EarthSky’s 2018 meteor shower guide

Here’s an absolutely great overview and guide to the meteor showers coming this year. Check it out! Source: EarthSky’s 2018 meteor shower guide

Advertisements

5* Wacky British Humor Suitable for Nerds Like Myself

worstmanonmarscvr

This book strikes me as what would result if Monty Python had directed “The Martian”; picture Eric Idle playing Mark Watney. If you’re not a fan of that particular brand of British humor, then this story’s genius will undoubtedly escape you. I laughed myself silly several times at the absolutely ludicrous characters, situations, and scenes. You wouldn’t expect that such a silly, outrageous premise would be brilliant, but it is. As someone who worked for NASA for over twenty years, I think it takes considerable imagination to come up with something so far from reality. Nonetheless, the characters are amazingly well-developed, not only the humans, but the plethora of robots as well.

The plot is more complex than you’d expect and includes not only the totally bungled Mars mission, but a murder mystery as well as a tie back to the Roswell UFO crash. The basic story is that the Brits have put together a mission to Mars, for which a robotic crew was tasked with building and preparing the base. This does not happen on schedule, which means that the humans arrive to a facility that is not only unfinished, but built incorrectly, i.e., too small because they used “old meters” (yards) instead of “new meters.”

The crew is not what you’d expect, but a motley bunch  that ranges from librarians to scientists and their child prodigy-type offspring plus various others unlikely to be part of such a mission. The commander, Flint Dugdale, who acquired that position when the original one was murdered en route, won his place on the ship originally from a reality show, then strong-armed his way into the top seat. He’s rude, crude, and obnoxious, typically swilling beer and belching, thus not endearing in any way, but does lend a certain level of humor with some of his exploits, especially when they finally get settled at the base. I won’t say any more than that because it would constitute a spoiler, as would mentioning any of the funniest scenes that had me laughing so hard I was in tears.

Yes, I laughed a lot, hard, at how outrageously crazy the entire situation was. There is clearly no semblance of reality here, especially on the science side, which the reader needs to recognize. It’s a spoof and a satire, which I felt was well-done. It certainly expanded my knowledge of British slang, including boffins, twonk, pillock, kerfuffle, conkers, and numerous others, which for me added to the flavor of the story and kept me aware that this was a bunch of Brits. Fortunately, I read it on my Kindle, which has a built-in dictionary to help with such matters. As an author myself, I enjoy learning new words and have been known to read the dictionary. So I’m probably not your normal reader.

Clearly this book is not for everyone. For me it was just what I was looking for, something to make me laugh out loud while I was recovering from pneumonia. As a physicist and former rocket scientist, I have a weird, nerd-like sense of humor that resonated with this story. Consider that our college ritual every semester’s end back in the 80s was to have a pizza party and watch “Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail.” To me “The Big Bang Theory” is a reality show. If you can relate to that, you’d probably find this book amusing. I certainly did. You can pick up your copy on Amazon here.

How To Instantly Get More Traffic To Your WordPress Blog

Good tip!

Hugh's Views & News

Here’s a little trick that will instantly get more traffic to your WordPress blog if, like me, you prefer to get notification emails whenever a blog you follow publishes a new post.

  • Go to your blog’s dashboard
  • On the lefthand side menu, click on WP Admin

#bloggingtips #blogging #WordPress Where to find WP Admin on your blog’s dashboard

  • Click on ‘Settings’
  • Click on ‘Reading’
  • Next to ‘For each article in a feed, show’ click the ‘Summary’ box.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 15.34.33

  • Click on ‘Save Changes’ at the bottom of the page

Now, whenever you publish a new post, instead of the whole post being visible on the email (which followers can read without visiting your blog), they will need to click on the link in the email to be able to view and read the whole post on your blog. This will register as a new view in your blog stats.

Here’s an example of an email I…

View original post 70 more words

What do Wacky Sci-Fi, the LSAT, and MCAT have in Common?

I certainly never would have thought avant garde science fiction and entrance test preparation manuals for law or medical school would have anything in common–until I came across author, Jay Cutts. Our “meeting” was in a somewhat notorious manner, in that he gave one of my books a rather scathing review, replete with a grammar lesson about the use of periods. However, after my initial tantrum, I had to admit he was correct, so subsequently edited the book accordingly, sent him the revised copy, and he generously improved the book’s rating. It was during this correspondence that I discovered that, in addition to being a grammar Nazi, he was a fellow author as well as a professional editor.  After sampling his brand of humor in his novels on his website, I wanted to know more about him, so asked him for an interview. Indeed, he is as diverse and unconventional as I suspected. To wit:

MF: I find it fascinating that your writing spans such diverse writing skills, i.e., editing study guides for the LSAT and MCAT versus the wacky humor of Death by Haggis and Annie Gomez and the Gigantic Foot of Doom. Conveying facts and editing are left brain activities while fiction falls more on the right. Which talent were you aware of first? Does one come more easily than the other?

