Great Expectations

My favorite opening line in literature is from David Copperfield: Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station shall be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

I love Dickens.

My reach has always exceeded my grasp. For artists, I think this is norm. It’s next to impossible to make a good living with words and rhyme, melody or canvas. Somehow, we keep striving, because we must. And part of that is the belief that somehow, some way, we will succeed, and hit something out of the park. I’ve clung to that belief all my adult life, perhaps foolishly. I’ve worked towards that goal, too, sacrificed time and memories and relationships at the altar of words. Sometimes I am plagued by doubt, brought to my knees by my innate selfishness and the thought of the tens of thousands of hours I’ve spent over a notebook, a guitar, a computer.

I remember the times I came so damn close, only to have things evaporate. The songs “on hold” by huge artists. The books that seemed poised to take off, only to wind up at the discount bin. I get my hopes up, and crash and burn, and it’s painful. At this point, I’m jaded. I still believe, though. I really do, deep down.

Yesterday, I got news that would have made my younger, less jaded self, dance naked in the streets. A major television network is very interested in my books. They want a meeting. Twenty years ago, I’d have lost my mind. Hell, twenty years ago, I’d never have believed I’d have books published, in stores. I was a songwriter, not an author. Life is funny.

I still have great expectations. This may fall through, and if so, it’s on to the next network, the next book, the next script, the next article. I can’t stop writing.

And if I never hit it out of the park, at least I can look myself in the mirror at the end, gray and worn out and full of regrets, but not that one.

So to my fellow creatives, keep writing, keep singing, painting and smiling. Keep believing.

Let’s be heroes.

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America Divided: “We, the sheeple…”

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I mourn for my country as it tears itself apart. We are better than this, and seem to have forgotten. Not since the Civil War has the United States been so torn, and it’s along similar geographic lines. In the wake of the California, Paris, and Planned Parenthood shootings, the vitriolic rhetoric is nastier than ever.

We are under attack

America is under attack from enemies foreign and domestic. ISIS is no joke, no J.V. team, and they are not contained, despite what President Obama has said.  The war on terror, and ISIS in particular needs to be swift and brutal and waged without mercy. Before it’s over, there will be thousands of troops on the ground again because airstrikes will not stop ISIS. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary solution to a problem with roots more than a thousand years old.

The only way to truly stop ISIS and other violent, nasty terror groups long-term is for the Arab nations, and the Imams that dictate religious policy decisions in particular, to put an end to the cries for Jihad and reign in the fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran. Because while there are violent verses, there is also a message of peace in the mix. It’s a question of what people choose to focus on and believe.

Violent fundamentalism is a cancer, and it is spreading. Unfortunately, the U.S. plays into ISIS’s hands by turning a war on terror into a war on Islam. It’s what they want, both by making recruitment easier, and by undermining our collective values as a nation.  That’s how terrorists win.

The threat within

Our own citizens are far more likely to kill us than someone who sneaks into this country. Worse, they are more likely to destroy us as a nation.

Social media makes this worse. Reporting so slanted that it cannot rightfully be called news pours gasoline on the fire. Misinformation and lies abound, with memes designed to incite hatred and violence. People are inspired by fear, and fear sometimes leads to action. The fact that the leading GOP candidates are completely insane illustrates this.

Donald Trump Speaks To GOP Women's Groups

LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 28: Chairman and President of the Trump Organization Donald Trump yells ‘you’re fired’ after speaking to several GOP women’s group at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino April 28, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Trump has been testing the waters with stops across the nation in recent weeks and has created media waves by questioning whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Trump is woefully incompetent to lead the nation, his main attraction that he is willing to say anything, whether it is true or not, in order to get media attention. He seems bulletproof, in that he can get away with spouting absurdities and insults; people like this about him. “He says what we’re thinking, but afraid to say.” He is a dick, and people actually respect that about him.

It’s not just Trump, obviously, but his astonishing popularity is indicative of the greater problem: we’ve turned into a hateful people. There is virtually no reasoned discourse, no ability to look at issues from both sides. Whether it’s the Second Amendment, women’s rights, the war on terror, immigration, or health care, each issue is framed in black and white by the media. And people eat it up.

