Monday, July 30, 2012

Guest Post: Old vs. New: Which Spiderman Comes out on Top? by Samantha Gray

Old vs. New: Which Spiderman Comes out on Top?

When I found out that Marvel was completely rebooting the Spiderman films and starting from scratch, I felt a bit devastated. Throughout the last three Spiderman films, I had grown attached to the romantic, heartfelt storyline Tobey Maguire, James Franco, and Kirsten Dunst created through their fictional characters Peter Parker, Harry Osborn, and Mary Jane Watson. Two years ago, however, it was decided that the film series needed a new beginning and some major revisions. I'll be the first to admit that the last two Spiderman films needed a bit of a facelift. Both the acting and plots had been on a downward spiral from the first film, and it seemed that if a fourth film were to be made, some serious changes needed to take place.

The newest Spiderman – The Amazing Spiderman – debuted to audiences in July 2012 and drew in a huge box office opening. The reviews, though mixed, were mostly positive, and the new cast was applauded for their undeniable chemistry and individual acting performances. The first Spiderman film, however, was praised in similar ways when it came out ten years ago. So when it comes down to it, I was curious to find out which of these two Spiderman films came out on top. I compared and ranked the Spiderman films based on acting, comic-book consistency, and use of graphics.


In both Spiderman films, the two main characters were Peter Parker and his main love interest – either Mary Jane Watson or Gwen Stacy. Overall, I'd say that Andrew Garfield was the better Peter Parker and Tobey Maguire was the better Spiderman. In the first film, Tobey Maguire does a great job of bringing a sincere humanity and well-rounded personality to Spiderman, but struggles to make us believe him as the geeky, insecure Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield, on the other hand, weaves through the emotional and inner struggles of Peter Parker brilliantly, but struggles with living up to the notorious Spiderman hero. Had Tobey Maguire been able to convey Peter Parker better, I suspect he would have been the better Spiderman overall. The award for Spiderman's leading lady, however, has to go to Emma Stone, who elegantly portrays Gwen Stacy. For the past two years, Stone has been on the rise in the acting world with movies such as Easy A and The Help, and Spiderman reaffirms she deserves to be up at the top. She not only acts her individual scenes well, she also flawlessly connects with Andrew Garfield. Kirsten Dunst, on the other hand, was always borderline cheesy in all of her scenes and lines from the very first Spiderman up until the last one. In this case, I'd say The Amazing Spiderman wins for acting.

Comic Book Consistency

From the beginning, the old Spiderman films got a lot of flak for stepping away from the storylines the comic books created. The Amazing Spiderman, however, stays more true to the comic book. In fact, when I started looking into the luxuries the first Spiderman took from the comic books, I was rather amazed it did so well amongst diehard Spiderman fans. For one thing, Mary Jane Watson doesn't come into Peter Parker's life until much later on, following Gwen Stacy. Furthermore, the webbing that Spiderman uses is actually something he builds and designs on his own; in the first Spiderman film we see that Tobey Maguire's character acquires webbing during his transformation into Spiderman, but The Amazing Spiderman actually stuck with the storyline and has Andrew Garfield design the webbing himself. Lastly, The Amazing Spiderman focuses more on the background and development of Peter Parker's life, as opposed to jumping right into him becoming Spiderman. As you can imagine, the comic books focused much more on Peter Parker's life before he became Spiderman, and I believe The Amazing Spiderman stayed more true to that story. In this instance, The Amazing Spiderman comes out on top again.

Use of Graphics

I went back and forth on this one, but when it boils down to it, both films did a remarkable job in their use of graphics. You have to remember that Tobey Maguire's Spiderman came out ten years ago, and even in that decade graphics have made tremendous strides. All the same, both films neither overused nor underused their graphics. They both balanced the action sequences and character scenes very well. In fact, I can't point to one instance in which one of the films did better than the other in action sequences.

For all intents and purposes, The Amazing Spiderman is the better of the two Spiderman films based solely on acting, comic-book consistency, and graphics. I've heard people argue in reverse, but I'd say that The Amazing Spiderman wins for being the better of the two films.

