Sunday, December 30, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Director:     Stanley Kramer
Writer:        William Rose
Cast:          Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier


What happens when the daughter of a pair of wealthy Caucasians who was raised to be colorblind brings home a Black fiancee?  Guess Who's Coming to Dinner explores the undertones of race in the late Sixties.  

This is a particularly emotional film on many levels.  It's not just the racial tension of the situation, but Spencer Tracy's very ill.  The actors were working from two scripts:  one with Tracy and another without.  Both Kramer and Hepburn offered their salaries as collateral for Tracy finishing the film.  He died two days after filming was completed. Hepburn could never watch the film because it was too tied to her partner's death.

I'm generally not a fan of mostly dialogue films. I need some action and more scene changes than just a drive to the local ice cream shop, but even after many years, I hung on every word.  

I had to ask myself.  Have we improved?  What would happen today under the same circumstances.  

Yes, the situation has gotten somewhat better.  As of February 2012, interracial marriages accounted for one of every twelve marriages in the US.  Don't get me wrong, we need a lot more improvement.  

At the time of the film's conception, racial tensions were high in the US.  Mixed-race marriages were illegal in fourteen states. Just two days after Tracy's death, Chief Justice Earl Warren overturned these laws in the decision for Loving v. Virginia; however, Kramer kept a line in the film which says that mixed-race marriage was illegal. 

One line in the film refers to Reverend Martin Luther King.  Theaters were still showing Guess Who's Coming to Dinner  when Rev. King was assassinated in 1968. The studio contacted theaters and requested that they remove that line.  NOTE:  The version we saw of this film had the line intact.

The second lines that stunned me were as follows.  Note:  Drayton is Spencer Tracy's character and John is Poitier's. 

Drayton: Is that the way Joey feeIs? John: She feeIs that aLL of our children wllI be president of the United States...and they'LL aLL have colorfuI administrations. Well, you made her, Mr. Drayton. I just met her in HawallBut how do you feeI about that probIem? John: Well, frankIy, I think your daughter is a bit optimistic. l'd settIe for secretary of state.


Two bits of irony here.  Joey Drayton and John met in Hawaii seven years after President Barack Obama was born.  And they believe their child could be President.  I definitely smiled at that.  

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, December 2012


Saturday, December 29, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Rare Exports

Director:  Jalmari Helander
Writer:     Jalmari Helander
Cast:       Jorma Tommila, Peeter Jakobi and Onni Tommila

If you're a fan of Dr. Demento and Twisted Christmas music, it's been awhile since you have had a similar expression in film. Thanks to the Finnish, you've got a macabre, twisted tale of Christmas that you won't soon forget.

The story's set in North Finland where Santa is not precisely such a jolly old elf. Matter of fact, he was so bad the locals killed him and buried him in the hills.

Enter a US anthropology team looking for guess who?  And when the reindeer start disappearing, one local youth is pretty sure they've found the evil Santa.

Pietari, the young male lead, is really strong. Trust the kid to be the one person in the village who's clue-endowed. I don't watch Finnish cinema as a rule, but I'd be watching for this actor if I did. 

NOTE:  This film is in Finnish mostly and subtitled.  Usually, this is a huge issue for me, but Rare Exports was done well enough that the only subtitled bits that gave me trouble were the ones written in white over snow.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, December 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

COMMENTARY: A Christmas Story


It’s Christmas Eve, Tony and I stopped in at Kroger’s for some last-minute groceries.

As we were leaving, the store help offered us a free poinsettia. I love the flowers, but I had to refuse. They are poison to cats and trust me, Indy will sample anything within his reach.

This brought back a memory:

1984 – 1986 was my favorite job, the Archives and Manuscripts section of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Part of their museum holdings was the Overholser Mansion. Every year, the Chafing Dish Society had a Christmas party at the carriage house.  They festooned the carriage house with poinsettias for that event.

When they were done, they sold the poinsettias to Historical Society staff for $1 a plant. One dollar for a HUGE poinsettia, the largest I have seen.

Yes, I bought several and took them to Mom.

My friend, Joe’s partner had a florist shop and Buzz would always take the scraggliest poinsettias.  He had an indoor pool with a greenhouse type roof on top of it and he’d hang the poinsettias over the pool during the winter. 

By next Christmas, he had gorgeous flowers he could sell back to the Chafing Dish Society.

But, that’s not really the end of the story.  One Christmas, Buzz got an unexpected gift: it seems a pregnant mamacat was living in his backyard. He couldn’t tell that cat there was no room for her at the inn, so he brought her inside and took care of her.

After the New Year,  she had three coal black kittens.  Joe and Buzz were worried about the kittens and the pool, but they thought they had time to make a solution that would keep the kittens from drowning.

Too late!  One of the kittens stepped into the pool.  Dressed in full clothing, Joe prepared to dive in to save it. As he reached the edge of the pool, he saw the kitten dog-paddling.  The little fuzzball who could barely walk swam across the pool.

That started the other two swimming.  

A friend of mine adopted one of those little swimmers and named it Ninja. She raised angel fish and had a beautiful tank full.  Hers were so nice, the local aquarium shop bought from her.

One by one, those fish started to disappear. 

Yes, Ninja not only swam, he was a fisherman. 

The Mama cat remained with Joe and Buzz and got spayed before she could have another litter. She never learned to swim, but she wasn’t above lounging by the side of the pool on one of the chaises. 

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, December 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Directed by:           Peter Jackson
Written by:             Fran Walsh, Phillippa Bowens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro (screenplay)  JRR Tolkien (book)

Cast:                      Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage.....

For those who've been living underground, here's the synopsis:  Bilbo Baggins is a happy hobbit who lives among his own kind until he's recruited by the wizard, Gandalf, for an adventure. He's going to help the dwarves reclaim the homeland the dragon Smaug stole from them.

As a certifiable fangirl, I admit I was excited to hear that Peter Jackson was doing The Hobbit.  My interest waned when I learned the film was going to be yet another two-parter. 

While I can think of very few films that are better than the book, Jackson did more than a credible job with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He changed the narrative flow of those three books so the character's timelines were in synch with each other. This is the big reason why I love all three of the films -- I can't say they are better than the books, but they are organized more linearily for me and they are truly beautiful to behold. 

If anything, The Hobbit is even more scenically beautiful. Jackson and his staff pulled out all the stops with the assistance of the almost-unspoiled New Zealand landscape. 

Unfortunately, I think he could have cut about 45 minutes from this film and it wouldn't be missed. While beautifully depicted, sections just dragged.

