Monday, February 8, 2016

The Astonishing by Dream Theater, Legends of Tomorrow Review, The Golden Schmoes Awards, Transylvania Writing Workshop, and the Ninja News!

Dream Theater – The Astonishing Review

There are bands that make music and there are bands that create art. Now, we all know that art is subjective and one man’s treasure is another’s trash. For me, The Astonishing lives up to its lofty title.

This is a two-disc, 2 1/2 hour concept album; a rock opera about a dystopian future where music has been discarded and one man with the gift of music leads a rebellion. Certainly not the most original story, but in this case, the plot fuels an amazing musical journey.

To be honest, the first two listens didn’t click with me but certain elements brought me back for a third listen and that’s when it all came together. This music rewards a patient listener. It’s not instant gratification because the musical intricacy takes time to digest. This is not new territory for the band (listen to 1999’s Scenes from a Memory) but this might be their most accomplished work to date.

If you are a fan of progressive rock and give this music a chance, you may find a true masterpiece that you will be listening to for years to come.

You can also visit The Astonishing web site for cool artwork and a rundown of: Characters, Places, Map, Tracklisting, Videos, and NOMACS.


DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

When I was a kid, I read DC comics. So for me, it’s very exciting to see my childhood heroes on the small screen. The Flash has quickly (pun intended) become one of my favs and hopefully I will be able to say the same of Legends.

It certainly starts off strong. Time Master Rip Hunter assembles a group of unlikely heroes to help him stop the nefarious Vandal Savage from destroying the world. These heroes include The Atom, Firestorm, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Heat Wave, Captain Cold, and White Canary.

The effects are good, the pacing is fast, and the story lines are fun. I’m really hoping the show can maintain all this just like the Flash series. Only time will tell. (Time pun also intentional!)

The Golden Schmoes

Voting opens February 8 for JoBlo’s 15th Annual Golden Schmoes Awards! What are the Golden Schmoes? They are the voice of real movie-goers and fans.

From JoBlo’s site:

Thanks to your nominations we have now compiled the final list of nominees for The 15th Annual JoBlo Movie Awards (aka The Golden Schmoes)! Final voting runs from Monday, February 8th through Wednesday, February 24th, with winners to be announced on Friday, February 26th, just ahead of the Oscars!

To note, the Golden Schmoes have been a staple of the site since its inception and we're proud to represent the popular vote and even have our winning results counted in the awards tally at IMDB
 
The full list is posted with Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road leading the nominations. To vote, visit the 15th Annual Golden Schmoes Awards!

Writing Dark Fiction in Dracula’s Shadow

Transylvania workshop lets writers explore the ‘Mecca of Horror’

Writers & Publishers International (WPI) offers writers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on a novel or short story in Transylvania, the birthplace of the infamous Vlad the Impaler.

Running from August 7th to 14th, the Horror Writer’s Workshop is the ultimate summer vacation for any writer of dark fiction, from extreme horror to paranormal romance and everything in between. Attendees will dramatically improve their writing skills while exploring the darkness lurking behind the beautiful castles and fairytale villages of Romania.

It’s impossible to remain uninspired while walking the cobblestone streets of Sighişoara, where Vlad the Impaler was born, or while exploring the eerie Râșnov Fortress, where two Turkish well diggers met their doom.

During the month of February, WPI is offering a special two-for-one discount—those who book with a spouse, friend, or family member will get 50 percent off their registration fees. This deal ends on February 29th.

Between visits to some of the region’s most notorious sites, writers will benefit from the experience of instructor Brian Evenson, a multi award-winning horror writer and professor.

If you’re interested, it’s best to reserve your spot with a deposit, as the workshop sold out quickly last summer. Click Here for more information…if you dare.

- JH Moncrieff

Ninja News

Don’t forget articles for the IWSG newsletter are due soon – February 17 for this month and March 2 for next month. Two hundred words or less, and must be a member of the IWSG.
Send a DOC attachment to Chrys Fey at ChrysFey(at)yahoo(dot)com Put “Member Article” in the Subject Line.

