Lost Season 1 Re-watch : White Rabbit

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We get another “eye-opening” opening (there’s our official motif for this show) of a young Jack being told to stay down on the ground while some older bullies beat up on another kid.  Young Jack-o doesn’t listen and gets popped in the face before older Jack’s name is being called out while staring out into nothing on the beach.

Jack realizes someone is calling out for help in the water and he dives into action (pun uh-thank you).  Once he gets out deeper, he goes under water and comes up with Boone.  Starting to swim back, Boone says he was trying to save her and Jack sees a woman further out calling for help.  Alas, Jack gets back to shore with Boone and goes back out to save the woman.

Turns out a woman named Joanna went out for a swim and couldn’t stay above water pulled out by a riptide.  Jack tells Kate he didn’t try hard enough to save Joanna and while he’s talking to her he sees the man in the suit standing out in the water, waist deep.  Kate can’t see the man though.  So creepy.

Our Plot B storyline focuses on the dwindling water supply and the group’s need to find drinkable water.  We get some minor moments worth calling out:  Sun and Jin continue to be on the outs due to the language barrier; Claire and Kate gab a bit (I hope that’s not insensitive to say; I’ll use it for all genders just in case); Shannon tries to bargain with Sawyer for insect repellant (side note:  Sawyer’s reading Watership Down; books are a big part of the show and appear from time to time with the plot of the book having some kind of influence on the show).

Jack is inundated with people looking to him for leadership and he’s struggling to embrace that role.  Hurley and Charlie get the ball rolling by asking about the water supply.  Add in a brooding Boone telling Jack he could have swam back on his own and Jack should’ve gone after Joanna and Jack’s close to the edge.  The man in the suit appears again and Jack runs into the jungle to confront the creepy apparition.

Flashback:  We’re with young Jack again and he talks to his dad, Christian, who is a surgeon (a son following in his father’s footsteps) and tells Jack he doesn’t have the stuff to be a hero after Jack tells him what happened with the fight at school.  Dad of the Year award nominee right here.  Shift to adult Jack who is told his father’s gone by his mother and is asked to locate his father’s whereabouts.  They haven’t talked for two months due to a falling out, which Jack is alluded to being responsible for.  Where is his dad?  Australia.  Aha!  Jack gets to his dad’s hotel room in Sydney and finds out he hasn’t been there for three days.  There’s plenty of medication bottles and liquor bottles in the room along with his wallet.

Jack reaches the man in the suit who turns around, falls onto the ground, and says, “Dad?”  Uh wut?  How is that happening?  A very creepy-staring Christian says nothing turns around and walks deeper in the jungle and Jack gives chase.

Claire collapses and while Charlie runs to get water, he realizes the stash has been stolen.  After Kate and Sayid take over leadership duties, determined to find the stolen water, Locke offers to go find Jack saying he knows where to look. Sawyer becomes the prime suspect because he’s determined to be the most-hated person in the group.  Kate follows him to where he has his stash of looted goods hidden but discovers he wasn’t behind the water pinch.

Jack’s running like a crazy man in search of his ghost-like dad until he slips and nearly falls to his death off a cliff, grabbing a tree vine for dear life.  Lucky Locke shows up to save him just in time.  We get a great exchange between Locke and Jack here which I’ll try to recap though it’s better on screen.  Jack doesn’t want to be the leader, saying he doesn’t have the stuff to succeed.  Locke asks why Jack’s out in the jungle and finds out Jack is chasing after something to which Locke mentions the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (our second literary reference!).   Locke says the island is special and different and they all feel it but won’t talk about it.  He says he’s looked into the eye of the island (whatever that means) and he saw something beautiful.

Left to contemplate his predicament, Jack hears the sound of ice clinking in a glass, runs in the direction of the sound, and comes upon a cave where there’s running water and what appears to be items from the plane crash.  Surprising enough, there’s a coffin which happens to be belonging to his father, which he identified in Sydney.  Jack opens it and finds it empty which only extends the mystery of his seeing his father in the jungle.  We  know the island healed Locke’s spinal injury but did the island bring Christian back from the dead?  Difficult to say at this point.

The episode closes out with Claire getting water from Boone of all people and he’s caught by Charlie.  The group starts to turn on Boone, realizing he stole the water but not to be a jerk, instead seeing it as an opportunity to take charge seeing as how it was left out in the open.  Jack shows up before the mob can string up the noose (not really of course) to tell everyone Boone risked his life for Joanna that morning and now they’re ready to crucify him.  He tells them he found water and shelter.  He delivers his famous, “If we can’t live together, we’re gonna die alone,” speech and assumes his role as leader, somehow coming to the conclusion that he does have the stuff to lead.

A very solid episode and one I really like.  The mystery of the island expands and we get more character beats that help define who these people are.  The Jack and Locke interaction alone make the episode strong.

Next we look at Sun’s first centric episodes.  I originally thought I would cover two episodes in each of the following posts until we got to the end of the re-watch.  This isn’t likely to happen unless I want to extend my capacity and write three thousand word posts.  So, I’ve decided to do one episode a post until the end.  That means I’ll be writing about Lost until the end of November.  Hope you’re in it till the end with me!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Walkabout

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Things start with another eye opening (one more time of this and we got ourselves a motif!).  This time it belongs to our backgammon-loving bald man, John Locke.  We’re back on the beach with him during the first minutes of the crash on the island.  Locke seems perplexed by the situation and pays special attention to his foot for some reason.  We’re pulled back into the present at night with some kind of ruckus taking place in the camp.  Turns out the island has a boar problem and now the survivors have to deal with it.

After four days of no sign of rescue, Jack leads the discussion of burning the fuselage along with the bodies of the dead inside.  He gets some push back from Sayid who believes it would be disrespectful to the dead to treat their remains in this way but Jack is not swayed knowing the boars will continue to be a problem along with the bodies getting nice and rotten inside.  Burning them and the fuselage seems to be wise both for health reasons and doing so at night makes for a very large fire that could be seen from the ocean.

Things are getting bad in the group as the food supply has run low save for peanuts which Hurley and Sawyer are arguing over.  We get a fun exchange and while Sawyer takes a seat in some plane seats, a rather large knife flies into the seat next to him.

Turns out, our good friend, Locke, has checked a case of more large knives and managed to recover them from the crash (that’s lucky and convenient!).  Locke reveals he’s got quite the bevy of knowledge about boars and how to hunt them which leads us to believe he’s quite the hunter/adventurer.

In what I’ll call “Plot B” of the episode, Sayid has a plan to set up antennas to triangulate the source of the French woman’s distress signal.  He believes there must be a significant power source in order for the signal to be playing for 16 years.  Kate agrees and wants to help him so she offers to go with Locke on the boar hunt.  Jack makes an observation that Kate doesn’t appear to like to stay in one place too long which makes sense from what we know of her life before the island.

Michael joins the hunt in order to get to know Locke better since Walt has taken to calling Locke his friend.  Michael asks Sun to watch Walt in a pretty comedic way of using hand gestures and talking slowly hoping she’ll understand.  The rest of the survivors are collecting what they can of the wreck in preparation to burn the fuselage.

Flashback:  Locke answers a phone and talks with another person as if they are involved in some kind of military operation.  He is interrupted by what appears to be a supervisor and we see Locke is actually sitting in an office cubicle that appears very common.  Locke and a co-worker are playing a Risk-like game during their lunch break and the supervisor from earlier, whose name is Randy, shows up and mocks Locke, asking what a “walkabout” is after taking a brochure from his desk.  We learn that Locke has scheduled to go on a walkabout in Australia and Randy questions his ability to do so.  Locke tells Randy, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” which will become a motto for him in episodes to come.

Locke talks to a woman named Helen on the phone and he invites her to go with him to Australia but we learn quickly that Helen is part of some kind of call service and Locke pays $89.95 an hour (yeesh, that’s costly) to talk to her which apparently he’s been doing for several months.  She refuses his invitation and we’re left with a bereft Locke and a man who seems to have very unhealthy relationships (as far as we can tell).

Some very minor threads are taking place on the beach in which Claire asks Jack to speak some words while they burn the fuselage but he refuses, Sayid gets a letter and pictures of a woman he thought were lost in the crash, Shannon tries to prove she can fend for herself and manipulates Charlie to catch her a fish (we also get a great comedic scene of him recruiting Hurley to help him), and Boone asks Jack to go speak to Rose, the woman he saved on the beach, as she sits off in the distance staring out into the ocean.

Locke gives Kate and Michael a lesson in boar hunting.  We learn Michael wasn’t a part of Walt’s life until two weeks prior when his mother passed away (this explains the lack of relationship between the two).  They are surprised and attacked by a boar.  Michael gets wounded while Locke is on his back in shock before he looks at his foot again (okay…why?).  Kate tells Locke they need to stop and get Michael back to the camp but Locke continues, giving us his favorite line, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do.”

Kate and Michael stop so she can put the antenna up in a tree but drops it when the monster roars and notices the trees moving in the direction of Locke (I swear this thing is a dinosaur).  Just as Locke comes across the boars, the monster arrives and while we don’t see it (sneaky sneaky show.  Not cool), we do see Locke’s bewildered reaction to it (such a tease).

Obviously wanting to stay away from the fuselage and people’s requests, Jack spends time with Rose and while he thinks she can honor her husband who was on the flight but in the tail section that broke off midair, Rose denies her husband being dead.  Jack struggles with this but they agree to head back to the others as the sun sets.  In the distance, Jack sees a man in a suit off in the distance watching him.  Freaky…

Kate gets back with Michael but believes the monster got Locke.  The antenna is broken and Sayid is frustrated but willing to try again.  While talking to Kate, Jack sees the man in the suit again and runs into the jungle but he finds a blood-covered Locke instead who has bagged himself a hefty-sized boar (bacon in the morning!).

The fuselage is burning and the group honors the dead the best way they can (mostly saying names and sharing whatever info could be found in their luggage).  Michael asks Locke if he saw the monster and Locke says he saw nothing (such a liar!).

Flashback:  Locke is in Australia and being told he cannot take part in the walkabout.  He argues and is told he neglected to speak of his condition and cannot take part in the experience.  As the bus leaves, Locke turns around in a wheelchair.  WHAT?!  He screams about destiny and “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”  Shift back to the plane crash on the beach and Locke is somehow healed of whatever injury confined him to a wheelchair.  Amazing!!!

Okay, I love this episode.  Please watch it if you haven’t.  My recap and review don’t do it justice.  We get a great introduction to an amazing character who has an interesting backstory and while his previous life has some questions that need answering, we also learn that the island has somehow healed Locke.

Next episode focuses on Jack and we get some info on the man in the suit.  Feel free to watch ahead and remember to leave comments about your favorite moments in the episode!  Thanks!

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Tabula Rasa

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Before I get started with the episode breakdown, I wanted to point something out.  This show has a lot of characters and a lot of plot lines.  Throw in the Flashback scenes which come and go, interwoven throughout the episode, and there are a lot of things to cover and call out.  I am going to play with how I format each episode depending on the focus character, which in this episode is Kate, and the other sub-storylines.  I want to avoid a play-by-play format (I know I did this for the pilot episodes but that was intentional to introduce characters) and make the post an easy read.  Onto the episode!

As I said, this episode is Kate-centric.  We know she’s a criminal of sorts being handcuffed on the plane and being escorted by a U.S. Marshall.  We get some answers but are left in the shadows a bit as well.  Jack is told she’s dangerous by the marshall who is in a bad way due to his injuries.  Told to go through the marshall’s pockets, Jack finds a mugshot print out and Jack’s got some obvious conflicting feelings towards Kate.  Hurley finds the mugshot because Jack is the worst hider ever and warns Hurley that it’s none of their business and not to be worried (oh those feelings are gonna bite you, Jack-o).

Kate’s still with the hiking party and as darkness falls, they decide to set up camp.  These scenes were good for character dynamics as we see Sayid try to make sense of where their island might be in the world.  He’s a smart guy and also knows that if they share what they discovered, they could erase the hope of the survivors which could be detrimental in the long run.  Sawyer on the other hand is more concerned with what the French woman’s distress transmission means.  He also aptly gives Kate a new nickname: Freckles (we’ll see that Sawyer has an affinity for nicknames and some are not so nice).

In the middle of the night while everyone’s asleep, Boone decides he’s going to take watch but makes a mistake by taking the gun off Sawyer and the bullets off Sayid.  Bad blood brews and Shannon suggests Kate should be the one to hold both gun and ammo (remember, none of them know what we know about her being a criminal).  Quick note:  We also learned Oceanic flight 815 was bound for Los Angeles, which isn’t that important but good to know.

Flashback:  This episode’s flashback reveals Kate was nowhere near Sydney (where flight 815 took off from) and sleeping in a sheep pen.  The farmer, Ray, gives her a job and a room to help him work the farm, which she does for an undisclosed amount of time.  Kate isn’t the type to stay in the same place for too long and tries to leave in the middle of the night before Farmer Ray offers to drive her to the nearest train station.  It’s a ruse though as our good friend the U.S. Marshall shows up during the drive.  Turns out Farmer Ray couldn’t pass up a $23,000 reward for turning Kate in.  Kate grabs the wheel of Farmer Ray’s truck and they wreck.  She could have got away from the scene but Kate saves Ray, gets caught, and we’re left wondering how bad she could be for doing such a selfless act.

When the hikers arrive at the beach, Sayid tells everyone they need electrical equipment to boost the signal of the transceiver.  He takes charge and begins to organize groups to collect water and ration food.  Kate feels the need to tell Jack the truth about the French woman’s transmission and he gives her a chance to come clean about her outlaw life but she doesn’t give in.

Still focused on saving the marshall, Jack goes into the fuselage to search for stronger antibiotics.  While in there, we get our first one on one interaction between him and Sawyer who was looting for what he thought valuable: cigarettes, alcohol, and other accouterments.  This exchange is valuable because we see something between both men and Kate.  There’s a dynamic there that offers up a noteworthy love triangle in the making.

Some of the minor threads of the episode focus on our other survivors.  Claire and Charlie seem to be forming a bond.  Jin shows affection towards Sun, which is surprising given his previous moments with her.  Michael and Walt continue to have their issues which Walt attributes to Michael’s inability to find his dog, Vincent.  Probably the most interesting thread though is Locke’s carving a whistle (that’s some ingenuity right there), calling Vincent to him, and then letting Michael get the credit for reuniting a dog and his boy.

The end of the episode intensifies as Kate confronts the marshall, he wakes up, and tries to strangle her.  Jack arrives just in time to stop the struggle and tells Kate he saw the mugshot.  Kate presses Jack asking him to put the marshall out of his misery but Jack refuses saying he is not a murderer and off-handedly insinuates to Kate that she is (a curious implication since he doesn’t know for sure what her crimes were).

Hurley warns Jack he saw Kate strapped with a gun and Jack rushes to the tent but finds Kate walking away.  However, a gunshot rings through the night, which is followed by Sawyer leaving the tent, making it clear he did what Jack wouldn’t.  Then come the sounds of the marshall coughing inside.  Sawyer failed Anatomy 101 because while aiming for the marshall’s heart, he missed and the poor man is suffering worse than before.  Jack, thankfully, ends the marshall’s suffering and man was that heavy drama.

The episode closes out with Jack telling Kate that their old lives don’t matter.  They all have a clean slate (tabula rasa) so to speak.  That’s a curious statement because if a rescue comes, you can be sure she wouldn’t be suddenly forgiven of her crimes.

All in all, I liked the episode.  We get some answers about Kate and we see relationships building.  No real mysteries were raised or solved.  A solid episode nonetheless.

Next time we get our first Locke episode “Walkabout” and it’s by far one of my favorite episodes of Lost all time.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch: Pilot Part 1 and 2

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Eye opening!  We see a man in a suit waking up in a jungle, surprised by a labrador (golden retriever?) who eventually runs off.  Obviously confused and likely injured, the man in the suit moves his way out of the surrounding jungle—the camera stays ominously on a single shoe hanging in a tree.  Creepy.

Once out of the jungle, the man in the suit finds himself near a beach.  Screams and the sound of an engine draw him to a scene of chaos where part of the fuselage of a plane has crashed on the beach.  Our unnamed hero goes into action helping those he can including a pregnant woman and another woman who’s not breathing.  After quite a bit of action and an explosion we learn the man in the suit’s name is Jack.  (Side note: while we learn the names of characters throughout the episode, I’ll be naming them as we get to their scenes and interactions.)

Jack searches for needle and thread and heads off away from the other survivors as things calm down a bit.  Pulling a little bottle of alcohol from his jacket, we see Jack’s got himself a nasty cut along his ribs.  A woman—Kate—stumbles out of the jungle and he asks her for help.  They banter a bit and she helps sew Jack up.  Dare I say a romance could eventually bud between the pair?  We also learn Jack’s a doctor but this seems obvious after he talked to the pregnant lady and saved the woman not breathing.

Kate mentions to Jack that he doesn’t seem afraid and Jack tells her about how he messed up a spinal surgery during his residency and fear crashed into him as he realized his mistake but he decided in that moment to give fear only a few moments before counting to five and fixing the surgery mistake.  How can you not like Jack after this?!  We got ourselves a natural leader.

We are introduced to more characters next as Sayid is building a signal fire and asks Charlie for help.  Charlie writes F-A-T-E on pieces of tape around each of his fingers and Sayid mentions a rescue should have come by then as night falls.  We are also introduced to Boone and Shannon where the former thinks they could be on the island for a while and the latter mentions the plane having a black box and a rescue will arrive at any moment.  Next comes the lovable Hurley who gives food to Claire, who is the pregnant woman.  Finally, we meet Michael and his son Walt, followed by Korean husband and wife, Jin and Sun, with Jin instructing Sun not to interact with the other survivors.

Jack is examining a wounded man whose unconscious and has a gnarly piece of shrapnel in his gut.  Kate mentions that he was sitting next to her in the plane.  Jack talks about the turbulence and blacking out before waking up in the jungle but Kate describes how the plane broke apart in midair.  Jack tells Kate that he’s thinking about going to find the cockpit to find a transceiver.  Kate says she saw smoke deeper into the jungle and a mission is afoot!

As the survivors wait in the dark, a loud, alarming sound comes from within the jungle and yeah, it’s a freaky sound.  Trees are moving and automatically it’s hard not to think of the T-Rex from Jurassic Park.  What’s stranger about the growls though is that it sounds mechanical at times.  (Side note:  There were commercials for the show seeing as it ran on ABC so it definitely takes advantage of stops and starts.)

We get our first flashback (coming out of the commercial break) and it takes place on the plane before the turbulence hits.  Remember, flashbacks are a big part of this show.  Jack is interacting with a flight attendant getting his buzz on with those little bottles of alcohol (he got an extra one from the flight attendant which might have saved his life as he put that one in his jacket pocket and later used it to clean his rib wound).  He gets up from his seat and Charlie moves past him rather quickly while being pursued by the flight attendants.  Jack talks to the woman, Rose, he saved who wasn’t breathing.  Next, the plane goes all shaky shaky.  People fly out of their seats and this flight is going down.

Back on the island the next morning, the survivors are discussing the scary jungle sounds and whatever the “monster” is that was making them.  Jack and Kate are getting ready to leave to find the cockpit but first Kate has to collect shoes from the dead.  She gets a very creepy smile from another survivor who smiles with an orange peel in his mouth (more on him later).

Michael is sitting around with his son Walt joined by Charlie, Shannon, Boone, and Hurley.  The group is talking about random things before Hurley brings up doing something about the bodies of the dead which he hilariously misspells to save young Walt from the horror of the dead.  Jack and Kate show up and mention their mission and ask the others to keep an eye on the wounded while he’s gone.  Charlie mentions his going with Jack and Kate, not wanting to sit about all day (what else is there to do on a beach waiting for rescue?).

Our three heroes head off and Kate recognizes Charlie from somewhere where he reveals his being in a band called Driveshaft, which has a well-known hit.  Jack’s less impressed (he doesn’t strike me as the rock music listening type).

Back on the beach with the others, a downpour occurs and the trees start moving again, announcing the monster is back.

Jack, Kate, and Charlie find the cockpit propped up against the trees during the downpour.  They investigate and find the pilot alive who tells them they were off course and any rescue attempt is looking in the wrong place.  The pilot tries the transceiver but it doesn’t work.  We also learn there were 48 survivors and they’ve been on the island for 16 hours.  Just to call out a point of interest, numbers are a big deal in this show.  They show up often and act as references and connections, which we’ll see more of as we get deeper into the show.  I’ll do my best to call these out when they happen.

The monster arrives, making its strange sounds and in a very gruesome way, the pilot is killed, ripped from the broken windshield as he (stupidly) climbs out to see what the monster is.  Jack, Kate, and Charlie make a run for it (Jack wisely grabs the transceiver) and get separated (a recipe for certain death in any horror movie).  Kate hides in a tree and counts to five before trying to find Jack and Charlie.  She finds Charlie and they see something in a reflection of a puddle after the rains stops.  Jack arrives and says its the pilot and they see the pilot’s bloody body has been left up high in the trees (not Predator style but pretty close).  Gross.  But at least they have a transceiver!

Except it doesn’t work…

End of Part 1.  Onto Part 2!

Jack, Kate, and Charlie are returning to survivor beach, seeming to be in no real rush which is odd considering what they just encountered with the monster killing the pilot.  To each their own, I suppose.  Kate asks what Charlie was doing in the bathroom (I failed to mention this happening previously) while they were in the cockpit and he says he got sick and was a bit of a coward.

Flashback:  In the plane before the crash, Charlie is acting very antsy and not looking all that great, sweating and fidgeting.  He sets off some alarms in the flight attendants and he proceeds to the bathroom where he moves past Jack (remember when we saw that last episode?) and crawls over Shannon and Boone in their seats as well.  Once in the bathroom, Charlie removes his shoe and grabs a baggy of something.  Drugs (good job TSA!).  He gets his fix just as the turbulence strikes.

To the present, Shannon is sunbathing (because why not) and her and Boone argue about helping around the “camp”.  Claire is there and we find out Boone is Shannon’s brother.  Claire mentions she hasn’t felt the baby move since the day before (bummer…).

Jin is fishing for sea urchin (is it still considered fishing if he’s just collecting them from shallow pools?) while Sun watches.  Michael shows up asking if they’ve seen Walt.  Sun speaks in Korean and Jin says something to her and she buttons up the top button of her shirt.  This marriage dynamic is raising a few flags.  Walt is out looking for his dog, Vincent, and finds handcuffs (uh oh! that’s not good!).  Michael finds Walt soon after and we get a good look at their relationship and there’s some contention there between them (the show does a good job of introducing these character relations and providing answers slowly rather than all at once).

Sayid and another survivor—Sawyer—are fighting (fisticuffs in action).  Bad blood  between them is due to Sayid  being blamed for the plane crash by Sawyer because he is of Middle Eastern descent (reminder, the show started shortly after 9/11).  Jack and Kate get in the mix and Michael tells them about the handcuffs and Sawyer accusing Sayid of being the one handcuffed. Jack and Kate tell everyone they found the cockpit and the transceiver omitting the part about the pilot being alive and then killed by the monster.  They ask if anyone can fix the transceiver.  Sayid says he can and Sawyer is quick to question trusting him.  Hurley talks to Sayid away from the group and we learn Sayid was a communications officer with the Iraqi Republican Guard during the Gulf War.

Kate and Sayid talk next and he shares that the transceiver needs to be used on higher ground.  Queue the adventure music as they look to the mountains of the island, knowing a hike is in order.

Kate checks with Jack about the man with shrapnel.  Jack knows time is running out for the man if they don’t get rescued.  She tells Jack that a hiking expedition is going to take place and Jack tells her to run if she hears or sees anything (probably referencing the monster).

We get a brief moment between Jin and Sun and see Jin’s quite the jerk to her.  There’s still a sense of mystery involving them, which we will get answers to soon.  Jin takes prepared sea urchin to Hurley as food.  Hurley refuses leaving us with a comedic moment (Hurley provides a great deal of comedic moments in this show).

Walt is looking through a comic book (looks like a Justice League comic with a polar bear in it) but can’t read it because it’s written in Spanish.  Michael approaches and tries to have a conversation and tells Walt that they can get another dog when they get home and Walt takes off (it’s sore subject).  Jack is searching through some baggage and asks Michael about Walt and we find out that Michael isn’t so sure of Walt’s age at first (interesting…).  Michael mentions the dog and Jack says he saw it in the jungle.

Shannon and Boone get into a fight and Shannon decides she’s going to go on the hike with Sayid and Kate to prove she’s not worthless to the group.  Boone tags along and so do Charlie and Sawyer who we see is reading what looks like a letter of some sorts before joining (more on that later).  Cue the adventure music!

Walt comes across the survivor who smiled at Kate with the orange peal in his mouth (remember him) playing backgammon (somehow that survived the crash).  The man’s name is John Locke and they have a conversation where we learn Walt’s mom died (we also learn that the plane was traveling from Sydney, Australia).  Locke tells Walt about backgammon and how it’s the oldest game in the world.  Locke explains that there are two players and two sides—one light and the dark.  Finally, Locke asks Walt if he wants to know a secret.  This exchange comes off creepy at first but trust me there are no ill intentions here.

In a small moment, Jin continues his offer of urchin to the other survivors and Claire agrees to eat some.  This causes the baby to kick!  Yay!  Jin has a priceless reaction too.

Jack asks Hurley to help him find antibiotics and also lends Jack his help with the man with shrapnel.  We get some more comedic moments with Hurley when Jack pulls the shrapnel out and Hurley passes out.

Back with the hikers, an argument ensues in the jungle and the group is interrupted by a very loud growl.  Is it the monster?  Doesn’t sound the same but something is coming closer to them and at a fast speed.  Everyone runs except Sawyer.  Gunshots sound off and everyone discovers that Sawyer killed a polar bear.  Yep, a polar bear in the jungle.  The shock of the dead bear wears off as Kate asks Sawyer where he got a gun.  Sawyer reveals he took it off a U.S. Marshall.

Sayid thinks Sawyer is the prisoner on the plane and while he’s distracted, Kate takes the gun.  She asks how to unload it and Sayid instructs her.  Kate gives the gun back to Sawyer and he grabs her saying he knows her type—girls just like her.

Flashback:  Kate and the passenger—shrapnel man—sitting next to her are talking but not as friends or even acquaintances (she made it sound like they were strangers to Jack).  Big reveal!  We learn that Kate was handcuffed and shrapnel man is the U.S. Marshall.  Turbulence starts and we see the plane break apart in midair.

The marshall comes to while Jack is working on him, grabs Jack by the collar, and asks “Where is she?”

The hikers finally turn on the transceiver and get a transmission that blocks them from sending anything out.  It’s a recorded message with a strange robotic voice saying “iteration” and then a number followed by a French woman speaking.  Shannon knows some French and translates the message as a distress call saying everyone’s dead, something killed them, and the French woman needs help.  Sayid does the math and estimates the recorded message has been on a loop for 16 years.

Charlie aptly asks, “Guys, where are we?”

End of episode!

Okay, so if you watched the episodes or are familiar with them, there are very memorable moments, which I try to call out in the pics I use.  I’ll be doing this quite a bit because these are also things that become symbols and/or motifs in the show.  Very important as we explore the mysteries of the island.

The mysteries are big.  What’s the monster on the island?  What happened to the French woman?  How has her message been playing for sixteen years?  Then we have the mysteries with the characters.  What’s Kate’s story?  What’s the story behind the contentious relationships between Michael and Walt and Jin and Sun?  Mysteries are important to the show’s appeal and the characters themselves.

Let me know your thoughts and please remember to keep these posts SPOILER FREE.  I’ll remove your post quickly if you let anything slip.  Focus your comments on the episode itself.

Forever Rewatchable: Dumb and Dumber

posted in: Film/TV, Sunday Levity | 0

Want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?How could I not include this 1994 comedy gem in my “Forever Rewatchable” movies?  As with any of the movies I like to focus on in these posts, quotability seems to be a must.  Dumb and Dumber, directed by the Farrelly Brothers, almost dares you not to quote the film while viewing.  Side note: This acts as a Sunday Levity post as well.


I’m pretty sure I saw Dumb and Dumber in the mid-90s at my aunt and uncle’s.  It was not a movie my parents would have condoned so it’s very likely I saw it while hanging out with my cousin or other friends.  At that time, it had what I needed to be entertained, introducing me to more adult humor than I was accustomed with.  There was enough silliness that a teenager could be entertained but the older I get, the more I appreciate the comedy overall in the film.

As with Tommy Boy, this is a road trip adventure and serves up an awesome blend of wit and physical comedy.  Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels embody the dim duo, Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne.  Down and out of luck having lost their jobs on the same day (how convenient), they set out to return a lost briefcase to Lloyd’s last client, Mary…eh, starts with an “S”. Swim? Swammi? Slippy? Slappy? Swenson? Swanson? (checks the briefcase) Samsonite! I was way off.  Anyway, as he drove her to the airport he sees that she left a briefcase in the terminal.  Lloyd retrieves it but unbeknownst to him and Harry, they actually have in their possession ransom money for Mary’s husband.

