Tag: Guest Post

Guest Post: Deer Santa

As I head back down from Canada, please enjoy this thematically appropriate short story from Joe McGee. He’s been a busy guy, working on his paranormal Western novel Witchslinger, dabbling in children’s picture books and pursuing his Master’s of Arts in Writing at Rowan University. You can find his web page at here, his blog here or follow him on Twitter – @witchslinger – but in any event, enjoy the story!

Courtesy Greenpeace
(A Story About Giving in Ontario’s Forested Expanse)
by Joseph McGee

Nicholas paused to catch a breath and tighten his suspenders. Damn that Weight Watchers. There was just no point system accounting for the Missis and her constant cookie baking. Sure, it kept the elves working, but dammit, he was not getting any smaller. A few more trays of cookies and Ontario might find its toy allotment replaced with his alLOTment of bulk next year.

Focus, Nick, he thought. Remember why you’re here and not enjoying your box seats where the Maple Leafs were undoubtedly knocking the crap out of Crosby and the Penguins. All you need is one good reindeer.

Teaching it to fly? That was the easy part. Teaching it not to drink and fly? That was the hard part. Thanks, Blitzen. I’ll be sure to choose your replacement’s name with a little more foresight.

He followed the trail he had picked up that morning. There were two of them. When he came upon their droppings around midday, he knew for sure they were reindeer. Nicholas prided himself on knowing more than just who was naughty and who was nice.

He caught up to them with a couple of hours of sunlight remaining. The reindeer had stopped to forage in a small clearing. Nicholas settled into a spot far enough from detection, yet close enough to keep tabs on them. He needed a few moments to unpack the rifle from the cloth case, fix the scope and ready the dart. He was as quiet as quiet could be. He’d had plenty of practice at remaining undetected.

They were still grazing when he took the rifle in his hands.

Nicholas raised it to his shoulder. He pressed his cheek against the steel and stared through the scope. Natural breaths, he thought. Don’t hold it in. His fingertip tensed on the trigger, dancing a fine line between squeezing and laying off. He’d have one shot. One chance to bag his reindeer. If he missed, they’d be off and he would be dragging his ass through this spruce and wolf riddled expanse of forest for another few days. The Easter Bunny doesn’t have these problems, he thought.

He trained the crosshairs on the smaller of the two. Smaller, but not by much. And slender. If he went for bulk over grace, he would never hear the end from Donner (who, incidentally could go without some cookies himself, hmm? He’ll be getting a mirror this year, Nicholas thought). Besides, he would be the one dragging it back to the camp site. With 4 cc tranquilizer darts, the deer would be out for a while.

Nicholas counted down from ten, in his head.
The reindeer looked up, staring toward his cover. Its muscles tensed. Its eyes narrowed and it stopped chewing.
3 … 2 …
It winked at him. Looked right through the undergrowth and log cover and winked.
… 1 …
Nicholas squeezed the trigger on his exhale. Something crashed across the back of his head. The gun fired. His body slumped. The world went dark.

When Nicholas awoke, he found himself chained to a tree. His rifle was gone, his head throbbed and every time he blinked, a zing of pain like a dentist’s drill pierced the back of his skull.

The metal cuff on his wrist was squeezed so tight that it was rending his flesh. He had dirt in his mouth and leaves in his beard. Maple leaves, he chuckled, inwardly, and then groaned. No sudden movements, he thought. But even thinking hurt.

“What the hell happened?” he said. It was a whisper. A whisper was all he could stand. “Hello?”

Silent, grey shapes padded out of the forest. Wolves. Easily a dozen, with ears pinned back and teeth bared. They fanned out, circling him like a toothy wagon train.

“Oh, I get it,” said Nicholas, tugging at the chain and biting down the painful cry that almost gurgled up from his throat. “Send a message to the poacher. Hohoho, good one. You got me.”

The wolves did not make a sound. Drool collected at the corners of their mouths and glistened on the sharp points of their teeth. Their eyes were searing blue points of hunger and intensity.

“Look, I understand,” Nicholas said. “You’re activists. You got me. You have my rifle, you saved the reindeer. I don’t know how these wolves are listening to you, but I won’t do it again. Just…just come out and let me go.”

