Thursday, November 8, 2012

WHY PRESIDENT OBAMA MUST EMBRACE LEGALIZATION TO SAVE THE ECONOMY

I rarely if ever get political, but recent events have compelled me to write this, and direct it AT President Obama.

Consider this scenario: The economy is diving. Republicans and Democrats simply can't get it together and work with each other for the good of the nation. The country looks to its President for leadership. We've already had bailouts and stimuli, but we can't risk the rising $16trillion+ national debt. Employment is tanking.

What can we do to reinvigorate our economy? The answer may sound crazy to some, especially those on the conservative side, but it may also make the most sense. Are you ready for it?

Legalize marijuana. Completely. Follow the WA or CO model approved by voters in the 2012 elections.

You want to cut federal spending, Mr. Obama? Legalize and you'll have cut $10billion annually from the DEA, not to mention how much local law enforcement will save. Tax the hell out of it, and bring money back into the national economy. Get people BUYING again. In every speech you give about the economy there are two recurring themes: job growth and spending.

Give us, the American people, something worth spending on. Give us a new industry that can provide hundreds of thousands if not millions of jobs. Create a bold, new market that will boost agriculture, textiles, manufacturing, alternative fuels and 40,000+ other markets.

We've already seen that, one way or the other, that prohibition is ending. Why don't you take the initiative and legalize marijuana by executive order, and stimulate the economy. You want your second term to mean something? Legalize, and watch the economy grow.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

All New Book Trailer for MATHION: The Revised & Expanded Editon

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's finally here! After spending months working on this video along with a slew of top-notch creative types such as myself, the official book trailer for the Revised & Expanded Edition of MATHION: BOOK ONE OF THE MAVONDURI TRILOGY is up on YouTube and, of course, here at the Mavonduri Trilogy Official Blog. Enjoy it, spread it around and prepare for the onslaught that is the R&EE, arriving on Kindle September 22nd... (Nook to follow soon after)



Saturday, August 11, 2012

THE GREAT EPOCHS OF FANTASY LITERATURE: What's Next?

In my mind, fantasy literature is one of epochs: periods of time in which the genre experiences a surge in relevance and exposure for mainstream popular culture. These epochs have both defined and redefined the genre in so many ways, and it is something I think about a lot. So I thought I would share my thoughts with you, if you would be so kind as to indulge me for a moment or two.


THE MYTHIC AGE
This is that period of time far, far back in recorded history, when fantasy was not only relevant, but revered. Myths and legends of gods and heroes permeated the human subconscious, and it was there that the first seeds of the genre were planted: the Quest, the Hero's Journey, even the Dark Lord Archetype first emerged here. Whether or not myths have any basis in fact is irrelevant, because for a lot of fantasy authors, this was the foundation that an entire genre of literature was founded upon. Many of the moral questions of characters that are posed to our most well-known modern fantasy heroes were first asked in the Mythic Age of fantasy. Heracles, Odysseus, Achilles, Thor, Beowulf, these figures, these fantasy heroes, endure to this day because they were relatable and they allowed us, as humans, access to a world beyond our own through both written and oral tradition.

THE PREMODERN "JUVENILE" AGE
This was the era when fairy tales became popular and relevant, from the time of the Renaissance through the late 19th-early 20th centuries. The Brothers Grimm saw great influence, and Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory was really the impetus behind modern epic fantasy, especially in its romantic elements. But the genre was juvenile, and as a result much of fantasy during this time was geared towards children, but it retained the "morals of the stories" if you will of the Mythic Age fantasies.

THE EARLY MODERN (PULP) AGE
While fantasy stories never went out of style, there are periods when the genre itself is not the genre of choice for the mainstream. And here we have, from the late 1920s-30s, the emergence of "pulp" science fiction and fantasy. H.P. Lovecraft, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert E. Howard saw considerable popularity because of the pulp appeal of their works. Also, the original King Kong that debuted in 1933 saw an increase in adventure fantasy, and lo and behold in 1937 the seeds of the next era are planted with the publication of a children's fantasy book called The Hobbit. This was also the age of the magazine, where authors would fragment their stories into episodic installments, and readers would voraciously wait for the next after reading.

THE TOLKENIAN AGE
From 1939 through the early '40s, fantasy did not have a huge impact on popular culture. This was the age of science fiction, with the rise of Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, these were (and still are) the influential authors of the day. It was not until 1954, with the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring, that fantasy took center stage. And in 1955, in which Tolkien's epic tome THE LORD OF THE RINGS completed its publication with The Return of the King, fantasy was indelibly associated with the word epic. It wasn't just about the stories anymore, fantasy had become a genre of worlds, where the setting of the story was almost as important as the story itself. And the authors who succeeded Tolkien knew this: LeGuin, Williams, Pratchett, all the way down to George R. R. Martin's A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series, retain the key ingredient to modern Epic Fantasy: a world worthy of the word.

THE MODERN AGE
But after the 1980s, fantasy did see a decline. But then, in the mid 1990s, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone hit bookshelves, and we saw the birth of a wholly new type of epic fantasy, one that didn't just take us out of our own world, but made us wonder what could be behind the veil of our own world. Now, Rowling didn't intend to define an entire era of fantasy literature, but like it or not Harry Potter has defined the modern fantasy era. A children's book who's major theme is death? Right from the first book, that's what we know, and at the end of the series we find that both the protagonist and the antagonist are defined by this one central theme.

But what's next? What will keep fantasy from falling into another era of obscurity and irrelevance? What do we, as authors (and I do include myself in this, meaning I ask myself this question as I continue to write The Mavonduri Trilogy) do to keep what we love about this genre fresh?

Sometimes, it's a toughly ironic question to answer, because we can't always find the words. But from myths all the way down to Harry freaking Potter, fantasy is all about conveying a message, spreading a silver breath of a universal truth that speaks to both the generation it's written for and generations to follow, to guide us through this world by taking us out of it and beyond it. I don't think there's another genre of literature, or even art, as unique unto itself, so diverse and complex and yet universally impacting as fantasy.

I guess it's not just up to the authors anymore, it's also up to the readers. So if you read this article, comment and tell me where you think the fantasy genre is going to go next. I look forward to hearing from you!

Regards,
Jeff

Thursday, August 9, 2012

INTERVIEW with Read2Review.com!

Alright, so my latest interview leading up to the release of the Revised & Expanded Edition of my debut novel MATHION: BOOK ONE OF THE MAVONDURI TRILOGY is live at Read2Review.com. They offered some great questions, and I got to talk a little about the origins of THE MAVONDURI TRILOGY and what to expect in the R&EE. I encourage you to visit the site and check out their reviews, and keep a close eye out for a very special prerelease review of MATHION: The Revised & Expanded Edition!

Also, keep your eyes glued to my YouTube channel TheMavonduriTrilogy for the debut of the book trailer for the R&EE. Happy reading!


R2R: Where do you like to write?
JS: Well given that I have a laptop, I can write almost anywhere. But Barnes & Noble is probably my favorite place to write. It provides me with great motivation.
R2R: Which authors do you like and why?
JS: I grew up on RL Stine and KA Applegate, authors of the Goosebumps and Animorphs series, respectively. Their work was what first got me interested in storytelling, and Miss Applegate’s THE ANDALITE CHRONICLES was the first “big book” I read, and that was in elementary school! But my hands-down favorite author is, of course, JRR Tolkien. The man did what no one else (not even George RR Martin, as great as A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE is) has been able to do: he created a WORLD that we could, as readers, delve into and explore and find more and more.
R2R: What inspires you?
JS: There’s a lot that inspires me. But if I had to pick a select few it would have to be books and films. I have a long-standing love affair with film and the filmmaking process, and I try to incorporate a somewhat “cinematic” writing style into my more “traditional” prose within THE MAVONDURI TRILOGY.

