Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What I did this summer...a video journey.

Yep, this is a little film I cobbled together using some of the pics taken at the various OCRs that I participated in this summer.

As for the "soundtrack"? That is a live recording of my old band covering "Tomorrow" by Silver Chair. I was sick as a dog and having to keep taking in fluids during the hour long set, but the show must go on.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Reliving some of music's glory years.

Me...Mototrbreath. F*****G Awesome!
I was going to feature one of my reader interviews today, and I hope she will forgive me. I have to share my weekend with you all. We met with some friends and fellow Portland Thunder season ticket holders for a night of rock.

Denise has a crush on the Motorbreath drummer.
Saturday I went to see a concert featuring the tribute bands Lovedrive, Unchained, and Motorbreath. It was a time travel experience as I was transported to metal's glory days. If I closed my eyes, you could not convince me I was not hearing the Scorpions, Van Halen, and Metallica.

"There's no one like you!"
Seeing these bands has become a regular thing for Denise and I after first catching Unchained to start off my birthday week. So, this year was no different. Except that I knew what I was getting...3+ hours of Kick Ass music. If you are unaware of the tribute scene, you are missing something spectacular. And if youa re in the Portland Metro area, then you should pop over and check out the J-Fell site and see if anything piques your interest. 

Rockin' you like a hurricane!
Lovedrive was new to me. I was sad to hear that real life has forced this band to drop out of the scene. They have not played together in a while, but you could not tell. And having seen the Scorps on the Blackout tour from the second row at Portland's Memorial Coliseum, the vocalist was a DEAD RINGER for Klaus. I hope they find some time and book a few more gigs. 

Somebody get him a doctor...or another nurse.
Unchained is a household favorite. We almost qualify as groupies/stalkers. This was our 5th time seeing the band and they never disappoint. I actually think this was the highest energy level we have seen from the band. Maybe it was due to the sellout crowd. In any case, this is a band that works hard to teleport you back to the VH glory days minus Diamond Dave "forgetting" the lyrics.

"Shreddie Van Halleck" and...is that Michael Anthony?
The stage presence and personalities are mimicked to a tee when Unchained hits the stage. Even better, these guys have the sound down. If you have never seen the original VH and want to experience it for yourself, this is the best thing going. 

"Look at all the people here tonight!"
When the horns blare announcing the intro to Running with the Devil, you are launched from a slingshot back to 1984 and the band's glory days. Whether it is from that first groundbreaking album, or any of the amazing ones in between, the Unchained gang nails it from all angles.

Bottoms up...the Jack has made its appearance on stage. Nice bottle holder, Harry!
This band works to recreate the feel and magic that their namesake band brought to the stage. You are missing out if you have not yet seen them. But fear not, they play a handful of times during the year and are easy to keep tabs of on Facebook (just type in "Unchained Portland Van Halen Tribute" and you will find them) as well as the Unchained website.

You have to see him to believe it!
The last band to hit the stage was Motorbreath. That put the audience into a moshing frenzy. And this is not a band that just plays the radio friendly hits of the band. Nope...they want to shred your ears (Denise and I still had ringing in our ears late Sunday night) with the songs that TRUE Metallica fans love. And the amount of energy and fury that you will witness just can't be put into words. If you just spend the night watching the drummer (like Denise...she has a husband-approved fangirl crush on Mototbreath's drummer), you will witness a passion that the actual Metallica band has lost long ago.

He's so cute when he's angry.
The Mototrbreath set was an in-your-face onslaught of Metallica that should come with a warning label stating that if you are not ready to rock, perhaps you should go home and listen to your Barry Manilow records.

Just some good old-fashioned METAL!
This was an amazing show from start to finish. So, once again, I have to tell you, search around your local music scene. In Portland, you don't have to look far for an experience that you will never forget. And when was the last time time you saw Scorpions, Van Halen, or Metallica and then the band came out into the crowd after the show and said hi? That is just one more element that makes this experience so unique. The band actually cares if you had a good time.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Prison here I come!

I prefer THIS view.

As some of you may recall, I returned to EOCI (Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution) last year as a motivational speaker. Well, I just got cleared to return again this October 23rd. I will be going in with a message. It is a simple one:

If this is NOT how you want to be defined, YOU have to get off your ass and get to work.

