Tag Archives: entertainment

What to Read and Watch: 3 Fantasy Novels + 2 Futuristic Movies + 1 Horror Show #SFF

I’m a panelist at SF Signal’s Mind Meld today. The question was:

What lesser-known books have you read, fairly recently, that you think deserve more attention, and why?

If you stop by, you’ll get to see what my answer was (hint: 3 fantasy novels), as well as read the other panelists’ answers, which should give you some great reading ideas for your holiday break.

For those of you who need to take a break from your TBR pile (it happens; you’re forgiven ;-) ), below are my thoughts on what I’ve been watching.

General Spoiler Warning: I find it hard to discuss things without giving too much away. I’m not a reviewer, I’m a fan. So… if you don’t like spoilers, go watch MR. NOBODY, HOW I LIVE NOW, and AMERICAN HORROR STORY (COVEN) and come back.

Mr. Nobody

Like Inception and Cloud Atlas, this is a movie you’re gonna wanna watch twice. I knew from the trailer that it was trippy science fiction (a good thing). Even so I still had to resort to some post-viewing internet searches to get the red-yellow-blue thing. But once I did, I thought it was a brilliant visual way of reinforcing Nemo’s various life choices/paths. The story is about a man named Nemo Nobody who is 118 years old when the movie starts. He is the last mortal man in a futuristic society that has learned how to achieve immortality through stem cell compatible pigs (that part sounds absurd, but the movie isn’t, and the filmmakers treat the concept as absurdly as it sounds… perhaps a commentary on the futility and absurdity of man’s constant search for immortality?).

In any case, Nemo is being interviewed on his deathbed. A journalist has snuck into his room and wants to hear his life’s story. But his joy at snagging the scoop turns to confusion as Nemo weaves a story that is full of multiple inconsistencies and not a few earlier deaths. Nemo isn’t just musing about “what if” or “wish I woulda.” His constructs three different realities with alternate endings in each. Most of us tell our life’s story in chronological order. Not Nemo. His story is full of all the choices he made – and all the ones he didn’t. It’s pretty neat. (Although I found his “blue” life and wife hard to take, but she’s supposed to be that way. Great acting by Sarah Polley, btw. Who saw The Claim? That’s another good one to rent, although there’s not even a whiff of SFF in it).

All of the above aside, I’m not sure I agree with the ending premise: that all your life’s paths are just as worthy, equal, or meaningful. At the same time though, since we live in the real world (where smoke will not go back into the cigarette even if we live to be 118), I think it’s important not to regret past choices or wonder too much about paths not taken.

Interested in reading more about Mr. Nobody?

How I Live Now

Fifteen year old Elizabeth a.k.a. “Daisy” – a troubled teen who hears voices and has a constant need to wash her hands – arrives from the U.S. to spend a summer with cousins on a remote farm in the English countryside. A nuclear bomb is dropped on London. WWIII breaks out. Martial law is declared. And then… bad stuff happens. The kind of stuff you can imagine. And then are glad that you’re only imagining it, not remembering it.

The movie opens with scenes of idyllic summer days (you know their only purpose is to sharply contrast with whatever’s coming next) and scenes from an idyllic summer love (the fact that the young lovers are cousins is glossed over and, in light of the film’s true horrors, I had no trouble forgetting about that too).

Saoirse Ronan plays Daisy and she is terrific, as always. I wanted to know more about Daisy’s character. Why did she hear voices before the war even started? Why was she always washing her hands? There was other evidence of mental and/or emotional vulnerability (medication, a vague reference to a possible eating disorder) but the underlying cause was never explained. Were all of Daisy’s pre-war problems just due to the fact that her dad ignored her? Maybe the character was more fully fleshed out in the novel. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. The message of the film was survival and forward motion, not looking back.

Regardless of the cause of Daisy’s initial troubles, the one bright spot of the film was watching her transform from a prickly, obsessive, anti-social teen into someone with close family relationships, the competence to plan and execute a cross-country trek back home through land pock-marked with enemies and other dangers, and the will not just to survive but to make sure those she cares about do too.

Above all, How I Live Now is a film that makes you appreciate life. All of it. The big stuff. Family. A safe place. A sense of self. And the small stuff. Gardens. Sunshine. Clean water.

