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The Mystery of a Great Book

UltraThinMan

I spent months slaving away on my first story, a science fiction epic of grandiose proportions. When I completed it, I thought to myself, “This is great. Everyone’s going to love this.”

I was nine years old.

But seriously. I had written something I’d never read anywhere else before. It was new and bold. It was, in fact, a science fiction adventure called “Mr. Mooney Goes to the Moon” about an ordinary guy selected (by mail!) to go to the moon, where he has adventures and comes home again.

I liked it.

My parents oohed and ahhed appropriately. My sisters and brothers said, “Good job, bro!” My best friend politely said, “Nice. Now let’s go ride bikes.”

At nine years old, the secret to a really great story was still a mystery. My knowledge of those particulars lay in my distant future; I was a long way away from writing The Ultra Thin Man, and I had a lot to learn.

I’m still learning.

Learning how to write is cheap. I listened to professional writers give me conflicting advice. I heard writers and editors say use common sense. Some said intuition leads the writer in the right direction. Some believed writers write when they’re inspired. Some touted the importance of complicated outlines. Some said just start writing and see what happens.

After college, I started submitting short stories with serious intent, emerging from my insular writer’s lair to put new stories out there, competing with a scrum of writers bent on similar goals. But I still didn’t have a clue about what made a story great.

My first rejection letter came to me in 1981: a little card from Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, with a cute illustration of a pig dressed as a mailman looking up with consternation at an open mailbox, a slimy tentacle sticking out from the inside holding a letter. Editor George Scithers had typed an actual note on the card. I would’ve been awed by this personal attention if I hadn’t immediately noticed the first word, “Sorry.” He went on to say: “This fails to hold interest. The characters are one-dimensional and they tend to give long lectures about the situation instead of live in it.”

And, finally, he inserted a small dagger to the heart: “The story lacks any central wonder or new idea.”

Ouch.

Not ready to give up, I cranked out new stories and mailed those out, and the rejections piled up. Some were form rejections, some had a few encouraging notes. I took some classes. Attended some workshops. Eventually sold some stories. Not many; I still received way more rejections than acceptances. Then I debuted Talebones, a small press magazine I edited for 14 years until 2009. I received about 200 short story submissions a month. At a twice-a-year schedule, that meant 1200 submissions an issue, and I could only buy about eight stories.

Mostly, these stories (like my earliest attempts) were boring. I admired the courage of some of these writers, who were chucking their work into the mail as fast as I could reject them, but I started to learn more about my own writing. I began to see that it wasn’t so much the courage of these writers that mattered. It was about how well they could communicate with readers. You see, as an editor, I was now an audience. I had certain things I liked about stories, things I hated. I wanted to be entertained. I wanted stories to pull at my heartstrings, or strike me with fear. I needed the best stories in my magazine because I had subscribers who expected great stories.

What I learned is the same thing filmmakers intuitively understand when they make movies. The audience is most important. The audience desires story. They want to be entertained. They want to be enlightened. How do filmmakers do that? They merge language and style with strong actors and powerful images and emotional music, and they draw a cathartic response from the audience without them seeing who’s pulling the strings.

When I understood this, I realized the same rules applied to writing short stories, and when I started working on novels, I found that the rules held sway here as well. Language creates that relationship between the writer, the characters, and the reader. Maybe I could even write the type of book that got picked up for film or TV. (It’s a dream I have.) But I knew, deep down, a book that paid attention to its relationship with the audience, if nothing else, was a book that had soul.

A book with soul is faithful to itself, but it shares that experience with the reader, and that makes for a great book.

PSwenson1 credit Bobbie ClimerGuest post written by Patrick Swenson, author of the novel “The Ultra Thin Man.” Swenson is the publisher and proprietor of Fairwood Press, a small Fantasy and Science Fiction publisher based in Washington state. You can find him online at www.patrickswenson.net and on Twitter at @patrick_swenson. “The Ultra Thin Man.” is his first novel.

Photo Credit: Bobbie Climer

Chris Pratt Almost Turned Down “Guardians of the Galaxy

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After seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, it feels wrong to think of any other actor in the lead role of Peter Quill, yet Chris Pratt revealed that he almost turned down the role that has made him one of the hottest actors of the year (and hopefully the decade because I’m officially in love with him, sorry boyfriend and Pratt’s wife Anna Farris.)