Yes, I will buy the DVD.  I doubt I will end up with three versions as I did with the LOTR videos, but I will at least have the movie theater version. 

Yes, I see awards for at least the cinematography and possibly the soundtrack.  It's a good film--just not a great one. 

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, December 2012


MOVIE REVIEW: Carol for Another Christmas

Directed by :          Joseph L. Mankiewitz
Written by:             Rod Serling, Charles Dickens
Cast:                      Sterling Hayden, Peter Sellers, Eva Marie Saint, Ben Gazzara, Steve Lawrence

I make it a policy not to review made-for-television movies.  For the most part, I wonder what on Earth we have cable for. It's hundreds of channels full of shopping networks, talking heads, and insulting reality programs.

Then, we find a gem which makes the month's payment worthwhile.  In this case, TCM did the second airing for this amazing film twice this Christmas season. 

Carol for Another Christmas was originally funded by the Xerox Corporation in support of the United Nations.  It aired once December 1964 and hadn't seen the light of day since. 

Pity.  We needed to see this film. 

The essential plot:  Ben Grudge is a wealthy man who lives in isolation after the death of his twenty-two-year-old son Marley on Christmas Eve twenty years before. (WWII)  His choice to block the cultural exchange of a Polish professor from a US university triggers the visitation of three ghosts that Christmas Eve. 

Grudge is the kind of man who believes we should all stay on our own sides of the fence. Every twenty years for a war is more than enough for him.  He doesn't think the United Nations is necessary. Instead, we should build bigger and better bombs and convince the other nations that we're not too chicken to use them. 

Rod Serling of Twilight Zone wrote the script based on Dickens' famous Christmas Carol.  If anyone can scare you and make you think, it is he. I promise you that you will be haunted for years to come by the visitation of these three ghosts. No spoilers, but the Ghost of Christmas Future was far too much like events from our own times. 

The cast is all-star and they pull out all the stops. Peter Sellers' performance as the Individual Me was shocking and outrageous--and led straight into his next more notable acting in Dr. Strangelove. 

I should add all-star for the music, too.  The theme song is by Henry Mancini and is a gorgeous piece of music. 

Sadly, this film is not on DVD.  My hope is that TCM's showings have resurrected this gem enough for someone to produce it.  I will be in line to buy the DVD as soon as they do.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, December 2012




Friday, December 21, 2012

COMMENTARY: Which one was the shooter?

One of the NRA's proposed solutions for gun violence today is a national registry of mentally-disturbed people.  Sounds a lot like the Stasi to me, a bit too "big government" for a conservative group. Besides that, how are they going to determine who is capable of violence?

Determining who's mentally unstable and capable of killing isn't that easy--even for trained professionals.

Just for fun, I am offering a real-life test. About twenty years ago, I worked with two women. Both left the agency under a cloud. One of these two women had the means, motive, and opportunity to shoot her co-workers and she made threats toward several of them.  Yes, I was one of the people she said would be "better off dead." 

See if you can read the twenty-four word bios I've provided and tell me which woman it was.

A.  Single woman in her thirties lived with her cat.  She was  introverted, soft-spoken, and tended to keep conversations work-related. Hobbies:  reading, walking, and crafting.

B.  Married woman in her forties with two sons. No pets. She was highly extroverted and would talk to anyone. Hobbies, drinking, crafts, and bingo.

You can post here or in comments or on my FB page.  I'll reveal the answer on Christmas Eve.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, December 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

COMMENTARY: End of the World Playlist

I grew up with a Southern Baptist Mom in the Sixties. Between the church folks talking about the end of days and the socially conscious alarm about the Bomb,  I heard more about the End Days than I care to discuss, but tomorrow we face a prediction by the Mayans which says the world will end. Friends placed a challenge for an end of the world playlist and here's mine--posted a bit early so you can enjoy the music if you choose.

I can't think of a better way to end this world than sending it out with music.  It's man's best invention--and indeed divinely inspired. 

I'm dedicating this playlist to my husband, partner and one of my best friends for over thirty years.  He's believed in me, nurtured me, and just plain put up with me all this time.  So yes, that last night we need to have some champagne and watch the bright blue marble go out together:

The Last Night of the World -- Bruce Cockburn

My second dedication is to the Mayans for staring all this stramash lo so many years ago:

People of the Sun -- Rage Against the Machine

Perhaps many of us are contemplating our lives --whether we believe in the Mayans or not.  Harry Chapin did many years ago when he drove close to a tornado that nearly destroyed a Texas town. His music is a gift--and I give this to you freely:

The Story of a Life -- Harry Chapin

If the Mayan Calendar is correct, we are at the Eve of Destruction.  This is actually the first non-church song I heard about the end:

Eve of Destruction -- Barry McGuire

And, this song goes out to Mom and all the folks reading Revelations with hope in their hearts:

Waiting for the End of the World -- Elvis Costello

How about just one more? I was never crazy about the hymns in Mom's church, but I could go hear Gospel any old time. And this sister has a voice that sounds like hellfire coming down:

Judgement -- Sister Mary Nelson

Let's get started.  In honor of all the bomb drills I had to do as a kid.  Being stuck under a desk getting someone else's gum from the bottom of the desk in your hair definitely warps your sense of humor. 
 
Kiss your Ass Goodbye -- Alison Steel

The question starts with what ends the world?  Unlike the folks in the Sixties, my feeling has always been that we end the world by destroying the species.  The wholesale slaughter of the buffalo is one key example:

The Last Buffalo -- James McMurtry

Some folks felt like the world ended on this day--when the music died:

American Pie -- Don McLean

This merry little tune was written before I was born:

Merry Minuet -- Chad Mitchell Trio

Continuing the theme of societal comment, The Temptations did this song back in the Sixties, but I chose the Neville Brothers' song for ONE LINE.  Can you find it?

Ball of Confusion -- The Neville Brothers

Love this group and what a start:

Great Waves -- Dirty Three

And no list would be complete without CCR:

Bad Moon Rising -- CCR

There are some artists who are essential to any playlist.  One of the top ten is Queen:

Another One Bites the Dust -- Queen

And Debbie Harry:

End of the Run -- Deborah Harry 

For some perverse reason, known only to me, I think the end of the world is going to be some cosmic mistake:

99 Red Balloons -- Nena

Angels are coming...

Angels at my Gate -- Mannfred Mann

And, of course, the Grim Reaper.  This is the song that scared the snot out of me when I first heard it as a kid.  Love it:

Don't Fear the Reaper -- Procal Harum
I try to not playlist covers, but I like The Goofy Newfies, aka Great Big Sea.  If the world continues tomorrow, all you Celtic music fans will thank me, too:

It's the End of the World -- Great Big Sea

Because the world cannot end without Becker and Fagen and I suspect that Commerce failing is part of the deal:  

Black Friday -- Steely Dan

This song's dedicated to my sister-friend, Belinda Christ, for introducing me to Muse:

Apocalypse, Plase -- Muse

This is a song that I have always thought represented loss and endings.

