Friday, February 28, 2014

Feel Good Friday: February 28, 2014

Last week, I wrote how I cut back on news about a year ago in a quest to improve the happiness and peace in my life. I really enjoyed the comments and interaction that came from that, with most people saying they've done the same thing with similar results.

However, some disagreed. One of them stated that I now filtered the world through rose-colored glasses, which was "an equal crime." I don't want to argue, because I do understand his point, but I did want to explain myself.

When I said I cut back on the news, I didn't mean I cut it all out. I don't want to be ignorant of reality or of candidates when voting season comes around. Last November, I spent a great deal of time studying the candidates and their platforms for the election, and I walked in to the voting booth confident and informed. I didn't pick my vote based on who had the largest or prettiest sign, because ignorant voters do infuriate me.

I also recognize that bad things happen in the world. I've studied and have a fascination with history. I still tune in to the headlines to keep informed of current issues. I can still hold my own and defend my political point of views when these topic comes up.

I'm not suggesting that one should embrace ignorance to find happiness. I'm suggesting that the current format of news is negative and doesn't inspire the best of humanity. Instead, it focuses on stories that inspire fear, distrust, and the crisis of the moment. Cutting back on this has made me a happier person, and hopefully a better person too.

That said, here's another video I found that lifted my spirits, ironically from the news! It's a reminder how sharing oneself with others, even if for a few minutes, can make a huge difference to that one person.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Author Interview with Bonnie Gwyn

Book Synopsis

Christina has grown up literally ‘sheltered’ in a sanctuary run by mysterious Officials who offer safety in exchange for captivity. She’s already suspicious of the Officials when she meets Tyler Andrus, commander of the T-Squad: a group of rebels on a quest to destroy the sanctuaries and bring light back into the world.

Having yearned for freedom all her life, she joins them in a journey of hope, terror, and self-discovery.

Buy it here from Amazon.

Author Bio

Bonnie Gwyn wrote her first book, about a talking grandfather clock, when she was six – and hasn't stopped writing since. In fact, she can’t “not write,” and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She hasn’t missed a day of writing in her journal for the past four years!

As a winner in this year’s National Novel Writing Month challenge, Bonnie produced her latest dystopian novel, Escaping Safety, and is now working on its sequel. She is also close to completing a fantasy romance series, The Legends of Elldamorae, whose characters have captured her heart and can’t wait to have their stories revealed.

Bonnie’s mantra is, “I write because I believe every story deserves to be told.”

Learn More about Bonnie Gwyn

Bonnie's Facebook Page
Bonnie's Twitter Tweets and Twitterly Things
Bonnie's Blog
Bonnie's Pinterest

Author Interview

James Duckett: I've got one... two... three... three and a half.... thirteen question for you!

Bonnie Gwyn: Oh my! Okay. :)

James: 1) Does it bother you that I now hold your destiny in my hands?

Bonnie: Not in the slightest! After all, you're a superhero. (...Sorry for revealing that publicly. Hehe)

James: It's okay, I have full editing capabilities. Sure, it's your interview, but it's my blog. 2) Did I read this right. Did you just write this during the last NaNoWriMo?

Bonnie: Yes. :) Which is why I fully admit to insanity.

James: That's amazing. Okay, 3) What inspired you to write this story?

Bonnie: It started off as a really tiny idea - two nights before NaNo. :) I was thinking about what it would be like if people lived in different kinds of bubbles. I kept thinking on it, and I was scared to death - because I didn't have any plans and it was entirely out of my usual genre - but I just went with it. It honestly just grew a mind of its own.

James: 2 days of prep before NaNo? Amazing, and completely explains the insanity. 4) Dogs or cats?

Bonnie: Cats!

James: Wrong! You lose a point.

Bonnie: They're evil. I like them. ;) Hehe

James: 5) Do you have a particular writing ritual or any interesting habits while writing?

Bonnie: Not sure about rituals. :) I do tend to plug in one CD or playlist and stick with it through the entire thing. Kind of sets the pace. But mostly, it's all about identifying with the characters and finding a message to portray. :) And making sure my work station (aka bed) is as messy as possible. Kidding ... kidding ... but it always seems to turn out that way!

