Hoosier Horror for the Holidays

The Mooresville Public Library

and the

Indiana Horror Writers

Present

Hoosier Horror for the Holidays

A gathering of Indiana authors with: Vampires, ghosts, pirates, superheroes, fantasy warriors, wizards, and more!

Saturday, November 3,
1-3 PM

Mooresville Public Library
220 West Harrison Street
Mooresville, Indiana 46158
317.831.7323, mooresvillelib.org

Featuring:

Matt Adams: Indianapolis, Author of superhero prose, lives and works in Indianapolis. Long ago, I planned to patrol the streets as Batman, but ultimately decided writing was safer. www.mattadamswriter.com I, Crimsonstreak.

Maurice Broaddus: Indianapolis, co-editor of the Dark Faith anthologies (Apex Books) and author of the urban fantasy trilogy, Knights of Breton Court (Angry Robot Books). www.MauriceBroaddus.com King’s Justice, King Maker, King’s War, Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, and more.

Nicole Cushing: Southern Indiana, prolific author of horrific short stories. www.nicolecushing.wordpress.com Werewolves and Shape Shifters: Encounters with the Beast Within (anthology); and the forthcoming novella Children of No One.

Eric Garrison: Indianapolis, dark supernatural fantasies: ghosts, demonic possession and sinister fairy folk. www.ericgarrison.wordpress.com Road Ghosts (3-in-1), Blue Spirit.

Roberta Hoffer: Indianapolis, three words: Romantic Vampire Series. www.asilentheart.com Silent Heart, Silent Madness.

R.J. Sullivan: Camby, author of edgy ghost stories and paranormal thrillers. www.rjsullivanfiction.com Haunting Blue, Haunting Obsession, Contributor to Dark Faith: Invocations

Kathy Watness: North Salem, serial contributor to fantasy anthologies, such as the Blue Kingdom series, “Terribly Twisted Tales,” and The Crimson Pact, V.1.

Michael West: Indianapolis, prolific author of traditional horror and scares. www.bymichaelwest.com Cinema of Shadows, Wide Game, Poseidon’s Children, Skull Full of Kisses, and the just-released Spook House.

Marilyn 3/3

Marilyn Movies: The Good, the Bad, and the Meh, the last of three parts.

Finishing up with the rest of the almost-good and the almost-bad, also known as the “Meh.”

Start at part 1

Go back to part 2

How to Marry a Millionaire

Popular Consensus: Marilyn shows off her comedic chops in this madcap comedy about three women trying to get their hooks into various rich guys.

How I see it: Whatever. And when I say “whatever” to a film co-starring Lauren Bacall, you know something’s wrong. This movie almost fell under “bad” but I’m in a good mood today. Maybe it was edgy at one time, but it’s eye-rolling today. How to you make a knockout blonde like Marilyn look “nerdy” and intelligent? Put a pair of large goofy glasses on her face, of course. Ho. Ho. Ho. Look at the image to the left. Is that hysterical to you? Right. That’s my point. Add to that, some near-sighted jokes that make Mr.MaGoo look sophisticated, and it all adds up to a movie you can take or leave, and you’re probably better off leaving.

“Known for” Marilyn Moments: None that I’m aware of.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Jane Russell and Marilyn as two odd couple show girl best friends who keep getting into silly trouble.

Popular Consensus: A sex-comedy musical with Marilyn at her best.

How I see it: Okay, this one *almost* ended up in the good column. To be fair, there’s much to like here. The comedy is snappy, Jane Russell is also quite easy on the eyes, and there are at least two landmark musical numbers. The great moments are draped around a plot that barely exists, making the movie as a whole pretty generic, and as a result, one that doesn’t get a lot of replay in my collection. But that’s just me, you may feel otherwise. Even as I get ready to post this, I wonder if I’m judging too harshly. You decide and send me a nasty-gram. I may even admit I deserve it.

“Known For” Marilyn Moments: The hot-pink dress dance number to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” Madonna paid homage to in “Material Girl”. (Also note the human chandelier in the number that would make Lady Gaga jealous).

Niagara

Popular Consensus: Marilyn delivers a riveting performance as a femme fatale.

How I see it: Here’s another one that almost ended up in the “good” category. This film doesn’t work for me, and I think it’s because the plot is a 1940s film noir. You have Joseph Cotton (!) as the troubled husband, Marilyn as the no-good wife plotting to do him wrong, the Naïve Young Couple as innocent as driven snow, the “other man” waiting in the wings to do in the husband. There are no characters here, only archetypes. Once you know the types, the movie proceeds exactly as you expect, including the “plot twist” you see coming a mile away.