You can read the rest of the interview at Read2Review.com

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN'S DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY: Can There Be a Best One?

Alright, now that we've had some time to absorb the awesome epicness of THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (see my review HERE), there is but one question to ask, one that I have asked myself and I'm sure fans of Nolan's Batfilms have been debating since the day after the film's release: Is there, in fact, a "best" film in CHRISTOPHER NOLAN'S DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY?


To answer this question, lets take a look at each film individually, starting with the film that started it all.

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BATMAN BEGINS may be the least known to modern Batfilm enthusiasts -- who more than likely jumped on the "In Nolan We Trust" wagon with (and perhaps because of) Ledger's performance in THE DARK KNIGHT (more on that later) -- but Nolan's 2005 Batman opus literally rewrote the book on superhero films as we know it. Nevermind the fact that fans were still trying to wash out the bitter taste of Joel Schumacher's Batnipple double-fiasco, but Warner Brothers trusted Nolan, who up until this point had done only small budget films like MEMENTO INSOMNIA (both were critically acclaimed though), with undertaking a reboot of their most profitable franchise outside HARRY POTTER. Nolan was a left-field choice, but he delivered. The basis of BEGINS' acclaim was its focus on the man behind the cowl, Bruce Wayne himself, and how Nolan convinced Christian Bale to take on the mantle of the Bat we may never fully know. But Nolan chose to not only focus on Bruce Wayne, but gave the entire film a primary theme which the Burton/Schumacher films lacked: fear. Everything that Bruce Wayne goes through in this film, every shot, revolves around some form of fear, whether emotional, psychological or even physical (talk to Flass about that last one). Bruce Wayne had to conquer his own fear (of bats) in order to be able to turn it on and use it against the criminals who seek to prey on the fearful of Gotham. In turn the villain, Ra's al Ghul, intended to use fear to destroy Gotham itself.
BEGINS also took on Batman's origin, something many comic book aficionados deem their favorite of all superhero origin stories, and yet one that had not been tackled in the Burton/Schumacher films. But Nolan did it, and in doing so allowed Bruce Wayne himself to be as engrossing or (in my opinion) more so than his cowled alter-ego.
We didn't have a Ledger-level performance, we had a Bale-level performance, and it's some of his best work to date, including his Academy Award-winning role in THE FIGHTER. In fact, all of the performances in BATMAN BEGINS are above-par when compared with other superhero trilogies, even the ones that followed it. Liam Neeson gives an inspiring performance as Henri Ducard/Ra's al Ghul, and Gary Oldman's Jim Gordon is THE JIM GORDON. Argue with me, I dare you. And Michael Caine has forever been indelibly embedded in the moviegoing subconscious as Alfred Pennyworth. And let's not, please let's not forget Cillian Murphy as Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow.
It's by far the most "low budget" of Nolan's DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY, but in many ways it's the most introspective. But we can only go bigger from here...


Ok, let's get one thing straight: THE DARK KNIGHT had an X-factor, and that was Heath Ledger. He died, he gave an Award-winning performance, and people have been raving about it ever since. But let's just -- not out of disrespect -- look at the film as if Ledger hadn't died. Is the Joker in fact the edge that THE DARK KNIGHT has over both its predecessor and successor?
This is a tough question to ask, and even tougher to answer because, like you, I loved THE DARK KNIGHT, and for many reasons outside of Ledger's performance. First off, before this film was there ever a Batman film without Batman in the title? Unless you need to be hit upside the head with a Batarang, the answer is an emphatic no. But, once again, the studio decided to take a chance on Nolan, who put his faith in the Bat-faithful to know their beloved superhero's nome de guerre to put two and two together. And in my opinion, it was a brilliant move. On a side note, will MAN OF STEEL be as innovative as its choice of title? We'll see..
Now that we've gotten through the superficial genius of Nolan's second entry, let's look at the heart of this film: chaos. The Joker, as the self-proclaimed "agent of chaos" (which may or may not be a Get Smart pun, knowing the Joker's sense of humor or, even more eerie, a foreboding of a certain actress's appearance as a certain feline fatale in the following film) permeates Gotham with it, with the sole intention of proving, as in the comics, that all it takes is "one bad day" for someone to go off the deep end as he did. His guinea pig for this twisted mad-science experiment? Gotham's "white knight," District Attorney Harvey Dent. And this is where Nolan's genius as a writer lies. The core of THE DARK KNIGHT is not in fact the Joker, or even Batman himself, but the fall from grace of Harvey Dent. In this respect, THE DARK KNIGHT is a postmodern, neo-noir crime-thriller tragedy, one of a great man's struggle with what is "just," what is "right" and, ultimately, what is "fair."
While we certainly see a lot more Batman in this film than in its predecessor, we don't see as enough of Bruce Wayne, which I felt was one of the strongest points of the series. Don't get me wrong, the scenes in which Bale is cowl-less are top-notch at every turn, but in the end, Nolan recognizes that this is a Batman film, but the way in which he plays it is far more sophisticated than any other in the comic-film genre. And in the end, Batman cannot truly beat the Joker and chooses to take on Harvey's fall as his own, racing into the night as a murderer and a fugitive.
Nolan also showcased his maturation as a filmmaker, utilizing a linear (for which he was heretofore unaccustomed to doing, a la MEMENTO & THE PRESTIGE), briskly paced story that nonetheless holds on to each moment in the story. And it emphatically does not end with the Joker, but with Harvey Dent and the culmination of the Joker's true purpose in the story. It is a brilliant melding of multiple genres into one great film that rises above the restrictions of a "summer movie" and makes us think about our own morality and how breakable it really is.

