Monday, July 29, 2013

I Are What I Be

          Sometimes you are just born a certain way, and that is the way you are, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.  To paraphrase a slightly deformed sailor, “I y’am what I y’am”.  Based upon that premise, which basically makes the whole field of psychology useless, I have a confession to make:  I love fast food.   And make no mistake, this is not an apology.  I state it loudly and with pride.  I love fast food.
            This is one thing my brother and co-author and I have in common.  We both love fast food.  Berk is more organized about it, though, as he is with most things.  He keeps a file of fast food coupons, and when he goes out to satiate his cravings, he merely opens that file and finds a coupon for a type of fast food he hasn’t had recently, (in this case recently means in the last week or so).
            I don’t love fast food any less, and therefore I try to save coupons too, but I always forget where it is that I saved them and by the time I find them they have expired.  That’s okay, though, because I usually order off the dollar menu anyway.  Which is another great thing about fast food.  For under four bucks I can get a couple of burgers and a diet coke.
            I wish to also make clear that I am not a fast food snob.  I like all kinds of fast food: burgers, pizza, tacos, fried chicken, sub sandwiches, whatever, I like it all.  Oh, I know there are people who will turn their noses up at McDonalds.  “McDonalds!” they’ll say, crinkling their snobbish noses at the thought.  McDonalds is way too common for them.  Not for me.  I like to order two of the regular, original burgers, usually for under a dollar each, (Whimpy was smarter than he looked) a small order of fries, and if I’m feeling crazy, a couple of chocolate chip cookies.  Cheap and good!
            You know what else is cheap and good? Jack ‘n the Box tacos.  You can get two tacos for 99 cents.  That and a burger, for a buck, make a meal.  I like Del Taco, Taco Bell, (except at Taco Bell you can’t get Diet Coke, come on, guys get with the program), Pizza Hut, Little Caesars’, KFC, Subway, and I even like Wendy’s, although I don’t like that skinny, obnoxious, little red head who does their commercials.  No way she eats at Wendy’s all the time.
            You know what else is cheap and good?  Del Taco’s half pound bean burrito.  Costs under a dollar and is virtually a meal in and of itself.  I drown it in their hottest hot sauce, and to top it off, you can get Diet Coke at Del Taco.
            I know what you’re thinking: Why get Diet Coke if you’re eating fast food anyway?  Does it really make that much difference?  Eh, probably not, but I have just developed a taste for Diet Coke.  I like it better.  And when push comes to shove, I’m buying fast food because I like the taste.  So I get what I want for a few bucks and don’t worry about the rest.
            You know what else is cheap and good?  Pizza Hut meat lovers pizza when they have that $10.00 deal.  Especially when it has bacon on it.  All that fat-laden meat, with cheese and marinara sauce.  Yum!
            You may think I’m going to die young, but I have news for you.  I already past being young.  Besides, what is the point of living a long time if you have to eat like a rabbit.  Come to think of it, have you ever seen a really old rabbit?  I didn’t think so.
            So there you have it.  I love fast food.  I would call it my “guilty pleasure”, except I don’t feel guilty at all about it.  If I had a guilty pleasure, and I might, I sure as hell wouldn’t be telling you all about it anyway.
            Fast food: you gotta love it.  I’ll have a salad tomorrow.


Monday, July 22, 2013


           I am getting excited about going back to Trona and Ridgecrest for our book signing, to be held in Ridgecrest on August 3.  It is true that we decided to make the venue for our horror tale be Trona, California:  A dry, hot, and sometimes stinky, little desert town.  I think it makes a good backdrop to our story.  But, lest anyone misunderstand, I love Trona and always enjoy going back there to visit.  I grew up there, and I still can’t think of anywhere I would have rather grown up. 
            Not everyone understands this.  The first time I took my wife to Trona, which was after about 10 years of marriage, she expressed profound sympathy to me for having lived there as a child.  Oh, but I loved living there and still think of Trona as a special place.
            I think the thing I miss the most since leaving Trona is the freedom.  Imagine being able to walk out your front door and just walk into the desert to get away.  Just cross the street and walk out of town into the baking wilderness.  You can’t do that in the city.  And even when we lived in a small town in Wyoming that wasn’t possible.  All the land surrounding the town was owned by ranches, farms and mining companies.  One had to drive a substantial distance to get “get away”, and even then the best you could do was a national forest, with all the laws, rules and regulation that come with that.
            In Trona, you could just get away.  Go away, virtually any direction, and leave everything else behind.  You could build a fire just about anywhere you wanted.  You could camp wherever your fancy dictated.  Tents were rarely needed because it rarely rained.  Sleeping in a tent is one thing, literally sleeping out under the stars takes the outdoor experience to a whole new level.
            And like many small rural communities, the people in Trona are friendly, laidback and helpful; just more neighborly.  Even if it is a little stinky there, once in a while, I can breathe easier.  I can breathe freer.
            Where am going with this?  I’m not sure.  I’m certainly not apologizing for writing a scary story that takes place in Trona.  Right here I could say that “every town should be that lucky”, but that would sound vain and egotistical.  I guess it would be better to say that I have done Trona no harm.  I have only represented it as it truly is, and set up a fictional, but scary, narrative there.  That in no way should reflect my fond feelings for it.
            I know it will be hot as Hades when I get there, but to me that is part of the charm.  Not that Hades is all that charming, but one’s hometown is always charming, even with all its quirks and oddities.
            It will be fun being back in Trona.  I can’t wait.

