Friday, December 31, 2010

What I Read This Year

I read more this year than last year, and I'm happy about that. I'd still like to make more time to read more, and read more outside of the horror genre a bit more (there's always next year!); I also feel like I need to read more non-fiction (and I think I said that last year, too).

I did try reading a YA novel (Gunpowder Empire), and despite enjoying the author's work in the past, I just had a hard time enjoying it. I also read some series fantasy again this year (Dragonlance: Before the Mask), and struggled. There may have been a time that I enjoyed this kind of fiction, but these days, I'm just not into it. (That's not to say I'm "over" fantasy. My tastes have evolved and changed, and I suppose I just need to find something different the next time I decide to dip back into the fantasy genre.)

Title - Author
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahame-Smith
Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home - Gil Reavill
Art of Hammer, The: The Official Poster Collection From the Archive of Hammer Films - Marcus Hearn
Bela Lugosi and the House of Doom - Dwight Kemper
Bijou of the Dead - Robert Freese
Book of the Dead, The - Jaime Russell
Bride of Frankenstein, The: Pandora's Bride - Elizabeth Hand
Dark Harvest - Norman Partridge
Dead Beyond the Fence: A Novel of the Zombie Apocalypse - Brian Kaufman
Dracula: Asylum - Paul Witcover
Dragonlance: Before the Mask (Villains Series, Volume 1) - Michael Williams, Teri Williams
Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform - Christina Katz
Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo, the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer", The - Jim Steinmeyer
Golem, The - Edward Lee
Grave Matters: A Journey Through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial - Mark Harris
Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, The: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller! - Philip Athans, R. A. Salvatore
Gunpowder Empire (Crosstime Traffic, Book 1) - Harry Turtledove
Kitty's House of Horrors - Carrie Vaughn
Magic Island, The - William Seabrook
Monster Movie Game - John Stanley, Mal Whyte
Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H. P. Lovecraft - H. P. Lovecraft
Neverland - Douglas Clegg
Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever - Joe Kane
Nightrunners, The - Joe R. Lansdale
Novel Shortcuts: Ten Techniques that Ensure a Great First Draft - Laura Whitcomb
On the Good Ship Hollywood - John Agar, L. C. Van Savage
On Writing Horror: A Handbook - the Horror Writers Association - Mort Castle (Editor)
Other People's Property: A Shadow History of Hip-Hop in White America - Jason Tanz
Personal Effects: Dark Art - J. C. Hutchins, Jordan Weisman
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls - Steve Hockensmith
Return of the Wolfman - Jeff Rovin
Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror - Michael Mallory
Wolf Man vs. Dracula, The: An Alternate History for Classic Film Monsters - Philip J. Riley

What I Watched This Year

I've always known that I watch a lot of movies, and in 2008, I started keeping track of what movies I watched during the year. Bren said I was getting a little OCD as I was getting older, but I think it had more to do with wanting to keep track of what movies I watched for Mail Order Zombie. There may be some truth to the OCD-thing as I also started tracking what books I read and even what magazines I read. (I didn't track magazines after that year.)

Compared to last year, I've watched fewer movies in 2010 (although I read more books - more on that in my next post). I thought I watched more documentaries than I'm seeing here; I also thought I watched my Blu-rays, but since I can't watch a Blu-ray on-the-go the way I can a DVD. I also see a handful more short movies on my list this year (I probably watched more short movies on-line, but I only tracked movies that I actually could hold in my hand in the form of a disc or that could be put onto my iPod - I know streaming is becoming a more widespread form of distribution, but it's certainly my preferred form of movie releasing).

Movie (Video/Theater?)
Alamo Documentary, The (Video)
Alamo, The (2004) (Video)
Altitude (Blu-ray)
Apocalypse of the Dead (Video)
Armageddon of the Dead (Video)
Astro-Zombies, The (Video)
Attack of the Vegan Zombies (Video)
Autopsy of the Dead (Video)
Back to the Future (Blu-ray)
Battlefield Baseball (Video)
Best Worst Movie (Video)
Bio Zombie (Video)
Black Cauldron, The (Video)
Blood Moon Rising (Video)
Book of Eli, The (Theater)
Book of Zombie, The (Video)
Bounty Hunter, The (Theatre)
Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (Theater)
Capitalism: A Love Story (Blu-ray)
Carriers (Video)
Cemetery Man (Video)
Colin (Video)
Crater Lake Monster, The (Video)
Crazy Heart (Blu-ray)
Creature Walks Among Us, The (Video)
Cupcake - A Zombie Lesbian Musical (Video)
Curse of Bigfoot (Video)
Dark Night of the Scarecrow (Video)
Day of the Dead (1985) (Blu-ray)
Daybreakers (Blu-ray)
Dead at the Box Office (Video)
Dead Exit (Video)
Dead Matter, The (Video)
Dead Pit, The (Video)
Dead Walk, The (Video)
Death of the Dead (Video)
Dinosaurus! (Video)
Django (Video)
Dreams in the Witch House (Theater)
Drive-In Memories (Video)
Duty of Living, The (Video)
Eastwood Factor, The (Video)
Eat Me: The Musical (Video)
End Transmission (Video)
Every Other Day is Halloween (Video)
Evil Dead, The (Blu-ray)
Faces (Blu-ray)
Fanex Files, The: Hammer Films (Video)
Favourite Haunts - A Journey Thro' H. P. Lovecraft's Providence (Video)
Gamer (Video)
George's Intervention (Video)
Gravestoned (Video)
Greasepaint and Gore: The Hammer Monsters of Phil Leakey (Video)
Gunfight at Red Sands (Video)
Halloween: The Happy Haunting of America (Video)
Hanging Woman, The (Video)
Hellraiser 4: Bloodline (Workprint) (Video)
High Plains Invaders (Video)
Horrible (Video)
Hot Tub Time Machine (Video)
Hotel Torgo (Video)
House by the Cemetery, The (Theater)
I Was a Teenage Werewolf (Video)
Idol of Evil (Video)
Inception (Theater)
Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, The (Video)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Blu-ray)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Unholy Edition (Fanedit) (Video)
Into the Pit: The Shocking Story of Deadpit.Com (Video)
Invention of Lying, The (Blu-ray)
Italian Zombie Movie, The - Part 2 (Video)
Journey to the 7th Planet (Video)
Knackery, The (Video)
Land of the Minotaur (Video)
Last Lovecraft, The: Relic of Cthulhu (Theater)
Last of the Living (Video)
Legion (Blu-ray)
Lights, Camera, Dead (Video)
Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, The (Video)
Lynch Mob (Video)
Make-Out With Violence (Video)
Manos: The Hand of Fate (Video)
Mass Acre Hill (Video)
Men Who Stare at Goats, The (Blu-ray)
Mental Dead, The (Video)
Monster Camp (Video)
Monster of Phantom Lake, The (Video)
Motor Home from Hell (Video)
Mummy, The (1932) (Video)
Mutant (Video)
Mutant Vampire Zombies from the 'Hood! (Video)
Mutants (Video)
Naked Monster, The (Video)
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (Video)
Night of the Comet (Video)
Night of the Demons (1988) (Video)
Night of the Demons (2010) (Blu-ray)
Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated (Video)
Night of the Musical Dead (Video)
Nightmare Alley (2010) (Video)
Nightmare on Elm Street, A (2010) (Theater)
Nightmare on Elm Street Part 7: Dream Nemesis, A (Fanedit) (Video)
Not Even Death (Video)
Nun of That (Video)
Oasis of the Zombies (Video)
Outback, The (Video)
Outpost Doom (Video)
Pandorum (Blu-ray)
Parasite Quarantine (Video)
Passion of Joan of Arc, The (Video)
Plaguers (Video)
Pleasant Terror, A: The Life and Ghost of M.R. James (Video)
Polly (Video)
Predators (Blu-ray)
Psycho Sheep of Butte (Video)
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Video)
Redneck Carnage (Video)
Repo Men (Blu-ray)
Resident Evil (Blu-ray)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Blu-ray)
Resident Evil: Extinction (Blu-ray)
Return of the Vampire, The (Video)
Revenge of Frankenstein, The (Video)
Revenge of the Creature (Video)
Revenge of the Dead (2009) (Video)
Revenge of the Zombies (Video)
Road, The (Blu-ray)
Robin Hood (2010) (Blu-ray)
Santa Claus vs. the Zombies (Video)
Scared to Death (Video)
Shadows in the Garden (Video)
Shock Waves (Video)
Shock-O-Rama (Video)
Silent Night, Zombie Night (Video)
Skeleton Key (Video)
Sky Has Fallen, The (Video)
Spawn of Frankenstein (Fanedit) (Video)
Stacy (Video)
Star Wars: The War of the Stars (Fanedit) (Video)
Surrogates (Blu-ray)
Teenage Frankenstein (Video)
Terror in the Tropics (Video)
This Man Can't Die (Video)
Tokyo Zombie (Video)
Toy Story 3 (Blu-ray)
Universal Horrors (Video)
Unnamable, The (Video)
Voodoo Cowboys (Video)
Wade (Video)
Whole Wide World, The (Theater)
You Don't Know Jack (Video)
Zombie Connection, The (Video)
Zombie Dearest (Video)
Zombie Doom (Video)
Zombie Epidemic (Video)
Zombie Girl: The Movie (Video)
Zombie Hunter Rika (Video)
Zombie Lake (Video)
Zombie Town: The Movie (Video)
Zombie Women of Satan (Video)
Zombies Unleased (Video)

Friday, October 29, 2010

The long answer

"Are you doing NaNoWriMo?"

