Monday, April 30, 2012


In the book SLIPSTREAM, the story takes place in two universes separated by a membrane that one crosses by either going through a portal or taking a trip through a mirror. The power to create these doorways comes from one of two sources. The first is Jordan, and I explain where his powers come from in the last chapter of the book. The second is this entity I call Z.E.R.O. The acronym stands for Zion Electronic Ruling Operator...a machine that emerged from a tower that exploded on a mirror planet to Earth.

Z.E.R.O. is an omnipotent machine. His only purpose is to act as a failsafe in the event that for some unforeseeable reason, there was a failure in the containment system of the boxes I spoke of in THIS POST.  Z.E.R.O. saves humanity from extinction. But before he can complete his programming, Z.E.R.O. goes insane.

One of the pitches I used for SLIPSTREAM to get my idea across was a question: What would happen if god had a nightmare? The answer to this is at the core of what Slipstream is about.

During my blog tour coming up in May, I will be posting snippets of a short story that I wrote that describe the Insanity of Z.E.R.O. (probably a paragraph a day).

Thanks to Arlee Bird, Alex, Matthew, Damyanti, and any other organizers I missed for running the A to Z Challenge. It was fun.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


I think the deepest themes in Wall-E revolve around the color yellow.  Yellow is the sun and it brings the earth life. Wall-E's boxy body is yellow. And one of the promotional pictures that Pixar did for the film was done in Yellow above.

When I think about the them in the film, I think about abandonment. There are lots of examples in real life of families abandoning their children. Oftentimes this happens when a child's sexual orientation is discovered. Here in Utah, gay children are often left to fend for themselves--kicked out onto the street by their parents who are embarrassed, ashamed, and fear that they will be ostracized by their christian community. So in a way...yellow here is cowardice.

In Wall-E, perhaps the color yellow is a symbol of how the human race failed to deal with its pollution problem. They cowardly hid from it within a spaceship, and left a child (robot) behind to process the garbage and to report signs of life that would someday return to the earth.

Yellow is a powerful color. It can be a powerful symbol. However you choose to interpret Wall-E, I think that it sends multiple messages of warning (warning signs are painted in yellow). If anything, we can learn a thing or two from Pixar. These cartoons are not just made for kids.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Because Prometheus is just around the corner (days are counting down) and I need to talk about something that begins with an "X", I'm choosing to write about the Alien xenomorph.
Most people who have seen the movie Alien find the xenomorph itself pretty disturbing. There is also something totally and undeniably horrifying about the derelict spacecraft in which the eggs are found. The details shown in the sketches of the book "Giger's Alien" imply that the spacecraft (that we see in the Prometheus trailer) has a design and function related to something unimaginably malignant by any human standard of the definition of "malignancy". Perhaps "malignancy" is not even the right word here. The derelict goes beyond that. It encompasses an entire system of systematic obliteration of life which goes beyond any human definition of evil. 

I think it's a good thing that this object (and creature) exists only in our fantasies. I think it would be disturbing to share the universe with a species as terrible and horrific as the one envisioned by H.R. Giger (the creator of the Xenomorph creature).
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As a writer of science-fiction, I've taken many cues from Mr. Giger in my own work. In "Slipstream" I have a god-like being who went insane when his personality split down the middle. The evil side of this god-like being wanted nothing to do with the good, law-abiding side. So much so, that it cut itself in half and replaced the human aspect of itself with machine. Horrific as that may sound, both sides of this avatar survive independently of one another. To know more, well, I hope you'll invest in my book.

Generally speaking, however, it's this sort of characteristic that's a trait of Giger's biomechanical style: I don't think there are many (intelligent) people who would like to see Giger's worlds being realized, because if such was the case, they would be in a heck of a lot of trouble. And the same goes for the dystopian world of Avalon in my book. It's been described as a dark fantasy filled with exciting and original monsters, if not a bit horrific.

