Friday, July 30, 2010

My Dream Date with Starcraft II


My dream date began this past Monday night...

Having given StarCraft the coveted number one spot on my all time favorite games list a while back, I think it's safe to say that I'm an unabashed fanboy. So it should come as no surprise that I found myself waiting in line at midnight this past Monday, eagerly awaiting my copy of the uber anticipated "StarCraft II: The Wings of Liberty."

Continue the epic saga of the Protoss, Terran, and Zerg. These three distinct and powerful races will clash once again in the fast-paced real-time strategy sequel to the original, StarCraft. Legions of veteran, upgraded, and new unit types will do battle across the galaxy, as each faction struggles for survival.
Featuring a single-player campaign that picks up where StarCraft: Brood War left off, StarCraft II presents a cast of new heroes and familiar faces in a sci-fi story filled with adventure and intrigue. In addition, Blizzard offers online play through Battle.net with several enhancements and features to make StarCraft II even better.

If you played the original, then you will instantly feel comfortable with the new game. Blizzard is smart enough to know that when something isn't broken, there's no need to fix it. The play controls and general layout are familiar and work like a champ. What Blizzard has done is taken an already great game and made improvements throughout. For those not in the know, the original StarCraft was a 2D isometric game. The sequel has gorgeous, lush 3D graphics and a scalable camera. New units abound and advancements to original units make for one happy gamer. One nice addition is the ship that serves as your home between missions. You're able to purchase mercs, upgrade units and research new tech.

If I have one minor quibble with the game, it's with the Campaign missions. Too many missions require you to complete an objective in a set time or you fail. While fun and filled with tension, there's just too many of them. One other minor complaint is the need to log on to the battle.net servers just to play the single player side of the game.

Overall, the game brings back warm memories of StarCraft while giving the franchise legs for years to come. If you're a fan of RTS (real-time strategy) then this one is a no-brainer. Run out and buy it today.

As for me, I got to get back to killing Zerg. Have a great weekend! Oh, and don't forget to sign up for my contest HERE

And almost forgot! I'm a guest at Mithril Wisdom today!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Time to Celebrate!


200! Not as awesome as the 300, but damn close.

Thank you, everyone! I'm stunned and amazed 200 people find me interesting. Maybe I should place that on a t-shirt...

So to celebrate and honor those who follow my blog, I'm holding my first contest! I had to check with my publisher first, but they've agreed to do a giveaway. Here's the scoop:

The contest is for a copy of CassaStar and a big feature here for the winner.

To enter:

Become a follower and leave a comment. One point.

Tweet this contest (hashtag #CassaStar) or mention it on your blog. Two points.

Post my book trailer on your blog - located on the page above marked CassaStar. Ten points! (And those who've already done so qualify - just leave a comment.)

Contest runs through August 8th.

Sorry I can't send everyone a bottle of champagne! But I do thank each and every one of you for following my ramblings about movies, music, games, etc. (Oh, and yes, I stood in line Monday night and got a copy of Starcraft II - and it rocks!)

And of course, no celebration here is complete without gratuitous photos of Kate Beckinsale. Enjoy!



Monday, July 26, 2010

August Movie Preview

August is usually a little sparse when it comes to quality theater releases, so I’ve included a couple DVD releases as well. As always, don’t forget the popcorn!


Aug. 3 - DVD - Kick-Ass


It didn’t intrigue me enough to visit the theater, but I’ll check it out on NetFlix.
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Aug. 6 – The Other Guys

Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg
Two mismatched New York City detectives (Ferrell and Wahlberg) seize an opportunity to step up like the city's top cops whom they idolize -- only things don't quite go as planned.
Not sure on this one yet...


Aug. 10 - DVD - Date Night


I’m a big fan of Steve Carell (especially The Office) and Tiny Fey (from 30 Rock) so this is in my NetFlix queue right now.
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Aug. 13 - The Expendables

Director: Sylvester Stallone
Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis
A team of mercenaries head to South America on a mission to overthrow a dictator.
Has potential!


Aug. 27 - Centurion

Director: Neil Marshall
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko
After the Roman Ninth Legion is attacked by the Picts -- Celtic tribesmen who serve as some of the Roman Empire's toughest opposition -- a band of soldiers who survived the brutal massacre try to make their way back across enemy lines.
Okay, this movie excites me! In a violent, bloody, action sort of way.
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Any good movies on your radar for August?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blast From the Past

Thought I’d start a new segment maybe twice a month or more if it gets a good response. Since my obsessions are movies, books, music, and tech stuff, I’ll stick with those topics and see if I can’t jog your memory with a blast from the past.

