Books I Want Youth To Discover

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I’m joining this week’s blog hosted by  Long and Short Reviews.

I’ll start with the classics.

The first mystery books I ever read were in elementary school. The Westing Game and Harriet the Spy. The Westing Game was a difficult mystery when I was so young and I loved the feel of solving it at the end-and reading it all myself. Harriet the Spy became my idol…I did a lot of spying on my grandmother’s neighbors when things got slow during my summer visits. The next book that had a big impact on me as a young reader was Island of the Blue Dolphins. I loved the adventure and survival themes, but also it sparked a love of history and studying culture. I have loved that book for years.

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The next two books I read as an adult, but they are actually for younger readers. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is a middle grade book and really, really good. I read it as part of a workshop and was struck by how vivid the writing was and how well it handled  themes ranging from disabilities, to bullying, to exclusion. A very powerful book that all youth should read-and adults to.

The other is The Hate U Give. I haven’t seen the movie (yet) but the book is a must read. It takes the contentious issue of race and police and gives it layers and perspectives that you never get from news or politics. The reason fiction is so powerful is because it can take those issues we want to see as either/or and show that life is actually much more complex than that.

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Truthfully, I think youth should discover the books that they like. I don’t believe in telling people ‘books you must read’ or behaving as if someone’s genre choices are superior to others. Books are personal and the ‘best’ books are the one’s that are ‘best’ for you.

 

 

 

Characters I Never Want to Meet

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Once again, I’m joining the weekly blog challenge at Long and Short Reviews. Check out some of the other authors too.

The Wicked Witch of the West: I know this sounds a little strange but this was the first character that really frightened me. Even though the movie was an old classic by the time I was a child, I have distinct memories of how much the witch’s laugh and her army of flying monkeys gave me nightmares. I can deal with it now-of course-but I can’t forget that childhood thrill /fear factor of the original Wicked Witch of the West.

Kai Winn: There are all kinds of villains and foes in the Star Trek universe, but Kai Winn is the worst. She pretends to be your friend, but undercuts you at every turn. She’s so convinced of her own self-righteous that nothing matters. She never kills anyone herself but doesn’t seem concerned about the result of her actions. Louise Fletcher did an outstanding job in that role and one of the many reasons it’s one of my favorite Treks.

Pennywise: From Stephen King’s It. Clowns have always frightened me, and this only made it worse.

Euron Greyjoy: GoT is full of people you’d never want to meet but I’ll only talk about one. I loathe Euron Greyjoy. He’s vile, disgusting, creepy, and he looks like he never bathes and smells like fish. The only person worst than him (still alive as of this season) is Cersei herself.

This was a tough topic for me, because even when villains are awful, if the writer writes it well, or the actor shines in the role, I want to meet them.

And a little note:
My novella RAW MATERIALS is featured in this weeks Author Shout Cover Wars. I’d really like some votes. Voting lasts for one week, and you can vote once a day.
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Comfort Food

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Once again, I’m  joining the weekly blog challenge at Long and Short Reviews. Check out some of the other authors too. This week’s topic: Favorite Comfort Foods and Why.

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Comfort food is a dangerous one for me, because the truth is I should probably take less comfort in food, and more comfort in exercise. That being said, there are a few items on my comfort food list.

Macaroni and Cheese: The main reason this is a comfort food is because it’s not all that common in Japan. I have to make it myself and cheddar cheese can actually be rather expensive. It’s cheaper lately, thanks to Australian imports, but not as common. Whenever I  visit family in the US I eat macaroni and cheese almost every day. It’s filling and satisfying; plus even though it’s a side, it works for me as a main meal with a salad. Three cheers for macaroni and cheese.

Grits: I miss grits. I grew up in the Southern US, so I ate them fairly religiously. I never thought much about liking or not liking it because, well, in the south you get grits for breakfast or you go hungry. I wouldn’t mind some at the moment though.

Deep fried octopus: I never thought it would become a favorite, but there it is. Octopus, squid, and eel are common in Asian food dishes and in all honesty, I really like octopus. Oh well.

Chocolate Chip Cookies: The world’s best cookies. I struggle between regular chocolate chip and oatmeal chocolate, though I seem to have more cooking successes with oatmeal chocolate chip. I have yet to achieve the perfect cookie-I still fiddle around with the flour/baking soda ratio. If anyone has tips, please leave them in the comments.

White Castle Cheeseburgers: My dad used to take me to pick up an order of White Castle cheeseburgers with him when I was young. (Guess my age!)  My mother wasn’t a fan, but Dad let me ride beside him in the passenger seat. It was a daddy-daughter outing only as my mother didn’t much like them. If I was good, he’d sneak me a few Nutter Butter peanut butter sandwich cookies while we went to get White Castle cheeseburgers.  I haven’t had one in decades, likely, but I mainly think of them when I think of my dad.    ( Are Nutter Butters still around?)

Rice Krispie Treats: are awesome!!!!!!! So, I have a friend, a Japanese woman whom I work with. One day, we decided to take our kids out to the park and bring some snacks. I made Rice Krispie treats. She took one look at them and squealed with joy. I was so shocked. She later told me she’d live in America for two years when she was in elementary school and one of her favorite memories of American life was Rice Krispie Treats. Like I said, Rice Krispie Treats are awesome.

 

According to Melora Pazlar, “there’s nothing worse than half-dead racht”. (DS9: “Melora“)

 

Characters I’d Want to Meet

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Once again, I’d joining the weekly blog challenge at Long and Short Reviews. Check out some of the other authors too.

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I used to fantasize being on an episode of Midsomer Murders. I have a slight addiction to British crime dramas. I’ve spent far too many hours of my life watching and reading them. So if I were to meet fictional characters I’d want to meet some of the fictional detectives.

My journey would start in the fictional district of Midsomer where I would stumble across a murder whilst trekking in the country side. Because this is a Midsomer episode, it would be a clean murder-shooting, strangling, stabbing-but thankfully no serial killers. Those crimes happen on different shows. Then, several local people and local visitors would be questioned until the crime was all related to an argument over inheritance; a marital dispute that took place years ago; some obscure historical find; or a long lost relative. After that is solved, I’d go spent a few days in Oxford.

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In Oxford I would help Inspector Morse solve a case using my knowledge of Latin, Greek, or obscure mythological references. Once again I wouldn’t have to witness any truly gruesome killings, because those would only be referred to offscreen. Plus, it was probably committed by an academic and involved poisoning. I’d get a bit weary of Morse’s drinking and opera, but at least Lewis would be there. I’d probably stick around for a week or so to help Lewis solve a case, and time travel a few years forward so I can help him and DS Hathaway solve a crime.

Since, I have a time machine I should probably make use of it. A cozy mystery case with Father Brown; an intense war time crime with Detective Foyle; or even a further back to consult Miss Marple to do lots of sitting and knitting until we find the killer.

Finally, I’d come back to the present and work on a case with Inspector Vera Stanhope. She has a prickly personality but so do I so I can hold my own.

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So, that’s my big adventure in fictional meetings. How about you?

A Day in My Life

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I’m participating in the weekly blogging challenge at Long and Short Reviews.

I can’t say my days are terribly exciting. Go to work.  Laundry. Cooking. Laundry. Cleaning. Laundry. I hate laundry.  I don’t have a job where I can guarantee writing in the mornings or evenings. If freelance work is hectic, the only time I can dedicate to writing are stray thoughts in a notebook I keep with me constantly. But every now and then, I get to schedule writing days…particularly it I am working on the second draft-the edits and rewrites-which is the most difficult. (And my current struggle.)

Everyday is a reading day!!! I don’t know what I’d do without books.

But what I try to do everyday is make sure I get a chance to appreciate the outdoors.

It’s essential for me to get some physical exercise. I used to be really poor at this. I’d tell myself it was too much  trouble to go to the swimming pool; too much traffic to drive to the gym-any excuse. But I have learned that it is vital to move my body. I have to make sure my muscles are strong. I can sleep better and write better when my body is in shape.

I am a big fan of short hikes. I am fortunate to live in a place with lots of nature that has several parks and a small mountain right behind my house. There are several marked courses I can take-the shortest about 30 minutes, the longest about 2 hours- at a steady pace. So, I thought I’d share a few pictures. If I want to vary my excursions, I take a bicycle ride along the seaside.

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And when I’m done-I watch some SF; usually an episode of Star Trek. A Trek a day keeps the doctor away. 🙂 Currently, I am working through THE EXPANSE. 

So, how was your day? Did you see anything beautiful you’d like to share?

 

*I also write romance books. I don’t promo myself much, but feel free to check out my website.

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Fictional Worlds I’d Rather Not Visit

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This week blogging challenge: Fictional Worlds I’d rather not visit. Follow more bloggers at Long and Short Reviews.

This was a tough one, because generally speaking if I enjoy reading books in a fictional world, I imagine myself living in them to some degree. If I see a movie that I enjoy there is a part of me that wishes I was there. That’s part of the attraction. So if I think of fictional world I’d rather not visit was actually rather challenging.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Max Brooks.  The book was fantastic. I’m not a fan of the zombie genre, yet World War Z approached it as a pastiche of views. It showed how different people reacted to the situation of a zombie virus. And spanned the globe. It was terrifying yet fascinating. I loved reading it but wouldn’t want to live through it.

The Planet of the Apes. (the originals) Even though I have fond memories of watching the originals as a child, it’s definitely not an alternative world I’d want to live in. I used to imagine that I lived in that world-struggling for survival and hiding from bands of gorillas on horseback.

Westeros. We all know you won’t live long even if you belong to a great house.  I don’t want to live in King’s Landing. I’ll go back to Winterfell now that the Bolton’s have been defeated. Maybe Dragonstone? At least, it’s relatively safe at the moment.

Dune. Arrakis is a desert filled with giant worms. No. Just no.

Star Wars. I love Star Wars and want to be a Jedi, but all the planets have one climate per planet. Cold freezing winters, Barren deserts, or jungles. Or extremely overbuilt. Nothing that seems terribly scenic, to be honest.Kashyyyk might be alright, but I don’t speak Wookie. I need to invest in a protocol droid.

So, any suggestions of fictional worlds you’d never live in?

What to Read to learn about Science

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This week’s topic from Long and Short Reviews is: What to Read to Learn About X. I choose science. (Tanith Davenport has some on The War of the Roses. Great for history buffs.)

I was a humanities person. I enjoyed the few science classes that I took in college well enough, but I was never particularly outstanding. My love of history and literature won out. And mathematics…my last venture in the world of math was calculus and the only proof I have of that is a door stopper textbook gathering dust in my parent’s house for the last 25 years. I’ve never looked at it sense, and I couldn’t begin to do any of it, even though, apparently at some point in my life I did.

But I love reading about science. Occasionally, I would read Scientific American or Wired just because it was around and I kind of wanted to know what was going on in the world that didn’t involve celebrities, make-up tips, or man-finding quests. I read a lot on my work lunch breaks. I was bored with my data entry job and for various reasons, not keen to have lunch with my colleagues. I learned a lot.

There are a few books that I have about science and scientists, most of which I re-read from time to time:

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The Code Book Simon Singh: a history of code-breaking and encryption. All the math you thought you’d never understand it explained in readable prose. It even makes solving equations sound fun.

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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind  Yuval Noah Hariri: a historical overview of biology and history-showing our split form the other sapiens to be the only Homo sapiens.Whether or not you agree with his conclusions about where humanity is headed or why civilizations arise as they do, it is interesting.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Sklott: this is about Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose cells are now used for cancer research. It’s really a study about medical ethics-or lack thereof and how poverty and racism affects access to care and the uncomfortable history of racism in medical research.. It will make you angry, but it is a good book.

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Hidden Figures Margot Lee Shetterly: one of my favorite books which was made into one of my favorite movies.I even have a Katherine Johnson limited edition Barbie. The book covers more of the early years of NASA; many of the Black engineers and woman in early science. Very interesting and well researched.

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Starman: The Truth Behind the Legend of Yuri Gagarin Piers Bizony and Jamie Doran: April 12, 1961 Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first to leave the earth’s atmosphere and venture into space. This covers the events leading up to the historic trip; Gagarin’s early life (trust, we have it easy nowadays) and the turn his life took after the trip and the politics that entered the space race.

 

Favorite Movies of All Time

wednesdaybloggingchallenge-copyThis week’s blogging challenge is Favorite Movies or All Time and Why. This challenge is organized by Long and Short Reviews.

I’ve watched a lot of movies, particularly SF movies and animation. I took a lot of film studies courses. My list of favorites would be really long, or many reasons, so I just picked a few movies that I watch whenever I need inspiration or an emotional lift.

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Star Trek: First Contact (1996): This is the movie I watch whenever I feel down. Not only is it one of my favorite Trek films, with characters that I love, but I also love it because of it’s hopeful message. That humanity has a great destiny and things work out through cooperation and a willingness to better ourselves. The Trekkiest of Trek movies.

