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Archive for September, 2009

Review of World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review of World War Z

The zombie apocalypse is over. The world has come back from the brink of destruction in this gripping account of the zombie war by author Max Brooks. Each chapter is an interview conducted by (Max Brooks), and is recounted in the voice of the interviewee, with rare interruptions by Mr. Brooks. I listened to the audio book on CD in my car. I believe that the CD’s are better than the book. Why? Because we get to hear the accents of the interviewees. The actors doing the voices are A-list, and do a remarkable job of conveying the emotion of the story. The interviews are all fantastic, especially the one about Paul Redeker, the ex-apartheid official who helped save South Africa. I listened to that one twice. I also really enjoyed the interview of the Iranian pilot. The characters interviewed run the gamut from grunts on the ground to high-up officials from various countries. Each story is great in its own way, and only a few times did I get out of the story, and thought:an actor is reading this. The audio book I bought was only $14.99 at Borders, but it was slightly abridged. I’d like to get the book and see what I missed.

The social commentary in this work is thought provoking, though you may not even realize what Brooks is hinting at while listening/reading the book. One clever touch is taking famous figures from today, though Brooks doesn’t name names, and skewering them for what he imagines they would do if the zombie war became real. He also points out how some countries would contribute to the catastrophe because of their nature—namely, China, Iran, India, Israel, South Africa, and the United States.

If you love this book, or are interested in it, you must read the free online stories called Tales from the Zombie War (search online and you’ll find it), which take us deeper into the zombie apocalypse.

World War Z was highly entertaining and totally worth the time to either read, or listen to it.

Paul Genesse
Author of The Dragon Hunters
http://www.paulgenesse.com

View all my reviews >>

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Enduring Friends

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(Scott Kennison and Paul Genesse, in Scott’s back yard in Boise, Idaho)

Why does coming from the same place seem so important to many of us? Why do we ask most of the people we meet where they’re from, and get so excited when we find out they are from somewhere nearby our home town? Does it matter that much? Is there some stronger bond with the people you went to high school with compared with your friends now? I loved so many of the people in my graduating class from Beatty high school, and I got to visit with several of them this past weekend when I visited Boise, Idaho. Many people from Beatty moved to Boise.

So, I combined a book tour gig, (teaching writing at five schools, signing books at Borders at the Boise mall, seeing The Killers in concert) and visiting with friends.

I visited six “enduring” (not old!) friends that I went to Beatty High School with: Alan Johnson (class of ’93); Alan’s sister Amy Johnson (class of ’94); Misty Merritt (class of ‘92 with me); Scott Kennison (class of ’92); Dave Myers (class of ’92); Angie Merritt (Misty’s little sister—class of ‘95) and Angie’s husband—also from Beatty. Angie’s husband is named Steve, and he graduated in ’97—I think. He’s a cool guy, but I never knew him in Beatty, as he was much younger than I was. Steve can fix almost anything and is a competitive motorcycle rider. I even got to visit with Misty and Angie’s parents. They looked good and it was cool seeing them.

They all ended up living in the Boise area—except Dave Myers, who drove from Portland, Oregon for the day. It was such a great gathering and we had a wonderful time. We had pizza, played Frisbee golf with all the kids, then most of us ate at Wingers. We ended up spending hours together, getting to know everyone’s spouses and kids—and of course reminiscing about Beatty—a tiny town in the middle of frakking nowhere. It was 120 miles to Las Vegas. Living there cemented a bond and now that we’re all more mature, it’s easier to put things into perspective.

My three classmates, Dave, Misty, and Scott were good friends growing up, as was Alan and his sister Amy. Angie and Steve were much younger, and I actually coached Angie when she was in Junior High basketball. She was a spitfire then, and still is. Angie has two kids and works in a dental office cleaning kids’ teeth. She also works in oral surgery a couple of days a week in a hospital, and on the side, Angie and her husband own a cleaning business and work hard at it. I’m very impressed with them. For fun, Steve and Angie they ride motorcycles. They own at least nine of them, and have the scars and injuries to prove it! Like me, they’re also fans of mixed martial arts, and we had some fun conversations about that. Angie’s older son is 16 (I didn’t meet him) and her daughter, Shantelle is in 4th grade. Shantelle is a strong-willed kid and I loved hanging out with her. She throws a mean Frisbee and is way too smart and beautiful—a truly frightening combination. Angie and Steve admit that they are big trouble. (grin)

Misty is the president of the educators association in Nampa school district, in Nampa, Idaho—an administrator/trainer type with lots of responsibilities. She’s married, with two really good kids, Nick and Erick, ages three and eleven. I enjoyed seeing them and playing in the park. Misty took me to five schools where I taught writing. Getting to hang out with her was awesome. She’s been asked to run for the state senate of Idaho, but declined because of her family commitments. Maybe someday she will, and I will totally work on her campaign. Misty is still the easy to get along with gal, with a keen intellect and a warm heart. She fights the good fight and I know she has impacted countless lives in a positive way. She loves the kids and I have such deep respect for her. Her husband, Andy, is a cool guy as well.

