SUPER SWEET BLOGGING AWARD

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I WON THE SUPER SWEET BLOGGING AWARD!!!

I want to first thank Sherri Matthews for nominating me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award!

Here are the rules to be completed for this award:

THE RULES:

1. Thank the Super Sweet Blogger that nominated you.

2. Answer 5 Super Sweet questions.

3. Include the Super Sweet Blogging Award in your blog post.

4. Nominate a baker’s dozen (13) other deserving bloggers

5. Notify your Super Sweet nominees on their blog

 

 THE 5 SUPER SWEET QUESTIONS:

 1-Cookies or Cake?

CAKE!

2-Chocolate or Vanilla?

Chocolate

3–Favorite Sweet Treat?

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

4-When do you crave sweet things the most?

Before going to bed

5-Sweet Nick Name?

My wife calls me Honey!

 

HERE ARE MY SUPER SWEET BLOGGERS:

1. Derrick Ferguson

2. Nia Trevisa

3. Jeff Goins

4. Selah Janel

5. Balogun Ojetade

6. Valjeanne Jeffers

7. RJ Sullivan

8. Maurice Broaddus

9. Eric Garrison

10. Melodee L. Allen

11. Andrew Leiter

12. Michael West

13. Milton Davis

 

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BURNING THE MIDDLE GROUND BLOG TOUR WITH L ANDREW COOPER

Burning-CoverRev3Title: Burning the Middle Ground

Author: L. Andrew Cooper
Publisher: BlackWyrm
ISBN: 978-1-61318-138-6
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 330
Available @: Amazon and Barnes & Noble

LAndrewCooperToday I have the pleasure of Spotlighting in my blog, writer L Andrew Cooper! His debut novel is titled, “Burning the Middle Ground.”

L Andrew Cooper is a writer at BlackWyrm Publishing, a publisher of fine speculative fiction. Cooper is a fresh new voice and rising star in the speculative fiction world.

Biography:

L. Andrew Cooper thinks the smartest people like horror, fantasy, and sci-fi. Early in life, he couldn’t handle the scary stuff–he’d sneak and watch horror films and then keep his parents up all night with his nightmares. In the third grade, he finally convinced his parents to let him read grownup horror novels: he started with Stephen King’s Firestarter, and by grade five, he was doing book reports on The Stand.

When his parents weren’t being kept up late by his nightmares, they worried that his fascination with horror fiction would keep him from experiencing more respectable culture. That all changed when he transitioned from his public high school in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia to uber-respectable Harvard University, where he studied English Literature. From there, he went on to get a Ph.D. in English from Princeton, turning his longstanding engagement with horror into a dissertation. The dissertation became the basis for his first book, Gothic Realities (2010). More recently, his obsession with horror movies turned into a book about one of his favorite directors, Dario Argento (2012). He also co-edited the textbook Monsters (2012), an attempt to infect others with the idea that scary things are worth people’s serious attention.

After living in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California, Andrew now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he teaches at the University of Louisville. Burning the Middle Ground is his debut novel.

Burning the Middle Ground is a unique blend of horror and dark fantasy which takes place in a  a small Southern town being ripped asunder by a supernatural conspiracy.

Five years after tragic murders divide Kenning, Georgia along religious lines, Ronald Glassner, a web journalist from New York, arrives to write a book about the tragedy’s sole survivor, Brian McCullough. Homicidal house pets, enucleated corpses, and menacing apparitions soon help Ronald understand that there’s something much bigger going on in Kenning, something connected to the town’s First Church and the imposing Reverend Michael Cox. With Brian, Brian’s girlfriend Melanie Grayson, progressive preacher Jeanne Harper, and police officer Winston Beecher, Ronald embarks on an investigation that takes them all into a nightmarish plot that will change the entire country.

