Five Things I Am Into Right Now, August 2015

OpusThis is an odd time we live in, especially for us old-school nerds. Star Wars is back (and maybe without too much CGI), a new Ghostbusters film is being made, dinosaurs and terminators are in the movie theaters (not always a good thing, from what I hear). Beloved comic Bloom County is back and looking EXACTLY as it did during its heyday of the 1980s (even mocking Donald Trump who is probably going to win the Republican nomination). Then there is Harper Lee…

Harper Lee…

I reviewed Go Set a Watchman on WKAR (which you can read and hear here), and everyday I get more and more annoyed that it was ever published. I’ve even taken to reading reviews of people that give it good reviews to try and find some way to justify it beside the money. They all take the same tact to their argument- Well, if you consider the time she was writing and this is only an early draft and, my favorite, if you look at it as a piece of history. No, it’s not a piece of history! It was released by the publisher as a sequel (!) to To Kill a Mockingbird. And they did not push it as a “growth” piece, a chance to see the evolution of Lee as a writer. Everything they did was to present it as a follow-up, the continuing story of Scout and Atticus. Heck, even Reese Witherspoon did the audiobook! You don’t call a major actress in to do an audiobook of some kind of little historical literary oddity.

I don’t want to join the speculation on whether Harper Lee wanted this book published or not. But there are two points that always seem to come up for me. 1., If she wanted this published, why didn’t she try to find it in the 60s, the 70s, or the 80s. Why now? 2. As an author, I have many things I have worked on that I wouldn’t want published. Yes, they have a beginning, middle, and  end, but that doesn’t mean they are publishable.

Frankly, Go Set a Watchman destroyed an American classic and if I was the editor I would have burned that copy before releasing it. Yeah, I would’ve taken the bullet and gone down in history as the guy who destroyed a Lee manuscript. And I would have done it proudly. The ironic thing about this is, yes, the publisher and Lee (well, her lawyer who oversees her finances) are making truckloads of money, they have destroyed a cash cow. Mark my words, in ten years To Kill a Mockingbird will no longer be a bestseller or even taught in schools. Go Set a Watchman will destroy the yearly flow they expect from Mockingbird. It won’t happen right away, but it will happen.

Okay, that is all very doom and gloom of me. Let’s talk about happier things, because it is August and summer. Here’s one… Continue reading

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A Lament for My Playstation 3

640-ps3-horzI did not mean to buy my Playstation 3. Eight years ago I was perfectly happy with my Playstation 2. It had followed me from Los Angeles to Ann Arbor to East Lansing, one of the few pieces of “furniture” to follow me along on my wild adventures.

The Playstation 2 was there when I was single and when I fell in love and when I got married and it saw the birth of my first child. So, it may seem crazy to say this, but it felt a little like family. And that remote in my hand, could sometimes feel like an extension of myself.

Then on Christmas Eve my house was broken into. It was our first Christmas as a family with a baby, and we returned home to find all of the presents and electronics gone. I lost on that stolen computer a novel I was working on and a new finished screenplay.

….and I lost my Playstation 2. I cried for it as much as I cried for my writing.

Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, January 2015

This is Lightning. She only has bad daysSo I’m going through a thing with a video game.

Do you remember this post? (The reference is only a few paragraphs, it won’t take you long.) There I am praising Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.

You can feel the love.

It could be argued that it was the honeymoon stage of my relationship with the game.

See, I’ve had a long relationship with Lightning and her role-playing world, playing both of the installments before starting on the third and final part (I’m sure it could almost equal entire months if the hours were embarrassingly added together). And, as you can guess from the post then, everything was going swimmingly in our relationship. We laughed at the same jokes, enjoyed discussing our past history…. Then this damn monster called Grendel appeared in a desert world and ruined everything for us.

Ruined, ruined, ruined!

Now, I love the literary reference in the monster’s name, so the creators get points for that, but that monster destroyed my infatuation with the game and world and Lightning and sent me away. (Actually, over to Gotham City and a Batman game.) It’s not often I leave a game unfinished, especially a Final Fantasy game, so it was rough. I like to think it felt that way to Lightning too.

So here I am, it’s a new year, and I am looking for new beginnings, new possibilities. And since Lightning and I have such a long past I decided to give it another shot….

Of course, this time I am wisely playing on easy.

I have no video game shame.

Here is my first list for 2015, and speaking of video games… Continue reading

One Writer’s Thoughts on the Importance of GRAVITY

GravityIt is a rare and beautiful gift when you get to experience a brand-new form of storytelling. For me, it is electrifying, like being hit by lightning, something that doesn’t happen everyday. It inspires me, realizing that there are still new possibilities out there to discover.

Some might think this is funny but the only other time I really can think of when I felt I was experiencing something entirely new in storytelling was in a videogame. Consider, before RPG video games attempted to tell narratives, we had merely games like Mario and Sonic. Fun sure, but there was no story there, merely saving a princess is not enough. Honestly, Pac Man is fine with an empty stomach or a full one.

Click here. Jump here. Run, don’t walk. 

There was nothing that would make you care about the characters or on the outcome. There were no consequences, no emotions or dreams to be dashed (besides breaking the high score in Tetris).

For me that eye-opening moment  where everything changed around video games was with Final Fantasy VIII. I felt almost blind-sided by the game, caring about the characters more than I ever imagined I would. I cried with them, I cheered them on. And when the game was over and done, I felt like I had just finished a great adventure with those characters.

