Thursday, December 20, 2012

How I reconciled myself with fantasy (no thanks to Dungeons and Dragons)

I've come around from my last two entries here at Plan D.  I figured it out.  I didn't do it on my own, but writing the posts helped me to finally start processing my issue with getting locked up in various ways when I try to write (non-urban) fantasy fiction.  I talked about it with Brenda (who's more awesome than anyone I've ever known EVER), and asked the members of the Listeners of the Dead Robots' Society Facebook Group if they had any insight.  And I started unblocking myself.  (Take that sentence out of context, why don't you?)

We were either heading in from or heading out to the car when Bren and I were talking about my Plan D posts and the subject of writing fantasy, and ultimately the topic of my role-playing game history came up.  Now, I've not thrown dice in a long time (and, if I'm honest with myself, I kind of miss it a little bit, but I don't have the time these days for it), but before launching Mail Order Zombie, I was gaming every other weekend.  And before we moved to Portland?  We had a weekly game every Saturday, and we were all so committed to that epic AD&D campaign that when the decision was made to bump up our leave-Bozeman-for-Portland date, we spent three solid days  wrapping up all the current campaign's various story lines.

In a world I had created.

And therein is my biggest problem.  Dungeons and Dragons broke me.  When I came to D&D, I learned the game from my high school Creative Writing teacher.  We spent a summer playing in a world he had created when HE was a high school student.  He and his friends had been playing in it off and on all through their high school/college/professional years, and by the time we got to it (with one of the players that had been playing with him since high school), that world had a rich history shaped by the players and the DM.

I loved the idea of building a game world, and when I brought AD&D to my group of friends, I assumed the DM role, built the world myself, and off we went.   I didn't use modules or anything like that - I just build my world and adventures from scratch, and we spent years in them.

As a player, I LOVED character creation.  Give me a set of parameters (this is your level, this is your starting gold, etc.), and I would have almost as much fun creating a character as I would playing it, and then I got to let that character lose in someone else's homebrew world.  (Once when playing in one DM's modified Ravenloft campaign setting, I actually got the DM to give me permission to retire one character early just so I could create a new one because the character creation was just so much fun for me.)

The bottom line is that I thrived on world creation . . . and letting the players create the story.  Or I'd groove on character creation, leaving the world details to someone else.  Neither of these approaches seem to lend themselves to fiction writing.  So, yes, Bren helped me realize D&D broke me as a fantasy writer.

And then in the DRS Listeners' FB group, some excellent advice was shared, and I was able to distill most of what was said into this:
  • Start big.  Build the world of your dreams.  Don't spend so much time at this level, though, because you need to . . .
  • Narrow your focus into one or two areas of the world that you REALLY enjoy.  Further develop these areas keeping in mind that eventually you'll need to . . .
  • Work your characters into this wet world-building clay.  Something about the history, the government, the arts, the law, the culture - something has to connect to one or more of your characters in SOME way.  Once you do this . . .
  • Continue to world-build, paying attention to how the details you create affect/impact your character(s), because, finally . . .
  • Your story can come from all of this.
This worked for me, on a very surface level.  I have a fantasy world.  I have a character.  I wanted to marry the two, and really struggled until I started looking at all the HOWS and WHYS, and more importantly, the CONNECTIONS.  Once I found these connections, I could see the fiction possibilities for REAL this time.

This may seem like an oversimplification, but it's a journey I needed to take to feel like, if I wanted to, I could write a sword-and-sorcery fantasy piece or two.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Why fantasy is hard for me

It's been a busy month, and I haven't checked in much here at Plan D (don't even ask me about my Words Up, Weight Down check-ins!), but my last post about fantasy fiction has been on my mind a lot and I want to further explore my issues with getting too "involved" with fantasy (again).

Brenda and I both make sure we have HBO when the new season of Game of Thrones starts. I watch for new issues of Beneath Ceaseless Skies to load onto my Kindle. And every time I go to any Powell's location, one of the first things I do is check the 'H' section of the Fantasy and Science Fiction shelves to see if any new (to me) Robert E. Howard books have come into the store (to tempt me!).

There might have been a time in my life when I was a bit more fervent about it, but I'm still a fantasy fan. I just happen to consume more horror and monster media than anything else these days. I don't have an issue reconciling the two genres (although those of you who know me know I like my fantasy a bit more dark, more Conan and less Frodo).

As a writer, I tend to write the kinds of things I'm reading or the kinds of things I want to read. For the most part, though, I've managed to tuturned off the part of my brain that wants to write fantasy. I still enjoy fantasy fiction as a consumer, but I've been pretty successful at keeping the fantasy writer at bay.

But every once and a while . . . I hear the clanging swords, the chants of evil necromancers, the horse hooves and all that and I want to try writing it again.

The key word being "again."

I don't lament this because of any sort of lack of enjoyment. I do. My biggest issue is that I can't seem to pull it off. My Robert E. Howard collection is filled with characters that trample through all kinds of worlds, imagined and historical.  The characters push my through the stories.  There's a reason why the character of Conan is more well known (in most circles) than the writer Robert E. Howard.  It's the characters.  (Well, and the action, the description, the plot, etc., etc., but I hope you see my point.)

I'd like to think I'm good at creating characters.  But something happens when I sit down to write fantasy.  I get hung up in the world-building.

From the Submissions guidelines at Beneath Ceaseless Skies:

Beneath Ceaseless Skies publishes “literary adventure fantasy”: stories with a secondary-world setting and some traditional or classic fantasy feel, but written with a literary approach.

This is what I like to read and write - adventure fantasy in a secondary world.  And I LOOOVE creating those secondary worlds, so much so that I get hung up on the setting, the history, the "rules" of any magic (if it even exists), races, geography, economy, mythology, and any and everything else.  I don't think I do this a way to avoid the actual writing.  I enjoy it, and I really WANT to get to telling stories in the world with characters I enjoy hanging out with (at least I hope to enjoy hanging out with through the first draft), but I just find I struggle in this regard.

I've got characters in mind, but as soon as I start putting them to paper, the enthusiasm to tell THEIR stories just starts to fizzle.  I don't know why.  I feel like they're well-conceived and I WANT to want to hang out with them, but there's just something that doesn't work and I find myself spinning my wheels instead of spinning any words.

I don't know where I'm going with this.  I'm not writing fantasy right now - I still have my Super Zecret project in the works, and I have some other stories in various stages of "pre-writing" - but as I've been feeling that tug back to fantasy fiction, I wanted to explore this particular hang-up of mine.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why fantasy is bad for me

Once I discovered fantasy fiction back in grade school, I was immediately hooked.  Lloyd Alexander grabbed me, and I must have read his Chronicles of Prydain dozens of times, often times picking up the first book (The Book of Three) again as soon as I finished the last book (The High King).  A friend of mine and I would see who could read them the fastest.  I loved those books.

In junior high, I stumbled across David Eddings, and a similar thing happened.  The Belgariad became a series that carried me through many math classes that I didn't care about.  And in high school?  A Creative Writing teacher who finally introduced me to Robert E. Howard proper?  (He also introduced me and a few friends to Dungeons & Dragons.  He swore us to secrecy about meeting at his house over the weekend to game as he didn't want it getting out at school that he was teaching D&D to his students.  I think the statute of limitations on that has passed on that . . . )

I've been a fan for years.  (During all this time, I was reading other genres, of course.)

So when I started feeling the draw toward writing, I wanted to write fantasy.

Thing is, I've never had any real success at it.  Not only in the sales department, but in the actually-being-happy-with-what-I-wrote department.  I liked my set-ups, and some of my characters, but things never quite gelled.

It took me a long time, but I finally shelved that urge.  I write . . . just not fantasy right now.  And I'm good with that.  I'm enjoying what I'm writing now.  And I still read Howard, but haven't read a lot of fantasy seriously (outside of Martin) since.

Then Bren came home from work last night with a copy of LEGO Lord of the Rings.  We like the Lego videogames - they're puzzle-based, they're co-op, they're fun - so I'm not complaining about that.  It was a BLAST playing a game with my wife last night.

But those sword-on-sword sound effects ring out, that Howard Shore Lord of the Rings music plays, and my brain starts to itch again.  And then I start thinking about writing fantasy.

Sigh.  Curse you, LEGO . . . CURSE YOU!  Don't you know I have a super Zecret project in the works?  A collection of short stories I need to edit?  Why?  WHY?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Thursday Thirteen: Missing October Already


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. October is over, which means, with the occasional clearance sale, Halloween is already a distant memory in the collective mind of the masses. And I already miss it . . . especially for the following thirteen reasons.

