WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

I’ve spent the past couple of these railing on big things like Net Neutrality and the odious Joe Arpaio, so I decided it’s time to for a lighter post. Now, it’s well-known that everything causes cancer. Except cancer, that causes AIDS. No matter what you eat, drink, or breathe, it’s gonna give you cancer, rot your teeth, or flat-out kill you.

Or so it would seem.

Claudia Kawas, a neurologist with the University of California, tracked 1700 nonagenarians through a study that started in 2003. The goal of the research was to find out what kinds of daily activities allowed these folks to live into their 90s. The study found people who exercised 15-45 minutes per day were 11% less likely to drop dead prematurely than those who didn’t. While that’s good news, it gets better. The study also found that people who had 1 or 2 glasses of wine or beer each day were 18% less likely to suffer premature death.

Unless you’re in your 90s, this research probably doesn’t directly apply to you. If, however, you’re like me and happy to latch onto anything that sounds good, this is like getting the Holy Grail without having to fight Nazis or stumble through ancient booby traps. The way I see it, if I get 15-45 minutes of exercise and pop a couple brews each day, I can live to be 200.

At any rate, it’s nice to see something positive in an otherwise dreary world. My recommendation to you is to grab some weights, punch a bag, sprint on a bike, or do whatever floats your goat. Then, when you’re good and sweaty, pop open a couple dark beers and chill on the couch for a while.

On second though, maybe it’s chilling on the couch that will let you live longer.

Check it, and go grab a drink.

If you’d like to connect your blog and help spread a little joy (or snark, like I do), it’s easy to sign up. Just ask and ye shall receive. Or go check it out here: here.

Our co-hosts for the month are the lovely and talented:
Peter Nena
Yours Truly
Roshan Radhakrishnan
Inderpreet Kaur Uppal
Shilpa Garg

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To signup, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

This is a Blog Hop!

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

And now, your moment of Zen.

The real reason we stopped going into space. But at least he’s having some wine.
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Book Review – The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge by Rachel Thompson

I usually review fiction because that’s what I usually read, but I made a promise to myself to review everything I read and I aim to stick to that promise. Thus, Rachel Thompson’s book on book marketing is getting a gander today.

Now, I’ve been writing for almost five years now and I’m getting decent at it, but my marketing skills are, at best, lacking. Part of this is my natural trend toward laziness, but part of it’s linked directly to a lack of knowledge. Marketing is a Byzantine mass of indistinct corridors, dead ends, and people who would happily gut you for your last penny. Navigating it when you don’t know what you’re doing is almost like wandering aimlessly through big city alleys while yelling about the amount of cash you have in your wallet. It’s only a matter of time before someone offers to turn your lungs into hamburgers for the low, low price of your soul.

So, when I finished Henchmen back in ’13 and released it (far too hastily, as it turns out. It was riddled with errors), I was largely unsure of what to do next. I put up a single post on Facebook and watched my sales skyrocket to pretty much nada. I got various tidbits of advice from friends (set up a Goodreads page!, set up a Facebook Author page!), some of which worked, some of which tanked. In the end, it was Twitter and this blog that helped more than anything else.

The process of figuring that out took valuable time and far more effort than it should have. It was a perfect example of how you can wander around in the wilderness aimlessly until your Zen navigation allows you to stumble into what you need. Don’t get me wrong, my Zen navigation (you might not get where you want to go, but you’ll always wind up where you need to be) didn’t fail me, but a map that led straight to the cabin with all the Scooby Snacks would have been a hell of a lot more efficient.

Which means I picked up Rachel Thompson’s book about five years later than I should have.

And that’s what you’re getting with The BadRedhead Media 30-day Book Marketing Challenge: A map that not only defines the best routes to take, but the pitfalls to avoid. She manages to cover the nuances of Twitter, the importance of blogging, an introduction to SEO (A study unto itself), and all the little ins and outs of a world that is markedly different from writing fiction. And, to make it all better, she writes with a natural, easy-to-follow voice.

