Friday, October 30, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Meredith Skye and T. Eric Bakutis

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are happy to have Meredith Skye and T. Eric Bakutis as guests.

Meredith Skye

When I was young, I lived in Alaska. As an adult, I moved back to the land of the Midnight Sun. I began writing fiction in elementary school and always wanted to be a novelist. I was fascinated by tales of the fantastic and bizarre, tales of strange worlds.

I love to travel. I have a fascination with the Middle Ages. I love swords, medieval costumes, castles and ancient lifestyles. I love Celtic art and music. I love the desert. I am a vivid dreamer and many of my dreams come back to life in my novels.

Meredith's Books:

Meredith's Links:

T. Eric Bakutis
T. Eric Bakutis

T. Eric Bakutis is an author and professional game designer based in Maryland. His first fantasy novel, Glyphbinder, was a finalist for the 2014 Compton Crook Award, and is sequel, Demonkin, is due in December 2015. His short fiction has appeared in a number of markets and anthologies, all of which you can find at

In his spare time, Eric writes all sorts of stories, plays games and develops them, participates heavily in author critique groups, hikes with his lovely wife and dog, and spends time marveling at how fast his new baby is growing up. He blogs on Wordpress about writing, game development, and virtual reality, and posts the latest geeky things he enjoyed on Twitter. He also uses Facebook every so often.
Eric's Book:

Eric's Links:

From today's show: NASA Robot Missions

Last Chance to Win Prizes

Getting down to the wire on the Dark Dreams Halloween Giveaway. Lots of great prizes and a Grand Prize of $175 Paypal cash. Enter at the link or below:

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Just Keep Writing (again)

NaNoWriMo is coming. If you're a writer you probably know that. If you've read this blog you probably know I have a love/hate relationship with NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo (or National Novel Writing Month) is where many writers try to write a novel (or at least 50,000 words of a novel) in November. That's a writing pace of about 1,667 words per day. The goal is to get people past "I can't write" into "just write, damn it." It's the embodiment of what I say to writers: "Just keep writing."

I have this friend who wants to write. She started writing a novel a couple of weeks ago. We joked she was starting NaNoWriMo early. But she stopped writing because she doesn't want to write "crap." The mistake she's making (and I can't seem to convince her otherwise) is that she wants her first draft to be perfect.

But your first draft is not going to be perfect. That's why it's called a "first draft." As Hemingway said: "The first draft of anything is shit." You can revise and fix a first draft but, first, you have to write the damn thing. So "Just Keep Writing."

So I like NaNoWriMo because it forces me to just keep writing. I may write "crap" but I fix that later.

I think a lot of writer's block comes from wanting perfection from your first draft. But you'll never achieve that.

Write it down, fix it later.

What I dislike about NaNoWriMo is a number of "writers" write their first crappy draft, then think they are done. They don't revise, edit, revise and edit some more. They put it out on Kindle (just in time for Christmas!), call themselves "indie authors" and think they have written War and Peace. Then people might read their books, say "wow, this is crap," and all indie authors get a reputation for putting out crap when I know a lot of indie authors that put out very good work.

Last year the NaNoWriMo webpage gave a "badge" for promising to revise your novel. So I'm hoping a lot of people took that to heart and did.

And "NaNoWriMo" is a bit of a misnomer because it's really international now. So it should be InNoWriMo. But I doubt they'll change the name.

Just keep writing.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Not as Bad as I thought

Last night the University of Washington Huskies lost badly to the #10 Stanford Cardinal.

It could have been worse.

We didn't know until the game was about to start if the Huskies' starting quarterback, Jake Browning, was going to play. Turned out he wasn't, having suffered a shoulder injury last week in the Huskies' loss to Oregon. So backup quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels played. The only experience Husky fans had with Carta-Samuels was when he threw a game-ending interception in that loss to Oregon.

So I was expecting a blow out. But it wasn't. Despite Carta-Samuels's lackluster play (he connected on only 9 of 21 passes) the Husky defense was able to keep the Stanford from running away with the game. Also, on one series, freshman running back Myles Gaskin carried the ball down the field and made a touchdown. Gaskin is going to be a great player the next couple of years (until he leaves after his junior year for the NFL).

The game started at 7:30 PM and I had a busy day. At 10:00 PM, Stanford scored their second touchdown of the third quarter and the Husky offense looked defeated. I went to bed, recording the rest of the game in case a miracle happened. It didn't. That was, however, the Carndinal's last touchdown of the game and the Huskies manged another touchdown, so the score ended up being 14-31. Not exactly a blow out but not very good.

