Sep 23, 2013

Bright Lights #16 - dSavannah George-Jones

dSavannah George is another bright talent I bumped into during my involvement with the Orange Karen project. (
#teamORANGE) She's a writer, poet, editor, artist, singer, photographer and designer, with years of marketing & public relations experience. And because that doesn't fill up her day enough she's also a teacher! 

I'm exhausted just thinking about all that.

Luckily, I was able to persuade her to stop by and answer a few questions before she had to run off and do ALL OF THE THINGS. :)

dSavannah George

Q - Hi dSavannah, tell me a little about your new story/book

Well, it’s not new. I’ve been working on my novel since 1996. The main character, Jessie, is snarky, smart, sad, hopeful, searching, funny, and it’s basically the story of her trying to find her way in the world and ending up right where she started.

Gareth and I had a Facebook convo the other day, and he has agreed to be my accountability partner to make sure I write a little bit each day. Jessie’s story NEEDS to be told. And I’m gonna do my best to get it down. Finally.

I’m also, at any given time, writing poetry and short stories, not to mention blog posts. I’m working on a series of silly poems that I hope to someday turn into illustrated books for children. The first (finished) one is titled “Fidgety Farmington”, about a little boy who can’t sit still.

Q - Does being a writer and an editor give you an extra step up the publishing ladder?

I don’t really think so; at least, it hasn’t really so far. It may hurt me when I go to shop my finished novel around – they may think I won’t take edits of my work. But I will, and gladly!

Honestly, the saddest day of my life was when I realized I’m actually a better editor than a writer. (I’m a good writer, but I’m a damn fantastic editor.)

As an editor, I get to work with some amazing writers and help hone their artistic voice and tell the story that they need to tell. Which is wonderful, and very rewarding, and the feedback I get from my writers is amazing. I feel that their work is as much my baby as it is theirs. And they get that. It’s a partnership.

But being an editor also means that I have a hard time just writing. I can’t even write a freaking tweet without editing it ten times. I keep thinking of everything wrong with my WIP, and instead of just writing, I’m trying to fix it. (Gareth has promised to help keep me in line with that too, so that I just write, and edit later.)

Q - You have a strong artistic side, aside from the writing, and yet you say you consider yourself a writer first and foremost. What is it that brings your focus back to writing rather than photography, for example?

I guess because I have literally always identified myself as a writer, for as far back as I remember. I still have poetry I wrote when I was seven years old. And little stories I wrote and illustrated as a kid. I didn’t really believe that I’m an artist until much later… even tho I created all kinds of art as a child (and my mother still has most of it, lord help me).

I didn’t start painting until 2003, and only then because a friend took me to the art store and held my hand and picked out paints and canvas and brushes with me. I was scared shitless doing my first painting, even with him there, a little guardian angel. I owe him a debt I will never be able to repay.

I’ve been taking photographs forever, but really only got serious about it when my dear sweet hubby bought me a good camera for my 38th birthday. (The second best birthday present EVER!) I took lots of photos before, but they didn’t turn out well because of the poor quality of the camera.

In addition to doing it the longest, here’s another reason I go back to writing: I know how to write. I know the technical part of it. The way to use grammar, etc. I trained to be a journalist, and I did marketing for 20 years, primarily doing writing. I’ve also taught writing at the college level.

Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t know what the heck I’m doing when I create art. It’s all intuitive. I have no idea how to change an f-stop, or why the paint dries how it does, or anything technical. Hell, for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why my loops for jewelry weren’t perfectly round. Turns out I just needed round-nose pliers. Duh.

Now obviously, there is intuition involved in writing as well, such as knowing when a story or poem is finished, but I’m knowledgeable about form and meter and varying sentence length and the other tools of the writing trade. The tools of the artist’s trade? I’m kinda making it up as I go along.

Q - Since you also paint, have you considered doing a story in a graphic novel format? (I had to ask since I'm a comic nerd)

No, I haven’t. And here’s why. I have great respect for the art form, but it’s not one that I’ve ever been really drawn to (pun intended). Also my art is either very whimsical or very abstract, which I don’t think would loan itself every well to a graphic novel. I plan to partner with an illustrator for my children’s book series. I kinda see in my head what I want, but I know actually creating it is outside my skill level.

Q - How do you make the time to write?

To be honest, I don’t make enough time to write. And to be a writer, you have to make the time. No one will do it for you. And you can’t wait for inspiration to strike, but when it does, you damn well better sit down and write. Which I do.

Also, I have so many other things that I create, it’s hard to know where to focus and which art form to do at any given time. I sometimes feel schizophrenic because of it…

Unfortunately, I’m motivated by deadlines, and I don’t have one for my WIP. Even if I made one up, I’d know it wasn’t “real”, and I’d ignore it.

When I was working on A Spicy Secret, my first published book (for a series with the same characters but lots of different authors), I came up with an elaborate schedule of how many words per day I needed to write to meet the deadline. I kinda stuck with it. And then I didn’t. Then I’d redo the schedule. Repeat. I literally wrote the last 6,000 words on the day before it was due to the publisher. The words flew out of my head and fingers.

Q - Where do you get the most inspiration for all your artistic endeavors?

Everything inspires me. Old photos. Random news stories I read. History. Nature. Creating something beautiful out of pain, out of things most people would consider ugly. Re-purposing things others would throw away. Knowing that what I’m doing inspires others. Knowing that sharing my struggles helps other people with their own. Music. Art. Antiques. People who persevere through enormous problems. People who try to make the world a better place.

Q - What kind of story do you like to read and are those the same ones you want to write?

