Sunday, August 23, 2015

A CHAT WITH AUTHOR NICHOLAS AHLHELM

Today, THE FREE CHOICE E-ZINE welcomes author Nicholas Ahlhelm. Considering all the credits to your byline, let's start with your current project.

Author Ahlhelm
NICHOLAS AHLHELM: That would be Lightweight: Beyond, the third novel of that series, which is currently funding on Kickstarter. The novel continues the adventures of Kevin Mathis, the costumed hero known as Lightweight from his first two books which encompassed his first year as a super-powered hero. Volume Three transports him to new surroundings on the planet Nill where the more cosmic side of his universe will be expanded.
At the same time, back on Earth, the friends he left behind seek to continue his legacy, but their own work will uncover the secret history of another figure that used the Lightweight name in the 1940s.

TFCE: What incentives are available for contributors?
NICHOLAS: The Kickstarter has pre-orders available for the e-book and the print edition, as well as a wide variety of other rewards. People can receive t-shirts, special appearances in the book, original art by cover designer Brent Sprecher, and they even can create a villain for an appearance in a future Lightweight novel. For more information, just go HERE.

TFCE: Kickstarter has become a very popular fund raising tool for all sorts of projects. What attracted you to the program?
Book 1: Cover by Sprecher
NICHOLAS: I brought the character to Kickstarter just over a year ago and funded the first two volumes of his adventures, Lightweight: Senior Year and Lightweight: Black Death. Since that time, the book has become my most popular release as a writer. I am terribly proud of Lightweight and want to continue his adventures, but production costs for these books are more expensive than any other series I have published. Because of this, a successful Kickstarter is necessary to keep the character’s adventures alive. Lightweight: Beyond is the initial result and if the Kickstarter proves wildly successful, it will lead to Lightweight 4: Golden Age and Lightweight 5: Universal as well.

TFCE: So who is Lightweight, and how did he come to be?
NICHOLAS: Lightweight originated about 25 years ago when I was just a teenager. At the time, I was mostly looking for a unique power set to development a teenage superhero around. But in the years since, I’ve built more layers on to the character and really fleshed out his friends Millie Bryant and Andy Case. But even then, it still took me twenty years to finally make Lightweight’s adventures happen in a substantial form.
I’ve loved superheroes since I first watched Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and Super-Friends at three or four. They still constitute some of my earliest memories. They instilled a love for heroic fiction in me that grew through my entire life. I’ve written since I was young but it was only in the last few years that I have made a serious effort to bring my novels to the masses. I’ve written new pulp, action and super powered fiction for a variety of small presses now and have no plans to stop anytime soon.

Book 2: Cover by Sprecher
TFCE: Considering your love of superheroes, why writing instead of drawing or some other form of creative expression?
NICHOLAS: I think the shear number of ideas I have is my biggest inspiration. For every idea I put to paper I have a dozen others, so it really takes drive to bring each of my novels or short stories into existence. Sometimes that is harder to make happen than others in a straight prose medium, but I know that ultimately I am creating something I want to share with the world and that helps drive the effort of putting words to a computer screen.

TFCE: Have you observed any influences on your writing style?
NICHOLAS: My technique is a bit all over the place. I grew up a weird mix of Stephen King, Jane Yolen and Piers Anthony, but in later years the sparse dialogue driven prose of Robert B. Parker has really spoken to me. Dialogue is often my favorite part of writing and I think it is such a powerful force for story progression, overlooked or downplayed by many.

TFCE: What would you consider your dream project?
NICHOLAS: My dream project really is what I’m doing now. I can list characters I would like to write stories about, but I have a love for Lightweight and the other heroes that are set in my Quadrant Universe far greater than the heroes of movies, television, comics, or toys. Even when I do take on anthology work or get offered a licensed character, those are just side projects between new stories set in my own world that I want to see expand over the years to come.

TFCE: So within the next few years you would be continuing on your current path?
NICHOLAS: Definitely! I will continue writing and expanding the adventures of Lightweight and the rest of the heroes in his shared universe. I don’t foresee stopping that ever. Money and other considerations might speed or slow my output, but I doubt I will ever stop bringing new adventures to life.