James: Ahhh... I was impressed with your messy bedesk scenario. Expectations shattered!

Bonnie: Oh, but of course there's sprinting! :)

James: Oh, then side question. Do you sprint with iWritenetwork or another group of sprinters?

Bonnie: I used to do it with them. :) I got started with that group and then started sprinting with different buddies. I do want to go back, though! My favorite place to sprint is on Virtual Write-In.

James: Question F) This seems written like it is an intended series. Do you have a certain number of books in mind for this series?

Bonnie: It's a trilogy. :)

James: VII) Do you outline or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Bonnie: I outline a few scenes ahead, but rarely more than that. :) I keep a list of future scenes at the bottom of the file in bold, so I just move from one to the next.

James: 1000) During the zombie apocalypse, what is your weapon of choice?

Bonnie: Sword!

James: Ah, the sword. I'll give you back the point I took for the feline answer above.

Bonnie: Oh the relief!

James: NEUN) I just have to ask: Do you remember anything the talking grandfather clock said?

Bonnie: Honestly... nope! But if I really look, I think I could find the book. :) I may have a picture of him on my computer. Do you want it for the interview?

James: HECK YEAH!! That would rock! 


James: Does that say Winkler? As in my hero, Henry Winkler?

Bonnie: Not on purpose, but yes, his name is Winkler! :)

James: Okay, I'll give you a lot of points for that one. Bravo! And a cookie, next time I see you. Which is rarely, so I get a LOOONG time to figure out how to cook a cookie.

Bonnie: Hehe. Oh dear. Hopefully you won't have to replace your stove! ;)

James: 10) If Escaping Safety gets turned into a movie, do you have any actors or actresses in mind to play Christina and Wolf?

Bonnie: I honestly have a very hard time deciding on what exactly my characters look like. I think Errol Flynn reminds me a little of Wolf. ;)

James: Amazing, I envisioned him as Wolf, too. That's awesome! Like the Robin Hood Errol Flynn.

Bonnie: Christina reminds me of the girl in Phantom of the Opera, Emmy Rossum... and she happens to play a Christine. How weird.

James: Haha! I had nothing on Christine, but that is pretty funny. Carrie-Anne Moss came to mind for Lexi. Eleven) Coke or Pepsi?

Bonnie: Neither. I don't do caffeine. :)

James: No caffeine? Okay, I guess we can skip the red wine/white wine questions...

Bonnie: You should have known to skip that already. ;)

James: Okay, then... A&W or Barq's? (Tip, Barq's is the incorrect answer)

Bonnie: It's obviously A&W! ;)

James: Ding, ding,ding!! 12) What's next? A sequel? A new book?

Bonnie: Working on the sequel. :) Not as far in as I'd like to be, but pressing forward just the same. :)

James: So this one might take a little more than 30 days?

Bonnie: Sadly, but I want to write the third for the next NaNo if possible. :) My goal is both books written this year!

James: And question #13... Boxers or Briefs?

Bonnie: Uh, boxers. Not that this applies to me at all!

James: Okay, I'm adding up all the points and you come out to a.... hold on... carry the 3... subtract the giraffe points... multiply by Thursday. Okay, you got 1,337 points! I'm not sure what you win, or if this is even any good, because you're the first interview I've scored. I didn't get you crying, unfortuantely, so I should actually take away points. Too late now, I guess.


James: Crying dog... hmmmmm... I'd give you a ton of points, but you're a cat person, so... we'll keep you at 1,337 points.

Blog Tour

This is a blog tour. You can see other interviews and snippets at the links below: 

Sunday – February 23
Monday – February 24
Tuesday – February 25
Wednesday – February 26
            Renee Clark
Thursday – February 27
Friday – February 28
Saturday – March 1

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Book: Eye on Orion by Laura Bastian

My friend, Laura Bastian, just came out with her first book. I haven't had a chance to read this yet, but if it is half as good as some of her unpublished works, this should be a very enjoyable read. Laura's characters and world building is a lot of fun, and this is firmly hitting my to-read list.

Laura's Author Bio 

Laura grew up in a small town in central Utah and now lives in another small town in northern Utah. She always loved stargazing and imagining life outside her own little world. Though they grew up only thirty miles apart, she didn't meet her husband until they went to college. A graduate of Utah State University with a degree in Elementary and Special Education, Laura has been using that training as she raises her children and writes make believe worlds. You can usually find her on her laptop either typing away, or on social media interacting with friends.