Gun control

I’m a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment. That said, the word “regulated” is right there. I fail to see how supporting thorough back ground checks or better enforcement of existing laws is an infringement of this right. No one is coming to get our guns. That’s fear-based paranoia, and it works out well for the multi-billion dollar industry that manufactures firearms and ammunition. Every time there is a mass-shooting, stocks and profits see a huge spike.

This is an American issue, not one of left or right. Yet it’s framed in such a way that the very idea of restrictions on firearms becomes jackboots and Nazis confiscating our guns. Gun restrictions have not led to dramatic drops in gun violence, that’s true. But, the areas with the most guns have the most gun violence. Something needs to be done beyond more people walking around armed.

The looming Civil War

I routinely see people calling for a revolution or secession on social media. My next book, Tears of Abraham, which releases from Post Hill Press in March, is about this very thing. People call themselves patriots with one breath, and demand a revolution with the next. It’s despicable, unpatriotic, and in the end, evil.

The first page of Tears of Abraham:

Often, that which is done cannot be undone. Sometimes a pebble unleashes a landslide; a small object becomes unstoppable, smashing and sliding and gathering momentum until chaos pulverizes everything. When the dust settles, there is a new landscape, crushed and snapped and desolate, which surely the pebble did not intend. The illusion of control can be more destructive than nature itself, when hubris convinces men to believe the lies they tell themselves.

It began with a few powerful men, tinkering and arrogant, manipulating and prodding. Wealth and power, unfettered by wisdom and conscience, smashed the United States of America. History now remembers the conflict as the second American Civil War, although there were many citizens who then fervently believed they were fighting a Revolution.

The first Civil War cost the lives of more than 600,000 people, and was the bloodiest conflict in our country’s history. The second war was worse.

We, the people, are too easily led by fear and hate. We need to talk to each other, not at one another. Listen, and work together to fix what has become broken.  I shudder at the world my children will inherit, and can only pray that we find a way beyond the consuming darkness

.http://www.amazon.com/Tears-Abraham-Sean-T-Smith/dp/1618688197

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A Few Good Sentences

Readers often ask me about my creative process, so here’s a general snapshot of how I write.

I’m a slow writer compared to most of my peers. I’m not sure I could crank out a book in three months, and if I did that it would be unreadable. I know authors who crank out four good books a year. I’ll never have that sort of output.

It all begins with an idea

I tend to marinate on several ideas at once, before deciding what I’m going to write. I’ll make notes on legal pads, bar napkins, and the back of company notebooks. Once I’ve got a general idea of the topic, then I move onto characters. With Objects of Wrath,
I began with the idea of a family struggling to survive the next world war.

I sketch the main character first, and then surround him with the surrounding cast. Often at this point, I don’t know enough about the story to fill in the details, but I like to have a general idea.

Next comes the broad outline. This is only a few pages long, with enough space in there to add things. I use a legal pad, and I draw a diagram of a suspension bridge. The high points are the big scenes in the middle and the climax, and the lines in between are the rising action, the building tension. Sometimes I’ll actually use one full page for this diagram, and divide the rising action into specific chapter ideas. The point of this diagram is that I want to have a general idea of what I’m writing towards. It sounds simplistic because it is. But it is very helpful to me in terms of pacing.

The next thing I do is write a first chapter, just to get a feel for the characters. So far, a surprisingly big chunk of my first chapters have made it to the final manuscript. I go back later on and move things around, and work especially hard on the first fifty pages, but the bones are there.

Storytelling

I tend to plot out a few chapters ahead of time as I’m writing. For me this is the best part of writing books. I have notebooks crammed with ideas, where I just let things rip. “What if…” and then I’ll try that idea out, often in paragraph form.  One idea leads to another, and I’ll end up with various branching plot lines.

When I’m in this mode, I can write unfettered, and it is where I probably do my best work. It’s here that characters start to misbehave in good ways. A minor character becomes important, while a character that I’d planned on keeping alive has to die. I’ll stumble upon an idea that lights me up, and spend a few hours writing one paragraph working to get it right.

I alternate back and forth when I’m writing a novel, between storytelling mode, and the actual pounding out the words at the keyboard.

Here are a few random examples of paragraphs or sentences I worked very hard on.

From Objects of Wrath: http://www.amazon.com/Objects-Wrath-Volume-Sean-Smith/dp/1618682245

“I had seen Gunny in action, had been trained by him, and knew how quick and deadly he was, but Chilli was an artist in his prime form, painting death with deft strokes. With perfect economy of motion he dispatched a seemingly unending supply of enemies in an unrivaled masterpiece of destruction. I hacked and shot behind him through the smoke, and despite the chaos, I marveled at Chilli’s artwork. His canvas was the battlefield, and he was the Rembrandt of the knife, painting darkness, not light. He was the Picasso of the blade, leaving twisted corpses in his wake, his hands and feet brushes that flicked out almost delicately, precisely, colorfully”

From Children of Wrath http://www.amazon.com/Children-Wrath-Book-Volume/dp/1618683411/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_y

“Most of us are blessed with a moment when sunlight is gold dust, warm and glittering, and the air is clean and tastes like hope. Sometimes we pay attention, savor the sweetness and are glad of it. Too often, we realize the rareness of it too late to revel in the glory of it. Looking back, though, we know the moment. That’s the yearning and the hurt later, because the memory is not the time, it is an echo. There is no way to feel exactly that way again, you can only recall the wholeness of it, remember the preciousness. My moment was long and my soul sings with the echoes I hear, but by the time we began our assault on Dugway, my moment had already passed.”

From Tears of Abraham, coming in March 2016

abraham cover final

“Stand up for yourself,” his father had said when Henry walked home with a bloody nose again. Henry’s old man, Tim Wilkins peered down at Henry. A tall, rangy man with a straight back, pale blue eyes, and a face worn out by life, Tim Wilkins was not prone to overt displays of affection or sympathy. But he was the center of Henry’s universe.
In Henry’s eyes then, his father was granite, solid rock, unbreakable, unchangeable, and strong in the way of a proud mountain. The lens of hope and faith filtered out the cracks and fissures, the broken blood vessels on Papa’s wind burned face, and the hurting eyes of a man eroded, but not yet completely worn smooth. Blasted by hard years, bad luck, and the love for the wrong woman, Papa remained undefeated.”

From Fate of the Fallen, my work in progress:

“Religion, Malak reasoned, would be at the heart of it. Money and power led to war between men. Religion could destroy mankind. Sometimes money and power were the religion, the worship of those things, by men who held armies on a leash. The worst of it was when money, power, and religion all combined. At the end of the day, it was always some kind of religion.”

Savoring the process

I love writing, whether it’s a song or a novel. I relish the entire process, and enjoy lingering over a passage, turning the words over, shifting things around to find a cadence and melody to the words. Some readers find this aspect of my writing a hinderence, and I understand that many folks want to read an adrenaline-driven book that’s primarily plot-driven. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I enjoy books like that  sometimes. The older I get, though, the more I want some real substance to the things I read and the things I write. I love Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dickens, McCarthy, Irving and O’brien. I’ve got a long way to go before I can attain that level, but that’s what I shoot for when I sit down to tell a story.

That’s my process, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

So you want to be a writer…

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If you want to be a writer, my advice is: don’t want to be a writer.

Seriously.

The overwhelming majority of us are destitute, conflicted, outcast, and inhabit a general state of unhappiness because dreams and reality aren’t the same thing. The idea of being a writer looks nothing like the reality. Only for an anointed few is this not the case.

I’m not going to bore you with sad  number-crunching; suffice it to say that there are about three million people trying to enter gates that will only allow a few hundred to enter at any given time. If you’ve ever been in a big city, then the idea of a traffic jam of these proportions should make you think twice, and then ten more times, about wanting to be a writer. Because we’re all trying to enter the same gate, and there’s not enough room for everyone. There’s bickering and thirst and sometimes murder in the long hot wait.

If you want to be a writer, then write poems and love songs for your partner, write short stories and epic novels that take decades to compose, infused with joy and hope and thousands of hours of research and plotting and honing. Rewrite everything as many times as you can until you have stomped the love out of each line and eroded the originality and voice which made them true in the first place.

