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Category: Writing

These are Matt’s musing on writing.

Test of Faith: The Forgiven 002

As the group continued to wade through the desert, High Priestess Isis increased her pace. She pulled up beside Samia. They walked in silence for a moment. Isis waited for the Hunt Leader to acknowledge her, but she never did. Isis was the first to speak.

“I said nothing before in front of the others, but how long do you want to continue this?We both know who is really in charge.”

Samia grunted, “I wasn’t kidding. I lead this Hunt, and will continue until our city is retaken.”

The High Priestess paused in her step but quickly recovered. She tried another tactic. “So what are we hunting?”

Samia stopped walking and looked hard at her. “Not ‘what’ but ‘who.’ This Hunt will continue until we see Lilith’s head on a pike for what she’s done.”

Maani was beside them now, sensing that her sister needed backup. “Well, said, sister. We will see Lilith’s head on a pike.”

High Priestess Isis lowered her head. The words of Bast echoed in her mind. A true leader knows how to follow.

Isis nodded and moved back to walk with the others.

Behind the group Zahra raised her voice. “We should angle north. We are near a Union outpost.”

Amaunet laughed. “After facing the army that attacked our city, what is a small Union outpost? They stay behind their shield, anyway.”

The group of hunters murmured their agreement. Isis counted them off. There were seventeen hunters, including Samia and Maani. The battle priestess, Meri, rode atop the manticore along with Char. She shivered as she thought of their perverted bond.

It was sad that Amaunet was the only Raven to remain. She was walking and talking with Kerr. He had saved her life in the battle. Strange, that. A man saving a woman. It sounded like the opening of a joke.

The Cheetah had fared a bit better. Two of them had survived. Zahra and Thoeris walked together, apart from the others. She was honored to have their two best fighters guarding their flank.

They were such a small group. How would they retake the city with such a tiny army?

Up ahead was the Union outpost and its’ glowing green energy shield. From this close, she could see that the shield was made up of interlocking green grids, each in the shape of a giant hexagon. Nothing could get through. Her women had tried in the past. It was like a giant turtle sitting out in the desert wasteland. She found it better to ignore them. They kept to themselves.


Nicko flashed his white fangs, “Strap in, big guy. We’re about to do this. Countdown commence! TEN!”

Liam growled, throwing himself into the captain’s chair. It protested under his considerable weight. Nicko was strapped into the navigation chair, but both legs were hanging over the arms. He looked like he was lounging even when he was tied down. “Hold on, little buddy! I need a couple second…”

“There’s no time! We need to launch before the next guards come on duty. EIGHT!”

Liam clicked the belt down around him and squinted through the windshield. The massive docking bay doors were rumbling open. Beyond, the green energy shield glimmered. His brain calculated the mass of the ship and the force that would be required to punch through the shield.

“Uh, Nicko?”

Nicko was flipping switches and punching buttons. All the while, he was continuing his maniacal countdown.

“SIX! What’s up, Liam? FIVE!”

Liam nodded his head toward the bay opening. “What was your plan to get through the energy shield?”

“THREE! I don’t know. TWO! I thought you ONE! would think of something!” He screamed, “LIFTOFF!”

The acceleration pushed Liam back into his seat.

“WHAT?!”


Zahra trotted around them to scout ahead. She took a couple steps and then froze, staring at the Union outpost.

Behind her, the other women followed her gaze one by one.

“Huh,” said Shukura, standing beside her. “What are they doing?”

A small ship launched from the outpost. It was quickly approaching the energy shield.

“Shouldn’t the shield be opening to let it out?” One of the hunters asked the question they all thought.

The craft was drawing closer and closer to the energy shield. There were murmurs among the onlookers. Would it crash?

At the last moment, the ship banked to the side, and the women saw guns flash and missiles fire. Both exploded against the shield. There was no apparent effect.

“They are trying to escape!”

Amaunet raised her bow, “Any enemy of the Union is a friend of mine! Ladies, focus your fire on the same part of the shield. Maybe we can weaken it.”

Kerr chuckled. “With bows and arrows?”

Amaunet turned her head to glare at him. Her voice sounded like she was lecturing a child. She had to be patient and remember that he was just a man. “When I pray, God, my god, gives light to my arrow. It is no longer a weapon made by humans. It is a weapon of pure light from the almighty. It flies as light. It penetrates as light.”

