Just Win (The Super Bowl), Baby

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post concerning my Oakland Raiders and the fact that they stunk so much that I was hoping for them to get even one, lone win that season. It’s amazing how quickly the Raiders have turned around, last season becoming a post-season team for the first time in 13 years, and this season, being looked at by many as a Super Bowl contender. This represents quite the change for the Raiders, who for many years were the joke of the NFL.

So what happened? They put in the work.

And by that I mean that the Raiders are a well-managed team now. Their GM, Reggie McKenzie, has done a much better job in recent years of signing free agents and drafting new players out of college. Add to that the spectacular job head coach Jack Del Rio has done in instilling confidence in the team as well as a winning attitude, and it’s not hard to see that luck had nothing to do with the Raiders’ return to excellence.

Leading this return is a QB, Derek Carr, who would rather give all the glory to God and to his teammates and coaches than to himself. He’s a humble young man, and I’d have no one else in that QB spot. Carr’s exactly the type of man who I want to see on this team, and that’s saying a lot since there was a time when the Raiders were the bad boys of football and proud of it.

Derek Carr, as he’s willing to admit, was wild in his college years. That is, until someone special to him said, “You’re not the person I thought you were.” Coming from the right woman at the right time, those words were exactly what Carr needed to hear to turn his life around. He straightened himself up and began walking on the path of Jesus with that special lady who would become his wife. Today, Carr will tell you that he’s had many experiences that have convinced him that God is working in his life. In fact, if you want to hear him for yourself, please follow this link to a recent podcast interview in which he explained his faith, how he came to it, and how he uses it to help others. That portion of the interview begins at the 12:48 mark.

This is the man I’m thankful is leading my Oakland Raiders. I love him. He’s a wonderful young man with a great attitude and a strong dedication to his belief, to his wife, to his kids, and to making the Raiders a Super Bowl-winning team. I may not be a man of faith, but I’m grateful that he is. Carr has had such a positive impact on the Raiders organization and the fans, the Raider Nation, as well. And who knows? Maybe in a couple of years, when the Raiders move to Las Vegas, we’ll find out that Carr is exactly the angel that Sin City needs. I wouldn’t bet on Vegas changing one bit, but then again, faith doesn’t rely on luck. 🙂

Oakland Raiders - Derek Carr

Picture Prompts With K.J. Chapman

If you love picture prompts, be sure to check in with author K.J. Chapman. On her blog, other than her bountiful supply of book reviews and updates on her exciting writings, can be found the occasional picture prompt that serves to stir the imagination and spark your creative juices.

A recent picture prompt that I participated in can be found here. You’ll see my contribution in the comments section. (K.J. called my writing “brilliant.” Please go over there to witness that.) Although, now that I think about it, I believe I was supposed to post my prompt writing in my own blog and then link back to her blog, so I guess I did it wrong. But hey, if I didn’t do something wrong, I wouldn’t be me. Haha!

Anyway, give that picture prompt and other prompts a look. Draw some inspiration and write, write, write! Who knows? Something you write from a prompt may end up in your own novel.

Speaking of novels, be sure to check out K.J.’s own novels: EVO Nation, EVO Shift, and Thrown to the Blue. Currently, she’s prepping the thrilling-sounding EVO Ghost for inevitable publication and working on an interesting idea known as Zombie Playlist. Also, she was kind enough to loan me her name for a key character in the last book of my own work-in-progress trilogy (Kay’leigh turned out to be an awesome character, by the way. Thank you!).

So, what are you waiting for? Get to a picture prompt and get to some writing! Don’t make me have to put on my Ah-nold Schwarzenegger voice and exclaim, “Naaaoooowwww!”

My OCD Hates Me Right Now

As I’m revising the first chapter of my first book (yet again), I can’t help but to feel that this chapter needs to be later in the book. Don’t get me wrong, Chapter 1 should be Chapter 1, but the way I wrote the book, the first three chapters are all introduction. The first chapter introduces the protagonist, Kara, the second chapter introduces a second important character, and the third chapter introduces another important character. I did this as a way to bring characters into play and give them a proper set-up and establish how they interact with each other. However, and this is kind of a feeling I got a few months ago when I went back and read the beginning of Chapter 4, I really think that the story actually starts moving in Chapter 4.

This is why my OCD hates me right now. It knows that Chapter 1 represents the beginning of the journey so should be first, but I know that the story may be better served with a start at Chapter 4. Given this, my OCD and I have come to a compromise.

My OCD still hates me; it’s just compromising.

