Monday, June 27, 2016

ID Resurgence Review, Paperback Writer, July Movie Preview, IWSG Anthology Contest Update, and Ninja News

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Director Roland Emmerich says he hates superhero movies because he finds them silly.
Dude, have you watched any of your own films lately?
I left my brain at the door and my intelligence was still insulted by this film.
Sure they went bigger, and it was fun if you could sit through the nonsense. Unfortunately, the stupid was too much for me.
This film failed on every science level and then some. Plausibility just went right out the window and there were tons of coincidences. This film demeans all other science fiction movies.
And what is it with Emmerich and stuff falling on planes? He must be a big fan of buildings attacking flying aircraft.
It was good to see Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, and the others return. They did their best with what they had.
This film wasn’t supposed to be more than a dumb popcorn movie. Sometimes, I’m all right with that. But it just blew it too often for me. And it wasn’t very memorable.
If you remove your entire head before entering the theater, you might enjoy it. You have been warned…

How the Beatles Made Me a Paperback Writer

It was twenty(one) years ago today
The Beatles’ Anthology began to play.
My tech writer job was out of style,
But they were guaranteed to make me smile.
So may I introduce to you
The group I’ve loved for all these years,
Gwen, Jenna, Ysabel, and Kay!

I was a casual Beatles fan until “Free as a Bird” was released as part of the TV Anthology series in 1995. The song stuck in my head and helped me get through my dreary work day.

I quickly devoured every Beatles song and book I could find. One book in particular (A Day in the Life: The Music and Artistry of the Beatles, by Mark Hertsgaard) struck me with the phrase “four-fold synergy” when describing how the Beatles worked together. I wanted to create another intimate group, but one of all women. They wouldn’t be musicians, but magicians. Their magic would be linked to the number four--but not the four elements. How about the seasons?

That was how I created the Season Avatars: Gwen, a healer/touch telepath (Spring); Jenna, plant magic (Summer); Ysabel, animal magic (Fall); and Kay, weather magic (Winter). Each Avatar is inspired by one of the Beatles. I wrote a 170,000 word novel about the Avatars and submitted it to publishers, but even after reducing the word count I received nothing but rejections. I put the series away until 2014, after I started self-publishing. After discarding the first book but keeping the characters, I eventually published three new books about them: Seasons’ Beginnings, Scattered Seasons, and Chaos Season. There will be two more books in the series, which should be complete next year. Hopefully, the love it gets will be equal to the love I put in it.

Visit Sandra at her blog.
Pick up her latest release, Chaos Season, at Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble

Ninja News

This Wednesday, the voting opens to decide the genre of this year’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology Contest! Be watching for the IWSG Newsletter on Wednesday. Voting will be open through July 9.

The MST3K Reunion show is Tuesday, July 28! You don’t want to miss this monumental event. (And if you do have to miss it, there will be an encore show on July 12.)

New release:
Plop Pea Pop by Pat Hatt
Find it on Amazon

Releases Tuesday, July 28:
Self-Help 101 or: How to Survive a Bombardment With Minimal Injury by L. G Keltner
Fine it on Amazon, Amazon UK, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks



Hart Johnson is participating in an awareness campaign this month – twenty-two pushups a day for the twenty-two veterans who commit suicide every day. She nominated me to join the group, spreading awareness online while doing the pushups. Since I am also supposed to nominate someone, I’m choosing Chemist Ken. (Who looks like he could manage the pushups – I don’t want to kill anyone.)

July Movie Preview

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

1 –

The BFG
A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Rebecca Hall, Mark Rylance, Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement
Is it just me, or do you see something other than the word friendly in BFG…?

The Legend of Tarzan
Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.
Director: David Yates
Stars: Margot Robbie, Alexander Skarsgård, Ella Purnell, Samuel L. Jackson
Four out of five mountain gorillas recommend this movie.





8 –

The Secret Life of Pets
Taking place in a Manhattan apartment building, Max's life as a favorite pet is turned upside down, when his owner brings home a sloppy mongrel named Duke. They have to put their quarrels behind when they find out that an adorable white bunny named Snowball is building an army of lost pets determined to take revenge
Directors: Chris Renaud | Yarrow Cheney
Stars: Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks
It’s no secret – they raid the fridge, drink your beer, and watch NetFlix all day long.



15 –

Ghostbusters
30 years after Ghostbusters took the world by storm, the beloved franchise makes its long-awaited return. Director Paul Feig brings his fresh take to the supernatural comedy, joined by some of the funniest actors working today.
Director: Paul Feig
Stars: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones
Another unnecessary remake, the trailer looks awful, McCarthy is in it – need I say more?



22 –

Star Trek Beyond
The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a mysterious new enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.
Director: Justin Lin
Stars: Idris Elba, Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine, Sofia Boutella
This big budget science fiction film will make up for ID: Resurgence!

Ice Age: Collision Course
Scrat's epic pursuit of his elusive acorn catapults him outside of Earth, where he accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that transform and threaten the planet. To save themselves from peril, Manny, Sid, Diego, and the rest of the herd leave their home and embark on a quest...
Directors: Mike Thurmeier | Galen T. Chu
Stars: Adam Devine, Jennifer Lopez, Melissa Rauch, Simon Pegg
Since the last one wasn’t very good, I’d say the whole series is on a collision course…



29 –

Jason Bourne
Jason Bourne, now remembering who he truly is, tries to uncover hidden truths about his past.
Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones
Bourne returns to kick ass again, and there was much rejoicing…




Anyone else throw money at ID Resurgence? What made you a paperback writer? Going to MST3K Reunion Show? Ready to vote for the IWSG Anthology Contest? And what movies catch your eye for July?

Since next Monday is the Fourth of July in the States, I will be completely offline all day! Catch you Wednesday for IWSG post day.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Finding Dory and Conjuring 2 Reviews, New IWSG Feature, New Releases, and Movie Trivia

I am posting about world building at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group today!

And if you missed the sad news this weekend, actor Anton Yelchin was killed in a freak car accident. He was Chekov in the Star Trek reboot, Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation, and Charlie Brewster in the Fright Night remake. Details at Blastr.

Movie Reviews

Finding Dory
Dory’s memory starts to come back and she takes Marlin and Nemo off to find her parents.
If the movie has a downside, it’s in the familiarity. The plot is similar to Finding Nemo and many of the elements are repeated.
That said, it’s still very engaging and funny. Lots of new characters, including Destiny the whale shark, Bailey the beluga whale, and Hank the octopus – who has the funniest lines and moments.
The short before the film – The Piper – has some of the most amazing animation I’ve seen since the movie Rango. Stunningly realistic.
Family fun – recommended.

The Conjuring 2
It falls just a little short of the first one, but it’s still a creepy good horror film.
The movie begins with the Warrens in the Amityville house, but soon they are off to England to evaluate a claim of possession and haunting.
The performances are what ground the film, especially that of the actors playing Ed and Lorraine Warren. The whole family did great, especially the young lady who played Janet, the one possessed.
The nun demon is one of the creepiest figures you will ever see.
One thing I really like about these films is that it’s the power of God that defeats the evil. I had a couple minor quibbles with the film, and one CGI moment pulled me out of the story, but overall it’s very effective and creepy.
And at least you’ll leave the theater feeling good!
Recommended.


New IWSG Day Feature!

We’re revving up IWSG Day to make it more fun and interactive.

Every month, we'll announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers - Sign-up List.

The July 6 question - What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?


New Releases!

Murder Has A Price by Pat Hatt
Detective Hollerin has received his badge after a few short years with only one thing in mind, find the real person who was behind the murder of Torrie and Kurt Price and put them in the ground.
Find it on Amazon

And a big congratulations to Pat – this marks book number one hundred!

Paranormal Attractions boxed set
Featuring Phantasm by J.L. Campbell

A Faerie’s Secret by Rachel Morgan
Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble

Heart Stopper and Other Stories by Tamara Narayan
Find it on Amazon

When it Hooks You by Nicki Elson
Find it at Amazon

Movie Trivia Answers

1 – V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and B.O.B., 1978 – The Black Hole
2 – Evil Robot Us-es and Good Robot Us-es, 1991 – Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey
3 – Bishop, 1986 - Aliens
4 – Hector, 1980 – Saturn 3
5 – Gunslinger, 1973 - Westworld
6 – Dot Matrix, 1987 - Spaceballs
7 – Bubo, 1981 – Clash of the Titans
8 – Huey, Dewey, and Louie, 1972 – Silent Running


Have you seen Finding Dory or The Conjuring 2? Picking up some new books? Get any of the trivia right? And what do you think of the new IWSG feature?

Don’t forget to visit the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

Monday, June 13, 2016

MST3K Reunion Show, Robot Movie Trivia, Top Grossing Films Ever, 2016 Music Roundup, and Ninja News

I had the honor of a guest post at Anne R. Allen’s Blog on Sunday, June 12!
She and Ruth Harris maintain a top notch site for writers – one of Writers Digest’s Top 101 Sites for Writers. If you’re a writer, you need to check it out.

MST3K Reunion Show

We are just two weeks away from the MST3K Reunion show!

Why is this such a big deal? Outside of a Con appearance or two, these guys have not been seen together for fifteen-twenty years.

The originator of the show, Joel Hodgeson, is in the middle of relaunching the series with new actors. He hopes to draw from the most popular MST3K episodes, which include a mix of Joel and Mike as hosts. The new host, Jonah Ray, will also be part of the reunion tour.

Writers since the first season or two and the ones to continue and complete the series - Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, Mary Jo Pehl, and Bridget Jones Nelson – have continued with the famous RiffTrax riffs, movies, and live shows.

Trace Beaulieu, and Frank Conniff, who played Dr. Clayton Forrester and the first Crow T. Robot and TV’s Frank respectively, have worked on other projects after the show.

Noticeably absent is Jim Mallon, producer and the one who played Gypsy.

But spanning the years, this is the core cast. No fringe members. (Such as Josh Weinstein who did a poor turn as Tom Servo in season one.) These are the ones who matter.

And for two hours, they will be trading off and on as they riff a selection of really bad shorts for millions across America. Pure MST3K joy!

Tuesday, June 28 at 8:00 pm – don’t miss it! Get your tickets HERE - many theaters have already sold out.

The Semi-Annual Music Roundup

It's time for my Semi-Annual Music Roundup! (That I just started.) 2016 has been a great one for music, with enough rocking variety to blow your pants off. So without further ado...

Baroness – Purple: Already reviewed but still in heavy rotation. Early contender for album of the year?

Megadeth – Dystopia: Just when I think that Megadeth is swirling the drain, Dave Mustaine pulls out an amazing heavy record. Best stuff in over ten years.

Serenity - Codex Atlanticus: This really didn't click the first couple listens, but I really dig it now. It's a symphonic rock concept album about Leonardo Da Vinci. Cheesy....you bet, but also very catchy.

Dream Theater - The Astonishing: It is...astonishing. (Reviewed this one previously.)

Omnium Gatherum - Grey Heavens: While not as great as their last effort, the song Skyline is Scandinavian metal at its finest.

Redemption - The Art of Loss: Criminally underrated. This is such a great release. If you are a fan of heavy prog rock, give it a listen.

Amon Amarth – Jomsviking: Got to hand it to these guys, every album is about Viking mythology and culture. You'd think it would grow boring and stale, but this album rocks. Great music for working out. (Or looting and pillaging.)

Kvelertak – Nattesferd: These guys are all over the map musically and I dig it. Not as good as the debut but a step up from their sophomore release.

Ninja News

Today’s Themes That Rocked the Challenge feature at the A to Z Blog is J.A. Scott and his rocking theme of childhood television shows and commercials!

The WEP August Challenge is Gardens.
Post prose, poetry, images… up to a thousand words.
See the site for more details.


Steps Along My Shore by Elsie Amata
Elsie Amata shares her personal account of how she healed from the Relational Trauma caused by discovering her husband’s sex addiction.
Find it at Amazon
And through June 15, it’s free!

You. I. Us. by Annalisa Crawford
Find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Book Depository

Movie Trivia

Robot movies! Guess the movie from the robot’s name.

1 – V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and B.O.B., 1978
2 – Evil Robot Us-es and Good Robot Us-es, 1991
3 – Bishop, 1986
4 – Hector, 1980
5 – Gunslinger, 1973
6 – Dot Matrix, 1987
7 – Bubo, 1981
8 – Huey, Dewey, and Louie, 1972

Answers next week!

The Billion Dollar Money Makers – Are They Worthy?

Box Office Mojo now lists twenty-six movies that have crossed the billion dollar mark. Avatar is number one at approximately 2.8 billion and The Dark Knight is number twenty-six at one billion. Jurassic Park is the oldest film in the bunch – 1993, while Titanic was the first to cross one billion.

One thing that is interesting is the domestic to foreign dollar ratio. Most of the billion dollar movies are one third domestic (USA) and two thirds foreign. (Notable exceptions are the two Dark Knight movies and the two Star Wars films on the list.) In order to have a shot at a billion dollars, a film has to do well in foreign markets. Some do really well, making only a quarter of their profit in the USA.

But when you look at the list, you have to wonder how some of those films managed to do so well. Inflation means newer movies are more likely to cross the mark, and a strong foreign market can offset a low domestic take.

The results – films such as Transformers: Age of Extinction cross a billion dollars. (Which has the highest foreign percentage at 77.8%.) In fact, there are two Transformers movies on the list. In contrast, there is only one Harry Potter and one LOTR movie over a billion dollars. What!?

I don’t want to debate which movies deserve to be a billion dollar films based on personal opinion. (Because for one, I thought Alice in Wonderland was awful. It doesn’t surprise me its sequel is tanking.) But based on quality, appeal, and popularity, what films really should be in the billion dollar club?

Here are the films, from top to bottom:
Avatar, Titanic, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Marvel's The Avengers, Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Frozen, Iron Man 3, Minions, Captain America: Civil War, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Skyfall, Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Dark Knight Rises, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Toy Story 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Jurassic Park, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, Alice in Wonderland (2010), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Zootopia, The Dark Knight

What do you think? Even if the quality was mediocre, was the subject matter appealing enough anyway? Are those all billion dollar films?


Going to the MST3K Reunion show? What are your favorite albums of the year so far? Posting for WEP in August? Know any of the robot movies? And what films should and shouldn’t be in the billion dollar club?

Don’t forget to visit Anne R. Allen!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Book to Movie Dream, The Night Manager Review, Question of the Month, New Releases, and What Movies Have Held Up Over Time?

Thanks to everyone who joined us last Wednesday for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

I am in need of co-hosts!

If you can co-host July 6, August 3, or September 7, leave a comment or send me an email. Thanks!


I also have the honor of a guest post at Anne R. Allen’s Blog on Sunday, June 12!


My New Dream by Lori L. MacLaughlin

Thanks very much, Alex, for having me over!!

When I published my first book, I realized a dream. But now that I've reached that star, I've had to come up with a new dream. Something that seems as far out of reach as my first dream did back then. What better thing to choose than to see my book made into a movie?

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had this dream. What author doesn't fantasize about seeing their story come to life on the big screen?

Hmmm... what actors would I choose for the MCs? The hero? Based on looks alone, I'd pick Joe Manganiello. I hope he can act.

The heroine? That's a bit more difficult. She's a swordfighter who is tough on the outside to hide her inner vulnerability. The actress would need the platinum blonde looks of Tanya Roberts in the movie Sheena (though with... ahem... more appropriate clothing), the devil-may-care attitude of Sandahl Bergman from Conan the Barbarian (again, with more reasonable clothing, though I have to admit, Conan didn't have much on either), and the sword handling skills of Xena, Warrior Princess or Red Sonja. (Can't any of these warrior women get decent battle attire? I mean, seriously. Who would go into battle half dressed? At least Xena had some armor.)

It would also be nice if she had some acting ability, unlike some of the above actresses, and I do mean some and not all. Some were good, if a bit over the top at times, but others were, shall we say, not Academy Award winners.

The other problem is that my heroine is left-handed, and I don't think that can be faked.

Anyone know of any good left-handed actresses that could handle the role? What actors/actresses would you choose for your characters?


Tara Triannon is no stranger to trouble. She's yet to find an enemy her skill with a sword couldn't dispatch. But how can she fight one that attacks through her dreams?

Find it at:  Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Kobo  iBooks



Review – The Night Manager

This mini-series is based on the John le Carre novel of the same name. The night manager of an Egyptian hotel is recruited by British intelligence to infiltrate an international arms dealer’s network.
This was an excellent spy mini-series, largely in part to the exotic locations and the top notch acting.
Everyone involved brings their A game. Hugh Laurie is charming with an underlying tone of menace. Tom Hiddleston is completely believable as the tormented night manager turned spy. Also starring Tom Hollander, Olivia Colman, and Elizabeth Debicki.
This six episode series ran on AMC and you can now find it on iTunes and Amazon. Highly recommended!

Question of the Month

Hosted by Michael at A Life Examined

The question is – “Of all the places in the world that you haven’t yet been to, where would you like to go next?”

I’ve been to some cool places – Japan, England, France, Scotland, Canada, etc.

But one place I haven’t been that I’d still like to see is New Zealand. It’s a beautiful, diverse country, and it would be cool to see the locations where the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed.

And bonus – unlike Australia, I won’t have to contend with the world’s deadliest snakes and spiders! (Sorry, Michael.)

New Releases!

Tuck Watley: Freedom Fighter Fighter by Bryan Pedas and Brandon Meyers

And, as an added incentive to their blog friends, if you buy the $2.99 eBook and promise to leave a review, they will send you a free autographed paperback copy. (USA only.)

Buy it on Amazon

Welcome to Sortilege Falls by Libby Heily

Find it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

And the Lark Arose From the Sullen Earth by Ursula Hartlein (CarrieAnne Brownian)

Find it on Amazon





Movies That Stand the Test of Time

Last week we pulled an older movie off the shelf to watch. And I was really surprised by how well it had held up in terms of the story, how the movie looked, and the special effects. Some films don’t hold up well after twenty-thirty years. (Some don’t make it as far as ten years.)

That got me to thinking about what films have stood the test of time:

The Thing (1982) This is the film we watched and the special effects are still top-notch and just as good as the recent ‘remake.’ No corny dialogue and the film score is as haunting as ever.

Jaws (1975) Despite all the issues they had with Bruce the shark, the effects still look good and the dialogue is snappy. The only thing that dates it is the clothing.

Jurassic Park (1993) Yes, I still believe the dinosaurs are real. They look just as good as the latest film. Plus the film is as solid as ever.

Aliens (1986) Considering the amount of special effects (mostly physical ones) and sets, this one is really impressive. The aliens still move real and great performances keep it fresh.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) This one impresses me the most. It came out the same year as Star Wars, but if Lucas hadn’t redone some of the special effects, Close Encounters would now look light years ahead of Star Wars. The spaceship at the end is still jaw-dropping. A little dated with the clothing but great performances keep this movie relevant.



What movies over twenty years do you think have held up well?


Who would you pick to play in the movie version of your book? Have you seen The Night Manager? What new place would you travel to? And what movie still looks great today after all these years…?

And if you can co-host the IWSG, please let me know!