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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Extraordinary Season 1 Preview #FreeComicBookDay #Serial #Extraordinary #Sci-Fi

Extraordinary Season 1 Preview #FreeComicBookDay #Serial #Extraordinary #Sci-Fi

So, in honor of Free Comic Book Day, I thought I'd share the first act of my new episodic novel series, Extraordinary. The first three episodes will be out tomorrow for purchase on Amazon Kindle. Click the Amazon link at the bottom of this post to get to more of my works. Hope you enjoy.

The Tease:

Extraordinary, in its first season will follow a small group of 16 people (I know, it seems like a lot but by the end of the season you'll know most of them intimately and have your favorites) in a not-too-distant future where Mars is hardly the space darling it used to be. Instead of obsessing over Mars, scientists and space-enthusiast alike have looked just beyond the red planet to a solar system anomaly referred to as The Eye. A wormhole that defies certain theoretical physics while supporting other theories, The Eye provides not only the next jewel for galactic fascination, but it becomes a portal to another world. An alien world. It is here that Colonel Nelson Corman makes a daring escape from the clutches of an insect-like race of aliens, jetting back through the stars to earth, determined to warn us all. His warning: Aliens soon shall come.

A dire warning, only a select few hear this. They set on a mission to change the world for the better before the aliens, good or bad, arrive to earth. But to do this, they'll need volunteers.

Enter Michael, one of the unappointed leaders of the group of volunteers for a strange new study by a company named Paradigm. He, along with 12 others, is chosen after a less-than-extensive search for desperate people in need of cash. A little daughter and ex-wife to support, he tries to do right by his family but finds that he must sink to low paths in order to get there. Little does he know just what Paradigm has really done to him and the others.

Think of Extraordinary in the same vein as the ABC series Lost or Stephen King's The Stand. You will see multiple stories from each character as they carve out their identities, and all experience this life-transforming happening together. It does have an adult tone so it will be rated for a mature reader. Reader's discretion is strongly advised (that means cursing, substance use and the like).

Note: the numbers are page numbers that will be properly worked into the completed format on Amazon. And now for your sneak preview. Enjoy!. 

Extraordinary achievements mark man's passage of time upon this earth. From wallowing in a sphere of dust and water, to blasting into the highest reaches of the firmament. Still, more achievements lie ahead. Yet, with all of the impossibles made elementary, many questions remain. What awaits beyond the sky magnificent? Will we ever truly etch our place into the stars? And if earthly trappings bind us only to here, to this rock, what will the limit to our potential be? Will we ever become more than that which we see before us?
PRELAP: An unidentifiable GUTTURAL SCREECH, like a mix of elephant's horning trunk, lion's roar, and rusty screech of a train's breaks halting on an old line.

Sparsely-clouded sky plays home to the wild imagination dripped at end of painter's brush. A magenta drapes the atmosphere. In the distance, a red dot—flames of a brutal star—plays sun. Ain't Earth.

Breathing. Panting... The right foot of a white boot stamps the orange clay-soil of the alien planet. The subject: An astronaut runs, with squirrelish fury, away from the white-grass thicket lining a dry clay field. He spills onto what resembles Earthly desert landscape with little time to savor its flawed, morbid beauty.

Like a greasy, acned face of a teen, divots, puddles and unsteady ground lay before him, pockmarks from an abused territory.

