The Three Hundred and Sixty-third Post: The One Where I Ramble on a Little About My First Comic Book Crush (oh, yeah…and talk about ‘The New Mutants’, too)!

So…I finally got a chance to see The New Mutants and I think the long time it took to get it re-shot and re-edited did it some good. Speaking as a Marvel fan in general and specifically a fan of the comic, it was good to see the source material adhered to (for the most part) closely. There were things skipped over, but I think that it was done so with the idea that the sequel would answer them. Sadly, this would not be the case. This movie signals the final 20th Century Fox / Marvel collaboration. Upside: mutants join the MCU (‘mutant’ was owned by Fox for the longest time. That’s why you never heard Agent Coulson refer to mutants, but to ‘enhanced individuals’), downside: we’ll more than likely never run into Mr. Sinister, the Exxex Corporation or the current cast of New Mutants being carried over.

That’s a shame because the actors and actresses they cast nailed the roles. Maisie Williams was excellent at Rahne / Wolfsbane. She captured the skittishness of a character caught between her religion, her self and her mutancy. Anya Taylor-Joy gave us the understandably aloof Illyana and the utterly frightening Magick. Charlie Heaton’s performance of Sam Guthrie didn’t drop into the realm of stereotype Kentucky redneck, but gave the future leader an ‘aw-shucks’ quality about him.

This is not a superhero film – this is a teen horror film in superhero’s clothing. Finally, someone understands the formula (DCU…I’m looking at you) and has applied it. The director did say that he had to tone down quite a bit…and I would have loved to see the film he imagined. From what I did see, it would have been more straight up horror – a genre that I have yet to really see in the superhero trappings (yes – I know we’re going to get something like that with the second Dr. Strange film, but there were other really good chances for that).

Now, having said all of this…I would wait until it hits digital. If you’re a fan of the comic – see it in the cinema. If you’re not, or you’re a casual Marvel fan, then definitely wait. Since this is the last Fox mutant movie, there’s no need to get hooked on the current cast (especially if you’re like me).

As far as the writing goes…still trying to edit down the current project. I am dedicated to getting it out there before the first week of December and getting out a couple of other projects done before then as well. It is a drag, but it needs to be done as I want Valentina’s Feast to be the best it can be.

Now, those of you who want to hear what I sound like (don’t know why) or even know what my face looks like (see above comment), I am going to be a part of a male author panel soon. When I get more information, I will pass it along. I will also be hawking my works as well, so have a card or cash ready.

Hope everyone has a good day!

The Three Hundred and Sixty-Second Post: The One Where I Quickly Talk About Something Near to My Heart…

Today (9/10) is World Suicide Awareness Day.

If you know someone is having a problem – reach out to them. Sometimes people are too shy, stubborn to say anything. It takes nothing to ask “What’s wrong?” or even “How can I help?” to someone. It might even mean the world to them that someone else is willing to ask them if they’re all right.

It does for me. Having depression and a host of other things, I’m sometimes not willing or feel able or comfortable to say something if I’m having an episode. Sometimes, it really does take someone checking in with me (my wife does this, and God bless her for it) to remind me that I’m not having to bear this alone. I don’t, nor should anyone else.

To quote Tom Araya of all people: “If you see someone goin’ down. Help ‘em out. That’s what you’re here to do – help each other out.

Thanks for coming in. I’ll have some better stuff for you next week.

Take care.

The Three Hundred and Sixty-First: The One Where I Explain How Slavery is Freedom!

I am now about three thousand words into the Hallmark romance which I have started, and I can see the appeal to writing it at least. With these sorts of romance novels, everything is already mapped out as far as expectations go. I don’t have to think about the structure or a lot of plot reversals or anything like that. I can just sit down and think of characters, but even then, there are expectations. One would think that there are so many limitations you can do little.

I say the opposite – because all of the heavy lifting is done for you, you’re free to do anything thing else. You can concentrate on really fleshing out the characters. You can work on your descriptions, work on dialogue – work on things that you’re not so solid on. All the major stuff has been taken care of for you.