TFCE: Then, do you have any side work pending?
NICHOLAS: There is my Walking Shadows online serial and the ongoing adventures of Quadrant. My main focus right now is Lightweight: Beyond, but I am always working on other things which people can find on my website.
And of course, everything can also be found on my Amazon author's page.

TFCE: Well then, we better let you get back to writing. Thanks for taking the time out to chat with us today.
NICHOLAS: My pleasure.

SUNDAY FUNNIES: C-O-F-F-E-E... (java jokes)

Hello everybody! Waxy Dragon here!

Now, despite all the time I have spent among human beings, there is one thing I have yet to understand.
You're fascination with coffee.

You folks drink it on a regular basis almost as often as water. If you have trouble getting up in the morning, try getting more sleep the night before!

Some of you drink decaf, which is supposed to be a little healthier, yet you folks dump so much other stuff like sweeteners, cream, and different flavorings into it that it's probably a rare event if you actually taste anything that resembles coffee.

The "innocent" beans
Now, I really can't blame you about that last part though. Out of curiosity, I have tried coffee before. It is one of the few foods that I love the smell of and can't stand the taste, which is really saying something considering how big an appetite dragons have to begin with. What is it about adding water to those beans that totally changes the taste?

Then again, I know that the raw beans don't taste any better, but how I know that is another story.

Of course, there's also espressos, lattes, iced coffees, which somehow defeats the purpose of having a hot drink if you ask me.
The list goes on and on and on...

Now, before I continue, I should point out that there are people who only drink this stuff in moderation. Maybe a cup or two at most over the course of a morning is their limit.

Then again, I have met people who are so into coffee that I'm surprised that they don't lick their coffee pots clean to get that very last drop.

It's those folks who probably search every pixel of Google Maps looking for "Maxwell House".

I'm surprised they don't introduce their spouses as their "Coffee Mates". Then again, that might be grounds for divorce.

It makes you wonder whether Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts owns the mortgage on their homes.

Then again, I certainly don't have much room to talk when it comes to me and Bulgosian (Dark) Chocolate!

In any event, that's all the space I have for this weekend. Have a great week and please be back here next weekend for more Sunday Funnies!—wd.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

THE WEEK IN REVIEW: AUGUST 16-22, 2015

IT'S MADRAS DAY IN INDIA.
AUGUST 25th IS THE 140th ANNIVERSARY OF MATTHEW WEBB COMPLETING THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL SWIM ACROSS THE ENGLISH CHANNEL.

AMONGST EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD THIS PAST WEEK...
*THOSE AROUND THE LELAND ISLANDS AND PUERTO RICO ARE ADVISED TO TAKE CAUTION AGAINST HURRICANE DANNY.
*Brazilians are demanding the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff over a bribery and corruption scandal.
*North Korea originally put its military on high alert as South Korea and the United States conducted joint military exercises. But then the alert was extended after the United States left and both sides briefly exchanged artillery fire.
*Fighting continues in and around Donbass between pro-separatist rebels and the Ukrainian military.
*Current Grecian Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has announced his resignation before calling for new elections in September. Meanwhile, Greece has been approved for its third economic bailout under new recovery plans.
*Ranil Wickremesinghe is the new Prime Minister of Sri Lanka.
*Two people in Poland think they might have found a Nazi "gold train" missing since the end of World War 2.
*Users of the pro extra-marital affairs website Ashley Madison claim they are now being blackmailed by whoever hacked that system.
*The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports
that July 2015 is officially the hottest month on record globally since that organization began record keeping in 1880.
*Australia defeated New Zealand to win the 2015 Netball World Cup.

