Dream Big, Sucka

Fun fact: The number one fear in America isn’t death, it’s public speaking.
Back when I was in college I competed on the Speech and Debate circuit. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t a non-stop orgy. Rather, the circuit consisted of some fun and odd people who were just really good at speaking in public. My takeaway from the experience – other than a truckload of trophies – was a complete lack of fear about public speaking, an ability to analyze my audience on the fly, and the ability to think on my feet.
All that experience and a Master’s Degree in Speech Communication with an emphasis in rhetoric and persuasion led me neatly into my career as a programmer.
Anyway, part of competition was judging the state high school speech tournament that was alway held at my college because reasons. Some performances were great, some were abysmal, most were middle of road and fully expected for a bunch of kids that are trying to learn the art. No matter who it was or what they were talking about, I always had to give props to people who were not only willing to ignore their innate fear of public speaking, but to kick its ass and leave it bleeding in alley somewhere. Most performances blend into the background, there were a lot of speeches about banning nuclear weapons or how censorship is bad or the unreported number of people who are maimed or killed by farm equipment every year. I even saw a speech about how we need to change the metal used in keys because people chewing on their keys can get metal poisoning from them. It literally affects five or six people a year. Bad speech, good presentation.
But one of the speeches that stands out in my head was a young woman from some New Mexico high school who wrote a speech on why we should have easy-to-achieve dreams. Her general gist was it made life more interesting when you dream small because then you can achieve those dreams easily.

Interestingly enough, I see a lot of the same philosophy coming out of the indie writing community. We’ve all seen the person who says they’re happy if a handful of people read and enjoy their books and that’s enough of a dream for them.

I write about a book a year. I know it looks like I haven’t written anything in a few years, but that’s just because I’ve got one going through publication and another I’m editing. My average still hits right around a book a year, you’re just going to have to wait until next year to read the new one. A year doesn’t seem all that long, but it takes hundreds of hours to pull a book together, write it, edit it, leave it alone for a while, edit it again, get it read, edit it again, format it, edit it again, and get it out to publishers. After all that work, would you be happy with having a few people read and enjoy it? Of course not. I want the world to read it and enjoy. Preferably multiple worlds. That’s my dream. Having a handful of people read and enjoy something I wrote is great, don’t get me wrong, but having that as your dream is like setting a goal of getting the dishes into the sink every night.
So this is a little shout out to the indie writing community. Y’all are awesome. Don’t be afraid to dream big. Imagine the thrill of writing that best-selling novel instead of the thrill of just getting the dishes done. And don’t tell me it can’t be done or there’s too much competition or piracy or whatever. Quit looking for reasons why you can’t and start looking for reasons why you can.

Dreams are meant to be big. They’re meant to be grandiose and amazing. They’re the things we strive for and, if they’re important enough to us, the things we find a way to make happen. Don’t fret about chewing on keys and don’t waste your time with tiny dreams of getting to work on time or getting a raise or a better house. Dream of your work being you and your book. Dream of owning a drug-dealer-esque mansion filled with samurai armor and a pool with a swim-up bar in your living room. Go nuts. Then find a way to make it happen and instead of this:

You’ll have this:

Now go do it.

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Book Review – Copper Pennies by Carrie D. Miller

There used to be a theory that a story should take place over fairly short amount of time – weeks, days if possible. I think most people gave it lip service and went on to do whatever they felt like doing anyway. Besides, there are some stories, especially those that don’t feature Bernie, that can be told over the space of a weekend. Some stories span generations and to condense that into a weekend of action and massive amounts of exposition is to take a dump all over the story. And no one like dump-covered stories.

So, enter Carrie Miller’s Copper Pennies, a story that takes place over around a hundred years, a few generations, and at least a couple of planes of existence. The amazing thing about it is even though it sounds mind-bendingly complicated, Miller does a fantastic job of keeping things simple and concise, so the reader doesn’t have to keep a notebook full of names and what they did so when they pop up a few decades later no one has to flip back through the book.

