Movie Review Monday

The Greatest Showman (2017)

I remember seeing a few trailers for this movie, but it wasn’t something that stuck with me. My boys’ friend said he saw it in the theater and that it was good, but other than that, I didn’t think much about it. My oldest commented that he wanted to see it, so we decided to watch it on a Saturday.

Right before watching the movie, I saw something about it online or on a commercial (I can’t remember where), and it made me realize the film might be a musical. At that moment, I had high hopes. When we started the movie, I crossed my fingers and hoped for great music. My wish was answered.

I know I talk a lot about action movies and horror movies and zombies, but I’m a fan of all types of films, including musicals. My mom is a church organist, so music has always played a role throughout my life. I took piano lessons as a kid, and I was in band (I started out playing flute, then I switched to French horn). I like all genres of music, and my iPod is an eclectic mix of heavy metal, show tunes, country, 80’s hair bands, and pop music.

The music in The Greatest Showman is phenomenal, and the story line works too. The film explores how P.T. Barnum established his circus, although Hollywood takes a few liberties with the story. Not a big deal. It was still a fun film.

The film is apparently 105 minutes long, but it doesn’t feel like it. The plot and music pull you forward and keep you entertained. The relationships between the characters are fantastic and rarely feel awkward or forced—unless they are supposed to. The film examines race and disabilities/physical differences and how they are perceived socially, so the discomfort comes from social tensions and disapproval. The class system is also scrutinized.

I’m not sure the point of the film is to find an answer to the questions it raises, but it does an amazing job of raising them and presenting them in a nonthreatening way. It’s easy for us in our modern society to look at the film and say, “That happened a long time ago. We’ve evolved since then,” but then we have to question whether or not we have.

The film did an amazing job of balancing social issues with wonderful music that was touching and upbeat. Immediately after the film was over, I downloaded the soundtrack to my iPod, and the boys and I have been listening to it like it’s going out of style.

I absolutely recommend this film, especially if you enjoy musicals, but even if you don’t. This one might surprise you. The story feels applicable to today, and it’s a fun film with deep meaning.

Who else has seen this movie? What did you think?

This is my favorite song from the movie, although all of them are fantastic!

What Would You Do?

A few weekends ago, my spouse was watching a show on Netflix called The Fastest Car. I didn’t catch all of the episodes, but I caught a few.

In essence, the show is about owners of supercars (Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Vipers, etc.) racing against sleeper cars. Each driver gets an introduction and tells the world about their life and their car. As you can imagine, there are a lot of hard luck stories.

While watching the show, I really wanted to hate the supercar owners. I was convinced they were going to be pompous, condescending, and self-absorbed. And some of them were. But some of the sleeper car owners weren’t perfect examples of humanity either. Both groups were human. They had their good qualities and their flaws, and that made the show interesting to watch.

There was one episode in particular (Episode 4: The King of the World) that I really wanted to dislike the supercar owner. He was a lawyer with a Lamborghini Aventador that had been painted chrome. He was eccentric and had a pretty little thing that hung out of his car while they drove around.

But as I watched the episode, I had a realization.

Sure, the guy was loud and flashy and outspoken. He was eccentric and his car could blind people if the sun hit it in just the right way. But at the same time, he knew exactly what he wanted out of life and went after his dreams. He knew it would take hard work and dedication, and he didn’t shy away from the task. Once he became a success, he used his rewards (the money) to buy the things that made him happy. In addition to his car, he had a bunch of specially made outfits that fit his personality and style. His car and his wardrobe were his art.

While listening to the guy talk, I thought about what I would do if I had the opportunity and money that he had. There’s no doubt in my mind I would do the same things he did. I would find those things that made me happy and buy them—although it probably wouldn’t be a chromed-out car, but it’s possible I would have a special paint job on my vehicle. More than likely, I would spend my money to travel the country to go to horror conventions and conferences. I guarantee you I would have specially made clothes—shoes especially. I would be just as eccentric as he is.

If I didn’t have to worry about money but had it to spend, I would definitely live my life to the fullest. I would do the things that made me happy and be the rich weirdo people look at sideways with lips pursed. I think most of us would act like that if given the chance.

If you didn’t have to worry about money but had it to spend, what would you do with it? 

