Sunday, September 27, 2015

SUNDAY FUNNIES: EVEN MORE CELEBRITY CITINGS (celebrity quotes)

"Woof!" And you can quote me!
Hello Everybody! Autumn the Puppy here.
Quoting celebrities on various things has become a popular feature whenever I host The Sunday Funnies, so it's time to do it again.
This time, the topic is the thoughts of people who work in the entertainment industry on the entertainment industry and, as usual, my thoughts are in italics afterward. Ready?

Bogie, circa 1945
"I act because I love the craft, because the only point in making money is so you can tell some big shot where to go."
Actor Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957)
Money may not be able to buy you happiness or love, but it can give you a little independence once in a while. Then again, I just can't see anyone ever being able to push Bogie around.

Martin, circa 1963
"I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you sell out to make art, you're an idiot.
Entertainer Steve Martin (1945—)
Art who? Just kidding. Seriously, art reflects life, but life inspires art. As long as we're alive, we're creating art every day, even if we're not actually aware of it.

"I don't think I could do my work if I didn't believe there was some kind of hope for humanity."
Entertainer Sandra Bernhard (1955—)
Bikel, circa 1980s
And art does inspire hope, let alone life...

"The play is always fresh to me. It's not the audience's fault that I've said the words before."
Theodore Bikel (1924-2015)
That a performer can bring something new to every production, no matter how many times they've done it before, says something unique about that person.

"Drama is like a plate of meet and potatoes. Comedy is rather the dessert, a bit like meringue."
Woody Allen (1935—)
Then I say life's short. Eat dessert first!

That's all the time and space I have for this weekend.
Have a great week everybody, and please be back here next weekend for more Sunday Funnies!—AtP.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

THE WEEK IN REVIEW: SEPTEMBER 20-26, 2015

TODAY IS FLAG DAY IN ECUADOR & DOMINION DAY IN NEW ZEALAND.
BANNED BOOKS WEEK, IN HOPE OF ENDING CENSORSHIP IN LITERATURE, BEGINS SUNDAY.
THE PEANUTS COMIC STRIP CELEBRATES ITS 65th ANNIVERSARY OCTOBER 2.

AMONGST EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD THIS PAST WEEK...
*Pope Francis has had a busy week between visiting Cuba and the United States.
*Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China, is visiting the United States on his first diplomatic mission, meeting with technology leaders on the west coast.
*A stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage near Mecca has left over 750 dead and 900+ wounded. Reason(s) as to why the stampede took place have yet to be discovered.
*Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn has resigned over the scandal that the car manufacturer has tampered with diesel emission readings.
*Following the failure of its attempted coup in Burkina Faso, the Regiment of Presidential Security has been officially disbanded.
*Nepal has officially began governing under a new constitution.
*Many parts of the world will get to witness a lunar eclipse during the "super" moon Sunday, September 27th.

TERRIBLE TERRORIST ACTIVITIES....
*Several European countries are still reporting influx of refugees from the Middle East, a long term result of continuing terrorist activities and other fighting there. Meanwhile, Croatia has reopened its border with Serbia.
*There are confirmed reports of Boko Haram forces attacking the Nigerian city of Maiduguri.
*Iraq reports that Iran, Russia, and Syria are officially helping with that country's battle(s) against ISIS/ISIL forces.

PASSING PARADE...
*Playwright and actor Jack Larson, best remembered as Jimmy Olsen on The Adventures of Superman, has taken his last bow on life's stage.
*Legendary baseball player Yogi Berra is no longer with us.
*Famed romance novelist Jackie Collins has passed away.

