#ComedyBookWeek

COMWEEK

       Welcome to comedy book week, which those of you with second grade math skills may have noticed happens to stretch 8 days! ( I’m thinking it may have been inspired by the Beatles.)  What is Comedy Book Week? Well it’s the brain child of author Ana Spoke, a way of helping humor fans and humor authors come together. And given the insanity of the world lately who couldn’t use a few laughs right about now?  Take a break from reality and let yourself smile.

To celebrate, many of us have special deals running on our books, you can click on any of the books to be taken to Amazon, where you can check out what they are about and see if they are on sale. Personally, I have three books participating in Comedy Book Week. The first two books in the Kat Parker series, as well as the first (and currently only) book in my Kimberly Weathers series. 

FREE July 18-22                  Only $1.99 July 17-23          Only $0.99 July 17-23

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* For those of you who are currently caught in the clutches of the PokemonGO game, please note that while these books do contain a turtle, an alligator, and a shark, none of them are actual pokemon, however if the notion that are would entice you to “catch ’em all” then feel free to pretend they are! 

I must admit I haven’t read many of the books participating in the promo, so I can’t make any recommendations (other than my own of course – yeah that was rather self-serving, wasn’t it!)  However, I’ve have picked up several and will be diving into them soon.  Have you read any of the books below? Feel free to share your thoughts/recommendation in the comment section below.

You can also visit www.comedybookweek.com each day to check out highlights of the event!

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What I’ve been reading lately!

May 15th, 2016

I’ve been reading a couple of series lately, one of which I’ll tell you about today and another I’ll talk about another day. However, first I’d like to talk about something that I was told years and years and years ago. There is no such thing as an original idea. I’ll be honest I didn’t always agree. Sure I understood that a storyline could be broken down to its base level of say Man vs Nature or Man vs Man or whatnot, and sure on that level there would be no storyline that hadn’t been done. But surely there were still original ideas, right? Sad truth is probably not. The real truth is that it’s not ideas that are original, merely the way in which the stories are told. I began to realize this when I would come up with what I thought were original ideas only to find out other authors had already written or were in the process of writing stories that had similar storylines.

I think the first time was when I had a wild idea for a story in which the main character suffered from the genetic disorder xeroderma pigmentosum (basically being allergic to light). Color me surprised when Dean Koontz came out with a book called Fear Nothing in which the main character Christopher Snow suffers from that very disease! While that’s the first time I can recall it happening, it was hardly the last time. It wasn’t long before I noticed book after book having storylines that I thought were my original ideas. How could this be possible? Were Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and others tapping into my brainwaves and stealing my ideas? Of course not, though at the time I did wonder. I’ve since come to realize that ideas are everywhere and it’s hardly surprising when multiple people have the same or similar thoughts. And when I read Dean’s book I saw that while the core kernel of the character suffering from xeroderma pigmentosum might be the same, my story (or at least the one I had in mind) was nothing like his. It did, however, finally prove to me that Mark Twain was right, ‘There is no such thing as a new idea.’ As I said, it’s not the idea that is original but the way in which the story gets told.

You give 10 writers the same writing prompt and you will get 10 wildly different stories. Why do I mention this? Because the book series I am about to talk about is an idea I had long ago. And after a bit of searching on Amazon I saw it was not even remotely close to being an original idea. However, as was the case with Koontz’s novel, I wasn’t too far into reading these books (say only the first or second page!) before I saw that my idea and the idea of this other author were quite different. Oh sure, perhaps at the core we had a similar notion, but his execution and the idea I had in mind were radically different.

What was the idea? Geeky guy gets turned into a vampire. Now you might be saying ‘vampires again?!’ Yes. I like vampires. I like scary ones—Salam’s Lot. I like funny ones—Love at first bite. Action ones—Blade. Teenage angst ones—Lost Boys. The only ones I don’t like … sparkly ones. Sorry. I tried, but I didn’t like them. And yes while I have Jonny in the Kat Parker books—who many of you have noted does not seem at all like your typical vampire—I have plenty of other vampire stories rattling around in my head. I wrote a serious vampire book long ago and then shelved it. This was before I got into self publishing. One of these days I intend to dig it out, polish it, and publish it. But I think I’m wandering here (as I am often wont to do), so let me get back to the matter at hand. The geeky vampire idea. An original idea? Not really. Once I began looking around I found out it had been done numerous times in the past. And once I began to read the first book in this series it didn’t take me long (as I said, within the first page or so) to see that this author’s take was completely different than the take I’d had in mind. Was there are point to all this? Probably not. This is more my internal thought process and my way of telling myself not to completely give up on my idea of some day perhaps writing that geeky vampire story just because someone else has already written one. Now onto the books.

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The book series is known as The Tome of Bill by author Rick Gualteri. There are currently 9 books in the series, 7 main books and 2 side stories. I’m currently reading the 5th main book, having completed books 1-4 as well as the first of the side stories that takes place between books 4 and 5. I’m not going to go in depth on the plots of these books, you can check them out on Amazon, as I really don’t want to spoil anything. 

However, let me warn you upfront that the humor in these books (and yes there is quite a bit of it) is a bit on the juvenile/frat boyish side. The books are loaded with F-bombs, crude humor, and are perhaps more than a bit misogynistic. That being said, I am enjoying the heck out of the series.

