Search Results for: movie review

Grab Bag: July Edition

The following will be randomness to the extreme. Much like falling down the internet rabbit hole, this is my brain this day and some of the days before that and on some of the days before even that. You may exit the blog post feeling confused and possibly have a hint of madness now occupying part of your brain. I apologize in advance.

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I got a chance to watch the Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck documentary. My quick review would be to watch until about the point Courtney Love shows up and then turn it off. And that is not because I dislike Courtney Love, but mostly because of the way the documentary is set up. The first half has tons of stuff about Kurt’s early life, tape recordings that they animate, shots of his journals, etc. But once Courtney shows up things get weird. The animated stuff stops being informative, and I think we lose track of who he is (and who he is trying to be).

Maybe the director is making the movie weird because that’s how Kurt’s life suddenly became? It just didn’t work all that well for me.

But my favorite little moment from the film was a shot of his journal which read as follows:

Don’t read my diary when I’m gone

When you wake up, please read my diary

Look through my things

And figure me out.

 

I love this idea that sharing the thoughts you would save for your diary… instead you want people to really know you by reading those strange and maddening and difficult and every other kind of thoughts. We all struggle to be understood by those we love, and sometimes it only takes telling them what our fears and wishes are.

Sometimes.

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I’m obsessed with Pirates right now. I don’t know how it happened or why exactly (well, part of it is Edge of the World that I’m desperately trying to finish up). I’m scouring the web for good pirate movies to watch or rewatch (last week I worked my way through the first 3 Pirates of the Caribbean movies (shut up, I like them) and bought the 4th one, because why not (and Amazon put it on sale for cheap). I need to rewatch Master and Commander, but then I don’t really know if we’ve had any good ones for decades. I also need to watch Black Sail (sadly I don’t have Starz).

Anyone know any other good Pirate related movies or tv shows? Gotta ride this wave for as long as my obsession lasts.

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Edge of the World continues to be this monster of a novel that has forced me to examine how I do things and come up with better options. And while I’ve been doing an editing pass over the first 2/3 of the book – I haven’t done my full 1st pass edit on it. That’s when I basically do a search and destroy for various words that can be removed or replaced. Crutches that I might have when I write. That sort of thing. I have a Word document with my list compiled from the 10% Solution and random other sources.

Then I stumbled onto this and saw many of the words and phrases I try to locate, so hopefully I’ve been on the right track!

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Never hurts to have a second opinion.

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Lastly a link for you to also send you down the Rabbit Hole of the Internet:

What If?

Basically if there is some random question you had about the universe or people or habits or whatever… chances are you aren’t the only one who’s thought of the question and these nice people have decided to do their best in order to answer it.

At the very least it will give all of us more useless knowledge to bust out at parties or at work or when you want to torture someone.

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That’s all I have for now. Go read. Go write. Go explore.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Notes from my Nightstand

If you read my post last week, you know I have full schedule at the moment. Even so, I find time to read. Reading is my pre-sleep ritual. It’s how I wind down. Here’s what I’ve read over the last couple months and also what I’m reading now.

Books

The Martian by Andy WeirThe Martian by Andy Weir (Kindle)

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

The astronomy lover in me and young girl who grew up with a NASA cousin devoured this book. I can’t recall the last science rich novel I read. It was a treat! The Martian wasn’t all science though. There was plenty of tension, but Watney’s humor helped keep things balanced. The ending may not have been much of a surprise, but I was still gripping my Kindle till the end.

The book is already being adapted for film. Matt Damon is playing Watney. I’m not so keen on this choice and now that I’ve read the book, I’m not sure I even have a desire to see it as a movie. I already know what’s going to happen!

The Genome by Sergei LukyanekoThe Genome by Sergei Lukyanenko (Kindle eARC)

Five months after the horrific accident that left him near death and worried that he’d never fly again, master-pilot Alex Romanov lands a new job: captaining the sleek passenger vessel Mirror.  Alex is a spesh—a human who has been genetically modified to perform particular tasks.

More Science Fiction! This time from one of my favorite authors, Sergei Lukyanenko, author of the Night Watch series. The Genome was not what I expected but I still enjoyed the story. Reading translated works is sometimes a challenge. Translations can alter the original flow of a sentence or a scene, but I was able to overlook that here. What I enjoy most from Lukyanenko’s novels are his characters. The Genome is a quicky SciFi novel that weaves a galactic mystery (there’s a Sherlock Holmes spesh!).

 

What to read next… I’m never without options on my Kindle or even the bookshelves in my room. The top three books in my Kindle are: Beyond the Gate (featuring a story by Tessera’s John R McGuire), Engraved on the Eye by Saldin Ahmed, and The Imago Sequence by Laird Barron. All of these are short story collections.

Comics

My current pull list at my local comic shop features:

 

 Art Related

Fantasy IllustratorI always have art related reading materials close at hand, though they are not usually my first choice for bedtime reading. My newest purchase is the latest installment of Fantasy Illustrator from ImagineFX. This is the traditional media edition (pencil, oils, acrylics and more). I have never bought an issue of ImagineFX that didn’t teach me something. These magazines are worth every bit of that $17.99 (and more for the big issues).

Top Nine Most Inspiring Things Ever

 

Top Nine List of Things That if They Don’t Inspire You, You’re Just an Awful Human Being 🙂

Disclaimer: It’s true, being a black-hearted SOB, I struggle to find inspiration. However, after I started digging deep, I realized that while inspirational posters make me ill, happy couples hurt my eyes, and cute puppies only make me think of Chinese food…somewhere deep inside I want to be inspired like the rest of humanity.

So here you go:

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Chicago at night. (Or whatever huge city is closest to your heart.) I recently returned to my home city, and found it huger, bustlier, and more delicious than ever. I’m a wilderness lover, but there’s something about epic urban sprawl that makes me shiver in a good way.

 

 

Deep Space

I mean…holy shit.

Outer space. I recently watched Interstellar (in the aforementioned Chicago.) I won’t stuff a review down your sockets, but I will say that the thought of all those stars sprinkled into the void is quite possibly the most inspiring and terrifying thing ever. Just watch the tv series Cosmos and tell me it doesn’t make you feel small.

 

 

 

  CloudsSun

 Clouds. As kids we saw faces in them. As adults, they change our moods based on their thickness, their movement, and their greyness. Clouds are the personality of the sky, and rain the Earth’s most raw emotion.

 

 

  Music

 Music. I’m tempted to go on about how contemporary music will destroy the universe, but no…not today. I prefer massive guitar solos, bottomless soundtracks, and booming orchestras, but whatever works for you, works for me. Unless it’s Bieber. Or Miley. Or Toby Keith. But whatever else.

 

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And yes, that’s the G Man. He’s shooting webs. In case you wondered.

 

 Kids. All of ’em. I was reminded of how awesome kids are during this year’s Halloween. While we adults worry about how slutty or funny our costumes should be, kids roam the neighborhood free of concern, hunting for the next piece of candy.  I just wanna be ten years old again, my pillowcase brimming with taffy, candied apples, and cash (yeah, they used to give out hard cash in my ‘hood.) Anyone else with me?

 

 

 

 

 

ALightInMoria

A good movie watched alone. I’m on a kick of going to the movies alone. And while it’s awesome to have a friend or date to watch a good flick with, it’s downright awesome to do it solo. For those who haven’t tried it, I heartily suggest you try. You don’t have to share your popcorn. You don’t have to field questions about the plot or whether the female lead is hotter than your date. Alone in the theater, you can just sit your ass down and melt into the story.  

 

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Big ass open fields. Or whatever landscape does it for you. I love the woods and the mountains, but there’s something about an open prairie or endless field that leaves me feeling utterly vulnerable to the sky. Vulnerability is good for the mind, especially for artists. Unless you let the world in, you’ll never put anything out.

 

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The Moon. Not to be confused with outer space, the Moon is something special. It pulls at us figuratively and literally. It’s there during the day sometimes, but holds dominion over the night. Once I finally finish my not-so-super-secret project of disabling all the streetlamps in my neighborhood, I’ll be able to see the Moon all the better. Anyone got any industrial strength wire cutters?

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Yes, it is what you think it is. And yes, it’s coming soon.

 Finishing a plan long-laid. Ever built something that took days instead of hours? Ever invested years into a project? What’s it feel like when you’ve finished? Pretty…f’n…amazing, right? For the Tyrants of the Dead series, I wrote 1.1 million words and later pared it down to 700k. It’s taken me the better part of 12 years to complete. In a few months, the final book comes out. Satisfaction on a stick.

 

Until next time,

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Author of The Sleepers and Old Man of Tessera

 

Take a look, it’s in a book…

One of the things I always hear from other writers is that they never get the chance to read anymore. Sometimes it is due to the time investment. Sometimes it is because they don’t want a writer’s style to infect their own while they are in the midst of writing. And it is true. When it comes to free time, I’m pretty much trying to grab those extra seconds in actual book/comic writing. Why on earth would I take those precious minutes and use them on someone else. Words need to be typed!

But… but… there is also this thought that you have to keep reading. Like a fish, you have to keep finding new and different works to inspire you. So if you go completely cold turkey you’re bound to get stilted.

Or the better part of reading others is seeing how they used a technique and finding ways to incorporate them into your own writing toolbox. I’m still in my infancy of writing. There are tons of things I am learning and still need to learn to become a better writer.

So all that is my way of saying that I still find a little time to read, here or there. At lunch, on a plane, at the beach, when I get knocked out early playing poker, or sometimes on a lazy Sunday. What follows are the last five books I’ve read and maybe a little mini-review… or just whatever comes to me.

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Horns – Joe Hill

For those of you not in the know, this is Steven King’s son (yes, that Steven King). That put him on my radar, but this book… I believe his second full length novel (I’m too lazy to look it up)… for some reason it appealed to me. The basic plot is that our main guy, Ig, wakes up with what seem like horns growing from his head, some missing (drunk) time, and suddenly everyone wants to share their sins with him.

That was all it took. Maybe because I had been toying around with an idea kinda like that. Taking the idea of someone being able to see your darkest secret, but I had no idea where to go with it. Hill not only knows which way to go, but gives you a very flawed character who you are not sure if you should be cheering for him.

write publish repeat

Write. Publish. Repeat. – Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant with David Wright

Non-fiction book from the hosts of The Self-publishing Podcast. I’ve been listening to their podcast since episode 1 (it is on 106 as of last week). And in many ways this book takes much of their technique, much of what they’ve discussed on their podcast, and presents it in a very organized way (which sometimes the podcast just can’t do).

But why should I, or anyone else, listen to these guys? Well, just based on their output alone. One pair (Platt and Wright) put out serialized books on a weekly basis over the course of 2 years, and in the last year Platt and Truant have published something like 2 million words. So, yeah, maybe they know something about writing.

And that’s the key bit to learn from them. They put butt in the chair and write and finish that work, and then move on to the next project. They don’t slow down, they don’t doubt, they just do.

Update – They are also the guys who are trying something completely new with a Kickstarter where you get to see exactly how they do what they do. From story meetings to the actual raw writing and everything between, they are pulling the curtain back. The Kickstarter is almost done, but I supported it if only to see how someone else does “IT”.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1027829739/fiction-unboxed-change-the-world-with-a-story

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Wool – Hugh Howey

This is the story/novella that put Howey on the map. He went from being just another indy writer to being one of THE INDY WRITERS (and I think he’s managed to get a few offers since then). The story of a post-apocalyptic world where humanity now lives in silos, closed off from a polluted (radiation filled) world. But there is more going on than meets the eye, and the Silo Sheriff has decided that it is time for him to leave that place.

But the biggest takeaway for me was how this story felt like one I might have read from a Ray Bradbury. Howey gets in, lays the groundwork for the world, and then gets out. And the ending… well, it was excellent.

He’s since gone and added on to the world. I haven’t read the rest, but it is on the to-do list.

WofP

The Wolves of Paris – Michael Wallace

Did you know that in 1450 a pack of wolves terrorized Paris? This is true world history. They killed like 40 people, and it took a concentrated effort by the citizens to finally kill them all.

Wallace tweaks this fact slightly: what if they were werewolves?

Yep, you had me at hello.

Wallace manages to weave a story that I think works within what history says while still making it not just a list of dates or events, but tying it all together into a cohesive story.

And werewolves, people! It’s got werewolves!

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John Dies at the End – David Wong

I don’t read “comedy” books. Most of the time I want the humor to be very light in my books. But this book, which, if I am honest, I only picked up because of the clever title, manages to work the humor in through one character: John (from the title… I wonder what is going to happen at the end?). There is a lot of self-awareness going on in the novel. The two main characters seem to realize that not only is what they are dealing with “crazy”, but that they really shouldn’t be bothering at various points.

Hmm… I feel like I’m not really doing this one justice, but it is one of the few books that I laughed out loud at when the shit hit the fan because of their reactions.

It also got turned into a movie, which captures much of the “feel” of the book, but is a poor substitute for the real thing.

 

So there you go. I would say these are the things on my bookshelf, but they are in my Kindle… so my virtual bookshelf. What might you be reading?

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

Chad’s Top Six Video Games of All Time

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Fine. If Jeremy and Amanda want to list their favorite video games of all time, I guess I’ll get in on it too. Like a lot of people my age, my first gaming system was an Atari 2600. After that, we actually got an Atari 5200, then a Nintendo Entertainment System. After that, I stopped with console gaming for a long time. Not that I stopped playing games; I just played them on my PC.

It wasn’t until I was in the market for a blu-ray player that I broke down and bought another console, the PS3, which got me back into gaming on a fairly regular basis, for better and worse.

I have mixed feelings about games. They are surely one of this era’s greatest entertainments, and the sales numbers surely show that. They’re not ‘just for kids’ anymore and have reached heights that me as a kid playing “Lode Runner” on my dad’s Apple II could have never imagined. But I’m also not sure about the validity of them as an art form. To me, art expresses a vision by its creator(s) and games are by nature interactive, meaning that everyone’s experience is different. Also, and this is the big one, games are tremendous time suck. You want to experience time travel? Pop in Skyrim or Tetris or even a Lego game and BAM! before you know it you’re in the future. They are not good for productivity and I have to watch myself when it comes to buying and playing games. I often use them as a reward for finishing a chapter or something. Because I could spend all day every day playing them. They’re like Vegas except you can play in your underwear or less.

Note: I in general don’t like shooters (especially online – ugh), fighting games, racers, platformers, or puzzle games. There are exceptions to all of these, of course, but my tastes lean towards RPGs, Strategy World-Builders, and the newer narrative-driven games. That said, here are six of my favorites. Not in any kind of order. Just games that mean the most to me, the ones I had the most fun playing, the ones that stick with me.

STAR WARS: TIE FIGHTER (LucasArts, 1994)

133291163511TIE-Fighter-Entry-14-Screenshot

Being a giant Star Wars nerd, there are inevitably two Star Wars games on my list. Don’t get my wrong. There have been tons of horrible games made from the franchise, but there have also been a handful of brilliant ones. The first on my list is TIE Fighter. I can’t even explain how exciting the release of 1993’s X-Wing was for me. I think the last Star Wars game I had played was The Empire Strikes Back on my Atari. By then I had played Flight Simulator and arcade-y flying games like Afterburner, but X-Wing put me in the cockpit of one of the series’ most iconic ships, sent me on missions for the good of the Rebel Alliance, and let me blow the Empire to hell what felt like (at the time) a very realistic simulation. It couldn’t get any better, but then it did. TIE Fighter took the same mechanics of X-Wing, improved upon them, and let you be… the bad guy! And not Darth Vader or the Emperor or anything like that. Just a simple TIE Fighter pilot, doing this job fighting against what he thinks are the violent rebels trying to take down his government. The gameplay was better than X-Wing and the combination of twitch-based combat and resource management (deciding whether to put your power in your engines, guns, or shields, if you were lucky enough to be in an advanced model that had shields) made and exciting experience that felt decidedly Star Wars. There would be a couple more games in the series, and they were good, but the premise wasn’t visited again until the Jump to Lightspeed expansion for the Star Wars: Galaxies MMO, which was a good space combat game that got overlooked due to its parent game’s major problems. I hope EA (who I think has Star Wars now) revisits something like the X-Wing/TIE Fighter series again, because I would love to get behind the stick of a TIE Interceptor once more, this time in full 1080p with 7.1 Surround. Or, even better, with the Oculus Rift!

THE CIVILIZATION SERIES (Various Publishers, 1991-2013)

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I love world-building, resource managing, so-called “God” games. From Populus to the first SimCity to Simpsons Tapped Out on my iPad, I just can’t get enough. The pinnacle of this genre has always been Sid Meier’s Civilization series. Starting off with a single city, the goal is to explore a giant map peopled with other nations, expand your borders through conquest or other means, evolve technologically, feed your citizens, fight wars, and build monuments. With multiple ways to win, every game is different and so fun and addicting. Being able to play as (now with Civ V) dozens upon dozens of historical figures, with each civilization having different strengths and weaknesses, is just the ticket for a history nerd like me who prefers turn-based gameplay to twitch, both because I enjoy having time to think out my strategy and because I my hand-eye sucks. Civilization V, the latest version, with its two amazing expansion packs, is the most-played game in my Steam catalog. I don’t play it every day, but, when I do play it, it ends up being for days. Warning: this game will cause you to ignore your loved ones and you will suffer from the curse of “just…one…more…turn…”.

STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC (LucasArts, 2003)

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The other Star Wars game on this list is hardly a controversial call. Widely regarded as one of the best games ever, I can’t disagree. Made by Bioware, the folks that would later bring us the amazing Mass Effect series, KOTOR (as it is commonly called) manages to be a perfect RPG and a great Star Wars game at the same time. By setting it in the way-way-way distant past, thousands of years before the movies, the game developers were able to create a world and story completely unique, one where they didn’t have to worry about stepping on mainstream Star Wars continuity, while still keeping a very Star Wars feel. This game also gave you the ability to make choices, to decide whether you were going to end up as a Jedi or a Sith based on your actions. It felt revolutionary at the time and Bioware would later perfect this with Mass Effect, where your choices not only affected your character but the entire game world. (Thinking about it, I should just mark this spot “Bioware” because I love their games so much.) A must-play game that I think you can still get on Steam. It may seem a little dated now, like all games do after a while, but it is an exciting and deep game that presents you a galaxy far far away that is both familiar and refreshingly new.

MVP BASEBALL 2005 (EA Sports, 2005)

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My favorite sports are: 1) Baseball. 2) Baseball. 3) Baseball. 4) Football. 5) Baseball. MVP 05 from EA Sports was the last MLB game they ever put out for the PC. This was important to me because, at the time, I only gamed on my computer. When they announced they wouldn’t be making any more, I was devastated, but soon I was introduced to the world of PC modding. Modding is where people out in the world create new content for existing PC games. This can only be done on PC games because consoles are very insular creatures and their creators don’t want you messing with their insides. But with MVP 05, a great game with a deep franchise mode (I played 20 seasons with my Cincinnati Reds), the modding community allowed you to update the rosters every year, even if EA did not. They improved the graphics as time went on, to try to keep up with more modern games. In fact, nearly a decade after its release, there is still a very healthy modding community for MVP 05. Right now, you can download rosters for the upcoming season, as well as updated uniform designs and stadiums. The MLB: The Show games are great baseball sims, with amazing graphics and animations, but they still aren’t MVP to me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it is and will always be my favorite sports game. I haven’t played it in a while, but I still have my save file in case I want to pick it back up and play season #21. One day I will.

ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM (Bethesda Game Studios, 2011)

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Not much to be said about Skyrim. Dragon Warrior. Baldur’s Gate. Fallout. Grand Theft Auto. Final Fantasy. Half-Life. They were all leading up to this, perfecting the pieces that Bethesda would combine into the ultimate (so far) open-world RPG. I have gone out of my way to NOT count how many hours I have pumped into Skyrim because I’m afraid it would make me sad. It’s just… you feel like you can do ANYTHING in this game. You can play for a hundred hours and not see everything. I like the main story, I like the side quests, but mostly I just like walking around, seeing what trouble I can get into. There’s nothing like walking through the woods and coming upon some bandits fighting a bear, knowing that this is not a scripted event but something that just happened, and sitting back until one falls so you can swoop in and take out the other. It’s this “real world” aspect of Skyrim that appeals to so many people. The countless books you can find and read. The deep, deep history and mythology. The detail. It’s not perfect but I think it shows where RPGs can go (can’t wait for The Witcher III, which, for the first time, is going to be completely open-world) and I for one can’t wait for them to get there. I may even play the Elder Scrolls MMO, although I’m not sure. Not really my scene. But if that’s going to be my only chance to return to that wonderful fantasy world, then I might not have a choice.

THE LAST OF US (Naughty Dog / Sony, 2013)

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I know this game is super-super new but it can’t be denied. Just can’t. Naughty Dog has been making great games for a while now, with their previous peak being the amazing Uncharted 2, but with The Last of Us they’ve charted (pun intended I guess) whole new ground. I’m not going to talk too much about this game because it is still out there, and viable, and DLC is still coming out, but I will say this: it’s the first game that ever made me cry. The story of grizzled Joel and his surrogate daughter Ellie is a moving and harrowing adventure that you will never forget. Yes, it’s a violent game, sometimes to its detriment, but the characters and the story are so well drawn against a bleak as hell backdrop. And, unlike the also wonderful Bioshock: Infinite, I feel the action in the game, all the killing Joel must do, feels… necessary. I buy it. One knock against Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series is that he is our “hero”, yet the actions pieces deem it necessary for him to kill hundreds of men along his adventure. Same with the new (and surprisingly good) Tomb Raider game. But in The Last of Us, I never felt like I was shooting just for shooting’s sake. These two characters were struggling to survive and every shot fired, every shiv shoved into the neck of a monster, felt necessary to me. I don’t want to get to much into it, like I said. Just play it. It’s the greatest narrative game every made, a perfect send-off for this last generation of gaming consoles. But, be warned, when you see the giraffes, have some tissue ready. You’re going to need it.

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Coming up fast on this list is TellTale Games’ Walking Dead series of adventure games. The use of choice in those simple point-and-click episodes is highly effective and instantly engaging. The only reason it’s not on this list is because it is still going on (I’m about to start episode 2 of Season 2). Also, TellTale is working on a Game of Thrones game in the same mold and, if it’s up to snuff with The Walking Dead, it may be the greatest thing of all things and all time.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Tetris, Uncharted 2, TMNT: The Arcade Game, Assassin’s Creed 2/Brotherhood/4 , The Legend of Zelda, Yar’s Revenge, Tempest, Metroid, Metroid Prime, Red Dead Redemption, GTA 3, Vice City & 5, Goldeneye, Final Fantasy, Limbo, Shadow of the Colossus, Age of Empires, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Star Wars: Dark Forces, Dragon Warrior, The Mass Effect Trilogy, Bioshock, Bioshock: Infinite, The X-Com series, Mike Tyson’s PunchOut, AfterBurner (Arcade Version), Baldur’s Gate II, The Witcher 1 & 2, and Ducktales.

A Half-Assed and Mostly Sarcastic Plea to Congress

bad motivator

If one more person utters the phrase “SPOILER ALERT”, be it in person or in text or on a podcast (“How Did This Get Made” excluded), be it used earnestly or dripping with irony, I’m going to pop a motivator like a beat-up red astromech droid. (see above) I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know what blogger or TV writer or forum nerd coined it, but I want it to die. I don’t want someone to splatter it on my Facebook page when I make an off-hand comment about something that happened on TV three weeks ago, nor do I want it “hilariously” screamed when someone mentions the end of Old Yeller or something.

The dog gets rabies. The kid who people say looks like me has to shoot him. We all cry. The End.

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The reason I rail against this phrase and, more accurately, the thought and philosophy behind it, is simple. I love talking about movies and TV and comics and video games and books and stuff. I love waxing poetic, gushing like a fanboy, spitting vitriol, arguing, feeling smug because I know I’m right, acting smug because I know I’m wrong, changing someone’s mind on something, having mine changed, cracking jokes, tearing something down, hurling rampant hyperbole.

It’s one of the great joys of art: the shared experience. When you see a great film, you want others to see it, too. Why? Because you want them to experience it, to enjoy or not enjoy it, and then get back to you and talk about it. Did you like it? Great! Let’s talk about how great it is. Did you hate it? Great! Let’s talk about what a fucking moron you are and how I misjudged you as a person of worth!

After the final moments of “Breaking Bad” aired, I immediately called my brother so we could talk about it for hours. I always want to know who’s seen what, so we can start a discourse about it, even if it’s just a few text messages. If I were a more annoying person (not to say that I’m not already), the only thing I would say to anybody right now is “Have you seen Her yet?”. To my mom, the mailman, the guy asking me for change outside of Walgreens. “Have you seen Her yet?”. If I bumped into President Obama on the street: “Have you seen Her yet?”.

Because I loved that movie so much and want to talk about it.

We used to call this Water Cooler Entertainment. The stuff you saw the night or weekend before that you couldn’t wait to stand around with the people you worked with and yak about. Whether it was last night’s Johnny Carson or the Falcons game or the “M*A*S*H” finale or whoever got kicked off “American Idol” last night. “Lost” was the perfect water cooler show. Almost every week it delivered something, be it surprising, infuriating, terrifying, stupid, cool, or unnecessarily opaque. But it was meaty. Two or more “Lost” fans could chatter on for hours, spinning themselves in circles trying to figure out what they had just seen and unsuccessfully predicting what they would see next.