I thoroughly enjoyed L Andrew Cooper’s modern take on the Horror/Dark Fantasy hybrid genre he produced in Burning the Middle Ground and I’m sure you will also! As a writer, I’m  honored to be in a position to spread the word about such a talented storyteller.

You owe it to yourself to check out Burning the Middle Ground, it’s definitely a treat to be had!

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STAR TREK FRANCHISE DISCUSSION:

To boldly go where we already boldly went before, while giving a dying franchise a shot in the arm!

Star-Trek

THIS ISN’T A REVIEW OF THE STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS FILM!!!

I saw a special screening of Star Trek: Into Darkness, prior to its official debut and while I really enjoyed the film and got a little more than what I expected, it wasn’t new and mind-blowing, which to me means that they did it right.  The following is MY OPINION on what this reboot for Star Trek is and what it means for the franchise. This explores why I think director JJ Abrams has done a GOOD job with the franchise reboot and why the different direction/changes were necessary in my opinion. While this is an opinion piece and open to comments, let’s keep any disagreements civil and courteous, with the idea that I’m in no way trying to convert you to my way of thinking/opinion. That said, fellow Trekkies please refrain from tossing bottles and rotten tomatoes at me during a convention/conference or other such public event!

Quite a few Star Trek fans affectionately known as Trekkies (some of which I happen to KNOW and LOVE) were up in arms when JJ Abrams was tapped to direct the Star Trek reboot/reimaging. I have to admit, I was skeptical myself and I consider myself to be a more open minded Trekkie than most of my brethren. That said, if you look at box office receipts alone, the first film was VERY successful. This and the fact that it is an established franchise is the reason we have the sequel out in theaters right now.

Recently, I had an online discussion with some of my friends and fellow Trekkies about ST:Into Darkness and they weren’t impressed. Of course, some of them weren’t impressed with the first film in the reboot and neither they or I expected any different result. Besides the complaints of obvious plot holes (it’s not like any of the other Star Trek TV series and/or movies had them, lol!), there was the lack of respect they felt was given to the source material. This is the meat of this special, Star Trek Franchise Discussion!

It is my opinion (and therefore not law or any attempt on my part to sway you to my line of thinking) that while I’m a fan of Star Trek, I think that it was only really thought provoking sci-fi when and because the content was relative to the period in which it was spawned. (This is my personal opinion, so again don’t throw bottles and/or rotten tomatoes! =D). The core idea behind the TV show was Wagon Trail to the stars…most of today’s audience doesn’t even get that reference. The franchise had to reset and reinvent on some level just to be relevant to today’s audience (outside of Trekkies). Honestly, (again in my opinion) JJ Abrams has done just that. If he hadn’t, it would have been the same stories told the same way and I personally didn’t want that.

The Space Age is said to have officially began in 1957 with Sputnik, which was nine years prior to the debut of Star Trek: TOS. Something must be said in regard to the leap in sci-fi fanfare during this time as man was coming into an age of real life space exploration and this show was the inspiration for much of the fascination with space exploration and modern technology we take for granted today. ST:TOS was cutting edge for its time with wireless handheld communicators, wireless headpieces, pneumatic doors, portable computers, artificial intelligence, two way communication screens, needle-less injections and portable medical scanners. Guess what? We have all of those things as a reality today. Back then, our reality was Science Fiction and we’ve come a long way indeed. So, how do we take things that seemed so cool and FAR OUT (I know I’m dating myself) and make them new and fresh and hip to today’s audience?

I think JJ Abrams had no choice but to do things the way he did to make the concept and the imagery relevant to today’s audience, much to the chagrin of diehard Trekkies. There’s a reason that the deck of the Enterprise looks like the inside of an Apple store as opposed to how it looked on the show…relatability! Today’s generation knows what the Apple store looks like inside and they get excited by being there, a replica of the ST:TOS set…not so much. Abrams had to make the set look inviting to a new generation, while achieving a similar configuration to the original set. I would think this would be a VERY difficult undertaking to say the least (and for those whining about it, can you do any better?).

Another aspect of the lost of relevance ST:TOS is the idea of an international community. Most people 40 and over can remember a time when the world wasn’t at your fingertips and news from the other side of the world came in days, if not weeks, as opposed to seconds. Gene Roddenberry envisioned Star Trek as “Wagon Trail to the stars,” essentially a space western (is it any wonder Captain Kirk has such a cowboy-esque attitude?). He also addressed issues such as The Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement. It was very socially conscious to have a Russian and an African American (a woman no less) as main characters in the show, not to mention giving television its first interracial kiss! The show gave the world a glimpse of a world where we had moved beyond the constraints of race, creed, color, religion and even species, in an effort to be equally accepted. These were VERY hot bed issues of the time…not so much today (although, we still have a VERY LONG WAY TO GO!).

I say all of this to make the point that Abrams had to find a way to take a sci-fi franchise, steeped in past social and historical issues/relevance and relate that to a generation that had never experienced (even a little bit), what was very much a part of everyday life back then. Let’s be real, today’s kids (anyone 30 or younger) have not lived, breathed and otherwise experienced many of the struggles society had with the themes ST:TOS explored at that time. Ask them about the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement or laws against interracial dating/marriage and you’ll likely get a blank stare as this is VERY common today.

The Star Trek franchise made another attempt in the late 90’s to revitalize itself and try to capture the spirit of ST:TOS, when they introduced a TV show called Enterprise. The show depicted the early days of Starfleet (pre Kirk) and while it resonated with some, it’s reception overall was lackluster compared to the series and movies that proceeded it. There is a reason (imho) that Enterprise failed to capture the audiences beyond a handful of seasons and was never revisited, and chief among them was it’s relatability to the audience/generation. That group of folks had grown up with Star Trek:The Next Generation as their (in some cases only) exposure to the Star Trek franchise and to quite a few of them, Enterprise was boring.

We also have to take into consideration that ST:TNG was best able to capture the audience with social issues of the time and cool technology (that had not yet been produced for public consumption). ST:TNG had holodecks, badge communicators, voice recognition software for computers, touch screen computer consoles and tablet PC’s. Kids today have all of those things now…it’s not anything to be excited about anymore and definitely not so cool and wonderful as it was in the mid 1980’s. Another thing about ST:TNG was that it didn’t have to try to establish preceding mythos of the franchise, it jumped right into the fray and won the admiration of Geekdom by providing a setting in the future , more advanced tech/weaponry, new species and special effects on par with anything the Star Trek movies ever produced.

The above opinions all work to illustrate the following: How could Hollywood take ST:TOS (a sci-fi franchise that had been struggling for years to crossover and reach larger audiences in the theaters), make it more mainstream and reach a newer, broader audience? They had to reinvent the wheel and that is a VERY difficult thing to do and impossible to please everyone in the process. I think that this is something the diehard Trekkies should take into consideration a bit more (or get their ideas at doing it better out to Hollywood). In my opinion it all boils down to taking the canon of a TV show made in the 1960’s which addressed the social and historical issues of that era, featuring technology that (about half of) is common in today’s world and making it resonate with today’s generation. A different direction had to be taken, love it or hate it, Abrams did that. He didn’t make a perfect movie(s), nor did he necessarily capture the charm and sense of wonder that ST:TOS had (although in my opinion that’s impossible), but what he did do is make films that introduced beloved characters to a new audience, took elements of the franchise and wove them into something new and relatable to said new audience. An effort which I personally salute!

In regards to the underwhelming box office numbers for the latest foray into the Star Trek franchise, I think it has far less to do with disgruntled fans of the genre and franchise, than it has to do with BOX OFFICE COMPETITION!!! With Iron Man 3(already a billion dollar franchise) having been recently released, and The Great Gatsby still at the box office, it’s no wonder (at least to me) that Star Trek didn’t earn as much as the studio had hoped. But, in all honesty, earning only 25 million short of what they wanted to see, against Iron Man 3 (a movie that had made a billion dollars already by the time Star Trek came out) was VERY impressive and respectable, imho.

In conclusion, I think that the Star Trek franchise accomplished its mission in that it:

A)Rejuvenated a beloved (but dying) sci-fi franchise while utilizing enough source material so that it wasn’t entirely foreign.

B)Reached a new audience with the summer blockbuster feel, and

C)Received enough box office receipts to be monetarily successful and competitive.

Was it a hit with everyone? Obviously not, but it did get everyone to take notice and whether you are with the new program or lamenting about the days of old, you’re doing exactly what the folks at Paramount are wanting you to do…TAKING NOTICE!

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS FILM REVIEW COMING SOON!!!

BOOK REVIEW: ALPHA INSTINCT by KATIE REUS (MOON SHIFTER SERIES #1)

Review: Alpha Instinct by Katie Reus (Moon Shifter series #1)

Alpha-InstinctGenre: Paranormal Romance
Date published: February 7 2012
Publisher: Signet

 Mass Market Paperback
368 pages
 Other formats available: eBook, Kindle, Nook

The vast majority of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy novels center on vampires.

Vampires are HOT!

But what about the Lycan, sometimes known as the Shifter or more commonly regarded as the Werewolf? I personally am more inclined to read a novel centering on a shifter, more so than a vampire.

Why?

Because vampires are everywhere and shifters are WAY cooler!

That’s why when I stumbled upon Alpha Instinct by Katie Reus, I was immediately intrigued. As if the subject matter wasn’t enough, I was hooked by the character development and plot, of what I consider a very well-written paranormal romance/urban fantasy.

Fear has a scent. So does desire…

Ana Cordona has been a strong leader for the lupine shifters who survived after all the males and most of the females in her pack were mysteriously poisoned. As tough as she is, with no Alpha male, the pack is vulnerable to the devious shifter Taggart, who wants to claim both their ranch and Ana as his own. When Connor Armstrong comes back into her life, promising protection, it’s almost enough to make Ana forget how he walked out on her before—and reluctantly accept his offer to mate.

The minute Connor sees Ana again, it reawakens a raw hunger. He must have her for his bondmate—his wolf cries out for it. But his human side knows he must proceed with caution because of their complicated past. If he is to truly have her body and soul, he must go beyond his burning desire and win back her heart. Whatever it takes, he is determined not to leave her side again.

But Taggart and his rival pack are not their only enemies. A human element in town is targeting shifters. Their plan not only threatens Ana and Connor’s future, but the lives of the entire pack…

I enjoyed reading this novel and was never bored from start to finish. Reus delivers a fast-paced, action packed story, which contained the right amount of action, mystery, suspense and romance. Her characters are interesting and dynamic. The novel’s premise starts out fresh, but shifts (no pun intended) as the story progresses.

The pack dynamics are well defined and give the reader a glimpse into the Shifter Hierarchy.

Alphas are most dominate and stronger than average shifters. All true Alphas were also warriors, but warriors weren’t always Alphas.

Warriors are the larger, battle ready class of shifters. It is their job to protect the pack.

Betas are the smaller, meeker class of shifters who are more domestic and maintain the day to day workings of the pack.

Enforcers are another warrior class of shifters who work for the Pack Council and act as magistrates for rogue shifters and any other instances where Pack Law might have been broken.

The classes are not gender specific, so that both males and females can be considered of the Alpha Class.

I found the relationship between Ana and Connor to be interesting and plenty heated! The love scenes are somewhat explicit (something I enjoy) so, WARNING TO THE EASILY OFFENDED!!!

There were plenty of sub-plots to keep me interested throughout. A clever one deals with Connor’s younger brother Liam who meets and instantly recognizes December—who happens to be human and the sister of the town Sheriff, Parker—as his mate.

His attempts to woo her are undermined by December’s over protective brother, whose suspicious nature towards shifters further develops into an interesting backstory of the shadowy history he and December share.

Another sub-plot involves a group of haters called the Anti-Paranormal League (APL) who are organizing with a goal to rid the world of all shifters. An interesting facet of Reus’ world—similar to Faith Hunter’s Skinwalker series and Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series—is that humans are aware of and interact with shifters and vampires. This creates a prejudicial tension which is exemplified by the Anti-Paranormal League. It’s hinted in the novel that the APL will play an even larger role as the series progresses.

Thirdly, a psychotic killer is on the loose and is stalking the shifters in hopes of exterminating the entire pack. The identity of this killer remains unrevealed until the conclusion of the novel.

In conclusion, I found Alpha Instinct to be a very enjoyable read and start to the series, and while it didn’t quite possess the raw witty charm of Hunter’s Skinwalker series or the murder mystery intrigue Hamilton’s Anita Blake series started out with; it did deliver enough to keep me vested in it.

Book two in the series is titled, Primal Possession and in an interesting structural concept of the series, it explores the relationship between Liam and December.

I definitely recommend this novel to fans of the genre looking to invest some time in a new series!

THE REWARDS OF WRITING

GOLD STARWhen I first started seriously pursuing my writing goals some three years ago, my life changed in ways that at the time I could have never imagined. Over the years, relationships formed with some very amazing people, who I never would have had the honor of knowing otherwise. My writing skills have improved and I’m more confident in my voice. In general, my friends and family have supported my journey as a writer, for which I am immensely grateful. However, pursuing a career as a writer has not been without its detractors and malcontents.

From early on, what I’d read about being a writer and the pitfalls which came from it was discouraging to say the least. Many of the articles stated that writing was a solitary endeavor which caused introversion, apathy, madness, depression and eventually led to death. Many famous examples of this gave it a modicum of truth, that was unless you became published and garnered a healthy following, then you just ended up dying of a heart attack due to lack of exercise and/or poor diet. I also read that there was little to no money or reward in writing. A more highly compensated career path such as law or medicine was encouraged.

Unfortunately, there is merit to what I read and there are undeniable truths in much of it. I think that writing can lead to the above maladies—which can prove fatal—but, I know that those very same afflictions can arise from a multitude of other professions, some of which practically guarantee far more compensation and personal accolades. It’s also true that because writers are usually sedentary, most of us aren’t the most fit or health conscious people in the world. As far as making truckloads of money from writing, less than 1% makes more than four figures a year. Even ER doctors and small time dentists can do better monetarily. However, one thing—from the above mentioned pitfalls of writing—that I feel has absolutely no merit or truth, is that there is little to no reward from writing.

I have found that writing is rewarding on so many different levels that it is in itself invaluable. I cannot begin to tell you how many times that writing a blog post or a journal entry has saved the last remnant of my threadbare sanity. As an outlet for an emotional meltdown, the latest family crisis, or dealing with all of the voices of your characters in your head, I’ve found writing to be very therapeutic. Writing is also something which is a huge part of who I am as a person, which is rewarding in its own right. Having a high paying career and being unhappy would only go so far. Money can buy you a lot of things, however it can’t buy you fulfillment.

Writing can also serve as an obvious means of expressing one’s thoughts and ideas, in such a way as to inform, entertain, make a statement or create change. Yet, telling stories can also be a very selfish effort as well. I’ve found that my motivation for writing isn’t always altruistic.

If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

~Toni Morrison

I have come to live by the above quote from Morrison, as it sums up the previous statement perfectly.

In all of the other examples of rewards one can gain from writing, I feel that this final one is most important. Not solely because it can serve to prevent the previously mentioned pitfalls of writing from becoming fatal, or because it can inspire and empower us to reach our fullest potential, not only as writer’s, but also as humans. I feel that this final example is most important because it has the power of giving us hope. Hope of learning from our past, hope of coping with our present and hope of brighter futures, just beyond the horizon. I’m talking about family.

I have been blessed to have entered into a very eclectic, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic family of writers dedicated to the craft and each other. I feel that the personal relationships that I have and continue to develop with fellow writers are crucial to my ability to persevere in the darkest of times we writers face. My college professor, Jim Powell once told me that without the human condition/connection, our writing would be without meaning, no matter the genre. That not only applies to the content of our work but how we live as a community. I believe in the truth of his statement and what it means for the millions of writers out there grinding out their work every day just as I do.

I have experienced the awesome comradery which being a part of a community of writers provides. How we share, how we laugh, how we cry, and I know that we are a very special group of people. I have had the honor of meeting and befriending a great group of writers who have helped to guide me, inspire me, and support me as a writer and as a person. I can only hope to repay their kindness with kindness of my own and an extended hand to others I meet along my journey. We as writers, have an obligation to continue moving the art of writing forward by remaining vigilant in our efforts to strengthen our collective community. We must take every opportunity to extend a hand to our brethren, helping them along on their journey as best we can. Although it’s impossible for us to know each and every one of our brothers and sisters on a personable level, I believe we are of a shared consciousness and linked by our call to write. We must always remember that when we reward each other, we reward ourselves, and the rewards are invaluable.

REMEMBER TBIYTC!!!

THE ROAD MORE OR LESS TRAVELED…ALONE

Creating the elusive perfect story is a solitary endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely journey.

 

Lonely manThe art of writing or the mere pursuit of it is an infinite journey of self-discovery. Writers draw from their various life experiences to tell stories which speak of who they are and where they’re from. Because of the amount of introspection necessary to formulate a story, writers are often portrayed as eccentric loners, whose brilliance is inextricably intertwined in their quirkiness. The image of the withdrawn, lonely, psychotic and often self-destructive figure, banging away at the keyboard has become an accepted icon for the writer’s life.

As a writer, I’m here to tell you that the aforementioned assessment of writers is not entirely accurate and yet not entirely without merit either. When the writer is trying to extricate the ideas that form the story they want to tell, it is an internal process which only they alone can achieve. It is often painful and lonely. Writers place themselves in an environment that is isolated, so as to afford optimal concentration and peaceful reflection. However, along the way we must take the opportunity to interact and network with others, or else doom ourselves to failure. Writers are natural born observers of the world around them. They interpret the various events they see—in the chaos we call life—that touches them and compels them to create a story only they can tell. Yet, for all of the observations, mental snapshots and quickly jotted notes on the happenings around us, we must also interact with the world we’re drawn to observe.

I’ve found that a cup of coffee with another writer, or group of writers helps to quell the feelings of isolation writers are often subject to. It gives us not only the opportunity to express ourselves to others and get constructive feedback, but also to take a break from the act. Writers know that deadlines, whether from an agent, publisher or self-imposed are the gremlins of psychotic breakdown. They are necessary evils that we cannot escape yet, we can’t let them drive us insane either.

Reliable sounding boards, a referral to a service for assistance in an unfamiliar business aspect of the writing business, are few of the benefits to networking and interaction. We must also not forget that maintaining a healthy dialogue with others can improve our writing when we’re faced with creating a scene where dialogue is required. It can also help with character development as well. Despite my call to occasionally step away from the writing machine, I am aware that it is unrealistic to expect a total abandonment of a writer’s nature to observe.

Writers are some of the most creative people ever produced, and as such are prone to anxiety and depression. In order to combat this we must force ourselves to take the time to stop, breathe, and interact with others, not only for the purpose of improving our writing itself, but also to save ourselves from the fate of the iconic stereotype. As a community we must work together to keep ourselves from falling into the abyss of isolation and depravity. We should live by the motto, “United we stand, divided we fall,” and help ourselves to realize that, “The road more or less traveled, doesn’t have to be traveled alone.”