Author: David F. Dufty
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Length: 272 pages
Yesterday afternoon I messaged my friend after returning from running errands which involved the bookstore, lunch with my daughter, Hobby Lobby, and of course – the library.
“So I know you’re at work, but did you know that in 2005 some scientists made an android that looked just like Philip K. Dick and one of them LEFT HIS HEAD ON A PLANE! The robotic Philip K. Dick head has never been found. Some super nerd freak has his head somewhere. (And I’m jealous.)” I said.
“We must search for this robo head.”
We certainly do not plan to go searching for Philip K. Dick’s robotic head that has been missing for a decade. The police have not found it and ended their search a long time ago. The creators aren’t even looking for it anymore. It was never insured, so there was nothing fraudulent about the circumstances. But someone, somewhere, in a very A Gentle Madness style, is hoarding Dick’s head in their basement – probably in Washington State… or Orange County… or well, anywhere the airline could go.
Dufty’s recount of the building of the android and his version of events at Comic Con and other such places is a fun, light, entertaining read that I read in two sittings. It’s fascinating that so many intelligent people were involved in such a large scale plan that ended in something Philip K. Dick would probably determine predestined and foreseen. They made an android of the author who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? then lost its head. It’s a funny bit of irony, no?
The book isn’t just about building an android though, and isn’t as mechanical as you’d think. It’s got a lot of commentary about Dick, his life, his themes, his work, and, of course, what makes a human human and an android a mere android. If you appreciate robotics or are a Philip K. Dick fan, I recommend checking this one out sometime.
Author: William Agosta
Publisher: Helix Books * Addison-Welsey Publishing Company
Genre: Science/ Nature
Length: 224 pages
It started because I realized I had used the word “pheromone” one too many times during every day discussions that week. It seemed from a biological standpoint my nose – and my whole body really – was on high alert. I could smell EVERYTHING. Which happens more often than I’d like. And not normal smells like the fast food restaurants when you drive by or someone’s overbearing perfume. It’s not even the homeless guy that comes into work from time to time. He’s odorous, don’t get me wrong, but those aren’t the smells I tend to notice.
I smell clean skin a lot. And not the soap that was used, just skin. I tend to pick up on not the typical overly sweaty man on a jog, but the very subtle clammy sort of sweat that someone gets when they are thinking too hard or are wearing the shirt they slept in. I can smell my daughter’s little curls – not the shampoo, not the preschooler desperately needs a bath smell, but HER smell. Obviously, I have a word and a basic gist of why humans respond to these smells (whether they are aware of them or not), but I wanted to know more.
The library has NOTHING on people. So beetles it was.
And Agosta is fascinating. I love this book and plan to purchase it for kiddo to read for a biology course when she’s older. It’s smooth reading, has a lot of information, and has taught me something new about a subject I was already interested in (nudibranchs) that I wasn’t aware was going to be included in this title. Agosta goes over caterpillars and butterflies, discusses spiders and their silk, and even talks about plants, opium, and medicinal remedies.
Definitely loved every word and page and am now moving onto Wyatt’s Pheromones and Animal Behavior. Pipe in if you’re interested in a discussion.
I needed a vacation. I’ve been needing one for quite sometime, but it took a bit of time, planning, impromptu not planning, and selfishness to make it happen.
I went to Dallas for a few days, with the nervous approval of my husband, left my daughter with my mother; where I ate, drank, and was merry. And got a tattoo.
The tattoo occurred toward the end, but was the plan from the beginning.
It went a bit like this…
We didn’t book a hotel. It’s Dallas. It was Tuesday. We thought we’d find one. And we did. About ten hotels later. Note to self, book a hotel no matter how silly your destination. I truly never believed this until this trip. I very much enjoyed the fact that in the last ten years, if I wanted a hotel and was somewhere, I just arrived and walked in. Then again, I haven’t gotten out much in the last ten years.