I am at the A to Z Blog today with my ‘getting to know your co-hosts’ piece. Clones, Ninjas, and snark included.

Sign-ups for the 2016 A to Z Challenge are open now. Join us for a month of fun and alphabet insanity.


The authors of the IWSG anthology, Parallels: Felix Was Here, have set up a Website for it! If you want to meet all the authors, check it out.

Tethered by Letters is pleased to announce the F(r)iction Winter Literary Competition. There are three submission categories: 1) short stories of any genre ranging from 1,000 to 7,500 words, 2) flash fiction with a word limit of 750 words, and 3) poetry no longer than three pages. Winners of the contest will be published in a future issue of F(r)iction alongside stunning original artwork from TBL’s talented team of artists.

Artist and author Heather R. Holden needs your support: What’s Patreon? It’s a site where you can support creators of all kinds with monthly donations. If you decide to support me, I won’t have to rely on commissions and other odd jobs as much for income. In other words, I’ll have more time to make comics! Anyone who donates will receive fun perks, too. (High-resolution art files, commission discounts, wallpapers, art prints, early Echo Effect updates, and even artwork that’ll never be posted outside of Patreon.) You can read more about these perks here.

New Releases:

A Savage Ghost by Donna K. Weaver
Once part of an anthology, this story has been updated and revised for its solo launch.
Find it on Amazon

Valentine Pets & Kisses
Make your Valentine’s Day tail-wagging and purr-fect with 14 brand-new romances from award-winning and bestselling authors.
Including stories from our very own JL Campbell, Sydney Aaliyah Michelle, and Susan Oloier.
Find it on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo




Anyone else pick up the new Dream Theater? Watching Legends of Tomorrow? Voting in the Golden Schmoes Awards? Want to visit Transylvania for the writing workshop? Interested in the fiction competition? Picking up some new books? And what did you think of the Super Bowl and its commercials?

Since next weekend is Valentine’s Day and a three-day weekend, my wife and I are extending those days and taking a vacation. So, no post next Monday (I don’t like to post when I can’t comment) and you won’t see me around much. Hope you guys have a great Valentine’s Day and I’ll see you here again on February 22!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, February Movie Preview, and Love Triangles!

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 Allison Gammons, Tamara Narayan, Eva E. Solar, Rachel Pattison, and Ann V. Friend!

And yes! We have a new official badge. Time to ditch the lame image and go upscale. Feel free to grab it for you blogs.

Since not a lot has changed in my personal writing world since January, I thought I’d focus on some opportunities for you guys.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s first newsletter goes out on February 24! Sign up HERE. (If you are a member of the monthly blogging group, you are already signed up.)
One of the monthly features is an article from an IWSG member – and Chrys Fey needs your articles! If you’d like to submit an article for consideration, please follow the instructions below:
Who Can Submit: Insecure Writer's Support Group Members
Topic Ideas: Your number one writing, publishing or marketing tip; a motivational pep talk or inspirational story; a snippet about something you used to be insecure about but overcame or an Aha moment you had about writing/publishing.
Length: 200 words or less
How to Submit: Send a DOC attachment to Chrys Fey at ChrysFey(at)yahoo(dot)com Put “Member Article” in the Subject Line.
Deadline: March 2nd (Next IWSG Day)
NOTE: Chrys needs a member article for our first newsletter coming out February 24th. If you’d like to be considered for that issue, please send your article to her no later than February 17th.

Most of you saw the cover art and synopsis of the IWSG Anthology on Monday. Releasing this spring, Parallels: Felix Was Here features the ten winners from last fall’s IWSG Anthology Contest.
But guess what? We’ll be holding another contest this year as well! Which means another opportunity for blogging and Facebook members to submit a story.
And we’re going to let you guys decide the genre. So, keep watching the newsletter for details!

Now, go visit others on the IWSG list and encourage them!

Love Triangle: coffee, tea, and juice, by Toi Thomas

Alex, thanks for having me today. As we writers and bloggers know, our fuel of choice makes all the magic we create possible whether it’s coffee or tea, we can never have too much of it. But what about the oddballs- I mean, rare exceptions where the person doesn’t like tea or coffee. I find that these people tend to like juice or soda (water doesn’t count, we all need water at some point).

When working on my latest novel, It’s Like the Full Moon, a contemporary romance, I begin to think about the nature of writers and their fuel of choice. In my book, my main character Rebecca gets caught in a love triangle and I think I may be caught in one as well. While it seems that most writers have a kind of love-hate relationship with coffee and tea (they love one and hate the other), I find that I crave them both at different intervals.

When I’m in the zone, honing in character and plot development, tea is my drink. When I’m exhausted but know I need to write, coffee gives me the boost I need. Sometimes, however, when I’m milling about the draft stage, sweet juice keeps me going. What can I say, I just can’t choose one. But at least I’m not stuck in Rebecca’s shoes. Please enjoy this sample and check out my book, released under the pen name Glorie Townson.

“Whenever she was at home alone she tended to drink juice; when spending time with Virgil they drank coffee, and when she was with Paul they, of course, drank tea. With a furrowed brow, Rebecca shook her head to snap herself out of her trance. She thought to herself, This is not the time or the place to be having this particular breakdown.”

Find Toi at The ToiBox of Words
Find It’s Like the Full Moon at Amazon


February Movie Preview

Here are the upcoming theatrical releases for February! As always, descriptions courtesy of the IMDB. Snarky comments by me.

5 –

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Jane Austen's classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge -- an army of undead zombies.
Director: Burr Steers
Stars: Lily James, Lena Headey, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith
I might be in the minority, but I’m about zombie’d out – especially PG-13 zombies.

Hail, Caesar!
A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio's stars in line.
Directors: Ethan Coen | Joel Coen
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes
Coen brothers, so could be great, or it could be the Ladykillers all over again.





12 –

Deadpool
A former Special Forces operative turned mercenary is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopting the alter ego Deadpool. Director: Tim Miller
Stars: Morena Baccarin, Ryan Reynolds, Gina Carano, T.J. Miller
Holy chimichanga – this looks funny as hell!





26 –

Gods of Egypt
A common thief joins a mythical god on a quest through Egypt.
Director: Alex Proyas
Stars: Gerard Butler, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Geoffrey Rush
Doesn’t look great, but then again, this is the director who brought us The Crow and Dark City.





What’s your writer insecurity today? Submitting to the newsletter? Have a genre in mind for the next IWSG Anthology Contest? What’s your love triangle? (If you can state it in public!) And what movie catches your eye this month…?

Thanks again to all who participated in the Lost and Found blogfest on Monday.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Reviews: RiffTrax – The Room and Kung Fu Panda 3! Plus Ethan Fox, IWSG Anthology Cover, Lost and Found Blogfest, Monday Music Moves Me, and Ninja News

RiffTrax Live: The Room Review
They claimed it was one of the worst movies ever made. I won’t argue that. The star of the film also wrote, directed, and produced it. (That’s never good.) Before it began, we were warned that not only had the man never seen a film, he’d never interacted with other humans, either.

The storyline (if you can call it that) centers around a man and his fiancé who is cheating on him with his best friend. And it doesn’t take place in just one room. (The best part was the random shots of San Francisco.)

There was also nudity. Believe me, the lead had no business being nude. And they were long scenes. Despite the gratuitous boob shots, I longed for those scenes to end.

Considering this was a film about human behavior and interaction, none of that rang true. Characters flip-flopped radically. Scenes were random and made no sense. It was the rough draft of a poorly written story. And all of it made worse by a lead who couldn’t act his way out of a wet paper bag. Which just gives Mike, Bill, and Kevin lots of fodder!

Don't go into The Room unless you're armed with RiffTrax!

And of course, a few pre-movie screen shots for you!

Kung Fu Panda 3 Review

Another solid entry in the Kung Fu Panda series.
Villain Kai breaks free from the spirit world, Po’s panda father appears, and Po must learn the art of Chi to save China.
The story doesn’t break much new ground. It still manages to be an enjoyable and very funny ride though.
The animation is stunning. The spirit world scenes are amazing.
Just good family entertainment. Recommended.

When Speculative Becomes Mundane

Please welcome author Ethan Fox!

Last week, I watched the movie Kingsman for the first time (yes, yes, I'm late to the party, fine). If you haven't seen it, suffice to say it's a spy movie, with most of the usual themes you tend to associate with spy films.
Anyway, there's a scene in the middle where the spy's mentor shows him their “armoury”, a bit like the part in every Bond film when JB goes to visit Q, and gets his exploding jock-strap.
The mentor shows the spy a poisonous pen, a shoe with a hidden knife, a lighter which is also a grenade... Then they get to the shelf with a bunch of tablets and phones.
“What's special about them?” asks the spy.
“Nothing,” says the mentor.
It's an elegant turn-of-phrase; funny in context, but also quite poignant. I guess it's a very human reaction that something we use every day becomes mundane, even though the capabilities of a smartphone would've had you burned as a witch just over a century ago, and would've probably made you a super-spy in the 1950s.
For those of us towards the fantasy end of fiction, this isn't too big a concern. The stuff that we write about, largely, can never exist by definition. For speculative fiction authors, though, I'm curious – have you ever written something fictional that turned out later to be real? Do you ever think about this as part of your writing?

Ethan Fox is an author of urban fantasy fiction, and has recently published his debut work, The Scissors and the Sword. It's available HERE from Amazon, in both Kindle and Paperback formats.
Also, BUY NOW at a special introductory price! This offer expires very soon, so check it out quickly if you want to take advantage of it.

The IWSG Anthology!

Here’s the cover and details:

Parallels: Felix Was Here, Anthology
Print ISBN 9781939844200
eBook ISBN 9781939844118
Science Fiction/Alternate History

Enter the realm of parallel universes!
What if the government tried to create the perfect utopia? Could a society linked to a supercomputer survive on its own? Do our reflections control secret lives on the other side of the mirror? Can one moment split a person’s world forever?
Exploring the fantastic, ten authors offer incredible visions and captivating tales of diverse reality. Featuring the talents of L. G. Keltner, Crystal Collier, Hart Johnson, Cherie Reich, Sandra Cox, Yolanda Renee, Melanie Schulz, Sylvia Ney, Michael Abayomi, and Tamara Narayan.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will expand your imagination and twist the tropes of science fiction. Step through the portal and enter another dimension!

Ninja News

Our very own Annalisa Crawford gathered third place in this year's Costa Short Story Award. She won for her story Watching the Storms Roll In. Visit her site for pictures of the awards ceremony. Way to go, Annalisa!

Out this week!
Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers
Multiple versions available at Amazon and find it on Goodreads

Monday Music Moves Me

Hosted by Xmas Dolly. Forgive me if I screw up the theme this week.


I’m hooked on several albums right now – new Megadeth, Dream Theater, Serenity… But since I reviewed Baroness-Purple last week, I decided to post one of their songs. Again, just good, solid rock. Nothing scary – promise!


Lost and Found: The Valentine's Edition/Question of the Month

This time, we are joining Michael at A Life Examined and doing a combination question and blogfest.

From Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out and Guilie Castilol-Oriard at A Quiet Laughter, and co-hosted by Elizabeth Seckman, Yolanda Renee, Denise Covey. and Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Tell your story about love lost or found in our special Valentine's blogfest. Your post can be a short fiction, an essay, poetry, or even a song--let your imagination run free.

What love did I lose and find again? Not the love of a woman. (No sir, I suckered her into marrying me before she came to her senses.)

My love of playing music.

I’ve played an instrument since I was young and even minored in music in college. But once I graduated and moved on with my life, I forgot about it.

Then, several years ago, my wife purchased a guitar for me. I’d always wanted to play one and after a few months of trial and error and one month of lessons, I became proficient enough to play a whole song. After years of being away from music, it was awesome.

Now I play in a Christian band, and it’s the most amazing thing ever. That I can create something that will inspire and move people – what more can an artist ask for?

Writing is fun and I’ve enjoyed where that path has led me. But music is my true passion. And I’ll not let it go again.

What about you?



Yes, one very full post!
Have you seen The Room? (The bad RiffTrax one, not the Oscar contender.) Catch Kung Fu Panda 3? Ever written anything that became real? Excited about the anthology? Ready to give Baroness a listen? And what love have you lost or found…?

Monday, January 25, 2016

The A to Z Challenge List Opens! Plus David Powers King and Zombies, RiffTrax, Baroness-Purple Review, New Book Releases, and Ninja News

A lot happening today, including sign-ups for the 2016 A to Z Challenge!

But first, David Powers King is here to talk zombies with you.

The Wild and Varied World of Zombies

Thanks for having me, Alex! I think something needs to be said about what has become of the zombie state of things. There’s so many different kinds of ghouls nowadays that it’s hard to keep track of them all. I mean, the mindless monsters got their start with voodoo magic, but the people under that spell weren’t actually dead. Still, the idea spawned into a new kind of creature when George Romero combined the voodoo zombie with vampires in Night of the Living Dead.

Since then, we’ve had all kind of interesting freaks! Resident Evil brought us mutating zombies, 28 Days Later brought us the Rage zombie, and The Last of Us gave us fungal, bat-like zombies (no wings, though—maybe it’s time to give zombies their wings!). Thanks to The Walking Dead, zombies are now more mainstream than ever, and it’s picking up new fans. What kind of zombie have I produced in The Undead Road? You’re invited to learn more about Vectors on Amazon, where you can find the ebook free on KindleUnlimited. It’s also available now as a paperback!

Thanks again for having me, Alex. Be safe out there, my friends!


The Undead Road: My Zombie Summer: Part One by David Powers King
Nothing brings the family together like a zombie apocalypse…
Find The Undead Road: Amazon, Amazon CA, Amazon UK, and Amazon AU

RiffTrax!

RiffTrax is rebroadcasting one of its films from last year, The Room, this Thursday night! Check the site for details and for a theater near you.
It’s supposed to be one of the worst films ever, and since I missed this one last year, I’m looking forward to seeing the guys destroy it with snarky humor.

Album Review

Baroness – Purple
This album came out in 2015. This band had fallen off the radar for me until I read an article about a bus accident…
The tour bus was between two English towns when it left the road and fell thirty feet. Two of the members fractured their vertebrae and were forced to leave the band.
The lead singer used his lengthy rehab time to rededicate himself to this album, and the results are amazing.
They’ve compacted their work – it’s less prog and more just great rock songs. The sound is stripped down, and every song is accessible and catchy as hell. I can’t pick a favorite because it changes from listen to listen.
One of the best rock albums I’ve heard in a long time. Highly recommended!

The Thing That Turned Me Anthology

Due out later this year, this anthology is about turning points and those things in life that motivate us to change. You can find a list of contributing authors at Stay Classy Publishing.

And yes! I am one of the contributing authors. I decided to go back, before CassaStar, and write about a turning point in Byron’s early life. So, if you enjoyed my Cassa series, you’ll get a chance to revisit…

Ninja News

C. Hope Clark, founder of the site Funds For Writers, is visiting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group today!
If you haven’t already (or you are already part of the monthly blog posting), don’t forget to sign up for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s newsletter! Our new admin, Chrys Fey, has some amazing guests and articles lined up for the first issue, due out February 24. Sign up HERE.

