Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Writer's Chatroom Presents C Hope Clark Tonight

C. Hope Clark is founder of FundsforWriters a well-known writer's reference for grants, contests, markets, publishers and agents for the serious writer. The website and newsletters have existed for fourteen years, and been recognized by Writer's Digest Magazine in its 101 Best Websites for Writers for thirteen of those years. 42,000 writers receive her newsletters each week.

She's published in Writer's Digest, Writer's Market, Guide to Literary Agents (by Writer's Digest), The Writer Magazine, as well as multiple trades, glossy mags and numerous Chicken Soup books. She's interviewed often by both writing and business websites and speaks to writing conferences throughout the United States. Her book The Shy Writer: An Introvert's Guide to Writing Success, continues to sell steadily.

She is also author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Lowcountry Bribe is the first in the series published by Bell Bridge Books. The mysteries describe federally employed Carolina Slade's sleuthing abilities throughout rural, rarely seen South Carolina settings, facing crimes not found in your typical mystery. Her follow-up, Tidewater Murder, is now available too. The third book in the series will be released in 2014.

Read more about Hope and Carolina Slade at, Hope's beautiful website.

WHEN? Sunday, December 29, 2013, Eastern USA Time: 7 PM Not sure what time that is wherever in the world you are?

WHERE? The Writers Chatroom at: Scroll down to the Java box. It may take a moment to load. Type in the name you wish to be known by, and click Login. No password needed.

Hope to see you tonight!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

C. Hope Clark's Tidewater Murder

I have talked about this kind of happy coincidence before. When a friend has a project - a book, a story, music - you kinda have to say it's good or that you like it, it's just professional courtesy, and so you can get a good review back when it's your turn. This is actually one of the reasons I rarely do book reviews - to avoid doing just that.

But it is such a delight when it's true, and with Hope Clark it is so true. She's not only the founder of FundsforWriters, one of the best writing newsletters out there (if you're not subscribed and you want to be a writer, get subscribed, it's that important), but also someone I have interviewed for years in The Writer's Chatroom, a mentor, and a friend. And she has written two fantastic thrillers, the second even better than the first.

Hope Clark is smart, clever, savvy, and sassy - a fireball of a writer, and her protagonist, Carolina Slade is just like her. "Biologically I could be her mother, in a Loretta Lynn kind of way." That is one of my favorite lines from the book. This is the kind of snark and sass that Slade is all about. She's a southern belle spitfire with a dash of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, and I love it.

The Carolina Slade Mysteries are what might be termed 'rural thrillers,' but that would be unfair, it's about character, and about tension, and the thrill of the mystery. Clark's people are real, and the sense of place is real. You feel you know them, you feel you are there. I read TIDEWATER WATER in one sitting, just as I did with its predecessor, LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE, something I rarely do, but I could not put it down. They are both such smooth and pleasurable reads, while being tense rides as well. Clark has the same sort of style as Stephen King, a prose that compels you to keep reading.

This is not praise I hand out easily, I am not a mystery guy. And as much as I liked LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE, I dug the second book even more. I would not have believed it was possible, but it is. I am waiting with baited breath for the next in the series.

And if you'd like to know the true story behind LOWCOUNTRY BRIBE, and how Hope met Mr. Clark, you need to check out "Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game." You can get it on Amazon here.

I will be interviewing Hope at The Writer's Chatroom on Sunday evening, December 29th, so please come on by then and join in on the discussion. Details can be found here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Dumpsta Players Present… "Prisoner on Passyunk Avenue"

The Dumpsta Players Present "PRISONER ON PASSYUNK AVENUE"

The Date: Wednesday, DECEMBER 18, 2013
The Time: Doors open at 10 PM, show time is 11 PM sharp! 21+ $1.99 cover!
The Place: Bob and Barbara's, 1509 South Street, Philadelphia PA


Patty and Petey Ponzio never thought their homemade brand of family recipe, traditional, Italian dishes would fall out of favor in the heart of old South Philly. But the onslaught of one-word foodie empire gastropubs have eaten away at their business.

Daughter Francesca swears she can sell lots of her new rap record to pay off their debts in time for Christmas, but Brooklyn restauranteur, Kunthy Twat and her shallow banjo playing hubby, Dylan Douche, have the nerve and cash to gobble up all the businesses on Passyunk Avenue.

But wait! Is that Texan Blues rockers ZZ Top I see? What are they doing on Passyunk Avenue? And what does notorious Foodadelphia blogger, Julia Slutwig write in her make or break review of The Ponzio's restaurant?

Eat a hoagie, buy some pizzelles but don't burn down Palumbo's in - “PRISONER ON PASSYUNK AVENUE!”

