Welcome Message

Welcome to my blog. Here, you will find information about my novels, life in Japan, as well as author interviews, discussions on writing, and more. Feel free to browse and if you enjoy a post, please comment. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Childhood Fear

To anyone who knows me, I have an irrational fear of sharks. This is fairly ironic considering I grew up in Wyoming. I can barely look at a picture of a shark. That’s why there isn’t one for this post.
I honestly blame my fear on an overactive imagination and Steven Spielberg. I remember watching Jaws alone in the dark on TV when I was a very little kid. As a kid, we think in concrete terms. If A is true in this instance, then A is true in all instances. I grew afraid of pools and the ocean. After all, sharks lived in water. Pools are filled with water. Couldn’t a shark swim up through the drain and get me? Yep, that was my line of thinking. I really believe I was traumatized by that movie.
I have never gotten over this fear. I have tried looking at pictures, and watching the movie Deep Blue Sea several times. But I can’t get away from it completely. Any time a shark is shown on TV, I jump in the air. I can’t stand Shark Week on TV. My wife Yoko creeped me out when we were snorkeling in Okinawa and she quoted Bruce the great white from Finding Nemo. (But give Bruce a break, he never knew his father).
My friends love teasing me about it. How about you, readers? What scares you? Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Cartoons That Shaped My Childhood

When I was growing up, we didn’t have cable TV. We lived too far out of town for that, and back then satellite dishes were too expensive. Not to mention they were huge like ten feet across, it seemed. We got four channels on our rabbit ears: ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. And as Jeff Foxworthy said: And if the president was on TV, your night was shot!”
I remember when cartoons only came on during Saturday mornings. Programming usually started around 5am and lasted until noon. I was sometimes up at five, but it was usually six or seven. Sometimes I had the TV too loud and mom or dad would come in and tell me to turn it down.
As a boy, I watched the regular boy cartoons. Transformers, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, M.A.S.K. I also watched Looney Tunes (my all time favorite),Garfield and Friends, a not-well-known one called Wildfire, about a magical horse, Lazer Tag Academy, Captain Planet, and I’m sure plenty more I’m forgetting. But those shows have always stuck with me.
Aside from Looney Tunes, I’d have to say Thundercats was my favorite. There use to be a monthly magazine, and a nice lady at out church use to buy a copy for me every month and bring it. I remember having lots of G.I. Joe figures. Joe was the first time I suspected Santa wasn’t real. If elves built the toys (like I believed), then why did the G.I. Joe space shuttle set from Santa look exactly like the one at K-Mart? 
If I had to pick a modern cartoon I love, it’s Johnny Bravo. The guy is a doofus but it is so funny. Hard to believe Seth “Family Guy” McFarlane use to work on Bravo. It was also one of the shows where I didn’t mind the art style. In the 80s, the art style was fairly standardized. It may (and does) look silly today, but at least it tried to look realistic. The styles of many modern cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls drives me nuts. I like realistic art; I am the same way with comic books. If the art is too stylized, it turns me off.
What about you, readers? What cartoons did you watch? Or do today? As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Album Review: The Best! ~Updated Morning Musume~

Remixes and cover versions of classic songs can be a double-edged sword. It’s exciting to hear a new take and compare it to the original. On the other hand, why bother changing a classic? It was with this mindset that I was a little hesitant about Morning Musume’s latest album The Best! ~Updated Morning Musume~.
Morning Musume has an ever-changing line-up, constantly adding and losing members. Two and half years is the longest the group has had a steady streak. This approach means there is always fresh blood coming to the group. It is exciting to meet the new members (Ikuta Erina, Suzuki Kanon), but it also sad when you lose your favorite members (Kamei Eri, Ishikawa Rika). The point of the updated album was to redo their classic songs in the modern style, a dance/electronica mix, with the most current generation of Morning Musume. 
Upon a first listen, I wasn’t impressed with the album. But the more I listened, the more I liked the new versions. Classics like Love Machine and The Peace!have gotten make-overs without really losing the energy that makes them such great songs. The slower songs Aruiteru and I Wish, don’t quite fit the new sound but are interesting. That Tsunku can take his songs, some almost 15 years old, and make them fresh and exciting is a testament to his music prowess. It is nice hearing the new members singing the old songs and seeing what they bring to the table. 
My biggest disappointment with the album is not the updated songs themselves but the song selection. The album consists of 13 updated songs, one new single, and one album-only song. The majority of the newest incarnation of Morning Musume debuted with the single Maji Desu Ka Ska. Six of the thirteen songs came after that single and featured the majority of the newest members. I would have liked to have seen all the updated song be ones that didn’t feature the newest members when it first debuted. There are quite a few they could have chosen; I would have loved to have heard new versions ofFurusato (another slow song that would have balanced the other songs’s faster pace), Resonant Blue, and even a new version of Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari. That song is a ‘members introduction’ song, telling about everyone in the group. With so many new members, an updated version would have been great. There are still so many others like As For One Day and Shabondama. The six songs after Maji Desu Ka Ska are already so similar in style to the updated classics that I really wondered why they were chosen.
This is not their best (no pun intended) album but it does grow on you. While I would have preferred more old classics son choices, they did pick some good ones and the new sound is interesting. I recommend it.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Happiness In 100 Words

