Saturday, February 18, 2017

Where the Hot Springs Blow

This entry first appeared, in a slightly different form, in my e-newsletter I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP, which you can subscribe to in the sidebar.

I ended up reading 18 books in January, well on my way to reading 50 books this year, my usual goal.  I don't know if it was because of hunkering down for the winter, getting ready to go on some sort of creative binge, afraid to watch the news, or all of the above.

But my book club entry for January is Warren Ellis' NORMAL, for a lot of reasons.  It was Ellis who gave me the idea to do an email newsletter.  He is a long-time comic book writer who has written several challenging genre novels.  This one was published in chapters via Kindle and then came out in paper.

He always gives you a lot to think about.  This one is about a trend forecaster who starts to lose his mind predicting a bleak future, and ends up in an asylum.  After another patient is murdered in a locked-room mystery, he tries to put the pieces back together.  Pretty nutty overall.

I have this perverse desire to read gloomy Scandinavian mysteries in the winter; I guess to realize that my life, and my Indiana winter, isn't that bad (If you have already read all THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO books go looking for Jo Nesbo, Arnaludur Indrioason, Helene Tursten, Asa Larsson, for a start).

I thought I would jump on some Scandinavian movies and have by and large found them surprisingly cheery and sometimes outright funny.  Some pretty good ones I have seen lately are A MAN CALLED OVE, THE 100 YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED, IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE, FORCE MAJEURE.  IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE has Stellan Skarsgard as a snowplow driver, if you really want to think we have it easier here.

We are closer to the end of winter than the beginning, a good thing.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trying To Relax, Up In The Capsule

This entry first appeared, in a slightly different form, in my e-newsletter I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP which you can subscribe to in the sidebar.

I have been on a crazy reading binge lately, having knocked out a dozen books this month, reading one about every other day or so.  Either it's winter, and I'm in burrowing mode, or I am getting ready to have a big chunk of creativity, or maybe both.

I had a crazy fall, and turned down some screenwriting work, but it may be time to get back in the saddle.  I have had an idea for a dystopian sci-fi screenplay since last summer, but let's be honest, is this really the right time to write a dystopian story?  And whether it is or isn't, I suspect a lot of people are cranking on them right now anyway.

I have been reading a lot of pulp paperbacks again; spaghetti-flavored westerns and hard-boiled mid-century noir and other fast reads.  There is something about these authors from this time period, somewhere in that span of time from the 1950s to the 1970s, writing for the spinner racks, many of them borderline alcoholics or chasing other demons, churning out a book a month sometimes under a handful of names, often not their own.  I have an affinity for them the way I do following the peculiar rhythms of VHS horror movies, and threadbare spaghetti westerns on broken-down sets, and DIY backyard epics.  To be reminded that putting your butt in the seat and working is just as valuable or perhaps more so than being an artistic genius.

Speaking of spaghettis, my homage to those movies, CALAMITY JANE'S REVENGE, is free on Amazon Prime right now, if you still have missed it.  I named most of the villains after bad guys played by Klaus Kinski--memorably the guy that gets a match lit off of his face in A FEW DOLLARS MORE, but I love him as "Hot Dead" in I AM SARTANA YOUR ANGEL OF DEATH--if you wondered how much I really love Italian oaters.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Time, Time, Time, See What's Become of Me

Portions of this post first appeared in my e-newsletter I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP.  You can subscribe to the right.

Even though it was below zero, and the snow was coming down in the way it only does when it is coming off of Lake Michigan, I had a great time in Chicago with the Horror Society screening SEX MACHINE.  We had a small crowd, but all engaged and interested, and the Q&A ranged far and wide.  I hope to one day be back screening another movie--we talked about JURASSIC PREY, which is lunatic enough for this crowd.

With Christmas money, I am renewing subscriptions to The New Yorker and The Alantic and plan to renew my Showtime streaming subscription to binge on THE AFFAIR, SHAMELESS, and MASTERS OF SEX over the holidays.

In the meantime, I just wrapped up a pretty good thriller series called SPOTLESS and am cooking along through THE GIRLFRIENDS' GUIDE TO DIVORCE since I made my wife watch SPOTLESS.  Even though SPOTLESS is about French crime scene guys living in England, DIVORCE, with its California culture and lifestyle, seems farther away to me, somehow.  THE CROWN is quite good, unbelievably soapy and yet by and large true, and THE DETECTORISTS is pretty good but so mild that I sort of can't remember what any of it is about.  JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL is good for those with Harry Potter withdrawal and I liked EASY because it was shot in Chicago and I saw a few familiar faces from that community in it, and knew some of the people hanging out behind the scenes.