TERRIBLE TERRORIST ACTIVITIES...
*It has been confirmed that Khaled al-Asaad, a Syrian archaeologist who was in charge of the UNESCO World Heritage site at Palmyra at the time of his death, was beheaded in a public spectacle by ISIS/ISIL forces.
*A bomb in Bangkok killed over 20 people with more than 100 injured. No one has yet to claim credit for this incident.
*ISIS/ISIL forces have seized Mosul, Iraq and allegedly executed 15 women afterwards.
*A suicide bombing in Attock, Pakistan killed 19 people, including the Punjab Province's Interior Minister Shuja Khanzada.
*There are over 150 confirmed deaths after the Boko Haram attack on Yadin Kukuwa, Nigeria.
*ISIS/ISIL forces have destroyed the historic Mar Eilan monastery in Syria.
*The United States has confirmed that ISIS/ISIL's second in command was killed by an American military airstrike August 18th. Whether or not it was the same airstrike that destroyed an enemy munitions factory is unknown.

PASSING PARADE...
*Yvonne Craig, (who originated the role of Batgirl, and played a host of other parts) has taken her last bow on life's stage.
*Jacob Bekenstein, a theoretical physicist of black hole thermodynamics is no longer with us.
*Director David A. Prior (Zombie Wars, Raw Justice, Deadly Prey) has passed away.
*Sylvia Hitchcock (Miss Universe 1967) is no longer with us.
*Actress Kitty McGeever (Emmerdale) has taken her last bow on life's stage.
*Producer Bud Yorkin (All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son) has left us.
*Actress Melody Patterson (F Troop, the original Hawaii 5-0) has passed away.

WITHIN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA...
POLITICALLY...
*Planned Parenthood has gone on the offensive against the Republican Party and all the negative attack ads which the GOP hopes will eventually defund and do away with the organization.
*There are concerned citizens in Texas that are hoping that any bias against people who prefer their own gender does not turn violent.
*Although the nominating conventions are still a year away before the actual 2016 Presidential campaign begins, the current front runners poll wise are Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump.
*Vice President Joe Biden is allegedly considering entering the contest for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
*After a sex scandal in the state legislature between Republican statesmen and female interns, Missouri's answer is to implement a new dress code for the ladies?
ELSEWHERE...
*The Environmental Protection Agency has issued new regulations regarding methane gas.
*The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that July 2015 is officially the hottest month on record globally since that organization began record keeping in 1880.
*The Internal Revenue Service reports that the May 2015 computer hack against that organization is bigger and deeper than first suspected.
*The United States Army has officially certified its first two female Rangers. Meanwhile, the United States Navy has announced it will soon start accepting qualified women into its SEALS training program.
*Former US President Jimmy Carter says his cancer is worst than first thought, but that he will still undergo treatment in hopes of a complete recovery.
*Former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle has pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing child pornography and having sexual relations with minors. He has agreed to a prison term and paying "restitution" to his victims.
*While The Free Choice E-zine sides with the victims in such circumstances, we also feel sorry for those Fogle's charitable foundation to combat childhood obesity might have helped, since the shadow of his crimes will outweigh any good that organization accomplished.
*Meanwhile, two more women have come forth to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault against them.
*WWE superstar John Cena will achieve a milestone Monday night when he becomes the first celebrity to honor his 500th request via the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
*To combat the rising costs of college expenses and laws that favor the banks instead of the students borrowing the money; the citizens of Baldwin, Michigan have pooled their resources to help every high school graduate go to a local college.
*Jason Day won the PGA Tournament of professional golf.

For more news at any time, either scroll down to our IN OTHER NEWS feature at the bottom of your screen or visit any other reputable news source.

THE PUZZLE CORNER: AUGUST 22, 2015

FUN FACT
Although officially never named in the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz, The Little Red Head Girl was referred to as Heather in the television special It's Your First Kiss Charlie Brown, which Schulz never considered part of the official Peanuts canon.


TRIVIA TIME
Author Ian Fleming is famous for creating British Secret Agent James Bond. But can you name the books Fleming wrote that did NOT feature Bond?

THE FIFTY/FIFTY CHANCE
Just like a regular TRIVIA TIME question, only there are just two possible answers, hence the even odds of getting it right. Ready?

TRUE OR FALSE: In the Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown's baseball team NEVER won a game.

We'll reveal all next weekend. But for now, let's open up THE ANSWERS BOX and reveal the results from the August 15, 2015 Puzzle Corner.

COMMON BONDS
The items within each subset below have something in common. Do you know what it is?

