Shakespeare Saturday: Let’s Get Ready to Stratford!

Heyo! Welcome to Shakespeare Saturday. ‘Tis I, C, the Great Floridian, ready to deliver you some Bard!

I don’t know how many of you have been with us from the beginning, or who were at least here last August, when we first traveled to Stratford, Ontario for their annual Shakespeare Festival. But we did a pretty cool thing and dedicated the entire month of August to our trip, with the weeks leading up to the actual trip focusing on one of the plays we would be seeing while we were there. So, week one was Hamletweek two was Love’s Labour’s Lostand week three was Taming of the Shrewbecause those were the plays we saw.

Well, I am pleased to announce that, beginning with Monday’s Muse, we are launching the Second Annual Festival of Shakes, aka Shakespeare-a-looza! Now, what does that mean for y’all? It means…

The Monday Muse will focus on some aspect of Shakespeare that means something to us, particularly dealing with whatever play is our focus for that week.

Boozy Books will pair the week’s play. (Pretty obvious, hunh?)

Shakespeare Saturday will recommend versions of the play that are easily accessible, whether from the interwebz or in DVD/Blu-Ray form. (Spoiler Alert: There will probably be a lot of Kenneth Branagh. I feel like he’s filmed just about every play at this point.)

Aaaaand Silly Sunday will be a serious look at geo-political influences on theater and… no, I’m just shitting you. I’ll be something stupid, like a funny picture or a spoof version of that week’s play (or just Shakespeare in general.)

The final week of August (beginning the 29th), we will review the performances we see while we are up in beautiful Stratford and exhort all of you to support EVERYTHING about this damn festival. So, obviously, it won’t be the regularly-scheduled posts; it’ll be us going out of our damn minds with love and appreciation for live theater.

So… here are the plays we’ll be focusing on:

Macbeth (I’m not in a theater, so I can say it)

As You Like It 

Richard II/Henry IV pt 1

Henry IV pt 2/Henry V 

Why the last two are a combo is because we’re actually seeing a sort-of combination version of those four plays called Breath of Kings: Rebellion and Breath of Kings: Redemption. Not that it was a long-lasting redemption, mind, since Shakespeare’s next four plays are his Wars of the Roses cycle… But I’ll talk about that later. Oh, yeah, guys… you get to listen to me talk about history.


OK. Announcement done. We’ll do something silly tomorrow and then… SHAKESPEARE-A-PALOOZA 2016!




Boozy Books: The Alchemist

Happy Friday, dear reader. Have a seat. Let me tell you a story… I never meant to pick up The Alchemist. I’d never heard of it and, when  my father handed it to me, it looked so thin and unassuming that I wasn’t much intrigued. I can’t be sure how old I was at the time… I must have been in 5th or 6th grade. I gauge that based on the fact that my homework load would have been at its lightest, and that this time would have coincided with the pre-internet, pre-Netflix distraction age when I voraciously read every book I could get my hands on. 

The reason The Alchemist sticks out in my mind is that it is the only book my dad has ever recommended to me. Well, he also gave me Who Moved My Cheese, but I think that was because he had read it for work and knew I’d read just about anything… Anyway, it was somehow odd to receive a book I hadn’t specifically asked for, or picked out at a book fair. I just remember my dad handing it to me and I asked (stupidly), “what’s this?”. I don’t remember him telling me what the story was about, he just seemed to think I’d like it. And I did. 

It was, and is, a quick read, but there’s a lot of depth in the story. Enough, in fact, that I can admit that the overarching themes in the story flew right over my head. But now – as an adult who did a double major in literature – I can look back at the seemingly simple story and understand that it wasn’t just a young man’s adventure, it was his journey to find out who he is and discover his destiny. AND this book has an incredible recurring message that I happen to believe in all its cheesiness… “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” It’s basically “nothing is impossible” and “believe in yourself” and “be your own hero” all wrapped in one. Believe in it and make shit happen.

The story follows a shepherd boy named Santiago, who seeks the help of a fortune teller in interpreting his recurring dream. The dream sets him on course to Egypt, believing he will find treasure in the pyramids. Along the way he meets a king, an Englishman, his true love, and (duh) an alchemist. Each character shapes who he is as a person and sends him further along in his quest with greater knowledge and strength than before. It’s really a lovely little tale. Sparsely written, and beautifully so.