American Horror Show (Coven)

Even though I’m a speculative fiction fan, I don’t read or watch a lot of horror. But I love certain aspects of it: dark, macabre storylines, monsters, usually a twist or two, and sometimes, humor. I think I first heard about this show in Entertainment Weekly and the premise intrigued me: a New Orleans boarding school for non-conformists who also happen to be witches. In the first episode, a witch accidentally kills her boyfriend – by her act of passion, not in an act of passion – and another is burned at the stake (she comes back to life in E2). The show never looked back. Each episode just got more and more outlandish, which is what makes it so entertaining.

Ordinarily, by now, I would be wondering how the creators could possibly sustain the dramatic trajectory they’ve put themselves on, but that brings me to the other reason I got hooked on the show: its unique anthology format. Each season is a standalone story, with its own story arc – a promised beginning, middle, and end – all in one season. Each season stars many of the same cast members: Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters… As well as some who are there only for that season: Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Emma Roberts, Zachary Quinto… So, of course, I had to go back and start watching season 1 (Murder House) in between episodes of S3. Be forewarned, however, this is not a show for the meek. (Fans of True Blood or Game of Thrones, you’ll be fine. :-D ).

What about you? Have you seen Mr. Nobody, How I Live Now, or American Horror Story (Coven)? What do YOU think? Hope everyone’s having a great week!


Cover Reveal: WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE (Noon Onyx #3)

Today I’ve got a fun, beautiful, fantastic post that I’ve been looking forward to sharing with you — the new cover for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, the third book in my Noon Onyx series. As with FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, Jason Chan was the cover artist. Below are my thoughts on the cover, the book blurb, pre-order and Goodreads links, and a chance to win some neat prizes: signed copies of DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL (US only) and a $25 eGift Certificate to the book store of your choice (international). Please help me to share the new cover by tweeting, posting, etc.!

urban fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy, White Heart of Justice, Noon Onyx, Jill Archer, cover reveal, cover art

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE
Noon Onyx #3
Cover Artist: Jason Chan
Cover Designer: Lesley Worrell

My Thoughts

I’ve loved each of my covers for different reasons. DARK LIGHT OF DAY was my first cover so I’m rather sentimental about it. I’ll always love it because it was my first and because cover artist David Palumbo incorporated a lot of design elements that I appreciated: the blackened vine motif on the gate, St. Luck’s in the background, the books that Noon held, the fireball raised high in her hand, and that defiant, though somewhat hesitant, face. It fit the story and the character for that book perfectly.

I loved FIERY EDGE OF STEEL’s cover because it was visually striking. Noon looked tougher and, instead of carrying books and a vague, unshaped fireball, she was now griping a knife — a fiery filleting knife that she’d shaped out of waning magic. The backdrop was the New Babylon docks — appropriate since that story was, for the most part, a river adventure.

But — wow! — I think the cover for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE is the best yet. It’s stunning.

When my editor sent me the cover art and I opened it up for the first time, I was thrilled. It’s beautiful, and like my first two covers, it incorporates many of the design elements that we discussed early on. Noon’s clothing is different than it was on the first two covers. Instead of a bustier and cloak, she’s bundled up in a fur-lined hood and gloves for her trip into the dark parts of southern Halja. She’s graduated from a knife to a sword. It’s symbolic of how far she’s come as a character. (Whether or not the sword on the cover is actually the famed “White Heart of Justice” that Noon seeks in the book, I leave to readers to determine). And a fiery war bird circles her, another nod to her growing magic skills and a hint to readers that they will see magic used in new and different ways in book #3.

But the two things I love the most about this cover are its attention-grabbing, bright, bracing colors and Noon’s expression. Though she is looking down, she looks contemplative and strong, almost meditative. Appropriate for a character whose decisions have become more weighty with each book. Here’s the blurb…

WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE

A Noon Onyx Novel

Since Lucifer claimed victory at Armageddon, demons, angels, and humans have coexisted in uneasy harmony. Those with waning magic are trained to maintain peace and order. But hostilities are never far from erupting…

After years of denying her abilities, Noon Onyx, the first woman in history to wield waning magic, has embraced her power. She’s won the right to compete in the prestigious Laurel Crown Race—an event that will not only earn her the respect of her peers but also, if she wins, the right to control her future.

However, Noon’s task is nearly impossible: retrieve the White Heart of Justice, a mythical sword that disappeared hundreds of years ago. The sword is rumored to be hidden in a dangerous region of Halja that she is unlikely to return from. But Noon’s life isn’t the only thing hanging in the balance. The sword holds an awesome power that, in the wrong hands, could reboot the apocalypse—and Noon is the only one who can prevent Armageddon from starting again…

Please Pre-Order and Add to Your Goodreads Shelf

Who else is participating

in the cover reveal?

