A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Czech Republic vs Arizona Round 2

The Current Temperature and Forecast in Glendale, Arizona today--APRIL 11!!!

The Current Temperature and Forecast in Prague, Czech Republic.
The current temp isn't fair, since it's near the hottest part of the day in Arizona and the middle of the night in the Czech Republic, but compare the forecasts.

And the point goes to....you decide.

I know that a lot of the world is recovering from winter, and hating the cold, but my point still goes to the Czech Republic.  Ninety-four (thirty-four Celsius) isn't so bad in the summer.  But April 11 shouldn't be summer.  What other people may consider "spring," I think of as the season of "dreading summer."  

However, everyone's different.  I saw someone walking down the street in a sweatshirt today, in 94 degrees.

I live in the wrong place.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Grammar and Mechanics for Writers #1--Commas between adjectives

Commas between two adjectives


Choose the right punctuation.

1)         a. She wore tall, leather boots.
            b. She wore tall leather boots.
2)         a. I want a talented, compassionate boss.
            b. I want a talented compassionate boss.
3)         a. Jack bought a new, electric razor.
            b. Jack bought a new electric razor.

Think you've got them? Click HERE for the answers. If you answered right with no problem, move on to the next chapter. If you got one wrong, read on.

When you have two adjectives in a row, sometimes you put a comma between and sometimes you don't. The fancy grammar explanation has to do with whether the adjectives are coordinate or non-coordinate, and their underlying semantic categories, but you don't really need to know all that. All you need is the rule of thumb.

Rule of Thumb:
If you can REVERSE the two words or put AND between them, and it still sounds okay, you need the comma (to show that the adjectives are equal).

If you can't reverse or put AND, you shouldn't put a comma.

Example 1:
The slippery, slimy frog (good)
The slimy, slippery frog (good)
The slippery and slimy frog (good)
You need a comma between

Example 2;
The big foreign car (good)
The foreign big car (sounds weird and unnatural)
The big and foreign car (sounds a little weird)
Don't put a comma

NOTE: If you've done the tests and it's still not clear (maybe one test sounds a little awkward, but not totally wrong), it can probably go either way, depending on what you want to emphasize. Just make the call and then don't worry too much about it.

For more advanced examples, click HERE.


For each sentence, insert or delete commas between adjectives as necessary.

1) I hated the stupid iron bars on the windows.
2) She worked twelve hours a day in a cold wet cave.
3) He sang to his laughing, gurgling baby.
4) They ate delicious, ham sandwiches in a bright airy diner.
5) The sleek, silk dress must have cost a fortune.
6) The fluffy purring kitten softened his hard unyielding heart.
7) We suffered through the long boring meeting.
8) They all understood the complicated, geometry problem.
9) No one wanted to old, beat-up, lawn chair.
10) Samantha's wide, happy smile shone like the warm summer sun.

Practice ANSWERS
1) I hated the stupid iron bars on the windows. (Correct as is)
2) She worked twelve hours a day in a cold, wet cave.
3) He sang to his laughing, gurgling baby. (Correct as is)
4) They ate delicious ham sandwiches in a bright, airy diner.
5) The sleek silk dress must have cost a fortune. (If it were "silky," you'd put a comma)
6) The fluffy, purring kitten softened his hard, unyielding heart.
7) We suffered through the long, boring meeting.
8) They all understood the complicated geometry problem.
9) No one wanted to old, beat-up lawn chair. (the comma between "old" and "beat-up" is correct, but you can't reverse "beat-up" and "lawn" (The lawn, beat-up chair), so you don't need a comma there.  See "More Advanced Examples.")
10) Samantha's wide happy smile shone like the warm, summer sun. (Correct as is)

How did you do? If you need more help, try:

Monday, April 7, 2014


I love Goodreads.  It's a book community that has a lot of cool features.

-You can read and write book reviews, like on Amazon, but unlike Amazon, you can choose to simply rate a book (give it a certain number of stars) without having to write a full review.
-The system will then recommend books for you.
-You can compare your books with friends or people you meet in the forums.  If you've read the same books, they show your ratings side by side, and give you an overall percentage of compatibility.  Very interesting.
-The forums discuss books, writing, movies, language, and all sorts of things (though it's true that some books get reduced to things like "camp Edward" or "camp Jacob" discussions).
-You can take fun book quizzes (or write book quizzes)
-You can vote on lists of books
-You can join book clubs and do reading challenges
-You can enter to win free books in the giveaways
-If you're an author, you can promote your book or join review groups to get those all-important reviews.
-If you're a voracious reader, you can join review groups for free e-book copies of books to review.  
-You can reaffirm your faith in the fact that people are still reading.

If you aren't a member, think about joining.  It's free and fun.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Beaver Creek, Arizona

Last week I went camping again near Camp Verde, AZ.  Last time I hiked the West Clear Creek trail.  This time I hiked the Bell trail along Beaver Creek.  Clear water, falling water in the creek, red rocks...beautiful.  If you go, be sure to stray off the trail as often as possible when you see little footpaths going down toward the creek.  Those are the prettiest places.

Here are some pics:
Rushing creeks:  one of my favorite things in the whole world

A tiny waterfall, Beaver Creek

Just about to eat my smooshed sack lunch,
flanked by two little waterfalls and red rock cliffs.
Talk about a 5-star restaurant.  

Bell Trail, near Camp Verde, Arizona

A series of clear pools cascading into each other.
You couldn't have built anything this beautiful.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Online Plot Generator

Looking for an idea for a story...or just a good laugh?  Try this hilarious plot generator: from plot-generator.org.uk.

Despite the Mad-Libs style of the plots and blurbs, you can learn from their narrative structure.

Here's one it just generated for me:

Argona Gelli, the Orc
    - a VERY FAKE fantasy novel
by Nora Rider

In a castle there lived a headless, impatient orc named Argona Gelli. Not a dark mystic, powerful castle, filled with rubies and a violent smell, nor yet an enchanted, royal, obedient castle with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was an orc-castle, and that means comfort.

One day, after a troubling visit from the unicorn Finden Bendley, Argona leaves her castle and sets out in search of three hairy book of spells. A quest undertaken in the company of magic hunters, goblins and silver elves.

In the search for the unicorn-guarded book of spells, Argona Gelli surprises even herself with her locksmithing and skill as a baker.

During her travels, Argona rescues a crown, an heirloom belonging to Finden. But when Finden refuses to try searching, their friendship is over.

However, Finden is wounded at the Battle of Blood River and the two reconcile just before Argona engages in some serious searching.

Argona accepts one of the three hairy book of spells and returns home to her castle a very wealthy orc.

Don't worry.  My actual writing is a little more coherent.  :)  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Czech Republic vs Arizona Round 1

in the Czech Republic

Near Vsetin, Czech Republic

Near Vsetin, Czech Republic

Near Liptal, Czech Republic

Near Liptal, Czech Republic

in the Arizona
Poppies and wildflowers in my yard

Oak Flat, Arizona

Lake Pleasant, Arizona

Lake Pleasant, Arizona

Point goes to...
You decide.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Indie Author Spotlight: R. Leib

Indie Author Spotlight:  R. Leib

The Negative's Tale
Amazon description:
On a space station in Earth orbit, something terrible has happened to Bertie Lindermann. Normally, the investigation would be a job for station security, but this is not normally. Allon Wu might be the last person anyone would pick to unravel a high profile mystery, but circumstances have thrust that responsibility upon him. With deceit the order of the day, who is not a suspect? Is this an isolated incident, or the precursor of a maelstrom that could throw Kostya station into chaos? With an unknown deadline, uncertain resources, and a personal tale of fantastic obsession, can he navigate the currents of intrigue and curtail what may be an evolving crisis before it is too late?

My take:  
I really like the science fiction sections of this story.  They have the feel and excitement of good old-fashioned sci fi, set on spaceships and space stations and strange planets.  There are alien races, new technologies, clone dilemmas, and interesting space-related issues.  I love how the main character sells fresh, "designer" air to people on the space station who are tired of recycled air.

Overall, the story does fees a little unfocused.  Along with the classic sci-fi elements, there are psychic powers that feel more like fantasy.  The long flashbacks to Allon's education remind me of a boy-goes-to-school-of-magic story.  Bits read like a joke book.  Then there's the murder mystery/detective story worked in, and a romance.  The narration jumps back and forth in time a lot, sometimes awkwardly.  The point of view also shifts, often in the same scene.  This used to be common in literature, and thus maybe fits with the classic sci fi tone, but it isn't in vogue at the moment, and risks jarring the reader.  There's nothing really wrong with any of these elements individually, and many are very entertaining, but all together they create a story that isn't as cohesive as it could be.

