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Alice Dainard

If the name Elle Fanning sounds familiar then you wouldn’t be the only one wondering the same thing. Yes, Dakota Fanning is her big sister. And, yes, much like her big sister, Elle is landing huge roles in top box office titles. You might recognize her as the girl who plays Sleeping Beauty in the movie Maleficent. In 2011, however, a movie hit the big screen that somewhat came and went without much fanfare. That movie was Super 8.

Elle Fanning as Alice Dainard

Elle Fanning as Alice Dainard

For today’s Women Who Wow Wednesday, I would like to talk about Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning), the love interest to a young makeup artist Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney). In the movie Super 8, directed by J.J. Abrams, Alice becomes an actress in an amateur zombie movie shot by a group of friends from school.

More as an homage to the Steven Spielberg movies of the Seventies and early Eighties, J.J. Abrams captures the essence of the era by propelling the audience to a small Ohio town where a group of teenagers want to find out the truth behind the eerie events taking place all around them.

The tough, levelheaded Alice is one of those teenagers. With a dark past casting a large shadow over her friendship with Joe, she manages to befriend him, even if their families’ history together contains a tragic event to overcome.

Elle Fanning in Super 8

Elle Fanning in Super 8

The friendship eventually comes in handy when one evening a train derailment nearly kills the kids at the station they were using to film their latest scene for their new zombie movie. The event sparks the kids to pull together, as the event entails more than simply running away. In Alice’s case, since she’s the catalyst to the group’s curiosity, drive and action, she leads them to question the origin of the crash.

After the film’s first fifteen minutes unfolds, Alice displays the kind of courage only a true hero could possess. She presses everyone to think through the problems at hand and not jump to any conclusions before coming up with a solution. The train derailment was just the beginning.

But there’s also that soft, delicate side to Alice. In a scene reminiscent of many contemporary young adult romances of today, Joe preps Alice with zombie makeup, then watches her come to life as she lurches forward toward him with a blank stare and sullen eyes. Of course, Joe doesn’t move, but instead stands there with the curiosity of a squirrel wondering what will happen next.

In the end, there’s more to the movie Super 8 than anyone can imagine. Upon multiple viewings, countless Spielberg references surface to keep the viewer busy for a long time. In Alice’s case, she’s the perfect amalgam of a female hero and a vulnerable victim. Make no mistake, though, the vulnerable victim role doesn’t last long.

She’s too busy saving the world.

BUY IT NOW!

Have you seen Super 8? What did you like about Alice Dainard?

11 Comments

Zombie Swarming

The opening titles to the movie World War Z contains an interesting scene where the audience witnesses ants swarming. The scene, which foreshadows what will happen later in the film, is so brief that it wouldn’t surprise me if folks missed it. Later in the film, the swarming happens again, but this time the creatures are zombies.

Zombie Horde [Photo Credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.]

Zombie Horde [Photo Credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.]

For today’s Monday Mayhem series post I would like to talk about zombie swarming—how it takes place, who is susceptible, and why. It’s all about theory today, folks. If you like to talk about the Horde Effect—I just made that up—then you’ll want to keep reading.

Ants are one of the most interesting insects in nature. They come together, disperse, forage, warn and even lead, all by a chemical built within their small bodies. The chemical they possess goes by the name pheromones. Simply stated, ants produce pheromones to assist their complex colonies in multiple ways.

Ants Eating [Photo Credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos]

Ants Eating [Photo Credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos]

For instance, when an enemy approaches their colony, ants spray pheromones to warn other ants of impending doom. They also spray their pheromones when they want to ward off ants from other colonies, in effect, protecting their territory. They do likewise if they come across something of interest. This is how they lead other ants to food sources. Have you ever seen how ants seem to follow each other in a straight line to and from a picnic table? That’s how they do it. They spray pheromones from the location of their catch all the way back home so that other ants can follow their trail. It’s quite interesting to see this process at work.

Now, as for zombies, they aren’t much different from insects. Similar to swarming ants, the “modern-day” undead have a way of communicating in order to get things done. I’m talking about their shrieks.

In the old days, zombies lumbered and dragged and lurched. They were slow. They were feeble. Today’s zombies, however, sprint, jump and ram. Hard to deny the power the undead possess when they’re in full attack mode. Their shrieks lead other zombies to potential kills, and the other zombies do the same. On and on it goes. I call it the Horde Effect, but you can call it anything you’d like. The point being, like ants, zombies lead each other to a food supply without knowing they’re doing it out of instinct.

I’m sure there are other similarities between insects and zombies. This post only concentrated on zombie swarming. Perhaps one day I’ll also look at the zombie dormant state and its similarity to bat behavior. Until then, ants can provide a great lesson for humanity, not only in organized social structure, but also in zombie swarming. It’s time to appreciate nature more than for providing us food and resources.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you seen ants lead other ants to food? Do you think zombies function the same way?

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Social Media Vacation

The other day a friend of mine asked me where I’ve been. I responded with the “what do you mean?” question. They said they hadn’t seen me around lately and was wondering if everything was all right. I said I was right here. They stated they hadn’t seen me online recently. “Oh, that” is what I said, and then explained that I was taking a planned social media vacation. They looked at me as if I was crazy.

Time for a much-needed vacation.

Time for a much-needed vacation.

I’m not crazy.

A planned social media vacation is exactly as it sounds—time away from the social scene in order to appreciate life. I’ve been planning this for a while, and now that I have a few projects with long timelines in the works, I figure it’s the perfect time to exercise my right to disappear.

Let me explain this in more detail for today’s Freedom Friday post.

I love this time of year. I really do. I’ve written about it countless times, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone. I’m into the whole fall/winter thing—bundling up in my favorite coat, mitts and toque—visiting friends and having a grand ol’ time along the way.

I’m not regretting it. I’m actually enjoying it. I’m in the process of reading three books, watching two TV series, and catching up with a list of summer movies, that if measured, I would estimate it running the length of my arm.

What’s the best part about it? I’m spending more time with the family and less time online, which makes for the perfect segue to mentioning how staying offline keeps my perspective in check. I know I sound like a repeating loop, the kind you hear in one of those awesome rap music videos, but I have no other way to describe it.

How do some folks have time to chat/tweet/message for hours at a time online while life slowly passes them by? It’s beyond my comprehension. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with hopping online to spend minutes posting a few “how-are-you’s” and “thank-you’s”—but all day? Sorry, I’m daft that way. You’ll have to explain it to me.

Here’s a snapshot of my social media life for the next few months: Log into facebook, like and comment on my notifications, and post a link to my latest WordPress post. Log out. Log into Twitter, favorite and comment on my mentions, and post a link to my latest WordPress post. Log out. Quick and simple. No lingering.

I suppose I’m passed that phase where I’m chasing it.

Maybe I’m not taking a social media vacation after all. Maybe, just maybe, I’m taking an anti-social media vacation where I don’t feel guilty for not responding right away to every notification I receive.

Whatever it is, I know it’s the best thing ever.

Dare I say it? Why not try it out, you might like it.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you planned any time away from the social media scene? If so, what are you planning to do with that time?

4 Comments

Meadow Soprano

If you’ve ever seen The Sopranos then you’ll know Meadow Soprano (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) is Tony Soprano’s daughter. Some may think she’s an unlikely candidate for a Women Who Wow Wednesday tribute. I beg to differ. As you’ll see, Meadow is a lot smarter than the average young woman and a heck of a verbal fighter. There’s nothing in her vocabulary that would compel anyone to call her a doormat.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano

Jamie-Lynn Sigler as Meadow Soprano

[Author’s note: For those who have been following my Women Who Wow Wednesday series since its inception in December of 2012, I write these posts in honor of female fictional characters who show more than an interest in being good role models for women everywhere. Yes, I write about darker characters, too (i.e. The Wicked Witch of the West, Kathryn Merteuil from the movie Cruel Intentions, etc.), but only in the context of them possessing the ability to lead. Other than that, I do not enjoy watching female characters in film act as doormats when I know they could do better. The same goes for real life.]

