Saturday, October 31, 2015

Everything's "Groovy": The King is Back!

Happy Halloween! Hope everyone had a wonderful day of creeps, ghouls, and goblins! Mine didn't start out that way, since I had to work at the day job, but it's sure ending on a much better note.

See, I thought by working that shift today, I was going to miss out on something I'd been looking forward to for months officially, and twenty years unofficially. But I came home, checked On Demand, and there it was on the main page. I went into it hopeful but not expectant. I was rewarded. I immediately started it up and for the next forty-five minutes or so sat on my couch with a grin that wouldn't go away.

I'm talking, of course, about the premiere of Ash vs Evil Dead on Starz tonight. After seeing the trailers and hearing everyone talk about it, I was psyched. After hearing the feedback when they debuted the first episode at New York Comic Con, I was delirious. Now that I've actually seen it, I'm ecstatic.

Ash is back, and baby he's better than ever. Well, not really. He's actually worse of an idiot than he was in Army of Darkness, but isn't that what we wanted? He's older, but not really wiser. Unless it's about fighting Deadites. Then there's nobody better.

It's been thirty years since Ash faced the armies of the dead and saved the day. He lives in a run-down trailer and is still a stock boy at ValueMart (who we can assume bought out S-Mart at some point). He spends his nights looking for that one last lonely drunk woman at the bar just before closing time, and doing stupid things with the Necronomicon that even he regrets. When the result is the return of the evil he thought he defeated, the results are carnage, slapstick, and buckets of the red stuff.

Seeing how this plays out, I have to wonder how long Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, and Rob Tapert have been wanting to do this. It's obvious they're having fun revisiting this world, and it's also obvious they're trying to do things right while not taking anything too seriously. From Sam's frenetic camera movements to Bruce gleefully chewing the scenery every time a camera's pointed at him, it's that taste of the familiar in a whole new way.

I don't want to go into too much detail and spoil it for any of you who haven't been lucky enough to see it yet. What I will say is that when the credits rolled, I applauded from my sofa, laughing my head off, and drew some strange looks from my beagle who I apparently woke up with my enjoyment. The weeks will not go fast enough between these episodes, and I definitely see myself binge watching the entire ten episode run at the end of all this. I'm sure even that won't be enough, but not to worry! Starz has already renewed the show for a second season, even before the first episode hit the airwaves.

Will it go on for a long run? I doubt it, but then again, why should it? This is the Evil Dead 4 we could never have dreamed of in a million years. What I am curious to see is the impact this has on television in the future. If it's anywhere close to what Raimi and company did for the horror movie industry since that first low-budget splatterfest in 1981, we horror fans should be in for an interesting time to come.

Bottom line: stop reading this review, go find the show, and watch it. When it's over, watch it again, then you can wait breathlessly for the next episode like the rest of us!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Another One Done, Another Begun: A Status Report

The Journal of Jeremy Todd has now officially landed in the "Completed" category. It ended up weighing in at just over 64k words, or just enough to make it hard for me to classify. I'm going to stick with "short novel" instead of novella, since the formatted and printed version I gave my wife to read (since she gets 'em all first) was right at 200 pages.

As with the Cochran books, there's no release date set on this one yet, though I think it will be the next one I submit to Samhain once they give me a response on Consequences. Time will tell. I'm going to let it settle for a while before I start on the second draft, mainly because it ended up being such a dark book that I need to play with something lighter for a bit.

To that end, I'm now working on the third Cochran book. It's called Blood Games, and the case is already laid out. Now Cochran just has to see it through.

On the later draft fronts, I've finished the second draft of Demon at the Window, and am now working on the edits for One Last Dance. Once those are done I'll go back and do the third draft of DatW since I should have some feedback from the betas on it.

If you're curious, here's my timeline for what I'll be working on, and when it might be finished. Pay attention to that "might" in there, since I'm not actually setting deadlines for myself yet. These are only estimates based on what I've been doing up until now:

Blood Games, First Draft: Expected completion around the beginning of December.

One Last Dance, Second Draft: Should be done sometime around Thanksgiving.