YA/NA Sci-Fi & Dystopian Giveaway

Movie Review Monday will return next week so that I can bring you a YA/NA Sci-Fi & Dystopian Giveaway.

Register for your chance to win here.

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3 Cheap Author Marketing Ideas You Can Implement Today

Today, I am happy to share a guest post from Reedsy author Martin Cavannagh about book marketing.  Enjoy!

When an author is putting together a marketing plan, a lot of consideration has to go into making sure that the money you’re spending gets some return on investment. Results like ‘exposure,’ ‘buzz,’ and even additional book sales can be tough to justify if they cost too much time, effort, and money to achieve.

There are also, of course, a couple of no-brainers: book marketing ideas that are cheap, straightforward, and always worth including in your launch plan. In this post, I’ll give you three of these easy-win tactics.

1. Optimize the first line of your Amazon book description

The description is the short piece of text at the top of your retail page on Amazon (or whatever platform you’re selling on). Along with your cover design and your choice of title, these words will make all the difference between someone buying your book and someone clicking ‘back’ on their browser.

As you might notice, only the first few lines of the description are displayed — before the user has to click ‘read more’ — so it’s important to get this right. Here are some tips:

Make the very first line bold. You can do this using HTML styles in the text editor.

Consider starting with a line from a review or an endorsement.

If the book or the author has won (or been shortlisted for) an award, consider including that (see above).

2. Include a link to join your mailing list at the end of your book

Take advantage of the fact that a lot of readers will be enjoying your work on an e-reader. Seeing as you’ve already set up a mailing list (if you haven’t, do that now), why not make sure you capture every reader who likes your book enough to finish it?

You can include a page at the end which encourages people to sign up for more news about upcoming books. Even better, give them a real reason to sign up by offering them some additional content. If you’re writing fiction, this added content might be a short story or a preview of your next books. Non-fiction authors will often get people to sign up to receive a spreadsheet or a pre-recorded webinar.

Engaged readers are like gold dust: when you find them, you should do everything in your power to never let them go.

3. Contact your local bookstore

Bookstores are always looking for anything that can get more people walking through the doors. It only takes a few minutes to draft an email to your local independent (or Big Box) bookseller to ask about hosting a reading. If they say ‘no,’ you’ve only wasted the 2 minutes you spent typing an email. If they say ‘yes,’ then you’re in!

Once you get to know the person who buys for that particular branch, it’s easier to convince them to stock your title. And who doesn’t like the idea of seeing their book on the shelves of their local bookstore?

So go ahead and try these ideas today. They’ll cost you nothing, so what do you have to lose?

Martin Cavannagh is a writer and a member of the team at Reedsy. The world’s largest marketplace of experienced publishing professionals, Reedsy has helped thousands of authors create great books work with the help of top editors, marketers, and even ghostwriters.

Movie Review Monday

The Titan (2018)

We found this movie while perusing Netflix. I love that Netflix is paying for and distributing original films/programs on their service. What they’re doing for film is what Amazon did for self-published authors: it gives the world more films and movies and takes chances on new ideas.

Of course, when you take a chance on a new idea, there’s the risk that it won’t pan out. I wouldn’t say this film was completely horrible, but it was problematic. It classified itself as science fiction, which is a good general category to put it in.

On the surface, the idea of the story is intriguing. Humans have destroyed the planet and must now head into space and colonize other planets or moons—in the case of the film, the goal is to head to Titan, a moon of Saturn. However, since the environment there isn’t conducive to human life, science has to evolve humans so that they can live there.

Okay, for the most part, I was still on board for this notion. Humans evolved to live on Earth, so I was willing to accept science could force evolution to live on another planet. As the movie progressed, however, my doubts crept in.

If the subjects are being altered so that they can live and thrive on Titan, how is it that they are still able to function on Earth? The two places are completely different environments. Maybe the point was supposed to be that the Titans were supposed to be able to live in any environment? I must have missed that part in the story line.

Then, it became problematic that 3/4 of the test subjects didn’t survive the adaptation. That was expected and explained at the beginning of the film, but how is that supposed to help the rest of humanity? If the goal of the experiments were to make it so humans can live on Titan, but only a few out of the many will survive, doesn’t that kind of doom humanity? PLUS, if we have to change to live on Titan and become Titans, are we still humans?