Friday, July 12, 2013


           It is much more fun to blog about random things than it is to blog about the business of being an author.  At least I’m not blogging about being an attorney.  Actually it would be even more fun to blog about politics.  I have so much to say, probably all useless, but still . . .  and with this immigration thing going on . . . .  Of course everyone (I mean everyone involved with this blog, like Berk, my wife, the publisher) is dreading the day I blog about politics, so I will forgo for at least a little longer.
            And, there is business to be done.  We have a number of book signings coming up that need to be publicized.  On August 3 we are signing books at the Red Rocks Bookstore in Ridgecrest California.  Ridgecrest is only about 20 miles from Trona, where the story in the book takes place, and where I went to junior high and high school.  We are excited to go there.  But then I am always excited to go back to the desert for any reason.  Our Facebook page will have the times, addresses and specifics.  (The link is in the right-hand column). 
            On August 6 we will be at the Barnes & Noble in Huntington Beach, California at the Bella Terra Mall.  This is close to where I raised my family for twenty years and only a few miles from the beach.  We are excited to see all our close friends from the Huntington Beach area, but then I am always excited to go back to the beach for any reason.

            On August 10 we will be at the Barnes & Noble in Long Beach, California.  Woo-Hoo, more beach time!  Between Huntington Beach and Long Beach is Seal (you guessed it) Beach.  If you drive down Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach, and look to your left you will see a water tower that has been remodeled into a house.  It is built way up on stilts and looks way cool.  It is also always for sale.  But I digress.

            This is our California book signing tour.  I wonder if I could convince our publisher in setting up one in Tijuana?  It would be real exciting to go to Tijuana for a book signing, but then I am always excited to go back to Mexico for any reason.  The fact that our book hasn’t yet been translated into Spanish may put a damper on this idea.

            On August 24 Berk is back in St. George for another book signing at the Barnes & Noble there.  (I was going to say that I’m usually not too excited about going to St. George, Utah, but I was afraid I might offend someone there).  Barnes & Noble has been really great about sponsoring our book signings.  (I was going to say that they are really great at helping old people figure out how to use their Nooks, too, but I was afraid I might offend some old people).
            Additionally, we are set to be at the University of Utah Bookstore in Salt Lake City on Halloween doing a book signing there.  That will be awesome fun, but then I am always excited about Halloween.  Some people (my wife) might say I am a real Halloweenie.

            Next we are headed to the Midwest.  Watch out Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, (Kentucky is almost the Midwest).
            See you there!

Saturday, July 6, 2013


BW Hi, Ann Marie.  We're excited to have you here as part of your Blog Tour for Up In the Air.  Hope you are having a great day. 

AMM:  I am thrilled to be here as well Berk and Andy. Thank you so much for having me.  

BW This is a particularly special day because it is also the official release date of Up in the Air.  We love parties and have looked forward to personally wishing you HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY!

AMM:  Yay! Another birthday to celebrate every year. That leaves me smiling. 

BW: We've got to say we've read the book and think it has all the markings of a classic. 

AMM :  I’m speechless. Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed reading Up In the Air. It’s a book that’s very close to my heart.

BW:  Up In the Air is a magical fantasy on many levels.  As part of your visit today, would you share your ideas on what makes good fantasy?  

AMM:  I’d love to. 

What Makes Good Fantasy

In a sense, what makes good fantasy goes hand in hand with what makes a good story, except there is the added element of an invented world that form the soul, heart and backbone for the events of the story.

Fantasy can take you anywhere and everywhere. It is wide open to whatever the mind can imagine. Yet within an invented world, there have to be rules. Anything can happen, true, but the events should not be arbitrary. The boundaries, as with any book, are what help to create tension and drama.

That said, a book of fantasy should strive to be original enough that it stands out from all the other novels of the same genre. This can be a challenge given the hundreds of fantasy books on the market. But originality can take many forms, from approach to plot, and it’s up to the individual author to find it.

Whatever choice is made, fantasy books should snag readers and pull them into their make-believe world, where readers will want to go willingly and happily, to be entertained and taken for the ride of their lives.

However, a book of fantasy in and of itself, isn’t enough. Definitely, the more an author knows the world he is creating, the stronger and more ‘realistic’ the story will be. However, good fantasy cannot exist without what most good stories have: 

1.    A character (or characters) the reader can connect with and care about
2.    Something must be at stake

3.    The greater the conflict, the greater the tension, the more intriguing the story

4.    Of course, basic elements of style, tone, tension, drama, pace, etc. must come into play
5.    And all the above must blend in seamlessly with the world of the fantasy created.

