Category Archives: personal

Why Authors Love the Pacific Northwest

I’ve traveled across the United States, from Texas to Washington, D.C., back to Texas, and then childhood summers spent up in Michigan. I remember family trips across the hot deserts of the American West, and sticky falls spent along the Gulf of Mexico through swamps. It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 did I finally make it to the Pacific Northwest.

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Beach at Solo Point. See my instagram for more pictures of my setting adventures.

Besides living with a family that loved to travel, I’m a military spouse who moves every two to four years. It’s left me with a wide array of places to chose from for a setting. From the city outskirts of Washington D.C., to back roads in the Texas Hill Country, to long twisted highways that carve through the Colorado Rockies; my mental setting bank is full.

Last year I moved to Washington state. It’s a part of the country I’ve only seen in television shows, books, and movies, and I’ve always wondered, what makes this area so special? What is it about the Pacific Northwest that pulls writers in?

I haven’t been here a year yet, and let me tell you. It’s been an experience. It rains more than I’ve ever seen, the people are eccentric, and the cities are small. But none of those are bad things. If anything, the area reminds me of growing up in Austin in the 90’s. People are active in their community, the land isn’t built up with subdivisions, and there are plenty of outdoor events for people to get back to nature.

When you get out of the cities, you find small communities centered around churches, rocky beaches with whole tree trunks tossed on the shore and if you go out east, over the Snoqualmie Pass, you find orange deserts and oasis towns.

With my next project in the works, a dark comedy and drama both of them supernatural pieces having to do with ghosts and death, I’ve set parts of it in the Pacific Northwest for a setting. Trips to Solo Point, a beach for military personnel to unload their boats, have been the most inspiring. The scenery is stunning and I hope to take a kayak out to the small island off shore to do some more exploring.

The longer I’m in this part of the country, the more I realize why writers and artists are drawn to this area. It’s lush, vibrant, and in spite of the rain, it’s beautiful.

Is there a part of the country you find yourself drawn to? Where do you enjoy setting your placing your novels?

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Getting Over the Fear of Judgement From Loved Ones

I love my family. I’m sure some of them will read this one day, so let me repeat myself. I love my family. That being said, growing up where most if not every person in said family is either Catholic, Church of Christ, or Baptist, I’ve always been afraid of them judging my writing.

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My fears weren’t entirely uncalled for. As a child/young teen, I drew a lot, and there were more than a few eyebrows thrown up by what I enjoyed sketching. Fairies, dragons and magic were off limits, practicing the nude human form was scolded, and if I drew in a style that wasn’t approved of, anime for example, I was told to not practice it. While family members saw it as them protecting me, it created a harbor of insecurity for what I was creating.

Needless to say, I never shared my writing with the adults of my family when I started writing. There were a few cousins I trusted with my work, and a best friend I consider a sister, but those were the only people I opened up to. When I told my cousins and “sister” I was going to start submitting to agents, they weren’t surprised at all. For the rest of the family, however, it came as a shock that I was writing in the first place.

When I told them, I’ll admit, I was worried. I write about people with wings that are mistaken as angels, magicians with power over life and death, and ghosts who fall in love with girls and refuse to pass on. I have plans for a novel that revolves around a demon who hunts spirits that escape Hell and another set in a dystopian future that revolves around human cloning.

You can see why I was worried they might judge my subject matter.

How did I get over my fear of judgement and just get to writing?

In part, I found a support group. My husband, “sister”, cousins, and a strict, yet fun, tough love writing group in Texas all gave me a shoulder to lean on but they weren’t the only things that helped.

When I sat back and began to think about what I wanted in life, I realized that writing is what makes me truly happy. I love entertaining people, I love the look on people’s faces when they enjoy my work, and I love creating worlds to let characters run wild in. I love all of it. If my family can’t understand that, and judge me, that’s fine. It’s worth it.

When you’re creating anything, from a sketch, to a play, to a novel, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Is it something you can’t live without, or are you going to let fear of people who should love you regardless of your interests and what you’re writing stop you from reaching your goals?