It’s the freedom to love what you want without anybody judging it or yourself. It’s to go anywhere you please and experience it with someone you love. It’s enjoying the simple things in life, no matter what they may be. It’s respecting what makes other people happy and not judging it or them. It’s not being afraid to put your whole soul into whatever it is you enjoy. It’s sharing what makes you happy with others who enjoy it as much as you do. It’s having someone love you with all your charms and faults.

Happiness is about being yourself.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Classic Doesn't Always Mean Good

I’ve tried reading classic books, especially SF books. Most of the time, I don’t like them. I guess I’m a product of the modern age. I like the here and now. I’m sure literary critics will think it is a cardinal sin, but just because a book is considered a classic doesn’t mean I should automatically like it.

Sometimes it is the style it is written in. I have never finished The Lord Of The Rings or The Hobbit because Tolkien has such a dense style. Every sword has a name, and every race has three or four names depending on the which other race is talking about them. I like the story and the world building is phenomenal. But the books are a difficult read. It happens to me when I read Sherlock Holmes as well. Especially when the characters (usually Holmes’s clients) go into such extricating and poetic detail. Nobody talks like that. It’s really frustrating.
I have difficulty with old SF because of the old science. I’m not saying every SF books nowadays have to be accurate and fact checked 1000 times. But there are some old SF books where the science is blatantly wrong. I’m sure when it was written, the facts hadn’t been proven, but somethings just seemed laughable when I read them. Star Trek The Original Series is a little like that. Excellent stories, great characters, but I can’t get over the 60s-ness of the show. I love the classic crew but at the same time I’m laughing at costumes and music and science.
Not all classics are bad. I’ve read The Phantom Of the Opera, Treasure Island, Dune, and others and have enjoyed them. But it is okay not too like the classics. Just because you love vampires doesn’t mean you have to thinkDracula is the best vampire book written. Make up your own mind. Love what you want to love. Make your own list of ‘classics’ you’d read over and over. It doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What's In A Blog Name?

For new followers, you may be wondering where my blog name came from. It is the name of all-time favorite Morning Musume song Resonant Blue. That song currently ties for first place with Meat Loaf’s Read ‘Em And Weep as my all-time favorite song. 

Here is the music video for Resonant Blue. There are multiple versions of the PV, but the One-Cut Dance Shot is my favorite. Every time I watch it I see something new with someone’s dancing. I personally like Kamei Eri’s and Michishige Sayumi’s dancing in this. 
Thanks for reading, and in this case, watching.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I'd Live In Tokyo

