Captain America returns, warming the cockles of my comic-fan heart, as Marvel winds plot lines from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to The Winter Soldier and back again, in true comic book style. This one is chock full of fabulous performances and intrigues and twists. Go see it. Then go see it again. See the full review at buzzymag.

An excerpt:
This one changes everything.

With The Winter Soldier, Marvel Studios is smack in the middle of “Phase II”–and continues to gain momentum. This new Captain America adventure is a conspiracy/action/thriller while remaining a superhero movie and it excels on all counts as it rockets through to the end.

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I have twenty cats–it’s a by-product of being a cat show judge and long time cat breeder. In the past I’ve bred Maine coons and munchkins–now I’m working with Havanas, which are much less common. They also, for the most part, look alike.

The breed is only showable in two colors: chocolate and lilac, and the lilacs are very rare. Occasionally, an unexhibitable pointed cat will turn up, but those, too, are uncommon. For the record, we’re trying to produce lilacs, but so far no luck.

So there are currently five virtually identical cats bouncing about the house. I had hoped that with time I would be able to tell them apart. Sadly no–when I want to identify a particular Havana, I reach for the microchip scanner and check the cat’s number.

The situation finally frustrated me to the point that I took a page from mapping Adventure, my very first computer game. While trying to find my way through the maze of twisty passages, all alike, the game allowed as how the rooms might look less alike if I dropped things in them . . .

So now, a herd of chocolate havanas that are less alike, thanks to some non-matching collars:

Delishadly Chocolate

And the original inspiration for it all:

advenutre map--all alike maze

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Author Peter J. Wacks just pointed me toward http://storybundle.com/ – an opportunity to pick up a group of epic fantasy ebooks for . . . whatever you choose to pay. Authors include Neil Gaiman, David Farland, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Peter David, and Brandon Sanderson.

There are lots of choices here: how the money is divided among the packager and the authors, whether you’d like some of it to go to charity, which books make up your package. No matter how you slice it, it’s a great deal!

But it’s a limited-time offer, so get ’em while they’re hot!

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westown movie theater

I went to a movie at my Brand. New. Local. Theater. on the second day they were opened. Westown Movies. Everyone working there was on the absolute top of their game, with big smiles and helpful questions. The tickets themselves were slightly lower-priced then the franchised theater I usually visit, and the refreshments looked good (especially the local treats) and were very reasonably priced.

Then we got to the theater. It was roomy and comfortable and clean. And it has that “New Car” smell. What a nice experience seeing a movie there was, and then less than ten minutes back home.

Oh–the movie? I went to see the latest Oscar bait to hit theaters. Here’s what I thought.

american hustle poster American Hustle
Director: David O. Russell
Writers: Eric Singer, David O. Russell
Stars: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Elisabeth Röhm, Jack Huston, Michael Peña, Robert De Niro

“Some of this actually happened” is how American Hustle starts. It’s very loosely based on the Abscam sting run by the FBI in the late 1970s, and the era is re-created beautifully. Wardrobe and makeup in particular were meticulous. It brings back memories.

The script is very loosely structured, with alternating voice-overs from Christian Bale’s Irving and Amy Adams’ Sydney explaining the motivations and philosophies behind what was happening on screen. But writers are told “Show, don’t tell.” And rules are made to sometimes be broken, but the overuse of this device for exposition detracted from a very well-crafted film.

Irving and Sydney work together conning small-time targets. When the FBI busts them, Agent Richie DiMaso sees it as a way to advance his career, offering to let them work off their troubles by helping the FBI catch bigger targets. But DiMaso is a wild card, and the operation turns into something none of them could have controlled, heading in ways no one anticipated.

The performances are remarkably layered and well-done from every one of the major players. It was difficult to identify with con artists and cheats, or politicians playing it less than above board, or even (for me) people who just didn’t listen when things got dangerous, and then acted stupid. So I wasn’t fond of any of the characters, even as I admired the amazing jobs done by the actors.

And remarkable they were, with special call-outs to Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper as the leads, and honorable mentions to Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner (who makes you almost like a career politician).

Recommended if you enjoy watching well-crafted films and fantastic performances, not so much if you’re looking for a mindless shoot-‘em-up (my usual fare).

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If you could travel in time, you might have time for the things you wanted to do, or at the least the things you cared enough about to do right. That’s one of the core themes of About Time, the latest directorial effort from the man who brought you Love Actually. My full review is at buzzymag.

An excerpt:
What would you do if you had all the time in the world?

About Time answers that question. It’s the most adorable time-travel romantic comedy you are ever likely to see. It’s positively precious.

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In a year filled with sequels and three-qals, Catching Fire was highly anticipated and certainly lived up to the hype. More of all the things that made The Hunger Games a big hit, with a different story to tell, and more, bigger everything. See my full review at buzzymag.

An excerpt:
A number of past Hunger Games-victors are also brought into play in Catching Fire. Like Haymitch, they have been shaped by their experiences. Particularly of note are Johanna Mason and Finnick Odair, who combine sharp wits and lethal physicality with charming recklessness.

