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My Second Book Release

Tomorrow, my second book in the Ranger Martin series releases. That sentence makes it sound as if something’s about to escape the San Diego Zoo. From what I know, literature doesn’t eat people. At least I don’t think it does. So I wouldn’t worry about wild books named Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion running rampant in the streets. It’s just not going to happen—although you may encounter a slightly crazed author attempting to sell you his novel. And I use the word “attempting” in the loosest of terms because half the time, I have no clue what I’m doing.

Jack Flacco takes action to a new level.

Jack Flacco takes action to a new level.

I mean, I’d rather drive around aimlessly than spare myself the embarrassment of asking for directions. That’s how one year my family and I made it through Maine to Nova Scotia. How else do you think I’ve survived this long? I’m sure others are the same way. Same goes for bland theater popcorn. The idea of rising from my comfortable seat, knocking knees with the folks blocking the aisle all in a bid to get extra butter at the concession stand sounds like a lot of work to me. Instead, I’ll sit quietly never really knowing that I could have had more flavor for my snack during scenes of the latest Transformers film.

I’m not very good talking about myself either. I’m terrible at it. I have a Facebook page and Twitter account, and I post stuff on there, but I don’t like being intrusive. Trust me, I could do better with these days I have to talk about my book. It’s something that does not come naturally and takes me forever to come up with words that wouldn’t make me sound like I’m bragging. Because that’s what I don’t want to do—sound like I’m bragging.

For this reason, I’m dedicating this Monday Mayhem post to my Review Team. These folks volunteered their time and energy to read Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion in order not only to provide me feedback, but also to give potential readers an honest opinion. It’s best hearing what they have to say than for me to open my mouth so you can watch my brains fall out.

Meet the Review Team

Kristin’s The Faithful Elephant“The moment you open the book, you are immediately immersed into the action. There really is no hesitation.”

Rhyanna’s Reads“This book is one fantastic pile of pages. The book is one of the more exciting stories that I have read. It has action, and some funny, silly, and active characters!… This book is so wild that almost everyone will love and read it!”

K. Andrews’ Barnfullawalkers“Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion is a madcap ride, a rollicking read, that will keep you turning the pages well past bedtime. Flacco weaves a tapestry of imagery, dialogue and intrigue in his tale of zombie apocalypse and world’s end that I find endlessly compelling as a reader, and truly inspiring as a writer…Flacco shows his skill as a writer and a storyteller as he weaves these fantastic elements together in a way that is enthralling, believable, and quite simply, unforgettable.”

Sandi Layne’s Writing from time…to time“Though the title indicates there is an alien invasion—and there is—this is still a zombie story, complete with constant attacks by the walking undead as well as government cover-ups and entirely human bad guys.”

Karen Oberlaender’s My Train of Thoughts on…“This story is as cleverly elaborated as the first one, has a pleasant flow, focuses on its protagonists and their strategy to save the human race, as well on ethical values.”

Jolene Cecil’s Valley Girl Gone Country“I have to say that the twists and unexpected turns of this story will leave you stunned…unlike in a movie theater where one can cover their eyes with their hands shielding them from watching the impending doom of the characters on the screen, I couldn’t do that. I had to keep reading.”

Adrienne’s greatsnaps, goodtimes and me“Readers beware: Flacco is also not afraid to kill characters. This made me very happy because what is an action, suspense novel without a few shockers? Sometimes he even lets you get to know the characters, become attached to them, and then BAM! They’re gone.”

Shy’s .:shy:.“Ranger Martin’s ‘sidekicks’ are sometimes anything but sidekicks as some (a.k.a. Matty, a fiery teen) are just as gutsy as he is when it comes to crushing zombie skulls. I’m looking forward to reading the first book so I can witness some of the early events responsible for building these relationships.”

Mei-Mei’s Jedi by Night“Ranger is exactly the kind of guy you want with you when facing down the undead: solid instincts, quick thinking, and of course a good shot. But he’s facing more than zombies; there are some extraterrestrial visitors in town, and they don’t seem friendly.”