If money & jobs weren’t a factor, what one place in the world would you live?That is easy.
Tokyo.
All my life I’ve lived in small towns. Cody, Wyoming had a population of about 8,000 people and West Blocton, Alabama has about 1,500. Iwakuni in Japan is the largest city I’ve ever lived in and it is small by Japanese standards. As I tell people, when it comes to living in Iwakuni, it has everything you need, not necessarily everything you want.
I love Tokyo. I have visited many times, although the longest I’ve stayed is three days. I’d love to spend an entire week there. It has everything and most of it is in easy reach. The public transportation is really convenient  Even the crowds don’t bother me very much, although it does some other people. I remember the first time I went there with Yoko. We arrived in Tokyo Station about 11pm. The place was dead, almost empty. Yoko said she was surprised so many people were there. Totally different impressions. That’s my country girl, lol.
There are major events going on all the time. Many lesser-known singers and artists have shows only in Tokyo. My favorite group, Morning Musume, always have concerts and handshake events in Tokyo, and I know I’d spend a lot of money going to them.
Don’t forget the import food stores, either. With probably the largest concentration of expats in Japan, I’m sure I could find restaurants and stores to satisfy my palette. There’s an Outback Steakhouse in Shibuya!
When I go to Tokyo, I almost always stay at the same hotel: Asia Center Of Japan. It’s a hotel that caters to foreigners. It is cheap, convenient, and located in the quiet district of Akasaka. I love it. It’s only a few stops from Shibuya, which is a major hub for changing to other train lines. I can travel to Shinjuku, Akihabara, and Ginza without too much trouble. Not to mention the trains run about every two - five minutes. Some trains here in Yamaguchi prefecture run every two hours.
Despite how many times I have been to Tokyo, there is still so much I haven’t seen. I’d love to go to the Fuji Television building in Odaiba, Tokyo Sky Tree, and many other places. It’s so full of interesting architecture and landscapes, like the Tsutaya in Daikanyama and the metropolitan building in Shinjuku, that I wish I was a photographer. So many interesting places. I could probably do photo blog posts for a year.
Without a doubt, my favorite place is Akihabara. But it also one of the noisiest places in Tokyo. Almost every electronics shop has a salesperson with a microphone hawking their discounts. There are the anime stores, discount shops, and my favorite: maid cafes.
There you have it. My dream city. As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Se7en Weekend Activities



Seven things to do this weekend that do not take an excessive amount of planning.
Card/board game night with friends and family. Almost every family has boardgames in their house or at least a pack a cards. Call up some friends, or make it a family affair if everyone else is busy. There are so many to choose from: Uno, Clue, Monopoly Klingon Edition. I’m really hoping to get a game of Triad going with my Battlestar Galactica playing cards I bought.
Road trip within an hour’s drive. Not every vacation has to be long distance. There are probably lots of interesting or unexplored areas not far from home. Try going somewhere you haven’t been. Such a short drive means you’ll have most of the day to explore and still get back home at a reasonable hour.
Movie marathon. Pick a theme like a movie series (Harry Potter) or star (George Clooney) or director (David Fincher). Make sure to take a break every couple of hours to give your eyes a rest.
Start/finish a craft project. Maybe you sew or paint or make jewelry. The weekend could be a great time to hole up and let your designs and ideas pour out.
Backyard cook out. Nothing fancy. A grill if you have one, or a makeshift fire pit. Cook hot dogs and burgers and roast s’mores. Simple and tasty.
Join a free community group/activity. Every weekend there are book club meetings or fandom discussions. Check online listings for your local area to see if there an area of interest that clicks with you.
Volunteer. Along the same lines as above, there are community projects and activities happening all the time. Look for a cause you believe in and lend a hand, even if only for a day.
Any other ideas out there? As always, thanks for reading.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Blogging To Connect

Do you feel starting a blog has improved your life or added one too many things on your plate? That’s a good question, one I haven’t really seen before.
I think it has improved my life. As a writer, it is imperative to write as often as you can, hopefully every day. I may not get to work on my novels or outlines every day, but having a blog has helped me get into more of a writing habit.
After reading Kristen Lamb’s Rise Of The Machines: Human Authors In A Digital Age, I really thought about her point about connecting to readers. And the points was that most readers don’t want to read about writing. Looking back on it, I’ve realized some of the most interesting blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates, I’ve read from authors and artists have nothing to do with their craft. It’s the fun everyday mundane details that make the person seem more real. I’m not a basketball fan but I know Rob Liefeld is, because he tweets a lot about basketball. I favorited a Twitter picture by Will Wheaton, who complained about his cat purring too loud. I related to that photo. 
That’s what I’m trying to do with this version of Resonant Blue. Yes, I can still post about writing, and I occasionally will. But this isn’t a writing blog. It’s a Cody L. Martin blog. It’s about Wyoming, Japan, Battlestar Galactica, and Apple products. Because that’s me. When I started this thing on Blogger, I thought I had to post about writing, because I was a writer. Now I am freeing myself up to write about whatever strikes my fancy.
As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Things To Do On A Rainy Day