Below are the other bloggers that are participating in the cover reveal. THANK YOU to each and every one of them! I am very grateful that they wanted to help share the new cover and spread the word about WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE. Please stop by to check out their sites, subscribe and/or follow them, and for more chances to win my cover reveal prizes. A big thank you to Roxanne Rhoads at Bewitching Book Tours, who helped to organize the cover reveal.

Prizes!

To celebrate the new cover, I am giving away a signed set of DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL (US only) and a $25 eGift Certificate to a book store of winner’s choice (international). To enter to win, click here.

So what do you think? Do you love the new cover as much as I do? Thank you for helping me share it!


Dark Tower: More Vintage Gaming

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board games

Are you old enough to have played Dark Tower as a kid? My husband’s birthday was last week and his mom surprised us by giving him a vintage Dark Tower game. Apparently, he and his brother and parents had spent many a night playing it decades ago. (As with King’s Quest, Dark Tower wasn’t a game I played as a kid. Inside, we played Risk, Monopoly, D&D, and various other video games. Outside, Kick the Can and Flashlight Tag). But, of course, I’ve heard of Dark Tower! Who could forget the Orson Welles commercial?

So we were all pretty excited to take a trip down nostalgia lane and play the game.

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board games

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board gamesAfter immediately losing two warriors to plague, I headed straight to the bazaar to buy a healer. I quickly added a scout to avoid getting lost and a beast to carry all my GOLD. Was cursed not once, not twice, but THRICE by my own family members!

Thought the fact that the battles with brigands and the dragon didn’t give me any experience was odd, but overall, I was pretty darn impressed with all the stuff the little computer inside the Dark Tower kept track of. For 1981, this game was ahead of its time.

Pegasus made a very late showing in our first game, after two players had already attacked the tower. (Had to wait for our second game for the elusive Dragonsword to come into play. And then my husband was the one who found it!)

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board games

I couldn’t resist a little “what if…?”

The first time I approached the Dark Tower (not having played before), I didn’t know what to expect. I laughed out loud when I saw that I’d tried to attack with only 6 warriors. (No less than 54 brigands were lying in wait). Other newbie mistakes I made? I starved some of my men out of ignorance. I found the way the game kept track of food confusing. I wasn’t paying attention (duh) to the “Death March” that had sounded at the beginning of my turns when I was running low on food.

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board games

By the end of my first game, I’d tried to storm the tower twice, but I never had enough men for the final battle. The good news? No one else won either. At 12:21 a.m., we threw in the towel. To be continued…

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board games

Dark Tower, vintage gaming, entertainment, 80's board gamesHow about you? Did you ever play Dark Tower as a kid? Do you remember the commercials? What was your favorite game from the 80’s? If you missed my post about King’s Quest (vintage gaming on an IBM PC Jr.) and want to read, click here. Hope you’re all having a great week!


If Fiery Edge of Steel was made into a movie, who would I cast as Noon Onyx?

I’ve never answered the question of who I would cast as the lead characters in the Noon Onyx books if the books were made into movies. Mostly, it was due to the fact that no one actress came immediately to mind. But another reason is that I was reluctant to limit the character’s interpretation in that way. Books and movies are very different storytelling mediums. One of the amazing things about books is that readers can fill in the gaps of the story with their own imaginations. Part of me felt like if I said who I thought would make a great Noon, that’s who people would always visualize. But that’s ridiculous. And SO NOT FUN!

EJ over at From the Shadows asked me “the casting question” and this time, I had to answer it. So if you’re wondering who I would cast as Noon, Ari, and newcomer Rafe Sinclair, then check out today’s interview by clicking here. I talk about other stuff too, like when I started writing, what brought me to the paranormal genre, which supernatural talent I would want for my own, and why people will like Fiery Edge of Steel. And, of course, there’s a giveaway! Come comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Fiery Edge of Steel!

If you’ve read Dark Light of Day, I’d love to hear *your* thoughts on who would make a great Noon and Ari. Or you can tell me what you think of my choices and whether you’ve seen any of the MOVIES I reference. :-D

Hope to see you there! Have a great Wednesday!

One of the neatest things about Release Day: Friends sending you pictures of their recently delivered copies! Thanks, Dianne, for texting me this pic!!