The plot is simple and filled with hilarious situations.  Jim Carrey steals the movie throughout but that doesn’t mean Jeff Daniels fails to keep up.  Known more for his dramatic roles, Daniels has a sweetness and charm that plays perfectly against Carrey’s selfish stupidity (think about it; he’s pretty much all about himself).  Throw in a great 90s soundtrack of songs you’ve never heard of and memorable supporting characters and Dumb and Dumber doesn’t disappoint.The legacy of Dumb and Dumber can be found in any number of clips and memes.  Enjoy!

Give the Reader 2+2. Not 4

posted in: Storytelling, Writing | 0


I’ve brought up my love for the Coen Brothers and their films a few times on my blog and came across a video on YouTube that made me think a little about storytelling.

The concept of giving the reader/viewer 2+2 and not 4 comes from WALL-E and Finding Dory director, Andrew Stanton.  In a TED Talk, he explains the importance of trusting the audience to be intelligent enough to put things together in order to discover the answer on their own rather than spoon-feeding it to them.  This falls in line with the “show don’t tell” method writers are often encouraged to use.

I constantly come up against this when writing any story.  Sometimes, though, I wonder if I don’t give enough.  What if I’m working this equation: 2+6-4 but leave out one of the components?  Beta Readers obviously help in this because they are pretty good at calling out a missing component but there’s still this lingering question.  My hope is always to give any reader the benefit of the doubt that they will see the answer without me having to spell it out.

There’s also this urge to answer a reader’s question about the plot or a character by providing a clue.  This can definitely be a trap for a writer.  Best to practice and figure out what works best.  I try to take every comment as a grain of salt.

The moral of the post is to give the reader/audience credit for being keen enough to take the components and come to their own conclusions.  Enjoy the video!

Hot Like Wasabe When I Bust Rhymes

posted in: Life, Music | 0

It’s brutally difficult when staying away from the glutens to pass up a free donut…  Don’t judge me.  I did not snag one of those deep-fried goodies but I sure wanted to.  And even harder to pass on beer and whiskey throughout the holiday weekend.  Alas, I have abstained.

The newsletter is out!  My apologies for the short delay and unconventional delivery method.  I’m having issues with Mail Chimp and still trying to figure out how I want to proceed in the future.  I hope those of you who have signed up enjoyed it.  While I enjoy writing and creating them for you, I do let out a breath of relief once they’re out.  Now I can focus on the Lost Season 1 re-watch (have I mentioned I’m doing that?  Maybe once or twice).

Speaking of re-watching, my wife and I have been going through Brooklyn Nine-Nine and man has that show grown over the years.  We thought it was okay back when it first premiered and even stepped away from it for awhile before coming back around to it.  It has gotten stronger and while we were bummed it was cancelled by Fox, NBC picked it up and we can’t wait to keep getting Die Hard references and the many other running jokes in the show.

What else is happening…  Hmm, well, I’ve been listening to a lot of music and podcasts recently.  While I wouldn’t recommend the all the music because it’s the screaming type (yes, I do enjoy me some screamo/post hardcore from time to time), I can throw out some options.  Here, I’ll recommend a band that doesn’t scream and a band that does:

1) Hands Like Houses is the non-screaming band and they’re amazing.  I can’t get enough of their music.  They stem from the land down under (Australia for you geographically unsure types) and just lay down great melodies and lyrics I can get behind (and some I don’t).

2) Dance Gavin Dance is the screaming band and I think I should preface by saying I might just be a fan of Jonny Craig who lays down the clean vocals for the band’s first few albums.  He also does the clean vocals for the bands Emarosa, Isles and Glaciers, and Slaves—all of whom I have in my Spotify playlist: The Hardest Core.  So, yeah, I kind of like his voice.

As for podcasts, I have to recommend Punch Up the Jam for music and comedy fans.  The hosts, Demi and Miel, take a song they like or hate and with a guest discuss the music and lyrics of the song.  At the end, they decide to share a “punch up” of the song which is usually a parody in some way or fashion.  Very fun listen and while not for kids, you will find yourself laughing a lot.  (If you get the reference to this blog post title, check out that episode.)

Hope you all are enjoying the holiday weekend.  Enjoy whatever time you spend with friends and family.  Talk to you soon!

Flash Fiction: Blistered Feet on Shattered Steps


A man begging for his life when he truly knows it can be taken from him will say anything.  Truth or lie, his mind will find the way to safety and empty into his mouth until the words flow like sour milk.  Oran Ki’Tanil listened with a cringe as he watched the balding man weep and drool for mercy from the three men standing around him in the empty courtyard.  It was heartless on his part to set the men loose but Oran needed information.  Whatever the cost, he needed it.The men barely noticed him slip out of the shadow he hid in and one was down on the filthy ground unconscious before the other two knew what had happened.  With two of the thicker sticks he kept in the bundle to hide his swords, he struck and whacked the standing men until they were bloodied and down.

The balding man stared wide-eyed unsure what to say or think.  Fear had crippled him, turning his legs to mush.  As he blubbered, Oran returned his fighting sticks into his bundle and grabbed the man, dragging him away from the scene.

“Shut your teeth, Erol.”

“Eh…”  The man stopped his whimpering.  “Ki’Tanil?”  His efforts to be free of Oran’s grip doubled.  “No, no ,no!  Let me go!  Hallowed burn you!”

“He has,” Oran grumbled.  No need to request a second strike.

Finally a few blocks away, Oran threw Erol into a brick wall.  “I saved your life and now you’re going to repay me.”

Erol shook his head, pulling his lips in and keeping them pressed together.  The smell of cheap wine and even cheaper smoke made the unkempt man a step above a beggar.

“You will, Erol, or I’ll deliver you back to those three.  How much did you owe them?”

When Erol would not answer, Oran brought his knee up into the man’s groin.  It would delay the discussion but the fool needed to be aware what Oran was capable and willing to do.

“Speak, you tick!”

“Of what?” Erol said through a weeze as he lay hunched into the wall.

“Queen Erise.  Or whatever else you know about the attack.”

Erol sputtered and spit.  “I’ll never have children now.”

“You’ve got six or did you forget?  Now tell me what rumors I should ignore.”

Erol sniffed and groaned.  “All of them…”  He let out another groan.  “No one knows where she is.  They think her Wielder…that Glasene woman is with her.  If she’s anywhere, she’s probably disguised and attached herself to the collective of nobles meeting outside the city to determine who will challenge the King’s Court.”

Oran doubted the fool’s scenario.  Not even Glasene would chance exposing the queen to throne-thirsty nobles.  He did not doubt the meeting though.  The vipers and rats of Breshtk’s lords and ladies would absolutely move to strike a treaty with the King’s Court.  It was not what he wanted from Erol but it was a path to take.

“Drink and smoke less, Erol,” Oran said, readjusting his bundle, finding steps leading out of the area, and leaving the fool in the dark.

Newsletters and Go-Getters

posted in: Newsletter, Writing | 0

Lots going on right now as I finish up the August Newsletter and prepare for the Lost Season 1 re-watch.  Staying busy without straying too far over the edge to being too busy is a fun tightrope to walk (says no one ever).

I’m seriously contemplating shifting my blog schedule to every fifth day of the month once the Lost re-watch is over.  We will be getting close to the holiday season by then and I think I need to explore “less is more” when it comes to my blog.

Also, I just think I can better focus and put out better content if I give myself more time to plan.  There are some long-form posts I would love to do but never feel I have the time to work on.  Remember, I’m a new dad and have a full-time job on my plate.  If anything is going to get cut, it has to be writing related.  It’s a good way for me to write and practice, to exercise the creativity muscles, but I can’t very well cut my hours at work or neglect time with my son or wife.

If I do decide to do this I will make a formal announcement and share what the monthly schedule will look like.  I appreciate the continued support and enjoy interacting with those who leave comments.  It continues to be fun and beneficial to me and I don’t want to abandon it entirely.

I think I originally said at one point the newsletter will be sent out on the 30th but I think I forgot August has 31 days.  So I’m going to give myself another day and say those of who who have subscribed (to so if you haven’t) should be seeing it in your mailbox Friday afternoon.

Little side note, I’ve been watching the show, Castle Rock, on Hulu and have found it quite good.  It’s inspired by several Stephen King stories but not an adaptation of anything in particular.  The setting and some characters are references to some of King’s works.  It reminds me a bit of Stranger Things in some ways but completely its own in others.  It’s more creepy than scary and has a compelling story with great characters.  Check it out if interested.

I will be releasing the new Shoals to the Hallowed flash fiction piece on Thursday, the 30th, so look for that!  Have a great week!

When a Fantasy Writer Plays Dungeons and Dragons for the First Time

posted in: Fantasy, World Building | 1

I mentioned my not being allowed to play the table-top role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, back in my Harry Potter post.  Well, what I have not shared is that I recently agreed to play a campaign with some friends mostly because I just wanted to hang out with them (and partly because I wanted to try it out).  Let me just say it’s been interesting…

First, I don’t think DnD is at all what I was told it was back in the early 90s.  Honestly, I love me some Final Fantasy (video game series for those not familiar) and I don’t see the difference.  Same role-playing principle is involved.  DnD is more social than Final Fantasy.  I didn’t have any friends who played DnD when I was younger, so I don’t think it needed to be hammered into me so hard that it was the devil (I just think of Adam Sandler’s “Waterboy” whenever something is said to be the “devil” nowadays and now so will you!).

I like the whole create your character aspect and going on a quest or campaign.  That’s fun.  The creativity involved in the game is fun and I think a great outlet to work as a group and explore whatever world the Dungeon Master (that’s the person in charge of the campaign) has come up with.  Good times.  Throw in laughter and drinks and it’s just another game night.

Here’s where I struggle with DnD and I blame it solely on my being a writer: it’s a bit limiting and constraining.  For example, say during the campaign an opportunity comes where you’ve got quite a few enemies you need to get rid of.  Well, what if I come up with a plan to “remove” said enemies but my plan requires something of an explosive nature.  Can I just go and buy some materials?  Nope.  Not a chance.  Apparently, I have to roll a certain number-sided dice (don’t get me started on the dice) just to see if I have the ability to be comprehensive about said explosives.  Huh?  This is where I struggle with the game.  Why can’t I just have that knowledge in the first place?

The idea that my character is limited in knowledge of something bugs me.  Now I admit, I can see why this is because the game is all about stats and building up your characters but come on.  It’s not enough for me to never play again.  The more times I played, though, I did find myself more entertained with the campaign itself.

All in all, I understand the draw to DnD.  Getting together with friends to play a long-form game that involves rolling dice to determine actions and progress can be quite fun.  I think best of all is the social aspect of the game.  If there’s one thing I will gladly partake and promote, it’s community.

Lost Season 1 Re-watch Schedule

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 1


As I prep to re-watch season 1 of Lost, I want to give a layout of what it will look like.  The first post will cover the two-part pilot and be released on September 12th.  The next three post will cover a single episode allowing us to focus on learning who some of these main characters are and their “back stories”.  From there on each post will cover two episodes until we get to the two-part season finale, which will be separated.  The last post for the re-watch will be on October 27th.

The structure of each post will look much like my Stranger Things Season 1 Re-watch posts last year.  I’ll talk about the characters and plot and call out interesting choices and mysteries about the island.  Don’t get thrown off by the lack of answers to these mysteries.  It’s season 1 and some answers don’t come until later seasons.  (If I succeed, you’ll be chomping at the bit and watching season 2 and onward on your own.)

I’ll also be calling out many references, easter eggs, and connections.  These are the fun things about the show.  If you watched it while it was still airing, there were whole websites devoted to solving the show.

I will do my absolute best not to spoil anything.  I feel that I’m familiar enough with the show to abstain from spilling the secrets of the show.  This means I’ll leave quite a few things vague and also probably play devil’s advocate in a few instances just to be punk.

How you all enjoy the re-watch and my musings.  Lost remains a favorite of mine despite my love for other shows since.  It truly was a phenomenon when it released in 2004.

Life’s Little Signs

posted in: Life | 0

Life catches up to you when in transition and that seems to have happened to me in subtle fashion.  Sometimes it’s kind and sometimes its a kick in the teeth.

I’ve never really experienced stress or anxiety to the point where I saw its effects on my body.  I did worry when I was younger, often imagining the worst possible situations, actually convincing myself that if I thought of these things then they wouldn’t happen.  It’s the kind of thinking a kid employs because it makes sense especially when those worst circumstances did in fact not happen.

As I got older, I definitely encountered difficulties in school or at my job or with relationships but I never really saw a manifestation of stress (or at least I didn’t think I did).  Looking back, I think the signs were there but I didn’t recognize them for what they were.  It’s been four months now since our baby was born (yep, a whole four months!) and I’m beginning to notice things that I don’t like.  My temper is shortened for one which I definitely don’t like because I seem to bark at my wonderful wife when she doesn’t deserve it.  A thousand apologies have been handed out due to this.  In addition to this though is a lack of sleep which I’ve discussed a few times and I think this is where I’ve suffered the most.

I talked a few weeks back about my sleeping habits when I was younger and I think it has caught up to me.  I’m trying to adjust my schedule now to get more sleep, hoping that helps with the stress.  This and a change in my diet (so long bread and booze!) for at least a month to see if the changes help.  It’s an experiment and will be tough but it needs to be done.

These changes have to come at my own instigation.  I have to be the one to say something’s not right here and need to set in motion a change.  My wife’s knowledge of healthy living (she’s certified so I listen to her) is invaluable.  She cares so much about taking care of yourself now so that when you get older, things will be easier (or at least that’s the hope).  It’s hard.  Anyone who has ever tried to make lifestyle changes knows it’s not an easy transition but I would argue necessary for real change to take place.

So I have changed my sleeping habits along with my eating habits, hoping my body finds healing.  I hate to think I could spiral into something worse if I don’t take control of these things I actually do have control over.  While I must say goodbye to beer for a month, I trust in the process.  It’s a short time of going without to assure a longer time of stability.

(This PSA brought to you by stubbornness deflated in a mid-thirty year old.)

On the business side of things, if you’d like to receive my latest newsletter with books reviews and a new Shoals to the Hallowed short story, please sign up on the website!

Finding Harry Potter Late in Life

posted in: Books, Fantasy, Film/TV, Reading | 0

We discover things at various ages in life.  Where I discovered Star Wars at a very young age, someone else of my same age may have discovered it in their twenties or, God forbid, their thirties (what a tragedy!).  However it happens, we experience things differently.  For me, I discovered Harry Potter later in life (my mid-twenties) and even then, my child-like wonder was opened to the magical world as if I were a kid again.

You may ask how this happened.  Let me tell you!  Being a 90s kid, you’d think I would have been exposed to Harry Potter as soon as it was released.  Well, not so.  I was absolutely aware of it but due to my upbringing in a religious home, Harry Potter was viewed equally as Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering (I’ll toss in Pokémon too though I’m failing to see why at this moment).  These were all viewed as bad things for my young mind to consume.

Now before you think I had horrible parents, I’m going to come to their defense.  If you grew up in the late 80s through the 90s and were part of any evangelical Christian church, then there was a constant stigma on anything that had to do with magic or witchcraft.  Churches believed these things could lead children and teenagers down paths deemed hazardous for their lives.  My parents agreed with this, believing that certain morals and/or standards could be threatened.  It was the culture of that time and I don’t blame them one bit for exercising that parental check.  Having a son now, you can bet I will be very in tune with what he watches, reads, and listens to.  (Note:  I wasn’t keen enough to argue that Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia were okay.)


Jump back to my mid-twenties and I can’t recall what led me to finally watch the first Harry Potter film but I did and while it was obviously geared towards a younger audience, I was intrigued.  This led me to watch the next films one after another pretty quickly (yeah, I binged them hard).  All of a sudden, I found myself completely mesmerized by this world.  The last film, The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 had not been released yet but I was determined to get more.  This led to my reading the books pretty quickly as well, using any free time I had outside of work and other obligations to finish Harry’s story.

What also helped provoke this wanting to consume this world is my own writing of fantasy.  As an author, I was able to learn from J.K. Rowling’s ability to craft a complex story.  She was able to weave a tapestry of plot and subplots that interconnected in ways the films could not fully weave.  I actually consider my reading of Harry Potter the main contributor to the way I outline and plot my books.  I look for the layers.  Books do not have to be a simple, single layer cake but more like baklava: layers of flavor, texture, and ingredients.

In my mind, the books and films stand up well on their own.  I find that enjoy both for some of the same but also different reasons.  More than a few times now I’ve considered returning to the books.  There is a true magic to how stories can impact our lives.  I actually think Harry Potter is responsible for making many kids in the 90s readers (I see and interact with many of these on social media).  There’s a good reason the books have sold in the millions in worldwide.


While I came to Harry Potter later in life, I find it a great joy of fiction and story to immerse myself into.  My wife and I try to do a full marathon every other year (though I’d be okay with every year) and we look forward to sharing these books with our kids when we deem them old enough to handle the subject matter.

Sunday Levity: Fun Times

posted in: Sunday Levity | 0

Not a lot going on besides trying to make some life adjustments so I needed to laugh. Hope these add some levity to your day.  I definitely have done my fair share of talking to myself.

I really want to use this in a story and see if it throws any beta readers off.

So it’s not just me!

I’m trying to think of any times I’ve run into this… I’m sure I have.

By the way, make sure to sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t already.  It will be released August 31st.  Have a great week!

Forever Re-watchable: Tommy Boy

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

I can’t say for certain the first time I watched “Tommy Boy” but I can tell you I’ve seen it more than a couple dozen times.  For a guy who grew up in the 80s and 90s, there was no better comedy combo than Chris Farley and David Spade.  They may only ever be on the back end of comedy duo lists but for me they are number one.

“Tommy Boy” was released in 1995 serving as the latest installment of Saturday Night Live’s grab bag of films.  SNL creator and this film’s producer, Lorne Michaels, was counting on the up and coming popularity of SNL’s young cast members to strike gold at the box office.  Alas, by industry standards, “Tommy Boy” was barely successful in the theaters.  What time tends to do for some films though is gather a following that reaches cult status.

I was not prone to watching SNL as a kid.  I am pretty sure I was barely aware of it up until my later teens.  However, I came across “Tommy Boy” and instantly took to it.  I’m sure I first watched it at a friend’s house (it was not necessarily a movie my parents would have allowed) and its impact hit me like a fat guy in a little coat.


Chris Farley was brilliant as the lovable son, Tommy Callahan, of an auto parts industry tycoon.  Taking eight years to finish college, he returns home to celebrate his new position as vice president in the family company and his dad’s remarrying after years of being alone.  David Spade is the equally brilliant sarcastic assistant to Tommy’s dad who finds himself connected to Tommy’s hip.  Hilarity ensues when the pair have to go on a sales trip to keep the company going after Tommy’s dad dies unexpectedly.  Road trip movies are their own subgenre (see Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Dumb and Dumber, and more) but Tommy Boy carries a charm and impression that makes it easy to come back to.

This film is forever re-watchable for me simply because of its memorable moments and one-liners.  Here’s a fun fact: my wife upon watching for the first time realized quickly that much of my sarcasm simply mimicked the biting power of David Spade’s own in this movie.  That’s right.  While I can’t help but walk through the door when a moment for sarcasm opens, most of my arsenal is accredited to my hero, David Spade.  She became less impressed with me but then she started quoting the film as much as I do and that’s as they say is that.


When it comes to comedies, “Tommy Boy”, is in my top five easily.  It has heart and laughs up the wazoo.  Turn it on and I’ll quote it throughout still laughing all these years later, forever thankful that the late Chris Farley was immortalized in this comedy classic.

Remembering Robin

posted in: Film/TV, Life | 0

My wife and I recently watched a new documentary on the life and career of the late Robin Williams.  From his humble beginnings to his elite stardom, interviews with family and friends revealed more than just the comedian.  It was sobering to watch despite our laughter up until the very end.

As a kid, I knew Robin as Mrs. Doubtfire, Peter Pan, and the genie in Disney’s “Aladdin”.  He made me laugh with his ability to do impressions, able to do voices I recognized (and some I didn’t).  He was easy to recognize whenever I saw his picture on a movie poster or VHS (oh yeah, dating myself) cover.  All too often, though, I didn’t realize he was not limited to comedy.  Later in my life, he was also Mr. Keating, Adrian Cronauer, and Sean Maguire.  These men were teachers of life still capable of making me laugh but provoking me to consider living and all its nuances.  These are the roles he embodied that I gravitate more to as an adult, finding the gold that I don’t think I would have been able to understand or appreciate as a kid.
While his talents far-exceeded his ability to improvise on the stage or on the set, Robin Williams had a range as an actor that is beyond applause.  To make his audience laugh until they cry and then to make them cry until they laugh is a rare gift.  One of my favorite stories I heard about him came from director, Steven Spielberg, who said he would call Robin in the evenings while he made his film, “Schindler’s List”.  He would feel the heaviness of this film and its tragic story and call Robin requesting to laugh.  Robin would oblige and one can only imagine the healing factor administered in those private calls.

My appreciation for Robin Williams as a person is fully realized now after his unfortunate passing.  I watch him on the screen and even if it’s one of his lesser known roles, I’ll watch in awe.  The documentary I mentioned before revealed a man tormented but still able to put the joy of others before himself.  He connected through laughter and thankfully, we’ve been given decades of conversations with him.  And I cannot wait to introduce his amazing abilities to my son (we’ll start with “Aladdin” and go on from there).

You Are Getting Sleepy

posted in: Life | 2

Sleep training has commenced!  What a week and a half of staring at a baby monitor and holding our breath any time the baby shifts after we’re convinced he fell asleep.  It’s a whole new animal to tackle for us first time parents.  I would say it has started off strong and we’re not going backwards but there are adjustments we seem to be making.  Is putting him to bed earlier than later better?  Is there any guarantee to him staying asleep for more than 4-5 hours?  There’s no clear answer but we’re doing our best.

We’re also getting treated to more baby sounds and we could listen to them all day.  All day!

How could you not when it’s so dang cute?  I’m beginning to look ahead and wonder what it will be like once our little guy is running around, speaking without a filter.  For one, I’m going to laugh anytime he asks a silly question or says something funny.  I just won’t be able to help myself.  He already seems inquisitive so I don’t know why that would stop once his little brain wants to know the answer to why about everything.

I don’t really have a topic for today’s post.  Sometimes my mind just doesn’t focus in like I want it to.  So this is going to be a mixture.  Enjoy!  (No, please come back!)

Here’s a funny story.  My wife bought a salad mix from Trader Joe’s for dinner last week.  There was a packet of what I thought was bacon bits and since she didn’t use it, I thought I would add bacon to my egg breakfast one day this week.  I could just imagine those salty pork chicklets with each bite.  How could I not treat myself?!  Well, disappointment struck… It turns out that those were not bacon bits but dried apricots!  Talk about a let down!  Now I just want bacon…

Bummer news came when I found out Stranger Things Season 3 has been delayed until a 2019 Summer release.  UGH!  Really?  Well that’s a kick in the shin.  I might need to think of something fun to do in place of my season 2 re-watch.  I’m open to suggestions.  I could do a month of my favorite 80s flicks (all of which I grew up watching too many times).  That might be 80s overload.  I could also look at doing an episode by episode re-watch of another show.  I’d love to devote several weeks to my favorite show, “Lost”, but that could require some major dedication.  Still…it’s an intriguing option.

Other than counting down the days until our high temperatures get back down into the 90s, life goes on.  Writing continues.  I am working on the Shoals to the Hallowed short story for the August Newsletter and its turning into something quite fun to write and explore.  My goal is to still update my website.  No target date as of yet but I’ll keep you all updated.

Make sure to sign up for my newsletter on my website too.  Three free newsletters which includes news, book reviews, and the Shoals to the Hallowed short story.  Don’t shy away from showing your support.  It means a lot and I pour quite a bit of time into this whole adventure.

(Psst…get in close.  No, too close.  Okay, there.  Yeah, I’m going to do a Lost Season 1 re-watch.  So get your Apollo bars ready, Losties, because we’re got to go back!)

Flash Fiction: Betrayal’s Cost

Reluctance bore itself deep into Barston as he realized the journey to Rastome was almost complete.  Only one other instance of attempted robbery against the merchant train occurred and he had avoided Freilas’ threat only because he had been sent ahead with one of the other hired guards, whose name was Bilkin, to survey the road as they came to a bend notorious for its ambushing opportunities.

For all the chaos Breshtk suffered due to the rumors of Queen Erise’s disappearance, Barston could not help but think he would find a new prosperous opportunity in Rastome.  Surely, there was something that could be gained in one of the larger cities of his home hold.

Freilas screamed at him to get his attention and handed over a large bundle of empty water skins.  “I can hear that brook has turned into quite the stream off the road.  Climb down there and fill these.”  The quiet days on the road left him surly and tasking Barston with extra tasks.

Barston skid down the steep incline, keeping his balance with his hands full.  The water of the unnamed stream was cool against his skin, relieving the heat of the day.  Bugs swirled around his face in the deep shaded area, undeterred by his swatting.

He heard the approach of someone, thinking they came to help but upon turning growled once he saw the blade aimed for his ribs.

Quick hands allowed him to block the strike with the tied water skins.  His eyes kept on the blade but a moment’s look revealed Bilkin was his attacker.  Barston’s feet plunked into the water as he moved to avoid the next strike.  Bilkin bore an angry expression, sweat dripping from his bearded face, and reached for another smaller knife meant to be thrown.  The earlier incident on the road proved his prowess at throwing the double-edged blade.

Bilkin reached back ready to throw and Barston did the only thing he could do.  He grabbed his sword hilt and pulled the blade free.  Bilkin’s eyes widened in shock.  In that brief opening, Barston lunged forward and swung his blade downward.  Bilkin’s chest opened despite steel not touching it.  His shock lingered as he fell back to the ground.

Barston breathed heavily, unable to take his eyes from his broken blade—his Shoal-cursed blade—as steel rose only inches above the hilt.  His eyes searched for others but either Bilkin acted on his volition or was the only one sent to betray him.  Barston let his eyes run over the clean blade of his sword, shattered by the attack that left him alive but his princes dead months ago.

The water skins floated down stream while Barston crossed the water and began his quiet flight from the train up towards Rastome, not caring to confront what may be awaiting him at the train.

 

Fresh Eyes Find Cracks: Importance of Beta Readers

posted in: Books, Editing/Revision, Writing | 0

Comic Con San Diego 2018 has come and gone and I am left deflated… No Stranger Things Season 3 updates.  None at all.  I guess I’ll just be patient and hope the release date announcement doesn’t leave me scrambling to get my re-watch and blog posts done in too much of a hurry.

Until then, I’ll keep my focus on all my other projects.  As you know (I don’t know how you could miss it), I have been getting really good feedback from several beta readers.  From everything to grammar mistakes to needing clarity on characters’ motivations and even geographical confusion, I’m running into lots of great comments and questions.  I already felt like my story was strong but this process just further girds up its loins (lol, girds).

There’s always some sense of uncertainty in the things you create (babies included).  You have doubts to its ability to stand up on its own.  Does it make clear the themes I am exploring?  Are the characters relatable and if not at the beginning, can they grow on the reader over time?  There are other equally important questions I have and hope to get answered.

These fresh eyes of beta readers are not jaded like my own eyes.  I actually prefer to see more “red”, that is comments and errors marked, than not.  As much as I think my book is near perfect after so many revisions and years of working on it, that’s not the truth.  My flawed eyes pass over these mistakes because I’m far too familiar with the writing.  The truth is, I can’t be the only reader before sending it off to an agent and/or publisher.  I’m so glad I’m getting this feedback because I was very close and willing to start querying last year but thankfully, I didn’t rush the process.

I so appreciate the people who have agreed to read my book.  It’s dense and requires dedication.  They will absolutely be getting gift baskets if and when my book does get published (I’ll do that even if it doesn’t to be honest).  So, to my beta readers, I thank you immensely for your help and time.  You give me more confidence in my writing and push me forward.

20 Year Anniv: Saving Private Ryan

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

Sobering is the best way I can define Saving Private Ryan for myself.  Usually, I write about films I enjoy and find entertaining but to put those words to SPR seems off.  It’s a film that showcases the horror of war and also the humanity of soldiers.

It’s been 20 years since the release of SPR and I was not allowed to watch it in theaters seeing as how I was fourteen when it was released but I wanted to without truly understanding it.  I can’t say for sure when I finally watched the film but I actually think I saw it in a history class I took as a junior in high school.  We watched it in parts, discussed, and did an assignment to discuss WW2.

