May 19, 2014

Bravery in a Windows 8 World

I don’t much care for television commercials. I mean, come on, “ask your doctor” if you need to take a placebo pill for your placebo-fantasy condition whose side effects will make you sick? But I don’t want to get started. Except my wife and I were watching “Big Bang Theory” and this Microsoft commercial comes on. Innocuous enough, but then at the end there’s some woman screeching something I cannot understand. It sounds like she’s having a bad-tattoo experience. Or maybe her phone just fell out of her back pocket and was run over by a truck. Or maybe it was a cry of frustration with trying to work a Windows 8 computer. I was curious enough to Google around to find out why she was in such pain. Turns out she’s singing something about being…

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April 11, 2014

Nespresso: The Creme de la Creme

Are you a Nespresso fan? I just became one. The Nespresso Aeroccino3 is now standing tall on my home coffee bar, all beautiful red and chrome, just waiting to whip up a frothy cream to top my coffee. It couldn’t be easier: Pour whole milk, half and half or Coffeemate liquid up to the measuring line, hit the button, and in less than 60 seconds you have hot, frothed creme de la creme. At $99 it’s a little pricey, but I love it and use it practically every morning for my first cuppa. It’s one of those gadgets that you wonder how you ever got along without. Nespresso is a Swiss company, part of Nestle, and a purveyor of all kinds of glamorous and expensive coffee devices you members of the Fictional Café will be eager…

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March 11, 2014

A Night at Rodeo Houston

March 5, 2013. I’m attending the School of Energy conference, learning about drill-bit hydrocarbons and the shale revolution here in Houston, the energy capital of America. A conference perk last night was Rodeo Houston. Around a hundred and fifty of us attendees piled into two big buses and went to Reliant Stadium, where we had our own box replete with food and drink. The view of the rodeo arena was awesome (see photo to the left), and the place is as huge as you’d expect of Texas. Above the arena was a display device with half a dozen high-def screens pointing every direction for closeup views of the action: saddleback bronc-riding, calf-roping, barrel racing in four-horse wagons…and death-defying bull-riding. A bull rider grips a a bull rope with one hand and has to stay astride the bucking beast…

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March 4, 2014

Tucson Festival of Books – Coming Soon!

The Tucson Festival of Books is one of the top book fairs and author events in the country, and this year I’ve been invited to participate! It runs over the weekend of March 15-16 in – yep, you guessed it, Tucson, Arizona (where it is certain to be warmer than Boston, where I live). I’m not just looking forward to my three workshop presentations, but to meeting a few of my favorite authors from among the 2,000 who will be in attendance. Maybe you’ll drop in and I’ll get to meet you, too! I’ll be doing a solo workshop, “Writing Fiction for First-Time Authors.” I get to do this one because I’m not a first-time author any longer – not with the publication of Madrone, the sequel to Wild Blue Yonder, being published next month…

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May 29, 2013

The World’s First iPod?

    I watched a 1960 black-and-white Hammer Film, “Stop Me Before I Kill,” and couldn’t help but notice the main character, played by Claude Dauphin, donning this portable transistor radio.   It’s in a leather case and designed to be worn around the neck, as he’s doing in this scene in the kitchen with his wife, played by Diane Cilento.   I think he’s listening to a cha-cha.

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May 25, 2013

J. D. Salinger and the Cult of Celebrity

Did you know that once upon a time, books were published without an author biography or photo? Why do you suppose? The straightforward answer is that the work – the book – was intended to stand on its own. What the author wrote about, and the way it was written, was sufficient. We, the readers, appreciated – or rejected – a book for what it was, not who the author was, or how much of the author’s real life played a role in the story. The character was a character, and the author was the author. Of course, that’s all changed. Now, in many cases, a large number of people care more about the author’s personal life than what’s in the books they write. The exception being if it’s an autobiography or a memoir. If…

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May 21, 2013

What’s Your Favorite Coffee?

Welcome to the Fictional Café! Serendipitously, the New York Times published an article, “Coffee Rites and the Stories They Tell,” just the other day. The writer quotes from a book entitled Buzz by Stephen Braun, who writes that caffeine is akin to “putting a block of wood under your brake pedal.” I like that. I like guys who are funny and write books and drink coffee. Even those who write books about coffee. Braun says he sometimes takes “coffee vacations,” which I would never personally risk, but always has a cup of Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend when he gets back on the wagon. That’s one of my personal favorites, too. In my little community, we have a Peet’s, a Starbucks, a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Panera, and a bike shop where you can get the best,…

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