One of the neatest things about Release Day: Friends sending you pictures of their recently delivered copies! Thanks, Dianne, for texting me this pic!!


Supernatural Smackdown, Tour Winners, and Cloud Atlas

Noon Onyx is Competing in Dark Faerie Tales Supernatural Smackdown!

This weekend, Noon is competing in Dark Faerie Tales Supernatural Smackdown. What’s a Supernatural Smackdown, you ask? It’s a really fun online cage match among a bunch of tough-as-nails paranormal characters. It was fun for me as a writer because this is the first post I’ve written from Noon’s perspective. And it’s tons of fun for readers because all of the posts have been great. If you are looking for a quick entertainment fix, stop by! There are prizes (I’m giving away a signed copy of Dark Light of Day and Fiery Edge of Steel) and other participating authors are offering terrific prizes as well.

While you’re there, you can VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER. Being a pacifist at heart, Noon’s a little disadvantaged in this competition (she could use some online love to survive!). But, honestly, just check it out and vote for whoever — because all of the posts have been witty and well worth reading.

ARC and eGC Winners!

Thank you very much to everyone who participated in the exclusive excerpt tour for Fiery Edge of Steel. I really appreciated all of the comments, tweets, status updates, etc. It helps a lot to have readers spreading the word about new releases online. Bewitching Book Tours sent me the list of winners and prizes have either already been delivered or are on their way. Here are the winners:

eGift Certificate: Roger S.

ARCs: Ashley S., Carol A., Shannon R., Jennifer S., Sherry F., Megan M.

Cloud Atlas

I watched Cloud Atlas last night. Has anyone else seen it? What did you think of it? For the most part, I liked it. I’m usually able to follow complicated plots, but I have to admit that I was baffled and confused at times by the myriad story lines (the movie follows six separate stories set in 1849 South Pacific, 1936 England/Scotland, 1973 San Francisco, 2012 United Kingdom, 2144 Neo Seoul, and 2321 “The Big Island”). Since I’d be hard pressed (in the time I have to write this post) to come up with a decent description for this movie, I’m going to just quote IMDb, which says that Cloud Atlas is “an exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.”

I definitely have to see this movie again. I’m sure I missed a lot in the first viewing because this film is so sprawling (not necessarily a bad thing). It’s feels all over the place in the beginning — and it is — in time, space, and plot. But one of the things that was interesting (although more confusing, because I was so distracted by the actors’ many different visual transformations) is that the same actors play different characters in each story line. Since this movie was based on a book (Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell) I found myself wondering why the filmmakers chose to make the film version of the story that way. I can’t imagine the choice was made for budgetary reasons. But I’m not sure I understand the creative choice. Were the filmmakers trying to underscore the book’s interconnectivity theme? I think there is some controversy surrounding the film and this choice, but I’ll have to wait until I have more time to look into it. Maybe some of you movie buffs can fill me in. The film reminded me of The Fountain and Tree of Life (although I admit, I was so tired during Tree of Life that I don’t even remember half of it). And there’s also a little bit of a Matrix vibe to the Neo Seoul 2144 storyline, which makes sense because the Wachowskis directed both.

Have you seen Cloud Atlas? What are your thoughts? Hope everyone’s having a great weekend!


Fiery Edge of Steel Exclusive Excerpt Tour: ARC Giveaways and More!

Fiery Edge of Steel is releasing at the end of this month — May 28th! To help spread the word about its release, I’m doing a six stop exclusive excerpt tour through Bewitching Book Tours. From today through May 11th, one part of Chapter 1 will be posted at each of the stops below. I’m giving away six signed ARCs (US only) and one $25.00 eGift Certificate to the bookstore of the winner’s choice (international) during this “teaser” tour. I’m ALSO giving away two more signed ARCs of Fiery Edge of Steel and two signed copies of Dark Light of Day from my site (US only). All you have to do to enter to win one of those is e-mail your US address to [archer at jillarcher dot com] by midnight EDT May 13th. Subject line should be the title of the book you are interested in. (You can say “both” :-D).

Fiery Edge of Steel

Exclusive Excerpt Tour

In writing Fiery Edge of Steel, I was inspired by a number of things, among them an old French imposter case, two children’s songs, and a fairy tale. I wanted to explore the themes of love, betrayal, knowledge, death, and duty. To set up those themes I could think of no better way to open the book than to recreate a Haljan version of the 16th century execution of Arnaud du Tilh, the man who impersonated the French peasant Martin Guerre. That recreation forms the basis for Chapter 1.

