Friday, April 29, 2016

Camp NaNoWriMo Week 4

I'm so close. I had hoped that I could post my winner badge here but I haven't quite yet made it. April has today and tomorrow left and I have to put down something like eight thousand more words. I delved into some short story ideas just spit-balling ideas out there that might work later on for the words. I should focus on these last two nights and get it done. I think on these slower months a goal of thirty thousand was a bit much. I would most likely aim for twenty thousand on my next attempt but I like to challenge myself.

My plot has gone of the rails with some scenes dragging out because I could think of nowhere else to go so I just added more description and other parts moving by in a blur because I didn't have the time to think them out. I think I may have taken a wrong turn for one of the major characters and put them in a situation that is a bit too easy, so I'll have to make it tougher for them in the final sprint.

If I don't make it, I probably won't post but if I somehow struggle through and put  down the amount of words I had anticipated, then I'll post a few celebratory remarks. If I fail, I'd rather just forget it. I should feel happy that I wrote anything at all since the first few months of this year have been stagnant for my fiction writing. One of the biggest distractions to my writing is reading, so many books and so little time.

I'm also excited that I decided to include these short stories because they are something that I've wanted to be working on for a while and I hope to whip them into shape over the next few months. The first step is to get the concept down and even if they don't turn into publishable material, they may inform a piece of fiction later. I've got writing to do!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

KY Lottery #2: 10x the CASH

I took the free took I left off with and went out to the gas station full of hopes, prayers, and positive energy. I don't think playing scratch-off tickets will be a life changing experience but maybe writing about will be fun so I went for round two. 

The first ticket that we bought had a scratch on the back and a scratch on the front. Both of these scratches yielded five dollars turning my free five dollar ticket into ten dollars. I had doubled my money and like any good gambler, was not about to let my streak go. I decided to pick up another cash multiplier but only for five dollars and to put the extra five dollars I had one away to call it a saving to add to the hundred I am willing to spend on this venture.

The next ticket was one of the first in a role and it turned out to have a lot more money on it than I would have thought. After all the scratching was done we had earned fifty dollars putting us in the bonus of fifty five dollars. Of course the streak had to continue.

The third ticket of the night gave us back ten dollars and that is where I will pause for the night. I should go back soon to keep playing this addicting scratch-off game. But as of now I am up fifty five dollars because I will take the five from that ten and put it back into another ticket to keep this experiment going.

Our new rule is that when we hit the bottom, as in if we pay for a ticket tomorrow or whenever we play again and it is a loser, then we'll take a break for a week. That way I can't just burn out on this lottery thing in a matter of days and find myself broke and unlucky. Right now I'm on a streak but that is just how they get you caught up in the game and keep you donating more money to education and false hope. 

Movie Review: Keanu

A cat comedy with Key and Peele had me hooked from both the concept and the actors. I enjoyed Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele's eponymous Comedy Central show so it is cool they are getting a chance to make movies. I can see that a kitten would be a difficult animal to work with but they pulled it off. Keanu is funny, action-packed, and has a very cute kitty running around throughout.

There are some slow parts to Keanu and like most comedies, the plot is lacking, but overall it is an enjoyable time at the theater, especially if you are a fan of kittens like I am. Key and Peele play to average dudes, Peele's Rell is a stoner who is depressed because he just broke up with his girlfriend and Key's Clarence is a humble father whose wife leaves to go on a trip with their daughter and another man. Rell finds Keanu, the cute kitten on his doorstep, after the kitty escaped from a deadly drug hit. The rock-paper-scissor playing hitmen are also played by the comedians.

Method Man plays the evil gangster villain Cheddar with his usual toughness who the two men encounter after being referred to him by the always funny Will Forte as Hulka the pot dealer. Tiffany Haddish plays Cheddar's sidekick and she out toughs everyone on the screen with her skulking, easy to murder character Hi-C. 

Other actors include Jason Mitchell, Nia Long, and Luis Guzman, all funny in their parts. The kitten didn't get as much screen time as I would've liked but was cute when onscreen and I can understand the complications of directing a baby feline. The action was interesting but in no way is this a true action movie settling more for laughs and slow-mo gunplay then going all out as an action film.

The loses track in the middle as the gang goes on missions and the reality is a stretch, but that is nothing unique to the genre. It is clear they adapted the screenplay from another idea to include the kitten as its presence in the plot seemed forced at time. Overall Keanu is a decent, cute movie that I give six out of ten. I'm excited to see what Key and Peele have in store next! 

Book Review: Freeze/Thaw by Chris Bucholz

I enjoyed Severance by Chris Bucholz so much last year, possibly one of my favorite books and definitely one of the top science fiction novels, a great generation ship mystery with plenty of humor and action. I jumped at the chance to get an advanced review copy of Freeze/Thaw, the next novel by this hilarious science fiction writer. Bucholz is a writer for and while Severance has a lot of great humor, the author's sense of humor is on full display in Freeze/Thaw. Not only is this funny but it is also good science fiction, action-packed and a whole lot of fun to read.

I honestly had a hard time putting it down because the plot is so fast paced and interesting plus the first person narration is so enjoyable. The story is told by Gabe Alfil, a man paralyzed from the neck down by an awful hiking accident. Despite his injury, Gabe is still sarcastic and has a great sense of humor. On top of that, he used his time while immobile to learn a lot about quantum computing, which makes him useful to the military and gives him special privileges. I'm not sure I'll read a more amusing character in science fiction this year. 

Gabe gets outfitted with an advanced exo-skeleton so that he can use his knowledge to save the world that has frozen over when a satellite that was meant to save the world went horribly wrong. There is a lot going on there but the explanation doesn't overload the reader and there is a great balance of exposition and plot. Gabe teams up with a military patrol group to travel across the dangerous iced over region of America.

The military patrol is full of great characters from the foul-mouthed leader Ziggy to the tough gunner Kat. None of these characters like Gabe very much, and the conflict is a source of lots of humor and tension. The plot slows a bit as the patrol gets out on the ice but I was already hooked, and when the action gets going it doesn't slow down for long. Bucholz does a great job laying out scenes and I found all of the intense fights against scavengers and eco-terrorists well written but also retaining a lot of humor. No problem is solved easily and there are some great twists and turns throughout.

Freeze/Thaw is a great follow up novel to Severance and I can't recommend both these books enough to any reader of science fiction. Bucholz has nailed a balance of making a book funny, full of action, and a vivid world. The post-apocalyptic environment felt real and I was flipping through pages wanting to find out more. Great characters, fun plot, and plenty of laughs, this a book to check out this May!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

KY Lottery #1: Pay Me!

I've realized that I probably won't make it on my wits alone, and I will never be a rich person so I've decided to explore something I was always interesting in, Luck. After all, Donald Trump could be the Republican nominee for president so the world is going to get pretty crazy in the next few months and it will be nice to have some money. I'm not fooling myself and actually believing that I'll make any money played the lottery but as a writer a part of me has to believe in fiction or a fantasy of some sort to drive me. My Kickstarter is a non-starter and my Patreon is patronless, and I also lost another opportunity to make money but I won't get into that on this blog.

Today we started out with five dollars, a safe amount that won't break the bank. I'm willing to waste a hundred dollars on this experiment and after that I'll pretty much realize that I'm not a lucky person and quit playing altogether. I also want to see if there are trends that are possibly predictive and find out if it is just me that is causing the problem. If I can, I'd like to interview other lottery players and find out what they think, if they believe in superstitions, have ever won, and other interesting happenings.

I'm in Kentucky due to a lot of poor choice of my own doing so I'll be played the Kentucky Lottery scratch off tickets. I'll also focus mainly on scratch off tickets. I had always wanted to do this as mockumentary of sorts but I never could get anyone to hold a camera or act alongside me so I'll use my little platform here to test this experiment. Maybe one day I can film some of these scratch-offs, like I said "dreamer".

Well, wish me luck. For day one, and I don't think I'll do this everyday, I start with the aforementioned five dollars. We bought the PAY ME! tickets from two separate gas stations. Our first five dollar ticket revealed another five dollars, so we broke even. No stopping there! We got another ticket and scratched it off in anticipation hoping for positive vides and won ticket!

We'll use this free ticket to kick off day two and call it a day to break even. I would like to note that at one of the gas stations, it was advertised that they had given out a $10,000 winner but this may just be clever advertising. I think, at the least, this will be a humorous experience to look back on!

Politics: Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Connecticut Primaries

From what I've read or seen or heard, this election is a unique one, and for me, it is an interesting one to start writing about as a new blogger. I didn't know what to name this Tuesday so I just stuck with naming all the states that held primaries today.

Rhode Island is a very small state with not a lot of delegates but it is the only state that Bernie Sanders won tonight. I think this spells the end of his campaign. He may continue on his campaign but it is over. I would be surprised if he suspended it but he also wants to get those votes in the West that are still waiting to cast ballots. On the other side, Rhode Island is just the beginning for Donald Trump.

Pennsylvania is the biggest state voting tonight and it went for the frontrunners in both parties. Hillary Clinton took her childhood state and Donald Trump added to his sweep for the night.

Maryland was another big state relative to the states that were voting tonight and it also went for the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Delaware did not break from the mold and also chose Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee and Donald Trump as the Republican nominee.

Connecticut was the last state to call it but nothing interesting here, Clinton and Trump.

And so these votes only confirm what I have already known as I have followed these campaign elections since the early debate, Clinton and Trump will be the nominees but their opponents will not give up the fight so easily. I don't expect any concession speeches any time soon but it would allow the two frontrunners to turn towards each other and face off for the highest office in the nation.

Movie Review: The Huntsman: Winter's War

Charlize Theron reprises her role as the sorceress Ravena and Chris Hemsworth returns as the eponymous huntsman in The Huntsman: Winter's War. This Snow White fairy tale sans Snow White who was played by the absent Kristen Stewart is both a prequel and a sequel to the fairytale telling a story that circles around the events of the first movie. I had strayed away from reading particulars of the reviews but I had saw that most of them were pretty bad. The biggest argument I can think was that this movie was unnecessary, but I kind of liked it.

The movie begins with what I believe was Liam Neeson narrating as he relates the story of the Ice Queen, played by one of my favorite actresses Emily Blunt. Blunt is decent as the Ice Queen Freya but this is probably one of her worst performances in a long time. Still, she brings a gravitas to a film that desperately needs it. Freya is scorned in a pretty obviously plot twist and her older sister, the aforementioned Ravena, brings out the ice magic in her. 

Theron must like to play this role because I don't see why an actress like her with so many successful films would bother to return for a sequel unless she was having fun. It does feel like she enjoys the part as she gives it her all to every scene that she's in and steals her scenes from any other performers just as she did in the first one and in other films like Mad Max: Fury Road.

Blunt's Freya raises up an army of children including Chris Hemsworth's Eric and Jessica Chastain with a Scottish accent as Sara. Hemsworth and Chastain have very little chemistry together but both are decent enough actors to pull of the scenes. They don't really have to be in love for long so that doesn't take away from the movie all that much. 

There is comedic relief as the dwarves played by Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, and Alexandra Roach. They crack a few jokes but this movie isn't here for the laughs. The action was entertaining with several cool fights, one I especially like was the battle with the goblins. The end was a bit weak and the overall special effects had some flaws but I looked past it because my expectations were already so low.

I think this movie may be a case of going in expecting a bad movie but already so set in my ways of going to see movies every week that I went anyways and found in more enjoyable than just horrible. Beside, I did not enjoy Snow White and the Huntsman and back then I had high expectations for what I thought was going to be a fun fantasy epic. There is more bad fantasy than good out there unfortunately. The movie makers left it open for a sequel but if it doesn't perform at the box office, I doubt that will happen.  I'll rank this movie in the middle and give it 5 out of 10 stars!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

TV Premiere: Silicon Valley Season 3

My favorite comedy is back right after my favorite show so Sundays are awesome once again. Television likes to pack this night full of great shows so I do my best to keep up with it all. Silicon Valley picks up in Season 3 right where it left off in Season 2 with Richard Hendricks played by Thomas Middleditch finding out that he was fired from the company he created Pied Piper.

Pied Piper has made a compression algorithm that will make data smaller on everyone's computer and this got companies bidding, battling or suing to own the rights of the algorithm. Richard continuously dodges one problem only to find another. He always his friends with him but even now he is starting to see a split in his loyal crew. 

Erlich Bachman played by T. J. Miller from Deadpool is my favorite part of the show and has so many funny lines throughout each episode. He didn't have too many funny lines in this first episode but did try to be CEO. I'm sure he'll have some great one-liners and a hilarious plot this season. 

Gilfoyle, played by Martin Starr, and Dinesh, played by Kumail Nanjiani, have a great back and forth and are always coming up with some really funny new words or scenarios. In this episode they come up with a word to bypass saying nice things about Richard so they can insult him.

This show is a hilarious depiction of these tech businesses that have way too much money and even bigger egos. The writers of this show come up with all sorts of comical situations that are a clever comment on society at the same time. I am looking forward to what they have in store this season!

TV Premiere: Game of Thrones Season 6

Catching up with the multitude of character both alive in dead where we left in season 5 leads to a bunch of short segments that inform of where most of the characters are at the beginning of this new sixth season. The story picks up with the most pertinent mystery of Jon Snow's death. The show does not give into the rumor mill, so far Kit Harington only plays a corpse, and tell us whether he will come back now or ever. I was a bit worried that he would rise from the dead as a white walker. 

The show moves from their to the other North residents including the Boltons who are still scheming for the throne but have a problem with a now missing Sansa Stark, played by Sophie Turner. Her situation looks dire until Brienne of Tarth, played by the increasingly popular Gwendoline Christie, shows up to finally fulfill her promise to Catelyn Stark.

The plot returns to King's Landing and the recent death of Mycella, which Cersei Lannister, played by Lena Headey, has yet to find out about and deal with her grief. Her twin brother and incestuous lover Jamie Lannister, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, has to deliver the bad news and tries to run off with his sister but that's not likely to happen.

So much other stuff happened from the Queen Margaery Tyrell played by Natalie Dormer still imprisoned by the religious fanatics, to Arya's training beginning, but they also fit in Tyrion Lannister played by Peter Dinklage walking through the streets of Mereen and Daenerys Targaryen played by Emilia Clarke captured by a horde of Dothraki, plus the two men after her to find and rescue her.

The biggest part of the show was probably Doran Martell's assassination by his brother's lover in Dorne. Doran portrayed by Alexander Siddig had a lot more character depth in the book and his body guard Areo Hotah portrayed by DeObia Oparei even had his own chapters to fill out the books. They and Trystane Martell portrayed by Toby Sebastian all fell to the Sand Snakes including Ellaria, Obara, Tyene and Nymeria played respectively by Indira Varma, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers, and Jessica Henwick. This part of the story could have used a few more episodes but that is why I read books.

The show usually gets off to a slow start with some big bombshells revealed at the beginning. In this case it was the Red Woman Melisandre played by Carice van Houten turning from a woman to a very old lady. Her magic may be powerful enough to bring back Jon Snow but will have to wait until the next episode to find out. The show has moved past George R. R. Martin's books and into an unknown realm. I'm so stoked that this show is back on air and can't wait to watch every episode this year!

Book Review: first communions by Geoffrey Girard

Geoffrey Girard collected together several of his published short fiction and added in a original content to deliver first communions, the latest short fiction collection from Apex Book Company. I had the privilege to meet Geoffrey Girard and purchase a signed copy of this book at ConGlomeration in Louisville. I've encountered one of the stories inside previously in the Dark Faith, a collection of religious horror short stories, and another in the recent issue of Apex Magazine. I enjoyed every story in this book as each had its own merits and a unique style.

The stories range from haunting to comical to fantastical with disturbing images abound. There is Translation floating mind-controlling aliens with a family tearing each other apart while the writer father has to listen to Collecting James and skull fragment collecting serial killer. Girard does not hold back on the violence and seems to find the best words to describe the horrifyingly disgusting things that happen. He even includes a YA sample in the form of H. E. Double Hockey Sticks, which shows how horror can still be fun and humorous. 

The setting range from an old Indian land with a horrible secret in Release Me to curse pirate ships in Dead in the Water. The future is mainly bleak in Girard's stories with zombies over running the world and used as choral instruments in Unto the Lord a New Song or a nursing home that has to finally be demolished after the residents have gone on living for centuries in For Restful Death I Cry. His research pays off for stories like Pyschomachia about a strange occurrence in coal mines and Misdirection telling the tale of a French musician in Algeria. 

Girard plays with narrative styles whether it is second person, stream of conscious, or a mix of several perspectives like the brilliant and chilling title story First Communions. Even when the author goes more literary like Crawl, the images will get under your skin and make you itch. My favorite story was Dark Harvest about a small town that discovers an injured Ringwraith that has fallen from its flying steed. 

For fans of horror, zombies, and well-used gore, I would highly recommend this collection of sixteen stories. It is also very cool from a writer and reader's perspective to see the inspiration and publication history of these stories, which Girard includes at the end. I felt the whole book came together nicely to give me a nice dose of horror in each story that made me continue reading on to the next one. Girard also has several cool novels out that hope to read soon.

Magazine Review: Apex Magazine Issue 83

Apex Magazine published fewer stories this month but all of them are longer allowing readers to get more familiar with characters and plunge deeper into the dark and mysterious worlds. 

Getting right to it, the first story is a minding trip to Austin, Texas in The Teratologist's Brother by Brandon H. Bell. The story describes the upbringing of two brothers in a religious family and how one goes on to create a cult with a silly name book, The Scooby Doo Impasse, but don't let the name fool you, it inspires some frightening stuff. There are some images in this story that are definitely haunting. I would recommend reading this one, the podcast doesn't do it justice this month.

The second story The Laura Ingalls Experience by Andrew Neil Gray puts an interesting sci-fi twist on an old classic Western novel. The story delves into guilt and what it means to be alive. I read that Gray has more stories set on asteroid mining colonies and the taste I got from this story makes me want to read more. I especially like how the story slowly revealed itself.

The reprint, The Quidnunx, is by acclaimed author Catherynne M. Valente and has both a spooky and fantastical vibe to it. I really liked all the character names and the world is explained thoroughly from start to finish though the plot left me with a few questions at the end.

All the poetry was disturbing and delivered vivid imagery to the brain including poems from John Yu Branscum, Jeremy Paden, and Michael VanCalbergh. I always like sci-fi, fantasy, and horror poetry.

The extra horror story is from first communions by Geoffrey Girard from his new short story collection of which I will have a review out shortly. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

TV Show Review: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season 2)

The bingeable and positive Netflix comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt returns for a hilarious second season. Kimmy, Titus, Lillian and Jacqueline are back with even more complex and hilarious jokes and one-liners. Plenty of punchlines went right over my head and the only way to get every joke is to be the most astute pop culture observer. Creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock pack layer upon layer into every joke make the most out of every line of dialogue.

Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) is still working to get over her years spent in a bunker after being captured by a deranged Reverend (Jon Hamm). Kimmy's roommate Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) is still struggling with his fledging acting career and starts a new relationship with a construction worker in this season. Kimmy's landlord Lillian (Carol Kane) fights to keep her crummy neighborhood from gentrification. Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) is kicked out of her tribe and returns to New York hoping to regain wealth since her affluent husband divorced her.

The show is full of so many jokes that had me laughing out loud nearly every scene. Tina Fey shows up as an alcoholic child psychiatrist who attempts to help Kimmy with her abandonment issues. There a plenty of cameos throughout the season that lead to even more jokes by the self-deprecating actors that show up but one of the funniest is Lisa Kudrow popping up in the last episodes as Kimmy's mom.

The show moves at a fast pace and keeps plot point coming while shooting off one-liners so quickly that it makes the show a little too easy to binge watch and leaves an empty comedic hole when it's over. I think this may be one of the smartest comedies out there and when I think about my top ten list, I will be sure to consider it for my comedy in competition with It's Always Sunny and possibly South Park. 

Netflix knows they have a hit on their hands and set it up for a third season in the last few minutes of the finale. I am a fan of what Kemper has done with the character and the brilliant writing on the show. I'll be excited to watch again next year! 

Camp NaNoWriMo Week 3

I've written a decent amount but my little arrow is still only on the 50% part of the target. I have two weekends left and the final day of April is Saturday so I will have to make the most of it. I have written 15k in a matter of days before but the story has eluded me so far. I have a general idea of what happens next but I often get bogged down in the specifics and instead of just plowing forward I pause and contemplate, not a great speed-writing strategy.

Another issue this month has been my constant use of the internet. I write about 50 words and decide to update my word count because at this point, any progress is a positive for me. However, when I open up that internet page, I get sucked in. I update my blog, look at movie trailers, check sports scores, or read social media posts. All of these activities are a huge detriment to my writing. It doesn't help that the NBA playoffs started recently and I'm trying to keep trying of every series.

I missed all the planned write-ins and lost nearly every member of my cabin but a few of us are still persisting. I know the cabin goal will not be reach at all unless we each put out over 20k words in the next eight days. 

I have actually contemplated what will happen if I don't finish. I first participated in NaNoWriMo in 2014 and not only wrote a novel but flew past the 50k word mark to an 80k final rough draft. Of course after editing I cut that book down to about 55k so I'll have to add more details to it once the editor returns it. The next year I only participated in the second Camp NaNoWriMo in June of 2015. That June Camp is a good example of what I can do, even though it was only a 20k word challenge, I didn't write for the first ten days, then had a large spurt and had to power through at the end. I also outpaced the goal for last November's writing marathon.

So far, I have not failed at reaching my word count and I can't stand only having the participant badge to show for all my hard work. I am determined this weekend to nearly double my current work count and finish off the last week with even more flourishes of garbage, ill-thought out prose to put into a novel that I will never publish. I hope to be showing of my Camp NaNoWriMo winner sticker by the end of April!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Movie Review: Hush

This Netflix horror film about a deaf writer being stalked by a killer won't see a cinema release. The film relied on sound a lot with the intense premise that the killer could simply stalk around the house without being heard by the protagonist. Kate Siegel stars as Maddie, a YA writer who hopes to find some peace and solace to writer her second novel. The voices in her head can't decide on an ending. 

Maddie's only company out in the woods is her cat and a neighbor trying to communicate her with broken sign language. The neighbor is the first victim of the derange killer who hunts down residents. John Gallagher Jr. who recently starred in 10 Cloverfield Lane plays the killer. He had a pretty spooky mask but they dispose of that a bit too early to inspire much horror. He never had a clear motivation which made his character lack depth and reduced the fright he could cause as well

The movie follows a typical horror plot with some decent scares throughout but most of the surprises are pretty obvious. The plot avoids reliance on jump scares but pushes the deafness gimmick. A sequence near the end plays of the characters decision to write seven different ending for her story helped the plot end well but the movie all boils to not that much. Director Mike Flanagan has made some decent horror flicks in the past including Oculus.

Hush couldn't really hit its stride but I did like the twist on a simple home invasion movie. The mask at the beginning did generate some brief scares but the movie lets the viewers off too easy without scaring the view enough. Still this movie was a decent enough horror for a night of Netflix. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Politics: New York Primary

No surprises in New York as the frontrunners in both parties take victories and add to their delegate leads. Donald Trump gave a victory speech first thanking his home state and promising to continue forward toward a possible contested convention. His victory makes it impossible for any other candidate to win the nomination but Ted Cruz was not going to drop out after a New York defeat. John Kasich is still hanging around for the attention or a possible Vice Presidential nomination.

On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton beats Bernie Sanders. Clinton maintains a victory in her home state of which she was a senator for eight years. Sanders hoped for an upset but a good showing is all he can take away with when the polls close. Clinton took a dominant win and got all the attention to try to woo back Sanders supporters and make her pitch for the general election.

There are still plenty of states left to vote in primaries and caucuses but the frontrunners have pulled ahead. Trump vs. Clinton is the safe bet and that is when the race will really get unpredictable though I think Clinton is the sure bet in that faceoff.

Sanders, Cruz, and Kasich will hold out until the convention giving them more power as they give up their delegates over to Trump or Clinton this summer. The West coast will turn into a battle ground for the remaining delegates and there is still a chance that the Republican convention could be contested so the votes in states like California, Washington, and Oregon could still have consequences for the political future.

New York signals a change in the race as the math determines that only the frontrunners have a chance to win enough delegates. The race will lose a lot of attention over the next two months but will reignite when Trump and Clinton race against each other in the fall!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Review: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

It's hard to describe the experience of reading Marlon James's brilliant novel A Brief History of Seven Killing or explain exactly what the book is about. The easiest explanation is that this book describes the events surrounding and after the assassination attempt on Bob Marley in 1976 but that is only a part of this sprawling novel that takes readers on a ride through the minds of the characters who were deeply affected by the troubling times of Jamaica during the 1970s.

The story is narrated through the first person narration of each character whose name is at the start of each chapter until the fourth part. The narration uses stream of conscious and doesn't wait around for a reader to know what is going on before delving into the story. I really wish I had more time to read because this book is the type of book that deserves a reader's undivided attention. The dialogue is not tagged other than with hyphens and an occasional tag but it is often hard to be sure who is speaking. Marley is only referred to as the Singer and though it tells a story about him it never narrates from his perspective.

I wanted to learn so much about the history of Jamaica and the spread of cocaine through the islands but at the same time was swept up in the great crime drama that plays out as posse leaders conspire to overthrow one another and establish dominance of the drug trade. The book jumps around in time and I found myself reading from the perspective of a character who was already dead but still thinking. The story has no main character but I found myself enjoying the company of the ruthless don Josey Wales, the Rolling Stone writer Alex Pierce, and Nina Burgess who changes her name multiple times in her attempt to flee her home country. I liked the second part in New York a bit more since I could make sense of it but this might have only been after an exposure to the confusing Jamaican patois. 

Marlon James strikes me as one of the best writers I've had the privilege to read while they are still alive. I was foolish to purchase the Kindle version not sure what this book would be about and buying it on an impulse. It is a book that makes me want to go back to school to discuss and dissect and research more about. I wish I had more time to just sit down and read it again. I looked up all sorts of podcasts and interviews with the author to learn more about the process, his views, and what he plans to do in the future. 

Not only is the book difficult to read from a narrative standpoint but the violence does not hold back. There are numerous scenes where characters whose head the reader is in perform awful actions without too much guilt or second thought. One of my favorite parts of this book was how it did not hold back on the awful brutality of the killers. The book is long as well and I now join a group of readers who are persistent at approaching very difficult fiction.

I recommend this book to any reader who enjoys a good challenge and feeling reward at the end of an emotional roller coaster. The book is informative and fun and well deserving of the recognition it has received. One thing that really sold me on this book was James's talk about writing an African fantasy epic, so I am going to wait for that and purchase it as soon as it hits the shelves. I didn't do this book justice in this review and would love to discuss it further with other readers. Check out this book as soon as you have time to read it!

Magazine Review: Lightspeed Magazine Issue 71

I've been catching up on my novel reading this month and writing as well but I put aside some time to enjoy some short fiction as well. The seventy-first issue of Lightspeed magazine had some interesting stories ranging from ghosts to superheroes to dragons to aliens. I found the stories engaging and fun.

In the science fiction section, the original fiction was about ghosts and superheroes. "Cause For A Haunting" by Patricia Strand had some chilling passages and the aspect of how the ghosts functioned intrigued but it took a bit of the story before the payoff. "Origin Story" by Carrie Vaughn took the approach of a characters living in a world city full of superheroes and told a nice love story. Origin Story won't break any boundaries but a fun read nonetheless.

The two reprint in sci-fi were exception reads. "Collateral" by Peter Watts told the story of AI technology gone rogue and the discussion around war crimes. I thought Becker the main character depicted PTSD in an interesting light and Watts showed an interesting picture of the future of war. "The Birth Will Take Place on a Mutually Acceptable Research Vessel" by Matthew Bailey was my favorite story of the issue with a touching story about motherhood and intergalactic relationships clashing culturally and biologically.

Neither of the original fantasy stories clicked with me this issue but I'm more of a sci-fi reader anyways. "Dragon Brides" by Nghi Vo had great writing but lacked a narrative structure to follow bouncing through time. I did enjoy the explanation for why dragons keep gold. "Lily, with Clouds" by Theodora Goss went over my head with a magical realism mixed in with classism. I didn't find much in the story for me with no likable characters and a subdued plot.

Of the fantasy reprints, "Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise" by Ken Scholes was a cool story with a large world behind it that I found interesting and wanted to delve into more. The use of robots and magic plus an engaging plot had me enjoying this story the most of the fantasies. The Knobby Giraffe by Rudy Rucker was all over the place with time travel and dimensional shifting that I had a hard time finding solid ground in the story. 

The novella "Incident on a Small Colony" by Kristine Smith took a while to get going and relied a lot on backstory to drive the plot, so I would rate around the middle of what I've seen so far from Lightspeed novellas. The chapter excerpt from the novel Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt had some intriguing parts but I won't be racing to check it out with my packed reading list. 

I always appreciated insightful reviews and have been wondering about The Man in the High Castle so I enjoyed Christopher East's take on the show and was introduced to Occupied another show as well. I've enjoyed all the podcasts of Lightspeed and they allow me to revisit a story I might not have totally got the first read without straining my tired eyes and the Geek Guide to the Galaxy podcast is always discussing something of interest to me. I look forward to the next month of short and longer fiction from Lightspeed magazine!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

TV Show Review: Vinyl Season 1

Martin Scorcese and Mick Jagger have joined with Terrence Winter, who I'm not sure will still be available to work with the show, to make a 1970s drama about the struggles of a record company to make hits during an interesting time in music. Vinyl revolves around American Century run by Richie Finestra and his business partner. Bobby Cannavale finally gets his lead performance after being an amazing villain in Boardwalk Empire and plenty of other impressive performance.

Richie's behavior is often off-the-wall outrageous and his drug usage causes him no end of grief. He ends up estranged from his wife played by Olivia Wilde. She has caught the eye of Andy Warhol and leaves the record company owner for a photographer. Despite Finestra's begging, she refuses to fall for his ploys anymore and put her children in harm's way.

The record company has tons of financial issues after they don't sell to a German company and fall in with the mob. Finestra also has to deal with the fact that he was involved in a murder of a guy that controls the radio waves. The mob doesn't help out much with Paul Ben-Victor, a great character actor who has played plenty of gangsters including the Greek connection in The Wire, moving into the office.

Ray Romano turns to a dramatic performance after a long career in comedy and has some exceptional scenes as another partner in the record company. The episodes where Zak Yankovich and Richie got to Vegas was one of the best of the show. 

There are plenty of worthwhile performances in this show though it takes a long time to get going. The cocaine use is off the charts but this is the seventies. The score, of course, is awesome and it is cool to see this time period depicted again. 

Some of the actors I really enjoyed were James Jagger, Mick Jagger's son who plays the lead singer of the band the Nasty Bits who the record company depends a lot on, Ato Essandoh as a talented singer but his throat was destroyed by a mob attack, Jack Quaid as Clark Monelle, a promoter demoted to the mail room who pushes a new dance track at the local clubs, and Juno Temple as the coffee girl who discovers the Nasty Bits. 

There are other actors that helped this show along and the directing in several episodes was pretty awesome but this show might not have what it takes to go more than a few season. I don't think the ratings are very high but I hope Cannavale gets plenty of new roles!

TV Show Review: Girls (Season 5)

Lena Dunham's HBO Series Girls has come to the end of its run with the conclusion of season five. The adventures of Hannah Horvath, Shoshanna, Marnie and Jesse has run its course. Hannah went through relationships, jobs, and life crises as the millennial version of Sex and the City. The four girls had some outrageous occurrences over the years and it was both funny and bittersweet to see the end. 

Hannah played by Dunham herself was introduced as a struggling writer begging money of her parents five years ago and ended the show telling a story for the Moth radio hour. She made tons of questionable choices that were cringeworthy and hilarious. She had moved on from her main love interest to Fran played by Jake Lacy but that relationship did not end well either. In the end she is seen running off to an undetermined future. It's tough to end a long running show that usually finishes with a cliffhanger but both this season and the previous had solid conclusions.

Shoshanna played by Zosia Mamet, daughter of director David Mamet, came back from a brief stint in Japan to help Ray's coffee shop turn back around after losing the majority of customers to a hipster shop across the street. Shosh had plenty of amusing moments with her naiveté but the series end with hope for her marketing skills.

Jessa (Jemima Kirke) ended up with Adam though it looks like their relationship will be filled with a lot of fighting. Jessa was a confused character who struggled not only with terrible relationships but a serious drug addiction for several seasons. She actually ended up falling for Adam during her NA meetings.

Marnie (Allison Williams, the daughter of newscaster Brian Williams) pursues her music career with her ex-husband but has also acted on her dream to be with Ray played by Alex Karpovsky. Marnie was not the most likable character but her ending was fitting and an adventurous sixth episode had her coming to terms with her dreams. This was one of my favorite episodes of the season. 

This show birthed the career of Adam Driver who has moved onto to Star Wars fame. He began as Hannah's odd boyfriend with all sorts of fetishes and grew into a well-rounded character who screams with dark side rage at Jessa by the end. The show had ups and downs, good episodes and some that seemed unnecessary but overall this show is an interesting trip into the mind of the female millennial writer. It was funny and dramatic and a pretty good show, and later updating this have discovered they have one more season in store. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Movie Review: The Jungle Book

Rudyard Kipling's novel still inspires reiterations with the live-action adaptation hitting theaters this weekend starring Neel Sethi as the only human Mowgli, the man cub. A ton of high profile actors voiced the plethora of animal characters through the film. The special effects were stunning enough that the visual experience was enjoyable to watch.

The list of actors extend long but at the top was Bill Murray as Baloo the Bear, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera the Panther, and Idris Elba as the villainous tiger Shere Khan. Elba was especially great with his deep voice resounding and terrifying the audience.

Director Jon Favreau keeps the film moving along quickly as the plot demands the fast pace of the jungle. All the CGI shots are constantly moving with a great attention to tiny details resulted in cute and stunning images flying across the screen.

There were plenty of guest stars popping up through it like Scarlett Johansson as the snake, Christopher Walken as King Louie the orangutan, and Lupita Nyong'o as Raksha the mother wolf. Giancarlo Esposito also pops up a Akila the alpha male wolf. The voice acting assisted the special effects and it all came together for a great story.

This movie has been one of the more enjoyable experiences I've had in the theater this year. The 3D worked well for following Mowgli bouncing through the trees and very cool battles between bears, tigers, monkey, panthers, and all the majestic creatures of the jungle. I look forward to other adaptations of Disney animated classics. This movie has nothing going against for kids to see and enjoyable for adult viewers so I expect success at the box office as well!

Camp NaNoWriMo Week 2

This month of writing continues with the second week gone and the gap between my actual production and my goal growing wider. I managed to have a large output at the start of the week using caffeine and enthusiasm and I hope for a resurgence this weekend but I will need to steadily push past my goals to get to my desired thirty thousands words by May 1st. 

A thousand words a day shouldn't be that difficult, but I find myself writing about writing, reading, and blogging about others things like movies, politics, and sports rather than working on my fiction. The worst part is that my low output all week has led me to lose track of the story in my head, and it takes me a bit longer to get back into the rhythm of writing when I start up each night. 

I have also not done a great job of separating out time to write. I haven't attended any write-ins and even had to cancel one at a local coffee shop. My most productive time was at an impromptu write-in at my favorite coffee house so I should set up a few more of those as the final two weeks approach. 

I am hoping that as the impending deadline looms, I can use that for motivation. I'm not totally please with what I've written so far but it does help me flesh out some ideas and at least if I delete it later, I will have learned something about the characters and a path I won't take the next time I attempt to write this novel.

