Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Asking Editor Cherie Reich Seven Questions

I would like you to welcome super editor Cherie Reich to my blog today. Cherie is a professional editor, an accomplished author, a book blogger, and a super intelligent person. She also practices clear communication. She tells me exactly where her eyes begin to glaze over in my writing. I appreciate that so much, because "eye-glazing" is bad. In other words, "Just say NO to eye glaze."

Q: Do you have a process when editing a book? If so, how do you go about it?

A: My process when editing a book is fairly simple. I just start reading. Then, I begin marking anything I come across: spelling/grammatical problems, redundancy, repetition (I highlight repetition), awkward phrases, etc. I also add comments whether something doesn’t make sense or if it is incongruous with what a character did earlier. I have a very good memory, so I often go back and add plot comments throughout. Some of my initial thoughts change as I read and learn more. I’ll even do brief research to make certain of various problems throughout the manuscript.

Q: Do you think a writer seeking traditional publication should hire an editor before they send out their final draft?

A: The short answer is no, but writers need someone to look over their work. We’re too close to the writing, and we’ll miss things. First, writers should find critique partners, writers’ groups, beta readers, etc. There is a vast world of people who are knowledgeable and willing to help out. These are the connections and networking we writers talk so much about. Often a writer can use these free sources to help whip their manuscript in shape.

If a writer can’t find someone, though, then it might be time to search for an editor. Writers should want to put their best work forward.

Q: As an editor, do you have any pet peeves that you really hate?

A: Oh, my! Where do I start? First, a writer looking for an editor too early. If you want a developmental editor, then that’s different, but copyeditors shouldn’t see first drafts. I’ve turned down clients when I felt their manuscript needed too much work because I didn’t feel like they could perfect the manuscript for publication without more edits than just mine could give them.

I’ve gotten where I hate participial phrases (verb+ing + rest of phrase) because writers misuse them and abuse them. I still use them some myself, but I’ve cut it way down.

Adverbs. I don’t hate them as a whole. Some are needed, but you can tell when it is just lazy writing. I’m guilty of that too.

Lengthy descriptions. Some people love reading descriptions, but I often feel they slow down the pace of a book. Use them wisely.

I’m sure there are more, but an editor will come across something that bothers them if a writer when it is repetitive. And as a writer, I’m guilty of all the things that have become pet peeves of mine.

Q: Is it difficult for you to read a professional novel without consciously looking for errors?

A: It used to be when I first started editing for people. I would just cringe at things. My reading speed halted to a crawl, and I knew an awesome book when I forgot the editing “errors” (i.e. not how I would’ve edited it) and focused on the story. Nowadays, I still notice grammar/spelling errors, some repetition, etc., but I try to keep my editing mind away from my reading mind.

Q: This question is about your writing. Where did you get the idea for the "Gravity" books?
A: Defying Gravity started with Linia. In 2004 or so, my friend had roped me into a Star Trek role-playing game in Yahoo Groups. The group never got started, but I had this neat alien character who remained with me. Then, in 2009, Pill Hill Press put out a call for romantic suspense. It could be in any genre, so I’d wanted to write a space fantasy/science fiction story. Defying Gravity emerged from it. After the anthology being cancelled and trying Defying Gravity at a few other places, I decided to self-publish it. From there, the world developed, and I wrote Fighting Gravity and Pull of Gravity with my mix of Greek mythology, aliens, and a futuristic setting.

Q: As a writer who produces professional self-published books, do you enlist the assistance of an editor?

A: Sorta. Do I pay an editor? No. But one of my critique partners is an editor for a small press, so we exchange work. I also have two other critique partners who have been with me since 2009. I couldn’t imagine writing without their input.

Q: How do you stay sharp on all the grammar rules?

A: I read. A lot. I’m not a very fast reader, but I do read 50+ books a year, blog posts, etc. If I don’t know something, I look it up. I have an Ask the Editor feature on my blog, and people send me questions. Sometimes I know the answer right away, but I always do research to not only find out if I’m correct but to learn more. In high school, I took an advance grammar class (Grammar is like math, and I was good at math). One thing that helped me learn grammar so well was taking foreign languages: Spanish (5 years), French (2 years), German (1 year), Latin (2.5 years), and Ancient Greek (1.5 years). Nothing prepares you for grammar more than learning what nouns, verbs, etc. are in another language. I also write, and using the language helps.

Thanks Cherie for consenting to be interviewed!

Author Bio: Cherie Reich is a writer, freelance editor, book blogger, and library assistant. Her short stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and her novelettes are published as e-books. She is a member of the Virginia Writers Club and Valley Writers and placed third in Roanoke Valley's BIG READ writing contest. For more information, please visit her website (http://cheriereich.webs.com) and her blog (http://cheriereich.blogspot.com).

