Monday, July 25, 2016

Stranger Things and Star Trek Beyond Reviews, Comic Con Trailers, God’s Dinner Party, and Ninja News

I’m back from vacation! Just a few days away, but so worth it.
Today we welcome C. Lee McKenzie.
But first…

Stranger Things Review

Set in the 80’s, the plot centers on the search for a missing boy and the appearance of a strange girl.
Without a doubt, this is my favorite NetFlix original show. It’s a love letter to the 80’s. Imagine putting the Goonies, Stand by Me, Firestarter, E.T., and poltergeist in a blender and you’ll start to get an idea of the direction of this show.
I really liked the eight episode pacing and the great blend of horror, suspense, science fiction, and comedy.
The cast was perfectly chosen. (I understand they interviewed over nine hundred kids just to find the right ones for the roles.) All of the characters became fleshed-out, real people.
I don’t want to give anything else away – just watch it.
Highly recommended!

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Another enjoyable Star Trek adventure!
This film marks fifty years of Trek. While I didn’t like it quite as much as Into Darkness, I still found myself grinning from start to finish at the action and comedy. Director Justin Lin handled the action well and there were so many funny lines.
The actors did a great job, sliding right back into the character dynamics. Idris Elba was good at the villain Krall, but Sofia Boutella as Jaylah really nailed it.
Some aspects of the film were confusing or didn’t quite make sense, but maybe a repeat viewing will clarify things.
It was bittersweet watching Anton Yelchin in his final film. They did slip in a nice homage to Leonard Nimoy though.
Overall, it was a tremendous amount of fun.

C. Lee McKenzie and God’s Dinner Party

Once a very long time ago, God gave a dinner party, and he invited animals. (Stay with me, okay?) He wanted them there to give them a very important duty. These animals were to become a part of the zodiac and guide mankind in daily living as well as provide insights into their unique character.

Here’s what I think that dinner party might have been like.

God’s Dinner Party

Rat smoothed his long tail across his lap, then tried to stare down Monkey who was showing off. “A bit of decorum during dinner would be appreciated,” Rat said. He was far wittier than Monkey, and he wanted a chance to say something and prove it.
Monkey turned solemn for one minute before cracking his next joke.
Rooster kept an observant eye on the antics for a while, and then noticed his wing feathers were in disarray and began preening them into a neater arrangement.
Goat, who sat at the far end of the table, glanced anxiously at Pig in hopes Pig would say something intelligent and stop that damned Monkey show- off.
But Pig, always well-mannered and tasteful, chose to ignore Goat and Monkey. He had a full plate of delicious corn, and he was going to focus on that.
Dog leaned over to Horse and reminded him how much he hoped Horse wouldn’t take off on that trip after the party. Dog needed him nearby.
That’s when Tiger asserted himself, and with one large paw, batted Monkey on top of the head.
“Owww!” Monkey yowled, and he jumped down from his chair and scampered to Dragon.
“There. There,” Dragon said, all compassion. “Come sit next to me and tell me your jokes.”
“Suck up!” screeched Rat.
“Hussssh,” Snake said, stretching across to Rat. “Don’t ruin the party.”
“Oh no. Never do that,” said Rabbit, rubbing his tiny paws together nervously.
Ox nodded at his friend Snake. “We should should play a game and each take a turn of some sort.”
“I have a game! I have a game!” Monkey said, and all eyes locked on him. “Let’s play, “Where’s the Cat?”
Rat became suddenly fascinated with his tail, arranging and re-arranging it just so.
“You start Rat,” Monkey said, and he jumped up and down on his chair.
“Cat’s not here,” Rat said, not looking up.
“And why not?” Tiger asked in his most authoritative voice.
Rat mumbled, “Dunno.”
“Liar. Liar. Pants on fire!” Monkey was being a real butt.
Then Dragon rose regally and slowly from his chair at the head of the table. “It seems Cat will not be here this night, then?”
Rat shook his head and tried to ignore Pig’s tasteful snort, Dog’s distrustful stare, Roster’s observant smile, Monkey’s total lack of self-control, Goat’s anxious expression, Horse’s impatient neigh, and Snake’s dangerous eye. Rabbit at least had some compassion in his face, and Tiger wasn’t paying any attention to Rat at all. Ox had retreated into himself and seemed to doze.
Dragon laid a calming claw on Monkey, then he picked up Rat by his sleek tail and held him aloft. “Do you want to explain Cat’s absence?”
Now was Rat’s chance to show how clever and quick-witted he could be. “A mistake really. I must have said the party was on the fifteenth, not the fifth.” Dangling upside down, he grinned at Dragon.
“I see.” Dragon returned Rat to upright and settled him onto the chair. “I hope you enjoyed your prank a great deal, Rat, because you’ve made a life-long enemy and will be paying for it forever.”
The End

