Thursday, December 29, 2016

Passengers. It didn’t suck!

Let me say up front that there will be spoilerish things in this post.














You were warned.






When I saw the initial ads for PASSENGERS I got really excited. Two of my favorite actors in a science fiction drama. What more could I ask for?

Well, I could ask for a lot of things, actually, like good special effects, a good script, and a good finish. Opinions on movies vary about as much as anything on Earth. And I rarely agree with the professional critics, and man oh man were they being tough on this movie.

David Edelstein, a film critic for New York magazine and for NPR's Fresh Air, is the only critic I found (in a very small sampling) that said he actually liked the movie. But even he didn't like the ending. Most of the negativity was relayed to me from my son or from a few articles online. But there seemed to be a general consensus that the movie sucked.

Given all of the naysaying and negativity, I had modest expectations. I went in with a half-open mind, expecting the ending to suck.

I enjoyed the opening. I really like Chris Pratt, and his mechanic alone on a huge ship and looking at spending the rest of his life in the midst of five thousand sleeping people worked for me. His character felt believable and then the moment comes when, on the verge of suicide, he sees the Jennifer Lawrence character, and the movie takes a darker turn.

I’ve heard about the discussion that the premise of waking her up was a plot contrivance. Those people completely missed the entire point of the story. It was about a guy who has a choice to make, live forever alone, or ruin someone else’s future so that he doesn’t have to be. That is the WHOLE PLOT! Then others said it was tantamount to rape. PLEASE. Are you effing kidding me? Did you even watch the movie? Was it extremely creepy that he knew about her and had read all her published work? Yes. Clearly. But it felt plausible the way it was played. He had agonized for months about doing it, then they became friends and then lovers over the course of time. It wasn’t rushed, played about as well as it could be to show time without being pedantic. And it was Pratt and Lawrence. They were right for their parts, or at least made them seem like people. People put in an impossible situation.

Was the screenplay perfect? No, but it was plausible and some of the plot issues people discussed were lamp-shaded right up front. It was enjoyable seeing the two of them together.

Then comes the moment of truth when she finds out that he woke her on purpose, which he did not flinch from, and her reaction felt realistic.

Things start progressing when one of the crew also wakes up, because the ship is dying.
All this time I’m waiting for the suck. Surely something blaringly bad was going to happen. A horrible line or something really cliché or just plain awful plot. I kept waiting, and expecting.

They deal with the ship starting to have problems individually, because she was trying to avoid him. But, it turns out if he hadn’t woken her up everyone on board would have died. In the process of saving the ship both of them have hair-raising experiences where I was sure they were going to die. That had to be the part that ruined the movie. This happened multiple times for both characters. No, they live through one heroic thing after another. Still not sucking. In fact, it is really working for me. I am feeling the characters. I care. Then as the climax comes, I was starting to think it was going to have one of those cliché Romeo and Juliet endings, and that really would have sucked, because I am still waiting for it to suck.

But no. It has, to me, a satisfying conclusion. A happy ending. I like happy endings!

The final scene can be taken many ways, but I will say it was the simplest choice of endings. The screenwriter or director could have gone a multitude of different directions at the end, but chose the easiest closing. It was fine with me.

I walked out of the movie happy. It didn’t suck. It actually exceeded my expectations! So, I guess I owe all of the naysayers a thank you.


I have no idea why so many people were so hard on this movie. Okay, it won’t win an Oscar, and there were no truly emotional moments for me, ones that make something memorable, but I did enjoy it. Is it really too much to ask for a movie with a nice happy ending to be released at Christmas time? I don’t think so. All the Grinches out there need to get some perspective.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dune Abides...I mean...

I saw a book being advertised on the interwebs. It was a new cover for Dune, but I mistook it initially as saying Dude. The image refused to leave my brain, so it must be purged. This is what I came up with.

Anyone care to write this crossover?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas at Our House - A Photo Essay

My wife loves to decorate for Christmas. 


And I love the Result. This is our master bedroom.
After 25 years of marriage visiting craft boutiques and shows, and hunting for bargains after Christmas we have amassed a lot of stuff to decorate the house.
This only the inside of the house, and not a comprehensive photo-essay, but it covers most of the stuff we have out right now.

Moving down the hall to the entryway. A lot of these things she created herself.





A few years back we decided to switch things up from the traditional. This is the living room.















Yes, we have eclectic taste, but we made a decision a few years ago, to decorate with stuff that made us laugh. Life is too short! Her trees and boughs are the best!