- Halloween-themed reality televisionFace Off (although I think of this as more a long-form game show).  Making Monsters.  Hell, even Halloween Wars.  My favorite holiday has been getting some representation in TV's most popular (for better or worse) genre for several years now, and I dig it.  I love being able to flip through TLC, Food Network, the channel formerly known as The Sci-Fi Channel, etc., and see series or specials devoted to all things Halloween.  Makes me happy.  Deal.

- Non-horror-specific podcasts going all-horror-all-month.  I don't just listen to horror-related podcasts, and it's nice to hear them all get into the spirit of things during the month of October.

- Horror movies all over the place.  When was the last time I walked into a Walmart or Target and saw horror movies in the check-out lane?  Last October.  Sure, I probably either already had them or didn't want them, but it's still nice to look over when I'm paying for groceries and can see Pinhead or Elvira looking back at me.

- Horror "stuff" all over the place.  Even places like Powell's City of Books put up a bit more than normal in terms of mood-setting in their Horror aisle.

- Wearing my horror- or monster-themed t-shirts.  Granted, I wear them all year 'round, but I feel like I can puff out my chest a bit more.

- The weather.  I live in the Pacific Northwest, and it rains a lot, but the temperature, the nip in the air, the moisture . . . October weather makes me REALLY happen, even if it gets a little wet.

- No one looks twice at my monster-/horror-movie artwork/memorabilia at work.

- People in my life that don't normally talk horror movies with me not humoring me when it comes up in conversation.

- Not feeling bad about blowing my weight-loss goals over eating bowls of Franken Berry or Count Chocula.

- Season/Halloween-specific food and drink items.  I'm sure if I look hard enough, I can find things like Celestial Seasonings' Sweet Harvest Pumpkin tea elsewhere, but even before Halloween, it disappeared from the shelves of the local New Seasons Market.

- Halloween-specific businesses.  I didn't go to any haunted houses this year (next year I'll plan better!), and, unfortunately, Brenda and I didn't make it out to any corn mazes, but I fantasize about these being available to me anytime I want to hop in the car and go to one.  And while most of the Spirit Halloween stores are usually a nightmare (and not in a good way) to visit, knowing that there's one over by one of the bookstores I probably spend too much time/money at was a bit comforting.

- Horror films in the theater.  I was able to see Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Night of the Living Dead theatrically this past October, and if I rearranged my calendar, I could have seen the original Halloween and Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn.  A drive to Seattle would have put me in front of Phantasm.  How often do opportunities like this come up?  Other than in October, that is . . .

-Having a ready excuse to put off anything and everything because, hey, "It's Halloween."

(And, as a bonus, the best thing about the first few days/first week after Halloween?   The sales.  This weekend, we're so making the rounds at various stores in the neighborhood.  Halloween costume supplies?  Halloween make-up?  Even Halloween-themed fabric at the fabric store?  Good thing I get paid on Friday . . . )

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I wish I hadn't lost that homework, or, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

I was a dorky little kid.

Big surprise, right?

When I first discovered the classic monster movies, I was as obsessed about them as I could be.  I had limited resources - books in the grade school library and the children's section at the local base library.  I read up on the films, studied trivia books, and managed to work the monsters into various projects.

During a Cub Scout meeting, we were making masks out of paper plates.  I remembered reading that Jack Pierce used some sort of glue to create the textured skin of Boris Karloff in The Mummy, so I used half a bottle of Elmer's to glue patches of felt all over my paper plate mask.  (It didn't look very mummy-like when I was done.)

During Art in school one day (I can't remember what grade it was), I used markers to draw a haunted house with a big yard, and then drew separate pictures of monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, etc.), cut them out, and taped them all over the scene.

I don't know what happened to all those monster drawings and projects, and while I wish I could see them today, what I really wish I still had is an essay I wrote in class (still grade school, and I think it was after the monsters-in-the-yard drawing) in which I pontificated as only a know-it-all-monster-loving-dork-of-a-kid could about how little girls dressing up as princessess were "ruining" Halloween.

Over the years, I've dressed up as Boba Fett, Zorro, a pirate, and a robot for Halloween, but somehow, once I learned the names of people like Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, my brain clicked and I decided that Halloween should ONLY be about the scary.  In that essay, I name dropped Lugosi, Karloff, and both Chaneys and declared that people should only dress up as monsters and scary things, and that was that.

That attitude carried on with me when I became a teenager, into my 20s and even a little bit now.  I've softened a bit, and tried not to grumble TOO much last year when I went to a Halloween party with Bren in which the costume theme was "historical figures."  This year, the same party's theme was "Heavy Metal or Horror" and Bren made an AWESOME Bride of Frankenstein.  I threw on a lab coat and some black gloves, made up a quick name tag that read "Frankenstein" and called it good.  I may have phoned it in, but Brenda won for Best Costume.

(And next year's theme has already been determined: science fiction.  I think I can find something scary-sci-fi between now and then!)

I know that the Halloween stores and aisles are filled with more funny or superhero or political or Star Wars or sexy/slutty/completely-inappropriate-for-an-underaged-girl costumes than my beloved "scary."  And I always have to tell myself, "Calm down, Derek.  It's okay."

Because it is.  Really.  Listen to yourself, Derek.  It's okay.  No matter what you wrote when you were a weird little kid who drew monster faces that took up entire sheets of 8-1/2"x11" sheets of notebook paper (who REALLY liked drawing scars that crossed over the monster's eyelids for some reason), it's okay.  Besides, everyone's watching you at this point.

I think I kind of lost the point of this Plan D entry.  Back on track and to the point: I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Halloween, no matter how you celebrate it (even if you dress up as a princess).  But do yourself a favor - even if you're wearing more pink than blood red, treat yourself to something a little spooky.  Watch a scary movie.  Go to a haunted house.  Enjoy yourself.  I'm certainly going to . . . !

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Frankenstein and the Bride on the BIG SCREEN

Yeah, it was digital and streamed, but you know what?  I still got to see Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein on the big screen Wednesday night, and it was AWESOME.

Originally, I wanted to get to the theater early because I wanted to find a good seat.  The Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing is about ten minutes from my home, and I (after waiting in a line three customers deep for the concession stand employee who left us waiting for too long before even wandering over to sling some popcorn) settled into my theater chair around 6:45pm.

I needn't have worried about finding a good seat.  I didn't think to count how many people were in the audience, but looking back, I'd guess at there being maybe 40 or so other folks in the audience.

When we weren't seeing advertisements for upcoming Fathom events, there was a very limited slideshow featuring multiple choice trivia questions about classic horror movies.  There were all about the Universal classics . . . except for the "which of the following films was not directed by Jack Arnold" question which provided Them! as one of the possible answers.

There weren't that many questions, and we rotated through them quickly.  There was also a spot featuring Ben Mankiewicz talking about TCM and why he/we loves/love classic cinema.  He made a really good point about the "golden age of Hollywood," and made me want to go to the movies with him.

Not to be shone up by TCM's weekend-shift-guy, Robert Osborne took to the screen.  (Does anyone call him "the face of TCM"?  I would.)  He introduced the films before taking us to an interview with Bela Lugosi, Jr., Sara Karloff, and Rick Baker.  I didn't really learn much of anything new, but I did think Lugosi looked a little more worn down than I'm used to seeing him (and he's definitely looking more and more like his father the older he gets).  Karloff seemed to get a bit more screen time between the two children, but I don't know if that was a function of editing or Osborne asking her more questions in the first place.  Rick Baker was his humble and entertaining self.

Then the movie started.

And everyone in the theater was silent.  I can't remember the last time I went to a movie and the audience was respectfully quiet.  I was suddenly self-conscious about whether or not people could hear me munching on my popcorn.

There was a ten minute intermission between the two films, and someone took my seat when I left for a bathroom run.  I wasn't worried as I knew I'd be able to find somewhere else to sit.  This did give me an opportunity, though, to look over the audience, and I noticed that some people left after Frankenstein.  I also noticed that there was a definite variety of people in the audience.  The youngest seemed to be in their early-20s, the oldest maybe in their 50s.  One couple was dressed up (fancy suit, dress, etc.), but most of us were casual (I wore my jeans and a Creature from the Black Lagoon shirt).

I don't know how the resolution of the films will stack up against the blu-rays I have at home, and I did think some of what I saw in Frankenstein could have looked (and maybe sounded) just a bit sharper than it did, but, I got to see these movies on the big screen . . . ON THE BIG SCREEN.  I noticed some things about the films (the detail of the Monster's battle damage make-up on his arms as well as his tears in Bride..., for example) I don't remember noticing before.