SBB Editing Services: http://sbbeditingservices.wordpress.com/

Monday, July 30, 2012

My deep thoughts about bullying revealed by The Newsroom

Olivia Munn as Sloan in "The Newsroom"
At the time of the writing of this blog post, I have just finished the "Bully" episode of HBO's "The Newsroom". Just like all the other episodes, this one got me thinking. When the title credits started to roll, I wondered if they were going to talk about the rash of gay teen suicides. Or perhaps they were going to tackle the documentary called "Bully". But instead, they led with the Fukushima disaster in Japan. What on earth does Fukushima have to do with bullying? I'll tell you.
This book was great. You guys want a
review? I could write a funny-ass review
of this book. It had me ROFLMAO.

Sloan, played by Olivia Munn (author of Suck It, Wonder Woman! <== yes I own this book. Yes I think it's awesome), is put on the air to talk with a TEPCO representative about Fukushima. She had previously spoken to him by phone and learned "off the record" that the disaster was very serious. It was going to be raised to a level 7 which is the same level as Chernobyl. But "on the record" the Japanese company was only going as high as level 5 (Three Mile Island).

Because she was frustrated that she had this knowledge and believed that the public deserved the truth, she cornered Will McAvoy (lead anchorman played by Jeff Daniels) and solicited his advice. He told her that she needed to stick to her guns. She needed to go after the guy and make sure that he fessed up to this knowledge. Only then would she be a "true reporter."

So that's exactly what she did. She pursued it with such fervor that it nearly got her canned, cost the guy at TEPCO his job, and panicked an entire nation. But she reported the truth. The only thing is, she was a huge bully. And the whole point of the episode was to show that this is bad.

Workers at the Fukushima disaster last year.
Now that I've had some time to digest Aaron Sorkin's clever writing, I have to agree with him. Just because we have truth as a wind beneath our wings does not give any of us the right to bully someone else with it. That goes with all subjects whether it be religion, politics, atheism, science, or any number of other topics.

I think bullying will never get eliminated from the human race. But to minimize the danger of it, we all have a responsibility to keep an open mind and to be accepting to change of any kind. In the least, these are my deep thoughts about bullying revealed by "The Newsroom."

Have a great Monday

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Incredible George Perez

When I was a teenager, I started collecting comic books. One time in Moscow, Idaho in the late eighties, I walked into this  place called Safari Pearl. The lady that owned the comic book shop started to talk to me about George Perez. Up until this time, I mistakenly thought that all comic books were essentially created equal. Boy was I wrong.

The Incredible George Perez.
I bow to your greatness good sir.
There were actual artists behind these pulpy magazines. And what she pointed out about George Perez was absolutely correct. The guy was a modern day Michaelangelo, and he became my favorite comic book artist of all time. That has never changed even though there are many great comic book artists like Alex Ross and Todd McFarlane. I think George Perez brings a level of detail and dedication to any project that he does that is so good, it sets the bar for my enjoyment of a comic book.

So, with comic book movies being all the rage this summer (talked about on P.T. Dilloway's blog and many others), with "The Dark Knight Rises" destroying the box office that was left in tatters by "The Avengers" and with talk of Joseph Gordon Levitt possibly being cast as Nightwing for his own series (a classic Perez character), I wanted to tell you a little about the great George Perez because he's still alive. He's getting old, and I honestly don't know how much longer he'll be around. I have a goal to meet this guy and hopefully, my wish will come true someday at a comic book convention.

George Perez is a Puerto Rican-American born on June 9, 1954. Above and left, I've included a picture of him. He started illustrating Marvel's The Avengers. The first time that I really noticed his artwork (but didn't pay attention to who he was) was when I started reading "Crisis on the Infinite Earths". If you don't know what this series was, it was a landmark DC series that destroyed all of the various Earths that DC had created in one huge storyline to kind of get a hold of their plotlines which had gone in so many directions that they could no longer keep track.

Here is one cover from the series. I want you to pay special attention to this because it is CLASSIC George Perez. He has detailed a gazillion characters in this cover and each one is carefully drawn down to their eyeballs. I also want you to note the team of Wolfman and Perez. That to me is the sign of "excellence". Whenever I saw those two on a comic book, I knew it was going to be incredible.

This is the cover Perez did to reboot Wonder Woman. Yes, he drew and detailed
all of those warriors on Paradise Island standing behind Wonder Woman.
The very next time that I saw this combo was on the "Who is Wonder Girl" series on the reboot of the Teen Titans to the New Titans. So yeah, I bought into that. But Perez only stayed with it to reboot and then went to work on rebooting Wonder Woman so I followed him to that magazine. Wolfman and Perez owned Wonder Girl and Crisis on the Infinite Earths basically destroyed her origin because a crucial character that saves her as a child is no longer around to save her and DC just went for years after this event, never touching on the fact that Wonder Girl shouldn't be around. When Perez finally returned to the New Titans to redo Wonder Girl's origin, it was nothing less than spectacular.
The story of Wonder Girl's new origin was amazing. And the detail on each and every subsequent cover put out in this series just got better and better. That's Nightwing front and center carrying Wonder Girl. To the right is Starfire (a character that only Perez seems to be able to draw correctly because her costume is asymmetrical), and to the left is cyborg. Behind and rising above the others is Raven who returned in a white cloak after she went missing for many issues following the Trigon the Terrible plotline. Raven was my all-time favorite character in the DC universe. She basically had the powers of a demigod, and she takes on the ultimate bad guy in this series and it's one of the best combats I've ever seen drawn on paper.