Post Hotel Finding: My old college chums and my best friend since high school all crashed into one group and found ourselves at Goodfriend, a bar and grill with amazing fried pickles and ghost ranch, on the first evening. There I discovered what I shall now always call fancy whiskey, although it’s actually a Classic Whiskey Sour. This is not your Chili’s or dive bar Whiskey with sweet and sour – this involves egg whites and shaking and frothy latte like smoothness and basically heaven in a cup of whiskey. This is also where we discovered that there was whiskey in the water. Not literally, we just found it very easy to become happily plastered there. Props to Matt, the owner, who is amazing. And to the bartender who got me hooked on those Classic Whiskey Sours.
Moving on… The Double Wide. Yes, that is the name of a bar. Complete with toilet bowls serving as planters that provide extra seating. I laughed, I cried, I was in a ridiculous bar with an appropriately fitting name, and strange men trying to talk to my friends who handled them much better than I would. My response would have been “Go AWAY.” But my friends are way more classy than I am and found themselves saying, “It’s been nice talking to you, but you’re crashing girls night.”
Wednesday, we got pedicures and ate Mexican food. Margaritas, bookstores (The Lucky Dog), lots of coffee, a Ton’s Mongolian Grill Reunion dinner at 7:30 with even more college chums. More bars – Bowen House (way overpriced but I got some more whiskey in) and The Ginger Man (fun beer). It was good to see old friends.
Thursday morning involved Cultivar Coffee and the most delicious vanilla latte I ever had. There was a little hole in the wall taco joint across from it on Peavy called El Ranchito. If I lived in that neighborhood, that’s where all my money would be going… to $1.50 homemade breakfast tacos.
And finally, some shopping, lunch and coffee, another bar visit (The Libertine) where I refrained because I was about to get inked, I found myself at Death and Glory Tattoo. Where a very personable guy named Cole Alexander Davis was able to put Jane Austen’s words and handwriting on my arm forever.
“I am half agony, half hope.”
It was a shockingly cozy experience. My last tattoo happened in a place that felt very clinical to me. The guy was nice, but I don’t remember his name. Here, I realized why people find the practice so addicting. It’s like finding a bar you love, or a coffeehouse you can’t live without. It’s not just about the finished product, or the drinks being made properly, it is very much about ambiance and whether or not you have managed to find a place that seems like home away from home. They have a delightful front porch and a cat that lurked but didn’t touch me. I could have stayed there for hours after, but we had more drinking to do.
One of the guys there said that people tend to tell them their whole life story. They know everyone’s business because they are sort of treated like bartenders and shrinks. I can see that. I was too awkward to take advantage of that ambiance, but I definitely loved it.
My lovely JJ got a tattoo with me. It is also a literary reference to a poem that was read at her wedding. “And then this moment…” This is us, back at Goodfriend, being incandescently happy.
Friday… we had more tacos and Cultivar. We visited the Black Forest Cafe and the Flagship Half Price Books. We drove the many miles home, mostly listening to oldies.
Thanks for my trip, Danielle. I know it was stressful, but it was also lovely.
You really can’t have too many winged-back chairs…
Originally posted on Smoking With Caterpillars:
This lady is my college roommate, the alternate voice of [most] of my conversations over coffee, and general expert on my madness. She was in town this weekend and we spent several days romping around Dallas (nominating the father of my children for “Husband Of The Year,” as at my behest he watched our wild bunch for three days while I frolicked like I was 19 and waiting tables in the West End again).
This photo was taken in Lucky Dog Books, tiny winding bookstore in Lake Highlands where you find a new crevice and hidden stash upon every visit. Seriously. I’ve been going here for years and every time I find some corner I have never seen before. Their sister shop is in the Bishop Arts District and overrun with the hipster crowd, but this is my spot. Quiet, musty, and…
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Title: One-Woman Farm
Author: Jenna Woginrich
Genre: Memoir / Farming
Length: 207 pages
I’m in research mode. I’m elbow deep in tree and herb encyclopedias. I’ve been reading every homesteading and nature memoir I can get my hands on. I’m scouring the fields, ditches, and woods for new specimens of plant life to identify, and I just helped my mother-in-law build a compost bin.
One-Woman Farm was one of the recent memoir selections, and it was a breeze to get through. Daily journal entries, basically, of farm life through out the year, the author’s quest for a Fell pony, and to learn to play the fiddle.
