Monday, December 29, 2014

Year in review -- 2014



This has been such an odd little year.

I got A Pius Legacy and A Pius Stand published, finishing out the trilogy I began with A Pius Man.

I joined in a few political fistfights, mostly having to do with women in books for some reason.

I've had fun with Marvel, both Captain American and Agents of SHIELD.


I reviewed books all over the place.  Like Amy Lynn, and Night Machines, and a bunch of others here and there.

I've been at the Catholic Writer's Guild, and had some odd times there.

And then there's my job at American Journal.... fun fun fun.

I've looked at tv and video games and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Thankfully, I haven't lost a whole collection of authors, like last year.

I want to thank all of you for making this such an interesting year.

And here's to 2015, and selling a ton more book.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Review: Night Machines

Night MachinesNight Machines by Kia Heavey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Oh, this was a fun little ride of weird.

Kia Heavey, the author
Kia Heavey, the author
This has three interesting character studies. Maggie is the bored housewife married to the "boring" cop, and her brand new boss is the nerdy kid from high school who grew up to be a billionaire with the looks of a guy on the cover of a romance novel. The new boss, Cambien, is a specialist in medication of dreams (which makes me wonder if his name is supposed to rhyme with Ambien).

It's also three stories of obsession. Maggie's husband is consumed by the case of a dead girl. Cambien has thought of Maggie since high school, and his thoughts start sweet and cute, and something darker starts to take shape. And then there's Maggie herself, who decides to have her "non-affair" with Cambien, and it starts to eat her up inside. I would tell you what it made me think of, but it turns out to be a spoiler.

I always thought the Rod Serling meets Robin Cook equaled F. Paul Wilson. Nope. This is chocked-full with more of the irony found in the Twilight Zone. Especially since it starts with Maggie dreaming, and dreaming about what her life could be or should have been ... and oh, boy, does it go the way of Nightmare on Elm Street. No, it's not terrifying, I'd even suggest it could be given to Young Adults, but beware the fact that there are sexual situations, but nothing graphic.

Along the way, Night Machines explores the concepts of family, of love versus lust, and what happens when you live too much in your head. Because there are some times things in the dark that will eat you.

By the start of "act three" of the book ... well, not to give too much away, but there was the scene with Maggie's priest, where I had fulled expected the line "What part of thou shalt not covet did you not understand?" I did not expect the sudden Catholic turn that the novel made, but it addressed every last point I had considered as I read through the book. That chapter alone made it more deeply philosophical and faithful than some books written by members of the Catholic Writer's Guild. And, as a member of said guild, I say that Madam Heavey needs to apply.

At the end of the day, it's a romance book that can even be read by people who hate romance novels.



View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Babylon 5 and Religion in Scifi


You know, with all the posts yesterday, I can't believe I forgot this one.

I did a guest post over at Steph Souders' page. It's all about Babylon 5.

Enjoy.

Review of Amy Lynn

Amy LynnAmy Lynn by Jack July

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A lot of Amy Lynn feels like a coming of age story, where we watch Amy Lynn go from 12 to 20 over the course of the novel. Along the way, almost every other character is fleshed out with their own backstories, usually with snippets and inserts that look like they were lifted out of newspaper clippings — though they don’t interrupt the narrative flow.

When the book opens, Amy is practically running the family farm single-handedly — running both the kitchen and chores on the farm. Yes, she’s very much 12 going on 40. Before the book even opens, she has already lost both her older bother and her mother. Usually, this would make set the tone for a depressing, maudlin journey that I’d rather have root canal than read. However, Amy Lynn manages to avoid ever falling into that trap, and dodges the usual cliches. That the book avoids a depression-inducing tone is a cute trick, considering that it covers rape, prostitution, sex slavery, drug use, and two counts of mass murder. Not bad for a coming of age novel, huh? It helps that a lot of this is off-screen, and never delved into with any of the gruesome details.

But, then again, anyone who can write a coming of age novel that I can read without making me desire to take a power tool to my brain already has my support.

In almost any other context, Amy might come off as a bit of a Mary Sue — almost totally perfect in every way. Thankfully, she’s not that perfect (after all, she is a teenager for most of the book). As for the rest of her skill sets, she has a perfectly good reason for it. For anyone who ever saw the original tv show The Avengers (with no relation to Marvel comics), imagine Amy Lynn as the creation of a Southern Emma Peel. Amy is essentially trained by Rambo, and the fight scenes are reminiscent of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels.

Amy Lynn has one problem. Well, it has two. The first problem is editing. I know that Jack July had Amy Lynn edited by professionals. I would ask for a partial refund, since there are a lot of strange punctuation errors and capitalization issues here and there. I’ll blame that on the professionals. The second problem? It’s too short.

At the end of the day, Amy Lynn is as promised: thoroughly charming. It’s very much To Kill a Mockingbird for a modern audience.

It's definitely a book for anyone who enjoys characters with deep and abiding faith. It's a book recommended for adults ... and for adults to read before giving it to their kids. Like with much YA fiction, there is dark content and R-rated language. It's a great book, but it depends on the audience



View all my reviews

Monday, December 22, 2014

Deck the Maul, a Christmas story

When Sean AP Ryan is hired for Black Friday security, he figures it's an easy gig. He should have known better.


Sorry, but this is now released in Pius Holidays.



Or, in the complete Pius Tales.


Die Hard is perfect, part 2

This is a continuation of my post on why Die Hard is such a perfect movie. I suggest starting there.

Dialogue, Character, and Plot

Every line in the movie adds to the film.  Nothing is wasted. And if there is something, I can't see it.  Yes, there's a reason I'm not breaking this up, mainly the dialogue feeds into both the character and the plot ... and because character adds an extra dynamic to this plot.

The first scene alone does so much, it's stupid. Remember, the scene is John McClane talking to the passenger next to him on an airplane.  It gives him a reason to be shoeless during the movie, and establishes his profession, and is already adding to his character by both giving us his CV in a smooth, effortless way. It establishes his anxiety about flying, giving him a cute character trait.  Also, it already shows us just how much of a smartass he can be... McClane's shoeless wardrobe "choice" in the film leads into a brilliant, brilliant moment that deeply hurts him later on.

We've already covered how the Rolex adds to the plot, and that was all covered in three lines of dialogue -- it both underscores Ellis' pursuit of Holly, struts it before John McClane, and dangles this metaphorical gun in front of the audience's face without anyone realizing how integral ANY of it actually is. Ellis, who has few lines in the movie, serves many functions. One, his presence gives a counterpoint to McClane's actions throughout the film -- no matter how many gunman McClane takes out, he's still only one person. Ellis is one of the many realists in this film, but the only one who is among the hostages.

Ellis' strutting egomania, his coke problem, and his focus on Holly all culminates in the pinnacle of his arc. His egomania and his drug problem drive him to try and negotiate with Hans and company -- he thinks he can talk them down, give them what they want, and they can all go home. And while he gives them McClane's name and occupation, Ellis makes it a point to spin the story that he brought McClane to the party, and there is no mention of Holly. For such a minor character, Ellis provides a lot.... even though giving up John's name will eventually lead to Holly.  And his death is one of the few things that hurts McClane.

And that's a secondary character. Maybe even tertiary.



