Monday, March 25, 2019

Best Ghost Movies, Bird Box and Love-Death-Robots Reviews, Monday’s Music, DIY MFA, and Ninja-IWSG News

Haunting a Cinema Near You…the Best Ghost Movies of All Time by JH Moncrieff

As someone who’s written a series about—you guessed it—ghosts, it should come as no surprise that Alex asked me to write about ghostly movies. Here are my highly subjective picks for the all-time top five.

5. The Awakening. In this little-known British flick, a published author with a reputation for exposing supernatural hoaxes is summoned to a boarding school that’s haunted by a murderous ghost.

4. The Changeling. After the death of his wife and daughter, a troubled composer moves to Seattle and rents a Victorian mansion. He quickly realizes he isn’t alone. What begins as playful turns sinister as the composer discovers his home’s unwelcome tenant is a bloodthirsty ghost bent on revenge.

3. The Woman in Black. Another tale of revenge, The Woman in Black revolves around grieving lawyer Arthur Kipps, who’s barely holding it together after his wife’s death. His boss gives him one last chance to save his job—travel to Eel Marsh House to settle a deceased client’s estate. Determined to succeed, Kipps ignores the townspeople’s warnings, only to find himself face-to-face with an emaciated woman in black. She isn’t an ordinary ghost, as he soon learns—every time someone catches a glimpse of her, a tragedy befalls the community’s children.

2. The Others. Nothing is what it seems in this atmospheric ghost story. When her soldier husband abandons her, Grace Stewart hires three servants who claim to have worked at the house before. Strange occurrences in the home increase with their arrival. But is the house haunted, or is Grace going mad? The truth is more terrible than you can imagine.

1. The Sixth Sense. (Aka the best ghost movie ever made.) After he fails one of his young clients, child psychologist Malcolm Crowe tackles his biggest challenge yet—a disturbed young boy who’s concealing an unspeakable, heartbreaking secret.

What’s your favorite ghost story?

J.H. Moncrieff’s new release, Forest of Ghosts, was inspired by her real-life experiences in Romania, including Hoia Baciu, the world’s most haunted forest.
Jackson Stone is sick of ghosts. With his love life in shambles, he heads to Romania for a horror writers’ retreat, hoping it will be a break from the supernatural and breathing space from his relationship with medium Kate Carlsson.
But as his fellow writers begin disappearing or losing their minds, he realizes he needs Kate’s help.
When Jackson loses his own memory, Kate’s love is the only thing that can bring him back. But she’s falling for the man responsible for the evil in Romania. A man who claims to be her soul mate. Will this master of wraiths forever break Kate’s bond with Jackson?
Available now!
J.H. loves to hear from readers. To get free ebooks and a new spooky story every week, check out her Hidden Library.
Connect with J.H.: Website / Twitter / Facebook

Movie/Show Reviews

Bird Box
Unseen invaders cause people who do see them to go insane and/or commit suicide. The movie opens with the final fourth of the story – Sandra Bullock and the two kids, blindfolded and in a boat on the river. It then alternates between the river and several years prior during the invasion when a pregnant Bullock sheltered with others in a house.
The movie is well acted and solid. However, two things hurt the film.
First, it’s basically the movie The Happening (although a thousand times better!) with a slice of A Quiet Place thrown in. We’ve seen it all before.
Second, there were no surprises. The story played out exactly as I thought it would.
If you’ve not seen the other two films, or you just want a decent NetFlix movie, then it’s certainly worth a watch.

Love Death and Robots
This is an adult animated anthology series on NetFlix, with each episode being 10-17 minutes long. There is a ton of language, violence and gore, and nudity. (If you want to call that ‘adult’ – not necessarily what I need in an animated film/show to enjoy it.) The common factor between each one is in the title, although I don’t recall much love…
Some of the episodes work, some don’t. A couple feature excessive gore and nudity/sexual scenes. (If it weren’t animated, it would be way beyond R rated.)
The animation is always intriguing though, as each one has its own style. Basically, if the movie Heavy Metal were made today, it would look a lot like this.
There have been some standouts. Three Robots was funny, Good Hunting had a unique story and great cell animation, Suits was a great story, and both Shape Shifters and Lucky 13 featured incredibly realistic animation. (Still not perfect with the faces, but oh-so-close!) And The Secret War was beyond amazing with its realistic animation, especially the snow.
If you can handle the “adult’ – and there are a couple you might want to skip – it’s worth a watch for fans of animation.

Monday’s Music Moves Me

Hosted by Xmas Dolly

This week is a freebie, so I’m jumping in!

I’m featuring Evergrey’s Weightless, taken from their new album, The Atlantic.



