Thursday, February 28, 2013

The five greatest female villains to appear in fiction

My blogger friend L.G. Smith often writes about women in historical context, and she usually praises their heroism, which got me to thinking about all the non-heroic women out there. You know...the villains...and what they bring to a story. So I'm running down my list of my five favorite female villains that have appeared in stories. But I'm not leaving you out of the conversation. Afterward, I'm inviting you to weigh in on some that you would put on your own list.
5.) Catwoman. Her real name is Selina Kyle. We all know her story and depending on which side of Crisis of the Infinite Earths you fall on, she's both a unique addition to the Batman's rogue's gallery and probably one of his most interesting lovers (because she was a bad kitty that the Batman could "reform"). The character of Catwoman was introduced by Bill Finger and Bob Kane in the first Batman comic in 1940 (yeah she's that old) and it's said she was inspired by actress Jean Harlow. Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Barry, and Anne Hathaway have all played Catwoman.
4.) Lady Macbeth.  She's a character in Shakespeare's Macbeth and the wife of the play's protagonist. She goads him into committing regicide and becomes Queen of Scotland. She's the epitome of ambition, ruthlessness, and the single-minded pursuit of power and really did a lot to break the idea that women were the "gentler sex."
3.) The Reverend Mother Giaus Helen Mohiam. In Frank Herbert's Dune, the Reverend Mother is a fantastic villain. She goes after Paul to test him with her Gom Jabbar because she fears what Jessica, the former Bene Gesserit now married to Leto Atreides, might have done in giving the Duke of Caladan a son. She says in Dune, "Damn that Jessica! If only she'd borne us a girl as she was ordered to do."
2.) Catherine Tramell. Sharon Stone brought this character to life in the 1992 film "Basic Instinct" and she got a lot of press at the time for the infamous "beaver" shot. However, this Paul Verhoeven film was riveting. It took place in San Francisco (which was a fabulous setting), was about a writer (how cool is that?) that writes a book that foretells a murder (thereby creating an alibi), and goes about mind-f*cking the protagonist so bad that you have no idea by the end of the movie as to which girl is innocent and which girl is the killer. The only thing that you do know is that Gus was a good guy and didn't deserve to die, and it's really sad to see a Lotus Esprit bite the big one.
1.) The Wicked Witch of the West. I'm talking Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz and not all of these moneygrabs knockoffs. For what it's worth, I still don't understand how there can be prequels to the Wizard of Oz seeing as the story is complete and as far as I'm concerned, it was a dream that took place in a girl's head (who got knocked unconscious during a wind storm). However, I know the great money machine that is America will want to squeeze every last drop of cash from a franchise so we will have endless prequels and side stories of characters that should be "just a dream" but aren't really because Mr. Baum is dead and can't defend his creation. Oh sorry...did I say that? I guess I did. Anyway, the wicked witch of the west is a great villain. She lives in a castle, has flying monkeys for servants, cackles and cast spells, and she's just downright nasty.

So there you have it, my list of the five greatest female villains to appear in fiction. Do you agree or disagree? Think of any female villains you'd have on this list? I look forward to reading your comments.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Making graphene with a consumer grade DVD drive is jaw-dropping once you understand what graphene is

Please watch this three minute video. It is about a substance called graphene that won its discoverers in 2010 the Nobel Prize. But in short, imagine a substance that is biodegradable, acts as the best battery in world history, is flexible, and cheap to manufacture. And when I mean it's a great battery, imagine being able to charge your phone in five seconds and it lasts all day, or charging your electric car in a few minutes, and it being able to go farther and weigh much less that it does now, and if the battery ever dies, you can just mulch it with your vegetables.

You can read about future applications for graphene in the March 2012 issue of Science. But I just want to add for the geeks and nerds out there that with graphene, we could build real life working lightsabers. Seriously.

So yeah, making graphene with a consumer grade DVD drive is jaw-dropping once you understand what graphene is. Are you impressed? We live in such amazing times. I can't wait to see the inventions that will arise from this wondrous material in the next few years. I predict that our world is literally about to change. How could it not when you have a power source that is so incredibly "powerful" and so incredibly small.

In the theme of the video, may you have a very serendipitous Wednesday. :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Passing a 1 cm wide kidney stone makes you love morphine

Last week I wasn't just absent from my blog, I also happened to be in the hospital getting treated for a massive kidney stone. If you haven't had one of these, be thankful because it hurt. A lot. And I still have it in me.
This illustration pretty much explains everything.
See, the doctor decided to insert a "stent" during surgery. A kidney stone stent is a flexible plastic tube inserted between a kidney and the bladder to facilitate the passage of these horrible things. Basically, my urologist told me that I have to keep it in until March 5th (when I go in for follow-up surgery to have it removed). The doctor using a cystoscope threaded this thing into my ureter and left it in place.  It has hooks at either end to keep it there so that it can't drift.

Now, I had no idea Wednesday night that I had a kidney stone. All that I knew was that by 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday night, I had a fever, was in severe pain that wouldn't go away, and that it felt like it was centered in my left lower back. Sometimes (when lying on the heating pad) I could feel my kidney pulsate.  That was maybe my first clue. I've been plagued with this pain off and on for about a month (sometimes having to go home from work sick) and usually it resolved itself within a few hours. I attributed the cramps to being maybe a bout of food poisoning, or just bad gas, or to over-sensitivity to cold (it's been really cold here in Salt Lake City). Honestly, a kidney stone is not the first thing that just popped into my mind.