I like rainy days. Not getting out in them, mind you; but days when the rain comes down in a gentle steady pour. There’s the sound of drops splashing against the window and cars slushing through puddles. I like it when it’s just bad enough you don’t want to go outside, but it isn’t a raging storm full of thunder and lightning.
There’s lots to do on such days, at least for an indoor person like me. Get a nice cup of coffee and read a book. Or watch a movie; I personally like action movies on dark days. All that stuff getting blown up makes me feel better. Sometimes, it’s nice to catch up on unwatched episodes of TV shows. I’m trying to finish Star Trek and I’m currently on the third season of Doctor Who. Which, by the way, I didn’t think I’d like. I’m glad I was proven wrong.
Bad weather is good for family time. When everyone is bored watching Glee or playing Candy Crush, get out the dusty Monopoly board from the attic and have a family game. Playing cards or poker are always good options, too. If you’re a crafter or artisan of some sort (including writers) it’s a good chance to catch up on some work or engage in your favorite hobby.
Rainy days are for relaxing. Forget cleaning house or scrubbing out the garage. Just let the pitter-patter of the raindrops sooth you.
How about it, readers? What do you do on rainy days? As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Out Of The Four Seasons...

…I like summer the best. I am definitely a summer person. I’d rather be too hot than too cold. Although I grew up in Wyoming, which had some brutal winters, I think I lost my tolerance for cold when I moved to Alabama.
One thing I hate about winter is that it is physically painful. My ears and fingers hurt when they get too cold. As I walk outside I shiver, my muscles tense and jump trying to keep me warm. I just hurt. Not to mention I have to wear several layers of clothes to just keep warm. And when I do get to the nice warm indoors, I have to shed all those layers, only to put them back on again when I leave. Can you dig it?
Summer is a lazy season. Whereas I need to move to keep warm in winter, I don’t want to move at all in summer. If I don’t move, I won’t generate any body heat that will warm me up. I just need to stay still. I do admit that summer seems more mentally draining than winter. I’m not sure how, but it does.
Summer is the season for travel. For getting out there and doing things that you like, not what you have to do to survive (unlike winter). Going to Okinawa and canyoning on Iriomote Island was one of my best summer vacations. Summer is time for getting together with friends and family for whatever reason: playing baseball at the school field, searching for shells on the beach, playing a game of Triad with your Battlestar Galactica friends.
One thing I don’t like about summer here in Japan is that my wife still has to work. Japanese kids get about 40 days off for summer break. They still have homework to do; and if they belong to a sports club, they will have to go every day, just like they do during the school year. Teachers still have piles of work to do, so it isn’t much of a holiday for the school system. You can read more about it here in an older post I did.
How about it? What’s your favorite holiday? Sound off in the comments. As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

High School

In high school I was just there. I wasn’t popular and I wasn’t outcast. I just was. Unlike Buffy and the gang, or any teenager in a Stephen King novel, high school wasn’t hell for me. I had my friends that I hung out with, a few dates, and attended a few dances. My high school life was fairly boring.
I never played sports except in P.E. class; I spent my extracurricular activities doing reporting and page layout for the school newspaper, the Equus. I had a lot of fun doing it. I remember my teacher Mr. Riley, a good guy even if his breath stank of coffee and cigarettes. Those classes were where I was first introduced to Apple computers (System 7!) and I have used and loved them ever since.
It was only about two weeks after I graduated that my mom and I moved to Alabama. I lost touch with a majority of friends. But through Facebook, that social wonder, I have found a few old classmates. One classmate moved to the Ukraine and another has moved to Japan. I can’t believe that out of a graduating class of 230 that at least three of us would move overseas. What are the odds?
I have good memories of high school. How about you, readers? Wish to share?

Monday, April 14, 2014

My Heroes Are...