And, frankly, what a story. It’s easy to whip up a tale of black magick and betrayal; it’s much more difficult to add layered depth, interesting characters, and enough history to make it come to life. Copper Pennies breathes. Its breath isn’t always pleasant, but no good story comes to life when it’s been drenched in mouthwash.

So, if you want something gritty, a story that doesn’t hold back or paint its characters as perfect, try Copper Pennies. It’s one of those books that feels so real the characters and places stick with you after you put it down.

Magda stands in the moonlit cemetery waiting for the spell to work, for her lover to return. But what’s done can’t be undone, and Magda will learn she should have left him in the ground. 

When twins Avery and Chloe Parsons receive a cryptic letter and a sinister-looking book filled with illegible scrawls from their grandmother, the sisters set out for Prague to check on her. 

Drawn to a cracked crystal ball in a curiosity shop, Chloe discovers it harbors the spirit of their grandmother, who tells them a horrific tale of lust, naïveté, betrayal, and… demons.

Armed with a book of dark magick they can’t read and a cracked crystal ball, the twins must stop Magda’s resurrected lover before he releases an unstoppable force that will consume the human world.

Across continents and nearly a century, follow the adventures of three strong-willed women: one seduced by evil, one struggling to withstand the lure of power, and one trying to save her family—and the world.

Get your copy on Amazon

Follow Carrie on Twitter

Check out her website

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

On the way to work this morning, I noticed semis hauling new propeller blades, presumably out to the wind farm on the cap rock over on the eastern side of the state where the wind blows constantly. I don’t know a whole lot about the wind farm out there other than those turbines are massive, far larger in person than you’d expect them to be. Imagine Pacific Rim’s Jaegers and you’ll get an idea of how big those things are. They cost a small fortune to put up, but they provide electricity as long as the wind is blowing. Since this is eastern New Mexico, you can assume the wind is always blowing. They don’t run on fossil fuels, they don’t generate pollution, they just sit out there and make electricity all day like bosses.

Electricity is a fact of life these days and the need for it is only going to increase. All those electric cars need juice. Cell phones need juice. TVs and air conditioners and lights and all the other things we rely on daily need electricity. Traditionally, this electric generation has been handled by burning coal – in fact there’s still a coal-powered plant up near Farmington that generates a lot of the power for the Four Corners area. The problem with coal is the same problem we’re seeing with oil, it’s getting harder and harder to find it. Sure, there’s probably plenty of it out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be cheap or easy to extract. In fact, as I understand it, all those deep south coal mines didn’t shut down because of the environmental lobby, they shut down because the mines are empty. No more coal. No more jobs.

Not to mention the pollution generated from burning the stuff.

So enter, strangely enough, Texas. Normally when you think environmentalism, Texas isn’t the first state that pops to mind. Which just goes to show, maybe some of our preconceived notions aren’t always accurate.

Texas has traditionally generated most of its power from natural gas and coal. But, with coal use dwindling, for the first time ever, Texas has generated more electricity from wind farms than from coal. In fact, wind power is second only to natural gas in energy production in Texas. While it’s probable that were economic initiatives like staying cool in the summer at stake more than a desire to curb global warming, that’s a heck of cool thing.  The fact that it helps the environment is, of course, another net positive.

Wind power: News that doesn’t suck. It blows.

Read the whole story here

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 lovely and talented co-hosts this month are
Shilpa Garg,
Simon Falk,
Damyanti Biswas
Lizbeth Hartz
Eric Lahti

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).

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 sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

This is a Blog Hop!

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And now your moment of Zen

Book Review – River by Ryen Lesli

A few fun facts about Ryen Lesli

  • She haunts Twitter as “The Witch”
  • She has epic fingernails
  • She likes the word “Fuck”

All of these are good things in my book. Any witches down with dropping F-bombs are worth looking into.

That said, Ryen recently released her first book, a dark fantasy romance about a young woman who finds herself plucked from the world she thought was home and dropped into a magical new world where things are, shall we say, different. Normally, I’d look at a plot like that and yawn, but Ryen handles it beautifully and introduces her own twists to the genre. It’s true, there really isn’t anything new under the sun, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a story and make it amazing with some sleight of hand and a little supernatural chicanery.

