Friday, December 31, 2010

Year in Review, and Writing Update: “Blind Ambition” accepted by RBE

I’ll admit 2010 had its ups and downs, but it’s saying ‘sayonara’ on a high note.

One, I’m officially finished with school. All that’s left is my exit interview next week, with the board exam to follow shortly thereafter. After a bumpy start last April with my occupational therapy fieldwork, having to endure an atrocious clinical instructor (CI) with ulterior motives, my next two rotations were abso-smurfly wonderful. My home health CI challenged me to think quickly and clinically and to always be prepared. And my behavioral health CI truly validated me, convincing me that, yes, I am a damn good therapist. Plus, I’ve found my niche in geriatric psych—something I never even considered when asked what field I was considering, but I love it.

Two, my focus on getting more stuff published is moving along—I just had another short story accepted! I really didn’t have much time for self-indulgence while in school, meaning time to write… well, I wrote… but theoretical case studies and treatment intervention plans aren’t as rousing as “action & adventure” fantasy fiction. Unless you’re REALLY into therapy. Or just plain weird!

I’m looking forward to having a couple weeks off now to work on some old projects. It starts off on a positive note too, as I just had my short story, “Blind Ambition,” (see snippet below) accepted by Jason M. Waltz, the publisher of Rogue Blades Entertianment (a.k.a. RBE), purveyors of heroic adventure fiction in the vein of R.E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, and David Gemmell, with an “xtreme” edge, which, if you know me, is right up my dark and sordid alley. I’m all about heroes and monsters and blades, the triumph of the anti-hero, basically fantasy with a dark and bloody aura.

For more about the ASSASSINS anthology, click here.

For more about Rogue Blades Entertainment, click here.

I’m also working full bore on my other short story (which is pushing novella length) called “A Jagged Line.” I’m currently powering through draft #3, which by my account will bring the story into form for submission to the L. Ron Hubbard’s “Writers of the Future” contest. Wish me luck.

On that note, I should probably get back to it. Happy New Year, blog followers, fellow writers, therapists, friends, etcetera and what-have-you and so on and so forth! Tally ho!


SNIPPET: To pique your curiosity, here’s a miniscule snippet from “Blind Ambition,” [clean version]:

“YOU DAFT B-----D,” Ulrich said as he watched the sneer fade from the dying man’s face. “All I wanted was answers.”

“Buh… buh-trayer…” the man gurgled through blood-stained lips.

“You f-----g righteous piece of…! Do you know how many good men are dead back th—” Ulrich’s head darted up as the steel-reinforced timber door ricocheted open.

Guards spilled into the bedchamber, their faces immediately paling. He could only imagine how it looked: he, their High Marshal, reported dead by the very officer whose body he now crouched over. He looked the part of an assassin in the dimly lit room, withdrawing a dark wet blade from a contorted form on the chill floor, a pool of blood widening, its ribbonlike rivulets inking through the runnels between the flagstones.

More guards edged into the room—first three, then four, then five. A couple of them, he recognized. Outside the room, someone barked orders, then came the sound of the warning bell in the yard.

Ulrich stood as they fanned out, warily approaching. He dashed for the casement, whipping the heavy curtains aside and leaping into the darkness. The guards and their shouts of “halt!” and “stop!” pursued him out the very window he’d just entered moments ago.

And as he plummeted through the frosty night air he thought, how in the nine hells did I come to this?


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Action Comics #1!

coverEver been curious to see what those boys Siegel and Shuster were up to in June of 1938? What do you mean you weren’t even around then? That doesn’t mean it didn’t exist now, does it?

Do you even know what I’m talking about?

Alright then, you see, Jerome Siegel and Joel Shuster are the two men responsible for one of the most recognizable icons in global history. No, not Coca-Cola. I’m talking about SUPERMAN!

Clark Kent made his debut in June, 1938, in the pages of ACTION COMICS #1. Very few people have had the pleasure to read it, but I share it now with you, my good friends, eBook style. Read ACTION COMICS #1 online, right here, right now.

Talk about the best popular culture has to offer! Click the cover above to read the very first adventures of The Man of Steel!

And you’re welcome. Heh-heh.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Book Review: The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

The Haunting Of Alaizabel CrayThe Haunting Of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Chris. After the disappointment that was STORM THIEF, I definitely needed THE HAUNTING OF ALAIZABEL CRAY (THoAC) to redeem my faith in you. Not that I could ever give up on you after "The Braided Path," of course. Every writer has a stinker or two (or more) in their bib. But THoAC is definitely not a stinker; in fact, it's among your best, and a five-star offering as far as I'm concerned.

You grabbed my interest with the young wych-hunter, Thaniel Fox, and never let up. I was fully invested in Thaniel's history, his relationship with Cathaline, his romantic feelings for Alaizabel, and the entire fog and gaslight, top hats and airships, post-war atmosphere of Wooding's Gothic Victorian alterna-London crawling with nocturnal wych-kin, serial killers, and clandestine cultists.

The story zipped along and gave me the same feeling I get when I read HELLBOY or Tom Sniegoski's LOBSTER JOHNSON. It's a story full of fun and engaging characters with full-on dynamic personalities. THoAC is a very cinematic ghost/action story in quasi-pulp, superhero-hybrid form. I could easily see the "movie" as it played out in my mind.

My only minor complaint is that Wooding can sometimes have a tendency to wax flowery in his prose, which can slow down the action a pace, but his descriptions are so vivid and poetic, I really can't say I mind all that much. I do wish the publisher had put a more riveting cover on this book, however. I'm sure the blah stock art and hideous typesetting impeded sales for this one on retail shelves. Too bad, because THE HAUNTING OF ALAIZABEL CRAY is definitely worth your time!

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Five stars (out of five). Highly recommended! Especially to fans of Gothic supernatural, Victorian ghost tales, Hellboy, BPRD, witches, warlocks, and pulp-style Lovecraftian weird tales stuff.

View all my reviews

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Personal Update: Two More Weeks to OT

Jeez, it’s been a long road, but the end is finally in sight. I’m talking about my decision to return to school to acquire my degree in occupational therapy, or OT. I have two weeks—just TWO weeks—left in my final clinical rotation, then all that stands between me and a new career in healthcare is the national board exam (NBCOT). Once I pass that, I’ll be a COTA, or a “certified occupational therapy assistant.”

It’s a weird feeling. After roughly eighteen years working in niche markets throughout the publishing business, I’m going to be able to rely on a totally different career and one that I’ve been trained for. In the publishing trade, I could afford to have slack days, but as a COTA I have patient outcomes that rely heavily on my job performance. Early on, this was a daunting prospect. But now that I’ve been through almost 800 total hours of clinicals—in addition to eighteen-plus months of classes—I’m feeling confident that I’m fully able to shoulder the responsibility.