Samantha Gray is an expert in online education and a freelance writer. Pursuing an online bachelor's degree is often fraught with myths and misconceptions. Samantha shows her readers the way. She wants to hear your feedback and ideas, too, at

Friday, July 27, 2012

Feature: Author Interview with Jeffrey Wilson, author of The Donors

Hey folks! I have a special treat for y'all today. One of my favorite authors, and an all around awesome guy, Jeff Wilson, is back in the hot seat! He's discussing his newest release, The Donors, as well as some exciting news about his son's upcoming release, A Giant Pencil.

My review of The Donors can be found HERE.

So, let's get on to the fun stuff...

Author Interview
Jeffrey Wilson
The Donors

GL: Why don't you "reintroduce" yourself to the readers that might not have met you before? J

Jeff: Hi Cassie. I’m Jeff Wilson and among my various jobs, my relatively new title of Novelist is one of my favorites. My first novel The Traiteur’s Ring was released at the end of the last summer and my newest book The Donors just came out a week or so ago. In my “real” life, I work as a surgeon at times and with the U.S. Navy. My favorite title is that of Husband to my beautiful wife Wendy and Father to my three kids, Connor, Jack, and Emma. Incidentally, the most exciting thing in our family this year is the pending release of our 11-year-old Connor’s first book A Giant Pencil, which will be out on August 11th from Magic Dreams books, the children’s books imprint of Weaving Dreams Publishing in Chicago. As you can imagine, having the youngest traditionally published children’s author in our home has been very exciting for the whole family—and nerve wracking for one eleven-year-old boy!

GL: I bet it is! And, believe me, I know how proud of him you are. This is a major accomplishment… for anyone, much less someone of his age.

GL: So what have you been up to since the release of The Traiteur's Ring?

JW: Well, in addition to the working edits and revisions of The Donors ahead of its June 29th release, I have been working hard with Connor on his book release and marketing. I’ve also published a couple of short stories—“The Writer” appeared in the Warped Words 2011: 90 Minutes to live anthology and my story “Calling Home” appeared recently in the e-zine I’ve had some fun interviews, including one with my mom’s favorite blog interviewer, done a few signings. Of course there are the day jobs, family time, and oh, yeah—trying to find time to finish my newest book. Writing is a lot easier before you get published! There is a lot more work to do after you sell a book than I think I appreciated.

GL: Mom's favorite blog interviewer = ME! J

GL: Tell us a little about your books, The Traiteur's Ring and The Donors.

JW: The Traiteur’s Ring is a supernatural military thriller. It’s the story of Navy SEAL Ben Morvant, a SEAL medic whose team is operating in Africa, hunting down terrorists. Ben has a complicated past, raised deep in the Louisiana Bayou by his grandmother—a Traiteur or spiritual healer—and is certainly no stranger to the supernatural. He escaped his past and found a way to the Teams, where he is still plagued by nightmares and questions about what happened to his “Gammy.” His past collides with his present when his team encounters a primitive village and its elder, who just before his death by a terrorist bullet, passes to Ben a strange ring, and with it even stranger powers. Ben has to journey back to his past to learn how to control his new gifts—like the power to heal with a single touch or to kill with a simple thought. His journey is led by the ghost of his Gammy, who must teach him how to control the powers he will soon need. His team must return to Africa to confront a growing evil far worse than the Al Qaeda terrorists they are trained to hunt.

My time spent working downrange with the SEALs during my time on active duty obviously had a tremendous influence on this book, and I painted the characters with as realistic a brush as I could, based on those experiences. I made my characters the real life, quiet and humble men I know, rather than the action heroes usually seen in fiction.

