Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Books of the Decade

My favorite books of the past 10 years was a little easier than picking the best music/TV/movies of the past decade simply because I haven't read that many modern books; I frequently run into the problem of being discouraged from trying new authors when there's a wealth of older authors I have read. Still, I have managed to read through a few dozen post-2000 books over the past 10 years, and these have been my favorite.

Check out Diana's list later tonight when she posts it.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowlings -- It will take a long time for any series to even come close to matching this one.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (2000) -- I'm not sure the Great American Novel really exist, but this book is one of the closest things to it I've ever read.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (2000) -- This book isn't Eggers' greatest, but I appreciate it for the movement that followed; I'm not sure McSweeney's would have exploded w/o it.

Chronicles by Bob Dylan (2004) -- Every once and awhile a memoir will come out that seems at times more like reading history than about someone's life; that's what this book is. Dylan remains reserved about his life as he always is, but does give true insight into the village life, and the folk movement.

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace (2005) -- Wallace invented the creative this awesome collection of essays if you want to know why.

Jarhead by Anthony Swofford (2005) -- Best war book I've read over the past 10 years.

Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler (2006) -- Living in Anaheim, I'm always a sucker to hear any Disney history; this bio on Walt is the best out there.

Dwelling Places: A Novel by Vinita Hampton Wright (2006) --When it comes to well written Christian fiction, Wright is the best there is (actually she's about the only one there is); she rights about themes many Christians just pretend don't exist (like depression)

Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell (2006) -- I've heard people say The Case for Christ is a modern version of Mere Christianity; I can see that...except for the fact that the book is lousy. Bell's book makes a better case for comparison.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008) -- This is the best series I've read sense Harry Potter ended.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Movies of the Decade

Deciding what my favorite movies are of the past 10 years is a quite difficult task. For this list, I decided to list my five favorite series, and then my ten favorite single movies. My decision for each movie is based mostly on watchability; I've seen plenty of good movies, but these are the ones I will watch over and over again and never get tired of.  Like my music list, it's in chronological order. Make sure and check out Diana's list too when she posts it a little later today.

Best Franchises:
Lord of the Rings - Series (2001 - 2003) -- Not only my favorite series of all time, but also my favorite movie of the past 10 years, and certainly one of my top 5 movies of all time.

Harry Potter (2001 to 2009) -- Nowhere near as good as the books, it's still a fun movie that never gets old.

The Jason Bourne Series (2002 / 2004 / 2007) -- Not only one of my favorite series, but also one of my favorite action flicks ever.

Batman Begins / The Dark Night (2005 / 2008) -- Complex characters, unpredictable plots, and really cool gadgets--what's not to like about this series?

Flags of Our Father / Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) -- Clint Eastwood does war--you can't go wrong with that! What's so masterful about these two films is how different they are, and how perfectly they capture the themes of war and pride in country.

Best Movies:
Billy Elliot (2000) -- Ballet doesn't have to be gay; this movie proves that it can be quite masculine in its beauty.

Donnie Darko (2001) -- Every time I watch this classic, I see something new.

Black Hawk Down (2001) -- When it comes to war movies, this is as good as it gets.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) -- Anytime Charlie Kaufman writes something, you know you'll be in for a wild ride (unless it's the "The Dana Carvey Show"). This was my favorite movie he wrote of the past decade.

Children of Men (2006) -- I'm a sucker for any movie that shows a world gone wrong.

Ladron que Roba a Ladron (2007) -- This movie is a cross between a Spanish Novella and the Ocean's 11 series. It's funny, cheesy, and one of the best caper movies ever wrote!

Once (2007) -- This was the best romance of the past 10 years, and also the best movie soundtrack.

Sunshine (2007) -- When people talk about Danny Boyle, they are probably talking about Slumdogs or 28 Days Later; I don't know why. This is Boyle's best movie in my opinion.

Wall-e (2008) -- I've almost cried in one other movie ("Wild Strawberries"); the beauty in this movie wasn't in what was said, it was in what was not said. Actions speak louder than words, which made the love story in this movie one of the best ever on screen.

Moon (2009) -- The best movie of 2009 that nobody saw; this movie proved that it doesn't take millions of dollars to make a good sci-fi flick.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Favorite Music of the Decade

My wife and I our spending this week reflecting (like way too many people) about the best of the decade. Today we're both writing about our favorite music from the past 10 years; tomorrow and throughout the week we are both also writing what our favorite movies, books, and TV shows have been. You can see her list here.

I am not big on music; Diana's usually the ones discovering new bands. Still a few stood out--suprisingly Kelly Clarkson didn't make the was a very close call.

It's too hard to call some of these albums better than others, so the list is in chronological order:

White Blood Cells - The White Stripes (2001) -- This was one of the first album's I ever bought--I rarely ever buy albums (or download them for that matter). When I "Fell in Love with a Girl," I went to the store right away, and have bought every album they've did since.

Nirvana - Nivana (2002) -- This is cheating a little, but the album featured the unreleased track, "You Know You're Right," which was a great song.

Mouthfuls - Fruit Bats (2003) -- This is one of the first bands Diana ever recommended to me, and I'm glad she did; I love both of their records, but this one always stands out.

The Grey Album - Danger Mouse (2004) -- Why this album is illegal is beyond me--something this good should be beyond laws.

Wolfmother - Wolfmother (2005) -- They rip off Led Zeppelin in almost everyway, but boy do I love them.

Black Holes & Revelations - Muse (2006) -- They're a louder version of Cold Play, yes, but I never get tired of listening to them.

The Crane Wife - The Decemberists (2006) -- This album is more like listening to a story (a very good one) than an album.

Modern Times - Bob Dylan (2006) -- Listening to this record was like sitting in an old blues bar; it was really like nothing I've heard before, and it never has grown old on me.