Fire and Rain -- James Taylor

How about just a bit of humor?  From the author of songs like "Be Prepared," I give you a small chuckle. You may need it by now:

So Long, Mom -- Tom Lehrer

Possibly one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, it first came out for Hurricane Katrina. It's become an anthem for the grieving:

Requiem -- Eliza Gilkyson

I could think of no finer coda than this:

Hallelujah -- Leonard Cohen

My blessings go out to you, my friends, readers, and thirty-two followers. If the world does not end tomorrow, perhaps we should dedicate the day to good deeds and perhaps make it a better place to be.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, December 2012













Tuesday, December 18, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Seven-Year Itch -- SD Skye

There was a time when I couldn't get enough of Robert Ludlum and Thomas Clancy. I loved the fast pace, the secrets, and the heroes defending our country.

But, I had one small problem.  Women were in the background and minority women were few.  I'm pleased to say that S.D. Skye has helped solve those two issues and produced a spy thriller with a strong believable African American heroine.



JJ McCall is an agent for the FBI working to recruit Russian embassy personnel to help us locate spies.  Lately, that hasn't gone well. Codename "Ice Phantom" is selling US secrets -- and if this person isn't stopped, lives could be lost.

The story's as fast-paced and hard to put down as any Clancy or Ludlum. In many ways, JJ's a whole lot more real. At work, she's a minority fighting for status in a man's world.  At home, her former Black Panther Dad wants her to marry -- preferably a man of her own race.

And there's a unique character twist that earned the book its name. JJ bears a family curse that's turned her into a human lie detector. And when someone lies--she's itching like she sat on an anthill.

The Seven Year Itch is currently available on Kindle only, but you can download and read on your computer, phone, or most other readers. If you're a spy thriller junkie like me, you'll want to set aside enough time to finish. Trust me, you will not want to put this book down.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, December 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

COMMENTARY: Guns

For the two days I knew Lisa, she got little peace. At night, she awakened screaming. In the daytime, she couldn't stop crying. 

Lisa had good reason to cry. Her seventeen-year-old brother shot her in the leg while on an LSD trip.

She was only eight.

All I could do was tell her that she was safe when she woke up screaming and share my radio with her in the daytime so we could have a little music.

I was twelve. I didn't really know what to do but listen--maybe that was the best thing. Lisa's family wasn't with her--I'm not sure why. I know her brother was in jail and Lisa was scared she couldn't go back home.

I can still hear her voice--clogged with tears and mucus, foggy with painkillers and sedatives--terrified and grief-stricken. I can't tell you what she looked like--I was in the hospital with a detached retina so one eye was bandaged and I wasn't supposed to use the other.

I thought I was in heaven when the nurses came to take me out for a wheelchair ride. They got me into the dayroom and then I heard Lisa's screams--and the clatter of something metallic in a pan.

When they finally let me back into my room, I found out from Lisa that the docs dug a fragment of the bullet out of her leg. We both hoped they got it all. She didn't want to go through that again.

They moved her somewhere else after that--I'm not sure where or why....I never saw her again and I didn't realize at the time that our parting was going to be final.

I'd like to say that I thought of Lisa often and sent her as much prayer and good vibes as I could--the truth was, I was going through one of the worst periods in my own life.  My eye surgery wasn't successful--to this day, I can't remember big chunks of those following months. It's a blur of adjustment to no depth perception and the fear that what can happen to one eye could easily happen to the other.

But every instance I read of kids getting shot, I think of Lisa. And, I've read too many instances since Columbine.  Thirty-one in schools, if my count is right.

Many people would call Lisa one of the lucky ones. After all, she survived. Hopefully, she and her family got the help they needed to get past the shooting. But, tragedy is like death--you don't get over it and proceed through the steps of grieving and recovery in a neat diagrammatic fashion. You just get past it. Someday in the future, the memories will hit you and they can be even harder than when you first dealt with the situation. 

I would shut up--if it was just Lisa.  It's not.  Three years later, I met a girl who had to mop up her nine year old sister's blood and brains after she was killed in a family dispute. I could write more than a week's worth of blog entries about the selfish, foolish, and irresponsible behavior of gun owners.

I can also tell you there are many responsible and thoughtful gun owners.  I don't have the solution, but I can see the blood on my own hands for not speaking up sooner and asking cool heads on both sides of this question to sit down and work some solution out that will allow people to send their children to school in safety, to go shopping for Christmas presents without fear of getting shot, to go to a movie without having the on-stage violence turn too real.

This Christmas, like every Christmas, I wish for peace on earth. That starts with each one of us searching our hearts and working on a solution that keeps the Lisas of this world safe.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, December 2012












Thursday, November 1, 2012

COMMENTARY: Does my vote matter?

I'm saying the same thing I do every election: Get out and vote!

I know people ask--does my one vote matter.  Here's an instance where I know mine did.

I generally vote tax increases if they're reasonable. No, I don't particularly like taxes, but as a very dear friend once said they are the price I pay for civilization.

And that one time I had to call the Fire Department at 4:00 AM, I was grateful for the two crews who arrived in less than five minutes. And even more grateful that the three smoke alarms went off on that cold dark morning because all their batteries died at once.

But, I'll get on with my story.

Back when I lived in another town, the City Council got cocky about keeping their word to the electorate about what they'd do with the taxes they collected.

My husband and I voted for the library tax increase. Their stated goal was computerizing the library system. We both thought this was an excellent and needed plan. When the levy was approved, the City Council cut Library System funding so the tax increase just went to operations. No computers that year and for a few after.

I wrote a letter to the Mayor and City Council member for our area, no response. 

Next initiative was fire and police stations. This city had expanded well past their ability to serve their population. For this initiative, the City Council provided maps with locations where they were going to place the fire stations and police stations. I could see the fire station was in an area where water pressure was low and the residents needed firefighters close to fight down any fires. People in those areas got out and got the voters on their side. The tax passed overwhelmingly. The City Council located the fire and police departments elsewhere--that map was just a "suggestion."

Again, I shot off an angry letter to the Mayor and the City Council members, no response.





I wasn't the only citizen who was angry. Cap that off with nearly losing the front end of our car to a massive pothole and having the city worker tell me, "we're not in the business of fixing streets." I called the Mayor's Office and my Council-person and advised both if there were accidents due to the poor condition of the streets, they were responsible. The pothole got fixed.