The first book—Bill the Vampire—tells the tale of Bill Ryder, a dorky game developer who gets turned into a vampire. We learn that Bill is a special type of vampire and see how his creation brings chaos into the vampire world in general. Bill is a snarky, trash talking, underdog, and as long as you aren’t offended by his total objectification of women, he and his friends are lovable losers. On a side note, as someone who was a teen in the 80’s I love all the pop references.

Even though many people feel they know what to expect from a vampire story, the author does a great job of putting his own unique spin on the supernatural world and we see even more of this in the continuing books. With each new volume the author has added new twists and turns to his vision of the supernatural world and we are introduced to some truly unique characters (which you know I love). One such spin? The age old enemy of the vampires is big foot and not werewolves as so many others, myself included, have used in the past.

Like almost everything out there, this won’t be for everyone. However, if you aren’t easily offended and can appreciate/laugh at some rather juvenile/crude humor you might just want to download a sample of Bill the Vampire and give it a go. I know I’m glad I did. 

Have you tried these books? Love them? Hate them? Feel free to let me know below. And feel free to share what you’ve been reading lately. My backlog is already insane, but I’m always on the lookout for something new so let me know if you have any recommendations.

Marvel’s Best!

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Anyone who stopped by and checked out my blogging last month for the A to Z challenge must have noticed how much I enjoy movies. And if you didn’t notice, then I’m stating it now. I love movies!

Besides being a big fan of movies, I’ve also been a huge fan of comics for most of my life. In the geek war of DC vs Marvel, I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan. (Won’t ramble on about my reasons why, that topic could likely span several blogs.)

Over the years Hollywood has attempted to bring the comics alive, both in the theaters and on TV, with varying degrees of success. Even now with so many fantastic movies being put out, the subject matter finally being treated seriously and often helmed by fellow fans/geeks, there are still some stinkers coming out. (*cough* Green Lantern *cough* … and I’ve already ranted about my feelings on Man of Steel.)

Went and saw Age of Ultron today and decided I’d do my top 10 Marvel Movies! For the purpose of this list, if there is a franchise that has multiple movies or versions I will only be including 1 film to represent it. I must also say that my feelings of which is the best tends to change from time to time, especially upon repeated viewings.

 10. The Punisher

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The Punisher has had 3 movies done on him so far. And you might not even recognize the movie poster for the version I picked. It came out in 1989, direct to video here in the states, but it was in theaters overseas. I’m not going to lie and say any of the movies have been great or that even the 1989 film was the best version. I do recall enjoying it quite a bit and have fond memories of it. Some day I will pick up a new copy and likely be disappointed.

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The Punisher is quite the unique character. Forget the fact that he’s just a man, no super powers. We’ve seen that with other characters. No, what makes Frank Castle so interesting is that he was one of the first antiheroes. He’s doing ‘good’ by being bad. Most heroes don’t kill. (there are definitely exceptions that I’ll likely hit on later) But the Punisher is all about the body count. Someone say bring the pain? Oh, he’ll bring it. I’m still waiting to see him done proper justice. Rumors abound that Punisher might be getting a reboot via Nextflix.

9. Daredevil

marvel2I’ve always been a big Daredevil fan. I was thrilled when they announced the movie, less thrilled when they announced Affleck would be playing Matt Murdock. But to be honest, Ben didn’t do a horrible job. If you are going to watch the movie, make sure you watch the director’s cut. Blinded by an accident when he only a kid, his other senses are heighten to superhuman levels.

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Matt Murdock is truly a tortured character, which you get a slightly better sense of in the director’s cut. I’d been hoping for a reboot. Given the new era of movies with the creation of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) and the serious respect with which the movies are made now, a gritty realistic Daredevil could have been huge. This movie was still treated as ‘fantasy’ and while most of the movies coming out today do have humor, the ‘humor’ in this movie isn’t so much humor as silliness. I know the man without fear just got rebooted on Netflix, but I haven’t seen it.

8. Blade

marvel3Great character and awesome casting. Wesley Snipes was Blade. I remember when this came out and many people didn’t even know that Blade was a comic book character. They did a great job bringing the character to life. It was one of the first movies to treat comics seriously. Dark, gritty, and violent.

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I actually enjoyed all of the Blade movies, though each had issues. Part 1 had the issue of Blade’s final battle being against … well a pool of blood. Part 2 was great in character design, interesting twist of possible love interest, Ron Perlman (adding Ron makes anything better) but it suffered from some overdone CGI scenes. Trinity was fun, some decent humor, but probably the weakest of the 3. Rumors have been around for a very long time about a reboot. I’d like to see it happen, heck I’d love to see Snipes reprise the role.

7. The Amazing Spider-man

marvel6Now given that we’ve had 5 Spider-man flicks I know I might get some flack for this being the one I picked to represent the character. And I’ll admit, when I first saw this one I wasn’t blown away. But it’s grown on me, and I am sad that Andrew Garfield won’t be suiting up any more. I came to enjoy him as Peter. Of course Emma Stone was freaking brilliant as Gwen Stacy. That is not to say it was without problems. The ‘secret’ life of Peter’s dad was so out of left field and should never have been added. And ASM2 was a mess on so many levels I wouldn’t know where to begin.

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I enjoyed the first two Spidey flicks. The best parts had to be J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jamesone, dude as SPOT ON! Spider-man 3 was on par with Schumacher Batman flicks, yes it was that bad. The first did a great job as an origin story. Two was good, but the bad guy wasn’t so much Doc Ock as it was the arms, and thus didn’t just click with me.  What is often times interesting about Spidey’s enemies is that they aren’t so much pure evil as they are shades of gray, which makes them interesting multi-dimensional characters, but I think these types of movies sometimes work better when you have a bad guy you can truly loathe, not one you can sort of sympathize with, though there are definitely exceptions.  So it seems we will now be seeing Spidey in the MCU and I am quite excited about that. Now we just need to see who will be playing the part of good old Peter Parker.

Let me say ranking this next section was hard, I love these movies and they seriously could have been put in any number of orders.

6. Thor

marvel4This is the movie that truly made me believe that Marvel was going to be able to take any of their properties and translate it to the big screen. They took gods and made them relatable to people … gods!!! They took near indestructible characters and made you feel for them. (Yes, I know many superheroes could be labeled as such, Superman for all intents on Earth is a god, but Thor is drawn from real Viking beliefs.) Half the movie takes place on Asgard, which they did an AWESOME job of bringing to life. Not to mention the costume work on this film was spectacular. 

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Marvel has proven again and again that they know how to cast characters. Seriously, I am blown away by how great they have done in finding actors who nail their characters. Thor has that in spades. Anthony Hopkins as Odin … nailed it! Tom Hiddleston as Loki … nailed it! Seriously, Hiddleston becomes Loki, sneaky little weasel who also has serious charm. Chris Hemsworth as Thor … nailed it! Can you honestly imagine anyone else in the role?

5. Iron Man

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Such a great telling of an origin story. I loved all 3 of the films, yes even part 2. Seeing the evolution of the armor over the various movies was quite cool. They definitely offered up some serious fan service with all the versions they showed off in Iron Man 3. Of course 3 also kind of annoyed some with how the Mandarin was portrayed.

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Now did I already mention how Marvel nailed casting? Robert Downey Jr. nailed Tony Stark like there was no tomorrow. And yet the series also shows one misstep in casting. Paltrow as Pepper just didn’t work for me. Her performances weren’t horrible, just didn’t seem to work on the same level of everyone else in the films. Just my two cents. Loved her in Shakespeare in Love, though.

4. X-MEN: First Class

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After the disaster that was X-Men: The Last Stand, the idea of another X-Men movie didn’t thrill me. I’m a huge X-Men fan and there were definitely moments in all three of those first movies I enjoyed, but First Class was just incredible. Loved how they handled the backstory on the formation of the group. Of course it’s not the ‘first class’ from the comics, but I was okay with that. I am a huge Havok fan so seeing him brought to the big screen was quite cool. One of the best parts of First Class? Almost no Wolverine. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wolverine, but the problem with the other X-Men films is that they all seemed to center around him. X-Men are a TEAM, First Class showed that off well. IMO there still hasn’t been a great Wolverine movie. Seems Hugh will be taking one more shot at it, but I just refuse to get my hopes up.

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Having First Class take place in the past during the Cuban Missile Crisis was brilliant, a true reboot, though connecting it with the original trilogy by having Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen reprise their roles was pretty sweet as well. Oh and Kevin Bacon as Shaw was pretty dang cool as well. And of course we got to see the ultimate coin trick! Looking forward to Age of Apocalypse. Can’t wait to see how they handle Archangel. 

3. Guardians of the Galaxy

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Much like Thor, this movie made me believe that Marvel can bring any of their properties to the big screen and make it work. My mind was blown when they announced it. I’m sure the majority of the general public had never even heard of these characters. I’ve been a fan of Rocket Raccoon since he first appeared. They were going to bring him to the big screen? Seriously? Did I say ‘mind blown’ yet?

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Not only did they bring Rocket to the big screen, they brought the universe alive. So many bright brilliant characters I never would have thought we’d ever see. Characters that could have been seen as silly or too unbelievable all came to life. Totally believable. The only character portrayal I didn’t particularly like was The Collector.

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Guardians managed to blend action and humor. Seriously humor ran throughout the movie, from Rocket’s wise guy comments, (I need that guy’s leg), the opening scene of Quill singing into a space rat like it’s a microphone, to the pure insanity of him declaring a dance off! Bring on part 2!

2. The Avengers

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Bringing Earth’s mightiest heroes together on the big screen … AWESOME. Once more Loki is a brilliant villain, along with the Chitauri army at his back. The chemistry of the characters is absolutely amazing. Everyone is perfect, including all the minor characters such as Hill and Coulson (who’s been brilliant in all his film appearances).

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So many awesome scenes it’s hard to pick a favorite. My only issue really is how they treated my boy Barton. Hawkeye spends nearly the entire movie as a puppet. But they rectify that in Age of Ultron, giving him a larger more important role. Age of Ultron was quite good but with only 1 viewing I can’t decide how I feel about it in relation to the other Marvel films. The fact that they’ve already announced the movie will be getting an extended cut on blu ray has me giddy! Not to mention we already know there are two more Avengers movies coming, and it’s a series that can go on and on and on, with the members of the team constantly changing. Seriously is there a character in the Marvel universe that hasn’t been a part of the Avengers at some point?

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Marvel’s way of bringing Cap to the big screen was brilliant. Like First Class, this movie takes place in the past. Spending the time with wimpy but moral Steve Rogers was the perfect set up to showing the contrast to how he was after receiving the super soldier serum. But then to show him being used as just a P.R. stunt added an entirely new layer of brilliance. And having scenes where they have Cap firing a gun, not something most people expected to see from him, was awesome. After all his history is that he was in the war.

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As good as the first movie was, Winter Soldier was near perfection. The story was fantastic, and in a world of NSA spying, it seemed eerily familiar to the headlines we seen in today’s news. Taken to the next level, of course. Chris Evans is Cap. Sure he might have once been Johnny Storm, but this was the hero he was meant to play.

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So many great action scenes. The final battle with the three helicarriers was incredible, but my favorite scene in the movie was Captain’s fight and escape from the elevator and then his takedown of the jet with just his shield.

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Well that’s it. Sorry I rambled on for so long. What’s been your favorite Marvel movie? Your favorite on screen portrayal? Your favorite scene?

Z is for Zilch!

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Wow, I can’t believe it. We’ve reached Z! At first I was going to do a funny little post. I intended to write it up as if I had just been hired to be the press secretary for King Zarkon. 

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Those of you who grew up in the 80’s might remember him from the cartoon Voltron. I was going to tell you all how to behave and not to associate with known criminals who’ve been spotted driving strange mechanized lions in the area. 

z2After dismissing that idea, I flirted with zombies. Well, no I didn’t really flirt with zombies. I mean it isn’t like I went to a zombie bar and tried that old pick up line “It’s a good thing I’m a zombie, because you are drop-dead gorgeous!”

But I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead. So I thought I might cheap out on the final day and just repost my ‘Twas the night before the apocalypse poem that I did at Christmas.

But then I decided no. I’ve made it this far. Sure some of my posts have been silly, some of been a bit of a cheat as they were picture heavy (though my rambling still tended to make them long), but they were all original, not a retread or reposting of something I’d done before, though I know I talked on some topics repeatedly.

So I decided on ZILCH. Why? Honestly, because that is pretty close to how much of this challenge I expected to complete. I’m not much of a blogger (which you can likely tell if you’ve read some of the stuff I’ve posted). Sure I’ve done a bit, sharing some of my journey as a writer, as well as posting the occasional inane musing, but I’ve never been consistent. This was a serious challenge, not just coming up with a new blog every dang day, but having to fit it into an alphabetic theme. It was crazy, many of my topics were silly, often getting no responses, but it was a fun experience. I will say it was more than a minor distraction, work on my novels taking a massive hit some days, but I’m still glad to have done it.  

I posted this quote in my first A to Z blog:  

If you aren’t willing to be uncomfortable, then you’ll never experience change. -Srinivas Rao 

Well, to a certain extent I am uncomfortable blogging, especially at the pace of a blog a day! I have no clue if this is the type of uncomfortable Srinivas was talking about and I don’t know if I’ve experienced all that much change. I’ll have to reflect on that for a bit before I decide.

But it’s been a fun journey and I’d like to thank anyone who came along for any or all of the ride. Will I keep blogging? I honestly don’t know, certainly not at this crazy pace. I need to switch my focus back to my novel writing. I’m way behind where I wanted to be by this time this year. But I hope you’ll come back from time to time. Who knows, I may just decide that I still have some more drunken monkey blogs inside me yearning to come out.

So once again, thanks for stopping by!

-KL Phelps

Youth isn’t wasted on the young.

It’s unappreciated!

Y is for Youth

I guess in a way this relates to some of my other blogs. At least I think it does, but since I’ve barely been paying attention to what I’ve been writing, I’m not 100% certain. But I am fairly sure I at some point mentioned regrets. They are something we all have. We’re human after all, and I’m willing to bet no one reading this is perfect, so you have some, just admit it and roll with it.

Everyone has heard that expression about youth being wasted on the young, and as you get older you likely have come to see the wisdom of it. I didn’t understand it as a kid, willing to bet you didn’t either, but that’s not surprising. But perhaps that expression isn’t quite right. It’s not wasted per se, though certainly I wasted plenty of time doing stupid things, but then as a kid I think we are supposed to do stupid things. What the expression should be is that youth is not appreciated by the young. 

If I could go back to my youth knowing what I know now, would I do things differently? Make different choices? Certainly. I think it’s safe to say we all would. But that is never going to happen. And if you ever could go back to an earlier you with the knowledge of the older you, that would probably suck. Sure you could make better decisions, send your life on a different path, and yet I think if you had your old self’s knowledge, it would also ruin your childhood. At least for like 99% of us. You wouldn’t be a child, you wouldn’t have the carefree mindset, the I’m going to live forever, I’m young and stupid and I believe I can do anything mindset.  

I remember when my backyard, my neighborhood, could be anything I imagined. When I was in the backyard on the swings, I wasn’t in my backyard, I was flying an X-Wing fighter. That giant dirt pile in the field near my house was a mountain to be conquered. The small wooded area, which eventually got bulldozed and turned into a condo complex and another neighborhood during my middle school years, was a giant forest to be explored. I suppose in a way by writing I still venture forth into make believe, but it’s not the same. 

Sure, real life intruded every now and then, but it was the exception not the rule. I think I grew up at a great time in a great place. A small neighborhood where I knew all my neighbors and they knew me. A place where we could be gone all day and my mom wouldn’t worry. It was a place where when it was dinner time or it was getting dark out, moms around the neighborhood would open their front doors and yell out that was time to come home.

I never realized how awesome it was at the time. I was a kid, and thus too stupid to realize and appreciate how great it was to be young and carefree. My parents knew it and told me. My grandparents knew it and told me. But sadly I just don’t think it is something you can really understand until it’s too late, until your youth has slipped away, replaced by the responsibilities of the real world.

I see how my nephews are, the same utter joy they have of being a kid, and I want to tell them to appreciate it, that one day it won’t be the same. But I don’t. I know my words would likely fall on deaf ears, which is probably a good thing since I think that perhaps getting them to think about it might kill off some of the joy of being a kid. I think we’re meant to experience childhood with a certain amount of ignorance of how great it is. I enjoy watching my nephews play, be silly. But each day they get a little bigger, a little older, and it saddens me a little.  

Youth isn’t wasted on the young, it’s just unappreciated until it’s too late. If you have a kid, a nephew, niece, grandchild, some child in your life, just hug them, tell them you love them, and try to appreciate their youth for them. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to getting your own youth back.

 

 

Do you have a favorite memory as a kid you’d like to share? 

X marks the spot!

Everyone knows that X marks the spot. I love treasure hunting stories. A key piece in my book Stormy Weathers has to do with treasure, and I have several story ideas that focus around the notion of treasure hunting. So today’s blog is a top 10 treasure hunting movie list. Like most of my lists, it isn’t really ranked. I’m fickle so from day to day my favorite may change. 

Congo

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Honestly, in many ways it is a horrible movie, but it is a guilty pleasure of mine. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched it. I remember reading the book but not being blown away by it. But the movie version is just stupid fun. I absolutely love Tim Curry, and he plays dirtbag Herkermer Homolka so well. I am also a HUGE Delroy Lindo fan (seriously the guy is brilliant in all his roles and gets no respect) and even though he has a tiny role, I always look forward to his scene, stapling the bag of money closed and yelling ‘quit eating my sesame cake!” 

Prince of Persia

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The first time I watched it I was disappointed, however upon repeated viewings the movie has grown on me. Part of my disappointment may come from the fact that The Sands of Time was one of my favorite video games. The gameplay was great, but the story and how it was told was spectacular. Seriously, when the game finished, my mind was blown. The beginning being the end being the beginning. Some of the best storytelling I’ve ever seen in a game.

Aladdin

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So much fun. Robin Williams was perfect as the genie. I remember seeing the movie in the theaters and being totally mesmerized by it. The look, the story, the music. The definition of a Disney Classic! 

Indiana Jones

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I saw Raiders in the theater SEVEN times! Yep, seven. While I enjoyed all of them, except for Crystal Skull (screw you George Lucas for trying to kill my love of Indy and Star Wars!) nothing matched the brilliance of that first movie. It is perhaps the ultimate treasure hunting movie. Of course Last Crusade actually has an X marks the spot joke. If you’ve never seen Raiders … well something is definitely wrong with you and you should rectify that situation immediately!

 

The Road To El Dorado

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A non-Disney animated movie? Yeah, it may be common these days, but at the time this one came out, non-Disney movies tended to be seen as second tier. That was not the case with El Dorado. WOW! I love this movie. The animation shines, the story is fun, and the music is great. The crazy thing is that this was the 3rd Dreamworks movie— the first two being Antz and Prince of Egypt both of which were financial successes—this one really wasn’t a financial success, but it was the movie that made me believe that Dreamworks was serious about having an animation division.

 

Into the Blue

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Another guilty pleasure. Yeah, not really a well acted movie, but so much fun. Plus Jessica Alba in a tiny bikini! lol, no seriously, it’s not a very good movie, but I’ve watched it many many times. Scott Caan plays the shady weasel friend perfect. Besides, I am a sucker for a love story.

 

Pirates of he Caribbean

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I like the series, but LOVE the Curse of the Black Pearl. The idea of making a movie based on a ride seemed insane, but wow did this one blow my mind. So many great moments in this movie. Best performance out of Johnny Depp EVER!

 

The Mummy series

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I remember leaving the theater not being all that impressed and yet this is another movie that grew on me. The series has continued, gotten a bit silly at times, but they have all been fun and I know I am looking forward to the reboot that is supposed to happen in 2017.

National Treasure

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History + treasure hunting = brilliance. Love the series, though the original film is definitely better than the sequel. Some of Nick’s best work and Diane Kruger is brilliant as Abigail. Now come on Hollywood, where the heck is the 3rd film?!

 

Romancing the Stone

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Treasure hunting that is centered around a writer? Yeah, you know I am going to love it. The story was brilliant, the acting was great, and Douglas and Turner had incredible chemistry! And DeVito was brilliant as Ralph. Look at those snappers!

So what about you? Enjoy treasure hunting movies? What’s your favorite?

W is for ‘what if’

 and WHAT IF can be a prison!

What if seems like a no-brainer for this challenge, doesn’t it? I mean for a writer what if is often our bread and butter. What if? is often the starting point for many stories. A writer wonders what if X happened to Y and off they go spinning scribbling or typing away. But what if can also be a prison. I was reading a book the other day and something I read set my mind spinning in a totally different direction, which is often the case. It was a nonfiction book and the author was talking about an interview he did with a dad who had a child who’d had brain cancer and survived and was talking about how they were now doing some 10 or 15 years later. He asked them did if he ever thought about what their life might be like if his son had never gotten cancer. The dad’s response was that he never really thought about it. The author then switched to something else, continuing down the right-hand path, while my brain went left. The dad didn’t spend a lot of time with ‘what if’ and that is IMO an amazing thing, and an incredibly healthy thing. As many of you know I was an oncology nurse. I dealt with high-risk patients receiving high-risk/experimental treatments, and outcomes were no always pleasant.

What if? can be a wonderful phrase, and not just for the writer. Hey, what if we won the lottery? What if my next book is a huge success? What if I get accepted into Harvard? What if Becky-sue says yes, she’ll marry me? What if I got to the ice cream shop and for once they aren’t sold out of tooty fruity? (Is that a real flavor? I don’t know if I’ve ever actually seen that one.) These are wonderfully fun thoughts, some are merely pleasant diversions (lottery/tooty fruity ice cream) some more serious considerations (marriage/ college acceptance). But they can also be a prison. I saw it in patients who spent all there time wondering about what life would have been like if they hadn’t received their cancer diagnosis. I see it also in friends and family, with them pondering what life might have been like if X had never happened.

In 1999 my dad passed away. None of us was were expecting it. It was a devastating blow to my family. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t still miss him. I note his absence some days more than others. He wasn’t there for my sister’s or my brother’s weddings. He never got to be a grandfather. He would have loved being one, and he would have been a great one. But I don’t dwell on the ‘what if’ of it all. I accept the loss, and remember the good times with him. I recognize that he’s gone and that there things he would have loved had he lived. Others have suffered similar losses, or in the case of the cancer patients and their families I used to take care of, were suffering the prospect of impending loss. There was a real difference in how some patients handled it. Some accepted it, resigned themselves to the fact that the chance of their survival or that of their loved one was slim. They didn’t spend a lot of time wondering ‘what if’ this had never happened to them, instead they lived in the moment, cherished the time they had, and reminisced about the good times. Others were angry (natural reaction in my opinion) but never moved beyond that. They spent what little time they had lost in ‘why me’ and ‘what if this hadn’t happened’. But this kind of thinking can happen to anyone. It doesn’t have to be just the cancer patient. So many of us have had something bad happen in our lives, some of it quite real, some might just be imagined or something we’ve given more weight to in our minds, given more importance to it than it deserves. I know people who get trapped in that moment, wondering what if things had gone differently. (I’m willing to admit there have been a few things over the years I’ve had trouble letting go of myself.) We get lost there, always wondering if things could have been different. What if I had told that girl I loved her? What if I hadn’t gotten drunk and totaled my car? What if I had spoken up at that meeting? What if, what if, what if? People lock themselves into a mental prison of what could have been and they don’t move forward. Over the years I’ve seen and known people who have done this to themselves, and I don’t have a solution to the problem. You can talk to them, try to get them to see it’s a waste of there time to ponder such things, but ultimately they are the gatekeeper of their own prison cells.

Am I just rambling here? Probably. It’s something I am fairly decent at, some might say what I am best at. I guess my point is that unless your job is something that requires you to wonder ‘what if’, such as a writer or an inventor, spending too much time wondering what if, especially over events that have already happened and cannot be undone, is not healthy. We’re human, and thus we aren’t perfect. We are all going to have regrets at some point, and in that sense ‘what if’ can be the saddest of phrases, but we can’t live in them.

I’m not sure if it’s irony or not (I won’t bother asking Alanis Morissette because we all know from her song Irony that she doesn’t actually have a clue what the word means since NONE OF THE THINGS SHE CLAIMED TO BE IRONIC WERE IN FACT IRONIC!!!!) but I think some of the wisest words come that serenity prayer recited at AA meetings. People that get lost in ‘what if’ have not learn to accept the things that they cannot change.

 I cut out several parts of this blog before putting it up. So it might feel a bit disjointed, though likely no more so than many of my other blogs. But I used some examples and decided that even though I didn’t name names, and the odds of the people I referenced ever reading this were unlikely, I had to respect the fact that the slimmest of possibilities existed. Yes, I’d like to help them get beyond their prison of ‘what if’ , but right or wrong I did not feel I should do so in such a ‘public’ way.

V is for Vacations!

At first I thought I was going to have a hard time with V. I ran through many ideas, quickly dismissing most of them. Then it hit me, VACATION! I love to take vacations. I wish I had more money, more freedom to go anywhere at anytime, because there are so many places I would love to visit. But like most people I know, I have limits on what I can do and afford. 