WITHIN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA...
POLITICALLY...
*During his visit to the United States, Pope Francis formally addressed Congress, the first Pope to ever do so. He spoke on many important issues facing both individual nations and the world, but whether or not his words will be heeded remains to be seen.
*Republican John Boehner has officially announced his resignation as both a member of Congress and Speaker of the House, effective the end of October. Pundits and Analysts are left wondering about the future of Congress, depending upon who replaces him as Speaker.
*Scott Walker, known to some in Wisconsin as the Governor who hates the working class, has officially dropped out of the 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination race. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry's campaign is still just officially suspended.
*The saga of the Kentucky clerk who would not issue marriage licenses to anyone so same gender couples couldn't get married isn't over yet! She may face possible jail time again for removing her name from the certificates, in violation of Federal law. Meanwhile, she has officially joined the Republican Party, although many already thought she was a member!
ELSEWHERE...
*A rash of shootings in Chicago, Illinois has left at least 8 dead and over 40 wounded.
*After buying the manufacturer and raising the price of the drug Daraprim (to treat toxoplasmosis during food born illnesses) from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill, the original owners have regained control of the company, but have only lowered the price to $35 a pill. Federal authorities are investigating.
*16 year old Olivia Hallisey has won the 2015 Google Science Fair developing a quicker/cheaper way to test for the presence of the Ebola Virus in potential victims.
*DC Entertainment has decided to right a decades old wrong by finally giving Bill Finger his much deserved credit as the co-creator of Batman and related characters. HOWEVER... this will only be in other media, NOT THE COMICS! Because DC Comics arrangement with his estate to give Bob Kane sole credit for creating the character still stands, although many people realize this is not the case.
*A Federal judge has officially ruled that the song "Happy Birthday To You" has fallen into public domain, meaning no one can collect royalties from its use.
*During the 67th annual Prime Time Emmy Awards, Game of Thrones has won Outstanding Drama series with Peter Dinklage as Outstanding Dramatic Supporting Actor. Veep won Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Comedy Actress for Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale for Outstanding Supporting Comedy Actor. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was declared Outstanding Talk/Variety Show.
*A Seattle school had the casual dress theme of "Blue Friday", but one teacher wouldn't let a student wear a blue outfit supporting the Denver Broncos when she thought the blue should have been for the Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile,
a teacher in Oklahoma told one of her students that being left handed is evil and a sign of the devil!
An investigation has since begun into the situation.

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: SEPTEMBER 26, 2015

FUN FACT
A "super" moon is when a lunar body is closest to its orbital host.

COMMON BONDS
The items in each subset have something in common. Do you know what it is?
01. {stairwells, airlines}
02. {time, kites}

TRIVIA TIME
What is the only bird that turns its head upside down to eat?

We'll reveal all next weekend. But for now, let's open up THE ANSWERS BOX and discover the results from the September 19, 2015 Puzzle Corner.

TRIVIA TIME
Without casting any dispersions upon the two, what started in America in September of 1966, but not in England until January 1, 1970?

The advent of full time, color television broadcasting, although some programs were already filming in color beforehand.

THE LETTER SHUFFLE
The same four letters can be arranged to form the answers for all of the following clues.
How many can you figure out?

The letters in question are O, P, S, and T; creating the following responses...

1. Chooses = OPTS
2. Stain = SPOT
3. Lids = TOPS
4. Mail = POST
5. Cookware = POTS
6. HALT! = STOP

Sunday, September 20, 2015

AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR NANCY A. HANSEN

Today, THE FREE CHOICE E-ZINE chats with author NANCY A. HANSEN about her new novel, Jezebel Johnston: Devil's Handmaid. So NANCY, what's it all about?

Cover art by Terry Pavlet.
NANCY: The novel is my first attempt at writing a straight-up pirate adventure, and is available in both print and e-book formats at Amazon.com from Airship 27.

It takes place in the Caribbean Sea in the mid-1650s, and features a young mixed-race woman barely past girlhood who, because she had a father who was a privateer and grew up listening to his exciting stories, has now fallen in love with a pirate. She decides to leave her home on Tortuga, which is a bustling port filled with all sorts of people including plenty of pirates, and sign aboard her beloved's ship as a boy. She's tall, thin, flat-chested and has rather a deep voice; and with her hair cut short and dressed in male clothing, Jez manages to pull it off. Her intended does not discover her and the deception until they are already out to sea. They have to continue to hide the truth from the captain and the rest of the crew for some very valid reasons. Along the way, Jez learns a whole lot about how rough and brutal a pirate's life actually is, and has some second thoughts about what this buccaneer life is really all about.

TFCE: A pirate adventure? Not one of the writing genres you're already established in. How did this project come into being?

Author Nancy A. Hansen
NANCY: Yeah, it's a bit of a departure for me, because I'm most noted for my sword & sorcery style of epic/heroic fantasy, and this is more like historical seafaring fiction. So it was a new challenge, but I've been gradually branching out in my writing. I've always had a passion for pirate movies, and I enjoy the kind of mystique which has built up around their nihilist, counterculture, in-your-face sort of existence. Maybe some wayward hippie-culture pining from growing up in the 1960s and 70s surfaced along the way, because I also have an affection for highwaymen and what we traditionally think of as gypsies—no slight intended toward any actual Romany. I know that pirates and highwaymen were vilified by most of society for good reason; because they terrorized, robbed, and
killed people without remorse, and often lived dissolute and quite short lives because of that. They were clearly criminals. Yet I think there's a part of any of us that at times just wants to just chuck it all and go live off the fat of someone else's hard work, especially if it was in a warm climate surrounded by other people who don't give a damn about how outrageous you look or act.

