Friday, December 25, 2015

Review: Beloved

BelovedBeloved by Toni Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beloved is the kind of book that demands re-reading, but it's so maddening to get through once that you won't want to pick it up again. The scenes of slavery are probably the harshest I've ever read, and the unconventional approach to story-telling, which melds reality with magical realism, creates a story that is weaving and glorious at times, and obfuscating and frustrating at others. It's certainly masterfully written.

But here's my problem with it. Its structure could be a little smoother. Yes, everything unwinds itself eventually, and yes, it does all make sense in the end, but there are some telly moments that kind of feel like an info dump. I think I would have enjoyed it a little more if some of the plot remained a bit more hidden and the reader had to make their own interpretation, but oh well. Either way, this is a masterpiece. Showing slavery in a fierce and metaphysical way was a gamble, but it paid off. It's no wonder Morrison won the Pulitzer, and later the Nobel prize for this book.

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Why The New Star Wars is Kind of Like Creed, But Not As Good (No Spoilers)

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It's Sunday, and by now, you've likely already watched the new Star Wars movie. And if you haven't, then you're probably in a cineplex watching it right now. If you're the latter, read this later. If you're the former, read this now. There are no spoilers either way, so you don't have to worry if you're in the third group that might be seeing it next week.

Now, while I know everybody LOVES this new movie, I feel kind of cold to it. It's not that it's bad. It's just that it's recycled meat. I wanted a Harold's sandwich, and I got Subway instead. It has several callbacks to the original trilogy, but most of it is just fan service. And that's okay. I don't have a problem with a film that rests on its own laurels. If any franchise deserves it, it's Star Wars, especially after the last abysmal trilogy. I'll compare it to Street Fighter III. Now, stay with me for a moment. After Street Fighter II, people wanted the next evolution of the series. But then, no, they realized they didn't, since SF III introduced brand new characters and was totally different from its predecessor. Where was Guile? Where was Blanka? M. Bison? Nowhere to be seen. In many ways, it was viewed as interesting but a failure at the same time that didn't grip the mainstream audience as much as it could have. Street Fighter IV, on the other hand, was seen as a return to form. All of your favorite World Warriors were brought back to the fight, and everything seemed back on track, even if it was really just SF 2 with a new coat of paint. Now, I'm not saying that Street Fighter III is comparable to the prequels. God no. I actually LOVE SF 3 and consider it my favorite Street Fighter. But it was something different when people really just wanted more of the same. And that's what Episode VII is. More of the same. That's not to say that's a bad thing. But it's been done before, and the film is more just simpering fan service than anything else. It's for all the scorned fans out there who wanted to love Star Wars again. This film was for them. All the rest, well, you're welcome as well. The Mouse House doesn't discriminate.

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But there was another movie this year that also recycled from its past, but this time, to great effect. Creed, in every way, plucked and pulled the best elements of Rocky and sprinkled them all throughout the recent Creed. But here's the difference between Creed and Episode VII, and why the former was fantastic and the latter was lacking. Creed recognizes the past and adds it into the story, but it doesn't circle the entire plot around it. It's there, and it's relevant, but it's more for thematic purposes (Rocky is still fighting. It's just cancer this time), rather than for the audience to clap and whistle everytime something nostalgic graces the screen.

In every way, it seems like Episode VII was a mea culpa to the fans and a suggestion that we're turning this ship around. It also felt like it was just building toward more films, while Creed stood tall on its own and felt fresh, even though it really wasn't fresh at all. Creed had heart, and The Force Awakens felt devoid of heart. Sure, there's hope, and a more apt subheader for this film would have been "Another New Hope." But it's really just a film for the fans, and nothing more. Creed was a genuinely good story that tugged at the heart strings, and for the next SW, I want more Creed and less The Force Awakens. Hopefully, they make that happen.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Review: Bushido: The Soul of Japan

Bushido: The Soul of Japan. A Classic Essay on Samurai EthicsBushido: The Soul of Japan. A Classic Essay on Samurai Ethics by Inazo Nitobe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are times when Bushido: The Soul of Japan is almost poetic. But I think that's more the subject matter rather than the actual writing, since the actual writing verges on being pedantic at times. Seriously, I had to read certain lines three or four times just to get the gist of what he was saying, which felt totally unnecessary. Mr. Nitobe was a man who must have loved to hear himself talk. But I guess that's just how people wrote back in 1900, which is when the book was published. Predating both World Wars, the idea and conscience of Bushido probably seemed much more alive back then that it does today. Still, this acts as a sort of winsome time capsule of the better times. It also acts as a nice companion to any of the James Clavell samurai novels, which I'm sure Clavell pulled a great deal from this book.

But there is a bit of a discrepancy in that the author was a devout Christian, and some of the beliefs of Shintoism don't align with that of the author's, so it doesn't feel as entirely authentic as it might have. Even so, there are certain aspects of this, like the talk of seppuku and the sword that are fascinating, and others not so much. It's a relatively short book with a lot of depth. All in all, it was okay.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review: Omerta

OmertaOmerta by Mario Puzo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Was Mario Puzo a great writer? I don't know if I'd go that far. Some of his figurative language came off as sophomoric and his sex scenes left much to be desired. But was he an effective writer? Absolutely. You could blow through these books in a few days (a few hours!) if you wanted to, which is the sign of any effective writer.

This story features a character named Astorre Viola who is similar to Michael Corleone in that he is reluctant to get involved in a world of crime. But once the murder of someone he admires occurs, Astorre sets off to action since he believes in Omerta, which is the code of the Mafia. He must seek revenge. But being the calm character that he is, his revenge is more calculated, which leads to some interesting developments. I'd be lying if I said I didn't prefer the lack of action to action, since the violence is a little cartoony. This is not really a problem Puzo had in The Godfather, but he had it here. It just seems like the great set-up he made in establishing the plot was diminished when the action started to occur. It almost feels as if it was written by a different author.

There are also too many characters. Yes, you can keep track of all of them, but some of them feel a lot less necessary than others. Even so, as I mentioned earlier, Puzo was an effective writer, and I never felt bored with the book, even though there was a bit too much backtracking. It's a fairly enjoyable book and it doesn't leave a bad taste in your mouth. Though, now that I've finished it, my appreciation of it is already starting to wane. It's not The Godfather, but it's a fine novel to read on a plane ride.

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: Library of Souls

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, #3)Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, yeah. Now I rememeber why I liked these characters. After the lackluster second book, I kind of thought that the series hit its apex with the first book, but this third title hits most of the right notes. Sure, it has its problems - you're kind of stuck with two of the most uninteresting peculiar children for a majority of the book, some locations wear out their welcome sooner than appreciated - but the plot chugs along nicely, and the conclusion is satisfying and complete.

I'm also glad the author kept this to being a trilogy rather than dragging the series out. It all works in an elegant way and I'm glad I read the series. Don't worry about the second book. The third book makes it all worth it.

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Review: The Watchmage of Old New York

The Watchmage of Old New York (The Watchmage Chronicles Book 1)The Watchmage of Old New York by C.A. Sanders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I usually hate fantasy, but I love this book. It's because of the characters and plot. They're legit! I'm sure there are other fantasy mysteries out there (This is more fantasy than mystery), but this is the one I've read and I'm pleasantly surprised.

