I am sharing my Lego love with the next generation.

I collect Lego sets. It’s one of those things about me that makes me who I am. I’ve accepted this. My wife has accepted this. Everyone is fine with the fact that I collect Lego sets.

But there are problems with Lego set collecting.

  • I would always like more Lego sets.
  • I don’t have enough room to display the Lego sets that I currently own.
  • My children are a bit young to fully appreciate Lego.

And so, once my kids were born, my Lego sets have been banished to the far-flung (and out-of-reach) places in the outer depths of my house. I peek in every now and again to make sure that everyone is happy. I even add to my collection from time to time. But once the set it put together, I place it with the others, store the box in the attic, and leave it be.

But my kids are getting older. And while it might have once been true that they saw my Lego collection as a colorful feast of bite-sized plastic, I think they know better now.

You see, I’ve been getting them hooked slowly on gateway toys like Quatro blocks (4x the size of normal Lego) and then Duplo blocks (2x the size of normal Lego). So I think they have a taste for awesomeness.

Now, I have a choice to make. I can bring my Lego sets in, fully assembled, and hope that they will play with them as is (knowing full well that this will never happen). Or I can take everything apart and introduce them to a box of possibilities, with which they can make their own sets (as I did when I was their age).

I am choosing the latter. Let them stretch their imaginations as I learn to stretch my love of Lego to include them inside. It’s a good thing that I love my kids more than almost anything else (I’m looking at you, my beautiful wife).

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. William Nicholson once said, “We read to know that we are not alone.” And that sentiment, of reading to connect with the world and to feel less isolated, may be more than just a poetic thought.
  2. Can’t breathe? No problem!
  3. Here’s a sad reading statistic for you. Though perhaps, since you are reading this blog, you are not the problem.
  4. I read Orwell’s 1984 to my babies. And they loved it! I’m a great parent, and you can be too. Just read to your kids.
  5. If you have time for game and consider yourself a word nerd, try Lexicopolis. It’s like SimCity mixed with a creative word puzzle. Also, it is more fun than it sounds.

Enjoy!

Weird Word to Love: Paraprosdokian

mitch_hedburg“I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.”
– Mitch Hedburg

I recently happened upon the word “Paraprosdokian“. And while I previously had no idea what the word meant, I did previously love what it defined.

Which is this:

A paraprosdokian /pærəprɒsˈdoʊkiən/ is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

The essence of comedy is surprise.

In my kids, this takes the form of poorly-constructed lies.

“Did you eat all of your carrots?” I ask.

“I DID eat them all,” says my daughter.

“Then what are those?”

“Umbrellas!” she says, “Ha ha ha!”

But as we grow up, our jokes do too.

A man walked into a bar.

Ouch.

The beauty of the paraprosdokian is that it requires the listener to revisit the sentence in a new light. It is a very compact form of humor. And for a flash fiction writer like me, compact humor is key.

Here are a few examples:

I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on the list.

A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.

And my favorite:

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx

Do you have a favorite paraprosdokian to share?

Jealous of Doc Emrick

I220px-Mike_Emrickf you don’t know who Doc Emrick is, don’t worry, I’m about to tell you. Though he never learned to skate, Michael “Doc” Emrick is the voice of NHL hockey.

So why am I jealous?

First, I love watching hockey games and Doc has made a living out of doing just that.

emrick-verbsSecond, and most importantly, Doc has a huge vocabulary to describe a singular act. One fan recently kept track of how many different ways Emrick used to say that one hockey player moved the puck along the ice. His final number? 133 different words to describe moving a puck.

As a writer, I am in love with words. That’s why I’m so impressed when I hear people like Emrick finding new words to describe simple things. Sure, he could have just said that this player passed the puck to that player, but if he did that, he wouldn’t be the voice of NHL hockey, would he?

Just for a little exercise now, I’d love for you to think of some different ways/words to explain one thing that you do everyday. Feel free to leave your list in the comments. Let’s all learn a lesson from hockey and expand our vocabulary!

Interested in hearing more about Doc Emrick? Here’s an 5-minute interview that he did with NPR a little while back.

Knockoffs are older than you think

1280px-Ufberht_gerade

About 1000 years before there was Fauxlex (Fake Rolex), there was the Ulfberht+.

The what?

Back in the age of viking world domination, wars were fought by hand, and a good sword was often the difference between life and death. But swords from 1000 years ago where pretty poor quality things. Blacksmiths would do their best, but almost no one could get their fires hot enough to blast out the impurities in steel. And impure steel made for impure swords.

But there was one sword that broke all the rules. The Ulfberht.

A Frankish name that might translate to something like “Wolf-Light”, no one really knows where the Ulfberht swords came from, nor why the secret to their creation was lost for almost 800 years. Somehow, someone stumbled across the secret for crucible steel. Basically, instead of putting your iron into an oven and letting it heat up, you build an oven around the iron and superheat the poop out of it. The result was an incredible pure steel that was both strong and flexible.

The swords made from this steel would have been legendary. And from legends, come knockoffs.

There have been 44 swords discovered to have the word “Ulfberht” inscribed along the blade. But of those 44, only 11 are made from crucible steel. The rest are made from the inferior steel that was common to that time.

Aside from the metallurgical differences between the two, there was a difference in spelling as well. Though the name and the origin of the inscription are a mystery, the 11 good swords spell Ulfberht as “VLFBERH+T”. The rest spell it as “VLFBERHT+”.

Can you imagine how angry you would be if you spent good money on an Ulfberht sword that turned out to be a knockoff? At least your anger would be short-lived, since you would also likely be short-lived.

If you are interested in seeing how the Ulfberht sword is made, check out the awesome video below.

I am fine with tattoos (also trimming the edge of my hair and beard)

As we were in a parking lot the other day, my oldest daughter saw someone getting out of his car and asked, “Why did that man write all over himself?”

Of course, the man had not written all over himself. Rather, he had a plethora of tattoos covering his arms.

“Oh,” said my wife. “He didn’t write on himself. You probably don’t know what tattoos are yet, do you?”

“Nope,” said my daughter.

“Well,” said my wife, “he had someone else draw and write on him with special ink that never washes off. He must have decided that it was a good idea. Daddy and I don’t have tattoos, but some people, and that’s okay.”

At the church where I grew up, tattoos were one of those sticky topics (like alcohol consumption) that people viewed as flirting with evil. Occasionally, someone would even whip out Leviticus 19:28 (“Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.“). So if someone walked into church covered with tattoos, it was a good indication that this person was a great sinner in need of a special kind of grace (unlike normal sinners (looking down on other people for instance) in need of normal grace).

But I have plenty of friends with tattoos. In fact, even the pastor of my current church has one.

After all, if you are tempted to look down on tattoo artists for violating the Bible, you should probably look down on barbers as well, since Leviticus 19:27 (the verse right before the tattoo one) says “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.

So where does that leave us when my daughters notice people’s tattoos? What happens when they tell me that they want to get tattoos?

Well, once they are adults and out on their own, they are welcome to do what they want. I only hope that my wife and I have raised them well enough to understand the repercussions of permanent actions.

After all, it would be pretty terrible if they decided to get a tattoo and it turned out like this:

Do you think she KNOWS her mistake NOW?

I bet she WISHES she had used spell check NOW.

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Neil Gaiman, author of a number of delightful books, recently did an interview about his books, the industry, and the kerfuffle with Amazon. Here’s a quote: “I think that books are special. Books are sacred. And I think that when you are selling books, you have to remember that in all the profits and loss, in all of that, you are treading on sacred ground.” The rest of the interview is pretty great too (especially where he talks about the value of good indie bookshops like Baker Book House!).
  2. And in case you’ve only ever bought books from Amazon, here’s a valuable primer on how to shop in a bookstore.
  3. Are you ever looking for a specific type of paper, and you think, “I wish I could just print this out on my computer.” Stop dreaming. The future is now.
  4. I hate late fines, but can you imagine owning up to a late fine at the library for a book that is 61 years overdue? Geez.
  5. And if you think cutting a wedge out of a cake is the best way to serve it up, you’re wrong. Don’t worry, I’ve been wrong my entire life too. Anyway, here’s the right way to cut a cake.

Enjoy!

If you only knew the power of the Dark Side.

darth-vader2

I attended a publishing sales conference the other day and got to see a preview of the books coming out in the first quarter of 2015. Among them is a new fantasy title by Thomas Locke called Emissary. We were fortunate enough to have the author with us to talk about his new book and the marketing efforts that will help it be a success.

emissaryLocke told us that Emissary hearkens back to classic fantasy in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien and employs the proven “Hero’s Journey” structure. And one thing that separates it from many modern fantasy books is that it has a clearly defined good side and a clearly defined evil side.

The biggest fantasy series out there now has to be George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) as it has been made popular by HBO. If you’ve seen any of the show or have read any of the books, you have to admit that the struggle between good and evil simply isn’t present. The books carry on the tradition of being incredibly long (as good fantasy series must be), but they achieve this length by introducing a slew of characters and scattering them across the realm. You get to see them battle each other and the elements, but there aren’t any clear heroes to root for. Readers simply read to find out what happens next, and Martin does a good job of keeping things interesting with plot twists and unexpected character deaths.

But if none of the characters are heroes, is Game of Thrones a classical fantasy?

Think about Lord of the Rings for moment. Sauron was evil. Frodo and Samwise were good. We kept reading to see if good would really triumph over evil.

How about the Chronicles of Narnia? The Witch was evil. Aslan was good. We read because we wanted to make sure that kids in the stories would choose the right side.

And is there a better example of fantasy than Star Wars? Sure it was set in space, but it is still a classical fantasy trilogy. The Sith are evil. The Jedi are good. Commence the fighting and root for Luke Skywalker.

In his presentation, Locke asked where the readers of classical fantasy went. What are they reading now? Are they satisfied with the fantasy that they’ve been getting? He’s betting that they aren’t, which is why he chose to write the book that he did. Emissary is first in the Legends of the Realm series and will be available in January of 2015 (if not a bit sooner for Christmas sales).

And one last tidbit, Thomas Locke is just a pen name for an already popular author who writes more thrillers than fantasy novels, so I’m expecting the writing to be quite good.