But as Wednesday turned to Thursday, and it was 1:30 in the morning (last week) and the pain was not going away...I gave up and went to the emergency room. They admitted me, did a CT Scan in this huge doughnut shaped machine, and fifteen minutes later, the doctor came in and said, "Mike, you have a 10 mm kidney stone." Let that sink in for a moment...I have a rock trying to pass through a small tube in my body that is as large as a pea. O.o...
A picture of opium poppies. It's incredible that we have this flower. The drug
trade has given it a bad rap. But when used medicinally, this plant produces
wonder drugs. I love you opium poppy.
So in I went for a hospital stay. I couldn't eat anything because I had surgery scheduled the next day, but oh did I learn to appreciate the power of Morphine and other pain killers. Morphine works so fast. If you've never had it, it literally works in a few seconds. They inject it into your I.V. and the pain (which was an 8 out of 10) goes to like a 2 out of 10 almost instantaneously. I think it's remarkable that a flower (the poppy) can produce morphine, heroin, opium, and codeine (the same frickin flower!). That's just crazy. And I'm really thankful that we have poppies. Sure...the drug can be abused but when used for its intended purpose, it is a powerful tool.

The surgery was absolutely awful. I've never had surgery before so I didn't know what to expect. Waking up is what I imagine it's like for vampires to come out of torpor. I literally felt like I was clawing my way out of death. I had no memory of where I was or what the hell had happened. I was nauseous for like three hours and then for the next day, every time I went to the bathroom I urinated blood (it felt like liquid fire) and there was this horrible ache in my back because my kidney was all bruised up and swollen. I'm honestly terrified of the follow-up surgery scheduled for March 5th, and I hope it is not as bad. The Urologist (once stent was in place) wants me to just pass this 1 cm stone on my own between now and then so I've been drinking lots of water. If I can't pass it by the 5th, then when they go in to remove the stent, they are going to laser it apart or something like that.

Anyway, that's my story on my kidney stone. It really gave me a new appreciation for life, for medicine, and for health insurance. I'm sure my hospital stay is going to generate some massive bills. My brother says that if I need anything else done this year I should do it because this stay in the hospital is basically going to wipe out my high deductible (which is around $1,500 out of pocket). Ah well...what can you do? It's not like the health industry obeys the capitalism laws of everything else in our society. If you are going out to buy a shirt, you can check J.C. Penney or Kohls or other competitors to see what kind of sales they got going on. But when you are in the Emergency Room, it's not like you can go to another E.R. to see if they'll give you a better rate. You've got to take what you get and you're in no mood to negotiate.

Have a great Tuesday, and I hope you don't get any kidney stones!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Escapement with Ciara Knight and CassaStorm with Alex J. Cavanaugh

I was in the hospital for a HUGE kidney stone last week. I'll tell more about it tomorrow. As for now, I want to give a shout out for some of my blogger buddies who have big things coming out.
Neumarian Uprising

We need your help! Thanks to our spy, Ciara Knight, we are able to communicate with you today via blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

The Neumarian uprising has begun. We are fighting for freedom and equality for all, but we need your help. Ciara informed us that you might want to know more about the uprising and why we ask you to risk your lives for our cause. To answer these questions I’ve agreed to let Ciara tell my sister’s, Raeth’s, story about her captivity. It will be free for you on a site called Amazon until March 1, 2013.

Our spies have told us this will help spread the word and find more recruits for our rebellion against the tyrannical queen. You can help by simply downloading a free copy of Weighted, a prequel to the Neumarian Chronicles.

If you are intrigued and wish to follow our uprising, Escapement, book I of The Neumarian Chronicles, will be available for only $2.99 until March 1, 2013.

Escapement is told by Princess Semara. Don’t hold the fact Semara is a princess against her like I did, there is more to her than you can possibly imagine.

Here is a brief explanation of her telling of our uprising:
Ten years after the great war of 2185 the queen’s reign is threatened by uprisings and fear. In celebration of my sixteenth birthday it is my duty as princess to sacrifice a slave to be initiated into the ruling council, solidifying my mother’s empire. When my own erratic powers surface I’m captured and tried for treason. Slaves hate me, my mother wants me executed, and my only chance of survival rests in the hands of a young man, Ryder Arteres, whose sister I sentenced to death.

What people are saying about Escapement:
“A heady mix of action adventure and steampunk -- leavened with a dash of romance -- ESCAPEMENT offers up its fair share of thrills, horrors and heart-pounding moments. A strong start to a captivating new series.”
 -- Jana Oliver, author of The Demon Trapper's Daughter 
“A riveting tale of justice, mercy, honor and love. Take a deep breath and hold on, because you'll be turning the pages of Escapement quickly. Three unlikely comrades, Princess Semara, Ryder, and his sister Raeth, embark on a journey that will alter their lives forever. The beautiful love story nestled into these action-packed scenes will make you sigh and remember why you love to love. After reading the prequel Weighted, I knew this story would be amazing, and it was. Ciara Knight truly has a gift for creating awesome worlds and characters you won't forget.”
 --Lindi Peterson--Award winning author of Summer's Song.
“Betrayal, secrets, and a rebellion send readers on a grand adventure, caught in the plight to discover Semara’s gifts and purpose.”
 --Alex J Cavanaugh, author of Amazon best sellers CassaStar and CassaFire
 “The most unmissable series ever! I couldn't stop reading, the action and romance too breathtaking to break the spell!”
 --ARC review by Sudah on Goodreads
"A courageous heart-stopping journey by young people to save their kind."
 --Hildie McQueen, bestselling author of Where the Four Winds Collide
If you’d like to see a peek into our world, please view this short clip on You Tube

If you are now ready to join our fight, please add Escapement to your TBR shelf on Goodreads here. Shout out on all your social media sites, and tell everyone you know to stand up and fight.

Be Bold.
Be Brave.
Be Free.
In the name of the rebellion,

--Ryder Arteres
I know most of you have seen Alex's cover art for the next book in his space opera series. I'm a little late to the game, but I wanted to post/reveal it. I love the elements at play in this cover. The spaceship is not dead center, lending tremendous chaos to the overall picture. Yet the lightning bolts and explosions definitely draw your eye to the middle. It's a wonderful illustration, and Alex should feel proud at his amazing accomplishment of completing a trilogy. I can't wait to get my hands on this one. Have a great Monday, everyone.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Two ladies, a dragon, and a hot air balloon

EDIT: Still feeling a little tired from illness. I'm going on blog break until Monday 2-25-2013 to rest up. Today, I'm being featured on Laura Eno's Tuesday Tea with Miss Snark. You can find that post HERE. Please come save me! 
It is anniversary week for Michelle Wallace who blogs at Writer in Transit and for Elise Fallson. If you have time, please stop by and wish both of these lovely ladies a happy anniversary. Michelle could do with some luck as she recently had a computer motherboard failure. I'm glad hers got resolved quickly. When mine crashed three years ago, I was out of a computer for two months. I had a lot of overclocking stuff done so that I could do high-end gaming (it was toward the end of my World of Warcraft career).