Obviously it is winter, and the Netflix binge is underway under a cold and dark sky.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Favorite Reads of 2016

 After reading only women authors for a year, I thought I would embark on reading only authors of color, and authors in translation, for a year.  I thought these back-to-back experiments would make me a better reader and writer, and I think it was true.  I definitely sought out new voices that I might not have tried otherwise.  And below are my favorites of all that I found.

1.  The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

2.  The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

3.  The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

4.   The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaVelle

5.  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

6.  The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

7.  Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

8.  The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

9.  Moonstone by Sjón

10.  The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez

Happy reading!

Saturday, December 03, 2016

With My Head Made of Rock

This blog entry first appeared, in a slightly different form, in my e-newsletter I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP which you can learn more about by subscribing in my sidebar.


As I hoped, SEX MACHINE was confirmed as the top of the double bill during Horror Society's Trash Movie Night I will be hosting in Chicago on December 14. Myself and the organizer, Matt Storc, both hit on the Italian horror movie LADY FRANKENSTEIN as the bottom half of the bill.  This has more in common with a Hammer horror film than a traditional Italian horror film but I think people will find it cool--and maybe I will not only get to talk about the movie I co-wrote with Christopher Sharpe some years ago now, but my love for Italian cinema as well.

Even more agreeably, Matt liked my idea of supporting Chicago's Open Books Project as part of the night. I am trying to do what I can to tend my part of the garden.

I will be giving away an autographed copy of SEX MACHINE that night.  If you are there, and think the movie sux, at least you have a white elephant for the gift exchange at work.  Just don't give it to the HR person.

I'll see what I can do to provide another surprise or two.

For the first time, on the night before Thanksgiving, I went with my daughter and her husband to Feed My Sheep, which prepared meals for those in need in my hometown of Muncie, Indiana.  An entire Canadian family was alongside me washing dishes, having stopped on their way to Arkansas for a family Thanksgiving the next day.  They just wanted to help, and when I asked for more information, they said, "It's complicated."  Yeah, it is.

My Thanksgiving passed peacefully, and I hope yours did too.

November only has one day left, so my book club pick is WHITE TIGER by Aravind Adiga.  It is about a lowly driver in India who composes a series of letters to the premier of China about entrepreneuriship, which actually reveals a long line of treacheries, deceit, and murder.  Can be read as an intellectual thriller or as a treatise on the class system in India, and works pretty well as both.

Hang in there, all.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Shake Your Arm, Then Use Your Form

This post first appeared, in a slightly different form, in my e-newsletter I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP which you can subscribe to in the sidebar of this blog.

This weekend I reached my goal of reading 50 books by authors of color, and/or authors in translation, in 2016.  Last year, my goal was to read 50 books by women.  I thought I would be a better writer and broaden my thinking in general if I took it on.  I'd like to think it helped.  It's funny, I decided to spend two years listening to other people besides white guys speaking English and perhaps the timing couldn't have been better.

My October offering in my secret book club is Fuminori Nakamura's THE KINGDOM.  Nakamura writes inky-black Tokyo noir that is not for all tastes, to say the least, but this tale of a woman working for rival crime gangs who tries to pit them against each other YOJIMBO-style is his most accessible novel to date that I've read; still full of creepy-crawliness.

I confirmed last night that on Wednesday, December 14, I will be screening a movie I wrote, and doing a Q&A, at the Chicago Horror Society (title TBA, but I hope it's SEX MACHINE, or JURASSIC PREY).  I was there in July supporting my pal Henrique Couto's screening of BABYSITTER MASSACRE (on a night off from the Blue Whiskey Film Festival) and got to meet a lot of the people involved which led to this very nice invite.  I had a memorable night there, in a rowdy crowd of Chicagoans baying for blood and cheering every on-screen murder, a scene which may have been misinterpreted by those outside the horror community's friendly embrace. 

