There Is No Light Without Dark

When I hear someone else say something that is totally compelling, the words resonate in the back of my head until they settle like superglue behind my eyes. My thoughts simply won't allow me to proceed with the rest of my day without the scribbling of a pen or a brush of keystrokes to preserve it before it fades from memory. My mind, as most of you know if you've read Walls and/or plan to read The Reaper Trials, is strangely twisted. If I hear it, see it, or feel it, I must write it. It's not a choice. It's a necessity.

Thousands of quotes, story ideas, character charts, world-building maps, first drafts, revised drafts, and countless other writings litter my desk at the office, in my home, and by my bed...so when I heard Doctor Christopher Ryan from the Joe Rogan Experience podcast say the quote that changed my day on March 11th, 2015, you bet I had to come home and write it down before I had the chance to forget it.

So what was the quote, you ask?

There is no light without dark.

Simple, right? But for some reason, those six words bounced between my frontal cortex, brainstem, and somehow synced up with my beating heart simultaneously in the span of fifteen weird, impenetrable minutes.

Think about it. You can't truly enjoy good food without the ability to feel hunger. That steak always tastes so much better when you're so starving that you could literally feed on your own left hand.

You can't enjoy peace without the occasional chaos. Those moments of silence really mean something after you've just endured a classroom of 30 high schoolers all with their own questions, concerns, and stories.

You can't enjoy relaxation without stress. When Friday hits and you've just completed a hard five days of time-crunching work, that REM sleep feels like none other.

(Yup, that's a Supernatural drop if you didn't notice.)

The truth is, there is a yin to every yang in our weird little existence we call life. It's what allows us to fully experience the extent of pleasure, joy, and satisfaction.

I am completely convinced: There is truly no light without dark.

I'm always fascinated with the idea of our species' condition. There are so many stories about humans getting caught in horrible, tragic, or unfair situations, yet rising from the ashes like a phoenix to accomplish something great. Humans are burdened with immeasurable fear so that we are burdened with the ability to overcome it. It's like we understand our own destiny a little too well. I think that's why we endure so many painful experiences over the course of our lives, so that we can always strive to attain those ever-elusive moments of inspiration and ecstasy.

I think life is what it's like for a reason. We are meant for something great. We always have been. It's just a matter of enduring the dark so that we can bask in the light.

 

 

The Part That Beauty Plays

Beauty. What the hell does that word mean anyway? We hear it all the time. We study it in school, watch it on television, listen to it in music...we even shove it into our mouths at restaurants! But if you think of the word in its entirety, you will see nothing but a hollow two-syllable semantic people are willing to drop everything for.

Our culture is full of steamy, steamy propaganda--a boiling pot of water just waiting to overflow, spilling through a kitchen like a tsunami of everything we have ever wanted to hear. Especially now, in the twenty-first century, where you can sit behind a computer, find literally anything you have ever wanted or needed and have it shipped to your doorstep in 3-5 business days. There is no doubt that companies, organizations, or any sort of institution wants you to understand that you are human and, because of that, you have the distinct possibility of succumbing to "beautiful" things.

Beautiful Things

Sounds like a book title, right? Well, in this case, I don't think you'd really want to read it if it was.

The human brain is a fickle thing. It relies on the constructs put in place by its evolution for millennia, like the two s words: survival and sex. This is not entirely a bad thing. After all, where would the human race be without its need to preserve legacy?

I'll tell you where. Nowhere. We wouldn't exist. It's simple science.

Instead, we would have given way to another species somewhere hundreds of thousands of years ago. Or, well, at least I presume that would have been the case.

Yet here we are...mainly because of our biological principles, but just like everything in life, however, those same biological principles sometimes get us into serious trouble. Watch beer commercials, Showtime or HBO shows, rated R movies, or a reality show on ABC, it's everywhere. It's unfair, but it's everywhere. Media uses survival and sex (mostly sex) to gauge the interest of its people, particularly men. Why connect with the hearts of men when it's easier to grab them by the balls? Kind of like this:

If you are American (which I assume my readership is as of right now), you have struggled with your biological desires in the form of making societal decisions without even knowing it. It's been engrained in you from the moment you were born to whatever age you are now. It's propaganda.

Now here's the point:

I'm not interested in a one-man front against the ways society pushes us to make decisions. I'm not even interested in changing anything that these companies do. I'm only interested in how it affects me, how you choose to let it affect you, and how to move on in achievement.

I am in a constant search for true beauty, not what is shoved in my face, but the little things that have the power to change a mentality from dead to awe in a matter of seconds. I look for a single ray of sunlight breaking through the jilted branches of an old oak tree in the winter. I listen for the high note in the climax of a favorite anthem. I look for the taste of a favorite meal, steaming on a warmed plate. I look for the conversations between two or more people--accents, emotion. I am constantly reaching for inspiration.

If you allow your environment to dictate your actions, you are only as good as what you can offer to that environment. If you break away from those same confines, you no longer need reassurance. You only need to trust in yourself to find a way to rise above it all. As a writer, I take the "beauty" I see around me and twist it into something different--an alternate universe of sorts where I control what happens, where I control the fate of everything involved. To me, the images, ideas, and power that come from my mind is a way to keep me from going insane.

It's not enough to live one life. I must live infinitely. I must live in everything.

True beauty isn't a concept. It's not in a Victoria Secret model's walk or body shape. It's not colors hidden in the deepest sunset.

True beauty is a choice to be better than who you are right now. It's the decision to undergo a project that might physically, emotionally or spiritually hurt, but will rise you like a phoenix from the ashes of culture. It is an action to pry the roots of human fundamentalism and believe that humanity is no longer grounded, but limitless in the ideas we choose to pursue. Welcome to the twenty-first century, where life is what you make of it, where limits are only held in place if you allow them to hold you there.

Choices.

Decisions.

Actions.

I believe I sense a pattern here.

Go forth and do something great with your lives. I know I will.

R.T.

 

Keystroke Heaven: A Review on 'Blackhat'

We've done this to ourselves. Do me a favor. Take out the cell phone in your pocket. Hold it in your hands. In that box of electricity, plastic, and glass, holds your key to the invisible digital world. From that screen, you could do some serious damage to cyberspace if you had the motivation and skill. All it would take is a few keystrokes and some sneaky hacking skills.

