Quiet revolution in AFRICA

Some of the most revolutionary inventions are very simple. Such a one is soap, which some historians of science have said has saved more lives than all other medical advances combined.

Some inventions are not even visible, which makes it hard to recognize them when they crop up. Such a one is the village-based savings and loan association. Or more simply: microbank.

The basic facts hide the revolutionary nature of microbanks. They are made up of a few dozen people, their vault may be a cigar box, and their largest amount is usually only a very few hundred dollars. Their rules of operation are few and their officers rarely spend more than an hour or two a month working at their job.

Yet their effects are massive. Their simplicity means they can be easily understood and they can be quickly put into effect. Their small overhead makes them very efficient. They are quietly but inexorably spreading in Africa, and they may spread to other disadvantaged countries.

For more info click the image below.

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Scarlett Johannson’s LUCY superhero adventure available

The superhero movie Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson earned almost $459,000,000 at theatres worldwide.

It will be available on Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon, Best Buy, Redbox, Target, and Walmart starting on Jan. 20th, a Tuesday.

You can also stream or download it from Amazon, CinemaNow, Google, iTunes, Sony, Target, Verizon, Xbox, Xfinity, and YouTube.

Click the image to see a preview.

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ORIGINATOR: A Cassandra Kresnov Novel is now available

Originator, the third book in Joel Shepherd‘s second Cassandra Kresnov trilogy, just came out.

You’re in for a treat if you’ve not yet encountered his main character, Kresnov, in his futuristic military sci-fi series. She is an artificial human created as a fighting machine. Not only that, but she was made to command other such machines, so she’s smart as well as deadly. Too smart: she began to question why she should fight, and for whom. She finally decided her creators were unworthy of her loyalty, and deserted to live her own life.

Her owners come after her. So do their enemies. Both want to dissect her and use her for their own ends. BIG MISTAKE. You do NOT try to hurt the deadliest fighter in the known universe. Not without realizing you could get hurt back. Badly.

Cassandra is convincingly human and at the same time truly alien. Also convincing is the universe in which she lives. It is like George Lucas’s futuristic universe of megacities and starships and aliens. But it feels realistic, whereas Lucas’s universe is more like those of comic books. A smart person needs to be half-high on some drink or drug to believe in the Star Wars universe.

The two trilogies are available in print and ebook formats. Originator is in bookstores now. They can be ordered online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Click the image to look inside.

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Marvel’s AGENT CARTER two-hour premiere

UPDATE: The first two episodes lived up to the hype. Loved them. NOTE: The eight episodes are one single story arc, so we get a complete movie in eight parts.

I’m really looking forward to the Agent Carter TV show. It will be eight episodes with a two-hour premiere on USA’s ABC and Canada’s CTV on January 6th, a Tuesday. I’ve set up my VTR to record the series.

Available for streaming on Hulu.

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BEST 2014 BOOKS (Goodreads Readers)

The end of a year is when many post Best-Of lists. They are usually by one privileged person, or a small group of such people.

But Goodreads recently posted a list of 2014’s best books in 20 categories voted on by GR members. It may come closer to a truer guide to books you would be sorry you missed than any of the snobbier lists.

Here are the top entries in the lists of sci-fi, fantasy, and teen SF & fantasy. Click on each image for more info on that book.

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quirky fem vigilante movie MISS MEADOWS lots of fun

I love female vigilante movies. Which will not surprise readers of my books (so far). All of them have kick-ass female characters.

It comes, I suspect, from my two-year friendship with a feisty little red-headed girl in the 3rd and 4th grades. She often got us into trouble, and I tried to get at least her out of it. I was a big kid and when we got caught it was easy to convince people that I was the trouble-maker.

In Miss Meadows Katie Holmes is a sweet, innocent-looking temp elementary school teacher who we quickly find doesn’t back down from anyone. And carries a small .25 caliber pistol in her purse.

Available for streaming and downloading from Amazon.

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NAVY LASER GUN tests well

Laser weapons have been in development for decades. There are several problems to overcome before they become widely useful. These include a need for ruggedness, a large-enough power supply, and absorption of the laser pulses by dust, water vapor, and so on.

One project seems to have mostly solved these, based upon a recent series of tests. Details are in the December 11th issue of Defense News. To read it click the following image.

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Jennifer Lawrence’s HANGING TREE surprisingly touching

I’m not a fan of the Hunger Games books or films. But I am a fan of Jennifer Lawrence. She is often goofy and scatter-shot in interviews, and on the set is relaxed and jokes with everyone.

But when the director calls Action an almost Jekyll-Hyde-like switch takes place. She’s no longer goofy Jen but whoever her character is, totally immersed in the action. This is partly why she’s been nominated for an Oscar three times and won once, gotten five Screen Actors Guild noms and two wins, two BAFTA noms and one win, and been nominated and won numerous other awards, including those of critics. She’s received 201 award nominations and won 117 of them – so far.

I stumbled on the following video of a song she sings in Mockingjay Part 1. To my surprise I began to tear up. By the end I was near to weeping. Not because she has a great voice. It’s only passable. But because of the emotion she invested in the song. THIS is the mark of a powerful actor.

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THE STAR WOMAN Chapter 4 available

I’ve finished the first Wonder Woman Rethought book, The Star Woman. I’ve now turned to writing another book in a different series. Once I’m near finishing it and have something solid to announce, I’ll announce it and provide a chapter or three.

Meanwhile I’m also writing submissions to agents for Star Woman. Most are similar but every agent is different and each wants a slightly different submission package. Some, for instance, want only a short query. Others want that plus a synopsis, or query + synopsis + a 5/10/50 page excerpt. Once I have the first ten packages I’ll send them off. If I fail to get interest, I’ll repeat for another ten agents.

Interested readers may not see a published book for up to two years, so to keep you interested (I hope!) I’ve posted a fourth chapter. In it Annalisa King begins operations in the field, killing and scaring the piss out of bad guys. Read Chapter 4 – Ranger by clicking the image.

Book Cover for web site resized

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Angelina Jolie’s MALEFICENT is phenomenally good

I finally saw Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, which grossed $758 million worldwide. It had all the things boys stereotypically like (fighting) and girls supposedly like (emotion, a love story) – though of course I loved both, being a boy AND a girl at heart!

Jolie’s performance is both powerful and nuanced. She gets to chew the scenery but also to subtly show her character’s evolution from a woman full of hate to one who’s grown beyond it.

To top it off the tech credits were phenomenally good: visuals, sound, editing, etc. Definitely worth watching it on a very big screen, either in theaters or at home.

You can rent it from Redbox in either Blu-ray or DVD. Or you can stream it, from Amazon and other vendors.

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