Monday, August 27, 2012


Hello, gentle readers. Once again, I seem to be running on empty, in regards to creative juices. I can always tell when my reserves are low. There are warning signs.
When I wander through bookstores, I inevitably find myself at the writing reference section perusing titles like How to Write a Best-Sell in 24 Hours! Or 1000 Plot Twists Guaranteed to Shock!
I start to actively avoid working on anything. When I sit at the computer, I’ll find myself reading webcomics or entering random search terms in Google to see what pops up in the Image filter.
The biggest, most inescapable sign of all, though, that I’m running on fumes is that everything I try to write will turn into porn. Formerly respectable characters shed their clothes at the first opportunity. I use words like ‘tumescent’ and ‘throbbing.’ Suddenly, there are ‘slick orifices’ and ‘nimble tongues’ everywhere.
Sometimes, I’m tempted to just give in and write the porn all the way out to its inevitable conclusion. Usually, though, I lose interest. Florence King said it best, I think: "There’s only so many ways you can describe peeling a boiled egg."
Lately, though, I’ve been wondering if any other authors had this same reaction. I find it terribly amusing to picture Jane Austen bent over a writing desk, scribbling away by lamplight, writing smut involving Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Just thinking about it now makes me chuckle.
So it’s a bit ironic that I read an article recently about a growing trend among small publishers to eroticize public domain classics. Yes, gentle readers, sometime soon, as you’re wandering through your local bookstore, or browsing online, you may come across ‘erotic’ versions of the classics. No doubt they will have such inventive names as Sin & Sensibility and Mansfield’s Part. Perhaps some burgeoning creative soul will produce The Confessions of Heathcliff.
Whoever does tackle these subjects, they’re welcome to them. Personally, I don’t think there’s much of a market for that type of thing. The publishers behind this, I suspect, are hoping to mirror the success of the Classics With Monster trend that seems to have petered out lately.
As for me? I shall have my characters keep their clothes very firmly on.
At least, I’ll try.
Unless naked frolicking is essential to the story.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Review of ParaNorman

I'll admit, I've been looking forward to ParaNorman ever since I saw its first trailer. I'm a sucker for these types of movies, where the 'outsider' has to save the day.
In this movie's case, the outsider is a boy named Norman Babcock. Norman lives in the town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts with his mom, his dad, his older sister and the ghost of his dead grandmother.  Norman, you see, can perceive and communicate with the dead.
He doesn't bother to hide this particular talent or lie about it.  In fact, his life would probably be a lot easier if he did.
But he doesn't.  The kid perseveres, putting up with the slings and arrows from the community at large (which thinks he's a weird kid) and the scathing opinion of his dad and older sister.  They don't believe he can see the dead either.
So, Norman already has a lot on his plate when the movie kicks into high gear.  I'm not going to give any spoilers about the plot in this review, but I will say that it moves along at a brisk pace.  Pretty soon Norman is catapulted into a situation where he has to deal with zombies, the townsfolk and the ghost of a very angry witch.
Overall, I really liked this movie.  If I have a critique, it's that the plot moves along, perhaps, a little too quickly.  Still, I think this was a well-done film, an interesting story with a surprisingly dark core. On my movie love scale, I give ParaNorman a solid 6 out of 10.  It's definitely well worth full price and I think it's good enough to see again.
However, that said, I don't think this is the type of movie that parents should take young children to see.  I'd say if you're kids are late elementary school or older, fine, no problem.  Anything younger than that? Hold off on showing them this movie, because it does get a little intense.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Review of Hit & Run

Hit & Run is one of those odd movies that can't seem to decide on its genre.  Is it a romance? A comedy? A chase movie?  It certainly has elements of all three genres, but those elements fail to combine into anything coherent or appealing.
The basic premise of Hit & Run is that former getaway driver Charlie Bronson jeopardizes his Witness Protection Plan identity in order to help his girlfriend get to Los Angeles. The feds and Charlie's former gang chase them on the road.
That summary is, honestly, more entertaining than the movie.  The plot is contrived and the characters are unbelievable, under-developed and/or unlikable.
Most of the performers in this movie are B-list actors, at best: Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Michael Rosenbaum.
Kristin Chenoweth and Beau Bridges have small roles in this movie. Chenoweth plays a pill-popping college administrator and Beau Bridges plays the estranged father of Dax Shepard's character.  Their brief appearances are the only real highlights in the film.
Overall, Hit & Run is an awful movie.  On my scale of movie love, I give it 1 out of 10.  Don't pay to see this wreck in the theater and don't rent it either. I would avoid it on cable, if at all possible, and just wait for it to come out on ordinary network television.  Even then, the only reason I'd watch this piece of crap is if something even worse was on, like, say, Stupid Knocked-Up Teen Moms: The Musical.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Two cannibals are having lunch...

Hello, gentle readers.
Sometimes people ask me why I don’t try writing comedy. They tell me that I’m a funny guy. I smile and thank them for the compliment, but demure from pursuing a career as a comedy writer.
Because I’m no good at it.
Although I think I have a certain comedic charm in person, it doesn’t really translate to the page. I can tell a funny story, face to face, but it doesn’t translate well to the written word.
I think it’s because, in person, I’m a funny looking guy.
Now, before everyone leaps to my defense with cries of, "Oh no! You’re not funny looking at all! You’re quite handsome!" Just let me say that I am very much aware of how I look and I’m quite happy with the way I look.
Gentle readers, for those of you who are ignorant of my appearance, you should know that I’m a bad case of jaundice away from looking like Homer Simpson. I’m one of those big, bald guys you see walking around the supermarket in khaki shorts, an oversized T-shirt and sandals.
Some of you may have been picturing me as a slender, perhaps slightly effete, gentleman of words, wearing a velvet smoking jacket and possibly a cravat. My apologies for shattering that image, but if it helps, you may picture me in an ice-cream white suit, holding a large snifter of brandy and dictating these blog entries to a devoted personal secretary named Fitz.
In person, I can be very entertaining. My face is animated and, when I speak, I used my hands to illustrate my points. No, I do not do "jazz hands" a la Jack McFarland. Rather, I gesticulate when I talk. It is unconscious, like the way I’ll make faces or mimic someone’s accent.
In person, ladies and gentlemen, I put on a show.
Alas, on the page, my comedic styling false flat.
Take for instance, the following joke:

Two cannibals are having lunch in the jungle. One cannibal looks at the other and asks, "Does this clown taste funny to you?"

Short, simple and to the point. Also, I think, pretty funny.
Of course, if I were to write a story around that joke, it would be neither short, simple nor to the point. Like the virginal schoolgirl going to her senior prom, she doesn’t intend for anything untoward to happen, but at sunrise the next day she’s facing her parents at the local police station trying to explain exactly how that donkey got into the Mini-Mart and why her boyfriend was naked when the police arrived.
Like that young lady, I start out with the best of intentions, but things tend to go astray. A story that should have taken two or three pages, is suddenly an 800-page comedic epic with running gun battles, bad puns and an ending that remains just out of reach.
It would be the sort of story, ladies and gentlemen, that would have the reader throwing themselves out the window by the third chapter just to get away from it.
So, no, I do not write comedy. I do not write it because I am aware of just how bad at it I am and, also, to spare the lives of my readers.
Lord knows I don’t have enough of you to waste.

Monday, August 20, 2012

La Bella Luna

Hello, gentle readers! I’m getting a super late start on the blog post today because I was up late last night and, this morning, I had an interview at a local bookstore.
From the above, you can probably guess that I’m a night person. I’m not sure how this came about as I think everybody else in my family is a morning person. My mother, an incurable gardener, is up before the sun some days. I, on the other hand, consider it an early start if I’m up before noon.
In my last career, I worked nights for fifteen years. My shift started at three in the afternoon and didn’t end until eleven that night. I’d get off work, stop by the all-night supermarket to grab supper, then go home. I’d pop my supper in the microwave, watch a little late night television, check e-mail, then write or read until I went to bed.
One of the few things I didn’t care for, when I was living in Alaska, was the absence of proper night in the summer. I missed summer nights, being able to stand on a fresh-cut lawn, head tilted back to admire the moon and stars.
Oh sure, there was plenty of night in the winter, but it’s hard to admire the moon and stars in minus zero conditions. Every indrawn breath freezes the interiors of your nostrils. Your feet invariably get cold, no matter how many socks you’re wearing or how waterproof your boots. It’s one of those unwritten rules, like a subway train arriving just as you’ve settled down to read the paper or the telephone ringing while you’re in the shower.
The other night I came home. It was nine-o-clock. The weather was warm and dry. Standing by my car, in the quite darkness of the cul-de-sac, I lifted my head to admire the sky. It was clear, the stars resembling grains of salt on a black field. The moon was sailing overhead, bright and beautiful. La bella luna.
You can keep the sun, garish and gold, setting off crowing cocks. You can have the morning, waking to buzzing alarms and the smell of burnt coffee. You’re welcome to the day, with all its hubbub and noise, traffic jams and dentist appointments.
I’ll take the night and the moon and be content.

Monday, August 13, 2012

An update from the road...

Happy Monday, gentle readers.
Today, I have taken the blog on the road. I’m writing this from a hotel room overlooking a field of black asphalt. Just beyond the asphalt lies a primeval forest, trees corralling the small hotel where I’m staying. Beyond the pines, civilization lurks, out of sight and out of mind.
Personally, I find travel to be conducive to writing. You get to experience new things, see old friends, meet new ones and get away from your boring life.
When I lived in Alaska, I hardly traveled anywhere. Maybe once a year I would fly down to Las Vegas, to try my luck at the casinos. Or, in the summer, I might take a day trip to the little town of Seward braving rock slides, drunken Alaskans and stupid tourists. Once, on a road trip to Seward, I nearly ran over a mountain goat.
Since returning to the Lower 48, I’ve gotten in a fair bit of traveling. Not only did I drive from Alaska to South Carolina, but on my last birthday I took a four-week road trip from South Carolina to California and back. Not that long ago I took a much shorter road trip, driving down to Florida to get together with my dear friend, Jeanie.
I’ve enjoyed my road trips. In fact, sometimes I think I’d like to drive for a living. Not as a trucker. The thought of being behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler doesn’t appeal to me at all. However, I wouldn’t mind doing interstate courier work.
I suppose it’s the romance of the road that appeals to me. The open highway, blue skies yawning in front of you, funky little diners and hotels dotting the Interstate like post-modern villages.
And, of course, there are the people.
In the last twenty-four hours I’ve met a septuagenarian trucker, a woman who immigrated to the U.S. from the U.K. and a trio of children who should be doused in holy water to send them back to whatever hell spawned them. Then there’s the friend I met down here, a 6'8" tall cryptozoologist investigating reports of thunderbirds.
Any one of these encounters would provide material for a story. Perhaps that trucker is much older than he appears? Maybe that pleasant British woman is running from someone or something, and has found a hiding spot in the deep South? Maybe those hellish children really are imps, let out of the Inferno on a day pass for being suitably bad? I wouldn’t have to embellish much with my friend, Tuberski. He’s already larger than life!
Like I said, travel is conducive to writing.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Review of Total Recall

It's hard to go into the remake of a movie without expectations or comparisons to the previous version.  Thankfully, gentle readers, the producers of Total Recall have avoided this conflict, because the story is almost exactly the same as in the first movie.
I know! I can hear the gasps of shock from all of you right now!
The biggest differences in Total Recall 2.0 are the setting (it takes place on a future Earth devastated by chemical warfare) and the inclusion of some Big Sci-Fi Concepts.  For example, a building-sized super-elevator that travels from Europe to Australia through the Earth's core, robot soldiers, memory implants and flying cars.  These are all things intended to appeal to our inner adolescent.
Unfortunately, aside from set dressing and some minor changes to the plot, there's nothing fresh or new about this version of Total Recall.
Also, if I may get picky for a moment, this movie is the perfect example of a Hollywood future where everyone is terribly good-looking, but dumber than a box of rocks.
Overpopulation is a problem in this future Earth, but we don't once see any evidence of compulsory birth control.  No public health notices or public service announcements. Nothing at all.
And, even if such things were anathema to the population, why aren't these people expanding their living space by going underground? Or colonizing the moon or Mars? Why aren't they sending legions of synthetic workers to mine the asteroids for resources? Why aren't they trying to reclaim the toxic wasteland?
Now that I think about it, Total Recall 2.0 is a bit like the awful Superman remake foisted on the public a few years ago.  The one with Kevin Spacey playing Lex Luthor and Brandon Routh lumbering through the Superman role.  Total Recall 2.0 is all about real estate!
Oh. Wait. That makes about as much sense in this movie as it did in Superman.
Now, as for the performances, they are serviceable albeit dull.  There's nothing spectacular about any of them, you get no sense that anyone is really stretching themselves and it's fairly obvious that Bill Nighy is only there for a paycheck. 
Overall, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give Total Recall a solid three.  Don't waist your money seeing this movie in the theater, just wait for it to come out on video or Pay-Per-View.  Better yet, go rent the original version or read the Phillip K. Dick short story the films were based on, "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale."

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Glimpse of Things To Come

Hello, gentle readers.  Happy Monday!  Today, I'm going to share with you a brief excerpt from a story I'm writing.
I'm not the type of writer who can stick with just one story. That's probably why I don't produce stories as quickly as some other authors.  Instead, I usually have multiple stories going.
My writing impulse returned last week and, quite by accident, I started writing something different and new. I just picked up the pen and, boom! Suddenly, I had eight pages of story.
Anyway, here's a glimpse at what I've been working on.  Comments and impressions are more than welcome.
* * * * *

The girl, Scarlet, didn't wake up until that afternoon. Charlie checked on her once or twice then left her alone.
He was sitting on his plush couch, reading a dog-eared copy of Aesop's Tales, when the girl woke. First, Charlie heard the bed creek as its occupant shifted position. A moment later, he heard the soft sound of stockinged feet slapping the floor. Then, as he watched, the girl pushed through the beaded curtain separating the bedroom from the common room. She carried her shoes in one hand. Charlie thought she looked ghastly.
Laying down his book, Charlie said, "Hello."
The girl turned to stare at him. She had dark green eyes. They narrowed in suspicion.
"Who are you?"
"Charlie. How do you feel?"
"Awful," said the girl. She leaned against the wall and looked around the room. "Where am I?"
"That's going to take some explaining," said Charlie. "Would you like some tea?"
"No. I'd like to know where the fuckaaagghh!"
Charlie watched, impassively, as a large gray worm crawled out of the girl's mouth. Retching, she batted the thing away, an expression of deep disgust on her face.
Charlie stood, walked over to where the worm had fallen and scooped it up. He crossed to the small tin stove, opened it and tossed the slimy thing into the fire.
"The first rule you need to learn," said Charlie, turning back to the girl, "is no swearing."
"What was that?" demanded the girl. She was still wiping her mouth. "How'd it get in my fuckackackack!"
She bent over, eyes almost crossing, as another worm emerged from between her lips. With a sigh, Charlie walked over and plucked it off the shuddering girl's face. He held it up before her green eyes.
"What did I just say? Don't swear unless you like coughing up swear worms."

* * * * *

I still haven't decided on a name for this story yet, which is a bit odd for me, but I have a couple of likely prospects.