At that point, many of the residents were angry enough at the Council for not keeping their word, that we were not going to give them any more additional tax dollars.

The next election was on a cold rainy night. It was a single-issue ballot -- taxes for another city project. I knew I was going to vote no, but I honestly did not want to get out in the cold to cast my ballot.

My husband convinced me to go. We needed to stand up for what we believed in and send a message to the Council. So, we both went to the polls and stood in line to vote NO.

The tax question lost by eight votes. Two of those votes were mine and my husband's.  At that point, the Council complained and many of us responded by pointing out that they had not been truthful in the last two elections. While I can't say that things changed--the Council at least got something of a referendum for their behavior.

And yes, my one vote DID matter.  Yours does, too. Voting and speaking out are your two ways to get involved and get the government you want. Never miss a chance to exercise YOUR power. 

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, November 2012


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday -- October 14, 2012

This six sentences is from Son of Lawless. This is a YA for grades 9-12:

 
"We went from the howls of coyotes and calls of screech owls to the growls of massive engines and the screams of sirens. The highway calmed down after a while, the trains never stopped. I loved those trains. Every one of them sounded different. Some came in like a wind in the trees. Others screeched like the cars were rolling straight down to Hell." 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

COMMENTARY: October is Anti-Bullying Month

I debated whether to talk about bullying or not, but I figure it's cleansing and perhaps someone will run across this blog post and not feel so much alone.

You're not alone. There may be more of us than there are of them. We all face bullying in our lives in some form or another whether it's the high school team or a boss later in life.

You may actually be better able to deal with bullies if you've faced them early and understand what bullying is about.

I was the kid with the pop bottle thick glasses because I was born with cataracts. My Mom actually had a choice of sending me to the special school for kids with disabilities. She visited the school and said it was sad with all the kids in wheelchairs and the visually impaired kids with white canes.

So she begged the principal of Wilson Elementary to take me.

Was it kind? Was it cruel?  It was what it was. I'll leave the discussion on mainstreaming kids with handicaps to another post.

Of course, I got bullied. A handicapped kid's a target. One girl in particular made my life hell because we shared a common friend. Kim did everything from make snide remarks, bomb threat phone calls, to fake-calling me as boys from the class. Really? You don't sound like David, Kim.

Worse, I developed faster than the other girls. I had a figure in fourth grade, which my Mom did her best to hide. I was a head taller. Worse, I had a period. Imagine that with boys who love/hate girls. 

My situation got better for awhile in fifth grade. Dian jumped me on the playground. I was by myself and I felt something heavy hit me on the back. Not sure how I did it, but the next thing I knew, I was sitting on her with a fist full of hair, pounding her head in the dirt.

Next day, she brought friends. Luckily, I had a few of mine with me....I mostly got left alone after that.

In eighth grade, Chris was getting bullied by Jerry when I passed by. He kept touching her and she said "no" more emphatically with each touch. She was the smallest kid in our class and he was tall for a boy. The third time she said, "No," I stepped to her side and told Jerry to leave her alone. He asked me why--and I said because she said no three times--when does no mean no to you?  He hit her. I hit him back and knocked him about fifteen feet--clear across the hallway to the windows--he left both of us alone after that.

As far as physical violence, I think that story followed me through high school.

This brings up a huge question. Is answering violence with violence the right way to deal with bullying? When you're jumped, you've got to fight back. When someone's hitting another person, you've got to stop them. I hope Jerry got the idea that no meant no before he did something worse than just hitting a girl against her will.

Oh yeah, I still got verbal and sexual crap in school. But around eighth grade, I also started going to therapy and I realized their self-esteem was worse than mine. What they said and did still caused me pain, but not quite as much.

Bullies need work on their sense of identity and self worth. Someone has to show them that they're good people without exercising excess power over others.

Does it get better?  No, you're going to have bullies for your co-workers, for your boss, maybe even a neighbor. You get better. As soon as bullies realize you're strong and capable, they'll think before messing with you.

Then you go and help others.





Rebecca McFarland Kyle, October 2012


Sunday, October 7, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Taken 2

Director:  Olivier Megaton
Writer:  Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kaman

Stars: Liam Neeson, Franke Jansson, Maggie Grace

This is one of those "seems like a good idea at the time," plots.  When the father of the young man who originally tried to steal Bryan Mills' daughter decides to take revenge, he's out for blood. He's going to get the whole family and make them all suffer. 

Seriously?  What was he thinking?  Mills tore up the place the last time they fought...

If you're looking for a good tension releaser, Taken 2  is it.  Is it much more?  You get a bit of character growth for the daughter, Kim, but not much else. If you're not looking for more, this is going to be a great release for a matinee. Or perhaps a good date film if you're hoping your partner will grab on during the tense moments.

I don't plan on buying the film or seeing it again. I enjoyed the one line from Taken. Neeson's always fun to watch, but that was it for me.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, October 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Frankenweenie

Director:  Tim Burton
Writers:  John August, Tim Burton,
Stars: Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau

When a lonely kid loses his best friend, he turns to Science to restore him and it works. Unfortunately, his fellow classmates go for bigger and better to compete in the school's annual Science Fair.

Frankenweenie is the rare modern-day cartoon filmed completely in black and white. There's something for audiences of all ages save for maybe the very young. Those of us who remember seeing 1950's and 1960's horror will recognize the tract neighborhoods and the the anti-authority themes from the times as well as some of the monsters. Fans of classic horror will also recognize a few names, too. Parents of today will see some of the issues regarding teaching science classes today. Younger kids are going to love the icky-gory monster film.

The animation is superb as you'd expect from Disney and Tim Burton. They've managed to create a whole new set of cool monsters from the re-animation technique too.

The film's not just scary, though. I sat there in the theater with tears in my eyes at several moments. I've known a couple of dogs and many cats I'd gladly "frankenpet." But, the Mom in this story is right. Once you've loved someone, they are in your heart forever.

There are a whole lot more very wise sayings in this film, but I'll leave this to you to find them. Frankenweenie is one film I will definitely add to my collection on Blu-Ray and I'll probably have it as a Halloween staple along with ParaNorman and Hotel Transylvania. This is definitely a good year to be a kid--or a kid at heart, on Halloween.

