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Welcome to the Writer’s Apocalypse

I’ve always found the word “apocalypse” to be fascinating. It can mean a prophetic revelation, but it can also mean a widespread or universal destruction or disaster.

As a Christian and a Horror Writer, both those definitions weigh heavy on the subjects I write as well as the content I include in my works. Some may think that the two terms, “Christian” and “Horror Writer,” mix like oil and water. It all depends on how you write the story.

If you Google the phrase “types of apocalypse” here’s what you’ll find:

  • Alien Invasion
  • Time traveling robot infested future
  • Rise of mutants
  • Cloned dinosaurs
  • Apes conquering the planet
  • Divine Judgment
  • Technology Singularity
  • Humans all turned into batteries

The list comes from this site. The article is titled “Apart from zombies, what other types of apocalypses are there?” Give it a read, it’s rather interesting.

The Writer’s Apocalypse. When I first came up with the name for this website I was taking a college course called W315: Writing for the Web. I had to create a website with a topic of my choosing. At that time I was just an aspiring unpublished writer. The main topic of the site focused on writing and my personal struggle to become a published author. Years later, I am the author of three novels and four short stories.

I am a survivor of the Writer’s Apocalypse.

However, even a survivor can die after the initial apocalyptic event. Look at The Walking Dead. Characters die from a plethora of ways, not just from zombies. In order to prolong that survival, one must sharpen their skills. Hopefully that way I can show others to survive the wasteland that is the Writer’s Apocalypse.

On this site you will find not just my books and origin story. You’ll also find author interviews, book and movie reviews, and my weekly blog Mastering the Craft.

2019 Film Recap: The Best

Last year I ranked the films I watched in three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This year’s film recap, I only watched 23 films that released during 2019. Because of that, I am categorizing this year’s list into two halves: The Worst and the Best. So, without any further ado, here are the top ten. Or as I like to call them… the best of 2019.
Since these films were released in the last year I will caution about spoilers.

Shazam10. Shazam
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 90%/83%

It’s strange, yet really enjoyable that Zachary Levi can such a great child trapped in a man’s body. Shazam reminds me of Tom Hanks in Big. DC Comics should stick to single hero franchises and not try to create a crossover like Justice League. Shazam, for those that don’t know, is about a kid that gets superhuman powers from a wizard. It’s just weird to me that the kid has to shout out the wizard’s name whenever he wants to use them. I know it’s magic, but, come on. Creepy. The movie has some heartfelt moments and some really sad ones when the kid gets rejected by his own mom. That’s cold. Overall, it’s a really nice, fun, and action-packed superhero movie with a strong family message. However, it suffers from a pretty adult themed bad guy that utilizes demonic seven-deadly sins smoke monsters. This has got to be one of my favorite DC superhero films.

brightburn9. Brightburn
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 57%/67%

What would happen if Superman went bad? What if it happened when he was a child? These questions are explored in this film by James Gunn. I’ve been a fan of Gunn’s since I watched Super (2010) and Slither (2006). Brightburn really is one of those films where you may or may not like it because it’s not about a good guy. It’s about a bad guy. A villain’s origin story. And it’s a great one too. By the end of the film, you start feeling that Anakin was justified in killing all of the younglings. The kills are gory and messy. There’s one moment where this shard of glass sticks out of a waitress’s eye and you see her pull it out. It makes me cringe even now remembering it in my head. Plus, it sets up for a combined movie universe of bad guys including Rainn Wilson’s character from Super using a J. Jonah Jamison type character. It’s like that meme with Fassbender… perfection.