The Negative's Tale has some errors and typos, but the writing is pretty good.

This is the first book I've actually used my Kindle dictionary with, which is sort of cool.  Most of the unknown words are biological, shipping, or computer jargon, and context explains most of them well enough, but it's fun to learn something.

Despite any issues, the book is enjoyable and very creative.  What's more, it doesn't repeat and over-explain everything to death, as so many books tend to do.  Great job on that, Leib!  

It also earns my wholesomeness stamp of approval:  not a lot of graphic or gratuitous violence, no major "adult" situations, not a lot of profanity.  I love novels that prove you can have a good story without all that.   

And I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the conversations with the computer.  I laughed out loud several times.

I would definitely try future works by this author.

Buy The Negative's Tale on Amazon

*I was given a free copy in exchange for an honest review*

Interview with R. Leib:

-In The Negative's Tale, some people have clones that they essentially use for spare parts.  How likely do you think this is in our own future?  

It depends on the ability to do mitotic rather than meiotic cloning.  Current cloning technology is by meiosis.  An egg manipulated by somatic cell nuclear transfer is implanted and goes through natural development.  If you want the equivalent of a 20 year old human, this method will take 20 years to make one.  On the other hand, cloning by mitosis (cell division) can produce adult tissue in a much shorter time.  If we could take cells from a person and clone them into the parts that constitute a human body, it would give us two advantages.  First, the time required would be measured in months not years.  Second, we would be able to pick and chose the organs we develop and modify them where necessary.  This would allow us to avoid the ethical issue of creating thinking clones.

Today medical researchers are creating individual organs using stem cells and scaffolding.  Stem cells are trained to develop into the specific cell types for the organ.  As medicine gets better at doing this, more complex organs may be created.

The benefit of creating a clone is that mitosis cloning still takes months.  If a person needs an emergency transplant right away, cloning a single organ would not happen fast enough.  Assembling organs into a living, breathing clone makes those parts available whenever needed.  All that would be required is to give the clone a cerebellum but no cerebrum to make it a medical resource and not a person.

-Which characters were your favorites to write?  Why?

My favorite is Mitchell Ebberhaus.  He was going to be a background character, but he would have none of it.  He insisted on injecting himself into the story.  When a character takes a life of his own, it is advisable for the author not to get in the way.  I did not write Mitchell.  As far as I am concerned, he is entirely organic.  He does what he wants, and I am just there to record it.

-Did you do a lot of research in order to write The Negative's Tale?

Yes.  I do a lot of research for all of my stories.  (I am writing a short story for an anthology called "Yuva".  The story is about 25 pages long.  The research I collected for it is about four times that long.)  Everything in "The Negative's Tale" is based on extrapolations of existing science or scientific theory.  I even corresponded by email with Dr. Ronald Mallett about his time-like wave research before including speculation based on it in "The Negative's Tale".  (By the way, he was really nice and very helpful.)

-When you write, do you plan extensively beforehand, or just start writing?

Most of the time, I do a lot of planning followed by a lot of research, before I start writing.  I need to know the characters.  Who they are.  What they look like.  How they think and relate.  Before I start writing about them, I write a short bio for each one.

-Which science fiction books or authors have influenced you the most?

Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.  They were the companions of my youth.  Whenever my mind travels to another planet or delves into the psyche of a machine, what they wrote still speaks to me.

-What are you working on now?

I had planned to use characters from "The Negative's Tale" in three other books, but only one of those novels was intended to be a sequel of sorts.  Then I published "The Negative's Tale", and the first reviewer asked for a sequel.  That got me thinking, and I started researching and planning the "Tourist of Infinity".  It is a direct sequel to "The Negative's Tale".  Allon Wu and Mitchell Ebberhaus will be dissecting another twisted mystery.  I am about half way through the first draft.  (Yes.  I am a slow writer.)  It should come out sometime next year.

Then there is the story for the "Yuva" anthology, “Planetfall”.  Also, I occasionally take a break from working on the novel to write a short story.

-How can fans contact you?