One of the odder challenges OT practitioners face on a constant basis is the mere question of “What is Occupational Therapy?” I couldn’t tell you how many times my own friends and family refer to me as a physical therapist, or PT. But there’s a vast difference between the two disciplines, and it goes well beyond boiled-down simplifications such as “PT is lower body, OT is upper body,” or “PT is gross motor, OT is fine motor,” or even the dramatized remark: “PT teaches you to walk, OT teaches you to dance.”

So, in order to shed a little more light on the topic here on “Ranting and Raven,” I asked my current clinical instructor, Mrs. Brenda Cain at Mercy Hospital Western Hills, for her permission to post something she wrote about OT regarding “task analysis,” and here it is:

LOOKING THROUGH THE EYES
OF AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST

When someone observes an Occupational Therapist working with a patient, it may appear at times, that we are “just having fun”, “just playing a game” or “just making a craft”!

We ARE making a craft and having fun! BUT, it is most certainly not ALL we are doing! Occupational Therapists are experts in what is called TASK ANALYSIS.

We are trained to look at a task, a craft, a job and/or activity and identify the physical and cognitive components necessary for successful task completion.

So, for example, when you see an Occupational Therapist working with a patient to complete a beaded bracelet, it may appear that we are making a beautiful craft and simply having a good time while we make a pretty accessory!

But, when an Occupational Therapist chooses to make a beaded bracelet…

THIS is what WE see!

1) Can the patient follow the directions to complete this task? Does it help if I provide them with a sample? Do I need to provide the directions one step at a time? Or do they need hand over hand assist?

2) Do they have the physical ability to manipulate small objects? Does it help if they are provided with larger beads?

3) Do they have the visual ability to see the lacing? Does it help if I darken the tip of the lace or does the whole lace need to be exchanged, darkened or thickened?

4) What is their frustration tolerance like? How do they handle it when the beads accidentally fall? Can they problem solve a way to secure the beads more effectively to the string?

5) What do they do when they are faced with not having enough supplies to complete the task? Do they ask for help?

6) How do they do with the sharing of the supplies? Are their social interactions with both staff and peers appropriate?

7) Are they able to attend to the task at hand or do they have trouble concentrating on the tasks completion? Does it help them to concentrate if environmental distractions are decreased?

8) Do they enjoy doing the task? Does the task help them to relax or give them a functional, purposeful way to structure their day? Is this a potential new hobby for them that might increase their life satisfaction?

Various interventions and techniques are applied throughout the craft to see what is most effective in helping the patient perform the task with the most independence and greatest success. And all the while, problem solving skills, leisure exploration, coping skills, social appropriateness, cognitive skills and self-esteem components are being observed and discussed as indicated.

See? And you thought we were just “making a bracelet”!

Hope that was enlightening, because there’s no way I could have said it any better. Wish me luck in these final two weeks. What a Christmas this will be!


”Looking Through the Eyes of an Occupational Therapist” was written by Brenda L. Cain, OTR, in December, 2010, and is reprinted with permission.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Our 2010 Christmas Photo Card

Normally every year we use Snapfish for our Christmas photo cards, but this year we made the switch to Shutterfly. They were offering a better discount, and just like Snapfish, Shutterfly has a wide variety of cards and formats. What’s convenient for me is I can also upload directly through Picasa, which is what I use to manage all my photos.
 
Below is a sample of our card we’ll be sending out this year to friends and family. The kids are way excited for Christmas this year, as you can tell, hugging and cheesing in front of the tree. I can’t wait to see these two little rascals come down the steps Christmas morning.
 
So, what photo service do you use? Give me comments!
Picture Joy Christmas
Shop Shutterfly for elegant custom Christmas photo cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Save TERRIERS TV Show - PetitionBuzz

I’m totally bummed! FX has announced it’s cancelling one of the best shows on TV. If you’re a fan of TERRIERS, follow the link below and add your name to the petition. Their goal is 10,000 names. I added mine. Add yours.

Save Terriers TV Show – PetitionBuzz


You can also join the Facebook group to SAVE TERRIERS.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Game of Thrones…Again

So can you tell I’m excited about this? Two consecutive posts with embedded videos to get us all primed for what promises to be one of the coolest and most epic television series, like, EVER.

In the clip below, from HBO’s own Web site, George R. R. Martin himself admits that “they got it right!” He explains that so far it’s as if the makers of the series pulled the images right from his own head, saying it’s like walking into one of his own dreams.

Check out the clip (1:31) to hear him, writers Weiss and Benioff, and actor Sean Bean share some of their thoughts on the upcoming “Game of Thrones.”

Does anyone know the tentative release date yet, by the way? All I can find so far online is “2011.”

Daenerys is looking rather good to me, too, gotta admit:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winter Is Coming

It’s December. One more month until the new year already! Let’s kick things off on ye olde blogspot with a little zoom zoom. GAME OF THRONES by George R.R. Martin is coming in 2011, and it’s the only reason I’ll be getting HBO again (which I canceled after ROME ended).

Whet your appetite with this sixty-second clip preview, courtesy of “Making Game of Thrones.
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Clip Preview

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Review: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

WarbreakerWarbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It took me nearly a month to finish WARBREAKER, mainly because it felt so tedious and none of the characters were very appealing until at least 280-300 pages into it. I'm wavering between two and three stars on this one, and for now I'm settling on two. Just way too much political set-up and info-dumping exposition, and not enough doing. The final 100 pages or so were excellent, with everything ramping to a head, but all of this happened too quickly compared to the rest of the book, and was just not enough to redeem the first 500+ pages I had to slog through.

My Rating: Two stars out of five. Sorry, Brandon. I still love you, man.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It all began with Secret Wars…

Marvel Super Heroes Secret WarsMarvel Super Heroes Secret Wars by Jim Shooter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was fourteen before I decided comics were cool. SECRET WARS #1 was the very first comic book I ever bought, and I became an avid comic book reader for the next fifteen years.

One sunny day in early June, 1984, being out of school for the summer, I walked to the local book store ready to spend a few hard-earned dollars on the latest GOR novel and that’s when it happened. I strolled by the magazine rack on my way to the sci fi/fantasy section of the Little Professor when a colorful cover illustrated by Mike Zeck jumped off the shelves at me. SECRET WARS #1. My gaze locked onto Captain America's howling face. Then I saw the Hulk leaping high, Spider-Man swinging in, Wolverine brandishing a pair of shining claws. Just too cool! It had never occurred to me that all those heroes might come together at once. I was impressed. It was even more unusual because I used to tease my younger brother about his comic books (he mainly collected LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES and G.I. JOE) and, as he "grew out of them," I was falling in love.