So now the question is: what to drink with this little gem? Well, something elegant and surprisingly complex. Try a light red wine with floral notes and a hint of blackberry. The Bruno Nebbiolo D’Alba 2013 would be an excellent fit.



Monday Muse: Prioritizing Creativity

Hey there, everybody! It’s time for a dose of Monday musing. As you may know (if you follow us on a regular basis, you definitely know), C and I finished the first draft of our second project this past weekend. Yay! We’re moving forward at an excellent pace and I’m beyond proud of what we’ve created together so far, and look forward to our continued partnership.

I’m also proud of the fact that we have the potential to create so much more. We have a handful of projects ready to focus on as Nerd Cactus continues to grow, and that, my friends, brings me to today’s topic. The prioritization of creativity. Ours. C’s. Mine. Yours. There’s no such thing as too much creativity, but what happens when your creativity seems to overflow to the point that you aren’t sure what project to work on? You can’t work on them all at once. I don’t care who you are. Your work deserves your full attention. So pick one (maybe two if you’re ultra organized and ambitious) and concentrate your efforts.

C and I have lots of projects (both personal and collaborative) to work on, and it seems that we’re always tossing around more and more ideas. So the idea of prioritizing our creativity has become more and more important to us. It’s a necessary way to hone in our ever-churning brainstorms. We move through our projects after careful consideration of which ones will help us move forward as writers, creators, and Nerd Cactus entrepreneurs. Of course, everyone should create their own criteria when organizing future endeavors.  Of course, you should write down and continue to develop ideas,  just don’t try to work on a million things at once. Prioritize, so that each project has the benefit of your full concentration.

Never take your creativity for granted and never try to turn it off. Always give it priority. But once it’s written down, tuck it away until you have the right circumstances to work on it.

Just a little food for thought.

Happy Monday!


Silly Sunday: We’re Done and it’s #Savage

Welcome to the internet, folks! Well… welcome to our little corner of the internet, aka Cactuslandia!

Today’s not really silly so much as an announcement of awesome-ness:

We finished the first draft of Bill and Ben’s Excellent Adventure today! Let’s share a moment of joy, people!


A and I had ice-cream to celebrate! And I think I can speak for everyone when I say that’s pretty damn awesome. You should have some ice-cream, too. Celebrate with us!

Because, once we’ve gotten a chance to get the excitement out of our system, we’re going to get down to business and slay those Huns!


(Seriously. Everyone else thinks about Huns, right?)

Also… Sherlock trailer!


Well… that’s it for today. Ice-cream! ICE-CREAM!

And Bill and Ben is totally #savage. Everyone will be Team Jonspeare! (It makes sense in context, I swear.)

We’ll be back tomorrow with a Muse!


Shakespeare Saturday: Fangirl-ing over “Will”

Happy Saturday, everyone! Welcome to this week’s installment of Shakespeare Saturday, brought to you by the creative minds and entertainment geniuses at TNT. That’s right, turns out the good people at TNT love Shakespeare as much as we do and they’re bringing us a 10 episode order of “Will”. 

“Will” follows William Shakespeare in his early twenties as he breaks into the theatre scene in 16th century London. The show, written by Baz Luhrman’s longtime writing partner, promises to mix the historical with the contemporary, utilizing a modern soundtrack as it portrays Will as a 16th century rock star. But be warned, my historical stickler friends, this looks to take some liberties with Shakespeare’s life and relationships. Of course, we don’t have a lot of definitive proof of his life and relationships soooo I’m just gonna enjoy it, because it looks awesome!

Check out the trailer below!!!

‘Will’ Drama About Young William Shakespeare Picked Up To Series By TNT – Watch Trailer
Back tomorrow with something silly!


Boozy Books: Green Rider

Hey, guys! Welcome to Boozy Books for this week! I am C, ready to promote and pair another delicious read!

I was meant to be doing Guy Gavriel Kay’s newest book this week, but I kinda dropped the ball on finishing that book because things happened and stuff, so I’m going to do an old favorite of mine. One I don’t have to read because I’ve read it often enough to recommend AND pair it without reading it again.

Green Rider by Kristen Britain.

Funny story. That novel is actually how A and I met for the first time. Not because we’re both huge fans of the book — I’m not sure if A ever read it, actually — but because a shared acquaintance of ours wanted to turn it into a movie. Needless to say, that whole venture didn’t work out, but A and I realized we made a damn fine partnership, and that’s how the seeds of Nerd Cactus germinated. Then Mercutio happened, and, lo, a wonderful partnership was born.

