Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Voldemort tried to kill Harry with the Killing Curse at least five times and that's just dumb

You know that villain that's supposed to be supercool because they are just a complete badass? For me, it wasn't Voldemort, who (quite frankly) would have been better served with a knife or a gun. After all, if you want someone dead, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is anything more lethal than a gun. Even the Winchester brothers knew this in Supernatural, when they found a gun capable of killing God in season two. So below are listed all the times Voldemort used "The Killing Curse" (and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong):

1) When Harry was a baby.
2) In the Goblet of Fire book following Cedric Diggory's death at the graveyard (it didn't work because of something called priori incantatum).
3) When Harry was fighting Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries, he attempted to use the Killing Curse again. It was prevented when Dumbledore arrived and animated a golden statue to cover Harry and shield him from the curse.
4) When Voldemort tried to kill Harry in the Forbidden Forest (Narcissa Malfoy lied to Voldy saying Harry was dead in the hope of being able to be reunited with her son Draco).
5) And again in the final battle where his spell rebounds upon himself, which at this point is just stupid because it sure as hell would have occurred to me that using this particular spell will probably not work since it hasn't worked during the last four times I tried it.

Seriously. How many times do you need to try and do something and it doesn't work and then you just keep trying to do it the same way? Anyway, it's not that I think these books or this story is particularly bad. It's just that I think Voldemort had an IQ of about 80, which means that despite all of his supposed natural talent, he really should have been riding the "short train" to school.

Thoughts? I know all of you "Lovers of Harry Potter" are probably in shock out there that I would dare call J.K. Rowling's penultimate villain "stupid," but get over it. At the end of the day, Voldemort was as dumb as a box of rocks.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Those transparent computer screens you see in Avatar are headed to a retail store near you.

My brother who's kind of an expert in all things "cutting edge" sent me an email earlier this month about giant rollable televisions that are coming from LG. The flexible screens feature super high resolution, are paper thin, and one of the two that's going to be released is so flexible it can be rolled into a 3 cm diameter tube. Seriously. Just check out the picture below:
LG also stated in the report that it is confident that it will produce a 60-inch (152 cm) Ultra high definition rollable television by 2017, which we all know is just around the corner. Below is one that actually premiered at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2014 (in Las Vegas). Pretty nifty, right? Just imagine an iPad that you could fold out into a 16-inch screen and you realize only a small portion of the technological potential here.
In addition to the flexible screen, they are also making transparent ones. I remember the first time I saw transparent computer screens. It was in the movie, Avatar and I thought, wow those monitors are really cool. However, I do tend to wonder if you see something through the screen, would it distract from what's actually on the screen? I don't know if that would necessarily be a good thing or a bad thing.
I'm glad I live in an era of nifty technology. It makes life fun.
Oh hell yes. The future is now. Me likey (Scene from the movie Avatar)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Miranda Hardy and Jay Noel want to tell you about Death Knocks. Are you ready?

This is the week that Miranda Hardy and Jay Noel are doing their cover reveal for their upcoming young adult paranormal thriller due to be released on September 26th, 2014. What do you think? Pretty creepy, right?

I think I first heard of the phenomenon of the "black-eyed kids" from author Sarah Falen's blog (but don't quote me on that as I did a brief google search for it and can't find it). Sarah writes these posts about strange and weird things happening all around the world. The story I remember (and it could have been from her blog) was about kids knocking on doors and asking to be let in and they're wearing these black contact lenses to try and creep out adults.

Anyway, let the book speak for itself in the following blurb:
Who knew a knock at the door could rupture your entire world? They don’t demand money or possessions…they want much more than that, they want your life.
Maverick is preparing for senior year: he’s no longer stuck in the “friend-zone” with the girl of his dreams, he’s looking forward to choosing the right college and being on his own, and he plans to have a blast along the way.
But a knock on the door changes all of that forever.
Maverick begins a mind-altering, life-changing journey to discover the truth—a truth that certain individuals will do anything to keep hidden.
Death Knocks is a Young Adult paranormal thriller about the strange global phenomenon known as the Black-Eyed Kids. Take a creepy and exciting ride in a world where myth meets reality.

Death Knocks is scheduled for publication on September 26, 2014 by Quixotic Publishing.

I am taking a one week break from blogging. I'll see you again on Monday, July 28th.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Microsoft's decision to fire thousands of workers is just one sign that careers are becoming extinct

Microsoft's new CEO as of February 2014 is Satya Nadella. He replaced
Steve Ballmer who has gone onto retirement with the many billions of
dollars he earned in his lifetime as Bill Gates' partner in crime.
The big financial news that came out of the tech sector yesterday had to do with Microsoft. You see, in what some may call a rambling memo Microsoft began the first of a wave of layoffs that would eventually cull 18,000 from its workforce (or around 14%) as ordered by Microsoft's new CEO, Satya Nadella.

