Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful - Movie Review

I don't know about you but I enjoy me a good fantasy every now and again. Recently I saw "Oz the Great and Powerful". I was really looking for to this one. I'm a big fan of James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Rachel Weisz. So, with a great cast, stellar effects, and another tale out of the land of Oz, I thought this had to be a great flick! I have to say though it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

The story starts in black and white boring old Kansas at the county fair. We meet the Wizard/con artist Oscar Diggs a.k.a Oz a carnival magician who dreams of bigger things but isn't a very honest fellow. Needless to say his little white lies get him into trouble and he has to flee the carnival in a hot air balloon. Then, suddenly he's caught up in a tornado and when the storm is over he finds himself in a strange new (colorful) land. He happens to meet a very attractive young Witch called Theodora the Good. She informs him that he has landed in Oz and that it's been prophesied that a great Wizard would fall out of the sky and save Oz from the evil Witch. So she assumes he's the Wizard they've been waiting for and takes him to the Emerald City to rule as King. However, on the way, he puts the moves on Theodora and she becomes convinced their in love and she will be his Queen. At the Emerald City he meets Theodora's sister, Evanora another good Witch, of course. Oz decides to pretend to be the Wizard they've been waiting for after seeing the royal treasure. Only problem is he can't be crowned King until he kills the evil Witch. So begins his real adventure. Up to this point I really enjoyed the movie.

I won't tell you to much more of the plot since I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen it. I will tell you why it lost me a bit in the second half of the movie. (SPOILER ALERT) At one point one of the "good" Witches is convinced to eat a poison apple that will kill her heart so she will not feel heart break. One of the side effects is that it turns her from a beautiful woman into the the horrible green faced wicked Witch of the West we all know from "The Wizard of Oz". It's not a bad twist to the tale, however, the make up and fake nose are a tad corny. When the newly-turned wicked Witch of the West appears to confront Oz the Wizard the actress's performance was lacking. It's supposed to be a menacing scene but it's rather lame if you ask me. Part of the reason I say this is because of her costume in this scene. She is dressed in a black classic Witch hat and a black low-cut dress (showing lots of cleavage with tattered frayed skirt that shows lots of leg). I felt this was out of place because she decided to turn evil because she hated the Wizard, when the poison apple turned her into a hideous creature, she said she wanted to stay that way instead of fixing it, that she wanted the Wizard to see her that way and know it was his fault. So, if this is the case, I don't think her character would then choose to wear a sexy outfit to go with her new ugliness. It's not a big deal but it took me out of the film a bit. Also, I felt Michelle Williams was a little disappointing as Glinda the good Witch of the North. She looks the part but I felt she was a little stiff. Rachel Weisz was by far the best Witch in the film in my opinion. Even James Franco (the Wizard) delivered a few lines that were  sort of lame. Over all it was a good film but it definitely could have been a little better. So, all in all, I have to give this film a rating of two and a half stars. It's fun, the production quality is great, and if you're a fan of family friendly fantasy's then this movie will appeal to you. You can view the trailer of this flick below.

Now go forth and check it out for yourself. And afterwards drop me a line and let me know what you thought of it.

R.J. Craddock

Monday, May 13, 2013

Dyslexic Novelist

As children, we dream of who we’ll be or what we’ll do when we grow up. Most of us were told by our parents, teachers, or friends that we could do anything! “Be whatever you want to be.” This kind of encouragement and blind faith in the potential of a child has helped some of the greatest individuals throughout history become who they are. However, what do you say to a child whose dreams seem impossible? What do you say to the little girl who believes she was born to be a writer but is diagnosed with dyslexia? What if this child grows up in a public school system that seems either to be unaware of how to handle dyslexia or just doesn’t seem to care? How do you encourage this child to pursue this goal? What if they can barely spell, reads things backwards, can’t remember the rules of grammar, and gets discouraged in school because no one seems to know what’s wrong with her? Fortunately now days there are dyslexia organizations that can help these types of kids. Unfortunately, for me, when I was a child there was no help. I was that little girl with the impossible dream.

I knew from a very young age that I was meant to be a writer, that it was in my soul. However, it became apparent in Kindergarten that I had some kind of learning disability. A disability that seemed to affect how I spoke, read, wrote, spelled, and my very ability to recall information. On the other hand I was very creative, imaginative, and had a very high IQ. This seemed to puzzle my teachers, who didn’t understand how I could excel in some things but be completely hopeless in others. It wasn’t until high school that I truly understood my condition and how it affected me.

Then, I had the good fortune to be a student of a great English Teacher named Mr. Garlan Fitzgerald. He encouraged me in a way no one else really had. He saw the poetry in my writing, appreciated my unique author’s voice and told me I should be a novelist. This helped me gain some confidence but sadly I was still too insecure, too afraid to even submit my poems to the high school literary magazine. Still, I kept writing and developing my stories in secret, only really showing them to the people closest to me. Now I’m almost thirty (sigh) and finally I’m in a place in my life where I feel confident enough in my talent as a writer to share it with the world. I have been blessed to marry an exceptional man who has encouraged me in the same way my teacher once did and then some. He’s helped me overcome a lot of my struggles and I wouldn't be here now with my first novel published if it weren't for him.

Now, I’d like to give back to others like me. I don’t remember hearing of a dyslexic author when I was growing up; maybe there are others out there, maybe not. Either way I’d like to show the youth today that it really is possible to do anything you put your mind to even if your mind doesn't work like everyone else’s. So, it is my intention to donate ten percent of the profits earned from my book “The Forsaken” to a dyslexia foundation. Good teachers are the key to conquer learning disabilities. As well these organizations which need funding to help provide services to the families who can’t afford expensive tutors, so that everyone can be helped. I’m still shopping around for the right dyslexia charity. Royalty payments are only paid quarterly so for now I’ll just have to look forward to the day that I can give a little back. I hope that after you read this you might consider if there is a child in your life who needs help like I did. If there is, I hope you try to support, encourage, and love them in any way you can. It is amazing how a little bit of faith from another can give hope to the hopeless and change the course of a person’s life.

Below I've added a few links to dyslexic organizations and sites for further information on dyslexia for those of you who aren't familiar with the condition.

Now go forth and buy my book (you know you want to!) and remember that each copy of “The Forsaken” sold could help a child overcome a learning disability and achieve their impossible dream. Thank you!

R.J. Craddock

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wattpad do you think?

So, I've got some great news! My first shipment of "The Forsaken" arrived today! I'm overcome with joy. I'm happy to say that the book looks even better in my hands than I imagined it would. I've done my geeking out over it and now it's back to business.

I've got a lot of book promoting to do and I'm a one woman team. So to help boost enthusiasm for my book, I will be releasing one chapter a month on Wattpad. This way readers can get a taste of my writing style and if they like the story they can share it with others. Wattpad is free to join, and everything on the site is free to read. If you don't mind reading the book like an old time serial in a newspaper, and you're short on funds, you can read my book here. However, I should warn you that "The Forsaken" consists of a prologue and fifteen chapters. As a whole (with prologue) it is 349 pages. My chapters average at about eighteen pages each. By the time the whole book is posted on Wattpad, the second book "The Offspring" will be released. Also, I plan to only leave the book in its entirety on Wattpad for a week before I will remove most of the book, leaving only segments as samples. However, once book two is out I will do the same thing with "The Offspring" and so on until the entire series is published. Right now you'll find the prologue and chapter one on my Wattpad page. Tomorrow I will upload Chapter Two. I'll make sure to keep you all informed as new chapters are posted to my page. I'm going to keep it short and sweet today, so that’s it for this blog.

Now go forth and check out my Wattpad page httphttp://static.websimages.com/JS/Punymce/plugins/emoticons/img/trans.gif/wattpad.com/RJCraddock or if you can't wait over a year to read the whole thing through than you can just go get it at www.rjcraddock.com. Happy reading!

R.J. Craddock

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Night World - Book Review

Vampires, Werewolves, Witches, and Shape-shifters; they live among us without our knowledge. Night World is their secret society, a secret society with very strict rules, and falling in love breaks all the laws of the Night World. A good comparison to Adrian Monson's Vampire novel "Dissension" is L.J. Smith's "Night World" published by Simon Pulse.

A young adult series that also features Vampires and other supernatural beings; the author also has a similar tone of voice to Monson's. You might know L.J. Smith better for her bestselling series "The Vampire Diaries", the books that inspired the popular TV show.

"Night World" is comprised of four volumes; each volume includes three separate tales. These stories at first seem to have nothing in common, other than the fact that a human(s) comes into contact with a member of the Night World, the encounter changing the course of their lives forever. However, each tale intertwines into a rich tapestry of death, magic, danger, mystery, ancient civilizations, blood, and forbidden love.
In Volume One of this Saga the three tales are: Secret Vampire, Daughters of Darkness, and Spellbinder.
Secret Vampire: fun-loving Poppy discovers two startling truths: first, she's dying of terminal cancer. Second, her best friend, and secret crush, James, is actually a born Vampire (she explains this concept in the book; you'd have to read it to understand). James could save Poppy by making her immortal, but it's against the Night World's law to make new Vampires. The punishment for breaking this law is death.

Daughters of Darkness: when three Vampire sisters are on the run from The Night World they hope to take refuge with their estranged aunt who lives in a small human town, only to find out that their aunt has been murdered. With the help of siblings, Mary-Lynnette and Mark (humans), they set out to solve this mystery, all the while trying not to get caught by their own kind.

Spellbinder: After being expelled yet again, high school seniors, Thea and Blaise; two Witch cousins find themselves starting a new school in the middle of the school year. If they get into any more trouble they'll be sent to stay with Aunt Ursula at her place nicknamed "The Convent." Everything would have been fine if Thea hadn't met her true love on the very first day of school. Blaise whose use to getting all the attention from the opposite sex can't stand that there's a guy in school who is resistant to her charm. It's dark magic verses white magic as the cousins battle over Eric. But neither realizes that far more is at risk than just a broken heart.

"Night World" Volume 1 is a great read. It's fast-paced, yet descriptive, with interesting characters and plots that grab your attention from the first page and never loses it. L.J. Smith's writing is so well done that even someone like me (who's picky about YA books) could enjoy it. Over all I would give this book four stars! It's a great escape from our mundane human reality.

No go forth and give it a read. Each book in the series is even better than the last. You won't regret starting this series.

R.J. Craddock

Friday, May 3, 2013

Is It Your Cup of Tea?

Yes, the wait is over and I'm happy to announce that my debut novel "The Forsaken" came out May 1st! This is three years of hard work realized, and I couldn't be more thrilled. This is a huge accomplishment for me. Self-publishing is a lot of work, but I believe it is very rewarding and empowering as well. One of my biggest concerns this last year while submitting my work to publishers was how much control I would retain of my book. Well, with self-publishing from Createspace, and utilizing freelance professionals, I was able to keep total control of my book and still produce a quality product.

I read a blog recently that said "Self-publishing is ruining the industry" and I got to say I disagree. I think it's amazing that we live in an age where technology makes it possible for everyone to have a voice, for everyone to find an audience. In another blog a reader made a comment, "It's the job of the book reviewers to help the readers find the cream of the crop and the garbage will stay at the bottom of the heap." I partially agree with this statement. However, different critics have different tastes and their opinions will reflect those tastes. Likewise we listen to the opinions of others who have similar tastes to ours. I'm a big movie fanatic and at one point in my life being a film critic was my dream job, so I want to liken the publishing industry to the film industry for a moment.

There are countless production studios out there. Every single one produces different movies across all the genres. Isn't it fair to say that not one studio has a flawless record? What I mean is not one studio can boast that they've never made a crappy movie. At some point or another, they've all had a box office flop or been criticized by the critics. So, similarly, I have to say that just because a film (or book) is produced by a big company doesn't mean that it’s quality, or does it guarantee that it's everyone's cup of tea. There are a lot of big budget films out there that make me wonder what the big guys are thinking! I often say to my husband, "Who read that script and said, ‘Wow! We've got to give this guy a couple million dollars to make this piece of crap!’” However, the same movies that make me question my beloved film industry's integrity are the same movies that others rave about. Likewise a lot of the books that are produced by big publishing houses and get worldwide acclaim, I personally can't stand.

I recently read a book that I thought was just awful that was traditionally published by a smaller press. I went to leave a review for it on goodreads and was surprised by how many glowing reviews others had written of the same book. I thought, "Either these people have awful taste, or they see something I don't." Somehow books like these find an audience, but not because they’re better than others, or have a fancy name attached to the cover. There are nearly seven billion people living on this earth, and every one of them responds differently to the same things. So, of course, we don't all love the same movies, music, or books. We all have minds of our own.

The books that get published traditionally are ones that appealed to a particular person’s taste at a particular time. J.K. Rowling's manuscript "The Sorcerer's Stone" was rejected ten times before she was offered a publishing contract. Now she's a world renowned author, with a best-selling, critically-acclaimed series, and box office hit films based off of her books. I bet those other publishers wish they had taken a chance on her book now, but at the time Harry Potter just wasn't what they were looking for.

So what am I saying? I'm saying that, yes, it's nice to have a big publisher behind you. There are advantages to having someone else invest big bucks into your book to get it on the shelf and in the hands of readers. However, it doesn't guarantee you'll be a success, nor is it the only way to get your work out there. Self-publishing has been a great experience for me and I'm glad I did it! I believe there is an audience out there for my book, all I have to do is get out there and find the readers that are waiting for my words.

That’s enough of a rant from me today. You can find me and "The Forsaken" (The Children of Cain Series, Book #1) on goodreads. Now, go forth and visit www.rjcraddock.com to just read up on my book or to get a copy of your own. I think it's awesome but you don't have to take my word for it. Read it for yourselves and then let me know what you think.

R.J. Craddock