Joni Parker's Blog, page 55

July 8, 2014

This is an updated version of “E.T.” and involves three 13-year-old boys who are best friends and about to be separated as their families move out of the neighborhood to make way for an overpass.  Tuck seems to be the leader and is the one with the video camera.  Alex and Munch are willing accomplices.  They spend their last night together following a strange map that appears on one of the boy’s phone.  The three boys head 17 miles into the Nevada desert and find this thing on the ground.  Apparently, some men are also looking for it, but the boys escape with it and try to figure it out.  It turns out to be robot of some sort that belongs to an alien spacecraft that was shot down in the area.  It almost looks like a little silver owl with blue eyes.   Alex gives the little guy the name, Echo.  For the rest of the night, the boys take Echo to various locations to gather parts, each of which makes him a little stronger.  The men arrive on the scene and end up confiscating Echo, but by this time, the boys are committed to helping their new friend and help him escape.

It was a cute movie and shows the value of true friendship.  It was told through the lens of Tuck with his video camera and his spy glasses with a camera in the frame.  There were, however, several scenes that weren’t filmed that way, but it wasn’t too noticeable.  The movement of the camera was somewhat disorienting, reminiscent of actual video footage, but hard to watch.  At the end of the movie, there was even some applause so some people really enjoyed the movie.

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Published on July 08, 2014 06:20 • 6 views

July 7, 2014

Melissa McCarthy stars as Tammy, a woman down on her luck and looking for a way out.  As the movie opens, Tammy is on her way to work, but totals her car when she hits a deer.  When she gets to work, she’s fired for being late…again.  Then, when she gets home, she finds her husband with another woman in her house.  Talk about a bad day.  All Tammy wants to do is run away.

Apparently, this is how she has tried to resolve her issues many times before and never got anywhere.  This time, however, her alcoholic grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon, insists on going with her.  She has a car that works and cash in hand.  As the journey goes on, Tammy is shown to be immature and unable to work her problems out on her own.  Grandma is there to help, but she is as much part of the problem as the solution.  They do make interesting companions and I did feel the affection between them.

I didn’t love this movie the same way I did other movies with Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon, but it was cute.  It also struck a nerve with me as I realized many people handle their problems in a similar way.

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Published on July 07, 2014 06:11 • 14 views

July 2, 2014

The author provides a step-by-step analysis of his success selling ebooks on Amazon.  He began with a good book, which he pitched to over a hundred agents without success.  Then, he decided to self-publish it and used KDP Amazon to market his book.  He gave away over a hundred thousand books, but sold over 30,000.  This was enough for him to become a full-time writer.

I haven’t had much success selling my books.  I did try the KDP select program for my book, “The Black Elf of Seaward Isle” and gave away over 680 books—I was up to number 16 on the fantasy list for free books, but since then, my sales have dropped to almost nothing.  My second book, “Tangled Omens” did better in the giveaway category.  Over 1800 copies were given away and it was number one on the free fantasy list, but it has resulted in virtually no sales.  This was a problem Martin Crosbie recognized as a growing trend.  Still, it hasn’t stopped other authors from trying his method.

There were many other good tips in his book for new authors.  He advises if your book doesn’t sell, write another one and keep writing.  Make your next book better than your last and try again.

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Published on July 02, 2014 06:07 • 19 views

July 1, 2014

“Models for Writers: Short Essays for Composition” by Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz, University of Vermont, was obviously written for classroom purposes and I have the ninth edition published in 2007.  I’m not sure what level it was for, surely it was way after I was in school, but I found the essays to be worth reading with interesting points all writers could benefit from.  Therefore, I will review of each essay, not for the value of homework, but for its value to me as a writer.

The author believes that all children must be vaccinated for the greater good of society.  “Children’s immunizations should not be optional.”  He realizes that there could be some individuals who may have a problem with them, but that risk is minimal when compared to a widespread epidemic.

Indeed, not too long ago in this area, we had a measles outbreak.  An adult went overseas and came in contact with the disease and brought it back with him.  Within weeks, there were dozens of cases.  A measles vaccination program was initiated and the disease was brought under control.  The question is what if it had gotten out of hand?

There is another disease causing a problem and that is whooping cough.   It’s been affecting babies too young for the vaccination and the disease is passed to them by adults who have never been vaccinated.  I haven’t heard if this problem continues, but it could.

Personally, I believe that parents should be allowed to opt-out of the vaccination program.  I believe in choice.  I wouldn’t feel safe giving my child that many vaccines so early in their lives.  The authorities say that the drugs have been tested and proven safe, but how were they tested?  Were they tested on children?  Were they given with the other drugs that they would have to take at the same time?  I think we’re putting too much into those little bodies and need to consider the safety of the child, not just society.