One of the biggest problems on the inside is that habit of saying, "I will do it when I get out." That is bull. If you can't do it there, where life is like living in a twisted parody of the movie Groundhog's Day, then you won't do it on the outside where life comes at you at a million miles an hour.
Duh-duh- DUUUUUHHHH!!!

Lockup is the perfect time to take a personal inventory and see what has led you to your current situation. It requires you to be brutally honest and accept blame for your life choices. Guys coming out have a tough road ahead. Society would just as soon see them all stay in forever, but the reality is that over 85% will return to society some day. Jobs are tight, and checking the "yes" box next to FELON is a quick way to make it to the slush pile or circular file. And then there is trying to obtain housing. Second verse same as the first.

Now, some of these guys DO belong in there. But many come to grips with their choices and make honest changes. If you are one of those "lock the door and throw away the key types", then I applaud you on your error free life that has allowed you to climb to such lofty heights and pass judgement on others. And if you don't think a few of those men and women are doing time falsely...then I also applaud your belief in a flawless and perfect justice system...but I digress.

Being invited back got me to thinking. Why am I doing this? It did not take long to come up with the answer. If just one person hears what I have to say and gets motivated to pursue his dream and lead a life that does not see a return to prison, then it is all worth it. And the beauty is that I may never know.

Now,  last time I went in, over 200 newspapers picked up the story on the AP. I was overwhelmed with positive emails from around the country. The one place that I was bombarded with hate mail? My home state of Oregon. Funny how that works.

Anyways, wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My first trick-or-treater

A while back, I asked my readers to offer themselves over to me to be reviewed. I was delighted to get a few responses. Today, I welcome Ramona Martine. She is taking a break from making the first ever "That Ghoul Ava" Halloween costume to answer a few questions.

Thanks to Ramona for taking some time to answer a bunch of my questions

1. Which of my books left you feeling just a bit cheated? Why?

Ok, maybe I’m going to be totally alone on this answer, but at the very end of Zomblog: Snoe’s Journey, she talks about Betty being pregnant and that everything is getting re-established after the crazy Dominique tried to take over the “world”. Also, Snoe says that she’s decided to say “yes” to Jimmy about him staying behind with her, but it’s like the six book series ended in a paragraph that felt like, “I killed the bad guys, lost my hand, found my friends, met some guy I may want to love and, oh yea, Bye”   I truly liked all the Zomblogs but the ending of the end book could’ve been a bit more detailed maybe? It’s not so much how you ended it as how bluntly it ended.

2. Which of my books would you say was your favorite? Why?

I won’t be able to choose just one, but the newest series, ‘That Ghoul Ava’ is AMAZING, HILARIOUS and full of NEW IDEAS!!! The first one does a great job of whetting the palette for more to come, and they just get better and better…. I Want to Be Ava’s Friend!! I want to hang with her and help kick some booty with her. So totally enjoying her bluntness, distractedness, foul language, severe loyalty and the fact that she is attempting to maintain her “humanity” even though she’s a Ghoul and everyone around her says she “can’t be like that, you’re a monster” She refuses to fall into Supernatural Stereotypes and continually surprises us with her ability to remain, I guess, true to herself and still kick some serious supernatural butt! If you haven’t read Ava’s adventures, you NEED TO!!! 

3. Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

TW Brown – Writes my current Favorite books, That Ghoul Ava J and wrote the 3rd zompoc series I ever read. Also, I like the fact that the zompoc books are dark, twisted and basically, what makes them seem so real. I mean, to me the books have a realistic view of what the world would be like in the apocalypse.
Eric A Shelman – Wrote one of the best zompoc series that I have read, very original in concept and his take on the zompoc is very different. I love the characters and the passion they still have in the midst of the zompoc.
Mark Tufo – Second author I ever read that wrote about the zompoc and the way that he combines supernatural elements with the zombies is another original take on the genre.
Joseph Talluto – His book White Flag of the Dead was the first zompoc book I ever read, he’s on the list because his book is what started my zombie book passion.
Shel Silverstein – I’ve loved his stuff since I was a kid and his poems and stories made me realize that I can write anything I want and no one has to like it. Individuality is to be cherished not smothered.
Dean Koontz – Got me into the scary and different genres.
I have more but these are the top and the reasons why. J