THE DONORS is completely different, though shares some of the cross genre elements of THE TRAITEUR’S RING.  It is set in a hospital and is a supernatural medical thriller and much more of a classic horror story than my last book. The story is about five year old Nathan, who is hospitalized after injuries suffered at the hands of his mother’s abusive ex-boyfriend. While in the hospital, Nathan is haunted by horrible nightmares where he sees demons, terrifying creatures who are using the staff of the hospital to do unspeakable things. As he realizes that these are much more than just dreams, he comes to believe that he alone can see the demons for what they really are and that he must somehow stop them. His only real ally is his doctor, Jason, who shares with him not only a history of abuse, but a childhood gift of seeing the same demons that Nathan now confronts. They have to somehow stop the creatures before their own loved ones fall prey as well.

GL: What was your inspiration for The Donors?

JW: I think that hospitals are terrifying places already. Patients and families feel terribly isolated and vulnerable and they have to trust their lives to complete strangers. This makes the idea of something horrible happening in that setting all the more terrifying.

Obviously my time spent working as a surgeon had a huge influence on this book and of course, allows me to write the setting and the medical aspects with lots of realism and authority. I have been a patient and a family member as well, so I also know those other terrible feelings. The book was inspired most by an unpublished short story I wrote years ago while a Chief Surgery resident on the Trauma Service during my residency training. In the end, I couldn’t do the story justice as a short and THE DONORS was born.

GL: Has this publishing experience been any easier or more difficult than the first? Is there anything you'll do differently the third time around?

JW: Well, in most ways it has been much, much easier because The Donors is the second book of a three-book deal I have with JournalStone. There was no querying to find the book a home and I already had a great relationship with Chris Payne and knew just what to expect from the process. Unfortunately, I broke my own pattern with this book and so the editing process was much more painful. The editors had the book before I had done my second run through and proofing and so the manuscript was much more rough than the first. That made for a longer, and more painful, editing process. The end result was that, again, JournalStone’s team helped me turn a book into a terrific novel, but it was a longer process this time. It’s a mistake I won’t make with my third book, Fade to Black, which is due out in 2013. I am so grateful to Chris and his team for their patience.

GL: One of the main characters, Nathan, is a young boy who faces very grown up challenges. Other than his terrible circumstances, is Nathan very similar to your own children?

JW: I don’t know if he is similar, but there is no question being a dad, my favorite of all my many jobs by the way, makes it easier to write the point of view more realistically. My kids are now eleven, four, and three so I have some experience with the way a kid’s mind works. It is so amazing to watch how they think and see the world.

GL: Was it difficult writing a child's point of view?

JW: Yes, very challenging. I hope that I pulled it off.

GL: I think you did a pretty awesome job J

GL: Can you tell me… what ARE those lizard men? Where do they come from? How do they make you "dream" those things?

JW: Well, I have always been a big believer that the real expert of any book is the reader. That sounds like a cop out, but I truly believe that. I most certainly have my own thoughts about what they are and where they come from, but I don’t want to bias my readers as they search those answers in the pages of the book. For sure there is a classic good versus evil thing going on.

GL: If you could be any Power Ranger, which would you be? How about a Star Wars character?

JW: Well, the Red Ranger of course! Red Ranger is the best, right? I suppose if I was a Star Wars character I would probably be one of the background characters. I change careers so frequently that I could not have made it to become a Jedi. I think I may have a short attention span.

GL: Hahahaha… You should have finished that off with: "Oh, look at the little squirrel!"

GL: Where can we find some of your other stories? Which short story has been your favorite to write thus far?

JW: Oh, Jeez, that’s tough. I think for me, my favorite is always the one I’m working on right now. I am, literally, just a few days from finishing my newest book, Julian’s Numbers, and I have really enjoyed this book. I again had to write from a child's point of view, but this time the kid is around eleven, which is much less of a challenge, I think. I am particularly fond of my short story “Calling Home” as it has a lot of personal meaning to me.

Other than “Calling Home” and “The Writer,” which I mentioned earlier, most of my shorts are out of print. The work of getting out two novels in ten months, while still getting my fourth book written had proven a real challenge in terms of time, and I haven’t written many shorts the last year or two. I have a fun story called “Dolls Eyes” that I am shopping for a home for, but that’s about it right now for short stories. It’s a real shame, because I love shorts and I also find that writing them well, for me at least, is a very perishable skill compared to writing novels.