Just think, even 10 years ago, people were walking around with Razr phones and Sony Walkman CD players snapped to their belts. Now we have 7'' miniature computers on us at all times.

This presents a new problem--one that is addressed in Blackhat.

Let's be honest with each other right from the start. This movie was not as strong as I thought it would be. There were definitive problems with the plot line and the characters that simply cannot be ignored. Regardless, I will force myself to focus on the positives before diving into the negatives. It'll be like one of those smiles that clearly shows you'd rather be anywhere else in that moment than sitting in front of a camera.

Cyberterrorism is a new rising threat that is still relatively new to police and law enforcement. It seems like, whichever way you look, threats are always a step ahead of the officials. It takes a special person to be good at the constructing or analysis of computer programs. Therefore, it takes the anti-good person to do the same thing for the use of evil. Heck, they even have a CSI show called CSI:Cyber that covers all of this now. Go figure.

Chris Hemsworth plays a convicted hacker doing time for stealing money from 4 different banks. He "negotiates" the terms of a deal that will exonerate him from all of his convictions if he brings in the 'blackhat' originator of a mysterious program that destroys a nuclear power plant in China.

So the answer is no. Chris Hemsworth does not play this rugged guy:

The action scenes are pretty cool in this flick. There are exploding things, A LOT of gunfire, and escape sequences, which I did not expect from a cybercrime-type movie. The first twenty minutes is suspenseful and filled with so many questions that are not answered until the end, but unfortunately, there is much more to a good story than action scenes, guns, and questions.

This is the face I'm making as I write this post. Seriously. I mean it.

The weird relationship they try to portray in the story does not work at all. I kind of acquaint it with his:

Awkward-kiss

But hey, it's really difficult to get love right in a story. If it works, it's awesome, but if there is no chemistry, it is blatantly obvious. Unfortunately, Hemsworth's try was just that--obvious.

The story works so hard to build up this crazy villain who steals 75 million dollars, keeping ahead of the cops and Hathaway (Hemsworth) until the end of the film when they reveal his appearance. It's unlike anything I ever thought he would look like...and not in a good way. He's just another pot-bellied weirdo with backing from a thug with a lot of firepower. Ugh...

But it's not even that that really disappointed me. SPOILER ALERT AHEAD. 

It's the fact that the "cyberterrorism" plot boiled down to a 1 v 1 battle with screwdrivers, knives, and guns. It shouldn't have ended that way. One of these days, a direction/producer is going to say, "Enough of this mainstream cyber crap. Let's get it right."

And they will.

Unfortunately, Blackhat was not that movie. I guess we'll just have to wait until next time.

It's amazing to me that cyberterrorism and cyber crimes even exist, but I guess it comes with the time in which we live. Just the fact that you can hide your true identity with fake photos, understanding how routers and IP addresses work, and knowledge of firewall hacking is an incredible feat for the human race. Just think how far we've come. Seriously.

There will always be evil in the world. There will always be people who want to tear everything down. And that's a scary thing.

But the good news is that there will always be people that protect the common good of all. There will always be someone there to stop evil when it seems that all hope is lost. I'm obsessed with these types of people--the ones who would rather give their lives than let evil and villainy wreak havoc on innocent people.

This is why I write. I want to tell stories that help dive into the psyche of such characters and, although Blackhat sucked in many ways, it also reminded me that some stories are so close to fandom and connectivity, but just need a little kick in the ass to get there. I hear you, Blackhat. I won't stop writing until it's that good.

I promise.

Blackhat: I had such high hopes, but the let down was too much. That's why I give it  2.5 out of 5 stars.

Netflix: New Wave, New Face

R.T. Donlon is back! Today is December 28 and, I feel, it is the start of something new. It's the beginning of the next chapter in the R.T. Donlon origination story. I am writer, but besides Walls and the first three-quarters of The Last of the Wanderers (a work of short fiction), I have not made a second definitive staple in the world of authorship. That will change on May 2nd, 2015 when The Reaper Trials is debuted on Lulu.com, the Amazon Marketplace, iBooks, and the Barnes & Noble online bookstore!

If you haven't seen the cover art made by Creative Edge Arts (see their website here), check it out below in all of its glory!

The Reaper Trials Cover

I am so amazingly proud of this design and the work that Creative Edge Arts has done for my upcoming story. It's going to be a wild ride from here through the summer of 2015!

But that's not what this blog post is really about now, is it? Read the title, you silly R.T. fans! Netflix, out of all the times I've used the convenient streaming entity, has really peaked my curiosity with their induction of new series such as House of CardsOrange is the New BlackPeaky Blinders, and the most recent of the bunch, Marco Polo.

Now usually this wouldn't mean anything. After all, everyone craves interesting television shows that they can invest in, veg out of, or perhaps escape from their hectic schedules, but I've noticed a sort of paradigm shift in the way the entertainment culture is working to capture our attention.

And it all starts with this bad boy:

I'll admit that I was never a Netflix fan until about two years ago. I thought it was another societal scam to offer bad movies and television shows for a monthly charge to people who had a little too much time on their hands. Being a busy college kid and then a very busy teacher, coach, and writer, I never really had any interest in paying for a few hours of bad storytelling, but....I was wrong.

Netflix started attracting me by the onslaught of television shows I could binge watch. Instead of sitting through commercials and waiting once a week for the next installment of whatever you're watching, Netflix makes it possible to watch 1 or 2 or 3 or more installments without leaving your couch. That's pretty cool.

But this isn't why I'm writing about Netflix. Stop looking at me like that! I know, I know...there's more.

The creation of Netflix Originals is something that is wavering society's view on entertainment towards some new horizon. No longer are we limited to the role of big name television channels. Netflix has opened the door for creative freedom--more freedom than our generation is, frankly, used to.

So, why is this a big deal? In the next ten, twenty, or fifty years, I think we will look back on what is happening in today's world and point to these moments as a time when media shifted permanently.

Take self-publishing as a pertinent example. No longer do authors need to submit query letters to big time publishing companies. Sure, the opportunity is still there...and what an accomplishment it would be if traditional publishing was an option for someone, but honestly it is no longer needed. All you need is a good idea, the skill to communicate that idea, and a third party that will help you get your idea out there. So many authors are flooding to this way of writing because, first, it is largely accessible and, secondly, it's a way to skip the involvement of editors/marketers/big wigs that might muddle the story the author wants to tell.

