Weekend Shenanigans

At last, it’s back to work on Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel Summer!

The author during his outing as a medieval plumber, and no, that is not a joke.

The author during his outing as a medieval plumber, and no, that is not a joke.

Last weekend I was otherwise occupied working the Connecticut Renaissance Faire, mostly with my wife (Veronica of Storied Threads), and one day with my friend Scott Kegler, assisting him with his street act for the show…not that he needed me, because the man is a dynamo of comedy. Watching him was a serious education in the art of clowning.

I got to work the faire on my favorite of the show’s theme weekends, Time Travelers Weekend, when patrons are encouraged to go a little crazy with non-period costuming. My wife took advantage of the looser rules on participant garb and helped mastermind an Avengers-themed presence among other merchants and the gaming crew. As you can see from one of the photos, no less than Clark Gregg himself approved of the Marvel-inspired surcoats created by my wife.

My friends Carlos, Greg, and Artemis in their cool Marvel kinghtly surcoats.

My friends Carlos, Greg, and Artemis in their cool Marvel kinghtly surcoats.

That weekend also featured the Doctor Who costume contest, co-judged by my wife, who dressed for the occasion in her Tenth Doctor-inspired ensemble, and our friend Krystal (the winner was a kid who built with his family’s help a full-sized Dalek outfit).

My wife and Krystal hosting the Doctor Who costume contest.

My wife and Krystal hosting the Doctor Who costume contest.

My wife in her Loki outfit and a friend as the Enchantress.

My wife in her Loki outfit and a friend as the Enchantress.

My friend Christian after a dramatic reading of book three. And yes, he read it in character. It was a riot.

My friend Christian after a dramatic reading of book three. And yes, he read it in character. It was a riot.

Credit where it’s due: photos by Lauren Dubois, Eric Tetreault, and Jamie Tarbell.

Cruel Summer – A Brief Update

I got an unexpected day off today, so I’ll be putting it to good use working on Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel Summer — which, at present, stands at about 35,400 words, almost the halfway mark.

I hope to get another good chunk out of the way today, since it’ll be the last chance I get to work on it until next weekend. I’m at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire this weekend, then it’s back to the daily grind for the rest of next week, but then I’ll have all of Saturday and Sunday to sit on the couch, pound at the laptop, and keep the Halloween horror movie goodness rolling.

By the way: as soon as Cruel Summer is out of my hair, I plan to keep the workaholic attitude firmly in place, because I’m already mentally laying out book five, which will be entitled (drumroll, please): Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups. Book four is going to be a darker story, and I suspect readers are going to need something a little lighter afterwards (I know I will), so book five will be a collection of mini-adventures that will pair up various characters in the AF universe. The game plan is to have book four out by March 2015, and book five out by September 2015.

Sharing The Love – The Halloween Series (Part Two)

I managed to sneak in some writing time Friday, which is noteworthy because my writing weekends are gone for a while (to attend a friend’s wedding and to work the Connecticut Renaissance Faire — in the Storied Threads tent for a couple days and as a street performer with my friend Scott).

The Strangers posterI picked up on my Halloween movie watching where I left off last week and started the day with The Strangers, one of my favorite modern horror movies. It’s the kind of movie that unnerves me despite repeated viewings, much like its spiritual kin Halloween. The Strangers also emulates Halloween in that it uses sound to superb effect, though in a different way. Whereas Halloween used its soundtrack to enhance the scares, The Stranger uses silence to ratchet up the tension. There are long stretches of near or total silence, punctuated by bursts of sound that are enough to make you jump.

One of the best moments in the movie requires a decent surround sound system to fully appreciate. One of the masked killers is walking around outside the house, and if you’re in the middle of a surround sound home theater system, you get to hear the footsteps circling around behind you — and trust me, if you’re alone in the house while watching that moment, it’s doubly creepy.

F13 Final ChapterI switched gears a little after that, moving from slow-burn horror on to masked killer mayhem (I like to keep my Halloween movie-fest thematically linked) in the form of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Friday the 13th: A New Beginning.

It’s an interesting transition between the first three films in the series and the next three. The original trilogy, made between 1980 and 1984, held onto the horror film aesthetic of the 1970s. They had a more raw, gritty feel that made them more effective than the franchise’s later entries, which had a more vivid, slicker 1980s vibe. A New Beginning really suffers from this, and that’s one of the reasons it’s one of the weakest chapters in the series (I say this knowing full well none of the movies are truly great, or even good).

For fans of the slasher genre, the Friday the 13th series is all about the spectacular kill scenes, and A New Beginning falls down hard there; the kill scenes feel timid and restrained compared. Add to that some of the worst acting in the franchise, flat humor, and TV-movie cinematography, and you’ve got a total package that makes one wonder if this movie was cranked out by the studio simply to keep the franchise alive while they thought of something better to do with it.

Sharing The Love – The Halloween Series

It’s October! It’s officially Halloween season!

Friday the 13th posterHalloween is my favorite holiday, and every year I have my own little lead-up celebration in the form of a continual horror movie marathon. This is the time of year I pull out all the old classics, and I got an early jump on things when I stumbled across Friday the 13th on SyFy last weekend. The channel showed the first three movies and I happily let them run (even though I own the entire series on DVD).

I will be the first to admit that the Friday the 13th franchise really is not the best of film series. Some of the entries are downright terrible, trite, and more about gross-out kills than legit scares, but I have a soft spot for them. When I was a kid, the fondly remember Movie Loft on channel 38 (back when UHF was a thing) showed the original movie, mostly unedited for gore, and it freaked the hell out of me good…especially the final jump scare at the end.

Fun little side note here: years ago I wound up working a show with Taso Stavrakis, who aided and abetted Tom Savini on the make-up FX, and provided the hand that held down Kevin Bacon for his death scene — which puts me two degrees away from Kevin Bacon.

