Sunday, November 6, 2016

Dragged into a Drug-Induced Haze with All Smoke Rises

I received Mark Matthews' All Smoke Rises: Milk-Blood Redux when it was recently nominated for a Bram Stoker award in Long Fiction. Just finished the book and thought I'd share, so here's my review:

Get ready to be dragged into a world where all smoke rises, but down is up, and up is down. This is the second of Mark Matthews' novels I've read, and it is quite good. While it needs a little polishing, his story telling is at its best, drawing you into a world you never knew existed. It stretches the boundaries of what we know, adding a little heroine with a syringe and words on a page. You'll be sucked into the book before you know it and turn the final page, wondering how he doesn't... although you probably don't want to know. Mark's understanding of the addict and self-justification is scary, but like a car wreck, you won't be able to look away.

For a mysterious ride into a drug-filled haze of a story, mystery and addiction pulling you to turn the next page, pick up your copy of All Smoke Rises: Milk-Blood Redux. It's worth it.

4/5 Stars.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Hallelujah Moment in Teaching

I had an interesting Hallelujah moment in school today. It lasted 40 minutes... an entire class.
For those of you who don't know, in addition to writing novels like A Life of Death and The Priors, I'm a high school English teacher in Akron, Ohio at a hybrid online/traditional charter school called Akron Digital Academy. I've taught in a variety of public schools over the years--inner city, suburban, rural, etc.--but I currently teach in a school where the majority of students need far more guidance and help than just an education, as if that in and of itself is something small and inconsequential. My students are often from foster homes, broken families, families living from couch to couch and far worse, many who have children of their own and are struggling to get out of the rut they've found themselves in. The hurdles they have to overcome are tremendous.
My hat goes off to those who step into the classroom to be teacher/mentor/father/mother and so much more to our students. Teachers as a whole provide something noble and unforgettable, a successful future for our children, but sometimes our students need far more or will respond in ways even they can't predict... for better or worse. While teaching in schools where students have so many hurdles to overcome is often frustrating, there are also times a bright light will stream down from the heavens, engulfing one moment in the day that creates an unforgettable memory. Today, I had one of those moments.
There is a group of students in one class who are often loud, rude, and generally take half the period up just trying to get them back on task or attempting to get them to stop distracting other students. However, today one of the "leaders of the pack" jokingly started class by saying, "Why don't you let me teach today?" We'll call him Daquan for the purposes of this post.

With a wry grin, I told Daquan, "Take it away. You teach. The warm-up is already on the board." The warm-up question was "Why is it important to understand people's motives?" It was a lead-in to an activity about author's intent and motivation where students work in groups to create their own commercials and analyze motivation--to be linked to literary analysis in a follow-up class, a fundamental in-depth concept. I've used this ploy before, seeming to give in only for the student to find seconds later that they have no idea what to do.
Daquan sauntered up to the whiteboard with a grin, dreadlocks hanging around his face, a bag of fiery Cheetos in hand, while I stood to the side, ready to step in. However, instead of acting the comedian and just wasting time like others have done in past years, Daquan repeated the warm-up question and instructed the students that they had the normal two minutes to answer it. He then went around checking answers, even grinning up at me a few times and saying, "I really like this answer."
Daquan did such a good job that I couldn't stop him and chose to encourage him further. Of course, he didn't know where the lesson was leading, the proper questions to ask to guide the follow-up discussion, or what the next activity would be, so I guided him like I've done for actual student teachers in past years, feeding him recommendations and questions to ask, stepping in to teach and provide instructions, then challenging him to keep an eye on time while also managing the groups and making sure they stay on task. While this slowed the progress we could have made theoretically, the class actually progressed much faster than it would have knowing the antics Daquan's group would have put on, and Daquan wound up learning more at the same time. This went on for the entire class.
By the end of that period, Daquan came up and said, "Mr. K, this is gonna take Monday too, right?"
I nodded with a smile.
He tentatively asked, "Since it's gonna take Monday, can I student teach then, too?"
While I wanted him to participate in one of the groups, I knew Daquan would become even more familiar with the material having to teach it, and the additional assistance of a student leader the other students look up to--although not normally under these circumstances--was something that had benefited the entire class in multiple ways. Plus, he'd done a great job! (I'm reminded of the moment Emilio and his teacher, played by Michelle Pfeifer, finally see eye to eye in the classroom in Dangerous Minds). I couldn't help but tell Daquan how well he'd done and agreed that he needed to student teach Monday.
It isn't often that Hallelujah moments like this happen and some of your worst classes all of a sudden become a microcosm of learning and participation through the assistance of students who previously anchored it down. It's an incredible feeling and I am very proud of Daquan, a student who was floundering for what to do when he graduates. While this could turn out to be just one day filled with a solitary ray of blessed light that struck Daquan, it could also potentially lead to long-term goals and the discovery of his own motivation to reach them. Daquan mentioned that he really enjoyed teaching and is now considering it as a profession. The synchronicity of today's topic and the motivation Daquan may have found also strikes me as quite coincidental. My motives are always clear, but maybe Daquan has found some motivations of his own. If teaching is his calling, all the more power to him. If it leads him to something else where he can unlock his potential, even better. I just hope he finds success.
Only time will tell...

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown Official Screening Review

"Traficant was the only congressman whose wages were being garnished by the IRS for undeclared mob bribes."
~Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown

              Eric Murphy, Writer and Director

Last night my wife and I had the pleasure of attending the Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown official release in Youngstown, Ohio, the exact location Congressman Traficant hailed from and represented. The movie has won film awards and been selected to show at film festivals across the country, from Cleveland to Austin and Beverly Hills. In a special showing at the Youngstown Playhouse I got to meet the writer and director, Eric Murphy, with Steel Valley Films. You may have seen some of his other work on the History Channel, Ancient Aliens. He seemed like a down-to-earth guy who had a very long day. The feedback from viewers was great and massively overwhelming, so I can understand the exhaustion, even from success.

If you weren't into politics before 2002 and don't know Traficant, here's the trailer:

 


For Eric's first full-length film, this was one heck of a debut. It probably helped that Ed O'Niell (Married with Children and Modern Family), a Youngstowner himself, produced the film and starred in a few interviews along with fellow local celebrity Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and college football coaching legend Jim Tressel, who is now the president of Youngstown State University. However, the bulk of the work certainly fell on Eric Murphy, and he did a fantastic job.

Congressman Tim Ryan
I must say that I was probably one of the few visitors to the region. Being Youngstown where everyone seemed to know Traficant, for better or worse, the seats were certainly filled with fans and people who had worked with the man prior to his life as a congressman. However, Eric did a wonderful job highlighting the history, both the good and bad, and explaining exactly how and why even today Youngstowners say Traficant was "our corrupt congressman" with pride. My wife Marsha has told me about the infamous Traficant for years and his Sunday morning shows, but I never fully understood how someone who could so succinctly put politicians into place with to-the-point buffoonery could be both corrupt and so well loved. Now I do. It's an intriguing tale and gave me much more insight into the region and its difficulties. The film even highlighted Congressman Tim Ryan's efforts to pick up where Traficant left off, bringing revitalization to Youngstown, a depressed city whose downfall was caused by the abrupt closing of the steel manufacturing industry after record breaking sales.

I certainly enjoyed the showing and meeting Eric. He also has great taste in hats! In fact, while there were many great lines and scenes from the movie, my favorite is still, "Traficant was the only congressman whose wages were being garnished by the IRS for undeclared mob bribes." It's a factual statement, and so absurd even I, a dark fantasy and horror novelist, couldn't make it up. So, 5 stars all the way for Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown. By all means, give it a view. You won't regret it.

Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown is currently available on VimeoiTunes, and Amazon.

Side Note: After the movie and speaking with Eric Murphy, Marsha and I stopped at a historic Italian restaurant called Cassese's MVR for dinner. It was quite good and is a favorite when we make it into the Youngstown neck of the woods. I highly recommend it. But as an entertaining end to the evening, Jim Tressel was there filling his belly, too. What a small world.


Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Friday, September 9, 2016

Paradox Review

This week's show review is the 2009 British series Paradox, now available on Hulu. When I first tried this series not long ago, I didn't realize how short lived the show was. It had decent reviews, 7.2 stars on IMDB, described as:

"During a period of high activity on the sun a physicist receives images in his lab that show an event that has yet to happen."

I watched the first episode and was only mildly entertained. It had action, good acting, paranormal events taking place, even cruel corporate oversight administrators who were willing to sacrifice people's lives to test their theories on whether you could change fate. However, rather than intrigue me, those administrators simply pissed me off.  There were also a few other things about this series that failed to gain my interest: the character backgrounds and development were nearly nonexistent, as a result I didn't really care whether they survived or not, and the reason behind the psychic images transferred through the satellite was always a black box without any real theories beyond solar activity as to its cause. Some of these things might have been further developed after episode 3, but I was not interested in finding out by that point.

Evidently I wasn't the only one. When it was released, many of the critics were not impressed either and the season ended after episode 5. For this one, I wouldn't even watch the first episode. Just move on to something better.

Paradox: 2 Stars

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Friday, September 2, 2016

Oddities Review

This week's review is on another pawn store show that found its niche, Oddities, in fact the only one I'm aware of that has sustained itself season after season. I mentioned it last week in my review of Pawn Stars. IMDB describes it as:

"New York City's Obscura Antiques & Oddities ain't your grandmother's antique shop unless your grandmother is an eccentric. Oddities follows this unique store as it deals in the strange and the bizarre, item-wise and client-wise."

In my opinion, one major reason this series successfully won out where shows like Hardcore Pawn Chicago failed was the show's unique subject matter. I am normally not one attracted to oddity shows like this, but my wife stumbled onto it and introduced me to Oddities when they were first airing season 1. After watching the first couple episodes, I couldn't look away, much like drivers rubbernecking past a traffic wreck.

So what do I mean? Well, Obscura Antiques & Oddities in New York City deals in the bizarre. I'm talking stuffed two-headed calves, Houdini's handcuffs, miniatures made out of belly lint, and so much more. If you wonder what people will bring in on Pawn Stars, it is extreme in Oddities. Additionally, celebrities with a twisted sense of entertainment like Cassandra Peterson (Elvira) often come in with requests for the Oddities staff to find.

If you are a fan of the bizarre and unorthodox, Oddities is one show for you. Currently in season 6, there are plenty of episodes to enjoy on Amazon or the Science Channel.

Oddities: 4 Stars

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Celebrating her Life, Katy Sozaeva

Katy Sozaeva
They say the only constants in life are change and death. These two are often coupled together. When we lose someone who contributed so much to our lives, there is always a hole left that they used to occupy. Earlier this week, I learned that Katy Sozaeva passed after a long fight with cancer. I worked with her for years on fine-tuning my own books and we cooperated on many edits for other authors. She was a Vine Voice Amazon Book Reviewer, a powerful editor, and a loving woman. Dmitry, I'm so sorry for your loss and what you both went through the last few years. I was heartbroken when she was originally diagnosed, but she fought the good fight. Now she can rest with a good book like she so often liked to do, lounging on a soft cloud somewhere up high, just like the kitties she adored so much like to do.
I've just been in touch with Kriss over at cabingoddess.com--a book reviewer, blogger, and great friend of Katy's. Kriss has a wonderful idea for a celebration of Katy's life. She is compiling all the great things people would like to say about Katy, everything from how she influenced authors and helped their writing to flourish to childhood memories, newly written poems in honor of Katy, and even podcasts. This is a time for remembrance, celebrating her life, and also showing how she helped us to shine in our own unique ways. In Kriss' words, "I'm celebrating her life. It can be anything, a letter to her, a memory, a goodbye, anything."
Also, if you are an author, feel free to add your bio in addition along with links to things Katy may have helped create. Include pictures, videos, audio recordings, anything that can help celebrate Katy's life and her contribution to the world at large. I know that personally she ingrained herself in almost every page I've had published thus far.
Each contribution will be posted on cabingoddess.com and cross-posted on other book blogger's sites celebrating the life and mourning the loss of one of their own, our late, great Katy Sozaeva. If you knew Katy and would like to contribute, email Kriss at cabin (dot) goddess (at) gmail (dot) com. All are welcome.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Friday, August 26, 2016

Pawn Stars Review

Another show I've grown to love over the years, as have many other people, is Pawn Stars on the History Channel. I must say, when I first heard about the show before ever watching it, I was skeptical. Come on, a show about a pawn store, really?

Really.

Others have tried to copy the success of Rick, Corey, and Richard Harrison's family owned pawn shop in Las Vegas turned television show. Unfortunately, I can only think of one that managed to find its own niche, Oddities. However, that's a very different type of pawn shop show and a review for another time.

One of the things I love about Pawn Stars is the surprising history you discover in each episode, everything from ancient mummified hands to ancient coins, celebrity autographs, historic weapons, armor, classic vehicles, and arcade games. But just seeing them negotiate over these items is only the first attraction. There is always a big question of whether the item is a forgery, and the history and information brought in by the experts in various areas really takes the show to another level.

If you've never seen Pawn Stars, I highly recommend it. If it's just been a while, you might want to look it up on television, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix to get your Pawn Stars fix.

Pawn Stars: 5 Stars

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Confessions of an Outdoorsman!

I have a confession to make about something my sister made quite clear last weekend. I blog about things I'm interested in: books, movies, shows, etc., but I'm evidently not very open with people about my interests. I hadn't even thought about it really because I grew up when computers weren't all over the place. There wasn't one in every household, let alone in every hand. Honestly, I didn't even join Facebook or Twitter till I started writing books and everyone said, "You have to have a website and social media for your books." So I did, and now I can't get away from the damned things. I have Facebook and internet access on my phone so even while I'm out fishing, you might see me reading an e-book, checking messages, Facebook, or even catching Pokemon. Talk about an addictive personality.

And because I can, here is a caterpillar
sushi roll I once had.
But evidently I never grasped the whole concept of putting yourself out there. I don't normally post pictures of meals to Facebook unless it is something spectacular, and everyday things that many people want to see, I don't even consider posting. It's not the way my mind works, but here is my first attempt at doing just that. (And no, this isn't a post about what I ate for breakfast. However, if you really want to know, I had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios.)

Need I say more?
For those of you who don't know, my wife Marsha and I are avid campers, fishers, and road-trippers. We love going out to the lake, cooking over a campfire and chatting with friends, lounging in a hammock, and throwing a line in (not necessarily simultaneously, but I've wondered how well hanging in a hammock would work while fishing). You never know what you'll see out and about, and the sights can be amazing, especially if you are into road trips. Hell, one winter we even made it to...(wait for it)... Hell--Hell, Michigan that is. I never knew there was snow in Hell, but evidently you can even be the mayor of Hell for a day. It's all official with a certificate and everything.

Marsha and I camping at Assateague Island
(I'm behind the camera)
Often it's good to just go out for an evening and fish if you can't take an entire weekend to camp, so Marsha and I go to the local pier or river, whatever's available, and throw out a line. But we've camped on the beach, in state parks, and just about anywhere you can put down a tent... except for one.

I grew up in El Paso, Texas where there were as many cacti on the ground as there were grains of sand, so camping in a tent was certainly not something you did out west in the desert. But on the east coast where vibrant, green plant life persists everywhere and water can be found just lying on the ground like a lazy hound, puddling into lakes, ponds, and oceans, it seems like camping in a razor-thin piece of tarp with nothing for protection is more than okay. It's fun. (For those of you who don't know, El Paso has almost every poisonous lizard there is in the world, and I hated stepping on scorpions while crossing the kitchen late at night as a kid. Hurt like a hell! And no, don't say it. I know what you're thinking.)

Melissa, Jonah, and Siah on Pymatuning Lake
Here in Cleveland, we go to Edgewater Pier on Lake Eerie to see what's biting. Sometimes friends will join us and we have a great time boating or just pulling in as large of catfish as we can--although more often than not, we lose more bait and tackle than we catch in fish.

Jonah with nada on the line... yet!
 But sometimes we're lucky!
This was a pretty good
size sheepshead.















And so, there you have it. Outside of books, movies, and teaching, I like the outdoors. Ohio has great spots for fishing, unlike the desert I grew up in. And yes, my favorite colors are blue and green. Who would've thought? Something was just missing in my childhood.

So, what are your outdoor interests?


Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Maytag Man. Is It the End for Colin Ferguson?

Don't you hate it when an actor or actress from a show you love seems to take a nose dive? His or her acting career faltering and seemingly becoming nothing more than a joke?

Colin Ferguson, better known as Jack Carter from Eureka and William from the show Havenis unfortunately just such an actor, although I hope I am mistaken. Now, this may have been his choice so as to spend more time with family, like in the case of Janine LaManna, better known as Carmen Sandiego in the kids show many of us who grew up in the '80s and '90s remember, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (More on that adventure at The Huffington Post.) I certainly hope it was choice for Mr. Ferguson and that he has many more great acting roles in the future, but I recently saw a Maytag commercial with Colin as the new Maytag Man mascot.