So, I guess we have this book to thank for our magic here.

Green Rider is not high art. It is a fairly typical fantasy with clear good guys, horses, magic, a mission against time to save the Kingdom, and a very clear love of trees. It’s comfortable and comforting, flowing over the fantasy world like silk over skin, treading some familiar paths with smart style and damn fine prose. It is eminently enjoyable, easy, and the perfect read for when you’re stuck on an airplane for hours at a time because you’re traveling to Ireland (which is totally when I first read it). There’s a reluctant hero, a ghost, dying magic, a much-maligned messenger service, and a valiant King who doesn’t want to be King but does a damn good job. What is there not to love, really?

Karigan G’ladheon — oh, yeah, the main character is a girl! — is a piss poor student and has no idea how to behave in a matter befitting her family’s station as wealthy merchants. She gets kicked out of school and is on her way home when a dying Green Rider falls into her path, begging her to take his message to the King for love of country. She doesn’t want to, but ultimately agrees to take his sword, his horse, and his brooch all the way to Sacor City (the capital of Sacoridia). Fun thing, the brooch is magical, a remnant of Sacoridia’s cataclysmic war of independence thousands of years ago, and the problems facing Karigan and Condor (her horse) as she delivers her message and deals with the consequences of her actions (while just trying to go home) are much larger than they first appear. But if there’s one word that describes Karigan, it’s tenacious, and she’ll meet any problem head on. (And I mean that literally, because she has no idea what the meaning of the word ‘subtle’ is.)

Like I said, we’re not treading any new ground here. There’s a wall, magic is dying and people hate it, there’s a species that are basically elves, an ancient evil that is stirring, and a hero who really just wants to go home, none of which are particularly new. But sometimes you just want to read about scrappy good guys fighting against scheming bad guys while swinging swords and using magic. And Green Rider is PERFECT for that.

Now… what to drink with this? Nothing green. This isn’t St. Patrick’s Day, OK? But definitely something comforting. Something homey and smooth and easy. Nothing fussy at all. Like a nice cup of tea on a rainy day… only alcoholic. So, what I’m going to do is give you a couple of options, one hot and one cold. For the hot, I’m going Bourbon Hot Toddy (if I can drink it when I’m sick, I know it’s right for this book). For the cold? Let’s go spiked apple cider, baby! I think these apple cider cocktails seem pretty damn good. What about you?

Anyway… that’s it for me today! A will be here tomorrow with the Shakesdown! (Seriously… how did it take me almost two years to put that one together?!) Have a good weekend, and I’ll see y’all Sunday.


Monday Muse: Inspiration Wanted, Apply Within

Heyo! It’s Muse time!

I admit, I’m a little at a loss as to write today. Having to help A out while children suck out her soul through a straw has kinda depleted my brain of ideas. So I have very little of importance to say. Not that anything important really happens here, but… I’m unusually empty-headed today.

So I did what I usually do when the brain is empty… I turned to the internet. Specifically Pinterest. Where I can clip pictures that remind me of characters or of places in my worlds, or even just things that catch my eye to use later… or never, even. It’s a pretty passive act, really, and I know I’m breaking ALL the rules of writing here, but…

It’s OK To Do This.

Some days, you just can’t write. Some days, it might feel like your brain is a wrung out sponge. You search and search, but there’s nothing there but a dry, crinkly yellow and green (or whatever color your sponges are) rectangle next to your mental sink. OK, that got weird real fast. It’s not a good writing day for me, so my metaphors are a bit off. But you guys know what I mean.

We’re always being inundated with rules. And, yes, writing every day is probably one of the few rules I mostly agree with (fuck you, Prologue Police!). But… sometimes, man, you just gotta break things. Some days have to be the exception that proves the rule, you know? Sometimes, it’s better to do nothing and run that sponge under a tap (WHY AM I CONTINUING THIS METAPHOR?!) for a couple days than try to scrape some words — any words — from the bottom of the barrel (and now I’m mixing metaphors… great job, C). Sometimes, it really is OK to go looking for inspiration.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. Inspiration is the excuse people use when they want to be lazy. Which is sometimes true. Sometimes, we sit around waiting for inspiration to strike and it really is just an excuse. But taking the time to go LOOK for inspiration? That’s an action. That’s doing. That’s… OK, new metaphor. That’s sowing the seed of creation in your fertile mind… wait, no. That went weird fast. This really is a bad writing day for me. What I’m trying to say is that creation — of whatever sort, really — is something internal, yes, but it isn’t divorced from the external. We see things, hear things, taste things… EXPERIENCE things that are fuel for our creative expression. And sometimes… sometimes it’s OK to turn off the internal and just let the experiences in.