So how does Nolan end his magnum opus? With a bang, that's how. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is unequivocally the most ambitious film in the Trilogy, for good reason and indeed more than one. If BATMAN BEGINS was the "psychological thriller" of CHRISTOPHER NOLAN'S DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY (that's the title, no matter what the Blu-Ray box set says when it comes out) and THE DARK KNIGHT was the "crime drama," then THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is most certainly the "dystopian epic" of the Trilogy. From it's surprising choice of villain (Bane) to highly controversial ending, it puts an emphatic end to what many (myself included) deem a perfect trilogy of films, a rarity of cinema to which we are all witnesses.
What this final film gives us is a truly diverse yet simultaneously complete story of Bruce Wayne's journey as Batman. Having faced his fears in BATMAN BEGINS and defeated chaos in THE DARK KNIGHT (albeit with a lie), RISES begins with Bruce Wayne as a recluse, refusing to look beyond the mission. Commissioner Gordon is weighed down by his part in "the Lie" and yet all seems to be well in Gotham, with the exception of Wayne Enterprises which has fallen into disrepute.
Enter Bane. Tom Hardy gives a performance on par with Ledger's Joker, a truly frightening mishmash of villainy ranging from Hannibal Lecter to King Kong, with a dash of Napoleon thrown in for good measure. Many of RISES' most powerful lines are delivered by him, and Bane vs. Batman Round 1 should forever go down as one of the most brutal fistfights in cinematic history. Nolan also took it to a place I honestly didn't think he'd go, recreating the very imagery of Knightfall and having Bane literally break the Bat.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES brings to the trilogy a hybridization of the first and second installments of the trilogy, and while Bane has some of the best lines in the film, the scene-stealers of the Trilogy go to Bruce's time in the Pit. We've all been at our lowest point, but we've never seen Bruce Wayne in an equivalent place, and in this film we literally see him at his lowest point, which makes his reascendance even more stirring on a pure emotional level. Everyone's on their game for the last installment, even the newcomers. Anne Hathaway is at her sexiest and fiercest as Selina Kyle, and Marion Cotillard can really do no wrong (well, she actually can, but you get the point). And am I the only one who enjoyed the hell out of Matthew Modine?! But JGL, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is just so great as John Blake (or Nolan's Robin as I call him). Nolan is a master wordsmith, and so it should retrospectively come as no surprise that he'd be a master wort-twister as well. After declaring that Robin would never, ever appear in his films, with Christian Bale going so far as to refuse to return should the Boy Wonder make an appearance, Nolan took a believable turn with Batman's sidekick by, well...not making him Batman's sidekick. Instead, Blake shows us a different facet of what I call the "Bruce Wayne archetype", whereby the hero figure isn't solely driven by vengeance, but out of a desire to do what's right, fulfilling a story arc begun by Harvey Dent but never completed. Blake is us if it were possible, and he gives a very believable and rousing performance.
RISES is without a doubt Nolan's most "comic-booky" film of the trilogy, but by now we've earned that, and he's earned that. From the "tight-geometry urban pacification" vehicle known to us as "the Bat" (but to me as the Bat-Lobster -- let's face it, the thing looks like a flying lobster!) to a fusion-reactor-turned-4 megaton-neutron-bomb, this is the type of gaudiness we love about comic books. But in any other film, with any other director, it would come across as gaudy and ridiculous. Nolan's use of source material (Knightfall, which was already mentioned, and The Dark Knight Returns by the incomparable Frank Miller) lends surprising credibility to the aesthetic of the story.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES isn't without its flaws, though. So before you start decrying me as a Nolan fanboy (which I am, by the way, and I fully intend to pursue him as director of the MATHION film adaptation, mark my words!!), I am not above having my gripes with this film. For further proof, see my review (link above). But what I want to get at now is the ending, so if you for whatever reason haven't seen it, get off your computer/iPhone/iPad and GO SEE IT. Then come back and read the rest.
I wanted Bruce to die. Not stage his death, actually die. That is my single biggest gripe with the conclusion. In my opinion, Bruce Wayne cannot live without Batman, because they are one and the same. Screw all the "realism" crap, that is the single most believable quality of Bruce's character, and it is more of a fitting end for him to die a hero, sacrificing his life for the city he set out to save, and then to allow his mantle to be passed on. But we have the ending we have, and I see why Nolan would want Bruce to go out that way. Regardless, this is my own personal opinion of the ending. And while we're on the topic, I have to, have to, give credit to Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Any man who can keep a secret like that deserves to be Batman, and kudos to you, sir.

So we've dissected the Trilogy, but do we have an answer? In fact we do: the best film of CHRISTOPHER NOLAN'S DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY is your favorite of the three. They're markedly different from each other, too different to be directly compared despite the fact that they're all about the same character. My personal favorite is TDKR because, for all its flaws it is a perfect melding of its predecessors, but many will choose TDK for Ledger's performance alone. Others still will choose BB as it portrays Batman as he should truly be. But the point is that no one is wrong.

So what's your favorite installment of CHRISTOPHER NOLAN'S DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY? Comment below, and let the fanboyism/fangirlism ensue! Ladies, if you're going to insist on going full fangirl, please do your best to restrain your squee, whether over Bale, Ledger, Hardy or Levitt. I do, however, give full squee permission for Gary Oldman.

IN NOLAN WE TRUST. LONG LIVE THE DARK KNIGHT.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

HE IS RISEN: The Dark Knight Rises Review

This is the most anticipated film of the year. The one we've all been waiting for. And it's finally here. But before I begin my review I'd like to extend my personal condolences to the families of the Aurora shootings. For someone to calculatingly carry out such a heinous and senseless deed is the height of depravity and shame, and I hope that this man, James Eagan Holmes, suffers for his crime.
Alright, so many of you have heard me talk about this film for God knows how long and now you finally get to hear what I think. And in a word? Genius. Christopher Nolan is the only director who could take an ending like this one and really make it work. But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's start at the beginning:
It's been 8 years since Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent's (aka Two-Face's) murders, and now Gotham is at peace. But the lie that allowed that peace to take shape has eaten away at both Bruce Wayne and Commissioner James Gordon. Bruce has shut himself away in his stately Wayne Manor, and rumors circulate that he's decrepit and disfigured, Gotham's hunchback of Notre Dame if you will. Enter Selina Kyle.
If Heath Ledger's Joker stole the show in The Dark Knigt, Anne Hathaway literally steals it in TDKR. I'll try to avoid spoiling the film for anyone who hasn't yet seen it (and if you haven't—really?) but she basically does an Inception style acting job in here. This Selina Kyle makes you forget about Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman, and she is just brilliant.
Meanwhile, we're introduced to Joseph-Gordon Levitt as John Blake, and this movie is just as much about him as it is about Bruce Wayne. The man known as JGL gives a rousing performance as Blake, and is as much the heart of this film as Alfred is. If you take away the wealth, his story is as intriguing as Brice Wayne's. I can't spoil it for anyone who hasn't yet seen the film, but he is one to watch out for.
And then there's Bane. I like many people were soundly disgusted by his treatment in The Film That Shall Not Be Named, but he gets justice in this go-round. Tom Hardy is gold in this. He is ruthless, calculating, pure evil in this film. And his performance is driven through his eyes—those EYES!! My God, he scared the living daylights out of me. He really gives Batman the fight of his life, and it was heart-wrenching to say the least. I did have some issues with his voice, especially in the prologue, but you really tune into it, especially in repeat viewings.
Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Mighael Caine and Marion Cotillard round out the rest of the supporting cast in TDKR, and every one of them brings their A-game. Caine has some of the most tear-inducing scenes in this film, and he really makes you feel Alfred's heartbreak for Bruce. Oldman gives his finest Gordon performance yet, as does Freeman as Lucius Fox. But Marion-oh, Marion!-she's a surprise. It's really her that brings everything full circle. In addition, the man who will be Azgharáth makes a return, and I squee'd like I've never squee'd before. Also, congrats to Cillian Murphy who becomes the first Bat-villain to make an appearance in all three films.
Now, the performances were fantastic and I was happy with the ending, but it wasn't what I personally wanted. Nevertheless you could really see the influence Nolan took from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, and rumor has it that Jonah Nolan originally crafted a 400-page epic of a film. And honestly, I felt this could have been a longer film. At two hours and forty-five minutes it's definitely long, but Nolan's storytelling efficiency is such that at no point do you feel that it's too long. But if there's a director's cut of this film, I have only four words for Mr. Nolan: GIVE IT TO US!
In short, The Dark Knight Rises is a masterful conclusion to the definitive cinematic portrayal of Batman, and in my mind Christopher Nolan has done just as much for the character as Bob Kane himself. I encourage everyone to see this film multiple times, and to celebrate Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. As a Batfan I could not be happier. Indeed, he is risen. Thank you, Christopher Nolan for giving Batman the treatment he deserves. Long live Batman.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

