Friday, May 27, 2011

Green Lantern is getting dissed by my daughter

There was an advertisement on t.v. last night for the new Green Lantern movie.

My eight year old, A, was sitting beside me on the couch and I said, "I'm going to go see this movie."

A: What is it called?

Me: Green Lantern.

A: ha ha ha. No, really, Dad, what is it called?

Me: Green Lantern. It's another super hero movie.

A: Why is it called that?

Me: He has a green ring that has all this power.

A: That's a dumb name. It should be called Green Ring then.

Me: Yeah, but the ring is powered by a green lantern.

She looked at me skeptically.

A: Ah. That's still a dumb name.

Krista: It was made up a long time ago.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Credit where credit is due

The movie industry is a big believer in giving credit for everyone who does everything to make a product. Whether it's caterers or animal wranglers or the guy who takes out the trash on the studio lot, they want to make sure we get a chance to see each person's name climbing up the screen at the end of a movie.

The publishing industry is completely different. It's a largely invisible part of the current debate about whether to use professional publishing or self publishing. In fact, for a book like Imaginary Jesus or Night of the Living Dead Christian, there are at least twenty people involved in getting the book put together (that's not including, for instance, the sales staff). That's publishers, editors, designers, artists, marketers, product managers, typesetters and so on. Not to give the illusion that they're all working on the book forty hours a week or something, but the fact is that they touch the book... they have something to do with its quality. Making a book through traditional publishing is very much a team sport, and a good team can make the difference between a good experience for the author and a great project or a terrible experience and lousy product.

As it turns out, I have an excellent team. I really like them. I had talked with my editorial team about doing a Credits page for NLDC. I wanted to get all those names out there into the public, so people could see who worked on the book. Unfortunately, I got the word today that there's not room in the book for the credits page. I am really disappointed. We'll put a credits page or list online at some point, but for now, Publishing has bested me once again. I don't know who is responsible, but believe me, when I figure it out, you'll see their name in the credits as "PERSON WHO TRIED TO DELETE THE CREDITS."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wonderful Wednesday: Ligers cubs with their adopted mom

Ligers! Until last night I didn't know they were real!

And then I was sent a link to this story, about a dog nursing two liger cubs abandoned by momma tiger.

And, in other news, SPACE ARCHAEOLOGY!

Wonderful Wednesday: GREEN WITH ENVY the movie

I will go see this movie. I love the Muppets. Two favorite Muppet movies are the original movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan.

In the original Muppet Movie there were moments of hilarity and also sweet, loving, emotional moments like this one:

And that is all for today. Get back to work you bums.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New! Books! On! My! Shelf!

It's time for a new books post!

Let's start out with some books that have been sent to me by authors or publishers (THANK YOU... I love getting your books):

Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir
Angry Conversations With God by Susan Isaacs. You've probably already heard of this book because it's been selling like hotcakes (which, I assume from the saying, sell quite well). This is a memoir in which author, actress and all around class act Susan Isaacs decides that her relationship with God is not what it should be and that this is, in large part, due to God's behavior. He's hurt her, ignored her, refused to intervene and basically been a jerk. So she decides to take him to couples counseling to see if they can figure it all out. If you're a fan of Imaginary Jesus and haven't read this, I think you'd like it! It's funny, honest and clever. MY copy is signed by the author. Neener neener.

Jim and Casper Go to Church: Frank Conversation about Faith, Churches, and Well-Meaning Christians
Jim and Casper Go to Church by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper. My editor Sarah sent this to me, I think because she sent Matt Casper a copy of Imaginary Jesus and thought we should all be reading each others books. This book is a lot of fun, too. Jim (Christian) and Matt (atheist) visit a bunch of churches and compare notes about what they like and don't like. Often funny and occasionally wince-inducing, I enjoyed this book as well. If nothing else it's a great window into what it's like to be a first time visitor into a church.

The Great Mogul Diamond (The Dopple Ganger Chronicles)
The Great Mogul Diamond (Dopple Ganger Chronicles) by G.P. Taylor. This is the 3rd of the Dopple Ganger Chronicles, which my daughters love. The books are designed in a really cool way... largely print with sudden explosions of comic book action. They're a lot of fun to look through. Sarah asked Z to give her some feedback on the back of the book a while ago and then kindly sent a copy of the book along now that it's out! Z was thrilled, to say the least, and it stopped a pre-school meltdown when I pulled it out and said, "Look what came in the mail yesterday." Nice!

