May 19, 2014

Bravery in a Windows 8 World

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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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May 4, 2014

Interview With Alex Hughes, Author of “Sharp” and “Clean”

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I had a chance to meet Alex at last year’s Willamette Writers Conference — of which both I and Fictional Cafe founder Jack are on the presenters’ staff for this year — and she was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions both about her work and the work. 1. Let’s start with the numbers. How many books did you write before writing “Clean?” How many queries did you send for “Clean?” How long had you considered yourself a writer before making the sale? Clean was my third completed novel. Clean was also my learning novel, on which I learned revision, scene structure, story structure, description, pacing, and a whole mess of other lovely and difficult things. By the time the final revision was done for the publisher, I’d taken it through eight drafts. Only a…

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April 11, 2014

Nespresso: The Creme de la Creme

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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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April 7, 2014

“Before We Met” by Lucie Whitehouse

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I loved “Gone Girl” and I like unconventional thrillers regardless of the writer’s gender. Gillian Flynn is clearly an accomplished writer who knows how to design or orchestrate, if you will, her novel. That is less obvious in Lucie Whitehouse’s “Before We Met.” The setting is a dull as a box of rocks, and the main characters are right out of [what I imagine to be] a soap opera. I won’t say they’re stick figures, but they are clearly being manipulated into their character traits and behavior by the author, and it shows. Hannah marries a guy without knowing a thing about him or his family beyond what he has told her; now, does that sound like a woman who has deep-seated trust issues? I shall not belabor this point, because I don’t want to…

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March 11, 2014

A Night at Rodeo Houston

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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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