WELCOME BACK WEBHEAD: The Amazing Spider-Man Review

I am first and foremost a comic book fan. And while Batman is my all-time favorite superhero, Peter Parker aka Spider-Man is a close second. So naturally, I had seen Sam Raimi's take on the wall-crawler—yes, even the lackluster SPIDER-MAN 3—when they originally came out over 10 years ago. And, naturally, I was highly dubious of a Spidey reboot, especially given how fresh Raimi's final installment in the original trilogy really wasn't all that long ago. But I'm glad to say that after seeing the aptly-named Marc Webb's ("(500) Days of Summer") debut foray into both the big-budget and comic book movie universe, all I can say is that he outdid Sam Raimi. And Joss Whedon. And outdid them DIRTY. Yes, that's a bold statement. And yes, "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" has its flaws (I'm looking at you, guys who did the CG effects on The Lizard!!) but the pros vastly outweigh the cons. TASM is a visually stunning and emotionally gripping film, spectacularly cast and magically written (yes, that pun was intended for legendary Harry Potter screenscribe Steve Kloves). I have no problem saying that it was better than THE AVENGERS, and I know many people would disagree with me, but while I give every movie the benefit of the doubt, my hat has to tip in Spider-Man's favor. I liked THE AVENGERS, make no mistake. But I wasn't able to take the journey WITH those characters. In TASM, I got to take a journey with Peter Parker, and a very believable one (now, if only I had a genetically enhanced spider to nip me on the neck, we'd be all set). Andrew Garfield is a self-professed Spidey fanboy, and man does it show onscreen. He gets EVERY aspect of both Peter and Spider-Man, and I could believe him much more easily than I could believe Tobey Maguire. Garfield plays every maskless scene as Parker with nuanced awkwardness so befitting of the character, and it was a joy to watch his development from zero to hero. His real-life love interest (the lucky bastard!!) Emma Stone shines as Gwen Stacy, and it's great to watch their natural offscreen chemistry translate seamlessly onscreen. Stone gives Gwen equal parts strength and sensitivity, and her natural charm and humor places her firmly as one of the most irresistible comic book movie female leads to date. Webb was very wise in making their relationship the core of the film, a solid foundation to build the story on. But surrounding these trailblazing up-and-comers is a great veteran cast led by Martin Sheen as Ben Parker, who is (in my opinion) a far more relatable Uncle Ben than the late, great Cliff Robertson. That's not to knock Robertson's overall performance in the Raimi trilogy, but Sheen plays a far more transparent Ben, which makes his (*SPOILER!!*) inevitable death all the more tragic. Sally Field is marvelous as Aunt May, and there is a far different and interesting dynamic between her and Peter in this go-round. And of course I couldn't NOT mention Dennis Leary, who gives a surprisingly stirring performance as Capt. Stacy, Gwen's father. I've always enjoyed Rhys Ifans' acting, so I was excited to see him back on the screen. His portrayal of Dr. Curt Connors is very good, although not the best villain this summer (Tom Hiddleston's Loki holds that spot until July 20th) but overall he gave a very good performance. For a first-time action director, Webb shows that he can indeed handle a perfect balance between emotionally engaging small scenes and great action setpieces. The film flows at a pace comparable to "Batman Begins" and is, in my overall opinion, far better than "The Avengers".

Monday, June 11, 2012

Closing the Book

So today I took Mathion off all major self-publishing ebook sites. In addition, I have cancelled the planned release of the Revised & Expanded Edition. This was for a very specific reason.

I want to be traditionally published. MATHION was written with the intent of being represented by a literary agency and then distributed by a major publishing house. Many of those who have read and reviewed the initial edition of MATHION have expressed similar sentiments, and for that I thank you. The simple fact of the matter is I don't have the time or resources to properly market MATHION as an independent book, and for an agency, in this business, it's all about sales. And I understand that. But in a market that has already been capitalized on by many others who HAVE those resources, I can only do so much. Sadly, that is reflected in my sales. I have every confidence in myself and my work, and I will continue to write.

I will NOT give up. And I already know there are a few out there who refuse to let me. And I thank each and every one of you.

All those who've read my work, thank you so much for your support. It really means a lot to me when I read reviews from people I don't know expressing their enthusiasm for my work, and I promise that MATHION will live up to your (and my) expectations when I am finally published.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Not Your Grandma's Fairytale: The SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN Review

Every summer we're treated to a smorgasbord of slam-bang action epics, especially of the comic book and science fiction variety. This year alone we've already had THE HUNGER GAMES and MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS, with plenty more on the way in the form of PROMETHEUS, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (which of course I'm most looking forward to) and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. With the exception of Hunger Games and Prometheus the vast majority of these are established franchises or reboots.

SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN is neither. Helmed by Rupert Sanders, himself an unestablished commercial director, this film is quite an extraordinary accomplishment. It is a visual marvel on the level of LORD OF THE RINGS and brings a fresh approach to the "fairy tale" we're all so familiar with (mostly thanks to Disney). But there is nothing whimsical about this story. On the one hand it is a fable of vanity as power, and how one woman's insatiable lust for her own personal glory became her downfall. Flip the coin over, however, and it is a much younger woman's tale of innocence as strength and the courage to hope, and how there are different forms of love in the world that give us the drive to come back from the brink of despair.

I'll be the first to admit, I was cautious at best upon hearing that Kristen Stewart had been cast as the titular apple-biter. But she won me over and reminded me of how good she was before Twilight skewed her acting career (yeah I said it, deal.). Not only is her British accent very good but she conveys a hell of a lot over the course of two hours. It's really a joy to watch her redeem herself, as an actress she seems much freer. For a part of the film she is very subdued, a shut-up girl seeing the world for the first time, but right at the beginning of the third act she lets loose and takes control of the movie with a freaking vengeance.

Equally as jarring is the fantastically evil performance delivered by Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna, Snow White's stepmother (and her father's murderer). When we first meet her she seems very scared and timid, but that is quickly thrown out the window after the wedding (sound familiar fellas?) Ravenna is aided by her creepy brother Finn, and that's putting it nicely. Filling the role of the "Queen's dog," he is far from a simpleton, and their connection runs deeper than we know. But whereas Stewart's Snow White carries herself with a quiet grace and innocent serenity, Theron's Ravenna lashes out with violent, borderline madness and abject volatility. She really does loose herself in this role, and she has a ton of fun doing it.

Rounding out the top three stars is THOR's Chris Hemsworth as Eric, the also-titular Huntsman of the film. This is a precarious role. Hemsworth has a natural knack for a Scottish accent and an ax, but before you go and say that this is a carbon-copy Thor rehash, let me say that Hemsworth gives his most powerful performance to date in his young and rapidly burgeoning career. There's actually not much more I can say about Eric without giving away any spoilers, so I'll hold off on that. But rest assured he rounds out an impressive starring lineup for Sanders' directorial debut.

The design of this film is fantastic. Part medieval, part fantasy, part gothic noir stonemasonry and ethereal supra-Disney creepiness and bliss, this film is without a doubt beautiful. Whereas the castles are, well, castles, the lands outside their walls are characters in and of themselves, and more. The Dark Forest, home to the impressive Troll, is something of a really bad, nightmarish acid trip--indeed, there is a patch of flora that expels smoky spores which, when inhaled, turn the gnarled, brooding branches into true horrors, unleashing the horror of the woods which even had me on edge as I watched. On the other hand the Sanctuary (where Snow, Eric and the Dwarves--more on them in a second!!--find rest after a run-in with the Queen's men) would be more akin to a euphoric shrooming: vibrant greens and bright sunlight, lots of primary colors, and even a mossy snake that I now want! Also, sadly, the now-famous Mirror Man needs a movie of his own, because that guy was just too awesome to have such little screentime. Christopher Obi's deep baritone really hits you.

