Happy New Year!…wait, my wife just told me I didn’t sound excited enough, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

This is of course the time of year everyone makes those fascinating lists of the “Top Ten (put subject matter here) of 2011.” We have everything from Albums to Movies, Tweets to Odd-ball stories and one of my personal favorites; Ridiculously obvious studies. (All those links lead back to Time Magazine but I am sure you could find the same lists on almost any website within the next few days.)

In keeping with the flow of flash-backitus here is my list:

The Top Five things myself and members of my family have learned about life in 2011.

5) Always be sure your credit card is secure in your wallet after making a purchase. This one is entirely on me. After making a purchase at a local store I thought I placed my card back into my pocket, but I missed and a person with no morals picked it up and went shopping—spending about $5000.00 in less than an hour.

4) Be careful where you place your fingers when closing a garage door. When our automatic garage door decided to become possessed—it would open and close by itself or not close at all—we disconnected it and began using the manual control, actually bending over and picking the door up. One early morning I wasn’t paying attention to where I was putting my hand and my finger tip got caught in the hinge. I would have screamed if it wasn’t 4:30 in the morning.

3) Never try to push a stalled car up a hill or never push a car period—you choose. When the kid’s car died during rush hour on a two lane road she attempted to move it off the road with the help of her friend. The car decided the only way it wanted to move was downhill and she ended up running over her own ankle. She’s a screamer.

2) When letting out the dogs make sure the gate that would release them into the world is secure. Enough said on this one, we were reunited within 24 hours at a cost of almost $300.00.

1) If you and your mate wish to spend more time together—make sure you get the kids their driver’s license as soon as they are eligible. Trust me, it works.

The Top Five things I figured out about writing in 2011.

5) Don’t rush it. This one is on me, when I published The Set’la last year there was a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me she was not ready. See number 4.

4) Don’t pay a lot of attention to negative reviews. I’m not saying don’t read them, but if you need your ego stroked read the positive ones. The negative ones usually point out some minor flaws in basic editing along with other more important issues like character development. Just fix them, and move on.

3) You can write a novel in a month. My little 31 days of writing did not fry my keyboard in November, but I did manage to put together a good story which still sits in a file on a computer somewhere and still needs a lot of work.

2) Write every day. I am really bad at this, but the more I try and the more I do the better my writing and typing becomes.

1) Try not to work on more than one project at a time. If you have any ideas floating around in your head—write them down and save them for later. At present I have three running projects plus a major edit (see number 5). If you keep your mind on one thing you have a better chance of actually finishing it. Priorities are important.


Christmas remains

Christmas is over, the New Year is right around the corner. We’re still enjoying the many gifts and Christmas love that graced our lives this last week.

The most popular gifts we received this year was my wife’s Kindle, she loves werewolf and vampire stories, but has only downloaded a few sample shorts like The Game of Thrones and A Walk in the Snark, that last was my idea. She didn’t like The Game of Thrones too much but after viewing a trailer for John Carter and asking me why I was so thrilled about it, she downloaded A Princess of Mars—which she is enjoying very much. It’s been so long since I read the Edgar Rice Burroughs series I grabbed it too—if it’s free, it’s for me. I don’t own a Kindle, but I have the app on my phone (I think that counts.) I used a gift card I received to grab A Game of Thrones and Tarnsman or Gor. That last one I never even heard of until someone accused me of using this series for my book The Set’la—but I digress, that’s for another blog. My wife also gave me a receiver for my surround sound, the old one went out about two years ago so now my Man Cave is back.

Earlier in the month my sister in law contacted me and told me she picked up season 2 of True Blood for the wife and her dad got season 3. I immediately passed this information to the step daughter since she does have a job now and I knew she wanted to spend money. (The step son is working too but he feels it is better to receive than to give.)

Christmas morning, L—the step daughter—handed her a package and forced her to open it, it was True Blood season 3. I’m thinking, “Shit—didn’t I tell her NOT to get that?” Thinking I will be scolded one way or another at this time it is better to keep my mouth shut. She gave me Battlestar Galactica season 3 (Don’t worry, already had the first two seasons) I also got a normal DVD remote for the PS3 which I love better than the damn game controller. (That’s four remotes now; can we say “Yeah Baby!”) I also got yet another headphone/microphone set; I only say another because the ghosts keep taking mine.