And that was the other thing about this type of entertainment: the wait. Especially with TV. What is going to happen next week? What did that cliffhanger mean? Are they ever going to pay off the Walt storyline? (The answer to that one is ‘no’.) “Who shot Mr. Burns?”. I love the wait.

But a nefarious and seductive force has come along and destroyed water cooler entertainment.

It is collectively known as On-Demand.

On-Demand includes DVRs, Netflix, DVDs, the internet, and, yes, your cable company’s ON-Demand service. Anything that allows you to watch what you want, when you want, completely independent of theatrical releases and television scheduling. It is what gave birth to the concept of binge watching; why wait seven days between episodes when I can just spend a whole weekend shoving them down my throat like Joey Chestnut? Never mind that stops it from being TV and turns it into a 10 to 20 hour movie, the practice destroys what makes TV great. It’s a long game. Binge watching makes the bulwark of suspense, the cliffhanger, irrelevant as a storytelling device. And can one really absorb the greatness or badness of a show with no time to digest in between doses?

I love my DVR. I love my Netflix. I have binge-watched many, many times. I am not arguing against On-Demand. I take advantage of it daily. But because of it, we have become a culture of spoiler-phobes. Before, if you missed a show, you missed it. When this happened…

bobby-in-the-shower

…you either saw it or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you found out about it the next day. That simple. Appointment TV. As soon as something aired, as soon as a movie opened, it became part of the culture. But not anymore. We don’t have to watch things at a certain time, on a certain night, in a certain year. We can watch them whenever. Which is great. Except when it’s not.

I was on a plane once coming home to San Francisco when a passenger requested the pilot not make any announcements about the Giants game because he was DVRing it. I’ve genuinely upset people by referencing the ends of films like Psycho and Glory. One time I let slip something that happened in book four or five of Song of Ice and Fire and made a “Game of Thrones” TV fan look like I had just shot her rabid yellow lab.

What it really comes down to is this: “BUT I HAVEN’T WATCHED IT YET!”

I realize that there are pressing concerns in the world. We need to find a solution in Palestine, do something about climate change, and fix the voting process for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but first I think we need to tackle this:

I am calling on the US Congress, or maybe even the U.N., to decide on an official world-wide spoiler statute of limitations.

Urban Dictionary defines a spoiler thusly:

urban

Urban Dictionary? That’s not real. Okay. Here’s what Miriam-Webster has to say.

websterhighlighted

I would like to add a time limit to these definitions. Now, we would all agree the moments depicted below are no longer “spoilers”:

imagespsycho-2fredo-kissstar_wars_episode_v_the_empire_strikes_back_1980_1200x755_67251

Even if you haven’t seen the works in question, the images and words from them have so become part of our cultural heritage that they are incapable of surprising you. Anyone today even half-aware of movies would never be shocked by the end of Psycho like audiences in 1960 were. And you may never watch that old black and white movie about that everyone says is the greatest film of all time but when pressed you probably know the name of his damn sled. These things are just…known.

But what about things a little later? Am I allowed to Tweet a reference to what’s really going between these two?

Fight_Club_1999

Or what happens after this?

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Or this big secret? Are we still not supposed to bring it up in mixed company?

thesixthsense

The most recent of those films is 15 years old. But if you haven’t seen it, and I told you the end, it would be a spoiler, would it not? But so many people know it, when does it stop being taboo?

“BUT I HAVEN’T WATCHED IT YET!”

And when it comes to recent stuff, it’s dangerous waters.

At what point can we openly talk about this?

GOTRW

Or how this ended?

breaking-bad-tweets-top

The biggest minefield in TV right now is “The Walking Dead”. Because of the nature of the show, every episode is a possible big episode. Someone can die at any moment, not just on season-finale night. Seems like the only person allowed to talk about “The Walking Dead” after it airs is Chris Hardwick.

the-walking-dead-season-4-rick-grimes-2

I get it. You DVR a show and don’t get to it the night it airs but still want to enjoy it. Fine. I’m with you. The week after “Breaking Bad” ended, it was only proper manners not to talk about the ending to anyone who wanted to see it who hadn’t yet. But if someone is just starting to watch it now, from the beginning, do you have to dance around them? I know Song of Ice and Fire readers feel a responsibility to not ruin anything for the viewers of the show. Because the show is great and we’re enjoying it, too, and don’t want to be a dick and tell you how it ends (not that it will ever end. Write, George, write!).

But when can we start talking about The R** W****** without first checking in on everyone in earshot? A week after it airs? A month? A year? Or do we have to wait for it to come out on home video, seeing as some people wait on HBO shows and binge-watch them?

All I’m asking for is a reasonable expiration date. Because I love talking/posting/blogging about movies and TV. Because critics have become so fearful of giving away something that they don’t really tell you anything at all about what they’re reviewing. Because I’m so sick and tired of hearing someone yell “SPOILERS!” any time you bring up something they themselves haven’t seen.

I once was waiting in line for a movie. I made a joke about Patrick Swayze dying in Ghost and the person behind me in line went, not joking, “Ugh. Spoilers. I’ve never seen that movie.” Now, never mind that the movie is called “Ghost” and that his death happens quite early in the film. The movie is nearly 25 years old. You don’t get to “spoiler” me on a film older than you.

Ghost Patrick Swayze

“BUT I HAVEN’T WATCHED IT YET!”

So, I ask Congress and the President to get on this. Do the right thing. End this nightmare. If you create a federally sanctioned definition of “spoiler”, one that has hard-and fast rules as to when that status no longer applies to a work of art, I will abide by it. But until then:

Jack freezes to death. The cripple is Keyser Söze. He was dead the whole time. Rocky loses. Rocky wins. Rocky wins again. And yet again, this time in Russia. The 54th gets slaughtered. Lincoln dies. Malcolm X dies. Gandhi dies. She’s her daughter AND her sister! They named the dog Indiana. Colonel Blake’s chopper was shot down over the Sea of Japan; there were no survivors. The maniacs, they blew it up! Damn them! God damn them all to hell! Finkle is Einhorn. Maggie shot Mr. Burns. Will has to go and see about a girl. Rick puts Ilsa and Victor on the plane and walks away. All she had to do is click her damn heels together three times. And Soylent Green is people.