I enjoyed reading Woginrich’s book mostly because I want to homestead… but I don’t want what she has. She’s too far north. I want more plants and fewer animals. I want the freedom to get up and travel when the inevitable wonderlust kicks in. I don’t want to be a one-woman farm, I simply want to do EVERYTHING, and also not quite that much. But it was nice to live a year in her shoes for a bit, and I would like to select baby chicks and hold a baby goat. I would love to have fresh milk in the mornings…
The book is full of sweet illustrations as well, which made it spunky. Her talk of pigs felt more in depth with a pencil sketch of a pig sharing the page. Faux paperclips in the margins, like a well-worn guide book to life. Typed recipes and quotes added a richer flow to her sparse text.
Now on to the next… I’m reading The Last Great Walk by Wayne Curtis and The Quarter-Acre Farm by Spring Warren.
Author/Illustrator: Lori Nichols
I would have gotten this review up earlier in the week except every time I pick it up to look at it the kiddo stops me and says, “Oh Mommy, read it again, it’s so beautiful.”
So we’ve read this on repeat all week and have yet to put a line down about it anywhere.
We love that the girls are named after trees. We love that they spend 90% of the story outside. We love that they are sweet, sweet, but realistic sisters.
The girls play outside making fairy gardens and blowing dandelions – something we do a lot of. Collecting worms is also a household specialty; kiddo once delivered earth worms to my sister’s kitchen table and insisted they have lunch along with her and her cousins. My sister was none too thrilled about this and sent kiddo and the worms back outside where they belonged.
We love how familiar the girls’ lifestyle is, how much these aspects of their lives are in fact the best parts of childhood. We love… well, we simply love everything about them. Kiddo has asked that I buy this one for our collection, as we picked this up at the library. We will do just that as soon as I find it. We’ll purchase the other books in the series as well.
Title: Swirl By Swirl
Authors: Beth Krommes & Joyce Sidman
Genre: Picture Book / Educational
We actually read this one quite a bit ago, I was hoping to review it when I finally got around to purchasing it, but I can’t wait any longer. It’s too wonderful to keep under wraps any longer and it has been an inspiration to my kiddo who now draws swirls and “round ups” into all her artwork.
The book is all about finding math in nature. About how snails, flowers, and everything have mathematical patterns that create functional things we can see. It first page by page identifies all these things… spider webs, tendrils on foliage, the curls of animals’ tails, etc.
Then, it explains the how and why of it all.
Kiddo’s eye lit up at the end of the book every time (we had to read it over and over again before we turned it back into the library). My four year old’s mind was blown.
I’m a long time Chris Rogers fan. I met her a few years ago booking signing for Half Price Books books and I’ve enjoyed reading her work, featuring her on my blog, and hanging out in bookstores with her ever since. The following is an interview regarding her latest work, Emissary, which I read and reviewed toward the end of 2014.
1. Emissary is drastically different from your previous work in the Dixie Flannigan series, but I understand you started writing it first. What was it like finally getting such a long term project completed?
The idea came to me just after I published the third Dixie Flannigan book, Chill Factor. I do a lot of driving, and this is often when I get the ideas I turn into stories. On a long trip to Wyoming I was sort of cursing the sun beaming through my windshield no matter how I tried to block it, then reasoning that rain would be even worse, when I flashed on the idea of having no sun at all. What if our sun went supernova? We’d fry, right?
But our scientists would surely see it coming long before the actual event, so what would we do? Build spaceships and try to escape? But to where? And how could we possibly build enough ships for the world’s population?
After pondering that idea for a few miles, I flipped it. What if the supernova occurred to an inhabited planet in another solar system? They’re more advanced that we are, so they build ships and look for a planet that will take them in. One emissary is sent to Earth, where he becomes embroiled in our political and criminal problems. Naturally, I’d want the emissary to connect closely with an interesting individual, and I chose a cop.
I liked it, but when I pitched it to my agent, he said, “Can you do it without the alien?” So I continued writing the next Dixie Flannigan book. But the story stayed with me, and though I wrote others over the years, I kept coming back to this one. So yes, I love this story and it’s wonderful to have it finally launched so readers can enjoy it, too.