Now we transition into the dining area.










 We have a more traditional  Red and White Tree in here.

  Mud Room.

That just leaves the basement where the boys live and game. 
We used to put up another big tree down here, but the cats were always rough on it. We have lots of room to expand on the decorations down here.
That’s it for now. I hope you all have a wonderful and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cover reveal for J.L. Gribble's new book - STEEL MAGIC

A good friend of mine is set to release her latest book in July. But the new cover is out today! Here are the details:

Title: Steel Magic
Series: Steel Empires Book 2
Author: J.L. Gribble
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Alternate History
Release Date: July 6, 2016
Pre-order Link: Pre-order Steel magic

Synopsis:
Funerals are usually the end of the story, not the beginning.
Newly graduated warrior-mages Toria Connor and Kane Nalamas find themselves the last remaining mages in the city when a mage school teacher mysteriously falls ill and dies. But taking over the school themselves isn't in the cards. They're set to become professional mercenaries-if they make it through the next 18 months as journeymen first.

The debate over whether to hunt mutated monsters in the Wasteland or take posh bodyguard jobs is put on hold when a city elder hires them to solve the mystery of the disappearing mages. Toria and Kane's quest brings them to the British colonial city of New Angouleme, where their initial investigation reveals that the problem is even greater than they feared.
But when a friend is kidnapped, they'll have to travel to the other side of the globe to save her, save themselves, and save magic itself.


About the Cover Artist:
Bradley Sharp was born in 1977 in Oxfordshire, UK. From a young age he filled many sketch books, so it only made sense to study Graphic Communication at Nene University, where he received a BA Honors degree in 1997.

But the real world called Sharp away from academics, so he traveled around the globe a couple of times, working as a graphic designer. Now he makes a living by designing magazine spreads, but freelances with vector illustrations, allowing him to create something far-removed from what he does in his nine-to-five job.

Sharp finds vector to be an easy tool and believes anyone can use it. "I'd say my artwork is nothing more than glorified doodling. I like the logical inconsistencies of surrealism and find inspiration from many places such as music or the science fiction genre. Dog Star's novels lend themselves well to my style. I look forward to working with DSB in the future, and hope fans will like the imagery as much as they enjoy the words." Find Sharp's work online at http://www.bradsharp.co.uk.

About the Author:

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

Thursday, May 5, 2016

THE PHANTOM PRESIDENCY

        I've been thinking about this for awhile now. This isn't about partisan politics, it's satire about a personality, maybe even a Cult of Personality. The personality being housed in the body of one Hillary Rodham Clinton. Say what you want about the woman, but you can't say she isn't smart. I think she's way smarter than many of us gave her credit for.

        I have no evidence to back this up, but it's an interesting thought experiment for me.

        Hillary had an appetite for politics since her middle teens, active in young Republican groups. Her world was rocked by MLK and she changed to the Democratic party by the time she had graduated college. Picture a young, ambitious woman turning twenty-one in 1968, the most incredibly dynamic social and political year in modern history. The world was changing and she could feel it in her bones, but it wasn't yet time for a woman president. She wouldn't be thirty-five for fourteen more years. And yes, society was changing, however, it probably still wouldn't be ready in 1982 for a woman president. But what if ... what if she could find the right man to polish?

        Enter William Clinton. He's brash and full of energy and has political aspirations of his own. He's someone she could use to her advantage. He had great potential. He wasn't perfect, but she could fine-tune his lesser qualities, groom him for greatness. Law School and introductions with the right people put her into powerful circles of influence, and not by chance, but by subtle manipulation.

        Her machinations worked maybe better than expected, with Bill getting elected governor of Arkansas in 1978 at the young age of 32. And then I can only imagine what it must have been like in that household when he lost re-election in 1980, nearly derailing her plans. Bill redeemed himself, winning three more terms as governor. In the meantime, she had risen to be considered one of the most powerful attorneys in the country by 1991.

        When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992 I had to admit to grudging admiration at his political savvy. He was the shrewdest politician of his generation without even a close second. On hindsight, I have to wonder how much of his strategy was Bill and how much was the grand manipulator, Hillary. Actually I'm giving her the credit. He was her mouthpiece, her surrogate.

        The Phantom Presidency had come to fruition. She was this close to reaching her dream. As close as one can get, without being the actual one who signs the documents. Is there any real doubt she had a hand in policy decisions? But once again, Bill almost tubed her plans with the Lewinski scandal. It may have actually worked to her advantage in the long game, making her look sympathetic. Who knows; maybe it was a truly Palpatine-like scheme from the beginning.

