ACE Comic Con Midwest

I hadn’t planned on going to a big comic con this year, but then ACE announced one of the first big celebrities that would attend their Chicago based convention, Kit Harington! Now, I’m a huge Thrones fan (books and the show), and Jon Snow (and Kit’s portrayal of him) is my favorite character by far. I had to go, so I persuaded my wife, who was vaguely intrigued, and we bought tickets to have our picture taken with him. Then Tom Holland was also announced.

My wallet cried at the thought of paying to meet two big time celebrities, but when else would I ever get the chance? Spider-Man is my favorite super hero, and I cosplay as him for children’s events. He’s kind of a big deal to me. I bought the ticket. And new spidey suits for me and my wife. And a Jon Snow costume. The hotel. The 3-day general admission passes to the con itself. This was adding up! Still worth it.

This was my wife and mine’s first big convention. The only other cons we’ve been to were Wizard World in Des Moines. I was pretty hyped.

So we get to Chicago Friday night, hit up Portillo’s for dinner and do some shopping. Saturday we wake up and get ready! Saturday was our day to meet Tom Holland, so my wife and I donned our new Spider-Man: Far From Home suits.

Chicago was super cold that day, so we did our best to not go outside much! Anyway, we made it to the con, parked, walked the maze to the convention center, and…

Waited in line. To then wait in other lines, to get in other lines, and so on and so on. There were a lot of lines! It seems like there should’ve been a better way to get everyone in, especially since ACE has done this before. Oh well, we finally made it! I was a bit underwhelmed at the size, but from what I hear this year was bigger than last. Still, it didn’t seem too much bigger than Wizard World Des Moines, as far as artists and exhibitors go. Heck, I should’ve tried to get my own booth to sell my book! We showed up pretty early to make sure we were on time for our photo op, so we spent the early and middle parts of Saturday wandering. We did a bit of shopping, I found Mark Bagley, a Spider-Man legend, and picked up this sexy piece of work.

Candy found an artist we both liked, so we ended up getting a few things from her too. We met up with our other cosplay friends, and snapped a few pics:

Then it was time to meet Tom! Or so we thought. It was, but we had to wait. Again. Our photo op was for 2:00 p.m., but we didn’t actually get to see Tom until close to 3:00 p.m. I get it, there were a lot of people, but the schedules only appeared to get worse later on. Plus, we were allowed to get in line at 1:30, so we stood in the middle of multiple packed lines for over an hour. Buh. Not fun.

But then the lines started to move! And before we knew it, we were staring right at Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland. First off, I felt super bad. He looked tired, which, why not? He’s been doing photo ops and autographs all day long! I’d be super tired too. He handled it like a champ though, and smiled when he saw us both in costume. He said, in that superb accent of his, “Wow, you guys look great!” We then said our thanks, snapped a quick pic, and we were on our way! Check it out:

Totally worth it.

After I calmed down a bit, and my hands stopped shaking, we made another round through the exhibitors and artists, stopped by artist Boss Logic’s panel, then headed out to meet up with our cosplay friends for a bit of a photo shoot! I’ll post pics of the photoshoot at the end, so make sure to keep scrolling to check them out!

Boss Logic

Sunday arrived, and with it our next celebrity photo op, but not yet! More lines you ask? Well, nah, not really. This time we were able to get right into the convention to the show floor. ACE must’ve been on their game Sunday! Kinda. All we really wanted to do Sunday was go to Kit’s panel discussion and our photo op. We already saw everything else the con had to offer that we were interested in. And we had missed Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal’s panel discussion because it started super late. I live streamed it from the hotel, after we had our photoshoot, and after my wife and I had left the con, picked up food, drove to our hotel, changed, etc, you get it. So I didn’t want to miss Kit’s! Well, we started by walking right over to the main stage, where the panels were, and they let us walk right in! We didn’t have to line up, blocking everyone trying to walk the show floor. Easy peasy. Kit’s discussion was great too. You can check it out on ACE’s Facebook page I believe. Right after the panel we had to head over to get in line for our photo op, because we had to hurry up and wait, right? The wait wasn’t as bad as Saturday for Tom, but still could’ve been better. Anyway, same story, wait for awhile, then the line starts to move, and then BAM! There’s Jon frickin Snow! Oh, and remember that bit about me getting a Jon Snow costume? Enjoy…

He shook both of our hands and thanked us for coming. He told me that he liked my costume too! This was definitely the highlight of my trip.

Worth it? I may not know much, but I do know one thing.

Worth it.

That was pretty much it for our ACE Comic Con trip! I’m glad they had these amazing celebrities and artists to come see. I’d like to see some more artists and exhibitors in the future though, and try to do something about staying on schedule. We didn’t have it too bad compared to some of our friends and others that really had to run back and forth between photo ops, autographs, panels, etc.

Still an amazing experience, and one I’ll treasure. Thank you!

As promised here are some pics from the con and our little photoshoot afterward.

THE STOLEN KINGDOM by Bethany Atazadeh, a Review

Happy release week to Bethany Atazadeh! The Stolen Kingdom came out a couple days ago, and earlier this month I was selected as an early reader for this lovely Aladdin retelling! If you don’t know Bethany, she’s an author that runs a very helpful YouTube channel for other writers. On her YouTube channel, I noticed that she had a new release and was looking for early readers. I signed up, got accepted, and here we are! 

Let’s enter The Stolen Kingdom.

1 - The Stolen Kingdom - BA - Final Fron

This is dubbed as an Aladdin retelling. Okay, Aladdin is one of my favorite Disney movies, so I went into this just a tad worried that I’d be let down. But as I started reading, that worry went away. I had to keep reminding myself about the Aladdin thing, because it’s a great read on its own. It’s similar enough to bring back some nostalgia and little nods to the original here and there (Do ya trust me?), but this is not Aladdin. This is The Stolen Kingdom. Here’s the description:

How can she protect her kingdom, if she can’t protect herself?

Arie eagerly anticipates becoming Queen of her humble kingdom. Even when a Jinni’s Gift manifests before her 18th birthday, she fights to hide the forbidden ability.

But when a neighboring king attempts to marry her and steal her kingdom, discovery feels imminent. Just one slip could cost her throne. And her life.

A Jinni hunter and his crew of thieves are her only hope for removing this Gift. And she must remove it before it’s exposed. Or die trying.

The Stolen Kingdom is a loose “Aladdin” retelling. Set in a world that humans share with Mermaids, Dragons, and the elusive Jinni, this isn’t the fairytale you remember…

The story flows well. It kept me interested and guessing at what was going to happen all the way through it. The mysterious Jinni, and everything about them, were fun to read about as Arie and the others uncovered whatever secrets they could. So we’ve got a little bit of mystery, a dash of romance, and the fate of the kingdom at stake. Sounds like all the things I loved about Aladdin!

Speaking of the dashing lad, here’s Kadin, this story’s “Aladdin” character. He’s right up there as one of my favorites in the book. As the leader of his thieving crew, he’s got to keep those rowdy fellas in check. He does so, but not without a bit of inner doubt that he has to keep hidden. His inner struggles in regards to this pretty new girl, Arie, and the rest of the squad were really refreshing to read. There are a lot of books out there where a leader character just leads and does so without having any feelings about what they’re doing. Bethany keeps it real with her characters, and I thought it was a great addition to the story and the characters. Bosh was a really fun character as well. He doesn’t get much of the spotlight as a minor character, but I enjoyed every scene he was in.

The story’s not much of a story unless there is a villain, and Amir is a very good (bad) one. He’s in the background for a bulk of the novel as more of a looming threat, which really worked out. I won’t say too much about him, but he sure likes to stack the deck in his favor any way he can.

The Gifts were an interesting read as well. They kind of reminded me of the super-powereds in Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners series. What power could this person have? And what weakness could then be exploited from it? Bethany came up with an interesting idea here, and she shelled it out really well.

Arie, the main character, has to make some tough decisions during this story. As princess, she has a kingdom to worry about, but then there is also her father, her friends, and herself weighing her down. I enjoyed reading her navigate all the troubles that came her way and how she handled them. Her growth is believable and relatable, which is no easy feat considering she’s a super-powered princess! I don’t want to spoil anything, but I thought she made some very reasonable decisions. It’s easy to want that happy ending everyone craves. Sometimes things happen that prevent that, but I believe this story still has a bit left to tell.

I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed The Stolen Kingdom. It’s different enough from Aladdin that it stands on its own as a great book. Fans of all sorts of genres will enjoy reading it. It’s not super long either, so its a nice, easy late summer read. Take it to the pool, beach, lake, whatever and you’re good! But hey, if you want to curl up by a fire or something you can do that too. It’s a pretty versatile book! I look forward to the next in the series, but what I’m really looking forward to is when the series concludes. I’m holding out some hope for what might happen, so I’ll be sticking around to find out!

UNLEASHED Review!

I got to read an advanced copy of Aaron Bunce’s newest book, Unleashed! I’ve been looking forward to this since I first heard about it. You may know Aaron from his dark and grizzled fantasy series, Overthrown, but in Unleashed he changes it up to sci-fi! Check it out:

Welcome to Hyde Station, a mining platform floating in the backwaters of SOL’s trade route, where the industry of extracting precious metals from asteroids is big business.

Down on his luck and desperate to make quota, Jacoby happens upon a “cherry rock”. The kind that wouldn’t just meet his quota but put him into a sizable financial bonus. But there’s a problem. A scan shows a sizable hollow cavity inside, and company procedures are clear: voids must be drilled and tested for potentially explosive gases. That would mean handing it over to a specialty drilling team, and thus, kissing his payday goodbye. Refusing to hand his financial future away, Jacoby ignores his terminal’s warning and stakes his claim. Except, his saw cuts into more than just rock.

Something was inside…something alive. Jacoby quickly learns that some rocks are hiding more than just precious minerals and trace metals. And when some things are set loose, there is no putting them back.

Mankind will never be the same.

Keep this in mind, folks. This is for readers eighteen and up. There’s enough blood, boobs, bones (and boners) to last you until you get over the rushed final season of Game of Thrones! Let’s get down to business!

The story follows Jacoby, an asteroid driller person who takes a chance on a big pay day by drilling into a risky rock. What happens next tears his world apart. What starts as a simple voice in his head turns into something that changes the way Jacoby reacts to the people and settings around him, and it also changes how others react to him…

Without spoiling much, these changes Jacoby goes through enhance his testosterone to astronomical levels. Enough that certain women he encounters lose certain… inhibitions.

Now things get sexy.

Meet Anna, a super smart technician on the space station and Jacoby’s best friend since they were kids. She thinks quick and acts fast, and I don’t just mean when it comes to her work or fighting to save her friends.

Next up is Soraya, a former athlete with the rockin bod to show for it. I love the inner struggle she goes through during the series of events in this book. While I don’t like some of her decisions, that’s what makes for a good character! I have to say she was my favorite character, for a few reasons…

Then we have Lex! The no-nonsense soldier with a troubled past. She calls it how it is, and bases her decisions on her surroundings. She’s a tried and true leader. Plus, she has a kick ass haircut.

Of course, the sexual encounters were fun to read. This is an easy comment for me to make, but writing a sex scene isn’t easy work! A lot of times when I’ve read sex scenes in books, they’re either so cringe worthy it’s distracting, too cheesy to be serious, or they’re easy fade to black fill-in-your-own-sex here. Unleashed has the best sex I’ve read. Aaron tells it like it is, but doesn’t go overboard with the sticky details. This harem adventure was written in a way that I think readers of all sexes will enjoy.

So we follow these four characters, and the rest of the space station crew, as they battle a threat that can’t be readily identified. I loved this! Who’s the villain? Is this person good? Bad? Something worse? Wait, are they a person anymore? Let’s just go with something worse. Prepare to witness some gruesome concoctions I haven’t seen or read of before. It’s a really unique take on a horror monster that makes you look at yourself a bit differently.

Unleashed is a mix of Venom meets the Evil Dead, but more gruesome and whole lot sexier! It kept me entertained from beginning to end. I kept wondering and trying to figure out why these things were happening. When a book keeps me thinking and asking questions I really enjoy it. I still have questions now that the book has ended, but that’s why this is the first book in the series. I’ll have to wait for book two to have my questions answered, but I’m looking forward to the continuation of this series.

I finished Unleashed in maybe a week or two, which is fast for me! I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’ll probably go ahead and give it a reread once the sequel is ready to come out.

Check it out, it’s available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Review: SKYWARD by Brandon Sanderson

Here we go. If you didn’t know, I’m a big fan of Brandon Sanderson. He’s influenced my own writing greatly. I once even wrote a short story that, looking back on, sounds pretty similar to a certain Sanderson series. I had no clue who he even was or what he’d written at the time. It was during the first creative writing class I took at the University of Iowa. The assignment was to pick two character types from a list, put them in a short story, and see how they impacted each other. Me being me and wanting to pick two extremely different characters, I chose the priest and the prostitute.

I opened the story with the prostitute on a beach, escaping from her brothel for a bit of time to herself. Then the mist rolls in (starting to sound familiar?). She knew the mist was dangerous, but she’d lost track of time! Before she could make it back to her village, the mist consumes everything around her, but the priest rescues her and escorts her to his makeshift hut.

She decides to attempt to repay the priest the only way she knew how, but he petitions to have her join him as an apprentice instead. He wished to show her the truth about the mist and the world around her.

While it’s not completely like Mistborn, I still thought it was similar enough in a few ways. The prostitute is no Vin, and Kelsier is by no means a priest, but the relationship was fairly similar. Again, I had no clue who Brandon Sanderson was or what he’d written. I wasn’t even that big on reading fantasy or sci-fi at the time. It’s still fun thinking about the similarities, and it was that story and the feedback I received from it that launched my writing addiction.

Can we get this cover art over in the states? Beautiful!

Okay, I got a little off topic there, but here we are at Skyward! I knew I’d enjoy this book, I mean come on, I haven’t read a Sanderson book I didn’t like. But still. It was a little different for him. It’s not his usual fantasy stuff, even though he showed his versatility with The Reckoners series (Steelheart, Firefight, and Calamity). Skyward is a young adult science fiction novel, told from young aspiring pilot’s point of view, Spensa.

We follow Spensa, callsign: Spin, as she enters flight school to become a pilot and protect her home from the evil Krell, a mysterious alien, or not so alien, race. Along the way, she has to follow in her disgraced father’s footsteps, a labeled coward that was claimed to have bailed on the fleet when needed most. It’s because of her father’s reputation that Spin is treated like shit for most of the novel, but you know what? She perseveres! Sure, there are times when she wants to say, “Screw it,” and stick it to the admiral. Every character has to go through their own rocky road, and this is part of Spin’s. I did get a little aggravated about all those darn people, labeling Spin and her family cowards when most everyone else are the true cowards. She’s the only one that is crazy and brave enough to do the things she’s done, and other families pull their kids out of flight school because it’s too dangerous. Ooh, if I was Spensa I’d be ripping on everyone I overcame all the time! Get it, girl.

So because the admiral hates her, Spin has to pass this rigorous flight class while also being homeless. Yeah. She can attend school, but she can’t live in the dorms or eat any food. So she goes and finds a cave and eats cooked up rats that she’s hunted. Remember that bit about perseverance? That’s our Spin! Well, on one of her excursions outside of school she finds something special. A ship. But not just any ship. This is an ancient marvel of engineering. So advanced that its technology could turn the tide of the war. Too bad it’s broken down. Oh wait, Spin’s best friends with a cadet dropout that also happens to be an engineering almost-genius? Ahh yeah, they’re gonna fix this thing up! Welcome, M-Bot, a super intelligent, ancient, and sarcastic AI powered ship that has a thing for shoes and mushrooms. I love M-Bot!

I really love how M-Bot was written. He was unique and not like all these other robot/AI characters that you see in sci-fi. I guess the closest comparison would be K2-SO from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. You can even see his growth throughout the novel, just like all the other characters! That’s not something you see with a character like him.

Reading this I had to wonder, did Brandon go through a flight school of his own to write this book? The technical aspect of flying and everything involved down to engineering and design was on point. It made me relive a childhood dream of being a pilot myself, back when my buds and I would fly little hot wheels sized jets around our rooms, shooting each other down in imaginary explosions. Scudding awesome.

What I really loved about this book was that I was constantly guessing at what his twists would be. Brandon Sanderson always has twists in his books, and they’re always great. His writing was what inspired my big twists in Naevia-18, and one of my readers even mentioned that it was “Sandersonesque” in that way. Is M-Bot a Krell? Is Cobb somehow M-Bot’s long dead pilot that was granted immortality? Is Spensa a distant descendant of a Krell/Human relationship? I asked myself questions constantly up until everything was revealed, and I wasn’t disappointed with the result.

The setting I felt was very cool and unique. It would be easy to come up with a world that is very earth-like, but Sanderson’s world is unlike any I’ve read of before. It’s a planet surrounded by a debris field that was put there, not by accident. The debris field is what protects the humans but is also a very dangerous thing, as debris constantly falls and allows the Krell through to attack. Well done.

This was a very solid book, and in my opinion one of Sanderson’s best. I picked it up and hated when I had to put it down (I mean, who needs sleep anyway, right?). It’s sequel, Starsight, should be out later this year. You can bet I’ll be picking that up.

If you, for some reason, don’t know much about Brandon Sanderson, first off… where have you been!? This guy churns out novels like butter, and his stories go down just as delicious. I mentioned the Mistborn books and The Reckoners trilogy, but he’s got all sorts of standalone work along with the massive tomes found in The Stormligbt Archive. Heck, he’s created an entire multiverse with his stories called the “Cosmere.” If that’s not enough, he finished off Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Want to find out more? Start here:

BrandonSanderson.com

Thank you for another amazing book, Mr. Sanderson.

Book Club!

I attended my first book club the other night! The subject? Naevia-18.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m in the middle of writing Karxen Chronicles Book 1.5, a novella bridging books one and two told from Zoë’s perspective, and I was a bit overwhelmed with my writing goals for the remainder of the year. Now I have a renewed hunger to complete not only Zoë’s novella, but also my other fantasy novel that’s currently in revision. Don’t worry, folks! I’m on it.

I didn’t really know there were still book clubs congregating, and it was refreshing to hear an active discussion on my book! They actually liked it! It’s still amazing to hear that people have enjoyed my book, especially when I hear it from women. My wife, Candy, mentioned that she was glad that a male could write from a female point of view and not make her too overpowering or not strong at all. The other women at book club echoed her thoughts, and let me know what characters they loved, who pissed them off when they turned evil, or what part of the book was most shocking. They wrote down questions for me!

They really got me thinking, and those thoughts will translate right into the rest of the books in the series. The other books you might ask? Well, I suppose I could divulge what all I currently have planned… 😈

I already told you about book 1.5. I don’t have a specific name, but I like “Descent.” It focuses on Zoë from the time her and Naevia split up at the camp in Naevia-18, and takes her right up to when Book 2 starts. We’ll see Zoë as she goes undercover for Dericka, descending into the shadows of Karxen and secretly revealing dangerous truths to Naevia and the rest of the gang. Then when things appear to be safe, a new threat emerges that threatens to reveal Karxen’s hidden past, endangering everyone just when they all gained their freedom. It’s a fun ride, and I’m about halfway done with it.

Book 2. I’d like to tell you the name of this book, but I won’t. Not yet, because the name is a spoiler in itself, and I want you all focusing on Zoë right now. I’ve told some select people the name of Book 2, and the reactions have been good so far. I won’t talk about it much, but I will say it’s wild. It starts off running, and the gang won’t have a lot of time to deal with the many new threats from both the Outside and within Karxen. It will be thrilling, shocking, exhilarating. It will also make you feel some feels, so get ready.

THEN. The Karxen Chronicles won’t end there. I’m between Books 2 and 3 (wait, THREE!? Yes…), there will be another novella. This time it will be a prequel told from Dericka’s point of view. I don’t have much other than the idea and a title. The Chaos.

Book 3 comes after that, and it will bring the Karxen Chronicles to a close.

I have another idea for another novella, but I don’t have a solid idea on it yet.

In between the Karxen Chronicles stories, I’ll also be working on other stories outside of Naevia’s world. I’ll post some stuff about those back on my main page where my progress stuff is at.

Anyway, back to book club! These awesome women actually liked my characters, my story, my world. Something I created on a whim and have been self conscious about ever since it released. They read books every month, and they all love to read. I’m honored to have heard what they thought, and would also like to hear what you think! Leave me a review on Amazon, GoodReads, Barnes & Noble, wherever you see my book! Tell me what worked, what didn’t, who you loved or hated, and what you’d like to see in future novels.

Thank you for having me!

Thank you, Ashley, Tayla, Becky, and Abby!

Avengers: Endgame SPOILERS BELOW

This is your chance. Get out now before I spoil the ending for you (I mean how gruesome was it when Ant-Man was shot up Thanos’ butt!?).

Kidding.

But seriously, get out now.

You’ve been warned.

Alright, folks! Scan your tickets, grab your popcorn, and find your seats! We’re in the Endgame now.

The start of the movie sets the tone for the first hour perfectly. Hawkeye, Clint Barton, is just hangin with his wife and kids when they all get dusted. Cut scene and enter the feels. Talk about depressing. That’s just the beginning. I’m not even gonna write about it, because I don’t want to put you through it all again. Let’s get to the good shit.

Five years later. I’m gonna go ahead and start off by saying I’m not a fan of time skips. I get how it was used here though, and it was done better than other stories that have done it. It works.

Time travel. So we went there. I heard once that time travel is a cheap cop out for movies and stories. While I’m not entirely in agreement with that statement I can see why some would think it. Endgame does it pretty well though, and kinda pokes fun at other time travel movies in the process. I was okay with how it all worked, but they still broke their own time travel rules when Cap came back as an old man at the end. The theory was that when you go back to the past it doesn’t change your present or future, but creates an alternate, separate universe. So then how did Captain America go back in time to return the stones, NOT come back using the time jump, and show up at the bench as an old man? Wouldn’t he still be living in his alternate universe? Or, during his time growing old with Peggy, did he find some other means to travel back to the current universe? I’ll go with that. The movie’s still great.

Okay, let’s back up a second. Cap went back in time to return the infinity stones to their own respective times. So… that’s cool, but I have questions in regards to one thing. How did he give the soul stone back? And what did he say when he saw Red Skull!? Why isn’t THAT in the movie!? That should’ve been the post credits scene. That, and Deadpool preparing for Endgame in a phone booth somewhere.

Let’s back up some more. Hey, if Endgame can go back and forth in time all willy nilly I can too! So the plan is to go back in time, collect all the stones, and then snap! Everyone they lost is back! Easy, right? Well, there are some difficulties along the way. After Black Widow sacrifices herself for the soul stone, Captain America checks out his own ass, Tony Stark reunites with his father, Thor reunites with his mother (and Mjolnïr), and Nebula networks with herself, they catch em all! There’s even a hilarious quick scene recreating Guardians of the Galaxy where Star Lord is dancing in the beginning of the movie. That was the best intro! It gets replayed here, but from Rhodey’s and Nebula’s eyes Quill is just a dancing idiot. 😂

Unfortunately for our heroes, a Nebula switcharoo took place once the stones were collected. Now 2014 Thanos is on his way to the future (present) to fast forward his search for the infinity stones.

Now it’s on! Battle time! Hulk snaps his fingers right before Thanos arrives and lays waste to the Avengers compound. We’ve got a battle ready Thanos going head to head with Iron Man, Captain America, and fat Thor! You’d think this would work out well for our heroes, because, you know, let’s take a look.

Thanos with no infinity stones vs.

Iron Man in his latest, bad-ass, classic looking suit,

Captain America, hardened and shielded up, and,

Thor wielding both Mjolnïr and Stormbreaker

I figured they’d put up a better fight, but even after Cap proves that he’s worthy enough to swing Mjolnïr around, they lose the upper hand. By the way, that was one of the best scenes in the entire movie! I’m not even a fan of Cap, but that was SICK. Well done, Marvel. You got me.

Enter the dusted. Thanos calls forth the dark order and his minions, and things are about over for the Avengers. That is… until Cap hears something on his comm. Falcon!? But wait… that means… A glowing spiral of energy reveals Black Panther, along with the other warriors from Wakonda that were dusted. Then we get Drax, Mantis, Star Lord, Dr. Strange, and YA BOY – Spider-Man! Giant Man then frees War Machine and Rocket Raccoon from beneath the compound (by the way, Rocket almost drowning was a heart wrenching scene – he’s been one of my favs from both Infinity War and Endgame).

Now it’s a fight! This is what Marvel fans have waited so long for, to see all of these heroes fighting together. Infinity War we got close, but everyone was separated. Now we have a legitimate reunion. As Cap stated so clearly, “Avengers… assembled.”

Not it’s a game of keep the gauntlet away from Thanos. Hawkeye, Black Panther, and Spidey take part. Spidey’s instant kill mode anyone? Amazing!

Still, it’s like everything our heroes pull out, they somehow keep getting pushed back. Now it’s time for Captain Marvel! She shows up and saves Spidey from the bottom of a Chitauri dog pile. Their exchange is pretty solid too, and I love how all the ladies come to Spidey’s aid. That was an awesome girl power moment. And did anyone see Pepper Potts’ armor!? Sooooo sick! It’s too bad Black Widow couldn’t have been part of it, since she’s been the female avenger around the longest.

Even after all that, Thanos takes matters into his own hands, taking the gauntlet and almost snapping his fingers. An assault from Captain Marvel stalls him, but ultimately it’s Iron Man that makes the bold move, stealing the stones and erasing Thanos and his army from existence with his own snap. That end result kills Tony Stark in a fitting conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this point.

Beautifully done. Bravo, Marvel. You had me on the edge of my seat and my adrenaline pumping throughout that entire battle. It was everything I could’ve wanted in an ending battle scene. Epic.

I give Avengers: Endgame a solid 9.1/10. I had a few gripes, but I have my own ways of explaining them. It’s a fitting end to the Iron Man/Captain America era of Marvel movies. Now we move on to this new age. I’m not sure how these future movies will satisfy, but I can only trust in Marvel to continue to bring amazing movies to light.

Review: Love, Death & Robots (Netflix)

A Netflix show that was interesting enough I’d want to review it!? Sure, there are Netflix shows that I thoroughly enjoy, but this one was just far enough outside of the box to make me want to talk about it. Sit down, grab a tall glass of water, and load up your sister’s Netflix account, it’s time to talk Love, Death & Robots.

LoveDeathandRobots

The name is simple, and it’s how I’ll give you the disclaimer before you start watching with your ten year old brother that loves robots. Love is the first word of the title, and is your disclaimer for all the nudity you’re about to see. Almost every one of the episodes shows all sorts of skin, so if you’re not into that you might want to back away slowly. This series is NOT shy, and it will flaunt it’s Dracula-monster-penis all over the screen. Death is the second word, and is very straightforward. There is a good deal of blood and gore in a lot of the episodes as well. Again, not for the faint of heart. Ahh, then we get to Robots! Not much to be said here, although surprisingly not all of the episodes feature a type of robot (or do they?).

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from this series. Lately, I haven’t been entertained by a lot of shows or movies. People would get on social media and claim that <insert popular show of the week here> is the best thing since Friends. I’d check it out and get bored twenty minutes in, or I’d stick around for a few episodes and really waste my time (sorry, Umbrella Academy, but you sucked). Have my tastes changed? Or have I just seen too much that I’m as bored as Thanos sitting on that chair listening to Ronan in GotG talk about politics? It’s up for debate, but it would be a boring one, I’m sure of it.

Love, Death & Robots (come on, no Oxford comma?) is a breath of fresh air in that regard. The episodes are short and sweet, and while they’re not all perfect, or anywhere close, they are interesting enough to get me to think, Hey, that was a good idea! It reminded me a lot of 2003’s The Animatrix. I watched that with my best friend back when it first came out. There were a few cool shorts there, but I think I was too young to catch on to all of the themes. I’ll have to give that a rewatch someday.

The Good:

  • Every episode is animated differently. Not all of them are super cool looking, but I loved the differences in each one. I really enjoyed the animation in episode three – The Witness. It was directed by Alberto Mielgo, who apparently did some work on Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (Uhh, heck yeah!).
  • The storylines are so creative! Come on, episode six – When the Yogurt Took Over is about a sentient bowl of yogurt that takes over the world (and it’s amazing!). Good Hunting stands out here as well. The storyline transitions from 20th century China to a steampunk Hong Kong, and follows the friendship of a boy and a huli jing (a crazy cool girl that can turn into this nine-tailed fox kinda thing).

 

The Bad:

  • Some of the themes are a bit too much, as in, the women in a lot of these episodes don’t get a lot of love. Episode one – Sonnie’s Edge is great and all, but the abusive themes can turn a lot of people off.
  • Nudity is great, don’t get me wrong, but there are times when it’s done right and times when it doesn’t add anything to the story and is just a distraction. There were a few times when I was watching where I thought, Someone just wanted a reason to animate some boobs here. They were well done boobs of course, but still.

Stand Outs:

  • My favorite episode of all was Three Robots. It follows these three robots on a tour of the post apocalyptic world, and they try to figure out how humans lived based on what was left behind. It’s freakin hilarious.Three Robots
  • The Witness is a wonderfully animated thriller piece. This poor girl is running in nothing but an open robe from a guy she thinks just committed murder! I’m guessing she was pretty scared to go out dressed like that. Stay for the ending, because it’s worthy of a big thumbs up.The Witness Love Death and Robots
  • Suits is a high-action, Pacific Rim like short. It’ll keep you entertained all throughout.Suite Love Death and Robots
  • Good Hunting is beautifully done. The transition of time and growth of this young boy into a man was so creative. The struggles the huli jing goes through, and then what happens to her at the end is a very interesting watch. I loved how the setting and tone changed from a martial arts oriented China to this steampunk Hong Kong. This was my second favorite episode.Good Hunting
  • Beyond the Aquila Rift is a very cool sci-fi story. You think you know what you’re getting into, but then it keeps changing. Then you see what’s really going on, and… well, I won’t spoil it. Just watch it! Beyond the Aquila Rift

 

Overall, Love, Death & Robots is a well done series that held my attention. It was animated beautifully, tackled some tough issues, and had some very creative ideas and characters. Now my creative juices have been replenished, so I can go out and write my own interesting stories! It’s not very often that I find something that really pushes me to expand my own creativity like this series did. It’s not perfect, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but I recommend it for sure if you’re not opposed to anything I mentioned above.

What to Read in 2019!

I have lofty reading goals this year. How am I gonna have time to read these books when I have all this writing to do?? I’ll have to find a way…

Here are my picks! I’m sure as I get through the year and find some treasures at bookstores this will change, but more reading is never bad!

(Instant thought… how will I have time to read when Kingdom Hearts III releases next week…?)

First book! I started reading this in 2018, but it carries over into 2019. This is Within by Aaron Bunce.

This is a great book so far! He’s rereleasing this (next month?) with a new cover, title, and it’s been completely redone from beginning to end.

Next on the list comes from my Twitter writing squad:

I was looking for an ebook to buy around Christmas, and Emily sent me a link to hers, The Mystery of Jason Barrow. I don’t know much about it, but it looks like a quick and fun read! I’m planning on reviewing this one when I’m done.

Moving on! I found this at BAM!, and since then I keep seeing it all throughout the Twitter #writingcommunity (or is it #writerscommunity, WHO DECIDES!?).

This is one of those purchases that is completely based off of the sweet looking cover (and the blurb).

