Thursday, December 23, 2010

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Y'ALL!

Post number 2! And you thought it would never happen! IT'S A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!! Well, most of the work on this one is courtesy of my two good friends, Copy and Paste. Much like last year, I spent some time jotting down a recap of our year, highlighting some of the shenanigans you may find interesting. And much like last year, I'm about to post that letter in all its glory.

So Happy Holidays everyone!


Ho ho ho and happy holidays! It’s the most wonderful time of the year again. As I write this, Old Man Winter has blanketed much of Minnesota with over a foot of the fluffy white stuff, forcing many of us to either tunnel our way out of our homes or to fire up the ol’ snowblower. So there certainly won’t be any dreaming of a white Christmas this year, Mr. Crosby. No indeed. But before you sit on Santa’s lap and rattle off your holiday wishes, or fill yourself with a healthy dose of eggnog or Tom & Jerry’s, allow me a few moments to fill you in on what’s been happening in our little corner of this snow-covered globe.

My beautiful better half continues to amaze this humble guy every day. Alex is pretty lucky to have such a wonderful, loving mother. And boy does the kid know it. Even when she’s not around, he’ll walk around the house shouting, “Mom? MOM!” looking for her. Jen continues her work as Lead Photographer for Chicago-based VHT. Each day, she travels the construction-filled or ice-coated highways of the Twin Cities photographing a wide variety of real estate for over a hundred different realtors throughout the metro area. She also visits various offices, speaking to large groups of realtors about photography. Boy, to be a fly on the wall during one of those meetings! Despite this busy and demanding schedule, we were able to travel this past winter (another of Jen’s loves), taking a long weekend and introducing Alex to the oceanic shores of beautiful Naples, Florida. He was a little terrified of the water, but he enjoyed the feel of warm sand in his toes (and yes, he sampled a small taste of it, as well. He did not like it). Through it all, Jen has documented our adventures with that trusty camera of hers, filling many an album with memories we will forever cherish…and a few we will use to embarrass Alex in the future.

As a stay-at-home Dad, I have been able to share quite a bit of time with Alex. From story time at the Red Balloon bookshop to summer trips to the water park with friends to frequent library visits, our days are chock full of activities. I’ve also been able to spend time with my laptop, writing two children’s graphic novels for local publisher Stone Arch Books. Both titles are a part of their collaboration with Sports Illustrated for Kids, and both will be available in 2011. The first is a football story titled Quarterback Scramble, and the other a surfing – yes, you read that right – story whose title is yet to be determined. This year also saw me braving one of the most dangerous places known to man: elementary schools! I visited a number of schools, both in Mankato and around the state, speaking about writing and sharing my book Drake Bacula: MonSTAR! with students. Kids are an imaginative and energetic group, and I had a blast creating stories with them. On the film front, I was able to participate in a couple of great short films this year, and even dabbled a bit in the commercial world again, as an Assistant Director. All in all, I’m a pretty lucky fella, and I count my blessings each day.

When last I wrote one of these, Alex was a mere seven months old, just barely sitting up and eating solid food. What a difference a year makes! Our inert baby has transformed into a raucous toddler with only two settings: Sleep and Perpetual Motion. He goes from zero to one hundred faster than a European sports car. Now nearly nineteen months old, Alex is changing everyday, and is a true marvel to watch. Here’s a rundown of just a few antics the energetic lad is up to now:

- He runs everywhere
- He dances to any and all music (thankfully, he has his Dad’s stylish moves)
- He loves to help us cook
- He’s quite proficient at animal sounds. Ask him what a lion says, and cower at his mighty roar
- Included in his animal noises are sounds for ghosts, dinosaurs, and Santa
- His every-growing vocabulary includes words like Mom, Daddy, yes, no, ball, book, ding-dong (for bell, not an affectionate nickname for anyone), yummy, clock, and star
- Our nightly dinner routine includes Alex holding his cup in the air, shouting “Cheers!” and waiting for each of us to clink it
- He loves to color and draw, and appreciates his parents’ art school expertise (stick figures and smiley faces)
- There is nothing cooler in this world than a curious monkey named George
- He loves the library, bookstore, and comic shop, and will sit in his chair and flip through books. Like Papa, like son.
- He makes us – and himself – laugh every day
- His camera smile and his stink face look suspiciously similar
- He talks up a storm. True, he speaks his own language most of the time, but he seems to understand what he’s saying, even if we don’t

