Monday, April 14, 2014

Meth Monday: Wanna Cook? is Available! (Yeah, Bitch!)

That's right, Readers Mine, Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad is officially available!!!!! We're not quite sure what happened. At first, all of the online booksellers had the release date as 1 May, and then Amazon started shipping orders, but everyone else was listing Wanna Cook? as not being available until 13 May, then it showed up on the shelves of Powell's City of Books (see pic below), and as of just a few moments ago when I checked right before I started to type this post, it's now available everywhere - at least online. So, you know, go get you a copy or three!

Seriously, though, if you've already bought a copy THANK YOU! You rock, and we will offer up burnt offerings before your alter. If you liked it, you could earn an even higher level of awesomeness if you'd take a few moments and review Wanna Cook? on Goodreads, or the online site for the retailer from whom you purchased your copy.

If you HAVEN'T bought your copy yet, and you live near Shelby, North Carolina, why not wait and get your copy on Saturday, 26 April at Fireside Books in downtown Shelby? (Call 704-487-8477 or drop by Fireside to reserve your copy today!!!) Because we're having a book launch, bitch!  We're starting at 5 pm and we're gonna party like we're at Jesse's house in Season 4! Well, okay, so we're actually not going to party quite that hard, but there will be some food, some wine and other refreshments, and Dale and I will be there signing books and all sorts of local businesses will be running special deals to mark the occasion. So here's the big scoop: show up at the following uptown Shelby retailers  with a signed copy of Wanna Cook? on 26 April ONLY, and you'll get:

Ni Fen Bistro: one free order of pot-stickers with your meal. (Ni Fen will also be supplying the hors d'oeuvres at the book launch!)
Pleasant City Wood Fired Grille: 10% off your dinner order.
Joe's Place: one free house dessert with your meal.
Fuzzy Peach: To Be Deteremined
Lily Bean's Micro-Roasted Coffee: TBD
Newt's Pub Burgers: TBD
Dragonfly Wine Market: TBD (Dragonfly will also be supplying the wine at the book launch!)

Please note that even the places listed above as "TBD" are definitely on board for the evening, they just haven't decided what kinds of deals to give you. We're also hoping to add some more folks to this list, so stay tuned here, and to our Facebook and Twitter pages, and Dale's "Walter White Wednesday" posts for updates. (If you own a business in uptown Shelby, and would like to be part of our launch, just contact me.) In addition, Shelby's annual Arts on the Square festival will be going on all day on the 26th so you'll have a chance to see the work of some of the incredible area artists and craftspeople before the launch. So come on out, say hello, buy a book from a local, independent bookseller, and have some fabulous food afterwards. We promise you it'll be an A-1 Night!

Check it out: Wanna Cook  on the shelf at Powell's Books!!! Thanks to @witnessaria for the pic and the heads up!
Okay, if you don't live around Shelby, you can still get your hands on a copy. Go on over to IndieBound.org to find an independent bookseller near you who's carrying Wanna Cook, or, if you'd rather, you can order your copy online from - well, pretty much everywhere:

Amazon USA
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Amazon Germany (in translation)
Powell's Books
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
Wal-Mart (yeah, that's right: Wal-Mart, bitch!)

So, really, there's no excuse for not grabbing a copy somewhere. Like Saul's advertising, we're everywhere!

See you on April 26th at Fireside! Until then, keep cookin'!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Meth Monday: Get Yer Copies of Wanna Cook? NOW!

Hello, Readers Mine! I'm a bit pressed for time this morning, so this will likely be on the short and sweet side of things.

First off, our official book launch for Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad will take place on Saturday, 26 April starting at 5 pm at Fireside Books and Gifts in downtown Shelby, North Carolina!! Dale and I will be signing books, and there will be some snacks, some wine, and we're working on getting some great deals in place at downtown restaurants and businesses - show up with a signed copy of Wanna Cook? and get 10% off your order! More details will be forthcoming as we nail things down. Just keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter feeds (those links are for Dale's - you can get to mine via the "buttons" on the upper right of this page), as well as right here at Solomon Mao's and over on Unfettered Brilliance. Give Linda and the fine folks at Fireside a call, or drop by to order your copy for the launch and they'll be there waiting for you on the 26th!

Look! Here's a picture of me actually holding a copy of Wanna Cook?:

It's real! It's in my hand! This actually happened!
One last piece of news before I have to run. If you can't make it to the launch, but still want to get your copy of Wanna Cook? early, head on over to our listing on Amazon. For whatever reason (and see, even authors are - somewhat frighteningly - left out of the loop as to what goes on with their books sometimes) Amazon is selling copies right now! For all I know this may be an error, so head on over and take advantage!