4. What is the first book that just got under your skin and made you fall in love with it?

The first book that I can remember being utterly affected by I read when I was 11 I think. It was ‘Say Goodnight Gracie’ by, Julie Reece Deaver. I think her book hooked me on reading for the rest of my life. Let me put it into perspective if I can, I’m 35 now, I read her book when I was 11. I STILL remember the book and in particular the scene that changed my life…. I can remember the shirt I was wearing and where I was when I read it. I didn’t know it at the time, but a year or so later was the first time I had to deal with the death of a friend and my beloved Great Grandma at roughly the same time. I think her book helped me deal with their deaths and my love of literature blossomed from there.

5. Share (in your own words) the most memorable scene you have ever read.

I’m not sure if I can use this one since I am a beta reader for you…. But here goes, I’ll try to keep it vague.

M: “ I’ve been so very wrong about you…. You just promised something that you can’t possibly even know if you could keep the promise, yet here you stand. There is something about you. I really have misjudged you and been unfair to you” 

A: “Umm…. Wow…. Thanks?”

M: “You don’t get it… you’re so very much more special than I could even imagine, I almost lost you and now, issues could arise from my mistake, You’re so much more then you seem and I owe you my life.”

I can’t go into too much detail, but I cried for real when I read this scene. I have always wanted someone to tell me that I can and am more then what I think of myself. I fancy myself an artist and creative person, yet I have almost no confidence in my art work or the things I try to create. The fact that someone so very strong, powerful and mighty can one, admit they’re wrong, and two tell the other that they really are special and needed… I want that too….

6. Have you ever considered starting a reading circle or book club? And would you be more likely to do so if you knew that the author would be available to your group for a Q & A session (either via Skype or Google+ hangouts) when you all finished?

I would totally consider starting a book club or reading circle. Especially knowing how much technology allows us to connect to people that have similar interests. I am a total book nerd and being able to pick an authors brain would make it even more interesting.

7. If you have read my DEAD series, then you are familiar with Garrett McCormick. I have had a lot of criticism regarding my creation and inclusion of that particular character. Do you feel I went too far?

No you didn’t go to far. The issue is that he’s a human monster. The rest of the people in the book are battling the undead and raiders, but Kirsten has to try to battle the worst kind of monster, the living, breathing, thinking kind.  Yes, Garrett was an evil bastard, but here’s the deal. A) I’ve said from the first time I read your DEAD series that they remain very realistic. B) The absolute truth of the matter is that if a zombie apocalypse really happened, there would be a few Garretts and unfortunately worse out their preying on the weak.  Garrett was gross, but he kept with the “realistic” tone of the books. AND trust me, I have read A LOT in this genre and Garrett wasn’t the worst character written.

8. If the zombie apocalypse did occur, how well do you think women and children will fare in general?

I don’t want to actually say this, but children wouldn’t do well alone. Some would, yes, but they would be the exception not the norm. Women would do ok, but just like men there are the strong and the weak. The ones whom would do whatever it takes to make sure they’re loved ones survive would have the best chance. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be done when we’re talking about physical strength. Men are stronger then us physically and I think that may play a part into it.

9. Do you think society has any hope if such a thing as the zombie apocalypse were to actually occur, or, as I have often suggested, do we lose too many of the “good guys” early on and end up left with those in the middle and those who have been hiding under a rock?

This is tough to answer because I want to say that humanity as a whole would bind together and try to help each other out, but if it were to happen from some sort of outbreak, unfortunately, we wouldn’t know until it was too late. At that point, all first responders and ‘good guys’ would be lost at first, and then people would start to do the ‘out for themselves’ routine. I think it would go to sh&% first, then hopefully enough good people would be left to try to start rebuilding. A real apocalypse would rid the world of a lot of the sick, weak and infirm, also, the bad and cruel usually are too cocky and probably would cause a lot of drama at first but then they’d fall to their own vices. I think in the end, there would be a bastion of survival with good people, the only issue is would we be then rebuilding and trying to start over only to make the same mistakes again?

10. I have been accused of over-dramatizing the victimization of women and being overly misogynistic, do you agree? If so, let me have it with both barrels. And if not, what would you say in my defense?