The suit svelte and white with reflective foil wrapped at the ankles and knees, he ran without restriction, an earthly gravity neither 
buoying nor bullying his stride. Worn, the suit and its wearer had seen the planet's worst. Clay skids sullied the once pristine white with the decoration of discovery, of desperation, of fear.
The inside no better, the helmet—a less bulky, almost Hockey-like design—had a spider-webbing of dry spittle in the lower left corner nearest the astronaut's mouth. Remnants of a dehydration-sweetened saliva expelled in overexertion, it misted and fogged under the astronaut's hot breath.
His brow sweat-lathered, eyes ghost-widened and with just as much fear, here ran astronaut Colonel Nelson Corman, PhD. A man of 43 years of age, white with brunette hair, a sharp triangular nose, a Neanderthal-model's jawline, and the rugged good looks of a Hollywood action star, he had served as the captain of the spaceship that landed upon the planet. Thousands of real-life flight experiences in everything from fighter jets to airbuses, two years training as an astronaut pilot and all the dreams in the world about following in his heroes' John Glenn and Neil Armstrong's footsteps couldn't prepare him for this. Until he got his wings again, he'd have to revert back to his basic training, and run.
The out-of-breath panting of an over-ran marathoner, body fought mind as one wanted to slow and the other knew he couldn't. Not far behind, something wicked chased him.
Goowarrrrr! Another gnarled roar thundered through the air, wetting the stale wind with grievous intent, sending Colonel Corman tripping and plummeting to the ground. Less than an inch of soil loosened on the orange peel of a planet, he hit hard upon rock, his chest and right side absorbing much of the blow. Pain his second nature, he flipped to his back to see what stalked him. Nothing? Whatever he fled from had yet to make it through the white field. Still, that could not erase from his face the look. That look that poet's 
 gone to war wrote about; that look that haunted the nightmares of murderers; that look that not even cameras could capture and that the devil himself rejoiced from. Abject terror lived on his face. In all the years he had toured and warred on Earth, nothing scared him like what lay just beyond the gentle sway of the tall white grasses.
Spotting no movement, he felt around his suit, patting at his legs, his back and chest, searching. A mumbled question, he asked, “Holes? Rips? What is the suit integrity? What is the suit integrity?”
Musings of a madman? No. The suits AI—an upgraded mix of Siri, Alexa, and HAL—answered, “Suit—suit—suit integ... -ty: 100 perc—perc—perc...” On the fritz, the AI's inter-suit communication system had taken a beating just as bad as the colonel. It stuttered, stammered, and auto-corrected worse than a clunky 80s computer.
Corman got the gist. He started to breathe relief when it added, in smooth enunciation, “But breathable oxygen is now at two percent.”
Shit! Gotta get back to the ship! Gotta get back to the ship!”
Goowaaarr! The creature grew closer. The colonel rolled to his knees and pushed to his feet, taking off down the straightaway. His direction predetermined, 20 feet ahead sat an outcropping of rocks. Half gray, half orange they stood out of the ground like elongated egg-shaped pillars. About the colonel's height—five-ten, five-eleven— they provided perfect cover from what laid before him.
Corman ran to the rock outcropping and deliberately fell hard against the rocks, shouldering into the grayish-orange substance to hide from what was on the other side of the rock. Sounds of them stepping, he slowed his breathing and peeked out to the left side of the rock to spy on his objective and the beast.
The goal: reach the escape spaceship that sat about 20 feet from a cliff's edge. A triangular pod dipped in white, black, blue, a metallic teal, and coated with the current planet's filth, it served as his only 
escape. About a football-field's length away, he'd have no problem getting to it had he not spotted what stood in his way.
Off to the left, and almost exactly halfway between ship and rocks, stood one of them. A metallic blue, almost as if someone had painted a truck with regular house paint then sprayed it with a glittery gray finish—the creature stood in dreary color. No less than 22-feet-tall, the hulking beast resembled a Frankenstein-like mix between furry animal, insect and spider. It moved with bone tentacles, standing only on two at a time as the other eight made circular patterns in the air like antenna looking for something. The tentacles each had no less than four knobby, knee-like joints allowing them the fluidity to whip like eel through water, or to fold like a blind-man's cane.
Its body looked of nothing, the torso a mixture of a fat cockroach and cow. Silica-like, gray-teal hair hung from its underside and dotted its tentacles. Protruding from either side of its body hung scorpion-tail stingers that, when raised to the red sunlight, looked translucent with turquoise outline. A venom inside of them yellow in color and boiling in appearance. The actual stinger could open like a flower, even serve usefulness as a hand and arm. A frightening creature, it moved with its tentacles in unique ways, no buggish pattern or dance to its movement, though a slime excreted sometimes from the bottom of the tentacles.
Though the blue creature stood closest to him, even farther away and more to the left stood a pinkish creature with similar attributes to a crab. Standing only 15 feet in height, it used all of its tentacle joints to walk at once. No stingers, it had claw-like joints with flattened white boards that looked like glued-together, elongated fingernails. Facing the astronaut and the blue alien, its face had a softness to it, almost appearing human or animal in shape and form: three proper holes from which illuminated its eyes; yellow-pyramid
 beak, which opened into its mouth; three vertical slots that resembled an antique wood stove—all made for an actual face.
Squared off against the blue alien, it moved side to side, slowly, methodically, strategizing its movements. Corman watched as it stepped to its right (Corman's left), and he thought, see me. See me!
The glow of the pink alien's eyes shifted color as its head tilted down to look across the cliff to the rock outcropping. He spotted Corman's head peeking out from the rock. Corman nodded and smiled in agreement. His eyes turned from the alien to the ship in hopes big pink would know of his plan.
As Corman looked once more at the ship, this time squinting to see harder, he spotted something lying far right of it. At cliff's side edge, sprawled upon the clay, laid another astronaut, a member of his crew, no doubt lifeless with their left arm outstretched and a book bag half-wrapped around it. Biology Officer Lacy Denaghue, he thought. Too many losses to count, he didn't have time to mourn them all now. He needed only to escape.
He continued his scouting glance, spotting what looked like a large clay doughnut. Wise to the crude aesthetic, he knew it to be a weapon used predominantly by the blue creatures.
Not thinking, Corman took one step toward the weapon and the dead officer only for his boot to kick a baseball-sized pebble. The noise just enough to draw the blue alien's attention, the elongated turtlenecked creature whipped around to see him. Far from the face of something recognizable, it had glowing eyes of yellow with a red ring around them that protruded like insect eyes; half a dozen of them on its face. Serpent fangs hung from the bottom of its neck and the entire neck opened to reveal a salmon-colored, gill-like flesh.
Spotted, Corman ducked back behind the rock as the blue creature lowered its two most-rear tentacles and took two steps 
 toward him only to be called back to the gladiator battle between it and the pink alien. The blue thing whipped back around as the pink alien galloped toward it at full speed and lunged into it.
The cries, roars and screeches of battle emanating from behind him, Corman concentrated only on his dilemma. Think, damn it! Think! Go for the ship, make it out alive. Go for the backpack and you've got a greater probability of dying. Even if that monster doesn't get you, you'll still probably run outta air. “Gah! Life or science? Life or science?” Always a soldier, he'd never be able to live with himself if he didn't complete his mission. “Aw shit!”
Ker-booomp! The crackle of an unfamiliar storm rumbled through his ears. Still leaned against the rock, Corman looked out to the left of the cliff to see the sky darkening green as a storm rolled in. Far from an earth storm, the green was not clouds. The clouds that already covered the sky persisted, staying still as if glued to the atmosphere. Having lived through one storm, he knew what followed would trap him there. He had to get out before the rolling rain and striking plasma covered him and the ship.
His eyes fixated upon the storm in the distance until a pink appendage flew up from the gorge below the cliff and spiraled toward him. A near hit, the pink limb landed to his right side, smacking hard against his shelter rocks and forcing him out into the open. He whipped back to the two aliens in battle only to find the pink alien atop the blue, ripping one of its tentacles in half and watching black pus spew from it. Maybe he can make it with those two distracted.
He took one step toward his downed comrade, when—Goowaaarr! He whipped around to see another blue alien climb up from the gorge and get atop the cliff about 400 feet from him, just at the start of the white grass thicket. It locked eyes on him.
Oh my god!” Time to move. He started to dart across the clay...