I have no idea when I'll ever have the opportunity to see these movies like this again, and while it was in the middle of the work week and I had to be at work the next morning, I loved watching these movies this way.  I wish there was a way for me to see all these classic horror films (or "terror films" to use the phrase Sara Karloff said her father preferred to use when describing these movies) like this.

I do wish the theater itself had done a little more to celebrate these films being shone, but all in all, I had a great time at the movies (after Wednesday night, and seeing Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein at a different theater the preceding Monday night, I have no idea how I'm going to watch on Halloween since I feel like I've already hit my monster-movie-watching-peak this week!).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Abbott and Costello were there for my first time

I've told this story before: I came to my horror fandom in an odd-and-roundabout way.  Parents didn't think I should watch horror flicks.  No r-rated movies.  Religious family.  Still drawn to monsters.  Loved Halloween.  Stumbled across the Crestwood House Monster Series of books in the children's section of the local library (one of these days I'm going to get around to tracking down these books - I only have the King Kong and Creature from the Black Lagoon books).  Studied up on the classics as much as my grade school kid mind would allow.  Drew pictures of monsters in class.  If such a thing as being a "monster kid" without seeing any of the monster movies was possible for a grade school kid in the early- to mid-80s, I was it.

Then I finally saw one of the "classic" Universal monster films - Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.  I remember vividly being at a friend's house on a weekend and flipping through channels, and we stumbled across the animated opening title sequence.  As soon as I saw the names "Bela Lugosi" and "Lon Chaney, Jr." I knew what we were watching.  Those names were etched into my brain at this point, and thanks to those Crestwood House books, I knew that this film was the last go-round for all these characters.  I didn't care that I hadn't seen the other films - I knew the stories leading up to the film, and I loved it.

And in a few minutes, I'm about to head out to the Joy Cinema to see the film on the big screen.  I can't wait!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Words Up, Weight Down - 10/17/12

There's not much progress to report.

Weight-wise, I'm frustratingly exactly where I was last week.  I did start to lose track of my caloric intake, and the changes in the weather kept me inside in the morning so my morning walks aren't happening any more.  I did get our treadmill ready for use and have been hitting that in the morning instead, but my schedule has been inconsistent.

Progress-wise on the "Zecret Kindle Project" is ALMOST exactly where I was last week.  I've made a little progress on tweaking the formatting, and have heard back from half of the folks that I've sent the first 20-ish% of the finished product, so I'm starting to feel comfortable about moving forward.  By the end of this upcoming weekend, I hope to have made a huge dent in the next 20-ish% of the Project.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Words Up, Weight Down - 10/10/12

Let's get back into the swing of things . . .

This week's weigh in kept me right around where I was during last week's (unblogged) weigh in.  I've actually gone up about half-a-pound.  Compared to two week's ago, I'm down just under one pound.  Overall, I know I'm still on the weightloss journey, and I've lost a total of 27.2 pounds since getting serious about this in August.

I hit a mini-milestone on the writing front.  Most of my focus has been on a Kindle project that involves a LOT of formatting, which makes it hard to track my progress by word count.  Rather, I can proudly report that the first Kindle draft is 20% complete.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Thursday Thirteen: October Happiness


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. Last month, I was in a bit of a funk.  I'm chalking it up to pre-seasonal-depression . . . the season in question being the Halloween Season.  Now that October is upon us, I've got a number of things - thirteen in fact - that I'm looking forward to.

- Zompire: The Undead Film Festival (aka Zompire vs. The H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival). Zompire is BACK! This film festival returns from the dead this October when it fills Portland's Clinton Street Theater with all manner of zombie and vampire films . . . with a dose of the Lovecraftian thrown into the mix to help slake our eldritch thirst until the next Lovecraft Film Festival next year. Zompire happens October 12-14.

- Howl Con - From the con's website: "HOWL CON, a horror/fantasy convention dedicated to your love of wolves and werewolves, is coming to the Monarch Hotel & Conference Center in Portland, Oregon this October 13-14 (meet-and-greet the evening of Friday, October 12). A substantial portion of HOWL CON’s proceeds will be shared with Pacific Northwest wolf sanctuaries." And it looks like I'll be on at least one panel at this con.

- I Heart Monster Movies premiere.  I'm attending the premiere of this horror-fan-centric documentary the evening of October 12.  (I get to attend the premiere because I was interviewed for it, but this isn't the only reason I'm excited to see the movie!)

(Did you notice that? Check your calendar. These first three events ALL happen the same weekend. That weekend is going to be INCREDIBLY busy with a horror documentary Friday night, werewolves during the day Saturday and Sunday, vampires and zombies Saturday night and a touch of Lovecraft Sunday night. It's going to be busy . . . but in the best possible way.)

- The Universal Classic Monsters Blu-ray Collection. Somewhere between the UK and my mailbox is the European release of this blu-ray collection.  I can't wait to watch the classic Universal films - Frankenstein, Dracula, etc. - on my HD TV in their best possible presentation . . . and to display the blu-rays in their coffin-shaped box.  My only disappointment?  I don't have a 3D TV to watch the 3D version of Creature from the Black Lagoon.

- Corn Maze.  We haven't decided which one we'll attend, but Bren and I have talked about hitting up a semi-local corn maze or two this month.  It can be tough sometimes with our various health issues making it difficult to spend the car time necessary to drive out somewhere with uneven grounds and a lot of walking around, but it's also oh-so-Fall and something that we always enjoy in the moment.  One of my favorite pictures of my wife is a picture I took of her at a corn maze, and I'm looking forward to spending some time with her among the stalks soon.

- A haunt or two?  This isn't Bren's bag - and that's all right - and I really don't like going to these things alone, but a friend of mine has started talking about going to one this year, and if he's willing to pull the trigger, I'm THERE.

- Monster cereal.  I still have boxes of this stuff from last year, and I'm a little disappointed (but not all together surprised) that the box design hasn't changed, but it's still always nice to see my friends Count Chocula, Boo Berry and Franken Berry gracing the shelves of my local grocery store.

- Odd Halloween costume merchandise.  This year seems to be a good year for the odd Halloween costumes.  Zombie stockings (nylons after a pair of scissors taken to them).  The reported "American Horror Story" Black Rubber Man costume at typically family-friendly retail locations.  And this one - the Super Soft Old Woman.  Just . . . bizarre . . . and funny . . .

- Halloween-themed television.  Even reality shows take a turn for the Halloween during October with shows featuring pumpkin carving, special make-up effects, a mask maker's warehouse, and that doesn't include the hours upon DVR-straining hours of movies on TCM, AMC, etc.  (And did someone say "The Walking Dead?"  I didn't - I'm still not caught up on Season Two!  Shhhh . . . don't tell anyone . . . !)

- Halloween-themed episodes of podcasts not necessarily devoted to horror all the time.  I'm involved with two podcasts that focus more on horror than anything else, but that doesn't mean I listen to only horror-themed podcasts.  But it's October.  It's time to get all spooky in your ear buds, and a lot of podcasts I listen to are going all horror this month.

- Countdown to Halloween... I look forward to this blog event every year, and if you were to look at my Google Reader, you'd find several blogs that I added after discovering them during a previous year's Countdown to Halloween...

- Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein on the big screen.  I've already purchased my tickets and took the time off from work.  I am NOT going to miss an opportunity to see these moves on the big screen (courtesy of TCM and Fathom Events).  I would have never thought I'd have the opportunity to see these films in a theater-setting (even if they are being streamed digitally) . . .

- Halloween itself.  I have no idea what I'm doing the actual day of Halloween, but I'm sure I'll find something, and I don't need a blog countdown to tell me how many days left until I have before "my" holiday hits.

(And I didn't even mention Turkish Star Wars . . . )

Monday, October 1, 2012


It's been a couple weeks since I updated Plan D, and I wanted to take a quick second to get myself back on track.

On Facebook and Twitter, I've mentioned the health of one of our cats.  Lovee (aka Lavie) dropped a lot of weight, and after multiple appointments at her regular vet, a visit to a naturopath, and then a second opinion/switch to a new vet, she seems to be on the mend.  We're still not 100% sure what happened to cause her to lose so much weight so quickly, have liver problems and become jaundiced (her new vet suspects a problem with her liver, but we're making a dent on that problem).  She's doing a lot better, but still has some progress to make (a full return of her appetite - she still sometimes need some prompting for food and she's not drinking on her own very often).