But I bow to the master that is H.R. Giger. I wonder how this man (H.R. Giger) even sleeps at night, with the thoughts that must occupy his head.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

When It's Time

Tuesday morning I drove up to my childhood home in Idaho Falls to put my mother in a care facility. Now that it's Wednesday night, and I'm writing this completely exhausted from two days of filling out paperwork, moving furniture, and setting up her room, I can tell you that this was the most difficult thing I've had to do in my life.

My mother has been battling mental illness for years. My father had grown incapable of managing her meds and was at the end of his rope, ready to flee with a packed suitcase to lord knows where. He just couldn't take it anymore. And the process was physically exhausting. I hit the road for an eight-hour round trip and had my first care facility appointment at noon. Then another at 1:00. Then a break for lunch and mom's doctor at 3:00 where we asked her, "Do you believe it's time?" And she responded, "Yes."

So we picked out a place, and I got 100-pages of paperwork to fill out (I'm serious). Living will, resuscitation, medicare, insurance, supplemental, social...all kinds of questions. Then came the part where we had to set up the room. This included picking out furniture, moving a 300-pound solid wood dresser, dolls, things that would give my mother some peace in her new home. All the while she was yelling at us, cussing us out, wondering what the hell is going on.  Then she fell twice, once outside. My dad just sat on the couch in a "fugue" state and said "Your mother fell down." And then just left her there so that I could go and scoop her up. He refused to answer simple questions. "Which pillow do you think she would like?" His response, "I'm not going to answer questions about that. Your decision."

He washed his hands of even the simplest questions.

Long-term care insurance had been lost. They were buried in one of three shoeboxes filled with hundreds of paper receipts from voided checks that should have been thrown away to receipts for stuff he's bought in the last ten years. Pure chaos. He couldn't find the keys to his truck, couldn't find my mother's dentures, was pretty helpless really.

So my brother and I did it all. We got my mother's clothes labeled with sharpies, we bought  cleaning supplies and spit-shined all the furniture going over, we selected all the photographs for her door display so that the residents could see who she was and be curious, we put away her clothes, hung the pictures in her room, connected the television, got her set up for her meds to be delivered already in bubble packs directly from the pharmacy with speed pay, signed all the papers, and then took her there.

I got emotional driving her there. She thought we were going to iHop which is one of her favorite restaurants. When we ended up at the nursing home, she knew what this place was, despite all of her mental issues. So I cried...I tried to stop it, but I couldn't.

If you ever have to commit your mother to a facility, I know your pain. My mother loves me so much. Though most of her is gone, this is one of those milestones where you know that a loved one's life left on this earth has grown short. And despite this love, I couldn't take her home. She wanted to go home to the dog she loves, to the place where she was comfortable, and she isn't going to go home ever again. This facility is now her home. I had to move out of state to find a job. I can only visit twice a year because of vacation. And you simply cannot live in this country if you don't have a job. So there's a mandatory 40-hours of my week that is gone. And honestly, there's no way I could care for her even if I lived locally.

So yeah, this week has been hell. I'll remember it for the rest of my life. I think she'll make new friends and lead a healthier more social lifestyle so perhaps this will be a good fit. The home I put her in seemed like a really good one.

Anyway, if I haven't had time to visit your blogs this week, this is why. This is what I've been doing. I've got one more day to wrap up and finalize some things, take my mom to a doctor's appointment, and replace a phone that I dropped accidentally in the hot tub at the hotel I'm staying at. Sigh. When this week is over, it shall be a big relief.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

VY Canis Majoris

Our sun in comparison to just a small section of this enormous
star. If you were to carry it out past the edge of the screen, you'd
see how ridiculously huge this star happens to be.
VY Canis Majoris is the largest star ever discovered. I was watching this show called "How the Universe Works" narrated by Mike Rowe, and I really enjoyed the explanation they had of VY Canis Majoris. Basically, it's a dying star. What keeps it burning at its center is a fusion reactor. Think of hydrogen bombs going off and you essentially understand the reaction taking place in the heart of stars.