I had originally planned on picking up on a pirate character written by another contemporary author who had absolutely no plans to continue it beyond the one story written, but in the end decided to go with my own setup, because it gives me more flexibility in what I choose to do. Writing a pirate story in general was an idea that I'd been kicking around for a couple of years, and after the winter holidays of 2014, I decided I was ready to do it. I got underway immediately, and while things started off slow, I found myself getting excited about the possibilities.

TFCE: It's our understanding that this is the first pirate novel for both you and Airship 27, which is surprising, considering the company's long publishing history. Is that true?

Set sail for adventure!
NANCY: Not only is that true, but I know for a fact that the nine interior illustrations were the first pirate artwork that the very talented artist Rob Davis has ever done. Not sure about cover artist Terry Pavlet, but that's still a lot of firsts. It really means a lot to me that not only was headman and Airship 27 Captain Ron Fortier wildly enthusiastic about having a novel-length project from me, but he is a big pirate fan too! Terry Pavlet took my vision and turned it into an amazing cover that I've heard many admiring comments about. And those Rob Davis interiors are just… they're just perfect. Rob reads the books, as he's is also the graphics setup man and formatter, as well as a full partner in Airship 27. He really caught the spirit of the tale in each of the black and white drawings. With the way things came together on this novel, we've all felt it was just meant to be something special.

TFCE: Was this book more difficult to write, compared to your fantasy work or more modern tales?

NANCY: This was hands-down, the toughest novel I've ever written. It required a ton of research because I'd never tackled a seafaring tale of any kind before, and about the only nautical book I'd read before attempting it was Treasure Island. There was so much I didn't know, and that became evident from the outset.
The "known" world, mid-1600s.

Just in the world of sailing ships, there was so much jargon that I didn't understand. It's like trying to decipher a foreign language with no background in it. I wrote a western short story back in 2012 and ran into the same thing. If you want to write something that sounds authentic, you need to know what you're talking about. In fantasy, you can make up a lot of the rules and terms, so that's far easier—plus I've read a ton of that, so I know the 'flavor' readers are looking for. I barely got past the prologue before I knew I was over my head.

And then as I went along, it got even more involved. The story is set in a very volatile time in the colonial settling of the Americas, where primarily English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Dutch concerns from aboard are vying for land and resources in the New World. Borders were shifting all the time, and a lot of what was happening in Europe had a direct affect on how things were handled in their colonies.

Some of the Caribbean islands changed hands frequently over just a few years. Alliances and treaties were made here and broken there. All that competition and strife, coupled with the distance from homeland to colony, had a lot to do with pirating blooming the way it did in the 1600s-1700s. I had to know this stuff because it runs as a subtle, but constantly shifting undercurrent in the stories I'm trying to tell.

I haven't even gotten into some of the more specialized things; like weapons, types of treasure (it varied through eras & with location), the names of ports and who more or less owned them… many things. I got a crash course in history as filtered through the era of buccaneering. When I am working on a book, I usually have Dictionary.com and Google open in case I need to find out something, but they became my closest friends for this one. I walked around mumbling to myself a lot, and bent everyone's ear about what I was learning. Even the dog began to creep off when I was in lecture mode. At night, I read pirate and seafaring tales. They got into my dreams at times.

You have to be pretty single-minded and self-disciplined to voluntarily take on a project like this under the most favorable of conditions. I am not working outside the home, so I had dreams of being able to spend entire lost weeks writing and researching—but life had other ideas. I had no more gotten going with it when I went from part time to full time babysitter for an infant grandchild, with another on the way. My mother was diagnosed with the early stages of dementia, so weekends were devoted to her and whatever family or friends came to visit. Along the way, I had other writing projects and deadlines, so I had to scrape and scramble for time. But it eventually got done, though both the new granddaughter and book took nine months to birth. Some days I got less than a hundred words written.

TFCE: You certainly have a diverse cast of characters within your bibliography. Is one gender easier to write than another?

NANCY: I write both male and female characters of all ages, and over time I'm gradually making a more concerted effort to introduce a variety of ethnic/racial backgrounds and gender identities. It is easier to write characters that you're comfortable with, who resemble you in some (basic) way, but that's also lazy, cowardly, and not very representative of the world we live in. I do write a lot of heroic female leads because to me it seems to be an area of action/adventure fiction that has been under served.

My ladies aren't fashion model gorgeous. They wouldn't look good with their feminine assets popping out of catsuits or chain mail bikinis. They're tall, short, skinny, or plump; their hair is mousy and thin or a wild mess. They aren't sporting gym-perfected muscles or runway confidence in their appearance. Some of them have special abilities, but most often they're just a gal swept up by circumstances into history-in-the-making. Something bad or unusual happened, and someone had to stand up and do something about it.