Neon Bible - Arcade Fire (2007) -- The first time I heard "Intervention" played on the radio, I was sold.

Riot! - Paramore (2007) -- It's pop rock and it's catchy; I listen to the album way too much.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Quiet, Please: The Blocks! Available now one Etsy

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Best Movies of 09

Best of the Year:
Inglourious Basterds - War movies is my favorite genre, and this one now ranks in my top five of all war movies ever made; it's the closest thing to Hitler on Ice I've ever seen.

Moon - It's a pity hardly anyone saw this movie, and movie chains didn't give it a chance; unless you live next to a indie movie theater then chances are you'll have to see this on DVD; it's hands down one of the best movies I've seen it recent years. It has a plot that's fresh, and themes that are quite powerful and even moving.

Star Trek - Is it Star Trek for generation Ritalin? I guess--but isn't that the point? To introduce Star Trek to a new generation of fans? It wasn't the deepest movie I've seen, but I preferred it to any of the original Star Treks, which always felt too poorly paced.

Up - Why does Pixar keep trying to make me cry? Next to Wall-e this was the most beautiful movie they've did, but I'm looking forward to seeing a Pixar movie that doesn't spend the first 30 minutes trying to depress me.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox - How does Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs make more money than this piece?! I've never seen a cartoon where I could actually tell who directed it--it was SO Wes Anderson, but that's what made it so grand!

Watchmen - This movie would rank much higher if not for that ridiculous love story; every time I see it, I spend a week complaining to Diana about how terrible it is. The girl is a bigger slut than Tiger Woods--I'm really surprised she didn't sleep with her father, because in the scene where she meets him she seems to be contemplating it. Still, next to Batman, it's one of the best superhero movies I've seen.

District 9 - I appreciate this movie because it was groundbreaking more than because it was good; for a sci-fi move to be this good on such a limited budget was quite impressive; as sci-fi goes, however, Moon was 10 times better.

Food, Inc. - One of the more important movies I've seen this year, and one that every person should have to watch.

Taken - It was a fun move. What more can I say?

The Hangover and I Love You, Man -- Just to round out the list and make it all even, two comedies; they were raunchy and over the top, but fantastically funny.

Guilty Pleasures:
G.I. Joe - I didn't expect this to be great; didn't even think it would be my favorites; I just hoped it would make me marvel a bit in my youth, and it did, so I really can't complain.

Most Overrated Movie:
(500) Days of Summer - What was all the fuss about this movie? It was boring and it really never went anywhere. It had it's moments of charm, but those moments were brief. The Hangover had better chemistry and romance than this movie did.

Julie and Julia - Not a horrible movie, but I would have liked to see more of Julia and less of Julie. Actually, I would have preferred to see none of Julie.

The Hurt Locker -- Interesting movie, but not much of a plot; didn't quite see what the fuss was about

Where the Wild Things Are and Away We Go -- I like Dave Eggers; he's a brilliant writer; but the movies he's writing are not good. His movies so far have been long, boring, depressing, and sort of confusing.

Worse Movies of the Year:
Bridewars - I've seen my share of chick flicks; they're never my favorites, but they're usually entertaining. This? Pointless. Words really cannot describe how bad this movie is, so I won't try.

2012 - It's a blow them up action flick in the grand tradition of Day After Tomorrow. But instead of no brainer fun, it's terrible--horrible--down right bad. The acting sucks; the plot sucks; the action sucks; the special effects made me laugh. I've never laughed so hard because something was bad. With lines like "Download my blog" how can anyone sort of take it seriously?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Random House vs. Writers

A lot of people are talking about Random House's attempt to claim they have electronic rights on all of the books in their back list.

Their argument seems odd considering they already lost the battle over five years ago; travel back in time to 2001 when Rosetta Books decided it was going to publish electronic works from several authors; the argument was the same--Random House did not control electronic rights because it wasn't in the contract. The courts sided with Rosetta Books.

Authors, by and large, aren't upset because they don't want their books published electronically (though some are); they're upset that they are getting the same cut that they would on traditional books even though publishing a book electronically cost next to nothing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Roughing It Sample

As promised, the first two chapters from my Middle Grade novel, Roughing It.

