Monday, November 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo: The Final Four Days

I wrote the last few lines of this crazy novel that took the whole month of November with a bit of planning in October. I am glad that I am finished now since the basic rules of grammar and spelling elude me, caffeine no longer works to get me thinking any faster, and the few remaining characters still alive just annoy me.

It was a hell of an experience and I'm glad I took on the challenge but the process is far from done. It is a tough understanding to come to that I will spend several more years of my life poring over the nonsense I spewed out in thirty days trying to make it sensical and a coherent story that I may share with one other person.

I am looking forward to getting back to normalcy, sleep most of all, but no caffeine and regular meals as well. I am looking forward to reading and writing at a leisurely pace and talking to people about other stuff than my novel.

I topped out at about one hundred and twelve thousand words, which is over thirty thousand more than last year so of course I will push myself to write even more next year, but I don't want to think about that right now. I didn't get as much writing done over the break as I would've liked but I still managed to push the plot forward enough to get an ending out of it, albeit a few forced plot points will need to be dealt with at a later date when I can think.

I'll probably have a more positive outlook when I do a recap in a week or so but for now I'm glad it's over! 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

TV Show Review: The Walking Dead (Season 6.1)

AMC's zombie apocalypse thriller wrapped up the first half of its sixth season with a middling midseason finale. I watch as a comic book reader who recently caught up earlier this year so I have some foresight into what might happen in the near future. I only read the compendiums so I'm about to catch up on the third book soon to know where the show is heading but for now I at least know a possible scenario that could play out in Alexandria.

This season started out with a bang, crazy black and white flashbacks, and a zombie horde. There were all sorts of twists and turns but eight episodes just wasn't enough to generate the momentum to pull off some real excitement. The set up is certainly there and the second half could be action-packed but for now we are left with not much satisfaction.

The biggest storyline of the season was Glenn's supposed death, which I found to be a bit upsetting when they didn't follow through. In the age of the internet and when you have a show to sum up the happenings, it is hard to pull something off like that. The idea was clever but in hindsight seems to be such a tease when there were no other significant deaths in this first half. 

The army of wolves were a pretty cool twist but unless they explain that through the promise of Negan, their motivations seemed clouded and nonsensical at the moment. I was hoping we would see more of them in this half but that will also have to wait. The episode where they attacked Alexandria and Carol turned all badass was one of my favorites.

The horde certainly came through and were another very exciting part about this season. They have not been dealt with yet so that will also be a part of this elaborate waiting game. 

We got to see some of our favorite characters and they did a good job dividing up the episodes as they split off on separate paths but the actions of a few seemed strange mostly because it's hard to understand the thinking of a character like Carol who hasn't been in the forefront for a while.

The return of Morgan was cool, since I like his character. His flashback came at the opportune time to delay the reveal of Glenn's fate plus the cameo of John Carroll Lynch was interesting. He's always a cool actor to see pop up, especially as a martial arts expert. A lot needed to be explained about Morgan and that episode was enlightening while entertaining and slowing down the fast pace of the horde invasion.

Overall, the first half seemed to be the set up of an awesome second half, which serves the purpose of keeping viewers coming back and ultimately selling expensive advertisement spots. Since Rick and others were covered in zombie guts in the middle of the horde, it should be one hell of a second half premiere! 

College Football Week 13

Rivalry week has come and past with two days of big games over the Thanksgiving holiday. Teams have had their chance all year to prove their dominance and now there is only championship week left to make the final play.

The biggest loss of this week was Notre Dame losing to Stanford and dropping out of their running of the championship. Such a close game came down to the wire but with the Fighting Irish out it leaves room for both a Big 12 and Big Ten team to make their way into the final four. 

On Friday, TCU came out on top over Baylor which eliminates the last two Texas teams. Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State letting the Sooners take the third spot overall in the playoff rankings since they don't have to play a championship. 

Clemson continued to dominate their opponents for an undefeated season by beating South Carolina and if they can continue on to beat their northern counterpart North Carolina in the ACC championship they will have the number one spot, seems likely.

With Florida's loss to Florida State, Alabama looks to be the clear frontrunner in the SEC. It seems improbable that they fall in the SEC championship. If so then I don't know who goes on to take their spot or if they still get in, would be an interesting conundrum for the ranking committee. 

The Big Ten Championship next weekend will decide it for Iowa and Michigan State. The reigning champs Ohio State have fallen after their one loss and don't look to have a chance to regain the title this year. 

We may be in for a few more surprises before the year is out. Thanks for following along with me!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Movie Review: Victor Frankenstein

Released by 20th Century Fox

Yet another retelling of Mary Shelley's horror tale Frankenstein, this one focuses more on action and downplays the horror. I went in with low expectations after the reviewers mostly panned it. 

Daniel Radcliffe stars as the hunchback Igor, Dr. Frankenstein's assistant. He works as a clown in the circus, backstory that was extrapolated on since Igor isn't even in the original novel. The hunchback is quickly dispelled in some ridiculous fashion about a puss filled growth on his back and his spine is straightened by a contraption so that Radcliffe can walk around normally and be a handsome lead. His performance wasn't terrible and I hope the Harry Potter actor continues to get interesting roles in movies.

James McAvoy was entertaining as always as the mad scientist himself. He seemed trapped within the confines of the script and the tired retelling but usually he lights up the screen in any performance. There was a hint at a sequel at the end but I think that was just wishful thinking.

The supporting cast included Charles Dance who was totally wasted in one tiny scene about Victor's father. I hate to see this brilliant actor added in just to be thrown away to add nothing to the narrative plot, actually an upsetting addition and it would have been better if someone not so prestigious had been used instead. 

Andrew Scott plays the religious Inspector Turpin and serves as a sort of villain with convictions that contrast against Frankenstein's aspirations. He even got a clawed hand and a glass eye after strange battle but overall his part seemed forced and under utilized.

The monster didn't come in until the finally and though the production looked great and the special effects were gorgeous, nothing could save the weak storyline. I wanted to like this movie despite being forewarned but the Max Landis script fell short. I enjoyed American Ultra but he starts out with a clever sort of cliche idea and has a hard time following through. 

Five out of ten starts for the slick production, decent acting, but poor story.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 25&26 100K Achieved Thanksgiving

I thought I would have more free time but it is amazing how many things seem so much more interesting when all my time is occupied with writing a novel. I'm starting to get nostalgic already. There is really nothing quite so motivating for me as a writer but this month. I get so invested in a story and now I know I am drawing to a conclusion. I can't continue to drag it out much longer but I'm just not ready to get to the end yet. 

Tomorrow I hope to be the most productive day in my entire history of writing, at least word count wise. I am kind of sick of everything I produce at the moment and since I insist on fitting in my binge-watching of television shows at the same time I'm a bit distracted. I'm sure the condition of my grammar and sentence structure in the blog is showing on how bad I'm distracted and out of my mind. 

The caffeine hardly works anymore. I can ingest as much as I want but usually will get an ill feeling before I get any boost. I look forward to cleaning out my system and detoxing in December. I am also looking forward to losing myself in all this awesome stuff I see as far as video games, books, and movies when I don't have most of my time occupied with cranking out a paranormal thriller at this crazy pace. 

I've been asked a few times and thought myself about why this month of all months was chosen as the month to write a novel. After trying to write a Camp NaNo in the summer, I know the summer months are difficult to commit that much time to staring at a computer screen while the beautiful warm sun is out. The first winter months are full of work and other obligations. November is just perfect. It starts with the same three letters as novel too! The holiday really plays into that since it's not as busy Xmas but also time off from work to get it done. 

Getting toward the end now, I can feel the tension rising. I hope I can make it to the end because there is no way I even want to touch a keyboard for the first week of December and I don't want to lose the story momentum. I'll power through my tryptophan coma and get five thousand words and put me in prime position to write some awesome action!

The community is really awesome as always. We go through all sorts of topics from reading to writing to binge-watching to publishing to the struggles of editing. It's nice to get to know other authors who are dealing with the same situations. Writing is such a lonely activity but comes from such a need to communicate. I hope I can stick it out and improve on my ML leadership next year to create another awesome month for all my fellow writers!

Movie Review: Trumbo

Bryan Cranston's bid for the best actor academy award depicts the struggles of the brilliant and highly successful screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo directed by Jay Roach, a primarily comedy director. While this movie had some comedy beats and often ludicrous moments brought to screen it also came off as a drama about a man against oppression.

One of the best parts about a biopic is the history lesson while also being entertained. I was unfortunately ignorant about the large body of work Dalton Trumbo was responsible for including academy award winning screenplays for The Brave One and Roman Holiday. Of course Trumbo had to give writer credit for these screenplays to other writers or pseudonyms because of his blacklist status. 

Bryan Cranston's performance was amazing as always. His accent and entire demeanor took away the famous actor and meth dealer and gave us a hard drinking, chain smoking writer whose dedication overcame censorship but at the cost of his family and friends. Cranston should receive a nomination but even his great speech at the end won't push him past some other great performances that are bound to pop up later in the oscar season. 

The supporting cast was also pretty sharp, Helen Mirren as gossip columnist and former star Hedda Hopper played an antagonist that pushed the suppression of supposed communist attitudes in Hollywood. Louis C.K. played the cancer stricken fellow writer Arlen Hird and it is always nice to see this great comedian get solid, dramatic roles. Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire) played the actor Edward G. Robinson who eventually caved under the pressure of accusations and through many of the Hollywood 10 under the bus. 

As Trumbo's family, Diane Lane and Elle Fanning played the emotional core as Trumbo's wife and daughter respectively. They captured the struggle as Trumbo had to employ his family to drop of scripts, answer phone calls, and receive packages. John Goodman also had some great lines as a crap movie producer with one exceptional scene involving a baseball bat.

The screenplay was certainly remarkable fitting for a movie about such a great screenwriter but other than that and the lead performance, I don't see any other awards for this movie. 7 out of 10 stars as it was slow in the first act before the real comedy got started. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 23&24

Now is not the time to give up. The end approaches fast but novels are not yet written, word counts are not yet achieved. Now is the time to push forward and write faster than before.

Our fingers are swollen and in pain. Our eyes are blurry and just want to close forever. Our hearts can't take much more caffeine. But there is less than a week left. Sleep will come in December. Editing may not come for several months. 

Those characters need a writer. They need an ending, a resolution to all the trauma and adventure they've experienced. They can't just be left in between the beginning and the ending lost without knowing if they get to ride off into the sunset or fall to a doom against their mortal enemy. They need that before the month is over.

Some have dropped out given up, some see no chance of finishing. Some have achieved their word count and no longer need to write. But others still have words to put down and this is the time to do so. Families will have to understand that their is a writer among them. Someone who has to quell the voices in their head. Turkey may go uneaten and keyboards may start to break. Hold out because we are near the end of another epic November. I hope these final six days are the most productive of all!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Published by Crown Publishing

Ernest Cline's sophomore novel Armada follows the immensely popular debut novel Ready Player One, a modern classic. I've read both of Mr. Cline's books this year and have been impressed by his encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture even if I didn't get all the references.

I can't possibly understand the pressure to come up with a story that matches the creativity and sheer fun of such a great first book but somehow the author has pulled it off. Armada follows Zack Lightman an avid gamer and dedicated pop culture enthusiast thanks to the legacy his deceased father left behind. Zack is one of the best gamers in the world similar to Wade Watts in Cline's first novel. The parallels are impossible to miss but since this is a storyline that I have already bought into once I was more than willing to follow along with it. I feel it is unfair to judge this book in comparison but then again not to is impossible. Zack has a very similar voice and Ernest Cline's tendency to throw pop culture references and any opportune moment makes this a similar read. What I'm saying is that if you loved the first one, you will enjoy this one as well.

There did seem to be a few parts that were rushed, like Zack's initiation into the Earth Defense Alliance, almost like the author got bored with the high school drama part, which he does really well, and wanted to get on to the space action. It has that 80's movie vibe with the troubled kid getting a chance to save the world because of a skill that seemed useless turning out to be crucially important to the continuing existence of humanity. When I read this book, I have to struggle not to put it down and pick up a gaming controller.

Reading this book is like playing a video game and it follows very similar level structure, in this case waves of alien drone invaders. The most intriguing part was the mystery. This isn't just a cut and dry alien invasion story and the constant twists made me want to keep turning pages to find out what's next.

Ernest Cline could continue with his pop culture shtick and crank out several more novels like this but he is such a great writer and has such clever ideas for science fiction, I would be curious to read something of his that is wholly original. He loves this stuff though, that is so evident from every page and it makes me enthusiastic about it as well. It is so nice to see a true fan turning that passion into success. I am a slight generation behind him so some references are just over my head but he doesn't lose me as a reader because he often does a good job explaining their background and not bogging down the plot. I could see this book having a sequel if he wanted and I'm so looking forward to the Spielberg adaptation of his first book. 

I got a chance to see Ernest Cline speak at Joseph-Beth booksellers in Lexington, Kentucky. Despite his awesome space saga, he seems like a very down to earth individual, kind, friendly, funny and full of good stories. It is nice when you are a fan of someone who seems genuinely kindhearted. I look forward to seeing what he has in store for us next! 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 22

Oh man, what a day, a sense of normalcy, I didn't even attend the write-in so I missed out on my goal of going to every library in Lexington, a reason to keep living. 

I have clean clothes and my blog has a few more posts! I passed 80 posts today, which is an accomplishment to celebrate. I didn't even write the minimum requirement today but I'm far enough ahead that I'm fine with that. I'm banking on this lonely Thanksgiving holiday to really catch up.

My plot is heating up, things have taken that next step into part three of a four part story. There are character arcs taking that next step and blossoming relationship that will go to the next level. I would've like to have been at this point earlier but if I can crank it out during a writing marathon then the last weekend will be an epic finally to a great sequel.

Even if this book never sees the light of day, it has been a fun ride. The boat chase I just go through was a lot of free entertainment and a great exercise for my brain. The storm is brewing and soon a hurricane will be on my fictional city and there is nothing I can do about it but keep plugging away. 

Beer Review: West Sixth Amber Ale

I continue my way through these delicious beers from the local Lexington brewery West Sixth Brewing with an amber ale. This is the second most popular beer of their selection after the IPA and I can see why. 

It takes about three to get going as they are in cans but the amber aftertaste does not get tiring too quickly for that. It has an easy first sip that doesn't attack the senses and the smell is not as strong as the IPA. The aftertaste is really where it kicks in sort of floral with a plethora of different flavors contending to grab the attention of the tastebuds; grain, hops, caramel, toffee, malt, a lot of flavors all in one good punch with the swallow. Makes for easy drinking.   

It goes well with all types of food, I've had it with spicy, italian and even a hearty meal. It is a bit thick so a large meal may leave a drinker feeling a bit stuffed but I would also not recommend going with this on an empty stomach. 

This is a good beer for winter and though some have complained about the resulting hangover from the sweet taste or whatever, I have not had too much of a problem. This beer doesn't sneak up on me, like some I've had. The six-packs are a bit expensive but when dealing with a local brewery I'm more than willing to shell out a few extra bucks.

I'm looking forward to venturing into the more obscure beers that West Sixth offers but have been incredibly pleased with both the IPA and Amber Ale. I like the can design and that it is portable and slightly better for the Earth we all inhabit. I also look forward to making another visit to the brewery. 

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Distributed by Lionsgate

The final installment in the four part trilogy based on Suzanne Collins's novels and directed by Francis Lawrence comes off, as many conclusions to epic series based on books do, as too along with an bittersweet conclusion. Usually these movies end with another cliffhanger so it is hard to end it appropriately  when the continuing drama was part of the pull. Also going into this series finale, a viewer knows it will have to end. I will drop a few spoilers but the books have been out for a while.

First off, kudos to the action, the special effects were great and the mutts (sewer zombies) were the source of one of the best scenes in the entire series. Several of the action sequences were captivating and it was too bad they didn't build off that momentum and insisted on continuously pause the action to bog down the story in political intrigue and the love triangle.

Jennifer Lawrence as the lead was excellent as always though I don't think this will be her best performance this year with Joy still to come out next month. She is a great lead and it is no wonder that she is one of the greatest actresses of our time, and should get paid equally if not more then her male coworkers.

The supporting cast was also pretty amazing. Most of the weight fell to Josh Hutcherson as Peeta and I wasn't too disappointed with his performance or (spoiler) that he was her final choice in the love triangle. I haven't read the books and wish I had remedied that before the final movie because I don't know if I ever will now. I thought Liam Hemsworth character Gale was also interesting and showed an interesting turn as the bloodlust of war and revenge came over him.

As the leaders of the opposing factions and (spoiler) the two villains. both Julianne Moore and Donald Sutherland brought a regal air to their roles. Julianna Moore is one of my favorite actresses ever. Woody Harrelson had a smaller part in this one but the character was one of my favorite in the series. It so suck that Phillip Seymour Hoffman is not here anymore because he is also one of my favorite actors and I think the ending suffered a little from his absence. 

Overall I think this series was a success though there were some slow parts and the split of book three seemed like more of a money grab than a necessity for storytelling. I will eventually own this series and could see myself revisiting them some time in the future. I give it 7 out of 10. 

TV Show Review: Master of None (Season 1)

Aziz Ansari's new Netflix comedy is hilarious, one of the best comedy shows I've seen all year. It strikes me as similar to Louis C.K.'s FX sitcom but with Aziz's special brand of humor and insight.

Aziz Ansari plays Dev an actor in commercials, television, and movies, which gives the show a great opportunity to comment on trends in show business and reflect on some of Ansari's personal experiences. The show about how Indians are displayed on television was one of my favorite episodes. 

Dev's romantic love interest Rachel, played by the brilliant Noel Wells, provides an overarching story and some entertaining and sharp-witted commentary on dating in the modern world. Ansari's book Modern Romance is definitely on my to-read list. Noel Wells does a great job countering the humor of Ansari's character and I look forward to seeing her in more lead roles. Their back and forth banter is the highlight of many of the episodes, especially Nashville and Mornings. 

Lena Waithe as Denise and Eric Wareheim as Arnold provide great backup characters and always have hilarious advice and comments as Dev struggles with modern dating and trying to make a living in show business in New York. Some of the funniest moments are when these characters are on screen.

There are great cameos from Claire Danes, H. Jon Benjamin, Todd Barry and other comedic and acting greats. The show definitely utilizes these minor roles for maximum humor. Ansari's actual father Shoukath Ansari plays Dev's father and is a fan favorite and worth a laugh with nearly every line. There is also some perceptive notions of the immigrant parents in the episode Parents that is funny and informative.

I really hope we see more of this show. It is like having one of the best characters from Parks and Recreation on the screen the whole time. Aziz lit up his performance as Tom Haverford and continues to make great comedy. The storyline was touching, perspicacious, and had me laughing throughout. I would recommend this show to any fan of comedy. 

College Football Week 12

Some big games this week  and the results of which had major impacts on the college football playoffs. 

The first game that was hugely consequential was the Big Ten matchup between the Michigan State Spartans and the reigning champs the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes had hung around the top of the rankings this entire season but their first real challenge has knocked them down and most likely out of the playoffs. Michigan State has already suffered a loss to unranked Nebraska so they will not likely make it to the big game either. That leaves Iowa still undefeated in the Western Division of the Big Ten Conference. They will have to face Michigan State in the Conference championship if they hope to get a spot in the top four.

The Big 12 have taken themselves out of the playoffs once again and are truly suffering from not having a championship for their conference. Oklahoma State fell to Baylor by ten points. Each of the top four teams has one loss so there needs to be a distinguishing test or this conference will continue to be left out, maybe next year.

The SEC had a lot of easy games this week, Ole Miss beating LSU would be interesting if LSU was still a contender but they've dropped so far as too not matter in the final competition. Alabama still takes the top spot and a place in the four playoff teams and they only have to face a struggling Florida Gators in the SEC conference championship.

Clemson continues their domination and will most likely be the number one team though I think they have been overrated and will be eliminated in the semifinal round against whoever they face.

The final spot looks like it belongs to Notre Dame as an independent team but they will have to face Stanford last week as a final test before they go on to the playoffs. 

Next week is rivalry week so there will be some interesting contests and then we will be a step away from the great games that cap off the end of the year. Looking back it has been an interesting season with no clear leader and even now things have not been determined so it should be an exciting end. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

TV Premiere: Jessica Jones

I found some time to catch the first episode of Marvel's new superhero series that adds to the overall Marvel universe and continues the set up of the superhero team up The Defenders. I enjoyed the first series to introduce this concept with Daredevil but that is a more recognizable hero, who I've actually encountered before.

Jessica Jones is a bit rarer and I hadn't actually heard about her until the whole Defenders thing got announced. I was familiar with her powers or her storyline so all of this seems new to me. 

Krysten Ritter does a good job, at least in the first episode, setting up a tough, hard-hitting, harder drinking, private detective who has a troubled past. She carries the show and is on screen pretty much the entire time. There are not many sub threads here except for Carrie Annie Moss's lawyer character who will be interesting to see develop. 

Mike Colter also shows up as the bartender in the first episode but has been revealed to be the superhero Luke Cage, who will get his own series some time next year. I look forward to watching his series in the future and I like how he's being introduced now to develop some familiarity with the new hero before we jump right into his story as well.

The special effects budget isn't as large as the big budget movies but still they don't look terrible. This will be the weakest part of the show I presume but I'll know more as I get deeper. The great thing about these superhero shows on Netflix is that the superhero aspect kind of takes a backseat to the drama and characters. I will enjoy binging this one when I have more free time! 

NaNoWriMo Day 21

I'm about to reach 7k words just for today so I would say it is looking like pretty productive weekend. The library write-ins tend to be a bit more serious with quiet besides the tapping of keys. We did a lot of sprints today too so the three writers that made it out including me had extra incentive to stay focused and put the words on the page.

My exhaustion has become such a part of my thinking that I can hardly put many coherent thoughts together. I need rest and since I'm about to relax my mind for the rest of the night I should be good. I managed to gain some ground on the heavy word producers but I will probably end the night still behind. If I can find another productive day tomorrow then I might be close to the top once again. This next week offers two days of holidays where I can catch up on my towering word count.

As far as the plot goes, I'm still a bit behind. I have reached chapter thirty and my average should be about two chapters a day if I want to finish on chapter sixty so that puts me about twelve chapter behind. I had to do some rearranging of chapters since my outline had some summaries that just didn't bring enough to get a full chapter. I am making the chapters much longer this year than last but that makes sense since this novel will be much longer.

Hopefully, if this novel ever reaches a publication point, I will have built up some credibility with readers so that they might be more willing to pick up a larger sequel. That is still a long time off since I shouldn't be even thinking about editing at this point let alone publishing and the growing word count means this piece of fictional will be a monster to go through and cut while I still have the first one to work with.

I want to apologize about any typos. Obviously, I'm just cranking out words without paying too much attention to grammar, punctuation, or even if these sentences make sense so the structure isn't perfect. In future months, I'll have more time to write and read these blogs with an emphasis on editing my work so there should appear fewer errors. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 19&20 Winner! 80K Achieved!

Now is the time I start to realize how far I have come with this month and the mammoth task that I took on by trying to write more than the recommended words and attend every write-in that I scheduled for nearly everyday this month. I am proud of what I have accomplished so far but there is still the final third to contend with and despite my utter exhaustion this will have to be a very productive ten days. 

I have reached the total amount of words I put down last year with plenty of time to spare. I hope this trend 

Sure there are some over explained moments, scenes that last entirely too long, extra adjectives, and unimportant flashbacks that serve no purpose for the plot but that is for another month when I will edit this behemoth. For now, I keep pushing forward. I hope to get one hundred or even one hundred and twenty thousand words.

The write-ins have been extra fun but not so productive. We have gotten to know each other and have so much to talk about since we are all readers and writers. I few of the more skeptical members have been worried but I try to stay positive and show them that writing can get done in public areas. That being said, I would like to get back to my usual routine of writing in private areas by myself. 

I also hope to read more soon. Writing in a bookstore makes me always buy more books and I have no time to read. 

Only ten days left and several of the days are the Thanksgiving holiday. I will try to get to it while everyone is with their families and put down even more words. Here is to a strong finish!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 17&18

The dog days of National Novel Writing Month are upon us. The end is still too distant to be riding off of a climax. The lack of sleep has made keeping a coherent thought a difficult task. The characters are wondering why their author god has them repeating the same words and walking in circles. The plot has used the same twist for the third or fourth time. The weather has turned colder. Family expects the holidays to be a time of sharing. The laundry is piled up. The job wonders why the distraction. Everything seems to be working against this lone writer and the simple goal of writing a novel.

I thrive off of these tough times. I put all of my stress into the fiction and it helps me come up with drama that I never thought was there. I take real life circumstances and drastically alter them so as to fit the loose outline that I made up. This is always good for words though I think these days are some of my lowest output due to aforementioned distractions.

This is when it is even more important to turn to the community for support. It is amazing how nice it feels to not be alone in this writer thing. Throughout the rest of the year when I get discouraged and want to trash the whole book, I have no one to turn to to keep writing but in November there are write-ins, online chats, and social media to encourage a writer to keep going. I am thankful for that and it will be a huge credit to finishing to the end. Now I have to get back to that nasty demon fight! 

Monday, November 16, 2015

NFL Week 10

Two teams left, one in the NFC, the Carolina Panthers, one in the AFC, the New England Patriots. 

I am still in shock after this rough loss the Cincinnati Bengals just took against the Houston Texans at home. It was an ugly game and the Bengals looked like their old selves struggling in primetime and not scoring touchdowns. It will not look good for them in the playoffs. 

The Patriots nearly lost in a close game to the New York Giants but they pulled it out in the last moments. A surprising upset occurred in the AFC East with the Bills over the Jets on Thursday. The Bills are now only a game out of the wild card spot behind the Steelers. 

The Denver Broncos in the AFC West continue with their quarterback struggle. Peyton Manning broke the passing record but threw four interceptions in the process to lose to the Chiefs.

With the win Monday night, Texans came back into the fight against the Colts and that will be a battle to watch in the late games of the season for the AFC South. 

In the NFC, the Panthers lead but the Falcons are hanging at the bottom of the wild card so that would be awesome to see Atlanta in the playoffs. 

The rest of the conference is surprising, Giants, Vikings, and Cardinals all leading divisions and the Packers are the last wild card. Even the terribly named Redskins have a chance still. 

Nothing is decided yet but some teams have made a statement and separated themselves from the rest. 

NaNoWriMo Day 16

The second half is off to an aggressive start and I put down 5k with a strong online push of sprints and encouragement. I think that works out well but it doesn't start the second half as good as the first half, which began with a 10k. 

I am still behind though, in a fierce competition with other Wrimos and with the pace of the chapters. As I look forward, I plan to get a ton of writing done during the Thanksgiving break where I can just dive into my novel and not think of anything else like work or other stuff. I am already craving the release of December, lots of sleep, reading, and I would love to try some of these new video games that have been released each week this month. 

I'm 17k above what I did this time last year when I had just reached 50k. I think I felt a bit of the burnout last year as well. The middle doldrums continue. I missed my first write-in today too because I had to work and attend a sci-fi/horror writing class. I'll get back into the swing of things but the long week ahead does not show many signs of letting up or providing any moments of reprieve. 

Luckily, there is a great community and we support each other during these rough patches. We are also distracting each other a bit too but that keeps morale up, I hope. 

My heart hurts. I look forward to behaving healthier in December with exercise, rest, and a long break from caffeinated beverages. A long road ahead, but I'm writing a novel that will be very fun to read in the next year of editing!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Beer Review: West Sixth IPA

West Sixth Brewing Company is a local Lexington, Kentucky brewery that has a ton of amazing beers and it will be a pleasure to review as many of them as I can get my hands on. 

I'll start with the IPA since this has been my go-to beers and one of the most popular of the brand. The IPA has a hoppy taste that attacks the tongue upon first sip and a drinker can still taste it after four. They are only packaged in cans for convenience and environmental reasons so I would say four or five will get you going and cause you to order an Uber to go out. If I can find it I will review the awesome double IPA, it's a bit stronger. 