So the thing that keeps a star from just flying apart is gravity. In the case of VY Canis Majoris, there is so much mass that when the fusion stops going, gravity is just going to kind of take over and crush the core of the star into a black hole.  Black holes are things that our brightest physicists don't really understand.  Places where infinite gravity takes over and time stops and light can't even escape.
So in the center of VY Canis Majoris, a black hole will eventually form. When that happens, it will consume the star from the inside. But it will do so incredibly fast, like a glutton, too fast that all of the colliding matter will explode in this thing called a hypernova. A hypernova produces more energy in a second than our sun will produce in its entire lifetime. That's just mind-boggling.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Up by Pixar

If only all stories, and all lives were this perfect. UP was a great film because of the age of its characters. Not only that though, it touched on issues of Ellie not being able to have a child, loneliness, and how two people can be so perfect for each other right from the very start. Whatever writers at Pixar came up with this story are absolutely brilliant. It's really the first movie I ever went to with my father where he said afterward, "I really liked this movie."

This is the octogenarian story that stole my heart.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thoughts on Art and Criticism

I love the snippet I've included above. It is from Pixar's Ratatouille. It reminds me of the power that food has and that with a smell, a taste, and a touch, you can be transported to a time in your childhood when things were far less complicated. Below are thoughts on criticism and how we both give and receive.
“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more." — Anton Ego

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Quotes from 1Q84 book 3 by Haruki Murakami

I recently finished the mind-bending book, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Here are some quotes I want to share to see if they spark discussion. I'm still processing what I think of this book. I have given the quotations numbers to make them easy to reference. If you like, pick one and tell me what you think he is saying, whether you agree with it or not, and why you may think it is true or not.
1) Number one on the list now was a diet book entitled Eat as Much as You Want of the Food You Love and Still Lose Weight. What a great title. The whole book could be blank inside and it would still sell. 
2) Humans see time as a straight line. It's like putting notches on a long straight stick. The notch here is the future, the one on this side is the past, and the present is this point right here...But actually time isn't a straight line. It doesn't have a shape. In all senses of the term, it doesn't have any form. But since we can't picture something without form in our minds, for the sake of convenience we understand it as a straight line. At this point, humans are the only ones who can make that sort of conceptual substitution. 
3) There are always far more people in the world who make things worse, rather than help out. 
4) It was a well-known fact that certain members of the so-called elite had disgusting personalities and dark, twisted tendencies, as if they had taken more than the share of darkness allotted to them. 
5) Most people in the world don't really use their brains to think. And people who don't think are the ones who don't listen to others. 
6) I was confident that I was a special person. But time slowly chips away at life. People don't just die when their time comes. They gradually die away, from the inside. And finally the day comes when you have to settle accounts. Nobody can escape it. People have to pay the price for what they've received. 
7) If you do the same things everyone else does, in the same way, then you're no professional.
Murakami's book has been a heavy heavy read. I don't recommend it for everyone. But it has given me lots of pause to stop reading and just think about what he has said.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Prometheus Happy Birthday David

Oh my gosh...I just couldn't get past "P" in the A to Z challenge without another post where I gush about the movie I'm most looking forward to this year. The website io9 has a bunch of links and codes that you can go to and unlock David's emotions. You should try it if you're bored.

If you are new to my blog and don't know what this movie is, Prometheus is the prequel to the original Alien that Ridley Scott made almost 40 years ago.

They spent $200 million dollars on it before marketing.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Oppenheimer Connection in SLIPSTREAM


I think that Robert Oppenheimer is a tragic figure. An American theoretical physicist, he along with Enrico Fermi, created the first atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer recalled after the detonation of the first atomic bomb (called Trinity) a verse from the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita. "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one..." Years later, he said he also thought of a second verse, "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

Convinced that the H-bomb was a genocidal device that would cause excessive destruction, Oppenheimer believed an international agency should regulate nuclear weapons. He argued that the United States could secure its defense with a stockpile of atomic arms. However, at the height of the Cold War, defense hawks and anti-Communists saw Oppenheimer’s view as unpatriotic. Edward Teller and Lewis Strauss, two advocates for the hydrogen bomb, contributed to Oppenheimer’s humiliation in hearings that stripped him of his security clearance forever.

I've always thought that America behaved terribly toward one of our greatest minds. Fear of course was behind it, and Americans are some of the most afraid people in the world. I'm not saying that there isn't good reason to be afraid. But fear drives public policy, decision-making, and belief.

When I set out to write my book, I used the work that Robert Oppenheimer did and the Trinity bomb as a catalyst for the destruction of a parallel world in a mirror universe.

I posed this question: what would happen if there were two adjacent universes? We live in one. And people just like us live in the other. To keep these two identical universes apart, are two towers. One on Earth and one on the mirror world which I call Avalon.  These structures are big...really big. As tall as mountains. The one on Avalon was located in the desert of White Sands, New Mexico. So, what are these towers?
I kind of picture the scale of the towers I envision as being similar to the
artist rendition of the Ultima Tower. This isn't a "fantasy" tower but something
that architects propose building someday on our own planet.
Think "the ultimate skyscraper" and you get the idea.
Well I have an answer for that. These towers are just containers to keep a pair of boxes safe. The boxes are part of this whole idea that I had of a designer universe. In other words, the boxes are the most incredible super computer that you could possibly imagine and probably even a little beyond that. They have an unlimited unknown power supply self-contained within the towers. They run a computer program that defines all the laws of physics in mathematical terms for every thing in the universe.

You might ask...who created the towers? Who created the boxes? I name that being as simply "The Creator" and never go further into that. But the Creator would be a pretty amazing engineer.

So what is the Oppenheimer Connection in SLIPSTREAM? An atomic bomb produces an electro magnetic pulse. This thing disrupts electronics. The towers that house the amazing boxes that define how the universe works would have been immune to this. What I pose in my story (once I set up all these ideas) is that when Trinity was detonated on Earth, the effects of the EMP crossed the boundaries between universes inside the walls of the tower on the parallel world. It disrupted the computer program running in the box on the far side for a millionth of a second, and this was very bad.  It laid waste to an entire world, and the tower on that mirror planet that had stood for billions of years exploded.

This event set into motion everything that happens in SLIPSTREAM and in its sequels that I've plotted out, but have yet to write.

Monday, April 16, 2012

No Capes

I saw 1000 Ways to Die and stopped to watch. A man was impersonating a superhero, and he had the costume complete with cape. He saw some delinquents on top of a building smoking illegal drugs, and decided to interfere. He pushed one of the kids and the kids began to approach him. Outnumbered, he backed up. However, he tripped over his own cape and fell off the side of the building, landing in such a way that his ribs ripped his heart open.

I think any of us that write can understand how we sometimes include unnecessary details in our stories that really just gum up everything and basically, almost kill it. I've had to look long and hard at questions brought up by beta-readers and ask myself, "Is this a cape? Does this thing have any purpose? Or is it just something that's gonna drag me into a jet engine."

As an aside note, encouraged by feedback I got on my picture of Kolin that I posted a week or so ago, I decided to draw my protagonist, Jordan. This is 100% original artwork. I did it with Prismacolor coloring pencil on illustration board. Then I scanned in the original on my scanner and enhanced all of the colors, added effects, and redid problematic areas using Adobe Photoshop Elements. Please be kind, I am not a professional artist. I wanted to make sure that Jordan looks 17 and not how a "high school student played by 27-year-olds" looks (Think GLEE, SMALLVILLE, etc.). I'm happy with the result. Have a great Monday.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Monsters Inc and the important questions of life

For those days when you are on a diet, and see a hamburger...
And for those days when you think Tentalus...
Just might be the result if Celia and 
Thaladius Bile from Monsters, Inc. had a baby...
Then, my writer friends, you are ready for the ultimate truth.  Why something is "cool" depends exclusively on how well it is marketed.
Have a great day!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Love, Life, and a little Lorax

"Cause when a guy does something stupid once, well that's because he's a guy. But if he does the same stupid thing twice, that's usually to impress some girl."
                 -- the Once-ler from the Lorax

Thursday, April 12, 2012


SPOILERS: I'm chatting about my book. You have been warned.