Chapter One:
The Gateway to Knowledge

Thomas Weaver starred blankly at the clock behind the librarian’s desk. It was 5:30, thirty minutes before his mom would pick him up, and he still had not wrote a single sentence of his sixth grade Gold Rush report paper, which was due the next day.
Thomas hated school. He hated the teachers, and the reports they made him write; he hated the kids that picked on him for being a little overweight; he even hated the smell of his textbook.
His fifth grade teacher, Mr. Nelson, told him he’d like this part of history because it had lots of adventure, and people making money; he had found nothing interesting about it in all the books the librarian helped him find at the library. Even the pictures were boring.
Soon Thomas got tired of starring at the clock and began wandering around the library. He walked in and out of the aisles of books pretending to be looking for a book. He did this for nearly ten minutes when his eyes suddenly caught sight of a book that’s title read, “Don’t read me.” Thomas was of course immediately interested in this book, and pulled it from the shelf.
When he removed the book, the entire shelf began to shake and the entire column of books in front of him slowly moved forward, and then slid to the side revealing a stairway. Thomas nervously looked around. Nobody had noticed what had happened.
Thomas cautiously looked into the passageway, and with the book still in his hand he slowly moved inside. The stairway was dark; torches hung from the walls dimly lighting the passage. He carefully stepped down two steps, and then turned to make sure the door was still open. The stairs were made of wood and made creaking noises as he stepped on them.
He stepped down six more steps, and became more confident with each step. He heard a rumble behind him, and quickly turned just in time to see the bookcase close.
Thomas ran back up the steps, and tried to open the bookcase back up, but he could not do so. He starred back down the staircase nervously. He knew the only way out would be to travel down the stairs and look for another exit.
He went down the steps anxiously, and almost tripped more than once. After nearly one hundred steps he reached the bottom, and was completely out of breath.
It was dark and seemed empty. “Hello?” Thomas said quietly, and then a little louder, “Is anyone in here?”
Suddenly lights went on from the floor, and the room was bright. “Keep your voice down,” A loud voice said, “You’re in a library, for Pete’s sake.”
Thomas looked all around the room for where the voice came from. He saw nothing except the lights on the ground. “Where are you?” Thomas nervously asked.
“I’m down here.”
Thomas looked down again at the lights but saw nothing.
“Stop being silly.” The voice said, “You’re looking up—I’m down here.”
Thomas looked up and saw starring down at him a large four-eyed frog standing on top of a large oak desk similar to the one the librarian upstairs sat behind. “You’re a frog.”
“I am.”
“And you’re talking.”
“You’re a clever one—would you also like to point out that I have four eyes?”
Thomas shrugged, and asked, “Why are you upside down?”
“I’m not—you are.”
“I…” Thomas started to say, but suddenly he fell upward and landed in front of the desk. He started to stand, but got dizzy and fell back down.
“Just give it a second—you need to get used to being in another dimension.”
“Another dimension?”
The frog nodded. “You’ve entered the gateway of knowledge. This is the place where ideas are stored. My names Fox, and I’m the librarian.”
“Oh I get it.” Thomas said, “This is a dream—I fell asleep in the library, so naturally I’m dreaming about the library. I just need to lie down and close my eyes, and then I’ll wake up.”
“Why do they always do this?” Fox asked looking up at the ceiling. He looked at Thomas who had tightly closed his eyes, “Go ahead Thomas, pinch yourself. If this is a dream then it won’t hurt.”
Thomas did so and let out a yelp. He opened his eyes, and looked at Fox oddly, “How’d you know my name?”
“I know everything—I’m a librarian. Now why don’t you try and stand back up. You should be used to the atmosphere by now.”
Thomas slowly stood up, and then looked at Fox amazed, “This really isn’t a dream is it?”
Fox sighed. “I thought we already figured that part out—no it’s not a dream.”
Thomas looked behind the desk and saw for the first time rows of books that went as far as he could see. It did not look like a normal library. The books in this library floated—one on top of the other—stacked neatly in aisles. There were millions of them. Each book looked like a bright florescent hologram.
“This place is cool.”
Fox nodded. “We try to keep the air conditioning up real high—librarians do better in cool places.”
Thomas looked at him oddly, but said nothing.
“Now,” Fox said, “As I was saying before you decided you’d try and take a nap, this is the place where ideas are born. Every person who writes a book has a reason for writing it—all of their ideas come from somewhere. This is where those ideas are stored.”
“Those?” Thomas said looking at the floating books, “They look more like books than ideas.”
“Got to store an ideas somehow—why not a book?”
Thomas shrugged.
“The only humans that are supposed to know about this place are librarians, but I suppose now that you’ve found it, then you might as well make the best of it.” He paused and then said, “I believe you were in the library looking for books on the gold rush.”
“How’d you know that?”
“Like I said, I’m a librarian—I know everything…well almost everything.”
“How would you like to see the gold rush first hand?”
“First hand?”
“Stop answering my questions with other questions—a simple yes or no answer, please.”
“Sure I guess.”
“Yes or no?”
“Yes.” Thomas nervously said.
“Very well.” Fox hopped off the desk, and went towards the books. “Ever heard of Mark Twain?”
“In school I think.” Thomas replied slowly following from behind.
“He’s full of ideas about the gold rush—spent a lot of time in California during it. How’d you like to meet him?”
Fox hopped past hundreds of books then suddenly stopped. “Get that one for me.” He said looking at several books with nothing written on the spine.
Thomas reached for one and began to take it.
“Not that one!” Fox yelled. “The one just to the right of it.”
Thomas put his finger on the spine of the book and asked, “This one?”
“That’s right—now open it.”
He slowly opened the page, and lights flew from the book. The room became so bright that he couldn’t even make anything out. He didn’t know why, but he yelled for help, which did nothing.
“Just hold on to that book!” Fox commanded.
Thomas felt himself spinning out of control, and then falling downward. He felt like he was being sucked through a straw, and his whole body felt like it were being tightly squeezed. He thought he would die for sure.

