Friday, September 28, 2012

Samuel L. Jackson and the best Obama ad ever

I saw this yesterday and laughed. Y'all know I'm a democrat, but this ad from Samuel L. Jackson is hilarious and clever. Wake the F*CK UP! No offense intended toward the Republicans. I just think this ad is funny, and if you haven't seen it, you might want to press play.
Have a great weekend :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Would you ever want a bagel head?

The National Geographic channel explores interesting subjects on "Taboo." And as a caveat to that, "taboo" is basically what "Americans find as taboo" because (let's face it) America is filled with conservative meat and potatoes folks. For example, people are only now just getting comfortable with homosexuality, thanks to shows like Modern Family, Glee, Will and Grace, Happy Endings, and the democrats finally adding marriage equality to their party platform. Americans still have many taboos. However, I did wonder if body modification is one of them. It's easy to find people that have piercings. I guess "taboo" applies to the kind of body modification we are talking about, right?

Well, earlier this month, National Geographic took a look at a body modification that's enjoying increasing popularity in Japan. In a procedure that makes me cringe, people willingly have saline solution injected into their foreheads. One guy that had this done asked, "Is water dripping down my face?" But the person administering the saline said that was probably on the inside of his skin. So hmm, would you ever want a bagel head?

I have to admit, this kind of thing is creepy to me. But I would not judge someone negatively if they wanted to try it. I strive to keep as open a mind as I can. But I have to do you feel about body modification? Do you have any characters in your books that are into body modification? And if you do use body modification in your fiction, do you show it in a good light? Or would you choose to use it to make your villain disgusting?
This last question, that of using "body modification" to make a villain disgusting, is an unfortunate stereotype in many films. The one that most readily comes to mind is the villain in the movie "300." But there are others for sure, think "The Cell" or "Silence of the Lambs."
Xerxes on 300 had very visible body modification. The heroic spartans, however,
did nothing to their beautiful and basically perfect bodies. What does this say about
society's view? Maybe that's the reason it was featured on "Taboo", because "most"
people (at least in America) consider this "freakish." And 300 is an American film.
The only time in fiction that I can recall a hero having extensive body modification is in the case of Wolverine, and what happened to him ended up being kind of cool even though the idea of it is horrific. An adamantium exo-skeleton is something you could build an entire series on, right?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Big Smoke Cover Reveal from Cally Jackson

Today, I'm one of many bloggers doing a cover reveal for "The Big Smoke" by "down unda" author Cally Jackson.

Here's the blurb for it:

Ceara’s desperate for love; Seb’s desperate to get laid. Ceara adores reading novels; Seb hasn’t finished a book in years. Two strangers, both moving from small country towns to Brisbane – the big smoke. As they prepare to attend the same university, their paths seem set to collide, but they keep missing each other. Maybe fate is keeping them apart, or maybe it’s just chance.

When the semester starts, things get complicated. Ceara’s best friend withdraws from her, Seb’s closest mate turns into a sleazebag, and the relentless demands of university make their stress levels soar. Before their first semester is over, both Seb and Ceara will be forced to question who they are and what they want from their lives. Will they have the courage to find the answers, or will they crumble under the pressure? And when they finally meet, will it be love at first sight or a collision of headstrong personalities?

If the book intrigues you, or if the book sounds like something you would like to read, please check out its Goodreads page HERE. 

Network with Cally at the following places:

TWITTER: @callyjackson

So what do you think of the cover? Have a great Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Will the Walking Dead Season Three webisodes reveal Sophia's ghastly death?

Fight the dead, fear the living on October 14th!
Last year at about this time, AMC put up some webisodes to usher in Season 2 of "The Walking Dead." The six part mini episodes done in the flavor of the six webisodes AMC did for "Breaking Bad" (if you haven't seen them, watch them because Twaught Hammer is hilarious) revealed the origin story of "Bicycle Girl."

So i started thinking, what could they do for webisodes this time around? Will there be a six mini-episode that has an answer for this burning question:
My vote is to explore what happened with Sophia in season two. Show us how she became a zombie and follow that through to when Otis captured her and stuck her in the barn with all the other zombies. As a caveat, I kinda/sorta know what happened, but I just want to see it for myself. Especially since this DIDN'T happen in the comic books, and it was a huge and very sad reveal last year.
The Walking Dead season 3 episodes (whatever they may be) are slated to debut on October 1st. And then, we get the return of The Walking Dead on October 14th. For your viewing pleasure, I give you "Twaught Hammer." If you are fans of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) you'll love this.

Have a great Tuesday. Tomorrow, I'm participating in The Big Smoke cover reveal!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Judge Dredd body count blows away Commando

Judge Dredd. He is the Law. And you never see his eyes.
For those of you unfamiliar with the infamous body count in Schwarzenegger's "Commando," for a long time, it held a record for most people killed in a single film.