A portion of proceeds from this event benefit, Philabundance, driving hunger from our communities.

Check out The Dumpsta Players on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and on their own website.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Arrow S01 E09: "Three Ghosts"

This is it, the mid-season finale episode of "Arrow," and with a title like "Three Ghosts" so close to Christmas, it would seem that someone's life is going to change drastically. The pre-episode hype verifies that this one is definitely a game changer, and further speculation indicates that not everyone makes it through alive.

We begin moments after the end of our last episode as Central City CSI intern Barry Allen has been recruited by the Arrow team to save Oliver from an unknown drug he was injected with after getting his ass handed to him by the not-yet-Solomon-Grundy Cyrus Gold. Barry gets right to work. Rat poison sure has some interesting uses, doesn't it? Oliver is none too happy Barry knows his secret when he wakes up.

As anticipated, it's Christmas in the Queen mansion, but no party after Moira's disastrous 'coming out' event recently. Instead we have Roy, Thea, and Sin playing Scooby Gang (let's call them the Speedy Gang), and Oliver hallucinating Shado in the present. Well, there's one ghost perhaps. I have to wonder if Oliver actually woke up, or he's dreaming this while under the effects of the mystery drug.

Shado warns Oliver to put down the bow, take off her father's hood, and stop fighting - or everyone he loves will die. Even though Thea questions Oliver on who he's talking to, indicating there was no one there, we jump back to flashback island. Apparently, after obtaining the super-soldier serum, Ivo gave Oliver a choice - he could kill Shado or Sara or both. I think we know who he chose. Or do we? Ultimately he doesn't choose, and Shado dies at Ivo's hand.

This is just another example of what "Arrow" does best, the unexpected. One epic fail of "Smallville" is that while you had Easter eggs, you also knew essentially how the chips would fall. Here you don't. Does this mean Shado won't come back? No, not necessarily. Does it mean we'll never see Connor Hawke (in the comics, the grown son of Oliver and Shado, and the second Green Arrow)? Not necessarily either. Hell, we have both Speedies, yet haven't seen Speedy yet.

Speaking of the Speedy Gang, while watching, I finally remembered where I know Sin from. She's Bex Taylor-Klaus, the best thing about the last season of "The Killing," and pretty much the only reason to have watched. I like her, and hope we see a lot more of her.

In this episode there is a lot of naming names. For the first time on screen we hear that Oliver prefers the codename Arrow over The Hood or 'the vigilante.' Cyrus Gold's name as well as Solomon Grundy's are also checked. And even fanboy Barry gets to roll off a litany of Arrow's rogues gallery. Barry also indirectly references the potential Iris West by saying he has experience with someone who doesn't see him as he really is.

Brother Blood sics Cyrus Gold on the Starling City police. It's a trap set up by Blood and his plant in the department. In the middle of the episode as I watch Gold beating on Lance, I wonder if this might be the death rumored. As much as I would miss Paul Blackthorne, it would give Laurel a bit more angst, and almost seem fitting - after all, it would be a doomed Earth-Two character taken out by a major Earth-Two villain (Larry Lance and Solomon Grundy).

Oliver's second ghost is Slade Wilson, who shows up in the Arrowcave where the two fight, smashing everything except miraculously the blood test Barry is running. The results? Oliver is clean. If he's hallucinating, it's in his head, not in his blood. Hmmm... we did always know he was a sociopath, maybe Oliver is a psychopath too.

The Christmas theme seemed a bit forced at times, almost shoehorned in to coincide with the time the episode would air, and the three ghost vibe. I was pulled out of the story when Barry asks Felicity her plans for Christmas and she answers "Lighting my menorah." Any other year this would have been fine, and might give the episode a timeless quality in rerun syndication, but this year Hanukkah came at Thanksgiving. Tiny nit, and maybe time moves differently in the "Arrow" universe, but it knocked me off kilter.

Oliver's third ghost is Tommy, telling him he's not going to die, that he's going to fight. He's telling him what he's going to do. The tumblers click into place. If Tommy is the ghost of the future, and Shado perhaps represents sins of the past, does that put Slade in the present? Does that mean Deathstroke is alive in the present?

Tommy's appearance occurs after Roy is kidnapped and injected with serum by Brother Blood. When Arrow arrives there's a rematch with Gold, in which the villain gets doused with chemicals in derivative Two-Face style. Props to the "Arrow" folks for being unpredictable, but come on, I think we all wanted to see him thrown in a swamp not turned into yet another Batman reference.

