Local Children's Book Author, Greg R. Fishbone, says...

Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Cool Stuff from Japan: Wasabi

In Japan on June 22, 2010 at 1:45 am
From Snacks.com

Found in my local gas station!

Let’s talk about these chips I found in my local gas station mini-mart. The Asian dragon makes me think of China. The font looks like it was lifted from a Chinese restaurant menu. But aren’t those Japanese katakana characters up there, wedged between the “Chips” and the dragon’s nose? Yes, they are, and they say: “Wasabi!” It’s the only place you’ll find the word on this bag unless you take a magnifying glass to the ingredients.

You’ll find wasabi in the green paste you get with sushi, on rice crackers and chips from Japan, and coating some dried green pea snacks, as a distinctive medium-hot horseradishy flavoring. But if you don’t read Japanese, the marketing  department at Frito-Lay figures you don’t really need to know what you’re eating. The product development people, on the other hand, have done a great job of teaming wasabi up with corn chips. If you see these in your local gas station mini-mart, grab a few bags!

I May Be a Humorist

In Galaxy Games, Humor, Penguins of Doom on June 17, 2010 at 12:08 am

It may be a case of being too close to the source material, but I haven’t been thinking of Galaxy Games as a humor book. It’s been primarily science fiction and sports with lots of funny bits thrown in. I also didn’t think of Penguins of Doom as a humor book, but as a contemporary fantasy with humorous events told in a humorous voice. If it’s not acknowledged as a humor book, I told myself, I get to be funny only when I want rather than having an obligation to toss out punchlines on a regular basis.

Now, however, may be the time for me to reassess my writing in general as well as in the specific case, to take hold of the virtual podium, and to proclaim: “I’m Greg R. Fishbone and I write funny books for kids. And teens. And penguins.”

Feedback from my editor at Publisher-I’m-Still-Not-Daring-To-Name-In-Public: “Some members of the acquisitions committee didn’t get the book because they only read the first three chapters, which weren’t punchy, hooky, or funny enough.” Except she probably didn’t use the words “punchy” or “hooky” because that’s just me cribbing from my notes of our conversation. Now that I’ve had a week to think about it, I’m sure the committee was right on and I’m the one who didn’t get the book–because the middle and end parts are pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. Hence a violation of the Promise Principle of novel writing:

The Promise Principle:

The first chapter of a book (along with the title and jacket copy) should set up a reasonable expectation of style, genre, character, and plot. The rest of the book must fulfill the promises made, or otherwise leave the reader feeling satisfied rather than cheated.

If you fail to do this, the best you can hope for in reader reaction is the Positive Bait and Switch.

The Positive Bait and Switch:

“That wasn’t at all the book I thought it was going to be, but I liked it anyway.”

But just as often you’ll get a Bait and Switch Off.

The Bait and Switch Off:

“Someone told me the book would be funny, but I stopped reading after three chapters of not laughing.”

A humor book has to front-load some of the humor, which is difficult because the nature of humor is to require a setup and punchline, or better yet, multiple punchlines. Since I wasn’t thinking of Galaxy Games (still in search of a title, by the way) as a humor book, I was spending three or four chapters on mostly setup before dropping several loads of punchlines.

The challenge with a humor book is providing punchlines at the beginning that require little or no explicit setup and yet blend seamlessly into the funny stuff that happens later on. If I can do this successfully, the book will head back to the committee and there will be thunder. Ka-pow!

Cool Stuff From Japan: Holographic Sports!

In Japan, Sports on June 7, 2010 at 12:54 am

Interesting things happen at the intersection of sports and technology. First are incremental advances in equipment that help athletes reach their full potential. Ultrasonic bonding can eliminate the seams in a bathing suit, to let swimmers glide faster through the water. The upcoming World Cup will feature the roundest and most leak-proof soccer balls ever. And there’s always something new in sneakers to help athletes run faster or jump higher than before.

Other advances are meant to give fans a better viewing experience, like when first-goal lines are superimposed on a football field and move in real time with the TV cameras.

The Japan Football Association’s bid for the 2022 World Cup includes a genuine game-changer: holographic broadcasts. This technology doesn’t even exist yet, but should come online in the next ten years.

Imagine your team is playing for a world championship, but the game is taking place in Japan and you’re located in the United States. Luckily, it’s 2022 and your local stadium is equipped with holographic projectors! In Japan, up to 200 HD cameras film the action from every angle. Meanwhile, in your hometown, real-time, full-sized, holographic images of the players range all over the field. It’s almost like being there!

How much longer would it be until the home units came out, so we could watch the Celtics and Lakers battle it out on a holographic coffee table? What would it be like to play, or to watch, a game with even more advanced technology than that? I’m having fun working that out with Galaxy Games.

The Penguins of Thunder

In Penguins of Doom on June 1, 2010 at 9:35 pm

thunderstorm -lightning

I sold my first book during a thunderstorm, at night, at 70 miles per hour. My wife and I were driving from our home in Boston to Philadelphia, where her family lives. In the middle of Connecticut, my mobile phone rang. You can imagine any ultra-cool ring tone you want, but I’m embarrassed to say it was probably “Sk8er Boi” by Avril Lavigne. (Hey, it was 2005–don’t judge me!)

I don’t ever drive while taking on the phone. Ever. It’s a dangerous and stupid thing to do. But I also had never gotten a call with a publisher’s name in the caller ID. With my wife cheering me on, I took the call and steered the car toward the next exit off Interstate 84 and then into the first driveway I could find. So it may be more accurate to say that I sold my first book in a pizzeria parking lot, while streaks of lightning flashed across the night sky.

What my wife heard must have sounded something like this: “Sure… That’s great…” [Raising voice to be heard over the downpour.] “Yes, I’d love to have PENGUINS OF DOOM published by Blooming Tree.” [Dramatic crash of thunder!] “Merchandising rights? Well, that sounds good. Hey, what about little penguin dolls filled with jellybeans? They could be kinda like beanie babies but refillable! Yeah, okay, I’ll think of something else…”

After her, the next people to know were the staff and patrons of the pizzeria because, hey, I had to tell somebody. Then I called every family member and friend in my address book until my phone ran out of batteries.

I’m not planning any family trips for, let’s say, the end of this week…but it’s a good omen that thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday and Friday. Keep your fingers crossed!