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Aim to Fall Short

 

The_Book_of_Mormon_poster_2_

Before I get onto the subject at hand (the bravest and boldest thing I’ve ever done: praising the most-praised thing of the last decade), three quick bits:

1) I missed my last two posts due to the holidays, traveling, lack of wi-fi, and a harsh but luckily short head cold. Won’t happen again.

2) More importantly, I want to say congratulations to John McGuire for releasing his first novel, The Dark That Follows. I was one of the few that got to read the first draft, and I can’t wait to see what he’d done to it since. Pick it up and support the next square in this artistic quilt called Tessera we’re trying to sew.

3) Belated Happy Holidays.

Now that that’s over with, I move on to the point of this post:

I FINALLY GOT TO SEE THE BOOK OF MORMON THIS WEEKEND.

WARNING: We at Tessera have a No Religion / No Politics rule (which I endorse – I say enough biased and antagonizing shit in my own life), but, due to the nature of The Book of Mormon, the topic of religion will come up, but only in passing. However, if I say anything that I think anyone can at vaguely-kinda-at-all interpret as being maybe offensive to someone anywhere, I will write it in bold. Hopefully I won’t have to use that, but I figure it’s good to have it as a fail safe. Okay? Cool. Onto talking about the play…

So I don’t believe in God.

Wow. That came in useful right-quick, huh?

I state the above not to provoke, but because I think it’s pertinent when I talk about how much I love The Book of Mormon. Because, contrary to the opinions of a few, it is not an anti-religious work. Far from it, actually. It actually endorses having some sort of belief system, and a community based around it, to help you get through life. It’s primary thesis seems to be that while, yes, most religions look super-silly from an objective view, that doesn’t make them any less real to their practitioners, and it doesn’t mean they’re not an important part of the human condition. It is actually a plea for religious tolerance; the most Unitarian, “whatever gets you there gets you there” piece of popular art I have ever seen.

What The Book of Mormon is, though, is a searing screed against fundamentalism. It, not religion, is the true target of its derision and cutting humor (as well as a number of other topics).

But see, I’m just not non-religious. I am also largely anti-religious.

And again, I say that only to express that I should hate The Book of Mormon just based on its general conceit.

But it is impossible to do so. To hate The Book of Mormon. And not just because it is hilarious and smart, with curtain-to-curtain memorable songs and characters, and manages to be shockingly funny and genuinely moving…sometimes at the same time, but because it makes its case so well it almost wins me over to it. It makes me see the value of faith and religion. More than anything ever has, really. At the end of the play, for a few brief moments, I felt like a person of faith, moved by the words and sounds and ideas presented on stage.  I shrugged it off quickly, but still, for a man like me, that’s quite an accomplishment.

To those unfamiliar, The Book of Mormon is the multiple-Tony Award winning musical created by Trey Parker & Matt Stone (“South Park”) and Robert Lopez ( Avenue Q ). It opened on Broadway in 2011 to some of the best reviews in the history of theater and became an instant sensation. Tickets were both nearly impossible and impossibly expensive to get. The production I saw, at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco, was part of its second U.S. tour. And it was still sold out, three years later, and the balcony seat I had was not cheap. This is a production that will be going on for a very long time.

bookofmormon-29e2b4c3aa2823816edf3d11925282cf13c08171-s6-c30The play is the story of two young Mormon boys about to go out on their first mission. Elder Price is a superstar and is destined to change the world with the power of his faith, destined, he believes, to do “something incredible.” Elder Price is awesome. Just ask him.

Elder Cunningham, who Price is paired up with on their mission, is not awesome. Well, he is, really, but he’s not an awesome Mormon. In fact, he hasn’t even read the book. And he’s also a compulsive liar, prone to making things up and telling stories, most of them cribbing characters from things like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. He is not a model Mormon; he is not a model anything.

The two men are sent to a village in Uganda to convert the Africans there to Mormonism. The place they arrive is in desolate shape: poor, hungry, ravaged by AIDS, and under the boot of a vicious local warlord obsessed with female circumcision. Elder Price, despite his iron clad faith and God-given ability, has a very hard time seeing how he can baptize these folks into the Church of Latter Day Saints. Drama, doubt, and disappointment ensue.

And also lots of singing and dancing and jokes and profanity and a hundred other things that will make you smile ear to ear.

That’s all I’m going to talk about the story. I knew most of it going in. Not from doing research, but from downloading the soundtrack from iTunes several years ago and listening to it constantly. I know every word of the soundtrack. Just the songs alone, without the benefit of the play, are still amazingly funny and tell a story. So, to be honest, I was already a fan of The Book of Mormon before I ever saw The Book of Mormon.

Obviously, this late into the show’s run, most of the original Broadway cast have moved on. The cast I saw was not the cast that originated the parts. But the players in the San Francisco production acquitted themselves fabulously (sorry. musical review. must use “fabulously” at least once). The Saturday night audience ate it up and I loved every second of it. One of the best musicals I have ever witnessed, maybe the best, my other favorite being Spring Awakening.

So, in other words, “thumbs up”. I’m SURE the folks from the play will be relieved to get my endorsement. It may be the thing they need to put them over the top.

But what I really want to talk about isn’t The Book of Mormon (“Could have fooled me, asshole!”) but how Book of Mormon made me feel afterwards. On the train back from the theater, I fell deeply into a state of joyful melancholy that I call the “Genius Hangover.”

It’s a feeling I have encountered many times.

Experiencing something so brilliant – a play, a movie, an art exhibit, a TV show, a video game, a concert, a public speech, anything – always leaves me with conflicting feelings. Firstly, I am elevated, inspired, and, well, fucking jazzed. I walk out punching the air, ready to go. Determined to run home and write. Juices flowing. Basking in the glory of art and what it can do and the limitless heights it can reach. You can’t wipe the smile off my face. I probably skip down the street. It is quite a high.

I mean, a HUMAN BEING made that. A human being like me–

But not like me. Uh-oh. This is where the second wave of emotions comes in to ruin the party, creeping up through the cracks in my joy and strangling it like weeds:

Jealousy and despair.

Because I will never make anything that good. Oh man. I just won’t. I mean, that is world-class. That is classic. It will be remembered for all time. It’s not that I just won’t make something like that, it’s that I can’t . The person or persons who made that are more talented than me. And that’s a hard pill of an egomaniacal narcissist (read: artist) like me. I know I’m talented. I think I’m very talented.

hemingway-for-whom-the-bell-tollsBut I’m not For Whom the Bell Tolls talented. Not Seven Samurai talented. Not “West Wing” talented.

I’m not The Book of Mormon talented.

So the high I get from seeing something amazing and the depression I get from seeing something amazing come together to create the slurry of a mood I call Genius Hangover. It usually sticks with me for a day or two. A combination of an overwhelming desire to create something great and a sadness that I’ll never create something as great as whatever inspired me.

Weird, I know. But it happens every time. I’m used to it. I just embrace it, let it happen, and it passes and I move on.

It also lead me to another one of my philosophies of writing, which I think makes the second one I’m going to bore you with, the first being my Theory of 10%.

This philosophy can best be summed up thusly: Aim to Fall Short.

I know it doesn’t seem very motivating; it will never be featured on a kitten poster in your office.

Here’s the thing. I will never be my artistic heroes. That’s okay. Because my heroes are bad-ass and legendary. Nobody is them but them. I’m sure most days they weren’t even them. I’ll take two examples from my list above: For Whom the Bell Tolls and “West Wing”.

I will never be Ernest Hemmingway. I will never be Aaron Sorkin.

But every word I ever write is and will be a futile attempt to be.

I believe that you should strive to be as good as your idols. Look at them (artistically) as what you want to be and go for it. You will fail. Oh, you will fail. I’m never going to write like Ernest Hemmingway. Do you know how I know that? HE’S FUCKING ERNEST HEMMINGWAY. It’s as simple as that.

But what I think is this: of course you will fall short of your heroes. And when you do fall short, when you’ve maximized your talent and done your best, that is where you find your voice. You will discover the parts of your work that are innately you, the things that come out no matter how hard you’re trying to be someone else. You’ll learn your strengths and weaknesses and how to capitalize on both.

Every sentence I write, I want it to be a good as my favorite passage in all of literature:

“The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”

Not one of them ever has been. Again, HE’S FUCKING ERNEST HEMMINGWAY.

But in that failure, in those cracks, I find myself.

This concept may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

Anyway. Aim to fall short. That’s a piece of writing advice you didn’t ask for and probably shouldn’t heed.

So, to wrap it up: Sorry I missed some posts, Book of Mormon kicks ass, and I’ll never be Ernest Hemmingway.

Book of Mormon

Over the next weeks I’ll be delivering my annual Best Films of the year list, as well as something on 21st Century Romance films (spurred by seeing Spike Jonez’s Her – talk about Genius Hangover), and maybe something about having fans or the closing of Blockbuster or what I made for dinner. I don’t know. Making this up as I go along.

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Under the Covers

It’s a cold, blustery day in North Georgia, but I’m fine with it. I’ve got something to be excited about.

This:

SoulOrbCoverPaperback

 Yep. For the holidays, I commissioned an alternate cover for Down the Dark Path. Our own Amanda Makepeace painted it. I feel it’s a sharp piece, perhaps grimmer than the previous cover, but closer to my own heart. The image is of the Soul Orb, the world-killing artifact appearing in the second half of the novel. This new version of the book is available for Kindles here:  DownTheDarkPath   The alternate-art softcover version will be available by Dec 22nd. Please check it out, read it, enjoy it, and review it. You’d be my hero.

Ok, so we’re done with that little sales pitch. Let’s move on. Reloading with the new art gives me a chance to talk about the book, and how I came to write it.

It all began during a bitterly cold winter night more than a decade ago. I’d long had the tale of Down the Dark Path locked away in the corner of my mind. Back then I called it Tyrants of the Dead, the title which would eventually become the name of the entire trilogy. That night, alone in my office, I sat down at my keyboard and wrote the prologue. I initially wrote it in first-person perspective, a comfortable mode for me, but ultimately I changed it to common third-person prose. This is gonna be a long, long book, I knew even then. First-person won’t quite cut it, imagery-wise.

And so, for the next six years, I hammered away. I knew where the story was going all along, but I’d yet to flesh out the dialogue, the side characters, the small settings, city names, and all the little intricacies that make a book a place you’d like to call home rather than just a pile of words. Six years. Yes, seriously. I wrote at night, during lunch at work, in the mornings before I went to work, and half of every weekend (whenever I wasn’t playing football, watching movies, or reading.) I was obsessed. I’m pretty sure I wrecked a few friendships and dug a shallow grave for my marriage along the way, but hey, I was writing, and that’s what made (makes) me happy.

And then, when I was finished, I rewrote it. The entire thing. I took 400,000 words and pared them down to 280,000. I killed off characters who previously survived, burned villages that’d somehow gone untouched, and turned what had once been a reasonably sunny fantasy novel into a work of fiction rife with shadows. This agonizing (but rewarding) process consumed another two years. I say consumed in a very literal fashion. The book ate up my life, chewed it up, and made entire swaths of time go away.

When I was done, I wrote two more books: Dark Moon Daughter and Nether Kingdom. I should’ve been searching for a publisher, an agent, or at least a print-on-demand service, but I preferred to write, write, and write. I turned the small stories locked away in my mind into a million-word trilogy, and later chopped it down to about 700,000 words. Dark Moon Daughter suffered a half-dozen title changes, but Nether Kingdom was always Nether Kingdom, by far the grimmest thing I’ve ever put to paper. The longer I wrote, the darker the subject matter turned. I touched on murder, betrayal, war, shattered hearts, suffering, and sacrifice. I went through all the emotions my characters did. I sketched out their clothes, their weapons, and I drew scores of maps detailing their travails. Told you I was obsessed.

Since the whole thing began, I’ve been asked a thousand times, “So what’s the trilogy all about?”

Well…  

Down the Dark Path is the story of a world-consuming medieval-era war told from the perspective of six different people. It’s non-high fantasy, meaning no elves, no dwarves, no dragons, through I do sprinkle in quite a bit of black magic. I stray from politics, and focus largely on actions and emotions. Some of the characters, particularly two of the protagonists and one of the villains, consume the lion’s share of the action, but the other three get plenty of screen time. One of the characters, the young woman Andelusia, ended up being my favorite. (Who knew I liked writing women so much? Not I.) In Dark Moon Daughter, I cut the main character roster down to four (actually more like 3.5.) One of their stories I tell exclusively via first-person journal entries, so the character is heard from but rarely seen. I thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace, and continued the journal tactic well into Nether Kingdom, the darkest entry in the series and by far my favorite.

Combined, these three titles have consumed nearly twelve years and countless nights in my man-cave. It’s been one hell of a ride, and now that I’ve committed to a prequel, it seems the end isn’t quite at hand. I’m currently in the final stages of publishing the second two books, and I’m thrilled. Commercial success isn’t really the aim. It’s a labor of love. To all writers everywhere, I suggest a similar outlook. Love the words first. Let all other considerations be secondary. I’m convinced finishing a book or sometimes even a chapter is like an orgasm, except it lasts longer and there’s less cleanup (sometimes.)

And finally, throughout the years I’ve posted tons of images online for the series. Here are my favorites:

Dead trees (2)

A pencil sketch I did a while back. It’s supposed to be the dread fortress Malog as viewed from a distance. Thank goodness I hired professionals to clean up my mess.

Very Dark Buildings

The dark city of Illyoc, hub of Furyon commerce. It’s here our heroes must venture to reach Malog. Art by Eileen Herron.

Furyon Orig

Eileen Herron’s first image of a Furyon knight standing beneath the Emperor’s storm. His armor is Dageni steel, and is nigh indestructible.

Soul Orb Small Image

Amanda Makepeace’s first imagining of the Soul Orb. Notice the subtle runes on the Orb. The language of the Ur becomes a focus of the second two novels in the series.

Ande Best Cover 600x800 for Kindle

Eileen Herron’s original cover. I have the painting in my man-cave. That’s Garrett Croft riding with the blue-flamed sword. The Soul Orb looks angrier here, its thorns reaching to claim Andelusia.

Dark Moon Daughter – Due out early 2014

Nether Kingdom – Due out late 2014

Until next time…

J Edward Neill

 

10 Questions plus a Giveaway!

I invited fans of my Facebook page to ask me anything. Here’s what they wanted to know!

Fly Fast by Amanda Makepeace1. Your art is eclectic…space scenes, fantasy, fractals, people, Loki, nature etc…do you have a favourite genre to paint?

I do enjoy exploring different genres! My interests are diverse as well, so it’s not surprising they bleed over into my art, but if I had to pick one it would be fantasy. Fantasy is a broad genre. It can have elements of Myth, nature and wildlife, people but all with the elements of Fantasy. I particularly love animals and creatures but also portraits. You can expect to see more of a focus in those areas.

2. If you didn’t paint or write, what do you think you would be doing instead?

As I mentioned in the previous answer, I have diverse interests. If I didn’t have any health issues I would love to work in archaeology/geology. See. Even now I can’t pick one! While at university I took Geology, Zooarchaeology, and The Geology of Archaeology. I could see myself digging up the remains of the past.

3. If/when you get “artist’s block”, how do you handle it?

I do sometimes get stuck and I’ve found that most of the time it’s because I’ve lost the inspiration for the painting. Forcing myself to keep painting only makes it worse. I’ve found walking to be the best solution. It helps to get outside, clear my head, enjoy the little things. Then I go back to the painting and think why isn’t this working for me? What needs to change? It usually works!

The Path

4. What has had the biggest influence on your work? Is it a particular artist? a genre? some personal insight?

I paint what I love. It’s that simple. As a child I spent an enormous amount of time outside, wandering the woods, drawing, collecting rocks and bits of nature, drawing, riding horses every weekend, dreaming up imaginary worlds and people based on the movies and stories I read. And of course, drawing. Not much has changed!

There are also a few artists that stick out who definitely left seeds of inspiration in my mind. Georgia O’Keeffe is the first artist I consciously remember. My mother kept a book of her art on our coffee table. John Waterhouse’s iconic images weave history, mythology and fantasy into rich worlds. Last, Michael Parkes. I saw a framed print of his painting Gargoyles back in the mid 90’s (in a print shop I’d later work at) and instantly fell in love with the magic.

Michael Parkes Gargoyles

5. What are your own personal artistic goals?

My main goal is to become a professional illustrator. I’d love to be painting covers for science fiction and fantasy novels,  middle grade books, maybe even picture books. I’d also love to create art for card and board games. I’m determined to get there!

ImagineFX6. What are some of the best resources you used to learn and still use to create your digital art??

ImagineFX and deviantART. Digital painting involves most of the same skills as traditional painting but I did have to learn how the brushes function and how they can be manipulated in Photoshop. Those two resources were and still are invaluable.

7. Are you ever going to come north for a craft show or the like??

Yes! When? No clue. But it will happen.

8. Some artists (Not me) Say that Digital art.. isn’t “real” art.. What is your response to that?

I laugh. Because nowadays painting in Photoshop and Painter is incredible. It’s just another medium. If you can’t paint/draw with traditional mediums, then it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to in those programs. You use all the same skills and more.

9. Were you artistic as a child and what training have you received as an artist? Were you classically trained or only trained in digital arts?

Yes, I was artistic as a child. I have a creative mother and she was the first person to inspire me to draw. I’ve had a passion for drawing and art since I was at least 9 years old. My training as been less exact.

Middle School Drawing, 1989

Middle School Drawing, 1989

When I was in middle school I unfortunately had an art teacher who demeaned students without any artistic ability. She also used those with ability as an example to belittle other students. I didn’t like being used and it angered me that a teacher could be so cruel. I avoided art classes for a while.

I was an art student at university for a year. I took two drawing classes, a sculpture class, and several art history classes. But I didn’t stick with it out of fear. I kept drawing and painting but finished my Bachelors in another field.

Later, after moving to the United Kingdom, I took a year long course in Creative Painting and Drawing at Kensington & Chelsea College. It was the first time I had to attend a portfolio review as a part of my application. I was accepted and it was one of the best courses ever!

Study drawing from National Gallery in London

Study drawing from National Gallery in London, 2006

I only began digital painting about a year ago.

10. Matisse said: “Creativity takes courage.” What has been your greatest struggle re: your art?

Painting what I want to paint and not what I think will sell or what’s expected of me.

 The Giveaway!

To enter leave a comment on this blog post and be sure to leave a way for me to contact you if you’re the winner. This time around I can only ship to the US, sorry international fans!

What will you win? I’ve made a fancy collage of four paintings below. You can choose one of those paintings and I’ll send you a 5×7 inch print! You can get a better look at the paintings choices in my deviantART Gallery.

Giveaway Print Choices

I will pick the winner on Monday, November 25th while I’m drinking my coffee.

The Winner!Giveaway Winner

There were seven entries, but only one could be a winner today. I assigned everyone a number, from the first person to leave a comment to the last. The winner, according to Random.org is number 2, Sherry Key!

Sherry, get in touch with me via Facebook or email and let me know which print you’d like from the choices above.

Thank you all for entering!