The end of the episode is one of beginnings. It seems I was right on target (sorry, Arrow pun) with Slade Wilson. He's alive, and looking much more like his comics counterpart. And he's running Brother Blood. Looks like these Teen Titans villains stick together. And Barry left Oliver a present, finally a mask.

And Barry? He went home to Central City just in time (so unlike him) to see the particle accelerator blow up. Seconds afterward he's struck by lightning in his lab with a plethora of chemicals splashing on him. Sound familiar? Yeah, we've just seen the origin of the Flash. And was that Linda Park on the TV reporting the particle accelerator story?

There's no solid date for when the Flash pilot airs or when the series begins as of yet. They are apparently still casting for Iris West and someone referred to as Detective West, so it's a ways off. "Arrow" however returns on January 15th. See you in the New Year.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Die Hard Prequel

The Detective ~ We know all about Bruce Willis in Die Hard, and its four or five (who's counting?) sequels. But did you know there was a prequel to Die Hard? And did you know it starred Frank Sinatra? All true, keep reading and I'll tell you all about The Detective from 1968.

The Die Hard we all know and love, starring Bruce Willis, and made in 1988, was based on a book by crime novelist Roderick Thorp. The book's original title was Nothing Lasts Forever and it was published in 1979. Thorp had been wanting to write a sequel to his earlier novel, The Detective, and felt inspired after watching the film The Towering Inferno.

Nothing Lasts Forever was destined for the screen almost immediately, but Frank Sinatra, who portrayed Joe Leland in the film based on the first book wasn't interested. The idea floated around Hollywood for a while, was even suggested as the basis for a sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando movie at one time.

Eventually it ended up with producers Joel Silver and Lawrence Gordon, and director John McTiernan. The script was revamped and updated, some names and details were changed, and Bruce Willis came on board to play the younger John McClane as opposed to much older Joe Leland. The film went on to become a blockbuster with multiple sequels.

But as I mentioned, Roderick Thorp wrote a Joe Leland novel before Nothing Lasts Forever. The Detective was published in 1966, was a bestseller, and fast tracked to the screen starring Frank Sinatra two years later. The book featured a police case with as many possibilities as characters, almost reminiscent of a Raymond Chandler novel.

The film, while dated, lacks the humor of Willis' John McClane or even Sinatra's other crimestopper of the day, Tony Rome, so it has a very different vibe. Joe Leland is very serious about his police work. Those around him may joke, but Joe holds it together. Advertising of the time called it an adult look at police work.

The film features one of Sinatra's strongest performances of the late 1960s, a performance only elevated by the cast that surrounds him. Look for character actors Robert Duvall, Jack Klugman, Tony Musante, and William Windom, as well as beauties like Lee Remick and Jacqueline Bisset. There's also a great Jerry Goldsmith score that we just don't hear enough of.

While there are a few light moments, the film lacks the humor, and for that matter, the action, of Bruce Willis' Die Hard. Sinatra may well be a god in the film and music industry, but he's no Bruce Willis, and this was no Die Hard. It is however, quite a good film, and definitely worth a viewing. Recommended.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Godzilla 2014 Teaser Trailer

Every time I see the American version of Godzilla on TV (FX seems to run it relentlessly), I feel so sad that Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin were unable to capture the essence of the legendary monster, or one of film's longest running franchises for that matter.

They certainly made a movie called Godzilla, but there was no Godzilla in it, any more than the Big G was in Gorgo or Cloverfield, they made a movie about a giant monster on the rampage, but it wasn't Godzilla.

The American Godzilla was and is much maligned in fan and genre circles. I don't know about you, but I know that I, and every other fan, cheer loudly whenever we see Godzilla obliterate the American doppelganger (whom Toho dubbed Zilla) in Godzilla: Final Wars.

It's at times like those above that I hope that the new American version of Godzilla from Legendary Pictures might get it right. Here's the first official teaser trailer:

At least the monster looks like Godzilla. It has promise. I will wait and see. Godzilla opens on May 16th, 2014.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Mickey Mouse - "Get a Horse!"

Last week I talked about Frozen on the blog, and today, the review of the film by myself and The Bride can be heard on the newest episode of The Make Mine Magic Podcast. You can hear that episode here.

In that podcast, you'll hear not only our thoughts on Frozen, but also my assertion that the best part of the movie wasn't even in the movie, but before it. I really dug what at first seemed to be an early black and white Mickey Mouse cartoon called "Get a Horse!," but was in fact, a brand new animated treat. In the cartoon, the characters break through the screen as three-dimensional full color versions and jump back and forth.