I’m not exactly sure if that was the purpose of the film and actually asked those questions. I’m not exactly sure what the purpose of the film was. There was a lot going on, including the science-is-bad thing but it’s not totally bad and humans are bad because we destroyed the planet but we’re not totally bad because we can fix it and there’s hope we can live on another world but only a slight hope because not everyone will be able to evolve.

The film was also an incredibly slow burn with no tension. Since I wasn’t exactly sure what the point of the film was, it was hard to feel anything for the characters or figure out what their motives were. Again, I think the idea of the film was much better than the execution.

The movie was only 1 hour and 37 minutes long, but it felt every bit of it. It’s not a film I would watch again or necessarily recommend to others—unless I was hoping they could explain to me what was going on.

Has anyone else seen this movie? What are your thoughts?

Reasons to “Read” an Audiobook

Audiobooks have been around for a long time, since 1932, to be exact. They were originally developed for the blind, but have evolved and progressed throughout the years.

For a long time, the only way you could enjoy an audiobook was by purchasing a tape (I sometimes still call them books on tape), then technology evolved so you could get them on CD, and now you can download them on a variety of different electronic devices.

It’s easy to access audiobooks, assuming that the book you want has been converted into this format. However, with audiobooks being the fastest growing division of digital publishing, the chances of getting new releases in this format are pretty good.

If you’ve never “read” an audiobook before, I suggest you try it at least once, and I’ve listed some reasons why.

1. You Can Multitask

Sitting down to read is supposed to be a relaxing experience. It takes us out of our mundane lives and lets us experience countless other lives and new places. I love curling up with a book or my ereader and being immersed in another world.

However, I don’t always have time to dedicate to sitting down to read a book. I work a full-time job and take care of my family. I have a house to clean and laundry to fold. I’m running kids from one practice/event to another. At some point, I need to sleep. But that doesn’t mean I can’t read.

One of the amazing things about audiobooks is that you can “read” and do other tasks. I’ve listened to stories while at work, driving in the car, and cleaning my house. I love that I can be engaged in a story but also get other tasks accomplished. And if I want to sit down and just listen, I can do that too.

So, if you have a busy schedule with little to no time to sit and read but you crave time to “read,” download an audiobook and listen while you do other things.

2. Audiobooks Aren’t Cheating

Apparently, there’s an idea floating around that listening to an audiobook is cheating. I’m not exactly sure where this idea came from (book purists maybe who believe that reading words on the page is the only way to read?) or why, but it exists. Because this notion exists, it has been studied by scientists, and it turns out that our brains process the information the same whether we read a book or listen to a book.

So, if you’ve put off listening to audiobooks because you think it cheapens the reading experience or because you aren’t getting the same brain activity from it, you don’t have to anymore. Feel free to listen to whatever you want and enjoy it.

3. Everyone Can Enjoy an Audiobook

As the mother of two children, I know how much my kids enjoy being read to. They are working on improving their reading accuracy and fluency, which means that reading can sometimes be a chore and exhausting. I know that one day they’ll get over this issue, but until then, they still want to hear stories, and audiobooks help them accomplish that task. It’s also a great way for kids who can’t read yet to enjoy stories.

Think back to when you were a child and someone read to you. Didn’t you enjoy the hell out of it? Wasn’t there something magical about listening to the reader change their voice for the characters or a particular scene? Well, the same thing happens when you listen to an audiobook. You get to enjoy the story on another level. The narrator brings the words to life in ways you can’t imagine. It’s amazing!

4. Audiobook Availability Keeps Increasing

As demand continues to grow for audiobooks, more and more become available for readers’ listening pleasure. As the amount of books available increases, prices become more reasonable—which can be a deterrent to purchasing audiobooks. Sometimes, they are ridiculously expensive. I won’t fault you for not buying audiobooks based on price, but as they become more reasonable, they are worth looking into. 

There are numerous reasons to give audiobooks a chance, but the biggest is to enjoy a story. I want to help you experience the magic of audiobooks by offering a chance to win a code to download my audiobook Life After the Undead for free. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment and tell me what your preferred weapon would be for the zombie apocalypse. 

