News, Reviews and More!

Hey, all – sorry I’ve been offline for so long! Lots of stuff going on right now – some good, some bad. I’ll try to catch you up! Okay, so the news first:

Publications

I read a werewolf novella by Joshua Werner and loved it so much I just had to write a review! My review of Rampant can be found in the May issue of Bloodbond, a werewolf-, shapeshifter- and vampire-themed magazine published by Alban Lake Publishing. The other content in the zine is all fiction, poetry and artwork pertaining to shapeshifters and vamps, so if you’re as crazy about creatures of the night as I am, be sure to check that out!

Up next: I have two stories coming out this August in Chicken Soup for the Soul books! Yay! The first story, “One Step at a Time,” is about my cat Sputnik’s miracle recovery from a severe health crisis. That can be found in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Really Did That?, which will be available on August 8. The second story, “Out of the Mouths of Strangers,” is a bit more humorous and includes MANY embarrassing moments from my junior high and high school years. That one will be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Kind of America, which comes out on August 29.

 

Movie Reviews

In other happy news, I was fortunate enough to see THREE superhero movies in the last several months. Here’s what I thought of them:

Logan

A good movie, no doubt. High-quality and well-written. I do question the need to make this an R movie. I’m not sure that was the right way to send off the character (at least Hugh Jackman’s version of him). Wolverine has many younger fans who wouldn’t be able to see this film, and therefore wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to their favorite character. My other main issue with Logan is that it isn’t a well-balanced film. This is one of the most depressing movies I’ve seen in recent years. Virtually every character dies. And before they do, the majority of them suffer from physical and mental illness, as well as torture at the hands of their enemies. There is very little humor, and very little hope. The tone is dark and stays that way throughout, rather unrelentingly. Also, the f-word is overused. When I hear it that many times in a row, at a certain point the writer in me starts thinking, Couldn’t you have come up with a better, more creative expletive?

Despite everything, this still was a really good movie. Definitely worth seeing, but I’m not sure I’d want to own it. My suggestion: rent it when you’re in a good mood. If you’re already feeling low, this movie will only bring you down further.

Wonder Woman

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to see this movie. Now, I can’t imagine NOT having seen it. Wonder Woman is pure magic. Unlike Logan, this movie is perfectly balanced, with just the right mix of hope, humor, action, romance and sorrow. This is the first female superhero movie to come along in…geez, I don’t even know how many years – and it delivers in a BIG way! Just seeing those powerful Amazon warriors training on their horses in the beginning of the film…I got chills. I didn’t even know how much I needed this movie until I saw it. No matter what your gender is, I promise you will leave the theatre grinning and hoping the next Wonder Woman movie is coming out sooner rather than later. Readers of this blog should be glad I don’t have a lot of time right now, otherwise you’d be getting a 5,000-word post raving about Wonder Woman.

My suggestion: See it!

Captain Underpants

I had the pleasure of seeing this movie with all three of my nephews, and I really enjoyed it. Though much of the humor is of the bathroom variety (as you can guess from the movie’s title), the core story of friendship between the two main characters is touching. As a writer (and a big superhero fan), I loved that the MCs are an author and an illustrator who created their own superhero and publish their own comic book. The fact that they get to see their creation come to life before their eyes – something any writer would give up their pinky toe to see happen – only adds to the joy of this film.

My suggestion: If you’ve got kids between 7-11 years old, take them to see it! They won’t be disappointed, and neither will you. 🙂

TV Reviews

No, no, I didn’t forget about the TV shows! That would never happen.

Last season, two shows tied for first place: Limitless, for being so friggin’ awesome in its first season, and Supernatural for being so friggin’ awesome in its ELEVENTH season! Both shows demonstrated amazing creativity and I had such a great time watching them that it was impossible to choose. I give them both a 9.5 score for the season. Runners-up included my old love, The X-Files, as well as the sparkly newcomer, Lucifer.

Some friends of mine were disgruntled about TXF, as it seemed the network might just be drawing us in with Mulder and Scully, only to reboot a new version of the show starring the recently introduced characters of Miller and Einstein. Personally, I’m withholding judgement until this actually happens. The last time I checked, Season Eleven was listed as a “sure thing” – with the original cast – so we’ll see. I do like the new characters, but Mulder and Scully need to be the stars. Always.