My reading tastes – and my musical tastes – are all over the board. I enjoy YA. Memoir. Literary fiction. Poetry. I’m particularly drawn to fantasy and sci-fi, and have been since high school. Before high school, I tended to read books about the American Indian, so much so I wanted to be one. I like reading books by authors from other countries. I like historical novels. I like old books, with their particular ways of phrasing things. I like humor. I like women’s literary fiction.

I mostly write women’s literary fiction and poetry. I’ve written some fantasy and sci-fi. I am contemplating writing a family memoir. I will probably never write a historical novel, because I’m too lazy to do that much research, and I’d want the details to be right. I’m not sure I’d write YA, only because my thoughts seem too grown up (if that even makes sense). I’ve actually been asked by two friends to help them write their memoirs, and I plan to. And obviously, one day my books will be old. :)

Q - When you're writing, how much do you feel you have to adhere to certain limitations based on the genre you're writing in?

You know, I’ve never even thought about limitations based on my genre. I just…write.

Q - Even though you're an editor, do you use Beta Readers? If so, could you explain what you're looking for from them?

I have actually never used beta readers in the traditional sense. Which is not to say I won’t in the future… first I have to finish that novel!

For years, I belonged to a writers’ critique group, which was basically like having a whole bunch of beta readers, except each of us would read our piece in the group and then get feedback. I had to stop going there when I moved to Arkansas, and since no writers’ group existed, I created one. It was also great. Now that I’m back in Atlanta, I’m hoping to join a group with a friend of mine.

What I look for is honest, but kind comments on what works, and what doesn’t. Where I’ve derailed, where I need to do more. A guy in the Arkansas group would tell every reader “This is the best thing I’ve ever read! Can I get your autograph?” NOT helpful. Us real writers wanted to smack him.

You can read about my editing philosophy – which applies to beta readers as well – on my site:

Q - Art is always subjective - "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". How does it feel putting your art, and in particular your writing, out there to be judged?

Okay. I learned a LONG time ago to not be offended by people wanting to change my work ~ part of my journalism training. And I’m well aware that not everyone will like my writing or my art. Some do, some don’t. No big deal. I’m pleased when they do, but not depressed when they don’t. I’m bummed that the first reviewer of my book on amazon gave it 2 stars, but hey – the reader didn’t like my humor. Not everyone does.

Where I get offended is when someone tells me I’m doing my art wrong. Which actually happened to me – a gallery owner told me I did a painting wrong. My immediate thought was “SCREW YOU!” I don’t care that he didn’t like it, I just care that he tried to put limitations on how I create my art.

Q - What do you think are your particular strengths as a writer? Dialog, action, description...what are you most comfortable with?

Imagery. Character building. Humor.

Q - What is the reaction to those around you, family and close friends, about your writing?

My birthday twin (and very good friend) bought lots of copies of my book to give to her reader friends as gifts. My mom has read my book a number of times and tells me often how much she loves it. My aunt bought copies to give to other people in our family… and she bought a copy of the Orange Karen anthology. She told me she liked my #OrangeKaren story better than the book, which made me happy, because that story features Jessie, my character referenced above. One close friend said she planned to store my book in a safe – apparently she thinks I’m going to be a super-famous author someday and so that first book will be worth lots of money. (Not sure that’s gonna happen…) My hubby is very proud of me, and supports my writing habit, but has not yet read my book.

Q - What are your thoughts on the uses of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter etc) for writers. Has it helped in your development as an author?

Absolutely. I originally got on FB to connect with old friends I’d lost track of over the years – a hazard of moving around a lot. I got on twitter and started a blog because other writers urged me to do so as a way to engage readers and build my brand. And it’s something you have to do continuously, which means even if I’m not actually working on my book, I am writing.

Twitter is a fun challenge for me – write a complete sentence/thought, including any links, in 140 characters. I try for exactly that many, but it doesn’t always work. :) The only shortcut I allow myself is an ampersand for the word and. Otherwise, no abbreviations.

My blog has also been a good exercise in that it forces me to be more succinct. (You’d think the journalism training woulda done that too… but no… Plus, I never actually worked as a journalist, beyond my high school and college newspapers.) And it’s such a fun way for me to get to know other creative types through my The Questions series.

Social media introduced me to other writers and artists (like you!). Writing ~ and creating art ~ is very solitary, and thanks to Facebook, especially, I have a community of writers that makes me laugh, makes me cry, supports me when I’m down, and encourages me. And their successes are motivation for me to be a better writer. Reading their work gives me new ideas on phrasing and plot development and character.

The only downside is that social media can be a HUGE distraction. There are some very talented people in my group, and I could spend every minute of every day reading their books, blogs, etc, and still never get caught up. Not to mention all the articles that people post and cute pics of puppies and kitties.

Q - Do you have any current favorite authors/books?

My very very favorite authors of all time are Charles de Lint (urban fantasy) and Terry Pratchett (fantasy). I’ve been reading both of them since high school.

Choosing a favorite book is like trying to choose a favorite child. Impossible!

Currently I’m reading Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende. I first read her work in college when I minored in Spanish, and I read her work en español. She has such a magical way with words.

I just finished reading The Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson. It’s targeted to grades 5 and up, but it’s really smart and a great sci-fi. In fact, I think it should be targeted to adults. (I hate the cover, because it looks like it’s a book for little kids. Which it’s not.)

Q - Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to?

No. I get too distracted. If I do listen to music when working, it’s always classical. And not Bach with all the annoying singing.

If I’m painting or making jewelry, I listen to music. I just turn on iTunes and go with whatever it gives me. Again, my musical tastes are all over the board, so I could go from Will Smith (rap) to Linkin Park (metal) to Griffin House (sort of coffee house feel) to Ingrid Michaelson (pop) to Janis Joplin (old rock) to Jim Lauderdale (country) to Death Cab for Cutie (alternative) to Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn (blues).

