Search This Blog

Friday, October 29, 2010

Has He Pushed His Streak Too Favre?

Sunday brings a showdown between the New England Patriots and the Minnesota Vikings. Randy Moss has jumped ship from the former to the latter (which is the team he started with).

With a tough, stingy defense, one of the best running backs to ever play the game, and a receiving corps including Moss, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian and Visanthe Shiancoe, you'd think it wouldn't take a phenomenal quarterback to win games.

Whoever takes the snaps against the Patriots, it won't be a phenomenal quarterback; so we'll see. Again.

I'm tempted to cut Favre some slack. After all, he's used to throwing to players in Green Bay uniforms. But # 4's intercept-a-thon hasn't been limited to games against the Packers. In fact, the 2010 season looks like just a continuation of the NFC Championship game in New Orleans.

Well, not exactly. On the down side, the defense has yet to score a sack this year. On the up side, Adrian Peterson has apparently decided that the football does not have cooties. But special teams still prefers to allow 60-100 yard kick returns, and Brett Favre still plays with the wisdom of a rookie but the athletic ability of a punch-drunk 40 year old has-been.

What is it with Minnesota and has-been quarterbacks, anyway? Jim McMahon, Bubby Brister, Brad Johnson, Jeff George (who actually did quite well before his age caught up with him), and now Mr. Wishy-Washy Now-I'm-Retired-Now-I'm-Not.

Nobody wants to see Tavaris Jackson start against the Patriots, including Jackson himself, so here's an idea: if Favre's ankle fractures keep him out of the game, maybe the Vikes should coax Terry Bradshaw out of retirement. Like Favre, he had a cannon for a throwing arm, but his Superbowl record was 4-0, not 1-1.

Hey, it's a season for breaking Minnesota tradition. With this many potent weapons on the team, they normally wait until the playoffs to start underachieving. ...Well, since the Bud Grant Dynasty, anyway, when they would make it to the Superbowl before stinking up the field.

As I reflect on the Purple Gang's playoff performances since their almost-amazing finish in 1987, I often consider they should change their name from the Minnesota Vikings to the Minnesota Choke-Kings. Head coaches change, but the self-destructive play-calling continues both on and off the field. Whether it be the Herschel Walker trade that built Dallas into a three Superbowl empire, or the idiotic calls during the 1998 NFC championship game (to include instructing the record-setting league's most potent offense to take a knee to end regulation on first-and-goal--but all fans remember is the shanked field goal by Gary Anderson, who had never missed a single kick all season until then).

I'm not terribly impressed with Brad Childress, but at least the most catastrophic decisions he's made thus far have to do with clock management, use of timeouts...and keeping a has-been quarterback in the game that would otherwise have been winnable. Even with the likes of Tavaris Jackson under center.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Men Don't Read Part 1

I anticipate this subject coming up repeatedly. I'm posting part of the thoughts I shared on another blog:

I kinda' knew people in general (and men in particular) were reading less and less all the time, but it didn't strike me just how bad it's gotten until I published some male-oriented fiction myself.

Up until the early 1990s, one of my favorite pastimes was hanging out at a bookstore and perusing the titles. I would always wind up buying at least one book, even if I promised myself not to. But since then there has been less and less fiction making it to the shelves which appeals to me. Window-shopping at a bookstore is now about as enjoyable as a Lifetime movie marathon or death by estrogen asphyxiation.

I like/read all genres except horror, chick-lit and gay/lesbian. (I've even listened to some romance audiobooks from the library when the pickings there were especially slim). But even in the novels written in what's still considered male genres (action adventure, techno-thrillers, military fiction, etc.), it strikes me as of, by, and for women.

As a side note, most feature films suffer from similar obligatory feminist pandering. When I paid for tickets to see Iron Man II, I wanted to see Iron Man, not Scarlet Johannson playing the obligatory amazon superninja. If I wanted that, I would have paid to see Catwoman or Electra or Charlie's Angels.

I'm glad that women have so much fiction to choose from. I wish the New York publishing cartel hadn't so completely turned its back on men. With all the technological competition (DVDs, videogames, internet-based entertainment, etc.), I don't know if men will ever resume reading. There's almost a stigma associated with it reading is "girls' stuff." Now that that concept has so permeated the average male psyche, it's not overcome easily.

And I'll add that many male authors/editors/publishers/film makers are injecting more estrogen into their work than their far more numerous female counterparts. If my entertainment choices are reading The General's Daughter or watching All Men Are Pigs III on Lifetime, I'm probably gonna choose Door # 3: play a videogame.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Blind Side

OK...I'm probably the last person in America to have seen this movie, but wow.