This season I had to make some sacrifices and only watched a few shows religiously. Among those were Lucifer and Supernatural (duh). I loved the mom-drama on both shows, but in the end, Lucifer won out for just being incredible from start to finish. Last year was a little hit-and-miss for me, but this year was DYNAMITE. There was much more focus on the supernatural elements of the show, and the emotions were running a lot higher this year, too.

I’m glad they at least established the beginning of a romance between Chloe and Lucifer. When shows wait too long to introduce romantic interest between the leads, the characters can get stuck in the friend zone. Then, if the writers do decide to put them together down the line, it’s very awkward. (Castle was one show that got this right, while The Mentalist waited too long). The characters don’t have to be together all the time – we just have to know there’s some attraction between them.

Oh, and the Lucifer finale? I just have one word: WINGZZZZZ!!!!! Also, Lucifer gets mega-points for not killing off any beloved characters in the finale. Unlike Supernatural :(. Um, some of those people can come back…right? Please???

Elsewhere on TV: Chicago Fire: We needed more time to get to know Anna before they killed her off. Grimm: Why the heck did they cancel this amazing show??? Emerald City: Too caught up in the glitz of its concept to deliver on an emotional level. This is Us: If you’re not watching it yet, start now! Great show, with many alums from other shows we love, including Smallville and Supernatural. Plus, it’s not getting cancelled anytime soon, so you can watch without fear.

Novel Update

Some of you may recall that I was in the process of editing one of my novels. Last time I posted about it, the book was at 150K words. Now, thanks to an awesome writing partner (and her equally awesome son), the manuscript is at about 106K and still shrinking. That’s down from 300K, people! Cutting your book IS doable.

For more help on cutting words from your manuscript, check out this post:

http://www.rachellegardner.com/how-to-cut-thousands-of-words/ 

Loads of great advice in the comments, too, along with a wonderful quote that sums up the cutting process:

“Every word you cut gives its power to the words that remain.” ~ Cathy’s brother

Wish me luck in getting my book down under 100K, and I hope to be back soon with more news, reviews and other goodies!

~Gretchen

 

The X-Files: X Reasons to Love Season X

Mulder

(Yeah, I got a little carried away with the Roman numerals. Guilty as charged.)

I.) Mulder and Scully are back. Yes, both of them. As my fellow Philes know all too well, only about half of Season Eight’s episodes contained Mulder, and he appeared in just one episode of Season Nine – the finale. Note to TV writers everywhere: The truth is out there, and the truth is, when your series completely revolves around the lives and struggles of your two main characters, don’t try to continue without one of those characters. It’ll end badly. The last few seasons of The X-Files were hard to watch. Sure, there were some gems here and there, but for the most part, many fans (myself included) were watching out of loyalty, not out of love. Season Ten has brought the love back. I feel a thrill of excitement as I perch on the edge of the couch cushion, too eager to sit back and relax, lest I miss one single second of the newest installment.

II.) It’s authentic. This isn’t some Dark Shadows reboot that would make fans of the original series cringe. This is the real deal – original cast, original writers, and Mark Snow on music – just as it should be. They even used the good credits, the ones from Seasons 1-7, and not the cheesy, fakey-looking ones from after Duchovny left. When I heard The X-Files was returning, the very first question out of my mouth was: Is this a remake, or a revival? I’m not sure I could’ve watched new actors try to take on the iconic roles of Mulder and Scully. Thank goodness we didn’t have to!

III.) Skinner. I don’t know exactly when it happened, whether it occurred gradually over the course of the series or if it was a more dramatic, sudden shift after Mulder left, but at some point along the way, you couldn’t have The X-Files without Skinner. We need him like we need Mulder and Scully themselves. They love and trust him. We love and trust him. Skinner has Mulder and Scully’s backs when no one else on the planet does. The one major change made to the credits this time around was the addition of Skinner’s badge (in cool, vintage black-and-white glory, of course). As soon as his beautiful, bald head appeared, I nodded my approval wholeheartedly.