Q - Do you have any advice for newbie writers? Those who are yet to start on their journey?

Yes! And in fact I plan to write a whole series of posts on this topic for my blog.

The main one is: WRITE. WRITE. WRITE. Write every day. Write even if you don’t feel like it. Write even if you think your work would be better off as the paper under the rat’s cage. Write even if your work gets rejected 1,000 times. And remember that it’s not YOU getting rejected. Just WRITE.

Surround yourself with other writers. Learn from them.

Be willing to listen to feedback. Learn to take criticism. It will make you a stronger writer. Don’t take it personally. Learn from it. Know your work can always, always be improved. But trust your inner voice, too. If someone tells you your character shouldn’t have purple hair, but it’s a very important part of that character’s personality, let him/her have purple hair.

Learn the mechanics of writing. Learn grammar. Learn punctuation. It’s important.

Know that becoming a writer and getting published is not going to make you rich and famous. If that’s your motivation, stop writing this very second and become a stockbroker.


Be kind to yourself.

And write.

Q - What are you looking for from your writing, satisfaction? success? adulation?

All of those would be nice, but I just want to tell stories.

Q - At what point would you consider yourself a successful writer?

Honestly, I don’t know that I ever will. It’s a journey. There’s no destination for a writer. You just keep writing. You just keep making art.

And finally - You're going to be stranded on a desert island (for a wee while) but I'm going to allow you to take 1 book, 1 piece of music, 1 movie, a bowl of your favorite dessert and 1 person you'd like to share the island with for a while (alive, dead, fictional or matters not) What are your choices...and if you want to elaborate...tell me WHY?

Wow. You’re kind of mean. Only *one*? That’s cruel and unusual punishment. 
1 book: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, specifically my copy of the 1913 edition. Why? I lllllooooooovvveee words. And at 2,026 pages, with additional reference materials and photos, I’d never get bored. If I needed to, even though it would be painful to take it apart, I could use some of the pages for fire-starting. Or toilet paper. Or drawing on with charcoal from my fire. You get the idea. :)
1 piece of music: I’m going to assume that means a full album, and that you would also provide something for me to play it on. I would take Flight Of The Conchords’ self-titled album, because it is hilarious and also makes me dance.
1 movie: I know this is cliché, but The Princess Bride. It has everything: kissing, humor, true love, sword fights, chases, intrigue, and a billion wonderful lines. And again, I assume there would be a way to watch it, and I wouldn’t be forced to just stare at the DVD.
1 bowl of my favorite desert: tiramisu from the restaurant Tony’s across the street from my house. That stuff is to die for. I’d want to add some chocolate chips, cuz I’m a chocoholic, but otherwise… perfect.

1 person: my hubby. (Cue the ‘aaawwws’.) He’s a boy, and sometimes he annoys me to no end, and when he snores, I just want to smother him with a pillow, but he also loves me unconditionally, and would enjoy all of the above that I’d be bringing, and he makes me laugh, and he makes a quite comfortable pillow. He also has a staggering amount of knowledge about random stuff, so he could fix anything that got broken, and he can make fire (which I cannot, to save my life). And, I just adore him and love him too, and can’t imagine my life without him. (For the record, the first best birthday gift ever was my engagement ring from him.)

Whew. Are you sorry you asked all those questions now?

LOL. Not at all! Thank you dSavannah for giving up some of your valuable time for my blog. :)

The rest of you, go check out these links ~~>Web:




Online art store:




D. Savannah George is a multi-disciplinary artist – she writes, paints, crochets, takes photographs, and makes beaded jewelry, bookmarks, and notecards. She has published several short stories and a number of poems, as well as numerous articles in various newspapers and magazines. She has won several awards for her writing. Her first book, A Spicy Secret, #22 in the Annie’s Attic Mystery Series, was released in December 2012. She also serves as a book editor for authors and several small publishers. She worked in corporate marketing for over 20 years, and is happy to finally be who she is supposed to be – an artist and writer. D. Savannah lives in Atlanta or on the coast of Georgia (depending on her mood) with her husband, dog, turtle, two cats, and a truck-load of books and art supplies.

Sep 2, 2013

Bright Lights #15 - Tim Queeney - The Atlas Fracture

Happy Labor Day!

I'm back, with another Bright Lights interview, and today I'm talking with a fellow member of #TeamOrange  

Tim Queeney lives up in the wilds of Maine and spends his time writing thrillers and sailing. This is a dude who knows his starboard from his...ummm...the other one. And, just to show off, he can totally do it in the dark using celestial navigation! He might be part Wizard.

And just to clarify, I'm pretty sure he doesn't use celestial navigation to write thrillers...

...anyway, enough of my stupidity. Here's Tim. I'll let him do the talking...

Tim Queeney

Q - Hi Tim, tell me a little about your new book/story 

A - It’s called The Ceres Plague. This one has my main character, Perry Helion, fighting the compelling and murderous Dr. Taylor Crandee and the shadowy cabal that backs him, known only as Paracelsus Enterprises. My last book The Atlas Fracture was set in Antarctica and this one takes place at the other end of the earth above the Arctic Circle in the Bering Sea, Alaska and far eastern Russia. 

The first Perry Helion novel

Q - You've written thrillers and humorous historical fiction, will you continue to vary your output or are you looking for a niche?

A - I’m concentrating on my Perry Helion thriller series right now, but I’ll definitely vary my output. Have a bunch of different types of stories I want to write, including science fiction, a few novels based on my childhood and family, more humorous-type stuff that may strike some people as funny, more thrillers and a romance/witch/end of the world story. But I will probably stay away from horror because but I find it a bit frightening. 