Pratt revealed in an interview with Esquire for their September issue that he almost backed out of the Marvel picture thanks to a bad experience with an audition for G.I. Joe role a few years ago. He said,

“When Guardians of the Galaxy was pitched to me, I said, ‘I don’t think so.’ I just didn’t picture myself getting the role,” Pratt says. “I didn’t want to go and embarrass myself like I did when I auditioned for G.I. Joe a couple of years previously. I went in there, and halfway through I saw the director’s eyes just glaze over. It made sense — I was a little heavy and out of shape. I was not gonna play someone from G.I. Joe. I did not look like a G.I. Joe action figure come to life.”

But as you know, Pratt got the role and did an intense physical regimen to get in shape for the film. (And looks damn fine in it.)

“I can do 40-inch box jumps now. Action-hero physical stuff,” he says. “Jumping that high feels really good. You see a giant hillside, and you think, I wanna get up that. You see a building, you think, I could climb that. When you get in shape, the world around you becomes things you wanna jump on and climb up.”

Pratt proved himself worthy as well. Guardians of the Galaxy as blown away audiences and the box office this year and as already been picked up for a sequel that will release in 2017. Pratt has signed on for a multi-year contract with Marvel as well which is only good news for me and fans everywhere.

The First Trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Revealed

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We finally have the first trailer for the upcoming third film installment in the Hunger Games franchise. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 has release a trailer in the form of a PSA from Panem and President Snow.

The PSA shows President Snow in a perfectly white background as he promises peace and unity. Though he hints that those who resist may be presents with a future that is not so peaceful. And just as he’s warning, “If you resist the system, you starve yourself. If you fight against it, it is you who will bleed,” the camera pans to reveal Peeta beside him. Blurgh.

Part one sees Katniss in District 13 after she literally shatters the games forever. Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage.

The film stars Jennifer LawrenceJosh HutchersonLiam HemsworthWoody HarrelsonElizabeth BanksJulianne MooreJeffrey WrightDonald Sutherland, and Philip Seymour Hoffman

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 hits theaters on November 21. (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 will release on November 20, 2015). 

You can watch the trailer below.

Robert Kirkman Talks “Outcast” and Season 5 of “Walking Dead”

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Robert Kirkman, the creator of “The Walking Dead,” recently spoke out about the upcoming fifth season of the AMC series that is based on his comics as well as the new series based on his comic series, “Outcast.”

“Outcast” will be released at the end of June will follow similar themes to “The Walking Dead.” The title, released via Kirkman’s Skybound imprint, is already out-selling his other series. 

Kirkman explains what kind of similarities “Outcast” and “The Walking Dead” share.

I think that both of them strive to be very real examinations of a very fantastical and unreal kind of situation. Although I would argue that demonic possession is certainly something that there’s evidence to support the possibility that it could be a real phenomenon — much more so than zombies. I think zombies are probably definitely never going to happen (Laughs). I think people may wish that they would. But they’re both stories about very real people against these horrific backdrops. That’s something that I really enjoy doing.

For those who are caught up with comic series of “The Walking Dead,” the series has started a new story after a time jump. We see Rick re-established in a larger society. Kirkman spoke about whether he knows how the story will end and its effects on creating “Outcast.”

I’ve known roughly how The Walking Dead [comic] ends for a while now. It’s something that I took my time figuring out but I always knew the direction I was going in. A few years ago the end cemented itself. But that’s something that is very far off into the future and it’s an ending that doesn’t really work unless I take my time getting there. I feel like, as withOutcast, the stakes on The Walking Dead have continued to escalate, and in recent issues, we’ve revealed the full extent of the world building that we’re planning to do long-term, and just how important these characters that we’ve been following are going to turn out to be in the history of civilization. That’s a pretty exciting prospect and a really cool change and shift in the narrative of that story.

Unlike “The Walking Dead,” “Outcast” will be a series at Cinemax and Kirkman is actually prepping the potential pilot himself. Kirkman explained how the show would compare to the comics.