        On to the next phase of the great plan. She was the first former first lady to be voted into political office. She found a big state with a senator that was retiring after four terms. Despite accusations of carpetbagging, she was the first woman to be elected to the U. S. Senate from the state of New York. The times had truly changed. The country might actually be ready to elect a woman as President of the United States. Her first run didn't pan out, but she secured a cabinet post, legitimizing her on the national scene in a way that senator hadn't.

        With a timely book publishing deal highlighting her Hard Choices, she's now virtually the nominee for the Democratic Party and most polls have her winning an easy victory over Trump. Trump might even be playing the role of the Droid Army in this one.

        Anyway, I'm sure none of this is actually true...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Communicating in the 21st Century

Creative Commons Anne Worner- Communication
I recently watched a video of Celeste Headlee doing a TED talk on 10 Ways to have a better 
conversation. Celeste's TED Talk
It was sadly eye-opening for me. For a long time I know I've struggled to be a good listener. Actually most of the time I don't struggle; I just don't listen well. I am a chronic interrupter. But, as usual, this is bigger than my poor listening skills. Celeste hits the nail on the head in pointing out that as our children grow up in this new connected environment we all live in, with a cell phone usually within arm's reach, that we've become accustomed to transmitting, but not receiving or interacting. Or if we do receive it is on our time and without the worry of interruption. There is little face-to-face conversation. I touch on this very issue in my story Vitasync where being connected in the future is not just habitual, it's the law. But I think these communication issues are very real.

Be in the moment. Don't be reading email or watching a show or checking your phone for texts, while half-listening to the other person. We all do this in degrees, some worse than others, and some far, far worse (like me.)

Your here to be in a conversation, not bloviate. If you want to do that, and I love this, make a blog. You can even turn off the comments if you really don't want any interaction.

You are going to have ideas pop in your head while the other person is talking. Let them go. It's not about you. You are supposed to be listening. If the idea is big enough it will still be there when it's your turn to talk. It will also help you to NOT INTERRUPT THEM. My wife is one of the few people that calls me on this. It is one of my biggest character flaws.

And this is a big one for me, too. Don't equate your experience with theirs. If they had someone close die, don't try to compare it with the death of someone close to you. It is good to have empathy, but it shouldn't turn back to being about you.

Actually listen, actively. Yes, some of us enjoying hearing our own voice more than that of others. That may not be the case, but you still need to pay attention to what the other person is conveying. Not only the words, but the way they convey it. Read the body language and the expression. You can't do that if you aren't paying attention.


I worry about these things with my children sometimes. Maybe unfairly, they are pretty great after all. Just ask me. But in general we are all doing less active interaction and more by proxy. I have become attached to my cell phone almost as much as my kids are, and Facebook, and Twitter, etc. But there is value in face-to-face interaction, especially with people you care about. It actually shows the other person that you value them, so there is more than simple communication involved, even if it's really not all that simple.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Still Holding Out

     
      I'm about six years into this writing adventure. I have two novels that I feel are completed and ready for sale. I have four other novels in various stages of development. Trying to figure out which one to work on has been challenging. Well, really, the hard part is still making myself sit and write. I usually write when I get that far. I've settled on which one to work on, so that problem is solved for the short term.

      Not selling these books or getting representation from an agent is disheartening, so I try not to think about it and just focus on writing the next story. There is freedom in not being locked into a contract at this point and it gives me hope. In the meantime I keep on writing. Once that first deal is made I think the pressure increases to write at a certain speed. Of course that's all hearsay right now. I am getting quicker with each book and may eventually get to where I can do several in a year, but that's not today. Your take away: keep writing while you're waiting for a response. You will have more to offer when the time comes.

      I'm still holding out for a book deal with a major publishing house. The only way to do that is to get an agent. The big four, don't take unsolicited manuscripts. The big four are:
·         Simon & Schuster (a subsidiary of CBS Corporation)
·         HarperCollins (a subsidiary of NewsCorp)
·         Penguin Random House (a subsidiary of Bertelsmann and Pearson)
·         Hachette Livre

      They each have a bunch of different imprints that specialize in various things, and except for the electronic first imprints they all require an agent.