I stopped reading comics around 1999, a bit burned out by the business side of things (having been involved in comics since ‘89 or so). I just recently returned to reading graphic novels as my four-year-old son is way into super-heroes – he’s in the next room right now playing LEGO Batman on the 360. I gotta admit it's been fun catching up on the adventures of Batman, the X-Men, Daredevil, Wolvie, Catwoman, and more in the past year or so. It takes me back to being a boy, where it all started in the summer of ‘84 with a comic book featuring Marvel's greatest classic heroes, SECRET WARS! 

View all my reviews

(Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1)

Friday, November 12, 2010

I have officially seen the face of Crazy.

All this month—and next—my fieldwork takes place in a geriatric psych ward, so right now I’m dealing with behavioral health issues on a full-time basis. In the past two weeks I’ve seen depressed patients, patients with organic mood disorders, agitated patients, hallucinating patients, delusional patients, schizophrenic patients. Some are high-level as far as function goes. They’re conversational, cooperative, pleasant. Those are the ones that don’t stay very long, and they’re also the ones who help me maintain a positive outlook.

I’ve also had to deal with low-level people who are basically in a catatonic stupor, incontinent, unable to feed themselves, unable to convey their thoughts. They sit for hours at a table staring off into space, or sleeping, or fighting nurses who are trying to administer meds or change their diapers without getting kicked in the stomach or spit on.

Speaking of getting hit, we have some truly psychotic ones admitted at the moment. I had to help carry a naked woman around today, actually pick her up out of her chair in the activity room where she had removed her clothing, and lug her to the bathroom for a shower, which she probably hadn’t had in weeks. Of course, she was resisting and screaming the entire time, and I was doing my best to soothe her, making eye contact, displaying a sympathetic expression, speaking in low tones. I went to brush her hair out of her eyes and she tried to bite my hand. That’s the thanks I got. Not to mention she also tried to come on to me while three nurses were washing her (well, one was washing her, while the other two held down her arms).

It’s weird, though. As exhausting as it is, it’s also exciting.

My typical day might consist of trying to calm a panicking 95-year-old woman who can’t even tell me why she’s anxious, then talking with another woman who is smiling at me one second, then screaming at me to leave her alone the very next. During a co-led group session, I’ll talk with an old man who, by all accounts, seems normal as can be, except for the fact that he somehow works into the conversation that he’s been arguing lately with the Archangel Gabriel and when he called the angel a liar, the Virgin Mother gave him a spanking, and if she does it again he’s going to “go tell the Almighty and Mother Mary’s gonna get her own butt beat.” Later, after lunch, a 71-year-old woman calls me into the activity room and sweetly asks me to hand her a box of Kleenex, then tries to grab my arm and when I move away she throws the box at me and accuses me of fathering her child. She says she just peed all over herself while hissing a litany of curses, lifting her pillow off her lap to reveal she isn’t wearing pants, then throws her urine-soaked gown at me.

What a day, huh?

I’ve had clinical instruction in rehab and home health, as well. I haven’t decided yet if psych is for me. But I’m certainly not bored like I was in rehab. That’s definitely not for me. But psych? Well, considering all of the above, no small wonder that by the time I get home, I’m entirely depleted of all energy. I know I’m still learning the ropes and trying to take everything in. My CI (clinical instructor) has been urging me to put in my résumé. I might. But right now, at this very moment, all I can say is ‘Thank God it’s Friday.”

Saturday, November 6, 2010

An Update: Writing, Stuff

Through the rest of this year my writing progress will be slowing down some, not to mention my book reviews, as well as the frequency of my blog updates, I imagine. This past week I began an eight-week clinical rotation to finish up my education as an Occupational Therapy Assistant and I. Am. Exhausted.

Yeah, already. After just one week.

But taking in this much information and pulling ten-hour-days, bookended by a 45-minute drive through bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic both ways will do that to you. Especially when my optimal time of the day happens to be midnight to four a.m., but “a man’s gotta do…”

But some good news! I gave you a writing update almost two weeks ago and it included some recent info on the short story called “Blind Ambition.” Well, I sent off the first 500 words to a publisher shortly thereafter, and this morning I received a request for the FULL MANUSCRIPT!   I’m about to send the whole thing off in a few minutes and when I hear back (they said it will probably be a few weeks) I’ll post the news here first. I’m pretty excited, though, to have made it through the first round.

Otherwise, that’s about it. Oh, but I did just watch BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD, and wow! I loved it. The best animated Batman I’ve ever seen. When it was over my son just looked over at me and said, “Dad, that was awesome!”

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Chelonian Air

I made this little kid’s song up today as I was driving my son to school. If I was bold enough, I’d post a video of me singing it. But I’m not that bold. It’s called “A Chelonian Air.”

He has a chelonian air about him.
He moves real slow but, in truth, he moves quite well.
He has a chelonian air about him.
It may be due to his multi-patterned leatherback shell.
He has a chelonian air about him.
His skin’s so smooth and oh-so-leathery.
He has a chelonian air about him,
With nictitating eyes that protect him from the salt in the water of the sea.

My son enjoyed it, humming along through a mouthful of “Toy Story” gummies. Even if he had no clue what I was singing about.

In case you don’t either, I’m thinking the picture to the left’s a surefire clue.


”A Chelonian Air” is copyright © 2010 J.M. Martin. Yeah, me. All rights reserved, etc. Use only with permission (which means, let me know and I’ll ask you to link to me.")

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Writing Progress Update!

I’ve spent the last two evenings really cranking out some good stuff (yeah, if I do say so myself and all that). I’ve managed to finish two stories this past week, both set in the world of Khaladune—the same world as featured in my story “Tisarian’s Treasure,” which appeared in the Fantasist Enterprises anthology, SAILS & SORCERY.

The two stories:

  • “Blind Ambition” takes place beyond the northern fringes of a vast empire set on expansionism by any means. However, the appointed High Marshal happens to be struggling with his personal feelings about how to go about matters, especially since he’s tormented by a deep alcohol-induced depression stemming from his apparent exile from the Emperor’s side for reasons he doesn’t understand. This one runs a little over 5,200 5,400 words and is ready to be submitted after I hear back from one last beta reader, though I’m not opposed to a few more eyes looking at it if YOU want to be a beta reader. Gotta let me know quickly, though.
  • “A Jagged Line” is the other story, and one I’ve been working on for a while. It features best friends, one a knight with a holy sword, the other a gifted sorcerer-priest who has fallen deathly ill because of an ancient evil. The tale begins with the two men retreating into the wintry wilderness after they had to flee a besieged fortress, along with a company of bedraggled knights and soldiers. In the wilds of the untamed Forsaken Lands, they must uncover and confront the ancient evil or surely perish. This one’s a doozy, coming in at around 16,300 words. It has one beta reader left to comment, as well (hurry, Stephanie!), but has also been sent off this very evening to W.H. Horner for a professional editorial pass. I’m both anxious and excited to get his feedback.