It chapter two8. It Chapter Two
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 63%/78%

Pennywise the Dancing Clown is back for a second round. This is the continuing chapter to the prior film, in case the title didn’t give that away. The first film focused on the children’s tale, but it also focused on physical terror. Now that the children have grown into adults, Pennywise is focusing on emotional and mental terror. This works out pretty well for the sequel. We already know what and who Pennywise is so there isn’t any use trying to mask what he can do in the film. The casting choices made were great and the CGI was too. However, I didn’t like the ending. It basically says that in order to defeat the bully you have to become the bully. Not such a good message.

 
captain marvel7. Captain Marvel
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 78%/49%
It seems in the previous article and this article my scores heavily differ from the audience score. Because I really enjoyed the origin film of Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. I thought that the nostalgia of the 90’s was present but didn’t bash the audience over the head. The twist at the end where the Skrulls were actually good guys was nice. I liked Jude Law being the bad guy. Even better, I liked his portrayal of Yon-Rogg and at the end when he was trying to goad Danvers into a fair fight and Carol just shot him into a wall. I’ve heard the critique about Brie Larson and her stony portrayal of the superhero. I’m alright with it simply because she was trained to suppress her emotions. The de-aging of Samuel L. Jackson was nicely done but having said that I chuckle because when you watch him fight it looks like an old man trying to perform an action sequence. Seeing Clark Gregg reprise his role of Agent Coulson was also a nice touch.

star wars episode nine6. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
My Score: 8/10
IMDb Score: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 55%/86%

Personally, I really enjoyed this last entry of the Skywalker Saga. It did a great job of handling the poorly received Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. I say poorly received because it received a 43% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. In reference to the rest of the episodic Star Wars films, that’s the worst audience score, even worse than Episode II: Attack of the Clones. I’ve always thought that when you’re making films like the sequel trilogy, Ghostbusters, and other rebooted franchises you have to be able to please your fanbase. Even if you liked Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, you have to admit it split the fanbase like Obi-Wan defeating Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. In my opinion, J.J. Abrams did the best he could do in what he was handed. The thing that I didn’t enjoy about the film was that it heavily lent from Return of the Jedi. Rey verse Palpatine had that “On your left” and “And I am Iron Man” scenes from Avengers: Endgame. Because of those two things, I couldn’t give The Rise of Skywalker a 9/10.

spiderman ffs5. Spider-Man: Far from Home
My Score 8/10
IMDb Score: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 91%/95%

Never in a million years did I think that Sony and Disney could strike a deal to share the Spider-Man property. But they did and because they did, we had five great movies that had an appearance of the web-slinger. Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man. Acting as the epilogue of The Infinity Saga, Spider-Man: Far from Home gives us a glimpse of the next Tony Stark. Maybe that’s why some people didn’t like this film as much as others, but I liked Peter Parker growing into his big boy webs and tackling global events. I get that Spider-Man is supposed to be the friendly neighborhood protector, but you can’t put the genie back into the bottle. Spider-Man is global now after the events of Endgame and Infinity War. Get used to it people. Plus, that end credit scene with J. Jonah Jamison.

Us4. Us
My Score: 9/10
IMDb Score: 6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 93%/59%

Who knew Jordan Peele could be such a great horror film director? After his debut film Get Out (2017), Peele proved that he could stand in the horror arena just as good as he could stand in the comedy one. The concept is a horrific one. Distorted clones rising up and killing their normal counterparts is crazy. What we find out by the end of the film is even crazier. It’s also more horrific and thought provoking. I knew going into the film that Peele would have some kind of twisty ending because of the twisty ending in his first film. That’s the curse that’s going to follow Peele in his next film. It’s the Shyamalan curse. Going back to Us, this film has such great acting and action that you’ll love this film.

doctor sleep3. Doctor Sleep
My Score: 9/10
IMDb Score: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 77%/89%

My third favorite film goes to the sequel to one of the most iconic horror movies of all history: Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Adapted from the novel by Stephen King, the narrative follows an adult, troubled, and drunken Danny Torrance as he tries to find redemption. There are some scenes that are recreated from The Shining using different actors and it’s pretty decent. It’s nicely done. The narrative also introduces a new set of villains led by Rose the Hat, played by Rebecca Ferguson. The villains are a group of vampiric creatures that were once humans that feed on the Shine of others. As Danny and a young child called Abra Stone, played by Kyliegh Curran, develop an uncle/niece relationship, the vampires focus their attention on Abra forcing Danny, aka Doctor Sleep, to come to her defense. Admittedly, it’s not better than The Shining, but it’s a great sequel.