Which is exactly what one should expect from someone who calls herself “The Witch”. So, take that sentence about yawning and toss it away; that was me not paying full attention to the writer telling the tale. There’s new life in this story and a protagonist that isn’t going to headline a Disney princess story anytime soon.

And I think that’s what made it most interesting. I’ll be honest, fantasy and romance aren’t really my genres, but as the saying goes, a setting is just a setting. It’s the story that matters. Take “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” or “The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus” and set them in video arcades or space stations and you won’t necessarily have arcade-punk and sci-fi, you’ll still have cracking good stories that just happen to have settings in space or 80s arcades.

By the way, arcade-punk is mine. Stay away from it.

And that’s how I started to view River. Rather than being just Fantasy Romance, it’s a good story that happens to be told in a Fantasy Romance setting. If you’re looking for a romantic triangle or a protagonist that doesn’t bend herself to immediately fit into her new surroundings or even a little magic, River is a good (and fun) book to look into. Even if you’re not necessarily into the genre. Perhaps the best part is, we’ve got more of River and her coterie coming down the pipe.

Does she have a secret life? One even she doesn’t know about?

Ever since seventeen-year-old River can remember, she’s always had the sense that she is in the wrong place—that SHE is wrong. Because of this, she battles a constant restlessness that consumes her. Running is the only thing that helps. Another reason she knows she’s wrong? She can see the light around a person. Everyone gives off energy and somehow River can see a bit of it. She instantly knows when someone’s good or bad. She just doesn’t know what a blurry light means, like the light around the scary new kid.

Upon seeing him, something inside her breaks open; a crack along some forgotten wall that frees a painful wave of raw emotion, faint visions, and an emerald-eyed boy that River doesn’t remember, but knows she should. After the new kid reveals his violent, supernatural side, River’s world explodes and everything she thought was real, fades away. Taken from her life in Georgia, River is forced into the dangerous, beautiful, self-sustaining, power-filled, live-in-the-trees-like-Robin-Hood Fair world that has been impatiently awaiting her return.

river-ryen-leslie.jpg

Get your copy on Amazon

You can also find River on Kyanite Publishing’s storefront

Follow Ryen on Twitter

Check out Website

Check out her group – The Haven – on Facebook

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


Depending on who you listen to, climate change will either be the end of humanity or it’s a hoax invented by the Chinese because reasons. Some people dedicate their lives to fighting global climate change by complaining endlessly about industry while others give up straws for a week and call it good. Still others ignore every bit of evidence and claim it’s not happening. But, the sad fact of the matter is, the world’s climate is changing. It’s getting warmer. Weather is getting weirder. None of this is exactly debatable. What is debatable is how much of the problem is human causes (likely a lot) and what we can do about it (probably not much).

If that sounds glum, sorry.

Now, as I said, most people put on a shirt with some environmental message and claim they’re fixing the world. Then there’s David Gilmour.

If you don’t know who David Gilmour is, I’m very disappointed in you. He was the lead guitarist for Pink Floyd. If you don’t know who Pink Floyd is, I’m utterly disappointed in you.

Gilmour recently sold off some of his guitar collection for a whopping $21.5 million and donated all of it to a charity that’s fighting climate change. Kind of makes slapping some bumper stickers on your car and wearing a save the planet T-shirt look pretty lame, right?

Although, to be fair, most of us don’t have a guitar collection worth $21.5 million lying around. Also, to be fair, it’s gonna take more than one person’s guitar collection to change the world and every little bit helps. So, keep on using reusable straws, wearing save the planet T-shirts, and plastering your car with environmental bumper stickers. Rhetoric can be just as powerful a weapon as money.

And if you happen to have a collection of important, classic guitars lying around, feel free to sell them and donate the money to charity. Either way, shine on you crazy diamond. And if you haven’t listened to Pink Floyd, for the love of god, go do it now.