Alan Johnson has three kids and one more on the way. He’s still the gentle giant, coaching his son’s football team, taking care of the kids, and his talented wife Cindy—who plays the piano when she’s not programming computers at work. She’s the go-to gal at her company. Alan worked as a program manager for an IT company, but the bad economy gave him and about 12,000 other people more free time—for the moment. Alan was always a great friend and I’m so glad he’s liking my Iron Dragon Novels. His son, Brandon likes them a lot as well. Oh, Alan has a beautiful daughter named Jaina, pronounced like the Jaena in my book—though he says he didn’t name her after my character. Alan lives one house away from his sister, Amy and her husband Rob (they’re both accountants). Their kids play together and they live in a good neighborhood in Nampa. I love Amy, and it was so great seeing her. She was always a star in sports and academics. I was her coach and cheerleader much of the time, cheering her on when she ran the two-mile in track, or got tough rebounds in basketball. I’m so glad Amy’s life has turned out to be great.

Scott Kennison went to Beatty high his senior year, then moved back to Boise, and married a wonderful girl named Virginia. They have beautiful children. Virginia is Latina and Scott is half-Japanese, so their two girls are gorgeous, and their little boy, is way too cute. I loved hanging out with him. They all have very gentle personalities and I stayed with them for two nights at their gorgeous house near downtown Boise. I think Scott has an awesome family, and he’s a good dad, very patient with all his large extended family, as well as his kids. I do envy him, though he has had to endure some tough times. He still looks the same as he did in high school (except for the goatee!) Scott and I were friends in elementary school and junior high, then he moved away from Beatty and came back for his senior year. We were on different paths then, me being in sports, and him just getting through to graduation. I’m so glad we connected after all these years. Facebook and my novels helped bring us together and I’m so glad they did. Getting to know Scott again and talking about our experiences growing up in Beatty were priceless. We know what it was like living in such a small town, knowing all the same kids and adults, and that shared experience gives us such a connection. We understand each other in a way that few others would.

Dave Myers is an engineer who oversees manufacturing operations involving building semi-conductors and various high-tech items. Now he’s doing consulting work for Intel and lives in Portland, Oregon, with his beautiful wife, Suzanne. He went to nuclear school in the navy and worked on a submarine for years running the reactor. He also grew about four inches after high school! Did the radiation cause some kind of mutation? Who knows. Now Dave is very strong, is in fighting shape (he does mixed martial arts), and is still very witty and funny. I would describe him as quite dashing! Dave is an avid motorcycle rider and an adrenaline junkie. He was always a good friend, but keeping in touch was difficult after high school. Now with the internet, it’s so much easier. I’m really glad he’s been enjoying my books and short stories. That means a lot to me and it was great seeing him this weekend. Like me, he undertook a nearly 400 mile drive for the reunion. I completely agree with what Dave said toward the end of our evening together, “I enjoyed the reunion even more than I thought I would.” I think we were all pleasantly surprised with how much fun we had.

Enduring friends are perhaps easier to have now a days, especially with Facebook, blogs, and email. We didn’t have the internet when we graduated high school back in 1992, but now it seems quite easy to keep up with your friends. Sure, there are some people from high school you never want to see again, but there are others you really do want to see. I also think that some of the people from high school that I didn’t necessarily get along with then, would be good friends of mine now. I think that most of us are more mature now and can see past the petty squabbles and rivalries from high school.

In the end, I think it does really matter where you come from. That shared experience during those crucial formative years is huge. Finding out how people turned out turns out to be quite amazing and fascinating. This weekend I saw six examples of how well some of my friends turned out. I had high hopes for all of them and I was so impressed how all of them turned out.

Now, I can’t wait for the next gathering and am absolutely positive it won’t take 17 years for the next one.

Paul Genesse
Author of The Golden Cord, tag line: “Some bonds can never be broken.”
http://www.paulgenesse.com

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School Visits in Idaho

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My good friend, Misty Koeppen is the president of the educators’ associations in the Nampa school district, which is just outside Boise, Idaho. She’s one of their very cool administrators, and was able to take me to five elementary schools, Park Ridge, Central, Endeavor, Lake Ridge, and Owyee. We had only an hour at each school, which made getting to know the kids, answering their questions, and then teaching them a mini-writing workshop very challenging, but still very fun.

The kids were wonderful, as were the teachers, and I know made an impression at each school. Since I don’t have any kids, making connections with those kids, and getting to interact with them was very special for me. I hope they love reading more, and love writing more since I visited them. I sure hope so. The stories we created together during the workshops were lots of fun.