This was all over the past couple of weeks, which kept my brain simultaneously preoccupied and exhausted, which meant my productivity both writing- and health-wise went down.  I didn't do my morning walks as often as I should, I may have slipped a bit on my caloric intake, and I haven't spent enough time in front of the keyboard as I should.

I'll get back on the Words Up, Weight Down-horse next Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Words Up, Weight Down - 9/19/12

There's not too much to report this week.  My weight loss came to a near-screeching halt with my losing .2 pounds since last week's weigh in.  I'm blaming my sister-in-law . . . okay, it's not really her fault, but she DID come to visit last week, and while she was here, it was so much more fun to order out and go out to eat and all than to really watch the calories.  I'll do better this week as I get back on track with both the exercise (I also let myself slip here a little bit) and the calorie intake.

On the writing-front, I've spent most of my writing time on my Kindle project.  Because it's not a traditional story, it's hard to give a real word count, but after reviewing my progress earlier this afternoon, I can mark my progress at being 10% done with the finished product.

Again, I'll have done better by next week's check in.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On politics and religion . . .

Those of you who know me can probably guess where my politics fall. And those of you who REALLY know me know my thoughts on religion.  But you'd have to know me, and I mean KNOW me outside of Facebook, Twitter, podcasting, Plan D, etc.  You probably need to spend some actual real life face time with me to know exactly what I think about where we are in this country.

But I'm not going to post that on my Facebook page.

Look, I get it.  You support a candidate.  Or, more specifically, you don't support a particular candidate.  You post links to various websites and news article that lambast "the media."  You found a meme, a candidate-as-Hitler graphic, or some statistic backing your own stance on gun control.  And I'm a little guilty.  I posted a few things right after the Aurora shooting, left a post in a long diatribe of a conversation about the 2nd Amendment, and immediately regretted it.

The thing is - and this is something I learned a long time ago - once you leave something on the internet, it's going to take an act of God to . . . well, there I go getting ready to make a comment about religion.

And that's not my "job."  I'm a writer and a media creator.  I want my online presence to be reflective of that, free of any political or religious bias.  I figure if you're going to read "Granny and the Hole," it's not because of what I said about who's running for president.  But if I do post something that is contrary to who YOU'RE backing for president - and maybe I'm being na├»ve here - I wouldn't be surprised if that would be something that might put you off from what I have to say in my stories or podcasts.  I might be in the 99%, the 47%, or the 87%, but that shouldn't impact the quality of my work, so why make that such an important part of my online presence?

I've not read one thing left on any social media website that's changed my mind about "the issues."  But I have read PLENTY that's given me a stronger and clearer picture about the person posting these things online.  Sure, once I have a loud enough "voice" and large enough audience, something I say online might influence somebody politically or societally, but, really, I don't know if I really even want that influence.  And I'm shocked that some folks seem to think that they are able to change somebody's mind by posting their own beliefs wrapped up in insults or attacks against someone else's.

I give my opinion loud and clear about zombie movies on Mail Order Zombie, and rate them accordingly.  And sometimes my opinions differ from my real life friends, as well as my listeners and my Facebook and Twitter connections.  But, really, in the grand scheme of things, something like giving Shaun of the Dead a 4-Headshot rating and Zombieland a 5-Headshot rating isn't something that's going to negatively follow me around as I build a career as a writer (outside of some gentle ribbing).

So, no, I'm not going to post which way I'm voting, what I really think about politics, or how I really feel about (any) church.  As someone who's working on creating a career that's dependent on other folks supporting me, I'd like people to know me for my work as opposed to knowing me for my politics.

This isn't directed at any one person.  I'm looking forward to when the election is over, but even then, there will be links to Fox News for this or the clip from the Daily Show for that or whatever.  I can handle that.  Just don't expect me to get into it myself.  I've got stories to write, a brand to build, and a handful of zombie movies to review.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Words Up, Weight Down - 9/12/12

The weekends kill me. Catching up on rest, chores, and errands keep me from sticking to my exercise and writing routines, and I feel like I did a terrible job this past weekend in terms of taking care of myself. (Although I did have a good weekend otherwise with the Rose City Comic-Con, spending an outdoor movie night with some friends, and getting ready for my visiting sister-in-law.)

That all said, I didn't lose much weight since last week. I'm only down one pound. I don't know if this is a matter of plateau-ing or I just let myself slide a bit either on the morning walks (I did cut a couple short since I was running short on time) or food intake (sometimes my dinner meals are harder to track calorie-wise when we eat out or order in).

As for the writing, I finally licked a Kindle formatting problem I was having, so I'm able to move forward on a non-fiction project that's been hanging out in the wings for WAAAAAY too long.  And when I get tired of working on THAT project, I have a Marc Temple short story in the works as well.  Bouncing back and forth between these two vastly different projects has helped keep me from getting bored with either (although, it's kind of hard for me to get bored when Marc Temple's around!).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Words Up, Weight Down

I grew up skinny. My grandparents used to tease me by telling me that a good gust of wind would blow me away. I was a thin kid.

Then I got my first apartment, started fending for myself, and decided that if it took longer to make the food than it did to eat it, it wasn't worth it. And besides, I lived less than a handful of blocks away from a part of town my friends and I called "Fast Food Row." I had a Burger King, a McDonald's, a Taco Johns, and a Wendy's (and a Subway, but no drive-thru meant I didn't go there often) less than five minutes away. Needless to say, a good gust of wind wasn't going to carry me away anymore.

When we became vegetarian, I think some people assumed I'd lose some of that weight, but less meat turned into more carbs for me, and since I've never been the most active guy to begin with (I used to fake asthma attacks to get out of gym class in junior high school), I may have even gained more weight at that point.

Over the past few years, I've made some attempt off-and-on to get into better shape, and I've always failed. I've either let time get the better of me, hurt my already bad back (I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease several years ago, which was partly brought on due to my weight), or just lost the drive.

Things needed to change.

Inspired by my friend and 1951 Down Place co-host Casey who's had an amazing health and fitness journey of his own, I started looking at what I could do to start my own journey.

I found an app for my phone (the Noom Weight Loss Coach). I decided I could start getting up earlier in the morning so I could take advantage of a trail by my home. And I set my mind to really watching my daily caloric intake.

Since the beginning of August, I've been getting up anywhere between 5:00am and 6:00am, before going for a walk for about half-an-hour, trying to write for about an hour, and then going to work (during the week - I skip the work-part on the weekends!). And since the beginning of August, I've lost 15 pounds.

My writing did stall for a little bit while I adjusted to this new schedule, but the words are starting to flow again while I reevaluate my various works-in-progress. Right now, I'm working on a short story, and I'm very happy to be hanging out with an old friend again.

Moving forward, I intend to use Wednesday as my "accountability day" here at Plan D. Here's to hoping for more Words Up, Weight Down . . . !

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reflecting on Jaws

I don't watch Jaws enough these days, really, and I still haven't sat down for a viewing of the new Blu-ray (I did scan through it a bit and checked out the documentary The Shark is Still Working, though).  But I think I watched it enough growing up to make up for my recent lack of Jaws-watching.

The first Jaws film I saw was Jaws 3D as part of a "double feature" with Octopussy.  (It wasn't really a double feature.  My friend's father took me and him to the movies, and paid for one ticket a piece for all three of us for Jaws 3D.  At the intermission, he snuck us over to watch Octopussy, then when that movie was over, he snuck us all back to the second half of a later showing of Jaws 3D.  I was extremely disappointed that I didn't get to keep my 3D glasses from Jaws 3D - my friend's dad kept them since he paid for the movie ticket.  Jerk.)

I honestly don't remember when I first saw Jaws, but I know when I became obsessed with it.  It was high school for me, so we're looking back at early-90s.  I'd been aware of the film, of course, and I'd seen it before, but when I first started renting it at the local video store, I watched that movie religiously.  I analyzed it.  I practically took notes.  I had friends over specifically for a Jaws-viewing-party.  The film's score is one of the first I bought on CD for myself, but that wasn't until after my friend Jerad bought it on cassette.

We were at the local mall (Cheyenne, WY, only had one), he popped the Jaws soundtrack tape in my car's radio, and we slowly cruised the mall parking lot.  The John Williams music blared from my car's meager speakers as we (and, yeah, this was probably not the nicest thing to do) slowly followed random people in the parking lot.  For some reason, this act stuck with me.  So much so that when I would pick my little brother Kevin up from school, I'd let him pick someone at random walking along the sidewalk, and we'd follow him, the car windows rolled down and the Jaws theme blasting as loud as we could make it go.

And since I thought I wanted to be a filmmaker when I grew up, I wrote a screenplay for a parody movie called Shocks.  In it, a killer car was loose in the mall parking lot during Cheyenne's Frontier Days, and mall security guard Cody was going to team up with bounty hunter Flint and someone named Cooper to stop it.

Fortunately, that movie never got made.

But I did revisit the idea a few years later while taking Video Production classes at Laramie County Community College when I turned it into a project for the assignment of creating a "Non-Verbal/Emotional" video.

Jaws' music, its visuals, its characters, its pacing - I found it inspiring and I'm VERY happy with the Blu-ray release even though I've not sat down to watch the movie in full.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Thursday Thirteen: Where I've Been


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.  This time, I'm attempting to explain why there haven't been any new updates here at Plan D for the past three weeks.

I may or may not be a liar.

- I've been spending my energy fighting the temptation to relapse and fall out of the writing-and-walking routine I've been sticking to the past couple of weeks.

- Watching a zombie movie for Mail Order Zombie that I ended up not liking very much battered my will to live . . . almost.

- I ran out of peanut butter.

- Two words: Godzilla movies.

- I've had to miss a few hours of work here and there for various reasons, and even something like that totally threw off my schedule.

- I'm restructuring the Word Count Wednesday feature into something to address the other 'W' in my life that needs some work - weight loss.

- I'm gearing up for a new super secret podcast project.

- I'm catching up on existing not-so-secret podcast projects.

- We're still recovering from taking all four cats to the vet at the same time for all their vaccinations.

- It's taken me this long to break out of the vicious loop caused by an accident with a time machine, a Segway and three quarts of mayonnaise.  Sure, it may only seem like a couple weeks to you, but for me, it was a 17-year-long Hellmann nightmare.

- I've spent most of my fingers-on-keyboard time at home writing fiction instead of blog posts.

- Competing in the Olympics has taken up most of my off hours.

- I've been posting the entire time, but your web browser thought it was "too good" for Plan D and refused to show the latest updates.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Thursday Thirteen: Podcast Fantasies


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.  This time around, I'm thinking about podcasting.

I love producing Mail Order Zombie, and 1951 Down Place has been a blast.  I've put together segments or submitted material for The B-Movie CastDisney, Indiana; and other shows.  A few years ago, I did a Countdown to Halloween podcast series.  It's a lot of fun for me (especially the editing part!), and I've joked with friends that if there was more time in the day and I didn't have to rely on things like steady income, employee benefits, and quality time with my wife (not necessarily in that order!), I'd set up shop behind the microphone and podcast a lot more.  For this Thursday Thirteen, I'm going to allow myself to daydream a bit and imagine what other podcasts I'd produce in that imaginary land of more-free-time-etc.-etc.-etc.

In no particular order . . .

- A Spaghetti Western podcast.  Years ago, I would have been shocked to know that I enjoy Westerns as much as I do now.  I seem to recall telling a group of fellow students during a class presentation in the mid-90s that I can find something to enjoy in nearly every type of movie except Westerns.  (One student approached me after that class to tell me that I shouldn't avoid Westerns because Western storytelling was as valid as storytelling in any other genre.  I just nodded and smiled.)  Over the years, my views have broadened quite a bit, and while I still don't get too excited about a lot of Hollywood Western product, the Spaghetti Western screams enthusiastically at me.  I love the colors, the storytelling, the music, the action . . . How much fun would it be to produce a regular podcast celebrating my love of this sub-genre?

- A Robert E. Howard podcast.  This is a no-brainer for those who know me as I've been citing REH as my favorite writer for years.  There are already podcasts devoted to the literary work of Howard's fellow "Musketeers of Weird Fiction" H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, so why not?  (The only downside is that I couldn't call it the Crom Cast as that name's already been taken.)  How much fun would it be to get into the nitty gritty of Howard's literature in a podcast?

- A horror film music podcast.  I collect film scores, and I love my horror movie music.  This would ultimately turn into a podcast in which I just play my favorite music, but I can't imagine something like that working legally for very long!  Even then, how much fun would it be?

- A post-apocalyptic movie podcast.  We've danced pretty close to this territory on Mail Order Zombie, and have even devoted an entire summer on MOZ to the sub-genre, but how fun would it be to do this on a regular basic?  With my wife, even?

- An H. P. Lovecraft podcast.  This wouldn't necessarily unique in that there ARE other Lovecraft- and Cthulhu-flavored shows out there.  But wouldn't it still be fun to do?

- A Universal Monsters podcast.  One of my absolute favorite podcast experiences was producing Episode #170 of The B-Movie Cast.  Being able to share my love for all things Creature from the Black Lagoon was a lot of fun, and it's led to some conversations with listeners of the B-Movie Cast as well as some new friendships.  I love my zombie movies.  I love my Hammer films.  And I also have a mad love for the Universal horror classics.  I typically find myself falling firmly in the 40s as my favorite Universal monster decade when I have to think about my go-to-movies, but I love them all.  I'm super excited for the upcoming Blu-ray release, and hope that some day Universal will finally release some of their lesser known monster titles (Captive Wild Woman, for example) on DVD (honestly, I'd prefer Blu-ray, but I'm trying to think realistically here!).  There's no question - it WOULD be fun to produce a podcast like this!

- A Creature from the Black Lagoon podcast.  This would spin out of the the Universal Monsters podcast.  And, yes, I think I could sustain a regular podcast devoted to my favorite film and its franchise.  And, yes, I think it would be fun!

A writing podcast of some sort.  I subscribe to a lot of writing podcasts, and I enjoy them quite a bit.  I enjoy the interviews with writers, the sharing of writers' tips, the progress updates, and the knowing I'm not alone in the indie-writing-game.  I've learned about self-publishing, about different subgenres, about audience expectations, and about different markets.  And, honestly, producing a writing podcast of my own would help further my own writing and publishing goals in that it would broaden my own audience while further representing the genres in which I find myself most (important since I've noticed that most writing podcasts tend to stay away from the dark horror material unless it's flavored by urban fantasy elements).  It would be fun, wouldn't it?

- An odd film history podcast.  I've become more and more interested in the history of Hollywood as of late.  I spend a few hours every week going through the listings on TCM looking for the odd short films, making-of specials, public service announcements, etc.  I don't know what a podcast devoted to covering this sort Hollywood cinema scraps would entail in terms of research, etc., but it could be fun, couldn't it?

- A Peter Cushing podcast.  Listen to an episode of 1951 Down Place and you know why this would be fun!

- A John Agar podcast. Mr. Agar is another one of my favorite actors, and while he's most known for his B-movie work, he had a career spilling into other genres as well.  After reading his autobiography and interviews with his family, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and it would be a lot of fun to really dive into this man's filmography.

- An audiodrama of some sort.  Post-production is often times my favorite part of podcasting, and putting together an audiodrama would force me to flex those muscles while giving me an opportunity to spin some slightly different writing gears.  What kind of audiodrama would it be?  I don't know, but it's fun to think about!

- A podcast devoted to B-movies.  I hear what you're saying right now.  There's already The B-Movie Cast.  And it's a damned fine podcast.  It's one of the shows I listen to as soon as I download it to my iPod.  I love what Vince, Mary, Nic and company do every week on that show . . . and I love it so much I want to do it, too!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Superhero Prose Genre, or How Harmon's Ruminations Informed My Own

Earlier this year, I started reading superhero fiction. I used to read a lot of comic books regularly/obsessively, but I've drifted away from most of them over the years and the current crop of comic book movies just don't seem to be directed at me, but I've been reading comic book adventure-style stories in prose form. I stumbled across Wearing the Cape by Marion G. Harmon, and loved it. I read its follow up - Villains Inc. - and now I find myself eagerly awaiting his next story set in his universe. While waiting for that to happen, I've checked out other superhero prose by authors like Van Allen Plexico or collections like George R. R. Martin's Wildcards series. A handful of superhero anthologies litter my Kindle right now, and while I'm also regularly reading horror, dark fantasy and non-fiction, I'm finding myself dipping into the capes and tights quite a bit.

I'm really enjoying it, and while I do have some favorites (like Harmon's works), I'm excited to see that more and more authors are springing up with superhero stories to tell. (I'm even finding myself writing some of my own stories. The once-put-to-rest notions of writing comics suddenly seems possible again since I don't have to worry about drawing the books; I can just write them!)

