Complications: Mild-mannered Doctor goes Commando

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Jason O’Mara stars in “Complications”.

Thank you so much to Callum at Cultured Vultures for posting!

Complications, Jason O’Mara plays Dr. John Ellison, a mild-mannered ER doctor who goes commando when he witnesses a drive-by shooting in a park. Grieving the loss of his daughter to cancer the year before, he’s on his way to the vet to save a mauled squirrel when he realizes the animal has died. This most recent death brings back the emotions experienced during his daughter’s illness and death. Overwhelmed, Ellison stops the car in front of a park only to witnesses the boy being shot…

To read more, check out my review at the Cultured Vultures site!

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How NOT to make a book trailer

For years I thought that if I were ever in a position to need a book trailer I’d be independently wealthy and could hire a professional to do it for me.

Barring that, I’d use Flash. I have a basic working knowledge of Flash. I’ve had to teach it to Travel and Tourism students for use in their end of semester presentations, and I’ve had occasion to teach entire semesters of Flash Action Script through eLearning courses. I never considered that when the time finally came, the proliferation of operating systems and browsers that do not support Flash would make that option all but obsolete.

The only other software I had was Windows Movie Maker. My kid made a movie with it while still in grade school–how hard could it be? Little did I know, the software would be the least of my worries.

Here are my three pearls of wisdom of what NOT to do, should you ever consider to go it alone when making a book trailer.

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Pearl #1 – use royalty-free but not for commercial use graphics

I never considered that what I was embarking on was a commercial endeavour. All I wanted to do was get the word out about my book release; I wasn’t ready to start selling books yet. Nevertheless, all of those people I alerted to the release of my book were potential buyers which ultimately made my project a commercial one.

Back to the drawing board.

I eventually stumbled upon Flickr.com (make sure you click “Commercial use allowed” on the licence tab) and foter.com (make sure you click “Commercial Use” at the top of the page after doing a search).  Keep in mind you must still check the licence to ensure you have fulfilled your end of the use agreement. Most of the pictures will say to link back to the Creative Commons agreement as well as give the photographer credit, which you can do in the rolling credits at the end of your trailer.

For music, try FreeMusicArchive.org.

Pearl #2 – forget to record your titles, artists and URLs as you go

As someone who just wrote a post entitled “Just Cite the Damn Cite!” I don’t know what I was thinking. Too absorbed with ensuring I wasn’t breaking copyright to realize that if I didn’t have the credits right I was breaking copyright anyway.

Open a NotePad file (or create a file on similar software or go old school and do it on paper) and record the title of each photo, the artist, and the URL (Flickr and foter seem to want a link to the author on their site and not directly to the author) as well as a description so you’re sure you attribute the correct photo to the correct photographer. List your photos in order of appearance in the credits (and say you are doing this in your credits).

Pearl #3 – use Windows Movie Maker

I’m not sure if this should be a “pearl” or not, but like all Windows products, Movie Maker has its ups and downs.

On the up side is its ease of use. Movie Maker has the same drag and drop functionality of any other Windows product making it sort of intuitive to learn.

On the down side is just about everything else. Though the learning curve for any new app is steep, it seemed insurmountable at times for Movie Maker. Problems included how to coordinate the video with the title overlay (video should come first but since mine was a book, I started with the text), getting “slides” close enough to eliminate pauses between them (which made bang-on coordination with the audio file near impossible) and having to convert my MP3 file to a WAV file before I could even import it (I used Zamzar.com). I also could not holistically change the font, but had to do it piecemeal, one “slide” at a time, which was aggravating because it was super time consuming. Also, Movie Maker only creates WMV files, which meant I needed to do yet another conversion to the less proprietary MP4. And I couldn’t change the background of the file so my  background graphic is a different colour than the surrounding “stage” (which continues to miff me to no end).

In the end I have a passable book trailer for my new release (on 10 July 14), The Revenant, that I can display with pride. I pass this on to you now because forewarned is forearmed. You  can create a sort of professional-looking book trailer on the cheap (FREE!) with a bit of time invested (weekends for a month) and a lot of patience.

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Did you find this article useful? Still have questions about creating a book trailer?  Let me know in the comments below.