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This movie picks up after the events of The Avengers, with the world reeling after the discovery of super-powered beings and picking up the pieces after the Battle of New York. There’s more Asgard this time, more physics, and some dark elves for good measure. And it all happens as the planets are moving into a great convergence. See what I had to say at at buzzymag.

An excerpt:
I’ll say up front that I loved this movie, and a big part of it is the awesomeness that is Tom Hiddleston as Loki.

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Darkovercon 36 (the very last Darkovercon ever) is this weekend.

Here’s where you’ll find me:

FRIDAY, 29 November
6pm – Greenspring Ballroom 3 -5
The Romance Invasion
[Panelists: Elektra Hammond(mod), Margaret L. Carter, Stephanie Dray, Katherine Kurtz, Rosemary Edghill]
How has the “Romance” genre affected the F&SF genres? What Romance themes or motifs have become a part of F&SF art and literature? Has this inclusion changed, spoiled, or widened the possibilities for the F&SF genres? If so, how?

7pm – Board Room
Kaffeeklatch – Rosemary Edghill
I’ll be a non-participatory attendee, with a large selection of Rosemary’s rare and out-of-print books available for a small donation to the convention. Rosemary has generously donated these books from her personal stock.

9pm – Atrium
Don Sakers & Thomas Atkinson get married in Maryland

SATURDAY, 30 November
11am – Greenspring Ballroom 3 -5
Looking for [X] in All the Wrong Places
[Panelists: Carl Cipra(mod), Danielle Ackley-McPhail, D.H. Aire, Elektra Hammond, Melissa Scott, Leona Wisoker]
Writers and artists discuss the concept of “research” for their creations. Discussion will include: why research is important; typical and/or unusual sources they’ve used; sources they recommend for different types of creations; sources to avoid; etc.

1pm – Greenspring Ballroom 3 -5
Author Guest of Honor Speech
[Panelist: Rosemary Edghill]
I’ll likely be in the back of the room, listening to my mentor, the amazingly awesome Rosemary Edghill, with a large selection of her rare and out-of-print books available for a small donation to the convention. Rosemary has generously donated these books from her personal stock.

3pm – Chesapeake 3 -5
Stick a Gear on it and call it Steampunk
[Panelists: Elektra Hammond(mod), Rosemary Edghill, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Michelle Sonnier, Jonah Knight]
A discussion by writers of cross-genre mixes of Steampunk with, well, everything. Romance, Lovecraftian horror, science fiction, mystery, westerns.

4pm – Greenspring Ballroom 3 -5
Mass Autographing Session
I’ll be with our Author Guest of Honor, Rosemary Edghill, with a large selection of her rare and out-of-print books available for a small donation to the convention. Rosemary has generously donated these books from her personal stock.

5pm – Chesapeake 3 -5
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
[Panelists: Sarah Pinsker(mod), Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Margaret Carter, Meriah Crawford, Elektra Hammond, Kelly A. Harmon, Erika Satifka, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Leona Wisoker]
Short readings from a selection of authors, all members of Broad Universe. I’ll be reading from my story “In the Form of a Question,” to be published by Fortress Publishing Inc. in parody anthology TV Gods in May 2014.

SUNDAY, 1 December
noon – Timonium Room
Reading – Rosemary Edghill
I’ll be a non-participatory attendee, listening to Rosemary read, with a large selection of her rare and out-of-print books available for a small donation to the convention. Rosemary has generously donated these books from her personal stock.

1pm – Chesapeake 3 -5
Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction: New Stuff, Good Stuff
[Panelists: Don Sakers(mod), Vonnie Winslow Crist, Elektra Hammond, Mike McPhail]
Panelists discuss what’s new in the world of YA (Young Adult) F&SF and make recommendations of their favorites (past and present).

2pm – Greenspring Ballroom 3 -5
Q&A for Authors
[Panelists: Jennifer Heise(mod), Rosemary Edghill, Don Sakers, Warren Rochelle, Margaret L. Carter, Melissa Scott, Leona Wisoker, D.H. Aire, Scott MacMillan, Stephanie Dray, Alanna Morland, Erica Satifka, Katherine Kurtz, C.S. Friedman, Meriah L. Crawford, Heather Rose Jones, Sarah Pinsker]
Is there something you’ve really wanted to ask one of the attending authors but haven’t had a chance to ask yet? Well, here’s your chance to ask!
Again–I’ll likely be in the back of the room, listening to the panel, offering a last chance for anyone to pick up rare and out-of-print books by Rosemary Edghill (for a small donation to the convention). Rosemary has generously donated these books from her personal stock.

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The DarkoverCon memorial book, honoring our late con chair Jaelle of Armida aka Judy Gerjuoy, is now available on amazon.

cover of jaelle her book

A number of Jaelle’s friends wrote remembrances of her and/or stories. It contains my short (flash) story “Come Now to War.” Copies will be available at the convention, and all proceeds go to support DarkoverCon.

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The amazing Jean Marie Ward interviewed me back in May, while we were both at Balticon, about what I do for buzzymag, the editing process, and all the different hats I wear. She’s fantastic to work with, and I’m proud to be a part of buzzymag, and to work with her.

An interview with Elektra Hammond

You can watch the interview or read the transcript at buzzymag.

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