Monday, October 17, 2011

Contest Reminder!

Okay, just a reminder about the contest. I'm giving away a free brand-new copy of Dale Brown's book Act of War on Halloween. All you have to do to win it is give me a few names. They don't need to be awesome names. Quantity over quality and that sort of thing. I'd prefer they be either 1800's American, Native American, or Russian.

So let's see what you've got. Send the lists to my email address at

Friday, October 14, 2011

Real Steel

It's Friday! (Don't worry, no Rebecca Black video will start playing that awful song. Seriously, how bad do you have to be to destroy Friday?) Today's movie review is of the new flic Real Steel starring Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lilly and some seriously cool robot combat.

The movie is set in the near-future, where boxing just wasn't brutal enough for the public. They wanted more. And, because you can add robots to just about anything and make it better, yeah. They came up with robot boxing. (Rock 'em, Sock 'em, eat your heart out)

Hugh Jackman plays a down on his luck robot trainer, who thinks entirely too much of himself for his own good. He's shown ducking people who owe him money, placing bets with money he doesn't have, and then showboating for a pretty girl instead of paying attention while his robot gets owned in Spain's greatest sport, that of bullfighting.

As if that's not enough, we learn very soon that not only is he a deadbeat, but he is a deadbeat dad. For nine years now? Eleven. Oh. Well. Isn't that something. Doesn't even know how old his kid is.

His ex-girlfriend just died, leaving him in custody of his kid, at least until he can figure something out. But what starts as a bad relationship between father and son becomes a pretty good story about how a person can change and how long shots can sometimes pull through. And fighting robots. Did I mention fighting robots?

So, yeah, a good three and a half stars to this one. It's not amazing, and it runs a little long, but it's worth seeing, if for no other reason than that there are fighting robots! Seriously though, it's a good story, and one that you won't regret seeing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


The book of the week this week is Crusade, by Taylor Anderson. Mr. Anderson, welcome back. We've missed, anyway.
The first book in the Destroyermen series was Into the Storm. In it we followed Captain Matt Reddy and his destroyer USS Walker as they fled from the giant battlecruiser Amagi and tried to hide in a storm. Problem is, the storm was some sort of portal or vortex that transferred them to a parallel universe, one in which the land on earth is more or less the same, but the creatures that inhabit it are far different.

Taylor Anderson
Author of Destroyermen Series
Chief among these are the two races, the Lemurians(or as the Destroyermen call them, "the cat-monkey folk") and the Grik. The Lemurians are the good guys, the Grik, a race of savage lizards, are the bad. In the first book Matt Reddy demonstrated what his ship with its technology could mean for the Lemurians, who are fighting a war of survival against the Grik onslaught.

Now, in book 2, Matt Reddy is ready(haha, get it?) to take the fight to the enemy. The Grik have besieged a city on an island relatively close to Baalkpan, the destroyermen's new base of operations. Together with their Lemurian allies they embark on a rescue mission. Only what they find facing them is more than they could have imagined. And, what's worse, it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Great story, a little bit of all the best parts of the Time Machine, The Lost World, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This book has some great scenes, and one of the things that I like most about it is that even though they left behind the world in which WWII is taking place, there are a lot of parallels between the tow conflicts. For students of history, there is a scene in Crusade that is very reminiscent of MacArthur when he left the Phillipeans under orders from the president to escape the Japanese Juggernaut. It's a very emotional scene, both in the book and the one that happened in real life. Perhaps that's the best praise I can give this book, that the author blends amazing action with well-rounded characters and a touching story.

This series is a must-read for fans of the fantasy genre. It's one of the more original ideas out there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Contest Update

Ah, sleep deprivation, thou art a heartless wench....

So, it occurred to me that I neglected to mention that the contest will go until Halloween, Oct, 31st, at midnight. Any entry that reaches my inbox before then will be eligible to win the book. Oh, and should you make an entry and then think of more names, that's fine, just send me an e-mail and make sure I know that you've already submitted another e-mail.

Thanks, and good luck!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


So, here's the deal. I'm working on a book right now, and I need names. Lots of names. I want them to be in three categories. American-sounding, Native American-sounding, and Russian-sounding. For the American and Russian ones I'd like both first and last names. Also, for the Native American names, please give me actual names, not names like Dances with Wolves. Looking more for Cherokee type names.

Also, like I said, they just have to sound like these nationalities, but I'd prefer if they were a little different.

Anyway, here's how the contest works. Send me your names( and permission to use them however I see fit) to my e-mail at . Be sure to include your name and mailing address in the e-mail.

Here's what you win:
A brand new paperback edition of Dale Brown's book Act of War! In this fast-paced action story blends technology and fiction into a gripping story about the U.S. under attack from a radical group of eco-terrorists. Just how far are both sides willing to go?

So that's it. Send me your names. There's no limit here. Whoever sends me the most names, regardless of whether or not I use them, wins! It's that simple. Thanks for helping me out, I'll be looking forward to the names!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Back From the Dead

Sooooo. You may have noticed a sharp drop off in the number of posts I've put up in the last few months. That is, more or less, zero. But at least let me explain.

My computer was infected by the zombie virus. Yes, that's right. The zombie apocalypse is upon us.

I first noticed odd bite marks around the keyboard. I didn't think much of it, only that somehow my 3 year-old have developed a taste for plastic and technology.

But within a few hours, I knew I was in trouble.

I tried everything, Norton, McaFee, Windows. Nothing helped. In fact it only seemed to speed up the process. Within two short days my computer was reduced to a withered husk of what it had been, silently drooling out of one of the USB ports.

I thought maybe I could get used to it. After all. It was just a small thing. I should be able to work around it. But you know, there really is no way to get work done on a computer that has turned zombie. When it isn't trying to bite you by slamming the lid to the laptop closed on your fingers it just stares blankly at you.

I tried to get a new computer and soon realized my mistake. No sooner was it out of the box than my old zombified laptop flew across the room and sank its plastic keys into my brand new computer, all the while mumbling something about CPUs....

Anyway, long story short, there really is only one thing to do with a zombified laptop. You have to take a chainsaw and cut the screen off, then burn the remains. I accomplished this for both laptops and for the most part it was successful. Except one of the keys might have broke the skin. I'm sure it's nothing. I'll be fine tomorrow, it was just a late night. That's why I'm tired. Yeah, that's it.

Um.... Brains?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Book Review: Aliens: Earth Hive

Title: Aliens: Earth Hive
Author: Steve Perry
Genre: Military Sci-Fi, Horror
Trep's Rating: 3 Stars

I've loved the Aliens franchise forever. I don't know just what it is about them, but at least for the first two movies, I just can't get enough of them. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately, judging from the way the last two movies in that franchise went) they aren't making anymore movies that follow that storyline.

Which is why I love books. Book one in this series is pretty much what I expected it to be. A nitty-gritty Alien adventure.

Earth Hive starts years after the incidents in the first two movies. It follows two characters, a colonial marine named Wilks and a young woman named Billie. Wilks managed to survive and escape an Alien infestation on one of the outlying colonies, and Billie, then a little girl, was the only one he managed to save.

He gets assigned to be part of a top-secret mission to go and collect intelligence about this threat. The government thinks that they have found the Alien home world. (It was at this point I started getting excited)

They take off, intent on quickly completing their mission. Until a mercenary attacks them and takes them prisoner. See, the government isn't the only ones who know about the aliens, and some groups are willing to pay a lot of money for samples. The mercenary plans to use the marines as bait. Once on the alien world, he will wait until the marines have been "facehugged" and implanted with baby aliens. Then he will haul them up using androids, put them in cryo, and head back to earth.

Another group enters the story. A religious cult intent on worshiping the aliens xenomorphs. To them, being facehugged is the same a becoming one with their god. They are intent on getting a facehugger loose and breeding them on earth.

All in all, this is a fun ride. It's short, moves quickly, and is just a good story. Content Warning: Lot's of profanity, space boinking, and sci-fi violence.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Over The Weekend

Over the weekend I got a black eye. This is the story of how I got it.

I was driving in Salt Lake on Friday morning in my vehicle, a customized 2000 Jeep Wrangler known as the "Zodmobile." (Kneel). Everything was pretty mellow. I was wearing jeans and an Old Navy t-shirt, the kind with the American flag on it. I was going to meet up with my friends to play some baseball.

Suddenly there was a huge traffic accident as I passed the courthouse. I narrowly avoided becoming part of the collision by wrenching the wheel and coming to stop on the sidewalk.

It was clear immediately what had caused the accident. Some vampire had just walked out of the courthouse and into the sun, sparkling so brightly that the cars nearest him never had a chance. (Vampires. Man, they're cold-blooded)

I started to make my way towards the scene of the crash, intent on helping in whatever way I could. Right about then I heard the most chilling sound, a howl that descended on us in a horrible cacophony of grunts, shrieks and screams. My eyes shot towards the source of the terrible noise which was coming from just around the corner.

The accident had drawn a horde of zombies, most likely one of the gangs that runs this area. I had to move fast. The zombies moved towards the scene of the accident, like sharks drawn towards blood.

I ran to the first car and tried to help them. I had grabbed my baseball bat, just in case, but I was hoping I wouldn't have to use it. It's not really my weapon of choice when it comes to battling zombies. The zombies were picking up speed. They would be on us any minute. Finally I turned to fight, unable to open the twisted metal door of the car.

And that's when I heard another sound.


The noise was quickly joined by the scraping sound of swords being drawn from scabbards. The zombies stopped, confused for a moment, then charged the new source of disturbance. Facing off to them was a mob of pirates, bellowing for blood.

This was my chance. I turned back to the door, redoubled my efforts and pulled. The door wrenched free and the woman inside thanked me as I helped her out. We moved from car to car then, helping the victims of the crashes out, practicing basic first aid, and most importantly, moving them to the relative safety of the courthouse.

I heard a woman scream. She was across the street, fighting with two zombies that had broken off from the main herd.

I ran towards her, convinced it was too late. Still, I had to try.

I raised the bat over my head in defiance and gave an angry battle cry.

Which is about when Superman showed up.

I suppose it is technically possible that he confused my intentions. (Unlikely, but possible) He hit me and the force threw me all the way back to the "Zodmobile." I reached up and tenderly touched where he had hit me. My eye. I could already feel it swelling. That jerk.

And then it made sense. I looked down through my good eye at my shirt. The American flag. I suddenly remembered reading somewhere where Superman had disavowed his US citizenship(making him the first illegal ever to do so). He was afraid that his actions might be misconstrued as US policy.

I looked up at him and he just smirked. And to think I ever liked you. I rolled back over to my Jeep, which, as noted earlier, is a customized vehicle known as the "Zodmobile." Luckily one of the new features I had installed on the "Zodmobile" was a pair of Kryptonian-DNA-seeking Kryptonite missiles. I hit the launch button and hit the ground.

The pair of them tore out of the launcher. Superman, apparently not expecting any sort of retaliation, was caught off-guard. He was lifted in the air and hurled ten blocks away. A bright green explosion marked where he landed.