“So… you can fire lasers.”

Amaunet grunted, not acknowledging the silly word.

Around her, women raised their bows. As whispers of prayer filled the air, arrows shimmered with light.

She whispered her own prayer, and her arrow hummed. Angry light hummed. She released the arrow of light and it whistled away.

The LENS in Kerr’s eye magnified his vision. He watched the arrow as it flashed and struck the shield in a blink of an eye. The energy shield crackled where the arrow hit. A red color overlayed his vision, and words scrolled across his vision.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 99%

Kerr firmed his lip. “I stand corrected,”

“Fire there! Where the tiles of the shield come together, the shield is weak.” Around them, all of the other women let fly with their arrows. The air was filled with the flashes of light.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 87%

This might work.


“We’re sitting ducks here!” Liam was screaming. He was terrified. He hated flying. He hated being shot down even more. “Our weapons don’t do anything to that shield!”

Nicko was busy picking lint off his uniform. He glanced up. “Why don’t you concentrate your fire where those other explosions are coming from?”

Was he insane? “What other explosions?! Are we on the same ship? I don’t see any other…”

Liam’s voice trailed off. There were other explosions, coming from outside the shield. Liam didn’t question his luck. He banked hard toward the new explosions and opened fire with all of his guns.


“Keep it up, ladies!” Amaunet was a battle leader again. Her voice carried loud over the group, “Fire! FIRE!”

Energy arrows filled the air with a symphony of whistles.

Kerr smiled as the readout on his vision continued to drop.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 46%

Inside the shield, Kerr could see the ship turn and fire at the same spot. Now the number on his eye was dropping faster.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 32%

Another light flashed in the air. Kerr turned to see Char had begun to project energy from his hands, as well. That boy seems to have some serious control over energy.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 26%

The getaway ship was barreling toward the energy shield, lasers firing. Kerr bit his bottom lip. Would it be enough?

The manticore let out a screech and took to the air. In three flaps of his wings, he was hovering near the energy shield. It opened its’ mouth wide, and a stream of green, bubbling liquid hit the shield in a torrent.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 12%

Now Kerr could see a crack beginning to form. It wasn’t visible to the naked eye, but he could see it. The shield was weakening.

SHIELD INTEGRITY: 5%

Was it enough? The energy shield started to flicker. Kerr could see a crack in the energy shield, like a broken pane of glass.

With a crunch of metal, the ship struck the energy shield. Kerr winced. It sounded and felt like he was watching an automobile accident. There was a fireball explosion. The craft shot from the flames.

Kerr realized he had been clenching his fists.

The ship was pointed down. It was no longer flying, it was falling.


“We’re going down!” shouted the Borg. “Better brace for impact!”

Liam pulled hard on the controls of the ship, but to little effect. They were, indeed, going to crash. Liam slowed the feed of his video down. It was a trick he had learned when he needed to process extra information.

The desert under him slowed to a crawl. Would it soften their crash? They were passing over a hill. He tried to match the downward angle. It was the best he could do.


The cheers of the women turned to murmurs as they watched the ship disappear from view. A sickening sound of twisting metal reached their ears.

They broke into a run.


Writers Note:

It’s been many MANY years, but I am writing again. I feel good. It feels right. I am writing out on Medium, too. I will eventually make money, but I’m under no illusion that it will be quick. I’ve heard it takes nearly a year to start getting traction. Until then, it’s all about consistency. I need to get into a daily habit.

I was so pumped when book one launched, and then it was crickets. I was sooo disappointed. I hung up my typewriter for awhile. It all just seemed like a waste. I have since learned that it is common for a first book to fail.

I’m normal, y’all.

And, looking back, the writing of my first book is not that great. When I finish book two and start to accumulate a following, I will re-edit book one so that the “voice” matches. Then I will write book three online.

Here’s my big master plan: Have a big following online and THEN publish the trilogy on Amazon. I should have done it that way first, but I’m learning, here. I should create a course on all this… assuming it’s a hit.

At the end of book one, I wrote a long writer’s note. I told everybody (all three of you) that I was engaged. I have since gotten married. That was January of 2019. She is still working in Rome while I process her VISA application so she can come here. Anyway, sign up for my mailing list to get announcements of the next instalments!