Chapter Two:
A Bumpy Ride

The spinning finally stopped after several seconds, and Thomas crashed face first into the ground.
“You dead?” Fox said.
“I don’t think so.” Thomas mumbled with his face still in the ground. He felt the ground below him rumble, and he slowly sat up. He was not in the library anymore. “Where are we?” He asked Fox who sat on the bench in front of him.
“We’re on a stagecoach.”
“A stagecoach?” Thomas said looking around. He had never been in a stagecoach, but he had seen pictures and this was exactly how he imagined it. It was a small compartment with room for about six people to sit in. There were two benches, although mail was stacked on top of the one opposite Fox. He looked out the window and could tell they were traveling quickly. He never imagined stagecoaches went so fast.
“Actually the full name is the Pike’s Peak Express Company Stagecoach. And just for your information, the year is 1865.”
“1865?” Thomas said in disbelief, “That’s impossible.”
Fox laughed and shook his head, “Thomas, you’re going to have to realize that anything is possible when we’re dealing with ideas.” He paused, and then looked at Thomas seriously. “Sit down—I need to tell you what’s going to happen.”
Thomas quickly obeyed, and sat next to Fox.
“We’re heading to a place called Angelss Camp in Calaveras County. Once we’re there, there’s going to be a man named Ben Boone who will pick you up. You’ll be staying with his family for the next couple days.”
“Couple days?” Thomas said shaking his head no, “I can’t stay here. My mom is going to get worried when she doesn’t see me in the library.”
“She won’t worry—time doesn’t exist in this place.”
“How can it not exist?”
“We’re in the world of ideas—there is no concept of time here. Don’t worry.”
Thomas looked at Fox unconvinced.
“Honest, she won’t worry.” Fox assured him.
Thomas finally nodded and looked out the window at the distant hills. A yellowish green grass covered them. The land went for miles with no buildings in site; Thomas had never seen land so open.
“So as I was saying, you’ll be staying with Ben Boone’s family. He’ll think you’re his sister’s son from Carson City—so call him uncle.”
Thomas nodded, even though the idea seemed strange to him.
“He has a cattle ranch, and you’re supposed to be helping him.”
“I don’t know how to do that.”
“He’s going to show you everything you need to know.”
“What about Mark Twain?”
“Mark Twain?”
“Isn’t this Mark Twain’s idea?”
“Oh,” Fox laughed, “I completely forgot about that—yes, yes, you’ll meet him. Of course he doesn’t go by Mark Twain—he just uses that name when he writes. His real name is Samuel Clemens. And just because this is his idea, that doesn’t mean you’re going to see him.”
“I’m not going to see him.”
Fox nodded no. “I didn’t say that.”
“So when do we meet?”
“Soon enough.” He looked at a box sitting on the bench behind Thomas and said, “Inside that box are your new clothes—get dressed. We’ll be there soon.”
Thomas looked down at his clothes; he was wearing brown jeans and a green t-shirt. “Why do I need to change?”
“This is 1865—people dressed different.”
“Well I’m not changing in front of you.”
“I’ll turn around.” Fox said turning.
“And what about the windows—people can see right into the inside of the stagecoach.”
Fox laughed, “Look out there—do you see anyone?”
He looked carefully out the window. He could occasionally hear the men on top who were driving the stagecoach talking, but the outside looked empty. There were trees and grass, but no buildings. There weren’t even paved roads. Thomas lived in Southern California, which was a very busy city.
Thomas decided it was safe to change and opened the box. It contained brown slacks, a white button shirt, and a brown vest that matched the pants. “I’ll look stupid in this.” He complained.
“That’s what people wear here.”
Thomas dressed quickly. “There.” He said rolling his eyes when he finished.
Fox turned around, and closely looked Thomas over, then finally announced sincerely. “You look very handsome.”
“No I don’t—I look stupid.”
“You’ll blend in well.”
Thomas said sarcastically, “A well dressed boy and his four-eyed frog. I’ll blend in real well.”
“Good thing I’m not going to go with you.”
“You’re leaving me?”
“I’ll be back when it’s time for you to leave.”
“How will I find you?”
“I’ll find you.”
“When?” Thomas nervously asked.
“Don’t be such a worrywart.” Fox laughed. “You’ll leave when you’ve fully experienced the gold rush.”
He didn’t look too assured.
“If it’s an emergency, then just say, ‘Fox, I need you’ three times, and I’ll be right there.” He paused, and then stressed, “But you have to be alone—nobody else can see me.”
Thomas nodded and looked out the window again. He noticed for the first time that they were now in a town. The buildings looked like an old western movie he had watched once with his grandpa. Some of the buildings were large and two stories, while others were one story and seemed to be built with what ever piece of scrap they found lying around; one building wasn’t even a building—it was a tent with a post in front of it that said ‘supplies.’ He saw a few people, and they were all dressed as stupid as him. The women even wore big fancy dresses that he thought looked just as dumb as his outfit.
“Welcome to Angels Camp.” Fox said brightly.
“Doesn’t look like a campground to me.”
“It’s not a camp.” Fox corrected, “That’s just the name of the city.”
The stagecoach began to slow down, and Fox said, “And now that we’re here, that means it’s about time for me to leave you.”
He nodded.
“How am I going to find Ben?” Thomas nervously asked as the stagecoach stopped.
“You’ll find him.”
“See that building.” Fox said pointing.
Thomas nodded.
“Go inside there and wait. He’ll find you.”
Thomas looked out the window once more at the building, then turned to protest, but when he did Fox was gone. “Fox?” he said. He looked around, but he was gone.
“Rides over, buddy.” A large man said opening the door. He looked like a cowboy. Thomas looked at him frightened and slowly moved towards the door.
“You okay?” The man asked.
Thomas nodded shyly. He got out of the stagecoach, then turned, and saw the stagecoach from the outside for the first time.
“Someone supposed to meet you here?” The man asked interrupting his stare.
He nodded once more and started to walk towards the building Fox told him about.
“Hey kid,” the man called.
Thomas turned and the man pointed at a large rectangle box that the other driver was pulling from the top of the stagecoach, “You forgot your luggage.”
The box was heavy, and Thomas had to drag it. “It’s heavy,” he said to the driver.
“You want some help?”
“I guess.”
He helped him drag it to the outside of the building then quickly left. Thomas dragged it into the building uncertain of what he was going to find inside.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Roughing It

A few years ago, I toyed with the idea of writing a kids series about authors; each book would find the character going back in time to discover what the world was like that the author wrote about. I penned one book in the series. It's called "Roughing It." It parallels many of Mark Twain's books, but mostly it's about California during the Gold Rush. The real life author (Mark Twain in this book) would always play a minor role in the story, but the book itself was more about the times that author lived in. The next book would have been about the movie industry during the 30s and would have paralleled the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I've toyed with the thought of revisiting the series, and retooling it a little. For now, however, the project is very deep in my list of things to write.

If you'd like to read the first book, it's now available on Kindle. You can read it here.

Tomorrow I'll post the first couple chapters from the story.

"Roughing it" buy it now!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Writing in the Digital Age

I finally got around to uploading the photos from my writing presentation at the Tustin Branch library last October; you can see them below. If you missed the lecture, I converted my notes into a book that you can download on Kindle (hopefully also on Nook soon). You can read a sample or buy it here.

"Writing in a Digital World." Read it on Kindle now!

Why do men have Nipples?

With Chase from The Drift. Read his stuff here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Observations on a Life Not Yet Observed

Over the past two years since "Quiet, Please," I was engaged in several writing projects; many of these projects had me sketching out humor essays that eventually would be used for chapters in different books--some of the essays went on to be published, and others did not. They were all good, and so I have collected them (along with several others) into a collection of humor essays titled "Observations of a Life Not Yet Observed."

Essay collections are not an easy thing to publish; I hope one day that they do find their way into a bound book, but for now I am making them available on Kindle (which you can now also read on your PC and iPod). You can buy a copy here.

There are stories about being broke, stories about being newly married, and stories about being purposely electrocuted by my grandfather (it really is funny!).

Over the next couple weeks, I'll be writing about a few more projects I have on Kindle, so stay tuned.

Tomorrow and the day after, I'll post the first two essays from the collection for your reading entertainment.

"Observations on a Life Not Yet Observed" (and no, that's not me on the cover).


"Christian Obscenity" A collection of Christian humor, parody, interviews, and other essays I've published over the years.

"Dispatches from a Public Librarian" which is made up of my library dispatches from McSweeney's and a couple of library related essays and stories.

"The First Cyber Death Extravaganza!" a humorous post-modern mythology about the Internet that I wrote a few years back

"The Library Tree" another humorous mythology (this one for kids) that I wrote a few years ago.

"Interviews with Famous People I've Never Meant" is comprised of the interviews in "Christian Obscenity" but it's cheaper and without all the essays/stories

Monday, November 16, 2009

Quiet, Please: Signed and Delievered

I just got a few copies of "Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian" in. It makes the perfect gift for book love/librarian friends! If you want to buy a signed copy, just click the PayPal link below; also, if you want it personalized, let me know.

It's $20.00 with free domestic shipping. (email me if you live out of the U.S. and I'll tell you the won't be high). They will also be packaged with a few library-themed postcards from my wife.

If it's international, make sure and order this week and I'll do my best to make sure it arrives by Christmas.

Last month, I sold out in two days, so order quick to ensure you'll get them in time for Christmas...I'm not positive I'll have anymore to sell until after the new year.

From Speak Quietly: Ramblings About Libraries, Writing, and Everything in Between

Monday, November 2, 2009

Have a Very Merry Library Christmas!

Halloween is officially over, which means it’s time to start rolling out the Christmas gear! In honor of this, I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone in blogosphere land that my wife is selling library-themed Christmas cards (only $3.50) each and library-themed postcards (4 for $4.00); they’re perfect for anyone looking for a card for their favorite booklover this holiday season. Reduce rates are available to anyone making bulk purchases.

She also sells several library-themed prints, and will be expanding the bibliophile section of her store real soon. To keep informed on upcoming library related prints make sure you’re following her blog!

You can see all of her stuff here!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No Kindle Killer...Yet

I'm impressed with the new B&N Reader, the Nook, but I'm not ready to call it a Kindle killer. Here's my rationale:

*It's not international; I still like books, but eBooks are great for the long as you're not going overseas where the Nook isn't available (except through wi-fi)

*Wi-Fi (on the Nook, but not the Kindle 2) is impressive, but not really neccessary when there's no built in web browser.

*There's no built in Web browswer! This is one of the places Amazon still beats them; it's so simple to be reading about a place on Kindle and look it up on Wikipedia right from the book.

*Kindle has 2 years behind it's brand--Barnes and Noble is returning to the game after completely abandoning people! I hope they don't leave again after that 300 dollar investment!

*Is lending books 14 really that impressive? And is there a limit? On Kindle you can only download a book 5 times before your's really lame.

Honestly, I think both devices are still overpriced. I'm more excited about the Asus. But it's good to see someone new on the market to challenge Amazon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quiet, Please: Signed and Delievered

I finally got around to ordering a few copies of Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian, and I'm going to sell them here (just click the PayPal link below). The copies are $20, and shipping is free (unless it's going international...please email you and I'll let you know what the rates are to your country). It makes the perfect gift for librarians!

Please also let me know if you want it personalized.

I'm very sorry, but I'm clean out of every copy...they sold out in one day! I'll have more in time for Christmas to anyone who wanted to give it away as a gift to a librarian, so stayed tuned--or just drop me an email and I'll let you know when they are back in stock.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ten Ways Publishing Can Be Saved

I suppose last week NY Times article was supposed to be shocking eye opener; perhaps to some it was, but I found the piece to be yet another reason that the publishing industry is heading down a path it will find it hard to recover from.

The article ended with a representative of one of the file sharing websites concluding that the publishing industry should be like the band "Nine Inch Nails" and just give away most there stuff for free, and the author concludes that this is just absurd because authors can't pack arenas and make money with this kind of model.

The attitude that publishing can't give away things for free is yet another example of the arrogance in the industry. Instead of figuring out a way to make it work, many publishers are either trying to threaten file sharing websites with letters from their lawyers (which didn't work for the music industry and won't work for the publishing industry either) or tossing up their hands like it's a lost cause.

Instead having legal waste their time combing the Internet trying to find every single book illegally posted, they should be spending money on young marketers who might actually find a free-based model that would work.

Below are a ten relatively simple ways publishers can make money off electronic publishing:

1. Subscription Model - Most publishers have literally thousands of books that they own the rights too; why not start a subscription service--20 bucks a month let's you read any book in the Random House catalog. If they really want to do it right, they could partner with other publishers to offer even more books.