Chase trends and listen to talking heads and bow down to the powers that seem to be, attend seminars and workshops while other people who want to be writers, and people who thought they wanted to be authors but who decided that being a critic is a better path, destroy your dream.

That’s the wanting to be a writer part. Don’t do it.

If you are a writer, though, then you have no choice. I applaud your belief and audacity and will cheer you on when things are glorious and your work is praised by the wise and mocked by fools. Writers write because they must; the money is the grand prize, but the reward for a writer comes also in the joy of the writing itself.  Mostly, that’s likely not going to happen, and at some point, writers must come to grips with that. Cold, hard, truth. Many iconic writers died in obscurity and poverty.

If you are a writer, then this truth doesn’t matter; you remain undaunted.  You will put your butt in a chair and crank out stories. You will research and you will write. You will rewrite. And rewrite again and again.. You cut the things that you were certain were brilliant. Slash pages and paragraphs. Of course, you have to write them before you can cut them.

I’m a writer, and I wouldn’t recommend being one. For those who can’t help themselves, take heed. It’s a long, brutal road.

There’s glory though, in being a writer, an artist, and that’s what keeps us writing and painting and playing music, in the face of the odds and in spite of the facts. That sensation of creating something which is true and makes another human being smile or laugh or cry or throw something at the wall… that’s writing. And for writers, that’s a beautiful reward.

That reward may not be what we yearned for, yet it is beautiful in its own right. Writers know that, and people who want to be writers learn by doing.

http://www.amazon.com/Children-Wrath-Book-2-ebook/dp/B00MW8AZHG/ref=sr_1_sc_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1435638461&sr=8-2-spell&keywords=objets+of+wrath

A Christian Writer’s Journey

Journey

I’ve always been a dreamer, something that my father instilled in me from a very young age because he would say things like, “son if you work hard, you can be anything you want to be. Follow your dreams.”  I saw my old man write books, toil as a carpenter, and then go to law school. He practiced what he preached, rising from abject poverty to success through discipline and years of burning the candle at both ends. When I left the University of Florida to pursue a songwriting career, my dreams were vast and my ability limited. I had no idea how hard my road would be.

It occurs to me that I’ve had a lifelong problem managing my expectations, and this character trait has tarnished my relationships, my career, and my soul. When you shoot for the stars, mostly you don’t wind up where you thought you were going. The heart of the matter is pride. Leaning much upon my own understanding rather than upon God. So here’s my story, and perhaps some other folks can avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made, and perhaps with the telling of it, maybe I’ll finally wrap my head around the truth.

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I moved to Nashville way back in 1992 with a heart full of dreams and a cheap guitar. Those first years were heady, back when I knew I would  “make it,” and I figured that within a few years, I’d be living the dream. I played the Bluebird, penned hundreds of songs with fellow songwriters,  and wrote every single day. I saw, quickly, that I had much to learn. I’d been in town for about a month when I saw a writers round with Bob DePiro and Mike Reid… they slayed me with their talent. Every song was perfection, their vocals were mind-blowing, and their musical ability was so far beyond me that I saw there was an entire mountain yet to climb. I embraced it, and I learned, worked on my craft, mentored by some great writers. I had songs on hold for major artists, went to number one parties, and rubbed elbows with the movers and shakers of Music Row. Then I started doing a dangerous thing.

I began spending too much time gazing at where I wanted to be rather than what I needed to do to get there, and worse, whether that was where I should go. Enter the bitterness, the, sense of betrayal and the resentment. The great Harlan Howard, whom I had the great pleasure of spending time with, once said to a disgruntled songwriter, “well, nobody called and asked you to move to Nashville.” Right.He didn’t say that to me, but it would have bee spot on. Nobody told me to decide to become a writer..that was my choice. But the desire to succeed was eating my soul, clouding my vision and ultimately hurting my music. Some of my fellow writers nicknamed me “Doctor Doom.”