Excited about this, and more info to come.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Book(s) of the Dead

Bad news: the only new bookstore in town went under.  Good news:  on the last day, paperbacks were ten cents each.  Here is a sampling, prioritized from a cardboard box full.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Postcards from Seattle


My wife went to Seattle for work and had to be busy, which gave me plenty of time to loaf around, drink lots of coffee, and visit some excellent bookstores and comic book stores; a blessing, as the cold and wet is even worse than you see in the movies.  Also saw Todd Rundgren at the airport; the college kids my wife was leading around had no idea who he was, but an "old guy."  So it goes.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

#Inktober 2016

I took another stab at #inktober this year, drawing a new picture for each day of the month, and didn't get as much drawing done as I wanted, but here are the top three most liked and commented on images I uploaded to Instagram and Facebook.  Far and away was my imaginary West Coast Avengers cover, which harkens back to my childhood desire to draw the covers of comic books I wished existed.



Friday, October 28, 2016

She Saw My Silver Spurs, And Said Let's Pass Some Time

This post first appeared, in a slightly different form, in my e-newsletter I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP, which you can subscribe to in the sidebar.

Yesterday a movie I wrote, CALAMITY JANE'S REVENGE, streeted everywhere across America, including Amazon, Best Buy, Family Video, FYE, and anywhere fine DVDs are sold.  As I grow older I live in quieter and quieter places, but I still have a tradition of driving around and looking for my movies in the wild.  When it happens, like a rare animal sighting, it's a cool feeling.

I checked out the Family Video in Richmond, Indiana, and there it was.  I was hopeful, as they also, once upon a time, had JURASSIC PREY and AMITYVILLE DEATH HOUSE.




If you see it anywhere across America, give me a shout.

When I got up this morning, it was at #215 in DVD Western sales on Amazon, charting pretty high for a first day.

If you want to hear the "Secret Soundtrack" for the movie that I composed in my head while writing it, look here.

A faithful newsletter reader suggested I watch more of the Comet channel, which comes to me free over my towering TV aerial in my little country home.  Not only do I enjoy watching it, I wish I was programming it myself, as it seems to be sending a lot of deep signals from the collective unconscious of nerds everywhere.

My September entry for my Book Club is AN ASSIMILATED CUBAN'S GUIDE TO QUANTUM SANTERIA by Carlos Hernandez.  It is a pretty cool collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories, including everything from robot pandas to ghosts living in fake teeth and old pianos. The hook as seen in the title is that some element of the stories, and many of the characters, reflect the Cuban experience.  But the stories are pretty cool whether that is an element or not.  Best of all, the collection convinced me to try Cafe Bustelo, which I now swear by.

Speaking of coffee, I got to spend a few days in Seattle, where it rains all the time just like in THE KILLING, but all the coffee shops and used bookstores take the edge off.

I hope you all are enjoying your fall.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

#Inktober

In 2014 I tried the #Inktober challenge, posting an Instagram picture of a drawing every day of the month of October (more or less), along with people of actual talent and skill.  Nonetheless the mind is drawn towards trying it again, so for your relative pleasure, here are the Top Ten most liked images (in order) from that run (adding Facebook and Instagram together).








Monday, September 19, 2016

From the Brim to the Dregs


This blog post first appeared, in a slightly different form, in my e-newsletter I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP, which you can subscribe to in my sidebar.

My day life is keeping my night life at bay, so I have not had much to report from the screenwriting world.  A movie I wrote, ALONE IN THE GHOST HOUSE, is now loose in the world and available on various platforms.  It is a "found footage" movie I sometimes forget I worked on because it came together so quickly, and because I wrote more of a long outline for it than a full-formed script.  I think it will surprise people because the spine is tighter than a lot of found footage films and when the dominoes start falling it hangs together pretty nicely.  But watch it and let me know what you think.

I had my 50th birthday two weeks ago, which I took off from work this year to contemplate my mortality.  I went to see SUICIDE SQUAD in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon and was the youngest person at the multiplex and the only one at the screening, a weird feeling.  As a guy who owned a signed copy of John Ostrander's SUICIDE SQUAD #1 (that he signed for me at a Muncie Indiana comic book shop in the 80s) I didn't hate the movie like a lot of hardcore fans but didn't like it much either, with my invisible keyboard in my head righting all of the mistakes.

Regrets at 50?  One is that I sold that signed SUICIDE SQUAD #1 when I was broke.  Otherwise, a lot to think about but more good than bad.  Only about two years ago neither of my kids were married, I had no grandkids, I did not live on five acres in the country, and I did not know I had Type II Diabetes and thus was 65 pounds heavier.  Adding and subtracting everything, the sum total was all good.

