Saturday, March 31, 2012

Five Books to Read: #2 - 127 Hours

After completing my own book (GetItHere), I thought it worthwhile to discuss books that shaped my mindset and style, those books that meant enough to me to warrant multiple readings and quiet reflection. One of those five books (all of which will be discussed in this blog but in no particular order) is detailed below...

Note: The first post on Nothing Like it in the World by Stephen Ambrose can be found here.


Let's get this out of the way first: '127 Hours' isn't a book to me. Neither is it an Oscar-nominated movie.

127 Hours is an experience.

A little background. I remember reading the first published reports in 2003 about a hiker that had to cut off his own hand and portions of his arm to save his own life. Reports were thin on detail and running over with hyperbole and sensationalism, and who could blame them? A dude CUT OFF HIS HAND to save his own life. It was graphic and heroic, visceral and amazing. Water cooler discussions as to whether or not we could do it if forced followed the next day. The hardcore people, those weekend warriors that were 'tough as nails' and thin on experience, said they certainly could but would never be dumb enough to get in that position in the first place. Others cringed at the merest thought of slicing into their own skin.

But, that wasn't the story. We were oversimplifying and posturing. We didn't know what happened to Aron Ralston that day. And, we certainly couldn't know what we'd do in his place.

Well, Aron wrote a book. I'll be honest - I was intrigued by the story but had about a dozen books on my 'to-read' list and wasn't interested enough to vault it to the top. So, I never did. Then, the movie - starring James Franco - was released in 2010. I like Franco. The movie looked well done. I checked it out.

No words can explain how that movie made me feel. You have to be the right 'type' of person in the right place in your life to be shaken by a particular movie. I was. It wasn't the scene of him performing the amputation. In fact, I recall little of the scene. But, the atmosphere Danny Boyle built for two hours was amazing. I spent the rest of the night texting friends explaining why they HAD to see the movie. But, more importantly, I walked right out of the theater, across to the bookstore, and bought Ralston's book.

Now, we all know books are better than movies. In fact, I can't recall one time where I read a book and was then more impressed with the cinema equivalent. I'm sure it happens, but I'd think that would be due more to the director changing the source material to meet filming conventions (which I wholly support). Either way, watching the movie affected me. Reading the book changed me.

The movie touched on some things that resonated with me: failed relationships, the inevitability of destiny, the need to have others in your life looking out for you. Hearing Ralston's first-hand account shook me to the core. The fact that the boulder had been sitting there for years (hundreds? thousands?) just waiting on Ralston to come along and dislodge it, to bring it crashing down on his hand, was fascinating. It wasn't personal, it just... was. He felt no animosity toward the rock. He couldn't hate it... not really. He screamed at it. He pounded on it. He cursed it.

But, it's just a rock.

Just a rock... but this simple rock forced him to analyze his life. So simple a thing but so deep a reaction. So many life-changing events require external action, even blame. But, who did Ralston blame? Certainly not anyone else. The rock? I doubt it. Himself?

Ah, there's the rub, isn't it. It's his own fault... but does fault equal blame? If he hadn't been so fiercely independent and traveled with a buddy, he'd have help. If he'd even told people where he was going, he'd have help. If he'd descended the cut six inches to the left he wouldn't even need help. So, it's his fault, but is he to blame? Fault belongs to whatever or whomever causes something. But, blame... blame is highly dependent on intent. Did he, knowing the possible outcomes of his actions, intentionally place himself in danger...? Hiking through a mountain cut, even alone and without friends' knowledge of your location, is hardly dangerous. This is especially true given Ralston's extensive experience with more difficult terrain. So, is he to blame?

I don't know Ralston, but I think he'd disagree. I know I would. Sometimes, fate has a plan for you, and things just... are. If he'd died out there that day, would he be to blame? When you make decisions for yourself that only affect you... can you be blamed for consequences?

See? Philosophical questions... And, such questions are found throughout his account. I'd love to spend a day discussing the ramifications of that day with Ralston. The thoughts that go through one's mind during such an ordeal must have been amazingly enlightening. This wasn't a life flashing through a man's mind during a fatal car wreck. Nor was it the surprise of a heart attack victim as they pass away. This was 127 hours of thoughtfulness and introspection, much of it caught on video and film thanks to the camera he brought. There was problem-solving as he tried to free himself and rigged harnesses to support the boulder and his own weight. There was hope for rescue and fear of what he'd leave behind. There was reflection on a life lived and regret on what future he'd miss. Hour after hour... day after day.

This wasn't the final thoughts of a grandfather passing away in a hospital bed surrounded by his family and thankful for the life he had. This was the slow death of a young man that had lived hard and well... and had decades of life ahead of him. Ralston talks of his own fears and hopes and dreams, but what would I think about? What would I do?

If I died today, would I consider my life complete? A 'success'? This isn't one of those 'if you had a week left, what would you do' questions. You don't get to live your life for the last seven days of it. You have to live your life EVERY day of it. If you can even answer that 'one week left' question, I might even contend that you haven't lived the last 20 years of your life. Bucket List? I don't even have a bucket list... I have plane reservations and race plans. I have hiking permits and endurance challenges already lined up.

Don't make lists. DO things.

The book engendered all these thoughts in me and more. It changed me.

After reading it - just as I did after the movie - I began wondering where my 'boulder' was. Was there a tree in the Maine woods waiting for some future visit to fall in my path that would direct me down some less-traveled trail to a fascinating fate? Was there a root hidden under a mountain stream that I would get tangled in while hiking through California next year? Would one of my nightly runs through the city turn me down a forgotten street? I firmly believe in destiny and fate, and the philosophical introspection that 127 Hours presented to me gave more food for thought than I would have possibly imagined.

Do yourself a favor and spend some time with it.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

The GORUCK Family: What is a GORUCK Challenge?

What is a GORUCK Challenge?

It's a "team event and never a race," if you go by the site's vague descriptors. "Inspired by Special Forces training and led by Green Berets, the Challenge builds teams and solves problems."

That's it. That's all it tells you. And, as participants and those seeking more info will tell you, any further details are NOT forthcoming.

So, let's start over. What is a GORUCK Challenge? Well, I've done two of them, and I don't have a gawdamn clue. I've tried to explain it to people, but I can't do better than those two sentences above. They just breed more questions, though.

"Did you win?"
Um... only in life. You compete against your internal fears and mental demons, not each other. You come out stronger, as a team and an individual.

"I run... I could probably do it."
"I lift weights... I could probably do it."
Probably. But, tell that to the 6-time Ironman that dropped out shortly after the Okinawa Challenge started. Or, tell it to the guy who just jumped on a passing scooter and told the driver he'd give him $20 to take him home. If you aren't mentally strong, it won't matter how physically capable you may be.

"Why the Hell would you want to do THAT?"
I honestly have no answer to this question. But, I can tell you, I can't wait to do the next one.

Ask a GORUCKer what it takes to complete a challenge, and they'll tell you (1) good physical shape and (2) EXCELLENT mental shape. "It's all mental." That's the mantra you hear over and over from 'ruckers. And, it applies to us as well as the challenge. We're all mental.

GORUCK itself is a company specializing in high-quality rucks and military-grade gear for the hiker/mountain man(or woman)/soldier in your life. They make great bags (my second is on it's way) and are very customer-oriented. Also, they are extremely proud to say that all their gear is made in the U.S.A. Every test model goes through several GORUCK challenges to ensure there aren't any weak points that might have been missed. These challenges are abusive. If it survives multiple challenges, it's well-made. Best part? You meet great people. Better part? Part of the proceeds go directly to the Green Beret Foundation. Score!

Like Jason, the company's founder, the cadre 'employees' that lead the teams during challenges are all active-duty or retired Special Forces. Interest in GORUCK is increasing steadily, and they are adding cadre (currently up to 6 or 7) to accommodate the growth. The brutal entry into the GORUCK family is the basic GR Challenge, but there is nothing basic about it. Billed as 8 to 10 hours and 15 to 20 miles of "Good Livin,'" I can tell you that those numbers are woefully inaccurate. Distances quickly disappear into a dark void thanks to the start times (usually 10PM or 1AM), and I have yet to hear of a challenge taking under 12 hours. A Providence, Rhode Island, challenge went 18 hours last fall.

You may ask, 'Why?' Bah... I answer, 'Why Not?' The GORUCK team lives by the tag, "Under Promise, Over Deliver," and they do it in remarkable fashion.

GR Challenge alumni are quickly added to the GORUCK family, and this is where the real magic of GORUCK happens. The bonds you build in those short 12-15 hours (ok, it's not short at the time) can quickly form into long friendships. I still talk with many of my classmates and have built new friendships with others in GORUCK Tough (the alumni group) simply because I know what they went through when they did their challenges. And, of course, it takes a special kind of crazy to do one of these anyway. We tend to congregate together... only crazy can really understand another crazy.

My first cadre told me he felt at times like he was 'training Americans' (let's be clear here, the cadre and a high percentage of participants are military, but the lessons in teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving that 'ruckers gain can be used with their spouses, in their careers, and in any other aspect of their lives). Americans have become a lazy, accepting, and apathetic group that appears to have lost much of the self-sufficiency and forward-thinking for which we were once known. Energizing people to find out what they're truly capable of is one way to get us back to the forefront. (I'm digressing here... save that for another post).

So... this GORUCK family talks. We share. We support and encourage. There have been some brutally honest discussions among GRT, soul-bearing and soul-searching. Some are quite funny. Others, such as what flooded the discussions yesterday, can be extremely thought-provoking and inspiring. And, we talk about when we are going to get together again to do more stupid crap. But, what do we do after a GORUCK Challenge? Well, the easy answer is... Another challenge! GORUCK wants you to branch out and try new things, though.

But, these new things, things other than the Challenges? What could we do? Glad you asked... How about spending four days in the mountains of Colorado over Labor Day with Green Berets, elements of the 10th Mountain Division, and GR alumni climbing 14,000 ft peaks and learning survival skills (GORUCK Ascent)? Or, how about learning fieldcraft from Berets - along with survival skills, land and water navigation, emergency medical triage, and mission prep - in the waters off Key West for five days (GORUCK Beached)? Or, how about team missions designed by spies and operators to learn how America's Best covertly thrive in communities all around the globe (GORUCK Trek)? Or, do you just want to carry a bunch of bricks (Oh... we haven't even gotten to the 'bricks' discussion, yet), around our country's great cities and compete against other GR Alumni teams to track down the greatest monuments to our nation (GORUCK Scavenger)?

Oh, yes, there's plenty to keep you busy. But, what is a GORUCK Challenge? Well, you're gonna need a rucksack full of bricks, energy bars, water, and a change of clothes. The clothes are necessary, because you're gonna get wet... a river, creek, lake... you're getting in it. And, bring gloves, because you're going to be carrying a log great distances... as a team. Yes, you read that right. Oh, and you'll be doing PT the entire time. Bear crawls, crab walks, push-ups, smurfjacks, divebomber push-ups, human caterpillar, human shopping cart, buddy carries, flutter kicks. fireman carries. And, then there are the coupons you're forced to carry for the entire challenge: ammo cans full of sand, 5 gallon fuel tanks full of water, additional rucks, gear cases, blocks of cement, concrete, slosh pipes full of water, your group guidon (flag), and whatever the cadre sees on the side of the road that looks remotely portable. (This has included tables, recliners, additional bricks, additional rucks, and... bystanders.)

This is not for the weak of mind or body. The Challenge is based on the Special Forces Training and Assessment program Green Berets are required to go through. This isn't easy. It's grueling, and you'll drink several liters of water and force down thousands of calories of energy bars and the like... And, you'll still lose weight and certainly risk dehydration and dizziness if you're not careful.

My first challenge wound through the streets and forests around Savannah with Dan, an active-duty Green Beret and a baaaaaad man. The guy is a beast and eminently quotable. I can't count the number of times the wisecracks he opened up on us broke the monotony and pain of my first experience with GORUCK. GORUCK requires you to have strong muscles and mind, but you have to have a thick hide, too. Whether you're talking to cadre or fellow 'ruckers, the language is graphic, crude, and awesome. Ladies, feel free to join in. There are many female 'ruckers, and they jump into the gutter talk as much as the rest of us. Being part of the family is oddly freeing.

So, GRC Savannah? We went 13 hours and 25 miles (carrying a telephone pole for 6 of them). We waded through the Savannah River and a rather questionable-looking retention pond. We witnessed the aftermath of three homicides. We caused terrorist threats in the city to hit 'red' levels, resulting in the FBI being called. In short, WE HAD A BLAST. I could barely walk afterward. I've run 2 marathons, and my first GORUCK Challenge was the most difficult physical and mental task I've ever completed.

After that? Well, that was the recent GRC Austin during the South by Southwest Festival with Cadre David. We 'only' did 18 miles this time, but it was through rougher terrain in Barton Creek Wilderness Park. It was made difficult by the revoking of our shoe and sock privileges (it is what it sounds like) and rapidly deteriorating water stores that caused an outbreak of cramps on much of the team. The fact that David got a perverse thrill out of watching us (we, who paid for this crap) suffer was offset by the fact that he was such a nice guy.

What's up next? Well, I'll be at the aforementioned Ascent this September. And, I've got a Washington, DC Scavenger set for October. Then, there's my crazy new 'family' members that are close to convincing me to join them for the 9/11 GRC New York City (How can you NOT do that, I ask?).

Still, what is a GORUCK Challenge? This is a long-ass blog post to not have answered the original question. Well, that's because I can't tell you. Which cadre are you going to have? They all do things differently. What city are you going to be in? GRC San Francisco is significantly different than GRC Bozeman. Lastly, what kind of person are you? You're going to get out of it what you put in. If you have problems making it through, your teammates will pick you up. That's what the challenges are about - coming together as a team. So, if you are powering through and the guy next to you stumbles... will you grab his pack to carry it and give him your precious water? If not, maybe GR isn't for you. If so, maybe I'll run across you at a challenge, rucksack filled to the brim with bricks and a smile on my face. Then, as with all GORUCK get-togethers... many beers will be downed.

It's not about the strong or weak link, it's about how to make the chain unbreakable.

Embrace the Suck.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Number 181 Casting Call: Shawn and Alexis

One of the nice side effects of getting my book, Number 181 (Get it here), out there was the follow-on discussions I've had with readers. Like most authors, I've had several people tell me that my book would make for a great movie and received suggestions as to who should play key parts. In this day, readers get an image in their head regarding the protagonists' appearances, and I've found some of the suggestions quite interesting.

In a previous post, I touched on some suggestions for supporting characters and directors. Since then, I've been sent even more possibilities that people picture as they read the books, and I was really intrigued by some of their suggestions. Keep 'em coming!

But, now as to two of the main characters, Alexis Winters and Shawn Kidd.

Alexis Winters - (25 yo researcher; passionate & difficult; beautiful & emotional)
I've been asked numerous times who Alexis is based on. They assume I have a relationship in my past that has guided the character and her arc through the novel. But, I'm sorry to say that she is no one... or everyone depending on how you look at it. Physically, for some reason, I pictured a girl I knew back in school. But, the image of a girl from 20 years ago is an odd place to get the basis for a character. Still, solely from an appearance perspective, she was what I pictured. Alexis' personality, however, is an amalgam of several people I've known, ex-girlfriends and old friends, that formed a strong female character that ends up spending most of the book scared out of her mind. Given the complete fish-out-of-water aspect of Shawn's arc in the book, I hadn't given much thought to the fact that Alexis was even more lost than he was. Either way, several actresses came to mind when I was putting the finishing touches on the manuscript, and many others were suggested by readers.

The most striking aspects of Alexis' physical make-up (to me) was her blonde hair and lithe, swimmer's shoulders. That's what I pictured as I wrote her, and that's what I looked for in an actress to play her. Being able to act scared $#!@less was somewhat of an afterthought...

The first suggestion that came across my desk several times was Maggie Grace (of Lost and the upcoming and intriguing Lockout). I don't know too much about her save the pictures IMDB was nice enough to provide. I watched only a handful of Lost episodes, and none of her other roles were in movies I recall. Perhaps, once Lockout hits theaters, I'll have a little more information with which to draw conclusions. As I see it now, she doesn't appear to have the same bearing as I imagined Alexis carrying with her. I freely admit that my lack of knowledge makes my views slightly skewed. But, hey, I claim that prerogative. Maybe I'll change my mind in a few weeks. The readers that suggested her seemed pretty sure of their choice, and I hate to so roundly question it. But, at least one of those readers will likely be happy with my choice for Shawn, and I'll get back points for casting someone else for Alexis.

Another interesting and frequent suggestion was Rachel McAdams. I can understand the approach, but I saw none of McAdams as I wrote Alexis' character. Admittedly, I didn't have an actress in mind, but I'm not sure her previous roles as rom-com fodder really put me in the right mind-set. She certainly stepped it up in the under-rated Red Eye and proved her action chops, but my experience with her makes me think she wouldn't fit the role as I envisioned it. That being said, she has a lot of time in the Hollywood scene, and it takes more than a flash-in-the-pan to stay around as long as she has. Surprisingly, she hasn't been plucked up for too many action roles, yet, but she's only now hitting the time in her career where her former costars (Bradley Cooper, Ryan Gosling) are becoming action stars themselves. Her turn in the Sherlock Holmes series was not meaty but showed Hollywood still had ideas for her.

Since I didn't have any particular actresses in mind while I wrote the part, I felt I should do a little research and see who might fit the role... not an easy thing to track down. But, it was in doing so (and then having some later readers suggest the very women I found) that got me to a narrowed-down group from which to pick Alexis. All of the next three fit my mental image of Alexis with varying degrees of accuracy.

#3) The first of the 'finalists' I completely stumbled upon largely due to her limited exposure to audiences, though TV viewers may recognize her. Sasha Jackson has had bit roles in 'Til Death and One Tree Hill (neither of which I watch) and has started down the road of questionable, SciFi B-movies, but the look is there. And, she apparently won over some casting directors to get featured on television. The 'unknown' aspect of her in the States (she's British) only helps her, in my eyes. She's got the face and body for Alexis, and her roles frequently involve the beach or swimming of some sort. She has the shoulders for it. And, I fully encourage you to track down more pictures of her. She is simply stunning.

#2) Stay with me, because this might be a bit of a stretch, at least for the near-term. It's too early to tell, but if the movie is made in ten years instead of ten months, AnnaSophia Robb may be perfect for Alexis. The two immediate red flags for her are her age and height. At 5'2", she is significantly shorter than Alexis' 5'10", but she's still growing and might edge a bit closer. If not, it's possible the height difference could be worked around or ignored entirely. As of this writing, she's only 18, though, and that poses an obvious issue were the movie (coming to a theater near you... when I get a movie deal, financial backing, etc etc) to be made today. She's far too young for the role. But, if it takes ten years... maybe. She's got an ideal look for Alexis and roles in movies like Soul Surfer show she has the physical look I'd expect for the character. Plus, I saw Bridge to Terabithia. It's a great book... great movie... and the movie makes me sad. There, I said it.

And... #1) Though I knew of this actress as I wrote Number 181, she didn't jump to mind until I came across her while flipping stations one night. She looked familiar, and I recalled seeing her in one of my favorite cult movies (I should blog that some day...), Out Cold, a movie better known these days as being one of the first (and possibly best) movies to star The Hangover's Zach Galifianakis. A.J. Cook is currently entrenched in a starring role on Criminal Minds... and does a damn fine job doing it. Given her girl-next-door-with-an-attitude role in Out Cold, her mature and strong presence in Criminal Minds shows a reasonable amount of range. Though still a bit short for Alexis, her bearing and look are so ideal that any other slight deviations from how the character is written can certainly be worked around. She has the attitude, the looks, and the experience. Plus, she'd look good standing next to the actor I selected to play Shawn...

Speaking of which...

Shawn Kidd - (29 yo engineer & introvert; unpredictable & unconventional)
As many of my closer friends note, Shawn is eerily reminiscent of... me. Both physically and psychologically, he shares many of my traits, and I have plans on writing a blog post on the entire subject at some point. But, suffice to say, Kidd is largely based on me. I'm an escapist and make no apologies for it.

Anyway, because of this, I always picture myself as I write him. That being said, I'd make a poor choice for the acting role. I don't do well with authority and hate being told what to do. Oh, and I can't act, notable appearances on the History Channel's Modern Marvels and in Transformers 3 notwithstanding (it's true... look it up)...

That being said, many of the people that jump to mind for Kidd (and have been suggested by others) might not make for good choices. The attraction of the character is that he's an everyman. He's just a guy that wants to be left alone, one of us. He's thrown into the story against his will. As such, having the current Hollywood actor-of-the-month play him might defeat the purpose.

Lee Child, a writer whose work I really enjoy, is bringing his Jack Reacher character to the screen this year. Now, regardless of whether Tom Cruise is what readers picture when they read the character, I would hesitate to put Cruise in that role simply because I think it overshadows Reacher himself. I'd feel similarly if a huge star slipped into the Kidd role. But, Reacher is a great character and Cruise sells tickets. I know I'll be there opening weekend.

Kidd needs to be one of us but the actor has to be able to play both silently strong... as well as a little psychotic. There is no 'measured control' in Kidd's character. When he's silent, it's not because he's in control but rather out of it. The wheels turning behind those blue eyes are all sorts of chipped and broken. An actor has to portray disassociated confidence (yea, I just made that up). He's confident because he's aloof and disinterested. Until... he's not.

The best part of the casting call that I put out to friends on Facebook and Twitter is that the readers seem to agree with me. I did get a few larger, recognizable names. But, even these weren't the Hollywood A-listers. This fact made me smile. I was even surprised to see some lesser known up-and-comers suggested. It was great fun seeing who had thoughts similar to mine in casting Shawn. So, let's get to it.

One of the first suggestions I received was for Josh Duhamel, of When in Rome and Transformers fame. Now, I can't claim bias in this one since my Transformers scene didn't involve Duhamel, only Shia and Tyrese, but I am a fan of Duhamel's. He's always struck me as a likeable guy, and he certainly has the range to play both hesitant and slightly insane. I would put him in the same boat as Timothy Olyphant in the what-role-should-this-guy-play discussions. The big drawback to Duhamel is his age. He's proven he can move around in an action movie, playing a soldier, but he's still a bit old for Kidd.

So, if you go for younger and try to grab someone approaching the bright lights of center stage, Henry Cavill (Man of Steel (2012), Immortals) comes to mind for me. He's got the presence and acting ability to pull off Kidd. But, he's becoming a bit too well-known, which works against him when related to the 'somewhat unknown' characteristic I listed earlier. His upcoming role as Superman will certainly make him a household name. Another negative, at least as far as the role of Kidd is concerned, is his sheer size. The guy is huge and has a rather overwhelming presence. Though this might work well later in the movie, early scenes and certainly those with Alexis, might appear differently than I had written them. But, I think he's a good person to include in the adaptation, and that's why I think he'd be perfect for the more imposing character of Garrick.

While on the subject of big names for the Number 181 blockbuster release, Jake Gyllenhaal (Prince of Persia, Source Code) was suggested by a couple people. I was somewhat surprised by this one, but I can see him in the role. He has the sheepish, everyman look that might allow him to get through the initial, introductory scenes without overwhelming them. And, he's certainly demonstrated he can be a force in an action movie. The more I thought about him, the more I was convinced that he could fit the role quite well. If the Number 181 movie becomes a big-budget film, I could see his presence there. He's a little too well-known for what I pictured, but I can't fault the logic.

Now, we're getting to the meat of the possibilities. Any of the next three would be great, though the order I put them in changes with the wind. Also, since age starts to become a factor, as with my choices for Alexis, the length of time this 'movie' takes to get off the ground would change my ultimate choice. But, for right now.....

#3) I'll be honest, I hadn't heard of this guy before a reader suggested him. Since then, I've done some research and gone back to watch The Beast. I didn't realize it was a TV show, and its rapid cancellation indicates few others did either. It's too bad, too, because it was good. In it, Patrick Swayze is teamed with a younger partner, played by Travis Fimmel. This guy looks exactly like I would want Shawn Kidd to look in a movie. He's got the right look and intensity. The fact that little is known about the actor means that his presence in the movie wouldn't give viewers any preconceived notions about where the character is going. It also means I don't know enough about him to be absolute in casting him, but he'd make it to a final cut regardless.

#2) Similar to Fimmel, I heard the name Robbie Amell mentioned a couple times. With it not being familiar to me, I did some searching and found that he was in one of the Scooby-Doo movies (I loved these things, even if they aren't thought of well by many). But, the small picture in the article I was reading didn't bring anything to mind with regard to those movies. He was in that? I don't remember that... still... he looked awfully familiar. More research showed that he was in How I Met Your Mother. He was in one episode for about 5 minutes, but his part in that show immediately jumped to mind. He played, oddly enough, Scooby on that show. He, like Fimmel, is an unknown, but he certainly has the look that I picture Kidd having. He's since landed some roles on Alcatraz and has several projects in production. I think this kid is going places, and I see him becoming Shawn Kidd if this (completely imaginary and nowhere-near-in-development) movie of mine takes more than a couple years to get going.

And... #1) I freely admit there may be some bias in this decision since I am a big fan of this guy. More importantly, though he isn't a very well-known actor, I've seen much of this guy's work. The recent version of My Bloody Valentine is certainly under-appreciated as far as horror movies go, though the production had a couple misses. It's an entertaining movie and not your common horror slasher picture. But, if you've ever seen an episode of Supernatural, you certainly can't tell me that Jensen Ackles couldn't knock the role of Shawn Kidd out of the park. Ackles is getting a little old for the role, but he'd be perfect if the movie was made today. He's not a huge, physical presence, which would play well early in the story, but he certainly could fill a screen. More importantly, action roles and physicality are not new to him thanks to his TV roles. And, if you're looking for intensity, he's got it in spades. Fortunately, he can also pull off the emotional range that Kidd goes through. It really is fun to watch Ackles work through Dean Winchester's ups and downs on Supernatural, and I see a lot of similarities between his role on that show and Shawn Kidd. He's got great timing. He's got great range. And, he can play sympathetic and crazy (Hell, I was rooting FOR him in My Bloody Valentine). And, if you watch Supernatural and read Number 181, I think you'll join me in wanting to see that chalet scene with Ackles as Kidd... and the follow-on chase through the alleys and streets of Mexico in the appropriate gear. Awesome...

When you consider him standing next to A.J. Cook...? Those two are who I'm picturing storming through that chalet, hand in hand.

There you have it, a brief look at a cast for my novel. Of course, this will change in five years... or next year... or tomorrow. But, I was really interested in seeing where my readers were when they read the book. The novel is a fascinating medium for interpretation, because even the most descriptive author leaves much to the reader's imagination.

How bright is your darkness? How blue are your skies? How white is your snow? We each bring something to our own readings, and I bring it to my writing. Hearing how others see my work, interpret my images, is one of the surprising benefits to having my work out there. None are wrong, and none are right. They are windows into your own perceptions and biases, and I find them as fascinating as my own.

Keep an eye out for the sequel to Number 181. And, no matter what, keep reading.
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