Anyway, if you aren't convinced of George Perez's spectacular talent then I'm going to include some other pictures of his for your enjoyment. Again, I'd like you to just take a look at the level of detail that this guy goes to when he does his work. It blows me away every time. I'd love to have a couple of signed prints that I could frame just to hang in my house.
I think Perez has drawn every character in the DC universe here.
The Avengers as drawn by Perez
This is a poster of the Avengers that shows them in
 every single costume ever worn. It blows my mind at how
detailed George Perez gets with his artwork.
So what do you think of the great George Perez? If you didn't know about him, are you now a fan?

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

True Blood is one of the worst things on television that you should watch regularly

My really guilty pleasure is watching True Blood during the summer. This show is just plain awful and the writing is so bad. Yet, I enjoy it thoroughly. Here's the laundry list of things that you really should never do (from JUST one episode), but no one is telling Charlaine Harris or the makers of True Blood:

1) Half the cast got high on blood and then gave each other...piggy back rides.

2) They hired an awesome actor (Christopher Meloni) from the Law & Order series and then just gave him a few lines and killed him off.

3) We have vampire night vision. Why do we even need this?

4) We have another plot line still continuing from the past...you know, the fae one...where I guess we give bullsh*t lines to Sooki about her luminescence and how she's basically a battery and is gonna run out.

5) We have another plot line with a raging Ifrit or Efreet or some djinn thing chasing Belflour.

6) We have another plot line with Lafayette and former lover Jesus (who is now just a disembodied head with his lips sewn together). Oh and the same lip sewing happened to Lafayette who had the courage to spit in the face of the guy holding the gun on him but then didn't take the gun away.

7) We have another plot line with Lilith becoming real. Why did we need another cast member?

8) We have another plot line with Alcide challenging the wolf pack leader for supremacy. The other wolf leader is unworthy because he's a drug addict.

9) We have another plot line with humans using Barack Obama rubber masks to kill vampires. They call themselves a "hate group" and serve someone called "Dragon" but we don't know who that is yet. They managed to suck in Hoyt who is angry at Jessica for dumping him for Jason Stackhouse (his buddy). Sam Merlott is kind of in on this plot line and does a lot of sniffing and rolling around on the floor like a dog. It's bad acting, looks bad, and is just plain stupid.

10) We have another plot line with Tara as a vampire who is slowly de-icing Pam's heart. Somewhere in all of this, Tara's mom shows up and says she's married to a preacher now and that "she can't have no daughter who is strippin'! and bein' all vampire-like."

My head is spinning. How could the writers let all of these plotlines get out of control like this. Why are there now so many cast members in True Blood that I can't keep track of them? It's ridiculous.

But yeah...I'll be watching again on Sunday. So terrible, I know. I'm part of the problem.

True Blood is one of the worst things on television that you should watch regularly. If anything, it will tell you that 1) terrible makes CA$H and 2) If you want to have respect as a writer, don't do this sh*t in your stories. But then, you probably won't make #1.

Have a great Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why are you not watching Falling Skies?

I think that I was both grossed out and intrigued by Sunday's episode of "Falling Skies" (Season 2 Episode 7). To explain, my own novel SLIPSTREAM has spiders in it. However, nothing quite as graphic as this (but in the same vein--my spiders drill holes in people's heads):
Poor Jamil became a spider bag. He had dozens
 of these guys inside him while still alive. Horrific.
The doctor, Lourdes, and Matt came across Jamil (Lourdes' boyfriend) who looked like he'd been attacked by something (all bloody and stuff). He was barely conscious and wouldn't let them open a door that had scratching on the other side. Thinking they'd get him upstairs to tend to his wounds, he suddenly started to deflate and spiders just poured out of his mouth. It was the creepiest thing I'd seen outside of an "Alien" movie or for that matter, outside that horrible Stephen King movie "The Mist".

Ben on Falling Skies. He's a brooding,
emotional teenager that blames himself
for everything bad that happens.
So why were alien spiders attacking the Second Mass holed up in a hospital? Well in the first five minutes of the show, they captured one of the fish heads. An influential one that Karen and Ben refer to as "The Overlord". And the aliens weren't screwing around. They didn't really bargain. They executed a human right in front of the Second Mass barricade, sicked their robots at them from the other side, and then in came the spiders. Meanwhile Ben, who has both super strength and telepathy due to former alien implants, verified that the Overlord was terrified of the human rebellion.

