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So a friend came to me the other day, struggling with emotional pain — the kind of thing that comes from years of self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-deprecation. We’ve all had a brush with it at some point, right? That niggling little voice in the back of your mind that sometimes whispers and sometimes screams, but never really seems to just shut the fuck up and leave you alone.

It’s the voice that tells you, “No one wants someone like you,” or, “You aren’t good enough for that girl,” or, “You’ll never be as pretty as XYZ.” The same voice that loves to remind you that you’re too fat, or too skinny, or too furry, or not muscled enough, or that you don’t know what others do, or a million and one other little things all designed to maintain the status quo and remind you that — for whatever reason — you just don’t measure up and you never will.

Let me start by saying that I am far from being a motivational speaker. Here, in fact, is some of my own personal self-deprecation: I suck as a human being. I’m way too fat. I’m an old furry redneck with social issues. I’m flawed in a thousand different ways, and listing all of them here would only serve to depress everyone.

But I will tell you, gentle reader, the same thing that others should have told you by now: You matter. You are important, whether you know it or not. Your life has meaning and purpose, and you have a reason to exist – it might even be that you are someone else’s reason to exist.

You’re beautiful, even when society tells you that you don’t measure up. Remember that societal standards exist for one simple reason: to sell you some shit. “Wanna wear that pretty new outfit? Oh, wait. You aren’t a size two. Fuck you. Come back when you can fit our new creation,” is quickly followed by another commercial, promising to help you become that size two in record time, so long as you purchase their new product. It’s a vicious cycle, and one intended to keep you in bondage and servitude for your life. You’ll never be good enough for them, because the moment you reach one goal, they’ll tell you that it’s not your final point, that you have to do something new.

Lost some weight? Good. But if you don’t get that crooked tooth fixed no one will think you are pretty. Fixed the tooth? Sweet! You better get to running, though. You’re showing a little flab from the earlier rapid weight loss. You need a new car, too. Something flashy. And your house? Not good enough. Your job is shit, so find a new one. Why aren’t you in a relationship? Why don’t you have kids?

It never stops.

It never stops because industry preys on our insecurities. They know you want to be perfect, and they built empires on those desires.

The problem lies with the quest. Perfection is unattainable.

So you have flaws. So what? Who doesn’t?

“But, I’m fat,” you say.

And? Just last week you taught a child a trick that showed them math was not to be feared.

“I’m shy. I can’t fit in with others.”

So? You sang a song at that choir presentation that had people in tears with its beauty.

“I’m too short.”

You also make the best lemon pies in three counties.

“No one will ever love me.”

Yes they will, and chances are that someone already does and you either don’t know it, or you simply won’t acknowledge it because it goes against the status quo in your head.

We can bounce these arguments all day, but it all comes back to the same thing. For every flaw you see, someone else can see a merit. You look in the mirror and see the imperfections, the mistakes, the things that you’ve been told all along make you less worthy. You’re seeing things from your own side of the glass — with eyes that have been taught and conditioned to feed data straight to the dark little voice that tortures you every day. Why feed that fucker when it’s just going to lie to you again?

I know that just reading a set of words, or even hearing them spoken to you, won’t magically make the insecurities vanish. No one is going to read this and think, “Well, shit! I wish I’d read that years ago! All my problems are gone now!”

It’s not a simple thing. If it were, I’d already be living it, and not sitting here thinking to myself, “Why would anyone want to read some shit you wrote, dumbass?” It’s worth it, though, to take just a minute and look at yourself through the eyes of someone else. For just one brief moment, silence that inner critic. Tell it to fuck off around the back of the house and have a smoke. Listen to your heart instead of that insidious bitch.

You do matter. You are important. You are beautiful, and you are loved.

It’s a simple set of words. Read them again.

You do matter. You are important. You are beautiful, and you are loved.

See? Pretty easy phrasing, right? Yeah. You’re already hearing that voice again. That was a quick smoke break.

It’s a series of thirteen words. I’m no expert on how the mind works, but I know if you tell yourself something often enough and long enough, your brain tells you it’s true. Maybe instead of always saying, “I’m not good enough” (in a million variations), you could try these thirteen words.

Every morning when you look in that mirror, there the words are. Boom. You said them as you looked into your own eyes.

I don’t know how this will turn out, and I don’t even know half of the reasons why anything like this works or doesn’t. I’m just a fat, furry, old redneck, thumping on a set of keys and worried about a friend. Maybe this will help.

 

So somewhere along the way in this life, I managed to do something to my neck… Or possibly my shoulder. Or my back. Not sure which, because they all hurt.

I’ve had neck issues before – even saw a doctor and a chiropractor for them. No one could/would fix anything. It’s a simple matter to say, “Here are some muscle relaxants” or “Sit under this ice pack for half an hour” and call it a done deal. I know there are more pressing cases out there that they have to deal with, and believe it or not I hold no blame or malice toward any practitioner that worked on me. They all helped.

