Friday, August 30, 2013

Addendum to GMB (Genetically Modified Blogger) Post

Did I say I "liked" Monsanto?  Well...if "liked" means that if Monsanto one day usurps the entire world food supply and that I'm already groveling for my daily scraps (genetically modified, of course), then that's what it's all about.  Hey...go watch the Lionel Bart musical "Oliver!" to see as a training video.  Pay close attention to where our poor orphaned hero asks, "Please, sir, I want some more."  You might need this skill in order to get your food rations much like this unfortunate waif.  I wonder if genetically-modified gruel will end the obesity epidemic.  Hmm...

I am working on some more Kindle books to review.  They will be posted in the near future.  In the mean time I have some random thoughts.

Syria--to bomb or not to bomb.  Looks like us Americans are on our own with this one.  Sadly, the UK balked at this opportunity to join us on another crazy campaign to shape the world in our image. Consider Iraq.  It clearly is a better place for it.  Sort of.  (Come on, we did not leave it as some piece of shit hellish landscape.  That was somebody else.  I just can't think of who at the moment.) The UK doesn't even play baseball.  Can you balk in cricket?  Don't know.

Fracking and twerking--Finally, the U.S. is breaking out of its foreign oil dependency with the magic of twerking.  Or is it fracking?  It's the one that Miley Cyrus doesn't do.  After a quick Google search, it's definitely fracking. This is where we pump natural gas directly into a place of easy access--our taps.  You know, these are the faucets we use to get water.  We've all seen glimpses of those documentaries that show people igniting fires by lighting a match near running faucets.  Just don't light matches in your house and you'll be fine.  If you have carpeting, don't drag your feet during the winter, or else there'll be static and whoosh!  Twerking on the other hand, well, I guess your hand is involved in some way.  You have to rub your crotch to do it.  And then post-adolescent women bend their knees and drag their rear ends on Robin Thicke's leg or something like that. Then, they use the toilet, all that rubbing creates a static build up, a spark escapes, and then, bam!  They're on the Moon because of the gas that's accumulated from some fracking operation going on way below the ground.

Education--my kids are soon to be back in school the day after Labor Day.  In Michigan, students cannot start a new year until then.  You know...tourism.  My soon-to-be third grader's school put out a brochure touting some of their achievements last year in terms of student success as measured by the MAP and the MEAP standardized tests.  Every year the school loses more and more students--in fact, the whole district is in that boat.  I mean, Brayden's school has empty classrooms.  It's as if parents don't care about those test scores.  Parents are looking for educators who actually care about their children and are respectful to them.  There's a perception that this isn't the case.  Teachers are actually doing the best with their day so the state doesn't label them as ineffective.  I don't know...Brayden's school is okay.  With ridiculously tiny budgets, parents have to supplement whatever the schools can't afford to provide.  "Throwing money doesn't fix schools" is the mantra of governmental bean counters.  So, the solution--give them nothing.  If the schools don't perform well, the state comes and takes over.  Seriously, state take-overs of schools are almost an empty threat because how are they any better?  Stupid.

Well, everyone have a great holiday if you have one coming up.  For Americans it'll be Labor Day on Monday.  If you wanted to walk across the Mackinac Bridge, Monday's the day to do it.  You will be led by Michigan's governor, Rick Perry.  Hah, just kidding.  Rick Snyder.  I've never done it.  Maybe one day.

Be good to yourselves! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

GMB--Genetically Modified Blogger

I created a super hero and wrote about his adventures.  The premise for his powers was a maniacal corporation experimented on him by feeding him genetically modified food, which is commonly called GMO's.  The "O" standing for organism.  When I meet people and tell them about the story, GMO's become the biggest topic of conversation.  