So far – the name of the novel is Romance with Advantage. The story is about a man who runs a game store, but his ex is coming back to town to develop the area for houses, stores in a sort of open air arcology. They had a split-up about five years earlier which was acrimonious, and both have managed to finally piece their lives back together.

I’m trying to use things that I know about. The main character knows games – something that I know quite a bit about. He’s been through the wringer about this relationship…check…and there will be a happy ending. Yes, I’ve had one of those, too. This is going to be a little more difficult because I am trying to keep it a little light as the genre demands.

I’m enthused about this particular novel. It’s something that while I am writing for profit, I am going to have fun writing it. I get a chance to use my humor with some of the characters, I get to mine my own personal history for material, and I get to work out of my comfort zone. I’m still in love with this process, and I’m going to work to get the freedom to pursue this to the end.

Also – I have the cover design in mind, and all I need to do is find a place that can make custom made dice. This is going to be an amazingly simple cover and I get to use some of my photography equipment. I am so stoked about this! This has been what I’ve been missing for the past week. This sort of enthusiasm! The heady rush of creativity. The voices of the character are coming to me… and I love my sassy gay friend character Scott. It might be cliched but looking at the plot and what I’m aiming for, I think it’s going to be fine.

I am still committed to The Resurrectionist’s Blues, though. I’m going to break this up into writing one in the day and the other at night. It’s going to slow down things a little, but as long as I have three books done by the beginning of December, I’m fine.

Wish me joyful luck, everyone!

The Three Hundred and Sixtieth Post: The One Where I Talk About One of my Most Hated Sayings!

There are certain words that make me grind my teeth (co-conspirator — there is no such thing. Either you’re in on it, or you’re looking over your shoulder. There is no in-between). There are certain phrases I have heard over and over again in an attempt to bolster my confidence, alleviate some personal misery or just to turn my mood around. While these are generally well-meaning people, I still want to shove them through a colander at times.

One of these inane phrases is: you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone, bro…

Let me tell you why I hate this phrase. It’s really simple.

I have been out of my comfort zone since ’93. Trust me, I would love to run screaming back into it if I could, but modern physics states I can’t right now. I’ve been way, way out of my comfort zone from 2006 to 2016. Luckily for me, things turned around a little bit, so I’m in a tolerable zone.

The reason why I am bringing this up is because this week (August 24th-28th) is a very bad week for me emotionally. I’m not going to go into particulars right now – those of you that know me will know the reasoning. Those of you who are casual readers of the blog might be able to suss out a reason if you go back far enough.

Well, I asked a writer friend of mine for some help to keep my mind occupied for this week. We are both good friends, but very disparate writers. I tend to be a little darker and more cynical when it comes to my genre fiction: splatterpunk, grimdark fantasy or sci-fi. Even my comedy tends to be of a snarky nature. I’m more of a world weary Bugs Bunny sort of person.

However, my friend commiserated with me, and then gave me an assignment that has not only put me out of my comfort zone as far as writing goes…but is going to challenge me:

Okay, a writing assignment… I would like to see how R. K. Clark does Hallmark. Small town. Guys in flannel shirts. Rival florists or bakers or wedding planners must work together for some reason. Or big city guy comes to town to take over the town’s biggest business. It doesn’t have to be a complete story—some scenes will be fine. But put your spin on it!

Well.

I’m not really a romance sort of person to be honest. The closest I’ve gotten to writing one thus far has been Valentina’s Feast…and that’s romantic for a ridiculously small part of the population. A part of the population that I would like to keep a safe distance from.

But even as I sat there, thinking about her assignment…that story popped into my head. I saw the opening scene, where our protagonist is looking at a sign for a developing condo/shopping center and sees an old flame’s name. He realizes that her development is going to take him and everyone else in this kitschy bohemian block out of business, if not get mowed over.

I’ve also been having issues with outlining Resurrectionist’s Blues. Maybe doing something completely different is what I need to get out of this funk I’ve had as of late.

Can’t hurt right? As long as I have three books in the hopper by early December, I’m chugging along.

Maybe this will be the one time I’ll be happy out of my comfort zone.

The Three Hundred and Fifty-ninth Post: The One Where I Talk About Something That I’m Interested In…

When I was in high school, I became fascinated with fountain pens. I bought them from office supply stores whenever I had the chance. They were messy, the ink didn’t dry fast enough for me (being left-handed) but I loved the scratching sound they made on the paper. I liked to look of the nib. The only things I didn’t like about them was: I could only find blue ink (I prefer black, and even then – the black they had never looked dark enough for me), and they only had the medium sized nib. I tend to write small, so a medium nib won’t make the letters legible. Soon after, I discovered Pilot G2 pens and the extra-fine point (.038) and I was off chasing the thin-lined dragon as it were.

Recently, I saw a friend of mine in my writing group using a fountain pen. I asked him where he got it, and he gave me the name of Goulet Pens (hmu guys for a sponsorship deal). Just out of curiosity, I went to the site later one and looked around. I bought two pens and a note pad for about $90. When I got everything, I admit I was skeptical. A fountain pen is a fountain pen, right? It’s not going to write as smooth as my Pilot.

I was joyously wrong! As soon as I dragged my new favorite pen across the paper:

pen

I want this for Christmas, and my Birthday, and Valentine’s Day…and Arbor Day.

All those old feeling of love of longhand writing came back. I’m writing a journal because I feel the need to grab one of the fourteen pens I own (I do not have a problem) and write with it. I tried the Diplomat Stealth blue pen and I wrote a quick note. It was wonderful! I’d even consider writing this blog in long hand and taking pictures of it to put on the site. I might even do that on a lark.

I went to the Internet to see if there were other retailers for inks. I found blogs, websites and message boards about fountain pens. Other pen and paper nerds like me carved spaces in the Web. I felt like I’ve found a new branch of my tribe. Through these wonderful people, I’e found other pens to sate my appetite, inks to use and papers suitable for writing. Not only have I come home, but I can now write nice looking letters to you.

Why am I writing about this? What does this have to do with writing? Tangentially, when I outline for novels I do it in longhand. Doing it with the fountain pen makes it easier, and I can do it much longer. There is another reason for this.

I spoke of passion. Passion can be taken and twisted and perverted. Unrestrained passion is maddening – I speak from experience on this – but passion aimed and properly bridled is a wonder to behold. I rediscovered my passion for long handwriting, and with it I am helping myself and my career.

Go out. Find your passion. Never let it go, never let others hijack it. Change the world with it.

Now, more than ever, we need that.

The Three Hundred and Fifty-eighth Post: The One Where I Talk About A Soviet Era Film…

I just finished watching Come and See. This movie was made in the mid ‘80s, is a very good example of Soviet cinema and should be touted as a must-see by any serious movie buff, or even part-time movie buffs like myself.

Holy Cow.

This movie is absolute terror. As gritty and realistic as Saving Private Ryan but with almost no gore. This is a film that portrays what really happens in war. There is no glory. There are no heroes. There is only the cold math of survival.

We watch the main character Flyora get stripped of everything in the course of the film. It’s hard to believe that the smiling, happy boy in the beginning of the film is the same one at the end of the film swallowed up by the group of partisans, more than likely going off to his death.

The atmosphere is as bleak and oppressive as any location in Providence. Soldiers creeping out of the fog are like hungry wraiths. The cinematography does a very good job of expressing the utter loss of hope. We see the character’s faces right in front of the camera when we first interact with them, we see their freshness and in Flyora’s case, simplicity and ignorance of the reality of the world around him. it is through these shots — easy elemental framed pictures — we see the real face of war. The fear. The pain and worst of all, the banality. The moments of hate are almost a relief, but the protagonist – and by extension, the audience – rarely gets that luxury.

Death comes here often, and there is no ceremony to it. No dying words. One minute he’s talking, the next minute he’s dead. Nothing is spared. Even the animals are killed senselessly. We are reduced to powerless observers. The moment of catharsis is a release of sanity, rather than a release of emotion. Even at the very end of the film, we know that the cycle is going to continue. An almost perpetual meat grinder indifferent to everything. The final scene, watching the partisans through the trees amid funeral music, only reinforces the dread. We are left with the sight of more ghosts trying to find their final rest.

The performances are — especially of Aleksey Kravchenko — are powerful. We watch him age at almost inhuman speed. Glasha undergoes a similar transformation. Like Flyora, she comes into the movie with innocence that is tragically crushed. The small blessing is that we never see it happen, but the aftermath is enough. The fear on Aleksey’s face is real. Every shot fired was a live round of ammunition. The actor described round coming so close to him, he could hear them. The next time some Hollywood fluff says he’s sacrificed for his art, ask him if anyone’s shot at him with live fire. If he says no, then light a cigarette, take a long drag and put it out on his nose and tell him to do some real work.

If you ever get the chance to see this work – go and see it. This is a film that deserves to be sitting next to Saving Private Ryan, Downfall and Letters from Iwo Jima. It is a vital piece of work that the whole world must see.

 

 

The Three Hundred and Fifty-seventh Post: The One Where I Have Good News For A Change…

I have found an editor for Valentina’s Feast! What’s even better? She’s local…well…if by local you mean thirty minutes away, then she’s very local! I’m really happy about this. If things work out well between us, then I will certainly give her much more work than she can handle. If it doesn’t, then I’m out about $300 and a month of time. While I have three people reading it for me, and one of them is a professional editor doing for me as a friendly favor–I really want someone who does it for a living to look it over. I want this book to be the best it can be. I want it to be an enchanting and very, very disturbing book.

The other piece of good news I have is that I completed the other interview I volunteered for. This one was interesting in that what the moderator of the podcast does is takes two writers, gets their books from them and swaps them with each other and then asks questions to the writers about the other’s work. I read her fantasy novel, and she read The Dreaded Day Job. It’s nice when someone who has a following says “I loved this book”. It’s a good feeling–the validation of all that hard work.

Don’t get me wrong. The money’s nice, too.

I am working on the sequel to The Dreaded Day Job called The Agonizing Alibi Day. Without giving away too much, this one deals more with what goes on behind the scenes with the company. After this one, it’s going to be on to The Resurrectionist’s  Blues: One and Done. I have to admit, as I am doing the pre-writing for this one, I am having fun building the religion here. I am learning a lot about early Christianity. Did you know at one point, the Christian Doctrine accepted reincarnation? Yeah! That is wild! You’d usually think that reincarnation wouldn’t have made it to the Middle East, but there it was. I’m trying to do a little more digging to get some more information. I have a feeling by the time this is over, I’ll have a Ph.D in Religious Studies.

Other than all that, there is not a lot really going on. This is going to be a bit of a hectic week for me. Had a counseling session, so I had to work over to get my leaving early balanced out. Got an appointment with my hopefully-soon-to-be editor Thursday, so I’ve got to work over tomorrow, which is laundry day. I’m not going to be very productive this week, but I’m hoping to make it all up Sunday with a nice big writing session. I might even take tomorrow to not do any serious writing, rather continue planning The Resurrectionist’s  Blues: One and Done since I want that one done and ready to go in October.

Well, it look like this entry will get out there on time, for a change. I promised a movie review, and I will get it done for next week. I am still committed to watching Come and See, and I will sit down this Friday and watch it. I’m looking forward to it because the Soviets were pioneers in cinema, and I do have a bit of a weakness for foreign film.

That’s all for now. Have a good day and I look forward to seeing you later.

The Three Hundred and Fifty-sixth Post: The One Where I Talk Books and Madness!

Hello, everyone. I apologize for missing an entry (or two…or ten…let’s be honest), but I have an explanation and some good news.

First, the good news.

Valentina’s Feast is finished! Well, the first draft is at least. I’ve sent it off to a couple of editors and I’m still hoping for an October release. I do have other people reading it as well, so I’m hoping with all the input I’m getting this will be the best book I’ve written thus far.

On the upside, I am a wee bit ahead of schedule as far as starting the next book The Agonizing Alibi Day. I was supposed to start it this Saturday, but I’ve actually started it Monday so I’m hoping to continue to ride the wave of productivity through my least favorite month, and start putting out books to be read by mid-September at the earliest. If everything really, really works out, I can have a romance novel (Lard of Love) done in time for February.

I’m really trying to stay committed to cranking out a novel a month to end this year, and hopefully finish a couple of larger projects (The Marvelous and Malefic Doomsday Medicine Show and A Game of Chinese Whispers) over the course of next year. As long as I can maintain a certain level of production and a certain quality of finished product, I feel confident that this is within reach.

The reason why I feel so confident is…mental health.

No, wait – come back!

As long-time readers of the blog will know, I have been up front with my struggles with mental illness. One of the purposes of this is a place to discuss and communicate what’s been happening with me. Keeping it all bottled up has been more harmful than helpful (I only say this because this is how I was raised. Our family motto could have been: Et ego dabo vobis quia clamare de!). Recently, I have been trying a anti-obsessive drug called Luvox. It’s in the same class of SSRI like the anti-depression drug I was on called Lexapro. All of this will be slightly important in a minute.

For the past month, Luvox has made me feel like a zombie. Not the cool, sprinting zombie fiends but the lumbering, moaning mounds of undead flesh. I spent most of my lunches asleep rather than writing. When I got home, bypassing the gym because I was too tired, I would fix dinner and get ready for tomorrow. I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. I am frankly surprised I got the book finished when I did. Even when I got eight hours of sleep, I still felt like I have gotten an hour’s sleep over the course of three days.

Sunday was my last day of taking the Luvox. Monday was my first day of feeling awake. Really awake. Tuesday, I took my first dose of Lexapro. I still feel very awake and aware.

I will also be completely honest and upfront – this has not been without consequences. Remember when I said Luvox was an anti-obsessive drug? Well…the thoughts are back and apparently making up for lost time. Right now, I am just bearing down and holding things off until I speak to my counselor and doctor. I know they’re going to upbraid me for just stopping one drug and picking up the other. I’ve earned it, but what I did was born from desperation. When I was switching from Lexapro to Luvox, I took both for about a week, rather than stopping one cold, then picking up the other the following day. If you feel the need to change medications: Talk to your doctor first!

I am going to be more mindful of what’s going on emotionally, which means delightful blog fodder for everyone else. I can hope that what I am going through will help someone else.

Everyone – hug your loved ones and I’ll try to review a movie and keep the novel updates rolling along.

The Three Hundred and Fifty-fifth Post: The One Where I Review the Movie “Raw”…

I recently watched the French horror movie Raw.

Jesus, the French scare me.

Their horror is visceral. Their horror is philosophical. They work on so many levels. Martyrs challenges your views on faith and the afterlife. Raw makes me think about how college rips away the sheltering embrace of family and tosses you into the hard world.

Our main character has lived in a very safe family environment, with an older sister who has gone on to veterinary school, where she follows. A die-hard vegetarian, she thinks that people are going to give her a pass on one of the hazings: eating a rabbit’s raw kidney.

What happens is not only a fall from grace, but a plummet to hell. This is a movie that chronicles the spoiling of an innocent woman at the hands of friends and family (!). Raw is an aptly named movie. It is a raw, unflinching tear-down with a reveal at the end that calls to mind the adage ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

French horror isn’t like American horror, nor is it like Japanese horror. French horror is a bloody philosophy class. If you can focus and not flinch, you’ll learn something about yourself. Their blood is up front and frank. There are no spirits to be placated as in Japanese horror. There is no mad killer with a mask as in American horror. The horror is not in the unknown, or the unfathomable. The horror is found in the unfeeling. The world doesn’t care, but it’s not the alien uncaring of cosmic horror. The world smokes a cigarette and tells you that he’s a fag, so they naturally paired him with a female roommate because what’s the difference?

Until, for some odd reason, he takes the virginity of his roommate. That was the one scene that kinda took me out of the movie, but it set up the climax (yes, I know what I said) in the movie’s final act. We see her fall, and know that we’ve experienced the same thing, but perhaps in a much smaller scale. Free from the structure of home, how many of us have bitten the apple, or in the case of our main character the forbidden kidney?

This is one of the few horror movies that merits more than one view. Watch it once for the gore, but come back to it for the philosophy. Definitely worth your while.