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Monday, November 28, 2016

Super Flubs, Supergirl!

Imagine if you will that you have incredible powers, such as Super-Strength. Lifting a diesel train off its tracks and giving it a pitch is nothing to you.

Along with that you have Super-Speed, to the level that you can almost be in two places at once, or at least fly off to change your clothes and arrive back within feet of the spot you left within the beat of a heart.

Now, what if you had Heat-Vision. What if you could fire beams of intense light from your eyes in focused rays that could melt concrete and steel within seconds?

If this were you then you'd have much in common with any Kryptonian living on the planet. You'd be in league with Superman and Supergirl! Your power would cause most to quake in fear and persuade any from challenging you. Except that would make for boring comics and television. Someone would have to match wits with you to make for powerful drama.

So when it comes to writing superhero fiction there is a need to put the hero in jeopardy long enough for the bad guys to feel that they have the upper hand and for the viewers to question how will their favorite hero get out of this dilemma. What nefarious traps will the bad guys use to twist the heroes and force them to reveal their true identities or side step an evil plan in order to save a trapped innocent.

These things are common devices used in superhero stories but there are times when the writers don't think things through and leave us with a situation that causes us viewers to slam our heads into reinforced steel girders to numb the pain.

And with episode 207: The Darkest Places of Supergirl, I left a hole in my forehead big enough to sink a grape fruit in.

I try not to expect too much from the show as it consistently comes across as "herolight". We get the situations where one of the characters runs off by themselves and walks face first into danger without any backup or notifying anyone of what the hell they were doing. A couple of times you can forgive but repeatedly is just lazy storytelling. It irritates me to watch at times but that's nothing new.

So what was my mega beef? Here it comes so strap on your feedbag and get ready.

During this episode, Mon-El the Daxamite is captured by Cadmus and momma Luthor. At one point he eggs on one of his guards that sticks his hand (holding a gun) in through the six to eight inch gap between the bars to threaten Mon-El. Now, Mon-El who often claims to not be the hero takes the opportunity and grabs the guards arm, steals his badge, and makes a hasty escape. Bravo! Seriously, what idiot sticks his hand in the lion's cage and doesn't expect to get bit? Unfortunately he's captured shortly after and tossed back in his cell.

Jump ahead a little ways in the show after Supergirl has her showdown with the Cyborg-Superman (which made me wince to see him profess his name in such melodramatic flair). Cadmus has Supergirl trapped next to Mon-El behind Nth metal bars from Thanagar. It's unbreakable. Can't be bent or busted by anything, not even Supergirl. And yet, the knuckle-dragging humans managed to form it into bars and craft a cage. Seriously? Can't be broken by a Kryptonian but we Earthers have the means to melt it down and craft a cage? Not really buying that one.

As Supergirl has a face to face with momma Luthor, the brilliant scientist that gave birth to Lex himself and witnessed Mon-El escape steps up to the cage and puts both hands firmly on the bars. WTF?! I don't know about you but if I had Super-Speed and Super-Strength I'd have me a handful of that bitch and start dragging her through those unbreakable bars until one of her cronies ran over and opened the gate. If my moral code prevented me from really harming her I could do some minor damage and not break my own rules. But that's not what happened. Supes stood there and ran off at the mouth.

But wait... it gets better.

Momma Luthor has a plan. She needs SG to be human long enough to get a sample of her blood. She strong arms our hero to use a special helmet that she can fire her Heat Vision into at full strength until she depletes her cells of all solar radiation, thus rendering her human. So, what does out brave hero do? She agrees. And then they let her out. Out of the cage. The one she can't break out of. The one she couldn't fire her laser eyes out of to melt weapons and burn Cadmus to the ground. She steps out, walks over to lady Luthor and takes the helmet. From her hands. Her human hands.

No fight.

No Super-Speed.

No blasting the bad guys in a second and punching holes through their precious project.

Where the hell is Jack Bower when you need him?