 

Literary Devices from A to Z – Brought to you by the letter W

 

 

 

is for Weather

 

 

 

Pathetic fallacy is when inanimate objects of nature–specifically the weather–mimic human emotion. The distinction between pathetic fallacy and personification is as follows: personification “gives human attributes to abstract ideas, animate objects of nature or inanimate non-natural objects” (Literary Devices).

An example of this occurs in Phase Shift. After Molly finds Stanley’s body, she says,

At the foot of Stanley’s driveway. In the rain.  Police offer me hot drinks and dry blankets. Refuge from the drizzle in a cruiser. They think they’re helping. Won’t help take the chill off. 

On this night, the weather is cold and rainy, the perfect atmosphere for coming to terms with finding a body that appears to have spontaneously combusted and for finding out that you may be under investigation for setting the fire.

Think about the weather during “There’s a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place)” in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, or the lightening gathering as Macbeth meets the witches on the heath. What other notable uses of the weather via pathetic fallacy stick out in your mind? Share your ideas in the comments below.

 

 

A to Z Blog Challenge – Brought to you by the letter H

 

 

 

is for Hyperbole

 

 

 

A hyperbole is an exaggeration used to emphasize a point.

In the tentatively titled,  I Am, Have Been, and Will Be Alice, Alice is depressed and has taken to her bed for comfort when her mother comes into the room:

She digs my head out from under the blankets, brushes my hair from my forehead and brings her cool lips to them. “You’re cool as a cucumber,” she says for about the millionth time in my lifetime.

The hyperbole in this excerpt is Alice insisting her mother has used this phrase about a million times over the past 14 or so years. While it’s theoretically possible for someone to achieve this goal, it’s not very likely, which is what makes it a hyperbole.

When Suzanne leans over Palmer during a sarcophagus examination in The Mummy Wore Combat Boots, he says,

As she spoke I was enveloped in a haze of her perfume. Her scent was sweet and distantly floral.  It brought back a slew of memories—not all of them disagreeable—in a dizzying flood.

While Palmer’s memories make him neither physically dizzy, and his memories would not carry the same force as a flooding tsunami, I’m sure it would feel as if they did to poor Palmer who can’t escape Suzanne’s unwanted advances in such close quarters.

Do you use hyperbole in either speech or writing? Which ones do you use most often? Which ones have you written that you’re most proud of? Whatever they are, share them in the comments below.

“The Curse of Oak Island” is must see TV!

A curse. Pirates. A treasure. Booby traps.

It has all the trappings of the next “Indiana Jones” or “National Treasure” movie. The main difference? This is for real.

Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Three boys discover a pit (“the Money Pit”) on and begin to dig. As they get deeper, strange artifacts begin to pop up. Flagstones. Wooden platforms. Small metal artifacts. And then, at around 27 metres (that’s more than 80 feet), they find a stone cipher that when translated says, “Forty feet below, two million pounds are buried.” The boys dig a little more, and then leave for the night. When they return, the shaft is underwater. They conclude a booby trap has been triggered by their digging, which flooded the shaft to protect the treasure from plunderers (oakislandtreasure).

In modern times, Dan Blankenship and his associates dig a shaft parallel to the Money Pit (called 10X), fortifying it with steel. He takes some video in which he insists he can see a body, a treasure chest, and other buried  items. 10X eventually floods as well. Due to disagreements over land ownership, digging on the island ceases until brothers Rick and Marty Lagina buy a controlling stake in the island’s tourism company and are able to resume excavations.

I saw the first episode of History’s “The Curse of Oak Island” yesterday; I haven’t been that excited since seeing “In Search of Noah’s Ark” when I was a kid. The premiere episode explains the history of the Money Pit and 10X and documents the Lagina brothers’ excavation of the pits as they search for the fabled treasure. Viewers get to see the Blankenship video and meet Dan Blankenship (now 80 and just as obsessed as ever) and his son who are active members of the Laginas’ team. The first thing they do is send a camera into the Money Pit, but the footage comes back inconclusive and the files mysteriously disappear from the computer midway through the viewing. Perhaps this is part of the curse, they wonder.

Next, the team drills into the hole while one of the brothers searches the fill. They find bits of blue transfer ceramic, but not much else. Lastly, air is pumped into the shaft in an effort to remove the water. They jerry-rig a sediment holding tank and use a shovel to start mucking about, but turn up only a single metal artifact. Later, the team takes a boat ride to see the island from the water. They hypothesize the presence of five box-drains, used to draw sea water into the shafts and plan to dive at a later date to confirm or debunk their existence.