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So for this post I am just going to discuss three vacations spots I really enjoy. They are in no real order because each has their own special place in my heart.

vac2 Disney. I believe by now many of you know my love of Disney. I’ve been going forever. My family loves it, with a number of us being members of the Disney Vacation Club. Being a DVC member has changed me a bit though. Not only has it increased the frequency of my trips to Disney, but it has also changed the way in which I vacation there. 

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It used to be that I’d get hyped for Disney, we’d get there and it would be GO GO GO! Trying to see and do as much as I could. Well, that isn’t always the way it happens anymore. Being a member of DVC I know that more than likely it won’t be too long before I return again, so that feeling that I need to try to do everything is gone. I found that without the ‘pressure’ to see and do everything in the parks, it definitely became a much more relaxing vacation. Yes, I know it sounds stupid, aren’t all vacations supposed to be relaxing? Well no. I mean yes. I mean kind of. There are two types of vacations, really. Those that are relaxing and those that you return from exhausted and feeling as if you need another vacation. I took one trip with my sister where we did stuff we’d never done before, hitting areas outside of the main parks, checking out areas of the various resorts. One of the things we enjoyed was going to Fort Wilderness where they have a Chip and Dale sing along type thing (good description I know). You can toast marshmallows, Chip and Dale visit, then a guy in a cowboy-ish outfit arrives and sings corny songs. Yes, we were the only adults there who weren’t accompanying children. Yes, Chip and Dale looked at us funny as we asked them to pose with Flat Stanley (my sister was getting some crazy pics for her friend’s kid) and we laughed like crazy at the cowboy’s bad jokes and songs. Seriously, we thought it was hilarious, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if some of the other guests thought we were drunk or something. But it was a blast. I totally felt like a kid again.

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Now I have taken many kinds of trips: solo, with family, with friends. I enjoy the heck out of Disney no matter how I visit. But my favorite vacations have always been when I am there with my nephews or nieces. As much as I love the parks myself, there is nothing better than seeing the magic through their eyes. Seeing the excitement they had when they saw and met Mickey or their favorite princess for the first time. Nothing better. Seriously, NOTHING better! 

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Cruising. So sometime in the mid-90’s or so, I’m horrible with dates so forgive me,  we were coming up on my parent’s 30th anniversary and my sisters thought it would be nice to send them on a cruise. They brought the idea up to me and my brother about chipping in to give them the cruise as a present. We said fine, good plan. Then my sister lets my mom and dad know and they seem okay with the plan, but then a few days later my mom says it sounds good, but how about us kids coming along as well. Frankly, I think my mom was worried about being alone at seas with only my dad. Sure they would do stuff together, but my dad was much more comfortable striking up random conversations with total strangers. Both my sisters had cruised before and said they loved it, so they didn’t need their arms twisted. I can’t recall why my brother couldn’t go, but he didn’t. Me? The idea of a cruise had me perplexed. What the heck would I do? The only thing I knew about cruising was from watching The Love Boat as a kid. Seriously, the idea just didn’t appeal to me at the time, but I agreed to go. We get there, cruise begins, WOW,  my mind was blown. And to be honest I am not sure how to adequately describe the experience. Most relaxing thing ever. No phones (which I loved) food anytime you wanted (and even when you didn’t!), and so much more. I love the ocean, so being out there was awesome. I can still recall jogging the decks in the middle of the night, the sound of the waves, the breeze as the ship moved along at top speed, almost total darkness except the lights from … wait, over there, is that another ship? They had a fun little Casino, which I enjoyed but my mom absolutely loved. I hit the club once or twice, where I heard the Spice Girls for the first time ever, lol, it was well before they finally hit in the US, and whoever was the DJ was freaking nuts for them, so he played them repeatedly. That dang song got caught in my head. I saw some fun shows, though I only went to a few. Quite honestly the one thing I didn’t enjoy was going to dinner. I don’t like fancy food, and dressing for dinner seems like anti-relaxation to me. But it was still enjoyable. I came back from that trip feeling the most relaxed I’d ever felt in my life. The next day I went into work, started the day with a code, which I can still recall vividly, but that’s a whole different story. The point is that I fell in love with cruising. I’ve taken a number of them over the years, including one during which my brother got married. And now my family is planning another for this fall and I can’t wait.

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The last vacation I’ll mention is the staycation! Yes the stay at home and do nothing vacation. One of my favorite vacations was a staycation. Most of my family now lives here in Texas, but one year my married sister had gone out of town with her family on vacation and my mom and other sister had flown up to visit my brother in RI. So I was home alone! (Yes, my name is Kevin and I was HOME ALONE!!!) That’s right, Texas all to myself! (Sorta) So what did I do? I grabbed a giant stack of books and spent all day in the pool reading, day after day. I was off for a week and a half from work. So no job stress, no family stress. Just me and books. Seriously, it was a slice of heaven. 

So those are some of my favorite vacations/ places/ ways to vacation. I have other very fond memories of other vacations, but that’s enough sharing for now. I doubt many have stuck with me this long anyway, lol. So what are some of your favorite places to vacation, ways to vacation, vacation memories?

U is for Unicorns … sorta

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Okay, first off let me admit that I’m totally phoning this one in. I’ve been trying to stick with this challenge but I have also been working on a novel. Splitting my attention has slowed my work considerably. My one or two fans might be upset by this news. I also must admit that I was afraid that should I start on one of the numerous topics I had considered, it would end up as a very long post. Which more than likely meant that no one would read it! My other ideas included such things as: why I love being an uncle, being unreasonable and why that can be a good thing, and last but not least unsung heroes. But instead I said ‘Internet, don’t fail me now!” and thus you get another picture post of cats. And in this case you get UNICORN CATS!!! (I firmly believe that 87% of the internet is cat pics!)

unicat10Yes, it’s such a big thing that you can actually buy an inflatable unicorn horn for your pet. Given the look on that cat’s face, I’m guessing the part about “cats love it!’ is false advertising.

unicat9What is this thing on my head?!?!

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Yep my owner wasn’t satisfied with just a horn!

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Horn and rainbow mane, stylin’!

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When I wake up, it will all have been just a bad dream!

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Back off! Last time you put this thing on my head, who knows what you’ll do next!

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Was this really necessary?

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I hate you!

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So popular, I’m a lego!

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I’m confused. Am I supposed to be a unicorn or is there an ear of corn growing out of my head? 

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Silly Ralph, you may be a unicorn but you are not a cat!

 

T is for Trying!

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With all due respect to a certain little green puppet, there IS try. Do or do not sounds great, but guess what, almost everything has to have a starting point. And often times that means failure. 

Trying and failing is the basis for most learning. Say what? You heard me. The first time you attempted to walk, did you succeed? No, you took one wobbly step, grinned like an idiot, and then fell on your face and probably started crying like … well, like the baby you were. Did you learn to ride a bike without training wheels immediately? No, your mom or dad ran beside you, you peddled, they let go, you kept peddling, lost control, crashed to the ground, and then probably cried like a baby! Math? Did you instantly grasp the concepts? Probably not, and if you are like the woman I encountered at McDonalds last week then you still haven’t mastered it. True story, went to McDonalds, my bill was $5.08, gave the woman $10.10, she accidentally entered it as $5.10 on the register and then could not do the math in her head to figure out how much change she owed me! Yes 5 from 10 is quite difficult indeed. Sure this might be a sad commentary on the failure of today’s educational system or yet another example why I firmly believe that the woman serving me was a prime example of why cats will soon be the most intelligent species on the planet and thus our overlords! But really my point is that you don’t get everything correct the first time out. We try, we fail, we learn from those mistakes … sometimes. (And if you haven’t yet mastered basic math, you shouldn’t likely be in charge of a cash register!)

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So now that I got the insane McDonald’s employee who couldn’t do simple math my 7 year old nephew has mastered out of the way—please don’t yell at me for making fun of McDonald’s employees. Its honest work, I’ve had friends who worked there in the past, as well as family members who have worked at one time or another in the fast food business. It wasn’t a commentary on fast food employees in general, merely a humorous observation on our crumbling educational system and a segue to my point on learning—what does trying me to me? Well many things. In terms of the last few years, I’ve tried many new things. I’ve tried to jump into this world of self publishing. I’ve made more than a few mistakes, which I’ve hopefully learned something from. I’ve tried to jump into social media, again to varying degrees of success—and quite honestly to the shock and amazement of a few of my friends, as I had raged against the very notion for years. Heck, what I am doing right now is trying. How?

Writing is trying. In one way it is Do or Do Not! (Yoda rears his ugly green head again!) In the sense that only writing is writing. Thinking about writing isn’t writing. Dreaming about writing isn’t writing. Only butt in chair, hands clicking keys or pen in hand, scribbling on paper, is writing. So in that sense, it is ‘do or do not’. It’s like being pregnant, either you or you aren’t. Either you are writing or you aren’t. That being said, almost no one gets it right the first time. What I am trying to do is tell a story, but once done, it gets examined, read over, and then I drop my head into my hands and scream ‘what is this pile of crap?’ It was me trying to get the story out of my head and onto paper (or a computer screen). But it isn’t done. Now I have to try to make it better. Are there slow parts? Does it make sense? Who is this guy over here, why does he have a pet monkey who likes to poop on his shoulder, and how come his name has changed three times over the course of two chapters? This is where real words of wisdom come in. Writing is rewriting—or in Yoda speak: Rewriting is writing, yes, yes. 

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Luke, don’t listen to everything he says!

While I love the scene and the quote, I have to disagree with our little green Jedi Master. All of life is trying. It’s getting knocked down, getting back up, and trying again. No one has all the answers, almost all problems have more than one solution, and trial and error is the way we mere humans move forward. It is a hard concept to embrace, but failure is learning something that didn’t work. Success comes from acknowledging that failure, learning from it, and trying again. Unfortunately many of us don’t do that, we try the same thing over and over hoping that what hasn’t worked the last eight times will, for some unknown reason, suddenly work this time. Or, more then likely, we give up and stop trying. I know I’ve been guilty of that more than once in the past. So while it may not sound as mystically wise as Yoda: If at first you don’t succeed … well don’t be surprised, but learn why you didn’t succeed and then try try again!

tryagainDid any of this make sense? Or was this yet more of my drunken monkey rambling? Quite honestly I am not entirely certain myself. It made sense in my head when I started, but I’m running on very little sleep, so what the heck do I know? At the very least I do know how to subtract 5 from 10, so I know I have at least one person out there beat!