CRANE OUT to reveal landscape. From above, we look down on a marbled gorge on either side of the Lion King-esque cliff.

Brilliant whites, oranges and yellows – colors of the ground – reflect back, as we see and hear a much larger battle waged below. In the gorge, pinks vs. blues lay waste to each other, savaging one another as body parts flail and fly. Black goop from the blue aliens and green goop from the pink aliens smears on the ground.

An alien Gettysburg moves in rage as the green storm nears. Fire shoots pink aliens' mouths; ice from blues' eyes. A blue vomits onto a pink he's locked tentacles with, melting through its claws like acid.

Still fleeing like tiny white dot is the Colonel, the second blue alien gaining on him, using its many legs to zoom across the ground.

The sound of the approaching blue at his back, Corman ran for everything he ever held dear in his life, leaping and bounding from one stable bit of land to the other. He leapt over a blue puddle of unidentifiable liquid. Can't be water. Their water is clear, white even. His leap timed with the loogie of the second blue alien behind him, the spit hit and ignited with the blue puddle.
Boooom! The explosion flung him across the cliff, jettisoning him farther toward the weapon and the backpack. Thud-landing upon his right side once more, he rolled to his back, shook it off and looked across the field. Snapped to attention, the first blue alien eyed him in full view. It started toward him when the pink alien tackled it from behind, pulling it back into their death match.
Another lucky break. Then the suit began to sound as he scrounged to his feet. “Breathable air now down to one perc—perc...”
Engage air recycling filtration system,” he said, though he knew it busted nearly a day prior.
Negative. Air filtration system inoperable. Warning: Breathable air down to one perc—perc—perc...”
Ahh!” And up he went. Steps more sure than before, he took one look over his shoulder to spot the second alien close on his tail, now within 50 feet of him. Pushing his luck, he darted the last ten steps to the doughnut-shaped weapon.
Okay, how the hell do you work?” He had only seen it used once before, but he had only been on the planet for 30 days, so everything stayed fresh in his memory. Some kind of gun or cannon, it looked like a hula hoop standing upright and perfectly balanced without rolling forward or backward, but far from smooth. About six feet tall, he had no hope in moving it, but found a port at its back that just happened to point downhill toward the second alien. A port filled with a yellow snot-like substance, he jammed his hands deep into it, then wrapped the blue vine that hung from its side around his right foot, and kicked forward and down. A massive white energy blast ten feet in diameter shot from it like a softball toward the blue alien, blasting it halfway back down the hill. Stunned but not dead, the alien shook off the blast and got back upright to restart its approach.
Enough distance between the two, Corman ran ten steps farther to reach his fellow astronaut at the end of the cliff.
Worse than a cheap slasher movie, he looked down to his science officer to see the front glass of her helmet caved in and her face pulverized to such a messy pulp that nothing about her appearance looked human. Only her jawbone jutted forward with a few cracked teeth, the rest an Irish Blood soup of brains, flesh, eyes and other 
sinew. A praying man, Corman closed his eyes in quick prayer for the blue's prey. A mumbled word to the heavens only God and his heart could hear, before he could say amen his communion found interjection in the victorious roar of the first blue.
Corman opened his eyes to look across at the first blue standing at cliff-side's edge with big pink hoisted above head, half its tentacles torn off. Like Moses casting ten commandments down from on high, the blue hurled the pink off the cliff and roared once more in victory.
No.” Corman's one, quiet utterance called attention to him as the blue whipped around to spot him and pointed one of the sensor tentacles at him, reading its prey from afar.
Distracted by the pull to survive, Corman started to take off, getting three steps away from his downed crew mate before remembering, “Science,” and whipping back around to grab the bag. He found the bag entangled with the outstretched left arm that had grown stiff. He crouched down, yanked at the bag's strap twice before ripping it off and flinging the one usable strap around his right arm.
Beep! Beep! Beep! “Warning: Breathable oxygen will dissipate within 15 seconds. Warning: Breathable oxygen will dissipate within ten seconds... nine... eight...”
Time low, he took off, running double-time as the AI counted down and the beeping wouldn't stop. Don't look back. Just keep moving forward. Forward, damn it! Forward! His mantra helping him speed up, he paid no attention to the second alien having doubled its rate of approach, now closing the gap, within 50 feet of him along with the first blue. For such big creatures they moved like lightning, scurrying quicker than ants across the plane, almost gliding with the ends of their tentacles as they pursued him.
Don't look back! Don't look back!” he yelled at himself, tasting the salt of his sweat upon his lips. The beeping drove him crazy.
Four seconds... three seconds...”
Almost there. Ten feet. You can do it, Corman! Six feet!
The aliens zipped across, the second blue crunching into the body of the other dead astronaut, treating it like pavement gum.
The back loading door of the spaceship down and its ramp deployed, he needed only a few more steps to get inside. Two steps... One step, and jump!
He dove onto the ramp and crawled farther inside as he knew one had swung its lengthiest tentacle at him. A red lift button to his right, he smacked it and flipped onto his back to watch the alien's reach the back lift door. He scooted farther and farther into the ship as his suit continued to beep, out of oxygen. Lungs starting to swell, he held his breath as he watched the lift-gate close—wait! It's stuck?
The hydraulic got stuck, sending out an airy mechanical zip like the sound of a copy machine on repeat. The first blue alien arrived as the door nearly closed. It stuck its tentacle into the open space and tried grabbing Corman. Not to be undone by them, and knowing he had to close the lift-gate in order to engage the ship's faux-earth atmosphere, he kicked at the lift pipe to his left, hoping it would click back into place or move.
Come on you bastard! He willed the pipe to correct itself, finally kicking it smooth and allowing the lift-gate to close. The alien yanked its tentacle out just as the ramp closed.
Still not clear, he started to feel the wooziness of having held his breath so long. Get to the front! You've got to get to the front. Only from the pilot's seat at front could he turn on the artificial environment. He tried pushing to his feet before feeling lightheaded from lack of oxygen. His legs gave out and sent him tumbling back to 
 the ground. From walk to army-man's crawl, he muscled to the front to smack a green button and swipe his hand across a screen to...
On-board artificial environment engaged,” the ship's AI said.
The helmet heavy on his head, he unlatched it and threw it off to take a big gulp of air—“huooooohnn!”—before rolling onto his back and looking at the ship's ceiling.