I apologize to the writers for being so hypercritical but when it comes to writing superhero fiction, they have a duty to not dumb down the flipping shows. They need to step them up. They need to surpass the level of some of the wildly innovative dramas that have graced television because, if they don't, then all superhero shows have now taken a back slide into the sixties camp of Batman. I loved the show but no one ever took it serious. And now, thanks to lazy writing like that, no one will ever take Supergirl serious... ever.

All the wicked cool CGI effects in the world can't fix a plot hole or a moment in a show that leaves you slamming your head into a wall. Many of these shows have attained a level above the campy days of Adam West dancing with a bunch of hippies. They had to. No one would take them serious if they were written poorly and relied on bold, slap-stick sitcom hijinks. But there are times when I find myself screaming at the TV when the writers decide to take a break from thinking things through and not spend any time asking some of the bigger questions.

They could have used so many different approaches to make that scene work. Anything from flooding the room with the radiation of a red sun that weakens Kryptonians, to having a little chunk of Kryptonite out making SG sweat in her skirt. Anything else than the weak plodding that happened during that scene.

Again, I'm sorry for being hypercritical but if they want Supergirl to stay successful then they need to stop dumbing down the damned show and inject it with some clever writing. And stop making the heroes mindless simpletons.

Please. Step up the writing.

Please make them think outside of the box. Please amp the show up to reach more people and still retain the charm that is geared for an audience typically ignored by action dramas.

Please don't toss in a half-baked 80's bad guy scheme that might have been used on the A-Team a dozen of more times. We're way past that now. TV audiences expect... demand shows that don't treat them like idiots. Before Supergirl gets the ax and never sees season three, pick up the writing and start making the heroes, and villains, think.

Please. I'm begging you. From an old comic book geek to the writers, take the time to think these scenes through and ask yourself, "Would I be that stupid?" It's harsh criticism but if you think I'm asking too much watch the show. Watch the scenes and think how several characters in the matter of minutes shut their brains off and walked through the plot just to advance the story.

Take a moment. And let me know what you think.

Thank you for listening to me vent. It was starting to hurt.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Write Big!

When it comes to writing there's lots of advice on "how-to". There's advice on how to plot your stories. Graph out the major details. Storyboards. Branches from trees. Circles with lines lancing each other in a perpetual stabfest. Whether you're searching the library, book stores, or the internet, you're going to find some great advice.

The only problem is that not every suggestion works for every person. Well, it's not a problem but more of a reality. You can't expect a little advice to be the missing piece of a lengthy puzzle. But we toss out our ideas in hopes of helping another writer get past the obstacles that slow us down. So now here's mine:

Write Big.

Yep. That's it. That's my helpful thought for the day.

And no, I don't expect anyone to read this and V-8 slap the shit out of themselves. Hell, I did that enough on my own for the rest of you. Rather than say, "Eureka!" and hope I've turned the world on its side I just want to share something that I learned and is helping me out of many jams.

So what is Write Big?

Here's my take:

When I was writing Frenzy I spent a lot of time trying to produce some solid prose. I wanted each and every word to stand out. I was going all Edgar Allen on that bitch. But in the process I missed opportunities to broaden the scenes, the characters, and overall plot. In my quest for the perfect words/sentences I narrowed in my focus rather than pulling it back to gather in the big picture. I went back multiple times to clean up the pile of crap that resulted. Tried to squeeze in some gems along the way to freshen up the slag pile. It took forever. Seriously stupid on my part. It was almost like I spent twice or three times as long writing the same story. All that time was wasted searching for a better word or phrase to liven up what was laying stagnant on the page.

Then I had an epiphany. Well, I read some advice from an old copy of Writer's Digest (and sadly, can't recall who brought it to my attention). Simply put, someone said that it's much easier to remove the clutter and crap from an over-blown chunk of prose instead of trying to cram in something to clean it up. Thus, Write Big.

