Friday, January 31, 2014

15 Movies

It was one of those Facebook memes – "Rules: don't take too long to think about it. 15 movies you've seen that will always stick with you. The first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. Don't ponder on your top favourite 15 movies – just go with the initial 15. Then tag 15 friends, including me because i'm interested in seeing what movies my friends choose."

I started writing in 2010, got to 13, stopped, saved as a draft, and forgot about it. Found it again yesterday. There have been two movies since 2010 that left a lasting impression, so I added those and was done. I'm not one to tell 15 other people, "Here, now you do this," but here are mine. No surprises if you know me at all. What are yours?

It's a Wonderful Life
The Wizard of Oz
To Kill a Mockingbird
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Joyeaux Noel
Gojira (original version of Godzilla)
John Carter
A Christmas Story
Marvel's The Avengers

Monday, January 27, 2014

W.B.’s Book Report - Doc Savage: Skull Island

Fans marked the 80th anniversaries of two iconic characters in 2013: Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, and King Kong. Longtime Doc historian and modern author Will Murray celebrated the occasion by composing a rousing prequel that merges the best of both myths into a fairly seamless whole.

The early chapters and epilogue of Doc Savage: Skull Island are set in the hours and days right after Kong plummeted to his death from the Empire State Building, where up on the top floor Clark Savage Jr. had established his offices and laboratories with a stalwart band of five fellow adventurers. His friends tell the story of the mysterious great ape that was just felled by Navy warplanes and are astonished when their bronze-skinned leader says softly and sadly, “I know this creature.”

“Long ago, he saved my life,” intoned the metallic man.

Ham Brooks and Monk Mayfair lost all power of speech.

“And I returned the favor in kind,” said Doc Savage.

Doc and his men take on the grim task of removing the body and preparing it for return to Skull Island, the wild land that time forgot where Kong had ruled for many years. Once that task is underway, Doc sits down with his friends to tell a story that begins shortly after the Great War ended and they went their separate ways, and 19-year-old Clark Savage Jr. is summoned by his seafaring father. Clark Savage Sr. has received a clue to the whereabouts of his own father, Stormalong Savage, who has been missing for some years.

Murray’s story logically fills in the clues to Doc’s past left by Lester Dent/Kenneth Robeson through the years and places Kong square in the middle of the Savage mythology. At 412 pages in print, it’s three times longer and more wide-ranging than any of the classic Doc Savage pulp novels, but the story deserves the more epic treatment.

As someone who also has thoroughly enjoyed Doc over the years (to the point where I’ve created my own series of pulp adventures) and considers the 1933 King Kong film as one of the all-time triumphs of adventure fantasy, I had a ball with Murray’s loving treatment, and I unhesitatingly recommend Doc Savage: Skull Island. It may well be a good entry point for yet another generation to discover Doc and his band all over again.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A weird side effect of working ahead

I've noticed this in the newspaper business, where you're always working on tomorrow's paper. Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself it's not tomorrow already.

After I’ve spent a whole day reading or writing "today" on stories that will appear Wednesday, and after awhile I start thinking it's Wednesday already. I need to reassure myself that no, I didn’t miss that appointment I had at 4 p.m. Tuesday, because it’s still 2:30 and I have 90 minutes to get there, I’m not almost 23 hours late.

And now, working on a story I plan to release in March, I've started catching myself thinking that it's February already. Fascinating.

I’m trying to work ahead so that the next Myke Phoenix story is finished (at minimum in draft form) when the new one is released. I completed Night of the Superstorm on the day before I released Invasion of the Body Borrowers. Now I’m working through Duck Man Walking, which debuts March 3.

People who write about setting goals often will say that it’s beneficial to envision yourself as already successful. What does success look like? Set your mind and grow into that vision. I’m finding that if I set I mind thoroughly enough while you work ahead, you need to extract yourself from that vision to get back to real life.

Because the story that comes out Feb. 3 is finished, I have to keep reminding my mind that it’s still late January. I find myself thinking I missed Valentine’s Day, but it’s still weeks off. It’s the “tomorrow is today” syndrome played out over a span of weeks instead of hours.

I suspect that’s a beneficial side effect of having a deadline – beneficial because when the task must be done by a certain time, a sense of urgency builds up. This common phenomenon first rears its head in school – try pulling an all-nighter for a project that’s due in a week; it’s a lot harder than pulling one the night before the deadline.

