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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Introducing Pixel Robot Jump Saga on Google Play

If you have an Android phone, Pixel Robot Jump Saga (available on Google Play) is a game that has charmingly retro graphics and a simple, fun interface.

The game features, yes, a pixel robot character, and the goal is to make the little guy jump vertically as many times as you can. The catch is that he's jumping inside a moving circle, and there's a gap in the circle, so you have to time your jumps carefully so that he doesn't jump through the gap, thus ending the game.

This YouTube video gives you a very clear idea of how the game works.

This game is made by Universal Games Team, and I asked them if there was anything in particular they wanted readers to know about it. They replied, "Pixel Robot Jump Saga is an insanely difficult retro game with pixel design and vintage sounds, making Flappy Bird seem easy."

I have to agree about the vintage sounds; listening to the game reminds me of my old Atari system in the best way possible. :) And the ease of the game--you just tap to jump--reminds me of old-school games, too.

I also asked the team what makes the game fun to play, and they said, "It's a frustratingly addictive game, an almost impossible game where you must tap to help a robot jump vertically out of a rotating circle and help it get back in safely. Just test your reflexes and see if the highest score you can obtain exceeds a single digit--you'll be a master if you get a two-digit score."

Have you played a game like this, where the creators say it will be hard for you to break into two-digit scoring? Sounds like a worthy challenge, if ever I've heard one!

Learn more by checking out the free app on Google Play at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pixel.robot.jump.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How to Write a Love Poem for Your Valentine

I've dedicated this blog to helping other people get the word out about their books, businesses, and creative projects, but now and then, I have a little project of my own to share. This week, I released an ebook called How to Write a Love Poem for Your Valentine. It contains twelve different writing exercises to help you craft a poem for someone you love.

The idea of the book is that it's straightforward and easy to use. You don't have to be a poet to read through this book and sit down and write a poem. The book guides you through some well-known types of love poetry such as sonnets and odes, and it contains ideas for other techniques like writing a found poem or a poem inspired by text messages.

I hope you'll check it out! It's just $2.99, or it's free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Monday, February 1, 2016

An Excerpt from Follow the Dotted Line by Nancy Hersage

Nancy Hersage has written for NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS. She is the winner of five national awards in playwriting; her plays have been produced on three continents and by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Her new mystery novel, Follow the Dotted Line, is the winner of Amazon's new Kindle Scout program and is published by Kindle Press.

Learn more about Follow the Dotted Line by visiting the book's Amazon page. The book is also on Facebook and Goodreads.

Here is a brief summary of the book...

Andrea Bravos is dazed and amazed when a Styrofoam burger box with her ex's ashes arrives in the mail. Her adventure to find out what happened will upset officials of several small countries, insult the founders of three major religions, give her four adult children acid reflux, and lead her to assault with a deadly golf club.

In the process, she will joyfully drag along her soft-spoken but fearsome accountant, while trying to fend off her mooch of a nephew. It's a convoluted and quixotic caper, but it all comes together in the end--even the avocados, World War II spy, IRS agent, palm reader, and deadly spider.

Move over Marple and Plum, here comes Andy!

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Follow the Dotted Line.

Chapter 8
Cremains of the Day

“What the hell are cremains?” asked Lilly.

“It’s the industry term for ashes,” Andy said, after she got up and refilled the margarita glass herself. “Cremated remains. Cre-mains. Get it?” She waited, but the girls weren’t going to be sidetracked. “Okay. Okay. Here’s what happened. I just wanted to get some basic information. The cause of death. Did your dad have a will? Stuff like that. But getting that information is harder than you think without knowing just where and when he died and without, you know, technically being related to him anymore.”

“Oh, my god,” said an alarmed Lil, “you didn’t try calling Tilda, did you?”

“Me? Call Tilda? Absolutely not.” Andy shot optic daggers at Harley, who had no doubt about keeping his mouth shut this time. “All I had were the ashes, so I just went from there.”

“From there--to where, Mom?” Sam asked.

“Well, to at least confirming that he’s dead,” said Andy. “And that is what’s in the box. The DNA results from the cremains.”

All eyes now returned to Harley, who was still holding the FedEx package.

“They can get DNA from ashes?” Lil asked, skeptically.

“No,” Sam informed them. “It’s almost impossible to get DNA after cremation. Don’t you people know anything about science?”

“But this company we found online said they could test for DNA,” said Harley. “And we had to fill out a Cremains Acknowledgement Form and everything. And they promised we’d get most of the ashes back. For burial. Or whatever.”

“To be accurate, they said there was a 50/50 chance they could get DNA from their testing,” said Andy, trying not to look as ridiculous as she was feeling. “I thought it was worth a try.”

“We’ll that sounds like a scam, Mother. So I’m not even going to ask you what you paid,” said Sam. “Your bad. Now open the package.”

Harley tried to hand the box to Andy, but she waved him off. You do it, genius, she thought to herself, then said, “Would you mind?”

He dutifully slit the clear plastic wrap covering the cardboard with his fingernail and took out the paper envelope addressed to Andy. She waved her hand again, and he opened the letter. “Read it,” she said, draining her glass.

“Dear Ms. Bravos,” Harley read. “Please find enclosed the laboratory results for the cremains testing performed by our company on the samples you sent us recently.”

“Wait a minute,” Sam interrupted. “Didn’t you have to send them a sample of Dad’s DNA for comparison?”

“Yeah,” was all Andy felt compelled to answer.

“So how did you get Dad’s DNA?”

“I, ah, had some,” Andy replied. “From a while ago.”

“You had some? Really? From a while ago? Care to enlighten us?” said Sam.

“Not really. But if I do, there will be no laughter, is that clear?” She could see Sam biting her lip in anticipation. “I mean it.” Both girls nodded agreement. “I have a lock of your father’s hair,” Andy said. “From when we were dating.”

Sam couldn’t help herself. A guffaw, if ever Andy heard one! She scowled back.

Lil put her hand on her mother’s and smiled affectionately. “I think that’s sweet.”

“Shut up,” said Andy. “Let’s get this over with.”

Harley continued. “The specifics of the test results are contained on page two of this letter. However, a summary of our findings indicates the following. Number one, the sample cremains were not suitable to extract for a DNA profile.”

“Bingo!” Sam said.

Having slipped from defensive to defeated in record time, Andy sighed audibly. “Would you mind, Sam? Let’s not make me feel like a bigger fool than necessary.”

Sam relented immediately. “Right. I’m sorry, Mom.”

“Want me to read number two?” Harley asked.

“Number two?” said Andy.

“Of the summary. Number two says, ‘The sample cremains show no signs of organic material and therefore do not, in all likelihood, include human tissue.’” Harley looked up, awaiting further instruction.

“Let me see the letter,” Sam said, taking the paper from Harley. She looked first at page one and then at page two. “It means the ashes are probably fake,” she said.

“Probably?” Lil wanted to know.

Sam grabbed the invoice. “The test cost $99, Lil. I doubt these folks can tell the difference between a corpse and cat litter.”

“But if there’s no organic material present,” Andy reiterated, reading the results for herself, “that means Tilda sent us dust.”

It took a few moments for the implications to sink in. And the one that sank in fastest was the bizarre behavior of the widow-in-chief.

“Why on earth would Tilda send fake ashes?” asked Sam.

“Maybe she just wanted to keep his real ashes for herself,” Lilly theorized. “We all agree she’s weird.”

“Or maybe it’s her way of flipping us off,” Sam offered.

“Or maybe he’s not dead,” said Andy, trying to squeeze herself back into the conversation. It worked.

“Why would she pretend he’s dead?” asked Sam, genuinely confused.

“Who knows?” mused Andy. “She hated it every time Mitch tried to call your dad. She was jealous. Some women are like that. Especially women who marry a guy with children and don’t have any of their own. So she decided to tell us he was dead to get us out of their, you know, busy and satisfying lives,” Andy concluded, with what she thought was just the perfect touch of contempt.

“And you think a fake cremation would be okay with Dad?” Lil wanted to know.

Andy considered this and said, “I don’t know. I don’t know what to think.”

“Well,” Sam pointed out, “Dad still could be dead. These just aren’t his ashes. Whatever’s going on, this test doesn’t actually get us anywhere, Mom.”

The kid holding the faux remains raised his hand slightly, as if he were waiting to be called on before he spoke.

“What is it, Harley?” Andy asked.

“Why don’t you just call Uncle Mark? You know. On his cell. See if he picks up.”

Out of the mouth of boobs, Andy thought.

Sam picked up her phone and dialed.

“Hi, Samantha,” boomed the voice on the other end of the line. “What’s up?”

“Hi, Mitch. Sorry to call in the middle of work.”

“No problem.”

“Listen, I want you to call Dad.”

“Call him? How do I do that?”

“You have his cell number, right?”

“Yeah. But he’s dead, Sam. Remember?”

“I know. Just call the number.”

“Call the number? I don’t want to call the number.”

“Just do it, will you?”

“Why?”

“Mom had the ashes tested. They’re questionable. We want to know if he’s still taking calls.”

“Those weren’t his ashes?!”

“It turns out there’s room for doubt.”

“Well, that certainly creeps me out, Samantha. Why have I been nominated to make the call?”

“Because you’re a big boy, Mitch. Just do it.”

A long beat, as Mitch considered his responsibilities. “Okay. Hold on.” He clicked off, and the little review committee waited in silence. He was back on the line a minute later.

“Sam?”

“Did you get him?”

“No. The number’s no longer in service,” Mitch told her. “What does that mean?”

“Damned if I know,” said Sam. “I’ll get back to you.” And she hung up.

The possibility that Tilda Trivette might have been screwing with Mark Kornacky’s remains seemed to jettison his children into action in a way that the man’s reported death had not. In the two hours before Lilly had to leave for the airport to catch her plane back to Idaho, Team Kornacky came together in a rare show of unity.

Thanks to Nancy Hersage for sharing an excerpt of her novel, and please visit her website at NancyHersage.com to learn more about her and her writing!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Meet Thomas Moulson of Fruit Tank

Fruit Tank is a website that showcases creative works from unknown talent in hopes of getting the artists discovered and selling their work. The site currently features art, music, video, photography, and writing. Learn more at http://www.fruittank.co.uk, or click here to learn how to submit your work.

1. How did you choose the name Fruit Tank for your project, and what does the name signify?

The name was originally chosen for its mix of the words "Fruit bowl" and "fish Tank." This meant we could have sub companies for the individual mediums, mixing fruit with sea life. For example, music would be under Cherry Crab, films under Strawberry Squid, etc. That has been put on hold because it's rather confusing. But the name has stuck, mainly because it's unique and sounds quite good. It's not the best name origin story.

2. How does your site help creative people get their work out there?

Once the site gains more and more traffic and popularity, we hope that it'll become the go-to place for creative content. Eventually we are going to do member pages where creatives can host their contact info (only accessible for other members) so people can collaborate with one and other. For example, a filmmaker may go to the site and find music they really like and may want to contact the musician and get them to do a soundtrack. Or a musician may want an artist to design their record cover. It will just become the HQ for creative content. The dream is that record labels, production companies, publishers, and galleries will come to Fruit Tank to scout out new talent.

3. Would you tell us a little bit about the compilations that you're planning to put together with the work that people share with you?

Every few months, we will allow visitors of the site to vote for their favorite creative content on the site, and then the top creations will be distributed/sold. Music will organized into an album and distributed onto iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and 100+ other music sites. Art and photographs will be compiled into a graphics book and possibly showcased and privately held galleries, writing will also be compiled into books, and the the films will be shown at pop-up, drive-in film festivals in major cities. Sometimes there will be themes; for example, for Valentine's Day, we will have a call for content such as love songs, romantic poetry, and romantic films.

4. I like that you cite Andy Warhol as an inspiration for Fruit Tank. What can we learn from the ways that he got his own art into the world, and the ways he collaborated with and/or supported other artists?