That's it? Nothing else to it?

Yep, that's my secret. Two simple words. So what the hell does it mean?

I found that when I'm writing anything from a simple passage of dialogue or a narrating a scene my initial words may or may not hit home. That goes without saying with most writers but I felt I had to point it out. Sure the words are coming but are they the right words? Are they the perfect words? Don't know and at the time I don't really care. And I shouldn't. My focus needs to be on getting the story out and later I can fiddle with it to make it prettier. To make this easier for a lunkhead like me, I started spitting out more than was necessary.

I'd write dialogue that doubled up on itself. I'd write out sentences that repeated each other but used different words to say the same thing. If I was describing a scene I'd come in at many angles and write about the sun or the activity or the smells in the air. Anything and everything that came to mind I'd put it down. It bulked up the manuscript big time but when I came back to edit the piece it became less a chore and more fun. I approached it like a sculptor chiseling away bits of marble to reveal the art trapped within.

Going over the massive amounts of run-on sentences often revealed some spicy fragments that I could clip and stitch together. I wasn't sitting with a thesaurus in one hand and a stiff drink in the other praying that the cosmic equivalent to the Big Bang would leap out at me... I had something already on the page that felt damned good.

Each time I would go back and re-read a passage I felt less like the rank amateur I still am and more like a budding author. Less and less head banging. More and more clipping and stitching. And in the process the manuscript tightened up. Thousands of unnecessary words were tossed out and I didn't fall over backwards and start frothing at the mouth from it. The process was satisfying.

So I say to all whom read this; if you want to try something a little different... Write Big. Fill your pages with so much fluff it would gag a Sand Worm. Over load the manuscript then go back and pick up the clutter. Align the words already there. Put down the reference books and focus on the diamond in the rough. Hopefully, you'll come out of it with less an indentation on your forehead. Mine is getting better.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Immortality

Ever wonder what it would be like to live forever?

I know, it's a scary thought. Watching the world pass by as you remained unchanged could be amazing. It could really fuck with your head. There are so many aspects of life to think about when you consider the ramifications of eternal life. And to make this clear I'm talking about a body never growing old. That's right. Trapped in the same old bod forever and ever. If that were to happen right now would you be comfortable in your current skin?

There are plenty of books out there that cover differing aspects of immortality. Anne Rice's Vampires spend generations falling in and out of love. Some go completely bat-shit crazy. You can imagine how watching the people you come to know and grow comfortable with wither away like flowers season after season would have a serious effects. You'd have to be detached at some level or the pain would gnaw at you until your little brain fried and your heart blackened into a chunk of coal.

The Elves of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth are immortal yet can be slain through grievous wounds or weariness. For the most part they spend their time on the fringe, distancing themselves from the other races. Love the isolationism. As time passes it is said that they reach a point where their spirits yearn to move on to the Grey Havens, a fictional device used by Tolkien as a spiritual transition point.
Well, who could blame them?

But, aside from some examples, imagine how you might view the world if you lived for thousands of years. Would the petty squabblings of governments be worth your time to follow? Would you care enough about who was in power or controlled the world?

Would you treat humanity like a garden, tending to it, nurturing it to keep it thriving? How much time and energy would you need to spend to protect it? How would you manage the weeds? Pluck them out one by one or spray down the entire flower bed with some industrial-strength weed killer?

Do you hide your true nature? If some enterprising minds caught wind that you were a walking fountain of youth they might be inclined to tap your nectar and try it for themselves.

Immortality in fiction offers many thrilling tales but creates many complications. How do you craft the mind set of someone who has watched empires rise and fall like the waves of the ocean lapping the shore? In our short (if you will) life spans, turning to the inward struggles that may - or may not - affect someone with an infinite life span severely rattles my brain. It opens up avenues for all kinds of thought. It creates possibilities in new characters and new plots. It could make or break a story.

