Thursday, July 31, 2008

Can't Judge a Book by it's Cloned Cover!

My wife an I were walking through Barnes and Noble tonight because I really needed something good to read, and my wife wanted to reserve a copy of that new Twilight book. Breaking Wind… I think that’s what it’s called… Ugh! How anyone can read that… drivel.
Anyway, while walking through the store, I came across a table full of “Chicklit” Vamp books and found this one…

And so I said to myself, “Self,” remember I always talk to myself in the third person, “Self, the cover of this book is a blatant Buffy clone.”

See for yourself.


They have no shame.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cruel to be Kind

Ok, so while I was walking into work this morning I passed an American Idol wrist band… flapping, all torn and tattered in the weeds along the side of the road. Looking at it I could almost see it’s young owner, tearing it from his or her wrist… possibly in tears… all dreams of being the next big thing to hit Utah… but… alas… it was not to be…
Look, I love to sing. In church, where people are to nice to tell me to shut up, and I sing in my home… usually locked up in my office… where no one but me can hear. Look, in my mind, I sound really good… in real life… not so much.
I would hope that my wife and family love me enough to not allow me to go try out for American Idol… if I were younger, and… well, stupid enough to go do that.

Here’s a song that says it all…

Monday, July 28, 2008

Unplug and Drop-out

Before my one fan starts thinking that all I do on this site is review books, I figured that I’d get a standard post up and going.
Dropping out. Yep, I have dropped out. A few months ago I decided to turn off the radio, stop reading the paper (except for the Arts page… I mean, lets not go overboard) and stopped watching anything news related on the television. Yep, I have unplugged.
And you know what… I’m a much happier person.
Now you might be saying to yourself that I am now one of the masses of the uninformed. And to you I say… Yep!
Look, I used to listen to Rush Limbaugh… until he became unbelievably boarish. Then I turned to Glen Beck. He was funny up until a year ago, and then he became a fear monger… and that was no longer good listening.
“If America doesn’t wake up…” he’d say over and over again.
“I’m awake, Glen!” I’d yell back at my radio, “Now what can I do!?!” The short answer is… nothing. I can write to my congressman, and to the president. I can make phone calls, I can scream at the top of my lungs into space… and Nothing is going to change. So, if there is “nothing” I can do about the hole this country is dropping into, then “nothing” is what I want to know about.
So, here’s what I can do.
I can look after my family, and make the changes that I need to help us survive. I take the bus to work now. Not to save the world, but because I can’t afford to put $4/gallon gas in my car. Stuff like that.
When I go to vote this November, I won’t be voting to the D or the R. I don’t know who I’m gonna vote for… maybe the commie. Oh, wait, that won’t work… the commies are the D and the R.

So, maybe if enough people drop out and unplug, as I have, maybe Washington will realize that we’re just ignoring them and just maybe, they’ll go away.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Room for Two

Room for Two
By Abel Keogh
Published by Cedar Fort, Inc.
Trade Paperback
215 pages, $14.99

When I received Room for Two in the mail and took one look at the cover, a single word flew through my head… “ChickLit!” Then I read the synopsis on the back cover and said to myself, “Self,” I always talk to myself in the third person, it helps to separate the various voices competing for dominance inside my head, “Self,” I said, “This book is prime material for the Lifetime network, or maybe Oxygen. You, my friend, are going to hate this book.”
So, while I was trying to finish up the last book I was reading, my dear wife asked if she could read it. I believe that my response to her was, “you might as well, ‘cause I’m not going to like it.” She LOVED it by the way.

Does the phrase; “Can’t judge a book by its cover” mean anything to you, because Room for Two taught me a very valuable lesson indeed. Let me tell you why…

I first picked up this book at about 11:00 one night thinking that I would get started and get a feeling for how the author wrote before giving it a really good effort on the bus the next morning. I figured that I would get a couple of pages read before I fell asleep, and that would be a good start. Well… thirty something pages later I was still reading and wanting to do more, but had to get some sleep or I would be useless at work the next day.

Before I go on, I must confess something… I am a crybaby. Oh yes, gentle reader, many of my books have soft, salty tear stains in among their pages. While driving with my dear wife, I have hidden tears behind my sunglasses when touching songs come on the radio, it’s something that I have come to live with… before I'm required to turn in my "Man Card" let’s move on. And so there I was on the bus the next morning reading away, tears stinging my eyes as I read. Stealthily, I wiped them away, closed the book, placed it in my book bag, (read: Man Purse) and dug out my MP3 player to pipe some Tribal Celt music (The Wicked Tinkers) into my head… Unfortunately, the sound of Bag -Pipes usually causes me to swell with Celtic pride, which is almost always followed by… yes my friends… tears. There is no winning.