Andy Warhol was a true one of a kind person; he knew how allow people to nurture their talents and really express themselves without boundaries. He had a place called "The Factory" where anyone was welcome; people could just walk in and join in. I can imagine it was such a creative environment filled with inspiration. He recognized true talent: he made Jean Michel Basquiat very famous, and he catapulted The Velvet Underground into fame. He knew what the world expected and always did the opposite--he knew controversy sparked a reaction, and therefore got people talking about his work. He understood what it meant to be an artist, and he knew how to get the best out of people.

5. What else would you like readers to know about Fruit Tank?

We just want people to be known for their talents. There are some really really talented people in the world but nobody ever knows them, because it's so hard to get discovered nowadays--you need to pull so many strings to get recognition. Talent alone isn't enough nowadays; you need the correct personality and the right friends. That's just wrong. Talent is talent, and we want to show off that talent. I'm a fan of the lifestyle of the 60s and 70s because everyone appears to be so free and open to self-expression. The streets were ruled by artists. However, in the present day, everyone is so restricted by boundaries. We want creative people to show off their talents and get discovered the right way, for their amazing gifts.

Thanks, Thomas!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Meet Tina Cauthorn, Artist and Etsy Seller

Tina Cauthorn is a retired buyer from Fred Meyer, a division of Kroger. She has put her creative skills to work by having fun with buttons. Her "Button Factory" is in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Tina buys all her buttons on Etsy, on eBay, and at antique stores. So many Buttons, so little time! Check out Tina's button frames and other creations by visiting her Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/allbuttonedupbytina.

1. How did you decide to focus on making and selling button frames in your Etsy shop?

I saw a button frame in an antique shop and I thought, "I can do that." I went home and found an old picture frame and started gluing buttons on it. I still have my first "creation," and when I look at it, I realize how far I have come. Once I made enough to give away frames as gifts to friends and family, I decided that I should try selling them. I initially did a few craft shows. Boy, is that hard work! Everyone at the craft events was talking about Etsy. I looked into it and figured I would give it a try! My product seems to find the right customer base on Etsy.

2. What do you especially like about working with buttons--and how do you choose the buttons to work with in your creations?

When I worked as a buyer, I did a lot of design work, and this was a great way to challenge my creative side. One of the things I did as a buyer was buy "Novelty Underwear." All those boxer shorts with hearts on them for Valentines Day? I kind of took that idea and transferred it into button frames. It's fun to think of ideas. Holidays were easy! But then, I thought "Minions." What about "Wine," "Weddings," and "Watermelons"? I love that my customers send me a request for something special, and I'm able to make it happen.

3. In searching for buttons online and offline, how do you distinguish antique buttons from more contemporary ones?

When I started binging on buttons, I bought a lot of buttons on eBay--by the POUND! I got all kinds of old, vintage buttons. Since then, I've gotten very discriminating in only picking buttons that I know will complement what I already have. I've had to add new, current buttons into my assortment. It's tough to find nice, vintage rhinestone buttons or vintage button in bright, vibrant colors.

4. You have some great reviews on Etsy! What has been your experience in selling on the Etsy platform?

I've always said that Etsy is really a fabulous community. I find almost everyone I've dealt with has been a pleasure. I use my many years in retail to set my standards for my shop. "The customer is always right," and I want to make sure its a pleasant experience. I know I love it when I get a package from Etsy and its nicely wrapped and presented. I've had a lot of the sellers I buy from become regular customers. It's a nice world.

5. What is your advice to others who want to start selling arts and crafts projects online?

I think if you want to start selling online, you need to do your research. What is out there? What is the pricing? Does it compare with what you do? I know my first frames were not as nice as they are now. I did not start selling on Etsy until I had it perfected. So, make sure you are putting your best foot forward. You won't get repeat customers if things are not well put together and presented nicely. Think about how you like to receive things. Be patient. It took me awhile to sell my first frame, but now my sales are pretty steady: steady enough for me to say I am an "artist," even if the medium is glue and buttons!

Thanks, Tina!