When you’re young, time finds a way to slow down. Christmas seems ages away, and you feel like those prettily wrapped packages sitting under your tree are never going to be opened. But as you get older, time finds a way to do the exact opposite: it slips by without you even noticing. The holidays are the perfect reason to slow down, to enjoy the presence of family and friends, and to tell them how very special they are to you. We have been blessed to watch our little baby grow into a tiny man this past year. Even though he’s only nineteen months old, we know that before too long, he’ll be asking for our car keys and applying to colleges. So amidst your hectic schedule of holiday programs, last-minute shopping, and repeat viewings of Frosty the Snowman, take a moment to show friends and family that you love them, because, as the residents of Whoville reminded the Grinch, “Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.”

We love you all dearly, and wish you and your family nothing but hope, love, and happiness this holiday season.

All our love,
Brandon, Jen, and Alex Terrell

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

HORRORWOOD GOES MOBILE

Happy winter, all! Yeah, I know what you're saying, because I'm saying it too: where the hell were you this fall? Nay, this summer? Well, long story short, I was trying hard to balance the duties of a full-time stay at home Dad with that of a freelance writer/artist. Yeah, it's not the best excuse, but it's the one I offer to you now as a form of apology. I promise, one of my New Year's resolutions (aside from finally training to be a ninja and joining a flash mob) is to be a more frequent blogger. And I think that's indeed possible. After all, I have an inkling 2011 has great potential.

In my time away from this blog, I've watched my little baby turn into a full-fledged toddler. It's a wonder to behold, seeing the squirt running full-tilt at everything, laughing at any and everything, and spouting more and more words each day. The summer saw us hanging out with friends weekly, a trio of fellow stay at homers, and their kids. We visited an array of parks and water parks, and it was truly an amazing experience. My wife and I are blessed to be able to share this time of our lives with friends whose children are all roughly the same age, and who all get along so splendidly. I'll post more about all this later. Like, tomorrow.

"Two posts in one week? I'll believe it when I see it, Terrell!"

Fair enough.

The other reason I neglected this blog (and this has the potential to be quite an exciting reason) is that, in my spare time - nap time, bed time, etc. - I wrote the first draft of a young adult novel! It took longer than I anticipated, but it is there, and it is currently going through the initial stages of revision. Writing a novel-length piece can be a daunting proposition, but I came up with a solid metaphor when starting: "The first draft is like a lump of clay. You have to have the clay on the table, if you want to create a sculpture." So...that's my way of saying, the manuscript needs a bunch of work. But the clay is there. Now it's time to sculpt.

Enough about that (for now). What does any of this have to do with Horrorwood? Well, nothing at all! But there is exciting news to report regarding that killer comic from a few years back. The great gang over at Graphic.ly, an online comic reader, now has the book available for download. What makes Graphic.ly unique is that it is not just a mobile application, but it also offers the ability to view comics on a desktop or online using Adobe Air.

So if you're curiously looking for the ideal thing to download onto that fancy new mobile device St. Nick is about to leave in your stocking, search no further. You can find the free - FREE - preview, and all four issues of Horrorwood by clicking HERE. You will have to create a free account with them, and the books are $1.99 an issue. Graphic.ly also features a slew of other comics, too, so it's totally worth it.

We're really excited to offer Horrorwood on Graphic.ly. We hope you give it a read!

More soon,
B

Saturday, October 16, 2010

FALLCON COMIC BOOK PARTY!

First off, I know I’ve been away for what feels like an eternity. A whole summer with zero contact. I know I owe an explanation for my absence. And I promise I will tell you all about it. Sure, it’ll be filled with more soiled diapers and playdates than exciting, life-altering adventures, but I’ll share it nonetheless.

