Friday, July 31, 2009

Book Reviews

Man, this a lot of books for one set of reviews... I didn't think it had been that long, but its been 27 days since the last one... Odds are I missed a book at some point.


1984, 170 PAGES

A classic. This is probably one of my favorite Bellairs, has some fun images and great ideas, topped off by Gorey art - What's better, I ask? Hooray to my friend Mike's dog for chewing the cover so that they had to buy it from the library.



1999, 470 PAGES

One of the better Cussler's, in my opinion. Age old mysteries surrounding who really reached the Americas first, undersea explorations, treasure, no cameo by the big man himself, rock and roll!



2000, 319 PAGES

I would imagine a HUGE amount oif research went into this book. Written from the diary view of a young stowaway on Captain Cook's Endeavour, it gives a great feel for daily ship life. It wasn't extremely engaging, and with true life historical novels like this, I always feel that the research plays a much bigger part than the actual writing, but a good book. Fun Fact - Books like this, with short diary entries are perfect reading for bathrooms!



1999, 230 PAGES

I checked this book out, primarily because if I ever get published, I would be very close to her name on bookstore shelves. Damn, I'm glad I did. Her style of writing is fascinating and beautiful, with sentences that I read twice, just because I liked them so much. Very Highly reccommended.



2006, 247 PAGES

Whoo-hoo! A slacker/surfer/PI old-school mystery! Cracking story, wise-ass men and an interesting plot. Surfs Up!



1998, 322 PAGES

Hawaiian detective, houseboats, hot nights, hotter ladies, even hotter lead, money, violence, humor, geriatric gunmen! Oh yeah, one other thing, enjoyment!

Only nit-pick... I can only assume that last name is made up... Cheesy!



1975, 155 PAGES

This book is currently late being returned to the Marshall Public Library. My current fine is $1.30. If I could only get my hands on a magic amulet that would help me erase my fine!



2000, 404 PAGES

A semi-early patterson novel, his famed detective Alex Cross finds himself against a bank robber and killer named the mastermind who may just live up to the name. It spends a lot of time building an ineteresting case, but seems to run out of bullets a bit too soon.



2008, 258 PAGES

Loved everything about this book, from the gorgeous cover, to the creative world, to the perfect storyline, pretty much perfect! I must buy this asap.



2008, 168 PAGES

I hadn't planned to get yet another Bellairs/Strickland book, but this had a giant Three on the cover, so my friend Thom would have disowned me for passing it up. Sorcerers, baseball and creepy puppets, pretty much par for the course in creepy, gothic, 1950's Michigan.



2007, 356 PAGES

This was a last minute grab at the library, and damn, I'm glad I did. A Cockroach turns into a man, learns what that means, eats, mates, creates a criminal syndicate and survives, like all cockroaches. Amazingly great book. Riveting.



2005, 410 PAGES

I'm still really torn about this book. I love the ideas and some of the imagery is striking, but it seemed kind of uneven in places and they placed unneccesary emphasis on a few things that never played right to me. Nice young adult fantasy about a boy who is accidentally nominated the king of the window wraiths.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Great Montana Trip of 2009 - Saturday

I got thinking about it and realized that I didn't really have any photos from this day anyway, which is kind of odd.. ( I did shamelessly steal a few from someone else, and will post them where appropriate.) I am writing this on a small amount of sleep obtained 21 hours ago though, so bear with me.

Saturday started innocently enough, a nice, lazy morning, waking up in what looked like a public park, birds tweeting, water burbling. We got up pretty well rested and combobulated ourselves before deciding breakfast was on the docket.

Now... Roundup Montana. ... There are a few things you should know about this delightfully named town before we get into it.

- This is the view of the city according to Sure, sure, from up here it looks pretty decent sized and pleasant.

- Roundup currently has around 1900 people in it and according to citydata, it has decreased in population a mere .5% - this is a surprisingly small change in population

- The population is 95% white, around 40, makes about $35k a year and from 2000 to 2008, their home values increased from an average of 45k to 95k.

-it is located at 3226 feet in elevation and spans 1.34 square miles.

-To the best of my experience, there's three restaurants, the Busy Bee, another diner that no one in the family has ever eaten at, and an A&W

- There are two motels, couple of churches three or four antique stores run from people's houses, a cappuccino stand and a large number of sadly vacant buildings on the main street.