What I’m thinking of doing is pulling a George Lucas. If anyone isn’t familiar with the Star Wars creator, here’s what he did: He released the fourth part of the Star Wars story as the first movie and later, about 15 years or so after giving us the fifth and sixth parts, went back to writing, directing, and releasing the first part of the story. Essentially, he gave us the story out of order, and I feel like I want to do the same thing. I mean, hey, it worked for George, so why can’t it also work for me in my quest to create a billion-dollar franchise that will become such a strong attachment for the most dedicated fans to the franchise that they will eventually hate me for any little thing I do to alter the originals or add to the story in any way?

So, in honor of George and his Star Wars saga, I’m moving Chapter 1 of my first book to after Chapters 4, 5, and 6. I’m not changing the chapter number; I’m simply moving it. In the table of contents, Chapter 4 will be first and Chapter 1 will be fourth. Why? I’m doing this to preserve the intended order in which to read the story. If a reader chooses to run straight through, starting with Chapter 4, that’s fine. If another reader – if I ever, by some miracle, happen to have more than one reader – chooses to flip to Chapter 1, bounce over to Chapter 2, and hop to Chapter 3 before skipping all the way back to Chapter 4, they’re welcome to do that.

Oh, speaking of Chapters 2 and 3, I found other places where they could fit nice and snug-like. The order I’m playing with, now, is as follows: 4, 5, 6, 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 2, 11, 12, 3, 13, 14, 15, and 16.

Yes, my OCD is screaming its head off at me right now. It’s saying things like, “People will think you can’t count!” What my OCD voice doesn’t know, though, is that my inability to count is overshadowed by my inability to care. Although, I think that may be the ‘Murica voice in me talking.

I don’t know what I’m saying anymore.

No, Darth Vader, Now The Circle Is Complete

After four years of work, yesterday, I completed the first draft of my third book, the last in the trilogy.

No applause? Okay, I’ll keep going.

Anyway, I can’t really say that I feel a monstrous sense of relief or that I feel any different. I mean, yeah, I snagged a Pizza Hut pizza (pepperoni and olives with a totally yummy honey barbeque drizzle) and had a nice salad, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a helping of cherry cordial ice cream on the side while watching one of my favorite movies, Battle: Los Angeles (hey, when I party, I really party), but other than the constant prayer to any god who would listen to my pleas of holding back my inevitable tummy ache (so worth it, by the way), I simply didn’t feel anything that I would describe as “different.”

Maybe it’s because I feel like I still have a lot of work ahead of me. First of all, I have to look back at the synopses that I wrote and make any needed changes to them so that they accurately reflect the contents of my novels. I know the third novel went on a kind of different track than what I was predicting when I originally wrote the synopsis for it. Secondly, I want to get to revising each of my books, especially the first one, as I’ve learned so much more about writing since I finished it a couple of years ago. That’s going to be a huge task considering that my three novels total out to just a smidgen over 276,000 words. Finally, I’d like to begin sending out query letters, preferably after the first book has been revised, so I can see about attracting an agent to my work.

That’s the plan anyway, and we all know how plans go, don’t we? That’s why I tend to stick with my protagonist’s super-duper-simple, two-step plan for tackling anything – Step one: Start shit. Step two: See what happens.

I guess we’ll see what happens. 🙂

Friend

Sometimes I hear people say, “Depression is a disease.”

This is normally said either by normal people or by people who have been convinced by normal people that what they have is wrong.

But I’ve learned to be grateful for the wrong I have and the wrong I am.

If I didn’t fall into depression, I wouldn’t be able to write what I write, not only in poetry but in my novels as well. I wouldn’t be able to feel what my depressed characters feel.

If I didn’t fall into depression, I wouldn’t know what it is that other depressed people feel, and for that, I’m grateful; I’m grateful to know.

If I didn’t fall, I wouldn’t come to realize that falling again and again is good practice for rising back up again and again.

So yes, I’m grateful for what I go through. I’m grateful that I am wrong. I’m grateful to have been blessed with this depression that allows me a unique, outside perspective of normal.

You hear that, Sadness? I’m glad to be with you, whenever you need someone, whenever you need me. While other people push you away and make you be alone and make you feel bad for being what you are, I’m glad to be with you.

I’m glad to be your friend.

I am here.

The Power Rangers Breakfast Club? (No Spoilers …Almost)

Don’t worry; I’ll throw out a warning before the spoilers.

Anyway, I liked the new Power Rangers film, I really did; however, there was something oddly familiar about it. I wonder what that was…

The Power Rangers Breakfast Club

Look, I’m all for inspiration, but this is just a blatant copy. I much would’ve preferred if the Rangers had their own identities rather than this movie standing as a sort-of Breakfast Club remake, only with 100% more Megazord. The Rangers even had their version of the emotional confession scene in which the characters confess their secrets to each other. It was uncanny. At that moment, I said to myself, “This really is like The Breakfast Club, just without the character depth and natural conflict.”

