Monday, November 25, 2013

Easter Eggs and Inside Jokes In Books

First of all, congrats to Miranda Hardy for winning my "Thankful" contest last week. I will make a $50 donation to Direct Relief where all of the money will go directly to help those in the Philippines. I hope all of the generosity shared by so many all over the world inspires you to give. So I challenge all of you to give to. You can match my donation, or offer whatever you can. Every penny matters.

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We all know about fun "easter eggs" in movies and video games, but my favorites are those little hidden gems in books. Sometimes, you'll find the "easter egg" on the cover, other times it'll be in the actual book itself. What's so cool about them is that it's just yet another way for an author to communicate to a reader on a different level. Almost like an inside joke you get to share with your favorite writers.

Here's just a few of the cool hidden messages in books that I've read:

See the nekkid-ness in those eyes?
1) Nekkid Lady in The Great Gatsby.
I had to read this book as a junior in high school, and this was the cover on my book. I thought The Great Gatsby was a pretty damn good book, but one day during class, I started to space out and I stared Daisy's face on the cover and noticed the naked ladies in her eyes. Got my attention!

2) Real Phone Number in Cormier's I Am the Cheese.
In this Young Adult classic, the narrator tries to call a girl from a phone booth. The phone number published was actually Robert Cormier's. And when many kids called and asked for the girl, Cormier would play along and pretend to be the girl's father. When I was a teacher, I called the number and had a great conversation with this amazing author just before he passed away.

3) The Da Vinci Code.
On the inside panel of the hardback's dust cover, you'll see bold letters. If you write each bold letter, you get: ISTHERENOHELPFORTHEWIDOWSSON. Many speculate this has something to do with a speech given in 1974 connecting Freemasonry and the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The name of that speech given to an audience of Mormons: Is There No Help for the Widow's Son?

4) The Courtship of Princess Leia.
The book that covers Han Solo and Leia's marriage, Solo goes under the alias "Jenos Idanian." You unscramble the letters of that alias, and you've got Indiana Jones. Anagram fun!

5) Stephen King.
King loves to have characters and settings criss-cross all of his novels. There's way too many "easter eggs" in his books to list, but the most obvious has to be IT. Here's just a few:

-Dick Hallorann, the chef at the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. In IT, he's a 19 year old Army cook. 
-The setting of IT is Derry, Maine which is the setting of several of his other books including Insomnia, Dreamcatcher, and 11/23/63
-The car from Christine makes an appearance
-There's a reference to Cujo when Beverly Marsh gets trapped in her car and has to pee

In my upcoming novel, Dragonfly Warrior, I have fun with a pair of characters, drawing inspiration from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from William Shakespeare's Hamlet. I have had only ONE beta reader out of eight catch it. I guess you have to be a Shakespeare fan to catch it, though!

Are there any "easter eggs" in music, movies, book, or even video games that are your favorite?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thankful in the Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan

After Typhoon Haiyan struck the central region of the Philippines, I had a lot of friends reach out to me and ask if I had any family still over there. And if I did, were they okay.

Luckily, all my relatives are safe.

Many of my friends asked me all kinds of questions about the Philippines, which got me thinking...many here in the States don't know much about the country my parents came from. So I thought I'd share some very interesting facts about the Philippines.

1) Demographics: 100 million people, with 1.8 million here in the States. And the median age of people living in the Philippines is a VERY young 23 years old

2) Georgraphy: Its made up of 7000 islands, with more than 200 volcanoes.

3) Religion: 80% of Filipinos are Catholic, another 10% are other Christians, and another 10% are Muslim.

4) History: The Philippines was a Spanish colony for 375 years. In 1898, it was ceded to the United States, and it was granted Commonwealth status in 1935. After World War II, the Philippines was granted independence.

5) World War II: Some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific occurred in the Philippines. The Japanese committed many atrocities against Filipinos and Americans. Some of the more well known incidents were the Death March at Bataan and the Manila Massacre. My grandfather was taken prisoner by the Japanese, and during their march, he and a handful of American G.I.s beat up their guards and ran into the jungle. My grandfather didn't talk about that horrible experience much when he was alive.

6) Inventions: Karaoke was invented in the Philippines, not Japan! Other inventions include: the butterfly knife, the yo-yo (which was also a weapon), the medical incubator (the kind used today in hospitals NICUs), and the florescent lamp.

7) Super Typhoon Haiyan was 3.5 times more powerful than Hurricane Katrina. Original death estimates were put at 10,000, and the most recent number I've seen is that nearly 4,000 are confirmed. So many bodies were washed out into the ocean. 11.3 million Filipinos have been affected, with nearly 700,000 of them homeless.

Which brings me to this post. So many lives have been lost in the Philippines, and I've been touched by the outpouring of love and support from all around the world. When these kinds of horrible disasters occur, it's a swift reminder to never take what you have for granted.