This is a tough one to answer. We all have different heroes for different reason. And I’m uncomfortable with the word ‘hero’ for a person you admire. I keep conjuring up images of firefighters and police officers with that word. So, I’ll list some people I admire or whom inspire me. This list will be in no particular order.
Stephen King - One of the best writers out there and he isn’t stuck-up about it. He himself has said his writing is the literary equivalent to a Big Mac and fries. For a non-nonsense, down-to-earth approach to writing, read On Writing.
Michael Bay - he makes popcorn movies and he knows it. Bay doesn’t go for the heart; he goes for the eyes. He is a visual director. A reviewer once said Bay films a tender kiss the exact same way he films a helicopter landing. Is there anything wrong with that? Really? Not every movie needs to be Citizen Kane. Bay does one thing and he does it well and he knows movies are a visualmedium. And he has no qualms about it.
Tsunku - The man is a workaholic. The primary writer for every music group inHello! Project, as well as his own band SharanQ, a family man, and occasional TV personality, I have no idea how he does it all. He knows what he wants in his music and he works his singers hard to get it just right. Hello! Project may not be as popular as it once was, but most agree that his songs are better than most idol’s.
Rob Liefeld - As someone said on the Image Revolution documentary, Liefeld is the Michael Bay of comics. Love or hate his art style, he’s all about the visual of the page. He has more tun his share of haters but he doesn’t let them get to him. He does what he loves and loves what he does.
George Lucas - Few creators are as polarizing as Lucas. But what I like about him is his willingness to make his products match his vision. You may not agree with what he has done, but at the end of the day his name is on the product and he needs to be happy with it. Instead of hating him for ‘destroying our childhood’ (as many claim) he should be rewarded for creative control and making the best product he deems worthy.
There you have it, people. Several professionals I admire. There are many more but these were the ones who came to mind first. Comment if you want. As always, thanks for reading.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Self-pubbing Freedom

What do I love most about self-publishing? That is a loaded question for any author. It’s also somewhat vague: do you mean the process, the self-publishing market, the “self-publishing revolution”?  There is quite a lot to say on this subject and I’m sure this won’t be the last post you’ll read from me about it.
I’ll talk a little about the self-publishing boom that has been going on and changed the industry. What I love about self-publishing is the freedom it gives writers. We can now write about anything we want, and most likely there will be an audience for it. With the gatekeepers of traditional publishing, ideas had to be analyzed and vetted. This could lead to some possibly great novels not being published because it was too much of a risk for the company. Perhaps it didn’t fit with their brand image or it “just isn’t for us.” No longer. You have an epic opera about space plumbers? Write it. I’m sure you’re not the only one who has thought of it.
The main peril with such a freedom is the niche market. One reason big names authors are popular is that they have a large appeal; almost everyone can identify with the characters or story in some way. But if you write novels with a very specific topic or a very limited type of character, your book may appeal to the niche market and nobody else. You may not find that wide audience that’ll launch your career. You’ll still have to have your day job because you’re only selling one or three books every six month to a select group of people.
On the other hand, your niche market may become some of your biggest cheerleaders. The number one way to success in writing, not mater what you write, is to write a good book. If you do that, if you write well and write well consistently, your niche market may become your best buyers. They will wait for every new installment from you and snatch it up on release day. If you’re lucky, they will generate word-of-mouth to get others to read your book.
But I’m not talking about marketing. The publishing changes that have been, and continue to take place, are giving more freedom (and power) to the writer. Writers that had ideas locked in their heads but were afraid the powers-that-be would hate them now have the freedom to write it. The risk factor is no longer on the companies, it is on you.
Your great idea about time-traveling alien plumbers who look like dinosaurs may not sell right after you hit the ‘publish’ button. It may never sell. Or it might take a few years then suddenly catch on like wildfire. The point is, that idea no longer has to be locked away. Put your story out there.
A story isn’t a story if it isn’t written down for someone to read.
Always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Balance

How do you balance blogging? That’s a good question, and for every blogger out there you’re going to get a different response. I am trying a new system this year, using Tumblr instead of Blogger.
I think the most useful feature of blogs is scheduling posts. This can a great time saver if used properly. Tumblr has a queue system as well, where you can line up your posts to be posted up to 50 times a day. Once a day is enough for me, thank you very much. I wish Tumblr offered the same thing but on a weekly or monthly basis. You can also schedule the posts, but that takes more effort because you have to type in the day and time for every scheduled post. With the queue system, you just mark it as ‘queue’ and you’re done.
Having topics in advance is wonderful. There isn’t anything much worse for a blogger to say “I have to post something today, but what am I going to write about?” There are many websites and ebooks that offer blog prompts. I copied many, more than a year’s worth, into Evernote, and just pick one at random. Any time I have an idea for a topic, I write it in Evernote.
Writing ahead is one of the best ways to balance blogging, in my opinion. Depending on the topic, some posts don’t take long. If you can afford an hour or two to write a novel every day, take an hour to blog. The nice thing about this is that you can write several posts then schedule/queue them for the week. Once you give yourself a little leeway, you don’t have to hurry yourself with a topic idea and a post to get up by the end of the day.
Also, all those scheduled posts can be edited. If you want to add more to a topic, or you found the perfect picture to go with the post, you can still add it before it hits the Net.
My advice: plan ahead and write as often as you can. If you can write more than one post at a time, do it.
As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Cosplay

