Monday, March 27, 2017

Movie Review-Life, CassaDawn, Time & Circumstance, #atozchallenge, and a Magic Love Crow

Movie Review – Life

Astronauts on the space station discover life in a dirt sample from Mars. Deep space scares ensue.
Hailed as an Alien rip off, this was a serviceable science fiction flick. (And I’ve seen some bad Alien rip off movies.) It’s rated R, but mostly for some language – it’s not very bloody or graphic.
The lifeform was cool and far more slippery than any Alien. It’s also insanely too smart for its own good. Plus it withstands extremes of heat and loss of oxygen – and yet it died out on its own planet.
The actors do very well in their roles. While better than some, none of the characters really become fully fleshed. And let’s just say one of the stars of the film isn’t in it as long as expected…or billed!
What seems smart and slick soon spiral into…plot holes. Not drive a bus through it plot holes, just a lot of small, gaping plot holes. By the end of the film, my eyes hurt from rolling.
Great special effects and good acting can’t save the plot holes. But in a long line of Alien rip offs, this is one of the better ones. If you like that sort of thing, it’s worth a rental.

Theresa Milstein Movie Review and Feature

Besides writing poetry, I also write for children and young adults, so I figured I should review a YA movie.

I read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver shortly after it was published in 2010. I’ll confess, when I started the book, the main character, Samantha Kingston, was so unlikable, I didn’t think I’d be able to complete it. But as Samantha continued reliving the same day, she grew on me, and I raced through hundreds of pages; eager to know how the literary Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day would end. It’s still one of my favorite novels.

This month, Before I Fall the movie was released, and I wondered if it would hold up on the big screen. Samantha and clique of mean girls have a typical Friday, being sexy and narcissistic, bullying Juliet in the cafeteria and at a party, until a car crash kills Samantha. Until she wakes up the next day on the exact same Friday.

While there is some decent acting, I have a few issues with how some of characters were portrayed. The biggest problem is that Samantha in the book was more flawed and interesting to start, and so she had more room to grow as a character. In the movie version, Samantha is a follower. She’s too nice for the five stages of grief to end with a satisfying redemption. For a clever, well-done character arc, I’d suggest you read the book.

As a writer, it made me realize how important it to be true to your character. Create your character with all of his/her flaws, so they aren’t a Hollywood version of a real person.

Thank you for hosting me, Alex!

Time & Circumstance by Theresa Milstein
Published by Vine Leaves Press
Find it at Amazon US, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Chapters Indigo, Amazon UK, and Book Depository

CassaDawn Reviews Needed

My publisher is reducing the price of CassaDawn - to free.

In order for them to promote it, the review count needs to be higher on Amazon. So I am asking for your help.

You can download it for free from iTunes, Barnes and Nobel, Amazon and other retailers. Or I can send you a Mobi or ePub copy – just let me know in the comments.

Thanks – you guys rock!

Special Blogger Feature

This blogging community is full of some amazingly creative people. Today I am featuring Stacy who blogs at MagicLoveCrow. Hailing from Canada, she is a bundle of joy and energy – and a great attitude to boot. She’s also an artist with a thing for crows and incredibly talented. She answered a few questions for me…

What spurs your passion and creativity when it comes to painting crows?

"Crows" have always been with me, since a very young age. I guess you could say they are my spirit animal. I have always had a connection to them. In 2007, I almost passed away and when I came out of it, I said to my mom, "I'm going to paint my crows". Her exact words were, you don't know how to paint. I said, I am suppose to. So, I went and bought some paint and brushes and started to create. I can truly say, when I create, my paintings come from my soul. If I'm happy/sad/mad, looking at the moon, dancing, watching the squirrels play, something I dreamt, this all stirs something inside of me. Most of the times, I do not sketch anything before, I just put the paint on the canvas and let it flow. I hate rushing or forcing anything. That does not work for me!

Can we buy any of them?

All of my paintings are sold on Etsy.
Saying that, I have had many people e-mail me and I have sold my art off of Etsy too, because not everyone is on Etsy. I also love doing special orders. Knowing my art is being cherished, gives me such a warm feeling inside. I am so grateful!!

