Monday, January 13, 2020

Neil Peart Tribute, 1917 and The Witcher Reviews, #IWSGPit, Top Albums of Last Decade, and Movie Trivia

Neil Peart Tribute

I’m going through a period of mourning for Neil Peart. No, I never met him. I don’t personally know anyone in his family or his close circle of friends, and yet I’m very sad. You see, Rush was very important to me during my formative years. I would say that I idolized them as a teen. When I accepted Jesus into my life, that idol worship turned to admiration. I admired their talent, songwriting, musicianship, and their friendship. They went from supermen to men that I wanted to emulate. I loved the fact that they put so much effort and time into their craft.

They called Mr. Peart the professor because every drummer who ever met him has learned how to be a better musician by studying him. His musicianship made me want to reach new heights with all my passions; his lyrics spoke to me and lifted me up; his dedication made want to try harder in all my endeavors.

I was lucky enough to see Rush in concert over twenty times. Like everyone else in the crowd, I stood in awe while watching (in my humble opinion) the greatest drummer of all time. My heart and prayers go out to his family, band mates, and friends.
God bless you Neil for the music and the inspiration.

1917 Review

Caught it Friday night and most of the audience was older—but boy, did they pack the house!
This is a powerful film and told in a really unique manner.
The movie itself is very somber. It places you in the shoes of two young men sent off to warn a platoon not to attack as they are walking into a trap. The mission is almost impossible and you are right there with them in the mud, ducking the shots, and feeling the fear.
What’s really amazing is the movie appears to have been shot in three takes. (It was filmed over two months though.) The camera moves so smoothly and seamlessly as it follows the two men on their journey. You almost believe you are watching it real time.
The two leads do an amazing job. Other characters come and go quickly and the guys must carry the film. (Slight spoiler – George Mackay as Lance Corporal Schofield really steps it up.)
The explosions, the plane crash—they all seem so real. The sets themselves were incredible, from the never-ending trenches to the bombed-out city. Both special effects and cinematography were top-notch.
This isn’t a psychologically heavy film like Full Metal Jacket. It’s more somber and sad and a realistic look at the lives of the men in the trenches in France during WWI. It won best picture and director at the Golden Globes and it won’t surprise me if it wins the Oscar as well.
Highly recommended.

The Witcher Review

The series is based on the book series by Polish writer, Andrzej Sapkowski, of which I’ve read.
The translation from books to show is outstanding – the series is really well done and a lot of fun.
Henry Cavill absolutely nails the role – the mannerisms, the look. He owns the role of the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia.
The rest of the cast is great, including Yennefer, the sorceress, who is naked in half of the episodes. (Note to parents – this is not kid-friendly!)
Minor complaints aside, I thought this was a tremendously successful first season, with great action, fun characters, and top-notch special effects. (For a television show.)
And on a side note, this show is more popular world-wide than the Madolorian. Wild, huh?
Highly recommended.

Top Ten Metal/Prog Albums of the Decade

Amorphis - Queen of Time - Thirteen is a lucky number. The thirteenth album by Amorphis is killer from start to finish.

Baroness – Purple - I’ve always liked Baroness, but Purple turned my like to love.

Devin Townsend – Empath - This album is crazy. It’s everything Devin has ever done thrown into a blender and it is a stunning achievement.

Dream Theater - The Astonishing - Yup, I picked DT’s most divisive album and put it in my top ten. This album took chances, and even though it’s a little bloated, it’s a stellar achievement as a prog concept album.

Haken - The Mountain - This is the record that established Haken as a prog force to be reckoned with. Incredible musicianship, stellar compositions, and they went beyond normal prog conventions to create something new and exciting.

Katatonia - The Fall of Hearts - First listen - “I’m not so sure about this, but I’ll give it another spin.” Second listen - “I think I like it—there’s something so compelling about it.” Third listen - “Is this a masterpiece?” Fourth listen - “Yes, it is!”

Khemmis – Hunted - Take crazy D&D type lyrics, mix in a cool retro 70’s vibe, add some of the coolest guitar breakdowns I’ve ever heard, and the result is an album that just crushes.

Rush - Clockwork Angels - So much love for this band! Their last studio record turns out to be one of their best (and that is truly saying something). An incredible prog concept album from the kings of prog music.

Symphony X – Underworld - This is power metal meets prog with the great Russell Allen on vocals and Michael Romeo absolutely dominating on guitar. If you are a guitar player, you need to check this out. Your jaw will literally be scraping the ground listening to his incredible riffs and break downs.

