Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Big Huge Ball Game...Of Frustration!

My daughter works P/T in a game store. It's a charming store with games, puzzles, t-shirts, books, and even music. But the thing I find the most fun is a huge ball located in the middle of the floor, a giant marble game.

And it's frustrating me to no end.

I've been picking up my daughter at the end of her shifts--something I'm glad to do. There's a lot of fun games in the store, even a couple on the counter you can try out yourself. They're fun, but I have more fun trying to get the that little steel ball though the various traps.

There's three choices to begin the journey. I've mastered the first track. The second track is currently giving me fits. I can get about halfway through and then it falls apart. I know if I had more time--like if I had the thing in my house, or if I worked at the store and had some down time when no one was there--I could complete the puzzle. I usually only have a few minutes of practice time before the store closes.

I thought about how much games and puzzles have changed in such a short period of time. When I was my daughter's age, almost no one had a personal computer so video games were a luxury of arcades. We had board games and puzzles--much like the ones in the store. Now, when I think of games, my mind goes to the electronic versions. I'll bet somewhere there's an electronic version of the big ball of frustration puzzle available to download.

Still, it's not like the real thing. I'm hoping I'll be able to complete the puzzle one of these days. Time will tell.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Rustmonster "Clockman: A Steampunk Rock Opera"...Awesome!

Last week I picked up a new CD. Not a lot of steampunk-themed albums out there.

Too bad.

Rustmonster's Clockman: A Steampunk Rock Opera does the musical genre proud.

A few years ago I attended the Gangrene Music Festival. That year's theme: Steampunk. Rustmonster recorded the songs and released the songs from that festival on CD.

If you're not familiar with Steampunk, it's a literary genre, a fashion movement, an art style, and there's even music. There's some discussion about what can be and what shouldn't be classified as "steampunk," but I can say with certainty, that if you want to know what Steampunk music sounds like, listen to this CD.

The first song, March of the Fools, reminded me of Pat Metheny Group's Forward March, the first song on their amazing First Circle album. But Rustmonster plays their song better. All the songs on the CD are raw, industrial, real. They're like a steak meal that's delicious, but a little tough. The meal, however, stays with you. Gives you courage and strength all day long.

In addition to some gritty songs, there's a bonus audiobook in three parts, a story called, Coke, Steel, and Oil. It's worth the price of admission right there.

I liked these songs. I'm partial to all things Steampunk so that helps. I also love the fact that the musicians are local, and they're talented. Do a "Rustmonster" search on iTunes or Google Play. It's there. I admit, this music may not be for everyone. You may not like it, but I guarantee, if you do like it, you'll really like it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Six Years Ago I Took A Picture Of A Wish...Today that Wish Came True

Today was exciting for the Taylor household. My book Chaser went on sale on Amazon--the digital copy. I spent much of the day doing a little self-promotion, but hopefully, not too much. I received well-wishes from friends and family and even got a review posted on the Chaser Amazon page (you can access that page: HERE for yourself...).

But it wasn't until I did a little Facebook reminiscing that I found something that totally blew me away. You see, six years ago to the day I was in a Barnes & Noble bookstore imaging a book written by me in their store. I took a picture of the exact place a novel written by Scott William Taylor would be shelved. I used it as my Pic Of The Day. I know I was in Barnes & Noble on January 16th because one of my Pic Of The Day rules is I can only post a picture that I took the same day.

To an aspiring author, Barnes & Noble is like a pinnacle, a place that proves you are a real author. Since 2012 I've learned a lot about publishing. The publishing world is multi-faceted and complicated. Back then, I thought all you did was write a fantastic book and the world rushes to your door with cash and accolades. 

Sorry--didn't happen then; doesn't happen now.

I'm excited about my book, but I'm not unrealistic. And it may never actually be wedged between Patrick Taylor's An Irish Country Village, and Terence Taylor's Bite Marks--especially since mine is a middle-grade novel and the two Taylor novels appear to be written for readers not necessarily in jr. high school. But something made me search a bookstore exactly six years ago today, make a little gap between two books, take a picture, then post that picture on social media with the caption, "Mmmm...I think something's missing." It's taken six years, but today, on a digital shelf somewhere, it finally happened.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ida Aldridge...A Fascinating Man

Last night my wife and I watched an episode of Victoria. Good show, but there was one issue with the program I had trouble getting over. I kept wondering what parts of the show were real and what were embellished. I don't know the history well enough to know.

But one character fascinated me. Ida Aldridge. In the episode they only called him Mr. Aldridge, a black man who performed a scene from Othello. A google search later and I found this link: HERE. I thought it interesting I found out about this man the day before our country celebrates the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Ida Aldridge was born in New York in 1807, according to the article. At a young age he spent time at the theater and watched other black actors perform. It became something he chose to do with his life. Ida attended college in America and eventually moved to England where he continued his education and continued performing. He became famous and even had the opportunity to meet the queen, hence his appearance in the episode of Victoria.

I have no idea what kind of a life Ida Aldridge had. Life in the nineteenth century could not have been easy, but to think that a black man born in America was able to find success to the point where he met and performed for one of the most powerful people in the world is inspiring. Now, we don't have to grow up from humble beginnings to meet powerful and influential people to be successful. I would imagine that even if he hadn't met the queen, he'd feel his life was important, that he mattered.

Ida eventually became a British citizen and never returned to the nation of his birth. According to the article he was not a perfect man, but I found him fascinating. The BBC could do a show on his life, and I'm sure it would be interesting, too.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Voting For Art...I Don't Quite Understand

I'm getting older, but I'm not too old that I don't remember being a teenager, looking at my mom, and wondering if she and I lived in the same world.

Don't get me wrong--my mother was not clueless, far from it. She was sharp and competent and wise. But sometimes, when my friends and I would talk to her about things that interested us, she just had that look, a look of not quite understanding it all. And now, I know how she feels.

My son is a digital artist. For the past several years he's been making a name for himself in the world of social media. He's produced videos that have been seen hundreds of thousands of times. He's created art that--because of the internet--anyone from anywhere across the globe can order and display. He's still a teenagers, albeit in his last teenage year. It's getting to be a somewhat regular occurrence that he'll tell us of another milestone, another sale, another pinnacle reached.

Like last week, when he told us one of his original works of art is up on a website to be voted on. I checked out the site. I'm sure I had the same look my mom used to have. But I'm smart enough to know that there's an entire fandom out there who, when they see this picture, will think it's really cool. I do, and I don't understand most of it. I've checked out his other artwork and the response he gets from those "in the know" is very positive.

If you'd like to check out the voting site, click: HERE. Maybe you're one who, when they see the picture, know more about it, the character, and everything else. I admit, I just don't, even though I do try and keep up on what all the kids are into these days--there's just so much of it and I've got things to work and sleep.

Yes, I believe having the look of confusion when speaking with your children has arrived for me, as it did with my mother, and will no doubt, happen to my children when their time comes. And on that day, I wonder if the will remember the look I sometimes give them now. Time will tell.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Randy Hopkins...My Neighbor...Is Running For US Congress

The notice went out, a sign went up, a speech was given. It's official. My neighbor is running for congress.

If there's one topic I avoid on this blog, it's politics. It's a policy that's served me well for 2548 blog posts. And I'm not going to start now, at least, not going to have this post devolve into a "what about" fight. This is about the man running, not the race.

I've known Randy for decades. He moved into the neighborhood with his young family back when  a new street was carved into the mountain. I owe a lot to Randy. Because of him I got a job and I've been with the same employer for over twenty years. Back when he and I worked in the same building, we would occasionally carpool, and inevitably the discussions of how best to rule a large group of people came up. Randy retired a few years ago and him putting his hat in the ring for US congress is something that's as natural as water running downhill.

I've not personally spoken to him about this decision. It's too bad we no longer carpool because it would be fun to chew the fat, find out what he'd like to change, what he thinks his chances will be. Randy announced his candidacy today at the Salt Lake City Downtown Library. You can check out his Facebook page to see more about his announcement.

Politics is a dirty business. It takes either a brave man--or a crazy man--to enter the fight. Good luck, Randy! May the wind be always at your back!

Friday, January 12, 2018

"Hyggeligt" Night With Friends...

I got a text earlier this evening from a good friend. He and his family were in town and wondered if I wanted to come over to his sister's house and hang out.


Matt and family was here from the midwest. They're visiting family and friends. The get together was quickly assembled. It was, in a word, cozy. The Danes have a name for cozy. It's called "hygge" and a cozy evening is "hyggeligt." It's such a perfect word and there's really nothing that compares in English. If I had to describe hygge, imagine sitting in a room in the evening, lights lowered--not blaring or overpowering--perhaps a small fire in the fireplace, and with a winter wind blowing outside, you're sitting in a comfortable chair maybe engulfed in a warm blanket drinking tea or hot chocolate chatting with loved ones. That's hygge and it's a wonderful thing.

Of course, you don't have to have all those things to have a hyggeligt evening. We were missing a fire, a winter wind blowing outside, blankets, or warm beverages, but we did have the most important thing--spending time with loved ones, chatting about life, about jobs, family, movies, hobbies, books, and music. We did that tonight. It was great.

When you're young--high school, college-aged--you have a lot of time to just hang out. We would go to friends's homes and talk, or go to a restaurant, spend time with each other, and talk. All that time was not wasted; it was well spent. I think it would be hard to explain to me back then that in the future, doing that same thing--just hanging out--would be so seldom done, and so richly enjoyed. Thanks Matt, Melissa, Darin, Lisa, Amy, Chase, and the kids for a hyggeligt time.

And they even had a Danish chandelier.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

James Alderdice's "Brutal"...Getting Rave Reviews!

One of the fringe benefits of getting involved in the exciting world of writing is getting to know other authors and enjoying their stories. And when you get to know them, you hear about their successes.

And you're happy for them.

Before I hung around a bunch of writers at conventions, I hung out with people in plays at theaters, as well as some people involved in films. I noticed something about writers. I realize I'm generalizing here, but for the most part, authors want to see each other succeed. They're excited when good news from a fellow author hits.

So when local author James Alderdice, a.k.a. David J. West posted on social media that his book, Brutal, was chosen by Fantasia Reviews as one of the best books they reviewed all year, it made me happy. You can find the review website: HERE. You can read about how Brutal was named their Best Literary Value in 2017: HERE. And you can order Brutal on Amazon: HERE. It's only 99¢ right now!

I've read several of Mr. Alderdice/West stories. His impeccable fashion sense is only eclipsed by his fantastic writing. I've not read Brutal yet, but, based on the opinions of others, it's one I definitely should read.

And I'm guessing you should to. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Trader Joe's Theory...But Does It Hold Up?

I came across a story on Yahoo's homepage today. I usually scan the headlines, but rarely do I fall for their catchy headlines. But this click-bate story hooked me, and I bit. It had to do with something bizarre at Trader Joe's.

You can access the Yahoo story: HERE.

It's an interesting theory. According to the article, Actor Daniel Spenser noticed that things found in Traders Joe's have five syllables in their names. Several items were identified to prove his point.

Harvest whole wheat bread 
Mini beef tacos 
Super burrito
Pita bite crackers 
Three seed beet crackers 
Pesto and quinoa

From those examples, Daniel's theory holds true. But I wanted more proof. We had a few Trader Joe's items left over from Christmas. Did the names follow the five-syllable rule?

First item:

Candy Cane Joe-Joe's.

Boom! Works!

Second item:

Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Stars.

Um...maybe? To fit into the five-syllable rule, I have to fudge things. I have to remove "mini" and count chocolate as a two-syllable name, not a three-syllable one.

Last item:

Organic Hot Cocoa Mix.

Nope. Fail.

I can't even fudge this to make this a five-syllable name. If I take off "organic," we're left with hot cocoa mix--that's four. Add organic and we're up to seven.

I still like the theory. I'm sure many people who read the article did what I did, either by thinking of Trader Joe's things, or by rifling through their pantry for Trader Joe's originals. I think when we again visit our state's one and only Trader Joe's, I'm going to see just how many things follow this rule. I'm sure it's more the rule than the exception.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Salt Lake Comic Cons And FanX...Amazing Experiences, Lives Changed!

There's no other way to look at this--I'm one incredibly lucky fella! Last week I did a little cleaning in my room. I have a spot on a bookshelf where I put my convention lanyards and passes. I've kept every Salt Lake Comic Con and FanX pass I've been given since 2013. Tonight I spread them out and just looked at them.

There's a lot of amazing experiences packed into those plastic passes.

Back in the summer of 2013 I was asked by a friend if I'd like to help out with the first Comic Con in Salt Lake. I was beyond honored. But even I had no idea just what that simple question would mean to my future, to the future of my family, and my career. Had I known, I might have been even more excited (if that were possible...). 

Because of these conventions, I have meet people who I may not have met otherwise, people who have helped me with my writing, helped me get stories published, helped me secure my first novel contract. The book comes out a week from today. I've been on panels with world-famous authors, filmmakers, artists. I've met some of the most beautiful people at these events. 

I know some who diss comic cons. They make fun of the people who go, the people who spend hours of time creating costumes--be they good or not so good--all in the name of fun. They can't understand how people would spend their hard-earned cash for the opportunity to wait in long lines to spend five minutes with their favorite celebrities, leaving only with a signed photo. They can't understand it--it doesn't compute in their minds, and it probably never will.

I feel a little sad for those who think this way. But the great thing about these conventions are those who go couldn't give a flying flip about what others think. Personally, these shows have changed lives--mine included. In years past, the next convention would be a few weeks away, but not this year. We'll have to wait until September. I've been fortunate enough to help out and be a special guest at each one so far. I hope that streak continues, but if it doesn't, I'll always be grateful to Blake, Ryan, Dan, Bryan, and the literally thousands of others who have helped me become a better writer, a better salesman, a better communicator, a better person. 

I can't wait for the next one!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Fyrecon 2018 Edition...Tell Us What YOU'D Like To See!

2018 is only a week old, but before you know it, it'll be summer and it'll be convention season. Fyrecon, Utah's Premiere Writing Conference, will begin its sophomore year June 21-23, 2018 in Layton. It's going to be great!

And there's a way for YOU to help us out. You can suggest topic ideas for classes you'd like to see. From the Fyrecon Facebook page:

Our passion is to help people learn and develop their creative fire. That’s why we’d love to know what YOU want for classes this year. If you have a class you want to see at Fyrecon, please fill out the form on the link. This will help us make sure attendees get the most out out of the conference. 
Note: this for Attendees to request what classes they would like to see, not to submit to be a presenter.

You can visit the Facebook site: HERE.

Last year's event was great. I was fortunate enough to present a couple of classes, classes I help suggest. I've been participating in conventions since 2013 and I think this is the first time I've seen open submissions from the general public. It makes sense--many times we as presenters think we know what people want to learn. Sometimes we're right, sometimes not. Personally, I can't wait to see what topics people suggest. Even if you're not going to attend, please suggest ideas.

Think up topics, go to either the Frycon website: HERE, or the Fyrecon Facebook site: HERE and let us know what you're thinking. You can help make an already great con even better!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Our Street...Engulfed In Fog

It's a shock when you open your front door expecting a winter sun's warmth to cut through the chill and shine on my face, and you can barely see across the street. I didn't know before I opened the door that the fog had rolled in, but once outside, it's all I saw.

I grabbed my cameras and headed out. I tried capturing the feel a foggy scene invokes. It's impossible, really. When you're used to looking west and seeing a valley, an island, a lake, birds and clouds in the sky. I saw none of it because of one big cloud, a huge cloud that surrounded everything.

I love foggy weather. I like weather that's unusual. We don't get a lot of fog in our little hamlet--we live in a desert, after all. But once in a while, it comes and engulfs us and our little world. In the afternoon the sun had burned off much of the fog, so much so, I could see the rest of the town, but tonight, if our neighbors across the street had not turned on their porch lights, I wouldn't be able to see their homes.

Enjoying the fog from the safety of my home is great. According to my phone, the fog will continue tomorrow. Even though I love it, driving in the fog at night isn't ideal. I think I'll take the bus. It's a bigger vehicle, and someone else is driving.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Then All Of A Sudden...Junk Mail

I don't know why, but after New Years, I have been slammed with junk mail.

I mean, do they really know who they're e-mailing?

From the things I've been sent--obviously not.

Way back in 2017 I got junk mail, though nothing compared to now. I'd get maybe 5-10 junk mail e-mails a day. They came from the usual places, tax help, reverse mortgages, loans--lots of financial help. Of course, there were offers of other kinds of "help," too (don't really want to go into detail about those...). Every now and again, I'd get an e-mail that was important and should not have been labeled "junk mail." Those were rare.

But after New Years, it's as if the flood gates burst wide open. Yesterday I thought 94 junk mails after eight hours was a lot. This morning when I woke up, I had over 120 e-mails in my Junk folder waiting for me to take action. Taking action is easy--highlight them all and hit "delete." I just hope I didn't delete anything important.

I'd like to think if I ignore them--delete them without opening and reading them--they'll go away, but I suspect this is not the case. I turn town telemarketers hawking solar panels all the time, but they keep calling. There's probably a way to reduce these pesky e-mails, but it might be more work than it's worth. All I know it is seems to be my new reality, a little digital present for 2018. Happy New Junk Mail Year everyone!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Keeping Up My "One Movie A Year" Pace...

Something occurred to me as my son and I walked to the theater to watch the latest Star Wars installment.

The last time I saw a movie at the theater was last year's Star Wars installment, Star Wars: Rogue One. 

Growing up, I used to go to movies all the time. I watched everything the cool kids watched, saw all the same shows. I wonder why the theater just doesn't have the pull for me it once had. We even have a huge new megaplex a mile and a half from my house. I could walk there. They built it several years ago. I think I have more fingers on my hands than have seen movies at that theater.

There's the cost, of course. Movies cost more than they did in days gone by. There are "dollar theaters," which cost more than a few dollars, but are still cheaper than the others. And I'm not complaining--seeing a movie in a high-end theater today is an amazing experience. Our seats reclined, a big leather LazyBoy-class chair. The audio matched the incredible soundtrack. There's no complaints from me as far as the experience goes.

Even though there's a lot of good shows out there, there's also a lot of crud. And the last thing I want to do is see a movie each week and think it was just "okay." It's one thing getting something from RedBox--if it's bad, I don't feel burned, plus I can watch in my pajamas, and do some writing at the same time. I think I'll continue on my seeing only one film in the theater pace. It works for me.

Come to think of it, I might have watched Star Wars: Rogue One in 2016, just as the year came to an end. Looks like I can't even keep that pace up.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Hey Subway...What Happened To My Frickin' Daily Special?

I'm not one who likes to complain, and truth be told, I'm not really complaining right now, but something happened to me today and got me wondering.

Why the change?

Why, after months (possibly years...) did the particular Subway Restaurant closest to my work location remove their time-tested Monday through Friday sandwich specials? Why? It's not everyday I walk the one and one-half blocks each way along North Temple for a six-inch sandwich special. I usually bring leftovers, but every now and again--usually Thursdays--I decide to get out of the office and spend time with the outside world. Thursdays had a sandwich I enjoyed, the Cold Cut Combo.

The best thing about the specials was that for $3.50, I could get half a sandwich. Some might think that's not enough food, and they would be right. Unless, you do what I do. When they ask (and they always do at Subway...), "What do you want on your sandwich?"

I say (and I always do...), "Everything." My secret is to have them load it up with all the fixins. That way, I get a stuffed meal at a lower price. I guess of the New Years resolutions at the Subway Restaurant closest to my work location was to change things up a bit.

Like I said, I don't like to complain. I scanned the new menu, something I never had to do before, and found a delicious substitute, Black Forest Ham. Of course, the answer to my question of what happened to my daily special is no big mystery...just something Bob Dylan sang about, "These times (and sandwich shops...), they are a-changin..."

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

UCF's Danny White's Response...One Of The Best Tweets I've Read In A Long Time!

Today was a busy day, tweet-wise. Locally the leader of our Church passed away which generated a lot of tweets. But through the haze of political garbage, and other tweets, I found a gem, a bonafide winner. It's from Danny White, the Athletic Director of the University of Central Florida.

He hit a home run.

If you followed NCAA football this year, you know that when all the dusk clears there will only be a couple of teams that won all their games--that never suffered a loss--that went undefeated. UCF is one of them. All the other winning teams, all lower-tier programs in different leagues, will have their school's name etched on the winning trophy.

But not the Knights of the University of Central Florida.

They get a trophy as the winners of this year's Peach Bowl.

The travesty of NCAA football has a long past. I can't tell you how many hours of frustration I went through back during the BCS days. My favorite college football program, the U fo U Utes were denied a national championship in football twice, in 2004 and 2008. Had they been a school with more financial clout, they'd have two trophies, because they earned them. It's frustrating, but it wasn't the first time the best team in the country didn't win the championship trophy.

And it won't be the last. In the Peach Bowl, the Knights beat the Auburn Tigers, who beat both Alabama and Georgia, the two teams playing for the hardware--the winner of next week's game will forever be in the history books as this year's NCAA National Championship.

Of course, thanks to Danny White, the UCF coaches will get a bonus, just as if they won the whole thing.

Because, they did what no other team did in the entire country. They never lost.

Except having their name etched on the trophy, that is.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

When You Turn On The TV And See Your College Roommate As Part Of A Drug Ring...

Back in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I rented a house near the U of U campus. In order to afford the incredibly reasonable rent, I needed roommates. One of those roommates was on national TV tonight. I watched the show (first time I ever watched an entire episode of NCIS...).

I had no idea that one day one of my roommates would portray a multiple yacht owner who ends up dead (spoiler alert...) when he messed with those involved in a Fentanyl drug ring. I mean, I never guessed that would happen.

Strangely enough, I don't know if--back then--he thought it would happen, either.

Kevin Ashworth, a.k.a. yacht owner Richard Lane (or, Dick, to his friends...) moved into our house as I finished up my degree at the U. Good-looking and smart, Kevin always had a look of quiet serenity on his face, a thinking man. I remember discussions of politics, even though he wasn't overtly political, and discussions of other things. And being the good roommate, Kevin came to my wedding. I was happy he was there.

As things go, we drifted apart. I heard a few years ago he had moved to California and had become an actor. You can access his IMDb page: HERE. Though I never thought he'd go in that direction, it made sense, with his looks and everything. Since then I've seen him on other shows, and even in an action-packed film where he played a space shuttle pilot. Unfortunately, the pilot met the same end as the devious Richard (Dick...) Lane. Poor Richard...he messed with the wrong drug dealers--a lesson for us all.

As with all my former roommates, and most in general, I wish him the best. It's exciting to see a former roommate entertaining the masses. But more importantly, I hope he's happy. I hope he's finding joy and enrichment in his life. And I hope he stays away from yachts and drug dealers of any kind.

* Photos used without permission from NCIS and CBS

Monday, January 1, 2018

An Explosive New Years Eve Celebration...

My wife found something interesting last week. She was doing a little internet surfing when she came across funny or unusual family Christmas and New Years traditions. I heard her take in a deep breath, and she said, "We've got to do this!"

After she told me what it was, I agreed.

You see, someone, somewhere out there has a tradition of taking the gingerbread house they build for Christmas and blowing it up on New Years Eve...literally. When she told me, I thought it was such a natural thing to do. I mean, you've got this building made of sweets and it's just sitting there. The longer it sits, the less you want to eat anything off it. Blowing it up solved the age-old question, "What are we going to do with the gingerbread house."

A couple of things. When the kids put the thing together, no one imagined we would be violently destroying it a week later. So, they built it well. And since we're not prone to blow things up, we didn't know the type of explosives we should use. I went shopping Saturday and found some things I thought would work.

Last night, just before and after midnight, we broke holes in the building's walls and placed our fireworks inside. The results were amazing. They lit up the culd-a-sac and when the smoke cleared, most of the building still stood (good construction...). 

We decided we'll need to adopt this into our holiday traditions. Next year, we're going to do some planning. The kids will know that will happen to the house so they may make changes in how they put it together. We'll also do some investigating into which fireworks work best. We had a lot of fun last night. Everyone says they hope the new year will be bigger and better. At least for us and gingerbread houses at New Years, we've got a year to see if this is true.