For now, though, I want to make sure you’re all aware of the upcoming FallCon comic celebration at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Every year, the MCBA hosts a killer show, and this year is no exception. A slew of talented local artists and writers will be there, sharing their work, and there will be many a longbox filled with 50 cent treasures just waiting to be found. Like this one, plucked from a bargain bin by yours truly last year:

So if you're in the neighborhood, please come check it out. Support the local comic book community. They're a swell bunch of folks, and a group of which I'm proud to count myself a member.



For more info on the show, either listen to Batman there or click HERE.

More adventures soon. SOON!

Much love,
B

Friday, May 14, 2010

ATTACK OF THE MOM!

So earlier in the week, we purchased a FlipCam. We'd been using a camera loaned to us by a good friend, and as of now, I have 3 DV tapes chronicling Alex's first 11 months next to me on the desk, waiting to be digitized. While I'm very appreciative of the camera, it was time to get something that afforded us a better opportunity to upload videos of the little dude and share them with family and friends.

Here's the first video we shot (I promise I won't clog the site up too much with adorableness). video

Have a great weekend, all. Remember to check out SpringCon at the State Fairgrounds.

B

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

SPRINGCON THIS WEEKEND

Usually around this time of year, Minnesota comic fans are gearing up for a one-day dose of comic tomfoolery called MicroCon. Well, after 20 years, the MCBA is pulling a switcheroo. They're supersizing the spring convention, making it a whole weekend of fun, while turning October's 'FallCon' into a one day event.

Thus, I give you...SpringCon 2010.

There's a really great line-up of artists and writers. Buffy Season Eight artist Georges Jeanty and Superman II's villainous vixen Ursa, the actress Sarah Douglas, are just a couple of exciting new talent at the show. It's a pretty impressive group, so it'll totally be worth it to come check it out.

I will be there as well, serving up copies of Horrorwood and Drake Bacula:MonSTAR! alongside artist Brent Schoonover and Drake publisher Ryan Jacobson. Also, this will be the first year Nicole Schoonover, Brent's wife, will be selling her handmade comic-inspired greeting cards.

Here are the details for the show:



Hope to see you this weekend!
B

Thursday, April 29, 2010

MS WALK THIS SUNDAY

My cousin Chad is just a couple years older than me. As kids, I was always one step behind him, whether it was playing ball in the backyard (where his wicked curve ball not only tore the laces from my dad's mitt, but it taught me to step out of the batter's box if the ball breaks toward your thigh), revving up the three-wheeler through my grandfather's pasture (our paths are now the site of Chad's parent's home), or rollerblading feverishly through the streets of Eagle Lake (his ice hockey skills made him a pro. Me? I looked like a baby deer learning to walk. I'm quite graceful).

Needless to say, I have always looked up to Chad. And I still do. Now more than ever.

Six years ago, Chad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that disrupts the communication between your brain and body, creating immense pain and making movement difficult. He's been bravely battling the disease ever since, proving to everyone around him how strong he truly is.

It's times like these that you wish for superhuman powers, for some ability to affect the fight, but that's only in the funny books. One of the greatest ways to support my family and the fight against MS is to participate in the annual MS Walk, a winding trek through Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis (the walk also occurs in cities through the country, so if you would like to participate, it's quite easy).

The walk is this Sunday (May 2), and Jen and myself will be once more showing our support. This will be the first time our 'little walker' will be joining us, and I'm sure Alex will be waddling away with the rest of the crew.

I understand that in this current financial climate, finding the funds to support even the best causes has become increasing difficult. So I'll just throw it out there. If you'd like to donate, any amount is greatly appreciated.

To make a secure, online payment, all you have to do is CLICK HERE.

Thanks, everyone.

All the best,
B

Sunday, April 11, 2010

'DAWINING' HITS MANKATO!

Okay, how cool is this gonna be? Dawning, the frightening flick I worked on a couple of falls ago, will be screening for 3 WEEKS in Mankato!

Premiering April 16th, the feature - shot on a shoestring budget by local director Gregg Holtgrewe, with a small, dedicated crew and cast - will be showing at the recently renovated Spectrum Cinema (formerly the Mall 4 theaters, for those 80s Kato kids). The theater, currently playing second-run flicks, offers discounted tickets and concession prices. I mean, $3.00 to see Dawning? Now that's a deal.