At the time I started the story, I pondered long and hard about an original line of how my character developed his super powers.  As Jimmy's friend Marcus said, "All super heroes have a story.  What's yours?"  My mind raced.  Spider bite--taken; not-really-an-Earthling--been done; billionaire-with-too-much-time-on-his-hands--there's a couple of them, at least; god-like-being--really?; just-born-that-way-I-guess--that's been a thing for a while now.  So...I remembered some flack over something called genetically-modified food.  Being ignorant about where my food comes from (typical American?), I knew nothing about such a thing.  I did a quick scan on the Internet to see if it was a big enough issue for me to use as a premise.  Never did I even consider the actual corporations behind GMO's or what they really were.  All I had was enough to say, yes, this is just as viable a path to super hero status as some space alien entrusting some schmuck with unearthly technology (because these aliens never did their homework to truly find out about us.  I mean, look what we've done to this planet we're living on).

Anyway, Jimmy Miller is not necessarily a political statement for or against GMO's.  If it turns out that GMO's will eventually wipe out the entire food supply on the Earth, then put me down as against.  I don't know if it is or isn't a good thing.  However, nobody likes people tampering with their food.  It's like at Thanksgiving or Christmas when Crazy Aunt Suzie introduces a dish.  You eat it and sort of enjoy it.  Then, Crazy Aunt Suzie asks, "So, how did you like it?"  And you answer, "It was great."  Inevitably, she adds with a sly look, "Do you wanna know what I put in it?"  And you know it's going to be something you would never place in your mouth--something you regard as repulsive that she hid in this new casserole that she chose to experiment with you during the meal you have looked forward to all year.  It doesn't matter what it is.  She could have put in human flesh.  The idea that the meal had a secret ingredient that you ordinarily find abhorrent was in it and now you just ate it, well, how awful a predicament, right?  Foods with GMO's are kind of like this.

Now, about the evil corporation, Etyouth (pronounced et-youth), I did not in any way model this company after Monsanto.  Etyouth has nothing to do with the agricultural business.  They are more than just GMO's, too.  Well, so is Monsanto, but I'm sure Monsanto is not developing exo-skeletons, brain implants, cryogenics, or human body parts.  And Etyouth is evil...I mean, Monsanto isn't evil, right?  In no way is Etyouth anything like Monsanto.  I like Monsanto. Without them, there'd be no damn food.  So, let's give them some damn respect.

Well, this will in no way resolve the GMO debate.  However, tampering with some of these basic building blocks of life such as DNA...I don't know.  I do know, it is the stuff science fiction is made for.

Be good to yourselves.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Review Promised...A Review Made

I have yet to submit a formal review to Amazon, but here is a brief look at Escape from the Hidden Planet by Julie Anne Grasso, Kindle edition.  

This isn't just another middle-grade children's fantasy book about elves--it is a story involving elves that actually inhabitant an entire planet named Cardamom.   Our chief protagonist is Caramel Cinnamon, granddaughter of the King and Queen of the Elvin world.  While on another planet dwells a race of clones, who cleverly are all named Alexander, using numbers to distinguish each other.  One ambitious Alexander discovers that the Elvin world of Cardamom is ripe with a source of long-lasting energy that can be used to power many technological devices.  He hatches a diabolical plan that will radically change the lives of the Elves, exploiting them as a source of labor that only serves his greedy and power-hungry agenda.  

I thought the Kindle layout was well-done and not too buggy.  Grasso spends the first part of the book immersing the reader into the lives of these environmentally-friendly creatures.  I felt as if I could step out of my house and the Elves would be right there.  My eight-year-old son enjoyed the story and didn't mind that the main character was a girl.  He liked the humor, the imaginary devices, and the often optimistic characters.  So, Grasso knows how to entertain kids (and kids at heart) with words and language that also comes with a positive message that friendship, perseverance, and a positive attitude can overcome great obstacles.  Brayden and I are looking forward to delving into the second book in this series, Return to Cardamom, already waiting in our Kindle library.

I do have a link to Grasso's blog (in the links section, which I still have more to add) where she can tell you how to get your hands on a copy.  You'll love it, your kids or kids you know will love it, and be sure to follow her on her blog, on Twitter, and even on Facebook so you can keep up with whatever she's cooking up next. 