Eye on Orion

Falling in love with your gorgeous new neighbor isn't a bad thing, but when he turns out to be the bodyguard of a princess from a planet nine billion light-years away, life gets complicated.

Seventeen-year-old stargazer Holly Adams never imagined she’d find herself trying to prevent the overthrow of an alien government. When Jai and his sister Amira move into the house down the street, Holly is immediately drawn to them. Jai acts suspicious of her from the start, making Holly more curious about their oddities. When Holly learns they are from a different planet, she does what she can to help protect Amira from Shander, a man who wants to marry her by force in order to take over the kingdom her father rules. 

Mistaken identity, a botched kidnapping, and a first kiss that bonds Holly and Jai for life are hard enough, but when Shander believes Holly to be the princess, things get even more dangerous.

Excerpt From the Book

“Do you think there could be life out there somewhere on other planets?” he asked quietly.

“I do.” I rolled onto my side, and propped myself up with my elbow to see him better.



“Green?” he asked.

“No.” I smiled.

“Really? What makes you think there are others out there?”

“Why not?” I shrugged with one shoulder. “Why would God stop here? Why not make more? What about you? Do you think there is life out there on other planets?”

“I do.”

“Green?” I asked.

“No. And I am sure they are intelligent,” he said with a small smile.

“And what makes you think so?” I asked, returning the smile.

He rolled onto his back and looked at the sky. “Because with so much space, there has to be something else like Earth somewhere. It is just so far away you would never find it unless you knew where to look.”

“I wish I knew where to look.” I lowered myself onto my side, resting my head on my arm extended straight on the blanket. “The discovery of other worlds out there would be fantastic.”

He turned to face me again. “It would be.”

More Information / Links

You can purchase this book from Amazon by clicking on this line.
Laura's Facebook
Laura's Website

Monday, February 24, 2014

My Conversation This Morning

Too many of my morning start like this

Voice: Hey, James....

Me: *Snort* Huh?

Voice: Jaaaaaaaaaames, wake uuuuuuuuup.

Me: *Nonsensical words, I think the word "rabbit" was in there*

Voice: JAMES!

Me: Ah! What?

Voice: I have a lot of things to discuss with you. I thought since you'd been asleep for half the morning, now might be a good time.

Me: What--? Dude, Brain, it's four in the morning. Can't this wait?

Voice: No, now is perfect. I've got so much to say.

Me: No. Stop. Don't. Seriously, Brain, I'm going back to sleep.

Voice: So, I've been working on this plan on how to dominate the world. Want to hear it?

Me: Why would I want to take over the world? That sounds like a lot of extra work I don't want right now. Plus, I can barely keep a goldfish and house plants alive, why would anybody want me ruling the world?

Voice: Well, if we discuss it now, you can think on it and when you've got the spare time and motivation, BAM! World domination.

Me: Not interested.

Voice: France would fall first.

Me: Okay, I'm a little interested. However, I'm still more interested in sleep.

Voice: Okay, well, I've got other ideas. Want to hear them?

Me: Oh my gosh, Brain. I just want to sleep! Now leave me alone or, I swear on everything I'm worth, I will beat myself over the head with a hammer until you SHUT. UP. AND. LET. ME. SLEEP!


Me: Aaahhhhh, sleep. I'll just turn the pillow over to the cool side and--

Voice: --I think I'm going to call your bluff. I don't think yo--

Me: Fine! I'm up, I'm up. Let me pee first.

Voice: Yay!

Me: *Two minutes later* Okay, Brain. What did you want to tell me?

Voice: *Makes bodily fluid sound*

Me: What was that? Did you toot?

Voice: Toot? Don't be such a girly-man. I farted. Yes, I had a brain fart, and I forgot everything. Come to think of it, it might not have been too important in the first place. You can go back to sleep now.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Search for Happiness: Remembering The Goodness in Mankind

About a decade ago, I worked for a video news-clipping agency where I watched over 24 hours of news per workday (obviously, most of it was in fast forward). I noticed that most of the news was negative. After the sports and the weather, you might get treated to an uplifting human interest story right before closing the show. If you were lucky.

