The Camp Prospero Files: Jack Ferguson

REPORT #053567234: PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION, CAMP PROSPERO PERSONNEL

The following report and its contents are classified TOP SECRET under Federal Code 7906-A. The information contained within is the exclusive property of the United States Department of Defense, The Bureau of Magical Affairs, and its branch offices. Any unauthorized release will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Interviews conducted by professional staff for the purpose of determining the mental status and fitness of key training camp personnel.

 

Subject: Jack Ferguson

Designation: Class 5 (INACTIVE)

Rank: Senior Scout

 

INTERVIEWER: Welcome, Jack. Please, have a seat. Make yourself at home.

JACK FERGUSON: Damn, man. If I knew it was going to be that kind of interview, I would’ve brought a beer or three. [laughs] Oh well. Easy come, easy go I guess. [shrugs and lays sideways across chair] So I’ve been at Camp Prospero for three years now and this is the first time anybody’s asked me if I wanted to talk about stuff. What’s the deal here?

I: We just want to talk with you, Jack. As you said, we acknowledge that in recent years the Bureau may have neglected to monitor the well-being of those under our purview as carefully as we should, and we’re trying to remedy that situation.

JF: Uh-huh. Okay. [raises eyebrow] You know how I know you’re full of crap?

I: Umm–how?

JF: You used a lot of big words right there, and I didn’t understand anything you said. [sighs] But then again, I’ve never really been a big fan of books. Or reading. Or work. So overrated.

I: Yes, well–getting back to the subject at hand, tell us a bit about your mental state.

JF: My what now?

I: How are you doing?

JF: Oh. Huh. [shrugs] I mean, I’m okay, I guess. Year’s been pretty good. Took a little break. Just chilling. You know how it is.

I: I assume you’re referring to the leave of absence the BMA granted you after your last summer at camp?

JF: You mean the vacation? [smiles] Yeah, it was pretty sweet. I went to Nepal. Found these monks and got the hook-up at their place for a while. Slept on the couch. Well, I don’t know if they have couches, but they gave me a room and stuff. It was nice to forget about everything and just unwind. Plus, it was fun. Those guys thought I was hilarious. You’d think they never heard a knock-knock joke their whole lives. We had some pretty great parties, too. Did you know you can make a great cocktail out of rum and goat’s milk that’s got a–

I: Interesting, I’m sure. But you must admit the last two years have been rather stressful ones: changes in camp leadership, personnel problems, etcetera. And that’s not even beginning to address personal trauma. [pauses] About your magic–

JF: [sighs] Dude, can we not talk about all that? You’re bumming me out.

I: I’m sorry, Jack, but it’s important. I understand your magical abilities have yet to return.

JF: Yeah. That’s kind of what happens when a crazy-ass witch tries to drain your life energy or whatever. What do you care?

I: Jack, you’re the first–perhaps the only–Class 5 wizard on record. Your aptitude is stronger than any magical individual the BMA has ever encountered. Regardless of the current status of your abilities, you are a high-priority asset. Surely you recognize the need for us to keep tabs on you.

JF: Not really, man. I never asked for this, you know. I don’t want to be magic Jesus or whatever. Besides, with all the trouble I’ve caused at camp, I figured you all would be happy I was out of commission.

I: Are you happy?

JF: In general? [laughs] Sure. I’m Mr. Positive. Ask anybody. It’s all good.

I: You’re deflecting. I mean, are you pleased to be without your magic? That seems like an odd reaction.

JF: You think so, huh? [scoffs] Okay, I’ll level with you: yeah, I’m happy. I’m glad my magic’s gone. And you know why? You know what people called me? They never did it to my face, but I heard it. Behind my back. Between you adults. You guys gave me a nickname.

I: I’m not aware of–

JF: I might not be able to read your mind anymore, but I know you’re lying.

I: [coughs] Yes, well–Worldbreaker. They’re calling you a Worldbreaker. A wizard so powerful your abilities could literally–

JF: I know what it means. But you know how that feels? Huh? I don’t want to break anything–except maybe the nose of whoever decided to put me in this room. All my magic did was set me apart from everyone. Made people scared of me. Destroyed things. And it was all my fault because I had these powers or somebody else wanted them or I wasn’t trying hard enough–you name it. Why would anybody want that kind of pressure on them? So screw it. I hope my magic never comes back. There, I said it. Can I go now?

I: Not just yet, Jack. We have more questions for you.

JF: Like what? You’ve got my whole file there or whatever. What else do you need to know?

I: We need to determine your mental fitness for the upcoming term at Camp Prospero. You must admit, you’ve done some pretty strange things over the past two years. I’m quoting from Scoutmaster Hasselberry’s own reports: “…running of commanding officer’s underwear up the flagpole every day for a week…mesmerizing Centaur and Quetzal scouts into switching places with your troop for official inspection…holding a ‘Come as Your Favorite Roman in a Bedsheet Party’…on report half a dozen times for drunk and disorderly…out of uniform…conduct unbecoming a scout…” Need I go on?

