4104 by Phil Elmore Will Blow Your Mind

4104 by Phil ElmoreToday I step away from reviewing Christian-themed speculative fiction to recommend an ongoing serial story that you don’t want to miss.

4104 is an ongoing episodic novel by Phil Elmore. I was given the privilege of reading an advance copy. Yes, I know how it ends. Yes, you will want to read it.

Phil describes his project the best:

My series 4104 is an ongoing and original serial published here on my website. It began with this short story, which was my attempt to create as much plot and as much implied history as I could — with as few words as possible. Individual entries in the 4104 series could be classified as flash fiction, but as they develop, they are coalescing into chapters of a loosely plotted novel.

Now, a word of warning to the squeamish: this is not the book for you. People die horribly in this book. If that kind of thing disturbs you, you’ll want to skip this story. I don’t recall any profanity (I even search the preview copy). There are also a few very dark themes in this book but they are handled tastefully by Phil. That said, you probably don’t want your kids reading this book. Teens 16 and up would have no trouble with the story but you determine what your kids read, not me.

The story could be fleshed out a little bit more and probably will be in its final incarnation. Even in its current state 4104 is a pleasure to read and feels like solid novel. Sometimes I lost track of the supporting characters and their motivations but that’s probably due to the nature of reading the story from week-to-week. Once I got a copy of the rough draft I was able to easily track with the characters.

If you haven’t already started reading 4104 get on over to Phil’s site and start reading today.

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Web-Slinging Lunch Box

We have a lot of lunch boxes at our house. I wouldn’t say that we collect them because that would be lying but it’s hard to pass up a cool lunch box at a garage sale. At $1 each we’ve managed to collect quite a few.

Spider-Man Lunch Box

I’m the “official” bread-winner in our house which means we have to be pretty thrifty to support all nine of us. I don’t always bring lunch to work, though I should, and when I do it’s usually something I just pop in the microwave.

When I bring a traditional lunch (sandwich, etc.) I like to use a lunch box—a cool lunch box. One like the epic ones I had when I was in elementary school. A lunch box like the one pictured above.

So I guess this is the start of a series. Every time I bring a different lunch box to work I’ll snap a pic and write a little blog post about.

Lunch Box Description

Character: Everyone’s favorite wall-crawler—Spider-Man
Contents: Turkey and cheese sandwich on country white bread, mesquite BBQ kettle-cooked chips, granola bar, iced tea.
Why I Picked It: It was either this or Winnie-the-Pooh. I couldn’t find any others.

What about you dad? Do you pack your lunch? Do you bring a lunch box?

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How to Customize MediaElement.js Media Player in PowerPress

If you’re a podcaster, chances are you use WordPress. If you use WordPress, chances are you also use Blubrry’s awesome plugin PowerPress. It’s free and if you’re not using it on your WordPress site you should. It’s the best all-around podcast plugin you can find.

If you use the default media player you may notice a startling lack of options.

mediaplayer.js options

I want MOAR options!

The MediaElement.js media player really is the best player you can get for free but it lacks some of the customization options of the other media players included with PowerPress.

If you look at the player below you can see that I’ve managed to customize it to match the color scheme of my site. It looks much better than the drab black and white player.

To do this, there are a few bits of CSS that you can modify that will help you personalize your player. Customizing CSS may sound scary but in WordPress it’s easy.

When logged into your admin panel, hover over Appearance and click Edit CSS.

Next, add the following lines of code to the box there, change your colors accordingly, and click Save.

change-colors

It’s important that you do not modify the CSS file in the plugin folder. If you do that you’ll have to re-apply all of your changes when you update PowerPress. This way should preserve your changes even after an update.

Now when the player is displayed it will have your custom colors. There are a few other changes you can make to the CSS that I’m playing around with but these are the ones that will impact the look of your player the most.

If you’ve used this tip to modify the look of your player, leave me a note and a link in the comments below. I’d like to see what you’ve done.

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“Bridgeworlds: Rise of the Magi” Book Review

In Bridgeworlds: Rise of the Magi Randy Blackwell’s fantastic ideas and concepts fall prey to awkwardly combined genres. A great story falls flat due to poor execution and formatting.

Synopsis


An epic battle looms as Omar, Myles, and Kasey train a new breed of Magi for war!

Omar Metzger, earth’s most brilliant scientist, is in a race against time to find his sister in another dimension before she dies in a coma. He has one week before his funding is cut so without hesitation he enters a portal to an unknown world to prove his findings and hopefully save his sister.

Myles Callaghan, an illusionist con-artist, has bitten off more than he can chew, swindling a Mafia Don out of several million dollars. On the run, Myles goes much further than he could have imagined. He encounters Omar on Musterion, and they form the Order of the Magi.

Kasey is a hired assassin with orders to assassinate the Israeli Prime Minister. Betrayed, Kasey must escape before she is captured. As she crosses an archway in the Prime Minister’s basement she realizes she has crossed much more than the threshold of a door—rather a portal.

As these three unlikely companions join forces on Musterion, they must find their way through an ever changing maze, fight their inner demons, and then escape to a new world, Soterion, before the forces of evil close in on them. There Kasey is given a sword that was once a Bible on earth. They must take the sword to a carpenter but the Great Red Dragon tries to prevent them. Rise of the Magi is filled with battle action, steampunk fantasy, and a touch of romance, It’s an epic tale of their search for truth and ultimately redemption.

Review

I’ll be honest. This is not a review I wanted to write. I’ve promoted this book and the series to help boost awareness after Randy ran into some branding issues with a mainstream publisher. Nothing is more challenging than writing a review for an online acquaintance that is critical of his work.

I’ll start with the good. The initial premise and the world within the story is imaginative and rich. The personal struggles the characters face help endear them to the reader and make you genuinely concerned about their fate. The redemptive theme within the plot resonates with the reader and drives the story forward.

Despite this there are some considerable hurdles that made me put down this book after completing only half of it. It may seem unfair to review a book I haven’t completed but I was became increasingly distracted by the poor formatting. Words are hyphenated mid-sentence and/or run together. Sentences and paragraphs break unusually which made following conversations between characters difficult. Had it not been for the formatting problems I could have overlooked some of the plot, characterization, and style missteps.

Some dialogue between characters is at times awkward and even childish. The pacing felt odd and some plot points forced me to suspend by disbelief. There are too many coincidences and convenient resolutions to conflict within the story. At times it felt like the author was holding me by the hand rather than letting me come to my own conclusions. Randy tells the reader what characters are thinking and feeling rather than showing the reader through a character’s actions.

While the ideas and concepts in Bridgeworlds: Rise of the Magi are fascinating, the execution and formatting problems on Kindle made it difficult for me to enjoy the story. The blending of genres in this novel feels strange. You may want to skip this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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