joker2. Joker
My Score: 9/10
IMDb Score: 8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 69%/88%

The second clown film released this year, but it was the better one in my mind. Directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix as the title character, this origin film does something that prior DC films don’t do. They hold nothing back. It’s dirty, it’s visceral, it’s bleak and dark, it’s also bloody and graphic. The Joker is a character that deserves an R rated film. Say what you want about comic book films entering into the R rating territory, but if there was ever a DC Universe character that was dark and gritty it was Joker. Phillips and Phoenix created such a great movie that makes you sympathize with the villain and also hate him at the same time. They did to Joker what Infinity War did for Thanos. It proves that Batman’s nemesis doesn’t need Batman to survive.

 

endgame2

1. Avengers: Endgame
My Score: 9.5/10
IMDb Score: 8.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 94%/90%

By far, the best film I’ve seen in years. There was such a huge expectation for this film because it was the culmination of over twenty films. It managed to wrap up multiple storylines of heroes and, at the same time, managed to cultivate future stories for newer characters. Like I said with my remarks about The of Skywalker, I love when a film pleases the fanbase. From beginning to the end, Endgame managed to payoff a plethora of fan moments. Cap wielding Mjolner against Thanos, Avengers Assemble!, and Cap’s dance with the love of his life. Those moments and more were what made Endgame such a fantastic movie and it’s what makes it my favorite movie of 2019.

endgame4
My favorite shot of the whole film. Captain America is my favorite character in the MCU and was happy to see him represented well in this film.

I can’t begin to tell you the impact movies have on me. The good, the bad, the ugly. Every film I watch has some sort of lesson. Because at the heart of a movie is the story. And that’s what I am: a storyteller.

What did you think of my list? Were there movies that you thought shouldn’t have made this list? What movies are on your favorite list of 2019? Let me know in the comments.

2019 Film Recap: The Worst

Last year I ranked the films I watched in three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This year’s film recap, I only watched 23 films that released during 2019. Because of that, I am categorizing this year’s list into two halves: The Worst and the Best. So, without any further ado, here are numbers 23 through 11. Or as I like to call them… the worst of 2019.

Since these films were released in the last year I will caution about spoilers.Dark Phoenix

23. Dark Phoenix
My Score: 2/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 23%/64%

You know, people complain about The Rise of Skywalker and all of its plot holes, but no one really talks about the horror that is Dark Phoenix. The bland alien invasion, the fact that it was forgotten that the Phoenix showed up in the previous film (how they defeated Apocalypse), the F-Bomb dropped by Cyclops, and the fact that Magneto was just allowed to exist after Apocalypse was killed. Most people will discount this film due to the fact that the entire thing is now pointless because Disney purchased Fox. The funny thing is that even if Fox hadn’t been purchased, the X-Men franchise would’ve been dead due to this garbage fire of a film.terminator

22. Terminator: Dark Fate
My Score: 4/10
IMDb Score: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 70%/82%

Sure… kill John Connor. Okay… erase Skynet. I would’ve been onboard with these decisions if they’d been for a purpose. I’d have been on board with it if they tried to go at things from a different path. However, Dark Fate is the exact same plot. A poor lady gets targeted by termination by robotic assassins sent back in time by a robot overlord that’s trying to eradicate the human species. The only thing that stands in between her and the assassins is a human that’s sent back in time by the future version of that lady. Sound familiar? Well, it should. Swap Skynet for Legion, John Connor for Danni (I honestly don’t remember her name), Reese for another person I can’t remember, and update some of the tech and you’ve got pretty much the same movie.alita

21. Alita: Battle Angel
My Score: 4/10
IMDb Score: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 61%/93%

Granted, this film looks beautiful. I can’t knock the CGI. However, the weak storyline and the forgettable villains really just make this film forgettable in my opinion. I’m sure I’ll get some flack for my opinion on this film, but eh. And really, if you think about it, it’s just a CGI futuristic John Wick, dead dog included.

