Welcome Text

Welcome! Books, movies, music, original stories, interviews, writing, libraries, literacy, humor –all with the YA reader in mind, are just a few of the topics you’ll find here. New to the blog? Say hi! Like it? Follow away! Thanks for visiting.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ten reasons why 'Jaws' is the best movie ever

By J. R. Wagner

Yes, I'm serious!

I've watched this film dozens of times (there was one point during my childhood where I had it memorized) and never get tired of it.

I wrote Jaws 5 (it was horrible...but I was a kid)

I begged my mom to get me the same sneakers Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfus's character) wore on the boat (she did). They're 10 seconds into the clip below if you want to pick yourself up a pair.

I wanted to be a marine biologist for a while. I told my brother I wanted to be the first person to swim into the Jaws of a great white shark (he told on me).

I wanted to be a filmmaker for a while too!

It got me writing.

Okay....here are the ten reasons.

Quick disclaimer: these are from the mind of a pre-teen boy (my wife will argue that mind still prevails inside my head) so cut me some slack!


The book, by Peter Benchley,  was awesome! 

I was hooked from the first sentence.

"The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail."


Directed by none other than Stephen Spielberg.

I realize Jaws came out before Spielberg was a big-shot but my parent's didn't let me watch it until after Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies (I know, he didn't direct...but he was a writer) and E.T. came out so I was already a fan by the time I saw it.


The monster is real.

Never before had I been so frightened by something that actually existed. Freddy Krueger, Mama Fratelli, Colonel Decker and Gargamel were all fictitious characters -actors in costume.
This bad guy -this shark is out there.  According to my eleven-year-old mind, I had a one in five chance of being chewed up by a great white every time I went into the ocean.


Even the music is scary.

Composing genius John Williams's first scoring of a Spielberg film resulted in one of the most easily identifiable movie soundtracks...ever. Have a listen if you've forgotten.

Williams went on to win more awards than you can shake a stick at (including 5 Oscars including one for the Jaws score which, was later ranked the 6th greatest score EVER by the American Film Institute).

John Williams


Richard Dreyfuss

Great actor: Close Encounters, What about Bob?, Mr. Holland's Opus.  Need I say more?

Dreyfuss in Jaws

Dreyfuss today


One of the greatest scenes in film...ever


Robert Shaw

Robert Shaw played the greatest character in the film.  From the moment you first hear him speak, you believe he is a shark fisherman. Perfect casting, perfect acting.  22 seconds in is when Shaw begins.

Robert Shaw was also a novelist! (thanks Wikipedia)

Shaw then embarked on a trilogy of novels – The Flag (1965), The Man in the Glass Booth (1967) and A Card from Morocco (1969); it was his adaptation for the stage of The Man in the Glass Booth that gained him the most attention for his writing.

Robert Shaw


Film Budget: 9 Million

Box office take $470,653,000 in 1975!!!


It almost didn't happen

Jaws was plagued with production disasters throughout the filming.  This awesome documentary chronicles many of the problems.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Video Contest Promo Posters

New promo posters for my video contest.  Check 'em out!

Contest details HERE

As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my website.

In bookstores now

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Maine Adventure photo journal

By J. R. Wagner

I recently traveled to Maine with my family for a little rest and relaxation.  It is a twelve hour drive so we typically leave in the evening and drive through the night. Around 3:30am the car was filled with the yelping of my dog, Sorin (pictured below).  The kids woke up, my wife pulled the car over and I hopped in back to see what was up.

Somehow he had managed to cram his paw in between two pieces of metal behind one of the seats and couldn't get it out.  I gently slid his leg out, took him for a walk to ensure everything was okay and onward we went.

Sorin and my daughter in for a long ride.

I knew when I saw this sign we were getting close!

We made it! Beautiful views, gorgeous weather and wonderful people.

Proof that
a. I was on the trip and
b. still refuse to dress my age

There is a really cool beach made up entirely of these small stones.

Below is a video of the waves coming in and out on this beach. Turn up your volume and listen to the sound as the water recedes. What you're hearing is the sound of the super-smooth cookie-sized stones dragging across one another as they're pulled out by the tide. How cool is that?!

Tasty lobster, lots of exploration and equal amounts of relaxing.  A great trip!

As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my website.

