Monday, January 16, 2017

CassaFire in Turkish, Secret Behind Disaster Films, Disaster Movie Trivia, Haken-Affinity Review, and New Releases

CassaFire in Turkey!

Now available – CassaFire in Turkish!

The title translates to Shotgun Fire, which is funny. I guess in the story, Byron isn’t a Cassan, he’s a Shotgonian.

Find it at Gurer Publishing.

The Secret Behind Disaster Films

Please welcome my Dragon Fellowship buddy and author, Carrie Butler!

Do you want to know the secret behind disaster movies? We enjoy them for all the wrong reasons.

Experts believe that the worse things get in “real life,” the more we take comfort in situations bleaker than our own. We flock to theaters to watch entire cities get wiped off the earth, our hearts pounding in time with those of the main characters, and it’s all from the safety of our sticky seats. Talk about a rush!

The thing is, unlike other film genres, we’re not exactly there for the storyline. Without the special effects and resounding booms, most disaster flicks would fold in on themselves. Why? Because there’s no reason to spin an intricate plot when you can just dust off a formula from the 1970’s. Right, Hollywood? Nudge, nudge...

Okay, truth be told, most of us don’t mind the lack of outside draw. In some cases, it’s all part of the cheesy allure. But the one thing that will always baffle me is the industry’s blatant disregard for science. Entertainment requires some liberties to be taken, but how can a studio with money and resources get things so horribly wrong? Case in point, San Andreas (2015). Having spent the better half of the past two years studying earthquakes and tsunamis—I just released an action/adventure centering around a catastrophic seismic event in the Pacific Northwest—I could not hold my tongue during certain scenes.


Ahem. Needless to say, the next time you catch a disaster movie, I want you enjoy it—just don’t count on it to prepare you for a real life situation. You know, like the next time you have to saw your way out of a shark. ;)

Thanks for having me, Alex!

Carrie Butler is an award-winning author and the owner of Forward Authority full-service studio.

Find As We Know It at Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo

Haken – Affinity

Here’s a band flying under the musical radar that deserves serious attention from prog fans. Simply put, the album is amazing.
In each song, you’ll hear many difference influences from prog rock giants. (Such as Yes and Porcupine Tree.) They all blend together to give Hakan a very distinct voice. The music is complex. The arrangements are tricky. These guys are serious musicians.
It’s prog, so don’t expect instant gratification. However, the patient listener will be rewarded with an album they’ll enjoy for years.

New Releases

Shattered Spirit (Totem #4) by Christine Rains
Find it on Amazon

Teapots and Treachery by Donna K. Weaver
Find it on Amazon

FreeFall, Backworlds Book 7 by M. Pax
Find it on Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble

Movie Trivia

In honor of Carrie’s story, today’s trivia centers around natural disaster movies. Name the movie from the tagline.

1 – Heads up
2 – It’s five miles wide…it’s coming at 30,000 mph…and there’s no place on Earth to hide
3 – We were warned
4 – Where will you be?
5 – The pressure is building. Whatever you do, don’t look back
6 – Oceans rise. Cities fall. Hope survives.
7 – The only way out is in
8 – The coast is toast

Answers on Monday!

Are you a fan of disaster films? Ever heard of Haken? Picking up some new books? Know any of the trivia? And have you ever been through a major natural disaster?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Underworld: Blood Wars Review, Best of 2016, Huntsman Review, and IWSG Update

Underworld: Blood Wars Review

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is back and kicking more werewolf ass.
Begins after Selene has sent her daughter into hiding. The werewolf-vampire war is escalating and everyone is after Selene for either her blood or her daughter’s blood. Was it a perfect film that broke new ground? Nope. Did it fully entertain me for ninety minutes, making me forget the world around me? You bet!
Great effects, interesting and fun characters, and lots of blood and carnage. (Want to see a werewolf’s spine ripped from its back? It’s here.) Plus we have Kate in her black leather. What’s not to mindlessly enjoy?
If you’re a fan of the franchise or just into werewolves and vampires fighting, you’ll enjoy it. If you just want to rip a bad film with lots of plot holes, go watch Jupiter Ascending instead.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Now on NetFlix, this sequel shows young Eric and his love Sara training in Ice Queen Freya’s army, then skips ahead to after the first film as Eric tracks down the missing magic mirror before Freya gets it.
The effects are amazing. They did not skimp on making the movie look great. It also had some humor. All of the dwarves are funny.
It’s an easy film to figure out. Brain power not required. But it is better than the first film. (A lot of that is due to no Kristen Stewart. A pouty Snow White just doesn’t cut it.)
Worth a rental.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Last week was another amazing IWSG post day. Thanks to all participants and co-hosts for starting off 2017 with a bang!

Please note that my post originally omitted one of the contest winners:

Tyrean Martinson - Of Words and Swords

Sorry, Tyrean! Epic Ninja Fail.

A few things I wanted to mention:

Most important - I need co-hosts next month! Let me know if you can help.

First, if you would like to change your name/title as listed on the IWSG Sign-up List, please let me know! Some of you used your name, some your blog’s name, and some I’m not quite sure about… Please send me an email with your current name and the one you’d like to change it to on the list.

Second, thanks to those of you who go above and beyond with visiting other participants, including those who visit the newbies. They need to know they are in the right place and are encouraged to continue posting.

Third, please everyone check for your blog on the IWSG Sign-up List! I do cull the list every month – miss two months in a row and you are taken off the list. (Unless you contact me ahead of time.) So, some of you are posting but you have not added your name back to the list.

Finally, does anyone else get annoyed with these?
After visiting twenty-five or so Blogger blogs, verification comes up. Every…single…time.
And this one is the worst!
I clicked on all four squares (including the pole) and it was wrong.
The next frame was almost identical with a sign in the same place. I clicked on all four squares again and it was – right!
After over a hundred blogs of this, I was ready to go all Ninja on someone…

New Release

When Ash Rains Down by Cecelia Earl
Those of you who visit Christy and Erica’s blog know that Christy is published under the pen name Cecelia Earl.
Find it on Amazon

The Best of 2016

I’d like to take a moment and highlight what I felt were some of the best (and my favorite) movies, albums, and shows of 2016.
And if you don’t agree…my blog, no bashing! But do let me know what your choices would be.

Top Five Albums

1 – Dream Theater, The Astonishing – Went from least favorite to most favorite DT album in just three listens.
2 – Katatonia, The Fall of Hearts – One of the most moving and beautiful albums I have ever heard.
3 – Devon Townsend Project, Transcendence – Start to finish, this album is full of solid, amazing songs.
4 – Insomnium, Winter’s Gate – One epically long song in seven parts. This is Scandinavian metal at its finest.
5 – Haken, Affinity – A mix of Yes and porcupine Tree, it’s old school and refreshing at the same time.
Honorable Mentions – Killswitch Engage-Incarnate, Fates Warning-Theories of Flight, Metallica-Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, and Chevelle-The North Corridor
(Yes, they are all metal-prog rock bands. My list, my taste in music!)

Top Five Shows

1 – Stranger Things – Everything great about the 80’s wrapped in awesomeness and love. One of the best shows ever created.
2 – RiffTrax:Live – It’s comfort food you share (hysterically) with a theater full of people who get it.
3 – Game of Thrones – Filled with many, many holy crap moments.
4 – Flash – The show bounced back nicely this year.
5 – Better Call Saul – A train wreck you can’t turn away from in the best sense of the word.
Honorable Mentions –  The Night Manager, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Goldbergs

Top Five Movies

1 – Captain America: Civil War – The Avengers 2.5. Just a really meaningful, weighty, funny, and action-packed film.
2 – Rogue One – The Star Wars film I’ve always wanted to see as an adult.
3 – Arrival – It put my brain in a blender, set it on puree, and then poured it back into my head.
4 – Batman vs. Superman – I enjoyed the heck out of it!
5 – Deadpool – The funniest and foulest superhero film you will ever see. (Until the sequel comes out.)
Honorable Mentions – Star Trek: Beyond, Dr. Strange, Suicide Squad, and X-Men: Apocalypse

Anyone else see Blood Wars this past weekend? Seen the second Huntsman movie? Enjoy the IWSG posts last week? (Need to change your listing-email me!) And what were your favorite albums, shows, and movies of 2016?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Insecure Writer’s Support Group and Anthology Winners! Plus January Movie Preview, Warcraft Review, and Ninja News

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

My awesome co-hosts today are Eva @ Lillicasplace, Crystal Collier, Sheena-kay Graham, Chemist Ken, LG Keltner, and Heather Gardner!

Prompt question for today - What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

Today is the big day – the announcement of the IWSG Anthology Contest 2016 winners!

First, thanks to my awesome IWSG Admins for reading all of the entries - Lynda Young, L. Diane Wolfe, Michelle Wallace, Chrys Fey, Susan Gourley, Joylene Nowell Butler and Joy Campbell.

Then a big thanks to this year’s official judges: author Elizabeth S. Craig, author Richard Harland, senior editor Laura Maisano, author Russell C. Connor, literary agent Dawn Frederick, author Ion Newcombe, and author Lynn Tincher.

And now, the winners of the 2016 IWSG Anthology Contest – Hero Lost:

Tyrean Martinson – Of Words and Swords
L. Nahay – Breath Between Seconds
Roland Yeomans - Sometimes They Come Back
Elizabeth Seckman - Mind Body Soul
Olga Godim - Captain Bulat
Ellen Jacobson - The Silvering
Erika Beebe - The Wheat Witch
Yvonne Ventresca – The Art of Remaining Bitter
Sean McLachlan - The Witch Bottle
Sarah Foster - The Last Dragon
Renee Cheung - Memoirs of a Forgotten Knight

And the grand prize winner:

Jen Stanton Chandler - The Mysteries of Death and Life

Congratulations to the winners and all who entered – we had a record number of entries this year. Look for the anthology, Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life, late spring.

Movie Review – Warcraft

It’s actually one of the better video game to movie adaptations, but that’s not saying much.
It did have really good effects.
Unfortunately, some of the actors weren’t up to the task – they weren’t capable of being really good fantasy actors.
At two hours, it also runs a little long.
Overall, entertaining but forgettable.
Worth a NetFlix rental if you have nothing better to do.

Ninja News

The RiffTrax: Live MST3K Reunion is now available for download and on DVD/Blu-ray!
You can pick it up at their site or at Amazon.

We watched it again over the holidays and laughed just as hard as the first time. This is definitely the best RiffTrax: Live show you will ever see. Don’t miss it!

New Releases:

Howlin' Wolf Records: Six Strings - Season 2 Issue 1 [2017]
It's a highlight of the best soundtrack/score music and some of those we lost. Goodbye 2016, Hello... 2017
And all our favorite things; FILMS, MUSIC, BOOKS, ETC.
Get your free issue today!

Sold by J.L. Campbell
Find it on Amazon

A Bit of a Twist anthology
Including Happily Ever After by Loni Townsend
Find it on Amazon

January Movie Preview

Here are the upcoming theatrical releases for January! As always, descriptions courtesy of the IMDB. Snark provided by me.

6 –

Underworld: Blood Wars
Vampire death dealer, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her.
Director: Anna Foerster
Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver
If you’re not already committed to werewolves fighting vampires ad nauseam, this won’t change your mind. But Kate still looks gorgeous.

A Monster Calls
A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom's terminal illness. Director: J.A. Bayona
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson
This was supposed to come out last year – never a good sign.

13 –

A cop with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son.
Director: Baran bo Odar
Stars: Michelle Monaghan, Dermot Mulroney, David Harbour, Jamie Foxx
I like Foxx, but a January release might make one sleepy…

20 –

xXx: Return of Xander Cage
Xander Cage is left for dead after an incident, though he secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons.
Director: D.J. Caruso
Stars: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Kris Wu
XXX is back! Not that I remember the first one. Plus it was Diesel, then Ice Cube, now Diesel again…so confusing.

27 –

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Picking up immediately after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity's final stand against the undead. Now, she must return to where the nightmare began - The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse.
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Stars: Ruby Rose, Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Iain Glen
The Final Chapter…unless it makes money.

What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard? Excited for the next IWSG anthology? Seen Warcraft? Picked up the MST3K Reunion show? Did you have a good holiday break and Christmas? And what movies excite you this month?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Rogue One Review, TSO in Concert, Tara Tyler and Beasts, Spectral Review, Monday Music and Holiday Wishes!

Rogue One Review

Possibly the best Star Wars film ever!
Rogue One takes place just before Star Wars episode IV begins. It’s the story of those who risked everything to steal the Death Star plans.
Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) does an excellent job with tension and pacing. The film is 2:14 hours long, but it doesn’t feel like it. It's also the first Star Wars aimed fully at adults. (If you have really young children, I recommend seeing it without them first.)
Like Empire, it’s a darker film. But that’s balanced by a memorable cast of characters, including a snarky reprogrammed Imperial droid. (Voiced by Alan Tudyk of Firefly fame, who steals the show.)
The special effects are incredible, detailed, and full. The movie moves through numerous scenes and planets, each possessing its own distinct personality. And the space fights and battle on the beach – just wow!
The first two thirds are good, but it’s the final third that elevates the movie to great.
Highly recommended! And see in 3D if possible.

I plan on seeing it again during the Christmas break…

Trans Siberian Orchestra in Concert

It’s the concert going season and what better way to kick off the Christmas holidays than with a Trans Siberian Orchestra concert!

The show is just mind-blowing. I guarantee you have never seen a concert like it. Rising platforms, a catwalk, massive projection screens, moving lights, snow, flames, explosions, fireworks, and more laser lights than a hundred concerts combined.

The twenty-plus musicians and singers are also top showmen. They know how to play to the crowd and ham for photos. Every singer possesses an amazing and commanding voice. They even had Russell Allen from one of my favorite bands, Symphony X, perform three songs. And if you’ve never heard an electric violin, you are missing out.

In addition to songs from their albums, they also told the story from their very first video about a runaway girl in an abandoned theater. There’s a narrator in between songs who plays his part to perfection. Bookending this are Christmas and other songs from their multiple discs.

If you’ve never seen them, I highly recommend you go!

And I’ll leave you with this Monday’s Music Moves Me (hosted by Xmas Dolly) song from TSO:

Don’t Judge Beasts by Tara Tyler

A rant by Professor Knotson Hardaway.

You should never judge someone based on appearances.

The human definition of a monster: an imaginary creature that is typically large, ugly, and frightening.

Please note, ugly is in the eye of the beholder. Beasts get very offended if you call them monsters. They are sentient, some much more intelligent than humans. Monsters act on animal instincts and kill for food. At first glance, beasts look different than humans, and fear is a common, instinctive reaction. Beasts understand this, but once humans realize beasts are logical beings, the term monster should never be applied in reference to them.

Beast is also a slang term the teenagers use in referring to each other or as an exclamation of surprise or loss. If a beast calls someone a monster, it is considered derogatory or a curse.

So when you come across a scary-looking individual, you can hide, but don’t call him a monster. You might be able to pull out his thorn and have a beastly friend for life.

Thanks for hosting me, Alex!

Gabe the goblin just saved his town Broken Branch Falls from splitting apart. He also revealed that humans--horrible creatures of myth and legend--may actually be part of their history! But seriously? Nah!
Now Ona, Gabe’s girlfriend, is headed thousands of miles away to Camp Cradle Rock for Spring Break seeking evidence of humans. Gabe knows better than to tell a stubborn ogress she’s crazy, so he’s letting her go and spending the break at the beach like a normal teenage beast. And he’s determined to have a good time without her, whether he likes it or not.
But when Ona goes missing, Gabe and his friends set out for the wilds of the west to find her, no matter what dangerous creatures get in his way. Not even humans.

Find Cradle Rock on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads

Spectral Movie Review

A NetFlix original film, it’s a mash of science fiction, horror, and war movie.
From the IMDB - A sci-fi/thriller story centered on a special-ops team that is dispatched to fight supernatural beings. Starring James Badge Dale, Emily Mortimer, and Bruce Greenwood.
It was a really unique concept, with actual science behind it. The suspense built as the creatures went from mere ghost images to real threats with their ability to flash-freeze anyone they touched. All hell breaks loose when the specialist who created the goggles that can see the creatures is sent in with a rescue team and it never lets up.
The effects were very impressive – handled by Weta Workshop, who did Lord of the Rings.
Something prevented it from moving up to the next level. But as a NetFlix watch, it’s definitely recommended.

Mini-Alex would like to wish all of you Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and holiday wishes! May you all be blessed this holiday season.

Who else saw Rogue One? Have you seen TSO in concert? (And if the answer to either of those is no, why not?) Know some beasts or monsters? Ever seen Spectral?
I’ll be taking time off during the holidays and be mostly offline from December 24 through January 2.
See you Wednesday, January 4 for IWSG post day and the announcement of the IWSG Anthology Contest winners!