Find Lee at her blog and website
Find Sign of the Green Dragon (releases August 3) at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords
Find your sign HERE.

Ninja News

Today over at the IWSG site we welcome the awesome Anne R. Allen as she discusses a powerful marketing tool.

Don’t forget that Wednesday, August 3 is the next post day for the IWSG.

August’s question is - What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published? 

And have you seen the trailer for Wonder Woman, Justice League, or Kong Skull Island?

Anyone else blaze through the eight episodes of Stranger Things? See Star Trek Beyond this weekend? What do you think about God’s dinner party? And are you ready for Wonder Woman next year?
Since next week is IWSG post week, I won’t be posting on Monday, just Wednesday.

Monday, July 18, 2016

#SupporttheGeeks, Chevelle and Secret Life of Pets Reviews, and Ninja News

Last Wednesday, I was at guest of Tyrean Martinson’s as part of her Five Reasons to Write series. Mine involved music!

Thanks to everyone who entered to win the CassaSeries playing cards giveaway! There were a lot of you, but there can be only one winner:

Mason Canyon at Thought in Progress!

Congratulations and enjoy!

#Support the Geeks

Geekdom House is running a campaign over the summer called Support the Geeks. There are some great articles, features, and giveaways being posted over July and August, and they are encouraging the use of the hashtag #SupporttheGeeks to support geek creatives—content producers, actors, artists, and writers. Some people are tweeting at their favourite artists to say thanks, some are making daily blog or Facebook posts about geek stories that have changed their lives. Check out Geekdom House (and their current art giveaway) and join the fun!

Here’s my geek story that changed my life:

Spurred by science fiction like Star Wars and fantasy like Terry Brooks, I began writing as a teen. Then, just before this series debuted, the image below image appeared in TV Guide:

Drawn by Frank Frazetta, that black and white image with the downed ship on the barren planet and other ships overhead sparked an idea. I began writing and soon had a mostly complete story. I stuck it in a drawer and worked on other things and eventually forgot it.

Around eight years ago, I found that crappy early story and decided to rewrite it. In 2010, it became my first published book, CassaStar.

And my life has never been the same since!

Chevelle – The North Corridor Review

After the success of the last album, I wasn’t sure this one would be as tight. Fears unfounded – this is a very solid album.
With the exception of the song Punchline, it’s a really heavy album from start to finish. The music is fierce and a couple songs have an almost punk edge to them.
There are several standout tracks, including Joyride, Rivers, and Warhol’s Showbiz.
If you dig Chevelle, you’ll love this album.
They are also on tour right now and put on a great show.

Movie Review

The Secret Life of Pets

Max has the perfect life until his owner brings home another dog and the two get lost in New York.
For whatever reason, I didn’t find this film all that funny. In fact, it had some mean-spiritedness to it. The best parts were the beginning and the ending where the pets were interacting with their owners. When the animals were on their own, it just wasn’t that engaging. It also wasn’t particularly memorable.
My wife didn’t think it was a great movie, but she laughed a lot and called the film cute.
There was a short before the film that involved the Minions on a quest to make money to buy a blender for juicing bananas. It was very funny.
Kids and pet owners will probably enjoy this film. Everyone else, you are on your own.

Ninja News

Mark Noce set up a Thunderclap campaign for the release of his first fantasy book, Between Two Fires. You can sign up HERE.

Karen Walker is putting together an anthology on aging. If you are fifty or older, visit her blog for details on how you can contribute.