And this lost gives the Huskies a losing record this year at 3-4 (1-3 in conference). They are in 5th places in the Pac-12 North (a 6-team division). I'm starting to worry about the Apple Cup game against Washington State.

I've said this before (probably) and I'll say it again: The Huskies are a very young team with a lot of freshmen. Head Coach Chris Petersen has said that getting the program on track like his Boise State team was would take 2 - 3 years. And this might be the first year despite Petersen being the head coach last year as then he was pretty much running ex-head coach Steve Sarkesian's team. Husky fans hearken back to halcyon days of national championships (and beating the damn Oregon Ducks). But that was 25 years ago. Since then the team had its 2008 nadir with a 0-12 season. Yes, we're still rebuilding, and still making the team great again. I just hope Petersen is right that he can do at Washington what he did at Boise State.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with J.P. Ribner and Scott Burtness

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are happy to welcome J.P. Ribner and Scott Burtness

J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner

Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, J.P. Ribner gravitated toward writing at a very early age. In fourth grade, his book “I Want to Make a Monster” won a statewide children’s literature competition, earning him the opportunity to read his creation to delegates at Oakland University. In spite of such auspicious beginnings, J.P. traded his proverbial typewriter for a wide variety of life experiences that include growing up in a dysfunctional family, surviving a drive-by shooting, and playing in a punk rock band. Perhaps these and other experiences inspired him to start writing for his college newspaper, a decision that culminated in him earning a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and writing for several newspapers and magazines. Today, J.P. is the successful author of three novels, with many more on the way.

J.P.'s Books:

Legacy of the Bear, Book I of the Berserker's Saga

Prophecy of the Bear, Book II of the Berserker's Saga

World So Dark

J.P.'s Links:


Scott Burtness
Scott Burtness

I live in the Midwest with my wonderful wife, Liz and our pitt-boxer mix, Frank. I've always enjoyed reading horror, sci-fi, thrillers, and comedic takes on all three genres. For me, reading is a fun escape, a chance to live vicariously through someone else's adventures. I decided to start writing with the hope of entertaining readers like myself.

Scott's Books:

Wisconsin Vamp

Northwoods Wolfman

"If I Only Had an Autogenic Cognitive Decision Matrix"

Scott's Links:


From today's show: Private Moon Landing

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mismatched Car Chases

Not sure what made me think of this today as I was driving along. I started thinking about the movie Drive. While it was a good movie, it really had little to do with cars. My first clue was at the beginning of the movie when the hero drives a front-wheel-drive car that has supposedly be souped up for a getaway. Right. No self-respecting wheel man is going to do high performance driving in a front-wheel-drive car (see below if you care why). But then in about the middle of the movie (which is more of a psychological profile, not an action film) there is a genuine car chase. The good guy is driving a Ford Mustang GT and the bad guys are driving a Chrysler 300C. Now, assuming it was a new car when the movie was made (2011), that car has 412 horsepower in a smallish car.

The Chrysler 300C (assuming it was a 2011 model) has 363 horsepower with the biggest engine available. So not only does it have 88% the power the Mustang has, it is a big, heavy car. I owned a 2009 Chrysler 300C and it cornered pretty well for a car its size. But the brakes must have been decided upon by the accountants. There were times I would brake hard and swear the car was not going to stop in time because the brakes were overwhelmed by the speed and mass of the car.

Yet in the movie, it has no problem keeping up with the Mustang that should accelerate, corner, and brake (because it's lighter) faster and better than the Chrysler.

Or, take another example: Furious Seven (which I review here). The Jason Statham character liked to drive modern British sports cars such as Aston Martins. These are powerful cars with lots of horsepower, good brakes, and great suspensions for cornering. What does Vin Diesel chase after Statham in? An early 1970s Mopar muscle car. ("Mopar" means Chrysler, Dodge, or Plymouth before Mercedes Benz bought them; the car's exterior was modified to the point I couldn't tell if it was a Dodge or Plymouth.) (A "muscle car" is a small car with a big engine, not to be confused with a pony car with is a smaller car with a big engine and mostly refers to Mustangs and Camaros.)

Muscle cars of that era (early '70s) were fast (sort of) in a straight line but sucked at cornering. Yet Vin is able to keep us with Jason in his modern Aston Martin. But like I said in my review, those movies are verging on fantasy.

