Saturday, August 02, 2014

We all fell in the pit

 * * * * *  Guardians of the Galaxy : Andy Dwyer leads a gifted ensemble cast in this unblinking look at the harsh realities of the contemporary space pirate.  Based on the experimental but critically acclaimed counterculture text, this starkly serious arthouse film is the century's first true masterpiece, although it may never achieve mass popularity.

[Cross-posted on my new AUTHORIAL WEBSITE WHAT WHAT.]

Monday, March 31, 2014

Movie reviews: Winter of our discontent edition

Okay, so I've had a few disappointments lately at the movie theater. And the only thing for me to do is to air my grievances.

* * 1/2 Ender's Game : Less than the sum of its parts. The happiest surprise was a delightfully competent Harrison Ford. Should have been based on the short story, not the novel. But OSC had final say over everything, so what do I know?

* * * 1/2 Hunger Games: Catching Fire : An Empire Strikes Back ending would have been better than the jarring cliffhanger that we get, but that's the way the book does it. But a fun ride to get to that drop. The best part: Avery Jessup's crazy outfits and hairdos.

* * * * * Gravity: The saddest, scariest, most beautiful movie I have seen in a long, long while. A sparkling jewel in the heap of putrescence that is contemporary cinema. I loved every minute of it.

* * Hobbit 2: Good grief. Made me wish for the in-depth attention to character of the first over-inflated CGI extravaganza. If the last one is as dumb as this one, Peter Jackson will have used up all the good will he banked with the first trilogy.

Hollywood, please make better movies.


[UPDATE: Just saw The Lego Movie. Thank you, Hollywood!]

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Okay, so it's been a million years since I updated this blog. Imaginary readers, I am sorry to have disappointed you. But I have at least three good reasons why.

First, we had a baby!  He's adorable! (Seriously, check my Facebook page for pictures. But only if you're ready to think that the Gerber baby looks like garbage.)

Second, we moved! Like three times!

Third, I wrote a book! And it's published!

The book is called The Crown and the Dragon, and it's the novelization of a fantasy movie by Arrowstorm Entertainment. The movie is coming out later this year from Vivendi / Universal. I'll post more details about this as they become available. But for now let met just say that it was super fun to be a part of this project.

The novel has been published by WordFire Press, and is now available in trade paperback and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Baen, and other retailers.

At Comic Con in Salt Lake, they premiered the film and I did signings at the WordFire booth. It was a blast, and not just because of all the crazy costumes. We actually sold out, which left me apologizing to people who came by on Saturday afternoon. But that's not such a bad kind of problem to have, in the end.

Anyway, I think that's the only place I'm going to do a book signing, but if you would like to have your own signed and personalized copy, you can click this PayPal button, and I'll be happy to send you one.


Anyway, that's all the updates for now, but there's more to come. In the meanwhile, check out the baby pictures on Facebook, and pick up a copy of my book. :)


Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 Movie Rreviews: Before the Fall edition

Here's what we saw this year before school started up again.

* * * 1/2 Les Miserables : Anne Hathaway's lovely white teeth puzzled me, but her singing was unbelievable and so all is forgiven. Russell Crowe also sang. Highlights include: Wolverine's harrowing prisoner beard, the despicable Msr. and Mme. Thenardier, and the always-heartbreaking Eponine. I was singing the whole score for weeks, although often with improvised lyrics. "But the diapers come at night...!"

* * * * Iron Man 3 : Ben Kingsley is just so delightful. Everything that comes out of that man's mouth is gold. He's a treasure too rich for any one film to contain. Thank you, Mandarin, for making our lives wonderful. (Everybody else was fine.)

* * * 1/2 Star Trek Into Darkness : Benedict Arnold Cumberbund is no Ricardo Montalban-- but then again, who is? I can't really hold that against them. And there are some spectacular visuals here, including the Enterprise literally jumping hundreds of sharks. But this movie loses a full star for the use of Cylon baby blood to blaspheme Leonard Nimoy's sacrifice. Shame on you, J.J. Abrams. Don't pull that crap with the new Star Wars, okay?