There are a few things I take issue with, but they are few and very far between. The relationship between Snow and Eric plays a much more central role than the relationship between Snow and Sam Claflin's Prince William, but this is in many ways a strength. I may be a stickler for tradition in storytelling adaptation, but I think Sanders made the right call on this one. Snow White hasn't had a friend all her life, locked away in a tower, and she and Eric bond without things getting complicated. It's played beautifully well from both actors, and adds a new dynamic to the story that wasn't there before. The climactic confrontation at the end is somewhat short-lived, but resonates with a philosophical and moral confrontation between Ravenna and Snow White that takes precedence over the bloodshed. There is a recurring motif of three drops of blood throughout the film, and really that's all that's needed in this battle.

And now, to finish off this review let me say a little something about eight short, hairy, persnickety little bastards that people are going to come out in droves to see this film for: the Eight (you heard me right) Dwarves. I'm a long-time Bob Hoskins fan, and I have to tell you it was a delight to watch him share the screen with the likes of Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes), Toby Jones (Captain America), Ray Winstone (The Departed) and Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz). There is a great sense of camaraderie among the veteran actors, and you can tell they just loved the heck out of getting to be mischievous while still kicking serious amounts of ass. Six dwarves against a whole army? I quite like those odds.

All in all, SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN is the dark-horse best movie this summer. I won't start any flame wars by saying it's better than THE AVENGERS, they're two totally different movies (besides, we all know THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is going to be better anyway!), but I will say that Rupert Sanders has one hell of a career in front of him if he decides to keep doing features. I for one hope he does, because he knocked this one out of the park.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Journal Entry from Prof. CRK - 4 September, 1955

4th September, 1955 According to the ancient texts which I have been able to translate, Mathion was a descendant of the Clan of Eredôn, one of the seven Royal Clans of the Wolven (Várna Iktirvandon). These seven clans are descended from the first High King of the Wolven, Hâr-Etheôn, who had seven sons. They became the forefathers of the most powerful Wolven clans.  The Wolven were governed by a cyclical hereditary monarchy of agnatic primogeniture, but in many cases the wives of the Kings were just as powerful and influential as their husbands. Each clan sat on the Ánovénean High Throne for up to seven generations, after which the Crown was passed to the next clan from eldest to youngest. This "Cycle of Kings" was set to begin after Etheôn's natural death with the ascension of his eldest son Eredôn, but owing to circumstances in the Battle of Degos Enath, Eredôn elected to put his line at the end of the Cycle, for both personal reasons and reasons of what the Wolven referred to as "naeróndu", which roughly translates as "sight of the mind." As a result his younger brother Erios became the first of the brothers to ascend the High Throne. The other six aided Erios in the early years of his reign, creating the tradition of the "Council of Elders," a body that was not made official until the reign of Hâr-Valaxor II.   What follows are descriptions of the colors and mottos of each of the Wolven Royal Clans.  WOLVEN ROYAL CLANS- colors and mottos •EREDÔN- blue and gold banner, sigil of a white wolf's head lined with gold above the Lost Sword of Eredôn on a blue field; "Power Through Honor." •ERIOS- first of Etheôn’s sons to ascend the High Throne after his death; purple and yellow banner, sigil of a black wolf's claw within a yellow diamond; "Answer the call." •ARUVAI- called "the Grim" (sometimes "the Grim Smith" in reference to his chosen trade), spent a century in wordless mourning after Hâr-Etheôn's death; banner of black and gray with a wolf-headed hammer sigil; "United by silver." •DÚREVON- first Regent, banner of red and white and black, sigil of a black quill within a white wolf's pawprint on a red field; "Words inspire action." •LAROS- "the Watcher"; green banner lined with silver, sigil of a green wolf's head lined with silver and a silver eye; "Unsleeping vigilance." •ÚREVOS- orange, black and grey banner, sigil of a black wolf's head encircled in orange flames on a grey field; "The fire burns bright." •ATHION- black, blue and white banner, sigil of a closed blue fist within a white wolf's claw on a black field; "Uninhibited."

Friday, May 4, 2012

SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED: The Avengers Review

It's 3:33am as I write this review, I've just gotten home from the summer blockbuster movie season kickoff, and I find myself...whelmed. Not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed, simply whelmed. It's been an arduous, epic four- year journey for Marvel Studios, and now here we get to see how all the planning and hype has turned out. I won't deny that "The Avengers" is a phenomenal achievement. I won't refute the fact that what the filmmakers and actors have done is extraordinary. And I am NOT a biased DC fanboy, so if you're expecting me to rip on this film, you may as well stop reading now because I found it very entertaining. Flawed, but entertaining. No film is without its flaws, no film is perfect. But with "The Avengers", the flaw is inherent: it is simply TOO BIG. I don't say this in a negative way. Simply as a fact, this is a massive movie, even for a comic book movie. Much like the Avengers themselves, this film simply should not have worked. But it did, and in this case I think the film's greatest flaw might actually have simultaneously been its greatest strength as well. I won't go into much spoilerish territory in this review, mostly because if the rumors are true just about everyone's seen this thing so there's really not a whole lot to spoil anyway. Although I am very proud to say that I started the thunderous applause for the final DARK KNIGHT RISES trailer. Let's start with the director, Joss Whedon. A legend among fanboys everywhere, I could honestly think of no one better to handle this much chaos. Even when nothing is blowing up, Whedon keeps everything moving, down to the camera. Which means you hang on every moment that passes. As far as the Chitauri Battle in Manhattan goes, well, let's just say he divvied up the theaters of war quite well. Whedon is a fanboy as well, let's not forget, so he made damn sure to give every one of these larger than life characters their moment. My hat goes off to him, and he did a damn fine job. Now, it's Loki's turn. I love, absolutely LOVE Tom Hiddelston in this film. I was a bit unsure about using Loki as the villain for this film, but in the end it was a perfect choice. Hiddelston really gets to have fun with his character in this one. And what made it great was his relationship with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), playing on their "false" brotherhood and in turn having a go at each of the other Avengers in one form or another. And he serves a great setup for a potentially apocalyptic villain for the sequel! But the highlight of this movie, and the person I'm sure everyone will be talking about soon enough, was Mark Freaking Ruffalo. Yes, his middle name is Freaking, because he did the most with his character out of any of the other actors in this film (no disrespect meant). Following Ed Norton's turn as Dr. Bruce Banner, I was dubious at best about the studio's decision to go with Ruffalo. But he brought such a weight to Banner (NOT the Hulk) and his inner conflict with "the other guy" made every moment he was on screen so watchable. If there is an emotional heart to this film, it's in Mark Freaking Ruffalo's big green hairy chest. Not to mention he gets two of the greatest moments of the film. Having established their characters in their solo films (with the exception of Robert Downey Jr., who got a bit more of a head start on account of IRON MAN 2), it was very interesting seeing all these people interact on screen. There was great chemistry all around, and I think fans will really enjoy how their camaraderie develops throughout the film. Now, this would be WAAAAAYYYYY too long a review if I went over every little detail of the film, so I think I'll just say this: Marvel has a behemoth on their hands, and I just hope they don't let it get too big. THE AVENGERS is a great way to kick start the summer, and  think that fanboys all over will be nerdgasming repeatedly while it's in theaters. However, this film was exactly what I expected it to be: big, loud and fun. And that's not a bad thing at all.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Journal Entry by Prof. C. R. K.

It has been two weeks since I returned to Oxford. The contents of the chest I have taken with me, much to my wife's chagrin. Regardless, the demands of my time have been dominated by my students. In my studies of the strange fragments, when I've had the time, I have been able to translate precious little. The writing is strange and fluid, but when the letters themselves are translated the speech seems very rough and hard. Some records are bound in leather books, others in scrolls several documents thick. John has taken a look, and suffice it to say he is simply baffled by them. The accounts given here, in these papers, is nothing short of extraordinary. Nevertheless, I feel that still more is yet to be found...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

THE LAST ASCENSION Synopsis Revealed!

So you've been waiting to see what's going to happen in the second volume of the MAVONDURI TRILOGY. I've dropped a few hints here and there, but now here is the full" jacket-flap" synopsis for BOOK TWO OF THE MAVONDURI TRILOGY, THE LAST ASCENSION! Get ready to meet some new characters and face greater threats as Mathion's destiny hurtles closer towards its fulfillment, to the salvation or destruction of all...

THE LAST ASCENSION: BOOK TWO OF THE MAVONDURI TRILOGY, takes place 583 years after the events of MATHION. When King Tharion is gravely injured in a surprise assassination attempt by a werewolf, Mathion is forced into a corner by the Council of Elders. Knowing that he is not yet ready to ascend, Mathion decides to undertake another journey, traveling to the far northern reaches of Kânavad, accompanied by his friends Kéle'il and Oharion Halfbreed once again, to find the only cure for one suffering the near-fatal bite of a werewolf: Wolfsbane. At the same time Mathion’s son Mathios, along with his old friend Dovosir, is now embroiled in a conflict with the rebel Uprisers, led by a renegade Elder and threatening civil war with Ánovén. And overshadowing all of them is Azgharáth who, seeing the ripe opportunity before him, seeks to avenge his humiliation at Mathion's hands and ensure that Mathion will never ascend the High Throne of the Wolven.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

AuthorTalk with Mark Tierno, author of MALDENE


Hey all!

So I know I haven't posted in a while but I have a special treat for you today: my first RECORDED audio interview! I had a total blast talking with MALDENE author Mark Tierno about MATHION, writing and a whole host of other random topics! Visit The Official MALDENE Site or just click on the link at the bottom of this post to listen to the interview. There are a few tidbits about where the MAVONDURI TRILOGY is headed and where some aspects of the mythology originated. So listen on and tell me what you think!

AUDIO INTERVIEW

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Author Interview: Shane Porteous, author of HOW GODS BLEED

Well, it seems to be a weekend full of firsts on the MAVONDURI TRILOGY OFFICIAL BLOG! Today I have my first author interview with Shane Porteous, author of the extremely well reviewed dark fantasy novels RASCISS and, what this interview is really about, HOW GODS BLEED, a dark fantasy saga featuring--you guessed it--werewolves. Now while I wouldn't go so far as to call ourselves "rivals", Shane and I are actually pretty good friends, so it's great to have him be the first interview I do for the Blog.

You can download HOW GODS BLEED by clicking this link http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/101158. It's free, and it's a fantastic book to boot!

Now, let's get started!


Shane, it’s great to have you on the MTOB! I’d like to start off by asking, how do you sum up your writing style for those who’ve never read your work before?
The best way to describe my style is “Different.” I pride myself on not writing in a “by the numbers way”. That’s really important to me, that I avoid the stock-standard way of storytelling.
 
How was writing HOW GODS BLEED different from your best known work, RASCISS?
Good question, I feel I had a lot more experience and interaction with both readers and fellow writers when I wrote How Gods Bleed. Because of that my mind was in a far different place to what it was when I wrote Rasciss.
 
Cada Varl is certainly a dark character, as is Hollowawk. Are you drawn to dark characters in particular, and if so why?
I am definitely drawn to darker characters because they seem to have far more depth to them than most of their light hearted counterparts. Their histories also tend to be more interesting and less predictable.
 
What were some of your favorite scenes to write in HOW GODS BLEED?
There were so many! But in terms of sheer fun, the scene right at the beginning when I got to introduce Granzool, the king of Helluv, was a lot of fun to write. The battle between Aneeku and Cada Varl was great to write because that was the beginning of when the story turned up a thousand notches. But the scene I am most proud of is the conversation and following duel between Cada Varl and Gosfear. I just love it after I had finished writing it.

Now, let’s get to something I’m very passionate about personally: backstory. The illusion of depth is a central element in great fantasy. How do you bring that depth to the page? Do you build the world of the story beforehand or do you discover it along with your characters as you write?
I have a basic idea of the world I want to represent to the reader, but I don’t map out every nook and cranny beforehand. I feel doing that would constrict my characters too much. I prefer my world to be dictated by the characters that live in it, not the other way around. Besides, sometimes it is fun to take the journey with the characters and see what they see, when they make their journey.  
 
What, in your mind, makes for a great villain? And how do you strive to make each antagonist unique in each new work?
Put simply a great antagonist is someone you can understand. Even if you don’t agree with what they do, you can understand why they do it. I don’t think an antagonist has to be necessarily evil, in fact I find it more interesting when they are not. In terms of a great fantasy antagonist, I think the reader must respect their power. The reader must believe the antagonist can defeat the protagonist in a direct confrontation.
As for my own work, my antagonists are not evil. They merely find themselves in a situation where they can no longer co-exist with protagonists. They are unique from one another because of the situations they find themselves in.  
 
Is there an overall scheme to these works? Do you plan on tying them in together or are they going to remain separate stories?
It is actually a long time goal of mine to one day write an epic story where the main characters of each of my books are brought together at the same time. The stories aren’t really tied together, but they all take place in the same world, just in different lands and continents.

Alright, last question then I’ll let you go! Out of all the characters you’ve come up with, in all your stories, which one is your absolute FAVORITE to write for and why?
This is a difficult question to answer, because my favorite character is from a story that I have yet to introduce to the world, in other words a story that hasn’t been published yet. But out of all my introduced characters that has to be Hollowawk.
I feel that I owe him a lot, I have written my entire life, I have told hundreds of stories and created countless worlds. Rasciss was the first story I introduced to the world, my lifelong dream was finally accomplished and Hollowawk had to carry all of that on his shoulders. He had the responsibility of showing the real world what my created world was like. He will always hold a special place in my thoughts because of that. If I may say judging by the reviews and the fan art I have received, Hollowawk has accomplished his purpose wholeheartedly. He will always have a specific legacy and so writing stories for him will always be a pleasure.    
 
Shane, thanks so much for coming on here! I look forward to having you come back again sometime.
My pleasure Jeff, I had a lot fun and if I may add, to anyone reading this post, please help yourself to a FREE copy of How Gods Bleed. A tale that has been called “The most original werewolf story ever told,” by more than one reviewer. That is a fact that I will always be proud of!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Love, Friendship and the World Ending PROTECTOR by Vanna Smythe!!

As you all know, I recently did an interview with the lovely and talented Vanna Smythe on her blog. Well, now it's time for me to return the favor, and I'm happy to do so by giving her her very own Guest Post on the Mavonduri Trilogy Official Blog! Her novel PROTECTOR: ANNIVERSARY OF THE VEIL BOOK ONE is available now on:


 
Keep in touch with Vanna here:
Twitter: @Vanna_Smythe
 
Now, without further ado....the incomparable Vanna Smythe!!
 
Love, Friendship and the World Ending

This is my first guest post. It is also the first post I have written about my debut fantasy novel Protector (Anniversary of the Veil, Book 1). I had planned to write something creative, something artistic, to show potential readers what I can do. Instead, I decided on a straightforward post about the path to realizing my longtime ambition and wish to write, polish and publish a fantasy novel.

Protector is the absolute best piece of writing that I am capable of producing at this point in my writing career. I hope to grow still as a writer, but I realize now that such growth can only be achieved by writing more books, new novels, not by tinkering with just the one.

I started writing Protector as a NaNoWriMo challenge in November of 2009. Once that was done, the manuscript lingered on my hard drive for more than a year before I decided to take it, and with it my writing, to the next level. Editing. Being more of a seat-of-the-pants (or tour-de-force, as I prefer to look at it) writer I am a stranger to editing. Or should I say, was a stranger to editing.

Protector has been through three heavy rounds of rewrites now, and there is no more I can do. It is ready to be introduced to the world, and I am ready to begin writing the sequel. And if any of you are wondering if your NaNo book is worth a second chance, the answer is a big “Yes.” It’s all already there, you just have to polish it and make it pretty.

As for the title of this guest post, those three things are entwined in the overall theme of the story of Protector, and the entire Anniversary of the Veil series. Friendship becomes love. Love will determine the fate of the world. Sound vague enough? I can’t say anything more lest I give away most of the story. And I would hate to do that.

 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

SILVER KNIGHT by Caron Rider

A phenomenal author who I'll be interviewing soon, right here on The MAVONDURI TRILOGY OFFICIAL BLOG!! Keep. A weather eye out!

A Struggle Against Evil—Love Through the Ages—A Destiny to Fulfill

When seventeen-year-old Diana recognizes an elderly priest in a video on YouTube, she realizes that reincarnation is real and that she’s been alive before! Every night in her dreams, she views her past lives learning that it’s kill or be killed.

Now a bishop at the Vatican whom she saved in another life calls on her once more. She is needed to help defeat an infestation of demons living within the catacombs of Rome. But when she arrives in Rome, she meets Alexander – the man of her dreams! Through the centuries she has loved him…betrayed him...been killed by him. Will she give him another chance or this time will she strike first?

Silver Knight takes you on an adventure where demons and heroes from the past blend with history, action, and just a hint of romance.


5 Star Review:
“All I could think once I started reading this book was WOW! My only warning is that once you start reading this story you are not going to be able to put it down!” –Readers Favorite (Read more at: http://readersfavorite.com/review/5699)

Caron Rider’s Bio:

I began teaching adults to use computer software, hardware, and networking back in the 1990s. After several years, my clients became younger and younger until I found myself tutoring high school dropouts to pass the GED. I found working with at-risk teenagers so rewarding that I changed her undergraduate major to Education.

Upon graduating from the University of South Alabama with a B.S., I began teaching high school history and I continue to teach history classes online. I now live in rural Missouri with my two kids, two dogs, two cats, and father.

Some useful links:
Website: www.caronrider.com
Blog: www.caronrider.blogspot.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Silver-Series/217988348281222
Twitter: @Caron_Rider

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Telling and Retelling: How the Werewolf and Atlantis Myths Fit So Well Together

Well today I'm celebrating my first ever Guest Blog Post on Vanna Smythe's Blog! Read below

~

As the author of the MAVONDURI TRILOGY, its origins are an interesting story for me to tell. But that’s not what this post is ALL about. This is about how fantasy, as a genre, can retell ancient myths in new and exciting ways, using two mythic archetypes as specific examples. I’ve always found both the Atlantis myth and the werewolf myth extremely fascinating for different reasons, but it wasn’t until I began writing Mathion that I found that I could retell both of these myths in one story.

I’ve done my fair share of research, and found that almost every ancient culture has or had some kind of shapeshifter (i.e. “werewolf”) myth and an Atlantis (or Deluge) type myth. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I’ve never thought so. Both of these mythological archetypes are so ubiquitous in human culture that I thought there had to be a connection. And it was through writing Mathion that I found a way to make that connection. In their most basic forms, they run thus:

•In the Atlantis/Deluge myth, you hear of a prosperous island empire that is consumed by the sea. But it’s not that simple, and this is where the “proximity phenomenon” comes into play. Those cultures that are closer to the source of the myth will be able to convey more detail concerning the real events that inspired the myth (Atlantis), whereas those further away are less detailed (deluge).

•In that same vein, we have a similar derivation with the werewolf myth. Whether or not it is specifically a “wolf”, the idea of a human being able to assume the form of an animal is one of the most common and pervasive myths in human culture. It could be a wolf, yes, but in Norse cultures there were tales of “berserkers” and further east there were legends of werepanthers and other similar shapeshifter myths. In the Americas the most noteworthy shapeshifter myth is that of the Navajo “skinwalker”.

So what could be the ultimate “source” of these two myths? Well, upon finishing my research I came to the conclusion that the sources are one and the same: these shapeshifters inhabited a vast landmass in the middle of the ocean, and upon its destruction they spread out over the world and these “myths” emerged in our cultural subconscious.

The idea of “reinvented (or lost) history” is among the oldest in terms of the fantasy genre. I myself have always found that an immensely interesting aspect of it, and when the opportunity arose to reinvent history myself, I took it and started running with it. To take an icon of horror and set it in the fantasy genre opens up so many more doors in terms of character than if you were to put it in any other medium.

Finally, I would just like to say this: if you are writing or are going to write a fantasy story, and in particular an EPIC fantasy story, I believe there are three central “tenets” you as an author should follow. Not have to, mind you, but should. They are:

•The Map- this is the world in which the Tale is told, and it goes far beyond just the actual map found in the book itself. It comprises the history, cultures, languages and even religious ideals that add depth and legitimacy to the world in which your characters inhabit. It’s very important that there be a cohesion within the Map (place names, language, etc.)

•The Quest- this is the tenet which allows both author and reader to be introduced to and explore the world in which the Tale is told. It also can reflect your Hero’s inner journey and be just as, if not more perilous.

•Sub-Creation- this tenet has its ultimate source in the father of modern fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien. The art of sub-creation isn’t a conscious one, but it emerges as a result of the depth you add to the Map, to the extent that you begin to “discover” certain aspects of the world that were not consciously created but fit within the context of it. Some of the best fantasy worlds and stories are a product of sub-creative processes and as a result have such a realistic feel to them that there is no need for a suspension of disbelief.

In the end, “to create a convincing story, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about in every detail.”

Saturday, February 4, 2012

CHRONICLE Review: One Young Man's Despair is his Greatest Power

Ok so I just left the theater, and the one thing on my mind is how resonant CHRONICLE will be for many teen moviegoers. Let me explain.



CHRONICLE is a radical new take on the superhero genre, which adds great depth to the concept of what great power can do to an individual. This story is all about Andrew Detmer, a kid who's basically been handed a crap sandwich all his life. It's told through his eyes (or in this case his camera) and his profound despair is the driving force of the film.