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I moved back to Florida following a divorce and the feeling of being let down in my songwriting career (or lack thereof,) thinking that I could leave writing in my rear-view mirror. I was wrong, and I started writing fiction, which didn’t require the same sort of schmoozing and glad-handing that songwriting seems to. When I got my first publishing deal, I was ecstatic. I’d signed a contract for a trilogy, and I hadn’t even written two of the books yet. I decided I would be a wildly successful author within perhaps a year or two. I’m hard headed, obviously, though my wife uses more colorful words to describe my frequent and woeful lack of understanding.

It takes years of hard work, multiple books, and networking, and talent to make it as an author. Like any other artistic endeavor, it’s a subjective thing, and people will buy what people buy. I find the writing in Fifty Shades of Grey to be awful, but tens of millions of people strongly disagree; E.L. James reached the stars by connecting with her readers, and more power to her. I could undoubtedly learn a thing or two from her. So, I’m writing, working, knowing it takes time, and trying not to chafe against that knowledge. Trying to enjoy the journey, and not focus on the destination.

During these decades of writing, I burned down one marriage and almost destroyed another. One of the central reasons this happened is because I expect things to go my way, and when they don’t, I get rankled. My essential impatience, my propensity to reach beyond my means to grasp. Marriage is hard work, and when things go south, which they will in any marriage at some point, I’ve had the feeling that things should be right again quickly. Wounds should heal, others should change, I should change…if not overnight, then within a time frame that I deem acceptable. Utter nonsense. It’s destructive. Because, once again, that resentment sets in and things only get worse. You end up feeling like you’re wasting your time, and when a sense of futility becomes pervasive, it’s already almost too late. It takes discipline and hard work to make it back from that.

Against this backdrop, I’ve experienced the same sort of impatience with God. It sounds as dumb as it is, yet when I’m in the midst of it, I can’t see it, missing the forest for the trees. I cry out to God, asking for help with more selfishness than humility: Help me make it as a writer, help my marriage, please send a briefcase full of money from the sky!  When I don’t get the quick results I desire, I feel betrayed. Like no one is really listening. Like the songs on the radio are full of false promises, and that the Word itself has misled me. But I have misled myself by choosing to focus on the wrong things, by hearing what I want to hear instead of the truth.

The truth is, life can be terrible, hard, and mean. And there is no assurance of a good outcome for any of us on this earth simply because we choose to follow God. The whole idea of abundance theory preached in many mega-churches is dangerous drivel.  It’s connected to Calvinism and the idea that success is predestined, a concept which helped to form the Protestant Work Ethic and build a nation, but which in many ways undermines the deeper message of the gospel. This Calvinistic attitude spawns the belief that poor are poor because God has decided it, and conversely that the wealthy are wealthy because they have earned favor in the eyes of the Lord. This belief system is insidious. Ask the Paul, Peter and Timothy about that.

Because the assurance and peace Jesus and the Apostles talk about is the eternal kind, not the earthly kind, and the our peace on this rock is found in knowing this and feeling fulfilled and joyous despite our circumstances. Salvation, peace, and joy are not things we have earned, but which come, ultimately, through the grace of God. Apart from God, I can do nothing. I am worth nothing. And this, perhaps, is the central truth I’ve missed over and over again.

The story isn’t mine. It never was. Paul extolls us in Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our fate…”  I’m an author, yet I’m not THE author. I focus on the things which I want, the tangible trappings of success, and I fix my gaze upon that which I cannot obtain alone. I cling to my pride like a talisman and wonder why I become disillusioned. I truly want to reach people, to touch lives and be a force of light, but I’ve been going about it all wrong, putting my own story ahead of the most important story.

It will take hard work and discipline, and faith, but when I look back twenty years from now, I pray I will be able to say that I was living and writing for the right reasons, not the wrong ones, and that I released my foolish pride, my selfish expectations, and human arrogance. By emptying myself, I pray that God will fill me with His spirit and that the kind of peace which matters is the peace I will have found.