2. Create Phone Apps – more and more people are reading on their phones; experiment with a phone app that once again takes out the middleman—something that lets the reader buy and sample a book directly from the publisher and read it on their phone. Make the app and samples free—many readers would probably buy physical copies if they had a chance to read a sample on subway on their way home from the office. On that note, experiment with publishing serial books--$0.50 for a book that publishes a new chapter each week—or a subscription to have the book automatically downloaded each week to your phone.

3. Advertising - Quite simply this means put ads in books (which I've talked about here)

4. Product Placement - Those who have read early drafts of my YA book know that the PS3 plays a sizable role; there is absolutely no reason why the PS3 can't be Xbox 360 or Wii; a publisher could probably do pretty well by taking ideas like this to corporations.  Obviously, not every author is going to go for this, but I suspect many would if they were making percentages off the deal.

5. More Rights - I am not a fan of this, but I understand that it will likely come--new (and unproven authors) will likely have to give up more rights to their books (like translation and media). It's no secret that nearly half (sometimes more) of an authors income come from selling the rights of their book to other countries; if the rights are also sold to a film studio, a few more thousand are coming the authors way. As pirating becomes more popular, publishers are likely going to start taking some of these rights to make back money (some already do it). That's not all bad; they'll likely have more muscle to get the book translated into more language, which will make the author more in the long run.

6. Tours – The article mentions that authors can’t sell out arenas—why not? It’s true that even big authors wouldn’t be able to pull this off, but publishers have more than one author. Why not arrange a tour with several authors instead of one? Send two dozen authors off together on a college tour; don’t make it a tour—make it a festival. Have the authors perform lectures and readings as well as writing workshops and individualized writing coaching sessions. I guarantee that younger writers wouldn’t mind slumming it on buses (and even dorm room floors) if it meant getting their work out. To get even more exposure, they could partner up with Indie rock bands who are also doing campus tours. Authors could also do live videos from the festivals for people who can’t make it out—videos that show more than a boring reading; people are interested by voyeurism—the videos should be more of a diary of what it’s like to be on a tour. Having authors actually visit classrooms is going to make the students feel closer, and they’ll be more likely to buy their work and support them than download it free. To help get money, get a company like Target to sponsor it. If the tour gained enough exposure then companies would pay good money to have their logo slapped on a bus that was sitting in a college campus parking lot.

7. Build better websites – I’m not even talking about the websites of their authors; I’m talking about better websites for the publisher; I’ve never been to a publishers website that was more than just a catalog of the books they publish; it needs to be more interactive—there should be things that get visitors returning. How can publishers encourage authors to build good websites when they themselves aren’t doing this?

8. NO DRM – Demand that Amazon remove DRM; it will do you more good in the long run. Sharing can be a good thing if you do it right. Publishers could even sell DRM-Free books on their websites and make a killing because they wouldn’t have to pay the digital bookstore.

9. Lower Prices – If it’s a new writer, then don’t make people pay ten bucks for the book; likewise don’t sell experienced writers for fifteen bucks—ten is the most anyone should to pay for a digital book.

10. Preload eBooks readers – Sell eBook preloaded with eBooks. 400 bucks is a lot, but it’s not quite as bad if it has 100 bucks load on it for free.

Instead of waiting for people from places like Amazon to approach them with ideas for this, they need to be going to Amazon. Their role thus far has been relatively passive; it’s time for that to change. Last week a company said they would make reading more interactive by putting movies in the text, and all I could think was that’s really the best they can do? Hollywood started doing that 100 years ago! If people want to see what the characters look like, they’ll wait for the inevitable film adaptation. And if the reader is really having that hard of a time visualize what is going on, then perhaps it’s time to find a writer who can show scenes just a little bit better.

I don't think it's entirely unlikely for authors to start get patrons to pay them for their work; this is how authors used to make a living. If an author got a big enough following by giving away their books for free, they might eventually get a wealthy fan (or smaller press) that paid them to continue writing. Geoffrey Chaucer made a living as a writer in this way, so did Charles Bukowski, and so have hundreds of other writers.

Those are just a few ways to make publishing digitally successful, but if publisher stop wondering what to do when pirating comes, and start realizing that it's already here then hopefully they'll be able to think up a few more that might actually save them.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Write Your Story & Sell Your Story

This Thursday (October 8th) at 7:00 pm, I will be giving a free presentation at the brand new Tustin library on how to write and sell your first book.

If you'd like to go, it would help them if you call ahead so they know how many seats to setup (their number is: 1-714-544-7725); if you don't call, please still come and I'll make sure they find room for you!

The address is below...I hope I see you there!

345 E. Main Street
Tustin, CA 92780

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Governments Not So Secret Nazi Base

I don't know a lot about architecture, but don't they usually have some sort of model that would let the builder know that perhaps the design isn't a good idea? The building below is an actual government building in San Diego.

It does not seem like the best welcoming mat to Jewish tourist flying into the city.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Dan Brown Interview

In honor of Dan Brown's newest book being released, read the strangest Dan Brown interview you'll ever read here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two November Reads of Interest

There are not a lot of books coming out, which sound even remotely interesting to me, but I did find two November reads that might be worth a look.

The first is yet another reminder to writers to burn their work if they don't really want it released after they die.

"The Original of Laura" by Vladimir Nabokov
When Vladimir Nabokov died in 1977, he left instructions for his heirs to burn the 138 handwritten index cards that made up the rough draft of his final and unfinished novel, The Original of Laura. But Nabokov’s wife, Vera, could not bear to destroy her husband’s last work, and when she died, the fate of the manuscript fell to her son. Dmitri Nabokov, now seventy-five—the Russian novelist’s only surviving heir, and translator of many of his books—has wrestled for three decades with the decision of whether to honor his father’s wish or preserve for posterity the last piece of writing of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. His decision finally to allow publication of the fragmented narrative—dark yet playful, preoccupied with mortality—affords us one last experience of Nabokov’s magnificent creativity, the quintessence of his unparalleled body of work.

