My first impression of Guardians of the Galaxy was that it would be about a raccoon who had a thing for machine guns.

Not a very good first impression.

But as I kept hearing more about it, I became more and more intrigued. Once I saw pictures of the main cast, my expectations started to rise and I began to get extremely excited for this movie.

That excitement culminated in the trailer that was released yesterday. I think I’ve already watched it 20 times, and I just keep going back for more. So, why has this film really caught my attention? I’ve got a few reasons.

But first, just in case you haven’t seen it yet (or even if you have), here’s the trailer:

1. The cast. I don’t know much about Chris Pratt, who plays the lead character Starlord, but if the trailer is any indication, I think he’ll be brilliant. I’m a huge fan of Zoe Saldana, who plays Gamora, and I think she’s a great actress who also happens to be extremely skilled at portraying roles that require a lot of action and physicality. Bradley Cooper, who will voice Rocket Raccoon, is also a great actor, and I can’t wait to hear him on screen. And although there are others — many of them big name actors — the other one that sticks out to me is Karen Gillan as Nebula. As a huge fan of Doctor Who, I’m glad she’s in this movie, but I’m even happier that her role looks totally badass.

2. The CGI. Let’s be real: When one of your main characters is a talking raccoon who has a proclivity for high-powered firearms, you have to make sure it comes off in the right way. Although we’ve only seen a few glimpses of Rocket, and even fewer of him actually in action, I think he looks fantastic. The CGI looks so real and well-done, and for some reason, it just works. I can’t explain it, but any hesitance that this movie would be silly (in a bad way) has gone completely out the window. Groot, the huge tree-like creature, also looks amazing.

3. The tone. The tone of this movie is quite different from a lot of the other Marvel movies we’ve gotten so far. The closest to GotG‘s tone would be Iron Man, I believe, because Iron Man is filled with snappy dialogue and clever humor. GotG looks like it’s going to follow that same path in terms of humor, but I’ve also been hearing it described as “colorful” in the same way Star Wars is, which is a completely and totally perfect comparison. Movies like Captain America aren’t drab or monochromatic, but there’s a certain coldness to them. GotG is full of greens and reds and blues. The spectrum is all over the place, and I think that’s going to help this world feel more real and alive.

4. The marketing. This is a strange reason to be excited for a movie, but it does make sense, I promise. Right now, we don’t know much about GotG other than the trailer we’ve just seen. That was our first big look into what this movie is going to be like, and the trailer was incredible from start to finish. It began with what could have been an intense and cliche action sequence, but instead we saw the main character give up his stolen loot without attempting to fight back at all. The dialogue is funny from the beginning, which comes full circle with the song at the end. In between we get a few action scenes, which are always welcome in my book, but the majority of the footage focuses on the main characters, describing who they are and what their roles will be without feeling heavy-handed. A lot of people who watch Marvel movies aren’t familiar with the source material, and I think this is doubly true for Guardians of the Galaxy. But within just a few moments, I already like and understand these characters and am completely invested in them.

5. It’s original. It seems strange to call this movie original when it’s based off of a comic book that’s been around for so long, but when you compare it to other movies out there currently — even ones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — it’s truly unique. Marvel is uber successful at the moment, but I’m sure even they weren’t positive they could pull off a talking raccoon, a giant tree, and a green lady as part of their main cast. These risks make me believe that this movie is going to be unique and won’t follow the same structure other Marvel movies do. Taking the biggest risks will give you the biggest rewards, and I think Marvel is going to hit this one out of the park.

If you’re like me and don’t know much about Guardians of the Galaxy, I suggest watching this hilarious but extremely informational video about the group. It describes their pasts, their powers, and more.

You can also check out this article on Hypable, which breaks down the trailer.

Here’s the inevitable followup question: Are you excited for Guardians of the Galaxy?

Video  —  Posted: February 20, 2014 in Movies
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I usually don’t write to music because I find it distracting, even when it doesn’t contain words. Lately, however, I’ve been finding myself needing a little something else to get into the mood.

I only listen to soundtracks when I’m writing because if the song has words, I’ll start singing along to it and be way too distracted. And, inevitably, that just leads to me going to Twitter or Tumblr and distracting myself further.

Frozen SoundtrackSo, I stick to the soundtracks.

Right now I’ll admit I have mostly Disney soundtracks because I find those to be the most familiar and soothing. Plus they just make me happy. I do have Lindsey Stirling‘s CD on there, though, and that makes a great background for action scenes because her violin work is usually enhanced by dubstep. But I have Pocahontas, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Frozen, too.

But I need more. And I need more variety. So, I’d like to know what you guys are listening to while you write. What really speaks to you? Which tracks do you find are good for the slow scenes versus the fast ones, or the romantic scenes versus the violent ones? I’d like to try writing to music more in order to see if it positively affects me.

In other words, help a girl out! I’ll be taking your recommendations and adding them to my writing playlist in the hopes my Muse is further inspired.

Frozen was an instant hit in theatres, and “Let It Go” has spawned a lot of great covers.

And some covers that are a bit more…colorful.

Like this one using clips from Batman & Robin with Mr. Freeze singing the song. Let’s just say my nerd heart singing right along with him.