Dialogue establishes a lot in this movie. It establishes Mr. Takagi's character and backstory with Hans' first speech, and adds an emotional blow to Takagi's death.  The offhand lines about needing the FBI, and "it's all part of the plan" feed into the turning point of the film, and a mystery that is on par with any twist by Mission: ImpossibleLeverage, or Jeffery Deaver.  In fact, I would say that Deaver was warped by Die Hard.

A lot of things in the second half of this movie are almost perfect mirrors to stuff from the first half.  The conversation between John and Holly in (what I think is) her private bathroom leads directly to a conversation that is the turning point of the film... which is also in a bathroom.  McClane is at his lowest point. He's been wounded physically and emotionally. It's the flip side of the earlier conversation with Holly, and while it's depressing, it has a point, and also accomplishes much.  McClane's relationship with the LAPD Sgt. Powell, outside of the building comes to a head, and it leads directly to the punchline.

Dialogue, and the Little Touches

And there are aspects that are not major, massive plot points, but are little things. It was Michelangelo, I think, who said that trifles make perfection, and that perfection is no trifle.  In the case of Die Hard, it's the small things that add a surprising amount of character to people who serve some very basic functions.

Heck, just look at the character shown in Hans' merry band of killers, and the LAPD, who are most assuredly the most basic part of this endeavor.

For example, look at "Karl."  He's the Bond Villain sidekick of this film.  But the first time we see him is carrying a chain saw, about to cut the phone cables for the building...and he's competing against another gunman, who's trying to either bypass the alarm for the building, or cut the phone system via a more elegant, less brutal fashion, I could never tell.  But you could tell from that scene alone that the two gunman are brothers, and that the death of the younger brother by McClane (the first gunman he kills), drives Karl throughout the film, giving him solid reasons for actions that are detrimental to Hans and his plans.

Then there's the terrorist who sets up shop in a confection stand, bringing out piles upon piles of gun magazines .... and grabs a candy bar.

Then there's Theo, the Hacker. Who gambles, likes sports and sports analogies, and takes his computer job seriously, yet treats everything else with a sense of levity.  He's dour and serious about breaking into the computer and the building's vault, but cracks jokes as he coordinates the gunmen to shoot and blow up a bunch of cops.

And then there's the chauffeur, Argyle, whose presence in the film is almost comic relief -- whether we're laughing at his obliviousness to the situation, or his line to the stuffed animal to "shut up," and even his little victory over Hans' hacker.

Conclusion

Obviously, I can go on forever about this movie (as though I haven't already), but let's face it, it's a good film with lots of little things thrown in that make it a great movie. Notice, there are a whole bunch of things I didn't mention that are also writing moments.

Such as?

Hans and McClane, face to face, giving the audience a much-needed confrontation between hero and enemy... 

Enough C4 to Orbit Arnold Schwarzenegger..."Heinrich had the detonators"... all feed into the finale...

Why Hans is possibly the most quotable movie villain ever. He's cultured, he's educated, he's well dressed, he reads all the "right" magazines, and he's such a cold-blooded, callous murderer...

How Die Hard also has elements of parody, going after both the media and the FBI.

There's a lot here, but this article is almost two thousand words long already. Though I think there's no denying that Die Hard could be used to teach writing classes.

Why Die Hard is the most perfect movie ever: A Writing Blog

I've been meaning to do this for a while now, but Die Hard is a perfect movie.

Seriously, perfect. From almost every angle.  Writing-wise, it's a textbook marvel of how to write. Cinematically, it's perfectly shot. Acting wise, it's pitch perfect.

Let me show you what I mean.  At least writing-wise.  I'm not sure I'm good enough to do this for cinematography, but I may give it a shot later on.  I started writing this expecting to go over everything I mentioned, but I may not be able to.  There's a LOT to cover in one topic alone.  In fact, I'm going to break up this blog into two parts. Maybe three.  Also, there will be a Christmas short story launching today: Deck the Maul.

And obviously, spoiler alert.

Quotable Quotes

We all know that the dialogue is brilliant. If Die Hard is not the most quoted and quotable film out there, it's probably in the top ten list.  Tell me you can't see the exact moment, or fill in the blanks of all of the following...

In German: "Karl, schieƟ dem Fenster."
".... and father of five."
"Happy Trails _____"
"Boom! Two points!"
"I'm going to count to three. ________ there will not be a four."
"Rumor is that Arafat buys his there."
"What kind of _____ are you?"    "Who said we were ______?"
"No Relation."
"We're going to need some more FBI guys."
"I don't want ______ I want dead."
"HHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNSSSSSSSSS.  Why'd you have to __________?"
"That man looks ________."  "He's alive. Only John _________"
And, of course, "Yippie Kay Yay, _________"

We all know that.  However, what I mean is how well the Gun in Act One is utilized.  Don't know what I mean? Also called Chekov's Gun.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Pius Trilogy is over.

It's been ten years, two agents, three friends, and dozens of rewrites. There's nothing more to say.

So, yeah, this won't be a long one.

As of right this minute, A Pius Stand, A Global Thriller, is published, marking the end of The Pius Trilogy. You can pick up a hard copy here on Createspace, the publisher's site, were I can get more money for what you pay ... though the shipping and handling sucks.  You can click here, and find the paperback on Amazon.com-- I won't get as much cash, but it'd be easier on you, the reader, and your wallet.

Those of you who are into Kindle can find it right here, on Amazon.com, and start reading immediately. :)

What's the premise? you ask?

Well, how does this look to you?

A Pius Legacy asked the question: What happens when someone kidnaps the Pope? When you're Sean A.P. Ryan, security consultant, the answer is easy: get him back. And that rescue pissed off...everyone...and the entire United Nations declared war on the hundred-acre Vatican city.
When the Pope is threatened by the international community, with no help in sight, what's a Pontiff to do? Run and hide? With offers coming from all over the world, it seems like the best course of action. With fifteen-thousand men from armies all over the world coming to end the Catholic Church, it's a threat not even the Pope's bodyguards could handle.
But it's not just about Vatican City. With the Church all over the world in peril, things are not as clear cut for Pope Pius XIII as one might think.
With the forces of darkness closing in, Pius, Sean, and the people they love must make a decision that will affect the lives of billions, and threaten all they hold dear. Do they leave the Vatican to their enemies, or stay, and face certain death?
Once more, this epic conclusion to The Pius Trilogy continues to mix real history with wholehearted adventure. With everything on the line, and no good outcome, the Pope and his champions must decide to either cut and run, or to make a final stand.
Just so we're perfectly clear, in case you've been waiting for the whole thing to come out before you read it, the trilogy goes like this

A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller
A Pius Legacy: A Political Thriller
A Pius Stand: A Global Thriller  (links above)

Codename: Winterborn is not part of this set, though. :)

If you're waiting for your copy to arrive, put on your headphones, turn up the volume, and enjoy the trailer below.

Why?  Because this is war.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christian Lit and Writing.

Some days, I get really tired of Christian writers who set out to write a story about a faith-related issue, and the results are so heavy-handed, I feel like I've been back-handed. You know what I mean, a story that's so entirely centered on the Christian message, and yet doesn't have any breathing room for the story and the characters to develop beyond that.

The problems a lot of these types of books have is that, well, these things are only preachy if they're not relevant to the plot. For The Pius Trilogy, I made sure that the motives of the bad guys were based around the faith, because their beliefs were antagonistic to "ours" (ours in this case is defined as the entire Judeo-Christian world) What we believe was and is a direct threat to their existence. From there, the books expanded around what we believed, explaining the enemy as "not-us."