The story, which takes place in old New York, features a father and son on the hunt for a missing baby. What happened to the baby? What are its deeper connections to the supernatural world? All unfolds at a steady clip, and the final answer is quite the twist. I didn't see it coming.

Now, there are a LOT of fantastic elements in this book, and usually, that's a deal-breaker for me. I don't like trolls or pixies or flying animals. I find the genre annoying. But I didn't find this book annoying. It's because the characters, Nathaniel (the father) and Jonas (the son) ground the narrative. Nathaniel, who is the magician, reminds me somewhat of Dr. Strange, which is pretty much the only magician I'm really into in comic lore. His desire to protect his son at all costs is what really cements the story for me. And what's great is that you get both perspectives, so you see it through two different eyes. And the scenery is amazing. I never thought I wanted to read about old New York until I read this story, but now that I have, I want to travel back to this world. It reminds me somewhat of the game, Dishonored. It just has that feel to it.

In the end, I highly recommend this book. It's a tad bit longer than it needs to be, but the ending is satisfying and it's worth the read. Looking forward to more.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: Sister Carrie

Sister CarrieSister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sister Carrie is a really good, if not deeply flawed, novel. I call it deeply flawed since it might as well be called Sister Carrie, Featuring (I won't spoil who it is, but it might as well carry his name, too. Kind of like a rap single in the 90s featuring some R&B singer who practically carries the whole song). This other character steals the show later in the book, leaving Carrie to almost be like a background character in her own story. It's not that I didn't like this change of pace, as I did. It's a story that moves because it has so much to say with the characters it employs. But in doing so, I feel like something is missing here. It just didn't feel complete by the time I reached the final page.

That said, it's a pretty spectacular story, if not a tad bit long (It doesn't really pick up until the half way point at page 200). Even so, it kept me engaged, so that's saying something. A good, classic book. Though, I wouldn't say it's for everyone.

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Review: The Fall

The FallThe Fall by Albert Camus
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More a lesson on Camus' contribution to existentialism than an actual story, The Fall is about a man who realizes how absurd existence is, and he has a fall from his higher position because of it. The thing is, unlike other books by lesser authors, the protagonist in this book doesn't feel constrained or defeated because of his fall. He actually feels slightly liberated.

At first, the story is annoying since the protagonist spends all his time talking about how great he is, and why he felt more intelligent than everybody else. But in the end, you realize how important all that truly was so you can understand how the events that happen lead to his eventual fall. It's certainly not what you're thinking (I thought he had murdered someone or something). It's a highly perplexing book, and one that takes much thought once you wrap your head around its philosophies. I would give it a higher score, but I usually prefer a true narrative to philosophy disguised as narrative. Even so, I read it in one sitting, so that's saying something.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Review: The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Okay. The Martian is a great book. A towering achievement in realistic science fiction. It's just not for me. The part that bored me was the actual science . It was interesting in the beginning, but after awhile, even I had to admit to myself that I really didn't care about the science and math. I just wanted to get more to the danger. Is it any wonder that the parts I looked most forward to were when we weren't with the protagonist and were instead with his crew and the people at NASA?

That being said, I can understand the love for this book, especially from males who don't normally read. This might be a newsflash to you, but lots of men do not read fiction. They think it's boring and a waste of time. But give them a book that seems like it MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN, and they lap it up like cake frosting. It's the novel for people who don't like fiction!

Actually, that's not entirely true, because at its heart, its a story about survival and perseverance, and who doesn't love that?

So, yeah, it's a great book and all. It's just not MY kind of book. If that makes any sense. Read it if planting potatoes on alien soil sounds interesting to you.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

On releasing free books on Amazon

Well, I've released my third free story of the summer. This one is a doozy. It's a full novel and it's called, The Interdimensional Subwoofer: A dimension hopping, time traveling, science fiction novel. Why release it for free? Especially when it took two years of my life to write? Well, it's to find an audience, which is something that has eluded me ever since I started pumping books out. I read a short book called, Reader Magnets (Also free), which talks about all the benefits of putting out free books, mainly in getting people to sign up to your mailing list.

So far, it hasn't worked. I put out two short stories, Clean Hands, and Q: Are We Not Human? A: We Are Corpses!, which have been downloaded thousands of times but have only gotten me 20 subscribers, and haven't gotten many reviews. But this is an actual novel, and hopefully will show up on more people's recommended screen. In the end, I guess I'm just saying the same thing that any struggling artist says these days: The struggle is real.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Deleted Preface to new short story, A Father's Fears

My short story, A Father's Fears, will be out soon. But in the meantime, here is a chapter I have since eliminated from the book. I hope you dig it.


Lord Imagination sauntered through the room of dreams with his hands clasped behind his back. The colors around him drifted like the liquid in a lava lamp. These colors were mankind’s dreams.

This was always his favorite room in the skyscraper. From the inception of human consciousness, mankind has always dreamed. Over the years, this room has changed in a multitude of ways. The dreams have become brighter and more elaborate with the passing of time, and now, the wavy lines snap about like bullet trains. In simpler times, the multicolored strips would trail across Lord Imagination’s vision slowly like currents in a lazy river. He didn’t even have to squint to see what individuals were dreaming about. Hell, if he wanted to, he could even dip his hands into the strips to provide his own images. This wasn’t, of course, the same thing as altering dreams to inspire a specific result. He would need Lord Instinct to do that. Lord Imagination still occasionally thought about that one time he had to surf the currents of dreams to locate Instinct’s soul after a mishap had occurred. It had been like wading through knee-high mud with the wind constantly pushing him back. He never wanted to endure that again.

But he did want to have some fun. And later today, a man in the outside world named Jeff Haunt was going to go on an adventure. What humored Imagination was that Jeff Haunt had no idea that his life would be changed forever in only a few hours time. Neither did his wife, Marigold, who slept right beside him in bed.

Lord Imagination searched the strips to find Jeff Haunt’s dreams. When he located them, he plunged his arms deep into the yellow tide. He swirled his hands around and moved events to suit his liking. It wouldn’t inspire Jeff Haunt to do anything when he woke up, but it would fill him with doubt and uncertainty. Like a great sculptor admiring her achievement, Lord Imagination grinned at his creations. The weaver of dreams could do no wrong.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Review: The Tenants

The TenantsThe Tenants by Bernard Malamud
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Basically, a book that makes you hate and distrust black people even more than you already do. It's hard to find a book written in the past (Hell, it's difficult to find now) where a black character is admirable unless he's a slave and telling Huck Honey to get back on the boat. Most black characters are seen as vicious, untrustworthy individuals (who don't talk in complete sentences), and Malamud continued with that tradition. The only book I can really think of that had a redeemable, respectable black character was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and that character was a doctor juxtaposed with other black characters who loathed him for being so different. It was an interesting character study to say the least, and it was refreshing to read.

But I digress.

Why the four stars for this book that I clearly found offensive? Well, because it's good. The characters, though unlikable, are clear and three-dimensional, and the story is told in a meta fashion, which impresses the writer in me. The story concerns two tenants, a Jewish man and a black man (Though one only pays the rent. Guess which one), who are both writers. The black man feels he has to write about the black experience, sort of like Richard Wright. But the problem is, he isn't disciplined like the Jewish writer. The moment he receives even the slightest bit of criticism, he gets upset and does something stupid. It's infuriating to see such a bum of a character, even though he works hard at his craft. The situation is exacerbated when he does a heinous act after the Jewish character kind of oversteps his bounds with the black man's girlfriend (Though, an argument could be made that the black man was in the fault for not treating his girlfriend right in the first place).