Although the news has reported on layoffs from big companies before, this one struck me as particularly telling because it's the first time in my life that I was tuned into the stock market. Here's what I discovered: while everything else was essentially down across the board in a broad sell off across all sectors because of the Boeing 777 that got shot down near the Russian border (killing 295 people) and instilling anxiety in everyone (including myself), Microsoft was up over a percentage point. In other words, stockholders were celebrating what is perceived to be a good management move...celebrating "party style" to the tune of around a million dollars for every employee thus axed from the roster (when you factor in shareholder value). Deplorable? Well that's capitalism.

So why do I find this particularly telling/revolting? Well my career is in government. I assist clients who are in the federal vocational rehabilitation program; in other words I help the unemployed find jobs. I work with professionals at Workforce Services and Vocational Rehabilitation counselors who all strive to do the same thing: to find people jobs so that they can have stability in their lives. It's a part of the American dream, right? But here's the thing: I think we're all deluding ourselves because jobs (now more than ever) are hard to find, however, work is readily available. So what's the difference between a job and work? Well that gulf is huge and believe me, I'd rather have the former than the latter. Allow me to elaborate.

I was raised to believe that a steady job with a stable employer is what I should strive for and my dad thought that if I worked hard, I could accomplish this goal just like he did (and he was right). However, I thank my lucky stars that this happened because I know many people that aren't/weren't so lucky. I think my archaic notions of a steady job and a stable employer are an endangered species. It has become irrelevant thanks to a new reality wrought by globalization, technology, and a culture where stability has given way to rapid unpredictable change.

The new workforce has more similarities to The Hunger Games than it does to the archaic view of what myself and my parents might call "a job." Companies now hire for tours of duty where you are expected to churn out results at a grueling pace. Every day one spends in this new reality you are forced into the role of a pit fighter who must go to battle against others in order to see who gets/deserves a job tomorrow. To pick on Microsoft once more, here's the message you can read between the lines in that now infamous memo that axed so many jobs from the ledger of the Seattle-based "job creator":
"You have no right to keep a job any longer than we can profit from your efforts."
In fact, the message could be even harsher as all an employer needs to axe you is a perception of underperformance (whether or not it can even be proved). This rings particularly true in a "right to work" state such as Utah.

Inevitably, all of this leads me to seek answers for questions that continuously fill my head regarding our society (and I'm afraid I won't like the answers). What happens to older workers? It's a scientific fact that older workers are not as productive as younger ones because the brain is succumbing to age. Is there no security for old folks? Does loyalty to a company account for nothing anymore? And what about talent? No matter how talented you are, there is always someone better out there. There is always someone brighter and faster. If that person comes along and wants your job, does that mean you need to find work again? Moving costs money and destroys wealth. Always having to start over someplace becomes harder and harder as people get older. And what about the people who were never very bright to begin with? Are they just screwed from the get go and sentenced to a life of scrubbing toilets and living paycheck to paycheck?

Sometimes I wish I'd been born a few decades earlier, in simpler times, when jobs were plentiful and the U.S. was all about helping each other, about community, and no one was poor or grotesquely rich. But if wishes were fishes the sea would be full, right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

So now that Shannara is officially greenlit you'll finally be able to pronounce it correctly.

MTV has ordered Shannara, based on the fantasy novels by Terry Brooks. The first season is going to be ten episodes and is based on the Elfstones of Shannara. The pilot is being written by Miles Millar and Alfred Gough. You might recognize those credentials from the tv show, Smallville. The first two episodes are to be directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). I'm not particularly crazy about that option, but at least he's directed action scenes.

I am interested in whom they cast for the villains: Dagda Mor, the Changeling, and the witch sisters Morag and Mallenroh. The Dagda Mor is a complete badass. Basically he's the mightiest of all the demons trapped behind this wall called "The Forbidding," which you normally can't see. It's where the elves stuck the demons after they won the war and basically shunted them off to this alternate dimension where they could have their own government and stuff. Anyway, the Dagda Mor was a ruthless and cunning sorcerer/demon and he had mighty spells. He's also not as stupid as Voldemort who kept using the same killing curse on Harry Potter probably thinking it "HAS TO WORK THIS TIME" and then it "surprise!" doesn't work.

I vaguely remember a part of Elfstones when the Reaper breaks into one of the witch sister's towers. She has a battle with it flinging emerald green fire from her fingertips (or something like that). She starts one of her twig soldiers on fire and burns to death in the resulting inferno. That should be fun. I'm also interested in who they get to play Eritrea, Wil, and Amberle. The Reaper (of course) will be all CGI (which is probably where their budget will go...that and to the various colored lightning that Terry Brooks is fond of). The elfstones produce blue fire, the Dagda Mor produces red fire, the witch sisters make green fire...fantasy fiction is all about the rainbow.

So now that Shannara has been confirmed, what fantasy fiction adaptation are you hungering for? My vote is on Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake. Let's all chant "Anita Blake! Anita Blake! Anita Blake!" How can you go wrong with titles like Guilty Pleasures, Circus of the Damned, Burnt Offerings, and Obsidian Butterfly? You can't really. HBO should produce it though. That way Anita can go full on slut. Seriously, I love that bitch. Ma petite anyone?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Strain is really good and if you like vampires you should watch it

"...a virus exists only to find a carrier and reproduce, that's all it does and it does it quickly. It has no political views, no religious beliefs, no cultural hang-ups; it has no respect for a badge, it has no concept of time or geography. It might as well be the Middle Ages except for the convenience of hitching a ride on a metal tube flying from meal to meal to meal. That's how a plague begins. So you still wanna be the first one through the door?" --Ephraim Goodweather (CDC doctor).

Spoiler Alert, you have been warned. The pilot episode of "The Strain" pretty much had me on the edge of the couch seat the entire night. The setup for the story is masterful. It starts with a plane that's in the middle of landing when a flight attendant in first class gets a call from another flight attendant at the rear. When she goes back there to investigate, her frightened co-worker says there is a lot of noise coming from the cargo hold. Is it a wild animal? Whatever it is (because it's not completely revealed in this episode) it has enough strength to break through into the passenger area of the plane and in the two minutes it takes to land a plane, manages to kill everyone on board (I'd never heard of the phrase "we got ourselves a dead airplane" but I kinda really love it for the ominous way it rolls off the tongue).

And that's just how the show starts. The mystery quickly builds from there as we are introduced to a brilliant CDC doctor in a custody fight with his wife, a Pawn Shop dealer who has what looks like a human heart in a jar of brine that's infected with hundreds of worms that feed on human blood, and a pale faced gaunt guy with strange eyelids (and who doesn't actually breathe). The pale-faced gaunt guy seems to be the one orchestrating the events in the pilot episode. He's aware that the "cargo" has arrived at the airport and then with what looks to be a wealthy philanthropist, makes further plans to transport a 9-foot-tall coffin filled with 500-pounds of dirt across the Hudson River.

There's plenty of gore in this first episode. A guy gets drained of so much blood he pretty much mummifies on the spot. But the vampire that's draining him smashes his head like a huge melon. It was pretty gross. And the scene where the autopsy guy gets made into lunch for a bunch of newly risen corpses is pretty frightening.

All in all, I'll be watching this series all summer. It's great if you love horror. Even greater if you love vampires. The tension is high, and the ticking clock showing just how little time has passed since event zero just seems to add to that (as what's really going on here is the world is in the first hours of an apocalypse that will destroy all civilization).

Bravo Mr. del Toro. Bravo.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Strain starts on Sunday and I'm ready to be infected

This Sunday, Guillermo del Toro's "The Strain" unleashes itself upon America. I'm super excited because uber blogging website io9 recently did an expose on how similar the scenes from the pilot are to the comic panels from Dark Horse. When you hug your source material this close to your chest, it has to be least if you're a true fan. For the casual person who just happens to land on FX Sunday night by accident, all the hard work that went into the series will probably have no effect. So here are some of the panels taken from the io9 website:

So what do you think? Intriguing enough to watch? I think so.

Also, today is the day for the Woven cover reveal. Co-authors David Powers King and Michael Jensen worked together on this book, and it's being published by Scholastic. If you have the time, please click on one of the links below and go and check it out.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Are some books too dangerous to reprint?

I recently learned that the now infamous manifesto of hate known as Mein Kampf, a book that has been suppressed in publication since the end of World War 2, is now due for the printing presses. As a part of history, Mein Kampf occupies a niche with the label "most loathed." Who among us can argue against the idea that the book and its writer nearly destroyed the very idea of freedom not only for one group of people, but for nearly the entire world?

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this work, Mein Kampf was the blueprint that Hitler used to exterminate six million Jews (and millions of others in the Holocaust). Adolf Hitler wrote the first draft in 1924 and by the time he died 21 years later, it had sold 10 million copies. The state of Bavaria is the legal copyright holder for Mein Kampf, and it has refused to allow its republication. But its copyright expires in 2015 and with that expiration anyone can republish it.

Perhaps it can be said that if anyone in the 1920's had taken the time to actually read it and taken it seriously, they would have seen the plans for Hitler's Reich and acted to stop it. So maybe by making it widely available and starting a discussion about it in the universities and schools of the world that enough can be learned to prevent the Holocaust from ever happening again. After all, no one ever became wiser by not reading something. But what is there really to learn from reading Mein Kampf? Other than the idea that if the conditions are right, any group of people will gladly follow a monster that promises paradise?