Okay, going to sleep now. Leave a comment or something. I need some love.

Oh yeah, and I updated my blog. The link colors are driving me crazy, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to change that right now. I’ll keep working on it.


Read a sample of “Tisarian’s Treasure” here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Author’s Call for a Street Team: Lucienne Diver

Recording artists do it, movie makers do it, so why not writers? Lucienne Diver, author of the popular VAMPED series of young adult novels, has put out the call to gather a street team to promote her books throughout the nation.

What an excellent idea. When I finally roll out with some novels of my own, you can consider this concept swiped! Hit the link for more info about Lucienne, her Vamp series of books, and how you can become a member of her street team (she’s got swag!).

Lucienne’s call for a street team on her blog:  varkat.livejournal.com

 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Guest Blogger on Magical Words: Alethea Kontis

If you're a writer, published or aspiring, you have to read author Alethea Kontis's guest post at Magical Words. The clip below made me grin from ear-to-ear, but she has a lot of similarly great things to say. Go. Read!

Oh, and if you're not a writer, it's still an insightful read and will take you all of five minutes. Go, I said! Go, go, GO.

Once upon a time, authors wore magical capes and rode flying carpets and made enough money writing books to quit their jobs and buy castles in Ireland. Times have changed. We now all live in a world where a brainless chick from the Jersey Shore got a book deal.

Read more at magicalwords.net
Amplify’d from magicalwords.net

Friday, October 15, 2010

Writing by the seat of my pants...

I'm a self-professed pantser by admission.

pant⋅ser [pant-ser]

–noun
1. One who writes a novel by the seat of their pants, without an outline, character sheets, or any semblance of pre-planning.
2. Crazy person.

See also:  intelligent, witty, and downright sexy.

Read more at strugglingwriter.wordpress.com

I've never been one to follow outlines, much less make them before I start writing. I get an idea and I roll out. But, as it usually works out, my idea only has so much gas, and once I start to putter, I tend to stall. I can't tell you how many stories I've started that eventually ran out of juice, lingering now in a folder on my hard drive hoping that someday I'll return to find forgotten potential there and pick up where I left off (which I have been known to do).

I'm trying to find a happy middle ground between outliners and pantserdom, which is why I'm happy to have come across a "struggling writer's" blog called, of all things, "The Struggling Writer," where various concepts are introduced by a fellow pantser on how to plot/outline a story without actually outlining! You see, like the strugglingwriter, if my outline is too detailed, I actually feel constrained and eventually become frustrated and bored.

Lack of interest is my biggest momentum-killer. Writing by the seat of my pants is so much more exciting! Half the time when I sit down to spin a yarn, I have no idea where it will go or what the characters will do or say until my fingers start flying across the keys. It's fun. It's exciting. It's unexpected. And I never get bored.

But something needs to be said about the product it becomes, as I'm also a constant revisionist, and what I often turn out as a pantser lacks a certain coherency. Then I get frustrated by the underlying structure.

So... now I'm thinking about trying one of the methods presented at "The Struggling Writer." I specifically followed the link to PoorLittleNell.com and downloaded her Chapter Concept Statement Grid. For my next work, I'm going to use this as a loose outline and see how it works, if I stay on-task throughout, while maintaining form. If it works out as well as I hope it will, you'll be the first to know! Wish me good fortune!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Copper Age Webcomic: Hopeless

The first issue is called HOPELESS: PERSONAL DEMONS. I'm not sure how I came across this Webcomic by Tom and Nimue Brown, but I enjoyed reading it and thought I'd share. The word balloons and their placement can be confusing at times, but that’s easy to overlook, and it's especially fun to see how Tom's work progresses over time. If you look at the first few pages and then skip to the last few, there's a very nice maturity in the style and colors. The story is fun, too! They’re posting a page or two a week and up to page 68 or so, I believe. Go give it a read!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Progress Update: A Jagged Line

Whew! My story, “A Jagged Line,” began as a short story with another title and has grown to almost novella proportions. When I hit the 12,000-word mark I knew I was spinning a tale much larger than I’d planned. At 15,000, as I delved into the end-scene, it was really bugging the heck outta me. It took a while just to tackle that last climactic bit. I kept fixating on the word count. At that length, I knew I was limiting my options for submitting and, yes, that concerned me. Ultimately, however, I took a deep breath and did what was most important: FINISHED IT. I ambushed my favorite place to write (“Study Room A” at my local library), planted my BIC (“butt-in-chair”)*, and wrote. Then wrote some more. I never looked down to where Word displays the count. I just chugged my Sugar Free RockStar and finished that bad boy.

In the past two weeks, “A Jagged Line” weathered three editorial stages: a round of beta reading (thanks to John, Ken, and e-Wolfe!), a round of revision for tightening, and a red-pen-read-aloud just yesterday. It sits at the 16,225-word mark as of this afternoon, after I cut almost 800 words. All that’s left now, I think, is a professional edit, since I’m worried about a bunch of extraneous info still being in there because it’s based on a setting that has undergone intense worldbuilding for many years. But once through that, it’s off to submissions.

In the meantime, I’ve got more story ideas… or maybe I’m going to return to one of my other Works In Progress, I can’t decide yet. Either way I go, I’m gonna try to be less of a dang pantser! Gotta convince myself: outlines are our friends. And they’re not chiseled in stone, after all. It’s just that the “seat-of-my-pants” is pretty much my M.O. when it comes to writing… and to life, for that matter.

So, guess I’ll be seeing ya soon; although, I do have one last thing to post that’s completely unrelated:

Dear Hollywood Film Makers:

Please, please, please, for the love of God please, stop giving work to Katherine Heigl.

Sincerely,

The Rest of the World

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BIC (butt-in-chair): The mantra of the Magical Words writers’ group. Subscribing and reading their posts is likely the kick in the pants I needed to get back to some serious writing of late.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The War of Art | Steven Pressfield Online

Author Steven Pressfield (GATES OF FIRE) gives us an excerpt from THE WAR OF ART, a self-help book about stoking your own inner fire of creation and staying motivated to follow through with your life's true purpose. Though written primarily from a writer's perspective, the sentiment he conveys spans all walks of life and all purposes. I read this excerpt yesterday and it really struck me as something worth sharing.

We've all heard the phrase (often in science-fictiony circles), "Join the Resistance!" Pressfield has a different take. We must RESIST the Resistance. Go to the excerpt (hyperlink above), spend a few minutes soaking in these words of wisdom, and find out why.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Comic Review: Astonishing X-Men: Unstoppable by Joss Whedon

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 4: UnstoppableAstonishing X-Men Vol. 4: Unstoppable by Joss Whedon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great series. I just read all four volumes of Joss Whedon's and John Cassaday's ASTONISHING X-MEN this week and I can't remember the last run of comics I enjoyed this much. Brilliantly done! An excellent jumping-on point, too, if you've never read the X-Men (or comics in general). Even if you don't care for superhero comics, this is good. It's worth your time. It has great characters, awesome artwork, a wonderful ending... a total blast. 'Nuff said.