Voyager – V - I discovered this Australian band quite by accident (a super happy accident). These guys (and gal) are amazing. It’s prog with pop sensibilities. Every song is an ear worm in the best way possible


#IWSGPit is this Wednesday!

8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Writers may send out 1 Twitter pitch every hour per manuscript.

Publishers/Agents will favorite/heart pitches they are interested in. Publishers can either Tweet basic submission guidelines or direct writers to their submission guidelines.

No images allowed in pitches.

Pitches must include GENRE/AGE and the hashtag #IWSGPit.

Visit the #IWSGPit page at the IWSG site for the list of hashtags.

See you Wednesday!

Movie Trivia

Today it’s all about war movies! (And war movies of any genre.) Name the movie from the three actors and year:

1 - Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Barry Keoghan, 2017
2 - Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, 2009
3 - Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, 1997
4 - Jeremy Irvine, Davile Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, 2011
5 - Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, 1979
6 - Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, 2014
7 - Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, 1986
8 - Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, 2001
9 - Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, 1967
10 - Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Hugo Weaving, 2016
11 - Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, 1964

Answers January 27!

Anyone else shocked by Neil Peart’s death? Have you seen 1917 or The Witcher? Participating in #IWSGPit? What are your top albums from the past ten years? And do you know any of the trivia answers?

Since next Monday is a holiday, I will be offline and back on January 27 with trivia answers and the top movies of the last decade.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, January Movie Preview, Movie Reviews, and New Releases

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 T. Powell Coltrin, Victoria Marie Lees, Stephen Tremp, and J.H. Moncrieff!

January 8 question - What started you on your writing journey? Was it a particular book, movie, story, or series? Was it a teacher/coach/spouse/friend/parent? Did you just "know" suddenly you wanted to write?

What started my writing journey was this illustration by Frank Frazetta for Battlestar Galactica:

It inspired me to write a scene that would later become part of a novel. That story sat in a drawer for years. When I pulled it out, that one scene and the two characters were all that survived the rewrite. And it became my first published novel, Cassastar.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group made the list - The Write Life’s Best Websites for Writers 2020! 

That's four years in a row now.

Thanks to all of you for making it happen.

#IWSGPit is next Wednesday!

If you have a manuscript to pitch, don’t miss it.

Presenting the cover for the next Insecure Writer’s Support Group anthology:
Voyagers: The Third Ghost

Release date – May 5, 2020
Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99
Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure / Fantasy & Magic
Dancing Lemur Press/Freedom Fox Press

Journey into the past…

Will the third ghost be found before fires take more lives? Can everyone be warned before Pompeii is buried again? What happens if a blizzard traps a family in East Germany? Will the Firebird help Soviet sisters outwit evil during WWII? And sneaking off to see the first aeroplane – what could go wrong?

Ten authors explore the past, sending their young protagonists on harrowing adventures. Featuring the talents of Yvonne Ventresca, Katharina Gerlach, Roland Clarke, Sherry Ellis, Rebecca M. Douglass, Bish Denham, Charles Kowalski, Louise MacBeath Barbour, Beth Anderson Schuck, and L.T. Ward.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents, authors, and editors, these ten tales will take readers on a voyage of wonder into history. Get ready for an exciting ride!

Pre-order on Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, and Kobo

Movie Reviews

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I’m sure the fanboys will whine, but I thoroughly enjoyed this film!
A little uneven in the beginning. But wow, the second half really redeems it with a ton of great action scenes and scenes that will hit you in the heart.
A lot a familiar faces show up, which is a lot of fun.
It ties it up nicely with several great twists.
And very cool in 3D.
(If you did hate it, go back and watch episodes 1-3. Now those sucked. Lucas was a horrible director and the dialogue worse than a soap opera.)

Jumanji: The Next Level

Not as fresh as the original, which was to be expected, but still a lot of fun. Also just a little slow in the beginning as it finds its footing.
Even with the newness off, the movie still gives viewers some new twists, which includes new characters – and new game characters.
Some of the scenes are incredible and others hilarious.
And a touching ending about friendship and growing older.

The Mandalorian

Let’s just get this out of the way – baby Yoda is damned cute. No denying it.
I’ve never been a fan of any of the animated Star Wars series. But I ended up absolutely loving this show.
It’s just like the Star Wars movies, but with eight episodes, there was more time to develop the characters.
The story is a space western. Mando is a hired gun who ends up doing the right thing and puts together a team to save the child – baby Yoda.
Each episode got stronger and stronger. Lots of replayability – I’ll definitely watch it again. If it were a movie, I’d place it at number two or three on my list. (Rogue One definitely number one.)
Highly recommended!

