Part Time Steampunk Ninja, Julia… Also My Report Card

It’s FriHow I did this week. Also, fun links!day! I had a couple ideas for what I could do with this blog on Fridays. My one thought was to just feature a link to something cool that I found online. The other thought was that I would use the post to hold myself accountable for my week’s writing goals. My last thought was that I should do both.

So, here are 4 places in cyberspace that I think are worth a visit:

1. Part Time Novel – This is Bob Evenhouse’s blog. Bob is in my writers’ group, the Weaklings and is at least partially responsible for the fact that I’m writing as much as I am (my wife accounts for the other portion of responsibility as I take no responsibility for my own actions).

2. Dr. McNinja – It’s a webcomic about a doctor who is also a ninja. Also, there are raptor-riding bandits, a clone of Ben Franklin, a time-traveling astronaut/mayor, and more. If you’ve never read this sort of thing before, it is worth starting at the beginning and working toward the present comics. Trust me.

3. Julia’s Place – I just stumbled across this blog yesterday, but I think it is worth looking into. I love writing exercises, and this place has weekly word challenges. Even if you don’t submit an entry, it’s a good way to challenge yourself and your writing.

4. The Steampunk Forum at Brass Goggles – My current WIP (Work in Progress) has a group of kids who are into Steampunk. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Think Jules Verne, or better yet, click the link. Be sure to visit the Tactile pages to see the things people make.

And as for my week’s writing goals, I didn’t do too bad.

Last Saturday night, I got some good writing done on my WIP at the local Tim Horton’s. Monday night I met up with my writer buddies, Andrew and Bob, and after a few minutes of catch-up, we all got some good writing done. I’ve successfully posted something new on this blog every working day this week.

I’d like to thank my friends who encourage me, my beautiful wife who makes my writing a priority, and anyone reading this because I get disgusting amounts of joy when I see that people are actually clicking into my blog. Thanks.

Come back next week. I’ll be doing my first book giveaway.

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Back to School | Fantasy & Science Fiction

My phone died on the way home from work yesterday. I’m really glad that it did.

My wife and I both get out at 5:00 PM. She picks up our daughter from her parent’s house on the way home from her work, and I get dinner started since I get home first. We always call each other and talk on the way home (driving safely, of course). But yesterday, my phone died just as I was pulling onto our street.

I got home a few seconds later and went about my routine (let the dog out, get the mail, take care of my lunch bag, start dinner). By the time I got my phone plugged in to call my wife back, she was almost home.

“Monkers,” she said to me, “Did you happen to turn on NPR after your phone died?”

I told her that I did not.

“Because I heard something on the radio that made me think of you.”

She proceeded to tell me about a free class being offered by the University of Michigan that had to do with Fantasy something-or-other. My wife knows that I would like to go back to school at some point and get some formal training in writing. I graduated a few years back from Western Michigan University with a degree in Recreation and a minor in Communication. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I took up a serious interest in writing.

“I’d really like to look into that,” I said.

So I did.

The class is called Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. It doesn’t look like a specifically “writing” course, but it looks great all the same.

Here’s a description from the sign-up page:

Fantasy is a key term both in psychology and in the art and artifice of humanity. The things we make, including our stories, reflect, serve, and often shape our needs and desires. We see this everywhere from fairy tale to kiddie lit to myth; from “Cinderella” to Alice in Wonderland to Superman; from building a fort as a child to building ideal, planned cities as whole societies. Fantasy in ways both entertaining and practical serves our persistent needs and desires and illuminates the human mind. Fantasy expresses itself in many ways, from the comfort we feel in the godlike powers of a fairy godmother to the seductive unease we feel confronting Dracula. From a practical viewpoint, of all the fictional forms that fantasy takes, science fiction, from Frankenstein to Avatar, is the most important in our modern world because it is the only kind that explicitly recognizes the profound ways in which science and technology, those key products of the human mind, shape not only our world but our very hopes and fears. This course will explore Fantasy in general and Science Fiction in specific both as art and as insights into ourselves and our world.

This course comprises ten units. Each will include a significant reading, typically a novel or a selection of shorter works. I will offer video discussions of each of the readings and also of more general topics in art and psychology that those readings help illuminate. Each unit will include online quizzes and ask you to write a brief essay offering your own insights into the reading. All the readings except Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness will be available online at no charge.

The professor is Eric S. Rabkin. Again, from the sign-up page:

Eric S. Rabkin is Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Professor of English Language and Literature, and Professor of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. He has won numerous teaching awards, including the Golden Apple awarded annually by the students to the outstanding teacher at the University of Michigan. His research publications include the first English-language theoretical discussion of fantasy and the second of science fiction. He has won the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award for lifetime contributions to science fiction criticism.

And the class really is free.

I signed up last night.  You can sign up here. Who’s going to join me?

Book Review | On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of DarknessThey say not to judge a book by its cover, but I’ve worked in a bookstore long enough to know that this is a lie. Sure, don’t just people by their outside appearances, but you can totally judge books that way.

Before even opening Andrew Peterson’s book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, I can tell that the author is whimsical and the publisher is savvy. The book is a beautiful blue that’s been designed to look weathered by old age and use. The typography clearly says Fantasy, and the images are provided by a professional artist. In an industry where fantasy books have some of the worst covers that feature some of the most enthusiastic amateur artists, it is nice to see a publisher who believes in a book enough to spend some good money on design.