So, be good to yourselves, blog readers.  Until next time...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Word of Caution

My latest book selling event, at a Kalamazoo flea market, brought to my attention the need to bring a word of warning to potential readers--particularly parents.  An eager mother saw my book and right away believed it to be a good choice for her nine-year-old.  I attempted to alert her that I suggested my story for readers 12 and older.  She assured me that her child reads "high school books." I believe her about her son's reading level--I have no reason not to. Without any reservation she had me sign the copy for her son and was on her way.  It was a transaction at warp speed.

I am aware that some children do read far beyond their own grade level, which is the case with my eight-year-old.  However, it's not because of the reading level that I give a suggested age of 12, but there is some content that younger readers might find discomforting.  Every parent is different and some may allow his or her child at age 9 to read something like The Hunger Games or The Twilight Series.  Not every parent thinks this way.  Even though I have no problem with either of my sons reading Jimmy Miller the Super Powerful, I know some parents might.  

Readers between 9 and 12 will enjoy many elements in the story.  Parents should know that there are some scenes of violence (don't worry, this isn't Kick-Ass), including a couple of episodes of domestic violence.  Hey, Annie Marshall, the most important character next to the protagonist, comes from a nightmare family situation that is often true to real life.  I was a social worker...I know.  She has a mother with substance abuse problems and there is a scene where her mother relapsed.  If it weren't for Jimmy's powers, she would have died.  There is some mild profanity, but nothing that would make it PG-13 and is scattered very sparingly.  Crude humor, particularly of the bathroom variety, also is a part of the story.  Not anything worse than Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  To me, these can serve as a great platform for parents to discuss these issues.  You never know...they could be sitting in school next to a student with a horrendous home life.  Worse, they could turn on the news.

My biggest fear is that a parent might grab it and not realize this is part of the story.  So, advised. If your child truly isn't mature enough to handle these things, maybe he or she could wait a few years.  However, if your child has the maturity and you're ready to give them guidance, then read on.

I am still waiting for my eight-year-old to finish reading the one book he and I will review together.  My next blog post, if I don't have the book review ready, is the number one issue people talk about in regards to my book.  And it's not the super powers.  Three letters explain it all--GMO's.

Well, that's all for now.  Thanks to Dani Duck for alerting people to my blog.  I don't just promote my book on this blog, although I do put out reminders.  Following me on this is completely free and is part of a recommended stress-reduction diet regimen (not a statement that's been evaluated by the FDA, who ironically tend to approve of GMO's).  Be good to yourselves.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Friday Flashback, Saturday Version

Instead of some review (and I do have more on the way) or anything profound, I thought I would review some highlights of the week.

On Monday, August 12th:
It was a rainy, stormy day.  Trimmed two tree branches overhanging the driveway.  I had the morning to myself.  One child was at Cub Scout Camp, the other at a youth mission project, and my wife volunteered at our church's VBS.  Worked on my outline for Chapter 17 for Book 2. Trapped evil sorcerer inside a mirror.

On Tuesday, August 13th:
Rain had finally ended.  Did some housework while having the house to myself. With my older son's help, I moved garbage, recycling, and yard waste to the curb at my wife's grandmother's house in preparation for an estate sale.  Did not do as much writing as I had hoped.  In the evening, the family went to pick up our younger son from Cub Scout Camp. Asked evil sorcerer if he thought the Tigers would go and win the World Series.

On Wednesday, August 14th:
Wrote more than expected in Chapter 17 and strayed from my outline, but not by much. I still had the house to myself in the morning. Mowed the front lawn of my wife's grandmother's house and moved furniture around.  The sorcerer refused to tell me anything unless I released him from the mirror.

On Thursday, August 15th:
Once again I had the house to myself in the morning.  Yes, I wrote even more in Chapter 17 (it has nothing to do with sorcery).  My autistic son had an issue with his youth group mission project, so I talked to the leader over the phone and helped her to help my son overcome the issue.  Mowed the back lawn of my wife's grandmother's house now that the bees' nest is dug out of the ground.  I trimmed a rose bush and whacked some weeds.  Ran on my treadmill. Went out to eat for dinner.  Asked the sorcerer if the Lions would go on and win the Super Bowl this season.  He said, "I'm a sorcerer, not a miracle worker." I scolded him for being a cynic.

On Friday, August 16th:
I had less time in the morning to myself. I had to drive my boys to their church programs, unlike the previous mornings.  Had little time to write, but I moved the plot along and left my protagonist in a "cliff-hanger" that didn't have much to do with a cliff. Made preparations for my flea market book sell and signing event.  Hung out with my wife as the estate sale at her grandmother's home was underway. I sold the mirror with the sorcerer stuck inside to some unsuspecting sap at the estate sale.  Shh!  Don't say a word.

On Saturday, August 17th:
Sold four books at the flea market in Kalamazoo. Picked up my boys from the estate sale.  Ran on the treadmill.

Well, that's enough for now.  Like books with lots of action, adventure, and a roller-coaster emotional thrill ride, click the link for Book 1 of Jimmy Miller the Super Powerful.  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, this blog, or any combination of the four.  Be good to yourselves.     

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Brief Review

Recently, I finished a series of short stories compiled in a book called For Those with Eyes to See.  The author of these tales is Troy Blackford.  I read it in ebook for the Kindle, since I happen to have the 7 inch Fire HD edition.  The following is the same review I left at Amazon.  

"Each story compels the reader to keep turning the page. The author stokes the reader's imagination while bringing to life what is typically mundane aspects of the human experience--often turning them into terrifying, yet amusing situations. Troy Blackford could be the Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock of this generation."

Don't know who Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock was?  Go to Hulu, Netflix, or maybe even YouTube and check out the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series from the 1950's.  Then, check out The Twilight Zone original TV series, also from the same era (no, it really had nothing to do with vampires and should not be confused with the Twilight series, for you young-ins).  It was back when the world was only in black and white.  Color wasn't invented until the 1960's.  

Anyway, if your life is boring and mundane and needs a quick jolt of disturbing fun, check it out.  I even have a link for Troy Blackford that doesn't seem to display in the Blogger for mobile version.  Switch to the web version to see the link.  

Now that I'm done with this book, I'm kind of bummed that there isn't another story waiting for me.  Luckily, Troy Blackford has other literary works that I definitely plan on slurping into my brain, one word at a time if necessary. 

My next review will be focused on an intergalactic elf tale, Escape from the Forbidden Planet by Julie Anne Grasso.  It's book 1 of a series and so far I've enjoyed the chapters that I've read.  My eight-year-old is also reading it, so I'll get his take on it as well.  It'll be from one boy's perspective which should be interesting since the protagonist in the story is female.  So far, it's holding his interest.

I bid all my blog readers a fond farewell.  Remember, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, this blog, or all four if you can keep up with it all. I do appreciate the company and would love to hear/read your comments.   

Friday, August 9, 2013

Disappointing Dream

I just viewed a sample of Stephen King's Mile 81.  My original purpose was to browse through the book edition to Under the Dome (okay I have yet to read it or see the TV series) at least for Kindle.  Both seem to draw my attention.  Even though I still enjoy print editions more, Kindle versions are not that bad of an alternative. I do plan on placing Mile 81 on my things to read list.
Last night I had this dream where I visited a pool inside a community center in some unknown town.  However, I had a dream a long while back, maybe even a couple of years where I went to this same place.  Only there were water slides, gobs of kids and families.  Generally, my dreams are not the lucid kind.  I'm not aware that I'm dreaming at the time.  Typically, I only know they're dreams upon awakening, but during them they are quite vivid.  A part of my mind must know I'm dreaming because I resist leaving them.  Sometimes I wonder if I am transported to another parallel universe at night.  However, I'm sure my wife would say something if I suddenly vanished from my bed.

Anyway, in the pool dream the sequel the slides were gone.  Hardly anyone was in the water, except a few kids who knew how to make the most fun out of anything.  I wondered what happened to the place because it was once so bustling.  If this lack of recreational seekers continued, inevitably it would close. What grief arose in me simply from this noting how this venue appeared to be dying. I longed for happier times.

