Announcement: Tales of Myrick the (Not So) Magnificent, Volume 2 is out!


So, while I’ve been juggling about five different projects, this snuck/sneaked/snucked/snooked up on me. But it is now done and ready to go out into the world. I’m still working on fixing the audiobook version so that will still be a few weeks out.

This book is about the continuing adventures of Myrick, the teenage wannabe wizard with magic socks. It contains three stories called Dragon Slayer or Dragon Food?, Groovy Times in the Ice Entity’s Chamber, and Dragon Sitter or Dragon Fool?. These are fun, quirky adventures that the whole family can enjoy. For more information, go to my book page (next tab over), or if you feel so inclined, click on the book cover to go to the purchase page. Come on, you know you want one.

Book Review: Partials by Dan Wells


I’ve been having a lot of apocalyptic dreams lately. Dreams where I’m in a small group of armed survivors who are picking through the remains of large cities in order to survive. Sometimes there are even enemies trying to hunt us down. At first, I was a little baffled as to why I would have these kinds of dreams three nights in a row until I realized what I’d been watching and reading for entertainment. I’ve been watching Jericho on Netflix and Falling Skies and Last Ship on TNT. In Jericho, the world has been destroyed by terrorists with nuclear bombs, Falling Skies it’s aliens attacking earth, and Last Ship is about a plague wiping out humanity. Yeah, nice and cheery stuff.

I’ve also just finished the novel Partials by Dan Wells. It takes place a little in the future but it is after most of humanity has been destroyed by a war with physically superior genetic creations that look human and a weaponized virus called RM. So, yeah, this book I’m sure this book has contributed to my dreams.

The main character is a girl named Kira, a 16 yo medic who monitors babies as they are born to see if any of them will survive. So far, none have because RM kills them shortly after they are born. The government has passed a law they call the Hope Act, which orders all women able to bear children to be pregnant as much as possible with the idea that someone will eventually give birth to a baby who is immune to RM. Unfortunately, this creates a lot of tensions between different factions of humanity, and a group called the Voice is opposing this by performing assorted attacks on the government.

This book is a little heavy and ominous but I enjoyed it a lot. Maybe I’m just in one of those apocalyptic moods, I don’t know. But Partials kept pulling me in and I hated having to put the book down to do things like eat or sleep (yes, those nuisances). I loved Kira’s character and found her very easy to relate to. She is compassionate, hard-working, and willing to do anything to find a cure for RM even up to giving her own life. She surrounds herself with a group of like-minded people but still often has to find ways to motivate them about the importance of their cause.

The main story line is tied up nicely in the end but there are several mysteries still left to be resolved. I am anxiously awaiting reading the next book in the series but I’m afraid it will have to wait until my son’s wedding is over this weekend.

In my opinion, this is a great read for teens on up. It is well-written and gripping from beginning to end. There are a few mild swear words and some discussions about reproductive matters (due to the Hope Act) but they are all clean and without sexual content. There is also some violence and a little blood but nothing too extreme. I give this book one big toe up (4 stars).

Note: my ratings are based on my enjoyment level of the book. Two big toes (five stars) means I enjoyed it so much I want to read it again. One big toe (four) means I enjoyed it and might read it again. No toes (three) means it was okay but one reading was enough. It will be rare for me to ever give one or two toes down (two or one stars) because I probably won’t finish a book that I don’t like and I don’t feel qualified to post a review of something I haven’t finished.

Indie Author Hub – Audiobook Recording

Last weekend, June 19th and 20th, I had the privilege of attending the Indie Author Hub conference at the Provo Marriott. It was well done with many great instructors. The only drawback was that it wasn’t as well attended as hoped. Still, it was nice to be in a smaller writing environment since it allowed me to get to know several people a lot better.

I was there to do a presentation on how to record your own audiobook. I am by no means an expert, but I do now have the equivalent of five book narrations under my belt as well as years of working in a recording studio as a professional saxophonist. Here’s a summary of some of the things I talked about.

First off, audiobook narrating is a performance art and requires practice to learn the techniques. It’s a lot like learning a musical instrument. My suggestions for developing this are:

#1. Listen to your recordings and learn from your mistakes. You will make plenty.

#2. As a writer, you should be reading your writing out loud anyway. As a narrator, it gives you double duty. Just make sure to enunciate better than you might normally.