Anyway, this time is different than before. I’m experiencing a pain greater than I can ever remember before, and it seems content to not go away any time soon. At various times it has felt like an icepick being pushed into the muscle, a scraping tool worked along bone, or a pinch/press effect on the bone that felt like an angry bouncer trying to pull my collarbone out of my neck for crossing the velvet ropes. I’ve had sharp, stabbing, burning, throbbing, dull, shooting, radiating, and pressing. Kind of an equal opportunity pain, I guess. I’ve felt it from about the middle of the right bicep up through the shoulder joint, into the neck and all the way to the base of the skull. Currently, as I type, I have a sharpness inside the upper right pectoral angling upward and inward to where the neck joins the shoulder.

I have to keep reminding myself to rate it as well. The hospitals and docs are using a 1-10 range thing where 1 is normal and 10 is the worst you can imagine pain being. I can imagine things worse than this so the 10 is out. I mean I could have what’s going on and be slowly being devoured by rabid weasels at the same time, right? That would be worse, and I can imagine it. As a consequence, I adjusted my personal understanding of Pain Level 10 to be “Unspeakable pain. Possible delirium. Unable to interact with the outside world.”

I have not reached that point yet, and I’m hopeful that I never will.

I have registered it as an 8 though. At that point I was unable to focus on anything except the pain. I could barely make sentences, and they were frequently interrupted with me gasping for air or muttering curses (okay, so I was saying them out loud more than muttering, but the point is made). Some of what I said, I am sure, made little sense. I wound up with tears running from my eyes as I tried to maintain a simple erect posture. I was cradling the right arm in my left hand, looking like I was guarding it as one would a broken bone. In truth, I was desperately trying to keep it from hanging on its own weight, in hopes that somehow the pressure being lessened would lead to less pain on my part.

I wound up in an Emergency Room at about 0100 on Saturday. On the plus side, there were very few people there at that hour. We spent some time there getting poked and prodded and answering questions. Left with an ass shot full of steroids and anti-inflammatories, a couple prescriptions for more of them, and a referral to a pain management doctor.

Sleep became an elusive thing. Often, as I would begin to drift off, the pain would erupt into white-hot shards in the shoulder and leave me wide awake. At other times, it would just slowly grow in intensity until I could not stay asleep.

Pain management doc listened to my statements and did some poking/prodding of his own. He ordered an MRI to determine where the issues truly were, and set up an epidural injection. Administered trigger point injections of steroid. Gave me some pills that allowed me to function again as well as sleep. Kicked the pain down a couple notches. Now I run a constant 4 instead of 5 as a base. Still get spikes up to 6 or even the occasional 7, but with the meds onboard it is manageable. I’m kinda drowsy all the time now, and sometimes look and feel like a zombie, but that’s preferable to the sheets of sweat and grinding teeth that was the norm before the medications.

Still waiting on the MRI he ordered. The insurance company likes to fight and delay things, at least until after the new year begins, when they can hit me up for the full amount of my deductible again. Oops. That was my cynical voice. Sorry!

I have an interesting trick, though. I can’t lift my right arm up past about parallel to the floor. I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s not that it hurts to do it, it’s just that when it gets there, it stops. Like it had reached the extent of its range of motion, but it hasn’t. I can reach over with my left hand and easily lift it into a different position, but if I let go, it falls right back to that parallel point, as if it had never gone past it. I’m learning to move my entire body to compensate. I look like Joe Cocker on a bad day, flailing around like a deranged Muppet.

Back to the epidural. I went to the Spine Center and thought I knew what was coming. My bad. Apologies to the staff – If I had known I would have to take off my pants I would have worn underwear for you. I just figured, “cervical spine injection. Eh, so I gotta take off my shirt,” and planned accordingly. Next time I will know better.

And there will be a next time. Sometime in the first couple weeks of 2017, I would imagine. The crew is already working on setting it up. I can have three of them, with a minimum two weeks between them.

In the meantime, between the steroid shots and pills from the ER, and the ones from the pain doc, I had more ‘roids in me than a bad pro wrestler. I was constantly jamming food in my mouth and my body had muscle tremors that made me look like I was trying to vibrate my way into another dimension. My hands still shake a lot. It’s weird.

My urge to create has come back a bit, so that’s good, right? Except that it hasn’t given me the ability to concentrate long enough to write anything that requires a lot of thought. I’m just kind of winging it with this, in fact. It’s semi stream of consciousness, or possibly just stream of semi-consciousness? Not sure which. I’m doing things that I can walk away from instead, like new base characters for stories (the cardboard box that will one day hold the tasty character bits inside) and map squiggles (which is where I draw random continents and so forth in preparation for the creation of decent fictional worlds one day). I have a notebook with messy handwriting in it where I jot down ideas and random thoughts that might be able to be acted on when I’m “sober” again.

Meanwhile I sit and type, with a sharp ache in my neck/shoulder/back that is about as welcome as one would imagine it to be.

So there you have it. A snapshot of my life at the moment. It had been ages since I dropped anything new on the page, and out of the blue you get this. I know it’s not stories or anything fun, but at least I put something new up here. I have been remiss, and hopefully I will change that.

Welcome to 2017, folks.

So this morning I saw a little wolf spider just chilling near the shower drain. The obvious solution of “turn on the hot water” came to mind, of course, but then I thought, “Why? Little guy ain’t done nothing to you.” So I scooped him up and gave him a new home out in the grass.
Weird, right? You’re sitting there wondering why this matters or means anything. Well, the thing is, it made me think. Not on the nature of aggression and squishing spiders and so on, but of Kaiju. Yup. Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, The whole nine yards.
Why is it that Kaiju movies ring so solidly with people? It’s been said that they are a metaphor for war and atomic destruction. Giant monsters wading through a city with no concern as to who gets hurt. People are nothing to them, and buildings crumble and fall over like Gumby in a blast furnace.
So here it is, folks. My theory of the day:
Spiders (well, some of them, anyway) are telepathic.

They are the reason Kaiju films resonate so well. The spiders have shown you this vision before, but with YOU as the Kaiju. You’re the one stepping on cities and wiping out infrastructure that took ages to build.
Think about it: Telepathic spiders! They could plant any vision they want in your mind. Currently they’re making you think about Godzilla. Tomorrow, who knows?

They’re out there, folks, and they’re watching you…

Today is one of those days when it hits hard for some reason. The pain. The heartache. That desire to go through and delete everything you’ve ever scribbled down, rip up the papers, and set up a bonfire. With any luck that fire will burn high and hot enough to roast all your future desire to write. Maybe it will free you of that literary albatross around your neck and you can continue your life as a normal human, without being consumed by the urge to set down words and pass them along to be read and (hopefully) enjoyed.

I got a little too close to that fire once before. It’s hard as Hell to come back from it. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be completely returned. I mean, if I really was, wouldn’t this be one of those 2500-word days? When I sit down and thunder away on the keys, spewing content and building yet another chapter in some monumental epic series of books that would make all the other monumental epic series on the market look like a bound sequence of Mad Libs filled in by drunken giraffes. That kind of day?

But it isn’t. This is the day when my heart and my head can’t communicate well with one another. All I can do is look at everything I’ve written and think to myself what a steaming pile of orcshit it is. Even my stuff for Camp NaNoWriMo looks like shit to me today. So I sit here at the comp, and I flit from one WIP to the next, glaring at them as if they were unwanted religious seekers knocking at my door. Each one is trying to hand me some piece of tripe I don’t want to read, and yet I have to if I’m going to continue the tale.

So I pick one and I drop ten or fifteen words in it. Just a couple of sentences. Hit ‘SAVE’ and move on to another. A couple more sentences there. Nothing of substance anywhere, just a few words here and a few there. Those words might well disappear when I edit the work, but for now, they represent one step on the journey away from the bonfire.

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I may never fully recover from the self-loathing and the pain that cut me off from my muse, but I’m going to keep trying. She would want that. (Yes. I am referencing mythical creatures, and gladly claiming that one of them thought I was important enough that she would devote herself to letting me write her words. Why not? Dumber shit happens on this planet every day and no one thinks twice.)

This blog post, you’ll notice if you take the time to look through the rest of my site, is one of very few that isn’t some form of fiction or interview. I don’t write from the heart (cue sappy music here) very often. Most of what I do is purely for fun, and with the devout hope that someone somewhere will read it and say, “Dude, that was cool. Thanks for sharing it with us.” I have no illusions about being the next Burroughs, or King, or Lovecraft, or Tolkien, or a host of other names. I’m just a mook who likes telling stories. If you like reading them, then hey! Welcome! Look at some of the other stuff on here. Maybe something will make you smile.

So there you have it. A rambling, probably nonsensical, look at how I felt today, and the fact that I still fought through it. Tomorrow is another day, and it could go either way. I hope, though, that I will take the time to set pen to paper/fingers to keys/ etc., and tell at least some part of a story…or nine.

So I’m scrolling through my comments today, all of which are in my spam folder. I guess that in and of itself that should say something, but I don’t listen very well. Ask anyone who knows me. Go ahead. Back now? See? I told you. Anyway, the spam filter has caught about a dozen comments begging me to try out an online SEO tool because the spam tells me I have no on-site SEO to speak of, and without it I can’t “monetize” my site.

Look! I monetized the picture!

Look! I monetized the picture!

What? How can this be? I saw a cartoon about it, so I should know what I’m doing!

Okay, so I didn’t read a wiki, or a book, or a set of clay tablets with cuneiform advertising help, or anything like that. I’m lazy. Didn’t the people tell you that, too?

For those of you not in the know, SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”, and it is a way of writing things which is supposed to make it easier for random people, organizations, websites, or cybernetically-enhanced troglodyte/duck mating mishaps find your website and become your number one fan or some such. SEO is the lifeblood of using your website as a marketing tool, you see. If you write about monkeys, you’re gonna want search engines to point to your site when people type “monkeys” in that Google search bar, right? Well, I guess without some magic wand, anyone looking for “T. Mike McCurley” is going to redirected to a recruitment site for the Renegade Legions, and wind up behind the yoke of a beat-to-shit grav tank dodging mass drivers. I do know that a search will often link you to the works of a Texas-based attorney who happens to share most of the name. Hi, Mike! Hope things are going well down there.

Get ready for the surprise, folks and Folk. It’s gonna be a doozy. Ready? Here it comes:

I don’t know jack shit about SEO in the real world. I know, I know. You’re all in the floor now, and you spilled your mocha chai hookybooky drink all over your feet. My bad. I did warn you, though. See? Look up just one paragraph!

I have looked into it to see what it is all about, but the concepts and jargon that get thrown about make it about like reading stereo instructions…In Japanese…In the dark…In the midst of a 3-day bender. There are folks who specialize in advertising that speak this like a second language, and to them I say, “You go, girl. Do your thing.” Believe me, I’m not coming down on these people. Firearms people speak in ballistics charts and windage. Mechanics speak of torque and fuel injection systems. Dispatchers speak in ten-codes. Every group has its own jargon. If you’re an advertiser with a great knowledge of SEO practices and the ability to put them into play and bring a ton of money into your pockets or those of your clients, then hell, yeah! I’m proud of you! That is an accomplishment.

Me? I’m a writer. I write, and I do it mostly for fun. Yeah, I have stuff for sale as well, but if you just want to read some things, come on in! There’s plenty of free words here. Read, enjoy, and come back now and then. Hell, sign up for the newsletter thing that comes out whenever I pull my head outta my butt long enough to type one up, and you’ll get stuff others might never see. I’m not gonna sit here and claim to be in the ranks of the lofty as far as authors go. I’m not the multi-million-selling master of suspense or horror or science fiction or whatever. They might well employ those SEO masters mentioned above to optimize their site and make it pop up whenever someone types in some random-ass word into a search engine. I don’t know. I do know that it says “superhero stories” up there somewhere, and if you search for that phrase, somewhere on the three quadrillionth page of Google search results, you might get a hit for me.

Face it: most people who read these words are already digging my stuff for one reason or another. To y’all I say, “Thank you! You’re the reason this is still fun.”

So, back to the original point (Yeah, I tend to wander from topic to topic, huh?): I don’t need a magic online SEO tool. I don’t need a team of advertisers. All I need is some words to flow, and some people to smile when they read them. If that means that I’m not selling a million copies of my books every eleven seconds, then so be it.

End trans.

 

It’s April,, and that means a great many things to people. To me, it’s time for Camp NaNoWriMo!

A more relaxed and casual setting than the balls-out novel creation that is November’s NaNoWriMo, Camp is much more mellow. It is still a place to focus on your writing, and to create something new and exciting, but it also is more encouraging of interaction. Camp NaNo has “cabins”, virtual hangouts for up to a dozen authors in each to co-exist for the month. This allows people to chat and get to know one another, to learn about tricks others might have, and to encourage other writers in their efforts.

My cabin this year consists of some friends from former Camps (Hi, Gwendlyn! If you’re reading this, I’m waving!) and some folks that are part of a NaNo support group on Facebook (Hello to you all as well!). Phyl, Erin, and Lisa all conspired to keep me on my toes last November. The hourly sprints to add content they organized and took part in made NaNo infinitely more fun. Lisa is also a Pen and Cape Society member, as is Nick — our last current member. I am in great company, folks!

I decided that this year, I will focus on stories from Z262. You should start seeing them pop up from time to time, most often as soon as I have completed one and can quickly format it for the blog page. I am doing a quick read on each one to check spelling and the occasional bit of grammar, but I am not making these a polished third draft kind of thing. When Z262 tales drop, they’re a little raw, a little more organic than other things I might scribe, and some times that means they’re a bit sharper in tone. I should also note that the Z262 stories are a bit more ‘adult’ in tone than some of my other work. Frequent graphic language and violence pervades them, and sexual undertones can sometimes become overtones in short order. So, you know, trigger warnings and yep. Uh-huh.

Anyway, welcome to April, and happy camping to those of you who are taking part!

TMM

So I’m talking to someone the other day (no names — you know who you are) and I got asked what my favorite superhero films were. I hadn’t really thought to put any time into it, I just like the movies, and that was my basic answer.

“But you write superhero stuff!”

“And?”

“So you’re the kind of person that needs to review them!”

Yeah… I don’t review movies very well. I’m more of a, “Holy shit, that was fun! When old dude jumped out of the coffin I nearly peed!” kind of guy. You’ll never see me on TV sitting in a balcony fawning over a piece of celluloid and comparing a fight scene to the cinematography of a Bergman film, or discussing the similarities and contrasts between The Fantastic Four and Chariots of Fire. That ain’t me.

But I thought on what had been said, and I figured, “Why not make a little list? I can tell people some of what made it fun, and why I like it.”

Some disclaimers up front:

1: Your favorite(s) may or may not be on the list. Sorry. This isn’t to denigrate your choice or say you have no taste (unless you don’t, in which case WHOO! I got it right!). I’m putting ten of my favorites up.

