Monday, September 19, 2016

Writing About Morocco, The Wave Movie Review, Movie News, and Ninja News

Mason Canyon at Thoughts in Progress posted the most awesome review of my audio books – CassaStar and CassaFire!

Today I welcome Sean McLachlan. His book participated in the Kindle Scout campaign and was selected for publication by Kindle Press! The Last Hotel Room comes out on Tuesday, September 20.

Writing in (and about) Morocco by Sean McLachlan

Alex asked me to stop by and chat about my career in the Middle East. I’ve been going to that region for 26 years, first as an archaeologist and later as a writer. One of my regular haunts is Tangier, Morocco.
That’s the scene for my latest novel, The Last Hotel Room, in which a suicidal, bankrupt American robs junkies in order to support a Syrian refugee boy.
No, I’m not writing what I know. Well, maybe a bit. While I’m not bankrupt, or suicidal (despite my editor’s worries), I have actually spent a fair amount of time interviewing Syrian refugees. One article, Video Games with a Refugee, written on assignment in Iraq, won the Society of American Travel Writers Award and inspired the novel.
My main concern was getting the setting right, communicating the atmosphere of Tangier, a busy port with a mix of Arabs, Berbers, West Africans, and Europeans. People have visions of the Middle East as a danger zone filled with terrorists, and since my “hero” Tom Miller lives with the lowlifes I had to make sure to show the more respectable majority too.
I found myself using my travel writing background a lot while writing this novel. When Tom watches the passersby in the medina or stands with hopeful immigrants staring across the Strait of Gibraltar towards Spain, that’s me looking. Even the scene where Tom gets rid of a pesky junky with the unwilling help of a machinegun-toting cop is taken from life, although perhaps it would have been better if it hadn’t been!
Some other scenes, like the heroin scenes, are made up. That’s just fine by me.
And at least my house in Tangier doesn’t have a squat toilet like Tom’s hotel room!

The Last Hotel Room – available September 20!

He came to Tangier to die, but life isn’t done with him yet.
Tom Miller has lost his job, his wife, and his dreams. Broke and alone, he ends up in a flophouse in Morocco, ready to end it all. But soon he finds himself tangled in a web of danger and duty as he’s pulled into scamming tourists for a crooked cop while trying to help a Syrian refugee boy survive life on the streets. Can a lifelong loser do something good for a change?
A portion of my royalties will go to a charity for Syrian refugees.

To find out more about Sean McLachlan’s work and travels, visit him at his Amazon page or his blog, and feel free to friend him on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. You might also enjoy his newsletter, Sean’s Travels and Tales, which comes out every one or two months. Each issue features a short story, a travel article, a coupon for a free or discounted book, and updates on future projects.

Movie Review

The Wave
This Norwegian film proves that formula disaster films are universal. However, it’s very well done, so if you like formula disaster films that aren’t cheesy, you’ll really enjoy this entry in the genre.
From the IMDB: Based on the fact that mountain pass Åkneset, located in the Geiranger fjord in Norway, one day will fall out and create a violent tsunami of over 80 meters that will crush everything in its path before it hits land in Greenland.
A geologist and his family are about to leave a small Norway town for a job in the big city when the geologist realizes what’s about to happen.
The film has solid acting from all involved. They bring realism to the film.
The story focuses more on the lead up to the disaster and the aftermath than the actual disaster, but the giant wave and the destruction it leaves behind are impressive and haunting.
It does have subtitles but that is always better than dubbing!
Norway puts out some fine films and this one is no exception. If you like natural disaster films in the style of Dante’s Peak, you’ll enjoy this one. Recommended.

Movie News

The next RiffTrax: Live show is Carnival of Souls on October 27!
Perfect crappy film to riff for Halloween.
If you live in the Nashville area, you can go see it live – if not, check their site for a theater broadcasting it near you.

The best part of Suicide Squad was the over-the-top, batcrap crazy Harley Quinn. And soon, she’ll have her own movie.
Margot Robbie will reprise her role as Quinn, who will be one of many DC heroines and villains in the film. The film is currently in the works.

A special version of Mad Max: Fury Road is being released – the Blood and Chrome Edition. This version is in black and white and will be available in two different DVD sets on December 6. See Blastr for details.

DVD Releases:
September 13 – Captain America: Civil War
September 20 – Star Trek: Beyond
September 27 – Central Intelligence
October 4 – X-Men: Apocalypse
November 15 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Ninja News

Don’t forget the IWSG Anthology Contest is now open – fantasy/hero lost is the genre/theme. See the site for full details.

New release!
Love Thyself by Pat Hatt
Pat stars in his own story – and he’s destined to save Earth’s brain.
Find it on Amazon

Ever been to Morocco? Want to help Syrian refugees? Seen The Wave? Going to the next RiffTrax: Live show? Picking up some DVDs? And are you working on your IWSG Anthology Contest story?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Fifty Years of Star Trek, Underworld Blood Wars Trailer, IWSG Updates, New Releases, and CassFire Audio Book Winners

Fifty Years of Star Trek

On September 8, 1966, the first Star Trek show debuted. And life has never been the same.

Wikipedia had an entire page dedicated to the influence of Star Trek, stating Star Trek is one of the most culturally-influential television shows, and is often regarded as the most influential science fiction TV series in history. Many astronauts claim Trek influenced their career decision and George Lucas has stated that Trek was a big factor in the creation of Star Wars.

While I was a tad too young to watch the original series during its run, I spent many hours watching the reruns in syndication. The show broke through so many barriers, showing us a bigger and better world. I was captivated by the possibility of what existed beyond our solar system. It was the beginning of my love for science fiction, which would eventually lead to me writing in that genre.

There are a ton of events happening this month and hundreds of articles online celebrating fifty years of Star Trek. The LA Times has a ton of articles and you can find more news at Blastr.

Picking one favorite Trek would be impossible. I’m digging the reboot movies even as I still love the movies First Contact and Wrath of Khan. The closest I can come to a favorite is the series Deep Space Nine. There have been a few missteps (Star Trek V, the search for God?) but otherwise I’ve enjoyed them all.

What is your favorite Star Trek? And does anyone else own a bat'leth? Great for home defense!

Underworld Blood Wars

That’s right! Kate is back for another Underworld movie.

Insecure Writer's Support Group

Thanks to everyone for another awesome IWSG post day.

I try to get to as many as possible, but I hope everyone understands I can’t visit everyone. (That’s why we have co-hosts.) I’m making an effort to visit those I haven’t seen in a while though. Plus the newbies. I appreciate every single person who posts.

If you’ve missed posts in the past, make sure you’re still on the list. I visited several who were posting but they’d missed two in a row at some point and were no longer on the list.

And special thanks to all of the volunteers. Co-hosts are booked through next January now!

Don’t forget the IWSG Anthology Contest is now open! We have some great judges, an awesome theme, and we’re looking forward to reading the entries. You have until November 1, so get cracking.

New Releases

Baby Moo's Great Escape by Julie Flanders

Baby Moo has a dream. He wants to travel the world and sing on the stage of the Sydney Opera House!

Julie Flanders will donate $1 to Sunrise Sanctuary, home to Baby Moo and numerous other rescued animals, for each copy sold in September.

Find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Desolate Mantle (Street Games Book 2) by LK Hill

Walking the Slip Mire nightly, dressed in her disguise and trying to infiltrate a homicidal gang, Kyra Roberts sees plenty of things she can’t explain, and begins to think a serial killer may be on the prowl...

Find it on Amazon

Winners of CassaFire on Audio

And the winners are…



Are you a Star Trek fan? What’s your favorite show/movie? Ready for more Underworld? (I really need to get that outfit for my wife.) Enjoy the IWSG last week? Picking up some new books? Are your books on audio?

Last Friday I was a guest at Rebecca Bradley’s site for her First Draft series of interviews.

I’ll also be gone all day Friday for training, so I’ll catch Friday posters this weekend.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG Anthology Contest! CassaFire Audio Giveaway, Question of the Month, 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 C. Lee McKenzie, Rachel Pattison, Elizabeth Seckman, Stephanie Faris, Lori L MacLaughlin, and Elsie Amata!

September’s question of the month - How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

When I’m writing, which isn’t every day, I have a set time every evening that I will write. I just block out two to three hours (or more if I’m trying to beat NaNo) and that’s what I do no matter what. Since I don’t do it all the time, my wife is very understanding. And with that kind of commitment, I can usually get a first draft done in six to eight weeks. (Just imagine how fast I could finish if I typed faster than three hundred and fifty words an hour…)

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for…

Announcing the 2016 IWSG Anthology Contest!

Last year’s contest was science fiction – parallel world/alternate history, and the result was Parallels: Felix Was Here. This year, we have a new theme and invite all members to submit.

Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member. The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free.

Word count: 5000-6000

Genre: Fantasy

Theme: Hero Lost. It could be about a hero turned villain, a villain's redemption, a hero's lack of confidence, a hero's lack of smarts, etc. It can be about any kind of hero including superheroes, mythological heroes, unexpected or unlikely heroes, or a whole new kind of hero. This theme has plenty of scope and we’re open to pretty much anything along these lines. No erotica, R-rated language, or graphic violence.

Deadline: November 1st 2016

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted, previously unpublished story to admin @ before the deadline passes. Please include your contact details and if you are part of the Blogging or Facebook IWSG group.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges.

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title.

We’re excited to see the creativity and enthusiasm that’s such a part of this group put into action. So don your creative caps and start writing. And spread the word!

Our amazing judges this year:
Elizabeth S. Craig
Richard Harland
Laura Maisano
Russell C. Connor
Dawn Frederick
Michelle L. Johnson
Ion Newcombe
Lynn Tincher

So let your imagination run wild and write something awesome for the anthology!

Question of the Month

Hosted by Michael at A Life Examined

“What kind of music best speaks to you?”

Polka. Just kidding!

Obviously, progressive rock speaks to me. As a musician, I’ve always been drawn to more intricate music. While it takes time and many listens to digest it, progressive rock rewards the listener for years to come as every listen reveals some new detail.

Ninja News

We need co-hosts for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!
If you can help on October 5, November 2, December 7, or January 4, please leave a comment. Five to six co-hosts are needed every month.
If you’ve never co-hosted before, take it from those who have – the IWSG is a lot more fun when you’re on the host side!

Lexa Cain has set up Thunderclap for her upcoming release, Bloodwalker. Sign up for her Thunderclap and support her through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or all three.

New Releases:

Celibacy and Suburbia by Robyn Alana Engel
Robyn says - Don't worry. This isn't another book to add to your growing pile of quality must reads. Nah, this 78 pager is replete with typos by single men seeking "nteligent womans;" Robyn's attempts to seduce stars half her age and twice her height; and spicy poetic erotica. Warning: not for the tightly wrapped (e.g., Martha Stewart) or those lacking humor (e.g., Martha Stewart). When asked for comment, Donald Trump said this: "I'm so good looking."
I had the opportunity to read this before its release and it’s hilarious! Robyn has such a snarky good wit. This collection is the best of the best.
And I was honored that she dedicated Part II of the book to me and the IWSG. Thanks, Robyn!
Find it at Amazon in print and eBook

Six Strings Volume 7 is available now for download!
Put together by Jeremy Hawkins, it features articles and interviews with those in the music and movie industry. You don’t want to miss it!

Apache Warrior vs US Cavalryman: 1846-86 by Sean McLachlan
This is his seventh book from Osprey Publishing.
Find it on Amazon

CassaFire Audio Book Giveaway

In celebration of my second book being on audio now, I’ve giving away two copies of CassaFire.

"Reminiscent of the action-driven stories of Robert A. Heinlein's early fiction…” - Library Journal

(And CassaStorm will be available very soon!)

Winners announced September 12.

How do you find time for writing? What genre of music moves you? Can you co-host the IWSG next month? Picking up some new books? Excited to hear CassaFire on audio? And are you excited about the IWSG contest now?

This Friday, September 9, I will be visiting author Rebecca Bradley for her weekly series, What is Your First Draft Like? So be sure to stop by.

Monday, August 29, 2016

CassaFire on Audio, Kubo and the Two Strings Review, September Movie Preview, Anyone Can be a Reader, and Monday’s Music Moves Me

CassaFire on Audio!

When I got back from vacation, I got the news that CassaFire’s audio book went live last week.
I’m really stoked for the second book of my series. In listening to the samples, not only did the narrator do a tremendous job, but everything about this story flowed so well.

Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. Keeping a promise to his fallen mentor, he now serves on an exploration vessel. The detection of alien ruins sends them to the distant planet of Tgren. Are the ruins a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassans. To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers. Forced to train Athee and further develop her flying aptitude, Byron’s patience is strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

“…delivers on the promise of its predecessor, combining military action sequences and political intrigue with strong, memorable characters. Reminiscent of the action-driven stories of Robert A. Heinlein's early fiction…” - Library Journal

Find CassaFire on audio at iTunes, Amazon, and Audible.

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

This isn’t a movie. Kubo is a work of art.
The stop animation is breathtaking. It’s beyond Aardman Animation or any stop motion you have ever seen. Blended with a touch of CGI, the animation comes alive.
The story is also beautiful. As with most Japanese tales, the elements of spiritualism, love, and loss are present. This is a deep and meaningful story; a drama with touches of humor. This is not a film for small children.
It’s shame this movie isn’t doing better. It’s definitely a contender for Best Animated Film.
Highly recommended!

Anyone Can Be a Reader

Author Ciara Knight reached out to me about a cause dear to her heart – dyslexia. She and her son both struggle with dyslexia.
Nicole Zoltack is here to share how you can assist those with dyslexia.

I’ve always been a reader. I was one of those kids who would hide a book in her textbook and read during class. I’d read while on the bus or while eating or in the car. Anywhere and everywhere that I could get the chance.

My husband didn’t grow up a reader. It’s tragic, really. I didn’t understand how he didn’t enjoy escaping into other worlds unless it was through movies or TV. Along came Harry Potter, though, and during the lulls between movies, I talked him into reading the books. And then one year for Christmas, I got him a gift that was more for me than him–A Song of Ice and Fire books. We both read them, and if he can read those tomes of George RR Martin’s, I think it’s safe to say I’ve successfully converted him into a reader.

I wish that everyone could experience the joy and love of reading, so when I saw Ciara was looking for authors to donate a story to help out a school specifically geared to students with dyslexia, I didn’t think twice. This isn’t the first time I’ve written for charity (and it won’t be the last) and I think the biggest draw for me was that these kids who struggle with letters will be able to have the help and guidance they need to become lifelong readers too.

Has dyslexia affected you or someone you know? Comment below and you’ll be entered to win your choice of one of my ebooks.

LOVE AND GRACE - Romance for the soul, a gift from the heart.

All proceeds benefit GRACEPOINT – A School for Dyslexia.

Pre-Order links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo

Monday’s Music Moves Me

Hosted by Xmas Dolly.

My choice today is Katatonia – Serein.
This band has been around forever and every new release gets better and better. They deserve some attention.

September Movie Preview

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

9 -

The story of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of the airplane flights 155 crew and passengers.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Aaron Eckhart
I really like going to the movies when I have no idea how it’s going to end.

23 -

The Magnificent Seven
Seven gun men in the old west gradually come together to help a poor village against savage thieves.
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Stars: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio
I’d write this off as just another unnecessary remake if not for Washington and Pratt.

30 –

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that spans different worlds and times, he finds Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. But the mystery and danger deepen as he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Asa Butterfield, Allison Janney
Is this an X-Men prequel?

Deepwater Horizon
A story set on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, which exploded during April 2010 and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Director: Peter Berg
Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Dylan O'Brien, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell
I really like going to the movies when I have no idea how it’s going to end…

And yes, had a great time on vacation. Went camping with friends. (In a super nice trailer with all the perks – the only way I’m going camping.)

Mini-Alex went along, but sadly he never made it out of the trailer. (Yeah, my fault – I forgot!)

Have you seen Kubo? Want to do something to help Gracepoint? What music moves you today? Which movies strike your fancy? And are you into audio books? (And willing to give CassaFire a try…?)

No post next Monday due to Labor Day. (Spending the day with friends.) Will be back on September 7 for IWSG post day and the announcement of the IWSG Anthology Contest theme!

Just a reminder - last week I had a guest spot at the Parallels site, discussing the value of What If?