I follow Marion Harmon's website, watching for news of the next WtC novel, and last week I read Mr. Harmon's blog entry in which he ruminates on the superhero genre. First, he expresses his belief that the superhero movies are going to be with us for "the foreseeable future" thanks to advances in CGI and the merchandising possibilities. I agree with him, especially since most Marvel movie properties are going to have Disney money and marketing behind them (although I find Disney's decision to develop Big Hero 6 as an animated feature a bit odd).

He goes on to break down the three basic modes of superhero storytelling: deconstructive, cinematic, and realistic.

I've read some superhero prose that I haven't enjoyed as much as some of the others, and I've not been able to put my finger on what it is that I like versus what I don't. I think Mr. Harmon helped me to figure it out.

I'm not a huge fan of the deconstruction of the genre. I mean, I get it. It's kind of fun to dig into the more "silly" elements of superheroes (Harmon mentions secret identities as being physically or socially impossible, for example), but for me, if I'm reading a superhero story, I'm ready to accept some of the hyper-reality that goes with it.

This kind of bleeds into the realistic superhero story. I might want a little justification or explanation as to how things work the way they do (a special branch of law enforcement being set up to handle superpowered heroes and villains, for example), but I don't need to break down these tropes to really enjoy a superhero story.

My own preference apparently is (mostly) the cinematic superhero story, but I don't need the heroes to win every time. Those who know me know that I like my stories a little more dangerous and dark, so I don't mind the heroes losing or characters dying (when it serves the story). I don't believe that these kinds of stories have to be aimed at the YA-market exclusively.

I have found a trend in a lot of superhero fiction, especially long form fiction, in which the main character is someone just discoverig their superpowers and joining an established superhero group or community. While I do appreciate the existence of established superpowered groups in my superhero prose (it makes the world seem more "real" to me somehow), I don't know if we always need that newcomer to piggy back with to really get into the story. I'm not saying that this is an instant turn off for me - Wearing the Cape does this, and does it engagingly well - but do we need an origin story for our viewpoint character right off the bat?

(Something I'm outlining right now actually does follow this set-up and pattern. I hope I manage to pull it off as well as Mr. Harmon!)

Another trend? Snark. Now, don't get me wrong. I enjoy snark as much as the next guy, but I don't always need that anti-establishment-the-man-even-if-he's-wearing-a-cape keeping us down approach in my superhero stories. It's just off-putting to me. Maybe it's my age or my exposure to years and years of comics (both mainstream and indy) in which this element wasn't needed to tell a good story.

As much as I love my horror fiction and my zombie stuff and my monster movies and all things kinda-sorta dark and scary, sometimes I just want a straight up cinematic superhero story without the deconstructive-snarky-through-the-eyes-of-a-teenage-newcomer lead character.

(Although I do reserve the right to work some twisted magic and supernatural boogey-ness into the mix!)

(I also reserve the right to be proven wrong.  If there's some superhero prose out there that anyone would recommend, whether it's deconstructive, realistic, cinematic or some mix of all three, please shout out the title and I'll check it out!)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Word Count Wednesday - 7/4/12

This past week was a bit more stressful than normal, which led to a diminished word count increase.

TGEoBD (New non-fiction) - 1,500 / 40,000-50,000
Non-fiction-ish project - Chapter/section breakdown - 3-out-of-6 completed
KFRDZM (New fiction) - New outline/chapter breakdown - 5-out-of-11 completed

Monday, July 2, 2012

About bloody Blu- time . . .

I don't care how many of my friends email me, forward me links, tag me on Facebook or @ me on Twitter.  I can't get enough of hearing about Universal FINALLY putting some of their classic monster films out on Blu-ray.

"Some of their classic monster films?"  Excuse me . . . I mean, some of their BEST classic monster films.

This particular collection of Universal classics have already been assembled once before in a DVD collection back in 2009, but I already had these titles before either as part of their Legacy collection or their Legacy series or whatever.  I have double-dipped for these titles before, and I'm eager to make this Blu-ray collection the last time I have to.

Besides, Creature from the Black Lagoon is going to be presented in 3D.  3D.  How cool is that?  I've been fortunate enough to see the film in 3D a few times over the years, and to know that Universal spent some time and money to clean this print up has me salivating!

They're billing this as an 8-movie set, but in truth, it will contain 9 films as the Spanish-language version of Dracula (filmed concurrently with the Lugosi-film) is included as a special feature on the Dracula Blu-ray disc.

Now, I am a LITTLE disappointed that most of what I'm finding online about this release seems to indicate that only Dracula got the full-on restoration treatment.  I'd love to see all of these prints get a good once over, as I've played some of the DVDs of these films on my Blu-ray player, and the upconversion doesn't always pan out for the best.

That said, I'm still REALLY excited.  Universal seems to be giving these films a bit of attention right now, and that's always a good thing.  (I'd love to see more, of course, but I'll take what I can get for now!)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Writing Wednesday (Revisting an Old Meme)

I'm reworking a few things and changing my approach to my various works-in-progress, so no Word Count Wednesday this week.  (All three works-in-progress ARE still in-progress; I'm just changing how I'm looking at them, which means reevaluating the targeted word count.)  I still wanted to do something writer-ly at Plan D, though, so I'm looking at an old post from my long-defunct LiveJournal. A meme was making its way around various authors' websites/blogs back then, and I opted to give it a go myself at the time. I'm most interested to see how my outlook may have changed in the past four years.

My present-day thoughts will be italicized.

A meme? A writing meme. (Originally appeared at my LiveJournal page, 7/25/08)

Over at his blog Razored Zen, Charles Gramlich posted A Meme for Writers, and while I only rarely participate in any kind of meme, because this one has to do with writing, and because I'd like to use it to help get the writing wheels spinning a bit faster, I wanted to throw a few words down here.

Your genre(s): I've always played in the realm of the "speculative fiction" and right now, I've got my head and pen firmly planted in the horror genre. Over the years, I've played with fantasy quite a bit, and back in high school, I dabbled in a little bit of science fiction, but I've always felt most comfortable weavewriting horror. Last November (for National Novel Writing Month), I attempted to bridge my interests in fantasy and horror and laid a lot of groundwork for a "dark fantasy" project, but after too many chapters in which the story felt more and more like your "standard" fantasy novel, I set it aside to focus on more short stories. (I may get back to it someday - I never throw away any of my writing.) I'd like to try writing in other genres some day - especially since some of the best writing includes elements from more than one or two(!) - but right now, horror (with a smattering of action) is calling me.

I still identify myself as a horror writer, and most of my writing these days would still be on the horror shelf at your local bookstore (if your local bookstore still has such a shelf). The dark fantasy novel attempt referenced above? I haven't touched it, but I still have it. And it will probably stay firmly trunked where it's at for a long, long time.  For years, I really struggled with the "urban fantasy" label, but I think I have to accept that MAYBE some of what I write might include elements from that sub-genre as well.

How many books are you working on now: Actively working on? Just one. Passively? I've got a handful of projects that are constantly brewing.  

Honestly, I don't remember what book that was. These days, I'm actively working on one novella and two non-fiction pieces.  The other pieces are bubbling inside my gray matter, patiently waiting for their chance to hit paper.

Are you a linear or chunk writer: I'm primarily a linear writer. I've tried writing in chunks, and it's gotten me in trouble before (in that I've written a particular scene detailing the demise of a character that was never intended to survive, but after writing that scene, I became attached to that character so much so that I didn't want to kill her off, and I ended up with more rewriting than intended!).

I'm still a linear writer, but I've been exploring working with outlines more and more, especially for the bigger projects. I think this still counts as being "linear" although I wonder what would happen if I wrote the outline in a linear fashion, but then used it to write the chunks of the story . . .

The POV you're partial to: I'm not a huge fan of first-person perspective. Some of the writers I follow do use this POV, and that's fine. When it's done well, it works well. However, I also sometimes find it to be a cheat. I'm partial to various forms of the third person point of view myself.  

I still tend to struggle with first-person perspective. It's a personal choice/preference, and to be completely honest, I've sometimes put first-person perspective stories down because it (fairly or not) takes more to hook me when I find out the new book I've started is written from a singular character's point of view
The tense you use: I write in the past tense.  

This hasn't changed for me at all.

The theme that keeps cropping up in your books: This was the hardest question for me to answer, and in all truth, I still don't know if I can come up with a satisfactory answer. A lot of my fiction involves characters that are somehow outsiders that a group of doomed "insiders" need in order to reach some sort of goal. Additionally, some sort of secret knowledge (creepy or otherwise!) usually ends up being brought out into the open in most of my stories. Does this all add up to some sort of theme? I don't really know, but I'll keep writing until I find out!

