Sunday, October 22, 2023

Movie Review: The Meg 2

The megalodon is back. With friends. Lots of friends as well as some who have no business being able to walk on land! Quick recap: Jonas Taylor (our Jason) and crew descend again into the Trench (the Mariana Trench) to investigate further and do more research. They come across an illegal mining operation and must not only survive an underwater explosion that breaks the thermal layer (thermocline), thus enabling horrible prehistoric creatures (with more teeth than is respectable!) to escape but must battle to survive the attacks by these modern-day pirates intent on plundering the depths of the ocean floor. As if that’s not enough, treachery in the environmental company puts everyone trapped in the Trench in grave danger.

If dinosaurs ever rise again, I want Jason Statham on my side. He does all his own stunts so that’s a very good reason to have him in one’s camp. Two more megs make it through the thermocline and proceed to wreak havoc in the Pacific, namely around the ill-fated Fun Island, now heavily populated by holidaymakers determined to snap selfies and have the party to end all parties. The action erupts in a whirlwind of teeth, blood, guts, guns, hails of bullets, explosions and more as Jonas and his team (bringing back the always watchable Cliff Curtis, Page Kennedy, and Jiuming Zang) must eradicate the megs and their many-fanged friends. Did I mention that a giant squid also made it through the thermocline? There’s a nail-biting scene with it and a helicopter…

Don’t expect stellar acting or a literary-style script. In fact, the dialogue is downright dreadful and clunky in places, and people would never speak like this in real life. However, Cliff Curtis and Jiuming Zang manage to create a very successful comedy duo caper amid avoiding being eaten on land and in the sea and evading the above-mentioned hails of bullets. It’s essentially a continuation of The Meg (my review here) with more teeth, more bullets, and more danger, if that’s possible. It is also very entertaining, and the action sequences are absolutely incredible.

For those of you, like me, who spent much of The Meg (part one, #SavePippin) praying that Pippin, the adorable heroic pooch, would not become a meg snack, you will be delighted to know that Pippin makes an appearance in The Meg 2 and has a tussle with the arm of the giant squid. Pippin survives! Adorable Yorkie Kelly plays Pippin admirably and with great panache in both movies even though the role involves getting soaked and we all know what that does to a Yorkie’s hairdo… Pippin’s movie action was supervised by Humane Hollywood (The American Humane Society) and the sea scenes were shot in a large heated outdoor tank in a studio. Phew!

Make popcorn, get your favourite drink, sit back, and totally suspend your disbelief. You must but it’s worth it.

PS: A tame megalodon named Haiqa (can the words ‘tame’ and ‘megalodon’ even go into the same sentence?) makes a cameo appearance in The Meg 2 and it looks as if she has ‘un petit paquet’ to offer moviegoers so there might just be a Meg 3

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Are You a Plotter or a Pantser? by Joni Parker


In a thrilling mystery of intrigue, the Elfin Keeper of the Keys, Alex, uncovers a sinister plot to steal the gold set aside for the Golden Harvest by a rival group of Elves, who will stop at nothing to get it.

Title: The Epsilon Account: The Golden Harvest Series Book 1
Author: Joni Parker
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 388
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction Hybrid

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Thousands of years ago, Eledon was created for the Elves by their Mentors when they were forced to leave Earth. At least, that’s how the legend goes. In return, the Elves must pay them a tribute in gold, known as the Golden Harvest, every four thousand years. The Elfin Council of Elders appoints Lady Alexin (Alex) Dumwalt, the Keeper of the Keys, to manage the next payment, due 244 years from now. That is, until the Mentors show up unexpectedly and demand immediate payment of the Epsilon Account. Since the Harvest has never been called that, Alex suspects foul play and uncovers a sinister plot by the Star Elves, a rival clan from the Constellations, who want to steal the gold. To make matters worse, they’re willing to do anything to succeed to include murder. Can Alex stop them and save the Elfin gold before it’s too late?

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Are You a Plotter or a Pantser?

Writers have been divided into two main categories. Those who are plotters and others who are pantsers. The plotters outline their story, do character studies, set up the world where the story takes place (world building), and gather as many details as they can before they write. On the other hand, pantsers develop an idea for a story and start writing, making it up as they go along. In other words, they write by the seat of their pants—thus the name, pantsers. 

I’m a pantser. When I come up with an idea, I give it some time to develop in my head and then sit down at the computer and let it flow out. My main character, Alex, is my ‘muse,’ and she helps guide the story along. I can even put in chapter breaks, plot twists, and logical conclusions. When I look back on it, I’m amazed at the process, but it works for me. It does require me to edit more than plotters, but I really don’t mind it. 

Most of the articles about writing implore writers to be more methodical and advocate plotting methods. I’ve read countless articles on outlining, and I’ve even tried it, but it makes me cringe just to think about it. In fact, my editor for The Epsilon Account had me outline my book after I wrote it, and she edited it. I did it, but I wasn’t sure why. I had already completed the book, and I didn’t make any changes after I did the outline. She must have been a plotter. 

Most plotters don’t understand the pantser’s methodology, and most of us pantsers can’t explain it to them. Plotters think we must be like them deep down inside because no one could write under such chaotic circumstances. But we do. So, leave us alone.

About the Author

Joni Parker was born in Chicago, Illinois, but moved to Japan when she was 8 so her father could become a professional golfer. Once he achieved his dream, Joni and her family returned to the U.S. and moved to Phoenix, Arizona. After high school, Joni served her country for 22 years in the Navy and another 7 years in federal civil service. She retired in Tucson, Arizona, devoting her time to writing, reading, and watching the sunrise.

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Thursday, October 5, 2023

The Secret to Successful Travel and Travel Writing by Alle C. Hall


Nominated for The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Book Award, Alle C. Hall’s debut literary novel, As Far As You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back is a-girl-and-her-backpack story with a #MeToo influence: Carlie is not merely traveling. A child sexual abuse survivor, as a teen she steals ten thousand dollars from her parents and runs away to Asia. There, the Lonely Planet path of hookups, heat, alcohol, and drugs takes on a terrifying reality. Landing in Tokyo in the late 1980s, Carlie falls in with an international crew of tai chi-practicing backpackers. With their help, Carlie has the chance at a journey she didn’t plan for: one to find the self-respect ripped from her as a child and the healthy sexuality she desires. Purchase a copy of the book on Amazon,, or Barnes and Noble. Make sure you also add it to your GoodReads reading list.

The Secret to Successful Travel and Travel Writing

 When I first conceived of As Far as You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back, I thought the subtitle should be, A Travel Adventure of Internal Terrain. In the novel, the main character, Carlie, practices Tai chi .Tai chi is a Chinese Daoist training. There is no separation between the body and the mind. What one experiences, the other experiences. Therefore, to me, a physical journey can only be a spiritual one.

 When I travel, I see the big sights and all, but my true pleasure comes from connecting with people. That happens when I recognize a shared humanity. To write meaningfully about travel, the surest way comes by letting the reader into what your best self has observed about thoughts of the people you meet, about their reality. It can be hard to forge any true comradery, let alone any semblance of friendship, as a white-skinned person in a country where the population is largely brown- or black-skinned and the people that are easiest to meet are those working in a service industry. It’s not that their care is fake; it’s that service industry employees have no option. That’s the job.

 However, if I travel in a way that recognizes the humanity of every person I interact with, I am far more likely to fall into a meaningful conversation or even the beginnings of friendship. When I interact as no more or less than the humans we all are, I feel the same sense of balance, purpose, and grace that happens when I do Tai chi. Having a spiritual core fed by kind people can grow to replace the nasty imprint left on a survivor by her trauma history. As much as I travel to connect with others, the spirituality of the road returns me to an emotional state of self-esteem and compassion.

 I find that the most significant obstacle to connection is language. I get that many people are fearful when they don’t speak the language of the country they are traveling in; or don’t understand the culture. Here is one of the few advantages of having survived a traumatic childhood: when I began traveling, I walked around so disassociated that it didn’t strike me as wholly different when I do not understand the language, or I put my foot in it, culturally. Guess what? Making mistakes leads to great travel writing!


About the Author

 Nominated for The National Book Award and The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Book Award, Alle C. Hall’s debut literary novel, As Far As You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back was winning prizes before its publication, including the National League of American Pen Women’s Mary Kennedy Eastham Prize. Her short stories and essays appear in journals including Dale Peck’s Evergreen ReviewTupelo QuarterlyNew World WritingLitro, Creative Nonfiction, and Another Chicago. She has written for The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and was a contributing writer at The Stranger. She is the former senior nonfiction editor at jmww journal and the former associate editor of Vestal Review. Hall lived in Asia, traveled there extensively, speaks what she calls “clunky” Japanese, and has a tai chi practice of 35 years running.

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