That's my attempt at captioning. Thanks to Elise and Michelle for putting up such a great blog fest idea.

Scott over at Indie Book Blog reviewed my first book Slipstream. If you've been curious about my first book, please go and check out what he has to say at this link HERE.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Visionary of Peace, Writers 4 Writers, and She Said What blog fest

It's just a manic Monday today peeps. Despite having the day off because it's President's Day, I'm still recovering from being sick (started last Wednesday with a chronic cough that developed a stuffy head and fever). Originally, I thought (because of the cough) it might be related to Lisinopryl, which is an Ace inhibitor (I take it for high blood pressure) known to cause coughs in some people. But now I'm not so sure.
Anyway, today I wanted to tell you of author Cindy Borgne's second science-fiction book in the Vallar series. It's called Visionary of Peace, and you can buy it for $3.99 from Amazon Kindle. Above is the cover art for it (which she says she did herself). Amazing.

I'm only eight chapters into the book, and that's mostly due to the fact that with all the cough suppressant meds (like Nyquil) I slip into dreamland pretty easy. However, Cindy's writing reminds me of the joy I felt when I first discovered Ray Bradbury. It's like she's a female version of him, channeling his ghost to tell her unique story. If you have never read the first book, Seer of Mars, it's on sale for 99 cents all week long.

Download it today,peeps. You'll be entertained for hours.
Writers 4 Writers is a book promotion idea from science-fiction author, Stephen Tremp, who has written some very entertaining books called Breakthrough and Opening. He's got a female ninja in his story! How cool is that? Anyway, the idea behind this is to explore viral marketing potential for a couple of authors by sending out pre-prepared tweets all day long (and by re-tweeting too).
Author #1 is Gwen Gardner with her book Givin' Up The Ghost. According to her website, it is free for today so I will definitely be downloading it, and I encourage you to do so as well :) If you want to help out, go to the embedded link above and copy/paste some pre-typed tweets into your twitter account and join the fun.

Author #2 is fellow American Horror Story enthusiast, Melissa Bradley. I need to get caught up on my books so that I can check out her offerings. I find Melissa's blog to be very interesting so if you can, go visit, and also send out a tweet from her web page.
The "She Said What?!" blog-o-versary giveaway bash is also this week. I plan on doing mine tomorrow, as (at the time of this writing) Elise and Michelle don't have the comic panels up on their blogs to caption yet. It's great she gives us three days to put our entries in. I wonder what the comic panels will have in them?

Have a great President's Day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

An infographic of space travel from year 0 to the end of time for Valentines Day

From one Whovian to another, love is timeless. In my best River Song imitation..."Hello Sweetie."
Rose went away
So the doctor is blue.
Ask Donna, "Where's the Doctor?"
She'll reply, "Doctor Who?"
Sarah Jane, and Martha,
And now both the Ponds
Had their fun with the Doctor
And now they've all gone.
So ask me again
Why the TARDIS is blue:
There's a sad man inside
With both hearts torn in two.
                                                          -- by A. Whovian

Wishing you a time-tastic Valentine's Day in the language of four of Dr. Who's greatest villains :)

THE SILENCE: "Forget me not."


THE CYBERMEN:  "I wouldn't change a thing about you."

THE WEEPING ANGELS: "I can't take my eyes off you."

And if that isn't the coolest, nerdiest Valentine's greeting you have EVAR gotten, then I leave you with an infographic of space travel from year 0 to the end of time for Valentine's Day. Notice that "The Doctor" occupies both ends. In the immortal words of Sheldon Cooper, "If you don't have a Tardis, you stink and your party stinks."
If you take away anything from my post today, it should be this: all it takes to turn someone into a Dalek is to subtract love and add anger. May even the grumpiest bulldog appreciate that statement.

Have a great Thursday :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Eleven Buck Rogers episodes that could also be porn titles

Even many decades later Buck Rogers in the 25th Century drips TOTALLY AWESOME GOO, and I'm about to splash your screen with copious amounts of it. Oh you probably have no idea of the NUMEROUS contributions to modern day science fiction that Buck Rogers has given us. For one, it pioneered big-haired women with huge boobs in fiction for a whole new generation of people. And it's still going on.

Have I gone insane you might ask? Pick up any young adult cover, and you'll see big hair all over the place. It's worse than hearing an Amish man say, "The Bible tells us that men should grow beards and women their hair long."

But if you don't believe me, check out the cover art on Brinda Berry's book The Waiting Booth, and you'll see where the "ahem" Buck Rogers influence comes into play front and center. And view any fantasy art (like seriously) from Dungeons and Dragons or any of its spin offs and you'll see the scantily clad vixens that grace such iconic Buck Rogers episodes as "Planet of the Slave Girls." Brinda for the record I LUV YOUR COVER ART!
Princess Ardala in one of the uniforms she wore on her spaceship full of men. IN the
future, women don't have to worry about sexual harassment. It's the men that have to worry.
She could be on a young adult cover from the neck down even today.
To be fair though, Buck Rogers did show women in a leadership err "position." Princess Ardala of the Draconian empire was well...a princess...and she had huge almost naked bodyguards like Tigerman and Pantherman. However, we didn't get to see Pantherman until the episode "Flight of the War Witch."
This is Pantherman, Princes Ardalla's uh...bodyguard. At one point
the ship starts shaking, and he has to stabilize poor Ardala in her nightgown
(because nightgowns are what Princesses wear on the bridge of a starship)
by gripping her in his strong arms. It's the most ludicrous thing I've seen,
but is highly entertaining to see her in turbulence and high heels.
Here's the plot synopsis (it's my favorite episode in the series): In "Flight of the War Witch" a UFO lands outside New Chicago and presents a device for navigating an interdimensional vortex. Learning of the device, Princess Ardala steals it and forces Buck to hurry and enter the wormhole before she can. (Yes, Ardala really does want Buck to enter that wormhole).