This still finds its way into some of my writing. Something else that's been cropping up is the concept of "found family." The idea of a group of non-related folks coming together and forming a family unit has appealed to be for years.

How many days a week do you write: The quick answer? Not enough! In truth, I'm writing only twice a week some weeks, which is pretty depressing. I need to make more time for it. (The podcast eats up a lot of my time - I love doing it, but I'm not overly comfortable with giving up my writing time for it. I'd be much more comfortable giving up the time I spend, oh, say, sleeping, instead.)

For the past couple weeks, I've been getting up around an hour earlier than I used to and spending almost an hour every morning writing. It's been REALLY good for me (thanks Jason and Joe!), and I'd like to think I've become a much more productive writer because of it. Additionally, I've been a LOT better at balancing my podcast-producing time with everything else in my life.  It's been GREAT!

What time of day do you get your best writing done: This varies. I've found that as long as I'm focusing on it, I can write pretty much any time of the day, although late nights often provide the least distractions.

Now?  The morning.

My favorite authors to read: I'm adding new writers to my "favorites" list fairly regularly, but those that I know I can always count on include: Robert E. Howard, Douglas Clegg, H. P. Lovecraft, Mick Farren and I'm very close to adding Edward Lee to that list.

Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft and Douglas Clegg are still on that list.  I haven't read Mick Farren for years before picking up The Last Stand of the DNA Cowboys a few months back for a re-read of that book.  It's still a favorite of mine, but I can't say I've read a lot of Farren lately.  As for Edward Lee, I went through a Edward Lee spurt during which I read as much of his work as I could, but I haven't gone back to it, either.  If I were to add anyone to that list today, I'd add James Reasoner (I know I keep saying it, but I'm still shocked that I'm reading Westerns regularly these days).

Who are your mentors: I'm going to cheat here. I know very few successful writers "in real life". I follow a few through LiveJournal and MySpace, but I don't have a mentor-mentee relationship with any of them outside of my reading their work on a regular basis. Novels rarely come with "commentary tracks," so I rely on the experience of actually reading the work or following a writer's blog to pick up what mentoring I can.

In September 2010, I was fortunate enough to interview Douglas Clegg for an episode of MOZ Presents: The Munchies.  It was an absolute pleasure to speak with him for much longer than I think he really expected to chat with some zombie movie podcaster about non-zombie subjects, and we spoke a lot about writing in general.  I learned a lot during that conversation, and I'd like to think he's made my writing better because of it.  As for any formal kind of mentor-mentee relationship, I still follow and interact with some writers online.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Word Count Wednesday - 6/20/12

The sword-and-sorcery short story is finished; the first draft runs just over 7,100 words.  As with my recent Marc Temple story, I'm going to let it sit for a bit before taking another pass at it.

Having completed these two short stories, I'm looking at some longer projects right now.

TGEoBD (New non-fiction) - 1,100 / 40,000-50,000
Non-fiction-ish project - I'm changing the formatting on this AGAIN, and I have no idea how to track the progress on this, but progress IS being made.
KFRDZM (New fiction) - 0 / 50,000-60,000 - I'm circling this project right now, working up an outline, character cards and chapter cards.  I anticipate actual words being thrown at this by week's end.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I never thought I'd be one of THOSE people

For years, if left unchecked, I'd stay up late. REALLY late. 3, 4, 5 in the morning late. Then I'd struggle to get up for work or school the next day. Brenda and I would stay up late, hanging out, watching movies, working on projects, whatever. Of course, doing that on an all-too-regular basis makes most morning tasks REAL tough.

I liked sleeping in. I set my alarm clock to the minute to maximize pillow time before zipping through the morning routine and facing the day.

Almost two weeks ago, though, I started getting up early. On purpose.

And it's been good.

Now, I typically wake up anywhere from 5-30 minutes before my always alarm goes off, and in energized, feeling ready to accomplish a bit of writing before getting ready for work. It's been very productive for me, and my writing is definitely benefiting from this new routine.

Feels good. Feels real good. (And now that I'm getting up early every morning, the occasional Sundays when I need to get up early to podcast with my friends
2-3 timezones away, I don't need nearly as much coffee to sound like I know what I'm talking about that early in the morning!)

(Huge thanks to Jason and Joe!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Word Count Wednesday - 6/13/12

I finished the first draft of my Marc Temple "flash" piece Tuesday morning.  I'm letting it cool for a few days before breaking out the red pen.  I missed my "flash fiction" goal as it currently sits at just over 2,200 words, but I'm okay with that.

Sword-and-sorcery story: ? (By the time this post goes live, I will have given what I already wrote months ago a good once over.  I need to determine what to leave in and where pick back up)
Non-fiction-ish project: 35 / ~ 300 pages (due to the nature of this project, I'm tracking it by page count now)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Gill-Man in My Mailbox

Came home to find this little treasure in my mailbox, and while this wasn't a particularly rough Monday, this was definitely one helluva nice way to start the evening.

This Crestwood House series of books is directly responsible for not just my monster movie fandom, but my interest in monster movie research as well.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Thursday Thirteen: Reflecting on the 2012 H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon


It's been about a month since the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon, and I'm STILL going through withdrawl. I love this festival. I look forward to it every year, and I'm already looking forward to the 2013 event (it's going to be long year!).

My Thirteen favorite things about this year's H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon are (in no particular order, except for the final entry):

1. The Hollywood Theatre. I know the festival didn't begin life at the Hollywood, but it's always been there as long as I've been going, and the staff has always worked to make the festival a pleasant experience. This year was one of the best years for the festival - they were well-stocked w/ their concessions, the theater was clean, everyone was friendly and made us feel welcome. (They also did a great job promoting their own upcoming events - I went back to the Hollywood for a fourth night in a row for a screening of Juan of the Dead because it was hard to miss the one-sheet hanging in the lobby!) And, let's be honest, the topsy curvy non-Euclidean hallway leading upstairs feels like something straight out of a Lovecraft short story!

2. The poster. I'm an Indiana Jones fan. I don't make any apologies about it (or about ...Crystal Skull for that matter - that responsibility sits with someoneGEORGELUCASelse). And it doesn't hurt that I've long wanted to experience some sort of Mythos-flavored fiction blended with the serial adventure stylings of the Indiana Jones films. I loved this poster design, and while I've never bought a t-shirt or poster at the festival before, this year I found myself (thanks to a good friend!) walking away from the festival with both a poster and t-shirt sporting this look.

3. The Shorts Blocks. I've said it before - the best thing about some of these film festivals are the short film collections. Over the years, it's gotten a little easier to track down some of these shorts online after the festival, but for the most part, you're only going to see some of these movies in a film festival setting. Stand out shorts this year included Doctor Glamour (for all the beautifully wrong reasons), The Curse of Yig (this is one of my favorite Lovecraft stories, and I've been looking forward to this short for a long time) and Stay at Home Dad (mythos + bizarro = AWESOME).

4. The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society. If I remember right, in my years of attending the show, there was only one year in which the HPLHS didn't attend the festival (but they were filming The Whisperer in Darkness, so I think everyone forgave them!). The enthusiasm of these guys is infectious, and I meant it when I walked up to their table, looked at everything they had for sale, and told them that they didn't have anything new that I haven't already picked up over the years.  I love what they release, and watching the presentation detailing the origins of the HPLHS wsa a lot of fun.  (Renting a helicopter for a live-action role-playing game?  To see a symbol drawn on the desert floor that can only be seen from above?!)

5. The popcorn. I don't know what it is about that popcorn, but it was SUPER addictive that weekend . . . and every time I've gone back to the Hollywood since the festival (like for Juan of the Dead or the Portland Grindhouse screening of Squirm), I've looked forward to that popcorn as part of the experience! (And you know a bag of popcorn is in the cards when I go back for the upcoming screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark!)

6. The readings. When I first started going to the festival, there wasn't much more than just the movies, but over the years, more and more literary events have been added to the mix. The addition of and increased attention to the readings and author appearances has paralleled my own creative drives, and I've been walking away from the event feeling energized and ready to throw some words down with Lovecraftian FORCE. I especially enjoyed W. H. Pugmire's reading, and I found another writer (Jay Lake) to add to my To-Read list.

7. No Poe. Now, I know . . . Lovecraft looked up to Poe. I respect Poe. I get Poe. I've got nothing against Poe. But I didn't miss Poe at the festival this year. It's just not my bag as much as Lovecraft and his contemporaries are.

