Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Lost Science of Bagging Groceries

I've been wanting to post this for a very long time, because every time I go to the grocery store it drives me friggin-bananas that no one knows how to bag groceries anymore. It really shouldn't take a college degree, but I guess basic physics properties are no longer common knowledge.

When I learned to bag groceries, lo, so many years ago, it was taught that to the best of your ability, you try to make every bag look approximately like this:

The heavy items go on the bottom, then not so heavy, and finally things like bread and bags of chips go on top.

You do not put all the heavy things in one bag, and all the light things in another:

This is why:

Even though you are probably pushing the bags out to your car in a cart, at some point you do have to carry them, and it's so much easier if you are not forced to walk like a human question mark.

The same goes for this:

Yes, that's a messy drawing. But that's what you get when you bag groceries like this--a mess. Everything spills out of one bag, The other looks like a sad, pathetic little crumpled thing. Seriously, how unfair is this?

Not that I'm saying everything needs to be homogenized here. While the weight distribution of your bags really should be about equal, the temperature is a different matter altogether.

Let's look at this informative diagram of the direction heat moves:

Notice that heat moves away from its source and toward areas of no heat (or less heat).

This is why we separate warm items from cold items:

When we don't separate them, what we get is this:

I will note here that separation can be taken too far. Seriously--what is going through the minds of the baggers who put one or two items in each bag? How is this easier for the customer? Or are you just showing off how quickly you can whip open those clingy plastic bags? Sorry, but save it for America's Got Talent and don't make me wrangle 47 sets of handles to get my groceries into the car/house.

OK, thanks for letting me get that off my chest finally. For my next lecture....

Just kidding.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My Fun at Tampa Bay Comic Con 2016: Panels and Pictures

Two years ago, my family attended Tampa Bay Comic Con for the first time. (You can see my post about that here.) Last year, it just didn't work out for us to go at all.

Me, William Hatfield, and Rod Martinez
This year, though...I was invited to be on writers panels! I got this out-of-the-blue email from an author -- Rod Martinez, who writes Middle Grade adventure stories. He had set up a panel and needed panelists. He told me he Googled something like "local Tampa fantasy authors" and my website came up in the top listings. He liked my site, thought I'd be a good fit, and contacted me. I had to think about it.,,,for about three seconds ;). Hah! Of course I was going to say yes! It's Comic Con! (Also, lesson to authors: When they talk about having an online presence, this is one reason. It's not just so your books are easy to find--it's so YOU are.)

Well, one panel led to another, when an author had to back out. And then a third when a dear author friend recruited me for a panel he was on.

It meant spreading my days out--early morning Saturday, late night Saturday, then again Sunday morning. So worth it, though. I had a blast and met some of the coolest people! The audience members asked all kinds of questions, as most of them were writers themselves. They were so kind and attentive and came up after the panels to talk to us panelists, and even buy some books.

In between panels, I hung out in the vendor hall with my buddy, author William Hatflield, pictured in the bottom right here:

Tell me those costumes aren't cool! (If a bit blurry, because I forgot my real camera and had to use my phone.) The guy on stilts walked around like he did that all day normally. And Predator...well, come on. Fab.

I did get some clearer pics Sunday, when I remembered my real camera....including Velma, who bought a copy of Finding Angel after hearing me talking to someone else about my books. Thank you, Velma!

That Moaning Myrtle costume is just brilliant. And even though I knew this was not actually Levar Burton, I totally fan-girled at the sight of Geordi La Forge.

Quick story before I close out here...

I was leaving Comic Con after my time there Sunday morning -- panel, hanging out with Bill, walking the way too crowded vendor hall -- and when I got to the exit, I realized it was raining. Well, I had books in a basket and no way to keep them dry. I decided to try to find a plastic shopping bag or something to cover my books with, and I walked through the main hallway downstairs. Suddenly a guy comes up to me and asks if the books in my basket were books I wrote. Tall, youngish (in other words, obv younger than me), very sweet guy. I tell him, yes, they are. He asks if he can buy copies.

Of the whole series.

He loves meeting authors, he tells me, and wants copies of whatever I have that I wrote myself.

This, folks, is something that just makes an author's day. So, Josh, it was great meeting you, and thank you for making an already fantastic morning even more awesome!

And that's it--my first time as a panelist at Comic Con.

Next, I'll be doing panels again at Necronomicon in October. A smaller con, but oh, it's where my heart is! I've been attending Necro for years, doing panels there ever since Finding Angel released. I'll post here as soon as I have my panel schedule there. In the meantime, if you want more info, visit the Necro site HERE.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tampa Bay Comic Con 2016 - Writing Panels With ME!


I've been invited to be on three panels. Details below. If you are at the Tampa Bay Comic Con during those times, please come by and see me!

Tampa Bay Comic Con, August 5-7, 2016

Tampa Convention Center.
333 S Franklin St, Tampa, FL 33602

Saturday, 8:30am - 9:30am | Rm. 20
Do you have a great story sitting on the porch of your brain house, but having trouble getting that plot off of it’s butt? Well, come to where no writer has gone before, where writer’s block doesn’t exist, but instead the next Star Trek.

Saturday, 10:30pm – 11:30pm | Rm. 20
Enjoy the thrilling world of action, fantasy and sci/fi fiction as it comes alive by the authors who craft them. Meet, greet and hear them read from their own works of art as you are drawn into their world of storytelling. Join them for a lecture on writing and crafting novels along with a reading from their latest books.

Sunday, 10:00am – 11:00am | Rm. 5
Every popular science fiction or fantasy writer of novels, comics, or any other medium started out as an “aspiring” author. A panel of pro SF and fantasy writers will discuss the art and science of writing and will give advice to move you from “aspiring writer” to “writer.” Q&A to follow.

Click HERE for info and tickets.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Realm Makers 2016

This was year four of the Realm Makers Speculative Fiction Writers Conference. It's unique in that it's geared toward spec-fic (sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal) written from a Christian worldview. I have had the fortune of being part of this conference from the very beginning. The first year was pretty small, maybe 85 people including faculty. I was on a couple of panels that year. Year two saw a sliver of growth, and I taught a couple classes and participated in one panel. Last year, the third year, Realm Makers literally doubled in size. We got bigger names for faculty and had a larger offering of classes, so I was simply an attendee. (I did get to judge the costume contest, though. And my short story was a finalist in the RealmScapes anthology contest.)

This is available on Amazon!!!

That brings us to year four. Again, I wasn't faculty, but I served as Appointment Coordinator. That meant working with spreadsheets, plugging in lots and lots of names, making sure people weren't scheduled to meet with two agents or editors at once--which, trust me, is very much a challenge! At the conference, it meant lots of last-minute changes, making forms for mentor appointments, and checking on the faculty who were available for appointments. I'll tell you this: Our faculty was awesome to work with!!!!

I mentioned mentor appointments. That was something I got to do myself--as a mentor! I had a spot on a comfy couch and got to advise authors on ways to improve their writing, or their pitches, and encourage and just connect. It was so fun!

Lastly, there was the Paranormal/Supernatural Panel I moderated. We unofficially snuck Horror into the mix, and I am so glad we did. That pretty well took over the conversation and spawned some awesome questions from the audience. The panel was only an hour long, but if we hadn't had to break for dinner we could have continued for hours.

Oh, what else...

The costume dinner, of course! This year I didn't let anyone know ahead of time who I'd be going as. It's an odd choice, and got a variety of reactions. Yes....I was Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors, and I had Audrey 2 with me. I made my carnivorous companion myself.

There were tons of other great costumes as well:

Those are just a few examples of the cosplay going on at Realm Makers!

Fun was had everywhere else as well. In classes, during meals, walking from here to there and back again, and just hanging out in the gathering areas. Realm Makers is a place where we all felt connected, where we all knew we belonged, where we could have differences of all kinds and still feel part of a greater whole.

Oh, and there was this cutie:

Doesn't that alone make you wish you were there???

So, there you have it. My weekend adventure at the greatest Speculative Fiction Writers Conference EVER. The only thing missing is my grand exit. The tunnel that takes you under the train tracks to the station for the train to the airport was flooded, so I and two train-traveling buddies decided the easiest way to cross was...the ill-advised way.

Yeah...nowhere did I say this was a conference for rule-followers!

Hope you've enjoyed my post, and if you want to see some more pics, visit my public Realm Makers 2016 Facebook album. (No, you don't have to have a Facebook account to view it. But if you do have an account and you want to keep up with my writing adventures, feel free to send me a friend request! You can also follow my Author Page.)

Now. I leave you with the promo for REALM MAKERS 2017!