For example? Imagine if someone decided to declare war on Hobby Lobby instead of launching a lawsuit? Imagine if the L.G.B.T.Q.M.O.U.S.E. crowd gets smacked down for every legal action taken against a Christian minister who didn't want to perform a gay marriage, and in turn, they decide a wave of assassinations and church bombings.

If you find that unbelievable, make the enemy China over the abortion issue, if someone tried to change them.

You can preach, sure, but the characters will be spending most of their time trying to survive. Get the reader invested in the characters FIRST AND FOREMOST, and then you can do some preaching. Because if we care about the characters, we care about what they believe.

It's almost as bad as those people who says that s/he is just a vehicle for the Holy Spirit, who is writing through him/her. Really? You're taking dictation now, people? Who are you? John Smith? Matt, Mark, Luke and John weren't even taking dictation! There's giving the glory to God, and then there's "my work is perfect with a divine stamp of approval."

Indeed.  Does God make the punctuation mistakes, too?

Frankly, I think it's presumption to assume that everything coming out of one's word processor is "I'm writing for God!!!!"  At best, I write from my gut, or my heart, and maybe my soul if I'm really on fire. But "God did it all!" removes: 1) God-given Free Will, 2) Any ability handed to them BY GOD.  And 3) I think it denies God an ability to create a rational creature that can both act for itself while also seriving God.

I believe it was Dorthy Lee Sayers who wrote the book "The Mind of the Maker."  As she pointed out, the people we write are so alive, they can almost make their own choices, can you imagine what it's like for God?

Now, I can see laying all the responsibility for the greatest of a book at God's feet by saying that He gave one talent and creativity and writing skills, and the friends and family who made the book possible, but saying that one just took dictation makes God look incapable of making a person who can take all of God's gifts and utilize them properly.

In short -- if you want to be a good Christian / religious person, do us a favor, and write your damn story. Save the preaching for later. Preferably, let the actions of the story do the message for you.  If you don't have a good story, you're screwed

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gamergate and Guest Posts

If you've never heard of Anita Sarkeesian, well, your luck has run out.  I've done a guest post discussing the little cuss over at a friend's blog, but I've been working on my own for a bit now.

I'll keep it short.

Anita has been very big on how video games and video gamers are misogynistic. I'm amused by how her arguments go.

  • If you don't include female characters in your game you're sexist for excluding women.
  • If you include female characters and they are designed as unattractive you're sexist for "denigrating women."
  • If you include female characters and they are designed as attractive you're sexist for "sexualizing women".
See how easy that is?

I'm generally wary of folk, like Sarkeesian, who have a vested interest in conflict. If complete gender/sexual equality were to be realized tomorrow, she'd have no purpose. I think she knows this, so making an honest effort to settle the issue doesn't do her any favors. Really, it seems like she's doing her best to play both sides off one another and keep it going, otherwise the interviews dry up. It's the behavior of a total putz, and I hope she stubs her toe at least once a day.

Sadly, this is just another facet of that total Cluster Foxtrot over GamerGate.  It's a political movement and a journalist corruption scandal rolled into one. Overall, it's totally stupid, and boils down to sneering at Gamers in order to defend against accusations of bias and fraud.

Most of you might remember that I write over at The American Journal. A lot of what I do is political commentary.  And I'm getting sick of it.  Not the writing part, I can do that for days without sleep.  But I'm tired of the politics.  I want every politician to just drop dead and leave the rest of us alone....

Yeah, I know. Merry Christmas, right?

I love Christmas. And I hate political hacks and biased schmucks from sucking the joy out of everything. I don't care if it's Anita Sakessian, Zoe Quinn or Al Sharpton.  It's Christmas time, damnit. Can we stop putting up with these people for a few weeks? Please?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Music: Silent night

In case you're wondering "Why are you doing yet ANOTHER music blog?"  It's because I've been whacked by Jury Duty.  Yay.

Hopefully, updates are to follow.

Be well all.



Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Music Blog: Oh, Holy Night

It's that time of year again.

That's right. It's CHRISTMAS TIME.

Or at least it will be when Cyber Monday is over.





Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Recipe #1: Seafood Chowder

Someone recently asked what I use for Thanksgiving recipes.  Here's one that is requested quite often.


Seafood chowder

Progresso clam chowder (1 can for two people)  / Campbell's "Chunky" New England Clam chowder (the same)
1 can crab
1 can clams / clam chowder (2 if you really like clams)
1 can tuna / clam chowder
Salmon (I tend to throw in one salmon steak, usually frozen, but canned will work)
Half bag frozen scallops (Costco version)
Half bag frozen shrimp (CostCo version -- cooked, tail-less, and I suggest the salad shrimp)
Rinse clam chowder cans with white wine (as little as possible, it's quite effective)
Garlic powder (enough to cover the top of the pot)
Onion Powder (enough to cover the top of the pot)
Sea Salt (enough to cover the top of the pot)

Throw in all canned items [INCLUDING THE WATER], spices, and white wine, bring to boil.  Throw in each frozen item individually, bringing each to a boil before throwing in the next one.  If you're using frozen salmon, be careful to break it up as your cooking.

Shrimp goes in last, the rest can go in any particular order.

Bring to boil again, and keep going for some extra time.  Allow to simmer if you like (and need to wait for people so show up.)  Serve. Enjoy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Black Friday Book Shopping list.

Once again, Christmas decorations went on sale in August. August!  ARRGGHH.

Anyway, black Friday is coming, and we must be prepared. This is yet another list to make your shopping lives easier -- for Black Friday, or for the upcoming Cyber Monday. I've reviewed some of these books (links attached), and others are new even to me, but have come recommended to me. You might want to try some of these items below.

A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller -- of course I'd start with my own novel. It's surprisingly well reviewed, no one hates it (yet, give me time), where I take the war to Dan Brown, and every other nimrod who thinks they can write bad history in a thriller and get away with it.

A Pius Legacy: A Political Thriller -- The villains who survived A Pius Man have decided that some payback is involved.  Step one? Kidnap the Pope. Then the fun really starts.  Surprisingly, this one had better reviews than the first.... also fewer. Anyway, please buy the book already. Thank you.

A Pius Stand: A Global Thriller (UPDATED, yes, this wasn't here last time.): The end of the trilogy. Saving the Pope has consequences.  And army. A war. And no quarter given. It's time to finish the fight.

And, while I"m doing this.....

Codename: Winterborn .... the "other" novel, also strangely well reviewed. Genre: character-driven scifi espionage. While on a mission to the Islamic Republic of France, Lt. Kevin Anderson's team is betrayed by the politicians who sent them. As the only survivor, Anderson must stop the senators involved before the next team is slaughtered on the altar of political greed. He's certain he won't survive, but he will make this sacrifice, for his Codename is Winterborn. I recommend this for all fans of Baen novels -- like John Ringo, David Weber, and even your straight up thriller writers, like Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, et al.

On with everyone else.

Several of the following books you may have seen before. Trust me, there's a reason they made one of my top reading lists.

Murder in The Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes -- if you've been reading my blog for a long time, you know that I loved this one, and I can't possibly recommend it enough.... and then there's The Watson Chronicles, which is even better.  The only books I will recommend over my own, and I'm told my books are pretty awesome, so, yeah...

The Book of Helen -- dang, this was a kickass little novel.  The West Wing meets the Trojan war, this novel goes beyond the "they all lived strangely ever after" of Helen of Troy, and follows the rest of her life after she came home from Troy.  Yes, Helen did have an "after Troy."  You know the mythology, and now, this is the rest of the story.

Ordinance 93:  I've reviewed this book, I've interviewed this author, and I somehow still haven't mentioned her on the blog yet. Ordinance 93 is a thriller that sort-of centers around abortion. It's not really a pro-life book, despite how I referred to it in the Examiner posts.  It's a very long story, but if you're interest, check out the review. It would take too long otherwise.

Mind Over Mind -- The short version? "No, he's not crazy, aliens really are messing with his brain."  Then there's Mind Over Psyche, which feels like CS Lewis' science fiction trilogy. Then again, Karina was already involved with a scifi-anthology, so, yeah...

Greater Treasures -- Imagine the Maltese Falcon with dragons. Nuff said.

Stealing Jenny, by Ellen Gable: After 5 miscarriages, Jenny is about to have a pregnancy come to full term... until a psychotic woman kidnaps her and chains her in her basement with the intention of taking the child for her own. I liked this one.

Amy Lynn: You can read my review right here.

Night Machines by Kia Heavey .... this one was interesting.  Almost Doctor Who-ish by way of Rod Serling.

And, of course, there is an endless list of books I can recommend, which happen to be a different tab at the top of the page -- includes Flynn, Ringo, Weber, Thor, etc, etc.

Now, as far as books I haven't looked at yet.... [Below the break.]

Monday, November 17, 2014

Taking a stand, for the last time.

Last week, I said that A Pius Stand is coming.

It's finally going to be over.

If you've been with this blog since the beginning -- or if you've read "Pius Origins" link on the sidebar -- you know that this started out as a history paper gone amuck. It was a graduate paper in which I examined the truth behind Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust.

SPOILERS FOR A PIUS MAN, but, what I learned from my research was simple. Pius XII did more than any one person to save people in Europe during World War II.  More POWs. More Jews. More refugees. Because life was precious, and if they didn't like it, they could just come and get him.

But if you read any media around Pope Pius XII, you get Hitler's Pope. And Susan Zuccotti. And John Cornwell. And Gary Wills and Michael Phayer. The Wiki page on it has become more balanced, but still incomplete. You don't even want to know what it looked like when I started writing.  All of these great big names trying to spin a story I know to be false, and I spent a whole four months looking at primary documents as a grad student in America. They were journalists and historians. They should have known better.

I don't like liars.

The Pius Trilogy started out as a devotion. One that I tried to make readable for everyone. I wanted the opening to be dark and ominous to trap anti-Catholic to reading on, until they are so hip deep in the book that by the time that the revelation is given, the trap springs shut.

END SPOILERS.

The short version is, this was a devotion.  This was to sing the praises of God and His followers. This was a devotion to the truth, and a war on lies. At the same time, I was making it readable for other people. Heck, one of my friends on Facebook became a friend of mine BECAUSE of A Pius Man, and she's Jewish, I can't make it too much more open and readable than that.

The reason my cast was so big was simple -- I wanted to make it clear that the truth was not some subjective moving target. I needed a doubter, a neutral party, two red herrings, confirmation of the mystery ... well, you'll just have to read it to perform that matching column.

But my premise was that of philosopher Peter Kreeft -- this was an ecumenical jihad, a war against one very specific force of darkness, and one that the religions in A Pius Man could get behind. Because the liars I've been fighting since the beginning all have one thing in common.  What is that thing? Read A Pius Legacy.


But then I couldn't get the Catholic Writer's Guild Seal of Approval for APM. Why? Because the book was too violent, and some poor little dear was squeamish. I know this happened because I had officers of the Guild come up to me and suggested that there needed to be changes in the was the Seal of Approval was handled. Devotion to truth? Devotion to God? Who needs it? I've got a gun-toting Catholic! Run!

Then I had one or two of those officers write positive reviews. I'll take it.

The reason I kept going was that some things needed to be said. Some things needed to be put out there and thrown at people's heads until they either take notice or are bludgeoned to death.  Because the truth is not a game, or a weapon, except against lies. Truth is what happened, and maybe we can speculate about reasons, or about the why of things, and sometimes people will leave a diary detailing what and why they did. Then we hope the poor schmuck isn't a schizophrenic or a pathological liar.

And I kept going because I had to. Because writing is all I have.

This trilogy has been my life for ten years. And now it's time for me to say goodbye.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Arrow: Black Canary Reveal

If you're a comic book nerd, you've been laughing ever since the pilot of Arrow, where it was revealed that Oliver Queen's ex is named Laurel Dinah Lance.  As readers of the comic books know, Dinah Lance was both Queen's on-again / off-again girlfriend, but also the superheroine known as The Black Canary.

In a series that doesn't like to use the colors, it's time for a change.


Now, I know what some of you comic book nerds are thinking -- why isn't she wearing the traditional fishnets that have been part of the black canary character since seemingly forever?  After all, they even made a joke about Laurel and fishnets back in season 1.

Answer: because fishnets make no sense on this show.



Also ... a night stick? Why a night stick?  Um, because her father's a cop.

I like the look, and the wig makes a lot more sense in this context than it ever did with the other Lance sister, Sarah .... who was already a blonde ... but that was the only way to get the comic book color down correctly, I guess.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Pius Stand is coming

Hi.

If you don't know what A Pius Stand is, it's very simple. It's the last Pius novel. The final round. Where ten years of beating my head against a wall finally comes to a head.

At this point, I just need a cover (being provided by the graphic artist / site admin of The American Journal, Allen Scott), and a proof copy (which comes after the cover) and I'm set. It will be done.

If you remember A Pius Legacy and A Pius Man, you can probably see how A Pius Stand came to life.  APS was simple the inevitable conclusion of the battles in APL. You could say that it's almost a train wreck of the church and the power of this world, and that it's going to happen again and again.

One of the things that has put me off of the news has been, well, the news.  Mass media in general 00 and reporters in particular -- know jack all about what Catholics believe in, which means darn few other people do either.

Heck, even the Pope has been a bit of a jerk -- not for anything he thinks of does, but for what comes out of his mouth.  I mean, damnit, even without the media translating him through their own PC-ears, Pope Francis is a bear and a half to deal with in general.  There are people who looked at the Pope's recent statement on science and went, "Huh?"  There are some people who thought that Francis had demoted God.  The only reason I knew what Francis was talking about is simple: I've got the useless degree in philosophy.

Anyway, A Pius Stand is the end of a very long journey for me. It has beaten me up a lot, and I would like to be able to say I got through it. I started what would become The Pius Trilogy because I wanted to make sure that the truth was out there. Then the truth kept saying "tell more of me." And I dumped practically my entire college education into that book.

And now it all comes to three words: This is war.

A Pius Stand will be out soon. Then, at long last, I can take a nap.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A new trailer from Avengers: Age of Ultron


Okay, this isn't all new, just the first minute or so, and a few additional frames here and there.

One of those frames includes the glowstick of destiny, which we know Hydra and Baron von Strucker still has.

Mount up. This is going to be freaking awesome.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MarvelEvent Talks Black Panther and Inhumans



Help, I can't keep up anymore.