I'm having a pretty fun time overall and I can't wait to participate in the upcoming months on another Camp NaNoWriMo. I think they have one in June similar to the month I partook in last year. Any extra help motivating me to write is always welcome even if I don't go all in every time. I am really looking forward to the official month in November and have already started planning a new idea!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Politics: Democratic Presidential Debate #9 Brooklyn Debate

The Brooklyn Debate was by far the most contentious debate between the two democratic candidates. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton went back and forth on their liberal credentials on all the issues from gun control, to Wall Street, to Israel, to abortion, to global warming. Sanders accused Clinton of not being liberal enough while Clinton accused Sanders of not having any solutions for the proposals he promises in his campaign speeches.

Hillary Clinton holds a commanding lead in the delegate count and is leading in the polls for the upcoming election in New York. However, Clinton found herself on the defensive throughout the debate as she had to answer for past politically savvy decisions and tough choices in regards to foreign policy and the limitation of crime. Clinton managed to get several attacks against Sanders pushing hard on his record against the banning of guns, his position on Palestine, and his inability to make concrete proposals for his promise to break up the banks. She dodged questions about her paid speeches to Wall Street banks and pivoted to the general election attacking Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders refuses to give up the fight reiterating that he will win the nomination as he continues forward. He promoted his recent wins and disregarded Clinton's wins in the Deep South. He attacked Hillary on her position on fracking, though she pointed out that Natural Gas is a bridge. He also pushed back on her previous votes for the Iraq War and the money she received from banks. Sanders promises to continue to winning as the elections head West, and it will be interesting to see if he can follow through on this fight.

With Sanders coming off a tough New York interview and making bold statements about Clinton's qualifications, the debate promised to show the candidates clashing more than ever and while there was contention, the agreement were larger than the conflict. The excitement has just been so ratcheted up on the other side that even as these candidates argue, it's nothing to the ridiculousness of Trump and Ted Cruz. 

I believe that Clinton will win in New York and go on to take the nomination but Sanders certainly added an interesting twist to a campaign that could have not contained much excitement. I have stuck with this whole political race from the early debates when there were actually five candidates so I am looking forward to a final decision for who will take the Democratic nomination! 

Sports: NBA Playoffs (Preview)

Th 2015-2016 NBA Season is over and I was torn between writing a season recap post or a preview post for the playoffs. Since I am looking forward to the playoffs, I will choose them to look back at the season while look forward to the potential matchups and make some predictions along the way. I will predict who will win it all and then edit my picks as the playoffs progress. I will also go through the games with the ones starting on Saturday first then work through the schedule.

I'm featuring the teams that I think won't make it out of the first round since they won't be discussed as we move further into the playoffs. The first game of playoffs is between the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors. The Pacers have fallen a long way since they challenged the Cleveland Cavaliers for a chance at the championship two years ago. The Pacers ranked in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and will likely fall to the Toronto Raptors.
Game 1: The Pacers took the first game of this series beating Toronto by ten points. The Raptors had the lead for most of the game but Paul George and the Indiana crew dominated in the second half. I'm glad the Playoffs have started! 4/16
Game 2: The Raptors battled back in game two and took the second game to even the series. 4/18
Game 3: The Raptors regain the lead in this series beating the Pacers by 16 points. Though they lost the first match, it looks like they can advance to the second round. 4/21 
Game 4: The Pacers looked strong and pushed past the Raptors for for a big game four victory by seventeen points. Indiana ties the series with Toronto at two. 4/23
Game 5: Back at home, the Raptors just beat the Pacers by 3 points to take the lead in the series 3-2. Indiana will return home for the next game and if they win, will play the final game in Toronto. 4/26
Game 6: The Pacers comeback with a 18 point win over the Raptors. The final game will be in Toronto where Indian will have its last chance to survive and make it to the second round. 4/29
Game 7: The Raptors barely make it to the second round with a win over the Pacers by five points. 5/1

The Houston Rockets probably have the toughest challenge in the first round taking on the dominating Golden State Warriors in the first round. Golden State dominated this season with Stephen Curry breaking the three-point record and playing like an MVP not seen in the league before. The Rockets came in at .500 in their record and will not see the second round.
Game 1: Golden State dominated this game from the beginning to the end and ended up winning by 26 points. The Rockets will have to perform a lot better if they want to stand a chance against the reigning champs. 4/16
Game 2: Steph Curry will be out of this game with a sprained ankle. 4/18 Golden State proves that they can win even without Steph Curry beating the Rockets by by nine points. This shows that it is not only Curry but the rest of the team. Of course they are not the dominant team they are with Curry but still winners. 4/19
Game 3: In the last second, James Harden scored to allow the Rockets to have their first win by one point against the dominant Warriors who are struggling without their star Stephen Curry. I'm not sure whether he is likely to return for the next game but this could determine the series. 4/22
Game 4: The Warriors take another big victory over the Rockets by 27 points. Stephen Curry went out for a knee injury in the second half and didn't return. I don't know if he'll return for the next game. Golden State is up 3 game to one against Houston. 4/24
Game 5: Without Stephen Curry, the Warriors still take the series against the Rockets in a 33 point game five win. The Warriors will go on to play either the injured Clippers or the Trail Blazers in the second round. Still no word on Curry's return. 4/28

The matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Atlanta Hawks is one of the most exciting in the first round. The Celtics are riding a wave of momentum but I'm biased since I'm rooting for the Hawks so I'm picking the Celtics to lose this round. I will be watching closely Saturday night to see how both teams look. 
Game 1: The most exciting game of the first day so far. The Hawks held the lead for most of the game but the Celtics battled back near the end of the fourth quarter. The game came down to the final seconds but Atlanta triumphed. This will be a series to watch! 4/16
Game 2: The Hawks looked strong in the second game taking it by seventeen points. The Celtics have only a slim chance to win as they head back home. The Hawks have never lost a playoff series when up by two game to zero. I hope Schroder recovers from that injury at the end of the game. 4/19
Game 3: Boston stops Atlanta's win streak. The Celtics went on to beat the Hawks by 8 points. The Celtics were on top for most of the game and Atlanta came back at the end but couldn't come through. I hope the Hawks do better in the next game. 4/22
Game 4: An intense game leads to overtime and the Celtics pull it out ending up with a 9 point victory over the Hawks. Atlanta has a lot of injuries and plays terrible away so perhaps they'll do better when they return home. The Celtics tie up the series with this win. 4/24
Game 5: The Hawks returned home and destroyed the Celtics in a 27 point blowout. Boston will have a chance survival in their home stadium but Atlanta seems unstoppable at home. 4/27
Game 6: The Hawks win the series with an away win in Boston by twelve points against the Celtics. Atlanta faces a tough challenge next playing Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. 4/28

The Dallas Mavericks barely broke .500 in their season record which is why I think they don't stand a chance against the Oklahoma City Thunder. With Westbrook and Durant in the game, OKC will be a force to be reckoned with throughout the playoffs.
Game 1: The Thunder dominated from the start and ended up winning by 38 points. I'm predicting sweep for this late night series. 4/16
Game 2: I was wrong and the Mavericks pull out a nail-biter in the last second winning by a play that comes down to a determination by replay. The Clippers almost got the layup but not before the buzzer. Next, Dallas goes home to defend their home 4/18
Game 3: Oklahoma City bounced back stronger in the third game of the season after that close loss. The Thunder beat Dallas by 29 points. 4/21
Game 4: The Thunder defeat the Mavericks by 11 points but Kevin Durant is eject for a flagrant foul. Clipper go up 3-1 in the series. 4/23
Game 5: OKC wins the series with a 14 point final lead against the Dallas Mavericks. The Thunder will face the Spurs next round. 4/26

The Detroit Pistons also got a rough deal in the first round of the playoffs having to square off against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Lebron James. The Cavs will go far in this playoff and I'm predicting another appearance in the championship meaning the Pistons are out in the first round.
Game 1: Lebron and the Cavs took the first game by just five points over the Detroit Pistons. I don't know if this is a good sign for the Pistons or a sign of weakness for Cleveland.
Game 2: The Cavaliers win by 17 points and look to cruise to the second round over the Pistons. 4/20
Game 3: The Cavaliers are the first team to go up by three game beating the Pistons by ten points. Lebron and his team look strong and will be a contender in the East this playoffs. 4/22
Game 4: The Cavaliers sweep the Pistons to be the second team to make it to the second round. They won by just two points but that is enough for them to move on. The Cavs will play the winner of the Hawks vs Celtics matchup. 4/24

The Charlotte Hornets face a tough set of games going against a resurgent Miami Heat. The Hornets could pull off an upset but Heat looked to be a better team and will move on to the second round.

Game 1: The Heat dominated the first game of the series winning by 32 points. This looks like Miami series to lose. 4/17
Game 2: The Heat kept a steady lead in the second game not really challenged by the Hornets and winning by 12 points. Maybe Charlotte will perform better at home but not likely. 4/20
Game 3: The Hornets surprise and beat the Heat by 16. Charlotte looks better at home and may be more of a challenge with the advantage. 4/23
Game 4: The Hornets continue to excel at home and win another game by only 4 points this time against the Heat. Charlotte was on top for most of the game until Miami battle back but didn't have enough to avoid a series tie at 2 games. 4/25
Game 5: The Hornets get another win, this time away in Miami to pull ahead in the series. The Heat will have to win two straight to survive including one in Charlotte. 4/28
Game 6: The Heat take a 7 point victory against the Hornets to tie the series at 3 games each. It's Miami's series to lose as they head home to face Charlotte in the final game of this first round series. 4/29.
Game 7: Miami takes the final game against Charlotte at home by 33 points. The Heat will have to take on the winner of Portland and Indiana tonight. 5/1

The Portland Trail Blazers have it tough facing them in the LA Clippers. The Clippers are one of the most powerful teams in the West and Blazers don't have what it take to beat them. 
Game 1: The Trail Blazers kept it close through the first half but couldn't finish strong. The Clippers won by 20 points. This may be a challenge for LA but they should pull through. 4/18
Game 2: The Clippers outmatched the Trail Blazers and beat Portland by 21 points. 4/21
Game 3: The Trail Blazers win by 8 points agains the Clippers as Portland proves more friendly territory for the home team. 4/24
Game 4: Portland ties the series with a 14 point win against Los Angeles. Chris Paul of the LA Clippers has broken his hand and it does not look good so the Trail Blazers could pull out a surprise victory here. 4/26
Game 5: Due to injuries to both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers are weak and fall to the Trail Blazers by ten points. Portland just has to win one more game at home against an ailing Los Angeles team to pull of the upset and make it to the next round of the playoffs. 4/28
Game 6; A bunch of injuries cause my first wrong prediction. The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angels Clippers by 3 points for the upset/ The Trail Blazers go on to the second round against the Golden State Warriors who have also suffered an injury to their star player. Portland may be a surprise team this year! 4/30

I think the Spurs will go far and present by far the greatest challenge to the Golden State Warriors for a spot in the Western Conference championship. Though I'm rooting for the Grizzlies, I don't think they will progress to the second round.

Game 1: The Spurs proved to be a much more powerful team in this first game holding the Grizzlies to just 74 points while beating them by 29. This series might be four games as well. 4/17
Game 2: The Spurs showed up to defeat the Grizzlies again by 26 points. Memphis will have a hard time turning it around as they head home in the hole by two games. 4/20
Game 3: The Spurs continue their dominance over the Memphis Grizzlies beating them by nine points. The Spurs will be the first team with a chance to win this Sunday. 4/23
Game 4: The Spurs sweep the Grizzlies with a 21 point victory in Memphis. Spurs could face the Mavericks but most likely the Thunder. 4/24

Looking forward to the second round with my predictions of no upsets that leaves matches in the Eastern Conference of: Hawks vs. Cavs and Raptors vs. Heat. I'm taking the Cavs though I'm rooting for the Hawks and Toronto over Miami. The Cavaliers will beat the Raptors to head to the Championship. 

On the Western side, the Warrior will face the Clippers in the second round. Los Angeles has a chance to beat the top team that shares a state with them but the Warriors seem so unstoppable that I have to go with Golden State. The Warriors will go on to face the winner of the Thunder and Spurs matchup. The Thunder look good but the Spurs look second best. The Spurs will defeat the Thunder but fall to the Warriors meaning another rematch in the championship.

I'm going for a repeat with Golden State this year. I always think the NBA takes a long time to change who is the best teams in the league making for a lot of dynasties. College has the unpredictable nature and the NBA remains more consistent. Still, they have to play the games to see what will happen and I am looking forward to see how it all goes down!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Movie Review: Midnight Special

Packed with an all-star cast, a director with increasingly impressive credits, and a ton of hype, Midnight Special had an indie release that should be more impressive than others. I was glad to see it playing at the local Cinemark though I almost missed it showing in one of the smaller theaters. I did catch the Jeff Nichols-directed sci-fi thriller and have to say that there is plenty to enjoy about this film.

The story revolves around a mysterious boy and a cult that raised him. Michael Shannon plays Roy Tomlin, the boy's father who has taken the boy from the cult and with the help of his friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton), they are on the run from the cult and the FBI. Shannon is charming and sentimental as the father, a change from the heartless and evil villains he often plays. Edgerton has a decent southern accent.

The story moves along slowly though there are some surprising twists and a moderate amount of special effects that kept me engaged. I like to think of this as the right amount of special effects, not too much to overload the eyes but also helping the story progress.

In pursuit of the boy is an NSA agent played by Adam Driver who is growing his career as an actor in an impressive manner. Driver has some interesting parts but nothing too strenuous. Jaeden Lieberher who plays the gifted child was probably the breakout performance of this film and stole the show from all these impressive actors. 

Kirsten Dunst shows up as the boy's mother halfway through and does a decent job. I have enjoyed her last few career choices with Fargo and now this film. The action definitely kept me on edge and the finale was a decent payoff, though it is often impossible to end a story about the unexplainable with a solid payoff explanation. I am definitely looking forward to what Nichols directs in the future.

Author Interview: Geoffrey Girard

I was incredibly lucky to meet Geoffrey Girard at ConGlomeration 2016 at his book release party for first communions, a brand new collection of short stories. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite short story writers and had a bunch of other great works out there as well! I also had the opportunity to interview him about his writing and his most recent collection.

Becoming a Writer and the Writing Process

1. Hi Geoffrey, thanks for agreeing to this interview! It was nice meeting you at ConGlomeration this weekend. I really appreciate the time you took to talk to a young writer like me and learned a lot listening to you speak on panels. I wanted to ask you first about when you first wanted to be a writer and what your first stories were about.

