Lightsabers and Surfboards

Stefan A. Slater's blog about whatever's on Stefan A. Slater's mind (e.g., Ewoks, Pipeline and speaking in the third person).

Workday Distractions Part II: When the Internet Dies, What Do I Read?

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Having recently returned from the land of redwoods and kelp-infested surf (aka Big Sur… don’t worry, I’ll save the trip photos for FB), I feel like now’s a pretty good time to delve into the second part of my Workday Distractions series, which I’ve decided to title, Stuff I Read When the Computer Kills My Eyes Or When The Internet Vanishes.

As a writer, my computer is my best friend. I spend most of my day sending emails and pitches, surfing the Web for story ideas or general news, promoting my work, staying in touch with other writers, and… well, blogging. Put I also play online games and hang out on Imgur and Youtube way too much. So, with that said, sometimes I need a break from the computer and all things electronic—sometimes it’s because I’ve hit a little productivity slump and I need to mix things up, and other times it’s because my eyes are ready to pop out of my head like bloody Champagne corks due to the fact that I’ve been staring at the computer screen (aka Screen of Death) for hours on end.

So, without further ado, here’s the list:

Books and comics: Ok, this is probably a bit of a no-brainer for most of you, but you’d be amazed by how many writers don’t allocate enough time to reading. Even if I’m busy, I try to allot a certain amount of time to the need-to-read book that I’m trying to work through, which means that I have to pass up on other, sometimes more entertainingly thoughtless distractions, like Adult Swim cartoons or Xbox games. And yes, I’m not trying to throw out some tried platitude in the same vein as one of CBS’ The More You Know commercials, but the old school reading and writing rule is still the best one: The more you read, the better your writing will become. So, with that in mind, I try to read it all: Genre fiction, literary fiction, comic books, pamphlets, take-out menus and crumpled-up coupons—if it’s written halfway decently on a piece of paper that isn’t sopping wet and or on fire, then I’ll read it. Though I have to say, I’m not perfect: I’m not one of those writers who will tout that, “Oh, I can’t wait to curl up with my copy of War and Peace before I go to bed.” Yes, it’s absolutely important that you read the weighty classics, but I still like to read the fun genre stuff. Give me an issue of Y: The Last Man, Saga or a good King short and I’m set for the night. It’s all about balance: Read the heavy stuff, but don’t be afraid to switch over to some light reading too—as long as the story is decent, anyway.

Newspapers and Magazines: Reading TIME.com and Tor is great, but since I’m currently a freelance magazine writer (yikes, that does make me sound a bit old), I do my best to read some of the best works that I can find in today’s newspapers and magazines. I’ll read the local stuff (local city mags, LA Times, LA lifestyle websites, etc.), but I also make a point of reading print publications from outside of LA, two of the best being The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times (those are two very different beasts, I know, but they both offer up some of the best feature writing in the country). Most people look at mags and newspapers as struggling dinosaurs that are wheezing and slumping along as they try to keep up with the super-evolved, ultra-fast electronic mammal we call a “website,” but that’s not entirely accurate. Yes, newspapers and magazines will never, ever be a main source of information in the 21st century, but the print medium is perfect for one thing: Telling the ideal long-form story. The Web is designed for short spurts of information—short blurbs that are meant to get across the key bits of a story. But a print feature can meander a little more. It can spout off important details—such as physical descriptions, longer quotes, and so on—that web editors would cut out in a heart beat. A print story still has to be relatively concise, but the story can takes its time and mature a little, which is honestly something that’s rarely seen online.

Pen and Paper: I do most of writing on the computer. But sometimes it’s nice to break out the old pen and paper. I only started writing in a notebook (either jotting down short stories or quick notes) consistently a few months ago, but I’ve already noticed a few things about my electronic writing: I rely on spellchecker and Google way, way too much. Plus, when you’re writing on your comp, the distractions (especially the web-based distractions) are hard to ignore. But with simple paper, it’s a little easier to focus on the task at hand. I don’t write in my notebook as much as I should, but it does have its perks, and I recommend it to any other writers out there.