The next day, I decided to indulge in a “slow burn horror” run, movies that take their sweet time building up tension before going batshit at the end, and I started off with The Shining, mainly because I had just finished re-reading the book for the third time. I’ve had a strange obsession with this movie ever since I was little. I remember seeing ads for it on TV and thinking it looked like the best scary movie ever, after Halloween (more on that in a bit).

The Shining PosterOf course, none of my family would take me to see such a movie, so I had to settle for grabbing the novel…which, I would like to note, mysteriously disappeared before I could read it. Fortunately, our town library was well-stocked and didn’t blink at a 10-year-old checking out a Stephen King book.

I re-read it in high school, when I went on a hardcore horror novel binge, and again recently, and it wasn’t until the most recent re-reading that I fully appreciated the fact that if you were to remove all of the supernatural elements — entirely, or just play them as background rather than something that actually existed in the story — you still have a great horror tale about a man slowly losing his mind and wreaking havoc on his very trapped family.

I know King is no fan of the movie, but I absolutely love it. The atmosphere, the tension, the slow build toward the end…it still holds up for me.

As does my next selection, Alien, another movie that, as a kid, I knew mostly through TV ads, by reputation, and through other media (Alien: The Illustrated Story, which I read in a bookstore and lusted after for many years before finally snaring a copy of the reprint when it was released a couple of years ago).

Alien PosterThere are a few spots where the movie shows its age — Mother the computer, Yaphet Kotto wrestling with what is clearly a mannequin — but man, it holds together otherwise, and the chestburster scene remains an iconic moment in movie history. I recall reading some interviews with the creative team, which wanted to create a “haunted house in space” movie, and I think they nailed it pretty well. Re-watching it makes me lament all the more the missed opportunity that was Prometheus.

PS: Despite what the poster image I use here suggests, I watched the original cut of the movie. The director’s cut has some interesting changes, but it also has one of the ballsiest shots in the movie: in the scene in which Harry Dean Stanton goes looking for Jones the Cat, Ridley Scott adds in a POV shot looking up into the cuts of the ship, up at the jungle of swinging chains — and the xenomorph is HANGING RIGHT THERE and you’d never see it unless you knew it was there. Love it.

The day ended with my all-time favorite horror movie: Halloween. The original not the remake. God, no.

Halloween PosterOnce again, this is a movie that, as a kid, I fell in love with simply through the TV ads. The ads alone creeped the fuck out of me, and once again, when my family refused to take me to see it, I got my hands on a copy of the novelization (which, I’ve learned, is one of THE most sought-after out-of-print books out there. Who knew?).

A few years later, NBC showed Halloween on TV — heavily edited, which I find funny considering that it is such a bloodless movie — and I watched the entire thing from between my fingers. I was terrified of going outside at night for years — YEARS afterward, because I was convinced Michael Myers was out there somewhere.

As hinted above, I am no fan of the Rob Zombie remake. It’s everything the original isn’t: loud, gory, and legitimately scary, in part because Zombie makes what I consider a horrible mistake in trying to explain Michael and give him a backstory. In the original, he was a mysterious force of evil. He had no motive. He was the boogeyman…and he remains my favorite boogeyman.

Fun fact: studio heads saw an early cut of the film, before John Carpenter added the soundtrack, and they weren’t impressed. They changed their tune once Carpenter added the iconic soundtrack.

Artwork Is Work

Passing this along for consideration by all the artists out there, from my friend Marrus: Wanna Eat? Charge for Your Work.

Also? While you’re over there, you should maybe go check out her art and buy something.

Thank You, Readers!

As you may know, Action Figures – Issue Three: Pasts Imperfect became available for the Kindle this past Saturday, and thanks to the amazing response, this happened:

Screencap 10 2

That’s book three sitting at the number 10 spot on the Kindle top 100 paid best-seller list for my genre (superheroes). Yes, for the first time, one of my books cracked a top ten list!

I can’t think of a better way to mark one year since the release of the first AF novel, Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins. Yep, it’s been a whole year since I dove headlong into the great self-publishing experiment, and I definitely have no regrets. In fact, this weekend’s big win kept me motivated in a huge way, and I knocked out a nice chunk of book four.

Yep, work is well underway for Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel Summer! This is one of the AF stories I’ve been dying to tell. It’s going to be a bit darker than its predecessors, but I trust everyone will hang tight for what’s sure to be a wild ride. My goal is to have it ready to go by March 2015, so stay tuned!

Blog Tour – Mayra Calvani’s “The Luthier’s Apprentice”

Hey there, regular readers. Doing something different today in the form of providing a blog tour stop to help out fellow indie author Mayra Calvani, whose new book The Luthier’s Apprentice is out now.

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Here’s everything you need to know, including where to pick up a copy…

The Luthier’s Apprentice (Violinist Detective Series, Book 1)

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…

When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice.  But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.

But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?

Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him.  And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…

Genre: YA Fantasy/Mystery

Sound good? Then click the link and grab your print or e-book copy now!

The Luthier’s Apprentice (Violinist Detective Series Book 1)

And now, a little about Ms. Calvani herself:

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani has penned over ten books for children and adults in genres ranging from picture books to nonfiction to paranormal fantasy novels. She’s had over 300 articles, short stories, interviews and reviews published in magazines such as The WriterWriter’s Journal and Bloomsbury Review, among others. A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, she now resides in Brussels, Belgium.

Website: http://www.MayraCalvani.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mcalvani

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mayra-Calvanis-Fan-Page/162383023775888

Blog: http://www.MayraCalvani.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/272703.Mayra_Calvani

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Mayra-Calvani/e/B001JP3I7C/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

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