Add to that, film noir should be that–dark. Black and white, lots of shadows. We need Humphrey Bogart in here somewhere. Instead, this plays in lavish Technicolor. It’s a disconnect.

But that’s just me. Again, there’s a lot to like here, just not enough for me to recommend it.

“Known for” Marilyn Moments: Posing under the covers with the shadow of vertical blinds across her face. She gives great strut in one party scene–seriously, the movie is “known” for these things.

The River of No Return

Cowboy and son and Marilyn on a raft escaping Indians.

Popular Consensus: A troubled production and missed opportunities resulted in an overall disappointment, then and now.

How I see it: I concur. The movie wants to be liked, and lays on the sweetness a bit thick. Rancher Robert Mitchum and his son end up taking Marilyn, playing yet-another showgirl, across the river to escape rampaging Indians after Marilyn’s no-good boyfriend causes trouble for everyone. Suffers from too many western clichés. One particular eye-roller is when Marilyn breaks out into song in the middle of the woods with a hidden band accompanying her. The blue screen rafting scenes that make up the last 20 minutes of the film do not hold up. It all plays out predictably and overall underwhelmingly.

“Known for” Marilyn Moments: None that I am aware of.

Don’t Bother to Knock

Marilyn turns psycho-babysitter in a low budget black and white thriller. Seriously.

Popular Consensus: For the most part, overlooked.

How I see it: A black and white thriller early in Marilyn’s career in which she plays a babysitter hired to watch a young girl in a swank hotel room while the parents attend a party downstairs. It’s clear early on that Marilyn’s character has mental problems and suffers from some post traumatic stress, and that the night may lead to some Very Bad Things. Though the credits say otherwise, this movie plays very “B picture”, and that’s not a bad thing, given the mood.

It’s a surprising film, and another movie I almost moved to the “good” category. I give Marilyn credit for tackling this role, and even more surprising since she landed it fairly early in her career. She has some chilling moments, but putting my fanboy perspective aside, the role gets away from her. She just doesn’t have the acting chops to hold this one together, though as a curiosity piece, I find myself watching it fairly often.

Worth noting:

Marilyn has tiny parts in the film classics All About Eve and The Asphalt Jungle. Both are great films for reasons that have almost nothing to do with Marilyn.

On the other hand, she also has a tiny part in Clash by Night, a fairly wretched film noir wanna-be with some of the most painful dialog ever delivered by any actress (in this case, Barbara Stanwyck). (And directed by Metropolis fame Fritz Lang! WTH?) The best that can be said here is it’s not Marilyn’s fault.

So there you have it., Feel free to comment and tell me if my ratings were good, bad, or meh.

Marilyn Films 2/3

The Good, the Bad, and the “Meh”
(because Marilyn can never be ugly)

Click here to read part 1

Finishing “The Good.”

The Prince and the Showgirl

Laurence Olivier as the titular prince and Marilyn as the titular showgirl. (I love using “titlular” in a sentence.) On paper, it seems a terrible mismatch of talent, and it is, just not the way you’d expect.

How I see it: Olivier may be the “greatest actor of his generation,” but he can’t seem to grasp the comedy based on the stage play he starred in for years. Marilyn, on the other hand, turns in an inspired, charming performance, and easily grabs the lion’s share of the laughs. Essentially this is a fluffy comedy about a traveling prince with a night off who secures a showgirl for a late night dinner party–or so she thinks. To no one’s surprise but hers, it’s a party for two, and she spends the weekend spurning his awkward passes, though she never quite makes it out the door for several days. Lots of laughs, a good time.

Accolades and popular consensus: Only a mild hit at the time, this is a movie that has grown in popularity, though I suspect most viewers would put this in the “Meh” category, neither good nor bad.

The film suffers from a segment midway through in which the prince drags the showgirl off to a cathedral where we’re “treated” to the “majesty” of the ceremony, which kills the momentum of the film midway through, and has to build up again. Still, it’s a personal favorite. Side note: the print of the film looks terrible; it’s long overdue for a proper restoration.

“Known for” Marilyn Moments: Olivier and Marilyn were constantly in the gossip columns during the making of the film. Olivier had little patience for Marilyn’s tardiness and lack of focus. Last year’s Academy-nominated bio-pic My Week with Marilyn is set during the making of this film, a powerful no-brainer for a double feature night.

THE BAD

Bus Stop

Okay, stop the bus. Let’s start with

Accolades and Consensus: Bus Stop is considered by film buffs a wonderful triumph for Marilyn, was a huge success at the time and is still much beloved to this day. Just look at how TCM gushes praise for it here.