My rating: five stars (out of five)!

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1  Gifted  Astonishing X-Men Vol. 2  Dangerous  Astonishing X-Men Vol. 3  Torn  Astonishing X-Men Vol. 4  Unstoppable

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Comic Review: Astonishing X-Men: Gifted by Joss Whedon

Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1: GiftedAstonishing X-Men Vol. 1: Gifted by Joss Whedon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I haven't picked up an X-Men comic in a long time, unless you count the WOLVERINE ORIGINS: DEADPOOL graphic novel I reviewed recently; example, I had no idea that Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Emma Frost (the White Queen), were a couple. When did that happen? Nevertheless, in ASTONISHING X-MEN, it works. I love the interplay between Scott and Emma, with her love for Scott sullied by her bitterness of what he once shared with Jean Grey. I also like Kitty Pryde's overt mistrust of the White Queen owing to prior bad blood.

As a fan of both Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, I've been excited to read ASTONISHING X-MEN for quite a while. So far, through the first six issues in the "Gifted" trade paperback, I haven't been disappointed. Whedon's storyline is tight, his plot moves along at a great clip, and the dialogue has just the right amount of pith and wit (say "pith and wit" five times fast -- sorta fun, huh?). 

Cassaday's art is a real pleasure to soak in, too—he perfectly combines heroics, drama, emotion, and realism with his masterful artistic abilities. On that last bit, realism, I'm just not into every bulging vein and corded sinew popping through a hero's costume. Cassaday has a knack for making his heroes look both cool and real at the same time, and I love it. He's been one of my favorite comic artists going all the way back to DESPERADOES for this very reason.

The "Gifted" storyline centers around a mutant cure called Hope, and there’s also the threat of a secret alien invasion by a revenge-seeking extraterrestrial named Ord. The covert organizations of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Nick Fury!) and S.W.O.R.D. end up getting involved, and one of the more compelling parts of the story is Dr. Hank McCoy's (Beast, image right) personal struggle, for of all the mutants in the current team—Scott, Emma, Kitty, Logan (Wolverine), and let’s not forget Lockheed the Dragon (the alien, Ord, certainly won’t… you’ll see) – Hank is the one whose mutations are the most evident and unattractive, making this miracle cure a very ambiguous lure. I think this is enough of a teaser, so I won't spoil any more of this excellent series. If you haven't picked up an X-Men title lately, I recommend the ASTONISHING X-MEN. You can waltz right in, quickly get up to speed, and enjoy a quality comic series with "marvelous" art (pun intended!).

My rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
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Also check out these titles featuring John Cassaday's work:
Absolute Planetary, Planetary/Batman  Night on Earth, Desperadoes Omnibus

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Friday, October 1, 2010

A Writing Journal: Query Submission Contest!!

Author Bethany Ray is hosting a super fresh contest via her blog at “A Writing Journal,” where one lucky dog will be awarded a FULL MANUSCRIPT EDIT, as well as a permanent link and bio on her blog, and a $25 Amazon gift card to boot. Like I said, super fresh, huh?

Go to her Web site for contest rules about how you—yes, you!—can receive multiple entries in the contest. If you're not a writer or don't have a manuscript ready, fret not! Bethany says you can always gift this bad boy if you happen to pull out a win over Yours Truly.

That would be me.

Nicely. Check it out!
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Comic Review: Northlanders: Sven the Returned by Brian Wood

Northlanders Vol. 1: Sven The ReturnedNorthlanders Vol. 1: Sven The Returned by Brian Wood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As graphic novels go, NORTHLANDERS VOL. 1: SVEN THE RETURNED, was a bit of a letdown. The main thing is I never actually liked Sven "the Returned," so I really didn't care whether he lived, died, sailed off yonder, or got buggered sideways. He starts out as a miserable bastard and pretty much ends this arc as a miserable bastard, despite having achieved most of what he set out to do.

I reckon some of you who have been reading my reviews are starting to see a trend in my reviews, but if we don't identify (at least a little!) with the main character, doesn't it make it pretty darned difficult to enjoy what we're reading to the fullest? I feel like series author, Brian Wood, could have done more with a story that is ultimately anticlimactic, featuring characters who are ultimately irritating. I mean, he has this great setting and Vikings to write about and he just sorta gives a half-assed effort here.

Davide Gianfelice's art was good, albeit cartoony in places, especially the fight scenes, and some panels seemed rushed and too gritty; although, most of the grit was from the newsprint paper quality as it rubbed off on my hands. I understand DC cuts costs sometimes with lower selling books, but I have to wonder if Gianfelice's work would have been better served by a better paper stock--a roll of Cottonelle would have produced better quality color and ink retention!

I'm giving NORTHLANDERS VOL. 1 two stars, mainly because I like the general premise but I think Wood could have done more research and given a better effort. I understand the guy is a good writer in general (DMZ had a solid fan base), and he might have a plan to develop Sven more in the next story arc, who knows. I'll give NORTHLANDERS VOL. 2 a try, despite the second-rate quality in fairly every aspect of "Sven the Returned."

Two stars (out of five).
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After closing THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, I sat there for a minute trying to decide whether or not I liked it. I know I didn't love it, but in the Goodreads realm, was it a one-star effort ("didn't like it") or a three-star effort ("liked it")? I settled for two stars.

Here's why:

I should warn you that this review contains some spoilers.

Like some other Goodreads reviewers, I was intrigued by the introduction and the first 30 pages or so, but then the book started trying to do too much while supplying the reader with too little. I would have enjoyed less of Mary's inner woe-is-me musings--Mary being the protagonist and first person narrator--and more history, explanation, and character development. Midway through the book, I didn't like Mary at all, and three-quarters into it, I was convinced she was insane and completely self-absorbed (in fact, she was). So, it's hard to get behind a character like that and feel much sympathy, as most of the time Mary was the manufacturer of her own tragedy, zombies aside.

Author Carrie Ryan has created a world that is intriguing and raises a lot of questions which I think will impel readers to continue to the end, as I did, but unfortunately she provides very few answers. I was left with more questions than ever as I finished the final page and felt kind of perturbed. I think I might have even murmured, "What the hell?" as I snapped it shut.

Unsatisfactory ending aside, there are some other odd flaws worth mentioning. Sometimes the writing is quite good, but at other times it's ambiguous and fails to describe the action adequately. She would have entire conversations happen while it seemed other characters nearby were frozen in time. Often I wondered if the Unconsecrated (zombies) were present at all, until a few tossed-in words would place them nearby. An awkward phrase stood out to me at one point: "My breath came in pants..." and I read this a few times over, willing it to say "I panted..." so I wouldn't keep conjuring images of someone's actual breath wearing a pair of pleated dockers.