2: Spoilers. This list will probably have a few. That being said, I’m not going to just come right out and say, “Wow, that chick in the movie is really a dude and that’s the surprise ending!” That’s a total dick move (which apparently she can also make). But if you don’t know that Steve Rogers gets a scientific Super-makeover and becomes Studly Guy, well, then, sorry. I just ruined that for you.

3: I’ll say it again for the folks in the upper rows: I am not a professional reviewer! No film classes, no director’s training, no comparative cinema internet course, nothing. Just a mook who watches movies for fun. When you read it and think, “This guy is a lame-ass. How can you not see the Kurosawa influence in scene 7 when Crusader-Man is silhouetted in the shattered doorframe with the burning city behind him,” remember that I told you this here.

4: I think Thundercats should be a live-action film. If that tells you something about what you’re stepping into with this article, then cool. You understand this is no highbrow, in-depth analysis of the films in question. Also, if you think Jason Statham would make a good Tygra, then yay! We can be friends!

Ok, on to the list, in no particular order (click the image to be taken to the IMDB page for that particular film):

 

 

The Avengers

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The incomparable Joss Whedon put together a superhero ensemble that blew audiences out of their seat. Featuring Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, the Hulk, Hawkeye, and S.H.I.E.L.D. squaring off against Loki and a bunch of creepy-ass aliens, The Avengers was a tour-de-force of action and one-liners.

Asgardian gods, legendary soldiers, the sand worms from Dune with some upgraded rims, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. What’s not to like?

Related: Sections on Captain America and Iron Man.

 

Deadpool

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Ah, Deadpool. Always on the periphery of film, but never quite picked up. It seemed no one would do justice to the character, and fans across the world rejoiced and feared in equal measure when it was announced that Ryan Reynolds would be slipping into the red-and-black to be the wisecracking assassin.

The trailers — at first “leaked” and later crafted to showcase some of the funnier moments of the film — served to unite fans behind Reynolds’ performance, and soon the waiting became almost unbearable.

Protests erupted that the film was given an “R” rating by the MPAA, and that this would preclude children from attending a film featuring a popular superhero. Although certainly not the first superhero film to feature the red-and-black “R” image (a coincidence of color, Deadpool? Or another subtle breaking of that fourth wall?), Deadpool star Reynolds and fans worldwide ran with the controversy, creating advertisements, social media postings, and graphics that explained why the “Merc with the Mouth” should remain out of reach of those tiny little kiddies. Here’s a hint, folks: the language alone met the MPAA requirements. Add in the violence, nudity, and suggestive nature of many a comment or action, and yeah…leave little Timmy at home for this one.

 

Watchmen

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Alan Moore’s seminal work on the topic, Watchmen was always “in the works” somewhere. This person or that one fought to acquire the rights and make it come to life, but it always seemed to fall through for one reason or another.

Finally, in 2009, director Zack Snyder dropped his monumental film onto the world, and the results were incredible. At times a nearly frame-by-frame adaptation of the graphic novel, Watchmen was a shining example of what can be done with the right patience, crew, cast, and budget. Its extended release, complete with the Tales of the Black Freighter sequences intact, stands in my mind as quite probably the most “true to the source material” adaptation of a comic or graphic novel ever made.

I laughed at the folks in the theater on this one that brought their kids and sat there watching Nite Owl and Silk Spectre obliterate a street gang. They watched the opening fight where the Comedian is thrown out a window. They watched every act of violence with absolute glee and rapt expressions, but as soon as Malin Akerman shed that Silk Spectre suit and her nude body showed on screen, “Oh no! Gotta pack up the young uns, Marge!” They grabbed those kids and dragged them out of the theater as if there was a fire. Shattered arms and dead heroes are cool, but boobs? Can’t have that!

 

Blade

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Blade – the Daywalker. Dusting vamps with the ferocity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the precision-tuned weaponry of Abraham Whistler.

Wesley Snipes strode on screen as the half-vampire out to destroy pointy-toothed ancients and their more modern descendants (Stephen Dorff tore it up as Deacon Frost). With his razor-edged sword and silver spikes, shotgun, and converted MAC-11, Blade ripped his way through the ranks of the undead and left the audience grinning.

As you’ll note through a lot of these review things, the cast made this movie what it is. Snipes, Dorff, Kris Kristofferson, Donal Logue, and a host of others combined to make this a gritty and dark anti-vampire romp.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

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One of the most anticipated films of 2014, Guardians featured the story of a ragtag group of criminals thrown together and facing off against an evil alien overlord.

A talking tree, a raccoon with a penchant for weapons, a powerhouse with no understanding of the subtleties of language, and an assassin seeking redemption join forces with a Terran expatriate thief. What follows is a rollicking romp through space, with lots of action and humor, and even the occasional tear. Well, you know, from some people. Not me, of course. Never.

Production is underway on the sequel, and I, for one, can’t wait.

 

Captain America: the First Avenger

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The First Avenger. Captain America, created as part of the United States Super Soldier program and unleashed upon the forces of the Third Reich. The living embodiment of the American ideal, striding fearlessly into a hail of bullets, with his Vibranium shield bouncing slugs left and right. These are timeless images.

