Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Special Friends, Series to Watch, and February Movie Preview


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 February 1 posting of the IWSG are Jacqui Murray, Ronel Janse van Vuuren, Pat Garcia, and Gwen Gardner!

February 1 question - If you are an Indie author, do you make your own covers or purchase them? If you publish trad, how much input do you have about what goes on your cover?

My publisher will touch base with me to get a better description of a scene they are considering for the cover. Then I just wait and see what they design. And I’ve yet to be disappointed!


And thanks to everyone who participated or spread the word about #IWSGPit on January 25 – we were trending! (And trending so well, we were getting spammed with a ton of ads.)
If you participated and end up with requests or even a contract, let us know.

On February 1, WEP is back, better, bigger, bolder. We’re in our eleventh year, so Team WEP has learned what writers want.  If you’re a writer who practises your skills on a regular basis –- likes to try out your WIP -  get feedback on your writing - win an editing prize from professionals - be included in a book of the best of WEP writing, be part of a supportive online writing community -- WEP is for you.

This year our bi-monthly prompts are based on movies – so we give you the Year of Movies. We have a Challenges 2023 page packed with creative ideas.

Posting for this challenge is February 15 - 17.

Check out our new-look website here!




Special Friends!



My special friend, Robyn Alana Engel sent me a case of Hot Tamales and a wonderful note. She says her word of the year is gratitude, and I am certainly grateful for a friend like her. (Be sure to pick up one of her books.) She definitely rocks!

And no, these Hot Tamales will not last the year.

What to Watch


The Rig

A strange fog rolls in on a remote Scottish oil rig and crazy stuff ensues.
This one has great characters. A couple of them you really hope will make it to the end.
It does have a couple issues and missteps, but the storyline is still good and enjoyable.
If you like science fiction weird with a Scottish accent, this is the series for you.  Streaming on Amazon Prime.


Battlebots: Champions Tournament


Yes! More Battlebots. Battles with some of the best bots on the circuit.
The funny thing about Battlebots is when it ends, you just want more Battlebots.
Season ends soon so jump on this one quick!




February Movie Preview

Here are the theatrical releases for February. Descriptions courtesy of the IMDB. Snark provided by me.



17 –


Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
Director: Peyton Reed
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Jonathan Majors, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas
Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne, along with Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, explore the Quantum Realm, where they interact with strange creatures and embark on an adventure that goes beyond the limits of what they thought was possible.
They’re doing a movie based on an album by The Who? Oh wait, that’s Quadrophenia. (That one’s for the Boomers.)


24 –


Cocaine Bear
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Stars: Ray Liotta, Keri Russell, Margo Martindale
An oddball group of cops, criminals, tourists, and teens converge in a Georgia forest where a 500-pound black bear goes on a murderous rampage after unintentionally ingesting cocaine.
This will be a trilogy, followed by Crack Squirrel and Meth Badger.


Do you work on your own covers or have input? Did you participate in #IWSGPit? Watching either show? Either movie rock your boat?

Monday, January 23, 2023

#IWSGPit, Bollywood with Damyanti, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio Review, and the Best Shows of 2022

#IWSGPit is this Wednesday, January 25 from 9:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time!


Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On January 25, 2023, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query. 

Many writers have seen their books published from a Twitter pitch - it’s a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents.

Get the full details here.

Bollywood! By Damyanti Biswas


In my literary noir set in Mumbai, THE BLUE BAR, Bollywood plays a significant role.

Bollywood originates from two words, Bombay and Hollywood. As the name of the city has changed from Bombay to Mumbai, so have the movies in a burgeoning Indian economy.

Bollywood influences more than 1.4 billion Indians, and Bollywood songs form a major part of that. Unlike in Hollywood movies, songs play a huge role in the success of a movie in India—in terms of downloads, YouTube hits, as well as selling movie and dance show tickets to the sprawling Indian diaspora.

Songs are not just about glitz, glamor, and humming quotient, they also move the plot along. They can swallow up to half the movie budget. Characters can fall in and out of love, become rich or poor, or travel to several countries all in the space of a five-minute song, in montages that resemble Tiktok sensations.

In THE BLUE BAR, Bollywood songs bring atmosphere and commentary to the story, just as in any Bollywood movie, and in some ways, it is a small homage to a storytelling culture that has been the background to so many of my childhood memories.