The 'toon not only features the return of old school characters like Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow, but also the voice of Walt Disney himself as Mickey Mouse. I loved this, and recommend you go see Frozen just for this. It's awesome. Here's a taste of the beginning:

Friday, December 06, 2013

Arrow S02 E08: "The Scientist"

This is it, the episode, no, make that the two-part mid-season finale episode, we have all been waiting for. "Arrow" has been teasing us with comic book Easter eggs throughout the first season, and it has taken on a manic pace in the second - now we will see the debut of Barry Allen, destined to soon become, in a CW pilot, the Flash.

Now this isn't Barry Allen's first merry-go-round on television. He was animated by Filmation in the 1960s, and Hanna-Barbera in the 1970s. He made his first live-action appearance in the much-maligned "Legends of the Super-Heroes," and over a decade later starred in his own short-lived and low-rated TV series on CBS in the early 1990s. It was an expensive show, disliked by the comics community at the time, but it has aged well. Many look back on it fondly, myself included, but I liked it at the time as well.

The Flash was a mainstay of the DC Comics Animated Universe as a member of the Justice League, and was even in the TV pilot that some folks hated more than "Legends." Probably the less said about that the better. The character is almost a lock for a cameo at least, if not more, in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, Batman vs. Superman.

In the comics, the Barry Allen was the first of the Silver Age superheroes, imbued with super speed after being splashed with electrified chemicals. He was my brother's favorite, and thus became my favorite. I've been reading Flash comics for almost five decades. So yeah, I'm psyched to see Barry Allen, even pre-Flash.

In "Arrow," Grant Gustin, formerly the warbling villain from "Glee," is our Barry Allen. Initially I thought he was miscast, but five minutes after he first appears I am sold. You can say he's a bit nerdy, but let's face facts, Barry Allen is a nerd, a comic book geek, and a police scientist. Gustin, except for his hair color (but then again, the 1990s version, John Wesley Shipp, also had dark hair), is perfect.

With all the myriad plots and subplots going on in this series, this episode starts with a new story. A man with super strength has stolen a centrifuge from Queen Consolidated. Similar crimes in Central City brought CSI Barry Allen to Starling City. I love that he's always late, he runs after a cab in the rain (just like in his origin story), and there seems to be foreshadowing lightning in the sky over Starling City. And he and Felicity are smitten with one another. I guess Iris West must be in another area code.

While I suspected it was one of our subplots, our perp turns out not to be Deathstroke or Solomon Grundy, but a partaker of Professor Ivo's super-serum. Oliver says Ivo is dead, as were all his subjects, but apparently someone's trying to make more. Turns out I was two-thirds right, as that someone is Brother Blood, and the guy who beat Oliver down is none other than our buddy Cyrus Gold, the as-yet-named-thusly Solomon Grundy.

Meanwhile, Barry Allen is not all he seems. He's not in Starling on assignment, but in a personal agenda. Similar to his post-Flashpoint origin, Barry's mother was murdered when he was young, by 'a man inside a tornado,' and his father went to prison for it. We know that man was Professor Zoom the Reverse-Flash. Since then Barry investigates other unexplainable cases of superhuman beings, and also idolizes folks like The Hood who could've saved his mom. Nice set-up. Outed by Oliver, he hits the road.

In the subplot department, Roy finds an overdose that was caused by Ivo's serum, The Hood tells him to stay out of it, and puts an arrow in his leg to make sure he does. Malcolm is still adamant that Thea is his daughter and he's going to take her away, but Moira puts the fear of the demon in him - by informing Ras Al Ghul that Merlyn is still alive. Oliver has one mean momma. She is positively icy when she tells Malcolm he should run.

After the ersatz Grundy (actor Graham Shiels growls and moans perfectly for the part) nearly beats Oliver to death, and our hero is accidentally jabbed with an unknown drug, Diggle and Felicity need help. In a scene reminiscent of a Bat Gas moment from the 1960s "Batman" TV show, they kidnap Barry. He wakes up in the 'Arrowcave,' secrets unraveling, cue credits.

There is also a nice shout out to Kord Industries, an indirect reference to the Blue Beetle, and the countdown has begun for the particle accelerator in Central City. I'm not sure if this will play out on "Arrow" or the new Flash series, but I can't wait. See you next week, same Arrow time, same Arrow channel.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

An Adventure in Space and Time

An Adventure in Space and Time ~ Written by one of the current stable of writers for "Doctor Who" (which I cover for Biff Bam Pop!), Mark Gatiss, this is a docudrama about the creation of that series back in the early 1960s. These types of shows are done all the time, but what better time to do this one than during The Doctor's fiftieth anniversary, right?