It’s important to stay in the moment and remember to live today fully, but dipping a toe into the future can help make the next moments more focused.

Pre-order 'Night of the Superstorm'

Night of the Superstorm, a k a The New Adventures of Myke Phoenix #4, is now available for pre-order at for those who read with iPad, Nook, or any other non-Kindle device. Amazon does not yet allow pre-orders for indie authors, so Kindlers will have to wait.

The story will be released Feb. 3 in exchange for your hard-earned $1.29. Here's the blurb for it:

The storm of the century strikes Astor City, just after Dana Dunsmore embarks on a three-hour riverboat cruise; with her are the boat's skipper, the first mate, a millionaire and his wife, a stunning blonde who looks like a movie star, and a professor.

"Oh my stars," Dana said to herself. "I'm Mary Ann."

The storm wrecks the ship on Big Island, where the refugees find their way into a deserted mansion – and there a criminal genius is searching for hidden treasure with his gang of hoodlums. The refugees' only hope – though they little suspect it – lies in the fact that Dana is married to the man whose alter ego is Myke Phoenix, protector of Astor City and force for good in the universe.

This is the fourth episode in the New Adventures of Myke Phoenix, the monthly series  that brings you pulp fiction without the pulp, graphic novels without the graphics, and the inevitable triumph of whimsy over the bad guys.

Pre-order Night of the Superstorm here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Time flies when you're having fun

I found an interesting little essay online the other day called “Shut Your Dumb Stupid Mouth About The Beatles Being Overrated” that I really can’t recommend in this venue because the author has a severe case of potty mouth. But if you can accept that ranting and excessive profanity sometimes have a place, you might get some sense of catharsis.

The writer’s main point is that as influential as The Beatles have been on popular music, it’s OK to say they’re not your proverbial cup of tea, but you’re dead wrong if you believe they are “overrated.”

I suspect you really had to be there when the Beatles happened to fully appreciate how much they changed the landscape — and how suddenly. There’s a lot of debate about exactly when the rock ’n’ roll era began: It was sometime in the 1950s, but the change was gradual. Not so with the Beatles.

Nope, there was popular music through December 1963, and then “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” struck like lightning. On Jan. 18, 1964, the song debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, and it was No. 1 by Feb. 1. By the time the band appeared on the Ed Sullivan show Feb. 9, 1964, the musical world was changed.

Really. There’s pre-Beatles rock, and there’s post-Beatles rock. It happened in a matter of days, like throwing a switch.

So you may listen to the Beatles and feel “meh” or even actively dislike the music, but you really can’t deny their tremendous influence on popular music. You had to be there.

That boggling sound coming from the second floor of the Advocate is my mind trying to come to grips with the fact that it is now 50 years since all that happened. I was able to deny that I was aging until I realized I hold memories that are a half-century old.

That sounds like a long time. And it is.

It’s long enough to go to high school and graduate, move 1,000 miles to go to college and graduate, take a half-dozen jobs talking to people on the radio, work for three newspapers — wait, four — make scores of mistakes and achieve a handful of triumphs, not the least of which was finding the girl of my dreams in time to spend the last 17 of those 50 years with her.

It’s long enough for the United States to go through nine presidents and the Green Bay Packers to win four Super Bowls — heck, it’s long enough to come up with the idea of the Super Bowl in the first place.

And it’s long enough to hear thousands of songs on the radio, on records, eight-tracks, cassettes, CDs, computers and smartphones — iTunes says I own more than two weeks of music just in digital form.

But some of the things that happened during that half-century don’t seem so long ago and far away. To those who experienced it the first time around, the opening guitar chords of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” still evoke that sense of “Whoa! Who is THAT?”

My favorite movie is “It’s A Wonderful Life,” which concludes with our hard-luck hero getting a glimpse of what the world would be like without him. It’s hard to imagine what the world would be like if the Beatles never existed — unless you lived in that world. For better or for worse, in January 1964 the creative possibilities of popular music were expanded dramatically.

It’s been fun to watch it all happen, especially the part where holy cow, that was a half-century ago. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Cross-posted from Door County Advocate. © Door County Publishing

Monday, January 20, 2014

5 reasons why the headline ‘5 reasons why something’ attracts readers

Bloggers who blog about blogging often use headlines like the headline on this post. This is why a headline like that is so tantalizing.