I recently shared a link on my fan Page to Anovos’s Captain Spock uniform replica. The costume, first introduced in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, has been once of the most requested reproductions for Anovos. Their site saw heavy traffic after the initial announcement. The introductory price for the uniform is $950, with a MSRP of $1,200. 
Way out of my price range.
But I want it so bad.
That got me thinking about cosplaying and wearable fan gear in general. I have cosplayed before, at DragonCon, in a homemade version of Captain Kirk’s uniform from Star Trek VI: The Undicovered Country (that’s how I prefer to think of Anovos’s costume, instead of a Spock costume). I was the only Trek fan in that style, the rest were The Original Series or The Next Generation/Deep Space Nine/Voyager era. I got some nice compliments for it.
But I’ve never owned a high quality screen accurate uniform replica. There are lots to choose from; not just from Star Trek but also Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, and more. My two choices would come down to either a TWOK or Star Trek: First Contact uniform. The reason I don’t have one, of course, is they are very, very expensive. That’s more than a whole month’s salary, for me. And after seeing the costumes at DragonCon and photos from the San Diego Comic Con, I have seen costumes that I can tell people have dropped some real money into. You can tell these were high quality, even if they were handmade. People took the time and care to make them.
I love SF replicas but I prefer ones that are usable. I have a Battlestar Galactica notebook and a Doctor Who sonic screwdriver toy that is also a pen. Prop replicas are great, but they don’t usually do anything. Some make for very expensive paperweights. Which begs the question: if I’m going to lay down a lot of dough for a uniform, how often will I really use it? There’s Halloween, but it isn’t celebrated in Japan, so I would mostly likely wear it at home on that day; or possibly for the Halloween parties for the elementary school kids where I work at Eiko school. I’m sure there are other times I could wear it, like whenever I watch a Star Trek movie. And there is nothing really wrong with just putting it on during one of my days off while I write.
I wouldn’t go outside in it, unless it was for a Halloween party or a convention. Not to mention, such a purchase would drive my wife nuts. She can’t see the appeal of wearing something like that. And what is the appeal, anyway? It’s fandom and escapism. Is there any difference between wearing a Starfleet uniform and a San Francisco 49ers fan being decked out in their team’s jerseys while watching football? No, there isn’t. That armchair quarterback will never officially be a part of the team. But wearing the jersey makes you feel a part of the team. You’re showing your support and admiration to something you love. That’s what SF people do too. Walk into a convention and you know immediately what someone is a fan of: there’s a Doctor Who fan, a Wonder Woman fan, and a Deadpool fan. These people don’t think they ARE Iron Man or Captain Picard. They are getting closer to the fandom they love.
I hope you enjoyed this piece. Any donations towards a costume will be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Smells Of My Childhood



I grew up in Wyoming. My dad always had various jobs, he never held one for very long, but almost all of them dealt with the outdoors. While I may be a geek and SF fan and an indoors person, the smells I associate most with growing up is hay, horse manure, and sage brush.
As I stated in a previous post, my family as always had animals of some sort. Often they involved horses. I remember helping my dad toss bales of hay off the back of a truck to feed the cows and horses at Standing Star Ranch. I use to climb stacks of hay. I always hated how it got absolutely everywhere: in your hair, down your shirt, stuck in your boots and socks. Only a change of clothes and a shower got rid of it.
Along with all the animals comes all the stuff animals leave behind. I remember being in the Fourth of July parade in my hometown. The group I was with walked down Main Street, waving to the crowd and feeling pretty special. We were in the parade! The group before us were riding horses. And when they had to go, they had to go. Not the best position to be in for a parade.
Wyoming isn’t exactly known for its rolling green hills. Mountains? Yes. Snow-covered ski slopes? Those too. Grass? Not really. But it does have a lot of sagebrush. Beautiful in its own way, sagebrush has a distance smell. It’s one I’ve always enjoyed. I like the smell of sage-scented candles. It’s nostalgic for me. But I know it isn’t for everyone. To me, I get images of wide plains, blue skies, wild animals, and a sense of peace whenever I smell sagebrush. I may be an indoor person, but I understand the lure of the outdoors.
Are there any smells that take you back to your childhood? As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Image Revolution