I don't just write about special women though, because I want my stories to appeal to a wide audience, and to be entertaining. Most of all, I want readers to feel they didn't waste their time with the book or short story, and to actually be sorry when it ends. Along the way, there should be a bunch of thrills, an occasional chuckle, a few shocking moments, and a feeling that you got to know someone unique. The story isn't about me, it's about you the reader, seeing life through the eyes of a third party. It's your paper or electronic escape. Well-designed characters are like good old friends. They will come sweep you up into a tale and take you everywhere they go.

TFCE: What about writing regular human beings, compared to such fantasy races like Elves, Dwarfs, etc?

NANCY: There's a certain mindset I have to get into when I switch from say, an Elven point of view to a Dwarven one, and then back to a human being. Besides the obvious differences in outward appearance and speech, there are inner nuances that flavor the way even silent characters interact that sets them apart.

Windriders, circa 2014
For instance, in The Windriders of Everice anthology which was released in May 2014, the five short stories within detail the creation and gradual acceptance of a winged horse mounted regiment in an impoverished mountain realm. The second story in the book is told primarily from the POV of a mixed bunch of winged and normal horses in a stable. Now these horses don't speak—not even the winged ones. Other than being able to fly, and being a bit more robust and savvy about fighting techniques, they are just like their earthbound stablemates. And in this tale, they are all alone with no protective humans nearby when a group of menacing creatures come down out of the mountains to attack them. So I had to get inside a horse's head and decide how a herd animal would react to such a threat, and show all that without words to express what's going on—and then differentiate the response between those who could fly and those who can't. Well, I can't fly, and I'm certainly not a horse! I've never owned or ridden one, though I've had a passing acquaintance with a few, and a lifelong love of those graceful and amazing creatures. Somehow, I made it work, and there were a lot of horsey heroics in that story.

I did the same thing with a villainous character that is the center of an upcoming release,  Forged By Flame, the first novel of the Sudarnian Chronicles from my Hansen's Way imprint at Pro Se Press. In this case, the main villain was female; an adult flying dragon with her wingless young scattered through the area. She is trying to feed and protect them when she runs afoul of the local humans. Dragons in this story aren't totally sentient either, so I was dealing with a very large and angry predator mother whose offspring are being killed. Her motivations for attacking humans are somewhat different than ours would be because this is a territorial creature the size of a tractor trailer that can spit flames and fly over you at the same time. The crux of the story is a young man with the ability to get inside the head of such creatures attempting to control her. Trying to describe what the mind of a beast like that would be like was tough.

Makes the Elves and Dwarves look easy in comparison. Human beings are what I know best, so writing them comes easiest of all.

TFCE: One stereotype you've gone out of your way to avoid in your writings is the typical “damsel in distress”. Regardless of genre, why does there seem to be a minority, for lack of a better word, of strong female leads in fiction?

NANCY: Well I do have some ladies who occasionally need saving, and quite a
few fellas too, as well as children of both genders. What I avoid is making that person a main character—or at least to not have him or her remain helpless throughout the tale. While we all are frightened of something, and get ourselves into overwhelming situations, I don't think readers want to be continually reminded of how pathetic and defenseless we can be at our worst. The majority of us are not going to be thought of as heroes, but we all have our traumatic and ugly situations to deal with and many times we manage to rise to the occasion. When I write something, I try and give you at least a couple of people in the book that leave you feeling hopeful that you too will find a way to get past all the assorted daily strife that life tosses at you.

Certainly if a story called for a 'damsel in distress', I'd put one in there. I just haven't considered writing one as a lead character. I think I'd get bored with her pretty fast.

I can't speak for all fiction, but I've read my share of simpering, sniveling female victims dressed up as leads, and those stories tend to leave me cold. If a woman gets in trouble for something she screwed up and learns a painful lesson, and it's part of the plot, I don't mind that. If she's nothing but a fixture for the big, musclebound hero to rescue, that's a yawner and I'm looking for something better to read. I think I'd feel the same way about a male character who constantly needed saving by his female lead. I like to think everyone brings something to the tale when you lay out main characters.

"Villain"?
Not exactly the same idea, but along the same lines, is
"Villainess"?
what I see being done to females in cover art. No matter if they are the screaming victim begging to be saved, the sly villainess waiting to snare Mr. Wonderful into her net of intrigue, the bodice-ripped love interest, or a rampaging heroine slicing her way through hordes of orcs, the constant state of half-undress and sometimes outright nudity is monotonous and frustrating. Yes, I know that sex sells, and that we're all supposed to be proud of our amazing bodies. I have titillating to downright erotic scenes in some of my stories where appropriate; but they're not on the cover!