If any of you are totally for or against audiobooks, I would love to hear why. Leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Movie Review Monday

Justice League (2017)

I have been excited for a Justice League movie forever! I was even more excited to learn that Jason Momoa would be playing Aquaman and hoped that he would give the superhero a boost in coolness.

I didn’t have high expectations coming into this film. I’d read some of the reviews, and they weren’t exactly flattering. Still, I wanted to form my own opinion, so we watched the movie as a family.

It doesn’t disappoint in action. Jason Momoa is fantastic eye candy. The Flash was hilarious. Cyborg was super cool. And that’s about all the praise I have for the film.

It wasn’t horrific, per say, more confusing—and the most mind boggling part of the film is the CGI they did for Superman. But not for his flying scenes. Oh, no. It was his speaking scenes that give me a twitch. It bothered me the entire movie. I thought Henry Cavill wasn’t actually in the movie. I had to Google what was going on and found out that they had digitally removed his mustache.

My head just about exploded. Seems like an incredible waste of money, and it was done so very badly. Since they’re bringing Superman back from the dead, maybe they could change things up a bit. You know, have him be a little scruffy. It would have been less distracting and mind altering than the CGI “fix.”

The storyline focused on some bad guy who wanted to destroy the Earth. He wasn’t overly memorable, and I’m not sure he had a reason for his task except he wanted to. Not that bad guys necessarily need an elaborate motive, but that makes their actions fun. I like villains with depth and personality.

The relationships between the heroes weren’t super developed, either. Their interactions felt awkward and uncomfortable. I get that some of them were supposed to be, but even when they weren’t, they were. It was just weird to watch.

If you watch Justice League strictly for badass superhero action, you won’t be disappointed. However, with what Marvel has been doing with their superhero movies (especially Guardians of the Galaxy and from what I hear, Blank Panther, although I haven’t seen it yet [I want to!], so I can’t say if it’s true or not), it’s all right to expect more from a superhero film. Marvel does an amazing job of balancing action with character interactions and emotion. DC has been struggling with that for a while now.

Despite the issues, I will continue to watch DC superhero films and hope that they overcome their issues and shortcomings. I still enjoy the movies on a certain level.

A Different Kind of Zombie Story Hero

I love that zombie stories show us tough heroes who rise effortlessly to the challenge. However, I wanted to create a hero who struggles with mental health issues and is unsure of where life is going to take him or if he’ll be able to overcome the next hurdle because then he’d be more human.

I love zombie stories—in all shapes and forms. From movies to TV shows to books to comics to video games, I enjoy watching humans test their strength and resolve against the undead and hopefully come out a winner.

My fascination with zombies began after I watched Night of the Living Dead. I was in junior high at the time (but not at the same time the movie came out), and my dad had it recorded on a VHS tape. I remember feeling creeped out, but not jump-out-of-my-skin scared. I had to watch more. So I did.

George Romero will forever be the father of the modern-day zombie. There were zombie movies before his, but the creatures were often created with voodoo. Romero introduced the world to creatures that rise from the dead to consume the living.

Zombies have progressed since Night of the Living Dead first came out, evolving into fast-moving, sentient, and aware creatures. Some argue that these zombies taint the purity that is Romero’s slow, decaying creatures, but even Romero’s zombies evolve. By the time we get to Land of the Dead, zombies are aware that they are different from humans, and they don’t like that humans kill them. They go on a revenge mission to kill the humans that have been destroying the zombies.

If there’s one common thread that runs through all zombie stories, it’s that the survivors never hesitate to pick up a weapon to fight the undead. There may be questions about whether or not the zombies can be saved and turned back into humans, but no one hesitates killing the zombies if their life is in danger.

A lot of this boils down to survival and the fight or flight choices humans have when faced with danger. I love this aspect of the story. I love that the story shows that most humans will step up to the plate and do what they have to do to ensure we don’t go extinct.

I’ve incorporated this toughness and badassness into a lot of my own zombie stories and the characters therein. It’s fun to imagine a world with tough characters who don’t back down from a challenge. They may be afraid, but they don’t let it show when the going gets tough. 

But what happens after? What happens to these characters when the threat is gone and they don’t have to be tough?