1. It promises not to take a long time to digest; everybody’s in a hurry, but everybody’s got time for only 5 things.

2. It promises to explain something you didn’t know you wanted to know.

3. It promises to answer the most important question of all: Why?

4. Lists are addictive.

5. Lists generate a conversation. Some of you clicked to see if your 5 reasons are here; others may even leave a comment that points out a sixth or seventh reason.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Myke Phoenix debuts in .epub format

So you want to read the adventures of Myke Phoenix but you don't have a Kindle – yours is a Nook or an iPad, or you read ebooks on your desktop or laptop.

Life is good! You can now find The Song of the Serial Kisser, Firespiders, and Invasion of the Body Borrowers at Kobo, fast becoming the world's leading supplier of fine ebooks. And the original Adventures of Myke Phoenix is, at this writing, being processed for publication in a few days.

But the very latest stories are on Kobo now. You're welcome!

Friday, January 17, 2014

The fragile nature of liberty

I showed some folks the very cool site that the local library has been working on, digitizing and creating a searchable database of every Door County newspaper from 1862 through (currently) 1941. It’s a remarkable and fun site for anyone who likes perusing the “first draft of history.”

After the visitors left, I noticed this story on the front page of the paper that I happened to click on to demonstrate the site. It’s a cautionary reminder of how precious the freedom of speech is – because in every generation there will be many, even a majority, who have no qualms about shutting down the right to dissent in the name of “national security.”

You can find the original newspaper here.


Disloyal remarks cost Egg Harbor man $133.47

Refuses to Pay One Hundred Dollars When Ordered to do so by Justice of Peace Meverden

Upon the complaint of H.C. Scofield, chairman of the Door County Council of Defense, a warrant was sworn out against Albert Zettle, a farmer of the town of Egg Harbor, and Zettle appeared in court Friday, the charge being, "That on the 25th day of July, in the year 1918, at Sturgeon Bay in the presence of other did advocate, teach and advise that citizens of this state should not aid nor assist the United States in prosecuting and carrying on the war with public enemies of the United States, contrary to the laws of 1918."

District Attorney Gaede prosecuted the case, and the defendant had no attorney. When brought into court, Zettle pleaded not guilty to the complaint.

Upon request of Mr. Scofield, the complaint was amended so that Zettle was charged with using language tending to provoke a breach of the peace. The reason that Mr. Scofield requested this was that under the first charge the justice court would have no jurisdiction and it would be necessary to hold Zettle over to the circuit court.

District Attorney Gaede agreed to the change of the charge only with the understanding that the defendant would contribute $100 to the Red Cross. Zettle pleaded guilty to the amended charge.

It being the opinion of Judge Meverden that there was no excuse whatever for the remarks which Zettle is alleged to have made, he fined him the maximum, $100 and costs, amounting in all to $133.47, and also ordered the payment of the $100 contribution to the Red Cross.

Zettle paid the $133.47 but refused to make the $100 contribution to the Red Cross, claiming that the court had no right to force him to do so. As there was no law authorizing the court to do so, the payment could not be forced.

This is not the first time that a case of this kind has arisen in this county, and it seems that those with pro-German tendencies would realize that it does not pay to express them to others.

— Door County Advocate, Aug. 2, 1918

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The magic of giving

One of the tenets of the philosophy my zero-aggression-principle, pacifist hero Ray Kaliber espoused in The Imaginary Revolution is “Give more than you receive.” This week I experienced an example of how that works in real life.

As I wrote the other day, my plans for my little superhero adventure stories got a boost with the arrival of my friend Wally Conger’s new project, Operation Hulk-SMASH. His ideas about smashing ahead through the temptation to procrastinate meshed with and affirmed the incentives I’ve been trying to install in my creative work habits.

I expressed my gratitude in the best way I knew, by giving him the credit he deserved and hopefully encouraging some of you to try his (ridiculously reasonably priced) product. I did this because I appreciated the kick in the psyche, no other reason.

Wally responded by giving me a remarkably generous boost in his own blog and email newsletter, and by scribing a glowing review of The Adventures of Myke Phoenix for Amazon. He gives the book five stars and even reminded me of something I may have forgotten to mention to you: These are fun stories with quite a healthy dose of humor. “I dare you to read any of the six stories in this collection without a big grin on your face," Wally says.

He gave more than he received. I daresay neither of us expected what we got in return for what we’d given.