I don't know the exact numbers, but Dredd kills a lot of folks in this reboot done some seventeen years since his disastrous big screen appearance helmed by Sylvester Stallone. In my mind, the Judge Dredd body count blows away "Commando."

In looking back at this film , the first thing question that pops into my mind is: who knew women could be so brutal, disgusting, and evil?
Lena Headey as Ma-Ma. She gives a chilling performance as someone
you don't want to cross.
Lena Headey plays Ma-Ma, Mega-City One's most horrible citizen. She manufactures a drug called slo-mo which causes a high that slows down time to 1% normal for those who use it. Imagine life and all of your experiences suddenly going into bullet time for a while. That's what slo-mo is like and the effect that is shown on screen is really cool (a silent nod to the brilliant Wachowski's who debuted this technique in 1999 in the groundbreaking film, "The Matrix").

So what makes this "Ma-Ma" so horrible? In just one scene, she orders three men drugged on slo-mo and then flayed alive. Yes, all of their skin is cut off. Imagine that AND on this drug. It would seem like it lasted forever. And then while they're still on it and not quite dead...she drops them off a 200-story balcony to fall to their experience their own heads exploding in gushing red gore in microseconds against unyielding concrete.
The concrete arcology called "Peach Trees." It's probably named that
because life is so "peachy" there. Basically, it's a human sewer.
It chills my blood to even think about it.

Into this scene comes Judge Dredd, and he is there to pronounce judgement (death) upon Ma-Ma. And a fight to the top of a spooky and dreary arcology that houses 75,000 people begins. The blood bath is pretty amazing, and the violence is accentuated by new and different ways to kill people. He sets them on fire, blows their heads to pieces, throws them off balconies, shoots them dead, butchers them, etc.
Do not be alarmed. It's just a little incineration.
And some of it is done in incredible slow motion so that you can see flesh being torn assunder frame by frame.

I have to say, Judge Dredd is not a film for everyone. But it is a film for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the violence carried out in a way that riveted me to the screen.

What about you?

Did you go see this movie this weekend? If so, what did you think?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Is Jaws the only good shark story?

Is Jaws the only story that can have sharks in it that's any good? The original novel by Peter Benchley that took the world by storm in the seventies (yes that was forty years ago) was made into a movie by Steven Spielberg and to this day, the movie adaptation holds its own as a chilling tale. It has great actors, a riveting plot line, and a really evil shark.

I will never go into the ocean because of Jaws. I think I could go in a big boat or something, or I could reasonably get my toes wet, but anything more than a few thanks.

But, as much as Jaws terrified me, I kind of wanted more. Not more of that same story. But a different story that was just as good.

And it has never happened.

This week, "out on dvd" gives us the latest in just really awful shark films called "Bait 3D" and as I watched the trailer, I realized that yes, Jaws by Peter Benchley is the only good shark story that there will ever be.
This looks unbelievably cheesy.
Here's the synopsis for it: When a freak tsunami hits a sleepy beach town, a group of survivors find themselves trapped inside a submerged supermarket. As they try to escape to safety, they soon discover that there is a predator among them more deadly than the threat of drowning -- vicious great white sharks lurking in the water, hungry for fresh meat. As the bloodthirsty sharks begin to pick the survivors off one by one, they must work together to find a way out without being eaten alive.

It sounds undeniably bad. So don't you think it's strange that Jaws is the only good story?
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I mean it would be like saying, "Is the only wizard school story that will be any good the one penned by J.K. Rowling?" Which we know is wrong, right? I mean, we have Lev Grossman's "The Magicians" and other similar takes.

I wonder what the limitations are about sharks? Maybe they are just too one dimensional. But aren't zombies one dimensional...yet there are a number of good zombie films. Sharks are like zombies, only in water. They swim and they eat and that's all that they do. So, really there are only so many plot lines one could use to get A) people in the water and B) to show sharks eating them.

Any thoughts on why we keep getting terrible shark movies?

I leave you with this cheesy clip from Bait 3D.
Have a great weekend :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Fall of the Old Republic

The Fall of the Old Republic is coming on Cartoon Network, and it looks epic by any standard. I'm stunned that this is a television show. I applaud you LucasFilm!

Next Saturday, the Clone Wars season 5 returns in a new time slot in the morning. I've just recently got caught up on season four of this absolutely amazing series, and the trailer for the show gives me CHILLS I tell you!
From the trailer, it seems that the new season will focus on exactly how the Empire replaces the Old Republic by giving us glimpses of unrest among the public over the Jedis' role in the world. In other words, it answers the question of "How is it that Palpatine had the Jedi eliminated and the galactic populace seems fine with that?"

If you aren't watching the show or you have children and you aren't encouraging them to watch the show, I think you are doing a disservice. I would have LOVED to have cartoons with this kind of production value for my Saturday morning. But instead I had Bugs Bunny, Thundarr the Barbarian, and Land of the Lost. Kids have no idea how good they have it these days.

