Monday, February 20, 2017

Check out my new YouTube spot!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Double Cross by Ben Macintyre: Review

      This is a great audio book and excellently narrated by John Lee. I wasn't sure about the entertainment value at first thinking it was going to be a play by play history lesson of WW2, however the book quickly goes into the quirky and eccentric personalities of the British Secret Agents. Some of the agents come from several other countries too.
      It's amazing how much the one agent named Popov (Yes, like the Vodka brand) was able to almost effortlessly fool the Germans with fake Allied battle plans and connections. He was able to play them soo much AND demand a lot of money from them. It almost seemed like the more money he asked from them, the more they believed him. He also demanded a huge sum of money from the British as well, so much so that they started to get angry and limit the amount they gave him. Like in Yojimbo he played both sides. His living expenses were extravagant and excessive, from fine wines and whiskey to expensive cigars and cars. Popov was also known as an excessive ladies man as well, staying single and dating women much younger then him.
     There is also a female agent who unfortunately lost her dog at customs through more or less the fault of her British contact. She was promised to get the dog back but was unable to get it back due to quarantine regulations at the time. She ends up hold a huge grudge against the British and withholds information from them.
     You would think there would be close calls, such as some of the agents being found out and held at gunpoint but I assure you that is mostly the Hollywood stuff we think up in our heads. Most of the drama unfolds behind the scenes about what information travels from the agent to the British. There is a scene where a German officer tests the loyalty of one of the agents and order him to come back to Berlin after going into allied territory. There's a bit of suspense there but nothing too bad.
     It's mostly the back and forth between the information and dealing with the egos and eccentricity of the agents. The suspense is if one of their agents gets found out, the others would most assuredly be questioned and possibly killed. So its the information that the fake British give the Germans that has to seem real enough to them otherwise the whole thing falls through.
    The afterward is intriguing as well, you find out what happened to some of the agents after the war. One of them moved to my home state of Michigan to live a peaceful life. One the agents was awarded $5000 by the British government so as to not go into complete debt.
      The narrator, has a superb control over the French and Polish names and accents. He goes into the accented characters flawlessly while reading but keeps a fast paced excited flow. His own English voice sounds very interested in what he's saying, definitely not asleep at the wheel.
     I recommend listening or read this after reading fiction, it's a nice change of pace and very interesting.

     Double Cross
     by Ben Macintyre
     8.5 out of 10


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New Logo!

Here's my new logo for Griffin Tutoring. It's just black and white for now. I really loved
John Tenniel's pen and ink of the griffin so I based it off of his version but with my own unique touch and style. I kept his drawing and put it down on the bottom.

Let me know what you think! I've also added a contact form on here to the right so you can ask me any questions or just contact me in general. I believe you can also leave your email and I can let you know when my latest post or short story is published. I don't send spam at all.

I'm also going to do another black and white logo for my filmmaking blog Lightning Productions at lightning-prod.blogspot.com.

I'm going to writing a quick review of the WWII non-fiction spy book Double Cross soon, so be ready for that. There's always periodic book reviews I post. Cujo, the book review has been redone with white text instead of black so you can actually read it now.

I've also been thinking about one-page wonder short stories for this blog as well as my Facebook page Short Stories. I might do separate stories on each format or the same ones, not sure yet. One thing is for sure though, I'll be blogging a heck of a lot more especially since my Wix website is up. I'll be a blogging machine. So check back a bit more this month! At least twice ;)

Also, I'm sure you guys have noticed the shameless Audible button with Harry Potter being advertised on it. If your curious about the service feel free to click on it to see what it's about. I've a huge believer in it. I've listened to countless books on my phone through Audible, WAY, WAY, more then I would've read in paperback. In fact, any job where you have to drive long distances often, I definitely advise you to give them a shot. Besides the regular ad on here, I wouldn't post any other product I wouldn't believe in. Most of the Ads have been mostly geared towards reading or things that I like or approve of. If you sign up for Audibles, it's free or the first month and you get a free book! When you sign up, you also help this blog and my podcast The Ham Palace by helping to pay for the hosting on Podbean so it's definitely appreciated. Hey, try it for a month and see if it
works for ya!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Writer's Group Part 2