JC: Yes, it’s true that I’ve edited and/or written thousands of pages of science and logic! Actually, it feels to me that real creativity requires both some “organizing” skills and some “wild fantasy” skills. The trick is to keep my imagination from going crazy when I’m writing non-fiction stuff. My publisher has to make sure I haven’t included bizarre aliens in my test prep materials. In the LSAT book I did include a logic dialogue between my dog (Baxter) and the neighbor’s dog (Beardsley). I finally confessed to my editor but she said not to worry. All authors do that. Of course, the dialogue was pure fiction because Baxter NEVER talks to Beardsley, stuck-up little mutt that he is.

MF: I can see that. And cats are even worse. Tell us about your educational background. Where did you go to school, what did you major in when you were in college, etc. If you were to go back to school now, what would you study?

JC: I went to the University of Michigan, where I tried to major in (in chronological order) chemistry and/or cooking, psychology, anthropology, and linguistics. I eventually managed to complete the linguistics degree. Many  years later I got a masters in special education.

If I were to go back to school now, I would be anxious for summer vacation to come! I have always loved summer vacation more than anything.

If I had to take classes, they would be in dance and jazz piano.

MF: I can relate. Summer was always my favorite, too. Who are your favorite authors? Whose work do you enjoy most and why? Did any one in particular influence you more than the others?

JC: Terry Pratchett is my favorite. He has a wonderful sense of humor, a great imagination and really captures the human condition. I’ve never read anyone else with his combination of qualities. I also like Kage Baker, Jasper Fforde, Connie Willis, and Douglas Adams. I once read a Terry Pratchett novel in Slovak. It’s amazing how well he writes in Slovak!!

MF: I’m impressed that you can read Slovak! What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever had? What did you learn from it? Has it affected your writing in any way?

JC: I once cleaned houses. It affected my writing in that my hands were too sore to write!

MF: Harsh detergents can do that. Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea for them? Do they have a hidden message?

JC: Death by Haggis had a very interesting genesis (as explained in its intro.) I have an old friend, Terry Boothman, who is a great writer with a wonderful sense of humor. We often email back and forth a dozen or more times  a day with riddles and jokes.

At one point I suggested to him that he send me the first line for a novel and that I would write back. Continuing in that way I figured we could complete the book in a couple weeks. He did send me a wacky first line and I responded.

I found that every time I tried to develop a plot, he instinctively destroyed whatever I had started. That made for an amazing challenge. Eventually he dropped out of the project and let me finish it myself. The basic plot and characters of the story, however, were set in those early exchanges that were random and chaotic.

I wrote Annie Gomez and the Gigantic Foot of Doom because one of my Barron’s (test prep publisher) contacts said they were now publishing YA fiction. I asked him if he had a particular request for a type of story that he thought could sell. He said I could just write whatever I wanted.

A year later I sent him the result, which he said was very nice but they don’t really publish sci fi. Oops.

In any case the character of Annie was inspired in part by my granddaughter and I hope some day she will read it!

MF: For what it’s worth, I gave a copy of it to my granddaughter for Christmas and I hope she’ll read it, too! Maybe even give you a review, since she’s an aspiring author herself so should appreciate the concept of reviews! What is your life like outside of writing?  Is there anything you would like us to know about yourself and your books?

JC: When I’m not writing, I sometimes take a three minute break for a sponge bath and to open a random can of, hopefully, food from the kitchen.

Just kidding.

I like to dance (especially with my sweetie), play the accordion and piano, garden, travel, study strange languages, go to meditation retreats and roller skate with my granddaughter.

MF: My paternal grandfather was a linguist, but he had the ill-grace to die before I was born. Supposedly, he spoke nine languages. You’re a brave soul to roller skate, which I gave up in 9th grade after breaking my tailbone. Who (living or dead) would you like to invite for dinner? What would you like to know about him or her?

JC: I would invite the living. It’s hard to know what to cook for the dead. They are so picky. And I hate it when the food dribbles out of their mouths like that. Yuck.

MF: There’s that logic side of yours coming out again. Switching to the creative, is there any particular song you’d pick to go with your books?

JC: House of the Rising Sun. Three drunk guys once paid me $20 to play it on the accordion on the streets of Tempe, Arizona. I have a feeling that the next day, they wondered what happened to all their money.

deathbyhaggisNo but seriously folks, I did produce a trailer for Death by Haggis and it has some cool detective-y music. It’s on youtube here. If the book is ever made into a movie, it could have some eery Scottish music in it. And of course some Greek music when the hero arrives in the Aegean.

I’ve never thought about music for Annie Gomez and the Gigantic Foot of Doom. It’s about teens so I suppose it would have to have some godawful rap music in it. Just sayin’.

MF: Will there be a sequel to Annie Gomez and the Giant Foot of Doom or Death by Haggis? If so, do you have anything you’d like to tell us about it or a target day for its release?

JC: I don’t have plans for sequels for either. I’m waiting for all you fans to beg me desperately to write more.  In the meantime I’ve been very much enjoying writing short stories. I’ve poured my heart and funny bone (assuming one can pour a funny bone) out into them.

I’m thinking of publishing a collection of short stories woven together by an overall story, possibly based on a Time Lizard, who may just happen to have appeared – though not identified as such – as a character in Annie Gomez.

MF: Some of these characters who just appear are among the best. Anything else you’d like to tell your existing and potential readers and fans?

JC: Eat a nectarine. Half a peach, half a plum. It’s a hell of a fruit. And never run for a bus. Just stroll, jaunty jolly. (Shamelessly quoted from Mel Brooks’ 2000 year old man.)

Other than that, if you like humor in your sci fi/fantasy and admire writers like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, please do browse through my website at cuttsbooks.wordpress.com

I also send free short stories monthly to my Twitter followers. I’m at @jaycuttsbooks.

Thanks for allowing me to do an interview. I enjoy being in touch with readers and writers!

MF: Thank you, Jay, for sharing your wit! I hope my blog readers check out your books, which can be found on Amazon by following these links:

Annie Gomez and the Gigantic Foot of Doom

Death by Haggis

A Cute Christmas Short Story

mildredmistletoe

Okay, this review is a week late and a dollar short, so to speak, but worth putting on your list for next year. This cute short story is perfect to read aloud with the family during the Christmas season, especially if you have a cat.  It’s well-written, has characters you can relate to (especially Mildred, the cat), and enough of a plot to give it substance. I laughed out loud at some of Mildred’s opinions of the dog and loved the innovative ways she tried to intervene and make sure everyone was happy. Highly recommended for a cozy read by the fireplace.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

What Awaits Us on the “Other Side?”

legendwalkingdeadcvr

Review of “The Legend of the Walking Dead” by Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko

First of all, if you think this story relates to the popular television series, “The Walking Dead”, it doesn’t. Secondly, if you think this book is a dry account from an anthropologist’s point of view, it’s not that, either. Rather, it’s what best described as a dramatization or fictionalized account of what the Igbo culture in Nigeria believe happens to a person after death, an account of what goes on in the spirit world, if you will.

When Gloria’s son, Osondu, disappears, she goes looking for him. She finds him, but at a price. They are both dead and in the world of spirits where an entirely different culture, hierarchy of authority, and set of rules apply.

As the story unfolds, the reader joins them in a fascinating journey where “the walking dead” are not zombies, but simply those who have died, yet mingle with the living. Some may not realize they’re dead, others may refuse to leave the world of the living, others, who discover and follow the rules, get established in their new environment, progress, and are given assignments. This is not a simple world where departed spirits hang out on clouds playing harps.

The author has definitely researched the subject and conveying it in story form makes it come alive, no pun intended. There are times when it rambles a bit and there certainly isn’t any discernible plot, given it’s more like a stream of consciousness journey of discovery.

I was fascinated by the similarity to various religious beliefs as well as the work of renowned psychologist, Michael Newton, author of “Journey of Souls” and “Destiny of Souls.”  These two books contain accounts of some of his clients, whom he has regressed back to their sojourn in the Spirit World via hypnosis.

If you’re curious about reincarnation and what goes on in the world of the dead, I can highly recommend Newton’s books as well as Joy’s, all of which convey the message that things on the other side are structured and in most cases, far better than what mortals have to deal with. It’s no wonder we come into this world crying.

You can pick up your copy of “The Legend of the Walking Dead” on Amazon here.

99c Holiday Book Sale!

HOLIDAY SALE! All my books are only 99c/each until December 31. If you or someone you know likes science, this science fiction is just for them! As one reviewer stated, “Seamless integration of real science with an eye toward plausibility reminds me of Asimov.” The Terra Debacle, the story of a sentient plant stuck on Earth, will undoubtedly put a smile on the face of any botanists out there.

More information about the individual stories, including reviews and videos, can be found on the series website here, or you can find all of them on my Amazon page here. Happy reading!

Three Cheers & Five Stars for Scott Skipper’s “Alien Affairs” Trilogy

I read the first book in this series, “Alien Affairs”, a few years ago and always intended to read the others, but had a TBR list that precluded it at the time.  When a health issue drove me toward reading something that would make me laugh (laughter is the best medicine after all, right?), I reread “Alien Affairs”, then immediately dove into the sequels. I was not disappointed.

As a fan of dry, dark humor, not only did this one make me laugh, it was also a great, highly suspenseful story with a complex plot of its own with some new engaging characters. With the human race left sterile by the attack depicted in book one, now the characters need to figure out how to reverse the effects. Coupled with that, however, is a wave of terrorist attacks, which rather than simply using explosives to kill people, disperse the deadly ebola virus instead. Thus, the chase is on, the team trying to second guess the terrorists with regard to where they’ll strike next while also trying to develop the antivirus to say nothing of trying to live their personal lives in the midst of chaos.

Alien technology recorded in an ereader that main character, Carrie Player, obtained in book one, contains the information they need to beat the virus, which they hope to employ to reverse the sterility situation as well, since it’s caused by a virus. Nothing is simple, though, because the aliens are still hanging around committing random abductions to make sure their extermination plan has succeeded. If they discover their mission to wipe us out humanely by attrition has failed, they’ll simply kill off everyone real-time with their gravity wave weapons, though we’re on the trail to developing them as well, thanks to the same ereader.

Anyone who has left-leaning political views would probably find this book outrageously offensive.  I found it refreshing and satisfying, the characters’ goals such that could undoubtedly improve upon the current world situation. There’s no sugar coating of what’s going on or where we’re heading, if someone doesn’t take drastic steps soon. While I appreciate the symbolism vampires and zombies represent in numerous dystopia novels, this cautionary tale doesn’t pull any punches with regard to where the greatest threat really lies. These stories are not trivialized satire; they are well-written, masterfully constructed, brilliant looks at how our way of life is crumbling before our eyes. Read it and weep.

If you haven’t read “Alien Affairs” this book would still make sense since the author did an outstanding job of recapping major events that tie into this one. However, I recommend starting with book one since it sets the stage by going all the way back to the Roswell UFO crash back in 1947. If you’re a UFO or conspiracy aficionado, you’re bound to thoroughly enjoy these well-written, fast-moving stories populated with vivid, often snarky characters you’re sure to cheer on in their quest to save the world from annihilation.

Pick up your copy of Book 2 on Amazon here.

Moving on to Book 3, “Alien Child”, the third and final book in the “Alien Affairs” series, this one is slightly different since it’s written through the viewpoint of Terrie Deshler, who is Carrie Player’s child (born in the end of book two as the result of an alien encounter in book one) who has 2% alien DNA.  Now a teenager, she’s brilliant, snarky, sexy, and telepathic, her black eyes the only visible evidence of her alien heritage. This is enough for her to be viewed as an abomination, so she and her mother become the target of government supported terrorist attacks. Thus, they are forced to live in a walled compound surrounded by heavily armed security details.

Having found an anti-virus which can reverse the sterility imposed upon the world in book one, it is being selectively dispersed only to graduates of Georgia Turnbull’s elite Academy, their goal to repopulate the earth with educated, hard-working, morally solid individuals. Controversial, yes, but what intelligent person hasn’t entertained the thought that there are some people on this planet who simply shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce? Yet, there is the matter of who should make such a radical decision? It’s even more complicated, however, because if the aliens discover their plan to destroy the entire human race has failed, they’ll employ more violent means to do so and be done with it.

Like the other books in this series, this one is loaded with political incorrectness. However, anyone who thinks we’ve made strides forward in the past several years is either blind or can’t be playing with a full deck. It’s thought-provoking to consider who the real enemy is: The aliens who want to destroy the human race because they don’t want our propensity for violence unleashed on the entire galaxy? Or the terrorists and their sympathizers in the government itself, who are clearly on the path to destroying civilization as we know it?

Yet, when push comes to shove, the aliens turn out to be Carrie and Terrie’s allies, providing some very satisfying, high-five moments, though the problem remains regarding the alien’s refusal to accept a failed mission due to the sterility issue. There are certainly plenty of other loose ends that the author could continue to develop, should he so choose to continue the series.

I blew through this book in a single day, wondering how it would end, which certainly held some interesting twists and surprises.  Dark, satirical humor and suspense aside, this thought-provoking series addresses numerous sobering issues. Clearly we live in a world that has chosen a path that can’t possibly end well without intervention. It wasn’t too difficult to see both the alien point of view as well as that of the Turnbull Academy with regard to human behavior. As a side note, if you’ve read any of Dr. Steven M. Greer’s books on the UFO phenomenon, you may recognize that there are various elements of this tale that could be more truth than poetry. We can always hope.

Pick up your copy of “Alien Child” on Amazon here.