Please give the trailer a watch unless you are a boring person that doesn't like cool and exciting things.
So what is my single favorite scene in this trailer?

When Palpatine (cackling) says to Darth Maul, "You are no longer my apprentice." That part looks chilling as I've never seen Palpatine taking on another uber powerful Sith.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Have you seen the cover for Gravity?

Author Cherie Reich has published her three Gravity books in one comprehensive volume. It's called (appropriately) "Gravity: The Complete Trilogy" and here's the cover for it:
First off, I really love it. And I want to explain why. But before I do that, I want to give credit to the artists that brought this book to production.

The picture was created by Angela Harburn. Cherie purchased the rights to use it for her cover art from Aubrie Dionne designed the cover (the fonts and such), and Cherie drew the bookworm on the back of the cover for her Surrounded by Books Publishing logo.

Now...why I like it. If you take into consideration the placement of the spine, then the front of the ship makes a line (arrow) that points right to the title. So you can't miss the name. Additionally the reflection of the ship on the planet below frames it in so that your eye is draw to the center of the picture. When viewed as a whole, the images on the front cover condense to the words on the back, inevitably leading you to read the blurb.

That's just great marketing.

I'm very happy to judge this book by its cover. In a word: excellence.

Have a great Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The After by Briane Pagel

In life, death is one of the greatest mysteries. The After by Briane Pagel explores the notion of an afterlife and gives us a tale of people who were taken too soon from this world.

His holiness, the Dalai Lama says, “I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.”

Saorise, the main character in The After, says, "We have a hard time letting go of things." I suppose I could agree with that statement, because I have a hard time letting go now. But maybe we all could learn a thing or two from the Dalai Lama and try to work on our own inner peace. Sadly, Saorise didn't learn this lesson until after her life had ended.
In a beginning that smacks of the Tobey Maguire flick, Pleasantville, Saorise becomes self-aware in her own home, at a table of perfect children and a perfect husband. This is a place where what she may subconsciously wants seems to come true, even if what she consciously desires might disagree with this notion.

At some point, in a conversation with Ansel--her handsome and kind husband--she arrives at the conclusion that they are all dead. Saorise doesn't remember her death. But this doesn't matter, because it is the only explanation that makes sense.

And thus the tale unfolds. Through seemingly random, chaotic, and unpredictable events, she meets people in a world made as lovely as strolling through a field of golden grain at the end of summer. It's surreal, much like the feeling I get from gazing at a painting by artist Brett Cushing entitled "The Departure of Summer." It leaves me with a soaring sense of melancholy. The painting has storm clouds on the horizon and birds in the sky. I think, "those birds are rising before a hot wind and see all the world in its beauty before winter comes." And death is the winter of our lives.
The Departure of the Summer by artist Brett Cushing. Click to Embiggen.
Saorise has so much love for her husband and her babies that living with them is the only "heaven" possible for her. But as she begins to question what is going on, her subconscious desires to know the truth. And "The After" obeys by unraveling the events of her own demise even as she gets closer and closer to the actual Tree of Knowledge at the center of The Garden of Eden.

Her guide in this journey IS her subconscious, manifested as William Howard Taft, a man that at first seems to be the villain of the story, yet (in my opinion) represents something entirely different. In life, Taft was President of the United States. In death he is also a leader, though of a different sort.

As I read Pagel's tale, I became more and more aware that in every scene Taft entered, he prodded Saorise to uncover more truths of her existence. He served as the motivation for her to find the Tree of Knowledge which is on the verge of bearing fruit. This begs the question: what happens when someone eats the fruit? The notion of "Can humans get kicked out of the Garden of Eden twice?" surfaces more than once.

But here's the thing, Saorise doesn't need to eat the fruit to know "everything." By the time her journey to the Tree of Knowledge ends, and she settles down at its base, Saorise knows all that she needs to know in a deeply satisfying ending that says paradise is what you make of it and that only through living one's life is one capable of understanding the Grand Design (if there is one).

For Saorise, the Grand Design was finding love while alive and being in love with Ansel.

Saorise's epiphany is three-fold. She learns:
1) That everyone's "After" is a reflection of what we are unable to let go of in life.
2) That when we die, we are allowed to return to "The Garden of Eden."
3) That on the way to Florida, their plane fell out of the sky, and she and her children burned to death leaving their husband, a lone survivor, all alone in the world to deal with the grief.

And at the end of the novel, Pagel tells us of Ansel's fate (and it's something we suspect we knew but didn't want to see happen because he's just that beautiful).  Ansel's body survived that plane crash, but despite counseling, his mind could not live without those he loved. All alone, heading toward a farm house that he and Saorise saw once from the road, he pulled over for the night.

And he killed himself using prescription sleeping pills.

