Friday, February 28, 2014

Strangers, By Michaelbrent Collings...A Book Review

Strangers*

I'm convinced that most people watch shows like The Jerry Springer Show and Hoarders so they can feel better about them selves. "Sometimes my house is a mess, but it's nothing like that one on Hoarders," we say. So the last thing I thought I'd question after reading Michaelbrent Collings's Strangers, is my skills as a father.

Seriously, that's what went through my mind. Collings is in the process of converting his large library of published works into an audiobook format. This is the second I've read/heard. It followed the pattern of his other book I read, The Loon, lots of gore, terrifying situations and we cannot forget the blood (heaven knows Collings doesn't...). ;)

I like Collings style. He knows how to pace a story. Sometimes the small details in the dialogue or the subtle descriptions have the most impact. The story revolves around a family trapped in what is normally their most safe environment, their house, but soon their home becomes a prison and we have no idea if anyone will leave alive. What I found interesting is the story could have been written without any of the gore, terrifying situations and the blood. The characters are deep enough--each with personal horrors in their own lives--that the revelations of those secrets could fill the pages of a novel. Of course, it wouldn't be a horror novel, but engaging, just the same.

So, how does all this make me question my skills as a father? Collings creates a family where they are basically strangers to each other. They go through the motions of a "normal" family, but that's all. I kept asking myself if I acted in a similar fashion, acting the part, going through the motions. Then all the mayhem begins and those thoughts took a back seat to the action.

I'd like to think I'm not that kind of a husband and father, but even the best husband and father can do more. So, if I wake up and my house is shut off from the outside world with a killer on the loose, I'd like to think I'll at least know more about my family as we run from room to room being scared to death.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18052867-strangers?from_search=true

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bob's Vertical Challenge 7...It's All Done


Today the seventh annual Bob's Vertical Challenge took place at Snowbasin Ski Resort. It's the fourth year I've helped out.

It's a great feeling participating in a program that helps other people. We raised money to help some inner city kids. The skiers and snowboarders faced a wet day on the slopes but they rose to the challenge.

In twelve months we'll again meet at Snowbasin and have another fun day of skiing, snowboarding and helping others. If you can, we'd love to see you join us for the next Vertical Challenge. It literally changes lives.











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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The One Picture...


I took a lot of pictures today, some funny, some not. In the amazing world in which we now live, I don't need to wait a week, or even an hour to find out if any of the pictures "turned out." As soon as I can find a computer, I eject the SD card and see if what I think I saw when I focused the camera and took the shot actually transferred digitally on the card.

Sometimes the pictures are okay.

Sometimes they're terrible.

And sometimes, they're perfect...no, more than perfect, if that's possible.

I took a lot of pictures today. Of them all, this one's my favorite.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

For The Life Of Me, I Can't Remember What I Did 29 Years Ago...


Tonight is special for my little family. By this time tomorrow the family that's always been six people will become five. We're really not losing someone, they'll just no longer be living under one roof, and won't be for the next 24 months.

 

The same thing happened to me back in January 1985. I remember some aspects of the night before I left on my two-year call. Was I excited? I think so. Was I nervous? Probably. I knew I was scared to learn a new language and and worried that when I was to arrive in the country in two months that no one would understand me (which pretty much happened...). 


I wonder how my mother and sister felt as we loaded up my two pieces of luggage and we drove sixty or so miles south where me and hundreds of other nineteen-year old men and twenty-one-year old women said goodbye to our families. Were they sad? I'm sure they were. Were they nervous? Definitely. Were they excited. I hope so.


So, in three decades if and/or when my son wonders what his family did the night before he left, he'll be able to look back on this (who knows if these blogs will survive three decades?) and know that he and his family played Uno.

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Uniform, Or Armor...?


Some see a series of white shirts. Maybe it's the wardrobe of a worker for IBM back in the day. Perhaps it's for a person who will only wear white collared shirts, or someone who doesn't want to "go crazy" and be caught wearing such anti-establishment colors like, blue.

Some see shirts; I see armor. Physics say the material won't stop bullets, but it can help change a life. Those who wear this armor are called by many names, though I prefer soldiers. The clothes will draw attention, both wanted and unwanted. The wearer will experience highs and lows, successes and failures, memories them all.