GL: I love both "Calling Home" and "The Writer" and I can't wait to read more of your shorts. I love writing short stories, maybe because I like that quicker sense of accomplishment. J

GL: You obviously have a lot on your plate and must be pulled in a hundred different directions. What do you do to keep yourself grounded?

JW: My family, no question. I love being a husband (to the best and most patient woman in the world) and a father. Spending time with my kids puts everything else in perspective for me.

GL: Have you guys taken or planned any awesome family vacations this summer?

JW: We’ve had a great summer already! We spent a week at the beach doing nothing but playing on the beach, running around on our boat, and playing board games. It was awesome. Wendy and I had four days in New York City when I was on the Debut Author’s panel at the International Thriller Writer’s “Thrillerfest” conference and had a great time. I got to sign copies of THE TRAITEUR’S RINGS with some writing giants, which was a little intimidating, and got RL Stine to sign a copy of his new Goosebumps book for Connor, who is a big fan. He was very impressed that I’m the dad to the youngest fiction writer in America. The highlight of course will be Connor’s book launch of his book A GIANT PENCIL on August 11th. We are so proud of him and he is so excited.

GL: Oh man! I haven't read any RL Stine in ages… That's awesome! Sounds like y'all have had a fantastic summer already.

GL: Do you have time to read for pleasure? What are you reading right now?

JW: I am a frustrated, avid reader. I never have enough time to read and wish I could read a couple of books a week—impossible with day jobs and family and getting books out. I just finished Brett J. Talley’s THE VOID and I loved it. As great as his first book was, this one is even better. I also am halfway through Stoker award winner Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s latest book, BOTTLED ABYSS. It is fantastic and I highly recommend it. My big discovery of the summer is THE CALYPSO DIRECTIVE by Brian Andrews. It’s a science thriller and one of the best books I’ve read in awhile.

GL: Where is the worst/most terrifying place you've ever lived? Best/most enriching?

JW: Well, I grew up in Berlin at the height of the Cold War, which was both chilling and enriching. I can remember walking past the Berlin Wall and seeing the East German border guards in their watch towers, looking at us across that short distance. All over the wall were plaques and hand written flyers about the latest person who was shot and left for hours to bleed to death while they tried to escape across to the west. I have actually been through the infamous checkpoint Charlie. While at times terrifying, especially as a kid, it also gave me a huge appreciation for the freedoms we in America sometimes take for granted. It most definitely shaped the person I was to become and many of the career choices I have made.

GL: What are you working on now and when can we expect to get our hands on it?

JW: My next book after THE DONORS is also from JournalStone as part of our three-book deal. It is called FADE TO BLACK and will be out next summer, 2013. It’s the story of a young man, trapped between two worlds and trying to decide which is real and which is fantasy—or are they both somehow real? In one, he is a young U.S. Marine Sergeant, slowly dying in the street after losing half of his men in the battle of Fallujah and wanting desperately to get home to his wife and daughter. In the other, he is a middle-America science teacher, plagued by horrible dreams about a place he thinks he has never been. Eventually he is visited by the dead Marine buddies he shouldn’t know and must decide if he is losing his mind or something far worse is happening to him.

I just finished my fourth novel JULIAN’S NUMBERS and this week started on my newest project called WAR TORN. JULIAN’S NUMBERS is about a boy with a terrible gift, a dad with a terrible past, some ghosts and a sailing vacation from hell. In WAR TORN, I am leaving the supernatural and horror genres (just briefly) and writing a more inspiration book about a young soldier whose faith in God is shaken after he is forced to make terrible decisions in combat.

GL: We have so much to look forward to!

GL: Tell us again how we can find Connor’s book.

JW: Connor’s book A GIANT PENCIL will be released on August 11th at a big launch event at the Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa. When it comes out, he will be the youngest, traditionally published fiction writer in America. The event is open to the public, so if you are in the Tampa Bay area, you can come and meet Connor, hear a reading, and get a signed copy of his book. A GIANT PENCIL is a picture book for the elementary aged kids, like second through fourth grade perhaps. It is a fun and very imaginative story that kids will love, but has a great family message that parents and teachers will appreciate, too.

