Rogues and Parents and Robots, Oh My!

Greetings, all.

If you’ve been paying attention (and I know you have, because that’s just the sort of sweet, observant dears you are), you’ve noticed that I’ve been rather absent from the blogosphere of late. This is due neither to laziness nor to recalcitrance nor to sudden kidnappedness of my person. But yea verily, I’ve been dealing with some Major Upheaval of Real Life, and thus, the blog has had to slide over to the back burner and stew along without me for awhile.

This won’t last forever, I promise — but still, I will probably remain incommunicado for awhile. I’m sorry for that, but for now, it can’t be helped. I promise I’ll pop in here when I can and also let you know what’s going on with me when I’m ready to. (In the meantime, you’re welcome to peruse the archives; perhaps you’d like to start with the “Popular Posts” over in the sidebar.)

But. Tonight I’m coming out of self-imposed exile to let you know about A Thing. The thing in question is the publication of my friend Joshua Unruh‘s fabulous debut novel, TEEN Agents in The Plundered Parent Protocol.

I’ll let Josh tell you about the novel in his own words below. As for me, all I’ve got to say that in on the dancefloor of YA spy-fi (that’s young adult spy fiction, if you didn’t know), TEEN Agents pops, locks, and does the electric boogaloo. The characters are fun and well-developed, the action is fast-paced, the dialogue is entertaining, and the story structure is solid. The whole package delivers just the kind of read YA readers are looking for. You’re gonna love it!

And now, here’s Josh to tell you more:

I love Young Adult fiction. Most of the time that looks like guys in capes fighting would-be world beaters instead of boy wizards or, God deliver us, sparkly vampires.

But I’m also a lover of a wide variety of genre fiction. One of my favorites is Spy Fi, the genre best exemplified in the past by The Avengers or The Man from UNCLE and, more recently, by shows like Alias and the Middle Man. These two things, YA fiction and Spy Fi, come together in my latest novel.

TEEN Agents in The Plundered Parent Protocol is a novel about three girls, best friends, whose fathers are kidnapped by an evil genius…one who just happens to be ten years old. This is how Elly Mourning, Hea Jung Noone, and Saturday Knight discover the existence of the Teenage Extranormal Emergency Network and how they join its ranks as agents.

There’s plenty of weird gadgets, exciting espionage, and plots for world domination in TEEN Agents. But at its heart, it’s a story about three girls who want to save their dads but have to grow up quite a bit to do it.

Right now, I’m the father of just one kid, a little boy. He and I watch all kinds of adventure cartoons, read comic books, and I continue to take in all that genre fiction I’ve always loved. But now I have an eye as to when I can share it with him.

I’d also like to be the father of a little girl someday. I don’t want to climb a soapbox, but it’s pretty hard to find stuff to excite and empower my hypothetical little girl.

But it shouldn’t be that way.

I should have as much strange and exciting genre fiction with young heroines as I have with heroes. Since I don’t, I decided to do something about that.

So that brings me to Elly, Hea, and Saturday. Elly is sharp and together, a born leader. Hea is a free spirit and incredibly athletic. Saturday has a brilliant scientific mind.

I wrote them to be the kinds of girls I’d like my future little girl to look up to. They aren’t perfect, but they are as accomplished and secure in who they are as thirteen year old girls can be. And they’re learning and growing as they go.

But I didn’t want to write a “girl’s story.” I wanted to write a spy fi story that starred girls. One that would be exciting for girls…and for their brothers and dads. Which is why I can assure you that the genius is evil, the enemy agent is suave and debonair, the traps are deadly, the lairs are secret, and the plan is diabolical.

This book is for girls looking for exciting fiction that makes them feel good about being girls because it’s a book about heroic girls. Not to mention it’s a fun read.

I loved writing this novel for so many reasons. And my beta readers have absolutely loved reading it. I hope you can contribute something to the project. Trust me, if you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it, you won’t be sorry you did.

Because I want everyone to give the book a look, Consortium Books has a very special offer for all you potential TEEN Agents. Today is the official “street day” and for the first 24 hours, this book will be absolutely FREE! You’re just one click away from an exciting spy adventure with three of the most fun girls you’ll ever meet. Give it a shot, will ya?

Courtney again. I can only second Josh’s request and add to it my high recommendation: Check out TEEN Agents in The Plundered Parent Protocol — you won’t be disappointed!

Marital Sock Fetish, Exposed*

So, this happened:

Me: Here, these socks don’t match.

Ed, The Husband: Okay, give ’em to me.

Me: Wait. What are you doing?

Ed: …Rolling my socks.

Me: But they don’t match.

Ed (looks at mismatched socks, looks at Me): So?

Me: So, you can’t wear mismatched socks!

Ed (looks at mismatched socks, looks at Me): Why not?

Me: Because you can’t!

Ed: But I do all the time. Lots of my socks don’t match.

Me: But doesn’t that drive you crazy?!

Ed (pauses): No. They’re in my boots.

Me: How can that not drive you crazy? Don’t you feel that they’re mismatched?

Ed: Um. No.

Me (triumphantly): But you know it!

Ed: For maybe 15 minutes. But then I forget about it.

Me: How can you forget about it?

Ed (shrugs): They’re in my boots.

Me: But there are mismatched socks in your boots!

Ed (tilts head): I’m not looking at them.

Me: There is something wrong with you.

Ed (grins): There’s something wrong with your mom.

Me: There’s something wrong with your face.

Ed: That’s not very nice.

Me: And you wear mismatched socks!

We have a very mature relationship.

*Okay, so not really. I was just trying to come up with a funny post title and have totally hoodwinked you into thinking I was being kinky. Mea culpa.

January 18th Blackout FTW

So, you might’ve heard that a lot of sites are participating in a blackout today. But probably, you haven’t heard about it. Because the media aren’t really talking about it a whole lot. And, as we all know, we don’t know anything the media doesn’t tell us.

< crickets >

< /crickets >

The reason for the blackout are SOPA and PIPA. To summarize, SOPA and PIPA are bills that might soon be passed in the United States that give the U.S. government a stranglehold on…you. And me. And every single other person in the world who does what I’m doing right now*.

If SOPA and PIPA pass, this scenario could come true:

You quote four lines of copyrighted song lyrics on your WordPress blog.

Somebody complains.

The government shuts down WordPress.

Not just your blog.

WordPress.

All of it.

No, it’s not likely. But SOPA and PIPA would give the government the power to do that. (And when, in all of history, have governments not done something they have the power to do?)

To explain this in a casual, clear way that we can all understand, some people got together and made the following video. Some of you might feel offended by some of the content…but keep in mind that the laws which protect these people’s right to say what they think are the same laws that protect your right to say what you think — and that is the right our government is talking about curtailing.

In support of the blackout, I won’t be on Twitter or Facebook for the next 24 hours. (Those are the two websites I use the most.) That’s just a tiny droplet of protest in a big intarwebz ocean…but still, it’s my droplet, and I’m adding it.

Don’t just read this post and watch the video.

TAKE ACTION. CLICK HERE.

See you dears on the other side.

*I.e. using the internet.

Can We Bare It or Bear It: The Breasts of Superheroines

So, I’ve never been much of a superhero comics reader. I was an Archie, Betty, and Veronica kind of girl for a good many years, but I only ever owned two or three superhero comics. The most memorable of these featured a Huntress short in the back. I read that one over and over again.

Addendum:
Also, there was this:

Probably 1982 or 1983...5 or 6 years old. Dude.

< /addendum >

Over the last year or so, Josh, comics aficionado extraordinaire, has done his deadlevel best to further my superhero education. Mostly, this occurs through my listening to his conversations with his son and watching said son imitate whichever superhero is on his childlike plate for the day.

Usually, Josh’s kiddo gives me new insights into Spider-Man. But Josh also introduced me to All-Star Superman and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, so I’m getting quite the smorgasbord.

This morning, Josh texted me a link to this blogpost by one Dave Dorman (which, since the writing of this post, Mr. Dorman has deleted). In his article, Mr. Dorman expresses his disapproval of a new comic called Saga, allegedly being marketed to kids.