This is one of those books that’s best to read on a tablet. There’s a paperback version of it out, but the text is filled with links to cool websites, Twitter accounts, blog posts, and various other things. Reading it in paperback might make you look retro-cool, but reading it on a tablet will let you immediately explore the rich link ecosystem built into the book. And that’s something priceless in and of itself.

So, by the time I stumbled across this book, I was already somewhat aware of social media and how to manipulate it to suit my own twisted needs, but there were glaring holes in my knowledge. I wound up spending a bunch of time saying to myself, “Wait. We can do that?”

Just like martial artists practice the simple punch for decades (trust me, almost twenty years in and I’m still finding subtleties in punching), anyone who’s been marketing their own works for a while can always find something new when they look at it through different eyes. So, even if you’re experienced, drop a few bucks and grab a copy of The BadRedhead Media 30-day Book Marketing Challenge. It’s worth the money and the effort to go through the steps, even if it doesn’t take the full thirty days for you to get through it.

2017 Readers’ Favorite Silver Award Winner (Non-Fiction)!
5/5 STARS, Readers Favorite!
4/4 STARS, IndieReader!

THE SINGLE BEST TOOL every writer needs NOW to build, boost, and grow their author platform.

Unsure how to market your book or feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of author platform options out there (or not even sure what the term means)? Ever wish someone could break it down for you in simple steps? 

Then this is the book for you! 

Over the course of one month, Rachel provides you daily challenges containing a wealth of information, and easy to follow assignments to help energize your book sales. If you haven’t released your book yet, this book will help you set the stage necessary to build the strongest foundation possible for success. 

Topics include: 
* Twitter secrets 
* Facebook page must-do’s 
* Social media ideas you might not know or haven’t thought of 
* Promotion, giveaways, and other book marketing secrets 
* Website, blogging, and SEO tips designed just for authors 

All writers, bloggers, and small businesses can benefit can benefit from this guide.

“When it comes to social media marketing for authors, no one knows more than Rachel Thompson. She practices what she preaches and has helped dozens of our authors enjoy significant leaps in their social media standing.”

Steve Bennett, Founder & Creative Director, AuthorBytes 

“This book is an amazing compilation of data and resources that only someone with years of experience could pull together. As a book marketing specialist myself, I’m still blown away by the amazing content Rachel provides. If you’re writing or marketing a book, this is a MUST-HAVE. “

Alexa Bigwarfe, Author Coach & Owner of Kat Biggie Press Digital Media Co.

Buy this book right now and get started. Your only regret is that you waited so long!

I’m normally averse to saying I’m wrong about much of anything, but she’s right; I should have gotten this book earlier.

Get your copy on Amazon

Check out Rachel on Twitter and her associated BadRedHead Media Twitter

BadRedHead’s website

Rachel’s blog

BadRedhead Media’s Facebook page

Start Early

We’ve been doing an exercise in Kenpo lately that nicely illustrates something that most people don’t quite understand. Your hands and feet have a fixed range and, unless you’re Plastic Man or Dhalsim, you’re not going to be punch someone if they’re further away than you can extend your arm.

The exercise works like this: find a partner who doesn’t mind getting tapped every now and then. Have him or her take a fighting stance and extend an arm, fingertips out. You do the same thing, but don’t worry about taking a stance. Stand naturally, like you would if you were hanging out at the grocery store or picking up people at the bar. Or disco. You know, whatever floats your goat.

The distance between you two is your kill zone. Even though you’re both out of range of each other, this is the distance that a normal person can cover with a single step. That’s right. At fingertip distance from someone, all it takes is single step and they’re on you like flies on a Taco Bell dumpster. If someone steps into that zone, you’re in danger. But, the really cool thing about it is you’ve got all the time in the world to get out of the way.

Unless you’re a lumbering monster.

Start with something simple. Have your partner step in and try to punch you in the head. All you have to do is step to the side and they’ll go right past you. As your reaction time gets better, start mixing things up. Instead of a punch to the head, try a nice, big roundhouse kick. Instead of just stepping to the side, step out of the way and punch ’em in the noggin. Go back and forth and appreciate the give and take. It seems simple, but it illustrates an important point. What you’re training here is awareness. If you’re looking off the to side or checking your phone, you’re going to get clobbered. If you’re focused and aware, you’re a much harder target.