How many other fiction writers, particularly those who lean towards science fiction and fantasy, have such gripping visions like these while they sleep?  

Well, time for bed.  I hope I can slip into another dream and one with a positive ending.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fantasy or Devil Worship?

Monday I was out selling copies of Jimmy Miller the Super Powerful: Forecast Acid Rain and signing them.  I also sold bookmarks for free, but some people may call this a giveaway.  One lady saw my book, heard my synopsis, and concluded--"Oh, it's like Harry Potter."  I cringed at the analysis for many reasons, but namely because Jimmy is not even close to Harry.  I anticipated this reaction as an unavoidable hazard and why I originally did not wish to write a story with a male child protagonistSooner or later someone would compare it to Harry just because that ridiculously successful wizard casts a huge shadow.

The woman than went on to bash Harry Potter due to the fact that he deals with magic and of course, this is a recipe to draw the reader into devil worship.  High priestess, J.K. Rowling, had an ultimate plan to bring this type of religion to the masses, you see.  I'm not sure what the statistics are for any reader and/or watcher of any of the Harry Potter books and/or movies, but I know the numbers of people influenced into the occult by this franchise is next to zero.  I am a Christian who read and saw Harry Potter and I am still a Christian.  Like the Wizard of Oz I consider Harry a work of fiction and make-believe.  

She feared that Jimmy Miller had this same introduction to magic.  There are considerable differences between Jimmy and Harry.  Jimmy is not a wizard and never will be.  Jimmy is very American as opposed to British.  Jimmy, along with his female cohort Annie Marshall, has more in common with the likes of Spiderman, X-Men, Avengers, the Fantastic Four and Superman. He has super powers, and everyone knows super powers are not evil.  Right? Yes, Annie has mind powers.  Not because magic, but due to some other force that turned her brain into a powerful weapon.  There are no spells and no calls to turn anyone away from their faith.  She even sings in a children's choir in her church, so...c'mon.  

One thing that Harry and Jimmy both have in common is that they are fictional.  They do not exist.  Unfortunately, people do not have super powers or wizardry magic in real life.  Can't we at least imagine?  Can't kids pretend?  This will not lead to a life of occult involvement as long as they stay rooted to their faith and that really depends on their parents and how willing they are to encourage their kids.

So, I'm done with my rant.  Remember, fantasy does not equal devil worship.  Stay well my friends. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Anxiety Ho!

Last summer I discovered a series of books involving Alvin Ho, a second grader with a load of anxiety disorders.  My younger son, Brayden, who was going into second grade, absolutely loved these stories.  Alvin considers his anxieties more like allergies.  He is allergic to girls, the outdoors, death, funerals, school, and just scary things in general.  School is a challenge for him as he has some type of selective mutism--he absolutely does not talk.  This is very frustrating for his teacher and his psychotherapist who has yet to make a huge breakthrough with him.

Fortunately for Alvin, he sits next to a student who fully understands him and is able to communicate on his behalf.  Only, this student is a girl and Alvin wants nothing to do with her and is often down right rude to her at times.  She tries to remain understanding, but has been known to lash out at him.  His lack of communication often leads to conflicts, which could be resolved right away, but instead creates deeper layers to his problems that just only makes things worse.  Lucky for the reader!  Because Alvin's initial dysfunctional attempts to resolve his issues are hysterical.  The reader is left at the end of each chapter with the anticipation of the chaos that will surely follow.  My son and I were often left not wanting to even turn the page, but finding it impossible to resist to find out how deep in trouble this kid gets himself into.  Anyone who loves Junie B. Jones will love this kid--even when he's totally despicable.

I can see some parents avoiding these series because Alvin is not always a great role model.  Keep in mind--he's a child.  Anyone who thinks children are supposed to be perfect angels (even though they might look the part) are living in a fantasy world that doesn't exist.  And Alvin does learn important life lessons in the end, much like my own son.  My son can easily relate to Alvin Ho.

Do yourself a favor!  If you have second graders or you have been one yourself, read these books.  They are written by Lenore Look and illustrated by LeUyen PhamHere's a quick link to browse them on Amazon.