I'm disappointed that Ben left the Second Mass at the end of the show to hoof it on the open road because I like Ben SO MUCH. However, it was an incredibly tender moment as Noah Wylie (who plays Tom) almost cried hugging his son. I love scenes like that. And Tom is an awesome father. In one crucial scene, the Overlord dropped Ben by inducing a kind of stroke in him and Tom pulled out his gun and shot The Overlord without hesitation (despite them needing this powerful alien to get information or to trade for their freedom as they were surrounded). I was like, "F*ck Yeah!" I hope that they follow Ben's journey and devote at least ten to fifteen minutes an episode to him until the season finale. Otherwise, they may use him as a deus ex machina to have him ride in and save the day on some alien technology when all seems lost.
Tom defending his middle son Ben and shooting the Overlord
for screwing with his son. THAT'S being a badass dad. Go Tom!
I really think that "Falling Skies" is approaching the high water mark of excellence. I'm so glad that this show didn't get canceled in the first season. It has become a regular Sunday night, summertime edge-of-your-seat drama thriller set in an apocalyptic world that entertains me as much as "Breaking Bad"...and that says a lot.

So if you're a fan of science-fiction, why are you NOT watching "Falling Skies?"

Monday, July 23, 2012

The international space station is so cool

I want to share this beautiful video with you that I found on io9 last week. If you haven't seen it, turn your sound up and watch the view from the international space station in a video putting together time-lapse photos of Earth as you are likely to have never seen before.

And a reminder to those of you who like my television updates, the premiere of Alphas season two is on SyFy tonight! I can't wait.


Have a great Monday. :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Three of my favorite things on a Friday

The first of my favorite things was that I got to see a pre-screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" last night at 7:30 p.m. I will say nothing that could be considered a spoiler. However, I am going to give you five reasons to drop everything you are doing and go and see it now.

1) First off, see it in IMAX if you can. Christopher Nolan filmed half of it for IMAX and refused to go 3D on it because he feels that 3D is just a way to jack up ticket prices and not add anything to a film.

2) There's not as much C.G.I. as you might think. Nolan wanted this installment to be an epic. That meant having thousands of extras. All of those people you see clashing in the streets are not computer rendered. They really did close down entire streets in Manhattan to film this thing. The men hanging from the plane are also not computer generated. Just think about that when you go and see this movie.

3) The writing is excellent. I didn't feel wanting in any form at any point in the plot. I didn't walk out of the theater thinking..."hey this didn't make sense..." because it all made sense. Everything down to the last cut that you see.

4) Expect the unexpected. There's twists and turns that you never saw coming unless you try to meta-think the film and read online reviews. I found the unexpected to be delightful.

5) The villain is better than Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight. I never thought I'd say that, but Hardy's Bane is a masterpiece.
The second of my favorite things is I got a really nice review from a professional book blogger over at the Kimi-Chan Experience. Please stop by and read it if you have the time. She really made my day when she posted the review. Her blog focuses mostly on Yaoi which I think is awesome. There needs to be more Yaoi in the world.

You can find her blog HERE.
And the third of my favorite things is when bloggers do things for other bloggers. The one I'm highlighting today is blogger E.J. Wesley of The Open Vein

Beginning Thursday, July 26, at 9 PM EST, E.J. will be hosting an all new regular Twitter chat focusing on New Adult literature. Please check out the details at the link above. It honestly sounds like a great experience to learn more about New Adult literature.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Welcome oh women of the world. You have now joined the ranks of masturbating men.

The very definition of guilty pleasure it seems is when you indulge in something that you know you shouldn't because it is inherently bad for you. In other words, you go and get that ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery or you eat that piece of raspberry cheesecake. You savor its incredible tasty goodness yet dread that you may get diabetes or in the least, your pants won't fit anymore in the morning.
When I take my Healthy Utah walk with my partner who is a 48-year-old single mother, she tells me about Fifty Shades of Grey and how she can't wait for her train ride because it means forty minutes of uninterrupted time with Christian Grey. She also says that she makes sure to hide the cover while she's on the train. I smirk to myself as I ask her how she likes the infamous "tampon sex" scene. For those of you who don't know what that is, here is the excerpt (it's rated-R so skip if you don't want your eyes seared out):
His breathing is ragged, matching mine.
“When did you start your period, Anastasia?” he asks out of the blue, gazing down at me.
“Err… yesterday,” I mumble in my highly aroused state.
“Good.” He releases me and turns me around.
“Hold on to the sink,” he orders and pulls my hips back again, like he did in the playroom, so I’m bending down.
He reaches between my legs and pulls on the blue string… what! And… a gently pulls my tampon out and tosses it into the nearby toilet. Holy fuck. Sweet mother of all… Jeez. And then he’s inside me… ah! Skin against skin… moving slowly at first… easily, testing me, pushing me… oh my. I grip on to the sink, panting, forcing myself back on him, feeling him inside me. Oh the sweet agony… his hands clasp my hips. He sets a punishing rhythm – in, out, and he reaches around and finds my clitoris, massaging me… oh jeez. I can feel myself quicken.
“That’s right, baby,” he rasps as he grinds into me, angling his hips, and it’s enough to send me flying, flying high.
Whoa… and I come, loudly, gripping for dear life onto the sink as I spiral down through my orgasm, everything spinning and clenching at once. He follows, clasping me tightly, his front on my back as he climaxes and calls my name like it’s a litany or a prayer.
“Oh, Ana!” His breathing is ragged in my ear, in perfect synergy with mine. “Oh, baby, will I ever get enough of you?” he whispers.
Will it always be like this? So overwhelming, so all-consuming, so bewildering and beguiling. I wanted to talk, but now I’m […]
The one sentence that my walking partner uses to describe this book is "it's so romantic". I just call it porn (and I have nothing against porn). But I think it's odd that so many people seem surprised that this kind of writing is out there. I've seen it for almost two decades now, have read quite a bit of it, and didn't think much of it. I actually thought of it as "low brow" writing myself. I have a few pornographic stories that I hide on my computer. I'm thinking that there might be a market for them now. Who knew, right? I mean, there was a time when I would never have admitted that I wrote those kinds of stories. The world is changing so much.