#3. Make the material you are reading into 20 pt font and put it on a tablet or iPad for when you narrate. It makes it easier to read and thus, make fewer mistakes (or maybe it’s just me and my old eyes). Also, it eliminates the shuffling paper noise when you use a tablet.


Here is what you need:

#1. A good computer. Most computers should work, but be aware that some laptops have filters in their sound software that distorts sounds. I have an Asus that does this, so it is completely useless for recording. I don’t know what other brands have this problem, but I know Macbooks work well.

#2. Recording software. There are a lot of programs out there, but Audacity is free and will do the job. In spite of purchasing several recording programs, I still prefer Audacity for editing. If you have Adobe Cloud for other purposes, it also contains Audition. Garage Band on Mac is good for recording but not editing. Fortunately, there is a Mac version of Audacity. If you get an M-Audio input box, it comes with a scaled down version of ProTools, which the full version is an industry standard.

#3. Microphone. Don’t scrimp on this. There are lots of cheap microphones out there but avoid the temptation. A large diaphragm condenser microphone works best. On average, they are around $500, though there are some cheaper options. The one I use is on the cheap side and works okay (MXL V63M, about $159), but I want to upgrade it as soon as I can afford. The ElectroVoice RE-20 ($449) is a long time industry standard.

#4. Do not, I repeat, do not use the mic input on your computer. Those jacks will put a lot of extra white noise into your recording that is impossible to get out. I learned this one the hard way. You need an input box that converts the three-pin XLR output into USB. There are microphones that can go direct to USB, but from what I hear, those should be avoided, too. The box I use is the Roland Tricapture ($129). One of the commonly used ones is the M-Audio (cheapest around $149). There are others out there around a hundred dollars or less. The important thing you need is a phantom power, or a 48V switch, for the large diaphragm condenser microphones to work. I know this is yet another expense, but once I got mine, it saved me a lot of effort and heartache because my recordings came out immensely cleaner.

#5. Other things: music stand ($20-$30), microphone stand with a boom ($70) or a table stand if you sit to record ($20), shock mount for the microphone if it didn’t come with one, a pop filter (to cut down on plosives), squeak-free headphones (some of them make creaking sounds when you talk, as I learned the hard way), and a squeak-free chair if you sit (standing solves that problem).

Here are some pictures of my setup:

DSCN5628 DSCN5627

You can see my condenser microphone in the shock mount and connected to the boom mic stand. The pop filter is in front of the mic. I have a wire music stand holding my iPad. On my little desk is the keyboard, mouse and input that are connected to the USB hub (out of picture). The XLR cable from the microphone is inserted into the Roland Tricapture (on left side of second picture) as well as the headphones. My computer has two video outs, so the monitor is connected via an extension to the second output.

Noise Reduction

To tick off a recording engineer, just say to them, “Fix it in the mix.” Well, you are now your own recording engineer, and you can save yourself a lot of work if you take steps to avoid noise that gets incorporated into your recording.

First, reduce external sounds as much as possible. Find a room in your home that has as few vents, water pipes, windows, fluorescent lights, fans, kids, dogs, etc. as possible. Also, you can put heavy material up like curtains, pillows, blankets, towels, etc. to help absorb reflective sounds. It is pretty much impossible to eliminate all these sounds unless you live in the backwoods or build yourself a dedicated recording booth, but one thing that helps me is to pick a time of the day when things are mostly quiet. My two favorite times are 4:30 am or 9 am, but both of those still have problems. Another thing some people do is push the clothes aside in their closet and record in there, but it can get a little hot and stuffy.

One thing that I’ve done to eliminate computer fan noise is to put the computer in another room (it is on the other side of the door in my pictures) and run a second monitor and USB hub extension into my recording room.

Then there are the internal sounds; the sounds that we make without trying. Here are some things to reduce those:

#1. Develop speaking techniques to cut down on noises. I had to learn to avoid licking my lips when I spoke and breathing at inopportune times. I also had to learn to hold my mouth open slightly to cut down on lip smacking.

#2. Clicks and pops. This happens in our voice naturally and is hard to eliminate. Something that can cut down on them is staying hydrated. This is why 4:30 am isn’t quite as good for me. The neighborhood is quiet then, but I’m usually more dehydrated and have to spend a lot more time during editing to take out all the pops.