The L. Palmer Chronicles“Any good adventure also needs a great central villain. While the zombie is a unified hoard of un-death, General Grayson is a twisted, cold psychopath in search of only his own survival in this invasion. His cruelty and intelligence combine to make him a formidable enemy, and one who pushes Ranger Martin to his limits.”

The Scarlet Loser“It’s hard to tell who to root for and who the real enemies are in the story. As soon as you pick a side, that side either dies or does something that you find morally questionable. When you decide that you don’t like a character, that character shows a hint of a redeemable quality that makes you wonder from where the character’s motives really stem.”

Kim’s Tranquil Dreams“I have to say that adding aliens to the equation is very smart. It’s not just zombies but now it gets worse when you add in an unknown thing that has unknown capabilities like aliens. It’s a whole different ballgame and it makes for an exciting adventure. That’s how I felt while I was reading this novel.”

The Opening Sentence“There isn’t a wall or car windscreen in north America that isn’t now painted with someone’s brain. For the alien horror fans there are plenty of airshafts and cornfields to have your jollies well and truly freaked out.”

Molly’s Hot2Molly“From the very first sentence, Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion draws you in. The action begins instantly and Jack’s descriptive, compelling writing style feels both new and thrilling as well as familiar and comfortable – like you’re watching your favorite zombie movie come to life through words.”

Karina’s Live with Courage“The very bestest, bestest, best part of the whole novel, though, is that there are strong female characters…none are cowering lacy dresses who talk nothing but boys and play the ‘woe-is-me-I’m-such-a-victim’ card. They all rise to the challenge and meet it head on. If the author was aiming for greater-than-life female characters that girls could look up to in tough times, I believe he nailed it.”

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale tomorrow.

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Guacamole

Everyone likes new recipes. I mean, I love new recipes and I don’t cook that often. I cook once a week, typically on a Saturday, and I change things up by trying new ingredients in my recipes. But with guacamole—why am I thinking Whac-A-Mole?—there are a few things I do to spin the recipe on its head.

Guacamole inside the bowl ready for mixing

Guacamole inside the bowl ready for mixing

Football season is here and it’s all about guacamole today. If you enjoy food, this Freedom Friday post is just for you.

I learned how to make guacamole from watching master chefs on Food Network Canada a number of years ago when all I watched was Food Network. The thing that attracts me to this Aztec cuisine dip is its versatility in its use.

For instance, I use it for a Saturday night dip with broccoli. If you don’t like broccoli, you can use almost any vegetable and it’ll still make the snack extra special to munch. Just don’t try dipping something crazy like kale with it. Although, I haven’t really tried it, in which case it may actually be somewhat good. Have you ever tried kale chips? Oh, you have to—it’s to die for! I digress.

Let’s get to the recipe, as I know you’re probably wondering what it is.

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • 7-8 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 avocado
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4 slices of onion
  • Cilantro (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Jalapeño (to taste)
Guacamole ingredients

Guacamole ingredients

Directions:

  • You can make this recipe two ways. The first way is to use a mixer and make it smooth. The second way is to use a fork, a deep bowl, and mix it by hand. If you go the mixer route, you can make the guacamole very smooth and creamy. It will go well as a dip. If you like chunky, I would suggest the second way—the one I prefer, as you’ll get a nice texture from the mix, but also a wonderful blend that you can taste the ingredients individually.
  • Prep work is easy. Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves in order to have them blend properly in the mix. Add them to your mixing bowl.
  • Scoop the meat of the avocado; they’ll break down easier in the mixer, and by hand mixing. Into the bowl it goes. (Note: Make sure the avocados are ripe, otherwise you’ll end up with double the mixing time.)
  • Squeeze the juice of half a lemon.
  • Chop a medium garlic clove in fine, small pieces. Very small is what you’re going for—the smaller the better. Did I say small?
  • This is where it gets tricky, as I don’t really measure from this point forward. I rather eye it. Depending on the strength of the onion, I go for four slices but if you don’t like so many onion slices, go for less. Two will work as well.
  • Cilantro is one of my all-time favorite herbs. It goes well with salads, dips and as garnish for fresh vegetable recipes. It is so good. Just grab a couple of sprigs, wash and pat dry, and chop finely to add in the bowl.
  • Salt is up to you. Go light at first, believe me, guacamole doesn’t need too much of a kick to taste great.
  • Lastly, add your jalapeño. Cut a couple of small chunks, again, chopping finely, and add to the bowl.
  • Once all the ingredients are in, mix to your choice consistency. As I’d mentioned, I like mine chunky, but you may prefer smooth. It’s totally up to you.
Guacamole