Nathan Bransford (some of you may have heard of him) wrote in a blog post about a topic called "Are we stripping modern books bare?" You can find it HERE. The general writing advice is that modern readers no longer have the attention span for diversions in plot and want things pared down to bare bones. That is how great writing is seen these days. Only here's the thing...the "great writers" like Franzen aren't "great" by most standards outside of universities because they don't outsell E.L. James or Stephanie Meyer. The measure of success is money right? Anyone that disagrees with me, answer this question: would you like to have a million dollars or a blue ribbon that says "first place?" If you can't have both, I'd take the million dollars.
Character driven stories are what's selling. So is your boy meets girl better than
other boy meets girl stories? For James, maybe it was the courage to incorporate
bondage. But now that this cat is out of the bag, the bar will need to be raised
further to get the same arousal. It's kind of like heroin addiction, right?
So maybe the greatest advice really for any modern writer really has to do with the ultimate in "paring down" if you want to have a career as a writer and nothing else. I'm of course being snarky here. But there is something to be said about throwing out the plot. What I'm saying is that the things that REALLY sell seem to me to really have no story anymore. They are "character driven"...two words that mean the author admits, "I have no idea where this story is going." Two words that mean "I have no idea how to storyboard and don't care. My protag is just gonna 'bump' into things and stuff will just happen."

Sure, this is probably a "guilty pleasure" because filling shelves at a library with books that have no plot is probably overall bad for society as a whole. But without a socialized system in place to encourage writing of other kinds to flourish, that is (unfortunately) what we are going to get. A society that binges on fast food, watches Jersey Shore, and reads plotless sexy books.

I've read on numerous writer blogs the emphasis that readers want "character driven" stories. I think this means that they want you to start with a character, have no direction in mind, and just "pants" the hell out of the story until that character hooks up with someone else and they have sex (in YA it would need to be almost sex). But you need to draw in all the right words to raise the heat. I guess that's where the writer comes into play.

I'm not trying to slam writers who start out with a girl who then meets a guy and they get it on (Here's looking at you E.L. James). Or even worse...the writers who couldn't even invent a world of their own but just wrote fan fiction and changed some names. I guess the one thing that boggles my mind is why such trash is making so much money in the first place. Now don't get me wrong. I'm a HUGE consumer of trash. And I unabashedly admit "I like trash." I'll read trash, watch trash, all by myself or in front of people while nom noming on a jelly doughnut. I don't care. I'm really the kind of person that would read porn in front of someone holding up the magazine so you can see what I'm reading. I have no shame as far as that goes because I don't care what anyone thinks of me. But back to my question...

Maybe the reason this stuff makes so much money is because no one has an appreciation for something that is truly good, because "good things" have become so rare in today's society? Or maybe it's because pornography has remained particularly taboo for women to explore and finding it in a book allows them to indulge the guilty pleasure while remaining clean and prim for church on Sunday. I can look at porn on my computer whenever I want. But maybe other people in other lives would like to do so, but don't because of "restrictions" that their lifestyle enforces upon them.

Whatever the case, E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey is the flagship of guilty money makers of written pornography. It's utter trash, but it's the kind of utter trash that everyone wants. It's the kind that has clogged the hard drives of teenage boys for years. I don't understand it. Yet, I salute the women of the world who have joined the ranks of perverted, masturbating men.

It's about time.

The whole "Puritan"/"Scarlet Letter" thing left over from when America was founded centuries ago is finally gone. Now we just need more male strip clubs like the ones in Magic Mike in more cities, especially those found in Utah. Women...get out and support these. The future is yours.

Check out the animated tampon scene below. It's a preview of what you'll get in the movie adaptation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What the heck is up with Tony Jaa?

My blogging friend Mathew MacNish asked me to beta read his wonderful manuscript Warrior Monks. Matt has done a ton of research on oriental philosophy, martial arts, and the weapons that ninjas, Shaolin monks, samurai, and Chinese kung-fu films have made famous. This all kind of triggered in me a resurgence of interest in the career of Tony Jaa.