I will admit that when I first saw the ads for this one, I commented that Chris Evans had already portrayed Johnny Storm in The Fantastic Four and they should go with a different actor.

I was wrong.

Read it again, folks. I admitted it. I was wrong!

Chris Evans makes the role come alive. He is Captain America.

 

 

Iron Man

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Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark was the best casting decision the studios for Marvel made in years. Between that one and putting J.K. Simmons in as J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man franchise, they hit an absolute home run. This is one of those roles where I see the actor for the first few minutes and then after that he is the character, through and through.

Returning home after spending some vacation time in a cavern in the friendly embrace of some desert-dwelling terrorist-types, Tony is now the proud possessor of a new energy source and a desire to build bigger and better suits of armor in order to redeem himself for the sins of his past.

As always, the cast blows away even the tech in this tale. RDJ, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Jon Favreau (who also directed), all are great in their roles and bring their incredible skills to bear, making an origin story a lot of fun. It is also here that we meet S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson for the first time, and his popularity only grew after his beautifully casual performance.

 

Superman

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The year was 1978 and I was just a little critter, but I went to the theater and took in the spectacle that was Superman. This was a turning point film for me. Christopher Reeve made Superman feel more real than George or Steve Reeves ever had. His delivery — so soft-spoken and friendly as Clark Kent and so decisive as Superman — was a wonderful thing. The second film was a beautiful thing, with Terence Stamp and the positively stunning Sarah Douglas, but this one holds a special place in my heart, as it is the first superhero film I can remember seeing.

And that score! Thank you, John Williams, for creating a score that will always resonate with us. Face it, when you hear those chords, you know all too well what they mean. Your spirit soars in the same way that Superman did.

 

 

The Dark Knight

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Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is a wonderful trio of films, and The Dark Knight is a masterpiece.

Heath Ledger’s inspired depiction of Joker draws the lion’s share of praise from most critics reviewing this film, but if you look at the overall package it is a beast. Aaron Eckhart turns in one hell of a performance as Harvey Dent / TwoFace. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox just knock their roles out of the park. Don’t even get me started on Gary Oldman as Commissioner Jim Gordon. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Oldman muff a role. If that wasn’t enough, toss Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth onto the pile of names.

The film is a wonder from start to finish, and sets the stage nicely for the coming of Bane in the third film of the trilogy. Batman finds himself in over his head with the expansion of operations by the Joker, and soon ends up as a wanted man on his own.

Filled with the glorious gadgets one expects from a Batman film, but also with the well-thought script from Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight is one of those you definitely don’t just turn off.

 

 

X2 — X-Men United

x2 poster

Wait! X2? What about X-Men? Dude, you skipped one!

I did indeed.

X2, I find, is that little bit better than its predecessor. With viewers having already been introduced to most of the major players, X2 was able to simply advance the plotlines. Allusions are made to upcoming movies here, some subtle and some really not.

The use of Nightcrawler as a tool of assassination seems to make sense from a “why didn’t anyone think to do this sooner” point of view. So now the mutants from Xavier’s school have something to look for, right? Plus, the government is ramping up the anti-mutant measures. Add in a military-style raid of the school by agents working for William Stryker and now you’ve got muties running loose all over the place!

By the way, for a fun superhero connection: The mansion used for Xavier’s school is also the Luthor home in Smallville, the WB network’s highly successful coming-of-age Superman series.

 

 

So there you have my top ten list (at least for this week). Narrowing the list to just ten was tougher than I expected. I could have included another ten without breaking stride. Here are a few that came damned close:

Constantine

Captain America: the Winter Soldier

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Iron Man II

Hulk

Spider-Man 2

The Punisher

Hellboy

Hellboy 2: the Golden Army

 

Folks, I won’t run away from a showing of any of the above, and in general, you’re safe throwing a series of superhero films up onto screen any time I’m around.

Also, since I mentioned it at the first of this article, here are my suggestions:

Lion-O: Travis Fimmel

Panthro: Booker-T

Tygra: Jason Statham

Cheetara: Katee Sackhoff

Jaga: Edward James Olmos

WileyKit and WileyKat: No clue. Those are kid actors and I have zero knowledge of those. Last kid actor I knew was Chloe Grace Moretz back when she played HitGirl on Kick-Ass, and she’s not a kid any more.

Snarf, of course, would be a CGI construct of some kind. I’m thinking Zooey Deschanel for the voice.

Mumm-Ra: Willem Dafoe

Monkian: Bruce Campbell

VultureMan: Steve Buscemi

JackalMan and Slithe are up for grabs. Any suggestions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images obtained through IMDB search for movie posters of the film in question.

Mark your calendars: February 29 is the date! Jericho is back and he’s brought Hell with… Oh wait, someone already made that line famous. Anyway, it’s probably a little more accurate to say he’s trying to keep Hell from coming. Either way, Phantoms of Phoenix is up and running, and on February 29, it will be available for full order. You can get in early, though, just by clicking the picture below!