It's rare these days for a film to be so powerful that I spend the entire next day replaying it in my mind. But that's what happened. And I know I'm gonna sit through it again some time.

How could I help but be drawn in when the narrative opens on the play that marked Lawrence Taylor's rise to prominence (and Joe Theisman's fall from it)? The horrific mutilation of Theisman's leg (ending the career of a Superbowl champion star quarterback) brought to the NFL's attention the importance of offensive linemen. The voice of Sandra Bullock lists some of the physical attributes of the ideal football player to fill that position.

Then we meet the character who personifies the perfect offensive lineman: Michael "Big Mike" Oher. He's not just perfect because of his size, strength and agility, but also because he scored "in the 98th percentile in protective instincts." Most people assume Michael is stupid because he's big, quiet, and nobody's bothered to teach him anything. Unfortunately, too many Americans--especially black Americans--from the inner city have the same strikes against them that Michael does: MIA father or unknown father, substance-abusing mother who has rented her body out to more men than she can remember, gobs of siblings and cousins in the same predicament, surrounded by predatory scumbags, bigotry and lack of hope. Without Michael's athletic potential and/or the fortunate chain of events which puts him in contact with a family willing to practice Christian charity, millions of kids are ground through the self-perpetuating cruel cycle that ensures they will pay forward the tragedy to the next generation.

This is, by far, the best Sandra Bullock has been in any film I've seen. Ray Mckinnon also delivered a fine performance as Coach Burt Cotton.

When Leigh Ann Tuohy (Bullock) instructs Michael to apply those aforementioned protective instincts to the teammates in his backfield, this "Ferdinand the Bull" becomes one heck of a football player. But when his high school coach shows him the kind of fraternal loyalty Michael has craved all his life, he transforms into a gridiron hero. As we get to know Michael, however, we realize he is a hero with or without football.

There is so much I could say about this film, I could turn this blog into a novella. If I'm not the last person in America to have seen this movie, then my message to the rest of you is: You don't have to like football. Please rent it, borrow it or watch it on cable.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Liberation of Paris: The Sergeant # 4 by Gordon Davis

I first discovered The Sergeant as a teenager, before I imagined I would one day be a soldier myself. This book was my introduction to the series, and to the war genre.

Davis' work is rare in that whatever age I was when I read it or re-read it, the experience was just as entertaining (though I developed an appreciation for his scene shifts into the German field commands to provide strategic perspective as I grew older).

The Sergeant is Master Sergeant Clarence J. Mahoney, a senior non-com from Hell's Kitchen in NYC, who speaks fluent French and German, and is invincible in bayonet combat (which he sees a lot of). He's actually a rather despicable brute who you would probably shy away from in real life. He's a selfish, ruthless pragmatist with limited intelligence or imagination, who will ____ any female willing to raise her skirts (and, like the bayonet clashes in this WWII setting, the frequency of instances defy believability). And I mean ANY female, as proven in this story. And he's not ashamed to pay for it, either. His trusty, loyal sidekick is Corporal Cranepool, who he speaks to with extreme condescension. Sounds like a real-life NCO, personality-wise.

The first book of the series is a cloak-and-dagger pre-invasion mission with the French underground. The First 3 were published by Zebra Books. This book marks Mahoney's first literary forray into conventional combat published by Bantam.

The story opens with Mahoney fighting the division heavyweight champ as a sort of morale-boosting exhibition for the troops. Our pack-of-cigarettes-a-day, boozing, whoring protagonist is too tough (and stupid?) to go down from the champ's more polished boxing skills, and clubs him unconscious. This gets him the attention of some senior officers, who decide to attach him, Cranepool and some other G.I.s to a French formation slated to liberate Paris from the Germans.

"Cushy" duty.

But nothing is cushy for Mahoney for long, and he finds himself in the midst of a see-saw tank battle between the French and Germans, and then in urban combat during the liberation. At one point he enters a Parisian shop during the lull in battle, and hears the sound of a typewriter beyond the locked door of a basement. This strange detail is never overtly explained, but during another scene he encounters war correspondent Ernest Hemingway, who is covering the liberation. I suspect it was Hemingway locked in the basement with the typewriter.

There is a XXX porno scene in a fancy hotel with two French prostitutes, and more graphic violence than you can shake an M-1 Garand at. I think some of us enjoy reading about this incorrigible barbarian so much because we subconsciously wish we could unleash our own primordial base instincts with the same abandon, once in a while, and suffer no significant consequences...just like the Sergeant.

OK, so I've just described an exploitative escapist book full of graphic violence and sex, about an amoral neanderthal who you wouldn't want anything to do with if you met him in real life. Now I'm admitting that I always enjoy reading it and will probably read it again some day.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Five Stars From Midwest Book Review

Most indie authors can tell you (especially if the genre of their novel isn't romance, horror or chick-lit) that getting reviews for your book is often like pulling teeth or selling ice to an Eskimo. That certainly has been my experience. Fortunately, Hell and Gone has received some thoughtful reviews already. But the one I discovered today is a big one, because it's from an organization that has mucho clout in the literary world. I've heard that librarians read the Midwest Book Review and order their stock based on what the picks are. Time will tell.

I'm very grateful to MBR for taking the time and trouble to look at a book from an unknown like me. I know their time is valuable and they have tons of submissions to sort through from other authors hungry for exposure.

Most of all, I thank God for opening this door. This may lead to the breakthrough I've been praying for.

MBR's review is posted on Amazon, and I'll be looking for other places, too. Below is the line I'll be quoting from the review:

"Hell and Gone is an exciting action and adventure novel, highly recommended."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Interview with Daniel L. Carter, Author of The Unwanted

Today I'm interviewing author and fellow blogger Daniel L. Carter. I met him on the book blogs ning and he agreed to share some info about his novel The Unwanted. We have not yet read each other's books, but his urban fantasy/thriller (part of a planned trilogy) certainly does intrigue me.

HANK: Hi Daniel. Thanks for doing this interview. I read your short bio on your blog site, but why don't you introduce yourself here, too.

DANIEL: I just want to thank you Hank for inviting me to do this interview with you. I'm honored. My name is Daniel L Carter author of The Unwanted Trilogy. I'm married to my fantastic wife Margo for over fourteen years now and we live in Western New York by Rochester. I've been a New Yorker all my life... GO GIANTS!!! Huge football fan in case you didn't get that already. =) Margo and I do not have any children but we have our dog Joy and cat Cuddles whom she treats like her children. hehehe... Those who know me well, know that I'm a computer geek, video game lover, movie buff and all around strange dude. Oh and I love dude-lit!

HANK: Ugh. I was thinking we could be friends, right up until I found out you're a Giants fan.  But you do get some points back for liking dude-lit. (So far as I know, dear readers, I coined this brilliant phrase, searching for a term for male-oriented literature which doesn't connote the poor writing and obligatory porn scenes associated with the term "men's fiction".) Tell us about some of your favorite books.

DANIEL: Well Robert Aspirin is one of my all time favorite writers. Unfortunately he passed away recently but I love his Myth series. They are Tongue N Cheek Fantasy stories that make me laugh. Stephen R. Donaldson is also one of my other all time favorite writers. His fantasy series The Thomas Covenant Chronicles are classic. Mr. Donaldson is for the intellectual in me. His writing is very probing of the inner thoughts of his characters and he's what I call a Wordsmith. He comes up with some doozies some times. I also admire Timothy Zahn who's written several of the Star Wars novels. I'm not huge on hard Sci-fi myself but his books are really good. I have a tendency to like more Urban Fantasy/Sci-fi where the story lines can seem more plausible to me.

HANK: Funny you should mention Robert Asperin. A few months ago I picked up a couple of his books at a library sale. They are now on my bottomless "to be read" list. Anyhoo, your blogger bio mentions you've acted on stage and did some stage writing as well. After working in theater, what convinced you to shift into writing books?

DANIEL: Theater, for me, was a way to express myself emotionally. The process of getting into my character's head and bringing that out into a performance is absolutely fascinating to me. However I've gotten older and had some health issues for many years, so I got away from doing acting. I still do some every now and then but not very often. This was a turning point for me. I found myself doing more directing and writing for skits or short plays and working on editing dialogues. But I missed getting into the character's heads and all that's involved with that process. Writing a novel was the next best thing. With a lot of encouragement from my wife I embarked on a journey to teach myself how to write a novel which is so much different than skits and plays. What I found was that a novel gave me the outlet to express multiple characters all at once. A novel allowed me to explore even deeper realms of the human condition while entertaining people at the same time. 

HANK: I think that's one of the many perks of writing novels. Tell us about the Unwanted Trilogy.

DANIEL: Well Hank I could give you the synopsis we have on book 1 The Unwanted but I'm going to give you a little insight that I haven't really shared with many people. The Unwanted Trilogy is based off of Genesis chapter Six which is right before the flood and Noah. In that scripture there has been a topic that few preachers will teach on. The scripture deals with fallen angels taking (perhaps violently) the daughters of men as their mates. The storyline and idea of The Unwanted Trilogy stemmed from this passage which deals with their unholy offsprings. Now I could get into the research I've done on this subject but that would take a long time to share. The Unwanted Trilogy is based upon this premise. Genetic manipulation, other dimensional beings, heroes being born, demonic forces seeking revenge and the power of God make up this trilogy. Book 2 Children of Anak should be available in the next year and I'm currently working on book 3 Unholy Resurrection.

HANK: Whoa. You have really piqued my interest, now. I've considered the Nephilim potentially great fodder for science fiction plots for some time. It wasn't until I seriously pondered the bizarre events sumarized in Genesis 6 that I was able to reconcile, in my heart, the loving God who created and redeemed us with His commandments to the Israelites to put entire cities to the sword. I thought I saw something about Anak or the Anakites on your website, but dismissed it, assuming it was just coincidence because so few Christians (it seems) study the Old Testament, or believe some of the seemingly incredible history recorded therein. And we all know what happens when we assume. I also find your differentiation between extra-terrestrial and extra-dimensional to be astute. But before I hijack this interview right off the rails...back to The Unwanted:

If you were casting for the film adaptation, who might you choose to play Nick Catlin? Other key characters?

DANIEL: It's funny you should ask this question because when I wrote The Unwanted I did so with a movie in mind. Coming from a theatre background and being a huge movie buff I often had asked myself the same questions for casting. As for FBI Agent Nick Catlin I often envisioned someone like Jesse Williams from Grey's Anatomy for the younger version. With more hair but you get the idea.

The only other character I had a very specific look for was Marcus (Bezerker), the eldest of the five children. You also have to understand that these children are born of middle eastern heritages so I could see (although from India) Shahid Kapoor playing Marcus or someone like him.

As for the rest of the cast I would like to see as many unknowns as possible. That way you aren't having any preconceived ideas and the actors/actresses can make the roles theirs. 

HANK: I think using unknowns is a wise choice for this type of story. Continuing our film adaptation theme, would you shoot it on film or hi-def video? What location would you prefer? What kind of music would be your score?

DANIEL: Wow that's a lot of questions! lol OK let me try and wrap my head around these. I would have to say that I would most definitely shoot the film in HD with a scope of 2.35:1 for a much larger than life feel (widescreen). I would actually like to shoot The Unwanted in Oklahoma which is where most of the book is centered around. And as a New Yorker I would definitely want to shoot in NYC but I know that costs for shooting in other cities or on the lot would probably be more affordable. =) As for the score, I do not want to go with any of the normal big names. Ones that come to mind are John Williams (Star Wars), Danny Elfman (Batman, Nightmare Before Christmas), Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings)... no... I would actually love to have Kevin MacLeod whom I use many of his works for my website and promo videos.

HANK: Your blog is called "A Christian Man's Perspective." What is your perspective on today's entertainment in general and fiction in particular?

DANIEL: The main reason I wrote The Unwanted was because of the misrepresentation or lack therein of God whether it be in movies, TV or the media. I wanted to write a story that took both faith in God and pure Sci-fi/Fantasy elements into one. Also, I had to get rid of cable TV in my home because of the oversexed adds and blatant lack of morals every show I watched was inundated with. I couldn't watch a show without seeing Victoria Secret or condom adds every other minute. I'm as warm blooded as the next man but stop flashing lust before my eyes so that you can sell your products. We've forgotten how to blush as a nation and something that 10 years ago would have seemed absurd and unthinkable to show during prime time has now become standard practice. Hank it makes me sick to think about it.

HANK: You said a mouthful there, Daniel. I admire your discipline to boycott the networks. Hope it wasn't a bone of contention between you and Margo. What infuriates me even more than the pandering to lust are the impudent, unceasing anti-Christian and blasphemous messages spewed out of the bowels of pop culture. For me, 10 years ago it was hard to imagine it getting much worse. Well, it's much worse.

That's a good segue to my next question for you: Would you consider The Unwanted Christian fiction? If distribution to brick-and-mortar bookstores was still the only game in town, would we find your title(s) in normal outlets, competing with secular work, or in Christian stores? I ask this because it's something I struggle with as a Christian who writes. The decision I came to is to appeal to a general audience, rather than limit it to only those who are already believers. However, some friends have made strong arguments for taking the other road.

DANIEL: This is a great question to ask. I cannot tell you how much I hate the fact that people categorize books as 'Christian Fiction'. Come on people! Do we create a genre called Atheist Fiction or Hindu Fiction? No we don't. Because a character in a story has Christian morals doesn't make it a Christian book per say, however that is what the general public does. They classify it as something less than real fiction. To answer your question more directly Hank, no I would not consider The Unwanted as Christian fiction. I purposefully steered clear of preaching to people through the story. Does it have Christian morals and Christian characters, yes. Does it have an atheist who is hell bent on the destruction of America, yes. Does it have a guy's guy in agent Nick Catlin who wishes he had more time to socialize with the ladies, yes. So I guess if we were going by the worlds rating system we should categorize my book as a Heathenistic-Athiest-Christain Sci-fi Fantasy Fiction story. LOL 

HANK: Hyuck-hyuck! Excellent points...and I think I saw some passion leaking out there. Well-put. I think we see eye-to-eye on this one.

There are items on your blog which hint that you have an interest in superheroes. If this is the case, care to say a little about that?

DANIEL: The Unwanted, for lack of a better description, is a superhero origins story. Do the characters run around with costumes and capes hiding their identity? No. The story is not so much about super powers but rather about the characters which makes it unique in my opinion. I love superhero stories and movies but The Unwanted is more than your typical X-Men type story. It's about five children who've had their DNA messed with and the consequences that they face because of it. Unlike many superhero stories where the heroes suddenly have these abilities and off they go to fight crime, the characters in The Unwanted suffer. I wanted a sense of plausibility to the story which always helps me connect with a story on a much deeper level. 

HANK: Aha! The "Children of Anak"--I think I get it. Hmm. Maybe some time in the future we can discuss the whole Nephilim phenomenon. There is some speculation of whether these hybrid creatures are redeemable, whether they are free moral agents with souls and so forth. BTW, I tracked down the Book of Enoch after studying those curious verses in Jude. I must say, I'm even more flabberghasted after reading it than before. Well, you've definitely got me interested in your story, now. What are your literary plans after the Unwanted Trilogy?

DANIEL: The Unwanted Trilogy is literally the beginning series of The G6 Chronicles. You'll see references often to G6 and I've been asked what that means so I'll tell you. It is actually a short version of GSIX which stands for Global Security of Inter-dimensional X's. X's originally stood for extra-terrestrial but as you'll find out in future stories they are not terrestrial in nature. Again this is all based off of Genesis 6 (G6). In book 3 Unholy Resurrection I introduce everyone to G6 Headquarters and what that all entails. My plans as they stand now are to launch The Spirit Walker series after The Unwanted Trilogy.

HANK: Cool. Very cool. What are our options for getting your books, and where can people go to interact with you or read more of your words?

DANIEL: Book 1 The Unwanted is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble,, Parable or you can simply purchase it directly from my official website via PayPal. Also the first three chapters are available for free so that you can see if the story is something you will like. Also for those that have already read book 1 I have the first three chapters of book 2 Children of Anak available as a sneak peek. There are also pages that I have on my official site for Internet Marketing, Superhero News, Newsletters and even Prayer Requests. Hopefully there is a little something for everyone. If anyone would like to contact me directly they can email me at

(Hank grins, having already voted for The Avengers as the next superhero flick he'd like to see, since Tony Stark's cameo in The Hulk set it up so nicely.)

On a more personal note I have my blog 'A Christian Man's Perspective' where I do author and blogger interviews as well as book reviews, giveaways and share my life's experiences.

I want to thank you again Hank for letting me ramble on. It's been an absolute pleasure being able to do this interview with you. Blessings.

HANK: My pleasure, Daniel. I really enjoyed it, and it's been great getting to know you better. Here's to a prosperous 2011 for both of us, and strength to keep running the race.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Last Car to Elysian Fields by James Lee Burke

I checked out this audiobook from the library because the idea of a cold-case murder mystery concerning a blues man half a century ago reminded me of a great book by a friend of mine I read some 12 years ago.

I must admit, the actor they chose to read this book probably influenced my experience for the worse. Since the protagonist is a native Louisianan, I guess they figured somebody with a Deep South accent would be appropriate. Between the accent and his rasping about-to-kick-the-bucket squawk, I had to listen to the first disk twice before I could follow him.

Anyway, Detective Robicheux (?) works this case out by interviewing witnesses (flashbacks move him closer to solving the puzzle/plot resolution) and pissing off all the other cops he knows, including his boss. He's a tee-total reformed alcoholic, but the way he wrecks the lives of those who care for him, I'd hate to have seen him when he was still drinking.

The flashbacks paint an infuriating picture of social injustice, but I finished the book with no sense of accomplishment, epiphany or even fond memories of an enjoyable ride. My emotions ran from fury to depression, with no pleasant feelings to dilute the aftertaste.