Find Damyanti and her books HERE.

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio Review


This won the Golden Globe for best animation, so I had to check it out.
I will preface this by stating I have never cared for the story of Pinocchio. I find it dark and disturbing. This version is also a bit dark and disturbing just in different ways.
The stop-motion animation is just stunning. And at two hours long, a lot of work went into that animation.
The outstanding voice cast includes Ewan McGregor (as Sebastian J. Cricket, the narrator), David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchette (as the spazzy monkey!), Christoph Waltz, and Tilda Swinton.
This is certainly the best version of Pinocchio I have ever seen and there are several big differences between this and the Disney version. For one, the boys don’t turn into donkeys – they are sent to Nazi Youth Camp! (The story is set in Italy during WWII.) It’s also the only animated film I can think of that features Mussolini. There are also these skeletal death rabbits. Definitely unique to this version.
If you like Pinocchio or just want to see an amazing animated film, definitely check it out. However, I would say it’s not for kids – probably twelve and older.
Recommended

Best 2022 Shows

Two weeks ago, I rounded out the top movies and albums of 2022. Now for the shows. And there were some good ones last year!


Wednesday

My favorite of the year! Most shows have issues with pacing, but this series had perfect pacing. Add to that the perfect young lady playing Wednesday – she had the best lines and I wish I’d said most of them!

1899

Season two was cancelled (hiss!) but that should not stop you from watching this inventive, bizarre, creative show.

House of the Dragon
Second best fantasy soap opera with dragons. I hated almost every character, but it was the most fascinating train wreck to watch.

The Rings of Power

Started out strong, dragged a bit in the middle, but had a solid finish.

The Sandman
I’m partial to the graphic novel, however it seemed to capture the spirit of the book better than most.

What We Do in the Shadows
Season three a bit better than season two and still one of the silliest things on television.

Love Death and Robots
Season three was the strongest season yet, and the Jibaro episode was the most stunning animation I’ve ever seen.

Outer Range
If you like your shows trippy, this is the second trippiest (behind 1899) from last year.


Resident Alien

Continues to be the most consistently hilarious show with characters you wouldn’t mind spending time with. Alan Tudyk and Corey Reynolds (the sheriff) steal the show – they are hilarious!

Raised by Wolves
Sadly there will be no season three. Watch it for the bat-crap craziness but be warned, season two ended on a cliffhanger. (Such a crappy thing to do fans!)

Tokyo Vice
Fascinating show that really delves into the culture of Japan and the influence of the Yakuza.

Mystery Science Theater 3000
With three hosts (and I’m partial to Jonah Ray), it was a little inconsistent but still funny and put a huge smile on my face.

Reacher
They finally did Jack Reacher right and gave him the show and the actor the character deserved.

Book of Boba Fett
Die-hard fans weren't impressed but I enjoyed it. We got to learn about Tusken Raiders!


Peacemaker

Crude, rude, but completely hilarious!

Clarkson’s Farm
I learned so much about farming by watching Clarkson do it oh-so wrong and laughed my ass off.




Are you participating in #IWSGPit? Have you read The Blue Bar? Have you seen Pinocchio? And did you watch any of those shows last year?
I’ll be back on February 1 for Insecure Writer’s Support Group day! But be sure to check out the site today as we are honored to have Janice Hardy visiting.


Monday, January 9, 2023

Short Stories Make Awesome Movies, 1899 Review, Best Movies and Albums of 2022, and New Releases

Today I am kicking it off with a special guest and longtime friend, author Annalisa Crawford!

Short Stories Make Awesome Movies

If you’re hanging around Alex’s blog, there’s a good chance you love movies. And, as you probably already know, the best literary adaptations come from short stories rather than novels!
Why? Well, there’s just too much stuff in a novel – just compare Keira Knightley’s Pride & Prejudice with the 1995 BBC adaptation of ultimate perfection, and you get my drift.

(Note: when researching for this I realised ‘short story’ can be a very loose term, occasionally used for stories up to 50,000 words long—I have no idea what people are thinking, because my most recent novel was only a little longer than that!!)