In bookstores now

Monday, August 27, 2012

Desire for the Apocalypse part 5

by J. R. Wagner

Today is our interview with an actual mental health professional! (seriously)

For completely understandable reasons, she has decided to remain anonymous...so we will call her Dr. G.

Dr. G, what, exactly are you a doctor of?

 I'm a doctor of clinical psychology

Is there a clinical term for someone who is obsessed with the apocalypse, (or end of the world)?
There is no clinical term for someone who is obsessed with the apocalypse, and depending on the severity of the obsession it might not even be of clinical significance.

 In your professional opinion, is there an underlying psychological issue with people who fall into this category or is this simply human nature?

 I think it's hard to generalize this answer. Some people become obsessed with this subject due to psychotic disorders which represent breaks in reality. In that case, the person would actually believe via hallucinations or delusions that zombies exist, the end of the world is near, etc. Some people may become obsessed because they are depressed and its the fantasy of the world ending that provides them with relief. Some people might feel anxiety about the world ending to the extent that they would not be able to control their worry over it and thus it would be an anxiety-related disorder. But, I do also think it is a general human notion to wonder about existence and the end of the world, and things that are bigger than us. It's really the extent that the obsession interferes with everyday life that makes it of clinical origin or not.
Do you believe the origins of this obsession are religious in nature or pre-date any organized religion?

Again, hard to generalize but I think it's a natural thing to wonder about existence (see the end of the previous answer). And, in turn by wondering about the beginning of existence which people have wondered about since the dawn of time, it's only natural to think about it's conclusion. But, in every religion, ancient and recent, the story of origin and the end of existence is a recurring theme. Many of the world's religions speak of a messiah of sorts, and many of these religious commonalities pre-date world-wide communication. So I suppose my personal answer would be that it's a natural thing to be curious about but is further supported by religion.
 Do you believe modern day literature, television and video games contribute to this condition? In your opinion, has there been a rise in apocalypticism that can be directly correlated to the rise in modern day entertainment based on the subject?

 I think that media has certainly caused an increase in the obsession with the end of the world, particularly with the rise in shows on the Mayan calendar. I have seen several people in my office expressing worries about what is to come 12/21/12. I think as it gets closer and the media continues to hype this date it will only get worse. However we have seen several other ways in which the media promoted a sort of mass hysteria over the apocalypse. Y2K, other Mayan calendar dates, rogue theories surrounding 9/11 and the ozone, etc. There are also more and more shows on TV regarding this subject, from science channels that explore what the ancients knew to TLC shows like Doomsday Preppers. I don't have as much knowledge as far as specific literature or games have promoted this obsession, but I would imagine it's the same answer.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

PAYA: Bringing YA to PA

By J. R. Wagner

Hey everyone!

On Saturday, August 25th I'll be at the PAYA festival in West Chester Pennsylvania.

What is PAYA?

From their website:

PAYA is a coalition of Pennsylvania’s young adult authors (over 30), bloggers, librarians, readers, and other book-lovers.  Our mission is two-fold (1) To share the love we have for young adult literature with others in our state and (2) To raise money to support Pennsylvania’s libraries, with a focus on helping build Young Adult library collections and Young Adult services

This is a super-cool event with a great collection of YA authors (see them all HERE) dedicated to helping the cause, which is in desperate need here in Pennsylvania.

One of the unique aspects of this festival is the Librarian only workshop, which I will be a part of and the writing workshop, which I will not be a part of.

The Librarian only workshop is from 10-12. I'm very excited about being able to discuss methods of building YA library collections and, most importantly (in my opinion) getting teens into the library.

There will be book signings! (I'll paste the list of times below)  The name in Yellow is, of course, the most important.

Signing Schedule:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Follow Your Dreams: a guest post by Carlie Cullen

 A guest post by Carlie MA Cullen

Follow Your Dreams

Every new author is faced with the dilemma of deciding whether to go the traditional, indie or self-publishing route. To be fair, it’s a very difficult decision to make if you are serious about carving a career for yourself as a writer and want to give yourself the best chance of success.
There is a plethora of information available, some brilliant and some not so good and it’s still difficult to make that decision. So I thought I would share my experience with you in the hope it might help.
When I finished writing Heart Search: Lost and had been through the several rounds of editing and beta reading, I had already decided which path I was going to tread. I was going to plump for the traditional route, get an agent and hopefully get a deal with one of the big 6. Isn’t that everybody’s dream? However, my decision was partially forced upon me. Let me explain.
Last year, my daughter and I attended FantasyCon UK for one of the three days in was on. Unfortunately I was taken ill mid to late afternoon, so while I was in the Ladies room my daughter had gone to make a special purchase and was introduced to an Agent from a prestigious literary agency in London. She got talking to him and being the wonderfully supportive daughter she is, she told the agent all about my novel. He gave her his business card, said he was very interested and asked if he could have first refusal. Of course my daughter said yes on my behalf.
So when the ms was ready, I carefully followed their submission guidelines, wrote my query letter and sent it directly to him with a note to remind him of his meeting with my daughter and his request for first refusal. And then the waiting began.
I was given help with my query letter by a wonderful author friend, Guy Saville, who also told me it was perfectly acceptable to chase the agent if I hadn’t heard from them in six to eight weeks. After nine weeks I sent an email requesting an update and never got a reply. I wasn’t too impressed by this point.
Sixteen weeks to the day that he received my precious ms through the post, I still hadn’t heard anything so I decided to try one last email. However the weekend before, I had an inkling of what was coming and as I’m a member of Myrddin Publishing (an author’s co-operative of self-published authors), I began talking to various people I’d got to know very well about the self-publishing process. They were all there ready to pitch in and help; someone is designing a book cover for me, another is going to make a book trailer for me, another is going to help me with formatting and uploading.
As expected the email reply the following day was a rejection and I was quite angry. Having stressed he wanted first dibs and making all the right noises about how interesting it sounded and how it was the sort of thing they were looking for, it then took 16 weeks and two emails from me to get any sort of answer. I have lots of people asking when the book is coming out and felt I was denying them the opportunity to read it. I could have self-published weeks ago!
So as of Monday 6th August, I have pushed the button on self-publishing under the banner of Myrddin Publishing and hope to have the book out as soon as possible. In the meantime, I’m still going to look for an agent and pursue my dream of being signed by a decent publisher.
You might be wondering why, if I’m self-publishing I still want an agent. It’s all to do with following my dream. A large number of agents these days are prepared to accept self-published authors and I believe (and only time will tell if I’m right), that if you can show an agent how well you’ve managed to sell your book and market it and yourself in the process, it will actually give you a better chance of success with securing one. It would also be a plus for any publishing company if your name is known a bit and you can demonstrate your skills of marketing and selling (the days of big advances and unlimited advertising budgets are over except for the super-powers like J K Rowling).
I hope by telling you of my experience, it will help you decide which way you want to go with your book. However, if you decide to self-publish, I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of getting a decent editor and having your novel beta read by someone you trust, but who can be totally impartial. There are too many authors who think they can self-edit and capture all their mistakes, and in the main, they are the ones who give self-publishing a bad name. You are too close to your own ms to be impartial enough to edit it properly and as many published authors will tell you, when you read through your novel, you see what you want to see and not what’s actually there!
Whatever path you decide to take, my advice is don’t be put off when youå hit a hurdle and to follow your dreams! Who knows where they might lead . . .


Visit Carlie's wonderful blog HERE (stop in and say hello) 


As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my website.

In bookstores now

Friday, August 10, 2012

Desire for the Apocalypse part 4

by J. R. Wagner

Other forms of apocalyptic media

Along with books, we are inundated with other forms of apocalyptic media.  Movies, television, video games...the list goes on. There is even a website


I thought I'd share some of these forms of media that I've either viewed or, in the case of games, played. Here we go...

Some great apocalyptic films:

Mad Max (yup, that's Mel Gibson)

The Matrix

28 Days later


Children of Men

Apocalyptic TV shows

The Walking Dead


A few apocalyptic video games:


a quick comment on Fallout. I've played this game...a lot. It can easily suck away hours of your life with its engrossing plot and captivating imagery. As video game quality continues to improve, the player experience will feel more and more real until, perhaps, we've gotten all this apocalyptic desire out of our system...although I doubt it.


On and on I could go but the bottom line is this; we are obsessed with the apocalypse and all that comes along with it. Apocalypse based movies, games and television have generated billions of dollars in revenue over the past several years.  What does this mean?  It means that the desire for the apocalypse on some subconscious level is much more prevalent than originally thought.