I think this comes when filmmakers aren't car people. The writers and directors don't know their way around a car. So they don't know about the nuances of cars like people who know about cars, do. It's sort of like when the science is bad in a science fiction movie. You just wanna yell at the screen.

REAR WHEEL DRIVE: The reason performance drivers want rear-wheel drive is because when the rear wheels are driven, you can steer the car with the throttle (if the car has enough power). This allows you to take corners faster. This isn't drifting, but simply using the power of the car through the rear wheels to rotate the car.

I have tried this. I need more training and/or practice because I can't do it. And you need a big, open space to do it in because you're going to spin the car a lot before you get it down.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


During last night's game between the University of Washington Huskies and the Nike Ducks (who play for the University of Oregon), I kept thinking of a line from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In reference to their enemy's ship, Kirk says "She can still outrun us and outgun us." And last night the Ducks were doing both: outrunning and outgunning the Huskies. And, unfortunately, there was no Mutara Nebula to even the odds.

Duck quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. would be on the run from the Husky defenders, looking like he's going to have to throw the ball away, and, bang, he'd hit a receiver. This happened over and over. I can only think of one time he missed while on the run.

The first half of the game was a defensive battle with multiple punts by both teams. But the young Huskies would make a mistake, get a crucial penalty, and save Oregon's bacon too many times.

The Huskies put a valiant effort in the second half, coming back from a 16-3 deficit to within one touchdown of winning the game. But then our true freshman quarterback, Jack Browning, was injured and we had to put in a second stringer. With 1:11 left we had to go 80 yards. But on the third play, the replacement quarterback threw and interception and that ended the game. The final score was 26-20.

This is the 12th straight loss by the Huskies to the Ducks. After last week's win against USC, I thought we might be able to beat them. But no such luck.

The Huskies are a young team who lost a lot of key players to the NFL last year. I think there's great things in the future for this team. But I am getting tired of every year saying "next year we'll be great." I hope one of these times, it's true.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Valerie Willis and Kimiko Alexandre

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are pleased to welcome Valerie Willis and Kimiko Alexandre.

Valerie Willis
Valerie Willis 

Valerie Willis spends her spare time writing novels inspired by a wide variety of forgotten lores, mythology, and history. Growing up, she always had a love for writing and during her early school years published several poems in Anthologies for Youth Writers. Some of the authors who have inspired her are Robin McKinley, James Clavell, and C.S. Lewis.

Valerie's Books:

Cedric the Demonic Knight 

Romasanta: Father of Werewolves 

Tattooed Angels Trilogy: Rebirth 

Valerie's Links:


Kimiko Alexandre
Kimiko Alexandre

Kimiko Alexandre isn't Japanese. You can tell that by looking at her but she loves the Japanese culture. So when she was looking for her pen name she decided on Kimiko; it was just a bonus that it meant 'Noble Child'.

She's an import from Kansas and currently lives in New Jersey. (Please no jokes - about either state. She doesn't have a dog named Toto, nor does she have a Jersey accent.) She’s wanted to write since she was about 12 when she started reading her mom’s bodice rippers. It was only in 1995 that she started reading sci-fi and urban fantasy and then she was hooked. She started out early in her "career" on the web as one of the first webcam girls (no there were no sex involved). She loved being a "life cam" girl and chatting with the people who came to her chat room to talk to her.

She started a podcast for writers and readers of urban fantasy called Talechasing in 2006 to share with others her road to getting published. She was also going to attempt to write it and podcast it as she went. (Yes she knows it was stupid). She had to put it on hold in 2007 when her mother got sick but picked it back up in 2009. In 2014 she got serious and sat her butt in a chair and finished her work in progress. In her free time (like she has much) she does audio work and can be found doing audio books for other authors when she isn't writing.

She has plenty more plans for more in her book series and even has ideas for another series stored in the back of her head. She loves mail, so never be afraid to message or mail her. She'll get back to you as soon as she can. After all, without readers she'd just be shouting into the dark.

Kimiko's Books

Guardians: Awakened

Kimiko's Links:


From Today's Show: Mission to Saturn's Moon to Look for Life

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Movie Review: Furious Seven

Last night I watched Furious Seven on Blu-ray. The seventh movie in the Fast and Furious franchise, it will probably be the last due to the untimely death of Paul Walker.

While Furious Seven wasn't as improbable as Fast and Furious 6 was, it still bordered on the ludicrous. In my review of six I proposed a new genre: "real world fantasy." That's because what happens in these moves that are set in the "real world" is almost fantasy. People survive car wreaks that would result in serious injuries or death in the real world. Cars move in ways they can't in real life. And a hacker turns out to be a pretty female. Not very realistic at all. (Okay, that last one is probably more probable than some of the other things in this movie.) And I love when people jump out of moving cars onto pavement and don't get a scratch.

***Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD***

In one scene they are chasing a bus (or large RV) with the hacker as a prisoner on board. The sides of the bus open to reveal miniguns that proceed to shoot up Paul Walker's Subaru. Okay, that should have killed Walker's character. So the character driving the bullet-proof vehicle cuts between the guns and the car. But the bullets are then declared "armor piercing." Yet no one whose vehicle is shot up is hurt. Well, except later when the bad guys get shot up.

And they never explained how the bad guy (Jason Statham) kept showing up wherever the good guys were. I was expecting there to be a leak in the government secret agency they were working with. But nope, no explanation.

***Spoilers Done***

So, yes, it was a fun (and loud) movie but park your critical thinking skills at the door.

And it seemed that Chrysler had some deal with the movie makers. Every time there were cars, there was at least one Mopar product, usually vintage (like an old Charger) but sometimes  new. In one scene there are four cars driven by the good guys: a McClaren, a Ferrari, a Bugatti, something black I didn't recognize but obviously a supercar (the black color made it hard to discern the shape), and a new Dodge Charger.  Of course, Chrysler is owned by Fiat, as is Ferrari, so they got two cars in that scene.

I gave Furious Seven three stars on Netflix mostly because I was mostly entertained. I just wish they'd cut the hand-to-hand fighting scenes for more car chases or shots of scantily-clad women.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Don't Mess with Tradition . . . Maybe

I'm not sure what made me think of this true event (except maybe that Monday was Thanksgiving in Canada).

My sister loves to experiment culinarily. She subscribes to magazines with all sorts of gourmet recipes.  Which is usually okay. She's a great cook and she's come up with some interesting things to try, most of which have been good.

One year for Thanksgiving, she wanted to try this rice stuffing for the turkey. And what sort of amazed me was how unhappy, disappointed, and frankly upset I was about it. I look forward to traditional turkey dressing all year and here it was, denied me. I don't even remember if the rice stuffing was bad or good, I just remember that it was wrong.

The lesson, of course, is don't mess with tradition. Well, except sometimes.

My wife's family has this Christmas tradition. You take turns opening presents while everyone watches. They start with the youngest and go around the room by age until everyone has opened one present. Then they start back with the youngest again and keep doing that until everyone is out of present. Some people run out of presents earlier than others so they have to sit there watching other people open presents.

One year, Christmas was at my house. So they said it was up to me to decide how to open presents. I glanced over and saw my wife's aunt, the oldest person in the room, but also the shortest adult. So I decreed we'd do it by height, shortest to tallest. Now the aunt, who was always last ,was fourth after the three children (my wife was fifth). I was second to last, my preternaturally tall brother-in-law last. I thought it worked out pretty well and no one seemed upset about it. The kids still got to go first it just changed the order of the adults.

So I guess in some ways it's okay to mess with tradition.

Just don't mess with my turkey stuffing.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Going into Thursday nights game against the University of Southern California Trojans, the University of Washington Huskies were double-digit underdogs. The Trojans were ranked #17 and the Huskies were 2-2 on the season after a bad loss to California. The game was in prime time on ESPN so this was another game where they Huskies were expected to lose in front of a national radiance (like their season opening game against Boise State).

And to top if off, the game was being played on USC's home turf in front of their rabid fans and with their band doing all it can to intimidate opponents.

But there's something about USC. The Huskies have a habit of beating them when they aren't supposed to. The Husky defense forced turnovers including two interceptions. At first, the Washington offense had trouble capitalizing on those turnovers but eventually they made a touchdown after a fumble with a trick, two-pass play.

The USC offense couldn't catch a break and only converted on one third down the entire game. Their quarterback missed passes he shouldn't have including a 2-point conversion attempt. At one point the score was 17 - 6, UW on top.

A late rally by USC closed the gap to 5 points but USC couldn't get past the Huskies' very young defense. The game ended at 17 - 12, Washington on top. Washington is now 3-2 on the season and, gee, guess what, so is USC. I don't know if this loss will bump USC from the two 25 (where they were once ranked 6th), but it's not going to help them.