Once through, Buck finds the planet Pendar, whose people tell of their conflict with the Zaads, an enemy race ruled by the War Witch Zarina. Lacking the means to wage war, the Pendarans ask Buck to fight their enemy for them. Meanwhile, the Draconians have arrived but Ardala refuses to help the Pendarans. Buck also declines and the aliens withhold the means for returning to their universe leaving Buck and Ardala trapped with no other choice but to comply. Buck asks Ardala to join forces, but Ardala instead tries to befriend the wicked queen. However, Ardala's plan backfires when Zarina thinks her a spoiled child, and Ardala is forced to work with Buck in combating the Zaad forces after all.
Random sampling of hot space babes from a Buck Rogers episode. This is what five centuries
of botox, and implants give us. Does anyone want to sing "America the beautiful?" It takes
a whole other meaning in the 25th century.
If I remember correctly, Buck even gives Ardala a spanking. But don't quote me on that...I think my memory may be playing tricks on me as it's been years...

And before you laugh...remember that this show got greenlit and had pretty good special effects for its day. Has your story ever been greenlit for a television makeover? Nodding "no." Okay then, people that live in glass houses should not throw stones (I read that somewhere). But have hope! Maybe what you really need is a Buck Rogers-type makeover. I kid, I kid (SEE IMAGE BELOW)
Don't hate on me :'( I only suggested it for the lulz...
Dear Buck Rogers, oh you seventies vixen of a t.v. show, how I long for the return of your roller skates, big hair, and TERRIBLE EPISODE TITLES. I proudly present to ALL OF YOU my eleven picks of Buck Rogers episodes that could also be porn titles (proving that it's contributions to society are many if not overlooked):

1) The Dorian Secret
2) Ardala Returns
3) A Dream of Jennifer
4) Planet of the Amazon Women
5) Planet of the Slave Girls
6) Return of the Fighting 69th
7) Escape from Wedded Bliss
8) Unchained Woman
9) A Blast for Buck
10) The Hand of Goral
11) The Satyr

The lesson here, writers, is that if you want to make sure your work is enduring, don't put "69" in your title.
 Just. Don't.


In the comments, tell me the names of some science fiction episodes that you think might be great porn titles. Or, if you can't think of any, name some that are rips of well-known movies like "Saving Ryan's Privates" for "Saving Private Ryan." I love reading them ZOMGAH YESSS! YESSS! :P

My author friend, P.T. Dilloway has a new book out. It's called Time Enough to Say Goodbye and is available for purchase for only $2.99 on Smashwords. Click HERE to download now.

I reviewed this book on Goodreads, and you can read that HERE.

Some highlights from my review:

"It's a cross between the serious brooding Dark Knight reinvented by Christopher Nolan and the occult-noir DC/Vertigo big screen adaptation of “Constantine.”

"As usual, Patrick’s plotting is superb. I think the climax is action-packed, fantastic, and something you can’t put down. The temporal mechanics of time travel are original and well-done; I’ve never seen any superpower quite like the one Marie wields in any story. Marie Marsh is incredibly powerful, and I wonder if we'll see her again at some point. It almost seems inevitable, and I think of her as a "Dr. Who" of this series at this point. Fans of the Time Lords should rejoice!"

Have a positively fabulous Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Five reasons supporting the idea to create an interesting character give them a hat

Is there an unwritten rule of genre fiction? Sure. Good thing I'm a writer too because if I didn't write it down and just...I dunno...told you about it, chances are it would remain unwritten. Life has little ironies like that. So, I've been thinking. At first, I sat in front of my word processor working on my paranormal masterpiece that P.T. Dilloway says has an unpronounceable name (I dunno what he's talking about because Caledfwlch is as easy to pronounce and spell as "Bob") and started to wonder, how DO you create holy water exactly? and realized that you can't just boil the hell out of it. Get it...boil the "hell" out of it? Disclaimer: if you don't find that last line funny, then this next question totally applies to you:
But I digress, and I have some more completely random points to make before I'm through with you. So more to the point, what (you may ask) is my epiphany for the writing world? It is this oh beautiful people:

To create an interesting character give them a hat.

I KNOW, RIGHT?!?! I mean IT'S SO SIMPLE WHY DIDN'T YOU THINK ABOUT THIS?!? Allow me to explain in a way that will poignantly illustrate why I am me and you are you.

First, this is totally THE REASON why I have Jordan wear a sports cap on his head all throughout Slipstream and Oculus. SERIOUSLY. And for anyone that's read my books, he'd so be less cool without a hat. And second...well there really is no second. So let's just go with "first" and examine how I arrived at this conclusion? paying attention to books, movies, comics, and video games in the last 30 years. It sure as heck wasn't doing anything constructive with my life.