Frankly, though I may mock it a bit, Roundup is pretty much exactly the kind of town Linz and I like spending time in while on vacation. The people are either quite friendly or set in their ways and distrustful of outsiders, and as long as you don't depend on hi-tech or shopping related fun, there's a good chunk of things to do.

Of course, we weren't here for fun, we were here for family.

We were there for Lindsay's mother's side of the family, the VanDyke/Andersons, most of whom I didn't know from Adam, but sometimes that's the best kind of reunion, where you aren't really expected to conversate too much because you don't know anyone.

For breakfast, there was little choice, the Busy Bee. The family (For convenience, that term will probably serve for most anything involving any of the relatives we meet in a group...) only eats there, as best I can figure. In the less than 48 hours we were in Roundup, I think most family members ate there for every meal.

I'm a HUGE fan of diners and diner food. The Busy Bee has a horse sculpture on the sign and some of the waitresses have worked there since high school, which was 40+ years ago, and they are undoubtedly the type to call you "hon". all very, very important aspects of proper diner dining. Unfortunately, the joint had no air conditioning and frankly, the food was just kind of... average. Edible and what you imagine a diner would have, but nothing to make your horse buck or anything.

When we walked into the Busy Bee that morning though, it did have something most other diners would not - Family.

Pretty much swarming all over the main middle table. It was my good friend/uncle/reader of this fine blog, Steve and his family from the slightly-less-god-forsaken-than-Roundup North Dakota. To be honest, these guys were the main and almost ONLY reason we went to Montana in the first place. Lindsay's grandpa, a hilarious and good natured old fella that lived in Roundup most of his life lives with Steve and crew now and while we liked to think that we would make it to SD eventually, we were looking forward to seeing all of them. I met Steve in person before, but didn't really get a chance to know him until this blog and it was great seeing him in person, along with his charming family.

We happily joined their meal, already in progress. Played hide the sugar from grandpa, made friendly though slightly awkward conversation with everyone as they finished their meals, argued over the check(We ALWAYS lose... there's gotta be an age where it swings back into our court, doesn't there?)... the usual things you do at a meal with family. Then they, who had been eating when we got there, took off and left us at a table for 10 or so, by ourselves in the middle of the room... Good thing there were only a few families in Roundup that could use a table that size and the odds were good that any walking in would be related to us in some way.

After breakfast... I honestly have no idea what we did. Oh yeah! We were planning on checking into the Motel, which wasn't quite ready, so we decided to go wander through the cemetery, as we love to do. Steve heard our plans and offered to go with us, which was a lot of fun. He and grandpa were tour guides of the dead, telling us little anecdotes about the graves as we walked past them. We braved the sprinklers that were dousing Lindsay's grandmother's grave to pay our slightly soaking respects and tried to help grandpa dodge the sprinklers, which really just got us wetter and still soaked him. (I just remembered that I had some good photos from this... I'll have to upload them when I get a real computer back...) It was a nice cemetery, though it was odd that the section we wanted to visit had the water running for the entire time we were there and the rest of the grounds looked quite dry and untended. Maybe they knew family was in town and wanted to keep that section green....

Afterwards, Linz and I talked about how odd it would be to visit the burial site of your wife or husband, especially in a case like this, when your own name is already carved into the other half, waiting for you. It was kind of sobering.

Then we all headed back to the Motel where we talked with the innkeeper for a while and played with her two dogs. She had a pretty nice setup. Couple of maids, couple dozen rooms, what looked like a pretty decent sized living quarters. Lucky bitch. Seriously though, she was very friendly, especially considering neither of us were on the room reservations and didn't pay for the room.

The motel was pretty basic. Old fridge on top of the luggage rack, desk, couple of beds... nothing spectacular, but it did have a pretty decent Air conditioner, which was good. Roundup is dry and hot, two things that can trigger a migraine with me. (Cue ominous foreshadowing for later in day...) We hung out in the room for a while, fiddling with knobs, taking showers, bouncing on the beds, until it was time to leave for the reunion.

Which will appear in part two of Saturday!

Tune in next time!

Monday, July 27, 2009

July... something or other. It's too hot to care about what the date is.

Just a quick life update in between the story of my Montana trip, mostly to piss off Steve for delaying the bit where we meet him in Roundup. Ha!