#3. Rumblies in the tumblies. I swear I have the world’s noisiest stomach. Sometimes I think it is trying to audition for Lion Country Safari (does that place even still exist?). When I record at 9 am, I try to do it after I exercise (and I am well hydrated) and before I eat breakfast. Also, if my stomach does go into full roar mode, I try holding my breath for a while. That seems to soothe the beast for a few minutes. Or else, I just have to stop and wait for my stomach to behave.

#4. Be aware of what you are wearing. Some clothes make crinkling sounds as you move so you want to go with something soft like cotton. Also, jewelry and cell phones can add to the racket.

Some other things to consider:

Are you going to do character voices? If you are not good at it, don’t bother. If you do decide to, make a recording of all the characters you need voices for ahead of time so that you can keep the voices consistent. I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to find a specific character in a previous chapter in order to try and remember how I did their voice.

How about accents? Again, if you are not good at it, skip it. If you decide to go for it, there are plenty of Youtube videos that can help you get an accent up and running. I don’t claim to be good at it at all, but one thing that helped me was when I tried to imitate various actors for certain characters, like Arnold Schwarzenegger for a barbarian voice and Sean Connery as a wizard (“The name’s Gray. Gandolf the Gray”).

Also, you will need to choose a recording technique. I have two that I’ve tried. The one I use now I call the ‘fix it as you go’. As I record, when I notice a mistake or external noise, I stop and go back to fix it. That way, when I’m done, I hopefully have a correct, uninterrupted text. The drawback to the method is that recording takes a lot longer, but the advantage is the editing time is shorter.

The other method is the ‘let it roll’. When you make a mistake, you pause and repeat the problem section. Some people snap or clap so that when they are editing, they can see the spike and know where they need to make a cut. This method makes for shorter recording and allows you to stay ‘in the zone’ better but the editing takes longer.

Also, as soon as I finish recording, I do a quality check pass to make sure I said things right and that there aren’t any loud noises in the wave forms. I do this right away before any of my levels get changed or the microphone location is shifted. It makes for a more uniform sound when I punch in the corrections.


I’ll go into this more another time, hopefully. I had to only gloss over this portion during my presentation due to lack of time. I will say this, it is the most time consuming of the whole process. If you are thinking about recording your own audiobook, you have to be ready for a lot of sitting and listening to fix thousands of mind-numbing problems. In the end, it is estimated it takes six and a half hours to record one hour of audio. It actually takes me ten partially because I’m still gaining experience at it and mostly because I’m a perfectionist who has to try to get every %^*# artifact out of it, even though most people will probably never notice them.

There. I tried to be brief but there is a lot of the information here. I hope it can be of help to someone. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email.

Elevator Pitches


I need some help. I have several ‘elevator pitches’ for some of my works both past and present, and I want to know if they sound interesting or not. I’ll number them to make it easier to give feedback. Here they are:

1. Slaves of the Sphere:

On a world where machines run on magic, an escaped slave girl must learn to take the magic within her and use it to stop the Dominar’s soldiers who want to recapture her and use her magic for their own twisted purposes.

2. A Sidekick’s Secrets to Saving the City:

A teenage sidekick without super powers has to develop faith in himself in order to defeat a gang of super villains.

3. Guardians of the Goldenwood:

Where science and steam rule the world, a magical forest is under assault by forces wanting it destroyed. Young Devan goes on a quest to rescue his uncle and ends up being used as a pawn between the forces of technology and magic.

4. Watchers of the Shadow Realm:

A boy injured by polio and his sister search for their missing parents only to discover a mysterious shadow realm inhabited by Nazi’s spying on the U.S. during World War II.

5. Slow Death: (still working on title)

Aboard an enormous disintegrating space station that encircles a dead planet, a young woman discovers that the jungle she has been hunting in is artificial and if she doesn’t learn the technology behind it, she and all the others trapped on the station will die when it finally crumbles and falls.

And an oldie but goody:

6. The Dragon War Relic:

After encountering an Ogre from the planet Orgrenia, 16 year old Jared Mills learns that the reason why we have legends of Elves and Dragons is because they came from other planets centuries ago to fight over who would control the earth. The Elves won, but now the Dragons are returning.


Elevator pitches and query letters are some of the hardest things for me to write. I’d much rather have 80,000 words to describe something than only twenty. Oh well, it’s part of a writer’s life. Anyway, let me know what you think and which of these projects I should focus on. For the stuff already published (#2 and #6), let me know if I should focus on a sequel or not.

Thanks for your help.



Can’t We All Just Get Along? Thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron


I love superhero movies; always have. I realized not long ago that most of my stories and novels have some aspect of granting characters super powers. I just love it when people with magnificent abilities reach out to help others or pound some bad guy butt.

So, I know I’m a week behind the rest of the world (which is actually pretty fast for me), but I just saw Avengers: Age of Ultron last night. First of all, I did enjoy the movie. If nothing else, it is a great action flick. Also, I think the ponderous cast of characters was handled about as well as it could be. There just isn’t time for a lot of character development, though we did get some good insights into Hawkeye’s character. I wasn’t all that impressed with him after his cameo in Thor and his going dark side in Avengers 1, but to see that other side of him raised my appreciation of him. Overall, though, I don’t know where I’d fit this one in the order of my favorite Marvel movies. I’ll have to see it a few more times. It is good enough to warrant repeated viewings at least, so that’s a good sign.

I didn’t do a lot of comic book reading as a kid, but one trope that used to bother me was when good guys fought each other. Maybe it’s a personality quirk of mine, being a peacemaker and all. The first Avengers movie, I think, would have been a lot better without the fighting between Iron Man and Thor (though it did create some great comic lines) and the fighting on the helicarrier that Loki instigated by irritating the Hulk. I know it creates variety than just good guy thumps bad guy, but I feel much more at peace when the good guys play nice together.

Age of Ultron does this infighting again. Of course, we get two new super beings in the form of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch who cause some issues, but I could have done without the battle between Iron Man and Hulk. Yeah, it was a great action sequence, but I’d rather they’d brought Abomination back to have Iron Man fight. Also, I didn’t like the bickering between characters when things went wrong. I know, it is a great element of conflict and realistic when dealing with large egos and people making mistakes, it just bugs me. Again, probably because that’s how my personality is wired.

That said, I am not really looking forward to the Batman Versus Superman movie, nor the Captain America civil war storyline that is upcoming. I just want the good guys to be united as they fight the Evil League of Evil.

Okay, this is a bit of a whim, but here is how I rank the current Marvel Universe movies:

10. The Incredible Hulk (not the Ang Lee movie, that doesn’t count)

9. Iron Man 2

8. Iron Man 3

7. Avengers

6. Thor: The Dark World

5. Captain America: Winter Soldier

4. Thor

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

2. Captain America: the First Avenger

1. Iron Man

Okay, that was a lot harder than I thought. I pretty much love all the movies, with the Incredible Hulk being the only one I felt ‘meh’ about. Where would I put the new Avengers movie? I don’t know for sure yet, maybe between Avengers 1 and Iron Man 3, but only time will tell after a few more viewings.

So, what do all y’all think?

Favorite Star Trek Characters

In honor of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, I thought I’d compile my list of favorite Star Trek characters. It turned out this list was harder to make than I thought. I will say that Deep Space 9 is easily my favorite series and Wrath of Khan is my favorite movie. As far as the character list, though, it can easily fluctuate depending on my mood. There are so many ties that it was hard to put a number on each one. Anyway, here it goes:

Honorable mentions:

Captain Kirk (William Shatner), original series. I know, he was a cool captain and all and the face of the franchise, but there were just too many other interesting characters for him to make the list. He is still near and dear to my heart, though.

Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), original pilot. I always liked him and in some ways wish they’d kept him as captain. I did like that they brought his character back in the movie reboot (played by Bruce Greenwood), but Jeffrey Hunter is still my favorite version.

Lieutenant Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz), Next Generation. Who couldn’t help but love the bumbling Lt. Barclay? In many ways, I could relate to him because I’ve often felt the same way.

Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo), Deep Space 9. I never really liked him, per se, but I felt he was by far the best Star Trek villain ever. You could sometimes understand where he was coming from and Alaimo did an excellent job of portraying the sincerity of his character’s convictions.

Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill), Voyager. The charismatic bad boy image was a breath of fresh air after all those stodgy Star Fleet types. Plus, his character growth into a respectable officer was great to see.

Charles “Trip” Tucker (Connor Trinneer), Enterprise. It was hard leaving him off the list. His southern drawl, complete with expressions (“Keep your shirt on,  Lieutenant”) made him a great character for a little comic relief.