I still have a mountain to climb, and my way is unclear. I have much to learn, and am certain I will falter. I am not alone, and in this knowledge I will rest assured, striving to fix my eyes on Jesus, my sole destination.

http://www.amazon.com/Wrath-Redemption-Sean-T-Smith-ebook/dp/B00SXOLOEQ/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Ukraine, Russia, and NATO… World War Three in the Making

On February 9 a massive explosion, rumored to be a tactical nuke, detonated in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk. There are conflicting reports, with officials stating that an artillery shell hit a chemical plant, while others claim that it was a munitions factory. Witnesses report that the blast shattered windows and shook houses miles away. It is interesting that the media in the U.S. did not pick this story up, especially given their penchant for explosions.  Here’s a video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuQ5EPnSE_4

Maybe it was a tactical nuclear device, and maybe it wasn’t, but either way, the conflict in the Ukraine shows no signs of letting up, and as the U.S. gets more involved, the stakes are getting higher by the minute. Russian convoys move into Eastern Ukraine with impunity, bringing relief supplies to civilians, and also heavy weapons, armored vehicles, and special forces ground troops. Russian-made rockets and mortars are smashing civilian areas in the Ukraine, killing innocent people, while Ukrainian forces shell rebel-held strongholds like Donetsk, with rounds dropping on schools and hospitals. It’s a bloody, terrible conflict, and not quite as black and white as many here in the States would like to believe.

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Many Eastern Ukrainians do in fact feel allegiance to Russia, and remember the days of the Soviet Union with fondness; they speak Russian and have more in common with them than their own countrymen. They are rebels who desire closer ties to Russia than the western Europe. Both sides are waging a bloody war, trying to gain ground ahead of peace talks which seem unlikely to resolve the issue, with rebel forces currently on the offensive to seize key rail yards and rail lines.

On December 23, 2014 the Ukraine renounced its non-aligned status with NATO, which makes the current debacle all the more dangerous, and outright involvement by the United States a frightening and somewhat hypocritical possibility. Here’s why.

In 1823 the U.S. adopted the Monroe Doctrine, which simply put, stated that interference by European powers in South America would be considered an act of aggression. The U.S. doesn’t tolerate other countries bashing around in our back yard. The Truman Doctrine, which became the bedrock of American foreign policy for decades, dictated that the U.S. would pursue containment of Soviet expansion, and this led to proxy wars in South America and Eastern Europe. As the cold war has begun anew and tensions with Russia have reached new heights, the Ukraine conflict threatens to become a new battleground between nuclear superpowers. I for one, would rather avoid that!

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There is a compelling argument that appeasement does not work, and that Russian aggression needs to be stopped now. Various pundits compare Russian president Vladimir Putin to Hitler at the start of World War II, when Europe wrung its hands in the face of the Nazi advance. Russian armored divisions are poised to move into Ukraine, and NATO is woefully unprepared to halt the attack, should the Russians choose to roll in. Most of the Abrams tanks are gone,Western Europe is largely toothless.  NATO relies on air power and the United States to deter further incursions.Should peace talks fail, it is easily conceivable that Putin will order Russian forces into the Eastern Ukraine. The only way to stop them would be with the use of tactical nuclear weapons, targeting the armor and infantry divisions. That’s how the end of the world begins.

So, here’s to hoping that clear heads prevail. Perhaps a peace can be brokered, one which appeases the rebel forces who wish to align themselves with Russia, but also keeps the Ukraine intact.

What does it look like after a global nuclear war? Check out the WRATH trilogy.

http://www.amazon.com/Sean-T.-Smith/e/B00IKHPGEK

Jupiter Ascending Review: Nerd Heaven!

Jupiter Ascending is a movie I’ve looked forward to since I saw the first trailer for it more than a year ago. I’m a huge science fiction fan, and within the last twelve months, there have been some excellent films released: Gravity, The Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Jupiter Ascending, which is my favorite of the bunch.

This isn’t hard sci-fi and makes no pretense of being so. It’s a fully realized space opera, original and visually breathtaking. I saw it in 3-D, and I highly recommend enjoying the film in that format.The CGI is stunning, and there are some extended set-piece scenes that put my jaw on the floor.

There is an intricate back story, one which the film makers no doubt paired down for the sake of pacing, but I was impressed, nonetheless. There is a Shakespearean feel to the film (if the Bard wrote about guys in gravity boots with spaceships and super-cool light shields) with this family who has no sense of humanity juxtaposed with a well and truly grounded heroine.