Seriously, I’ve been making light of this book… but that’s my way. This is a very good read. Mr. Keogh is a fantastic writer who has the ability to pull you into his story, so much so, that you can almost see and feel his raw emotion. It is, almost, a tactile experience beginning with the smell of the spent gunpowder in his apartment to the feel of a loved ones hand in the end. The story becomes that real to the reader because it was very real to the author.

Room for Two chronicles the author’s experiences from the suicide of his pregnant wife, through his grieving, his anger, and his growth as he tries to forgive his late wife for her actions, and himself for not being able to prevent her from doing them. As the story progresses, Mr. Keogh tells his readers about his misadventures in trying to remember how to date and we are able to struggle with him as he tries to find room enough in his heart for a new love of his life. The story is sad in many places, funny in others, and spiritually enlightening throughout.
It is truly a must read.

As with all my book reviews so far, (all three of them) I was able to pose a few questions to the author about his book.

Murph: Mr. Keogh, it is truly an honor.
Abel Keogh: My pleasure. I appreciate you taking the time to interview me.

Murph: Can we start by settling a question that has plagued me from the day I picked up your book? How do you pronounce your last name?

Abel Keogh: It’s pronounced Key-o. The “gh” is silent.

M: As I said in my review, the emotion in your book is just raw; I’m almost warn out from it. What was the catalyst for you to get this story onto paper?

AK: Dealing with the emotional roller coaster that came with writing Room for Two was probably the most unpleasant part of the entire process. It wasn’t fun to relive a lot of those moments though it was a relief to finally have everything out on paper.

The main catalyst for writing Room for Two was an utter lack of compelling memoirs about losing a spouse. The books I tried to read in the months after my late wife’s death were poorly written and very preachy. I wanted to write something with broad appeal – something that everyone could enjoy even if they hadn’t lost a spouse.

M: What did your wife, Julianna, think of you writing this book?

AK: Julianna was very supportive of the writing process and gave me the time I needed to complete the book. She didn’t care whether or not it was published. What she really wanted was “our story” written down so our children would know how we met and that they have a half-sister in heaven.

M: Do you and Julianna still run? And have you ever joined her in running a marathon?

AK: Yes, we still run. We don’t run together as much as we’d like because having three young kids makes that difficult. When the weather’s good, however, you can find us running together, pushing our kids running strollers, on Saturday mornings.
We ran a marathon together about five months after we were married. Actually, together is a pretty loose term. She bolted ahead as soon as the race started. I didn’t see her again until the finish line. She’s run several since them. I’m more content to run shorter races like 5ks or 10ks.

M: Did you ever find out what Krista’s final message, “no matter what I do, the consequences are the same,” meant?

AK: No, I never did learn what she was trying to say. I attribute it to her insanity.

M: I know from your book that you read random sampling’s of Krista’s journals, did you ever read her last few entries in order to find a reason for her suicide?

AK: Krista’s journal writing became very erratic in the months leading up to her suicide. She stopped writing about six weeks before she died. What she did write leaves no clues as to her motives for taking her own life. However the writing doesn’t sound like Krista. Even though the entries are in her handwriting, when I read it, it seems like someone else wrote it.

M: Okay, off of the heavy stuff, and on to the standard question for a Mind of Murph interview… Are you a fan of Joss Whedon?

AK: It depends. I liked the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I could never get into Angel. I heard great things about Firefly but I’ve never seen any episodes.

M: If you could be any character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Firefly… who would it be and why?

AK: Probably Angel. Something about a vampire with a soul appeals to me. Maybe there’s a better character in Firefly. I’m thinking I really need to put that TV show in my Netflix queue.

M: You won’t be disappointed, my word of honor as a Boy Scout Drop-out. Okay… If I were raid your bookshelves right now, what books would I find?

AK: A little bit of everything. I read just about anything that has a good plot and interesting characters. Probably the best way is to check out the books on my GoodReads page at I have several hundred books on my shelves and am doing my best to add them to my profile by the end of the year.
Recently, I’ve been buying and reading lots of detective fiction. It’s a genre I never read until I married Julianna but I’ve discovered that some of the genre’s authors like Michael Connelly and Robert Crais are some of the best writers working today.
M: Wow, I glad to see that you aren’t one of those Good Reads authors who have 2 books listed and 9000 “friends.” By the way, I went through your book lists and added a few to my “to read” list, thanks… Umm, This next question is from my wife… What ever happened to Jennifer? Did she ever find anyone?