Over at The American Journal, I did an entire article about the Marvel movie release schedule.

Some preliminary thoughts: One, I'm very happy that they've started releasing more than two films a year. They needed to up their game. And I think they just bitch-smacked DC into next Tuesday.

2) It's not that they thought this through enough to include the Inhumans and Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) as they both tie the larger Marvel Cosmic universe to the Earthbound Marvel universe. And since Avengers 3 is going to have Thanos (see previous posts) tying them together will help.

However ... Would it have killed them to have a black Widow Movie? I know I'm not the only one who wants it.

3) It seems that, yes, despite what I said the other day, there will be a Civil War element to Captain America 3. However, the only real similarity to the premise is the title, and that there will be legislation about superheroes. It will be a global law, however, not just American. So, guess what, we're going to have Civil War without, well, a civil war. Since the "World Council" in Avengers and Cap 2 seem to be at odds with superheroes, I can't imagine that their successors will be too happy with them.

Does anyone realize that this will put Captain America at odds with the United Nations? Muahaha.

4) Black Panther has been announced. I like the character, and it should be interesting. Supposedly, he might be added to the team in Age of Ultron, but we'll see.

5) To no one's surprise, Avengers 3 is title The Infinity War. And it will be awesome.

 And I have this suspicion that it will include everyone.

6) Despite previous reports, Benedict Cumberbatch has not been confirmed as Dr. Strange.  I just want him on screen so he and Robert Downey Jr. can be on the same screen at the same time.

7) Again, according to the schedule, 2018 will have Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, THEN Captain Marvel, THEN Inhumans, and in 2019, the end of the Infinity War.  Does anyone else think the 2018 movies may all happen at the same time? Or perhaps conclude at the same time?  Just a thought.

For the schedule proper, again, check it out at American Journal.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Avengers, Age Of Ultron ... WTF Was That?

So, that was fun.

Time for my five cents.

Needless to say-- SPOILERS FOR ALL MARVEL FILMS UP TO THIS POINT.

Avengers 2.


WHAT WE KNOW

Ultron is the primary villain of Avengers2. It's really called Avengers: Age of Ultron. So, duh.

We know that Paul Bettany, the voice of JARVIS in Iron Man, is getting his own part as the Vision.  More later.

We know that Pietro and Wanda Maximoff will be in the film.

Dr. Zola, in The Winter Soldier, has an artificial intelligence algorithm that is set to find threats to Hydra, like superheroes, and kill them.

Hydra has the glows tick of destiny from The Avengers.  It has a glowing gem that makes you control people's minds. A mind gem if you will (more on that later).

ADD IT TOGETHER, YOU GET...

Take the AI, stick it into some of Tony Stark's armor, whack it with the mind gem to give it life, and you have a crapstorm ahead called Ultron.

The Maximoff's were seen at the end of Winter Soldier in the clutches of Hydra. Which means that Baron von Strucker and his minions will be part of it. We have another army of darkness ahead.

That was before I saw the trailer.




Now that we've seen The Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer ... now what?

Well, a few things.  To start with, the narration was obviously done by the marvelously malicious James Spader, who is voicing the killer robot Ultron. Blaming Hydra aside, we know a good chunk of stuff.
[More below the break]

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Avengers Age of Ultron. The Trailer is here







Doesn't this ending really just call for the soundtrack for Terminator 2?

Seriously, the last image should have been accompanied by "dun dun dun DUNDUN"

Monday, October 20, 2014

The American Journal, GamerGate, and other Insanity

A few weeks ago, I posted links to reviews of brand new shows that I wrote for The American Journal, which is a news site that lets me write for them. Usually, the more ranting and raving I am, the more the readers like it.  So, if you want to see me go bat-guano insane on a semi-regular basis, you can get it out. I think I've officially written over half the articles, so hit something at random, it might be written by Declan Finn.

Anyway, I've done a few articles in recent weeks that some of my readers may like.  In a lot of cases, I just keep a relatively neutral stance -- that stance being "Why can't you freaking morons shut up and leave me alone?"

However, you might want to check out some of these.

Walking Dead Actress Breaks up Sex Ring. Yes, this happened. And what did YOU do with your weekend?

Journalists Conspire to Shape News Over GamerGate This was just .... ARGH

Catholic Church to Support Gay Marriage Yeah, if you had questions about what the HELL is going on about this most recent synod, this is part of it. The other part: Here.

Comic Con Announces Guardians of the Galaxy Cartoon Good luck with that

Sequels for Iron Man and Independence Day in the Works

WB Releases DC Comics Movie Schedule

Video: Liam Neeson Returns in 'Taken 3' 

VIDEO: Viking Rejects Job Applicant Based on Faith -- It's not really politics, it's more of a comedy.  And completely insane. You have to see it to believe it.  Most of it isn't commentary, it's just the news story. Oy.

Zero Tolerance, Zero Intelligence. If you're read my official Amazon bio, you can guess why this is near and dear to my heart.

I think you folks might enjoy some of this.

And if you're wondering what I've been doing with my time.... now you know.

Monday, October 13, 2014

TV Review: The Flash

If you've seen Arrow, you know the premise before you even start the episode.  Barry Allen, CSI, is struck by lightning that had been altered by the explosion of a super-collider. It throws him through shelves of chemicals, just for good measure.

When Barry awakes from this, it's nine months later, the woman he grew up with, Iris, is dating the perfect cop, the world has moved on ..... and Barry can move faster than a ray of light.

The interesting part of the show is how they've decided to develop their rogues gallery. The explosion that created him unleashed all sorts of theoretical elements upon the city, warping and shaping various and sundry people in multiple different ways. It's a nice, simple way of pulling this off, and much better than what was initially done on Smallville -- which, if you remember, consisted of radiation from kryptonite creating a host of different mutations on parts of the population -- which was a cheap way of turning Smallville from Kansas into the Hellmouth from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The short version is that I like this series.  Character traits are quickly and easily set up. Barry is basically a good kid with a backstory that originally had him as the police department's Mulder. We've got the tinkerer, the misanthrope, the mentor (who's looking a little sinister by the end of the episode) and the love interest who friend-zoned Barry in the first three minutes of the episode.

And there are enough little details to satisfy most people. During a monologue, Barry Allen declares himself the Fastest Man Alive, the tag on half his comic books.  The news station is channel 52 -- like the New 52 of the DCU.  There are minor cops brought in from all over the comic books, One of the reporters is a Linda Park, who married Kid Flash in the comics.  Barry's father is played by the actor from the original 1990 Flash tv show.  Ferris air, of Green Lantern fame, makes an appearance.

There's also a giant gorilla cage broken in the aftermath of the explosion. It's labelled "Grodd." If you've read the comics, I don't need to explain. If you haven't, there's no way I can explain it without it sounding stupid.

The short version: I liked this show. The cast aren't as deep as I would have liked, but it's only the pilot. As it stands right this minute, I'll happily watch the rest of the show. But since this is from the same team that brought you Arrow, we can only expect that things are going to get much better from here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

TV Review: The pilots of the new season, Gotham, Madam Secretary, and more

Some of you might be wondering why it took so long to get some of these DragonCon vides and other blog posts up and running.  Well, I'll tell you. I've been doing a lot of reviews over at The American Journal.  Yes, those people who let me rant and rave and generally carry on cranky.

Anyway, if you've been wondering about some of my rantings and ravings about some of the latest in television watching, here are some links you might be amused by.