In Meadow’s case, she’s a mob boss’ daughter, an honor student and will eventually end up working in law under the auspices of social reform and aid for the less fortunate. If anyone deserves a U.N. honorary role for human rights, it’s Meadow Soprano. She never agrees with government policy that works against poverty. Not only is she a social issues maverick but also a leader.

How did she get this way? Having Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) as a father helps, since just when he thinks he has the upper hand, she knows how to play him perfectly. For instance, one evening she uses her grandmother’s house for a late-night party, but gets off with minimal punishment from her parents. This is after her friends had trashed the place, leaving behind broken windows, soiled walls, and vomit on the floor. The next morning, she apologizes and, as a preemptive strike, suggests her parents take away her Discovery card for three weeks. They cede thinking it’s a great idea. She walks away with a smile on her face.

Robert Iler & Jamie-Lynn Sigler

Robert Iler & Jamie-Lynn Sigler

The other instance where she shows her metal is when she is dating Jackie Aprile Jr., the son of the late mob boss of the Soprano family. She suspects him cheating on her, but it isn’t until she chases after him that she discovers the truth. In the throes of a massive head cold, she catches him with another woman and dumps him right on the spot that evening. She never returns, which shows her resolve as someone who thinks better of herself than stay with someone who lies and is an abusive mate.

Meadow Soprano is more than a young woman on the road to discovery. She grows to become an advocate for the poor, a loving daughter, and a close friend to those who need a friend. She’s a wonderful role model for women looking for an alternative lifestyle without all the drama associated with personal relationships.

In other words, Meadow is someone who would make a good friend for life.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you seen The Sopranos? What are your feelings toward the character Meadow Soprano?

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My Fear of Zombies

Do you know what terrifies me the most about zombies? It’s not their slow, lumbering drag. Neither is it their insatiable appetite. Nor is it their decomposing flesh that I’m sure smells like something that came out of a garbage disposal unit. No. What scares me the most about the undead is their blank, vacant eyes. For behind that empty stare is a soulless body that possesses no sadness, fear, hate, love or passion for, or about, anything we humans consider as the stirring of the spirit.

Asbury Park [Photo credit licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.]

Asbury Park [Photo credit licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.]

Let’s talk a bit about zombie terror for today’s Monday Mayhem. I’m almost positive everyone has a fear of the undead. What is yours?

Some may find the zombie appetite for human disconcerting. In reality, how different is it from the compulsion that potential cold-hearted murderers feel when they roam the naked streets? If you’ve ever seen Stephen King’s The Shining, then you’ll know what I mean. Jack Nicholson’s character reminds me of a hunger-driven zombie. Focused. One-track mind. His only goal is to kill. As frightening as he is, I’ve seen his character repeated from one movie to the next. It’s not scary anymore. Dare I say the word? His character is predictable.

But those eyes—they have to be the single most feared thing I can think of when someone asks me about zombies. It’s like looking into a cold bucket of ice knowing that no matter how much I try, I will always feel as if the frigid waters will wash over me whenever I get lost in them. I suppose this is understandable, considering the undead originates from the same dirt pit friends and family members may one day fill.

In that same vein, the bodies of the soulless increase in strength and might.

I can’t describe my feelings when I imagine what it would be like to confront a zombie with its piercing eyes on top of me. How could I put into the words the zombie’s ability to measure the time it will take for it to catch and eat me before I realize I should have made a run for it?

The blank stare is what generates terror in my bones. As hard as I try, I can’t shake its indifferent gaze from the deepest parts of my body. It will stop at nothing to gain an advantage over my weaknesses. It will never surrender.

All of the undead’s temptations originate from when it sets its pale eyes on its victim. How can I overcome such a vile beast if all I can think about are those eyes?

There has to be a solution to this fear I have. There has to be.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

What do you fear of the undead? Do their eyes bother you as much as it bothers me?

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Time Is Precious

This has to be my favorite time of year. With the days getting shorter and the nights growing colder, I don’t miss the sweltering heat of summer. But I’m sure if I live through six months of frigid arctic weather, I would grow weary enough to want to have the sun back. Just, not right now, though.

The Woods

The Woods

I can’t believe how quickly October went by. I was talking with a friend of mine the other day telling how this month disappeared. Then again, I did have a book release, so that did make the time fly. Nonetheless, my friend felt time has been speeding along while all we’re doing is enjoying the ride.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the woods while the leaves were turning colors and I had the opportunity to have my camera with me. Actually, I went out to take a few photos, so the opportunity was a planned event. As I walked through the woods enjoying the scenery, I noticed how quiet it was. I noticed it before, yet it never hit me quite as dramatically as that day.

I sat on a log and took it all in. I could hear the leaves rustling in the wind. The squirrels were dancing along the perimeter foraging for food. And the air was still warm, left over from the summer.

The Woods - A week later

The Woods – A week later

A week later, I went back to that same spot and the leaves had all but changed to a brilliant orange. Gone was the multi-colored tapestry nature gladly spreads honoring those who venture nearby. In its place, a bed of leaves surrounded my feet. A cold wind ran through my jacket as I sunk my hands into my pockets. And the gray sky made everything barren-looking. I couldn’t believe how quickly everything changed.

I’ve been noticing that quite a lot lately. I’m not sure why that is. In the town where I live, construction has overtaken major roadways. What used to be a peaceful area now bustles with workers. They’re improving the area. At least that is what I think they’re doing. I notice it more when I have to drive through it, running errands.

How quickly things change.

The log

The log

This time of year calls for nostalgia, wanting for things to be the way they were. I miss those days when things were simpler, when I didn’t have all the responsibilities I have today. I’m longing for those people who were once in my life, but are no longer there. I miss them. Their ghosts come and go, yet the present remains the same.

Time is precious and there’s no escaping it. What is today will become yesterday. Let’s enjoy every moment.

[Another Freedom Friday post inspired by fall.]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

How do you view time? Does this time of year also spark a longing for the way things were?

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Julia Maddon

Imogen Poots—how’s that for a cool name? Exotic, yet refined. Full of mystery. Imogen Poots is the British actress who plays the female lead in the road-blazing film Need for Speed. Her character? Julia Maddon, the money behind the movie’s most notable acquisition.

Imogen Poots as Julia Maddon

Imogen Poots as Julia Maddon

Welcome to Women Who Wow Wednesday, the series dedicated to strong women in entertainment.

If you haven’t seen the film, take note, I may have some spoilers. Jump to the last paragraph if you don’t want to know anything about this incredible character. She is worth every penny one would pay to see her on the big screen.

I’ll start with the film’s premise. Fresh from his stint on Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul plays Tobey Marshall, a mechanic whose business is floundering in a sea of debt. His only chance for redemption is for him and his crew to rebuild a very rare car and sell it to the highest bidder. The cash would clear his debt and would give his shop a brand new lifeline to carry on his late father’s legacy.

Eventually, the car he and his crew restores becomes the desire of the wanton eyes of the beautiful Julia Maddon, fast car auction purveyor who will stop at nothing to purchase the mint-condition vehicle. As the events of the film unfold however, Tobey sells the car to her without the knowledge of Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper), the one who approached him to commission the rebuild in the first place. A wager ensues and Tobey loses more than the money on the table.

Imogen Poots

Imogen Poots

Two years later, Julia receives a call from Tobey for help. She hears of his desperate willingness to do anything in order to settle things with Dino, and readily offers the car he had completed for her employer as collateral. Her end? He is to promise to win a big race featuring Dino himself as one of the participants. What’s so enticing though is the winner gets to take home all the cars from the race—including a high-performance Lamborghini.

What makes Need for Speed so powerful is the portrayal of Julia Maddon as the all-you-can-be go-getter. She dishes the sarcastic jabs as much as she takes them, but more importantly, she can play with the boys without the need to feel they’re out of her league. If anything, she’s out of their league.

The best part of Julia’s character is that one scene where she’s the one driving and taking control of the situation under Tobey’s guidance. The scene features her as the leader while everyone else, including the audience, is trying to catch up with her fast and aggressive style. She’s a powerhouse of a woman, and there’s no denying she can give it as much as she can take it.

If you haven’t seen the character Julia Maddon in the film Need for Speed, I suggest you do. The film is definitely one of the best empowering stories I’ve seen in a long time. And I watch a lot of movies.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

If you’ve seen Need for Speed, what do you like most of Julia Maddon?

14 Comments

Would You?

For this week’s Monday Mayhem, let’s examine a question—would you? As non-standard as the question is, the implications can be enormous. Would I what? Would I eat the icing off the cake before digging into the cake itself? Would I leave a theater halfway through the movie because of my disappointment with its content? Would I not pay a tip if I had lousy service?

Would you? [Photo Credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.]

Would you? [Photo Credit: Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.]

As innocent as those questions are, that’s not what’s on my mind. The “would you?” question has more to do with the breath I take into my lungs every day than anything else does. In other words, would I consider doing something beyond innocent in order to ensure my survival—the survival of my family?

Let me rephrase the question then. Would you do what is necessary to guarantee your survival if the zombie apocalypse really takes place? Of course this is all speculation, so you can go ahead and think about it for a moment.

Everyone’s definition of survival is different. I know when it comes to Boxing Day here in Canada the proverbial claws come out. Think what you may about us Canadians, if there’s a deal at some store after Christmas, you best know we’re not polite. We’re not cordial. And as they say in sportsmanship, may the best man win. Survival is all a matter of who gets what at the better price.

Have you thought about it? Not an easy thing, is it?

Would you?

Would you?

If the zombie apocalypse takes place, what are the odds you will not kill someone to defend your house? I’m not talking about zombies here. Killing zombies can ultimately become a sport. I cite Dawn of the Dead as an example where the survivors are stuck on a mall rooftop taking pot shots at a horde or the undead below, simply for their own amusement. So, yes, killing zombies can be a fun affair.

The more difficult question is more complicated than that.

Would you kill another human to defend your family? Answer this carefully. It would mean breaking the boundary you’ve established within your character as a means to survive the apocalypse further, which, by the way, there’s no guarantee you’d accomplish in doing. After all, your soul is what will eventually vanish with the act.

Now, some folks may find it easy. They’d treat it like another Boxing Day sale—your loss is my gain. But what of the folks who are upright citizens of their neighborhoods? What will become of them? Or will they become those who will be the ones who everyone would have to fight against?

You see then, it’s not an easy question. “Would you?” could mean the end of your civilized life as you know it, all as a matter of defending your family.

But then, really, what would be the difference between us—the defenders of our loved ones—and those who are also trying to survive for their loved ones?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Would you kill for your family? Would you take from another family during an apocalypse to survive?

17 Comments

Waiting

I’m not sure how it works in other neighborhoods, and it might very well be the same, but all I know is once November 1st hits, the Christmas lights come out in full swing. If you’re from the Toronto area, you’ll know what I mean.

Halloween

Halloween

Enjoy this Freedom Friday post about the merits of waiting.

October 31st is Halloween. You wouldn’t guess that is true from what happens the next day. The day after Halloween is fun. It’s like the stores magically turn their decorations from ghouls and goblins to Santa’s merry little elves, and the Christmas trees are ready for their assault on shoppers. I never know what to make of it. Like a perfectly timed choreography, even the radio ads turn to Christmas carols—and it’s only the day after Halloween! Yes, I know I said that a few times. I suppose I’m trying to make a point here.

Christmas

Christmas

Now, I understand retailers wanting to start early with all the festivities, but I’m just not ready for that. In the United States, it’s a sweet deal. Being Canadian, I actually appreciate it more than you’d know. For Americans, the day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday. It’s when retailers finally turn their bottom lines into black. Christmas for them also officially begins that day. I know of a family in the States, and possibly most families, who string up their decorations for that weekend.

See, to me, that makes sense. I don’t think Americans would argue with me either. The day after Thanksgiving gives you a whole month to go off and plunder the stores all in an effort to get the best deals around. That’s logic. It makes sense.

Here where I live, the day after Halloween the kids are still recovering from having eaten that pound of candy they told their parents they wouldn’t consume. The boney ornaments from the night before are still hanging on the door outside, waiting to greet the mail carrier who will more than likely be there to deliver the Christmas catalog from your friendly neighborhood department store. And the nearest coffee shop will have the Christmas tunes blaring on their sound system hoping customers would purchase their cinnamon mocha cappuccino ole espresso Irish divine cream coffee.

Whatever happened to waiting? Everyone’s in such a rush to do the Christmas thing nowadays that no one stops to ask why. Has the media conditioned us in such a way that we accept everything fed to us? Where’s the patience?

I say all good things are worth the wait. I know it’s a cliché, but isn’t it true? I’m not talking about Christmas only. Sometimes waiting for the perfect opportunity to act on a decision will yield the best results. Sometimes waiting for the next bus will save your life. And sometimes waiting for the rain will make things grow faster.

Waiting patiently makes for an incredible character-building experience. Perhaps this time of year is the most optimal time to build that character.

Or maybe—I just don’t know what I’m talking about.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you had to wait for something in your life that you wished would have come sooner?

23 Comments

The Wicked Witch of the West

No one can deny after seeing The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West is a frightening gal. The first time I saw her on TV was when I was four. If you want to cite childhood memories that may have traumatized a growing young lad, this was it.

The Wicked Witch of the West

The Wicked Witch of the West

What would the end of Women Who Wow Wednesday‘s Horror month be without The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West? I dare you to count the number of w’s in that sentence.

The Wicked Witch of the West

The Wicked Witch of the West

There’s a whole history behind the green-skinned lady, but this post won’t contain any of that. In fact, I’m not even going to include how her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, died. Well, we know a house fell on her. That’s about it. Has anyone else ever asked what that woman was doing there in the first place? Was she just standing around waiting for it or was she flying on her broomstick when the house slammed into her? Okay, so maybe I have included a little history with this post.

The other thing I remember about the Wicked Witch was her cackle. Oh, such a dastardly laugh it was. That line where she says, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” It still sends chills up my spine. Is it me or does she get meaner as the years go on? Maybe it’s just me. She certainly knows how to scare the pants off a grownup.

Since I’m quoting lines from the movie, here are a few more that make me want to run away and lock myself in my room with the covers over my head:

“Well, my little pretty, I can cause accidents, too!”

“How about a little fire, Scarecrow?”

“Auntie Em! Auntie Em! Come back! I’ll give you Auntie Em, my pretty! Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh!”

“Going so soon? I wouldn’t hear of it. Why my little party’s just beginning.”

“What a nice little dog. And you, my dear, what an unexpected pleasure. It’s so kind of you to want to visit me in my loneliness.”

“The last to go will see the first three go before her. And her mangy little dog too.”

“You cursed brat! Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness? Oooooh, look out! I’m going! Oooooh! Ooooooh!”

Tell me you don’t hear her voice when you’re reading those lines to yourself. I still can hear it and I’m not even trying.

Yes, the Wicked Witch belongs in an asylum, but you can’t tell me she doesn’t wow. As bad as she is, she is a character everyone recognizes. For this reason, her image has remained with me since a child. Maybe one day, I can watch The Wizard of Oz without that scary feeling I get in the pit of my stomach reminding me of the first time.

Until then, I’ll watch her again and again covering my eyes as if I were on a roller coaster. It’s the only way to survive a scary ride.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

What do you remember of the first time you saw The Wizard of Oz? Were you as frightened to see her the first time I was?

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