Flipping through the pages, I can already tell that I’m going to enjoy this book. Why? The extras. Within the roughly 300 pages, I see footnotes (which is a fun addition to fiction books), maps and illustrations, and an appendices. The chapters are short and the characters have names like Podo, Janner, and Leeli. This book is aimed at a younger crowd. It is obviously fantasy and is set firmly in the author’s rich imagination.

But Josh, when are you going to read the book and stop talking about how it looks?

Okay, okay. But when you are standing in a bookstore and you pick up a book that you know nothing about, it is helpful to know what you are looking at. Publishers are trying to get that book into the right hands, and they design everything except the words on the page to get it there.

First, you should know that while this is Andrew Peterson’s first fiction book, the man has experience with storytelling. For about five years, I was the music buyer for my bookstore. For those of you who are imagining me walking to the checkout with a pile of music and calling that my job, I was responsible for making sure that the store had music to sell by ordering it from various publishers and music companies. That is where I first heard the name of Andrew Peterson. Peterson is a singer/songwriter with an easy style and thoughtful lyrics. His songwriting and live show storytelling tell me that he knows what he is doing when crafting words together.

But on to the book itself…

I first read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness a few years ago and I thoroughly loved it. I picked it up again yesterday to refresh myself for this review and instantly remembered why. From the first words of the introduction, readers will be able to hear Peterson’s sense of humor. And it is right up my alley. A brief excerpt introducing the bad guys of the story, Fangs:

The Fangs walked about like humans, and in fact they looked exactly like humans, except for the greenish scales that covered their bodies and the lizard-like snout and the two long, venomous fangs that jutted downward from their snarling mouths. Also, they had tails.

As to the characters, the story revolves around the Igiby family. Eldest son, Janner, is the main character for the series and we see the world mostly through his eyes. He is responsible and a strong lead. His younger brother, Tink, is the family troublemaker. And youngest sister, Leeli, is a sweet, crippled girl with a bright sense of humor. As with all good fantasy tales, at least one parent is out of the picture. The kids are raised by their stalwart mother, Nia, and her father, a former pirate, Podo Helmer.

The basic story is that the Igiby family is being hunted by the Fangs and must reach safety. Along the way, we are introduced to all kinds of fantastic characters. The plot has some really nice twists that keep you interested and the short chapters are custom made to tempt unwary readers into saying, “Well, its only a few pages, I can keep reading.”

The only thing that I didn’t enjoy are some of the modified animals and vegetables. Reading about thwaps, which are essentially rabbits, who steal totatoes, a mixture of potatoes and tomatoes, seemed more juvenile than the rest of the story. In my opinion, if you are going to create a fantasy world with new creatures, please design them to be completely different from what I know. If something is a rabbit, call it a rabbit. If it is a thwap, don’t describe a rabbit and tell me that it is slightly larger than a skonk (not a typo).

Aside from that, I loved this book. The story has barbed hooks that refuse to let you go. The characters are instantly likeable or not likeable as the author designs them to be. The only warning I have is that this is book one of a series, and if you don’t want to read the whole series, leave this book on the shelf.

Meet the Cast Tuesday | Thom and Tom

Thom and Tom are the titular characters of my flash fiction series.

I first came up with the idea for their characters on a slow night at the bookstore, six or so years ago. At the time, Thom was an anthropomorphic monkey. The first story started like this:

There once lived a monkey whose name was Thom.*

*The h is silent, but not invisible.

I had been reading a lot of Terry Pratchett books at the time, and I really liked his use of footnoting back story and explanations. I continued on from there.

Thom lived in a tree house with his roommate, Tom.*

*Tom is not silent, but is invisible.

In order to be a successful pairing, roommates should be quite different. I know this has proven true in my own experiences. So, I flipped the footnote, which gave me the idea for a whole story. Thom is my straight man, and Tom is my crazy, invisible character.

Somewhere along the line, Thom became a squirrel. I think it was around the time that the Curious George movie came out and everything had been monkey-related. I didn’t want Thom to be typecast before he got his chance to shine, but I still liked the tree house. What other animal could anthropomorphically enjoy living in a tree house? That’s right, a squirrel.

What is Tom then? He’s invisible. So is he a ghost? No. Is he imaginary? No.

And now you know the main characters of my flash fiction stories. Each one starts with the same two lines.*

*and footnotes.

Next week, we’ll meet the main character of the novel that I’m currently working on.

The world doesn’t need another blog.

my blog modelBut here it is anyway.

My name is Josh Mosey. I’m a happily married man who works full-time in a bookstore. My wife is an accountant who works for a company that sells color. I’m bad at math and colorblind. Together, we make sense. We also make babies. Our oldest is a year and half old as of this post. Our newest has a couple more months of blissful ignorance before being thrust into this messy thing we call the world.

Why do a blog? In addition to being a husband, a father, a bookstore employee, bad at math, and colorblind, I am also a writer. I write speculative fiction and humorous flash fiction.

Speculative fiction is the umbrella term that hold things like sci-fi, fantasy, and dystopian literature. Think Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Hunger Games.

Flash fiction is really short stories. I mean really short. Usually 500 words or less. Most of my flash fiction revolves around a pair of roommates, Thom and Tom. These stories are perfect for readers (and writers) with short attention spans.

As of yet, I’m not published and I don’t have an agent. But I do have stories. I have ideas. And now I have a blog.

Watch out world!