.

Gotham: In short .... was I watching a particularly depraved episode of Criminal Minds? I reviewed 1.5 episodes, and felt dirty.

The Pilot, and second episode of Madam Secretary: I've seen worse.  Also better.  At the end of the day, I don't like these people. The writers have some witty banter, but they don't know anything about the political process, or how things work. Period. Avoid.

How to get away with Murder:  This is the worse. More of the same from writer-producer Shonda Rhimes, whose characters are as morally and ethically bankrupt as in her other shows.

Scorpion: This was fun. Just fun. One of the better new shows.

Forever: Also up there as a good new show.

Mysteries of Laura: It's holding up.

Why am I only reviewing six new shows? Because those were the new shows that interested me that aired in September. The October ones are coming up.  However, since the new shows of October are coming up as late as the 24th, don't hold your breath.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Weapons of DragonCon, 2014

I had figured that I'd have the videos of my very own up by now. And I might. But this is a bit of a bonus. Kevin Dockery writes books on weapons. I even have one of them.  At DragonCon, he runs The Armory.   And here are three -- count 'em, three!-- lectures he gave on them.

Yes, these are  from 2013, but I think you'll like it anyway.

Impact weapons




Armor



Swords.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Breakfast with Saul Rubinek and Warehouse 13 @DragonCon, 2014

The show was fun if you could turn off your brain and just watch it.  Saul Rubinek, though, is a character actor I've enjoyed for years. I also saw Saul Rubinek at breakfast in the Hilton buffet every morning, and I swear he wasn't breaking character.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Amy Acker is a Person of Interest @DragonCon2014

I have an irrational love of the show Person of Interest. The main character is basically Batman with guns. How can you not love that premise?


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bringing Harry Dresden to life, @DragonCon

Remember when I mentioned that The Dresden Files was a tv show?

Paul Blackthorn, currently on Arrow, played Dresden in the TV show. I think Jim Butcher did an admirable job of not going postal.

If you're wondering what I'm talking about, you can refer to previous DragonCon reports, and listen to some of his hesitancy when answering questions about the show itself below.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

@DragonCon, 2014: An Hour with Jim Butcher

It's fun listening to author Jim Butcher, if only to hear someone else be such a nerd.

Butcher is the author of The Dresden Files novels.  There was, briefly, a tv show that ... ended badly.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Adam Baldwin @DragonCon 2014

I'm back from DragonCon.  My usual, typed reports will probably be taking a backseat to videos this year. Some of which I recorded personally. However, to start with, I'm found better video taken from other people.

First up, Adam Baldwin, actor, no relation to the Baldwin brothers.

I enjoy just listening to this guy.  The actor who usually plays thugs and tough guys is actually a lot more interesting in real life. Enjoy

Thursday, September 4, 2014

More Music to write to: Tarja Turunen

This is sung by former Nightwish lead singer Tarja Turunen. I'm not sure I'm crazy about the song, Where were you last night? but I can write to it easily enough. But the video is shiny, and I have obviously run out of things to blog about lately.

And DragonCon is later

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Photos from the Catholic Writers Guild Conference.



There is a lot -- and I mean a LOT -- of photos from the Catholic Media Network conference. You can find them on my Facebook page. But if you aren't a fan of The Pius Trilogy on Facebook, you haven't seen them.

Now you can.

In the beginning, there were Catholic Teddy Bears. Lots of Teddy Bears.




Monday, September 1, 2014

Gone to DragonCon: will be back next week.

The title says it all.

I don't have a sign that says "Gone fishing."

Sadly, I don't have a sign called "Gone fission," because I may need that one.

Starting next week, we'll have videos and reports from DragonCon, including Peter David, David Weber, Jim Butcher, Gene Wolfe, and the ever-present John Ringo.

Also, with Ron Glass, Jeri Ryan, and Adam Baldwin.

It's been a LOOONNGGG weekend. See you all next week. Hope you had a good Labor day.a

Monday, August 18, 2014

PG-13 Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

There will be spoilers, but nothing that you couldn't have figured out from the trailers.

Since everyone in the universe has already seen Guardians of the Galaxy, I figure I would throw my two cents in. After all, I saw it over a week ago now, and I still haven't joined the masses on the subject. Besides, I had nothing else to blog about today.

My thoughts?

Is "Bat-shit insane" two words or three?

From an opening credit that has our lead dancing through an abandoned Temple of Doom set singing along to 80s music while kicking away vicious rats with an attitude problem, all the way to a climactic standoff with a bad guy that even had the bad guy going "What are you doing?" this was a roller coaster of demented from start to finish. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I hear Moulin Rouge won a few academy awards for their purely warped film.

Let's look at our roster of strangeness, even though that was one of the few things the credits conveyed in their The Usual Suspects-style commercials.

Peter "Starlord" Quill (Chris Pratt) was an alien abductee who was pretty much adopted by the abductors known as the Ravagers, almost immediately after his mother died of cancer ... well, that's timing. In the comics, the abductors murdered his mother during the course of his kidnapping, but they needed the Ravagers in the movie to be cavalry-ish, so they couldn't be too evil. In fact, considering that the Ravagers all have Southern accents, it almost felt like it was Duck Dynasty to the rescue. Sort of.  It's a long, strange story.

When the film opens, Quill has decided to betray the Ravagers by getting to the McGuffin device before the Ravagers can.

Anyway, we have Gamora, played by the wide-eyed Zoe Saldana. Yes, there's some chemistry, though she's not really the love interest in this one; but since they're getting a sequel, director James Gunn probably figured that they could stretch it out a bit, which I'm fine with. Gamora is the adoptive daughter of Thanos (big, stoney and purple from the end of The Avengers), modified to wreak havoc at his command. She's been loaned out to an alien terrorist called Ronan the Accuser, in exchange for the McGuffin.

Gamora sees the McGuffin device as her way far, far away from Thanos, who has earned his title of "The Mad Titan." So she's after Quill.

The .... let's call them Mercenaries ... Rocket Raccoon and Groot (walking tree) spot Quill when he goes to cash in on the McGuffin, and sees that the Ravagers have posted a bounty on his head.

When the four of them get together, the ensuing chase / fight is actually very well done. It goes back and forth like a tennis match gone awry. It's everybody versus everybody else, and it's like trying to get leverage on Gumbi.

Then the police arrive and throw everyone in the prison from Face / Off. No, I'm not kidding. It feels like they even took the set.

In jail, they run into Drax the Destroyer. Drax's entire family was murdered by Ronan, and Gamora was working for Ronan. This will not end well. Quill talks Drax down by suggesting that Gamora be used as bait.

If I say that there's a breakout, will anyone see that as a spoiler?

Anyway. Our five-some takes the McGuffin to Gamora's fence, known as the Collector (post-credits on Thor: The Dark World), who explains that the McGuffin is one of the Infinity Gems. Previous Infinity Gems include the Tesseract / Cosmic Cube from Captain America and The Avengers, the Aether from Thor 2, and probably the gem at the end of the spear of fate (The Avengers). This is #4. There are six of them scattered throughout the galaxy. Any one of them individually can wreak havoc.

But Ronan wants the gem, and our protagonists have it.   Hilarity ensues.