Besides, none of these women look like anyone I know. They don't even appear normal! There has to be lurking out there an aggregate of timeless, ageless, human Barbie dolls with ridiculously proportioned 'perfect' bodies wearing clothing three sizes too small and often unfastened or half ripped off. I've been threatening for a few years now to create a male character fighting in some foolish getup that wouldn't last five minutes on the battlefield without chafing his tender parts raw, and then give him the cover shot with all of his enormous personal assets on display. Anybody out there in the publishing field brave enough to tackle that one?

TFCE: Personally, I doubt it. Moving on. Will we be seeing Jezebel again?

NANCY: Absolutely! From the get-go I knew this was a series, and when I pitched it to Ron Fortier, I told him that right off. I have the second book nearing completion as I write this, titled JEZEBEL JOHNSTON: QUEEN OF ANARCHY, and I've plans for at least 3 more after that. I will let this series take me as far as it can go.

BTW, on the subtitles, I can't take full credit for them. When I turned in the first
manuscript, it was simply titled JEZEBEL JOHNSTON. Ron, in a stroke of brilliance, suggested a subtitle that reflects the ship Jez primarily serves on in each book. So for the first book, that was Devil's Handmaid, and for the one I'm working on now, it is a French ship named Reine de L'anarchie, which (if I've done my research properly) should translate to Queen of Anarchy. Pirates tended to give their ships bold and boastful names, and ships generally are thought of as female. So it's not hard to come up with a ship name that sort of fits Jez's status at the time of the story, and still satisfy that need for an audacious title. Part of the fun of being a writer is getting to drop in little double entendres like that.

TFCE: Any other "Easter Eggs" within the novel?

NANCY: You'll have to read it to find out.

TFCE: As usual, this has been a most enlightening chat Nancy. Thanks for stopping by.

NANCY: Thanks for having me Lee, this has been a lot of fun, and I hope it gives folks a little more insight into why I write the things I do.

Nancy Hansen maintains an Amazon Author's page, a writer's blog, and a presence on both Facebook and G+.

SUNDAY FUNNIES: TAKE MY JOKES, PLEASE! (misc. jokes)

Hello Everybody! Waxy Dragon here!
With fall coming, I've got to make room in my joke files for the new crop of gags I'll be harvesting soon from those special containers in The Free Choice E-zine's offices.
To do so, I'm parting with some treasured gems that I haven't really have had a chance to use before now.
Such as...

How does a bird with a broken wing manage to land safely ?
With it's sparrowchute!

Where would you learn how to make ice cream? (A left over that we weren't able to squeeze into our annual Back to School special last week.)
At Sundae school.
Waxy's Special Joke Files

What do snake charmers wear around their necks?
Boa ties.

What kind of bears like to go out in the rain?
Drizzly bears.

What do you get when you cross a motorcycle and a joke?
A Yamaha ha ha ha ha ha.....

What has 18 legs and catches flies?
A baseball team.

I've always wondered about Gilligan's Island. If The Professor could make a radio out of a coconut, why couldn't he fix the hole in the boat?
Then again, every man I ask that question says, "With Ginger and Mary Ann around, why would he want to?"
If anyone cares to explain that to a baby dragon in terms she can understand...

The evening news is the only program I know that always says "Good evening," and then starts ruining it by telling you all the bad stuff that happened in the world today.

The main key to a healthy diet: if it tastes good, spit it out! Unless it's Belgosian Dark Chocolate! Considering how delicious and expensive that stuff is, NEVER spit out Belgosian Dark Chocolate! If you can't eat it, send it all to me!

And on that note, have a great week everybody! Take care and please be back here again next weekend for more Sunday Funnies!—wd.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

THE WEEK IN REVIEW: SEPTEMBER 13-19, 2015

TODAY IS INTERNATIONAL TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY.
IT'S ALSO INDEPENDENCE DAY IN SAINT KITTS & NEVIS.
SEPTEMBER 22nd MARKS THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF THE VIKING PROBE DISCOVERING MARS HAD A POLAR ICE CAP!