This week I watched a documentary -something I rarely do- about the impact, ups, and downs of Image Comics. All I can say is…wow.
I got into comics shortly before Image started. I read mostly Superman and Batman, and I wasn’t a big Marvel fan at the time. I had read about the seven founders leaving Marvel en masse, but I didn’t realize what a historical event was happening.
After Image formed, most of my comic were from them, especially the stuff coming from Wildstorm. WildC.A.T.S, Gen 13, Battlechasers were some of my favorites. It was the first time I really sat up and took notice of art styles. I eagerly waited issues drawn by Jim Lee and Brett Booth. I wanted to be a comic artist.
The documentary highlights the lightning-fast rise and then decline of Image, focusing on the seven founders. It isn’t quite a detailed or informative as I thought it would be, there are quite a few issues and behind-thescenes- information I think the makers assume viewers already know.
But as an independent author, watching a documentary about seven guys saying goodbye to the traditional way of doing things and striking out on their own, really resonated with me. Image had seven different studios under its banner and you saw seven different approaches to being your own boss. Rob Liefeld is a cautionary tale, but the guy has an unbridled passion for the industry. It’s infectious. I now understand and appreciate the risk these guys took 20 years ago to change the way comics were made and the lasting impact they have had today.
Here is the official page for the documentary. I highly recommend it. Thanks for reading.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Memories Of Home

When you think of the home you grew up in, what is one memory that really stands out? I grew up in Wyoming and we moved. A lot. I bet I moved about six times in a fifteen year period. Most of it was within the same 50-mile area, around the town of Cody. No, I wasn’t named after the town. It’s just a coincidence. My parents really like the name.
Anyway, I lived in a lot of different houses, and sometimes, mobile homes. Some were large, some were small. I remember one of our houses had a small church attached to it and we had Sunday Service at our house every week. A very nice lady would bring me the latest issue of the Thundercats magazine when it came out.
I have warm memories of every house I grew up in, but if there was one constant (besides my parents) it was pets. As long as I can remember I have always had animals, usually cats and dogs. We rarely had more than three; most often it was two. When we lived on larger acreage, we also had rabbits, pigs, geese, and horses. I specifically remember coming home from school when I was in the first grade, changing clothes, and going out into the pen to chase the pigs. It was so much fun.
When we lived on the North Fork, we had horses. Dad’s was named Sparky and mine was Trigger. We had them for quite a while. When they weren’t at home, they were being used as guide horses when my dad took tourists out for overnight camping as part of his job at various campgrounds. After dad left, it was too much for just mom and I to take care of them so we had to sell them.
We never bought our cats and dogs from pet stores or shelters. Almost all of ours were strays or ones friends gave us. We occasionally kept the kittens and puppies our animals gave birth to, but we never tried to have more than three pets at a time.
When I moved to Japan, it was the first time I could remember not having a pet. It has been difficult the past six years and I am so happy to have Coco now. She is a purebred Norwegian forest cat. She’s the first purebred cat I remember having.
How about you, readers? What do remember most about your home? Comment below and thanks for reading.
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Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Moment It All Changed...

