Why homemade Valentines Day cards are a bad idea


Mulder: I worked really hard on your Valentine’s card. Scully: I know. Mulder: The glitter. The little pink hearts. The pop-up flying saucer. Scully: I was fine until ‘Let’s do an alien three-way.’ Mulder: I can’t make you happy.

Be careful if you decide to make your own Valentines Day card for your honey today. Or at least leave the creativity to the little kids. They’re so much cuter than the awkward adults.

Star Trek 50th: Plomeek Soup? Again?

Kirk, Spock, plomeek soup

I suppose you’re going to make plomeek soup again.

The original Star Trek series marks the 50th anniversary of its first broadcast on September 8. It was just three weeks after my seventh birthday, but the series soon had a profound affect on my perceptions of popular culture. I don’t think I’d be who I am without Star Trek in my life. I’ll be posting my own interpretations of a half-century of “where no man has gone before” over the next months, maybe years. Let me know what you think!

For the uninitiated: Plomeek soup is a Vulcan comfort food that appears in the episode Amok Time, in which Mr. Spock suffers a Vulcan version of (sexist trigger warning) PMS.

How a flu shot got me thinking about memes


For the love of God, Fred. No one wants to see your Angela Merkel impressions.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of ways to make my blog more “likeable,” which is a way of saying “less boring.” It’s a well-established fact of online life that outrageous gets attention and traffic, but my posts tend to be on the ponderous side, mostly because I’m not very good at provoking reactions or ranting about every little thing. My writing voice isn’t suited to it. When I do write a rant, I feel that I just look angry, which doesn’t win friends or followers.

I’ve also got an instinctive aversion to self-promotion, a vital skill for a self-published author. My reluctance comes from a very old-fashioned value that regards ostentatious emotional displays as unseemly and distasteful. Talking about yourself too much is a sign of an ego out of control. It’s fine for politicians and celebrities, but not for ordinary people. None of this works to my benefit in a media environment where ego rules, and one has to shout like a maniac to be heard. Continue reading

10 omens that auger self-publishing for your novel

Crystal ball

Look into my crystal ball and learn if self-publishing is for you.

Authors new and established face a question unthinkable a few years ago: Should I publish my book myself? Some writers finish a novel and go right to self-publishing. Others go the traditional route to see if an agent or publisher will take a chance on their work. For the latter group, here’s 10 omens that auger self-publishing your novel.

  • The volume of rejection emails from publishers and agents forces your email provider to suspend your account.
  • The pile of hard-copy unpublished manuscripts on your desk falls over and crushes your cat.
  • On your 54th birthday, your mother asks you if you’re ever going to make something of that masters in English you got in 1983.
  • You’re the only person in your writing group who hasn’t had his/her third novel published. Or second. Or first.
  • You measure success by the ratio of actual rejections by agents and publishers to no-response whatsoever.
  • Your royalty checks fail to cover your checking account’s overdraft fees.
  • You realize that three of your unpublished novels have the same ideas as A Time to Kill, Wool, and Fifty Shades of Grey.
  • The rejected manuscript the UPS guy delivered was typed on the IBM Selectric you owned before you bought the 1999 iMac you use now.
  • Your collection of rejection letters would paper the outside walls of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum combined.
  • A museum curator asks to use your early rejection letter for an exhibit on obsolete publishing models.

What signs and portents foretell self-publishing for you?

Review: ‘Grumbles’ is a bit of fun at the greens’ expense

Grumbles The Novel cover

Grumbles: The Novel, by Karen Faris.

The environmental movement lacks a sense of humor. Too many greens resemble fire-and-brimstone preachers who threaten you with eternal damnation if you don’t clean up your act and come to Jesus. Activists have a point: Climate change, industrial pollution, and unfettered genetic modification technologies pose real threats to humanity. It’s hard to tell a joke as the earth succumbs to man’s stupidity. But campaigners’ dourness gets in the way of the message. Who wants to listen to Cassandra night and day, even if she’s right?

Author Karen Faris cuts across this grain with Grumbles The Novel: Take A Pill, the first book of a three-part scifi series that puts a humorous spin on the world’s biggest environmental challenges. Pettie Grumbles is a retired special agent with the U.S. Postal Service in a future upstate New York town of Prêt-a-Porter. Climate change has a firm hold on the planet, though most people don’t seem to notice, because a mad scientist with the sobriquet “The Weatherman” has managed to fix it with a constant forecast of “72 and sunny.” Grumbles is called back into service by her old boss, Tellmemydoom, to defeat this evil, and she’s off on her quest, dodging rivals tossing bombs made of stinking cabbage while reluctantly caring for homeless waifs.

Grumbles is part art project, part therapy for Faris, an activist for good government in Rochester, New York. It’s a short distance from concerned citizen to wing nut, and writing satire is no doubt good for Faris’ soul. For the reader, Grumbles is a chance to step back and see the damage we’ve done to the environment as another facet of the human comedy. It you can’t laugh at life, even the scariest bits, you might as well drink a vial of benzene and be done with it.