Sean Hawk (Neal McDonough), First Contact. I liked that they had a new face in the command crew for that movie. I wished they had kept him in the other movies but, alas, he got borged.

Now, for the list:

10: Travis Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery), Enterprise. I loved his positivity and innocence. I really wished they had given his character more spotlight episodes.

9: Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), original series. Mr. Spock is probably the most iconic character of Star Trek. His logical, almost spiritual perspectives on the situations has always been intriguing to me. But sorry, there are just too many other characters for me to relate with for him to be higher on my list.

8: Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), original series. He was the yang to Mr. Spock’s yin. The two really go together. Where Spock would look at things from the rational side, McCoy was the emotional half. He was often also great for comic relief.

7: Data (Brent Spiner), Next Generation. I enjoyed watching Data explore humanity and slowly incorporate it into himself. Those episodes became great food for thought about our own humanity.

6: Worf (Michael Dorn), Next Generation, Deep Space 9. Worf was just a bad-donkey, but at the same time had a deep spirituality. I think he’s someone who’d I’d love to have as a friend because of his honor and loyalty.

5: Miles O’Brien (Colm Meany), Next Generation, Deep Space 9. What I liked the most about Miles was that he was a family man struggling to live in the world of Star Fleet. I was starting my family the same time as he was, too, so I could definitely relate to him. Plus, Colm Meany is a fantastic actor.

4: Harry Kim (Garrett Wang), Voyager. I think it was Ensign Kim’s wide-eyed innocence that drew him to me. Plus he played clarinet. That’s cool.

3: The Doctor (Robert Picardo), Voyager. Again, kind of like Data in his explorations on what it is to be human. It was his humor that catapulted him up toward the top for me.

2: Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), Deep Space 9. He was by far my favorite Star Trek captain. He just seemed so much more human and down-to-earth.  He could be tough when needed, and compassionate as well. Plus he was a great father figure in his dealings with Jake. In spite of all his pressures, he always tried to make his son a part of his life.

And, drum roll please:

1: Vic Fontaine! (James Darren) Deep Space 9. When I tell people he’s my favorite, many Star Trek fans don’t even know who I’m talking about. He was the holo-deck character who was a Las Vegas lounge singer. Often, the characters  would go to him for advice. Plus he sang jazz and said ‘Pally’ all the time. What’s not to love?

So, there you have it. I just finished rewatching Next Generation and have started Enterprise and Deep Space 9 again, so my list can easily change at any time. Except Vic. Vic is forever.

New Year’s Resolutions

Okay, I’m back for a Thursday Thoughts. I ended up taking a little vacation through December and it felt good. Of course, now I’m behind on several things so it may be a few more weeks before I get back to speed.

I thought I’d mention briefly my take on New Year’s resolutions. I think they’re stupid.

No, not the fact that we take time to evaluate our lives and resolve to make improvements; that is a good thing. What I don’t agree with is waiting until December 31st or January 1st to do it. I believe every day should be a resolution day: to ponder where we are in life and figure out what needs to improve. It’s what good musicians do as well. In order to be a better musician, or person, we need to figure out what we are doing wrong and make steps to improve it. Daily. Period. If we do make a resolution on New Year’s, that’s fine, but it should be part of a normal or daily regimen and not a once annual event.

Of course, for the record, I don’t quite do this every day, either. It’s something I’m working on. But I do regularly evaluate my life and try to find ways to make positive changes.

And I did set a New Year’s resolution this year: to not set any New Year’s resolutions. Mission accomplished.

A Serious Look at Comedy, Part VII

Things have been hectic lately so I don’t have anything new. I will mention that I was interviewed yesterday on Big World Network and you can see it here:

I have some book reviews I need to write up and I hope to get those done later this week. Right now, I’m two days behind schedule (self-imposed) for my new Myrick story, so that needs to get caught up first. So, until then, here is another rerun from ‘A Serious Look at Comedy’.

Part VII: POW, Right in the Kisser, Part 2

Last week, we covered a few plays on words like malaprops, reforming, and oxymorons. This week, we’ll go over puns, double entendres, and clichés.

Some writers feel that puns are the lowest form of humor and that they shouldn’t be used. I feel, though, that if you outlaw puns, only outlaws will have puns. Yes, it’s okay to groan. In fact, that’s usually the best result you can hope for. If you want to avoid puns because of this, that’s fine. Personally, I like puns. You definitely don’t want to use them a lot, but they can be useful in our desire to create an atmosphere of funny.