The bright light attracted the attention of the zombies and pirates, and both groups moved off to investigate. This allowed the paramedics to finally arrive and treat those with injuries. As for me, they gave me an ibuprofen and told me to beat it. (It's nice to be appreciated)

And that is the story of how I got my black eye. And no, it most certainly did not occur because of anything so trivial as my two year old daughter rocking her head back into me while sitting on my lap. That's the story. Epic battle of survival. Not epic battle with two year old.

Besides, which story would you rather believe?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Movie Review: The Charge of the Light Brigade

Title: The Charge of the Light Brigade
Year Produced: 1936
Notable Actors/Actresses: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland
Trep's Rating: 5 Stars

This is, in my opinion, simply one of the best movies ever made.

The story begins in India. Geoffrey Vickers is assigned to escort a diplomat from Her Majesty the Queen of England to the leader of the Suristani tribes. Though the two peoples have lived in an uneasy alliance for some time, the treaties that held them together are about to expire.

For Vickers, a Major in the British Army, he knows how serious war would be with the mountain fighters of the Suristan people. But neither he nor the British Army realize how far the leader, Surat Khan, will go.

Something happens at this point in the movie that sets the rest of the events in motion. The movie culminates with the "Charge of the Light Brigade," made famous by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem.

This is a great movie for anyone. Though it was made in 1936, it still holds up well today. By the way, the charge is by far one of the most visually impressive charge scenes ever filmed, if not the most, made all the more so by the fact that they are really doing the stunts. No computer effects here.

Great movie, great story. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: Hero of Ages

Title: The Hero of Ages
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: High Epic Fantasy
Trep's Rating: 5 Stars

This one has been a long time coming. I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading the third book in this series, but it's done now. I have repented. And I'm glad I did.

Hero of Ages was a fitting end to a story of this scope and then some. For those of you who have not read this series, it's about group of thieves who plot to rob and overthrow their Emperor/God. He has ruled with an iron fist for a thousand years, enslaving an entire race of people and generally just being what one might expect from a megalomaniac dictator who is immortal.

A much bigger story unfolds in book two and then again in Hero of Ages. This gang of thieves will have to pull together and do something they never thought they'd have to do: save the Final Empire. This is high fantasy at its best with a decidedly apocalyptic tinge to the third book. It has a fantastic magic system and a sweeping story that really allows you to get pulled in.

On a side note about this series. I don't know if this was intentional, though I suspect some of it was, this series manages to capture all the best things about Les Miserables, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Scarlett Pimpernel. I know that on his blog Brandon Sanderson did mention that his inspiration for one of the characters was Marius from Les Miserables. I picked up on that and many other things that gave this epic fantasy a certain flavor, one that reminded me very much of all three of these classic works.

This is a great story. And, I've just recently found out, it's not over. Alloy of Law is due out in November of this year, and I can't wait.

Read these books. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Durango And SIlverton

Last year my family and I went to Durango Colorado (which in itself is not all that exciting, but hey, it was a vacation). If you ever get the chance, go there and take a ride on one of the last steam train lines in the United States. The scenery is spectacular, and the train ride itself is pretty fun.

Here's some of the photos I managed to take during the ride:

This is probably the most visually stunning part of the trip. At a section of rail known as the Highline there is a cut across a cliff for the rail. You can look out the side of the car and see four hundred feet straight down to the river below.

Like I said, it can be a fun experience and one that if you have the time and money you shouldn't pass up.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Making Good Ideas Great

One thing that gets asked at every writer's conference I've ever attended has something to do with how to get ideas. It seems that many people are convinced that if they could just get a great idea and go with it, the New York Times Bestseller list is only a matter of time. Maybe they're right. Who knows?

What I've found personally however, is that the idea for a book is hardly ever the problem. I've got tons of ideas. But ideas alone don't make a book. It takes work. Lots and lots of hard work.

True, it's not like working in a coal mine or catching fish on a trawler out of Gloucester or anything like that, but it is work, nonetheless. I know, I know. This goes against what many believe about art, that it is organic, that it should just be allowed to happen. Yeah. The truth is that all art takes work. It takes artists a long time to develop the skills to work a masterpiece.

Writing is no different.

So, ideas aren't everything. But they do have their place. So how do you turn good ideas into great ideas and make them work for you?

Mix them with other ideas.

It sounds simple, but it really works. That's what writing is all about after all. It is about taking something familiar and adding in something new, something we haven't experienced before. Fiction can take us to places that literally only our imagination can carry us to.

The other thing that I've learned is that when you're working on a book, don't hold back. If there are two many ideas floating around in your book, you can always cut them back as needed later. But when you are putting your story together don't hold out some of your best ideas for other books. Especially if you are writing a series. That's fine if you have a bunch of ideas that will make a killer ending to your trilogy. But if there isn't enough going on in the first two books, if the reader has to wait until book 3, well, then you've failed. Besides. Ideas are infectious. One leads to another and so on. And if your reading as much as anyone hoping to become a published author should be, then ideas will always abound.

For a writing exercise, try this: Take two ideas, make them as different as possible. Trivial things, you name it. Just make them very different. Now combine them. That will give you a basis for your story. Then take another idea. This will be added in to raise the stakes, exacerbating the conflict. Now, finally, take a fourth idea and find a way to work a solution from it. Have some fun with it and see what you come up with.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Naming Names

Over the weekend I had a disagreement with my wife. We're expecting a baby in November, we don't know what it will be yet, but we're trying to decide on a name that we both like.(Actually two names, one boy, one girl,)

So. I'm reading the names off that I like out of a baby name book. I think every one of them was met with "no, no, are you serious," and the like.(In my wife's defense I was joking about some of them)

And then I found it. Pure gold in the world of naming. Raiden. Meaning: Japanese god of Thunder and Lightning.(I should probably preface this next part by explaining that my wife has never played Mortal Kombat) I excitedly told her that this had to be our choice if it was a boy. I mean, come on, right? Her reply was, "do you want him to get beat up?"