Special thanks –

I want to thank Truedessa for her poem about Aden and Tamsin, the main characters in my Dragon of the Stars. I was honored to finally see some of the fanfiction she is writing!

And thanks to Pat Hatt and the Cat for a funny poem involving Mini-Alex. At least he is out of the litter box now…

Finally, don’t forget – Star Trek: Beyond comes out Friday, July 22! Already getting great reviews. And last week, Blastr featured some amazing artwork celebrating not just Beyond, but fifty years of Star Trek. Live long and prosper!

Any Chevelle fans? See Secret Life of Pets? Can you contribute to Karen’s anthology? (Sadly, I’m old enough I can.) Seeing Star Trek: Beyond this weekend? And do you have a geek story?

My wife and I are taking a short vacation and I’ll be mostly offline Thursday through Saturday. I will return comments though!

Monday, July 11, 2016

MST3K Reunion Show Review! Plus Cassa in Audio, Fates Warning, Giveaway, and Ninja News

MST3K Reunion Review

This was by far the best RiffTrax show ever!

As a celebration of ten years of RiffTrax, this was perfect. They riffed a series of shorts rather than a whole movie, and the format worked very well. Mike, Bill, and Kevin had a couple segments. They also turned it over to RiffTrax regulars, Bridget Nelson (Mike’s wife) and Mary Jo Pehl, for a segment.

Then it got even better. Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff did a short together. (Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank together again!) The crowd really got into it when creator Joel Hodgson came out and did a segment with Jonah Ray, who will head up the new version of MST3K. Then it went all out and the entire cast riffed a couple shorts together.

The shorts really ranged in topics and decades. The one Trace and Frank tackled involved a girl who couldn’t get a date so she made herself available for everyone and got involved. It was set in the 50’s, so the motive was innocent, but as my wife said, in this day and age it was a film on how to be easy and... Well, I won’t say it!

Mike, Bill, and Kevin did a segment from the very early 70’s on large equipment safety called Shake Hands with Danger. Let’s just say that the short Blood Flows Red on the Highway came to mind...

The whole crew came out to riff an old Superman short about federal stamps and Lois being held hostage. (Awful short – which meant it was very funny.)

The show wrapped up with a hilarious short on the creative things one can do with grass. Yes, grass. The kind you mow. (Although the writers obviously smoked the other kind.) Everything from hats to braids to etchings. The latter prompted this comment from Mary Jo - ‘Nothing says I forgot Father’s Day like a grass etching.’

And it was a packed show - two hours and twenty minutes!

That this was the hardest I have ever laughed in the theater is an understatement. My face and sides hurt so bad when I left. I nearly fell out of my seat on several occasions. Bringing everyone together was not only brilliant but the funniest show they have ever put together. I wish they could do it every time.

There is an encore showing on Tuesday, July 12. I recommend you go. My wife and I just might go for another showing - it was that good!

And the next RiffTrax: Live show after that? August 18 - Mothra!

Now for some awesome screen shots:

Fates Warning – Theories of Flight Review

Released July 1, this is the band’s twelfth studio album.
For a band that’s been around for thirty-two years, you’d think they’d run out of fresh ideas. But this album might very well be their best – ever!
Great prog elements, mixed with catchy choruses and amazing musicianship, makes for a well-rounded musical experience.
If you listen to prog, you’ve probably heard the band members elsewhere – guitarist Jim Matheos in OSI; vocalist Ray Alder with Redemption; bassist Joey Vera with Armored Saint; and drummer Bobby Jarzombeck with Halford and Riot. If you’ve never given these guys a spin, I recommend checking out Theories of Flight.

Ninja News

Today’s Themes That Rocked the Challenge feature at the A to Z Blog is Jeremy Hawkins and his awesome theme of old, retro ads.

The votes are in! The genre of the next Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology Contest will be fantasy.
The theme will be announced the day the contest opens – September 7.