Untitled Standalone Novel, First Draft: The idea's there, and I'll start on it right after BG, so let's say New Year's at the earliest.

Demon at the Window, Third Draft: shooting for Christmas to have this one done.

The Journal of Jeremy Todd, Second Draft: It's shorter, so the second week of January is likely. I'm also thinking this will be the final draft of this one. If I fiddle with it too much, I think it'll stop feeling like it was written by the narrator.

Untitled Cochran #4, First Draft: I've only got the barest idea of a story for this one, but hopefully it will manifest by the time I'm done with the standalone. Let's go with the beginning of February on this one.

One Last Dance, Third Draft: Also shooting for late January / early February on this one.

As you can see, I plan to stay busy for a while.

Now for a couple of not-so-good news announcements.

First, as you can see by the removal of it from the progress meter, Justicar is back in a holding pattern. I don't want to abandon it entirely, but I've got too much running through my mind in the horror genre to be able to fit it back into my work schedule. If nothing more demanding pops up, I'll try and get back to it after Cochran #4, but no promises, either to you or to myself.

Also, at this point it looks like Cochran #4 will be the last of them for the foreseeable future, as much as it pains me to admit that. There's only so many stories I can tell with those characters before it starts feeling like it's cliche or I'm repeating myself. I'd rather keep them fresh and fun. If I try and force it, I'm going to destroy both of those things. I love these characters, and hate to think they've got a final tale on the horizon, but that's how it's starting to look. On the bright side, I do have an Alexis-centric short story I want to tell when the time's right. It'll be a Christmas present to you guys at some point in the future, that's all I'll say about it.

And that's it for now! Another night of productivity complete, now on to the next!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Another Title Change

After some careful thought, I have changed the name of The Ideal Companion Journal to The Journal of Jeremy Todd. It was starting to bother me that my narrator didn't even have a name, and the original title felt a bit clunky and awkward. This one fits a little better, and gives the guy a real identity.

Strangely, by doing this, I no longer despise him the way I did at first. Maybe because with a name attached, I can identify with him a little more. I still don't like him, but at least I can tell his story a little easier now.

It's on track to be done within the next week or so, so keep watching for more news and to see what's up next!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Um, Did That Just Drop?

If you pay attention to the progress meter, you may have noticed that The Ideal Companion Journal moved in the wrong direction tonight. No, you're not losing your mind. It did. And there's a reason for it.

I've been working on this one with the assumption that it would be a novella of around 60,000 words. I was wrong. I just broke the 40k mark tonight, and there's still a lot for the narrator to do. More than 20,000 words or so can convey. So I've had to revise my original estimate.

It's now looking like it'll end up full novel length. That's not a bad thing, but it is surprising to me. It may change again once I start on the second draft; I may end up cutting a good bit of the first act that isn't really relevant to the story, but I won't really know until I go back and actually start on it.

So for now, I'm looking at around 75,000 words on this one. That still might not be enough, but another 35k sounds about right for what all is left to tell. But as I've demonstrated, I've been wrong before.

I guess we'll find out together.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Off to the Betas

The second draft of Demon at the Window is officially complete. Strangely, this one came in a little longer in length than the first draft did. I did add an extension to one scene to clarify something I mentioned and never fully answered, but I thought I'd still cut enough to make it shorter, like normal. Oh well.

The next step is to get this one formatted and then it goes out to the beta readers for feedback. While I wait for that to come in, I'll still be working on the first draft of The Ideal Companion Journal and will be starting the edits for the second draft of One Last Dance.

I'm moving through this stuff pretty quickly, but that's how I want it, the more that I've thought about it. If I do end up self-publishing this stuff, my goal is to release a book every three months, for a total of four a year. I'm not going to say that's how it will pan out, but that's the goal. I still plan on Consequences being first, and I suppose from there it will depend on whether or not I submit the Cochran books for publication or decide to do them on my own.

We shall see, I suppose!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It's a Novella...

...or at least that's what it's looking like.

When I started this new project, I was a little intimidated by it. I'll admit that. The vehicle the story was going to use was not something I was expecting, nor was it something I'm used to. I thought it might end up being a short novel, or a novella, and now I think I have some confirmation of that.