If a visitor comes to Kentucky, I would highly recommend ordering this brew. It has a sweet aftertaste and does not leave on feeling sick with a hangover in the morning. I drank this beer all weekend and it has helped me produce quite a few words. I've even managed to convince a few non-IPA fans to drink this particular beer. Not sure if they like it though.

One interesting story about the brewery, which is just speculation from an anecdote, is, I heard, that they feed some of the tilapia with the leftover from the hops and stuff so the fish get drunk and then they cook those and feed them to people. I ate the fried shrimp last time I was there but next time I'm trying the tilapia. I'd say this is a solid IPA that easily competes with other bigger brewery's IPAs.

I would also recommend that a drinker clean up the spills of this because my sheets still sort of stink after a polish tornado, don't ask. It has a strong scent and nice thick color, snobs. A good beer, drink and be merry! 

It goes well with spicy foods and a hearty burger, and pizza and sugary treats, good in cold and warm weather too. 

TV Premiere: Into the Badlands

After another awesome episode of The Walking Dead, a brand new show premiered on AMC, Into the Badlands. It's hard to describe but in a great way. There are swords, martial arts, and crazy special effects. This show is like nothing I have ever seen on television and should prove to be interesting. I'm tempted to let it play out then binge it later on when it comes to a streaming service. 

I checked and it seems the critics are split on this one with most of the positive reviews sticking with a turn-your-mind-off and enjoy-the-fight-scenes viewing approach. The negative reviews harp on the acting but I always feel like premieres of shows other than HBO or Showtime start off weak as actors work to get into characters. Once they inhabit them, it becomes a lot better. I have no complaints about a lot of actors in The Walking Dead that started out a bit rough at first. It seems new actors just have a difficulty adjusting.

The plot and the premise do seem a little convoluted. There are no guns, but that isn't really explained, I guess since the characters wouldn't know what guns are. But then there is magic or something and that is the weakest part because the effects get a bit over budget and look fake at that point, plus they are putting a lot on a young actor to pull that off on a television show. 

There seem to be a lot of cool roles, especially the Baron and the Widow. It will be cool to see this world grow and to learn more about it. I remain hopeful and there only seem to be six episodes ordered so far so the viewers will have to decide if we see more of this series. 

NaNoWriMo Day 13,14,&15

National Novel Writing Month can get exhausting and it can get real strange. I have had an amazing opportunity as a Municipal Leader to run such a great group of people, people that I actually don't mind spending way too much time with chatting online and writing at strange events.

This weekend has been a weird one for sure, which is why it took me a while to write a blog post about it. To top it all off as soon as I post this I'm embarking on one final thirty minute word sprint with other members on our very active and hilarious google chat group that one clever member started as an alternate source of motivation and encouragement.

I had a lot of work stuff but was so excited when I got off Friday to run out to this clubhouse that cost me $25 a night to rent for an all night write. These events are the strangest in Nano and usually they are very productive but this year as the leader and a very tired writer, I was not quite so quick to add to my word count. I also know a lot more members so was able to crack some jokes and open up a bit. I sometimes forget how crazy my mind can get on not enough sleep. We crashed after 4am on Friday and I spent all of Saturday asleep.

The really dedicated Wrimos keep at it but we also have the No Write Night to relax for a bit. This is when we discover that we are all crazy and it is weird for us to actually have to talk to each other without our laptops in between us. It was fun though and we hashed out the second half so I'm prepared. I like to talk about my plot before I write it. 

Finally, I got back into rhythm with another great coffee shop write-in so I'm good to go. I have passed 60K and I'm on pace to pass 100K! This NaNoWriMo will be one of my best and I'm happy I'm participating as a writer and a leader. 

College Football Week 11

As I continue my blog resuscitation, I find that a lot has happened in the college football playoff battle. 

Clemson remains number one and it looks like they'll be able to safely coast into one of the top spots in the four team competition barring some very odd upsets either by Wake Forest, South Carolina, or possibly North Carolina in an ACC Championship game.

Ohio State is still at two but their toughest games are ahead with Michigan and Michigan State as the final two battles in November. This is going to be an interesting matchup that I hope I can catch with my busy schedule. A loss would eliminate the Big Ten from the playoffs unless the official playoff rankings are generous or Iowa pulls out an upset in the Big Ten championship. Iowa is still undefeated and could be the underdog that comes up big but they haven't had many challenges. 

Alabama stays up in third but I would love to see them fall to the Gator in the SEC championship, then I think it would be a chance for UF to get in but that would mean they have to play with their backup quarterback, who isn't the strongest. 

The Big 12 is the most interesting fight this year. Baylor and TCU started out in the top four but have both been defeated after Baylor's loss to Oklahoma. Now all that is left is Oklahoma State's undefeated team but they still have to beat Baylor and Oklahoma so there will be some exciting games to near the end but I think at team from this division should make it even without a championship. If they all lose that might not happen.

Notre Dame has a chance to jump from five into the fourth place position and all they have to do is stick out against Stanford who was the last hope for the PAC-12 but couldn't pull out a win against Oregon. 

Only two more weeks of the regular season and then a championship weekend to sort out the rest. It's going to be entertaining and I reiterate my hope that one day these young men get compensated for their sacrifice and effort.  

Book Review: The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

Published by Knopf

I read the English translation of the fourth installment of the Millennium series originally created by Stieg Larson. I am often the victim of the herd mentality when it comes to fiction choices and was not disappointed when I first picked up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I enjoyed the two follow up novels immensely and all the film adaptations, both American and Sweden.

Despite all the drama proceeding this publication, I was curious enough to pick up a copy. Lisbeth Salander is one of my favorite female literary characters and Mikael Blomkvist provides a solid male support. 

The mystery in this one starts out slow and there are so many characters as a distracted reader, I often got lost and it would take me several paragraphs to fall back into a scene. I may write a few spoilers after this point so if you are interested in reading it, I would defer the rest of my review. I would read it if you are a fan of the series but it is the weakest one. 

The story sets up several interesting issues with artificial intelligence and the NSA but never seems to follow through. I never got the sense that the NSA was an all powerful organization and Salander defeated them with her hacker skills a little too easily. I would've liked to have seen more about this mysterious organization and even the final illegal activity reveal felt a bit dull and boring. Even the more sinister organization run by Lisbeth's sister was not that powerful in the end. 

The murder came a hundred pages in and the young boy who was an autistic savant was an interesting character. It is interesting and a bit difficult as a reader to see so many perspectives and then see a character who is clueless like Blomkvist was. This was done well by Lagencrantz and I would be curious to see how he functions in his own series. I would've liked to have learn more about Frans Balder and his artificial intelligence but the author did a good job not bogging us down in the details.

The reveal of Lisbeth's sister, Camilla, as the villain came in a bit of an info dump moment but I thought it was a nice tie-in to the old books despite a feeling of it being forced. The ending was set up too much for a sequel and lacked a powerful climax. The one significant character death of Zander, a Millennium magazine employee, was a bit over foreshadowed and didn't pack quite the emotional punch it strived for.

Overall, this was a mediocre but suitable follow-up to an interesting series and I'm not so totally turned off that I wouldn't pick up another as these characters are very appealing. It must be hard to step into another writer's shoes and their world of characters but Lagencrantz accomplished that and may grow more comfortable if he has signed on to do another. 

Democratic Presidential Debate #2

It is nearly impossible to stay political informed and have a normal life, luckily I'm committed to my status as a political junkie that started out in college and has grown into a nearly uncontrollable condition.

I knew there was a debate this Saturday, I reminded myself that there was a debate this Saturday, I planned to watch the debate this Saturday, then Saturday came, and I missed it. Football and novels and life and stuff, give me a break, I'm playing catch up but it doesn't appear that I missed much.

The Democratic party is united, they are united against tough issues like climate change, income inequality, terrorism, and racial prejudice. Sure there was some back and forth between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton over Wall Street and Hillary will have to face some tough questions in primary about her career as Secretary of State especially with the rise of ISIS and the tragic events in Paris. It does give her more experience than any candidate but that is seen as a problem when many voters want change in DC. 

Martin O'Malley will have a tough time keeping up and he didn't gain much ground yesterday. He had a few good lines that garnered applause but he did little to recruit voters and get attention for his ideas. He's sticking around for that juicy VP pick and it is a better platform than mayor or governor. It's just a timing issue to see when he drops out. I think he'll hang around to Iowa and New Hampshire at least but it might be just a battle between Hil and Bern.

Bernie Sanders has such grand schemes that he wants to pull off so every moderator always asks him how he can possibly hope to accomplish these promises. This is always the problem with an idealist, practicality sinks in and the harsh reality of the world makes the idealism shrivel. It's going to be a battle but I think Hilary will beat him handily with her strong political machine. At least, Bernie will have some influence pushing Hilary to the left and I would like to see a true challenge since that makes for better blog posts and more interesting television. 

Hillary Clinton would be considered the winner, which comes as no surprise but she shows some weaknesses that the Republican will pounce on once they sort out their difference and decide on someone to rally behind. Hillary is tough and I thin she can handle the grueling process but name fatigue my bit a stronger force and for her to overcome it will take more excitement than currently exists in the primary competition. 

There are eleven more debates, four for the Dems and eleven for the Repubs, two next month and one of the late Republican debates depends on the competition at the time. The next, I believe, is December 15. It seems manageable and I will try my best to keep up. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 11&12 50K Achieved

Searching for some inspiration as I have reached the goal that many pursue in the month in only twelve days. I want to get to a hundred thousand if I can, maybe even a hundred and twenty thousand. Since I have sixty chapters and I'm only the nineteenth, there is going to be a lot of plot left for me to write but I'm not sure how that will translate into words.

We had a nice write-in at a brewery the other day where I got a bit bizarre and added some nonsense but that's the fun of NaNo. A writer can just write whatever comes to mind and not worry about it making sense or being funny or fitting with an overall plot. I enjoy taking suggestions for names or outrageousness. It will get taken out over the next year, or maybe the year after that. There is going to be a lot to be edited and the more words means the more time spent editing. Today I'm burnt out and tired so I took it easy at the library and will get some much needed sleep.

I can't think like that yet, I still have so long to go. The second third is under way and there are some exciting events coming up including an all-night write and no write night. It doesn't help that I have to work a job but maybe one day I'll get paid for writing, that would be so cool! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Republican Presidential Debate #4

Is this really number four? I'm a political junkie but I might overdose on political debates. So much talking and we haven't cast a single vote yet. I can barely keep track of the issues and who says what. I am only picking up on personalities at this point and that seems to be what the campaign is about.

Who can have the biggest personality? Disclaimer, I was writing a novel all night and didn't even realize there was a debate going on. I had heard about it but I kind of thought it was tomorrow. It was on Fox Business, so not even a major network? I'm slightly tipsy from mouthwash in preparation for a dental appointment early in the morning, which I'm dreading, but enough about me. Let's talk about the future of this great country.

First up, Kasich, he seemed to speak a lot from my not really paying attention perspective. I don't know anything about him and I think I can keep writing about politics without that knowledge because even the moderators were dismissive. But good for him for getting in his two cents. With that out the way....

Ben Carson spent most of the time fighting off rumors. When he talks it is so dull just thinking about it makes me zzzzzzz. 

