Dr. Nekros’ First Review Is In!

Thanks so much to Jen Weaver! She not only wrote a very flattering review regarding Dr. Nekros: Book One, but she also managed to be the first ever to do so!  I am so appreciative that she took the time and effort to say a few words about my book.

If you want to read what she said, click HERE!

DR NEKROS BOOK ONE E EDITION COVER

 

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How We Booked Our 2018 Trip To Disney World: Family 2018 Disney World Vacation (Part 1)

We were fortunate enough to visit Disney World during the summer of 2017 in celebration of my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary.  Because my brother and sister-in-law had done Disney on several occasions, they, as well as my parents, basically prepared the whole thing for us.  I loved it so much, I insisted on going back this summer!  And because we learned so much last time around, we were able to duplicate what we found to be a magnificent time.

My wife, children, and I just returned from another magical trip, and I’ve already had a few people ask for advice on planning their own excursion.  I thought our personal experience might be helpful, so I’m going to write about it during the coming weeks — from start to finish.

The first step is planning the trip.  This is something you probably want to do several months ahead of time.  There are people who will plan your trip for you (such as Jessica Parlier  or Stephanie Reed), but you can also simply call Walt Disney World and work through it all with a cast member.  (They call their employees “cast members.”  It was really confusing at first.  Everyone is a cast member — whether acting on stage or taking phone calls.)

We began this trip, just like last trip, by buying the latest copy of Birnbaum’s 2018 Walt Disney World: The Official Guide.  Trust me when I tell you this thing is worth its weight in gold.  It details every park (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot), every resort, every ride, every show, every restaurant, and every shop.  Thanks to this book, we knew exactly what we wanted to do on a daily basis.

So, after settling on what we wanted to get out of this trip, we called Disney.  Fortunately, we ended up speaking to an incredibly nice man named Cal.  Cal spent well over an hour on the phone with us organizing our trip.  He next answered several call-backs during the following days, as well as various emails.  He is incredibly patient, helpful, and informative.

This is his job with Disney, so he does not charge a percentage.  If you’d like to reach him, here’s his contact information …

Cal
Walt Disney World® Vacation Advisor
(407) W-DISNEY / (407) 934-7639 Ext. 5243362
Days Off: Wednesday and Thursday
Hours: 10:15 AM to 7:00 PM ET

There are a few items I want to discuss with you as you plan your own trip.  Last summer, we went all out because my parents were willing to pay for us to go all out.  Let me tell you, after paying for the trip myself this time, every penny is worth it.  Allow me to explain …

We decided to stay on site.  That means that our resort is actually connected to the parks.  For example, Epcot was literally a five minute walk from The Beach Club Resort, the place we most recently stayed.  At Beach Club, they also had (nice) buses that would transport you to any of the other parks at no extra charge.  These buses run all day at about twenty minute intervals.  They continued running up to an hour after each park closed.  This means we could close down the parks without worrying how we would get back to our room!  In the summer of 2017, we stayed at The Grand Floridian.  This (best-of-the-best) resort actually had an elevated monorail that would drop you off right in front of Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  Otherwise, you could ride buses to Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom.  All of the resorts have these buses running all of the time.

Yes, these resorts are very expensive.  However, the convenience of it all made it well worth the money.  You also get to enjoy “Magic Hours” if you are staying on site, which means, on certain days, you get to open the park an hour early or stay an hour later than everyone else.  (Be sure to check the schedule, though.  Magic Hours change from day to day, park to park.)

Also, I heartily recommend that you purchase the “Park Hopper” pass.  This means you can go to any park you want on any day during your stay.  You can start the day at Animal Kingdom and then finish the day at Epcot to watch the fireworks.  Yes, it’s more expensive, but it’s also very freeing overall and allows you to do what you want, when you want.  Talk to Cal, he’ll explain it all to you!

Next, take a hard look at the dining plan.  Again, this appears very pricey upfront, but it will save you money in the long run.  Our plan basically provided us a quick service meal per day, a sit-down meal per day, and then several “snacks” per day.  You pay a flat-rate and can then order basically whatever you want.  I could order a $75 steak and it cost me no more than the $25 hamburger.  A drink and dessert is also included with each sit-down dinner.  Plus, many strange things can count as snacks.  For example, a side of bacon at my resort counted as a snack.  As did a muffin.  Or a cinnamon roll.  If you research, you can basically eat your breakfast off of your snacks.  We never end up using all of our snacks, but that’s okay, because you can purchase packaged food items or candy in the gift shops with your snacks and then take them home with you!  If you elect to pay out of pocket, you will spend $50 to $100 for a family of four eating a lunch consisting of a hamburger, soft drink, and fries.  The food is grossly overpriced, but it somehow all evens out if you go with the dining plan.  Ask Cal about it!