Let me define my views on the difference, just to make sure we're clear.

If you ask an agent, or an editor, or a publisher, or even an author what the difference is between a novel and a novella, you're going to get several different answers. Generally speaking, a novella is something that's longer than a short story, but not as long as a novel. It's a weird gray area between them.

For me, I tend to define things by word count. Here's my basic premise, and keep in mind that novel word counts get broken down further based on genre in my mind:

Short Story: somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 - 10,000 words;
Novella: between 30,000 and 50,000 words, give or take;
Novel: 70,000+ words.

Like I said, that's the basics. A short novel could come in at around 60,000 words, while a long short story could weigh in at 20,000 or so. I also mentioned that I take genre into consideration. Since it does apply here, at least partially, I'll give you examples:

Romance / Cozy Mystery: 70,000 words;
Thriller / Suspense / Horror: 80,000 words;
Science Fiction: 90,000 words;
Fantasy: 100,000+ words.

There are no hard and fast rules to this, it's only what I generally have in my brain.

Anyway, you'll see that I have about a 20k buffer between the basic designations. If the work falls into less than that, it takes the form of the next designation in the list. Since novels are broken down further by genre, that's what sets the actual defining point.

So using my method, this project, which I'm now projecting at around 60,000 words, and is classified as a Horror story, is 20k less than the minimum I'll consider to be a horror novel. Ergo, it's a novella.

But I won't get mad if you call it a short novel.

Confused yet? I am, and I wrote it. Note to self, one less beer before doing a blog post.

At any rate, I'm thankful for the shorter goal for two big reasons.

First, this first person narrative in the form of a series of journal entries is going to wear thin pretty quick. Maybe there are authors out there who could keep it up for the length of an epic, but I'm not one of them. One of the cardinal rules for writing as far as I'm concerned is to write what you yourself would want to read. While this structure would be interesting for a change of pace, it's not something I would do for a long stretch.

Second, this is perhaps the darkest thing I've ever written. I don't want to give too much away about it, like I said in my last post, but I will tell you a couple of things. First, I'm thrilled that it's so dark. If it disturbs me, and I'm the one writing it, I'm pretty confident it will disturb you guys, too. That's what good horror does, right? Disturbs the reader / watcher? Well, I think this will qualify. Also, I really don't like this guy I'm writing about. I feel sorry for him, but I do not like him at all. He reminds me of Carrie White in Stephen King's Carrie. The biggest difference is that I'm having to be inside his head to write his story. Not as a bit of narrative, as in King's tale, but all the time. There are no other POV characters to jump to for relief. This adds to the disturbing nature, so it's doing what I want it to, but I will be so glad to be finished with him.

Yeah, this is going to be a one and done. No sequels here.

Of course, I say that now and in ten years when the idea for a sequel comes to me this post will come back to haunt me, too. But I doubt it.

So, to sum up. It's going to be a novella, or, if you prefer, a short novel. The percentage jump on the progress meter is due to the revision of the word count goal as much as it is a reflection of the actual work done tonight. It's dark and disturbing, and I hope you like it once it's done.

As for me, I'm starting to look forward to the next Cochran book. I need a little lightness in my writing life sometimes, and Jack and Alexis are good for that.

Sorry for the long post, and good night!

Friday, October 9, 2015

The New One

Since I am now three chapters in and have reached double digits on the progress percentage, I have officially added the new project to the progress meter.

I mentioned that it was different from what I've done before, and I think the title reflects that. For now, I'm calling it The Ideal Companion Journal. It is still a working title, and may change as the work goes on and more is developed, but that it for now.

No story details as of yet; I'm going to keep this one close to the chest, just because I'm not sure where it's going to end up. But with the writing I did on it tonight, I think I've found the stride for it so I'm at least confident I won't be shelving it any time soon. Will I actually push to publish this one? That I'm not so sure about yet, for a couple of simple enough reasons.

With any book, be it horror or science fiction or fantasy or whatever, the author needs to sum it up in a couple of sentences, and needs to provide a synopsis of it to any publisher they submit it to. With this one, I'm not sure if I can do that.

For all the rest, even if I haven't written them on paper yet, that description was pretty easy. It's the same as what you would see if you walk into any bookstore, pick up a paperback, and read the text on the back cover. With this one, I have no idea how to even begin to describe it. Maybe it'll come in time, as it gets further along. It's just that with the others, I could do it from the get-go. Maybe it changed slightly as it went on, as was the case when I was calling Consequences "Graduation Summer", but at least I had something. Here, I've got nothing.

For those who don't know, the synopsis a publisher wants is a two or three page document that tells the basics of your story from start to finish, twists, turns, and all. They want the beginning, middle, and end. There's no such thing as consideration for spoilers in one of these. For an example, go to IMDB, look for a television series, pick a random episode, and look for a synopsis. See how it gives away everything? Yeah, same goes for this, just longer.

As you can tell from the title, this one is written like a journal, or a diary if that's an easier way to look at it. That makes a synopsis difficult to write, because just like a journal, the main character jots down some pretty random thoughts. Again, this might be easier once the story's more developed, but right now it's a pretty daunting thought.

Another side effect of doing it this way is that it doesn't have traditional chapter breaks. Yeah, I know I call them that, just like I did in the intro to this post, but that's just to make it easier to explain. What it has are a progressive series of dates and times which comprise the journal entries. That makes things rather... interesting... yeah, we'll go with that. It makes things interesting when it comes to how the book is broken up.

So I don't know where this will end up. You'll know once I know, that much is certain. I will say that just from what I've done so far, this is one of the most difficult things I've ever written. Not just from the technical details, either. The story itself is already pretty damned disturbing. Of course, that's what makes good horror. If it freaks me out, odds are it will you, too. That's why I'm not stopping, and why I'm determined to finish it. Even if it never gets out of the beta reader stage, I think the results will be pretty interesting.

And now, sleep. Tomorrow, that long-delayed day off from the writing. Being inside this guy's head is, well, troublesome. I think I need a day to make sure I'm not slipping too far into him. Remember, I already know what this guy's planning deep down. It won't be pleasant. I'm starting to wonder if that goes for both of us, or just him.

Not really. I'm pretty stable, mentally, or at least no one seems overly concerned about me yet. But I keep remember Mark Ruffalo from The Avengers when he described Loki: "...his brain's a bag of cats." Yeah, that about sums my main character up.

Anyway, sleepy time! Good night, folks. Pleasant dreams!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

So I'm a Workaholic...

Okay, apparently I lied in my last post when I said I was taking a couple of days off from the writing. When my normal work time rolled around, I found myself in the same place as always, typing away on something new. But the way I see it, I have two late shifts coming up at the day job this week, so those would be better suited for taking off. Why not work when I actually have the time, and take a break when I don't, right?

So I started a new project. Despite what else I thought in that last post (which was just last night, for crying out loud), it is NOT the next Cochran book, nor is it my continuing with Justicar. It's something completely different.

It's horror, but more of a psychological variant rather than the gore or monsters I've been doing. The subject matter came to me, and I knew I wanted to do something with it, but I didn't know how to do it without straight up copying dozens of other writers who have done similar subjects in the past.

Then it came to me, and I wanted to get to work on it. So I did.

This is a departure for me, as it will be written in first person narrative (I did this, I saw that). Two things immediately became clear to me. First, this was going to almost demand I put myself into the shoes of my main character to a degree I never have before. Second, if I did that, it was going to end up this strange mish-mash of fact and fiction that might make some people in my life concerned about my well-being.

So let me put a disclaimer up right now, with only one chapter done. I AM NOT THE MAIN CHARACTER IN THIS NOVEL. HIS VIEWS ARE NOT MY OWN, NOR WOULD I ACT AS HE WILL OVER THE COURSE OF THE STORY.

Sorry to yell, just wanted to be clear on this point.

Yes, some of the things this character thinks or believes are the same as me. But the same could be said of many of my other characters, too. Just because he's the one telling the story does not mean he is an autobiographical representation of myself. There is no need to worry about my sanity any more than you might already. It is, as all novels are, a work of fiction.

Glad we got that out of the way.