Getting to sign posters for them was also very rewarding. I wish I would have had more time to personalize a poster to each of them, but time moves so fast and sometimes you just have to take a bow, and hit the road.

I had such a great time in Idaho, and I’ll post about seeing several enduring friends that I haven’t seen in 17 years, (since high school) in another blog, coming soon. Going to see those friends was the real reason I went to Idaho—well, and for the famous potatoes . . .

Paul Genesse
Author of The Dragon Hunters
http://www.paulgenesse.com

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(photo from my cell phone)

What a fantastic show! It’s in the top two shows I’ve ever seen. The Killers, of which I’m not a huge fan, but a fan, played a concert in the Qwest theater, (September 25, 2009) while I was in Boise. The venue was a perfect size, not that big and I had an excellent seat. My buddy, Scott Kennison, an enduring friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in like 17 years, had an extra ticket and we went while I was visiting Boise on a little pre-book tour. The big one starts on October 19 and goes for 3.5 weeks.

The show was high energy right from the start and the lead singer was on fire. The lighting, stage-effects (confetti cannons, falling sparks), and the band, totally rocked. The base player was top-notch and the energy was amazing. One song would finish and the next one would begin less than a second later. It was exhausting at times as we were just being assaulted by kick-ass music, (great drumming) with no breaks. Almost no slow songs. A few songs would start out slow, with the lead singer on the keyboard, then it would just explode with sound and energy. I was thoroughly impressed. They took a short encore and then came back for two more songs. The whole concert was about 90 minutes and was of a perfect length. I heard the Salt Lake City show, the next day had some technical difficulties (25 minute delay to fix a dangling light) and the sound wasn’t good in the E Center. I’m so glad I saw them in Boise. The crowd was pumped, the band was crazy good, and the music was awesome.

I’m now a huge fan and will go and see them every time they tour. Getting to see the show with my good friend, Scott, made it even more special.

Paul Genesse
Author of The Dragon Hunters
http://www.paulgenesse.com

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Photo by Jessica Montana Ballard (courtesy of Wasatch Theatre Company) featuring Tim Butler (Jason Lurcher) with the devil-possessd Tolstoy puppet in “Hands Up!”

Here are the headlines I came up with:

EPIC PUPPET-FUSION MUSICAL FLIES LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL!

DEVIL-POSSESSED BAT PUPPET RUNS AMOK, MURDERS RIVAL PUPPETS!

Yes, all the headlines are true. Get this, I went to a PG-13 play tonight performed by a community theater group, the Wasatch Theatre Company in their annual Page-To-Stage festival. It was so crazy and funny. The story is an adaptation of a bestselling book, The Good, the Bat and the Ugly by British author Paul Magrs. The play opened September 12 and plays again on September 25 and 27 of 2009. The $15 ticket price admits theatre goers to all three shows which includes Short Shorts by local playwrights, and another new play, Making Waves. For complete information, visit http://www.wasatchtheatre.org or http://www.arttix.org.

Mary Anne Heider, a librarian at the Salt Lake City main library, helped turn the book into a gigantic musical extravaganza. She recruited George Plautz, who wrote the lyrics for the songs, Rick Plautz and Matt Heider who composed the music, and of course the actors brought it all to life.

I’ve never seen anything this insane before. The very talented cast sang, danced, and ran wild for two and half hours! It was long (one ten minute intermission), but oh so funny. One actor would play a puppeteer (all puppeteers are “bonkers” by the way), while another actor wearing all-black stood beside them holding the puppet, and doing the voice of said puppet.

The star of the show was Tolstoy, the long-eared bat puppet possessed by the devil, played masterfully by Scott Allen Curry—a co-director of the play. Tolstoy does his best to turn sixteen year old Jason Lurcher (played by Tim Butler) toward evil. Unlike the picture above, Butler wore Harry Potter glasses and a funny wig during the show. The play chronicles poor Jason’s journey to follow in his infamous puppeteer father’s footsteps. The big questions for me are: Will Jason go mad like his father did before him? (and) Which puppet will be murdered next?

The whole cast did a great job, but the stand-outs for me were thirty-year veteran actress Sallie Cooper, playing Jason’s mother, (Eilene “mum” Lurcher who yearns for stardom on the “tele”). Also, Scott Curry as Tolstoy made the show.

The writing was extremely witty, and often hysterical. The music, by Matt Heider, and Rick Plautz was top notch. Overall, the play reminded me of watching the The Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time.

Hands Up! just blew my mind, though I admit it took me a few minutes to get into what was going on. Once I understood the absolute lunacy of the show, I loved every batty minute of it.