Q - Do you read the same stories you like to write?

A - Yes. I love good thrillers. But I read all kinds of material. Good writing is always worth it. 

Q - Where do you stand in the Traditional Vs. Self-Pub argument? Is it even an argument?

A - I don’t think it is an argument. Both paths can provide a writer with satisfaction. Personal goals are a big part of the choice. If you absolutely have to have a publisher who will print paper copies of your book, then trad is the way to go. If you want to control all the aspects of your brand, self-pub makes sense.
For example, if you’ve received a court injunction that specifically bans you from telephoning, texting, emailing, sending letters or packages via the US Postal Service to any member of the publishing business in perpetuity then self-pub is clearly right for you. 

Q - Did you have a bolt of lightning urge to write or is it something you've always just done?

A - I’ve always done it. It’s a challenge, but it’s also intoxicating in a strange way that lives on for hours after I finish, like the echo of a favorite song or your love calling your name.

Q - How do you make the time to write? Do you set a schedule or grab the moments when they come?

A - I’m a night owl, so I write by the light of the moon. 

Q - Do you have a favorite place to write?

A - I envy folks who can write in small snippets at a coffee shop, or in a doctor’s waiting room or surrounded by distractions. I’m sadly dependent on writing at my desk, with a bit of music playing. 

Q - Where do your ideas for stories and characters come from generally?

A - I can’t answer that question. I really don’t know. I just hope they keep making the trip. 

Q - Did you use Beta Readers? If so, could you explain what you're looking for from them?

A - Yes, Beta readers are worth their weight in gold (or at least potato chips). They usually provide wonderful insight into small errors but also larger story structure problems. 

Q - What do you think are your particular strengths as a writer? Dialog, action, description...what are you most comfortable with?

A - I’m pretty comfortable with dialog and action. They are fun to write, but I think you need to be careful with the parts of book you do well. You can’t be too comfortable. I definitely need to keep honing my skills in just about every facet of writing. As the 90-year-old cellist Pablo Casal said when asked why he still practiced four hours a day: “Because I think I am making some progress.” 

Q - What compels you to write, drives you to keep going, even on the days you'd rather just throw in the towel?

A - It’s an itch that can only be scratched by a keyboard. 

Q - What's your favorite word? 

A - I’m a fickle word lover, always falling in love with new ones. But I think they understand. 

Q - How important is it for a writer to also be a reader?

A - Important. But I think the writing comes first. Writers write. You have to keep up the word wrangling to get better. Reading everything you can definitely helps, though.

Q - How do you choose your next story?

A - My next one is the continuation of my Perry Helion thriller series. Like most writers, though, I have way more ideas than time. So many ideas I could go on for years without sprouting a single new shoot. I’ll never get to them all. Of course, maybe not all of them are as brilliant as I’d like to think.

Q - If you won $100 million on the lottery tomorrow would you still write?

A - With wild abandon.

Q - Have you ever lied to get out of something so you could write instead?

A - Yes, I avoided an old friend just so I could scribble a few more lines. Interestingly, the great writer Alice Munro recently stated that, at age 84, she is putting down the pen for good. Part of her plan: to spend more time with friends and with other folks.

Q - Do you have any advice for newbie writers? Those who are yet to start on their journey?

A - Keep writing, no matter what. Just imagine you’re getting paid by the word.

Q - And finally - You're going to be stranded on a desert island (for a wee while) but I'm going to allow you to take 1 book, 1 piece of music, 1 movie, a bowl of your favorite dessert and 1 person you'd like to share the island with for a while (alive, dead, fictional or matters not) What are your choices...and if you want to elaborate...tell me WHY? 

A - Book: Just about anything by Charles Dickens or Kurt Vonnegut

Music: La Femme D’Argent by Air - Love listening to it again....and again.

Movie: Reign of Fire - Great concept and just damn entertaining. <>

Dessert: Indian pudding with vanilla ice cream - Okay, so I'm from New England <>

Person: D.B. Cooper - What’d he do with the money?

Thank you for dropping by Tim! 

You can connect with Tim on Twitter or Facebook and read more about his writing at

His books are available on Amazon in the UK and US and I suggest you head over and pick one up...PRONTO!


Aug 27, 2013

Comic Book Movie casting - Part 2 - The Ten Best

I've already talked about the Ten Worst comic book casting decisions, so now it's time for the best, and a couple of them might surprise you.

I took to twitter and asked my tweeps who they thought was well cast in comic book adaptations. Of course the answers were rich and varied (and often involved Chris Hemsworth's muscles), but there was a clear winner. And I think I agree.

Wait until you see the size of my Hammer!

Uh, not him...

So, without further ado, here's the ones I thought Hollywood got right:

Ten Best

Okay, I know, technically I'm Superalien...

1 - Christopher Reeve (Superman - Superman) The 70's produced some of Hollywood's most enduring icons and every one of them was up for the role of Superman. Guys like Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Warren Beatty, Nick Nolte and Ryan O'Neal were all considered for the role. Marlon Brando, in what amounted to an extended cameo, also had casting approval and vetoed Sylvester Stallone from the list. Despite all of that nonsense, the role eventually went to a virtual unknown - Christopher Reeve. No matter who they find for future incarnations of Superman, Reeve will always be Superman to me. His Clark Kent has never been bettered and when he slapped on the blue spandex, he owned it. After he snapped his spine in a riding accident and was paralyzed from the neck down, I wouldn't have batted an eye if he'd jumped up out of his wheelchair.

Baby, I hear the blues a'callin'...