Other recent purchases or additions to the By The Bed Pile of Books:

Fuzzy Nation
Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi. Scalzi was recently in Portland, but I wasn't going to be able to go see him. He's one of my favorite science fiction authors, and I mentioned it off-hand to my friend Shasta. A couple of days later, Shasta surprised me with a signed copy! She had braved the crowds of geeks and speculative fiction afficcionados to get me a copy, and John wrote a really nice and funny note in the front. I finished the book last week, and it was entertaining and fun (as I expected). You'd probably like Scalzi's blog, too, so go check it out if you like.

The Financial Lives of the Poets: A Novel (P.S.)
The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter. I bought and read Citizen Vince last month and I LOVED it. I am going to read it again. It was funny, insightful, thrilling and a page turned while simultaneously being about identity, life change, redemption and voter's rights. Yeah, voter's rights. Anyway, it was amazing, so when I saw this book on sale at the airport bookstore I grabbed it up basically knowing nothing about it. It has something to do with poetry, 7-11 and drug dealers. I have no idea, really, but I'm excited to read it. If you're sensitive, by the way, to strong language or violence, these may not be the books for you, but Citizen Vince is one of the best books I've read in quite a while.

How to Read Genesis
How to Read Genesis by Tremper Longman III. I really enjoy Longman's insights and commentary, and I enjoyed his Ecclesiastes commentary so much that I thought I'd see what he had to say about Genesis. I wasn't disappointed. It's accessible, interesting and seems to be even handed when dealing with the many and varied questions about authorship, genre and many other topics.

There are more books scattered about I'm sure, but there's an eclectic list for your consideration. How about you? What's on your recently-read or to-be-read list?

Monday, May 23, 2011

What to write next?

While you are eagerly awaiting Night of the Living Dead Christian, I've actually completely finished with it. There are a few little things that need to be done here and there, but overall it's all cleaned up and ready to go and the tiny little elves over at Tyndale are working their magic to turn those pretty words into a giant pile of books.

In the midst of writing a book there are certainly moments where you are sick of reading it over and over, or tired of trying to get that last sentence perfect. You think about this being "the last book" because it would just be nice to get a break. When that final e-mail with the final-final-final-final last edits goes out, there's a feeling of immense relief. Of course I'll be living with the book for quite a while, but for now I can take a little break.

Now that I've rested for a couple of weeks, of course my brain is ready to write a new book. But the question is, which book to write next? I have ideas for a bunch of books, some in the genre I'm already published in (which I think we could call "The Mikalatos Genre") and some in actually-recognized-in-a-bookstore genre.

There are a lot of choices out there... I have a thriller almost completely plotted out, a crime novel, an idea for a memoir-ish thingee, a science-fictionish character series sort of like LOST, and a cook book in the hopper. Just kidding, no cook book yet. I also have a kids' book series (one of those novels is actually written, and I have the basic story idea for another six). Of course I could write another comedy theology novel (I have ideas for at least two more) and my wife would love it if I wrote this one book I've been talking to her about for YEARS AND YEARS and she keeps asking, "When are you going to write Take Me To The Riots?" (That's what it's called.)

So. Hmmm. What to do.  What to do.

My agent says if there's something new I want to try, now's the time.

For all of you out there, though, my next book is Night of the Living Dead Christian. You're going to like it. After that... well, let's just make it a surprise!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Eavesdropping with Matt (Episode Fifty-Two: SUSHI ISLAND!)

Dedicated to the fine patrons of Sushi Island, which is a sushi bar in California. And, for those who don't know, sushi often includes raw fish as one of the ingredients. But especially to the guy who walked into Sushi Island and uttered the following phrase, immortalizing himself forever as he walked through the door:

Guy: Something smells fishy in here.

Amazing. Here's a link to more Eavesdropping With Matt from years past.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Napoleon Dynamite cartoon coming to Fox

If you don't love Napoleon it's probably just that you're jealous of his body.

Wonderful Wednesday: Night of the Living Dead Christian

Some exciting things going on right now with Night of the Living Dead Christian.