In “The Curse of Oak Island,” the Laginas and the Blankenships document their real-life adventure as they search for pirate treasure. The curse promises that seven will die before the secret of the Money Pit is revealed, which only serves to bolster the excitement which makes this an hour of tv worth watching. What I like about “The Curse of Oak Island” is that, unlike other salvaging shows, the Laginas do things legally. They let us know the credentials of the team members, as well as the permits needed and the legalities and cost of the dig and that the task they have undertaken is dangerous, with the implicit message not to try this at home.

“The Curse of Oak Island” is not only exciting television, it’s also responsible television. And that’s good archaeology.

Did you see “The Curse of Oak Island”? What did you think?

Beautifully written and compelling

My biggest regret? Not being able to say goodbye to my father before he passed away.

It all happened so quickly. One minute he was going to be okay and I needn’t have to rush to the hospital and the next it didn’t look like he’d make it home. He died while I was stuck on Highway Seven in rush hour traffic, just as I went through an underpass. I know because I had a feeling and I checked the time. When I got to the hospital I learned his time of death was within minutes of my “feeling.”

My second biggest regret? Not going with my mother to visit my grandmother in the convalescent home in the days before she died because it was boring.

I’ve often thought in the twelve years since my dad died and the thirty-five years or so since my grandmother died that I’d like to have that one last chance to say goodbye.

This is the exact sentiment Jason Mott explores in his novel The Returned.

In The Returned, eight year old Jacob returns to his parents, Lucille and Harold, almost fifty years after his death by drowning in the river behind their house. Lucille welcomes him with open arms. Harold is suspicious of his son’s return as he is of all those who have returned without explanation and seemingly without purpose. When the government begins arresting the returned and warehousing them in internment camps, Harold accompanies his son, grows closer to him, and discovers a kinship with those who have returned, as well as with their families.

Part “In the Flesh” (minus the zombies), part “The 4400”, The Returned is a beautifully written and compelling read, so long as you have willing suspension of disbelief enough to forget about why the dead have returned and simply accept the fact that they have. The overall theme of the book illustrates patterns in history, and that we are doomed to repeat ourselves. Case in point, warehousing millions of Jews in concentration camps during World War II and the establishment of Japanese internment camps later in the century. The comparison with these events in the novel is interesting but heavy handed at times, like when a Jewish couple attempts to hide a handful of returned German soldiers on their property. The soldiers are portrayed as innocents, caught up in something in which they have no say, acting as society demands of them, until they are taken outside and shot for their compliance in the war.

The Returned is being made into an American television series called “Resurrection” (the trailer is available on YouTube and it looks amazing), but given the track record of similar series, I don’t know how successful it will be. I know I’ll be watching it, for no other reason than I like the honesty and emotion of the novel and the ultimate message, how society treats “the other” with a combination of demonization and/or segregation and how one man, Harold, grows to overcome his prejudice of “the other” and learns no matter our stories of origin, we are all just people; we are all the same.

Dracula is a page turner

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the gothic horror story that put down roots for modern day vampire lore.

In Dracula, lawyer Jonathan Harker is sent to Transylvania to close a deal on the sale of a house for Count Dracula in England. Confined to a limited number of rooms in Dracula’s castle, Harker goes  exploring where he discovers siren-like creatures and Dracula’s dark nature. Harker eventually escapes, goes nearly mad, and convalesces in a hospital where fiance Mina Murray retrieves him and marries him. They return to England to find Mina’s friend, Lucy, mysteriously ill from blood loss. Harker and Dr. Seward enlist a retired Van Helsing for help. They replenish Lucy’s blood nightly to no avail. Eventually Lucy dies, her body claimed by Dracula. It’s not long before Mina falls prey to the same “illness,” with one strange symptom–she has a connection with Count Dracula. Harker, Seward and Van Helsing use this connection to ambush Dracula and kill him for good at last.

Fan of vampire stories that I am, I had always meant to read the original Dracula, but never got around to it. But after watching NBC’s Dracula, I needed to go back to the archetype to see which characters and events were borrowed from the original and which were new.