He tugged harder on the chain gaining only a rattle and fresh blood as the cuff further tore the skin.

“But I’m Santa, dammit. I’m Santa. You can’t harm Santa!”

The two reindeer he’d been tracking appeared at the edge of the wolf ring. Nicholas watched as they strode into the center of the clearing, unmolested by the predators around them. They stopped a few feet from him.

“You … but …”

Words refused to form on his tongue. When the slender deer he’d had in his sights transformed before him, all thoughts froze.

Where two reindeer had stood, there was only one. Its partner was now a pale girl whose nakedness was only partially concealed by her long, auburn hair.

“What, in Jack Frost?” said Nicholas.

She smiled down at him. “It seems Christmas comes early for us.”

Nicholas laid his finger aside of his nose.

“Your magic won’t work here,” she said. “This is our home and native land.” She turned to address the largest of the wolves, the one whose mouth seemed large enough to swallow Nicholas’s own in one gulp. “As agreed, Bearkiller, we give you a gift of tribute. We give you a sacrifice in exchange for your wolves letting our people live unharmed.”

The massive wolf pressed its icy, wet nose up against Nicholas’s own ruddy one. Bearkiller’s breath reeked like putrid meat and soured milk.

“And what better gift to give other than the world’s largest exporter, Nicholas Claus?” said the naked, nubile girl. “A poacher who has built his empire on the backs of lies, slaves and extortion.” She spit in her palm and held out her hand. “Seal the deal, Bearkiller. Santa is yours. My people live without fear for another year.”

Bearkiller licked the spittle from her palm.

Nicholas watched as the girl turned, twisted violently and fell to the ground, writhing. In seconds, her body had transformed, becoming once again the reindeer he’d had in his sights.

It was the last thing he saw before the wolves set upon him.

– Footnotes –

Some fun facts**:

The Migratory Woodland Caribou (or woodland reindeer) have become threatened in their habitats, with the exception of those living in the Northern Canadian forests.

Santa’s reindeer must be female (or castrated males, which makes Santa’s fate even more deserved, heehee) because male reindeer lose their horns during the winter.

Canada’s boreal forest covers about 60% of the country’s land area, ranging from sparsely treed areas to regions with 80-100% forested cover. These forests are home to many species of plant, insect and animal, to include caribou and the Gray Wolf (the most effective natural predator of the adult reindeer).

Tranquilizer dosages vary with the drugs used, but on the average, it takes 2 CC’s to tranq a deer and 5 or 6 CC’s to tranq a grizzly bear.

**Facts researched via Wikipedia

Guest Review: Watchmen

Today’s guest post comes to us from Eric LeVan. I have the distinguished pleasure of working with this gentleman on a daily basis. I asked for guest posts and he responded by sending me his thoughts on the movie Watchmen. My original thoughts on it can be found here. Eric’s personal blog is Cheesy Bacon Jesus.


Since it appears that the entire world has a subscription to Netflix, I decided to join up for the free month of snail mail entertainment, and the occasional instavid. One of the first movies I placed in my queue and therefore received was Watchmen.

While the only two comics I’ve ever actually read religiously are The Exiles and Kick-Ass, I generally have a pretty good knowledge of a comic’s back story before I see the motion picture rendition. Watchmen was an exception. Knowing nothing about Watchmen before viewing it, I was amazed to discover that in lieu of being a cookie cutter superhero movie, it was in fact a philosophical challenge of self discovery with the more general theme of the cause and effect of human nature surrounding it.

My expectations were simply another super hero movie that would probably fail to generate any type of connection with its audience–one that was fully meant to appease the general nerd public and to line the pockets of the studio that created it. So easily it seems that the quality of films coming out today suffers through remake after remake and general lack of originality.

Watchmen started off strong with the assassination of The Comedian, a superhero with superior fighting skills, whom at the time I was not sure was a good guy. After the assassination sequence, the film led you down a montage of the past showcasing super heroes who either died or went into hiding in order to avoid the backlash from collateral damage and public unease that their existence seemed to generate. This was all in response to the growing cold war in which Richard Nixon was entering his fourth term as president, a real doppelganger to FDR.