    It can still be hard to know when to submit your work with a new group. You can get nevous about the level of critique that will be placed on your work. Try your best not to get defensive about it.
    It also gives you a viewpoint from people who aren't your friends and family (not that my family would read anything I wrote). They won't sugercoat anything and give you an outsiders view and ask you why? Why do you have the character do that? Or why would they assume this?
Why have him speak in a lisp?
      And one last thing, they keep you on a time schedule. If you meet every week or two weeks, then you feel the need to submit your work every week or two, thus keeping you on a sort of deadline.
This will keep you from sitting on your work too much.
     So if you write and need a someone to read the work you do, friends are better then nothing but seek out a Writer's group. I found one on Meetup.com. Also, check out my Fiverr page, I can read some of your work.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Benefits of Joining a Writer's Group Part 1

      Well, I have been busy. I've been meeting with a writer's group every couple of weeks to go over Dark Carpentry chapter by chapter.
      It's important to have others read and critique you writing. It's not always easy to have someone read your stuff and joining a local group has been humbling yet beneficial.
      It teaches you to up your grammar and word choice game. It also forces you to stay on a sort of deadline since eventually the group members are going to get curious about your own work.
Critiquing is a skill in itself, especially when some of the writer's may be a bit more advanced then you. It can be hard to proofread and find mistakes by writers that have a better understanding of grammar and word choice. Eventually, it comes down to how you feel about their content.
      My group of writers average 15-20 years older then me and have been doing it a bit longer.
Some have even been published or self published! That's a huge benefit alone to joining a group.
There's so much you can learn by have writers help you that have played the game and can give you great advice about publishing.
      To be continued...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Cujo Review

While the overall premise and story is good, I think King could've done major edits here. There's a lot or time spent on things being done at the characters places of work and for some reason a sexual subplot that doesn't really seem to tie in with the main plot of a mad dog. Whenever the story is focused on Cujo and the people around him it's all good but when it strays by going too far into other characters lives it starts to drag, quite a bit. The momentum of the climax gets split up too much with other sideline characters when it needs to focused on what's happening with the lead protagonist.
The imagery and suspense created during the mad dog scenes are top notch though and makes me want to 
re-watch the movie.
I like how King wraps up the end though and it can be worth reading/listening to during the Cujo parts that's why I gave it the rating I did.
I also got a kick from the female narrater describing the sexual lewdness and violent gory acts performed in this. She sounded like a school teacher reading for a class of 3rd graders.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Halloween Store - Chapter 8