Anyway, that’s my list of non-web related Workday Distractions. Thanks for tuning in! If any other writers out there have any suggestions on non-web things to do when I need a break from my computer (but still want to improve my writing skills), let me know.

Off to Big Sur: Freedom Away From The Computer Screen of Death

I made it. I’ve been counting down the days for, well, roughly a month now: This weekend I’m heading up to Big Sur with my girlfriend for a bit of rest, relaxation and… what’s another word that starts with “r”? Reciprocating? Rummaging? Rum-blasting? Yeah, I kinda like that latter one. Yep, I’m going to be doing tons of rum-blasting this weekend (once I figure out what that is, of course).

She and I have been planning this trip for a while, and I’m really looking forward to it. I was up there 3 years ago for my first travel article (which netted a total of $40–not bad for my first freelance piece!), and I’ve been dying to go back ever since.

But this is also going to be a nice little break for me: I stare at my computer screen (i.e. Glowing Torture Machine of Death) for the entire day (and a good portion of the evening) every day, and I’m looking forward to giving my eyes a little break. Even if it is just for the weekend.

I’m still going to be writing while I’m up there, though: I have a story to edit, and I’m going to keep up my free-writing too. I’m also going to try to get through one of those you-have-to-read-it-if-you-call-yourself-a-writer books: The Sound and The Fury, by William Faulkner. So far, it’s been a tough read, but I’m eager to get cracking and churn through a good chunk of it this weekend.

Just curious, does anyone have any suggestions on any fun things to do while I’m up there? The last time I was in Big Sur I was on a surf trip, but this trip’s going to be a bit more landlocked. I’d love to hear any suggestions!

Adios, Civilization. I’ll be back soon.

Workday Distractions (AKA Things That Keep Me From Going Insane): Part 1

I’m a freelance writer (aka freelance penmonkey, word-slinger-for-hire, ink-thrower and whatever else you can think of) and I work from home. Sometimes, my office–also known as my bedroom–feels like my happy little sanctuary. But other times, my office feels like an unproductive dungeon–a kind of dark, muddy pit of despair that just so happens to be full of Punji sticks made from sharpened bamboo sticks and putrid hopelessness. So, when those debbie-downer days come a-knockin’, I try to find a way to break the monotony. For the first portion of Workday Distractions, I’m going to list a bunch of online distractions that I like to check out for quick 5-minute breaks during the workday. These items are pretty simple, and they help me out when I’m feeling down, under the weather, or caught up in the daily grind.

If you have any suggestions–trust me, I’m always open to suggestions on these kinds of things–feel free to post some stuff in the comments below.

And with that said, let the Internet Distractions commence!

Games:

Sometimes I need to turn off for a few minutes, so I’ll grab my iPhone and play a quick round of Jetpack Joyride, or I’ll go over to Addictinggames.com and play Steampunk Tower Defense for a bit. I do have an Xbox 360, but I’ve learned that I need to be super careful with it: I used to have it setup in my bedroom, but since I also work in here too (and I NEED to make monies), I can’t afford to camp out and play Call of Duty for five hours. On a side note, I’ve also given up my Xbox Live account, and I’m not buying any new games either (ditto on getting any new gen consoles… sorry, but I don’t have the funds for something that frivolous). Sometimes, just playing some insipid shooter on my phone can help preserve sanity, even if it is for only a few minutes or so.

Online Reading:
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Ok, yeah, I take time to read the important, grown-up stuff that’s on CNN, BBC or TIME (of all of these, TIME is the one I spend the most time clicking through), but I also check out a few sites that deal with entertainment, speculative fiction and video games. TOR is the best for speculative fiction and nerd culture, and I like to read reviews on IGN and The Escapist too–sure, I can’t actually afford any new gen games, but that doesn’t mean I can’t watch or read a review and pine away, right?