Of the five points I mentioned above, characterization, to me, is the most crucial. A strong character can keep a reader’s attention even if there are flaws in a story, because once readers connect with the character(s), a relationship is established, emotional connections are made, and readers become vested in  the character’s journey. They want to see how their newfound ‘buddies’ will get out of the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

And here is where the fantasy world can step in and establish itself as King and/or Queen. The elements of the invented world can then shape the options at the disposal of the character(s). Beware though that characters, as all writers know, love to take the lead and shape the world they are placed in for their own ends.

So, the way I see it, good fantasy all boils down to strong, likeable characters; a world that fascinates and intrigues; conflict, and a story into which readers can lose themselves and suspend disbelief for a few hours of immeasurable joy and fascination.

BW:  Thank you, Anne Marie.  Now, if anyone is wondering what WE think of Up In the Air, hop over to OUR REVIEW.  Be sure to check out the GIVEAWAY below!
Here is where you can get Up In the Air: 

BW: Now comes the part where we get to brag a bit about Up In the Air and Ann Marie Meyers.
Meet Ann Marie:
ANN MARIE MEYERS grew up in Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies. She has a degree in languages and translates legal and technical documents from French and Spanish into English. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and energetic daughter. Meyers is an active member of SCBWI and facilitates a children's writing group twice a month.
Find Ann Marie online at: 

The official synopsis from the publisher:

Ever since she can remember, ten-year-old Melody has always wanted to fly.
And when she leaps off a swing in the park one day and lands in the mystical realm of Chimeroan, her dream finally comes true. She is given a pair of wings. She can fly! Life cannot be any better.
Yet, dreams do come with a price. Even with wings, Melody realizes she cannot outfly the memories of her past. The car accident that has left her father paralyzed, and her unscarred, still plagues her with guilt— she believes that it was entirely her fault.
In Chimeroan, Melody is forced to come to terms with her part in her father's accident. She must choose between the two things that have become the world to her: keeping her wings or healing her father.

 Praises for Up In the Air 

 “Although Up in the Air is an easy read aimed at young readers, it is a story that will enthrall even the most serious of adults.  What begins as a seemingly hopeless story takes us up and over and into the place where our deepest desires lie waiting.  Chimeroan gives Melody (the main character) and the reader a sense of new hope by reminding us all what it is to dream, and what can happen if you just trust and follow your dreams to their fullest potential. The hopeful message that Up in the Air gives the reader—entwined beautifully with fairies, dragons, witches and the like—is one that is clearly relevant and indeed necessary today.”—Dawna Joy Whitman, actor and playwright, Life as a Pomegranate, The Hush Baby, Containers

”Full of adventure and fun characters, I would recommend this to anyone wanting to fulfill their dreams.  Or even to those who wish to guide someone on their way. A great all around book.”—Casey, Goodreads First Reads reviewer

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

REVIEW: UP IN THE AIR by Ann Marie Meyers

A new novel by Anne Marie Meyers

I enjoyed reading this wonderful book by a fellow author and am pleased to add my voice to the many also excited about UP IN THE AIR.   This book has all the earmarks of a classic. 

                Melody’s “Zombie Look” works every time.  She goes cross-eyed, scrunches up her lips, sucks in her cheeks and sticks out her tongue.  Bullies and anyone getting too friendly at school instantly back away.  That is important to ten-year-old Melody because she has things to hide.  She knows she is responsible for the car accident that paralyzed her Dad.  That memory is just one of many that she stuffs into the black hole of forgetting whenever they surface.
                Melody does have a cherished dream.  Even before the accident, she has always wanted to fly.  She feels the wind swelling around her as she rides on swings or teeters on fences and knows if she can only let go, she will fly, she will be free.
                One day as she launches from the highest loop she has ever gotten on a swing, a white fog envelopes her.  Where is she?  Did she crash and land in a coma?
                Melody has entered the fantasy world of Chimeroan, a place where cherished wishes come true.  With her Guide, Sara, a teenage girl with wings, Melody explores the fantastical world full of witches, dragons, leprechauns and every other imaginable person or creature.  Melody loves her new wings, but must earn them by fulfilling tasks.  Melody has choices to make, fears to conquer, and trust to learn.   
                Writing in a beautiful voice, simple but profound, Ann Marie Meyers speaks to the heart and mind.  Middle grade readers (and adults) will recognize their own concerns and find hope and optimism that life can be beautiful in spite of troubles, choices are just choices, and forgiveness and trust are possible.

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Ann Marie Meyer
I grew up in Trinidad and Tobago and graduated from Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia with a Joint Honors Degree in French and Spanish. After leaving university, I got a job at the Trinidad and Tobago Tourist Board and later at the United Nations, New York. While at the UN I took a translation certificate course at New York University, School of Continuing Education, and went on to become a freelance translator. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I started writing and never stopped.
Though adults were my initial target audience, this changed soon after my daughter was born and ideas for children’s stories kept pouring in. Up In The Air, is my first children’s book.
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To find out more about Ann Marie check out these links: 
We advise all to check back on our blog this Saturday, July 6, 2013.  We get to host Ann Marie as part of her Book Blog Tour.  There will be lots of fun stuff, and you'll get to know this fine author better.  

This Saturday is also the release date for UP IN THE AIR.  Visit and wish her HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY.