Thursday, June 22, 2017

Count Down — One Week

It’s safe to say the real countdown begins today.

One week until the Cover Reveal on Thursday, June 29th.

Five weeks until the re-release of Tears of Heaven!

We’ve selected a cover artist for Hell Becomes Her, and I’m very excited to work with her.  After reviewing all kinds of excellent portfolios, I felt she was the closest to the look and feel that is Del’s urban fantasy / angelpunk world.

Company of the Damned has really picked up pace.  Chapter 10 is complete.  Chapter 11 is nearly done (haha, you smart-asses!).  Word count stands just over 68,000!

Grab your SIG .45s, some cold-forged iron spikes, and get ready for some divine wrath from your favorite sarcastic half-angel!

Sooner than last week . . . 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Trials of the Temple

That my 9yo, going on 34, with the curly hair in the middle of all these Jedi Padawan.  Before Disney bought out the Star Wars franchise, before Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Rogue One, this was a really cute, simple activity.  Parents showed up, urged their somewhat reluctant children to become “Jedi” trainees, and they were randomly selected.

Boy STILL has bedhead!

We tried two or three times to get just one of the boys into the robes and lightsabers.  Alas, the Force was not strong enough.

Now, the process is a great deal more involved.  You have to go to the sign up kiosk, and if you don’t get in on an early bird special, you can forget it.  “Trials of the Temple” fills up within the first 30 minutes or so of the park opening.  Of the five or six offered times, only the last two were still available . . . fine by us.  Other parents were not so amused.

It's still a lot of fun, and there’s a special section down front where family members—aka Nerd Dads—can sit and watch the kids learn the ways of the Force and face off against some of the Dark Side big bads.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Countdown - Two Weeks

The countdown continues!

Two weeks until the Cover Reveal on Thursday, June 29th.

Six weeks until the re-release of Tears of Heaven!

We are now looking at cover artists for Hell Becomes Her.

Finally, Company of the Damned continues apace, which means I’m deep into chapter 10.  For those of you keeping track, my chapters tend to run around 6,000 words, and an urban fantasy novel tends to be between 80,000 and 100,000.  This means Company of the Damned, is well over the 3/4 mark!

Very soon . . . 

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Loss of a Name

We hates it forever! (not really)

Absolutely, utterly crushed.

Last week, a friend of mine posted up about an author he was reading, and posted the title: Blood of Heroes (The Ember War Saga Book 3).  To be fair, Richard Fox, probably had that name kicking around in his cranium for years and years.

I still have to hate him.

The Blood of Heroes was going to be the name of the first book in MY fantasy series.  Gritty, realistic, with some moderate magic, and more brains than brawn—though, no end of brawn, blades, babes, and of course blood.  The first in a series that, by my calculations, would make ba-jillions of dollars and be revered as one of the great fantasy stories of our times.

Alas, I’ve held onto that book—and the title—so long now, that I thought it was my property alone.  Oh, sure, there was the Rutger Hauer movie of the same name—a post-apocalyptic "sports" movie.  The only reason I was aware of that movie, and have watched it, is because I took my own advice when it came to securing the title of my book.  It was the only thing that came up, and the movie had, at that time, only a very small cult following (of which I gladly joined).

Juggers, GEAR UP!
Alas, a quick search now—something I haven’t done in quite some time—reveals that it’s far from the original title that I once thought it was.  A dozen folk have since released titles with similar names.  

The noise and confusion around this title is now complete.

*sniff, sniff*

Goodbye dear friend.  Goodbye, dear title.  Goodbye, perfect summary of my story.  You brought me great joy every time I thought of how perfectly you mirrored the concept of the tale, and how well you would lead the series with similar titles to follow.

I shall miss you.

And to you, Richard Fox, for bringing this to my attention, I shall forever hate and revile your name (but in a good way).  I wish you nothing but success for this unknown impunity.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Hunting Monsters: Book One by Allen Currier

In a sleepy little town, a seasoned detective and a killer the likes of which no one has ever seen. Detective Steve Belcher has his work cut out for him. But how do you find a killer who leaves no clues. A killer who has the police lost at every turn. How many bodies will stack up until Detective Belcher can find the monster committing these unspeakable crimes? How many monsters will he have to chase down to find the one behind the murders? Where are the monsters and who are the hunters? In whose mind do they live?


Their heads had been severed. The wife's terrified features, pale and ghoulish, taunted him from the body of her husband. The son-of-a-bitch had switched their heads. Detective Steve Belcher leaned in and examined the crude stitching on the couple’s necks. He rubbed his finger across the stitches, and it slid between the dried scabbed skin and tissue. He jerked back in disgust, and the head fell over, restrained only by the stitching stretched over the loose skin. He reached over and pushed the head back in place. Fear ran through him, and a cold sweat covered his forehead as he imagined the horror they’d faced.
Their dried out eyes had already begun to shrivel in their sockets. A pale white glaze was forming over the pupils, nearly obscuring the blue color. The built up gasses in the bloated bodies’ decaying organs permeated the air so thickly the stench filled his nostrils and mouth.
He gagged and almost vomited. He swallowed hard. The skin on the bodies had dried and shriveled to the point of cracking and revealed the tissue underneath.
In his twenty-five years on the force, he hadn’t felt this level of fear mixed with hatred erupting in him. He didn't know what kind of sick bastard had done this, but he would find out.
He left the bodies and continued around the rest of the house. No matter where he looked, no clues seemed to be left behind. Everything was too clean. The pictures on the walls of family, the decorated place mats on the dining room table, showed how the couple cared for the house. The numerous windows wore only top valences, exposing the crime scene to the many on-lookers in the neighborhood.
To have two bodies desexualized in such a manner and have no mess told him it hadn’t happened here. He needed to look elsewhere, but where, he didn't know.
The coroner reached up and closed the eyes of the victims, completing her work. Doctor Fisher, dressed in her blue pants suit and white coat, stood up and removed her gloves. She turned to the detective. “This is a new one for the books,” she said. She had been with the Sheriff’s Department for as long as Steve. Her short brown hair covered by the hairnet she wore, just covered her ears.
“Yeah, just what I needed this morning,” Detective Belcher said. “Do you have any ideas?”
“None at all, and I'm not sure where to start, either,” she said. “Let’s get them back to the lab so I can find some answers,” she told the men waiting to bag the bodies for transport. She picked up her bag, ready to leave the scene.

 * * * *

Steve watched the local news reporter, Lacy James. She stood on the street in front of the crime scene, fingers pressed to her ear. Her long blonde hair moved with the breeze. Only five feet tall, she was petite and fit. She got the lead on the best stories to report.
“The police have told us two people were found murdered in the house behind me, a husband and wife of thirty years. At this time, the police will not speculate on any motive or suspects. We will keep you up to date as soon as we know more. This is Lacy James reporting live, back to you in the studio.”
She ended the cutaway. “Load up the van,” she said to the cameraman. “Let’s go.”
The gurneys, with the two body bags to be loaded in the awaiting van, where wheeled out. Lacy stared into the forming crowd and met Steve’s gaze as the detective left the house. Dressed in his oldest suit and nineteen eighties wingtip shoes, he probably looked like something out of an old movie to her. Every day the mirror told him his silver-streaked hair and exhausted face revealed the stress of too many years working long hours. His dark blue piercing eyes looked right through suspects, but they didn’t faze Lacy, and she ran to catch him.
“Detective, is there anything you can tell us? What happened in the house?”
“Not now, Lacy, you’ll have to wait for the press conference like everyone else.”
“Can you at least tell us their names?” she said with contempt in her voice.
He got in his car and drove away.

About the Author

Born and raised in a military family, Allen spent most of his youth traveling from one Air Force Base to another. That allowed a wide-eyed boy to open his imagination to all of the different worlds around him. Having learned from life's experiences showed him how much adventure there is in the world, that along with the old westerns he watched as a child to the science fiction he still enjoys today, his mind was opened up to a wonderful world of endless possibilities. Starting out early writing songs played a big role in creating and singing a song for his daughter's wedding for the father daughter dance. Allen has been married for thirty-seven years to his beautiful wife and has been blessed with three daughters and four granddaughters.

He was once told that "you can't read a book, much less write one." He thought to himself "Challenge accepted." So out of spite, he sat in a dark room letting his mind wander down pathways that had been closed by time and life. This opened up a world long forgotten. Telling no one, he completed his first manuscript and found a publisher. Today he is a published author, a song writer and if flying a model toy helicopter counts, he'd tell you he's a pilot. His only dream is to see his family happy, healthy, loved, and laughing through life. He works very hard at the last one.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Countdown - Three Weeks

The countdown continues:

Only three more weeks until the Cover Reveal on Thursday, June 29th!

Only seven more weeks until the re-release of Tears of Heaven!

Soon . . . 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Covers and Books and Dates—Tears of Heaven Re-Release

Attention, all personnel—As the great wisdom and prophet of our age often says, “Alright. Alright.  Alright.”

The long anticipated, much promised, often stressed about (by me) dates are finally here.

New cover art for Tears of Heaven will release Thursday, June 20th.

The re-release of Tears of Heaven will happen by Monday, July 31st.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memorial Movie "Madness"

Blame! it on the rain, that was falling, falling!
Some movie watching occurred over the weekend (when I wasn’t ripping and replacing sprinklers).  Here’s the details:

Uneven, but with a great premise, and some interesting world-building, Blame!, based on the manga, is a post-apocalyptic world where technology has run amok.  An “infection” caused automated systems to spiral out of control and humanity is now on the brink of extinction thanks to their own advances.  Giant, mostly benign Builders continually reshape the world with no rhyme or reason, while Safeguards actively hunt and destroy humans.  A small village of humans, somehow protected from the Safeguards, is running out of food.  When a small team of young villagers ventures out to try to find a solution, they meet Killy the Wanderer (great name) who is seeking the “net terminal genes” which may unlock the system and save humanity.

The biggest problems with this adaptation is that world-building is done by characters who should already be aware of the world they live in.  They should all know that the Builders are generally benign, and yet when one appears, a character freaks out and aims his weapon at it, only to be told off by another.  This occurs with such annoying regularity, that it detracts from the greater plot.  The dialogue needs an editor, and some of the voice-over actors should be told to calm down—anger/yelling isn’t the only emotion available.  There are also too many characters, probably better developed in the manga, but with the limited scope and time of the film, suffer from becoming mostly cardboard.

I burst out loud with laughter at the end which was unfortunately directly stolen from another, better, classic post-apocalyptic film.  Overall, Blame! is a fun bit of eye-candy, with a lot of potential that suffers from mediocre execution.

La La Land
You can dance to it, but it's not catchy.
Aside from some great outfits, including Ryan Gosling’s shoes, and some really fun musical numbers (though none that are catchy enough you’re humming them days later), there really isn’t much to this film.  Damien Chazelle creates a beautiful update of the stock musical boy-meets-girl and they both have big dreams—AND YOU SHOULD TOO!  Lines like Mia’s “I hate jazz.” so that Sebastian has to school her (and us) on just how great jazz is, are forced and awkward.  Honestly, who actively “hates” jazz?  It’s like saying, “I hate music.”  Fortunately, there aren’t too many of those, and the lessons of having to work hard for your dreams—sometimes with compromise—are repeatedly underlines.  Overall, the movie is enjoyable as a beautifully shot, amazingly staged film, but that’s also where it end as a piece of cinema.  You won’t regret watching it, but you’ll be just fine if you don’t.

The Decoy Bride

If only he had a time machine . . . 
This little known rom-com stars David Tennet, Kelly Macdonald and Alice Eve, with most of the classic tropes, but just enough reality thrown in to not prove annoying.  Katie (Macdonald) a writer frustrated with her life, returns home to the fictional island of Hegg in the Scottish Hebrides.  At the same time, world-famous actress Lara Tyler (Eve) and suddenly-famous writer James (Tennet) are trying to find a paparazzi-free place to get married.  Tyler sends her team to Hegg, which famously “inspired” James’ book.  Romantic comedy hijinks ensue.  What sets The Decoy Bride apart from most other rom-coms is its cast of supporting characters.  Hegg, as its own island world where everyone knows everyone else, is idyllic offering equal measures of eccentric and silly that are quite endearing.  Some of the more annoying rom-com tropes are turned on their heads, but not enough to take the film off the well-beaten path.  Also, writers may well enjoy some of the funnier moments Katie and James endure.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Timeline I Want to Hold Onto

While it’s important to remember that gold may make the rule, historians agree that slavery, at the time of the US Civil War/War of Northern Agression, was a major, practically a single-voting issue.  A quick review of history bears this out:

1854 – Lincoln declared in his “Peoria Speech” his opposition to slavery.  Prior to this, he had been on the fence, wanting to keep slavery out of the new territories to the west. He will vacillate on this position when politically expedient, but what’s clear is he opposes slavery.
1854 – Unable to obtain a majority in six rounds of voting, Lincoln withdraws from a Senate race and instructs his backers to vote for Lyman Trumball, an antislavery Democrat.
1856 – The Whig Party splits over the issue of slavery.  Drawing from antislavery Democrats and the abolitionist Whigs, the Republican Party is formed.  Lincoln is instrumental in this.
1856-1857 The Southern press reports that the newly formed Republican party only represents the anti-slavery advocates of the North, and not the whole Union.  The Richmond Examiner specifically wrote: "[Republican] party founded on the single sentiment of hatred of African slavery."
1857 – Lincoln publicly denounces the Dred Scot decision, stating that it’s part of a conspiracy to support Slave Power.
1858 – Lincoln-Douglas Debates revolve on a single topic—slavery.  Douglas wins re-election, but Lincoln gains recognition and a national platform.
1860 – Lincoln gives his “Cooper Union” speech in which he argues that the Founding Fathers sought to restrict slavery.
1860 – Lincoln begins presidential campaign as The Rail Candidate, and is depicted to be carried by the issue of slavery.  He will win solely from votes in the West and the North.  Not one Southern state will vote for Lincoln.  Southern secessionist states make clear they will leave the Union before Lincoln takes office.
December 1860 – South Carolina adopts an “ordinance of secession”.

February 1861 – Six more states follow South Carolina.  They declare themselves the Confederate States of America.  In their articles of secession, four of the succeeding states specifically state slave-holder rights as the issue.  Texas mentions slavery 21 times, and said, “[the Union was established] exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity.”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Nine Heroes For Free!

Yes, these are my swords.
No, you cannot touch them.
A long, long time ago, easily more than twenty-five years back (which is ancient according to my sons), I wrote a short story—Through the Sting of Fairy Smoke.  It was simple, straight-forward, based on a thumbnail understanding of samurai and medieval Japan, and riffing on a few themes of interest.  More importantly, the story was one of my first where a strong, female character kicked ass and took names.  Josai wasn’t the main protagonist in Through the Sting of Fairy Smoke, but she was important, and a protagonist in her own right.

Here’s a nice little sample that outlines exactly Josai:

“Stop.  I found the Marked man,” Josai said.  “Your so-called Circle had power enough to cover his trail, pay off enough people, and burn his possessions, but you didn’t dare get rid of a Marked.”

The blood in Pershin’s face drained, leaving him pale with a sheen of sweat on his forehead and lips.

“The Circle cannot be broken,” Pershin insisted, but his voice quavered as he spoke the words.

Josai’s smile came quickly, all feral teeth with no hint of humor in her gaze.

“It already is broken,” she replied.  “How do you think I found you?”

For the first time in their conversation, fear filled the tax collector’s gaze, and Josai knew she had found her leverage.

After Tears of Heaven was released, and before Hell Becomes Her, I was asked to submit a
Yep.  Nine.  Enjoy!
short fantasy story for a collection of new and upcoming authors.  Honored, because I was so new to the world of publishing, I didn’t really think I could live up to the other, more experienced stories that were sure to be submitted.  But . . . I agreed.