That was a question I wanted to explore in Humanity’s Hope, and I looked at it from the perspective that the main character has been deeply and profoundly changed by the zombie apocalypse.

One of the great allures of stories is that they show us how we wish we could be. We know that if zombies were to rise, the situation would be life changing. It’s fun to imagine how we would react, but we might also question our ability to rise to the challenge. We want to believe that we can be tough, unflappable, and able to do whatever it takes to survive terrible threats. That’s why these tough characters are so appealing. 

However, one of the other things that stories do really well is reflect real life back to us and show us ways to overcome our fears and shortcomings. We might not always be tough, and that’s totally okay, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be brave. We also are not going to go into a life-changing situation and not be changed by it—life without zombies rising has proven this to us.

When I conceived the idea of Humanity’s Hope, I wanted to explore how the zombie apocalypse would change a person. While all of us want to believe that we’d still be as strong and tough as we were when faced with zombies, the likelihood of that happening is low. All of us would probably react differently to the situation, but some of us would come out like Caleb: mentally scarred and suffering from PTSD.

Does that make us or Caleb weak? Absolutely not. It makes us human.

Through medical research, we know that soldiers often suffer from PTSD or other mental health issues after being in combat, and they are trained to deal with these types of stressful situations. If they aren’t immune to these problems, what makes us think the rest of us will be?

Where the true strength comes in is how we deal with these problems day in and day out. There’s no doubt it’s a struggle, and it has a profound impact on how we interact with one another and our environment. It may even impact how we interact with our own minds, and that was what I wanted to explore with Caleb.

Humanity’s Hope isn’t exactly a traditional zombie story. Caleb can and has been strong when he needed to be, but most of the narrative focuses on his attempt to return to humanity after all he’s seen and done. We see how the tragedy of watching his family and friends die has impacted him. We see him struggling to understand his world and himself after everything has been turned upside down.

We live in a time and world where mental health is a misunderstood and stigmatized issue. When we hear someone has mental health issues, we automatically assume that they are a danger to others or themselves. Yet, there are more than 200 forms of mental health issues, and most of them are treatable.

My goal with Caleb and Humanity’s Hope was to highlight the struggles someone might go through when dealing with mental health issues and how those issues may have manifested. I wanted to point out that even though these issues can be difficult to deal with, they aren’t impossible to deal with. I also wanted to show that despite Caleb’s struggles, he is a hero.

We all want to live “normal” lives and to be functioning, productive members of society, but the definition of “normal” varies from person to person. Caleb certainly wants to return to a normal life, but how is that possible after the world has been changed and overrun with the undead? Would you be able to return to “normal” after dealing with the undead?

Movie Review Monday

Jumanji (2017)

I don’t remember seeing a bunch of previews for this movie, and it wasn’t even on my radar for things to watch. One of my coworkers told me it was funny, but I’m fairly certain the only reason I watched it was because it has The Rock in it. Therefore, I had no expectations for the film.

Still, I wasn’t disappointed. It was a funny movie. I’ve never seen the first Jumanji film, although I know what the basic plot of the movie is. I really liked how this one was updated to incorporate video games. My boys were able to relate to it on that level.

Jack Black was awesome in this movie. Actually, everyone was fantastic in this movie, and the dynamics between the characters made the film enjoyable. The teeny-bopper stuff got a little old, but coming of age was the point of the movie, so it kind of needed to be there. Thankfully, it didn’t take up too much of the film.

If you’re looking for some action and adventure with humor and a message, Jumanji might be the film for you. My family and I enjoyed it, and it was a good way to spend a Friday evening.

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Pembroke Sinclair's books on Goodreads
Life After the Undead Life After the Undead
reviews: 55
ratings: 100 (avg rating 3.64)

The Appeal of Evil The Appeal of Evil (The Road to Salvation, #1)
reviews: 38
ratings: 63 (avg rating 3.54)

Wucaii Wucaii
reviews: 32
ratings: 35 (avg rating 4.11)

Death to the Undead Death to the Undead (Sequel to Life After the Undead)
reviews: 20
ratings: 39 (avg rating 4.23)

Dealing with Devils Dealing with Devils (The Road to Salvation, #2)
reviews: 22
ratings: 32 (avg rating 4.00)