Sunday, August 14, 2016

Perspectives: The Genetically Modified Humans Debate

Picture taken from google images, I've no rights to it.

Background:

I recently read an article put out by Christian Media Communique on 8/12/16 which declared—and decried—the US government’s announcement to remove restrictions on the development of hybridized life forms. On the other hand, I also saw a pretty cool YouTube video about how CRISPR will allow genetic engineering to change the future.

As a YA science fiction writer and a high school chemistry teacher with a background in biology, it’s no surprise I find genetics fascinating. It was always my absolute favorite topic in biology. Both the email article and the YouTube video mention the ethical debates and concerns surrounding the topic of genetic engineering.

2 main reactions to the phrase “genetic engineering”

1 – Fear

2 – Fascination

There’s typically little middle ground. The word “genetics” has people digging back in their minds to 10th or 11th grade biology class. It bounces off most people. But add the word “engineering” and the internal fires are lit.

Picture taken from google images, I've no rights to it.

Goals of genetic engineering:

In its most basic forms, genetic engineering seeks to create organisms with desired traits. Science fiction and our collective fear as a society immediately has us jumping to visions of a future like GATACCA (excellent movie) and Splice (never seen it). But reality tends to be far more mundane. Food crops are modified to resist disease and have a longer shelf life. Zebrafish are made to glow in the dark because let’s face it, glow-in-the-dark fish are awesome. The most basic application for genetically modifying humans would be to cure or avoid diseases.

Genetic selection already happens, as the video points out. There are screening tests for many basic genetic defects like trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). Whether it’s ethical to terminate a pregnancy based upon such results is another debate, but you should know screening tests have their purposes.

The Devya’s Children Connection:

Devya’s Children and its prequel, The Dark Side of Science (free ebook), delves into some of the moral questions and concerns raised by the topic. It features a family of genetically modified children with special Gifts, such as telepathy, healing, changing emotions, and dream shaping. While the Gifts still fit in the realm of science fiction, the questions are very real. How far is too far? What rights do the subjects have upon creation? Part of the excitement and danger inherent in the series comes from the natural disposition of mankind to control and fear that which they do not understand. It’s also about the fact that everybody has gifts. They may not be “Gifts” like Jillian’s ability to shape dreams, but they’re important and should be nurtured accordingly.

Personal reaction and comments:

I’m inclined to be more excited than fearful of what the future holds. Every powerful tool has the potential for abuse. Responsible application should definitely be a concern to keep in mind, but the future has always been shaped by tinkering with what’s possible.

The email I read blamed much of the first fall upon genetic manipulation because of the hybrids formed when the fallen angels had children with the daughters of men (See Genesis 6 for the original text; Another article by RC Sproul on this topic). Incidentally, Sproul doesn’t believe the “sons of God” refers to angels at all but the line of Seth, Adam’s third son. Even if the hybrid children were of two “races,” (angels and man) this is hardly genetic engineering of the sort that’s being discussed today.

Conclusion:

Do not fear genetic engineering. If you’re truly concerned about the direction it takes, get involved. Be part of the change to ensure it moves in a direction both ethical and responsible. The turmoil caused by abuse of power in this regards makes for great fiction stories, but reality’s much sadder. Don’t let it go there. Keep the focus on the good such research could accomplish. Radiation therapy kills cancer cells, but it also does a heck of a lot of other tissue damage along the way. If future cells could be modified to target the cancer cells themselves, it would no longer claim lives. That’s only one possibility.

Comments and questions are welcomed below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Second Huntsman Movie Better than the First (Despite Critic Hate)

Rating: 3.5/5 stars, maybe even 4 if I’m feeling generous and not currently letting negative bias affect my judgment. (I’m going with amazon like ratings because that’s what I’m used to.)

Summary: It’s all about expectations. Given the absolutely horrific ratings Rotten Tomato gave Huntsman: Winter’s War, I didn’t expect it to be a masterpiece.

Random Comments:

- For an all-star cast, the acting’s just all right. Then again, consider that the roles don’t exactly demand an Oscar worthy performance.

- Story (4/5) – This was one complaint I read from critics I don’t agree with. It’s a fairy tale, it’s not meant to make a whole heap of sense. There’s a general plot with simplistic devices. The “twists and turns” can be seen from 9-miles out, but they’re still satisfying, that’s what counts.

- Character Development – Classic case of too much power corrupting. People have done worse things in the name of power in the real world, so it shouldn’t surprise us that the look at the good guys and bad guys isn’t always crystal clear.

- Humor – Some timely things and a few decent lines, but the whole he-dwarf, she-dwarf thing fell on its face.

- Plot (3/5) – Several key pieces of the plot are rather convenient (timely rescues, falling into traps that end up adding to the party, etc) that make one think more of a video game than a movie. It might be slightly lazy writing-wise, but it’s functional.

- Casting (4/5 stars) – Charilze Theron and Emily Blunt both do crazy queen pretty well. Jessica Chastain does the action scenes very well. She pulls off the medieval look well. Chris Hemsworth is, of course, the reason half the people are seeing the movie anyway. On the plus side, not much but brief references to Snow White.

- Key question: Was I entertained? Yes. Would I buy the bluray to play on loop or see in the theaters 14 times? No. But I was still entertained for the 2 hrs I paid $6.00 for a movie ticket. Good enough.

Conclusion: I can see why 51% of the audience liked it and 49% didn’t. Keep your expectations realistic and you’ll probably find yourself entertained.

Interview with Olivia Wildenstein

1) If your book was a movie, who would play your characters?

You mean when my book is a movie. ;)

Of course.

Aster & Ivy would be played by beautiful Chaley Rose from Nashville. Brook would be played by the hottie in Chasing Life, Richard Brancatisino. Chase would be played by the Vampire Diaries’ Malachai Parker and Josh by Zach Roerig from the same show. Dominic would be George Clooney (duh!) and I had Cate Blanchett in mind for Josephine.

I’ve thought this through just a tiny bit. 

Of course. Have you heard of ? You should try it. I think you'd enjoy it.

2) If your book was a song, which one would it be?

I love this question as I always write to music. I build a new playlist for each one of my books on Spotify. Right now, as I write the sequel to the Masterpiecers, I’ve started a playlist called MASTERFUL.

But back to The Masterpiecers. If I were to choose just one song to epitomize my story, it would be We Remain from Christina Aguilera.

3) Places that inspired you?

The museums I was dragged to as a kid—and which I’m now dragging my own kids too—and my home. I grew up in the art world, surrounded by breathtaking masterpieces. So I just had to write about art.

4) Who’s your favorite character in the book?

Hands down, Aster. She means so well and is so selfless.

5) Literary boyfriend? (perhaps a character from the book ?)

I create a new one for myself each time I write a book. Thus, I write many books. Kidding aside, the character who’s made my heart beat the most—but not in a romantic way—is Duke from my first novel, Ghostboy, Chameleon & the Duke of Graffiti.

6) Teaser for book 2?

The second and final episode in the Masterful series is coming this fall. It will be titled The Masterminds. Instead of Aster & Ivy narrating the story, there will be two spanking new narrators…drumroll…Brook & Josh. You’ll get to see their sides of the same story, like in the TV show The Affair; you’ll get that stop-your- breath plot twist you were waiting for in book 1; and last but not least, you’ll get your no-more- loose-ends ending!

Now, I must go back to writing it…

Enjoy The Masterpiecers, and tell me, either in an email or in a review, what you thought about my novel. I read all my reviews. Excellent or terrible, they are indispensable nuggets of truths that make me a better author.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

Blurb

Nineteen-year- old Ivy Redd’s talent with a needle and thread has earned her a spot on a coveted reality TV art competition set in New York’s Metropolitan Museum. The prize: a significant amount of money and instant acceptance into the Masterpiecers, the school that ensures new artists fame and fortune. Her talent has also thrust her and her twin sister, Aster, into the spotlight.

Not that Aster needed help with becoming a media favorite. She managed that on her own by running over a wanted Mafioso. She told the police it was self-defense, because she couldn’t tell them the truth—the truth would make her sister look bad. Locked in an Indiana jail to await her trial, Aster watches Ivy on the small TV hanging in the dayroom. It’s the highlight of her day, until she finds out what her sister truly thinks of her. Then, observing her sister becomes a punishment far crueler than imprisonment.

Bio

Olivia Wildenstein grew up in New York City, the daughter of a French father with a great sense of humor, and a Swedish mother whom she speaks to at least three times a day. She chose Brown University to complete her undergraduate studies and earned a bachelor’s in comparative literature. After designing jewelry for a few years, Wildenstein traded in her tools for a laptop computer and a very comfortable chair. This line of work made more sense, considering her college degree.

When she’s not writing, she’s psychoanalyzing everyone she meets (Yes. Everyone), eavesdropping on conversations to gather material for her next book, baking up a storm (that she actually eats), going to the gym (because she eats), and attempting not to be late at her children’s school (like she is 4 out of 5 mornings, on good weeks). Wildenstein lives with her husband and three children in Geneva, Switzerland, where she’s an active member of the writing community.

Book links

Ghostboy, Chameleon & the Duke of Graffiti

The Masterpiecers

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Meet Fantasy Author Chris Morgan - Interview

Meet a Fantasy author from Australia ;-)

Hi, Chris, please take a moment to introduce yourself. What kind of things do you write?

Hi. I’m Chris, the author of the Portallas Fantasy/Adventure series of YA books. I’m from the UK originally, but have lived in various countries and have most recently made a home for myself here in Melbourne, Australia. The first book in the Portallas series is Forestium: The mirror never lies, and it’s my first foray into the world of serious fiction writing. I’ve written things like travel journals previously but have never tried on a full-blown work of fiction until now. So far, I’ve really enjoyed it and am well into book 2 in the Portallas series.

Congrats on the series.

What's the most exciting thing that's happened to you in the writing world? How about the real world?

In the writing world, the most exciting thing for me has been to see my first book published. In the real world, it’s a bit harder to answer, since I’ve led a fairly interesting life full of exciting things. I’ve traveled extensively and lived in multiple countries. During my travels, I’ve had several near death experiences, for example. I’ve experienced some of the most wonderful things the world has to offer, ranging from the Great Pyramids of Egypt to Fish River Canyon in Namibia, from the glaciers of New Zealand to the splendid isolation of Easter Island, from the castles and ruins of Western Europe to the majesty of Uluru in the middle of Australia.

What got you into writing?

Despite not enjoying writing at school, I’ve developed a love for the written word over the years. Whilst backpacking around the world with my wife, I would spent an hour or two every night writing up a travel journal of the days events. I found that I had developed quite a following of people that were really enjoying the writing. It was until quite recently, some 10 years after our travels had finished, that I thought I’d turn my hand to writing a piece of fiction.

Ha. I didn't like school writing either. I think part of my fiction writing sprang from a rebellion against the idea of dissecting every little bit of a story.

Do you believe in writer's block? What do you do if you encounter it?

Yes. In fact, I’ve had it several times already and I’m in the middle of another one at the moment. I find that inspiration will hit me very suddenly and I’ll just grab the laptop and start writing again.

Better keep the laptop handy then.

What's your current favorite book?

I don’t really have a current favourite. I’ve spent so much time in recent weeks and months publishing and promoting Forestium: The mirror never lies, that I’ve not really had much opportunity to sit and read something just for fun.

Sad but true. I've done little pleasure reading of late either, so I can relate to that.

Do the movies you watch go along with the things you read or are they completely different?

Actually, I don’t think they do. The movies I tend to watch are either comedy or block-buster action flicks. For books, I enjoy a good fantasy.

Do you have any links you'd like to share with us in case we'd like to get to know you better?

Series website: http://portallas.com

Facebook: https://facebook.com/portallas

Chris's blog: http://portallas.com/blog

Goodreads author pg: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14880470.Christopher_D_Morgan

Goodreads series pg: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28601190-forestium

Thanks for sharing a little about yourself, Chris.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Cover Reveal - The Solid Rock

Today, I'm excited to announce that Faith Blum's release day, but also a cover for her newest novel, The Solid Rock, but you can't see the cover for the novel until you've gathered all 15 clues. There's also an exciting giveaway of 10 books. Have fun searching for the clues. Instructions on how to see the cover are under the "Clues" section of the blog post.