Some see nothing but clothing, clothing that can be bought at almost any clothing store. Many consider white to be a color of weakness, of retreat, of surrender. However, I choose to see white differently. White is pure, clean and those are signs of strength. And this strength will protect. Uniform or armor? I say the latter.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

West Of Campus...A Short Story

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

Coffee and grinder 

The Weekly Writing Prompt

I missed the deadline by a matter of minutes for posting last week's story. This time I'm giving myself a two-day cushion. This one was fun. And now, a disclaimer: I do not drink coffee, but I am surrounded at work by people who do. I hope this little fact doesn't detract from what I tried to do. Of course, if you'd like to write a story yourself, here are the rules:

1) Write a story using both photos.
2) Keep your word count to 500 words or less.
3) Submit your completed story to your blog hostess (Nicole, Carrie, Leanne, and Tena) via the inLinkz linky on their sites. (If you need a bit of help with this step, just leave a comment on their sites and they’ll get you linked up!)
4) You have the until next Tuesday to post.
5) Have fun, don’t stress, let those creative juices flow! 

Hope you like it!

West Of Campus

"Remember when we used to come here back in college?" my wife asked as we sat and sipped coffee after a long day at work. "Some things have changed," she said as she glanced at the small shop just west of campus. "But it still smells the same. I love that smell." We shared the cozy shop with a half dozen university students--some with heads buried in a book, while others quietly socialized.

I laughed and blew on the cup as the heavenly aroma rose and danced above my head. "It does. It really does." I don't know why I asked Mary to join me here. There were other java joints between my office and Mary's school but tonight I felt a bit nostalgic. This place always took me back, back to when I could sit all day in class getting my law degree and run a sub six-minute mile after class, back to when my future was unknown and everything changed when I met her.

"How's your coffee?" Mary asked. "Like it used to be?"

"Yeah, but more expensive." That brought the smile to her face, the smile that still melted my heart. "I don't know how these kids can afford to go to school today."

"Student loans to the eyeballs," Mary said as she sipped the dark liquid. "Boy, I'd hate that."

I nodded in agreement then scanned the room. Could it really be 20 years since I was that kid, falling asleep with an open book on my chest? No...that could not be right. Really, two decades since I existed in that small dormitory, books and dirty laundry cluttering the ugly carpet which surely saw generations of student's books and laundry long before I lived there? It didn't seem real.

"Didn't we come here on our first date?" I asked.

"No, you took me to the basketball game. That was our first date."

"You sure?" I said already knowing she was right. When it came to details of our courtship and eventual marriage, I conceded every point to her. I believe all women possess an innate talent and men--no matter how much they desired this skill--were just out of luck.

"Definitely. I remember thinking, 'Oh great! Another jock! No way I'm going to be with someone who sits on his butt every Sunday watching football.' I thought you being so tall, you should have been on the court. Heaven knows they could have used the help."

She'd told me the story before, but I liked hearing it.

"But when you started quoting Nitchee and Frank Zappa, I knew I had a winner." She smiled again, the smile that still melted my heart.

Word Count: 451

Saturday, February 22, 2014

These Are A Few Of My Favorite...People


We had visitors today, my aunt and uncle. They were down for a wedding and they stopped by before they headed north. It's difficult for me to express just how important they have been in my life. We don't see them as much as we once did. That's a shame. They are the patriarch and matriarch of a great family and they've raised patriarchs and matriarchs to follow in their footsteps.

After my father passed away decades ago my mother's siblings helped our family in many ways. Our family drove the three hundred or so miles north on Interstate-15 several times a year. We went for our vacations, to camp in the Tetons, and to attend funerals. Growing up it was my second home, a place we were always welcomed. 

Years have passed. We've all attended more weddings, baby blessings, missionary farewells, and unfortunately, more funerals than I can count. We love to see them as often as possible, except, of course, at funerals. Even then we enjoy their company. 

We chatted, caught up, they wished well wishes for my son as he leaves to go to an area where they used to live in California, and then they got in their car and headed north, making a trip they've made hundreds of times before. Hopefully, when the temperatures where we live rise to uncomfortable levels, we'll drive those same roads and take our family north to be with them again, to relax, to feel the kiss of cooler air on our cheeks, to be with family, to be with two of my favorite people.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Me And The Fair Cruel Maid...


Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s I was a member of an exclusive group, a group of university singers. I remember auditioning with Dr. Edgar Thompson at the old LDS Seminary building just west of Pioneer Memorial Theater on the University of Utah campus. I auditioned because I had a friend from high school in the choir and he asked me if I wanted to go to London the next summer.

Dr. Thompson heard me sing and said I could be in any of the school's choirs (I believe there were three at the time...). I said I'd like to go to London and he said, "okay."


His decision changed my life. I stayed in that choir for four years, went on tours to Great Britain, Washington D.C., and Europe, and eventually met my wife because of the choir. I met and sang with some of the best people I've ever known.Today I ran into one of those people, Michelle, a.k.a., The Fair, Cruel Maid.

Now, there is not now, nor has there has there ever been anything cruel or maid-ish about Michelle--quite the opposite. And she's way above "fair." On our GB tour we sang several songs with lyrics provided by the Bard, William Shakespeare. In one, we sang of the fair, cruel maid. Somehow (I think it was Bob's fault...) she came up with the nickname and it stuck. It was so much fun catching up today, if only for a little while.

Tonight I looked through some old pictures of those days and I found a couple of group shots. Those were good days, fun days, days that won't return, but days I wouldn't trade for the world. So, I guess it's true...I was slain by a fair, cruel maid.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thank Heaven For Friends Who Inspire...


Last week I spent time with some amazingly talented friends and we talked about writing, short story writing, novel writing, ebook/self-publishing writing and screenwriting. The words were flying! (see what I did there...?) I learned a TON and it's hard not to be inspired when you surround yourself with others who share your passion.

The last panel I attended was one on screenwriting. I consider myself very successful considering how little time I've actually spent writing screenplays. Of course, I've only got 20 or so projects either started or in my brain. I used to dedicate more time to screenplays in the past. Last year I focused more on short stories.

But I left the conference determined to increase my efforts writing scripts.

And this week I have.

AND IT'S BEEN A FRICKIN' BLAST!

I know my latest project needs a LOT of help and may never fulfill the true measure of its creation and one day become a film, but at this point, I don't care! I'm about 40 pages into a comedy. The first act takes up 20 pages so I've got another 30 pages or so for the second act. I have a good idea where I think the story will go. Now, I've got to put in the time and finish it!

If I hadn't spent time with friends, I'd probably be trying to work on one of my novels. They're fun, too, but I forgot how much fun screenplays can be. My goal for March? Getting the first draft ready for the critique group. Wish me luck!



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hitting 100 K...


Earlier today my little blog reached a milestone. A little after 7am this morning I checked because I knew I was getting close to 100,000 pageviews. I thought it would have been cool to get a screenshot of 100,000. You know, like watching the mileage on your car when it turns over to 100,000 miles. But when I refreshed the page, it went to 100,007. I'll take it.

When I first started my blog, I used to track the visits, and even though I'm not writing to get max visits (I've always said I write things that interest me and my family, kind of like a daily journal...), I still am interested in seeing which stories people have seen.

I began the blog on January 24, 2011. I forgot to acknowledge the blog's three-year anniversary (the last four weeks have been kind of crazy...), but I noticed I was creeping up to 100K so I started to take notice.

There's a blog I follow and last fall he wrote about how he hit his millionth blog visit and he started his blog a few months after me. A million hits...pretty impressive. I haven't reached a million, but I'm pleased with those who have taken the time to check out my little blog. Hopefully, they're glad they did. Here's to the next 100,000!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cap't Monkey And Tooele Boy And The Marvelous Country...

This beach seems different 

than the one in Oregon.
IMG_20130704_120754

I looked at these two pictures for a long time thinking of something to write. If you miss a week or two, it's harder to participate in the Weekly Writing Blog Hop. I thought I'd bring back a few familiar characters, Cap't Monkey and Tooele Boy!

If you'd like to write a story yourself, here's the rules:

1) Write a story using both photos.
2) Keep your word count to 500 words or less.
3) Submit your completed story to your blog hostess (Nicole, Carrie, Leanne, and Tena) via the inLinkz linky on their sites. (If you need a bit of help with this step, just leave a comment on their sites and they’ll get you linked up!)
4) You have the until next Tuesday to post.
5) Have fun, don’t stress, let those creative juices flow!  

Personally, I'm glad to see these two troopers return. I hope you are too!

Cap't Monkey And Tooele Boy And The Marvelous Country

"Cap't Monkey, can I ask you a question?" Tooele Boy asked as they stopped their nightly walk on the beach.

"Of course, Tooele Boy. What is on your mind?"

"I've been wondering, what's so special about America? I mean, we've lived all over the world. Each country is unique. Why is this place different?"

Cap't Monkey stopped and looked to the west as a dying sunset disappeared in the sky. "Tooele Boy, let me tell you something." The sounds of children playing at the edge of the water mixed with the sound of small waves lapped at their feet. 

"All countries have their own special qualities," Cap't Monkey said. "People from these countries should feel proud of where they live, of their own land, just as each of us can feel that our own families have advantages over other families."

"You mean like how father and son pro-wrestlers have advantages over non-father and son tag teams?" the tone in Tooele Boy's question showed the young man's enthusiasm for the sport. 

"Um...well, I actually don't know what you're talking about, son. But I suppose you may have a point." Cap't Monkey decided to walk toward the lake. Tooele Boy followed.

"Even though each country boasts their own traits and benefits, America stands alone in the world. The people who gathered and decided what kind of a country it would be changed all the rules. They risked their lives and the lives of their families for a dream. They believed that man--and by man I mean man, woman and child--that the individual represented God's greatest achievement and that, in the end, he would ultimately make the best decisions for himself, and by extension, for everyone."

Neither man spoke as Cap't Monkey's words swirled in the air before disappearing above their heads.

"So, that's what makes it different?"

"There's many things, but I believe it's the most important."

"Golly, Cap't Monkey. That's pretty neat," Tooele Boy said.

"Yes, it is, Tooele Boy. Yes it is."

Word Count: 343

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ladies And Gentlemen, I Present Tom Carr...


One of the best parts of attending a conference is creating and building friendships. Some call it networking, but for me, networking is too informal, too stuffy. The guys and gals I hung out with over this past weekend are friends. 

I met many new people last weekend at LTUE and enjoyed being with others I already knew. And as today was President's Day, my mind wondered to a friend who recently wrote, directed, produced, starred in a show about President Lincoln. My friend's name is Tom Carr.

To put it simply, Tom is amazing! There's really no other way to describe him. I first met Tom at the Salt City Steamfest convention last summer. The table our publishing company rented kept encroaching on Tom's table. Tom never complained, at least, not to me.

Since then Tom and I attended both the Salt Lake Comic Con, and LTUE as panelists. I friended him on Facebook and have followed his posts for several months. He has a project called Pinkertons A Secret Mission and he tried several fundraising efforts to produce the series. So far, he hasn't raised enough to do what he wants with that--and several other--projects.

There is no quit in Tom. The guy's tenacious! I probably would have given up after trying one fundraising effort. Then again, I might not have started up such a project in the first place. I'm just not as brave. You can see an excerpt of Pinkertons on YouTube: HERE. If you get a chance, watch it. It's not perfect and Tom admits as such, but he worked hard and he created it, flaws and all.

Tom and I shared several panels at the conferences we attended. I'm hoping we'll be able to share more in the future. And as I hear him talk about his experiences, his successes and not so successful endeavors, I will sit and be impressed by him. I hope only the best for him because if he accomplished a tenth of all the things he wants to do, I think everyone in the world would definitely know who Tom Carr is. I'm lucky enough to already know.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The SucessfulUn-Farewell...


Today we had more people in our house than there have ever been. And it's all for an event that no longer exists.


In my culture (and religion...) young men leave home after the graduate from high school and leave on church missions. Young women also serve, but it's not expected like the young men. It's something I did after I graduated and back then--in the dark ages--we had what we called "Missionary Farewells" where the one called to serve would speak in church.


In addition, members of the missionary's families would participate in the program. Parents would give talks, and siblings would speak, pray, or provide musical numbers. It was a production and extended family members would come from miles around to share the moment with the missionary and their family.


Years ago, I can't remember when exactly, the church tweaked the traditions--I believe--for the better. For one, the meetings are no longer called "Missionary Farewells." Family members are not asked to participate, though I believe they probably do sometimes...you know, musical numbers. And the entire church meeting is not centered around the missionary. 


One tradition that's remained is a gathering after the meeting. We've had parties and get-togethers at our house before, but never like this. Our house was packed with friends and family. It was tough to get around, but totally worth it. Of course, not everyone could be with us and they were missed, but we were so happy to have a full house.


So, if anyone asks, we had a very successful and fun Un-Farewell.







 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

LTUE 32, Has Come And Gone...


The Life, The Universe And Everything, or LTUE 32 Conference is over. It's been a long, but very good three days.

I first attended LTUE two years ago and I had a blast. This year I went as a panelist and I had even more fun. The friends, the fun, and a keynote speech from Orson Scott Card made the entire experience wonderful. So much so, I made a little video.