From what I can remember, the film’s infamous opening of the beach landing in Normandy struck me as horrifying.  There was no glory.  There was no sense of patriotic pride either.  It was a depiction of war, showing the true limits of the human body when bullets and explosions are inflicted upon them.  Fathers, sons, and brothers endured the immense hammer that was the war.  They did so out of duty and service to their country, families, and each other.  There are no greater heroes than those.

I don’t think it can be argued that SPR is one of Steven Spielberg’s top films.  For message and filmmaking, it has few equals.  He brought to life fictional characters thrust into one of history’s greatest conflicts and depicted real people faced with continuous trials and trauma.  Again, sobering.

It’s easier to consider the film as I’m doing now and critique it from a storyteller position when I’m not watching it on the screen.  I can explain how I appreciate the characters and their relationships amidst chaos and death while carrying out a mission to send one of their own home after his three brothers were killed elsewhere in the war.  I appreciate the storytelling Spielberg was able to portray through the film but I would be remiss to say this film is enjoyable to watch.  It wasn’t the first time I saw it and hasn’t been any other subsequent time I’ve watched it either.

Spielberg did not look to entertain his audience with SPR like he has with say Jurassic Park or more recently Ready Player One.  Much like Schindler’s List or Amistad, Spielberg cares more about portraying a story difficult to watch but important to experience.  His message is, “this is a difficulty of our history but there were good people thrust into the horrors humanity can inflict upon one another and it’s these people who should be recognized and honored”.

I found this video recently and loved the dissection of Spielberg’s brilliant filmmaking.  Enjoy!

Resting is Divine

posted in: Life | 0

When I was fresh out of high school, released from the every day routine of waking by my shrieking alarm clock and counting down the class periods, I definitely took advantage of my youth.  I took college courses and had a part-time job at the college computer lab, which meant I didn’t usually have to be up and out of the house until 10ish most mornings.  This allowed me the freedom to stay up late and wake up even later.  Oh, the days of nocturnal delight.

I did this sort of thing for years and didn’t really change my ways until I got married.  Many a nights I wasted precious hours on video games (say Halo!).  Poker games were involved as well, which weren’t too bad because at least I was trying to win money.  However, I just think back on these days and wonder if I did anything of value.  This was a bit darker period for me because I really didn’t have a direction in life beyond taking college courses.  I had no real aspirations even though I was writing.  Unfortunately, it was during my novice years (am I still there? I have no idea) which means I was still trying to figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be.

Jump to the present and I really am appreciating rest more than ever.  Now it may have to do with having a newborn (why can’t they fall asleep on their own?  I mean kittens and puppies can.  Why can’t babies?) and perhaps my age now being in my thirties has something to do with it.  Whatever it is, I truly value what rest can do for my body and mind.  If I get to sleep early, I am just more pleasant to be around throughout the day.  Shocker!

Rest doesn’t have to be limited to a reasonable bedtime either.  Some nights I find myself just wanting there to be no noise as I wind down.  It’s rare but even reading before going to bed helps me simmer down.  I say all this to encourage rest in your life.  Busyness can break you down faster than anything else (well everything except crack) and I hate to think we as a society let ourselves become little more than over-stressed zombies needing a Red Bull just to get through the day.

Point in fact, just the other night, I ended up going into work later than I usually do because the baby had a fever (most likely a reaction to vaccines earlier in the day).  Now, I do need to admit that I am a creature of habit and routine.  If I get off my routine for a workday, I feel out of sorts the rest of the day.  My inner clock just feels wonky.  So, I went in later than usual but also got more sleep than I usually do.  It didn’t cost me much if anything at all so I hope this adjustment helps.  (By the way, the baby is fine.  The fever broke by morning and he’s his usual baby self, smiling and filling our hearts with love.)

By the Way:  If I had been better prepared, I would have realized the 18th was the 10 year anniversary of what I consider to be not only the best comic movie but also a top ten film on my personal favorite list.  So, I’ve included this video to celebrate why “The Dark Knight” is so amazing.

 

What’s Coming Up

I feel like I have quite the pile of projects going on and I don’t do myself any favors when I start getting new story ideas.  Even so, I still try to write these ideas down so I can return to them at a later time.  I definitely stay busy with writing and blogging and it helps me to keep all of them on track by providing occasional updates in my blog posts.

I announced a few weeks back that I joined a writing group.  We have had two meet ups so far and both were fun and successful.  I’m already seeing the value in the group and hope it continues for years to come.  I am sharing my book, So Speaks the Gallows, and implementing the group’s suggestions and critique as well as my beta reader comments.  Everything called out seems to be character motivation related, clarity issues, or small gaps in the story.  This is reassuring and makes me believe the story is strong, needing only minor tweaks here and there.  Again, the goal is to query an agent or two sometime this year.  Being July already, I can only hope I meet that goal.

I’m working on the newest Shoals to the Hallowed short story for the upcoming August newsletter and finding it to be an exploration of a genre I’ve not dabbled in before: horror.  I risk bringing this up because those of you subscribed may read it and say, “that was horror?”.  Well, it felt horrific as I wrote it.  Hopefully, it captures the tone and mood I was aiming for.  If I don’t nail that aspect of it, hopefully it was still enjoyable for the reader.

I am also trying to get my website updated.  It’s about time I give it a facelift and hope to have that done soon with the help of my friend who helped me set up the website last year.  If it goes to plan, it should not only look different but be easier to navigate through.  Credit must be given to my wife also because she has an eye for what looks good in a website.  Much of the changes will be coming based on her suggestions.  Be on the lookout for that.

Comic Con San Diego is this weekend so hopefully we get news about Stranger Things Season 3.  Again, I plan on re-watching and devoting a month of blog posts to Season 2 in preparation for the new season.

I hope you’re all staying cool wherever you are.  This summer has been brutal to us desert rats so far.  What I wouldn’t give for a week-long stretch of summer rain right now (minus the humidity).

Sunday Levity: We Built This Schmidt-y

posted in: Film/TV, Sunday Levity | 0


“New Girl” is one of my favorite shows and I was sad to see it end this year.  While I struggle to name a favorite character, I believe the ensemble was one of the best.  It was Zooey Deschanel’s show, but I believe Max Greenfield as Schmidt was the show’s linchpin.  So for today’s Sunday Levity post, here are some great Schmidt moments.  Definitely check out the show for much more.

Unleashing the Lyrics: Restless by Cold War Kids

posted in: Music, Review | 0

I’ve always had this desire to be a songwriter.  I’ve dabbled with poetry and lyrics on many occasions, however, I am not able to write the music to accompany said lyrics due to my lack of knowing how to play guitar or piano (that’s all you need, right?).  So, I am left to embrace the songs and lyrics of others, forever envious.

I want to explore some music that speaks directly to me and give the reasons why.  Seeing as how I’m a writer, it only makes sense that I do this from a lyrical angle rather than by the music behind the words.  I hope to do this more often (at least once a month) just to add a bit more varied content.

I found Cold War Kids a few years ago, hearing their song “First” from their “Hold My Home” album while listening to the radio.  I was instantly gripped by it (note: this is not the song I’ll be discussing, lol).  As one does, I began to go through their back-catalogue since they released several albums before this current one.  My immediate thoughts were, “How have I never heard this band before?!”  My wife can vouch for this but Cold War Kids became my favorite band after this long immersion into their music.  There was just too much that caught my ear from the lyrics to the musicality of the band who seemed to have a distinct and fresh sound.

From then on, I followed the band eager to know when another new album would come out.  “L.A. Divine” was released in April 2017 and man oh man, I love the album.  Ask my wife and she’ll tell you I may be a little obsessed because I can always listen to this one.  The song I want to explore in today’s post is the track, “Restless”.  Take a listen:

 

I’m not going to go through the entirety of the lyrics but I do want to point out the ones I was most impacted by:

People wonder, people talk
We’re supposed to settle down
How we ever got this far
Without our feet touching the ground
What time is it now where you are?
We follow beats with different drums
We’re looking at the same star
It is a talent staying young

The first verse of the song sets up this idea that people in relationships can take different paths, not settling for what may be thought to be the traditional or expected life plan.  There’s also this idea of maintaining youth rather than growing up.

Try to keep it all up in the air
You ruin it when you ask why
You know it’s not that I don’t care
I don’t get jealous, I get free
Everything good comes back to me
It seems like wherever you are
Is just a better place to be

Where I want to focus most though in the lyrics is at the end of verse two.  I remember being with my wife in our car, driving out of town and listening to the whole album.  This song came on and I pointed out the lyrics:  I don’t get jealous, I get free/Everything good comes back to me

I told her that if I ever got a tattoo of song lyrics, it would be these two lines.  She asked why and I’ll share with all of you what I shared with her.  I was pretty immature as a teenager which shouldn’t be a shocker.  I was selfish and really lacked emotional maturity, often irked and acting out because I felt cheated in some way or another.  However, as I got older and found clarity and confidence in myself, I realized my errors and learned from my previous mistakes because my immaturity affected relationships with others.  I found freedom in this self-assurance, knowing that even though I wasn’t the first choice, I would still find joy and happiness (hint: my wife is a huge example of this but that story will be for another day).

Forever Re-watchable: The Goonies

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

There are those movies you grew up with and then there are those movies that made you grow.  “The Goonies” came out in 1985 which means I did not see it until I was at least seven or eight years old in the early 90s.  My earliest memory of the movie is it scaring the crap out of me.  Thanks, Sloth, for the nightmares.  As I got older, though, I found the movie to have a strong affect on me as a lover of storytelling.

If you are unawares of the plot of “The Goonies,” it follows a group of four friends (Mikey, Mouth, Chunk, and Data) in Astoria, Oregon searching for the pirate treasure of local legend, One-Eyed Willy, to stop the foreclosure of their homes.  Adventure ensues once the Goonies come across a family of criminals who pursue the kids after they learn of the treasure hunt.  Throw in hijinks (that’s a fun word to type) and the theme of friendship strengthened by conflict and you’ve got a quality film that is memorable and has become a cult classic from the 80s.

Mikey is the every man we can all relate to; Mouth is the sarcastic butthead who provides the laughs; Chunk is the chubby kid who is scared of everything but finds courage by the end; and Data is the techy of the group who has an affinity for gadgets that don’t always work but when they do, they prove useful to the group.  None of these characters feel trapped in a box but have depth that is brought out in their actions and dialogue throughout the film.  It’s this friendship that I admire.

Getting our first looks at Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee!) and Josh Brolin (Thanos!), I always feel like we get introduced to the foundation of things to come for “nerd” culture in cinema.  “The Goonies” is one of the influences for “Stranger Things” and if you’ve been following me for any length of time, you know how much I love that show.  There’s also a Spielberg touch to the film even though it was directed by Richard Donner.  You can’t help but wonder how much Indiana Jones was an influence.  Iconic continues to be a word I come back to.

My appreciation for this film came much later in life especially after I realized it isn’t as scary as first experienced.  Getting past that, I found the humor within the dialogue to be there and quite memorable.  There are physical humorous moments as well (slick shoes!) and these play more to younger audiences (like myself when I first saw the movie).  It’s in the dialogue that I think the film holds up beyond the “children’s appeal”.  It’s a dark film that I think I would hesitate to show my son until I deem him old enough and able to handle the content.  I would not hesitate however to watch it with him and get his thoughts on everything from the sense of mystery/adventure, the scarier elements, and the friendships of the Goonies themselves.  I look forward to this day, in fact.  He may never appreciate it as much as I do, but I can hope, hahaha!

Call to Action:  Seriously, I don’t know how you could not enjoy this film if you grew up in the 80s.  But if you hear the word “goonies” and you wretch, I hope you’ll clean up and check it out again with some friends.  You never know, your tastes may have changed.

Imagination Indoctrination

posted in: Books, Life, Reading | 2

Sometimes you don’t know things about yourself until you encounter a new scenario.  There are the extremes like what would you do when faced with an emergency or crisis and then there are the somewhat moderate instances like what I plan on discussing today.

I have some rather vague memories of children’s books from when I was wee lad.  I don’t remember having children’s books of my own but I do remember my grandparents having several Dr. Seuss books.  My sister and I would “read” these though I think we were drawn more by the pictures than anything else.

My wife and I asked our baby shower guests to bring children’s books for our little boy because we have a strong sense of reading to him even now (with full sarcastic commentary that he won’t appreciate until he’s older).  Our hope and desire is to instill a joy and love for reading from a young age.  This is not going to be a “screens are the devil” post but I am conscious of how much our lives move with screens readily available.  They can’t be escaped unless you’re willing to go off the grid (watch the movie “Captain Fantastic” to get an idea of what this would look like).

Instead, we have a sense for what has proven valuable to our own lives.  While it took me until my high school years to appreciate and become an avid reader, my wife was always in a book from a very young age.  The story seems to be she memorized children’s books before she could actually read the words.  There’s intrinsic value in reading.  Most of all, I believe reading launches the growth and developing of the imagination.  And if there’s anything I want for my son, it’s a wild imagination.

Why is that?  Well, because I attribute my imagination to my self-confidence and joy of life.  Maybe it’s just me (maybe someone else can contribute in the comments) but I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without my imagination.  Ugh, it would be horrible!  I personally think an imagination expands one’s life.  I can’t wait till my son begins to play because I have this vision of him including me in this wide world devised of colors and scenarios that only he can think of.  And I firmly believe reading will be the catalyst to this imaginative wonder.

Call to Action:  Does anyone have any children’s books recommendations?  We have a small assortment right now but are looking to expand.

Independent Celebration

posted in: Life | 0

I have a nefarious thought as I write this blog: “I bet if I wrote a ‘politically’ charged blog post, I’d get more action in my comments section”.  It’s tempting just because sometimes playing devil’s advocate is an amusing exercise to provoke discussion.  Oh, it’s tempting.

I’ll toe the line as I write about celebrating the 4th, which is tomorrow, and really just a holiday I love because I get work off and I usually get to indulge in time with family and friends.  I also get to eat BBQ and drink beer, devoid of the promise of indigestion later that night.  I don’t care much for the fireworks theatrics (I’m just not impressed anymore) though I am cringing at the thought of one of my inconsiderate neighbors lighting a Piccolo Pete too close and scaring our boy out of his sweet baby slumber.  In reality, the day signifies much more than that for me.

(Here is where I deliberate on whether or not to put a video of President Bill Pullman from Independence Day give a rousing speech on defeating those evil aliens that abducted Randy Quaid before he went on the lam and thought it cool to challenge our great American heroes: Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum.)

Let’s be honest, the history of the thirteen original colonies and declaring independence from the British Empire is thick with details.  There’s a lot to go through.  We celebrate the day because our forefathers essentially looked at building a nation that would be free and governed unto itself.  Whatever your proclivities are, I understand them.  There’s a lot of ugliness in history both in that of the United States and everyone else on the map.  Bloody hands can be found all around.

For me, I’m thankful for the actions committed with the intention to build a nation on a notion of freedom, having natural rights protected.  Not everyone in the world is blessed to that capacity.  We can all agree (I would hope so) that freedom is a great and wonderful thing to have and hold.  My hope and encouragement is that whatever your leanings or feelings towards others these days in our nation you will consider them as people first, willing to consider their position.  It doesn’t matter if you agree or have a deep-seeded dislike.  An important lesson I learned and try to live by each and every day is to remember that I can only manage myself.  It’s not my place to force or convert others but to live out a life of decency and consideration.

During this time of celebration, my hope is that we will see common courtesy extended to others even if it’s not given to us.  My hope is to see hands embracing rather than looking to inflict harm or damage.  My hope is to see days where respect can be offered despite differences.  I think our founders had similar hopes for this freedom experiment of a nation and we should be grateful for their efforts, sacrifices, and dreams this 4th of July.

Call to Action:  Find a friend or family member you know you differ with, don’t go looking for a fight, and share a drink and some laughs.  Light fireworks, eat burgers and hotdogs, and show some appreciation for who they are.  And be safe!

Flash Fiction: Flakes of Ash

White flakes fell from the sky like wild flies.  Teelee watched and stared, mouth agape.  “Shotra!  It’s snowing!”

“Fool girl,” the Dust Seer grumbled from his sitting position under a leafless tree.  “That’s not snow… There’s no bloody cloud in the sky!”

Teelee realized the truth in his statement but waved her hand in the air to catch one of the floating flakes.  More wordless grumbling came from Shotra the Twig.  He had left her with Apple and their wagon back in the town—she could not remember its name—and returned injured and strange, scaring her as screams came from all around.  So many people were running past her.  Apple almost ran from her but she managed to calm him as they waited.

She thought back to that day—several had passed since then and Shotra’s injury seemed to be worsening.  He refused to see a healer.  She should have been scared but Apple’s cries forced her to tend to the mule.  She could see in his large eyes appreciation for her.

“Aha!”  Her exclamation earned her a rude glare from Shotra but she finally secured a flake in her hand.  Upon looking at it, she realized a grey streak in her palm resulted where she would have preferred the cold nip of a snowflake.  Her eyes jumped to the canvas and dust she read for Master Shotra earlier in the day.  Some of the ash had fallen on the surface.

She brought her hand to her mouth, stifling the gasp.  Her eyes roamed over the changing of what she read.  “Master Shotra,” she whispered.

“Damn girl,” he hissed.  “What?”

“We need to leave this place…”  Yes, it was plain and clear.  The ash flakes gave a stark warning.  “Something is hunting.  Something of the Shoals.”

Shotra stood and limped towards her, favoring his left leg while crossing his arms over his stomach.  His face seemed to have grown paler since the morning.  “Say that again, girl.”  He was often nice to her when she read the dust, which she liked.

She pointed at the canvas.  “It changed with the ash.”

He peered at it.  “I see…  What does it say?”

A single word came to mind; an urgent command from the dust and ash.  “Run,” she said through a deep tremble.

Writing Group Announcement

posted in: Fantasy, Writing | 3

I’ve got a bit of news today that I’m excited to share.  I’m active on Twitter and have been for a while now as I move more and more beyond just a casual writer.  I’ve made contact with other published authors, editors, and agents able to interact with them in both a professional and casual manner.  Getting history book recommendations from or sharing a joke about ketchup preferences with established fantasy writers remains worth bragging about from time to time.

So, the news (the title spoils it to be honest) is that I recently came across a tweet from another writer looking to start a writing group specifically comprised of fantasy writers.  I saw it and replied almost instantly telling him I was interested.  From there, we both tweeted out the writing group inquiry and within a day we had three other writers join us!  So, we are working out the details and figuring out how we are going to do this.

Let me expound a bit on the importance of this.  There’s been this jealousy I’ve had of other writers who have been part of writing groups and make mention of their appreciation for the group in their journey to publishing.  By no means do I consider this a sure thing for getting published (there’s more legwork to do on my part) but I do think it will be invaluable to have four more people read my work and give me advice and suggestions that serve only to improve the story as a whole.

Since I’ve been rewriting the second half of my Ravanguard novella, I think that will be the first of my stories to put through the group’s hands.  I will absolutely be giving casual updates on how the group impacts me too.  Hopefully, it is something that becomes a stable resource for me.  I also look forward to establishing relationships with these other writers who I know will impact me in a positive light.

There’s no Call to Action today but I will say this: God bless every parent who did not throw in the towel when their newborn decided it wanted to be fussy for hours on end.  Our little bundle of drool and grunts has decided he will do as he pleases and me and my wife try to figure out the best ways to get him to sleep (bouncing, rocking, shushing, etc.).  Pray for us, lol.

Sunday Levity: Fun Out From the Sun

posted in: Sunday Levity | 2


Yeah, I’m bringing more fun facts (I’ve been on a kick lately) today and it’s way to hot outside so here’s some learning to share.  Enjoy!


I’ll use this as an excuse for my poor test taking during high school and college (my GPA was never that bad though).


PSA: Stay away from reading memoirs of serial killers.


Maybe if I had known this during high school, my studying for tests would have been more effective!


Not so sure about this one… Have you seen the way doctors write?


Pretty sure my wife and I were this way early on in our relationship.

Have a great week everyone! I have some big news to share on Wednesday and Saturday will be the newest Shoals to the Hallowed flash fiction post.

Summer Days

posted in: Books, Film/TV, Life, Music, Review, Sports | 2

Summer is here in full tilt (poker reference) and beating down us weirdo’s who choose to live in the Mojave Desert.  Triple digit temperatures just about every day make you long for the mountains or beach.  While we endure it though, we’re having fun, remaining cool by whatever means necessary.

I don’t talk about it much, but I have been fully invested in baseball this year.  I am a San Francisco Giants fan (I admit, I am a newer fan thanks to my brother-in-law and have slid head first into the fandom—pun!).  As most people will say, they don’t like watching baseball games on tv because it’s boring.  I am the exact opposite.  I love watching the games whenever I have the opportunity.  I find it relaxing and a great thing to listen to in the background if I’ve got other things to do.  I’ve been quite prone (much to the chagrin of my wife) to listening to the radio feed while doing dishes and preparing dinner most nights, hahaha!  I’ve pretty much abandoned my childhood love of basketball for baseball.

I am reading a few books, finding quite a few non-fiction ones that I’ve enjoyed.  I don’t know if I’ll include these in my next newsletter but if I do, I’ll go a bit deeper in a full review.  Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel is renown and award winning and not at all a difficult read.  It explores civilization and its evolution from very grounded foundations.  I’m always intrigued by history and how we’ve got to where we are.  Another book I recently finished is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, which serves as a memoir from his time in the Vietnam War.  It explores men he served with and their struggles both during and after the war.  I appreciate the vulnerability offered, letting the human side of these men be remembered.

Like sports, I don’t talk much about music but I’ve been stuck on a few albums as of late.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know how to really review music.  My tastes are what they are.  I can listen to hardcore melodies and screams of bands like Alexisonfire and Dance Gavin Dance while at the same time throw on some Tracy Chapman.  For lighter listening, The Paper Kites album, “twelvefour”, is beautiful and soothing.  I need to get it on vinyl.  It’s just one my favorites right now.  For a little “harder” sound, I recently found a band called Hands Like Houses.  No screaming but they are similar to the Hardcore Alternative styles that I enjoy.  Let’s just say I showed them to my wife and she liked what she heard (she’s not a fan of the screaming types, lol).

Our tv viewing has been mostly comprised of Chuck now that it’s on Amazon Prime.  When I find the time though, I am trying to get through season two of Westworld and plan on getting into season two of Legion after that.  Still waiting on Stranger Things Season 3 news.  I bet we’ll see a trailer at Comic-Con San Diego in a few weeks.  I’ll announce my plans for Stranger Things Month here on my blog when I get that info.

Okay, movies.  I’ve got two I recommend if you just need to laugh.  “Game Night” you can rent and “Tag” you can go see in a nice air conditioned theater right now.  Both are hilarious.  We laughed a lot.  “Game Night” was a pleasant surprise, surpassing my low expectations.  “Tag” was just fun.  Great characters who had great chemistry carry out a tradition that promotes friendship.  You’ll laugh a lot with these two so make sure you watch them with friends and family (neither are for little kids so get a babysitter).

Call to Action:  Anyone have any big plans for the summer?  Trips?  Concerts?  Having a newborn, we don’t have much planned beyond getting extra sleep on the weekends but once our son gets a little older, we are gonna hit that open road!

2017 Film Watchlist Update

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 0

Over the last few weeks, I managed to watch a few of the movies from 2017 that I put on my “To watch” list.  Let’s go!

“I, Tonya” is an interesting film that explores the life, career, and downfall of ice skater, Tonya Harding.  If you grew up in the 90s, you know about the infamous story of Harding’s fellow ice skater, Nancy Kerrigan, being “knee-capped” by some stranger after a practice session.  Tonya was implicated in the attack and the whole world witnessed an infamous case of jealousy and personal vendetta that jumped over the line to criminality.

The film has an interesting structure, “interviewing” many of the main players like Tonya, her abusive mother, equally abusive husband, and several others.  Tonya’s tough upbringing is explored while spliced with these interviews sometimes making us wonder if we’re dealing with multiple unreliable narrators.  There’s a lot of he said/she said moments that bring about comedy and tragedy making us feel for Tonya.  There are many historical moments captured from her performances and the most impressive is her landing two triple axel jumps in one competition, making her the first female figure skater to ever accomplish such a mark.

All of this however takes a drastic fall into chaos as Tonya feels the full weight and pressure of her success overshadowed by the more “likeable” Kerrigan.  The film doesn’t stray from the infamous clubbing of Kerrigan and makes no excuses for Tonya’s role in the plot carried out by her husband and his friend.

What struck me most in the film are the performances.  Each actor and actress embodied their role.  Margot Robbie as Harding is memorable.  Many times, I forgot I was watching the same actress who brought Harley Quinn to life.  Robbie did an amazing job and I kind of feel like she was over-shadowed by Allison Janney who played Tonya’s mother and stole every scene she was in.  Vindictive and downright cruel, I can see why Janney took home the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.

While hard to watch at times, the film definitely superseded my expectations.  It’s not one I would add to my personal Blu-ray collection but worth watching at least once.

If you’ve never heard of Tommy Wiseau and his feature film, “The Room”, which has been dubbed by everyone who’s ever seen it as the worst film they’ve ever watched, then don’t feel bad.  I’ve never seen “The Room” myself but I’ve known of its existence for awhile and seen quite a bit of footage that I am quite familiar with it’s “quality”.

“The Disaster Artist” is the film that chronicles the unlikely friendship between Wiseau and Greg Sestero who met in an acting class in San Francisco and eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting careers.  They do so and fail to land any jobs before deciding to write their own film.  Wiseau writes, produces, directs, and stars in the film.  “The Disaster Artist” film directed and starring James Franco takes much of its lead from Sestero’s memoir which chronicled the making and production of “The Room”.

Once again, the performances are what make this film.  Tommy Wiseau is for lack of a better word, “interesting”.  No one knows his true age or origin.  He has what many believe is an Eastern European accent but says he’s from New Orleans.  The other mysterious thing about him is his wealth.  He paid for the entirety of the film from equipment, production costs, and actor’s and crew salaries.

Based on the memoir, it’s hard to believe Wiseau is the real deal and not a grand conman.  Watch any interview with him and you’ll be convinced he’s not real.  It’s been long enough now though that it’s very likely he is who he is.  He continues to make films and has a cult status in Hollywood.

Back to “The Disaster Artist”.  James Franco as Wiseau is outstanding.  He could have very likely won the Best Actor Academy Award if not for sexual abuse allegations made against him.  All you have to do is compare Franco’s performance to that of Wiseau (the film does this during the end credits) to see his full range of dedication.  You do not have to watch “The Room” to enjoy this one.  You will ask more than once if this guy is for real.

Call to Action:  While these films are dramas, you will laugh while watching both.  I recommend both but just know these are not “normal” films.  They both approach storytelling in different ways than other biopics out there.

Fatherhood Formed

posted in: Life | 1

It has taken no time for me to fall in love with my son.  None.  He’s amazing and a miracle I cannot wait to see and hold each and every day.  As a new father, I find so much of thoughts occupied by his being in my life.

I would be remiss to not bring up my own dad in this post.  I like to think I learned valuable lessons from him when considering this thing called fatherhood.  Did he do everything right?  Nope.  Do he do things right?  Absolutely.  I can easily look back at my life as a kid, teenager, and young adult and say I was not the best to deal with.  I had attitude issues and selfishness that made me a bit of a jerk at times (probably not a shocker to my friends who have known me for any long period of time).  I believe my dad did the best he could when dealing with me.  I would say we’re on great terms now and have been for several years, which I’m thankful for.  I trust and continue to reach to him when I come up against things I don’t know or need help with.  I appreciate him in so many ways and am happy to see him be a grandpa and build a relationship with his grandson.

Back to me now (lol).  Those first few weeks with a newborn were tough.  Not only are you tired but you’re dealing with a tiny human who just spent months in the womb only to be pulled out and put into a whole new environment full of sounds, textures, and light!  Sensory overload to the max, I’m sure.  All you want is for the crying baby to fall asleep, but you are unable to figure out how to after its been fed, burped, and changed.  Gold medals for parents all around! (Oprah style)

Now, we are 8 weeks in and he’s fallen into a schedule, sleeping regularly and even giving mom and dad 3-4 and sometimes even five hours straight of sleep during the night!  It’s glorious!  Something else is happening though and I will do my best to describe it.

Our little boy is starting to make eye contact with us, not staring off into the distance, fixated on a shape or the wall.  It’s in these moments that he meets my eyes that I find my heart filling with love.  In that eye contact, I see understanding, recognition, and love on his part.  The wheels are turning, forming conscious thoughts.  In this connection, which was lacking in the first few weeks, I understand fully a father’s love for his child.

I talk to him, encouraging him and promising days in the future where he will have great opportunities.  I find myself excited for the days where he tells me his dreams.  I anticipate the questions he will have about the world.  Then, me being honest, there will be the days where he makes mistakes and faces the consequences of his choices.  How I speak to him in those moments will likely have just as great an impact as the days I comfort and congratulate him.