I must compliment James Gunn for introducing the insanity that is the Marvel cosmic universe to a mainstream audience. Let's face it, it's a big job. He has to set up five characters, set up the universe, all the while telling a story that will explain the endgame of the Marvel franchise.  Yes, endgame.  Trust me, Thanos is going to be the bad guy for The Avengers Three, probably subtitled The Infinity War. While strange, GotG is going to be necessary for the final product of the overall story arc.

Ronan, in the comics
Are there problems? Yes. Sure. Our adversary, Ronan the Accuser, isn't very colorful. Loki has some depth of character. Ronan is "a terrorist." He's too "traditional," without explaining what the traditions are. Is he someone who wants the return of the Persian Empire, or just wear funny hats? And he's described as a Kree, and at war with the Nova Corps and the people of Xandar ... but the Kree in the comics were at war with the Skrulls. In fact, the Accusers were essentially Judges from the Judge Dredd universe, and he was The Accuser because he was their Police Commissioner.  So, yes, I'd nitpick that Ronan in the comics had become more of a good guy, and had been part of a major war against something called "The Cancerverse," but I don't think anyone cares. He could have used a bit more fleshing out.

Anyway, what else? I suspect there are deleted scenes from the film. Mainly because they hired Karen Gillan of Doctor Who, and barely used her. Gillan plays Nebula, another daughter of Thanos. I expected a knockdown dragout with Gamora, but their battle felt truncated, and I suspect that there's stuff that ended on the cutting room floor.In fact, Nebula seems to only be there so she shows up in Avengers 3 (see above). Also, I wanted some more explanation here and there. For example .... who hired the Ravagers in the first place to find the McGuffin? There's a fence who hired them, yes, but who was it going to? We never knew.

But, overall, James Gunn had to put together the Avengers in space, with none of the backstory, previous movies, or large established fan base, and he did a fantastic job of it in less time than the Avengers did. I've only seen it once, so I may have to watch it a few more times before I decide whether or not there's anything beneath the strange.

But it's a summer movie. Yes, it's not as intellectually deep as Captain America, but there are more moving parts, and probably more going on in the background. Also, it's very meta.  It makes fun of itself, using standard movie tropes, then poking fun at it.  For example, that scene when they decide that yes, we're going to make a stand against the bad guys! Yes, we're going to go out fighting! I'm going to stand with you! (Then literally stand). Then they poke fun at that as they're doing it.

Also -- George Lucas, your special effects suck. You writing sucks. Your directing sucks. Why? BECAUSE YOU GOT OWNED BY A RACCOON. THAT'S WHY.

Yes, time for the acting critique.

The acting was quite good. It was the best acting gig Vin Diesel ever had (insert "he's very wooden" joke here); and they did a good job with someone who had only four words in the entire movie. Yes. Four. Bradley Cooper as Rocket was surprisingly touching at times, which means he's been allowed more acting range in this film than in every other movie combined.

Peter Quill was ... well, if Mal Reynolds had a personality, he'd probably be Peter Quill. Or Nathan Fillion.

Zoe Saldana didn't have a great acting range in this film, but then again, she doesn't need it on her resume, she held Columbiana together with both hands.

However, her stunt fighting was fun. Don't mess with Uhura in the next Star Trek film.

The surprise performance in this one was actually from Dave Bautista as Drax. Drax had emotional depth, the best one-liners in the film, and was a deeply, deeply damaged fellow.

This is more acting in one film than Mr. Bautista was allowed in all his years in wrestling.  (Yes, I sort of follow wrestling. And it's only "fake" if you plan to hit someone with a metal chair "just so," in such a way as you're not making them a rutabaga.)

In short, I liked it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Gun shop visit

Margot St. Aubin.
While I was in Chicago, I was offered a visit to a gun range by fellow Catholic blogger, Margot St. Aubin.  She had read the Pius trilogy thus far and could see that I wasn't exactly up on guns.

And by that I means I've never seen one off of a cop, and never held one. Welcome to New York City. Screw you, Bloomberg.

Anyway....

So, she offered me a range visit while I was in the area.

I walked in to the gun range, and explained the situation. When I said I was I New Yorker, I used the cop line from above.

Off of that visit .... well, one suggestion for writers: First of all, assume that there are no clips. They are magazines. Period. Few guns actually use clips.

Second, I didn't take any pictures because, really, I'm an idiot. Actually, I'm still not used to the concept of my phone as a tool to document every last event in my life.

Springfield, XD, 9mm. The model I used at the range
Upon my arrival, the store owner was pleasant. He went over the rules of gun safety, most of which I knew. He then went over the gun's operation, some of which I knew. I never really knew what to do with my thumbs when firing, now I know that they go over one side.

I knew about avoiding slide bite (when gripping the gun, make sure the slide doesn't take off skin between your thumb and forefinger).

Squeeze, don't pull.  I always knew this rule, just didn't really know how to apply it. Even after firing off some rounds, I'm still not 100% I do.

Don't point at anything you don't intend to shoot at / act like it's loaded all the time... again, I picked that up from many, many thrillers where guns come into play.

What I didn't know were the rules of the individual range. I knew that the slide locked back when the gun was empty, though I didn't know there was a little switch? Button? on the side that slid it back into position after it was reloaded, and automatically filling the chamber.

My stance was a simple weaver stance. Feet are diagonal, gun is cupped in both hands, elbows are not locked out ...

Basically, I learned the stance by watching Jack Bauer on 24.

I started out relatively close, only a quarter of the range, then I moved it halfway down range.  I fired 21 rounds, all but 3 landing within the 10 ring (well, I think). When one of the employees saw it, I think the word he used was "fantastic."  Or was that the hotel employee who saw me bringing it inside the hotel?  I'm not sure. There were a few compliments from complete and total strangers.

Either way, we've got photos.

Some observations.

Brass goes EVERYWHERE.  And I mean EVERYWHERE. The casing ejected over my shoulder, around my body, directly onto the floor, bouncing off the stall I was in, rolling as far as 8 feet away, easily.  I understand why not every killer polices their brass. It's hard work. And I was standing still. Imagine if it were a running shootout. Oy.

Firing a gun is a lot easier than I thought. Then again, the Springfield that I was using was very easy to operate.  It's not quite point and click, but it's close.  The grip safety is nothing. It's a button at the back of the pistol grip, just under where it meets the rest of the gun, where the webbing between thumb and index finger wrap around the gun.  From what I can tell, the hardest part was putting the bullets into the magazine. Step one, the broad flat part of the bullet goes into the narrow part of the magazine. The pointy-er bit goes towards the open end.  And after the first ten bullets, the spring inside the magazine starts to fight back.

Damn, that thing's light. As in toy gun light. The gun owner stripped the barrel off for me and let me hold the frame. The frame is comparable with a squirt gun.  The bullets will double the weight. Just over a dozen pill-sized pellets of doom will double the weight. Imagine it. It's strange.

Come to think of it, I think a super soaker, empty, is heavier than an actual gun.  Okay, it's been years since I've even seen a super soaker, but you get the idea.

I always heard that the magazine ejection button was behind the trigger, but it's actually on the side of the gun behind the trigger guard.

After firing, there was no smell that I really picked up on.  None. Seriously, none. There were three other people firing guns in that range at the same time, and I didn't really pick up on any major scent. I expected a smell akin to a fireworks display.  But, apparently, expanded cordite doesn't exist anymore. At all. So, just pretend it doesn't exist. I made reference to it in A Pius Man, but thankfully, I didn't say where the explosive came from, just that it smelled like a fireworks display.  Granted, I said it smelled like Cordite, but I might be able to bluff through if I'm called on it.