Ninja News

The IWSG Goodreads Book Club is hosting a giveaway.
Eligibility: This giveaway is open to members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group Book Club on Goodreads
Prize Given to Winner: Hardcover Copy of The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman
Giveaway Ends: April 8, 2019 12:00am Eastern Standard Time
Enter to win HERE

We’re about a month away from the release of the next IWSG anthology – Masquerade: Oddly Suited!
 
Visit the IWSG site for details and pre-order links.

And we just might have some news about the next IWSG Anthology Contest very soon…



New Releases: 

The Heart of Things by Joy Campbell
Book 2 in the In Medias Res series
Find it on Amazon

Luck of the Billionaire by Donna K. Weaver
Kayn never imagines a murder could lead him to love.
Find it on Amazon




DIY MFA

We are partnering with DIY MFA this spring to bring you a great program for writers.

Before we announce details, we’ll be sharing several of their learning podcasts.

The next one is - Episode 236: Writing Without Rules (or Pants) — Interview with Jeff Somers.

Check it out and be watching next month for details about the program.


What do you think are the best ghost movies ever? Have you seen Bird Box? Watched any of Love Death and Robots? What music is moving you? Want to win a free book? And are you ready to read Masquerade: Oddly Suited?

See you April 3 for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

Monday, March 18, 2019

New Avengers: Endgame and Shazam Trailers, James Gunn and Guardians, In Flames Review, DIY MFA, and Ninja News

Movie News

Good news! James Gunn has been reinstated as the director-writer of Guardians of the Galaxy III.
Gunn was fired last year after some decade-old social media comments surfaced.
According to Deadline:
The social media messages were indefensible, but the filmmaker never did anything but blame himself for poor judgment displayed at a time when he was emerging from the Troma film factory and attempting to be a provocateur. There were no reports that Gunn ever engaged in the behavior he lampooned.
The entire cast of the film was outspoken in its desire to have Gunn back, saying that those satiric tweets did not match his personal actions.
Gunn didn’t murder or rape anyone, he didn’t abuse animals or people – he just said some dumb things ten years ago. This was mob mentality condemnation. Disney was wrong to fire him, but at least they hired him back.
And now we’ll get a third Guardians movie that doesn’t suck!

In case you missed the new Avengers: Endgame trailer last week:



There’s also a second international trailer for Shazam:



Despite being a DC fan, I was wary when I saw the first trailer, but a recent early screening revealed that this film knocks it out of the park.

Here is a tweet from @AshCrossan:
#Shazam was damn near PERFECT in my book. My FAVORITE DC movie (DCEU? What are we saying now?) by far. Pure of heart, incredibly funny, full of in-jokes and references. Brought me a childlike joy to watch. This role was MADE for @ZacharyLevi... & Jack & Asher & the entire cast

Read dozens of comments on the movie at JoBlo’s.

Review – In Flames: I the Mask

Every review I read regarding this band begins with a caveat explaining that the classic In Flames is gone and will never return. And while I don’t disagree with that statement, I appreciate that as a band ages and matures, their sound hopefully matures along with them.
So yes, the classic days of Colony and Clayman are gone. But I dig the new sound. Building on their Gothenburg, Sweden roots, it’s still heavy yet melodic and catchy.
It took a few listens for this album to grow on me, but I think it’s their strongest release in years.
Highly recommended.

Ninja News

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group will have some exciting news soon regarding this year’s anthology contest. Be sure to check out the site on April 3!

The A to Z Challenge is celebrating its tenth year. Ten years ago, a hundred of us made a commitment to post the alphabet daily for a month and at its height, there were over two thousand participants.
I stepped down as a co-host and no longer participate, but it’s still a great way to meet people and stretch yourself. Signups are open, so visit the site for details.



New Release:
Three Passports to Trouble by Sean McLachlan
Interzone Mystery Book 2
Back in the days when Tangier was an International Zone, the city was full of refugees. People fleeing Stalin. People fleeing Franco. People fleeing the Nuremburg Trials. Tangier offered a safe haven from the chaos of Europe.
The International Council had to keep a delicate balance, tolerating everything from anti-capitalist agitators to Germans with murky pasts. It was the only way to keep the peace, and it worked.
Until an anarchist was found dead with a fascist dagger in his chest.
And I got stuck with the case just when I had to smuggle a couple of Party operatives out of town.
Find it on Amazon

DIY MFA

We are partnering with DIY MFA this spring to bring you a great program for writers.

Before we announce details, we’ll be sharing several of their learning podcasts.

The next one is Episode 233: Crafting the Victorian Novel — Interview with David Morrell.

Check it out and be watching next month for details about the program.


Glad Guardians III has its writer-director back? Excited for Endgame and Shazam? Fan of In Flames? Participating in the A to Z Challenge? And want to guess on the IWSG anthology contest news?