MUSIC

Honeymoon Suite

This 80’s band achieved some success, although they never hit it big. They came on the scene in 1984 with a debut album of the same name and gained momentum with a second album, Big Prize, in 1986. Their hits included New Girl Now, Feel it Again, and Stay in the Light, and my favorite, Bad Attitude. Subsequent albums didn’t fare so well, but the first two from this rock band are excellent!

Anyone else remember Honeymoon Suite?

Friends are visiting this weekend. I'm sorry I won't be online much, but enjoy today's blast!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More Sightings and Stuff


And do you know how difficult it is to find a "Thank You" photo that's manly?



More sightings! Big thanks to SF Site, The Roads of Autumn Dusk, Booktionary, Coffee Rings Everywhere, and Only The Best SciFi for posting my book trailer! I can’t believe how many people have posted the video – wow!

I received The Versatile Blogger Award from Geof at Enter the Man-Cave Thanks Dude! I received a variation of this one previously, but I’ll still hang this one on my wall with pride.

And Geof just hit 300 followers! Go tell him congratulations - that is really awesome!

I just realized I’ll hit 200 followers soon. Damn, I’ll need to celebrate when that happens. (Hope I notice when it occurs!) Any suggestions?

And while Dezz at HOLLYWOOD SPY says he’s decided not to work with kids, he still likes elephants, so keep ‘em coming!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Weird, Outrageous, and Elephants

I'll begin with weird and work my way down the list...

SciFi Wire is one of my favorite apps on my iPad and they post some wild stories and photos. Recently, they decided to change their name to Blastr - just so they can move beyond "just" science fiction. To what, I don't know. Wrestling? Knitting? Anything but science fiction, right? How weird is that?

Well, on my iPad it is STILL SciFi Wire! I start seeing Oprah, somebody's getting a phone call.

Now to the outrageous...

The SyFy Channel (who owns Blastr) has always been known for truly awful original movies. Good series, bad movies. Well, they have stooped to a whole new level, and it's the buzz of the Internet right now. This clip was even part of Sport's Nation's show yesterday!! And on Attack of the Show.

Watch the trailer for SHARKTOPUS - and prepare to laugh!







Makes you want to watch JUST to see how awful it will be, doesn't it?

Now you're probably wondering about those elephants.

My buddy Dezz has a dream...
"I want to open a school of English lg for kids with the name 'Traveling Elephants.'"

So, I am starting a collection of elephants for Dezz!! Who's with me? Show some love for HOLLYWOOD SPY and post an elephant photo!







Monday, July 19, 2010

A World of Thanks!


Thanks everyone for the awesome comments on my book trailer last week! I had no idea what to expect and was almost afraid to click on the link when I received the email from my publisher last Wednesday. The video was amazing and I’m glad everyone else enjoyed it as well. Wish CassaStar was a real movie! Someone call Nolan or Cameron for me…

And a special thanks to these blogs - Grasping for the Wind, Hollywood Spy, Mithril Wisdom, Sci-Fi Hub, A No. 2 Pencil Stat, Speculative Book Review, Spunk on a Stick’s Tips, Glynis Smy, Beth: A Work in Progress, Edi’s Book Lighthouse, LaFemme Readers, and Tossing it Out for featuring the trailer! Thank you for your generosity – I am overwhelmed!

Now an award - One Lovely Blog from Cassandra Jade in the Realm Thanks, Cassandra!
Rules:
1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share some things about yourself. (Supposed to be 7…)
3. Pass the award along to some bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (Supposed to be 15, but I’ll leave that amount up to the recipient.)
4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

Some things that are perhaps not as obvious as I once thought…
1 – My first book will be released in October. I signed the contract last year with Dancing Lemur Press. Yes, I will soon be an official author!
2 – I am married. Sex is legal in our house.
3 – I minored in music in college and currently play the guitar – for fun. Don’t ask for a concert performance, though. I want you to continue to like me!
4 – I’m a total movie geek. Between the theater and NetFlix, I watch close to a dozen per week. Yes, I do have a life outside of films!
5 – Pet peeves include mowing the lawn (paving the entire lawn sounds better every day) and driving (I ask Santa every year for blasters on my car but he never delivers. Fat guy’s off my Christmas card list!)

I’m passing this on to:
Rayna at Coffee Rings Everywhere
Talli Roland
Rashelle at A No. 2 Pencil Stat!

Creative Liar Award from Lee at Tossing it Out Thanks, Lee! This is the second time, so I will just accept it with grace.

Lee also tagged me to list the contents of my bag, wallet, purse, whatever. Okay, no purse here and the wallet’s kinda boring, so we’ll go with my gym bag:
Empty water bottle
Ipod & earbuds
Small towel
Gym clothes & shoes
And a stray work sock… wonder how long that’s been in there?

I’m tagging I’m tagging Beth: A Work in Progress!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Movie Review - Inception


This movie will raise your expectations of what a real movie experience should be on every level imaginable.

The basic premise follows a group who extracts secrets from the subconscious mind through dreams. They are hired to do the impossible - inception, the planting of an idea.

This movie is similar to Nolan’s Memento - layers upon layers upon layers of precise detail. The complexity of this movie is incredible. Similar to the concept of inception, Nolan started with an idea and built this film’s world from that point. It’s an ever-widening circle of intricate beliefs and thoughts, like the rings of an onion.

This is not an action-packed, special effects extravaganza. The scenes from the previews are not the images that will stick with you, either. Nolan excels at taking a single moment in time and cranking the tension and expectation almost to the breaking point. These solitary images will haunt you long after the film has ended.

The actors do a superb job in their roles and there are secrets locked within those characters as well.

As with Memento, you cannot leave your brain at the door. Inception will force you to think, wrapping your brain around deep and complex concepts. Some people will leave the theater not understanding what they’ve just witnessed. (Judging from the content of the very few negative reviews, those reviewers simply did not get it.) Nolan stands alone as a director with a singular vision no one else shares. He’s a truly unique artist in his craft.

I am running out of superlatives just trying to describe this film! I wish my writing was on par with his directing. (I think everyone will walk out wishing they could do anything as well as Nolan!) So, to conclude this review…

In a summer of simple movies and vapid disappointments, Inception shines with brilliance. Best movies of the summer? No - best movie of the year!!!
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And if you missed my book trailer, see the post below this one. I am thrilled with what my publisher created for CassaStar - it's my own little movie!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Trailer for CassaStar!!!!!!!!!

Oh my God it rocks!!!!!!!!!!!

Dim the lights, turn up the volume (because the music and sound effects are so awesome) and enjoy!




So freakin' awesome!

What does everyone think?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Big News!!!

Okay, I’m about to geek out with excitement, but first – the winner of Hart at Confessions of a Watery Tart’s 50 page manuscript critique:

Ted Cross !!!!

Congratulations! Hart has been notified and will contact you soon.

And now, before I come undone…

My book trailer!!!

My publisher is posting it online sometime today and I will debut it for all to see on Thursday! I haven’t watched it yet, but I am so stoked. I hope it’s good!

This will be in the place of the review I’d hoped to post on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are dismal. Think I’ll skip this one. But I will be posting a review of Inception this weekend. That movie has near perfect reviews right now!

And I did make some minor changes to my blog as per the Blog Book Tour critiques. The instructor, Dani, posted her review HERE . Let me know – did I make it better?

Tell all your friends - party here tomorrow!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Secret and the Prize

First, the prize.

Hart at Confessions of a Watery Tart was giving away a prize – the critique of fifty pages of a manuscript. Much to my surprise, I won! Hart informed me I could use it in September (when she has time to do the critique) or pass it on to another writer. Since I won’t be ready with my manuscript until the end of the year (as in, I won’t feel comfortable letting anyone read it until it’s complete and I’ve had a chance to do some editing) I’ve decided to pass this prize on to another deserving writer.

I can think of several fellow writers who will have a manuscript ready by September. However, I don’t want to volunteer someone and cause that person to panic as well! So, I am offering this prize to anyone who desires a critique of his or her work. Please leave a comment if you are interested and I will draw names from a hat.

Hart’s an awesome writer and this is a great opportunity for some constructive feedback!

Now, the secret. The secret to successful blogging with lots of comments and followers.

Hate to disappoint you, but I’ve no idea!

I realized I’m about to hit 200 followers and that simply floors me. Around the end of March, approximately 100 days ago, I had thirty. That was it! Somewhere along the way, I did something right, and since I’ve no idea exactly what I did, all I can do is recap what I’ve been doing the past three months.

In searching for blog topics, I decided to focus on my profile description. I didn’t set up a schedule, just selected a few topics of passion. I blog about movies. I blog about books, music, games, and tech stuff. My theme is science fiction and fantasy, so all of these elements center around that subject. Yes, geek and fanboy stuff! Marvin Wilson commented that there seems to be a correlation between science fiction and heavy metal music, so I will explore that in depth one day.

I signed up for Arlee Bird’s April A-Z Challenge, in which we were to blog the letters of the alphabet every day except Sunday. (Good math work there, Lee!) I think a hundred bloggers participated, and I made a lot of great friends along the way.

Arlee Bird also hosted a Fifteen Fantasy Island Favorites in May, so I met even more bloggers when I posted my favorite albums.

Last month I hosted my own blogfest, The Movie Dirty Dozen – twelve favorite movies. I was stunned when sixty people participated in this event, and I met even more new bloggers. The real pleasure came from the response of those who participated, though – they had a great time, met new bloggers, and some received the most comments on a post ever. That is awesome!

I’ve met so many amazing people and learned so much about writing, movies, books, and life experiences. My blogroll is LONG, but I visit those people every day and there’s more I need to add. (Yes, I really need to organize it before it scrolls off the page!)

So, what’s the secret? Well, if you can glean something from my ramblings, then I hope you’ll discover it. In the meantime, I thank every person who follows and comments. I am humbled. You’ve made this an incredible experience!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Movie Review - Despicable Predators

Actually, the predators were rather despicable!

Saw a double feature last night so I've two reviews today.


Despicable Me

Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is one of the greatest villains the world has ever known - until he is usurped by a younger villain named Vector. Determined to regain his title, Gru embarks on a mission to steal the moon. When he decides to use three orphans in his plan, things start to veer off course...

This movie was not as funny as I'd anticipated, but it had a great heart. The three orphan girls are cute. Gru's minions steal the show every time they're onscreen. Reminded me of the slugs in Flushed Away. It's very original and very genuine.

My experience was marred by the movie's projection in the wrong ratio - and the staff's inability (and unwillingness) to fix the problem. So I did not see the outer edges of the film. It was also very dark, most likely a result of the wrong ratio. This did hamper my enjoyment of the film, so I look forward to seeing it again on DVD.



Predators

A group of elite warriors and killers are kidnapped and dropped on an alien planet, only to be hunted by Predators.

What can I say? It's Predators! I went in expecting special effects, explosions, killings, and gore, and I was not disappointed. This is a good entry into the Predator saga. It doesn't break new ground or reveal anything earth shattering. But the characters feel real and the story moves at a good pace. Normally if you drop a bunch of unwilling characters together, they act unrealistic or according to stereotype, but the director handled it well. There's also a new 'breed' of Predators introduced. And Laurence Fishburne's character? You'll just have to see for yourself!

If you enjoyed the first one, you'll enjoy this film. It's above average for a dumb summer action flick and just below great. Just go for the Predator ass-kicking!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

There You Go Changing the Story!

In reading writer and author blogs, it’s interesting to see how everyone goes about creating and altering their story.

But first, I want to mention that the Hollywood Spy hit 100,000 visitors yesterday. Party at Dezz’s place this weekend!

Okay, back to the story.

Some prefer to outline first, either basic or in detail. (I’m a planner, so that works well for me.) I noticed some create storyboards, moving scenes around. A couple people even move entire chapters.

What’s really interesting is at what point does the story change? Granted there’s an evolution from conception to finished product, but there’s a drastic change at some point in the process as well.

Perhaps it’s in the initial stages of the concept. An idea hits, a plot emerges, and then that person backtracks and starts a new path. Maybe that person just throws out ‘what ifs’ and decides what works best.

Maybe it’s after the initial draft is complete. During the first round of editing, the writer discards whole sections and even characters. He might even write a whole new ending.

(My friend, Glynis, recently lost 25,000 words of her manuscript. Crap! She’s rewriting that section now, making some big changes, and says it will be even better. Good for her!)

For me, the drastic changes come before I even begin writing. I think back to my initial concept for CassaStar. By the time I decided I was going to write the story and formed an outline, it looked nothing like my original vision. I’d discarded everything but the two main characters (and their names), the title, and one pivotal scene. But considering what I’d originally imagined, that’s a good thing!

So what about all my writer friends? At what point in the process do you stand your concept on its ear and change everything?

And I was informed the Blog Book Tour class would be critiquing my blog first on Monday - should I be nervous?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review - Fever Dream by Preston and Child


For fans of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, the announcement of a new Pendergast novel is cause for celebration. The mysterious special agent of many of their novels is a fan favorite. Preston and Child offer another interesting and exciting glimpse into the dark history of Aloysius Pendergast with their new novel "Fever Dream". (Released May 11, 2010)

Synopsis from Amazon:

Yesterday, Special Agent Pendergast still mourned the loss of his beloved wife, Helen, who died in a tragic accident in Africa twelve years ago.


Today, he discovers she was murdered.


Tomorrow, he will learn her most guarded secrets, leaving him to wonder: Who was the woman I married? Why was she murdered? And, above all . . . Who murdered her?


FEVER DREAM


Revenge is not sweet: It is essential.

Right off the bat, I will say that this is not my favorite of the bunch (10 in all). It starts with a premise that is a little far-fetched and stretched a bit thin. However, I am a huge fan of the writing duo, and their weaker entries are stronger than 90% of the current available fiction.


What I love most about this book (and their writing in general) is the pacing. They write with the efficiency of a fast paced action adventure movie. Every chapter bristles with energy and life. The term page-turner exemplifies their writing style. The story never gets bogged-down with unnecessary sub-plots and exposition.


Pendergast is assisted as usual by Lt. Vincent D'Agosta and the addition of Capt. Laura Hayward. Together they tie together a grisly murder, parrots and the works of a famous illustrator.


If that sentence intrigues you, then I encourage you to check out "Fever Dream" and all of the Pendergast novels.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Beyond the Lighted Stage Review and Other News

Before I get into my review and subsequent drooling, thought I’d mention a couple things.

I just joined Blog Book Tours, an online class about setting up a book tour. Hope to learn a lot over the next few weeks.

I also received news that my book trailer will be ready sooner than expected! I am so stoked to see it. Believe me, you will all know when it happens!

Now, on to my review of “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage.”

It probably comes as no surprise to my regulars that I am an unabashed Rush fan. As an adolescent, a derogatory comment about the Canadian power trio was cause for World War III. (Yes, I was overly sensitive to the topic.) As an adult, I am no longer concerned what others think of the band, but I still enjoy the music and respect the group.

So it was with anticipation that I was finally able to catch a screening of the new rock doc "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage." Would it surprise anyone to learn that I really enjoyed it? What may surprise you is that I think that anyone who enjoys an engaging documentary will find some good stuff as well. The film chronicles (Rush reference) the band from their Junior high days growing up in Sarnia, Toronto to their rightful place in the limelight.

One aspect that may be unexpected to the Rush neophyte is how much humor is in the film. The anecdotes and stories are downright funny. I was very impressed with the rare, archival footage that the director unearthed. Like them or not (I won't get angry) Rush has an amazing fan base that has kept them going for 40+ years. The film is interspersed with interviews from many established rock artists and it was refreshing to hear them echo what I've felt for years...

Rush is truly a great, genre-defining band that remains relevant because of their immense talent and songwriting. I can't wait to get the DVD - loaded with extra content... Joy!

Okay, Amazon – where’s my DVD?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Have an Awesome Fourth of July



Everyone stay safe!

And sorry, ladies - no patriotic man for you. However, I hope this puppy will suffice. He's probably easier to housebreak anyway!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Not one but TWO flying cars!

Rogue Evolent featured this craft on Wednesday and it blew me away! (He posted a full description and the video, so visit Roads of Autumn Dusk for the low down and skinny on this flying car.)

This is the Transition Roadable Aircraft by Terrafugia.


It received certification as a Light Sport Aircraft and will begin production soon. The plane will cost almost $200,000 and requires 20 hours of flight certification. Its function is a plane, but once on the ground, the wings fold up and it can be driven like a car.

So basically, after you land, you just fold up and drive home!

I want one. Think it comes with photon torpedoes?

Then on the heels of this news came something from Sci-Fi Wire -

“Looks like Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov's next project could be to out-Bay Michael Bay, because he's in talks with Universal to create an English-language blockbuster based on his Russian-language hit Black Lightning. Bekmambetov has described his original film as a "Slavic Transformers meets Batman," and based on the action-packed trailer below, we can see what he means. The Russian-language original was a hit, taking in nearly $10 million during its first weekend.”






I’d like to see the Russian version!!

And finally…


No flying cars, but something really cool – the Fantasy & Sci-Fi Blogger award from Ted Cross
Thanks Dude – this is awesome!!


I’m passing it on to four bloggers –

Jamie at Mithril Wisdom
Bryan at SF Daddy
Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs
Hannah at Musings of a Palindrome