The situational mechanics were also sometimes confusing. For example, is it possible to make a rope out of dresses and gowns and other similar garments that is light enough to be shot across a significant span with a crossbow bolt and tied off, but then sturdy enough to pulley a barrel across that contained a girl and a dog (which I imagine weighed a total of, say, 215 lbs.)?

Another gaff that bothered me: The Sisterhood vehemently preached faith in God to the residents of the village, and Mary was forced to become rather familiar with reading the Scripture. So why did no one understand the meaning of Roman numerals? "XIV" and such was a type of mysterious marker throughout the novel. I suppose over time this form of numeric citation may have been lost, but it smacked just a little weak to me. I think it may have been more fitting if Ryan had used Hebrew numerals, which are certainly more cryptic.

In retrospect, I feel frustrated that THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH had so much to offer with its intriguing premise, but just didn't live up to its potential. Meghan on Goodreads gave it one star, Amber Kizer gave it four stars, and both of them raise other questions I had, but rather than repeat them, I suggest you read their reviews by visiting the book's Goodreads page and scrolling down.

I understand that Ryan's sequel, THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES, answers some of these questions. Since I was "grabbed" enough by THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH'S setting (despite the unlikeable protagonist), I've decided I'll skim a copy and determine if it's worth giving this series one more shot to win me over.

We shall see.

For now: Two stars (out of five).

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Comic Review: Wolverine: Origins Vol. 5 by Daniel Way

Wolverine: Origins, Vol. 5: DeadpoolWolverine: Origins, Vol. 5: Deadpool by Daniel Way
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This run of WOLVERINE: ORIGINS is a fun romp. It's hard to go wrong with the wild and wacky lunacy of Deadpool unleashed. Writer Daniel Way obviously had a chortle or two while writing this portion of the series, and I've been a fan of Steve Dillon's art since PREACHER. I've read some criticisms that Dillon's art doesn't fit the dynamic needs of a Wolverine title, but I think it's great. Where it may lack in background detail, it more than makes up for in character expression.

Worth the 30 minutes it takes to read. Just "good clean fun."

Here's a quick snippet:

DEADPOOL (TO A WOMAN HE'S PAID OFF TO DISTRACT WOLVERINE WITH HER PANICKED SCREAMS): ...you really sold it! Even I believed you and I KNEW it was all fake!

WOMAN: Really?

DEADPOOL (COUNTING OUT MONEY): Oh, yeah! Here, I'm gonna give you a little extra--go get a headshot done, okay?

WOMAN (MONEY IN HAND): You mean, like, for auditions? Wow, you really think I could do that?

DEADPOOL: Absolutely! Listen, I've heard it all: people begging for their lives, death howls... and that scream of yours ranked right up there with them.

WOMAN: "Death howls?"

DEADPOOL (POINTING AT WOMAN WITH PINKY FINGER SINCE WOLVERINE HAS CUT OFF ALL HIS OTHER FINGERS): Yeah! It's this noise that happens when people scream in pain right before they die. It's really strong at first but then it just kind of trails off--because there's not another breath behind it, you know?

WOMAN GAPES.

DEADPOOL (WOLVERINE IN BACKGROUND, EMERGING FROM A WALL OF FLAMES): Hey! That's good, too! "Mortal terror," right? You nailed it!

WOMAN RUNS AWAY.

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Almost four stars, but the ending was a little contrived.  Also, I enjoyed the reprint of issues #21-25 (encompassing the Deadpool arc) much more than issues #26-27, which featured the art of Stephen Segovia and “The Son of X” rather than Deadpool.

My rating: 3.25 stars (out of 5).

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(Wolverine Origins #24 cover art)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Review: London, 1850 (Vampire Plagues) by Sebastian Rook

London, 1850 (The Vampire Plagues I)London, 1850 by Sebastian Rook
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The cover (I dig sailing ships) and premise (I dig vampires) attracted me to LONDON, 1850, but once I was about 50 pages into it I realized that, well, this book was just sorta ho-hum. It dragged throughout, with just one scene that stayed with me well after I had turned the next page (which I won't reveal for spoiler reasons). The characters of Jack, Ben, and Emily are all lacking complexity and, Sir Donald, the antagonist is unimposing and predictable. In fact, the entire story is formulaic. It's as if the author, Sebastian Rook (a pen name), was following a strict outline handed down from the publisher and was nearly as bored writing this as I was reading it. There was no real sense of drama, no sense of danger, the prose was vapid, the dialog was meh, events just sort of fell neatly into place, and how three kids can fend off hordes of vampires by wielding roses and stabbing the vamps with the thorns is beyond me (the author doesn't bother explaining the details either).

Maybe I expect too much, as this series is intended for the 11-14 year old demographic, but I don't aim to read the other books in "The Vampire Plagues" series. Perhaps they get better, as I believe there are six issues in total and even a boxed set, but one's enough for me. I've got better things to read.

Two stars (out of five). Actually this was 1.5 stars, but I rounded up, as I can't say I hated it—it was just a very predictable, mediocre tale.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Getting Published is Not a Crap Shoot

Fantasy author Victoria Strauss blogged about a topic yesterday that crosses my mind often. She touched upon the competitive field of speculative fiction writing, specifically pertaining to how those hopefuls who have yet to get published groan about how landing an agent or publisher is pretty much a crap shoot. Strauss disagrees, and in her blog at Writer Beware she explains why.

Though I've been published, I've not crossed the threshold of querying an agent or submitting a full manuscript. I'm sure part of it is fear of rejection, even though I know my writing is good--and not just "good" but "publishable good."

If you're like me and have aspirations of getting a full length novel published, Strauss' blog is worth a few minutes of your time. Give it a quick read. And if you feel like leaving a comment here afterward, I'd love your input.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. Just one book. Just one fricking book and I can already label Patrick Rothfuss as a master wordweaver/worldbuilder. In THE NAME OF THE WIND, the narrator, Kvothe, is a simple barkeep at first glance, who tells his own story in the presence of the Chronicler and Bast, a fae servant to some obscure degree. His story starts nearly at the beginning of his life and he tells it fluidly, with perfect recollection, despite the occasional interruption, as you see, the book transports the reader back and forth between the tale Kvothe is telling and the events unfolding in the present, dire and foreboding events concerning the return of dark times.

One reviewer compared THE NAME OF THE WIND to Harry Potter, but Rothfuss is spinning a yarn deeper and more intricate than that of J.K. Rowling's Potterverse. I'm not sure what I was expecting, to be honest, but Rothfuss delivers something inventive, original, and rather unforeseen. This book is intelligently written. The overall voice is strong and certain. The main character, Kvothe, is clever, precocious, mysterious, likable one moment, feared the next--a deep protagonist who can certainly carry this trilogy.