It is a profound moment in the book when Saorise realizes how much Ansel loved her. And she hugs him and kisses him and says, "Oh...Ansel." And in those two words, we know all the beauty that we need to know. That life ends, but love it seems is everlasting.

I really encourage you to pick up a copy of The After and read it. This book is well deserving of its five stars for emotional, well written characters, and a story which is so sad and beautiful at the same time, that it will leave you pondering the pages well after you have put down the book.

Purchase The After at Amazon for only 99 cents HERE.

Thank you, Pagel, for such a great story.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Genre Favorites Blogfest by Alex J. Cavanaugh

Today, I am participating in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Genre Favorites Blogfest. I would have forgotten about this one, but Alex reminded me to do it on Friday. I try to be organized, but I am nowhere near as organized as Alex is. He's definitely someone I look up to in our community.

This festival is pretty easy. You list three of your favorite genres and then a guilty pleasure from one of the three categories.

In books, I like Speculative Fiction.

In movies, I like Speculative Fiction.
Why do I like speculative fiction? Because it allows me to see things
like this dragon. This is my original artwork done with acrylic paint on
illustration board. Copyright Michael Offutt (but if you like it, go ahead
and use it). I don't care. :) Click to embiggen. And yes, I still think I suck
at art, but I keep trying just like with my writing. I call this painting
"Wings by Night" as if that weren't obvious.
Music, however, is a little harder to define. I like jazz (especially live), classical, songs used in musicals (which tend to be all over the place), rock, techno, soul, R&B, and pop. The only music that I can't get into is any rap that is not done by Eminem and then everything in the Country genre. I don't know why Eminem resonates with me. He just does, and I own all his albums.

My guilty pleasure is pop music because I know it's looked down upon by adults. But when I'm in the car by myself, I totally can rock out to Lady Gaga and Katie Perry. But as I have gotten older, I listen to more jazz than anything. I can't stand radio with all it's commercials, and more often than not, my radio is tuned to NPR. The only music I can write to is classical. All others are too obtrusive.

If you haven't heard of Alex, please go by his blog located HERE. He's a great guy to get to know. And despite having almost 2000 followers, the dude gets around. I have no idea how he does it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Terry Brooks Shannara books are getting a t.v. series

I love staring at fantasy maps. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because
my mind fills in all the possibilities for adventure that lurks in places.
Or maybe it just has to do with the fact that I played too much
Dungeons and Dragons growing up.
Stout defenders of Terry Brooks will probably disagree with me when I say that The Sword of Shannara is a point for point ripoff of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. And I've made that argument more than once, so I don't want to make it again. If you are curious about what I'm saying, you can Google it, or read the books back to back and note that, verbatim, the plot and the number of characters and even the physical size of the characters are repeated.

What I'm talking about in THIS post is that Brooks' Shannara books are getting a t.v. series. You can read about it at the VARIETY LINK HERE. And I'm excited about it. Yes, I am :) Does that surprise you?

See, I read The Sword of Shannara as a teenager right after finishing my first read of The Lord of the Rings. Did I notice the startling similarity? Yes, I did. Was I upset by it? A little, but not enough to stop reading. Let's face it, I was a nut for fantasy. I didn't care, and I particularly don't care as much now. I wanted to see monsters and wizards. Sure Allanon was just Gandalf and a druid instead of a wizard, but he could throw fire from his hands. In other words...he was a more "kickass" version of Gandalf.

And here's the thing, once Brooks moves past the first book, the series really starts to carve its own niche. Elfstones still had some similarities to Tolkien, but I loved the two witches that fight to the death. And the reaper made for some chilling scenes.

And then of course we get Wishsong, which started a whole new trend of cool abilities and places to go.

One of the strongest things I've seen is Brooks' ability to reinvent himself with Shannara. Just when things get stale, more map unfolds. Just when you think he doesn't have another villain, he recreates one from the ashes of the witches and puts that in a later book. He gives us flying ships with parse tubes and strange glowing crystals and entire islands made from computers. And really badass creatures as big as barns crawling through places like Japanese Kaiju.

I really liked in the later books how he even explores the other side of the Forbidding (a thing only hinted at in the Elfstones book).

Casting for the series is going to have to be redone with every new book. I think that's another hidden strength. Because characters featured in one rarely turn up in another. That means nothing ever gets stale, and new actors have the chance to get jobs.

So yeah, I'm excited about this series, despite my misgivings at how the very first one got published. In retrospect, I'm glad it DID get published, because I think Brooks is one of the greatest fantasy authors who has ever lived. Maybe he just needed Tolkien to get started. Everyone needs a place to start, right? I forgave Brooks a long time ago. And, I still buy his books.