Netflix is doing the exact same thing here, except they have already established themselves as an institution that will provide useful and fantastic entertainment to its customers. The creation of these new Netflix Originals is just the next step in their reinvestment to their ultimate goal. It won't be long until Netflix is a self-sustaining production empire. $7.99/mo is so worth it for such a wide expanse of material you can't find anywhere else online or on television.

So what do you think? Is this paradigm shift a good thing? Is it just another step into the negative censorship argument? Perhaps, but regardless, I see it as completely unprecedented in either case, whether positive or negative.

Let's talk.

Guest Post: My Name is Ariele and I Write Books: Why My Planet Is Shaped Like A Donut

Hello, R. T. Donlon’s fans. My name is Ariele, as you can see from the title, and I write books. This blog is primarily to tell you about the release of my newest novel, The Wounded World, and also to give you a little taste of my universe.  

Let’s begin with the book. The Wounded World is told from the perspective of Quin, a highly respected member of the Sagittan military, and the son of a high-level government official. When Quin arrives home after being summoned by his government for a consultation, he discovers that his father has, in fact, vanished, leaving behind a potentially volatile and dangerous piece of technology called a Polylocus Door. He promptly sets out to look for his father and attempt to solve the number of problems he encounters along the way.

 

You can find out more about me, my book, and my characters by visiting my website, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

Now, this book, along with my two others (The Clock Winked and The Lonely Whelk), are primarily based out of Pomegranate City on the planet Sagitta, which is shaped like a donut.

 

Why is it shaped like a donut? you might ask.

 

Let me illustrate the history of this particular planet to you. This is a torus, and it represents the general shape of the planet. But it didn’t always look this way.

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Once upon a time, it looked like this:

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It was an oblate spheroid with rings. Also it was in space. Because it was a planet. Obviously.

Then one day, it saw something strange in the generally nearby vicinity. A comet.

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Though the planet begged and pleaded, the comet was unable to divert its course, and smashed into the planet with a polite, “Beg pardon, sir.”

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The planet was pushed clear of the rings…

...and then exploded.

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This, of course, saddened the rings, who were left in the rather cold universe with nothing but the little bits of dust left by the comet to keep them company.

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But being rather more self-sufficient than the planet had been, they clumped themselves together and created Sagitta, the toroidal planet circling the star Liera at a 23 degree angle. (They managed to snag dust and particles from passing comets, etc. over the years, for those of you who are wondering where the rest of the debris came from. Also, the debris field was very spread out.)

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And over time, it evolved into the beautiful home of our favourite Pomegranate City (see the star shape? That’s where the city is.).

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And that is how Sagitta became a torus.

The end.

 

Although part of the book takes place on other planets besides Sagitta, I do explore some of the interesting potential phenomenons that might occur on this planet. Check it out by picking up a copy of The Wounded World or reading an excerpt from blog #1 of my tour. You can also read more about my characters on H.S. Stone’s blog, Amy’s blog, Zack's blog, and K.W. Keith's blog.

 

For those of you who are interested in the possibilities inherent in a toroidal planet, read this cool i09 article on torus-shaped planets.

 

5-Dimensional Sabotage: A Look At Interstellar

It's been awhile...and I owe you one. So here it is! We grow up. We realize that this world is not the perfect sphere of resources we think it is when we're innocent. Some choose to do something about this. Some choose to ignore it.

But people like me, we think about it. We write about it.

I'm not saying I don't act. I do my share of recycling. I'm just as concerned with humanity's apathy when it comes to pollution and waste as the next guy, but I can't change the way my brain works. I can't work 8-hour days making machines to investigate unforeseen inhabitable planets. I can't sit behind a desk reworking theorems or formulas that help empirically solve the space and time conundrums of our universe. I can only write about them. And, although this is blessing and a curse, it's a way for me (and other artists who do the same or similar things) to spread the word and speculate where we might be headed in years or decades down the road.

It's one of the main reasons why I love dystopian literature so much. I'm obsessed with scouring the realm of human possibility for serious conflict, then creating characters that have no choice but to fight their way through it. That is what I do.

And what's better than investigating black holes as a place of conflict, if dystopian is what you're looking for? They're massive, filled with all kinds of danger, and seem to have no theoretical mercy about how to avoid them. They are just there...in space and completely inescapable.

So as I'm sitting in the movie theatre watching the newest, surprisingly dystopian Nolan story that is Interstellar, I can only come up with one question that keeps riddling my (nowadays) fragile brain matter: How can I possibly think my life means something when we don't even know what's just outside our galaxy's door? 

I mean, honestly, look at the wormhole below and tell me it doesn't send shivers down your spine. Wormholes are a real theory--something that could potentially occur in our space and time. It's essentially a portal to another place in space.

Yeah, yeah. I know. This sounds like it's getting a little depressing, but it's an honest question built by a quality film. What dictates life? What happens when we can no longer survive on what has been comfortably handed to us for our entire existence? 

I'll tell you what, despite the obvious, (but in my eyes) unavoidable loopholes in the overarching plot, the movie is a work of inimitable suspense. It's one of those films that feels like an hour, when in actuality, you're looking at committing a solid three, at least. It keeps you guessing, asking deep, unadulterated questions, and wanting the maps to space's deepest conquests at your fingertips as soon as humanly possible.

But overall, I felt that this story meant something. Nolan is breaking out here, trying desperately to venture to realms that we never really thought existed, and theorizing the unknown using visualization techniques that relate to the average human's analytical mind. To make a long story short, it blew my mind.

Here are some things about the film that I really liked.  ***spoilers ahead***

The Concept of Time - Our galaxy has some strict guidelines as to how organic beings perceive time, but as technology advances and our ability to observe our expansive universe becomes more of a possibility, why shouldn't our theories of time be considered relative and temporal? If gravity is variable, why can't time be bent, quickened, or slowed? In the world of Interstellar, this is much more than conceivable. It's a reality. Just as black holes increase the weight of gravity, they can also slow time's constraints as we understand them on Earth. Even on the outskirts of it, the frame of time (as stated in the movie) is 7 years per every 1 hour a living organism remains in its field. Yeah, this is interesting and all, but it's the way that that affects the Murph-Coop storyline that makes the development of the characters so undeniable and critical, while fortifying every decision the characters must make in their process of preserving the human race.

The Attempt at the Unknown - I'm not the world's leading expert on scientific knowledge. In fact, I'm not even close, but it seemed, although abstract and, at times, unrealistic, the science behind the universe's giant unknowns (like wormholes and black holes) are creatively sound. Traveling into event horizons and entering a manifested 5-dimensional "tesseract" (as it is called in the film) is an overcompensation, however. Unfortunately, the "horizon" scene was a critical function of the movie's plot, but I can see why the story had to be built in this way. Essentially, I guess the writers of Interstellar want the world to understand that everything is imperfect and temporary, including our perception of time as we know it.

The Illusion of Hope - I wanted this film to be a "feel good" movie, but it wasn't, and to my surprise, I liked it better this way. I wanted everything to go on as planned, like Cooper's travels were nothing more than a bad dream, but that would have clearly demolished the story's true intentions. This story was always meant to emerge from human desperation, to play on our innermost desires to press forward with curiosity, even when danger seems to overwhelm it, and rip at our hearts when the difference of age withers the relationship between father and daughter.

Yet, I was sucked into the idea that, even though things looked super bleak, there was always hope that they would somehow return home. Turns out I was right and wrong at the same time. Go figure...

Overall, I give this flick a solid A-. The "mind-blowing" nature of the film is a spectacle in itself, but the plot and overarching scientific ideas (i.e. Theory of Relativity, Event Horizons, Neutron Stars, etc.) could have been explained in more detail as to ensure complete viewer investment.

Go see the movie if you can. It's a great sci-fi movie that deserves a ton of recognition for its Odyssey-like attributes.

R.T.

Top 10 Best Young Adult Books to Movies

With the onset of The Maze Runner in theaters this month, my popcorn induced coma continues. I swear, if there was a MPA (Movie Popcorn Anonymous...for those of you who aren't up to date with my luscious acronyms), my family and friends would really be pulling for some sort of intervention/rehabilitation. But the good news for all of you is that The Maze Runner and my theater-related addictions effectively stirred up a little thought-stew in my brain: What are the best young adult books that haven't been completely destroyed in their venture to the big screen?  I'm guessing, after reading this list, that some of you will look like this:

and that's okay. Just make sure you comment and tell me why your eyes are falling out of their sockets and rolling out all over the ground. Perhaps I have a conflicting view on these books-to-films. Perhaps my brainwaves work a bit differently than what you are thinking, but nonetheless, read on!

10. The Giver

The book is amazing. It's one part dystopian, three parts philosophical, and ten parts ethical. It raises a million questions about the human experience and dives into the reasoning for living a fruitful life. If you want a rated "R" version of this same plot, check out Equilibrium with Christian Bale. Epic is an understatement. In terms of the movie, however, the only redeeming quality is Jeff Bridges. The protagonist, the story, and the visualization of Lois Lowry's words don't truly come to fruition and it's too bad. I was looking for more investment in the emotional despair, more elation in the moments of emotional awakening, and more disgust in the society's undertakings. Unfortunately, none of that was really present in the film. It makes the list because it's not a bad film entirely, just a predictable one. Plus, they tried way too hard to emerge Taylor Swift as an important character. Come on, The Giver, it doesn't work that way.

9. The Percy Jackson Series

Much like The GiverThe Percy Jackson series has a lot of explaining to do cinematically. The real difference between #10 and #9 is the popularity between the two. Percy Jackson is truly Young Adult. It conceptualizes Greek Mythology in a way that moderate readers can easily attach themselves to. Not only is that difficult to do, but the first film was a brilliant one. It had me guessing. It kept me entertained. The second one, however (The Sea of Monsters), was an epic fail and one that I think the movie writers would like to have back. Suddenly, what should have been a bridge between a coming-of-age growth (Movie 1) and an immersion of a larger underbelly of plot (A potential Movie 3), devolved into a mosh of cheesy characters, a lack of well-devised god play, and a horribly underplayed villain in Cronus. Even with all of these criticisms, the Percy Jackson series still merits a #9 in the Young Adult onslaught of book-to-movie comparisons.

8. Divergent

Just like The Giver and The Percy Jackson series, Divergent is still in the tier of "novels that are strangely popular and do their jobs, but simply can't keep up with the mainstream ideals and requirements needed to keep the series afloat in film". Will the series continue? Probably. Should it? Meh. I wouldn't really care either way. The plot is similar to every other story we've read about in Young Adult literature, just set in an alternative dystopian setting (see The Giver, The Hunger Games, etc.). Authors need to branch out a bit more and Divergent is a prime example of just that. It's too similar to everything we've seen before, but I can't deny the power it's had on people, particularly the YA's out there, hence its rating - #8.

7. The Fault in Our Stars

 New tier alert! The Fault in Our Stars reaches the level of "I'm going to make girls cry while doing a pretty good job of enhancing the novel's initial success" of Young Adult books-gone-to-film. There's something magical about how a film can make you feel when you're watching it in the theater. There's something even more magical about having the same reaction while reading a book. The first is a communal effect. The second is a deeply personal experience. Luckily for John Green readers, The Fault in Our Stars accomplished both of these effects pretty successfully. Although I hold true to the fact that Looking For Alaska is still John Green's most powerful work to date, The Fault in Our Stars and its corresponding film are definitely worth investing time into. #7 may be a slight understatement of value here, but with the lengthy list above it, I couldn't see moving it forward any more. Read on, Read on.

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is like The Fault in Our Stars in that it produces the same emotional response, but it's a much more controversial, coming-of-age plot. It dives into non-Young Adult themes (or YA in some circles) like sexuality, drug use, alcohol, along with other familiar Young Adult topics like popularity, discovering passion, and surviving trauma. Chbosky does a fantastic job easing his readers into the lure of YA issues, but also slaps you in the face with background information and exposure. It's one of the few novels that is also directed by the author on the big screen. And besides, Logan Lerman and Emma Watson are fantastic personalities that really allow for the characters to come alive in a very distinct way. If John Green's Looking For Alaska was a movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower would be on the same level. It's THAT kind of novel/film. The TPOBAW film gave me chills, but then again, I watched it alone. It deserves its rating at #6...the best of the first half of ratings.

OKAY... WE'RE HALFWAY THROUGH. WHAT'S GOING TO BE #1, YOU ASK?!?

5. The Maze Runner

This pick may surprise you. Out of all the Young Adult movies out there, why would I choose The Maze Runner as (get this) the #5 Young Adult book-to-movie? I'll tell you why--the movie was absolutely wonderful. The Maze Runner was nothing but a mediocre novel. I'm guessing that The Scorch Trials (#2 in the series) is another work of the same average run-of-the-mill writing bleh, but the movie...the movie was a work of art. When I was listening to the audiobook, I couldn't help but believe that I was reading a male version of the Twilight series. It tried to appeal to the male workings of the brain, but failed miserably. Theresa was a below average character filled with too many loopholes. Thomas was just another conflicted, impersonal mirage of inflated beliefs. And don't even get me started on Alby...but let me tell you something, the film cleared EVERYTHING up. It narrowed Thomas, it expanded the personality of Theresa (although slightly)...and nearly eliminated Alby's character all together. Plot mechanisms were changed, but the overall story remained the same. The Maze Runner completely redid itself and, to be frank, put lipstick on a pig and turned it into a model.

4. The Hunger Games

 Ah, the top 4. This is where we go from the "rather emotional" to the "marginally epic". Let's be honest. The dystopian setting is not original, but it is a compelling landscape filled with political feuds that resemble our own in distant ways. Katniss is a strong, female character filled with tribulations, hard decisions, and action, while maintaining a soft underbelly of family, friends, and a strong loyalty to the land and people she loves. The movie maintains the story's justice while adding the visual effects needed to make a strong comparison to the novel's crucial details. It's one of the few Young Adult movies that maintains the genre while breaching the realm of adulthood, as well. Well done, Hunger Games. Well done.

3. Chronicles of Narnia

Although I'd still mark this as an "above average epic of sorts", I think that Narnia makes for an interesting reach into that "obsessively popular and clearly unavoidable" tier. Yes, it is rather childish, but if you step away and admire the storyline for what it is, you'll see that it is much more than just a children's book. It's a detailed look into the mind of an artist (C.S. Lewis, of course). The movies parallel the books and, for that, I give this bad boy #3 on the depth chart. The movies really allowed for a giant boost of new followers without taking from the writing's original plans. Plus, talking lions always seem to be a crowd favorite.

2. Twilight

What is that, you say? Twilight?!? Yeah, yeah. I know, but it's an unavoidable evil. I will be the first to admit that the writing is cheesy beyond belief and feels like it was written in a week, but if there ever was a "crazy obsession that never existed before its time", it's this. Vampires never would have exploded onto the scene as they did and teenage girls around the world would never have known the terms TEAM EDWARD or TEAM JACOB. It's the Justin Bieber of mainstream fiction and mainstream film, but it's worth a #2 spot simply because of its over-exaggerated popularity and breakthrough into yet another sub-genre we never thought existed. But still, vampires and humans romancing it up? GET A ROOM.

OKAY...THE MOMENT YOU'VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR! (DRUMROLL, PLEASE)...........

1. Harry Potter

Oh that lovable, little lightning bolt-faced boy. He's been put through the ringer at Hogwarts. That's for sure. But, in terms of world building, character development, and plot design, J.K. Rowling really outdid herself on this one. I remember the first time I ever picked up a Harry Potter novel. It was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone--a wrinkly copy in the library of my middle school. I remember thinking: Look at the cover. This book is gonna suck. Boy, was I wrong. That novel lit me up like a hormone-induced Christmas tree. It was like diving into a world unlike any other and immersing yourself in a culture and a people with a story all their own. You wanted to cry with Harry, laugh with him, stand up for him...hell, do EVERYTHING with him. And each novel got better and better because you knew, as you read, Harry was growing up...and not only growing up, but growing up with you. That, my friends, is the reason why we read. It's like Boy Meets World literary style.

Then came those movies--the 3-hour movies that seemed to go on forever but never let up. The ones you needed so desperately to go to the bathroom three-quarters of the way through, but couldn't get your butt out of the seat. Even though we knew the story, we couldn't take our eyes off of that film magic because it had the EXACT SAME EFFECT. We grew up with Harry and, no matter what tribulations and difficult tasks lay ahead for that poor, cursed boy, we would do it together. We would watch him suffer, succeed, conquer, and, ultimately, rise to be a hero.

Harry Potter.

Genius.

#1 all the way without dispute.

So there you go. Comment below. Enjoy. I'll see you next time with a surprise guest. This is going to be great, folks. Stay tuned.

R.T.

Quit Being Weird

Again...too much popcorn. I do this to myself almost every time my wife and I go to the movies. The taste of those light, buttery kernels are as close to heaven as we're going to get right now, I think. Plus, it helps when you have $5 in concession gift cards you pretty much got for free. For your reading enjoyment, here is a wonderful human being who I resembled in the late stages of my "night at the movies" festivities.

What are we talking about? Oh yeah...Teenage...Mutant...Ninja...Turtles. Anyone from my generation understands the lore of TMNT, specifically because these pizza-eating, little hulk-type creatures originated in, the one and only, Dover, New Hampshire. I remember spending hours upon hours playing the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System for any of you too cool for vintage video game systems) TMNT video game. The premise was simple: fight all the foot clan and get to a big boss battle at the end of every level. These were the kinds of video games that caught my ADD-distracted attention and kept it for an abnormally long amounts of time when I was a child. The golden years of video gaming, if you will.

But a new TMNT wave has been upon us for a few weeks now--one that blends the mega-diva look of Megan Fox, the BOOM and POW of a Michael Bay production, and unfortunately, another lackluster glimpse at Shredder. Why is Shredder so difficult to get right? We'll get there, but first of all, it's amazing that a non-Marvel, non-DC comic brand such as "Mirage Comics" has done so well since 1984, especially since Marvel/DC has continually ruled the film, comics, and merchandise superhero worlds for the past however long. When you think of the "greatest of all time" superheroes and comic books, you may not instinctively think of TMNT, but they are profound, nonetheless, in American Comic lore. There have been mergers and adaptations that have not always worked, but over the long haul, TMNT has weathered the storm of criticism and poorly made cartoons and, that alone, allows for a golf clap.