IV.) A clean slate. No matter how much you loved the show’s mythology, you have to admit that at a certain point, it just got WAY too complicated. I truly and honestly believe that by the end of the series, the writers themselves could not have told us how each piece fit into the puzzle. We had at least three species of aliens (the green bloods, the black bloods, and the alien replacements (those things with the metal vertebrae)), plus two different alien viruses, not to mention all manner of human-alien hybrids. We had an Alien Bounty Hunter, numerous Jeremiahs, and a bunch of really old, pampered white dudes who liked to sit in a smoky room and dictate our planet’s future with overly cryptic, sometimes nonsensical dialogue. Year by year, season by season, more layers were added to the conspiracy, until, like an unstable wedding cake, it eventually toppled. The writers knew this (note how they even poked a little bit of fun at their own writing in “My Struggle”). The viewers knew it. The critics knew it and stated it loudly. This time around, The X-Files is playing it smarter. This time around, the writers have wiped down the chalkboard with a wet sponge. They’ve scrubbed away the tangled mess we were left with after nine seasons, and written one word in its place: Experimentation. The aliens aren’t trying to take us over, after all – the government is. It was the government all along. They have many ways in which to accomplish this, as outlined in the first ep of Season Ten. The only thing we don’t know is, why are they experimenting with alien DNA? What role does that play in the grand scheme of world domination? Giving Mulder and Scully one complex and personal question to answer, rather than ten thousand tangentially-related threads to follow, is a wise move, especially since they only have six episodes in which to solve the mystery.

V.) The Cigarette Smoking Man. Okay, yes, he’s as much a part of The X-Files as Mulder, Scully and Skinner, but COME ON! How is that dude even still alive? Didn’t we see a missile physically blast through his skull? I suppose it could’ve been an alien replacement that got nuked, and not the REAL CSM, but still. A little bit ridiculous. And yet…a little bit right, too. No matter how hard we try to banish evil, it still manages to waft, smoke-like, up through the cracks. So, even as I was rolling my eyes at his return, I found myself grinning all the same. After all, what is The X-Files – or any fictional universe, for that matter – without a true nemesis?

VI.) Cool FX! Way cool! The X-Files always strove to be cutting edge with its visual effects, aiming to make a small movie each week, rather than just a TV show. Seeing The X-Files FX team get to play with all the current technology, stuff that simply wasn’t available thirteen years ago, is like getting to watch captive dolphins jump and splash in the ocean for the first time. The alien and spaceship in “My Struggle” were top notch, as was the vividly realistic gore in “Founder’s Mutation.” I fully expect more eye candy – both sweet and disgusting sour – throughout the rest of the season.

VII.) Heart and soul. Right from the start, The X-Files was about way more than alien abductions and scary monsters. It was about two characters on a quest to find the truth. Many times, that quest cost them dearly. Mulder lost his parents. Scully lost her sister and daughter. Both Mulder and Scully have been shot, abducted and experimented on. Both of them had to give up their only son to keep him safe. With each new loss, each new trauma, the characters became closer to each other and we, in turn, became closer to them. Mulder, Scully, and all the people they connect with along the way, are the true heart and soul of this series, and Season Ten hasn’t forgotten that. Far from it. Whether it’s Scully’s raw emotion at hearing a stranger’s clinical recitation of her relationship with Mulder, or a series of poignant scenes depicting “what might have been” if Scully and Mulder had kept their son, this show still knows full well that the humans (not the monsters or the aliens) are what keep us coming back for more.

VIII.) Continuity. The slate may be clean, but that doesn’t mean all the history, all the things Mulder and Scully witnessed and experienced, never happened. Longtime viewers will enjoy the familiar sight of triangular experimental crafts built with UFO technology (like the ones featured in “Deep Throat” and “Dreamland I and II”), and the image of a little girl breathing underwater, which instantly brings to mind the hybrids snoozing in tanks in the “The Erlenmeyer Flask.” Even after all these years, it pays to be a fan who really watched closely. 🙂

IX.) The LOLZ. Aw man, how much have I missed Mulder and his dry one-liners? Is there a number higher than infinity? A friend once commented that without Mulder, the humor of the show took a nosedive, and he was so right. Scully and Doggett together? It was like having two Sams on Supernatural, rather than a Sam and a Dean. In any partnership, you need one straight man, and one joker. Mulder is back and witty as ever as the joker, and I can’t help snorting with laughter every time he says something like “Obamacare” or “Why would I want to watch this jack-ass?” or “I blacked out around the time his eyes popped out of the sockets.” ROFL! Keep them coming, Mulder – I need more lolz in my life.

X.) The Awe. As I sat down to watch last Monday night, I thought to myself: How freaking amazing is this? How many more times in my life am I going to get to sit down in front of a TV screen and watch a NEW episode of The X-Files? This is the show that helped me forge lifelong friendships. This is the show I watched in high school when I was working on take-home calculus tests. This is the show that introduced me to fan fiction in college. I’m thirty-five years old, and the series that wowed me in my teenage years is back on, showcasing front and center every reason why I fell in love with it in the first place. A fangirl can’t get much luckier than that.
🙂

Hungry for more X-Files mania? Go check out my friend Carbonated Beverage Drinking Man’s awesome reviews of the new season:

http://azachofalltrades.tumblr.com

Hysterical Realms Release, Science Fiction Submissions, and Six Degrees of Jensen Ackles

 

Hystericalrealmscover

Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms cover image designed by Aimee Maroney. Image used with publisher’s permission.

It’s finally here: Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms was officially released yesterday, and, thanks to the awesome people who contributed to the Kickstarter, we raised enough funds for a print edition, so WOO HOO! Thank you so much to everyone who participated in that, and if you’re a reader who enjoys funny fantasy stories, definitely go check out the anthology:

Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms

They also interviewed the authors for this book, so I’ll post a link to mine when it’s up.

In the meantime, Strange Musings Press has just opened up submissions for their newest anthology, Weirder Science. This time around, they want humorous science fiction stories. They are also having a contest to potentially rename the book, since they are not married to Weirder Science. Thus, everyone who submits a story can also suggest an alternate title, and the prize for the winner is pretty cool. So, go check that out, too:

Weirder Science Submission Info

And if you happen to be more of a “serious” science fiction person, there is another anthology currently accepting subs for their My Favorite Apocalypse collection. They are accepting short stories of any length (though they will likely regret that when they see how long my submission is) as well as poetry, but the deadline is coming up fast for that one: April 30th. Yeah, you’ve got just nine days, so better make it short:

My Favorite Apocalypse Submission Info

Don’t worry, you can make it if you really hustle! And, while I really should be getting back to my own apocalypse story, I just had to share a fun fact I discovered while browsing the Strange Musings Press website:

One of their previous books, Vampires Suck, contains a story by none other than Nicholas Knight – an author who is very well known to anyone who’s ever picked up an issue of Supernatural Magazine. He’s got a least one article in every issue, and has also written all of the Supernatural season companions. Before the fire, I never missed a single issue of Supernatural Magazine. I also own several of the season guides, and have always loved Knight’s articles and interviews. You can just tell he is a huge fan, and truly knows the show backwards and forwards.

He has also done probably hundreds of interviews with the cast and crew of the show. Which naturally got my fangirly heart making some pretty wild leaps. Because, after all, Nicholas Knight and I now share a publisher. Which means I am about a degree away from knowing him. And he knows Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki! He’s freaking met them and everything! Like, numerous times. So, by the way my delusional mind works, I am roughly two degrees away from knowing Jensen and Jared.

This is almost as cool as the time I shook hands with William B. Davis at the X-Files Expo back in ’98. The other actor giving autographs that day was Charles Nelson Reilly, who played Jose Chung on the show. Right when Davis was finishing shaking my hand, Reilly said something to him, so Davis looked over, and, in doing so, accidentally made a black dot on my hand with his marker. It was a Sharpie, too, so it didn’t wash off completely for several days. Oh, how I cherished that little dot…**happy sigh**

Wait. Hang on a second. William B. Davis was in Supernatural, too. He acted in a scene with Jensen in the Season One episode “Scarecrow” (one of the all-time scariest eps!). So [insert fangirly drumroll here] I shook hands with someone who, years later, acted onscreen with Jensen Ackles.

