July 29, 2011

What's Going On

Been working on a secret project. I'm almost finished with two of the three parts.

I'm not really sure if I can talk about it just yet, other than to say it's going to be something a little bit different than what I usually produce and I'm very excited about it.

I think you're going to like it when it comes out.

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Still hard at work on my Shane Stevens piece. I've made two really exciting discoveries in the last two weeks. Those I definately cannot talk about. All I can say is that it's poured gasoline on my fire.

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We finally watched the True Grit remake.

I liked it quite a bit and have since gone back to work on "The Plum Thicket".

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My Amazon order came yesterday. It included the twelve movies Andy Sidaris'  made in his Bullets, Babes, and Bombs series. I got the baker's dozen for a mere $6 bucks and plan on writing about Sidaris over at Jimmy Callaway's Let's Fuck Everybody site.

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Been re-reading a number of The Destroyer books.
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Finished Ga-Rei: Zero yesterday. I enjoyed it a great deal. Nice animation. Good voice-over work (for once there wasn't a character I hated because of the bad dubbing). The story was engaging: a nice combination of drama, action and comedy.

It seems to either be the set-up for another series or maybe a prequel of something already existing. If anyone knows, I'd appreciate the info. Of all the anime I've discovered via Netflix, it's definately proven to be one of my favorites.

July 23, 2011

The Last Bus To Rockaway

About a month ago, Dan O'Shea issued a challenge. For the details and additional stories go here. For my story, keep reading.

The Last Bus To Rockaway



Last bus from Brooklyn College Station. The Q35 all the way down Flatbush and cross the Marine Parkway, over Jamaica Bay and then—the Rockaways. The Ave is packed. Everybody out tonight. Everybody who not out is on this bus. S’okay. Nobody paying me attention. Nobody looking at me or what all over my coat or what I gots inside it. Just sitting here, head pressed against the glass, hand cupped over a cigarette, watching the lights go by.
             
First time I remember the Irish Riviera, my father took me. This back before the Playland closed. We’re there early in the morning, soon as it opened. Rides and hotdogs and cotton candy all day. That was some good times.

Course then it was mostly Irish. Now, it’s a lotta Russians and a Russian dude is the last man I gots to see tonite to try to keep things that way they is. You see, Dad been dead less than a week and the wolves already circling. Comin’ for what he always took care of. Comin’ for us like we all up for grabs.

Day after the state buried him way over there in the potter’s field, some Eye-talian cats tried to play grab ass with my sis on the bus. She’s just thirteen but she’s already got titties like a woman and most a her baby fat done melted off. Two days later Moms was on her way home from the store and when she came out somebody taken a shit on the hood a her car and popped one of the tires. When Big Tommy never came by yesterday with the money he always bring oncet a month outta respect, I knew things was gonna be fucked less I did something about it.

‘Cuz see that’s the thing about Dad, he weren’t around much. He been in prison most of what I remember but even when he was away he always kept us fed and safe. He always did what he have to do. Even the crimes. He knew what was what. He knew we wasn't never gonna have nothing that he didn't take. And I knew with him being dead, I gots to move quick. Just like he did when those Jew kids bashed my brother’s head with a brick and made him retarded.

See, after my dad went back inside for this last long stretch, my brother took me out there to the Rockaways all the time. He used to surf out there. No one believes you you say that. Surfing in New York? Shit, surfing is Cali or Hawaii or Australia with the girls that look like they from Cali but talk prettier. It’s true though. Beaches and everything. I remember, he’d say, “Hey kid, let’s head out to Rockapulco.” Sound like something from the Flintstones, don’t it? Yeah, I’d smile and we’d drive over there when the sea was right and the big waves came in over the ocean and play that Ramones song.

Everything was cool till he went by himself oncet. I didn’t go, see, ‘cuz there was this girl used to live over in Queens. Real pretty girl built like you don’t think regular people are, in real life, I mean. Like in movies and shit. She was that fine and I was trying to get with her at the time’s why I didn’t go. Dad had been in for about a year again at this point and some peoples was forgetting who he was and what was his. Some Jew kids tried fuckin’ with my big bro aand he got mouthy and they stomped him down and finished it off with a brick upside the back of his head.