Good.

In this 2014 reboot, however, there is not much variation from Michael Bay's other movies, meaning if you've seen Transformers, you've seen everything you need to know about Mr. Bay. There's a lot of high-tech machinery, some science fiction-y type of conflict, and a lot of explosions. TMNT is no different. For the most part, the '14 reboot is lightyears better than films before its time, but shouldn't filmmakers be striving for a bit more than "good enough"? I think so. Regardless, going into the movie, I had a few very big concerns:

1) I feared that the turtles themselves would be nothing but miniature versions of the "Incredible Hulk".

2) Megan Fox would absolutely butcher the role of April O'Neil, and

3) Shredder would look and act like just another Michael Bay Transformer.

I was correct about 2 out of 3 of my assumptions, but even then, I feel like the movie was a success. Let me explain:

#1 The turtles were mini-hulks, but what else were they going to be? Being mutant and ninjas can only mean a couple of things: large muscles and gigantic green skin. It wasn't a problem at all, considering the overall plot, but it didn't add to the mystique of the turtle "legend" in the movie, either. In fact, Michael Bay completely ignored that, altogether. Instead, he decided to make them (and Splinter) into science experiments performed by April O'Neil's father. He focused a lot of time and camera work to make this happen, which speaking strictly about the movie's plot, it worked.

Besides, it's definitely better than watching this again. Am I right?

#2 **SPOILER IN THIS SENTENCE**: Megan Fox was great, minus a few obviously cheesy screams (see RAPHAELLLL!!!!!! just after the turtles are captured and Raphael is fighting Shredder 1 vs. 1), but she managed to capture the stubborn, persistent, but playful side of April that makes her the turtles' main squeeze, and does it well, in fact. She doesn't try to be witty, nor humorous, and sticks to the script while letting the other characters take on those important traits, so touchee, Megan Fox, I'm glad we can finally bask in at least one of your film undertakings. Plus, I'm glad there was no cheesy romantic scintillation anywhere in this. Will Arnett might have wanted it, but you and Michael Bay shot that down pretty quickly.

And yet, you went with this guy in Transformers...

Could he look any creepier? Seriously Labeouf, stop going all John Mayer on us, please.

#3 And, finally, WHY IS IT SO HARD TO CAPTURE THE ESSENCE OF SHREDDER?!? Don't ask me. He is one of the most badass villains ever created and yet, we can't even enjoy the fruits of the TMNT world without film gurus, directors, and producers absolutely butchering Shredder's sulky, furious personality. Let me give you a hint: just because Shredder doesn't exactly talk much, it doesn't mean he doesn't have a personality. YES! He has an awesome, devilish personality that is a plight of its own. Instead, he is consistently characterized as a silent, broody type that allows his "foot soldiers" to do his dirty work.

Now, I will say that this reboot FINALLY captures Shredder as the ultimate karate guru, as witnessed in the scenes when he absolutely tools on the turtles, but I'm sorry, that is not enough to allow me to give the movie credit. Take away the "Transformer" suit and Shredder is just another "sensai". If you're thinking about going to see the movie just for him, think again. It's not worth it, friends.

But overall, this movie was a surprisingly funny 2 hours of super enjoyable production. There is plenty of action, suspense, and laugh out loud moments. Besides Spiderman, there are not many superheroes that can attract ages 8+ and do it well, but TMNT absolutely falls under this realm.

Here's my rating: 4/5 - entertaining, but could have done more with Shredder's badassery and April's stubborn...ery.

As always, I end with something you'd never guess--a dog wearing a wig. Your dreams have come true...I know.

Until next time,

R.T.

The Typo Fiasco of 2014

"I finished your book last night," says a friend. He is smiling as we walk towards the outdoor basketball courts. Pickup basketball is one of the few, honest golden pleasures of life. "Oh yeah?" I respond. "What did you think?"

"I liked it. The helicopter scene at the end was a little over the top (YESSSSS!!!!!!!, I'm thinking to myself) and you had some typos in there..."

My heart stops. THIS IS MY NIGHTMARE.

Immediately I start to panic. WHAT PAGES ARE THEY ON? TELL ME!!! I feel like the Hulk when unable to control his anger:

Hulk Smash!

But then, I realize a couple of things. 1) I'm a first time author that can't yet afford a professional editor. I made this choice from the very beginning, so I guess I've expected this sort of thing to occur in some sort of capacity, 2) the Scrivener software I use on my MacBook underwent some sort of update just as I was editing Walls and started clunking up the thing (this is NOT an excuse, just what I am rambling on about in my head), and 3) it's easily fixable.

I successfully holster my systemic rage and start concocting a plan to rectify the situation.

1) Finding an editor is expensive work these days. It's one thing to edit someone else's work (I am a consultant and editor myself), but an entirely different animal when you're attempting to edit your own work. Believe me when I say I read Walls no less than 15 times while proofreading, copyediting, and content editing. Even still, I guess it wasn't enough to catch some of the flaws that have surfaced in the first edition. Some nights, this is what I felt like:

So tiredFalling asleep in a puddle of my own guilt.

2) Scrivener is great. Don't get me wrong. I don't know how I would organize all of my material if I was just writing in a Microsoft Word processor, but some of the things the company does irks me into blinding aneurysms. For example, Scrivener recently updated their entire system to synchronize with all of the other programs Mac offers. Sounds great for the company...but for an author? They've just made my editing process 10,000,000 times more difficult. Have you noticed that EVERYTHING has autocorrect now?? I type there and the computer switches it to their. Sometimes I think there is a little goblin in the screen that just screws with me for its own hellbent enjoyment.

Goblin DanceYeah...do your little dance now, home slice. One of these days (**shakes fist**)...one of these days.

and, 3) Luckily, Lulu has a revision feature that allows its authors to return to the project and revise the project without penalty (except for the proof novel you must purchase to make sure everything looks alright). I've already scanned the file, fixed those typos and submitted the new project to distributors with the same ISBN and everything. Crisis averted.