Rolling into Arizona following a rumor about the Surgeon, Jericho finds himself facing the denizens of the local graveyard, raised from their slumber as the invading army of a necromancer bent on revenge. Jericho will need his quick wits and lightning gun hand as he teams up with a local preacher and a spectral restaurant owner to save an entire city from a legion of the dead.

Intrigued? Don’t wait! You can pre-order it at Amazon. Click the pic and reserve your copy for only $0.99!

JerichoPhoenixKindlesized

“Y’all wanna cup of coffee?” Edison asked. His drawl was a long, slow thing, like a freight train slipping through a busy city. He held a cardboard tray with three steaming cups in his hand, careful not to get it near the stack of paperwork he had come here to research. The records he needed on cobra attacks were obscure at best, and only in what he deemed ‘the lair of the snake people’ could he find his answers. Years of experience had shown him that arriving with several cups of coffee was a quick way to grease the wheels.

Seated at a long table, Doctor Pare looked up through the Coke-bottle spectacles he wore. His eyes were enormous behind the lenses. One thin shock of his greying hair was draped over the right lens, and he brushed it back with an ink-stained finger.

“I don’t drink coffee,” he said. He used the doctoral tone when he answered — the one he reserved for speaking to people who were somehow less important in his view. Having spent the years and effort to become a Professor, that number of people was impressive. The look had proven effective on many people before him, but Edison just grinned. No herpetologist, Professor or otherwise, was going to shake his self-esteem.

“Better’n that glowing green shit over there,” he said, using his own cup as a pointer and indicating the half-empty Mountain Dew bottle at Pare’s elbow.

“I’ll have you know –”

The bottle tumbled from the table as Pare’s wildly swinging arm cast it from the surface. He jumped and reached for it, the plastic bouncing from his fingers twice in a comedic flailing that set Edison to chuckling.

The sound made as the bottle hit the floor was louder and deeper of tone than the clacking of his glasses as they slipped from his nose.

“My glasses!” he shrieked. The tone of superiority was gone, replaced by raw horror at the thought of reaching down to recover a broken pair of glasses.

He dropped to his hands and knees, fumbling about in the floor for a treasure that he could not see.

Edison took pity on the scientist, stepping around the table and retrieving the fallen specs.

“Here ya go,” he said, reaching out to place the glasses in Pare’s hand. “They’re fine.”

Pare let out a sigh of relief as he fitted the thick lenses back over his eyes. He blinked several times.

“Thank you,” he said. “For a moment, I felt like…”

“Velma?” Edison prompted as the Professor’s words trailed off. Pare actually grinned, and a giggle escaped him.

“I loved that show,” he confessed.

 

 