That's it for this week, Readers Mine! Until next time, keep cookin'!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Meth Monday: 4 Weeks Out

Hello again, Readers Mine! That's right, we're just four weeks and two days away from the official publication date of Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad, and the big news this week is that our author copies of Wanna Cook? are winding their way to us from the Frozen North even as I write this! I have to admit, I'm looking forward to opening a package in  the next week or two to find a box full of books with my name listed on the covers as one of the authors. This is my first time at this particular rodeo, and I have to admit I'm getting excited at the thought of actually holding a copy of the book I helped to write in my greedy little hands. Pictures will undoubtedly feature here shortly thereafter. That also means that it will be contest time shortly thereafter as we give away a few signed copies. We're still figuring out just how to organize that, so keep an eye out for more information. Also, be sure to check out my co-author's "Walter White Wednesday" post this week for details on our official book launch, which will be taking place at Fireside Books in downtown Shelby, NC!

Last week, I briefly caught you up on what Bryan Cranston has been up to since his Walter White days, and his portrayal of LBJ in All the Way continues to bring him kudos, not least from Stephen Colbert:


You gotta admit, the guy gives good interview. On the fan-art front, check out these incredible patent blueprint-style prints from Oliver Gal Artist Company:
Nifty, huh? Even months after the series came to its end, fans continue to produce some incredible art, mash-ups, and even books about Breaking Bad. (see what I did there?).

So that's about it fro this week, and remember, you can get your copy of Wanna Cook? on or at least very near May 1 by pre-ordering it today! Seriously, it's available in the US from every large bookseller either online or from stores, and the same should hold true in the UK and Germany (yes, there's a German translation being published simultaneously, because that's how we roll, and because the French didn't pony up any cash for the privilege - and we don;t cook for free, bitch.) If you're in the US and would rather spend your hard earned dollars at your local, independent bookseller, then head on over to our page at IndieBound.org, enter your zip code, and find an independent bookstore near you who'll be happy to order you a copy!

Until next week, keep cookin'!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Meth Monday: Back in the Lab Again

So, it's been a while. To say that the past almost three months have been busy would be something of an enormous understatement, to the point where something had to go, and, unfortunately, that something was this blog. Until now. With several plates less to spin (more on the nature of those past plates in another post), I can turn by attention back here as we count down the five weeks and four days until 01 May 2014 and the official release of Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad! ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) have gone out, we've got a pile of promotional materials, and we and ECW's publicists are working on a variety of launches, signings, and giveaways in the coming weeks and months.

Neither Dale nor I have actually seen a physical copy of the book yet (and we're jonesing pretty hard about that!) but we've got the PDF proofs, and it looks amazing. The graphic design, layout, photographs, and style are just phenomenal, and well, you know, the writing is pretty damn good too! This is really happening, Readers Mine, and it's gonna be great! In fact, we've already been blurbed by the one and only Dr. David Lavery, Father of Whedon Studies, one of the creators of the academic discipline of television studies, and an all round good guy to boot. Over at The Laverytory, David was kind enough to write:

"To call Ensley Guffey and Dale Koontz’s Bad-to-the-bone guide Wanna Cook? a page turner is certainly true but somehow media inappropriate. For obsessed fans (and is there any other kind?) of this all-time-great, every carefully crafted word will bring back to cerebral life the characters, dialogue, hats, “bitches,” mise-en-scene, locations, violence of the rise and fall of Walter White. As such, I propose that this book, another terrific contribution by ECW Press to television studies, should be deemed “binge reading.” As pure as a batch of Heisenberg’s Blue Sky, Guffey and Koontz’s critical chemistry has given us the most addictive companion to this TV masterwork we will ever get."

Which is incredibly kind, as well as entirely true (like I'm gonna argue with David?!?) If you'd like a sneak peak at the rough front and back covers, check this out. There will be a few things added, like David's blurb, but that's what'll be hitting stands come May 1!

In the meantime, and as a way of wrapping up this post, let's check in on what Bryan Cranston is doing now that he's no longer in the meth business. First off, for those of you lucky enough to be in or make it to New York, in the name of God you have to go see All the Way at the Neil Simon Theater between Broadway and 8th. Cranston is playing President Lyndon Johnson and getting rave reviews! Check out my favorite pic of him in the role:

Bryan Cranston as LBJ in Robert Schenkkan's All the Way.
For those of you like me, who can't make it to NYC (*sigh*), we can still get our dose of Cranston in the potentially amazing reboot of Godzilla coming out in May:


I know, right!!!?!!??

So that should hold you for a week, Reader's Mine. See you next Monday for another installment, and don't forget to keep checking out Walter White Wednesday over on the blog of my indefatigable co-author, K. Dale Koontz.

Until next time, keep cookin'.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Reading

So it's the new year, and as is traditional, folks are posting about various resolutions, goals, plans, plots, challenges, and self-improvement schemes. Well, Readers Mine, I'm usually not much of one for that sort of thing, but this year Dale has decided that she's going to fill in some holes in her film and reading knowledge, the details of which you can find over on Mockingbird's Nest.