I wonder where I could take this...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Full Moon Blitz

I wrote Frenzy almost ten years ago. I had all kinds of ideas of where to take the story after the dust settled and the blood cooled. Some were intriguing. Others just a fun notion. None of them stuck.

After publishing Frenzy I looked through reams of notebooks searching for that next stage and came up short. Really? Shouldn't they still pop and sparkle like they did so long ago?

Like many ideas they had their time. They captured my thoughts and imagination early on but I've grown since then. What once was important to me has changed. I spiraled out of a toxic marriage and landed in the loving embrace of someone special. Kids that used to sit and watch cartoons all day have grown up and left the nest. Times changed and so have I.

So, as I looked over the notes and where I ended the first book the next stage in Kyle's journey started to take hold. The world has changed for him as well. Smoking is now illegal in public places. Everyone has some sort of camera on their person so no place is safe. There is a government body creating wolf soldiers. He's now linked to them. This makes him a loose end. A liability. There is a mess to clean up. Life is about to get way more constricted.

But what about a title for the new book in progress? What would invoke some of the urgency pressing against him? What might tell the perspective reader that this book is going to pack a punch.. along with some vicious fang and claw action? It took several attempts to come up with the title. Much like the core of the plot. So, as the blog title states, the next chapter in Kyle's struggle to recapture his humanity and make amends for the damage he has done will be called:

Full Moon Blitz
 
For all of you classic rockers, there is a song in the title. Play it in your head and feel the beat. It drives the song. It pounds through the plot. It motivates the fingers and brain from word to sentence to chapter. It will still take some time to kick this one out but it's growing on me. Stay tuned for an occasional peek and tidbit!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Hackers

I have a list of people I could do without. It's pretty broad. I haven't singled out individuals on this list, like the guy at work who sits on his ass sucking down coffee like a sponge then bitches when he gets asked to do his job. This is groups of people. Like Congress. What a bunch of blood-sucking creeps. Seriously. I get so much money a month to manage my family's lifestyle. If I go over and spend on shit that I don't need we suffer. Congress gets money to manage the country and when they overspend they bitch, whine and demand more. There is a group that needs to take a long walk off a short pier.

Other groups I can do without are drug dealers, pedophiles, rapists, and now... hackers.

To paraphrase Bette Midler from the movie Ruthless People they're a bunch of low-life, mother-fucking slimes.

Why the pissy attitude you say? Because just over a week ago I was bouncing from on-line searches for a new home for my family then back to my next book on my computer. Life was damned busy so there wasn't much writing going on but I managed to scratch out a few sentences each day. I saved my work a couple of times on a flash drive and knew I should have been more diligent but as I said... life was busy.

Then one day the family laptop got hinky. Not sure what it had but I felt it necessary to upgrade the anti-virus software. I picked up two solid products and loaded them on both the laptop and desk top. Things were at a state of ok. Four days later I open my files in the morning and start adding words throughout the day. I shut things done around lunch time. I go back after dinner and try to access my word files. They refuse to open. I try again. Nothing.

I start hunting. I go to Windows Explorer and open up my word docs... to see that they've all been converted to Crypt files. What in the fuck?

Yep, I got hit with ransomware. All of my personal files, my documents, pictures, kindle books on the computer, and even my Pathfinder portfolios for my weekend gaming sessions were corrupted. Talk about pissing me off.

So, some bug-fucking asshole thought it would be cute to send out an anonymous virus that encrypts files then demand money to fix it. What a winner. What a peach. What a lame little piece of shit. Who thinks this is a great way to spend the day? When I was a dumb-ass kid if I threw rocks at someone's window I got my ass beat and had to pay to fix it. But these turd munchers hide behind their computers, twirling their mustaches and giggle in seclusion. No one knows them, for the most part. And they can't even see the damage they've done unless someone pays up or goes on a rant like me. If neither happens they can only sit and jack themselves in hopes of something beautiful blossoms from their limp dicks. It's almost like if I wandered down to Seattle with a few nails in my hand and went to a random parking lot where I shoved those nails into a car tire. I race back home, slam my bedroom door shut and pretend I can see the face of the driver finding their flat tire. Well, that's crazy exciting. I enjoy fantasy as much as the next guy but that shit is fucked up.

What a waste of precious oxygen. These snot-sucking idiots are as brave and forthright as those pathetic suicide bombers who run into a public place full of unaware and unarmed civilians and blow themselves up. Absolute waste of DNA on their parent's part. If I could locate them and go back in time I'd perform vasectomies on their fathers with a coat hanger and a blow torch.

I've hunted for ways to unlock my files without playing the victim to the smegheads. Hopefully I can crack the code. I've got a good friend who subs out as a programmer for the government. He loves this shit. Maybe he can track the bastards down and crack some skulls. That I'd pay full price to watch and even splurge on the popcorn.

So until I can unlock my files it's re-write time for a chunk of my book. And as you can probably guess, Kyle and any other monster I create will be chewing up a pile of hackers... maybe a couple dozen per book just as an appetizer.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Damned Season Finale Tear Jerkers!

As the 2015-2016 television season comes to an end, some of my favorite shows decided to nail us viewers with a stake through the heart. What am I talking about? Damned tear jerkers!

Two shows I follow are NCIS and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Both satisfy me with fun characters, fun plots, and often some great good guy moves that get missed when plot calls for the heroes to be an idiot and let the bad guys win to amp up the stakes. I enjoyed a particular episode of NCIS several seasons ago when the children of the man responsible for the deaths of Gibbs family came back for revenge for Gibbs killing their father (pant, pant... what a vicious cycle). They worked out a hell of a plan that the team saw through and then turned the tables on them. When the bullets flew and the dust settled. I was applauding the investigators for causing one sibling to kill the other. Justice!

So it's fitting that I start with NCIS. I've watched this show for about seven years and have come to see Mark Harmon's Gibbs as today's Dirty Harry. His steely-eyed approach that shelters a slough of emotions gives the rest of the team a place to explode in front of the camera. And for this finale Michael Weatherly did. Damn him! I hate to admit it but...




***Spoiler Alert!***
 



When he was trying to process the death of Ziva I was grabbing up the Kleenex by the fist full. It was a twist I wasn't expecting and his reactions pulled me in. I felt like I lost a loved one at that very moment. I cried for you, Tony. So a huge hat's off to Weatherly for hitting that moment with all of the power and rage you'd expect... and more. He's been a fun character to follow. Weatherly has done some solid work with Tony, switching back and forth from fun loving goof to hard-nosed detective. But what really sucks is that he's left the show. I'd loved to see him stumble through parenthood and trying to come to terms with the lose. He may sneak back on some day but until then we will just have to deal.

Though, as the episode progressed it lost some momentum. It was not the most poetic of endings or one of the game changers that I've come to expect but it changed the landscape of the series. The NCIS team has been dealt some horrible losses. It will be interesting to see how the pick up the pieces next season.

And now for S.H.I.E.L.D. ... I have to say the two-hour finale was one of my favorites so far. They wrapped up a major story line. They tied up a pile of loose ends. They scrambled against deadly odds. And they...

 
 
***SPOILER ALERT***
 





... said goodbye to two characters. One of which they've  killed before but this time it was permanent.

With the death of Grant Ward we lost a major player in the series. I always hoped he'd come back to the fold but he was a lost cause that gave them so much trouble. I really enjoyed Brett Dalton's performance. He walked a frayed tightrope so well earlier on when we thought he was redeemable. And after we learned the truth he was a royal prick. Well done, Brett!

But at the end, when Hive planned to turn a chunk of the population into Alpha Primitives and the team stepped up to squash his plan, I was inching closer to the edge of my seat. For those who watched this season, we have all been waiting for months to see the outcome of Daisy's premonition. You remember, that scene in space as a golden cross floats through the cabin of a craft near globs of blood but no idea who was hurt and who was going to die? That kept a knife's edge pressed against the story line.