2 - Kelsey Grammar (Beast - X3: X-Men United) Here's one that may surprise you. Despite being the worst of the X-Men movies, and having too many characters to keep track of, the casting of Grammar as Dr. Henry McCoy/Beast was a stroke of genius. Never in a million years would I have thought about him for the role, but he's perfect. Erudite and dry-witted, this version of the Beast was spot-on. Even Grammar's physical build meant that once he was in full make-up he looked absolutely right. Great left-field thinking from the casting people.

Rorshash, Roarsach, Roarshack...I still prefer Ginger Vengeance!

3 - Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach - Watchmen) Another surprising choice, maybe? Watchmen was an ungainly effort to translate Alan Moore's seminal graphic novel to the screen. I'd seen Haley in a movie called Little Children where he played a troubled sex offender, and that was about all I knew about him. (He was great in that role, I recommend you watch it). I didn't know what to expect from him in Watchmen, but his feral, violent and troubled vigilante was perfect. Turns out he also has a black belt and so was able to take on all the physical parts of the role with ease.

I said...who farted??

4 - Ron Perlman (Hellboy - Hellboy) The second this was announced, there wasn't a moment's doubt. Even though at first the studios wanted a bigger name, Del Toro (the director) wanted Perlman. Perlman was born to play Hellboy. The weary, blue collar attitude with the self-deprecating and dry humor, was all perfect for the actor. Even when they realized that Hellboy's "stone hand" had to be his right and so his gun had to move over to his left, it was no problem for the ambidextrous actor. Perlman also wins massive plaudits for showing up in full Hellboy make-up to help fulfill a young boy's "wish" through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Top bloke.

I could totally play Thor!
Oh? *pulls off shirt* Can you do this?
I hate you.

5 - Tom Hiddleston (Loki - Thor) Hiddleston is Kenneth Branagh's buddy from the Swedish based drama Wallander, but was still a surprising choice for the weighty role. Turns out he was considered for the role of Thor first, until Branagh decided he'd be better as Loki. He was pretty much perfect as the God of Mischief and, some would argue, came away from the movie with more plaudits and "heat" than even Hemsworth did playing the lead.

Don't get a parrot for a pet. They are bastards.

6 - Mickey Rourke (Marv - Sin City) I think the credit for all of Sin City's success comes down to two things: Rodriguez shooting it like the comic book and the casting of Mickey Rourke as Marv. Unrecognizable in the make-up, (and some would say better looking, considering all the plastic surgery he's had done lol), Rourke's low growl and bulldozer physicality sold the brutish anti-hero to the audience.

Ellen Page shown actual size.

7 - Ellen Page (Shadowcat - X3: X-Men United) First up, I know this is the second pick from X3: worst X-Men movie ever (tm), but hear me out. I'm a massive X-Men fan and the first comic I ever read was one which revolved around Shadowcat trying to fight an alien in the X-Mansion on her own. I admit I'm a Kitty Pryde fan. Her character was teased in the other two X-movies, but it wasn't until Ellen Page was cast in the third that I finally thought they'd got it right. It's one of those moments where the actress just seems totally right for the role and I was a little bummed the movie was so bad and wasted that opportunity. Page is back in the new Days of Future Past X-Movie, so I look forward to seeing her again in the role.

What? This is how I always stand.

8 - Hugh Jackman (Wolverine - X-Men) When Hugh Jackman was cast, I admit to being one of the fanboys who said it was wrong. Getting a six foot Australian, who'd only appeared in some Aussie TV, to play the short, Canadian, berserker badass from my favorite comic??? NOoooo!!! This can't be. Turns out, I was wrong. Inevitably, the movie had to change things from the comic book, but it was important they held onto what made Logan such an interesting character (and badass). Luckily, Jackman was on board and gave it all he had, and in the end he made the character his own. (I'm still not convinced when the character gets weepy and emotional, but the rest is good.) Playing Wolverine catapulted Jackman to super-stardom and, in a refreshing change for a Hollywood actor, Jackman is first to acknowledge this and willing to embrace it. His acting skills and choices have allowed him not to get pigeon-holed, but he's more than willing to come back and play the role that made him famous and appears to have genuine affection for the character. Wolverine is back in X-Men: Days of Future Past and this will be the seventh time he's played the character over the last thirteen years.

You try putting make-up on without a mirror, dammit!

9 - Heath Ledger (The Joker - The Dark Knight) I didn't know what to make of the Heath Ledger's casting initially. I wasn't a big fan, but I'd seen him play both light (A Knight's Tale) and dark (Monster's Ball) and was hoping it wasn't going to be another serving of the Jack Nicholson-style Joker. Christopher Nolan just told everyone to be patient, that Ledger was serving up something unique, but this did little to stop the fretting about what kind of Joker we were going to get. When the Joker finally appeared, he was a revelation. I remember the end of one of the Dark Knight previews: an eighteen wheeler is flipped onto it's roof and you can hear the Joker's voice say "It's all part of the plan". The Joker is then seen standing in the middle of the road with a machine gun, yelling at Batman to hit him with his Batpod. The game of chicken ends when Batman skips around the unflinching Joker and the bike slides from under him. I was sold.

Would Heath Ledger have won the Oscar if he hadn't tragically passed away? I doubt it, but just because Hollywood rarely looks at comic book movies for the acting awards. I do believe that if he was still around, he'd be an even bigger star today and would've had several more opportunities to win an Oscar.

My haircut is worth more than your house.

10 - Robert Downey Jr (Tony Stark/Iron Man - Iron Man) My survey on Twitter showed RDjr as a clear winner in this competition and I have to agree. Inspired and right on the nose, there has rarely been a better bit of casting in any movie.