AK: I’ve heard through the grapevine that she’s been happily married for about five years. I hope that’s true. I haven’t spoken to her since the relationship ended.

M: Who’s better… Captain Kirk or Captain Picard?

AK: Picard. For some reason I never liked Kirk. Even as a kid, watching reruns on Saturday afternoons, I was always hoping Kirk would get vaporized so Spock could take over.

M: Like I’ve said, I really like your writing style; do you have any other books in the works?

AK: I’m currently working on my first novel. I’ve discovered that fiction is harder to write than non-fiction. Still, I plan on having a publishable manuscript by the end of the summer.

M: Well thank you, Sir. Please keep in touch will you?

AK: Of course. Thank you for your time.
A full list of Blog Tour reviews, of which I am the only man… Go figure… can be found on Abel Keogh’s web site:
Please leave a comment, I’d like to know what’s on your mind… Please?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Caught in the Headlights

Caught in the Headlights: 10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way
By, Barry K. Phillips (Forward by, Glenn Beck)
Published by Cedar Fort, Inc.
104 pages, $11.99

It’s a funny thing, if you watch for life lessons; sometimes they’ll hit you like a Mac Truck. Take last night for example, I was in a kind of a sullen, dissatisfied mood, and so, naturally, I sat down to write this review. I should never do that in such a state of mind, because I hammered this book. Man, I’ll tell ya, I set that thing on top of some Kingsford and then “flicked my bic.” Thankfully, I have a loving wife who is… well to use the words of Barry Phillips… “my wife is a saint.” She made me realize that I was not being fair to Mr. Phillips, and that I was just simply taking my frustrations out on him and his book. So, I burned my last review, and in it’s place I give you this one, which is much more fair.

Here’s the thing, I’m not sure how to handle this book because I don’t read anything that can be found in the self-help, business, or the political sections… (a nazi named Ann Coulter cured me of that last one.) So how does a degree in English Lit help me here? Well let’s start with what the book is about… Shall we?

In his book, Caught in the Headlights, Barry Phillips, presents 10 things that he wanted to accomplish in his life, just to find that what he thought he wanted wasn’t necessarily the same as what he got or what he really, truly wanted in the first place, and then he tells us what it was he learned along the way. Throughout the book he questions his qualifications to give such advice to his readers, sometimes in very humorous ways. For example, he lists among his bona fides that he loves “to cook, draw, and play drums.” He also likes “long walks on the beach, and the smell after a rain storm.” Did I mention that he says his wife is saint… but aren’t they all?

I really did like the humor in his writing. He tends to write like I do, with a lot of pauses and sidebars. But unlike my writing, he quickly comes back to his point. Which is refreshing; since he doesn’t give you time to forget what his original point was.

The book is very structured around his 10 points or pursuits, (ie. Happiness, Self-Esteem, Pride, so on and so forth), then using that point he tells a story form his big bag of life experiences, be it from business, church, home or getting stared at by Bill Gates. Next he presents the lessons that he learned using a standard 3-point conclusion. Standard, meaning that he doesn’t deviate from that set pattern. Finally, and I don’t quite get this one, he concludes with a poem… of his own make… which kind of repeats his three point lesson. I must admit, I only read the first poem, while I was on the bus. And I must have had a very perplexed look on my face, because the guy sitting next to me got up and actually left the bus. Ok, it may have been his stop, but still… I don’t get the whole thing with the poems. I’m sorry… Poems should be reserved for Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the guys who write toothpaste jingles… I’m just sayin’.

Wow, it sounds like I really didn’t like this book, and I really kind of did. Mr. Philips does make some very good points and I did walk away from this book with some lessons learned. For example, in his 10th chapter, titled “The Perfect Body,” he states,

As with most things in life, it really is about balance. We all need to eat healthy. But to say you will never eat chocolate again is not realistic for most of us. I mean, even if you live longer without chocolate, what would be the point? Life with no chocolate at all? Please. Ding Dongs are the nectar of life. At least I’d like them to be.

How true is that? I totally believe that.
I did try to put some balance in my life once, but I fell down.

Glenn Beck, a hero to the LDS population of the great state of Utah, wrote the forward to the book, which is quite appropriate since, like this book, Glenn’s radio show is funny in parts, preachy in parts, but enlightening in all ways.

I was able to sit down with the author, in a virtual sense, to ask him a few questions.

Murph: Mr. Phillips, It is a pleasure, may I call you Barry?

Barry Phillips: Sure... but only because it's my name. I mean, if it wasn't my name, what would be the point of calling me that? Besides, Mr. Phillips is my father.

Murph: Thank you, Um… I gotta know, right off the bat… what was with the poetry?