Imgur and YouTube:

These two are the real dangerous distractions: Imgur is fun to check out for a quick minute, but if you’ve ever spent any time on the site, you’ll know that once you see one funny dog gif or epic drunk fail it gets pretty hard to look away. It’s sort of like that scene from Raiders when the Nazis open the Ark–you sneak one quick peek, and then your life is completely sucked away. Same goes for YouTube, as evidenced by the clip above from the Craig Ferguson show (I dare you not to laugh. I DARE YOU). These two sites are so easy to pull up for a quick distraction, but they’re almost too easy if you catch my drift–I have to regulate my time on them, and it’s surprisingly difficult to do so.

Anyway, this was the firs part of my Workday Distractions list. On the second-go, I’ll list the non-electronic distractions that I like to check out when my brain’s feeling a little fried.

I Was Late to the Comic Book Party

Confession time: I wasn’t into comic books when I was younger. Yeah, I said it.

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As a writer, I feel guilty for admitting something like that—deep down it honestly feels like I just announced to the world that I enjoy hurling verbal insults at puppies (e.g. “Your paws are disproportionately too large compared to the rest of your body”) or that I’m a diehard Nickelback fan (I’m not… seriously. Don’t even try to spread that rumor).

But back to comics—yes, it’s the truth. My friends in middle and high school weren’t into them all that much. Neither were my friends in college. No one in my family, even my extended family, collected or read them. It wasn’t until graduation—in those early, tumultuous, drifting-in-between-jobs-as-I-try-to-figure-out-how-I-will-make-the-Monies years right after LMU—that I started getting into comic books. Part of the credit is due to my girlfriend, who encouraged me to break out of my words-shouldn’t-be-in-panel-form snobbery and try reading a few illustrated classics, namely The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. But that was also a time in my life when I was looking to understand how to tell a good story, and the best way to discover that answer, as I eventually found out, was to read everything… and I mean everything.

So, now I read all sorts of comics, ranging from urban fantasy yarns like Fables to gritty odes to terribly realistic urban warfare like DMZ, just so I can digest as many different kinds of stories as possible through a medium that’s unlike my usual everyday fare. I want to grow as a writer and a reader, and that’s the best way to do that.

It’s also doesn’t hurt that comics are a blast to read too.

Case in point: I’m reading two newish comics by Jonathan Hickman that are pretty unique, extremely clever and more fun than a barrel of monkeys gorging themselves on banana splits laced with volatile corn whiskey.

Nightly News is a limited-series comic about a cult that attacks journalists who are responsible for shoddy reporting that inevitably ruined the lives and careers of innocent men and women.

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It’s thoroughly provocative, and touches on the believable concept that mainstream media (e.g. CNN, Fox, etc.) might have an agenda in mind that benefits their budgets more than their viewers. As someone who dabbles in journalism, the premise is definitely interesting and engaging for me, and I’m looking forward to finishing it up.

I just finished East of West, and if you’re a fan of weird westerns, then it’s a must for you. The plot and setting are a little complicated: Basically, the Civil War never ended, it’s sometime in the mid-21st century, and the Four Horsemen have arisen to put a bloody end to the President of the United States. In all honesty, this is a story that might be too complicated for traditional novel-form, but since Hickman can dedicate an entire page-sized panel to exposition, it helps the story flow a bit more.

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So, in short, if you’re a writer, read comics. Read everything, of course (history textbooks, non-fiction bios, newspapers, take-out menus, you name it), but pay a little extra attention to comics. Some of the most original and thought-provoking stories and characters are coming out of comics these days, so it’s important to keep a steady flow of comics on your to-read bookshelf.

