Author Archives: Mike Schulenberg

Music for the Muse: Ozric Tentacles – Zenlike Creature

Ozric Tentacles - Technicians of the Sacred

Ozric Tentacles – Technicians of the Sacred
image via Wikipedia

Like a delicious part of a nutritious breakfast, inspirational music can fuel our creativity and help us power through the tedium that often prevents us from enjoying increased productivity.  Of all the music I’ve enjoyed over the years, Ozric Tentacles consistently produce some of my favorite.

Arising from England’s festival scene in the early 1980s, Ozric Tentacles has produced a huge body of work.  Their particular flavor of psychedelic space rock makes liberal use of unconventional time signatures, Eastern scales, progressive grooves, and electronic soundscapes.  These elements blend together to create rich musical journeys, often meandering through the mind to end in places different from where they began.

One thing I’ve always appreciated about their music is that its complex enough that, when I listen closely to songs I’ve heard many times before, I sometimes discover new things–yet it’s easy to put in the background when I need to focus my attention on writing, math homework, or whatever and it doesn’t disrupt my concentration.

This week saw the U.S. release of their new album, Technicians of the Sacred.  I’m still assimilating it, but I already think it’s my favorite release since 1999’s Waterfall Cities.  As a double-length album with a surprising lack of filler material, there’s plenty of cool music to absorb.

The album ends with a particularly strong track, “Zenlike Creature”:

Because music videos are better when they depict actual musicians manipulating the tools of their craft, and Ozric Tentacles has long had a reputation for their light show, I found this respectable shaky-cam video from a recent live performance:

And that about wraps up today’s installment of Music for the Muse 🙂

What music feeds your muse and empowers your creativity?

Wordslingers from Indie-Space: Erin Zarro

Today I’m experimenting with a new category of content where I profile different indie authors and help promote their latest work.  To kick things off, I’m pleased to host Erin Zarro, whose new book, Grave Touched, launched earlier this month.

Grave TouchedGrave Touched

Fey Touched – humans, genetically engineered for immortality and flight, tasked with protecting the rest of the world from rogue Fey…

Grave Touched – dead souls in search of living bodies to possess, especially those who’ve had a brush with death…

When Fey Touched Hunter Emily wakes up in a hospital, she doesn’t know that she was in fact dead. Nor does she know that her lover, Nick, broke all kinds of rules to bring her back. But the grave touched do.

Fey Touched Healer Asha does know that her mate, Joe, saved her when her abilities nearly killed her. And she knows the voices in her head are the grave touched trying to stake their claim. Asha needs Joe’s help again, but unfortunately she’s the only one who believes the grave touched exist.

The grave touched are plotting to take over the corporeal world, and they’re gaining strength. Only Emily and Asha stand in their way – and both are about to be possessed.

Grave Touched.

Buy Now: Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iTunes | Paperback

Erin was kind enough to answer an array of random questions…

Is there a specific event in your past you can point to as the moment you decided to become a writer, or did you awaken to the calling more gradually?

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a writer. When I was a kid, I wrote a TON of short stories, and even attempted a novel when I was thirteen. It was terrible, but it was the first serious book I ever wrote.

My grandmother was a writer, too, and she wrote poetry and newspaper columns. So it’s completely in my blood. 😀

Which writers have influenced your work the most?

There are so many! But if I were to narrow it down, I’d say Terry Goodkind and Laurell K. Hamilton (her early work only!). My mom read Goodkimd’s Wizard’s First Rule and bugged me to read it, but I refused because “I’m not into fantasy.” :eye roll: I finally broke down and read it and it changed my entire life. I started writing fantasy then. LKH’s early stuff was so amazing, and she made vampires and werewolves sexy and cool. I did write several vampire/werewolf novels after that, but now I’m focused on other things, like blending science and fantasy elements. 😉

Also Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. I’ve never read a story more intricate and mind-blowing. Would love to write something like that someday.

If you had to choose between pancakes and waffles, which would you prefer and why?

Big pancake fan here. I just love pancakes, especially with buttermilk and/or something in them. I recently had stuffed pancakes (pancakes layered with cream cheese and apples and topped with more apples and whipped cream) and I’ve been craving them. But alas, not good for the waistline.


image by Amazballs / CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Do you draw inspiration from other media such as music, movies, or the whimsical majesty expressed through the medium of interpretive dance?