Iron Man was never considered an A-Lister in the Marvel Universe. When Marvel were struggling, and had to sell the rights to certain characters, X-Men, Fantastic Four and Daredevil were all snapped up. Even Punisher and Ghost Rider were bought, but Iron Man stayed at Marvel. So, when Marvel got their act in gear, they had to take a second-string Marvel character and turn him into something the world wanted to see.

RDjr as Keanu's tie in Constantine.

Downey Jr was making his own way back into the limelight after various personal problems. Talented and charismatic he seems perfect for the role now, but there was still an element of the unknown when he was cast. He'd shown up in string of movies, but he wasn't the star in any of them. Was the audience ready to accept Downey Jr as a leading man? It turns out, yes, they were. 

RDjr is now the lynchpin of three massive franchises (Iron Man, Avengers & Sherlock Holmes), reportedly making $50 million dollars from the Avengers movie. Expect to see him front and center in a second Avengers movie and enjoying the second phase of his career.

That's the list. What do you think? Let me know here in the comments or come find me on Twitter @Spartagus and argue with me there.


Aug 26, 2013

Comic Book Movie casting - Part 1 - The Ten Worst


...earlier this week, Warner Bros. announced that Ben Affleck has been cast as Batman in the new Batman/Superman movie. Of course, this sent the internet into a frenzy and a lot of the talk was about how terrible this choice was. Now, I should clarify, I'm a fan of Affleck. I think he's a talented director, he's intelligent and he's not as bad an actor as some people contend. Sure, he had his problems with gambling, drinking and JLo, and it's entirely possible one or all of those things lead to him choosing some very bad movies to appear in. The name "Gigli" was tossed around as if that was all the evidence, one could ever need, that Affleck was the worst possible choice. I'm not going to sit and argue that Gigli is a good movie, but people tend to forget that Christopher Walken and Al Pacino opted to appear in it too. Yes, that's Oscar Winner Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter) and Oscar Winner Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman). The truth is, sometimes actors make terrible choices.

When comic book movies took off, it became clear that casting was a huge part in what sold a movie to the fans. Tim Burton's Batman came in for some flack when they hired Michael Keaton to play the Bat. Known as a comedic actor, he seemed too far away from what the fans were looking for. Conversely, Jack Nicholson as The Joker was embraced wholeheartedly. It was marketed more with Nicholson as the star. It worked. Box Office gold, but the interaction never seemed quite right. It wasn't until Bale and Ledger came together in The Dark Knight that everyone saw the potential of the dynamic between the two characters. And, just for a change, when Heath Ledger was hired as the Joker, he was lambasted by the internet. That is, until he appeared on screen.

While the internet melted down about Affleck, I wondered what I would consider the best and worst casting decisions in comic book movies. (Being a comic book nerdling). SO here is what I came up with. :) Please note, I'm only going to talk about movies made after Tim Burton's Batman and no TV movies. So, you won't see David Hasselhoff on the list, despite his Nick Fury being so bad it makes my head explode.
Here are the casting decisions I couldn't get my head around:

Ten Worst

I come in peace bleep blorp

1 - Jessica Alba (Sue Storm - Fantastic Four) - I don't mind if the movie makers want to change some physical aspects of the characters, but to hire a brunette with brown eyes (and darker skin) and proceed to make her a blonde with blue eyes was just weird. Alba ended up looking like an alien. And since she's not the most rangy of actresses, her performance came across as alien. Her chemistry with Reed Richards was non-existent.

2 - Topher Grace (Eddie Brock - Spiderman 3) - Just, UGH! I'm not a fan in the first place, but his smug and not-very-intimidating performance was completely overshadowed by the CGI Venom. I wasn't a huge Venom fan before the movie and I'm still not convinced after this showing. Grace added nothing to the picture at all.

I have the power to hold up walls sexily...

3 - January Jones (Emma Frost - X-Men: First Class) - Woefully miscast. Miss Jones' reading of the character was flat and uninspired. Emma Frost (in the comics) has bite and when she's strutting about in her undies she's the empowered one. Jones wore the underwear well, but her acting was so wooden it gave me splinters. None of the snark was there. I would've loved to see someone like Kate Winslet play Emma.

Awww, now I've pooped myself

4 - Tommy Lee Jones (Two-Face - Batman Forever) - Better known for playing the grumpy, straight man, this was a huge departure for Jones and it just didn't work. It wasn't all his fault, the movie itself was tragic. The director was aiming for the more camp TV show, so we ended up with Tommy Lee Jones mugging and bringing the ham harder than Babe the Pig. At times it was like he was competing with Jim Carrey mugging at the camera, but where Carrey mostly pulled off his Riddler schtick, Tommy Lee seemed unable to pin down his character at all.

This shampoo feels funny

Hahaha, no srsly, where's the rest of my costume?

5 - Halle Berry (Storm - X-Men/Catwoman - Catwoman) - Here's a two-for-one deal. Let me state for the record that I like Halle Berry as an actress. Her Oscar for Monster's Ball was richly deserved. Having said that, I was against her casting in X-Men from the start. I wasn't sure about Hugh Jackman as Wolverine either and was happy he proved me wrong, sadly Halle didn't. I thought Angela Bassett would make the perfect Storm: imperious, strong-willed, kick-ass and authoritative, she could inhabit the character from the comic book easily. Sadly, they were going for something different, but they weren't sure what. Through the movies they modified the look and the accent and none of it worked. Halle just wasn't a very impressive Storm.