Barry Phillips: Yeah, I gathered you weren't a big fan of that part. To my defense, you only read one, and on the bus with some smelly guy watching you. I wrote them because they can make a point like nothing else at times. Besides, I actually like them.

M: I know that this is not a book of fiction, but I find that most writers are also readers, so… who do you read? If I were to raid your bookshelf today, who would I find sitting there?

BP: Car and Driver, cover to cover - but just for the articles. It depends on my mood otherwise. I like C.S. Lewis, but I also read a variety of things. On my shelf right now is Glenn Beck's latest book, a business book on marketing, Newt Gingrich's book on Change, lot's of church books, and scriptures. I liked the Harry Potter stuff, and I'm and Dale Brown fan. I'm also a fan of good, funny cartoons - the Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes and the like.

M: What made you want to write this book?

BP: The idea just hit me and it percolated until I just had to do it. I wrote the book because I noticed that a lot of people struggle with the same issues I did, but don't have much luck at resolving them. Not that I'm perfect at them by any stretch, but I've learned what works if I just follow the lessons learned.

M: Looks to me like you’ve done a lot with your life, but are you and Eagle Scout?

BP: A proud Tenderfoot, actually. But my wife and I did drag my oldest son across the finish line to get his Eagle, so that out to count for something.

M: I want to read a quote from your book, and get your reaction. Would that be all right?

BP: Do I have a choice? Why don't you ask me about one of the poems, since you read so many of them.

M: Ya, my wife said that as well, but I just can’t read poetry, maybe it’s because the one Poetry professor I had was from San Francisco… but anyway… Okay, this is from page 10, and you’re talking about people with whom you need to maintain relationships… with me so far? Ok, you state: “…and those internet geeks. Let’s face it, you may not want to hang out with them, but every now and then you really need to have them in your life.” So, I’m taking a stab in the dark here… I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be keen on sitting down to a nice game of D&D?

BP: The fact that I know what D&D stands for scares me just a little. But I have a confession or two. My wife is the Guild Master of a long standing guild in WOW (yes, I know what that acronym means too) and I work in an IT department. Not too far from my office is a guy with "IMANERD" on his license plates. So I know how to speak the geek. But it takes a special breed to hang with nerd herds on your own time. I actually like them, but I'm more of an honorary member.

M: You do realize that the Mind of Murph Blog Site is a Geek site… I mean… not a “let me help you with your Internet” kind of geek. I’m talking, never dated in high school, 10th level mage, in love with Princess Leia, sitting on the couch watching old reruns of Starblazers… THAT kind of geek… are you good with that?

BP: That's cool… do you think the guys that do help you with your Internet are different from that somehow?

M: Umm… Ya. Two different breeds, but both having a common ancestor… let’s move on, shall we? In your book, you refer to Bill Gates and Donald Trump as huge successes that you don’t want to be anything like… so… who do you look up to?

BP: People that are great at what they do, but are not jerks. Chip Foose for example. He's the best car designer on the planet and still a really great person from what I understand.

M: Are you a fan of Joss Whedon?

BP: Liked Buffy pretty well, and LOVED Firefly. Serenity is still one of my favorite moves.

M: Shiny! Dude, you rock! Um… So if you could be anyone in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer… who would you be?

BP: Someone that gets a stake through the heart. I'm not much of an actor, but I could play dead pretty well.

M: What’s the number one problem with the country today?

BP: Political Correctness. It stops everyone from saying what they really feel and prevents us from solving real problems.

M: If you were the King of the US for one day… what would you do to fix that problem?

BP: It would take more than one day, but I'd start with removing the concept of a professional politician. Of course, if I were king, there'd be very little need for politicians. I'd appoint logical, down to earth people with souls to run things.

M: Who shot first, Han Solo or Greedo?

BP: Han's the man.

M: You have a chapter in the book… Chapter 6, “Tolerance” where you literally lay it on the line. You express your opinions on the subject, seemingly without shame or remorse. It’s a very bold chapter… were you nervous at all? Did you ever think that that chapter was going to get you into trouble?

BP: Yes, I did. I've been very surprise that most people like that chapter the best. I really thought the publisher would make me change the chapter drastically, but they didn't change it at all, other than a few typos.

M: Well Sir, Thank you for your time, I’ll let you get back to cleaning out your horse stalls.

BP: I'll save you pile!