Overall, it's a quick read and an interesting book told in a fascinating fashion. Do I like how blacks were portrayed in this book, which was published back in the 70s? No. There is not one redeemable thing about them. But as a black writer, I guess it's my job to write minority characters who are actually worthy of praise. I just won't go overboard with it. That's how you DON'T write three-dimensional characters.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review: Tim and Eric's Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps to Achieve a Perfect Life

Tim and Eric's Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps to Achieve a Perfect LifeTim and Eric's Zone Theory: 7 Easy Steps to Achieve a Perfect Life by Tim Heidecker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't know how many times I've thought this, but I'll think it again. Why am I a fan of Tim and Eric? After watching Tom Goes to the Mayor, Awesome Show, Bedtime Stories, Check It Out With Dr. Steve Brule (, Billion Dollar Movie, and their live show, I think the only thing out of that list I truly enjoyed was Awesome Show (And mostly only season one). Oh, and their Chrimbus Special, which is how I got into them in the first place. So why do I keep watching and buying their stuff if they have such a hit-or-miss (Mostly miss) record with me? I don't know, but after reading Zone Theory in its entirety, I think I've found yet another strike out.

The problem is the writing. It's not that it's bad, it's just that it's so repetitive, especially if you've seen their other stuff. How many times are these guys going to talk about spaghetti? I mean, jeez. This is the kind of book that is funnier when you just flip through the pages at the store and are assaulted by a picture of question mark shaped penises, or the weird, distorted faces of people throughout the book. I get what they were going for here with the cult-religion stuff, and it's funny for the first few pages. But after awhile, it grows tiresome, and you probably got all you needed out of it from the amazing promo (Oh, yeah. I always love their promos, too. They're usually pretty good. But again, bite-sized Tim and Eric is better than full-length Tim and Eric).

Would I recommend this book to anybody? No. Not even Tim and Eric fans. Leaf through it at the store, get a chuckle, and then put it back down. I guess I'm just not Zone Theory material, and will never find the elusive 8th Zone (Which is fully featured in this book).

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why I am in love with Draft2Digital

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Okay, Draft2Digital is amazing. What is Draft2Digital (Or D2D as all the cool, sunglasses wearing kids call it)? Well, it's a way to get your indie books out there that's EZ. I've used KDP before, which is Amazon's Kindle service, and that's easy, too. But here's the difference. Actually, here are a couple differences.

One, D2D allows you to put your work on all of the other platforms, such as Kobo, Nook, iTunes, and a whole bunch of other outlets I've never heard of before. Why is this amazing? Well, it's amazing because in the past, I had to use outside services like Bookbaby since I was afraid of formatting my books. Formatting was not my friend. But D2D seriously makes it as easy as pie (Apple pie. None of that difficult to make Key Lime Pie). Everything is laid out for even the greatest technophobe. I actually found out about it because of Nick Stephenson, who is another indie author who found lots of success with it. So kudos to him!

Another reason it's different and amazing is because the technical support really stands in your corner. I'm not saying KDP doesn't, since they do. But only on Amazon. One of my short stories, "Q: Are We Not Human? A: We Are Corpses!" is for some reason having a difficult time getting on the Nook platform.

But instead of this being a problem, the customer service at D2D has kept me up to date on the status, even though I'd kind of forgotten about it. What I'm trying to say is that they care more about my work than I do, which might just say more about me than them, but who's to say? :) The fact is, they fight for your work, even when it's some cheapie free book that may or may not get a lot of clicks and downloads on Barnes and Noble's website, and for that, they're awesome.

I haven't used Smashwords, but I can tell from my experience with D2D that I don't have to. So, uh, yeah! If you're an indie author, use it!I'm certainly happy with it.

Review: The Howling

The HowlingThe Howling by Gary Brandner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one badass book, which is surprising since I thought it was going to be dull and lame like the movie. Amazingly, the writing is superb in this pulpy werewolf tale. In fact, the werewolf stuff is actually the least interesting aspect of this book. I really dug the characters and the ghost story town of Drago, but the actual werewolf stuff almost seems like an afterthought until that dramatic ending.

The story starts off with a brutal, infuriating scene, and I like that the concept of sexual tension and repression is an overall theme in this book. All horror stories are better when there's something underlying to be told. But again, the actual werewolf violence is kind of weak throughout, so that's the only aspect that brings this otherwise awesome book down. Other than that, I highly recommend it.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: City

CityCity by Clifford D. Simak
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don't know. Maybe I've just been spoiled by writers like Asimov, Dick, and Vonnegut, but I really could not stand this science-fiction book, which is actually a series of tales that tells of the fall of Man and the rise of Dog. In theory, the concept is really cool, and maybe I was expecting too much by thinking it would be similar to The Illustrated Man. But the final product bored me to tears. I never heard of Clifford D. Simak, and my science-fiction loving friends tell me that he was one of the best in the field, but I really can't see why after reading this award winning book. The main problem is that it's lackluster. I couldn't care less about any of the characters, and each story felt like a waste of time. The only thing I like about the book are the last ten pages and the concept. Other than that, I would have given this book one star. I despise it. What a waste of paper.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

A new father struggles with the 2 AM cries for…attention/a diaper change/a feeding/I have no idea, help me!

As a brand new parent, I can honestly say that I’ve never loved anybody as much in my entire life as my daughter. She’s perfect, beautiful, and undoubtedly bound for a future of being a rock-n-roll drummer, a black belt martial artist, and the President of the United States, all before the age of 40.

During the daytime, there’s no purer creature who was ever put on this planet. Even her diapers, which are full of yellow, seedy poop that sometimes crowds her diaper and rides up her backside since I’m not so good at changing diapers yet, is perfect. I can change that mess all day, and often do.

But at night time, it’s a different matter entirely. All throughout my wife’s pregnancy, parents joked, “You better get your sleep now because you’re going to miss it once you’re little one is finally here.” Heck, even non-parents who had probably been poked and prodded as to why they weren’t pregnant yet offered similar advice: “You’re not going to sleep ever again, you know. Or so I’m told, anyway.”

This didn’t really bother me since I never really slept any way. As a teacher who also writes, I wake up every morning at 5:00 A.M. without fail to write at least 1000 words a day. It’s a schedule I strictly stand behind. Even if those 1000 words stink and I have to throw it all out, at least I’m writing, at least I’m being productive. So no sleep when the baby comes? So what? I don’t need sleep. Sleep is for the weak. No sleep til…dun dun, dun dun, BROOKLYN, right?

Nope! Wrong. Incredibly, unbelievably wrong. The first few nights were disarming because I wasn’t aware that you had to wake up every few hours just to feed her. You mean you can’t just let her wake up on her own and cry you awake when she’s hungry? Nope. Turns out, you have to set your alarm clock just to give newborns the sustenance they need to thrive. Okay, well, that’s something I never knew. What else? Well, how about inconsistency in regards to what they want when they cry you awake? During the day time, I have an almost Spidey sense on how to read my little princess. If she pinches up her face and grunts, she probably plopped in her pants. If she whines sharply and then crunches up her impeccable lips, she probably wants me to hold her. If she screams at the top of her lungs and starts trying to suck my shoulder when I place her against my chest, she’s searching for a nipple, namely my wife’s (But I’m sure any will do for a few seconds before she realizes no food is coming out).