godzilla20. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
My Score: 5/10
IMDb Score: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 42%/83%

I’m not much of a Godzilla fan. I’ll go watch them, but I’m not one of those fanboys that will defend the film religiously. I understand that they were trying to make a giant monster film, but what I don’t understand is why they have to attempt a human-interest side of things. The audience goes into a Godzilla film wanting to see the King of Monsters rampaging through cities as it defeats other monsters. For the most part, this film delivers in this aspect. However, the parts of the film where the humans are trying to do their human-thing just drags the plot. Just let them fight.

detective pikachu19. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
My Score: 5/10
IMDb Score: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 68%/79%

I went to see this twice in theaters. The first time, I really liked it. The CGI was great, the plot was decent, and the humor connected fairly well. Then I went to see it with my nephews. The second time was not as enjoyable as the first. The humor was stale, the plot had holes I hadn’t seen during the first viewing. Yet it was still pretty decent because of the franchise’s nostalgia. Overall, it was not a bad film. Not a good film either, but just average.

zombieland18. Zombieland: Double Tap
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 68%/88%

When I heard they were making a sequel of my favorite zombie flick, I felt both excited and apprehensive. Excited because I wanted more of that comedy and action. Apprehensive because they could totally mess things up. I got that humor and that action, but they totally messed things up. The idea of anti-gun, vegan hippies surviving in a zombie apocalypse is nuts. Having Tallahassee not kicking their butts once is a big letdown. Add in the fact that the humor is sorta stale, the girls take off on their own with the dudes going after them (same plot point as the last film), and the introduction of cool evolved zombies only to have them be referenced maybe once or twice and you’ve got a subpar film.

men in black17. Men in Black: International
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 5.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 23%/66%

Another film that tries to compete with the prior films in the franchise. Overall, I liked this film. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth have great chemistry together. The pawn alien voiced by Kumail Nanjiani was the highlight of the film. Really, when you consider MiB 2, anything is better.

glass16. Glass
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 37%/68%

If this film came out before the superhero genre exploded, it would have performed better at the box office. Unfortunately, M. Night Shyamalan was a bit too late on this lackluster conclusion to his loosely linked trilogy. James McAvoy and Samuel Jackson are great, but Bruce Willis’ acting is as flavorful as a piece of dry white toast. Since it is an M. Night Shyamalan film, we know there’s some type of plot twist. This time around, the three main characters are murdered by a secret organization bent on keeping the fact that superhumans are real a secret. Of course, due to people’s obsession with social media, this secret gets out to the masses.

scary stories to tell in the dark15. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 78%/72%

I loved the book that this film was adapted from. It was a treasured tome of mine growing up. The film did a decent job of merging a lot of those stories into one cohesive plot. The acting was alright, but the ending was the thing that suffered the most. It was meant to end with a few more sequels to build off of. However, I doubt that we’ll get those sequels because of the lukewarm reactions of the fans/critics. The monsters were very creepy, one of the best parts of that movie.

pet sematary14. Pet Sematary
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 57%/34%

Most Stephen King films will rank higher than most on my list. I’m a huge fan of the author and I love watching his books come to life on the big screen. I think I’m being a bit picky, but I really didn’t like Jason Clarke as the main character, Louis. In truth, I’ve never liked anything Clarke plays. He’s not my favorite actor. What saves the film is John Lithgow as Jud. Loved his acting. If you’ve seen the original, then this may or may not be your favorite. The original is hard to beat because it instilled that creepiness. Watching the new version, that creepiness has been dulled a bit. But it was still there, lurking in the background as the plot lengthened.

childs play13. Child’s Play
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 63%/57%

When you reboot a movie, you sometimes change some things about it to make it your own. In Terminator: Dark Fate they changed details but didn’t make things different. When Chucky came to the big screen in this reboot, just about everything was changed. Instead of a bad guy that wills his soul to enter a children’s toy, this time around it’s a doll that’s sabotaged and learns to be evil. It’s a great lesson about nature vs. nurture. Another lesson is to never make a child’s toy that can control all the electronics around him angry at you.