First of all, I got my galley proofs in the mail. Galleys are the first typeset copies of the almost-finished book. It's exciting to see the interiors almost done, and last week I read through the book one more time to catch any last little tweaks. It had been a while since I read it, so I was able to look at it with fresh eyes, and I honestly think it's better than Imaginary Jesus. Early reviews from others who have read it are saying the same thing, so I'm excited to get it out to all the rest of you in October!

Also this last week, I got the first ARCs of NLDC! You can see that in the picture on the left there. I've decided as a celebration and countdown for the October release, that I'll do a few contests over the next couple of months to give away an ARC here and there. There's no other way to get this book before October, so if you win a copy you'll be one of the first to read it.

Lastly, here's a little video of yours truly talking a bit about the book. Even if you don't watch the video, be sure to enjoy the picture of my face frozen in time and... what? Am I missing a tooth or is that just a shadow? Mysterious.

You can join the facebook group here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ridiculous Reviewers On Amazon: One Star Review for The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter
Once upon a time, I taught high school English. My main class was American Literature, which means that the students are generally about 16 years old, and that, of course, the teacher must teach, um, American Literature. One of the required books was The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's actually a wonderful novel about sin, judgment, love, sacrifice and family. It's honestly a bit rough for some high schoolers to follow. I'm a fan of Hawthorne, though, so I found these one star reviews enjoyable. Clearly some of them come from high school students forced to write reviews. I think you'll like them.

First, we have this little gem:

1.0 out of 5 stars Worst. Book. Ever., April 24, 2002By A CustomerIt is my invariably correct opinion that the so-called author responsible for this overly extravagant and flamboyant style of writing should be dragged into the street and summarily executed, with EXTREME prejudice, for crimes against humanity and the English language.

This review is funny, though the last sentence throws the whole thing into confusion.

I am going to bring Hawthorne back from the grave to hit him, March 10, 1999By A Customer
Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, this the worst book i've ever read, I consider myself open to all fine lterature but I absolutely hate this book. But the writing is superb!

Get ready for a one star review from a HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER! Behold:

Duller than dirt, September 18, 2004 Jon G Shay
I teach high school English, and was required to teach this
to my students. I don't know who suffered more, me or them.
To be fair, as one of America's first novels, it has interesting
elements and Hawthorne does a good job.
On the other hand, it is excruciating to read. There is no
suspense, little to sympathize or empathize with, and even
less to enjoy. A better writer could have told the same
story in half the number of pages. Some have labelled
this book a tragedy; they are right only in the sense that
it is tragically bad.

And lastly, a one star review which I loved just for its title:

1.0 out of 5 stars How Can Sex and Sin Be So Boring?, March 6, 2001By
NaturalCurl (Texas)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Tour for "The Ale Boy's Feast"

The Ale Boy's Feast: A Novel (The Auralia Thread)My buddies over at the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour are talking about The Ale Boy's Feastfor the next couple of days, and though I haven't read the book I always enjoy seeing what these guys have to say about the books they're reviewing! Below are links to all the bloggers who are participating this month, and here's the link to the author Jeffrey Overstreet's site.

Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Shane Deal
Chris Deane
Cynthia Dyer
Andrea Graham
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Inae Kyo
Shannon McDermott
Shannon McNear
Karen McSpadden
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler

In which I teach my kid a lesson which she already knows in detail

Young Miss A had her spring ballet performance this weekend. She did a great job as a part of the performance of Cinderella. That night when I tucked her into bed I told her what a great job she did.

Me: You did a great job tonight and I know you worked hard for a long time for this one short night. That is a good thing to know, that doing hard work for a long time can pay off with something wonderful.

A: Yes. Only sometimes a long time of doing boring work pays off with something even boringer.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Dear Comic Book Publishers, It is time for you to hire me or I will reveal all your secrets

Back in January I made up some stuff about Marvel killing off Johnny Storm the Human Torch, including a storyline called "Torch Song" in which characters from the Marvel Universe would come together to share their memories about poor dead Johnny Storm.

Now Marvel has revealed that Amazing Spider-Man issue 657 will have a story called Torch Song in which Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four (well, the Fantastic Three) come together to share their memories about poor dead Johnny Storm.

Which prompts me to say to all you comic book publishers out there... I am ready and available to write comic books for you. Feel free to contact me anytime.

So. This is what it feels like to be famous.