And that’s the tricky part of giving more than you receive: You need to give out of an attitude of thankfulness, not because you want or expect to receive anything back. The recipient can sense any strings attached to a gift.

The late, great motivator Zig Ziglar famously said you can have everything you want if you just help enough other people get what they want. The key is really, sincerely wanting to help those other people without consciously thinking about your own needs and wants. That’s when the magic of giving happens.
* * * * *
P.S. The Imaginary Revolution is written in the same universe as my first novella, The Imaginary Bomb, but is not exactly a sequel. I’m thinking of writing the same story as a true sequel, from the point of view of the I-Bomb characters. Do you think I’m nuts?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The needy of Door County thank you

United Way of Door County announced this week that the 2013 Annual Fundraising Campaign raised $466,943.50. That’s the most the campaign has ever raised.

My Door County Advocate column:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kick the procrastination demon in the butt once and for all

When last we met, I mentioned that this is the year that my little superpowered friend Myke Phoenix will be making a monthly appearance to thrill and entertain you. I also mentioned that has been my goal for the past two Januarys (Januaries?), and the best I was able to produce was two stories in January and February 2013. Fun stories, but only two.

Why do I feel more confident the third time’s a charm? It’s over there in the right column, where it says “Myke Phoenix Adventures for Kindle.” You’ll find links to the four ebooks that are already available, along with a list of the next six in the series, with specific release dates the first Monday of each month.

Last year I based my goal-making on a concept summed up by Julia Cameron, who said, “Secrecy is the first law of magic.” I’ve found over the years that telling other people the story, before I’ve written it down, expends some of the creative energy that otherwise would be spent wordsmithing. I thought for once I would keep that energy packed inside until needed to unleash a story, then reveal my plan by unveiling a magical story every month until people began to understand, “Oh! This is a monthly series! How cool.”

The problem there? Well, March 2013 came and went without a new Myke Phoenix story, and then April, and May, etc., and no one noticed because no one knew the stories were supposed to be coming. This year (and from now on) I am setting a specific deadline for each story and sharing it with anyone who cares to know. It’s worked grand so far: Next month’s tale is drafted and going through final tweaks, the March and April adventures are plotted and being written, and I know generally where the stories go for the next six months after that. I’ll even let you know that I plan to compile these 12 stories into a print and ebook collection in plenty of time for Christmas 2014 gift-giving. There. Now the pressure’s on me to deliver, which is the same as last year, but now I’ve raised your expectations and I’m accountable to you, too.

As if to affirm that this is a better approach than conjuring magic in secrecy, my old friend Wally Conger has just released an amazingly insightful little package called Operation Hulk-SMASH. It’s a short and to-the-point primer subtitled “Harness Your Green Rage Monster To Build Rapid Business Success.” Wally doesn’t waste a word in encouraging his reader to stop diddling around with those dreams and just get started turning them into reality. I’m pleased to say that building accountability into the system is part of his formula – but I’ll let you find out for yourself. Click here to grab Operation Hulk-SMASH and start tapping its wisdom within moments.

Wally has a knack for getting straight to the point and driving it home. As I prepare to build the Myke Phoenix series, I’ve recently read a number of great books about branding, including Platform, No Brand is An Island, and Write. Publish. Repeat. All of them feature great suggestions that expand on concepts I’d already seen in Wally’s short and to-the-point primer called Breakneck Branding.

I heartily recommend Wally’s new effort for anyone who feels stuck in the water and wants to give their project a swift kick in the right direction. And know that as you keep up with Myke in coming months, the protector of Astor City owes a debt to Operation Hulk-SMASH for helping to keep its author motivated.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A vacation ends

Princess Dejah, age 5 months, learns the joy of vacationing.
And so attention begins to turn back to those tasks that I perform in exchange for enough income to feed the pets and keep us all under this roof. It has been a week of cooking meals and dog treats, cleaning and fussing about, reading and writing, reflecting and occasionally acting, planning and thinking about plans.

At this time last year I made goals to reduce/eliminate my personal debt, increase the quantity (and sales) of my books and stories, exercise more and lose some weight, read more, and produce more of my own food through gardening and the like.

As with all assessment of goals, I have had mixed success, and any lack of progress can be attributed to the fact that I did not exactly follow good advice about how to set goals.

