Wednesday, December 28, 2016

In St. Pete's by the shore

Walking early in St. Petersburg this morning, the horizon was an array of colors: gray-blue layered with rows of a pale coral and streaks of pink, sky meeting blue water with a splash of yellows and more pale pinks and oranges reflected.

I've never been here before, so it's a new sky, and in the morning quite I felt calm and detached, kind of what you want in a holiday break. 

There are a few reminders 'tis the season. On one condo building I passed, the balcony railing on one unit was decorated with lights, and an inflatable reindeer decoration stood beside their deck chairs, not Hallmark Movie Christmas, but a vestige. 

The birds were everywhere, more plentiful than tourists or locals, gulls on shore of multiple varieties,  a few geese diving amid the waves and a couple of big birds with what I think of as heron-like features, though I'm not sure of their species. 

The first I ran across tolerated my presence for a while as I snapped pictures on my phone then stepped off the sea wall and strolled away, wanting his privacy and a return to his placidity, I suppose. So it goes.

Christine says the infinity of it all is what's amazing. I suppose that's true. 

There are boundaries out there somewhere across the blue water, but you can't see them from here.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Homework: A Boy and His Dog

Some Harlan Ellison ebook editions were on sale yesterday from Open Road, which prompted a few messages between a friend and I about which ones were available vs. what could be found on the library service Hoopla Digital. A Boy and His Dog, Ellison's 1969 novella, was not on the free list, though it can be found for digital checkout via Hoopla.

All of that started me thinking about the film version again, sort of. I'd been thinking about it a bit because The Witchmaker (1969) produced by character actor L.Q. Jones and TV's Hank Kimball Alvy Moore is streaming via Amazon Prime. It was filmed in Marksville, LA, near where I lived in Central Louisiana, but I'd never had a chance to see it until the streaming. (Interesting drive-in horror flick.)

But that's an aside. My message-chat with my friend prompted me to start digging back through Starlog interviews and letters about A Boy and His Dog, the film from 1975.

Happily Starlog's available for nerd and pop culture research on, and, though I'm late to the table, I ran across a ShoutFactory conversation between Ellison and Jones from 2013. Along with the Starlog articles, it all makes for a nice slice of film history conversation. I realized the various items complement each other and some add clarity to the others. I compiled them all for creative writing students for a Facebook group, but I'll add them here for the convenience of anyone wanting to peruse more on this bit of science fiction cinema.

Here's the 2013 ShoutFactory Backlot sitdown.

Here's L.Q. Jones interviewed by Ed Naha on the 1983 re-release of Dog.

And here's Ellison's letter responding to Jones' points a few issues later.

I did the Googling so you don't have to.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ollie Dressed Up

We all get ties for Christmas. My cat, Oliver Littlechap, is no exception. 

Monday, October 03, 2016

Dreaded Light

I met screenwriter Mark MacNicol online recently, and he mentioned his work in progress. It's an intriguing film called Dreaded Light.

It's set in Soctland and follows a widowed father and his teenaged daughters and their efforts to cope with grief. At least that's where things start. The title refers to one of the teen's fear of daylight.

Mark talks more about his project on his website here:

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Not So Normal Living Rooms - Streaming Contained Thriller Horror

I like blockbusters as much as the next aging geek. I went to see Jason Bourne on Sunday because I knew it was going to be fun and frenetic. Other than one car chase that goes on from the third act until the next feature time, I was right.

I'm always intrigued also by films that sometimes get dubbed chamber pieces in keeping with theater tradition and terminology for small cast and limited setting.

Those chamber piece films are those that that go the other direction from the blockbuster. Instead of globe hopping, like a lot of TV viewers, they stay in the living room.

Alfred Hitchcock's Rope with it's real time storyline and Leopold and Loeb-inspired psychopaths is a stunning example. I think Hitchcock liked the challenge of developing thrills in tight settings because what are Psycho or Dial M for Murder as well?

I've enjoyed several variations on the streaming services of late, all eerie and effective, never making us feel just like we're stuck on one set but making that one set or location essential. These are some very weird living rooms if you will.

Coherence was conceived apparently in part by James Ward Byrkit as a respite from blockbusters, and it gives us a dinner party on the night of a comet that soon slides into a night of weirdness as it becomes apparent timelines in the many worlds theory are criss-crossing, and mistakes and missed opportunities drive some characters to desperation. 

Time Lapse from Bradley King plays different games with time to good effect. What might be a grim crime drama without its science fiction conceit becomes a cool and compelling nail-biter when three friends (The Flash's Danielle Panabaker, Matt O'Leary and George Finn), one with a gambling addiction, discover a dead scientist who's left behind a camera in his apartment that snaps Polaroids one day in the future. It's aimed at their living room. What can it hurt to post race results in the window?

If movies have taught us anything, it's that men who dabble in the realm of God reap a big and complicated mess.

That's what the heroes of Time Lapse soon discover. Is the camera creating self-fulfilling prophecies, or are other forces at work? Between dangerous bookies, double crosses and the challenge of keeping secrets and sticking to time's rule's, their world's soon awry, and the tale offers many twists and surprises before its revealing conclusion.

The Invitation has been getting just a bit of buzz upon its Netflix debut, and I think it's deserved.

It's the story of Will (Logan Marshall-Green of Prometheus) the grief-stricken father of a child killed by a playmate. He and new love Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are on the way to a reunion with his ex-wife (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband (Khaleesi boy toy Michael Huisman.) The latter couple met in grief counseling and fled to Mexico for an Est-like (or not) experience that's replaced grief with joy.

Now they want to make amends to Will, so he and a host of old friends have received the invitation to join in, and the evening gets creepier and creepier in a slow burn buildup that engages and refuses to relent. Can any party with John Carroll Lynch as an unexpected guest go any other way, whether or not he's decked out as Twisty the Clown?

These films won't allow just vegging on the sofa, but they will make your living room viewing a bit breathless for a few hours. Check them out via Amazon or Netflix.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Getting a taste of Stranger Things

I've scratched just a bit of the surface of Stranger Things this weekend. I binge, but in doses.

What I've watched so far in the first couple of episodes is intriguing, especially in the creature play. We've seen an eerie silhoutte, but there's still room for mystery. There's a wonderfully kinetic opening in a flickering research facility, but a technician's lunched in the first few heartbeats by something kept off screen.

The characters are really what's keeping me engaged, from Winona Ryder's frantic mom to David Harbour's grieving police chief to a surprisingly malevolent and white-haired Matthew Modine on the mad scientist side of the equation to keep things in balance. 
I noticed Harbour last as one of the twisted killers in the under-rated A Walk Among the Tombstones, so it's interesting to see him as an urban cop who's come to a small town for the quiet only to have that upset by, well, strange things.

Then there are the kids, a nice blend of junior high nerds with ham radio and role-playing on their minds until a friend goes missing, and their creepy guest, a girl with a crew cut. 

There's an '80s vibe as well, of course. I don't know that I'm that nostalgic about that era, but there's a nice feel to the series, and it finds its own niche in a content-rich world, so I think I'll keep the stream open until it's finished.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A wild and weird Robot Excursion - Killer Robots! Crash and Burn

I have to say I'm a bit intrigued by the look of the robots in Leomark's July 15 release The Killer Robots! That's their exclamation mark, but I can't say it's totally unwarranted. AI's a little unsettling to everyone these days.

As the official synopsis puts it, there's "a dimension where living machines battle for supremacy, and those who oppose find only destruction." That can't be good for non-robotic types.

"After meeting their end in a mechanized gladiator arena, four robotic mercenaries - Auto, Max, Strobo and Trog are extracted from a junk pile, rebuilt and recruited as mercenaries for a mysterious organization of android adventurers."

Soon they find themselves on their way to the planet Vidya, "an artificial world ravaged by a computer virus that has sent its robotic inhabitants into a state of primitive barbarism."

The robotic heroes "must make their way through a tumultuous landscape, activate a mysterious communication device, link multiple universes, and bring about a new age of enlightenment and prosperity for a dystopian galactic civilization."

Birthed by a Florida band of the same name, The Killer Robots! looks a little different and "out there" and possibly outré. Here's a trailer:

Written and directed by Sam Gaffin, The Killer Robots! Crash and Burn will be on VOD platforms.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Writing Thoughts: Fear in the Shadows - Notions on Generating Subtle Scares

I had a lot of fun doing a presentation this week called "Fear in the Shadows." I've been developing it and polishing a while now. 

I take a look at subtle horror, partly by focusing on things that have chilled me as a reader. That's pieces by Ray Bradbury, Robert Aickman and others.

The focal piece is the 1902 story from W.W. Jacobs called "The Monkey's Paw," a tale to which I said "meh" when I first read it as a kid. It's deceptively simple, and I don't think my junior high imagination was fully engaging with the story, though its brief arc has always stayed with me.

It was really when I transcribed a portion of it a while back that I came to appreciate its brilliance. Very little is "on stage." Much is in the anticipation of a potentially walking corpse that's in a badly decomposed state...

It gives us something to worry about a bit. Wishes with the monkey's paw of the title always go wrong. It seems to confirm that with the first of three wishes in the story. Then it lets things roll along on a cold dark night.

And possibilities are introduced that let the reader's imagination work, possibilities and a little waiting.

There's a wish, a look out the window but...nothing. Then in the dark hours of the night, there's a sound at the door and then a knock an then a little more, coupled with different opinions on whether to answer or not and other bits of dread.

It was fun to do the presentation for a big room. We turned the lights down and had a campfire-story experience.

What does the story offer? A few points to keep in mind:

Atmosphere...a house that's become cold and dark and isolated.

Something to think about...the son who's been summoned back from the dead has been in the grave a while and was badly injured at the time.

Something to worry about...Monkey's Paw wishes don't turn out so well.

Anticipation...At first there's nothing after the wish, but a little while later there's a sound.

Implication...The sound turns in to a knock at the door, a knock that persists and the clock starts ticking as conflict bills. Do we wish the visitor away or open the door?

Sometimes as Stephen King said in Danse Macabre, you gotta show the monsters.

But maybe it's not a whole story you need to compose but a scene. Could the same elements be deployed? I think we see that in play in the log of the Demeter in Dracula, a small but chilling portion of a bigger tale and in many other effective moments in the horror pantheon.

I'd say try these points somewhere along the way and invite readers or viewers to engage.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Awaiting The Night of...

I watched the first episode of The Night Of a couple of weeks ago when it began streaming on HBO Now. I think  it rolls out on air tomorrow, ending what's been a long wait for things to really get started with the eight-parter, though that means yet another week before Episode 2 arrives. Ahhrrrrr! Ep. 1's a real, though almost leisurely, narrative hook.

Based on an arc in a BBC series called Criminal Justice which starred Ben Whishaw of The Hour and the new Q in Bond films, this neo-noir gets a Richard Price extension and Americanization that seems to channel a bit of Serial as well with a seemingly innocent immigrant student as the accused.

That's Riz Ahmed as Naz Khan, son of a Pakistani taxi driver who borrows his dad's hack for a party trip into Manhattan.

Before long he's inadvertently picked up a mysterious girl his age who's mistaken him for an on-duty cab. She wants to be taken to "The Beach," and that leads to a poignant chat then a druggy encounter and a blackout at what must be her residence.

Naz awakes to find her dead, and he's promptly nabbed and deftly maneuvered into giving up his rights by a savvy detective named Box (Bill Camp).

That's when a haggard John Turturro as public defender Jack Stone strolls in in flips flops, because of a skin problem carried over from the BBC, to pick up the ball.

The process moving forward looks to be promising and nail-biting since the circumstantial case against the studious bu naive Naz seems damming and insurmountable.

I think I'll stick around to see how it goes. 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Brain Dead for the Summer

I haven't noticed a lot of people talking about CBS' BrainDead from The Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King, but I'm finding it to be a fun and trippy political satire built on a Invasion of the Body Snatchers chassis.

The time seems right for a blend of politics and horror centering around a government shutdown.

Alien bugs are to blame, squeezing out brains--or portions of them--of Republicans and Democrats alike to replace them with themselves. An agenda's not yet apparent, but conquest is probably afoot. Divided we're conquered?

The Heroine 
Documentary filmmaker turned senate aide Laurel Healy is poised to figure things out, but so far she hasn't put her finger on why everyone's fixated on the same tune from The Cars.

Laurel's played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead who this year has already survived a Civil War-era hospital in Mercy Street and being trapped in a bunker with a dancing John Goodman in the cool and different alien thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane.

She's kind of perfect as a Washington insider/outsider with a politician dad and brother who's more interested in obscure tribal music trends but needs $ to complete her current project.

It's trending more zany-reflection-of-the-real Washington than horror, to be certain. The mind control and brain gross outs have been seen before, but it's still keeping me tuning in at least on the week a new episode airs if not on the night.

Happily it's streaming readily on Amazon Prime, so catching up's easy, and with Trump in the background of the real world as well as that of the series, it's a nice fix for political junkies and those with scare leanings on and off screen as well.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Tabloid Vivant Poster Reveal

If you're, say, my friend Chicago author Wayne Allen Sallee, or someone else living in the Chicago area, you might be interested in this special poster for Tabloid Vivant.

The film will be screening film at 7 and 9 p.m. on July 7 at University of Chicago and will be followed by a Q and A with writer-director Kyle Broom and producer Alexandra Spector. 

The film focuses on Max, an artist seduced by the allure of fame. Sara is an art critic whose obsessions exceed even his. When she lands a writing gig at a major art magazine, the pair retreats to a cabin in the woods, where Max reveals his strange new painting method.

Convinced of its potential, she agrees to collaborate on a piece sure to revolutionize the art world. While both original and mesmerizing, the project reveals something dark and disturbing about their relationship. Like two digital-age Frankensteins, they manage to make a painting come alive - though the unsettling consequences of their success may be more fit for the pages of a blood-soaked tabloid than the chronicles of art history. Sounds interesting to me and not something you see every day.

Here's the trailer:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Remember Zack Ward who played Scut Farkas and one of the most memorable villains on Sliders among many other roles?

He's directed a new film that shows the other side of things like House Hunters, and if you've ever dug into the details of home renovation and repair, it may be the horror flick for you. Word up is it's on VOD on platforms including iTunes.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Watched - Short YA Horror Free today - May 2, 2016

Free today - my short story "Watched" which I wrote originally for a newspaper youth page. It's set in the universe of the Michael August novels.

Those include The Gift, Deadly Delivery and New Year's Evil, books that are stand alone horror adventures with the Pembrook High as the unifying thread.

Watched focuses on on Brianne Pratt, a creative young woman who has to deal with a stalker while planning a big Halloween bash for Pembrook High.

 The tale is   a Kindle exclusive, and, of course it can be read on your desktop as well with Amazon's Cloud Reader.

Purchase here.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

New Thriller Novella Dark Hours Now Available
Dark Hours, my new novella which follows a student journalist on her own descent into a personal labyrinth to confront a twisted player of games, is rolling out on ebook platforms.

It should soon be available for most readers, so check the links below or do a search wherever you buy ebooks.

This book began as a short story years ago called "The Exclusive." It was published in Cemetery Dance, and it appears in Scars and Candy

A couple of years ago, a producer optioned my book New Year's Evil with an eye toward turning it into a cable movie and pilot. That didn't happen. Money didn't come through etc. So it goes.

In the wake of that process, however, I did wind up talking to a Hollywood agent. Not the first time, but it looked more promising for a while.

"The Exclusive" bubbled to the top of discussions about properties in my backlist that might generate interest the way New Year's Evil had. Strong heroine, tight, dark, crisp situation. Could be shot economically.

As we talked, and the agent temporarily became obsessed with calling it Cemetery Dance, an idea for expanding the story came to me.

I'd read accounts of campus violence and sexual assaults at a number of universities where no action was taken or where victims were blamed and sometimes expelled. It made me angry, and I decided to explore it.

This was before the unfortunate Rolling Stone matter that clouded the issue, but clearly problems continue and are far from resolved across America today.

I couldn't quit thinking of Allison Rose, my obsessive student journalist, and how an attempt to address similar matters at her small college might lead her into danger as she worked to hold authoritarian administrators to their responsibilities.

Dark Hours developed, taking the story beyond the original ending and deeper into darkness with the villain more fully realized.

It's a thriller, an adventure with some mystery elements, and hopefully it's an interesting ride as Allison deals with the twisted little mastermind at the heart of her labyrinth.

Dark Hours is published by Crossroad Press and available from these sellers:

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Oliver Littlechap Right Now

My spry, youngest cat, Oliver Littlechap, has begun receiving subcutaneous fluids for elevated kidney values. He's at least 11 years old and possibly a little older, and it was sad news.

It didn't hit in the devastating fashion Daisy's diagnosis did in 2008 because we've learned a lot about care over the years. She survived seven years and did well most of that time. Lung tumors and not her kidneys caused her death.

Happily, Ollie, who came into our world as Sad Orange Kitty in 2005, is doing well. After a weekend on an IV and now two weeks of Sub Q fluids administered at home, his levels were "perfect" according to the vet.

We're going to try every-other-day Sub Q fluids for him and re-check in a couple of weeks.

He looks sad in the photo from yesterday more because the vet cleaned his ears than because of feeling bad. He just came through for a morning stroll across my keyboard.

I have to be careful not to leave manuscripts open on my desktop or he'll attempt to collaborate, but sometimes I don't like what he does with characterization.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year 2016, All!

Had a great time last night with my wife, Christine, at Orlando's Dr. Phillips Center ringing in the New Year via a concert featuring  Kristin Chenoweth of everything and Cheyenne Jackson of 30 Rock.

It was a fun sendoff to a busy holiday season for us that's included a trip to Charleston and a walk through history, taking in a staging of Peter and the Starcatcher, a handful of movies including Force Awakens and the 70 mm Hateful Eight and lots of other activities.

For me 2015 was a mixed year, filled with great things on the creative side. A couple of new short stories were published in cool publications including Black Fox Literary Magazine, DM du Jour, Heater and J.J. Outer Review. The J.J. story was also selected for their "Best of 2015" anthology, and I plugged along on a couple of other projects.

I have a few specific personal goals for 2016. I may not finish all I want to do, but it's good to forge ahead with a plan as January dawns.

I found encouragement from a friend's Facebook post via Janis Ian. It's a quote from Leonard Cohen's "Anthem." "There is a crack in everything/that's how the light gets in."

Good advice to perfectionists.

In other ways, 2015 was a rough year. Daisy, the cat who's been with Christine and me the longest,
passed away in September. Just weeks later our second-oldest cat, Monty, began displaying symptoms of a brain tumor and passed as well. Christine and I agree. We'll miss them forever. 

Their passing reminded us of how swiftly time moves or how swift it feels in looking back, and with that comes the additional encouragement of moving forward with eyes open to the shortness of days and years. That helps in making the most of them.

Ahead there's a road. I'll keep taking steps on it. Happy 2016!

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