This is the last essay in this book.  Hooray!  I know I’ve skipped some, but sometimes, I just couldn’t think of a thing to say.   I would like to thank the authors, Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz from the University of Vermont.

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Published on July 01, 2014 06:12 • 23 views

June 30, 2014

This conference was hosted by the Writers’ League of Texas and was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Austin, Texas this past weekend.  I checked in on Friday thinking that if I got there in time, I could get a ticket for the pre-conference workshop.  Not only was I late due to heavy traffic on I-35, but the workshop was sold out.  In addition, all of the consultations with agents had been sold out and the conference had reached maximum capacity.  I was told there were 375 people attending with staff and volunteers in addition.  This was the first time in the 21 year history of this conference that that had happened.

At 5pm, we gathered for a members’ meeting.  This was the first time I could attend one, since I live so far away from Austin.  After the meeting, there was a mixer with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres for members to meet and talk.

The actual conference started on Saturday morning.  Had I known that breakfast burritos would be available, I wouldn’t have paid for breakfast at the hotel.  There was plenty to eat and lots of coffee to get everyone moving.  We went into the Texas Ballroom for the welcoming address and a panel discussion about publishing today.  Then we began the breakout sessions until lunch.

Jeff Abbott was our keynote speaker for lunch.  He got his start at this very conference many years ago when he met his editor.  He gave us the details of his writing career, the ups and downs of it, all with great humor.  He gave us each a copy of his latest book, “Downfall” and signed it for us.  Lunch wasn’t bad either.

The afternoon was filled with more break out sessions until evening cocktails were served.  We were fortunate to have another keynote speaker, Joshilyn Jackson, another author.  She explained how she got an agent when she first got started and some of the trials and tribulations of writing books that were not good enough for publication.  She still has the same agent, now 78 years old, gave us a copy of her latest book, “someone else’s love story” and signed them for us.

It was nearly 7pm by the time I got to my room.  It had been a long day of seminars so I took a walk along the river.  I came across a few hundred people sitting on a hill by the bridge and looked around for the entertainment.  I quickly realized that they were waiting for the bats to fly out from under the bridge, a nightly event but quite a tourist attraction.  Austin has one of the largest bat populations in the country, I believe and this event draws a lot of people as I witnessed this night.  It was around 9 pm before the bats appeared.  There were thousands, and it was an amazing sight.  By then, the crowd had grown to several thousand in size, but they were orderly, fascinated by the sight.

The next morning, I had my agent consultation.  I should be used to doing these by now, but I’m not.  By the end, I was shaking like a leaf.  I think I said everything in an orderly fashion, but I’m not quite sure.  She told me to send 20-30 pages and a synopsis so I guess that’s a good sign.  I decided to leave right after that.  I’d missed the closing remarks already and wanted to get on the road.  I had a long drive ahead of me and traffic is always heavy from Austin.  I had a great time at the conference, but this is the third conference this year.  I think I overachieved.

My thanks go to the Writers’ League of Texas for making it possible, in particular to Becka Oliver, Jennifer Zeigler, Tony Burnett, and all the volunteers who made it happen.  Thanks!

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Published on June 30, 2014 06:11 • 11 views

June 26, 2014

This book was written by Joy Preble, the second book in her series that began with “Dreaming Anastasia.”  In my review of the first book, I had several questions that were left unanswered, but were answered in the second book.  However, I will have to say that I found the second book a little harder to follow because the main character is confused and overwhelmed with the idea of having magical abilities and it flows into her dialogue.  Maybe it was just because I’m older, but I had a hard time keeping up.

The title of the book comes from the fact that Anne is now haunted by a rusalka, a Russian mermaid.  It appears to her in unusual places like a shower but also in a swimming pool.  Anne doesn’t understand why a mermaid suddenly appears to her and doesn’t know what she wants, but can’t make her go away.  Adding to the confusion is her affection for her new boyfriend Ben and well as her old affection for her Russian boyfriend, Ethan.  To complicate matters even more is Baba Yaga, the Russian witch who demands that Anne live up to her bargain.  Anne is in a mess with no easy way out.

There is less in this book about Anastasia or the Romanovs although there are some references to both.  The story goes in a different direction and focuses on another part of Russian folklore about mermaids.

I thought the story was an interesting sequel to the first and am looking forward to what happens in the third book, “Anastasia Forever.”

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Published on June 26, 2014 05:58 • 11 views

June 25, 2014

“Models for Writers: Short Essays for Composition” by Alfred Rosa and Paul Eschholz, University of Vermont, was obviously written for classroom purposes and I have the ninth edition published in 2007.  I’m not sure what level it was for, surely it was way after I was in school, but I found the essays to be worth reading with interesting points all writers could benefit from.  Therefore, I will review of each essay, not for the value of homework, but for its value to me as a writer.