At left is a drawing I worked on and never finished. Hence the "missing background". He's cartoony. I drew it probably ten years ago, I think (maybe longer than that). I honestly can't remember. Don't be cruel people!

Anyway, consider this my "concept art". I have other concept art sketches...some in color...some in black and white...that I've done over the years to help me visualize my characters.

This is what Kolin could look like (it's difficult to find the right picture in my mind). He's the guy that Jordan (my protagonist in SLIPSTREAM) falls in love with (yes there are gay people in my away now). They do gay things together too...not just picking out window treatments.

Kolin kills people for money. He's really good at it too because he's had lots of practice. The suit he's wearing is called a killsuit. It's one of the gadgets that my friend Donna Hole alluded to that I use in my book when she reviewed it. So what is a killsuit? Well it's something that you wear when you intend to kill people. Kolin's a professional assassin. He uses guns, swords, knives...he's really good at murdering folks.

It's a very special piece of equipment that has many properties mostly associated with the metal it's made from.
  1. It's tailor-made so that it fits like a glove. Rather than a boot, the individual toes are separated so that the person walking can get a sense of the unevenness of the ground. All the information is relayed up to the helmet which isn't pictured in the drawing. I imagine it looking kind of similar to the way a mantis-head looks, with a visor of glass. All the suits controls are chosen via a tongue pad in the helmet. You stick your tongue out and select buttons that sit right in front of your mouth.
  2. It's made of corobidian. This is a fictional Avalonian metal. It's a superconductor so you have to wear grounding arm and leg bands. Otherwise just moving around generates electricity. You run around and lightning coils around your body. Corobidian is really light...light as a feather...but stronger than any known metal. It takes tremendous heat and power to forge so suits are incredibly expensive. If it gets superheated, it can give off a fume which is a deadly poison.
  3. The arms are supposed to contain weapons. On one side is an energy net. On the other is a blade that can be ejected from a casing. All weapons are made of cibrian metal. This is another fictional Avalonian creation. Unlike corobidian, cibrian is extremely hard. It's heavy, so unsuitable for armor. But any wound it creates will never heal. Ever. If you get cut by a cibrian blade, you will bleed to death. It's just that simple. There are no exceptions. I don't even use magic or anything like that to get around this rule. Cibrian inflicts permanent damage. Period. End of story. Also a sword made from cibrian is likely to never break. I can't foresee a future where I will go around this rule. And thus far, I haven't explored using cibrian bullets yet. And cibrian cuts through all other metals EXCEPT another cibrian blade.
Anyway, I use these suits extensively in the first book, SLIPSTREAM. Each suit has a color that is matched to the person and it alternates with the color black.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


On Ellen, the host asked Sofia Vergara if she thought if brunettes or blondes had more fun.

Sofia responded:

“I would say the girls with the bigger boobs. I’ve been blonde and I’ve been brunette. I speak from experience.”

Remember ladies. With great power comes great responsibility.
This gets taught to every guy sooner or later from the wise men on the mountain.
I Love Modern Family. Ciao.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ice Hockey and the Slipstream + Oculus Connection

I like writing about sports in fiction. J.K. Rowling did it with quiddich (or however it's spelled). I didn't want to make up a sport because that sounds too hard. So I chose one that I watch and understand. Ice hockey has a role to play in my first two books, and I'd like to explain why.

In SLIPSTREAM, the first book in my series A Crisis of Two Worlds, the entire plot hinges on Jordan getting an invite to a rather exclusive party that squad members from a professional team on an alternate Earth receive. It's his only way to get to a place so guarded, that other "secret agents" who tried to do so just got murdered. The sport you get in the first book is "wayyyy" out there intentionally. The sport you get in the second is down-to-earth, although I write about four separate games and in each one something sensational happens that you would rarely ever see.

