Sunday, August 30, 2015

RIP Wes Craven: 1939 - 2015

Photo From: Wes Craven's Twitter Account
Wes Craven needs no introduction. He created Freddy Krueger. For a generation of people, that was THE boogeyman. The man that haunted our nightmares.

Then he brought us Ghostface Killer and showed us that sometimes the thing we needed to fear the most was the very people we knew.

Between Scream and several of the Nightmare movies, Wes Craven created a pantheon of horrors that would scare us forever. And that's not counting the ways he invented the horror genre with The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes

We suffered a terrible loss today. Wes Craven was a talented, talented man. I can think of no one better that deserves a place in my nightmares.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Writing Wednesday: A Cornucopia of Opiates Have Flooded My Head

“Quite so,” Holmes answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing himself down into an armchair. “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently read my blog.”

“Frequently," I replied.

“How often?” 

“Well, some hundreds of times.” 

“Then what shall I post today?” 

“Well...I don't know. I haven't the foggiest.”

“Quite so! You have not observed. It's Wednesday. Writing Wednesday, Watson, you old sod."
What I'm Reading

I just finished a fantastic book by Sarah Langan called The Keeper. I'm a sucker for horror novels set in contemporary small towns. There's something about small towns, where everyone knows everyone else's business, where you're frequently cut off from the more populated areas. It's so easy for
something to go wrong and for nobody to know. It's how we manage to read so many news articles in which horrible or bizarre things are happening in little podunk towns nobody has ever heard of.

Langan's book was crazy good. Not only was the horror well done and the characters compelling, there was just enough off-kilter strangeness to make this book really grip you from the get-go. And about halfway through the book, everything you think you know about the story gets upended and you're left in awe as this bizarre, haunting, beautifully written tragedy unfolds in ways that are almost surreal at times. I plan to pick up the sequel as soon as I can.

What I'm Writing

Still plugging away on Werewolf Bar Mitzvah: Spooky! Scary! My overall word count is just over 14,000 words at this point. I'm still very pleased with it, and I'm waiting for that shoe to drop: it will eventually, I'm sure. But so far, I'm still very pleased with how the book is playing out. Still appalled by my actual prose, but whatever.

What Works for Me

Making sure I've made writing a priority. It's so easy to come home from work exhausted and, after cleaning, cooking, and whatever else I need to do, just want to veg out or go straight to bed. But making sure I park my butt in front of my computer and do at least 500 words keeps me going. Even if it's just a little, it still gets me ever closer to getting finished.

What Else I've Been Up To

I'm a huge dork. I'm just admitting that up front. I love the 90's sitcom Boy Meets World a whole bunch. It was a show that legitimately meant a lot to me growing up, and as an adult male I made the choice (along with my wife because she, like me, is a dork) to purchase the whole show on dvd when it was finally made available. We have watched those dvds probably 100 times at this point.

We were, naturally, very excited to hear that a spin-off/sequel/new stand-alone show, Girl Meets World was being made, which would follow the daughter of the main characters from the original show. The first season has been added to Netflix, and I'm pleased to say it's just as good as the original show is. Yes, it's a show aimed at 13 year olds. But it's got the same wit and charm the
original had, and it's often humorous to see the show very subtly reference the old show in various ways throughout the storyline.

One caveat: the pilot is just god-awful. bad. It's clunky, structurally all over the place. There's no clear story or direction. And it's so ham-fisted it's like some sort of genetic experiment went wrong and its fists were replaced with actual hams.

But after that first bad episode, which you could honestly skip and miss really nothing, the rest of the show is great if you like cheesy pre-teen shows based on old 90's US sitcoms.

To quote Eric Matthews: "I think I finally found my niece!"

Friday, August 21, 2015

Remembering Robin

Image from Wikipedia
Robin Williams was one of the most influential people of my childhood. I'm sure a lot of people can say that. He was our modern day clown prince. He was full of so much energy, I'm sure it was difficult for some folks to keep up with him in a conversation. It was that energy that I really responded to.

I didn't even know he did stand up for the longest time. I always knew him from his movies. Movies with Robin Williams in them were movies I knew would make me laugh, and I watched them over and over and over again. And as we both grew older, he started not just making me laugh, but making me think and feel.

Some of the movies I'll list below may be of dubious quality, but I have great memories watching them and I'll defend them because, dammit, not everything has to be cynical and sarcastic. If that's one thing that he did better than anyone, he was never cynical. He always struck me as genuine.

1. Aladdin

I love Aladdin to this day. It has problems, and I recognize those problems. But it's also a action-packed adventure that features the greatest wise-cracking sidekick to ever grace the screen in the Genie, it also features my favorite villain. I watched this movie so much growing up, I have it memorized almost word for word. Watching that movie now, it's words and images have made surely permanent grooves in my brain, it's almost like listening to a beloved song--I can tell when things will swell and fall, and I can even sing along.

2. Good Morning, Vietnam

I didn't watch this one as much as a kid, but it was one of several films in which Robin's unconventional and unexpected energy and joy would was used to fight the cynical and needlessly serious powers that be. While some of those later films occasionally danced into schmaltz to get that across, this film, in my opinion, works perfectly. Robin's inappropriate jokes and lack of respect for authority provided a bright spot to Americans stuck in a dark situation with no light. And, it painted the Vietnam war as more complicated than a simple Us vs. Them story. It even showed that sometimes joy and optimism simply isn't enough. And those are good lessons.

3. Mrs. Doubtfire

As a kid from a divorced him in which his father was...less than he should have been, this movie was huge to me growing up. It was probably more influential than I realized in helping me cope with what my parents were going through, and looking back, I probably watched this movie so much because it let me imagine that I had a father like Robin--someone so dedicated to his kids that he'd do anything, including adopting a disguise, in order to be in their lives.

4. Final Cut

Robin seemed to go through a period where he was interested in expanding his role. Having done dramedy type roles in the past, the early 2000's featured a lot of darker roles, including this little sci-fi film. Robin plays a character that's in charge of editing someone's memories into a final slideshow to honor the life of the person. The film  makes a lot of interesting points about how everyone has dark moments and how we tend to romanticize people in death. You see the main character dealing with seeing various people doing pretty bad things from their own point of view, some way more than others, and he still manages to craft a lovely, happy final remembrance, which begins to raise ethical questions. The movies is brilliant and is probably one of his most underrated.

5. Insomnia

While One Hour Photo was the first "dark" Robin Williams movie I saw, Insomina was probably my favorite (next to Final Cut). Robin Williams plays the straight up bad guy in this movie, playing opposite Al Pacino, who plays a detective that goes to investigate a murder in Alaska, but begins experiencing mental issues when his sleep pattern is disrupted by the perpetual daylight of the north. Robin showed that he had some heavy acting chops when he wants to, and reminds us that he really is more than just some silly man that can make us laugh. He can also scare us.

Honorable Mention: World's Greatest Dad

This was a weird movie. Unlike his other comedies, which were generally pretty family friendly and warm-hearted, this one is a black, black comedy in which Robin plays a pretty bad person. He's a dad (obviously) with a obnoxious prick for a son. When his son accidentally kills himself while trying out some crazy masturbation fetish, Robin decides to cover up his son's death by staging his death as a suicide and crafting a fake note for his son to have left behind. Things spiral out of control when he suddenly starts getting tons of attention, popularity, even fame. This movie was hilarious in the most unexpected and sometimes uncomfortable ways. It's probably not for everyone, but it's certainly one that deserves a look.

There are so many others that I didn't list: Jumanji, Hook, Patch Adams, etc., etc., etc. Most of Robin Williams's life was dedicated to reminding us that even in the darkest of times, sincerity, joy, and childlike wonder were the best approaches. Even though he dipped into asking darker questions here and there, it means quite a lot that he kept returning to those themes consistently. He was a massive part of my childhood, and as silly as it feels to say this about someone I didn't know, I do miss him. But I makes me glad to know that he's always there when I need my day brightened.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Writing Wednesday: So I Dress It Up With Sound to Make It Easier to Get Down

*the sound of a golden trumpet echoes throughout the hills*

*Writing Wednesday appears on horseback, sword held aloft*

*charges into the morass of glinting steel below*

What I'm Reading

I am about 60% (thanks, Kindle!) of the way through Joe DeRouen's Small Things. It's a fun little horror novel about two kids being pursued by a nasty beasty that claims they have something it wants. Shawn Spencer's friend Tanner just died in a suspicious and tragic drowning accident, which Tanner's sister Jenny claims was caused by a monster. Soon the two are investigating into Tanner's death to find the cause and see if it's at all related to the time Tanner and Shawn broke into the local haunted house.

I met Joe a couple months ago at an event at the Rogers Public Library, but I'm not promoting it because I know him. I like it. It's that "small town, dark supernatural stuff afoot" kind of horror that doesn't get written much anymore.

At the risk of making this sound like a goddamned commercial, you can actually buy his book for super cheap on the Kindle (like, $0.99), and then get the Audible audiobook for only $1.99 more, which, as I said on Twitter, is such a good deal, it's practically criminal to Joe. And yet, what better circumstance to try out a new author, eh?

What I'm Writing

I've finally finished outlining Werewolf Bar Mitzvah: Spooky! Scary! (not the real title) a couple weeks ago, and I've officially begun writing the book. It's definitely scary to be writing a novel. Like, it feels so official, even though I've already resigned myself to the fact that it will be warmed up yak piss when it's done. That doesn't mean I'm not trying, but it is my first novel, y'know? It's gonna be rough.

But it's fun!

What Works for Me

Outlining, apparently.

I've never completed an outline before. In the past, I've gotten frustrated outlining stuff because it just read like a series of scenes. But this time, after I came up with a few scenes, I started trying to figure out how these scenes linked together. I also tried to come up with milestone scenes, and then plot scenes that lead to those important scenes. It worked--in that I've got an outline that doesn't make me go blind with rage when I look at it.

And it's helped (so far) with writing. It helps me get started if I know, roughly, what I want to accomplish in the scene I'm working on and how that ties into the work as a whole.

Again, first book. Not expecting much, but I can't help but sort of analyze the journey from inside as it happens. So...yeah...WRITING!

What Else I've Been Up To

Not much. I can't even watch The Daily Show anymore. I almost don't know what to do with myself. If The Nightly Show went off as well, I'd probably lose my gourd.

In light of that, we watched a few episodes of Bob's Burgers. It's cute. I like it. I expected it to be like The Simpsons and Family Guy, but if it is like The Simpsons, it's like the early episodes when the characters felt like they cared about each other and it was the story of their lives rather than the characters just being a vessel through which wacky shenanigans can occur.

In other news, I went out on a limb and took a couple of chances professionally a while back, but neither seemed to have paid off. *shrug* They were long shots, and I didn't really expect them to, so I'm not too broken up about it. I'll just keep plugging away at my book.


How have things been for you?

Monday, August 17, 2015

My First Con: GlitchCon 2015

Back at the end of July, I went to my first ever convention.

Okay, technically I went to a "convention" a few weeks earlier at the Rogers Public Library because my friend, Harper Voyager author Brooke Johnson, was there, but that was less a "convention" and more "an event put on by the public library." It was very sweet, but very very small.

GlitchCon, however, was a proper convention. Also pretty small, since it's still a relatively young con, but it had all the trappings that you expect at a con, including:
  • Voice Actors
  • Cosplayers
  • Authors
  • Comic book artists
  • Book publishers
  • Cosplayers
  • Tabletop gaming
  • Video gaming
  • Cosplayers
  • Events and panels
  • Cosplayers
  • Did I mention the cosplayers?
Honestly, I was wrapped up in such a whirlwind for those three days that I didn't take many photos, which I'm kicking myself over, but I did manage to find a few photos on the GlitchCon Facebook page to help me document my time. (All photos featured in this post were found there.)

Do you see that Mr. Freeze cosplay? WTF that AWESOME!!!!
I went mostly to support Brooke because she was going to be on several panels--and MODERATING one!! O_O--and I wanted to attend those. It turned out that another recent acquaintance that I've made, horror author Joe DeRouen was also there. He's pretty awesome, so I wanted to attend his panels as well.

The first day, I'll admit, wasn't a whole ton of fun because Brooke was understandably busy setting up her table in the vendor room and selling books and I couldn't just hang around that table like a friggin' weirdo, so I wandered. 

Brooke at her book booth. Awwwww.
But with no one else there and my wife at work, it was a tad lonely. I'm terrible at humaning, so I was mostly awkward around the other people and tried to keep my time in conversation with others to a minimum so I didn't come across like a mole person only recently discovering the surface world. And I'm not a big video gamer, so there just wasn't much draw for me there.

The second day was much improved. Not only were there more panels that I was interested in, but my wife was there, so I had some company.

The first place I stopped was at the "Voice Acting in Anime" panel because I was and am a huge geek about voice acting. Don't get me started on voices in cartoons. I know way too much and most of the time it results in so much eye glazing I could start my own eye-based donut shop.

It was very entertaining, and I got to hear Jeremy Inman (Android 16 in Dragonball Z and Heymans Breda in FMA: Brotherhood), Kristen McGuire (Hinano Kurahashi in Assassination Classroom), and Cynthia Cranz (Chi-Chi in Dragonball Z).

Cynthia Cranz, Some Dude, Jeremy Inman, and Kristen McGuire
After we grabbed lunch, we made it back for the Break an Author Panel in which we suggested outrageous ideas, concepts, props, setting, characters, etc., and authors had to craft little microstories that used these ideas effectively. It was silly fun, and got hilariously inappropriate fast.

After that, I basically lived in the Author Room.

Joe was on a panel about fantasy fiction that was entertaining, and it was very interesting to hear different authors takes on fantasy and what that genre means to them. (Unfortunately, I couldn't find a photo of that panel.)

Next, Brooke was on a worldbuilding panel, which was great for her because The Brass Giant has a ton of interesting worldbuilding that is just sort of hinted at in the background in really cool ways. It was also interesting to hear her get into a discussion with another author about the different random things you end up researching when writing, such as wind patterns and such.

Then came the "What Publisher Want" panel featuring Tommy Hancock (Pro Se Press), Selina Rosen (Yard Dog Press), and Tony Acree (Hydra Publications), which was very interesting. I got to hear from some indie publishers about what they look for when they buy fiction and more an idea of just what it's like in the industry for a writer, especially if you go indie. It was very grounding to hear the numbers and understand just what "success" means to a writer, and it's not Stephanie Meyer numbers. I was already aware of a lot of this from following Kameron Hurley on Twitter, but it was still definitely an interesting and valuable sit through.

After dinner, Brooke was on a panel with Joe about writing heroes and villains, which was very interesting. They're silly on panels together.

Brooke Johnson, JC Crumpton, Tommy Hancock, Sue Sinor, Joe DeRouen, Phillip Drayer Duncan
They talked about classic heroes, what makes good villains, what separates a hero from a villain, and how villains as protagonists are different from anti-heroes.

And I wrapped up my day with a panel mysteriously called "Taboo Talk." It dealt with how to talk about various taboo subjects sensitively.

On Sunday, the wife and I started by going to a Jeopardy panel with some of the author guests as contestants. It was a lot of fun, and I made a giant dork of myself when the Stephen King category came up because I'm a huge Stephen King fan. A couple of teenage girls laughed at me. It didn't my feelings though. Not at all. *sniff* *sob*

Next came probably the most interesting time I had at the whole convention: the author panel discussion of gender roles and alternate life styles. This was also the panel that Brooke and Joe were on that Brooke also moderated, and, except for being a teensy bit quiet, I thought she did a great job. AND THERE'S VIDEO! Check it out below if you're interested in hearing them speak on it.

Brooke was on another panel immediately after that was supposed to be about what writers lives are REALLY like. However, since 4 out of the 5 people on the panel stayed at home to write, it was a little less representative of the various ways writers live. Instead, the panel sort of shape-shifted into a discussion about the different processes and rituals they all had for writing, which was kind of way more interesting.

And I wrapped up my weekend by sitting in on Joe's last panel, in which he and two other authors discussed the horror genre. They talked movies, they talked short stories, they talked novels, and since it was such a late panel and the audience was a little sparse, my wife wound up pumping them with silly questions that she looked up on her phone to really put the pressure on. This was obviously done in good fun. There were, like, three other people there, and it was less a panel and more just a fun conversation amongst ourselves, and since two of the panelists didn't show up, it was a nice manageable conversation at that.

My first convention was a lot of fun, especially pestering Brooke with stupid questions. I'd like to try to do even more next year. If you live in the Northwest Arkansas area, I recommend going to GlitchCon in 2016 if you get the chance. It's small, but it's a lot of fun. It was in Springdale this year, but I hear it outgrew its venue (for the second or third time), and so it'll need to be in a bigger place next year.

Ever been to a convention? Share your experience below.