Monday, March 11, 2019

Captain Marvel Review, Dream Theater: Distance Over Time Review, #IWSG Admins Highlight, New Releases, and DIY MFA

Captain Marvel Review

Despite good reviews, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. It’s a really fun film.
The narrative skipped back and forth between present and past, which worked well. Like Carol Danvers, we are trying to piece together who she is.
Brie Larson does a good job as Captain Marvel. She’s strong, subtle, and snarky. What’s really fun is to watch a younger Fury and Coulson. (And how much CGI and makeup was needed to make them look younger?)
There are a lot of things that tie this to other movies in the Marvel universe. Be sure to stay for the double endings. The second one is priceless. (And as I told my wife, I called that one!)
It’s a really solid entry into the Marvel universe. These movies balance humor, action, and suspense so well. Plus this film began with nice tribute to Stan Lee.
Why did I select the poster with Goose the cat? You’ll see!
Highly recommended

Dream Theater: Distance Over Time 

As a long-time fan of this band (I heard “Pull Me Under” from Images and Words in 1992 and was hooked), I await each release with giddy, childlike enthusiasm.
On their fourteenth studio release, Dream Theater continues to impress. This is a classic prog record even though all the songs clock in under ten minutes.
The album kicks off with Untethered Angel and those amazing John Petrucci guitar riffs don’t let up. This is one of their best releases and a must for prog fans.
As a guitar player, I’m always impressed with the musicianship and technical ability that these guys bring to the studio and concerts. Petrucci in particular is an incredible player and his effortless shredding is astonishing.
This is an album of big ideas, great musical chemistry, and catchy choruses and hooks. It gets better with each listen, and that’s what a great prog record should do.

And just to give you a taste, here’s a very catchy video with a science fiction twist: Paralyzed.



IWSG Admins Highlight

Many of you know the IWSG – but do you know the real people behind the group? Besides posting at the site and in the newsletter, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, finding guests, reading anthology entries, monitoring the #IWSGPit feed, and a whole lot more, they each have special duties. And they are each special people.

Michelle Wallace heads up our Facebook group. She schedules the posts and organizes everything. She’s been with the IWSG from the beginning, and I can’t say how much I appreciate her dedication.

L. Diane Wolfe takes care of the Self-Publishing page at the site and puts together all of the IWSG books through Dancing Lemur Press. She’s also been with the group since day one and I am eternally grateful to have such an expert on board.

Heather Gardner manages the Conferences/Workshops/Publications and Marketing pages, adding new material and keeping the links updated. Heather and I worked together on the A to Z Challenge Team and I was blessed to get her to join the IWSG Admins. 

Pat Hatt is in charge of the IWSG Twitter account. He knows how to rock the Twitter and build up an account and has done an outstanding job sending out great Tweets. Pat is reliable and consistent!

Nick Wilford manages the Contests page, keeping it updated as contests are ever-changing. Nick is a full time writer (freelance and his own) and he brings some great experience to the team.

C. Lee McKenzie is our PR person, which is a huge job. She searches for guests, sites for guest articles, places where we can connect, and coordinating partnerships with groups like WEP, Reedsy, Book Angel, and more. Don’t know how she does it, just grateful she does!

Shannon Lawrence puts together the IWSG newsletter, which entails guest articles, news, and many links. Like Lee, she’s also on the hunt for news and experts. Coordinating all of it is a big job, but she makes it look so easy.

Tyrean Martinson runs the IWSG Instagram, with daily posts and monthly challenges. Like Pat, she’s built it up and interacts daily. Tyrean is dedicated and I appreciate her refreshing spirit and positive outlook.

Elizabeth Seckman manages the Publishers/Agents/Queries page, updating and adding new links. She knows how to balance multiple things, and working with the IWSG Admins and the site is a breeze for her. (She raised four boys – I hope we are easier than that!)

So as you can see, we have an awesome team working to bring you the best the IWSG can offer!

New Releases

City of Ghosts by JH Moncrieff
It won the 2018 Kindle Book Review Award for best Horror/Suspense.
Jackson Stone is sick of ghosts. With his love life in shambles, he heads to Romania for a horror writers’ retreat, hoping it will be a break from the supernatural and breathing space from his relationship with medium Kate Carlsson.
But as his fellow writers begin disappearing or losing their minds, he realizes he needs Kate’s help.
When Jackson loses his own memory, Kate’s love is the only thing that can bring him back. But she’s falling for the man responsible for the evil in Romania. A man who claims to be her soul mate. Will this master of wraiths forever break Kate’s bond with Jackson?
To view all purchasing options, go HERE

Don’t Mess with Gracie by Carol Kilgore
In this third book, the mysterious Mr. Ott is trying to intimidate Gracie Hofner into being his internal spy at The Bastion Group. It takes Gracie and her growing support team to unmask him, but it’s what she learns along the way that shows readers the wisdom of the advice Don’t Mess with Gracie.
The third book of The Amazing Gracie Trilogy, it’s 99 cents through March 18.
Find it on Amazon

Being Neighborly by Meka James
Buy Links










DIY MFA

We are partnering with DIY MFA this spring to bring you a great program for writers.