Don’t forget - the Lost and Found: Valentine’s Edition Blogfest takes place February 1. For details and to sign up, go HERE.

TF Walsh and a few other others put together a group called Romance Addicts Anonymous. If you are a lover of the romance genre, an author needing a place to share your work, or a reader looking for a new read, go HERE for details on this Facebook/Twitter/ Instagram group.

Sarah Foster is hosting the Muse Party Blogfest – Anti-Valentine’s Day Edition on February 15. Visit her POST for details.

New Releases:

The Galactic Outlaws Book One: The Outlaw's Prize by Susan (Gourley) Kelley
Find it at New Concepts Publishing

A Whale of a Tale by Pat Hatt
Find it at Amazon

The Morrigan’s Curse by Dianne Salerni
Comes out Tuesday, January 26!

A to Z List opens!

Welcome to the seventh annual A to Z Blogging Challenge!

Please read and follow the sign-up instructions outlined below so you sign onto the list correctly!
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 4 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day.

The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE

We recommend short posts, turn off Word Verification, and visit five blogs (or more) a day beginning with the one after yours on the list.

Blogs must be on an open platform – no Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. – and comments enabled. Please make it easy for visitors to comment on your blog.

To streamline legitimate blogs from advertisement blogs, the Co-Hosts will be visiting each blog on this list throughout the Challenge. Once the Challenge begins, blogs showing no activity or those that miss five days in a row will be removed.

Please note your blog name and number in all correspondences. Remember that as blogs are removed, your number WILL change.

There are categories for those looking for like-minded blogs. Select ONE category code and enter it after your blog’s title/name. The code applies to your blog, not your theme for the Challenge and is purely optional. See the first few blogs on the list for examples. However, if your blog has adult content, you MUST mark it (AC) or it will be removed from the list. Codes are as follows:

ANIMALS: (AN)
BOOKS/REVIEWS: (BO)
CRAFTS/ART: (CT)
CULINARY: (CU)
EDUCATION/SCIENCE: (ES)
ENTERTAINMENT: (ET)
GAMING: (GA)
HISTORY/MYTHOLOGY: (HM)
HUMOR: (HU)
LIFESTYLE/SOCIAL: (LS )
PERSONAL: (PR)
PHOTOGRAPHY: (PH)
POETRY: (PO)
TRAVEL: (TR)
WRITING/STORYTELLING/MEMOIR: (WR)
ADULT CONTENT: (AC)

Be sure to grab the badge and display it in your sidebar so we know you are participating and link to the A to Z Challenge Blog.

For more information we recommend you follow the A to Z Challenge Blog and the hosts:

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh
Heather M. Gardner
Jeremy @ Hollywood Nuts
AJ Lauer
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian
Damyanti Biswas @ Daily Write
Zalka Csenge Virág @ The Multicolored Diary
Joy Campbell @ The Character Depot
John Holton @The Sound of One Hand Typing

We also have a Facebook Page and Pinterest Site
Email address is contactatozteam@gmail.com
Twitter hashtag is #AtoZChallenge and Twitter id is @AprilA2Z

I’d also like to announce my awesome Ninja Minions - Rhonda Albom, Nicola Burggraf, Nilanjana Bose, Susan Gourley, Mason Canyon, Stephanie Faris, Yolanda Renee, Ann Bennett, Patricia Lynne, Donna McDine, JA Scott, and Melanie Schultz. Thanks, you guys rock!

Sign up below and join us for a month of alphabet fun!
(When you sign up, you agree to receive A to Z related emails.)



Who’s ready to hit the Undead Road? Willing to give Baroness a try? Signed up for the IWSG newsletter? Ready for next Monday’s blogfest? Picking up some new books? And are you joining us for the 2016 A to Z Challenge…?
Next week, I have some great guests, plus reviews for a couple cool television shows. (Sorry, too late Sunday night to write a review on the new X-Files mini-series. Way past my bedtime!) And don’t forget, next Wednesday is IWSG post day.