Movie Review: “Mazes and Monsters”

Online Description

Despite their personality differences, Kate, Jay Jay, Daniel and Robbie are close college friends, bound together by their pleasure in playing a game called Mazes and Monsters. In order to keep it interesting, they decide to take the game from the board into a real-life setting. But soon the line between reality and fantasy becomes difficult to differentiate, and what started out as just a game soon becomes a nightmare.

My Review

Cheesy. It’s the first word that came to mind when I watched Mazes and Monsters. Others were: unrealistic, poor script, bad dialogue, silly. While Tom Hanks has developed into a great actor, he wasn’t as slick in 1982. But then maybe it was the script.

This movie was based on a novel of the same name by Rona Jaffe. She had jumped onto the cash cow that insinuated the roll-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, of which Mazes and Monsters was a substitute title for, would be responsible for people worshipping the devil. Her book and this movie spread lies and misinformation. It was obvious within the first ten minutes that this film was not about telling a good story. It was about sending a message. Since I hadn’t seen it before, I wanted to know if the stories I’d heard about it were true. They were. It was horrible propaganda.

Religious groups were the first to claim playing D&D would lead players to worship the devil and join satanic cults. Propaganda, such as this movie, were made to discourage people from playing it. In the United States, this era became the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Here in Nova Scotia, I didn’t know how big this got in the States. I heard about religious groups there banning D&D, but we ignored it.

I started playing D&D in 1979 and played every Friday night for five years or more. We even had sleepovers, where two dozen people played all night. Incredibly, none of us went on to worship the devil, murder people or start a cult.

My parents ignored the hoopla as did the parents in my neighbourhood. All that matter was their kids were entertained and kept busy on Friday night at the Boys and Girls Club instead of running the streets and getting into trouble.

On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I give this movie a one. The four main players did the best they could to work with a poor script. Robbie (Tom Hanks) was somewhat believable and as another viewer stated, this film was “more about a person’s decent into schizophrenia and mental illness” than an evil game. Robbie’s mother was an alcoholic, his parents fought all the time and his older brother had run away three years prior. JayJay’s mother was a loon in her own right, so when he started talking suicide, I traced that back to her, not the game. In reality, she was a cardboard character with no redeeming qualities.

The start is a little confusing because I was led to believe JayJay had returned home from being away at school, yet the next scene has him starting a new school year. Transitions were horrible. The ending was satisfying.

If you want a few good laughs and eye rolls, you can watch Mazes and Monsters on YouTube. That’s where I found it last weekend. Be prepared to suspend reality, or you’ll wonder how this film even made it to television.

Book Review: “Graves for Drifters and Thieves” by Sophia Minetos

Disclaimer

I’ve been part of Sophia Minetos’ launch team over the past few months, and I received a free copy of Graves for Drifters and Thieves to review.

Confession #1

Halston Harney is my favourite character. Nowadays, for whatever reason, when I read books written by others, I often don’t have a favourite character. It’s odd. Years ago, within a few chapters, I always found a favourite character. I’m not sure why I don’t anymore. I was pleasantly surprised when I found one in this book.

Confession #2

Westerns are one of my favourite genres. I grew up reading the old western novels my oldest brother had bought. I also read western comics, such as Jonah Hex, and watched western television shows (Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, Dr. Quinn) and movies (Young Guns and every John Wayne and Clint Eastwood western). I’m also writing two western novels.

This made it easy to slip into Graves for Drifters and Thieves.

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Wednesday’s Word: Sophia Minetos presents “Graves for Drifters and Thieves”

Introducing author Sophia Minetos. In this interview, she shares a little about her first book scheduled for release on December 15th, Graves for Drifters and Thieves.

1) What is the title of your most recent book? Is it a series, what genre is it and is it suitable for all ages?

Graves for Drifters and Thieves is a YA fantasy-Western. It is suitable for ages 12 and up, and it is the first installment in a series.

2) In a few short sentences, tell us about the book. Give us a glimpse of the plot without giving away any spoilers.

Jae Oldridge is a seventeen-year-old bounty hunter working in the Hespyrian West. When a twist of fate brings her to the enigmatic Harney brothers and their gang, she finds herself ensnared in a conflict involving their boss, warlocks, monsters, and a mystery surrounding the brothers themselves.

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Fantasy Month Photo Challenge on Instagram

Fantasy author Jenelle Schmidt is celebrating February is Fantasy Month and has posted the Fantasy Photo Challenge taking place on Instagram. If you don’t use Instagram, you can post to Twitter or Facebook, or all of them.

Schmidt has fantastical stuff planned for the month, so check it out.

Free eBook (February 1st, 2nd and 3rd): Destiny Governed their Destiny

HalCon Review – Author Panels

On Saturday November 5th, I attended HalCon, the biggest, geekiest sci-fi convention in Atlantic Canada. There were many wonderful demonstrations, vendors and author displays. There was also author signings, autograph sessions and endless streams of characters.

Shortly after I arrived, I sought out the room for the Editing and Formatting panel session. The speakers for the event included

The description of the session stated: To Oxford Comma, Or Not.  This and other questions about editing formatting will be answered.  If you’ve ever wondered about cutting parts, proper structure or when not using proper grammar is okay, then this may be the panel for you. Continue reading

Scattered Stones Cover Release and Proof Order

The novel I conceived in the second half of 2009 is now in the birthing canal.

Yesterday I placed an order for a proof copy of Scattered Stones. After I hit the CONFIRM button, I sat back and thought about the journey to give me a better perspective of what I had done.

In May 2010, I had written the last 60,000 words in a rush to reach the end. Then the manuscript went through multiple edits, being read and sporadically edited by beta readers. I edited and revised when I found time, often between stints of working outside the home. For six months in 2014, I barely had a chance to look at it because I worked six to seven days a week, putting in ten-hour days at a garden centre. This sort of schedule doesn’t leave much time to eat, sleep and say hello to the kids, let alone hours bellied-up to a computer to edit a novel.

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Writing a Book Acknowledgement

Scattered Stones Diane Lynn McGyverThere are many sections to a book. The two important parts that need the most attention are the story and the cover (in that order). For the past several months, I have focussed on these two things; without a doubt, I want them to be as close to perfect as humanly possible.

As launch day approaches for Scattered Stones, book 2 in The Castle Keepers series, I need to start playing with the other parts that go into a printed novel, the little details that occupy the spaces between the front cover and the story, and the back cover and the story. Playing is the exact word I want to use.

This time around, I want to be less formal and allow a slither of my silly side to lighten and brighten these little details. I love fun, funny and silly. And I love putting a twist into things that readers don’t expect. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

I have never written an acknowledgement for any of my books, but I’ve seen many books that include them. In essence, it is a few words to thank the people who provided a helping hand to bring the book to life. This might be direct or indirect help.

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Marketing: Results from Paid Promotion of 99 cent-eBook

Lessons in Self-publishingFor one week, my epic fantasy eBook Shadows in the Stone was reduced from $3.99 to $0.99. To help promote it, I added the book to Betty Book Freak’s mailing list. I didn’t put it on any other site because I wanted to gauge the results of the paid ad.

Readers of this blog will remember I’m working on my marketing skills, running experiments and testing promotional ideas. The two posts I previously wrote about on this subject are:

Marketing Results

Like all marketing campaigns, many things influence results—day of the week, day of the year, number of subscribers to mailing lists, full moons, a horrible book, a terrible blurb, Trump stealing the spotlight, ghastly book covers, vacations, hens laying…you get the picture—so what did or didn’t work one time might be completely opposite the next time.

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Simple Tips to Make Your Book Description Standout on Amazon

Lessons in Self-publishingConfession: When I uploaded my first book to Kindle many moons ago, dozens of things ran through my mind…

  • Is anyone going to read it?
  • Is anyone going to like it?
  • Will the interior formatting pass Kindle’s inspection?
  • Will the cover be the right size and quality?
  • Did I miss something that will make it not appear on the website?
  • Is the ISBN correct?
  • Am I spelling my name right? (Yes, I worried about this too)
  • Am I choosing the right key words?
  • Is my description good enough?
  • Are there spelling mistakes in the description?
  • Will the power go out before I complete the publishing? (Okay, that’s my worry today because of the blizzard outside.)

Publishing for the first time can be overwhelming. The goal is get the book uploaded and to not get bogged down by unimportant details. Worrying about all these things I listed gave me no mindset to focus on individual aspects of the eBook publishing process.

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2015 HalCon Review

As I mentioned in my previous blog HalCon History, I attended HalCon for the first time on the weekend. Although the event runs three days, I could attend only one, so I chose Saturday. This is typically their busiest day.

We showed up early (8:30 am) on the advice of my nephew who had attended past HalCon weekends. Since we hadn’t attended on Friday, we had to register and trade our ticket for a bracelet. For anyone going for the first time, this might be a little confusing. I mean, when you attend a concert at the Metro Centre, the attendant at the door scans your ticket and you’re in.

At HalCon, you first have to register, which means show your ticket to the clerk along with a piece of ID, preferably with a picture. She matches up the name on the ticket with your ID, and you get your bracelet. Since the doors didn’t officially open until 9:30, we had to then go in another line, one that would get us officially in.

This line didn’t take long, and shortly after 9:30, we were walking into the vendor area where many things related to fantasy, science fiction and games could be found. It took a few minutes to get our bearings, but eventually the two people I came with, went off to seek the things that interested them, and I went to a presentation I thought was interesting.

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HalCon History

Dubbed the “biggest, geekiest sci-fi convention in Atlantic Canada”, HalCon doesn’t disappoint in size or in science fiction and fantasy. Thankfully, it takes place less than an hour’s drive from home in downtown Halifax.

HalCon began in 2010, and since then, it has grown by leaps and bounds. Last year, they had so many people arrive on Saturday, the fire marshal closed the doors and wouldn’t let anyone else in until someone left. This is a problem most events would love to have.

From HalCon’s About page, we learn Nova Scotia has a history of conventions. They existed from the 1970s to the 1990s but eventually disappeared. In 2008, the idea to revive such an event took root. Two years of planning and fundraising created the first HalCon which took place at the Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax. It turned out to be such a success, that it moved to the World Trade & Conventional Centre in 2011.

What started out as a 1,500-fan attendance in 2010, transformed into 6,400 attendees in 2014. This year, it included floor space at the World Trade & Conventional Centre and the attached Scotia Centre (the Mero Centre for the locals who have known it as that for decades).

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My Library of Books for Writing Fantasy

5x5 fantasy bookA short time ago, Ernesto San Giacomo posted his 2015 Reading List. In the list was Writing About Magic by Rayne Hall.

I commented, saying I had several books about magic, herbs and stones to help me with writing my fantasy stories, but I hadn’t read that one. A list was requested, but I hadn’t gotten around to making it until tonight.

Some of these books are one-time reads, but others I keep on the shelf as references. I can’t remember all the properties of stones and herbs, and I can’t recall all the spells (though I make up a lot myself), so these are keepers for me.

Natural Magic – Spells, Enchantments & Self-development by Pamela J. Ball: This book provides insight to magic and how a sorceress might work her spells. Not every magic-user is the same, so you can take a little of this and a little of that to create a character. This book was okay, worth buying, but not my favourite.

The back cover states: Before there was formal religion there was magic, and to this day there are people who purport to perform ‘miracles’ with the aid of magical powers derived from nature or the spirit realm. These powers are still out there to be tapped into by us. All you need is the knowledge and know-how contained in Natural Magic.

This book reveals: How to become a natural magician, using knowledge gathered over thousands of years by magician and mystic alike. Techniques employing plants, trees, crystals and incense along with meditation, ritual, chanting and dreams. The tools to give expression to your creativity and beliefs. A wide range of methods to bring about positive changes in your life.

The Druid Magic Handbook – Ritual Magic Rooted in the Living Earth by John Michael Greer: This book speaks of Life Force, the alphabet of magic, the elements, enchantment and Ogham writing. It gives a great history on the druids, which I thoroughly enjoyed and ‘connected’ with. I discovered many potential story lines by reading it.

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Is that a challenge? Goals for 2014

Challenge 2014On the eve of the new year is a great time to set goals for the next twelve months. Personally I find goals motivate me to accomplish things I wouldn’t otherwise. I used to set small, easily obtainable goals, and then I started stretching myself further, believing I could reach the larger goals if I set my mind to it.

Occasionally I came up short, yet my inability to reach a goal hadn’t discouraged me from trying harder or continuing onward.

I have a feeling 2014 is going to be an excellent year; sort of that step towards 2015 and better things afterwards. At least I’m thinking 2014 has to be more positive because 2013 was very stressful, depressing, unpredictable in a bad way and filled with events I don’t want to see repeated. I hadn’t accomplished as much as I had set out to do, but at least year ending leaves me with great hope for the future.

I understand there will be at least one sad hurdle to overcome in 2014, but I feel a breath of life that I haven’t felt in the past several years. I see the light at the end of a very long tunnel and an energy building that will carry me forward.

This light hadn’t lit itself and this energy did not come out of nowhere. I’ve been tinkering with matches and forcing my thoughts to think differently. I’ve seen my feet in unhealthy ground and I’m motivated to see them move onward. Like Bilbo Baggins I have been given the opportunity for adventure, and like Mr. Baggins, I will go into the unknown and seek what needs to be sought, so I can return a changed person.

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FILM: Willow

Fantasy Film ReflectionsI can’t recall the first time I saw Willow. I can only assume it was shortly after it came out in theatres (1988). I was in my prime for fantasy films and adventure. I needed little encouragement to disappear for a few hours or few days and return with stories to share. Thirty-minute water-fetching trips sometimes took four or five hours and often involved ice cream, a lost cemetery or endless dirt roads.

The basic story line that survived the passage of time was: A baby who is destined to destroy the evil ruler is born and must be delivered to safety. Her protectors include a halfling and a human fighter. The human is found in a suspended cage near a cliff where he is left to die, and the halfling sets him free to help save the child. Of course, they succeed and the evil queen is destroyed.

Basically, that is what happened, but I had forgotten all the stuff in between which makes a movie worth watching. I had forgotten the evil queen’s (Queen Bavmorda)  daughter Sorsha (played by Joanne Whalley) betrayed her, fell in love with the human fighter Madmartigan (played by Val Kilmer) and helped save Elora Danan, the chosen baby rescued from the river by Willow (played by Warwick Davis), a Nelwyn.

The Nelwyn race were not halfling, but a hobbit-like race who lived a peaceful life of farming, mining and magic. Willow was married with two children and became an unlikely hero who would risk his life to deliver a baby to a far off land where he might not return. His sacrifice was more than that of a single man who no one relied upon for food and shelter.

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FILM: Snow White and the Huntsman

Fantasy Film ReflectionsForget much of what you learned as a child about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That story was written to provide yet another avenue for a woman to be rescued by a fair prince. It’s up there with all the other stories I disliked and Disney branded as the perfect little girl’s tale.

Even at a young age I realised how silly the stories were. Who would choose to marry someone because they brought a shoe that fit their foot or because they kissed and woke them from a deep slumber? All the princesses were subservient to men. They dressed in fancy dresses, were helpless and were destined to serve their males.

Snow White and the Huntsman delivers more of a realistic tale—as fantasy films go. Snow White doesn’t do it alone, but neither is she a helpless maiden who keeps house for dwarves. This Snow White can actually sword fight and leads an army to reclaim what is rightfully hers: her castle.

While I watched this film, I couldn’t help but compare it to the old tale of long ago. I wondered how the wicked step-mother would take control of the castle and what the huntsman would do to deliver Snow White to freedom.

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