Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Smashed

Browsing through the free books available for the NOOK, I noticed that a fair number of them came from a place called Smashwords. I vaguely remembered a writer friend of mine mentioning the site before, so, intrigued, I decided to check it out. I am really glad i did. Basically, yo can take single stories or full books and have Smashwords, after a little formatting on your part, make them available for download on numerous platforms. Best of all, you get to set the price for your own work. I figured I'd give it a shot and,  after a little Windows Office tinkering, my manuscript was ready and up for sale at the glorious price of 99 cents.
It's a 3000 word short called, The Tweener, that is, IMHO, one of the better things I have written. As of now I have received 2 sample downloads and 1 bona fide sale.....WOOHOO!! If you feel like supporting a starving author, please go check it out by clicking here

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sex, Stir-Fry, And Super-ego

At almost 3 months old, this blog represents the longest commitment I may have ever made to a writing project. I love blogging, not as much as writing fiction, but on those days when the make believe creativity won't flow, it sure feels good to tap the keys and feel like you are being somewhat productive. The main problem with this whole weblog malarkey is the feeling that you are talking to yourself. Getting people here is hard, getting them to come back or follow you is harder still. I belong to a couple of blog network sites, but I refuse to get involved in any of those reciprocal following things, simply because I only want to follow sites that interest me, and only want followers that really want to read what I write.......everything else is just numbers.

I have noticed over the years that sex and food seem to be the most popular themes online, so I was pretty happy when my wife, an executive chef by trade, wanted to start her own foodie blog. She has jumped right in and is doing well in a very short space of time. I, on the other hand, have resorted to using double entendre titles to lure in the filthy minded to my little writing haven, Actually, I have only done it once, using the work nookie, but it instantly became my most successful post, by a huge margin. Perhaps working in sex and food may double that number, which is why I went with the title for this piece, that and it sounded better than, "Her Vagina Tasted Like Creme Brulee", or, "Chef Recommended Cocking Pans". That last one is very clever as the spelling error is intentional, which will be recognized by food lovers, but also embraced by perverts who will expect to see pics of a buxom cook being banged over a hot stove.

This need for followers is making me a little mental, I must confess. I have never written for anyone other than myself and my wife, but recently I have felt the need to be read. The major stopping point in all of this is a lack of confidence which always seems to pop up just as my ego reaches climax. Prime example. I am at my local book store over the weekend, and there is an author doing a book signing. I had never previously heard of the writer, but enough people had that she had a little crowd waiting for her signature. I imagined myself in her chair, after she had left of course, with a horde of adoring followers waiting for my big old X signature to hit the inside cover of my most recent bestseller. I heard myself telling the shop assistant to fetch me an Evian and a lightly buttered scone (pronounced scown in a clipped English accent).....and then it hit me, all at once; I am Scottish, I'd much rather have beer and wings, and I would die if I had to speak to more than 3 people in a one hour period. Plus, and here is the kicker, I just don't think I am ever good enough to reach that chair.

Depression sets in, which I kill with beer and wings, and then I see my wife and kids and realize that they are the only real followers I need, but, just in case I need back-up, watch for the filthy-assed titles to continue unabated.

The Week In Review

This week - Nooks, sleepovers, illness, and Twitter addiction

Tuesdays have become my least anticipated day of the week. This may seem odd to a lot of folks given that it is a work free day, but it's also the longest work day for my wife which means that I am given way too much free time on my own. I have decided that Tuesdays will now become writing day, a time where I will work on fiction and post a weekly round-up, interesting to no-one but myself, on these very pages. So here is some of the shit that went down last week......

Finally got myself a NOOK Color, courtesy of a $330 check from my mortgage company for an escrow overpayment on my part. I love that thing, but am being careful to limit my time on it as I tend to get obsessive with such things. case in point would be the Twitter addiction I have developed this week. I pore over the stats for this site every day (see what I mean about obsessive?), trying to find which posts work, which don't, and where all the traffic come from (it's a rather short study to be honest). I noticed that not a single hit comes via Twitter even though I tweet everything I write. I am now there far too often, trying to crack the code that will drive thousands of fervent followers to my magnificent musings. All the hard work paid off on Saturday when I received 1 clickthru from Twitter.....victory, it would seem, is mine.