There is a good bit of humor in the film, which I appreciated, including a long scene reminiscent of a trip to the DMV that had me in stitches. The acting was solid, and some of the performances were deliciously over the top. The film makers put a great deal of effort into the details of the world building, from the opulent living quarters these advanced humans enjoy to a wide variety of aliens and genetically altered species that populate the film.

Overall, this is now one of my all-time favorite science fiction movies. I hope they make a sequel

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00IKHPGEK

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Sunshine Patriots… Cover Reveal

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Sunshine Patriots is set in Steven Konkoly’s Perseid Collapse Kindle World, launching Feb. 3. I’m honored to be a part of Steve’s project and a stellar team of post-apocalyptic authors.

Retired Army Ranger John Goodwin and his two daughters fight for their lives from sweltering FEMA camps to the mangrove swamps of the Florida Keys. As the massive federal relief effort triggers conflict between freedom and order, a family still reeling from loss finds themselves under attack. Can Alexandria find hope when all hope seems lost? Can John destroy his enemies and save his children without losing himself? After the Event, nothing is certain.

Fans of the Wrath series will recognize my favorite themes in this novella… evil, faith, and family in peril. And of course, plenty of rounds zipping through the air!

The New Cold War

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With Russian nationalism on the rise, troops and armor massed on the border of the Ukraine, and vitriolic rhetoric burning up the airwaves between Moscow and Washington, there is little doubt that the Cold War is once again very real. Russia has at least three thousand deliverable nuclear weapons, and the United States has somewhere around that number– more than enough to plunge the word into a nuclear winter. There seems to be the perception that the old Cold War doctrines of “Mutually assured destruction,” or MAD, and detente have fallen by the wayside and are no longer relevant, but that is not the case. The world is still a scary place, and right now, it’s the scariest it’s been since the Cuban Missile Crisis. The problem stems not only from the leadership,but from the people.

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In the United States, President Obama is frequently called weak by the opposition. A casual stroll through social media will reveal a myriad of memes and posts declaring that the Commander in Chief is afraid of Putin, and that the United States should be doing more, whether in the Middle-East, or in Crimea. Conversely, within Russia, Putin is trying to shore up support for himself, and is appealing to lingering vestiges of pride many Russians still feel about the Soviet Union. This is a recipe for disaster. Two leaders squaring off with nuclear weapons, trying to prove a point.

Putin’s overly virile posturing, chest thrusting, bombastic aggressiveness might be laughable in other circumstances, yet the hawks within the U.S. seem to fixate on Putin’s pushiness and conclude that by comparison, President Obama is a weakling. Many of these people, including some of our elected officials, seem to think putting boots on the ground in Eastern Europe is a wonderful idea, that the United States should send more Aircraft Carriers into the region, including the Black Sea, and perhaps threaten direct military action backed by airstrikes and missiles. These hawks within the United States seem to have never cracked a history book, and they continue to howl about Obama’s capitulations, weakening the administration further, reducing our ability to act in a sensible fashion and further emboldening Russia. It’s ironic, and maddening. The notion that political dissension stops at the borders and does not extend to foreign policy is one of those Cold War rules that has indeed fallen away, and this makes the current international situation more volatile.

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Yet the U.S. has imposed the toughest economic sanctions against Russia since the Cold War (technically) ended. The United States has two carrier groups in the region, and recently sent ships into the Black Sea.

Russian fighter jets buzzed a U.S. destroyer in the Black Sea, flying at a mere five hundred feet above the deck. Russian long range bombers have frequently violated U.S. airspace off the coast of Alaska. Subs carrying nuclear weapons engage in games of cat and mouse beneath the oceans, just off our shores. We can hope clear heads prevail. We can pray that some twenty-year-old sailor or pilot or soldier doesn’t make a mistake, a single push of a button which could unleash World War Three. That’s how it starts.

A global nuclear war will make all other wars in human history seem tame by comparison. What keeps me awake at night is that many people seem to have forgotten this.

Enjoy the Apocalypse!

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