Storytelling vs. Politics: Why I Pick Storytelling Every Time

I’m what Chuck Wendig (the undisputed king of the leech-infested Writing Rainforest) calls a “Freelance Penmonkey.” In other words, I write about all kinds of worldly stuff, like homemade submarines, or music shops that sell rare $10,000 Gibsons (the guitar, not multiple clones of the director), or bathroom-themed restaurants. Sometimes these topics are assigned to me. Other times I come up with the idea all on my lonesome. It’s a freelance game of cat and mouse: Each and every day I do all sorts of creative things to keep my bank account from slipping into a cosmic void (i.e. insufficient funds).

Speaking of assignments, I have two different articles out this month: One on gun control in the San Fernando Valley for Ventura Blvd, and one (more of a profile) on the Gracie family for Southbay—the Gracies are the originators of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and the UFC.

The gun article was one I pitched (my girlfriend’s family is into hunting, so doing something on gun control has always been knocking around my head), while the Gracie article was assigned to me. One deals with an extremely sensitive political topic. The other is about a family that’s made a career out of beating people up (for entertainment and confidence-boosting only).

Photo Credit: James Acomb

Photo Credit: James Acomb

Can you guess which one I enjoyed writing about more?

The gun control article was an extremely interesting process for me, but due to the sensitive nature of the story, and out of respect to the people I interviewed (some of whom were survivors of shooting incidences), I didn’t have a lot of leeway on how I was going to tell the story. Right from the beginning, it was about the facts, which was fine… until politics start getting dragged in.

I’m not into politics, and writing this article without making any statements about Republicans or Democrats was difficult. The point of the story was to highlight two different local viewpoints on this debate—that’s it. I wanted to show that, even in a place like the San Fernando Valley, your neighbor could be a survivor of a mass shooting… or they could be a professional skeet-shooter. But inevitably, interviewees brought their personal viewpoints on politics (either that the conservatives were responsible for bringing more guns into CA, or that liberals were stifling a longstanding firearm tradition in this country), and it was challenging to keep the article fair and balanced. I believe I accomplished the task… but ultimately that’s up to you to decide.

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Photo Credit: Michael Neveux

Now the Gracie article was different: I had a lot more room to choose how to cover the story… and, in the end, I actually got the chance to tell a story. I got to experience jiu-jitsu firsthand (I had a sizeable man sit on my chest… always a good time) and I got to walk the readers through the collective history of an engaging group of people—their ups and downs, the entertaining bits, everything. As a writer who’s working on publishing fiction, being able to bring storytelling into my non-fiction work was really entertaining… and rewarding.

I’m glad I covered a sensitive journalistic subject, but it wasn’t something that I found truly compelling. Telling a story, however, even if it wasn’t really my story to tell (i.e. I didn’t make it up), was enjoyable.

So, all in all, I can safely say that this Penmonkey is a non-political Penmonkey.

I’m just one of those old-fashioned, storytelling Penmonkeys, and I think I prefer it that way.

Book Recommendation: The Stars My Recommendation… er, Destination

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I like the idea of being marooned in space. Well, maybe I should rephrase that: I like the idea of being marooned in space as an idea for a story… I don’t personally want to be marooned out in space. That sounds kind of cold, and if George Clooney isn’t there to save me… well, then I don’t know what I would do.

Anyway, Hunter Patterson recommended a book for me to read back in the summer, and I’ve only recently gotten around to reading it (sorry, Hunter!). It’s called The Stars My Destination, and it’s by Alfred Bester. Published in the mid 1950s (originally as Tiger! Tiger! in the UK) the book tells the tale of Gully Foyle, a Mechanic’s Mate 3rd Class with minimal intelligence, zero skills, merits and recommendations (except from me, of course). A sneak attack on his vessel, the Nomad, leaves him alone and adrift in space in the torn-apart wreckage for 170 days, and just when he’s ready to give up, a rescue ship appears in the distance. But, despite Gully’s desperate signaling attempts, the rescue ship ends up leaving him behind. Gully then undergoes a stark transformation: He devotes his entire life and existence to tracking down that ship–the Vorga–to exact his brutal revenge for being abandoned.

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A real grabber, right? I completely agree. The book isn’t perfect (the writing and language can feel a bit clunky at times, and the settings rarely get much in terms of overall descriptions), but the storyline and characters are extremely well done–think of it as a sci-fi version of Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo… but in space.

It’s also one of the first examples of true cyberpunk, and its an energizing and very original read, despite being over half a century old. His views on technology, telepathy and teleporting (named “jaunting” in the book) and its effects on mankind are astounding: many authors rarely take the time to discuss how teleporting would influence our economies, livelihoods and way of thinking, but Alfred completely knocks it out of the park. The ability to jaunt, for instance, makes phones obsolete, creates havoc on interstellar commerce, and encourages a return to a collective Victorian mindset (because women can be ravaged at any moment by strange men who can teleport anywhere at anytime, and thus need to be protected at all costs).

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Also, Bester is sort of an unsung hero in the world of sci-fi and comic books: He’s in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and worked on Superman and the Green Lantern comics (it’s rumored that he created Green Lantern’s oath, but apparently he denied it).

So yes, if you like the idea of being marooned, and you’re in the mood for a good sci-fi story, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. Thanks, Hunter!

Back from the Blogging Dead

Hello, Denizens of the Internet. Yes, I am still alive, and, yes, I’m still writing.

But first off, apologies all around for not updating the blog (I’m being sincere this time). I’m branching my writing out a bit so I can cover some new subjects (like hard news and speculative fiction), and I unfortunately left my blog to the wayside and if it was possible for a blog to have some sort of neglected, age-related stench (which it doesn’t, I hope), Lightsabers and Surfboards would probably smell like the Crazy Cat Lady’s ancient Victorian mansion–so, probably like cat pee and despair.

But not to worry! I’ll be updating this site on a weekly basis now (most likely the weekends), and I’ll continue giving updates on my work, what I’m reading and writing, as well as reviews on books and fun links and videos.

On a side note, I now blog for Nerd Approved. It’s a cool site, and I recently did a post that featured the video below.

Ashens is a funny Brit reviewer, and in this video he reviewed a tin of U.S. Military chocolates and crackers from the Vietnam War era. Yep. You can probably guess how the stuff tastes after sitting in a can for 45 years.

Anyway, enjoy the video, and I’m glad to be back!

Europa Report and Pacific Rim: Highbrow vs. Popcorn fun

If you haven’t seen Pacific Rim yet, do so. Scrap your plans for the day and go see the movie. Take your friends. Your mom. Hell, even your dog… you know, if he or she’s into the whole “robot punching monsters” thing.

And with that said, I know the premise sounds a little unsophisticated, and honestly, it is: There’s an interdimensional portal, possible alien overlords trying to take over our world, and GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING GIANT MONSTERS. And that’s it. There aren’t any real twists. What you see is what you get. But you know what? Sometimes that’s a damn fine thing.

The movie is popcorn fun incarnate. The fight scenes are tremendous, the effects spectacular. The monsters are terribly clever looking (and, sometimes, even a little scary), and the Jaeger robots are beyond cool–the amount of detail that went into each one, especially the hero robot Gipsy Danger, is borderline obsessive. Also, and unlike Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, there aren’t any prerequisite half-naked Megan Fox slow-mo shots, or (as far as I know) blatant product placements. The main characters, Raleigh Becket (Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam) and Mako Mori (Rinko Kikiuchi), have engaging origin stories and are independently strong–there are hints of a relationship developing between the two throughout the movie, but there’s never any outright romance. The director, Guillermo del Toro, never strays from the story he wants to tell: Humans build robots to fight monsters. And that’s it. So, all in all, the movie is simply a lot of fun. It didn’t really stimulate any deep thought, but all in all, that wasn’t the point–Pacific Rim is pure entertainment.

Europa Report, however, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. If Pacific Rim is a game of dodgeball at recess, Europa report is a two-hour math final–in other words, it’s absolutely grounded in real world seriousness. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in most cases, but unfortunately Europa kind of dropped the ball.

The movie, which stars one of my favorites, Sharlto Copley from District 9, is about a group of astronauts and scientists who are on their way to Europa, that one moon of Jupiter’s that’s completely covered in ice. NASA worked with the production company to make sure all the minute details (tech, terminology, etc.) was all accurate, and in that sense, the movie works wonderfully. There’s also this daunting sense of isolation, especially once the astronauts lose contact with mission control and are effectively on their own.

But, ultimately, Europa just becomes another monster movie, and said monster, at least in my opinion, was a bit of a let down. It felt like the movie revolved entirely on convincing the audience that these are real astronauts, flying a plausible mission to explore a real destination, one that scientists now believe might host life. And in that regard, they succeeded. This all really could happen. I firmly believe that. But once the astronauts reach Europa, well, the movie regurgitates the same “monster tries to get onboard plot,” albeit with a lot of fancy NASA terminology. And the monster looks too much like an Earth creature (not to give away any spoilers)–the production company could have done anything with their creature, but it still looks way too Earth-like. Honestly, there was a great deal more creativity that went into the creatures in Pacific Rim, by far.

So, if you’re looking for a movie to watch this weekend, skip the ultra-realistic Europa and concentrate your efforts on the popcorn fun that is Pacific Rim. Enjoy!

 

 

 

The Last Policeman (a review)

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It’s book review time!

However, just a quick aside, but I also finished a few other books lately that are worth a quick please-go-ahead-and-pick-this-up mention: “Desperation” by Stephen King, “Y: The Last Man” Volume III and “Private Eye”, both of which are by Brian K. Vaughan. Actually, the latter one is available in a pretty cool way. If you visit panelsyndicate.com you can download a PDF version of the comic for whatever you think is reasonable. $15? $10? .01? Yep, whatever you think is reasonable totally flies, and you can download it as many times as you want. (Although, because the quality of the comic is pretty high, and the storyline is an original noir-ish yarn, I’d recommend that you throw a little something Vaughan’s way).

Ok, but on to “The Last Policeman” by Ben H. Winter.

The book focuses on the question that, if it’s the end of the world, what’s the point in having a policeman solve murders? In “The Last” an asteroid is on a collision course with Earth, and unfortunately both Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton don’t exist in this universe (or at least aren’t mentioned), so humanity is only less than a year away from clocking out for good. As far as the reader knows, the asteroid is going to hit Earth for sure, and there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it.

And that’s where Detective Hank Palace comes in. He’s a no-nonsense detective with minimal personal flair or a sense of humor, and he’s considerably more straight edge than a Mormon holding a dozen rulers. However, what he lacks in funny bone development, he makes up for in commitment. He’s dedicated to carrying out his duty as a detective, and he’s absolutely convinced that his first case, a suicide, is actually a murder. At the end of the world, when most people are offing themselves left, right and center, his fellow detectives right off the case as just another suicide, but Captain Commitment has a gut-feeling (which all good cops have, of course) that something just isn’t right.

And there you go–It’s a police procedural story set just before the end of the world. Now there are a couple of weaknesses with this story: For one thing, Hank is all kinds of white bread, vanilla, cookie-cutter cop with minimal feelings or emotions. It’s very hard to appreciate his character, or to really find him relatable. Two, the writing, while clean and well-thought out, lacks any real punch. Everything, from setting description to the character dialogue, feels rather standard and drab. And lastly, this is part of a trilogy, so while Hank solves the case at the end, there isn’t all that much closure concerning the fate of civilization, which felt like a letdown.

