Friday, January 17, 2020

New Book Cover for 'The Stranger from the Sea'

Hello!  My new book, The Stranger from the Sea, is live on Amazon. This is the new cover of the book. The print version will launch early this year. 


Here is a brief synopsis of the book:


Joanna is a lonely woman living near the ocean in Montauk, New York, in the house she grew up in. One day she finds a naked man lying in the surf, and she takes him home to help him. She gradually falls in love with Anderson, but he has no papers or anyone to contact. Her sister is suspicious of him, and a mysterious ship is found washed up on the beach, causing a government investigation. Joanna begins to believe that Anderson may be from a place that is not just beyond the sea but out of this world.


Please click the link to learn more or to order my book.  Thanks for taking a look at this and happy reading!


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

TV Review: ‘Lost in Space’ (Season Two) – Battle of the Bots







The long awaited second season of Netflix’s Lost in Space is now available for viewing and it was worth the wait. Disappointingly, there are only ten episodes in Season Two – the same amount as Season One – but each is like a mini-movie, and the amount of care and effort that goes into crafting each one is obvious. Still, for new fans like my son and fans of the old series like me, the season still leaves us wanting more. I guess that is a good thing.

We pick up seven months after Season One with the Family Robinson – mom Maureen (Molly Parker), dad John (Toby Stephens), son Will (Maxwell Jenkins), and daughters Judy (Taylor Russell) and Penny (Mina Sundwall). Also along for the ride are mechanic/pilot Don West (the hilarious Ignacio Serriccho) and the villainous Dr. Smith (an incredible Parker Posey). They are stranded on a planet with copious amounts of water they cannot drink and air they cannot breathe. Obviously, they need to get out of there as quickly as they can recharge their ship.

Will’s Robot (Brian Steele) is nowhere to be found, but that doesn’t stop the boy from talking to a little figure that he has made to represent it. Anyone familiar with the original series and those who saw Season One know one of the key relationships on the show is between the boy and his robot (a futuristic take on a boy and his dog in a sense).

This season features more of the Perils of Pauline aspect of each episode, putting one or more of the Robinsons in mortal danger. While this creates great tension and drama and the cast is up to the challenge, there almost feels as if there is never a moment to catch one’s breath. One particularly horrifying example is when John falls down a shaft and impales himself on a metal rod. Judy’s race – by vehicle and then on foot – to save him is harrowing and nerve wracking.

There are so many aspects of the season that feel like spoilers, but I can divulge that Will and Robot eventually get back together, and they still do retain an almost psychic connection, but things have changed as well. When Will asks Robot to do something, everyone is astounded when Robot says, “No, Will Robinson.” Of course, we will learn that the “No” is for a good reason because more danger is ahead.

We also get to see other survivors of the various Jupiter ships that are moored to the massive station Resolute, including Penny’s love interest Vijay Dhar (Ajay Friese) from Season One. Resolute’s leader Hastings (Douglas Hodge) buts heads with John and Maureen and has secret and nefarious plans for Robot that put him at odds with the Robinsons.

Another important aspect of Season Two is the continuing story of Dr. Smith. Her duplicitous nature is simply creepy, and Posey makes her an icky manipulator one minute and a genuinely empathetic figure the next. It is almost impossible to read which way Smith is going to go – seemingly siding with the Robinsons and then aligning herself with Hastings against them. It is a pleasure to watch Posey play this part to perfection in each episode, and you find yourself loving to hate her as she dominates each scene that she is in.

The show is gorgeously filmed – credit Sam McCurdy and C. Kim Miles's cinematography – and everything from the spaceships, the various planet landscapes, and incredibly stunning space sequences are brilliantly realized. New alien creatures are introduced that are delightfully dangerous, and Christopher Lennertz music is astoundingly spot-on in its appropriateness for the narrative highs and lows depicted.

While Parker and Stephens do a fine job as the parents, it is the actors who play the Robinson kids who shine brightly. Russell’s Judy has grown more confidant and takes on more responsibility – including watching over her younger siblings. Sundwall’s Penny wrote a book called Lost in Space during the last seven months, and for Christmas Will publishes it. There is a great deal of tension between her mother and her because of this book. Sundwall's emotional reactions in these scenes are powerful.

Just as in the original, Will is the central character and young Jenkins is outstanding in the part. He is able to convey the complex emotions that a boy of 12 is facing, being pulled away from the only life he’s known to live on another planet. His father having been away so long serving in the military, Will gravitates toward Robot in a sense to have a father figure as well as a best friend. 

The menace the Robinsons and the rest of the human survivors are facing is directly connected to Robot and others of his kind. As it becomes clear that a threat from those other robots will destroy the Resolute and everyone on board it, the situation becomes desperate. Of course, the human conflicts may do the job before the robots ever get to it.

Like the Robinsons from the original TV show, this family is trying to get to Alpha Centauri to start new lives. There is nothing else that can be compared between the two series. This one is a far superior production from the special effects to writing and the acting. Although when I hear the theme music, I can't help but want to hear Jonathan Harris as Dr. Smith saying, "The pain, the pain!" one more time.

Lost in Space Season Two on Netflix is highly recommended. This season is beautiful, brutal, and heartbreaking. It also ends with a discovery that should be a big surprise to everyone and sets up intriguing possibilities for Season Three. For now, watch Season Two and enjoy the ride!



Tuesday, January 14, 2020

New Book Promotion

To celebrate the publication of my new novel, The Stranger from the Sea, I am running promotions for some of my other books this month. Starting today (at 11 a.m. EST), my book Flashes in the Pan begins a Kindle Countdown. For the next week it will be available for 99 cents.

 Flashes in the Pan is a book filled with my flash fiction stories. These stories are all short (1000 words), so they are quick reads. This includes stories about JFK's assassination, space travel, Lazarus, a botched robbery, and failed relationships. All are quick reads that I think you will enjoy.

Please check it out at 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018O4TYC8/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4

Flashes in the Pan: Flash Fiction by by [Lana, Victor]

Sunday, January 5, 2020

New Book Promotion


Garden of Ghosts: a novella by Kindle Edition


To celebrate the publication of my new novel, The Stranger from the Sea, I am running promotions for some of my other books this month. Starting today (at 11 a.m. EST), my book Garden of Ghosts begins a Kindle Countdown. For the next week it will be available for 99 cents.

Garden of Ghosts is the story of a New York writer and actor navigating through the difficulties of a life trying to work in theater and get his work published. It follows him to France and Spain and back to the city. He becomes a man so haunted by the ghosts of his past that he struggles with living in the present while trying not to become a phantom worse than the ones he is hoping to escape.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018N86SVU/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Year’s Day – Should We Glance Back or Look Forward?





The past is not dead. It’s not even past.”
-      William Faulkner

It is the first day of 2020 and, in all honesty, there is not much we can say about this year right now, so there is a tendency to look back at 2019 and think about all that happened. Still, people can feel it is over, done, kaput! The past is the past. Let’s focus on what is to come.

Everyone finds themselves in the same place as the calendar page turns to January, but it is how we react to it that is different. 2019 is barely cold, so why kick the old man to the curb? Should we welcome the nascent 2020 as warmly as if it were a cute, cuddly Baby Yoda? Yes, of course we should, but how wise is it to look back at the past year and think about everything that happened? Should we let the events of 2019 dictate how to handle the new year ahead?

This is not just the end of a year but also the end of a decade. Think about what you were doing on December 31, 2009. Where were you and who was with you? Sadly, I have lost loved ones since that date, and yet they seem oddly present in my daily life. I think about them often and, in the case of my father, I communicate with him daily. In this way the past doesn’t seem past at all.

Still a decade is a ponderous thing to weigh on one’s mind, and its heft can be a bit overwhelming. Think about those ten years – 120 months, 520 weeks consisting of 3653 days (thanks to Leap Years) – and all that you did, said, ate, drank, and slept. Is it even possible to process that time in a way that is equitable to all the memories involved?

So, how do you look at the decade? How do you look at 2019? As something over and done with? Or is it a living and breathing thing that we can revisit, examine, and treat as a work still in progress?

Most of us remember the major events of the teens, and I have seen end of year and end of decade lists regarding movies, TV, music, news stories, celebrity deaths, and so on. My intention is not to regurgitate any of that. There are enough of these sometimes very subjective lists already conjured and prepared for us to use in discussions should they arise.

I will note personally that this has been an incredible decade for Star Wars fans like my son and me. There were five new films (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker, Rogue One, and Solo), three animated series (The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance), and one live action series (The Mandalorian). Also, let us not forget Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at the Disney parks. That is more Star Wars content than in any other decade!

During these past ten years, my immediate family and I have traveled extensively and enjoyed seeing new countries and learning about them. We have experienced family joy at multiple high school and college graduations, one law school graduation, one nursing school graduation, and two nephews’ graduations from the FDNY academy. We have attended family weddings, anniversaries, christenings, and birthday parties, and have had the joy of new babies to celebrate.

Despite having to deal with the loss of loved ones, the past decade has been a great journey. These moments don’t go away; they stay with us long after the music stops playing and the lights go out. Memory is a wonderful, beautiful, bittersweet thing – and for some people it is all they have. So, the past can never be past because it is relived again and again until we too pass away, but then we exist in our surviving loved ones’ memories, and so it goes on and on.

So, let us embrace 2020, for it is brimming with hopeful possibilities.
2020 is here in a fresh diaper and chugging a cold bottle of milk. Before you know it, 2020 will be a toddler by the end of January and going away to college at the end of March. They grow up so fast, so enjoy it now. 

Happy New Year! Happy New Decade too!!    


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Last Day for New Year's Promotion for My New Book

This is the last day for the special New Year's price cut for my new book . Thank you to all of those who have already bought the book! Happy New Year!

'The Stranger from the Sea' is the story of Joanna and Anderson, She's a lonely Kindergarten teacher living near the beach in Montauk, NY. She has experienced a number of poor relationships, but one day she finds Anderson lying naked in the ocean. Joanna brings him home and helps him recover. They slowly fall in love despite her questions about who he is and where he is from. When a strange ship washes up on the beach not far from her house, a government investigation begins. Joanna starts to realize that Anderson is not just from beyond the sea but from out of this world.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0829BLGH5/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0


Sunday, December 29, 2019

TV Review: ‘The Mandalorian’ – The Ultimate Space Cowboy






*This review contains spoilers regarding Season One.

The Mandalorian –the new hit series on Disney’s new Disney+ channel – proves that Disney can get a Star Wars story done the right way. Perhaps we cannot overlook series creator Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and executive producer Dave Filoni (of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels fame). With their pedigrees, we would expect nothing less than what we get here – a slick, cool, and fast-paced spaghetti western (minus the Clint Eastwood signature squints).

Mando (played with stoicism by Pedro Pascal) – as he is called by other characters in the show – is a bounty hunter in the tradition of other Mandalorians before him like the iconic Boba Fett from the original trilogy. When he is given a 50-year-old target by Greef Karga (played by the great Carl Weathers), we assume it is just another day in the office for Mando.

Fortunately for us and unfortunately for Mando, the target is a baby that looks like Yoda from the films. It has been something of a cultural impact that has become a feeding frenzy. Many people asked for “Baby Yoda” items for Christmas (including my kids), but credit Disney for keeping the character a secret rather than cashing in on a big retail boom. This didn’t stop other companies from rushing nonauthentic Baby Yoda items into the market.

As people have been calling the character “Baby Yoda,” it is important to note that Favreau has come out and said it is not Baby Yoda. The character is noted as The Child in closed captioning, and since it only coos and sighs we have no idea about the origins of this creature as of now.

After acquiring the target, Mando returns to his ship and finds it has been stripped for parts by Jawas. Aided by a local named Kuill (Nick Nolte), he makes a deal with the Jawas to get them a Mudhorn egg (a huge beast like a rhinoceros) to swap for the parts. This is easier said than done, and just as the beast seems to be getting the best of Mando, The Child uses his powers to lift the giant creature, allowing Mando to kill it.

Now we know that The Child has nascent yet rather impressive power (He later Force chokes another character when he believes she threatens Mando). Mando makes the exchange with the Jawas, fixes his ship, and then flies off with the cooing and sighing passenger touching things in the cockpit as a baby would do. We have never known much about Yoda’s species – hopefully we are going to learn more now – but at 50 years old the species obviously takes its time to mature.

Mando brings The Child to The Client (played deliciously by Werner Herzog), but when he sees a Doctor Pershing (Omid Atahi) in the room (and some battle damaged stormtroopers), questions arise for him. He asks The Client what he is going to do with The Child, and is told it is none of his concern. When he returns to Karga, Mando asks him what The Client wants with the baby, and Karga claims not to know or care.

This is a pivotal moment in the series because Mando does care. The fact that he was once a child orphaned during the Empire’s Great Purge on Mandalore comes into play here. Flashbacks show his parents rushing him to a safe hiding place before they are killed. This memory no doubt influences Mando’s decision to rescue the baby.

Mando returns to The Client’s lair and battles the stormtroopers – they go down pretty easily and have been doing so since Star Wars: A New Hope. He takes the baby, declining to kill Pershing. As he tries to return to his ship, Mando has a shootout with Karga and other bounty hunters, and he is about to be defeated when rescued by a squad of his fellow Mandalorians.

Eventually, Mando gets The Child back to the ship and they depart. On the next planet he encounters Cara Dune (a terrific Gina Carano), an ex-Rebel trooper turned mercenary who is in hiding. Some of her maternal instinct is kicked up a notch when she sees The Child, but she doesn’t want anything to do with it. Cara gets pulled into action helping Mando fight to save the locals against raiders who are using an Imperial AT-ST (like a small two-legged AT-AT). Once that battle is won, Mando wants to leave the child with the villagers to have a normal life, but another bounty hunter has tracked him and tries to get The Child, so Mando knows the baby will be safe only with him for now.

The rest of the season sees Mando going from planet to planet, having to protect The Child, and each episode shows Mando’s deepening connection to it. Set five years after Return of the Jedi (and thus 25 years before The Force Awakens), The Mandalorian is in prime time for characters from both films to pop in somehow. This season featured the aforementioned stormtroopers and Jawas – and even a visit to Mos Eisley on Tatooine – so next season there could more of those Easter eggs that fans love.

Mando is trying to stay on the outer edge of the galaxy, but from the stae of things on the planets that he has visited it is clear that the New Republic is not going so well at least in these places. There are raiders, rogue stormtroopers, and then the hint of what could be the stirrings of what will eventually become The First Order. In the last two episodes the seemingly big bad guy emerges – Moff Gideon (played with panache by Giancarlo Esposito) – who comes in a TIE fighter and seems to be in charge of a hell of a lot more stormtroopers. His appearance hints at a broader movement against the New Republic.

There is also a tantalizing scene near the end of episode nine when Gideon crashes in his TIE fighter. As Jawas start stripping the wreckage, a familiar sound emerges from inside the ship. Gideon cuts his way out using a Darksaber. He stands upon the wreckage with the saber in hand, and this gets the adrenaline pumping for fans of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. The Darksaber is an ancient Mandalorian weapon, last seen in Rebels and in the possession of Mandalorian leader Bo-Katan.

The Darksaber was created during the Old Republic by Jedi Tarre Vizla. As if the connection to the Jedi isn’t important enough, Gideon’s possession of the weapon seems tied to the Empire’s attack on Mandalore (depicted in Mando’s flashbacks to when his parents were killed). Could this mean that Bo-Katan was killed during the Great Purge, which Gideon vividly describes as the “Night of a Thousand Tears,” and is Gideon a Sith or not?

Season One of The Mandalorian shows what a Star Wars story can be when at its best. It has an engaging protagonist (who finally takes off his helmet in episode 8), The Child/Baby Yoda whose cuteness factor wins the day, great co-stars like Weathers and Carano, and guest appearances by the likes of Nolte, Herzog, Amy Sedaris, Ming-na Wen, Clancy Brown, Horatio Sans and more. 

Ludwig GÅ‘ransson’s music is vibrant and matches the fast pace of the series, and his opening theme for the show is a caliber right up there with what the great John Williams has given us for the films. The various alien creatures are inventive as always, and the directors have been awesome – most notably episode 8’s Taika Waititi – and have kept a uniform vision that keeps the series together as a cohesive whole.

I cannot help but to be excited for Season Two – due in late 2020 – and the possibilities for characters from the films and animated TV series to make appearances are tantalizing. My son and I talked about this, and the one person more than any other we would like to see back on screen is Ahsoka Tano. Last seen in Rebels, the former padawan of Anakin Skywalker in The Clone Wars certainly deserves her story to be told. 

I highly recommend The Mandalorian and praise Disney+ for not dropping the whole season all at once like it is done on Netflix. Some viewers may not like this, but I appreciate the anticipation of waiting a week and thinking about what is going to happen. Nothing is going to change Netflix's practices, but I hope Disney+ continues doing this for its new series content.

Until next time, May the Force be with you!