Dad called the next day and he told me, he told me over all the noise echoing there in big room where you go to make the phone calls that makes it so hard to hear, he told me real soft in that way he had of talking, he told me it was taken care of and it was.

Jew kid got hit by a car crossing the street from Luca’s Pizza. Another got shived on the subway just 'round midnight. Some black kids fishing off the Rockaway pier found the last one. After that no one fuck with us at all. They remember and when peoples forget, he make sure it wasn’t long.

I gets off the bus now and I’m footin’ it over to the beach. Head down and hands loose. I’m doing the crack head shuffle. Most folks don’t bother crack heads none. Just look the other way.

That’s how I started tonite off. Did the shuffle when I popped K-Roc. No, he’s not that dude from New Orleans that runs all the womens over in Brooklyn. He’s that black dude with the bad skin who sells all the college kids weed. He’s got that condition that make it all lined and scaly looking like a lizard. I got him over in the b-ball courts by the Boy’s Club. Clipped him and his girl too, which is a shame ‘cuz she was so nice looking.

I’ve gots four of them tonight. All over town. Boom boom boom, motherfuckers. Easier than I thought too. ‘Cept for that hillbilly they called Methistopheles. Dude was fucking psychic. Shoulda been on meds.

I ain’t ashamed to say that I a little scared about what’s gonna go down when I top the last dune. Russian dude always gots his men with him at night when he’s swimming the cold, cold water. But what choice I got? Motherfuckers didn’t leave me none.

It’s like they expected Dad to leave a will or something.

July 17, 2011

Camelot

Netflix just added Camelot, one of Starz's new programs. Currently, we get Starz (it was given to us by our satellite provider as a thank you), but I always seemed to miss it when it was airing week to week. Honestly, I think I prefer watching programs this way, having it all in front of me and being able to watch as much or as little as I want at my leisure.

So far, three episodes in, it's okay. A couple of things are really keeping the show from being better. First, it's obvious they've retooled their retelling of King Arthur to feel more like A Game of Thrones with a dead king, several warring factions, and political and personal machinations. Most of the sets and the locations shoots are quite good and believable, but every now and then there is a set that just looks incredibly fake. The worst offense, however, is the casting of King Arthur. It's the thing I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get past. It's not that I think Arthur should look like Conan the Barbarian, but the actor in Camelot looks like a CK One model, one of those scrawny, androgynous man-boys. It's difficult to believe him as the future King and a fearsome warrior. It's especially difficult in the second episode when he gets Excalibur, called the Sword of Mars in the show. The sword looks to be a hand-and-a-half or a bastard. The thought of the man-boy model wielding it is just laughable.

It's a shame because there are some nice things about the show. The rest of the cast is fairly decent. It's nice to see Claire Forlani in something again, Vera Green isn't bad as Morgan (even though I've never found her attractive--not even in Casino Royale) though she does have a tendency to chew scenery just a little less than Jeremy Irons in the Dungeons & Dragons film, Joseph Fiennes is great as Merlin, and there's an arc with James Purefoy. Their version of the legends actually has magic in it, something that's been lacking from a lot of recent re-tellings. And they've been running with the implication that there's actually nothing special, nothing mystically foretold about Arthur, that it's all just a manipulation of the collective unconscious by Merlin to provide the people with the king he believes they should have.

I'm willing to give it a chance based on it's strengths, even though I worry I'll never be able to get past the casting of Arthur. Starz programs do seem to take several episodes before they find their stride--I know Spartacus did for me. The only show I've watched of theirs that has started out strong from the beginning is the joint BBC production of Torchwood: Miracle Day.

July 16, 2011

Frustration

I'm working on the Stevens piece again, polishing it while waiting to get another round of edits and hopefully hear from a few new sources of information. Managed to find a whole cache of photos. Hope to hear back about those in a couple of days.

Man, it's rough.

It fires me up. It gets me excited. The writing. The acknowledgement of one of my literary idiols. Stevens got me into crime. When I feel like just saying fuck it or writing the easy shit, the mindless dark shit that's just about something awful happening because awful is hip and edgy and easy and it seems like that's what people want to read, Stevens reminds me of my purpose as a writer.

I owe him.

He should not be forgotten that's what I want fom this. I want people to remember him. I want people to discover him for the first time. I want some writers out there to read him and think, "Oh, shit, that's what I'm supposed to be doing with crime fiction."

But it's frustrating.

So many dead ends. So many cold trails. So many edits and refinements. It's taken over my life and my writing in ways I didn't imagine. And the whole thing is still at novella length--about 34k. That's a tough placement, too many words for a magazine, too little for your average book. I have some ideas though and if everything comes through, lengthening shouldn't be a problem.

But it's still frustrating; especially when my life is frustrating enough right now with my wife's health, with the day job, with my own writing.

July 8, 2011

Close, But No Cigar

Wow.

Someone found this blog by searching for: "tennis girls skimpy outfits showing sex".

I just tried it myself. That particular search string brings up the post I did on the upcoming NBC show, The Playboy Club. In the post I use the words: girls, skimpy outfits, and sexual. This blog comes up as the second result. I really don't think a review of a television show and a feminist rant is what they had in mind.

Talk about close, but no cigar.

July 6, 2011

A Rip Through Time

Are you a fan of the good old stuff? Doc Savage? The Shadow? The Avenger? Perry Rhodan? Analog Science Fiction and Fact? Amazing Stories?

Have you read all the classic pulps you can get your hands on and want more?

Do you miss bold and exciting prose? Quick pacing? Adventure? Excitement?

And danger!

Then why aren't you reading A Rip Through Time?

For over a year Beat To A Pulp has been tantalizing us with chapters from Simon Rip's adventures. This sci-fi serial has everything you could want: a dashing hero, a brilliant scientist, a beautiful woman, travels across time and space, monsters, and some fantastic action-packed writing by Chris F. Holm, Charles Gramlich, and Garnett Elliott.

Feel the wash of chronal energies:


Part I
Part II
Part III

July 5, 2011

Happenings

Finished Blue World last night. I had forgotten how much I loved that book. I'm still surprised no one as ever adapted the like-named novella into a movie.

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The second episode of the new season of True Blood, "You Smell Like Dinner", was fantastic. Worth watching for no other reason than the flashback to London in 1982.

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Started Elegy For April. Read the first chapter. Kind of bland so far and the prose reads like writing.

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"The Silence of Untranslated Stars" is stalled out. As well as the western I had been working on. I suspect those two may be damned to the hard drive.

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Have been busy working on an undisclosed project that won't see the light of day for many months and a horror piece for Christopher Grant's other site, Eaten Alive.

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Here's the link to an old story, Maiden's Prayer. The follow-up story, "The Method", features the same characters and will appear in Crime Factory: The First Shift.
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Question: Why is dubbed my only option for watching anime on Netflix?

They've finally added some Bleach episodes, but I refuse to watch that dubbed. When Maria and I first started Bleach, she was tired and didn't feel like reading subtitles. We watched the first two episodes dubbed. It was days before we had the chance to watch more, so when we did she wanted to start over.

This time we watched them subtitled. When we did, I discovered they still change a lot in translation. Too much in my opinion, but America is only now, thanks to Pixar, getting over the notion that animated programs are only for little kids.

The lack of subtitled options on Netflix disappoints me.

I've always really liked anime. I never bought any for years. It was too expensive to buy here in America unless you were willing to drop hundreds of dollars on a single series. The few anime distributors that released anything here used to have a terrible habit of double and triple-dipping their customers. I usually just rented it when I found it. You were less likely to get burned. Plus, back then, it was difficult to know what exactly you were going to end up watching, how heavily edited it was, or whether it was outright reworked into something else (Robotech, Voltron, Battle of the Planets/G-Force).

Prices have come down a lot now. The internet has made it far easier to research a program so you don't accidently find yourself watching something you may find offensive, like lolicon. And it's much much easier to discern now how edited or watered down an American release is. I think a much wider array of people are far more familiar with Japanese animation now and realize the genre is a lot bigger than just Robotech, G-Force/Battle of the Planets, Voltron, Ghost in the Shell, Ninja Scroll, and Demon City Shinjuku. So then, why do I have to watch everything dubbed? Is it just laziness on Netflix's part?

It's especially a shame since I've seen some fantastic anime since we started Netflix.

The real standouts have been:

  • Sekirei
  • Claymore
  • Ga-rei: Zero
  • Fruits Basket
  • Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid
  • Full Metal Alchemist
  • Soul Eater
I really wanted to like Darker Than Black, but the first couple of episodes left me cold inspite of an interesting premise.

July 1, 2011

True Blood

This past Sunday was the Season Four premiere of True Blood.

We just finished watched Season 3 on DVD only a couple of weeks ago. When I saw the new season was starting, I checked to see how much it was to add HBO for a couple months since the DVD wait is lengthy. The cost wasn’t bad, so I added it. For some time now, we’ve been talking about getting rid of cable all together and just using Netflix.I mean, comparing the amount of things we actually watch on cable to how much we’re paying, it’s just not worth it. I think of this as my last cable hurrah.

Besides that, some friends of ours recently moved back into town and one of them is a huge fan. True Blood is a show that lends itself to group viewing, I think, so she came over. We made snacks and sat down for premiere night.

As the opening riff of “Bad Things" played over the credits, it struck me as a little funny that I was this excited. I remember when Maria suggested watching True Blood, I wasn’t too keen on it. In fact, I’m pretty sure I groaned.

Aloud.

A lot.

I had these terrible visions of what I would be in for: Twillight for adults, cheesy special effects, bad writing—even if Alan Ball, the man behind Six Feet Under and American Beauty was the one adapting it. Oh, and all the shit I hate about romances whether paranormal or mundane.

But, I relented. It was Maria’s turn to pick what we watched next and she assured me the vampires in Bon Temps didn’t sparkle.

I was pleasantly surprised by the first season. The effects are good. The switchblade noise during the fang popping is an interesting and bold choice, even if it takes a bit of getting used to. The rough spots in acting, like the accents, improve through the course of the first thirteen episodes. It finds its dialogue voice fairly quickly after some early awkwardness. The pacing is good. The characters are interesting (True Blood has probably one of the strongest “secondary” casts on television). It’s well shot. The soundtrack is great.

And the show is just plain sexy as hell.

Plus, no one told me this—it’s funny.

I got it into. Watching it, I found myself really liking Sookie and Bill. (I do like love stories—I just hate “romances”.) The two of them work. It’s engaging. She’s not my type, but Anna Paquinn is pretty and fresh faced with big doe eyes. Stephen Moyer has the lonesome brood down pat without falling into the smugness that always put me off Tom Cruise. Paquinn and Moyer have great chemistry together (They ended up getting married in real life). Their character backgrounds mesh well; mutual loneliness and a dash of the old fashioned, coupled with an open mind. It makes sense that they’d find each other—hell, you even want them to find each other.

I could see possibilities for their relationship. I could see things thrown in their way, interesting things—dramatic situations and conflict. So, we surged through the first 10 episodes and I admit it, I was really hooked. I wanted to know what happened.

Then we hit episode 11 and I groaned. Character motivations and behaviors suddenly flip-flopped. People did things that made no sense based on what had been established. There was some convenient manipulation of the plot. Plus, the serial killer mystery, the overarching plot of that first season, was just plain piss-poor.

Now, someone did tell us when we first talked about watching True Blood, “You need to turn your brain off and not expect too much.” I can do that—I’ve read pulp that requires that from word one, page one. I would have done it for True Blood but the show was good in so many other ways that I actually cared about the characters, their relationships, and even the damned plot. My brain stayed on and that made the chump parts all the worse.

However, there was enough there for us to decide to stick it out through Season 2, a season with some big improvements. Better acting—top-notch all around. Soundtrack is A-1 bluesy without straying into white-washed BB King/Eric Clapton territory.

It’s chocked full of lots of great subplots. Jason Stackhouse and The Church of the Sun plot is genius. A wonderful character driven plot that’s funny, exciting, tense and sexy. Ryan Kwanten just shines in those moments. Also, Eric’s backstory is great. His search for his maker adds depth to his character, reveals more about vampire society, eventually connects to other subplots and complicates the Sookie/Bill relationship in a believable way. A way that’s interesting and doesn’t just feel like lazy writing. And the Jessica Hambly plot is one of my favorites. I absolutely hated that character when she first shows up, but the writers elevated the poor, little church girl getting turned into a vampire into one of the best bits of the show. So, many great moments with her: talking Sookie into taking her to see her parents, meeting Hoyt at the bar, dominating the guy at the airport and then at the hotel.

I liked seeing more of the out-of-the-coffin vampire society, things like Anubis Air and Hotel Carmilla. It’s that sort of world building and theorizing that still draws me to horror, fantasy, and science-fiction, even if I don’t write it so much anymore.

There are drawbacks. Some character inconsistencies, a couple of jarring what-the-fuck moments and an absolutely terrible overarching plot for the season. Just awful and dull and cheesy and unnecessary. It did nothing but muck things up and provide bathroom breaks without the necessity of hitting pause.

With Season Two being both better and worse (hard to believe that’s possible, but true), I was a little unsure how Season Three would be.

I’ll tell you—it’s the best season so far, very exciting and very sexy. It was plot focused and character driven. Easily, I think, the most cohesive season of the show. Denis O’Hare is absolutely stunning as the Vampire King of Mississippi. I mean, you didn’t want to miss a single moment when he was on the screen. And it was incredibly refreshing to watch something on television for once that had twists and surprises that actually made sense in terms of both narrative and character.

During the premiere, our friend commented on several things they changed in the first couple of minutes. After the premiere, I saw a lot of posts full of complaints. Another friend of ours, the one who really convinced us to give the show a try, has read the books too. The two of them like both the books and the show, though one freely admits the books are terrible.

I realized after the premiere and our conversations that I like the show the more it deviates from the books. That’s so weird for me to say… I had always thought books were better than their adaptations? But, shortly after we finished Season 2, I tried reading a couple and I knew that isn’t always true.

You see, every couple of weeks, my wife and her friend, Vanessa, get their nails done. I hang out in the local used bookstore until they’re finished, then we meet up with Vanessa’s boyfriend and we have dinner or some drinks.

Milling around the overstocked shelves, I noticed they had had several of the Sookie Stackhouse books. I didn’t have anything else to do and I liked the show, so I thought I’d give it a try. I grabbed all the books they had and sat down in one of the chairs nestled in the backroom and started reading.

They’re a fast read. I was able to plow through a good chunk of the first book, skim several others and read a couple of pages in the rest.

Dear Lord, they’re abysmal…

The dialogue is just terrible. I mean easily some of the worst I’ve ever read. It’s so bad that if I were teaching a creative writing class, I’d make students read it and just say, “Don’t do that. Don’t write that way.”

The characters aren’t much better. Stiff cardboard, they’re there only to propel us from sex scene to silly plot point. Character behaviors are just weird and kind of...off. Even characters I love in the series are barely mentioned. I mean, I knew Lafayette (one of the best characters on the show) gets killed off in the first book, but damn.

Oh, and the sex scenes are bad. Awkward and kind of smutty in a unappealing, juvenile way.

Sookie in the novels is just repellant. She’s vapid, emotionally stunted, shallow and really just an idiot. She blithely moves through life, loves, events, and plot points seemingly unaffected by much of anything.

And even Bill, one of my favorite characters from the show, is just dull and kind of there. He's massively unappealing.

There’s so many supernatural creatures (vampires, fairies, werewolve, werepanthers, weretigers) and junk thrown in as the series goes on, it just feels like a mess, a really bad role-playing chronicle your buddy would run in the basement during junior high. There’s enough punch in the vampires coming out of the coffin idea, the rest of it is unnecessary.

From what I read, what I skimmed through, and conversations with our friends, it seems to me the show deviates more and more from the books as it goes along—which is a good thing.

The whole thing is fascinating to me.

I understand the appeal of romance novels, I do. I'm fully aware there’s a whole contingent of vampire fans out there who will read and buy anything with a blood sucker. Likewise, no problem with the notion that people like their spray-cheese in different flavors.

All that is understandable.

What I can’t understand is how the fuck these things have sold as well as they have?!?! How do you not reach a point when you expect just a little more from your fun entertainment?

Not only that, how does something so blah, produce something so good? I can think of very few works whose adaptation outshines the source material, in my opinion. Maybe two—Showtime’s Dexter series (those books are terrible too) and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies (those books put me to sleep).

What do you think?
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