Even if it’s something as simple as clicking pictures on a Pinterest board during your writing time. Because the actual act of putting word to paper isn’t the only thing that matters. No matter what the fudging rules say.

Also… and it feels weird that it’s an afterthought, but as I’ve already discussed the lack of diversity in SF/F, I think it’s OK… there are a LOT of white people in fantasy art. Could we maybe do something about that, please? And maybe some non-gender binary stuff while we’re at it? Or even women with small breasts? There are a lot of sexy white female assassins in the fantasy art world. A LOT. It should not have taken me three hours to find a non-sexualized black female warrior last night! COME ON, guys! Let’s fix this!

I should… I should probably have made the whole post about that, hunh?

We’ll be back on Friday with Boozy Books!


Silly Sunday: Punching Shakespeare

Happy Sunday, everyone! Sadly, we’ve come to the end of another weekend, but at least we’ve got a silly treat to send you into the work week with a chuckle! Here’s a little something for those of you who might still have negative feelings toward Shakespeare, particularly if you had trouble with him in school. It’s a short clip featuring Rowan Atkinson and Colin Firth from Blackadder and it’s quite funny. Enjoy!


Shakespeare Saturday: Ben Jonson is a Regina

Helloooo, fine readers of Nerd Cactus-landia! Welcome to today’s Shakespeare Saturday. Let’s get rolling!

As most of you are no doubt aware, A and I have moved on to writing a new project while beta readers have Killing Mercutio (though, on the plus side, we’ve heard back from one of them and she wants all of you to buy this book when it’s published — the words “this is my favorite line in any book ever” were uttered, so… yeah #slay). It’s a one-act called Bill and Ben’s Excellent Adventure, and it’s a discussion of the merits of film and theater between William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. But, because Shakespeare is an idiot and Jonson takes himself way too seriously, things don’t really go according to plan.

Let’s just say Hamlet in 5-minutes using only movie quotes is totally a thing that happens, and Shakespeare is a big Terminator fan.

But today is about Ben Jonson, because, for the first time in this process, A and I really delved into his poetry. And, seriously guys…

Ben Jonson is a BITCH. Like, seriously. Ben Jonson is a full on Regina George. I don’t want to spoil which of his works we’ve incorporated into the play, but take a moment to look up Jonson’s Epigrams and read some of them. I know Shakespeare is known as the master of insults, but there’s no way you could create a Ben Jonson Insult Generator. They’re too… I don’t think subtle is the right word for it, but too… high-minded. You know it’s an insult, but you might have to think about what exactly it’s saying. Which might actually be better than ‘thou art a tedious quat’ (which is totally what popped up when I used this Shakespeare Insult Generator), though I’m not entirely sure what a quat is…

So, anyway, check out some of Ben Jonson’s work. Here’s a link for a bunch of Jonson’s stuff, so you have no excuse. Go. Read. Because, as Shakespeare says, Ben Jonson is #savage.

OK, so… that’s it for me today! Tomorrow, we get silly!


Boozy Books: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Happy Friday, readers!!!! …And may I add a heartfelt TGIF on top of that? It’s been a very long week and there’s nothing about my weekends I look forward to more than relaxing with a book and a drink, and not teaching summer camp. If you’re a loyal reader of this blog I’m sure you too look forward to a book, some booze, and a break from (insert job here). This week I’m going into the “childhood reads” territory although the selection is still read and enjoyed by adults the world over. 

I first read Jules Verne’s classic Journey to the Center of the Earth as an abridged version when I was a kid, but have since had the pleasure of reading the full translation. Verne’s science fiction story of exploration is a wildly fanciful tale in which the main characters descend into the depths of the earth through a volcano and discover natural hazards as well as prehistoric dangers. Professor Lidenbrock, accompanied by his nephew, Axel, and their guide Hans, discovers a whole world of hidden adventure. (Hint: don’t watch that Brendan Fraser movie.)

Pair this with a smokey scotch. The kind that reminds you of old books and the smell of dark libraries. Curl up and enjoy!


*Sorry for the delay on posting. I hit publish, but wasn’t in range of wifi*