From the start, I could tell that there was this malevolent darkness that was constantly at war within this young man. Dane DeHaan's performance is meticulously nuanced and emotionally gripping, as we see him struggle with his situation and the people around him. His father is an abusive alcoholic and his mother, the only person who shows him any real affection, is the only thing that keeps Andrew's darkness at bay. In a sense, she's his ray of hope, the only light in his world. And when she's finally taken away, there's nothing that can stop Andrew. One thing I hated in my theater showing was how the audience applauded his death. I view Andrew's story as incredibly tragic, and a statement of just how far one person can be pushed before they give in to their own darkness.

Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan play Matt Garetty and Steve Montgomery, respectively, and add a sharp contrast to Andrew's introverted nature. Steve is the cookie-cutter "popular guy" who, through his shared experiences with Andrew, tries to help him loosen up. Matt is Andrew's cousin, a philosophizing good dude who nevertheless has to reel Andrew in from time to time. Both are social, fun-loving high school seniors enjoying the hell out of life, and throughout the film they try to get Andrew to do the same. Their performances, especially Russell's, add fun and sincerity to the movie, but in the end this is Andrew's story.

Andrew, trying to find a sense of reason to his life, begins documenting it. We see early on that not only is his home life a mess, but his ENTIRE life is. Picked on at school, scorned by girls, the only friend he seems to have is his cousin. Matt brings Andrew along to a rave, but after several incidents Andrew ends up outside crying. It's then that we meet Steve, who comes across as a grade A douche at first, wanting to use Andrew's camera to film this "thing" he and Matt have found. They come across a strange glowing crystal of unexplained origin, which gives them powers. At first they exhibit only telekinesis, which they use to play pranks on unsuspecting strangers to great comedic effect. But as their story progresses so do their abilities, especially Andrew's. While all have the abilities of superstrength and flight (which is very well executed with the "shaky-cam" technique), Andrew hones his "muscle" further than the others, finally having an outlet for his despair which, while not always apparent, is very pervasive throughout the entire film. And he soon is stronger than all of them.

Despite all this superhero stuff, the film actually delves into their high school life, including Andrew's brief taste of "normality" i.e. popularity, but quickly disintegrates when relations with a certain pink-haired girl goes awry. And it's at this point the darkness within Andrew erupts. Taking matters into his own hands, he confronts his father in a scene that had me on the edge of my seat. Without going into too much detail, the movie culminated in a battle between Matt and Andrew on the streets and in the skies of Seattle, and we see that Andrew's despair can cause catastrophic destruction, both within his soul and to the world around him.

In the end, this movie is a gripping treatise on the concept of despair and how it can tear apart everything one holds dear. The addition of superpowers, and the "found footage" approach to the story, makes this film by Josh Trank and Max Landis a thought provoking and gripping film about a young man who seemingly has nothing to console him and all the power in the world, yet in the end he is so blinded by his despair that he doesn't get to hear three words that would have prevented all of this:

"I love you."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Selene is Back and Badder than Ever! ....Unfortunately, so is "Awakening"

In "Underworld: Awakening", Death Dealer Selene is awoken from an icy 12-year cryo-nap and finds a world where vampires and Lycans are not only exposed but hunted. Oh, and she has a daughter.

First off, I'm an Underworld fan. The vampires put Robert Pattinson to shame and the Lycans make Taylor Lautner look like a poodle. It's truly a great story they had going on, and I thought they had wrapped it up quite nicely with 2009's "Rise of the Lycans" prequel. But in the case of "Awakening", directed by series newcomers Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, well...I'm very disappointed. Now of course, "Underworld: Evolution" left an opening for Selene's story to continue, but I just don't feel that "Awakening" was the best choice of story. The plot was too low-budget Syfy (meaning that it could have been made as a Syfy channel original movie) and there was no depth to many of the characters.

Aside from Beckinsale, who always inhabits Selene as a character, the only other performance that stood out to me was India Eisley as Eve, Selene's daughter. The first hybrid-born child, she admires her mother's warrior skills and proves to be quite the little fighter as well. You can see a real bond between Eisley and Beckinsale when they have scenes together. Michael Ealy has always been good in my book but his character simply didn't fit in this film. Charles Dance's Thomas seemed to be more of a throwback to Bill Nighy and Viktor, but again, it seems like he was just thrown in for credibility, although he gives a good performance. Theo James is...well actually he was pretty cool, I'll admit.

Now as you know, werewolves are kind of my thing. And I've always liked "Underworld"'s portrayal of the Lycans, from Lucian to Raze to William (big white wolf in "Underworld: Evolution"). "Rise of the Lycans" is my favorite "Underworld" movie in the series. And I was supremely pissed at how the Lycans came across in "Awakening". They're just cartoony. They have no leader (Stephen Rea's Dr. Lang may be an exception but he just annoyed me) and they were...just awful. IF (and that's a big one) they make another film, here's hoping they do it right next time.

I saw the film in 3D and, while it had its moments, I'm just not a fan of it and would probably have liked the movie better if I had watched it the old fashioned way.

Overall, it was pretty "meh" for a movie and a downright facepalm for an Underworld movie. It's not unwatchable, but in the Underworld universe, they should have left well enough alone.

(image copyright Screen Gems and Sketch Films)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Who are the Wolven?

For those who have read MATHION: BOOK ONE OF THE MAVODURI TRILOGY, you will notice that the main characters aren't exactly human...per se. They are Wolven or Cénáre, a race of humans with a long life span, and many inherent abilities found commonly in the Trilogy's antagonists, the werewolves. But they are NOT werewolves. Nor are they some haphazard equivalent of vampires or elves.

I'd like to take a moment to compare the names Wolven and werewolf. "Werewolf" comes from Old English and literally means "man-wolf," that is a man who assumes the form of a wolf. More metaphorically, a werewolf is not just a man who transforms into a wolf, but a man who has accepted and glorifies the beast inside, forsaking his humanity. "Wolven" (as far as I'm aware) is a word of my own invention, and is roughly a poetic adjective in its style and sound. For someone to be "wolven" is to be wolf-like, or in this case werewolf-like, but in this case the Wolven retain their humanity and compassion for their fellow humans.

That is not to say the Wolven are flawed, which will be a major theme on THE LAST ASCENSION, but more on that later.

The Wolven creation myth (in short) is that they crashed on the shores of what became Ánovén roughly 20,000 years before Mathion's time. Five ships, five clans of men. In time, the "God" figure of the Mavonduri Trilogy, Ka'én, sent his emissary Ktindu to them to offer them a choice: aid the White Wolves and save them from the genocidal persecution of the Werewolves, or live out their lives as they would. No punishment was threatened for refusal, and in the end three of the five clans accepted. They adopted the name "Cénáre" which is Anglicized as "Wolven" but the actual translation is "those who are Shaped by the Shaper (Ka'én)".

In addition to a long life span (around 1,500 years for the royal clans of the Wolven) they were blessed with gifts of strength, agility, sight, hearing and smell, all of the physical attributes of a werewolf in manform. To put it simply, they were genetically engineered to fight werewolves, and win. However a few of them were also blessed with a form of clairvoyance or Foresight, some more powerful than others. This ability was most attributed to the Sages of Avakaš.

But at their core the Wolven are, fundamentally, human. They live, they fight, and they die. They love and they hate, but ultimately they share a fundamental connection to the world around them, and have passed into even our later myths and legends...as Atlanteans.