Oh yea, Jeb, "Let Jeb speak." I think I heard that. He's losing money too from what I read. I'd be surprised if he continues to keep this up. Same goes for Rand Paul. With Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee dropping down to the kids' table, I think we should get some announcements soon.

Cruz and Rubio hope to clean up once the inevitable Trump and Carson combustion and Carly Fiorina wants to fight and might have a chance. A Fiorina vs. Clinton matchup would be something to watch. Women in charge might be just what this country needs.

I'm tired. They have bludgeoned the audience with this meaningless nonsense and in the end we just have to read the news reports and decide who won. No one has won. 

The votes won't be cast until February. It should build up steam but it seems the race has become stagnant. The attacks will be brushed under the rug, Rubio's finances, Carson's lies, Trump's bigotry. It will all turn into attacks on Hilary. Politics isn't easy to write about. I shouldn't be this cynical this early into my first go round, maybe I just need some sleep. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

NaNoWriMo Day 10

Writing is a solitary activity. I've heard this several times in the last few days and I wholeheartedly agree. Most of the time I'm sitting by myself staring at a glowing computer screen debating characters in my head fueled by entirely too much caffeine.

But November is a magical time. Writers get together. Writers come out of their lairs. Writers overcome their social anxiety for a few days. Some come out for one, some come out for three, some come out for the entire month never to be seen again until next November. 

For a short time, we don't have to feel alone. We talk about the strange turns in our plots, the abuse of coffee, the soreness of our fingers from pounding on the keyboard. Inside jokes travel from coffee shop to bookstore to library. We sprint our hearts out motivating each other to put more words on the page than we ever have before. 

I've met friends here, I've heard about members getting married later on after meeting at events. NaNo changes people's lives! I might be losing my mind at this point but I will also be crossing the 50k mark tomorrow. But as far as story goes, it's still early there is plenty of action left to happen and plenty of November left to write. Sleep in December, Edit in January. My new motto. 

Magazine Review: Apex Magazine Issue 78

Cover Art by James Lincke

Apex Magazine Issue 78 is one of my favorite issues of this year. This issue packs a punch dealing with some serious social issues and offering a heavy dose of sci-fi/horror. 

The exceptional fiction collection starts with Blood on Beacon Hill by Russell Nichols. For one of his first published short story works, he really knows how to write. The world is vivid and reminds me of one of my favorite shows True Blood in that vampires are a known species. The author uses this subversion of the trope to explore issues of race in a unique way and I found the protagonist to be very identifiable. His struggle as a teenage vampire mirrors the struggle of many young men in the nation today and provides an intriguing perspective to current social issues. Plenty of twists and turns and great symbolism of the Venus Flytrap persuasion and what would an Apex issue be without a little necrophilia to top it off. So much is packed in this story from the struggles of adolescence to political intrigue. This story stuck with me and I could easily find myself coming back to it again. I am curious to read The Wordsmith by Russell Nichols after getting a taste of his writing from this short fiction piece. 

To Die Dancing by Sam J. Miller is a story where when I first started reading, I thought this would never happen but then the author does such a great job providing the background and setting up the scenario that I found it totally believable as I ventured deep into the night club on this one particular night. There are some great statements on religious zealously applied laws and how they can go to far. I could feel the heartbreak and loss of the protagonist and deep within the throbbing pulse of the night club is a truly gripping romantic tale. These kinds of stories make me love short fiction and understand it's importance. I could see the way an idea could go to far and fiction lets a writer explore that realm before reality catches up and we all suffer the awful consequences. I want to go out to a nightclub just to appreciate a good dance after reading this one. 

The Beacon and the Coward by Day Al-Mohamed is an awesome mix of historical fiction with a sort of steampunk sci-fi twist. It's a short time after an alternate history American civil war and despite mechanical additions to the human body, race is still an issue. The Coward from the title still garnered my sympathy and there was a nice bit of action in this one that melds well with the new tech that function smoothly in this new world. That the author was able to transport me back in time and set up a completely believable twist to it is really a credit to the great writing. 

Signal to Noise by Gemma Files is the reprint fiction piece and is such a cool mix of spycraft and ghost story. It feels like the Showtime series Homeland mixes with The Ring or some technological horror story. The protagonist is a no nonsense spy who starts to uncover messages that shouldn't be there, a very interesting twist on the familiar tale of the war on terror. I like that Apex brings back such great fiction that I would never personally encounter until I picked up a new issue. 

The nonfiction this month, Cthulhu Apocalypse and the Terrifying Tradition of Horror Role-Playing by Ed Grabianowski give an in-depth look into the concept of horror RPG not to be confused with the usual fantasy epic RPG. Just from reading this alone, I wanted to play the games mentioned and should really step up my RPG game. It seems actually terrible to immerse yourself in the worlds described so as a fan of horror this is on my to-do list. 

The chilling poetry in this issue is, as always, a nice extra treat to leave me with goosebumps when I've just had my worldview altered by the short fiction. Rolling Dice by Chloe Clark makes a familiar fictional deal seem wholly unnerving. Mother Doll by Brittany Warman had an "As I Lay Dying" vibe that grossed me out but felt melancholic. When The Gods Come Knocking by Julia Kingston will make me look at my next thunderstorm in a totally different way. Time Missing by Michael Sikkema captures the confusing nature of time travel in a way that only good poetry could. 

My kindle messed up so I might come back and edit this review to add the novel excerpts if I manage to get a hold of them. I know I am looking forward to reading The Weight of Chains by Apex editor Lesley Conner.

Apex Magazine is in the midst of a subscription drive so I'd like to add the link below in case you would like to contribute. It ends on Friday the 13th! This magazine publishes great fiction that might otherwise not reach a large audience so it is worth whatever you can give.