AMONGST EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD THIS PAST WEEK...
*OTHER COUNTRIES TAKE NOTE! In the wake of multiple bribery and corruption scandals in that country, Brazil's Supreme Court has issued a new ruling that BANS corporate money in elections!
*After confirming it has an active nuclear reactor, North Korea claims it has nuclear weapons and is prepared to use them against their enemies if necessary. (NOTE: There are 2 links in this report, separated by the comma.)
*Jose Ramon CabaƱas Rodriguez has become the first Cuban Ambassador to the United States since 1961. The announcement of who the American Ambassador to Cuba will be is pending.
*Malcolm Turnbull is the new Prime Minister of Australia.
*Pope Francis is on his way to Cuba to begin his North American Papal visit, with his itinerary taking him to the United States afterward.
*No matter how much some people try to deny the facts about climate change, 2015 will be going in the history books as the hottest year on Earth, to date.
*Doctors in Spain have successfully used 3D printer created parts in an operation on a human being to replace bad bones!
*The United Kingdom is concerned about a new, drug resistant strain of gonorrhea after 15 cases were confirmed in Northern England.
*Bidding to host the 2024 Summer Olympics has been narrowed to Budapest, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Paris, and Rome by the International Olympic Committee.
*The Altice European Communications Company is poised to by American Cable Company Cablevision for $17 Billion US Dollars.
*Lydia Ko of New Zealand has become the youngest person ever to win a professional golf tournament by claiming victory at the 2015 LPGA Evian Championship.

TERRIBLE TERRORIST ACTIVITIES...
*Immigrants from the violence in the Middle East continue to flee to Europe. While many countries are sympathetic to their situation, what to do with all the people is fast becoming a cause for concern.
*The exiled Yemen government has announced it will no longer attend United Nations hosted talks with the rebel Houthis contingent.
*Some within the United Nations contingent are wondering why Russian forces are acting independently within Syria.
*The Taliban successfully broke into a Ghanzi, Afghanistan prison and freed 350 prisoners, killing at least 4 guards in the process.
*The Nigerian Army is reporting a successful raid against Boko Haram forces in Borno, freeing several women and children held hostage.
*Islamist rebels executed over 50 Syrian Army personnel after seizing control of the Abu al-Duhur airbase.

PASSING PARADE...
*Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon has passed away.
*Former professional basketball player Moses Malone is no longer with us.
*Adrian Frutiger, designer of the fonts Univers, Frutiger, Avenir, and Vectora; amongst many others, has passed away.

WITHIN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA...
POLITICALLY...
*Despite all the allegations against the organization having been proven false, the Republican controlled House of Representatives has passed a measure to totally defund Planned Parenthood. While it is not expected to pass the Senate, some Republicans are still threatening another government shutdown if they don't get their way.
*A pending piece of business before Congress: the official removal of the US economic embargo against Cuba established in the 1960s, as part of the ongoing new relations between the two countries.
*President Barack Obama has nominated Eric Fanning, an openly gay man, as Secretary of the Army.
*Meanwhile, it is being reported that the Obama administration has officially paid off the $1.4 TRILLION DOLLAR deficit left by the George W. Bush administration.
*Whether or not he actually needs the money, Donald Trump has sold the Miss Universe organization and pageant to WME/IMG. Meanwhile, NBC Television has replaced Trump with Arnold Schwarzenegger as the next host of Celebrity Apprentice.
ELSEWHERE...
*American Airlines suffered a major "computer glitch" that caused serious flight delays across the country Thursday. Allegedly it was an internal problem and not a hacking incident.
*The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Volkswagen to repair over 500,000 cars built between 2009-2015, because the vehicles have software that overrides EPA emissions standards.
*A Rolling Stone article has allegedly found a link between wildfires and the growing problem of climate change.
*The lone student who was investigated after his home made science project clock went off in school (because he also happened to be a Muslim?) has been receiving all kinds of invitations since the incident was first reported, including a trip to the White House and various colleges around the country.
*A property versus public rights debate is brewing in Malibu over public use of beach property when celebrity homes border said beach.
*After formally apologizing to previous pageant winner Vanessa Williams after stripping her of the title over 30 years ago, the Miss America contest went on to crown Betty Cantrell (Miss Georgia) the latest winner.
*Ultramarathoner Shaun Evans has completed a run from Puget Sound, Washington State to Long Island, New York, a 3200+ mile journey, all while pushing his son in the child's wheelchair!
*Michael Sam, the first openly gay professional American football player, has announced he is planning to go to graduate school to continue his education and train for an eventual return to football.
*The winners of the 2015 US Open of professional tennis include Women's Singles victor Flavia Pennetta, Men's Singles champ Novak Djokovic, Women's Doubles partnership of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza, and the Men's Doubles partnership of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

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: SEPTEMBER 19, 2015

FUN FACT
The country of Indonesia is actually composed of over 17,000 islands!

TRIVIA TIME
Without casting any dispersions upon the two, what started in America in September of 1966, but not in England until January 1, 1970?

THE LETTER SHUFFLE
The same four letters can be arranged to form the answers for all of the following clues.
How many can you figure out?