I have so much to look forward to and can only guess at what will take place and who he will become.  He will teach me new things about myself as he grows and searches for meaning and purpose.  I’ll ask him to forgive me when I make mistakes of my own, trust me when there does not seem to be any clear answers, and join me of great adventures of exploration.

Fatherhood is a blessing and opportunity for true legacy and impact in the world.  I can only be his father and no one else’s (until he has siblings of course).  My prayer and hope is I will be a source for peace, wisdom, and comfort throughout his life.  My joy of him will far exceed any momentary disappointments that will come along the way.  In this, I truly believe in these early days of fatherhood that so long as I remember these things, he and I will establish and maintain a lasting bond.

Call to Action:  I realize not everyone is blessed to have a father in their lives but I know we often find others to take that role.  I would encourage you to reach out to them and let them know how much you appreciate their place and impact in your life.

Always Be Learning

posted in: Books, Film/TV, Reading, Writing | 0

When you start out as a writer looking for any and everything that could give you guidance and help, one thing you consistently see is, “Read, read, and read more”.  This can be bothersome for some or at least it was for me because I wanted to respond, “But I want to write…”.  What should be added to that direction is:  Read, read, and read more because you will learn how to write.

Cognitive absorption (I have no idea if this is an accurate term or even used properly but I like the sound of it and it’s my blog so…yeah) through reading is how I like to think about my ability to read different kinds of books be it fiction, nonfiction, biography, etc. and subconsciously collect sentence structure, characterization, inclusion of theme, setting tone, and several other important literary practices.

I always want to be learning.  Whether by reading, listening, or being observant of the world around me, I cannot be the best storyteller I can be if I already think I know what I need to know.  To this day, I find myself stashing away nuggets of info I come across.  I’ll notice descriptions in a book about a people, places, or things and think, “That’s really good. I need to remember that detail or method”.  I’ll be listening to a podcast and a topic will weave between two speakers and I’ll pick up on conversational threads that I think can be implemented between my own characters as they talk to one another.  I’ll see something in a show or movie and make a note of the shape, color, and/or texture.

The notion of always learning can seem daunting and might make you feel overwhelmed.  Learning doesn’t have to be reading historical tomes of 1500 pages one after another.  Find a subject and explore it by whatever means.  Books are not the only option.  Podcasts, articles, and documentaries are all great mediums to absorb whatever it is you’re interested in.  There is no test at the end, so go your own speed and remember you learn what you want to learn about once you’re out of school.  Focus on those and you’ll enjoy it far more than when you were cramming for a test the night before.

Call to Action:  I want to encourage two sources that I love learning from.  The first is Joe Rogan’s podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience”.  He talks with all sorts of people about all kinds of subjects from entertainment to deeper philosophical issues.  The second are the shows “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” by the late Anthony Bourdain.  The passing of Bourdain last week came unexpected and is tragic.  His traveling shows have been consistent staples for me because I always learn and find his approach to people through food a rare art.

Forever Re-watchable: What About Bob?

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

I’ve enjoyed returning to what I consider my favorite movies in these posts.  These are films I have seen more times than I can remember and usually watch at least once if not twice a year.  Today’s movie is an early 90s gem featuring the brilliant Bill Murray at his prime.

My greatest recollection of this film is it always seemed to be a part of my family’s movie nights.  We watched it a lot.  Also, my extended family enjoyed the movie so much that we would watch it during holidays or major get-togethers.  To this day, quotes from the film are exchanged as if they are family mottos.

The film follows Bob Wiley (Murray) who is a troubled man with a laundry list of phobias and social anxieties.  According to him, “As long as I’m in my apartment, I’m fine.  But when I go outside, I get…weird.”  He is referred to a new psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss), and offers what Bob considers to be a true breakthrough.  His hopes of being helped further are dashed when Dr. Marvin announces he will be on a family vacation for a month, leaving Bob in instant disarray.

Through what can only be described as borderline manic desperation, Bob learns where Dr. Marvin is vacationing with his family (this sounds more like a horror film, doesn’t it?!) and makes the long bus ride with his pet goldfish, Gill.  As Dr. Marvin struggles to deal with his new patient, Bob quickly assimilates into the family gaining love and friendship, which inevitably cure him of his struggles.  Hilarity ensues as you can imagine with Murray’s skills as a comedian.  There are far too many great moments to list but I have to share a few favorites here:


Now that I’m a father, I look at these films I am so fond of and cannot wait to show them to my little boy (when he’s old enough of course).  I think figuring out when he will appreciate such an “old movie” will be a challenge but I often hear from friends with older kids when they share their own childhood favorites.  It’s a time I’m looking forward to.

As I said before, the quotability of this film makes it not only fun but memorable.  I don’t know how many times my memory is triggered whenever I hear someone making “yummy” sounds during a home-cooked meal (apparently I did this at my in-laws before my wife and I even started dating and I was just her brother’s drum teacher coming for dinner) or see someone sailing on a boat and “I’m sailing!  I’m sailing!” comes to mind.  My favorite though is the laughter produced whenever someone says they’re taking baby steps and I imagine them walking around the room taking actual baby steps.

What About Bob? is a classic family comedy that tugs at the funny bone and heart strings.  It’s good clean fun and will always be a movie that makes me think of my family and the laughter in the room when Bob Wiley comes on the screen massaging his face while saying, “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful,” over and over again.

Call to Action:  Watch it with friends and enjoy laughing for an hour and a half.

To Write is Right

I had no idea what my writing time would look like with a newborn.  It definitely takes adjusting to but there are pockets to be found (sometimes it’s less than you hope for and sometimes you look at the clock and think, “dang… I need to go to bed”).  So as I’ve adjusted and made sure my son doesn’t go neglected, I’ve been breaking up my writing time but getting things done.

Obviously, the blog gets time (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this).  I don’t plan as far ahead as I’ve done in the past, leaving me to write a few days ahead of the schedule so I can edit and revise accordingly.  It makes for a more “on the fly” approach.  When I first started, it was easier to plan ahead because I had several topics I wanted to write about.  For this season though, I am more in the “what’s happening now” mode.  We’ll see how this goes as the months progress.  With Stranger Things Season 3 on the horizon, I will absolutely need to plan ahead.  I might even get a jump on those posts this summer seeing as how they took quite a bit of preparation to write along with re-watching season 1.  (I just checked and there’s no official release date for season 3 so I may have quite a few months to prepare.)

My book, So Speaks the Gallows, is currently being beta read.  I’m being patient, leaving me to spend time on a few other projects.  One of which is the Glossary I have for my Ravanguard series.  It’s extensive (that word might be an understatement) and has gone through so many revisions of its own over the last ten years.  Every place, group, and character is captured with details important to me as the writer so I can go back and reference the eye or hair color of a character.  To be honest, I’ve even considered going entry by entry and making sure every mention in the book is consistent.  Is that too much you might ask but one of my biggest concerns when writing such a large book is that there will be glaring inconsistencies that should have been caught beforehand (you’d expect as much with so long to write and polish the book).  I don’t know…  It’s a tough one to add to my already “thick” to do list for the book but I want and feel the need to get it as perfect as I can.

In addition to this, I am also revising the first novella of the Ravanguard series, Dim the Veil.  It is currently too long by novella word count standards.  To be brutally honest though, I’m not happy with the second half of the story.  I read it now and it feels…forced.  I wanted to implement some things that I thought I could make work but I continue to feel the story doesn’t fit.  Rather, it lacks what So Speaks the Gallows has embodied and consistency should be found not only in a single story but from story to story in a series.  This is why I’m going back through and giving it a proper scrub and tuck.

As you can see, I’m busy with plenty of things on the writing table.  Throw in my day job and my family and I am doing my best to balance everything.  My respect goes out to all those who do this well.  Again, I am astounded by my wife who does so much each and every day.  She’s amazing and I cannot imagine being a parent without her.  Truly, she is a rock and nearly perfect partner.  Watching her with our son brings me great joy.

No call to action today.  I don’t have anything to be honest and I’d rather not force something unless there’s one to offer.  Look out for my next blog post on the 9th.  It will be another “Forever Re-watchable” post.  Here’s a hint: “I said good morning, Gill.”

Sunday Levity: Fun Fact Time!

posted in: Sunday Levity | 0

I know that when I’m bored, I often look up fun facts.  Why?  For one, I’m a nerd but also I enjoy learning.  I figured since today’s another Sunday Levity day, I’d share some that I recently found.  It’s a day of relaxing so enjoy and thanks for stopping by!

These natural wonders of the world blow my mind.  It’s science when it comes to an explanation but can you imagine what people thought before science brought an explanation?  Magic!

I actually have to know this any time I’m working on a technical document (people love to use one instead of the other, leaving me to question the rule again and again).

A potato farm will be the first thing I start when the zombie apocalypse takes place.  Then, I will find a cow.

I just love stuff like this.  Language (especially english) fascinates me and how its constructs work.

This makes too much sense and would seriously help a lot of people.  I’m not the most traveled person out there but I absolutely see the merit in exploring different places and interacting with the people of those places.  Appreciation and value of others breaks all lines of hate.

Flash Fiction: An Odd Thing

She pressed her finger and thumb together, squeezing the blood between each, before separating the connection.  The sticky stretch of wet redness between each finger mesmerized her in a way that shouldn’t.  Not unless she was a child.  Perhaps, her mind fell back into the days before she fought for coin.  Back before the men and women in her life found her suitable to abuse and belittle for their own enjoyment and profit.

Was it her blood or that of the bald-headed, bearded man she killed earlier?  Who could say?  It looked the same no matter the owner.

“You shivering bastards…”  A man staggered by, catching sight of her as she pressed her back against a low stone wall.  The cool air of the early morning made both of their breaths misty.

Chasiel bit back the cooing sound in her throat, ready, and surprising the ugly fool who belonged to her rival mercenaries, the Silver Way.  He stepped in, short sword raised and ready to hack at her, but Chasiel’s instinct and will to live could not be undone even by her childish lapse.  Her dagger blade sliced open the man’s thigh.  He screamed but could barely get the sound out before she twisted the blade upward into his throat.  More blood.

She fell back to the cold, hard ground as the man toppled over, shaking slightly as life slipped away.  Her body ached in pain.  Her cuts and the stab wound to her lower back were beginning to burn.  She could see her reflection in the fresh pool of blood now.  How could it reflect like a mirror?  Truly, it was a considerable quality to reflect back the reflection of the one who killed its master.

A voice came in the distance of the manor’s grounds.  Fenroe.  He lived.  Chasiel let the coo finally slip from her grasp of it in her throat.  The Silver Way set the trap for them.  Somehow, they knew of Chasiel’s attempt at taking their contract.  Crisp was dead and she saw her captain, Feller Crowne, take an arrow in the chest.  Maybe he lived.  Maybe he didn’t.  Others fell as well.  How many of their numbers remained?

An odd thing blood was to be so important for life, she thought.  Yet in death, it was trivial.  Lose some and you live.  Lose too much and you die.  There she was again, mesmerized by the red fluid.  She preferred the days before she saw so much blood.  Days of seeking food and shelter only.  There was no need for blood back then.

“Chas?”

Fenroe again.  She let the cooing sound come from her lips and heard him curse, hurrying towards her across the yard, likely searching behind the structures and stalls of the wealthy merchant.  Chasiel wanted to sleep.  Her eyes grew heavy.  She did not think she lost too much of her own blood.  Not yet at least.  Such an odd thing, though, for her life to be leaking slowly.

Sunday Levity: Deadpool Edition-ioso

posted in: Comics, Film/TV, Sunday Levity | 0

So I know Deadpool is not everyone’s cup-o-tea.  He’s vulgar, violent, and childish in every sense of the word.  However, his zaniness is a breath of fresh air (figuratively speaking) in light of so many “serious” super hero films.

I wanted to share some of his better qualities (and tame ones) today.

I couldn’t agree more… I love pancakes.

“I’m invincible!”

Deadpool’s interactions with other Marvel heroes and villains are sometimes spot on as he makes keen observations.

If you’ve watched the movies, you know about Deadpool’s love/hate for Wolverine. It goes deeper in the comics.

Classic.

Call to Action: While I’ve used this post for levity, I do want to express my gratitude for the men and women who have given their lives for our nation. There is no greater sacrifice and whatever your affiliations, we should honor and respect those who have given everything to preserve our rights and freedoms.

Marvelous

posted in: Comics, Film/TV, Storytelling | 0

When you’re a late 80s/whole 90s kid, you are very much shaped by what movies, cartoons, music, video games, and even toys were popular during those years.  I have an affinity for Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, Transformers, The Goonies, Indiana Jones, Nintendo, and comics.  This latter one is what I want to talk a bit about today.

With all the Marvel films and shows coming out every year (mainly the MCU and Netflix shows), I wanted to talk a bit about how I’m more of a fan of Marvel Comics than DC Comics.  Honestly, it comes from the FOX Kids X-Men animated series that ran from 1992 thru 1997.  I loved this show growing up and watched it every Saturday morning (it has quite the kick ass theme music by the way).  Much of my education about the characters and world created by Stan Lee and others came from this habitual watching experience.  This extended into comics and while I was busy spending my allowance on basketball cards rather than comics, I did buy a few (there were only a few I was allowed to buy and it depended on the level of weird and violence depicted on the cover; parenting 101 won out every time back then).

As I got older though, I read and got into other marvel characters like Spider-Man, Darkhawk (there’s a deep cut), and the Fantastic Four.  X-Men continued to be my first love though and while I’m lukewarm on most of the movies (Days of Future Past still remains my favorite), I have dived deeper into the world and mythology over the years even as an adult.  X-Force and X-Factor were extensions that introduced more great characters like Deadpool and Cable (I’ve seen Deadpool 2 twice now! So good!).  For whatever the reason, I loved this imagining of heroes and villains differentiated between abilities they were born with.  As a kid, I had no idea mutants were a parallel allusion to civil rights born back in the 60s.  To a kid, they are colorful customers with superpowers.  That’s all you need!

All I know is we love what we love.  Nowadays, there’s no shame in being a nerd and comic fanboy.  For that, I am grateful.  Who knew that in 2018, you could get away with wearing a Marvel-themed t-shirt and not be ostracized.  Even in grade school, I don’t think I ever wore a comic book-related t-shirt (nor did I own any to be honest).

This is not to say I hate DC Comics and it’s brand of characters.  In fact, I’ve always loved Batman.  Whether it’s Tim Burton’s “Batman” or the “Batman: Animated Series”, I’ve always thought Batman was one of the better super heroes out there.  As I’ve gotten older, the complexity of the character and his inner demons make him even more captivating to me (you all know I’m a sucker for a conflicted character).

I’m excited to see where the future goes with all these Marvel properties, though.  So far, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed many of the recent adaptations.  Go back and check out some of my reviews to get more in depth looks.  It really is refreshing to see the care to detail the film industry puts towards these characters I grew up with and devoted a great deal of time and money towards.

Call to Action:  If you have a chance, find interviews of Stan Lee (there are several on YouTube) and listen to the pride and joy he has in his creations.  It’s amazing the success he had on writing and drawing masked and costumed characters.

Missing Sleep

posted in: Life | 1

When I think of sleep and how I miss it, I hear Queen’s “You’re My Best Friend” in my head.  No, I was not disillusioned enough to think I would still sleep after having a baby.  I’m dim when it comes to some things but not that.  By the way, mad kudos to my wife because she’s been super gracious to me, allowing me to sleep during week nights when I have to get up early for work.  That’s not to say I told her to wake me up if she needs help with our little man while she feeds him every two hours.  She’s amazing.  I don’t know how she does it.  There truly is a magical power when it comes to mothers and their ability to care for their babies.  It’s a beautiful thing and has been a great delight of mine to witness.

I admit, I am writing this blog post the day of.  Usually, I’m ahead by a few days so I can tweak and edit my post before releasing it.  Today, though, it’s different.  We had a long weekend and I didn’t feel like writing on any of my days off.  So there.

It was a great weekend though.  My sister and brother-in-law were in town and they got to meet their nephew.  I saw Deadpool 2, which is not for everyone (seriously, if you saw the first one on purpose or by accident, the sequel drives the violence and vulgarity to 11).  We watched the series finale of one our favorite shows, New Girl, not knowing it was the finale until the very end.  I’m still coping with that too…  I love that show.  I might have to do a tribute post to honor it.  Overall, a great weekend.

Other than that, I’ve been getting some feedback from my beta readers and that’s been encouraging.  Looks like minor fixes so far.  Really looking forward to getting all the comments.  There’s a level of anticipation I am keeping tight reins on at the moment.  I don’t have a bevy of patience so it’s all about keeping myself occupied with other things.  I am revising the first novella of the Ravanguard series to keep my skills sharp.  I think I’ll provide more info on that and my process later this week or the following week.  So keep an eye out.

Hope you all had a great weekend and were able to rest and spend time with friends or family.

Call to Action: Where are all my yanny people at?! (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look up “yanny vs laurel”.)  Apparently, what you hear has to do with frequencies.  It’s science.

Avengers: Infinity War (Part I) Review w/ SPOILERS

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Writing | 1

This is your first and only warning that the following post contains SPOILERS for the latest MCU film, “Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)”.  If you haven’t seen it yet, run away!  Actually, go and see it and return.  That’s it.  Now let’s continue.I feel the need to point this out from the start because I’ve heard too many people make a minor complaint after seeing the movie.  This is part one of two.  Of course it ended the way it did!  There’s more coming next May.  Rest assured, you didn’t just watch half of your favorite heroes “mist” away forever (hint: just check Marvel’s film forecast for the next couple of years).

Rather than writing a long-winded re-cap and critique of the film, I want to focus on what made this film of great magnitude work in a somewhat up and down film franchise.  Not all MCU entries have been pristine (let’s be honest with ourselves).  For every “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2016) or “Black Panther” (2018), there is a “Thor: Dark World” (2013) or “Iron Man 2” (2010).  Some are very good and some seem to have missed the mark wide left.  Many times (in my opinion; that’s all it is) the downfall or lacking element of these weaker films is the villain.  Go back to my post last year about antagonists to see what I look for in a believable and compelling villain:  http://adamhenderson.net/2017/02/08/vilest-villainy-vowed-to-venture/

“Avengers: Infinty War” is about Thanos.  Plain and simple.  It’s not about our huge lineup of heroes.  They are secondary.  What “A:IW” did and quite well was establish a villain we first got wind of in the post credit scene of the first “Avengers” (2012) film.  That means we’ve had six years of anticipation and minor mentions in the films leading up to the big showdown.

Who is Thanos?  We need to know this in order to feel the full weight of the character.  What drives this galactic entity to attack Earth?  Well we don’t really know until we step into this film, which starts with Thanos and his Black Order after they’ve attacked and killed half the people on Thor’s ship after the events of “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017).  We learn that Thanos has a tragic past, seeing over population destroy his home world of Titan.  From that, he has sought to bring balance to the universe by going from planet to planet, wiping out half of populations to establish peace.  This is his goal and if that was all it was, then I would say we are dealing with another one dimensional villain bent on destruction.

Nay nay!

Thankfully, this is not all there is to him.  In order to accomplish his goals of ushering in the same balance and peace to Earth, Thanos has to fight Earth’s mightiest warriors.  Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and so many of the heroes we’ve been introduced to and following since the first “Iron Man” (2008) film band together and take on Thanos, his Black Order, and lesser minions.  Thanos has faced defeat already and he knows he needs more to combat Earth’s heroes.  Enter the ultimate McGuffins of the MCU: the infinity stones.

To wield all the stones (space, time, reality, mind, soul, and power) and become truly invincible, he needs something to contain and harness each power.  That containment cannot be accomplished unless it be forged from a dying star, much like Thor’s hammer.  Hence, the Infinity Gauntlet was made and Thanos is able to place each collected stone in the gauntlet.  The film follows his collecting said stones and every time he manages to add one to the gauntlet, we feel the impending doom, hoping he fails.

Alas, he does not fail.  Thanos collects every stone but there is a cost and this is where the film convinced me and made me proud as a storyteller.  While most of the stones seem to be “easy” for him to gain, one in particular is not.  The soul stone has been elusive and hidden from everyone (even from us in the audience because there have been no clues as to its whereabouts).  One person does know however of its location and that would be Thanos’ adopted daughter, Gamora, who we were introduced to in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014).  Sent on a mission by Thanos to locate it, Gamora knows where it is and is forcibly persuaded to tell him the location.

Once there, Thanos learns he must trade a soul for a soul.  In the most poignant, humanizing scene I could have hoped for, Thanos tragically sacrifices the life of Gamora for the soul stone.  My heart twisted as I watched the pain and tears in Thanos as he did so.  There it is.  There is the moment I didn’t even know I wanted.  Give me an antagonist I can sympathize with and you’ve given me a character with depth.  Thanos pays the ultimate price and even confesses at the film’s ending that in order to accomplish his goal, it cost him everything, revealing that his love for Gamora was real.

So, yes.  Our heroes not only failed (another important part of this story because we need to see heroes fail in order to be reminded that they are not invincible) but they are greatly weakened and diminished as we see Thanos destroy half of the universe’s population with a snap (literally).  Remember, this is part one.  Part two should bring everything back around and I think I can most assuredly postulate that we will see the atrocity of Thanos’ actions against the universe be righted or at least partially restored.

In conclusion, “Avengers: Infinity War (Part I)” is about Thanos and his main conflict.  His rise and fall moves the story forward and we are treated to a villain I actually found myself liking as much as I liked the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”.  For different reasons, of course, but it’s all the same.  Give me an antagonist who is more than a surface-level psycho and I will be engrossed in the complexity of their conflict and goal.

Call to Action:  Seriously, I shouldn’t have to say go see it but if you did and didn’t notice this aspect of Thanos, I encourage you to go see it again.  Do not think of it as a movie about our heroes but about the tragic character that is bent on bringing balance to the universe, unaware that to do so will cost him everything.

Mothers, Fathers, and Bears…Oh My

posted in: Life | 0

With us being a few days from Mother’s Day and less than a month away, the days of honoring parents have a bit more importance now that I’m a month into fatherhood myself.  Oh yeah, my little boy is a month old already!  Don’t give me that, “Oh just you wait, he will be sixteen, driving, and being rebellious before you know it,” nonsense. That’s coming but we’re 15 years and 11 months from that. I’ll choose to savor the now.

I’ve always appreciated my parents, though I never expressed that very well in my adolescence. Actually, I don’t know if I scaled the mountains even as a young adult. Maybe now I can keep up a consistent show of honor and appreciation for my madre and padre. (Just give it a couple of minutes after I post this blog and you’ll see a loving comment from my mom; she’s my biggest fan.)

The goal in this whole intro to parenthood is to be patient and not let our lack of sleep make us ask a newborn baby why he’s fussy and won’t go to sleep (he can’t properly communicate so therefore, we get nothing). He’s content until he’s not. Why? Maybe he’s hungry, gassy, or just sufficiently crapped his khakis (the latest episode was quite charming). Who can say?! For my wife and I, we’re just trying to stay upright from day to day.

We won’t get any sense of appreciation for what we do for our baby boy for many years to come. Until then, we will have to do it ourselves. I told my wife already that she’s doing a great job. She’s at home with him while I’m at work (counting down the hours until I can get home to see them and relieve my wife to have some semblance of “peace and quiet”) and doing all she can to keep him alive, lol. After a month of observing her with him, I can already tell she’s got this motherhood business down.

I hope to encourage everyone to express some love and appreciation to your parents. Heck, express it to the mothers and fathers you have in your life that aren’t related in blood too. They are in need of a little honor and recognition as well. Don’t leave it for one day alone. Any time it comes to mind, throw out a text or do like we use to do before cell phones, make a phone call. Kind words go a long way (but dinner and gift go even further).

Let’s be better about showing and giving love to those who put you before them. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t be here or there or wherever you’re currently at.

Call to Action: You probably didn’t miss Mother’s Day but if you did for whatever the reason, reach out to your mom, grandma, aunt, or whoever it might be that has made a lasting impact in your life.

Sweet Summer Heat

posted in: Film/TV, Life | 0

As I’ve stated before, I live in the Mojave Desert in Southern California where the sweltering temperatures of summer unapologetically push the thermometer up into triple digits.  We can usually expect seeing 99 hit 100 and beyond before midday.  If you are unaccustomed to this daily punishment, then I envy your gift of comfort.

You might ask, “Why not just invest in air conditioning?”  Well, you see, my friend, that is not always financially feasible.  And when you live in an apartment, the landlord doesn’t quite care if his or her tenants are comfortable.  We have swamp coolers for the cheaper option and while they work so long as humidity is absent (dry heat my left foot!), we often find ourselves in single layers, sipping ice water, and dreaming of rain.

One saving grace is the movie theater (yep, we got one of those!).  With the influx of summer blockbusters coming every Friday starting two weeks ago (Avengers: Infinity War post is coming soon), my wife and I hope to find ourselves in those old cushioned seats basking in air conditioning we don’t have to pay for.  But what about the baby you might ask?!  No worries.  He has grandparents that are more than willing to watch him for a couple of hours and allow mom and dad some alone time with strangers.

All this is to say you should expect some posts about said blockbusters throughout the summer.  Avengers, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool 2, Ocean’s 8, Incredibles 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and probably some others to name a few.  Should be a fun summer despite our feeble attempts at trying to keep our apartment cool.  Also, whoever said drinking hot coffee in the heat helps “cool” your body deserves a pox on their soulless body!  For me, I’ll stick with ice-cold beer.  Cheers!

Call to Action:  Throw out some films you’re looking forward to this summer.  Doesn’t have to be a blockbuster.  I’m a huge fan of indie films as well.

Coming-of-Age Thoughts/Lady Bird Review

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

There are certain stories I’m drawn to (more so in movies than books in this instance) where a young person’s journey from adolescence into adulthood is magnified.  They be best described as “coming-of-age” stories.  Usually in these films, we get a glimpse into a select moment and are shown who this young person is, what they desire, what they fear, etc.  These have a way of grasping my full attention for reasons I’ll explain if you so choose to keep reading.

The most recent experience I had was with the film “Lady Bird”, directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Saoirse Ronan.  The film takes place in Sacramento, CA in 2002.  Normally, I relate more to coming-of-age stories of boys (see “The Way Way Back” and “Boyhood”) but I found myself enjoying watching this young woman going through her senior in high school and preparing to go to college.  Mainly, my enjoyment has to with the fact that I was a senior in high school in 2002-03 in southern California (not Los Angeles) also.  Much of her struggles with school, classmates, and parents felt very visceral to me all the while the war in Iraq had just started and was often playing in the background of settings.  I remember those days so clearly.

Suffice to say “Lady Bird” gripped me instantly and since it was on my “Movies of 2017 to Watch” list, I was able to look past the immaturity of the main character and pick out subtle things I loved.  Most of those were references to the time and culture but they were enough to keep me engaged.  I don’t know if I’d recommend the movie to be honest.  It was okay but not grand (it absolutely reeked of whatever it is the Academy Award’s consider award-worthy).  I think 2016’s “The Edge of Seventeen” was far-superior film and much funnier (also having a female lead).

I don’t know why these kinds of films draw me in.  I don’t consider my own “coming-of-age” experience to be all that impressive.  I went to high school, graduated, went to college, delayed graduation by slacking and feeling uninspired, and then met my wife, finished my degree, established a career, and now have a baby.  It’s all very simple yet fulfilling.  These films however have much better highlights that involve conquering fears or making decisions not to be part of the status quo.  Then again, a film of my life would not attract much of an audience so I understand and appreciate the screenwriters who add drama and tension in order to push the main character a little closer to adulthood.

I think that’s the reason I am drawn to these kinds of films.  I enjoy watching the maturation of an individual especially when they realize adolescence is such a small part of life and the horrors of high school fade quickly.  Experiencing life is sweeter when stepping out from the social constructs of narrow expectation.

Call to Action: I threw out the names of a few coming-of-age films I like but I also recommend these as well:  Stand By Me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Kings of Summer, and my favorite of all time:  The Breakfast Club.

Blog Reset

posted in: Editing/Revision, Life, Writing | 0

I’ve been off from blogging for a month now and ready to return.

My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world on April 16th at 8:02 in the AM.  He was 6 lbs 13 oz and is completely healthy much to our excitement.  We’ve settled into the routine of feeding, changing diapers, and figuring out how to sleep.  So far, we’re only fatigued every other day or so.  Also I have yet to be peed on but I have had the wonderful honor of pulling off soaked onesies more times than I can remember (I’ve even got some small rashes on my hands form washing them so much lately. Fun times!).

I’ve been off from work for three weeks now and wonder if I’ll be able to assimilate back into the workforce after spending so long away (I make it sound like months don’t I?) and I’m curious to see how it works out.  I can’t even get my head around parents who are able or have to go back to work the week of or even a week after a child’s birth.  Seriously, how?