The author advocates that parents should be allowed to keep their children from vaccinations if they don’t think they’re safe.  “Like every encounter with a viral or bacterial infection, every vaccine containing lab-altered viruses or bacteria has an inherent ability to cause injury or even death.”

I wasn’t aware of this fact:

“Young mothers, who are told that their children must be injected with 33 does of 10 different vaccines before the age of 5…”

That’s an awful lot.  The trend continues throughout life it seems.  I just got three shots when I went to the doctor for tetanus, Shingles, and pneumonia.

Back when I was a kid, we didn’t have this many shots.  As a matter of fact, I don’t remember any until my family went overseas.

Of concern to many parents are the reports of children who were healthy and bright until they got vaccinated and “then suddenly descend into mental retardation, epilepsy, learning and behavior disorders, autism, diabetes, arthritis, and asthma.  Some reactions are fatal.”

Parents have a right and a duty to make an informed decision based on unbiased information.  They are the ones who must live with the consequences.

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Published on June 25, 2014 04:28 • 10 views

June 24, 2014

This movie is based on the play and documents the rise to fame of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  I didn’t know there was so much more activity behind the scenes.  As a young teenager, I recall trying to sing along with them only to find that I couldn’t reach the high notes, but I still loved their songs.  I found myself bobbing my head and mouthing the words during the movie.  The songs are still great.

The story begins narrated by Tommy DeVito, but it switches to two others during the movie.  Interestingly, the only one who doesn’t narrate a segment is Frankie Valli.  I think this is a technique used more often for plays and rarely in movies.

When the story begins, Frankie is only 16 years old.  Tommy and Nicky are in a band already and they bring Frankie in as the lead singer.  The fourth member, Bob Guadio, comes in later.  The story ends in 1990 when the group is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and get together again for the first time in 25 years.

The theater for the matinee was pretty full, so I think it should do well at the box office.  It is R rated because there is a lot of profanity.  Parts were pretty gritty, but it felt very real.  I can see why the play has done so well.

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Published on June 24, 2014 06:16 • 6 views

June 23, 2014

This is the sequel to 21 Jump Street and has moved across the street from the Korean Church to the Vietnamese Church.  Jonah Hill and Tatum Channing are back together reprising their roles as Schmidt and Jenko.  This time, they screw up an undercover operation at the port and are sent back to reprise their old roles as undercover cops at a school.  This time, they’ve thankfully graduated high school and have moved on to college.

Their mission is to find the source for the latest drug called Why-Phy which stands for Work Hard You-Play Hard You.  They try to pass themselves off as brothers, but they look nothing alike.  In addition, Schmidt tells everyone he’s 19.  No one believes them, but they are accepted into college life anyway.  Jenko even gets a college football scholarship.

There is a plot to this story and the two hapless cops solve the mystery, but not without getting themselves into a lot of hot water.  That’s what makes it fun.

One of the funniest segments was at the end when the next missions are named.  There’s 23 Jump Street, 24 Jump Street on up with an assortment of schools to infiltrate.

There is a lot of profanity in the movie and the movie is rated R.  I saw a few scenes in bad taste, but then again, it was meant to be that way.  Thus far, it is one of the better comedies this year.

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Published on June 23, 2014 04:15 • 8 views

June 19, 2014

This book was written by Nelson DeMille over 40 years ago and he has just brought it back.  I think it’s one of his best.  Another one of my favorite authors, he takes us to Ethiopia in 1974 during the revolution in which the Emperor, Hailee Selasee was overthrown.  It begins with the death of a Catholic priest, held captive for almost 40 years and his deathbed confession.  Three journalists are captivated by his story and decide to pursue a search for the Holy Grail as seen by the priest before he was imprisoned.  The story is mostly told from the point of view of one of the journalists, Frank Percell, an American and the cynic in the group.  Henry Mercado is a wizened British journalist with a young beautiful Swiss photographer, Vivian.  Their journey leads them into the hands of the not-so-friendly Ethiopian revolutionaries and deep into the jungle.

The author does an excellent job with this story.  Like the journalists, I was captivated by the story and even started to listen to it a second time.  I didn’t know much about the war in Ethiopia—it was a dangerous place to be.  I also didn’t realize that Italy had been involved in that area for a long time starting in the late 1800’s and continuing to WWII, so the ties are quite deep.

There were 16 CDs providing 18 hours of a thrilling story.  Recorded by Scott Brick.


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Published on June 19, 2014 05:50 • 8 views