01. {Leigh Brackett, Roald Dahl}
And yes, we know they are both authors.
But both have also written the screenplays to famous movies!
02. {Pink, Jay Leno}
And yes, we know they are both celebrities, and that Pink was a musical guest during Leno's tenure as host of The Tonight Show.
Both worked in the fast food industry before becoming famous celebrities.

TRIVIA TIME
Two world capitals are named after Presidents of the United States of America.
One is obvious, but can you name them both?
Washington, DC for George Washington and Monrovia of Liberia for James Monroe.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

THE SUNDAY FUNNIES: PEOPLE... (celebrity quotes)

"Doggies love people!"
Hello Everybody! Autumn the Puppy here.

It's been a while since I've posted any celebrity quotes for you, and today's theme is one near and dear to my heart: people.

After all, they are a dog's best friend.

So let's get right to it and as usual, my comments are in italics afterwards.

"People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do."
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Famous writer of science fiction and science fact.
I'll be the first to admit that they can be quite trying at times, but I'm still my sweet humble self.


Beerbohm, circa 1901

"People who insist on telling their dreams are among the terrors of the breakfast table."
Sir Max Beerbohm (1872-1956) Essayist and caricaturist
I know exactly what you mean sir. The last thing my family wants to hear is me barking about my worst recurring nightmare: burying a big juicy bone and then forgetting where I hid it.

"You want people walking away from the conversation with some kernel of wisdom or some kind of impact."
Actor Harry Dean Stanton (1926-)
That's true. After all, Benjamin Franklin is accredited as saying "'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt."

"The great secret that all old people share is that your body changes, but you
don't change at all."
Doris Lessing (1919-2013) Novelist and poet.
So true. For me, it's the timeless magic of literature and Internet avatars.

Well, on that note, it's time for me to close this post.
Have a great week everybody and please be back here again next weekend for more Sunday Funnies!—AtP.

Beerbohm image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons media outlet.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

THE WEEK IN REVIEW: AUGUST 9-15, 2015

TODAY IS INDEPENDENCE DAY FOR THE CONGO AND INDIA.
NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA CELEBRATE LIBERATION DAY.
AUGUST 16th IS CHILDREN'S DAY IN PARAGUAY.
AUGUST 18th IS THE 95th ANNIVERSARY OF THE 19th AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION, GIVING WOMEN THE RIGHT TO VOTE.

AMONGST EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD THIS PAST WEEK...
*It is suspected that North Korean Vice Premier Choe Yong-Gon has been executed by his own government.
*The Iraqi Parliament has approved Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's suggestion of eliminating the positions of Deputy Prime Minister and Vice President, amongst other anti-corruption measures.
*Pope Francis has declared September 1, 2015 "Care For Creation" Day.
*The United States Embassy in Havana has officially (re)opened for business.
*The People's Bank of China has devalued the Chinese Yuan in hopes of stimulating the local economy.
*The new economic bailout plan for Greece has been officially approved.
*Desi Bouterse has officially begun his second term as President of Suriname.
*South Korea has established a base on Baengnyeongdo, its northern most island, to deter possible North Korean activity towards them.
*The ongoing heatwave in the Middle East has killed an estimated 60 people in Egypt.
*A McDonald's in France has apologized for telling its employees not to give out food to tramps.
*The debate over a possible new national flag for New Zealand has been narrowed down to 40 possible designs.
*A living night parrot has been found in the Australian Outback for the first time in over 100 years!

THE RUSSIAN REPORT...
*Russia and Saudi Arabia have failed to reach a cooperative agreement on how to deal with ISIS/ISIL forces.
*Georgia is accusing Russia of keeping citizens from their farmlands with new border signs.
*Remains of a Russian Buk surface to air missile have been found in the Ukraine. Whether it was fired by pro-separatist forces or contributed to the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 remains unknown at this time.

TERRIBLE TERRORIST ACTIVITIES...
*A truck bomb at a Baghdad market killed over 80 people and left 200+ injured.
*A group of hackers allegedly representing the Islamic State has released personal data on almost 1400 American citizens.
*ISIS/ISIL forces are claiming responsibility for the bombing of Baquba, Iraq.
*The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a bombing at the Kabul International Airport.
*A suspected Boko Haram bomb has killed 50 people in Borno, Nigeria.
*Al-Qaeda has pledged allegiance to the Taliban in an online audio message.

