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Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Okay, so since my blog is called “The Ramblings of a Professional Liar” (click the link if you don’t know what I’m talking about), I decided that I’m going to test you, my bloggies, to see if you can spot the lie. The statements will be under the heading, “about me,” so you get a better picture of who I am (which may be a mistake since it could very well lead to fewer followers of this blog).

Nine of the below statements are true, one is a lie. Can you guess which one?

1. My name is Steven Whibley.
2. I’ve been chased by a caveman.
3. I've been attacked by ninjas in a ninja village.
4. I unknowingly traveled from Guatemala to Mexico with a group of illegal immigrants.
5. I’ve spent more than one night sleeping on a bench in a train station in a foreign country.
6. I’ve eaten grasshoppers, centipedes, and a soup that contained several live fish.
7. I’ve swam with schools of full grown sharks and stingrays.
8. I’ve been attacked by a troop of monkeys.
9. I’ve had Dengue Fever.
10. I snuck into the main temple at Angkor Wat(Cambodia).

You can post your answers below. If you guess right I’ll give you 10 points. Those points can be used to buy anything you want, assuming you can find someone willing to trade blog-points for merchandise. If no one will take the points, you can still hang them on your wall and enjoy the aesthetic beauty (that’s assuming you can see invisible things).

The answer will come this weekend so get your guesses in or NO POINTS FOR YOU!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Babysitter Survival Kit: Holy Water, Crucifixes and Tranquilizer-Laced Candy

Up until yesterday I was a bit nervous about becoming a dad, but not any more. Now I can report that things are different. That edge of fear and that nervous chill in the back of my mind have changed. Not gone exactly, just that they’ve merged like some horrible science experiment and morphed into full blown TERROR.  I still have a few weeks left before I officially become a father (3 weeks if the baby keeps on schedule). But I feel a bit like I’m strapped in a space shuttle while NASA Command runs through the final pre-launch countdown. Only I suddenly realize I missed all the classes that taught me how to be an astronaut.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to start this next stage of my life. I’ve always wanted a family. But the anticipation isn’t like how you might feel in the days leading up to, say, the new Harry Potter movie. Rather, it’s more like the thrill of anticipation you’d get in the moments before you go sky diving for the first time, you know, as you wonder if the chute was packed properly.

I honestly didn’t expect to feel so nervous. And it’s not the actual caring for the child that worries me. I mean, I wouldn’t call myself a complete novice in the children department.  I’ve changed hundreds of diapers, fed dozens of babies, and babysat more nieces and nephews than I knew I had. And it’s not like they’ve always been little lovelies to dear old Uncle Steve, oh no. In fact, it would be a fair statement if I said my nieces and nephews are monsters forged from pure evil. Every last one of them (FYI: they range in age from a few months to seventeen and they are a ruthless mob 26 strong!). To this day I don’t go near the youngest and weakest among them without a pocket full of crucifixes and four litre jug of holy water.

When I really think about it, I’m reasonably certain that my unease at being a dad comes from the weight of influence I’m about to have over a new life. I am going to have to be a role model and I don’t think I’ve ever been that before.

Is that something you can fake?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to dismantle the crib for the twentieth time because I suddenly had a thought that I might have used size “C” bolts where I should have used size “D” bolts. The last time I took it apart it was because I found an extra screw and three extra washers, little did I know those pieces were just extras, put there to mess with new parents stressing about crib construction.

Darn you IKEA! You and your Swedish practical jokes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sumo Wrestlers, Fishnet Unitards, and Author Biographies

Here’s the email I got from the marketing department:

"Hi Steve, Could you send me a short paragraph about yourself for the website? Thanks"

It seems like a simple request for an author biography, right? Wrong! You have to look closer, and maybe squint your right eye. Being one who’s trained in the art of subtlty, I see through the pretense in that sentence as easily as I see though a fishnet unitard on a sumo wrestler *shivers at memory*. Do you want me to tell you what it really says? Ahem:

"Steve, I sure hope you’ve lived a remarkable life so far. We’re going to need a paragraph about you for the website, something that makes you seem likable; not just to readers, but also by subsidiary rights agents considering your books for other markets. Make it interesting! Oh, and since I’m only asking for a paragraph I expect it by the end of the day or I’ll consider you a genuine HACK. Tick tock, tick tock, sucker!"

Needless to say, by the forty-third draft I’d broken into a cold sweat, started to hear voices and could smell the distinct aroma of burnt toast. Which brings me to my current state, and my plea to you, dear blog reader. I need your help. Here’s what I’m thinking. We use this page and comments section below to draft the worst author biographies you can think of. That way, when “Author bio” is Googled the search results will be so muddied by nonsense that my real bio will look like a bedazzled piece of Gold-pressed Latinum. It can be a bio you might see in a book, or one that might be in a newspaper. It can be a sentence or a paragraph. It doesn’t matter.