Guacamole

This recipe takes me about 10-15 minutes max to make. It’s easy, tasty and ready to serve. Try it with broccoli, as it makes for a lovely snack.

Most of all—have fun!

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Do you make your own guacamole? What do you do to make it special?

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Clarice Starling

Nailed to a tree as five separate signs, the message to everyone who dares venture into the FBI training ground is clear: Hurt. Agony. Pain. Love—it. Pride. With those words, the chilling movie The Silence of the Lambs begins.

Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster

Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster

As Women Who Wow Wednesday continues its month-long tribute to women who rock Horror, which began with Maleficent, and continued last week with Claudia from Interview with the Vampire, today we’ll have a look at Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), the detective who uses one psychopath to catch another with horrifying results.

She’s in the top quarter of her class, double major in psychology, criminology, and graduated Magna. She was an intern at the Reitzinger Clinic, and more than anything wants to work for Mr. Crawford (Scott Glenn) in Behavioral Science.

From the moment Clarice steps into the Behavioral Science Services office, the images of serial killer Buffalo Bill’s victims sink into her eyes. When Mr. Crawford walks in and offers her a seat. He remembers her from his seminar at UVA where she grilled him about the bureau’s civil rights record during the Hoover years—he gave her an A. Not quite. She remembers an A minus.

He has a job for her. The FBI is interviewing serial killers in custody for a psycho-behavioral profile. They’re looking for help in unsolved cases. He asks, “Do you spook easily, Starling?”

“Not yet.” She answers.

Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling

Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling

Crawford then asks Clarice to profile Hannibal Lecter—“Hannibal the Cannibal” as he is known. But he warns her to be very careful with Hannibal Lecter. She cannot deviate from the physical procedures she will take when interviewing him. Above all else, she cannot tell him anything personal. She cannot afford to have Hannibal Lecter inside her head.

Once Clarice realizes Hannibal the Cannibal is a monster, a pure psychopath and the asylum’s most prized asset, she takes precautions by heeding to the rules:

  • Do not touch or approach the glass.
  • Pass him nothing but soft paper.
  • No pencils or pens, no staples or paper clips in his paper.
  • Use the sliding food carrier, no exception.
  • If he passes anything, do not accept.

From there, Clarice takes it upon herself to play the game she needs to play with Lecter in order to get what she needs. She attempts different ways to get into his head, but he proves, with his genius ability to sense her next move, he isn’t a pushover. If anyone’s getting played, it’s her.

Throughout her interviews, she adapts and modifies her methodology to Lecter’s coy ways. With every play and counter-play, they raise the stakes until someone surrenders.

In the dark world Clarice inhabits, there are serial killers, murderers and psychos. However, that’s not to say she is weak when terrifying events knock her from her seat. She’s resilient, making it easy for anyone to choose her as the perfect example of a woman who stands up for her convictions against the evil in this world.

With Clarice in the room, darkness has nowhere to hide.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

If you’ve seen Silence of the Lambs, what did you find most frightening?

21 Comments

The Walking Dead Returns

Another year, another season of The Walking Dead returns to AMC. Am I excited? You’re kidding, right? Of course, I’m excited! What other show on TV features survivors of a post-apocalyptic nightmare battling zombies—oops, sorry, walkers—in an all-out quest for world supremacy? No, I’m not talking about Breaking Bad, although that’s a cool show, too. I wish it were still on.

The Walking Dead Cast

The Walking Dead Cast

For today’s Monday Mayhem, allow me the liberty to provide you with a synopsis of the past four seasons, spoiler-free. That’s right, spoiler-free. It’s the least I can do, considering how I enjoy talking about movies and TV shows, asking questions to my friends like, “Did you see the part where (name the scene)—oh, yeah, that was awesome. Its brains sprayed everywhere!”

Season 1—The end-of-days madness begins with Deputy Sheriff Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) awakening from a wound sustained in the line of duty to a world infested with walkers. In a quest to find out what happened, Grimes and a group of mismatched survivors travel to Atlanta, Georgia on a rumor the CDC has set up a safe zone for anyone looking for refuge.

Glenn

Glenn

Season 2—After their daring escape from the CDC, the survivors head to Fort Benning as their next stop. On their way, they meet walkers bent on killing anything resembling human, survivors with similar malevolent intentions, and a farm. The farm not only becomes their sanctuary away from the rotting world, but also a place where a semblance of society begins to spring forth. In the midst of the silent fields, a dark secret awaits the brave.

Season 3—From a farm to a prison, the survivors make a home out of a jail. But with their newest safe haven also comes the neighboring town of Woodbury, fully fortified and fully prepared to defend its territory at all costs. The survivors are not welcomed, and a battle of wills ensues. A new enemy appears—The Governor (David Morrissey). Who will win the final war?

Beth

Beth

Season 4—When Rick Grimes relinquishes his leadership role to the survivors, a council emerges dedicated to the well-being of the many. Fighting through an influenza outbreak, another attempt at a prison overthrow, and a division among the ranks, the survivors hear of Terminus, a sanctuary devoted to helping everyone. But not all is what it seems and Rick ends the season by saying, “They’re going to feel pretty stupid when they find out—they’re screwing with the wrong people.”

Now, with Season 5 in full swing and the seeds planted for Season 6, yes, the survivors will be back next season, who knows what awaits Rick and the gang. One thing’s for sure, whatever it is, I know I’ll be tuning in every week.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What did you think of last night’s episode?

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My iPod classic

I’m not sure how much interest this post will garner, especially knowing that some folks are not too keen on Apple these days. But I’ll write it from my perspective in order for you to understand where I’m coming from. This is my Freedom Friday post about my iPod classic.

My iPod classic

My iPod classic

First off, this is not an ad campaign for Apple. Nor is it a way for me to gain a following from all the audiophiles out there. Even more so, nor is it a plea for Apple to listen to its customers. I leave that fight to the activists, of which I’m in no way a part of.

Last month, Apple quietly discontinued the iPod classic, the company’s former highest capacity portable media device.

Yes, I did shed a figurative tear, in spite of the fact I saw it coming for a while now.

Let me make one thing clear. I don’t consider myself a die-hard Apple fan. I say this with the knowledge I’ve never stood in line for one of their products or sat in front of the computer waiting for the next iOS release. I’m one of those guys who buys stuff, regardless of company, for what that stuff represents in technological progress. If that stuff works and does what I want it to do, I will raise the praises no matter what anyone says to me.

Okay, now with that out of the way, my big confession is I love my iPod classic. I do. You’re reading those words from a guy who’s been around. I used to listen to music on vinyl, which, by the way, sounds amazing. I progressed to purchasing my very first Sony Walkman with its ability to carry a whole album on cassette tape. I then moved on to my first MP3 player called the RioVolt, a CD-based MP3 player featuring hundreds of songs at my auditory disposal. From there I graduated to an Apple shuffle—the original “white stick” version. I couldn’t believe I could finally carry a few more hundred songs with me.

Then the Apple iPod classic came. In 2007, I’d spent $350. I still can’t believe I’d spend that much for a device. Then again, for my RioVolt I’d spent $200 in the early 2000’s, so it goes without saying that if a device is worth it, I’ll buy it. That player lasted me a couple of years before it became obsolete.

My classic? It’s still going strong.

What do I love about it? Everything. I’m serious about this. Its ability to fit my entire song library, which is extensive, has me carrying my entire music collection with room to boot. That feature alone has me at the word go.

I’m also an avid playlist creator. I have over a hundred playlists for almost every mood I can think of. I even have playlists to remember specific events in my life. I’m a playlist maniac! The sweetest thing about the iPod classic is that it allows Smart Playlists to work as intended with Live Updating.