JF: [rolls eyes] Gee whiz, I don’t know why. Maybe because a bunch of people with bad haircuts and worse attitudes are trying to order me around like I owe them something and ruining people’s lives when they disagree with them. Give me a break. Hey, I’ve got a question for you: how come government and stuff turns everybody into total assholes? No offense.

I: Umm–none taken. Do you need a moment?

JF: [blinks] What? Nah, I’m good. Forget about it, man. Just venting.

I: Right–anyway. Regardless, it appears you’ve got quite a following at Camp Prospero. Do you think you’re a disruptive influence?

JF: What am I, a chemist or something? Chemists do that disruption stuff, right? Or is that pilots? Whatever. I mean, I can’t help it if people think I’m cool. They’re not wrong. But I’m not trying to be a problem or anything. Last thing I need right now is more people hanging around me. It cramps my style. I just want some space.

I: Are you sure that’s the reason?

[Long silence]

JF: Did I ever tell you about my buddy Danny? Maybe you talked to him already. Short kid? Eyepatch? Geeky clothes? Comic book in his back pocket? Anyway, he said the funniest thing to me the other day–

I: Jack.

JF: That’s my name. Don’t wear it out. [chuckles] What’s up?

I: I asked you a question. You still haven’t answered it.

JF: Was it the one about what conditioner I use?

I: I never asked about that.

JF: Pretty sure you did, bro. Let me see those notes. I bet you have it written down somewhere.

I: Those are confidential.

JF: Confidential, shomfid–umm–whatever. Let me see real quick.

I: Jack, control yourself!

[A brief scuffle]

JF: Okay, okay. Jesus. You guys don’t have to threaten to tase me. Don’t want to go through that again. I mean, without fair warning. [laughs]

I: Uh-huh. [sighs] My question was about why you want to be alone when you clearly have a history as an extrovert. What caused this change of heart?

JF: I don’t want to talk about it.

I: Is it because your friends’ opinion of you has changed? Do you worry about not being able to protect them?

JF: Protect them? [snorts] I think I’ve done a pretty lousy job so far, don’t you?

I: You seem to think so.

JF: That’s it, dude. I’ve had it with this.

I: Jack, calm down–

JF: Or what? You’ll shoot me or something? [spreads arms] Go ahead. You’re probably doing the world a favor. Take me out before I get my scary powers back and blow it all up because I’m a dumbass loser. I don’t want to be that guy. I just want to be normal. You hear me? Normal! I wish I never heard of magic or the BMA or any of it. Tell all your buddies behind the two-way mirror, too. I’m out. [walks toward door, then stops] And for the record, my friends don’t need me to protect them. They need to be protected from me. If they’re smart, they’ll get as far away from me as they can. If the last two years taught me anything, it’s that nothing good happens to people who hang out with me. And I’m done with it.

[Walks out and slams door]

I: Right. I think we have what we need. Send in the next candidate, please.

Some Writing Updates, and a New Project!

Hi everyone!

Once again, I apologize for the amount of time between posts for me–with everything going on in my life, I tend to get distracted from things like, say, keeping my website up to date. I’ve got quite a bit of news to share this time around, but I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. It’s a bit of a bad news, good news, better news situation.

The bad news: Unfortunately, due to some ongoing edits and other projects, I’m going to have to push back my anticipated release of Jack Ferguson Strikes Back (book two of the “Camp Ferguson” series) to sometime next year. When exactly? I’m not sure. Right now I’m in the middle of some re-edits for the original Camp Ferguson, inspired by my ongoing grad school learning and some awesome feedback from friends in the writing community. I know it’s already a self-published novel, but I want to make sure anything I put out there is the best it can be, and the great thing about being a self-published author is if you want to, you can do things like this! I’ve been working on my Camp Ferguson rewrites for a couple of months now, and I’m more than halfway through. The other half of the bad news is that I’m also going to be putting this project on hold, at least temporarily. That’s because of the good news, though…

The good news: I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year! I’ve avoided this in the past because I’m uncomfortable working on deadlines for creative projects, but what can I say? This year I’m just in the writing spirit. Originally I thought about just keeping up with my revisions through NaNo, but after working on Camp Ferguson for several months now, I feel like I need a break, and I’ve been dying to do something new.

Hence, the even better news: I’ve got a new book project! Because I wanted to start something new for NaNo, I’ve settled on a long-delayed idea as my work for the month–it’s a military sci-fi thriller, and the first book in a series I’m tentatively calling “Megacyte.” Following the model of books like DuneThe Expanse, and others, it’s an epic saga involving a giant, planet-sized parasite and the fate of the human race. Ambitious? Yes, probably. But this story is SO cool and I can’t wait to get started on it. For those of you who want a teaser, he’s my jacket blurb so far:

In the not-so-distant future, a mining operation on Earth’s moon goes awry and reveals a terrifying truth: the object orbiting our planet was never natural, but is in fact a long-dormant, planet-sized extraterrestrial parasite of unknown origin. The organism latches onto the Earth and starts burrowing into its core, causing untold devastation across the globe.