Music is a huge inspiration for me. Sometimes it’ll help me figure out a scene, or it will be the soundtrack of a book. I have one book that I’m rewriting currently that is a psychological horror with mind control in it. Queensryche is my favorite band, and I love their concept album Operation: Mindcrime. O:M features a mind-controlled assassin. I swear the book wrote itself to that album. I don’t even remember half of the writing I did. I was in some kind of fugue where the music and my brain melded or something.

A novella of mine is based on the Queensryche song “Take Hold of the Flame.”

I also try to pick a song that’s sort of the theme of the book, and each main character’s theme song as well. Sometimes I’ll listen to a song I picked on repeat. For Grave Touched, my most current release, I listened to a lot of Tool while writing the first draft, and Skillet while revising.

Symphonic metal, which I discovered a few years ago, is my go-to music for fantasy and fight scenes. It is epic and helps me visualize everything.

To help their characters come to life in their own minds, some writers cast them using pictures of actors and models, as well as heroic figures depicted in art. Did you do this with any of your characters?

I typically don’t. It’s a great idea, but my brain works a bit differently. I don’t ever see faces – all I see is a hand reaching out to touch a shoulder, or tears streaming down a cheek or two characters embracing. It’s completely weird but somehow it works. I can tell you hair and eye color and type (short hair, long hair, etc) but the face is never there. So it’s a bit weird for me to look at models and actors and try to “cast” them as my characters. When I found the stock art for Grave Touched’s cover two years ago, I was struck by how much the model resembled my idea of the main character, but I’d never seen her face in my head.

I figure it’s kind of like face blindness, except with characters.

How much did the pirate pay to get his ears pierced?

Too, too much. Gold isn’t cheap these days.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about Grave Touched you haven’t had a chance to mention either here or elsewhere?

Well, Grave Touched was truly a labor of love, because I went through so much to get it out into the world. In the middle of revising the first draft (March 2013), I began having excruciating pain in my left eye that made it impossible to write or revise. So the Grave Touched’s release had to be pushed back a few times. I finally got going again, and worked my butt off to get it out this year. I wish it hadn’t taken so long, but it was necessary. I almost gave up on it, and writing, but persevered.

No one has been able to figure it out yet, and it’s been two years. I’m back to my normal writing, but I have a lot of bad days still.

It was a victory for me because I didn’t let my eye pain take away my writing or this book, and a victory for the series because I think it’s a great addition to it. And it’s slightly different. I think it’s a neat take on ghosts and possession. I had specifically wanted to explore them from a different angle. I believe I succeeded. 🙂

Erin ZarroAbout Erin

Erin Zarro is an indie novelist and poet living in Michigan. She’s married to her Prince Charming, and she has a feline child named Hailey who she’s convinced is part vampire. She loves all things scary and spooky, and is on a mission to scare herself, as nothing lately has scared her. She writes in the genres of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Her first published novel, Fey Touched, is a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, as is Book 2, Grave Touched. She is currently working on Book 3, Ever Touched, and is trying to stay out of trouble. Mostly. Her website is at

Turtleduck Press:
Twitter: @ekendall

Thanks for dropping by, Erin!

Haiku Kachoo

Sometimes on Facebook
I perform feats of haiku
Now I post them here

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image by Rion / CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Oh…hello, spider
Wait there while I arm myself
Hey, where did you go?

Pack of ten hot dogs
Yet buns come in bags of eight
What madness is this?

Fresh from the dryer
Sort and fold the fragrant warmth
Where’s my other sock?

Ah, peanut butter
Smooth spread of roasted delight
I eat the power

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Have a haiku you’d like to share?  How do you dispose of the two extra hot dogs?  And how many socks have you lost to the devouring void?

Thrilling Tales of Human Ingenuity: The Lazy Susan

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

– Unknown

The products of our ingenuity surround us and construct the framework of the modern world. Smartphones. Computers. Cheese that sprays from a can. Each of these items evolved in response to an obvious human need.

But what of the Lazy Susan? What crisis faced a past generation and spurred the development of this miracle of rotational technology?