Making stuff up is what I do, so I’ll start:

McSweedy Von Flanagan the Third is the author of several brilliant literary works, the most notable of which being, The End Is Near! A story distributed in spoken word by this team of homeless doomsday prophets. An amateur archaeologist, and self proclaimed aficionado of everything really old, Von Flanagan has etched his newest book, I’m Not Crazy, You Are, into clay tablets using only Sumerian hieroglyphs and the letter Q. Asked about his unorthodox approach to publishing, Von Flanagan said, “I’m a genius. If people want to read my books they should have to translate them. They’ll appreciate them more.”  
Okay. You’re up. Don’t let me down!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ransom Letters and Scandinavian Pygmy Hippos


Ransom letters are the one segment of literature that I sincerely believe do not get the attention they deserve.

"Literature?" you scoff. "C'mon. Give me a break."

Ahem, according to Wikipedia—which as we all know is the gold standard for providing unbiased and completely accurate information to the masses—the definition of LITERATURE is “Acquaintance with Letters.”   Can you think of something that better fits that description than a ransom letter? Or someone more acquainted with letters than a guy who cuts them out one at a time? I think not!

“Is this post supposed to be funny, Steve? Or did something happen that made you think of this topic for your blog?”

Oh, I’m glad you asked, strange voice in the back of my head for which my medication is failing to silence. The answer is that it started out as something I thought might be good for a chuckle. But then something did indeed happen. My wife. My dear, sweet, beautifully pregnant wife left this RANSOM NOTE on my desk.

You might think this is just a simple reminder to buy some milk. Maybe milk is on sale at Safeway and "319" is the price. Well, you'd be WRONG! That’s just what she wants you to think. It’s a ransom, plain as day! You know what’s especially chilling about this Ransom Letter? There’s no explicit threat. I don’t know what she has of mine, or what she’s going to do with it if I don’t comply. There’s just a demand for which a consequence is implied.

You see it right? The heavy pen strokes. The utter lack of punctuation. The underlined “TODAY” and then "Safeway 319," which clearly means that the "Safe way" is to comply to her demands by 3:19. That, or 3:19 is a cryptic reference to some obscure bible passage that metaphors my death in some way (ransom-note writers are always referencing the bible).

As you can imagine, I got the milk. I got two jugs of it. Because let’s face it, pregnant women are lovely but aren’t exactly known for having predictable moods, and often they’re only one more "random stranger-touching-their-stomach" away from murdering someone. 

I started thinking about ransom notes and decided to don my magic goggles and see what I could discover on the internet.

EXHIBIT A and EXHIBIT B:  Kids and ransom letters.

I'm going to pretend these are real and say that clearly the kids who wrote them are independent, free-thinking, and resourceful youngsters.  I applaud the parenting. Well done! 

EXHIBIT C: Ransom demand for inanimate objects (Sunglasses)

This one is a bit long winded, but I do like the threats at the end!

EXHIBIT D: Ransom for animal

This is actually the query letter that landed me my agent. FYI: Literary agents are notorious owners of zebra’s and other exotic pets - mine owns a Scandinavian Pygmy Hippo ;). If used right this one can be highly effective.

Any thoughts on ransom letters? Do you have something of mine for which you'd like to demand a ransom? Do you have a link to some other good ones (by good I mean fake. Most real ones aren't very funny)?  Feel fee to comment.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Robert Munsch: Horror Writer Extraordinaire

My question to you: What is the scariest children’s book you’ve ever read? For me, the question is simple and I still shiver at the thought. It happens not only to be the scariest children’s book, but also the scariest book I’ve ever read.  Presenting, Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch.

Oh you think this is a joke? Have you read the book? Recently? Here’s a YouTube clip. Skip ahead to the four minute mark (4:06). That’s when this creep-fest really gets underway.  Go ahead, I’ll wait ….. 

SEE!!!!! Hey, don't blame me if you're locked in your closet right now. I tried to warn you. Granted the narrator in this particular video adds a bit to the creep-factor, but even on mute I screamed.

Let me tell you right now, I love my mom but if she loaded a ladder on her car, drove to my house and climbed in through the window of my bedroom to pick me up and rock me on her lap … I’d be scrambling for the silver bullets and wooden stakes (that’s assuming my wife didn’t get to them first). 

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a dig at Robert Munsch. If anything this is just more evidence of his genius. Horror writers are most effective when they catch readers off guard. You read Stephen King and you expect that something’s going to happen in the book to make you squirm. But Robert Munsch built a persona of a gentle children’s author and then, Bam! he hits his unsuspecting readers with this depraved bomb-shell.
I applaud you, Mr. Munsch. Well done. Well done indeed.