Yesterday morning I rolled out of bed (actually, I rolled out of couch, because the baby had been crying in the night and she and I slept downstairs), pulled on a sweater and threw on my flip flops and headed out to buy my wife a cup of Mother's Day coffee. I was wearing, to make the mental image a bit clearer, a pair of blue plaid pajama bottoms, a white undershirt and a black zip up sweater. My hair was doing its best impersonation of an electrocuted toupee.

I walked up to the barista and ordered my wife's coffee and she said, "I loved your book."

This had never happened to me before. I blinked at her in surprise, wondering if, perhaps, she had mistaken me for Stephen King or John Grisham. My brain soon informed me that this would make no sense whatsoever. I paused long enough, thinking what to say to her, that she followed up by saying, "Your book. Imaginary Jesus."

I stammered something suave like, "How did you recognize me?" As if I had been in disguise, or had a secret identity.

She told me she had seen me speak at a conference and recognized me from there, and we chatted amiably for a while. The whole time I wondered if I should explain why I looked like I had been living in my car. Should I tell her that I didn't expect to see anyone who would recognize me in any way? Would she care?

And that's when I realized, "This is what it feels like to be famous!" It feels like a mix of mild confusion and surprised embarrassment. In case you were wondering.

And, in conclusion, the next time I go to visit Peet's coffee to be served by my new friend Jenny, I promise to at least put a hat on.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Ridiculous Reviewers On Amazon: One Star Review for Flannery O'Connor

Today's ridiculous one star Amazon reviewer picked up a copy of Flannery O'Connor's Complete Stories and did not find it to her liking!

I love Flannery O'Connor. LOVE her. I would marry her. If I wasn't already married. And also if she were still alive. And maybe if she hadn't been born in 1925, that's a little outside my "acceptable age range" for dating. Sorry pre-1926 ladies out there! My wife even lets me keep this photo of her by my bed, although she thought it was my grandmother until recently.

AND (this is true) I tried to convince Krista to name our most recent child Flannery. Unfortunately, the name means something to the effect of "a flat gray rock" and that wasn't going to fly. So we named her Baby M instead.

The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor
Reading Flannery O'Connor takes me to another place. Her unblinking eye focused on both the sublime image of God and the ingrained depravity in the midst of everyday humanity is absolutley riveting. I've read and re-read stories like "A Good Man is Hard to Find" (maybe the best short story in the English language... no, really) and "Parker's Back" (not one of her critically beloved stories, but I think my favorite out of all of them). If you're a writer (particularly a Christian writer) and haven't read her essays in Mystery and Manners then you Must. Go. Now. and find yourself a copy. It will change your life. Shhhh. Stop thinking about it and go get it.

And now, here is our one star review of a collection of stories by the greatest writer of short stories that the United States has yet to produce:

Not what I expected...,
May 14, 2007
Julie Gohring This review is from: The Complete Stories (Paperback)
A group of seniors from our church were planning a visit to the author's childhood home. I thought it would be a great idea to purchase this book as a little prize for the trip.
I read a couple of the short stories and found them to be a bit disturbing. Not at all what I expected. I do not need to have a "happy ever after" ending to stories but I read as an escape into anothter world. I did not enjoy visiting the world through Flannery O'Connor's eyes. Sorry.
First of all, Amazon Reviewer Julie Gohring, please allow me to say that we forgive you.

It was, in fact, a common criticism of O'Connor's work that it was too brutal or cynical or violent (etc.) which was and continues to be to miss the point of her work. O'Connor believed that a true artist must strive to represent the world as it is, not as one wishes it to be, and that only the unabashedly truthful work had any power to transform the reader.

Here's what she said about one of her more famous and controversial stories, about a family whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, only to be discovered by an escaped convict and his cronies:

I am mighty tired of reading reviews that call A Good Man [Is Hard to Find] brutal and sarcastic.  The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism.  I believe that there are many rough beasts now slouching toward Bethlehem to be born and that I have reported the progress of a few of them, and when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror. 

For those of you who have never read any O'Connor, I envy you because you're about to make one of those amazing discoveries when you find that the written word is more powerful and wonderful than you thought possible.

In other news: Flannery O'Connor's childhood home? Five Stars!!!!!

Here's a link to previous ridiculous reviews.