A Lazy Susan
PD image via Wikimedia Commons

Let us open the eye of our imagination and see the world as it might have been during those dark times…

Continue reading

The Breakfast Taco Not Meant to Be


A delicious bowl of Fruity Pebbles cereal
PD image via Wikimedia Commons

On a morning bright with promise,
I attempted a reinterpretation
Of the breakfast taco.

But, alas,
When I held aloft my intended feast,
The Fruity Pebbles escaped
In a flurry of rainbow snow,
Leaving my tortilla as empty as my dream
Of the breakfast taco not meant to be.

Blog Hop: My Writing Process

A Cat

A cat improves any blog post…
PD image via Pixabay

Recently the most excellent Ellen Gregory tagged me for a blog hop where writers answer four questions about their creative process.  The rules require one to publish their post on a Monday and tag three people, who are supposed to publish their posts the next Monday. They tag three more people, and the blog hop spreads in the manner of one of my favorite metaphors, the zombie virus 😉

I was supposed to do my post last Monday, but I couldn’t because of assorted busyness that included a trip to visit my grandparents and eat their donuts, which were chocolate-frosted and deliciously decadent (the donuts, not the grandparents).

Since it’s Monday again, I will attempt to propagate the zombie virus help keep the blog hop going.

And now for the questions…

Continue reading

The Month of the Haiku

I’ve never been a huge consumer of poetry, but I’ve long enjoyed silly fun with haikus.  As February is National Haiku Writing Month, I’ve written a few which Catherine Johnson has kindly posted on her blog.

And while you’re there, check out some of her other posts.  She does a lot of fun stuff with poetry and painting and is an all-around excellent human.

The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin

Fall.  That time of year when the leaves turn a riot of brilliant colors and people steep themselves in the lore of witches, ghosts, unspeakable horrors…

…and pumpkins.  Especially pumpkins.


image via Amazon, purveyor of many fine things and stuff

And mightiest of all is he whose exploits leap from the pages of The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano.

Just how am I acquainted with Spookley?  I’m glad I asked…

Years ago, I went to lunch with a couple of friends from work.  One of them had to fulfill some sort of quest in the local Barnes & Noble, and we followed him inside.

Who could have known that Destiny awaited within?

There, in the shadowy vestibule, a long table sagged beneath the weight of many fine volumes, as if someone had spread all the wisdom of the ancients before us.  A column of orange tomes towered over us as if to say, “No need to pass beyond this shadowy vestibule.  I am all the book you need.”

And it spoke the truth.

What secrets of the cosmos did The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin offer?  What mysteries from beyond time and space were about to reveal themselves?

I seized the volume in trembling hands to discover the answer…


A Steely-Eyed Pumpkin
PD image via Pixabay

As the astute observer will surmise, our hero, Spookley, is a sapient pumpkin.  He is also a rectangular cuboid square, which anyone who knows their gourds will realize is a suboptimal shape.  He lives in a society divided into two factions: the round pumpkins and the square pumpkins.  Sadly, Spookley is the only square pumpkin.

The round pumpkins often taunt him:

“You’re not round–you’re square!”

Then the round pumpkins somehow propel themselves away, their sinister laughter echoing in Spookley’s mind.

But when a violent windstorm threatens pumpkinkind with destruction, who among them is of the perfect shape to save the day?

The answer is but one of innumerable secrets that await within its pages.

To be honest, I don’t know for certain how everything turned out for the pumpkins, since we had to leave the shadowy vestibule even as the legend’s dramatic conclusion began to unfold.  But I’m sure it ends well, and that the pumpkins learn a valuable life lesson–one that passes itself on to the reader.

And though this post may have been more appropriate for October, Spookley’s legend is such that it does not conform to Time as we mere mortals reckon it.

*     *     *

What discoveries have you made in the shadowy vestibule of your local bookstore?  What’s your favorite book featuring sapient vegetables?  And would you care to describe your favorite hat?

How to Write an Academic Paper (with Zombies!)

But first, a word from this post’s sponsor:

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because only zombies and bandit-survivors of the nuclear apocalypse have no need for proper grammar.

Don’t be a zombie or a bandit-survivor of the nuclear apocalypse.