Dan Antion, Sharukh Bamboat, Damyanti Biswas, Mary Giese, Peter Nena, Cheryl Pennington, and Kate Powell invite you to share the story of one of your cherished objects. Talk about what it is and why you cherish it. Post a picture of it if you like. Max 500 words, the Cherished Blogfest post can go up on your blog any day between 29th and 31st of July 2016. Hashtag ‪#‎CBF16‬.
More info HERE. Sign up HERE on the Cherished Linky List.‬‬

Father Dragon Al put out a call for angels to help! This is for a person many of you know and involves a simple, caring gesture. See Al’s BLOG for details.

Don’t forget the CassaSeries playing cards to giveaway! You can enter to win by commenting, Tweeting, or reviewing one of the books. Winner will be drawn July 17. Cards will be shipped from my publisher.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Audio Books!

I’ve been waiting for the official word and it finally came last week – my Cassa books are being made into audio books!

My publisher is venturing into audio and selected my trilogy for the initial test. I got to hear a sample of the narrator they chose and he did a really good job, so I’m looking forward to hearing all of the books.

CassaStar on audio should be out by the end of August!

Who else saw the MST3K Reunion Show? (And if you missed it, you can still see it July 12.) Fan of Fates Warning? Can you help Al? Think you might be able to write a fantasy story for the IWSG Anthology? Signed up to win the Cassa playing cards? And how would/do you feel about hearing your books read by someone else?

And today I am visiting Tyrean Martinson with Five Reasons to Write to Music!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, CassaDawn, Cassa Playing Cards Giveaway, Question of the Month, 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 Yolanda Renee, Tyrean Martinson, Madeline Mora-Summonte , LK Hill, Rachna Chhabria, and JA Scott!

We are kicking off with the question of the month today.

What's the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?

I’ve received some amazing comments, reviews, and emails. Many have just blown my mind. But one thing rises above them all.

Truedessa fell in love with Aden and Tamsin from Dragon of the Stars. I wrote the follow-up story, Dragon’s Destiny, for her. And then she told me.

She was writing fanfiction based on those two characters.

She loved Dragon of the Stars and Aden and Tamsin so much, she wanted their adventures to continue.

That just blows my minds. As an author, I feel like I’ve arrived. Someone is writing fanfiction based on my books.


And it really pleases me that it’s Dragon of the Stars. That book, and the final book in my Cassa trilogy, CassaStorm, are the best things I’ve ever written. And yet the other two books have sold far more copies. I wish there was a way I could change that. With Dragon of the Stars, there’s a free short story that continues the adventure. And CassaStorm remains my strongest piece, bringing Byron’s story full circle. (And there’s also a short, CassaFate, in the Heroes of PHENOMENA anthology that continues the story.)

But Truedessa loved my story enough to write her own stories about Aden and Tamsin. And that’s enough for me.

Don’t forget! Voting continues for the genre of this year’s IWSG Anthology Contest! Go HERE to cast your vote. Open through Friday of this week

Ninja News

The MST3K RiffTrax Reunion Show was amazing! I have never laughed so hard in a theater as I did last week. I’ll give you the full rundown and with pictures next Monday.

The third StoryTime Blog Hop takes place on July 27.
See Juneta Key’s site for details.

New Releases:
Made to be Broken by Rebecca Bradley

The Short Game by J.L. Campbell

The Everlasting Circle by Juliana Haygert

Jellyfish Jones – a UBook
From Melanie Schulz’s publishing company, Black and White.

Question of the Month

Hosted by Michael at A Life Examined

“What was the first book (or book series) you really fell in love with?”

Easy! Terry Brooks’ original Shannara trilogy. They sparked my interest in writing.


CassaDawn is my short story that will appear in the anthology The Thing That Turned Me, available August 5.

Below is the very short trailer for CassaDawn on YouTube. (I contacted my publisher’s illustrator and hired him to make one that matched the rest of my series. It would've just bugged me if it looked different!)


I have CassaSeries playing cards to giveaway!

I’m not a fan of Rafflecopters, but couldn’t think of another way to do it. You can enter to win by commenting, Tweeting, or reviewing one of the books. Winner will be drawn July 17. Cards will be shipped from my publisher.

What’s the best thing anyone said about your writing? Anyone else see the MST3K Reunion Show? What was the first books you fell in love with? And would you like a cool deck of cards?