The second book, despite seeming to steal the premise of the Simpsons movie, looks like a fun page-turner:

"Under the Dome" by Stephen King
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener's hand is severed as "the dome" comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when -- or if -- it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens -- town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician's assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing -- even murder -- to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn't just short. It's running out.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bored Librarians @ Work

Friday, September 11, 2009

Librarins: I Need Your Blurbs for My New Book!

If you missed my Twitter post, I need blurbs from librarians (especially teen ones) for my newest book, which I will be trying to sell shortly. If you'd like to help, please email me a quick note (my email is, and I'll send you out the first three chapters.

It's a YA book geared towards teenage boys, and blurbs from you will help put a nice touch on the proposal that will be sent out to editors/publishers at the end of the month.

Thanks to those who can help...I look forward to your emails!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The First Cyber Death

Ten some odd years ago, while studying writing as an undergraduate, I wrote a 40,000 word story about a man who wanted to be the first person to kill himself on the Internet.

It's been through a lot of revision over the years, but nothing major for quite sometime. At one point I tried to publish it, but it was rejected for being too ambitious, too weird, too shocking, too experimental...the list goes on and on.

Perhaps it was too shocking to ever see the light of day, but the beauty of Kindle is you can be your own publisher. I put the text online here (you can read the entire synopsis there too) for $1.00 if you want to read it and have either a Kindle or iPhone.

Those who don't have a Kindle can also order a physical copy by clicking on the PayPal link below (it's only $10.00); Amazon has a incredibly cheap vanity press (you pay to print a proof copy, which is about 10 bucks) called CreateSpace that makes it easy to publish works that might now be published elsewhere.

The book is a bit dated with it's pop culture references (keep in mind it was written ten years ago), but I still think the idea is pretty fresh...if nothing else, I guarantee it will be one of the weirdest things you have ever read.

If you want to have the book for free, then buy $20 bucks of stuff from my wife's Esty store, and I'll have it send it to you for free! Just make sure you let one of us know via email that you want a copy, and we'll send it out!

Say what you want about eBooks, but one of the nice things I see about them is they are helping bring about the return of the short novel; if you think selling a 100,000 word novel is hard, try selling a 40,000. On Kindle, however, anything goes--a scenario that's both good and bad, but one that can ultimately work in the authors favor.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Next Victim of Kindle’s Big Brother

I’ve spent the summer finishing up a YA book that my agent will, with any luck, be able to sell after I finish up the third and final draft. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it later, but for the sake of taking a break from the wonderful world of revision, I thought I’d take the time to write a blog about something very curious that I’ve seen happening in the Kindle store.

By now everyone is probably familiar with the big Kindle hiccup that happened at the start of the summer with George Orwell’s 1984. It wasn’t all that odd since the book was still in copyright. In the past couple weeks, Amazon started doing something that is a bit odd: pulling public domain books from the self.

Public domain books by Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Jack London, Aldous Huxley, and literally hundreds of other popular public domain books mysteriously vanished at the end of August.

Yesterday, Amazon announced that it will begin removing all duplicate Public Domain titles, which at least solves the question of the disappearing eBooks.

People who have Kindles are probably aware that publishers by the thousands have uploaded works that are in public domain and sold them for profit. Most of these titles are likely just books that people took off Project Gutenberg and reformatted for Kindle.

They claim the reason for the new policy is to make things less confusing for the consumer because there are too many copies of one work by different publishers. I don’t think it’s confusing at all, which is why I think there’s something else behind it.

My guess is there’s going to be some bigger announcement by Amazon regarding public domain by the end of the year. Which begs the question: what happens if I want to re-download a book that was removed because of this new policy? And further isn't this make a little bit too much of a monopoly for the company? Publishers big and small have successfully republished public domain works with new covers and different authors providing introductions for the past hundred years. A larger percentage of the publishing industry is made up of this kind of practice. For Amazon to say that they will only let one publisher sell something like Huck Finn seems a little odd, and frankly illegal to me.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Disney's Electric Parade

Growing up in Anaheim means Disneyland was always my backyard. Forever embedded in my head is the annoying Main Street Electrical Parade theme song. When they finally took it away, I was happy that at last I would never have to hear that song again. But it's back (it's been back actually)--at the California Adventure to be more exact.

The other night, Diana and I saw the parade at the new location; it's the same annoying music, but it's hard not to enjoy the spectacle of lights. If you're bored this holiday, watch it and relive the magic for yourself.

Monday, June 15, 2009


As a freelancer, I use my computer on the go a lot; usually I'm writing and don't need Internet, but it's nice to occasionally read an email or fact check's not nice enough to pay the 60 dollar fee for a 3G data plan.

Virgin Mobile is about to release a new plan that's perfect for people who want the "occasional" Internet on the go. The BroadBand2Go USB device sold exclusively through Best Buy let's you get Pay As You Go Internet access with no monthly fees or contracts.

The catch is it's $150 dollars to buy the USB drive, but if you need your Internet to go in minimal doses, then it's perfect.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another One About Legos

Here's yet another addition into my blogger Lego tag...a blog about people who recreate art with Legos. All of these put my childhood creations to shame, and it makes me wonder, "Is it possible to get an MFA in Lego Art?"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In Library News...

Two interesting news stories for all those librarians out there in blog land:

From the OC Register: Teens rally to save their library.

