Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Podcast Episode - My Story Good Kids

The June episode of Fear on Demand is now live. It's Episode 7. I'm kind of pleased to have made it this far. My grad school advisor observed that a podcast seemed like an open-ended, sort of living anthology, and I suppose that's a good analysis.

A few more stories and we'll make it to 10 episodes, which has kind of been the goal in the back of my mind. If I make it to 13, that would be an interesting number for a horror podcast as well. I think I'm technically better yet again on this episode, though I do say "uh" a lot in the intro. Sorry, I'll work on that next.

Good Kids
This month's story is "Good Kids," one of mine, and it was originally recorded by Thayne Multimedia for a planned audio-anthology of non-supernatural horror stories. It was going to be a follow-up to the War of the Worlds adapatdation I wrote (available at right from iTunes), but it was delayed by various factors so Troy Thayne agreed to let me use the story, and two others, for the podcast.

Original publication
The tale originally appeared in an online magazine called "The Boneyard." It was written in the nineties and was interestingly sort of the inspiration for a novel.

I described the tale of good students facing a bully to my then editor.

"What if the supernatural were involved?" she asked. "What if one of the kids were a witch and what if things with her got out of hand?"

That nucleus became my young adult novel, "New Year's Evil," which appeared under the pseudonym Michael August. Happily that was one of my books that was later translated into German. (Apparently used copies can be had for about $1 from Abe Books.)

It followed a group of students who enlisted a witch's help to thwart persistent aggression from a troublesome kid. She helped deal with him, but then she turned out to be an evil witch who was out of control.

"Good Kids" is quite different, a dark tales of misguided young people pursuing relief and revenge.

It's out there now. Hope everyone likes it if you drop by and give a listen.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Back from Up: Verne and Doyle in Motion

(Warning: Some content could be considered spoilers.)

(Oops, in the first iteration of this post, I was partially asleep apparently and attributed The Lost World to Verne and not Doyle)

Christine suggested Up for a weekend movie. She is more selective about what she wants to see than I, checking reviews first and weighing the quality of the experience against the time viewing requires.

I read reviews after movies. I pretty much see everything if I can, if not in the theaters, well there's Netflix, but it's always good if she wants to go to the movies. Saves me the persuasive speech.

We both agreed Up was incredible, an offbeat, often funny and wacky adventure that's infused with the spirit of the pulps and the memory of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. What more can you ask for from a summer flick?

A really warm and sweet love story? It has that too, perhaps the best surprise--that in an animated feature you have an elderly hero still in love with his wife's memory. Happily and in bittersweet fashion we see their married life unfold, all before balloons hoist the old man's house heavenward.

Both the elderly hero, Carl, and his wife, we learn, were enamored in their youth with newsreel reports of an adventurer of the grand scale, Charles Muntz, who brought back fossil evidence of a giant bird from a plateau in South America. Sound a little like Conan Doyle's The Lost World?

Faster than you could say Professor Challenger, that evidence was questioned, and Muntz set off in a Jules Verne-like Master of the World style airship crewed by hounds--ya gotta loves dogs in this movie--to find more evidence, leaving the young Carl and his wife longing to head for the same destination.

It's a path Carl pursues only in later years, and there's lots of fast-paced excitement, fun and perfecto plotting along the way once he takes off.

Meshing a new Disney/Pixar flick with the roots of Verne adventures past seems a wonderful homage while unfolding an all-new, colorful story that's unlike anything else, as fresh in its own way as WALL-E.

It's imagination unleashed, and it proves how a unique story can soar.

It's well worth the time and has a wonderfully sweet and complementary animated short attached.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Semester's End - Forgive Yourself Your First Draft

I sent my in the final packet of the semester for my creative writing program at Goddard College Wednesday, putting me at about the halfway point on my manuscript/master's thesis/novel and the program for that matter.

As I mentioned to my advisor in one of the five writing packets of the semester, it's like writing a novel as a serial or at least it's working on a first draft with at least one person watching you.

It's an interesting way to do things. You get constant feedback and discussion and have opportunities to discuss--in writing--plot points, themes and characters. For me, it's proving to be a very positive experience.

Writing and Reading
Reading and critical analysis of other books is a significant part of the effort as well, and as you know if you come here often, I've been doing a lot of that too. I heard going into the program that it's a little like that old Far Side Cartoon in which a scientist has an equation sprawled across his blackboard. Numbers and symbols lead step by step through a theory up to step 4 which reads: "Then a miracle occurs."

It's not quite a miracle, but there is something in the process that brings enlightenment, and it's not easy to define. It's not just reading and writing, which I've always done. It's the mixture, with the analysis and the discussion and the periodic gatherings for residencies, which are kind of like extended coffee houses with clusters of writers.

Somewhere around that last packet, it really hit me, and it exorcised some of those demons that torment all of us with fingers on keyboards.

In part, I was reading a book, and a good one, by an author I've known for sometime. I don't think he likes me very much, but that doesn't really matter. It might not matter that I know him, but perhaps it did, knowing he's a flesh and blood guy and not a theoretical Great Writer laboring somewhere with quill and cup of tea.

As I read, I had the epiphany -- the brilliance wasn't all accomplished in the first draft. Every supporting character wasn't as crisp and multi-faceted the first time around. The action at the midway point didn't fall right into place at first. The plot probably wasn't as perfect and precise as he wound things up.

But he got there. He finished the race with a hell of a novel, an achievement both popular and literary, entertaining and thematically rich.

"Forgive yourself your first draft," my advisor told me as we had coffee in one of our official meetings as the semester began.

It's something I've learned even Wilkie Collins might have said. Apparently there was a serious plot/timeline issue with the serialized magazine version of his brilliant page-turner The Woman in White. That was corrected when the story was published in book form but speaking of working in public...What a challenge that must have been.

I knew that fact about first drafts. I've lived through that before, but now I KNOW it, and I understand it in fresh ways, and it's coupled with all of the discussion of character development and through stories that have come from the the time in the trenches the last few months.

It's an interesting journey. My feet are tired, but I will keep walking, because there another half a dessert to cross, one step at a time.

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