So, until next year, enjoy the memories!

video

Friday, February 14, 2014

So, You're Telling Me There's A Green Room...?


"So, where are you headed next?" I asked my friend Chas we walked along the semi-crowded halls of the Provo Marriott (that doesn't have free internet for guests, by the way...grrrr). 

"I'm going to go see if there are any free eclairs left."

"Free eclairs?" I asked, for chocolate creaminess sounded pretty good right about then.

"Yeah," he said casually. "They're in the Green Room."

"What?! There's a Green Room?"

"Yeah, it's just up here at the Willow room."


And so, I almost made the same mistake TWICE! I almost missed out on free food at the Green Room set up for panelists and other guest at this year's LTUE writer's conference.

Last year I was honored to be a panelist at the country's most successful Comic Con, the Salt Lake Comic Con, and I didn't realize until after I read a fellow panelist's Facebook post weeks later that he had an incredible experience meeting celebrities in the Comic Con Green Room.

I had no idea a Green Room at Comic Con even existed and I found out weeks after it was over. Today I spoke to the panelist and told him how I only found out about the room after reading his Facebook post.

"Oh yeah! It was great!" he said smiling." They had a chef who would make whatever you wanted right there for you!" This did not improve my spirits, but it forever cemented the thought in my mind that if I'm again fortunate enough to be invited to be a panelist at another Comic Con (or any event, for that matter...), the first thing I'm going to do is find the Green Room!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Day In Utah County...


One of the most beautiful valleys in my state is the valley that's named after the state, Utah County. I've never lived in Utah County and I know I have made fun of it more than once over the years, but it is really beautiful.


I spent the day here today with two of my kids. I'll be here tomorrow and most of Saturday. I'm here as part of a writer's conference, LTUE (Light, The Universe, And Everything). I've met new friends, spent good times with established friends, and wore out the kids with many hours of writing instruction.


Tonight my brother and sis-in-law were kind enough to allow me and the kids to crash at their place. They have cool--and big--posters. The trip's been fun so far, and it's just beginning.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Neil Gaiman's The Ocean At The End Of The Lane...A Book Review

15783514*

"Neil Gaiman? Have I heard of Neil Gaiman?" my co-worker asked. Apparently she's a big fan. I read one short story of his a while back. I enjoyed it, but I didn't feel like I got a good sense of him as a writer. Today I started (and finished...) The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I think I can say also that I'm a big fan.

Because I listen to audiobooks, the person reading the story can have a huge impact on the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the narrator, which just happens to be the author as well. There's something about someone reading intelligent script in a British accent...good stuff!

We meet the main character as a middle-aged man visiting a neighborhood where he used to live. The author then transports himself (and us...) back to a time when he's seven-years old. We then see the world through his eyes. It could be a coming-of-age film, and it is, in a way, but when strange things begin to happen to the child, I had to wonder if things were actually happening, or if the narrative is born from the imagination of a boy who loves to read. Personally, I like thinking even well into the book that I don't know everything and the author may be toying with me just a bit.

The book does turn fantastical where the magic systems are not completely explained, but I don't believe the book needed definite explanations. In my opinion, it would muddy things up. And since the story is presented to us from a seven-year old's perspective, we understand what's happening on that level. I thought it was great. It reminded me of a Haruki Murakami story (just not as graphic...), or a Hayao Miyazaki film.

I usually know a little bit about an author when I read something new. This time I just jumped right in. I'm glad I did, but I'll probably do a little research on him. Needless to say, I've put a hold on another of his books at the library.

* Photo used without permission from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15783514-the-ocean-at-the-end-of-the-lane?ac=1

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tonight's Temple Visit...


You may have seen the buildings, large, well-lit structures with a gold statue of a man blowing a horn on top. They're LDS temples and they're popping up everywhere. No state has more of these building than where I live, Utah. There's the world-famous Salt Lake City Temple, a Gothic structure that took 40 years to build. Temples nowadays take 40 months to build, not 40 years.


If you live near one, or are passing by---especially at night, try and get some pictures. My wife, son and I went to the temple closest to where we live tonight and I tried getting some pictures. Unfortunately, all I had was my phone. These pictures don't do the place justice.


The buildings are incredibly important to members of the church, but even if you're not a member, I hope you get a chance to check out a temple close up. Go in the summer when the grounds are incredibly beautiful, or in winter after snow has fallen, or at night. And bring a camera.