One degree, anybody? 🙂

 

Up next on ATHF: Race Results for February and March (will include my thoughts on the new CW show iZombie), plus my Strange Musings Press author interview

 

Great Reads, Volume 2: It’s Raining You-Know-What

Maymaykitten

Before we get to the awesome stories, I just wanted to say an enormous “Thank You!” to everybody who came out to the Chesterfield Petsmart on Sunday, December 21st to support Furget Us Not Rescue. The event was a big success, all because of you! 🙂  In the near future, I will be doing an in-depth piece about book promotion to help my fellow authors, including what worked and didn’t in terms of advertising, a copy of my proposal, event dos and don’ts, and much more. In the meantime, though, I have a nice little post-holiday gift for my fellow fans: FIVE absolutely excellent stories for you to enjoy – two original flash fiction pieces, and three fanfics, all on the theme of cats and dogs!

The two original stories aren’t just two of the best cat and dog stories I’ve ever read – they’re two of the best stories I’ve ever read, period. Seriously, if you haven’t read these, your life is not complete. Go fix that now, by reading and reviewing these phenomenal fics.

In terms of the fanfics, we’ve got one for The Mentalist, one for Smallville, and I even went old-school with a golden oldie written for The X-Files! So go forth, read, and enjoy!

ORIGINAL STORIES

The Last Accounting ” by JR Hume

For full appreciation of the awesomeness, make sure you read the Rainbow Bridge verse by William M. Britton. You will need tissues for both the poem and the story. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Also, if you love the story: a.) let the author know and b.) check out the plethora of other stories by JR Hume!

Nikki Comes Home” by Christopher Owen

This one just rips me to shreds. But, like, in a good way. I’ll never forget this story as long as I live, because of how deeply it touched me. So short, so sweet, so perfect. Another major Kleenex alert. If you love it (and you will), tell the author!

FANFICTION

The X-Files

Walk Like a Man” by Windsinger (aka Sue Esty)

Took me three days to track this one down, but man was it worth it. I couldn’t let myself give up, because I just had to share this story with other fans. When something you read has stayed in your heart – like exact quotes from the text – for over a decade, you know it’s something special. Another Kleenex Alert (best to have two boxes on hand), and warnings also for disturbing themes of child abuse. The overall message is positive, but the journey is rough. You have been warned.

Smallville

My Favorite Things” by paperbkryter

No tissues needed here – all smiles for this one. A sweet Season One story featuring the beauty and innocence of Clark and Lana’s early friendship. Oh, yeah, and there’s some really cute cats in it. A guaranteed pick-me-up after the first three tear-jerkers. 🙂

The Mentalist

Big Red Tabby” by ruuger

Another one that’ll leave you smiling. The talented ruuger lifts Jane out of his gloom and sends him on a mini-adventure to help out a worried little boy, with some adorable results. Features great characterization, as always, plus some nice jokes and sweet moments. A very well-rounded fic.

Don’t forget to review!

Up Next On ATHF: November/December Race Highlights, January Race Results, 10 Things You Should Never Say to a Writer, one of the BEST writing resources on the web, 10 Reasons The Mentalist Fans Will Love Forever, and Care and Feeding of Your Forever Obsession

“X-Files Dazzled” in USA Weekend

When I read that USA Weekend was doing a special on pop culture in the ’90s, I just had to send in some fond memories about what is possibly my all-time favorite TV show – The X-Files! – and how it shaped my teenage years. Imagine my surprise when the “Nineties” issue of USA Weekend came out, and I saw my own name in the reader comments section! 🙂 They published a shortened version of my letter in the print edition, and the full version – photo included – is up on their website:

X-Files Dazzled

So if you’re a fellow Phile, go dive into the joys of years gone by, and recall your own favorite experiences involving the dynamic duo of Mulder and Scully. And even if you weren’t into X-Files (I’ll try not to hold that against you), there’s plenty of other ’90s nostalgia to love, including memories of Office Space, Celine Dion’s first performance on US television, The Lion King, Seinfeld, Friends, ER, Twin Peaks, The Simpsons, and LOADS of other great stuff. Go take a look:

Best of the ’90s

Also, check out their cool cover image, which features tons of classic ’90s quotes:

USA Weekend “The Nineties” Cover

I guarantee it’ll leave you all warm and fuzzy and saying to yourself, “Ah, the ’90s. What an incredible decade to be a fan!” 🙂