Nope, this has nothing to do with the post. But I think it needs to be here, because Joss! And comics!
When it comes to reading and watching films, it's pretty easy to get my interest, and I thought Dale's idea was pretty damn cool, so I've drawn up a list of eight books to help fill in some holes in my own literary knowledge-base. I am happy to say that I am fairly well read when it comes to Western literature, both ancient and modern, and can even say the same for ancient non-Western writing. When it comes to non-Western modern works, however, I'm pretty much ignorant. So my rules for this reading list were 1.) no Western books (including the Americas, Europe, Russia, and the ANZAC nations, 2.) all books must have been written after 1945, the more recently the better, and 3.) I had to choose a maximum of eight, to allow plenty of time for these books, other books, and the rest of life in 2014.

So here's the list, along with the authors' nations of origin:

The Dark Side of Love by Rafik Schami - Syria.
Broken Glass by Alain Mabanckou - Republic of the Congo
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes - South Africa
The Glass Palace: A Novel by Amitav Ghosh - India
Wolf Dreams by Yasmina Khadra - Algeria
The Cage by Kenzo Kitakata - Japan
Please Don't Call me Human by Wang Shuo - China
The Republic of Wine by Mo Yan - China

Hopefully I'll be able to post about each book here after I read it, and those of you who're interested can follow along. I've a couple of more resolution-type things I'm trying this year, but most of them are a bit close to home to share in a space like this, so content yourselves with these eight books, Readers Mine, and - 

Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Meth Monday

Hello, Readers Mine! Yeah, yeah, I'm a lousy blogger. I've accepted this fact, urge you to rely on Dale for your regular blogging needs over on Unfettered Brilliance. Me, I'll do my best to post here regularly, but - hey - you can count on me keeping up with all sorts of posts on the social media you see to the right, so there's that. So let me catch up a bit here. The big news is that the complete manuscript for Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad  is finished, line- and copy-edited, and we are currently working through the last part of the publication process, the reading of the proof. Let me tell you, the book looks fabulous! The good folks at ECW Press have done an outstanding job in designing and laying out all of our words, and I can't wait to hold a copy in my greedy little hands, and for you to be able to get one into yours!

Twinkie Me, Bitch! by Brendan Tobin, one of my absolute favorite pieces of fan-art inspired by Breaking Bad, combining as it does Walt, Jesse, and the Hostess comic book ads from the 1970s and '80s.


So here's the deal for the new year: Wanna Cook? will be released on 1 May 2014 (which, by happy coincidence, is also the co-authors' wedding anniversary!). Meanwhile, you can pre-order your copies from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or Powell's Books (the latter of which's brick-and-mortar location in Portland, OR happens to be Bryan Cranston's favorite place to go and lose a day with a book), and in an unexpected development, you can even pre-order it from Wal-Mart!! And of course, your local independent bookseller will be able to get it for you as well. We'll start doing some promotional stuff as we get closer to May, including, hopefully, some ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) give-aways on Goodreads as well as through our blogs and social media accounts, about which I will most definitely keep you informed. Believe it or not, we actually have two publicists, one for traditional media, and another for new media! (Yes, that's right, we actually have "People" now. Weird, right?) And we're gonna have a full-on book-launch. The details haven't been completely nailed down yet, but I can tell you that it will take place in our hometown of Shelby, NC, and involve as many local businesses as we can rope in. I can also promise that a good time will be had by all. Again, we'll get the word out in plenty of time and as soon as we get things lined up.

So now we are at the very end of this project, and it hasn't quite sunk in yet that we've written a book. For me this is the realization of a dream that I've had since I was eight years-old, and that's the kind of thing that just takes a while to feel real, I guess. Let's also not forget that I wrote this with my wife, and discovered that among all the other insanely wonderful things about being in a relationship with this woman is that we write together remarkably well, and have complementary "voices." I'm not sure how many people ever truly find a full-fledged partner to build a life with, but I suspect, sadly, that not everyone does. To find that I am one of the truly lucky ones is... breathtaking. And humbling as all hell.

So that's it for this go-round. If I keep writing, I'll get all mushy - and who wants that. So, Readers Mine, thank to you for all of your support, patience, and excitement. Until next time, be well.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Academic Freedom and Social Media

So this decision by the Kansas Board of Regents has been making the academical news today: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/12/19/kansas-regents-adopt-policy-when-social-media-use-can-get-faculty-fired. Basically, it's a policy outlining under what circumstances a faculty member could be penalized, even fired, for remarks made via social media. It is also very vaguely and broadly worded in parts, giving the Board of Regents and university administrators wide discretionary powers when it comes to enforcing the policy. I urge you to read the linked article for a much more detailed breakdown of the policy and the associated debate.