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The Birds (1963): I like Hitchcock and it’s hard to pick one, but The Birds is my favorite. It’s the kind of horror that I like-psychological. There is never a good reason given for why the birds act the way they do, but it’s terrifying to watch. The performances are great as the sea side residents struggle with a horror they can’t comprehend or understand. It has none of the big budget effects of many modern movies, but the director, actors, camera effects still make it chilling.

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Marty (1955): This 1955 film starring Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair has always been one of my favorites. It’s essentially about an awkward butcher who lives with his widowed mother who meets a plain looking schoolteacher. She’s been dumped by her date for not being pretty enough and they hit it off at a dance. I like it because both of these people don’t have celebrity looks and they are just regular people. But they fall in love. It’s a simple story with a simple script, and what true love is all about.

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Hairspray(2007): This is another movie that I watch whenever I feel down. I have the soundtrack and I love to sing the songs. That’s it, really. It’s just a lot of fun. As you can guess,  like movies where the underdogs win.

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Inception (2010): This Christopher Nolan film looks goods, and it’s got great actors, and really good ideas about dreams and perception and the ‘inception’ of an idea. The soundtrack is great too. Interstellar is also a good one. And even Nolan’s historical film, Dunkirk. I am a history buff and I thought Dunkirk was very well done.

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The Age of Innocence (1993): I love this movie, even if I always feel sad in the end. It’s a historical drama with beautiful costumes, great script, and great acting. You get to see a view of upper class people trapped in their own opulence and over-bearing social order they’ve created for themselves.

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The Magnificent Seven(2016) : I really love this remake of the Magnificent Seven (a real remake, not the B-movie fest of my last post)  and I really don’t think it gets the credit it deserves. Denzel Washington should be in every western as far as I’m concerned. Vincent D’Onofrio is amazing. I felt like I hadn’t seen Ethan Hawke in forever, and he was good. Chris Pratt was too. Lee Bunyung-hun was good too. I also associate him with overwrought  Korean dramas but he’s great in this.

AND THE GREATEST OF THE ALL…ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL

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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: It’s just great from start to finish. It looks great, the characters are heroic. Bravery, loyalty, and all that good stuff. Elves. Wizards. The Riders of Rohan. I rewatch the trilogy for New Year’s every year.

Characters I’d Name a baby after

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I’m joining in on Long and Short Reviews Wednesday blogging challenge with some other romance writers.  So here goes…

I had a neighbor who was a huge Star Wars fan who named his son after a character in a Star Wars Extended Universe novel. Now, I’m dedicated to my SF fandoms, but I never seriously considered naming my children after one. Well, not for long, although a few did cross my mind.

Uhura- Actually, her character was not even given a first name until later in several paperback novels. Nyota was the most common, and the one used as official canon in the 2009 movie.

Delenn- Babylon 5 was an incredibly good show, and Delenn was a well-drawn heroic character.

Sarek-I’ve always like the character of Sarek. I’m actually pleased with James Frain’s portrayal in Discovery. ( I enjoy Star Trek:Discovery). The truth is all the Vulcans have pretty good names. T’Pol and T’Pau. Maybe not as first names, but it would be kind of cool for a middle name.

I did name pets after characters. My beloved cats Legolas and Frodo.

 

Favorite things to do in winter

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I’m joining in on Long and Short Reviews Wednesday blogging challenge with some other romance writers.  So here goes…

Snow. I’ve spent most of my life in places with little snowfall. I love seeing photos and snapshots of wintery scenes-but perhaps I’m romanticizing things. I can look at movie or film with majestic winter settings within the comfort of a warm house. And shoveling snow which looks like an experience I can live without.  Occasionally, I get the opportunity to experience a dusting of snow and I always try to go out in it, just to feel the snowflakes hit my face. I might be imagining it but it seems as if the world gets quieter for the moments before a snowfall starts.

Cooking. I’m not an outstanding cook by any means, but in winter I don’t mind. I like the smell of food cooking and cold weather soups, stews, bread, and casseroles are comforting. And cookies. This is why I always gain weight over the winter.

Hot Chocolate.  I remember as a child my mother always bought those containers of Hershey’s cocoa powder.  I can still remember opening it up and smelling the chocolate. Of course, I was a fan of mini marshmallows Regular marshmallows were for making Rice Krispie treats and s’mores. I’m picky about my marshmallow rules. Every year, my family and I go to a night illumination show. Now, I love the exhibits, but I confess part of the reason I go is because of the more expensive custom made hot chocolate on sale. Godiva even lets you choose the amount of bitter in your chocolate.

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What do you think? Do you drink hot chocolate? With or without marshmallows?