Okay, guys, let's hear it in the comments section. What the scariest children's book you've read?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

In Which Jane Austen Feels My Wrath!

I got this email the other day:
"Dear Steve – I’m asking a few new writers this question and since I recently discovered your blog I thought I ask for your answer too. I was wondering if authors feel they have to filter their remarks when they write book reviews. The book reviews on your blog are all positive. Do you just love everything you read?”

First, thank you for the email. Second, that’s an interesting question and one worthy of a full blog post. So here you go.

I think you’ll find that a lot of authors are nervous about reviewing books they don’t like. Not just because they don’t want to offend another writer, but because they are inherently insecure about their own writing (especially new authors). Perhaps some are even afraid that criticizing a book may make them look na├»ve. Imagine a fledgling movie producer badmouthing the latest Spielberg flick. That new producer might come across ignorant or arrogant or perhaps a bit of both.

Another reason author reviews might be a bit tame is because authors know the publication process. They know that editors, designers, marketers … etc all rejoice when a book they worked on gets a good review and, conversely, cringe when it doesn’t. Book publishing is a labor of love for more than just the author so giving a book a bad review might sting more people than you intend. That said, I appreciate honest reviews of books. I pick a great many of the books I read based on what other people say about them. People have different tastes and if there’s something you don’t like, by all means share it. Just like with movies, some people are going to love what another person hates. I think diversity in book reviews is a great thing.

And no, I don’t like everything I read. Just like I don’t like every movie I watch, or every song I hear or every piece of art I see. I probably read five or six books a week, and I often run across a story that doesn’t resonate with me. But I do tend to review only those books I really enjoyed. I find it too hard to censor myself otherwise.

Pride and Prejudice, for example, is probably one of my least favorite books. It’s not that I hated it, I just feel that the book should be placed in a burlap sack, whacked several times with a large wrench, chained to a piece of concrete and unceremoniously shoved off a boat in the middle of a very deep lake. 

See, no ability to self-censor! I really need to work on that.

Just so there’s no misunderstanding, and so I don’t get angry comments, there is no question that Jane Austen is a brilliant writer and I do like a lot of her work. I enjoyed Emma, for example, but Emma was witty, her character was hilariously unaware and the plot was interesting. Pride and Prejudice, on the other hand, was filled with uninteresting socialites who are desperate to marry for money rather than love. I’d recommend Pride & Prejudice to anyone who has always wanted a reason to harm a book. 

Doggone it, there I go again! ;)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Q: Where do book titles come from? A:In the examples below ... I'm not sure.

Authors often stress over what to name their books. And that's a good thing. Why not give it a lot of thought and consideration? But what's important to remember is that, in the end, there is a very real chance that your publisher will have you change it. Perhaps the title you picked is already used by a dozen books and yours will be buried in search results. Perhaps there's something about your title that is just wrong and you might not have noticed it. Most of the time the changes to titles are the result of careful consideration by marketing teams, and authors would be well advised to embrace the suggestions.

That said, from time to time I stumble upon a book that is titled in such a way that I am left wondering what the author and/or publisher was thinking. I got the idea for this blog post when I saw this book:

I'm sure cooking with Pooh would be a blast, but perhaps this would have been a time to throw in the “Winnie the” part. I imagine a child telling the dinner guests that the cookies they're enjoying were inspired by their favorite recipe book, “Cooking with Pooh."

Spurred by Winnie's cookbook, as I often am, I went on a quest through the back halls of the interwebs and found a rather remarkable collection of books with names that never should have been.

Okay, it seems that Winnie isn't
off the hook just yet. This one is
going on my "gifts to get my nieces
and nephews" list.

For those of you who, like me, are just plain tired of worrying about how you're going to deal with someone tying to bury you prematurely ... look no further.

*Sobs*  Note to self: Have psychiatrist and/or hypnotist block memories of time spent in scouts. 

Let me tell you from experience: it wasn't until I read this book that I became the awesome individual you see before you now. Sure, I was cool before, but not awesome. And "cool" is easy. "Cool" is so 1990.

Um ... I'm afraid to read
read this book, just in
case I do and find out that
indeed, I am worthless.

At first glance you may think, whoa, that's a peculiar book title. But just give it a second to sink in ... ... you want to read it, don't you? I know, that's the same thing I thought.

You're probably thinking that the above titles were the result of a brainstorming session that involved a Scottish drinking game of some kind. That's what I thought too. But in retrospect maybe they're not so crazy. I mean, the goal for a marketing department is to get the word out about a book, right? And here I am spending a whole blog post plugging these books. It's not crazy at all. In fact this could be genius. Well played, marketing department, well played.

Okay, I'm sure there are other peculiar book titles out there, if you know of any please a link in the comments section, I'd love to add some more to my list.