May 6th: Part One at Fang-tastic Books

May 7th: Part Two at Urban Girl Reader

May 8th: Part Three at Preternatura

May 9th: Part Four at Urban Fantasy Investigations

May 10th: Part Five at Rabid Reads

May 11th: Part Six at Romancing the Dark Side

Great First Reviews!

I was thrilled and excited to see that the first reviews for Fiery Edge of Steel were positive. In fact, I love what was said about the book and the series. I’m very grateful for any interest and thankful to everyone who takes the time to read and review.

“Archer delves deeper into the enticing and magical world of Dark Light of Day in this original and clever urban fantasy… Excitement and action leap from the pages as Archer’s skill with description pulls readers fully into her magical world.” — Publishers Weekly

“The second Noon Onyx story is an astounding adventure tale. Archer’s unique world, where Lucifer’s army triumphed at Armageddon, is filled with adherence to strict laws that keep an uneasy peace between races. This is proving to be a really fresh and fascinating series!” — RT Book Reviews

Noon Onyx is participating in a

Supernatural Smackdown

Does that sound hilarious and fun or what?!? I couldn’t resist saying I’d participate even though Noon’s character isn’t as kick a$$ as the characters she’ll be competing against. If you’re interested in seeing how a Supernatural Smackdown works, stop by Dark Faerie Tales (I’ll be taking notes along with you because this is the first one I’ve ever done!). And, if you want to vote for the underdog, come check out my post there on May 16th! (Yes, I’ll be sending out reminders. ;-))

More About the Noon Onyx Series

In Dark Light of Day, the first book in the series, Nouiomo “Noon” Onyx, a 21 year old post grad magic user, had to choose between death or training to become a demon peacekeeper. In Fiery Edge of Steel, Noon faces a different question.

The Noon Onyx series is a genre-bending fantasy series. The setting is post-apocalyptic, but it’s not dystopian fiction. In fact, Armageddon is old news. Demons have inherited the earth, but goodness and love still exist. In short, the series is for readers who adore adventure, passion, mystery, and magic.

I’ll be posting info and links to various other events in connection with Fiery Edge of Steel‘s release. And I’ll be posting more guest blogs from the fabulous authors who are participating in the Spring Into Summer Romance guest blog series. Behind the scenes, I am working feverishly (sometimes literally — dang spring colds!) on book #3.

I had a lot of fun writing Fiery Edge of Steel and I hope you enjoy reading it! Have a great week, everyone!
Jill Archer's Dark Light of DayJill Archer's Fiery Edge of Steel


King’s Quest: Vintage Gaming on an IBM PCjr

King's Quest, IBM PC Jr, vintage video game

Remember King’s Quest?

Truth be told, I don’t. We didn’t have an IBM PCjr. We had Atari. So I played Asteroids and Pitfall. But my husband played King’s Quest. And he still has the floppy disk. And he still has the IBM PCjr to play it on. The other night he loaded it up so that we could wax nostalgic about 80’s gaming and our kids could ogle at the vintage graphics and anxiously await the moment when the next screen would load. It was fun. Because it’s neat to remember the way things were and how far we’ve come.

IBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video gameIBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video gamingIBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video game

What was happening in the U.S. when kids were playing this?

  • Ronald Regan was President
  • Ma Bell was breaking up
  • Johnny Carson hosted the Oscars
  • World’s Fair held in New Orleans (I went)
  • Summer Olympics held in LA
  • MTV Music Awards started

IBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video game

What was happening in the tech world when kids were playing this?

  • Apple put the first Mac PC on sale
  • Sony and Philips introduce first commercial CD players
  • Sony made the first 3 ½” floppy disk

IBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video gamingIBM PC Jr, King's Quest, vintage video gaming

Sources:

  • The People History
  • Wikipedia
  • King’s Quest: written by Roberta Williams, programming by Charles Tingley and Ken MacNeill, artwork by Doug MacNeill and Greg Rowland

King's Quest, IBM PC Jr, vintage video game

What about you? Do you have any vintage video games? Which ones? Did you play games in the 80’s? What were your favorites? Are you a gamer now? Do you have any vintage tech equipment? Hope everyone is doing well!


Crime Thriller Author John Lansing: How Working in Hollywood Helped His Novel Writing

Crime thriller author John Lansing is touring with Bewitching Book Tours to promote his debut novel The Devil’s Necktie. He discusses how his acting career and time spent writing for both television and film helped him to become a better novelist. He’s also giving away a Kindle 6 inch screen with WiFi at the end of his tour. Details are at the end of the post. Welcome, John!
crime thriller fiction The Devil's Necktie John Lansing

“Men make plans, God laughs.”

There may not be vampires or paranormal activity in, “The Devil’s Necktie,” but I think there’s enough sex, drugs and murder to keep things interesting.

I didn’t grow up dreaming about being a writer. It wasn’t even on my short list. But now in hindsight I do think writing books was a natural evolution from my time spent working in Hollywood.

My acting career helped inform the characters I wrote for, and about, and created, in my television work. The craft of acting helped me understand the emotional roadmap needed to flesh out complex characters, characters that will hopefully be compelling enough to maintain a reader’s interest.

My television work taught me discipline, writing on a schedule, collaboration, and it really hammered home the type of characters I enjoyed and wanted to invest my time with, characters that were interesting enough for me to spend a year of my life with, and again, hopefully keep an audience reading. Only you can tell me if I’ve succeeded at that and I look forward to hearing from you.

The most difficult part of my transition from television to novels was the writing itself. I had a wonderful partner, Bruce Cervi, who I co-wrote all of my television and film projects with, but now I was on my own. Just me, my computer, and my twenty-four pound poodle named Lucky.

The joy of writing my first novel was not having to adhere to a formula created by a television Pilot episode. I had total freedom to explore the psychology and behavior of not only my primary characters, but also my secondary tier. And I didn’t have to worry about satisfying a star’s ego or writing to commercial breaks.

I’ve always been drawn to flawed characters that were interested in reinventing themselves, who wanted a new life. Maybe because I’ve had such a varied career myself. I grew up in middle class suburbia. People worked for the same corporation or company, had the same vocation for their entire lives. Well that doesn’t fly anymore. We can all look forward to experiencing three or four different careers in our lifetime.

I wanted to write about a detective who was on the verge of change, who was recovering from a nasty divorce, retiring from the NYPD, leaving Staten Island, and starting over. The old Yiddish proverb pretty much nails it. “Men make plans, God laughs.” My protagonist, Jack Bertolino, chose to do all of those things; it just didn’t quite work out the way he planned. Twenty-five years of taking down drug dealers, money launderers and killers came back to bite him in the ass, and shook up his newfound sense of bliss in Marina del Rey, California. That was enough of a hook for me to write “The Devil’s Necktie.”

More About The Devil’s Necktie

A sizzling thriller for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell. An exciting tour into the real-life world of cops, crime, and murder. Retired inspector Jack Bertolino had strict rules when dealing with confidential informants. But Mia had the kind of beauty that could make a grown man contemplate leaving his wife, his job, and his kids. After a passionate night together, Mia is found murdered – and Jack is the lead suspect. Facing threats from the LAPD, the 18th Street Angels, and a Columbian drug cartel, Jack delves deeper into the seedy world of drug dealers and murderers and discovers that the top players knew Mia personally. And now Jack is torn between fearing for his life and seeking revenge for his slain lover…either way, the body count will rise.

Where to buy

More About John

John Lansing

John Lansing

John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.” He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop, Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. The Devil’s Necktie is his first novel. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

Where to find John online

More About the Contest

Kindle LansingAt the end of his virtual book tour, John is giving away one Kindle 6 inch screen with WiFi. If you’d like to enter to win, click here =>

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So, writers, have you had a another career that’s helped your writing in some way? Readers, what do you think of the saying “Men make plans; God laughs”? Too true at times, right? Thank you for guest blogging today, John!


#Movies: 3 Great Paranormal Movies and 1 “Pitch Perfect” Musical Comedy

Below are my thoughts on Looper, ParaNorman, Frankenweenie, and Pitch Perfect. Have you seen them? If so, share your thoughts in the comments!  Later this week, I’ll have some more guest bloggers with some terrific giveaways.

Despite different endings, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie have wonderfully similar messages

Despite different endings, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie have similar messages

Looper (time traveling assassin)

At times reminiscent of Terminator, Twelve Monkeys, and Inception, this film was fantastic. I know some reviewers have discussed the film’s time traveling paradoxes (and it’s true, some parts of the plot require an even greater willing suspension of disbelief than normally required for time travel movies), but the other parts of the film (the acting, the slightly futuristic 2044 Kansas world, and the surprisingly sentimental character motivations) make it all worthwhile. The only thing I was confused about was the sound of the crying baby when Old Joe was with his wife. If you’ve seen it, what do you make of that? Was that part of a plotline that was later abandoned?

ParaNorman (boy can speak with ghosts)

One Friday night during the holiday break, I took my youngest to see Parental Guidance, but it was sold out by the time we made it to the theater. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we came home and rented ParaNorman. I feel certain I would not have enjoyed Parental Guidance as much as I did ParaNorman. Because most of the movie up until the end was funny, the climatic ending scene between Norman and Aggie was more sad, scary, and serious than I expected it to be. But, of course, “scary” is relative. (Obviously, it’s not true horror and my eight year old was fine with it).

Frankenweenie (boy brings dog back from dead)

It’s Tim Burton so I wanted to see this immediately, but I wasn’t able to see it in the theater so I had to wait. Two things that had my kids hesitating over it was that it was all black & white and one of them thought it would be too sad. No doubt there were sad moments, but this movie was as wonderful as I thought it would be and everyone was glad I convinced them to watch. The whole family enjoyed it. It’s cute, funny, and not very scary.

Pitch Perfect (all girl a capella group competes in college competition)

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned how much I love watching movies about young performers. (Lemonade Mouth was adorable too and better suited to younger audiences). These kind of films are just pure fun. They require little to no thought to watch, they are not emotionally wrenching or graphically violent. They have no hard-core message. They are predictable, but that’s also why they aren’t stressful. Let’s see… what else can I say other than I thought Anna Camp and Rebel Wilson stole the show. They (and the musical numbers) were awesome! :-D

Final Thoughts – ParaNorman v. Frankenweenie (spoilers!)

It’s interesting to compare and contrast ParaNorman and Frankenweenie. Both films have outcast protagonists with no “real” friends. (Victor’s best friend is his dog and Norman spends more time interacting with ghosts than living people). So it was neat to see two very different possible endings for protagonists like them. In ParaNorman, the ordeal with the zombies and the witch leads Norman to integrate himself more fully into his family and community. Norman has a clear “real” friend by the end of the movie – Neil. I think, because I watched ParaNorman first, I kept thinking Frankenweenie would end similarly – with Victor peacefully accepting Sparky’s death, grateful that he had more time with him and/or was able to say goodbye, and then deciding to embrace a “real” friend – Edgar. So I was pleasantly surprised when Sparky lived and continued to be Victor’s best friend. For me, the underlying messages are the same: close relationships are the key to happiness. Who your relationship is with matters less than the fact that you have one.


Argo versus Lawless and 5 Movies to Consider for This Weekend

Movie Reviews

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post about movies! Anyone who remembers my movie posts from many moons ago will remember that I’m not a true reviewer – I’m a fan. I don’t rate them (except on Netflix) and my “reviews” are really just stream of consciousness notes about what I thought about them. That said, if I’m including a movie in one of my samplers, then I think it’s worth watching. Sometimes just because it’s fun or entertaining – and other times because you can learn something from it or it has a great message. SPOILER ALERT: This sampler’s full of spoilers. If you hate spoilers, watch the movies first and then come back to discuss! :-D

Argo

This was a fantastic movie. If you can’t see it in the theater, put it in your queue for later. For starters, Ben Affleck! I love him, always have, even in some of his choices that weren’t as commercially or critically successful. When he came out with The Town in 2010 I wanted to track him down and give him a high-five. (If you haven’t seen that movie yet, what are you waiting for? Rent it tonight!) So… Argo… It was tense, somber, and serious. Affleck deftly set up the historical background of the story (a 1980 joint Canadian-American covert rescue of six American diplomats in Iran during the time of the Iran hostage crises) and then immediately immersed viewers into this compelling drama of survival and rescue. But what sets this movie apart from other spy thrillers, survival stories, and rescue missions is the movie’s use of its true life inspirational sources. The movie was based on an event called the “Canadian Caper.” Since a “caper” is a lighthearted prank or trick, one would assume a modern-day filmmaker creating a film about at-risk diplomats in the middle east wouldn’t even try to work in all the mental associations that the word “caper” brings to mind. Not so. I found the film’s Hollywood set scenes just as engaging – in entirely different ways – as the Iranian set scenes.