In OCULUS, the sequel to Slipstream, Jordan must play hockey to attend Cornell University. Jordan needs Cornell like a man needs air to breathe. It's the only university that has everything he requires for his "quest". They have a particle collider. They have a scientist examining Antarctic ice cores for a climate change model. It really goes well together.

Here's the rub. Cornell has so many applicants every year, that they can pick and choose who they want. They are under no pressure to choose anyone at all. They don't need Jordan, but he needs them. And Jordan isn't rich. He has no "connections".

In the opening chapter of OCULUS, I speak of Jordan's S.A.T. scores. He got a perfect score in math.  But his other two areas were average. What gets him in are his hockey laurels. He gets a "likely" letter from the coach of the Cornell team and it is the coach who gets him qualified for a need-based scholarship (the only kind the Ivies have--they do not offer athletic scholarships).

OCULUS is the book where I amplify Jordan's stress to almost "stroke-inducing" proportions. His pride is to his doom. He won't ask for help. He won't cheat. And he won't take out loans. "Why?" you might ask will a student not take out student loans.

Jordan believes that his quest may kill him before he's 21. He's a proud person. He doesn't want to borrow money and never pay it back. So realizing that the odds are not weighed in his favor, Jordan refuses to borrow money. It's taking the whole "honor" thing to a dangerous extent.

It sounds ridiculous right? But THAT'S how stubborn he is. That's Jordan.

Jordan also knows that the only reason he's even in the college is to play hockey. So he feels that if he doesn't give it 150%, then he lets down someone that had faith in him--enough faith to save him.  Using the particle collider is really his only hope to succeed in his quest, so this is a pretty big deal.

I write with big stakes.  If Jordan doesn't complete his quest in Oculus, it will result in the destruction of Earth and the death of billions of people.

But again...even with all that at stake, he refuses to ask for help.

That's a lot of stress, don't you think?

Anyway, that's the ice hockey connection in my series thus far.

Monday, April 9, 2012

How To Train Your Dragon

“This is Berk. It snows nine months out of the year, and hails the other three. What little food grows here is tough and tasteless. The people that grow here, even more so. The only upsides are the pets. While other places have ponies, or parrots… we have dragons.”

That's how the film opens up. And boy does Berk ever have dragons. Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by them. I thought (wrongly) that they could never be reinvented. That dragons were a thing to be respected and feared. I probably got that from playing Dungeons & Dragons. But I just couldn't envision the cute, interesting, and fascinating variety of the ones that are in this movie. And I was pleasantly surprised. It worked. And it worked well. But honestly, what boy doesn't like dragons? I'd say they're pretty popular with girls too...provided that they aren't being sacrificed to them.
Here's what the author said about her dragons and it's a lesson to all of us writers that even the most jaded of creatures, the most overdone, from vampires to werewolves to mermaids and beyond can be reinvented. You just have to get out of the box and think about what it is that you want to do. Then you need to write about it before someone else does.

‎”The dragons I would write about would not be the rather generalized, big, green things that I had read about in storybooks. What I wanted to create was a multiplicity of different dragon species, of all shapes and sizes, adapted to their environment and habitats in the same way as birds or other animals we see today.” 

             - Cressida Cowell, author of How To Train Your Dragon
And then there is Hiccup. He is a stand in for every awkward, non-athletic boy who wanted desperately to fit-in and just never could. This is the boy with the overbearing father who is unsupportive of a son's endeavors because there is only one correct path to follow in life. This is the kind of father who looks at his son, decides with great disappointment that his boy cannot follow this one correct path, and then sets out to makes sure that they live the most mediocre of lives. The angry man. The drunk man. The selfish man. The man that should never have had kids.
But to this, Hiccup says, “Winter in Berk lasts most of the year.. And hangs on with both hands and won’t let go. And the only real comfort against the cold are those you keep close to your heart. I gave my best friend a pretty great gift.. but he gave me a better one.”
I wish I had a pet dragon when I was a kid. That would have been so cool. Well at least I have the series slated to come out on Cartoon Network this fall. Check out the preview for it below.