GAHH! I can't express the importance of proofreading and editing. I tell my students all the time that it's one of the most fundamental and foundational skills everyone must learn in the English classroom. People, whether you think so or not, do not take kindly to simple mistakes in grammar and spelling. They are such a turn-off to readers, even if they love the story. I know this because I, myself, am critical of those mistakes. Just the other day, as I finished Neil Gaiman's, Anansi Boys, I found myself criticizing the 4-5 spacing, grammar, and spelling mistakes throughout the work. What it comes down to is the simple fact that it's natural to judge in this case. People want perfection...and authors should be striving to reach it all the time.

That's why there's a 2nd Edition already in the system, waiting for confirmation from Amazon and Barnes & Noble for complete distribution. There is an upside to this. If you are (or want to be) one of the lucky ones that have, in your possession, a copy of the 1st Edition of Walls, there will never, ever, EVER be any more like it once the rest of the 1st Editions are sold. Just think, when I'm rich and famous (I'm banking on it - Stephen King, James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks style) and have 30 novels out on the market, the 1st Edition of Walls will be worth MILLIONS on eBay.

money <------- Imagine the possibilities!

In the meantime, here is the breakdown of what I have in stock:

2nd Edition Revised: ($15.99) R.T. Donlon's Official Page : Click "Books" and follow the link for 10% off your Lulu purchase.

1st Edition: (18 in Stock at $15.99/copy) - Message me on Facebook at "R.T. Donlon - Author".

2nd Edition Proof Copy: (I have only 1 in stock locally priced at $15.99) - Limited Edition "limbo" proof copy, contact me on Facebook.

Until next time, enjoy reading Walls with or without the typos and rate/review me anyway! I'll take praises AND criticisms! As always, you guys are the best. Check back later for more autumn details about R.T. Donlon short fiction, book signings, and events galore!

rush-limbaugh        Let's end by enjoying this photo of Rush Limbaugh. He adores you.

The Florida Effect

It's a foregone conclusion, folks. New Hampshire is my home of choice. No questions asked. Well...until spiders started ruining my new homeowner's glow. Just before I left for my Florida vacation to Jacksonville, I mowed my lawn. It was then my life changed. This picture does not do this little bugger justice. It has fangs and hissed at me as I passed with my mower. Yes. It hissed.

Spider

So I ventured from my land of arachnids into the land of reptiles--where lizards the size of your index finger run free literally everywhere. Not to mention, as we stepped foot off the airplane into the Florida weather, this is what the heat felt like:

Slap

Nonetheless, it was a fun time to hang out with a few people I don't see as much as I would like and, that alone, makes the trip absolutely worth it. Plus, it's summer! If there's a time I'm going to take a trip like this, everyone knows it's now.

If you're an author...or just anyone who likes reading in general...who is the first person that comes to mind when you think of Florida? Yup, it's Ernest Hemingway. I don't really know how Hemingway became one of my favorite authors, but he has been since my days in high school. I tend to admire authors that I know are way out of my league. For example, Hemingway kills it with character development. He strips his prose to the basics and allows the reader to attach or relinquish the characters in whichever way they please. He tends to get a lot of grief about this writing technique of his, but I think it's simply genius. Look where it's brought his writing--to a level I bet he never knew existed.

I'll be honest. I knew this weekend wasn't about accomplishing huge amounts of writing. In order to do that, I'd have to be sitting behind my computer in complete concentration, which wasn't happening in a time when fantasy football drafts, get-togethers, and America Ninja Warrior completely controlled my consciousness. But what did happen, happened reflectively. It offered me a chance to "free" myself from the crazy world of superheroes, zombies, and "greatest fears" and indulge in the blessing that is my ability to read.

So in this post, I'll be discussing a few novels that I have (and am) reading.

Anansi_Boys

My Kindle Fire says I'm 88% through the novel, which makes me horribly sad it's almost over. I wouldn't say that this is my favorite novel of all time. It's not even my favorite novel of the summer, but there's something magical about Gaiman's use of interweaving folktales and myth to create his own, wildly creative, and humorous storyline. It parallels his other works, especially American Gods, which just happens to be my favorite book of his. That was one I simply couldn't put down. But Anansi Boys has a certain flare of its own, which Gaiman boosts with his English dialogue and quirky personalities. We'll have to see how it ends, but so far, this summer read is worth picking up.

-----------

Hole

So the plane is careening into Jacksonville. We're about 80 or so miles out from the airport and, to my right, I see one of the creepiest airplane sights anyone can see: a giant, winding mess of dense black clouds hovering like a tornado in midair. Inside of it, streaks of blinding yellow and orange bolts of lightning burst at each other like a scene straight from The Day After Tomorrow (you know, the film with Dennis Quade...oh, Dennis Quade). There was no announcement from the pilot, nor any reaction from the flight crew, which frightened me a tad. Granted, I don't fly much, but don't you think something like that merits some sort of attention? Apparently not. Instead, the plane bends away slightly and misses it by a good 100-yard distance.

What immediately comes to my head? Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos. That's what. Why, you ask? Well, because of one scene.

First of all, if you haven't read this wonderful piece of writing, you should. There aren't too many works of literature out there that rely on the brutal honesty of someone's reality, but Gantos does this incredibly well. He leaves nothing out. He describes the highs and the lows without censor and, because of this, his audience is able to absorb what they want about the story, the hardships he both undertook and overcame, and the beauty of sometimes having a second chance. Some parts of the story are graphic in nature, but it's well worth the read if you ever get the chance.

Now back to my flirt with death (such an exaggeration, but hey, who cares?). Before Jack's drug trafficking fiasco, he goes through a wild Jack Kerouac (particularly On The Road) phase and travels to Key West in the middle of a hurricane...just for the adventure. He describes the boarded up buildings and the departing traffic, all the while, thinking how he can be more like the characters in Kerouac's groundbreaking novel. He spends some time in Key West and, once the hurricane passes, he visits Hemingway's house and sits there for some time, admiring the dirty, debris-filled water and the sea turtle that had somehow made its way into it.

As I was reading this scene, I thought to myself, I know exactly what that feeling is like. During a giant blizzard, or a rough hurricane up here in New Hampshire, everything stops. No one travels. No one leaves their houses. The world seems to stand still for those long hours of natural wrath. But when it's all over (and, hopefully, everyone comes out of it without any harm), suddenly everything is so much clearer. Have you ever noticed that? There's just something different about the day after a storm. Somehow, we are so immersed in the beauty of escape and freedom that we view the world in a different light.