WARNING:  Kids under seven will probably be frightened by some of the images. Bring them with care.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, October 2012

Six Sentence Sunday 10/7/2012

Looking for a change of pace?  Here's a bit from Son of Lawless, the other YA I am working on:

-->
“If you spend your life thinking of all the things you should have done, you will never become the person you are meant to be.”
It felt like he’d engraved those words on my soul.
When I stood up, the Matchbox cars banged against my leg. I pulled them out of my pocket and handed them over to Sheriff Poole.
“They’re not mine, and I can’t keep them.”
“You steal them?”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday 9/30/12

As those of you who've been following my blog know, I've started doing Six Sentence Sunday. It's a way for authors to share their WIP with readers who are interested.

Here's the sign-up if any of you are interested in following other writers' work: 

http://www.sixsunday.com/

Without any further ado, here are six sentences from Madame President:  


“See what I mean?” Gregory whispered to me while Mr. Clayton took roll. It surprised me that he didn’t like Charles. They were both from the better part of our neighborhood, where the wealthier families lived. “You need to reach out to classes like this, the kids who’ll get out and vote instead of just standing and cheering. You guys killed today at lunch. You keep it up, Crystal will be as well-known as Charles Voss in a week.”


This actually came from Page 66, which I did just for fun because it is Six Sentence Sunday.

Thanks, everyone, for reading!

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, October 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Hotel Transylvania

Directed by: Genndy Tartakovsky, Written by:  Peter Baynham, Robert Smigel, Todd Durham, Dan Hagerman, and Kevin Hagerman

Stars:  Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez

Dracula's got one fear--humans. In order to keep his 118-year-old little girl, Mavis, safe he's built Hotel Transylvania, a place where monsters can be themselves. No humans are allowed until backpacking Johnny makes a fateful turn and ends up in the midst of Mavis' birthday party celebration.

Oh yes, and we have every kind of monster from vampires to werewolves to the sandman. And magic--there's tables that fly into place, animated villages....Lots of spooky, ooky fun.

The story's designed for younger kids and none of the ones in the audience with us had problems. Just a lot of creepy gross monster fun. While I didn't think this movie was nearly as well executed as ParaNorman, I will be buying the Blu-Ray when it comes out because I love Halloween-type films. Definitely worth seeing--for big and little kids.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, October 2012






Thursday, September 27, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Bloodshot -- Cherie Priest

SOURCE:  Audiobook dramatization by Natalie Rose

The first audiobook I ever listened to put me to sleep faster than my Econ textbooks. So did the second.  Audio was the best cure for insomnia I've ever tried.

Thanks to vendors such as Brilliance Audio and narrators like Natalie Rose, we do not have to just listen to someone reading the text. Cherie Priest's narrative is  lively, but Rose's voicing adds dimension and strength to the story that will keep you up past your bedtime listening.

So, what's the story?  Raylene Pendle's an international jewel thief known to the authorities as Cheshire Red and known on the streets by a series of pseudonyms. She's a vampire -- and what sparkles about Raylene is her witty repartee and the knife she'll stick in your back if you mess with her.  Raylene doesn't play well with her own kind, but Ian Stott charms her. He's not looking for jewels or to embroil her in vampiric politics. He needs her help finding out about a government program called Bloodshot that might make Dr. Mengele blink. Under the guise of helping the troops, the US Army tortured and destroyed the senses of vampires they held captive. Ian lost his sight due to the "experiments" and he believes if he can recover the files, a Canadian physician might be able to help.

I actually heard these books out of order. Hellbent is the first audio I heard and that was so good my husband got interested in the story on a road trip. Suspect I will be listening to Hellbent again now that I know what the set up is.

Characterization is good. The dialogue is witty and fast-paced. It's very difficult not to slip in the next disc in the series once you're done with the first. Well worth a listen--or a read, whichever you choose.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, September 2012


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

COMMENTARY: Books that Changed my Life

There have been many books that influenced me throughout my life. I thought I'd name just a few here:  

GREEN EGGS AND HAM -- As a visually-handicapped student, I struggled to learn to read. Dick and Jane bored me to tears. I was in the slowest reading group and I dreaded getting called up to read. While I had an excellent vocabulary for one my age--least that is what my Mom and her teacher friends told me--the words just didn't make sense on the page. Then, Mom bought Dr. Seuss and I couldn't get enough! I loved the colorful fantasy world he created and I couldn't wait for the next book to come in the mail. I moved from the slowest group to the medium group and to the best group from first to third grade. To my surprise, Mrs. Holley, my third-grade teacher, asked me to read to the kindergarteners.  Green Eggs and Ham was the book I chose. Reading to those kids was one of the best moments of my life. I still love this book because of the message about prejudice and acceptance. For my seventeenth wedding anniversary, Tony got me a signed Dr. Seuss print from Green Eggs and Ham.

DAVID COPPERFIELD -- By fifth grade, I was in the top reading group, but I was stagnating reading The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. That was the year we got a school library. It was a raggle-taggle collection of dusty books, most of which needed mending, but that was my favorite place in the school. When Mrs. Cowden, my fifth grade teacher, told us she wanted us to read, I asked her for a suggestion. She handed me David Copperfield. The book was heavier and thicker than the family Bible. I stood there, somewhat flummoxed and asked how I read it. She said, "One page at a time."One line got me hooked:  "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." That year, I read over 100 books, including Shakespeare, all of Dickens and Greek mythology.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN -- Another author Mrs. Cowden handed over to me was Mark Twain. In those 100 books, she literally covered much of my reading lists til my Senior year. Huckleberry Finn was the first book I read which took place before the Civil War. I realized how much better off all the races were and I was grateful we'd come past the point of dehumanizing people for profit. 

1984 -- This was the first sci-fi outside of the pulp Star Trek books I read. I was hooked. That got me moving to Jules Verne and many others. George Orwell also got me thinking about the state of the world. Sometimes, that scares me.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD -- I'm not sure what grade I read this book in the first time. Right then, I wished Atticus had been my father. I also decided that no matter what kind of person my father was, I would strive to be better. 

GO ASK ALICE -- By eighth grade, I was getting curious about drugs. I read Go Ask Alice and I wasn't so sure. By ninth grade, I had a counselor, Mrs. Bashford, who told me drugs probably weren't a good idea for me. She told me the story about working in a drug rehab center in California. They had a group therapy session and one of the members pretended to be a jukebox for roleplay. The guy sat in the corner and did a beautiful job humming "A Man and a Woman." When the roleplay was over, they told him he could quit. Only he couldn't. He was stuck on that song. Try as they might, they couldn't get him off that song--she left that rehab center several years later and he was still humming that song. She said that was what happened to highly creative people sometimes when they took drugs. Yeah, I thought about taking a toke and that stupid song played in my head.