I've had a number of folks ask me this or some variation of this question over the past few weeks. I've thought about it. I've talked with Bren about it. We both have some novel-length projects on deck that could use the mad-1,666(.666)-words-a-day-dash that National Novel Writing Month thrusts upon its participants.

However, this year I've been learning some things about my own writing process. In 2006, I participated in NaNoWriMo and "won." That is, I completed my 50,000-word novel, and it was a lot of fun. It was a learning experience; it was cathartic; it was surprising (in that I surprised myself while writing it!). I didn't have a solid game plan when I sat down to write that novel. I had a basic idea, sat down and let the words go. It worked out okay for me. (Although I did run into a minor problem when, early in November, I felt a little blocked, and decided to "fast forward" the story I was writing a little bit and write a character's death scene, intending to drop it into the story later in the month when I got to where it should fit. However, when I got to that point in the story, I found that I was attached to the fated-to-day-by-my-words character, and she became a more important person in the novel and I needed her to live. I didn't want to lose the word count, so I wrote around it, turned it into a hallucination, and moved on!)

Of course I gave the novel a REAL quick edit before sending it off to Lulu.com to print up my one complimentary copy, and then decided to make the novel available for sale through Lulu as well. Out of the blue, the novel got some reviews which called me on some of the issues inherent in writing a novel in 30 days and not giving it a solid edit, but also said some encouraging things about my writing.

I decided to give NaNoWriMo a go the next year.

And the year after that.

Both times, I didn't make it. And it's taken me a few years to learn why.

I'm not what some of the writing podcasts I've been listening to lately call a "discovery writer."

Sometimes my short stories come about as a result sitting-down-and-just-doing-it, but the longer works with multiple characters, multiple points of view . . . ? I'm learning I need a bit more prep work.

And I'm okay with that.

So . . . will I participate in NaNoWriMo this year? No. Will I still throw down as many words as I can? You bet . . . after I've spent what I've decided is enough time working on an outline and character sketches.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Soundtrack for my writing

I think nearly everyone knows I collect film scores. Even if it's from a film I didn't like or may not have even seen yet, most of my available hard drive space is devoted to movie music. I love it, and can listen to film scores all day (and have repeatedly!).

Obviously, I have my favorites. And obviously, some of this film music is instantly identifiable with the films from which it comes which immediately tosses some fairly iconic film imagery across my mind's eye. Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Back to the Future. Halloween. Friday the 13th. Because I've seen these movies so many times, I can't help but think about these films when I hear the music. And that's just fine. There are times when I need a little John Williams action, or want to have John Carpenter jumping at me throughout the day.

However, I have a number of film scores that I'm able to enjoy and divorce from their source material, either because I'm not overly intimate with the film in question or I haven't seen the movie at all. (Or, in some cases, as with the score from Land of the Dead, I heard the music first, then saw the movie, which allowed my brain to appreciate the music by itself without attaching visuals to it.) And it's to these scores I look when I'm looking for music to play while writing.

I can't listen to music with lyrics when I write. I find it distracting, and I really struggle. And there's no way I could write a short horror story while listening to something like Williams' Jaws (actually, I MIGHT be able to with Jaws playing in the background, but most of Williams' film scores are so iconic that it might be tough) or Poledouris' Conan the Barbarian.

But film scores that aren't so instantly recognizable to me? No problem.

When I wrote Memories of Home, I had a particular film score I would load into my .mp3 player, and I was off and running. Part of it was the ritual of writing - when my ears started hearing a particular piece of music, my brain learned that that was the cue to start writing. Honestly, this almost ruined this music for me because when I hear it now, I immediately think about that novel's characters, setting, etc. It has made watching the movie from which it came a bit awkward.

I recently settled on a score for my current larger work-in-process, and I'm very happy about it on a few different levels.

1) I've never seen the music's movie.
2) I have no intention of seeing it (absolutely nothing about the movie - other than its score - looks appealing to me).
3) The composers - Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil - are the same composers behind the music I used when writing my previous novel, which means my brain has already started associating it with the familiar act of novel-ing.

I just double-clicked the first track in iTunes, so if you'll excuse me, I have some words to throw down.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Trunked Memories

I made a decision that I think will impact my writing for the next few years at the very least, and I think I'm happy about it. It took me a little while to get to this point.

I'm trunking my novel.

A few years ago, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, and "won" by completing a 50,000-word-plus novel called Memories of Home. I had a lot of fun writing it, felt great when finishing it, and learned a lot through the entire process. I enjoyed the story enough to think I'd revisit it, expand it, beef up the word count, change the perspective (it was written in first-person, and I always viewed that as a cheat to make the 50,000-word goal easier to achieve; I prefer third-person in what I read), etc., etc., etc. I've poked at it over the years, re-outlined the novel, did a little more research, etc., etc., etc.

But I found myself spinning my wheels, focusing too much on some story that, in the end, is "just another story" to come out of my head. I mean, it's one thing to polish and rework a short story (I've got two short stories I'd still like to place somewhere some day), but this novel? It's time to let it go.

I'll always have the novel. And some day, when I have more free work time to go back and revisit Memories of Home, I may dust it off and see what I can do with it. But for now, I have other stories to tell; Memories of Home will always be there.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Booking Through Thursday: What are you reading right now?

From Booking Through Thursday:

What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

Even though I don't really like reading more than one book at a time, I am rocking a few different bookmarks in a few different books right now.

Aftermath, Inc.: Cleaning Up After CSI Goes Home by Gil Reavill. I'm only a few chapters into this and I'm a little surprised in that I assumed it would be more of a reference book as opposed to the type of creative non-fiction that it is. I originally bought this book a few years ago, stuck it on my "writing reference" bookshelf, managed to somehow move it and misplace it a few months ago when I went looking for it again, and just recently found it exactly one book shelf below where I thought I put it in the first place. Aftermath, Inc. follows crime-writer's Reavill's "adventures" with Aftermath, Inc., and while there are some gruesome bits (which don't bother me as much as I'd imagine that might bother some others), it's a fairly straightforward and clean read detailing what Aftermath does and Reavill's journey to understanding crime scene clean-up firsthand.

Return of The Wolf Man by Jeff Rovin. I plan on covering this novel in greater detail elsewhere next month, but for now, I can't tell you how much I'm enjoying this book! A few years ago, Dark Horse Comics licensed the Universal Monster characters for a line of novels and, quite frankly, they kind of missed the mark (again, more coverage of these novels coming soon, too). After poking around a few message boards, I heard reverant whispers of Return of The Wolf Man, so I dug a bit deeper, and found that the novel was out of print. I've read so many good things about the book, though, I went ahead and starting saving my pennies so I could order a used copy, and I'm so glad I did. As a longtime comic book reader, I'm well accustomed to the idea of "shared universes," and in Return of The Wolf Man, Rovin continues the connection between Universal's Dracula, Wolf Man and Frankenstein's Monster character . . . and then further establishes the Invisible Man link teased at the end of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, throws the Gill Man into the mix and hints at the Mummy franchise. In this 1998 paperback, Jeff Rovin pulls a Geoff Johns by not only connecting the Universal Monster franchises, but even addresses any perceived inconsistencies that have crept into the films (why exactly is Larry Talbot transforming into The Wolf Man in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein when he was seemingly cured in House of Dracula?) while capturing the unique voices of these monster characters along the way.

Novel Shortcuts: Ten Techniques that Ensure a Great First Draft by Laura Whitcomb. I was talking with my friend Casey the other day about writing, and I mentioned that sometimes I regret having read as many how-to writing books as I had growing up. I subscribed to "Writer's Digest" magazine since the late 80s, and I wonder if this has had an adverse impact on my own writing now. I often times find myself getting hung up on the technical aspects of writing, the hows and the whys, worrying more about the business end instead of the creative end. I worry that I get so fixated on all this that I let it stifle me. So why pick up another writing reference book? I read a review of it somewhere online, and it sounded like something that might give me a few pointers, and since I've started work on something brand new novel-wise (and, man, am I excited about THIS one!), I'm hopeful there might be some things I can learn from Laura Whitcomb as I put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard. So far, I find myself nodding along to a lot of what Whitcomb recommends in the book; I'll be able to offer a more tangible review once I've finished reading it.

Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories by M. R. James. I stumbled across the British documentary A Pleasant Terror: The Life and Ghost of M. R. James (dir. Clive Dunn, 1995) quite by accident. I knew who M. R. James was and all, but I wasn't overly familiar with his work. This documentary convinced me that I need to read his short stories. I've not TECHNICALLY started reading this just yet, but it's sitting on my nightstand as I type this, and now that I think about it, I think I'll crack it open tonight!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Science Fiction Museum

I've been wanting to visit Seattle's Science Fiction Museum since it opened in 2004, and when our friends Scott and Tracey were visiting the Pacific Northwest, we decided that hitting that museum was something that needed to be done.

I wasn't overly impressed.

It's been almost a week since we were there, and I find myself going back and forth on the experience - we were a little tired and had a few other events on our schedule the day we visited the museum. That said, it's a science fiction museum, so I expected a certain level of technology, interactivity, immersion, etc., that was definitely lacking. The Science Fiction Museum is attached to the Experience Music Project which does offer its visitors an opportunity to play instruments, record music, etc., but the Science Fiction Museum really just seemed to encourage its visitors to stand around and watch.

Additionally, the sci-fi side of things felt like an afterthought, crammed into a few small rooms (one of which was downstairs, as in, in the dark basement), which made sense as the Experience Music Project was there first (the Science Fiction Museum was added four years after the EMP opened in 2000). I went to this museum wanting to learn something, to celebrate science fiction and its importance to culture (pop and otherwise), and feel appreciated as a fan. I didn't get that. I felt a little pandered to, passing by displays of toys that I had when I was a kid, books I've already read, and fewer movie props than I've seen at a Planet Hollywood.

I took plenty of pictures, and we noted a handful of post-apocalyptic fiction book titles for Bren to track down, but in the end, I wished there would have been more science fiction meat (says the vegetarian). It felt fluffy, and while it may have been entertaining to see "The Jetsons" and Blade Runner mentioned in the same "look at what the future might be"-type display, in the end I was disappointed.

(Speaking of pictures, there were zero real photo opportunities at the Science Fiction Museum. I understand restricting flash photography in the dimly lit basement, but I was really surprised that there was nothing really interesting to take pictures of in the lobby or any areas set up to memorialize a visit to the museum.)

I'm glad I went with the folks I went with to the museum - that really made the trip worth it. But I wonder if we would have had as much science fiction fun just going through my DVD collection.

(These pics are in no particular order, and I apologize for any fuzziness that might have crept into them. The lack of a flash made picture-taking a little more difficult than it would have normally been.)



Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Double-congratulations!

I was chatting with my younger brother yesterday, and he casually mentioned that he's finished the first draft of a piece of fiction. I congratulated him, of course, and then he just as casually mentioned that it weighed in at 350 pages.

Wow! Congratulations, Kevin!

And then earlier today, I heard from my friend Casey (over at The Not-So-Amazing Criswell that one of his stories has found a home.

Congratulations, Casey!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My brain is good at . . . something

Why is it that when I want to focus on a horror short story, my brain wants to work on a dark fantasy novel, yet when I start throwing words down for the dark fantasy novel, I start thinking about that horror short story?

I spoke with Bren about this not too long ago, and she told me (and I'm paraphrasing a little bit here) that she thought my brain was really good at coming up with excuses not to finish anything.

I'd like to think that I'm a creative guy. I love to write, to storytell, to let my mind wander, and I've always accepted that I have a few projects going at once because that's just how my brain works.

But I've been thinking a lot about what Bren said, and I think she's right. She and I have further discussed this, and these excuses to not finish things might even lead to a subconscious fear of success. That's certainly not something I'm comfortable with.

Another thing that Bren has said to me in the past that I've taken to heart is, "No!" This is typically in reference to when I tell her I need to pick up a new notepad when we're out shopping. (You should hear her when I tell her I'm thinking about buying a padfolio!)

I've got plenty of notepads laying around our home, some used, some bent as they were shoved into backpockets, some stained with rings of coffee or tea, some forgotten and shoved in a drawer . . . when I look in my gym bag, I find two notepads right now!

I'm not going to try to turn off the too-many-stories-at-once engine, but I am going to start putting those orphaned notepads to good use. As far as my fiction goes, at least for now, those ideas need to be put somewhere while I focus on completing a singular story before moving on to the next.

Now to decide which story to finish . . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meme of Reading Questions

In an effort to keep my blog active, I thought I'd give this meme a shot. (I found out about it RoeSpot - More Coffee, Please..., who linked it back to Booking Through Thursday.)

1. Favorite childhood book?
"The Prydain Chronicles" by Lloyd Alexander.

2. What are you reading right now?
The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, aka Chung Ling Soo, the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer" by Jim Steinmeyer; The Magic Island by W. B. Seabrook.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None currently.

4. Bad book habit?
I'm always picking up more books (either from the library or the used book store) than I have time to read.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
The Magic Island by W. B. Seabrook.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I prefer one at a time, but I can typically read one fiction and one non-fiction simultaneously.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
No.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Personal Effects: Dark Art by J. C. Hutchins and Jordan Weisman.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Neverland by Douglas Clegg.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Not as often as I probably should.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Horror fiction and horror film reference.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Yes.

14. Favorite place to read?
Anywhere at home.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Depends on the book.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
No.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
No.

18. Not even with text books?
No.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
English (my only option).

20. What makes you love a book?
When a writer gives me characters that feel real, a setting that makes me jealous that my own world isn't nearly as fantastic or interesting, or information that is new to me, I know I've found a book that has earned my love and respect.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Can I just say, "Ditto," and refer to Question 20?

22. Favorite genre?
Horror.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Mystery.

24. Favorite biography?
Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard by Mark Finn

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Yes.

26. Favorite cookbook?
I don't have one.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Bijou of the Dead by Robert Freese.

28. Favorite reading snack?
My only preference would be something that doesn't leave fingerprints.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Depends on the critic.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
If warranted, I will give a negative review, but I will do my best to back up my negative review with critical commentary, and I'll also try to find something positive to say (I try to do this over at Mail Order Zombie).

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Romanian.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
The Compleat Crow by Brian Lumley

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
I honestly can't think of one right now.

35. Favorite Poet?
Robert E. Howard.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
I go back and forth between having too many and none at all. I'm not a huge fan of our local library/library system, so lately, I've been going to the library less and less.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
I'll do this if I get a book home and discover that it's not quite what I thought it was when I checked it out, or I have so many books checked out that I hadn't gotten to it before it's due.

38. Favorite fictional character?
I'm going to hold off an answering this one right now (and the next one) as I think I want to address this fully in a future Plan D entry.

39. Favorite fictional villain?
See Question 38.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Any Robert E. Howard or H. P. Lovecraft collection (if I'm not bringing a magazine instead).

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
Maybe a week.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (see below).

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
A television.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
When I was a kid, I loved Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, but these days, I spend a lot of time with Conan the Barbarian (even though it's a terrible adaptation of any of Robert E. Howard's actual short stories). Also, Universal's classic horror films - Dracula and Frankenstein - are some of my favorites (again, though, they are not the best adaptations).

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
The Mist.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
I'd rather not say as my wife might read this!

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
When I'm in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I always double-check to see if the book is written in first-person perspective. If it is, it better catch my attention right away, because I typically do not enjoy this perspective choice in my fiction.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Boredom.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I do, but I haven't organized them in a long time.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
This is something that Bren and I have been addressing a lot lately. Since she has an e-reader, a lot of her books are now stored electronically, which has allowed us to release some of her novels into the wild. If the book is a reference book, a special edition, or an out-of-print/rare novel, I'm more likely to kep them. I also collect my favorite authors, which means I'm constantly needing to reorganize my bookshelves (when they are organized - see Question 49).

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. (It might not be fair to say I'm avoiding it. I'm about halfway through it, and have not made it a priority to finish it. The listeners of my podcast might hate me a little bit for this!)

52. Name a book that made you angry.
The Bride of Frankenstein: Pandora's Bride by Elizabeth Hand

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
I don't typically pick up a book unless I expect to find something to enjoy/learn.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
The Bantam Books "Indiana Jones" novels that were published from 1991-1999.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Thursday Thirteen: Lovecraft Media Adaptations



The Thursday Thirteen is a recurring feature here at Plan D in which I post a list of 13 items/movies/books/etc. of any given category. In honor of H. P. Lovecraft's birthday tomorrow, August 20th, I (in no particular order) present my Top 13 Lovecraftian Media Adaptations. (Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow!)


1 - The Call of Cthulhu (based on the short story "The Call of Cthulhu" by H. P. Lovecract, film directed by Andrew Leman, 2005). Almost everything about this movie is spot-on perfect. Creating a film based on a short story that really wouldn't seem to lend itself well to any kind of adaptation would prove to be a disastrous experiment at best by some more established filmmakers, but the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society (and this isn't the first time that name is going to appear in this Thursday Thirteen) wisely chose to tell the tale as a silent film. This allowed for some stylistic choices to be made regarding how some of the more fantastical elements of the story would appear on screen, and it almost all works. My one gripe - and it's a minor gripe - is that for a silent film, the sound is awfully crisp and clear. That is, the accompanying score sounds more like a modern film score, and while this does fight the silent film illusion a LITTLE bit, it also allows us to enjoy a wonderful score by Troy Sterling Nies, Ben Holbrook, Nicholas Pavkovic and Chad Fifer, so I'm not going to complain too much.

2 - Re-Animator (based on the short story "Herbert West - Reanimator" by H. P. Lovecract, film directed by Stuart Gordon, 1985). Let's be honest - this is a terrible adaptation. The sex, the gore . . . it's not very Lovecraftian. That said, Re-Animator is a GLORIOUS film, elevating splatstick to an absurd level, having fun with the audience, the material and the cast. Jeffrey Combs deserves special mention as this movie wouldn't be what it is without his dry deliver, disdain and wit as Dr. Herbert West. This wouldn't be the only time he appears in a Lovecraft adaptation, but it's certainly one of his most affecting and effective roles.

3 - From Beyond (based on the short story "From Beyond" by H. P. Lovecract, film directed by Stuart Gordon, 1986). Again, Gordon adds the sex and gore to a story originally devoid of it, but it doesn't matter because, again, he's having fun with the material, and again, he's brought Jeffrey Combs along for the ride. While Combs' role in From Beyond is another stroke of the mad scientist engine, his Crawford Tillinghast is different enough from his Re-Animator role that both films can be enjoyed back to back without any characterization bleed through. I also prefer Richard Band's score from From Beyond over his work in Re-Animator; it's more subdued and allows for its own tone poetry to speak louder than its inspiration, whereas Re-Animator's score intentionally brings to mind Bernard Herrmann.

4 - Darkhold: Pages from the Book of Sins (Marvel Comics comic book series, 1992-1994). This 16-issue series wasn't necessarily based directly on a specific Lovecraft story, but it's hard not to look at the comic and see certain Lovecraftian elements at play. An Elder God named Chthon penning an ancient tome of magic? A collection of writings so powerful iron-bound scrolls couldn't contain it? A history that crossed paths with Kull, a creation of Lovecraft-penpal Robert E. Howard? A group of doomed would-be heroes tasked with trying to collect the errant pages of the book before those who read them corrupt the world and themselves? It's a bit more action-packed than anything Lovecraft would have written (this was a comic book of the 90s, afterall), but it certainly wears its Lovecraftian influence on its spine.

5 - Dark Adventure Radio Theatre (audio dramatizations based on various H. P. Lovecraft short stories, produced by The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society). Presented as period radio programming, the HPLHS adapted At the Mountains of Madness, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Out of Time and The Shadow Over Innsmouth between 2006 and 2008. With their work on The Call of Cthulhu and the upcoming The Whisperer in the Darkness film, it appears their radio theatre work has come to an end, which is too bad because these CDs are phenomenal and hold up to repeat listenings.



6 - AM1200 (film directed by David Prior). AM1200 isn't based on a specific Lovecraft story, but it certainly captures the feel of some of the man's works by way of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. A man who manages to find himself on the losing end of some questionable professional decisions finds himself driving the deserted roads of . . . somewhere when he stumbles across an odd radio signal on the AM dial. Investigating what this radio signal might be may not be the first bad decision Eric-Lange-as-Sam makes, but it may ultimately be his last. The sound design, the cinematography, the performances - this is a solid short.

7 - Out of Mind: The Stories of H. P. Lovecraft (film directed by Raymond Saint-Jean, 1998). There is no known motion picture film of Lovecraft himself, bu Christopher Heyerdahl's performance of the man is probably the closest we'll ever get to see Lovecraft on screen. Telling the story of a young man in the then-present day (he certainly had a 90s wardrobe and haircut) who is bequeathed more than just material goods when a will is executed. He finds a connection to the legacy of Lovecraft, and Lovecraft himself comes face to face with . . . his own face (when he sees his face on a t-shirt). Out of Mind gets a little meta, and it made sense . . . it IS a Lovecraft story, after all.

8 - The Love Craft (created by Eric Morgret and K. L. Young). Every time I watch this, I laugh, but the first time - in a crowded theater at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, was the best.



9 - The Unquiet Void. Composer Jason Wallach has since moved on to other projects, but his albums The Shadow-Haunted Outside and Poisoned Dreams have left a lingering oppresion that I can't listen to over-and-over again without taking a break. This is dark electronic synthesized music that springboards from the writing and themes of Lovecraft (among other influences), and my wife once told me I wasn't allowed to play the music out loud at home because she thought it just sounded "evil."

10 - Return to Innsmouth (based on the short story "Shadow Over Innsmouth" by H. P. Lovecraft, film directed by Aaron Vanek, 1999). I saw this movie at just the right time. I was reading Lovecraft, experimenting with the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game and clicking all over the internet, looking for Lovecraft-themed websites. I found http://www.miskatonic.net/ (which is surprisingly still online, even if it hasn't been updated since 2007), and through their "Campus Store," I found this movie. I bought it, and watched that VHS tape repeatedly, made my friends watch it, and would be fortunate enough to meet the filmmaker once we moved to Oregon and I became a regular at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival. This movie tells essentially the same tale as the film Dagon, but does so on a much more intimate level (partly due to budget, and I'd like to think partly by design), and when I watched it, I immediately found Lovecraft much more accessible. His work wasn't just to be studied anymore - I could find my own tales and themes within his work, and I have Return to Innsmouth to thank for that. (As I typed this, it occured to me that I haven't watched this movie in a few years, and I'm starting to wonder if I still have the old VHS copy of it. I'll have to dig around my closet later tonight to find out!)

11 - Marblehead: A Novel of H. P. Lovecraft (novel written by Richard A. Lupoff, 2000). This is less Lovecraftian and more about Lovecraft . . . sort of. There's a lot of alternative history in this book; Lupoff brings Lovecraft into contact with folks like Theodore Hardeen (Harry Houdini's brother) and a mess of Nazis. Lovecraft finds himself involved in a bit of espionage, and while he's fairly useless when it comes to any actual spy action, this is still a fun read, and of course, I was thrilled by the Robert E. Howard chapter. This novel was originally released as Lovecraft's Book by Arkham House in 1985, but after presumably lost pages from the original manuscript were found, it was reprinted as Marblehead.

12 - Cool Air (based on the short story "Cool Air" by H. P. Lovecraft, film directed by Bryan Moore). When you think Lovecraft, you think nameless horrors, gibbering masses of leathery wings and soul-gripping tentacles, Elder gods and Deep Ones, indescribable colours and mad magic makers daring to record their words for unknowing future generations to fear. "Cool Air" isn't this. Instead, it's, by design, more Poe than typical Lovecraft, and Moore's adaptation didn't try to shoehorn the story into the so-called Cthulhu Mythos. He let the story stand on its own, but he did expand it, giving Jack Donner's Dr. Muñoz more face-time than the original story called for . . . and it works oh so well.

13 - Beyond the Dunwich Horror (film directed by Richard Griffin). This is a guilty pleasure. Someone took Lovecraft to the grindhouse . . . and left him there. This is another movie I saw at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival & Cthulhu-Con, and at first I was hesitant about watching it. A friend of mine, Big Mac over at The Shadow Over Portland, told me he had caught an earlier screening of the movie at the festival and described it as a Lovecraft film by way of Fulci. I was sold. This movie is a bit of a mess . . . a gloriously messy mess . . . and I found myself loving it despite my better judgment. It's a fun movie, tapping into various Lovecraft stories (like The Dunwich Horror), and if you check your inner Lovecraft scholar at the door, but hold on to your B-Movie-loving core, I think you'll dig it.



(Have a suggestion for a future topic of The Thursday Thirteen? Email me at MailOrderZombie@gmail.com . . . )

Friday, August 13, 2010

Have you read 'Dark'?

Earlier this year in April, I was fortunate to have two short stories appear in the anthology Dark: A Horror Anthology (and, yes, one of them was a zombie story - I can't seem to get away from them!), and the editors have asked the contributors to reach out to anyone who's read the book.

Have you read the book? If so, would you consider leaving a review at websites like Amazon or Goodreads?

Thanks for your support!

New digs

It may not look like much right now, and I'll be tinkering with the layout and adding a few more bits and pieces to this site over the next few weeks, but it is a Friday the 13th, which was the target date I set for myself to get Plan D up-and-running, so here it is . . . !

I will be letting all my old blogs limp into whatever dark and cold corner of internet where abandoned websites go to die, and while I did struggle for a little while with the idea of porting over some older posts to Plan D, I ultimately decided that I want a fresh start. (I'm not deleting those old posts, but I suspect my ownership of the http://www.improbabilia.com/ will expire soon.)

As mentioned briefly in the About Derek M. Koch and Plan D entry, I'll be using this blog to write about everything from my writing process and (hopeful!) successes to my thoughts on horror fandom and media, from random thoughts about movies, books and other media to . . . well . . . whatever I can come up with!

What I will not blog about here is zombie movies. I've got Mail Order Zombie for that. (That said, I reserve the right to talk about podcasting and my podcast appearances here!)

Oh, and one more thing - the feed for this site is http://feeds.feedburner.com/planderek . . .