1) The Sorting Hat. Everyone's read the Harry Potter books. If you haven't, you should just go out and punch a bunny right now because you are a mean person. Now, for those readers of my blog who are not out and punching bunnies, admit this one truth: the story really takes off post "Sorting hat." It's kind of the defining moment marking a change of direction from "I have no idea where this story is headed" to "oooh, now everyone has a motive behind all their mean-ness."
Harry  looks constipated in this picture. I hope everything
comes out all right. :/
2) OddJob. The huge mute Korean from the James Bond 007 film, "Goldfinger" is remarkably uninteresting unless you like huge Korean men who can crush golf balls into dust.  But wait, there's a scene where he throws his bowler hat and lops off the head of a stone statue. At that point, you realized, "Hey, this is an Asian stereotype with flare. He may only drive the white guy around and probably still do his laundry, but at least he has an accessory with a deadly razor blade ring of metal in it." I guess given the time, it was difficult to entrust a gun with a Korean. You can bet that we won't see this again anywhere.
I get no speaking lines. I just crush golf balls into powder and wear this
completely innocuous hat that really sets off my eyes. No, it doesn't have
a deadly blade in the rim that I can direct better than a Frisbee.
3) Kung Lao.  This guy  is a video game character from the Mortal Kombat series, introduced as a player character in Mortal Kombat II in 1993. He's a former Shaolin monk, and a close friend of the series' protagonist Liu Kang. Kung Lao gained considerable popularity and favorable critical reception, in large part due to his famous weapon resembling Oddjob's hat (ZOMGAH I JUST SAID IN #2 THAT WE WOULD NEVER SEE THIS AGAIN).
Kung Lao is only cooler than Oddjob because he's drawn that way.
I didn't think Oddjob's hat was all that cool, but there was the time he lopped off the head of that statue. Can Midway top that? I mean come on...what could you possibly do with a hat and a razor blade? It's not like you could slam it into the ground and make a makeshift table saw. *SNORT That would totally be unbelievable and no one would buy that.

Okay i have to admit...that's cooler than Oddjob's hat. I especially like how
the words flash "Kung Lao Wins" as if that weren't obvious. I guess we
have to be told everything nowadays.
Okay...maybe there are a few people who would buy that. But is it gross? Or is it just really the coolest thing you've ever seen? I sense a disturbance in the force: like maybe there's going to be a sharp divide on the "perceived coolness" of this graphic based on whether you are a boy or a girl.  I don't know what testosterone has to do with it, but the Magic 8 Ball says "Yes."

4) Big Trouble In Little China. This little gem from the eighties deserves its own blog post because it's just that cool. But there's no dispute that hats are the accessory that make or break the on-screen mojo of every character present.  Just look at Jack Burton with the hat and without the hat.
Can you feel the coolness radiating from Kurt Russell? YOU know the reason
why Jordan wears a hat in my books. 
Yeah. If you'd kept your hat on, you wouldn't have gotten your ass kicked.
And don't even get me started on the Three Storms.  The only reason the lightning guy lived to the very end was because he kept his hat on.
5) Rick Grimes ala "The Walking Dead." Rick Grimes BEFORE he gave his hat to Carl is a complete badass. After he gave his hat away, he's basically lost his mind. So my premise is that the hat is what kept him from going insane, not the zombie apocalypse and all the emotional baggage that comes with that.
Before he gave his hat away, Rick is clearly in charge.
Rick gave his hat away. Now he's all crying and blubbering and has totally lost it. But his
son is now the calm and cool and  totally wooden psychopath that we can really get behind.
So there you have it, my friends. Are you now convinced that in your own writing, you need to give your characters a hat to make them interesting?

Have a great Tuesday :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Flash Gordon is quite possibly the most under appreciated science fiction film of the last 40 years

Flash Gordon is quite possibly the most under-appreciated science fiction film of the last 40 years. Disagree? Hear my argument, dear reader because I have six reasons to back up my claim.  Let us start with the first one (which has to do with the writing--a thing for which most of you can relate). For one, "Flash Gordon" features the best megalomaniac dialogue ever written. Here are just a few examples:

Ming the Merciless:  "Klytus I'm bored. What plaything can you offer me today?"

Klytus: "An obscure body in the SK-System, your majesty. The inhabitants refer to it as the planet...Earth."

Ming: "How peaceful it looks." (Ming begins to rain total destruction on the planet with natural disasters)

Klytus: "Most effective, your majesty. Will you destroy this, uh, Earth?

Ming: "Later, I like to play with things a while...before annihilation."

And it gets better than that:

Princess Aura to Emperor Ming: "Water is leaking from her eyes."

Ming: "It's called tears; it's a sign of their weakness..."

This exchange still makes me roll with mirth:
Mariangela Melato plays General Kala. I love her costume. Best. General. Ever.
Can you imagine our military dressing like this? Seriously, Star Fleet could learn a thing
or two from Flash Gordon's costuming department.
Soldier: "General Kala...Flash Gordon approaching."

General Kala (played by Mariangela Melato): "What do you mean...Flash Gordon approaching?"

Soldier: "On a hawkman rocket cycle. Should I inform his majesty?"

General Kala: "Imbecile! The emperor would shoot you for interrupting his wedding. Open fire! All weapons, now! CHARGE the lightning field! I take personal responsibility in the Emperor's name!"
And in the wedding, let us not forget the exchange of vows:

Zogi, the High Priest: "Do you, Ming the Merciless, Ruler of the Universe, take this Earthling Dale Arden, to be your Empress of the Hour?"

The Emperor Ming: "Of the hour, yes."

Zogi, the High Priest: "Do you promise to use her as you will?"

The Emperor Ming: "Certainly!"

Zogi, the High Priest: "Not to blast her into space?"
[Ming glares at Zogi]

Zogi, the High Priest: "Uh, until such time as you grow weary of her."

The Emperor Ming: "I do."

Dale Arden: "I do NOT!"

But if this incredibly cheesy, yet TOTALLY AWESOME dialogue is not enough to persuade you to look up this old movie and watch it for yourself, here are reasons two through six:

2) Max Von Sydow or James Earl Jones? To this day I have no idea who has a better voice. Is it Max Von Sydow or does James Earl Jones top him? I can't imagine what it would be like to have both actors in an animated flick lending their voice talents to characters on opposing sides. I think it would be incredible, and Disney should get right on this.

3) Ornella Muti. This Asian vixen played the sluttiest character to grace speculative fiction since Jane Fonda in Barbarella. Who doesn't love a great slut? And for the record, Ornella did it better. They really should have dropped the rating on Flash Gordon lower and let Ornella breathe true life into the role of Ming the Merciless's daughter.
Ornella Muti as Princess Aura. Best sci-fi slut EVER. Seriously.
4) The totally gay costumes. I love re-watching Flash Gordon, because it's gayer than The Rocky Horror Picture Show (and that is quite the accomplishment). Seriously, the hawkmen with their shaved legs, the villains all wearing colorful robes splashed with glitter, and the gratuitous flaunting of hunky Flash Gordon's bare chest. But when he isn't running around like that, he's wearing a skin-tight uniform and super shiny rubber boots straight from Frederick's of Hollywood. Elton John and Lady Gaga would totally find themselves at home in a Flash Gordon movie. As a matter of fact, you probably wouldn't even notice them.
These costumes were cool way before Lady Gaga. Go Flash Go!
5) Queen. Yes, they got Queen to do the soundtrack. If this isn't the checkmate reason to see this film, I don't know what is. True fans of Freddie Mercury know that this band had the undeniable perfect sound for Flash Gordon.
6) A Flying City. They are all over the place in speculative fiction stories and novels, but this and Cloud City from Star Wars are the only ones I can remember in film. The moons of Mongo are really cool. And I was kind of sad when the city got blasted by Klytus' warship. And to be fair, Star Wars' Cloud City is done waaay better.

So what about you? Can you think of any under-appreciated science fiction films? Are you also a fan of Flash Gordon? Have a great Monday :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Uriah Hall knocking out Adam Cella and the five best fight scenes in film history

If you are a writer of fight scenes, I urge you to watch this very short clip of Uriah Hall knocking out Adam Cella in a recent MMA fight.
All too often, we see in movies some completely unrealistic fights. Heroes and villains both take an unbelievable amount of damage. This finds it's way into our stories too. I for one, try to limit my fights and keep them short, because I think that fights end rather quickly most of the time. But I'd never seen anything like this.

For those of you unfamiliar with The Ultimate Fighter, it's a reality t.v. show that follows the lives of men who are aspiring to the fame and glory of a champion. And as you can see, they really do put their lives on the line. This video is pretty scary and Uriah Hall has said that he was frightened, thinking he'd killed his opponent. From everything I've read, Uriah Hall sounds like a nice guy. He just wants to win, but he grossly underestimates his abilities. I've no doubt he'll go far in this sport.

It took Adam Cella six minutes to come out of the knock out that Uriah Hall delivered to him with one kick. You can see his eyes are glazed (that's not fake) and he's literally in a seizure. Ten minutes after he came out of it, they rushed him to the hospital. He's alive and is expected to fight again in Vegas soon. I think that's remarkable. If Adam were my son, I'd be scared to death for him, get on the phone, and tell him he needs to find another line of work. It's interesting that parents let their boys grow up to do this stuff. I guess I should be thankful, because I get to see the battles and am entertained. But, I think I'd feel differently if I had an emotional attachment to one of these guys.

The Uriah Hall knockout is a reminder to all writers to keep fight scenes brief but powerful.

Now that being said, here is my pick for the five best fight scenes in film history:

5. Rowdy Roddy Piper in "They Live." At the time, it was billed as the longest fight ever filmed. And to think, Roddy just wanted the guy to try on some glasses.
4. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi from the "Phantom Menace" trying to take on Darth Maul. This fight sent shivers up my spine. Especially toward the end where Ewan McGregor is taking on Darth Maul all by himself and is just about outmatched.
3. This is Jason Scott Lee playing Bruce Lee in the film adaptation of Bruce Lee's life called "Dragon: The Bruce Lee story." the reason I pick this fight as number 3 is because of the remarkable choreography involved just to bring such a legendary bout to life (that supposedly really happened) when Bruce Lee refused to obey the Chinese and restrict the teaching of Kung Fu from Americans. He wanted to "Teach what I want to teach to whomever wants to listen."
2. Vin Diesel and The Rock in the movie "Fast Five." The sheer amount of muscle these guys are packin' puts this fight in my top 2 of my favorite ones to watch. And it's so over the top that there's just no way any person could survive blows like they are throwing. However, it's damn good entertainment.
1. The temple fight scene from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." This is my all-time favorite fight ever. If you've never seen it, I urge you to watch. The mastery of martial arts weapons is bar-none, simply incredible.  Ziyi Zhang is cheating somewhat with a magic sword, but Michelle Yeoh is a grand master with tremendous skill, and it more than makes up for the difference.
Are you a fan of mixed martial arts? Do you like watching real-life fights and see young men battle it out with such brutality that they could kill each other?

How do you feel about the MMA video and do you think it will change how you write a fight scene?

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rick Grimes is the paladin in hell only instead of a sword, he's got a colt python baby

The Walking Dead will be aired by AMC in black and white. I talk
about this below. Not only is it a tribute to the comic book by
Robert Kirkman, but it is also an homage to George A. Romero who
essentially invented the genre with a black and white zombie film
called "Night of the Living Dead."
In a kind of chilling delivery, Carl tells his dad in one of the many season 3 promos for the episode "Suicide Kings" (which airs this Sunday), "I think you should stop being leader." Why is it chilling? Because it shows just how much Rick Grimes has lost it, and it's maybe a turning point in the sense that his own son thinks someone else could do better. But the question is: who could lead better than Rick? I know I'd trust him with my life.

For me, there's only one other person that might be suited to leadership in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse and that's Michonne. We also have yet to see if Tyrese (who was introduced prior to the show going on hiatus last fall) will prove to be the kind of life injection that's needed for Rick to be able to be the force for good that he truly is in a world awash with evil.
Have you read The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor yet? My post on it is HERE. I want to warn you, that I want to talk about a major spoiler that's in the book that's probably still true of the television show.


Philip is not the guy you think he is. His zombie daughter "Penny" that Michonne killed was in fact his niece. The guy pretending to be Philip is actually Philip's brother. The real Philip is dead (he went crazy) and in order to survive, the brother took on Philip's personality and kind of "became" his dead brother. Is that f*cked up or what?

