The first chapter from my newest book Finals: The Dolbin School Book 4

Finals: The Dolbin School Book 4

This is the first chapter from my next book, in pre-proofed form.  It’s still in the final editing phase.

You can preorder the book on Amazon now.  I hope you check it out.

Chapter 1- Spring Time

Bam!  The sound of the ball hitting leather echoed through out the field.

Jake Cooper took the ball out of his mitt and shook his glove hand.  “Nice throw, Mark.  Have you been working out?” he said.  He went to throw the ball back.  “I’ll try not to hurt you when I throw it.”

“Just throw it!”

Jake adjusted the bandage on his nose before he threw the baseball to Mark.  His nose still hurt, from fighting Brad Cushing.

Jake threw the ball.  It zipped through the air.  The loud sound of the ball smacking Mark’s hands came from eighty feet away.  “Did that hurt?”  Jake asked.

“Nope.” Mark replied, gritting his teeth.

The warm weather on the first day of May, brought the student body of Dolbin School for the Extraordinary out.  Jake Cooper and his friends Mark Daniels, Bruce Johnson, Red, Cal Jacobs, and Henry Cho tossed baseballs between them.  There was no game planned.  It was just a lazy Sunday afternoon.

“Throw to someone else, I going to get out the PGX,” said Mark.  He put his glove down and walked over to his backpack.  He pulled out a drone.  It was white and shiny.  He pulled out a tablet and tapped in instructions.  The PGX hovered four feet above the ground.

“You’re not going to take our pictures with that? Right.” Bruce asked.

“No.  Did you forget to put on your make-up today?” Mark replied, without looking away from his drone.  “But we could record practices with it, or even games, and review defensive adjustments and other things.”

Bruce paused from throwing the ball.  “That’s not a bad idea, Daniels.”  He threw the ball back to Red.  “We need to remember that once we get to the 6th grade and are able to play D-Ball.”

“I would think the coaches in middle school would already have that idea, and that they would already be doing that,” Mark pointed out.

“I thought you guys would be here,” said a female voice.

The boys turned and saw Maggie Crenshaw running to the field.  She was carrying a backpack.  She stopped and put down the bag.

“Brad isn’t here, if you’re looking for him,” said Jake.

Maggie ignored Jake’s comment and motioned to the drone floating above the field.  “I have a PGX as well.”  She pulled it out of her bag.

Mark looked at the drone and then at Maggie, “I thought you were more of an athlete.”

She frowned at Mark, “Simply because I am athletic, and play sports, doesn’t mean I don’t like tech as well.”

Maggie pulled out her tablet, swiped and tapped instructions.  Her drone rose next to Mark’s.  Maggie smiled, “Want to race?”

Mark smiled, “Of course”.

Maggie smiled.  Her tilted to the side and took off toward the outfield at blazing speed.  Mark’s drone was pushed backwards from the force of the air from her drone.

Mark turned his head.  “Did you make some modifications on yours?  I didn’t think that a PDX had accelerant thrusters?”

“They don’t.  I added them myself,” Maggie grinned from ear to ear.

Mark lowered his drone to the ground, and pointed at Maggie’s drone “Can I try?”

“Sure.”  Maggie stopped her drone, it floated waiting for the next instructions.  It was a 100 feet away and floating 20 feet in the air.  Mark took the tablet.   He saw himself standing next to Maggie on the tablet, from the drone’s cameras.  Mark swiped on the tablet.  He could see the campus as he viewed the different cameras.

“The accelerant app is right there,” said Maggie reaching over Mark’s shoulder and pointing to a red icon.  Mark tapped instructions for the drone to head back to him.  He pressed the accelerant icon.  It zipped right back, and stopped, floating twenty feet above his and Maggie’s head.

Red pointed to the drone and then at Mark, “Hey, do you think you could race that thing?”

“I could race it.  But I am pretty certain that I would lose.”