I stared back at her, incredulous. "You think he'll get beat up? Don't you know who Raiden is?"


I pulled up a picture of him on the computer. "This is Raiden. You don't #%$%& with Raiden. You get zapped!"

Unfortunately, she wasn't impressed. And so the search for a name continues, much to my dismay. It could have been so perfect, but alas, it's not meant to be.

Do you think she'd go for Sub-Zero or Scorpion?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Movie Review: The Cave

Title: The Cave
Year Produced: 2005
Notable Actors/Actresses: Lena Headey, Piper Perabo
Trep's Rating: 3 Stars

For Friday's now I'm going to be posting a movie review(in addition to Thursday's awesome book review!). I watch a fairly wide variety of stuff, but again, mostly in the fantasy/sci-fi/horror genre. Thrillers are popular too, but I'll make an effort to branch out for these reviews. The point is not to review things that most everyone has seen, but to pick movies that, for whatever reason aren't very well-known.

First up is The Cave, which caught my attention with the awesome cover. I mean, seriously, doesn't this make you want to watch it?

In reality, I knew I was probably getting into a B-movie. But, what the heck. The plot also caught my attention, because it sounded a lot like the book I was reading at the time(Subterranean). It's about a group of cave explorers who get contracted to map out a cave system discovered under the ruins of a monastery in Eastern Europe.

When they arrive they discover a warning from the long-gone monks at the entrance to the caves, warning that they are supposed to be sealed so that winged demons don't get out. Of course, this doesn't bother the explorers and they start off on their expedition.

All seems to be going well, but then one of their team goes missing. Then another. Eventually the leader of the team is attacked while looking for the other members and is wounded by the flying demon. Something really cool and unexpected comes into the story around here, and I won't give it away, but it's what made me revise my opinion about the movie. It's a B-movie, but a good B-movie.

Now, trapped in the caves and cut off from escape, the team must fight their way through this nightmare and find another way out. No real stars in this one, but the acting is decent. Piper Perabo is the girl from Coyote Ugly and Lena Headey played Queen Gorgo in 300. The writing is above par for a film like this, and the movie had a really cool song at the end. Here it is:

So, all in all, it was a fun movie. Not too much in the way of a content warning, either. So if you're looking for a good flick to get into, and you like sci-fi/fantasy, this might not be the most amazing movie you will ever see, but it is entertaining. Check it out. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Book Review: Subterranean

Title: Subterranean
Author: James Rollins
Genre: Thriller
Trep's Rating: 3 and a half stars

James Rollins is an author that I was put onto by a guy I work with. I was told that he was the greatest author this guy had ever read. I was skeptical, especially since I know that this guy has read about four books in his entire life, three of them by this author, and only then while in jail with nothing to do. But, I gave him a chance.

Subterranean starts out with a team of scientists being assembled for an expedition to a newly discovered cave system in Antarctica. Not only are they there to find out about the unique ecosystem one mile beneath the ice, but they are there to find out what happened to a lost culture whose artifacts and cave homes have been found buried down there.

But that is not all. Not everyone in the world is happy about the supposedly top-secret discovery. The finding of diamonds large enough and in enough quantity to destroy the worlds diamond market puts the new dig site squarely in the sights of and extremist group hired by African diamond nations. One of the team is not who they seems, and time is quickly running out for them to discover it.

As though this weren't bad enough, there are other things in the caves. Monsters. Giant reptiles that are capable of shrugging off most bullets. As the team run for their lives they encounter aid in the least likely of places, the lost civilization that apparently only moved deeper....

All in all, I liked this book. I did find it odd that there should happen to be kangaroo-monkey-people in this book, and that I should pick it up right after I finish Into The Storm, which featured cat-monkey-people. Don't ask me, odd coincidence.

There were a few things that I liked, and a few that I didn't. The pacing of the book is great. It's 353 pages on my nook, so not too long. In that length Rollins packs a great story about survival and pitting man against nature in a realistic way. One thing that I really liked was how realistic the injuries and the stunts in the book were. Most of the injuries happen when characters trip, fall, twist their ankles, slip, etc.... Cave exploring is dangerous on its own. The addition of these very menial yet very realistic injuries did a lot for me in helping to create the illusion.

The only real problem I had with the book was the main character's political view. Don't get me wrong, it's fine that characters have political views. It's what helps give them life. Yet I don't want to be preached to, regardless of that view. The main character spends half the book randomly going into monologues, extolling the endless virtues of her point of view.

The story was good however, and if that sort of thing doesn't bother you, then this is a good book for you. It almost killed it for me, but I hear that he doesn't do it in his other books, so I'll give the author another chance at a later date.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pet Peeves In Writing

I love this video. It's not just because it's fracking hilarious, which it is, but it makes a good point. There are things in writing(and of course, screenwriting) that are way overdone. Some of those things don't even make any sense. For example:

Brad was knocked to the ground by a wicked blow to the back of the head. He reached up and felt the warm and sticky blood as it matted in his hair. Suddenly Rick took a step forward and pressed the barrel of the gun to his forehead.
"Time to say goodbye," he said dryly.
Rick thumbed back the hammer. Brad swallowed. It was not supposed to end like this. He had a wife, a son, back at home in bed. He was supposed to be there too, but he had offered to do his boss a favor, and this was his reward.

OK, so some of that was pretty corny but that was kinda the point. But the part I'm really talking about is where he "thumbs back the hammer" on the gun. This drives me nuts. I understand where it comes from, of course. You see, many of the guns they used to use required one to pull back the hammer. But unless your using one of those guns for your book/story/screenplay, you should just be able to pull the trigger. If you've ever shot a modern handgun you should know that you can pull back the hammer, but it accomplishes nothing.

I suspect my opinion on this will go largely ignored, and that's OK. Some of my favorite authors do it regularly, and I still like their work. It's just one of those things that I think is funny, much like the above video.

So, what are some things that you think are overdone? What gets under your skin because it either is done ad nauseum or doesn't make sense or both?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Using Symbolism Effectively

We've all heard about it. Symbolism, when combined with an already-strong story can make that story into a classic. It can take a great plot with great characters and give it meaning. Conversely, the same is true if you were to take it away from a story, because part of the magic would go with it. (Imagine Les Miserables without symbolism, and suddenly it turns into a really drawn-out action story)

So, using symbols in your writing is important. But how do you go about doing it?

If you've ever read the book On Writing by Stephen King you'll remember where he talks about it. He uses the example of his first book, Carrie, about a girl who has telekinetic powers and kills the whole school when they pull a prank on her at a school dance. (To be honest, not his best work, and he even says that he doesn't really like it, but that's not the point).

In each of the important scenes of the book Stephen King discovered that there was blood. Blood itself can be very symbolic, so he decided to play with it. He did, and the story is the result. By making the symbolism powerful he turned what in my opinion would have been a typical horror story into a story that has resonance with the reader. It will be remembered, when others that were similar but lacked that symbolic nature fall by the wayside.

Symbols are fun to play with. Dan Brown has all but made his career out of playing with them in the context of stories, and seeing what he can come up with. True, that's not exactly what I'm talking about doing with writing, but part of the reason that his work has enjoyed so much success is due to the symbols he works with and what they mean to his audience.

One of the best examples of using symbolism in movies that I can think of is the 1999 flick Varsity Blues. (Please note, I didn't say it was the best movie ever, but I like it because it's so easy to see how they used symbolism).

The story is about a high school football team in a small town in Texas. A coach, played by Jon Voight, rules the town with an iron fist. A small band of the best players must decide through the course of the movie if they are going to save their own possible futures in football or sacrifice them to end the long chain of abuses and get rid of the coach.

Several things stand out. First, Lance Harbor, the star quarterback and golden child of the town wears the number seven, the number of perfection. The entire team wears blue jerseys, blue being a color that indicates loyalty. The main character, Jonathan Moxon or "The Mox"(which makes him sound more like a disease one might acquire while swimming the Nile in Africa) wears the number four. Four is associated with 4F. 4 and F both represent failure, rejection, and not fitting into the requirements. Even the team mascot, the coyotes, lends itself to a feeling that in this town they are on their own, cut off from the rest of the world like the rogue scavengers are themselves.

In all these examples, however, story comes first. Symbolism can effectively add to your story, but you've got to make the story work in the first place. Characters have to be strong. The plot has to feel organic. If you're able to do these things, then sit down and read through it, and see if anything stands out to you. Maybe something you can emphasize more. If not, oh well, you've still got a great story. But if so, play with it and see what you can come up with.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Goosebumps Phenomenon

Those of you who went through grade school in the early nineties will no doubt remember the Goosebumps series by R.L.Stine. I don't think there was a single person at my school who at some time didn't pick up one of those books. I ran a library for them out of my desk until the teacher shut me down. (That's the "Man" for ya, always pushing around the little guy) I never understood why the teacher was so opposed to the books, at one point going so far as banning them from class and any reading lists. (Which, by the way, only made them more popular in my opinion, and so, I bite my thumb at you sir!)

Anyway, the thing I wanted to talk about today was just how great a series they were for me at the time. I love fantasy/sci-fi/horror and when I was growing up these books were a huge influence on me. Now, I'm not saying that they were great literature, capable of standing the test of time. But seriously, do you remember how popular they were? I did a little research and discovered that they have sold over 350 million copies worldwide in 35 languages. They were addictive. I remember waiting for the next one and buying it the day it came out, then reading it in that same day. I read many of them over and over again.

I really don't know what could compare with them. Harry Potter was another series that had the popularity, but it was only seven books. We really haven't seen anything like it since then. But what made it so popular? Was it the short format? The subject matter? Or was it simply the right series at the right time?

As for me, the teacher did finally force me to choose something else to read, at least for school reports. In at least one regard I am grateful for that. The teacher had other ideas about what I should read, like Tom Sawyer(yawn) or Indian in the Cupboard(which I liked). But, ever the rebel, I had to branch out and choose something else on my own. Much to the dismay of my teacher that something that I chose was the smash hit Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton. And my reading would never be the same again....