The problem came when I couldn’t find the full, original text of Through the String of Fairy Smoke.  The introduction to the characters and the rise of the conflict was intact, but there was no conclusion.  Tearing through all the old records (which makes it sound organized, when really it was just a pile of papers) turned up nothing.  I reached out to old friends and family members to see if anyone had a copy.  Nothing.

Finally, with the deadline rolling inexorably toward me, I did the only thing a writer can do: I wrote.  A new rising conflict, a new character, and a new conclusion.  It would never be what the old one was—those words are now lost forever.  The new conclusion was its own thing, and it turned out better than I could have hoped.

For free, you can now read Through the Sting of Fairy Smoke, along with eight other excellent examples of fantasy heroes found in Nine Heroes: Tales of Heroic Fantasy.

And if you’re so inclined, please leave a review.  Even if it’s to say you liked/loved the book and nothing more.  The more reviews a book gets, the more likely it is to see greater exposure through the Amazon algorithms.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I'm Writing, So . . .

. . . there aren’t any updates and likely won’t be unless some fit of pique takes me.  Most of my piques are now fitted to writing Company of the Damned and thus less interested in making other comments.

Of course, my brain works in mysterious ways, even to me, so there is always a possibility.  For example, I recently worked out the Trump Lie Cycle.  Enjoy:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Man in Black Fled Across the Desert . . .

. . . and the Gunslinger followed.
The trailer for The Dark Tower released today, and it’s something of a mixed bag.  The theme offered is, “There are other worlds than these, Gunslinger.”  That’s certainly a part of the book series, but here it’s clear that Nikolaj Arcel—who has directed nothing you will have heard of—is shouting his caveat emptor to the fans of the series.

Viewer beware indeed.

Go ahead and give it a watch or three.  I’ll wait here:

All set?  Groovy!

But . . . what does it mean!?
For those who haven’t followed as closely as some of us (ahem—me!), The Dark Tower is actually something of a strange sequel to the books.  Within the scope of King’s series, readers learned that Roland, the titular gunslinger, has actually been wending his way through these events before (several lifetimes at least), trying to set everything to rights.  In mid-2016, as part of the marketing for the film, King himself tweeted out a picture of the Horn of Eld, with the caption “Last Time Around”.

In some ways, this is a really smart maneuver.  King’s original novella, The Gunslinger, was a collection of five short stories that had previously appeared as a magazine serial.  As a standalone, it’s an outstanding piece of work.  As the gateway to Roland’s world and the rest of The Dark Tower series, it had certain flaws.  Lovely, beautiful flaws, but flaws nonetheless.

The trailer makes it clear that this is another of those trips around for Roland.  The first half hedges very closely to the original The Gunslinger.  Chills and goosebumps accompanied my particular viewing.  Even thinking about the gunslinger’s “reloading trick” as visualized makes the butterflies in my tummy go flitter-flap.

Yeah, that’s what it would look like.  Yeah, it’s amazing!

The second half of the trailer . . . well, fans of the books will likely be less interested in watching the Gunslinger run around New York City in “our world”.  To some, it may feel like a cheap cop-out to save money on what should be a long, dark trudge through a post-apoc “world that has moved on”, a world eerily similar to our own.

Stand true, Gunslinger.
That still might be ok.  Arcel seems to have captured one of the key story elements—the relationship between Roland and Jake.  That relationship, without offering any spoilers, impacts and shapes many of the events throughout the series, and it appears that’s the case in The Dark Tower movie as well.

Unlike Aliens: Covenant I’m cautiously optimistic.  I’m not yet certain if this movie is worthy of one of my rare trips to the theater, but it certainly has made the shortlist.