There are a couple of important takeaways from this exercise. The obvious is paying attention to distance is extremely important. The less obvious one is the question at least one person reading this is thinking right now. That’s not how fights start, right? You’ve got to be closer.

Wrong.

Give this guy a very large kill zone.

All fights start at a longer range that you’d expect. Unless you’re standing right next to someone when they decide you need a beat down, that attacker is going to have to cover some distance to hit you. As soon as someone you don’t know gets within your kill zone, be ready to act. You don’t necessarily have to attack everyone that gets close, but you should be aware of their position and what you can do if they decide to attack. If someone gets too close and you don’t know their motives, move to a better position. That’s what I mean by start early. Before the first punch is thrown, be aware. Watch your surroundings, watch the people around you, and watch anyone who gets into your kill zone.

If we define winning the fight as “getting to go home that night and hug your loved ones instead of spending the night in the E.R.”, then you’ve got a much chance of winning if you’re aware of the world around you. Awareness gives you more time to think, more time to prepare, and – most importantly – more time to avoid the fight altogether. Start early, and you can win the fight before it even begins.

Got any self defense tips? Drop ’em in the comments! I love comments.

If At First You Don’t Succeed And So Forth …

Know any youngsters that like to write? Have I got an offer for you…

Raspberry Sassafras

A couple of weeks ago I had one of my brilliant ideas when trying to think of ways to liven up my website.  The site is centered around a series of children’s books I’m writing, so really the only time anything would change would be when a new book was released. Not the most dynamic stuff out there.  What I decided to do was feature writing from young people (high school and under), because what better way to mix things up on a site dedicated to writing for children than writing from children. I called that part of the site Storytellers and have been spreading the word about it, waiting for submissions to roll in.

As my mother would say, it’s gone over like a lead banana.

Never before have I been ignored for so long by so many.  And frankly, I’m a little surprised. I’ve been reaching out to…

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Book Review – A Grave Magic by Bilinda Sheehan

It’s fairly difficult to trace the roots of urban fantasy back to its roots, but there’s no doubt it’s been an explosive and extremely popular genre. There are those who would say it’s just fantasy for lazy authors, but as I’ve pointed out in the past, building a world that mostly looks like ours but is populated by magicians or dragons or witches is no mean feat.

A Grave Magic takes place in a world that might as well be ours. It’s got cops, criminals, good guys, bad guys, and all the trappings you expect from the mundane world. One would assume it also has hot dog vendors and baseball. But it also has vampires and witches and all manner of paranormal bugaboos. Our guide to this world is a witch named Amber Morgan who is struggling to keep her abilities a secret from a world that has no great love for anything non-human.

And that right there is the little click that makes urban fantasy such a powerful tool: It allows us to explore society without resulting to tedious mumbo-jumbo or overusing words like paradigm.

We all like to think we’d be cool with witches and vampires running around in the real world, but in reality we’d be terrified of them because they’re functionally humans and deep down we all know exactly what we’d be like if we had that kind of power. In that sense, characters like Amber Morgan, who seek to keep their powers contained and at least mostly use them for good, represent the best in our natures. Even as Amber struggles with her own capabilities and what they mean, she tries to do right by a world that would just as soon see her torched and her ashes scattered to the winds.

As I understand it, this is the first of Amber’s adventures, so when you get hooked there are more books out there to read. A Grave Magic is a paranormal romp through some very realistic crimes with characters you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.

Sheehan has done a fantastic job of building a world where magic is a thing, vampires and witches are real, and it all still feels perfectly believable. Trust me, that’s not as easy to do as you’d think.

If you like your urban fantasy sassy and bold with just the right amount of humor, this is a good place to start. Personally, I highly enjoyed it.

Darkness can’t always be beaten by the light. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

Amber Morgan is a rookie in The Elite, an organisation tasked with the elimination of rogue preternatural beings in King City. But she has a secret. She’s a witch and only joined The Elite to settle a personal score.