Procrastination and a lack of persistence seem to be my biggest personal foes. For the second year in a row, I set a goal of producing a monthly, 10,000-word adventure about the superheroic Myke Phoenix. The goal was met not at all in 2012 but accomplished for the first two months of 2013. I have reset that goal for the third time, which means the true test of success may be when I release the third new story in March. Ultimately, of course, that 12th tale in December will be the moment of complete success on that front.

The week away from the quotidian did serve its purpose; the mind is cleared and more or less ready to return to the grind, and some good thoughts have been thought. Sometimes all of the order in my mind is undone before noon on the first day back on routine duty; let’s hope this time around I can fend off the disorder a while longer.

One of my foremost goals is not to neglect this little corner of my universe as much as I have been wont to. Here, I hope to wax on life in these interesting times, my various personal projects, and pop culture in general – the stuff I expose my fragile mind to for recreational purposes (TV, music, movies …) – and I do value your thoughts, too, so please let me know in the comments when I’ve piqued your interest, made you think, and/or bored you to tears.

For now I see I have a few emails to answer, some meetings to plan, and some issues to address as the day job resumes – once more unto the breach, dear friends – and so it goes.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Prologue to ‘Night of the Superstorm’

Night of the Superstorm is due for release Feb. 3, 2014, and it is on schedule, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise. Here is how it all starts in this story I’m calling “Gilligan’s Island meets Key Largo.”

Read more.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Warning: The sky is falling!

The last few years have proved H.L. Mencken’s oft (but not oft enough) quoted statement that “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

I thought of that this week when I heard the news that Canada has announced the first avian flu death in North America – a traveler who recently returned from a trip to China.

Keep an eye out for suggestions by which government can lead us to be led to safely from this latest hobgoblin.

It truly is an endless series of hobgoblins, too. As if the bird flu wasn’t enough, there’s a deadly pig virus that has spread to 22 states.

You can almost follow the template in the average news story about these hobgoblins. First, we meet a victim of the hobgoblin as he or she struggles. Then, we are presented with numbers or evidence that the hobgoblin affects many people.

Next, a government official talks about what has been done to fight the hobgoblin and how much could be accomplished if only they had more money or if only the law were strengthened. The solution is almost always more taxpayer dollars or a tougher law, and less freedom or individual choice. The solution presented is very rarely fewer taxpayer dollars (so you can choose how your dollars are spent) or a relaxation of the law (so you can choose for yourself how – or whether – to address the matter).

The practical politicians like it when you’re scared – it gives them another chance to show how much you need them.

A better solution in almost every case: Refuse to be afraid. Free yourself.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

W.B.'s Book Report: Platform – Get Noticed in a Noisy World
For anyone who wants to establish or improve an online platform, Michael Hyatt has written a detailed, nitty-gritty handbook. From the most very basic foundation – create a compelling product – to interacting with your tribe via Twitter and other social media, Hyatt gives enough detail to get the reader started while encouraging us to find our own voice. Platform is essential reading for 21st century entrepreneurs.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

People who disagree with you are not evil

As a columnist who got his start writing about politics and still occasionally joins that conversation, I have not been looking forward to 2014. The reason, of course, is that it’s a partisan election year.

Between now and November, we will be subjected to election campaigns between Republicans and Democrats and all of the ugliness that has come to mean.

This is the subject of my column today in the Door County Advocate.

One last point: Part of the reason the constant bickering between partisans is annoying is that the two parties are not as divided as they believe they are. Both major parties believe in a large, intrusive federal government. Where they occasionally differ is in which parts of our lives to intrude upon.

I believe, perhaps naively, that people enter politics wishing to serve the electorate. But most folks would be able to handle their lives just fine without a gaggle of officious officials looking over their shoulders and regulating nearly their every action.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Released: Invasion of the Body Borrowers
No one really thinks of themselves as evil, not even beings from another planet who turn ordinary humans into zombies.

Read all about the new Myke Phoenix adventure here.

Or if you are already sold, simply click on the cover or here to buy the book for your Kindle for an incredibly reasonable $1.29.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

5 things you may not know about Myke Phoenix

Invasion of the Body Borrowers, the seventh Myke Phoenix story to be published and the third in the new series of 12 stories that will be completed in 2014, should be “live” in the Amazon Kindle Store by this time Monday, Jan. 6. Here are five random tidbits about Myke’s creation that you may or may not have gathered.

Read more.