From NBC's Today: Great piece on libraries in the modern world and the challenges they face.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Darling Darling has a short interview with Diana and I...follow the link if you want to read it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Simpsons

I've heard a lot of covers of The Simpsons, but the video believe is now one of my favorites! Also check the kid out playin MC Hammer in the second video!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Best Pixar Movies

Now that I’ve seen Up here’s my amended list of favorite Pixar Movies:
1) Wall-E
2) Monster's Inc
3) Toy Story 2
4) Toy Story 1
5) Up
6) Finding Nemo
7) The Incredibles
8) A Bug's Life
9) Cars
10) Ratatouille

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Hero

I love people who do cool things with Legos; this guy is completely amazing! He created a MASSIVE Lego layout of Disneyland. I can even begin to imagine how much ity would be to buy these many Legos.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

Diana and I decided to use a half off coupon to visit the Anaheim Muzeo today. Below the phtos below of the exhibit (it was a monster theme)...

How California are these palm trees?

This guy isn't quite as scary with the flash on!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Geeky Computer Cases

These Star Wars computer cases are probably the geekiest (and most awesome) computers I have seen in a long time!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Kindle Killer

A few days ago, a thought occurred to me: I haven't used my Kindle in quite awhile. It's not because I have already grown tired of eBooks; it's because I recently bought an iPod Touch, and find the experience to be a bit more agreeable than the the Kindle in most settings.

The text on the Touch is clear and does not tire my eyes, can be read outdoors, and is easy (and light) to keep in your pocket. I now find myself reading everywhere I go--the movies, waiting rooms, etc. One of the biggest problems I have with the Kindle is the lack of back light; this makes reading in low lit places (like movie theaters) impossible without bring a light with you. With the newest Kindle app update, the software just got better (it now rotates text and let's you have different text colors)

The Kindle is still a great device (it has better lighting and it is a bit easier to read outdoors), but the Touch has proven to be the perfect companion. The great thing about Kindle is you can have the both worlds--since Amazon stores all your books online it's incredibly easy to download your books on both devices.

If you'd like to try out eBooks, the Touch is the perfect starter device; it's pretty cheap considering how powerful it is (it runs all the iPhone apps, can surf the net, play videos (both videos you have bought and videos you want to stream from places like youtube), and view pictures). Refurbished you can get one for less than $200.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wise Blood: A Movie Review

From: Disturbed Christian

2001 was the year I discovered Flannery O'Connor. I was a college senior doing an independent study on post-WWII Christian literature. My advisor suggested that I add O'Connor's "Wise Blood" to my growing list of semester reads.

It was one of those books that went on to change my life--the one that made me say, "I've never seen the world in this light before."

For the past four years in college, I had been intrigued by the idea of the sacred and profane; the idea that even in the most sacred places of the world were always broken vessel, more polluted and shameful then those who followed them.

I have been curious to see John Huston's adaptation of the movie ever sense I put the book down; unfortunately, it was one of those classic movies long out of print in any format.

Earlier this month, Criterion restored and rereleased the film on DVD; for obvious reason, I put my order in when I first found out, and got the chance to watch it this past weekend.

The film, like the book, follows Hazel Motes--a young soldier returning home to the South, who discovers just about everything, but the religion, has changed. Hazel is a changed man, and wants to forget that God ever existed; he's so convicted in his ways that he intends to start his own church called, "The Church of Christ without Christ" (which, Hazel later clarifies is a Protestant denomination!)--for those who have not read the book, Hazel actually called this "The Church Without Christ," and then another man started a church called "The Church of Christ without Christ" to rival his.

You would think people would just pass up Hazel as a crazy war veteran, but they don't; they are intrigued by his church, and that lies the power of both the film and the book--we all have a void inside us that we try and fill in some way; if we try to strip away religion from our hearts we still are searching for something to replace it. Every character in the movie has something that's not God which they cling to as a form of God--from a gorilla to a historic artifact. Hazel tries to believe that you don't need God if you have a car, and even uses that vessel to play the part of God and take someone’s life by running them over.

<<<--------S P O I L E R A L E R T---------->>>

The tragedy of the movie is Hazel never can replace God; when a police officer’s pushes his car into a lake, he takes away the one thing that Hazel thought could replace God, and it crushes his soul. He inflects bodily torture on himself to try and redeem himself, but none of it works because only God is capable of giving this kind of redemption, and Hazel refuses to accept God, and is left empty.

<<<--------E N D O F S P O I L E R---------->>>

No film can ever match O’Connor’s, wit, or gothic charm; and it would be impossible to capture the idea of free will and redemption that O'Connor thematically, and perfectly, captures in her novel--but that's not to say it's not a worthy viewing; however it is you that you get your movies: rent, own, or illegally download--get this movie, watch it, and tell all of your friends to do the same.

And if you have never read the book, then it's about time you did so...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Papua New Guinea Artifacts

I was helping my Dad at my parents house the other day, and went into my old bedroom where too many of my old belongings still remain. One of the things that stood out where all the things my brother has sent me from Papua New Guinea, where he currently lives...thought I'd share a few of them...

The one below is one of my favorite birthday presents EVER. During his first stay in the country ten some odd years ago, he found a New Guinea artist and asked if he'd paint his interpretation of The Simpsons. My brother showed him a picture, but he didn't need one--he knew who The Simpsons were! The man had no TV (or electricity for that matter) and yet somehow managed to know the show.

The next painting is a New Guinea interpretation of Noah's ark; I don't know if it's the same artist or not.

For the life of me, I never did figure out what this next thing is, and my brother never bothered to explain it.
Really isn't all too sharp for a cutting tool...
Believe it or not this is what straps onto the men's...member...during native dances.  It sort of looks like a primitive form of birth control...I'd really hate to be on the receiving end of that about a wicked splinter!

He sent it home one year as a Christmas gift to all the males in my family; my Grandma has a picture somewhere of several of my cousins, myself and my Grandpa wearing it...over are clothes of course.
Hand carved decoration of a creepy looking headhunter.