If you don't know who Tony Jaa is, then shame on you. He exploded onto the American scene around 2007 with a hit movie called Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior. The movie was short on plot, but showcased Muay Thai like I had never seen before. Jaa can vertically jump two meters, land on people's shoulders, and walk on them. He really can do this stunt and he does it in the film. He could jump through a hoop at full break neck speed, do somersaults, and twirls, and vertical pushups on elephant tusks. If you have the time, please check out the action-packed clips I have embedded in this post. It's possible that after watching them, you too shall become a fan of Tony Jaa.
I saw his next film called The Protector and there's a scene in there where he breaks the bones of like fifty guys. There's also another scene done in one shot where he runs up a spiral building basically annihilating everyone that gets in his way. The guy was a one man wrecking crew, and I loved it.

So after reading Warrior Monks one evening, I flipped to the internet to find out what had happened to Tony Jaa and if he had anymore great films coming out.

I discovered that he left the film business and became a Buddhist monk in 2010.

Like...really? What the hell?
Who goes and does this in 2010? The guy is single, rich, handsome, had the world right there...probably could nail any woman that he wanted or afford anything that he desired. He was a living sex symbol, has legions of adoring fans in Thailand (his native country), and a movie career that was just starting to explode. Basically, he was getting enough "power" that he could make any movie that he wanted. And that probably goes for America too. Like he could come here and demand what he wanted in a script from Hollywood and they would green light it.
Maybe if I understood Buddhism more, then I could somehow relate to this scenario. But I have to say I'm disappointed. I wanted to see more action films from him.

So I guess this blog post is an open letter to Tony Jaa who will probably never read it anyway since he's in a monastery somewhere in Thailand and I can't imagine that there is internet or WiFi there.
Dear Tony Jaa, 
Please pull your head out of your ass and get back to making good movies. I wish you the best.
Your adoring fan, 
Michael Offutt XOXO

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 3 Four-Minute Trailer got my blood a pumping

Sunday night, AMC premiered the four-minute trailer to season 3 of the Walking Dead. It was previously shown at Comic Con in San Diego this weekend.

We see some Michonne action right off the bat using her katana to kill some zombies in a store. We also see the Governor in the town of Woodbury, Michonne asking for their weapons, and laying the foreshadowing that the Governor is evil by Michonne uttering the words, "I don't trust him."

And the clincher is seeing Merle with a knife wrapped to the stump of his right hand.

If you have the time, please watch the video. It's great.
Have a great Tuesday. #SoExcited for October. It's only twelve weeks away.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A recap of Breaking Bad season 5 episode 1

I was firmly planted on my seat Sunday night for the return of Breaking Bad. It's easily one of the finest if not best written show on television right now. Highlights from last night's episode:

1) I like how they left off pretty much at the same spot where the season finale called "Face Off" had ended. Walt's transformation into the bad guy is complete with the death of Gustavo. And any doubt that I had that Walt was responsible for the poisoning of Brock was brushed away when he threw away the Lily of the Valley plant. I mean, I really suspected that Walt was capable of this...of hurting an innocent child, but I wanted to think that this might have been a coincidence. That there was still some shred of the good Walt that we saw in season one. Nope. It's all gone. He is officially as evil as evil can get. I find myself in an odd place with Walt. He is as evil as any serial killer or any criminal mastermind, yet there is something about knowing his past that makes me root for him. I admire his cleverness. Is it wrong to admire evil when it is especially clever?
Aaron Paul plays Jesse Pinkman

2) Jesse Pinkman is coming into his own. He is confidant. It was his idea which they employed to destroy the hard drive on Gus' laptop which the police tagged as evidence and put into a very secure room. I never would have thought a magnet used in a junk yard could be used in this manner, but I guess if the magnetic field/source was strong enough, it could happen. I have seen first hand how magnets can destroy hard drives. Maybe Myth Busters will do an episode and examine whether or not this stunt would actually work. In any event, it makes for good television. I hope that Jesse becomes a source of light in this very dark show. Skyler has gone evil and accepted that she is the "Persephone" character who resides in the underworld with its ruler "Hades". I hope that by the series end (which happens this season), that Jesse decides to abandon Walt for a fate that actually has a future.

Mike Erhmantraut is a badass assassin
3) Mike appears to be accepting the fact that Walt is now the King of Hell, or for that matter, is now a free agent since Gus is dead and so is the Cartel that controlled drugs to the southwest. It will be interesting to see the line this assassin chooses to walk. I know for a fact that wherever Mike does go, corpses will follow. He is as lethal as Walt is clever.

My Predictions:

Since this is the last season of Breaking Bad, I'm just going to say that I believe the villain of this season is going to be Walt's best friend Hank. He's the only one left. I think that the D.E.A. is going to expose Walt and that it will be Hank that puts him down. And this is so screwy because to say that Hank is a villain is so wrong. Hank is a hero. But since we have a villain as a protagonist, then the antagonist has got to be a good guy.

Anyway...so excited for Sundays. Right now I'm having to balance True Blood, The Newsroom, Breaking Bad, and Falling Skies all in one night. I love my DVR.

Have a great Monday.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Women of Foxwick by Cherie Reich

This week, I read Women of Foxwick by Cherie Reich. It's a short story fantasy collection featuring five women who reside in Cherie's magical world.