For all of you who are not familiar of the feature, Live Updating simply allows a playlist to populate dynamically without much interference from me. That means if I have a playlist with the criteria of picking rock songs I haven’t heard in the past two weeks, the playlist will rotate my library to do just that. Once a song finishes, the iPod classic kicks the song off the list and a new one then appears in its place. Live Updating is that amazing. The thing is it doesn’t work on the iPhone or any of the newest iPods. It does work on the iPod classic, and that’s all that matters to me.

The other great feature about my iPod classic is its ability to create Genius playlists on the fly. Let’s say I’m listening to a song I really love, I click on the center button, choose the Genius feature, and the iPod classic quickly creates a playlist with all the songs that work well with the song I’m listening to. The perfect mix. The feature works so well that I sometimes save the generated playlist for later use.

The iPod classic click wheel

The iPod classic click wheel

Last but the most important feature the iPod classic has that no other Apple device currently possesses is the click wheel. I suppose Apple thought this archaic functionality belonged in the past and decided music listeners didn’t need it. In reality, it’s the most useful feature for us folks who listen to music non-stop.

How does it work? If I slide my finger on the click wheel left, I’m turning the volume down. Go right, I’m turning it up. If I press the bottom of the wheel, I’m pausing the song. If I press right, it skips to the next song and vice versa when pressing left. The kicker? I can do it all without looking at the device. Try that with an iPhone where you have to look at the screen to perform the simple function of pausing the song.

Like I said, I love my iPod classic. I love it so much I bought two—the original 2007 and the 2009 versions. Both of them are still going strong. The 2007 version I have hooked up to a docking station in our bedroom where I turn on the music before going to bed. Although some may wonder how I can prepare for sleep if I have Blink 182 blasting on the speakers. Trust me—I sleep right through the night without any trouble. The 2009 version is with me all the time, cranking out the tunes.

Anyway, enough of my rambling.

The biggest drawback of the iPod classic is that it has a hard drive to hold its music. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple turns around one day to release another version of the device featuring a big fat solid-state drive.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What devices do you own? Are you someone who sports an attachment with a device?

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Claudia

They are flesh and blood, but not human. Probably haven’t been human for hundreds of years. Some might call it being born into darkness. For a little girl who has lost her parents to the plague in New Orleans, it certainly feels that way.

Kirsten Dunst as Claudia

Kirsten Dunst as Claudia

As Women Who Wow Wednesday continues its month-long tribute to women who rock Horror, which began last week with Maleficent, let’s examine the short life of Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) the vampire from the movie Interview with the Vampire, based on the book written by Anne Rice.

In 1791, Louis du Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) is only twenty-four when Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise) turns him into a vampire. Before then, as the master of a large plantation, just south of New Orleans, Louis’ riches meant nothing to him. He’d lost his wife and child months earlier, and he longed for death. Young, vibrant, full of life, Lestat cuts Louis’ life short in an act of pure selfishness. Some may say, though, Lestat imparted Louis the essence of eternal life. However, how eternal is a life if it rests in the throes of damnation?

Claudia’s parents die by the plague. With the desire of wanting to revive her mother, the five-year-old asks Louis for help. Instead of bringing her mother back from the dead, a power Louis does not possess, he feeds off Claudia short of taking her life. Leaving her for dead, and with Louis’ conscience tearing at him for having drained Claudia of her life, Lestat bestows upon her eternal life, thus making her a vampire just like them.

Unlike Louis, whose manner of killing involves butchering animals but not people, Claudia’s hunger for blood has no bounds. From the moment Lestat made her into a predator, Claudia shows no regard for human life. Housekeepers fall to her scheming, leading Lestat to scold her, “Now, who will we get to finish your dress? There’s a practicality here! Remember, never in our home!”

Interview with the Vampire's Claudia

Interview with the Vampire’s Claudia

In the early days, Claudia’s victims died quickly. As time passes, she learns how to play with them, delaying the moment until she takes what she wants. No one is safe. She uses her diminutive appearance to draw victims into her arms. Shopkeepers easily surrender their goods to the vicious killer. Even her piano teacher dies at her hands, prompting Lestat once again to ask, “Claudia, what have we told you?” Of course she remembers, “Never in the house.”

One day, Claudia sees a woman bathing, then realizes she will never grow older than the eternal child she is. She discovers the truth, provoking her to loathe both Louis for taking her life and Lestat for giving her another. However, she also realizes she and Louis are in the same predicament, locked together in hatred.

But she admits, she can’t hate Louis.

As the story goes, Claudia takes vengeance upon Lestat, breaking one of the everlasting laws among vampires—vampire shall not kill vampire. As opposed to physical strength, she uses stealth and cunning to do it. Those attributes make Claudia one of the most feared fictional characters in Horror. It’s also the reason she takes one of the top spots in Women Who Wow Wednesday. She proves someone doesn’t have to bulge with muscle in order to get things done.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

If you’ve seen Interview with a Vampire, what did you think of Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of Claudia?

23 Comments

Do Aliens Exist?

Star Trek always has been one of my favorite TV shows. From the original series to the more recent Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager episodes, I don’t think I missed any of them.

Star Trek: Into the Darkness

Star Trek: Into the Darkness

This is an unusual Monday Mayhem post, as it’s a story about my love for the Gene Roddenberry classic and the questions it posed about alien life forms.

I’ll never forget one winter evening in the early 90s when Star Trek: The Next Generation used to be in reruns on TV. I had just gotten home from a college class and I’d settled into watching some TV before going to bed. It must have been slightly after nine and my snack of choice was a big bag of chips. About a month before, my parents also had purchased a new 27-inch Sony TV. For the time, when the standard was twenty-five inches for a tube TV, we were at the cusp of technology.

Anyway, about halfway through an episode, there was a scene where Picard, the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, had requested “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot” from his quarters’ replicator. Think of the replicator as a very quick 3D printer. In the scene, he then takes his tea and sits behind his desk reading on a tablet.

I remember thinking, “It would be amazing to have one of those tablets to read from.”

Here we are now, almost thirty years later: 60-inch widescreen TVs are standard, tablets are the norm for reading, and 3D printers have gained in popularity, soon ready for purchase at reasonable consumer prices.

Is this Star Trek? We’re getting there.

Besides future technology in the present, Star Trek had also introduced aliens of various sorts and how the United Federation of Planets expressed tolerance by not interfering with alien domestic matters. Two things I’ve learned I soon would not want to forget because of the TV show’s influence: 1) humanity has yet to encounter an alien, although scientists did find sea plankton on the outer surface of the International Space Station, and 2) humanity is anything but tolerant when it comes to anything it doesn’t understand.

At this point, the first North American colonists come to mind, but that’s another story.

ESO: Milky Way [Photo credit: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.]

ESO: Milky Way [Photo credit: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.]

Thinking about aliens, and if they do exist, I’d assume they’d have a higher intelligence than humanity. For instance, they’d have to know quantum physics in order to travel the vastness of space to reach the little corner of our galaxy. They’d also have to have a certain set of governance laws that would dictate their actions toward us, much like Star Trek’s Prime Directive, which is a simple hands-off rule.

In all practicality, though, let’s think about this for a second. If there are aliens out there, much as described in the Star Trek shows, what’s to say they haven’t already arrived having taken a hands-off approach to our civilization? It would make sense—if, in fact, they are more intelligent than any one of us. They would qualify as true observers of the human condition.

In addition, let’s say they are observing us. Who’s to say they haven’t discovered that in the midst of humanity’s short history lay civilizations burnt to the ground all in the name of progress? Moreover, let’s say they’ve learned that progress also goes by another name, that name being war, and being of higher intelligence than any one of us combined, what if they’ve decided to reside in the shadows to see where we go with our progress?

With humanity’s destruction of the planet’s resources, environmental pollution and wars, of course, can anyone blame them for hiding?

Perhaps we’re not as close to real advancement as we think—at least not according to Star Trek’s mythology.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Have you watched any of the Star Trek episodes? What do you find appealing about the show.

8 Comments

School Dance

When I was a teenager going to high school, October was the month I looked forward to the most. It was the month when the long-awaited school dance took place. In the ninth grade, being part of the student council, I got in free. It didn’t matter really, since I would have easily paid double to get in regardless of the price. For today’s Freedom Friday, let me tell you why I thought the school dance was the greatest event of the entire school year.

Gymnasium

Gymnasium

As I’d mentioned, because I was part of the student council, there were privileges attached to being the ninth grades’s representative. One of the key privileges was getting into the school events for free, particularly school dances. Our school sponsored three dances—fall, winter and spring. Typically, the fall one would take place in October, the winter one in February, and the spring dance sometime between the end of March and the beginning of April.

What made our dances special was the DJ we hired for the events. I still remember his name and for the purposes of respecting his privacy, I won’t mention it. Suffice it to say, he was incredible. Prior to the evening of the dance, which took place on a Friday night, the DJ would need the gymnasium for that whole day. He and his crew would set up these massive speakers in front of the stage that would extend from the floor to the ceiling. Other than a small opening in the center where we could see him perform, he had created an entire wall of sound. If you could imagine a rock concert, that’s the power I’m describing in the small confines of an enclosed area no bigger than a basketball court.

Anyway, when the fall dance finally came, I had to be there to make sure all the restrooms were in working order. You wouldn’t believe what went on in those restrooms. I also had to stamp the hands of those who paid their entrance fee. Once my shift was over, though, I was free to mingle. What that meant was hooking up with friends who hadn’t asked any of the girls to dance.

Like any gymnasium, it had four walls, but the students always believed there were three: First, the wall where the girls would wait for the guys to muster enough courage to ask them to dance. Second, the wall where the guys would watch the girls from across the dance floor, wondering if their self-esteem would suffer from the make-believe rejections running through their mind. Third, the ominous wall of sound where the illustrious DJ would spin the tracks.

Eventually, hanging out with the guys became somewhat boring, although we did have fun talking about what so-and-so was wearing, and of who was dating who.

Before going forward, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m writing this not out of a haughty spirit or to brag, because that’s not my intention. But when it came to girls, I never really had a problem getting dates. I attribute that to a little secret few guys knew.

The secret?

The hottest chicks were home Saturday night because guys were too chicken to ask them out for fear of rejection. Somehow, in my finite teenage mind I knew this, took advantage of the lack of competition and asked the hottest chicks out without fear of rejection. And they would go out with me!

Consequently, the night of the dance, I had no problem leaving the wall of dejected guys to stroll across the dance floor and ask the hottest of the hot to dance. And they would dance with me!

There was more to the fall dance than anyone else knew, though. Our hired police officers had to monitor the restrooms and on occasion tossed couples outside for making out in the stalls. The smell of weed hovered in the halls. Drinking in the parking lot was prevalent. And girls putting out behind the school was normal. There was a lot more that went on; however, those incidents were in the minority. The crowd I frequented was tame, and we had fun just being kids.

I think the best part of the night was the walk home. My friends and I lived in the same neighborhood so it was great talking about the stupid things we saw happen, who got in trouble, and who ended up with a suspension. Of course, girls came into the conversation, but we won’t get into that.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What do you remember about your school dance?

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Maleficent

Once upon a time, there was darkness throughout the land. The light did not comprehend it nor did it exist in the midst thereof. For within that darkness lived bitterness and anger, which swallowed goodness, and brought with it fear to those who desired peace. Out of true love’s kiss came the darkness.

Angelina Jolie is Maleficent

Angelina Jolie is Maleficent

As part of this month’s tribute to women who rock Horror, included in today’s Women Who Wow Wednesday is Angelina Jolie’s timeless Maleficent.

*** May contain spoilers. Skip to the last paragraph for the summary. ***

True love’s kiss can usher a new dawn or can destroy a land.

Protector of the Moors is Maleficent, one of the greatest fairies ever to live. She swoops and soars across her domain, giving aid to those in need during a time when the light ruled the Moors.

When she was a girl, she meets Stefan, a young farm boy who wanders on the Moors to steal treasure. An embarrassing confession later, Stefan and Maleficent grow in friendship. After a time, Stefan once again steals something belonging to Maleficent, but it happens with true love’s kiss.

As the years pass and as Stefan draws closer to greed, lust and envy, Maleficent protects the land from evil invaders who want to pillage it. She confronts the human king who wants the Moors all to himself, banishes him and hails victorious over the evil tyrant. However, it does not discourage the wicked king from enacting an edict to charge any member of his court to bring back Maleficent to the castle—dead. In exchange they will receive the kingdom as a reward.

Stefan appears again to Maleficent. All the years of loneliness that had passed between them seems as yesterday to the couple, as they share a tender moment. Once Maleficent rises from a deep sleep, Stefan is gone, as are her wings. Stefan becomes king.

Maleficent's Angelina Jolie

Maleficent’s Angelina Jolie

In the wake of her loss, Maleficent falls into darkness. Her power increases, and the seed of resentment captures her heart, left empty by the betrayal of her only love, Stefan. All the fairies bow to their new queen.

Then, King Stefan has a daughter. Maleficent, being cordial, invites herself to the christening where she bestows a gift to the princess—a curse. The little girl would grow to be sixteen at which time she will prick her finger on a spindle and fall into a deep, deep sleep, forever to remain but for true love’s kiss.

Without a doubt, Angelina Jolie is Maleficent. Beyond the incredible effects that renders her the awesome power she possesses, her subtle pose, smile and glint in her eyes conveys more than volumes of exposition. And in some respects, it makes us believe the darkness is good.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What did you think of Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of Maleficent?

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Toronto Zombie Walk

Founded in 2003, Toronto’s Zombie Walk has drawn the attention of thousands throughout the years to participate in one of the most elaborate cosplays ever. This year, however, the organizers face a challenge. Unless a generous benefactor makes an appearance, a financial shortfall may shut the doors to future events permanently.

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

Since I live an hour north of the city, I thought I’d highlight Toronto’s annual walk for my Monday Mayhem series in hopes of encouraging local readers to support this awesome event.

According to news sources, rising costs to shut down streets, insurance and policing has left organizers scrambling for donors. As of this writing, a fundraising campaign has yielded less than half of the $7,000 needed to keep the project going. Should organizers not meet target amounts, they will need to dip into next year’s reserves in order not to cancel the event.

Another obstacle organizers face is the popularity of zombies in mainstream culture that has grown exponentially for a number of years. Founders of the walk, Thea Faulds and her husband Adam Pearson, first hosted the event to a small group at Trinity Bellwoods Park. Recently, though, the crowds have grown to a massive 12,000+ attendees featuring people in full zombie garb stomping the city streets to invade Nathan Phillips Square.

Although the party is free to the public as a pre-Halloween bash, cleanup is not. With thousands of people dragging their way to the downtown core, logistics behind garbage collection efforts is astronomical.

On the positive side, the event attracts the attention of zombie fans all over the world, making Toronto a delightful tourist destination during the October offseason. Organizer, Stefania Zanini says to The Toronto Star, “It’s a family, free, inclusive event that accepts everyone. All you have to do is come in costume.”

Igor Baranov (right) [Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

Igor Baranov (right) [Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

One of those supporters is Igor Baranov, avid photographer and one of my longtime friends. Not only does he have an eye for the perfect photo, but he’s also captured the essence of the event through his wonderful imagery. Much of his work oftentimes demands him to interact with his subjects who are more than willing to pose for the camera.

Here is as sampling of his work and what the Toronto Zombie Walk is all about:

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

[Photo credit: © Igor Baranov]

If you find yourself in the Toronto Area next month (October 25, 2014), you may want to check out the walk to see firsthand what the zombie craze looks like in action. Perfect timing as well, since The Walking Dead will have also returned to AMC. What better way is there to celebrate the show than to dress up and have fun with a horde of undead?

[Thank you Igor Baranov for granting JackFlacco.com the use of your 2013 Toronto Zombie Walk photography for this post.]

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Have you participated in a zombie walk/run/event? What did you like about it the most?

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