Goobababoom! Goobababoom! The ground rumbling from outside mixed with the storm still nearing and the metallic thwack of the tentacles upon the outside of the ship. Corman elevated to his feet, threw the backpack off and into the co-pilot's seat to his right and plopped down in his captain's chair.
Initiate emergency flight protocols! Skip check-through!” he told the AI.
Systems analysis skipped. Would you like to—?”
Start engines!”
Engines started. Would you like—?”
Engage thrusters!”
Outside, the white heat of the spaceship's thrusters burned across the clay, turning its color from a dull orange to a shiny marbled red. Boomp! Gaaboomp!—two more hits from the aliens.
Dang it! I can't wait for the engines to power up. If I don't get outta here now, I'll never get out alive. No doubt those things can rip this tin can apart. Having seen plenty of what they could do up close, he wasn't looking to be proven right. He looked out the front window that covered the entirety of the front of the spaceship like a visor, and spotted the rain hitting the battlefield below to the right.
A touchscreen display before him with all sorts of buttons for the ship's operations, he dialed a few to initiate the piloting gear to come out from beneath the table and dock in front of him. “Lift-off ready!”
He wrapped either hand around either pillar of the steering yoke 
 and yanked back.
Warning: Engines not to full power! Taking off without full power may result in fai—”
Corman didn't want to hear it. He clicked a button-switch to the right of the touchscreen console to momentarily switch off the AI.
And lift-off he did. Wobbly, the ship pushed off the ground about one foot, hovering in place as he struggled with the controls.
Come on! Come on!” Feeling the tug of the creature at back, he jostled with the yoke and yanked it left, hoping to fling the alien off. Half in control, the ship spun like a top, whirling twice in the air, scraping its right wing on the ground as it turned. And forward! It hop-skipped across the ground toward the edge, closing the 20 feet to the drop at a snail's pace as the engines fought the new weight.
Ahh!” Not until the second spin did Corman notice salvation out to the left of the window. The pink alien that had been tossed off the cliff's side threw one of its tentacles over the side. Then another, finally pulling itself back up onto the plateau. “Yes!”
Angrier than Clint Eastwood in a Western, the alien scuttled its way across the cliff as fast as it could, moving no less than 30 miles an hour toward the ship. One final battle cry, it dive-bombed into the two blues, ripping them from their attachment to the ship. The momentum sent all three of them cascading off the side of the cliff, freeing the ship to sputter along until it reached cliff's edge.
Sputtering, sputtering, sputtering, and... Drop! Corman looked out the windshield only to see ground not too far away. The engines' power was not fully restored. A daring pilot, Corman put his feet up on the dash and pulled up with all his might, freeing himself from the straight vertical plummet and leveling out just at the height of the blue creatures. War still waging, he looked across the ravaged plane at the mess of creatures entangled in battle and remembered the 
 kindness of the pink creatures. If he was forced to fly low, then he might as well do some damage.
Yanking and jockeying with the yoke, he turned the ship sideways and bowled the right wing directly through a line of blue creatures like a sideways Frisbee. He boomeranged to his left and turned to take out two more of the deviant blues before the engines warmed enough for him to make the pull upward into the sky.
No sooner had he braved and conquered one peril did another come. The storm fully upon him, now he had to fight against the malevolent weather of the planet. Rain splashed upon the windshield, hitting like balls against bats. Were it water, he'd be safe. But this was no ordinary H2O2. A liquid thicker than vegetable oil, and just as greasy, spit down from the heavens in brown droplets big as a child's hand or a god's tear.
No, no, no! I need visibility! I need to see, damn it!” Corman yelled at the window as the brown rain coated like thick gravy. He flicked the button-switch to turn the AI back on and instructed it to, “Defrost the windows.”
System has found no need to defrost th—”
Then do somethin', god damn it! I can barely see!”
There is an obstruction 100 feet away. I advise you to pull up!”
The obstruction: a cloud. As nearly everything else on the planet, the clouds sat differently in the purple haze of day and green of the storm. Instead of puffs of condensed moist air consisting of white foam pushed by the geothermal breeze of the planet's rotation, these clouds seldom moved. These were gelatinous gray blobs that Corman and his crew never got around to thoroughly analyzing. His chief botanist hypothesized that they, similar to earth, consisted of condensed formulations of the planet's atmosphere. However, nothing on the ground supported such a theory.
One thing they did discover: Hitting one, flying through it, shared traits with driving through quicksand or Jello—you felt the impact.
Visibility low, Corman yanked on the yoke once more, pulling straight up in hopes of missing the curve of the nebulous dwelling before him. The rain hitting thick upon the ship forced the tail down and made it scrape through the clouds, catching a piece of the gel on the end as he dared not stop.
Detecting mass increase of ten percent. There is an 18 percent probability that the thrusters will be unable to lift us out of the stratosphere,” the computer said, hardly the news he wanted to hear. “Barometric pressure increasing to...”
As the AI continued, Corman focused on the gauge that displayed at the upper left-hand corner of the touchscreen. It read the same as what the AI warned: “Mass increased by ten percent.”
Damn rain and... Clouds!” he said, feeling like an idiot for cursing the clouds. Another decision to make, any extraneous movement to shake free the cloud (now glued to the back of his ship) would waste thrust power and overtax the engine, and he needed every bit of power to get back through deep space.
Now piercing Explored Planet one's exosphere and entering into inner-space,” the computer said. Not cause for celebration, the colonel still flew with teeth grit and hands wrapped tight around the yoke. The absence of a fiery canopy to burn off the rain and the cloud nothing new to him, he zoomed into the darkness of space full speed.
We're not out 'til we're home,” Corman barked to no one.
Nearing Icarus One's warp dock. Warning: Severe damage of warp dock detected. Warning severe...,” the computer yapped.
Nothing the colonel didn't already know, he looked out the rain-greased window to see a man-made ring satelliting the planet, a space-station docking that should have held the back-end of the ship
 he currently piloted. This was just the planetary explorer. The rest of the Icarus One had met its untimely fate during a blue alien attack a few weeks earlier. It, along with parts of the circular ring it fit into, sustained maximum damage. Now, all Corman had to get home was the ring and the explorer. Luck on his side, the docking ring contained the warp-drive engines to get him far, and fast.
Just in time to link up with its planetary rotation, he slowed the Icarus One explorer, ported into the ring, initiated the coupling protocol and locked together with the ring.
Initiate Icarus One supplementary thrusters now!” he yelled. As commanded, the thrusters kicked into gear and blasted him around a nearby planet and into a space where light and time warped, a black hole that had been dubbed The Eye.
Down on the surface of the planet, one of the blues looked up past the clouds, and flicked a secondary lizard-like yellow eyelid over their eyes to see through the rain and right into space. It watched as a burst of energy blasted from the rear of the spaceship and sent it deep into the black hole. Corman's escape gave it license to let free one final roar! Gooowaaarrr!
Ripping free from the black hole, Corman yanked back on the yoke with all his might as he felt himself going too fast. The Eye spit-out Icarus One into the belt of space junk and potential comets between Mars and Jupiter. Warp still engaged, the circular mechanism ripped apart at the onset of Mars' gravitational pull as he crested the bend. Corman looked down to the touchscreen's left corner. Sure enough, it still said that he was ten percent heavier in mass, meaning not even the worm hole and warp speed could peel off the gelatinous cloud substance. He wouldn't know it but somehow the cloud scraped through the space dust particles of Mars, spider-webbing a small part of the red planet's atmosphere as the ship
 curved around the planet's gravitational ellipsis.
Corman's worries extended far beyond that. Because of the warp-drive having been fitted for a ship much bigger than the tiny explorer, he had a problem. Shit! I'm going too fast. He'd be within earth's reach within minutes.
His saving grace: “Wait, I should be able to contact them.” He swiped across a blue panel of the touchscreen to get earth on the communication line. “Icarus One Explorer to earth! This is Icarus One explorer to earth, do you copy?”
No answer. The comms were just as dead as when he and his crew went through the worm hole. “Icarus One explorer to earth, do you read me?” Still nothing. “Somebody answer, damn it!” Try as he might, he'd get no response. Still, for posterity's sake, protocol stipulated that he speak out any problems encountered in space flight for the recorder. “OK, uh... This is Colonel Nelson Corman, captain of the Icarus One space explorer spaceship. I have re-entered our solar system and have already passed Mars. Due to unforeseen circumstances I have had to ditch the rear of the ship and am flying the planetary explorer. Because of my decreased mass, I am coming in way too hot to earth. I will—”
Warning: Approaching for a landing on earth at the current speed could result in a catastrophic event. Warning: Approaching for a landing on earth...” the computer blared.
Corman reached for the button-switch and turned it off again before saying, “Basically, I splash down on the pre-coordinated target and I could cause the extinction of the world's entire ecosystem, if I'm lucky enough not to blast a hole through the entire planet and crack it like an egg.” Stopping to think, he finally smacked at the reverse-thrusters—a disappointment as they did virtually nothing to slow him. And then...
Eureka! As he looked at the world coming fast, he concocted a true flier's plan, “Currently, my only option is to use the gravitational pull in conjunction with the magnetic field of the earth to slow my trajectory and allow me to land with minimal damage to the earth. Computer, calculate how many revolutions around the earth I'd have to make in order to slow me enough for re-entry and—damn it!”
He switched the computer back on and restated the command. The computer calculated three rotations within ten seconds of him hitting the exosphere and smashing through a Russian satellite. An experienced pilot and highly intelligent scientist, he flew around the earth the opposite direction of its rotation, and against the gravitational centrifugal force in order to slow the ship before hitting the heat of the atmosphere.
We're goin' down! Ahhhh!”
Warning: Brace for impact. Warning: Brace for impact. Icarus One explorer off course. Icarus One explorer off course,” the computer barked.
The yoke unbearable to hold, it snapped to the right, breaking his arm in two as he tried to control it. Flames engulfed the windshield as the heat increased tenfold during re-entry. All the while his eyes kept glued to the console readout at the top left that insisted he still had the same mass as before—a ten percent increase due to the cloud. Shouldn't that melt off in the fire? His question for both the clouds and the filthy rain still smeared upon the front windshield.
Off course from his original splashdown landing in the Atlantic, he fell through the night sky like a shooting star, hurdling toward an empty field near a farm in a foreign country. The rounded front of his ship dove into the ground more than 200 feet, carving out a massive cave 22 miles long—Kaboom-doom-doom-doom-doom-doooom!
A disruptive quiet, inside the ship, he hung upside-down strapped 
 into the pilot's chair, unconscious.
Dah! Wha...? What?” he jolted awake. His first thought to free himself from the ship, he undid his seat belt without gravity's consideration, and fell to the roof of the vehicle, smacking hard against his left hip as he landed inches from the backpack.
Ah! Ah! Oh god!” he moaned and squealed as he writhed in pain. Not done yet, he hobbled to his feet and used his one good arm and leg to pull him up to the console so he could smack the emergency beacon he had put in just for this scenario. Out of breath, he grabbed hold of a detachable satellite phone hidden in the under-panel of the captain's chair and turned it on. Above the phone's static he could hear what sounded like hot piss hitting a radiator, and turned to look to the back of the busted ship. The back lift-door/ramp torn completely off, he spotted some kind of liquid leaking from the undercarriage of the ship.
That better not be somethin' flammable. That better not be somethin' flammable!” No fire in sight, he couldn't risk staying inside. He grabbed the backpack and managed to kick out a side door a few feet from him. Out went the door and out he went after it, tumbling to the ground of the newly formed cavern. A bluish-green glow still coming from inside the ship from the control panel was all the light he needed to take out the phone and push the “one” button.
As the phone rang, he set it on the ground, ripped at a control panel on the suit around his broken arm, and turned on a flashlight equipped in the palm of the suit. The phone continued to ring. He grabbed the backpack, yanked it open and, using his flashlight-hand, looked inside to reveal a small blue creature in what appeared to be some kind of stasis pod, like an egg but with half of the shell clear. Coiled up inside, he watched as the clear-side of the egg fogged and hardened in the new atmosphere.
His breath still not caught, the phone finally clicked over. He heard a human voice for the first time in two days. “Hello?”
Tur... Turn on your locator beacon. Come get me ASAP. They're dead. The rest are all dead. Hurry up!” He clicked the phone off and laid his head back against the spaceship. Fatigue had quickly eclipsed his first thought to run from an explosion or chemical leak. Now, he needed only a breath and his sanity.

Corman undid the glove on his left hand, pulled his right hand across his waist and dug his bare left hand through the disrupted soil kicked up by the spaceship. A rich, gritty black, it fell through his fingers like soot and brown sugar, every bit his expectation. He smiled, then laughed as he watched the soil fall, “I'm home. I'm home.” And with those words, he passed out. 

And there you go. I do hope you liked it, and if it has wet your appetite, be sure to check on my Amazon page (click the word Amazon highlighted below) and check for the series premiere of the first three episodes tomorrow. Trust me, you won't want to miss this first season. It will be an emotional roller coaster that will have you both cheering and weeping for these characters. 

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary premiering soon on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Amazon click here for the Extraordinary premiere tomorrow, May 7th
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Friday, May 5, 2017

You're Dismissing This As A Cat-Fight? You Sexiest Pig #FeudBetteJoan #FX #FeudFX #FullSeasonReview #Recap

You're Dismissing This As A Cat-Fight? You Sexiest Pig #FeudBetteJoan #FX #FeudFX #FullSeasonReview #Recap

All pictures courtesy of FX unless otherwise noted. 

No, I'm not dismissing it. Are you crazy? FX, Ryan Murphy, and his crew just delivered us some of the best drama of 2017 (albeit, still very much in its infancy) in similar fashion to what they did last year with American Crime Story: People v. OJ Simpson. Holy crap, did I just bury the lede in my own review/recap of the season, or are you still going to read on to see what I really think about the show? I don't know, but you should.

As of late, Ryan Murphy and his producing partners have jumped onto the anthology series bandwagon full-steam. In fact, one can call him the father of the current trend as American Horror Story ushered this in six short years ago. Feud (#FeudFX) follows that same trend. For its first season, Feud followed the storied, seething hatred between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (I swear I'm going to call her Joan Rivers and/or Collins at least once in this write-up, so consider yourself forewarned). It all started with a little book entitled “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” But let us get some technical stuff out of the way first.

Framing the show in a documentary arc, the show starts by setting up the parameters by which old Hollywood of the 1960s operated, particularly through a woman's lens. The show introduces us to a multitude of female actresses at the time, at varying levels of stardom. We get a taste of how they viewed the clash between Bette and Joan. At that time in Hollywood, most actresses were believed to have an expiration date somewhere around the 40 mark. Even for top-level actresses, the studio-system wasn't very kind once they reached a certain age. The roles dried up and so did the money. Few women felt this more than two of the top stars at the time Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. While other greats like Hepburn and Vivien Leigh were happy to stay above the fray, Bette and Joan battled for supremacy of who was the better actress.

The feud was, for the most part, manufactured from nothing, a ploy to pit two women against each other equally concocted by Jack Warner (president, one of the founding members, and partial namesake of Warner Brothers Studio) and Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. In brilliant portrayals of Warner and Hopper, Stanley Tucci and Judy Davis, at times, steal the show—a tall order considering the powerhouse performances of Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis and Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford. Why such a ploy? Who really knows. Here, it is presented to us as the ripe-sweetened juice of gossip that both sells movie tickets and magazines. Be not fooled that this was solely two women being puppeted by a man, for the women had equal parts in their own undoing.

As I said before, it started with the book (as most movies do. Did I mention I'm a writer? Check a link to my books below) “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” After a string of misfires and a few years with sparse work coming her way, Joan Crawford began to look for her own projects to revive her career. In fact, her ultimate goal was to choose a legacy project in hopes of winning an Oscar. She had already won one earlier in her career but it had done her little good in her older age. Most of the roles slid across the table to her came in the form of someone's mother or grandmother, which were often unchallenging roles that didn't even sniff at an Oscar. For something meatier, juicier, she needed to find a role for herself. Enter, the book.

Intent on playing the washed-up child actress Blanche Hudson, Joan takes the book to her director-friend Robert Aldrich played by the always dependable Alfred Molina who does a stellar job at playing the overworked, underappreciated film director. Far from the sleek veneer that name brand Hollywood directors of today seem to have, Robert (or Bob as they called him throughout) not only looks like a shoe salesman who occasionally makes pictures, but he has also hit a career funk. His last picture didn't do very well and he is already said to be on his career decline even though he is only middle-aged (we're talking 40s at the time).