Same goes for online news. A glance at any news site will headline people dying, wars, financial ruins, scandals, political corruptions, fear, affairs, hatred, lies, gossip, and very little to make me happy.

I understand why they do it. The negative aspects of the world get people to tune in. It's a lot like writing; if your character is perfect and everything goes his or her way, your readers are going to close the book out of boredom... no matter how extravagant the prose, setting, or whatever else is in there. Unfortunately, in the news, they can lay it on a little thick. Well... a lot thick.

About a year ago, I decided to seize 90% of my news consumption. I still tune in to catch the highlights (for instance, there seems to be a lot of people playing sports in Russia this week), and I've found this decision to be a positive influence in my life. I'm happier. I worry less. I would actually recommend it if you are looking for an emotional pick-me-up.

Plus, I often run into videos like this. This is not in English, but really... it doesn't need to be.

Or this video of 24 photos that will restore your faith in humanity.

One of those photos was of these two girls, who decided that people were more important than winning a race. I say they both won a lot more in the end because of an unselfish act of kindness.

Or stories like this, where one woman ended up making a huge difference in several lives by an anonymous act of service.

And videos like this one that shows that walking an old lady across the street is an act that hasn't been forgotten.

Or videos that sum up what I'm trying to say perfectly in this video, that there are good and honest people out there.

In the world of instant and sensationalized media, it is easy to look at the world and see all the ugliness and hatred. It is easy to lose hope in humanity and miss the goodness the world has to offer. But I'm a big believer that their are more good people than bad... by a long shot. Yes, it isn't perfect and there are certain situations you should be cautious about, but it is far from lost. You just need to look for it.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Romantic Movies for Guys

Happy Valentine's Day.

While at LTUE today, Wendy Knight had asked this interesting question:

I'm in this panel right now, and they're saying that men want romance just as much as women, but they show that in different ways. I don't think I agree...or else wouldn't boys read romance novels? Thoughts? Opinions?

I replied something akin to, "It's true, we like it. We don't read romance novels because they aren't written for guys, they are written for girls. Since we are wired differently, we need it presented differently."

Wendy and one other person called me on it, saying that my answer was a little enigmatic, so I bumped into Wendy in the hallway and tried to explain myself. For coming up with it on a whim, I pat myself on the back, but I don't think I did a very good job. It went something like this:

"Romances are written for women in ways that women find romance attractive. They will spend pages and pages describing the characters, dedicating a full paragraph to the guy's belt and how/if it matched his shoes. Men aren't interested in that. We are more interested in the relationship itself, so when we read page after page after page of how hot and attractive the girl and guy is, we aren't all that interested."

In books I like that contain romance, there isn't such a focus on the looks. Harry Potter for example... not once did JK Rowling wax eloquently page after page about how Harry thought Ginny Weasley looked sexy or hot or anything. Ron and Hermione didn't spend chapter after chapter of them lusting after each other. But, I was glad to see both of those relationships form.

She seemed... somewhat convinced, but it got me thinking about it. Yes, I do like romances. Some of my most favorite movies are "Dan In Real Life" and "The Wedding Singer." All of these have the basic romantic formula (boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy loses girl, and they get together). So why does this work and not a Harlequin Romance or something like "Steel Magnolias"?

I think it comes down to two things.

First, and this might shock some (most? all? none?) of you, but I look nothing like Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Humphrey Bogart, or Matthew McConaughey. I like the story of an average Joe much more. Why? Because I can relate to him more. I can understand why they question themselves and if they are fit for the relationship. It seems that with the romance novels I see, and the movies that bring girls to tears, the cover has somebody like the names I just listed or Fabio. It isn't that I feel intimidated by them and it isn't that I'm jealous I'm not them (well, there might be some of that), but I just don't get emotionally invested in the movie. Steve Carell and Adam Sandler? I identify with them a lot more. They represent the everyman, and I love watching the everyman find happiness.

Second, the character arc. I can't stand it when men are expected to change for girls in romances. DRIVES. ME. CRAZY. Mostly because I think the change is not permanent in these relationships. I doubt the "forever after" doesn't end up so "happily". I like it more when a man changes BECAUSE of the romance or the plot of the movie, the girl accepts him for who he is (including all of his faults... looks included), and they end up together because they belong together.