8. Hellbender Media.  Like the HPLHS, this is another vendor that I've always looked forward to seeing at the festival (even if Edward Martin III only recently started going by the Hellbender Media name).  Edward is a fountain of excitement, a good friend, and a joy to watch as he interacts with other fans and potential customers.  The few years he's not been at the festival have been a bit dimmer with his absence.  (And I canNOT WAIT for Flesh of my Flesh to be completed!  Every time I see him, he's made just a bit more progress, and I'm looking forward to the day when I can ask him, "How's Flesh of my Flesh?" and he answers back by showing me the completed DVD.)

9. The House in the Port.  A few years ago, I met J. R. Torina at the festival.  He was talking with another friend (Bryan Moore, another guy who's presence is always missed), and I saw that he had some CDs of his original music with him.  We chatted a little about music, and then I saw he had some packets of paper stapled together in tow.  He told me it was his novel The House in the Port, and he gave me a copy of it.  I really enjoyed it, so when I saw him again this year and he gave me a book version of the novel, I was thrilled!

10. The festival volunteer staff.  Everyone knew what they were doing.  Things went super smooth, and no one let on if they were stressed or overworked or any of that.  Granted, I'm used to seeing cool-under-pressure on display at the festival, and it's nice to see that over the years, volunteers keep coming back to help out and help out in the best ways possible.

11. The festival directors.  I first knew Brian and Gwen Callahan as the folks behind Sigh Co. Graphics, which was another always present table in the vendors' room, and when I heard they were taking over the festival directing duties, I honestly didn't know what to think.  I shouldn't have been concerned.  Last year's October "mini-fest" was a blast, and the 2012 festival was FANTASTIC.  Andrew Migliore birthed a great thing when he launched the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, and Brian and Gwen have taken the ball and not only run with it, but already scored a touchdown or two.  Last October, Brian apologized for being nervous in front of people when he took to the stage (he did great!), and this year, he seemed like he'd been doing this for YEARS.  And Gwen is one of the sweetest people I've ever met while still rocking every event she presented.  She even followed up with me personally when there was some concern over the t-shirts (she didn't need to - there was no problem).  The festival's in good hands, gang . . .

12. The panels.  I regret that I didn't attend more because these are always a lot of fun.  As with the the readings, I found new artists and creators to follow (like Thomas Phinney), and it's always good to hear Robert Price speak about anything Lovecraft.  The highlight of the panels for me?  Getting to ask people like Price and my friends Jarred Wallace and Scott Glancy if we're all "a bunch of damned hipsters because we liked Cthulhu before it was COOL" during a Lovecraft in Pop Culture panel.

13. Barbarian Days. I only watched one feature film this year at the festival, and this was it.  While I might tilt my head a bit at seeing Poe represented at the HPL Film Festival, I always look forward to seeing more Mythos-flavored work from Lovecraft contemporaries.  And because I'm such a fan of Robert E. Howard, as soon as I saw that this documentary was playing this year, I knew I had to see it.  And I ended up watching it twice.  This documentary had quite an effect on me, and while it's been almost a month, this film is still resonating in my head.  I'm looking forward to an opportunity to buy this on DVD or Blu-ray as it's something I'm going to go back and watch again.  It was a powerful experience, and to have this played at this festival was oh-so-fitting.  As Brian pointed out when he presented the film, while the folks in this documentary may not dress the way most of us do at the HPL Festival, the attendees of Barbarain Days are very much like the Lurkers in their fandom and appreciation of Robert E. Howard.

(I'll likely revisit this film again here at Plan D later this year.)

HUGE thanks to Brian, Gwen, Andrew, the vendors, the guests, the panelists, the writers, the filmmakers, etc., etc., etc. for putting on such a great show this year.  It's going to be a long 11 months until the next one . . .

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Word Count Wednesday - 6/6/12

A lot of my writing time since last week was funnelled into prepping for the Kindle release of "Granny and the Hole."

Marc Temple Flash Fiction story: 952 / ~ 1,000
Sword-and-sorcery story: ~ 4,000 / ~ 7,500
Non-fiction-ish project: 6,824 / ?

I'm going to be taking stock again at the end of this week as the sword-and-sorcery piece is something that I'd really LIKE to finish, but it has been gathering cyber-dust for a while on my laptop, and as much as I hate to do it (in terms of pushing back the story's completion), I may need to start over (which, honestly, I'm okay with as I REALLY like the beginning of the story, so I don't mind giving it a quick once over).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Released - "Granny and the Hole"

"Granny and the Hole" is the name of my first self-e-published short story released on Amazon Kindle.  With a short story, there's not typically a lot of space for any sort of "Special Thanks" page, so I'd like to take a moment here to publicly thank some folks who've helped out in the creation and production of this short story (in no particular order except for the final entry): Edward, Terry, Scott, Tracey, Joe and The Arkham Society of Gentleman Scribblers.

And, of course (the best for last), Brenda.

The following is a copy of the press release I've sent to a handful of folks.  Please feel free to spread the word!

Derek M. Koch

Derek M. Koch, producer of the long-running zombie movie podcast Mail Order Zombie, released his zombie short story "Granny and the Hole" on June 3, 2012.  The story, a tale of a man who refuses to let death stand in the way of a relationship between his mother-in-law and his daughter, is available for Amazon Kindle as part of the Kindle Select program, or for purchase for $1.29.

In addition to producing Mail Order Zombie, Koch has directed an award-winning zombie short film, appeared as a character in other authors' zombie stories, and has seen his own zombie stories previously released in other publishers' anthologies.  "Granny and the Hole" is the first story released by Koch's Black Sombrero Publishing.

"Granny and the Hole" can be found on at  "Granny and the Hole" will be released for other e-reader formats later this year.

About Derek M. Koch

Derek M. Koch lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, his cats and his zombie movie collection which forms the basis of the award-winning podcast Mail Order Zombie ( The movie collection is for the podcast. His wife is “patiently” supportive. The cats are waiting for dinner.  He can be found online at his website Plan D at

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Too many books at once . . .

We’ve got books all over the place: the bedroom, the closet, the living room, the dining room, sitting next to my computer, on my kindle wherever I happen to leave it sitting, etc.  The problem is that I typically don’t take the books with me from location to location whenever I start reading one.  Because of this, despite my inability to really track more than one fiction book at a time, I’ve got a handful of books “in process.”

Drives me nuts.

Right now, I'm working my way through two collections, which does make my multiple-simultaneous-readings a little easier to handle. The Robert E. Howard Reader edited by Darrell Schweitzer and Dreams In The Fire: Stories and Poetry inspired by Robert E. Howard edited by Mark Finn and Chris Gruber are sitting around here somewhere.  My Robert E. Howard fandom was sharpened after seeing Barbarian Days at this year's H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, and while I've read both of these collections before, it's great to go back and revisit these stories and essays while being able to put some faces to some of the by-lines' names.

(I suspect I'll post more about Barbarian Days in the future here at Plan D.  I know I'll - finally - post about the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival soon . . . )

I'm also rereading The Last Stand of the DNA Cowboys by Mick Farren.  I started out strong when I first cracked this paperback open again.  This was one of my favorite novels back in junior high school, and while I'm still enjoying the novel today, I'm finding even more in looking at the book and thinking about how it might have shaped me as a reader and writer.  It's a heavy science fiction book for an 8th-grader to get through considering some of the subject matter, and having changed quite a bit since then, I'm finding connections, enlightenments and just new meanings in the book.  I started rereading this several weeks ago (I'm around 75% finished with it now), then let it sit on the side of the bed for too long as I started going back to the Howard collections . . .

. . . and Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, Creator of King Kong by Mark Cotta Vaz.  This is another book I started, then let myself get distracted enough to read something else . . . excuses, excuses.  The thing is, this is a FASCINATING read.  I had NO IDEA Cooper did as many things as he did before entering the film industry, and everything he accomplished before creating King Kong.  The book is well-written and broken up into small page-or-two chunks that make it all too easy to sit aside, unfortunately, when I'm in the middle of something else.  I still dip into the pages a few times a day, though, and every time I open the book, I'm excited to learn more about Cooper and his friends and colleagues.

Right now, I've got a lot of other projects on my plate - writing, podcasting, etc. - but I'm glad that I'm able to spare a few minutes here and there to ground myself in the pages of a book.  (And don't get me started on the random stuff I have on my kindle!)  Now if only I could make myself focus on one at a time so I could actually finish them up . . .

. . . because there are plenty of other books to get to, I'm sure!

(There will be no Word Count Wednesday this week.  It's not that I'm not writing; I just managed to mismanage my non-writing time and needed to spend most of it working on the post-production of the latest episode of 1951 Down Place.)