But at night, all those hints go out the window. It’s not just because we only have a tiny nightlight in our bedroom that only reveals so much in my daughter’s facial expressions. It’s also because at night, my baby is an entirely different person. She is not my future leader of America anymore. She is a Gremlin. A Gremlin who doesn’t even know what she wants herself. The wails that signify a feeding in the daytime mean nothing at night. It means she’s cold. Or that she wants me to carry her around the apartment. Or that she wants me to sing her Beatles songs again. Or not. What’s insane about babies at night is that they prey on your lack of sleep. At least, that’s what I tend to believe. As soon as I calm her down, which is sometimes instantly, or sometimes after several hours, she wakes up again as soon as my wife and I put her back down in her crib. Some experienced parents will tell me that I will get the hang of it in time. “It’s not so hard,” they’ll say. “In a few months time, you’ll become a baby Jedi master.” While others will say it never gets better. “You’ll still be waking up in the middle of the night by the time they’re teenagers, just because you’re worried about them.”

Either way, I keep telling myself every night that it’s worth it, since I definitely don’t have to say that when the sun’s back up. That’s when she’s the love of my life again, and she can do no wrong.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A deleted chapter of Clean Hands

I've decided to take this chapter out of "Clean Hands" just to get right to the meat of the story. Here it is in its entirety.

The air was creamy, like goat’s milk, and a warm, but demanding wind rubbed Galahad’s face and rustled through his clothes and hair. Each gust pushed him toward the rectangular entrance of the pyramid.

“Hello,” he called into the entryway. His voice echoed, even though he couldn’t imagine the interior to be so cavernous. How had he gotten here? One moment, he was sinking into a deep sleep, and the next, he was stepping through a shadowy fog and into the desert. The sand crunched beneath his sandals.

When he looked back, the horizon rushed forward, as if the land itself was being swallowed up by some giant, invisible serpent. Galahad whimpered and darted into the pyramid.

Fetid air instantly grappled his face. He reared back, but it had already infiltrated his nose and mouth. The taste of something spoiled and squishy, like a rotten tomato, clung to his tongue. The rancid, pulpy taste pushed its way down his gullet. His chest rose and fell with sharp, unfulfilled breaths as warm, foul-smelling piss snaked down his leg. He retreated into the doorway, but his back felt only hard stone, a wall where his only means of escape had been. A blanket of darkness engulfed him.

“Wait!” Galahad scratched frantically at the rough surface. “I wasn’t ready!”

The inner world of the pyramid shifted behind him. Nearby, two shrill voices called out, each gasping and screaming for air, as if drowning. He pictured two children, their small hands reaching up for him, just out of reach. This vision of their wavy, frightened faces shook Galahad so violently that it forced him to turn and face whatever horrors awaited him.

A dry, sterile light fell upon the space. Its dull luminescence pushed back the darkness ever so slightly to reveal a series of five narrow pillars. Behind each pillar was the faintest hint of a passageway. Claustrophobia gripped him.

A wall-mounted torch ignited nearby. Its bright, flickering light startled him. His fingers trembled as he reached for the torch. He pulled it close to his face, praying its warmth could quell the cold, paralyzing fear that clung to his brain, but he felt no heat from the dancing flames. He blew into the base of the fire and was rewarded with a momentary intensity of light. But the flames provided no heat, and no comfort.

Another shrill wail echoed inside the pyramid. The children’s sobbing strengthened. He could hear the gurgling as the two children sank beneath the surface. For a moment there was silence, and then the screaming began again, louder. Galahad had to get away from their panicked cries and the sound of them dying. But which pillar to choose? Which pathway?

Why not try the second one from the left? An unmistakable voice advised above the awful din.

“Is that you, Asim?” Galahad asked. A reassuring presence caressed and calmed his pounding heart.

Galahad followed his instincts and rushed around the second pillar to the left. The cold torchlight cast a circle of light around him on the ground as he moved deeper into the pyramid. Along the walls at regular intervals, the words “Neglectful” and “Abandonment” were etched in red.

Don’t mind those, Asim told him. Focus. You are coming to a fork in the road.

“Which way?” Galahad called out into the darkness.

Right, and then two lefts. Hurry, my friend. I’ll meet you there.

Joy flooded Galahad’s heart. He made the right and two lefts, and at the end of the corridor, surrounded by a strange, green aura, stood his friend, Asim. As always, he donned his tasseled red fez and friendly smile.

Galahad rushed forward and embraced his old companion. “I’ve never been so happy to see your face, my friend. Where are we?”

“We are in the space between.” Asim motioned for Galahad to follow. “Now, come. It’s not much further. I’ll get you through this loathsome maze.”

They turned left, right, and then left again. The markings on the wall changed to “Accident” and “Mistake”.

“I told you not to worry about the markings,” Asim said as he pulled Galahad forward.

“But what does it mean? And what’s outside this maze?” Galahad asked.

“Your next adventure,” Asim turned and smiled. But suddenly, as if a wall had dropped right in front of them, Asim stopped in his place and reached for Galahad’s hand. His grip tightened and the green aura thickened.

“What?” Galahad asked, wincing. “You’re hurting me.”

Asim stared up into the darkness as if he heard something that Galahad couldn’t. The green aura pulsated like a heartbeat. “What’s happening?” Galahad asked.

Asim pointed to the wall.

“Your fault” was scrawled in red against the grainy, gray surface.

Asim’s firm hand lost its grip.

“Asim, what’s wrong? What’s happening?” Galahad looked to his friend. Asim shook his head and a frozen screamed locked into his fine features. His face began to droop and melt from his skull.

“Asim!” Galahad screamed. The eyes that had always offered him friendship and comfort imploded and dripped down a set of bony cheeks. Asim’s flesh sizzled like pig fat, his bones charring and turning to ash. Within moments, he was only a bubbling puddle on the floor.

Galahad dropped to his knees and tried salvaging what was left of his friend. He leaned the torch against the wall and frantically churned his hands through spuming meat.

“No,” he blubbered. “I need you, Asim. I need you!”

“I’m sorry,” Asim’s voice whispered in a stale wind that skirted through the corridor. The torch light flickered.

He pounded the ground and cried for his friend. His cries echoed into the darkness and were soon joined by the same shrill screaming that had driven him from the columns. He could hear the water choking the life out of the two children. The sound grew louder and louder, filling the corridor around him.

Galahad grabbed the torch and ran from the noise. He turned right, then left, oblivious to direction. He ran until his heart felt it would burst from his chest, until his lungs burned from exertion. He paused and pressed his forehead against the wall to catch his breath. The smell of rotting fish overwhelmed him. Just outside the torchlight a hunched outline eyed him.

“No!” Galahad shouted. “Please!”

All around him, accusatory voices shouted out in disgust. The walls were soon covered with new words like, “Filth!” and “Liar!” and “Murderer!”