A Bouquet of Pencils
PD image via Pixabay

As part of my continuing exploits as a middle-aged college student, I took an English class, which reacquainted me with the writing of academic papers.  They conformed to the same basic structure, one which worked well when destiny later demanded I write a scientific research paper for a biology class.

Now I will share this powerful knowledge with my blog followers.

Yes, both of you.

A basic academic paper has three parts:

1.  An Introduction

No, not the kind of introduction where you’re like, “Hi, my name is Hercules and I’m a legendary hero.  It’s a pleasure for you to meet me.”

Instead, the introduction lays the groundwork for the paper.  It might include an amusing anecdote, an attention grabber, important background information, or other wondrous and informative possibilities.

One thing the introduction MUST include is a thesis statement, which outlines the paper’s main points and indicates the overall stance the author will take.

2.  A Body

No, not the kind of body that could turn into a zombie when you’re not looking.

The body of an academic paper presents the main points, with supporting arguments and explanations to back them up.  If writing a research paper, it should contain properly-cited quotations plundered from an authorized repository of human knowledge, such as a library or the internet.

Writing a Paper

The Hands of a Writer at Work
PD image via Pixabay

3.  A Conclusion

No, not the kind of conclusion that ends with a cliffhanger, like when a galactic bounty hunter escapes with a scruffy-looking nerf herder frozen in carbonite, and the teacher has to wait three years to find out what happens next.

In a proper conclusion, the writer generally repeats the thesis and main points, but using different words to create the illusion of exciting new content.  The best papers often end with an insightful piece of wisdom, promising calamity if humankind ignores the grim warning contained within.

*     *     *

Now for an example…

The Friendship of the Dead

Since George A. Romero’s classic film, Night of the Living Dead, appeared in 1968, zombies have shambled and devoured their way into popularity.  Today, one cannot throw a stick in a random direction inside a bookstore without toppling a pyramid of zombie novels, and zombie movies continue to spread through theaters, much like the contagions they depict.  Cities across the nation host regular “zombie walks,” festive gatherings where participants dress as their favorite zombies for entertainment and charitable purposes.  Despite their iconic status, zombies lack personal hygiene as well as social grace, ensuring they make terrible friends for the living.

Zombies ignore their grooming needs.  When the living start their day, they put on clean clothes, brush their teeth, and comb their hair.  Zombies do none of these things, no matter how many days, weeks, or months shuffle past them.  Their lack of personal maintenance often results in unfortunate skin conditions requiring an ointment, yet even then, they cannot trouble themselves with a minimum level of care.  As a result, zombies fail to look their best when taking them out to dinner for the evening.

Once at the restaurant, zombies reveal their astounding lack of manners.  If they do not bite the server, they use the wrong fork with their entree, assuming they bother with silverware at all.  Zombies often eat with their fingers, despite how poorly this works with soup and pie, while their hampered social acuity blinds them to the scandalized stares they draw from the restaurant’s other customers.  They spurn the after-dinner mint no matter how much they might need one, and they never offer to pick up the check, nor do they chip in for gas on the way home after yet another dining fiasco.

Though zombies find many fans among the living, their failure to pursue effective beauty regimens, along with their insufficient social skills, make them poor choices for meaningful friendship.  Their popularity endures despite these shortcomings, but what of the danger in continuing to hold them in such high regard?  The next time the living attend a zombie walk, they might fail to tell the difference between real zombies and themselves and not even realize their mistake until their dinner guests stick them with the check at the restaurant, leaving them without enough gas money to get home.  What fate for the living then?


I Like This Picture of a Chef
PD image via Pixabay

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Do zombies really make terrible friends?  Could they be merely misunderstood, like some shambling horde of 21st-century Casper the Friendly Ghosts?  Or is it Caspers the Friendly Ghost?  Caspers the Friendly Ghosts?  Oh, I give up…

What’s on YouTube? “Zombie Skin”

With over 13 million views at the time of this posting, everyone has probably seen this by now.  But I enjoy it enough that I’m going to share it anyway.

Besides, the subject matter has thematic relevance to this blog 😉

I hope someone offers them a recording contract because I would totally buy their music.

*     *     *

So what’s on YouTube for you these days?  And did you remember to pick up milk at the store?