Hopefully, this series doesn't run congruent with "A Game of Thrones." I want my fantasy fix all year long.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A totally gay godzilla just for you

Thank you so much for the support on Wednesday. I'm dedicating this totally gay godzilla to you for having helped Slipstream attain the coveted spot of number one in "Best science fiction books with gay main characters." With your assistance I went *STOMP STOMP STOMP all over the list on Goodreads and didn't even damage any cars. So if you ever had any doubt how wonderful you truly are, remember this...
I leave you on this Thursday with this video of the wealth I hope you attain in your writing endeavors. May it inspire you to unheard of heights in Fabulosity.
and yes, you may use my word (fabulosity) as often as you like. ;)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Can you do me a goodreads favor?

With your help my friends, I too can be a Dragon Ball Z character for
an obscure online list of books no one reads! This is your
mission, if you choose to accept it...
So the social networking site for book lovers called Goodreads has these lists for books (you may have seen them if you are on that site), and I'm tired of "Slipstream" being mediocre in all of them. Just in one, I would like to be higher, maybe even number one. So I picked out one that I think isn't going to step on any of my fellow author's toes (at least the ones with whom I regularly network).


It's pretty straight forward. "Best Science Fiction Books with Gay Main Characters." Like...the number one listing HAS ONLY 27 votes. I think I could totally own this list with a little help from my bloggy friends (that being you).
UPDATE: GUYS YOU GOT ME TO NUMBER 10!! Squeee. here's the favor. And it's really simple. IF you have a goodreads account (just to make it clear, I'm not asking you to go and sign up for another social network)...could you please go to the link and just vote for my book. That's it. One little click. I'm currently ranked number 78 and the list really isn't all that long. I even provided the link and circled the button in blue and included a picture of what it looks like up top so you won't be confused.

And just maybe, by the end of the day, I won't be so mediocre in the listing. I might move up!

What I will do for you in return:
1) If you indicate that you would like me to bump your book up in a list, let me know in a comment and I'd be happy to cast my vote cause chances are, we aren't competing in this one. As far as I know, I follow 600 some odd blogs and no one has a gay main character in a sci-fi book. Only straight people write books and they only have straight protagonists pining for straight white men or a straight woman (here's looking at you, Alex ;)). There's nothing wrong with that. It's just my observation with some hyperbole thrown in for good measure. So Jordan (my protag) is kind of like spotting the Loch Ness monster.

What do I expect to accomplish by asking for this? Nothing. But I'll get to be a big pickle. And I shall be a pickle like no other pickle has ever been before!
But because you know my secret, you can always say...
Have a great Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hansel and Gretel as Witch Hunters sounds brilliant

A reinvention of the well-worn fairy tale has finally crossed the line into the guy territory of pure cheesy awesome-ness. This movie deserves to be in one of those theaters that serve brew along with French fries and hamburgers. Hansel and Gretel as Witch Hunters sounds brilliant. Let's hope that it crushes the awful slew of Snow White movies we've had in the last year. I only wish Hansel could put one in Kristen Stewart so I wouldn't have to see her in another movie.

And honestly, who could go wrong with casting the dude that played Hawkeye, the new Bourne Guy, and raced around with Tom Cruise in the latest Mission: Impossible movie? His career is exploding, and I don't really even know his name. I guess I should learn it.

Have a great Tuesday.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Revolution's Pilot episode

Revolution hits next Monday on NBC, but you can watch the whole Pilot right here, right now (embedded in this post). I'm going to talk about the pilot episode, so here's your spoiler warning. :)

PRO and quite possible CON: I'm divided on how I feel about the "miracle exemption" employed for this series. I know, that sounds bizarre considering that I have no problem with the miracle exemption of Superman (that being that all of his powers emerge from being on a planet with a yellow sun). However, in the end, I think I liked that J.J. Abrams is taking a risk with a "Miracle Exemption" so strong, it can only be described as "physics has gone crazy." Once you swallow the fact that electricity doesn't work (nevermind the fact that electrical impulses fire constantly through the human brain and nervous system) then the world-building can begin.
THIS is the protagonist of the story. Her name is Charlie Matheson played
by Tracy Spiridakos. You don't meet her until 12 minutes into the pilot.
CON: It takes us a while to figure out who to root for. This pilot doesn't start out with a dream sequence per se, but it does introduce us to a scientifically-minded man named Matheson who has some inkling of what's about to happen in the world short of the blackout. Then the pilot advances 15 years to a post-apocalyptic world and this guy is still around, still healthy, and well respected. Okay...he must be the one I root for. Nope, they shoot him dead shortly after that. This smacks a little of a dream sequence in the "I just wasted 15 minutes of your life and now I'm introducing you to the real protagonist."

PRO: Bows. Taking a page from the Hunger Games, there are lots of fit young people shooting bows with deadly accuracy. It looks cool, and adds an athleticism that you just don't get with a pistol. However, in a country like the United States so overloaded with guns that you could probably stack them from the ground to the moon, you kind of have to wonder where all the guns went.