CHAPTER 8

HALLOWEEN NIGHT 

It was dark outside and swarms of people were grabbing costumes and trying them on right there in the store, a big no-no of store policy.
Somewhere between six and nine o’clock time seemed to slow down. This was the busiest time of the night. John handed plenty of lines from Ghostbusters out to the people. Lots of fake powdery smoke billowing out of his fake cigarette. 
Sasha was never sexier with her red headband and leopard spotted bikini top and short skirt. John definitely had his eyes on her most of the night.
As much as he felt immense attraction and love for Laura he couldn’t help but feel lust for his female co-workers and various customers that entered the store, trying on skimpy colorful costumes. Sometimes it felt that his lower body was leading him every which way a short skirt was.
Sasha helped a couple find a male and female police costumes. She suddenly saw something in the corner of her eye. It was gone one minute, then gone the next. She moved around the isle. At first it looked like a man in a jester’s suit smiling, then it was a grinning man in a red devil costume motioning her to come his direction. Waving with his right hand to come towards the back of the store.
She felt somewhat aroused at the gesture and didn’t quite know why. She tried to shake it off as she put a costume in the tween section and dropped another bag on the floor. The devil man kept hooking his finger towards himself. She was mesmerized as she walked with her hips rhythmically moving in a wave motion almost like she was showing off while her enormous breasts bounced.
She peeked her head around the isle and spotted the satanic figure now donning a jester hat. He was drawing her in with his slow finger motion.
She then stretched her arms into the air and shook her hips as she strutted towards the mysterious figure. People seemed to get out of her way as she seemingly danced towards the back of the store. The figure seemed to float past the curtains that led past the boxed room and into the garage.
Right before went through the curtains a hand fell on her shoulder.
Sasha jumped and screamed, suddenly broken from her trance.
“Are you okay?” Andre asked. I called your name a few times, you seem in your own world.”
Sasha combed her long dark brown hair out of her face, somewhat disturbed at his question. “Yes! I’m fine.”
“Okay, just don’t wander off. Gary’s orders. Andre somewhat scolded her.
“I’m just going to ah, check um, check for a gorilla costume.” Said Sasha.
“So you’re gonna take a smoke break?” Andre asked.
“No! I really have to find it.” She scolded.
“I’ll stand guard and make sure no one kidnaps you.” Andre said, half serious.
“Whatever.” She seemed to say mechanically.
Sasha turned, opened the curtain and walked further down the room. No one was there. She smiled and opened the back door to the garage. She tried to open the door but it seemed to be stuck. She jiggled it more and more. Still nothing. She stopped. Frustrated, she laid against the door.
She heard some faint bells jiggling somewhere in the room behind the door, followed by some faint laughter. Sasha smiled and stepped back as the door opened slowly. She entered and the door closed.

* * *

More and more, people poured in. The store was probably at its busiest hour.


* * *

Sasha opened the door to darkness. She switched on the light. The Jester stood down below her, directly in the middle of the store looking up at her.

* * *

As John kept pointing the customers in the proper directions for their costumes his eyes locked once at the brunette, dark complected girl once again. John looked around to see if her mom was around. She was nowhere to be found. He swept in for the flirt kill. Time seemed to slow as she looked at John pretending not to care as she played with her hair. She was suited up in her Cinderella costume legs proudly showing. The blue skirt twirled as her white panties could be seen underneath.
John stepped up with his fake cigarette using his favorite number one ice-breaker. “Can I help you?…find something miss?”
“Um, yeah…can you help me find a basket?” Said the Cinderella girl biting her lower lip.
John felt a complete hinge to grab her ass and legs kissing her immediately. “I don’t think we do but follow me and maybe we can find one.” He smiled.
They walked up and down the isles John knew they didn’t have the basket so he used this time to flirt with her. “So, how does the short skirt Cinderella costume fit?” Asked John. “It’s a little tight.” Cinderella said.
“It looks great tight,” said John. 
“Thank you, I like your Ghostbuster outfit.” She said.
“Thank you!” John smiled. “Who you gonna call?”
“I’d love to call you sometime.” Said Cinderella.
Andre spotted the flirting from across the store. He shook his head smiling.
John also spotted Laura walking towards the front of the store. She scanned the wall looking at costumes.
His guilt of flirting with someone else alerted his subconscious.It’s not like they were a couple yet, they hadn’t even properly been on first date, but somewhere in his soul he felt a connection.
“Does this look good on me?” Cinderella said, holding up a black thin lady vampire dress. She smiled and leaned to one side of her hip. John turned as if coming out of a trance.
“Huh?” John’s lust took over his lower body again. “Um, oh yeah. Fits just fine.” He smiled.
“Excuse me just a sec.” John walked over towards Laura.
“Hi!” John smiled at her, she smiled back.