Possession

This is an older movie that I streamed because I wanted to take a look again at the way the parallel plot was structured. I’d remembered this movie as being sweet and entertaining. (I remembered correctly). It stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the British scholar Maud Bailey and Aaron Eckhart as the American scholar Roland Michell. Over the course of the film the two research the possibility of a romance between two fictitious Victorian-era poets. The film alternates between the two modern-day characters hunting for clues and the two poets living in the late 1800’s. The film does a great job of switching between the two timelines, while teasing out the mystery elements (with both clues and further unanswered questions provided at just the right moments) and the romantic elements in each of the two lovers’ stories. Who would like this film? Anyone who likes quieter romances, period pieces, and literary mysteries.

Moonrise Kingdom

When I saw the trailer for this, I *had* to rent it. It had quirky written all over it, it’s directed by Wes Anderson, and it has a terrific cast (Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman)! If you liked The Life Aquatic or The Royal Tennebaums or you like slightly offbeat coming-of-age movies and/or odd or unusual romances (Amelie or Benny & Joon), this is a movie you should see. I loved the look of the film (the scenes and costumes had a sort of vintage, cartoonish look to them), the way in which the story was told (likely a Wes Anderson hallmark I could spend an entire post trying to analyze), and the acting by both of the young stars who play the main leads (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward). Suzy, the character, has her faults, but oh – how I adored her expressions! Hayward pulled off haughty-yet-vulnerable to a tee.

A Cat In Paris

My whole family watched this one Friday night. Everyone enjoyed it. If you’re looking for an animated film that doesn’t feel like it’s just another regurgitated Disney plot, this is one to consider. The English speaking cast included Anjelica Houston, Marcia Gay Harden, and Mathew Modine. I don’t know anything about art or music, but both the noir-ish animation and the jazz soundtrack contributed to the welcome unfamiliar feel of this movie. The artwork seemed to have sharper edges than a Disney or Pixar film might and the soundtrack featured Billie Holiday instead of cast members singing songs made for the movie. The story also felt different. I very much liked it, but couldn’t help laughing good-naturedly over the almost too easy ending. How likely is it that Claudine (a cop) and Nico (a cat burglar) would ever get together in real life?

Lawless

Brutal and violent, not my usual top choice, but it was a good movie. Worth seeing. As a writer you can’t help but muse about how you might have told the story differently. I don’t have any huge criticisms, just small gripes based on personal taste. Maybe it was late, but I missed a big theme or message. Answering the question What’s this movie really about? would have catapulted this movie from “B” to “A” for me. It was based on a true story, so that’s what it was about, but even so, lots of filmmakers have used true stories as inspiration to make a statement about something. Also, I might have chosen only one hero – and that hero would have been Forest Bondurant. While I found Jack Bondurant’s growth arc compelling (and Shia LaBeouf’s acting excellent), it was predictable. Three minutes in I pegged him as Michael Corleone. Forest, however, was a potentially mythical character. All the talk of the Bondurants’ invincibility and Forest’s immortality, well, maybe’s it’s my love of fantasy, but I would *loved* to have seen the filmmakers make more of that. Lastly, the epilogue ending. Was that really needed? I could have done without the frozen pond scene and the voice over of reality at the end.

Final Thoughts: Argo v. Lawless

Why did I like Argo so much more than Lawless? They were each based on true stories. Each were set against a backdrop of violence. Hmm… I’m still thinking over this, but I think for a few reasons. First, Argo had an unquestionable hero – Tony Mendez. Second, it had a message: do the right thing, even when the likelihood of succeeding seems impossible. The movie underscored all of the risks everyone took to rescue the diplomats: the Canadian Ambassador and his wife, their Iranian maid, and Tony Mendez. But when Mendez made the decision to continue with the rescue despite Washington having cancelled the operation, that was a heroic moment. That, for me, was the defining moment of the film. Third, Affleck’s use of humor in Argo was nothing short of genius level work whereas Lawless was completely humorless, which was fine because it was a dark story. But that’s why I loved Argo more. It too was a dark story, but it seemed to use humor to illustrate another message: sometimes, laughter and an appreciation of the absurd can be a lifeline –the difference between life and death.

So, how about you? Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think? Have you seen any other movies that we should consider watching this weekend? If so, let us know in the comments. Best wishes for a wonderful weekend with lots of movie watching, book reading, holiday shopping or whatever it is that makes you happy! :-D


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