Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Sometimes, you just need a good info-graphic to tell you how deep the earth is.
  2. Have you ever wanted to make fake books and leave them strewn about a real bookstore for unsuspecting patrons to fine? Well, this guy beat you to it.
  3. Shout out to North Carolina! Where it is completely legal to bare your good out your front door because you are on your own property. On a scale of one to America, how free are you today?
  4. When Terry Pratchett fans are also web geeks, the result is a beautiful homage to Pratchett’s profound genius.
  5. I don’t know if you are a fan of exploration stories, but some folks just found a 100-year-old journal from an Antarctic expedition. My favorite part of the story is that there is a real place named “Inexpressible Island”.

Enjoy!

My wife is my St. Hilda.

Yesterday, on Sheridan Voysey’s blog, I read this story about St. Hilda, an English saint from the 7th century. In the story, a farmer named Caedmon had a dream that a man told him to sing a song about Creation, but since he was a farmer and not a singer, he refused. But upon further prompting, Caedmon did write a song.

St. Hilda with Caedmon

St. Hilda with Caedmon

When he woke up, he remembered the song and told his foreman about the dream. The foreman took him to St. Hilda, who treated Caedmon with respect, tested his calling toward song-writing, and became his patron, enabling him to pursue his calling.

The thrust of Voysey’s post was that each of us have a calling to use our talents for God, but sometimes we need a St. Hilda in our life in order to help us see that.

When I began writing, my wife was my biggest champion. I am, at best, an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to the written word. But when I told my wife that I wanted to write, she didn’t laugh; she offered to read my stuff.

I started writing quirky stories about a squirrel and his invisible roommate. She encouraged me to continue. I joined a writer’s group. She gave me the time I needed. I participated in a 3-day novel-writing contest, and she helped me develop ideas for my book.

DeAnne has been with me and my writing career from the beginning. She has helped make my dreams into realities. My wife is my St. Hilda.

Icebreaker #5 | What’s your favorite type of sandwich?

This is the fifth installment of my Icebreaker series. The ice is practically a slushy now. (For further reading, feel free to brush up on the rest of the posts on this blog. There are a few.)

What’s your favorite type of sandwich?

This may well be the hardest question on the list.

I enjoy the classics, so Peanut Butter and Jelly (Strawberry) is near the top of the list. They are simple to make, combine a salty with a sweet, and take me back to the cuisine of yesteryear. I especially like them with my wife’s homemade strawberry jam and real peanut butter (just ground up peanuts and sea salt, thankyouverymuch) on a fresh white bread (ideally, also homemade, but who has the time for that?). These, I cut horizontally.

But I’m probably a bigger fan a good roast beef sandwich, loaded up with meat, provolone cheese, tomato slices, and mayo. On a fresh and nutty whole grain bread, of course. These, I cut diagonally.

Don’t ask me why I change directions based on the type of sandwich. I’m sure you have quirks too.

But let’s just be honest, is there a better sandwich than an ice cream sandwich? No. There is not. Mmmmm.

ice_cream_sandwich

If I were the last man on earth…

My wife and I aren’t big television watchers. In fact, we had to think for a few minutes the other day on whether we actually still owned a TV or not (We do, by the way. It is upstairs in the room that is too cold in the winter and too hot in summer and neither of us think it is actually plugged in.).

"The Last Man On Earth" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

“The Last Man On Earth” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

But I’d been hearing some online buzz about the new FOX show starring Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth.

If you haven’t seen any episodes, stop reading my blog this instant and go watch some.

Okay, now that you are probably all caught up, let’s talk for a few minutes about what my wife or I would do if we were the last person(s) on earth.

I asked my beautiful wife, DeAnne, what she would do in that situation (she was mortified, by the way, by just about everything Forte’s character does on the show). At first, she gave me a sad answer about how eventually, she would stop eating and waste away for lack of human contact. What a downer! But then the truth came out.

She would try on wedding dresses. Hundreds and hundreds of wedding dresses. And with no one there to judge her or stop her, she would wear them everyday. Heck, if I were the last man on earth, I might try one on too, just for the fun of it.

Also, she would clean. She would clean everyone’s house (much like Wall-E did in the Pixar film of the same name). Except for the ironing. If anything needed ironed, she would just burn it. My wife isn’t big on ironing unnecessarily.