PASSING PARADE...
*Voice actress Susan Sheridan (The Black Cauldron, The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy) has recorded her last sound track.
*British novelist and comedy writer David Nobbs (The Two Ronnies, Fairly Secret Army) is no longer with us.
*Former football player and sportscaster Frank Gifford has passed away.
*British comedy actor Stephen Lewis (Last of the Summer Wine, Don't Drink the Water) has taken his last bow on life's stage.
*Author Anne Strieber (An Invisible Woman, Little Town Lies) is no longer with us.

WITHIN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA...
POLITICALLY...
*Despite being told they are disobeying the law, a clerk in Kentucky still will not issue marriage licenses to same gender couples. Meanwhile, judges in Ohio have been informed that they must perform same gender marriage ceremonies or be in violation of Federal law.
*The United States Embassy in Havana has officially (re)opened for business.
*On the campaign trail and still ahead of all the other GOP hopefuls for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, Donald Trump has told Detroit automakers they "make too much money".
*Due to a lack of campaign funds, it is reported that Republican Presidential nomination hopeful Rich Perry has stopped paying his campaign staff.
ELSEWHERE...
*On the anniversary of Michael Brown's death, new social unrest has arisen in Ferguson, Missouri.
*A toxic spill at the Gold King Mine near Durango, Colorado has contaminated a nearby river and threatens other waterways.
*After decades of suffering Federal budget cuts, Sesame Street has struck a production deal with HBO! The award winning children's program will be on the premium cable channel for the next 5 years, with HBO producing more episodes each season than PBS could afford to, but PBS fans take heart. The series WILL continue on public television too, but HBO has first run rights to the new episodes, delaying them being seen on your local PBS station by roughly one year.
*The Federal Food and Drug Administration has approved medical use of the pain killer Oxycontin for children 11 to 16.
*Unless he decides to move the team after all, Stan Kroenke, owner of the Saint Louis Rams in professional football, has won a law suit that will allow him to build a new stadium for his team with public funds without allowing local citizens a say in the matter.
*Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has announced he is fighting cancer.
*While he is already scheduled to give a deposition in one case, actor/comedian Bill Cosby now faces sexual abuse accusations from 3 more women.
*A news anchor at a Florida FOX station walked off the set when faced with "another needless story about the Kardashians". There is no word whether or not he will face company disciplinary action.
*Citing stress caused mental health concerns Michael Sam, the first public homosexual professional football player, has decided to end his sports career for now.
*Provided he finds work with another baseball team, reliever Jose Valverde has been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.

For more news at any time, either scroll down to our IN OTHER NEWS feature at the bottom of your screen or visit any other reputable news source.

THE PUZZLE CORNER: AUGUST 15, 2015

FUN FACT
The official, scientific name for llamas is Llama Glama.
Surprised they didn't say anything about "Rama Llama Ding Dong" (old song lyric).

COMMON BONDS
The items within each subset below have something in common. Do you know what it is?

01. {Leigh Brackett, Roald Dahl}
And yes, we know they are both authors.
02. {Pink, Jay Leno}
And yes, we know they are both celebrities, and that Pink was a musical guest during Leno's tenure as host of The Tonight Show.

TRIVIA TIME
Two world capitals are named after Presidents of the United States of America.
One is obvious, but can you name them both?

We'll reveal all next weekend. But for now, let's open up THE ANSWERS BOX and discover the results from the August 8, 2015 Puzzle Corner.

THE LETTER SHUFFLE
Considering the season, how many words can you make out of the letters in SUMMER? There are a few more than you think.

Emu(s)
Me, Mer (French for ocean), mum(s), muse
Rem (accepted medical term for Rapid Eye Movement), rum, ruse
Serum, Sum, Sure
Us, use, user

More than the 16 listed above might be possible.

FAMOUS FIRSTS
What is Paul McCartney's actual first name? = James (Paul McCartney)