Three years later, Lt. Diego “Ash” Ashford is transferred to a new survivor’s base as conditions worsen on our now-hostile world and remaining pockets of humanity struggle to hang on. There, he’s reunited with his superior officer and longtime friend Mj. John Anderson and his brilliant scientist wife, Dr. Ellie Cho–with whom Ash shares a complicated past. Anderson has an ambitious plan to take the fight to the aliens and stop the destruction, and wants Ash along for the ride–but infiltrating the massive construct known as the “Megacyte” is only the beginning of their ordeal.

No one is prepared for the wonders–or horrors–that await in the belly of the beast, and as simmering nationalistic tensions threaten to divide the team and undermine the mission, Ash, Ellie, and Anderson are all forced to battle demons both without and within. Their success, or failure, may determine the very future of the human race.

Hope you’re interested, because I’m thrilled to get started on this! You can follow my progress on my NaNo page, or just find my username (krobnovelist, same as Twitter) if you want to be buddies with me! I can use all the accountability I can get. Thanks for listening, and happy reading and writing!

Hey, I’m a Freelance Editor Now!

Hi all you faithful followers and writing friends!

Since I started graduate school for creative writing and publishing last year, and even before that, something I’ve always wanted to do for a living is help other people with their writing. For me, one of the most satisfying and worthwhile things I can do with my time is to read someone else’s great story, and then try to give them the advice and tools to shape it into something even better. I love helping people make their writing the best it can be, but I’ve struggled looking for an outlet for this that I might be able to make a living off of.

But I’m pleased to say the first step has been accomplished–I’m now an honest, for-real freelance editor with Represent Publishing! You can read more about the company on the website in the link, but the short version is it’s been around for a few years in varying forms as a pet project of one of my closest Twitter friends. Recently, she and some other team members have renewed their drive to get the business on track, and are offering a variety of self-publishing help packages and services (all very reasonably priced), including editing of all kinds: line editing, developmental editing, proofreading, manuscript critiques, etc. And I’m thrilled to be one of the people they’ve seen fit to bring on board as an editor!

If you’re interested in publishing your own book, having control over your work, and getting away from the stress of the traditional publishing world with all the agent queries and rejection letters, Represent Publishing might be for you! Right now we’re looking to add some new authors onto our roster, and we’d love to have you and take a look at whatever work you might have. Check out the website and send us an email–we’re always available to talk. Plus, until the end of this month there’s some great deals on publishing packages and even a contest to get 50 percent off a service.

 

Please help support our self-published authors and the people who want to support them! I look forward to possibly talking with you about your work in the near future.

On the Road with “The Road to Ithaca”

Greetings, fellow writers and loyal readers! After months of grueling rewrites and agonizing over plot details, characters, and other things, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve finished the second draft of my latest novel, The Road to Ithaca. If you’re looking for a peek at what it’s about, here’s my current back-cover blurb!

Odysseus Wyatt Turner–Wyatt to his friends, of which there aren’t many–is lost at sea, stuck at a dead-end job with no prospects and no future. But that’s about to change when he gets a letter from far-off Ithaca, New York, informing him that his estranged father has died and left him something in his will. Wyatt knows he has to act fast, or risk having whatever that something is yanked away by the rest of his no-good, selfish, greedy family.

His solution: enlist a motley crew, including his aloof ex-girlfriend, his surfer bro best friend, and a driver who’s only in it for himself for a wild, wacky road trip across the country to claim what’s rightfully his. They’ll face many obstacles on their sometimes perilous, sometimes hilarious, and always ridiculous journey into the heart of America, including a grudge-bearing gang of women bikers who want Wyatt’s inheritance for themselves. What they all find at the end of the trip may be much different than they expected.

Yes, that’s right–in case any of you are reading about this project for the first time, this novel is an adult contemporary story that’s in many ways a modern-day retelling of Homer’s Greek epic, The Odyssey. It’s been one of my favorite books for a very long time, ever since I first read it in middle school and was fascinated by Odysseus and his adventures.

 

But that’s not to say you can’t enjoy this novel without reading The Odyssey first–as far as retellings go, I admittedly took a LOT of liberties with the script on this one. For me, there’s two big selling points for this story. One, unlike pretty much everything else I’ve ever written, there are NO fantastical or mythological elements of any kind (other than a little reference drop here and there). All the mythical creatures and otherworldly places portrayed in The Odyssey have been adapted into believable, real-life counterparts–some a bit closer to the source material than others, but being creative is half the fun! And two, this story deals with some very real issues facing young 20-somethings like myself and the main characters, including depression, cynicism, a lack of good jobs, family problems, and the value of friendship.

If all that didn’t sell you, maybe this will: with my full second draft done, that means I’m in the stage now where I’ll be needing some beta-readers! If you’d like to check out a fun new retelling of a Greek classic and have your suggestions and feedback taken into account on my eventual rewrites, drop me a line via email, Facebook, Twitter, or anyplace you can get a hold of me and I’ll send my manuscript along for you to read.

Thank you in advance for all your help. It’s only with your support that I’m able to continue to grow and develop as a writer and increase my following. I really hope you enjoy the book!

“The Showstopper!” is Back!

“Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside…”

–Emerson, Lake, and Palmer

Hi, all you readers and fans! I’m coming at you today with a really big announcement: as of Friday, June 28, my first novel The Showstopper! is coming back, and it’s better than ever.

Allow me to explain…

A while back, the self-publishing platform I’ve been using on Amazon went through a few changes, and as such I had to reformat and resubmit some elements of my two published books. It’s been a while since I wrote both of them–especially The Showstopper!, which I first published back in 2014–and I feel like through my own personal writing and publishing journey, along with joining an MFA program for creative writing, I’ve grown a lot since then. However, I’m still basically in love with the stories I created–they just needed a little tune-up and attention. And since I’m self-published and the books need updates anyway, why not take a little look back through them and give them a face-lift while I’m at it?

My other self-published novel, Camp Ferguson, is currently undergoing the same process. But the great news here is that The Showstopper! is now available in its new, edited form on Amazon via print and Kindle versions! If you’re not familiar, here’s a little teaser…

The time is 1922. The place is New York City–specifically, on Broadway: where the days are short, and the nights are long and filled with every kind of entertainment you can imagine. But all is not well in this dazzling, decadent world. A masked criminal is stalking the streets and haunting the theaters, leaving disaster in his wake. No stage production is safe from his devious methods of sabotage.

In the opinion of janitor Tom Wilkins, the snobbish actors and managers surrounding him are getting exactly what they deserve at the hands of the vigilante known only as “the Showstopper.” But a chance encounter will soon plunge him into a deadly game of cat and mouse against a madman whose goal is nothing less than the total destruction of Broadway and all of its inhabitants. Caught in the whirlwind along with a beautiful young actress, a refined gentleman theater owner, and a rookie Irish police officer, Wilkins will have to use all his skills to expose the mastermind behind the curtain pulling all of their strings, before the lights go out on show business–and his own life–forever.

The Showstopper! blends a bunch of my favorite genres, including historical fiction, crime/detective, mystery, thriller, and even fantasy/superhero into a darkly entertaining journey behind the curtain of the world of 1920s New York City, and the world of theater in particular, with edge-of-your-seat action and a plot twist that’s sure to blow you away. If this sounds like your cup of tea (or illegal, prohibited whiskey), pick up a copy on Amazon! I’d greatly appreciate all the readers I can get, both new and old, and I’d love to hear all of your feedback.

Feel free to share this wherever and with whomever you’d like, and as always, thank you for your support!

P.S. Unlike most of my books, The Showstopper! wasn’t created with a definitive soundtrack in mind–just the usual Glenn Miller and other stylings of the 1920s. But if there was ever to be a theme song for this novel, I refer you to the above lyric and “Karn Evil #9: 1st Impression”.

“You’ve gotta see the show, it’s a dynamo. You’ve gotta see the show–it’s rock and roll!”

Enjoy, and break a leg!

Writing Update and 3,000 Follower Giveaway!

Wow, it’s been a while, huh?

Anyway…hi everyone! And thanks as always for reading. I’ve got a rather large announcement concerning another follower giveaway to get to, but first, I’ll give you a brief update on the state of my writing. I promise I won’t ramble on too much!

So since you last heard from me, I’ve completed my second semester of grad school, and I’m currently taking summer classes and assisting with administrative jobs at school to occupy these couple of months between semesters. In the fall I plan on taking a few more courses, especially since I’m not a double degree student in creative writing AND publishing–I figured since I’m here anyway, why not? One of those fall courses will be a workshop for novel writing, and this is where my most recent project comes in.

Over the past several months, I’ve (almost) completed a rough draft of a brand-new work: it’s a realistic fiction retelling, set in the modern day and contemporary U.S., of the Greek classic The Odyssey. I love The Odyssey and have always been dying to do a retelling of some kind because it’s so ripe for parody and satire–my version features Odysseus Wyatt Turner (everyone calls him Wyatt), my moody, cynical, down-on-his-luck 25-year-old protagonist, learning his estranged father has died in far-off Ithaca, New York, and has left him something in his will. Believing it’s a fat stack of cash that could turn his dead-end life around, Wyatt drafts his genial best friend, his reluctant ex-girlfriend, and a shady driver to form a motley crew with which he intends to road-trip across the country and get to Ithaca to claim his fortune. It’s a complicated journey involving many obstacles–including Polly, head of an all-female biker gang with a major bone to pick with the main characters, friction between the characters, and Wyatt himself. What they all find at the end of their journey may not be at all what they set out to find.

Sound interesting? I hope so! I think this will be the first book I attempt to traditionally publish–after it goes through a few years of this program, workshopping, beta-reading, and revising first. Right now I’m taking a bit of time off from new writing to focus on revising my already self-published works, The Showstopper! and Camp Ferguson. Then I’ll be readying the second book in the Camp Ferguson series, Jack Ferguson Strikes Back, for publication. After that, I’ll be finishing off my current WIP–which I’m tentatively calling The Road to Ithaca–to have it ready for workshopping in the fall. It’ll be a busy summer, but I’m confident I can do it! Oh, and for you Camp Ferguson fans, Jack Ferguson Strikes Back is due out by the end of the year. Stay tuned!

Okay, now that that’s all over with, here’s the big news: I’m at 3,000 Twitter followers and climbing! I still honestly can’t believe it. I thought 2,000 was huge, but this is even better. Once again, I’m extending a sincere and heartfelt thank-you to all the friends I’ve made on social media and all my fellow writers who’ve taken an interest in my work and supported me however they can. You’re all the best. And in that spirit, I’m going to combine my first two giveaway ideas into one giant gift-fest!

For the winner of my 3,000 follower giveaway, not only will you get a signed copy of both my currently-published books (The Showstopper! and Camp Ferguson), but I’ll also be reading some of your work, too. Send me whatever you’d like: some poems, a short piece, a chapter from a manuscript–the length and content is negotiable, but I’d like it not to be too long. Then, I’ll make a video and upload it publicly of me reading your stuff in my best dramatic fashion! I’m no actor, but I love doing this stuff and I think the first time turned out pretty well. If you want to take a look at what I mean, the link to my 2,000 follower giveaway reading is here!

This is really just a small repayment for all you’ve done for me, but I hope it’s an enjoyable one! Remember, a like or a retweet will earn you one entry each into the winner drawing: do both, and that’s two chances to win! So share and like as much as you want. Your chances get better each time you do!

Thanks everyone! I’m looking forward to hearing from you, and getting to share some of your work with the world.

Movie Review: Captain Marvel

I know it’s been quite a while since I did a movie review, but you know how it is: life just gets in the way. Between school, work, karate, and all the other things I do, going and sitting in a theater for several hours just hasn’t fit into my agenda. This past week though I finally got a prime opportunity to see, and talk about, a movie that’s still current and timely. Of course I’m talking about none other than the latest MCU blockbuster, Captain Marvel.

In this film, which takes place long before most other inclusion in the MCU (1995 to be exact), Vers, an elite soldier of the alien Kree Empire, is captured by the Skrulls (whom the Kree are at war with), and crash-lands on Earth. While awaiting rescue by the rest of her team, she learns the shape-shifting Skrulls have infiltrated Earth and the planet will likely be destroyed by the Kree. This brings her into contact with then low-level SHIELD agent Nick Fury, who she teams up with to stop both the Skrulls and the Kree from destroying the planet–while at the same time going on a journey of self-discovery that reveals to her she is actually long-lost human pilot Carol Danvers, with powers that rival anything in the known universe.

First of all, let’s just acknowledge that this movie had a little hype surrounding it. And by a little, I mean A LOT. Seriously, it was crazy. And honestly, the trailers made it look pretty awesome. But does the actual Captain Marvel film live up to its illustrious reputation?

Umm–kind of?

Look, I won’t deny that this was a fun movie. I certainly didn’t check my watch during the whole runtime and I was pretty engrossed in the action, of which there was plenty. It filled in some plot holes in the MCU, like where the heck the Tesseract has been for the last 50-plus years if humans had it since the original Captain America movie. Come to think of it, there’s a lot of captains in Marvel, aren’t there? So is Carol Danvers or Steve Rogers the superior officer? Just kidding, it’s Carol. No contest. I mean, come on. She single-handedly defeated a fleet of Kree warships and beat up her entire team of super-soldiers without breaking a sweat. She’s far and away the most powerful hero we’ve seen in the Marvel universe, with the possible exception of Doctor Strange (and that’s a whole different argument). So if you came to this movie looking for a good time and plenty of light-hearted humor combined with quippy one-liners and awesome CGI-laden fight sequences, you’ll probably have a good time.

Oh, and did you know this was a feminist movie? I sure didn’t. Also, that was sarcasm. Obviously one of the big selling points for Captain Marvel is that it’s headlined by a female superhero–a leading lady being a first for the MCU and a fine addition to what’s honestly a criminally male-stuffed lineup. Really, who else is there? Black Widow. Scarlet Witch. And Gamora! Oh wait, she’s dead. Yep, that’s pretty much it. Geez, Marvel. This much-needed injection of diversity into the MCU goes a long way toward solving that problem, making Carol Danvers the most powerful of the Avengers and also just a really fun character. Brie Larson did a fantastic job in this movie–with what she was given to work with. More on that in a second. But her attitude instantly endears her to the audience, as well as her struggle with balancing her cold, logical Kree warrior side and her emotional human identity–pretty much the crux character arc of the entire movie and a pretty thinly-veiled jab at how women are treated in society at large. With all the cultural shifts that are going on right now in this country and around the world, I think Captain Marvel couldn’t have come at a better time. A lot of young women seeing this movie are sure to be inspired, and Danvers serves as a pretty good role model with an understandable inner struggle. Seriously, Kree culture is pretty sexist if you ask me.

That said, all the feminist imagery in the movie can sometimes come off as–how do I put this?–heavy-handed. There’s certainly not much effort put into making the women-empowering message of the movie subtle. Not that there should be, at all! I’m just saying that sometimes when a story becomes more about making a social point and less about filling out its fictional world and characters, that’s were you can run into some problems–and it’s where Captain Marvel stumbles a bit. The big picture is there, but the details are missing. As great as it was seeing Samuel L. Jackson playing a younger, more carefree version of taciturn super-spy Fury, there’s not a whole lot of explanation put into why he lost his sense of humor between now and The Avengers (unless he’s bitter about the whole eye thing, which was hilariously underplayed). I also appreciated the movie’s pivot to the Kree being the real villains and the Skrulls being basically persecuted refugees (hey look, there’s another social commentary point!). Jude Law was criminally underutilized in his role as Carol’s mentor-turned-nemesis and was pretty much totally forgettable. And remember how Lee Pace made a big deal about how his stiff-as-a-board character Ronan from Guardians 1 was going to be delved more deeply into in this movie? Yeah, so much for that. Ronan was unfortunately just as snore-inducing as ever. And for someone who just found out her best friend is back from the dead, half-alien, and with superpowers, Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau seems to be okay with it pretty fast. I’m not saying any of these actors were bad or it’s their fault some of these plot strings seemed contrived and uninspired. I’m just saying.

It didn’t feel like the movie went into a lot of trouble to fill out any characters other than Carol herself, and even that’s pretty questionable. I mean, for someone who believes she’s an interstellar alien warrior and superior to humans in every way, she takes the whole you’re-actually-one-of-us shocker pretty well, doesn’t she? Too well if you ask me. I just think the movie could have made a much bigger deal about her coming to terms with her identity and the struggle of logic vs. emotion, human vs. Kree if it really wanted to make a feminist point, instead of reverting to the much more ham-fisted tactic of her blasting Yon-Rogg through a mountain when he tried to mansplain her (which admittedly was a pretty awesome scene).

My Rating: 7/10

Look, after all that, please don’t get me wrong: I thought Captain Marvel was a good movie. Good, but not great. It was an engaging but ultimately rather uninspired addition to the Marvel universe that felt at times like it was just an extended prequel chapter to Avengers: Endgame. It was fun, but it didn’t feel like it brought anything new to the table that other MCU films before it hadn’t–other than a female lead, which was totally awesome. I respect that Captain Marvel was trying to be a movie of ideas with its heavy reliance of the plight of women and refugees, and just people who are different. I just think the whole thing could have been done with a little more art and finesse. It’s not even close to the worst Marvel film (that is solely forever the domain of Iron Man 2), but it’s not the best, either. I will say though that I look forward to seeing more of Danvers’s interaction with the other Avengers, and hopefully her taking charge in the fight against Thanos–based on Larson’s performance in this movie, that promises to be very rewarding indeed.

My 2,000 Follower Giveaway (Finally!)

Hi everyone! So I know at this point it’s been several months and I’m way behind the times, but I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wanted to do for a giveaway as I reach 2,000 followers on Twitter (I’m now up to over 2,300, so thanks guys!). When I hit 1,000 followers, I sent out a signed copy of both of my books to the winner, but this time, I wanted to do something a little more special. I just couldn’t figure out what.

But then it hit me! I actually can’t take all the credit for this because I’m borrowing the idea from someone else I saw on Twitter. I just thought it was so genius and fun that I had to give it a try. Not only is this giveaway about promoting me, but it’s also about promoting YOU and your work in a way that’s entertaining for everyone! I can’t think of a better way to thank the people who follow me and all the friends I’ve come to know.

So here’s how it’s going to work: for every like and retweet you give my posts about the contest on Twitter, I’ll add your name to the drawing once, so more likes and retweets means more chances to win! Then I’ll randomly pick the winner out of a hat, as it were, just like the last giveaway. But here’s where the difference lies: the winner I pick will get to send me some of THEIR work, whether it be a chapter of a story you’re writing, a poem or two, a short story, whatever. I don’t care if it’s published, from a work in progress, or anything like that–just as long as it’s something you want out there. Of course I reserve the right to screen for content and length, but I’m sure we can work something out. I know all your work and it’s fantastic!

Then–and this is the fun part–I’ll publish a pubic video of myself doing a dramatic reading of whatever you sent me, audiobook style. Not only will you get to see and hear me that way, but you’ll get to see and hear your work read aloud too. How cool is that? I promise I’ll make it as good a performance as I can–I did high school theater, you know. And of course I’ll make sure to credit you and share whatever information you want about how to find you, what you do, where it’s published, or what it’s from. Again, this is about helping YOU just as much as helping me.

Sound like your cup of tea? Or just a fun, goofy thing to try? Well that’s the point! Best of luck, and I hope to see a lot of you brilliant writers entering. Looking forward to finding a winner and getting to enjoy your work as much as you do!

Writing Update–October 2018

Hi everyone!

First of all, I apologize for my lack of consistent posting in the past few months. I knew that starting grad school would keep me busy, but with work and a new grad assistant position I’m also taking on along with karate and trying to have a social life, I find myself with precious little time to just sit down and write a life update–or just write in general. But in brief, here’s what’s going on for me right now.

As when you last heard from me, I’m still working on my WIP and the second book in the “Camp Ferguson” series, Jack Ferguson Strikes Back. I’ve been writing on and off but made some good progress lately–I’m up to the middle of Chapter 12 out of my 17 projected chapters, so that’s decent I think! For a couple of weeks recently I actually successfully committed myself to writing 500 words a day, every day–and then promptly fell off the wagon when more school work piled on. I guess that’s about as good an excuse as any, but still it’s an excuse and I know it. 500 words is really not that much to commit to on a daily basis, and seriously I would recommend trying to do that to every single writer I know. It feels SO much better when you access your story and characters every day without a ton of pressure to write a lot in one go. I felt like I was really submerged in the world of my story consistently and was able to pick up and write from where I left off much more easily than usual. So I’ve promised myself that after next week–when my school work hopefully calms down a bit again–I’ll get back to it.

In addition, I’ve been learning A LOT from my grad school program at Rosemont College, and I can say with certainty that going back to school to study creative writing was the right choice for me. Already after six weeks of classes I feel like I’ve learned more about writing than I have in the past six years. And shameless plug, I would HIGHLY recommend Rosemont to anyone who wants to write. The faculty are amazing here and there’s so many great opportunities. Anyway, my current two classes are Rhetoric and Composition, a class on how to teach writing classes (I know, so meta), and Novel Craft, on–well–crafting novels. It’s the basic class that comes before novel workshop courses and provides a lot of groundwork in terms of creating setting, fleshing out characters, and giving you a sense of what makes good writing. I can tell you without any hesitation that RhetComp has made me really excited about the possibility of teaching writing someday–add that to the list of potential future careers with editor and literary agent. And of course Novel Craft has really opened my eyes to things about making good stories that I had never really thought about.

With that said, I’m somewhat uncomfortable now looking back on the two books I’ve already published. Given everything I’ve learned and will continue to learn, I know that despite my pride for those stories as a whole, the writing is probably not the best. In fact, it could be way, WAY better than it is right now. I’ve got more people reading my books now and I’m feeling extremely self-conscious because of things I’ve come to recognize as bad writing being present in my books, and the idea of not putting my absolute best work forward really kills me (I’m a perfectionist, news flash). That said, I am self-published, which in this case is a very good thing. It would be easy for me to revise my old books and simply upload new editions onto Amazon, and that’s something that once the current semester is over, I may actually look into doing. Like I said, I wouldn’t change anything really significant within the stories, but in terms of things like character description I know I could do MUCH better with what I know now. So why not do something about it?

I also mentioned that I’m a grad assistant now too–helping the English department here with some faculty projects and whatnot. It’s been a really valuable look into the world of teaching so far and I’m hoping to continue doing it!

Okay, last thing, I promise: after a lot of existential wrestling and trying to come up with new story ideas, I decided that the novel I’m going to work on perfecting as my thesis while I’m at Rosemont is none other than The Showstopper Returns!–the long-awaited sequel to my first book, The Showstopper! While I’m still not sure how I feel about doing a sequel in this program, where no one else will know where my characters came from or the events of the previous story that inform this one, it’s perfect in a lot of ways. One of the primary reasons I was uncomfortable with starting this sequel was due to the various research and sensitivity issues in the subject matter–challenges which I think my participating in this MFA program has uniquely positioned me to overcome in a friendly academic environment. Plus, it’s an interesting exercise to create a sequel that doesn’t depend as much on its source material and can stand on its own, so I’m going to try to create a book that won’t inspire a ton of questions about what happened before and that first-time readers can get right into without even needing to read the first book. I’m at home with those characters and I’ve been dying to dive back into the world of The Showstopper! for a long time–so I’m going for it!