The folks at Spectrum will be hosting a premiere event for the flick on the evening of April 16th, with director Holtgrewe and other cast and crew present. Now here's some bummer news: I will not be able to make the event. It breaks my heart. Jen, Alex, and I will be whisking away to Naples, Florida that weekend to visit our good friend Sam, and to introduce Alex to the ocean.

The good news? The film is screening for 3 WEEKS, remember?! So while I cannot make the premiere, I will definitely be making the trip to Mankato to see the film, hopefully with a number of friends and family in tow.

So if you're in Mankato, and you want to see a solid, gripping horror movie that relies on the strength of its characters and situation, and not on the number of buckets of fake blood poured on its actors, then please check out Dawning. You will not be disappointed!

Monday, April 5, 2010

THE CASE OF THE MISSING BLOGGER

Oh. Hey! How's it going?

Okay, I know I need to start this with an apology. Here I am, promising to keep the handful of you abreast of what's happening in my life, and then I go and vanish from the Interwebs. Where'd ya go? you're asking. Did you witness a murder, and were you then forced to enter the Witness Protection Program and hide out as a high school student like Jon Cryer in the movie...um, Hiding Out?

As cool and hilarious as that sounds...it's far from the truth. I've just been away.

And it's not like there haven't been exciting things to share. The last couple of months have been full of milestones. Since I've last posted, Alex has gone from tentative crawling to stumble-stepping on his own. Sure, he looks like he's failing a field sobriety test and his progress is often thwarted by a pesky rug, but he's walking. And it's damn adorable. He also decided one day that he wanted to climb the steps. Never showed an inkling that he cared about them. Then all of the sudden, a knee went up. He pulled himself onto the first step. Realized it was aces. And went the rest of the way. He loves books, enjoys flipping through the pages and warbling in his newfound half-babble, half-yodel language. His book-loving pops can't get enough of that!

So yeah, there are things I could be sharing. And I know a number of superhuman folks who find the energy and stick-to-it-tiveness to blog on a near daily basis about their child's activities. Nary a tooth goes uncut without a photo posted online to commemorate the occasion. And I commend them. I wish I could do it. When I find the extra hour (and by that I mean summer television season), I'll try harder to update you on the wonderful world of Alex. But I'm trying to keep this blog a respectable combination of my personal and my professional worlds.

So in keeping with that...

I've been fortunate enough to visit a couple of elementary schools this spring to talk about my chapter book Drake Bacula: MonSTAR! (available on this website...cough...cough...shameless...) I go into a school, talk to the kids a little about the elements of storytelling, and then we do a fun little interactive project where we write a movie for the book's titular character, Drake Bacula (Movie star! Vampire!) to star in. The results are always hilarious. From stories involving an accountant named Frank N. Stein to Drake fighting a giant, evil newt named Dr. Figg, it's easy to see the kids are brimming with creativity.

My first visit was quite surreal, as I stepped into the hallowed halls of Washington Elementary School in Mankato. From grades 4-6, I pestered the teachers of Washington with my loud mouth and obsession with the Hardy Boys. So I was honored to come back, to walk the halls again, and recall some wonderful, fond memories (though I'm thinking the time I was kneed in the groin in 6th grade, sent to the nurse's office with an ice pack, only to have my teacher send down the girl I had a crush on to check on me doesn't necessarily fall under the 'fond memories' category). And considering I spent so much of my time in the library, it was all the more special to present there as well.

Now, funny story about the Hardy Boys. During the presentation, I ask the students about their favorite books, and when I rattle off my faves, I make sure to include Frank and Joe (if you don't believe my obsession, ask my wife to show you the giant container currently holding over 150 HB books in our basement). After the first presentation, I notice the librarian scouring the shelves. I ask her what she's looking for.

"The Hardy Boys," is her response.