The Lion King

Let’s get this out of the way – the animation is stunning. One step away from totally realistic. Rivals The Jungle Book.
Now, let’s get to the truth.
How did this film make over a billion dollars?
The animals are realistic, which means – the voice comes through, but not the expression. The effect is – cold. Expressionless. Total lack of connection. And totally empty.
The film is also ninety-nine percent, shot-for-shot like the original. Same songs as well. Bottom line – there was zero reason for a remake other than a cash grab.
You want to see a Lion King that will move you and stay with you? Watch the original 1994 version. Skip this hollow, cold adventure.
Not recommended.

New Releases

And Then You Fall by Heather M. Gardner
Third in the Maguire's Corner series
Now the series is complete!
Find And Then You Fall on Amazon

Tales from a Hack by Ryan Bevan (Husband of our very own IWSG member, Deniz Bevan
Reminiscent of horror classics from film and pulp, this collection of original stories of the macabre will transport the reader to a delightful land of evil things.
Find it on Smashwords

January Movie Preview

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

10 –

Two young British soldiers during the First World War are given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, and one of the soldier's brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap.
Director: Sam Mendes
Stars: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth
Yes, I featured this movie last month as a December release. That was its limited release (for Oscar consideration) – this is its wide release. Got it? Good, glad we got that clarified.

17 –

A physician discovers that he can talk to animals.
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland, Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes
Tony Stark invents a gadget to talk to animals and discovers they all like Captain America better.

24 – 

The Gentlemen
A British drug lord tries to sell off his highly profitable empire to a dynasty of Oklahoma billionaires.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong
Going out on a limb, Richie makes a London crime drama/dark comedy - we'll see if it works out...

What started your writing journey? Participating in #IWSGPit? Dig the Voyagers cover? Seen any of the movies/shows? And what movie strikes your fancy for January?

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology Winners! Plus Knives Out and Frozen II Reviews, December Movie Preview, and Ninja News

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 Tonja Drecker, Beverly Stowe McClure, Nicki Elson, Fundy Blue, and Tyrean Martinson!

Please note – since the next first Wednesday falls on New Year’s Day, we will be posting for the IWSG on the following Wednesday, January 8!

December 4 question - Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

Skipping the question today. But I do want to announce I finished the first draft of my story (currently dubbed CassaDark) last week! Now to the edits which will involve upping the word count.

Announcing the winners of the IWSG Anthology Contest!

Coming May 5, 2020 -
Voyagers: The Third Ghost

Middle grade historical/adventure
Featuring these stories and authors:
The Third Ghost – Yvonne Ventresca
Winter Days - Katharina Kolata
Feathered Fire – Roland Clarke
The Ghosts of Pompeii – Sherry Ellis
Dare Double Dare – Louise MacBeath Barbour
The Blind Ship – Bish Denham
A World of Trouble – Rebecca M. Douglass
The Orchard - Beth Anderson Schuck
Return to Cahokia – L.T. Ward
Simon Grey and the Yamamba - Charles Kowalski

We’d like to thank our amazing judges:
Elizabeth S. Craig, author and honorary judge
Dianne K. Salerni, author
Lynda Dietz, editor
S.A. Larsen, author
Rachna Chhabria, author
Lindsay Davis Auld, agent - Writers House
Tonja Drecker, author
David Powers King, author

And a big thanks to everyone who entered! There were some great stories.

Our previous IWSG anthologies -
Masquerade: Oddly Suited
Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime
Hero Lost: The Mysteries of Death and Life
Parallels: Felix Was Here

Nominations for best writing website are now open at The Write Life!
Please go nominate the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

The WEP Challenge for December – Footprints.

And the theme came from our very own IWSG Admin, Tyrean Martinson!

Footprints in the sand...Footprints in the snow...and they don't have to be human - alien, monster, unknown creatures...all up for grabs.

The next #IWSGPit will be in January 15, 2020, 8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Did you know the IWSG has a Goodreads Book Club? Why the heck not?
If you’re on Goodreads, join this group to learn and grow as a writer.

Ninja News

Got an early Christmas present – this year’s three RiffTrax Live events on DVD! Plus some other fun stuff.

Want some great gift ideas? Make it a Bookmas!

