Month: March 2014

Monster Monday: The Blob

I remember being a kid and watching old school horror movies with my father. We’re talking about films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Them! (1954), and Forbidden Planet (1956) to name a few. While movies from that golden era are often corny and over acted, they are the cornerstone for modern horror. I still enjoy Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In my opinion, the original film is still one of the best versions out there.

Which brings me to The Blob (1956). A monster that has no shape and if it touches you, you’re a goner. As a kid I would marvel at how something so seemingly harmless could be used in such a horrific way. Don’t let it touch you! Brilliant. I think the Blob is an often overlooked, and awesome monster. Throw some teenagers into the mix and we’ve got the makings of something special.

Some of you may remember the slogan, “Run, don’t walk from the Blob!”

In this version, the Blob grows as it envelops unsuspecting victims. Think of how brilliant it was to have something that looked as harmless as jelly turn out to be a mindless killer. Why would anyone be afraid of jelly? And then they touch it…and it melts their flesh! Many good monsters start out so innocent looking. That’s part of the appeal. Viewers will sit there and warn the idiots on screen to be careful, but they never listen. That’s the beauty of the Blob. At first glance it appears so small. Eventually it grows to gargantuan proportions. How do you stop something that can absorb bullets, or a tank?

There was a remake. Released in 1988, and starring Kevin Dillon, it had some fun moments but was ultimately a flop. Fun Fact: the 1988 re-make was co-written by Frank Darabont, the man who brought The Walking Dead to television.

In literature, Blob-like creatures have been used by several authors. Dean Koontz’s Phantoms immediately pops into my mind. His Blob is a bit different because it’s sentient and absorbs memories from its victims. A whole town disappears seemingly overnight. I won’t spoil the book, but will suggest you give it a read. I rated it four out of five stars.

Would a monster like the Blob work in today’s society. I think it would. Most of us would underestimate it, or hold on to the belief that we can shoot it or fight it using conventional means. Especially if it landed in a major city. Imagine a group of cocky teens finding it and daring someone to touch it. Yeah, the Blob would balloon to the size of a house in no time.

Monsters like the Blob teach us that not every monster needs to be complex. Sometimes simpler is better. The terror doesn’t have to come from the monster itself, but, rather, in trying to survive. Where would you be able to hide from something that can squeeze through any crack? And don’t forget…run, don’t walk! Like I needed to remind anyone. 😉

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Fantasy Friday: Suikoden

Along with horror, I love me some fantasy. We’re talking books, video games, and movies. Today I’d like to touch upon one of my all-time favorite fantasy video gaming series…Suikoden.

What’s Suikoden? It’s a Japanese RPG where your goal is to recruit the 108 Stars of Destiny. As the story progresses and you recruit more people, your base evolves to accommodate the bigger head count. These games center around one character and feature themes of politics, corruption, greed, oppression, and a land ready for change. It’s your job to bring about that change by finding the 108 Stars of Destiny and getting them to side with your cause. Sounds pretty simple, right? The thing is some of the Stars are hidden or are only recruitable after certain conditions are met.

The Suikoden series of games is loosely based on the classic Chinese novel, Shui Hu Zhan, by Shi Naian. I must admit to never reading the book. Maybe I should look it up.

There have been multiple games in the Suikoden universe. Many RPG lovers consider Suikoden 2 to be one of the best RPGs of all-time. I still own every Suikoden I could get my hands on, including the original for the PS1. Yep, still have my memory card and everything.

What I love about these games is the sweeping change your character brings about on a global scale. The developers add so much depth with mini-games and even whole army battles, which depend on how many Stars you’ve recruited. The more stars you recruit, the bigger your army.

The combat is turn based but it’s still fun. The bosses in these games are pretty fierce too.

Did I mention they even have a vampire character named, Neclord? There’s some pretty fun sequences between him and Viktor.

I’ve played through each game several times and I still love them all. It’s a shame they stopped making them for consoles. I’m a bit of a collection freak, so trying to recruit all 108 Stars of Destiny is always a fun challenge. There are so many hidden storylines, characters, and easter eggs that replaying these games never gets old. And, yes, I do consider Suikoden 2 one of my all-time favorite video games. Period. Ever.