2. Emissary is so much bigger than the Dixie stories. Dixie is sort of self contained, the impact is on her own life, the lives of the criminals, and the safety within her community; whereas Emissary involved a full cast of lives, cultures, and worlds. Was this a more difficult writing task? Or was it nice to stretch your wingspan a bit?
Not easy, I’ll admit, but a book I fell in love with as a child was Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein, which is about a boy who attends school on Mars and takes his pet, Willis the Bouncer. So science fiction has been as dear to me as mysteries. When I envisioned Emissary Ruell, I knew he would be young (as most front-line soldiers are young) and inexperienced (since no Szhen had been in this situation before), and the whole “stranger in a strange land” feeling came to me. When I’m writing, I become the characters in my book, the good ones and the bad, so I envisioned how I would attempt to communicate the plight of my people, and also envisioned the difficulties I would encounter. Ruell would start with the “most powerful person in the free world,” which brings in American President Addison Hale. As with any novel, he can’t succeed on the first try, so he expands his efforts globally, which means the book also expands, because extraterrestrial emigration would be a global concern. Then, to rein in the story, I introduced Ruell to Officer Kirk Longshadow, who has his own problems, and they eventually create the “close community” feeling you mentioned, even as they pursue solving an international crime involving the president.
Tackling a story that exists on a broader canvas than my previous books challenged me on many levels. Considering the result, it was well worth the effort.
3. You did your own cover art, which I love by the way. Was this painting done specifically for Emissary or did it merge as one project later?
I was poised to self-publish Emissary when I met Jeffrey Hastings, who was launching his Houston publishing company, Chart House Press. The book was finished except for the cover. The painting I chose was actually one of my early works, but the sleeping woman with blue skin resonated for me with Ruell’s girlfriend, Jianna, who appears in the book only in Ruell’s memory.
It seemed like a great starting place, yet I really didn’t know how to prevent it appearing as purely science fiction, when it’s more of political thriller with science fiction overtones. Once I decided to link my efforts with Chart House Press, I inherited a team who turned the painting into the final cover art, with an excellent result. Sometimes we get too close to a project, and fresh eyes can save the day.
4. I would love to see Emissary put to film. (Despite what it may seem, I’m a huge science fiction nerd and one of my own long term projects is a time and space opera.) If that were to happen, who would be in your ideal cast? What director would you desire? Do you have a favorite film score composer? Would you want a lot of involvement or a little?
For Longshadow, I’d definitely choose David Giuntoli, who plays Nick Burkhardt on the TV series, Grimm. David doesn’t have the appearance of a “typical cop”, which fits Officer Longshadow, who often wonders why he ever thought he was cop material. David does have the toughness of a copy when he needs it, which Longshadow also has. Ruell would be harder to cast, but Neil Patrick Harris in his younger years as Doogie Howser, MD, would’ve been great. President Addison Hale is the third major character in the nuclear family of Emissary, and my choice would probably be Tea Leoni, who is terrific as Secretary of State on Madam Secretary.
And while I realize this is the expected answer to the choice of a director, it has to be Steven Spielberg. It’s not only that he’s an incredible director who makes excellent blockbuster movies but that his attitude about extraterrestrials is similar to mine. In most science fiction films, the aliens are bad guys who come here and make war, or we make war with them in space. I recently watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind again. No war, and I was as moved by it as when I first saw it in 1977. Yes, I know that dates me, but facts are facts.
As for musical score, I’d have to leave that to the experts, and being intricately involved in the film production would be terrific—but not likely. Hollywood likes to keep writers at a distance.
5. Now that you’ve emerged into the science fiction world, after being a long time mystery genre writer, are you here to stay? (I look forward to reading more projects like this one.)
My early writing attempts were neither mystery nor sf. Back then, I didn’t believe I could plot the exciting and intricate stories I loved to read. So I started with children’s books, mistakenly thinking they’d be easy since I had four children. I was wrong. Then I tried the romance genre because I’d had a few romances in my life, whereas I’d never killed anyone and wasn’t a science nerd. Romance wasn’t easy, either and my stories kept being rejected for having “too much mystery.”