* * * * * Monsters University : This movie made me laugh so hard. More importantly, it tricked me. I bought the fakeout hard, thought that they were taking the easy way out. But this is Pixar, so they didn't. They played out the trope, then turned it on its head, then blew it into a million pieces. I walked out of that theater reexamining my ideas about how the world works, and how it should work. Well done.

That's all for now!


Monday, December 31, 2012

Movie reviews: Mayan y2k edition

Here are all the movies we saw in 2012, and thus all the movies we will ever see. Because of the end of the world.

* * * 1/2 Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol : Okay, I already reviewed this, but let me just say that I think that each new movie in this series has had shorter co-stars than the last one. For the next one, I predict that he does it Smiths-style with Suri. But he'd better hurry, because it won't be too long before she hits puberty and rockets up past him.

* * * * Brave : I would happily pay any amount of money that Pixar can imagine to see a movie just about the two little brothers.

* * * * 1/2 Marvel's The Avengers : Whedonesque, in all the best senses of the word. The only silly thing is Hulk's big wham line, which I genuinely do not get. But his Loki-smashing was a pure joy.

* * * * The Dark Knight Rises : Here's how this is calculated: three stars for Bruce and Selina in a cafe, four stars for Gordon, two stars for a surprisingly whiny Alfred, three stars for Scarecrow as the Jacobin judge, four stars for Bane, and ten stars for Bane's voice--which deserves its own talk radio show at the very least. Who would not listen to that?

* * * 1/2 Skyfall : Every single James Bond movie since forever is about how 007 is off the reservation and on his own. So the conceit is not really new. But it had a new feel, somehow. In places, it was actually quite moving, in no small part thanks to Dame Judi Dench.

* * * 1/2 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey : Peter Jackson still owns me, and I will fork over my money to see the rest of this trilogy. But come on, did it really need to be a trilogy? I'm pretty sure the audiobook of The Hobbit is going to be shorter than the films. That's ridiculous, and it doesn't make for a better movie. In fact, for every half hour they could shave off this film, I would give it another half-star.

That's all for now, imaginary readers. And perhaps that's it for the planet earth and/or the human race. No tears, now. We had a good run.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!


Friday, April 20, 2012

It's not easy being Stan Lee

My friend Alice posted a thing on her blog called the 7-7-7 challenge. This sounded like a taste test for a new soda from Herman Cain, but in fact it is also something else.

The 7-7-7 Challenge:
Flip to page 77 or page 7 of your current work in progress.
Find line 7.
Post the 7 sentences that follow.
Tag 7 more writers.

I'm not doing the last part, because that one 7 too many. (Of course, if any of my imaginary readers want to consider themselves tagged, they may respond to this challenge in the comments. Never let it be said that I am not magnanimous.) But I will do the first bit, which means putting up a bit from my current work in progress.

This actually comes at an interesting time for me. On Monday I submitted the manuscript I've been working on for the last eight or nine months. But I didn't want to rest on my laurels. Did Stan Lee rest after he created the Hulk? No! He made up hundreds of other heroes, most of which were truly awful.

With this in mind, on Tuesday I decided I wanted to keep writing fiction while waiting to hear back about that manuscript. I will have to scale back a lot, but it's surprising what can get accomplished in 20 or 30 minutes a day if you're really consistent.

For my next project, I have chosen my previous project. In 2008, I took a class from Brandon Sanderson (with Alice!), and started a novel. I haven't finished it, although I've workshopped my way through the beginning a couple of times. So my new project is to write through to the end.

So here's 7 sentences from p. 77 of what I am still calling "Love of Money in Time of Cholera" for lack of a better title.

“Helping me out?” said Mazoon. “That’s what you call this?”
“I’ve saved your life three times today,” said Surt. He extended one finger and stuck it very nearly in Mazoon’s face. “I stopped the men on the tower from shooting you when you and your pals were running out on the rest of us.”
“Wouldn’t have hit me,” grumbled Mazoon.
“Yes, they would have,” said Surt, “if I hadn’t stood up and put an end to it.”

I think that speaks for itself. And what it says is, I am a huge nerd and the people in my books have silly names. Like 'the Hulk.'