Because killing all the people who encroach on our land is no longer acceptable human behavior (thank goodness), we've turned to other outlets in order to scratch that deep seeded itch of desire for the days of old -when people depended on one another for their very lives.  When survival skills meant life or death.

Is that the answer? Are we truly filling a void left by technology and the rapid growth of our society? Perhaps.

Still to come: An interview with a mental health professional, apocalypticism online, 2012; fiction or the end is nigh!

As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my website.

In bookstores now

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Centralia? A ghost town? Really?

 by J. R. Wagner

I didn't believe it when I heard the story.  I thought it was urban legend.  Could there really be an abandoned town in the United States? I get it if were a town from the old west but this town was a booming coal town until the 70's.

 The name alone sounds like a place found deep within the woods of a Tolkien novel.  Centralia.  It's actually a rather beautiful name for a place...until you hear the story.

Centralia is located in The United States...

 In Central Pennsylvania...

Not far from the state capitol of Harrisburg

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pick up a FREE copy of Exiled today!


Today, August 7th 2012 and tomorrow, August 8th 2012, Exiled, the first book in The Never Chronicles series is available for FREE through Amazon Kindle.

Click HERE to go get yourself a copy


Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Hobbit trilogy-a good thing?

By J. R. Wagner

Yes, I figured it is time to throw my hat into the ring now that my Google alerts for 'The Hobbit' topped 140 hits since sometime this morning.  Late? Of course, I'm a writer, not a journalist.

That being said, I have as much right as every fan of Tolkien to express an opinion on the matter as we all share ownership in the work -that is to say, we've all grown up loving The Hobbit.  Who wouldn't?  

So, the latest news found in a dizzying number of places is about breaking The Hobbit films into three rather than two.  Far too many film reporters and bloggers have quickly formulated the opinion that this is nothing more than Pete Jackson's quest for more money.  I suspect many of these 'journalists' have taken such an unyielding stance simply for more page hits.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Desire for the apocalypse part 3

By J. R. Wagner

The apocalypse in literature.

As far as I'm concerned, the apocalypse made its way into mainstream literature via the writing of one man.

That man is, of course, Mr. Stephen King. If you're a King fan, you've read The Stand. An amazing creation about the post-apocalyptic world once the super-flu has wiped out the majority of the population.

He's written other post-apocalyptic novels.  The Dark Tower Series is set in a post-apocalyptic world. It starts with The Gunslinger and culminates in book seven The Dark Tower (although he recently released an eight book relating to the series called The Wind Through The Keyhole, which I haven't read yet. The Dark Tower (or characters from the series) even shows up in a few of King's short story collections.

King recently delved into the pre-apocalypse world with Cell, one of my favorite King novels where the world falls apart right before the main character's eyes in a beautifully written, less cumbersome than The Stand, action filled zombie-esque journey of Graphic artist Clay Riddell who was in the heart of Boston on that brilliant autumn afternoon when hell was unleashed before his eyes. (thank you Amazon).

After The Stand was published in 1978, the market was flooded with apocalyptic novels of all kinds.

I've stumbled upon several top 10 greatest Apocalyptic novels of all times lists.
Here is one
Here is another

I've read several on these lists.  One, Z for Zachariah, I haven't though of for years and could very well be the catalyst of my obsession for the apocalypse.

Ann Burden is sixteen years old and completely alone. The world as she once knew it is gone, ravaged by a nuclear war that has taken everyone from her. For the past year, she has lived in a remote valley with no evidence of any other survivors.
But the smoke from a distant campfire shatters Ann's solitude. Someone else is still alive and making his way toward the valley. Who is this man? What does he want? Can he be trusted? Both excited and terrified, Ann soon realizes there may be worse things than being the last person on Earth.

Another (since turned into a major motion picture) I am Legend, is very, very good.

 The others, many of which overlap from list to list, are being added to my Goodreads To-read list as we speak.

  • The Postman (I've never seen the Kevin Costner film based on this book and have a feeling I don't want to ...at least until I read it)

Many of these were published before The Stand however in my small world, The Stand is king.

Some modern titles that may be more familiar...

And if you're looking to take the religious apocalypse route you can always try Left Behind