Robert reads the book and sees an opportunity. Not only had Hitchcock's Psycho just come out within the last few years and made a, um... (pause! OK, should I go for the obvious and cheap joke here or should I avoid it and go a completely, unexpected direction. Go unexpected, Michael. It might turn out well)... sizable profit at the box office (Oh. You should've gone with the cheap “killing” joke. Too late now), Bob figured he could make the movie for cheap as it was well-contained in one location and already had Crawford's waning stardom attached to it. He dang near lost his mind when Joan gave him the ultimate idea: Have Bette Davis play my sister in it.

At this point, there was already chatter about how Bette and Joan didn't get along. Really, Bette didn't like anybody but loathed Joan because she was the prettier of the two and had been used by the studio to undercut Bette's negotiating power. “Oh, Bette wants to play hardball? Then forget her. Have Joan do it.” Bette thought Joan only got roles because she was something to look at, whereas Davis had to be far more talented. Was she more talented in real life is something you can determine for yourself by looking up their movies or watching them on TCM when they come on. Regardless, this is what Bette believed and what Joan knew she believed. And herein is the crux of the series. Don't let anyone tell you that this wasn't about hatred because it was. While Joan Crawford really only wanted to be loved and accepted, Bette wanted to have power and prestige, something which could only be gotten by bringing who she saw as her biggest rival to heel.

By this time, Bette had already won two Oscars and had been nominated ten times (Side note: When the Academy loves a woman, they really love them for a very long time. Women have always outpaced men as far as the sheer amount of repeat nominations, with Hepburn having previously owned the crown for most nominations for years before Streep overtook her). At the time, Bette was doing some rinky-dink play which is where Joan finds her. Although it never quite feels like Bette needs this movie as much as Joan does, she also thinks it is a novel idea to have them in the film together. And then the fireworks start to pop.

From here we see all of the undercutting and back-biting normally done in Hollywood filmmaking. But strangely, if you are well-versed in old Hollywood or if you have watched plenty of films about the behind-the-scenes action on films, there really isn't a lot of new stuff here. They argue over the dressing rooms, over who has the better lines, over who looks better on camera, on who should get top billing, on how a scene should play, over how much they're each getting paid, over how the studio will promote and etc. There's also discussion about how Bette was possibly sleeping with Bob, how she got her daughter (who was staying with her during the film) a role, and how much Jack Warner fought Bob at every step while Bob had to mortgage his house to make the picture in order for Warner to distribute it. Again, all very Hollywood-style drama you can see in many different forms and fashions. But the way it unfolds is marvelous.

Glimpsing bits of every character and their intricacies, we are halfway pulled to take sides ourselves as the women take subtle digs at each other that continue escalating through the season. I'm partially halted by what details I should and shouldn't include here as the show really does go broad stroke to quiet-understated-moment at the drop of a dime. But it does try to paint a portrait of two women heavily manipulated by the men and system around them while still trying to manipulate each other. Bette is, for all intents and purposes, a scene-stealing egomaniac going far above and beyond Joan who is, admittedly, made more sympathetic. Or maybe that was just my bias.

All throughout Joan is shown to be someone who, despite her best efforts, has been used by nearly everyone she comes into contact with, save for her trusted helper Mamacita. She brings the novel and idea to both Bob and Bette, yet Bette tries stealing top billing from her, then makes the ridiculous character choice to wear the iconic Baby Jane makeup. Here, it's shown that Joan even concedes the title role to Bette in order to feed the latter's ego. Joan is then not even nominated for an Oscar, let alone wins one, but Bette? Of course, Bette gets nominated and has so many fans and film critics alike heralding her performance as brilliant. The only time I actually didn't have more sympathy for Joan over Bette was during their asides with their families.

Joan and Her Husband
Joan is, as portrayed in the 1980s film “Mommie Dearest,” a cold fish outside of her film roles. She was married to two men that are mentioned. The first was the Pepsi guy who, through a few flashing, passing scenes of them getting married, is never quite rounded out as far as what happened. And if it was, I don't remember the brief mention. Her other man, the one she had at the start of filming “Baby Jane,” quickly left under suspicions that she was sleeping with Bob in order to dissuade the man from leaning more to Bette's side for any future arguments. She cast him aside like a cheap hooker, but he didn't seem domineering enough for her over-the-top personality.

Her children, of which she had three, are actually given less time than Bette's. All adopted, we never see Christine, the would-be author of the book Mommie Dearest. And while there seemed to be no interaction with them during this time frame, I can only assume we didn't see her character because of a potential legal battle with the still-living Christine. But with that, some of the horrors allegedly suffered by Christine go unseen and partially unacknowledged. And while we get a glimpse of Joan's twins, we really have but one scene in which we see how Joan treats them as less of their own people and more like her own dress-up dolls.

Bette, on the other hand, is shown a wide berth of interaction with her eldest daughter, Barbara. Granted, Barbara becomes part of the production and actually seems to live with her mother (at least for the production), but the story feels slightly uneven, tipping towards Bette's cruelness. With Barbara, Bette is shown to be unkind while also being uncaring and still egotistical. She suggests that her daughter play the part of the neighbor girl, but only so she can have more clout on the set. She rehearses lines with the girl and tries to teach her how to act but even then it feels more like she's doing it hoping that the girl won't embarrass her. There's an argument in there about youth vs. age, and how some of what Bette feels doesn't come from age, it comes from her own bitter personality she would've had regardless of how many Oscars she won. And finally, the relationship sort of ends with Barbara asking permission to get married to a man nearly twice her age (16 to a 29-year-old man) and needing Bette's consent. Bette makes mention of how it won't last and the girl knows nothing of the world and blah blah blah. Spoiler Alert: Barbara and the guy she married are still together today. Sometimes youth has wisdom that age has somehow forgotten. Anyway, Barbara eventually writes a book similar to Christine's, and she and Bette never speak again.


