Posts Tagged ‘films’

It’s been a rough day. Let’s talk the intricacies and difficulties of writing fiction!

I often like to talk like a know-it-all on this blog, but let’s face it, there’s still things I could be better at. Or that I think I could be better at. One of those things is themes. Most stories have them: Harry Potter has destiny vs. fate, prejudice, and our relationship with death; The Shawshank Redemption is about finding hope in a hopeless place, learning to survive and even find ways to thrive in harsh conditions, and, of course, redemption; and The Very Hungry Caterpillar is about how the inevitability of change crafted by thousands of years of evolution and the incessant need to feed to support the process.

Okay, that last one is a huge stretch, but you get the idea. Plenty of stories have deeper meanings and commentaries wrapped into them, like several candle wicks wrapped together to form a new and beautiful candle. Some of these stories are written with the theme in mind, while others arise during the writing of the story. And depending on the kind of story, it can seem odd if a story does or doesn’t have a theme (I wouldn’t expect one from any variation of The Three Little Pigs, but I would expect plenty of thematic elements in an Anne Rice novel).

But how well you carry the theme can vary sometimes. It’s like carrying a tune: sometimes you’re able to do it well, sometimes it varies depending on the tune, and some people, like me, can’t carry a tune that well at all (though that never stops me when there’s a karaoke party going on). With some of the stories I’ve been working on lately, I’ve been trying to figure out how well I carry the themes written into them. And after a lot of thought, I’ve come to the realization that authors are probably not the best people to judge their own work.

Which is probably why we have beta readers and editors, now that I think about it.

With Rose, there’s a big theme of toxic masculinity, especially in the latest draft, that becomes more and more apparent as the story goes on. That theme kind of arose on its own while I wrote and edited and re-edited the story, and I like to think I carry it very well in the book,* though at times I wonder if I’m being a little too obvious with it. Meanwhile, in this novella I’m working on now, there’s a pretty obvious theme about the perils of racism. I’m not too sure how I’m carrying it, if maybe the angle I’m going for or just the way I carry it is the problem.

Then again, some really good stories do go about exploring racism without being subtle at all. Heck, sometimes that’s the point. A Raisin in the Sun┬ámakes no attempt to hide what it’s about. And the novel The Help by Kathryn Stockett has been criticized about how it portrays and explores race relations (as well as who’s writing it), but it still gets its point across very well. Maybe I’m doing something right after all.

Despite my own uncertainties about how well I carry themes, I still write and try to carry them as best I can. What else am I supposed to do? I’m not going to give up writing anytime soon just because I’m unsure of how well an idea or a deeper meaning in one of my stories is presented. Hell, I should keep writing, because that’s how I’m going to get better at carrying them. And if I make a few mistakes along the way, I’ll just pick myself up and try again, either by editing the story or trying to write a new one. It beats beating myself up over it, right?

Besides, I may be my own worst judge. What I see as clumsy carrying, others might see as pretty damn good. And that’s reason enough for me to continue writing in the first place.

*Which I hope to have more news on soon. Thank you, as always, for your continued patience as my publisher Castrum Press and I make sure that Rose is up to snuff before publishing.

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My cousin has been in town for an internship, so I invited him to see this with me. We both had heard that it wasn’t good or it wasn’t going to do good, but I think we both went in with open minds. And after a billion previews, ranging from cute family films to all-out R-rated horror films (where’s the consistency these days?), the lights went down.

That was very good. I’m not kidding, I liked it a lot. That was better than expected.

The Predator takes place around thirty years after the events of the 1987 movie. A Predator ship crash lands on Earth after getting away from another Predator ship. A soldier nearby manages to get his hands on some Predator tech and, fearing being silenced by the military, sends it to a PO Box…only for it to end up in the hands of his autistic son. This, and the arrival of the other Predator ship, which contains a much more powerful breed of Predator than ever seen before, leads to a domino effect of events culminating in one insane battle.

So this film actually has a lot going for it. Rather than being a simple sci-fi stalker/slasher film like the original (and let’s face it, everyone’s comparing it to the original), The Predator has a much more developed story that delves both into its characters as well as a bit more into the Predators themselves (because outside of canon-questionable comic books, novels, and video games, what exactly do we have to go on?). And it’s very well-written. There was never a moment where I found my mind wandering, whether it be an intense action scene (and there are several of those), scenes where people are talking to explain things or scenes where the cast is being downright funny.

And there”s another thing: this film is funny as heck (and before you get turned off by that, Terminator II was funny at times, and it’s an awesome film). Whether the more eccentric characters, whom I could watch all day get into antics, are being themselves or other characters are poking fun at the nickname “Predator,” this film knows how to put in laughs, as well as where to put in laughs. Yeah, a lot of action films like this might put the humor in all the wrong places, but this film gets it right.

But my favorite part of this film is its representation of autism and an autistic character. Rory MacKenna, the son of the lead soldier played by Jacob Tremblay, is on the spectrum and it weaves itself into the plot in a very intrinsic, surprising and positive way. It reminds me of how the character of Billy in last year’s Power Rangers film (another discounted film that was actually really good) was portrayed, only this was a lot better. I could say more, but that would give too much away, so I’ll hold off. Instead I’ll say, as an individual on the spectrum, it was great to see.

Is there anything bad? Well, it isn’t the most extraordinary film I’ve ever seen. Those who go in expecting it to be as amazing as the original film or as awesome a sequel as Mad Max: Fury Road will be disappointed. However, those who go in expecting to see something like Jurassic World–something that’s not as good as the original but good in its own right and maybe worthy of a few sequels–won’t regret spending money on the tickets.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving The Predator a 4 out of 5. An enjoyable sci-fi action romp with fun characters and great representation of folks on the spectrum. I don’t know if this film will do well (movie audiences can be pretty unpredictable sometimes), but I’d encourage you to suit up and disappear into the story.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll try not to make my next post a review if I can help it. Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

Agh! I’m late! I have to get to my flight! I’m flying a dragon back to Ohio. And while dragons are rather flexible with what time they take off (they’re awesome that way), I’d rather not keep this one waiting. Anyway, welcome back to Day Nine of the Ten Day Book Challenge. I’m almost through with this challenge, so I’m making sure to keep putting up interesting books so neither you nor I get bored with it.

Thanks again to my cousin Matthew for nominating me for this on Facebook. I hope you don’t mind I made this into a blog thing. And if you do…well, it’s too late to do anything about it, isn’t it?

Now for the rules:

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there.
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

Today’s book is the other reason why I decided to take up a History major in college and studying the Holocaust. That book is Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally (yeah, not all of these are fiction novels. Some are about actual events).

I’d seen the movie earlier in the year I read this book, so I was curious about the book it was based on. I ended up reading it during a five-week trip to Israel alongside The Plot Against America. And Schindler’s List affected me way more than Plot. Reading all those stories from people who had known Oskar Schindler, a complicated man who grew to care deeply about the Jews under him and decided to risk everything to protect them, in a time where that could lead to execution, spoke to me on a level that few books do. I decided then to study the Holocaust when I got to college alongside English and creative writing.

I also came back from Israel with a ring on my finger that says in Hebrew, “He who saves a life, it is as if he’s saved the world entire.” This is similar to the ring Oskar Schindler was given at the end of the book and the movie, and I had it custom made so I could remind myself of that every day. I still have that ring, and I wear it every day. It shows how much one person can do if they put their minds to it, and the good that come from it.

Perhaps someday I can have the same effect or inspiration on someone else someday. We can hope.

Today I’m tagging my friend Tricia Drammeh. Hope you have fun, Tricia. I know I have.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m headed back to Columbus. I look forward to sharing the last book in the challenge with you tomorrow. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

Don’t fly off without me, dragon! I need to get home!

I was very excited waiting for this film to come out. How could I not be? I saw the original trailer three times before I sat down in the theater, and it made me jump at the end every time! And apparently another trailer was so scary, it was taken off YouTube (I wish I’d seen it before it got taken down, but that’s life). So you could see why I was interested in going to see it, and why I hoped it wouldn’t be terrible.

I’m glad to say, for the most part, The Nun lives up to the hype.

The Nun follows Father Burke, a priest who investigates paranormal and strange events on behalf of the church, and Sister Irene, a young novitiate with a history of fantastic visions. They are sent by the Vatican to investigate the suicide of a nun at a convent in Romania, and while there face an ancient evil that is seeking to escape the abbey and to wreak havoc on the wider world.

First off, the best part of this film is its characters and the actors playing them. Although they’re not the most developed, they feel like real people you might know and even want to hang out with. Sister Irene, played by Taissa Farmiga (the main series’ star Vera Farmiga’s younger sister, if you can believe it), is a loving, down-to-Earth woman who is trying to figure out whether to become a full nun. Frenchie, a young man who helps Father Burke and Sister Irene out, is wonderful comic relief as he flirts with Sister Irene and asks the occasional stupid question. And the Nun…yeah, that monster is still freaky as it was in the Conjuring 2. No wonder a film centering on it got made.

I also love the set of this film, a castle which is like a cross between Hogwarts’s darker sides and some castles in Europe I myself have been to. It’s so creepy and decrepit,, and is made to look almost like a maze you could get lost in. Add in all the touches–like the hundred thousand crosses placed throughout the castle–and it adds the perfect touch.

And, as always, there’s a strong atmosphere in this movie, just as we’ve come to expect from the Conjuring franchise. It keeps you tense and, coupled with some good jump scares (including that one from the trailer, which still got me) and a decent plot, keeps you interested and even a little scared throughout the movie.

Still, The Nun isn’t perfect. While the plot is decent, you can kind of guess where things are going to go about sixty-percent of the time, with the other forty-percent just being minor touches like a twist with the hauntings or something the demon does that you don’t expect. That, and the film may over-rely on jumpscares. This is a criticism that many people have had about the Conjuring films, but this is really the first time it bothered me. It might’ve been better if maybe the film relied more on creeping terror and a few more twists rather than making me jump in my seat.

Still, The Nun is a great addition to the Conjuring series and a good sign that there’s still plenty to mine from the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the film a 3.8. It’s not perfect, but it’s got a lot going for it and I’m glad I went to go see it. Take a look, and pray for safety…and that the next Annabelle film is good.

Yes, there’s another Annabelle film on the way. It’s going to be released next summer, and it looks like it might be the last Annabelle film, dealing with the titular doll and the Warrens’ daughter. Obviously, I’m looking forward to it.

Halfway there! And woo-boy, is it going well. I haven’t missed a single day, somehow. Let’s hope I can keep up the pace!

So once again, I’m doing the Ten Day Book Challenge, which started on Facebook and should’ve stayed on Facebook, but why should I do what everyone else is doing? I never have, unless other horror authors are suddenly collecting dolls and going to the ballet while also supporting the Ohio State Buckeyes and practicing Judaism to the best of their ability, and I probably never will. So thank my cousin Matthew for getting me started on this, and let’s get onto the rules:

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there.
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

I wasn’t sure whether to do the other Stephen King novel or something else today, but in the end, I decided to get the second novel out of the way and save a particular novel for Day Six. For Day Five, I’m going with another example of quintessential Stephen King: Needful Things.

This is a novel that is both terrifying and hilarious, campy yet deep, and full of all the weirdness that we love about King. It’s also one of those thousand-page whoppers he churns out every couple of years, and I absolutely love it! The story takes place in Castle Rock, the same little town that’s the setting for King’s new show on Hulu, Castle Rock. A man named Leland Gaunt opens up a shop called Needful Things and starts selling the most amazing products to his customers…in exchange for a favor. And each favor exposes a darker side of the town, a domino in a Rube Goldberg machine, all leading to one inevitable conclusion.

I’ve had the chance to reread this book several times since I first read it about three years ago. To be more precise, I listen to the audio book, which is narrated by His Royal Scariness Stephen King himself. And it gets me every time. On the one hand, you have all the scares that you’d expect from King: a villain that appears human but soon reveals himself to be so much more, a spider-creature that Gaunt uses to great effect in the novel, people who are just assholes on a bad day but under Gaunt’s influences become psychopaths and murderers, full of rage and jealousy. On the other hand, you have weird ad hilarious moments like two overweight housewives both believing they’re having very intense romantic/sexual affairs with Elvis Presley, a woman who gets off on having feuds and fights, and a town sheriff whose love of magic tricks proves important to saving the day! And somehow, it all works wonderfully! I hope someday I can write as well as that, because let me tell you, it might come in handy for some of my weirder ideas.

Sadly, this novel has not gotten the same amount of love as some of King’s other works. Hell, the only adaptation is one terrible movie that came out a little over two months after I was born. I think it’s due for a graphic novel or a TV adaptation (which is why I hope it somehow features more prominently in Castle Rock season 2)., but then again, Hollywood doesn’t listen to me that much. They certainly haven’t heard my pleas for an adaptation of The Library Policeman as of yet.

Still, if you’re in the mood for an unusual horror novel with weird and hilarious moments peppered here and there, you can’t go wrong with Needful Things.

And now to tag someone. I hereby nominate my good friend Kat Impossible from the blog Life and Other Disasters. I know you’re busy starting a new job in Berlin, Kat, but I hope you’re able to find the time to do this. Especially since you tend to enjoy book related tags and challenges.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Ugh, this challenge is just about killing me! I’m not sure I can survive the last eight days! Someone put me out of my misery!

[goes off to make a cup of tea. Drinks tea]

Okay, I’m better. Let’s get this ball rolling. On to Day Two of the Ten Day Book Challenge! Brought to you by my cousin Matthew, who is the biggest Game of Thrones fan I know (books and TV show). And once again, let’s go over the rules:

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there.
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk my choice of book. Or to be more precise, choice of books, as I’m talking about a trilogy. Kind of cheating, but this is just an Internet meme. Who the hell cares? Anyway, allow me to present to you The Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, consisting of The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, and Ptolemy’s Gate.

This was one of the first series I read after my years-long Harry Potter binge-fest. And man, did it pack a wallop! Imagine a world where magicians summon demons and have often used that ability to rule over the masses, founding some of the world’s greatest empires. At the time the books take place, London is the center of the world, with magicians ruling over a common class with few rights. The story focuses on Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice who summons the sardonic djinni Bartimaeus to help him get revenge on another magician. This starts off a chain of events that sees Nathaniel go on the journey of a lifetime, all coinciding with London going through a time of civil upheaval unlike anything the city’s ever seen before.

This book series was the perfect choice for me after the HP books: it was immersive and had some similar concepts, but enough to make it very different. And I’m not just talking about the mechanism of the magic (though that in itself is very different). The main characters are often complicated, not exactly good but not exactly evil either. They’re very much the products of their environment, and while that makes them at times very unsympathetic, it also makes them fun to follow. The series also deals with some really deep themes, and doesn’t wait till the second book to deal with them like Harry Potter does: classism, prejudice, freedom versus security, dictatorship versus rule by the people, the master-servant relationship, the consequences of child neglect and abandonment, and the rise and fall of empires, among others.

Add in great storytelling and a narrator full of wit and sarcasm in the form of the djinni Bartimaeus, you’ve got yourself a fun and exciting urban fantasy series.

Sadly, not as many people know about this series as others, which I think is a shame because it really should be more popular. Hell, there was even a movie adaptation of the first book in the works at some point, but it never happened. Hopefully a mention here might get people interested in reading it and perhaps increase interest in it. Maybe. Who knows? Weirder things have happened.

Well, that’s it for today’s post. I nominate my good friend Joleene Naylor for this challenge. Enjoy Joleene, and I can’t wait to see what your choices are.

So on Facebook, this thing’s been going around my friend circles where you post one picture of the cover of a book that you love or found influential, no explanation, and then tag someone else to do the same. You do this for ten days in a row, posting a different book cover and tagging a different person each day. I knew that eventually I’d get tagged, so I wasn’t surprised when my cousin Matthew tagged me for his second day. However, because I never follow anyone else’s drumbeat, I decided to do this on my blog and talk about why I love the books so much. Who knows? It may get some people to pick it up and read it.

So with any viral Internet tag/challenge/meme/award/whatever, you have a set of rules. Here are mine for this challenge:

  • Thank whoever nominated you with big, bold print. If they have a blog, link to the post where you got tagged there. He doesn’t have a blog, as far as I’m aware, but thanks Matthew! I appreciate it!
  • Explain the rules.
  • Post the cover of a book that was influential on you or that you love dearly.
  • Explain why (because I don’t see the point of just posting a picture of a book cover without an explanation. That goes for Facebook as well as blogs).
  • Tag someone else to do the challenge, and let them know they’ve been tagged.

So there we go. We have rules, so let’s start the Ten Day Book Challenge. And with Day One, the choice of book is obvious: it’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

It’s fair to say that without Harry Potter, I wouldn’t be a writer. When I saw the first film it blew my mind, but the first book, which I think I read afterwards…I don’t know how to describe it, truth be told. Not just the world of Harry Potter, but the words within truly immersed me in the story. I don’t think before then I knew how words could be used like that. The words were the real magic, because they made places and creatures and people and concepts with rules come to life out of nothing. Like God, in a way. And I worshiped JK Rowling for years┬álike a god, rereading the available four books at the time obsessively. But not only that, but I tried to write like JK Rowling. My first attempt at a novel was a Harry Potter-esque story with a female lead.* And even when I stopped working on that story, I still relied on Harry Potter and the works of JK Rowling to give me a basis on how to write.

It sometimes amazes me how far from Harry Potter ripoffs I’ve come since then. In fact, there’s almost no resemblance between my stories and Harry Potter! Still, without JK Rowling’s initial influence, I might be doing something very different today. And I have no idea what that “something very different” might be.

Ooh, there’s a horror story right there!

Anyway, I’m tagging my friend and fellow author Matthew Williams of Stories by Williams. Good luck, Matt! I hope you have fun with this (as well as time for it, what with a new book out and all).

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear! I’m going to start prepping for tomorrow’s post…as well as possibly Days Three through Ten. Something tells me I’m going to need the prep.

*For more on my early writing projects, click here for an article on that subject.