Anyway, in the trailer for "Suicide Kings," it's pretty much stated that Philip has lost his mind. Well, unfortunately, "The Governor" lost his mind quite a while ago when he adopted zombie Penny as his own spawn. Michonne killing Penny disintegrated whatever sanity that remained (if you can even call it that). Basically, I don't think the Governor has any reason to live and is going to be absolutely consumed with hatred and revenge. It's not much of a stretch to say the worst kind of villain is someone who has nothing to lose.

As bad as the first half of the season was (and let's face it, a kid shot his own mother so it was pretty bad), I think from this point on, it's going to be filled with nail-biting scenes and all things grotesque. I really feel bad for Rick at times. It reminds me of a drawing I once saw done by a Dungeons and Dragons artist called "A Paladin in Hell." I don't know the story behind this drawing, but you know that the knight in shiny armor is outnumbered. And it can't end well.
Rick is totally this paladin in shiny armor besieged by evil on all sides. That's basically the
world of The Walking Dead
This old black and white picture also reminds me to tell you that AMC is retrofitting all of the episodes of "The Walking Dead" into black and white to honor the black and white comic book and zombie craze inventor George A. Romero. They will begin airing them starting with the pilot on February 14th (yes AMC is showing Robert Kirkman some love). Will you be watching "The Walking Dead" in black and white? How do you think it will affect the horror?

And for you gun enthusiasts, here's an infographic that tells you all you'd want to know about Rick Grimes' gun courtesy of my new friend, Anthony Welsch, at the Lucky Gunner. Check out Lucky Gunner if you want to see more :).

Are you excited to see "Suicide Kings" this Sunday? Have a great Thursday :)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Magic Wakes right now with Talia Zaryn

My Insecure Writer's Support Group post is below Charity's book tour stop.Banner 3
Charity's publisher sure knows how to make a beautiful book. Even this tour thing is stunning.
Please welcome Charity Bradford, a new author whose voice is probably going to revolutionize the science-fiction field. Her talent and ability is humbling, and I absolutely love her debut novel, which you should go and buy RIGHT NOW. Anyway, Talia Zaryn, the star of The Magic Wakes has consented to stop by here and answer a few questions. Let's see what she has to say. But first, a little housekeeping.
I love the view of the city in this, but the font they
chose is another work of art. Lovely.

Talia has a secret, one that will save her world and yet rip it apart. Only she can decide if the price is worth it.

Scientist Talia Zaryn has always had visions of an alien invasion and of her own death. She’s kept it a secret, hoping they are nothing more than childish nightmares. But when her face in the mirror matches that of her dreams, she fears the dreams are prophetic. Talia must prove that life exists beyond their planet, Sendek; perhaps then people will prepare to fight.

Talia’s work at the Space Exploration Foundation leaves no time for personal relationships, but Major Landry Sutton isn’t looking for a friend. He’s looking for a traitor. His ability to sense emotions convinces him Talia is that traitor until a touch sizzles between them. In an instant their minds are connected and they can communicate telepathically. Just as the two begin to trust each other, the invading force arrives.

Talia and Landry must uncover the secrets of Sendek’s past if they hope to defeat these terrifying creatures. And Talia is the key—if only she can learn to trust the magic coursing through her veins.


Welcome to the interview hour, where we dig into the minds of some of the newest characters in the world of books. Today our reluctant guest is a reclusive scientist from the Space Exploration Foundation (SEF), Talia Zaryn.

Miss Zaryn, let’s start off with something simple. What is it that you want out of life?

Talia: That’s your simple question?

Now, you promised to be honest with us today.

Talia: *sigh* I guess there are two things that I want more than anything. First to live through my nightmares when the time comes, and second…


Talia: I’d like for people to accept me for who I am. I’d like to feel love like I did when my family was alive.

Speaking of love, what kind of person are you attracted to?

Talia: *chuckles* I’ve stopped looking for a relationship, but I can tell you what I notice first about people. Since everyone freaks out about my eyes, I’m drawn to theirs. Every set of eyes are different, the way the light plays with the flecks of color is fascinating to me.

Your eyes are definitely unique. I don’t think I’ve ever seen violet eyes before. Other than eyes, what do you look for in a man?

Talia: It doesn’t really matter because they avoid me, but strong personalities—alpha males, the ones who know what they want and don’t take no for an answer. I think deep down I hope they can save me.

Save you? You seem pretty independent and capable to me. Tell me what your good at.

Talia: Electronics. I can wire almost anything, it’s almost instinctual.

What are you bad at?

Talia: *laughs* can’t you tell? All things social terrify me. It’s hard for me to trust people and it just goes downhill from there. 

Surely you’ve had friends, crushes, things that make every life complete? Tell me about your first crush and those friends.

Talia: Hm, Ardro Gunik, tall, built, and popular from school. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out well. As for friends, there weren’t many. Just my family and some unconventional friends.

Oh? Such as?

Talia: You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. 

Give us a try.

Talia: The trees around my home and a small treeb I named Keeta.

*Laughing* You’re right, I don’t believe you. Trees can’t talk to you and treebs are endangered. Even if you were lucky enough to find one, you’d never be able to catch it. Maybe you’ll be able to make some friends now that you’ve come to Joharadin. Let’s move on. Tell us about your greatest regret.

Talia: I never told my family all of my secrets.

Good heavens! It’s not healthy to tell your family everything. There must be something better than that. Have you ever hurt anyone intentionally or not?
This is the trailer for The Magic Wakes. Watch it and love it.

Talia: I hope not! I abhor violence of any kind. 

Come now. Not even a catty fight with another woman over the attentions of a man?

Talia: Why bother when I know…

Know what?

Talia: Nothing.

Don’t clam up on us now! Here, we’ll change the subject. What are you the most afraid of?

Talia: That’s easy. The death from my dreams. Dying alone. I use to be afraid I’d have to watch my family die the same death I see in my nightmares. At least that’s no longer possible.

Okay! I’m feeling a bit down after all this talk of death and no lovers. Let’s end on a positive note. What do you find beautiful about life?

Talia: There is so much beauty in nature. The colors, textures, the sounds. For instance, have you ever just listened to the sigh of the wind through the leaves and the play of sunslight as it filters through the tree canopy? 