Mr. Dorman finds Saga offensive because of this:

I know nothing about Mr. Dorman except what he says in his blogpost and in comments on that particular post: He is a father; he himself draws curvaceous superheroines; he advocates breastfeeding; and he finds Saga to be offensive simply because it’s being marketed to children.

According to several comments on his blogpost, it’s possible he posted before researching, as several people opine that Saga isn’t being marketed to children at all, and its creator intended it for an adult audience.

As of this writing, my own comment on Mr. Dorman’s post is awaiting moderation. In the meantime, here are my thoughts on the matter:

On one hand: Superhero comics marketed to kids, in which women are drawn scantily clad or in suits so skintight, every outline of every boob and butt curve is visible. These women are unmistakably meant to arouse sexual attraction. Repeat: marketed to kids.

On the other hand: A superhero comic marketed to kids (?), in which a partially bare breast is drawn to illustrate breastfeeding. Hardly any curve is visible at all.

If one disapproves of the barely-there curve of a bare, breast-feeding breast, it would be hypocritical to approve of the sexy superheroines who keep their shirts on. In superheroines marketed to children, the only difference between the bare breast and the clothed breast is the color of the ink.

I’ll also take this moment to state that I’m continually perplexed and annoyed by the apparently general North American aversion to bare breasts during public breast-feeding. Yes, I do realize I’m coming from a cultural background (German) in which public breast-feeding is considered normal and acceptable; a German would be horrified at the idea of asking a breast-feeding mother to “cover up” or leave a public area.

But this pervasive, North American distaste for public breastfeeding irritates me. To tell a breast-feeding mom to cover up or go away is to express that the breast’s primary function is sexual, which is not the case at all. Yeah, we all know guys like ’em — but they don’t exist primarily for guys’ enjoyment. Breasts exist primarily for feeding babies. And I’m saying this as a woman who has never had children.

A bare, breast-feeding breast shouldn’t be any more “offensive” or arousing than a bare arm. Or a bare hand, if you’re from a culture that considers bare arms a sexy taboo.

For another take on this, do pop on over to read Josh’s thoughts on this. I quite appreciate both his analysis of the situation and respectful but still in-your-face way in which he chooses to present it.

___________________

Weigh in, y’all. I know you’ve got something to say about all of this; just please keep it courteous and respectful of one another! : )

I Got Sentenced

I have nerd friends, and I love them.

On December 31, 2011, a group of us got together for an evening of food and fun before ringing in 2012 at midnight. Part of our fun consisted of listening to the children complain that the adults were too loud (apparently, it was Opposite Day, and no one told me). The other part of our fun consisted of playing board games. Laughter and mayhem ensued, earning us stern talking-tos by the aforementioned, strangely perturbed children.

One of the games was “You’ve Been Sentenced.” In this game, each player receives 10 cards and must use these cards to build one sentence per round. There are five words or phrases on every card. A player’s task is to put together a real sentence and be able to defend its meaning to the rest of the players.

This game is a language nerd’s dream.

If one of you wants to buy me this game, I will not object. If you play it with me for hours on end, you will have my undying, variegated gratitude. That will flip my bangerang switch most assuredly, not to mention assuage my penchant for fiddling with language in the weirdest ways possible.

For posterity, I recorded a few of our sentences to share with you. Other than the challenge of building the sentences in the first place, the real creativity shone through as we defended our sentences to each other. Oh, the stories we told so that our sentences might serve as reasonable punchlines!

So, here are our sentences in all their (non-)sensible glory*. Borrow them for story ideas, if you like! I have the feeling there could be some story sparks in here. ; )

The squash kicked through the springs and slopped sentences.**

What if, presently, Americans under the outside pots liked to nose above the ground?

What if, early in the ’80s, Team Leader dumped orderly women on Houston?

Before the shocking trip to Jupiter, Tim gulped the merry-go-round color pink.

The slick, strong babysitter came to fake poisonings through the balanced diet.

Weirdly, Thomas Jefferson was saucing up Marie Antoinette until the blaster dangerously fired roughly.