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Book Review: Into The Storm

I've been working on the restructuring of this blog(Please, Pardon Our Dust) and decided that henceforth every Thursday shall be known as...wait for it...Book Review Day!
And in keeping with that very exciting change, I have selected the first victim-er, I mean book to be reviewed. Mwa-ha-ha.
Into The Storm, by Taylor Anderson, is a likely contender for a spot on "Porter's Picks." I'll be honest, I'm a sucker for a flashy cover, and what more could you want from a cover, anyway? The other books only have cooler covers, but I'll wait to show you those until I read them.
The book inside was just as gripping as the awesome artwork on the cover. Into The Storm tells the story of the USS Walker, a "four-stacker" destroyer left over from World War I. The Walker, an aging antique of a warship belongs to the infamous Asiatic Fleet. As World War II breaks out across the Pacific there is little choice but for the Walker and her fellow ships to run, trying to make a fight of it anywhere they can. Hopelessly outgunned and out-planed by the Japanese Imperial Navy, the Walker get assigned to escort a British cruiser, the HMS Exeter, to safety.
The Japanese have no intention of letting them escape. In a multi-pronged attack they hit the small flotilla again and again and again. The Exeter goes down, and just as it looks like the Walker and her sister ship Mahan will meet a similar fate at the hands of the giant Japanese cruiser Amagi they duck into a storm and find a momentary lease on life.
But when they emerge from the storm they quickly realize that something is not right. There are no Japanese planes in the air. No Japanese ships. For that matter, there are no radio contacts, even though the radio is working fine.
Taylor Anderson, Author of the Destroyermen Series
Troubled by this turn of events they make for land. But the East Indies aren't what they're supposed to be. Dinosaurs roam the land, and everywhere there seem to be creatures, both in the sea and on land that would like nothing better to eat them. As the heavy weight of the situation comes down on them they realize that not only have they passed into a alternate universe, but that there may be no return.
This book quickly goes from military historical fiction to high fantasy, and I loved it. It had all the best parts of 20,000 leagues, Lost World, and Time Machine. It was a solid four stars, and sets up the rest of the series well.
There is a little bit of language, not much, but it's there, so be aware. Crude humor is a part of it too, but honestly. The book is about a navy destroyer and its crew. What do you expect?
All in all, I was surprised by just how much I liked this book. Fans of the Temeraire series might find it a fun( and less long-winded) alternative while they wait for the next book in that series. If you like high-fantasy or adventure novels this is also a must-read.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Who Is Your Favorite Disney Hero?

Okay, let's have some fun. We all know the magic of Disney's Animated Classics. (Those of us who are parents know them a little too well) We grew up watching them and even now when we're older many of them haven't lost their charm(again, unless you're a parent and forced to watch, say, Cinderella, fourteen times a week because that's all your child wants to watch. That's why God invented parks. To give parents an option that doesn't force them to forsake their sanity)
But, all that aside, I have a question for you. Who is your favorite all-time Disney hero? This is limited to actual Disney Animated Classics, so no Shrek or other Dreamworks characters. But who would it be and why?
Mine is Hercules. He is about as much of the archetypal hero as they come. He has awesome strength, a commitment to do good and help others, and he wins the war with the Titans and saves the girl at the end. Plus, He's freakin' HERCULES. Being the son of Zeus has to count for something, right?
So, tell me what you think. Who is worthy of taking home the crown as best Disney hero of all-time?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Horror vs Whorer

I finished reading Dan Well's John Cleaver series a little while ago. Around the same time I finished watching the fourth season DVDs of Dexter. One thing occurred to me. While I liked both of them, and while they dealt with very similar topics, there was one thing that I had to give Dan credit for.
He left the crap out of his books.
By crap I mean needless sex scenes, an excess of blood and gore, etc.... Basically the checklist that most horror movies seem to use now. Now, first off, let me say that while I personally don't believe in putting those things into media, I'm not coming at this from a moral high-ground or anything. Rather I'm taking a stab at it from a literary angle.
I don't particularly like to read or watch sex scenes, but I will allow them if they make sense. For example, there were a few scenes of such nature in the Troy series by David Gemmell. I loved the books, and when those scenes popped up, they helped advance the plot. They made sense. Which is after all what writing a story is all about.
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is another such example. The point I'm trying to get at is that while these books have sex and violence they make sure to make it part of the story.
Dexter on the other hand, includes scenes and while a few of them may affect the plot, many are just bizarrely out of place. It frustrates me because Dexter is a really well written show. But it takes me out of the story whenever they splash something like that across the screen by reminding me that this is just a show and they are looking for cheap tricks to boost their ratings. The show is good enough to stand on its own, and breaking the fourth wall just because you think that you need to dedicate x amount of minutes to scenes of that nature cheapens the work in my opinion.
What I'm getting at is my own pet peeve with most horror movies. It seems that regardless of the plot, they share something in common: they all have teens, who, for lack of common sense, would rather have sex than get on with the task of saving their own lives(which I admit is theoretically true, but not every time), and they contain a ridiculous amount of just plain gross violence, that isn't really scary so much as it will make you uncomfortable. Again, I feel that this is a cheap trick. Psycho is a great example of creating suspense with good writing, and look how long it's lasted. Just my opinion, but I doubt that in 30-40 years we'll hold My Bloody Texas Friday on Elm Street with Piranhas up in the same way. My prediction is that Psycho, however, will still be around.
Storytelling is about telling the best story you know how to. If you think that you need to add things in so that it will sell better, you're doing it wrong I think. If that's part of your story, and that's the way you want it, fine. By all means, put it in. But it should feel organic, not forced like you went through in round five of revisions and added them in.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Writing Every Day: The Key To Success

There is something I've heard from just about every person who's ever spoken on the subject of writing. In order to become good at it, you must read a lot and write a lot.
I'll admit that when it comes to reading a lot I have no problem. Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes. I'll read almost anything. If I'm sitting at McDonald's, eating, my eyes will instinctively wander and read anything from the place mat to the Spanish/English signs scattered throughout the establishment. It may be boring, but my brain is just geared that way.(Usually I bring my nook and avoid reading the signs, however)
Writing is another matter altogether. In the past I've written in bursts, throwing down up to 12,000 words in a day, but then going days or dare I say it, weeks without writing. That all has changed recently however. About a month ago I made a commitment to write every day, no matter what. The amount of work I've been able to get done is amazing. And, wouldn't you know? Writer's block is not as much of a problem. See, when I go without writing for even a day I find that returning to the task is just a little more daunting than it otherwise would have been. I don't remember exactly where I was in the project I was writing, I don't feel motivated. You know. Excuses. But excuses can sometimes be enough to derail the writing train.
So now, I write everyday. About something. It doesn't matter what. If I feel writer's block for the project I'm working on, then I'll just bang away at something else, even if it makes no sense, until I feel like returning to my work-in-progress. And truthfully, having made the commitment, and putting forth the effort, it doesn't take too long for the muse to come out and start whispering. Or maybe that's one of the voices I hear in my head. (Either way, it has great ideas)
So what works for you? What is the key to keeping the literary home fires burning while you're away doing the things that life requires from all of us. (ie, job, school, family, etc....) Many of us have a limited amount of time that we can dedicate to writing. How do we make the most of it?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

News Update

Writers from all over the Utah area and others that came in from out of state all congregated at the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center in Salt Lake City this Weekend. I, of course, was among them. The conference itself has been a really fun event for me to look forward to for four or five years now.
Most exciting for me personally was the chance to pitch my manuscript to an agent this year. I've had to bust my tail to get the book finished in time for the conference, and I just managed. Getting the pitch ready was, well, nerve-racking. But, all that is done with now and I can kick back and relax, sort of.
The agent I pitched to requested a full manuscript! Now to touch it up and send it in. I'll be burning the midnight oil this week and getting it ready to send off. All other projects are going to be put on a back-burner and it's "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" on this book.
I do have a few other projects in mind for after that, but until then I have to focus. That deserves all of my attention for the moment, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Some Good News, Some Bad News

Ok, first the good news. I just found out that I am going to be a dad again. I can't even begin describe how excited I am about this announcement. This will be child number two and I couldn't be happier.
Lucky for me, the good news far outweighs the bad. I got an email from the editors of the Monsters and Mormons project telling me that they decided not to take my story that I submitted to them. Oh well. Worse things have happened, I think I'm going to be ok here. On the bright side, they did send me an email and included specifics as to why they opted not to publish my piece, and that was very helpful. So, not all bad.
I'm still working on the second draft of Dead in the Water. It's coming along well, and I think that I've got the problems I was having with the ending just about fixed. More to come on this project as I complete it.
As for what I'm reading and watching, here goes: I am about halfway through Monster Hunter International. I'm surprised about how much I'm enjoying this book. It's basically what the title says, it's about a bunch people who train an insane amount with an insane arsenal of weaponry, all in order to go hunting monsters for an insane amount of money.
To be honest, I haven't had as much fun reading a book like this except for the Dresden Files. It's not really on the same level, at least not from a literary standpoint, but then, that's not really the point. What it is is a good, entertaining read that will be good for anyone who enjoys B-horror films like I do.
I'm cruising through the seasons of Dexter, entering season three tonight. Good show, overall, but the mature content almost kills it and in some episodes, does. No, believe it or not, I'm not referring to violence and gore, despite the show being about a serial killer who kills killers. No, the mature content I'm referring to is the bizarre sexual content that the show flaunts unnecessarily. The overall story is good, but if anything it has made me realize what a great job Dan Wells did with his John Cleaver series. In it he tackled essentially the same topics, and put them together in a way that creeps you out way more than Dexter does, while at the same time steering clear of the more mature content.
I'm also looking forward to reading Brandon Mull's new book, Beyonders: A World Without Heroes. Fablehaven was such a good series that I have high hopes for this one.
Well, that's all for now. Time to get back to work on the book.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Taking Your Craft Seriously

I spent a busy day today cleaning my house and getting ready for the coming week. I used that time to get caught up on my favorite podcast, Writing Excuses. If you're not familiar with this cast, I strongly recommend that you look it up, particularly if you, like me, are endeavoring to become a published author. Even if your interests don't lie in that direction, these guys are seriously funny to listen to.
One of the episodes that I caught up on today was about authors taking their job seriously. Kevin J. Anderson was a guest on the show, and I tell you what, that man works hard at being a writer.
And that's coming from me. Someone who logs 60-80 hours per week at the restaurant I work at.
And I think he works hard. That should tell you something.
Anyway, it hit me. Writing is what I want to do. But have I really acted as though it were as important as I purported it to be?
It got me thinking. I work a lot. I have a lot of reasons to justify not getting my writing done. After 13+ hours on my feet it's easy to just kick back and watch TV when I get home. It's even easy to say that I really am working on my writing, because there are some very good movies and shows that I can learn a lot from as a writer.
And maybe if I listen to audio books while I sleep I will learn through osmosis.
Yeah, so I realized that I'm fairly easily distracted. One of the traps that I fall into is that when I think of getting to work writing I imagine that I need at least a couple of hours of uninterrupted time to really dig in. So if everything is not perfect, it's all too easy for me just to blow it off and wait for another time when conditions will be better.
The problem is, of course, that conditions are rarely if ever better.
So, asking myself, how seriously do I take my craft? I thought that I was taking it seriously, but when I've gone back over the past weeks and mapped how many hours I actually spent writing I saw that the answer wasn't what I wanted it to be.
However, I still want to take it seriously. So now the hard part. Putting my money where my mouth is. I can give myself incentives and set goals all that I want, but without results it doesn't mean a thing.
That doesn't mean that I can't still have fun with it. I mean, that's the beauty of it all. It's work, true, but it's work that I love doing.
So, that's it. I've got work to do. Best be getting to it. Meanwhile, here's a picture I drew last night.
Sorry, that was random, but I had to work him in here somewhere. Now, time for sleep.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Just A Couple Of Things That Made Me Smile....