Catwoman is more about how bad the movie was. Halle makes for a slinky and sensual Catwoman, but her backstory, costumes and, ultimately, the storyline made this movie laughable. It had a B-movie mentality with a big budget. It's hard to argue that Halle was miscast, since without her it wouldn't have been made. The movie was widely panned, but big credit to Halle for accepting her Razzie Award, beating out Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson for the win.

Is this deadly kryptonite? I wish I wasn't colorblind.

6 - Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor - Superman Returns) - Kevin Spacey is a hugely talented actor and he's more than capable of playing the bad guy. This time though, it seemed they wanted to skew too close to Gene Hackman's Luther from the original Superman without letting Spacey work with more. I didn't expect a highly nuanced portrayal, but I SAW the acting. There was no immersion in the role and I think they should've cast someone else for the role.

Grrrr Blllrrr Arrrgh

7 - Vinnie Jones (Juggernaut - X3: X-Men United) - AAARRGH! This movie was lousy and casting Vinnie Jones sort of summed it up. Intent on painting a dumb, pointless caricature to earn a few points with the fanboys, Juggernaut was added to the cast. Rather than hire a bigger actor, or even an ex-wrestler for the role, they hired Jones (hmmm, the third Jones on the list. Coincidence?) and put him in a muscle suit. Sadly it looked like a skinnier guy in a muscle suit. then they armed him with irritating and idiotic dialogue and Jones delivered it with all the skill of an ex-footballer. Terrible all round.

Does my bum look big in this? *stab*

8 - Jennifer Garner (Elektra Natchios - Elektra) - Jennifer Garner can do no wrong in my eyes (I mean, come on, look at her!), but she wasn't right for the part of the assassin Elektra. She doesn't possess the edginess or the duality needed to give the character her anti-hero stance. She's a killer for hire but as soon as you see Garner in the role you accept her as a good person. She performs valiantly with cruddy dialogue and a dull as dishwater script, but she should've given this one a miss.

Mother of pearl, this codpiece is uncomfortable...

9 - Sylvester Stallone (Judge Dredd - Judge Dredd) - You can argue about the fact Stallone took off the helmet or the terrible idea of a comedic sidekick played by Rob Schneider, but the fact of the matter was, Stallone was just wrong for the role. The recent movie Dredd cast Karl Urban in the role and he nailed it I thought. I don't know if Stallone was too big a personality or wanted to play it too big, either way it didn't work and Urban's Dredd did.

Keanu Reeves playing Snowy in Tintin.

10 - Keanu Reeves (John Constantine - Constantine) - Hey look! It's Keanu Reeves smoking a cigarette! I didn't care they made Constantine an American or that the movie was only loosely based on things from the comic. I didn't think Keanu was right for the role though. However, having said that, I actually enjoy the movie and once you get past Keanu being Keanu, it's not too bad. Let's just say this one was borderline. It's on the list because he's not really anything like the Constantine character from the comics. They could've called this movie something else and no one would've noticed.

There you go. My top ten picks for worst casting decisions in comic book movies and somehow I managed to not pick Nicholas Cage from Ghost Rider lol.

What do you think of my choices? Are there any you disagree with? Leave a comment or come and argue with me on Twitter @Spartagus.


Aug 21, 2013

Flash fiction

Howdy amigos! 

Very soon, I should be posting some regular updates to my blog. I have more interviews on the way and I'll be blethering about movies quite a bit. First though, I'd like to mention a new Flash Fiction contest being hosted by Regina West over on her blog called Flash In The Pen. (Catchy title, no?)

FlashPen Logo

I've been struggling to write new stuff lately, getting caught up in the never ending cycle of editing, so I decided to have a go and write 500 words. Head on over, check out the entry by @SpartaGus and let me know what you think. And, by all means, join in. The more the merrier.

That's all for now. I'll let you know if I place in the contest.

Check back soon for more.


I'm shocked and surprised! Despite very stiff competition I managed to snag 3rd Place. WOOT! And I get a shiny little medal for placing...

Very happy about placing. Congratulations to all who took part. If you want to go read the entries check out the link here:


Jun 25, 2013

Bright Lights #14 - AJ Aalto - Death Rejoices

Back in the days of the woolly Mammoths, when tribes of humans wandered the land, one small group of people (or monkey-people like in the movies) surveyed the unending forests and snow fields of the North and said, "This will do nicely, eh?"

These people are called Canadians.

A common misconception about Canadians is that they all love hockey, but I'm here to...wait, what?


Never mind. They do all like hockey. 

Anyway, what is not so well known is that they write stories. Authors come from Canada too! Yes! If you recently perused a copy of The English Patient, Anne of Green Gables or The Life of Pi, you were looking at Canadian stuff.

All joking aside, today I have another fantastic Canadian author visiting my blog. AJ Aalto comes armed with an acerbic wit and side order of snark. I asked her to stop by and talk about the adventures of her psychic detective, Marnie Baranuik. 

AJ Aalto

Q - Hi AJ, tell me a little about your new book.

Death Rejoices is the second installment in the Marnie Baranuik Files, in which our bumbling psychic detective faces Paladins Gone Wild, a plague of zombies, and vain attempts to improve her character through people skills, positivity training, and defensive tactics classes. You might imagine how well that goes over.

Q - You write horror stories but you pepper them with your wicked sense of humor. Is this a writer's choice or just how your voice shows up in the story?

It's my knee-jerk reaction to face serious issues with snark and slapstick. I can't imagine many characters of mine being cool or successful under pressure.

Q - What draws you to horror stories, why not write a romantic comedy or some funny erotica? lol.

Who says I don't? *wicked smile* I'll never tell. No, seriously, I doubt I'd do well in the romance genre. I'm about as romantic as a poke in the eye with a limp dick. Erotica, perhaps...although I'm sure it would also end up fairly ridiculous. "Fred, I said 'linger' not 'finger!'"