Really? Seriously, the Maytag Man? Oh how the mighty have fallen.

No, Colin Ferguson hasn't reached the caliber of Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, or Brad Pitt, but I'd put him on par in celebrity with Sandra Bullock and even Nathan Fillion, best known for his leading roles in Joss Whedon's Firefly series and the more recent popular series Castle. For fans of Eureka, Colin Ferguson has become a household name and we hoped he would reach those heights.


Don't get me wrong. Colin makes a great Maytag Man, and I like the commercials. While everyone else is advertising additional features like water dispensing from the refrigerator door and smart kitchen appliances, Maytag is going back to its roots, advertising the reliability of their products in a comical way. I don't know how reliable Maytag products actually are, but as advertisements go getting a leading man who's best known for being the sheriff in Eureka, a town full of crazy scientists where everything that can go wrong does, makes sense. He's got experience at keeping things running smoothly.

Colin Ferguson as
Eureka's Sheriff
What I mourn is Colin Ferguson's acting career. Hopefully I'm wrong and Colin still has a bright future ahead in great shows we can all love. I really enjoyed seeing him in Eureka and hated when the series was cut short by Syfy. Like many great actors, sometimes you really get to see them as friends and follow their careers, even though you've never actually met them. I'm not a die-hard fanatic skulking in the bushes to try and get a pic of celebrities behind the scenes or anything, but when I find an actor or actress I like, I want to see them do well. I can only hope that this was a personal choice for Mr. Ferguson, not the death knell of his acting career.

What are your thoughts? Any actors or actresses that come to mind who you had high hopes would do well, but didn't?

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the Altered Realities series, A Life of Death collection of novels, and Strange Circumstances

Friday, August 19, 2016

Luck Review

HBO's Luck on Amazon Prime is this week's choice for review. With the star played by Dustin Hoffman, I had high hopes for this horse-racing series. For those who haven't seen it, IMDB describes Luck simply as:

"A TV series centered around characters who are tied to the same horse-racing track."

Hoffman plays an ex-mob boss just out of prison who discovers his passion for horse racing, but his old life won't let him off that easily. Now, while I hoped this would be a great show, the pacing was almost grueling. It had enough going for it to keep me watching after the first few episodes and was getting much better toward the end of the first season.

However, evidently there was a lot of controversy between PETA, TMZ, and Hoffman's new series over 3 horses that died on set over the two years of shooting. It was enough that HBO cancelled the series due to the bad PR while shooting season 2. There were also claims of drugging the animals and other such abuses, per The Hollywood Reporter, but TMZ tried to distance itself from PETAs claims at one point. I don't know who was right or wrong, but the result limited Luck to one season.

If the complaints were warranted, I am happy that no more horses will be put through that abuse. While I wish Dustin Hoffman's series would have done better simply because I'm a fan of his past work, I can't say I am too disappointed. The pacing was slow enough to make it one you should pass on if you have something better to watch. If you can't find much else to watch, the first season of Luck is entertaining, if you can get past the initial pacing.

Luck: 3.5 Stars

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Friday, August 12, 2016

Mr. Robot Review

For my third show review, I chose the new Sam Esmail series, Mr. Robot, on Amazon Prime.

Now, I was surprised when I came across this show and uncertain whether I would enjoy it. I hadn't heard anything about Mr. Robot, but the reviews thus far were good and I've always enjoyed Christian Slater's acting.

The reviews were right. If you are into the tech underworld and flawed characters rebelling against corporate America, this show is for you. Think modern Fight Club. Rami Malek, a new actor for me, did a great job, and Christian Slater performed just as expected. Be sure to watch the entire first season. There are twists and turns that make up for the earlier slow pacing.

If you are a fan of Fight Club, the tech underworld, and darkly twisted shows, I highly recommend Mr. Robot.

Mr. Robot: 5 Stars

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Anjenique Hughes' Break-Out Novel, Sovereignty

Today I have a book review and an additional surprise. Anjenique Hughes' break-out novel Sovereignty is the topic of discussion, and to add to this discussion, Angenique herself has agreed to join us for a little interview. I tell you, it's always nice seeing where other authors started out and where their writing career leads them, what lies on the horizon you might say. The horizon looks quite good for this first-time author. As an added bonus, she is also a teacher by day, like Stephen King, and Brent Weeks. So many writers start out that way. We are in good company. Go teachers! So, before I get to my review of Sovereignty, let's meet Anjenique. 

Bio:

Yes, it's me, Anjenique “Jen” Hughes, a wacky high school English and math teacher who loves to travel and loves my students. Saying I am “young at heart” is an understatement; I happen to be fluent in sarcasm, I can break the sound barrier with my loud teacher voice (students have complained when they were within earshot), and I am never short of snappy comebacks. I am blessed to be doing what I absolutely love doing in life: teach and write. My work with ethnically and socio-economically diverse youth has inspired me to write books that appeal to a broad variety of students seeking stories of bravery, perseverance, loyalty, and success.


W: Hello there, Anjenique. Good to have you aboard.

A: Hi!

W: So why don't you tell us about your new release, get the readers into your world.

A: My book, Sovereignty, is a thrilling dytopian YA fiction novel centering around the life of three 18-year-old guys living in the 23rd century. In a city once known as Los Angeles, families live under an oppressive government regime that controls their every move through human identity chip implantation. Naturally, the teen leader of these three, Goro, is itching to rebel against the powers that be; he and his two friends embark on a treacherous road to accomplishing just that. Goro unwittingly possesses an important piece of intel that his ISIS-style dictatorship wishes to acquire, as well as the underground resistance movement. Goro has his own plan of how to proceed in rebelling, however, things never go according to plan; Goro is hurtled down a unknown path which causes him to question everything he knows to be true in life. It’s a scenario in which we human beings may very well find ourselves in the near future.

“Nothing is sacred, secret, or safe.”

W: Wow! I hadn't really thought about the ISIS connection potential, but having just finished Sovereignty, I can certainly see the similarities. I was more reminded of George Orwell's 1984 and the Divergent series initially. But you are right. This seems like it could really happen in the not-so-distant future. How does this world differ from our normal world?

A: The world in Sovereignty is different than our world in the sense that we currently do not have the government controlling everything we do and say, at least not here in the United States. We still have ample freedom and tolerance is present. In my world, hardly anything is tolerated; how you dress and how you wear your hair is strictly regulated. The technology is not that far off, though. Eventually we will have something akin to implanted micro-chips. We already have surveillance systems that allow for monitoring environments. For example, my colleague has a system set up in her home in which she can swipe an app on her phone and she can see what her daughters are doing in the living room, what her dog is doing in the yard, etc. It’s fascinating!

W: Whoa, fascinating yes... and a little scary. This is where it's so similar to 1984, like I mentioned. With the future in people's minds and the upcoming election, it's certainly a fear. So who or what inspired you to write this book?

A: In all honesty, I wrote this book for my students. They inspired me every day, and though all of them are now graduated, I still think of them often. The three main characters that are most prominent throughout the book, Cory, Alex, and Goro, are named after three students throughout my teaching career with whom I built strong relationships and whom I individually mentored. They say, “To teach is to touch a life forever.” Well, those three young men touched my life and probably taught me more than I taught them!

W: Isn't that the truth. My inspiration for writing A Life of Death came mostly from my students, so I completely understand. We grow and learn from the people we meet, even our students. I just hope I've helped them learn more than they taught me. Speaking of characters, do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning, attributes of the character, or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?

A: Great question! Most of the names I chose in the book are named after real people, either a student or a family member. Just a few names, such as Mickey and Josiah, I chose because I just liked them. The names of those who are in power were specifically chosen because they signify a darker reality and allegorically identify certain themes in the book. That is for the reader to discover and decide on their own, however! 

W: And I'm sure they'll enjoy the read. Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?

A: I would say the most challenging character to write was the ruler of the Sovereign Regime, named Davio. He is so palpably evil that I had a tough time getting him to the degree of “wicked” I wanted to portray to readers. A lot of times evil dictators can come off looking corny or cartoonish almost, and it’s a real skill to have the bad guy appear believable and seem really real, so to speak. Not sure if I accomplished this, hoping I did! LOL.

W: I can honestly say you did without going overboard. I'm a bit more gruesome in my books so have to worry about adding too much, but your balance was good. Readers will love Goro and the main characters and love to hate Davio and his subordinates. Switching gears a little bit, what is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book-related research purposes?

A: I had one of my personal Krav Maga trainers help me choreograph one of the final fight scenes during one of our training sessions! It was amazing. Krav Maga is a large part of my life, so naturally this style of combat plays a huge part in the novel.

W: I'm impressed. I think I got my green belt in Tae Kwon Do when I was a kid, but that's about as far as I went. It didn't help that my instructor took off with the money our parents paid ahead of time and ran, so I'm not so sure how accurate his teaching was... or his credentials. I think the police probably still have warrants out for his arrest in Texas twenty-five years after the fact. So, did you find anything really interesting while researching Sovereignty?

A: I found all the research I completed surrounding Navy Seals and SWAT really fascinating! I had the opportunity to speak with LAPD officers, as well as SWAT officers, in researching the tactical scenes in the novel. The Navy Seals research I conducted had me practicing knife drills and handgun disarmament as well. I also consulted my Krav instructors on a regular basis.

W: Oh man! I'd hate to be the stalker who stumbles upon you one day, not that I want you to be stalked at all. (Insert foot in mouth.) I just don't see good things in anyone's future who stumbles across your path with less than honorable intentions. Look out readers, don't mess with Anjenique Hughes! :) It's been great having you here, Anjenique. Where can readers find you on the web?

A: They can find me at www.sovereigntyseries.com. My Twitter, Facebook, Blog, and Snapchat info is all there on the home page…

W: I look forward to reading the sequel when it's finished. Have a great one!



And now for reviews. As I mentioned, I just finished this novel myself... but before I tell you what I thought, I found a Kirkus review of Sovereignty, which is a great place for very critical reviews in order to find new books. Check it out here.

And without further ado, here are my thoughts on Anjenique Hughes' first novel, Sovereignty!




Goro never realized how far his teenage rebellious streak would take him in standing up against the totalitarian reign of the 23rd century's world government, the Sovereign Regime (SR). And in Anjenique Hughes's break-out novel Sovereignty, Goro is put up against a multitude of hurdles and road blocks. It's a little slow at first, and like many first novels could benefit with some tightening for sentence structure and flow, but that doesn't stop the enjoyment. The novel picks up speed quickly when Goro ventures to his father's work during one of his deliveries, becoming a fast-paced thrill ride with revenge for personal and societal wrongs as a driving force. Reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984, The Giver, and Veronica Roth's Divergent series, Sovereignty is a page turner that fans of YA dystopian fiction will love. What's more, there's clearly a sequel on the way! Four stars across the board.


Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Friday, August 5, 2016

Stranger Things Review

For my second television review, I picked the new Netflix series Stranger Things. Haven't seen it yet? IMDB describes it as:

"When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back."

I was impressed with the show. However, surprisingly the one actress whose name drew me to watch it in the first place, Winona Ryder, turned out to be me least favorite character. This isn't to say she didn't do a good job. She did, but her characters often seem to be quirky and this one is no different.

The first season of the show was great, the perfect amount of mystery combined with sci-fi thrills and suspense. Think Hitchcock meets Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or if you're a reader, this would certainly fall into Stephen King's realm. In fact, Stephen King and others tweeted about the series, giving it two thumbs up, as reported on IndieWire. Don't get me wrong. This isn't necessarily a space series. It's a different type of science fiction. (I don't want to say too much and give things away.) However, the pacing, development, and effects are subtle and well done without going overboard, much like the skills Hitchcock and Spielberg built careers on. Matt and Ross Duffer did a great job, and I will be keeping an eye on their future work.

My only complaint was about a couple of the unrealistic D&D scenes, but I feel that can be excused. As a gamer myself, role-playing is a lot of fun, but it's not very cinematic or exciting for viewers. However, adjusting the game play for the series could have been done better.

Overall, I highly recommend Stranger Things for fans of the paranormal, small town horror stories, and science fiction.

Stranger Things: 5 Stars

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks

While I don't take requests for book reviews due to time constraints, I do listen to audio books a lot and review them on Goodreads and Amazon. So, I guess it's time I started opening those up on here for fellow readers.

For the last couple months I've been enjoying a new author I discovered, Brent Weeks. I started with his Lightbringer series, but now that I've caught up to him, I will most certainly check out his other works and the spin-off book Gunner's Apprentice. Having just finished book 3 in the Lightbringer series, I've included my review below. However, first I should include my review of book 1, so here it is:


Book 1: The Black Prism 
After discovering Brent Weeks's books on Hoopla, I couldn't help but read/listen to them. The description was intriguing. I didn't quite know what the colors involved, nor the Prism, but I'm glad I chose the series. It's wonderful. The characters have depth, the world is wide and intriguing, and the cultures make the entire thing so realistic, as much as fantasy can be. It is very reminiscent of Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

I must say that there was one thing that grated on me throughout the novel though. As a writer and editor, the overuse of passive voice was just too much. That was the only reason for the 4 star rating instead of 5.  I highly recommend Brent Weeks's Lightbringer series to anyone who loves fantasy.