Sometimes yes, you’re a little hard on the women, but not always. I think that you’re trying to create a world that may be a little bit more on the realistic side of the equation in the zompoc. That being said, yes women are used as a commodity and a thing in the eyes of some dudes. Especially those dudes that are bad and out to get what they want. I may not be the kind of women who would be taken, but I’ve been shooting since I was a kid. I had a EFFED up childhood and some serious sh&$ happen to me as a kid that makes me a freaking survivor. Some women would try to be bad asses and some will succeed but not all. It’s a fine line to try to be realistic in your books yet not come across as a total woman basher. I don’t think you have a low opinion of women, I think you’re writing as “realistically” as possible in the world that you created. 

11.In a lawless society, do you become a follower? A leader? Or a crusader set on battling those who take advantage of the lack of repercussions?

Not sure if I’d want to be a leader, too much drama. But I know for a fact that if you hurt the innocent and I find you…. You will not live to taint another innocent soul. If you are someone’s worst nightmare, you would pale in comparison to the Nightmare I will become for YOU in this world. I will make you fear things you never thought possible to fear, a 5’3” blonde haired, blue eyed bringer of justice for the innocent. I am the avenging Angel.

12.If you heard a news report today saying that a possible zombie attack has been reported, how serious do you take it?

Serious. Our government is good at hiding things until its too late. It may turn out to be nothing, but damn straight I am of the mind that better safe then sorry, better to be prepare and not need it then, need it and not have it.

13.Let’s talk about That Ghoul Ava. Humor is very subjective, so what do you find funny?

I have always been the girl to laugh at the inappropriate. I crack up out loud sometimes at the stuff you write in the Ava books. I have what you’d call gallows humor I guess? I laugh at the morbid yucky stuff most people would barf at. J I am highly inappropriate and I love myself.

14.What is the last thing you read that made you actually “laugh out loud” (as opposed to LOLing, where you probably didn’t really, you just said/typed it because you were amused).

Ok, totally is in line with the previous question. In Mark Tufo and John O’Brien’s latest collaboration, A shrouded world, there is this NASTY scene, where John the Tripper has to poop. They’re walking along an he suddenly stops. His companion asks what he’s doing and his response is “ I need to make a food baby,” ???? what??? “Food baby. It’s gonna happen soon. I can feel the contractions! I’m going to need some hot water!” then there is the rest of the scene where his squats down in the middle of the road taking a poo and he reaches out to the other guy and asks him to hold his hands so he won’t fall over, more funny stuff and then “You can’t rush the miracle of food-child birth” the scene gets a little more gross and funny. I literally laughed out loud and while trying to explain to my husband what was so funny, I kept laughing so hard he couldn’t understand what I was saying cuz every time I got to the “Food Baby” part I couldn’t stop laughing.

15.What will keep you coming back for more with Ava? A love interest storyline? A long running battle with a Super-villain? Or...she just fits the bill when you want mindless pulp fiction?

So far I am thoroughly loving her just the way she is. But, maybe someone she could kiss and have friends with benefits with? The problem with a Ghoul and long term love intrest is that I wouldn’t want it to change her too much. I wouldn’t want her to stop being her cuz she’s got feelings for a dude/monster. AND, it would have to be a creature she could kiss. A long running super villain may be ok, but through all the other books she’s kinda always ‘figured it out in the end’ and killed the bad guy. So, it would have to be well written and kind of like tit for tat and then she’d still have to kill him. However, someone who appears to be good but then may be bad so she gets into trouble more because of it could work….. The newest one is headed in the right direction J

16.How likely are you to buy books from an author you like even if the genre is slightly (or even drastically) different?

Most authors I read aren’t one trick ponies. I am a HUGE supporter of Indie authors and I think this allows them to write what they want. If I love your works, I will read your other stuff because you’re a good writer not just cuz it’s a zombie or supernatural book.

17.Did you know I wrote a “time-travel” themed book Titled Dakota as well as a sci-fi/alien themed short titled The Exoterrestrials? (You actually have to search using “Dakota by TW Brown to find it...I had no idea that was such a popular title name...sheesh!)

No, I didn’t which is surprising cuz I thought I had read all of your stuff. I will have to look for the other two to add to my collection.