Visit Tui Snider or Patricia Lynne for a list of great books.

Your Words, Your Life Story: A Journal for Sharing Memories by J.Q. Rose
The story of your life, the struggles, the joys, the accomplishments, will be what the next generations understand. Your account will be a guide to help them through their own lives. Start now to put together the stories that make up your life story, a treasured family keepsake.
Find it on Amazon

Movie Reviews

Knives Out
An eccentric family unravels when the wealthy patriarch dies…or was he murdered? A famous detective is hired anonymously to investigate.
One word – entertaining!
This film is a classic whodunit, with Daniel Craig, sporting a Southern accent, chewing up scenery as the detective. Twists and turns abound as you see the truth, what the characters think is truth, and what they want the inspector to believe.
The ensemble cast brings it – Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer – even Frank Oz! Ana de Armas shines as Marta, the patriarch’s nurse.
If you’re looking for a movie for adults (while highly entertaining and funny, the pace would bore kids) then this is the film for you. You’ll be talking about it for hours afterwards.
Highly recommended!

Frozen II
One reviewer said this movie was like a snowflake – dissolves on contact. And that’s pretty accurate. As I’m writing this review a week after seeing the film, I’m struggling to remember it.
You’ll enjoy it while watching and of course kids will eat it up. Olaf has some hilarious lines. And the animation is stunning. But it’s a thin plot with way too many songs. (The one with Kristoff and Sven is cringe-worthy.) And slight spoiler – a fifth element? Haven’t we seen that movie already? I was waiting for Leeloo to show up with her multi-pass.
There are worse ways to blow two hours though.

December Movie Preview

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

13 –

Jumanji: The Next Level
In Jumanji: The Next Level, the gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to rescue one of their own, the players will have to brave parts unknown from arid deserts to snowy mountains, to escape the world's most dangerous game.
Director: Jake Kasdan
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan
Two years since the first film and I’m still shocked how much I enjoyed it…

20 –

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Billie Lourd, Lupita Nyong'o
Spoiler – Ewoks invade earth and attack all the whiny fan boys who hated the last film.

27 –

Two young British privates during the First World War are given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, and one of the soldier's brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap.
Director: Sam Mendes
Stars: Andrew Scott, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, Mark Strong
Not only the year of a world war but the year I graduated high school…

Excited to read Voyagers: The Third Ghost? Participating in WEP or #IWSGPit? See either Knives Out or Frozen II? And what movies are you seeing this month?

This will be my last post of this year, but I’ll poke in now and then during the next two weeks before Christmas.
Remember, the next IWSG post is January 8.
Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Geek Christmas Gift Ideas, Movie Remakes, IWSG News, and More!

Geek Christmas Gifts

Got someone geeky or all into science fiction and stuff on your list? Here are some wild and fun ideas:

Yes, I have these! Big surprise, huh?

Is that a banana in your pocket…?

I desperately need this for work…

Season 12 on Blu-ray!

We have one! Works great.

Just don’t get them mixed up…

Yes, it’s $1200, but free shipping!

Movie News

Remakes! Gotta love them. Or usually hate them. Here are some movies that are on the table for a remake in the next year or two:

The Nightmare Before Christmas – Disney wants to do a live action film. But of course!

The Matrix – Yes, really!

Labyrinth – Definitely without David Bowie.

Flash Gordon – Yes, the 80’s one was campy but I liked it. Still, curious about this one.

The Chronicles of Narnia – The Silver Chair was rumored, but now NetFlix has purchased rights to all of them.

Batman – Robert Pattinson is confirmed to play the role.

Mulan – Another Disney cash grab and move to live action.

The Neverending Story – That’s right! Your beloved memories are about to be trashed.

Short Circuit – Why?

The Creature From the Black Lagoon – With better special effects, this one might be good.

The Birds – And Michael Bay is attached to the project. Fans can scream now…

Ninja News

Nominations for best writing website are now open at The Write Life!
Please go nominate the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

The next #IWSGPit will be in January 15, 2020, 8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.
Visit the site for details.
Don’t miss it!

The Case of the Golden Greeks by Sean McLachlan
Third in the Masked Man of Cairo historical mystery series
Find it on Amazon and Amazon UK

What geek gifts look good? Need a Death Star fire pit in your backyard? What remakes are making you cringe? Ready for #IWSGPit 2020? And can you nominate the Insecure Writer’s Support Group over at The Write Life?

Thanksgiving is next week! I will catch you all on December 4 for the next IWSG post day.