When she asked me what I would do, I told her that I would probably rifle through everyone’s stuff, just to see what they have and/or are hiding. I don’t think I’d do this to family members or close friends whose secrets I would want to leave alone, but everyone else is fair game. Also, I cannot tell you how much junk food I would eat if no one were around to stop me.

I would probably die an embarrassing death all alone by choking on Oreos (since I wouldn’t have any fresh milk to wash it down), but what a life I would have led; fat on secrets and junk food.

What would you do if you were the last person on earth?

Last-Man-on-Earth-Will-Forte

I am worried for Jasper Fforde.

Terry_Pratchett_2005The world became a darker place on Thursday. I was having lunch with my family when a trusted friend came to me in person to share the bad news. Sir Terry Pratchett, creator of the Discworld, embodiment of imagination and snark, had been taken across the dark sands by Death himself.

I owe my attachment to Pratchett to a former bookstore coworker. Having experienced my peculiar sense of humor and learning that I was a die-hard Tolkein nerd, she slipped me a few Discworld novels and encouraged me to give them a try. Soon, I was caught up in adventures with Rincewind, learning how not to do magic with the witches of Lancre, learning about justice and political intrigues with the Watch in Ankh-Morpork, and feeling the words from Death himself imprint themselves permanently inside my brain.

And with Pratchett’s trip to Death’s domain, I have realized something. All but one of my favorite authors are dead.

I fell in love with reading when I was introduced to the Boxcar Children at age seven. I would smuggle a flashlight into my bed and stay up far past bedtime reading in defiance of my parents’ admonitions and my need for sleep.

I became a nerd after picking up my father’s copy of The Hobbit, which acted as a gateway drug to The Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion.

In college, I was introduced to Kurt Vonnegut with Slaughterhouse-Five and quickly exhausted the college library’s supply of his works.

Then, after reading Mere Christianity, I decided that I should probably read the Chronicles of Narnia.

Though I no longer count Gertrude Chandler Warner (creator of the Boxcar Children series) among my favorite authors (I remember loving the series when I was young, but I couldn’t tell you anything about it now (and in all honesty, I had to look up the Boxcar Children on Wikipedia in order to find the author’s name)), she still fits the description that all of my favorite authors are now incapable of producing new content (since they are all dead).

Jasper_fforde_2012Except, there is one more author. A living one. One that can keep publishing new works for undetermined years to come. And that is Jasper Fforde. Like Pratchett, Fforde is intelligent, creative, and British. He has created worlds not on the back of giant turtles floating through space, but in alternate timelines of our own world. He pushes the boundaries of genre classification by involving classic literature, nursery rhymes, detective tropes, time travel, meta-narrative, humor, and alternate dimensions.

Quite honestly, he’s a genius. And I’m worried because he’s the last favorite author I have yet among the living. So Jasper, if you are reading this, please don’t take unnecessary risks, and please keep your publisher supplied with a steady stream of books for as long as you possibly can.

I’ll keep trying new authors if I must, not in the hopes of replacing anyone on my list (because once an author is a favorite author, you can’t just say you don’t like them anymore), but in hopes of taking some of the pressure off Jasper Fforde.

Anyone have any recommendations?

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. How good are you at telling the difference between humans and cyborgs?
  2. Out of the 50 most translated books in the world (not counting religious texts), how many do you think were written in America?
  3. This link is for fans of Tolkien AND America.
  4. That thing you are looking for is always in the last place you look. And sometimes the thing is a giant bug and the place is under a bush on a remote island in the middle of nowhere.
  5. Was Harry Potter a Neil Gaiman knockoff? You decide.

Enjoy!

Album Review | Just Kids by Mat Kearney

MatKearneyBulletI met Mat Kearney once. It was at the very beginning of his career as a recording artist. Bullet had just come out in October of 2004 and I was the brand new music buyer for Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, MI.

At the time, I was big on listening to Christian music on the radio and I remember hearing “Undeniable” on WaYfm and thinking “I didn’t know that the lead singer of Coldplay did spoken word folk/rap.” Of course, it wasn’t the lead singer of Coldplay. It was Mat Kearney. But he has that same nasal crooning ability.

I used my brand new privilege as music buyer to, ironically, grab a free copy for myself and my girlfriend at the time, DeAnne. She had heard Undeniable on the radio too, and we were both geeked to listen to the album.