      I have sent to Angry Robot and Baen, which are maybe one step down the rung in size. Baen is a big name in my genre. Daw and Tor are next. One reason is exclusivity and snailmail versus electronic means. These are all reputable and distinguished publishers and I'd be ecstatic to get any of them. After these are the boutique or small press publishers. A lot of my friends have gone this way with success. Nothing wrong with that, but they get limited exposure in brick and mortar stores. Your take away: get an agent if you want to publish with the big four publishing houses.

      Maybe I'm a fool for not trying the small press path as well, but here is where our paths diverge. I am not in a hurry. I know that success will come. I'm not going to quit. And really that is all it's going to take. There is a real comfort in knowing that down in my gut. I get better with each page I write. My editing improves and my perspective widens. My confidence grows along with all of these things. My actual skill is also sharpening. Your take away: keep writing. It's the best way to improve your writing acumen.

      One of the things I've noticed is the books are never finished. I can keep polishing them and they get better with each pass. I am already shopping the first two and once in a while I pick them up and go through them and make more revisions. I have them both in a place where I like them. I'm actually happy with their shape. There are things in both of them that I'm proud of and they read now the way I intended when I set out. But until they go into print they are living things. When the time comes, if these are picked up by a publishing house and my editor wants to make changes I'm still very open to that. But the point is I like where they are right now. I'm satisfied that they're ready to be seen by a buyer. If these particular books end up being self-published they will go through more scrutiny and I will have to hire a cover artist. I'm prepared for that. But I'm also not ready to settle for that. Your take away: Don't settle. Write what you want the way you want.

      I'm reticent to actually give the advice to simply write what you want the way you want. I don't want to give you the impression that there is no arbiter of quality. Your book may actually be ready to release into the world. But for crying out loud have it professionally edited at a minimum.

      I have a friend and mentor who is extremely successful at self-publishing. She has an established career with traditional publishing as well, but her real success has been on the writer-as-publisher route. I trust her advice and she says to wait until you have three books to publish if you decide to go that direction. The way the algorithms work it will pay huge dividends to wait until you can do a timed release of all three. It will give you a boost to launch your career on the right foot.

      So, with this advice in hand I have a timer running. Two timers really. One is my pending retirement from my day job. I have two pensions, so I am not completely dependent on making money right away as a writer, but I will be writing fulltime at that point. The second timer is finishing my "vampires in space" trilogy. If I don't have an agent by then I will invest in a cover artist and a professional editor. I'm fortunate to have a lot of friends in the industry now so that will be the easy part. Self publishing doesn't have the same stigma that it used to, assuming you prepare properly, with a good cover and a polished product. Maybe I'm simply wasting time when I could be earning a good return right now. I have nothing against self publishing or small press publishing, I just have this dream to be doing the thing the old school way. At least to start. I have the luxury of a good paying job and a pension coming. I have time to wait and keep honing my skills. Your take away: Have a plan and stick to it.

Back at it. Clear Ether!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Writer's Lexicon is Updated

I’m actively compiling this list to benefit writers of varying levels of immersion in the waters of authordom, to help us look less stupid or simply to help you navigate the world of writing a little more confidently. I am taking suggestions to add to this list, it's not complete by any stretch.  I am particularly interested in ‘writer-culture’ words. Or, perhaps you disagree with my definition. I’d like to hear about that as well.

Plot Devices and Literary Words


Alien Space Bats - The term was originally used as a sarcastic attack on poorly written alternate histories due to lack of plausibility to create improbably plot divergences. Also refers to the use of Deus ex Machina in the form of Ancient Aliens.

Backronym - Same as an acronym but the word came first and the meaning behind the letters followed after.

Big Dumb Object (BDO) - The science fiction term refers to any mysterious object (usually of extraterrestrial or unknown origin and immense power) in a story which generates an intense sense of wonder just by being there. For example the Monoliths in 2001 A Space Odyssey, or The Void Ship in Doctor Who.

Brenda Starr dialogue - Long sections of talk with no physical background or description of the characters. Such dialogue, detached from the story’s setting, tends to echo hollowly, as if suspended in mid-air. Named for the American comic-strip in which dialogue balloons were often seen emerging from the Manhattan skyline.

“Burly Detective” Syndrome - This useful term is taken from SF’s cousin-genre, the detective-pulp. The hack writers of the Mike Shayne series showed an odd reluctance to use Shayne’s proper name, preferring such euphemisms as “the burly detective” or “the red-headed sleuth.” This syndrome arises from a wrong-headed conviction that the same word should not be used twice in close succession. This is only true of particularly strong and visible words, such as “vertiginous.” Better to re-use a simple tag or phrase than to contrive cumbersome methods of avoiding it.