In NBC’s Dracula, the count assumes the name Alexander Greyson and pretends to be an American newly arrived in England on business. In a grand spectacle opening, Greyson holds a party at his mansion where he introduces his guests to free, wireless power which sends the oil magnates into a tizzy. At this gala is socialite Lucy Westenra who has invited her friend and medical student Mina Murray and Mina’s boyfriend, reporter Jonathan Harker. When Dracula sees Mina he sees his wife’s doppelganger and is determined to have her, but not by force. To that end, he hires Harker as his assistant, puts him up in a mansion and pays him enough to marry Mina and live happily ever after. The idea is to keep Mina close and gradually insinuate himself into her life. Pursued by the Order of the Dragon, an ancient organization whose members are involved in (among other things I can’t figure out) maintaining a power monopoly and killing vampires, Greyson’s goal is to punish members of the Order for their role in making him what he is today.

Other than character names and the time in which the story takes place, there is little comparison between the original book and the television show. In the book, Dracula has no alter ego and there is no mention of Mina the doppelganger. TV’s Renfield is Dracula’s manservant, a far cry from Stoker’s raving, bug-eating lunatic and Stoker’s Van Helsing is out to kill Dracula, not form an unholy alliance with him in order to seek revenge on the Order of the Dragon. Reading the book  also shed some light on other supernatural works, including  an explanation as to why the brothers on Supernatural bear the last name Winchester and the origin of the title “Vampire Diaries”, adopted because most of Stoker’s novel is told in journal or diary format.

The novel is a page turner at times, boring at others, but worth the time to read.

The series picks up pace midway through episode two and becomes the television version of a page turner. I binge watched the first three episodes and regret not watching the fourth as well (but Once Upon a Time was about to begin and priorities must be set).

Are you watching NBC’s Dracula? What do you think?

Dr. Who’s A Christmas Carol

day of the doctor poster

image from skinnyglasses.deviantart.com

Imagine Alex Kingston in the guise of River Song saying, “Spoilers,” in that sing-songy way of hers.

In The Day of the Doctor, the very first Doctor (John Hurt), the one responsible for saving the universe and causing the destruction of Gallifrey in the process, meets his Kobayashi Maru. In priming the weapon to do this, a weapon so sophisticated it has developed a conscience (Billie Piper), the Doctor is connected through a time funnel with the tenth (David Tennant) and eleventh (Matt Smith) regenerations of himself. While engaged (literally) in trying to save Queen Elizabeth the First from shape-shifting Zygons, the three doctors realize that Gallifrey must perish in order to save the universe. In a nice parallel, UNIT agents realize they must destroy England to save the world from the Zygons. The solution to a win-win scenario is clear: all characters–UNIT and Zygon, and all Doctors–must come together to save themselves. Smith’s Doctor uses a memory wiping device in the bowels of UNIT’s storage vault to make both human and Zygon forget they are human and Zygon respecfully to keep them honest during negotiations. As for the Doctors, they enlist all iterations of previous Doctors and their TARDISes (TARDI?) to freeze Gallifrey in a moment in time. To the Daleks firing on the planet it will seem as if the planet were destroyed and they’ll wind up firing against themselves. In this way, the Doctor lifts a huge weight from his shoulders as he no longer regrets killing all of his kind, though he must live without knowing if what they did saved or destroyed them.

The Day of the Doctor might be better named “A Dr. Who Carol”, as the present Doctor meets two past iterations of himself and one future iteration. Like Dickens’s Carol, each iteration of the Doctor is held up for consideration by another. The very first Doctor–known as the “War Doctor”–realizes he has choices he didn’t know existed, barring the use of timey-wimey things he could only do with the other Doctors. The tenth and eleventh Doctors–cleverly dubbed “The One Who Regrets” and “The One Who Forgets”–learn they must accept their past, because at the time in question, there really was no other option. At the end, a previous (I think–I’m not up on my Who trivia) Doctor , number gives number eleven hope that his solution to the unwinnable scenario was the right one, and that Gallifrey lives on, but as more than a memory of a moment in time.

