Category: Blog

Farewell, Aquarius

Many of you may not be aware of this, but my brother Adam is a rock star.  And I don’t mean that like “Thanks man, you’re a rock star.”  I mean he is a real live rock and roll musician.  I’ll admit I am late to the game on his newest album, released in September, but you know what they say, “better late than to stay an inconsiderate jerk so preoccupied with himself that he can’t sit down for fifty-three minutes and eight second to listen to the lyrical blood sweat and tears of his own brother”.  I’m pretty sure that’s how the expression goes.

Anywho, at long last I joined the party and really enjoyed it.  Farewell, Aquarius is a loving nod to the literal life raft that Aquarius was to the Apollo 13 astronauts and the salute of gratitude expressed when they parted ways.  I’d say that theme is a thread that runs through this album.  Like the Apollo 13 mission, life doesn’t go as planned, or like we’d hoped.  Farewell, Aquarius is about survival and resilience, it’s about holding on and letting go, it’s about closing chapters of struggle and beginning new chapters with hope.  The songs on this album span the wide range of human emotion and convey the spirit of a man and a musician that, despite disappointment and adversity, just keeps bringing it.

Intro

A track called “Intro” right up top was intriguing to me.  It seemed more like something that would begin a movie soundtrack rather than a rock album, but holy cow!  I loved this track.  A fitting blast off on this musical journey.  This may unseat “Seven Nation Army” and “Africa” as my hotel room wake up alarm jam.  And anyone who knows me knows that’s saying something.

Free

“Free” pulls you in from the opening cord.  To stay with the space metaphor, this song is well placed on the album between “Intro” and “Long Live the King” as the beat drives you through the atmosphere and the lyrical melody eases you into space.

Long Live the King

This song feels a bit like a drift through the cosmos.  It’s slightly psychedelic with echoing voices floating in and out of guitar riffs.  It’s not really my style but well it’s a well-conceived and well executed piece of music.

In Control

A nostalgic trot back through time brings us to the here and now and boldly introduces an empowered ready voice that takes our hand and leads us into this ballad of affirmation.

Let It Happen

To me, “Let It Happen” is an ode to the saving power of love.  Love can pull you from the doldrums into a heavenly bliss.  This is a song you can just close your eyes and let it wash over you.

No Strings Attached

The drop-in for “No Strings Attached” is full of lament and frustration but quickly builds to an anthem of resilience.  It’s a flag in the ground and a promise to overcome.  “Here I am, I’m standing tall.  I won’t hold back, I won’t let go.  Through all the pain and all the tears and all the sorrow of the fears.  I hear the cry, I hear the sound, of all the voices beating down.  And I won’t bend I won’t back down until those voices stand their ground.”

Beside Myself

The haunting melody blends really well with the softer side of Adam’s voice in a dialed-down song on an intense album.  It’s just the respite the soul needs on the emotional journey that is Farewell, Aquarius.  There is a hint of hope in the hurt.  The promise of dreams despite the despair.  “Deep down, I know, that someday we’ll fly high again.”

Throw It All Away

This song speaks to a longing to wake someone up, someone you care about, and yet are helplessly at the mercy of their actions.  It’s both wanting to cling to them and leave all at once.  It has a very Police-like vibe that gets in your head and stays with you.

No Way Out

Easily my favorite song on the album, probably my favorite song he’s ever done.  I can listen to this song on repeat all day.  It’s catchy and the imaginary is outstanding.  I can literally see this song play out in front of me.  I might listen to it again right now.

I Will

I’ve been a fan of this song since an acoustic cut my brother shared with me years ago.  To finally hear it in its full rock n’ roll majesty is a treat.  “I Will” is that one last long look at the end of a relationship, that painful, beautiful, moment before you turn to face the crossroads before you.

Lost and Found

“Without my dreams I’m just a mortal.”  Mortality praises the divine in “Lost and Found”.  This number would elevate any Christian Rock album, but in tone and tenor completely belongs on this album at the same time.

See This Light

This is the longest song on the album and feels like its two songs.  It has a melancholy quality to it.  There’s a lot going on in this song and a lot to sink your teeth into.

I can’t say enough about how proud I am of my brother and what a beautiful piece of audio artwork he has created.  The band is EveningTheScore, you can check out his stuff on iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, or wherever you like to listen to music.

The Last Jedi Review

I won’t keep you in suspense.  I did not like Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  I did not like it a lot.

I have seen the film twice now, my small contribution to its massive financial success.  My hopes were high on opening night, as my brother-in-law and I took our seats and basked in the glow of the famous opening crawl.  However, there was an immediate disturbance in the Force and by the end credits I felt betrayed and bewildered.  How could this story have gone so horribly wrong?

I spent much of the weekend trading messages with my friend, and fellow Star Wars fan, about how disappointing and distressing The Last Jedi was.  After picking (and nitpicking) at the details and overall tone of the movie, I began to think I was being overly critical.  After all, there were parts I enjoyed very much.

I took my sons to see it a few days later.  This time I gave myself license to enjoy the movie for what it is, a Star Wars film for a new generation, but as I sat through this dumpster fire once more it reconfirmed everything that felt wrong, from the tone, to the plot, to the characters.  I left the theater and mourned all that might have been and everything we lost with The Last Jedi.

WARNING: Beyond this point there be spoilers!

From the opening scene I was bothered by the tone.  Don’t get me wrong, I laughed.  The prank call from Poe to the First Order was hilarious.  What bugged me though was that it undercut an already thin villain, in General Hux, and completely negated any tension built from the crawl of the desperate escape.  Then, just minutes after the yucks on Hux, we are asked to care about nameless bomber pilots, and their sacrifices, when they attempt to destroy a battleship that is so formidable that it is ill equipped to deal with a single X-Wing fighter, or a squadron of bombers, or able to target a base or a starship in a timely manner.  Not to mention the fact that you can’t drop bombs in space, there’s no gravity!

Smash cut to Ahch-To where we pick up right where The Force Awakens left us, Rey standing in front of old Luke Skywalker.  We’ve waited two years to hear what Luke will say or do when he is presented with his father’s lightsaber.  In some ways we’ve waited 30 years for this moment.  And what happens?  Luke literally, and figuratively, throws it away.  Both times I watched it, several people in the theater chuckled, but I was deflated.

We were ten minutes in and it was clear that Rian Johnson was set to throw away everything that had come before.  The question that I still have is, why?  JJ Abrams proved you could make a Star Wars movie for a new generation and still deftly use the building blocks, and characters, from the original films.  To a truly spiteful level, Johnson had no interest in doing that.

Say what you want about The Force Awakens, three intriguing questions came out of it.  1) Why did Luke go into hiding and what will he say?  2) Who is Rey, who are her parents and why was she abandon on Jaku?  3) What is Snoke’s story?

Johnson’s answers in The Last Jedi?

1) An eternal optimist, who never gave up on his father (a genocidal maniac, who cut off his hand), was going to murder his nephew in his sleep for having bad thoughts.  So he went into shame hiding and renounced his religion because he couldn’t keep an emo kid from succumbing to a bad influence.  If every father (or father figure) did that there wouldn’t be enough weird rock beehive huts on Ahch-To to accommodate us all.

Oh, and what will he say?  Nothing.  He’ll toss the lightsaber away and lock himself in his room, because that’s exactly how any of us would react if a young lady showed up at our doorstep with a family heirloom and a distress message from our sister.  Then Chewy, who was dramatically underused, beats down his door and Luke learns that this girl arrived in the Falcon.  And here Johnson throws another middle finger at Abrams and cuts away instead of showing us Luke’s reaction to learning that his old friend and brother-in-law was murdered at the hands of his own flesh and blood, and Luke’s former pupil.

Oh yeah, Johnson throws more shade at The Force Awakens, and the Skywalker dynasty, by having the tantrum-throwing Ren destroy his helmet in the elevator.  This helmet was a physical manifestation of his connection to his grandfather and, just like a lightsaber toss over the shoulder, it was discarded.

Immediately following that we watch Kylo struggle with the decision to kill his mother.  In an intense and emotional moment he chooses not to pull the trigger, only to have his colleagues destroy the bridge and we watch Leia get sucked into space.  She is floating in space, Guardians of the Galaxy style, before she wakes up and space floats, Mary Poppins style, back to the exploded bridge.  Because, the Force, that’s why.

Speaking of things the Force has never done before, back on Porg island, while Rey patiently waits for her ungracious host to finish fishing and milking alien sea cows, she gets a ForceTime message from Kylo Ren.  Yeah, that’s right, they can talk to each other and even see each other, but not their surroundings.  ForceTime, available on iOSnoke 17.  Rey shoots through the stone beehive hut and we are treated to these bizarre fish nuns and now must grapple with the fact that Luke hasn’t been living in seclusion but in a Cod Commune.  I’ll just leave that there for the moment.

Now things really go off the rails.  The B-storyline quickly devolves into a slow speed space chase where the First Order, who can now inexplicably track ships at light speed, can’t catch up with a ship that is right in front of them.  And this same organization who turned a planet into a weapon that could destroy other planets across the galaxy, can’t build a cannon that can reach a ship which they can see with their eyes through their front window.  They could literally step out on the deck and hurl rocks through space at the fleeing Resistance ship, but it was out of range of their guns.  If that wasn’t ludicrous enough, we have to endure a side mission (by two woefully unqualified side characters) to find a code breaker/thief who can get them on a ship to disable the miraculous technology that can be disarmed by a maintenance worker and that every janitor is privy to its location.  BOO!

While we’re on the subject, why was maintenance girl sent on this mission instead of the best pilot in the galaxy?  Maintenance girl could have stayed back and stalled and then it would have made sense for them to withhold the plan from her.  Also, why was maintenance girl allowed to pilot the speeders in the finale when there were clearly trained soldiers just sitting it out in the foxhole?  Her whole character was so contrived and this whole storyline asinine.

Switching back to things we actually cared about, Luke sneaks on to the Millennium Falcon, during a really funny exchange between Chewy and his dinner.  Luke is reunited with R2D2 and I start to think this movie might yet be redeemed by a touching tender piece of nostalgia, but immediately we are treated to more hilarity “Hey, sacred island, watch your mouth.”  This was so out of character for this version of Luke that I wanted to throw the middle finger to the screen.  You can either go with old cynical jaded Luke who has lost his faith in himself and forsook the Jedi order or go with playful banter between a droid and his master, the faithful steward and last protector of a dying religion.  You can’t have both.

So Luke decides to teach Rey a lesson (three of them actually, but she only gets two lessons).  Not how to be a Jedi but why she shouldn’t want to be.  Luke says the Force is not light or dark and does not belong to the Jedi, which is actually really well said.  I always assumed that to be true, from Obi Wan’s original explanation of the force as the thing that binds us, runs through us, and connects us.  At no point did I feel anybody laid claim to the Force but if that’s how Luke needed to teach it then I’m fine with it.  When Rey shows sensitivity to the Force and awareness of the dark side of it, Luke loses his cool again.  Rey trains herself with the lightsaber and disturbs the fish nuns again (eye-roll).

We flash back to the gamblers paradise where Finn immediately shows he cares as little for the mission as we do.  They give BB-8 some funny things to do and a whole bunch of I-Don’t-Care happens.  Poe is at odds with an interim Admiral who I can only describe as “Wouldn’t it be cool to have Laura Dern in a Star Wars Movie?  But how would that work?  Who cares, get her a purple wig and we’ll figure it out.”  Purple-hair Laura Dern doesn’t share her master plan, because reasons.  Her master plan, by the way, is to cruise by an uncharted planet with an old rebel base on it and send out cloaked ships while the First Order continues to follow their RV that’s about to run out of gas.  Did I mention they have cloaking devices now?  The First Order designed something that can track a ship at light speed but not a scanner that can sweep for escaping vessels right in front of them.

So Rey goes into a Dark Side Funhouse and then Luke catches her Force touching with Kylo Ren and loses his junk.  Rey and Luke stick fight until she takes him down and threatens him with a laser sword.  Yeah, Luke called it a laser sword.  Boo!

She tries to convince him that there is good in Kylo but Luke, who made the same argument for his youngling murdering father, would rather just lay there in the rain than trust hope.  When Rey finally sees what a disappointment Luke is, she leaves.

Of course Luke’s first thought is “I should burn that old tree and those old books.  That will show the Force.”  Yoda shows up and I squealed a little.  They even brought back puppet Yoda, or CGI’d puppet Yoda.  Either way, YODA!  He delves out wisdom after conjuring lightning and cracking Luke on the noggin with his Force Ghost cane, which we can add to the list of things we didn’t know you could do with the Force.  How are these guys losing to the Dark Side?  I’m starting to think that Force Ghosts are selfish jerks.

Skipping the “Nobody cares about the mission to disable a tracking device that won’t matter because the plan is to abandon ship anyway” storyline, Rey jettisons herself from the Falcon in an escape coffin that can be piloted into Snoke’s ship.  Snoke shows how powerful he is.  He can move people and things around at will and connect them via ForceTime from across the galaxy.  He can even foresee the future, but he can’t see a lightsaber turning on the armrest next to him.

Who is Snoke?  Answer 3) You’ll never know, so shut up.

The fight scene that follows is really cool though.  Then comes the old “join me and we’ll rule the galaxy” invite.  Rey refuses and Kylo Ren tells her that he saw her parents through the Force and that they are junkers who sold her for drinking money and died penniless.  Answer 2) Well, that sucks.

Purple-haired Laura Dern tells the First Order to “Track This!” and crams her hyperdrive in the First Order’s Snoke hole.  That visual was dope.  So well done.  The audio space vacuum was amazing.  Probably the best Star Wars explosion and that’s saying something.  It almost redeemed the atrocious dialogue written for purple-haired Laura Dern.  “God speed.”  When in all of Star Wars history has God ever been mentioned?  It’s the Force.  You know, may the Force be with you.  Not God speed.  “No, don’t turn back.  Full speed ahead.”   Were they not going “full speed ahead” already?  Cause they really should have been, seeing how they were escaping and all.

I won’t even waste time and energy on the disposal Captain Phasma, since the screenwriter/director didn’t either.

The surviving spark that will light the fire that will… (too exhausted to care) lands on not-Hoth and holds up in the old rebel base.  The First Order slow marches from a distance to give Poe and company time to jump in old speeders and ramble out to battle.  Chewy, the Porgs, and Rey show up in the Millennium Falcon and lead the TIE Fighters away from the battle.  That was also outstanding.

Enter poorly thought out dialogue again “Concentrate all fire on the speeders!”  What were they concentrating all fire on before?  There are only 13 speeders, that’s been well established.  The reckless Poe calls for retreat, because Leia and purple-haired Laura Dern reformed the loveable scoundrel with secret admiration and stern reproving (boo!), but Finn charges forward anyway.  Only to be run down from behind by maintenance girl, who had retreated and then turned around to catch him from the side.  How?!  Was he not going full speed ahead?

The portable cannon, that apparently doesn’t work in space against a slowly fleeing space cruiser, blows a hole in the base.  The spark that will light the…(sigh) loses hope until Luke Freaking Skywalker shows up!  Wait, why is his hair shorter and his beard darker.  Something’s not right.  Oh well, Luke is here!  He kisses Leia on the forehead and throws 3PO a nod before walking out to face down the First Order with his laser sword.  In a dazzling display of pyrotechnics, Ren orders Skywalker blasted into salt dust.  Just For Men Luke emerges from the smoke and flames unscathed and Ren condescends to fight him.

The spark that…(head shake) follows the crystal foxes to the rock avalanche while Luke dances with Darth Poser.  Our suspicions are confirmed when Ren slices through the Force projection of Luke.  Another disappointment for what was a stunning visual.  After telling Ren that the Resistance was only beginning his projection fades away before we watch actual Luke fade away.  Because he was tired?

What a complete waste of Luke Freaking Skywalker!

Rey force lifts the boulders and rescues the spark…(growl).  Like a dozen people board the Falcon and escape.  Kylo Ren enters the base with salt troopers and finds the Falcon’s fuzzy dice projection, which somehow survives just long enough for Ren to see it, even after Luke has vanished.  When the Force awakened it must have learned new tricks.

Finally we are treated to indentured children from the B-storyline recounting the legend of Luke Skywalker facing down the First Order (even though they should be recounting how Leia used the Force to come back from the dead and fly through space) their taskmaster tells them to get back to work.  One of the boys Force fetches his broom and looks up at the sky.  Uh, I think we’ve already seen a young mistreated slave boy with Force powers.  Somebody take that kid’s midichlorian count, stat.

Unless you are a special little snowflake born in the last twenty-five yearss, this film was not made for you.  You might have enjoyed it, but this movie was the equivalent of Disney giving the keys to the car to an unlicensed Millennial, more interested in sending a funny SnapChat to his online “friends” in Asia than safeguarding the family vehicle, and he drove this piece right into a ditch.  Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

Help me JJ Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.

The Twelve Days of Cajoling

12 Fun and Easy Ways to Support An Author.  Pick one or all 12!

List and links at the bottom.

On the first day of cajoling an author begged from me
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the second day of cajoling an author begged from me
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the third day of cajoling an author begged from me
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the fourth day of cajoling an author begged from me
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the fifth day of cajoling an author begged from me
Five Star Reviews (Review any of my books, it means the world to me, whatever the rating)
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the sixth day of cajoling an author begged from me
Six tweeps retweeting (Follow me on Twitter, like, reply, or retweet to one of my tweets)
Five Star Reviews (Review any of my books, it means the world to me, whatever the rating)
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the seventh day of cajoling an author begged from me
Seven fans reviewing (Review/Recommend my books on Goodreads)
Six tweeps retweeting (Follow me on Twitter, like, reply, or retweet to one of my tweets)
Five Star Reviews (Review any of my books, it means the world to me, whatever the rating)
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes’, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the eighth day of cajoling an author begged from me
Eight new readers (Read the misadventures of Woodruff and Bob)
Seven fans reviewing (Review/Recommend my books on Goodreads)
Six tweeps retweeting (Follow me on Twitter, like, reply, or retweet to one of my tweets)
Five Star Reviews (Review any of my books, it means the world to me, whatever the rating)
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the ninth day of cajoling an author begged from me
Nine pins on Pinterest (Pin one of my books, blogs, or pics, and/or follow me on Pinterest)
Eight new readers (Read the misadventures of Woodruff and Bob)
Seven fans reviewing (Review/Recommend my books on Goodreads)
Six tweeps retweeting (Follow me on Twitter, like, reply, or retweet to one of my tweets)
Five Star Reviews (Review any of my books, it means the world to me, whatever the rating)
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the tenth day of cajoling an author begged from me
Ten friends a-sharing (Watch my book trailers on YouTube and share with your friends)
Nine pins on Pinterest (Pin one of my books, blogs, or pics, and/or follow me on Pinterest)
Eight new readers (Read the misadventures of Woodruff and Bob)
Seven fans reviewing (Review/Recommend my books on Goodreads)
Six tweeps retweeting (Follow me on Twitter, like, reply, or retweet to one of my tweets)
Five Star Reviews (Review any of my books, it means the world to me, whatever the rating)
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the eleventh day of cajoling an author begged from me
Eleven people talking (talk with me about my books, or better yet, tell somebody about my books)
Ten friends a-sharing (Watch my book trailers on YouTube and share with your friends)
Nine pins on Pinterest (Pin one of my books, blogs, or pics, and/or follow me on Pinterest)
Eight new readers (Read the misadventures of Woodruff and Bob)
Seven fans reviewing (Review/Recommend my books on Goodreads)
Six tweeps retweeting (Follow me on Twitter, like, reply, or retweet to one of my tweets)
Five Star Reviews (Review any of my books, it means the world to me, whatever the rating)
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

On the twelfth day of cajoling an author begged from me
Twelve reservations (Reserve my book at your local library. Not there? Request it from your friendly neighborhood librarian)
Eleven people talking (talk with me about my books, or better yet, tell somebody about my books)
Ten friends a-sharing (Watch my book trailers on YouTube and share with your friends)
Nine pins on Pinterest (Pin one of my books, blogs, or pics, and/or follow me on Pinterest)
Eight new readers (Read the misadventures of Woodruff and Bob)
Seven fans reviewing (Review/Recommend my books on Goodreads)
Six tweeps retweeting (Follow me on Twitter, like, reply, or retweet to one of my tweets)
Five Star Reviews (Review any of my books, it means the world to me, whatever the rating)
Four ebook’s read (Read one of my free ebooks or check out Crooked Top Mountain for just $0.99 cents)
Three shared books (Share The Land of Look Behind, The Unsaid, and Crooked Top Mountain)
Two Facebook ‘Likes”, (“Like” my Facebook page or share it with your friends) and
A nomination for the Whitney’s (Nominate Crooked Top Mountain for a 2018 Whitney Award)

Fyrecon

I’m thrilled to be a part of Fyrecon June 8-10 at Weber State University – Davis Campus in Layton, Utah.  I’ll be teaching two classes and sitting on four panels.

https://www.fyrecon.com/schedule/

To kick off the event Thursday I’ll be teaching a class at 1:30pm Bringing Your Story to Life where I’ll help writer take their stories from beginning to the end.

Friday fun day is loaded with another class and two panels.  The first panel starts at 11:30am where we talk about books that have influenced us.  Then at 2:30pm I’ll be teaching a class on flipping your story upside down to find clarity where I relate my experience as a freelance sports reporter and what I learned that helped my write novels.  Right after that I’ll sit on the panel talking about the dos and don’ts of manipulating your audience.

Saturday evening I’ll be moderating the panel on reboots and remakes for television and film which I’m really excited about.  Then I’ll be sitting on a panel with my good friend Alyson Peterson on writing humor.

I can’t wait!

A Dream Among The Stars

I had a thought that grew into a dream.  That dream went with me everywhere.  It was with me at work.  With me while I ate.  I laughed with my dream and it smile back.  My dream greeted me each morning and bid me goodnight as I lay down to sleep.  My dream was even with me while I showered.

More and more of my energy went toward my dream as it grew and grew.  One day, quite miraculously, my dream turned into a star.  It lived in my head, as real as real could be, until I could no longer contain it.  I was not ready for the world to see my little star so I kept it in my pocket.  Day after day it took shape and grew bigger and brighter.

One day I felt it was time to share my little star with others.  I gave a peek to those closest to me and they looked on my little star with awe and wonder.  Some hailed it and proclaimed that it belonged in the heavens while others questioned if it were big or bright enough.  Truth be told, I wondered the same thing myself.

We were faced with two choices, my dream and I.  Either my little star would remain tucked safely away in my pocket, where only I would know of its beauty and brightness, or we would endeavor to follow brave men and women into the celestial sky to place it among the stars.  My fondest desire was to share my little star with all who might enjoy it, so the choice was easy.  The journey, however, was not.

With a deep breath and a prayer in my heart, I set off for the top of the mountain.  I climbed the nearest peak and when I reached the summit I took my little star from my pocket and held it high, toward the heavens.  We waited, my dream and I, for what seemed like an eternity.  I gave serious thought to constructing a vessel of my own for the trip when at last a tiny sail boat floated through the sky as if in answer to my silent prayer.

Grateful for the passage I gave no thought to its size or worthiness but leapt in before it could depart without us.  We sailed up into the great unknown toward a future of glorious possibilities.  The journey was long but my little star and I reveled in the fact that we had been accepted into the vast galaxy above.  With wide-eyed wonder we took in the passing cosmos on our way to our long sought destination.

At last we arrived and I took my little star, gave it one last adoring look, and placed it with the other beautiful spheres of light.  The joy I felt nearly caused my heart to burst.  I returned to earth, full of excitement, to call for all of my friends and family so they might see the heights we had reached, my dream and I.  They rejoiced with me and we celebrated together for a time.  I spread the word far and wide that my dream had become a star and my star was in the sky for all to behold.

Many came and looked upon my star.  There were those who delighted in its splendor and whimsy.  And others who did not find it as grand or brilliant as other stars they had seen.  When I stepped back and took in the breathtaking tapestry of the universe, my little star seemed so insignificant and the prospect of anyone finding it on their own seemed so remote that my joy began to slip away.

It was then I remembered where we began our journey and just how far my dream had come to take its place among the stars.  It did not matter to me that it was dwarfed in size and brilliance by its glorious companions or that it might be lost to some among the infinite expanse of space.  To me the only thing that mattered was how far we had come and what my dream had become.  I do not know how long or how bright my little star will burn or how many will enjoy its light.  But I now know what a dream can be and before I am through I plan on placing a few more stars in the sky.

Amazon Giveaway: The Land of Look Behind

Start the New Year off right with literacy and games of chance.  Enter for your chance to win a free ebook of the exciting debut mystery novel The Land of Look Behind. Your friends will be so jealous. Plus you get to follow an author on Amazon. #winning

See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: The Land of Look Behind (Kindle Edition). https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/d7316ffac42594b2 NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Feb 3, 2017 11:59 PM PST, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.

Review: Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them

I’m not a movie critic I’m a storyteller and I love a good story well told.  Yesterday I gained a new appreciation for a storyteller I have long admired.  J.K Rowling returned to the world she created and brought us back into the secret society of witches and wizards with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

A couple of things struck me about this story.  First, it was immediately familiar and welcomed you right in like we’d never been gone.  And second, this story was set so far apart from the Harry Potter story where someone with no context to her original series could enjoy this world for all its wonder and not feel completely lost.

Rowling set her latest story seventy years and an ocean apart from 4 Privet Drive and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and yet from the opening scene you knew you were right back in the magical world of wands and sorcery.  In the medium of film, a writer is not alone in the task of telling their story and in many ways relies on the director to bring the story to life.  David Yates is well acquainted with the Harry Potter universe having directed the final four films and he did not miss a beat bringing us to 1920’s New York where magical society facing its own set of challenges with the No-Maj population.

Newt

This was just one small way in which Rowling beautifully distinguished both the time period and cultures from one another.  Wizards and witches in the United States in the 20th century called non-magical folks No-Maj as opposed to Muggles.  This was introduced and explained early on in the story as Newt Scamander stepped off the boat from England and signaled to the audience that things weren’t going to be what they were used to.  Certainly we were treated to familiar spells and names, like Albus Dumbledore, but much of the setting and tone was different from what we experienced in our first introduction to the magical world through the eyes of the boy who lived.

Although New Scamander was an established Wizard he was more than a little out of place in the society and culture of New York.  This was a perfect way for Rowling to expand her universe as we could travel with Scamander and leave a world we knew for a different place and time, both we and Scamander could share a frame of reference and experience the new world together.

For those who had never before visited Rowling’s magical universe, presumably due to them either being too cool for what they deemed to be a children’s story or having been in a coma for the past twenty years, they also had a character who journeyed with them in the No-Maj aspiring baker Jacob Kowalski.  This is where Rowling gave us something we never had before, an uninitiated character with no magical connection.  Jacob’s reaction to this stunning revelation of the existence of magic was highly entertaining and although he took most of them in stride we were able to get a different perspective that was refreshing and new.

Speaking of different perspectives, this story was centered around adult characters with adult problems and concerns, which set an entirely different tone from Harry Potter.  Not only did we have Scamander and Kowalski trying to navigate a foreign environment but we were introduced to the recently demoted Auror Tina Goldstein who had her own set of problems seeking to redeem herself with the Magical Congress.  This was a far cry from children playing Quidditch, sneaking to Hogsmeade, and preparing for exams.

Finally, there was no prophetic child or You Know Who but we did have reference to a dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald, who we learned about in the Deathly Hallows and a nice Easter Egg to that story along the way, yet another example of the something familiar yet new in this fantastic story [pun intended].

In closing I would like to give one last tip of my hat to Rowling and Yates not only as collective storytellers but for their individual accomplishments within the film.  First, Rowling introduced a mystery right from the beginning of a powerful unseen force and those that pursued it.  This mystery was slowly unfolded throughout the story in a masterful way and the ramifications were far more complicated and tragic than the physical destruction it wreaked.  Second, Yates got top notch performances out of a tremendous cast led by the Academy Award winning Eddie Redmayne.  I felt like the character portrayals and interactions were pitch perfect which was highlighted by the final interaction between Scamander and Goldstein.  This punctuated the story beautifully and sent my anticipation for what is to come through the theater roof.

Whether you are a fan of the Harry Potter series or just waking up from your decade’s long coma, you should treat yourself to this new adventure and a story well told.

5 Things You Should Be More Grateful For

It’s that time of year again where we turn our collective thoughts to the things we are grateful for.  That got me thinking about the things we should be more thankful for.  We live in a miraculous world full of crazy cool things and it’s easy to overlook just how fortunate we are.  With that said I submit, for your consideration and in no particular order, 5 things we should be more grateful for.

Aglets

agletYou may have never given consideration to the aglet or you might not even know what it is, but I promise you that you would be filled with a profound appreciation and gratitude for the unsung hero of your high-tops if it were not a thing.  I’ll give you a moment to Google “aglet” … [Jeopardy theme music] … [check my watch] … [remember that I don’t wear a watch] …and your back.  See?!  The AGLET!  Imagine trying to lace up a new pair of sneakers with a limp nylon string.  It would be maddening.   Now every day you tie your shoes be sure to give thanks for this tiny plastic hero.

Running Water

Here’s another topic you may not have given proper consideration.  Go ahead and stroll on over to the sink and turn the nozzle or lift the lever.

Did you do it?  Why not?  Is it because you already know that clear, cool, life giving water will immediately come pouring out at a pressure you can regulate at will?  Yeah, now think about that for a second.  Where does it come from, how does it get there, who makes sure it’s clean and what would you do if it all stopped?  Are you frightened yet?  Well then you should probably throw up a prayer or two of thanks to whatever God you worship for the invisible forces that afford you such an essential luxury; you know the one that allows you to clean, wash, cook, drink and LIVE!

I won’t even get into hot water which is a beautiful flower of goodness itself.  I took cold showers for two years as a missionary in Jamaica and felt a bit like John Rambo in the shower stalls of the Hope Washington Police Station most mornings, but at least the water flowed and I didn’t have to worry about diphtheria.

Cell Phones

91a1387b86a43732bb424fe248796672I’m not even talking about smart phones.  I’m talking straight up about the ability to take a device out of your pocket and speak to somebody through a device in their pocket or a phone in their home.

Some of you may be too young to remember when you had to make plans with someone before you left your house, at which point you were entirely beholden to those plans and at the mercy of the dependability, punctuality and/or commitment of said someone.  It was a ball of anxiety wrapped in uncertainty.  Are your friends still going to meet up for dinner?  Is your mom going to pick you up from the mall?  Has the world come to an end and no one is coming to your Jean-Claude Van Damme movie marathon?  You don’t know!  You just have to sit there and wait like a pathetic loser.  It was a nightmare.

Clothes

Certainly there’s a life sustaining value to clothing, in some cases, and although I’m not a fashion expert there can be applications that allow for an expression of either unity or individuality.  However, on a day to day basis, are we thankful enough that clothes are covering up a whole lot of nakedness?  While there are certainly cases where humanity would not raise a cry of objection or call for a public covering, by and large (and I mean LARGE) the majority of bodies, including my own, ought to be shrouded in as much cotton/poly mystery as possible.  There are some sights that can’t be unseen and while beauty may only be skin deep, my love handles need a t-shirt.

Chairs

chairTry and go a week without sitting in a chair, try it for a day.  And it’s cheating to just stay in bed or lay on the sofa.  I mean go and live your life and look at how many chairs you encounter and how much better your life is for it.  Sit down for dinner.  Chair.  Wait in a doctor’s office.  Chair.  Go to school.  Chair.  Work on the computer.  Chair.

Have you ever been camping and not brought a chair?  The first thing you do right after building a shelter and prepping a fire pit is try and fashion a makeshift chair from a rock, a stump, or your least favorite child; anything but sitting on the ground like an animal.  Even worse when you show up to your child’s soccer game without a chair and have to shamefully sit/squat in the damp grass or steal the corner of some strange toddler’s blanket while he eyeballs you.  It’s called sharing Evan, it won’t kill you!  Just go back to playing with your T-rex and Hot Wheels car, like that even makes sense.  You’re not better than me.

Where was I?  Oh right.  Chairs.

There are few things as sweet as resting your weary bones on a good old fashion chair with a back.  Much is made of how the wheel accelerated the human race out of a primal age, but I’ll bet you fifty bucks that long before Neanderthals turned their robust craniums to the wheel they had already invented the chair.

So when you pause to express thanks for the many blessings in your life take a look around and you might be surprised with just how many reasons you have to be grateful.