Books 2 and 3: The Blinding Knife & The Broken Eye

I must say, Brent Weeks didn't skimp on books 2 or 3. They were great, and I certainly didn't see the twist ending in book 3 coming. Man! And I certainly appreciate the correction of the passive voice that was so evident in book 1. If you are a fan of magical fantasy worlds like Robin Hobb's work or George R.R. Martin, take a look at Brent Weeks's Lightbringer series. It's well worth it. Five stars across the board!

So what are you waiting for? Grab a copy of book 1 in Brent Weeks's Lightbringer series ASAP. It's well worth the read. It's available on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and most other book retailers.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Friday, July 29, 2016

MythBusters Review

For my first show review, I figured I should comment on the show I've been revisiting of late. If you've never watched MythBusters, IMDB describes it as:

"A weekly documentary in which two Hollywood special effects experts attempt to debunk urban legends by directly testing them."

MythBusters began in 2003 and is still running. Over the years, I enjoyed watching seasons of MythBusters with Adam Savage and the Hyneman as they blew up everything from vans and semi trucks to buildings, all to test common myths.

I recently checked out the series again on Hulu and discovered that there were many more seasons to enjoy. So, with my summer full on, I'm enjoying what I see, even just randomly picking up with season 11. For those who may have missed it or just haven't watched it in a while, there's tons more to enjoy! While I'll be reviewing a variety of different show types, I'll stick with the simplified 5 star review process.

MythBusters: 5 Stars

Side note: For those who are wondering about my writing, it's still coming along. I'm currently working on book 3 of A Life of Death, and it is again progressing well. More information will be forthcoming. If you haven't read my A Life of Death series, I highly recommend it, as do many others. Feel free to follow the link below to get your copy.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My First Academic Publication!

Well, for those of you who haven't heard, I recently received an acceptance email for my first academic publication! The article on inspiring reluctant readers using book clubs will be published in the Ohio Journal of English Language Arts this summer. It is about the book club I teach at Akron Digital Academy and the very positive results we've seen over the last two years.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Expanding to Movies and Shows!

For quite some time I've wanted to talk about more than just books.

Books... mmmmm, yummy books. I delve into them on a daily basis. I read them. I listen to them. I write them. I edit them. I even teach children how to read and write and develop a love of literature.

However, that isn't all there is to me, so starting today I will be branching out on this blog to include something else I enjoy immensely: movies and television shows. I will periodically review shows and movies I come across on Hulu, Netflix, in theaters, friend's recommendations, trashcans, professional development meetings, and anywhere else this world takes me.

I have been compiling a list of shows I'd like to talk about, and here's what I have so far, but many more still need to be added:

Shows
              Steampunk'd               
Stranger Things
Inked
Mythbusters
Marco Polo
Fixer Upper
The X Files
Jessica Jones
The Walking Dead
Person of Interest
Last Man Standing
Sense8
Continuum
Haven
White Collar
Myth Hunters
Helix
Dark Skies
Limitless
Agents of Shield
Game of Thrones
The Flash
Fringe
House Hunters
Mystery Files
Hell's Kitchen
Great Food Truck Competition
The Flash
Fringe
House Hunters
The Ranch
That 70s Show
The 4400
Star Trek Voyager
Star Trek Next Generation
Deep Space 9
Arrow
Star Trek Enterprise
Once Upon a Time
Chuck
Breaking Bad
House of Cards
Hemlock Grove
Eureka
CSI
CSI: Miami
CSI: NY
 and many more...

Movies
The Box Trolls   Terminator Generations  Back to the Future Trilogy
National Lampoon's Van Wilder Ghostbusters (2016)and too many more to name...


Sorry, noticed that I was going on and on with the lists... As you can see, I'm not limiting myself to the greatest new thing, simply whatever show or movie catches my fancy at the moment. So, I'll get to these and a lot more in the future.

If you have any recommendations, I am open to them. As you can see, my tastes are pretty eclectic.