CON: Rape is how you find out who the bad men are. They wake up the girls in the middle of the night, try to rape them, and then get killed in a gruesome manner. I think "rape" is an overused theme in fiction and writers could stretch themselves a bit to find other more creative ways to show "I am an evil person."
Giancarlo Esposito, definitely one of my favorite actors today.
PRO: Giancarlo Esposito. This actor played "Gus" in "Breaking Bad" and boy did he ever do a great job. He's also the genie of the lamp in the show "Once Upon A Time" and I think the "Magic Mirror" as well. So aside from his career just exploding with fantastic jobs (as it should because the guy is one of the best actors around), he gives a chilling performance as the leader of the militia. Very non-stereotypical but definitely evil. And it doesn't involve even the hint of "rape". Rather, his most telling moment is when he admits to being a former insurance salesman. I always knew those guys were the devil.

PRO: The post-apocalyptic scenery. The ruins of Chicago are magnificent. The countryside is outstanding and completely overgrown. And the planes falling out of the sky and exploding before the title sequence will send shivers down your spine.
These guys think they have what it takes to bring in one guy who tends
bar. Think again, you guys are all toast.
PRO: Miles Matheson, the dead Matheson's brother, is a frickin' ninja. When you meet him, he's just some forty year-old dude tending bar. But the militia comes for him with guns, bows and arrows, knives, and about twenty incredibly fit men. This forty year old former marine KILLS THEM ALL. I'm not kidding. It's a blood bath. He leaves bodies strewn about like a Tony Jaa film. I was like...holy crap, this guy is a complete BADASS.
Miles Matheson killing everyone that came to "take him in." The
choreography in this fight was pretty incredible for a t.v. show.
So with more pros and cons, I think that J.J. Abrams may have a winner to replace "Fringe" which is signing off the air in the spring of 2013. If you've watched the pilot, what do you think? And do you intend to watch Revolution?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Recognizing the signs of a brain aneurysm

I have a friend named Joe that I haven't seen in years. We don't keep in touch anymore. He moved on, and so did I. But I remember the day Joe's dad died of a brain aneurysm. He had been working and reported that he suddenly felt a sharp pain in the back of his head. As if someone had struck him with a hammer. He made a phone call, got progressively worse within minutes of the event, and went unconscious soon after. He was dead in something like 25 minutes. It's that deadly, and that serious. Doctors reported that the vessel that burst near the back of his head caused blood to pool in the brain with such tremendous pressure, there was something like 400-pounds crushing his spinal column.

Well yesterday, I saw this happen to a woman with whom I work. It was morning, we were starting our meeting (it happens once a year and we had it at a local park), and this woman got up from her chair, staggered, and fell down next to a tree. I asked, "What's going on there?" And I was told she had a bad headache. Someone was looking in their purse for some Advil. I said, "headaches don't make people stagger like that. Where is it?" They said, "the back of her head." I said, "I think this is very serious." When I said that, the Manager in charge, dropped everything and acted upon it.

Someone went over, helped the lady to the car, and started driving her to the hospital. It got worse and worse and they called an ambulance. I found out later that day that she indeed had suffered a brain aneurysm. But because of swift thinking on everyone's part, and being in the heart of Salt Lake City where there are excellent medical facilities and some of the best neurosurgeons in the country, she has (I think) a good chance of beating this thing. At least I hope so.

My point in telling you this is not to scare you. But it is to tell you first-hand from someone that has now been around this thing twice, if you or someone you are watching complains of a sudden, severe headache that starts at the back of the head (like someone hit them with a hammer), and it's staggering, you need to drop everything RIGHT NOW. This is a life and death situation. Don't dismiss it. Don't go and grab some Advil or some Excedrin. And don't say, "this person must be faking this as a joke." You call 911 without hesitation.

Just as a disclaimer, I'm not a medical professional. I don't have medical training. But I know what I've seen, and I'm passing it on to you.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

IWSG September edition

Today I wanted to talk about unwelcome comparisons that reduce your work and originality to a pile of crap.

Yesterday, I put up a picture of my character, Jordan, that I drew myself (completely from my imagination) and posted it online. I went for a walk with a lady that I know, and she asked to see it. When I showed her using my cell phone, the first words out of her mouth was, "I didn't think you could draw something like that." Followed quickly by, "It looks EXACTLY LIKE so-and-so."  Now "so-and-so" is a 35-year-old man that she works with that she thinks is hot. And although she may think he looks young, to me he looks 40.  Sorry Mr. so-and-so, you look forty. Things are a saggin'. Gravity (as we say in the physics world) is a relentless bitch. My character is 18-years-old. Ahem *hand on hip (yes I had attitude at that point.)

I was like, "What the f*ck? They don't look anything alike." At which point she was mortified that she'd insulted my picture because I wasn't on the same page as her, and I WAS PISSED OFF because she took something that I'd created and said it looked like something or someone it clearly wasn't.