There’s definitely going to be a lot similarities, but despite the fact that I’m writing the comic and writing the pilot episode of the series, you will see some pretty big differences. There are certain ways to tell a story, and certain mechanics and things that work really well in comics that don’t work well on television and vice versa. There are certain opportunities to be taken when you adapt something into television, where you have motion and sound, where you can expand on and change things in very cool ways in a manner that wouldn’t have worked so well in comics. To be honest, that’s the fun part and the challenge of saying, “This is going to be moving and there’s going to be actors, and it’s going to have sound, and there are different things to be done.” It’s cool to limit the same story and think about it in a different way.

Even though season 4 of “The Walking Dead” ended on a pretty crazy note, we didn’t see any major characters die, which is surprising in itself. Kirkman tells us what we can expect with season 5 of the show.

It’s always highly likely, though I wouldn’t say that it’s any more likely than it ever is, but it is always extremely likely. We did pull back on the reins a little bit at the end of season four. We’re definitely going to hit the ground running for season five and we really don’t let up very quickly at all. It’s going to be a pretty fast-paced, intense season.

When it comes to rumors about character Glenn possibly meeting his maker, Kirkman unfortunately did not confirm nor deny the rumors.

I absolutely love it. It means people care and people are paying attention. So keep those rumors flying!

Kirkman also commented on the addition of Seth Gilliam to a currently unconfirmed role.

Every season we try to bring in new characters that add something in their own way to the cast, much in the way that Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Eugene (Josh McDermitt) and Rosita (Christian Serratos) brought a new narrative and more character dynamics to the show. Seth Gilliam’s character — whoever it may be — brings a lot of conflict and really cool character traits to the mix.

The Walking Dead returns in October. A specific premiere date will likely be announced at Comic-Con. Outcast No. 1 is released June 25 via Image Comics. Check out an advance look at Outcast No. 1, below.

Game of Thrones: Season 5 Casting Tons of New Characters

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While it seems like every new season (and every new book for that matter) of “Game of Thrones” sees dozens and dozens of new characters added, next year’s season 5 will get a whole new region , along with its inhabitants, added to the cast.

Warning: there are some various potential spoilers for non-book readers below. 

According to WinterisComing.net (and leaks from their undisclosed source), we know that the following characters from the books are currently looking for casting.

Prince Doran Martell

  • Doran is described as the major new player this year, appearing in multiple episodes. The fiftysomething prince uses a wheelchair, is reclusive and rules wisely. It appears the show is looking to continue the trend it started with Pedro Pascal, and cast Latino actors for the Martell clan.

Prince Trystane Martell

  • Trystane, the handsome fiance of Princess Myrcella, is being aged up to 18.

Areo Hotah

  • Doran’s personal bodyguard will appear throughout the season, assisting the prince with his duties. The show is particularly looking for a black actor to fill the role.

The show is also casting for the “Sand Snakes” – i.e. Oberyn’s bastard daughters.

Obara Sand

  • The eldest and most athletic Sand Snake will be having a major fight scene with a series regular character — not one who crosses her path in the books. This is an interesting change.

Nymeria Sand

  • Nymeria is described as ‘mixed race,’ with her father being the fairer (Oberyn) and her mother being darker skinned. The second oldest of these Sand Snakes, she’s beautiful, emotional and very strong.

Tyene Sand

  • The youngest of the Sand Snakes that we meet uses her wits and seductive powers and is less of a physical fighter than the other Sand Snakes. She is just as deadly as her sisters, however, but her weapon is poison.

The rest of Westeros and Essos are also getting some new faces including,

High Sparrow

  • The books’ pious head of a religious movement will be appearing in several episodes in season 5.

Septa Unella

  • The show is looking for a character actress to play the imposing and unrelenting septa who spends a lot of time with a major series character next year.

Maggy the Frog

  • A fortune teller in “A Feast for Crows” she’ll be in one episode next year.

Lollys Stokeworth

  • In ‘Mockingbird,’ Bronn announced his intention to marry Lollys, whom Tyrion considers ‘dimwitted.’ It looks like the sellsword will still be around next year.

Yezzan

  • A sleazy Meereenese slave owner.

The Waif

  • The strange child from the books that Arya encounters will likely be played by an older actress, one in her later teens, and we understand the show is specifically looking for a woman of East Asian descent for the part.

New Trailer for Adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s “Radio Free Albemuth” Debuts

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The film adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, “Radio Free Albemuth” has released a new trailer. The project was directed and adapted by John Alan Simon. The book was written in 1976 and posthumously published in 1985.

Radio Free Albemuth stars several well-known actors including Shea Whigham, who plays Eli on Showtime’s Boardwalk Empire, Katheryn Winnick, who stars on History’sVikings, musician/actress Alanis Morissette, Ashley Greene, Jon Tenney and Rich Sommer.

The film is set in an alternate reality in 1985. Berkeley record store clerk Nick Brady (Jonathan Scarfe) begins to experience strange visions transmitted from an extraterrestrial source he calls VALIS. He moves with his family to L.A., where he becomes a successful music executive with a secret mission to overthrow the oppressive government led by U.S. President Fremont (Scott Wilson). With the help of his best friend, sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick (Whigham), and a beautiful, mysterious woman named Silvia (Morissette), Nick finds himself drawn into a conspiracy of mind-shattering proportions.

Radio Free Albemuth is a science fiction thriller that was initially filmed in 2007. It is finally getting a release via Freestyle Releasing and Freestyle Digital Media (FDM), which acquired all DVD/VOD rights.

The film was produced by Dale Rosenbloom, Stephen Nemeth and Elizabeth Karr along with Simon, the project will debut in limited theaters and on all digital platforms June 27.

You can watch the trailer below:

First Image from The Walking Dead Season 5 Debuts

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Season 4 has only concluded recently but AMC has already released the first image from the upcoming fifth season of “The Walking Dead.” You can see the image above.

Season 4 introduced the notable comic characters Abraham Ford, Eugene Porter, Rosita Espinosa, Bob Stookey, and Lilly, as well as a modified version of the Chambler family from The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor tie-in novel. Rick and his fellow survivors struggle to maintain their idealistic lifestyle in the prison in the face of threats, including the proliferation of walkers near the prison gates, the outbreak of a contagious and deadly flu-like infection within the prison population, and the spectre of The Governor. The second half of the season mainly focuses on the individual groups that escaped from the prison after its downfall, and their efforts to survive as they follow a line of railroad tracks to a supposed safe zone named Terminus (aka cannibal land.)

Based on the comic created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, Season 5 of “The Walking Dead” is currently in production and is set to air on AMC this fall.

Snickers Ultimate Movie Pack Giveaway!

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Who hasn’t felt like a rampaging menace at least once in their lives? Because let’s face it, You’re Not You When You’re Hungry! Even Godzilla is a regular, cool guy who can hang with his friends, just watch out for that sudden spell of hunger! Check it out in the new Snickers commercial! Only SNICKERS – and its delicious blend of chocolate, peanuts, caramel and nougat – can provide #MONSTERSATISFACTION and tame the savage beast!

To celebrate the release of the new Snickers “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” commercial, Snickers wants to hear about your most satisfying movie experience. So tweet with the #MONSTERSATISFACTION hashtag about that incredible first date, or the first time you saw your favorite movie of all time on the big screen.

What you win:

One lucky winner will receive a Snickers Movie Prize Pack that includes a $15 Fandango gift card and 5 Snickers bars!

How to enter:

Watch the new You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” commercial with Godzilla and email us your favorite part for a giveaway entry or Tweet us with your answer at @Optionated_ using the hashtag #MONSTERSATISFACTION for one entry!

Make sure the heading to email says “Snickers” so we know which contest you are entering!

The winner will be announced on March 15, 2014.

Entry Guidelines:

Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Snickers Movie Prize Pack containing 5 Snickers Bars and 1 $15 Fandango Gift Card via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Must be 18 years or older and a resident of the United States.

Note: This post is sponsored by Snickers Brand.

At the Intersection of Geeky and Cool: Hackers in the Movies

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Despite continued efforts on the part of government coalitions and private security firms to stem their activity, hackers continue to present a significant threat to any individual or organization intent on keeping information secure. According to a 2011 survey from the Ponemon Institute, 90 percent of companies claim to have been targeted by hackers. Fortunately, the reach of individual hackers remain far less extensive than what is portrayed in the hottest hacking movies of the past 20 years, but films such as “Hackers” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” still do an excellent job of showing the potential consequences of security breaches.

Hackers

One of the earlier films starring Angelina Jolie, the 1995 cult hit “Hackers” focused on a group of high school computer geniuses attempting to bring down a group of corrupt corporate leaders. Yes, the film’s protagonists were definitely dorky, as reflected in the alias ‘Zero Cool,’ but they also retained the sort of geeky hip status later seen in such real-life figures as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. At the time of its release, the film received some flak for engaging in what many termed as ‘hacksploitation,’ but critic Roger Ebert ultimately viewed it as a valuable contribution to an increasingly prominent film genre.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Based on the hit novel by Stieg Larsson, the American remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” movie appealed to British and American audiences, with its casting of Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig. Although the plot failed to completely revolve around hackers, this subculture still played an essential role, allowing protagonists Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist dig up the dirt necessary to solve a deadly mystery. Expect even greater influence from Lisbeth’s hacking friends in such future releases as “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” Much of the hacking plot from the novelized sequels reflected the reality of circa-2004 hackers and, assuming this subplot is retained in the upcoming films, should give audiences an inside look at the real lives of international hackers.

Live Free Or Die Hard

The fourth installment in the popular “Die Hard” series, “Live Free Or Die Hard” shifted its focus to the efforts of cyber terrorists, a growing concern among audience members in 2007. Despite the liberal interpretation of cybersecurity taken by screenwriters and film producers, many elements of the “Live Free Or Die Hard” plot were based in reality. For example, while critics deride fears concerning the diversion of natural gas as overblown, they do acknowledge the ability of talented individuals to access everything from personal bank accounts to the Social Security Administration, exemplifying the need for experts at LifeLock and identity theft protection companies at large to continue to provide fraud protection and thwart hackers.

The Matrix

In “The Matrix,” hackers are viewed not as villains but as victims of a very punitive and misleading system. But unlike their fellow sufferers, talented characters Trinity and Neo find the means to fight back, utilizing their tech talents for the good of society. Action heroes reflect society at large, which is why Neo and Trinity’s status as computer geeks proved so significant throughout the course of “The Matrix” trilogy.

Guest Post Written by Jerry Holloway

Jerry has a degree in computer science and writes about the ever-evolving world of computers.

CheapOair Offering Travel Deals For “The Hunger Games” Hotspots

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If you are a fan of The Hunger Games then you may dream of visiting all the different locations from the films. Walking in the shoes of Katniss and Peeta and even President Snow. Now, you are in luck. Atlanta, Georgia is now offering Capitol Tours  and Hunger Games tours. And in light of the movie hitting theaters this week, leading online travel agency, CheapOair, is offering travel deals to Atlanta where travelers can gain the full experience of the movie by visiting locations throughout the city where scenes from the Hunger Games: Catching Fire were shot.

Locations of the tours include:

The Swan House

When visiting Atlanta, start your Hunger Games Journey at the Swan House. This beautiful Atlanta landmark is the location of President Snow’s palace and appears in several party scenes throughout the movie. The Swan House is now offering Capitol Tours through the house showcasing the rooms that were used during filming. Visitors will have exclusive admittance to a behind-the-scenes exhibit displaying photos from the production and select props from the film.

The Beach

“The Beach” at Clayton County International Park, was transformed into a post-apocalyptic setting used for arena scenes during the 75th Annual Hunger Games. After touring the iconic sights, get active like the tributes did by visiting the park’s indoor and outdoor playgrounds, fitness center, fishing lakes, walking and biking trails and group picnic area under the trees.

Goat Farm Arts Center

Lastly, Atlanta’s Goat Farm Arts Center which is not only home to artsy galleries and galas, but also serves as District 12, home to Hunger Games’ very own Katniss Everdeen.

If you want to take part in the tours, CheapOair is offering the following deals:

  •  Orlando to Atlanta, Georgia for $245 per person with a 6 night/7 day stay at the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria for $89 per night.
  •  Boston to Atlanta, Georgia for $274 per person with a 6 night/7 day stay at the Hotel Indigo Atlanta Midtown for $139 per night.
  • New York to Atlanta, Georgia for $278 per person with a 4 night/5 day stay at the Holiday Inn Atlanta Capitol Conference Centre for $90 per night.
  • Washington to Atlanta, Georgia for $282 per person with a 6 night/7 day stay at The Westin Atlanta Airportfor $146 per night.
  • Los Angeles to Atlanta, Georgia for $345 per person with a 5 night/6 day stay at the Doubletree By Hilton Atlanta – Emory Area for $127 per night.