Getting to the chair is most of the battle

by Christopher Ryan

With the start of 2022, one of my priorities is increasing productivity. I even created a daily schedule for myself. While adhering to that schedule has not been perfect, there has been one undeniable success: more productivity.

It has become clear to me yet again that as long as you get to that chair, that writing space, and open the laptop, or turn on the computer, or pick up the pen, you will write.

It does not matter what gets you there, as long as you do, and as long as you begin. And it does not matter whether that writing is perfect. Quality can come later, the process is now, doing the job is all.

So don’t worry about perfection, or the amount of work ahead of you, or whether it will be published, or win awards, or any of that nonsense. Just do whatever needs to be done to get to that chair. You don’t even need to sit. You can stand in front of it, as long as you write.

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Guest Blog: A Writer’s New Year’s Resolutions

2022. Already. The start of a new year feels like the opportunity to roll up our metaphorical sleeves and “this year get it right.” Time management, …

A Writer’s New Year’s Resolutions
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Scheduling Can Support Productivity

by Christopher Ryan

Post-holidays and amidst rising Covid numbers, ugly weather, the one year anniversary of Jan. 6, and other bleak news, it can be hard for independent creatives to get going and maintain productivity. Something as simple as a schedule might help.

As a recently retired teacher, a scheduled workday is still ingrained in my professional DNA, so, after much deliberation, I plan to start 2022 on a schedule that lays out smaller goals to be done by a certain time each day.

Instead if “write everything and create successful marketing plans and social media platforms that sell your work” as an endless goal, writing from 8-10 am seems much more achievable.

Taking a quick walk or stretch and grabbing a water might be enough to re-energize and refocus for a 10:15-noon social media training/creating/scheduling session.

After a sensible lunch and walking the dog or showering, more writing or proofreading/editing from 1-3 and then checking email and/or sending out work from 3-5 can end the day productively.

Will every aspect of this work well? I don’t know. Might it prove to be more productive than throwing my whole creative world onto my shoulders every day? I suspect it will. In either case, I believe it is worth a try. I’ll keep you posted.

What works for you as far as productivity? Let me know in the comments.

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Here’s to You, 2022

by Christopher Ryan

Last night was a pretty honest mess. Miley’s party was self-conscious and apologetic. Ryan Seacrest’s joy seemed forced, almost desperate. And seeing Anderson Cooper drunk on air again just underscored how few fucks we have left to give as a society.

Millions of masked masses crowded together in defiance of all social distancing suggestions. Then the revelry kicked in and naked faces crawled out from under the tenuous safety of thin material. By the countdown, New Year’s Eve 2021 was a sea of masked chins even as hospitals filled and Covid case numbers soared. Says a lot about our national mindset as 2022 dawned.

Yes, we all want this to be over, want this endless uncertainty and illness to be gone. After such a long, depressing purgatory, it is understandable that so many just wanted to ignore the risks and get their dance on.

So, happy new year. My wish for the revelers is that Covid took the night off. We all need a break.

As for 2022, I hope we embrace the truth that hate won’t save us, knee jerk reactions won’t improve our collective fate, and pointing fingers always guarantees failure. We need to listen to each other and negotiate our way to taking responsibility for our mutual well-being.

We tried hate and mocking and violence. Mutual assured destruction thrived there, not much else. This year, let’s try mutual assured survival. Which thoughts must we rethink to be able to have constructive discussions again?

All we really need to do is decide there is a better life available and then be brave enough to step toward it.

I hope to see you there.

We have a chance to move forward in 2022. Are we going to make another mess of it? Or can we win together?
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One More Really Fun MCU Spider-Man Easter Egg

By Christopher Ryan

SPOILERS AHEAD!

In the wake of the monumentally successful release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, there has been a satisfying amount of scrutiny, opinion, and interpretation that Marvel geeks like me eat up by the bowlful. And in the spirit such delicious exchanging of ideas, allow me to suggest one other small element of interpretation: the Home trilogy completes our cinematic connections to beloved Spider-Man comics.

Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man each told the titular hero’s origin (key points – Uncle Ben’s globally known statement and subsequent murder, followed by Peter Parker’s resulting guilt and commitment to web-slinging). Recently, it was suggested that the Home trilogy didn’t show Uncle Ben’s death because the entire trilogy served as the origin story. This culminated, of course, in a dramatic variation on the tragedy, which occurred about two thirds of the way through No Way Home. This tear-jerking twist may have hit a deeper emotional note with us because it built over three films, but ultimately the movies collectively deliver Tom Holland’s Spider-Man to the heartbreaking legacy that is our hero’s essence.

Spider-Man is a tragic figure in our modern mythology. He must always lose someone. That spurs him on to do good for others. Yes, many Marvel characters have variations on this trope, but worldwide, we strongly recognize ourselves in Spider-Man. We see Peter Parker (or Miles Morales or Gwen Stacey) trying to be Spider-Man (or Spider-Gwen), sacrificing so much to be the hero that he or she failed to be for a person close to them. We cannot help but want Spidey to overcome failure because we want to overcome our own shortcomings. We identify with this grief-stricken kid because of his determination to be better because we want to be better, too.

There is no new ground here at all. This is merely a confirmation of all the conversations that have gone on recently. I applaud them. They are a lot of fun to dig into. I love this stuff so much that, with all respect, I’d like to add just one more element. This is not to negate or contradict anything that’s been said before. It is just meant to, hopefully, add one more layer of fun.

When I was growing up there were three major Spider-Man titles that Marvel published: The Amazing Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man (which eventually just became Spider-Man) and one other. If we look at the three Spider-Men (Toby McGuire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland), each of their cinematic journeys match one of those major titles. Toby McGuire’s films were called Spider-Man and Andrew Garfield’s movies were entitled The Amazing Spider-Man, covering those two comics. I suggest that, besides accomplishing so many other things, Tom Holland’s MCU adventures sting suggest the formula of the third beloved Spider-Man title of my childhood, that classic comic called Marvel Team-Up.

In every issue of Marvel Team-Up, Spidey would meet another Marvel character and their interaction would influence the outcome of the adventure. The Home trilogy is very much (though not perfectly) film versions of Marvel Team-Up.

In Spider-Man: Homecoming, the web-slinger teams up with Iron Man, sort of. In Spider-Man: Far from Home he works with Nick Fury and, in a weird way, Mysterio. And in Spider-Man: No Way Home, Spidey clearly teams up, at least for the beginning and the end of the movie, with Dr. Strange. And, um, other Spider-Men. And, er, a reformed villain. If it was an actual issue of the comic, the cover would read Marvel Team Up Spider-Man and Dr. Strange and Spider-Man and Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus.

This is neither deep nor revelatory. It is just fun to note that there is a Marvel Team-Up series in the MCU. To the best of my knowledge, the Tom Holland films were never promoted this way, but I can’t look at these films without seeing one of my all-time favorite comic books very well represented.

Fans may dream of a Marvel Team-Up series on but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. First of all, Spider-Man is still and probably always will be owned by Sony. Secondly, Spider-films are expensive to produce in any form. There seems no way a series could afford to pay all the headliners currently in the MCU to come in for one episode or a two- or three-episode arc (as seen in the comic). Further, MCU/Disney+ shows have established themselves as season-long arcs rather than adventure of the week, so adding new guests each episode would result in a pile of expensive characters for each season’s finale, costing about as much as a major motion picture. That is not a goal of these shows, according to what MCU guru Kevin Feige has said.

But all of that is okay because, honestly, we are already enjoying MCU Team-Up.

And it has been glorious.

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Loki Finale Prep: Who is Running the TVA?

We are less that a week away from the finale of the MCU’s Loki on Disney+ and it might be fun to ponder who is actually running the TVA and is therefore the series’ Big Bad.

Spoiler warning just is case any of this comes anywhere close to happening next week. If you are concerned about possible spoilers, 1) thanks for your faith in my guesses, and 2) stop reading right now because this is all just for fun and I don’t want to ruin anything for anyone.

The Ancient One
While very knowledgeable about the sacred timeline, concerned that The Avengers could screw it up with their time heist plan, and potentially observing Steve Rogers’ lovenest alternate reality, The Ancient One is least likely to appear in the Loki finale even though she is alive and serving as The Sorcerer Supreme at the time Loki escapes his reality.
Christopher Ryan, Scourge of the Marvel Cosmos
Correction, I am the least likely to be running the TVA. Apologies to The Ancient One. Okay, let’s get on with it.
Mobius M. Mobius
This TVA servant turned rebel is very unlikely to be the entity running the TVA, though I do suspect he will lead an army to the end of time to help the Lokis in the finale.
Hunter B-15
She is not running the TVA. I suspect she will team up with Mobius to “burn the place to the ground” and travel to the end of time to help the Lokis, completing her arc.
Ravonna Renslayer
It is possible that Ravonna Renslayer could be running the TVA and face down the Lokis at the end of time. I suspect, however, that she is more likely to be revealed as an assistant to or lover of the main villain (the other “investigator” that Mobius teases her about). Alternately, she might just make things more difficult for the Lokis during the finale.
He Who Remains
It is probable that some form of He Who Remains will be running the TVA at the end of time as he did in the comics. However, this being the MCU, I suspect this incarnation could take the concept of He Who Remains and combine it with one of the next few possibilities, making him an ancient version of one of the following characters.
Miss Minutes
In all probability, Miss Minutes will be a key element of the finale. Is she running the TVA? Is she an avatar of He Who Remains or someone else? Is she the Big Bad? I suspect she will be an assistant to the Big Bad and make things more difficult for the Lokis.
Classic Loki
Classic Loki has a chance to appear in the finale mostly because Richard E. Grant killed it in the penultimate episode and if you sign an actor of his caliber, you use him as much as you can. Additionally, the idea that “Lokis don’t die” was repeated so often it feels like a hint. And finally, because it might pit Classic (villainous) Loki against New Improved (heroic) Loki, or, more probably, allow Classic Loki to save the Lokis one last time.
Sylvie
I am almost certain Sylvie will remain who she has become and face the Big Bad, whomever he, she, or they may be. One form of that could be an ancient She Who Remains that Sylvie has to battle while Our Loki fights ancient He who Remains Loki.
Kang the Conqueror
While all the talk is that Kang will appear in the next Ant-Man movie, it makes the second most sense that he is running the TVA to protect “The Sacred Timeline” that he has been curating by eliminating all others, the timeline where he has conquered all. He can even be in the form of He Who Remains and only hint at who he is and what is to come. However…
Loki
I believe it is most likely that the Big Bad will be the Sacred Timeline’s version of Loki. This explains why all other timelines have been pruned (to eliminate other Lokis, whom this Ultimate Loki would see as his only competition). More importantly, this allows new improved hero Loki to face off against his darker self, completing his arc by defeating Ultimate Loki utilizing the one power he has never possessed before – love.

What do you think will happen? Have some fun in the comments below, but be kind. Thanks.

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Lansdale Delivers An Exciting Visit to Moon Lake

Joe R. Lansdale utilizes his long career as a gifted storyteller in many styles to create what may be the ultimate multi-genre mixtape of a summer must-read.

While Lansdale has delivered horror gold and crime classics, pulp delights and comic book fun, TV and film gems, he’s also written deeply emotional novels that should stand alongside To Kill A Mockingbird and True Grit as modern classics of American Literature. In Moon Lake, he manages to mix most of those styles into one novel. The result is compelling.

What starts as near death experience which decimates a family turns quickly into an unblinking look at the Jim Crow South. The narrative then evolves into a mystery mixing crime, horror, small town politics gone insane, dark pasts, and disturbing secrets. That feast is leavened with humor that runs through the novel like new laces on a well-loved pair of Converse.

America’s champion mojo author once again visits the theme of dark waters, conjuring unique takes on gothic tropes, modernizing monsters, refreshing fiends, rehaunting houses, creating more current catacombs, and keeping the pace as swift as a runaway current.

Looking for a summer read that sweeps you away? Lansdale’s latest, Moon Lake, is highly recommended.

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A Key to MCU Phase 4 and maybe 5?

Allow me to begin with an apology. Somebody somewhere in social media may have mentioned this before. If so, I apologize for not remembering your name. But I suspect that Kurt Busiek’s “Avengers Forever” might just be the key to the MCU phase four, and possibly five.

The 12-part miniseries is loaded with elements that show up in #WandaVision and #Loki and seem destined to show up in #SpiderManFarFromHome and #DrStrangeMultiverseofMadness as well as possibly many more upcoming #MCU projects, potentially including the similarly titled #blackpantherwakandaforever.

The plot of “Avengers Forever” pits Kang the Conqueror against his older iteration Immortus and against the Time Keepers that have shown up in the MCU/Disney+ series “Loki”.

Various Avengers are plucked from time (as Loki was) to play their roles as either puppets or rebels, and the question becomes: who is manipulating time and who is protecting it? We also find ourselves asking what is more important, the will of the Time Keepers or free will, the freedom to choose our individual destiny?

Plot elements in “Loki” already suggest these questions, and it remains unclear at this point whether the two Lokis are fulfilling the Kang/Immortus roles or setting the stage for the Conqueror himself, as has been rumored. Either way, the seeds of doubt about the Time Variance Authority and the Time Keepers has already been sown into the show and do reflect this story in fascinating ways.

The events of the comic mini-series are referred to in the plot as The Destiny War, and this may be what is getting set up in the MCU. Fans have suggested we’re heading towards Secret Wars, but plot elements, especially in “Loki”, suggest this other war may be what we are watching unfold.

I may be wrong but the parallels and suggestions are too numerous to ignore. It may, in fact, be our destiny to give “Avengers Forever” a read. You might want to do that before the Time Keepers wipe out this reality to eliminate spoilers and bad puns.

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The Seductive Lie of Karli Morgenthau

Marvel is pushing the limits of superhero entertainment, asking difficult questions about who gets power and a voice in the world, and they are making the argument excellently well, offering an intriguing range of views for us to consider at a time when listening to each other is in short supply.

The show is well-populated. There are, of course, uncaring politicians who want to wield power without hesitation arguing with more sensitive leaders.

We are shown a hero who was militarily trained to enforce initiatives (John Walker), another whose mind was enslaved by a government (Bucky Barnes) and must now work to make amends for a bloody past, and then there is one (The Falcon) who believes in reason over blood.

Meanwhile, other (Baron Zemo, Sharon Carter, the Dora Milaje, the Contessa) act on their own agendas that complicate the heroes’ efforts.

Perhaps the most challenging point-of-view comes from the Flag Smashers, led by Karli Morgenthau, and their slogan “One World, One People.”

It is inarguably a beautiful idea. All of us living in peace as human beings rather than rivals or races or enemies is what we have professed in our best moments.

But, sadly, we usually acting against that ideal.

The same is true of the Flag Smashers. They reassure themselves by professing “One World, One Peace” but it does not hold up in anything else they say or do.

While they talk a good unity game, it is ultimately a dreamy version of Us vs. Them that is negated by their progressively more divisive words and actions. They hate the rest of the world and want to tear it down. Not very “one world, one people.”

And yes, they are right that the powerful traditionally act to make sure they keep power for themselves. But by using hate rhetoric and marshaling power to destroy power, we don’t defeat the enemy, we become them.

The flag smashers can profess they want “one world, one peace”, but when they seek power for themselves that is just another version of “our world, our peace”. A replacement agenda is not a restoration or unification goal.

And I get it, they have been treated horrendously (in a fictional sense). Doesn’t justify mass murder. Doesn’t allow one to punch enemies to death. And their plans seem to be leading to a mass action that may prove to be chillingly similar to January 6.

They aren’t alone in crossing the line of the Social Contract, existing laws, or morality. John Walker was trained to be a killer for his country but when he killed out of rage in front of the world’s cameras, his government abandoned him. The complexities of that is worthy of its own essay.

And world leaders are arguing about how to treat the “displaced” in this tale just as they are in our reality. How the show’s leaders behave may be an uncomfortable reflection for who we elect to do the same for us.

All these seductive lies bring into focus one who has been so abused by his country he’d rather “stay dead” (Isiah Bradley), one who needs to be what his country made him because he thinks he has nothing else (John Walker), another who needs to be truly moral because he spent 90 years murdering against his will (Bucky Barnes), and one who believes in the possibility that we can be better no matter all our divisions, who stubbornly hangs on to the hope that we can rise above our horrendous past despite mistreatment at every turn (Sam Wilson/The Falcon/possibly the next Captain America).

Karli Morgenthau might say “One World, One Peace” but Sam Wilson has the clear-eyed vision and strength of character to walk the Via Dolorosa required to achieve real progress.

Episode Six, the season finale airing this Friday, has positioned Marvel to offer their take on complicated and sensitive issues facing us all today. It is brave and challenging storytelling and well worth your time.

Sam Wilson tries reasoning with Karli Morgenthau.
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The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is The Show America Needs Right Now

America is in turmoil right now. Well, it has been most of my life, and I’ve been around for a long time. There is an ongoing clash between the Idea of America and the Reality of America. The latter is far darker, more ominous, and eats away at hope.

I believe in the Idea of America. And I believe in the power of story to help us organize our thoughts, reflect on that dark reality, and, possibly, move forward, even if it’s just a little step.

Now, to be honest, there are many Americans who feel that time is long damn past for “a little step” But if everyone takes a little step, and every story contributes another step, and, sometimes, within really well-written and well-performed and well-produced stories, several little steps are taken in quick succession and that is the genesis of hope.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is taking exactly those steps, episode by episode, scene by scene, line-by-really-well-crafted line.

This show is about the clash between the Idea of America and the Reality of America. It is complex and complicated, layered with history and agendas, and is both subtle and overt, and, ultimately, there are no easy answers.

Ain’t that America.

But sometimes, if we are brave enough to even consider the questions, if we have the courage to hear other views, no matter how uncomfortable they are, that may possibly spark progress.

America desperately needs to end casual, institutionalized racism. We need to correct so much about American life, especially regarding how we treat our own people, our neighbors, our fellow Americans.

The sad Reality of Racist America has hurt our people for far too long, for our entire history, if we are brave enough to look at facts. And the terror of racism is continuing.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is taking on the difficult task of having the awkward, challenging discussions about the hate tearing at what America can be. From the ground level differences between how white Americans and Americans of color are treated by banks, police, and the United States government, to our dark history of racist abuse toward our own fellow Americans, Marvel is tossing light on our darkest realities.

Add to that a glimpse of how we are seen around the world, the different agendas of those in power, and you have a gripping tale. Tell it around magnificent action sequences and you have what might might prove to be Marvel’s most important offering.

How do we define our heroes? How do we define ourselves as Americans? And are we truly interested in finally incorporating the Idea of America into the Reality of America? Those are the incredibly bracing questions this show asks of all of us.

And our country would be so much stronger if we watched and reflected, truly reflected, on what our answers are to those questions, and what they should be if we want to honor the Idea of America in our daily lives.

Arresting performances. Thrilling action. Engaging characters. Thrilling action. Top-notch production. And substantive discussion that needs to be heard today. Marvel is making some brave TV.

It is not too late to binge the first five episodes available now and be ready for the finale next week.

Christopher Ryan can be found at http://www.chrisryanwrites.com, on social media as @chrisryanwrites, and on FB as Christopher Ryan, author.

Posted in # thrillers, #adventure, #amwriting, #community, #inspiration, #WeThePeople, America, black lives matter, comics, Faith, fiction, film, Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe, politics, pop culture, racism, America, super-heroes, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment