Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Doctor Who Review: The Return of Doctor Mysterio

 Doctor Who Review: The Return of Doctor Mysterio

I haven't written a TV episode review in some time, so I thought I'd dust off my reviewing skills and dive in once more with a very short critique.  

The Return of Doctor Mysterio was, on the whole, much better than I'd thought it would be. First off, it wasn't one of those "I hate Christmas!" holiday specials that Moffat seemed to enjoy writing in recent years. In fact, other than a brief allusion to the Doctor possibly being Santa Claus in the opening act, there was nothing Christmasy about the story. That's a good thing, in my opinion. It's best to stay away from a subject you don't like as a writer, especially with Steven Moffat's hang ups.

The tone of the tale was upbeat and positive throughout, and we were introduced to a pair of very likeable characters in Grant and Lucy. New York as a location was fine, although it could have been written to take place in any large city, really. Why not Chicago or Denver or Cleveland or St. Louis next time? It's nice to get out of London and the British Isles occasionally, but there are other cities in the U.S. besides New York, you know?

The evil aliens who are invading Earth this time around were very cool. Zipper heads? Replaceable brains? Aliens substituting themselves for government leaders and getting away with it at the people's expense? I find it a plausible enough premise after our recent election, so I'm all in for this sort of monster-of-the-week.

I wasn't too sure about Matt Lucas' character of Nardole in the script at first. (When did he join the Doctor and how?) But since he didn't detract from the action or the growing romance of Grant and Lucy, and brought about some genuinely funny moments, I was okay with his addition. 

The whole "superhero comes to life" humor and sub-plot was very entertaining. Who doesn't want to see "Clark Kent" woo "Lois Lane"? Who doesn't like watching a little boy fly about the skies of Manhattan in his pajamas? It was a storyline that younger family members could understand, follow and enjoy as well as us old-timers. The special effects and costuming were all superb as usual, and I loved seeing Peter wear a more classic Jon Pertwee-styled outfit with a velvet jacket minus the hoodie. Very dashing!

I hope the upcoming series keeps this episode's upbeat and positive focus, avoids the "teenage soap opera angst" of the Clara years (yawn!) and stays with emphasizing the Doctor's good traits of being hopeful and helpful to mankind. The moody, sometimes mean-spirited, Doctor didn't work well for me in the past season. I greatly prefer Peter Calpaldi's Tom Baker-like performance in The Return of Doctor Mysterio. No more endless crying over lost girlfriends--the classic era's dictum of "No hanky-panky in the TARDIS" worked much better for character and story development.

We need to see a return of strong  and intelligent female companions such as Leela, Sarah Jane, Liz Shaw and Donna Noble. It would be nice to actually like the Doctor's companions instead of cringing over them as we've done in recent years, so perhaps Grant and Lucy can make a reprise later on in the season? Nardole might even grow on me given time and decent writing.

My British husband, who gave up on Doctor Who after viewing the "Mary Poppins Master" (Missy) episodes, dared to watch this show. The verdict? He said he enjoyed it. Considering he has watched Doctor Who since the William Hartnell era, that's a good sign it has improved in quality.

What do you think of The Return of Doctor Mysterio?

Monday, November 21, 2016

As We Enter the Holiday Season...

As we enter the holiday season, let me be the first person to wish you all a very happy holiday season--whichever one(s) you celebrate. For Americans, most of us celebrate Thanksgiving in November and a holiday or two in December and New Year's Eve. So, please consider yourself "greeted" by yours truly. (If you like, you can return the holiday greetings in the comments below.)

I wanted to make this holiday greeting announcement fairly early on in the season so that what I'm about to say next wouldn't come as a shock to you: I've decided not to send any Christmas cards this year. Don't worry--I will give gifts to close relatives, and I will decorate my tree and house as usual. I'm not going to be a total "Scrooge." The reason why I'm not sending out holiday cards is to make a statement: Not everyone is going to experience a "Happy Holiday!" this year. I feel that the money I spend on postage and cards could be better put to use helping others have a happier, safer and more just 2017, so I plan on doing just that.

You might not be aware of what is happening at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation  with the Dakota Access Pipeline, but this would not be because I haven't shared this information frequently on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and on the weekly blog I edit, Our Revolution Continues and in several pieces I've written for Political Storm.  Since this is my general writing blog/web page I won't go into details here (you can easily click on the links provided for those), but I wanted to share the reason behind the statement I've just given. 

How can I say the words, "Joyous tidings of the season to you," or "Peace on Earth, good will to all mankind," when horrendous injustices are being inflicted on our peaceful water protectors of the Missouri River? I just can't.

Instead of mailing out hollow words of joy to friends and family, I will use those funds to help out the people of Standing Rock and elsewhere who are in need. If you feel inclined to help others in need this season instead of mailing cards and letters to the names on your Christmas list, please feel encouraged to do so. I won't feel slighted in the least if I don't receive a card from you. In fact, I'll feel very happy and proud to call you my friend for putting the needs of those suffering injustices--such as the water protectors of Standing Rock who strive to protect our precious land, sky and water--ahead of my feelings.

I wish you all a happy holiday season, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May it be a better year than we hope, or at least may it be one in which we all re-discover our humanity and humility and truly live out the Golden Rule, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Think: One day you may need your neighbors' help. How can you rely on them in your darkest hour if they can't rely on you during this season of light?


Update 11/21/16: Here's the first project I'm supporting for the water protectors at Standing Rock in lieu of sending Christmas cards this year. I've always wanted to build a straw bale home, so I'm glad to support Honor the Earth as they build a community hall for the Oceti Sakowin encampments. Check it out, and if you feel motivated, donate a little something toward their goal of $75K (they're about halfway there). They will be hosting a Thanksgiving dinner there in a few days.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Costuming--It's Not Just For Halloween Anymore

Costuming--It's Not Just For Halloween Anymore

It's October, and I know a lot of folks are getting their Halloween costumes together either for themselves (to attend a masquerade) or for their little ones to go trick-or-treating, but did you know there are many folks who consider costuming their hobby, even their calling?

 Some call it "cosplay." (I think of that as acting out a particular anime or fictional character.)  But many others think of themselves as simply "costumers" who enjoy creating their own unique characters and bringing them to life.

One of the best places to witness the wonders of costuming is at a science fiction convention such as Archon, but not all the characters you'll see there come to life are necessarily sci-fi or fantasy related. The one thread that holds all costumers together is their sense of wonder and sense of fun. I mean, what could be more fun than pretending to be a fantastical creature or zany character you've imagined and realized with your own talents at the sewing machine or table saw? 

Enjoy the photos and feel inspired. Have a safe and Happy Halloween, too.

From Star Trek to Doctor Who... It's always great to see the classics of science fiction at Archon!

Friday, September 16, 2016

Meet the Authors of Olivia's Escape

 We were recently asked some questions about our writing and our methods as writers. Here are our responses:

Are you a full-out plotter? Are you a "let's see what happens" pantser? Or do you think you fall somewhere in between? Describe your process in coming up with and executing a story idea.

Adrian says: I'm by nature a pantser. I will plot things out if necessary, like when I'm writing a murder mystery. I don't really have a process in coming up with a story idea. They come to me from out of the ether--in the middle of the night sometimes--and then I write the story idea down.

Cindy says: I have to admit to being a "let's see what happens" pantser. I've tried to be more methodical and plot things out in detail, but somehow the characters always take me by the hand and lead me down another path. They just start "talking" to me as I write the scene, and they tell me they're not going to do as I want them to do. (Very much like children, it seems!) I'm not sure I have a set process for coming up with story ideas, but I read quite widely and expose myself to a lot of different people and subjects as a freelance writer/editor, so I'm constantly being inundated with potential characters and stories. Once I get a feel for "a character who has a story that needs telling" I start to envision the opening scene with my main characters and allow myself to be taken on a ride from there.

**Where is the most interesting place you have ever traveled? If you haven't traveled much, where would you absolutely love to go?

Together we've traveled to several Civil War battlefields and sites, such as

Wilson's Creek in Missouri, Lookout Mountain/Chattanooga in Tennessee and Chickamauga and Kennesaw National Battlefields in Georgia. Recently, we stopped off at both the Gettysburg and Antietam National Battlefields. (Hint: Try not to tour both of these within 48 hours--there's way too much to see at each to do them justice.) We're hoping to return to both of them someday soon and visit other Civil War sites in Virginia and West Virginia as well.

We both used to do French and Indian War re-enactments, so we really enjoy touring historical places and speaking with others about the significance of what happened there and the historical personalities involved. When we were in England visiting Adrian's family, we enjoyed touring castles and other historical sites in County Norfolk.

**What have you never written about, but want to some day?

Adrian: I've had the idea for a SF story knocking around for years, but haven't got around to writing it beyond working up a few notes.

Cindy: I've always wanted to write a more "hard science fiction" novel about a near future that may or may not come about and the consequences of our actions in bringing such a world into existence. I'm not saying it would be Orwellian in tone, but it probably would be much more "serious" than anything I've been able to publish so far (in fiction at least).

**Describe for us how it felt the first time you actually completed a manuscript.

Adrian: Jubilant! There's nothing better for me as a writer than the moment when I type "The End."

Cindy: I think I was shocked the first time I completed a romantic-comedy novel. It had taken some time to write that first draft (as I had two very young daughters underfoot at the time) and my first thought was, "What do I do now?" Luckily, I joined a writer's group not too long after finishing that book, and I learned a lot about rewriting and polishing a manuscript for publication, so much so that I eventually sold the book, The Fixer-Uppers. (And it is still in print/e-print, too. You can read about it at my contemporary/fantasy romance persona's website 

**Did you write stories or make up stories as a child? Do you remember what any of them were about? Tell us...

Adrian says: I did write a short story at age 8 or 9. It was about the pilot of a 1930's Grumman Goose seaplane who discovers pirate treasure in the South Seas. I can even remember the title - "Barry Linton's Treasure." I might just revisit the idea as a full YA novel one of these days, although the 80's TV series "Tales of the Gold Monkey" seems to have stolen my idea!

Cindy says: Oh, did I ever make up stories when I was a child! I remember my mother helped me write my first "picture book," which was a story about a dining table full of talking objects who came to life late at night… 

The salt and pepper shakers were characters, as was the butter in the butter dish and the sugar bowl, etc. I drew the pictures in blue ball-point, as I recall, on scrap paper, and my mom wrote the words of my story beside the pictures and bound the pages all together, and I then made proper cover for it. (I was about four or five years old, and we didn't learn to write until first grade way back when. We didn't even have to attend kindergarten!) 

I hope I can find the remnants of my first "book" someday in all the boxes of nostalgia I've inherited from my late mother, but I fear it's long been lost. Still, I am ever so proud to say I "wrote and illustrated" my own book before I even attended school.

**Consider the main character in the last book you had published with DBP. What was different or special about him or her?

Olivia is different from a lot of our other heroines because she's 1) a young adult (age 17 in the first book) and not a mature adult (as we both usually are drawn to write), and 2) she's a strong person who acts on the courage of her convictions. 

That's not say Olivia is a person without self-doubts--because all of us question our own motives from time to time--but Olivia is special in that she has the innocence of her childhood and the love of her family fresh in her mind when she faces the challenges of being abducted and taken to an alien world. Her bravery is genuine and not jaded by a long past that many older characters have. In other words, she hasn't grown overly cynical. 

Olivia feels free to take a moral stand and to do whatever is necessary to bring about change on BloodDark to help her new friends and her new love, Hernando, survive and thrive there. It's quite refreshing to write from the perspective of a young and positive heroine who has the energy and guts to tackle challenges without shying away from them.

**Do you have a favorite inspirational quote/scripture/poem that you feel motivates you?

I like this quote:
"We are all of us lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." --Oscar Wilde

Cindy: My favorite poem is "Success" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Its last stanza is particularly motivating:

"To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded."

Be sure to check out our latest release, Olivia's Escape, from Desert Breeze Publishing!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Two Fiction Releases in One Month

After a quiet time with no new releases, suddenly I have two fiction releases in one month. When it rains, it pours!  (And after a very dry summer, we actually got rain this week, too. Is that a good omen or what?) ;)

My husband and I have been waiting for about a year for the first book in our Young Adult-Science Fiction series, BloodDark, to be released from Desert Breeze Publishing, and here it is at last...

Olivia's Escape 
The BloodDark Series: Book 1 
by Cindy A. Matthews & Adrian J. Matthews
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Brown is abducted on her way home from a night out on the town and wakes up to find that she is imprisoned by a vampire-like race in a dark city bathed in eternal night. Hernando, a handsome half-human slave, reveals what is intended for her – the bloodsuckers want her blood for the upcoming festival. Together they plot an escape. 

 Joining a resistance cell, they help plot a revolution, and fall in love. Their group plans take control of the Portal, a teleportation device that links Earth with BloodDark. They plan to attack when the Pure Bloods go into hibernation in caverns located deep beneath the city. The Resistance fighters make it to the city only to find the Overseers, the Pure Bloods’ henchmen, are armed and waiting for them.

Will Olivia and Hernando survive the battle? And if she returns to Earth, will Olivia see Hernando ever again?

Available in ebook formats from Desert Breeze Publishing: 

In print at Amazon:
My contemporary sweet-romance persona, Cynthianna, has a short story release from Devine Destinies Books.

 Hurricane Alley
(a contemporary short romance)
by Cynthianna
Sometimes only a hurricane can calm the storm in your heart.

When Elena’s car breaks down in a Carolina town, the big city saleswoman falls into the arms of a handsome singing auto mechanic named Jake who is more than he appears to be. Can two lost souls from two very different worlds find love and happiness together or will a storm blow them apart?

I hope you give my titles a look over and consider purchasing a copy. Feel free to leave a review of any of my books on Amazon and/or elsewhere, too. Thanks!
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