually started to read the second book in this series, and when the "Yoda" character popped up, whom Eragon had to seek in order to perfect his abilities, I pretty much just chucked it.

Oh, to be the hand that slappest thy face
Romeo - Romeo and Juliet. At first glance, this tale of star-crossed lovers is really touching. It's one of the first melodramas ever written, and pretty much every soap opera or teen TV show owes much to Shakespeare. But upon closer inspection, our hero is really not so great after all. While teaching this play to a bunch of 10th graders, I had one student say, "So now he loves Juliet after just seeing her?" Maybe younger people just don't believe in love at first sight anymore. But it did get me thinking, what the hell is wrong with him? Romeo is rejected by some other girl, sees Juliet, and now he's got hunger pains for some hot Capulet action. Let's get this straight, he doesn't really love her. He just wants to jump her bones. Then he kills himself thinking Juliet is dead. But she's not, she awakens from her drug induced coma, finds her hot lover dead. So she offs herself. Knuckleheads.

I can kill you from 100 yards
Katniss Everdeen - The Hunger Games. I'll probably get a bunch of boos on this one. But let me say that I enjoyed reading this trilogy. Mockingjay was the weakest installment in my opinion, but honestly, Katniss, our hero, my least favorite character. Katniss is very flawed, and that's what I like about her. Her incessant whining is irritating (can you tell I hate whiners?). I just didn't buy how shy she was about her ability to kill stuff with her bow. It's a bit "Mary-Sue" in that she's overly modest about her skills. It's a trope that's gone into cliche territory. Maybe there's too much love-triangle stuff from Twilight here with Gale and Peeta longing for yet another Plain-Jane. Looking at all three books, I believe her character descends into more whining and bitching. And by the end of the trilogy, she's pretty much the same person. No lessons learned. She's a survivor. She's brave. Both admirable qualities. But she fails to really grow even after all she goes through. In the end, I like Haymitch's character much more.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Motivate. Appreciate. Collaborate.

Writing has always been a solitary endeavor for me. I think it is for a lot of people. Then I started blogging in 2005, and holy crap...there's a bunch of writers out there just like me! Suddenly I was part of a network of writers.

I've taken it a step further, and I'm currently collaborating on a cool YA paranormal/suspense manuscript with Miranda Hardy. Fellow blogger and writer extraordinaire. How did this come about? Pretty naturally, actually. When the idea first struck us, I wasn't seeking to work on a novel with another writer. I had done a post, and it sparked Miranda's imagination.

Soon, we were trading emails back and forth. Then it became full blown brainstorm sessions. Not so easy, since she's in Florida and I'm in Missouri. Isn't technology wonderful? Finally, Miranda just couldn't contain her creative urges anymore and really wanted to write this book. Then she asked me if I wanted to collaborate with her on this project.

I didn't even think it over, as it seems that's where it was naturally taking me. So I decided to go with the flow and I eagerly accepted.

We decided to utilize Google Docs. I've used it before, but now we were both really working to explore its full potential as a collaboration tool. Here's what I've learned so far about working with a partner in brainstorming, creating, and writing a book:

Howdy partner!
1) Share the load. Splitting up any necessary research and sharing your findings is such a wonderful way to ignite that spark in an idea. As Miranda and I traded information back and forth, we just knew we were onto something. The very birth of a great story idea came from digging and observing, sharing what we found and thinking, "We can do this!"

2) Brainstorming is fun. Miranda starting writing her ideas in Google Docs. My ideas were in red. It became an organic thing, watching an abstract idea become much more tangible and concrete...growing as our creativity was allowed to foster. As we began writing, it was so cool for either one of us to have an "Ah-ha!" moment with a cool plot twist or whatever. It's incredible having a great idea pop out from nowhere, maybe something you never would have come up with on your own.

3) Chemistry. This is one of those things where you either have it or you don't. Neither one of us is overly sensitive about receiving any kind of criticism. Not everyone is like this. Being of (sound) like temperament is a must. Miranda is also really good and constructing plot and getting it down right away. I like to mull, think about stuff, and I'm more detail oriented. We work well together.

4) The system. Some collaborators write their manuscripts simultaneously. On Google Docs, you can see what each person is doing live. It's pretty cool. But Miranda and I are both busy people. Often, only one of us is working on our book at one time. That's cool. I put my edits in red, and Google Docs allows you go look at previous versions to compare. We can also highlight stuff and jot down comments in a sidebar. There have been a couple occasions where we were online together, and that was so incredible! Google Docs also has a chat feature so we can share ideas immediately.

One of us is not as creative as both of us
5) Flexibility. There is a lot of extemporaneousness (damn, that's a word, right?) in the process. You have to be both a plotter and a pantser. Miranda and I plot and outline ahead of time, sharing ideas and plot twists. There are times right in the middle of the creative process where something does emerge and maybe take us into another direction. If it feels right, and adds yet another exciting turn or layer to the story, you have to have the flexibility to go there.

I'm excited about this project, and Miranda and I will be sure to update you on our progress. In other words, more details to come.