So, here are some examples. Since it is Valentine's Day, I thought the women might enjoy this list of romance movies that men might enjoy watching with them.

Dan In Real Life

Steve Carell is the everyman who wins the affections of a girl. Yes, she is hot, but that isn't the only reason he likes her. He enjoys talking to her. They click. They get each other. The thing keeping them apart is family politics. At the heart of this film is the importance of family. The girl doesn't say, "I want you to be better looking and act a certain way" in order for him to be with her. The experience does have Dan examining his own life and become more honest with himself and those around him. The growth that comes from that (and his brother running off with the Pig Face) enables him to win the girl.

Plus, the movie is laugh-out-loud HILARIOUS!

The Wedding Singer

This time, Adam Sandler is the everyman who ends up falling for a girl who is engaged to be married. While watching the movie, we not only love every minute Adam is in front of the camera, but we come to realize that the girl is marrying a jerk. Sandler's character is reluctant to interfere because he thinks it will destroy her happiness. He also thinks that the reason he can't win the girl is because he needs to change from his simple life to be worthy of her. This is what I find interesting, Sandler DOES change to win the girl, or attempts to. The scene of him begging for a business card with his name on it had me roaring in laughter. He ends up turning into somebody that the girl despises. The truth is, she already accepted him for who he is and when he realizes this, he swoops in to save her from marrying a complete butthead. His growth only involved him accepting himself and getting inspired to use his talents on her behalf.

Forrest Gump

Forrest and Jenny, a match meant for each other since their childhood. She's forced away because of her relationship with her Dad, while he just does his own thing. Forrest is confused as to why Jenny doesn't love him, but he isn't forced to change or become smart or anything in order for Jenny to eventually return his love. If anything, Forrest is enduring because he maintains his childhood innocence and it is Jenny who needs to change, overcome her childhood problems, and grows up. I like that Jenny doesn't change FOR Forrest; she changes for herself and her son before she is ready to spend the rest of her life with him.


Yes, I admit, I liked this movie. Boy meets, likes, and marries girl only to get shot. He wants to still be with her and does everything he can to make it happen and help her move on with her life. He grew. She grew. They cut the bad guy in half with a plate of glass. Other than the awkward pottery scene, I enjoyed this movie very much, especially after Whoopie Goldberg's character hopped in. Granted, I don't look like Patrick Swayze, but this film didn't spend any time dwelling on how handsome he looked.

Ever After: A Cinderella Movie

Not all such stories need to be told from the male point of view. Barrymore is the everyman this time. Ha! Oddly, this breaks both of my rules for guy-friendly romances. The prince is handsome, and he needs to overcome his princely station in order to allow the relationship to succeed. I'll need to think about this one and why it is the exception. I suspect that it was because Barrymore's character didn't like the prince because of his looks, money, and power. She liked him because he wanted to help people and they had the same taste in books. I dunno... something to ponder, I guess.

Groundhog Day

Bill Murray... not that pretty. And here he has a very, very long day. The interesting thing about this is that the movie starts off with him being a complete jerk. If he had pursued the love interest at the beginning, I think everybody watching would cringe in fear. No, we didn't want that idiot to hook up with that nice girl. Throughout the movie, Murray's character changes a lot. His change even makes us want to change and make each day in our lives count. It isn't until he's changed and sees the goodness in Rita that we cheer for them to get together. He doesn't change for Rita, he changes because being good was the type of person he wanted to be.

The Princess Bride

To call this a romance is quite the stretch, but I just thought I'd put it in there. Cary Elwes is just a poor, loving farm boy who will do anything for the love of his life.

50 First Dates

Sandler again. And Barrymore. Very different formula. It's been a while since I've seen this, but I love how Sandler spends so much energy helping Barrymore have a better life. Her family doesn't want him involved, but I remember Sandler pointing out, "Hey, one day she's going to wake up and see that her face has aged a decade. You can't hide that. What about then?" Sandler helped her prepare for "about then".

And more

Hey, we like romance. We don't mind reading romances in a book. What we don't like is the feeling that we have to change in order to be worthy of a certain girl's attention.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Extending the Power Shower

If I'm not rushed in the morning, one of my favorite things is to take a nice, long, hot shower. Meanwhile, my time is broken down likewise (not in order, just a summation):

5 minutes - Cleaning myself
6 minutes - Re-enacting conversations I had the previous day, but I actually say stuff I should have thought of during the actual conversation.
5 minutes - Developing plans to establish world peace
2 minutes - Developing plans for taking over the world
5 minutes - Pondering the meaning of life
4 minutes - Plotting a novel or next blog post
3 minutes - Falling into a trance and letting my mind take me wherever I want to go

Yes, that's the ideal half an hour power shower. I don't get too many of these, but this morning I woke up feeling sick and skipped church, and such an experience was calling my name. While in my "Pondering the meaning of life" phase, I dwelled on why I love these showers so much. I came up with these answers:

1) It's nice, warm, and cozy; what isn't there to like?
2) The opportunity to let my mind brainstorm.
3) It clears my head.
4) Nobody is asking me to do anything.

Then I hit the "plotting my next blog post" phase, and decided to blog on my shower. Because, after all, wouldn't life be more wonderful if this thirty minutes could be experienced throughout the day--every day? Showering at my job isn't an option. Waking up early is seriously not an option (my water and gas bill would skyrocket). However, there are other options.

Nice and Cozy

I'm a huge fan of Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The seventh habit encourages everybody to take a chill pill now and then. Taking a minute to smell the roses sharpens the senses and makes the challenges of life more bearable.

I need to remember that it is okay to do something for yourself now and then. Not only do you owe it to yourself, but such activities make you better at everything else in life.

As an introvert, cuddling up with a good book, watching a fun show or movie in my man cave, and getting plenty of rest does wonders for me.


I'm not exactly sure how to expand this more than usual. Maybe it will need to be reserved for these showers or anytime I'm surrounded by similar-thinking individuals who can help me with the evaluation. Anybody have any ideas?

I do a lot of brainstorming when I drive, too. Maybe I'm already doing more of this without thinking about it.

Clearing the Head

I've been reading about meditation, and I'd like to give it a go sometime. Benefits include things like:

- Clearing the head
- Improved concentration
- Increased health
- Increased happiness
- Decreased stress

I'll try to fit it in now and then and report back one way or the other. Sadly, the shower seems the best place to get this in, as meditation seems to not be something that can be forced. I don't know... we'll see.

Nobody is Asking Me to do Anything

I've actually been more conscious of this lately and have taken a few steps to help out with this.

1) During my lunch break, if I can, I go for a walk. I bring my phone with me if I can't leave at exactly noon (I get too many phone calls when I'm expected to be around the office), but if I can get out the door at noon, I can leave it behind and enjoy a brief break. I can literally get away from it all! I'm within walking distance of the St. George temple, so I usually walk to it, circle around it, and then walk back to my office. It's a delightful 40 minutes that get me very, very close to the shower experience (minus the nice, warm, and cozy aspect). I can clear my head, de-stress a bit, and can usually returned re-energized and ready to conquer my workload. Part of it is the walk, a larger part of it is being left alone for a while.

2) I've turned off most notifications on my phone and computer. Email and social media notifications have been removed. I've even been turning off my Email at work, figuring if something is important I'll be getting a phone call and not an Email request. I still answer calls and texts, but the constant dinging of my cell phone telling me something just happened (which is usually inconsequential to the moment) was just too distracting. Well, now, it's gone, and I'm better for it.

3) I've been ditching my cell phone more often when I'm not working. Unless I'm expecting a call, I've been leaving my phone in another room from time to time. My cell phone is SUCH a ball n' chain most of the time, and this lets me periodically experience life without that anchor. If there's an emergency, you'll find a way to reach me, I'm sure. Hint: If I'm not answering my cell phone or texts, social media and Email isn't a way to reach me.

I know this might sound selfish, but it really isn't. I spend most of my day solving other people's problems, and little breaks like this recharge my batteries and make me a more productive. It isn't that I'm necessarily saying, "No!" I'm only saying--unless it's an emergency--"Not right now, please."

I think the world would be a better place if more people regularly sought out the power shower experience.