Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thrillerfest 2010

Thrillerfest was a blast - literally. Arriving early on Wednesday, my wife and I were greeted with a blast of 102-degree heat, which we promptly decided wasn't bad enough to stop us from descending into the even hotter and stuffier depths of the subway to ride down to Battery Park and then take the ferry to see Lady Liberty, determined to finish my research for the new Morpheus Initiative novel. After braving the 300+ steps (I lost count in the sweltering heat) to the viewing platforms, we finally somehow made it back to the hotel for what I hoped would be a more relaxing Thursday...

But things started up fast, with a great presentation by John Gilstrap, who showed us some rather graphic video proof of what happens when bullets of various calibers interact with flesh and bone, why your characters really can't go on fighting after being shot, and why there just isn't any such thing as a 'flesh wound'.

Then I did some volunteering, directing crowds of writers and agents to their high-tension pitchfest (and every minute I counted my blessings that I didn't need to go through that again). Sat in on more informative panels, went to the cocktail party, and I don't remember the rest... except some people in the hotel bar seemed quite interested in THE PHAROS OBJECTIVE and promised to buy it.

Friday was my panel, talking about the paranormal and why it's here to stay. Great fun with Jonathan Maberry, Christopher Golden, Dakota Banks and Heather Graham. I felt honored to be among such talent!

After that, I could relax. Did the book signing (and those people from the bar actually followed through and bought copies - yay!). I gave out some copies for potential blurbs to William Dietrich and Steve Berry (who was excited about the Remote Viewing aspect). And the rest of the time - just enjoyed hanging with friends and meeting new ones. Looking forward to the next one!

Monday, May 31, 2010

They're still at it...

Ugh... I need a larger soapbox to complain about this...

The season finale of 'Criminal Minds' - while a serial murderer is running about Los Angeles doing unspeakably nasty things, the guest detective cries out, "Why is he doing this?"

I'll tell you why - because, like I argued in my first post, the writers are either too stupid to think up another way to ask about a killer's motive, or... there's a conspiracy afoot (and has been for a long time)... I tell you someone's getting paid royalties every time that phrase is uttered (and it's uttered a freakin' LOT). I lost track of all the times I've groaned hearing that in the past few months... Even brilliantly written shows sneak it in: (LOST - while Richard Alpert is chained in the Black Rock's cargo hold and all his fellow prisoners are being stabbed to death, he has to yell out, 'Why are you doing this?' Again, really? Would you say that at that point, knowing you were next? Maybe one day we'll hear... "Oh, you gave me a good answer. Great then, go ahead and kill me."

Eh. Whatever...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

...and your mom said not to waste time with comics

A rare copy of the first comic book featuring Superman sold Monday for $1 million, smashing the previous record price for a comic book.

This excited the heck out of me because I had just published a story: 'The Wrong Basement' to Abyss&Apex, concerning a couple that finds a box of mint-condition Superman comics in their basement... If you'd like a read, it's here, free:


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Finally starting a new project

It's been a month since I wrote "N.D.E" - my first teleplay!

Since then I've:
1) signed with a Hollywood Manager (to shop around my scripts)
2) edited an earlier script
3) proofed The Morpheus Initiative - Book 1 and Book 2 and sent them off to Variance Press
4) got a revised publication date for Morpheus (July, 2010)
5) had to change all my major characters' names after I learned I inadvertently chose the last name of a currently-still-living psychic and remote-viewer named Ingo Swann, one of the early pioneers in the field. Not wanting to be sued (after he remote-views my decision to use his name without permission) I changed my hereos to the swan's erstwhile cousin, 'Crowe'... which works better I think. Thank God for 'find and replace'.
5) Researched the heck out of Morpheus Book 3 and went through a hundred potential archaeological mysteries and ancient enigmas before settling on at least one that, remarkably, I had left myself unresolved clues to address in Books 1 and 2. Get ready for the Spear of Destiny, as well as exploration of more government coverups (UFOs, underground societies, Martian and Lunar bases, and of course... Nazis!)

So I can finally get back to writing, starting book 3...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thoughts on 'The Strain', by Guillermo del Toro and Chris Hogan

With all the hype lately for the Stephanie Meyer books and the movie adaptations, it's heartening to see someone return to the good old fashioned blood-curdling, mind-numbing vampires of old.

When I picked up 'The Strain' by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, I was initially concerned, finding myself asking the dreaded question: "Why... are they doing this?" Based on the back cover blurbs, The Strain was geared up to be a mash-up/homage of Salem's Lot and I Am Legend. And I immediately thought - Why? Why do we need this, since those two are basic classics in the genre to begin with? And secondly - do we need this to be a three-part series (concluding in 2011)?

But I read it anyway, intrigued by the press, the reviews and the concept, and - if for nothing else I'd get a good Halloween read in, and have a chance to clear my mind of all the young-adult vampires flying around out there.

I'm glad to say it was worth it: the setup is Salem's Lot, except instead of King's typical small town horror, del Toro and Hogan have elevated the stakes, centering on New York City (where we'll end up having the implications of I Am Legend in terms of a more massive scale infestation of vampires).

It opens with a classic CSI kind of scene, with an airplane landing at JFK with everyone on board dead - of unknown causes (at first), until a team of CDC specialists move in, and Homeland Security gets invovled, suspecting a terrorist plot. Quickly we learn of the old vampire staples: a box of ancestral dirt in the cargo hold, passengers exsanguinated, with tiny scars on their necks, and... a few vicitms not quite dead. In a neat technique, we are treated to flashbacks of a Nazi concentration camp where The Master first makes his appearance, feasting on the blood of the dying Jews. And it's here where we see the Van Helsing character, a Jew who first attempts to slay the demon, unsuccessfully... but after his escape from the camp devotes his life to tracking this vampire - so it's he who first understands what's happening in New York - and its implications.

All this is great, well-written and suspenseful. And very disturbing. There are a few new twists on the vampires, the virus they represent, and their powers and limitations that make this all fun. And I am looking forward to the next two novels. But I do have some problems.

1) Why name the protagonist 'Abraham'? Come on. We get it already. He's Van Helsing, exactly, down to his East European background, his accent, his beliefs, everything. It was enough to have him as the wise man who has had run-ins with the vampires and will counsel the other heroes on how to kill these things. Give him another name for God's sakes.

2) I know Dan Simmons even gave a nice blurb on the back cover, but with all due respect, his Carrion Comfort was a much more original, epic vampire novel, one that I'd argue is the best vampire novel ever written - about a group of psychic vampires who use humans as cattle - and pawns in their own power struggles. This is a concept The Strain introduces late in the novel as we realize The Master has broken the vampire rules, and that the other vamp lords are pissed. So again, it's not original, and Simmons' work is a tremendous classic. And one that actually ends in one novel, albeit a long one that could have been likewise broken up into three if he were greedy.

So again, The Strain was a fun read, and I'm glad to see the monstrous vampires and their viral implications returning to the spotlight, but it just doesn't feel original to me anymore, but serves as more of a reminder that I should go back and reread the other classics from which it borrows its material: Carrion Comfort, Salem's Lot and I am Legend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why... part 2

This will be a short one because I'm just annoyed.

My new target: Criminal Minds. Two minutes into this week's episode and we've got a home invasion where the woman winds up shrieking "Why are you doing this!?" to the perps (right before they whack her with a crowbar). All right, forget everything I wrote in my first blog about why this line is the most overused, nonsensical and useless phrase writers love to force into every situation, but come on - just last year the very same scenario (and line) was uttered in the movie, The Strangers.

I could almost forgive this if last week's episode didn't also force the line - in an even more likely scenario. The agents had discovered an illegal betting ring, barged in and found themselves facing two-dozen guns trained on them. As they still tried to talk their way into an arrest, one of the perps with a machine guns yells out, "Why are you guys doing this?"

Ugh. Can't... take... any... more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Joy of Entering Writing Contests

Okay, contests are often a big pain, a black of hole of submissions that reward you with a different kind of anguish, a younger sibling to the numb disappointment of the more typical publisher rejections. You submit your work, pay your egregious entry fee (usually around $45) and wait... and wait... and basically forget about it until you get an email announcing... 'quarterfinalists'.

If you're lucky, you find your name on a huge list of hundreds, and you're at least mollified that you made the first cut and your work of art wasn't kicked to the curb prematurely along with a thousand others. Then... you wait and wait and wait some more for... the 'semifinalists'. You scan the shortened list, and if you don't find your name you go to your browser's 'find' feature and search for it, sure they've just created the list out of order. But alas, it's not there. You're done, thanks for playing.

But sometimes, you make it past that gatekeeper too. And then maybe with life being the hectic train wreck it sometimes is, you forget about it (and the other five contests you entered ages ago) and then on a rainy, dreary morning like this one, you get a succession of emails from different contests annoucing that, believe it or not, your screenplay is one of the top 10 finalists...
And that, regardless of whether the utlimate prize is a couple grand or just a mass mailing of your work to hundreds of professionals, is why you put yourself through this pain. Why you shell out the $ and sit around hitting your 'refresh' button waiting for email announcements.

So now, I've been notified that my latest screenplay, 'Roadside Assistance', has made it to the finals in the 2009 Expo Screenplay Contest and The Horror Screenplay Contest, with winners to be announced Thursday.

Alas... more waiting...