For many years I have used my birthday to think about whether I want to keep screenwriting another year.  My brother thinks this is a foolish exercise but I think it is as good a time as any to measure the barometer of my work.  A lot of good has happened this year in meeting people and making connections--including a possible appearance at the Chicago Horror Society later this year, after dropping in on Henrique Couto's BABYSITTER MASSACRE screening a month ago--but a lot of projects have bottomed out.  I have turned down some work lately, including the sequel to a movie I wrote some years ago, but several other projects I thought were sure things haven't taken off.  I got booted off a project not that long ago, which has rarely ever happened (one memorable time I found out when my name disappeared off the IMDB listing) and since then I have had to do a lot more rewrites than I am used to.

I don't think it's about regaining my mojo, it's more about finding the projects that need the mojo I have.  I'm about 15 years down the road from my first screenplay sale, have a dozen movies out and have sold more than 30 screenplays (I need to actually stop and count this more carefully) which is a good track record by any standard in the industry.  So I can be selective about what I want to do next and in what form that might take.

In the meantime, my August pick for my book club is NINEFOX GAMBIT by Yoon Ha Lee.  Basically this is about a soldier tasked with the suicidal mission of re-taking an impenetrable fortress overrrun by heretics--all while psychically linked to the ghost of a genocidal general--but the world-building is so dense and baroque it took me at least thirty or forty pages before I understood a sentence of what was going on.  But when I got into its strange rhythms I found it to be a really good military-flavored sci fi novel.

I've fallen into a bit of a show hole for television, but did enjoy FORTITUDE until it kind of unraveled at the end; by and large, about a murder that Stanley Tucci investigates at a very remote Arctic town.  Waiting for new seasons to start, IRL and on TV.

Talk again soon.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Bookends

I always ask for books for my birthday, and also got an Amazon gift card, so I am stocked up for the first winter in my new house.  Turning 50 was slightly philosophical but I felt buoyed by these two discoveries in a book I was given and one I bought--a mention of a movie I worked on in Brian Albright's REGIONAL HORROR FILMS 1958-1990 and reviews of two movies I wrote in Jason Coffman's THE UNREPENTANT CINEPHILE.  Makes half a century go down easier.



Friday, August 26, 2016

The Soft Parade

So earlier this summer I sold one house, closed on a second house, moved, and then flew to Italy, all in a single week.  It is still not long enough ago to be funny, but one cool thing that has happened as a result is the legendary Mooreland Fair is just a short distance down the road--and the Saturday parade leaves out of my side yard.



Later that day and night, the Fair.  I've been going for almost 30 years, and these guys are always standing out here singing "Elvira."




A summer tradition, now within walking distance.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Live from the Heart of the Nerd-Quake

I'm slowly becoming one of those guys that reads more news about, and talks more about, comics and gaming than I actually read comics or play games, so my GenCon experience each year is becoming more about connecting with old friends. There is a lot of crossover between nerd-spheres so I should never be surprised when I see movie people at GenCon, like Matthew Meyers from Hoosierdance, FX guru Rob Merickel, and my Chicago people Jay Neander and Jon Solita.


But I make new friends, too.

I can't help but think about the food trucks when I'm there, and there was a time I would rather game than eat.


But sometimes I see something I can't resist, as displayed below.

Now to find time to play these beasts, and read that Doctor Who book I bought (not pictured).

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Scenes from Blue Whiskey

Stayed downtown when I was a judge at the Blue Whiskey Film Festival at the end of July, and really got to feel like a South Loop guy for a week.




In the middle of the week I had a night off from judging the Fest, conveniently when my pal Henrique Couto was screening his film BABYSITTER MASSACRE for an appreciative crowd at the Chicago Horror Society.  The Chicago crowds are tough--cheering loudly every time somebody got murdered--but I was among my people nonetheless.  I hope to attend another screening there soon.

Here I am doing a Q&A with Dax Phelan, director of JASMINE, one of my faves at the Fest.
Kinda looks like the Rat Pack with all that swag going on, but this is the Judges Panel.
Last but not least I try to grab a picture with Festival Director Michael P. Noens at the end of every Fest.  We should take it at the beginning, when we are less tired.
Looking forward to next year!