From the kitchen: What did the licker Hippocrates break into?

Afterward, we decided that the advent of whale blubber was immediately preceded by an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.

_______________
*Believe it or not, no phonemes were harmed in the making of this blogpost.

**This might have been the most prophetic statement of 2011.

#Amediting: 1st Drafts in Riding Gear, People

Dear inklings, there are some things in a writer’s life that should never see the light of day.

One of these things is Herself at the end of a frazzled, caffeine-overladen, hair-pulling-out writing session. Fortunately, I haven’t had a writing session of that nature since the end of NaNoWriMo, so we’re none of us in danger of apocalypse induced via zombified writer.

 
However, another writerly thing that should never see the light of day (READ: should never be shared with a mass of readers and potential readers and potential potential readers) is a draft manuscript.

A particularly good example of what can happen when a draft manuscript is accidentally released into the wild is here. If you want the short version without clicking through: It’s the case of Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun vs. the Internet. I’m not sure who won, but I kept an eye on those events as they unfolded, and they weren’t pretty.

Anyway.

Draft manuscripts should go to beta, gamma, and delta readers only. The adoring public needs protection from the horrors, especially from the horrors of FIRTS draft manuscripts.

If you’re an unsuspecting fan/reader, and you get your hands on a first draft MS and start reading, the first draft MS will sprout long, gaunt, claw-tipped fingers, reach out from the page/screen while you stare transfixed like a fluffy baby chick before the hypnotic gaze of the rock python, and rip your little fan/reader eyeballs right out of their little fan/reader sockets.

And then it will eat your firstborn.

I care about you, my lovelies. I don’t ever want that to happen to you.

But.

I’m editing my way through what I’ve got so far of my low sci-fi Elevator People (working title), and I just found this gem, and I absolutely must share it with you. If you are weak of stomach or faint of heart, please don’t test your fortitude on this. I take no responsibility for any hypnotized gazing or eyeball out-gouging. Continue reading at your own risk.

Here goes.

Are you ready?

BE SURE.

Cover your face and glance through your fingers if you think you can’t handle it but just can’t resist taking that dangerous, forbidden peek.

My draft manuscript boasts this:

There’s nothing special I can add to the resistance, but it was a into and out in riding gear all the way.
The moment he thought he’d identified the seriousness of the situation, there’s no doubt Lady Fair intended to sell Risk at a price that would let the Lady expand her business and bits of the fact of her absence whatever.
The admission rankled.

The admission that I wrote this rankles.

Partial explanation: I was scribbling so fast for NaNoWriMo, I didn’t bother using the backspace key to delete unnecessary wordage. Things ran together, mushed into each other, and decided to couple in a most bizarre and disturbing fashion. I should probably shoulder the responsibility for this hideous match-making, but I ain’t gonna. ; )

Also, whatever…in riding gear all the way, people. IN RIDING GEAR.

*sigh*

I now take my leave of you, most desirous that your little fan/reader eyeballs are still tucked securely into their little fan/reader sockets.

*mwah!*

We Can’t Eat Money (Bees & Colony Collapse Disorder)

bzzzzzzzzz

I’m sitting here watching “Vanishing of the Bees,” a documentary about colony collapse disorder, which is killing bees worldwide. (One example: 40,000 hives in California abandoned for no discernible reason over the course of 3 weeks. That’s more than 2 billion bees.)

One culprit in the United States: systemic pesticides on our crops. And guess why? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency never does their own research. This federal agency relies on the research done by the chemical companies, who stand to gain the most from keeping systemic pesticides on the market.

Systemic pesticides are the grandchildren of chemical warfare developed in Germany during World War II. Germany, France, and many other European companies have already banned these pesticides. When will the United States wake up?

And why is any of this important? Well, aside from the effects of pesticides upon the human nervous system, there’s also pollination. No honeybees means no pollination, which means no fruits and vegetables. Do you want to pay $25.00 for a tomato?

The future of the honeybee will define humanity’s ability to live on this planet.

“Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned, the last fish has been caught, will we realize that we can’t eat money.”

~Cree Indian Proverb