Shout out to Mark Schroeder, who does a killer Arnold voice.

Video  —  Posted: February 6, 2014 in Featured Video
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Admit your faults

Posted: February 4, 2014 in Writing
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SplatterA lot of writers have a hard time letting go of their manuscripts and just getting the damn thing published. One of the biggest reasons is because it’s constantly not ready, it’s not done, it’s not perfect.

Perfection doesn’t exist, and it never will. Even the most beloved books on our shelves have their issues, but it’s a matter of those issues being outweighed by brilliance.

So learn to live with your mistakes. And learn to admit your faults.

Sometimes you’re going to have to settle when it comes to your story. You’ll have to use that cliche to get from point A to point B, or maybe you’ll have to leave that plot hole because there’s just no way to fill it.

A perfect example of this is The Avengers. If you listen to the audio commentary, you’ll hear Joss Whedon talking about his experience writing and directing the movie. The commentary itself is brilliant if you’re a Joss Whedon fan. I could listen to that man talk about anything. He so funny and insightful, and I love the way he operates.

But that commentary is also a gold mine for writing knowledge. And one of the biggest things that stuck out to me was when he talked about the scene where the Chitauri all died after their mothership was destroyed by the nuclear bomb.

I’m not proud of that either, okay? That’s… It was necessary to make sure we understood that they didn’t have to just clean up for the next 17 hours by still fighting, but… So they could actually have their moment of triumph. But it’s a device I am not fond of and probably shouldn’t have brought up.

I’m glad he brought it up, though, because we often think that writers don’t know when they use a cliche or can’t tell they’ve used a trope in their story, when in fact they probably just couldn’t find a solution to their issue. It’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean they’re not brilliant. It’s just how things have to work sometimes.

Let me rephrase that.

It’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean you’re not brilliant. It’s just how things have to work sometimes.

Your manuscript is not going to be perfect. Not ever. Make it as good as you can and then send it off to live in the hands of your readers. If there’s something wrong with your story, admit to your faults. Sometimes it just can’t be helped. But being aware of those issues and trying to avoid them in the future is the best thing you can do.

Have you ever written something and known it was a cliche or a trope, but also knew you couldn’t get around it? What did you do in a situation like that?

Surround yourself with art

Posted: January 30, 2014 in Art
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SplatterAs a creative person, it is so incredibly important to immerse yourself in a creative world. Surround yourself with other people’s creativity — whether it’s their writing, their drawings, their music, or something else entirely. Living in an artistic environment will transfer some of their energy and creativity into your personal space, guaranteed.

I experience this all the time. I track down artists that I enjoy and like them on Facebook, follow their Tumblr, or add them on Twitter. Most of them time they’re just freelance artists. Sometimes they have regular jobs, and sometimes they have made it enough to turn their hobby into a full-time gig.

If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what it.

My favorite artist is Karen Hallion, who creates incredible works of art, my favorite of which are her Doctor Who/Disney mash-ups. It reminds me to think outside the box (pun intended) and to maybe try to put two things together that might at first seem as though they don’t work. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Looking at art gives me the same sort of feeling that reading a good book does. You get those goosebumps and that swelling feeling in the pit of your stomach. That’s what inspiration feels like for me, and it’s such a great feeling to have. It reminds you that other people are doing exactly what you want to do, that it is possible, and if you can just put in enough effort and enough hours, you’ll be able to have what they have.

Who knows, maybe you’ll be the one doing the inspiring some day.

This all comes down to feeding your muse. Do it in whatever way works best for you, whatever form of art gets her excited and ready to create. I prefer looking at art and reading books, but others enjoy writing to music or watching a good movie. Whatever you choose, do it often.

What do you choose to surround yourself with in order to inspire you? Do you have a favorite artist, writer, or musician that you usually turn to?

Oftentimes when people see an individual with tattoos, assumptions and stereotypes fly through their brain and sometimes out of their mouths.

“Aren’t you worried what that’s going to look like when you’re old?”

“How do you expect to get a job with those things all over your arm?”

“Did that hurt?”

Let me get one thing off the table right now. Yes, getting a tattoo hurts. Anyone who tells you it didn’t hurt or that they fell asleep while getting tattooed is lying. Having a needle stabbed into your skin thousands of times hurts. Sure, it hurts more in some places than others, but it’s a painful experience no matter what. Getting tattooed sucks, which brings me to another often-heard question:

“Why would you do that to yourself?”

The main reason I get tattoos is because it’s my body, it’s my skin, and it’s my business. Getting tattoos is an art form. It’s an expression of my personality and my interests. Just like I show my interest of writing by, well, writing, I also show it by getting tattoos. I show my love for superheroes, writing, and, yes, even bands.

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I also show my love for music. I’ve been a vocalist of the screaming variety in three metal bands, and it’s been a big part of my life. I’ve made some great friends because of my love for music, and I chose to show it by getting a tattoo.

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As for when I’m older, well, tattoos have come a long way since sailors were getting pinup girls and anchors on their arms. The ink is better, and there are ways of taking care of tattoos that ensure they stay bright and keep their color for a long time. I have no doubt that when I’m older, whether my tattoos have faded some or are still bright and vibrant, I will still love them the same. They represent the things I care about, and the things that mean a lot to me. They’re a part of who I am, and that’s why I proudly display them on my skin.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Karen!

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You’re welcome, Chris! And thanks for joining me here. If you want to know a little bit more about Chris, check out his bio and follow him on his various social media platforms. I’ve also included information about his upcoming book The Rotten Apple, which I read and loved!

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Chris Stocking is a writer and author who dabbles in the steampunk, young adult, and various other genres. He grew up in Wayland, New York, is currently attending The College at Brockport—majoring in print journalism—and plans to enter the journalism or public relations field until one day he can live off writing novels.

Stocking’s hobbies include blogging, reading, writing and boxing. He has a ferocious addiction to coffee, has published several novels and a collection of short stories and has several other novels in the pipeline.

Stocking is also a freelance editor, a copy editor for Upstate Metal–an online music magazine–and is publishing editor for Eat Your Serial Press, giving him a wide range of skills sets allowing him to be proficient in various areas.

Stocking has also worked as a public relations intern at Noyes Health where he spearheaded an eight-page magazine project, seeing it through from conception to publication, along with covering events and writing press releases for the hospital.

Most recently, he has taken the position of Director of Web Development and Marketing for Brigantine Press, a new book press soon to be launching its flagship publication, Steam Patriots, an alternate-history steampunk series.

He currently resides in Dansville, New York with his wife, Casey.

Follow Chris: Facebook | Twitter | Blog | Goodreads

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The Rotten Apple:

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New York City, 1950 – Detective Naomi Blake sits in her office, craving a cigarette. Her phone rings. Mark Falco, owner of Falco Corporation, is in interrogation room one. Falco Corp. trucks have been spotted making late-night deliveries to an out-of-business warehouse, and the NYPD wants answers. Mark lawyers his way out. As always.

A woman comes in to the station. Says her husband is missing, possibly kidnapped. Before she can say by whom, a mysterious man bursts through the doors and sinks three slugs into her head, then vanishes. Even picks up the shell casings. The work of a professional.

Suspicious activity by Falco Corp., a missing husband, and a murdered woman. Three separate events? Or a concoction so vile it could mean the end of peace and justice in New York City?

The Rotten Apple is set to be released Saturday, March 22, 2014 in both print and Kindle formats. Add The Rotten Apple on Goodreads!

On the importance of delegating

Posted: January 23, 2014 in General
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I’d venture a guess that most people — particularly creative people — have a hard time giving up control. You want everything to be perfect. You want everything done right. You want everything done your way.

Trust me when I say I know exactly how this feels. I’ll admit I’m a bit of a control freak. Part of that stems from enjoying planning and organizing, and the other part stems from wanting things done quickly. And, okay, yes, wanting things done right.

Aside from the fact that your way (or my way) isn’t necessarily the best plan of action (hate to break it to you, but it’s true), you can’t always do things yourself. You’ll run yourself ragged, and I know this from experience. You may think you can take it all on, and maybe you can for a while, but eventually it’ll catch up to you. Doing everything yourself is exhausting, and the more exhausted you get, the more the quality of your work decreases.

The solution, then, is to delegate.

Delegating is the act of entrusting a job, or part of a job, to another person. In other words, giving up control.

Does it make your skin crawl like it does mine? Sometimes I just want to do everything myself, consequences be damned. I hate waiting on other people when something need to be done RIGHT NOW. I hate knowing that they might only put forth 50% of their best effort when I’d put in 110%.

It’s hard relying on other people, especially if they have their own responsibilities that must contend with their attention. This is especially difficult for creative projects because what’s in your head might not necessarily be in their head.

But it can also be a wonderful thing. I’ve worked on a hundred projects for Hypable in which I have to relinquish creative control to our graphics team. I’m a writer, not a designer. So even though I have an idea of what I want to see my article turned into, I can’t create that image. The fact of the matter is that I’m just not that skilled.

But they are. And oftentimes they come up with something a lot better than what I originally had in mind. And I’m so grateful for that. It’s taught me that delegating doesn’t always mean you’ll be disappointed; sometimes it means you’ll be impressed.

Even if you have the skill set to do something, it doesn’t mean you should. If it’s a labor- or time-intensive job and you don’t have enough hours in the day, delegate the task to someone else. If they’re willing and you trust them, why not? It allows you to focus on the more important tasks, and in most cases you’ll be able to check over their work to see if it meets your standards. Even if they don’t get it right the first time around, usually people are willing to do it until it’s right, especially if you’re a good boss or a good friend!

So, while I think trying to be Superman or Wonder Woman is a novel idea, it just isn’t possible. Reaching for the stars is great, but having someone help you get there is even better. Delegating is hard, but the more you do it, the more natural it’ll feel. And as that happens, you’ll become a more efficient person, whatever your aspirations are.

It’s something I continue to struggle with, but aspire to get better at. It’ll never be easy for me, but at least I’ll get more used to it.

Do you have trouble relinquishing control? What helps to get over that hurdle? Do you have any good stories about how delegating a task to someone else became a positive experience?