A diehard sf reader might say the same of Emissary, that it has “too much mystery,” but it’s a combination I enjoy, and it works for me. So yes, I plan to continue in this venue. For readers, Emissary opens the door to a world where humans interact with extraterrestrials, the way J.R.R. Tolkien created Middle-earth, Isaac Asimov created a world where robots with positronic brains dwell alongside humans, and J. K. Rowling created Hogwarts. Without giving
away the story, I can say that I planned Emissary as a trilogy, and the ending of this first book is the beginning of an exciting new future for the humans who dwell in that story world.
At present, I’m also working on a paranormal mystery about a 300-year-old pirate who runs his many times-refurbished ship today as a Caribbean cruise ship. Passengers attracted to a Molly Dore cruise always include at least one person with a dark paranormal problem that Captain Cord McKinsey helps resolve, despite the fact that he can’t cure his own curse of immortality. I started this story in 2011 and put it aside to work on Emissary. Now it’s scheduled for release in May 2015.
6. If you could interview any existing science fiction author and pick their brain, who would it be? Did that author and their work influence Emissary in any way?
Sadly, I don’t read current sf, but my favorite sf author of all time is Harlan Ellison. He writes the sort of speculative fiction I enjoy. My first introduction to Ellison’s work was his short story, “A Boy and His Dog,” which first published in 1969 and was adapted into a film in 1975 by L.Q. Jones. I’m a feminist, and the story’s hero, 15-year-old Vic Blood, is a knuckle-dragging brute, but I still enjoyed the story. Many fans will know Ellison for his work on the original Star Trek series, his numerous Hugo- or Nebula Award-winning stories, his often caustic personality, which he demonstrated as Guest of Honor at the first AggieCon in 1969, or from his being the first author to win a copyright dispute against a major television network. In picking Ellison’s brilliant brain, I would come away with scars, but I’d still love to sit down with him for an hour or so.
As to whether Ellison’s work influenced Emissary, how can I judge? I’ve read literally thousands of stories and seen hundreds of movies, and all that material is muddled together somewhere in my consciousness. But no, I didn’t base Emissary on any author’s work. That’s not to say I don’t steal from the best when I fall in love with an idea or a great line. What author doesn’t?
7. What’s the main thought you would want readers to walk away from Emissary thinking?
This is the question I tell my students to consider early on in the process of writing a book, yet it’s a hard one to answer without sounding a bit full of myself. I suppose it’s this: people are complicated and wonderful and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into any sort of group analysis. Each of us has value and heart but we also have a dark side that rises at times, and no one is without flaws, so stop throwing stones at strangers who are “different” and look for the wonder that each person can bring. On the other hand, remain watchful for the horrors that rise in certain malcontents, because they really are out there and can be devastating.
8. Do you plan to take Emissary to any sci-fi conventions in the future? (Say, Comicpalooza in May?)
I’m signed up for AggieCon 46, which happens March 27-29 2015 in College Station, Tx. Never having attended a science fiction convention, I’m a little scared.
9. What would you say to a graphic novelization of Emissary?
I grew up reading EC Comics, such as Vault of Horror and Tales From the Crypt, which I loved, so for me graphic novels are still comic books. I know there’s a difference. I have a copy of The Illustrated Harlan Ellison, which features several of his stories and was produced by Byron Preiss in 1978. It’s great. Some truly talented illustrators were selected for this graphic compilation, but I believe some of the stories converted well to graphic presentation while others didn’t. In that light, I don’t see Emissary as a graphic novel. But that’s just me.
10. Has the publication of Emissary opened any new doors for you as an author that were previously closed in the mystery genre?
Not yet. I’m not even sure which doors I’d knock on, but I’m open to whatever happens. Meanwhile, writing and painting continue to make me happy, and that’s what really counts.
On the other hand, Emissary is already available in print, e-book, and audio—which took much longer when I was associated with a major publisher. For me, that’s an important door, because it makes this big-format story that’s so dear to me available to more readers.