By Thursday, the pollen count here in the Metro Atlanta area had hit astronomical proportions, and my nose and throat protested that high number by closing shut for the foreseeable future. I attempted to battle my allergy symptoms by knocking back a couple of nighttime allergy pills, but ended up being knocked unconscious by whatever potent concoction they mix into those things. Have you ever seen those nature shows where the hunters bag a rhino by shooting it with trank darts? The rhino will continue charging for a moment before buckling under the weight of the tranquilizers powers....that was me trying to get upstairs to bed, a mere 10 minutes after taking them.

The weekend was out turn to have my kids over, and it also marked the 5 day countdown to my daughters 13th (GULP!!) birthday. She asked if she could have a friend over for the night and we agreed. I am always amazed at how well my little girl chooses friends. They are all generally polite, smart, and not at all annoying, not a common combination these days. It really does say a lot about the character of my daughter, who makes me proud on a daily basis. By Sunday though, the poor wee thing had come down with a case of strep throat, but is on the mend now.

Sunday also marked a momentous occasion for my son and I. Finally our big day had arrived, the Scotland vs Brazil soccer friendly, and the opportunity for father/son bonding as we watch our country get slaughtered by the best team in the world. Another small victory for yours truly as I managed to avoid alcohol for the duration of the game, despite the hammering.

A 12 hour work shift yesterday, that damned allergy/cold thing still hanging on, and here we are at the end of another week. Tune in next Tuesday for another round of stunning monotony.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Friday Chef

When it comes to food, I have always been a man of very simple tastes. Meat and potatoes with absolutely no sign of anything green on my plate have been the order of the day. So you can only imagine the frustration that my wife Penny, an executive chef, must go through on a daily basis. My finickiness, as well as that of my kids, has stifled the creative foodie nature that my poor spouse has spent years cultivating.

With that in mind we decided to create a challenge for her that we would run every Friday. The idea was that the kids and I would choose a food item each, preferably one that we didn't really care for, with Pen being given the challenge to make a dish that we would all enjoy. Week 1 went off yesterday, with celery, corn and garlic as the chosen ingredients. Celery, a food item that I cannot be in the same room as, was my choice and I had serious doubts, not with Penny's ability, that the distinct flavor could be quashed. How wrong I was!! The dish she came up with, seared chicken breast in a white wine sauce, with a side of rice pilaf, was amazing. Below is a pic of the finished meal......

Bellies full and hearts happy, it's time to move on to week 2. The main ingredients have yet to be decided, but if you want to follow along, you can do so by checking out Penny's blog, Fridays With Chef.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Do You See?

When you are out and about on your daily routine and you run across a homeless person on the street, what do you see? Do you see a fellow human being who has fallen on hard times and needs a hand up, or do you see an unclean, lazy alcoholic that is blocking your path en route to buying your latest needless electronic device or overpriced pair of shoes? Do you hold out a hand or cross the street, avoiding eye contact at all costs?

I don't mean to get all preachy here, an annoying human trait made all the more unbearable given my atheist view of the world, but I can't help but be a little appalled by the lack of human compassion afforded by those who claim to live their life by the word of God. Before anyone gets all up in arms, this is not an anti-christian bashfest, simply an opinion based on my life experiences.

A fine example of my point was made this morning while I was at McDonalds picking up some breakfast. A homeless man, holding a small sign asking for help, sat in the parking lot. He bothered no-one and was not in the way of the entrance or parked cars, yet was still subjected to a disgusted, "UGH!!", followed by a, "Get a job." from a professional looking woman stepping out a rather pricy looking vehicle adorned with a bumper sticker showing her allegiance to a local church. The man lowered his head, his shame all too apparent. I know nothing of his story, of how he came to be where he is now, but does it really matter at this point?

Most of us are, especially in this economic climate, a few short steps from real financial troubles, but if we can afford to pick up a $4 fast food breakfast then maybe we can afford to pick up 2 and give one to someone who really needs it. Maybe those who spend so much time judging others should think about the lessons taught in their chosen bible and realize that the only person who is afforded that luxury is their God.

I'm sure that breakfast wasn't enough to ease his troubles, and it may still not save me from the fiery pits of Hell, where so many are quick to tell me I am bound, but his smile, his, "Thank you", and, more importantly, his, "God Bless You", were enough to make me realize that there are still those who choose to live by their beliefs regardless of their station in life.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Loving The NOOKie

Step 5 feet in any direction inside our house and you will, more than likely, trip over a book or two. Both Penny and I are avid readers, but Penny tends to focus on one book at a time (like most normal folks), whereas I usually have 5 or 6 on the go at any given moment. You can only imagine my euphoria when e-readers hit the market. 8000 books stored on one gadget seemed like just the thing for me, the price, alas, did not.