What are your insecurities, and how did you overcome them? What advice would you give to artists struggling with judgement from loved ones?

One last note, if you haven’t heard Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech and you’re struggling with fears of rejection, have a listen. I can’t stress how important it was for me to hear this on my road to overcoming fear of insecurities.

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Updating my Bookshelf – Call for Recommendations

Back in 2011, I made one of the biggest mistakes I could’ve made as a writer. I stopped reading. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t look at my bookshelf one day and go, “Who gives a crap about these things?”. But somewhere between moving, getting settled into the military life, and stressors that came up in 2012, I gradually fell out of the habit of reading.

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When I moved back to Texas in 2014, however, I slowly began to pick it back up again. I didn’t read nearly as much as I used to, but still more than I did in Virginia. I started with fun reads at first; Patricia Briggs has always been a favorite of mine and Neil Gaiman is more than entertaining, but I avoided nonfiction. When I couldn’t find a book, I went off recommendations of my friend, Alaska.

Now, in Washington, I make a point to pick up a book. I started updating my bookshelf in January, reading everything I can get my hands on, never wanting to fall back into the habit of not feeding the reader in me. I started with non-fiction, not only in subjects I want to know more about, but also to learn other people’s points of view and opinions. It’s like a reading revival over here, and I’m loving it!

What I finished reading in April

Hades by Candice Fox – Suspense/Murder Mystery
Crimson Lake
by Candice Fox* –  Suspense/Murder Mystery
Jonah Axe and The Weeping Bride by Claire L. Brown* – Time Travel/Fantasy
The Funhouse by Dean Koontz – Suspense/Fantasy

What’s currently on my nightstand/in my reading pile

Eden by Candice Fox – Suspense/Murder Mystery
The Last Wish by Andrzey Sapkowski – High Fantasy
Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman – High Fantasy
The Stand  by Stephen King – Post Apocalyptic/Horror/Fantasy
Why I’m not a Feminist by Jessa Crispin – Nonfiction/Social Politics
Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs – Urban Fantasy
Fair Game by Patricia Briggs – Urban Fantasy
The Stolen Throne by David Gaider – High Fantasy

And what do I plan to buy next?

Lucifer Eve and Adam by Peter Wilkes & Catherine Dickey Wilson – Religious Fiction/Romance
Discovery of Witches by Debora Harkness – Historical Fantasy
The Devil of White City by Erik Larson – Nonfiction/True Crime

Any suggestions? List them below! I’m looking for suspense, urban fantasy, and dark fantasy, but welcome non-fiction as well.

* – Review coming soon

Binge Watch Weekend

Are you looking for a show to binge over the weekend? Here are a few of my favorites that you might not have considered.

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theredroad_s1The Red Road – Drama
Where can you watch it? – Netflix
Watch if you like:
– Jason Momoa
– Psychological Drama
– Shows that end too soon

The IT Crowd – Comedy
Where can you watch it? – Netflix
Watch if you like:
– British comedy
– Workplace humor
– Awkward situations

The Fall – Crime Drama
Where can you watch it? – Netflix
Watch if you like:
– Murder mystery and psychologically disturbing situations
– Gillian Anderson
– Dark imagery
Contains sensitive subject matter. Viewer discretion advised.

Into the Badlands – Action/Adventure
Where can you watch it? – Netflix
Watch if you like:
– The idea of Westerns meet Kung Fu
– Original dystopian America
– Diverse cast and good action sequences

Lucifer – Fantasy Dogma/Comedy
Where can you watch it? – Hulu
Watch if you like:
– Cheesy tv
– Supernatural/Constantine/Sleepy Hollow
– Buddy cop scenarios but with the devil

airbender-completebook3Avatar: The Last Airbender – Cartoon Adventure
Where can you watch it? – Amazon Video
Watch if you like:
– Great storytelling well beyond its time
– Complex world building
– Beautifully designed settings

Gravity Falls – Cartoon Adventure
Where can you watch it? – Hulu
Watch if you like:
– Well written kids’ shows

– Family Friendly television
– Cryptozoology

 

 

Have you seen any of these on my list? Were you able to grab a second to watch any of these? Tell me what you think below, or what you recommend for a binge watch weekend.

New Blogging Schedule

I’m still learning when it comes to blogging, but as someone who loves structure and time tables, I decided I’m going to start a schedule so y’all know what to expect from my blog.

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Timing

Because I’m still trying to build my writer’s platform, I’m going to be posting three times a week, with one occasional weekend post a month. I might change that later on, but for now, this is going to help me learn how to be consistent with my blog.

Monday – Book Talk Monday

  • Author Interviews
  • Book Reviews
  • Calls for book suggestions
  • What I’m readings

Wednesday – Writing Wednesday

  • Where I’m at in current projects
  • Advice on writing
  • Favorite writing resources
  • My writing process

Friday – Life Updates, Movies, and More

  • Movie reviews
  • Any hiatus announcements
  • Life as an introvert
  • Personal updates

Saturday/Sunday – Optional days posted once a month.

  • Reviews on events I go to
  • Personal updates
  • Art updates (pictures of my art, or art of a feature artist)
  • Feature bloggers

 

Here’s hoping I get this blogging thing down!

10 Things About Me

Since I’ve wound up with a few new followers recently, I decide to do a little introduction.

Here are ten things about me that you might not have known.

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10. I’ve barely been outside the United States. I’m from Texas originally, so going to Mexico wasn’t that far of a trip, but one day I’d like to actually travel outside North America.

9. My music bank is mostly full of what my husband calls “cheesy indie songs” by bands like Oh Wonder, Amber Run, and Bastille… and Ninja Sex Party. I love Ninja Sex Party more than I probably should.

8. I got engaged a week before my 19th birthday and got married when I was 21. My husband occasionally gives input to my blog posts, or I’ll include his opinions on certain subjects. Mostly we travel together in our camper van and talk about what life will be like outside of the military.

7. My best friend, who I refer to as “Alaska” in many blog posts, is one of the main reasons why I write. She’s been someone I can count on through thick and thin, and I don’t know what I’d do without her.

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6. I have two dogs, a mastiff named Zeus and a lab named Hank. Hank is usually my writing buddy and is almost always at my feet whenever I’m working on the computer. Zeus, on the other hand, doesn’t care about my writing time at all.

5. I prefer to write male characters, as I’ve never felt like I’ve connected to my female leads. There are a few exceptions to this, but I generally wind up liking my male characters better.

4. Dragon Age is my favorite video game franchise. I’ve even read books the original creator put out just to get to know the world better.

3. When not writing, I work at a museum to make extra cash in a minor managerial role. It’s a pretty big source of inspiration, especially when it comes to talking to artists, meeting people from all walks of life, and interacting with tourists.

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2. My top five celebrity crushes are Adrien Brody, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Momoa, Mathias Lauridsen, and Idris Alba. There’s a wide array of faces between those guys, jeez…

1. I started out drawing before I considered writing as a serious profession. My artwork was in a few galleries in Texas, and was up in a 3 night showing as part of a exhibit in Detroit. I still paint and sketch on occasion, but I found writing to be what I’m more passionate about pursuing.

 

Hope you enjoyed this little peek into my life! Tell me a little bit about yourself. Do you have a thing for dragon rp games, or are you just a fan of Mads like I am?

Connect with me on….

Facebook: @aemcauleywriter
Twitter: @aemcauley
Instagram: @aemcauley
Website:  http://aemcauley.wixsite.com/author/

Things to Do While Waiting for Agent Responses

I started submitting my first novel, Flightless, to agents this month, and one thing’s been made clear to me. I am NOT a patient person. The people who really know me will be shaking their heads right now, because they know this already, but to everyone who’s learning about me through my blog will quickly find out waiting is not my strong suit.

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To fill the time, I’ve come up with little ways to keep my mind off of the waiting game that is, “Will this agent like my work or not?”. Hopefully this will help anyone else who’s waiting, or at the very least make you feel less alone.
Start my next novel.
With Flightless over with, and three more books planned in the series, I’ve decided to take a little brake from my world of winged people and step into something a little bit darker. Wake the Dead is my next big project, and damn I am doing a lot of research. I’m creating my own magical system that revolves around life and death, and I’m learning all about alchemy, European magical societies, and high magical practices. It’s a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to get the project under way.

Play video games.
I don’t claim to be a “gamer girl” by any means, and really, I could only tell you about a few games I enjoy playing. I pass the time with things like Portal, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Fable, or when I’m feeling nostalgic, Super Mario World. Diving into someone else’s story, in a different medium other than writing, helps me take my mind off work and lets me focus on the important things in life, like killing darkspawn and smashing koopas.

Read a new book, outside my genre.
I’m a fantasy/sci-fi girl at heart, but what do I really love to read? Crime and suspense! Give me a murder scene over a ride through a magical kingdom, or a daring detective over a knight in shining armor any day. Right now, I’m reading Crimson Lake, by Candice Fox and let me tell you, this author doesn’t disappoint. I’ve already breezed through Hades, ordered Eden, and pre-ordered Fall, when she offered to send me Crimson Lake after a book review. Now, all things are on hold while I finish this intense crime novel and her work helps me keep my mind off the “will they, won’t they” of my agent/author relationship.

Get off social media.
I’ll admit it. I’ve followed every agent I’ve queried, or want to query, just to keep up with them. I look into what conferences they’re going to, what online chats they might be participating in, or just generally what they’re looking for in an author. While I’ve been told this is a good strategy, this also means I’m not exactly taking my mind off all those queries floating around. So I started spending time away from social media to keep my mind off things. This has been the most useful technique thus far.

Watch a movie/tv show you know is bad.
My best friend “Alaska” will tell you, I have the worse taste in movies and TV shows. I don’t know what it is about cheesy, over the top action flicks or predictable television, but I find it hilarious and enjoyable. That’s not to say I don’t like “critically acclaimed” works out there, I’m just more likely to watch “Chronicles of Riddick” over “Annie Hall” when I want to be distracted. These sort of things are brain cotton candy for me, and it’s a great way to stop thinking about something serious and just have a good time.

And lastly, clean the house.
This is when I get really desperate, and we’re not just talking about doing dishes, or other piddily chores. No, I’m talking a top to bottom, dust the corners of the ceiling, take things out of closets, and run all the junk to Goodwill that I’ve been meaning to get rid of for months. Cleaning was always my mother’s way of keeping her world organized, and I think I picked this up from her. It gives you that little bit of control when you feel like you don’t have any. It helps, even if it does leave me exhausted by the end of the day.

Looking for other things to do to get your mind off waiting for an agent yes or no?

  • Visit a place you’ve been meaning to go but have been putting off.
  • Join a writing group to hear how other writers wait for the yes or no.
  • Take up another artistic outlet, or learn a craft you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Invite some friends over for a game night.
  • Work out.
  • Play a mindless phone game.
  • Write a letter to a teacher or adult who inspired you to write. Even if you don’t send it, it’ll help remind you of people who encouraged you in your life.
  • Take yourself out on a date. Go to the movies, see a play, eat at a nice place just to try it.

What helps you keep your mind off the waiting game? Are any of these suggestions one you’ve tried or are wanting to try?

Authors Who Changed my Life – Neal Shusterman

The original copy of my favorite book of his, purchased when I was 13.

In 2004, I was a big eyed, quiet, never quite fitting in 13 year old. I hid in the library during lunch, wrote stories inspired by whatever book I was reading and had a close friendship with the librarian. Books were an escape from a hectic homelife and Neal Shusterman’s work was my favorite place to run to.

When the school announced they had invited Shusterman for a talk on writing, the librarian knew how much I loved his books, and snuck me in to the advanced class’s private talk with him. Now, I doubt he remembers me. In fact, I’m positive he doesn’t. I was one girl, in one small town Texas middle school, out of hundreds he’s gone to. He met me for maybe five minutes, but those five minutes changed my life more than he’ll ever know.

Sitting in the back of the room, I hung on every word he said. Here was my favorite author, an idol in the eyes a eighth grader, the person who created all the books I loved. A real writer. 

When he finished his talk, I lingered behind a long line to get his autograph. Unlike the other kids who rushed to greet him, however, I didn’t have one of his books in hand. I had five pages of a story I wrote.

I didn’t know why I brought those pages then, and still don’t know why it was so important now, but when I walked up to him, I held them out and said. “Full Tilt’s my favorite book. I want to be a writer, but I’m not very good.”

He could’ve just laughed, or told me to head out because I was one of the last kids of the day. Instead, he smiled and said something to me I’ll never forget. “I bet it’s great! Be proud of your work. If you keep it up, you’ll be a writer one day. You just need to practice and never give up.”

I was shocked. He was the first adult to ever tell me that. No one, not my mother or father, not teachers, no one encouraged me to write.

It was just five minutes of his life, and four sentences he probably told a lot of kids, but that was all it took for him to encourage a shy kid who didn’t have faith in her work. 

I’m 27 now, and last month I started sending my first novel to agents. I have to say, wherever Neal Shusterman is, I thank him. He said the words I didn’t know I needed, but that I still cherish to this day.

If you’re an artist of any medium, don’t underestimate how your words can help a child. You never know how much they might need that little push of encouragement.

Which author changed your writing life? Who do you have to thank for helping you get where you are today?


Learn more about Neal Shusterman here.

My Intro to Mud Run Training

muddy-shoes-4-1433316I like to think I’m a little athletic. I go on walks, I enjoy runs occasionally, and during the warmer months, I hike wherever I can with my two dogs. That being said, I’m not ready for an obstacle course race, or an OCR if I want to sound like less of a rookie. When I really look at myself, I’m not in shape for more than the walks I go on. I spend my days behind a computer screen writing, or working at a museum and, while I was a rough and tumble tyke, I haven’t been active enough to do a OCR in years.

With my husband in the military, he’s more than happy to help. When he spends months out in the cold and snow for training, I think he’s finding the thought of me training for even 3.1 miles of mud hilarious. He’s agreed to help, but I’m a little scared of what his type of training entails. The last time I encouraged him to work out with me, I found myself with a rucksack strapped to my back, hiking up the side of a steep hill in the middle of the Texas heat. Since I know he’s a big believer of tough love, I’m not sure I want to jump into the rough stuff yet.

Instead, I started doing my own research, and here’s what I’ve learned from the web.**

  1. Get ready to do more than running. 
    This should be a given, especially since it’s an obstacle course, but this is the first thing I need to add to my workout routine. Ditch jumping , bear crawls, and rope climbs are all events I expect to see, so I plan to add weight lifting and yoga to my list of things to do. Weight lifting for the strength, and yoga for the balance.
  2. Get ready to get dirty.
    Of course, another given, but I don’t go running when it’s wet or muddy out, cause I’m lazy like that. I need to expose myself to different environments if I plan on keeping up with my team. Since I live in Washington, and it’s STILL the rainy season (and let me tell you, as a Texas girl, I’m not enjoying the constant wet weather, when I’m used to dry Hill Country heat), there will be plenty of chances for me to get used to being uncomfortable while I run.
  3. Eat better.
    This is going to be the hardest part for me. While I don’t do a lot of fast food places, I love my pastries, carbs and occasional salty snacks. I don’t eat nearly enough protein, and I could stand to have more veggies in place of cookies. On top of all that, I drink tea and coffee like it’s water. I can’t get enough of my earl gray, jasmine pearl, or green ginger tea. Luckily I’ve been cutting down to one or two cups of coffee a day, depending on how much I’m writing. I should really focus on drinking more water, especially on my writing days, and just eat healthier over all.

I have till June 24th to get my training done. As of this moment in time I’m a 5’4″, 165 lb, writer, with a body fat percentage of I don’t even know what. I’ve got a long way to go, but here’s hoping this change to my lifestyle sticks long enough for it to become a habit!

 

 

**Now I’m not a personal trainer, clearly, and most of these pointers are all things I read about online or heard from my husband. I don’t recommend doing any major changes to your diet or workout schedule if you haven’t spoken to someone first, and I plan consulting my local gym, so I don’t hurt myself. If you’d like to do an OCR, or if you’re training for any sort of race or triathlon for the first time, please talk to your doctor, and someone who knows what they’re doing. 

Favorite Movies by Year

I saw a friend of mine on Facebook doing a fun project like this. You list the years since your birth with your favorite movie that came out that year. Since I love movies, I figured hey! Why not?

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1989 – This was a tossup between The Little Mermaid and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
The nostalgic side of me says The Little Mermaid, but the goofball side of me who loves Keanu has to go with Bill and Ted.

1990 – Edward Scissorhands, hands down.

1991 – Terminator 2
As a side note, I did watch Drop Dead Fred all the time when I was a kid. Now that I watch it as an adult, I have to go, wow. I didn’t understand this movie at all.

buffy_movie1992 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

1993 – Robin Hoods Men in Tights or Dazed and Confused
What a great year for movies!

1994 – Leon: The Professional

1995 – Seven or Clueless.
Yeah. I know, two very different movies.

1996 – The Birdcage

1997 – The Fifth Element

1998 – Shakespeare in Love or The Truman Show
Like a lot of the movies on this list, these were two movies I didn’t see until I married my husband and we combined our movie collection. You caught me. I only married him for his choice in movies.

1999 – The Talented Mr. Ripley

2000 – Chocolat
I missed out on a lot of movies that came out this year. I am way behind on these greats.

2001 – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings
I love Lord of the Rings. Just assume that if a LotR movie came out, it’s at the top of that year, but I’m choosing to pick another to be fair.

2002 – Treasure Planet
This one was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up and had a special place in my heart. I really think it’s underrated.

2003 – Pirates of the Caribbean

2004 – Shaun of the Dead
I have an irrational fear of zombies,but I loved this movie. Pegg and Frost are my favorite comedy duo.

2005 – Serenity or Sin City
I’m one of those people who didn’t know anything about Firefly until Serenity came out. I saw Serenity at a friend’s sleepover, and it wouldn’t be till 2011 that I saw the first episode of Firefly.

2006 – Pan’s Labyrinth
First movie to kick off my love of del Toro

2007 – Hot Fuzz
I actually really enjoyed The Mist, and a few other less popular movies from this year, but Hot Fuzz is still my favorite 2007 flick.

2008 – The Dark Knight
This was a pretty disappointing year of movie for me. Thankfully I was saved by Heath Ledger’s Joker and Iron Man. Too bad that Indiana Jones movie we were promised never came out. . . yep. Too bad.

2009 – District 9
Now, I know Avatar came out this year, and I enjoyed it the first time I watched it, District 9 aged better with me, and I rewatch it more than any other film this year.

2010 – Robin Hood
What a confusing year for movies! They were either great, or a total bust. I have to admit, Legion is on my guilty pleasure movie list. But again, too bad that Avatar the Last Airbender movie we were promised never came out. . . yep. Too bad.

2011 – Midnight in Paris

2012 – Life of Pi
I’m not going to be stereotypical and say “The book was better”, but the movie had some great parts. I also enjoyed Les Mis and Rise of the Guardians, but I think Life of Pi had the biggest impact on my life.

2013 – Pacific Rim
I wasn’t thrilled with this year movie wise. I know some will say BUT FROZEN! But it didn’t connect with me very well.

2014 – John Wickjohn_wick_teaserposter
I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel and Guardians of the Galaxy, but come on. Keanu revenging the death of a puppy? With action sequences that put every other action movie to shame? John Wick all the way.

2015 – Ex Machina
This movie is fantastic. If you haven’t seen it, go look for it.

2016 – Deadpool

2017 – I haven’t seen any of the new movies this year. I would love to see Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, King Arthur, and Life. There are more than those, but those are off the top of my head!

Disagree with any of my picks? Have a different movie that came out during one of these years that was your favorite? Comment below!