To celebrate the cover reveal, Faith also has the third book in her series on sale! It will be $0.99 through 11am tomorrow and then will go up to $1.99 until Monday evening when it will be back at full price. Here's a short description of Amazing Grace: A doubting man agrees to wed a widowed mail-order bride, but he struggles with whether or not he can be a father to the woman's daughter who desperately wants a father's love. You can purchase this book here: getBook.at/AmazingGrace.

TSR Reveal Banner

About the Book

QuotableJoshua woke with a quiet groan. As his senses woke up one at a time, he cracked his eyelids open. Sure enough, there was a silhouetted form standing at the foot of the bed. From the smell, the person was either from the brothel down the street or had recently left one. He forced himself to breathe evenly and reached for the knife in his thigh holster. With as tough and evil a voice as he could imitate, he spoke, “State your intentions.” Pinkerton detective, Joshua Brookings, is sent on a job that seems simple on the surface. His fellow detective has been kidnapped and his boss, William Pinkerton senses foul play. Joshua is sent to investigate Edward's case in hopes of finding the kidnapped detective and helping solve the case that has taken over ten years to investigate. Arriving in Cheyenne, Joshua finds much more than a simple kidnapping. Yet again, he must go undercover, something he made his boss promise never to make him do again. The only Christian in the outlaw group, Joshua falters and almost loses faith in God’s providence. Will he stand on the solid Rock or drown in the sinking sand?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Coming Soon (March 13, 2016) Clean Romace New Release

Get your romance fix!

Do you love that "ahhhh" feeling you get when you read a sweet romance? Especially when you get to that inevitable happy ending? Tamie Dearen's romantic comedy series, The Best Girls, can satisfy that craving. And the first book of the series, Her Best Match, is currently free. But beware.... it's addicting! The limited-time price-reduction for Her Best Match is already in effect, in preparation for March 13, the day of the big sale and the release of A Rose in Bloom, a serial romantic comedy. Unlike anything you've ever read before, A Rose in Bloom was written and published in small parts, week-by- week, on Tamie Dearen's blog, to the simultaneous delight and frustration of her devoted readers. Now, for the first time, the complete serial romance will be available to read as a novella. her-best-match-02

Blurb:

Feisty, stubborn, and bored with life in Texas, Anne Best is about to get more than she bargained for. The lovely widow heads off to the Big Apple for a job interview, expecting no more than a few days adventure in New York City, only to find herself with a new job working for the most infuriating man she's ever met.   Billionaire Steven Gherring is one of New York's Most Eligible Bachelors, and he has every intention of staying that way. But Gram has other ideas. She's on a not-so- secret campaign to find a wife for her grandson.   As fearless as she is clumsy, Anne tackles every challenge (including her new boss) enthusiastically, with two lone exceptions... public speaking and recognizing her own feelings. Passions rise along with hemlines as Gram joins forces with Anne, a veteran matchmaker, to find the perfect match for Steven. Get Her Best Match free on Amazon, Nook, iTunes, and Kobo! Best Girls Banner 2014-08-17 at 2.58.51 PM

Own the entire Best Girls Series for $9!

[caption id="attachment_666" align="aligncenter" width="252"]cropped-a-rose-in-bloom3.jpg New Release--Preorder Now![/caption]

Blurb:

Elyssa Rose has delicate flowers in her hands and a muscular guy on her mind.
The talented owner of A Rose in Bloom is determined to make a success of her floral business. And she doesn't want or need a man's help or interference! But trouble shows up in the form of her handsome, but antagonistic, neighbor, Jaxon McCall, a gym owner whose sole purpose is to buy her building from her.
Jaxon McCall once had his eye on Elyssa's building, but now he can't take his eyes off her.
Magnetic attraction draws them together, even as their stubborn personalities drive them apart. A Rose in Bloom is now available for pre-order on Amazon, with a March 13 release date! Author Square

BIO

Tamie Dearen lives with her very romantic husband of thirty-three years. She has two beautiful daughters, two amazing son-in-laws, and one awesome grandson. She plays piano, flute, harmonica, keyboards, and guitar, and loves composing and art. And she hates housework. She has been a dentist in private practice for thirty years. She stays busy playing on her church's praise team and leading a weekly Bible study. In her spare time, she writes books.   Tamie specializes in writing “clean’ books without excessive violence, offensive language, or explicit sex. She has published a Romantic Comedy series called The Best Girls, which includes a free novella and four full-length novels, and recently published her first Christian Romance, Noelle’s Golden Christmas. She has also published the two books in a Young Adult Fantasy series, Alora: The Wander-Jewel, and Alora: The Portal. To combine her love of music with her writing, Tamie composed the background music for the Alora Series video trailer and a Christmas song, which is linked in the back of Noelle’s Golden Christmas. Her latest book, A Rose in Bloom, a romantic comedy serial story, is available for pre-order and will be released March 13.
Tamie met her husband as a freshman in college when she acted out of character on a whim. One night in the library lobby, she spied a cute guy with his first name written on the back of his shirt. She called out his name. When he approached to talk to her, she pretended that she'd met him before, asking about his classes and how he liked college. To her surprise and delight, he also pretended that he knew her, but of course he didn't know her name. They continued this false relationship for two months. Each time they saw each other, an event that occurred three times per week at the cafeteria, he would pretend he knew her. Meanwhile, all of Tamie's friends were careful not to reveal her name to him. When he finally admitted his ignorance of her name, he was astonished to learn the truth. And the rest is history.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Under the Nazi Heel - NEW Release

New Historical Fiction from Scott Bury

Under the Nazi Heel

Excerpt 8: Night Raid

The first wagon was beside the door, its horse moving nervously, trying to push its way back. The young boy driving it no longer held the bridle, but stood still, eyes wide. “Quiet that horse,” Maurice ordered. “Load as many bags and barrels as you can. Hurry.”

Kuchnir and Marchuk pulled Hammer’s body into the back of the wagon. Maurice and Spike loaded sacks of flour beside him. “Go on, get that out of here and make room for the next wagon.”

The boy led the horse around the barn, back to the opening in the fence as the other teenager led the next wagon over. Everyone pitched in, loading barrels and sacks. Minutes felt like hours, like days as Maurice kept looking toward the garrison.

Sweat stung his eyes and made his shirt cling to his skin.

With the second wagon full, Maurice slapped the horse’s rump, sending it around the barn like the first. Yulia led the third wagon, and the men had only loaded one sack onto the back when they heard the tailor’s voice. “Get out! Fritz is coming.” Maurice looked up as the tailor melted into the shadows. He heard pounding footsteps and saw shadowy figures running from the garrison, a hundred meters away.

From his left, he heard the tailor’s shotgun fire, and one of the shadowy figures fell. The gun roared again, and Maurice could see a German soldier get down on one knee to aim at the tailor.

Kuchnir fired at the guard, and Maurice fired his own pistol. Two more Germans fell, but in the dark no one could see how many were left. They could hear more running footsteps from the garrison, and shouts in German.

Maurice threw the gate open. “Go! Get out of here!” Yulia climbed into the seat behind the horse. Maurice heard the reins slapping the horse’s back at the same moment he heard another rifle shot. Yulia’s head jerked back and she fell into the bed of the wagon. “Shit!” Maurice swore and jumped into the wagon, firing his Luger at the Germans he could not quite see.

The tailor’s shotgun spoke one last time, and then the horse neighed and charged through the gate, nearly tipping the wagon over. Maurice pulled it to the right as Kuchnir and Marchuk jumped on. Marchuk had a huge revolver and fired again and again. Kuchnir tried to aim his rifle but fell into the back. A bullet smacked into the side of the wagon and the horse ran even faster. They rattled over the railroad tracks. Marchuk, sitting beside Maurice, had to hold his fire for fear of hitting Kuchnir, who managed to crouch down in the wagon bed with his rifle barrel resting on the side, and fired toward the German guards behind them. Maurice pulled hard on the reins, turning the horse toward the forest and escape. The horse jumped over the railway track and the wagon followed, tipping to the right. Maurice slammed into Marchuk, who dropped his revolver but managed to grab onto the wagon and stay aboard.

Then they were under the trees, in the protecting shadows of the forest. Maurice gave up trying to steer, trusting the horse to follow a path, any path away from the Germans. He bit his tongue as the wagon shook over ruts and bumps.

“Maurice,” Kuchnir called. “She’s not dead. She’s wounded in the head, but she’s still breathing.” Maurice looked down, but he could barely see the outline of the girl’s body, sprawled on top of bags of flour.

Description

Under the Nazi Heel

Walking Out of War, Book 2

For Ukrainians in 1942, the occupying Germans were not the only enemy.

Maurice Bury was drafted into the Red Army just in time to be thrown against the invading Germans in 1941. Captured and starved in a POW camp, he escaped and made his way home to western Ukraine, where the Nazi occupiers pursued a policy of starving the locals to make more “living space” for Germans.

To protect his family, Maurice joins the secret resistance. He soon finds the Germans are not the only enemy. Maurice and his men are up against Soviet spies, the Polish Home Army and enemies even closer to home.

Experience this seldom seen phase of World War 2 through the eyes of a man who fought and survived Under the Nazi Heel.

Find it on Amazon.

About the author

Scott Bury just cannot stay in one genre.

After a three-decade career in journalism, his first published fiction was a children’s story, followed by an occult spy thriller. The Bones of the Earth, his first novel, crossed the boundaries between historical fiction and magic realism. He has also published spy thrillers and two police procedurals set in Hawaii.

Under the Nazi Heel is the sequel to Army of Worn Soles. They describe the real life experiences of Maurice Bury, a Canadian living in Ukraine during World War 2.

You can find all of Scott’s books and other writings at his website, The Written Word.

Read his blog, Written Words

Find him on Facebook at Scott Bury Author

Visit his Amazon Author page

Or follow him on Twitter @ScottTheWriter.

Also, check out book 1: Army of Worn Shoes

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Crazy Drivers Stink ... 11th Time Around The Force Awakens is Still Awesome

Part of seeing The Force Awakens a ridiculous amount of times has been the adventure of checking out new theaters. I used to see it in tiny theaters very close to my apartment, but as time goes on, the only places that still have it are those that keep a ton of movies for a long time. This time, I stopped at the AMC at the Garden State Plaza on a Tues mid-afternoon.

I nearly got run over in the parking lot.

Not kidding about that, unfortunately. You'd think we were pod racing. It was raining and parking spaces in the deck were hard to come by. Mind you, there were spaces, just outside under the pouring rain. I found one and put my blinker on to indicate that I'd take it as soon as the person pulled out. And the idiot in front of me backed up. I beeped, checked the mirror, and reversed in time to avoid a collision. I didn't have much time to think, but thankfully, I had enough sense to move my car out of the way before the fool hit me. Try explaining that to a cop, "yes, it looks like I hit him from behind but he really backed into me because he couldn't stand the thought of walking twenty feet in the rain."

Doesn't exactly give one the warm fuzzies when thinking about the state of humanity. It's a parking spot, people, there's no reason to come across as a complete nincompoop. I know drivers in NJ have a reputation to keep, but yikes ...

I digress.

Can I just say I am blown away by how many people are still watching this movie?

I tried to count discretely, but I lost count somewhere mid-sixties today. Granted, the theater was nowhere near full, but for a Tues in the middle of the day with a movie that's been out since Dec 18th, that's quite impressive.

And yes, I still noticed new things. I think I miscounted the times Finn gets knocked off his feet. On Jakku alone I think the number's near 4-5. Would be fun to see how many lines I actually remember at this point, but I'm sure the script's already floating around the internet somewhere. There are only two-three highly convenient points that are hard to explain. 1. How Finn knows Rey's going to be taken to the Starkiller Base. 2. How Rey knows where to find Finn after the duel with Kylo Ren. The woman must have a killer instincts in tracking, which is possible given her job as a scavenger. 3. How Chewie finds Rey and Finn. Timing's not always clear in the movie, but it still flows very nicely. I love some of the transitions. A lot of the scenery is downright gorgeous.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Star Wars The Force Awakens – By the Numbers

Tenth Time's the Charm

*Definitely contains spoilers*

As usual, I found all images on the internet, and I make no claim of owning any of 'em.

I have no idea why I felt compelled to count, but as I saw the movie subsequent times, I found myself keeping track of events by the numbers.

6.02 x 10^23 (ish) - # of CGI trees that died for this movie. (Starkiller Base pretty much takes out a forest while firing

the first time on the Hossnen System – sorry about the spelling; the Falcon cuts a nice swath through another forest while landing on Starkiller Base; planet explodes = bye, bye trees)

6.02 x 10^23 (ish) - about the # of times I can listen to Rey’s Theme

6.02 x 10^23 (ish) - seemingly about the # of steps poor Rey had to climb on that Jedi island at the end of the movie.

12 - # of X-wings that head into the battle over Starkiller Base

10 - # of times I’ve seen it in theaters as of 2/9/16. (Note: That’s largely what I’m basing this off of, so some of the counts might be slightly off. Please feel free to comment with any corrections you noticed. I could have very easily missed something. I’ve only seen it 10 times, mostly at 1 week intervals and a few with some shoddy neighbors using cell phones right in front of me. What is it with people and their dang phones in the movies. Grrr. If you wanna play on the phone do others a favor and skip the movie, just play Candy Crush to your heart’s delight.)

10 - # of Tie fighters Poe shoots down in the fight over Maz’s cantina

7 - # of X-wings that fly out of the battle over Starkiller Base

6 (ish) - # of time Rey’s referred to as some version of “the girl” (Unkar Plutt to his thugs telling them to get the droid; First Order officer in his report; Kylo Ren’s reply “What girl?”; Maz to Han “Who’s the girl?”; Kylo Ren to Rey right before he kidnaps her “The girl I’ve heard so much about.”; Han to Chewie “The girl knows her stuff”)

5 (ish) - # of times Finn was knocked off his feet (Tie fighter crash, encounter with Rey’s bo staff, Tie fighter assault on the tent, fight with the Stormtrooper wielding an electrified weapon, fight with Kylo Ren)

5 (ish) - # of main characters captured (Poe, Rey – extended; Han, Chewie, Finn – briefly)

5 - # of planets taken out by Starkiller Base’s massive attack on the Republic

4 (ish) - # of Tie fighters Finn destroys (2-ish on the escape – it’s hard to tell how many explode and I’m not sure whether to count the one he was shot down in, 2 on Jakku)

4 (ish) - # of time Rey cries (talking to Maz, as Kylo Ren’s “guest” – when he’s trying to get the map out of her mind; Han’s encounter with a lightsaber; over Finn’s unconscious body)

4 (ish) - # of people Rey hears in her vision (Luke, Yoda, Obi-wan, Vader)

4 - # of dropships sent to Jakku to retrieve the piece of the star map.

4 - # of times heroes say “I can do this.” (2x in a row Finn, then Rey)

4 - (at least) # of trees cut with lightsaber on the Starkiller base during the duel with Kylo Ren (Kylo hits one while fighting Finn, I think he hits another just into the fight with Rey, and she hits at least two during the duel.)

3 (ish) - # of Stormtroopers Rey shoots

3 (ish) - # of times Poe calls someone or something “buddy” (BB-8 2x, Finn)

3 - # of times BB-8 gets told to haul it on Jakku alone. “Come on BB-8” – Poe “Stay close” (Poe, Finn, Rey)

3 - # of times Rey either knocked off her feet or knocked out (once escaping Jakku, KO’d being kidnapped by Kylo Ren, blasted up and into a tree right before Finn fights Kylo Ren)

3 - # of Stormtroopers Poe shoots to free Han, Finn, and Chewie at the battle around Maz’s cantina

3 - # of Stormtroopers Finn kills in the battle around Maz’s cantina (one he runs through with a lightsaber, two he shoots once getting hold of a blaster)

2 (ish) - # of lightsaber vs equipment hissy fits Kylo Ren throws

2 (ish) - # of times Han calls Finn “Big Deal”

2 - # of people Kylo Ren freezes with the Force (Poe, Rey)

2 - # of modifications Unkar Plutt made to the Falcon that Han and Rey think are stupid (he did something to the fuel pump and something else that puts stress on the hyperdrive)

2 - # of times Han borrows Chewie’s bowcaster.

2 - # of people tortured with the Force by Kylo Ren (Poe, Rey)

2 - # of times BB-8 had to use his grappling hooks (once during the escape; once when Finn and Rey left him in the smuggling hatch)

2 - # of times main characters try to run away (Finn, Rey)

2 - # of people BB-8 almost takes out while rolling his way over to reunite with Poe (Finn, random Resistance fighter)

1 - # of blaster bolts Kylo Ren freezes with the Force

1 - # of times Han uses his signature line – “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”

1 - # of people who actually believe Finn works for the Resistance (just Rey; BB-8 and Han and probably Chewie are skeptical from the first moment)

Other observations:

- First thing Rey says isn’t in Basic. (She’s essentially yelling at Teedo to get off her turf and turn that droid loose.) “Your antennae’s bent” is her first Basic line.

- BB-8 has the first line of the movie and almost the last. I think R2-D2 gets in a last second beep, though Chewie’s shout to Rey is close.

- Finn claims Chewie almost killed him 6 times. “Which is fine!”

- Han warns Finn that women always find out the truth.

- 60 portions – price Unkar Plutt put on BB-8’s little metal head.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

7th Time Viewing Experience - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Disclaimer: I rarely write complaining blog posts, but this series of events was darkly amusing.

Confession: I’ve never seen a movie 7 times in the theaters before, so this is an all new experience anyway.

Conclusion: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an excellent movie, but perhaps I should have quit while I was ahead.

Explanation: The theater experience left several things to be desired.

1) I don’t think they bothered turning on the heat for the 12 of us in the theater. I don’t actually blame them for that part though because it’s probably very expensive to heat a large cavernous space like that.

2) 10 minutes into the start of the actual movie, a family of 3 comes in and takes a seat directly in the row in front of me. Of course, the father—a pretty big dude—sits directly in front of me so that his head is now front and center of my view. There are like 100 empty seats all over this theater, mind you.

3) Okay, so no problem, get up and move, right? Yeah, well, about that … I move to get up just as the guy sits back to relax. Problem – this theater has reclining seats that move back about six inches, so my head meets this guy’s chair. Result – headache. Solution – Advil which I haul around with me for such random occurrences.

4) I move over two seats, and wind up in front of a man who ends up kicking my chair every half-hour. Fine, whatever.

5) Two seconds later, one of the kids’ phones lights up. To add to the fun, the kid must be texting because for a time the phone does that happy pinging noise of a received message. I know they missed the beginning courtesy statement about not keeping your phone on because the lights are distracting, but geez, have they never been to a movie ever? And I’m pretty sure it takes about a quarter second to turn the ringer off. If you’re staring at the dang thing, you don’t need the notification ping.

6) About ¾ through the movie, during a slow, sentimental moment the phone finally goes off, but then the kid starts yammering. “I love Star Wars. Star Wars is awesome.” Father – “Shut up.” Kid – repetition of similar statements for about 5 minutes straight. Me (*thinks*) – I would be more ticked off if this were my first time seeing the movie. Turn your phone back on. (It’s amazing what you can consider the lesser of two evils when it comes to movie annoyances. Phone light and noise vs kid shouting = phone wins for less annoying.)

Life Conclusion: You can’t control all the crazy in the world. And perhaps I need to see the movie and 8th time just to reclaim the good viewing experience :-).

Closing Comments: If you haven’t seen Star Wars Ep VII: The Force Awakens, go check it out. Odds are good that your theater experience will be better than mine.

*Spoilers ahead*

Favorite Moments and Quotes this Round (and a few Questions):

- Rey sledding down the sand is still one of my favorite moments.

- BB-8 navigating stairs is kind of fun.

- BB-8 falling on Finn when they all try to hide. I also find it funny that they left the poor droid in that hole. He had to use his grappling hooks to escape.

- Rey flying the Millennium Falcon during their escape.

- Rey running away from Kylo Ren the first time before she’s captured. She grows increasingly frustrated as she fires about 10 shots at him.

- The end of the Rey/Kylo Ren duel.

- Finn: “I can do this. I can do this.”

Rey: “I can do this. I can do this.”

- Finn: “We need some cover!”

Rey (confident): “We’re about to get some!” (whispers) “I hope.”

- How come the Resistance doesn’t have more of a scrap with the First Order near Maz’s temple. Leia’s ship arrives about 3 seconds after Kylo Ren’s takes off. They’d probably be in the same airspace for a moment.

- Does Poe’s first X-wing fighter have a self-destruct mechanism? It kind of blows up easily.

- How did Rey get her small gun back? Or is the one she’s wearing at the end of the movie just the same model as the one Han gives her earlier?

Friday, January 15, 2016

6th Time’s the Charm … Things I noticed in Star Wars The Force Awakens

*Note: article contains spoilers.

For my 6th viewing, I finally saw it in 2d. The only one I’ll be skipping is imax because I’m pretty sure that would make me nauseous.

As always, I don't own the pics. I found 'em online.

New things I noticed and Random Comments:

-During Rey’s visions, she hears Yoda or Obi-Wan (I think) talking about how the force surrounds everything and binds everything together. I’m paraphrasing because I only noticed it this time around and it’s almost lost beneath the sound of pounding rain. Obi-Wan definitely calls her name.

-Rey’s visions, which are cool in and of themselves, seem to encompass both the past and the near future. One scene is of Kylo Ren lighting his lightsaber and showing up in snow-covered woods.

- I still couldn’t tell where the first hallway of her vision is from. Had to look it up on the internet.

- Rey sees Luke’s mechanical hand touching R2D2. Did anybody notice that R2 wakes up when Rey gets to the resistance base?

- When Rey’s climbing the Jedi stairs she has the gun Han gave her in a holster.

- Rey’s outfit is vaguely Jedi-esque.

- That girl is gonna get a very weird tan. She doesn’t seem to believe in covering about a 2 inch part of her upper arms. While very cool for costumes, odd for tanning, esp on a place like Jakku.

Things I wonder:

- How many times did Daisy Ridley have to climb those darn stairs to get those shots? That is a lot of stairs.

- How does Hux get Kylo Ren off the planet before it explodes? The place is falling apart while he’s frantically asking the Supreme Leader what he should do. Soon after Poe says he’s got eyes on them, they fly away and the planet goes kaboom.

- How did Rey find her way back to Finn’s fallen form after running all over the woods fighting Kylo Ren? (good sense of direction from being a scavenger??)

- How did Chewie find Rey and Finn? (Follow the lightsaber duel??)

- How did Maz Kanata get ahold of Luke’s/Anakin’s blue lightsaber?

- Why is the New Republic confined to 1 system?

- What’d Finn do with the blaster Han gave him? Did he set it down when he was going to run away to the Outer Rim?

- How did Kylo Ren end up with his grandfather’s mask? These should make some really interesting Expanded Universe stories.

- Has Rey used mind tricks before to survive?

More Favorite Moments and Quotes: (I’d really need a list of like 50 things to catch everything. Overall, this movie has a great sense of comedic timing.)

1) Han: “Jakku? That junkyard?”

Finn: “Yes!” *turns to Rey* “See? Junkyard.”

2) Hapless First order officer getting Force pulled across to Kylo Ren’s hand. His shoes skip along the ground with the pull.

3) Rey climbing inside part of the Starkiller base. (She initially climbs down to avoid being seen by First Order Stormtroopers, but then she notices a place to crawl into.)

4) Han pointing with his chin while Finn’s trying to explain his grand plan. Finn’s outrage at being ignored then his look of joy when he see’s Rey scaling the side of base.

5) Putting thermal detonator like things around.

6) C-3PO repeatedly calling General Organa, princess. His usual charming tactlessness.

7) Han: “It’s true. The Force, the Jedi, all of it.” (paraphrase)

8) Rey trying to talk sense into BB-8 about not following her as she runs away from Maz’s temple cantina thing. Then the First Order shows up and her first instinct is to run back to see what’s up.

9) Poe Dameron blasting like 10 Tie Fighters in a row. Finn said it best “That’s one hell of a pilot!”

10) Rey’s look when Han hands her a gun. Han: “Do you know how to use it?”

Rey: “Yeah. You pull the trigger.”

Han: “It’s a little more complicated than that.”

11) Kylo Ren apologizing to his grandfather’s mask about feeling called to the Light.

12) Finn: “Stay calm. Stay calm.”

Poe: “I am calm.”

Finn: “I’m talking to myself.”

13) Finn and Poe’s escape – when they get caught on the fuel hose or whatever that is.

14) Rey: “Where do you come from?”

BB-8 says something.

Rey: “Classified. Really? Me too. Big secret.”

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Top 11 Favorite Quotes and Exchanges from Star Wars Ep VII: The Force Awakens

Pic taken from internet...prob still belongs to Disney/Lucasfilm.

Disclaimer: I’m doing this from memory. I saw the movie 5 times, but I don’t have the novel to refer to or anything.

*It should probably go without saying, but this is definitely gonna have spoilers.*’

1) Poe Dameron: “Why are you helping me?”

Finn: “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

Poe Dameron: “You need a pilot.”

Finn: “I need a pilot.”

2) Finn: “What about that one?”

Rey: “That one’s garbage!”

*other ship explodes*

Rey: “The garbage will do!”

3) Rey: “What do they look like?”

*Finn and Rey almost run into a Rathtar.*

Finn: (takes Rey’s arm) “They look like that.”

4) Finn: “Hurt him? He almost killed me six times!” *Chewie grabs Finn* “Which is fine.”

5) Kylo Ren: “The droid stole a freighter?”

6) Han Solo: “Listen, Big Deal. You’ve got another problem. Women always figure out the truth. Always.”

7) Rey: “Where are the others?”

Kylo Ren: “You mean the traitors, murderers, and thieves you call friends? You’ll be relieved to hear I have no idea.”

8) Snoke: “The scavenger resisted you?!”

Kylo Ren: “She is strong with the Force. Untrained, but stronger than she knows.”

(conversation continues a little)

Snoke: “Bring her to me.”

(reminds me of KOTOR)

9) Kylo Ren: “I’m being torn apart. I want to be free of this pain. I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it. Will you help me?”

10) Leia: “Rey, may the Force be with you.”

11) I just had to add an 11th. Han: “Escape now, hug later!”

Review of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Soundtrack

Picture found on the internet, rights prob belong to Disney.

Summary: Soundtrack to Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Comments:

- It took me a while to get into it. I listened to Rey's theme on loop from Youtube for like 2-3 weeks. Listened on spotify to the other tracks, but nothing really stuck.

- Once I finally bought it and reordered the tracks in my prime library, it got a lot better. It's kind of strange that the order makes such a difference, but try the playlist.

- I don't think this is my favorite Star Wars soundtrack, but it might be. It's got nothing as iconic as The Imperial March, but it's still got some gems.

- Rey's Theme, Torn Apart, and March of the Resistance are my favorite tracks.

- Suggested playlist for "best" flow. (Disclaimer, this is completely my opinion, I tried to group songs that sort of went with one another. If I could just listen without knowing a track changed, I kept it.)

Main Title and the attack on the Jakku Village (4/5 stars)

Rey's Theme (5/5 stars) - beautiful, lighthearted, contemplative, and actually one of the few memorable tracks on here

The Scavenger (4/5 stars) - good companion piece but not as good as Rey's Theme

That Girl with the Staff (3/5 stars) - starts out soft, ramps up midway through to lead into a fight or a chase or something

Follow Me (4/5 stars) - soft, again ramps up about halfway through to lead to a chase scene

The Abduction (3.5/5 stars) - full of discordant beats; fits the movie situation but not exactly a soothing theme

Finn's Confession (4/5 stars) - soft, thoughtful

Rey meets BB-8 (4/5 stars) - soft, sweet, but not particular notable

The Starkiller (4/5 stars) - oddly soft, sad, reminiscent of the themes they played behind Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith.

Torn Apart (4.5/5 stars) - interesting, evocative, oddly beautiful

On the Inside (4/5 stars) - I think this is the one where Rey's running around in the base, could be wrong about that. Theme is nice, not quite as good as the ones I've marked favorites, but decent.

I can Fly Anything (4/5 stars) - brash, bold

Kylo Ren Arrives at the Battle (4/5 stars) - mix of dark and lively

March of the Resistance (4.5/5 stars) - Nice, bold, brave, fairly screams, "good guys coming"

The Ways of the Force (3.5/5 stars) - mysterious

The Rathtars! (3.5/5 stars) - some discordant parts but also some pieces very similar to The Falcon

The Falcon (4/5 stars) - Lively

Scherzo for X-Wings (4/5 stars) - totally had to look up what the heck "scherzo" was but this is the score accompanying

X-wings...I think it was during the attack at the end. Lively, reminiscent of the old school themes.

Han and Leia (4/5 stars) - Sweet, sad, definitely sounds like Han's theme

Snoke (3.5/5 stars) - ominous

Maz's Counsel (3.5/5 stars) - nothing particular memorable, it's soft, I guess good for a talking scene, does have a small bit that's got a Jedi-like theme. I think it turns most moving when Rey's actually running away from Maz

Farewell and The Trip (4/5 stars) - bittersweet, close to my favorites, but I'd have to add like 5 to the favorites list if I was going to include this one.

The Jedi Steps and Finale (4/5 stars) - beautiful, fit the scene of the movie very nicely

Conclusion: If you give it a chance, you may like it more. Like I said, it took me a couple of weeks warming up to it. But now that I have it, it's worth it.

October Launches

Tough Choices by Terry Ambrose

Stars Pono

Marty Fitch might be living in paradise, but he's operating in a world where lies are the norm, retribution is swift, and danger lurks around every corner. With the police on his trail, a killer hunting him, and a friend's life in the balance, Marty must choose his next move carefully. Otherwise, his new career as a crime-fighting video blogger might be over before it starts.

Tough Choices takes place during Black Jasmine and Shattered Palms. The story brings Pono to Honolulu for a temporary assignment on an interagency drug task force.

Dead Flow by Malcolm Aylward

Stars Gabriella Texeira (spinoff)

After a local hula girl is found murdered in a brutal, ritualistic style killing 0n Oahu, Gabriella (Gaby) Texeira, Lei’s cousin from California, is assigned the case. As the body count continues to rise, she tries to recruit a reluctant Polynesian antiquities expert, Jake Kahanamoku, to help locate and stop the killer before any more innocent lives are taken. Lei and Michael make an appearance in Dead Flow, as well as cameos by Marcella Scott, her partner Matt Rogers, and Lei's faithful dog Keiki.

Dead Flow takes place between the Lei Crime Novels SHATTERED PALMS and DARK LAVA.

From Goodreads: "If you love a great story with crime, drama and romance, I highly recommend you read this book."

Hoakoa Moonshine by Laurie Hanan

Stars Dee Maltin

When Dee Maltin bought the little beach cottage on Maui, all she wanted was to leave her memories behind. Now, fifteen years later, things are starting to go awry. Why does everyone else deny hearing the feral cats that keep Dee awake all night? What’s the smell that permeates her house no matter how much she scrubs? Why does her strange neighbor, who hasn’t spoken to her in all these years, choose this moment to strike up a conversation? A woman shows up at Dee’s door looking for her birth mother. Is she a con artist, or just deluded? Dee searches for answers and is soon over her head in one big Hawaiian-kine mystery.

Rocky Bluff by Kim Hornsby

Stars Michael Stevens and Lei Texeira

Murder is suspected when a giant moon prop falls to the stage and kills a cast member during Maui's theatrical production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. When detective Lei Texeira's friend, Kali, an actress in the show, confesses recently seeing the deranged stalker who once made her life hell back on the mainland, Lei doesn't think the killing is a coincidence. She suspects the "accident" was meant to terrify Kali.

Stevens is assigned the case, but Lei can't keep her nose and her theories out of his investigation especially when she learns of Kali's strange past with this scorned lover.

Lei goes undercover in the bizarre theatrical rendition of a narcissistic transsexual and his band of weirdos to protect Kali and soon the danger factor goes sky high.

Following clues from both Kali and a mysterious resident of the Iao Theater, Lei and Stevens struggle to apprehend the killer before another life is taken in this game of terror. But the suspect stays several steps ahead of the police until the Iao resident intervenes and Lei finds herself conspiring with a dead woman to uncover a plot that takes on international proportions beyond Maui.

Award-Winning Mystery/Thriller/Paranormal Author Kim Hornsby brings you ROCKY BLUFF.

Although it's not necessary to read Lei Crime Series to enjoy Rocky Bluff, Kim highly recommends the series. Rocky Bluff takes place between TORCH GINGER and BLACK JASMINE.

Unforeseen Danger by Patricia Logan

Stars Jack Jenkins

Kaua’i Detective, Jack Jenkins, has just settled into married life with his new wife Anuhea and he loves his job in the laid back island paradise. When he hears his brother Lane, an undercover LAPD cop, has gone missing while on assignment, he flies to the mainland to help locate him.

Jack immediately rubs Lane’s partner Brennan the wrong way. Brennan has no need of his help, and he fears his intrusion will put Lane in even more jeopardy. Jack is not easily swayed when it comes to protecting family and when Bren finally realizes he’s not going to be able to shake the tenacious detective, the men vow to find a way to work together.

As Jack plunges into the unfamiliar world where Lane’s gone undercover, from the biker bars of the Inland Empire to the gay bars of West Hollywood, he uncovers evidence that perhaps Lane has more secrets than he’s been prepared to face.

With unforeseen danger lurking around every corner, Brennan and Jack form an uncommon brotherhood with one goal, taking down the bad guys… while getting Lane out alive.

(Unforeseen Danger takes place after Rip Tides, Book 9 of the Lei Crime series)

Of Rainbows and Butterfly Wings by Ron Logan

Stars Dr. Phillip Gregory

Fifteen years ago…

Before he was Maui County Medical Examiner, Dr. Phillip Gregory was a recently divorced assistant medical examiner who moved to Hawaii and fell in love with a gorgeous woman named Amy Kawela.

Then, she disappeared without a trace, proving his lousy luck in finding life-long love.

Present day…

A woman who looks a lot like Amy winds up on his table. Shaken by the likeness, Phil leaves the lab in the capable hands of his longtime friend, Dr. Leslie Tanaka, and flies to Honolulu to voice questions he should have asked ages ago. Why did Amy leave him? What really happened to her? Is the dead woman Amy?

He’s finally seeking a truth that’s always torn his heart out. The answers could free him of his burdens, or they could kill him.

Can he discover the truth, survive long enough to tell the tale, and finally find the true love his life’s been lacking?

"Of Rainbows and Butterfly Wings" takes place between "Rip Tides" and "Bone Hook."

Revenge Makes it Sweeter by Julie C. Gilbert

Stars FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott

Revenge is a lot of work.

When the original plan for his ex-wife goes awry, Martin Cantrell turns his mind toward a sweeter revenge: stealing their daughter’s affections. But he’s not the only one plotting, and his enemies are better at keeping to the shadows.

Meanwhile, Special Agent Marcella Scott gets a late night summons to the hospital to speak with a gunshot victim. She knows to expect almost anything, yet he still surprises her.

“Agent, if I die, save the girl.”

The girl turns out to be Katelyn Cantrell. Marcella’s not the only one protecting her, and the other person has no problem killing to obtain their goals.

Can Marcella prevent an assassination and catch a killer?

Find out in Revenge Makes it Sweeter. This story comes several months before Black Jasmine of Toby Neal's original Lei Crime Series

Ti Leaves and Moon Cakes by A.J. Llewellyn

Stars Abe Tordufu

Can Abe trust Tony with his life…again?

In this follow-up to Coffee and Kukui Nuts, Maui explosives expert Abe Torufu wants his sister Meleny’s wedding to go off without a bang on the beach at Waikiki. But before the kahuna can bless the big day with a traditional ‘awa and ti leaf ceremony, a suspicious buoy washes ashore, threatening to wreck the celebration.

Not only that, but a shocking photo snapped by Abe’s date for the wedding, his Lieutenant, Cherry Joy Omura, reveals a surprising face in the crowd.

When somebody starts taking potshots at Abe, he once again joins forces with U.S. Marshal Tony McCracken to track down a master criminal. Can Abe keep his shirt and his underpants on this time? Can he figure out why he offered Cherry Joy a date involving moon cakes? And most of all, can he get to the er, bottom of why he hates Tony’s new boyfriend?

Coconut Island by J.L. Oakley

Stars Wendy Wantanabe

Memories are dangerous.

Investigative reporter Wendy Watanabe is no stranger to mysteries, but can she handle one steeped in her own family’s history?

A box of letters from a WWII soldier stationed on the Big Island is found at the Hilo Historical Society and unlocks painful memories for Wendy’s Great Aunt Bee.

Bee’s older sister was swept away in the 1946 tsunami, but now Wendy suspects she was murdered first. As she delves into the mystery, Wendy meets a group of nonagenarians who were at the USO center on Coconut Island during the war. One is a hero. Another is a cold-blooded murderer.

When the threat turns to Bee, Wendy seeks the aid of Detective Leilani Texeira and together, the women race to catch the killer before he claims another life.