I'm not going to delve much more into the whole plot. What I want to talk about is the last ten or so minutes of the show. The golden cross changed hands numerous times. No one was totally sure who was going to die. I had my suspicions. Hive was ready to launch a Quinjet with his genebomb. Daisy felt responsible for many set backs and took off to stop him for personal redemption. But, before the bay door could close, Lincoln popped up. He'd been mortally wounded earlier but managed to drag his near-dead ass to the ship and zapped Daisy out, leaving him alone with Hive. They launched into the stratosphere and the bomb detonates harmlessly. That's it. That was the last ten minutes of the show. Sort of...

The team behind SHIELD spent some time playing out those ten minutes. There was a lot of build up with the story lines and plot. Love and loss played heavy on many characters for most of the season but more so during the ladder half.  And Chloe Bennet's performance punched me straight in the gut. She screamed and cried. She begged for helped. They couldn't bring the sip back in because Lincoln fried parts of the system. So Daisy a Captain America moment with Lincoln, getting in a final heartfelt goodbye with via radio. And honestly, that moment hit me a hell of a lot harder than it did when I saw Capt. America. No jabs at Evans or Atwell. They were great but Bennet was way better.

As the scene moved on there was a moment when Lincoln and Hive connected. Not the gross, eating up the people sort of way he did in other episodes. They hovered there and shared with each other. Lincoln was ready to die and Hive knew that he couldn't avoid this outcome. It surprised me. And I continued to dump the tears. They got in a few more words then the scene shifted back to the team watching a video screen. A simple flash on the horizon lets us know that the ship and men were destroyed. And then Daisy totally lost it. I thought I was done crying but what an idiot! As I said before to Weatherby I say to you Chloe Bennet... damn you!

I felt horrible after the show. It wrenched on me for hours. And it was one of the best endings I've ever seen. I don't know how the hell they can top next years finale. It really isn't possible. They hit such an emotional level that the bar is floating on the edge of the moon. By not blowing up the ship within a minute of the launch and dragging out the time as they did, it gave the whole scene intense gravity. After all of the build up it paid off, for me, in a powerful way.

What? Don't agree with me? To each his own is what I say, but I'm willing to bet there are many out there who felt the same kick in the crotch that I did. As much as I hate turning on the water works I'd have hated myself for missing out on those two actors tearing up the screen.

It's those kinds of emotional performances that pulls me back to writing. They drag me to the laptop and demand that I find a way to tear my characters a new asshole just so I can feel that pain again. It was some riveting storytelling. Made me damned jealous. But I loved it!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Beast Blood by M.A. Levi

As I have only read the second book of this series, my statements will only reflect this part of the series.

Werewolves, vampires, angels and demons fill the pages of Beast Blood. The story spans two different times: partly in 16th century Scotland and mostly in present day. A terrible prophecy looms over the life of Esmeralda, a Beast Blood. She like her husband Gabrio are a near immortal race of werewolves that live among mortal men but hide their true nature. As the story progresses we learn that dark forces are conspiring against them as a treacherous witch/ Beast Blood attempts to raise a powerful creature and carry out her nefarious plans.

While I enjoy apocalyptic tales and the more monsters the better, I had some issues reading this story. Where the author created an interesting background for these creatures, more often than not I felt that I was being told a story and not delving into one. There were times where I was told that someone was angry or afraid rather than being shown. This was a hiccup for me. Those kind of distractions make it hard to lose myself in the book. Fortunately the overall story left me wondering what was going on and how were the heroes going to save the day. Can’t start an epic tale and not see it through.

Beast Blood offers romance and intrigue, along with host of monsters who assemble for an end-of-days battle royale at its conclusion.

For those interested, you can find Beast Blood #2 here at Amazon.