Personally, I think there are at least two stories in my new short story collection, The Clocks in My Mother’s House that would make great films, in the very best of gritty British film tradition (Ken Loach, call me!), so to celebrate the launch, I thought I’d share some short stories which have already been there and done that.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Birds by Daphne du Maurier
The Sentinel by Arthur C. Clark (2001: A Space Odessey)
Memento Mori by Jonathan Nolan (inspired his brother’s Memento)
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (so many films, but obviously A Muppets Christmas Carol is the best)

What are your favourite short story inspired movies?


The Clock in My Mother’s House

(Pub date: 10 January 2023 – tomorrow, eek!)

Life can change in an instant, but that’s not always a bad thing.

A hotel explodes leaving staff and guests in peril; a woman retrieves an old clock from the attic with disturbing consequences; one man leaves heart break behind him, and another arrives to bring adventure.

In this haunting collection, Annalisa Crawford creates characters who will charm, captivate and intrigue you.


Buy The Clock in My Mother’s House here.
Annalisa Crawford lives in Cornwall, UK, with a good supply of moorland and beaches to keep her inspired. She lives with her husband, and canine writing partner, Artoo. She is the author of four short story collections, and two novels.
Find Annalisa at her website, Facebook, and Twitter

New Releases


25 Impossible Tales of Survivors, Flawed Heroes, and Annoyed Villains: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection by Tyrean Martinson

No matter how hard circumstances are, there is hope for survival, even if it means making one simple choice in the right direction or standing up in the face of impossible odds.
But the question remains: What is the right direction and which way is up?

Find it at Amazon and Smashwords


The Blue Bar by Damyanti Biswas

A serial killer. A missing dancer. A Mumbai inspector on their trail.
Cold-case murders in Mumbai are unearthing decades of dark secrets.
Dead or alive, he must find her. He can’t put the past to rest until he solve
s it.


And she will be a guest here in just two weeks to tell you more about her second release!


1899 Review


A ship encounters a ship that's been missing for four months and strange things begin to happen.
Ramps the weirdness to eleven.
They do a great job slowly unveiling the mystery.
It’s a very complex cast of characters and the actors portray them with believability.
It’s a quality production – the ship, scenery, everything looks amazing.
Unfortunately, I can’t say much because then it would get into spoiler territory and ruin the experience for everyone.
And sadly, this was to be three seasons, but Netflix has cancelled this popular show. However, do not let that deter you from watching it – there is some resolution.
Highly recommended!

Top 2022 Movies and Albums

In two weeks I’ll cover the best shows, but for now, here are the best movies and albums this past year.

Top 2022 Albums (Taking into account my taste in music, which leans toward prog rock and Scandinavian metal.)


Wilderun – Epigone
-Best album of the year. It encompasses everything I love about music.

Megadeth – The Sick, the Dying, and the Dead – Another solid effort from Dave and a bit heavier than recent albums.

Muse – Will of the People – One of the most varied and entertaining albums of the year. There is something for everyone.

Dynazty – Final Advent – Almost every song is an earworm. It’s a metal album with pop sensibilities.

Star One – Revel in Time – Super fun album. Really corny and cool at the same time.

Devin Townsend – Lightwork – Coming after Empath, this is a more restrained effort. It’s mellow and relaxing.

Threshold – Dividing Lines – After many, many albums these guys are still putting out great music. A solid album.

Visions of Atlantis – Pirates – My vote for most surprising album of the year. Very catchy and entertaining all the way through.

Amorphis – Halo – Great at times although it falls just short of their previous, brilliant effort.

Top 2022 movies


The Batman
– My favorite film of the year. It’s not a Bruce Wayne film – it’s a Batman movie wrapped around a mystery and totally brilliant.

Avatar: The Way of Water
– My second favorite. (I must have a thing for three hour movies.) Fans of the first will adore this one, and it's breathtaking in 3D.

Black Adam – Really solid DC film. It was great to see the Justice Society on the big screen.

Prey – Another favorite and the surprise of the year. The concept and setting are stellar.

Minions: The Rise of Gru – Super entertaining and fun film. It’s what you’d expect although they keep it fresh.

The Northman – When art house film meets violent action movie, it’s very entertaining. Plus the cinematography is amazing.

The Adam Project – One of the better direct to NetFlix films. Reynolds plays Reynolds but it’s a fun science fiction romp.