Did you miss the last instalment? Here ya go!

Test of Faith: The Forgiven 001

Liam shifted his body to pick up the heavy crate, rotating at the hip. Inside his arm, gears whirled and whined. His brain calculated the angles necessary for the move. His manufactured skin could only wasn’t perfect, but he could feel enough. It was enough to get the job done.

The pads of his fingers pressed on the crate just enough to lift it. His brain weighed it for him and reported back—two hundred and twelve point five kilograms.

Liam sighed. Another crate.

He turned again and walked to the other side of the room. He deposited the crate in a precise line with the other crates. One thousand, three-hundred, and forty-seven.

He sighed again. Mission accomplished.

What to do now? How about moving another heavy crate? That’ll be swell!

The voice from the doorway was a very pleasant distraction.

“What are you doing meow?”

The ‘meow’ was probably involuntary. Liam turned his head to nod at his best friend. His voice modulator hummed. “It’s the same thing we do every day, Nicko. Try to take over the world.”

Liam chuckled, but Nicko didn’t notice. He was suddenly fascinated by something on his hand. He stared with furious intent. He licked at it. He shook it. Nope, still there. He noticed that Liam was looking at him. He smiled and waved at his best friend.

“Hi, Liam!”

Liam just shook his head. Nicko didn’t seem to notice.

“Are you ready to do this thing, meow?”

Liam tried to smile. The gears of his face twisted. He hoped it was coming out right.

Nicko was always doing what Nicko wanted to do. You couldn’t talk him out of it. Liam suspected it also came with his mutant cat DNA. It was usually better to agree than argue with a cat-man. Chances were high that he would just forget about it in a few moments.

Time to play along. “You really think the two of us can bust out of here?”

“I have the shuttle gassed up and ready to roll.”

Liam raised an eyebrow. He had really thought this one out. The cat was showing an unusual sense of commitment.

He had secured an escape vehicle?

Nicko purred, “I figured out all the guard schedules. Meow! There’s only three of them between us and the hangar bay. We have to move in the next five minutes to make our window, though.”

Where was this level of focus coming from? He shrugged. At least it will break the monotony.

I can always say the cat made me do it! It was dark humor.

His mind darted through the logic. His brain was enhanced with a little computer wizardry.

Getting caught would likely result in severe punishment, but there is no job lower than “Supply Management.” He did hate his job. Were they going to demote him to a less interesting job?

The whole thought process took a nanosecond. Nodding, Liam shifted his bulk toward the door.

“Only three guards? We better do this thing.”

Nicko exposed his fangs, excited. His throat vibrated in a purr. Nicko was horrible at poker.

Liam willed his body into stealth mode. His footsteps—normally booming—were now almost silent. Of course, it severely drained his batteries and limited his movement to half speed. Stealth mode also changed his volume to a whisper, “Which way?”

Nicko sprang forward. His movements were always silent. He landed with a soft brush of fur, only audible to Liam’s enhanced ears.

Nicko disappeared down the hallway. “Walk this way meow!”

Liam wished he had his guns. This reminded him of his old field missions. He felt naked without his guns. He flexed his fingers.

He moved with ease behind Nicko, gears almost silent. Nice and easy. Like butter…

Nicko had dropped to all fours as he bounded down the hallway. At the next corner, he turned to look for Liam. Nicko waited for a couple seconds, and then disappeared, impatient. Liam smiled and continued his slow, silent walk. He had never seen Nicko this excited about anything.

When Liam finally rounded the corner, Nicko was already at the end of the hall. Liam’s enhanced hearing could make out some voices around the corner. That must be the guards. Nicko was waving at him, excited. He could hear them, as well.

Liam resisted the urge to walk at a normal pace, or to increase his pace. Slow and steady.

There was another sound in Liam’s ear. Nicko was still purring—and not in a quiet way.

Liam pressed a finger to his lips and flashed a scolding glare at Nicko.

He formed the words with his mouth. Oh! He nodded with firm lips. The purring continued. Liam rolled his eyes. You can’t win a battle with instinct.

Liam reached the corner. Nicko pointed at the corner in excitement. Guards, he mouthed.