18.How often do you write a review?

I try to write one after every book I have finished, especially with Indie authors, however, I only recently started that. I have actually made it a point to go into my Amazon account like one a week or so and take a few minutes to review all books that I have not reviewed yet. Now, as I finish a book I try to review it right then and there.

19.Are you more likely to write one if the book is terrible versus one that you enjoy?

No, I try to write the review no matter what I thought of the book. It’s a help to self published authors that we readers review regardless of what we write in our reviews, good reviews gain the author popularities and bad ones hopefully help the author improve.

20.I hate predictability. If I am reading and a main character is in danger, I want to actually fear for his or her existence. I get a lot of grief for killing main characters. Does that annoy you or do you see it as adding more realism?

You absolutely have to kill the main people sometimes. If every character lived miraculously throughout each book, they’d be boring and I probably wouldn’t be as into them as I am. Do I get sad sometimes that you killed a main guy? Yes, but it does lend credibility to the story.

21.Now it is your chance to just say what you feel. Give me some feedback and be sure to include some critical stuff. That is how a person gets better at their craft.

I LOVE AVA!!!! Now, that being said…. Can you PUH-LEASE write faster!!! She’s really gonna be your golden goose I think. The books could be a bit longer but that is just selfishness talking J

Now, as far as the DEAD series goes, I have read them all to date. Mostly I loved them, but even though I read them all, there was some really confusing stuff happening in the last couple that I still am not sure I got fully. The whole thing with Jon, Jake and Jesus and then the kid they found and then was it the real Jake? Wasn’t it? I am going to re read the last part of the last book to make sure I get it all, but it seems like that one part of the story was maybe an after thought? After some other stuff happened were you trying to make connections where there were none before? Other then that, I see why they went into La Grande, I mean the stories would be boring if they did nothing but sit on the mountain, but were you maybe trying too hard to give them some action? I don’t know. I do enjoy the books a lot and will continue to read them, but I hope after re reading that last part of the last one I can figure out the missing pieces and fully understand what happens. I am interested to see what happens with Thalia as she grows up and Billy was a great choice for narrating after Steve died. J


Monday, September 8, 2014

If I died tomorrow...

How many of you have had "THAT" conversation with your significant other? As you get older, it does become an actual possibility. Of course we all know how to answer that question correctly.

"I would become a hermit and never love again."

Nobody want to be the one to say they will go out and find a new (possibly younger) love interest. Well, you could, but that is only if you have a REALLY comfy couch or recliner to sleep in for the next day or two. However, when that conversation arose recently in my house, it made me think.

I doubt I could get a relationship to flourish at this point in my life. Seriously, here is the stat sheet and I will break them down after the list: 
  1. I am a "clean/neat" freak.
  2. I write and DO NOT like to even be spoken to casually when I work.
  3. My dogs sleep ON the bed, not the floor, and that won't ever change.
  4. Football.
  5. Off Course Racing.
That is just the start. SO let's look at each one on just the first few things that come to mind.

Number 1 might seem like a good thing. I mean, I stay home all day, so I have and maintain a very neat and orderly house. I vacuum, dust, do laundry...all that stuff. I also cook and have dinner ready when my wife walks in the door from work. So what is wrong with that? For one, I have a very RIGID schedule when it comes to my cleaning. And I like things done a specific way. That can make some people feel uncomfortable.

Number 2 can be really hard on any chance at creating a new relationship. I work sometimes 10-12 hours a day and can go for months with no day off. That can leave the other person feeling alone and neglected. No, I don't want to talk, I don't want to go out (I love staying home), I don't want to do a lot of things that people do when they are dating. That would not change. Ever. I love what I do and writing is my JOB. Just because I am at home does not mean that I am not working. That can be a problem.

Number 3 might be no big deal to some, but I have actually asked a female or two to go ahead and leave when they did not approve of my dogs on the couch or coming up on the bed when it was sleepy time. (No, not during other adult activities, but when it is time to sleep, Aoife cuddles right in and that is where she will stay.)

Number 4 is one I have had to deal with in the past. Many a female has not taken me seriously when I have said up front that football is like a religion in my home. They think it is one game a week...not an all-consuming event that lasts for six months. They have always been welcome to join in, but I don't miss football season for anybody.