Hello, Stephen. Yes, there was a good core ardent band of writers at Conglomeration and it was great meeting so many new folk. I’ve learned so much from other writers during my career; so glad to ever play that same role for others.
My first stories were all rip-offs of Tolkien, Terry Brooks, and Mary Stewart; epic fantasies of 40 hand-written pages written in “college bluebooks” nicked from my father. I wanted to be a writer because of these writers. Then McCaffrey and Burroughs. This was elementary-school stuff. Soon after, I’d find King, Straub, Lovecraft, Joyce, etc. Books and reading are my favorite thing, period. I knew I wanted to someday be part of that from the other side.

2. Was there any experience that motivated you to continue writing, or any piece of fiction that especially stood out to you as a young reader?

There were these story collections printed under Hitchcock’s name (like Alfred Hitchcock’s Ghostly Gallery) and I reread each of those fifty times. Darker stuff, short stories. Can’t imagine why I write what I do. And, I was too young to see The Shining when it came out and, so, asked my mom if I could buy the book. Finding King – a writers’ writer, one who cares about craft and shared a ton about the process and industry in his notes – meant a lot. This was before the internet, so it was harder to get info on what “being an author” was really like. King’s discussion of such things provided a path.

3. Do you often self-edit? If so, how has your editing process changed over the years of being a writer?

I still typically self-edit and, so, often write very slowly. I can write 5k words a day, but am usually only good for 500-1,000. The payoff is I don’t do rewrites. Once the page is written, that’s 95% what shows up on the printed piece. That hasn’t changed over the years, not even going back to when I worked in advertising. I like to get it right the first time; sometimes that takes time. You can bang out a rough and fix it six times. Or, you can labor over every sentence. End of the day, either way, you’re looking at 4-7 months to write a book.

4. I heard you talk a lot about research, something I appreciate in fiction yet I have a difficult time knowing where to look and what to put in. How do you go about doing your research and determining what to put in the work or keep out?

Research has always been my favorite part of the writing process. Selfish, I suppose; I like to learn. But I also teach for a living, so I also enjoy passing on what I’ve learned and helping others discover new things. I read a lot before any project, sometimes for a year. A dozen books. For one 4k-word short story in first communions, about a coalmining town, I read four books. I know Hemingway’s “Iceberg Theory” has more to do with narrative./thematic omission than research, but it’s the same principle” know a lot, the things that really matter to the story will find their way to the top in the telling of the story. You need that huge foundation beneath, however. That comes with reading and interviews/people and travel.

5. How has being a teacher informed your writing and what is one piece of advice that you give your students?

Many times, I’ll say: “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” It’s my way of encouraging them to look at other writers’ work specifically for devices/moments/etc. that worked, to grab for their own use later. Few weeks ago, I read Karr's The Liars' Club with the sole intention of uncovering what she did so I can attempt to steal it and use.

Other Works

6. So I encountered the Cain XP11 short story in an early edition of Apex Magazine, loved it, and saw that it had turned into two separate novels. Could you tell me a bit about that work and how you came up with such an interesting idea?

I’d rewritten Cain XP11 to sell as a YA novel, an introduction to serial killers for teens.  When I sent to an agency for representation, they suggested it’d work better as an adult novel. So, I went away and wrote and adult novel (CAIN’S BLOOD) and they took me on as a client. During the same call, they asked if I’d be interested in trying a teen novel again/also. So, I went off and wrote PROJECT CAIN in first-person POV of the teen clone of Jeffrey Dahmer 9a side character in CAIN’S BLOOD). My new agents then went around new York trying to sell both books: ultimately Simon & Schuster published both books the same day.

7. What about a story determines whether the work will be short fiction or a longer work like a novel?

The answer is a tad mercenary: I’m always writing to market. When I was selling short stories, or whenever I’ve been invited to submit a short story to an anthology, I think of ideas that’ll be good short stories. The idea part is driven by the end goal. Ditto for novels: when it’s time for me to think of my next novel idea, I knock around ideas that might work as a novel. I rarely have eureka moments where some story idea just pops into my head. Usually, I’m being creative for a very specific purpose.

8. Many stories I’ve read of yours including First Communions and Cain XPII are very dark and fall in the horror genre. What draws you to write in this genre? Have you tried writing in other genres?

I try to write about normal stuff — I really do – but always seem to imagine all the terrible things that can happen. Those terrible things eventually get personified into various forms of “monster,” from demons and ghosts to serial killers and imperious corporations. I personally/naturally anticipate the worst case scenario in just about any situation, so you’re gonna get some dark stories. I have a few impending projects that aren’t particularly dark in concept; but, I’m sure they’ll become bloodbaths. Ultimately, I always hope readers will be entertained and discover new ways to reflect on the real world.

9. Do you consciously decide whether a story will fall in the YA category or be an adult fiction work?

For sure. Not a fan when writers claim they “didn’t know what they were writing” and just “wrote the best story they could” and let their agents and marketing figure it out. Sorry, if that’s the case: you’re a shitty writer. You’re not taking into account audience; and that’s maybe rule #1 in communicating. (Am I being too much of an English teacher? Maybe.) Recently heard the Book Thief author explain how he’d written an adult book that became a book for kids only when the USA published it. And it’s a stunning book, brilliantly written, and I’ve read it several times, but he’s right: It IS an adult book. Regardless of sales to schools, etc. If he’d known it was for younger readers, he’d have – I strongly suspect – changed a lot.

10. What can readers expect in the future from you?

A sequel to the Book Thief. If not that, TRUTHERS, about a girl who discovers she may be part of the 9/11 conspiracy, comes out Fall, 2017. Then another teen novel and then back to adult thriller. (2018 pubs)

first communions

11. Many of the stories in first communions revolve around faith. What about this theme inspired you to write these stories?

Not intentional. Was exploring other specific themes at the time in most of them. It was one of the professors during my Masters defense who brought up the faith thing and brought up half a dozen examples, and I went: “Oh, yeah….”  I was too close to them at the time. These stories cover ten years of writing and half a dozen genres (all leaning dark, but still a good mix). Took someone else to point out how faith issues keep coming up: clearly something I think about, which is fair.

12. What have you learned after revisiting these stories to put them in this collection?

You see the patterns. Things that clearly resonate with me personally (things of joy and not) because they show up in stories a couple times. An example: people standing. Several times I use that in pivotal scenes as an example of something really really terrible: just standing there and not doing anything. Made me do a little self-reflection, I assure you.

13. These stories are downright chilling. Do you remember yourself being afraid when writing them?

The cool answer to give is yes: they’re  really terrifying, blah blah. The emotion, for me, comes before I write and after. Writing is its own separate process. Maybe that’ll change over time. “Scared” is such a specific emotion: not since the 7th grade and the Amityville Horror has a book really scared me anyway. I read horror for different emotions and reasons.

14. Thank you so much for doing this interview. I am really enjoying the collection. Is there anything else you want your readers to know when approaching first communions?

Thank you, also. I’d want to tell ‘em it’s a pretty darn good mix pf speculative fiction. Horror, Sci-Fi, dark fantasy, historical, etc. If you like King’s short work, or Bradbury’s dark stuff, Barker, Kelly Link… you won’t be disappointed.

Check out Geoffry Girard's new work first communions published by Apex Publications and his other work at