I have to admit–I’m a reluctant Dr. Who fan. I never cared for the series in the past, finding it too silly and fantastic for my sci-fi sensibilities. When my husband told me they’d revived the series, I had no interest to watch. When he insisted I watch I liked it, but not to fanatic proportions. I found the ninth Doctor, my first Doctor (Christopher Eccelston) rather arrogant. Then he regenerated into Tennant and I was hooked. The episodes are not consistently exciting, or even interesting, but The Day of the Doctor was one of the best, if not THE best, Who episode yet. William Hurt plays the War Doctor as the reluctant hero. Tennant and Smith are wonderful together playing parts more alike than not, Tennant channeling his inner Hamlet in contrast to Smith’s child-like, devil-may-care attitude. I liked the Torchwood nod, allowing Who companion Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) to escape from the Zygons with Captain Jack’s device, as well as the return of Rose (Piper), even if only as a facsimile of the original.

Though Tennant is still my favourite Doctor, I’m looking forward the Christmas special next month, though without Tennant and after this episode, it has a tough act to follow.

“The Other Typist” – Flappers gone wild

In her job as stenographer for the police department, The Other Typist‘s Rose Baker is forced to hear a number of graphic and sometimes gruesome confessions not suitable for a woman’s ears. Rose is a prim and proper young woman living in 1924 New York in an era of prohibition and waning morals. When Odalie joins the steno pool, Rose distains her at first, but then she becomes fascinated by her. It’s not long before Rose becomes Odalie’s friend and roommate and Odalie becomes her obsession. When Rose enters Odalie’s world, she is thrown into a world of lies, mistaken identity and murder.  It’s not long before Rose’s world begins to unravel. She fakes a police report, attends speakeasies, runs errands for bootleggers, and fights her feelings for the Lieutenant Detective and for Odalie.

I enjoyed the inherent suspense of Suzanne Rindell’s first publication, the likes of which I have not seen since S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep. In the beginning, the mystery revolves around Odalie. I wanted to know who she was, why someone of her stature and grace wanted to work in a dirty police station. When we are taken to her upscale apartment and learn she may have a sugar daddy, I wondered why, if she had someone to pay her bills, she would need to work at all, let alone with smelly drunks and underhanded murderers. After Rose attends her first club and finds out Odalie is both bootlegger and speakeasy organizer, the mystery shifts and the reader wonders how far buttoned-up Rose will go to be near the object of her obsession. Rose soon confides she is telling her story from a hospital and seeing a psychiatrist, adding another level of intrigue. Then Teddy appears to question Odalie’s identity, claiming she is not Odalie, but Ginevra instead, and that she has something to do with his cousin’s death. Later, when Teddy shows up at the police department, the page-turning reaches manic proportion. I think I missed most of Revolution in my haste to finish the novel. After all, Kobo told me I only had 1 hour left of reading to go. Having to re-watch parts of Revolution to fill in the blanks was a small price to pay for the punch line of this amazing book.

The Other Typist is an excellent example of the unreliable narrator. In most of what we read, we grow an affinity with the narrating character. Over the course of the novel, we learn to trust the narrator, identify with her, empathize with her, maybe even imagine ourselves in her position, but this is not always the case. By the end of The Other Typist, the reader is left questioning unsuspecting, mousey Rose’s culpability in the debacle. Did Odalie drug her fiancé and leave him to die in his car on the train tracks or was it Rose? Did Rose grow up in an orphanage or was it Odalie? Was Rose the one making changes to the confessions all along or was it Odalie? Did Odalie kill Teddy or was it Rose? What about Gib? Does Odalie really disappear to begin life anew at the end or does Rose kill her too? Is Ginevra Odalie’s alter ego, or is it Rose’s? Normally I like a story to tie all loose ends into a tidy bow at the end, but somehow, having these questions burn on in my psyche long after the novel is done is more satisfying.

As is the case with Single White Female and The Talented Mr. Ripley, the suspense of The Other Typist is in the build toward the climax, wanting to see how far the characters will go, waiting for the last thread to unravel.

Have you read The Other Typist? Who do you believe is Ginevra in disguise?

Stephen P. Kiernan’s THE CURIOSITY is Part “Encino Man”, Part “Blast from the Past”

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In 1991, two German tourists discovered the body of Otzi, the now infamous Ice Man, believed to have died and been encased in ice near 5,000 years ago. Though well-preserved, Otzi’s body more resembles traditional mummies than living, breathing tissue. … Continue reading