So I ask you, are some books too dangerous to reprint? It can be said that there's nothing quite as insidious as an idea when it becomes entrenched in the mind of the true believer. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Snowpiercer wants us to realize that perspective and having options are incredibly important in life

Sunday morning, I had the pleasure of watching the science fiction thriller Snowpiercer. I think as a film, it cements my feelings that Chris Evans is my new favorite actor. As a genre story, it fits firmly in what author L.G. Smith might call "dystopian fiction."

If you are a member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group, then you might have read L.G.'s article entitled "My Dystopian Dilemma." She writes that "According to many in the industry, dystopian is D.E.A.D." I don't know enough about what agents or publishers are looking for right now, but if "dystopian" truly is ebbing off, I think I won't miss these stories of people living in dreadful, miserable societies all that much.

Snowpiercer is truly a gripping tale. Sure, you have to swallow the possibility that to address climate change, mankind induced a global Ice Age that killed off probably 90% of the organisms that lived on Earth (by accident of course). In addition, you have to swallow the idea that mankind's only means of surviving this apocalypse was to board a high-altitude train that makes one revolution around the Earth every year. It never stops. It never runs out of fuel. And it's big enough to contain thousands upon thousands of people in a perfectly balanced ecosystem.

And therein lies the problem. "Balance" is maintained by culling humans with insidious means. One way to achieve this much needed ecological balance is to deny a whole population a food source. Trapped in an iron box with nowhere to go, it's inevitable that the strong eventually eat the weak. Putting "undercover agents" in the population to convince them to revolt is another (so that those killed in the revolution drive down the population and open up an excuse for more killing to keep the population in check). And the creativeness of the oppressors and the oppressed is as imaginative as the population of survivors.

But perhaps what I found most engaging about the film is the actual metaphor of "The Train." I suppose it's a stand-in for the rat race. To get closer to the engine room is to improve your station and standard of living. It doesn't matter who you need to kill to get there. The fact is that removing a life from the train, makes room for a person where there was otherwise no room at all.

In a way, I think the director of Snowpiercer wants us all to realize that perspective and having options for escape are incredibly important in life. There are two Japanese characters in this film, and they have a kind of perspective that everyone else seems to lack. One goes so far as to be actually clairvoyant, able to see in her head what awaits on the other side of a locked gate to yet another train car. But they too are metaphorical stand-ins for the idea that even if we must all endure a rat race of sorts, that there is always the possibility of just leaving, of stepping outside and going somewhere else. Without this option (of course) we have no choice but to become monstrous and treat each other in the worst possible way.

Maybe the decline of dystopian fiction's popularity is a good thing, because it says that people are willing to embrace hope again as a society. It may mean that we all don't feel locked into something that we can't control and that we have options. And having options lies at the very core of freedom.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Tiger Mom Amy Chua defines success and I reject pretty much everything she says because it's not me

Yale Law Professor Amy Chua who wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother put forth in a recent New York Times article that (despite diversity in population) strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that propel success. They are 1) a superiority complex, i.e., a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality, 2) insecurity, i.e. a feeling that you or what you've done is not good enough, and 3) impulse control. She goes on to call this a "Triple Package of Traits."

As a writer, I experience insecurity (number 2 in the above paragraph) far too often. I also subscribe to number 3 (the one on impulse control) because I like feel-good posts and comments that make me want to live in the moment and encourage me to continue on my path. But if I were wise like Professor Chua says I should be, I'd forgo the impulses to live in the now and inculcate habits of discipline. I can hear her say, "Self-publishing a book instead of putting it through the rigors of agent submission and time tested publishing shows you lack discipline. You give into your impulses because it is the easy path, and that is why you're a loser. That is why I will never call you successful. You will always be a failure in my eyes." And as for number one...the feeling of superiority, or a deep-seated belief that you are's just not me.

And you know, it's not that I disagree with Professor Chua on what constitutes "success" and what constitutes "failure." Rather, it's that I think that when you "do the math," we all understand that for some people to do much better than others, many many others must give up their own share of the "dream," whether it be writing, or a job promotion, or some kind of prestige and admiration. The reason for this is that implicit in the American dream is a chance for others to do well, too. It is not about winning at all costs, it is about doing as well as you can without hurting or impinging on the dreams of others.

And so I address my insecurities this month with a quote from the great American poet, Walt Whitman, because I have no choice but to redefine what success means for me as I will never see eye-to-eye with the likes of Professor Chua. From Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman states: "This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

If I can accomplish even half of what Walt Whitman is saying, then I should (by all measure of my life) be at least proud of the life I lived and take comfort in what small successes I've attained both in my career and in my writing by the time it's over. And that, as they say, is that; what say you?


This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Details can be found HERE.

Advertisement 1