noelle12. Noelle
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 53%/59%

This was a film I didn’t anticipate on watching this year. It wasn’t one that I really wanted to watch this year. It does have the powerful acting chops of Anna Kendrick, Shirley MacLaine, and Bill Hader to make this Disney + original Christmas film a success. Watching Noelle travel to Arizona to find her missing brother, the next Santa Claus, in time to save Christmas was a rather funny experience. The humor was unexpectantly funny and I laughed more than I expected.

in the tall grass11. In the Tall Grass
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 5.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 38%/36%

For this last film on this list, it sort of surprised me. Sure, it’s a mediocre film with a confusing plot and some vague pseudo-religious relic and cult. But that’s what makes it intriguing to me. Watching this Stephen King short story come alive is not a masterpiece, but it does make you scratch your head and wonder what the heck happened. For those that are gluttons for punishment, it’ll make you want to watch it again. Can I just add that Stephen King has now forced me to put corn fields on my “don’t mess with” list. And I’m from Indiana so that’s pretty impressive. And a bit scary.

Soon, I’ll have my best of 2019 list showcasing the top ten films I’ve watched. Did you think my list so far is accurate? Which ones did you agree with? Which films do you think should’ve been higher/lower? Let me know in the comments!

A Decade Remembered

For my work, I was tasked in combing through ten years’ worth of Starke County Leaders to find highlights from the last decade. It’s only natural, while making your way through almost 500 editions of a newspaper, that I began to think about the highlights from my own life.

Dictionary.com defines highlight as “an important, conspicuous, memorable, or enjoyable event, scene, part, or the like.”

I think it’s important to consider the fact that a highlight can include negative events as well as positive ones. After all, you can’t take the good without taking the bad. For example, look what happens to the Jedi Order when you don’t study the Dark Side of the Force. You end up on the bad side of Order 66. Nobody wants that.

Here are some of the highlights from my own personal decade:
– I celebrated my one-year wedding anniversary on July 11, 2010.
– In March 2010, I wrote this joke: Q. What do you call a sleep walking nun? A. A Roaming Catholic. It was received with mild success.
– In 2011, I went back to school at IUSB. Instead of Computer Science, I began studying English.
– In December 2012, I wrote a 1,600-word paper on King Arthur’s court collapsing due Marxist Theory. It was pretty spectacular.
– My grandfather, James Norton, passed away on March 7, 2013. He was a great man, role model, and grandpa.
– Signed with Permuted Press to have my book series published in February 2014.
– Spent an amazing week in Seattle for the American Writers & Publishers (AWP) conference with fellow IUSB writing friends.
– In 2014 I got a mortgage for a home in Plymouth with my wife of five years.
– On March 2, 2015, I found out that Permuted Press cancelled the book contract.
– I finished my college education at IUSB in May 2015. It took me 11 years, but I did it.
– Left my job at IUSB and started work at the Pilot News Group, where I’m still employed and loving it.
– Found out I had a ginormous blood clot in my left leg. That was fun (sarcasm).
– November 2015 I signed a new book contract with Burning Willow Press for that series that was earlier canceled.
– In 2017 I became a published author. Since then I’ve published three books, four short stories, and a combined book with several other authors.
– After a two-year separation my wife and I divorced in 2018. This event ended nine years together.
– When BWP closed in 2019, my books were once again homeless. But only for a day when Random Evolved Media offered to pick them up.

There have been many other good and bad highlights that I won’t mention. From the list above, it looks to me as if my life has been filled with more bad memories than good. That might make some people feel depressed. Admittedly, there were times during the last ten years that I feel deep into depression. I still do sometimes.

Since I’m a nerd, I thought of this quote from the BBC show, Doctor Who. “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things,” says The Doctor, portrayed by Matt Smith. “The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”

There’s no way of knowing what the next ten years will throw at us. However, as long as we cherish that pile of good things while learning how to overcome the pile of bad things, I’m sure I’ll be writing another decade rewrap. And hopefully you’ll be here to read it.