Again, I like the film (I am a fan and did watch the original Mighty Morphin series back in 1993); I was simply disappointed by the writers taking a bit of a lazy route, especially when I found a couple of scenes in the film (revolving around Zordon and Jason, and Rita as well) to show a lot of potential for what the movie as a whole could have been.

Other than that, there’s really not much to say about this film. It’s Power Rangers. If you enjoy the show, you’ll enjoy the movie. It’s simply what it is: a feature-length version of the Mighty Morphin pilot episode that copies The Breakfast Club, with a touch of Chronicle.

SPOILER ALERT!

Okay, now I have to talk freely about the film because I want to share something that I feel could have been written into one of the scenes. I’m speaking of the scene in which Billy drowns. When the Rangers pulled him out of the water and had him lying on the dock while they panicked over him, I wondered why none of the Rangers performed CPR on Billy. Of course, that gave me an idea for an exchange of dialogue that I felt should have occurred at that moment…

Zack: Give him CPR!
Jason: I don’t know CPR! Does anyone know CPR?!
Kimberly: No!
Trini: No!
Zack: I don’t know CPR! Does Billy know CPR?!
Jason [staring in disbelief]: He’s kind of the one that needs it.

GhostBlade

Recently, I discovered this amazing web comic called GhostBlade by a Chinese computer graphics artist who calls himself WLOP. Upon first glance at a single panel, I was blown away by how much it resembled a painting. The style has a magnificent flair to it that if I knew anything about art, I’m sure I’d be able to describe.

whisper

The story is that of a conflict between the human race and the feather race (angels).

light

Characters are introduced and weaved into the narrative in a natural way.

miaow

And locations can have a fantastic energy and originality to them.

heaven-eye

There are, so far, seven chapters (0-6) and a prequel chapter, each made up of multiple panels. While there isn’t very much of this comic to read at the moment – I caught up on everything available within a couple of hours – what’s there is of a quality that has me excited to see more. If you need a bit more convincing, or would like a taste of how the comic is drawn, check out the below trailer. Then take a peek at the comic itself. Trust me; you won’t regret it.

Oh, and you can also check out some GhostBlade art at DeviantArt and get a look at some behind the scenes videos at WLOP’s YouTube channel.

Life’s A Switch!

I haven’t been excited about a video game console since Microsoft’s Xbox 360 featured that ‘new plastic smell’ back in 2005. Any excitement I would’ve felt for Sony’s PlayStation 3 (PS3) was deflated by the hefty, initial $599 price tag. And for whatever reason, the Wii’s motion control just never fully took hold of me even as that fad swept the world.

When the Wii U came around, I simply didn’t care for its tablet-like controller – what Nintendo calls the GamePad. The console’s lack of hardware power, meaning graphics equal to a last generation console, didn’t help either. So I was focused on the big boys of the gaming scene, PS4 and Xbox One. When Sony revealed the PS4, I was glad to see that they learned from the mistakes they made with the PS3, but the lack of a killer app – a game meant to show off the potential of the hardware and, therefore, be a solid reason to buy said hardware – just wasn’t there. And by the time that killer app did arrive, I had already made up my mind that the difference in graphics from PS3 to PS4 wasn’t as much of a leap as I would’ve liked.

You’ll notice I’m hesitant to mention Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal. That’s on purpose. Microsoft pushed me away, from the start, by offering a console that focused heavily on online connectivity. That’s just not something I’m interested in. I prefer offline multiplayer with people in the same room, an experience online gaming can never accurately reproduce for obvious reasons. So despite being a self-proclaimed ‘Xbox guy’ since the release of the original Xbox in November 2001, the Xbox One just never truly caught my fancy. It didn’t help that, in my eyes, 343 Industries completely screwed up the story of the Halo series, which was once my favorite video game series of all time. Actually, I like to say that Bungie’s Halo is my favorite video game series of all time.

More recently, Sony and Microsoft have revealed new consoles (the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio, respectively) that serve as upgrades to the current ones, but there’s not much to get excited about there since those consoles are all about pushing 4K resolution, something I’m just not interested in yet, seeing as how I don’t have a 4K TV and don’t plan to buy one anytime soon.

Enter Nintendo. When the design of their new console, Nintendo Switch, was leaked by gaming website Eurogamer, I had my reservations. There was a part of me that thought a hybrid of home and handheld console designs could be great, but there was also that part of me that wondered if essentially doubling-down on the design of the Wii U was going to be the final nail in Nintendo’s coffin.

I mean, the Switch tablet bears a resemblance to the Wii U GamePad, with its screen in the center and controls on either side. There is one major difference, however, and that’s the fact that the Switch hardware is located in the tablet itself. The problem with the Wii U GamePad is that it had to remain within a certain, small proximity of the Wii U console in order to play games on the tablet’s screen. This is not the case with the Switch. With the guts of the console in the tablet itself, the Switch can be removed from its dock (used to display games on a TV) and taken anywhere. The Switch essentially represents the evolution of the Wii U, an evolution that makes perfect sense given Nintendo’s history in handheld gaming.

I did own a GameBoy and GameBoy Advance, so I’m no stranger to handheld gaming or Nintendo. I’ve always had a place in my heart for Nintendo as I grew up with the brand. The first video game console I owned was a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Then I had the Super NES, Nintendo 64, and GameCube. At this point, though, is when I began to feel that I was too grown-up for Nintendo (which explains why I never bought a Nintendo handheld beyond the GameBoy Advance). Compared to the original Xbox’s mature line-up of games, most notably Halo and a flashy fighting game called Dead or Alive 3, even a fun romp such as Super Smash Bros. Melee wasn’t enough to make me want to hold on to my GameCube. Throw in a jaunt into all things PlayStation (I had a PS2 and PS3 as well as a PSP) and it’s easy to understand how Nintendo lost a place in my gaming life, especially when my OCD just had to jump in to as many Xbox 360 games as possible in order to collect as many of those damn Achievements as possible.

So what’s happened lately that’s pushing me to make the “Switch?” As I said, the current generation of hardware (PS4 and Xbox One) simply hasn’t appealed to me. Perhaps the more grown-up styles of Microsoft and Sony have worn thin. Perhaps my desire to play all of the serious, realistic, first-person and third-person shooters that are offered on the two consoles has eroded over the years (the Call of Duty series being an exception to this). Perhaps, with the world being as ultra serious as it is, I’m simply looking for a cartoony, Nintendo escape.

I appreciate that Nintendo is focused more on giving players a fun experience than they are about buzzwords such as 4K and HDR. I like that Nintendo isn’t pushing online gaming at the expense of local multiplayer. And I really dig the fact that Nintendo does what they can to resist that type of ‘connected while disconnected’ gaming future (and overall future given the popularity of social media such as Facebook and Twitter) that Microsoft and Sony are content to pursue as those two, in direct competition with one another, seek to amplify the graphical power horse-race by releasing hardware upgrades every three or so years.

I have nothing against online gaming; I did dip my toes into the online pool when I had an Xbox 360. I’m also not against connecting from a distance; however, I never want to forget the importance of simplicity, the importance of placing a priority on fun, and the importance of being able to reach out to the other player, sitting beside me, and giving that person a celebratory hug for achieving a particularly difficult or downright awesome task in a game.

This personal connection is one aspect of the Switch reveal trailer (below). It shows how much Nintendo respects the act of gathering together to play video games, an act that we maybe took for granted a bit back in the day when online wasn’t so prevalent. Nintendo is okay with hanging on to the Ghost of Gaming Past for as long as possible, evolving their product at a slower pace while attempting to strike a balance between the old ways and the new. Maybe that’s why I’m ready to make the “Switch.” I want that balance as well. At least, for now…

“What Makes You Think Our Method Of Bringing World Peace With Large Bombs Isn’t Working?”

I remember a time when I was afraid of Russian people. Yes, I was young, but my view of Russian people, and Russia in general, was colored by the attitudes passed onto me by our political leaders during the Cold War. Russia was a threat to America. They wanted to nuke us off the face of the planet. They wanted to destroy America.

These thoughts simply terrified me.

But then I caught the act of a comedian named Yakov Smirnoff. He was from Russia, and he joked about Russia as well as America. His light-hearted nature and beaming smile was like a warm blanket or a favorite comfort food to my soul. Not only did he make me start feeling better concerning Russian people – you know, that maybe they weren’t all as scary as my political leaders wanted me to believe – but he also gave me a sense that maybe the Russian people simply weren’t bad people, and that maybe, at heart, they wanted the same things we wanted in America, which was simply to live our lives.

Recently, I listened to an interview (video below) that brings up this same sort of issue. The interview is about how comedy may be a better road to peace than bombs. Considering my experience, I’m very much inclined to agree. At the very least, comedy won’t scare the kids as much as the prospect of being bombed.

You can listen to the 11-minute interview by clicking the play button on the video below. I hope you enjoy and I hope it gets you thinking. 🙂