Saturday, March 17, 2012

Immortality watch, part 2

While in Utah for a wedding (Congrats, Jason and Stephny!) I attended the 2012 Writing for Charity conference. Brandon Sanderson was one of the presenters, and as I waited to talk to him, he said, "Hey, John, what's up?" Somebody famous remembered my name! Gleeeeeeeee!

I was one of 40 people or so in his fiction writing class at BYU in the spring of 2008, which was just a tremendous learning opportunity. (One of the many mini-tragedies of the Great Laptop Theft Disaster of 2009 was the loss of my copious notes from this class.) The next time I saw him after that, I think, was in the spring of 2011, when he was in Barnes and Noble at the same time as our writing group. He came by the table and answered our questions about writing.

Anyway, in this most recent encounter, I shared my news about finishing the first draft of the novelization, and my hopes for publication. He gave me lots of encouragement, and some practical advice. What a mensch! He also asked to see the movie trailer, and pronounced it awesome.

I get to see Brandon again in May at the Superstars Writing Seminar in Las Vegas. I hope to have some word back from the publishers by then. But either way, it just feels great to be making progress on my writing career.

If all goes according to plan at the seminar, Brandon and Kevin J. Anderson, and the other big names will invite me to join the Secret Society of Famous Authors. I hear when you're inducted, you get a time turner, which is of course the only explanation for how a human could possibly produce so many pages.

I should have a Hugo and a Nebula by fall and be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list before the year is out. Then the Princess of Power and I can finally afford to get our own washer and dryer and say goodbye forever to the laundromat, the worst place in the world.

Wish me luck!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Immortality watch

Hey, check it out, I was on TV! It's all because of a student in my US Government class who is interning at Fox and liked my beginning of the semester anti-plagiarism speech. Thanks, Jackie!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012


So, I recently participated in something really quite extraordinary.

Rich Burlew, the creator of a webcomic called the Order of the Stick had a pledge drive on KickStarter. Rich was trying to raise $57,750 so he could get some of his old books back in print.

I have enjoyed this comic quite a lot over the years, and so I decided to make a small contribution myself. I think a lot of us had the same idea, because Rich raised the money he needed within 48 hours. But he didn't quit there. He kept proposing new goals, new rewards, new plans and projects. And in 30 days, his fans ended up raising $1,254,120, or more than 20 times his original goal.

It was an amazing spectacle, watching those numbers just skyrocket up every day. But more than that, it was inspirational to see Rich keep pushing ahead. (Read the 28 updates he posted to see all the things he promised to his fans-- some of which he has already delivered.)

When I saw the first mention of his pledge drive, I was about a third of the way through writing a novel. So I decided that if I finished writing before the drive was over, I would reward myself with some fun comic books.

Thanks to this goal, and thanks to Rich's herculean example, I wrote over 55,000 words during that month, finishing the first draft of the novel on February 21st, the last day of the pledge drive.

So, thanks Rich. And thanks to lots of other people for providing their own examples of determination in the face of impossible odds, like my darling wife, who for weeks has been getting up before 4 AM and putting in 12 hour days (or more) at the hospital. You're amazing, sweetheart. Thanks for supporting me, and helping me find the motivation to see this through.

And thank you, imaginary readers. Even though I can't see you, I know you're out there doing something super awesome. Maybe you even want to hit the comment button and share your victories and triumphs.



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Crown Prince

Good news, people of Eternia! As royal consort, I am pleased to announce that your queen is expecting a son.

The joyous event is anticipated to occur on July 4th, which will ever after be celebrated as a holiday among our people. The throne of Eternia will have an heir!

We are now accepting your suggestions for names for the Crown Prince. We have had some excellent early entrants on Facebook, so check out your competition there. If you suggest one that we end up using, you will be granted a title of nobility and lands in Eternia, although I should warn you that Eternia is not a real place and therefore does not, strictly speaking, exist.

But neither does Cambridge, and it's still good to be prince of that, I think.


(UPDATE : Oh, and my favorite one that I thought of just this morning: Humble Solomon Payne. Or Solomon Humble Payne. Or Humble Payne Solomon. Frankly, I'm not sure there's a bad way for those three words to be arranged.)