If you haven’t read it, you should.  At least read the first book, The Gunslinger which is more of a novella at just over 55,000 words.  It’s a damned fine piece of writing, and encapsulates a whole story on its own.  For my money, I recommend the 1988 Plume trade paperback version with the excellent illustrations by Michael Whelan.  This also avoids the "corrections" that King provided in the 2003 revision.  They're relatively inexpensive to pick up just about anywhere.  Nothing at all like trying to track down a Grant first or second edition (which you are welcome to get me for my birthday).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

As If You Needed Another Reason

This goes on the list of Reasons-Getting-Old-Sucks.

Yesterday, about a half-mile into my run, a cramp tore through my left calf.  It felt like something vital had been torn.  In my 40+ years of running, I’ve never cramped while in the middle of a run.  Side-stitches, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and even tripping on flat sidewalk and scraping the hell out of my knee are all things that have happened.

Cramping so bad I could barely walk back to the locker room was a first.

Apparently, my limp was so pronounced, and my face such a rictus of pain, a very nice young lady stopped and asked if I was having a “heart attack or something”.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Aliens vs Couples—More Meh for Your Moolah

Sums it up nicely.
Have you caught the trailer for the newest Aliens installment?

Underwhelmed is the term that comes to mind.  Maybe the series has just panned out, and there's no real point anymore.  At least George Lucas tried to ratchet up the effects and provide greater "depth" to his stories.  Sure, he stripped Star Wars of everything that made it fun and worthwhile, but he tried.

This just seems like more of the same.  Not even an interesting level of the same—Alien: Covenant still has scientists putting their faces right up to an alien pod-thingy as it opens up for a "jump scare" that has to be in quotes because it will not be a scare worthy of jumping, hopping, or even adjusting in your seat.  Here it is:

It's not even a red-band trailer!  Green.  C'mon Ridley, baby.  Give us the goods.  Embrace your hard R!

Certainly, like the Fast & Furious crowd, I’ll continue to watch these.  I’m a completist, after all.  But I’m certainly not going to spend a babysitter’s worth of effort, time and money to catch this one in the theaters. 

Home theater will be just fine.

Prometheus probably bugged me (haha, get it!?) the most, when supposed space archaeologists, anthropologists, and other "ists" randomly stomped around, over, in and through an ancient find that should pretty much shatter all scientists minds on a level of Tunguska Event proportions.  But nope.  Blundering 2D characters making obvious, forced-scripted errors so we can get to the "good stuff" of the Aliens doing their Alien-kill thing.

Well, alright then.  But this is the second to last time, do you hear me!?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Adjust Your Beatitudes

He's watching you. Always watching . . . 
I’ve hit that point in my writing where soul-crushing fear fills every crevice, every phrase, every choice and screams: YOU’RE NOT GOOD KID.  GET OUT OF HERE!

But here’s a writer who kicked ass and took names.  Enjoy:

“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, the demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon?”
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

Friday, April 21, 2017

By the Blade by David Ekrut

Jax finds himself abandoned far from home in the desert nation of Kalicodon. When any infraction to tribal honor will land him in chains as a slave, he must learn quickly to adapt in a foreign land in hopes of maintaining his freedom. In his struggles to liberate Daren from slavery, he meets Jesnia, a woman from his homeland, who has hunted fugitives from justice to the eastern edge of the desert. Without his own cunning and her talents, Jax may very well meet his end, fighting for his life in the arena.


Jax grabbed the reins of both animals and led them onto the road.

“Hello, outlander,” a deep voice said from behind him. “I believe you have something of mine.”

Jax turned around to see a man, more than half a foot taller, staring down at him. An ugly bruise wrapped around the entirety of his neck, and his mouth sneered as if addressing a stray dog.

The man wasn’t alone. He held the end of a long chain. At the other end of the silver links, a collar clung to the neck of a young woman. Even downcast, her dark eyes glittered in the failing light. While dried tears streaked down smooth cheeks, long eyelashes held back another levy of tears. Hair like midnight flowed about her shoulders. A line of red pooled around a slice near her midsection, but she didn’t move as if in pain.

How could she still stand after a wound like that? Someone healed her with the Elements. It must have been. But why heal her and not her captor? So much about this place made little sense.