The blurb gives you a little information about each story so here it is:

Follow five women from Foxwick in this five-story fantasy collection.

A bard will lose her head, if she doesn't find the correct notes. A dragon seer must decide whether to betray her dragons or her fair kingdom. An assassin will journey to the Shadowlands to destroy Death. Twins are selected for the Mage Game, and a princess will journey to Valdale in search of the sorceress who can save Foxwick.

Once I started reading this book, I was hooked and read the whole thing in just a couple of hours.

My favorites in this collection were 1) the dragon seer story, 2) the lady death story, and 3) the twins in the mage game story. But all of them are superb. Those three though are the stuff from which movies are made.

The thing I liked about the dragon seer story was the dragon. The girl in it can communicate with it telepathically, and the dragon had a great personality. Plus you get to see two different kingdoms, get involved in some politics, and see what happens when you throw dragon eggs on the floor.
Who doesn't love dragons? They're the backbone of fantasy.
In the assassin story, I just liked the idea that someone could be so good at killing things that she could kill Death itself and inherit the office of the Grim Reaper. That was just really amazing.

And I liked the game aspect in the twins story because you got to see how two girls could get a dragon scale, a phoenix feather, and a unicorn hair. The solutions were very clever.

You do get recurring characters. What happens in one story can be reflected in the next. This is the common thread that unites this collection into a tour de force of Cherie's fantasy world, giving you a different location and different perspective with each new tale.

Finally, I want to add that this collection of fantasy tales could belong in anyone's collection. Young or old, kid to adult...anyone and everyone can enjoy them together or just by yourself in an airport terminal quietly reading. I give Cherie's fantasy collection five stars out of five. If I still played Dungeons & Dragons, I would want to have a game based in Foxwick. It was that real to me.

If you would like to buy Women of Foxwick for your very own, you can download it for the Kindle HERE for only $2.99. That's peanuts people! And I'm serious, these stories are worth it.

You can keep up with Cherie Reich at her website HERE.

And you can mark Women of Foxwick "To Read" on Goodreads HERE.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Starry Night

Available on Amazon
Kindle for $4.99. Click
to download now.
The work of Van Gogh had one influence on me when writing OCULUS, the sequel to Slipstream. I decided to make Jordan's mom an artist, who painted pictures (similar in style to Van Gogh) while staying in a psychiatric hospital. Kathy learns about this when she visits her advisor who worked on the case, and he tells her a story of how the images that this woman painted came to haunt him for years. Later, Kathy is viewing one of these paintings on her iPad when she accidentally opens a portal that allows her to converse with her mother for the first time in her life. The entire conversation plays on a video player, only Kathy can feel a breeze emanating up from the iPad while her mother tells her about the history of the Watchers and a coming war between angels and demons.

Below you will find a digital painting created by artist Alex Ruiz in an attempt to reinterpret Vincent Van Gogh's work "The Starry Night". I think it's stunning.
In reading about Van Gogh, I learned that he had a form of epilepsy that could descend upon him at random, cause him to black out, and when he woke...he would have no recollection of what occurred during the black out. People who have studied his life believe that he lived every day with the spectre of death hovering over him and that he stared at things and sought to capture them because he felt, it could be the last time he would ever see them.
In the book I was reading, Van Gogh would never have actually stood under the stars as Alex Ruiz would suggest in this painting. Rather, Van Gogh was committed to an asylum by his brother and wasn't allowed to go out at night. Instead, he would have stared out from his window at the night sky and then waited until morning before he could go to his workshop and paint what he saw.

In any event, the original, and this one by Ruiz, possess a certain magic to them.

Wouldn't you agree?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

City of Light and Stone by Laura Diamond

This weekend I read "City of Light and Stone" by Laura Diamond. It's a short story featured in the dark fantasy anthology: Day of Demons (cover pictured at right). In short, Day of Demons is a collection of stories featuring the conflict of demons and humans over the course of a day.

The main character of Hector in Laura's story is a tormented soul that belongs to Satan. He is in his situation because rejection drove him to murder the woman he lusted after, and in the story, he's offered redemption if he can fulfill Satan's bounty of one pure soul at a place called Point Zero before the sun sets.

I think that as writers, we can all slip into the skin and understand Hector's hatred of rejection. Sure, our souls do not belong to the devil, but allegorically-speaking, why couldn't they? And who is to say that the ultimate homicidal impulse for a writer isn't the act of "selling out".

What wouldn't some of you do to obtain an agent, a Big Six contract, and a huge book deal? How is this not in many ways just a caveat to truth? I think that at the end of the day, we are all enslaved by our own personal demons. And if we ever want to stand out from the masses, we may have to do things that go against what we really want and do so before the sun sets...before it's too late.

If you like dark fantasy, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Day of Demons and read Laura's story. As far as short stories go, I'd give it five stars out of five. It's a quick read with a powerful moral...if you deal with demons, don't waffle on what you say and be punctual! To do otherwise will put you at risk of eternal damnation.

Visit Laura Diamond's blog located HERE.

Purchase Day of Demons from Amazon located HERE.