For a full list of stops on his virtual book tour, go to Barry's website.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ar Eireann Ni Neosainn Ce Hi

I have found the sheet music to one of my all time favorite traditional Irish airs. It’s called Ar Eireann Ni Neosainn Ce Hi. For those of you who don’t speak Irish, it means, For Ireland, I’d Not Tell Her Name.
The Music I have is in the key of G (I think) and since my Tin Whistle is in the key of D, I’m going to have to make some alterations to the way I play it, and I know that I’ll never be able to play this song as well as the High Kings, but it sure is a pretty song.

Oh, and please take note of the Non-instrument being played at the end of the song. It's a Walton Tin Whistle, by the way.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sorry, I Just Have to Vent

Every Sunday my family gets together at my parent’s house for Sunday dinner. It’s kind of a big todo, and we all look forward to it, ‘cause it’s kind of fun. I love hanging with my folks, they’re some of the best people I know.
Anyway, I’ve been teaching myself to play the Tin Whistle, and I’ve gotten to a point, after only a month, that I was feeling comfortable enough with it, that I wanted to show my parents what I’d accomplished. So I took it and my sheet music along with us to dinner. Now, I had been kind-of mentally preparing myself for… Stacie. Ya see, I’m the oldest of 6 children, and Stacie is about a year and a half my junior. Ever since we were kids, Stacie has been my judge, jury and in some cases, my executioner. I rarely, if ever, meet her standards. After all, she’s one of the beautiful people with her rotating cadre of friends, while I was (still am) a D&D geek with all that comes with that. I never dressed right for her, I never listened to the right music, or went to the right movies, on and on, ad nauseam…
My current fascination with my Celtic heritage, I’m quite sure, has her just reeling from the geek vibes emanating from my part of the Salt Lake Valley. So, I figured that she’d poke a crack at my playing, or the tunes, or the geekyness of such an instrument… I didn’t know, something like that, so I steeled myself, and waited for her and her family to leave, before playing for my folks.
They didn’t leave.
It was 8:30pm and was a half hour past the time when we usually leave to go home, and they were still there.
So at the prompting of my wife, I broke out my whistle and sheet music to play for my folks, and the first thing out of Stacie’s mouth… “Hey look, Mike has a Recorder,” in a tone of voice that was so condescending and so judgmental, that I automatically went on the defensive. I don’t even know why. The recorder is a wonderful instrument with a great resonating sound, but it isn’t a Tin Whistle. The fingering isn’t even close between the two. Comparing a Tin Whistle to a Recorder is like saying that harp is the same as a guitar, because they both have strings. So, I played a couple of tunes, which my Folks listened to and seemed to like, and Stacie... she, talked right through my playing. So I finished, and then we left.
It didn’t hit me until I went to bed how ticked off I am at her, I’m kind of glad that I didn’t get up last night at half past mid-night to write this blog, because it would have been unreadable and strewn with 4-letter words.

How Dare She!

I understand that SHE plays the piano AND the violin. And I do understand (I am college edu-macated, after all) that SHE plays REAL instruments. And those of us who play the Tin Whistle and the Recorder don’t (apparently.) That will be news to the guy who did all of the music for the movie Titanic, I guess that he can go find a day job now, because “Oops” the Tin Whistle isn’t a real instrument according to my sister!
You know what, I don’t care. Her knowledge and her pride in her heritage doesn’t amount to a fart in a hurricane and she couldn’t be happier in her arrogant ignorance. So be it.
Next Sunday at dinner, I’ll just smile and pretend that everything’s just hunky-dory, because nothing that I say or do is going to change her.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Another One Rides the Bus

Well, it has come to this, I am now riding the bus to work. There is a couple of reasons for this… No, there is really only one reason to ride the bus… I can’t afford to buy the freaking gas anymore! I don’t blame the oil companies, I don’t blame the Arabs, I don’t even blame the environmentalists for my Bus pass. Do you want to know who I blame? I blame the stupid SUV guy that I saw filling up at the Chevron, when the Holiday Oil across the street was 20 cents cheeper! That’s who I blame! You Moron!

So I’m on the bus, and it really isn’t that bad. It used to take me a half hour and a gallon of gas to get to work, and now it takes me 45 minutes and about 200 calories (because I have to walk about a half mile to work from the Trax station. I’ll tell you one thing though; I am getting a heck of a lot of reading done.

So… I’ll take the bus for a while. I’d bet, that if 15% of us did park our cars and started taking the bus to work, we would break the back of the oil companies. I’m not kidding. I thought that we would reach that number when Gas hit $4.00 per gallon, but I was wrong, we’re only a little over 1% of drivers. And so, to inspire you to park your cars and to break their filthy money grubbing backs… I give you… This…

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Farworld, Book 1, Water Keep
By J. Scott Savage
Hardcover by Shadow Mountain Press
Expected release, September 2008

I don’t read LDS authors. No, that’s a lie; I do read LDS authors when their names are Orson, Scott, and Card. So when my Wife, a voracious reader of all things LDS, stumbled across the Six LDS Writers and a Frog blog site and saw that J. Scott Savage was offering a free advanced copy of his new book to anyone who had an active blog site and who would be willing to write a review of his book, I was… less than enthusiastic. But, I do have an active blog (after all, I visit it almost every day) and I just can’t pass up a free book. It’s a sickness I know but let’s move on.