My only complaint is it felt a bit redundant throughout, and got a little bogged down in the middle. I often felt like I was waiting for something to happen, and waiting. And waiting. I came away from THE NAME OF THE WIND feeling like I'd just read 700 pages of, basically, build-up to something much bigger; which, in fact, is the truth. I have a feeling that the proverbial sh*t is really going to hit the fan in book two of the Kingkiller Chronicle. And I plan to be there. Because for 700 pages of "build-up," it was STILL that damn good.

So, hurry up, Pat!

Four out of five stars.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book Review: Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by Peter B. Ellis

Dictionary of Celtic Mythology (Oxford Paperback Reference)Dictionary of Celtic Mythology by Peter Berresford Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For such a small volume, the DICTIONARY OF CELTIC MYTHOLOGY by Peter Beresford Ellis is incredibly thorough and an excellent starting point for further research into topics of Celtic mythology, sagas, and tales.

Here's a random entry from a page I have bookmarked (so you can get a feel for the book):

Scenmed. [I] Sister of Forgall Manach. Following his death, when Cúchulainn eloped with Forgall's daughter, Emer, Scenmed raised an army and followed the Ulster champion to exact vengeance. Cúchulainn defeated and slew her.

Have you heard of Scenmed? No? Well then, the book has already proven valuable. Thank you, Mr. Ellis, for taking the time.

This is one of those research books I pick up time and again, either for research or for inspirado. As a writer, I can open up this volume and take a small entry such as the one above about poor Scenmed and begin to conceive a plot. Very helpful resource to have on my bookshelf. And I got this handy tome used for just five bones. It was five bones well spent.

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Four out of five stars. Conceivably 4.5 stars.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Fantasy Sports: “Are you ready for some fooootball?”

I’m in a 12-team fantasy football league that started back in 1995. I’d like to think I’m fairly competitive (my record since 2001, when CBS Sports began archiving the standings, is 83-64). Last season I made it to our Super Bowl, but this year I nearly forgot about the draft! Thankfully, Joe Pruett, a fellow leaguer, called me. I think his opening words were, “Hey, dumbass, you’re on the clock.”

So, here’s the result of my picks (I drafted seventh):

  1. Ray Rice (RB, Baltimore)
  2. DeAngelo Williams (RB, Carolina)
  3. Roddy White (WR, Atlanta)
  4. Chad Ochocinco (WR, Cincinnati)
  5. Brandon Jacobs (RB, New York Giants)
  6. Pierre Garcon (WR, Indianapolis)
  7. Brett Favre (QB, Minnesota)
  8. Tony Gonzalez (TE, Atlanta)
  9. Bernard Berrian (WR, Minnesota)
  10. Bengals Defense (DST, Cincinnati)
  11. Matt Cassel (QB, Kansas City)
  12. Sidney Rice (WR, Minnesota)
  13. Leon Washington (RB, Seattle)
  14. Jeremy Shockey (TE, New Orleans)
  15. Adam Vinatieri (PK, Indianapolis)

Like I said, I nearly missed my draft so, lacking research, I relied heavily on two things: the site’s 2010 projections, and feedback from Joe, who I kept on the phone with me the entire 90 minutes of our draft. In fact, I have to give him the credit (or the blame) for Brett Favre in round eight (thin picking there—I was debating between Alex Smith and Matt Cassel, to which Joe said something akin to, “I’m not a Smith fan. And why would you take an unproven guy over a veteran and future Hall of Famer?”) and for Leon Washington in round #13 as my back up and a sleeper pick. I’m hoping he becomes an integral part of the Seahawks’ offense. The guy has great hands, makes defenders look silly, and averages well over 4 yards per carry. Good potential as a #2 RB if he can tote the rock 15-20 times a game.

(I love to articulate in Sportspeak when I’m blabbing about football. ‘Tote the rock.’ Heh-heh.)

I’m happy with my backs. I’m not a Baltimore fan since they’re divisional rivals to my home team, but Ray Rice is a big time stud and averaging pick #4 overall in CBS drafts -- I got him at #7. DeAngelo Williams is going 12th overall and I got him at #18. I’m thinking that puts me ahead of the game. And Brandon Jacobs, my third RB, will grind out lots of 3rd down and goal line carries for some luscious touchdowns.

There was a run on quarterbacks early, so I waited on taking mine until later in the draft. I'm putting my faith in Favre, who’s been going around #74 and I managed to get him with the 90th pick. I’m really hoping Bernard Berrian becomes his go-to option. I took a late flyer on Sidney Rice (pick #138 for me, who would have been a Top 15 WR if healthy) and I can stick his butt (and the rest of him) in my free Injured Reserve slot until his return. I think Berrian will see lots of throws his way with Rice out (and with Percy Harvin susceptible to those sporadic migraines). Taking them at ninth and twelfth was worth the gamble. I think Rice will give me a great second half surge at WR, since he’s projected to return around Week 7.

It seems every year I go into the season with a so-so receiving corps. This year, I’m feeling a little more confident with Roddy White and Chad Ochocinco as my one-two tandem (last year my first two picks were Larry Fitzgerald and Eddie Royal—one of those worked out for me at least), as both are projected as WRs to get 1,000 yards-plus. Our league awards for yardage as well as TDs, so they *should* give me some explosive games. Pierre Garcon lines up as the #2 wideout to Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis, and with Garcon’s sure hands and good route running for Peyton Manning, I think he’ll see a lot of single coverage opportunities. Because of this I think the guy has a legit shot at 1,000 yards, as well. If I have three WRs who eclipse 1,000 yards and 7+ TDs each, this league is mine. Garcon’s a great value for a 3rd WR (yep, we start three).

I seem to end up with Tony Gonzalez at TE every season, and he rarely disappoints. The guy will be Matty Ryan’s go-to in Atlanta and I reckon I have the top two options for the Falcons tied up; when Atlanta scores, a lot of those will either be in White’s or Gonzalez’s big fricking hands.

Marvin Lewis and his defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer have the Bengals defense primed, and they were near the top of the NFL in positive turnovers last season. I can see that happening again, especially now that the corner duos of Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall have had another season together and injured DE Antwan Odom has returned to the team. Acquiring former Jaguars first-rounder Reggie Nelson at safety will help the team since Gibril Wilson’s injury, but who I’m hoping to see really step up in his second season is LOLB Rey Maualuga, who’s primed for a breakout season (as long as he can stay sober). Ninety-plus tackles and four or five sacks is not out of the question for this beast, especially if he moves to the MLB position in the 4-3 defensive sets, which Zimmer will use often to stuff the run. Zimmer has also reported he plans to blitz more in 2010, a lot more.