If you love games like the Final Fantasy series, or RPGs in general, and haven’t tried Suikoden, I’d highly recommend you do. These are some of the most epic, well written RPGs of all time. You’re missing out.

A while back they even had Suikoden 3 Mangas. I managed to snag one which is sitting on my niece’s bookshelf. She loves Manga. Because of the Manga, she’ll be trying Suikoden this weekend! It’s great sharing the things I love with the people I love.

I still own these games set in the Suikoden universe:

  • Suikoden (PS1)
  • Suikoden 2 (PS1)
  • Suikoden 3 (PS2)
  • Suikoden 4 (PS2)
  • Suikoden 5 (PS2)
  • Suikoden Tactics (PS2)

Here’s the opening movie from the first Suikoden. Thanks goes to Kanneh for posting it.

If you’re interested in learning more about the world of Suikoden, some wonderful fans have posted various videos on YouTube. Check out DarkWolfDeltas Let’s Play Suikoden 5 series, it’s pretty awesome.

There’s even a fan run website, titled Suikosource, for all things Suikoden. They have walkthroughs, fan art, and everything Suikoden related you could ever want. Check it out here: http://www.suikosource.com/

If you’re interested in the Mangas, I believe they’re out of print. You may be able to get them used. Check around. This is the one I managed to snag brand new a few years ago.

Suikoden III, Volume 2

I hope you’ll join me for next week’s Fantasy Friday where I’ll be featuring the Dragonships of Vindras series of books, written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. See you next time!

What’s Up Wednesday

How’s your writing coming along? Making any progress on your WIP? What’s up, it’s Wednesday! Time to check in and sound off.

I passed the halfway mark for THE BLACK GATE. As of this morning I’m sitting at 42,000 words. The toughest part is reminding myself to stick with quality over quantity. I’d much rather take a little longer and get more things right the first time around, than have to go back and re-write. I’m going for efficiency rather than speed. All in all, things are progressing at a steady pace. I have gone back and modified my outline to include more chapters and have been keeping more thorough notes for each chapter before touching a keyboard. The results have been a steady flow of words with purpose. It feels good knowing pretty much where I’m going before I start each chapter.

In other news, there really isn’t any other news at the moment. Things happen as they will in the publishing world. I like to call them “behind the scenes things” because nothing is official and I really can’t talk about them yet. Still waiting to hear back on a couple of short stories, SNAFU and THE DARK CARNIVAL are each moving along respectively, more details as they become available. That’s it.

Sound off in the comments if you’d like to share your progress. Happy writing!

Monster Monday: 30 Days of Night

I’ve been thinking of different horror themed things to do for the blog and came up with…Monster Monday. I’m talking about any monsters from any medium. Since my first book contains vampires, I thought it appropriate to feature a film where the vampires are more monster than anything else. Let’s get this party started, shall we?

This film is dark, in tone and visually. These vampires are the monsters you were always warned about as a kid. They live to feed and are ruthless in their pursuit of fresh blood.

The sleepy town of Barrow, Alaska is headed for thirty straight days without the sun. What better place for vampires to descend and slaughter the residents? Sunlight fries these vampires so they have a human servant arrive a couple days before them to do things like cut off communications. Completely cut off from the rest of world, residents must try and survive the thirty days. Hopefully the vampires will leave before the sun.

The film is based on Steve Niles’ graphic novels…which I haven’t read yet. They’re at the top of my list along with the Strain graphic novels. I have read Tim Lebbon’s book based on this world, titled 30 Days of Night: Fear of the Dark. I rated it three and a half stars and would recommend fans of the movie give it a try.

There is plenty to like about this film. First and foremost are the performances. Whoever casted this film did an excellent job. Josh Hartnett brought an everyman feel to his character of Eben, the small town constable who is in over his head. It becomes immediately clear that Barrow is in serious danger and he can’t save everyone, though he would like to. Instead he does what he can, with what he has.

Danny Huston’s performance as the leader of the vampires is da bomb. He brings an arrogance and complete disregard for human life that was vital to not only his part, but the film. I can’t imagine how long it took him to learn the fictional vampire dialect either.

Ben Foster as the creepy vampire slave is one of my favorite performances in the film. He acts like he’s already a vampire, but in reality he’s nothing more than a puppet. The scene where he’s ordering food in the diner is one of my favorites.

There’s some blood and gore, but it’s never too over the top. The vampires are visceral and also highly intelligent killers. There’s plenty to like. They have no problem stalking prey from the shadows, or ripping someone right from their kitchen. There’s even a scene where they use a bloodied victim to try and lure out any more survivors. They may be hungry, but they’re still smart, which I like.

The scene with the little girl in the grocery store is made of pure awesome.

If you’re in the mood for predatory vampires who aren’t quite like other vampires, then watch 30 Days of Night. Great cinematography, acting, directing, casting, stunts, and special effects highlight this smart and dynamic horror film. 30 Days of Night has quickly become one of my favorite vampire films of all-time. This is survival horror at it’s finest. I highly recommend it.

What’s Wrong With The Walking Dead?

*****CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD*****

I’m a horror lover. I grew up with George A. Romero and his Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead. Return of the Living Dead was fun. Dead Alive was a trip. When I was younger I would play war with my G.I. Joe action figures and midway through the dead would rise and the survivors would have to band together to fight off the zombie horde. Zombies have been something I’ve loved for many years.

Let me admit that I never read the comics before watching the show. I did try to read the comics but found them to be…less than stellar. They just weren’t for me. I felt the writing was too obvious and shallow. When characters have to spell out every little thing they do, it’s never a good thing.

Imagine my excitement when I learned a new zombie show was coming to TV! And it was being developed by Frank Darabont, who directed the film, The Mist, which I enjoyed. Like many other horror fans, I couldn’t wait. When the show premiered, I drank it in. I loved the look, the feel, and I especially loved the zombies.

The first season was pretty good. Seeing The Walking Dead on the small screen felt like the beginning of something great.

And then they fired Frank Darabont. Imagine having a successful coach and midway through your best year management decides to can them. The team will probably be affected in some capacity. Check out this Screen Rant article for more details: http://screenrant.com/walking-dead-frank-darabont-amc-aco-127783/

Fast forward to season two. What a stagnant mess of a season. The show’s direction pulled a one eighty focusing mainly on character arcs and group dynamic. Gone was the zombie threat (except when they needed to move the plot along) replaced by typical television drama. That would be fine if the show wasn’t called The Walking Dead.

It’s disappointing because the special effects on this show are fantastic. The costume and wardrobe departments aren’t too shabby either. Whenever zombies are on the screen, they are frighteningly dazzling to behold. The problem is they’re utilized more like props rather than valid threats, or the predators they should be.

It seems like a new show runner is ushered in with each new season. There’s little continuity.

The first half of season three was pretty good, but trailed off into mediocrity after it was announced Glen Mazzara would be let go due to a difference of opinion with executives. It was a shame because I thought he struck a good balance of drama, action, and horror, which this show, and season, so badly needed. This Hollywood Reporter article can explain futher: http://movies.yahoo.com/news/walking-dead-cast-bids-glen-mazzara-farewell-050000308.html;_ylt=A0LEV1DBBCdTrBcAuGFXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEzMGhvY3FxBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMgRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkA1ZJUDM1MV8x

Season four gave us yet another new show runner, Scott Gimple, and a few more episodes of the Governor, even though it was clear that whole storyline should have wrapped up by the end of season three. Why the folks running the show felt the need to drag things out is beyond me. Creatively the show suffers. Yet, for some reason, the show gains viewership. The Walking Dead has become the hip show everyone is watching.

Well, almost everyone. When asked to direct an episode, legendary director, George A. Romero, declined. His reason was that he didn’t feel The Walking Dead was a true zombie show. Read more in this Huffington Post article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/01/george-romero-walking-dead-soap-opera_n_4183182.html

After watching last night’s episode (actually, long before that) it’s apparent the writers and producers don’t know what they want. Remember the beginning of season four when that new disease (the one where normal folks turned into zombies after they coughed and their eyes bled) was going to change things? Yeah, that lasted two episodes and was completely forgotten. Remember when the Governor was good, no bad, no really bad, and then took over a group of complete strangers just because he could…and drove a tank to blow up the prison? Why didn’t he do that last season when he had people who would have actually followed him? The constant flip-flopping of character traits and storylines is annoying to say the least.

It’s clear to me that The Walking Dead suffers from a lack of identity. One week it’s a drama, the next it’s horror, and other weeks it’s something else entirely. The characters seem to suffer from the same lack of identity. One week this character acts one way only to act the opposite way shortly after. As a viewer I’m frustrated. As a horror lover I’m torn. I want to like this show. I want to support this show because it’s supposed to be horror. Yet every time I watch, horror seems to be the last thing I see. A couple of gratuitous zombie kills each episode doesn’t make for intelligent horror.

Where does the show go from here? How much longer will fans flock to their televisions despite The Walking Dead’s garish flaws? I don’t think there’s a clear cut answer. All we can do is wait and see.

The new direction of the show seems to have the characters headed toward yet another sanctuary. Apparently they suddenly notice signs for a city that they miraculously never noticed before. Sure, they’ve gone on supply runs all around the prison and for some reason never noticed any signs for a secure city where if you arrive you survive. Nah, they only notice them when the prison is blown to bits and they’re on the run.

You would figure since the safety of the prison is gone a few more characters would have perished. Nope. Even though they may be surrounded by zombies these characters always manage to defy the odds. Even Glenn, when barely conscious after his bout with the mystery sickness and could barely walk, somehow managed to put on riot gear and push his way through hundreds of zombies in the blazing Georgia heat. I could go on and on with some of the ridiculous things these characters do on a weekly basis, which is a shame.

I think many horror fans have grown tired of The Walking Dead’s antics. I stopped watching during the second season only to return after they left the farm. Too bad the show seems to have taken another turn for the worse. Season four has been a huge disappointment for me as a horror lover. I’ve been fooled into coming back once. I won’t be fooled into coming back a second time.

The show has become too safe, the zombies too tame. A zombie show without believable zombies is just a drama. And that’s exactly what The Walking Dead has become, just another drama.

As for me, I’m waiting for FX’s The Strain to hit the small screen this summer. Hopefully predatory vampires will be able to do what AMC’s The Walking Dead has failed to do thus far: Make viewers afraid.

The Black Gate Update

I wanted to put this in writing and make it visible so I’ll have more incentive to reach this new goal. What goal? I’m going to try and finish the first draft of THE BLACK GATE by the end of April. If all goes well I’ll have this bad boy revised and out to readers by summertime. Hopefully it’ll be completely revised, and finished, by the end of August. Sounds simple, right?

It was time for me to look at the calendar and get serious. As of this moment, I’m sitting at 30,000 words and pressing forward. That leaves me around six weeks to finish this first draft. I can do it.

Just like Tallahassee, from Zombieland, said, “Time to nut up, or shut up.” Gotta get back to writing.

What about you? What are some of your immediate writing goals?

The Much Needed Thank You Post

Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”–Princess Diana

I saved this thank you post as a stand alone post because I didn’t want the previous post to be ten miles long. AND I wanted to give each of these people the shout out they deserve.

As I’m sure any writer can tell you, no success is a solitary endeavor. We each have supporters, cheerleaders, critique partners, and I’m sure there are more adjectives I’m not remembering right now. The point is no writer sits down and publishes anything on their own. I am no exception.

There are plenty of people I need to thank. Some have been with me since the beginning. Some have been along for most of the ride thus far. Others have been around recently, while some have faded away. Each has helped me in some way.

In no particular order, I’d like to thank some folks. I hope you don’t mind.

  • My sister. She’s been with me longer than anyone else on this fantastic, crazy journey. She’s the first person who reads my materials and she’s never afraid to ask the strangest questions. Sometimes she’s brilliant. Sometimes…not so much. But I love and cherish her support.
  • Jennie Vongvith. My first critique partner! I approached Jennie as a complete stranger over the scary void that is the internet. I was so worried she would think I was a creepy weirdo that I almost didn’t ask her anything. I’m glad I did.
  • The ladies of the Hugs and Chocolate blog. They welcomed me with open arms and put up with my ramblings. We’ve been on some adventures, ladies! Hopefully we’re just getting started!
  • Jae Dansie. Jae convinced me to keep going with an earlier version of what is now known as BETWEEN SHADOWS AND DARKNESS. Thank you, Jae.
  • Daphne Shadows. The more I got to know Daphne, the more I realized we were cut from the same cloth. There are a few people who get to read my materials after my sister. She’s one of them. I see big things for Daphne in the future.
  • Tonia Marie Harris. Tonia would be included in the group of people who read my materials after my sister. In fact, I think of her as a sister. She’s someone I can talk to about almost anything. I wouldn’t be where I am without her support. Yeah, I thanked you twice, Tonia! 🙂
  • Heather L. Reid. Whenever I needed publishing industry advice, I asked two people. Heather was one of those people. I seemed to be following her fine example and have come to cherish her advice.
  • Courtney Koschel. The other person I would ask about publishing, or if I needed to vent about something publishing, would be with Courtney. I can’t wait to read her book. Her last email to me arrived with this subject line: Ahhh! How awesome is that?
  • Jani Grey. Another H & C alumni, Jani challenged me to think in different ways, which I sometimes needed. She’s wicked smart. Don’t let her tell you otherwise. I imagine every time I see a South African flag in my stats that Jani has stopped by, whether it’s true or not.
  • Jeff Long. Jeff wrote a little book, titled THE DESCENT, which inspired me to pick up a pen and write my own stories. Even though we’ve never met, I wouldn’t be a writer without Jeff’s advice that we’re all storytellers.
  • Jay Kristoff. Jay advised me to believe in myself no matter what. True, that was over twitter, but sage advice is sage advice. I’ve never forgotten those nine words, Jay. Thanks!
  • Cat Scully. Cat is a bubbly, horror loving, ball of awesome who was kind enough to read my first chapter and query letter. I can’t think of anyone who can brighten up a day quite like Cat.
  • Jolene Haley. Jolene is one of my newer friends, and also one of the best. I know if I need anything, I can ask and she’ll do her best to make whatever it is happen. I hope she knows I’d do the same for her. New Found Glory all the way home, right, Jolene? And let’s not forget our Barbaras. 😉
  • Kristen Jett. I don’t know any other ladies who love MMA like KJ. I also don’t think I know anyone as driven as KJ either. It’s always a good day when KJ is around. Her zombie short story inspired me to write one of my own which was published in The Siren’s Call e-magazine. KJ is a real life muse, ya’ll. Yes, the ya’ll was for you. Bacon, anyone? 😉
  • Mystic Cooking! Heidi and Kati have graciously helped me with queries and have supported me through Pitch Wars once upon a few years ago. They may be the YA queens. Someone should check for crowns. I’m still waiting for my dragon cuisine.
  • Deb E. Howell. How would I describe Deb? A kiwi with a heart of gold. We both share a love of music and the fantasy genre. If I’m ever in New Zealand, I’m probably going to look Deb up, but don’t tell her that. 😉
  • Sarah Hawkins. The bookish Sarah is back! Sarah is more talented than she gives herself credit for. She’s a YA aficionado who fell in love with a punk rocker. Did I also mention she’s a great person? No? Well she is. Ask her about CURSES, and then MUSTACHES. And don’t forget your pearls.

I realize I’m leaving some folks off the list. You know who you are. I can’t name everyone. I mean, I didn’t even thank my mom…or dog. You guys know how much I love my dog. Thank you to every  person who has helped me along the way, no matter how big or small the gesture. You are all appreciated.

And, lastly, thanks to YOU for reading and hanging around my little corner of the internet. Hopefully you’ll stick around to see what happens next. See you next time.

A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money.”–John Ruskin