In the world of YA fiction there are the good, the bad, and the… Harry Potter.
Did I say anything about his scar? No, I don’t think so… Geez! I just didn’t like it ok?

So when I picked up Farworld, and found that it started out as a nice little story about a poor little wheelchair bound orphan, Marcus, who lived in a boarding school and was being picked on by a bully named Chet, I thought, “Harry Potter clone… this is going to be a long, sucky read,” and I started to wonder if I should just send the book back to Mr. Savage with regrets that I would not be willing to bar-b-que his book on my blog site. But then something happened… the book… it got… Good. In fact, it got really good.

As with many fantasy type books the main character, Marcus, is a special kid, with a special destiny, who has to face many trials on his way to fulfilling that destiny. One of those trials is in the form of an unstoppable army of darkness being lead by “The Dark Circle.”

Voldemort can now be sent to the Bad Guy Retirement Home for Pansies, because he just can’t hold a candle to The Dark Circle, in fact, if he tried, he’d be consumed in an evil that not even he could understand, or would even want to. Think… Night of the Living Dead meets both the Devils and Demons sections of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. Yes, my fellow geeks, The Dark Circle is that scary.

Along this journey, Kyja, a little farm girl with a mysterious resistance to magic and a tragic speech impediment that only affects her when she tries to pronounce Earth and Basketball, joins Marcus, as does Riph Raph, a pint size fairy dragon or Skyte with a heart (and an attitude) the size of an 18-wheeler.

Mr. Savage’s writing is very good for YA fiction, and he was able to avoid Steven King’s preverbal Road to Hell… he doesn’t use many adverbs, and for that I’d kiss him full on the mouth…
Well, not literally… I mean... not as such… I’m married, and… he’s a guy…

He’s also succeeded in creating a world that is very original and just magical enough to be believable. I did, however, find his characters just a little bit to cartoonish to be completely believed. This may due to the breakneck pace at which the book is set, and so the story’s timeline doesn’t allow for a believable growth cycle in the characters. I don’t know, but I am looking forward to the next book to find out. But cartoonish or not, I did find myself caring a great deal about these kids and, to me, that’s the primary key to a great book.

I was recently able to sit down with J. Scott Savage at one of my favorite places, Darrow’s Bar and Grill, Home of the 10 pound Haggis, for a little one on one chat about his new book.

Murph: Thanks for meeting with me today Mr. Savage, Sorry I’m late; there was some kind of freak duck incident on the freeway today, very frightening. Have you ordered?

J. Scott Savage: You really have to watch out for those quack drivers. Glad you could make it. I haven’t ordered yet. I asked the waiter what was good and he said something that sounded like “Champit tatties and bashed neeps.” I was actually a little afraid he was threatening me.

Murph: Ahh, you must have met Angus. You didn’t say anything about his kilt did you? May I call you Scott?

J. Scott Savage: It seems appropriate here at the home of the ten pound haggis

Murph: I just have to know, you aren’t related to that kid on “The Wonder Years” are you? I mean it’s a very unusual name. Where does it come from?

J. Scott Savage: Fred. Nope no relation. Although we are both handsome dark haired devils. Savage is Irish. Originally it was French, but the L’Savages got tired of pommes and moved to Ireland for potatoes. Not sure how they worked out since they left for the US sometime thereafter.

M: A French Irishman? Perish the thought.

Waitress: Good afternoon gentlemen, my name is Mairi, and I’ll be searving you today. Can I start you off with some fresh champit tatties?

M: Ah, no… thanks… I’ll have the Irish Meat Cobbler with a side of Haggis Nuggets.

Waitress: Okay… and for you sir?

JSS: Hmm, I think I’m going to try this football shaped thing with some of the bashed neeps. Also I’ll have some of that fish head soup. I kind of like food that looks back at you.

M: Scott, I feel that I do need to warn you that The Mind of Murph blog site is a Geek site. And when I say Geek, I’m not talking “I can fix your computer” geek, I’m talkin’ greasy hair, D&D playing, Star Trek loving, still living with Mom and reading Spiderman comics at the age of 40 kind of geek, so some of my questions may be a little… unusual. Are you good with that?