Number 5 is new. However, between my training and the actual events, it takes up a lot of time. Join in, come watch, or stay home. Those are the choices. I won't be stopping this any time soon.

My wife is good with almost all of these. Sometimes she can forget that I am working in my office and want to tell me something, but for the most part, she is good about leaving me to my work. And as for the other 4...she gets straight "A" marks. I just do not see how I could ever cultivate a new relationship with somebody. Add in that I LOVE my alone time and actually need it to stay sane...I am just not that great of a catch for somebody new.

Yep. That was the result of that question when it came up recently. So...how about you? Is your current significant other the only person you can imagine would be able to put up with you at this point in your life?

Friday, September 5, 2014

How to survive football season (part 1).

It is the kickoff to football. For some, crickets are chirping. They could not care in the slightest. But for others (me) it is a magic roller coaster of joy, pain, love and heartbreak. Last year, my beloved Seattle Seahawks won it all against HOFer-to be, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. I shared that day with friends and my wife who cheered right alongside me.

For some, this is a time where they feel left out by their spouse. They do not understand the obsession. And dear lord, what in the hell is fantasy football? Images of hobbits and goblins chasing each other around come to mind for a few of you I am sure.

Football is something that can dominate a home for the next 6 months. Oh yeah...it is a half of a year until the champions are crowned once more.  With Thursday Night Football on the NFL network, the venerable Monday Night Football on ESPN, Sunday Night Football on NBC, the regular games on Sunday (10 am and 1pm PST)...you get the picture. It can consume every spare minute.

But it can get worse. It is not just pro football, the college game can make a bad situation even more unsavory for the non-football types. I made it very clear in every single relationship that football is an obsession. I explained what it could entail. I was always told things like, "That's okay, I can go shopping or see friends." Nope. By week three, it was always the  same. "How much longer does this last!"

So, how can the football fan and non-football fan coexist? Here are few tips that might bring peace and harmony. 

Invite the other person to partake. But it can't stop there. Imagine sitting for seven hours, watching something that makes absolutely no sense at all. BORING, Sydney! Tell why you bleed your team's colors and who their biggest rival is. It is always fun when your best friend and significant other cheers for the enemy. It adds to the fun and makes for some "interesting" betting possibilities.

You need to explain what is happening. Point out the rules and explain why a team, does one thing and another team something entirely different. Talk about the history, make it something that lives and breathes. Sure, you might miss a play here or there, but it is an investment for the long run.

Second tip for the football person...switch off the blowout and ask your significant other person what they would like to do for an hour or two (until the next game kicks off). All you would be doing is watching the ticker at that point. That is what your phone is for these days. You will score huge, and prove that you can give as well as take.

I will close this installment with a note to the non-football lover. Do not try to talk to your football fan during the game. They will not hear you. They will not remember anything you say or ask. So if you make plans and get them to commit, don't be mad when that event happens and your football fan has no idea what you are talking about.

Until next time...

Go Hawks!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The stories are wrong.

We have seen the movies, read the books, watched the series. Zombies are big. There are a variety of reasons why the genre appeals to the masses. We love a good end-of-the-world apocalypse. But I have made a discovery this summer.

We are NOT prepared to survive such an event.

Knees the size of cantaloupes.
Many of you know that I have been getting swept up in the OCR (Off Course Racing) scene. Events like Rugged Maniac, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, and, most recently, the 13.1 mile 400 meter, 25+ obstacle Inferno Run have dominated my summer.

Out on these courses, I am discovering that running through the woods or even an open field (full of ankle grabbing ruts) is a lot harder than the books or shows make it out to be. And while I am not in some top-form shape like some of the competitors who zip through these courses in superhuman times that are unfathomable, I have finished each race. However, it has taken its toll on my body.

And after 5 hours, to have traveled just over 13 miles? That was trying to get from point "A" to point "B" as fast as I could. My body was useless for the next few days, and I am actually still nursing injuries from the Spartan Race a month ago! 

My take away from this? We are not going to fare well in the event of an apocalypse. Zombie or otherwise. The human body is much more suited for an evening on the couch or a walk in the park. When you start adding in running for your life, climbing fences, scaling walls...well...

There is no finish line in a zombie apocalypse.