It will be available at Barnes and Noble online
as well as and other booksellers. His website is and will have lots of links and updates.

Everyone be on the lookout for a review of A Giant Pencil and an interview with Connor soon! I have been waiting months to get my hands on this book and have my chance to chitchat with its author… J

Thanks so much, Jeff, for stopping by and hanging out with us again! I'm sure we'll be seeing you around in the future. I hope you and your family have a fantastic conclusion to the summer. I REALLY wish I could be there for Connor's book release! And, tell your mom I said hello J

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Feature: The Donors by Jeffrey Wilson

The Donors
by Jeffrey Wilson
ISBN:  9781936564460
Published June 29, 2012 by JournalStone
Available Format: Hardcover, Paperback, ebook

My Rating: ★★★★★

Publisher's Synopsis:  An evil force is at work at the hospital where Nathan is recovering from injuries he received at the hands of his mom’s abusive ex-boyfriend. Demonic looking men with pale faces and glowing eyes lurk in the shadows, and it appears that someone is harvesting skin and organs from living donors against their will.

In his dreams, Nathan can see these demons in their true form—evil creatures who feed on the fear and hatred they help create in their victims. Nathan’s only ally is the doctor who cares for him. Bound together by their common legacy, they alone seem to share the ability to see the demons for what they are.

Together they must find a way to stop these creatures before their own loved ones become the next victims and the demons destroy them—and much more.

The Donors takes you on a bit of a horrific emotional roller coaster. First, you are outraged at the treatment of poor little Nathan, and maybe you can see the justice of what happens to his assailant. But, are these mysterious men overstepping the bounds of morality for personal gain? That's something you have to find out as you read along.

There is a great balance in this novel of gruesome horror, suspense, mystery, and even a little love. Jeff certainly knows how to mix everything just right while truly bringing the characters and story to life. I was definitely invested in the lives of Jason and Nathan the entire time. I related closely to Nathan, since I have children about his age. I couldn't imagine one of them having to face the real life and "dream life" horrors that he overcame. I really love how the dream world was mixed with and connected to the real world.  

I was left with some questions, though. What exactly were those bad guys? And where did Nathan and Jason's power come from? Who was the other that was speaking to them? And how did they explain the miraculous aftermath of his battle against the bad guys? I can certainly see how a few things could have been fleshed out a little more and perhaps the story could have been taken a bit further to include some explanation.

Overall, another great novel by Jeff Wilson!  I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Feature: How Angels Die by David-Michael Harding

Two sisters take different roads in their work for the French Resistance
during World War II.  Claire is an active guerrilla fighter while Monique
 seduces German officers to learn military secrets from bedroom pillows.
 Love enters in for both as battles rage in their family over the morality of
killing vs. sex while, unknown to them all, D-Day rapidly approaches.
How Angels Die is a highly dramatic novel with very strong female protagonists.  The story is rife with action, conflict, and intrigue.  Through it all, the characters struggle with devotion to family, country, cause, and oneself.  The reader is effortlessly drawn along the storyline and feels the impact of the events surrounding the sisters.  Compassion for the characters, German as well as French, runs deep and captures the imagination as coastal war-torn France comes alive on the pages.

More than a war story, How Angels Die (WGA registered/125K wds) compels its readers to face the decision-making processes that bring us to where we are and who we are.  It also asks questions of the mind that expose prejudices and the eventual regret that follows.

"In How Angels Die Harding delivers an edge of the seat read as he skillfully summarizes the events and pain of years of conflict during the Nazi occupation of France into ninety-six gut wrenching, mesmerizing hours." David Roth, Tampa Writing Examiner:

1. How did you come up with the title? 
Both the title and the novel are drawn from recorded conversations with my father and uncles prior to their deaths. All were WWII veterans. One had parachuted into France on D-Day -2 and was picked up by a young French girl on a bicycle – his ‘Angel’. 

2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 
Increase the reader’s recognition of the many faces of war and its impact – far beyond the flying bullets and blood of the front lines. To remind us of the destruction that war reigns down in lives lost and families destroyed in order that we avoid it at all costs. 

3. How much of the book is realistic? 
The historical research was painstaking in order to insure accuracy. The stories recounted by my family and interwoven in the book’s pages add a sense of realism difficult to replicate otherwise. 

4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book? 

5. What was the hardest part of writing your book? 
Time. Research involved was extremely comprehensive. 

6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? 
The toll of war is so very high, it draws into question the futility of armed conflict in the current century and beyond. 

7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? 

I credit Rod Serling. He sparked an interest with ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Night Gallery’ which led me to his writings. 

8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?  John Steinbeck. His works are all about the journey of the story. The writing is straightforward and he doesn’t waste lines. While descriptive, Steinbeck evokes the reader to connect the dots to see and smell via words. His focus is on the characters and driving forward the story. 

9. Tell us your latest news. 
Newest piece, Cherokee Talisman, is being edited and scheduled to be released in the first day of Fall, 9/22/12. 

10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? 

Thank you! Your response to How Angels Die has been more than I could imagine.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Guest Post: Three Highbrow Writers Who've Gone Paranormal by Angelita Williams

Three Highbrow Writers Who’ve Gone Paranormal

It may seem that the division between what used to be considered “high” and “low” culture gets more blurred all the time, but the fact is, it was ever thus. Writing about fairies and ghosts and magicians never hurt Shakespeare’s literary cred (though in his own time he was very much pop-culture).

In our own time, even as the phenomenon of self-publishing has made literature more democratic, it seems like the world of “literary” fiction, the kind of stuff discussed in the New York Times Book Review, gets ever more rarified... like you need an MFA to write a book the way you need a license to drive a car. Yet the writers themselves are increasingly products of the postmodern generation, weaned on rock and roll, Saturday Night Live, and the X-Men. Here are a fistful of boundary-breakers who’ve made it in the ivory tower, only to go rogue and start writing genre work:

1. Mat Johnson

One of last year’s most acclaimed releases was Pym, Johnson’s extremely funny fantasy drawn from Edgar Allan Poe’s only novel. In addition to exploring the juncture of genre and great American literature that Poe embodies, the book provides a satirical view of academia and race, lampooning Johnson’s own experience as a biracial college professor. Johnson is no stranger to paranormal and has also worked in comics, including a stint with DC’s Hellblazer.

2. Michael Chabon

A 25-year-old Chabon’s MFA thesis became his first published novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and his follow-up Wonder Boys was adapted for a well-regarded movie with Michael Douglas. After that, he devoted himself to a mission of recuperating genre fiction as a pursuit for “serious” writers. 2000’s Pulitzer-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay explored the Jewish influence in comic books, and Chabon followed it with the mystery The Final Solution and the alternate-history novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Most recently, Chabon was hired as a script doctor for Disney’s John Carter.

3. Justin Cronin

Hailing from both Harvard and the “Harvard” of the creative writing world, the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Cronin won the PEN/Hemingway Award with 2001’s Mary and O’Neil. When the 2004 follow-up The Summer Guest failed to make much of a splash, Cronin began work on an apocalyptic vampire trilogy, prompting a bidding war for the anonymous manuscript (though he would ultimately release the books under his own name, unlike the many literary lions who keep a special pseudonym for dabbling in genre). The Passage was released in 2010 and the second volume, The Twelve, comes out later this year.

The walls are indeed coming down. Not only are established mainstream writers like these and many more crossing over into genre fiction, but self-published books and even e-books are becoming some of the best-selling and most-discussed in our culture. Where it’s all leading, or what great novels await us, we’ll just have to wait and see!

A born writer, Angelita Williams loves to write short stories. Her second passion is education, a topic that she covers incessantly as a freelance blogger. Though she has an allegiance to online education, she’s dedicated to depicting all forms of education equally, and she writes impartially about college courses online and offline. Angelita can be found at