Sure enough, she discovers five hardcover mysteries, the old tattered single-colored library editions on the shelves. The ones that use words like 'chum' and 'jalopy' and 'neato.' The ones where Frank and Joe search for clues behind old grandfather clocks, or track down the door to door leather goods salesman who robbed them (The Criss Cross Shadow, I kid you not). The books looked the same as they did when I was a small lad, save for one change: they all had bar codes on them now.

Well, the librarian opens a couple of them up, looking in the back for the old-fashioned check-out cards. And lo and behold, a couple of them still had them.

And whose name just happened to be scribbled at the top of both cards in well-practiced cursive?

This guy's!!

I couldn't believe it. So very amazing. The media specialists were so gracious, offering one of them to me as a keepsake, while keeping the other for posterity. So I am now the proud owner of the library card for The Sinister Signpost, featuring my name, my good friend Brad's name, and the name of the aforementioned groin-kneeing story perpetrator.

Conclusion: Best. Bookmark. Ever.

I was also asked to visit the astute kids down at Byron Elementary School, down by Rochester. I was a little nervous, having no knowledge of the school, and no friends teaching there (I neglected to mention my friend Eric - I mean, Mr. Miller - now teaches at Washington, in my old 5th grade teacher's room, no less!). But I was immediately put at ease, speaking to some razor sharp students with vivid imaginations. They were quite excited about the book, and I had a really great time speaking with them.

Later this week, I'll be traveling to Kato once more to speak to the students at Hoover Elementary, where my nephew Kaleb will start kindergarten next year. An old family friend teaches there, and she was gracious enough to help set up the visit. I'm looking forward to catching up with her, and introducing the kids to the wacky world of Drake Bacula. Should be a lot of fun.

So I suppose, in the end, I guess I have been hiding out in schools. And here, the only thing I thought I had in common with Jon Cryer was our mutual annoyance toward Charlie Sheen.

Well, looking at the length of this post, I'm starting to feel like I'm compensating for something here. So I'll leave you alone soon enough, with the promise of fun news in the near future. I swear.

So until then,
B

Monday, January 4, 2010

CATCH YOU LATER, 2009!

Hey there! Welcome to 2010, everyone. Man, what a ride 2009 turned out to be. While it's certainly true that a majority of my time during the year was spent honing my diaper-changing skills and not basking in the glow of a movie theater screen, or sticking my nose in the pages of a good book, I did manage a little bit of time to be entertained. Here's a list of a few movies, television shows, and books that I dug in 2009:

MOVIES:

STAR TREK: I would like to preface this by saying that in the grand Wars/Trek debate, I will always side with Star Wars. It doesn't matter to me that George Lucas went and Jar Jar-ed the new trilogy, the original three will forever be awesome. That said, I frakkin' loved J.J. Abrams' take on the world of Captain Kirk and the ragtag crew of the Enterprise. It was just the summer blockbuster I was looking for (and the only one I was able to see in the theater...G.I. Joe doesn't count). It had everything - action, lens flares, a Beastie Boys song. Star Trek was pure excitement, and I loved every minute of it.


UP: Pixar, you've done it again. They are the only film studio pushing the boundaries of storytelling, continually creating films with the unlikeliest of protagonists. A rat, a robot, an elderly curmudgeon. I don't really cry while watching movies. The last time I flat-out bawled was when Fievel couldn't find his family in An American Tail. With Up, I had a giant lump in my throat in the first ten minutes. It's beautiful, original, and heartbreaking. Plus, there's a talking dog named Dug. Well played, Pixar.

MAN ON WIRE: One of the best heist films I've seen in a long time. "What?" you're saying, "Isn't that the documentary about the French dude that walked on a high wire between the World Trade Center buildings?" You're right. But the hour of the film dedicated to the conceiving, planning, and orchestrating of the actual event is nothing short of amazing. The film never touches on the tragic loss of the Twin Towers, but instead marvels at the beauty of their creation, and the awe-inspiring destiny of one man.

DRAG ME TO HELL: Sam Raimi's movies used to be gritty, ballsy exercises in filmmaking. They were low budget genre flicks heavy on style. Then he went and got all famous. I suppose directing Spider-man films will do that for your career. Raimi never lost his style completely, though (the scene in Spider-man 2 of Doctor Octopus waking up to discover his metal creations were adhered to his body is solid proof). With Drag Me To Hell, Raimi returns to his roots with a fun, disgusting horror film. The car scene alone is worth the price of admission. Sure, Hell is a lot slicker than Raimi's early work, and the effects are over-used, but come on! A possessed goat and a flooded cemetery? Glorious.


DISTRICT 9: I thought I had a clue what this flick was about going in: a metaphor for racial oppression, with insect-like aliens in a militarized zone known as District 9. But that is just the foundation for the Kafka-esque story of a government employee who must evict and transport millions of aliens from their slumlike existence in Johannsesburg (where their ship mysteriously appeared twenty years prior). It's gritty, gory science-fiction shot in a cinema-verite style. Wholly unique and engaging to watch.

ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL: Most of the time, underdog stories are uplifting films about someone reaching their potential. Anvil, an 80s hair band that rocked the stage alongside Metallica, Scorpion, and Bon Jovi (huh?), have been trying to make a name for themselves for over 20 years. This documentary isn't so much about their triumph as it is about their perseverance in an industry that is constantly evolving. Watching them struggle to sell a style of music that's been outdated for over a decade is frustrating. But in the end, Anvil taught me a very valuable lesson: "Lips will show us the way." Oh, Lips is the guitarist. He's pretty awesome.


TELEVISION:

TV was more my speed in 2009. With the little man spending much of the day looking adorable, finding two (sometimes over two) hours to watch a movie was difficult. And trips to the theater? Forget about it. Plus, I'll admit it, television is kind of a hobby of mine. Here's what burned through our TiVo this past year.

LOST: Seriously, there was no way I was going to start a list of top TV shows and not mention Lost first. For four seasons, the show relentlessly teased viewers with visual clues and karmic coincidences. But in season five, they finally let their freak flag fly. Every episode toppled into the next, leading to a mind-altering, time-traveling season of surprises (and one ginormous bomb named 'Jughead'). Lost's final season starts in just a couple of weeks, and I'm already missing it. Sigh...

MAD MEN: On the surface, Mad Men seems like a show where little happens. Often, the episode description is something as blase as 'Don gets a new secretary.' But don't be fooled. Men smolders like a cigarette in Don Draper's ashtray. The language, the style, and the attention to detail are all impeccable. Season 3 was dark, brooding, and in my humble opinion, the strongest yet.

GLEE: I didn't have time for another new show. I told myself "I'm sure it's good, but I can't get invested in any more television." Yeah, that worked well. And honestly, as a full-fledged high school drama nerd (yes, that includes musical theater and no, I will not sing anything for you), it's pure 'Nerdvana.' Between Jane Lynch's brash wit and Lea Michele's powerful singing chops, this show is bringing it. Glee, you had me at 'Don't Stop Believin'.

COMMUNITY: Another new show, but NBC wedged it perfectly into my Thursday night line-up. The cast is lead by the deprecating Joel McHale (if it wasn't for McHale's other show, The Soup, I'd have no clue how much terrible television is actually out there. I'm looking at you, Wendy Williams and Steven Seagal: Lawman) and includes the refreshing Chevy Chase, whose comedic timing is back where it belongs. The entire cast of fairly unknown actors (Alison Brie makes the list twice, as prudish Annie on this show, and as prudish housewife Trudie on Mad Men) is strong, and the simple premise lends itself to a slew of ideas. I hope Community sticks around for a while, if only for the chance to see Chevy Chase in a Beastmaster costume again.

SUPERNATURAL: As my friends can attest, I'm a glutton for shows on The CW. Well, I used to be. But the premise of the show is basically 'The Hardy Boys meets The X-Files,' so come on, it's almost mandatory for me to watch. What started as a 'freak of the week' premise has evolved into a show teeming with angels, demons, and nothing short of the Apocalypse. It's clever writing (a pulpy author of Supernatural novels turns out to be a prophet of the Lord), its ability to fluctuate between tongue-in-cheek episodes to those of, quite literally, Biblical proportions, and its revolving menagerie of ghouls and creeps make this show a wild ride in a souped-up black Impala.

NOTABLE MENTIONS:

CHUCK: It's fun, nerd spy formula and hilarious writing make it a treat to watch every week. Also, 2009 saw the comeback of not only Chevy Chase (who made a villainous turn on Chuck), it also introduced Chuck's father, the one and only Scott frakkin' Bakula.

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER: It'd be easy for me to say I watch it for Willow, for Nick Andopolis, or for Doogie. But really, HIMYM is a clever love story that's as much about the journey as it is about the desitnation. The show's ability to tinker with the viewer's expectations makes for some pretty solid writing. Oh, and Doogie's in it.

BOOKS:

2009 was the year of the library. Thanks to that little ol' place filled with free books, I was able to introduce myself to some authors I had not read before. Good thing, too, cuz they were all pretty solid.

HOGDOGGIN' by Anthony Neil Smith: Great noir rumbles along like a freight train, its characters and events leading to a single, inescapable fate. To follow them on that journey is to marvel at their tragedy. Hogdoggin', a sequel of sorts to Smith's Yellow Medicine, is like a gritty game of chess. You don't know where the pieces will end up, but you know it ain't gonna be pretty.

Side Note: I had the opportunity to meet Neil, a swell fella, around Jen's due date. Neil made me promise that if she had the baby that day, I'd name the boy 'Hogdog.' Thankfully for us (and more so for Alex), she waited another day and a half to go into labor.

HEAVEN'S KEEP by William Kent Krueger: The latest installment in Krueger's Cork O'Connor series starts with a plane carrying Cork's wife Jo disappearing into the harsh Wyoming Rockies, sending Cork and his son on a mission in an unknown land. I won't go into too many details, by suffice it to say, Keep is Krueger at his heartbreaking best, a novel unlike any others in the series, a book that fills you with dread and hope at the same time.

THE POET by Michael Connelly: I remember when this came out. In fact, I'm pretty sure I had a copy of it that I never read. Well, in 2009, I finally got around to it, and what the hell was I waiting for!? The story of a Denver reporter (ironic side note, I brought this book along and read it on a trip to Denver without knowing its Rocky Mountain setting) crackles along, and even when I thought I'd figured out the twist (there's always a twist), Mr. Connelly was still two steps ahead of me. I love when I discover a new author who has about twenty or so other books published. It's like panning that first piece of gold.

THE CLEANUP by Sean Doolittle: Just another typical love story: Boy meets girl. Girl accidentally kills abusive boyfriend. Boy helps girl hide the body. Doolittle's novel about a regular guy getting in over his head rips along at a brisk pace, reminding me of classic Hitchcock flicks like North by Northwest and The Man Who Knew Too Much. I'm looking forward to seeing what other tricks Mr. Doolittle has up his sleeve.

UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King: Okay, this isn't totally fair. I haven't actually finished Dome yet, but it's on the list because, by all accounts, if I'd been reading any other book, I would have been done by now. But Dome clocks in at 1027 pages, a monstrous book that's as ambitious as The Stand. Overflowing with characters, Dome is more than just a book about a town with a glass dome surrounding it; it's about the characters that inhabit the town, and how they react to their situation. I was fortunate enough to see King this past November at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul. He spoke with author Audrey Niffenegger, a ho-hum Debbie Downer. King was marvelous, though, and if he'd been alone, I think the conversation would have been juicier. Still...pretty frakkin' cool.

NOTABLE MENTIONS:

Like I mentioned earlier, I was able to try a few new authors this past year. Here are a few others I enjoyed:

STALKING SUSAN by Julie Kramer: A fun mystery with a female Minneapolis television reporter as its protagonist. A well-written story filled with interesting characters.

THE FURY by Jason Pinter: The fourth in Pinter's Henry Parker series, this easy to access series follows a young newspaper reporter who always seems to get in over his head.

WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead: A young adult novel about time travel, coming of age, and the $25,000 Pyramid. Yep, you read that right. Elegantly-written and heartbreaking.

Well, that about does it (until I think of something I should of put on this list, slap my forehead in frustration, and then edit the post). I wish you all happy viewing and happy reading in 2010!

Until next time,
B