Though his body screamed for relief, he forced his feet to move, but he could not escape the smell. The sickening stench of rotted fish gagged him, stealing precious air from his lungs. The creature followed behind and then it was ahead of him, too. It was all around him. He was trapped.

In the spindly light, Galahad turned to face his fate. The monstrosity had three heads, one where a head ought to be, and two, like muscles, jutting out where the clavicle bones should be.

He recognized the distorted faces in the torch light. The head on top was that of his brother. His face was twisted in a still image of agony. The other two heads were his nephews. Their eyes shone with glassy blankness, and their small, gaping mouths leaked saltwater. They inched toward him.

A gust of greedy wind extinguished the torch.

The sound of gasping and gagging from both sides crept closer. Galahad heard the sound of his own scream before his consciousness succumbed to the malevolent darkness of his mind.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My book will be featurerd on The Books Machine

Hey, y'all. I’m sharing a link to the community The Books Machine, a website where you can find good books to read from the comfort of your electronic devices. Membership for readers is free and will give you access to free Kindle books and quality deals, specially selected for you. This link will take you to the page: Give it a gander!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Clean Hands is now Free...Forever

My short story, Clean Hands, which is a prequel to The Darkness of the Womb, is now free forever. Currently, it's sitting pretty at number one in Catholicism (?), as well as number one in Science Fiction and Fantasy (Now that's more like it). If you would like a copy for review, please just click on one of the links above and transfer it right to your kindle. Thanks a bunch!

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Do’s and Don’ts of Self-Publishing From a Mostly Loser, Sometimes Winner

Being an indie author ain’t easy. With new indie books being released every day, it’s pretty hard to get noticed. So hard, in fact, that one might think, what’s the point at all? Well, the point is that you love writing and you want to continue doing it. But how are you going to get the attention you so rightly deserve? Well, I haven’t totally figured that out yet, but I’ve found a few strategies that have and haven’t worked. So, let’s get right to them!

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DON’T: Go to Pitching Events

Writer’s Conferences are a great place to meet fellow authors and learn what other stories are out there. But attached to many of these conferences are pitch slams, where agents sit behind tables and listen to your pitch. Some people like to think these are the most important parts about the conference, but they’re mistaken, since they’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to have their book picked up at these events. Sure, the agent might request to see some of your pages, and sure, they’re very nice about listening to your jumbled words. But in the end, they’re more than likely not going to do anything with your book, and you just wasted your time memorizing your synopsis. You’ll have better a chance in the slush pile.

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DO: Have a Goodreads giveaway

Are you on Goodreads? If not, then that’s a problem, since readers LOVE goodreads. If you are on it (Good for you), there’s a feature called Goodreads giveaways where you can put copies of your books up for people to try and win. When I put one of my books up, I always make sure to thank the participants and give them another chance to win the book on my blog. You wouldn’t believe how many people come to try and win. I’ll tell you what, It’s a hell of a lot more people than who normally visit my blog, that’s for sure.

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DON’T: Even bother releasing books on Nook, Kobo, or iTunes

I know it might feel like a missed opportunity, but you will likely not sell a single book on Nook, Kobo, or iTunes unless you’re Brad Thor, Stephen King, or Harper Lee. That’s mainly because people have to actually search for your book to find you, and why would they do that if they don’t even know who you are? Instead, just put your book on Amazon and enroll in the KDP program. Amazon is a search engine at its heart, and people might stumble upon your book by accident by searching for random things. You have a much better shot on Amazon, so just use that. It’s the best decision.

DO: Put a call-to-action in your books

Remember what I just said about Amazon? Well, unless you have a lot of good reviews, you’re going to get buried on their site. So why not put a call-to-action in your book at the end that asks people to review your book if they enjoyed it? You have no idea how many more reviews you’ll get just by asking nicely for people to put them.

DON’T: Use Facebook Advertising

Facebook might seem like a great place to find new readers, but it’s not. This is mostly because not all of your posts go to your friends and followers. You might think, well, why not try advertising on it then, but there are better ways to attract new readers that are actually free, namely what I’m going to mention next.

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DO: Start a mailing list

Mailing lists are free if you use a service like Mailchimp. Remember what I said about using a call-to-action? Well, set up a website like this that gives readers something free for signing up, and then place the link in your book at the beginning and at the end. Shout out to fellow author, Nick Stephenson,for coming up with this brilliant idea.

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DON’T: Do giveaway sales on Kindle without pairing them up with other promotions

When you use the KDP program on Amazon, you can have certain days where you put your book up for sale to entice people to download it. But here’s the thing. If you just release your book for free or 99 cents, some people will find it, but you are limiting your potential. When you do these sales, find a site like Bookgorilla, Read, or the crème de la crème, Bookbub (Good luck getting picked) when you do your sales to maximize your profits. Try to do multiple promotions at once to get mega clicks.

DO: Get your name in the local paper Local papers love writing about local authors. They’re the kind of fluff pieces that fill space. Well, given that all you pretty much have to do is email the editor and tell them that you write books in the area, why not do so? It’s easy. Here’s mine. Bingo, bango. Your name now has more prominence on Google. How about that?

DON’T: Try to shove your book down people’s throats

It may seem like a good idea to constantly mention that your book is on sale, or that people will love your story, but it’s not. People don’t want to hear “buy my book, buy my book” over and over again from a megaphone. Instead, do some of the steps above. They’re a lot less annoying.

DO: Focus on doing book signings Once you get your name in the paper, you can take it to all the local shops and show that you have a presence in the community. Once you get in the habit of doing book signings, you meet more people and sell more books, even if it’s just a few here or there.

So there you have it. I’m still not rolling in the dough, but I’m getting there. Try these out and see how they work for you!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Clean Hands Now Available!

My short story, Clean Hands, which is a prequel to The Darkness of the Womb, is now available on Kobo, Nook, and Kindle.

This standalone story centers around the Archetype, Instinct. His mission is to journey inside the mind of a dreamer in order to influence them to make a crucial decision that will affect the rest of history. But dreams are unpredictable, and Instinct finds himself on shaky ground once he enters the dream world. Will he survive his mission, or will he find that even he, the embodiment of mankind's Instinct, can't even handle the world of the subconscious?

You can currently purchase it for 99 cents! Pick it up today!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: Jude The Obscure

Jude the ObscureJude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You can't get more tragic than Jude the Obscure, which, upon reading the introduction, is purposeful, as the title is meant to inspire you to think of Greek tragedies like Oedipis the King. Jude is an ordinary man who has great ambitions at a young age and aspires to be a scholar. But unlike Jay-Z, Jude doesn't have 99 problems. He only has one. And, if you know the song, I'm guessing you could figure out what it is. This one problem ruins his entire life and sets him off on an existence heavy with grief and a loss of happiness. One of the tragedies of this brilliant novel is that Jude was born either too early or too late, as his views throughout the novel are both extremely conservative, and yet, wildly Liberal for the time period.