Goodbye 2010-2019 and hello 2020-2029!

See you all next year.

Books make the best gifts

Okay, so maybe books don’t make the best gifts. I’ll admit that I’d rather be given a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ over a Stephen King book. One exception to that if the Stephen King book was a first edition signed copy. If my “Secret Santa” was looking to gift me one of those phones, then make sure it’s able to be on the Sprint network. Just saying. Now onto this week’s rant.

There are many reasons why books make the perfect gift. Here are some reasons why:

1. Books are easily transportable. You can’t take a 72-inch flat screen television with you to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and watch as you wait in line to renew your driver’s license. You also can’t take a Playstation 4 with you to a government meeting and play the new Star Wars game a few minutes before the meeting convenes. I’ve tried. You just end up with council members giving you weird looks as you try to plug an HDMI cable into the monitors. Books can be taken with you wherever you go. It doesn’t matter where you go: churches, meetings, the BMV, even the bathroom. All of those places and more, a book can be taken with you. Last detail about that: if you’re borrowing a book from the library or a friend, don’t take it into the bathroom. That’s common courtesy.

2. Books are cheap. If you’re like me, a writer, you can’t really afford to spend a bunch of money on Christmas presents. I mean, you could spend rent and bill money to buy that perfect, albeit expensive, gift for your loved one. You might be asking them for a place to stay while you catch up on bills, but whatever. Books are the perfect alternative. You don’t have to drop $400 dollars on a book unless it’s a signed first edition of Stephen King.

3. Books are personalized. Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Science Fiction, etc. Everyone has a preference when it comes to works of fiction. Or non-fiction. Choosing the perfect book for that person tells you that you know them enough to know what types of books they like to enjoy. Televisions aren’t personal like a book can be. Just make sure you take in deciding which book is right.

4. Books require no assembly. Unless you buy a book from Ikea, you don’t need to assemble anything the night before Christmas. Plus, they need no batteries. I can’t tell you the money I’ve spent buying batteries for gifts that didn’t include them.

5. Books make the perfect re-gift. When you’re finished reading a book, you can pass them on as a White Elephant book. If you’re like me, you wear a book out in the first reading. I typically crack a spine of a book more than I crack my own. If it’s a hardback, then maybe that’d be an okay book as a regular gift. However, if you bend the edges of the pages like I do, then maybe consider buying a newer version.

6. Books don’t hurt as much as other things. Have you ever stepped on a bunch of Legos? Have you ever banged your head on a television? Stepping on the edge of a book, a pointy hardcover, is a pretty difficult thing to do. I don’t think I’ve ever done that.
Literature is something that I’ve tried to purchase for my friends and relatives for birthdays and Christmas gifts. Personally, I like hunting for the right book. Sure, it may take time but that’s what makes gifts so enjoyable. Remember that old saying, “It’s the thought that counts?” Books personify that sentiment.

Happy hunting and merry Christmas!

The Thankful Writer

As I write this, I’m sitting in the living room of my aunts and mother’s home. It’s mid-afternoon and we’re all waiting for Thanksgiving Dinner. My sister’s family and I piled into their van early in the morning to travel to Illinois where our aunt and mother live. It’s a rather short trip, just under three hours, and we were fortunate not to experience any kind of traffic. We stopped for gasoline once and I was able to refuel my caffeine tank while my brother-in-law filled the van’s. The dinner we had consisted of turkey, ham, potato casserole, cheesy broccoli, and some type of cranberry concoction. It was delicious. When we finished and washed the dishes, we had dessert. As tradition dictates, that dessert was pumpkin pie with whipped cream. While we devoured the pie, the Disney Plus movie “Noelle” played. That too was pretty good. Sure, it had a lot of product placement and a predictable ending, but the casting was great and the humor was flawless.

Overall it was a rather perfect day free of any kind of drama.

