Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Never Wear Red or William Shatner Is My Life Coach

Hello, today I'm channeling my Inner Spock, looking at the world, raising one eyebrow, and saying, in a low monotone "Fascinating." Why? I have no idea. But isn't that how most days are?

I know these types of articles are sometimes a dime a dozen, and this one is definitely self-serving, but then isn't this entire blog? It is good from time to time to sit back and marvel, to boldly go even if it is only to the next meeting. 


7 Life Lessons You Can Learn From 'Star Trek'

David Borgenicht President, Quirk Books

Originally posted: 11/29/11 at Huffingtonpost.com

Let me start out by coming clean: I am a closet Trekkie.

I went to my first "Star Trek" convention when I was nine. I have owned dozens of "Star Trek" toys, models, props and books over the years (and yes, I used to make my Kirk and Uhura action figures kiss). I even have a communicator app on my iPhone (and I'm eagerly waiting for the tricorder app now that Siri has arrived). I don't own a uniform, but I wish I did (Hint hint: Channukah's coming, family. I'll take the classic Captain's shirt in M, please, so that it rips easier when I get into fights).

My love of "Star Trek" began at an early age and has lasted to this day. But why? It isn't just because of the campy sets and costumes that are still iconic. It isn't because of the terrific performance by Leonard Nimoy (Spock) or Captain Kirk's Shatnerific overacting. It isn't even because of the superb sci-fi storytelling and writing or the fact that the toys and accoutrements were (and are) so cool that the culture seems to be obsessed with making them real. Although all of that is true.

No, my love of "Trek" has lasted this long because of what I have learned from my friends on the Enterprise over the years.

From the joys of exploration to the simple pleasures of curling up in your own quarters (often with a hot yeoman and a cold drink), from the value of friendship to the value of calling someone's bluff, I've learned dozens of life skills, lessons and even values from the iconic show that ran only three years in prime time when it originally debuted (before I was born).

I think that's what ultimately motivated me to create and publish (via my company, Quirk Books) "THE STAR TREK BOOK OF OPPOSITES," as an attempt to familiarize children today (including my own) with the world of "Trek."

There are no great life lessons in "THE STAR TREK BOOK OF OPPOSITES" (although learning the difference between BIG and LITTLE, HOT and COLD would certainly serve anyone well). But beyond the basics of opposites, the book is a great way to introduce kids to the world and characters of "Star Trek," in the hopes that someday they will come back to it and begin to appreciate its power and cultural resonance.
I would say there are seven life lessons I learned from "Star Trek" that I take with me to this day. These are lessons I hope to pass along to my own children someday--but for now, I will share them with the interweb.
  1. The best way to travel is to boldly go where no one has gone before. This is true for vacations, for self-exploration, for life itself. If you want your days filled with adventure, laughter, love, learning and the occasional mind-meld, follow this route
  2. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few--or the one. Sometimes you must make great sacrifices for the greater good. And, like the Genesis device, it will all come back around.
  3. Expressing your emotions is a healthy thing. Sure, McCoy seemed angry all the time when exclaiming, "Dammit, Jim! I'm a doctor not a mechanic/bricklayer/soothsayer," but he knew that by expressing his anger and frustration it wouldn't get the best of him and he could then perform at his peak capacity.
  4. When estimating how long a job will take, overestimate--and when you do better your captain will always be impressed. Replace the word "captain" with "teacher" or "mom/dad" and you'll see what I mean. Sure, Mr. Scott might have been telling the truth--maybe it would take six hours to get the warp engines back online in the heat of the battle. Or maybe he was padding things so he looked good. Either way, when the engines did come back on line, everyone was happy.
  5. Wearing red makes you a target. This is true of cars, dresses and, most especially, shirts. Red gets you noticed--which is good if you want to be noticed, bad if you don't want to end up vaporized.
  6. When you don't know what to say, pause. It will give you the time to figure it out. Or at the very least, you'll sound like you're being thoughtful. "But....Spock.....why?"
  7. The most powerful force in the universe is friendship. It's more powerful than phasers, photon torpedos, even more powerful than the force itself. With friends, you can accomplish any task, escape any perilous situation, defeat any enemy--and you get to laugh together when it's all over.
I am convinced that these lessons will serve us all, adults and children, well as we seek out new life, new civilizations, new experiences. In short, thanks to "Star Trek," we may all live long and prosper.


After thought: 
He left out the all important rule Number 8. Never trust a Republican, I mean Romulan. 
Oops, Freudian slip, I guess. 

Anyway it's like Bones always told Kirk,"You've got to use it, move it, once the point of living if you don't want to dance." 
Double oops, that's Kylie Minogue (guilty pleasure currently streaming on AOL)

And with that I'm all out of oopses. Scotty, beam me up. Now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Zombies Have Taken Over Washington DC

I usually watch "Sunday Morning" on CBS each weekend. I love the art and culture concentration on the news. The feature stories always makes me think, they often makes me laugh, and sometimes even shed a tear or two. But for some bizarre and unknown reason I missed it this weekend.

Never fear, A friend at work comes in this morning and tells me about this piece he saw this weekend. It was all about zombies and he immediately thought of me.

Now I will take that as flattery and not that he thinks I'm a zombie. Unfortunately I was unable to find a video of the piece but here is the transcript.
(CBS News) 

A few weeks ago, a close friend came to me and wanted advice about putting iron bars in front of his windows. I asked him why he needed bars on his windows in Beverly Hills in the first place. "So the zombies try to come into my house, I can keep them out," he said. "You just need the right kind of iron."

My friend is a bit scattered, so he never quite finished the conversation.

But here's the amazing part: When I tell other friends about this, they say things like, "What kind of iron bars did he get?" Or, "What did he do to make the zombies mad at him?"

No one except my sensible wife said, "What's he talking about? Zombies? The walking dead? There is no such thing. That's voodoo, it's not real." But my wife is in the minority (at least in my crowd).

The Internet is jammed with stories and survival guides about how to deal with zombie attacks. My son reads them avidly.

Where did this belief in zombies suddenly come from, exploding and growing upon the nation?

I think I know.

The first branch of the United States government, the most important deliberative body on the planet, the United States Congress - THEY are the inspiration for the zombie craze.

Now obviously, no one but a madman would REALLY think that iron bars could keep a Member of Congress out of a taxpayer's home. That's not what this story is about.

It's about the congressional walking dead.

They get elected. They might LOOK as if they're alive, might LOOK as if they respond to stimuli like living people, but they're actually in another realm, where crises present themselves and the zombies just stagger past them, accomplishing little or nothing. The debt crisis doesn't get resolved on time? So what? Time doesn't mean a lot to a zombie.

Again, I don't really want to talk about bars and senators in the same breath, but maybe they need a little something - a little pick-me-up, just something that would give them a ZAP so they actually get something done about the deficit or mortgages or jobs.

But I'm not sure you CAN wake them up, because they're not sleeping. They're, well, not quite in the land of the living. And they keep coming at us ... and getting closer and closer and ... I'm scared!


I laugh every time I have read that piece. And I even find myself in agreement with Ben Stein, which is scary in itself as he has grown more conservative and right wing as time goes on. 

But I must disagree slightly. I do think he missed a very obvious reason why they can't be zombies. For if every member of the Senate and the House were zombies that would mean they would have a strong attraction to and desire for brains.  Alive or dead I don't think there can be more than a handful of good brains on Capital Hill right now. And I don't see to many of our political "leaders" looking for anyone with a brain.

Unfortunately I think this lack of desire for brains has a trickle down effect to the States. But maybe that's changing. Are you listening, Scott? Over 300,000 signatures, over half the needed number, on recall petitions in just 12 days. Maybe there is hope for us yet.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 Things + 5 Things More

photo found on rexanne.com
5 Things I Am Thankful For

1) My family
I mean this should really go without saying but it is the season and it never hurts to let those you love and care about know it.

2) My family's health and mine too
All things considered we aren't doing too bad. Some things could be better, but you have to be happy about what you have and what you can't change.

3) A steady income
These days this is something not to be taken for granted.

4) My friends
Thank you for your support, your encouragement, and at times your patience and endurance.

5) The opportunity to do what I love
a] Over the last few years my writing has begun to kick in. My financial progress in this aspect is slower than I'd want, (it always is, isn't it) but there is progress. And it seems to make people smile. That's pretty cool.

5 More Things I am Really Really Happy About Right Now

1) A new album by Kate Bush
Out this week "50 Words For Snow" is beautiful. She has been a favorite of mine forever and this new work is very very welcome.

I haven't seen teh movie yet, but it is only a matter of time.

3) I just got a smartphone.
Okay, it's only an iPhone 3GS, (they are giving them away at ATT now) but it lets me read my email, play games, watch out if any zombies are in the vicinity, and I think it makes phone calls too

4) The future
We will get Wisconsin back to the people. Scott Walker will be recalled.

5) Best Xmas present ever!
Even with our 2nd string quarterback, Da Bears will beat the Packers on Xmas Day. (Sorry about the perfect season but it will help you in the long run. Losing to Miami was the best thing for the 85 Bears.)

Now It's Your Turn. Tell Us Your 5 Things!

And don't forget:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's a Not-so-Black Not-so-Friday Sale!

Greetings, Earthlings.

Step right up. Don't be afraid. Plenty of room at the front.

In the spirit of the holidaze I have decided to enter into the consumer buying frenzy with an amazing offer for my hilarious ebook "Dr Zombie Lives Next Door." It's filled with laughs, some scary moments, and fun for the whole family! And now you can have all that and more all for the unbelievable price of $0.99!

Can you believe your good fortune?!! I can't either.

But wait, Bill, you say. Why are you doing this?

I hear you, even from up here in the mother ship.We're doing it because we care. In a media filled world of rehashed ideas (did you know they are making a Broadway musical based on the 90s Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore movie Ghost? yes, a musical) we wanted to make sure you got your hands on some quality reading material.

Many of you will be giving or getting iPads or Kindles or Nooks or other ereaders for Xmas this year. You'll want to fill up that memory with all sorts of great readiing material that you'll never ever get to. Why not make one of those ebooks "Dr Zombie Lives Next Door." You won't be sorry and I won't be either.

Now can I have your attention? Let's be serious for a minute and face the cold hard facts. Not enough of you good people are reading "Dr Zombie Lives Next Door." I'm still working my day job!  

(Actually I'm quite thankful I am working my wonderful day job especially if anyone from the firm is reading this. That earlier sentence is what we in the business call a "sales pitch" It doesn't really mean anything, honest. Excuse me, I have to get back to it. They're waiting.)

Now for only $0.99, the price of an iPhone app that tells you when the tangerines are ripe in Argentina you can be entertained in the here and now. That's quite a bargain if you ask me.

So head right on over now. I've got a copy waiting for you.


(PS Right now the price at amazon.com is still $1.99 but they'll lower it as soon as a few people buy it at smashwords.com. It's that price matching thing they do. Or you can head over right now and give my vacation fund with a little extra boost.)

Happy Holidaze, Everyone!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Another win at the NECON Flash Fiction contest

Dear Bill,

It's deja vu all over again; of course, I sincerely hope you're not getting tired of reading letters like this one —

It is my pleasure to inform you that your story, "The Second Deadly Sin,"  has been awarded an Honorable Mention in the Necon E-Books October Flash Fiction Contest.  Your piece will be published on our web site at www.neconebooks.com/flash.htm by the end of the night, and will also be included in our end of the year Flash Fiction Anthology.

Having won a couple of months ago with a Halloween themed story I was intent on sitting this one out, trying to complete another project. But then the Friday before Halloween was Trick or Treats at my office for children of employees. There were buckets of candy stationed at various points around the building, one way too close to my desk. This year the turnout was low and those kids that did come barely made a dent in the amount of candy. I was able to sample a few, actually more than a few it turned out, of the bite-sized confections throughout the afternoon. It was during my sugar crash around 3:30 that this story presented itself to me. Polishing it up helped me stay awake.

The Flash Fiction Contest at NECON Ebooks is a great challenge. Every month they post a different topic and you have 100 words in which you tell your story. It is great practice and a lot of fun. I encourage all those interested in writing to give it a shot. 

My story "The Second Deadly Sin" is my 4th win with the contest. I think I'm getting a reputation there. Check it out. I hope you enjoy it. Now if you excuse me, I must find some chocolate...............

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Buckystein, or It's a Small World After All

A few years ago I read an article, possibly in The Isthmus, about a local man who had made his own horror movie about a crazed and murderous half man half mascot. He called it "Buckystein". I knew instantly I had to have it. I sent my money and got a copy of the dvd.

When the dvd came I played it right away. After 5 minutes my wife left the room and I was forced to endure the unspeakable horror before me. Actually it wasn't that bad. Short entirely in Madison with a cast of friends and relatives it gave new meaning to low budget horror films. It gave that new meaning to me anyway.

I had always loved the movies and wanted to be a part of them in anyway I could. When "The Last Kiss" starring Zach Braff did some filming in town Laurie and I rushed out to be extras. And we made the cut. My legs are featured in the opening credits. We are actually in the film together at one point but you can only see us on the dvd and then in very slow motion. You blink and we're gone.

But here was a man that had nerve, no the gall, to make his own movie. He had never done it before, but that didn't stop him. He had a vision of a monster Bucky Badger terrorizing the streets of Madison and he brought that vision to life.

Okay, the movie isn't up to hollywood standards, who no realistic budget how could it be, but it is so deliciously bad it stands alone in it's class of demented badger films.

Then a coworker was having some remodeling work done on his house. He stopped by desk and said, "I gave your story ("Emergency at St Anthony" from the anthology Zombie Nation: St Pete) to my carpenter, Geoff Lafayette. Did you know he directed and wrote his own horror movie, Buckystein?"

Oh my firggin god! You have to be kidding me. I have that dvd. That is too cool! Would he autograph my copy?

Weeks passed and no dvd. Then one day on my desk is my dvd, autographed.

That night I received an email from Geoff with some good news.
Thank You so much for letting me autograph the copy of Buckystein you gave Neil.  I am so sorry it took so long.  I am currently trying to edit a movie I have only shot about a third of.
He's making another movie!

I wrote back immediately offering any help I could give (other than financial that is). Geoff, if you're reading this the offer stands. I am a professional, well, not in anything to do with making movies. But I did take a screenwriting class at the UW and am still on good terms with my instructor. (Yeah I bribed her, but that's another story.) Oh, I do have a copy of Brice Campbell's autobiography in which he talks about learning the business by making the Evil Dead movies with Sam Ramii (Sam went on to direct Spiderman movies).

If you're still reading this blog post, you're my kind of fool. I encourage you to try and find a copy of Buckystein. You will love it. What better use do you have for your money? If you can't find it, let me know. I know the director.

Good News - "Clean Up On Seventh Avenue" Closer To Print

If you remember last week The Twisted Library Press decided to pull all their anthologies that were already in process. This got the editors of said anthologies scrambling and Wayne Goodchild, editor of "Attack of the 50FT Book" has found a new publisher for this anthology. Pill Hill Press has agreed to take this anthology on. My story "Clean Up On Seventh Avenue" about the clean up crew following a giant monster attack will be a part of it once again.

New contracts are being sent out. And as this book was nearly ready for print when it was cut it could actually be out in print as soon as a couple of months.

This is a good opportunity to get in good with another publisher which can never hurt. I'm also very happy that this story will see the light of day. It's a lot of fun and I think you'll all enjoy it.

I've also sent "The Wrong Side of the Rainbow," my first Ramses and Bernie story,  off to another publisher, this time in Australia. Send some good karma down under if you've any to spare. It would be fun to be internationally published.

Fingers crossed.  I'll keep you posted.