* * *

Andre was cleaning up the floor which was currently covered with plastic bag with numerous costumes inside them. As he picked another one up he saw a costume come flying out of the black dressing room. Andre walked towards
The front of the closed room.
“Please, don’t throw the bags on the ground.” Scolded Andre.
Almost immediately, another bag shot out of the black curtain. A girls laughter was heard.
Andre picked up yet another bagged costume.
He heard more giggling. It sounded familiar this time though. He slowly stood up to witness a silhouette of a familiar girl inside the dressing room with the black doors.
“Jen?” Andre asked. The girl inside looked a lot like Jennifer. Long black hair, dark complexion, her smile shined bright in the dark.
“Jen?” Andre asked, surprised and amazed. Jen moved her index finger towards her face. Inviting Andre in. Andre still in shock over seeing his ex-coworker alive. There was something more though in her eyes that caused him to look into her gaze The pupils of her eyes seemed to turn blood red.
Andre didn’t seem to mind, even with her long fangs protruding from her mouth. She was always cute, he thought as he walked into the dressing room.

* * *

Later that night the crowd seemed to disperse a bit more.
Gary noticed the absent reps. He walked up to Megan who was dressed as a colorful clown with a huge circular waist with a hula-hoop like device causing its roundness. She also donned the big, red, shoes and crimson nose with round hat. The hat had a four leaf clover sticking out of it.
“Megan, um, I need you to watch the front of the store while I go check up on Sasha and Andre.
“Okay,” Megan replied, rolling her eyes. She was already covering the front of the store as it was.
She took a deep breath and backed into the huge zombie statue with arms outstretched behind her. She walked forward slightly relieved.

* * *

It was now late. About eleven-thirty five. Close to the witching hour.
Gary was now starting to panic. Two of his co-workers had gone missing or quit. This made him very nevous. They were now closed. It was hard to get Andre to stop talking and work in general. He checked what remained of the boxes. He opened the back door and peered in the dark garage, he flicked on the lights. Nothing, in fact the garage looked perfectly clean, too clean, as if no one had been in the garage for a few years. Gary’s subconscious was now blowing its horn. He felt a strange feeling. It was as if the store itself was covering someone or something up.
He immediately turned and exited the door, turned right, and walked down the hallway of mirrors.
The door at the end of the hallway was always shut. It didn’t really lead to anywhere. The spare room he heard, had been filled up with broken old pieces of 2x4’s. Ruins of an old office from before the turn of the century. He had heard about it, however, now the rumor seemed to be false because a green light that glowed all around the edges of the door. Gary shook his head assuming Andre and Sasha had been fooling around in there somehow he didn’t have time for it. They were on the clock. He approached the door and opened it.

* * *
Allen was putting away a mask while standing on a ladder. As he put a rubber Batman mask under the Richard Nixon mask, he witnessed the mask shaking. At first he thought it was a effect of the mask. He stared at it as it moved its mouth.
“Allen, I’m not a crook!” Brrr!” It spoke as it jumped off the wall and at Allen’s face.
Allen was absolutely terrified as he fought with the mask. He fell off the ladder and fell, butt first through the glass display case.
The mask wiggled grotesquely on his face like it was feasting. Allen’s body lied still.

* * *
Megan screamed as she witnessed the horrific accident. She sprinted for just a step before she was yanked back by the grotesque zombie statue. It grabbed onto her neck with its left hand and put its right arm around her waist, instantly snapping the green-checkered waist hoop.
She screamed as the zombie continued to hold her.

* * *

John heard Megan from the back of the store shortly after hearing the crash of glass breaking. He could hardly believe what she was seeing. Allen was seemingly knocked unconscious, sitting through the display case and someone in the zombie suit was trying to strangle Megan and bite her neck.
“Megan!” John yelled at her, warning her to stay out of the way. The best he could get out of her was a yelp and a wiggle. John took her wiggle to her right as his small window of opportunity to shoot long, wavy beams of light shot out of his plastic proton gun. Luckily, they hit the zombie directly in the chest. Its body exploded instantly. It’s body pieces scattered into the air. Megan ran and screamed instantaneously. She hugged John. “How did ya do that?”
“I figured since that thing came alive, why not my Ghostbuster proton gun?” Said John.
Megan continued to hug John. Little and big pieces of plastic and styrofoam were spread all over the ground. After a moment they walked over to Allen. He was perfectly still. They thought the worst. He shook violently as John and Megan jumped back. He almost did a perfect back-flip as he landed on his feet. The Richard Nixon mask seemed alive and well as it spasmed on his face. Allen threw both of his hands up. Two peace fingers up in both hands. “I’m not a crook!” Said a high pitched alien voice through a mask. John fired up his proton pack and the humming proceeded the blue, red and yellow light stream directly at the mask.
The mask gave off an unearthly scream and shattered into a hundred small pieces. Allen collapsed backwards and fell unto his hands. He shook his head. “What happened?”
“A mask fell on your head and it did an impression of you.” Said John patting his hand on Allen’s back.
Allen slowly got to his feet,”Thanks, I guess.”
“You alright?” John asked. “You took a bad spill into the glass case. I’m surprised you still have an ass.”
“Yeah, I’m a bit bruised.” Allen replied.
“Where’s Andre?” Allen asked.
“We don’t know,” Gary went to the back to go look for him. Maybe we should look for them too!” John replied.

* * *

Gary gazed into the green light and he became mesmerized. Somewhere in the green mist he thought he saw what resembled the figure of a court jester. He thought maybe a customer had wandered into the back for a minute. The figured seemed to smile. The next thing he remembered was that he was back in the hallway of mirrors again.
He walked down the hallway forgetting why he came there for. He opened the door immediately only to find the same hallway before him. He looked around to double check his surroundings. Maybe he didn’t get enough sleep last night. He jogged to the end of the hallway yet again. The same exact hallway was before him.
This time he could hear the bells from the jester’s hat, followed by faint laughter somewhere in the hallway.

* * *

John moved his head towards the door, “Have you guys tried the hallway yet?” Asked John.
“No.” Allen replied.
John slowly opened the door.
An old decayed body with long hair sat inside the door. It looked like it had been there for many years. It’s face looked up at John and its jaw dropped as if to say thank you. Megan screamed and hugged John. 
“Let’s get out of here!” Shouted Allen.
They all headed for the front door. At this point, all of the masks on the wall had come to life, they were mumbling, biting and screaming. The werewolf one growled and snapped at John’s leg as the ran by. Plastic weapons floated in the air and came flying at them. They dodged a few of the flying projectiles. A couple of them stuck into the walls. One stuck into the head of lizard mask, black blood shot out of its head and spurted in the air and floor. Megan, received the the most goo as it shot all over her face with her mouth wide open. They might’ve looked plastic but they now had the sharpness of metal. John quickly looked at Megan, “Geez! It least it could’ve bought you dinner.”
Through the store’s front windows they could see the night sky, now turning blue as it slowly became dawn. Some sunlight was seen reflecting off the bookstore windows across the street. Had they been in the store the whole night? Time had mysteriously sped up for them, they all thought.
The entire store was now shaking as one entity.
“Let’s get outta here!” Said Allen raising his hands and waving them in the air. They made a mad dash for the front double doors. Fake cobwebs and mist from the fog machines filled the store, almost obscuring their vision.
A green glow moved from the back of the store.
John and Allen tried to open the doors but to no avail. The door were locked. Megan screamed as she spotted a humanoid-like form in a jester costume staring at them. It seemed to grin through it’s highly transparent human face revealing a bare skull underneath.
Allen quickly remembered that he locked the doors through the timed security box behind the counter.
“I have to enter the code to unlock it! Plus, we still have to lock up the store!” Said Allen.
“Who cares about locking up the stupid store!” Yelled John. “Let’s just get out of here before we become part of the scenery!”
Allen jumped and slid over part of the display case that wasn’t broken.
“Wow! You’re TJ Hooker!” Shouted John.
Allen narrowly avoided the masks snapping at him. The button chirping sound seemed to reverberate and echo in a unnatural way throughout the store.
The doors finally opened as John and Megan shot through. The wind almost knocked them over.
Allen was still messing with the button controls.
“Allen, c’mon!” Megan Yelled.
“I gotta lock up the store!” Allen replied as the green glow approached him through the mist. Allen finished the final number, launched himself over the display case again, landed and somersaulted onto the floor. John and Megan were surprised at home nimble the sixty something was. He instantly sprung to his feet almost doing a front forward flip like an expert martial artist. As soon as her moved forward green hands shot out of the mist surrounding him. They grabbed his shoulders and pulled him into the mist. All was quit for ten-seconds. John aimed his proton gun at the mist and pulled the plastic trigger. Nothing. It was just a plain old cheap plastic inflatable costume prop.
Sun seemed to fill the interior of the store.
Allen shot out of the last bit of mist before is dissipated. John looked at him in disbelief, “But you were, you jumped out of…”
“Who cares what happened,” let’s get out of here as he waved his hands in the air.
John and Megan were both relieved and shocked that he made it out alive. He quickly shut the doors. They all took a deep breath. No words could express all of their thoughts and feelings. Megan Hugged John but as the sunlight filled the store she screamed in terror as a skeleton with a jester’s hat leaned against the window with its mouth open, almost in a sinister laugh. The bones were fake plastic but still terrifying.

* * *

It was a bright gorgeous sunny day in Burbank.
John had to pick up what would possibly be his last paycheck, but first he had to have a pint of Guinness with Megan and Allen watch Laura play her many breathtaking folk songs.
He watched as her small fingers picked on the chords and followed her melodic Irish voice.
“I don’t know if I trust everything I saw with my eyes. Did it all really happen?” Megan asked John.
“You bet your Irish ass it did.” Said John taking a gulp of beer.
“Well, we’re down four floor reps and a manager so whether we want to admit it or not, it did!” Said Allen, trying to contain his hand gestures.
John put his hands to his face. “Everybody’s gone.” John said.
Laura stopped playing and spoke into the microphone. “Um, this song’s for my tree triends Megan, John and Allen. Tanks for comin, especially you John.” Laura gave a quick wink to John.
John’s sadness was instantly washed away. He smiled and raised his drink. Megan and Allen turned and followed suit.
Her song was sweet with a sense of remorse.
“To our fallen friends,” John raised his glass and clinked it with the both of them. Megan did the same with a slight tear in her eye. “And to my new ones that survived.”
They took bigger gulps then usual and they sat in silence.

* * *
John was really hesitant to enter The Halloween Store once more, even though there was still daylight out.
He paused in front of the door, then took a deep a breath. Exhaling, he opened the door. Andy stood at the counter with a huge grin. The whole store had converted back to a bookstore seemingly overnight.
“Hi John!” Said Andy with a huge smile.
John slowly approached. “Andy…did Allen tell you about last night?” John asked. 
“I’m not worried about last night, look at the store now!” Andy continued to smile.
“You should be worried about last night. We almost died!” Said John, almost in disbelief.
“Ah, but you didn’t. You guys made it out just fine which is why I’m promoting you.” Said Andy.
“Um, promoting me?”
“Exactly, oh, I almost forgot, here’s your check. You sold the most costumes, so I threw in a little something extra,” Andy plunked down a king-sized chocolate candy bar on the counter.
John’s check was directly underneath. He quickly snatched the check underneath the bar.
He hesitated for a few brief seconds then grabbed the candy bar as well.
“The assistant manager job’s yours if you want it. How about it? Take a day off or two then come back. Work though next Halloween calling the shots assistant manager style! What do ya say?” Andy then crossed his hairy arms across his chest, still smiling.
John stood for almost thirty seconds contemplating his fateful decision. “You mean to tell me after all those deaths you expect me to work here? I almost died! We almost died!”
Andy answered by staying silent and smiling. That terrible, nasty smile John thought. He knew he needed the work.
John paused a few seconds more. “Ok.”
He turned and walked out of the store. Andy stood with exact same smile on his face then disappeared into thin air

THE END