Mark Day of Demons "To Read" on Goodreads located HERE.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

HBO's The Newsroom makes me thankful for NPR

Jane Fonda as News Director Leona Lansing
I'm really liking Aaron Sorkin's new drama on HBO. You can read my first post on this located HERE.

This week's episode of "The Newsroom" brought up a topic that I had not previously considered...that it's important for there to be one hour devoted to news per day that doesn't have to compete for the same advertising dollar as the audience of The Jersey Shore.

Will McAvoy gives an opening "Editorial Comment" in which he plays an apologetic senator's recorded tape and uses this to launch into his own apology, in which he cites his show's failure in the past to report responsible news. In short, ratings instead of content has been driving the national discussion.

I have to say, Will McAvoy has got an excellent point.

Then enters Jane Fonda. Now, Fonda is pretty much a legendary star. And she said basically nothing during the majority of this episode. But I was expecting her to say something. When she did, it was in answer to the aftermath of the congressional elections of 2010 in which many TEA party candidates were elected. In the episode, Bachmann was compared to McCarthy. I can definitely see the resemblance. But Fonda in the role of her character...not so much. I think the intent of bringing that up though is for the viewer to decide because we are the "fly on the wall."

All of that aside, an interesting dilemma was posed by Fonda's character who is the head of the Newsroom and essentially calls all the shots. She said that she has regular "business" in front of "this congress" and stated that McAvoy needed to tone it down and stop making them look stupid (even if they are stupid) because that would make her job very difficult. I don't like this at all, and it had me thinking...how much of our news comes down to us from people who may be afraid to ask the tough questions?

How much of the political and economic discussion in this country is driven by fund raising?
I guess I am more thankful now than ever that we have National Public Radio. I support them when I can, but I will definitely try to do so more often. So my question to you is this. Do you listen to NPR? Where do you get your news for the issues that are important to you? And do you support NPR during their fundraising campaigns?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Helena Soister and The Compass Master

At 523 pages and some 100 chapters, The Compass Master is not a book for the people who gobble up Twilight fan-fiction like it was cotton candy. Fortunately, I'm not one of those people.

So what is The Compass Master? In short, it's a book that chronicles the discovery of extraordinary Biblical artifacts: the alleged final epistle by Paul written by the apostle himself, another by the granddaughter of a female apostle who debunks the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, and one by the monk who hid both of these.

The story is told through differing points-of-view (third person omniscient). The main one is Layla Daltry, a sexy, athletic, and incredibly smart heroine who (when teamed with Zach--an equally sexy male counterpart) is able to unravel a mystery that the Catholic church has kept secret for centuries. Another character is a nun who is in her own right a heroine with church secrets to protect. Finally, there are the bad guys, twin brother assassins in service to an American who want to stop Layla Daltry from fulfilling her quest which could create a firestorm among the academic and religious authorities of the Christian world.

So in analyzing this book, it may be best to start with the question "Who are the Compass Masters?" They were men who called their drawing compasses "diviners" because they believed in sacred mysteries which they could divine through mathematics. In other words, they attempted to explain mysteries through secret codes that they then built into actual structures.

I tend to think that the title "The Compass Master" is a nod to Zach who is essentially one of these "Compass Masters" if not actually a part of that society because he figures so much out by using math. In fact, there is throughout this novel, a theme of numbers and geometric shapes. As Helena points out in this book, it was Plato who taught that by studying geometry a person purifies the eye of the soul. "To them and other medieval intellectuals, numbers were a manifestation of divine order, a human fulfillment of the words God uttered in Genesis: 'I have made everything with number, measure, and weight."

The Compass Master is one of the most cerebral reads that I have taken on since Murukami's 1Q84. I found myself pausing often to reflect upon what the author was pointing out about our knowledge of the Book of Revelation and how it was essentially put into The Bible because the Catholic Church desired control. "Fill them with fear and tell them that your religion alone holds the key to their salvation...Have them focus on the next world while religious and political leaders control wealth and power in this one." Conspiracy theories abound in this tale. But then, you really can't have secret societies and not go into conspiracy theories. That's where all the fun is.

I give The Compass Master five stars out of five. I have read the Dan Brown novels (DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons), and I think this book could easily sit on the shelf with those other books. The amount of research that went into this novel boggles my mind. I tip my hat to Helena for weaving such an intricate pattern of mystery, thrilling history, and a courageous examination into questions not often demanded from The Bible. I hope that she's planning another Layla Daltry book so I can see how the fame she garners from the discoveries in The Compass Master affect her life. I'd also like to see if she and Zach will ever get back together. They seem meant for each other. It is sad to note that the abbey in the book is closing because they no longer have enough young nuns to keep it open. It's kind of a poignant "sign of the times" that as the world becomes more educated, the sun begins to set on the Catholic Church.

If you love historical thrillers, I strongly recommend you invest in this book.

Helena blogs at Becoming Layla located HERE.

You can purchase her book on Amazon for $3.50 on Kindle located HERE.

You can be supportive and mark her book "To Read" on Goodreads HERE.