How I see it: Understand up front I’m going against popular opinion here, but Bus Stop? “Train Wreck” is more like it. And I’ve tried. I’ve really tried. As a huge fan, I give it a spin every few years (and will again on Saturday), just to see if something clicks. Fortunately, it’s as forgettable as it is bad. The story is bad–I think. Something about a bus stop and a diner next door and a showgirl and a cowboy harassing her? I don’t care. The acting is bad. The songs are…you get the idea. Marilyn sings badly…on purpose…for comedy, so the raving comments say. Don’t listen. This is a terrible movie.

“Known for” Marilyn Moments: Her rather terrible rendition of That Old Black Magic, I guess. (Which, oddly enough, I can’t seem to find on YouTube.)

Update 2015–I’ve watched the film a couple more times and my view has softened toward it just a bit, but it’s still pretty terrible. I can enjoy and appreciate Marilyn’s brave performance, but the heart of the problem lies in the misogyny inherent in the premise. Let me be clear about the plot–this is about a brute ignorant cowboy who decides after looking at Marilyn one time that he has to marry her, and will not take no for an answer. He chases her, harasses her, and literally puts her over his shoulder more than once, and the turnaround at the end comes out of nowhere. Yes, she pities him, but I simply can’t believe she falls in love with him as the movie tries to sell us. I can’t imagine how modern audiences see this film. Bottom line, for me, it completely fails as a story, even if I can appreciate Marilyn in it.

Let’s Make Love

Co-stars Yves Montand as a pompous ass trying to win Marilyn’s affections while Tony Randall and Wilfred Hyde White wander around the movie with confused looks.

Accolades and Consensus and How I See It: Starts out promising with a sizzling musical number and then evaporates into a truly terrible 90 minutes.  It was a flop when it came out because it was terrible, and nothing has changed.

“Known for” Marilyn Moments: The opening number “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” is HOT. Here’s a link so you won’t have to bother with the rest of the movie.

THE MEH
(Because Marilyn can never be ugly)

Films that are neither good nor bad, merely films that fail to make much of an impression one way or the other.

There’s No Business like Show Business

Co-starring Ethel Merman, which tells you everything you need to know about whether this movie is for you.

Accolades and Consensus: This is ranked as one of her worst films. Many harsh things have been written about Marilyn’s “embarrassing” “Heat Wave” number, about which I disagree.

How I see it: Seriously, film people, y’all love Bus Stop but trash this? The problem with TNBLSB isn’t that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s not particularly good. Essentially a tribute to Irvin Berlin wrapped around the tiniest excuse of a plot, the trials of a touring family and music act in the early 20th century. Who cares? It’s a two hour first class send up to a bunch of Broadway tunes. Period. It plays old school, it is old school, I have a good time with it. Not for everyone, but not painful.

“Known for” Marilyn Moments: Marilyn’s eye-popping “Heat Wave” performance.

Click here for part 3: Finishing up the “Meh.”

Marilyn Films (1/3)

The Good, the Bad, and the Meh
(Because Marilyn can never be “Ugly”.)

Even a raving fan, if they’re honest, will tell you Marilyn Monroe cinema is like dancing across a landmine. Unlike other Hollywood icons, such as Alfred Hitchcock or Humphrey Bogart, it’s just not wise to go to the library and pick up a random title from her catalog. The quality is all over the place. Some films, frankly–and I say this as a fan–are so awful that they may put you off to ever trying another. You can’t even count on the film’s reputation! (more on that as we go)

And that would be a shame, because when Marilyn is good, she’s really good. Unfortunately, when she’s bad….it’s not always in the good way.

And so, with TCM preparing to air every major Marilyn film this Saturday, August 4, on the 50th anniversary of her death, [as written in 2012–alas, Marilyn is conspicuously missing from the TCM Schedule in 2015] I offer my expertise on where to begin, what to avoid, and what won’t scar you but won’t impress you, either. My opinion on some of these films differ from “popular consensus” and I’ll also tell you where that’s the case.

THE GOOD

Some Like it Hot

Arguably the very best. Marilyn shines when she has strong support and you can’t get much stronger than a Billy Wilder-written and directed film co-starring Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis. Jack and Tony are two musicians on the run from mobsters when they get a chance to join a traveling band to Florida–an all-girl band! So they man-up and channel their inner drag queen to blend in as “Geraldine” and “Daphne”, and, as they are “executive transvestites” and still dig girls, they’re attracted to and rival for the band’s lead singer, Marilyn.

Accolades and popular consensus: A smash hit when it first came out, the film is recognized on two AFI’s top 100 lists, including the #1 spot on their Top Comedies list.