The Hemingway house is Gantos' moment of literary clarity. His adventure leads him straight into the clutches of a hurricane and he is able to soak it all in. I guess there is a part of me that wants to partake in crazy adventures like this, but that part of me is definitely not big enough to inspire me into a road trip. I'm a settler. I always will be (unlike Jack Gantos--image below.) A trip to Florida to hang with friends and miss an isolated thunderstorm by the length of a football field is as close to a Kerouac adventure as I'm going to get.

JackPlus, I don't look like Gary Oldman.

Without Time, We Would Not Exist: A Look at Sci-Fi Reading and A Review on the New Sci-Fi Flick "Lucy"

What makes an enticing sci-fi flick? What makes a person who doesn't even like science fiction interested in contributing to the gross box office earnings...or novel publishing revenue? These are tough questions, but questions I must face on a daily basis now. Keep reading and I'll tell you why. As all of you now know, Walls (by yours truly) released on Monday and, so far, it's been exactly the hype I was expecting. There are the die-hards who were first in line to grab a copy and have been reading every night since. There are the "nudgers": the people who have been planning from the very beginning to grab a copy, but need a nudge or two to actually purchase it. And then there are the "lukewarm" fans. And, by the way, this isn't a critique on fandom here. This is me speaking out loud about the honesty of my supporters. They (YOU) are all great in your own ways. I appreciate it all--no matter how much financial or exposure support you offer. The question is: "How do I reach the 'lukewarm' fans that don't see zombies/violence/gore as something they want to invest a big chunk of time into?"

It's a good question, I think.

Last night, I saw the film, Lucy.

It reminded me somewhat of a movie a few years back that made a big splash in the undercurrent of sci-fi fans: Limitless. You know, the one with Bradley Cooper who plays a struggling author. He is given a drug that opens up his brain's accessibility so that he can be more productive.

Well, the same plot applies to that of Lucy: a woman blindsided by a drug ring that ultimately releases a drug into her system that allows her to access more than the normal 10% of her brain functionality. The film dives into the theories of what may happen when we unlock this type of power within ourselves. It's mind-blowing to think we have millions upon millions of neurons in our brains that have yet to be unlocked. It's even crazier to believe that their potential may very well die along with us when we ultimately go to that great blue yonder called Heaven, Elysium, Valhala...whatever you want to call it.

So...how is Lucy recognized as a great flick to see on a Friday or Saturday night, and not just a sci-fi thriller? I'll tell you why...because it's not sci-fi until you make it sci-fi. Once you give it a category, it becomes that genre and people associate it with nothing but that. Months from now, when Lucy is available for home purchase, things might change. The film might be put on the "thriller" or "sci-fi" shelves along with many other titles, but the money has already been made. The box office revenue is set. They have nothing left to lose.

In my personal opinion, there is somewhat of a stigma that comes along with science fiction and fantasy reading. Either you love it or you hate it. Most people think nerds in broken glasses who play with Magic and Pokemon cards read these novels to fill some magical, fantastic void within themselves. That is not the case at all. And who's to say that's bad? All of you reading this most likely know me in some capacity and understand that I, in fact, possess the power of the nerd and am not afraid to declare it. It's a part of the mind that most people are afraid to tap into because it allows them to think beyond the bland and sometimes grim realities of the world in which we live and really think about what this world could be if we, a) took a different path at some point during our human history, or b) change how we are living now.

Yet, the stigma persists.

Back to my original question: How can I reach that next level of readers who think zombies are not worth their time? Perhaps it's not categorizing the novel so quickly (although I don't agree with this at all. I'm proud to be a science fiction writer). Perhaps it means less accentuating of the zombie component...or just maybe, it's trusting my readership enough to allow my words to spread. After all, I tend to think I'm pretty good writer. If I let you all read it, maybe...just maybe...my story will do the talking.

What do you think? Is it worth so much worry? Does science fiction and fantasy writing have a stigma? Am I just blatantly wrong and you want to call me out on it? Hey, I'm open for anything! Comment below or visit my Facebook page (R.T. Donlon - Author) and drop me a line there. I'd be happy to hear your comments on the matter.

Until then, here's my review and rating for Lucy, directed by Luc Besson:

3.7/5 stars

I'm being a little generous here because of the movie's overall nature. There are many good things to say about the movie itself without giving away any true spoilers for those of you who want to go watch the film yourself. First and foremost, it is a sci-fi flick that tests the boundaries of philosophical theories and understanding. It dives deep into the science and workings of the human brain, which has been an ultimate mystery for humanity's entire existence. The mix of sci-fi, philosophy, and thrill really work well here. I found myself eating too much popcorn, sipping too much soda, and clinging to my seat to see where the story would ultimately lead.

There is no question about Scarlett Johansson's prowess on the big screen. She is a master of the craft, but the casting of supporting actor, Morgan Freeman, is what really made the theories pop. He just has a way about him that most actors do not. He can hold his own mini-plot line and conflict without needing the support of any other character. He is pretty much a main character that is told to stick to the story's outskirts. I give him two (three if I could) thumbs up for this one.

As for the storyline, this idea has already been worked and stretched in Limitless. The cinematography even attempts to rival that of its predecessor with the quirky images of molecules, flashback, and random nature scenes that keep the audience's brains stimulated. If you recall, Limitless spaced out the storyline by doing this, too, except theirs focused on mirrors and images-within-images. I'm usually not a fan of films that copy other films' premises, but Lucy possessed such a great blend of philosophy, action, and sci-fi that I am ultimately choosing to ignore this aspect of the review.

As for the ending, I was relieved that it didn't end the way I expected it to. Besson would have taken the easy way out if that had happened. But it didn't, which led to a more potent resolution and, perhaps, a sense of relief. Overall, not a bad flick. I wouldn't jump at the opportunity to see it again, but I'm glad I was able to see it on the big screen this once.

 

Until next time,

R.T.

Welcome to the RTDonlon.com Blog Page!

Welcome to the new and improved R.T. Donlon blog. It's here that magic will be made, folks! I rate, evaluate, and accentuate movies, ideas, new novels, video games, television shows...whatever entertainment is in the now, I'm all over it. Hit me up with anything you would like me to discuss and I'll do my best to make it happen. This is the start of the new R.T. Donlon experience and I couldn't be more excited to share it with you all.