But outside of Barbara, and the younger guy who she had been married to at the beginning of the production who asks for a divorce and is never seen again, Bette also has another daughter, an ill one. Mentally incapable of emotional maturity, the girl, at the behest of Bette, lives in a facility somewhere on the east coast. We get two scenes on that relationship in which we see Bette talking to the girl over the phone, and one in which Bette, in her advanced age, goes to visit her daughter long after the “Baby Jane” shoot. They color together and we, for a brief moment, forget how horrible of a human being Davis was to everyone around her.

Probably the best episode was the Oscar-night episode in which Joan sought to undercut Bette anyway she could. With a plan hatched by queen-witch Hedda Hopper, Joan stalked down at least two (I'd have to re-check because I think it was three) of the other Best Actress nominees and convinced them that they shouldn't go to the Oscars that night and instead have her accept the award for them in the case that they happened to win. As Hopper put it, “No matter that you weren't nominated, Joan. You'll be walking away with the Oscar.” And she did. In a great bit of cinematography, we follow the specially-silver-hair-powdered Joan around the entire backstage of the Oscars before the winner is announced to see Joan walk onto the stage and accept the Oscar for the woman who won for the Miracle Worker. And all the while Bette stands just offstage, behind the curtain with a cigarette stomped under heel but her rage still smoking. The funniest thing is, when you look back on it, why be so mad about it? It wasn't like Joan actually won, but all the pictures would show Joan holding the Oscar. Still, Bette lost to Anne Bancroft, not Joan.

And The Winner Is Not...

The series ended with Joan's last curtain call in 1977 when she, alone in her apartment save for her longtime helper Mamacita, died from cancer. But before her death scene came the old “We had a helluva time” trope that has been used so brilliantly in other pieces and doesn't disappoint here. Stepping out from her shaggy gray-haired oldness into the brilliant light of semi-youthfulness (back to around the time they filmed “Baby Jane”, so about a decade and a half earlier), she sits at a table with Jack Warner, Hedda Hopper, and Bette Davis as they discuss how miserable they made each other and how much fun they all had doing it. Neither Hedda nor Jack apologizes for their shrewd behavior against Joan, or Bette, for that matter. And they all instead have a good laugh at their cruelness. Why? Because in the end, such cruelty maybe helped to sharpen the talents of both women as they worked harder to prove the doubters wrong about them while staying relevant in an industry obsessed with youthfulness.

Hedda Hopper
What's my grade? I give it an A-. Does the series have flaws? Of course, it does. It never seemed like we quite finished the “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte” story. Joan was out and suddenly, that story was just dropped. Was Bette the toast of the town again? Was Bob in the driver's seat for directing? What happened between he and Bette after that picture? Shrugs!

Even with those few complaints, there was not much else to complain about. You could make an argument that the season was an episode too short, or that it had far more cursing in it than an FX show normally has (we're talking the F-bomb was being dropped about as much as it would have been on HBO. Took me by surprise), or can even make mention that the current age of both Sarandon and Lange, in a comical twist, surpasses the ages of Bette and Joan during the actual filming of “Baby Jane” by about 10 years. However, there's something to be said artistically in getting senior-citizen-aged women (both are older than 66) to play middle-aged women (Bette would've been 55-56 during filming; Joan was 57-58), especially since so often in Hollywood younger women are tasked with playing middle-aged women. I could easily have seen Nicole Kidman as Joan and Julianne Moore as Bette, too, but even they are younger. In all, I liked the choices, and the series was yet another phenomenal entry into Murphy's catalog, even in spite of the fact that this still owes a great deal to the “Housewives” culture seen in reality TV that was rekindled by Marc Cherry's “Desperate Housewives” after the 80s saw the rise of “Dynasty.” Pitting two or more women against each other has become the default go-to trope in order to create strong-willed female characters. This show elevates that to a new paradigm to make a critique on both modern filmmaking and society.

Should you be watching? Yes. A multitude of reasons to watch spring to mind: potentially award-winning performances, great writing, the peel-back into a tough industry, an intricate dynamic between two women, etc. I'd be very surprised if it doesn't win some kind of Emmy or Golden Globe. A very short binge-able season, Feud: Bette and Joan aired on FX. Check FX on demand or I believe it is playing on VUDU or Amazon as well.

The REAL Bette Davis and Joan Crawford 

What do you think? Have you heard about Feud: Bette and Joan? If not, do you think you'll try and catch it on demand now? If you have seen it, how did you like it? Do you think it treated Bette and Joan equally or was one weighted over the other? And what was your favorite scene? And, have you seen “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” and/or “Hush, Hush... Sweet Charlotte” and what did you think of the two movies? Let me know in the comments below.

Check out my 5-star comedy novel, Yep, I'm Totally Stalking My Ex-Boyfriend. #AhStalking
If you’re looking for a scare, check the YA novel #AFuriousWind, the NA novel #DARKER#BrandNewHome or the bizarre horror #ThePowerOfTen. For those interested in something a little more dramatic and adult, check out #TheWriter. Both season 1 and season 2 are out NOW, exclusively on Amazon. Stay connected here for updates on season 3 coming summer 2017. If you like fast action/crime check out #ADangerousLow. The sequel A New Low will be out in a few months. Look for the mysterious Sci-fi episodic novella series Extraordinary premiering soon on Amazon and my blog. Join us on Goodreads to talk about books and TV, and subscribe to and follow my blog with that Google+ button to the right.

Until next time, “We women must stick together. No more biting and cutting each other down. No more backstabbing and—wait! Where's my knife?”
(supporting actress clamps knife) 'Uh...'

P.S. OK, that wasn't actually a sign-off quote, but a scene. Don't act like you're confused about it, you got the setup. I'm trying to make this thing short, dang it. I'll think of an actual sign-off next time.

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