Life is full of pivotal moments. You can trace the course of your life and say “If I hadn’t done this, then this wouldn’t have happened” and “If I had done this…” and so on. It’s a little difficult to pick out the big pivots. After all, if you hadn’t done the little changes, would your life still have led you to the big changes.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say one of the most pivotal moments in my life was leaving America for Japan when I joined the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme.
It hadn’t been the first time I had been in Japan (this was in 2007), I had been there as an exchange student in Osaka in 2005. It wasn’t even the first time I had spent time away from home: I did that in 2005 and also earlier when I spent the summer semester at the Savannah College Of Art And Design. But I was leaving for at least a year. Overseas. If I was homesick, I couldn’t hop on the nearest Greyhound and make a surprise visit. I was pretty much SOL on that point. 
I remember saying goodbye to mom at the Atlanta hotel. We were both so choked up. The enormity of what I was doing was starting to hit me. As an only child, I’m attached to my parents. But here I was, leaving them behind across an ocean to start a new adventure. Most kids leave town or the state. I left thecountry.
The next few days are a blur. The flight, going through customs, the orientations and meetings in Tokyo, flying to my assigned city. But after several months, I felt free and like an adult. I’ve never been very adult-like, in my opinion. But here all the responsibilities were on me. If I didn’t cook, I didn’t get fed. I was living alone in my own apartment. It was fun and felt great. 
That first year I felt I really grew as a person. It may have happened later in life, but it changed me. So much happened that first year that would affect my decision to stay (which I did), I met Yoko whom I would later date then marry, and so much more. My friends always said I would go to Japan and never come back. I expected to stay for only a year, three at most.
Looks like they were right.
The nicest thing about being here is that I knew no one. It was a clean slate. I could be me, with all the geekiness and idiosyncrasies that came with it. I could buy what I wanted, eat where I wanted, go where and when I wanted.
Of course I had responsibilities. It wasn’t all play and no work. But that helped me grow too. I learned how much of a hypocrite I am (more than I expected) and how lazy I can be about certain things, like learning Japanese. But life is always about growing. And I feel I’ve grown the most in these last six years.
As always, thanks for reading.
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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Comfort Foods



I admit I am a picky eater. But I wouldn’t say I have comfort foods in the traditional sense; there isn’t anything I NEED to eat when I’m sad or depressed.
But I guess I do have comfort food, in the sense that I have a lot that I miss from America. And when I can get it here in Japan, I pounce on it.
Import stores charge a fortune for their goods, nearly twice as much, and sometimes more. And they can’t get everything. I don’t order much food from the internet. Truthfully because I have never really looked into it, plus I’m afraid of what the shipping costs will be, especially for frozen/refrigerated items.
So I content myself with Jupiter, the import store in Hiroshima. If I had pick my comfort foods based on what I have bought the most of from there, it would be: A&W Root Beer, Van Camp’s Pork and Beans, Hormel Chili, and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. These might seem like everyday staples of a grocery store, but believe it or not they are almost nonexistent in Japan.
Almost every Japanese person I know hates root beer. It’s because the same flavoring it uses is also used to flavor medicine here in Japan. Hence their nickname for it, “medicine cola.” Chili is almost impossible to make due to a lack of dried beans (or almost any bean) in stores. You see where I’m going with this? I can deal with big social and cultural differences, but little things like the this, every day foods you’d expect in almost every country, is really fascinating. And sometimes frustrating.
I’m not a big fan of Japanese food. While I believe I fit in rather well culturally, and I think I’ve adapted nicely to Japan, food is the one thing I really cling to. I’m very “American” in my choice of food. My wife Westernizes quite a bit of our cooking and she likes Western food, but can’t eat it every day. But I’ll pick Western over Japanese any day. Give me tacos instead of okonomiyaki.
What about you, reader? Any comfort foods. Comment, like, or reblog. As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Writing Prompt

One of the prompts on my list is a creative writing starter. It gives the first sentence and I must finish it as a little story. I’ve never done flash fiction before, so here goes.
***
He saw her just as she stepped from the train platform into the car and without a second thought, he abandoned his plans and followed her steps. The mass of exiting people threatened to separate him from his quarry, but he made it into the car half a second before the doors slid close.
She lowered herself into an empty chair, her back still to him. He paused, wondering if she would turn around and see him. But she didn’t. He heard the whine of the mag-lev train engine starting, then the slight rock of the carriage as the high speed transport began its journey. He ignored the sign above his head advertising the 2312 Olympics, his focus was solely on her. He had ninety minutes until they reached Paris.
The seat bench across from her was empty. He slid into it and settled in next to the window. She looked at him, her eyes an almost electric blue. She blinked three times in succession; he knew that she was clearing the data from her smart contacts that had just ran a facial recognition search. She now knew his name and Internet address. He tried to smile but failed. She turned her attention away from him. She didn’t know him; of course not, they had never met.
Eighty-five minutes to Paris.
He had eighty-five minutes to tell her he was her son.
***
I hope you enjoyed this. As always, comments are welcome and thanks for reading.