Ladies, imagine making a dress and taking the time to make it look the best you could possibly do with your talent and then have someone come in and say, "OMG, I saw this same pattern in Doris' house down the street so you must have copied that. It looked great over there, and it looks great here." But you know that your friend is "mistaken" because it isn't the same pattern. They're totally different. The only thing that's the same is the fact that both are "dresses." And then an argument ensues because you are insulted.

For the nerdy's an example for you to help better explain. You spend all this time making a Magic: The Gathering Deck to play in a tournament, and then someone says, "Oh you copied that from some online forum. Tell me where it is so I can get the breakdown and copy it too. It plays great." And then you KINDLY explain to them that you stayed up all night play testing cards and these were the best combos that you could come up with.

It's insulting.

I had one book blogger say, "Michael Offutt's Slipstream is a knockoff of Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower' and King did it better." I've read "The Dark Tower" and my book is NOTHING LIKE IT other than the fact that both have "towers" in them. If that's the case then how is "The Dark Tower" not a knock off of Tolkien? Tolkien had towers before King did. No one in my story is the man in black. No one is the Gunslinger. No one is Jake, the kid from earth.

My point is that there are clear knockoffs (and plenty of them out there), but it IS possible to have an original idea that hasn't been done yet (contrary to popular belief). I think it's bullshit that people say that. They say "There are no original ideas." Whatever. Just none you've ever heard, so you dismiss them as unoriginal. True, there will always be elements to a story that need to be borrowed from pop culture and lexicon. There's no getting away from language and images that all humans share. But I hate it when some person (and probably not all that well read) skims something probably not devoting too much time to it, doesn't wait for the climax for all things to be explained, and then dismisses it as a hackneyed copycat of something else.

My book has been called "weird" and "strange" and "bizarre" by reviewers. I take those as compliments, because it means that people who have absorbed what's going on in the story, and haven't been derailed by the occasional typo or misplaced/missing comma, will see that it's something they've never seen before. And I take pride in that, and was really f*cking hard to sell. Publishers don't want weird. They don't want strange. They don't want different. That's because they don't know if it will sell and if people will even like it. People tend not to like "weird". They tend to not like stories that clash genres. Because "genres" are sacred to them. It's how you've been taught.

But I seriously have contempt for genres. And it shows in my writing.  I take young adults and make them have graphic sex, throw them into hard sci-fi with no promise of a romance, and do it all in third person omniscient. I'm okay with people staring at my baby and whispering words like "What the hell is that exactly? I've never seen anything like it. I don't know if it's beautiful or ugly or WTF is it? Is the author insane?" Yeah, I'm okay with that.

What I'm not okay with is comparing it to something that is out there as if I couldn't come up with an idea of my own and needed to rewrite someone else's plot. My co-workers say (as if they are thinking that this is a shoe-in) "Mike, rewrite Twilight." As if I'd even want to do that or even could. I can't write like that. And it's insulting for people to suggest that I should try. But I guess it's all about getting the snicker in on my behalf, or rather, snickering at me behind my back.

The few friends that I've had in my life said that I was born with an incredible imagination that blew their minds wide open whenever they sat down and talked to me about stories. My parents said I had an overactive imagination. Maybe that does NOTHING for stories in today's world where the demand is for two hot guys and a girl in a love triangle. But IT IS THE ONLY THING that I have that I truly call my own. And I will never ever rewrite someone else's story. That's just not how I roll.

So yeah, if you were to ask me, "Mike do you think you write original stories?" I would say, "Yes. I think my stories are fairly original. Maybe not 100%. But I think they're in the 80% range of things you've never seen before." Is that arrogant? No. It's just what I think. I may not be the greatest word smith, but I have a lot of ideas and always have had them even when I was little.

And here's where I say, you do too. Stop listening to the lies. Yes, there is such a thing as genius. It's rare, but some people have it. Some people can be brilliant. Some people can think of things no one else has thought of before. But there's some bizarre thing about our culture that almost shames smart people. Like, it's not okay to be smart (think of Rick Santorum calling Barack Obama a snob--a thing brought about because Obama is SMART). It's not okay to be brilliant. When you pop off with an idea that no one is heard of, there are all kinds of people just waiting to tear it down. I wish America would stop attacking smart people and start listening to them. Maybe we wouldn't be in such a mess.

There are lots of ideas in the independent presses that I've been reading that don't match up with anything I have read before or seen before from both men and women. Some are really brilliant.  Maybe these authors' babies got called ugly and weird too and agents didn't know what to do with them, so they got rejected. Yes, you CAN have an original idea and get absolutely no reward and no money for it. Just because someone has money does not make them smart. But don't allow people to belittle your project by saying that it's a knockoff of someone that made it big. That's just adding insult to injury. Stand up for yourself and tell those people to F*CK OFF.

You have my permission to be smart. And I'm not going to call you arrogant for doing that. I like smart people, especially if they are smarter than myself. Stop being ashamed of your intelligence.

*end rant

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A little scene from Oculus

So, this Labor Day weekend, I sent off my completely finished sequel to Deron at Double Dragon, and he says he'll probably publish it about the same time my book was done last year (so spring of 2013). That's really cool. I have to say, this book took A LOT out of me. I've been fighting with it for over two years, had two extremely talented beta-readers go over it, had two editors go over it (and no Andrew, I'm sure there's a comma somewhere that's out of place, but I just don't care), and I went over it myself about a DOZEN times. You know, birthing a sequel is hard as sh*t. I don't know how some people seem to do it so easily.

Oculus is also bigger than Slipstream. It has more meat to it, and I introduce a wide variety of characters so that when I sink into the lowest levels of depravity (as I am prone to do), then I have lots of fictional people I can torture and make do deplorable things.

So for some reason, my "artistic" bug hit me this weekend. See, I used to fancy myself an artist, but I realized that I suck so I gave up on my dreams of doing it professionally years ago. But that doesn't stop me from dabbling with coloring pencil every now and then.

So I drew a scene from Oculus that stars Brianna (a mysterious Watcher character--yes that's a religious reference) and a more mature Jordan. The scene is provided for you as a reference to the picture that I drew:
They both picked up a radiation badge from the control room operator. Jordan knew him only as Harvey. Then she followed him into the room where she took a seat next to him in front of a bank of computer screens. Jordan waited for the go ahead and fired the synchrotron at a previously prepared ice sample and awaited the data.

“How do you prepare the samples?” she asked him.

“Dr. Wolfson had a bunch already completed,” he said. “But she did walk me through how to do it on my own. Basically, ice samples are decontaminated by three repeated washings in ultrapure water. The first step involves taking a sample from an ice core in cold storage and melting it at room temperature. Once that’s done, you gently agitate it for homogenization and then partition it into individual vials of polystyrene Coulter accuvettes, which have all been pre-cleaned using the ultrapure water I mentioned. Dr. Wolfson told me repeated checks showed the dust concentration difference between the first and the last aliquots is typically around the level of measurement-reproducibility. That is, the aliquots provided for the different analyses should be comparable.”

He paused, watching the screen, gaze flicking from one monitor to the next. “All right, there’s the fluoroscopic data we’ve been waiting for.” He gestured with his hand. “We are looking at the insoluble elemental composition of Antarctic dust, which appears to be composed of more aluminum, less silicon, and less potassium than the previous sample that I took from a different depth. The result suggests that either the characteristics of the dust source changed at some point in history, which could mean factors as simple as soil development, or that there was a change in the relative contributions of the overall varying sources.”

“Meaning that there was an environmental change.”

He nodded in agreement. “Exactly—it’s like a portrait of earth’s history captured in time—in a single drop of water.”

“How do you know all of this without looking it up or cross-referencing the fluoroscopic data with a chart?” Brianna asked.

He glanced at her. “Well, I memorized it before I met with Dr. Wolfson so that I’d have a better chance at getting the job. The data on known fluoroscopic rates is on the university website.”

“You memorized all of the numbers?”

He nodded. “I’m not lying. Honest.”

“All right, what’s this?” She pointed at a number on the screen.

“That,” Jordan said, looking at it, “is the numerical figure associated with the element neodymium. How did I miss that?” He scribbled down the details of the water sample on a notebook.

“Why is that significant?”

He swallowed, looking up at her. “I-It’s not! I-I mean it is, but it isn’t.”

Her eyes narrowed. “You’re lying to me.” “Honest, I’m not. I-I mean the finding is significant because none of the previous samples that I’ve examined showed even the slightest traces of Nd in them, but it’s in such microscopic amounts that it’s difficult to say how it got in the ice.”
I did the picture using coloring pencil and finished it in Adobe Photoshop. Basically, imagine yourself looking out at them through a computer screen (the words are printed on in front of Jordan). I aged him some from my other pic I did of him because he's now a college student. Brianna is a junior so I wanted her to look a little older. They say: "Neodymium Detected, Ice Core Sample 111, Origin Dome A: Antarctica.

Features I put in the picture:
1) Antarctica, because that's becoming increasingly important to the story.
2) The name of the particle collider, "C.H.E.S.S." is on the wall.
3) Jordan's red "Cornell Hockey" hat is a powerful symbol in the book, and he wears it everywhere. He plays hockey on the University team. Plus, I thought Jordan looks good in red so I put him in a red checkerboard shirt. Also red (blood) is another powerful symbol. Green was more important in the first book.

Anyway, sorry for the long post. If you like my drawing, you can Pin it or whatever. There's no fear of copyright since I own it, and I say you can use it. Have a great Tuesday.