Before we announce details, we’ll be sharing several of their learning videos.

The first one is Episode 234: A Master Class on Character — Interview with David Corbett.

Check it out and be watching next month for details about the program.


Anyone else see Captain Marvel? Picked up the new Dream Theater? Eager to hear more about DIY MFA? And what do you think about what the IWSG do behind the scenes?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Insecure Writer’s Support Group #IWSG, March Movie Preview, Music Boxes, Golden Schmoes Winners, and The Grinch Review

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.

The awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!


March 6 question - Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

Obviously my answer has to be the hero.

Because I’ve never written a real antagonist.

What….????

I write stories where the hero is his own worst enemy. There are forces pushing against him, but it’s not from any one person – and ultimately he cripples his own progress from within.

In books and movies…I do like a good hero and villain. But I don’t like a story told from the villain’s view. I don’t like anti-heroes. I need to know that good triumphs over evil.

What about you?

Here are the IWSG Instagram prompts for the month:




Available now from a fellow Dancing Lemur Press author!

Music Boxes by Tonja Drecker
I only desire your talent. . .
Twelve-year-old Lindsey McKay's biggest dream is to be a famous ballerina. But after moving to New York, she ends up at the Community Center with a teacher who’s a burly bear in tights.
When she meets Madame Destinée, the teacher of a top dance school who offers her classes for free, Lindsey can't believe her luck. In exchange, she must perform in the school’s exclusive midnight shows, ones sure to make her a star. But something’s not right...
One by one, the other dancers disappear. Each time they do, a music box with a figurine just like the missing ballerina joins Madame Destinée’s growing collection. If Lindsey doesn’t discover the truth about the dance school, she might end up a tiny figurine herself.
Find on iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Goodreads

Movie Review – The Grinch

I did not see this in the theater last year. I’ll admit I’m a purist and nothing can top the 60’s animated film How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
And I was right, this does not top it.
But it was good!
It manages to hold on to the spirit of the story even as it expands it to show more and explain more. There’s a whole side story involving Cindy-Lou (who is definitely older than two!) and they show the Grinch’s past to explain why he hates Christmas.
The animation is brilliant and captures the style of the original film and the book itself.
There were a couple things that didn’t jive with me. The hip-hop soundtrack seemed out of place. (But then I’m not the target age for this movie.) It was also weird to hear someone other than Boris Karloff do the narration. The voice just didn’t carry the weight. (Was James Earl Jones not available? He would’ve been perfect.)
One thing I did really like - the Grinch is certainly nicer to Max in this version! In the cartoon, I always thought Max should run away and find a nice Who family.
There were some modern upgrades (Who cell phones, Cindy-Lou’s mom is single, etc.) but I did enjoy this version of the story. It tugged at the heartstrings and provided some good laughs.
And made me forget the travesty of the Jim Carrey version.
Recommended.

Golden Schmoes Winners

Here are some highlights:

Favorite Movie: Avengers: Infinity War (It also won ten other awards.)
Most Overrated: Black Panther
Trippiest: Annihilation
Best Animated: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Most Memorable Scene: The Snap, Avengers: Infinity War

Check out the rest of the winners at Jo Blo’s site.

March Movie Preview

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

8 –

Captain Marvel
Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.
Directors: Anna Boden | Ryan Fleck
Stars: Brie Larson, Gemma Chan, Samuel L. Jackson, Lee Pace
You’ll believe a woman can fly… Take that, Superman!


15 – 

Wonder Park
Wonder Park tells the story of a magnificent amusement park where the imagination of a wildly creative girl named June comes alive.
Stars: Brianna Denski, Jennifer Garner, Ken Hudson Campbell, Kenan Thompson
Neat idea – a little girl imagines a theme park and it becomes real. Right now I'm imagining a Bugatti Veyron becoming real in my garage.


22 –

The Dirt
The story of how Mötley Crüe came to be one of the most notorious rock 'n roll groups in history.
Director: Jeff Tremaine
Stars: Machine Gun Kelly, Iwan Rheon, Douglas Booth
Why The Dirt? Because Sex-Crazed, Drug-Fueled Idiots was too long of a title…


29 –

Dumbo
A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Eva Green, Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito
You’ll believe an elephant can fly... Take that, Captain Marvel!


Which perspective do you write from? Picking up Music Boxes? Have you seen the latest version of The Grinch? Thoughts on the Golden Schmoes? And what movies interest you this month…?