Finally, we all want pictures of our wondrous time, right?  Disney offers something called a “Memory Maker” package.  Again, you pay upfront for this, but it is so worth the money!  Any time you see a Disney photographer in a park (and they are literally everywhere), you can have them take your picture.  After they take the picture, they will tap your “magic band” (which is a wristband you’ll get in the mail well before you’re due to arrive) and then the pictures will automatically upload to the Disney app you will download to your phone.  Once the pictures download, you are encouraged to save them to your phone and start sharing them via text, social media, whatever!  These are high quality photographs that could certainly go in a frame provided you are not a sweaty mess from that Florida heat.  We had Disney photographers take about 200 pictures of us between the park attractions, meeting characters, etc.  (I’ve included one at the end of this article.)  I don’t know how much these pictures would cost to purchase on an individual basis, but I heard somewhere in the area of $20 per photograph.  If you’re picture people, this is a must.

So, that wraps up this first installment.  My biggest piece of advice is plan ahead, do your research, and know what you want to get out of the experience.  You’re going to spend a ton of money no matter what, but if you’re spending it on exactly what you desire, it’s worth it.  I have not regretted one penny from either trip I’ve taken.  I am financially conservative, but believe me when I say if you try to save a little here and there beforehand, that amount you saved will get spent in the park.  If you’re going to Disney, you might as well go all out and get the full experience, right?

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Annihilation – A Movie Review

I happen to really enjoy Alex Garland’s work, particularly Ex MachinaAnnihilation hit the theaters and disappeared almost immediately, so I didn’t get a chance to see it until last night.

In preparation for the film, back when I thought I’d catch it in the theaters, I read the source material.  (My review for the book can be found HERE.)  This action proved totally unnecessary.  You can watch Annihilation without reading a single page of the book and be just fine.  This is the case for two reasons.  Firstly, Garland stripped the book’s sci-fi elements down to the barest essentials, which made a murky plot in the book very easy to digest on film.  Secondly, Garland radically changed almost every personality aspect of Lena, Natalie Portman’s character.  She is far more balanced, warm, and sociable in the movie than in the book.  Garland also created a mainstream background for Lena compared to what existed in the book.

In fact, Garland altered a great deal of the movie from the book.  The general premise is the same, but the circumstances, environments, and characters are all very different.  This is not a bad thing at all.  Garland delivered a tight, suspenseful movie that kept me guessing throughout.  At times it struck me as almost horror because the scenes were so intense.  But, I wouldn’t call it a horror movie — not by a long shot.  I wouldn’t even call it a science fiction movie, though it exists firmly within that world.  I would rather label this movie as a thrilling character study.

Portman plays a complex person.  Her husband in the film, played by Oscar Isaac, is equally complicated.  And while I found Portman’s supporting characters a little flat, everyone must agree that Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Gina Rodriguez gave it their all.  Again, it has much in common with a horror movie in that we get snippets of who these characters are amidst the suspense, but we get to know none of them deeply.

I keep mentioning horror, yet the movie is actually very quiet in many ways, which certainly builds the suspense.  It doesn’t feel obligated to tell you everything going on, though much is revealed by story’s end.  However, stay loose and enjoy the ride.  The movie demands a certain level of interpretation from the viewer.

Finally, the special effects are beautiful.  The premise is that a meteorite hits a remote area in Florida.  It begins to change the life within an ever-expanding zone.  This is a mutation occurring at the cellular level, so the results are pretty astounding.  Garland definitely succeeds at providing lifeforms that are both exotic but also within the realm of reality.  It’s quite a sight to behold.

All in all, I feel that this is a severely underappreciated movie.  It’s strange and demands a certain level of intellectual engagement by the audience, but it’s also well-made, well-acted, thrilling, and unique.  I highly recommend you give it a try.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Green Lantern: Earth One by Hardman and Bechko – A Book Review

It made my day when I won this graphic novel by Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko through Goodreads.  I’d been hearing good things about it, and even though I’m not a huge Green Lantern fan, I thought the idea of reworking him within the Earth One concept could be a wonderfully entertaining experience.

Even though Green Lantern has been rooted in science fiction for the last sixty years or so, word on the street said this book would strip away all of the fantasy elements the character carries and make it a true work of science fiction.

If you’re unfamiliar with the character, Hal Jordan is a test pilot who was chosen to replace a deceased member of the Green Lantern Corps, which is an intergalactic police force.  Each member wears a ring that will create hard light constructs of anything the wearer imagines.  However, Green Lanterns must recharge their ring every twenty-four hours with a battery that looks quite a bit like a … well, lantern.  That’s green.  This corps has hundreds if not thousands of members, and you can imagine all of the betrayals, deaths, love connections, uprisings, reshuffling of power, and so on that has occurred during the last several decades.

In this version, they broke with tradition and made Hal Jordan a rejected astronaut who currently works as a space prospector.  And … that’s about it.  Though the circumstances are slightly different, he still happens across the ring.  He eventually connects with other Green Lanterns.  He organizes and leads them.  This Jordan is more of an underdog, but I found the whole book very similar to what’s come before.  Even his costume is pretty much the same.

In my opinion, they did not take it nearly far enough.  They did not break away from his Silver Age roots in any meaningful way.  That’s generally been my issue with all of the Earth One books, though.  The idea is that these books would depict what these heroes would be like in today’s real world, and the answer is … pretty much the same.

I do want to commend Gabriel Hardman’s art, though.  He’s got an expert sense of anatomy and perspective, and his backgrounds are exquisite.  I also very much enjoyed Jordan Boyd’s colors.  His use of green light surrounded by the darkness of space felt fresh.  At times he seems to employ a dot matrix technique, which was also felt both nostalgic and original.

So while the book is well executed, I didn’t find it particularly inspired.  It wan’t the innovative science fiction extravaganza that I expected.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Dr. Nekros: Book One Is Live On Kindle and Nook! Read It For Only 99 Cents

I’m so excited to announce that I’ve collected my e-serial, Dr. Nekros, into a series of three books — the first of which is available today!  Book Two will arrive mid-July and Book Three appears in early August.  All three are brisk, action-packed reads that will both make you laugh and keep you up at night.  And even though each book is around 140 pages, I’m offering Book One for just 99 cents!  You can take a chance on me for just 99 cents, right?  Still not sure?  Read this to make up your mind …

Dr. Nekros: Book One focuses upon the disfigured doctor’s pursuit for vengeance and his estranged loved ones’ quest to save him.

Micah Vadenburgh suffered mutilation by the demon Xaphan. The trauma drove him from both his wife Zetta and his doctoral degree. Years later, living off the money he swindles from hapless victims, Micah has transformed into Dr. Nekros. He travels the countryside in a haunted 1936 Packard while searching for the monstrosity that defiled him. 

As Zetta and her new husband Jason work to reverse Micah’s downward spiral, an intricate trap has been set by something far more evil, far more conniving than anything Dr. Nekros ever expected.

A supernatural thriller with a wickedly dark sense of humor, Dr. Nekros: Book One will immerse readers in a tale filled with psychological suspense, nightmarish horror, and … redemption?

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DR NEKROS BOOK ONE E EDITION COVER

Your Past Is a Treasure Trove – Use It!

There’s an old saying that you can’t go home again.  But that phrase is in direct contradiction with the popular scribe’s adage to “write what you know.”

When trying to come up with ideas, look no further than your past.  If you are a fiction writer, your life’s experiences are amazing and worthy of exploration.  Obviously, I’m not suggesting that you give us a word-for-word reenactment of what actually occurred.  But in regards to theme, regret, what-ifs … the past is a powerful writing prompt.

I firmly believe most fiction writers use some kind of personal experience with each and every piece of writing that they create.  The trick is not to get too constrained by the facts.  A writer must always be willing to fictionalize.  A writer needs to know when it’s the proper time to embellish, embolden, and flat-out lie.

Here are a few personal examples.  My short story “Bitterness” is about a young boy trapped inside of a closed camper by his older brother.  This absolutely happened to me in real life.  The ending is fabricated, but much of the story is based on truth–just embellished a little.  “Childhood Demons” is based upon the fact that I used to see creepy demon faces in the wood paneling of my bedroom.  That’s the basis of the story, but everything else is (thankfully) complete fiction.  My dad once told me about how, when he and my mother were newly married, he had to rescue the family dog and her puppies from an area flooding under their trailer.  This sparked the idea that turned into “Mother’s Day.”

A few ideas I’ve lately been bouncing around include the time a coach asked me why I quit high school basketball–I lied through my teeth to him.  Another potential story is about when a drunk knocked on my apartment door in the middle of the night and insisted the apartment belonged to him.  Finally, I think a funny story could be about the time I got smart with a telemarketer and they got even more aggressive with me.  These are just ideas.  Who knows if I’ll follow through with them?

The point is, everyday something happens in your life that could be a story.  Take an event, turn up your imagination, and ask, “What if?”  What if I’d fought back against that bully?  What if I’d taken that amazing job offer?  What if I gave that homeless person a dollar?

Our lives are ripe with possibilities.  We live the literal, but the imaginable is infinite.  So … what’s your story?

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)