Just a couple of weeks ago, there was one that happened on Duck Dynasty that I think accomplished the desired goal of adding to the comedic atmosphere without distracting from it. In the episode, one brother, Jace, was making a duck blind that looked like a cow. The other brother, Willy, comes in and says, “This is udderly stupid.”

Sometimes these plays on words overlap in definition. For instance, Willy’s statement above could also be considered a double entendre, where we use a word or phrase that can have two meanings. Most of the time, though, double entendres are used to disguise sex jokes. Even if that’s not the humor we want to use, double entendres can be a clean and useful tool. Here are a few examples of malaprops from newspaper articles that are also unintended double entendres:

Miners refuse to work after death.

New obesity study looks for larger test group.

Children make delicious snacks.

In our writing and English classes, we’ve been taught to avoid clichés. Well, for comedy writing, I disagree. Cliches are gold mines for comedy writers. Why? Because they have audience expectations built into them. We just have to make sure that before it’s over, we’ve twisted it into an unexpected outcome. A simple example comes from Back to the Future, where the bully, Biff, says after the principle arrives, “Let’s make like a tree and get out of here.”

Tropes are another form of cliché that often are used as short cuts for explanations. These are used a lot in the genre I write; fantasy. For instance, all you have to do is say ‘elf’ and the fantasy reader automatically thinks of these tall, sleek warriors with excellent woodcraft and archery skills. In my book, Dragon War Relic, I realized how cliché and overused that was. I also realized that before Tolkien, elves were short little creatures full of mischief. Even the Santa Claus elves were watered down. I decided to go back to the traditional elf for my three elf characters as a way to poke fun at the Tolkien version. My elves are ornery, huge Star Trek fans (naming themselves Kerk, Sprock, and Bob), and they have Tolkien-elf envy.

Remember, comedy saves lives.

Review: Paladin: Pawn by Michael Young

For today’s Thursday’s thoughts (okay, I know, it’s Friday, but you know. . . life), I’m putting up a review of a book as part of a blog tour.

Michael Young COVER1a


When nerdy Rich Witz unwittingly becomes a Paladin, a white knight, in training, he is thrust into a world where flunking a test can change the course of history and a mysterious bully is playing for keeps with his life.

Rich’s grandmother leaves him with one thing before disappearing for good: a white chess pawn with his initials engraved on it. The pawn marks him as the next in an ancient line of white knights. He must prove himself in a life or death contest against his Nemesis, a dark knight in training, all while dealing with math homework and English projects. With the ghost of an ancestor for his guide, he has seven days to complete four tasks of valor before his Nemesis does, or join his guide in the realm of the dead.

As Rich rushes to complete the tasks, he realizes the chilling truth: his Nemesis is masquerading as someone at school and will stop at nothing to make him fail. As the tasks grow ever harder, the other knights reveal to him that his failure will break a centuries-old chain and bring the Paladin order to ruin. If he fails, the dark knights win the right to control the fate of the world, a world without hope or the possibility of a new dawn. So this is one exam Rich has to ace, with no curve and no extra credit.

My take:

I was fortunate to be able to get an advance copy of Michael Young’s new book, Paladin: Pawn. It is about a teen, Rich, who discovers that his family history is a little more interesting than he originally thought. He soon has a quest to prove that he, too, can be a paladin like his ancestors by performing several good deeds. Unfortunately, it’s not easy since every potential paladin also has a nemesis seeking to pull them from their path. Can Rich succeed and be able to help his family’s fight against the powers of darkness?

I’ve read several of Michael’s books and have always enjoyed them. This one was no exception. In fact, I think it is my favorite thus far. Not only does it tell a great story, but it also teaches some good values for not only middle-grade readers, but for us old fogies who read it, too. While I was in the midst of this book, I found myself, just like Rich, looking for opportunities to serve and help others.

I’m also a sucker for superhero stories. This one isn’t one exactly, but each time Rich succeeded in one of his smaller quests, he gained new abilities to help him. None of them are super strength or flying, but still cool powers to have.

Something I’ve liked about all of Michael’s books I’ve read is that he comes up with new twists in his world-building. They are not your typical medieval-style fantasy settings with all the same old monsters. In this book, there is traveling into and out of a painting. I won’t tell you more than that, though.

