Monthly Archives: December 2019

Game of Thrones Season 8 – A Review

Okay, so from the very first moment I watched GAME OF THRONES, I was totally mindblown.

game of thrones 8

I hadn’t read any of the books. I didn’t know a thing about the storyline. I just watched the first episode in the first season, lo these many years ago, and my mind was totally freaking blown!!!

Home Alone

So right away I wanted to see the whole damn thing. The only problem was, I was economically challenged and could not afford an HBO subscription, which was a lot harder to come by up here in Canada. So I settled for buying each season on DVD and kicking back over the Christmas holidays and watching them.

As each year rolled by I picked up the season DVD and watched them. I usually smoked the whole pack, meaning that when I picked up the season 3 DVD I started out by rewatching season 1 and 2 all over again, before rolling into 3.

I have done that all the way up to season 7.

Oddly enough, I enjoyed season 7 enough to watch it two or three times right on through. Arya getting payback on Walter Frey and his clan. Dothraki taking on the Southerners, with a dragon up the sleeve. Cersei kicking ass and John Snow taking action over the wall, right to that cliff-hanging season-ender. A lot of folks felt that the series had lost a step in Season 7, but I just turned a deaf ear to their grumbling. I liked Season 7 just fine.

Then I had to wait for a whole year or so for the last season, Season 8, to hit DVD. I started watching it yesterday and got as far as the third episode (The Long Night) and decided to adjourn for a family game of Cranium, which was a hell of a lot more mentally stimulating than staring at a blacked out television screen for ten straight hours.



The first two episodes of Season 8 were fine, although a little draggy. They hauled out nearly every single character who had appeared over the last 7 seasons, and kind of pretzel twisted them into place into a sort of super-Jenga Game of Thrones.  I mean, before those two episodes were up I was caught up to speed. Besides just the convenience of that whole LAST-SEVEN-SEASONS-ON-GAME-OF-THRONES recap, I was also reminded how to care about these characters and I was looking forward to seeing how these characters ended up in the next episode – the big battle of the forces of life versus the walking dead.

The key word to remember in that last sentence would be “seeing”.

Believe it.


You see, the whole problem with Episode 3 of Season 8 was visibility. I mean, we are talking a white out on a dark, dark night. Now I get that you might tell me that this was nothing more than a demonstration of that “fog of war” and an illustration of what old Red Witch Melisandre was saying to everybody all along – THE NIGHT IS FREAKING DARK AND FULL OF FUCKED-UP TERROR!

And I also get that if I had owned a 4k television set (which is one k better than three k’s but not half as good as a box full of Special K) that I would have been able to see this a little bit more clearly – but I have paid for eight seasons worth of viewing pleasure and it would have really been nice to have been able to see a little bit more of all that carnage and splendor.


So, after a fast game of the previously mentioned CRANIUM, I woke up this morning determined to see this season right to the end.

The next thing I knew I was watching Daenerys Targaryen the Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains and Lover of Copious Titles Etc, Etc, Etc burn up a whole entire city with her dragon. Now, that sounds cool, and (for a while) it was bright enough to see – but that visibility soon fell prey to the smoke and the fire that was generated by the dragon’s breath.


Which sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?

Except I kept on watching and I kept on wondering about one single stupid glitch. We had already seen how readily a well-aimed ballista could skewer a dragon. Here was Daenerys with her VERY last dragon just blasting those ballistas (alright, so they called them scorpions, but whatever you call it, it is a big freaking dragon-killing crossbow) and she is just roaring right in there against that fortress full of big freaking dragon-killing crossbows without a care in the world. All of a sudden she is Eddie freaking Rickenbacker shooting down the Red Baron while Snoopy yells out fighter maneuver techniques from the sidelines.



I mean, why wasn’t that explained? All of a sudden she knew how to avoid and destroy those big freaking dragon-killing crossbows, even though she only one freaking dragon. Did she secretly practice midair dodge-ball techniques? Had she studied with Mandrake The Magician and was gesturing hypnotically while she was flying over those big freaking dragon-killing crossbows and wrecking havoc?

I mean, even they had spent one single freaking scene with her talking a blacksmith into building some kind of armor for that dragon, that would have explained her sudden ability to simultaneously dodge those crossbows and blow the whole city down in flames.

Worse then all of that was the director’s insistence upon taking copious amounts of screen time as their characters stared sullenly at absolutely nothing at all. I mean, you want to take every Sergio Leone spaghetti western gunfight and run it in extra-slow motion and you will get an idea of how excruciatingly slow these all-too-frequent shots were to the average viewer.


Just multiply this one shot by about 100 minutes and you will have a pretty good approximation of how often Tyrion (and damn everybody else in Season 8) spends staring soulfully into middle ground without saying a goddamn thing)

Not to mention the fact that Cersei Lannister – one of the most under-used characters in the whole damn series, spends damn near the whole six episode season standing on her balcony staring wistfully at the end of her paycheck.

Image result for Game of Thrones Season 8 Cersei on the balcony

I really need a few more windows, don’t you think?


Do you think this balcony makes me look fat???

cersei 3

Why doesn’t anyone really like me?

That’s all I have to tell you. I hope I haven’t spoiled too much of the series for you. I figure that because this has been on the air for almost a year that I am safe in popping a few bubbles. I am glad I saw it finally, but I don’t if I will ever feel starved enough for entertainment to ever sit down and watch it again. I mean, these guys could teach a workshop on how to fuck up a good thing.

GOT the bells

Yours in Storytelling,


Steve Vernon

Chilling Chat with Elizabeth Massie

chillingchatElizabeth Massie is a Bram Stoker Award-winning and Scribe Award-winning author of novels and short fiction for middle-grade readers, teens, and adults. Her favorite genres areEM Beth Massie historical fiction and horror fiction (which she often calls “skeery stories!”) She also writes nonfiction and fiction for nationwide educational programs. A former 7th-grade science teacher with 19 years in the classroom, she now spends her time writing, presenting creative writing workshops, and drawing ghosts, monsters, and other creatures–all part of her Skeeryvilletown cast of cartoon characters. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her creative and wonderfully wacky counterpart, illustrator Cortney Skinner.

Elizabeth is a kind person and a terrific writer. We discussed middle-grade and YA horror, Ameri-Scares, and what horror can teach young people today. 

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me today, Elizabeth.

EM: You’re welcome.

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

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CREED 2 – a movie review

Okay – for starters, let me tell you that I have watched the Rocky series a whole lot of times. How many times? Hell, I don’t know. Count to ten. Maybe more.

I even enjoyed the first Creed movie – but CREED II sucked out loud. Sure, all of the Rocky movies ever made were just pulpy escapist boxing movies. You want to watch Sylvester Stallone and make those twitchy little shoulder moves that grown men do when they are watching a pulpy escapist boxing movie. I mean, this isn’t classic cinema. The Rocky series is all about coming out of the movie and heading for a tavern and feeling good about the whole experience.

But CREED II just plain sucked.

For starters, it was like they were trying to reboot ROCKY 4 – the one where Apollo Creed got killed in the ring by a ten foot tall Russian boxer by the name of Ivan Drago – (Dolph Lundgren) – and then Rocky booked a revenge match with Drago only he had to fly to Russia to fight it. Only first he had to create a homemade training camp in a Russian bed-and-breakfast being watched by a pair of KGB guards. Rocky chopped down half a Russian forest and did Roman sit-ups and Bruce Lee Dragon Flag sit-ups. Then he did military presses with Paulie and Adrian and half of a small Russian city sitting on a donkey cart. Then he outran a Mercedes Benz being driven by those Russian KGB watchdogs and ran up a snow-covered mountain range until he reached the top and he stood up there and shouted “DRAGO! DRAGO! DRAGO!” until those three dragons (named Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion if you REALLY need to know their names and are too damned lazy to Google) from Game of Thrones shivered in their sleep and screamed themselves awake yelling out “ROCKY, ROCKY, ROCKY!!!”

Now that is freaking entertainment.

So CREED II decided that they were going to reboot ROCKY 4. Well, the line they used was they were going to make a movie that portrayed the sins of the fathers. Or it might have been the sons of the fathers. None of the actors were all that much into articulating their dialogue. I mean, I know that they don’t have all that much articulation to live up to when they are standing on the same sound stage as Rocky “Yo, Adrian” Balboa – but I really had a hard time understanding what half of them were saying.

I had a real beef with how they portrayed Ivan Drago. I mean, Dolph Lundgren has some serious acting chops, even though he mostly made a career out of being a muscle-bound hero in a whole lot of Grade B pulp movies. You see, Ivan Drago wasn’t really allowed much in the way of dialogue beyond him telling his son “You got to kick Rocky’s ass – I mean Adonis’s ass – I mean, shit, don’t let me down, boy.”

I would have rather seen that Drago had learned a bit from his experiences and was just doing his best to raise his son properly. But instead, he was all – “Don’t be a wussy candyass, train like I taught you and beat the shit out of Stallone, I mean Rocky, I mean Adonis Creed.”

Then they spent way too long dragging out all of Adonis’s family problems. First off he couldn’t figure out how to propose to Valkyrie, I mean Tessa Thompson, I mean Bianca. At the same time they keep reminding us viewers that she is going to deaf and I guess that might ruin her singing career, only she gets pregnant and then everybody is worried that her baby is going to be born deaf because deafness is hereditary – or that’s what she tells her husband – because I guess they got married sometime in the middle of the movie only I forget because by that point I just really did not freaking care.

Anyways, Apollo Creed’s (he’s dead, remember?) son Adonis Creed fights Viktor Drago (Dolph Lundgren’s son) and Adonis gets the shit kicked out of him only Drago hits him one too many times for the ref’s liking and gets disqualified so there has to be a rematch.

Which is pretty much how Rocky 4 went, only it was Apollo Creed who fought Ivan Drago who killed him, so there couldn’t be a rematch, only Rocky stepped in and demanded that rematch with him standing in for Apollo.

Fuck yes, a revenge flick.

To make it even more of a Rocky 4 reboot they decide that the rematch has to be fought in Russia? Nobody says why. They just say okay, it’s got to be Russia.

So then, just like Rocky in Rocky 4, Adonis had to train himself in a remote location, only they had already gone with a Russian location – so to be different Rocky drove Adonis out into the middle of the freaking desert where a bunch of postapocalyptic looking boxers were training out there with absolutely no equipment.

I mean, instead of a heavy bag they had a bunch of truck tires strung together. And when they worked out with a sledgehammer they just pounded the desert floor, because all of the truck tires were busy being used as punching bags.

So Rocky drove around the desert making Adonis run after his car, which is kind of like roadwork without the road.

I’m pretty sure I caught a glimpse of the meth lab motor home from Breaking Bad or that might have just been some sort of a weird acid flashback.

So then the two of them step into a transporter and Scotty beams them over to Russia where Adonis and Drago fight their big rematch and Rocky stands around wearing his hat and trying to look like Heisenberg meets Mr. T and then the movie ends.

Now, I have heard that Stallone has sworn a sacred vow to never portray Rocky again. I have also heard that they are hoping to make another Creed movie eventually, in which Creed is going to fight Rocky’s son or else maybe the ghost of Adrian or even better the ghost of Paulie.

Either way, this one really bit the biscuit. And I am talking moldy, cockroach infested biscuits.

I am so glad that I just borrowed this movie from the library instead of buying a DVD copy.

Because it really, truly sucked.


Yours in Storytelling,

Steve Vernon


Gwendy's Button Box

A page is like an empty box. It always seems to ask just what exactly you are going to type upon its untrammeled surface – although hopefully you can find a better phrase to use than “untrammeled surface” which sounds a little pompous and somewhat overwritten in retrospect.

And then, once you have filled that empty pages with words and story then you have deal with the damnable curse of creative hindsight.

Did I do that right?

Could I have done it better?

Gwendy’s Button Box is a charming and compelling novella that is one part monkey’s paw, one part Hellraiser Lament Configuration, and one part The Devil and Daniel Webster.

Oh, and you can throw in a sprinkle of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life and it wouldn’t hurt to mention that the novella is written by a couple of the creepiest wordcrafters that you have ever heard tell of – namely, Richard Chizmar and Stephen King.

All right, so I know that everyone reading this review knows or has heard of Stephen King. He’s that dude with a triple dozen bestselling horror novels, a billion or two short stories, not to mention his many television series and movies and probably even a couple of nasty bloodstained postcards that he mailed to Santa Claus.

But only the true died-in-the-blood-of-the-printing-press fans of horror fiction will recognize the name of Richard Chizmar, which is a damn shame. Me, I know Rich from a long way back. I know him from back when I first started trying to actually sell my horror fiction. One of my very first stories appeared in the pages of the second issue of his long-lived magazine, Cemetery Dance.


Okay, so you are thinking to yourself that because I call Richard a buddy of mine, means that my review is most likely biased.


I used to write reviews for magazines. I was tough on other writers. I remember being asked by a publisher if I could find something nice to write about a book that I had reviewed.

“Nice?” I asked. “Why? I was honest and true.”

“Well, yes,” the “But the author of that book purchased an advertisement with our magazine. It would only be polite if you wrote something nice in your review.”

“All right,” I said. “Write this in my review. The book had pages, which is a good thing for books that are meant to be read. Too bad the author muddied up those pages with poorly written words.”

I’m not saying that I was all that kind.

It was shortly after that, that I decided to get out of the book reviewing business, on account of I am awfully funny about what I like to read and I do not like to say good things about books that I did not particularly like.

Well, I liked GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX. I liked it a whole lot. I like the size of it. I really enjoy reading a good novella, and this one was tight and lean. It reminded me of the stories in Stephen King’s first collection, NIGHT SHIFT. Each line was taut and pure and clear – and I kind of have a sneaking suspicion that Richard had something to do with that purity and clarity. In fact, I am pretty sure that Richard might have held old Stephen King’s feet to the fire for a while to make sure that he kept his own words honed close to the bone.

I know that for an honest to blue pencil fact because I have felt the edge of Richard’s editorial knife a time or two. And I have read an awful lot of Stephen King’s fiction. I love most of it, but GWENDY’S BUTTON BOX made me grin out loud as I read it.

You ought to read it too.

You can order a copy directly from Cemetery Dance Publishing or pick up a copy in most local bookstores. It’s written in a young adult voice that is perfect for an avid teenager – but this old fart enjoyed it just as well.

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

MIDWAY – a movie review

Well, after two straight months of working full tilt boogie with my day job and storytelling appearances, I treated myself yesterday to a trip to the movies to see MIDWAY.
It was my kind of audience. Maybe three old boys who knew how to keep quiet in a movie. I guess counting me, that made four old farts – but that was fine by me.
MIDWAY was a good old fashioned war movie. They didn’t try to cram any ill-fitted love story into the mix. There was nothing but solid action and reasonable acting. There wasn’t a lot of great dialogue and some of the acting was a little cardboard, but a couple of the performances loom largely in my thoughts.
Woody Harrelson did a rock-solid job as Admiral Nimitz. I have generally been impressed with Woody’s work, but this one really stood out. Dennis Quaid portrayed Bull Halsley and he stood out in every scene that you saw him in.
Geoffrey Blake – who I can’t remember having seen in any mother movie, although he has been in quite a few that I have actually seen – did an amazing job as director John Ford (the dude who directed The Searchers and about a billion other John Wayne movies, who was shooting a propaganda piece on the island of Midway right in the midst of the battle. I don’t quite know how he did it – but he managed to look and walk and act like John Ford. Great performance in a character who was on the screen for maybe three minutes, tops.
I will say that if you AREN’T familiar with the basic story of the battle, you might find yourself a little bit confused as the action plays out. My advice to you is to either just say “fuck it” and lean back and enjoy the cinematic splendor of good old fashioned CGI carnage.
OR – alternatively – you can just say “fuck it” and go and read a book. Or even catch one of several documentaries detailing the events of the battle. You ought to be able to find one on Youtube or Amazon Prime.
The critics have not been kind to this movie. They call it old-fashioned, primitive, and outdated. Well, I guess I am primitive, old-fashioned, and outdated as well – because I enjoyed myself immensely.
Even afterwards, when I found myself standing in the cold blustering wind at the bus stop for about 45 minutes waiting for a bus back home, I do not regret going to see this flick. It is DEFINITELY a big screen movie.
Yours in storytelling,
Steve Vernon