Like most new toys, prices dropped quickly and I set my sights on a Kindle, but that quickly changed when Barnes and Noble introduced the NOOK Color. I imagined reading the latest issue of National Geographic with nothing but a flick of the finger to turn the virtual pages. I waxed poetic about the NOOK, so much so that Penny was forced to return the Kindle she had bought me for Christmas. (I have talked that incident and my shame in a previous post).

Fast forward a few months, and one unexpected check later, and here I sit with my brand new NOOK Color, and yes folks it is as good as I imagined. I set up a Nat Geo subscription as well as one for a food magazine called, Saveur for Penny. I also bought my first book last night and plugged in my speaker to listen to the Pandora app that comes pre-installed. I am in literary heaven, an LED lit Utopia.

And so it's off to explore some more, read a little, and maybe a crossword puzzle....I sense finger cramp in my future.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An EPIC Post

I believe that there is great power in words. String them together correctly and you can evoke any number of raw emotions. Put them in the wrong hands though (sometimes mine) and they can be abused and blatantly overused. There are 3 words in particular that folks, especially on the internet, love to bandy about. I confess to being guilty of one, but am driven crazy by the other goes.

: expressive of awe <awesome tribute>
a : inspiring awe <an awesome task> b : terrific, extraordinary <had an awesome time>
I have, on more than one occasion, heard this word pass my lips when it really shouldn't have. Seeing a movie, or hearing an album that made your jaw drop is awesome, using it to describe your best friend Dave's new, urine yellow t-shirt is just wrong.

a : a single strongly marked capacity or aptitude <had a genius for getting along with boys — Mary Ross> b : extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity c : a person endowed with transcendent mental superiority; especially : a person with a very high IQ 

It's amazing to me how often this tag is thrown around today. Everyone from clothes designers, to musicians to authors are being labelled as geniuses. Shouldn't that really be saved for someone who develops a groundbreaking vaccine, or writes an entire symphony at the age of 5?  I don't really think anyone is going to mistake Eminem for Einstein anytime soon.

: of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an epic <an epic poem>
a : extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope <his genius was epicTimes Literary Supplement>

Quite simply the most commonly overused word on Facebook and Twitter right now. Back in my younger days, going for a couple of pints with the lads was a nice night out, now it has reached epic proportions for the twentysomething set. I wonder what has changed inside pub doors that has caused such a dramatic rise in awesomeness (oops!!). And just to make my argument, look at the sentence example used in the definition...."his genius was epic"....wonder if they are talking about Einstein or Eminem.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Battle: Los Angeles, A Review

There have been countless alien invasion movies over the years, but Battle LA takes a somewhat different route in its interpretation of the genre. Imagine if Independence Day merged with Call Of Duty, then you'll have an idea of what to expect.

The movie opens with a bang as a group of marines are being flown into the war zone on a chopper. Just when you think you are going to be tossed straight into the action, you are taken back 24 hours to be introduced to the main characters. It's characterization by numbers as the squad includes a troubled sergeant, just back from a disastrous mission, set to retire. The virginal, not too bright rookie, the psychologically troubled grunt, a pair of best buds out wedding shopping with one of the fiancees, and, best of all, the young, hotshot lieutenant complete with equally young, pregnant wife. At this point I became worried that we would be set for a formulaic military movie. Once the action kicked off those worries were assuaged.

The movie focuses on this small band of marines and their 3 hour mission to rescue civilians holed up in a police station. The time limit is based on the fact that the city of Santa Monica is going to be wiped out in an air strike. Once the marines hit the smoke filled streets the action, and tension ramps up significantly. The use of handheld cameras and quick, shadowy glimpses of the aliens make for an unsettling experience.

From there on in we are treated to a number of terrific action set pieces; a backyard swimming pool shoot-out, a harrowing 2 mile drive on a city bus, and an underground search and destroy mission being among the best. The effects are astounding, the aliens and their weaponry wonderfully imagined. The acting is about as good as you would expect, Aaron Eckhart and Michael Pena being the stand-outs, for an early summer action flick. The major downfall is the script itself, some of the dialogue bordering on the laughable, but it's easy to forgive that given everything else the movie offers.

Battle LA is a movie that is definitely best experienced on the big screen, so my advice is to head on down to your local cineplex, snag a giant popcorn and strap in for the ride.

3.5 stars out of 5

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Aurora Falls

A storybook named after and written for my granddaughter.

Aurora Falls on Storybird

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Storybird Revisit

I am in the process of creating another storybird book, this one for my granddaughter, and just found out that I can actually embed the books into my blog. I am loving this site more by the minute....take a look inside my first, nervous attempt at storybook writing......

Freedom Is.... on Storybird

Welcome To The World

Its been a hectic, mostly sleepless, last 48-72 hours for our little family. My (step)daughter is very pregnant and every text or call has had us jumping for a couple of weeks now. On Sunday the call came for real, somewhere around 10.30 am....her water had broken. We had to wait for Penny to finish work, and then it was off on the hour drive to the hospital.

There was a large family gathering in the waiting room and we all took turns going in, trying to keep Tiffany upbeat and help her through the pain in whatever small way we could. Time wore on, and it wasn't until almost 11 pm before word arrived that baby was on the way.

At 11:16 pm, Sunday, March 6th, Aurora Falls Stephens said her hello to the world. She came out a healthy 7lbs, with a shock of jet black hair that left me somewhat jealous.

After the usual tests and clean-up, the family took their turn to coo over the little one, but with time getting on (now early hours of Monday), Penny and I said a quick hey hey, before hitting the road home. We managed about an hour or 2 of sleep, put in a full work day, then headed back up that long road, car full of gas, bodies full of much needed caffeine.

Last night was perfect. We got to hold and rock Aurora, smell that baby scent that is the most beautiful thing in the world, and just have some time to soak up all that is good. She is a girl that will never want for love, the most important thing a child can have.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Storybird Freedom

While doing the whole stumbleupon thing recently, I came across a cool little website called Storybird. The website encourages collaborative storybook submissions from writers and artists. How it basically works is that aspiring writers check out the artists galleries and put words to their pictures. Even if you don't write or know how to draw a stick man, it's still a great place to spend a couple of hours getting lost in the great stories and artwork.

Every month, the site hosts a competition with a theme. The winner gets a Kindle plus a number of hard cover versions of their book. I decided to have a go at this month's (freedom is the theme), despite it being a genre and style that I am horribly unfamiliar with. Check out my submission, and be sure to let me know what you think.

Freedom Is...... click here to read.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stumble The Love.......PLEASE!!

There are many occasions whilst rambling on here that I really feel like I am talking to myself. Not that that is anything particularly surprising, I've been doing it for years in my head, but when you actually write little blurbs for the consumption of others, that feeling becomes even stranger and a lot more depressing.

How can you, the reader of my tripe, help get others to come here and read? Easy, just click the stumble button on the right of the page (only if you read a post you particularly like) and it will be shared with 13 million other stumblers, although not all of them will come here of course as that would more than likely crash my blogger account as well as a couple of small countries in Asia.

So don't be afraid, click that little button, show this blog some love......go on, you know you want to.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dancing Stars On Pancake Day

Last night was the announcement that everyone, and by everyone I mean cat lover shut-ins and males in a sexless marriage, was waiting for. The line-up for this season's version of Dancing With The Stars. It is usually of mild interest to me (thankfully for neither of the reasons mentioned above), but hearing the details live means sitting through an episode of The Bachelor. My pain threshold does not go that high. So there I was, contemplating bed when the little new message icon pops up on my Facebook page. It's my sister informing me that Hines Ward, wide receiver and Steelers icon, will be appearing in this upcoming season. AAAAAAAAARRRGGHHHHHH!! It is not a good time to be a fan of the black and gold, losing in the Super Bowl and now this indignity. To make matters worse, Hines will have to share the spotlight with, Kendra Wilkinson, a bubble headed for Playboy Playmate and Hefner juice dumpster. I hear that the reason she accepted her spot was because her manager convinced her that fellatio is actually an Italian version of the paso doble.

What is a man to do in  these most trying of times? I'll tell you, head on down to IHOP for a free stack of pancakes in celebration of National Pancake Day. I am also going under the illusion that it is national Devour An Entire Pig Day by adding bacon, ham and pork to my stack. Doing so may not completely dull the pain of my recent Steeler shame, but it should help flush out the bad taste in my mouth.