There are pink AR-15s. Really. It was strange, because I could ID it by sight, despite the pink. I may have been looking at guns too long.

It's official. Guns are not that scary. Also, I may need to rewrite some scenes in future novels.

Thanks once more to Margot for bringing me along. It was awesome.

Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm back! Action / Adventure panel at CWCL

The Catholic Writer's Conference, Live! action-adventure panel.

This will be an incomplete transcript of the entire panel, starring Declan Finn (me), Gene Wolfe, and John Desjarlais (French-Canadian pronunciation. Good luck) and Anthony Kolenc.

Now, there will be gaps here. I've forgotten most of what I've said, to heck with what anyone else said.  I'm going to ask anyone who was there to comment, and fill in the blanks. Anyone who posted to YouTube, please let me know, I'll post some here.

The moderator was the awesome and wonderful Ann Margaret Lewis.

Here we go.....

Q: Has a Saint's non-violence inspired you?

Declan Finn: Well, the closest I've ever come to that was with Thomas Aquinas. Like me, Aquinas was a nerd. He had only two real outbursts in his life.  One was when his family had hired a hooker -- a second one, because he converted the first -- only this one was more persistent in her job. Aquinas finally grabbed a burning log from the fireplace and chased her out, drawing a cross of fire into the door on her way out. I always liked that one if only for the comedy value. The second story was Aquinas at a party being held by King St. Louis. It was one of those "You've been invited. Go to the party, you'll have fun." During the party, he had a philosophical thought, rear up, and slammed the table, declaring "and that will settle the Manichees!" I've got a few characters who are also just as flakey.

Gene Wolfe: But the important part of that fight scene with the hooker -- and it was a fight scene, even if she just ran away -- was what was being defended!

JD: One of my earlier books was about a war that happened over a book. It was written back when I was still a Protestant. Who knew I was writing a Catholic novel?

Worst fight scene ever?
Declan Finn: Jack Higgins wrote a scene to the end of a family of villains who had been plaguing his heroes for books. It was a dark and stormy night, fighting on the roof.  The entire fight consisted of "They went at each other. They fought. They grappled, they rolled to the edge of the roof, and Rashid fell off."  He's been the bad guy for repeated books! I know fights are quick, but can I have a little more detail?

JD: The worst fight scene I've ever read was when a pivotal fight happened off screen, with no emotional payoff.

Q: Who can you give as an example of writing good fight scenes.
Lee Child's Jack Reacher.  Before every fight, there's a little dissertation on violence. It explains why he's targeting who he's targeting, and why he's hitting with what he's hitting.  And since Jack Reacher was 6'5" -- not Tom Cruise -- he was always being confronted by 5-7 people, and discussed group dynamics.

Ann: Do you think they stole that for the Robert Downy Jr. Sherlock Holmes films?

Well, for that, I can at least see Holmes doing it, because he's Holmes. He can play three-dimensional chess in his head.  As for stealing .... does Guy Ritchie even read? I know he was with Madonna for a while, so I wouldn't place money on it.

I also suggest James Rollins.  And for large scale battles, read Bernard Cornwell -- not John, Bernard -- who wrote the Richard Sharpe series. It was about the Napoleonic wars, and one of the few roles where Sean Bean did not die a horrible, horrible death.

[I got a few laughs there]

Q: Why do you write in your genre?
Declan Finn: Because thrillers are what people read. And I'm not going to write a romance novel.

What is your pet peeve about action scenes?

Gene Wolfe: When two guys are exchanging one-liners between punches. All of the one-liners in real life come before the punching starts. One of these days, I want someone to start a one-liner and get punched in the mouth.

[No, I don't remember what I said to that one. It's been a hard week]

Q: For science fiction and fantasy, it's easy to ignore tech or magic in order to have an exciting fight scene. (Remember how Indy shot the swordsman instead of the big scene they had planned.) How do you work around advanced tech that might make a dull fight?

Declan Finn: "I make it simple. I give all the advanced weaponry to the bad guys.  As for working around it -- the tech can be magical, but it's still run by people. People can be tricked. Confused. Or just plain stupid."

Gene mostly answered this question.  I don't remember his answer, though I want to have recalled it.  He also loved the Raiders swordfight cited above because that's very much how real fights go.


Q (from the audience): What makes a Catholic adventure?
JD: As Bilbo said in The Hobbit, "I'm going on an adventure!"  The first part of having an adventure is that you go out."
Me: I'm the simple one here. Catholic adventure? The priests aren't all Nazis. The Pope isn't evil.  There is good. There is evil. And evil must lose.

[I swear I had an "amen" at that point.]


Q (From the audience): "Have you ever had prayer, or angels, or a miracle to solve a problem? Something supernatural for a solution?"
Gene: "Yes, I did. I had one story where every time my main character would start praying, he would start to win."
Declan Finn: "Since I don't want it to be a deus ex machina, I do have a bit of a miracle in book three of my Pius trilogy, when the fecal matter hits the air impeller" [laugh].  "But it's like the old joke: A cop car goes up to a guy's house.  There's a flood coming. Get in the car. Guy says that God'll save me, God'll save my house. The next people to come by are in a boat, and they're talking to the homeowner in the second story window because that's where the water is.  Get in the boat, they say. Guy says that God'll save me, God'll save my house.  The next people to come by are in a helicopter, and the homeowner's on the roof. Guy says No, God'll save me, God'll save my house. Homeowner drowns.  When the homeowner asks, Why didn't you save me? God says 'I sent the cop, I sent the boat, I sent the helicopter, what more do you want?'  It's like that."

Then there were several great lines that I can't remember the context for......

JD: "The scene between Bilbo and Gollum in the cave is a buildup to Bilbo and Smaug later on, playing for much larger stakes. Setup, payoff."

JD: A fight has to either advance the story or the character.  You can't just have it to be there. It has to accomplish something.

[.... I hate him for that. He stole my line before I could say it. :)  Yes, I'm kidding. I love his novels Bleeder and Viper.  I should probably review then ... anyway....]

Declan Finn: "As was said by John, if it's going to bore the writer, it's going to bore the audience. I cut a scene from my novel Codename: Winterborn because there were too many fight scenes already.  But since the scene was something that had to happen for the story to move forward, and it was a navy SEAL versus some guys in the street, I boiled it down to a sentence of the aftermath, and moved on."

Gene Wolfe: "I'm glad to see that fighting men are wearing armor again. I had one of the first pieces of armor issued to the army. It was this big heavy nylon thing with lead squares, and it might as well have been made of solid metal. Anyway, during one time, this Lieutenant had come up on stage before the men, and he wore this bright green shining piece of armor with a string of grenades across the chest. It made him look like Flash Gordon. He had a truck of his new armor and he said "Is there anyone here who doesn't have armor?" I disconnected my straps, holding my armor up, and I shot up to the stage, saying "Me. I don't have armor."  And I got myself some shiny new armor, the first time it was given out to the enlisted men and not just officers.  Anyway, we made an about face, and marched out of the room, and there was my old armor, just lying there. The Lieutenant just laughed, picked up the armor, and threw it on the truck."


As I said, these are pieces and parts I recall from less than a week ago. Any help on filling in the blanks would be helpful