I'm not surprised what a maligned book this was for its release, as it contains aspects that I'm certain were shocking and even blasphemous for the time period. I'm surprised there wasn't a public burning of the book. In the end, Jude the Obscure is a novel YEARS before its time, which is why it is such a classic. If you haven't already done so, read this book.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: The Naked Sun

The Naked Sun (Robot, #2)The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second book in Asimov's celebrated Robot series (It's sandwiched between The Caves of Steel and The Robots of Dawn), and I think it suffers a bit with the transition from Earth to another planet, in this case, the Earth-like Solara. In the first book, the actual caves presented were fascinating. Mankind had journeyed underground and set up cities, which in itself was interesting. I also found the case more engaging, too, as it centered squarely on R. Daneel, which is the central robot of the series. That book featured a world distrustful of robots, while this book features a planet that relies on them. It's a nice change of pace and I applaud Asimov for trying something different, but it's just missing something with its absence of crowds and city life. Plus, R. Daneel plays a lot less heavily in this story than he did in the last one (Though, I do see the correlation between robots and slavery--the protagonist frequently calls them "boy"--more so in this one, which presents an intriguing new element to these stories that wasn't present in the first).

The case this time is also much less interesting than it was in Caves, as it feels more like something you would find in a cozy mystery rather than a sci-fi novel. Other than the aspect of "viewing" and "seeing" in this book, and the robots, of course, this doesn't seem like the adventurous exploration of sci-fi mystery like the first one. And that's probably because we're stuck with the more human elements in this story than the last book. I'm interested to see how the final novel in the series fits it altogether, given that ending, but I'm also a little less intrigued after this book. Oh, well.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review: Sophie's Choice

Sophies ChoiceSophies Choice by William Styron
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A book so annoying, I couldn't even finish it (I got to page 200). The main problem with this novel is its narrator and the pedantic prose he spits out. He's so wordy and full of himself that you want to grab him by the nape and stuff his head underwater. It's so aggrivating (it doesn't help that the book has such long paragraphs and very little dialogue). Stingo, the protagonist, is a sex - starved loser, and in turn, it makes the other two lead characters, Nathan and Sophie, seem all the more pathetic for hanging out with him. I read how the books ends on Wikipedia, so I don't feel too bad about not finishing it. But here's the funny thing- this book is about 560 pages long, and the synopsis on Wikipedia is only about three paragraphs. So this douche of a writer wasted all that time on a plot that can be explained in three puny paragraphs. What this guy needed was a good editor. What a waste of paper! Don't waste your time

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

On Finishing A Book-What's Next?

The Interdimensional Subwoofer is the third novel I've written, and I think, my very best yet. I've sent it to my editor and I'm just waiting to get it back so I can make the corrections and then send it off to agents. So I guess I should get started on my fourth book, right?

Well...I don't know about that.

Here's the thing. As an indie author who hasn't really gotten as much love for my first two titles as I would have liked, I still have that nagging feeling that I need to go back and rectify that. Now, I know, I should move forward, not backward. Those two books didn't sell for a reason, right? Well, I'm not so sure about that. A part of the problem of being an indie author is the fact that you are competing with so many other indie authors who all believe the same thing--there's just too much competition out there. With that belief, we constantly believe that it's not the writing or the cover that's the problem, but rather, the fact that it's too difficult to get your story known when hundreds of other trying to do the same thing every day. Whether it's true or not (That the writing isn't the issue), is up in the air, but the fact that we try so hard to promote ourselves is a constant issue that I think I've found a solution to, and it's in the form of "DLC".

What's DLC, you ask? (And if you ask it, then you're obviously not a gamer). DLC stands for Downloadable Content, and I'm going to implement it for my two previous books, The Darkness of the Womb, and A Boy and His Corpse. What they will be is short (Very short, 25 pages) stories that connect the books, but are also standalone titles. The first short story, "Clean Hands," will be about events prior to The Darkness of the Womb, but will have no true connection to it, so you wouldn't have had to read the book to know what's going on. It will be free and introduce the world to people who have never read my first book (Which seems to be the entire world itself).

My second short story, also 25 pages, will be about events AFTER A Boy and His Corpse. It will be titled, "Q: Are We Not Human? A: We Are Corpses!" which is a send-up of one of the most famous Devo albums. This title will only be free if you sign up for my mailing list, which is something I've (stupidly) neglected to set up for a long time.

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So, you might be wondering why I'm doing this. Wouldn't it be wiser of me to invest in marketing campaigns and other things that other authors are already doing? Well, probably, but I think this is a way to get readers who otherwise wouldn't pick up my previous work to perhaps give it a gander if they like "Clean Hands" or "Are We Not Human?" Maybe then, if I get at least some kind of audience, I can move on with my life. But until then, I'll just keep pushing to get my first two books noticed. It's an uphill battle and one that I'll continue endlessly to climb. Whatever it takes.

Review: Pauline Kael on The best Film Ever Made

The Best Film Ever MadeThe Best Film Ever Made by Pauline Kael
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For such a short book, this was a real towering achievement. Written when Orson Welles was still alive (!), this book talks about how Welles was probably the biggest loser in the history of Hollywood after directing and starring in what is still arguably (and this book was written in 1971) considered the greatest movie of all time, and not getting famous off of it. His is truly a tragic story that actually sort of mimics that of the character he portrayed in the movie, which, I found out because of this book, wasn't totally a coincidence.

What's interesting about this title and what separates it from other film criticism is that the author actually points out many of the problems with the film. Now, this wouldn't be all that strange if it were any other movie, but to say anything but utter praise for Citizen Kane has always seemed like heresy. But Ms. Kael did it, and proves that despite all of its flaws, it's still quite the masterpiece, and she gives her own personal reasons for why that's so. It's really quite refreshing.

It's also a fantastic history lesson. I never even heard of Herman J. Mankiewicz before reading this book and always just assumed that Orson Welles wrote the movie since his imprint is everywhere else on the film. But I learned just what a character the screenwriter was, and how instrumental he was to the creation of the movie, which was originally simply titled, American. In fact, Mankiewicz is more prominent in this book than Welles himself, which makes for a somewhat distanced reading of it until you realize just how important a role he actually played. It really is quite something. I learned a great deal about Hearst as well, who, as everybody knows, was the inspiration for Charles Foster Kane in the first place.

In summary, this is just a great book. The author had a very strong voice and opinion, and it made for a fun, complex read. I loved it.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review: The Chosen

The ChosenThe Chosen by Chaim Potok
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Chosen is part of a trend of older books that are now retroactively considered YA, just because the protagonist himself is a young adult. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Like Lord of the Flies and Ender's Game, I think calling The Chosen YA is quite a stretch since it deals with very adult themes-like friendship over faith, and vice versa-that teenagers today might not find interest in. And it's not that I'm not giving today's generation of teenagers enough credit. I definitely think they can handle and absorb the material. It's just that I think you have to be a bit older to even find interest in something like this. I definitely wouldn't give one of my students this book after they just read something like The Hunger Games or The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It represents a different time that they probably couldn't even relate to. Quite frankly, they'd be bored silly.

There, now that I got THAT out of the way. The Chosen, as a whole, is a relatively slow and lopsided book. There are times, namely in the first and last 50 pages of this book, that I was absolutely in love with. Especially the ending, which is a great payoff and a beautiful conclusion. But there is a great deal in the middle that feels very methodical, and it's mainly since the conflict isn't really much of a conflict. Sure, it feels that way to the characters in the book, who are both Jewish (one is more hardcore than the other) but to the reader, I kind of just sat there waiting for everything to blow up or come to a head. And it never does! I can now understand why this was a best-seller when it initially came out but has since lost quite a bit of its reputation. I never even heard of it before my dad lent it to me.

Overall, The Chosen a decent book with some moments of sheer beauty. But in the end, I don't think I'd recommend it to many people. It definitely has a particular audience, though.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Goodreads Review: When I First Held You

When I First Held You: 22 Critically Acclaimed Writers Talk About the Triumphs, Challenges, and Transfo rmative Experience of FatherhoodWhen I First Held You: 22 Critically Acclaimed Writers Talk About the Triumphs, Challenges, and Transfo rmative Experience of Fatherhood by Brian Gresko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having never read a collection of essays from different authors before (I know. What have I been doing all my life?), I have to admit that it was a welcome experience and one I would like to embark on again. That is, of course, if I ever have the time to read since my daughter is coming very, very soon. Like, within five weeks soon. So I'm trying to get as much reading in as possible before the due date. Thankfully, I'm happy I took the time with this book, which speaks about the "Transformative experience of Fatherhood," as it's good. Really good.

Initially, I thought this book would be pretty lame (It was recommended to me at a book store when I asked if they had any books on parenting) because I was certain every piece from the 22 authors here would sound pretty much the same. Fatherhood is hard but rewarding, yada yada yada, that sort of thing. But I was surprised to see the honesty and variety in this book. There are passages about being surrogate fathers, being divorced fathers, being broken fathers, being sick fathers, etc, and in doing so, it provides a very diverse and interesting viewpoint on fatherhood. Like children, no two fathers are alike. For that reason, I took great enjoyment out of reading this book.

That said, some of the writers seemed much better than others. Benjamin Percy, who I now want to read every book he's ever written, has, in my mind, the best piece in this book, and mostly because it's about himself. I think what a lot of what was missing in this book is just how much the father themselves is affected as a human being, and his piece, "Your Own Worst Enemy," felt the realest to me. I may just be saying that since I'm not technically a father yet, and I still cling to the notion that being a father doesn't mean you lose being an individual, but the writing for that piece felt the cleanest and the best-written, while some other pieces in this book didn't feel as interesting or honest.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for any man who is about to become a father. There is much to learn here, as well as to enjoy.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Review: 2010: Odyssey Two

2010: Odyssey Two (Space Odyssey, #2)2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Boooooring. Having read the first book many years ago, one thing I remember with that story was just how dazzling and daring it felt. Much like the movie, certain images will forever be ingrained in my head. That Odyssey I loved journeying on. But this one, not so much. I mostly think it's all the characters, none of whom are interesting. Their voyage doesn't really seem all that harrowing in this story, and even if it was, I was so uninterested with the characters that I probably would have appreciated it more if they had all died. As it stood, I couldn't make a connection with any of them.

I also thought the questions left by the last book, like what happened to David Bowman, and was HAL really insane, didn't have satisfying answers. Yes, those characters were probably the most, if not only, interesting part about this book, but even they couldn't salvage this yawn - inducing mission. I won't be investing time in the third book, 2061.

Oh, and PS. Arthur C. Clarke really liked the word "myriad." It's all over this book. So much so, that if one were to make a drinking game every time they saw the word here, they would probably go blind and died. He used it SO much.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Top Five Worst Pixar Movies

Inside Out is probably Pixar's best film yet. In fact, it's pretty hard to pick out many stinkers from the company that Lasseter built. But there are some stinkers, and I don't think many people would disagree with (most of) my choices below. Honestly, I would put Wall-E on this list, since I hate that film, but I know that's more of my own personal taste. Deep down, I know it's a good picture. I just can't muster the energy to care about it.

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5. Brave

This Oscar-winning picture isn't really bad per se, as much as it's disappointing. With a kickass heroine who can take care of herself and decide her own future, it's kind of shitty that the second act involves her mother turning into a bear. There's a lot to like in this film, such as the theme and setting, but I just can't get over how stupid that second half is. A bear? Really?

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4. Cars

The concept for Cars alone is pretty stupid. Cars with lights for windshields have problems and do things. Sure, Paul Newman is in the movie, and sure, Larry the Cable Guy's jokes aren't THAT bad, but overall, there is little, if anything, to like about this picture. If there was ever a Pixar movie that was made to sell toys, it's this one.

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3. Monsters Inc.

A lot of people might put Monsters U. on this list, but I actually liked the sequel much more than the original, as it had more personality and spunk. For all its cuteness and creativity, though, the original picture is quite stale and doesn't hold up well. The jokes, even with Billy Crystal, don't usually land, and besides the tremendous final act with the legion of doors, the overall storyline is just missing something. A controversial pick to be sure, but it's one I'm sticking with. Monsters Inc. is not a great film, and worse all the more so since it had so much potential (Which Monsters U. ran with).

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2. A Bug's Life

A Bug's Life is a terrible, terrible movie that both feels too long, and yet, too short at the same time, which is weird. The protagonist is annoying to the point of being unlikeable, and the antagonist, played by the brilliant Kevin Spacey, doesn't feel menacing enough. Overall, it just feels like a third-rate Disney movie that's not even good enough to go straight-to-DVD. There's a reason why the Monsters Inc. poster above says "From the creators of Toy Story" and doesn't even mention this clunker. It was only Pixar's second film, but it really brought you down from the high that was the first Toy Story.

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1. Cars 2

Oh, man. The grand turkey of them all. If you thought Cars was bad, then you ain't seen nothing. Cars 2 is such an abomination, that within 45 minutes of the picture, I turned to my wife and told her to please wake me up when it was over. Larry the Cable Guy, who is ok in moderation, stars in this spy caper that ends up being so insufferably terrible that longtime fans of Pixar were convinced that the company had lost all of its magic. Inside Out is of course proof that that's not true, but Lawdy, this film gave us some doubts. Please never make another sequel to this franchise.

Review: Rabbit At Rest

Rabbit at Rest (Rabbit Angstrom, #4)Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whew. Finally finished. In this fourth and final book in the Rabbit saga (though, I think there may be a short story or novella after it or something like that) everything comes full circle. Rabbit is a bit older (though, only in his 50s. I thought we'd meet him again in his 60s) and just as selfish as ever. You know, reading through this series, I don't think I've ever encountered a character more oblivious to other people's feelings. Perhaps Updike was making a commentary on the average American, but then again, Rabbit doesn't really feel like an average American. Maybe an average and bored Pennsylvanian. Either way, this story, just like the former Pulitzer Prize Winning book, Rabbit is Rich, brings drama in everyday life and does a very good job of it. if I have one complaint, it's that the last 50 pages just drag on and on. It's a fitting conclusion, but a drawn out one. Either way, I think the series was worth the read.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Review: Amendments

AmendmentsAmendments by H.M. Lynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amendments is the kind of dystopian fiction I like. It's fraught with questions that make you wonder how you would decide if a world such as this existed. At the age of 21, Emelia has choices, two to be exact. She gets them in the form of Amendments, which she can use to alter her life. I really enjoy the Orwellian feel of this book, and the idea that to make a life better, you might have to sacrifice your own happiness to make that happen. If I have any complaint, it's Amelia's sister, Finola, or Fi. She's really annoying, and I can't stand the choices Emelia has to make because of her. But otherwise, it's a pretty quick book (It's over 300 pages, but I read it in about three days on my computer since I got a free copy), and there is definite room for a sequel. An interesting, engaging novel.

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Review: Christ Recrucified

Christ RecrucifiedChrist Recrucified by Nikos Kazantzakis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thoughtful, intelligent, beautiful, and at times, even funny, this is the third book I've read by Kazantzakis, and it's quite possibly my favorite so far. In a nutshell, this is a story of Christ reimangined. The cast is set, and the villains are the clergymen who only "love" Christ because it gives them power. But when a true representation of Christ comes along, it scares them, just as Christ did back in his era. What follows is an unorthodox novel that has a lot to say, and an elegant way of saying it. The ending will make you angry, but how else could it possibly end with a title like that? A masterful achievement.

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Books NJ 2015 Panel

Next Sunday, June 14th, I will be at Books NJ on the grounds of the Paramus Public Library. There, I'll be selling copies of The Darkness of the Womb and A Boy and His Corpse. I'll also be doing a panel on comics with comic book writers Buddy Scalera and Don E. Smith. I'm on the panel because of the comic I did for my first book, The Darkness of the Womb, which you can find here. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why Mad Max: Fury Road is a Good Movie, But Not Necessarily a Good Action Movie

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Anybody who saw Mad Max: Fury Road will likely tell you it's one of the best action movies of the year. Hell, some might even say it's the best action movie of the decade (As said by one critic on Rotten Tomatoes, where the film has an astonishingly high score of 98%). But while I will agree that it is a good movie that is great in some parts and terrible in others, it's not that great of an "action" movie, and here's why: The good guys. None of them are badasses.

Now, I know this is a feminist picture and that Mad Max isn't really the protagonist in this movie. And that's cool. I'm actually fine with that and don't mind that Max is mostly a passive hero and relegated to being a sidekick. But that means that Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron, was the protagonist, and frankly, she wasn't bad ass enough. Sure, there are fantastic scenes with her (Namely the one where she takes the sniper rifle away from Max and takes that killer shot), but neither of them really take center stage as a badass, making their plight feel not as intense and even hollow at times. In that way, the character dynamic feels somewhat weak, whereas a character like Ripley from Aliens seemed very strong as she took the lead. It was HER movie, which is what I wanted from Furiosa. It's almost like George Miller wanted to make her weak, which is understandable given the context. But we weren't given enough backstory to really push for her. With all the talk of Norse Mythology, I really wanted her character to be a valkyrie, a woman of war who takes no prisoners and cuts off ball sacks with relish. But she wasn't that. In that way, she wasn't a badass, making for a rather limp action movie. This might have been intentional, but I'm not seeing much written on that topic--the limpness of action.

In truth, the best characters in this movie were the villains, namely the main antagonist. I liken this film to The Dark Knight, in which the most fascinating characters are the ones we're meant to hate. In that way, The Dark Knight feels more like a crime caper rather than an action film. It's all in the protagonists.

Personally, I feel that Dredd is the best action movie of the decade and for the very reasons I mentioned earlier. In that film, we were given a tough as nails protagonist who takes no prisoners, and I think that's important for an action movie. What's an explosion without a cool person to walk away from it without turning around?

Perhaps, Mad Max: Fury Road represents the future of action pictures, ones where we're not supposed to be impressed by the heroes and are just supposed to ogle explosions and flame tornadoes. Films without heart. If that's the case, then count me out. Maybe I'm a dinosaur. That's just who I am.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. There were moments of this book that spoke to me more than any other book I've ever read. All the stuff about a fat, ugly, nerd from New Jersey who had trouble getting girls really spoke to me, a fat, ugly nerd from New Jersey who had trouble getting girls. All that stuff was great, and I really wish the whole book was that. But it's not. Along the way, we get a heavy dose of Fuku, which is a curse that all Dominicans are said to have in this book because of the assassination of their dictator, Trujillo, or, El Jefe as he's more commonly known (That's how I knew him, anyway). Within this tale, we also learn a great deal about his sister, grandfather, and mother, and how all their lives are cursed because of the tyrannical dictator.

It's all really compelling stuff, but all throughout, I just wanted to get back to Oscar's story. In that way, the book feels a little uneven. It's not that the other chapters aren't great. It's just that they weren't what I wanted to read. But that's more a personal preference than anything else.

All in all, there's enough nerdy references to make any geek smile. So if you want a book that's even closer to the geek heart than Ready Player One, then this is your story. It's thoroughly enjoyable and even beautiful at parts. Pick it up.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Short story in Mad Scientist Journal

(Image taken from Justine McGreevy)

I thought I already posted this, but apparently not. Here's a short story I had published by Mad Scientist Journal. It's called "Lasagna With Legs." Enjoy.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Review: What to Expect: The First Year

What to Expect the First Year (What to Expect)What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Even though my wife jokes and calls a lot of the content in this book "propaganda," it still taught me a great deal about babies, which is a good thing since I have a daughter coming in August (Yes, thank you. Thank you). This book is an in-depth guide to help the clueless get a clue. It talked about everything from breastfeeding (Which I read, even though there's nothing I can do about it), to why babies might cry, to soothing injuries. So for somebody like me, who has only held a baby three times in my entire life, it made me feel a little less worried (Just a little) about our eventual child. If you already have kids, then there's nothing you can probably learn from this book. But if you haven't had any and you want to know a thing or two about them, then I say give it a read. The information in here is invaluable. I'm glad I bought it.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Don't Worry. Nobody's Going to Steal Your Idea

I often hear from other writers that they don't want anybody to steal their idea for their soon to be bestselling novel or movie. But all I have to say to that is this: Don't worry. Nobody's going to steal your idea, and here's why:

1. Nobody thinks your idea is as creative as you, the creator

Just when you think you've created Inception or The Hunger Games, you find out that Paprika or Battle Royale have already been created. The fact is, no matter how original you think your story is, somebody has already written a story that's pretty similar to what you've just written. So in truth, you may be creative, but so are a lot of other people out there and no man or woman is an island. I can guarantee that if you search hard enough, your story has already been told and told well. What matters is what YOU have to offer to that story. Your voice is all that truly matters, so focus on that.

2. Nobody has time to steal your idea and then write your story

Just think about how long it took you to write that story of yours that you've been dreaming about all your life. Hopefully, you took your time and went back to edit and revise where your story needed it, so it definitely took you a great deal of time to put everything together. Well, just think about how others work and then you'll see where I'm coming from. Crafting a story worth reading takes TIME, and most people aren't going to take the time to write a story that you came up with, even if your idea is dynamite. And this leads me to my next and final reason why nobody is going to steal your idea.

3. Other people already have projects they're working on that they feel just as passionately about as you feel for your project

If somebody writes stories, then they undoubtedly have a tale in their heart that they want to tell and don't have the passion to steal your story. Sure, they might take elements here or there if they hear something cool in your plot, but that's just the nature of the beast. We all pluck and steal from things that sound cool or have impacted us over the years. So don't flatter yourself. Others have their own stories to tell, too.

So the next time you worry about somebody stealing your idea, relax. Any idea you have has already been expressed and told. It's your voice that matters. So focus on that.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Pictures From My Recent Book Signing in Watchung Booksellers

Hey, everybody! I recently did a book signing in Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, and it was a big success. If you would like to purchase either The Darkness of the Womb or A Boy and His Corpse, you can do so here.