“Maggie, did you bring your baseball glove?  You can ball with us as well if you are done showing the drone off,” said Bruce.  “You seem pretty athletic.”

She shook her head, “I’m not Extra Strong or a Runner, I’m a Healer.”

Bruce shrugged his shoulders.  “You can still play with us.”

Mark handed the tablet back to Maggie.  She brought the drone down to the ground and turned it off.  She set it next to her bag.

She pulled a baseball glove out of her bag.  She smiled and pounded her glove. Mark picked up his glove and a ball and threw it to Maggie.

Jake continued to throw to Cal as he turned to ask Maggie a questions, “Maggie, if you like playing ball, why didn’t you come with us before?”

“No one asked me.”

“Not even Brad?” Jake replied.

Maggie stopped looked at Jake, she threw the ball at Mark.

Jake smiled, “Sorry.”  He turned to throw at Cal.  He adjusted the bandage on his nose and threw the ball at Cal.

His nose hurt.

Cars 3–Finally a Cars movie worthy of the Pixar name

Cars 3 finally gives us a Cars movie that worthy of the Pixar name.

source

The first Cars was at the time of its release (2006) the least successful of the Pixar movies, that honor now lies with The Good Dinosaur.  Which made the release of Cars 2 a little of surprise, but then Cars 2 went for the James Bond spy angle, throwing Mater into the main role.  Because everyone loves Mater.  For a Pixar film, it still flopped.  And for my money, it is the least Pixar of all the Pixar movies.  (But then again, a bad Pixar movie is a winner for other studios, that’s how good Pixar is.  And that could be the subject of another essay.)

Which made the release of Cars 3 surprising.  But with director Brian Fee, we finally get a touching, human movie about Cars.

Lightnin’ McQueen is at the top of his game, winning most of the races he runs.  When he loses it is to competitor that is his equal. Until he is beaten by Jackson Storm, a rookie car, who is clearly the younger stronger car.  Jackson Storm, like a up and coming young athlete is arrogant and cocky.

And when other of Lightning McQueen’s contemporaries begin to retire, he begins to feel the pressure to retire as well.  McQueen doesn’t want to be told to retire.  Like many us, we want to make that decision ourselves, being told it is time for use to hang it up is difficult for any of us.  So at the final race of the season Lightning McQueen over extends himself, ruptures a tire, and flips in a crash, injuring himself badly as the season closes out.

McQueen goes into a deep depression for several weeks until his gril friend Sally Carrera tries to convince him to retire, but McQueen demands that he will be the one to decide when it is time to go.

This Cars movie is different because McQueen finally acts more grown-up than the arrogant, cocky, clueless kid we see in the first Cars movie.  Here we finally get a McQueen that is clearly vulnerable and, dare-we-say-it aging.  And that gives the movie more human touch than the other two combined.

Chris Cooper plays the voice of the coach to Doc, Smokey.

Cristela Alonzo plays the voice of trainer Cruz Ramirez.  source

The movie does have the regulars from previous films.  Amazingly Larry the Cable Guys’-Tow Mator is regulated to maybe ten minutes of screen time.  And you know what?  It works.

There is a pretty funny side scene of McQueen at a demolition derby.  source

Lines from Paul Newman and Car Talk brother, Tom Magleozzi, who died years before this movie was made, and their lines were archive recordings.

Paul Newman as Doc.  source.

Not the greatest Pixar movie, but Cars 3 tones down the sheer silliness and brings back the Pixar touch to the Cars series.

I would recommend on checking this out on Netflix when it becomes available or catching a matinee.

This post originally appeared on my Steemit blog.

Atomic Blone Review

Atomic Blonde is a visceral experience.

Based on a the graphic novel, The Coldest City, by Antony Johnson and Sam Hart.

The time is 1989 just days before the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Which occurred when I was in high school, but now seems to be a time regulated to history books.  By setting it during this time, we can now tell spy stories between waring states, as opposed to hidden terror threats.  The good ol’ days of spy stories.

Directed by David Leitch, who was a co-director on the first John Wick movie.  David Leitch got his start in Hollywood as a stuntman, and it shows in Atomic Blonde.

Charlize Theron, plays Lorraine Broughton a highly skilled MI6 officer, is perfect for this role, tall, blond, attractive, and physically fit.

source

James McAvoy plays David Purcvell, and John Goodman plays Emmet Kurzveld a CIA operative.

source

source

The story is told from a deep briefing room, where a beaten and bruised Charlize Theron is telling the story of tracking down a double agent who has a list of all the spies who work for MI6.

And that’s really all you need to know for the story.

source

The movie is all atmosphere and action.  And it is great action.

Unlike the action other movies, where the hero is never hurt, does get exhausted, and takes on thousands of faceless bad guys, here fight scenes have weight.   When protecting a Russian defector, Theron is in an elevator and stops the elevator and instead of coming out blasting, she waits with heavy breathing and waits for one of two bad guys to come at her.  In a fight with two bad guys, it is heavy and intense.

She gets hurt, injured, and the bad guys don’t die easily.  As the scene progresses she becomes more injured and tired.  She eventually narrows down her opponents to one, and at one point they are both so injured and tired they just stand across from each other with labored breathing and staring each other down.  Each opponent running on empty, bullets have run out, and fighting with only the items left in the room, in this case a wine opener, the director brings a real excitement to what could have been just another easy shoot up the bad guy scene.

The movie is a great who-done-it, but ultimately this movie is about atmosphere and style.  And what wonderful, fun style it is.  I recommend it.

Rated R-for extreme violence, nudity, and sex.

Cover for new book and now available for preorder

Book Cover Reveal

My next book Finals–The Dolbin School Book 4 is almost here, so I am happy to share the cover.

The cover is a different style than the other books in the series.  Frank did the cover for my last book, Irving Williams and the Mystery of the Lighthouse Ghost, and I liked his style so much I asked him to do this book.  And now he his going to create new covers for the Dolbin School 1-3.

I serialized the previous Dolbin Books and I plan on doing that with this one as well.  Will probably start tomorrow as I need to get myself organized.

Click here to preorder the book.

Click here to see the Dolbin School page on Amazon.

The writer that wrote stories in bookstore windows

Could you write a story on demand?  In a store window?  With a first draft that is error free?

Harlan Ellison writing in a bookstore window.  Source

Apparently that is what award winning sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison did.  And he didn’t do it once.  He did it several times over the years.

I first heard about this feat from Dean Wesley Smith’s blog, and then I decided to do some research on it, and I found this post on Mental Floss.

Ellison would sit with a typewriter.  A TYPEWRITER—not a laptop.  You see you little whippersnappers you couldn’t always go back and remove a letter or a word.

Ellison says that he did this because:

“I do it because I think particularly in this country people are so distanced from literature, the way it’s taught in schools, that they think that people who write are magicians on a mountaintop somewhere,” he told NBC after one such performance in 1981. “And I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s so much illiteracy in this country. So by doing it in public, I show people it’s a job … like being a plumber or an electrician.”

After doing this several times people began to question if he already had the stories in his head.  So, he started taking prompts from people.  One came from none other than Christ Carter, the creator of the X-Files.  His prompt: There was a 102 year old corpse.  Harlin would hand the pages as they finished and a clerk would post them in the window.  The pages were immaculate, double spaced, and error free.

I would love to be at this level.  

But as I think about this, I contemplate how many myths of writing Ellison takes down here.

Outlining–He doesn’t outline here.  He writes.  He stops to read and research, but there is no outline here to his process.

No rewriting—Have you ever heard of such a thing!  No rewrites!  Try telling that to your English teacher.

Writing taking a longtime—These are short stories, but he didn’t slave over these stories for years on end.

Ellison shows that writing doesn’t have to be a big esoteric exercise.

Solid creative writing is work—just like a plumber.

(This post originally appeared on my Steemit blog.)