I highly recommend this book for readers, both young and young-at-heart. It is totally clean and possesses a great moral that everybody could use a refresher course on. The only thing that was a little confusing to me was that the book suddenly ended without finishing the story arc. I’m okay with Rich only being halfway done with his quests, but it didn’t stop at a place where it felt like it at least resolved something. If you are aware of that, though, hopefully it won’t be a distraction. If you don’t like leaving a story hanging, then it might be best to wait until the next book comes out. All I know is that I am anxious to see how the story continues.

I give this book two big toes up.

Monday Musings: Adventures in Wheatgrass, Part I

Okay, I did end up taking last week off for the Thanksgiving holiday. I just needed a chance to refresh before tackling more blog posts. Also, I did get started on some new fiction writing, which I haven’t done in a couple of months. Boy, did I miss it. I love creating new stories. It is a start on a new Myrick adventure. I managed to get six chapters and 10,701 words done. Basically, it is half a season on Big World Network. My challenge this week will be to resume blogging, recording, and fiction writing and see if I can juggle all three. Oh, and also keep up on my saxophone and clarinet practice since I have a few gigs coming up this next week.

As far as the title of this post, I don’t know if there will be a part II or more, but there probably will be. But lately, I’ve been mentioning on my Facebook page about some of my adventures with wheatgrass. First off, since I started doing it, my blood sugars have dropped around 50 points. That’s huge.

So, anyway, I got back into doing wheatgrass juice a little over a month ago by buying flats at Good Earth. Just as my blood sugars started dropping, though, they lost their supplier. I ran all around town trying to find another place that had affordable grass but came up empty. I got juice for a few days from Jamba Juice but it was too expensive (at 3.99 plus tax for a 2 oz shot) to do every day. I did discover that they have Wheatgrass Wednesday, where it is half price, so that is a good day to take advantage of. I’ve done powdered wheatgrass before and haven’t noticed the same effect as the fresh squeezed. Still, I ended up picking up a bag of it from the Herb Shop to hold me over until I could find a new source of the fresh stuff.

I came to the painful conclusion that if I wanted fresh-squeezed wheatgrass I’d have to grow it myself. We’d tried it before when we lived in Alaska because of how hard it was to find there. It never tasted good, though. It was always bitter and made me want to throw up after drinking it. That was the main reason why I never got it going consistently until recently.

This is what I went through to grow my first batch: I started off with a mason jar filled with soaking wheat berries. We had some fresher hard white wheat, which I’ve heard is better for sprouting. In the past, we’d used our older wheat that we have in our food storage. The problem with that is that it doesn’t sprout as well. Anyway, after rinsing it, we left it in the jar on the window sill. We rinsed it again the next day.

I should take notes next time, but I think it was three days later that I spread the sprouted wheat out into a tray with a thin layer of potting soil in the bottom. I wasn’t sure if I had too much or too little, but I pretty much covered it so you couldn’t see much of the dirt. I guess I should also take pictures next time. I then covered it up with another tray to let it grow in the dark for a few days. I’d spray water on it every day as well. I never was really sure if I was giving it too little or too much.

After, I think, three days, the grass seemed long enough to take the upper tray off so that it could get light. I also poured some water with dissolved baking soda into it since I’d heard in a Youtube video that it helps cut down on mold. I only did that once. After about five days, the grass was around 4 inches tall. I waited another three days (ish) for it to get taller but it didn’t. Finally, on Saturday, I noticed the grass was starting to turn yellow. I decided it wasn’t going to grow any more and that it was time to juice.

The 1½ ounces I had on Sunday morning were bitter, just like the old days. I managed to choke it down since I’d had worse. It burned when going down my throat, though, which is something I hadn’t noticed before. Does anyone know why that might be? Not enough water? The type of seed? Anyway, I had another batch this morning and not only did it burn, but it tasted even worse. And again, just like the old days, it made me want to hurl. Not a lot, but enough. I have about one more day of grass left and I’m not looking forward to drinking it. I definitely need to try some different techniques in order to find one that tastes better or the whole wheatgrass experiment might fade away again. I am more motivated, though, because of the great results I’ve had with my blood sugar.

So, do any of you have some great wheatgrass growing techniques? Any secrets to making it taste better? The commercial grass, though still not pleasant tasting, is way more tolerable than anything I ever seem to be able to grow. Anyway, until next time.