1. Chooses
2. Stain
3. Lids
4. Mail
5. Cookware
6. HALT!

We'll reveal all next weekend, but for now, let's open up THE ANSWERS BOX and discover the results of our September 12, 2015 Puzzle Corner.

BEFORE AND AFTER
Two separate things have at least one word in common, allowing them to be combined into something new. Based upon the clue below, do you know what that new thing is?

Norman Lear produced sitcom about the Keatons? = All In The Family Ties

COMMON BONDS
The items in each subset have something in common.
Do you know what it is?
01. {Come On Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners, Only The Good Die Young by Billy Joel}
Remembering that this is a family friendly e-zine, both songs concerning a man professing his love to a lady and hoping she will "come out of her shell" with him.
02. {Steve Winwood, The Monkees}
Both groups sang about Valerie, although each song concerned a different woman with that name.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A CHAT WITH AUTHOR JILLY PADDOCK

Today, THE FREE CHOICE E-ZINE is proud to welcome author JILLY PADDOCK. Let's start by talking about your latest release, Dead Men Rise Up Never.
Jilly, drawn by Morgan Fitzsimons
JILLY PADDOCK: Dead Men is an SF novel about Detective-Inspector A. Afton Lamont and her partner, Jerome, who live and work in Prosperity City, once the site of the first settlement on a middle-tech level colony world a long way from Earth. Afton is a career cop, known for her cynicism and hard-bitten attitude, and Jerome isn’t quite human; both of them have dark secrets hidden in their past. They work in Homicide and usually land cases with a big helping of mystery or the weird. When a man is killed by a unicorn in the city streets and the creature turns back into a shaggy white pony with a tin-plate horn in the cruel light of day, Afton and Jerome are handed the problem.
Dead Men Rise Up Never was published by Pro Se Press in August 2015 and is available as an e-book and in print from Amazon worldwide.

TFCE: Now, the title would suggest that this is a crime/detective/noir novel, but the story is actually so much more. How did this project come about?
JILLY: I first wrote about Afton and Jerome in a short story, "Blind Witness", which will be included in the Tommy Hancock benefit anthology, Legends of New Pulp Fiction, due to come out from Airship 27 later this year.
I wanted a pair of SF detectives who walked the streets of a slightly alien world, and after that first tale I wrote several more. The characters grew and meandered off in directions that I hadn’t intended, and a little of the supernatural seeped in, although I tried to hold it down to magical realism and a smattering of minor psychic powers. Dead Men had been half written for some time while I struggled with the identity of the killer—the characters wouldn’t tell me whodunnit! When I worked it out, I finished it. It has all my favourite ingredients—nature and ecology, poetry, painting and sculpture, and an AI who wears a cute fairy body as one of her avatars. Pro Se had already agreed to publish it, and as it was a fairly short novel, we added a bonus short story about our weary heroes getting drunk. And it has a lovely cover, by the very talented Adam Shaw.

TFCE: So, have any of those other Afton/Jerome tales been published?
JILLY: Although Blind Witness was the first Afton and Jerome story that I wrote, the origin of their partnership is told in "The Spook and the Spirit in the Stone" which is currently only available as a self-published novella in e-book. Pro Se will be bringing this out too sometime soon. This time Afton and Jerome have to find a kidnapped child, the daughter of the Terran ambassador to their world, and are helped by a ‘spook’, an agent from Terrapol with psionic powers. She’s actually an agent-pair from Earth Intelligence, who are the baddies from my other series of books.

TFCE: Sounds like fun. Why do you write what you do?
JILLY: It never occurred to me to write anything other than SF/Fantasy, because that’s what I read. Why would you limit yourself to everyday life and the real world? I can use aliens, spaceships, strange worlds and invented technology—the trick is to make it believable with grounded characters that the reader can relate to.

TFCE: From what, if anything, do you draw inspiration when writing?
JILLY: Not an easy question to answer, as little things can trigger an idea—an image, a handful of words from a song or a poem, or simply a feeling. Inspiration comes to me often when I’m walking or driving, and sometimes a whole story will drop into my head, or the characters will start talking to me, telling me their history. I need to write it down to clear space in my mind.

TFCE: Has anything influenced your actual writing style and technique?
JILLY: I read a lot of SF and fantasy from an early age—Heinlein, Asimov, Tolkien, plus loads of British writers like James White, John Wyndham and Tanith Lee—so I have multiple influences. I’d like to be compared with my two favourite writers, Cordwainer Smith and Peter S. Beagle, but I have my own voice. Sometimes when I’m reading, I’ll notice a technique that seems interesting and maybe try it. The Afton and Jerome stories are written in present tense, which I know some people dislike; I did too when I first encountered it, but I tried it and it seems to work, giving the text an immediacy that suits the tales well.

TFCE: Do you find it difficult being a female author in what many consider a male dominated field, or does this give you an advantage your contemporaries don't have?
Jilly, from her Amazon author page
JILLY: I come from a line of strong women. My paternal grandmother drove a car, wore trousers and ran a sweet-shop, all of which were uncommon things for women to do in Britain in the 1930s. I never met her, as she died long before I was born, but my father says that I look very like her. My maternal grandmother, who lived in India, once found a cobra in her dining room and killed it with the stiletto heel of her shoe.
As a child, I had Lego, a train set and Scalextrix (a toy racing car track) as well as dolls and teddy bears, and my father knitted toys and made clothes for us, so I’d never really encountered any gender boundaries until I got to senior school and my headmistress—she was so old-fashioned that she wore a gown and mortar board all the time—told me that “Girls don’t do science”. She made it very difficult by timetabling all the sciences against each other, so I had to do Chemistry and Physics at night school. I worked in medical research for a few years, then spent the rest of my career in NHS microbiology labs, so I did prove the woman wrong.
I have come across some sexism in real life. When I tell people I’m a writer they ask “Do you write romance or children’s books?”, and when I say “No, science fiction.” they stare at me as if I’ve got two heads.
I guess I’ve been lucky, as I’ve never had such a negative reaction from publishers or other writers—in fact I’ve had a lot of support and help. My SF is of the softer variety—you won’t find three pages of mathematical proof in the middle of one of my books—so I thought I’d appeal more to female readers, but I have a lot of male fans, which is great. New Pulp is even more male dominated than SF, a bit of a boy’s club, but Pro Se also has Nancy Hansen and Nikki Nelson-Hicks among their ranks of women writers, so I’m in good company.

TFCE: As a writer, what would be your dream project?
JILLY: My dream was to have a book published—nobody took the bait, so I did it myself in 2012. Then Pro Se Press brought out To Die A Stranger and even kept my chosen cover (I fell in love with the painting and bought it from the artist years ago—it hangs on my wall) so my dream came true. Everything else is just chocolate frosting on the cake!

TFCE: Where do you foresee yourself within the next few years?
JILLY: I retired from the day job four years ago and I recently had a scary-numbered birthday, so I’m slowing down a bit. I’d like to get more of the Zenith-Alpha 4013 books out there, so fans of the series can find out what happens to Anna and Zenni. It would be nice to do more conventions, and as my sister lives just outside Washington DC, maybe I could do a US con one day.

TFCE: As a writer, I'm sure this is far from your first interview. Has there ever been an interview question you have not been asked but would love to answer, and if so, what is it and your response?
JILLY: If you’ve ever watched Inside the Actor’s Studio, there’s a set of ten questions that James Lipton asks, taken from a French series, ‘Bouillon de Culture’ hosted by Bernard Pivot. It may be too long to include, but just for fun, as I know I’ll never get on that TV show, I’ll give my answers to it here.
What is your favourite word? Serendipity.
What is your least favourite word? Tapeworm (I really don’t like parasites!)
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Countryside, especially the gentle wooded hills of South East England where I grew up.
What turns you off? Cutting down trees or forests, and otherwise spoiling the landscape.
What is your favourite curse word? I’m fond of ‘f*ck’, but only use it when necessary and appropriate for the character I'm writing. I'll understand if you have to censor that response.
What sound or noise do you love? A cat purring.
What sound or noise do you hate? Nails scraped down a blackboard.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I’d have loved to work for NASA on one of their unmanned probe projects.
What profession would you not like to do? Working down a sewer.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Come on in, Jilly, and do have some cake,” but it has to be in Oliver Postgate’s voice (he narrated Bagpuss and The Clangers, United Kingdom children’s shows which you can find on YouTube.

TFCE: Since you have the opportunity, are there any other projects you would like to promote?
JILLY: To Die A Stranger is already out and its sequel, With Amber Tears, will be coming very soon. I’m just waiting on the cover, as the galleys are nearing completion.
I have a very long space opera with gorgeous aliens (well, I think they’re gorgeous, but I admit that I’m biased and I do like spiders!) and another very engaging AI about to come out from 18thWall Productions. It will appear in twoWarbird: Voidship.
volumes, due to length, and the first is called
Finally, I’d like to give a shout out for Airship 27’s Legends of New Pulp Fiction, the benefit anthology for my publisher, Tommy Hancock. You know it’s for a good cause and it’ll be stuffed full of New Pulp deliciousness, so look out for it and buy it when it comes out.

TFCE: Well, sounds like you have quite a lot going on. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with us.
JILLY: Thank you! It's always a pleasure. My blog is at https://tabbycat.wordpress.com/