I can’t say that I have, but the next time I get out of the city I’ll give it a try. Talia, thank you for submitting yourself to our questions. I hope you enjoy our city, and that you find some of the happiness you obviously need in your life.
What actresses could play Talia in a film adaptation of Charity's Book? I'm glad
you asked that question, because here's a short list of women that could possibly
fill the role. Let's take a look shall we?
Amber Heard. A high school dropout born in 1986 who went to New York to work as a model. Big surprise eh? With a body like that you don't need school.

Alexandra Daddario is another young actress born in 1986. I know her from Percy Jackson and from this January's Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D.


Ashley Greene. She's Alice in Twilight!

There's a pic of her online where she's in nude body paint, but I thought I'd better not use that one.

And Alex, she's way hotter than Kate Beckinsale.

Jessica Lowndes. She's best known for her role as Adrianna Tate-Duncan in the CW's mega smash hit 90210, the reboot of the ultra successful Beverly Hills 90210 (all of the alumni are now Hollywood washouts and Aaron Spelling is dead).

Anyway, she's seen here with a designer purse by Coco Chanel on her arm.

Oh do I know that?

She gets two snaps up in a circle.

Last but not least is Katharine McPhee. You saw her on American Idol.

And the movie she's most famous for is


Author photo
Charity Bradford

Charity Bradford has been a voracious reader ever since her 5th grade teacher introduced her to the world of books with Where the Red Fern Grows and Summer of the Monkeys. She’s the mother of four kids that keep her on her toes, constantly reminding her that imagination still makes the world go round. She lives in Arkansas with her hubby and children, and firmly believes that a smile can solve most problems. The Magic Wakes is her first novel.

Amazon Pre-order
Chapter 1

Author Website
Author Blog

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a once a month blogfest managed by science-fiction author, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

My February insecurity has a lot to do with an almost obsessive compulsive need to get all the details exactly right in my stories. For example, Oculus takes place at Cornell University which as you may know, is an ivy-league school in Ithaca, New York. In order to get all the details right, I must have read fifty student blogs for months. I sat through hours of homemade YouTube videos of anyone that went to the school (because I didn't). I took virtual tours of the rink the Big Red played on, I read sports blogs to make sure I even knew what the bus looked like that the Men's Hockey team rode. I researched scholarships and discovered that the Ivy League doesn't give NCAA athletic scholarships. They only do "need-based." That's it, interesting eh?

I also wanted to make sure I understood exactly how a boy with hockey dreams (who doesn't live in Minnesota) gets to play in an NCAA division 1 school, and it isn't what most people think. They are rarely "plucked" from some high school dream team. If they want to make it there, they have to leave home and join a famous Junior League for the majority of their high school career (and stay with a host family) and get lucky enough to attend the NHL draft at 18. Yes, if you are picked by a team at the NHL entry draft you can still go to college. It just means that they've marked you like a dog, but as long as you stay in school, you are not obligated to join up with that professional team.

That's how you get noticed and make it to that level of play. It's quite a credit to have been chosen by, I dunno, the Chicago Blackhawks, and it's what NCAA Division 1 schools want on their starting lineup. Sound like an incredibly difficult path to follow? Well it should because IT IS.

I've read other books where authors wanted to have a player that made it to a college team, and they didn't do this (went the traditional route of being plucked from high school) and that just doesn't happen in men's hockey (and it made me not really like the book all that much because I thought the author was lazy and uninformed). That's why Jordan spent so much time away from his sister...he chose this life and had to live with a host family at the age of 15. Parents of serious hockey teens don't get to see their sons much, and I wanted to point that out because I don't think people know about this.
This is one of the best videos I encountered regarding Lynah Rink
for my book Oculus. College hockey is pretty awesome back east.

I know the campus of Cornell University so well from staring at maps, roads, building schematics, and google earth, that I literally can tell you where to find the Hot Truck (a famous mobile sandwich bus that students hit up late at night). I can tell you what the menu looks like at Collegetown Bagels. And I can tell you what the Men's locker room looks like in Lynah Rink without having been there (including the updated remodeling). I also became a huge fan of Ben Scrivens (who now plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs) and Colin Greening (who I kinda/sorta used as a template for Jordan). And my sports research somehow spilled over to football last year (which I'd pretty much ignored all my life). Two years later, I can quote statistics to you of players like Ray Rice or Andrew Luck, who's playing on what team in the NFL, and I correctly predicted the outcome of the Superbowl a week before the AFC/NFC championships down to Ray Lewis winning the coin toss by saying heads and then having the other team start with the football. My co-workers think I should do fantasy football (which I'm probably going to do) and start betting in Vegas. Now to be fair, I bet my boss that the superbowl would be played between San Francisco and Baltimore and that the game wouldn't even be close. I said Baltimore would smoke SF by at least 20 points because I was banking a lot on the emotions from Baltimore from what I saw last year when their kicker, Billy Cundiff, failed to make an easy field goal. I said, "there is no way those brothers will EVER let something like that slip from their fingers again. They will play their guts out and crush anyone in their way."

Now I maintain that if that freakish blackout had not occurred, that I would HAVE BEEN RIGHT. I think SF would have been crushed by more than 20 points. But you are free to argue with me of course since we shall never know. But I think the blackout made the game "close." Otherwise it would have been a blowout.

But with all this research, I'm insecure. It would really irritate me if someone said, "Hey this thing you described doesn't match up with the real thing, or you got this detail wrong." I'm kind of a perfectionist. I know that I would outwardly smile and say, "Oh's fiction, ya know?" But inside, I'd be like "ARRRGGGHHH. I spent hours researching this crap!" And I'd find some excuse to drive an invisible dagger through their shoulderblades.

I'm beginning to think that this insecurity of mine isn't so much "an insecurity" as it may be a neurosis centered around obsessive compulsive attention to detail. However, I think the devil is often in the details and that in the end, Oculus is all the more stronger for it.