To say that I have a lot to be thankful for is an understatement. The first thing that I’m thankful for is my family. My family has supported me and has had my back even at my darkest, lowest moments. I count myself blessed to be apart of this family. Another thing I’m thankful for is my job. As an author, it’s difficult to find a job that grants the flexibility needed to actually get some book writing done. It’s also very fulfilling and entertaining. Covering the news, you will always get something different coming across your desk. Being able to help get the word out on various topics, organizations, and causes is something that I take pride in. I’ve also made many friends and acquaintances in my four and a half years as a news writer.

My faith is something that I don’t touch on very often during these times together. That’s something I could talk about later on, but for now let me just say that without God, I might’ve succumbed to the devastating depression that followed my separation and divorce. I’m so thankful for all the things that God has done for me, even if some of those things weren’t all that great.

One of the final things that I’m thankful for is… you. The reader. You’re the one that reads my weekly rants, my articles, and (hopefully) my books. Without you guys, I might not be here every week ranting about one thing or another. I’d most likely be working at a gas station on third shift. As a side note, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I had worked third shift at a gas station in South Bend and I despised it. Working nights at a gas station in the south edge of a minor city in Northern Indiana was boring and soul-crushing. However, I did meet a lot of interesting individuals during those nights. An example was this one guy that was walking to Kokomo from Michigan because he was kicked out of the state.

There’s always one person on my Facebook feed that likes to remind their friends that this holiday was based on White people taking advantage of the natives. Whether that was the case or not, it really doesn’t matter much because the past is the past.

What does matter is that on Thanksgiving, we acknowledge the blessings that we have been given. We need to remember that not everyone has been blessed as we have. For me, I know that things could have gone a very different route if it hadn’t been for my family, my God, my job, and readers like you.

So, what I guess what I’m trying to say is… thanks.

If You’ve Never Watched Horror

So, I have a lot of people tell me that they don’t like watching Horror films because they have too much violence/gore/swearing/jump scares/takes place in Michigan or some variety of other reasons. Or maybe you have a rule about not watching films that are Rated R. Since it’s Halloween soon, this rant I’ll be listing my top five Horror film picks for people that don’t watch a lot of the genre.

1. Psycho (1960) directed by prolific Auteur Alfred Hitchcock. Basic premise: Woman decides to embezzle money from employer and during her escape she finds refuge in a motel ran by a psycho with a mother obsession. And yes, it’s Rated R but hear me out. Back in the ‘60’s this was considered R, but in today’s standards, it’s PG-13. Hardly any violence or gore (Hitchcock used chocolate syrup as blood since it was filmed in black and white), one profanity and that’s the “OMG” phrase, and the only nudity was a silhouette of Janet Leigh in the famous shower scene. Having sad this, Hitchcock was a master at building suspense and crafting deeply disturbing narratives.

2. Insidious (2010) directed by James Wan is bordering on what I’m including on this list. Basic premise: family moves into a new house and are plagued by evil spirits and soon realize that a demon has trapped their son. So, it’s rated PG-13 and includes a single use of the “F” word. There’s a bunch of other mild obscenities. The violence in this film is very little, but there are multiple jump scares. No sexual content which is a plus. What might deter some people from watching this is the intense demonic entity that threatens the family.

3. The Sixth Sense (1999) directed by M. Night Shyamalan is another film that borders what I’m comfortable suggesting to you all. However, it’s such a great PG-13 rated film, I have to include it on this list. Basic premise: kid sees dead people and a psychologist tries to help the kid. Mild profanity, moderate frightening and intense scenes, mild sexual content, but moderate violence and gore are in this film. The ghosts appear how they looked at time of death, so some scenes are pretty grisly looking. However, if you’re wanting to watch a ghost film, this one is a must see.

4. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) directed by Scott Derrickson. Try finding a decent exorcist film that isn’t Rated R and you have this film here. Basic premise: A lawyer that doesn’t believe in good and evil takes on a negligent homicide case centered on an exorcism. The lawyer begins to question whether or not good and evil exists. This film is unique because it focuses on the exorcism after the fact from the lawyer’s point of view as she tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to Emily Rose. There are a handful (maybe two handfuls) of curse words, moderate violence, and really no sexual content. It’s the perfect film for someone wanting to dip their toes in an exorcism movie.