When her eyes glanced up to meet his gaze, Jax felt his hand close into a fist. There was a pleading in her stare and the deepest grief. What would this man make her do as his slave? No. It didn’t matter. Virastian code or no, she did not deserve to be collared like an animal. No one did.

The man stepped between Jax and the woman, hiding her from his view. His voice held a mountain of contempt. “This slava bedoine is not for sale, especially to the likes of you. Look upon her again, and I will have your honor.”

Jax noted the red garb, and remembered Geff’s advice to not interfere. He could feel the daggers in his sleeves. A gentle flick, and he could sink both blades into the man’s neck and free her.

The guard gave Jax a deep scowl, and one of his hands settled upon the hilt of the single blade at his hip. His free hand gripped the empty scabbard on the other side. “You have my property. And I want it back. My sword. Now.”

About the Author
Dr. David Ekrut was raised in a small community in Arkansas, where the abundance of nature fostered his imagination. Whether lost in a book, table-top gaming, or roaming the countryside from coast to coast, expanding his mind inevitably led him to the craft of writing.

Only in the infinite workspace of heartfelt creativity has he ever felt any sense of freedom. Ekrut holds degrees in Liberal Arts-Theatre from Arkansas State University, both a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Applied Mathematics from the University of Central Arkansas, and a Master’s in Biomedical Mathematics and Ph.D. in Biomedical Mathematics from Florida State University.

His scientific expertise has aided in creating physically believable fiction with rules and structure to bring his universe to life.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Long Time Ago, We Used to be Friends

I have no use for prisoners. Kill them all.
In many ways, I'm will miss going to the movie theater, but theaters are a dying breed, an archaic way seeing movies. For a long time, they solved the problem of how to watch films without investing in all that equipment and space and whatnot.  But technology was always against them, and it surpassed them a long, long time ago.  It’s our dogged fear of change that has kept them afloat like Jack clinging to a piece of Titanic debris in the icy Atlantic.  Movie theaters themselves, and their advocates like Christopher Nolan, are clutching at straws, as if the movie theater sprung, wholly formed, from Vin Diesel’s forehead, have always existed, and thus should always exist.

'Fraid not, boys.

In a lot of ways, they contributed to their own downfall by having the corner on the market. If you wanted to see a major studio film, fine, no problem. But if you wanted to see a cult, indie or older film—yeah, that's a problem.  Must we even discuss the behavior that made movie-going problematic from time to time?  Babes in arms, children, and . . . ugghh, teens.  And then, of course, there are those annoying purists who insist on quiet from the audience . . . oh, wait, that’s me.

It ain't me you gotta worry about now.
Well, let’s mention the guy who brought in three—THREE—grocery bags and proceeded to unwrap the nosiest collection of cellophane and plastic I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter.  It’s not my policy to tattle-tale to the usher, but when What About Bob? levels of annoying are being achieved, my Dude-like calm is being harshed.

Streaming and home theaters solve all these issues.  Solve them, and more.  With flatscreens and hi-def projectors not just within range, but well within hand, the movie-going experience is rapidly becoming a thing of nostalgia.  Streaming, online video downloads, and more have expanded the range and depth of movies and entertainment to unprecedented levels.  Consumers consume more hours of entertainment, and from more diverse regions, than ever before.  Movie theaters can’t even remotely hope to keep up, and they aren’t.  I’ve watched movies on the playground with my children at their school for fundraisers.  I’ve enjoyed whole TV series on my Kindle, while taking a soothing bath and drinking a delicious micro-brew.

It's true.  All of it.
The only theater I now patronize two or three times year (for those MUST-SEE movies) is the one with the assigned, reclining seats, and hot meals.

I will, however, miss going. I saw Star Wars in the theater opening weekend.  I know that it wasn’t called Episode IV or A New Hope and that Han shot first, last and only in the cantina.  I’ve enjoyed seeing movies on the silver screen surrounded (mostly) by like-minded folk, engaged in a kind of group hypnosis of experience for 90-120 minutes.  It was clarifying and exhilarating.  But the technology that created movie theaters has well and truly moved beyond the need for them.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

In Defense of Episode IX

There's more where that came from!

Some folk appear to be up in arms that Carrie Fischer (a moment of silence, a raised glass of Scotch) won’t appear in Episode IX.  They claim this proves that the Disney-ification of Star Wars is now complete.  They’ve altered the Star Wars universe, and fans should just shut up and pray they don’t alter it further.

Except they’re wrong.

The most amazing thing is that Disney totally gets what Star Wars is all about.

It’s not just explosions and whizzing gadgetry (which is what Lucas devolved it into), but rather about the relationships—those who are family, and those who become family.  Anyone who doubts this need look no further than Star Wars: Rogue One which took a few lines from Episode IV’s crawl and crafted it into an impressive movie that displays exactly that depth of understanding about the franchise.  This is not to say that Rogue One is a perfect movie—it’s not.  But it is a perfect Star Wars movie because it taps into all the things that made the Original Trilogy great, without relying on the upping the ante from the elements which have started to get tired.  Jyn Erso is plagued with relationships.  She tries to play herself off as tough-as-nails rebel without a cause.  She sneers at any authority figure like Brando replying to the question, “What are you rebelling against?” and says, “What have you got?”  But really, much like Vader, Luke and Leia, it’s her family background—her biological parents and her adoptive father-figure—who have placed her in this position.  To move forward, she has to form new relationships, new ties to unlikely people.  Essentially, Jyn stiches together her own “family” through shared needs and goals.

You don't know the POWER of CGI.
Disney even put money into the iconic characters, like Tarkin, who we’ve been quoting and fan-storying for years.  We get to see the walking, talking legends from another camera angle making new what was once old.  Sure, Tarkin strays into the uncanny valley from time to time, but on the whole, for a character that filled a supporting role, we get an impressive CGI creation that makes you forget that Peter Cushing passed away in 1994.  Even when Disney dips back into the well, with The Force Awakens, they didn’t trot out Han and Luke and Leia and Chewbacca and C3PO and R2D2 and all the rest just for a dog and pony show.  If that had been the case, Luke and R2 would have had lines and actions beyond the few moments they were given.  Think about the “prequels” (those “things” that only exist in a parallel universe for some) and how much fan-service Lucas crammed in with R2 being able to fly, C3PO being “programmed” by Anakin and other such nonsense.  Instead, Disney treated the Original Trilogy with the kid gloves of a high priestess unwrapping the Holiest of Holies to reveal before a congregation of true believers and new acolytes.  They pay just enough fan service to the former, while whetting the appetite for the later, telling both groups, “Yes.  It’s true.  All of it.” 

But you HAVE heard of him!
Chewbacca, what a Wookie, is the perfect example of this.  In The Force Awakens, instead of treating him as a throw-away character present for comic relief and not good even to receive a medal (please don’t retcon in the comments for me, I already know the arguments), we see the deep, deep friendship that had to exist all along between Han and him.  We see that he has friendships beyond the Falcon and Solo.  He argues, cajoles, grows angry and emotional, especially during THAT ONE SCENE at the end.  He doesn’t swing on a vine with a Tarzan-esque cry for the sake of juxtaposed “hilarity”.  He’s an intelligent being of deep emotion that has never been revealed on film before now.  And yet, there he is, and you can just feel, just FEEL the waves that come off him during THAT ONE SCENE.  Of all the Star Wars souls we've encountered, his may be the most . . . human!

There are so many clever nuanced moments that reflect Disney’s deep understanding of the Original Trilogy.  Gone (mostly) are the days when Disney would release sequels direct-to-video to suck at the pockets of parents trying to keep their children silent for thirty minutes.  This Star Wars crew knows they’re dealing with a series that has both hardcore fans and casual viewers.  They’ve walked that line perfectly with both The Force Awakens and Rogue One so much so that I’m willing to cut them a great deal of slack on these kinds of decisions, including leaving Leia out of the “last” movie.

After all, Han Solo won’t appear in Episodes VIII and IX either!