In Honor of the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars–Top Ten Reason that it is the greatest movie ever made.

Star Wars is 40 years old today.

That makes it sound old and therefore me. But I don’t care. I love this movie.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary, this is an updated version of a post I did last summer.

Star wars came out when I was four.

According to my parents it was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. I’ll let you figure out how old I am based on that information.

And when I say Star Wars, I mean the first one, A New Hope. When I first saw it wasn’t called A New Hope, it was just Star Wars.

Star Wars is a great movie.

Star Wars became my childhood.

Star Wars became my birthday and Christmas for years.

It became visits to my grandmother. She would regularly have a new action for me. It was always wrapped in a brown paper bag.

It became playground games—lightsabers verses lightsabers.

It became card collections.

It became Halloween costumes.

Now it hangs on my Christmas tree.

The music made my four-year-old chest just stick out. I grew muscular and taller listening to opening music. Star Wars was the world I was in.

Yes.
We all know the cultural phenomenon that it has become. And the huge intellectual property that it has become to Disney.

5 Billion dollars to be exact. (That’s what Disney paid to George Lucas for the franchise.)

But it wasn’t just me. An entire generation of boys and girls, who are now middle age with children of their own who are into Star Wars. We are passing down the world to another generation of movie lovers.

But there has to be reasons why it is so good…

In honor of the 40th anniversary…

Here are the ten reasons why Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made.

1. The opening.
Beginning a movie with loud music and a title crawl was ripped directly from the Flash Gordon serials of decades previous.

But they weren’t done nearly as well as this. Then flew in the ship in. But it flew in FROM OVER HEAD! And not just one ship but two!

This is now the standard opening for all Star Wars movies, until Rogue One changed it because it technically wasn’t an episode but a Star Wars story. The crawl was borrowed from the ol’ Flash Gordon movies. Lucas brought the 40s serials style into the modern world.

2. Darth Vader.
Five minutes in we are introduced the greatest villain we have ever seen. And here is the thing, he doesn’t say one word. But you know, you need to be scared of him.

And in many ways the prequel movies took away the mystique of the character, but on the other hand we refer to him as Darth Vader and not Anakin Skywalker.

3. The Music.
Let’s face John Williams is the Master at cinematic music. There is John Williams, and then everyone else. There are John Williams concerts around the country through out the year, there was one here in my own town of Richmond, VA a few months ago. He is in his 80s and currently scoring the next Star Wars movie, talk about commitment to your craft. (There’s a lesson there as well.)

Most people copies of their favorite band releases. I have different CD copies of different releases of all the sound tracks. I have issues.

4. Lightsabers.
They were described originally as laser swords and they’re such an obvious invention, but I know of no other place before where laser swords existed in a movie.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you know what a lightsaber is and the sound it makes. When a new trailer comes we always look for the sight of a lightsaber being ignited.

5. Ralph McQuarrie.
The average movie watch does not know who Ralph is. The hard-core of us do. And we know that it was him who took George’s words and turned them into beautiful illustrations. For the average viewer, they’ve never heard his name. But he may have had more influence on the look of Star Wars than any other person. He designed the world.

6. The Toys.
Lucas made a seismic shift in how movies were promoted. The toys were just awesome. I got new toys every Christmas and birthday from 1977 to 1984. Have toys allowed children to replay the movie. (Remember kids, this was before DVDs.)


This is really how Lucas became a billionaire. The toys also change the contracts of all following movies. The studios released that they were really in the Intellectual Property business.

7. Sound Effects.
Without Ben Burtt there is no laser blast, no lightsaber sound, no roar of a tie fighter, no growl of Chewbacca, no rumble of the trash compactor, no explosion of the Death Star. In other words, no Star Wars.

Star Wars earned an Oscar for its sound, and rightfully so.

8. Industrial Light and Magic.
Lucas needed special effects that had never been done before. In the process he created a company that is used by most of Hollywood.

40 years later, ILM is stilling working and creating movie magic.

9. The spaceships.
The x-wing, tie-fighter, and of course the Milineum Falcon. The Falcon itself is a character in the movies. The Falcon is such a character than when I saw The Force Awakens the crowd cheered when the Falcon finally appeared on screen. Personally part of the reason that Return of the Jedi is not my favorite of the series partly because no scenes really occur in the Falcon.

In The Force Awakens, the Falcon is introduced as a character in the movie when Rey rightfully says, “The garbage will do!”

10. The Force.
Everyone wants to have the Force. The Force is the spirituality behind the story. It is with the Force that the movie goes to a different level. We all want the Force. We are all interested in that sort of power.

It’s hard to believe that it is 40 years old. But I guess that is part of getting older.

But through this movie, I can regularly visit my childhood.

That is why it is the great movie ever made.

SING–Movie Review–A nice solid family outing.

 

I am a dad of a five year old.  These are the types of  movies that I see.

And SING is a good one.

Buster Moon is a  Koala Bear is wanna-be successful theater producer.  We are introduced to him when he is six years and his parents take him to the theater.  He falls in love with theater, and his six-year-old mind decides he doesn’t want to be an astronaut anymore, he wants to produce theater.  And we are with him.

Fast forward a couple of decades and we find that Buster is a failed theater producer.  So much so, that the bank is about to foreclose on his property.

He begs for money from his best-friend and business partner, a sheep named  Eddie Noodleman, whose parents are wealthy.  But this time Eddie, turns him down.  Buster’s recent plays have flopped.  Flopped.

Buster’s Big Idea to get people back into the theater is to run a singing competition.  Eddie quickly points out the obvious, that nobody wants to see a singing competition made up of only locals.

Buster ignores him.

In a silly and stupid plot point, Buster’s secretary, Ms. Crawly an aging iguana, accidently turns the $1,000 prize into a $100,000 with a typo, and then within 30 seconds thousands of the flyers are blown out into the town, where the townsfolk begin to read about the $100,000 prize.

Consequently, more people show up to Buster’s talent audition than he expected.

From here we are connected with several enjoyable characters.

Rosita, a pig, who is mother to 25 piglets.  Her dream of being a famous singer abandoned to raise a family.

Ash, a teenage punk rocker who is forced to break-up with her boyfriend, when she is allowed in the competition and he is not.

Meena, a teenage elephant, who has a gifted voice, but is crippled by debilitating stage fright. 

Johnny, a teenage gorilla, whose family is a gang of bank robbers.

Mike, a mouse, is the Frank Sinatra clone.  He gets into trouble with women and the mob.

Gunter, a German-accent pig, is Rosita’s dance partner.

The story continues as Buster tries to get the singing competition off the ground.  The movie continues through obstacle after obstacle, each more over the top than the next.  Until finally the theater itself is destroyed.

Buster hits his low, and goes into hiding.  But those that were going to sing in the competition pull a singing performance off in the end.

Overall

The movie is funny.  But there is nothing groundbreaking here.

Plot points are obvious and silly.

But we can relate to characters that have given up on their dreams, but find hope and joy when the chance to finally live those dreams happens.

And for Generation Xer parents and Baby Boomer Grandparents there are some great musical numbers here.  The writers knew who would be bringing the children to see this.

And my five-year-old got up to dance during the movie, which makes me recommend the movie.

 

Image credits:

Several of the images came from here.

 

Rogue One Review–Treading Water Til Episode 8

 

Rogue One Movie Poster

 Star Wars is in many ways unreviewable.

People will go to see it, no matter what is written about it. People will see it just to be a part of the cultural aspect of it.

But, still here I write.

Rogue One is a prequel. Not the infamous Prequels that Lucas made, but a prequel none the less, and that leaves it with problems from the get go. You already know how the movie is going to end.  We know that the Rebels at the start of A New Hope had gotten stolen plans on how the Death Star worked. It was in the opening the crawl. This entire movie is an introduction to another movie.

Because this isn’t an episode, there is no opening crawl. Which makes sense, considering that this movie is the opening crawl for the next movie.

We do get the iconic “A long time ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away…”

The opening scene we are introduced to Galen Erso, Lyra Erso, and the main character Jyn Erso played by Felicity Jones. It during this scene that I believe we get the first Star Wars Meta reference. A Death Trooper picks a Stormtrooper doll. I enjoyed that touch.

Soon after Jyn’s father is capture and mother is killed we skipped ahead apparently 12 years or so, and we find Jyn is in prison. Now, why she is in prison, like a lot of plot points, in this movie is never mentioned. And this prison cell is dirty, unlike Leia’s prison room in the Death Star in the original Star Wars. We also hear prisoners being tortured from a far.

This is Star Wars with the emphasis on the War part.

Soon after, for whatever reason as we are never told why, Jyn is being transferred to a labor camp planet, and here we find the most honest detail in a Star Wars movie—an exhausted Stormtrooper. He sits there looking at the floor, his elbows on his knees.  The Stormtrooper is clearly a dude who is exhausted and just doing his job. And in a few seconds he is going to be killed, as Jyn is rescued by Cassian Andor and his droid K-2SO. That is part of the job description of a Stormtrooper—getting killed.

The forced humor

The Humor isn’t Jar-Jar Binks level, not even close, but it is still forced.  And it comes only through droid K-2S0. You have to ask, why is a droid the only one around with a sense of humor? While everyone else is walking around with depressed and angry. Who was the clever person that programmed K-2? Was he or she killed? Why isn’t he or she around?

The problem with a prequel is that you already know where the story is going.  You may not know exactly what is going to happen on the way, but you do know where the story is going, and takes some the of the interest away.

Yes, Vader is in it.

But he didn’t need to be.  Why does Crinnic need to travel to Mustofar to visit with Vader one on one?  Doesn’t this universe have long distance holographic communication?  Wouldn’t that be safer for Krinnic, because he wouldn’t be inconveincing Vader?  And yes, there is a very intense scene at the end where Vader kills several rebel soldiers.  This where the story changes differ from the original Star Wars.  In the original movie, Leia says that she is a part of a diplomatic mission.  Kinda hard to make that lie now, when Vader actually watches you rip your ship away from his ship.

A better movie would have used Vader in the background, not put him out front.

Star Wars brings back cutting edge technology.

Bringing Peter Cushing back with the combination of an actor and CGI was landmark work. Being a Star Wars nerd I clearly knew that this was CGI. I knew that Cushing has passed away  in 1994, so anytime his character Grand Moff Tarkin. It really was great, and the reason I know that is that other people, i.e. non-Star Wars fanatics didn’t realized that the character was CGI, they didn’t know any better. That’s the goal. The only reason we know that Tarkin is CGI, is because we know the actor is dead

Even the young Carrie Fisher scene was beyond belief. Why do I think this? As I walked out the movie I heard one parton explain to who seemed to be his mother, that it wasn’t a look alike actress. It fooled regular movie goers. That is mind-blowing.

Overall, Rogue One is clearly an exercise in treading water while we wait to see Episode 8 where the story will continue to a place where we don’t know what is going to happen and that is much more interesting.    

 

Cover for my next book–Irving Williams and the Mystery of the Lighthouse Ghost

 

My newest book Irving Williams and the Lighthouse Ghost is coming soon.  

Here is the cover.

I got the cover from a designer I found on Designcrowd.com.  It was the first time that I used Designcrowd, here designers send you the designs first and then you select the winning design.  You can even purchase several designs, if you have the budget.  There were a couple of other designs that I liked, and I wanted to reward the designers for working on the designs.

I posted what I thought I wanted.  But this designer read between the lines and came up with something I never would have thought of.  My wife said that it looks like a classic children’s story.  So, it won the contest.

The book will be ready soon for prerelease.