Her first case is supposed to be the routine investigation of a rogue vampire but it soon becomes clear that dark forces are at work, darker than anything the team has dealt with in the past.

When an irritatingly sexy Hunter offers to help, Amber wants to say hell no! The last thing she needs is another distraction even if he is sin personified. But with the fate of a missing child at stake and a possible connection between the case and her past, how can she refuse?

Get your copy on Amazon (for less than a buck).

Check out Bilinda’s Facebook page.

Check her out on Twitter.

Demolition Man

Back in 1993 the world bore witness to the majesty of Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes trading barbs and beating the shit out of each other. Demolition Man was mostly just a fun popcorn movie, but at its core, there was an interesting look at society as a whole. Now, I won’t delve into the details of the movie – it’s readily available and if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re not likely to see it now. And that’s okay; it’s not a movie for everyone, even if Snipes does a wonderful job of playing an overpowered psychopath and Stallone does a surprisingly good job at playing someone who’s completely at sea in a world he doesn’t understand.

Not the poster you’re used to seeing, huh? I scour the edges of the Internet to find interesting things for you.

Interestingly, the basic story of a bad guy and a good guy frozen and reawoken to find violence purged from society was lifted (uncredited, I might add) straight out of István Nemere’s 1986 novel Fight of the Dead. From what I’ve heard, this wasn’t the first time Hollywood filched a plot out of some Eastern European author’s work (Nemere is Hungarian) and used it as their own, nor would it be the last. I’ll let the courts handle that one, although it’s probably only a matter of time before Hollywood writers turn their greedy eyes toward the indie authors knowing full well we don’t have the economic resources to fight them in court.

But that’s neither here nor there and, since to the best of my knowledge it hasn’t happened yet, it’s a waste of time to fret about it. I would like to point out to Hollywood that there are a wealth of stories out there that could be bought on the cheap from authors who’d love the exposure. Or they can keep cranking out sub-par remakes of existing properties. Also, my email address is in the contact link. Let’s talk.

And let me just say, “Ole!”

No, the reason I bring up Demolition Man today is because I just watched it again recently and something about it tugged at me. Deep inside its funny, black heart lies an interesting question: at what point can we say that a society that is functional for most needs to go? This is a question I’ve been grappling with in a book I’ve been writing off and on for a couple years now (dysRUPT, if you must know). The general gist of the story is society has become so enamored with safety, that it’s now illegal to do anything unsafe. There are rippling effects of this philosophy through the fabric of society: consumerism keeps people happy, even though they’re just buying slight variations on a theme, and it’s impossible to buy fried foods. As a result, some college kids start doing little things to shake up the world and soon it all blows up in their faces.

But Demolition Man got there first, even if its message was masked in explosions and shots at Taco Bell. That’s the subtle brilliance of the movie. Most of the action movies of the 80s and 90s didn’t even bother with a pretext of having a serious message underneath the big guys beating the snot out of each other, Total Recall notwithstanding. Demolition Man hinted at the idea that society should have some sort of balance between the safe and the unsafe, the good and the bad, and that even dangerous things can be okay (rat burgers). And yet, at the same time, it also asked an important question: If a society, no matter how lame it is, works, what right does the individual have to change that because it doesn’t work for him or her?

And that’s an important question to ask even in our real world. Theoretically, we should stick to a society that’s best for most people and it’s unlikely we’d ever create something that works well for everyone. So, for instance, if the plurality doesn’t give a rat’s ass what bathroom you use or if you’re doing a little wake and bake, what right do we have to create laws regulating those things? If a small handful of people get weirded out when someone says, “Fuck!”, should we fine people one credit for violation of the Verbal Morality statute? Or, should we tell people to shove it?

Sandra Bullock got the best lines.

I’m not a fan of going out of my way to be a jerk toward people I don’t agree with or making fun of their feelings, but at the same time, I don’t feel that lying down and taking it is the best answer, either.

What are your thoughts on this? Outlaw everything you don’t like or learn to live with the things that skeeve you out? I’m on the learn to live with it side, personally.