JSS: Well, when I was a senior in high school I nearly got arrested for leading a live D&D group on a midnight battle for a hidden golden banana. Does that count?

M: Shaa! LARP for a banana? I’d say that cements you firmly into the geek realm. And your wife knew this before she married you? Um, I guess I’d better get on with this interview then. So, what’s the capital of New Hampshire?

JSS: Is this a trick question? Because if you’d asked me about the old Hampshire I would have told you Winchester. But I was even aware there was a new Hampshire. Let’s try Carson City?

M: Sorry… but it had to be done. Now really, who are your influences? What authors really get your creative juices flowing?

JSS: You know it really depends on what I’m in the mood for. My bookshelf is so wide ranging. I love Poe and Lovecraft as far as older authors. I think that Peter Straub is almost poetic in his writing. I love how creative Dean Koontz is. I think that Steinbeck created incredibly believable characters. And despite your swipe at him, King is the master of capturing the every day man or woman. I love about ½ of Card’s books. From a fantasy side, I like Brooks, Donaldson. I’m a big Sci Fi fan with all the classics: Asimov, Heinlein, Herbert.

M: What swipe at King? I love King. Do you hear me! Sorry, must be my blood sugar.
And… I am sorry for this next question, well actually, I’m not sorry but my readers will really want to know… are you a fan of Joss Whedon?

JSS: This has got to be another trick question. How could I not be?

M: Who was your favorite character on Buffy?

JSS: Angel. Hands down. I’m working on an adult series (meaning not YA, as opposed to X rated) about a PI/Hit Man who goes to Hell and has a chance to be sent back to Earth if he can solve a little problem for the big man. For some reason whenever I picture the protagonist I see Angel. Although Buffy is pretty easy on the eyes.

M: Yep, my wife liked Angel too, but for completely different reasons. So, next question… Kirk or Picard?

JSS: I’m so glad you didn’t mention anyone after Picard. I might have had to end our interview. Personally, I think Picard is the best star ship captain of any movie or series.

Waitress: Now who had the Meat Cobbler?

M: That would be mine

Waitress: Be careful, the plate is very hot.

M: Ouch!
Su dogh yough mmmphf haff a mubbech lishmmm?

JSS: Ohh. That looks like it hurt. Were you asking for the pig’s brain relish?

M: Pig what? No, my fingers are really burned and sucking on ‘em really doesn’t help. I asked what’s the one thing you really want to do before you die? Do you have a bucket list?

JSS: You know, I was driving with my wife the other evening and it suddenly occurred to me that if someone had told me back when I was in high school that at the age of forty-five I’d be driving in a convertible with a gorgeous blond, listening to ZZ Top and I was only two months away from releasing my first book in a five book fantasy series (One that had a map in it no less!) I would have figured I’d died and gone to heaven. Is there really anything more to strive for? How about having dinner at Club 33 in Disneyland?

M: I’d prefer a brunet, but Club 33’s on my list too. So, what made you want to write a fantasy novel? Were you a D&D geek as a teen or something? Oh, I know… it was a 10-hour Lord of the Rings marathon, am I right?

JSS: This is just between you and me right? I have taught all my kids how to play D&D. The first thing I ever tried to program was a text adventure on an Atari 400 I think. I once interviewed Michael Okuda (google him if you don’t know the name) for a computer tabloid my wife and I published together. I have played every Ultima game ever made and I finally had to cancel my WofW account because I wasn’t getting enough writing done. Does that count for geekdom?

M: Turbo Geek, man, you’ve got nothing to prove to me. This cobbler is really good, you want a bite?

JSS: Heck yeah. It’s not ever day you see a cobbler that jiggles.

M: How about a Haggis Nugget?

JSS: Yeah. Think I’m going to pass on that. Reminds me a little too much of the lamb fries Chevy Chase ate in “Funny Farm.” But you enjoy them. Want to try some of this football shaped thing?

M: Wow, that is really tasty, the bashed neeps really brings out the flavor of the… whatever that is... So, now that you’re a fantasy novel author, are you going to become a crusader for geek rights? Come on, join the fight.

JSS: Do geeks have rights? Seems almost like a contradiction in terms.

M: Of course we have rights! We… well… no you’re right, we have no rights. Oh well… Um… If you could be any Battlestar Gallactica character, who would you be, and why?

JSS: Boomer. Liked the character and the name.

M: Um… you know that Boomer’s a chick now, right? And a cylon… oh… you mean the old Battlestar Gallactica, well… that makes more sense. Okay... shifting to the novel for just a second, after all, that is why you agreed to meet with me. How do you pronounce some of these words? Thrathkin S’Bae, Terra ne Staric, did I miss any? Also, how did you come up with words like these?