The main plot of the movie is spent looking back through the history of the superheros and their trials and tribulations. The main focus is The Comedian since in present time, the remaining group of super beings is trying to uncover the details of his murder. The Comedian is truly an antihero. He killed his enemies and sometimes civilians without hesitation and he laughs about it only because it’s all one big joke, that in the end, in the grand scheme of the universe, it all truly doesn’t matter. This theme is repeated throughout the movie by the nuclear wonder, Dr. Manhattan.

With Watchmen, I found that I rather enjoyed the occasional non sequitur of deep thought moment to bone crushing violence. It was certainly a far cry from the norm and anyone that knows me knows that I love innovation on existing genres. It felt like I was watching an illegitimate love-child of the X-Men and The Incredibles and I rather enjoyed it.

The character “Dr. Manhattan” weirded me out a bit, however. While he was purported to be an omniscient being, the result of a nuclear experiment gone wrong, he was still taken advantage of in multiple ways, causing him to simply teleport to another galaxy at the end of the movie (spoiler alert, Snape kills Trinity with Rosebud). It begged the question, why had he even joined a “side” in the complex turmoil involved amongst the world’s nations. It was said over and over throughout the movie that he simply didn’t understand humans, yet there was scene where was making guerillas in the Viet Cong explode. As a super-set to all the other superheroes he just didn’t seem to fit among the story very well while still playing a crucial role in its development.

I absolutely loved Rorschach. He was a character that I simply wanted to be. He overcame a childhood of extreme negativity and used it to fuel not only his abilities, but his commitment to truth and justice. His superhero persona was absolutely perfectly fitted to him and wasn’t indicative of the usual “Awesome Man” super-being nomenclature. I truly felt for him throughout the whole movie. Of all the characters, he had only one crisis of conscience throughout the course of the movie, and once he overcame it, he set himself on the right path until the very end.

All around I’d call it a very fun watchable good movie, although the Dr. Manhattan thing still doesn’t sit very well with me. Watchmen mixed broken souls, astrophysics, sweet violence and nudity all into a tasty cake of storytelling. I greatly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a great story about extraordinary people coming to terms with their own ordinary flaws.

Guest Review: Knight & Day

Andrew Gyorkos brings us today’s guest post. He is an undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. His focus is on writing, journalism, and film. He does a lot of reviews. His personal site can be found at Confederate Wing Enjoy!

Knight and Day

There are people out there who would have you believe that a film which is likely to have no lasting impact on its audience, a film which is disposable, is a film which should not be praised or advocated under any circumstance. Such movies can be proficient in all other regards, featuring strong performances, exhilarating action, breezy pacing, and technically solid production, yet some people would still readily condemn it because a certain substantial quality is lacking. For many, Knight and Day is just such a film. Because its primary goal is to entertain and not necessarily to engage, one might indeed have difficulty recalling some of the finer details of the proceedings after the end credits roll. But why such a fact should be used to devalue either the experience of watching the film or even the merit of the entire production strikes me as being rather curious. If I enjoyed watching the movie, does it really matter if I can remember the enjoyment of watching it weeks, days, or even mere hours later?

This is exactly the question I had in mind not after watching Knight and Day itself, but rather after watching Movie Bob’s review of Knight and Day on “Escape to the Movies”. Before I go any further, however, I wish to make clear that the last thing I want to sound like is a critic who feels the need to validate their own opinions by making sure they align with that of either the professionals or the majority, and that I certainly hope that my reviews over the years don’t come off as sounding as such. It is withextreme apprehension that I dare even to mention the opinions of another as I detail my own sentiments. Having said this, it bears reiteration that Movie Bob was rather dismissive of Knight and Day in his review, largely owing to its rather disposable nature. While I agree that it is disposable, I disagree that it ought to be dismissed outright. The review that follows will be neither a direct response to Movie Bob’s position nor a disingenuous contrarian perspective. What it will be is the same sort of review you may have come to expect from me, the inevitable writing of which was inspired by Movie Bob and prompted by an opportunity from Josh Loomis (from Blue Ink Alchemy). I simply felt that I owed you, the reader, this brief preface explaining my unique frame of mind during this particular reviewing process.

Hot on the heels of the abysmal Killers, Knight and Day would initially appear to be cut from the same cloth of big names resigned to conducting an action romantic comedy trainwreck. Appearances can be deceiving, however, and it wouldn’t be entirely fair to discredit Knight and Day just because its one-line synopsis might resemble a disaster not yet a month old. So while the “innocent girl hooking up with mysterious lethal man” angle is unusually familiar for June 2010, you shouldn’t let the dreadful reception of one movie sour your enthusiasm for the other, no matter how similar they appear to be.

Using a peculiar blend of action, romance, and comedy, Knight and Day spins a pedestrian tale of international intrigue, presumably dumbed down so that it may amplify the effects of its disparate angles. The success of its genre mélange, especially the comedic tendencies, is largely owed to the immeasurable charm and charisma of Tom Cruise’s murder machine, Roy Miller, whose dreamy gaze and blunt reassurances can melt away all worry of imminent death even after he’s just shot you in the leg. The brand of humour on display here is easy to appreciate yet hard to describe. It’s neither the silly ineptitude associated with spy parody, nor the vulgarity associated with the modern day comedy of Kevin Smith or Judd Apatow. It’s the sort that comes from reacting to real, violent situations without expressing any real concern, treating the threats of rogue government agents and assassins as if they were nothing to be worried about, and trying to compel a companion who’s clearly not used to such scenarios to see it the same way.

This companion would be June Havens (Cameron Diaz) who had the unfortunate pleasure of being on the same flight to Boston as Roy Miller, a flight of which the two were the only survivors and thus became unlikely companions. Together, they travel the globe trying to prevent a powerful perpetual energy source from falling into evil hands, each trying to gain something very different from the experience. Roy is aiming for redemption and the restoration of his honour and integrity, and June is presumably aiming for the thrill of international espionage (and if she can have Roy fall in love with her, then so much the better).

Mixing romance and comedy isn’t a ground breaking formula, nor is further spicing it with action. What does break new ground, however, is when all three elements manage to work together to create a desirable product.  Romance and action don’t blend as well as one might be tricked into thinking after 48 years of James Bond movies. Whereas action relies on suspension of disbelief to be effective, romance needs honest and genuine scenarios with believably compatible leads to work. If you’re going to make a real world action thriller with lead characters who are expected to fall in love with each other, and still want to make it funny as well, you’re going to be facing quite a challenge.

The way Knight and Day responds to such a challenge is, thankfully, quite clever. Instead of following Roy’s lead for the entire running time, an effort is made to let June have an active role.  She’s the one, in fact, who made romantic advances on Roy. Albeit this was mere moments before she discovered his assassin-like attributes, and thus may seem to have been committed to him, if only subconsciously, well before the man of mystery business goes international. Or rather, this could be interpreted to be the case. Details that would shed some light on the rationale behind some of the character’s decisions seem to be glossed over to facilitate intrigue. Why doesn’t June walk away from Roy when he gives her the opportunity, for example? Or why doesn’t Roy just kill June or leave her to the whims of fate and the agencies after them for the sake of his mission?  The occurrence of these questions could alternatively be seen as script failures, but ideally, I think that it should be left to the actors to make the romance convincing and not exclusively the script to indicate as such. And if my own explanations for the film’s inconsistencies still seem flimsy, then I must ask you, what good is a secret agent without his secrets?

With a focus more on energy and action than on logic, the biggest crime of which Knight and Day may well be accused is of being boring. And while I can’t in good conscience say that there’s never a dull moment, certainly there is never a dull moment that lasts for too long. From the opening set piece on an airplane to the ending confrontation in Spain, an effortless fluency of pace is kept.  It’s not wall-to-wall action by any stretch of the phrase, but a real sense of urgency and tension does exist when the guns aren’t drawn. And when they are, the action is colourful and well choreographed. After years of big budget superhero films which settle disputes in cityscapes with satisfying thumps and crunches, it’s refreshing to see the humble street vehicle chase make an appearance in something other than a Bourne film.

In fact “refreshing” is just the word I’d use to describe Knight and Day in its entirety. It’s colourful, energetic, immensely enjoyable when approached from the right perspective, and, most of all, features an action star who doesn’t brood and mope around all day. So why the negativity for a film whose only ambition was to entertain for two hours, a film which is more thoroughly realized than can be said for anything made by Michael Bay post-Transformers? Is there no longer a place for the modest spy adventure between blockbuster superhero adaptations, low budget and low profile science fiction brilliances, and “love to hate” disaster spectacles that sink back into the mire whence it came? Did the filmmakers commit some sort of betrayal or offence by creating a movie that accomplishes precisely what it set out to do?

If anything about Knight and Day needs to be questioned, it’s why such filmmaking excellence and verve was spent on a rather generic action romantic comedy set up and not something more befitting of the talents involved. At the risk of sounding condescending, the average moviegoer won’t look this far under the surface. They likely won’t appreciate credits like “Director – James Mangold” and “Cinematographer – Phedon Papamichae”, despite their collaborations on such films as Identity (2003), Walk the Line (2005), and, most recently, the brilliant 3:10 to Yuma (2007). They’ve queued up for names like Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, perhaps in the hopes that their first shared movie in nearly a decade is more coherent than whatever Vanilla Sky (2001) was about. Names that the general movie-going public must still be somewhat apprehensive about, thanks to Tom Cruise’s couch-jumping Katie-loving shenanigans, and the fact that Cameron Diaz really hasn’t seen a role of this magnitude or caliber since the Charlie’s Angels sequel in 2003 (Shrek notwithstanding).

And if I’m to be entirely honest, I queued up for Knight and Day precisely because of Tom Cruise. General confidence in his ability allegedly skyrocketed after his outstanding cameo as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder (2008), but my own confidence in his ability never really wavered. He’s still the same stellar actor from Minority Report (2002), The Last Samurai (2003), Collateral (2004), and Mission Impossible (1996, 2000, and 2006), questionable public persona be damned. The only real problem here is that Knight and Day seems to bank on the knowledge that most people are in the theatre because they want to see the actors and not necessarily because they want to see the movie. For this reason, you never really manage to suspend your disbelief.  Obviously the real Tom Cruise doesn’t hop on government cars speeding down the interstate the same way he hops on couches during day time talk shows, yet you still feel like you’re watching the escapades of Tom Cruise and not his character, Roy Miller. Diaz’ character also suffers the same problem, except she’s afflicted mostly due to proximity. In the same way that you never really buy into Tom Cruise’s character, you never really buy into Tom Cruise’s character’s love interest.

Strangely, this natural aptitude for stargazing doesn’t extend to the supporting players. Peter Sarsgaard is menacingly meticulous and understated as the antagonist who may or may not actually be evil, Viola Davis comes across as the tough as nails agency director who’s been tempered in a bureaucratic man’s world, and Paul Dano (whom you may remember as “Klitz” from The Girl Next Door [2004]) is the film’s linchpin scientific savant. As an alternative to enjoying the frequent rollicking action set-pieces, it becomes rather fascinating to watch both well portrayed archetypal characters and characters who can’t outgrow their actors interact with each other. I’m still there for the action, mind you, but it’s an intriguing sublevel which is worth noting.

Yet in the end, a person goes to the movies aiming to spend $10 on two hours of surefire entertainment, not enlightenment. Knight and Day doesn’t offer nirvana, nor does it purport to do so.  However what it does claim to offer is fun, the delivery of which is so rousing and effortless that, in some regards, only the most miserly of people would be unwilling to praise it for that, at least. Having said all this, let me conclude directly by saying that I highly recommend Knight and Day. It’s not the best movie you’ll ever see, nor is it the most memorable, but I personally find undeniable brilliance in its levity and charm. So as a staunch advocate as “cinema as fun”, Knight and Day earns my highest commendation.

Guest Post: Zen and the Art of Writing

Aron Anthony is a freelance Graphic Designer, writer, and yoga instructor. He has written several short stories and two books, which received a number of impressive rejection letters. His third book, it on it’s second editing for publication. Lost Gods is a dark humorous sci-fi/fantasy adventure. A re-telling of Olympian mythology, Lost Gods is the story of two brothers, separated at birth who must come together to overthrow their tyrannical father, Don Cronus, a notorious CEO, Mafia Boss and possibly a God.

Interested readers and critiques should contact the author for a free manuscript.

Today’s Blue Ink Alchemy guest topic is Zen and the art of writing.

It is said that Zen is unknowable, it cannot be defined. Yet oddly enough Webster’s has managed to define it.

Zen (noun): An approach to religion, arising from Buddhism, that seeks religious enlightenment by meditation in which there is no consciousness of self.

Note : Deliberately irrational statements are sometimes used in Zen to jar persons into realizing the limits of the common uses of the intellect. One well-known example is, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Sounds like a pretty good definition to me. Did those monks I lived with at the Zen monastery lie to me? I wouldn’t put it past them, a bunch of grumpy bath-robe wearing bald Asians. No sense of humor whatsoever.


The first part, I’m sure you have all heard before; no consciousness of self. I know it sounds like some kind of new age hippy thing; drop off your ego, expand your mind. But if you’re to succeed in any creative endeavor this is pretty important. Trust me, if you’re a professional artist and you still have an ego, it will quickly get crushed. That’s because art is subjective. This is one of the key principals of Zen. Every point of view is extremely narrow, and the same thing that one person thinks is brilliant another will see as utter crap.

The point is that the only way to stay sane is to not be attached to one view point or one particular idea. I once read a book when I was seventeen called Staying Sane in the Arts.
Honestly I have no idea what the book was about and the fact that I was reading something about trying to stay sane at seventeen probably says it all. However the implication is that it’s hard to stay sane in the arts. Most of the time you have no external validation or structure and one thing that seems brilliant, can quickly seem like drivel when you wake up, hung over, in Tijuana, and the only fan of your writing is a 300 peso prostitute named Jose.
This is the heart of Zen. You need the awareness and flexibility to adapt to the strangest situations that life and your art will inevitably take you.

This brings us to the second part of the equation. Using seemingly irrational devices to jar a person into realizing the limits of the intellect. What does that mean? Again I have no idea. Fortunately Webster’s gives the example of a Koan, or Zen riddle; what is the sound of one hand clapping. I don’t know what that means either and even if I did I’d have to kill you. Those monks are pretty uptight about that kind of thing.

Essentially the idea is to take seemingly unrelated ideas and turn them into a tool to enlighten. If this sounds familiar, that’s a common technique of writers. Take some random ideas and try to make a story from them. Let’s try this, shall we? I thought of the first three articles I came across today.

While I was waiting for a video to load I had to watch this horrible commercial from AT&T. Perhaps I’m the only one that finds it disturbing but a video depicting the world becoming covered by a shining bronze colored substance may not the best idea when we have an oil spill in the gulf threatening to do the same thing. But I digress. Now we have our problem.
The second item of interest was the androgynous person Justin Bieber, apparently a pop-idol among both twelve year old girls and lesbians. He unwisely had a contest to see where his fans would send him on his world tour date.

Justin Bieber

Those savvy fans have decided his first stop should be North Korea. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20009827-10391698.html Since North Korea doesn’t have internet access I would presume that the dictator Kim Jong-il is behind this nefarious scheme to lure Bieber to North Korea and keep him as his lesbian slave. One can only hope. Now we have our antagonist and protagonist, though for the life of me I can’t figure out which is which. A certain amount of ambiguity is always best when developing your characters.

Kim Jong Il

The final element is a story about Paul the Psychic Octopuss, who is now an impressive 7-1 with his predictions of World Cup Soccer outcomes.

Paul the Psychic Octopuss

Paul can act as the side kick to Bieber, and a wise advisor.

I don’t know about you but I’d read that story. Anything could happen, who knows maybe you will write it. Feel free to use my idea and post your stories! I can’t tell you where to go with this, but i do know how the story should end. So I will leave you this Koan, a Zen story if you will. I’m sure you will agree, this says it all.

Justin looked over the dark waters covered with oil. The cities burned across the horizon and walls of black smoke reached into the sky, blotting out the sun. He had escaped, but at what price? Kim Jong had been true to his word, he’d spared no living thing in his mad war to return Justin to his loving embrace. Justin knew what Helen of Troy must of felt like as she looked at the smoking ruins of the armies that had fought for her release. History repeats itself.

He felt Paul move a golden lock of hair from his eyes and wipe a smoke streaked tear from his face with a gentle caress of his tentacle. Justin reached up and patted the Octopus, perched on his head.

“You were right Paul,” Justin sniffed. “You were right about everything. But then, you always are.”

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