Not just a novelty piece for the Who fans, this is also a British "Mad Men" nostalgia time capsule piece, full of semi-harmless cigarette smoking, sexism, and racism. Ironically, this is like the lighthearted good sister to "The Hour," a recent show about the same era, which coincidentally starred Peter Capaldi, the next Doctor Who come Christmas.

The cast is just full of fun and great characters. I loved Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert, Brian Cox as Sydney Newman, and David Bradley (Filch from Harry Potter) as the First Doctor William Hartnell. And Sacha Dhawan, who I loved as Manmeet in the short lived American "Outsourced," is great as first director Warris Hussein. All terrific actors bringing this fun production, and nostalgic reproduction, to life.

The movie is also a bittersweet journal of the early years of the TV series, through Dalekmania and William Hartnell's deterioration. You'll laugh and you'll cry. I think I liked this timely tale almost as much as I liked the 50th anniversary special itself. Great fun.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Frozen ~ Disney's holiday offering this year is the computer animated musical Frozen, very loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen." Co-written and co-directed by Jennifer Lee (Disney's first female animation director), the tale weaves a particularly female perspective on the classic story. It is this point of view, along with the humanizing of the title villainess, that makes this film work.

"The Snow Queen" is a very dark tale, extremely messed up too, even for a fairy tale. Disney has had plans to do an adaptation of it on and off for decades, as far back as the 1940s. The story's dark nature has made it a difficult pill to swallow for the typical Disney approach. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck break the pattern by creating a new kind of Disney Princess, two of them, Anna and her sister, the Snow Queen.

Kristen Bell steals the film as naive excited Anna, but Broadway's brilliant Idina Menzel dominates the screen when she's on it - figuratively of course, it is animation. Still, these are two fabulous voice talents. And not just speaking but singing as well. Christophe Beck's (Paperman) score is only surpassed by the songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who individually were responsible for songs in Avenue Q, Finding Nemo - The Musical, and The Book of Mormon. Frozen is their first collaboration.

The voice talent is top notch, with Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel as the sisters Anna and Elsa. Bell rocks the house, but Menzel is the true star here, and a real score for Disney, as her resume includes the best parts in Wicked and Rent, as well as a few guest stints in "Glee" when the show was at the top of its game. The singers are as fabulous as the songs themselves.

Frozen was as surprising a holiday treat as the other entries in Dinsey's 'female empowerment trilogy,' Tangled and Brave. Elsa and Anna are fine additions to the Disney Princesses, and Jennifer Lee is a director to watch. Recommended.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Lost Hits of the New Wave #30

Donnie Iris may be a name solidly from the past, but it's one that is back in the news recently.

Dominic Ierace, better known by his stage name of Donnie Iris climbed to fame as a member of The Jaggerz and the writer of "The Rapper." That was in 1970.

Later he floated into Wild Cherry, that 1970s band known for playing that funky music, white boy.

After that he became a solo act, sometimes backed up by The Cruisers and produced vintage FM classics in the early 1980s like "Ah! Leah!" and "Love Is Like a Rock."

As the decade continued, Iris continued to try to compete with low charting singles like "Tough World," "The High and the Mighty," and "Do You Compute?" He even released a pseudo-rock Christmas album called Ah! Leluiah! but he would never again see the success he had with the rock new wave crossover hit "Love Is Like a Rock." Now, he is suing Sony for royalties owed when "The Rapper" was sampled by The Game for their 2008 song, "Letter to the King." Iris still tours the Pittsburgh and Ohio region with The Cruisers.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Rock Blog Tour - Skinn Jakkitt

Welcome back on board the Rock Blog Tour featuring Skinn Jakkitt...

Skinn Jakkitt released their first national release, a self-titled album, on November 5th of this year, recorded with The Tate Music Group.

The Hickory, North Carolina-based band consists of Barry Sams and Shane Farris on guitars, Jeff Hayworth on bass, Jeff "Pup" Price on drums, and Greg Stephens on vocals.

The first song and video from the album is "Epiphany," check it out below:

For a taste of Skinn Jakkitt live, these videos show the band in their natural habitat:

You can see Skinn Jakkitt perform live next on December 14th, with Amnesis in Waynesville NC, and at The Wizard Saloon in Hickory NC on January 25th.

If you haven't already checked them out, please see the previous stops on this Skinn Jakkitt Blog Tour with Whitney Coble, Tim Marquitz, Becca Butcher, Kristyn Phipps, and Jennifer Walker. Please come by and check out my friend Robin Renee's blog The Dream Between for the next installment on Tuesday, December 3rd.

Please visit Skinn Jakkitt's website, hear them at ReverbNation, Like them on Facebook, and Follow them on Twitter.