I sent out the newest newsletter this week.  I’d love to attract more subscribers but I’m struggling to do so, often wondering if people are signing up but the plug-in I use is not informing me.  It seems to be having problems hence my sending the newsletter later than I wanted to.  I don’t know.  I need to look deeper into it.  Then again, maybe I just fail at marketing myself (there’s like a 50/50 chance this is the issue…).  I need a PR person who will work for free and just do it because they want to see me succeed.  (Send all resumes to my personal email if interested.)

I’m also trying to find more beta readers but having no luck so far.  Apparently, it’s not easy and for good reason.  I think about people having time to read and critique a book that is 200k+ words and I understand the lack of interest.  I’d like to get at least 2-3 more beta readers feedback before sending out my first agent query letter (at this rate, I’ll be looking at five to ten years from now).  I just really think I need more feedback on the story as a whole.  I still wonder if there are things that either don’t make sense or parts that need to be simplified.  So we will come to the CTA.

Call to Action:  If you are interested in being a beta reader for my book, So Speaks the Gallows, or if you have any resources that you could point me to, please feel to do so.  There is no waitlist.

Flash Fiction: A Legend’s Call

Kesree’s cottage slept as Damrin approached on foot, thankful to finally feel his feet and legs strong and not aching after a day of walking.  To the west, the great cliffs, the Brutes, split by the waterfall called the Silent Mother’s Tears roared.  Snowfall had been generous in recent months for the stream to be so high while he crossed over the foot bridge built by Kesree himself.

Inside the cottage there was nothing.  Hints of Kesree remained.  Touches of his brilliance when it came to his ability to trap the power of his Shoal, Temzda, and contain its affect on things both living and not.  Damrin did not mean to begin rummaging so freely and disrespectfully but in minutes, the floor and every other surface was soiled by his angered search.  Books and papers rained while writing apparatus spilled and stained.

The Shoalway opened outside and Damrin had little time to react, reaching but not touching Qorum.  At the window, he looked out to find an armor wearing Wielder just as their Shoalway closed, swirl of glass forever left on the ground.  Damrin recognized but did know the gray-haired man whose hatchet nose hooked down and beard was cut into a sharp square.

“Come out, Damrin Graeves,” the older man called.

Unblinking, dumb-founded like a small boy seeing a Wielder for the first time, Damrin stopped in the doorway until waved forward by the legend that is Barat Bladeveil.  “Sir?”

Bladeveil, the living legend among all the Holds, did not smile, jaw set in the most-earnest of manners.  He was the last living Shoal Sword, the knights of old—long gone from the world.  “Set aside whatever allegiances clasp your wrist.  Our oaths bind more than the feeble war tantrums made by the Hold Kings currently engaged in.  Our duty is to this world, to protect those who face threats they cannot hope to counter.”

The speech was delivered in such a way that Damrin found himself on his knees before the hero of old, forgetting why and what he came for in Kesree’s refuge.  “You want me?” he asked.

Crouching with ease, body not touched by time’s sting, Bladeveil reached out and touched Damrin’s shoulder.  “A Shoalway breach took place days ago and I need your help.  I know you by your reputation.”  His gray eyes looked past him at Kesree’s cottage.  “Kesree confided in me not two months ago.  You, he said, were one who could aid in dire times.”

The swell of pride in the words and request took the slightest cut as the threat registered in Damrin’s mind.  A breach?  If true, and he had no reason to question Barat Bladeveil, then his fury at Kesree did indeed not matter.  This war between the Holds grew small in his mind.  He had a duty to the Holds and he was going to stand alongside Barat Bladeveil, the last of the Shoal Swords, to see it through.

The Week of…

posted in: Life | 2

We’ve come to it then.  Even as I write this, knowing I will post this blog tomorrow, it could be the last before my baby hiatus.  I’m kind of chuckling because I don’t really have anything planned for the 6th thinking he will be here by then.  Both my wife and I are hopeful to be honest.  This waiting feels like when you’ve studied for a test and feel really good about it but you don’t actually take the test for a few more days (that old fun feeling).

I find it interesting how calm and collected I feel as we get closer.  All the reading, videos, and classes we’ve taken should account for some measure of preparedness right?  I already see him in later years, experiencing and growing in life.  To know we have a place in that guidance and in his own personal journey is quite the honor.  I think too often parents forget they are the most reliable resource a baby and child have until they can be independent.  Obviously, you do all that you can but there has to be this strange sense of separation, trusting your lessons will stretch beyond the boundaries of their childhood home.

(I did not see this post heading in this direction  Honest truth, lol.)

I’ve watched and observed fatherhood from a distance my whole life.  I’ve seen so many different kinds of dads and their “tactics”.  While I could argue the good and bad of many of those through different scenarios, I think the number one thing a father needs to be in order to be a good dad is simple: being present.  Not in the sense of being around.  Dads can be in the house and never be present.  My dad was on travel a lot growing up but he never seemed absent from the house when he was home.  He did chores and projects (doing his best to get me off my keester and away from video games) and included me from time to time.  Who’s with me that pulling weeds is the absolute worst?!  Ugh, I hate pulling weeds but I did them.  Still though, my dad was there and I could talk to him even if I didn’t want or know how to (it gets better and easier as you get older of course).

Even now, I look at my wife and our day to day and seriously have these thoughts about how any day now, it’s going to change.  Children change things between a husband and wife.  Not for the bad.  As a team, the load should never be too much for either parent.  There’s a selflessness that is expected and should be evident in both lives.  Partners to the end.  My wife and I often talk about how we make a great team and that we fit well together.  I have no fear of parenthood because she is there with me and I know she is more than capable of being a good mother.  Nothing could convince me otherwise.

I plan on this being my last blog post before my break and I want to leave you all with the notion that there is excitement and peace in our house.  Pregnancy is an amazing journey for first time parents.  We’ve had to make choices and absolutely understand the weight of the responsibility but I assure you we do not take it lightly or for granted.  The privilege we have in being a part of our son’s development and growth into a person who will impact and influence others cannot be ignored.

(Did it get a bit too heavy at the end there?  I feel like it did.  I rushed it, I know.)

Call to Action:  Send us thoughts and prayers!  We will gladly accept them!  Love you all!  And don’t forget to sign up for the newsletter.  It will be going out at the end of the month.

Flash Fiction: A Morning for Mourning

After long days of rituals leading to her choosing a husband, Hijeneva awoke to the screams, mistaking them at first to be the ceremonial raised voices of the women of the Ajjuun.  She stirred herself, rubbing sleep from her eyes, unsure of the hour.  In two days she was expected to put her suitors through the trials.  The items taken from the dead god were ready to be tested and she was ready to see the truth behind each.

The screams told her something horrible was taking place in the witching hour.  The soft gray glow of the sky from her maiden hut window suggested the sun was less than an hour from waking the rest of the world.  She pushed herself up from her sleeping mat, dressed, and grabbed her shield and spear.  She considered the god’s items for a moment.  Should she risk it?  Perhaps it was an attack by the Shygua.  If so, her people needed help.  Due to the dead god, the Ajjuun had lost too many of their young warriors.  No, she resisted the urge, fearing the unknown could kill her just by touching the items.  More screams pulled her to the early dawn.  Outside, she found chaos.

Running past her drowsy vision and fighting in the shadows, the Ajjuun were in disarray.  Hijeneva stepped forward but stopped when her foot fell further than she expected.  She crouched, hand touching the print.  Three toes she counted but something else—a swishing mark, suggesting a heavy tail—stamped the earth with a weight suggesting great size.  What could have made the print?

Out of the corner of her eye, Hijeneva reacted in time but still bore the brunt of the strike.  Something heavy clipped her shoulder but found its full impact in her hut’s wall.  Pain broke her fall as she slid against the earth.  Her shield twisted her fingers, breaking at least two.  Her spear was gone.

Something moved in closer from where the flung object struck her.  Frantic and in pain, she moved her shield to her other hand, ready to defend.  Her dazed eyes caught the outline of a gray, slick form with too many eyes to be real.  A sound she thought was high-pitched, sinister laughter interrupted her pounding ears.  Nearby torchlight touched the blade of a tiil inches away from her.

The creature advanced, revealing two legs of three clawed toes and a balancing tail at its rear.  Hijeneva rolled, threw her shield like an over-sized bowl, and took up the tiil, recognizing its distinct quality and stabbed greedily at the flesh of her attacker as it swayed in recovery from her shield striking it.  Her screams of pain and anger ripped through the new day in what would surely be a morning for mourning.

The Calm

posted in: Life | 0

I have to be honest today…  I’m not quite sure what to blog about.  The due date is fast approaching and I’m on high alert every day.  I know that at any moment my wife could call me at work and tell me contractions have started.  Where movies from my past will have fully deceived me, this does not mean I freak out, grab my things, and race home.  Nope, I calmly nod and forget what to do in response.

Let me gripe a bit about this deception.  The movie, Father of the Bride: Part 2, is a childhood favorite of mine.  We owned it on VHS (yep, dating myself) and my family watched it a lot.  We were big Steve Martin fans in our household (how could we not?!).  If you’re not familiar with it, Steve Martin’s character, George Banks, has to navigate through a midlife crisis when he finds out his newly married daughter (see Father of the Bride: Part 1 for more) breaks the news of being pregnant.  Shortly after, he finds out his own wife is pregnant which leads to great hilarity.  Seriously, there are some truly quotable lines to be stockpiled.

Based on the great amount of information I’ve learned about pregnancy, labor, and birth, I am rolling my eyes at what was “taught” to me about these things by movies and television shows.  I get it of course.  Conflict and drama are needed so they are manufactured for our viewing enjoyment.  As we all know though, real life follows a less scripted path.

My wife and I have a specific birthing plan and we are definitely not in a constant state of anxiety.  We’ve done the research and practical preparation necessary to make this a smooth process.  This does however put us in a state of “calm before the storm” sort of way, lol.  That storm being the day our family goes from two to three.

You can expect a similar thought towards movies and television when we get into the toddler years of our little boy.  I know all about the terrible twos but I’m an optimist by nature (always been a glass half full kind of guy).  So, I will believe, trust, and have faith that the “horror” stories are not my or my wife’s cup to bear.  Trials and difficulties are a given because there will be unforeseen things that fall in our path but nothing we can’t handle.

The calm is here but won’t last.  Hope you all have a great week!  At any moment, I could sign off for my baby blog break.

Call to Action:  I’m hoping April 1st will be the big day so please join me in my hope.  I can only begin to imagine the shenanigans that can be gotten into if my son’s birthday is April Fool’s Day.

What to Write?

I’ve been watching the writing business from afar for a few months now (like fifteen+ months if I’m being honest) and I’ve been keeping close eye on the fantasy genre.  Mostly, I do this because I’m curious as to what is coming out.  I’m especially curious about the kind of fantasy getting published.

I guess the risk in this is being influenced to touch a specific kind of fantasy or subgenre just to be relevant or “buy worthy”.  I never wanted to do this as I grew as a writer but anytime you write a genre, some of those traditional or cliche elements bleed through.  It happens and there’s balance that I have to find.

For myself, I love the genre but have always followed the advice, “Write what you want to read,” first.  I admit wanting to explore other genres but I find myself encouraged and excited to hit the keyboard every day.  If nothing else, I think I need to keep on that path.

Little side note, I was working on my book yesterday and finally put in some much-needed fixes for my magic system.  For nine years I have sort of known about this problem and overlooked it.  Not because I just waved it away but because I trusted the solution would present itself.  I didn’t know it would be so many years but it finally came.  There’s a long exhale that comes when something glaring in the whole story finally gets fixed by your own hand and not by someone you’re trying to impress, hahaha!

Things are sharpening and shapening up.  A few more things on my list to do.  It’s a marathon that I plan to finish.  I’m a bit slower than I hoped but I hold steady.

Call to Action:  Whoa dang… we are a week and a half away from baby time.  I’m asking for prayers and encouragement for patience these last few days.  Go ahead and include my wife in there too.  She’s ready for this baby boy to be out!

Life’s Subtle Snaps

We are two weeks away from the due date for our baby boy to join us.  The wait has been both fast and slow depending on the day.  My wife and I are anxiously being patient.  I feel like bragging on my wife a bit (I enjoy doing so whenever I can).  She has been amazing throughout the whole pregnancy.  Not only has she not experienced any morning sickness and barely any nausea (I keep my hard-boiled eggs far from her, hahaha!), but she has maintained a continuous healthy lifestyle throughout.  I have not made any midnight runs to Taco Bell or Baskin Robbins (honestly, if you know her, it would be the end of the world for her to even have the slightest bit of temptation for these things).  Besides her being too hot at night and eating all of our almonds and cashews, there have been no problems.  She’s been amazing in every way.

We think we’re as prepared as we can be all things considered.  The nursery is mostly put together and I still need to assemble the bassinet and install the car seat in the car, but we’re getting close to the finish line.  Life is good and this new season for us is strictly reserved for devoting ourselves to being the best parents we can be.  Everything else is taking a bit of a backseat on the priority list.

Even in this though, I need to maintain sanity and peace.  I find these best in doing the things I love.  Books, movies, and music remain my points of solidarity.  Writing is in there too but you all know that.

I’m currently reading a few books that may or may not end up on my April Newsletter (sign up if you haven’t yet).  Included in this list is Nicolas Eames’s Kings of the Wyld, which is a fantasy book I can only describe as part grimdark and part humor.  Eames does some interesting things with the genre and my lack of details should tell you it will more than likely be reviewed in full in my newsletter.  Other than that, I’ve gone through a few audiobooks that were okay but nothing that blew my hair back.  I do have an audiobook that I am extremely excited about called Cardboard Gods and deals with the author’s telling his story through his collection of baseball cards.  If you don’t remember, I have been collecting sports cards most of my life and I have a great desire to listen to his story.

For movies, I’ve still been trying to watch several films from 2017 that have gotten a lot of attention during the awards season.  I haven’t seen very many that I thought lived up to the acclaim.  One I did recently watch though that I thought was an amazing film was Wind River.  It is not an easy film to watch and recommend you be aware that the content is for adults.  The acting is superb by all the actors and the cinematography is exquisite.  If you like crime drama/thrillers, I highly recommend it.  Other than that, my wife and I have been revisiting movies from our youth.  Steven Spielberg’s Hook brought us back to childhood bliss and we quoted the movie, recalling how much Robin Williams was a master at what he did best: bringing joy and laughter wherever he went.

When it comes to music, I am all over the place.  Sometimes, I get pulled into a particular genre or artist and do not stop listening for weeks.  Recently, I’ve been glued to Haim’s “Something to Tell You” album as well as anything X Ambassadors puts out (I am counting down the days until their new album “Joyful” is released).  I can never pin down what in music captures my heart.  Believe it or not, I don’t think I could ever review a song or album, which I’ll simply explain is due to my lack of music theory understanding.  I like what I like.

Other than all this, I’m staying busy with my day job and various other things.  My wife has been good about keeping me patient and encouraged with my book, reminding me that I shouldn’t put pressure on myself to do things that would prevent me from being present with her and our son.  I agree and will continue to work, being okay if my plans get pushed out.  I still have time.

Call to Action:  Just a reminder that I will be stepping back from writing after this month.  I will do posts every five days with the first coming on the 5th of the month.  However, I will be taking two weeks off from writing anything when the baby is born.  So, if the baby is born April 4th (his actual due date), I will not post until the 20th.  Make sure to sign up for the newsletter though.  I fully intend to send that out April 30th to subscribers.

Sunday Levity: Book Store Signs

posted in: Books, Life, Reading, Sunday Levity | 4


I’ve decided if I ever own a business, it will be a bookstore. I may even look at investing in a bookstore when I retire.  If I do, it will be vibrant with sarcasm, puns, and general book humor.  You know it will.  Put it in the ground, pour water on it, and let the sun shine, I will own a bookstore when I retire.

Also, I will have a coffee bar, writing corner for writers, and plenty of reading nooks and couches.  Invest now!

Godless Review: No Spoilers

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

I have a strange relationship with westerns.  I didn’t grow up watching them and would probably consider Kevin Costner’s “Wyatt Earp” (a whopping 3 hr film) my first real exposure to the genre (I still have a love for this film that most people don’t.  I blame it on the fact that Tombstone was rated R and therefore I was not allowed to watch it back in the early 90s).  Over the years, though, I’ve watched more westerns and grown to enjoy the genre as a whole, but only if it has a few key elements.

Netflix’s “Godless” encapsulates everything I want as a viewer.  It has grit and grime of what I consider a great western.  Sometimes, westerns don’t feel right to me.  I expect and imagine frontier life was not clean or easy.  Sometimes, westerns feel too…shiny.  Instead, I want to feel every piece of granule of discomfort that I believe life was back during that time.  Few luxuries could be found.  “Godless” delivers on all fronts.

Set mostly in New Mexico back in the late 1800s, we are introduced to territory that is for lack of a better word, godless.  The law is sparse as the military is spread thin over the west and outlaws run rampant.  The most notorious is Frank Griffon.  With a group of twenty plus men, he is searching for Roy Goode who betrayed him and stole a great deal of money from the group.  Frank is injured and forced to hold off his search while Roy runs.

Most of the story takes place in the small mining town of La Belle where the population was cut in half a year prior when all the men who worked in the town’s mine died due to an accident.  Made up now of mostly women, children, and a few older men, the town is struggling financially.  We are introduced to a great many characters who round out a strong cast.  Aside from the beautiful cinematography and great casting, it’s the weight of the conflict that drives the story.

Every major and even some of the minor characters are fleshed out very well.  You sympathize with several (good or bad) and find yourself engrossed in what will happen.  The show takes several twists and turns, leaving you shocked that what you expected of a western is not the case.  Like I said, I want to feel every granule of sand and gunpowder and “Godless” throws it at you.  The action is felt more than just watched.

As for inspiring me as a writer, there were small elements for character building that I latched onto.  Just small details that I noticed and even if I pointed that out as something that is perfect for characters development, some people might look at me like I was a nerd (and I am but that’s besides the point).

I would be absolutely fine and satisfied with only one season of “Godless” and it ends in a manner that closes out the show in a satisfying way.  However, I would not hesitate to watch more of this unforgiving world.  If you are a fan of shows like Deadwood or Hell on Wheels, you’ll enjoy this one.

Call to Action:  I’m looking for beta readers for my book.  If interested, please let me know.  If you know of anyone who has done good work as a beta reader for other writers, please pass the word along.  It helps if you are well-read but you do not necessarily need to be a huge fan of fantasy.  Thanks!

Bitter Truths: Self-Editing

Just as it has taken years for me to learn and find my writing voice, it takes just as much time to find the self-editor’s touch.  I wrote a post last year about my editing process and as I’ve gotten further into the process, getting closer to looking for an agent, I’ve learned a few things that expand that process.  Sometimes, I forget that it’s never as cut and dry as I would hope.

I know what it is to pay a professional editor to put their hand on my writing but when dealing with a manuscript of 250k+ words, you can easily see why financially, it’s near impossible for me to take that course.  The cheapest editor I found was cents per word.  It adds up quick (trust me).  So, I have to trust my own abilities and also that of the few beta readers I’ve been able to work with.

Besides just the grammatical issues a writer has to deal with (run-on sentences, comma splices, split infinitives, etc.), I have to focus on consistency throughout the story and its three major viewpoints.  I have close to 50 secondary characters who speak (a rough guess on that number) and maybe double the number of tertiary characters who are mentioned by description and limited dialogue.  Not only do I need to make sure all of these maintain their descriptive elements, but there’s also the customs, history, and societies that have to be consistent.  As you can imagine, this is time consuming when editing.

Hence, my delay and taking longer than expected to begin sending out my query letters.  Not to mention the arrival of our first born in less than a month.  By the way, I’m not complaining about any of this.  I just wanted to make clear why things are moving slower than I had hoped when laying out my goals at the beginning of the new year.  It’s tough but not heartbreaking, hahaha.  I’ll adjust and get to these writing goals when I can.

It’s not crazy or even hard to admit that once the baby joins us, I will re-prioritize.  He will be number one and he should be.  I have waited a long time to be a father and not even my dream of being published would interfere with my heart and desire to be a capable and good father.  In fact, I trust that timing and seasons are always meant for my well-being and growth.  Entering parenthood now (so close to finishing and being satisfied with my novel) will have an impact on me as a person and therefore on me as a writer.

Call to Action:  I finally finished the show, Godless, on Netflix.  Check it out!  Highly recommended.  In fact, I think my next blog post will be a full review.

Forever Re-watchable – When Harry Met Sally

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

When Harry Met Sally is a film I never watched as a kid (for good reason since it’s subject matter is best reserved for adults).  All I knew about it was the infamous restaurant scene (you know the one).  So it was never on my radar growing up but I eventually found it when I got older and once I did, I have faithfully watched it at least 2-3 times a year.

Let’s go over the premise.  Two newly graduated college students who don’t know each other but are moving to New York City to pursue very different career paths wind up driving from Chicago to the Big Apple.  Along the way, they realize they are very different and do not foresee any chance of a relationship.

Over the next several years, they cross paths, catch up on life, and separate once again.  After they both have failed long term relationships, they cross paths in a bookstore (there is no better place to meet people) and begin spending time together, letting a friendship grow naturally.  There’s a mutual understanding that neither is interested romantically as they each pursue separate relationships.

Well, as fate (and a bit of natural biology) would have it, things change and love blossoms.  Honestly, if this a spoiler, it’s your own fault that you haven’t treated yourself to this gem of a film.  Love comes and we see these friends we’ve been rooting for the entire film finally end up together.

I can’t remember my exact age when I watched this great movie for the first time but I’m sure it was during my film revival era (see my previous post O Brother Where Art Thou?).  I remember being captivated by the characters and their journey to love.  The acting by stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan simply make this film work.  The direction by Rob Reiner and writing by Nora Ephron are just as superb but without the chemistry of Crystal and Ryan, this movie doesn’t last and maintain its longevity.

On rainy days, this is the movie my wife and I turn to.  For whatever the reason, the setting of New York City always seems like Fall.  This aesthetic is like a secondary character.  The colors of Autumn lead us along the advancement of Harry and Sally’s long season of friendship.  All you need is a blanket and a hot beverage (preferably coffee) to cuddle and laugh.

Quotability.  This film is rife with quotable lines.  If you know me and spend any long amount of time with me, then you know I love to quote movies (I’m not the greatest at the quote game but I love to play).  From the obscure quotes like, “You know, I have a theory that hieroglyphics are just an ancient comic strip about a character named Sphinxy,” to the best known, “I’ll have what she’s having”, there are too many moments to mention without just putting the movie on.

Call to Action:  If you haven’t seen When Harry Met Sally, I highly recommend it.  If you have, then I highly recommend you watch it on a rainy day.

Blog Changes Announcement

After giving it some extended consideration, I’ve decided to make some changes to my blog post schedule.  While I’ve enjoyed providing roughly ten blog posts a month, that number will be cut in half starting next month.  The simple reason is I will have a newborn and I cannot quite determine or guess what my schedule and capacity will be for producing posts on a regular basis.

So, starting in April I will be posting every fifth day of the month (5, 10, 15, etc.).  Nothing else will change.  You all will continue to get my musings on writing, storytelling, films, and so on.  The Shoals to the Hallowed flash fiction posts will continue to be posted on the last post of the month.

Also, with the end of April fast approaching, I will be working on the first newsletter of the year.  You can definitely expect baby news in that one, hahaha!  And at least a dozen pics of cuteness!

As for my book, life and its interruptions have slowed my plans.  Often, and other writers can attest to this, our schedules are somewhat cracked and tossed about like a ball by the unexpected.  My last bit of editing touches have taken longer and some minor additional fixes need to be in place before I’m satisfied with it.

The goal for the year remains to be agent querying and I am working at getting there.  My wife and I have even bought a desk for the living room where I plan on seating myself in order to focus my mind.  I’ve noticed I struggle to stay focused if I remain on the couch while trying to work.  Even if the tv is off, I think I associate that position with fixed relaxation rather than active creation.

I’m continually thankful to everyone who reads, comments, and encourages me as I pursue my dream of publication.  You help me push forward.

Call to Action: Seeing as how there will be fewer bits of content in the future, I am pushing my newsletter more.  There may be more meat in it seeing as how I will want to make it more appealing.  So, if you haven’t signed up for it and want to get exclusive book reviews and Shoals to the Hallowed short stories that specifically to fill the gaps in the flash fiction, please sign up!  It’s easy and free!

Black Panther Review – No Spoilers

posted in: Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 0

Every year, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) expands further and deeper.  We are currently in the thralls of Phase 3 with the end of that phase, Infinity War (Part 1 and 2), fast approaching.  Since Iron Man hit theaters in the early 2000s, we’ve received new characters with unique and interesting back stories, conflicts, and victories each new year.  Some of these stories delve heavily into the Infinity Stone arc, which will act as the finale of Phase 3 and toss us into Phase 4 (however it all ends, who can say?).

Black Panther is the most recent of the MCU titles and we are launched into a fascinating world that has not been seen but has been alluded to.  In Captain America: Civil War (or Avengers 2.5 as I like to call it), we are introduced to T’Challa who is the son of the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda.  T’Challa’s father is killed in an explosion and we get our first look at the Black Panther as he pursues and looks to apprehend the man responsible for killing his father.  We don’t get much else of a backstory for Black Panther but the introduction does what it needs to: get us excited and interested in the new character.

My wife and I took in Black Panther opening weekend and we both really enjoyed the film.  It was not so much an origin story as it was a continuation of what happened in Civil War.  We were introduced to a beautiful and vibrant world in the Wakanda setting.  Several tribes of distinct peoples allow us to see the inner workings of the history and culture.  We see technology that has been widely kept secret in order to keep the countries resources from being spread to the outside world (mainly for military purposes).  Finally, we are exposed to a power struggle of self when a new king is forced to make difficult decisions and question whether or not the way of the past is the right way to proceed into the future.

Visually, the movie is stunning.  We get both strong and conflicted characters (male and female are equally portrayed, which is always a pleasure).  The action is fast and visceral.  Humor falls in place when needed and does not feel forced to add levity when it’s not needed.  The villains are memorable and just as conflicted as the heroes.  My only gripe has to do with the CGI.  Sometimes, it does not feel as seamless as you would hope in the final cut of a film of this caliber.  Maybe a bit nitpicky but I did notice it a few times)

Overall, I really enjoyed the film and messages it conveyed.  The importance of family and fathers was especially poignant.  Just like last year’s Coco, I cannot help but be drawn into a story that explores the need for family and remembering where you came from.  As we gear up towards Infinity War with stories focused on broader levels, it is always refreshing to see these more condensed stories.  We need more of them and I hope they continue to be made and shared.

Call to Action:  You know what I’m going to say here!  Go see it!  Judge for yourself.  Don’t be led one way or another on films just because of critics.  If you’re initially drawn and interested, take a friend or loved one to the cinema for a few hours.

Flash Fiction: Shoal Cursed

Cursed.  There could be no greater punishment than to be Shoal cursed.  The Shoals were an enigma even after centuries of use by the Wielders.  Books were written and burned, corrected and ink-blotted.  Some claimed the Shoals could not be properly studied or analyzed due to their volatility.  None, not even the most elder and strongest of Wielders in history dared spend more than a few minutes in their Shoal for fear of madness, death, or worse.

Therefore, the practice of Shoalways and cuts–the smallest openings necessary to wield the harbored power–were all that was allowed.  Not even the maddest of Wielders would dare risk oblivion to the world by creating a rift in the fabric between realms.  Shoals themselves were volatile and treacherous yet somehow, for some reason, the Hallowed allowed such interference.  Was there an answer to why?

Oran sat in the alleyway with his back pressed into the jagged stone wall, alone in the early morning, quarreling with himself over this matter.  His mind was a stall of angry bulls kicking and gorging wherever they could to come out the victor.  His clothes were little more than tatters after weeks of running and hiding from enemies.  His stink was enough to make the dogs sniff and leave him alone.  Food had to be stolen unless he risk returning to his home.

The streets of Breshtk carried no truths to the whereabouts and condition of Queen Erise.  Rumors dripped with uncertainty and dubious details.  She was seen alive in the village of Bolle or dead, executed by a mob of angry farmers on the Trader’s Road.  One rumor even claimed she returned to the palace accompanied by a small cadre of Wielders, killing everyone due to Shoal madness.  Oran deciphered no truth from any of the stories.

He had to find her.  The Wielder, Delya Glasene, could not be trusted.  He convinced himself of that now.  His duty called him beyond this impasse.  Destiny demanded his action.  He stood, looking out into the busy square.  None so much as glanced his way.  To their uncaring eyes, he was another beggar.  Not the Breshtk Battle Lord, Oran Ki’Tanil.