Careful to keep his steps silent, Liam rounded the corner.

The three guards were facing away from him. Each had a laser rifle at his hip They were laughing, chatting, and passing the time—average guard duty. Liam raised both hands. His mind calculated the exact amount of pressure it would take to smash two heads together like coconuts. He didn’t want to kill them—just render them unconscious. The third guard would be surprised by the sudden attack, and could be subdued without…

“Meow!”

The call was loud and echoed off the walls. All three guards spun to face the sudden sound, raising their rifles. Liam was still steps away from them. His eyes opened wide. He reminded himself to never again take a cat with him on a stealth mission.

Liam’s brain fired at light speed. His body entered combat mode. His movement was enhanced. He needed all of his enhancements. One of the guards was running for the ‘panic’ button on the wall. Liam had moments to act.

A laser blast singed across the borg’s chest. His nasal sensors could detect burning bio-skin. That might have hurt, if he had nerves. Nanites in his chest were already being dispatched to repair the damage.

Liam hadn’t had a good fight since the war. It’s clobberin’ time. He sprung into action before the guards could fire again.

His two hands were already raised. Liam grabbed two of the guards by the heads and slammed them together. They crumpled to the ground.

Liam grabbed the last guard by the belt, stopping him just short of the big, red button. The frantic guard raised and fired at Liam from point-blank range. Pew! Pew! Pew!

Liam grunted. He resisted the urge to snap the small man’s neck. He was just doing his job. He spun the man around like a doll and placed him in a sleeper hold. The man struggled useless in the massive grip. Liam waited until the man slumped to the ground.

In a blur of fur, Nicko bounded past. “Gotta go! Gotta go!”

The need for stealth was past. Liam engaged full pursuit speed. His feet bashed against the ground as he kept up with Nicko. At the end of the hall, the cat man burst through a set of double doors and into the hanger. As promised, a small shuttle waited with open doors. Liam could hear the hum of the engines. Yee-ha, Nicko.

How I Score Movies

I love movies. I have my entire life. A darkened theater is my happy place. I have seen a lot of movies. I have a strong opinion about what makes a good movie and what makes a bad movie. In my experience, most movies are have something good in them.

I don’t like horror movies or very violent movies. I just don’t see them.

Over the years, I have developed a scoring system to tell one movie from another. Based on the old “5 star” method, I rank films like this.

5 Star = Excellent, Must-See
4 Star = Pretty Good
3 Star = Meh, Mediocre, Neither good nor bad
2 Star = Bad movie
1 Star = Horrible, very bad movie

I usually give 1-star ratings to any horror movie I am tricked into seeing. I do not like them, Sam I Am.

I start with this base score, and then I add different modifiers…

Modifying the Scores

Is it worth 3D, IMAX, or any other special viewing? Some movies were made for a huge screen. Others were made for 3D. 3D really shines where there are a lot of particles on the screen at one time. Dr. Strange was a good example of this.

But you have to spend more money to view in 3D, IMAX, or a special screen. For that reason, I only pony up the cash if I know it’s going to be good in that format. Or if the movie played really well in 2D and I’m going to see it again. “The Avengers: Endgame” was a good example of that.

Ultimately, movies are a 2D medium. I don’t hold it against a movie if it’s good or bad in 3D. I don’t give bonus points if it plays well in 3D. I don’t reward the rich, I just call it out.

Would I see it again? This is a good test of a movie’s “strength.” If I want to see the movie again, it’s a keeper. I give a +.5 score adjustment to one of these. On the other end, there’s some movies I actively discourage others from seeing. For these, I will take away .5 points.

Good recent examples are “Spies In Disguise” (a Must-See) and “Midsommar”…. the latter was so horrific, I almost contemplated never seeing a movie again. I wondered, “Is this the current state of films?” I finally returned to the theater (it’s my happy place!), but I no longer make it a point to see every film.

Should I rent it? Buy it? This is another measure of a movie’s strength and staying power. It can also be a measure of a movie’s mediocrity. You might want to skip the large screen and dive into the small screen first. You could have a perfectly acceptable movie that just isn’t worth spending your hard-earned folding money on.