Next up is an oldie, but I’m planning on reading this series throughout my entire life. The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan. I’ve loved the first three, and I’m sure the rest of the series is stellar as well.

Okay this next one I just found randomly from a friend. This is coming out in March. The Phone by W.J. Orion.

I’m just gonna leave the description right here, so you can read for yourselves:

The invaders came down to Earth in their ships, and multi-legged battle armor and we had no way to stop them from taking the water. Made sense. They looked like massive crabs, after all. The war was over in days.

Now, those left behind eke out a parched existence in the scorched rubble, avoiding the hunter-killer teams of crabs as they scour Earth for whatever they deem valuable.

Sixteen year old Yasmine Whitten is an expert at navigating the wastes; born into this world, she not only survives; she thrives. But she’s got a secret; her mother’s old cell phone.

Kept intact for 13 years of alien invasion, and kept charged by a tiny solar panel, these two relics of a dead-world give her sanity, and a host of tools that allow her to stay ahead of the scavengers, both human and crab alike. It’s a flashlight and a camera, and when she can’t sleep, she can comfort herself in the cold desert by looking at pictures of her mother and father, and by reading their old text messages to one another.
She’s doing well enough, for a teenager on her own in a ravaged world.

Until the phone rings.

Sounds cool to me.

Alright! Here are a few others on my list that I’m gonna be squeezing in amidst all of the writing, cosplay, drawing, breaking, and everything else I have going on (KINGDOM HEARTS III).

I LOVE the movie, so hoping the book is just as good

It’s Brandon Sanderson, can you go wrong!?

Another one from a movie. My wife just read it, and said I’d like it

It’s Brandon Sanderson again. Duh.

Happy reading this year, everyone! And for those that will be like me next week and bury themselves in KH3, remember to take some time away from the gaming! Too much screen time is bad for your eyes.

(Let’s not kid ourselves, we’re gonna play it day and night)

2018

It’s all over! What a fulfilling year.

Here’s what happened.

I signed my first book deal with Autumn Arch Publishing for Naevia-18 in January. It was a perfect fit! We undertook editing over the summer, and Aaron’s help has made me a much better writer. We just released it recently, and it’s been a dream come true. I’ve had all sorts of positive feedback from people, and I’ll be starting 2019 with an author event on January 18th at the Barnes & Noble on University Ave in West Des Moines.

I also completed a first draft for my (still unnamed) work in progress in February. I’ve started to revise it off and on in between other edits and writing projects and reading. I’m pretty stoked for this project though. It’s a neat mix of Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, and Mistborn. The story centers around childhood friends Tem and Neema. Tem is separated from Neema as a teenager when he is forced to join the king’s mindless army. In the years after, Neema joins the rebellion in hopes to loosen the king’s crushing grip on society. But when the dreaded, fire imbued yurdrak attacks again, Neema is reunited with a mindless Tem that can’t remember her. Somehow, they’ll have to work together with Neema’s new squad to end the cycle of yurdrak attacks and quell the king’s oppression. But there are other characters at play in the shadows, and Neema needs to be careful of who she trusts.

Early in the summer, I found out about local clothing company Made4Mankind’s local artist of the month feature. I applied, hoping for a win, but not expecting anything. Well, it turns out I was named their August Artist of the Month!

In between writing and editing and all other things life, my beautiful wife and I went on our dream vacation to Paris, France. What a cool place! There are things to see on every corner, from beautiful centuries old sculptures, cute little shops and cafes, or a random museum containing priceless works of art. All of this is backdropped with the beautiful Parisian architecture, street life, and big name spots to see. The Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur Basilica, Notre Dame Cathedral, the list goes on and on and on. In short, Paris is beautiful. We’re going back someday!

We also went to Disneyland Paris while we were there, finishing up our trip and celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary. This was our first time at any Disney park, and again, Paris’ entry to the Disney park list was beautiful. My wife and I are big Disney fans, and we loved these two parks.

For NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – November), I started a first draft of a sequel to Naevia-18. I toyed around with the idea for awhile, but as Naevia-18 was being edited there were so many little things that I wanted to expand on and dive further into with this world. Naevia’s story is not over yet. I didn’t make it to the fifty thousand word mark to win NaNoWriMo, but I did get a good start (I’m about 18K words in). I’m not going to say much about it, but just know that this story is going to be CRAZY. So much is going to happen to Naevia’s world, and her and her friends might not be ready for it all. Everything they know will be tested, and the stakes are even higher than before.

Here’s to 2019. I’m planning on making more dreams come true this year. What are YOU going to do!? I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now finishing up this post, and my coffee cup at Caribou says, “The world needs more explorers. Life is short. Stay awake for it.”

Get out there and explore!