Read the whole story here

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 lovely and talented co-hosts this month are
Sylvia McGrath,
Susan Scott,
Shilpa Garg,
Eric Lahti,
and Belinda Witzenhausen.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible. (Wow, I totally missed that mark this time around).

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 sign up, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

This is a Blog Hop!

Powered by Linky Tools

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

And now, your moment of Zen.

ninja

Book Review – What They Deserve by Sam Hendricks

There’s this running meme that’s been popping up lately about talking on phone in the 50s and being concerned that the line was tapped. Flash forward to 2019 and you’ve got a woman asking Alexa, “Hey, wiretap, what’s a good recipe for pancakes?”

It’s possible to debate the ins and outs of tech like Alexa, Siri, whatever Google’s calling their robo-assistant lately, but it’s not possible to debate the unintended side-effects of having a box sitting in your living room that’s listening to everything you say. Nor is it wise to debate the fact that you just paid good money to give every advertiser on the planet direct access to your house.

Now, I honestly don’t believe big tech has any nefarious plans for Alexa beyond finding new and exiciting ways to sell you shoes and non-stick pans, but what if that weren’t the case?

Sam Hendricks took that scenario, shook it up a little,  and added a hefty dose of mystery and crafted something uniquely terrifying not because of monsters or the existential threat of nuclear annihilation, but because of the extremely close proximity to our own world. A world where tech can provide a sense of security, much like a wall that keeps the bad guys out and controls the sanctity of the Reformed United States.

It’s control that’s the key to the story. Walls can be climbed or flown over or even tunneled under, but a good piece of tech can be even better at keeping people under control. And it’s into that world that Hendricks drops us with a smile and a wave.

What They Deserve is relatively short story, along the lines of a novella, but Hendricks packs it full of information. In the tradition of good writers, she doles out bits of data a byte at a time rather than giving us a full tedious, historical dump. Aside from being a nervous-making tale of technological and tyrannical woe, it’s a fun story that might leave you wondering about the technology we use every day and how it could impact our lives. I’m sure Alexa will have more information about that, though.

Highly entertaining, well-paced, and fun. This could be the start of a great series, if Sam was so inclined to write it.

SEATTLE, WA: 2053.

Summer Wilkins, the official spokesperson for the Reformed United States, is still grieving the loss of her son when a shocking murder rocks the city. After her husband is implicated, she’s drawn into a rebellion that’s ready to do anything to find out the truth behind the new “Inevix patches” being distributed to the public. Murder, mystery, and politics abound as Summer finds out that the biggest secrets are being hidden in her own family.

Get your copy on Amazon or from Kyanite Publishing

Check out her blog

Follow Sam on Twitter

Cycling Made Easy

It’s springtime, that magical time of the year where the birds chatter, it’s windy as hell, and everybody is throwing up their lists of favorite “affordable” bicycles for the year. A few that have popped up in my newsfeed define affordable as under $2000. I don’t know about you, but $2000 is still a chunk of change even if it is affordable in a sport where a new frameset alone can set you back $7000 for carbon fiber or titanium.

So, it’s spring and you’ve got that itch to go for a ride. Unfortunately, that tax money you expected to get back turned in a huge liability, so you’re strapped. You’ve got a few options:

  • Go to bike store and get a bike loan. Yes, they’re a thing
  • Go to WalMart and get a bike that may or may not kill you
  • Do a little digging and find a decent used bike that will suit your needs

Another option is to build your own. I’ll cover that in a little while.

I was at one of the local bike stores here in Albuquerque a couple of years ago looking for bar tape and QR skewers for a bike I was building and there was a couple in there buying a pair of mid-range bikes (at $3500 each), shoes ($100-$200 a pair), helmets ($100 or so and up), car rack ($200+), and clothes (ungodly expensive). So, I’m wating for the salesman to acknowledge my presence and wondering who in the hell walks into a bike store and drops nearly 8K. It turns out you can get bicycle loans. They’re just like car loans, or any other kind of loan, only they’re for buying bicycles.

Okay, car loans I get. I hate them, but they’re a necessary evil and since I tend to keep my cars until the wheels fall off and the transmission falls out, there’s usually a significant amount of time where I’m driving but own the car outright. In a place like Albuquerque where the city’s so spread out and the mass transit sucks, cars are good things to have.

But the fact that bicycle loans are a thing boggles my mind. Especially when it’s a multi-thousand dollar loan for someone who just wants to get into the sport. You know, get their feet wet and see if it’s something they’ll enjoy. From the sheer amount of used bicycles out there, I’m betting most people get the loan, ride for a few weeks, find out it’s hard, and give up. That’s a lot of money to try out something you might not get into.

Of course, not every bicycle in the bike store is a multi-thousand-dollar beast. And, contrary to what the nice salesman is telling you, you don’t need a top of the line bike to get started. Find something affordable and functional and see if you’re even really interested in riding. If you are, great. Upgrade at some point. If not, well, a $500 investment is a lot less than a $3500 investment.

You can also go to the local big box store and pull a bike off the rack for under a few hundred dollars. WalMart and Target both have bike sections filled with flashy rides with colorful paint jobs and fact sheets that advertise things like SiS! Disc Brakes! Super-light aluminum frame! Shimano! SRAM! Nearly 30 speeds!

What those fact sheets don’t tell you is the brakes suck, the components will break, and most people will never use that many speeds. Big box bikes are okay for toodling around the neighborhood. Just give yourself plenty of time to stop and don’t be surprised when the plastic brake levers bend and flex. But, let’s face it; that’s good enough for most people. If all you’re doing is casual rides around the neighborhood or along a trail, that $300 Schwinn is going to be perfectly servicable.

The only worrisome thing about big box store bikes is the components can be less than stellar. If you’re taking slow rides, no worries. If you’re planning on going faster or riding off road, or putting any kind of stress on that bike at all, bad components can be dangerous. Brakes that fail because the metal flexes too much or the pads are insufficient can kill you. Having to re-true wheels after every ride gets old fast. A frame that came apart at the seams because the welding was crap can end a ride quickly.

On the other hand, I had a buddy back in high school who broke a Specialized frame by hitting a rock on a trail. When he contacted the company about a warranty, they said, “You were riding off-road? That wasn’t what he had in mind. No warranty.”

It was a mountain bike.

Perhaps teh best way to find the new ride of your dreams is to do some digging. Those people that dropped all that money on brand new bikes so they could try out the sport? They probably dropped out and are selling those bikes at a fraction of the cost of new bikes. People who get really into cycling also love to upgrade constantly (guilty) and sell off the old stuff. You can find used bikes all over the place that, with a little elbow grease, can ride just as well as they did when they were new. Check your local Craigslist, sporting supply stores, eBay, Pinkbike, the classified. I can almost guarantee you, someone is selling a bike that would be great for you for far less than you’d pay new. Plus, it’s a kind of recycling (pun intended), so that’s pretty cool, too.

A final option that most people probably won’t go for is to build up your own bike from scratch. The upside is you can get exactly what you want and if you dig around Craigslist and eBay, you can build it for a lot less than buying a complete bike. It’s also a fun project, great experience, and teaches you how to maintain your own ride. The downside is you need some specialized tools like crank pullers, bottom bracket tools, headset presses, and things like that. Fortunately, those show up on Craigslist and eBay all the time, too. It’s not for everyone, but I’ve built three bikes now and I love the process of building and tinkering almost as much as riding.

For those wondering, here’s my latest creation. I found the frame on eBay for $250, components from Craigslist, eBay, and Nashbar before they went all weird. It rides like a dream and even though it’s got mid to high end parts and a carbon fiber frame, cost about $800 spread out over a couple of years. Still pricey, I know, but buying a bit a time over months made it easier. With cheaper parts and frameset and a little digging, a good bike can be built up for about $500 or so. Plus, when something breaks, you’ll know how to fix it because you put it on there in the first place.

ridley

I know people love their bikes. If you’ve got a pic or a story, put it in the comments. I’d love to see your ride or hear your story.