Q - The path to publication is usually drawn out and difficult. What were the biggest hurdles for you?

In the beginning, I reeeeaaaallly thought I needed that pat on the head from the big New York publishers to feel like a "real writer." I didn't chase that very long, as I'm pretty lazy and avoidant by nature. J.A. Konrath pointed out on his blog that the readers were the new gatekeepers, and it was ultimately their approval that the writer should seek, and that you no longer needed a big publisher to get through to your audience. Having that pointed out to me made all the difference in the world. I self-published Touched in 2010, which drew the attention of some lovely folks at my publisher Booktrope, who scooped me up soon after.

Q - How much involvement did you have in the cover design?

My cover artist, Greg Simanson, must have the patience of a saint, because I tend to stick my nose into his work when I should probably just let him do what he's clearly very good at. He really doesn't need my hovering, and my input is usually irrelevant when you get right down to it. I love what he's created and he deserves a likeness of himself in bronze for putting up with me.

Q - You've recently done some book signings, do you enjoy those events? How do you like the marketing side of writing?

I am terrible at marketing, let's just get that out of the way. I don't have any sales experience or social media savvy, so I have to try very hard to focus on that side of this business, and I rely on my publisher's marketing folks to guide me. The signings start off uncomfortable for me, as I'm a cellar-dweller who doesn't see other human beings often. Luckily, my readers tend to be my kind of people: a little off-kilter and kooky. That puts me at ease fairly quickly.

Q - Which book was harder to write...the first or the second? 

The second was a nightmare. There's a little doubtful voice in the back of my head that asked "what if you only had one book in you?" and "what if you can't finish another" or "why so wordy, lady?" I had to learn to ignore that voice.

Q - How do you make the time to write? Do you set a schedule or grab the moments when they come?

I have a set schedule that I try to stick to, because I find the habit helpful. Up at 4 AM, write as long as I have silence and caffeine. 

Q - What kind of story interests you? Do you read the same stories you like to write? 

If a book doesn't have sex, murder, sex, monsters, or sex, I can't drum up much interest in it. I read a lot of horror and True Crime. 

Q - Where do your ideas stories and characters come from generally?

Very infrequently, I'll read something in the newspaper that simply must go into a book. Most of the time, the characters in my head just grab me by the ear and tell me who they are or what should come next.

Q - When you're writing, how much do you feel you have to adhere to certain limitations based on the genre you're writing in?

If there are limitations, I don't know what they are, and I wouldn't adhere to them anyways. I love rules & law in the real world, but I don't like boundaries in writing.

Q - Did you use Beta Readers? If so, could you explain what you're looking for from them? 

I have one chief beta reader, my assistant Heather Goldsmith, and several others. I ask for their overall impressions, thoughts, feelings, questions. My editor, Rafe Brox, does the hardcore nitty-gritty stuff once I've got my beta readers' overviews.

Q - What do you think are your particular strengths as a writer? Dialog, action, description...what are you most comfortable with? 

I've been told my dialog is snappy. Hopefully, that's a good thing. Dialog is my favourite thing to write. 

Q - What compels you to write, drives you to keep going, even on the days you'd rather just throw in the towel? 

I throw in the towel on an hourly basis. Sometimes, I go out in the yard and yell "I QUIT!" just to see what it feels like. Then I'll get an awesomely horrible idea in the shower, and I'm back at my desk. The muse won't let me go.

Q - Have you ever lied to get out of something so that you could write instead? 

Oh yes. A thousand times. I mean, no, never.

Q - What is the reaction to those around you, family and close friends, about your writing?

It used to be "Allison has a cute/creepy hobby." Now that I have a publisher, and more than one book available, and do signings, the people around me take it more seriously. That's partly due to the way I treat it; I set the tone, there. I correct anyone who calls me anything but a writer, now. I expect them to respect that, and they do.

Q - Do you have any current favorite authors/books? 

I'm on a Jonathon Kellerman kick again. I just love him. I'm also devouring Ann Rule.

Q - Have you ever suffered from writer's block? If so, any quick cure advice?

Writing every day helps stave off writer's block. Habit helps the muse. Only when I fall out of the writing habit am I prone to blocks.

Q - How important is it for a writer to also be a reader? 

The two best ways to learn about the craft of writing are doing it, and seeing it done by others. That sounded dirtier than I'd intended. Maybe I should be writing erotica after all.

Q - What's your favorite word? 

Nefarious. I guess that tells you all you need to know about me.

Q - Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to? 

I need music, but what I listen to varies greatly day to day.

Q - How do you choose your next story?

I'm not sure that I do. My characters point the way. I often feel like I'm just their record-keeper.

Q - Do you have any advice for newbie writers? Those who are yet to start on their journey? 

Write every day. Habit is incredibly helpful. 

And finally - You're going to be stranded on a desert island (for a wee while) but I'm going to allow you to take 1 book, 1 piece of music, 1 movie, a bowl of your favorite dessert and 1 person you'd like to share the island with for a while (alive, dead, fictional or matters not) What are your choices...and if you want to elaborate...tell me WHY? 

I'd take Needful Things by Stephen King, Mozart's Requiem, Princess Bride, a bowl (?) of cheesecake, and <name redacted> to the island. I can't name the name; too many people would get mad at me ;) 

Thanks for stopping by AJ! 

You can get Touched and Death Rejoices over at Amazon

Catch up on the nefarious acts by the Super-villain on a Leash at AJ Aalto

Or, connect with AJ on Facebook and Twitter. And, in AJ's words, "maybe have your head examined, kookpie."