Then there’s Adam Vinatieri, my place kicker. Not a whole lot to say. He’s a former #1 PK. He’s in Indy. He’ll be kicking at least half of his games indoors. Gotta like that. And I do.

Jeremy Shockey is another sleeper pick. He’s not the player he once was, that’s for sure, but Drew Brees is a Pro Bowl caliber QB who likes to air it out, and if Shockey can stay healthy, he’ll put up respectable if not consistent numbers. Heck, I’m mainly thinking he’s a BYE week replacement anyway… or trade bait, as he does have a little name value still. Which reminds me, I need to review the other teams in our league and see who might be weak at TE.

Preseason trade anyone?

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What’s your analysis of my team? How did I draft? How will the Saskatoon Sea Wolves fare this season? Let me know. Leave a comment!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Book Review: Shadow’s Son by Jon Sprunk

Shadow's SonShadow's Son by Jon Sprunk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

SHADOW'S SON by new author Jon Sprunk is written in a fast-paced, take-no-prisoners style that, at least to me, evokes a feeling that reminds me of the popular video game, "Assassin's Creed." Not a bad thing! Like the game, SHADOW'S SON is a thrill ride from page one and doesn't let up.

The tale centers around Caim, an angst-ridden, dual knife-wielding contract killer, and Josephine, a pampered nobleman's daughter who shows more fire and mettle than expected. There's also Kit, a third protagonist of sorts, in the form of a mysterious fey spirit who only Caim can see and talk to. Sprunk does a dynamic job with developing the first two mentioned, while holding back in development of Kit; though I'm certain we'll find out more about her in the next book.

The villains in SHADOW'S SON are fairly typical bad guys who pretty much lack all scruples from the onset, and deliver no real surprises. Levictus is the most interesting of the villainous trio (Ral and Markus being the other two), as he's some sort of shadowmancer/assassin type and very creepy.

The storyline is fairly straightforward. This is a roving, romping adventure tale rather than a meandering, convoluted plot line. So, no huge surprises here, either. Sprunk's descriptors and dialogue are excellent, and he can definitely turn a phrase and give just the right amount of explanation to make the reader "see" just what he wants them to. In this way, I'd also compare SHADOW'S SON to a Jerry Bruckheimer/Disney type fantasy epic a la “Pirates of the Carribbean” and/or “Prince of Persia.”

Sprunk paints a vivid picture of his world in what I'd call a "primer" format, as the book clocks in at 278 pages, rather than in the epic novel format so popular these days of 500+ pages. And, unlike the immersive cosmographic efforts of talespinners like Brandon Sanderson, George R.R. Martin, or Patrick Rothfuss, Sprunk hands over to his readers a sample spoon of his worldbuilding to tantalize the appetite rather than whet it completely. SHADOW'S SON is more like the works of, say, David Gemmell or Joe Abercrombie. Not to say fans of the aforementioned authors wouldn't like this book, as all the authors I've mentioned are my favorites, so I'm giving Sprunk a big ol' compliment and an "atta boy!" I look forward to more, as Sprunk shows us a lot of promise in this debut novel of his. I'm hoping this is the beginning of a long and impressive career.

A high three stars (3.75) has me rounding up to FOUR. Definitely recommended.

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Book Review: Storm Thief by Chris Wooding

Storm ThiefStorm Thief by Chris Wooding
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I feel it necessary to preface my thoughts on STORM THIEF for some reason by saying I'm a fan of Chris Wooding's. I especially love his "Braided Path" trilogy*, which I feel can sit on the shelf right next to Sanderson's "Mistborn" trilogy (and on my shelf, it does) because as far as quality of writing and depth of character it's right there.

That said, however, STORM THIEF feels like it was "phoned in," if you get my meaning. It lacks depth. It lacks passion. The only thing it doesn't lack is Wooding's eloquent descriptions of people, places, and things. Otherwise, it feels like Wooding is sort of going through the motions. It's as if he got this cool idea for this isolated dystopian city, forgotten by the world, powered by something called a Chaos Engine, which unleashes random "probability storms" from a place called the Fulcrum, all of it created by long-dead mysterious ancestors called the Faded. Yeah, see? The premise is cool; yet, I could never feel anything for the characters. They were all, villains and heroes alike, self-absorbed, whiny, annoying bores, especially Rail (who graces the cover). Not to mention, everything is so bloody ambiguous. The whole story is ambiguous. It even ends ambiguously, with the phrase "Anything was possible," which I suppose ties into the ideas of probability, something Wooding promotes throughout the book. Instead, it just comes across to me as altogether noncommittal.

There's just not much else to say about STORM THIEF. I didn't hate it. It wasn't the worst thing I've read. But I was disappointed in Wooding's effort on this one, and I can't recommend it to anybody. However, I can and DO recommend the "Braided Path" trilogy, and even POISON, both of which are far more fun, fascinating, and fervent than STORM THIEF.

Sorry, Chris. Two out of five stars.

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As an afterthought, I want to add that I enjoyed the character of Vago, up until he was conditioned by the Protectorate. He was the only character I really cared about and I would have liked to go through his re-conditioning process with him to understand the depth of his dual nature better. It would have made his wavering allegiance so much more dramatic and powerful, especially during the book's climactic end scenes.

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* If you can get it, the collected "Braided Path" is available in a weighty Omnibus Edition.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

I Just Can't Decide...

Do I like Rhett? Or do I like Link? Easily these are two of the most creative, wittiest, and personable viral-celebs out there in YouTube-dom. I never cease to be entertained by these fellas. The only negative thing I have to say is I end up spending way too much time watching their videos instead of getting shit done.

Amplify’d from rhettandlink.com
 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Review: Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum

Zombie Haiku: Good Poetry for Your...BrainsZombie Haiku: Good Poetry for Your...Brains by Ryan Mecum
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bought this from the author at a local signing. Couldn't have been a nicer guy, and the composition of ZOMBIE HAIKU is very fun and creative. It's a quick read, but definitely worth adding to your zombies shelf.

Click the Goodreads link for more information. 

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Film Buzz: Separated at Birth?

I saw this trailer today for a film called UNTHINKABLE (out now on DVD, I do believe) starring Samuel L. Jackson and Carrie-Ann Moss, and then I was like, “Whoa! Check out Simon Pegg.” But then it shows credits in the trailer, which sent me directly to IMDB.com. So, now I bring to you tonight’s edition of “Separated at Birth.”

That’s actor Michael Sheen (Underworld, 30 Rock) in UNTHINKABLE, not Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Star Trek), who happens to be one of my all-time favorites, as well as my instance choice for the lead role in A DIRTY JOB by Christopher Moore, if they ever get around to making a film (hint, hint, to all you producers and directors reading my blog, as I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of you).

I haven’t seen UNTHINKABLE, by the way, only the trailer. Just in case you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, here’s the trailer (1:14), courtesy of Metacafe: