Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Free DIY Planner Templates
Personalize Your Organizing

The new year invites all of us to tackle those things that we didn’t get to or complete in 2008 . . . or 2007 . . .

Have you noticed how expensive some planners are? Many of them have almost cult-followings for organizing procedures that may meet some, but not all, of your needs. It can be a lot of money to spend on an organizing schema that gets you about halfway right.

To the rescue is the DIY planning website with dozens – probably more than a hundred – planner downloads. Templates come in a variety of standard sizes, from 4 x 6 note-card to 8.5 x 11 binder.

Do you need a storyboard planner for that screenplay you’ve been meaning to write? Got it. (See the creativity template.)

How about a way to track medication side effects? Diabetes symptoms? Moods? Or a dive log? Got it. Got it. Got it. There’s even a planner for your persuasive messages, based on the research of Robert Cialdini. Go to the Templates Directory.

There are dozens of suggestions for how to organize daily, weekly, and monthly planning sheets. Project planners, to-do lists, and various ways to organize shopping lists are available.

There is even an article for how to organize a prototype planner. If you want something tailor-made for your planning needs, without spending the weekly grocery budget on a planner. We also get to exercise our creativity to personalize our planner covers, if so inclined.

The best way to access the templates is from the templates tab on the horizontal menu bar at the top of the website.

Please let me know what you think if you visit this site. If you download a lot of stuff and have enough money to share and to spare, it’s nice to throw a few bucks their way to maintain the website. This is easy with a donation button. (Disclosure: I am not connected with this website, do not receive any trades from it, and I do not know the web owners.)

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Handeland's Rising Moon and Hidden Moon
Are Top Entries in Nightcreatures Series

Lori Handeland hits her stride in the last three volumes of her eight-book Nighcreatures werewolf series. The plots of Rising Moon and Hidden Moon have surprising twists, and it’s pretty hard to fool this lifelong bookworm. I don’t want to be a spoiler, so let me give an overview of the novels in order.

One thread that unites the books is the recurring presence of a mysterious secret government agency, the Jager-Suchers or werewolf hunter-searchers. A minor character in one book may emerge as the protagonist in another. These books follow the pattern of romance novels, with distracting sex scenes that contribute little to character development or plot. Handeland, nonetheless, creates an interesting multi-faceted world in these novels.

The series opens with Blue Moon and weird goings-on at a Wisconsin summer resort. Police officer Jesse McQuade and a native American professor Will Cadotte unravel the mystery. Edward Mandanauer, driving force behind the Jager-Suchers, arrives early, armed to the teeth with silver bullets in bandoliers slung across his bony chest. Jesse gets her guy; the werewolves get dead.

Leigh Tyler, a talented werewolf slayer, is the protagonist of Hunter’s Moon. The action moves to Wisconsin. Helped by Jesse, Will, and Mandenauer, Leigh becomes involved with the first good werewolf we meet in the series. Readers are introduced to Dr. Elise Hanover whose own werewolf adventure and love story is the subject of Dark Moon, third book in the series. Mandanauer’s own dark past is revealed in that tale.

Crescent Moon strikes off in a new direction. Diane Malone, a cryptozoologist, is hired to investigate suspicious disappearances in a bayou outside of New Orleans. Her sleuthing uncovers the family curse of the Ruelles and leads her into the arms of another rugged hero in the series, Ruelle scion Adam. Edward Mandanauer and Dr. Elise Hanover emerge like deus ex machina toward the end of the story.

Midnight Moon takes a minor character in Crescent Moon, voodoo priestess Cassandra, to Haiti. The nightcreatures theme broadens to include zombies and other shapeshifters besides werewolves. Devon Murphy, the love interest, is Indiana Jones with Captain Jack Sparrow beads and feathers in his hair. The Jager-Suchers and Edward Mandanauer are but a shadowy group pulling the strings off-stage.

Things really get interesting in Rising Moon, one of my favorites in the series. The action returns to the Big Easy. Private eye Anne Lockheart comes to New Orleans looking for her missing sister, meets mysterious blind jazz musician John Rodolfo, and the story goes from there. Cassandra and Devon, Diane and Adam, Mandanauer and Elise are on hand for the surprising denouement. The story also is appealing because the theme of redemption emerges with strength for the first time since weakly broached in Hunter’s Moon.

Hidden Moon takes readers to Georgia. Claire Kennedy, small-town mayor, is confronted with inexplicable happenings when a band of gypsies arrive. An element of sorcery emerges in the figure of love interest Malachi Cartwright. The theme of redemption is linked with that of love in a poignant climax (in more ways than one). Mandanauer and Elise Hanover make cameo appearances.

Finally, Thunder Moon returns to Lake Bluff, Georgia, and the theme of Native American mysticism that plays a key role in the plots of Blue Moon (book one) and Hunter’s Moon (three). Grace McDaniel, Lake Bluff sheriff, full-blooded Cherokee, and childhood friend of mayor Claire Kennedy, had a large supporting role in Hidden Moon. Now, her romance with Ian Walker, physician, Native American healer and warrior, continues to move the series away from werewolves into other permutations of shapeshifting and sorcery. Walker is revealed as a member of a Native-American society of monster hunters. The Jager-Suchers play little part and go underground, according to an epilogue.

It’s unclear whether Handeland will continue the series. The preview chapter of Any Given Doomsday does not suggest continuance of the moon-themed series. Yet Handeland leaves the door open.

To purchase all eight novels, please see my listing on ebay through Dec. 19.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

WebMage by Kelly McCullough
Is Unique SciFi-Fantasy Romp

Kelly McCullough’s first novel, WebMage, cooks up a compelling dish of science fiction and fantasy, with a dash of romance. The recipe might look something like this:

Break off parts of William Gibson’s Neuromancer series, especially episodes about jacking into cyberspace and solving code mysteries. Crumble coarsely. Set aside.

Create a thick stew of spells, goblins, dragons, faeries, trolls, castles and warriors. I like the Harry Potter series for this purpose. Beat in some Greek mythos from Edith Hamilton and Bullfinch. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Season with wisecracks from Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Bake for several hours.

The story posits web links where the world of the Greek Immortals overlaps that of geek mortals. For those of us who grew up when making a copy meant pounding out a document in carbon triplicate on an upright typewriter, praying that we’d make no typographical keystroke mistakes that could not be fixed with WhiteOut, the world that computers bring to our fingertips makes coding pretty darn close to magical spell casting anyway. So it’s a short leap to blend cyberspace with the Olympian space occupied by the gods and goddesses of ancient mythology. This is especially true if one had to take two semesters in ancient culture, as did I.

The plot concerns a fight for free will for humans and their webgoblin companions, as Eris, goddess of discord, battles the Fates, guardians of order, one of whom happens to be our hero’s great-great into ancient time grandmother. Our hero, Ravirn, experiences a value and identity transformation in the endlessly changing cosmos of chaos-verses-order. This may sound like a task for a brooding, romantic hero. Ravirn is more like a film noir detective, a man (figuratively speaking, for he is not human) of action, ready for anything, a quip on his lips while facing down death.

His is not the film noir world in which right and wrong are hard to distinguish admidst moody shades of gray. Rather, our web sorcerer’s reality is the brightly colored light dance of our times, in which colors and images flicker before his eyes in a dizzying and sometimes confusing array of cross-cutting. Truth, right and wrong, are still hard to discern as impregnable values.

WebMage popped off the library shelves as I was looking for a entirely different book by another author -- a happy happenstance. As it turned out, the other book was not to my taste, and I am returning it mostly unread. Not all fantasy worlds are created equal, and Cheyennne McCray’s witchy series includes S&M and too much predictable sex for my taste. If you have a taste for cyberpunk fiction or sword-and-myth fantasy, WebMage may be for you.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Pieces of South Florida Sky

November 29, 2008