What made the game even a sweeter victory was it was against former UW coach Steve Sarkisian who Husky fans felt jilted when he left for USC at the end of 2013 regular season but before the Huskies bowl game that year. Already some in the media are saying Sarkisian was a bad choice for USC.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina with Sally Ann Melia and Amanda Clemmer

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are pleased to welcome Sally Ann Melia and Amanda Clemmer

Sally Ann Melia
Sally Ann Melia

Sally Ann Melia is life-long Science Fiction fan. She saw  Star Wars as a child and has loved Space Opera fiction and tales of huge Galactic Empires such as Frank Herbert’s Dune series and Iain M. Banks Culture. Guy Erma and the Son of Empire is her first full-length novel to be published.

She lives in Farnham, Surrey, UK with husband David, and has two children and 3 gerbils.

Sally's Books:

Guy Erma and the Son of Empire

Part 1. KIDNAP
Part 2. HUNTER
Part 3. EXILE

The Artwork of Guy Erma and the Son of Empire (free today)

Sally's Links:


Amanda Clemmer
Amanda Clemmer

Amanda Clemmer is a full time writer who lives in New England with her husband and two cats. In her spare time she plays violin, reads, and plays epic board games. You can sample more of her work on her under-50-word short story blog, and on the official website for Automaton.

Amanda's Books:


Mostly Human

The Exigency

Amanda's Links:


From Today's Show: NASA Europa Mission

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Restaurant Review: Miner's Drive-In Restaurant, Yakima, Washington

Yesterday I was in Yakima, WA, for a freelance assignment and I decided to try Miner's Drive-In Restaurant for dinner (or "supper" depending on where you live). I'd heard about Miner's from people saying it has good food and lots of it. I was a little concerned when my brother said they sell empty mayonnaise buckets for 75 cents. And indeed, there was a sign saying "Buckets: 75 cents" at the cash register.

When you walk into Miner's, head to the right where the cashiers are and order your food there. This is not cheap fast food. A "combo" with a bacon burger, fries, and a medium drink was more than $12. After ordering they give you a number on a tall stand and empty drink cups. Like most fast food joints these days, you fill your own cup. Interesting, they had Pepsi products but one fountain said "Coca Cola." Not sure how they get away with that.

The food arrives and if you've never been there before, prepare to be shocked. The hamburgers are huge and the medium fries were enough to feed a family. A family like the Duggars The hamburger was almost the size of a small dinner plate.

My wife was happy as they have fry sauce there (ranch and BBQ sauce).

So there's lots of food. How is it? The fries are okay, nothing special. I ordered the hamburger with their default fixings. That seemed to be lettuce, pickles, raw onions, and mayonnaise. I joked there was a pound of mayonnaise on my hamburger. There probably wasn't (probably a pound of hamburger, though). If you like mayonnaise on your burger, you'll love Miner's. I don't and I didn't. I would rather have less of a good hamburger. Like Five Guys.

My wife ordered a plain chicken sandwich. The chicken looked like un-breaded chicken fingers. She said it was okay. Of the four, she ate three. She ate them with a knife and fork so she wasn't eating the huge bun that they came on.

I'm glad I ate there once to experience it. But I won't go back.

Unless I need an empty mayonnaise bucket.

Miner's Drive-In Restaurant is located at 2415 S 1st St, Yakima, WA 98903, near the Valley Mall in south Yakima.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Speculative Fiction Cantina whit Dianna Beirne and R. J. Eliason

Today on the Speculative Fiction Cantina we are proud to welcome Dianna Beirne and R. J. Eliason.

Dianna Beirne
Dianna Beirne

Dianna Beirne is the author of the Young Adult Fantasy series Aurelious Forty which includes Aurelious Forty; Volume One, Aurelious Forty; Volume Two and, the about to be released, Aurelious Forty; Volume Three. Prior to dedicating her time to writing, Dianna taught undergraduate and graduate courses about using literacy in the elementary, middle, and high school classroom.

She graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, then obtained a Master’s degree in Literacy from Hofstra University before culminating her own academic endeavors with a Doctorate in Education specializing in Curriculum and Teaching from Northcentral University.

Dianna lives in New York and is the grateful mother of a son whom she misses terribly when he is away at college.

Dianna's Books:

Dianna's Links:

R.J. Eliason
R. J. Eliason

Ms. Eliason is both a writer and a fan of deeply immersive science fiction and fantasy novels. She loves to share with her fans the worlds she is creating, and the ones she is discovering. She writes contemporary YA novels dealing with LGBT themes under the name Rachel Eliason and fantasy/science fiction under R. J. Eliason.

R.J.'s Books:

R.J.'s Links:

From today's show: Giant Ice Sheet on Mars