My computer is officially DOA. This is the third computer I've lost in a year and a half. The first was well over five years old and I think it pretty much just finally decomposed. Number two had a fairly dramatic motherboard crash and we've been using him for parts since and my most recent, a most splendid laptop I acquired from my even more splendid pal Thom became horribly innundated with viruses, trojans and malware, virtually overnight. AFter a few days of constant attempts to save it, the thing finally gave up and gave me the blue screen of doom.


Luckily, I had a good chunk of my files backed up, but on an external that I'm now vaguely concerned was infected as well...

At any rate, that's pretty much all I've done in the last few days. Work, sleep, curse like a sailor at an indifferent screen. Glamour, thy name is Kristopher.

On the writing front, I've started a fun, stand alone kids book about a kid with a useless magic talent trying to find friends in a new city. It started a little dry, so I added a narrator, who has now taken over the story with his asides, tangents and comments. I like him, but he may be too much... We shall see.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Great Montana Trip of 2009 - Friday

We woke bright and early the next morning, after sleeping quite well in the back of Strontium. Since our last road trip, where we fought with a leak-a-licious air mattress, we decided to go basic, cheap and old-school. We went to the thrift store, bought a twin mattress in decent shape for $25, shoved a few pillows into the gaps around the doors and wheel wells, tossed our full-size pillow top over all of that and called it good. Turns out, it's significantly easier and just as comfy. Huzzah!
We took a quick tour of the tiny Cooke City Cemetery that happened to be just off of our campsite, then hit the road, heading up the Cooke City Highway, a curving, amazing road that takes you to the top of the road and back down.
I mean, look at this place! I was in love instantly. Amazing stone formations peeking from lush green grass. Deep blue mountain lakes hidden around the corner... I could have spent hours up there wandering if not for one thing.

Much like the Greek Gods lived on Olympus, at the top of the world, it's Mosquito country, and I'd MUCH rather deal with a pissed off god, thank you very much. Didn't notice 'em at first. I got out, wandered a bit with my camera, took a few shots, slapped my arm a couple times. Then I looked around.... I was absolutely surrounded. I looked towards the car and Lindsay was frantically waving her arms at me, shouting something, but all I could hear was buzzing. I started swatting madly at them, moving fast, my hand diving into the car and coming out with the can of insect repellent. I sprayed continuously, coating my body, but still they came, almost like the first wave didn't want to land on me, but the 13,000 behind it pushed 'em! I sprayed more wildly, getting a hefty spray directly in my right eye. I screamed out, bellowing like a wounded hippo and lumbered blindly towards the car, bug spray and tears streaming from my face.

Lindsay frantically gestured for me to get in on her side, the mosquitos were bunching around my door, that was where their flabby feast had come from. I dashed to her side and quickly climbed over to my side. Finally, aside from the slight rocking of the car as legions of bloodsuckers pummelled the car with their bodies, we were safe! I felt like Robert Pattycake, star of Twilight at an eyeshadow convention for twelve year olds!

This is the photo I took -

This is the photo after painstakingly recreating the hordes of mosquitos -

After a while, we developed a method. It was too gorgeous for me to not stop and get some photos, so we would stop, I'd quickly leap out, snap off a couple of photos and crawl in Linz's side and drive on, before they could mass enough of a force to tip the car over. Apart from my right eye swelling and throwing off my depth perception it worked well.

On the way down the hill, we stopped and borrowed some water form a lady at a lookout so that I could rinse my eye out. Curvy roads, bug spray and eyeballs do not mix well. There were also ridiculously friendly chipmunks at the lookout and we hand fed them a few pumpkin seeds. Adorable, they were. (I think they may have been clever mosquitos in furry suits... clever buggers.)

At the bottom of the hill in Joliet, which seems to be pronounced Joe-Lee-Ett in the Montana vernacular, we found a little statuary place that was selling skunks, which have been on my father in law's wish list for years, but they weren't open yet, and Linz wouldn't let me steal them, so we ate at a little drive-in there till they were open. The drive in was great. Cheap burgers, copious fries and 24 flavors of soft serve ice cream, which were very subtle but quite good.

Turns out, the owner of the statue place was a talker... took us 20 minutes and 3 stories about disasters on the highway before we could leave with our skunks... Shoulda stole 'em. She was old, there's no way she could have chased us!

After that, we headed to Billings, MT where we planned to explore a bit, eat some dinner and head North for the evening.