The rumors needed to be sifted through.  He needed viable information to move beyond the uncertainty.  He flexed his hands, stretched his arms, legs, and back before considering his lone belongings.  Bundled in scraps of firewood, his named swords lay in wait despite his fear of touching them.  Shoal-cursed things should not be handled carelessly.

In Search of a Quiet Place

Why is it so hard to find a quiet place, absent of all other people of the human race?  You’d think I could find a spot where I can sit down with my book and read it out loud without another soul within listening distance.  Alas (yes, I use this word often), it seems forever unattainable.

You might be asking why this is so important to me.  Seems kind of silly to be obsessed (your word, not mine) to find a place of seclusion.  Well, it’s part insecurity on my part and part the need for peace as I audibly dissect what I’ve written, only ever hearing it in the echo dome of my head so far.  Hearing my story out loud is just another step towards polishing it before sending out those inquiry letters to agents.

The next question one might ask is what my ideal location would be to endure this endeavor?  I’ve been thinking about this for over a week and I think the best I can come up with is a space with sunlight, quality air flow, a kitchen, and as much coffee and donuts as I can stomach.  Okay, okay.  No donuts.  I don’t need those delicious morsels of self-hatred (that’s my special name for donuts whenever I succumb to their temptation).  I keep thinking a basement or office space would work for my reading needs but that’s only because I don’t have access to a cabin out in the woods (too many horror movies prevent me from going in search of such a place).

So I’m still working on it.  I can’t do this in the peace and quiet of my own apartment because I have a neighbor above us who finds it his sole purpose in life to watch tv all day and speak in volumes usually reserved for professional sporting events.  Oh, and he has a lady friend who is equally loud to which every time I hear her laugh I ask what’s that sound and my wife says, “Those are the shrieking eels”.

I’m open to ideas.  If anyone has a basement, attic, and/or guest house they don’t mind me vacating for free for a few hours at a time, I would be forever grateful.  Tell you what, I’ll offer you a once in a lifetime Amazon gift card for your graciousness too.  Only caveat is you have to buy a book(s) with it.  HA!

Call to Action:  If you have any other suggestions for me, feel free to share.  I’m not quite desperate yet but I’m fast approaching!

So Long Rut!

See, it goes away sometimes faster than it comes.  The writing rut has dissipated and I’m back to feeling productive.  Unfortunately, I have been hit by a minor cold, so I’ve tired and going to bed earlier than normal.

The final touches on my current draft of my book are taking longer than expected (big shocker there).  My wife and I have been putting baby things as priority one and they need to be.  Preparing for the baby’s arrival continues to require more planning and preparation than I expected but I think it’s been good for us.  We’re making room and getting ourselves mentally prepared as well.

We started birth classes and I’ve been learning a ton.  Like, seriously, birth is more than what the movies and tv show you (another shocker, I know).  We’ve got to make a birthing plan, get furniture, clothes, and all the other baby accoutrement as well.  It’s a not a simple endeavor, which I guess doesn’t surprise me.  This little person is introduced to the world and we are tasked to make sure it survives, grows, and strengthens until it can be a self-sufficient entity.  No pressure, right?

I also had the fun experience of watching childbirth videos last week.  We are planning on doing a natural childbirth at a birthing center and after watching the differences between a hospital birth and birthing center birth, I get the appeal.  To each their own, I’m just surprised the more I learn about the process and benefits of one over the other.

So we’re a few weeks away from our new roommate’s arrival and we’re getting more and more excited.  I am preparing as best as I can for being elbows deep into diapers, vomit, and lack of sleep.  I’ve wanted kids for a long time and at 33, I’m ready to say hello to parenthood.

Call to Action:  I watched Shape of Water in my pursuit to watch the more recognized and acclaimed movies of 2017.  Yeah, I didn’t get this one.  It was a somewhat original story.  The aesthetics were probably the best part while the acting was good as well but I don’t see the Best Picture there.  Anybody else see it?  If so, help me see where I missed it.

Reading Goals for 2018

posted in: Books, Fantasy, Reading | 2

Aside from my writing and life goals for the year, I also have a reading goal.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I use Goodreads.com to track the books I read for the year.  It’s an amazing site and provides so much great information on books.  I can get lost looking through the recommended sections because they provide many suggestions of books that are not bestsellers or mainstream titles.

This year, I’ve dropped my goal from 50 books to 30 books.  But I don’t want to just read 30 random books.  I want to expand on the quality of books I’m reading.  No matter what, I can read fantasy.  It’s not even hard for me to find books in my preferred genre but I continue to think and encourage myself to read more outside of my comfort and preference.

Last year, I was happy to explore more contemporary fiction and biographies.  I was pleasantly surprised by some of the books I read and if you are signed up for my newsletter, you saw many of those reviewed and recommended.  (Also, you should sign up for my newsletter if you haven’t yet.)

This year, I’d like to include some classic literature into my reading.  There are tons of titles to choose from so I will have quite a few to pick through.  Whether it’s Dickens or Hemingway, I’d like to read books from eras I’m not familiar with and see what I can glean from them as a modern day writer.  What lessons can I learn?  What can I learn from their use of language?  Can I find something to implement into my own writing?  These are all viable questions and I think there’s a sense of honoring those who came before me that I’ve never taken advantage of before.  It would be a crime not to dive into the pages of the classics just because I might believe there’s nothing to be gained, which is unabashedly not true.  With a little opening of my mind, I think I can come away appreciating the history of fiction.

Call to Action: Throw a recommendation at me!  I promise you, I haven’t read much when it comes to the classics besides Shakespeare’s plays.  I’m open to everything!

Nothing to Say Here

posted in: Editing/Revision, Life, Writing | 0

Sometimes I run into a wall and struggle to write.  I don’t think it’s writer’s block.  Instead, it’s a lack of inspiration or desire to write.  This is not the first time and it won’t be the last.  For whatever the reason (one day, I’ll figure out the cause and give it a good kickin’) I look at the page whether it’s blank or full and just say, “Meh…”.

Now, I’ve come across other writers on social media who describe this similar phenomena.  It’s nice to know I’m not the only one and there are quotes upon quotes of encouraging words out there to lend a helping hand to writers struggling to do what they love.  Sometimes these words help me but sometimes they leave me unmoved.

I don’t know if there’s any sure way to push through the funk, but I’ve found that I personally need to let it run its course.  The moment of inspiration will come and I’ll feel propelled, set afire to get to typing.  Until then, though, I’ve learned to simply let myself be okay with not being the typing terror (worst super villain name ever) that I’ve been the last few months.  The mind and creative muscles need a break and I think it’s healthy to allow a little reprieve now and again.

This does affect my editing plans a bit but blogging helps me micro-stretch my writing muscles.  I’m reading and listening to music and podcasts in the meantime, hoping inspiration will come.  I also wonder if my mind is preoccupied with other things (a mere seven weeks away from our new roommates arrival!).  The goal remains the same for the year but I’m not one to think I need to lay down strict red lines (aka deadlines) to meet those goals.  Sure, sooner rather than later is important but I also need to be aware of my need to take breaks and rest in the writing process.

Call to Action:  Don’t forget to do your taxes (bet you didn’t expect that one!).

Keeping Focused Through Busyness

posted in: Film/TV, Life, Writing | 2

Yes, it’s February and I’m “behind”.  I need to be better about not saying I want to have X finished or done by X.  It doesn’t seem to work for me and I feel like a fool afterwards.  I should simply state my goals without dates attached.

I am still working on my book and finishing up the final polishes while preparing my list of agents to query.  Everything is moving forward on that front and I’m still going through the “read out loud” stage of the book but it’s a slower process than I realized (shocker, I know).

Other than all that, I was a bit busy towards the end of the month helping relocate my grandparents from my hometown to Vegas.  This was not emotional at the time (I had the mindset of it needing to be done and I wanted to help my parents out as much as I could, which called for me to go to Vegas).  Now, it is a bit more emotional as I look at their house (the only one I’ve ever known) stripped of everything that was them.  All the furniture, wall décor, etc.  I might need to do a separate blog post about my relationship with my grandparents.  That one will be even more emotional and would require some personal details (no promises, but maybe).

The move went smooth but it also meant my wife and I were not able to work on the apartment purge and preparation we’ve been working on for the baby.  Speaking of the baby, we are two months away!  Whoa…  How?

Have I mentioned yet that getting everything you need for a baby is a daunting task for first time parents?  All you parents out there are nodding and saying, “Just you wait.”  I get it!  Well, we are having a heck of a time with this but I trust in our ability to prepare.  My wife is an amazing researcher and very good at finding the best quality (seriously, why would you not want to find, get, and hope for the best for your kids?).  I admit, I’m not the best when it comes to researching for products.  I look at consumer reports and I get a headache pretty quickly.  But I’m baby stepping (pun!) through this process.

The baby shower is also fast approaching, which will be fun.  Then my sister will be coming into town at the end of the month and that’s always a good time.  The obligatory Nacho Libre quote comes to mind:  “My life is good. Real good.”

Call to Action:  While in Vegas, I found the time to watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.  It’s up for Best Picture and seems to be a frontrunner for the award.  It’s a rough movie at times but very well done.  Beautiful and graphic.  I get why it’s getting praise and recognition.  I would not put it in my Top Ten of 2017 Movies list but I will say it was an amazing film with powerful performances.

Another Superb Owl Watched

posted in: Film/TV, Life, Music, Sports | 1

I’ve been a fan of sports ever since I can remember.  I have vivid memories of watching Michael Jordan and the Bulls winning the NBA Championship in 1993, the 49ers (my favorite football team) winning the Super Bowl in 1995, and the Atlanta Braves winning the World Series in 1995.  I’ve followed all the major sports at one point or another in my life and depending on the decade, have a ridiculous amount of sports trivia logged away in my brain where math and science should be stored.

I watched the Super Bowl this last Sunday and found myself feeling okay with the outcome either way.  This was mostly because neither team is the 49ers so I’m not invested.  The game was exciting and I enjoyed the commercials (more funny and apolitical make for better ads in my opinion).  I drank 805 and had some very tasty chili a friend of mine made (I’ll happily mention she requested my own chili recipes for guidance).  What’s better than that?

I haven’t talked much about sports on my blog, focusing mostly on writing and storytelling but I want to branch out more this year.  I’m fairly certain those of you who come to read my blog posts won’t mind if I stray into other topics.  As I’ve said before, to know me is to read me.  I don’t think you can know me unless you understand sports have a special place in my heart.  I played basketball in a city league and in school most of my life and while basketball was my preferred sport, I have strayed more to football and baseball in recent years.

I love talking sports with others.  I take pride in my ability to understand the rules, history, and cultural impact sports have in our lives.  I’ve often joked that there is nothing more divisive in the world than religion, politics, and sports.  You know them.  Those people who are such die-hard fans that they ooze fandom, secreting love for their team and vitriol for every other team.

I admit, I was one of these fans a few years back when the 49ers became very prevalent and had a great team again.  I have apologized to my wife since then because I was quite the turd if my team lost and far too emotionally invested in their success.  After a few bad years recently, I’ve realized my unhealthy fandom and hopefully righted the ship.  That is until they’re good again…and they might be this next season (Jimmy GQ!).

What I find so interesting is how sports shape us.  As children, the game is fun and we learn how to be team players (hopefully).  We get to run around outside and compete and learn some valuable social skills in the process.  In adulthood, many of us realize we will probably not play professionally and we live vicariously through our favorite players and/or teams.  For me, sports can serve as more than entertainment and I hope to teach my kids that once they’re old enough to make a decision to play sports or not.  Until then, I

Call to Action:  Those fricking Tide ads won the Super Bowl.  Watch and enjoy one of my favorites!

Forever Re-watchable: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

I love talking about movies (if you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you’ll have guessed that).  One great thing about movies for me is how re-watchable they are.  There are some that I can watch once (looking at you Fight Club and every Tarantino film ever) and be fine with never seeing it again.  Then there are those others that are gems in my eyes.  I can always watch them.  It doesn’t matter my mood or the day, throw it on the flat screen and I’m willing to lend precious hours of the day to it.

This kind of post will likely become a new monthly staple because I think the movies that are your favorites say a lot about you.  The movies that are most re-watchable for me can be for any number of reasons and it’s not limited to popular comedies or action movies.  If you were to look at my movie collection, you’d nod in agreement, shake your head in bewilderment, and want to smack me at the sight of too many Michael Bay films (13 Hours is a brilliant film that I will never apologize for having in my collection).

As you already know by the title, “O Brother, Where Art Though” is one of the most re-watchable movies for me.  It might surprise you though that I avoided it when it first came out in 2000.  There were multiple reasons for this.  I was a freshman in high school and truly lacked any sensible taste in movies, I was not a fan of George Clooney who I had only previously seen in the nightmare that was Batman and Robin (holy bat-nipples Batman!), and I didn’t like the “Man of Constant Sorrows” song (my taste in music was up there in my taste of movies in the year 2000:  Sour and bitter, lol).

So, it wasn’t until after high school circa 2004-05ish that I finally saw the film.  I was at my grandparents’ house while a bunch of extended family was in town for a holiday (probably Thanksgiving or Christmas) and the decision was made to watch a movie.  Now, my grandparents didn’t have many movies.  In fact, I am fairly certain they possessed two movies in my entire lifetime:  Fantasia and O Brother, Where Art Thou?.

The latter movie was picked and I grumbled under my breath because I was a punk (sour and bitter).  The movie’s going and I realize pretty quickly that I’m actually enjoying the movie a lot.  The dialogue is quick and fluid, the humor is subtle and on point, and the music is unlike anything I had really heard up until that point.  What was happening?  Well, I was acclimating to a brilliant film.

The Coen Brothers are masterful storytellers.  I will eventually write a blog post just on them as filmmakers but for now, I have to sing their praise for just this single film.  I know it’s strange but I truly do believe that they had a hand in what I will call my cinephile birth.  Thinking back now, I can truthfully pinpoint this experience with “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” as the moment when I began to appreciate film for more than just entertainment value.

For me, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” is forever re-watchable.  I love the pace, the quotability , and cinematography equally.  I think you have to love every aspect of a film in order to be able to always be in the mood for it.  There has to be this sense of, “I will feel better if I watch this.  It will make me happy and last with me the rest of the day”.  And this film does this every time.

Call to Action:  Let me know what you think of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”  If you haven’t watched it before, I highly recommend you do so now.  Is it a favorite or one that’s just okay in your book?

Flash Fiction: Old Wolves

Bramble crunched underneath the wagon wheels of the merchant train.  No rain had touched this part of the world in months.  The city of Rastome was still days away according to the mile markers painted on heavy rocks set alongside the Sael Highway.

In the days since leaving the capital city, Charun, Barston kept to himself and followed orders.  He along with the other hired guards were mostly ignored by their merchant employer whose name was Lavan Pahl.  It was Pahl’s partner, Freilas Atruam, who bore the signs of a former soldier giving most of the commands to the hired men.

Barston found himself drawn to Freilas as if he knew the older man all his life.  Thin but strong, bearing dark skin and stony eyes, he moved as if the world could not contain him.  A deadliness inhabited him as well.  Adept with a bow and sword alike, he did not waver when the first group of road bandits attacked the previous day.

They lost two of the hired guards during the scuffle while two others had to be put on litters much to the chagrin of Pahl.  Freilas had a way of explaining and calming his partner, which the guards appreciated after realizing Pahl played to loose and free with his mule whip.  Barston believed there to be a great story behind Freilas’ life and wanted to know it.  Was their shame?  Dishonor?  If so, he had found peace.  Barston cared little for such a gift for himself but to see it in Freilas made him curious.

When Freilas came alongside him all of a sudden, Barston forced himself to relax.  The older man did not engage in private conversations unless a reprimand was coming.

“The men say you did not draw your sword yesterday.”  Freilas’ voice was like ice sliding against a boulder.  Up close, the smell roasted red root was undeniable and was the obvious reason for the man’s voice.  Smoking the crushed pieces of red root was not kind to the throat.

Barston swallowed.  “I didn’t need to draw it.  My dagger did just fine.”

Freilas gave him a sidelong look.  “You don’t happen to be one of those pit fighters back in the capital, are you?”

The smile could not be kept away.  “No,” Barston said.  “Just one who knows when a dagger’s reach will suffice.”

“Hmm.  Lavan wants me to have you punished.  Don’t worry; it won’t happen.  You may be reckless but you managed to gut two of the road rats with that short steel.  Make sure you don’t hesitate to draw the long blade next time.  I’ll be watching then.  You can’t be blade shy these days.”

He separated from Barston and quickened to the front of the train.  The exhale of breath did not leave Barston feeling better.  His eyes darted about the countryside, hoping to the Hallowed they would not be attacked again.

Collector at Heart

posted in: Life | 0

As my wife and I prepare for the baby (April is fast approaching!), much of our preparation is making space.  We’ve lived in our apartment our entire marriage and that’s years of acquiring stuff.  However, as would be expected, a purge is needed.

I admit, I’m not the best at de-cluttering.  Much of that comes from my dad who is the same way.  We have similar mindsets of “I don’t need this now but I may need it in the future”.  Not an excuse for our behavior but just a way of thinking that not everyone else has (my wife being one of them).  I’m thankful my wife is not like me in this way because we’d have a heck of time getting rid of stuff.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this though.  Much of my behavior comes from being a collector.  I’ve collected sports cards since I was probably seven years old.  While cards have been my most consistent item of preference, I have collected everything from comics to pogs (showing my age with that one but yes, I was a major pogs nerd).  Later in life, I’ve come to add movies, records, and books into the mix.  These later items however do not hold the sentimental value that cards do for me.

Bless my wife for putting up with me.  The purge is happening and I know I need to make some tough decisions.  I’m writing about this because I don’t know what makes me this way.  I can’t figure out what pushes me in this direction.  When it comes to cards, I collect what I’m most interested in.  I’m not the type that goes after quantity but instead, what I will call selective quality.

I think I do it because it’s a stress reliever and maybe keeps me from boredom.  Now, I don’t think this necessarily always a good thing because I can easily waste my day away searching online, organizing, cataloguing, etc. my collections.  Since I’ve been married, I’ve had to make conscious adjustments to how I spend my time and sometimes that’s been easy while other times, it has been a little less easy.  I know and I’ve been telling myself for months now that I need to make more conscious effort and prepare myself when the baby is here because he will require a lot of my attention.

If I were a more selfish person, I might fight this but if marriage has taught me anything, it’s that it’s not all about me.  So, maybe my five plus years of marriage have actually been preparing me for this aspect of parenthood more than I ever realized.  My collecting habits won’t likely stop but I will adapt.

Call to Action:  Check out the show Godless on Netflix when you get a chance.  I’m a few episodes in and it’s very good.  Well-written and acted by all accounts and for some reason I love gritty westerns.

Disappointment: The Twists and Turns of Life

posted in: Life | 1

I’m sure you’ve all heard it before: “Life is full of disappointment”.  It’s like history’s first pessimist spread a virus, passed on from generation to generation.  We all get to hear the words and consciously or subconsciously accept it as truth.  Now before you think I’ve been struck by some kind of head trauma, I’m not saying disappointment is some mystic force jammed down our throats.  No, I’m saying we approach disappointment wrong.

Is disappointment inevitable?  I definitely think so but I’ve decided that I don’t want to live as if it is soul crushing when it happens.  Relationships, finances, career, society, etc.  All of these can cause disappointment in our lives.  A lot of times, it’s based on factors you can’t control or maybe choices you’ve made unaware of the outcome.  It comes and we face it.

I’m even beginning to wonder if disappointment is a reaction we’ve been “instituted” to have when life’s turns and twists take place.  If it is just a reaction similar to excitement or anger, then can it controlled?  If we have a choice in the matter, can we actually will ourselves to step back and not let the negative emotions that come with disappointment affect our outlook of the situation?

I don’t claim to have an answer (sorry, this is not a post with answers…just reflection).  What I can offer is my own battle with this.  Recent financial happenings in my life have gone in directions I did not anticipate.  I admit, I got down for a moment but I also know I can either wallow in the dust or stand and press on, in hope, believing victories will come.  It’s not always easy but doable.  If you are person of faith, then you would put that hope in God.  If not, then you would put that hope in yourself or maybe significant others in your life.  Either way, you are moving forward without letting disappointment convince you there is nothing better.

Too often we witness people we know either intimately or simply as acquaintances falter under disappointment.  Depending on the level, this can cripple dreams or make people look for help in various arenas.  My hope would be that we all stop responding to the unexpected in a way that would blind us to the opportunity to try again or make any adjustments needed to set the course right again.  For myself, I don’t want to miss the better parts of life because I convince myself something can’t be done or that I’m incapable of having an attitude and outlook that would see me above the trial.

Call to Action:  Look back at a recent disappointment (I’ve got a fresh one for myself) and seriously take a moment to examine it.  Write it all out as well and see if you can find the positive opportunities.  Sometimes we need to dissect the twists and turns to see other possible doorways.

Sunday Levity: Parenthood is Fast Approaching

posted in: Life, Sunday Levity | 0

Okay, so I was just surfing through Pinterest and found these.  I needed a good laugh and got it.

I have yet to find a way to prepare myself for the pee, poop, and puke smells I will be inundated with once the baby is here.  Maybe I should go to bars…


I need this mug as a simple reminder.  This is one thing that keeps my mind active every day.  I pray, “Dear God, please help me keep the baby alive.”

HAHAHA!  Yeah, I’m not prepared for when this starts happening.

So, I read this and lost it.  My wife was watching a video that was very much on the serious side and I had to apologize and explain why I suddenly fell into a laughing fit.  Try reading that and not using Liam Neeson’s voice in Taken.  So hard not to!

Call to Action:  Hope you all are having a great Sunday.  If you can, thank your parents for somehow maintaining enough self-control and not locking you in the bathroom for an hour’s worth of peace and quiet.

The Greatest Showman Makes the Top Ten List

posted in: Film/TV, Music, Review | 2

Well it didn’t take long but I’ve got to amend my Top Ten Movies of 2017 list.  My wife and I took in The Greatest Showman starring Hugh Jackman and an amazing, talented cast this last weekend and I came away extremely happy.

Musicals were not my thing growing up.  I was never a fan of Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, or The Sound of Music.  After thinking about why that is, I came to a somewhat simple conclusion: I didn’t like show tunes.  My tastes in music were never great as a kid.  Like most kids, you listen to what your parents like because they have control of the stereo and tape deck (yep, antiquated) in the car.  I have memories of country music, Amy Grant, and Paula Abdul.  Straight up.

It wasn’t until I got older that I started exploring music and finding what I liked.  I’ve got some truly cringe-worthy periods of music in my younger years (I’ll still argue that Creed’s first album is a great post-grunge alternative album to this day).  But, I digress.  Back to musicals.

Every once in a while, I did run into some musicals that I liked and could tolerate thanks to my sister.  Newsies being one of them.  Nowadays it’s a bit different.  I watch Grease and don’t hate it.  I watched the most recent Les Miserables and I didn’t hate it.  I’m intrigued by other musicals like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen.  Then there’s films like La La Land, Sing Street, and Begin Again.  I’m drawn to music and when it’s combined with film, I am like a moth to the flame.

So, The Greatest Showman was amazing and captivating.  I found myself smiling throughout the entire film and appreciating the production, acting, singing, and choreography throughout.  Man, do those songs stay in your head days after too!  I kept hearing the positive reviews and became more and more interested in seeing it.  So glad we went (we almost didn’t due to an already busy weekend).  Like I said, this has entered my Top Ten Films of 2017 and means something has to come off the list.  At this point, I don’t know which movie is being bumped but it’s got to be done.  Err…  Sorry, Gifted…  You’re being moved to the Runner-ups.

Call to Action:  Other than saying you should go to see The Greatest Showman, I’m curious which musicals people enjoy.  Film or stage doesn’t matter.

On This Day: 15 Jan 1985 – Ender’s Game First Published

posted in: Fantasy, On This Day, Reading, Review | 0

I’m not a big science fiction reader.  If you’ve been following me over the last year, I’ve made that pretty clear.  I don’t have a good reason for it except to say while I enjoy watching sci-fi movies, reading sci-fi is a struggle.

However, there is one sci-fi book that I love and cherish: Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.

I read Ender’s Game my freshman year of high school (this might have to do with my love for it since this is when I fell in love with reading in general).  My friends encouraged me to read it and I couldn’t put it down.  It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before and did not bore me to tears.

Andrew “Ender” Wiggins is the youngest of three children in a future where only two children are allowed per family.  All children are born with an implanted monitoring device, which is used by the government to pick out children they deem worthy of going to Battle School.  The children selected for such an honor are monitored and trained by the International Fleet (IF) in hopes to create new generations of soldiers to fight in an ongoing war with an alien race referred to as “Buggers”.

At Battle School, Ender makes friends and enemies as he tries to rise through the ranks despite his young age and small stature.  He is faced with challenge after challenge by the IF to see if he can withstand the pressure.  We follow his mistakes and victories (there are plenty of both) as he struggles not only physically but psychologically to be the best.

I continually find myself returning to this book.  I’ll often listen to the audiobook or watch the movie (this is not the greatest of adaptations but decent and worth watching) because I can’t help but engage in Ender’s story.  It’s a story that is complex without being overly complex.  I would argue it’s a grounded sci-fi, offering new ideas and advanced technology without inundating you with so much, you feel like your head will pop.

Call to Action: I highly recommend the book.  It’s not a long read and you’ll fall in love with Ender and some of the other characters.

Remiss to Reminisce

posted in: Life | 2

I turned thirty-three almost two weeks ago and I’m beginning to notice something as I get older (no, this won’t be a gripe session about unwanted ear hair).  I reminisce a lot.  And I mean more than I ever have before.  I’m sure this is a natural occurrence as we age but I do it especially with my long-time friends.

Recently though, I have been doing it on another level.  First, some background.  I grew up in a heavily Pentecostal church (with a brief stint in a non-denominational one) and was indoctrinated into the 90s church pop culture.  Yes, that’s a real thing.  This came with a bevy of things like no wearing hats in the sanctuary, not being allowed to listen to secular music (but we could watch secular movies), attending youth group, Sunday School, and Vacation Bible Schools in the summer, etc.  You get the picture.  It was a community and culture centered on religious practices of following the Bible.

Now, I am not bashing this.  I can honestly say that as I’ve gotten older, I have enormous appreciation for this experience as a kid and teenager.  Those long-time friends I mentioned before are ones I met at church.  I’m forever grateful for these friendships for many reasons.  I also have an appreciation for charity, community, music (church is what got me into playing drums and remains one of my greatest passions in life), and potlucks that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

I am thrust into the pool of reminiscing because my wife and I were recently turned onto a podcast called Good Christian Fun.  This podcast explores specific topics in Christian pop culture from music to movies that I grew up very familiar with.  So many of these have been like digging through my childhood.  Side note: the podcast doesn’t try to push you towards or pull you away from Christianity.  It simply explores the things of that time and their influence.

For the last two weeks, as I listen to these podcasts, I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood and how I have been shaped by those church experiences.  I’ll be honest, there are good and bad things.  I won’t delve deeper into that right now (maybe in the future but no promises) but it does have my wife and I exploring how we will raise our kids.  You want to learn from your mistakes and even from your successes and use that when practicing parenthood.

As I reminisce, I get the profound notion that doing so will pave the way towards helping me be a better husband, father, and person in general.  I have embarrassing stories up the wazoo that make me cringe to this day because I made decisions based on feelings or misgivings rather than knowledge and wisdom.  As a parent, I don’t want to follow that road.  Sure, there will be mistakes made along the way but I think I can avoid some by simply considering the past.

Call to Action:  Seriously, if you grew up in the church bubble in the late 80s, early 90s (I mean the days of DC Talk, Michael W. Smith, Left Behind, etc.), then you should check out the Good Christian Podcast.  You’ll laugh and shake your head many a times as you hear the references.

Rewriting the End…Again

Starting a story is easy for me.  I don’t know why but it just is.  The end?  Not so much.  I have yet to know the end of a story (I mean in the novella or novel form) before I start from the beginning.

For most of 2017 I have been working on my rewrite/edit of my book, So Speaks the Gallows (if you’ve been keeping up with my blog and/or are subscribed to my newsletter, then you know this already).  As I near the end of this endeavor, it’s interesting to find I have probably put the most work into the beginning and end of the book.  I think this is good because of two reasons: the beginning is what I am banking on the reader to be gripped by (to keep reading) and the end should be satisfactory as a whole but also urge the reader to want to continue on this world.  For the ending, I’m definitely more satisfied with the changes I’ve made.

Once my edit is complete, I am not finished (you never truly are finished with a story).  I have both beta reader and personal notes that I need to go back through the book and apply.  These are minuscule in size.  Some are basic fixes like making sure I mention a detail about a character or place.  Others might be a consistency issue.  Now, some might think this trivial but I always think about the world needing to be lived in.  It’s those small details that help add shades and tones, seeing the richness of everything.

I’ve been working on this book for a decade and I continue to be surprised when I come across a section or passage that makes me cringe.  My eyes roll over it so easily now that I know I need to move slower from page to page.  After all the editing is done, I will read my book out loud (alone without another soul within a hundred yards).  The reason for this is to make sure what I read flows and doesn’t read clunky.  I’ve got the future audiobook to consider!

So, I’m progressing with this wonderful story that I love to immerse myself into.  I know the world and characters so well (I better after so many years!) and I continue to want to do them justice.  I can’t get complacent or sloppy.  Not now.

Call to Action:  Anyone have any book recommendations?  I realized I don’t ask this enough and I’m always looking for new books to add to my “To read” list.  Fiction, non-fiction, autobiographies, etc.  Let me know!

My Top Ten Films of 2017

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 2

I always see top ten lists of films at the close of the year and I thought it would be fun to do the same.  Granted, I haven’t seen every major release so I can’t give those a rating or even consideration.  For example, I haven’t seen “Get Out” or “Split” so I can’t include those, though I have heard great things about both films.

My taste in movies can be odd at times.  Sometimes, I will fall in love with a film for a very simple reason, which stands out and makes a lasting impression in my extensive film mind-vault.  Lists are subjective, so if you disagree or think I’m plain crazy, that’s cool.  Send me your list and I’ll give it a read and tell you why I think you’re crazy.

Note: I’ll avoid spoilers with each blurb.

10. It

A horror movie is in my top ten?!  Yes.  Yes it is.  Let me explain.  Despite being a genre that I don’t prefer, this was a very well-done film.  The acting was great, especially considering the child actors who were the heartbeat of the story.  Without their amazing performances, this would have flopped hard.  Pennywise, the villain, is not enough to make this a top ten movie.  He’s there, he’s the antagonist, but it’s how the kids band together to defeat him that makes this work.  You can check out my full review here: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/09/24/why-i-watched-it/

9. Gifted

To be honest, Gifted did not seem to be on a lot of people’s radars when it came to movies in 2017.  From the trailer, we see a precocious little girl being raised by her uncle who has a knack and ability to solve difficult mathematical equations despite her age.  It’s not really an original story idea but the reason why it made my list (besides just being heartfelt and well-performed) is a particular scene in the middle of the movie.  As the little girl is having a difficult time adjusting to the attention she’s getting for her genius, her uncle takes her to a hospital and they’re waiting and waiting (she doesn’t understand why and neither do we, the watchers) when a new father comes out to the waiting room and announces the birth of his child to his family who has been waiting for hours.  Excitement ensues and the little girl joins in.  Seriously, this kicked me in the feels and tugged the heart strings.  Check this one out if you haven’t yet.

8. Logan Lucky

Under-rated and under-the-radar.  Logan Lucky is not only fun but has great, subtle moments that you miss upon first watch.  It’s directed by Steven Sodenberg who directed the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy.  This has a similar feel but involves West Virginia, NASCAR, and Daniel Craig with a hilarious accent.  How this movie was ignored by people, I don’t understand but it is absolutely worth your time.

7. War for the Planet of the Apes

I never cared for the older Planet of the Apes films.  I was an 80s kid but only saw the first and it didn’t grab ahold of me like other sci-fi properties.  However, I have been a huge fan of the newer films.  The motion capture technology plays a big part in the performances of the “apes”.  Andy Serkis is a Mo-cap master.  Just look into his career and it’s impressive.  This is the third installment and surprised me on many levels.  Not only does it progress the story, which leads into the original PotA movie but it brings true depth to the Apes and their will to survive and find peace.

6. Coco

Vibrant and beautiful.  Coco is a stunning film with so much heart, you can’t help but walk away feeling like you did not waste your time.  It’s visually amazing as the animation continues to push the bounds and it has an amazing message of family and honoring those from the past and those in the present.  Check out my previous blog post for more: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/12/06/how-pixar-and-disney-help-me-appreciate-different-cultures/

5. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Tobey Maguire was good.  Andrew Garfield was okay.  Tom Holland is perfect.  Yes, in my mind, this version of our friendly neighborhood Spider-man was and is the best of the roster we’ve seen in films.  Keeping Spidey in high school is a must.  Not rehashing the origin story is the best decision of the story.  Having Michael Keaton as the main villain brought weight and actual conflict to the plot.  Hands down, I am most excited to see where this franchise goes more than any other Marvel property in the cinematic universe.

4. The Big Sick

This was a pleasant surprise.  I watched the trailer and thought to myself, “I have to see this movie”.  For those unaware, it’s based on a true story of how the main character met his wife.  Some things were changed for the flow of the film but the basic plot is the same.  It’s a pseudo-rom com that focuses more on how the main male protagonist sacrifices his time to be near the girl he cares greatly for while she’s in a coma (not a spoiler if you’ve seen the trailer).  What I loved most about the film is the relationship formed between him and the girl’s parents in the middle of this horrible situation.  It has heart and humor by the fistfuls.

3. Wonder Woman

I don’t know what more I can say about Wonder Woman than I already have in my previous blog post review, which you can read here: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/06/15/wonder-woman-thoughts-and-impact/

This movie gave me chills.  The No Man’s Land sequence is probably my favorite of any movie in the last few years let alone 2017.  Gal Gadot is mesmerizing and embodies the character of Wonder Woman perfectly.  Even though I did not like the climax (#bossfights), I would still give this film a high score and I can’t wait to see what they do in the sequel.

2. Baby Driver

Surprise film of the year for me.  I saw the trailer and thought it was worth watching.  Could be good.  I like director, Edgar Wright, who did Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  Should be a fun watch.  What I got though was a fast action caper synced to the second thing I love most behind storytelling: music.  Action, comedy, and drama.  All of it is there.  Throw in slick editing and production and you’ve got what might be a universal top five film on most lists.

1. Logan

My favorite movie of 2017 is hands-down Logan.  Confession time: I cried during the trailer.  That two and a half minute video soaked in the age and conviction of Johnny Cash, covering “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails just broke me.  And yes, I did tear up during the film itself as well.  The reason, though, that Logan was my favorite movie was the finality of the character and his struggle through life.  In my opinion, there is no more tormented super hero than Logan aka Wolverine.  For almost two decades over several films, Hugh Jackman brought the titular hero to life.  Due to the nature of the film industry, it’s inevitable to see someone else don the adamantium claws but I remain convinced that Jackman brought the depth needed so we got a legitimate Wolverine and not some campy nonsense that left a bad taste in our mouths.  Go here for my complete review: http://adamhenderson.net/2017/03/06/logan-reaction/

Runner-ups: Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Free Fire

Call to Action: This list is prone to change since there are about a dozen movies I still need to see: The Shape of Water, Hostiles, Downsizing, The Greatest Showman, I, Tonya, The Disaster Artist, Blade Runner 2049, Battle of the Sexes, etc.  If I do make some updates, I’ll make sure to let you all know by a blog post.  I have a feeling the list could be impacted.

A New Year to Embrace

posted in: Editing/Revision, Life, Writing | 2

What will happen in 2018?  I know I can’t be the only person to ask this question as we enter another new year (yeesh, as I get older, I lose the enthralling alacrity of what that means).  Obviously, my hope and prayers are that we suffer no losses, come ahead in our bank account statements, come out even or ahead in taxes, etc.  On a grander level, I’d sure love to see some social media climate change.  The vitriol every day definitely got old and I fear for the sanity of anyone who took delight in seeing the onslaught of drama and pettiness exhibited through social media streams every day.  Maybe it’s just wishful thinking and I should aim lower.  How about Deadpool 2 being better than the first?  Oh, and I’d love it if Avengers: Infinity War doesn’t take a nap.  I’ll set my expectations low.

Personally, I’d like to be kinder and gain some patience.  Come April, our baby boy will teach me a lot about myself.  I told my wife the other day that I want to make sure we not only prepare ourselves for his arrival and addition to our lives but also make sure we get rest, find time to relax and read (very important for new parents, I think), and be intentional about having time together.  I have this sense that as new parents, we will need to make necessary adjustments (an obvious statement) but also make sure we don’t burn out and let our emotions beat us down or each other for that matter.  And don’t tell me, “Oh just you wait, you’ll be crap-deep in diapers, crying, and baby puke” as if that’s all it is.  I kind of refuse to settle for that kind of attitude.  Our baby will not be a burden but a joy!  (If I’m wrong, you can take it to the bank that I won’t come back here and admit it to all of you.)

We went through a lot of changes and shifts in 2017 (still talking about myself and my wife. No political commentary here).  Job changes, pregnancy, financial decisions, etc.  I think we needed to make those choices last year in preparation for this year, which I foresee to be more stable.  There will be surprises (some good and some bad) and we will have to be ready and act as everyone must in order to keep the unexpected from keeping you on the ground.  What I want, though, is to learn and grow in each moment.

To gain wisdom is what I want most in 2018.  As a husband, father, brother, son, professional, writer, musician, and however else I might describe myself, I want to come away, and exhale accomplishment.  Maybe I’ll do that by the end of 2018 here on the blog.  In fact, here we go, on 27 December 2018, my blog post will be a look back on the year, but also an inspection of this first post of the year.  We’ll see if I accomplished what I wanted to succeed in.  Wisdom is what I’ll be chasing in 2018.

Call to Action: What would you like to see in 2018?  Doesn’t have to be a personal goal but let me know what you’d like to see or experience.

Flash Fiction: Faces and Places

The falling dust mesmerized Teelee as she watched wide-eyed.  It was her favorite part of helping Master Shotra.  She was not to call him the Twig any longer as they traveled together.

Settled against the wet canvas, her eyes ran along the dust-covered surface, reading the words written.  No, they were not written like one would see on a sign or a piece of parchment.  These words were different, though she did not think she could describe it to anyone if they asked.

“What do you see?” Master Shotra asked.  They had stopped off the side of the road along the countryside, heading for a place called Duggin’s Hill, which Teelee had read on a previous canvas.

The day was bright and warm but Teelee kept one eye on the gray clouds in the distance.  She did not like rain.  That would mean coldness and it would also mean she would be soaked through.  Her brother had punished her by making her sit underneath the leak in the roof after she “stole” his place with Master Shotra.  She told him it was an accident but Dag did not care.

“Girl,” Master Shotra said, poking her in the ribs.  He pointed at the canvas.  “Pay attention.  You’ll not be returned home until we’ve completed our task.  Now,” he pointed at the canvas again, “read.”

Teelee could not help looking at the clouds again before turning to the canvas.  “Delya.”

Master Shotra stiffened and winced.  “And?”

She let her eyes roam over the canvas until she found another word.  “Glassene.”

“Hallowed harbor me,” Master Shotra slumped, dropping to a sitting position on the dusty ground.  “Of all the…  You’re certain?”  She nodded and he spoke on, saying things she did not understand.  “Of course it would be.  Always the loyal hound to the Holds…  This is just punishment.  Penance for my errors.”

Teelee ignored him, uninterested in the canvas now that she finished her job.  She moved to the mule that pulled their wagon.  Master Shotra said it had no name so she had decided on one for him on their first day together.

“Hello, Apple.”  The animal’s love for the fruit was indeed the leading factor for the name.  “I hate rain.  I hope we stay dry for the rest of the day.  Today’s my birthday but I don’t think Master Shotra knows that.  Mother would have given me honey this morning…”

Master Shotra was pacing now, still talking to himself, oblivious to the world.  Teelee leaned in close to Apple’s ear, “Don’t tell him but I saw something more this time in the dust.  It scared me, Apple…  I don’t want Master Shotra to die.”

First Year Retrospect

Crazy.  That’s my best-word choice and thinking when I consider the last year.  I took to starting a website and blog with the idea that I wanted to write more and establish a platform as a writer.  I had some ideas and believed I could begin to have a voice in a world full of voices.  After a year, I think I made a dent but not a full impact.

While the website could use an update (I’m in the process of looking at my options), the blog has been the bigger surprise.  I started by writing about writing, especially my own thoughts and experiences with the craft.  Looking back, this was a much needed release because I had things I wanted to say but did not have an outlet.  The blog gave me that and now I feel ready to go beyond those topics.

I like themes and scheduled topics.  Sunday Levity, On This Day, and Flash Fiction posts allowed me to do this and those have been extremely fun and rewarding.  Each will continue moving forward and more than likely be a staple of my blog.  The posts in between will likely change and shift focus.  I loved being able to do my Stranger Things Season 1 Review and Rewatch in October.  With Season 3 green lit, you can expect the same treatment for Season 2.  There will be less in terms of “writing” posts but you’ll continue to get my thoughts from a writing perspective as I encounter new stories and even go back and explore old ones.

Outside of the blog and website, my life has taken unexpected turns.  Come April, my wife and I will be arms deep in parenthood.  How this will affect me as a writer, I cannot begin to know or guess but it will bring an adjustment.  That baby will be priority number 1a with my wife being 1b.  They will be my focus.  Then I’ll have work and then writing.  So right now it’s a matter of preparing and putting any notion of selfishness aside.

What I’m not worried about is the time to write.  I will find it.  My plan is to finish So Speaks the Gallows and find an agent remains.  Those updates will be shared and even if I get rejection letters, I will share those with everyone.  Obviously, my hope would be to receive a letter stating an agent would love to represent me but the more I follow other writers on social media, the more I see that rejection letters are more common than acceptance letters.  Maybe 2018 will be my year of querying.

When it comes to the newsletter, I’ll stick with it and hopefully get more sign ups.  It makes it easier for me to devote the time (it is time consuming) to provide more content if I know I’m reaching more people.  However, I do understand if people have too many newsletters arriving in their inboxes.  The more you have, the less time you have to read them all.

Other than that, I have some other personal goals I’d like to see accomplished but I read somewhere that not all goals should be made public.  Apparently, that can sabotage your chances of finding success.  Not sure if I believe that but I’ll keep them close to the chest for now.

I hope you all have had an amazing year!

Call to Action: The final call to action this year is to sign up for my newsletter.  Seriously, why haven’t you done so yet?  You get some fun book reviews and an exclusive Shoals to the Hallowed short story, which you won’t find anywhere else.  There are things happening in the story you won’t know about unless you sign up.  So do so.

The Last Jedi: Quick Thoughts (No Spoilers)

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review, Storytelling | 2

After avoiding any potential spoilers for The Last Jedi, I was able to watch it at the end of last weekend.  There will be no spoilers here but I will make references to key plot details in a vague manner (no exact details).

Overall Plot Direction.  TLJ definitely surpassed my expectations when it came to the plot and moving things forward in this Skywalker Saga.  I had read and heard some popular theories about what could happen in the new chapter and while there were hints of these theories coming true, the story went in various directions that were both surprising and refreshing.  There were key moments that I thought to myself, “Yes!  That’s great writing!” and then there were things I had to process after watching and say, “Okay, I like that and I’m curious to see where it goes from there.”  Now, there are also elements that did not work, leaving questions and making many people (I’m sure you’ve seen the bad reviews from people you know) unhappy with the direction of the plot.

Star Wars Spectacle.  Star Wars as a property is synonymous with Jedi, Sith, The Force, etc.  It’s very much a fantasy set in space (something I’m sure that has been covered, debated, and discussed in the past by many a fanboys).  There are aspects to the Force in the film that enrich an enhance what the Force is and how it can be used as a power/weapon.  It’s very much a magic system that doesn’t always have defined lines or rules but that is why the balance between the light and dark side are so important as thematic elements.  How far can one go to either side before being able to come back?  I am excited to see more with the characters who can use the Force.  There should be some fun to be had with our Force users.

Characters.  Character motivations can make or break a story.  Too often, it feels as if a character’s choice is only meant to push the story forward.  Where TLJ works for me is the characters make choices throughout the film where their motivations are clear (after some extra thought and contemplation, there are some instances where this is not true but I’m focusing on the majority).  There is desperation and a time limit in play.  This makes the characters act and do so sometimes recklessly.  However, it felt right and there were consequences to those choices.  My writer brain was once again saying, “Yes, that worked”.

I get some of the points of dislike and contention.  There are viable gripes to some of the plot points that may not land for some.  However, it’s not enough for me to give this film a bad review.  It’s not a perfect film but it’s better than most.  Where The Force Awakens came up short, I feel like The Last Jedi exceeded my expectations.  I felt the weight of the conflict and did not mind the smaller sillier moments (Porg nation is real).

Overall, I put TLJ in my top five Star Wars films (1. The Empire Strikes Back, 2. Rogue One, 3. Return of the Jedi, 4. The Last Jedi, 5. A New Hope).

Call to Action: I’m curious to see what others think of The Last Jedi and how it stacks up against the other films in the series.  Please DO NOT post spoilers in the comments.

Christmas Movie Guide

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 0

We have a rule in our house: no Christmas movies until December.  For my wife, this is easy but for me, I could throw on one of my favorite Christmas movies any time during the year.

We have our favorites that we watch every year leading up to Christmas and then we have some that we watch every other or few years depending on how fresh they are in our mind.  Last, there are the movies I watch by myself because my wife doesn’t care for them (totally fine, not complaining).

As I mentioned in my previous post about traditions, Christmas movies have become a staple for me during the season so I’m looking forward to these films both as entertainment but also as a means for evoking memories.  Rather than listing all the movies on “watch list”, I just want to call out a few that I always recommend and love.


The Santa Clause

I grew up watching this one (like many others).  I was ten years old in 1994 and Home Improvement was always on in our house so I was familiar with Tim Allen and his brand of humor.  To this day, I can always watch the sitcom.  The Santa Clause is solid both in humor and the importance of faith, believing in what cannot always be seen.


Home Alone 1 and 2

More of what I grew up watching.  Kevin McCalister was quite the brat and I remember thinking every time I watched the movie that if I said or did the things he did, I would be grounded for life.  Other than the ingenuity of his traps to take down the witless house burglars in both films, it focuses heavily on the importance of family.

 
Scrooged and The Muppet Christmas Carol

It’s unlikely you’re not familiar with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  It’s a classic and has many films based and influenced by it throughout cinema history.  I put these two together because one is for kids and one is for adults.  We were Muppet fans growing up and I maintain there’s solid humor in any Muppet’s production.  And how can you go wrong with Bill Murray as “Scrooge”?  Kindness and compassion towards others pokes you in the feels for these.


Christmas Vacation

For me, there is no better quotable movie than National Lampoon’s holiday treat.  This is also the reason why many people love the movie but are okay if they don’t watch it every year.  Not me.  I want to watch this movie at least three times during the holidays.  Sure there’s a message in this one too but it’s just so dang funny that I’d watch it even if there was no inspiring lesson by the end.


Love Actually

This is the movie my wife and I adore every Christmas.  Ever since I introduced it to her during our dating years, it became a staple.  It’s essential to our viewing pleasure because it’s pretty much a perfect Christmas movie that focuses on several different people and their struggles during the holiday season.  It hits the spectrum of holiday cheer and will forever be a part of our Christmases (the kids won’t be allowed to watch it until they’re 18 though because it is rated R).


Honorable Mentions: Elf, The Family Stone, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, The Family Man, Serendipity

Call to Action:  Share with me!  What Christmas movies are staples for you?

Reading Goal Accomplished!

posted in: Fantasy, Reading, Review, Storytelling | 2

For the second year in a row, I’ve achieved my goal to complete my reading goal on Goodreads.  Last year, I was ambitious and did 25 books.  This year, I lost my mind and doubled that, thinking I could do 50.  I did it, but it was not easy.

Let me first say that while I reached 50 books read, the majority of those were audiobooks.  To be honest, I’m not a fast reader so audiobooks definitely help me both on my commute and while at home if we’re keeping the TV off.  Now, I learned some very valuable lessons when approaching these reading challenges and finding success: don’t over-extend yourself.  What I mean by this is I got to the point where I realized I could reach my goal but only if I read or listened to shorter books.  The problem here is I had books I really wanted to read but felt they would take too long to finish.  Obviously, I knew by the end that I needed to rethink my reading goal.

So for next year, I am giving myself some leeway and going to shoot for 30 books.  I’ll very likely read more than 30 but I hated feeling the pressure of finishing a book just so I could keep on track.  Reading in general is essential for me to not only learn but keep my mind active, not depending on stimulation by screen only.  I’m not proud of it but I am one of those people that can always have the TV on.  It doesn’t bother me to have it on just for background noise (this drives my wife crazy and is why we institute “no TV nights” in our house).

If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter then you are unfamiliar with my book reviews.  I like to  write three reviews for my favorite books I read for the last four months (Newsletters are released at the end of April, August, and December).  Below you will find some recommendations not included in any of this year’s newsletters:


The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The first book of The Dark Tower series has been around for awhile and was on “To read” list for years. I finally got into it and really enjoyed the book. It’s not a tough read and establishes interesting characters in an even more interesting world. Action and conflict are not lacking here. For fantasy lovers, it’s a must.


Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

This was a fun listen since Anna reads the book. She’s the Pitch Perfect girl if you’re unfamiliar with her. She’s also full of spunk and her personality comes through as she reads. I was not aware of her background and her journey to acting and becoming an Oscar-nominated actress so this kept me interested and made me laugh a lot.


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I did a longer review of this one a few months back but with the movie adaptation coming out soon, I wanted to highlight it again. It’s a fast-paced virtual adventure with loads of geek-speak and 80s references, which is definitely trending again with Stranger Things Season 2 fresh in our minds. Check this one out even if you’re not a gamer or geek aficionado.

Call to Action: I encourage you to sign up over at Goodreads and take your own reading challenge for 2018.  It’s a lot of fun and if you’re like me, setting a challenge for yourself might get you to set aside time each day to put your nose in the pages.

December Update/Christmas Traditions

posted in: Film/TV, Life, Review, Storytelling | 0


My plan is to keep the normal schedule and format for the blog this month. 
The next flash fiction for the ongoing Shoals to the Hallowed series will be released on 30 December (this also happens to be my bday so I expect high praise in the comments section. If you don’t want to give that, I accept Amazon gift cards).  The third and last newsletter of the year will be released on the 31st.  If you want to sign up for that, please do so when prompted on the website or send me your email address and I’ll add you to the list.

For the month in general (we’re half way done already!), you’ll see a lot of Christmas themed posts.  I’m a big fan of Christmas.  The season (I prefer cold to hot always), movies and music (there’s just so many good options), food and drink (nothing like carbs, coffee, and whiskey to keep me comfortable), and traditions.   It’s these last that I want to explore a little today.


I can only speak for myself and my heart goes out to those who don’t care for the Christmas season for whatever the reason. 
I understand and get it.  However, I have pretty much nothing but good memories of the weeks and days leading up to Christmas.  My family never did anything crazy or outlandish (far from the Griswold experience).  We did the tree and lights.  Maybe a few other decorations around the house.  What I remember best was going to my grandparents’ house Christmas Eve to eat dinner and exchange gifts.  My grandpa would read the Christmas story from the Book of Luke and we’d all go on our merry way (no pun intended).  Christmas morning was getting up way too early (I was one of those kids who could not sleep no matter how late I stayed up), getting into our stockings first and waiting the appropriate amount of time before waking up my parents so we could get to the good stuff.

After we made a mess of the living room, we would eat breakfast and get ready for the day.  Usually we were out the door after noon and heading to the gift exchange locations with friends and families.  Dinner was usually at my grandparents’ house again with or without other family members who came in form out of town.  We ate, played games, and had the 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story playing in the background.  All in all, it was an easy traditional holiday season that I have fond memories of.

Now that I’m married, my wife and I have our own traditions that we’ve put in place and hope to carry on the rest of the way.  Our children will grow up with these and even have a part in adding to our family’s plans and activities from December to December.  Traditions are one of those things I really enjoy and Christmas allows for them to be focused and anticipated every year.

I’ll leave you with some do’s and don’ts:

Don’t spike the eggnog

Don’t stand under icicles

Don’t sit on Santa’s lap in an alleyway

Do spike your coffee

Do bundle up if it’s snowing

Do watch Christmas Vacation with a room full of friends and strangers (if you can)

Call to Action:  My hope is that you all have a great Christmas this year.  Even if past ones have not been worth remembering, I hope this one is.  Be with the ones you love.  Make sure to let them know how much you appreciate their being a part of your life.

Good Emotional Health

posted in: Life | 2

I watch and observe more than I react and speak.  As a writer in the social network culture, this is probably the antithesis to many others.  In fact, I think it is true.  I follow a lot of other writers on social media and I often get a clear idea of where they stand on a number of issues.  I don’t fault them whether I agree or disagree.  It’s their platform and their voice.  I hate the “stick to (fill in the blank)” attacks people get from detractors.  It’s kind of a juvenile response if you think about it.

For myself, I try to keep any views I have on specific issues regarding religion, politics, social issues, etc. off of my social media timeline.  This is just a personal choice.  I believe those things should be discussed in a safe place setting where both parties can respectfully engage in productive conversation.  If we know anything about the current climate of social media, those conditions do not exist.

I have delved into some of these topics here on my blog where you can read my thoughts and struggles as I try to understand and come to a rational place that best fits my experience and convictions.  There are some areas where I stand firm and others where I am not quite sure.

Something I know I need to be always aware of is my emotional state.  I’s so easy to get angry and react when coming across something that I think is unjust or a horrifying display of humanity.  You could ask my wife (she gets to hear the unprocessed sputterings when I’m annoyed or ticked off at the world).  These are not everyday occurrences but they do happen.

Emotional health is key and very important to me.  I hate being reactionary based on my feelings when disturbed by others.  Too often I see people speaking and arguing based on their feelings.  I would suggest not engaging these people in the first place (especially on social media).  They cannot be rationalized with.  When our emotions are turned up to eleven, you’ll have better luck convincing a dog it’s a cat.

Also, I just believe you are generally more approachable in life if you are known as someone who has a grip on your emotions.  I would never want my family or friends to tiptoe around or avoid me if they feel like they can’t talk to me about the harder topics of life for fear of me popping a gasket.

So if you don’t see me addressing hot social topics on any of my social media profiles, it’s not because I don’t have opinions or concerns, it’s because I don’t think that’s the platform to have honest, safe discourse.  I can always be private messaged and you’ll get an honest, direct response if you want to know what I think or where I stand on something.

Call to Action: Let’s all practice emotional health.  Slow to react and not letting our feelings drive us to speak in anger.  Remember also that your opinions are your own.  If someone disagrees with you, it doesn’t mean they’re the enemy.  Common decency is something I’d love to see returned to our rhetoric and discourse.

How Pixar and Disney Help Me Appreciate Different Cultures

Let me start by saying I don’t come from a distinct cultural background.  As far as I know, my families on both sides came from European immigrants (that’s really a best guess).  So I don’t have much to work with when it comes to traditions or heritage that I use to identify with.  What’s interesting though is I have a continuing growing interest in different cultures.

Writing fantasy is the perfect outlet for me to be creative and create new cultures and peoples, coming up with languages, cuisine, fashion, traditions, holidays, religions, etc.  All of these require some foundation of how cultures develop and evolve over generations.  Some are forgotten while others are passed on from generation to generation with little change occurring.  For example, language in the United States is constantly evolving through pop culture and technology.  A hard drive back in 1940 is not necessarily the same thing as it is now.  However, in Iceland and other countries, language has remained mostly unchanged (see https://theculturetrip.com/asia/india/articles/the-10-oldest-languages-still-spoken-in-the-world-today/).

My interest in cultures (both fictional and real) has been bumped by Pixar and Disney’s recent push to explore times and places otherwise not touched in their expansive catalog.  We have Brave and Coco (Pixar) and Frozen and Moana (Disney).  I’m going to be honest here.  I really enjoy all of these films (most of all Moana, which my wife likes to tease me about).  Why do I like them?  Because you can tell the filmmakers truly wanted to explore the cultures of these peoples and introduce them in a celebratory way.  I can’t help but be drawn to this aspect of storytelling.

In my own writing and those of fantasy books I enjoy, I love how cultures (mind you made up ones) add a layer of reality to the story that pulls me in and keeps me engaged in the story.  There’s beauty and intrigue to be shown.  As we often see in the Pixar and Disney examples, it’s heritage and tradition that drive the protagonist to see their goal completed.  A theme I often explore is identity and there’s a great focus of pride in identity when it comes to these characters and where they come from.

For a guy (myself) that feels left out when it comes to heritage and culture, I love to immerse myself in these places and peoples who have vibrant traditions founded by their ancestors.  I love seeing these stories celebrated and shared with greater audiences because the diversity of the world is worth noticing.

Call to Action: It should still be in theaters, so I encourage everyone to go see Coco.  It’s a great film about family and the importance of remembering those who came before us.  You can’t go wrong.

Sunday Levity: Christmas!!!

posted in: Life, Sunday Levity | 0

Tis the season!  Ho ho ho!  Ah nuts!

It’s Sunday and you all know I put on the relax and rest machine.  Decided to share some stuff that made me laugh and hopefully it does the same for you.

I really want to do this at work…

So many great quotes from Elf.

The Santa Claus is one of those movies that I appreciate more as an adult because the jokes land better when you’re older.

One of my favorites is Scrooged.  Bill Murray at Christmas is the best.

Christmas Vacation is my favorite movie to watch and I can always watch it (though everyone else seems to be done with it and wants a longer gap between viewings.  You had eleven months!  You want more?!)

Call to Action: The season is all about being with loved ones and letting them know how much they mean to you.  Not through gifts but through time spent.  Play games, watch movies, sing carols (if that’s your thing), and enjoy it!

Flash Fiction: A Boon of Opportunities

Old sweat and bubbling stew filled the abandoned farmhouse with their potent presence as the circle of mercenaries let a lull step between the lines of discussion.  There was a third scent and Chasiel, the Bloody Dove, could practically bite into it.  Anticipation.

“So,” said the lean and gray-haired man to her right, “you think it’s likely?”  Half his face bore the scars of a burning accident when he was a young man.  Whatever his real name was, Chasiel did not know it.  He had only ever been called Crisp to her knowledge.

Crisp’s question was not directed towards her but to the bull of a man across from her.  Feller Crowne held the honor of longest tenured among the miscreants making up the dozen or so Shivering Souls.  “Without question,” Crowne said in his high voice, famously unexpected to those who first met him.

Fenroe, to Chasiel’s left, was next to speak.  “Breshtk is broken.  Good opportunity to get our fingers in there and feel around.”

Chasiel smiled, knowing Fenroe could not help himself and his knack for using colorful phrases in any situtation.  He would try to make his grandmother blush if given the opportunity.  Chasiel took the small piece of kindling and set its end into the flames of the cook fire, eyes mesmerized by the flickering flames.

Crowne coughed.  “I care more about seeing who comes out alive once the dust of this hell storm settles…  The Holds may turn on Breshtk but it’s not weak.  Not in the least.  As long as Wielders live and Ki’Tanil, bastard fool that he is, breathe, Breshtk can come out of this mess.  Chasiel,you’re too quiet?”

She had kept silent, biding her time.  The constant talk of Breshtk and whatever nonsense the kings and queens of the Holds were bickering about had gotten bland on her tongue.  What did interest her however were opportunities to go unseen where otherwise eyes would be watchful for sell swords.  The sound in her throat preceded her words.  “The Silver Way had the contract and now we have it.  This noble of Teras expects mercenaries.  We can mimic that stupid symbol of the Silvs and do what we please once we’re sent on our merry task.”

“A boon of opportunities,” Fenroe said before whistling.

Crisp took the handle of the stirring spoon in the cookpot and blew on the creamy meal.  Crowne rubbed at his eyes after some smoke invaded the brown orbs.  “A boon perhaps but still a damn risk.”

Chasiel agreed but preferred to think of it as more than opportunities to take gold out of the pockets of the Teras coffers.  No, for her, she saw a window to hamstring the noble bastards who continued to play their privileged game.  After she inhaled the segda smoke from her pipe, her namesake throat sound followed, serving as the reminder of her rage.

Reviewing the Punisher

posted in: Film/TV, Review | 2

Gut punch.  That’s what it felt like to watch and experience Netflix’s The Punisher Season 1.  Before I go into my review and impressions of the show, I need to say this is not a show for everyone.  Definitely not for kids and probably not for some adults.  If brutal scenes of violence are not your cup o’ tea, then don’t drink.

We got our first dose of the vigilante antihero of Frank Castle aka the Punisher in Netflix’s Daredevil Season 2.  He’s a mysterious figure fit with an arsenal befitting a small army who crosses paths with our friendly blind lawyer Matt Murdock aka Daredevil.  The latter doesn’t kill, feeling morally and spiritually convicted by his choices to fight crime whereas the Punisher pulls the trigger first, contemplating morality after the fact.

Actor, Jon Bernthal, gave a performance as Frank Castle that took everyone by surprise.  There have been previous feature film adaptations of the Marvel skull-symbol wearing badass.  Those have been somewhat true to the source material but lacking in impact.  Bernthal gives us a full drenching that embodies the Frank Castle of the comics.  He’s a US Marine vet whose family is murdered as collateral damage depending on the origin story of the comic run.  In all though, Frank’s birth as the Punisher is consistent.  He loses his family, battles the guilt and pain of losing them, and takes on a personal code to eliminate those responsible and any other scumbag who may cross his path.

The themes in the Punisher (I’m talking both broad and in the Netflix show) center around vigilante morality, PTSD, grief, etc.  The show does this extremely well.  The first season fully features Frank as he searches for those involved in the deaths of his family after he learns that the CIA is behind some shady practices involving drug running and assassinations.  All throughout his mission, he is faced with questions of right and wrong, family, healing, and justice.  His interactions with friends and allies help ask questions and explore these themes, making the viewer question if rooting for Frank is just or not.

I’ve watched all of the Netflix Marvel shows up to date and the Punisher is by far my favorite and I think the strongest entry in the growing catalogue.  The acting and plotting are superb and where I think the other series’ wane and struggle is weight and believability.  The Punisher is visceral (such a good word).  You feel the impact of every emotion, punch, and bullet impact.  There are no “superpowers” in this show which helps it immensely.

As I said before, this show is not easy to watch.  The violence goes where other shows do not.  It’s rough but true to the comic and character of Frank Castle.  What the film, Logan, started is a trend to see these superhero properties move from a place of PG-13 action to one that makes us feel the weight of the choices and lives of these people.

Call to Action: So while I highly recommend this show, be advised.  Try out the first few episodes and see if it’s something you can handle.

Holidays Are Here!

posted in: Life, Writing | 0

Maybe it’s cheesy but I have to give some thanks (and seeing as how Thanksgiving was yesterday, it seems appropriate).

This has been a year where I have no reason to feel sad, frustrated, or bitter in any way.  New job, baby on the way, writing going strong.  What’s there to complain about?!  I am extremely thankful for this time in my life.

I am hard at work on the final newsletter of this year.  Please sign up if you’re interested.  I release three a year with news, book reviews, and an exclusive short story, which is set in the Shoals to the Hallowed world.  Make sure to read up on the the latest flash fiction posts too to keep up to date.

Aside from that, my wife and I learned we are having a boy.  I was certain we would be having a girl but I saw the ultrasound picture and there seems to be little doubt.  Having a boy has made my mind begin envisioning who he will be and the greatness he will embody.  He, being our first, will no doubt shape us in new ways as we learn to be parents but I cannot express how much joy and anticipation I have, knowing this little guy is going to have amazing parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents on both sides.  They will all have an immense impact on his life.

Not to mention, I can’t wait to teach him about sports, video games, history, philosophy, and the various other subjects I enjoy myself.  I learned a great deal from my dad, uncles, cousins, etc.  If I have any apprehension at all, it’s knowing I’ll make mistakes and have to apologize to him for my shortcomings.  I can’t imagine any father wants or enjoys such occurrences but I hope that my realization of it now will prepare me when it comes.

Call to Action: I hope everyone had a great holiday and has many things they are thankful for.  Make sure to share those positive thoughts with others.  It does the heart good to do so.

To Doubt is to Progress


Let’s dive in.  As I get closer to finishing my recent revision of So Speaks the Gallows, the creeping whispers of self-doubt interrupt the process.  These are not words of castigation but instead subtle pricks of critique that make my hands pull away from the keyboard and seriously consider the words on the page.

Revising is difficult.  You think just writing a full novel is hard, try going back over what you’ve spent years shaping and being excited about and then questioning why entire sections come across as borderline tissue paper in strength.  You wish it was more than single ply but instead, you get this thin sheet that could disintegrate at the first sneeze.

No, I have not given up and I have not put my toes over the ledge to look down into writer’s oblivion.  (It would take a lot for me to reach that point of disappointment.)  I think I’ve simply come to a section of the book where I’m not impressed with the writing (granted it’s my writing).  I know I am more than capable of girding up the paragraphs and dialogue where it suffers most but I find myself wondering about the strength of the writing as a whole.

What if the beginning is strong but it begins to wane and lose its clout the further we go to the right towards that back cover?  It’s an honest question and, I think, a natural one to explore.  Maybe it’s strong enough in the beginning to hold up any weaker sections.  Maybe an agent will get to these weaker sections and say, “Well, this needs to be reworked but I think you’re more than capable of doing it.”  These are the questions that like to poke at my confidence each time I return to revise.

As I’ve said, I’m okay with rewriting entire chapters (I actually did rewrite the first five chapters and feel they are extremely strong now) but I wonder if I should do it now or simply try to fix the weaker prose as is.  Either way works to be honest.

All this is to say doubt is a very natural and, I think, healthy emotion to go through as an artist.  For me, it keeps me in check and forces me to look back at certain sections of my book and ask questions like, “Can this be better?”  Most of the time the answer is a big fat “Yes!” and so I need to be willing to strip down the prose and rework.

So to any of my fellow artists who lay awake or stare blankly at the page or canvas, do not become bitter or agitated.  Embrace the pain of being mediocre (only at times, not always) and let creativity fizzle and reset.  I have no idea if this is sound or good advice but I know it works for me.

Call to Action:  Here’s a fun exercise to consider when in doubt, ask some simple questions and answer as truthfully as possible.

1)  Why do I have this sense of doubt in my work or abilities?
2)  Is there truth to this?  If not, what is the lie behind it?
3)  What can I do to strengthen confidence in myself again?

Try these out and see where it gets you.

On This Day – 18 November 1985 – Calvin and Hobbes First Published

My first exposure to Calvin and Hobbes came when I was probably around thirteen years old at my grandparent’s house.  My grandpa had recently received or bought one of the collection books and had it on the living room table.  I picked it up and was pulled into the world of the precocious six year old and his imaginary best friend/stuffed Bengal tiger.

Suffice to say, Calvin and Hobbes will always remind of my grandpa.  I have great memories of growing up and creating outlandish scenarios with him (his imagination was just as a vast a child’s).  This coincides with my love for Calvin and Hobbes because the comic strip is more about imagination than it is about a misbehaved child.  Just peruse the examples I’ve included in my post.

As a thirteen year old (I’ll remind you I was not reading a whole lot during this time of my life), I naturally gravitated more to the pictures and art of comic strips to understand Calvin’s current escapade.  As I grew up though, I began to read beyond the more minimal scenarios and found a great intellect and wonder in the kid.  His alternate personas (Spaceman Spiff, Tracer Bullet, and Stupendous Man) exemplified my own imagination as I played with action figures and created several different characters and worlds faced with conflict (a precursor to my days of writing).
We’ve been blessed with ten years of Calvin and Hobbes by the great Bill Watterson.  I continue to revert back to the comic strip whenever I need a quick laugh.  In my mind, there is no better cartoon strip for children and you can bet my kids will be introduced to it at a young age.
Call to Action: What are your memories of Calvin and Hobbes?  I’d love to know how others first encountered the strip and how it has affected them in life.  Also, check out the great documentary, “Dear Mr. Watterson,” if you can find it.  It’s a great exploration of the comic and its creator.

Success Measured by the Spoonful

posted in: Life, Writing | 2

As I mentioned back in my blog post on 03 November, for myself, success as a writer is to have my book in hardback/paperback form sold on the shelves of a bookstore.  Pretty simple, right?  I think so, however my wife and I recently had a discussion about success in general and then success as an artist.  I cannot speak for everyone (yeesh, could you imagine that kind of nightmare if you could?) but I know for myself, I would consider it a huge accomplishment to have a book written and sold to the general public.  No bestseller accolades or movie deal needed.  I’m good with the one book.

Now, come on, you know I don’t mean I want to write a single book and only one.  I have way too many stories floating around in my head to stop at one.  The purpose of writing stories is to share them.  Why else do it?

This came about because I was telling my wife how even if I did get published and was capable of writing full time and able to support us financially through those means, I would still work my day job.  More than anything, it’s a personal decision (also, I think I would get super bored otherwise.  I need to leave the house for a day’s worth of work in order to keep myself sane).  I do not fault anyone who chooses the opposite.  My hope would be you are able to fully support yourself, your family (if you have one), and maintain a level of content and happiness that lets you sleep easy every night.

Part of our conversation led into the idea that our culture does not adhere to a way of thinking that encourages artists to do what they love to do and survive by doing only that.  I asked her if our society ever did this?  Without doing research (I just don’t want to right now due to the rabbit hole I’d most likely fall into), I find it hard to believe that a writer, painter, sculptor, etc. could pay all the bills and plan for the future and retirement just by royalties earned from their works (notice how I didn’t mention actors or musicians. They’re a bit different).  If I’m wrong, please shoot me an example.  I’d love to read up on examples.

This is all not to say there were outliers but I just wonder if success comes in the form of finding time to be creative and still provide by keeping a day job.  Like I said, this is just me and my mind wanders to these sorts of things every once in a while.  I guess I should add a caveat and say that if I were able to live off of royalties from my books, I think I’d still work part time.  Retirement is really the only stage in my life where I don’t want to go to an office every day, sit in a cube, and support a project.

If I’ve discovered anything about myself since starting this journey of writing stories, it’s that I simply love to create.  Being able to do so whether I’m paid or not for it doesn’t affect my attitude in the process.  And I wonder if my attitude towards writing would change if I woke up everyday and knew if I didn’t make a deadline or my next book sales are poor, I might struggle to pay the bills.  Would that affect my joy and passion?  Just something I think about…

Call to Action: I was serious about examples of a time period where artists could survive financially solely on the earnings from their art.  Let me know!

Sunday Levity: The Swanson Way

posted in: Film/TV, Sunday Levity | 4

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Sunday Levity post so I jumped at the chance to offer one.  There are an abundance of tv characters that I enjoy but none is quite like Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec (may it rest in peace).  Whenever I need some humor to bust away at the drudgeries that like to cling to me, all I need is some Parks and Rec.  Enjoy these small examples of the Swanson Way at work.

  

Call to Action: What are your favorite moments from the show?  Please share!

Truth of Evil

posted in: Life | 2

I’ve been struggling for about a week now thinking about how to proceed with this blog.  It’s my blog and I can’t say for sure who reads it all the time (aside from family and close friends).  However, I am very conscious about what I want to write about and how to provide content that I think is worth posting and reading.  If I had it my way, I’d love to stick to writing tips, movie/tv reviews, etc.  That would be fun and hopefully entertaining to not just me.  Unfortunately, I am very present in the happenings of the world and cannot continue to keep those things from my thoughts and furthermore from my blog.

Now, I have stated in the past that I have no interest in debating or converting based on my personal views.  They are “my” personal views based on my experiences, beliefs, and understanding.  This also means I do not think I cannot learn more and have these views changed based on evidence and conviction.  Let’s jump in the heap!

Evil is very real.  In fantasy, we have great extremes manifested in forms like Sauron, Voldemort, and for you Wheel of Time fans, the Dark One.  All of these represent the deepest of antagonists to our literary heroes: Frodo, Harry Potter, and Rand al’Thor (again, Wheel of Time reference.  I am purposely avoiding the Game of Thrones example, ha!).  These forces represent the main conflict and must be destroyed in order to assure peace to not only our heroes but the world they live in.  This puts a lot of weight on the story and we as readers only want to see the evils defeated by the end.

A common element in fantasy right now is the use of grey characters who have both vice and virtues equally.  These are men and women we can both trust and revile depending on the situation.  Part of me enjoys these characters because I think they are complex and better represent real life people.  No one can say they are completely good, having no drop of selfishness, anger, hate, etc.  And while these kinds of characters can be fresh and enjoyable to read due to their unpredictability, I personally expect to see consequences for their choices.  Otherwise, we’ve run into another issue entirely.  Consequences whether good or bad represent reality and realism should be woven throughout the tapestry of the story (even more so in fantasy).

Coming back to the reason I am writing this post, I do not think I should be silent on the evil seen in the last weeks of various independent acts throughout the States.  Las Vegas, New York, and Sutherland, TX.  I am not going to go into the details of each situation.  If you’ve paid attention even a little bit, then you know the basics: men took it upon themselves to kill innocents.

My heart is broken at the moment.  I take days to process the full weight of these things because I don’t find it healthy to react instantly.  My heart breaks for those affected.  Families and friends have lost loved ones unexpectedly and for reasons they cannot fathom as they grieve.  There’s been a lot of hubbub about people offering prayers and thoughts to these people whose worlds have been turned over. I sincerely say and express these words because I sincerely believe there is power in prayer and thought directed at the healing of pain and grief.  If you don’t, that’s fine.  I would not hold that against you and would hope you would not hold my beliefs against me.

What we’ve witnessed is evil (plain and simple) and if we can draw anything from these recent horrifying events, it’s that no matter the method or tool used, evil will find a way to exact its violence and chaos.  I’ve been asking myself what can be done to keep these things from happening but after days of contemplation I am truly not convinced legislation cannot stop it.  So long as evil’s influence and madness can burn in the hearts of people, methods and tools can be improvised upon (gun, knife, vehicle, they all do damage).

For myself, at this moment in time, I come to a place where I think more than ever, we need to be vigilant about being aware of evil.  How?  By the signs it effuses.  If you’ve ever taken any kind of Active Shooter Training for a workplace environment, then you are told what to look for.  Changes in behavior are often there.  Now, I know there are likely outliers (there always are) but all too often, evil and its signs can be seen and recognized.  But we have to be willing to pay attention and speak up when noticed.  More and more, after these horrifying acts of evil and violence, we learn after the fact that there were “red flags” and yet no one acted.

I understand that many will say this is not enough and that legislation needs to be implemented to prevent further incidents but I am not convinced of that yet.  I’m not saying some legislation could not help because I think it could, but I have to posit the question: can legislation prevent evil from being enacted?  No.  It just can’t.  Time and time again, those who wish to do others harm will do so in any which way that they can.  History testifies to this.  Good standing citizens, however, can and are more than capable of interceding and preventing evil if we are willing to pay attention to those within our communities.

I am demanding this of myself.  It’s obvious safe places no longer exist.  Churches, concerts, sidewalks.  If these horrible acts of evil can teach us anything, it’s that we need to be paying attention to the world around us more.  Take an interest in your family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances.  I have to hope that doing so will in some way prevent more evil from being carried out.

Call to Action:  Don’t react out of emotion when these horrible acts of evil happen.  I only say this because I see it every day.  So many react without taking a moment to ask questions.  Reach out and talk to someone you trust and work through whatever emotions have stirred up.  Adding to the vitriol does nothing to propel us forward, instead setting us back.

Stranger Things Season 2: More of the Same but Better

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

I did not expect to be disappointed by the second season of Netflix’s Stranger Things and I can honestly say I was not in any way, shape, or form.  To be honest, I’ll probably do a rewatch/review like I just finished for season 1 and do the same for season 2 before season 3 comes out.  So, knowing that, I will do my best to keep this blog post “short” and focused.

Without going into specifics and not wanting to spoil the season in any way, I’ll keep my thoughts vague and limited as best as I can.

Everything about Stranger Things Season 1 that gripped me as a fan, writer, nerd, 80s kid, etc. continued in the new season.  There were references so on the nose that you just find yourself smiling when you catch them and then there were subtle ones that poked at your memory and made you trace back through childhood until you found the source.  All of these were present and added, never diminishing the story and/or characters.  I found myself calling out references to my wife as she watched with me and realized by episode 6 that I should tone it back.

I’m always paying attention to characters in these shows and I found the perfect amount of expansion of growth, knowing the events of the first season could not leave a lasting affect on these people.  Then you have new characters who either have suspicions or do not know what happened in Hawkins a year earlier.  All of these have to handled delicately in order to create believability.  Once again, I was not disappointed by the directions the characters went in.  They made choices (both good and bad) and found consequences for those choices.  For me, if these characters had not been handled well, it would have ruined the season for me.  On more than a few occasions, I found myself saying, “Yes, that is exactly how I would have written that response or character’s choice if I were writing this show.”

While the references are there, the world of Stranger Things is its own and we were introduced to an expanding world, making it feel more real.  The Upside Down in itself felt more fleshed out and not just a shimmer or shadow we get only glimpses of like in season 1.  By the end, we know that the Upside Down is as important to the progression of the show as the characters themselves.  It is the antagonist for it seems bent on connecting to the real world.

Nothing felt forced.  This is important with any sequel.  Think back to movies that had sequels you just didn’t feel were as good as the first film.  The magic that was captured in the first one could not be expanded on but seemed duplicated and shoved right in your face.  There are too many sequels to name that do this.

The latest example I can think of is the recent Kingsmen movie.  My wife and I loved the first film and its new world and originality.  We were excited by the idea of a sequel but after watching it, we walked away more disappointed than anything else.  Where Stranger Things succeeded and Kingsmen failed is the ability to trust the audience.  Nothing felt as if it were an exposition dump for us.  Instead, it felt as if the Duffer Brothers (Stranger Things creators and show runners) trusted their audience to remember elements from season 1 or to be able to connect the dots by simply being observant.  Here is where successful shows/movies set themselves apart.  A storyteller should be able to trust in the intelligence of their audience without patronizing.

Not wanting to stretch this too long (and not wanting to kill my love for the show by over-analyzing), I’ll leave my thoughts to this: Lost is no longer my favorite show.  Stranger Things has taken the lead at the top of my short list for favorite tv shows.  Superior writing is the kicker here.  While Lost was great (in my eyes), it did have too many instances of bad writing whether related to the plot and/or characters.

My great hope is that Stranger Things continues this strong until it’s finished.  Last I heard, the Duffers are planning and mapping out 4-5 seasons.  I think that as long as this show keeps moving in this right direction, it will easily sit safely atop my list.

Call to Action:  Let me know what you thought of season 2!  Please don’t include any spoilers.

News of Life

posted in: Life, Writing | 2

Having completed my Stranger Things month, there’s quite a bit to share and provide updates on.

Also, it’s my wonderful, amazing wife’s birthday today!  So, I wish her a happy birthday filled with rest, good food, and fun.

First off, I recently accepted an offer for a new job that will remove me from technical writing and editing.  This does not mean my technical writing and editing skills will no longer be needed, rather it means I will no longer provide support solely on these grounds.  My new job will allow me writing and editing opportunities but I do not think they will be as often like before.  I’ve come to grips with this change and find myself at peace and satisfied.  New doors will open with this position that otherwise would be blocked off from me and these new doors will be needed since my next bit of news (the best bit of news) will call for a higher salary.

My wife and I learned that she is pregnant with our first child!  Baby on the way!  This has rocked our world in some ways but as each week passes, we have become more and more excited at the prospect of adding a new addition to our family (that sounds so cliché but still true).  With this, I realize that my life will be drastically changed.  I’ve always wanted to have kids and have wondered what I would be like as a dad.  I’ve proactively begun to envision circumstances and situations and prepared myself as best as I can for each, envisioning myself as a calm, cool-tempered patriarch who knows how to handle any given situation (in reality, I’m going to have those days where I just want to throw in the towel, find a bag of chips and lock myself in the bathroom for a good salty ten minutes).  Alas, I am going to be a father and I’ve been trying my best to prepare myself for what that means.

I should also forewarn everyone that my blog posts will include these fatherhood anecdotes and what not.  While my wife and I are fairly private, I will include things about our journey because it will likely be unconventional (we’re not the run of the mill sort and bit weird at times).  I am a writer but I am also a person of questions, fears, joys, preferences, and opinions.  To know all of me as a writer, is to understand the wanderings of my mind in everything.

When it comes to my writing, not a whole lot has changed.  The biggest thing I want to share is I have set a goal to finish my current revision by the end of the year.  I want to have it finished, polished to a shining reflection, and begin the agent querying phase in January.  So I’ll have quite a bit to share over these last months of 2017 and more so in 2018.  I realize that while I can bide my time and keep a consistent but comfortable pace with revising So Speaks the Gallows, I need to put a note on the calendar and make that a reasonable and attainable goal.

I saw a tweet a few weeks ago asking writers what they consider to be their ideal success as a writer.  I thought about it and came to the truth.  I do not care if I ever become a bestselling author (I won’t turn away the accolade either, I should add).  Success in my mind, the fulfillment of my heart, looks like this: to have my book in hardback/paperback form sold on the shelves of a bookstore.

That’s it.  If I can do that just once, I will have met my dream as a writer.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I will meet this goal more than once (multiple books) but at the very least, to hold my book in my hand is my measure of success.

Call to Action:  I wanted to leave a break between Stranger Things here on my blog and in my mind (LOL) so I think two posts is good enough.  Make sure to watch season 2 and watch for the next blog post where I breakdown the new season and give my overall impressions and thoughts.  (Don’t worry, there will not be any spoilers.)

Flash Fiction: A Search for Light in the Night

A wildfire in the heart of a great forest was a dreadful power.  For Damrin Graeves, that was the only comparison he could equate to the breaking of the Wielder’s Council.  Rogue Wielders had never been an uncommon occurrence in the world but the number of those allied and bound to the Shoal Oaths kept those flames from spreading.  Now, however, there were too many flames and they were being fed by pride, promises, and the Hallowed knows what else.

His options were limited.  He could not reach out to Wielders he called friend.  Since Kesree’s betrayal–his closest of allies–he had to select his movements more carefully.  Too much use of his Shoalway, Qorum, and he would likely draw attention.  Wielders could detect the power from a fair distance away but they could not be everywhere.  So, many Wielders had trained and hired agents tucked away in all sorts of corners and pockets of the Holds, waiting to feel the stinging sensation in their teeth.  Sensors, they were called.  Damrin had refused to employ such people for he had no need to keep eyes and ears on his brethren.

It had taken longer than he wanted, but he reached his room, held by the grimacing innkeeper, Goel Begeen, after traveling by foot.  It had been the first time in three decades since he walked such a distance without touching his Shoal and it had been arduous to say the least.  The village of Nemeck in the Teras Hold had been one of several hiding places he kept secret.  Only Kesree had known of his corner room in Goel’s inn, The Commoner.

Days of rest had been needed after his journey.  Once there, he had removed the collection of manuscripts, ledgers, and maps hidden away in the ceiling.  His eyes moved over one such map where he made notes and drew symbols based on a personal cypher not even Kesree had known about.  Some secrets had been kept.

The list of names and affiliations on the narrow piece of parchment was complete and thorough but he needed to know which of those names still drew breath and which way they leaned in this ominous war.  For Damrin, he needed to find an ally and quickly.  Too many were dying and fresh rumors sprouted from the earth as Wielders killed each other and kingdoms fell.  Truth slipped from his fingers but a net could succeed where his hands failed.

Stranger Things: Rewatch Final Thoughts

posted in: Fantasy, Film/TV, Review | 0

I won’t go into further rehash of the first season of Stranger Things (I’ve exhausted that enough, I think).  I apologize if those first few episode posts were too play-by-play also.  I wanted to avoid that but felt I needed to call out a lot of important moments and details as we moved deeper into the story.

With the first season finished and moving into season 2, I think this show was primarily successful due to several factors.  The nostalgia and call backs to our favorite 80s pop culture memories definitely act as a foundation but I think to recognize the direction, production, acting, and storytelling of the show is equally important.  The show never feels like a parody of the decade but instead, it’s a heavy hitter in its own right that could have been developed and given to us by Spielberg himself back in 1983.

Much like the recent IT movie, the child actors kept this experience grounded.  They are not only great actors but they represented what early 80s preteens were (based on my memory of older kids).  I feel that I could safely argue that without their stellar performances and believability, the show would have been sub par.

Looking forward, Season 2 has a lot to live up to but if we are to go by the trailers and clips released, I think this show will continue to be strong (I’ve also heard good things from people who’ve seen early screenings of the first few episodes).  It will delve deeper into the characters and their struggles having to adjust to the incidents and experiences of the first season while opening ways into more mysteries and oddities that we love and cannot wait to experience.

Part of me is curious as to how they will keep up the nostalgia without touching upon the same ones they’ve already referenced.  Some that I noticed based on the info we’ve been given, we can expect Ghostbusters, Mad Max, Dragon Lair (the arcade game), and even Michael Jackson (Thriller primarily) all to come into play.

What to expect from me regarding Season 2 is most likely a review after I’ve seen all the episodes.  Whether or not I do another rewatch for next year (as far as I know, there will be a season 3), I haven’t decided yet but I’ll definitely consider it.

In all, this was a fun month of blogging.  A bit exploratory and experimental but still enjoyable.  I’m not sure there’s another show I would want or be able to this type of rewatch/review with to be honest.  Netflix has a great format for their tv seasons, keeping episodes at a low number.  Thank you for sticking around and reading.  Hope you enjoyed it and if you did (or didn’t), make sure to leave a comment.  I’d love to see more activity here on the blog and interact with everyone!

Call to Action: Check out the awesome Season 2 trailer below!