There were a couple of things I saw this morning that made me smile so here they are. The first is a picture I came across while surfing the web:

The print is a little hard to read. It says:
Harry Potter: I am the greatest wizard in the whole world!
Harry Dresden: Whatever, kid.
HP: Shall we duel?
HD: Your funeral, kid.
HP: Todificus!
HP: It didn't work!
HD: My turn kid!
HD: Eat Hellfire!
Sorry, not to knock Harry Potter, I loved the books, but Dresden is my main man. This was shooting the milk from my cheerios out my nose over breakfast funny.
The other thing I saw was a t-shirt. It said, simply: "Screw Team Edward Cullen. Go Team Thomas Wraith."
Again, another reference to the Dresden Files that you probably won't understand unless you've read the series. But then, if you haven't read the series, then what are you doing here? Shame on you. Go and read it now.
And now, I'm off to work for the day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hammer Down

All right. I admit it. The past two weeks have been less than productive, and this coming off of the holiday season during which my effort has been sub-par at best.
But all of that is about to change.

I have a project that I'm working on called Dead in the Water. I've been working on it off and on for over a year. At one point the project was, pardon the pun, dead in the water.
Since then, I pulled out my notes and took another stab at it during nanowrimo. I fixed a lot of the things that were bothering me about it and really got excited about it. I finished the first draft for nano and now I'm working on the rewrite.
The problem is that I wrote it very fast during nano, and to be able to do so, I had to leave out several characters and their subplots. I'm now going through the process of putting them in, making sure that I have a consistency throughout, and all the while correcting any oversights that I find along the way.
I've been poking at this, but to be honest, it's time to just get this project over with. I have ideas for several new projects that I'd like to work on, and I'm really bothered that this one isn't done yet.
I have all I need in place. Time to just do it.
So over the next couple of weeks I'll be doing just that. It will be a mini nanowrimo for me, except that when I'm done I'll have the second draft of my book ready to send out to beta readers and there will be much rejoicing. Until then, however, it will be late nights and guarana capsules and Pepsi. I've procrastinated long enough. Time to finish.
Wish me luck, and if anybody would like to volunteer to read the manuscript for me and tell me what they think, email me at The goal is to be done by Superbowl Sunday.
Not wanting to leave you on such a serious and melodramatic note, here's something to laugh at today:

We all know that January is the month to set goals in the area of physical excellence. February is the month to break them. No, just kidding, but if you are trying to get in shape this year, I hope you have better success than these people. I just started a running routine, and it's helped me get a handle on my schedule. A lot.
Just forcing myself to be disciplined for running is forcing me to become more structured in other areas of my life, too. And it feels great.
So, again, wish me luck. Thanks for following my blog and I hope to have good news the next time I post. Until then, Adeu!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

10 Movies That Made me Want to be an Author

I've wanted to be a writer for a long time. In elementary school I wrote stories for fun. I loved the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine and the Hardy Boys. Subsequently, I wrote a couple of cheap knock-offs of those series, so carried away was I with my infatuation with them.
Since then, I've come a long way, and, thankfully, I no longer am limited to writing Goosebumps fanfic. I'm working on my second book, and have half a dozen respectable short stories that I'm working on getting published.
Through the years, I've maintained a strong love for the written word. But one of the things that has continued to excite me about writing fiction is seeing on the silver screen. The following is the list of my top ten movies that made me want to either become a writer or continue working hard to become one.
  • Casablanca This is probably my favorite movie, tops. It's a timeless classic, with plenty of romance, intrigue, and action. True, it's not something that would thrill special-effects fanatics today, but the writing, the story, is awesome.
  • Gone With The Wind I first saw this movie when I was about 5 years old. I love the way it is written, for the clever way it tells the audience about an entire time period and what it was like, all the while telling a great story. History is fun, at least for me, as is fiction. Combine them effectively and you've got cinematic and literary gold.
  • Million-Dollar Baby I saw this movie shortly after getting home off of my mission for the LDS church. It literally knocked my socks off. This was probably the first time I got really excited about writing, at least as far as thinking of it as a career.
  • Gran Torino Between this and Million-Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood really outdid himself. I loved the themes that were prevalent throughout this show, and the ending, much like the one in Million-Dollar Baby, was fantastic.
  • Secret Window From the King of Creepy comes this story about an author accused of plagiarism. When he is hounded by this stranger, things quickly get out of control. Johnny Depp did a great job, but again, the reason I'm including it is because the story is written really well.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean The whole franchise. Do I really have to explain why this movie made me want to write awesome fiction?
  • The Hunt for Red October Classic cold-war suspense involving awesome submarine technology and Scottish and Russian accents. Regardless the story is really good and one that helped shape me as an author.
  • Alien vs Predator Hey, this is my list, not AMC's, so I'll put this one on it if I want. And just the first one, not the load of tripe that they put out in the second one. The first movie did a great job of combining two of my favorite franchises while at the same time making a great story out of it. Score one for fanfic, I guess.
  • Misery Another one from Stephen King, this one is a good story, though, based on the content, I'm not sure that it made me want to be a published author. Ever. But it's a good story and one of my favorites nonetheless.
  • The Shawshank Redemption I know that King's work is more than amply covered already, but that is not a bias, more a tribute to just how good his work is. And one of the crowning achievements that made it to film was The Shawshank Redemption. Strong story, good characters, and compelling themes throughout. Also, if you've seen the movie and enjoyed as much as I did, you might like this following little clip:

Anyway, these are some of the films that helped shape me as an author. What about you? What are some movies that you feel have influenced your writing positively?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Birthday Shout-Out

On this day in 1892 J.R.R. Tolkien was born. Ironically, the Father of the Fantasy Genre's birthday comes just one day after Isaac Asimov, who if not the Father of Sci-Fi, at least his work has been key to the development of that genre.
Anyway, I've enjoyed both of these authors for years. They're classics in their own right. I just wanted to take a chance and thank both of these men for there contributions to the world of fiction. Happy Birthday.