Maybe you should own a copy and add it to your own collection… This is especially true of really good movies or family-friendly movies (“Yes, kids, we can watch ‘Barney Goes to Jail’ one more time”).

If it’s not strong enough for the big screen, I take away .5 points. If it’s worth buying, I add .5 points.

Is it family safe? It’s hard to find a family-safe movie nowadays. Movies are pushing PG-13 and R. It seems like everything wants to be “gritty” and “real.” Bleck.

What’s wrong with a PG movie? What’s wrong with a G movie? I applaud the family-friendly movies with a .5 point boost.

Did it have “the look?” I am an artist. I dabbled in film work. I can spot some dazzling camera work, costume design, and set design. Some movies just have a unique style and look to them. Movies that do a particularly good job get a .5 point adjustment.

Also watch for these films to perform well at the next Oscars.

Did it have “the feels?” I can feel when a movie is good. It hits me right in the chest. If it’s particularly strong, it brings tears to my eyes–not because it’s sad. Because it’s awesome.

Usually, a triumphant moment where characters work together toward a common goal creates this feeling. It can elevate a movie from “pretty good” to “must-see.”

This one is hard to explain. A movie either “has it” or it does not. The first “Toy Story” movie made me cry because it was just so cool.

5+ and 0- Movies

Yes, it possible to have movies that have more than a perfect score or less than a horrible score. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. You have one movie that just has something special. You have another movie that’s many levels of horrible. That’s why we do these here movie reviews.

With an evening movie running $20, you should do a little research.

If you go to as many movies as I do, you should consider Regal Unlimited, but that’s a topic for another day.

What if I Don’t Agree with You?

My movie reviews are polarizing. I don’t know why. I just write what I feel.

Some people really agree with me.

Some people really do not agree with me.

I haven’t seen a lot of in-between.

What kind of person are you?

If you find that you hate my reviews, you’ll find a list of movies that are “Must-See” for you.

Enjoy!

Featured image photo by Nathan Engel from Pexels

This article was also published over at Medium.com

Sunday $.99 Book Sale!

Perhaps you were looking at my book and saying, “Nah. I’ll wait for the price to drop.”

NOW IS THE TIME!

THIS Sunday, April 22nd the Kindle version of my book will only be only $.99. Less than a dollar. Do you have a measly, tiny, eetsy, beetsy dollar? Please? Just one? Think of the puppies.

The book is enrolled in the Kindle Countdown program, so each day you delay will cost you an extra buck buck BUCK:

Monday: $1.99
Tuesday: $2.99
Wednesday: $3.99
Thursday: $4.99 (Which is still a savings of 50%!)

For those of you reading around the world, the book will also be on sale in the UK Amazon store!

Image template from Covervault and FreePik

Book One FULLY Launched!

This is it, ladies and germs. It has been a long time coming, but book #1 is fully published on Amazon. Now I got things figured out for a smooth launch of book two (this summer). First, the paperback was listed, then the eBook as a lone entity, now we have the complete package on one page.

I’ve made an easy URL to goes straight to the listing: http://mwmccabe.com/amazon

BAM!

And I say again, sir.

BAM!

Book Launched… Kinda

I’m glad this was my first time publishing a book. They say, “If at first you succeed, then try something harder.” I think I set a good goal, because I failed a lot.

Last time we met, I told you that launch was delayed because it took 3-5 business days to move from CreateSpace to Amazon. In reality, it’s closer to 7 business days. Luckily, I guessed that last week when I missed my first launch day.

The next hurdle was the eBook version. Was that created automatically after the paperback goes live? Nope. Here it is on launch day. The paperback version is live. Where is the eBook? Oh. I guess I get to make that up. I pushed hard to get it published… And now we wait. Amazon needs another 3 days to get it live. And then I know that there will be two listings… One for the paperback and one for the eBook. Amazon customer service can combine them, but that takes another day.

Le Sigh. We’ll make it better next time.

Lastly, this is an Amazon exclusive. They pay you more if you agree to only sell on Amazon. It’s 30% vs. 70% as an exclusive. It’s a good thing that Amazon controls the biggest marketplace.

Check out my book online!

If you want a crack at the Kindle version, join my mailing list. I give everybody there a free copy of the eBook. I’ll also let them know when the Kindle version is available for purchase 🙂