However, with that said, there are two things that the book does well, which is why I’m going to recommend it: One, the investigation is actually pretty intriguing. While I felt disconnected from Hank, I felt very involved with the murder-mystery–the idea of killing someone and making it look like a suicide, especially during an end-of-the-world scenario, is a diabolical scheme at its finest. I also didn’t see the end coming either, which made the ride a bit more enjoyable (I’m not much of a mystery guy, so if you are, you might catch on to the ending much sooner, but it caught me by surprise).

And two, the whole premise of trying to live in a world that’s going to end soon is decidedly fresh. It seems like almost every story these days focuses on either the end of the world, or living after the fall. Rarely are we every prompted to ask ourselves, “I have 6 months before the world ends, what am I going to do with my life?” Authors and readers alike are often so engrossed in the idea of survival against all odds, stockpiling supplies and all out “Mad Max”-style apocalyptic battles, that we often forget to look at what life would be like before everything went to hell. What would people do before the fall? How would they act? Would there be riots? Death in the streets? Or would people come together? With that said, what would I do? Would I keep working? Or would I go “find myself”? The novel addresses most of these questions in clever ways, and because of that, it makes it worthwhile to pick up.

“Countdown City,” the sequel, comes out this month, and I should have a review for you sometime soon. Until then, start stockpiling, and I’ll see ya soon.

Neil Gaiman, Comics and book review in the works

Hello, Denizens of the Blogosphere.

Hope you’re all doing well. As you can see, it’s been a while since I’ve last updated my blog, so let’s roll out the list of my compulsory blogger-y excuses: 1) I’ve had real paying work to focus on. Yay! 2) I just finished a book that I’d like to review on here and I… well, I haven’t gotten there yet… because of distractions of the Imgur variety. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve been distracted. A lot. And 3) I’m a really bad person and I’m sorry and won’t you ever forgive me? Please?

So, yes, I’m still alive, and no, I haven’t been kidnapped by laser-wielding monkeys (although that would be all kinds of awesomeness if that did happen). Here’s the breakdown of what I’ve been up to:

1) Comic books! I wrote two pieces on comic book culture for Southbay magazine and Ventura Blvd magazine. While both were fun to write, I tend to like the Southbay magazine one a bit better because I got to interview Mike Mignola. He was incredibly polite and professional, and he was extremely patient with all of my generic questions, so I hope you like it.

2) Quirk books sent me “The Last Policeman” by Ben H. Winter to review, and so far I have to say that it’s pretty good. Review coming soon.

3) Neil Gaiman! Last night, my girlfriend and I went to Neil Gaiman’s book signing at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. We had a wonderful time, and Neil is incredibly charismatic and funny too: My favorite little Neil story of the night was about why he’s a dog person. His dog, he says, usually sits with him in his room while he writes, and tends to give him looks that seem to say, “I don’t know what you’re writing, but it’s probably very clever. You’re the cleverest writer ever.” Cats however, Neil explained, tend to be a little more judgemental–they tend give off these cold, distant looks that seem say, “Hmm… Are you really going to put a comma there?”*

JB and I waited for close to five hours to finally get our respective signed copies of “The Ocean at the End of Lane” signed, and to Neil’s credit, he stayed at his little desk on stage for all five hours just signing away like his life depended on it. For the record, we asked an usher how many people were at the event, and she said 1,400. Each person was allowed to have two books signed, one of which could be personalized. So, you do the math on how many books that man signed last night–and I tell you what, JB and I were one of the last ones in line, and he was actually smiling and laughing at 2:30 a.m. when it was our turn to get our books signed. The man’s trooper to say the least.

JB and Neil Gaiman

JB and Neil Gaiman. The camera’s a bit shaky because the cameraman was a little sleepy.

Anyway, I promise I’ll be good and I’ll update the blog a bit more in the next few weeks. Expect a book review shortly. Talk soon!

*The event started at 7:30 p.m. and didn’t actually wrap up until 3:00 a.m. the following morning. So, Neil, if I butchered your quotes here, I sincerely apologize. You’re amazing and I’m very sleepy.