Turns out, we hate Billings. Hard to navigate, their downtown has no character at all, every single restaurant we went into wanted between $13 and $24 per entree.... By the time we'd left the 6th restaurant, declining the $16 plate of General Tso's and 3 page sushi list, we'd had enough, walked 4 blocks back to the car, got some take-out at Hardees and left for Roundup, MT. Billings, MT, you get a D-.

In fact, here's another picture of the Top Of The World, mosquito headquarters, which I preferred infinitely!
We made it up into Roundup after dark, around 9pm and were told that there was a free campground over by the river. Free! Don't that beat all? So we snagged a couple of waters and slept peacefully in a quiet, dark, free campsite. What a day #2.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Great Montana Trip of 2009

We've spent the last week deep in the various wildernesses of Montana, attending a family reunion on my Mother-in-law's side of the family, slogging through Yellowstone National Park and spending an all too brief time at a set of rustic cabins in an area that will some day be discovered by Eastern explorers and incorporated into the United States. It was an interesting trip.

We left bright and early Thursday morning, picking Lindsay up from her job at 7am, bright and shiny, and headed North, towards West Yellowstone. Our initial plan for the trip was to do Yellowstone, camp, head into a wee town called Roundup, MT for the family reunion on Saturday, spend a couple of days at the cabins, then head home in time for Lindsay to go to work Tuesday night.

The first leg of the drive was pretty uneventful. I've driven that stretch so many times that I feel like I should know the names of the farms along the way by now. Linz and I have both been to Yellowstone before, but it was some time ago, I think I was in jr. high or something, so we were intrigued to visit and see what had changed. I assumed that it would be a lot more refined and commercial, more Disney, less Grizzly Adams.

The first lesson we learned about YNP, is never go there during the summer.

The next is bring a cooler with ice and frosty beverages. We left ours at home, thinking we wouldn't really need it, but it takes mere seconds for a delightful drink to turn into a warm phlegmy one.

Never bring your dogs. We didn't, as we were going too many other places and planned to sleep in the Element the entire time, where there was clearly no room for 150lbs of dog, but YNP is no place for pets. They aren't allowed on the trails or in the buildings and it's much to hot to leave them in your car. The only reason I could possibly think for you to bring your dog is if it were some sort of silly little pocket dog and you wanted it to evaporate into a little cloud of yappy steam.

Never go to YNP in the summer.

Bring sunscreen, film, decent walking shoes and patience. There are plenty of places to go, and it is amazing, gorgeous country, but it could take a while to get there and the sun is pretty prominent. My driving arm is noticeably darker than the rest of my pasty Irish body.

Upon arriving at the gates of Yellowstone, you're confronted with a pretty good collection of lines, each collecting the mandatory $25 per car. It looks daunting, but moves at a pretty good clip. Of course, just after the gate, the 6 lines converge into one and that good clip becomes a pleasant drive.

Soon after, our pleasant drive became a grinding, ridiculous standstill. Lines of cars inched along, moving maybe six feet every five minutes. Cars would find a side road, swoop ahead, hoping to sneak a few cars ahead, where the other visitors would ignore them until they were often stuck back where they were.

Suddenly, around a corner, I could see cars moving! I put away my book that I had been reading while driving and peered curiously ahead, what in the world was slowing us so dramatically? An accident? Some sort of elaborate street show? Aliens? A Black Bear in a fight with a Wolf?

No.. the riveting object that slowed over a hundred cars to a stop for over an hour was an eagle in a tree. That's right, an EAGLE. Now, I may be biased, I did grow up in Idaho, but Bald Eagles are my favorite animal, or at least they used to be, and even at age 10, when I would have been wearing a shirt with one on it, likely, one in a tree would not have been that exciting. I saw a man tear his hat off and run to the side of the road to get a photo.

I can only assume there was a Sasquatch peering shyly from behind the same tree as the eagle and I just missed it.

Anyway, once we were past the Great Bird Of Prey Roadblock, things moved at a pretty good clip, considering how many people were in the park. Which was a ton. It was so full that folks were parking along the road and hiking into features because the ample parking lots at each were overflowing. Chances were good that if you shunned the 45 foot lines for the porta potties and decided to pee on a bush, you'd hit a lovely young Asian family, who would promptly get a snapshot of you doing so.

We still enjoyed the walks along the boardwalks though, circling each exhibit. I was shocked how much things had stayed the same since I was last there. Apart from replacing some of the boardwalks with plastic boards, most of the features looked identical.
The Trexx looked nice, but didn't have the same feel as the creaky, aged wooden boards.