So I want to help. In fact, I want to help YOU help. In the comments below, I want you to tell me just one thing you're thankful for. When you're done, click the entry on the Rafflecopter widget. You have until this Saturday the 23rd at 11:59 to enter.

The winner will get a special prize. I will donate $50 in YOUR HONOR to the Direct Relief organization, where 100% of the money donated on your behalf will go straight to help those in the Philippines. Direct Relief is helping in many fronts, particularly with sending critical medical supplies and outfitting medical personnel to the Philippines.

Direct Relief is a fantastic organization. It has been given the full 4 Stars from Charity Navigator, and they allow people to donate as a tribute to another person. And I want to donate as a tribute to one of YOU!

I will announce the winner next Monday.

Thanks so much for participating, and remember to be thankful for what you have in your life right now, no matter how bad things can get. And we all can do something to help others who need it most.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cover Reveal Thanks...And Drawing!

I'm constantly amazed by how supportive and positive the blogging community is. This was my first promotion ever, and the results far exceeded my expectations. When I posted the sign up form for my cover reveal, I was hoping for maybe 20 bloggers to help me out.

I had over 60 sign up. And another 7 emailed me directly wanting to participate and post Dragonfly Warrior's cover on their sites. Amazing. And the response on all the blogs blew me away. You all have such wonderful readers.

Once again, a big humongous "thank you" to all who helped me out.

So now the fun part!

I was originally going to use Rafflecopter to do the drawing for the steampunk bookmark, but I decided to go 'Old School' and draw names out of my steampunk hat.

Here's the steampunk hat and goggles...

And it's full of bloggers' names. 71 to be exact!

My 9 year old daughter is mixing them up good. Really good. And finally she picks one slip of paper.

And the winner is...(drum roll please)

CONGRATS TO PK HREZO!!! You're the winner of a brand new steampunk beaded bookmark!!! (I hope you're understanding of my little girl's mispronouncing your name after she pulled it).

Thanks again, everyone, and I plan on doing this again in December for the book launch on January 6, 2014. The prize for that sign up is SPECTACULAR, and it will a lot of fun. I hope you'll all be a part of that too.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Oh, How I Miss You Blogfest

The bloggers we miss… and the ones we would miss!

Do you have a couple blogger buddies who aren’t posting as often? Those who’ve pulled back and seem absent from the blogging world? Do you have blogger buddies you are grateful they are still around and would miss if they vanished? Now is your chance to show your appreciation and spotlight them!

List one to three bloggers you really miss and one to three bloggers you would miss if they stopped blogging. Then go leave a comment on those blogs.

Our blogger friends are special – time to let them know!

You ready for a time machine to take you back in time? The blogs I miss (and WOULD miss) go WAY back. In the last eight years, I can't tell you how many of my blogging buddies have disappeared. Blogging back in the day was really more like an online journal, a place to rant and talk about whatever.

These days, you have Facebook and Twitter and all the other micro-blogging sites. Sigh...sorry. Just waxing nostalgic. I hope you all can appreciate being introduced to blogs you've never seen before.

Here are the 3 blogs I miss:

The Musings of David Amulet. RIP (2005-2009) Music, movies, books, and anything else...this blog had it all. And the quick wit that rolled it all together is something I haven't seen in the blogosphere yet. 

Blugstuff. RIP (2005-2008) Fuzzbox was a strange and fun mix of dirty, sexy, and artsy stuff. Yeah, his posts often depicted half-naked women. But the guy was unapologetic and raw.

Rocky Road Scholar. RIP (2005-2009) This had to be one of the greatest blogs I have ever read. Talk about getting a slice of life. Rocky never posted a lot on a regular basis, which made each post a golden nugget of charm and humor. 

Here are 3 blogs I WOULD miss if they suddenly stopped:

The Blog. 2004-Present. Cube has been blogging longer than me. I don't get to visit her place as often as I used to, but she's still going strong. Going to her blog is like coming home. Current events and politics galore.

Heavy Metal Time Machine. 2005-Present. Love heavy metal? Even though I'm not a huge fan, I do have my head-banging moments. Metal Mark has been rocking for eight years too, and I don't see him quitting anytime least I hope not!

Rantings of An 80s Nut. 1999-Present. I DARE YOU to find a blogger that's been doing this longer. FOURTEEN YEARS!!! Martin's writing style is easygoing and introspective. He just talks about whatever is on his mind. I'm an 80s Nut myself, and it's always great to read about life from a fellow Generation X'er. Go check out this blog, as it's a piece of blog history, my friends.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dragonfly Warrior Bonus Art

This has been a fun start to the month. NaNoWriMo is in full swing, and if you're curious, you can see my progress over on my sidebar. I need to write a ton in the first half, knowing my word count will dry up in a couple weeks.

Also, another big thanks to those bloggers that shared my cover reveal the last several days. I look forward to seeing more posts throughout this week. I will draw the winner for the cool bookmark out of my steampunk hat next week. I decided to go old school with the drawing instead of using Rafflecopter.