If you were a Ninja, what would be your special skill?

My special skill would be the technique of "silent moving". Breaking and entering, gaining access, while walking or running over floors, silently. "Staying in the shadows, while moving."

What is your favorite movie?

Ever After: A Cinderella Story
I really loved all the characters in this story and the setting and costumes. Drew Barrymore played a wonderful Cinderella (Danielle). She had a strong/helping soul. She was a believer and dreamer. She taught the Prince to look at life in a different way. I love this conversation between Danielle and Leonardo DaVinci.
Danielle- Signore, my name is Danielle de Barbarac, and I am but a servant.
Leonardo DaVinci- Yes, and I'm the bastard son of a peasant. What does that have to do with anything?
Exactly!!! It's how you love yourself."Don't" put a label on yourself! You can do anything!
As you can see Alex, I am very passionate about this movie! LOL!
There is so much in this film!! I can't even tell you how many times I have watched it!! I can go on and on about it!

Thanks, Stacy! Now, flock on over and check out her crows.

A to Z Challenge

The Challenge kicks off this Saturday, April 1.

This year’s change includes the lack of a formal list. Participants are to leave a comment at the A to Z Blog with a link to their post for that day. They can also leave one on Facebook or Tweet using #atozchallenge.

Maintaining the list was always a big time suck. Co-hosts and their Minions had to comb sections of the list and report changes and blogs to remove. I was the one who would spend an hour or more each day adjusting the list. Last year, I removed seven hundred non-participants and adjusted hundreds of links and listings. Draining, to say the least.

Last year I made a difficult decision – I would not participate this year. I owe a lot to the Challenge, having participated every year since the very first one. But there were numerous reasons why it just wasn’t feasible any more. The main one is the IWSG. It’s grown in so many directions and I owe its members my full attention.

Thanks to Lee for starting the Challenge and allowing me to be a co-host all these years.

So, I’m going to do something I’ve never done – I’m taking some time off during April! I’ll post on April 5 for the IWSG and again on April 17. But the second and fourth full weeks, I am taking time away from the Internet.

Good luck to everyone who is participating in the Challenge this year!



I also won a ACEO of the character of my choosing from Heather R. Holden.

I selected Spencer the vampire.

Who looks none too thrilled with Mini-Alex’s guitar playing…

Thanks, Heather!


Anyone else see Life? Have you watched or read Before I Fall? Participating in the A to Z Challenge this year? Following Magic Love Crow? And can you help with a review of CassaDawn on Amazon? Let me know if you need a copy.
Don't forget - IWSG is April 5!
And if you want to know a little behind the story stuff of CassaDawn, visit Juneta at Writer’s Gambit!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Still Me and Aging, Turkish CassaFire, New Movie Trailers, Pete’s Dragon Review, and Ninja News

It’s a pleasure to be participating in the Blog Tour for STILL ME … AFTER ALL THESE YEARS: 24 Authors Reflect on Aging by Karen Helene Walker through MC Book Tours.

Thank you, Alex, for letting me guest post today. So grateful for all you do for this amazing community of writers.

I’m here to talk about a subject no one wants to think or talk about. Aging.

“Does this mean I’m officially old?” That’s one of the titles in my anthology, “Still Me…After All These Years.” The writer just turned 74. When my parents were still alive, that was considered “old.” As that writer said in her essay, 74 can’t be middle aged because no one lives to be 148, so I must be old. So I think, if I’m older than 65 and on Medicare, then I must be old, right? Satchel Paige said aging is mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Well, I’m not sure I agree. It does matter. But it is a lot about how we think about it.

What does old mean anyway? Antiques are old. And they get more valuable the older they get. But not people. We finish older peoples’ sentences, help them out of the car when they haven’t asked for that and maybe don’t need it.We leave them out of conversations that flow too fast for them to follow. That reminds me. The other night my husband and I were both on a phone call with someone and I had to repeatedly ask, “What?” but my husband heard every word the other person said. I’d been deluding myself that I needed to go for a hearing test.

How can I be old, I ask myself, when I still love rock n’ roll? How can I be old when I can still dance the night away. Now I won’t tell you how my body feels after that happens, but that’s a whole other issue. How fair is it when the body cannot do what the mind still craves. Or can do it, but maybe shouldn’t.

Do you feel old yet? I only feel old when I look in the mirror and see a white-haired lady with some wrinkles and sags. Or when I try something at the gym and go home with a back ache. It still surprises me when I see a bunch of old people at a rock concert and wonder what they’re doing there, forgetting I’m one of them. I’ve decided I want to be old like Yoda. Don’t ya just love Yoda. Except I don’t think I want to get to be 900 years old. I don’t even want to be 100.

Want to know about aging? Within the pages of “Still Me…After All These Years,” you’ll find stories from folks ranging in age from 60 to 90, from all walks of life and professions, and hopefully, a kernel of wisdom to fortify you as you walk this journey of life towards aging.

STILL ME…AFTER ALL THESE YEARS: 24 Authors Reflect on Aging
By Karen Helene Walker
Publication Date: April 4, 2017
This is a charming, funny, and enlightening collection of essays about aging. In addition, Karen is offering a tour-wide giveaway featuring two (2) print copies (U.S. entries only) of STILL ME and two (2) eBook copies of STILL ME (International entries).
Find Still Me at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Goodreads.

CassaFire in Turkish!

I received my copy of CassaFire in Turkish last week.

Still just blows my mind my book is in another language.

Mini-Alex was rather proud of the book and had to pose with both.
(At my wife's insistence, of course.)



New Movie Trailers

In case you missed them…

The Deapool II trailer debuted with Logan. Looks just as funny and wrong as the first film:


Here’s the third trailer for Wonder Woman and shows more of her background:


Aardman and Nick Parks, the creators of Wallace and Gromit, are back with a new movie – Early Man:


And of course, the latest Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 trailer from a couple weeks ago, because it just doesn’t get old:


Movie Review

Pete’s Dragon
Caught this on NetFlix – live action remake of the cartoon classic. (Seems to be a Disney trend right now.)
The cast is good – Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban – and the special effects really good. The movie is of high quality and I had no problem with a fuzzy dragon who appears part cat.
Unfortunately, those are the only good things I can say about it – I really, really disliked this movie.
It’s way too dark for kids. The beginning sets the tone – Pete is in a terrifying car accident that kills his parents, then wolves threaten to kill him before Elliot the dragon intervenes. Cheery, right? Wait, it gets darker…
This film is so heavy, with very few light moments to bring it out of the pit of despair. There are abandonment issues, the dragon is hunted (and his capture very intense), environmental issues, social services gets involved… It’s just so intense and depressing. It’s like watching your pet die over and over and over…
And the message I got from the movie? If you love something, people will try to take it away from you and kill it.
Not recommended for kids, people who are depressed, those who love animals, or anyone who doesn’t want their day ruined by a downer film.

Ninja News

Into the Badlands, season two, kicked off on Sunday, March 19! Get the inside scoop at Blastr.

Faceoff still has a few more episodes left in this season’s all-star edition. Who will win? Cig and George or Emily and Tyler?

The A to Z Challenge theme reveal is today. See the site for participants.

Don’t forget to join the IWSG Goodreads Group and spread the word about the #IWSGPit! If you are a published author, please contact your publisher or agent and invite them to participate – and let us know, so we can add them to the growing list of publishers and agents on the site. And if you’re an author, you don’t want to miss the date –July 27.


What does old mean to you? Do you feel old? (Some days I don’t, some I do.) Enjoy the new movie trailers? Have the misfortune of seeing the Pete’s Dragon remake? Who’s going to win Faceoff? Ready for #IWSGPit? And are you ready for April…?


Monday, March 13, 2017

Kong: Skull Island Review, Barn Cats and God’s Gift, IWSG on Goodreads, Kill Command Review, Ninja News, and Movie Trivia Answers

Kong: Skull Island Review

It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a movie with soldiers trapped on an island with monsters. Lots of attacks, shooting, and running.

The visuals were impressive, especially in 3D. The first encounter scene is breath taking and incredible to watch. They did an excellent job on Kong.

The acting was decent, especially considering the cast, but everyone was a supporting actor to Kong.

This is the perfect popcorn film and an enjoyable ride. However, it did seem to lack something that would raise it to epic. Still not sure what, just that it missed the mark. I think the best Kong film is still Peter Jackson’s King Kong from 2005.

That said, it’s still a lot of fun and a great monster film. Recommended.

He Gave Me Barn Cats

Hi Alex! Thank you for allowing me to guest post on your blog. Here’s my answer to your question:

Talk about the spiritual connection we have with animals and how God uses them to help us cope and understand.

All of nature cries out for us to be closer to God – but we must allow it. When there’s an amazing sunset, we can miss it if we don’t pay attention, or we can give it quick glance – or we can fully appreciate it and say “Thank You.”

However, I do believe that animals are a special gift to us from God, because God intends for animals to help us. We know this, because God says so in the Bible’s book of Job, chapter 12, verse 7: “Ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you.”

Some people feel that animals were our gift when we needed them for chores. Most of us don’t plow gardens using animals these days, but we still need their help – perhaps even more than ever now, since many of us aren’t outdoors enjoying that sunset! We need animals, both domestic and wild ones, to give us relief from stress and sadness and to provide joy and actual healing. There are medical studies reporting that people who live with animals are healthier in various ways, such as lower blood pressure.

When God tells us to “ask the beasts” so they can teach us, He doesn’t want us to learn plowing lessons from them. He wants us to know Him by learning from animals about trusting Him to meet our needs. When we get really good at this, the animals will speak to us – and so will God. Maybe God will even use an animal to speak to us. Maybe it’ll be a deer. Maybe it’ll be a sparrow. Maybe it’ll be a barn cat.

He Gave Me Barn Cats by Maria Santomasso-Hyde
Published by Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Available March 14, 2017

Inspired by true events...
Maria has cared for her very ill mother for many years. Her burdens are heavy, causing a sadness bordering on darkness. When she discovers her historic barn is now home to a mother cat and kittens, she feels lighter than she has in years. As the kittens grow, they teach her as only animals can do.
Then tragedy strikes. As Maria loses her family, the darkness envelopes her like the heavy fog that blankets her Blue Ridge Mountain home each morning. She creates a scorecard: God: 9, Maria: 0. Her questions turn into anger at God. She searches to find answers as to why her loving God would take away so much in such a short time.
How will she learn to trust again? Can the kittens in her barn help her heal?

Find Maria – Website and Facebook
Find her book here - Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, iTunes, Kobo, Kindle, Nook, Dancing Lemur Press, and Goodreads
Follow MC Book Tours for your chance to win a free copy of He Gave Me Barn Cats!

Movie Review – Kill Command

Caught this on NetFlix. Soldiers are sent to an island to test the latest AI killer robot prototypes. They are successful at first, and then the tables turn and it’s a fight to stay alive.
This movie is a nod to Terminator and robots-run-amok flicks.
While it doesn’t offer anything really new, the film is suspenseful with great pacing and tense scenes.
The robots are also impressive, especially digital vision of the mechanically enhanced company woman sent along to analyze. This film had a tiny, tiny budget and they made the most of it and then some.
For those a fan of science fiction, robots, soldiers, or any combination of those elements, this is a really good effort and enjoyable film. Recommended.

Monday’s Music Moves Me

Hosted by X-Mas Dolly, today’s them is "Band/Artist name or Song title with the word “Air.”

Challenging but not impossible! I had several choices and went with one I am Jonesing on now – Astronoid – Air:



Now open – the IWSG Goodreads Group! Dedicated to the writing craft, this group is made for writers.

Not on Goodreads? The IWSG book club is a good reason to join.
Don’t do much on Goodreads? This is an excellent way to dip your toes in a little more.
Not enough time in your day? We read one book every two months.
OUR GOAL: The Insecure Writer's Support Group (Book Club) is for writers to read/learn about the writing craft. In this book club, we will swap back and forth between non-fiction writing books and fiction books that demonstrate how to do certain aspects of storytelling. No promo. No review or beta reader requests. Just writers reading books and discussing those books with other writers.
**The first book will be announced on April 1st.**
**The discussion will start on May 17th.**
For more details and to join: IWSG Goodreads Book Club

Ninja News

C. Lee McKenzie’s book, Sliding Edge, is free right now at Snashwords and Amazon.

New release!
Incense and Peppermints by Cathrina Constantine
Find it on Amazon

Movie Trivia Answers

Here’s the answers to last week’s superhero trivia – Director/Year – name the movie:

1 – Richard Lester, 1980 Superman
2 – Alex Proyas, 1994 The Crow
3 – Guillermo del Toro, 2004 Hellboy
4 – Sam Raimi, 1990 Darkman
5 – Bryan Singer, 2014 X-Men: Days of Future Past
6 – Mark AZ Dippe, 1997 Spawn
7 – Russell Mulchany, 1994 The Shadow


Anyone else go see Skull Island? Do you think animals are a gift from God? Seen Kill Command? Every heard of the band Astronoid? Get any of the trivia right? (No one got a perfect score last week, but a couple were really close.) And who is ready to join the IWSG Goodreads Group?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Logan Movie Review, MST3K Returns, RiffTrax: Live Schedule, Ayreon – The Source, Superhero Movie Trivia, Special Feature – Birgit, and Zafris-Kothari Writer Workshop

Movie Review – Logan

Set a few years in the future, Logan hides out while caring for an ailing Professor X. Mutants have been wiped out and Logan has plans to protect the professor, but his world is disrupted when a young mutant appears.
Logan is an excellent film. It’s more drama than superhero film. Those who don’t like the traditional super hero movies will appreciate this film–the mutants do have powers, but the focus is on the characters, none of which are superheroes.
The film is dark and bleak. This isn’t The Avengers. You won’t come away all happy and pumped. It has depressing elements that will make you think and touch your heart.
All three leads were fantastic. They are all broken characters, flawed and full of regrets. While their plight is sorrowful, it’s also what connects viewers to the film.
Logan is not for kids and rated R for a reason. While it is no more violent than other superhero films, it does show the graphic capabilities of Wolverine’s claws.
It’s also over two hours, but the story is captivating from start to finish.
Due to its heaviness, it’s not one for repeat viewings, but I do highly recommend it.


MST3K is Back!

The new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 starts April 14 on NetFlix!

Jonah Ray is the show’s new host, and we saw him last year during the RiffTrax: Live MST3K Reunion Show. Felicia Day plays Dr. Forrester’s daughter and Patton Oswalt son of TV’s Frank. Hampton Yount and Baron Vaughn are the voices of Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo, while original creator Joel Hodgson helms the prodution.

MST3K’s best years were with Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy, especially once Bill Corbett took over for Crow. So we can only hope this new version will live up to the standards.

For updates, check the MST3K website and @MST3K.

RiffTrax: Live

RiffTrax is also launching its live show schedule.

On April 13, it’s a new version of Samurai Cop. (We recently watched the first RiffTrax version and wow, is that movie bad!) Then it’s the Summer Shorts Beach Party on June 15, which will include Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson. Finally, it’s a super-secret mystery movie on August 17.

In order to pull off these shows, they’ve set up a Kickstarter. You get some cool stuff depending how much you pledge, so check it out.

New Ayreon Album

The Source is another concept album and returns to science fiction. The story takes place before the album 01011001. It has an all-star cast of musicians and singers, including James LaBrie from Dream Theater, Floor Jansen from Nightwish, Russell Allen from Symphony X, and Tommy Karevik from Kamelot and Seventh Wonder.

The Source will be released on April 28.

So for Monday’s Music Moves Me, hosted by X-Mas Dolly, I’m featuring two videos from The Source.

The first video is the third song on the album – it’s short and very accessible for anyone who enjoys fun rock music. Plus there are some cool animations.



This song, the first on the album, is a traditional prog rock song and thirteen minutes long. But what’s amazing about it is the running commentary (in text) from the master mind himself, Arjen Anthony Lucassen. It also features cool graphics and showcases all eleven guest singers.



Special Writer Feature

We have such a great community of bloggers and writers here that I’ve decided to feature some cool people you may not have met yet.

Today I am featuring Birgit from BB’s Creations. I met her a couple years ago and always stop by for her Thursday movie picks and to admire her creativity with cards. Take it away, Birgit!

So my name is Birgit...not Brigit, Bridgette, burdgett, butget, beernut, bagel, bruschetta, baguette, gretel or Ingrid and, yes, I have been called all of these

Where are you located?
I am not sure what you mean by my real location but I am somewhere between lost and
 Albuquerque.

What spurs your passion and creativity when it comes to making cards?
I love when I see a beautiful picture of a sunset, flowers, animals a person who has warmed my heart, colours, and..Jo's purple bowling ball:)
So the card I am showing has all my favourites, blues and purples, an animal, colouring with my markers, 3D effect, embossing, sparkle and shine and crystals.

Can we buy any of them?
To be honest, I am scared that I won't find the time and start feeling the pressure to make cards for money plus I just think my cards are not ok that special but I am tickled pink when people like them. Now, if someone would love to have a card, I will create one for them and send it...just because....unless you want a 100 of them, then I know you want to drive me insane.

What do you enjoy most about the Thursday Movie Picks?
I joined Thursday Movie Picks because I love the themes each week and to see what other movies people pick. I like to find out why they like them, or sometimes, hate them plus it gives me more choices to watch in the future. Right now I have. List that is about. 5 miles long. Simply put, I love movies.

What is your favorite movie?
My favourite film is It's A Wonderful Life with James Stewart. It shows an average man in a small town that most of the world have no idea who this man is. In this town, he always gives often sacrificing what he desires to make others happy. When he realizes what life would be like in the town if he never existed, he sees how much good he has done making his life worth meaning and worth living. Even though I have seen this, 50 times if not more, I cry every time Harry comes through the door to see his big brother George. I only hope I could be a bit like George.


Tonja wanted to pass on some information about an incredible writing workshop:
Unique among workshops tackling the novel, the Zafris-Kothari workshop reads and analyzes 200 pages of your novel. Brainstorming with an individual instructor leads to restructuring the novel. Along with this are group craft lessons. The days are intense and fulfilling. A full day is complemented with an evening together for participants to read their work. Several published novels have come out of this workshop which was begun at the Kenyon Review Writers' Workshops
Tonja says:
The Zafris-Kothari novel workshop is like no other. You have the option to have 100 or 200 pages of your novel critiqued. This intense workshop focuses on your writing - you are not tasked with critiquing others. Because such a large chunk of your novel is critiqued by highly skilled writers, editors, and teachers, you will get feedback on how your narration choice and structure is working across your entire novel. The workshop was life-changing for me as a writer. I can't recommend it enough.

Movie Trivia

In honor of Logan’s release, today’s trivia is all about superhero films. Name the movie from the director and year:

1 – Richard Lester, 1980
2 – Alex Proyas, 1994
3 – Guillermo del Toro, 2004
4 – Sam Raimi, 1990
5 – Bryan Singer, 2014
6 – Mark AZ Dippe, 1997
7 – Russell Mulchany, 1994

Answers on Monday!

Anyone else see Logan? Excited about the return of MST3K? Going to see the RiffTrax: Live shows? Following Birgit? (Want to order a hundred cards from her?) Interested in the Zafris-Kothari workshop? And do you know any of the movie trivia?
Thanks again for another awesome IWSG post day! I visited as many as I could, despite having to do battle with the word verification that shows up after visiting thirty or so Blogger blogs. I mean, what’s up with this?