Yellowstone National Park is an amazing place. Like an alien landscape with barren, burping patches of mud, sulfur spewing geysers, strange rock formations, all surrounded by lush forests and large, lumbering animals. It's truly a once in a lifetime kind of place. One thing that seemed missing to me, were informative plaques. It seemed like they used to have a lot of them, telling you about things, history, temperature, changes, wildlife, etc... Now, there were a few like that, but most features had a simple nameplate.

On August 20th, Three days before my tenth birthday in 1988, an event dubbed Black Saturday by the park, fires consumed hundreds of square miles of park land (Nearly 36% of the park). To this day, the effects of the massive blaze is evident in nearly every tourist area in the park. The forests are littered with the corpses of trees, burned at the roots and collapsed like a massive game of pick up sticks. I remember my visit there years ago, seeing the charred trunks, blackened and ominous. Today, most of the trees are bleached white and threaded with cracks, but impressive nonetheless. I was really shocked to see not a single thing about the fires posted or in any books. Maybe I missed something along the way, we only explored half of the park, but it seemed like there should have been a few references to the massive number of fallen trees, which have gradually been taken over with new growth.

We ate lunch at the old Hotel Yellowstone, which is a most remarkable building. If you have never been inside, you have to. Wandering around in the wooden depths of it was worth the cost of admission as far as I was concerned. I also failed to take any pictures. We bought our lunch there, paid $17 for a sandwich, some potato salad and one soda. Yeesh. I can say though, that if you want to see Old Faithful, screw sitting on those benches by the geyser, pack a sack lunch, head up to the second floor of the hotel and set up shop in one of the rows of benches on the balcony. Best seats in the house.

We however, ate our lunch there, then left without seeing the actual spoutage. Lets face it, if you've seen it once, or never but seen a video, you've pretty much seen it enough. Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me if it ever stopped spouting regularly, if the park would recreate it with pipes, only make it more spectacular. Vegas style, baby!

My personal favorite area we toured was the Sour Lake/ Dragon's Somethingorother circuit.
Look at that. Imagine stumbling across that in the middle of a forest or something. How could you not assume a dragon slept within?

The Sour Lake loop is really pretty, and has some interesting features, though the initial hill was a bit daunting when the sun is pounding down and you're still carrying your hibernation weight, like i have since 1987.

Speaking of odd sights, as we walked up the trail, a very large woman was walking down, camera around her neck. As she walked past people, telegraphing her moves, so nonchalant that she was painfully obvious, she would turn her head away from the person, lift her camera up, and take a snapshot of the other person's face. We are pretty sure she was stealing people's souls. She got the Indian guy ahead of us and my wife's, but I glared angerly at her and had a bigger camera, so she waddled past, looking for easier prey. Soul-sucker.

Anyway, the park was pretty, but if we ever go back, it'll be in late, late summer or early spring. I'd rather have snow than crowds.

We ate in Cooke City, in a little bar that had excellent pizza and a very harried waitress and found a campsite just past there.

A pretty full day. We locked our valuables in the Bear box and crashed hard.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Weddings, Reunions, Road Trips, Writing, Reading... July is the month of no spare time.

Life -

Man, the last week has been so hectic that I've scarcely had time to think! My brother in law got married in a really nice little ceremony and excellent kegger reception in the woods, I worked... wherein I had to boot a moron and deal with some crazies. Most craptacular. I have a lot to say about the wedding, which was a lot of fun, but I don't have time for it now... It'll have to wait.

I will say that I was the unofficial photographer and it was a lot of fun, but I am currently having all sorts of computer issues that include a lot of Photoshop grief, Trojans and certain important files from the wedding that, while fine, (Don't stress, me pretties!) I just can't open them with my programs. Bah.

I'll deal with them when Linz and I get back from a family reunion/ camping trip in Montana.

We are going up through Yellowstone, then meeting a chunk of folks I've likely never met for a picnic in the town of Roundup Montana. A more perfect name for a city in Montana does not exist, ladies and gents. One restaurant, one jail cell, one general store, 2,000 residents, 8,000 teeth, one good time, had by all!

Seriously, I've been to Roundup one time before and it's a charming little town that really has the feel of modern western ghost town in the wings that I dig so much. Then we head to some cabins in an undisclosed portion of MT, where we'll kill ourselves some fish or a bear, eat some long pork in the Fiji fashion and take group showers.. or something. Likely none of that.

You ever get that odd feeling as you're doing something where you feel like you're gently rotating, almost like a barrel roll in zero grav? I feel like that now... trippy.

I clearly should have considered a nap rather than a Rockstar this afternoon....

Speaking of Rockstars, the only energy drink worth drinking, the Guava one, Purple Meth as we call it on the Graveyard shift, is no longer carried at Walgreens. Grr. Like I can be expected to plan far enough ahead to buy one BEFORE work?? Madness, I say!

Writing -

Lots of stuff, just not lots of progress...

Responses to the contest I entered Whispering Ferns into should be rolling in sometime in the next two months... the sooner I get my rejection, the sooner I can try and shop it around....

I started writing Graves, my zombie novel. (The title of which has caused some amusing misunderstandings at home, what with my wife's last name being similar...) (2,000 words)

Speaking of Graves, if any of you want to, or rather DON'T want to be killed horribly in that book, let me know. Otherwise, expect some of your noggin in an Oblongata Sammich, baby!

I started a plot outline on an adult Serial Killer/ Private Investigator/ Road Trip book.

Started writing my epic/humorous fantasy novel, the plot of which has been gestating since Grade School. (5,000 words so far)

Loosely plotted a simple, sweet, short story about a small boy with one little talent.

Started writing Book Two in the Moonstone Bay series! Fun stuff, I like where this one is headed.

The Last Sentence -

Opposite it, already rising impatiently, the full moon shines.
- From "Graves"

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 5th, 2009 - Privacy at last!

Life -

Man, my father in law can work a post hole digger like an old farm boy! Sunday, Rich came over and helped me build a fence along a portion of our backyard, cordoning off an odd cement patio and what used to be the dog run. We live on a corner lot with a good sized back yard, but the it is ringed by a low chain link fence, and the entirety is visible from the street, so we spend very little actual time in the yard, as most of our neighbors are the nosy, annoying variety. Previously, there had been a fenced in dog run, all dirt and weeds beside the patio space. We pulled down the section of fence separating the two and tried to plant some grass on the dog run area.

Unfortunately, the previous owners not only used the run area for dogs, but he apparently used a section to pour sawdust and chemicals from his various home projects, and grass wouldnt grow there very well. We've worked on it though and it was starting to take shape. We just figure we'll put some fun pavers down where the grass wont grow or something. So then we had a nice sized space, but we could still be assaulted by Graham Cracker Fogey and the Momma from Throw Momma From The Train and her yappy pocket dog. We started throwing around ideas and after chatting with Rich, he said that we should just build a simple fence rather than the outlandish things I was bandying about (Vines, tiered benches, holograms, etc...)

On the 3rd, we hit Home Depot and Lowes and bought a few posts and slats for around a hundred and fifty bucks, which was quite cheap. Sunday morning, Rich showed up and we dug the holes and mounted the posts, and later that night he came back over to help finish the job. Turned out pretty damn nice, if I say so myself! We still have the original chain link gate and a section of fencing, but eventually we'll likely replace those too.

In the meantime, we have a nice sized, fairly private garden area to hang out and barbecue in. Hooray! Now we just have to start looking into some furniture that doesn't consist of old spools and thrift store chic....

Writing -

Not a lot on this front, though I've tried a few different things with my Zombie book and printed a couple of my current draft of The Whispering Ferns. I also started some layout and plot ideas for a MG/YA fantasy novel, one that takes a lot of the conventional roles from fantasy and twists 'em a bit. It should be fun, but I have the crappy task of coming up with a passel of fantasy names that don't sound goofy. I hate that.

I also finished my header for the Moonstone Bay Blog which I think turned out really fun. I tried to hit something that had a bit of a classic children's book illustration feel to it. My only regret is that the welcome sign seems too removed from the rest of the piece, I think the coloring is too noticeably different.. have to fix that eventually.

Speaking of children's book artists, I highly recommend Kelly Light's blog. She has an excellent, clean style and she digs the Barenaked Ladies... how can you not love that??

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 4th, 2009 - My dog is a total moron.

Life -

It's been a bit of a busy few days, though I feel like a lot of stuff has kind of been wheel spinning. We walked the boys a few times, took some photos of my soon to be Sister In Law, cleaned through a few boxes, straightened out the storage sheds, so nothing too exciting, but the pictures we took turned out pretty great and its nice to start getting the house in order.