Paul Genesse

Author of The Dragon Hunters

Book Two of the Iron Dragon Series

http://www.paulgenesse.com

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Review of The Green Dragon Codex

Green Dragon Codex (The Dragon Codices) Green Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Green Dragon Codex

The action and intensity never let up in this strong addition to the Dragon Codex series. The writing style is tight and very well done. Readers unfamiliar with the world of Dragonlance get an excellent primer in this adventure novel aimed at kids, though the adults will probably enjoy it too. This is the darkest of all of the Codex books, and discusses the terrors of war and the aftermath of the conflict that recently engulfed the land. Darkness aside, (which I like) the book features a very positive and funny main character, a boy named Scamp who finds himself in the middle of a very serious situation. Scamp finds a chest with the egg of a green dragon and like any young boy, immediately wants to keep the little wyrmling when everyone tells him he cannot.

Scamp and his dour brother, Mather, and their friend Dannika, begin an adventure to save the baby dragon. They also want to find out what is so important about the other item in the chest with the egg. It’s quite a crazy adventure with all the trappings of a classic fantasy.

The villains of the book, the dragon slayers hunting the baby green dragon, could have been more competent—as dragon slayers should be in my opinion—but the slayers did have one surprise I wasn’t expecting. No, I’m not going to ruin it here.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones with the adult dragons. Also, the climactic ending features a very unique and funny way to attack a dragon. The main character, Scamp is quite the resourceful hero, and kids will really enjoy his sense of humor and adventure.

The Dragon Codex books have been a lot of fun, and this one, by Clint Johnson (the house name for the series is R.D. Henham), is an excellent addition to the line about everyone’s favorite fantasy creature . . . dragons.

Paul Genesse
Author of The Dragon Hunters
Book Two of the Iron Dragon Series
http://www.paulgenesse.com

View all my reviews >>

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Hello,

I went to a book signing and writing-workshop tonight at the South Towne Barnes and Noble in Sandy, Utah. I picked up a copy of The Green Dragon Codex by R.D. Henham, who is actually Clint Johnson this time around. R.D. Henham is the house name used in the Dragon Codex series.

Clint signed books for an hour, then he presented a writing-workshop for two hours in the B&N café. There were fifteen of us, and Clint did an excellent job making us all think, beginners and published writers alike. I’ve heard him on panels a few times and really admire his teaching ability, which is why I went.

He called the presentation: Triple Duty Writing, using characterization to accomplish multiple things in your writing.

The idea is that all of your writing, each paragraph of your work can use characterization to set the scene and advance the plot. Sometimes, we just do one thing. We write a page of description (boring), or focus purely on characterization (too one dimensional), or we advance the plot (not satisfying enough). By doing all of those things with characterization you make the work stronger.

A couple of good points he made: A great way to reveal character is to show how they respond to other characters. Also, setting and plot are catalysts to cause the character to change. One of the main techniques is a character commenting on their environment, internally or externally. Clint made so many points, and I can’t rehash them all here, but then he gave us a ten-minute writing assignment. He let us choose from four scenarios and told us to use characterization to reveal who the character was, emphasizing the character by how they respond to the setting/event. I picked this one: a reporter finds a body that washed up on a beach.

Here’s what I wrote:

Tiny red crabs swarmed on the man’s dead body, crawling up the strands of seaweed that wrapped around him like funeral linen. Pristine Mexican beaches, right. The only thing that kept the tacos and margaritas I’d just had at the Buena Vista hotel was that the sea covered most of the smell. As a reporter working out of San Diego I’d seen corpses pulled out of the sea, but never after they’d been in the water for this long, and then on beach for maybe longer. Coming south of the border to get away from work as a crime reporter seemed like the dumbest idea I’d ever had, and I’d actually married Sofi twice. All I had wanted to do was have a few drinks, find an empty stretch of beach to work on my novel. Now I was in reporter mode wondering who in name of Jesus Christo this dead amigo was.

Some of us read our passage aloud and we discussed the techniques we used. It was a good assignment and there were some good insights given to all who shared their attempt.

Then, we had our next assignment. Rewrite the passage with an entirely different character. Here’s what I wrote.

Tiny red crabs swarmed on the dead man’s feet, crawling up the strands of seaweed that wrapped around him like wet newspaper. Another good day, Dirty Juan thought as he dragged the fresh corpse out of the waves. Mexican beaches had been rich pickings since the bendejo Americanos had started sinking boats of refugees heading north. The dead usually had their whole life savings strapped to their inner thighs with duct tape and that’s where he would look first on this one. Too bad it took a stack of pesocreds to buy a months worth of tortillas and beans. It didn’t matter that much to Dirty Juan. He could always find something to eat on the beach. Once you ground up the meat, and put on some salsa, it tasted almost liked pork.

I never got to read the last one aloud, whew!

Anyway, Clint did a great job and I’m really enjoying his new book, The Green Dragon Codex. Check out his website at http://clintjohnsonwrites.com/.

Best wishes,

Paul Genesse
Author of The Dragon Hunters
http://www.paulgenesse.com

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