5. Beetlejuice (1988) directed by Tim Burton is one of those films that you watched when you were younger, but when you watch it with your kids you wonder “Why did my parents allow me to watch that?” It’s Rated PG, but in reality, it should be Rated PG-13. In fact, the entry above is tamer than this one and that was about a demonic possession. Basic premise: Homeowners die and haunt their house. They seek help from the “ghost with the most” when new homeowners move in. It’s a great scary/funny film, but I’d suggest watching it first before letting your kids watch it.

With all that being said, I really thought that finding five films that weren’t all that gory and graphic wouldn’t have been so hard. I’m sure there are a plethora of other films that would make this list, but I either never came across them or I’ve forgotten about them. Hopefully you all have/had (depending on when you read this) a Happy Halloween! Wishing you all a treat filled and no trick night. Dress up as something and eat some candy because dressing up as a character from your favorite movie/book/show/video game only comes once a year. Right? Oh wait, that’s what cosplayers do every day.

If I survive the night, I’ll talk to you all later.

The Curse of the Written Word

Keeping up with this month’s theme of the spooky and creepy, I want to share my feelings about one of the curses of the Written Word. Don’t worry, it’s not really one of those curses that’ll turn you into a frog, newt, or any other amphibian. I don’t have that power.

But I do have another power granted to me by the Written Word.

See, words have power. The power to create, to sustain, to build up, and to grant freedom. Take the United States Declaration of Independence for example. Written in 1776, this document explained why 13 colonies sought to free themselves from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

You can’t tell me those two paragraphs are simply a well-connected string of words and punctuation. Those words have meaning. They, and the entire document that follows them, contain a power that has created a nation, has sustained that nation for over 200 years, has built up other countries that have sought independence, and has granted freedom to an unmeasurable number of men, women, and children.

People say magic doesn’t exist. Whenever I hear that claim, I ask them if they’ve ever read a book.

With all powerful things, there are neglectful people that use it haphazardly. And, of course, there are evil people that use it for abusive practices. Look at Twitter to see some of those abusive practices.

You might be thinking, “Jim, who are you to accuse us of abusing the power of the written word?” Because, dear reader: I’m a horrible practitioner of the written word. If you’ve read my past rants, you’ll know what I think of both James Patterson and the State of Michigan. Unlike the Founding Fathers, I’ve never used my power for good when it came to those two subjects.

Recently, I’ve been using it without thinking of the implications. The true curse of the written word is that it’s hard to interpret a message from a friend. I remember when I was married, my wife accused me once that I didn’t love her. It was on a way home from work. She was sitting in the passenger seat of our van and I was driving. She was abnormally silent, and I knew something was up. You could always tell when she was angry about something when she was quiet. Silence, in this case, was deadly.
After spending some time coaxing her into talking, she responded that I hadn’t ended a text with “I love you.”

It didn’t help that I laughed when she said that. I couldn’t help it. I thought I’d accidently done something wrong. After a few more minutes of driving in silence (her anger had renewed and grown after my outburst of laughter), she informed me that when I had texted back “Sure, Taco Bell sounds good” and I had left out those essential three words, the message was interpreted that while I loved Taco Bell, I somehow didn’t love her. So, after that day, I’d always text back with those three words. Even when I was indisposed. Example: “I’ll be downstairs in a minute. I’m using the bathroom… I love you.”

It’s been my experience that I often text something I think it funny, but when others read it, they are offended, confused, or think I’m serious. That’s why if I ever text you, you’ll usually receive another text saying “lol jk.” For those that don’t know lol means laugh out loud and jk means just kidding.

It hits me hard when I hear back from people that I’ve offended them by something I’ve texted. I recently hurt someone close to me due to this. It’s painful for them, and it’s painful for me.

Texting someone is convenient, but we lose something in the translation between word of mouth and the written word. That’s the true curse of the written word.

As Uncle Ben once said to one of my favorite superhero’s: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Treat the power you have. Don’t trick people with it.