Spiderhead – Another direct to streaming. The story was intriguing and the leads did a great job.


What are your favorite short stories to movies? Did you watch 1899? What were your favorite movies and albums of 2022? Don’t forget #IWSGPit is January 25.
I will be back in two weeks with Damyanti Biswas, some more reviews, and the bets shows of 2022!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Insecure Writer’s Support Group; #IWSGPit; Reviews – Avatar, Wednesday, and Puss in Boots; and January Movie Preview!


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 January 4 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Debs Carey, Kim Lajevardi, Sarah Foster, Natalie Aguirre, and T. Powell Coltrin!

January 4 question - Do you have a word of the year? Is there one word that sums up what you need to work on or change in the coming year? For instance, in 2021 my word of the year was Finish. I was determined to finish my first draft by the end of the year. In 2022, my word of the year is Ease. I want to get my process, systems, finances, and routines where life flows with ease and less chaos. What is your word for 2023? Why?

After this past year – heck the past three years – my word is faith. Faith in my God, in Truth, and in myself.



#IWSGPit is coming!
The next #IWSGPit will be January 25
9:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On January 25, 2023, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.
Many writers have seen their books published from a Twitter pitch - it’s a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents.

Get the full details here.



Here are the January selections for the IWSG Goodreads Book Club

Fractions of Existence (Existence #1) by J Lenni Dorner

The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass


We need IWSG co-hosts for the next three months! Leave a comment or shoot me an email if you can help in February, March, or April.





Reviews


Avatar: The Way of Water


We return to Pandora many years later. Jake and Neytiri’s family is threatened when the Sky People return and they must hide with a water clan of Na’vi.
Yes, it’s over three hours long. No, you won’t even notice. You’ll be so enthralled by what you are watching.
The first Avatar was groundbreaking with its special effects and ten-plus years later, this one does the same. The underwater scenes are beyond stunning. As are most scenes in the film.
It’s a simple story, told in detail. It’s full and rich, with incredible creatures and characters you care about. You’ll be surprised by who plays some of them as well.
Cameron pays tribute to his own Titanic at the end. And that final battle is almost a third of the movie!
Do not skimp – see it in 3D.
Highly recommended!



Wednesday


Wednesday Adams is sent to Nevermore Academy where she deals with monsters, mysteries, and an annoying perky roommate.
This is the best series this year!
The girl who plays Wednesday nails it – perfectly. Her delivery, her expression, how she speaks, it’s all just prefect. Plus her dialogue and attitude are hilarious.
The entire cast is well fleshed-out, with no agenda, just real people with real issues. (Well, as real as werewolves and the like can get.)
The story spans eight episodes and it’s just the right length.
Highly recommended!



Puss in Boots


Puss has used eight of his nine lives and sets out to find the mythical Last Wish.
Voice actors include Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Harvey Guillen, Florence Pugh, and Ray Winstone.
Did you like the first Puss in Boots? Then you will enjoy this one.
A solid cast and humorous adventure story pack in some fun entertainment. The film is often just silly but that’s its charm. The characters have heart though and ultimately they are all looking for the same thing – a family.
The animation is really good and what you’d expect for this offshoot of the Shrek franchise.
Recommended


January Movie Preview

Here are the theatrical releases for January. Descriptions courtesy of the IMDB. Snark provided by me.


4 -


A Man Called Otto
Director: Marc Forster
Stars: Tom Hanks, John Higgins, Tony Bingham
Otto is a grump who's given up on life following the loss of his wife and wants to end it all. When a young family moves in nearby, he meets his match in quick-witted Marisol, leading to a friendship that will turn his world around.
I wonder if tacocat is also a grump...



12 -


Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Jason Statham, Hugh Grant, Aubrey Plaza, Cary Elwes
Special agent Orson Fortune and his team of operatives recruit one of Hollywood's biggest movie stars to help them on an undercover mission when the sale of a deadly new weapons technology threatens to disrupt the world order.
Statham stars in a new action thriller that will eventually come down to him just punching people.



What is your word for 2023? Participating in #IWSGPit? (If you’re a published author, please let your publisher or agent know about it!) Seen either movie or Wednesday? Seeing any movies this month? And can you co-host the IWSG?
Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday! I will be back Monday with a guest and some other fun stuff.