I'm not going to say too much more about it. Like I said, only one chapter's done right now, and I honestly don't know how far along this one will go. I may reach a point where living in this guy's head is too much for me. Therefore, I'll only post more and add it to the progress meter once I'm confident it's going to go the distance. What I will say is that this one may end up as a novella rather than a full-length novel. Again, I don't know where this guy's going to take me.

But as soon as I know, so will you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

And Another One Down

I just typed the final words on the first draft of One Last Dance. It weighs in at just over 89,000 words, and 290 pages in MS Word format. It also now holds the distinction as the fastest first draft I have ever completed. Makes me think I actually should try the whole thing where you're supposed to do a novel in a month for a competition thing.

This is kind of a strange one, as I'm not sure how people are going to react to it. The subject matter is a little, I don't know, different from what I've done before. It's still a horror novel, but there are some subplots that actually get pretty emotional instead of scary. There's much less gore than Consequences or even DatW, so we'll see. I guess from here it'll be up to the beta readers to decide how far off course it is.

Here's what's next. Demon at the Window is almost to the completion mark on its second draft, then it goes out to the beta readers. This one, strangely, is more in demand than either of the other two I've done, so I suppose it will follow relatively soon. Once it's formatted, off to the beta readers it goes.

Which will be strange for me. I'll have two books in the hands of beta readers at the same time. Some will be the same, but there will be some new ones reading OLD that have not read DatW yet. While it's a bit unnerving for me to consider, it makes sense. I want the Cochran books to be a series, yet still accessible no matter which point you jump on board. By having people read this one before reading its predecessor, I can gauge how well I'm hitting that mark.

If you're waiting on it, give me a couple weeks to get it ready to go out. If you're not a beta reader and you're waiting on it, you'll have longer to wait. At least three more drafts and two other books to come out first.

Up next for me will be making the Cochran books a trilogy. The next one is tentatively titled Blood Games, and will resurrect the original case that came to mind when I first met the character years ago. I'm not sure exactly when I'll be starting on it, since I still have the prewriting phase to go on it (research, notes, etc.), and I do want to get back to Justicar at some point.

What I do know is that since I didn't take any during this one, I will take a couple of days off to let the old gray Duracell recharge. My "To Read" and "To Watch" lists are growing longer every day, and with precious little time for such things (since I devote most of my free time to actually seeing my family or working on my writing), I should take the opportunity to shrink them back down to manageable size. Who knows, maybe I can actually post a couple more blogs of reviews in the next couple of days.

Just don't hold your breath. Knowing myself as I do, I'll be writing again before I intended to. Ah well, I can sleep when I'm dead.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kiss It Slashers

I've been re-reading some comics lately, and I managed to rediscover one of my favorites and reminded myself why this was the case. Consider this a review / love letter for it, and if you are interested in reading it afterwards and haven't before, be forewarned: there be spoilers ahead.

Horror comics are a strange breed. If you think horror movies are hit or miss, you definitely have not read some of these. First off, the genre itself becomes exceptionally vague when it comes to this medium. Too many times, over the course of a series' run, it becomes more evidently fantasy, or science fiction, or just plain superhero tales. True horror comics are hard to come by, though they do exist.

As a reference point, I still have copies of old black and white stuff like GoreShriek and the oversize Nightmare on Elm Street. They were black and white not necessarily because of the low budget printing, but because the comics code authority would flip out if they were released with so much red on the page. I graduated to underground stuff like Cry For Dawn, an anthology series by Joseph Michael Linser and Joe Monks. Linser, for the record, is one of the most incredible artists I have ever seen. Think it didn't make an impact? I have a tattoo of the three tears logo from that series on my left arm.

Still, CFD only lasted nine issues. GoreShriek and NoES didn't last much longer (the latter was only two issues, at least in the form I'm referring to). Even Faust, Tim Vigil's classic Adults Only title didn't go that long. Finding a horror comic that went the distance was not an easy thing to do.

Then I discovered Hack / Slash by Tim Seeley.

The basic premise is this: Cassie Hack was the girl at school everyone picked on because she was poor, wasn't that pretty, and was just plain weird. Her mother, the school lunch lady, was not happy at how the other kids treated her precious daughter. Like most mothers, she wanted to protect her child. Unlike most mothers, she did it by killing the kids who made fun of Cassie and served them up to the other students. When Cassie discovers this, her mother kills herself by sticking her head into a pot of boiling water (or oil, was never quite clear on this). Unfortunately, this did not stop her. She returned from the grave to continue killing the kids who tormented Cassie, forcing her daughter to kill her again. Once this happens, Cassie realizes there are some people who are so evil, death cannot contain them. These are Slashers, and they need to be stopped.

After encountering a deformed behemoth of a man named Vlad in Chicago, they team up and scour the country, killing Slashers wherever they find them.

The series knows its roots. It began as a series of one-shots, trade paperbacks, and mini-series that featured appearances from Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), and even Chucky from the Child's Play movies and Herbert West from Re-Animator. It did not rely solely on established slasher icons, though. It built its own, every bit as scary as the ones in the movies. We got Bobby, a mentally-challenged man who was accidentally killed in a vet's gas chamber one night, and now can summon dead animals to do his bidding. Father Wrath, a fire and brimstone evangelist from the South who had a penchant for dressing in women's clothing and trying to molest little boys until he was killed, then raised from the dead to destroy the unbelievers, sinners, fornicators, whores, and drunkards by a girl named Laura Loch who discovered a book of spells in her church basement. Jimmy and Lloyd, twisted brothers who want to stop the re-imagining of classic comic book characters to have darker overtones, and honestly, defy explanation (ever seen the X-Files episode "Humbug"? That's the general idea).

Among horror comics, the series is unique; for its longevity, if nothing else. After several of the one shots and limited series, it got a run of 32 continuous issues with Devil's Due Press. Then Image comics picked it up for another 25 issues. Then a few assorted one-offs. Then a six-issue crossover with Army of Darkness (yes, she teamed up with Ash). Then another five issues.

By its very premise, the series could have been done horribly. But Seeley obviously knew what he was doing. By the end of the main series run, you cared about the characters. Cassie and Vlad's relationship was only one small facet of the bigger picture. They gained friends along the way, from among those they saved. We did not just get to see those minor players through the main character's eyes, either. Lisa and Chris, the survivors of the first two storylines ("Euthanized" and "The Land of Lost Toys") meet, fall in love, and have a child together. Cassie befriends and eventually has a relationship with Margaret, aka Georgia Peaches, from the first main series arc. And then there's Pooch, a deformed dog / hell-beast also introduced in that same arc who returns to find the "most hated Cassie Hack" for his demonic overlords before realizing that his new masters (Chris and Lisa) treat him so much better (yes, he talks, and if you ever wondered what your dog might be thinking, Pooch probably comes close). Cassie defines Pooch better than I can: "You look like a dog swallowed a baby, and petting you is like stroking a five foot uncircumcised wiener."

Come on, that's awesome.

It blends humor, gore, sex, and everything else that made horror entertaining in the Slasher era. Yes, the stories sometimes get a little out there. It's not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But the depth of character, the interplay between those characters, and the richness of Cassie and Vlad's individual backstories are something you don't normally see in horror comics.

There have been rumors about it being turned into a movie, but that's the wrong direction. Put this thing on pay cable so you can do it justice and make it a TV series.

Are you going to learn anything by reading this? I doubt it. But it's a fun diversion for horror fans. I definitely recommend picking it up. You can get all the original stuff in Omnibus trade paperback form from Amazon or your local comic shop. The last two collections are not in an omnibus, but you can get them individually (Army of Darkness vs. Hack / Slash and Hack / Slash: Son of Samhain, Volume 1). At least check out the first omnibus and see if you like it. If you're as demented as me, I'm betting you'll get the rest soon enough.

As a side note, to explain the title of this blog: do a Google Image search for "Cassie Hack". Look for any picture of her holding a baseball bat with barbed wire or spikes on it. Read what's on the bat. Get it? And if you're feeling especially naughty, do a search for "Cassie Hack Suicide Girls". Yes, she's on their site, and yes, she has a photo shoot posted on it. It's comic book art, not an actual living model, but that's some serious crossover going on there!