A few weeks after that, I was paid a visit by none other than Mat Kearney himself, right in the music department of Baker Book House. He was in town doing a show at Cornerstone College and he stopped in to say hello.

Maybe it was the time of my life or maybe it was just a really good album, but Bullet and Mat Kearney both have a special place in my heart.

His followup albums were good. Bullet was soon put out of print when Kearney was signed to Columbia Records and it seemed like he was going to make it as a mainstream singer, leaving his roots in Christian music behind. And though I liked the mainstream albums, they didn’t hit me the same as Bullet.

Just_Kids_by_Mat_KearneyThat is, until his more recent release, Just Kids.

Just Kids is a return to everything I loved about Kearney’s first album. His lyrics are heartfelt, clever, and strong. His voice is easy on the ears, whether speaking or singing or whatever that thing he’s doing that’s somewhere between them. I’d like to be more articulate about the album’s high points, but since it lacks the low points, I can’t tell you much. It’s just a great album.

Icebreaker #4 | Which radio station do you listen to?

This is the fourth installment of my Icebreaker series. I think that ice is really getting broken now. Let’s continue. (For further reading, feel free to brush up on the rest of the posts on this blog. There are a few.)

Which radio station do you listen to?

When I was the music buyer for Baker Book House, music was my job. I had to be familiar with all the artists that played on the Christian radio stations in town. And since no one wants to do for free what they could be paid for, I found it difficult to listen to Christian radio stations when I wasn’t at work.

Thus began my love affair with National Public Radio. My goodness, NPR has some fantastic programming. I love being informed about what is going on in the world. I love their educational radio shows where I learned new things or got to explore parts of society to which I was not privy (Radiolab and This American Life, specifically). Not to mention their humorous shows like Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and Car Talk.

img142187580099-185-100-207But I’ve been out of the music buying job for a while now. I still listen to NPR on occasion, but lately I’ve been craving good music. And so, for the last year or so I’ve been addicted to WYCE 88.1fm.

No other station plays a more eclectic mix of music styles, and somehow I like 90% of the music they play. The station is funded by the community and run by volunteers. There are no commercials. There’s just people playing awesome music, a good chunk of which is made by local musicians.

If you are tired of over-the-top disc jockeys and listening to the same 10 songs every time you turn on the radio, switch your dial to 88.1fm. You’ll probably find a new artist to love and a few community events that you would have otherwise missed.

Also, you can listen online, so there’s no excuse not to give them a try. Go listen!

On Making Shareable Images for Social Media Applications

Did you know that Facebook posts with images perform better than posts without? True fact.

One of the first things that I was asked to do in my new job was to help an author whose book had just been published. She was excited about her book and wanted to know what else she could do to promote it herself.

Now, before I go any further, let me just say how important it is for an author to promote their own books. It’s vital! If you don’t believe in your own writing enough to tell your friends about it, how can you expect anyone else to get excited about it?

Okay, so there was this author who was just looking for some basic self-promotion and marketing tactics. I decided that a good way to help her would be to show her how to start a 30-day social media campaign using graphics that she can make and use by herself.

“But I don’t know anything about making graphics,” you say. “I’m new to computers in general and I have no artistic ability.”

Don’t be such a Negative Nancy. You can do it. There are websites to help you.

The site I recommended to the aforementioned author was canva.com, but another you can use is picmonkey.com. Both of these sites are free to use (though they do have content that can cost you money, depending on how pretty you want your graphic to be), and feature simple tutorials to get you started.

Once you start a free account with one of the aforementioned image sites, I would recommend using a basic square image design. Square images are useful across multiple social media platforms (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).

If you have a finalized book cover, you can download it from your publisher’s website. Next, upload that image to one of the image sites and insert some short-but-dynamite quotes from your book in a text box. Use a nice background that somehow reflects the sentiments of your quote (or at least does not detract from it). And put a link to your product, website, or blog somewhere near the edge of your graphic so that when it is shared via social media, people will still know where they can buy your book.

If you don’t have a book cover yet, you can still use the above formula for your blog. The more engagement you have on your blog, the more likely it is that you have words worth reading, thus the more likely it is that your publishing dreams will come true.

Good luck and God speed!