Elements: A herpetologist, obscure records, coffee, broken glasses

So shortly before Yule this year, a link popped up in a fiction group I belong to. The Secret Life of Pandas invited us to play along with the Writer’s Q&A she had done. I thought perhaps I’d accept that gracious invitation, and yet I’ve spent several days forgetting it (which is typical, of course). Today I said to myself that I would get it done, so here it is, in all its unvarnished glory.
When did you first start writing? When I was a mere babe, I ripped a canine tooth from the gaping maw of a hungry tyrannosaur and used it to scratch obscenities on the nearest bathroom wall, followed by my drinks order for the day. After that, I stayed pretty chill for a while, until I was a middle school student (probably fifth grade or so) and the desire to stain pristine pages with ink caught up to me once more.
Was being a writer something you always aspired to? Not at all. It just happened. I actually aspired to be a space pirate. That hasn’t happened…which is a damned shame. I’d look cool as hell with a mutant parrot on my shoulder, and I could get a cybernetic eye and then put a patch over it for effect. That, and I’m pretty good at saying, “Arrrr” a lot.
I have all these stories that bubble up in my head and scream at me to put them on paper (even if it’s only digital paper). Giving them voice and a chance for others to dig on the weird shit that rolls about in my head is fun.
What genre do you write? What day is it again? I’m not really specialized. I’ve done superhero stuff, science fiction, fantasy, supernatural, steampunk, paranormal western, and a few others here and there. Sometimes I classify it as one genre or another, and sometimes I just say it’s a story. One of the few things that ties my stuff together is action.
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? Again, I fall back to a “which one” kind of thing. Let’s keep it simple:
 1: The fourth Firedrake novel, Inquisition. Continuing the stories from my earlier books, with lots of fun new folks and weird situations. I’ve missed Drake since I’ve been on some other projects.
 2: A new short for Z262, my anthropomorphic space colony stuff. Holidays with Zeke is a little slice-of-life tale about what happens when one of the most effective killers ever to eviscerate soldiers of the rodent army meets his girlfriend’s parents for the first time — as they celebrate the birth of their pacifistic deity.
When did you start working on this project? Well, #1 is about a year old, if not a little more. It’s coming along slowly, as do most of my projects.
#2 is about two weeks out.
What was your first piece that you can remember writing? I have vague memories of some creative writing assignments back in 1980, but I can’t put the details together. I remember that I loved those assignments, though. The one part of my school years where I can say I actively over-achieved.
I wrote a lot of RPG fanfic in my early high school years, about the people I gamed with and the characters we used. Bits and pieces of that are more likely to be what I actually remember.
What was it about? The RPG stuff? Usually detailed sections from one scenario or another, telling of how our characters triumphed over some obstacle or another. Lots of blood and gore. Cursing and alcohol was probably a major part, as well.
What’s the best part about writing? Seeing different situations through the eyes of my characters. I describe what’s going on, but I actually see the images play in my head.
What’s the worst part about writing? The urge to drive a shrimp fork into my brain and twist-start that big gray bitch when the words suddenly seem to stop coming (or just sucking when they do).
What’s the name of your favourite character and why? I still love to play around with Firedrake. That would be Special Agent Francis Drake, United States Department of Justice, Metahuman Response Division. He does and says a lot of the things that people wish they could get away with when dealing with bosses (and frequently everyone else).
How much time a day/week do you get to write? When I grab some instead of wasting time, then I get whatever that amount is. I’m notorious for my laziness.
When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)? Night, definitely. Morning is that special time when humans should be asleep. Sleep during the day, boys and girls, and you’ll be awake when the vampires come.
Did you go to college for writing? Nope. I went to college for classes that I can’t really remember. After I stopped doing that, I went to work in the real world for a while (deeply weird, definitely not recommended for all). I’ve attended a few classes since then, but they’re all in subjects I want to learn about.
What bothers you more: speeling errors; punctuation, errors, or errors for grammar? Well, I would like to go on record as saying I love this question — for the format if nothing else. Most of the time I pick up on spelling as soon as it pops up. It makes speeding through a first draft interesting, as I keep pausing to back up and correct.
What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you? “Dude, drink this!”
No, seriously, it would probably be the people who tell you to keep reading. By seeing how different authors write, you help expand and refine your own voice.
What advice would you give to another writer? Don’t use the word “bae”. I mean, really. Like ever.
Stop comparing yourself to other writers. I don’t read your writing and think, “This is no Stephen King” or some such, and pretty much no one else does (unless you put it out there with, “This is just like Stephen King” on it somewhere). It’s not fair to yourself or your art to put yourself through that. I’m not saying you should never strive to better yourself, or to be a writer in the league of your favorite author, but don’t look at your work and think that it’s not good just because it isn’t what someone else has done.
What are your favourite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement? I snap up articles here and there, read them, and then move on. I have no specific sites that I visit for that. I do belong to a weekly fiction group, and the folks there have shown me several new blogs that I enjoy reading.
Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? I dig shooting and maintaining firearms. I can spend an entire afternoon cleaning them and not be bored. I drink coffee a lot, and I like eating tacos (although I’m not sure how that fits in here — but in my defense, the question was pretty open).
What are your hobbies? I love pen-and-paper roleplaying games. I suck at the computer ones (they’re usually too scripted or require interaction on an MMO level, which I avoid like the plague topped with a generous helping of tuberculosis), but old-school gaming got me through some pretty shitty moments in my past. Revisiting them now and again is like coming home again.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year? Well, I re-read Rolling Hot by David Drake. I’ll go to my grave thinking that is one of the best pieces of military science fiction ever created. It’s in my top five books ever. As to new books? It’s a toss-up. This past year I fell onto the Caverns & Creatures series by Robert Bevan, and the Cape High series by R.J. Ross. The former is guaranteed to be a rollicking ride of laughs and crude humor. The latter is a world-spanning series about super-powered youth learning about their world, and R.J. writes it in a way that has me spinning pages like a lazy susan on crack.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen this year? I’ll stick with new releases, rather than fawning over my personal favorites this time (Army of Darkness FTW!). I just saw the new Star Wars flick the other day (Episode VII: The Force Awakens). I enjoyed it quite a bit. Lots of action, fun characters, and the usual array of beautiful scenery and props.
What is your favourite book or series of all time? Man, I hate trying to come up with just one. I grew up on The Lord of the Rings and The Hitchhikers Guide, but I also cut my teeth on The Executioner, Able Team, Phoenix Force, Deathlands, and similar. Lately I know I’m guaranteed a good read with David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series.
Who is your favourite author? Dan Abnett probably hits a high note. The man has written dozens of books in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 universe for Black Library, and — as if that weren’t cool enough on its own — he used to write Judge Dredd.
What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing? Well, since the year has practically ended, I’ll go with next year. I have several short pieces in various stages of editing that will soon be released, and I’m always scribbling down something for my Z262 stories. There is a fourth Firedrake novel in the works as well, as discussed above.
Where else can we find you online? Here and there. I’m a member of the Pen and Cape Society, a group of authors who write superhero prose (among other projects). I have a profile over at Goodreads that I almost never remember to update. Stories of mine have appeared in several places, and you never know where one might turn up. I’ve got a (neglected) Twitter presence, and an author page on Facebook. See? I’m trying to adapt to the whole “technology is your friend” thing.
All right, writer friends. Join in if you want. It’s actually more fun than you think it might be. Trust me. I did it. See? Right up there. Dude, seriously, if you’re reading this and you ignored everything above it… That’s just weird.