I have to admit, that I am of two minds about this, and it's very interesting that this hits at the same time as the A&E/Phil Robertson news.

Academic freedom is a vital component to higher education, and allows instructors to introduce new ideas and information, challenge existing theories, and develop critical thinking in students. From my own experience I know that part of being a good historian is reading works by scholars whose views you may radically disagree with, not merely to understand the whole of a particular historical debate, but to refine and hone your own thinking on a given subject. It is also important for students to be exposed to differing interpretations, or even to idea which are almost universally considered abhorrent (for example, a class on Nazi Germany might include Mein Kampf  or excerpts from the diaries of Joseph Goebbels in the students' reading assignments. Not because the instructor agrees with Hitler and Goebbels' ideology, but because these are important primary sources for understanding the history of the time and men who made it. Without academic freedom, however, there is a possibility of the instructor being accused of Nazism and of spreading fascist ideology, and being fired because of baseless allegations.) All of that being said, academic freedom has its limits, just as the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Just as inciting people to violence is not protected speech, neither does academic freedom allow instructors to endanger the physical safety of their students or others. Both are examples of common-sensical limits to freedom of action in the public square.

No one is suggesting that academic freedom as currently understood be further limited in the classroom (at least, not in this particular case. That's what the larger push to eliminate tenure in universities is all about). The question is to what extent instructors can be held responsible vocationally for their comments, postings, etc on personal social media accounts. I think most would agree that an employer has every right to set policies on how electronic media provided by and directly connected with that employer are, and are not used. You don't write your state legislatures using your state-provided university e-mail. That's why God gave us personal gmail accounts. You also don't use the University of Wherever's Twitter account to raise hell about the president. Again, you save those gems for your personal account. What the Kansas Board of Regents are doing, however, is to set policy for people's personal, public social media accounts, and honestly, I think maybe they can, and might even ought to.

In response to the push-back against A&E's dismissal of Phil Robertson from future episodes of Duck Dynasty, which is largely (and erroneously) being portrayed as a freedom of speech issue (it's protection from the government, not from private sector employers like cable networks), is that Mr. Robertson freely spoke his mind publicly, many people publicly decried his comments, and the network responded to pressure from its viewers and advertisers (i.e. where their money comes from) and decided to put Mr. Robertson on an indefinite hiatus. Okay, I can agree with all of that. Freedom of speech does not equal freedom from consequences. Yet, if this is true for Phil Robertson, should it not also hold true for academics?

Social media like Facebook and Twitter are inherently public spaces, no matter how savvy you are with your privacy settings, or how discriminating you may be in accepting friend requests or allowing followers. I know way too many people with lots of workplace friends who unhesitatingly rant about work some days, and do so very specifically, rather than just "Whew. Rough day today!" These people should not be surprised if their remarks have some ramifications for them at work the next day. They might have pissed off one of their friends who was involved in the same situation, or their boss, or co-worker, or whoever. Self-editing is a vital social skill, folks, and there's a reason they're called social networks. So if an instructor goes off on some hateful rant on social media and (surprise, surprise) that rant goes a bit viral (don't forget all of those friends of friends of friends who can see your posts and may vehemently disagree with you), then maybe s/he should get pulled up short by his/her employer - just like Phil Robertson was.

When posting on social media, even when using our personal accounts, we are speaking in a public space, where everything we share becomes at least semi-permanent, and we should always be aware of that fact. That doesn't mean that we're not free to say what we wish, it just means that we must always be aware that our speech carries consequences, intended and otherwise. Violentacrez is a despicable human being whose trolling and pornographic postings on Reddit cost him his job, even though his postings took place outside of work, on his own time, and on his own personal accounts. He paid the price for being a sleazeball, and very few folks will weep any tears on his behalf, but just as he had every right to be a sleazeball, society retains the right to react to his nastiness, even in ways which he doesn't approve of. It's not a violation of his rights, its just the consequences of his actions.

The equation works both ways. Mr. Robertson should face consequences for his public statement about homosexuals and African-Americans under Jim Crow, but David W. Guth has to accept the same kind of responsibility for publicly wishing that the next people to die in a mass shooting be the sons and daughters of NRA members. The left (where I usually hang my political philosophic hat) can be as guilty of despicable hate-speech as the right, and deserves to be called upon it just as strongly. Scholars too, are human beings with opinions, emotions, knee-jerk reactions, and prejudices, and when those things become hate-speech, libel, or outrageous vitriol in public forums like social media - then, yeah, they deserved to get called on it, and to face the consequences.

By the way, even if you are right, if your speech has every ethical and moral precept known to history backing it up, you are still open to the consequences of that speech - good and bad. Better people than us have spoken truth publicly and paid terrible prices for doing so, even when we today find their positions self-evident and proper. No one is exempt - ever. It behooves all of us to think before we speak, and when we do speak to be prepared to face the consequences that arise from our words.