Okay, that’s enough from me for now. I’m sure you have your own lives to get back to. But as always, thanks for reading, and I hope this post finds every one of you well in your own personal and writing lives. You’re all awesome, and don’t ever forget it!

Review of the Week–Wonder Boys

Apologies for my late review this week–technically I guess I’m not even on schedule, because it’s now NEXT week already. I just haven’t gotten out to see many movies recently or had much to talk about in the way of TV shows. That said, I did recently finish reading the first book on my reading list for the upcoming grad school semester–so I figured, why not? I’ll talk about this. It’s Wonder Boys, published in 1995 by one of my favorite authors, Michael Chabon.

Wonder Boys features an ensemble cast of characters all living in a college community in the Pittsburgh area. Middle-aged writing professor Grady Tripp is struggling to finish his latest novel, “Wonder Boys”–thousands of pages long and no closer to ending. One fateful weekend, with a literary festival taking place on campus, his life becomes entangled with that of one of his students, the quiet and troubled James Leer. Together with his longtime friend and editor Terry Crabtree, Grady and James embark on a series of increasingly ludicrous misadventures in their quest to understand each other and their writing issues. But how much of what James tells Grady is actually true? And what even is truth anyway?

Okay, I’ll start by being honest–Wonder Boys isn’t my favorite Michael Chabon book. The first book of his I read was Summerland, and the second was The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, both of which have grounds in alternative universe, relatively out-there fiction which I really enjoy. This book is way, way more grounded and talks about what could easily be a real-life situation, something that I’m not as crazy about. I read my books to escape from reality, not be reminded of it. So on first brush I wasn’t that thrilled about the premise of Wonder Boys. It reminds me a lot of something like Catcher in the Rye, or if you want to go with a movie comparison, The Big Lebowski: a story about the darkly comical misadventures of its clueless characters, who contemplate in their own warped yet wise way the meaning of life in general and what their purpose is. Most of the characters are chronically lost and can’t seem to do anything right, which also works its way into their existential troubles as writers–something I can totally identify with. In fact, this book is pretty much written about writers and the demons and doubts they often face. So in that respect, I actually can get behind it pretty strongly because it represents that kind of thing very well.

And it is funny. I won’t lie. It’s not your typical ha-ha type funny, but more of a just ludicrous misadventure and series of one farcical mistake after another strung together in a weekend that’s about as bad as it can possibly be for all the characters involved. It more or less ends happily though (or at least with the promise of a light at the end of the tunnel), so that’s something! Like I said, if you like down to earth, seemingly pointless wackiness in the nature of what the Coen brothers like to do, this is probably a book you’d really enjoy. Especially Grady Tripp, with his dry and cynical wit, reminds me a lot of someone like Bill Murray in any given Bill Murray movie–somebody who just rolls with all the stupid, crazy things that happen around them while keeping a perfectly straight face, accepts it all, and moves on. Definitely a black comedy, but a comedy nonetheless.

One of the main points the novel brings up is how a writer’s actual life can relate to and give meaning to their story, and honestly I’m not sure how I feel about this. When Grady learns that most of the things James has told him about his background were lies–including that his parents are very much alive and not dead–it makes him question whether anything he’s read in James’s manuscript has value. Up to this point it had seemed to parallel James’s life, but when that is revealed as a falsehood, he struggles with whether it invalidates the story or not. The question is largely left unresolved and up to the reader to decide. But that’s just one example of how Wonder Boys tackles all the struggles writers, and creators of anything really, face from time to time. I can certainly relate to feeling lost and directionless with writer’s block, not being able to finish something I started, and the frustration that leaks out into the rest of life because of it. So if you’re not a writer, will you appreciate this book as much? Maybe not. But it could still be compelling.

And that’s the other thing about Wonder Boys–despite the fact that I’m not sure if I’m crazy about the story as a whole, I can’t deny that it’s very, very well written for all of the reasons I’ve already described. There’s well-crafted, believable characters who act like real people would, and such vivid descriptions of setting and emotions that you can’t help but be in awe of an artist like Chabon. While I may not like it as much as his other books, it’s definitely just as good from a writing standpoint. Everything makes sense and comes together nicely in the end, and overall the narrative reflects the chaotic, nonsensical messiness of real life, and the things both bad and good that can come out of it–including that sometimes, starting fresh is what you really need.

My Rating: 7/10

I can’t say that I’m personally ecstatic over reading Wonder Boys, or that it’s my favorite Michael Chabon book, but I have to admit that it’s an extremely well-written novel and worth a read for people who enjoy the kinds of themes and ideas it puts forward. I can definitely understand why it would be part of a college curriculum, and I look forward to dissecting all the elements of story that make this such a fine example of fiction. It’s also nice to know that someone else out there feels the same as me when it comes to difficulties in writing and understands them, especially such a big-name author. It’s not quite my cup of tea, but still definitely worth a read if you like fine literature.