The responses to my cover reveal have far exceeded my expectations, and I've gotten a bunch of emails asking for more information on Dragonfly Warrior, so I decided to share a little more today.

Below are two central characters that accompany Zen on his quest in the New World:

"How about a little wager?"

Enapay is a member of the Nabeho Tribe in Southwestern Agrios. He's an inventor and engineer who built his own airship. Enapay has a problem with stealing and gambling, but deep down, he's a good guy who just needs a little direction in his life. He is a direct foil for the idealistic Zen. The two stand on opposite sides on many things, but that's a major reason why they become good friends.

Neva (Geneva Bouvier)
Never get between a pissed off mother and her child!

Neva is an ex-pistoleer in the Francian Army. She led a small battalion during the Rebellion against the Iberian Empire. After the death of her husband, she married a wealthy criminal to support her nine year old son. When her child is kidnapped, Neva goes across the Atlantica Ocean to Agrios to get her boy back. Neva is a strong mother figure, but she's one not to mess with. She is the fastest gunslinger in all of Europa. And she's angry.

The world I created in Dragonfly Warrior is an alternate universe, but it's definitely late 1800s with a very different take on the Industrial Revolution. Everything is powered by steam, and whatever nation possesses the biggest and baddest machines rule.

I drew from all different mythology in this series too. Lots of Greek, Japanese, Chinese, and even Norse myths are intertwined. The Odyssey and King Arthur are two of my favorites. But I also grew up with Westerns and martial arts movies, so you can be there's lots of that in there too. And what's a steampunk book without pirates? I know, it all sounds like such a weird mishmash, but it works (without being cheesy).

I wanted a cover that screamed ACTION and FUN, and I love how it reminds me of old comic books and pulp fiction. However, beneath that cover, I've created a rich world with many literary themes and elements that weave a tale of adventure, betrayal, and old fashioned good vs evil.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dragonfly Warrior COVER REVEAL, The Bashan Agenda, and NaNo

Thanks to all of those participating in the cover reveal for my debut novel, Dragonfly Warrior. Hopefully, many of you will see my cover throughout the blogosphere in the next week.

Here is the full book jacket reveal:

Isn't it just awesome? (If you click the cover, you'll see the full image. Depending on your screen, it's probably cut off on the right edge).

I must give props to those responsible for this cover. Enggar Adirasa is a talented artist, and he and I went back and forth until he captured one of the scenes from my book. Mr. Adirasa will be doing the covers for all my books in the first trilogy in The Mechanica Wars series. Check out his other work HERE.

Also, Jenn Howard has been instrumental in the ebook and full cover design. Without her graphic design goddessness, this cover would not have been possible. And she happens to be my longest running blog friend, so we go back 8 years. Jenn is one of the designers at The Author's Red Room. You can look at her book covers HERE.

Somebody asked me, "So, what's your book about?" Luckily, I'm a sales guy. And elevator pitches is part of what I do everyday. My reply was:

"It's about a young, naive prince who is sent on a desperate quest to the other side of the world by his father. Everything the hero thought he knew about the world is going to be turned upside down. Oh, and there's pirates, ninjas, samurais, and kick ass steampunk machines and weapons."

When we get closer to my publication date (January 6th...for now), I look forward to sharing more about this book that almost never got published. Twice! It's a relief, and pretty terrifying, to finally get my work out there. And thanks to everyone's support.

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And here's something new from the lovely Melanie Shulz...

The Newstead Trilogy is one story in three parts, The Bashan Agenda, part two, picks up right where The Newstead Project left off. Nathan's truck eventually stops in the small town of Wilson, NY, and Rachel's still in it, not that she wants to be. But she figures at least in Wilson she'll be able to have a fresh start. She forgot one thing: they can be anywhere. As Joel trains with his father, doubts begin to rise in his mind. Is he really who he claims to be- and more importantly does he have an agenda all his own? When the maps to Bashan come out, Joel realizes maybe it's not such a good idea to be putting so much trust in one man.

The Bashan Agenda is available on:

Find Melanie on:

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NaNoWriMo kicks off at midnight tonight. The holidays are almost upon us too. So several bloggers decided to combine them into: All I Want for NaNo Bloghop! It's a great way to promote the upcoming book, The Spirit of Christmas Anthology.

So what do I want for my second NaNoWriMo experience? Really simple: to pass my optometric exam AND win! It's a crazy pipe dream, trying to cram for a very difficult test and try to write 50,000 words in one month. And in reality, I might not hit that word count goal. But that's okay.

Big picture, the test is more important to me. And from what I hear, it's full of trick questions. I'm not a fan of trick questions. If I know the material, I should get a good score. Right? Alas, the American Board of Optometry doesn't see it that way.

Is it asking too much to ace my test and hit 50,000 words...all in one month?