JSS: Thrath-kin just like it looks, but with an emphasis on the first syllable. The second half S’Bae is a little harder. The s is nearly silent . Pronounce it as if the S was at the end of the Thrathkin. Terra (like terraforming) Nay Star-ick. I don’t like to do a ton of unpronounceable names. It’s annoying for the reader and I always wonder if the word is pronounced Shay, why spell it zzaegh? I mean, can’t we assume the author translated into English anyway? But I wanted the Thrathkin S’Bae to really feel different. They have their own language, their own hierarchy. There’s a lot more to them than I get to show in the first book. The city just came to me. It was the name I thought of as soon as I imagined the city. There is more to the name, which we’ll learn about in book two. It does mean something.

M: From what sick, twisted part of your mind did the Dark Circle spring?

JSS: You know, you’re about the tenth person to mention how scary my dark creatures are. I really thought I was holding back. I’m going, wait till you see what’s in store. Again, I read a lot of dark fiction so that may shape my thinking.

M: I really enjoyed the water references in this book… without giving to much away to the future readers of your book… this might be a bit of a spoiler, but… when Marcus first arrives in Farworld, he’s laying half in and half out of a stream, is that symbolic of his marginal existence in Farworld? Or am I reading too much into it?

JSS: Great catch! Even more so than you might think. I really didn’t have a chance to address it in book one. But there is much more to the relationship between earth and Farworld. You’ll see more of that as the series progresses. But yes, I really like the visual of him halfway in the creek and halfway in Farworld, although the reader doesn’t know that at the time.

M: Gee thanks, my Dad will be so pleased that my Literature Degree came in use somewhere. Umm… I really thought that your idea of “finding the magic within you” was a great moral for your book. Where did it come from? Is that the message you want readers to carry away from your book?

JSS: Absolutely! It’s not like I write a book trying to get a certain message across, but as I wrote this book, finding your magic kept coming through. This is going to sound geeky—even to you—but I think magic is much more prevalent that we give it credit. I look at someone who can take a handful of colored pencils and turn it into a picture that takes my breath away, and to me that’s magic. I look at the roses that keep growing in front of my house, despite my non-existent gardening skills and that has to be magic. In a religious argument, tell me that someone commanding the sea to part or bringing down a rain of frogs or telling the water to be solid isn’t magic? We look for all these rationalizations, but a big part of me thinks that the world is full of magic. We just don’t always recognize it as that. Heck, I’m getting paid to tell stories. Is there anything more magical than that?

M: Do you have any advice for young folk out there who may be thinking about writing as a profession?

JSS: Hmm. This is a tough question. The other night my ten-year-old son and I were on a walk, and he told me he wanted to be either a basketball player or a computer programmer. We came into a discussion about being whatever you can dream of while also balancing that against the real world. I am a dreamer. I always have been. So, my message is, understand that it’s tough to make a living at writing, then go ahead and do it anyway. But for the moment, just enjoy writing. If you feel like everything you write has to be good enough for publication, you take away too much creativity. It’s like telling kids to color in the lines. Instead, write because you love it. If it becomes a profession, great. But if it doesn’t, don’t let that dampen your love of writing.

M: How large was your collection of rejection letters before you were first published?

JSS: You know. I’ve never been one to collect rejections. (Way to much of that in high school!) I only collect acceptances. But, yeah, I’ve had a few.

M: When can readers expect the next Farworld installment?

JSS: One a year for the next five years. And hopefully a few other things along the way.

M: Were you an Eagle Scout?

JSS: Yes

M: If you could have one Super Power, what would it be?

JSS: Flying would probably be the coolest. I hate planes, and I hate long drives, so that would rock. But I am fascinated by the concept of time. I’d like to be able to bend and twist time like Silly Putty. And I’d really like to see what time looks like after you smash it against the Sunday comics.

Waitress: Can I get you anything else?

M: I think we’re done

JSS: Wait, we can’t go without trying the Crannachan. Shall we share a bowl?

M: Oh ya, that would be tasty.

Waitress: Then who gets the check?

M: That would be for Mr. Savage…

JSS: Wait I thought--

M: Hey, you’re the big famous writer; I’m just some geek with a blog site.

JSS: Alright, but if I pick up the check you have to change that review so it says you liked Farworld. I mean I feel a little robbed after I paid for lunch and you called my book, “The worst tripe I’ve ever set eyes on.”

M: Ok, I’ll loose the tripe. Thanks for lunch! Call my people… we’ll do it again.

JSS: Ciao, baby.
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