Ever since that moment, video games changed for me. Never happy with the old school structures now, I wanted stories, the richer the better. Yes, something changed there for me…. Not just for me, but for most of us gamers, because we all experienced that moment with a game or two over the last few decades. A new storytelling artform (the first since the birth of TV) had come into life.

That electric moment, that bolt of lightning, has occurred for me again. Today, Gravity introduced me to the true potential, possibilities and differences there could be for future films made specifically in IMAX and 3D.  Continue reading

Further Proof of My Nerdom

Only a nerd makes a picture like this to share...In my post on Wednesday I asked the ultimate question, “Okay, am I a nerd?” I received quite a response from readers via Twitter and in comments; and the overwhelming response was…

Yes… Yes, I am a nerd.

Okay, fine.  So be it!

And after a further review of my site over the last year, it is embarrassingly obvious that my readers had caught something before I did. My nerdom has been on display for quite some time here on the site. More than on display, it has been putting on a provocative dance! (Think green skin and Star Trek.)

Here are links to some of my other “nerd” editorials that I didn’t reference in my last post, from movies to TV (I hope you enjoy them): Continue reading

Final Fantasy XIII-2: Why, Why, Why???

Some are haunted by ghosts, others by regret or the past… Me? Well, I am haunted by a video game.

Last week, I finished every bit of Final Fantasy XIII-2. Typically, I don’t play a game for full 100% completion, but this one I did… and I am haunted by it. It has entered my dreams, right there with that embarrassing situation in third grade I don’t want to discuss here.

Final Fantasy games are some of my favorite video games out there. Not because of the role-playing aspect (there is nothing new about roleplaying), no, for me it all about the story. And Final Fantasy, when it is at its best is a torchbearer for Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey (If you don’t know what I mean, I recommend you check out some of his books, here is one, they map out how all great stories and characters follow a “hero” journey and the stages of them. These stages also relate to our own lives when they are lived to their full potential. For my fellow nerds, this is also what inspired Star Wars… No, the good first one).  We grow with the characters, we experience their struggles, their realizations, and when the endings come (after hours and hours and hours of play) they can be emotional.

Yeah, they make me cry, so what? Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, May 2012

All hail the month for pop media!

Shows are ending on TV and the blockbusters are here each weekend, arriving like new loud neighbors to disturb the quiet neighborhood and old homeowners.  It is hard for me not to put on my geek hat, put down my copy of Charles Dickens, and relish in this time.

Literary degree be damned, it is just time to have fun- look it is sunny again. Actual sunlight!

Sigh…

So in this list I embrace the fun. For example, check out my number one:

The Avengers

I loved this movie.

In many ways, it captures what I always felt comics and comic book movies should be. In other words, it is fun. This is not moody or overly dark, this is straight-up heroes saving the world, and really do we need anything more?

What I loved most about the movie are the things that surprised me in it. For one, the humor really added to the film, to the point I can’t imagine the characters or plot really surviving without it. It makes the film in so many ways. Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, March 2012

It’s March in Michigan and you can feel the shackles of winter breaking all around us… To be replaced, of course, by the wet shackles of non-stop rainstorms. February and March are always such dreary months in the state of the mitten. Glen Phillips has a song that says “winter pays for spring.” Nah, in Michigan I can point to two overly depressing months as being the cost.

So usually, around this time of the year, I am drawn to lighter entertainment. This is not the time for a serious novel for me.  You won’t see one on the list. I’m looking for fun and comfort here. For example, just check out the first on my list:

Complete Peanuts by Charles M. Schultz (1979-1980)

It’s become a tradition for me and my mom. Every year, I get the box set for Christmas of the next two installments in the Complete Peanuts series. And each year around this time, these collections save me from the natural funk around me… Which is hilarious to consider since the world of Mr. Charles Brown is not exactly a nice place to live.

It’s cruel, it’s full of sarcasm, and your friends have no problem pulling a football from you, letting you land right on your back. Ouch. Continue reading

Music and My Writing Brain

I first learned the power of music in my writing while I was an undergrad in college. At that time, I was working on a story and for some unexplained reason I had to listen to The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky (This happens, now and then I get taken over by a certain “sound”). Anyway, so there I was in a writing class (it might have been a writing table, I don’t remember which) and I started to read the story… And I began to notice that the meter in my words mirrored Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies.

Yes, without realizing it, my character’s speech was actually set to music. I had to fight to control my giggles, now imagining my character on toes as he was speaking. I’m sure my reading began to seem ridiculous to the other writers there, but at that moment I knew I had a problem… and, of course, I knew I was going to have to rewrite the entire speech.

Well, since then I have figured out the potential impact music can have on my writing. While I have not let the cadence of a song take over a story again, certain artists and music became part of the creation process for me around different works.  Sometimes I use them to influence a mood I am hoping to create, sometimes they are just simply the soundtrack for the “world” I am “living” in. Here are five examples: Continue reading

Why This Novelist Likes Video Games

I’m not supposed to admit this.

Many in the snobby writing community pooh-pooh it as frivolous and don’t consider it real storytelling, and I might be shunned for this in the future… Sigh… I’ve got to take a deep breath and say it… I think some of the best new stories I have experienced in the last few years have been in video games.

See, for me as a lover of stories, it was never about the medium someone is writing in (plays, books, movies, radio, etc.), but the story being told.  So I really have a problem comparing the mediums like some do. I don’t, per se, think novels are better than movies all of the time. There are adaptations of books for the silver screen that I think are better than the book (Obviously, The Shawshank Redemption is an easy example). Continue reading