THE UGLY AMERICAN--This book was recommended by my Civics teacher in 8th grade. I don't think the lessons here apply just to Americans abroad. You can sully the waters even locally if you're not respectful of the group, church, whatever you are attempting to join. The book's good advice on how to walk softer in this world, which we sometimes badly need. 

BIRD BY BIRD -- I don't know what age I was when I happened on this treatise on life and writing. Whatever the project is, when I find myself getting under stress, I remember Anne Lamott's words and I calm down. If I need a good laugh, she is my go-to girl.

THE POWER OF NOW -- I made my first ventures into yoga in tenth grade. I'm not great at meditation, but I remember the mantra: "I'm not in the past, I'm not in the present, I'm in the beautiful NOW." I never fully got that until I read this book. Being in NOW has helped me deal with PTSD and hard memories from my past.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE -- Lovecraft didn't manage to scare me half as much as Margaret Atwood. The best dystopic fiction takes a root fear, links it to trends, and makes it happen. I read The Handmaid's Tale probably twenty years ago and the imagery still sticks with me. Recently, a friend's librarian in light of the War on Women, filed the book under "Current Events." That gave me chills.

BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS -- This is one of the first YA books I have read in my adulthood and it drove my desire to write in this genre. Book of a Thousand Days traps two vastly different women in a tower. From this construct, their characters are stripped bare. This is one tale with a life lesson that's unforgettable. You'll want extra copies to share with your friends.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, September 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Book of a Thousand Days -- Shannon Hale

"Book of a Thousand Days" ranks right up with "Briar Rose" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" as one of my all-time favorite books. I honestly can't say whether it's Dashti, the music of Hale's language, or the story itself that kept me reading til 3 AM and now sitting in front of the computer trying to compose a review that's even halfway fitting to the tale within.

When you are done with this book, you do want to tell people. In my case, I want to give this book to several lovely young women of my acquaintance to sit along with others that I hope they'll read and be inspired by. I know our local schools are always looking for donations, too.

The story is written as entries in Dashti's 'thought book.' It opens with Dashti recounting being sent to her new assignment as a lady's maid. Orphaned at 14, the child of the steppes had walked to the city and given her last horse as payment for a job. When The Mistress learned she could sing the healing songs, she trained her as a lady's maid and sent her to Lady Saren.

Before she knows the circumstances, Dashti pledges herself to the 16-year-old Saren. Then, she learns her oath will trap her in a tower with her charge for 7 years because Saren has refused to wed Lord Khasar, the man her father has chosen for her.

You'd think a tale of two women stuck in a tower for many days would be boring--it's not. The contrast between Dashti and Saren's reckoning of the situation is riveting. Saren weeps at her misfortune, but Dashti rejoices--she has a place to live and food for seven whole years!

And those contrasts are what keep you reading the book long past your bedtime into the night. Next, we see two suitors--one kind and one unthinkably cruel.

Dashti is what keeps you reading. Despite whatever misfortunes are dealt her, she works to keep her heart full of song and faith. She believes both in herself and others and that's a powerful message for people of all ages. "Book of a Thousand Days" is one of those stories that's good to find during your own hard times because Dashti's faith and message are inspiring to the reader as well.

I strongly recommend that you reserve about 4-5 hours to read this book and perhaps a bit more time just to look back on some of the lovelier passages. I hope if you love this book, you'll be passing it along to others as well. Dashti's is a worthwhile message to spread.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, September 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Welcome to Six Sentence Sunday

An author friend, Maryellen Brady, suggested a new blog hop called Six Sentence Sunday. This is basically an authorial blog crawl where people post six sentences from their current WIP on their blogs. The sign-up is here, if you would like to visit the blogs of other authors participating: 

Six Sentence Sunday Sign Up

The following are six sentences from Madame President, which is a young adult novel that takes place in the 1970's. The narrator is Leslie Ann Ryan. She's a senior at Cleveland High and struggling with racism, recession, and real life. These sentences are what I hope establish her character arc:

-->
All I wanted out of school was to get a good education so I could go on to college. What I needed were good grades, because we didn’t have any money.
Did integration improve everyone’s education? Perhaps not in the sense of the three R’s, but in Real Life anyone who survived Grover Cleveland High gained excellent coping skills. Two critical events happened to me because of the integration plan: I became friends with people of many races and I learned to speak out and get involved. For me, a shy studious girl, both were huge.

Thank you for reading my six sentences. I hope you enjoyed them. If you did, please leave a comment and I'd love to have you follow my blog.

Happy Sunday!  

Friday, September 21, 2012

COMMENTARY: The Three Hardest Lessons I Learned

We all learn lessons the hard way. Some of them in school and many of them not. I'm focusing on school in this post, because my current WIP brought up some of these issues.

LESSON ONE:  Don't ever let anyone share your work

It was fourth grade and a girl who I both went to church and school with begged me to let her see my homework. At the time, she had a good reason and I took pity on her. As she said, "It's the Christian thing to do..."

Big surprise. She copied all my hard work. She got an A and I got called up by Mrs. Stone to explain why I copied HER. Lucky for me, Mom helped me find the information I needed and worked with me on my homework. She ended up talking to Mrs. Stone about the situation.

Result:  The girl who copied still got an A. I got a C-. Why? My handwriting wasn't as good as the girl who copied me. Of course, there were other reasons, I was the handicapped kid in the classroom and the copier was the Senator's Daughter. I never made that mistake again.

LESSON TWO:  Follow the Rules

The next lesson came in a Masters level course in Creative Writing. Jerry Vancook, the instructor, gave us a pretty nitpicky assignment including margins, word count, font, etc.

My homework came back with a big fat F. So did most of the class'. What was the objective of that lesson? According to Jerry:  "Publishers will reject your MS if you don't follow their rules. This time you got an F. Next time, your book's rejected. That's a lot harder to deal with."

Jerry was kind. He let us re-do our assignments, but as he said, real life doesn't give you that option so learn now.

LESSON THREE:  Check Your Sources

Dr. Wyllys taught my first class at library school and I learned more from him in one semester than many years before. Our first assignment looked deceptively simple. Find the answers to some common questions on the Web and cite your sources.

I had the work done in five minutes. So did many of my other classmates taking their first LIS course. Big mistake.

Our answers were correct, but we got the whole question wrong when we didn't have an authoritative source.

What's that, you're going to ask. Good question, it's important. Just because something appears on the web as factual, you can't take it as such. You've got to question the source and find the most authoritative answer.

I thought about writing up the answer here, but I've found excellent sources to help you, Dear Reader, learn if you are interested: 

http://www.library.uiuc.edu/ugl/howdoi/rightsource.html

http://www.library.illinois.edu/ugl/howdoi/webeval.html

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, September 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

COMMENTARY: The fault is not in our streets but ourselves

Tony and I moved into Kingston Woods Neighborhood seven years ago in November. The real estate agent told us at the time that the neighborhood was very friendly with an active neighborhood association.

Well, that was half-true. At the time, the neighborhood association was very active. The group had one major goal. Since a dedicated exit off I-40 for West Town Mall was opening up shortly, the group wanted traffic control to prevent drivers from using our neighborhood as a shortcut to get from the mall to other portions of town.

We made enemies right off the bat at the first meeting when we both spoke up. Been there. Done that. Had the speed bump right in front of our house in Austin to show for it and that bump didn't slow anything down, but it did make an awful racket, give you a backache driving over it and create an interesting palette for an inspired neighborhood graffiti artist.

The folks in charge assured us this would be different. They pointed us to a cross that's already in place from where a young boy was killed in a traffic accident. Surely, we'd want to prevent something like that from happening again? We both backed quietly away and watched as the scenario progressed.


First, the city of Knoxville conducted a traffic study of the three entrances to our neighborhood to determine if there actually was a speeding problem. The results (I've rounded DOWN to the nearest 10% because I cannot remember the actual numbers):
  • Luscombe -- 80% + over speed limit
  • Twining -- 60% + over speed limit
  • Cessna -- 30% + over speed limit

Seeing that we had a problem, the next step was to bring the police out and ticket the offenders. That was pretty revealing. Over sixty percent of the drivers ticketed were our neighbors.

Emotions in the neighborhood were heating up. At that time, the association was made up of four distinct groups. One of those groups did not want traffic calming and backed out of the association, causing some serious ill feelings. The president of the neighborhood association got threatening phone calls and had one anonymous neighbor follow them to church in his van threatening all the way.

Then, the final design came in. Big surprise, the speed bump that was supposed to be in our area got moved when someone the president described as a VIP didn't like the hump in front of their home. Yes, you can still see the spot in the pavement where the original hump was supposed to be. So much for good traffic planning, eh?

So, we now have speed bumps. Sadly, we don't have a graffitti artist in residence. They haven't slowed traffic down, but we're already getting complaints about auto maintenance issues from neighbors who are driving over them at full speed or dodging at the last minute to avoid jarring their backends or spilling their coffee.

No big surprise, when it came time for someone else to run for President, nobody volunteered. Our neighborhood association is defunct save for an Internet group, which provides news of government events, break-ins, and other neighborhood pertinent information.

The group who broke off from us wanted traffic calming after ours came in. Guess what? Knoxville isn't providing that service anymore because it's too expensive. (And while I've never caught anyone actually admitting it, traffic calming does not change the behavior of drivers.)

To paraphrase the Bard, the fault was not in our streets, but in ourselves. Nothing, not even a little white cross, is going to stop someone who's bound and determined to keep speeding through a neighborhood zone where people walk and kids play. Clearly, this kind of respect is something too many people expect others to provide.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, September 2012


The Next Big Blog Hop

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Today over on the lovely and talented Gae Polisner's blog, she talks about her work in progress, In Sight of Stars as part of a little "blog hop" tour. Allison Dickson tagged me for this post, so I'm tagging some friends to do the same.

The Rules:

Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog

Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

What is the working title of your book?

Madame President -- Book 1

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The story's loosely based on two real-life incidents from my high school days:
  1. The election of a Black female Student Council President and other racially-charged incidents
  2. Two years after I graduated, the school kicked out the KKK

What genre does your book fall under?

Young Adult -- the story takes place in 1974-1975 time frame, but this would not qualify it as Historical Fiction, since I was alive during that time.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Good question. I'd probably pick unknowns for the leads. One actor I'd love to have is John Boyega from Attack the Block.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

All Leslie wants is a good education and grades sufficient to get a scholarship, will racial tension, politics and violence prevent her from achieving her dreams?  


Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I'm submitting to traditional publishers without an agent at the moment. We'll see how that goes.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

This was my NaNo project last November 2011. I finished the first draft more or less in November, but I almost totally re-wrote it.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Soul of the Band
by Karla Brady comes close, but it takes place in a contemporary setting.
Cruisers by Walter Dean Myers is another book I believe touches on personal responsibility and similar themes. 

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

The issues America is experiencing with their first mixed-race President brought up some old memories and I thought the story would make a good YA novel. (The names have been changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty)

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There's a tie-in to To Kill a Mockingbird. In addition, I've included quite a bit of interesting 70's history and trivia. 

Now Hop away to some really great writers


Check out all of the authors I have linked above. They're as varied as snowflakes, but all very talented. As for the one who inspired me to write this, you really should check out Gae Polisner's amazing book, The Pull of Gravity and keep watching out for her new work (I hear tell there will be a new book out soon, and I plan to buy it oh yes I do). This kid's going places.     
 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Robot and Frank

Directed by: Jake Schreier
Written by: Christopher D. Ford

Cast: Frank Langella, James Marsden, and Susan Sarandon

Geezer power seems to be the new flavor in films. Well, you think about it, Hollywood's got a bunch of former megastars and not enough space for character actors. With an aging bunch of Baby Boomers, why not give these folks some leading roles? The audience can certainly identify.

Frank & Robot is one futuristic film which is thankfully not completely dystopic. In this near future, the elderly can have personal robots who'll help get them involved in activities, see to their diets, even give them an enema. And, in the case of Frank, if the seniors are enterprising enough, help them pull off jewel thefts.

Humor and pathos mix beautifully in this short character piece. Langella does a smashing job portraying the aging Frank, who's still fiendishly clever. Despite recently having read Robopocalypse, I couldn't help having some sympathy for the robot as well. The relationship between patient and caregiver here was a fascinating one to watch. I personally would not mind having this kind of helper and life-coach around.

As a librophile, there's an interesting take on future libraries, which was somewhat saddening when I realized all but the most valuable books would be recycled. Imagine coming to a day where people do not remember reading books--and folks like us who have are retro? I guess that might be sooner than we think, though I still believe many people will still have a fondness for the feel and smell of leather and the heft of a beautifully bound volume in their hands.

This was a charming film and a delightful way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon. I doubt if I would own the DVD: however, I would probably watch this film again if it came on television.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, September 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Robopocalypse -- Daniel H. Wilson

Robopocalypse was not on my radar until my cousin, Gale, sent me an email with a red-letter headline in all caps shouting:

SCHOOLS TEACHING YOUR KIDS TO SWEAR.


Well, that got my attention. Kids learn to swear in school? I learned, "SHIT!" my first and favorite swear word from Grandma McFarland. As a matter of fact, I thoroughly moritifed Mom by standing outside on the back porch at my grandparents' home in Leedey, Oklahoma and shouting "SHIT!!!!" at the top of my lungs first thing in the morning. I was eighteen months old.

Yeah, that pretty much typifies how I feel about mornings. Don't sing "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" to me unless it's somewhere around 2 PM.

I advised Gale that most kids learn swearing much sooner than school. And, I looked into Robopocalypse.

A book about robotic rebellion written by a PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon? Those facts even convinced Gale that perhaps a bit of swearing might be tolerated considering the author's expertise on the subject.

And yes, I got an audio copy of Robopocalypse. I just finished Disk 10 and I'd be perfectly happy to start back with Disk 1. This does not happen often to me. I'm generally a read-it-once-and-move-on kind of person. And I'm certainly not a huge fan of books about war.

The base story's simple, a scientist accidentally creates Archos, a robot bent on taking over the world. Humans aren't prepared to fight the machines which they've come to depend upon, but the best of them are learning. Resistance fronts spring up, in cities and primarily on the Osage Indian Rez near Tulsa, OK.

I found myself lost in the fast-paced narrative. The combatants are believable. Even the robotic intelligence Wilson creates makes you want to see the unit Nine-Oh-Too continue to live. I am actually hoping to see this book in theaters sometime soon. It's definitely much worthier than many of the Memorial Day disaster flicks I've seen of late.

The swearing? All of it's done by soldiers in the field. IMO, the oaths are authentic and merited under the circumstance. If the kids learn a quarter of what Wilson teaches in this book about robotics and a few swear-words, it's worth it.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, September 2012






Saturday, September 1, 2012

Interview with the Author Ian Thomas Healy


Ian Thomas Healy Talks Candidly About The Archmage

Tell us about your latest book.

The Archmage is a sequel to the novel Just Cause, starring the super-speedy Mustang Sally along with the rest of the Just Cause superhero team. In it, I explore the use of magic in a superhero setting. In this case, a character named Wolfgang Frasier has been slaughtering other mages around the world and taking their power for himself. He’s gotten so powerful that there is only one other mage remaining besides him, the hero Stratocaster, who is a member of the Lucky Seven hero team that Sally trained with at the beginning of Just Cause. If Frasier manages to kill Stratocaster, his power becomes absolute and he could plunge the entire world into darkness, becoming its total ruler. This is, of course, his goal. Sally and the other heroes have no choice but to try to stop him, even though his power is so great that he can call armies of the dead out of the ground and turn anyone captured to his side. There’s a nifty bit of time travel thanks to magic going awry that sends the team back to the 1870s, and of course some great intrigue and epic, cinematic battles. At the same time, Sally’s relationship with Jason is growing much more complex and suffering growing pains all its own.

What is Local Hero Press?

LHP is an imprint I created specifically for the release of my novel-length work and collections. I didn’t want to simply release them under my own name as the publisher because with such a wide variety of genres under my belt, I wanted something to tie them all together. This way, if someone buys The Archmage, likes it, and looks to see what else LHP has to offer, they might discover Blood on the Ice or Pariah’s Moon or Troubleshooters.

You do write in a variety of genres. Tell us about some of them.

I don’t like to be pigeonholed, so I don’t force myself to stay in one genre if I’m interested in writing in a different one. This goes against common wisdom of building a brand, from what I’ve seen on the internet, so I’m forming my own uncommon wisdom instead. That again ties back to the LHP imprint by creating a common thread beyond just my name. I follow my muse, so I’ve gone from superheroes (Just Cause, The Archmage) to funny science fiction (The Milkman), to cyberpunk (Troubleshooters), to fantasy/Western (Pariah’s Moon), to urban fantasy sports (Blood on the Ice), to religious symbolism (Hope and Undead Elvis) and even more. And if my agent sells The Guitarist, I can add “Mainstream Young Adult” to my genres.

You have an agent? But I thought you were self-published.

I do have an agent, Carly Watters of PS Literary Agency in Toronto. She represents my Young Adult
work only, and when we discussed the possibility of her representing me, we both agreed that she could still effectively represent a portion of my work and I could still effectively release my speculative and adult fiction without interfering with one another. I am, in fact, searching for a second literary agent to represent The Oilman’s Daughter, the epic steampunk/space opera that I coauthored with my dear friend Allison M. Dickson.

What’s it like working with another writer so closely on a project?

I’m not sure I have anything better to compare it to than a successful marriage. We worked very closely together on the project (two time zones separating us notwithstanding!). We had complete trust with each other, and were able to discuss what should have been extremely divisive and difficult issues not only with calm heads, but with a sense of joy that only two opposing viewpoints between dear friends can bring. The best thing about working with someone like that is going back through the manuscript and not being able to tell exactly who wrote which parts. That’s just awesome.


The Archmage, book 2 of the Just Cause Universe series, launches from all online retailers on September 1, 2012. Exclusive signed editions can be purchased directly from Local Hero Press (http://localheropress.ianthealy.com).

Find Ian on Twitter as @ianthealy, and follow Local Hero Press as @LocalHeroPress.

Author website: www.ianthealy.com



Friday, August 31, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Killer Joe

Director: William Friedkin
Writer: Tracy Letts

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, and Juno Temple

When a Texas trailer park family decides to hire Killer Joe to off their evil mother, they have no clue what they've gotten themselves into.

Friedkin (director of The Exorcist) said he didn't plan for viewers to enjoy this film. For the most part, I didn't. However, this was one of the most fascinating character studies I've seen in a long time. My first exposure to McConaughey was when we moved to Austin just about the time he got busted for three a.m. naked bongo playing. He was just a pretty boy actor then. Well, let me tell you, Det. Joe Cooper isn't real pretty. Sociopathic and scary are more like it.

The story's pretty simple. A kid who's taken the easy way out one too many times comes up with the wrong plan and gets his whole family in trouble. Hard truth about the Smith family is that the one with the obvious mental issues is the smartest one of all.

I've heard some interesting descriptions for this film, but I'm settling on Texas Gothic. There's some very dark comedy in here, but for the most part, the film's a thriller heavy on violence. Don't expect to have a bathroom break, you could miss too much. Serious nod to Thomas Haden Church for his role as Ansel, the head of the dysfunctional family. He played his role just right.

The music's interesting. It's a bass heavy mix of old country featuring Lee Hazlewood's singing which is just right for the film's feel.

This is not a film I'd own or I'd ever want to see again. But it was an interesting escape for the afternoon.

Rebecca McFarland Kyle, September 2012