Of course it wouldn’t be Christmas without my mom, whom I picked up Christmas Eve, and we surrounded her with presents she needed and not wanted, like jeans and shirts.

My step son J we soothed with Microsoft points and the dance game for Xbox connect. Now he will get his exercise. It is a reward for taking the time out of his busy day to spend time with family. Of course the first thing he did was buy another game with his points, Rock Band 3. Oh the Joy! His dad gave him Star Wars: The Old Republic which he had to install on his sister’s computer and I threw on my laptop. I managed to hit level 3 before I died but I only play for about an hour a day so it doesn’t control my destiny.

After a few more minutes of unwrapping, always amazes me how quickly the Opening lasts compared to actually preparing for it, the kids disappeared for about an hour as I hooked up the receiver and we began watching True Blood.

Then it was off to her dad’s house where we got more presents. I cringed a little when T’s dad and sister handed her two boxes that looked like a DVD, and breathed a sigh of relieve when she received two copies of True Blood Season 2. At least that’s an easy fix. I got some very good books on writing including Steven King’s On Writing and more gift cards! The cards I used to get BSG season 4.

From his aunt, J got Rock Band 3 for the Xbox (imagine that).

I think this was a great Christmas for all involved; the repeat gifts are always a little amusing.

Since we lucked out and took our vacation this week and I told my boss we were going to the Bahamas, we are doing NOTHING, except watching TV, reading, and a little game play.

Last night, we finished True Blood so now we are going through a BSG marathon, the only thing I am missing is Razor.

It was a good year, like all it had its ups and downs, and here is to making 2012 even better.

Image from Google

So, how was your Christmas?

Merry Christmas

I have heard this somewhere, “Once somce one told me I had to be more PC in my holiday greetings–so I’m doing it from my Personal Computer.”

Merry Christmas!

Our house is haunted!

At least that is what I think is going on. There must be two or three of them walking around after we go to bed. They are harmless for the most part. The past couple of nights we have gone to bed, tucking our bodies under the sheets and falling asleep, knowing the kitchen is clean, the lights are out and the coffee is ready to start, early enough that all I have to do is go down and pour a fresh cup of hot Michigan Cherry coffee. This is the high point of my morning.

The haunting isn’t violent, but it can be a little distracting. I come down at 3:30 in the morning—I know, to damn early—to find game systems moved from one room to another with the cords spread out across the floor making me actually wake up before I want to so I can position my feet safely.

Blankets that were once folded neatly on the couch are crumpled on the cushions or lying on the floor next to glasses half full of water—think “Signs”. Just the other night they must have ventured outside for a midnight stroll because the front door was left ajar. They may leave a few dishes in the sink or pour food down the garbage disposal that doesn’t work—which is never a fun clean up—but they never leave it like I do before climbing the steps to the bedroom. They have even gone so far as opening the back of my van and helping themselves to my stash of Mountain Dew. I know this because they never close the tail gate all the way.

I suppose they must have made friends with Billie, our guard Whippet, because he doesn’t bark at all.

Last night, I witnessed my wife pour the water into the reservoir of the coffee pot, put the filter containing enough grounds for a full pot of coffee in the basket, and set the timer to go off at 2:45 am. I know she did it because I usually do this ritualistic chore every night.

This morning, at 3:00 am, as I follow one whippet and the iggys down the well-lighted steps (hall light was turned off last night) I spot the empty coffee pot. Quickly I shove the dogs out into the rain and investigate closely; the basket is empty, the reservoir is empty and the switch is in the “on” position yet it is off. ‘WTF!’ I quickly, as quickly as I can this early, fill it with water, grab filter and coffee to fill the basket and turn it on. Just these acts alone awoke me well enough to discover that the coffee pot still had six cups of water in it.  I turned off the pot right before the hot liquid spilled over the rim and started the whole process again.

Finally at 3:30 I had the dogs in, coffee made and had a chance to sit down and enjoy my coffee. Later, as I was making breakfast, I noticed a filter full of coffee grounds (unused) sitting on the counter top across from the coffee pot. It felt a little heavier than normal when I put it in the basket and began pot number two. The finished product had doubled in strength than what we normally drink in the morning, but we were awake and that was the whole objective.

So in the Spirit of Christmas, I would like to thank the ghosts that eat our food, thus making us buy more food to keep the fridge stocked, leaving the lights on in the hallway so I don’t fall down the steps when I am not awake yet. For making me check the back of my van for undesirable persons or terrorists, scaring away any possible intruders by making loud growling noises, since the whippets and iggys sort of fail at that, and for just being there to keep me on my toes.

However…I do have one little request, please don’t frack with the coffee maker. It makes some spirits a little irritable.

My thoughts on “Rise of The Planet of The Apes”

I first saw “Planet of the Apes” (the 1968 version) at a drive-in theatre at a very young age—old enough to remember it but I am guessing around 1969 when I hit twelve. It held double billing with “Barbarella”, which we never did finish watching that night. At the first shot of a half naked Jane Fonda my dad was out of the parking lot. With a car full of three kids, ages twelve to eighteen, and one wife he really didn’t have much of a choice. (Since that night I have seen bits and pieces of that movie and I am glad he left.)

The story of “The Planet of the Apes” fueled my young imagination and the state of the art effects (SOA for 1968 at least) thrilled me. The tale of three astronauts being lost in space and returning to an Earth in the future that is ruled by apes left me wanting more, asking questions—How could this happen? The sequels that followed merged throughout the years, one finally getting around to answering the questions—yet not good enough. I’m not going to even mention the television series from 1974 (all 14 episodes) or the ones that followed.

This is a cult classic, I love it and I have all the main movies. When the remake came out in 2001 I looked forward to it and was a little disappointed.  Maybe it was Markee Mark or the fact that Heston returned just to reverse a famous line. (I wonder how much they paid him for that.) It just didn’t work for me. I would watch it again, but I would not add it to my collection. Just as I started to think Hollywood has run out of ideas, out comes “Rise of The Planet of the Apes.” The trailer itself gave me goose bumps.

This movie has answered most of my questions about how it all happened. This is the perfect prequel and one of the few films I have been happy buying before I see it. (Blu Ray DVD has awesome extras so be sure to check them out.) As the film makers did for Golem in Lord of the Rings, they hired Andy Serkis to walk around in a suit with all kinds of electrodes and LED’s so computer animators could fill in the rest to make Ceaser. Mr. Serkis is awesome as the first (technically he is the second) intelligent ape and pulls this off flawlessly. His expressions and mannerisms come through even after the awesome computer graphics are applied.  There were a lot of people dressed in those suits for this movie that were taught how to “Ape Walk” by Terry Notary, the “movement choreographer,” who also played two of the apes. The writing is right on track with perfectly thrown in references to the original movie, some hidden and some not. There is one scene where a TV is playing in the background and I heard Heston’s voice, but I haven’t figured out which movie it is yet. I may by the third viewing. Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter, just seems to reprise his mean boy role, but it ends up to be an electrifying performance none the less.

Still, for me, one question remains unanswered…but I can’t ask it or I will ruin the movie for anyone that hasn’t seen it. But go ahead, watch it, enjoy it. It is well worth it.

Of Help, Tron and Super 8

This weekend at the movies almost hit a high note, being one of my better movie renting weekends in a long time, worthy enough to write about. We will start with the oldest.

1982 in movies almost looked like a year of sequels; I counted nine including “Star Trek II”, and a mixture of horror sequels like “Amityville II”, “Halloween III” and “Rocky III”. In June, Disney released “Tron”. Unfortunately for them it fought tooth and nail with Star Trek and ET that year so the box office results were not that pretty. This was also the year of “Bladerunner”, “The Dark Crystal”, and “Poltergiest”. Plus John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, which explains why Disney used Jeff Bridges in “Tron” instead of using Kurt Russell. I’m not really sure who would have been better at it but the acting was a little bad. Thirty years ago, (showing my age again) I loved video games, spending a lot of afternoons in arcades and I was looking forward to this movie. My exact impressions of it when I saw it for the first time are lost in the cloudy web of my memory. I only rented it because I had “Tron: Legacy” in my que and I can’t possibly watch the sequel to a movie over 30 years old when I haven’t seen the first movie more than once or twice. My wife refused to watch it so I started it alone. That right there should have warned me. The acting was ….well…it still just wasn’t there for me. Never did finish watching it. I think I have to watch “Tron: Legacy” alone too. (Or maybe send it back without opening it.)

My step daughter’s friend brought a movie over Saturday, I figure they just couldn’t find anywhere else to watch it so they came over for a short visit for the first time in a week. She looked dead at me and said, “Sorry B…It’s a chick flick, but it’s good.”

She was right; “The Help” is a story about a writer in 1960’s Jackson Mississippi that gets the notion in her head to write about life as a maid during the Civil Rights Movement, from the maid’s perspective. This true story held my attention, made me laugh and even feel bad sometimes. I will never look at a piece of pie the same way again. I highly recommended this to all. The acting, writing and historical accuracy (as far as I know) were perfectly done.

Probably my favorite scene:

The last one was a pleasant surprise.

               No, this is not a zombie movie, sort of. Super 8 is yet another movie that starts off making you think you will be watching an alien invasion movie—seen enough of those this year—but it is not. The tale is of a group of kids that are helping a friend shoot a movie when they witness a train wreck. Something in the train escapes and causes strange havoc in this small town. I didn’t catch exactly when this movie took place but possibly twenty years after the excitement in Roswell New Mexico. Produced by Steven Speilberg and written, produced and directed by J.J. Abrams (my, he has been busy). This is another must see movie about a lost alien trapped on Earth that just wants to go home—filled with a pie full of new young actors and a few older ones that help them hold it together like Kyle Chandler. This may seem like E.T. (Another movie from some young director back in 1982 that was the story of a group of kids finding a lost alien that just wants to leave) but only in pieces.

I am glad it wasn’t another alien invasion movie because I am getting tired of those. I do believe that Earth has been visited before—I don’t think they stayed long. I actually don’t blame them. However, according to Hollywood I think we have been invaded over one hundred times at least by evil aliens that wanted something from us. I suppose I would like a more peaceful invasion, like this one here:

               I can’t wait for that one. So, what are your thoughts? Do you think we have been visited by aliens? Or did they just hit orbit, observe and leave?

Warning! This could happen to you!

I need to share a horrible experience I had Saturday afternoon. It was one of those things you hear about from time to time yet never expect to happen to you. The worst part is the fact that it may happen again.

It all started as I reclined on the couch, being very content to flip between editing and email, and my step daughter came home. This is usually a once a week occurrence at the most—less now since she has her drivers license and a car that works.  After the rampant and exciting greetings, including the jabs about her never being home, she took over the TV remote.

My heart stopped for a second, fear rose within me as I silently pleaded with her to think before viewing. Out of the corner of my eye I watch the screen;

‘Okay…Netflix…Anima…please  no!’ A sigh of relieve escapes my lips as she moves on down the list, stupid comedies, animated soft porn, other cartoons, silly sitcoms…It appears on the side of the screen and I pray she doesn’t see it…but she does.

“Jackass 3D! This is a funny movie mommy, you will like it. B won’t mind.”

I like how she thinks she knows me, yet she is watching me as if to get approval. “I’ve ignored worse.” As much as I tried, my eyes were drawn to it, but not one snicker, he-he, or laugh escaped my clinched jaw. (I think I sprained something in my neck by shaking my head back and forth.) Lucky fo rme the torture did not last long, some scenes were skipped entirely (ones she even thought were dumb) until it was stopped by her own will.

All I can say to myself is, “Why?” Why do they make these ridiculous movies about people—grown men in body only—that insist on doing whatever they can to cause pain? And in 3D! I love a good comedy as much as the next guy, usually, and I get a laugh out of the occasional unexpected-or expected-groin hit, but to have an entire movie devoted to this sort of pain is plain stupidity. Gets even worse when you realize they set these up on purpose.

I’ll tell you, if a friend of mine wanted me to superglue my rear end onto someone’s back I would be thinking twice about how deep this friendship really goes. Friends don’t let friends be jackasses.

However, I am guilty of the little pleasures in life, like watching some of the videos that clog what we use to call Court TV. I have uttered the occasional snicker at the drunk driver that has issues walking a straight line or said “ouch!” at the car chases that end in the car and driver being demolished. And most recently, when it is on, we do catch MTV’s Ridiculousness with Rob Dydrek, when we go to bed. These little thirty minute views into the stupidity of people are put very bluntly on air and I actually do smile. My wife laughs so loud at them the stepson texted her last night, “You guys are having too much fun, stop it!” (Maybe he thought we were doing something else.) Sometimes it can be painful to watch and I do feel a little smarter seeing these people trying to do stuff they really shouldn’t.

I think my main issue with shows or movies like Jackass is the little question that tickles my brain every time I see how popular they are.

It’s just one word, why? Is the world so use to seeing into everyone’s back yard that we can’t help but laugh at some people’s misfortune? Or is my wife right when she says “The only reason I watch these is because it makes me feel smarter.”

On a good note: As I was browsing some info on I came across the trailer for a new one Disney is putting out there, an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs series John Carter of Mars. The trailer looked pretty good, but we shall see how it looks on the screen. I read all these right after I read all the Tarzan books. Hope it does well.

Thanks for visiting, hope you enjoyed my thoughts.

My thoughts on TV shows we watch

If we’re not doing chores or running errands around my house we either watch movies from Netflix or TV shows we record at night to watch when we have more time. This Fall brought us a lot more choices to enjoy, somewhat.

We enjoy the occasional well written and acted crime dramas, but the ones we use to watch are becoming old and a little predictable—like most shows. After experiencing all the CSI spin offs we finally stopped watching them. The original we dropped after the loss of Grissom and CSI Miami only lasted two years in our house. New York we watched until this year because of the casting changes. I can understand actors moving on after a while doing the same thing, but sometimes these characters carry the show rather well.

Bones, Castle and Law & Order we also love to watch along with Body of Proof. Harry’s Law, which popped onto the airwaves last year, is a hit with us, but I have always liked David E. Kelly shows. We also catch repeats of Criminal Minds as often as we can.

The comedies that have flooded the airwaves in the past few years haven’t really caught my attention, but slightly on accident we discovered two that make me laugh—sometimes that is hard to do. Modern Family and Big Bang Theory are both hilarious shows that keep me laughing or smiling during the entire thirty minutes.

Modern Family is a spoof on all those reality shows out there (which I cannot bear watching). Although I hated Ed O’Neil in Married with Children this show has seemed to mature him into something I can watch.

The Big Bang Theory had a cast of brilliant young comedians that play two college professors, Leonard and Sheldon, and two Cal-Tech scientists, Wolowitz and Koothrappali that all have high IQ’s. The four of them are very content to spend their nights doing things geeky and wonderful from collecting comic books to playing Call of Duty. Wolowitz is the only one without an IQ over 120, but he graduated MIT. The only thing they are not comfortable with are interpersonal skills, which is what this show deals with when a beautiful free-spirited woman named Penny moves next door and Sheldon becomes interested in her. As I sit there watching this, listening to all the Sci-Fi and computer references I get a big chuckle and I see a little of me in all of them. Leonard is my normal sane self that goes through life wondering what will happen next yet taking it all in stride. Sheldon is my geekyness and my seldom seen attention to detail that likes everything as it is and wants nothing to change. Wolowitz is the charmer that thinks every woman wants him and thinks only of this and Koothrappali is the shy one that just has trouble talking to women.

As to Sci-Fi—there doesn’t seem to be that much out there now, except Fringe and Warehouse 13. Fringe we stopped watching this year because we got lost and confused. Speaking of Lost, we tried that too—one season and we were looking for a way off the island because we didn’t like being Lost.

This Fall bought in a few we thought would be interesting, Prime Suspect lasted only a few episodes with us and I already heard it was canceled. We tried out the three episodes of The Playboy Club and that one we won’t miss either. We only watched one episode of Charlie’s Angles before we decided that it wouldn’t last for two reasons, predictability and the fact that Charlie was going to have to pay for some improvements to the IBTC.

Person of Interest has kept ours. This is a very fresh idea and I do like the actors—somewhat flat but the show is action packed and it isn’t as predictable as most. Not that I am a conspiracy theorist but I can believe in the plot of this show, the government watching everyone through all the cameras in the city with the help of a super computer to catch terrorist through their actions. The persons of interest that the computer found don’t fit the profile of terrorist, but they are up to something and that is what Reese, Jim Caviezel, and Finch, Michael Emerson, have to figure out.

Revenge is another interesting show we found captivating, the story of the daughter of a framed man that comes back to the Hamptons to get revenge on the people that set him up. A show like this leaves you wondering if anyone is going to be left in the Hamptons when she is done.

Grimm caught our attention, it has its predictability but they are interesting stories. Run over and visit Kait Nolan’s blog for her views on this, mine are very similar. I like the quotes they have in the beginning but they don’t tell you what story they referance.

Last up is Terra Nova. The thought of Fox doing a Sci-Fi show where they send people back into the past to save their future comes clear when you think about them making an alternate timeline. This I can understand. It started out very good with a lot of great dinosaur graphics, but they must have blown their graphic budget on the first few episodes because now we get a few shots in the dark or one or two dinos per episode, or none at all. They are keeping the stories interesting.

Since most of these shows only have an hour to solve whatever problem crops up it still isn’t hard to think to yourself, ‘I saw that coming—gee, I could have written this.’

Mission Complete. What’s next?

To be honest I knew I could do it, it only takes the commitment to write, which I should do more of anyway.  The main issue, all the errors in it, I will tend to eventually but the important part now is to finish the actual novel.

It needs major editing and a little revising. When I became stuck I went off in a whole other direction. (Don’t you hate it when your characters don’t do what you tell them to do?)

But the important thing is I got past 50,000 words and I am close to an end.

I would like to thank my wife, who allowed me to take the time to write and did a lot of pushing to get me to finish—threating me with torture and other unspeakable acts does wonders for my incentive. Also my thanks to the kids for being quiet sometimes even if they looked at me like I was from a different planet when they were informed of Nanowrimo. Sure, they laughed when they saw me sitting in my office with my earplugs in—but they knew why.

I did attend three write-ins at the local iHop that went rather well—some of the group seemed a little distracting, but I managed. It did feel a little weird showing up there every Friday night with a gaming laptop.

During my down times I did get some very helpful advice from other bloggers, most of them were posted over on Kait Nolan’s site. She has a lot of great links that writers of all genres should check out.

Another one that is worth the visit is Emma Darwin and her blog, This Itch of Writing.

Now it is time to come to an ending on To Die A Slow death (It almost sounds like a Bond novel) and then the editing.

It was fun and kept me out of trouble. Now comes December, National Novel Editing Month, Na-No-Ed-Mo, and time to dust off my Chicago Manual Of Style.

Nanowrimo update

Just a quick note on my word count for National Novel Writing Month.  The distractions are still plaguing me. If the face it’s not 1 thing it’s another but I know these are just excuses I’ve been using on a regular basis. Lol. On the average I have managed about 10000 words a week and should hit 30,000 tonight with the write in at the local iHop.  Last week I got a little stuck so I shot my main character. Now I feel a little weird about doing thing like this because I never really wanted my characters to hate me. But there are surprisingly a lot of very helpful websites out there that give you great ideas on how to make your character hate you. Most of the ones I found came from links on Kait Nolans blog, which I will link in here later.
Im actually doing better at this than I thought I would do, but since I am nearing the end, I have to end it…somehow.
On a little side note, Scrivener for Windows was finally released last week, or the week before (I find it odd they did this just in time for Nanowrimo, but I went ahead and plopped down the not earned cash for it. It should help in the end. If you use Scrivener let me know what you think about it. I need to learn how to use it now.
Well I must get writing. I thought of some plot developments on my way into work this morning, so I have to remember then now.
Have a great weekend everyone and thanks for visiting.