Oh yeah, my dog is a moron. Pretty much all of the time.

Writing -

Need a couple of suggestions on the zombie book I'm working on. I was initially planning to write it from the point of view of each character in the present tense, with a new chapter for each. Now I'm waffling between doing the same thing in past tense or omnipotent past... Each has a plus. I still like the idea of the present tense, primarily because it gives a bit of urgency, but I've never written anything like that before so I'm hesitant. I know that if its written poorly, that present tense books stand out as poor more obviously.

What say you, loyal readers? What tense do you prefer your novels written in?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Book Review - Bride of Recent Reads

Flipping Out
Marshall Karp

2009, 304 pages

Man, I wish Karp would write all of the books I read. I've read his first two novels and when I realized that Flipping Out was released, I immediately rented it from the library until I could buy my own copy. He's that much fun to read, guys. Flipping Out blends just the right amount of mystery, humor, thrills and suspense, wrapped around a plot that I'm sure some authors wish they'd thought of, but so that they could put it to use in real life! Detectives Lomax and Biggs, Karp's witty creations delve into the murders of a couple of cop's wives who were also involved in an ingenious scheme involving a murder book series and house flipping. As it becomes increasingly apparent that one of their wives may be next, they have to race against the clock to solve the mystery. Great book. A very serious contender for my favorite book of the year. The author is also a dog person, so he gets awarded extra points.


The Mansion In The Mist
John Bellairs

1992, 176 pages

My Bellairs rampage continues unabated. Anthony Monday ends up spending a fateful vacation on an island in a rustic house with a dark secret - a passage into a terrible world where the residents are planning to destroy our own! This book has one of my favorite Gorey covers, especially the back panel and I'm now obsessed with the idea of spending a vacation in a creepy old house in the middle of an otherwise abandoned island. Sadly, I'm not sure that those kinds of places really exist any more. The book was fun, though it seemed like the plot was a little rushed.


The Attorney
Steve Martini

2001, 448 pages

When lawyer Paul Madriani's rich friend approaches him to ask his help in finding his missing granddaughter, Paul thinks it will be a simple kidnapping case. When the woman suspected of orchestrating the kidnapping (By the granddaughter's own junkie mother) turns up dead and leads start getting twisty, he soon finds his hands full. Pretty decent read. I liked the idea and the main character has a lot of appeal, but for some reason I had trouble getting too into it.


Silent Prey
John Sandford

2008, 400 pages

Sandford's character Davenport (Which is a couch, according to my grandmother...) joins a Manhattan team to track down a serial killer that he had captured before. A couple of good twists, but pretty much your basic "Cop hunts serial killer" formula. I did like the addition of the vigilante police crew, killing deserving villains. It was a nice extra touch to the tale.


Dark Harbor
David Hosp

2006, 496 pages

A great find! I picked this up at a yard sale for a dime, I'd never heard of the author before, but it was a freakin' dime and I read a lot. Within a week, I'd seen the book in 4 other places. How odd. It was like it was haunting me. Dark Harbor, set in Boston, is a novel about a serial killer named Little Jack. I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I thought the main characters were pretty engaging and the story had some nice surprises. I'll have to check out more by Hosp.


The Spell Of The Sorcerer's Skull
John Bellairs

1985, 176 pages

I really hadn't planned on reading two Bellairs books this update, but while visiting my friend, he showed me the copy of this book that he'd been forced to buy after his dog ate parts of it. I hadn't read The Spell Of The Sorcerers Skull in a very long time, so when he offered to loan it to me, I got suckered in. Eventually, I'll run out of his books and there will be an update without a book by Clive Cussler, Lemony Snickett or Bellairs... maybe. I do find a ton of Cussler books for very cheap at the thrift stores....

Anyway, fun book with haunted clocks, tiny skulls, snow, a priest, bushy beards and the word Phooey!


Sea Legs
Alex Shearer

2006, 320 pages

I liked this book almost instantly, but it took a me a while to really get into it, and then I kind of lost interest after certain visitors arrive for some reason.

Written from the point of view of the eldest of twins, Sea Legs is irreverent and funny. Boiled down, two brothers sneak onto their father's cruise ship to see what his job is like and spend some time on the ocean, being troublemakers. I really liked all of the characters in here, and some of Eric's comments are hilarious. Great book. Was planning to check out more by the author but I couldn't remember his name at the library.