“Known For” Marilyn Moments: Showcasing “I Wanna Be Loved by You”.

The Seven Year Itch

It’s no accident that Marilyn’s best comedic moments occur in Billy Wilder-directed films. Seven made Marilyn a superstar, with a lot of help from Tom Ewell as a stressed out husband and Dad who remains in Manhattan to work while the family escapes the heat of the summer (before A/C was common). He’s determined to stay focused until he gets his first look at the blonde who just moved in to the apartment upstairs.

How I see it: It’s still hysterical, even if the “edgy controversy” of its subject matter–a family man contemplating infidelity! Played for laughs! Heavens!–plays quaint today. The first ten minutes of this one are fairly insufferable–the credit sequence is meant for a VistaVision big screen and is illegible on video. And the twinky music! It takes several minutes of before the movie finds its stride, but it’s worth it.

Accolades and popular consensus: Another hit out of the box, a triumph for director Billy Wilder in his long list of triumphs.

“Known For” Marilyn Moments: The famous blowing skirt scene comes from this film, though compared to the publicity photos, the filmed version is fairly subdued.

The Misfits

Starring Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, and Montgomery Clift, written by Arthur Miller and directed by John Huston.  (Eli Wallach and Thelma Ritter kick ass in this, too). The Misfits is a drama scripted by famed playwright and then-husband, who wrote it for Marilyn to executive-produce. (No, Quantum Leap, she didn’t frickin’ audition for the frickin’ part, you frickin’ morons–ahem, sorry, derailed by a sidetrack). The script plays to her strengths. What I’m going to say next is strictly my opinion, but I’m sticking to it–by having the character tipsy or hung over most of the film, Miller turns Marilyn’s problematic condition onset into an advantage.  So give it up for the brilliant writer. (Yes, I went there).

Marilyn, a recent divorcee looking to escape from the city, hooks up with cowboy Clark Gable out in the country to learn all about the “the easy life.” Of course, she learns that getting away from it all is anything but. The more she tries to acclimate, the more she clashes with those around her.

The film builds to an extended sequence in which the cowboys take Marilyn on a Mustang wrangling trip–those sensitive to images of animal mistreatment be warned. As Marilyn runs around begging the cowboys to stop what they’re doing, the movie pulls no punches in showing a family of horses being taken down one at a time. [Spoiler–It all works out for the horses in the end]

Accolades and popular consensus: In spite of the mega-stardom behind and in front of the camera, the movie bombed on initial release. Gable had a massive heart attack shortly after the production wrapped, and The Misfits could not shake the stigma of being “the film that killed Rhett Butler.” In recent years, the film has been revisited and is receiving the proper credit it deserves.

“Known For” Marilyn Moments: Though she lived to see the film open, The Misfits proved to be Marilyn’s final film as well as Gable’s. She has several great moments in this film, my favorite being the screaming fit breakdown toward the end of the film.

Click here to continue to part 2.

RJ Sullivan Publishing News Press Release

For Immediate Release
February 23, 2012

Seventh Star Press Announces Four-Book Deal with Paranormal Author R.J. Sullivan
Seventh Star Press proudly announces a four book deal with author R.J. Sullivan, making him the seventh author to come aboard the publisher’s main roster.

The addition of R.J. Sullivan comes close after Seventh Star Press’ strongest year yet, during which titles such as Jackie Gamber‘s Redheart and Michael West‘s Cinema of Shadows received excellent critical reception, and the artwork featured by the press also received increased recognition, as Matthew Perry recently won Top Cover Art in the 2011 Tor.com Readers Choice Awards for his cover art on Stephen Zimmer‘s The Seventh Throne.

The first title to be released by Seventh Star Press, Haunting Obsession, tells the story of Daryl Beasley. Daryl collects all things Maxine Marie, whose famous curves and fast lifestyle made her a Hollywood icon for decades after her tragic death. Daryl’s girlfriend, Loretta Stevens, knew about his geeky lifestyle when they started dating, but she loves him, quirks and all.

Then one day Daryl chooses to buy a particularly tacky piece of memorabilia instead of Loretta’s birthday present. Daryl ends up in the doghouse, not only with Loretta, but with Maxine Marie herself. The legendary blonde returns from the dead to give Daryl a piece of her mind—and a haunting obsession he’ll never forget.

A member of the Indiana Horror Writers, R. J. Sullivan resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. His first novel, Haunting Blue, is an edgy paranormal thriller about punk girl loner Fiona “Blue” Shaefer and her boyfriend Chip Farren.

R.J. is hard at work on the next chapter in Fiona’s story, Virtual Blue, which will be released in 2013, followed by two more novels over the course of 2013 and 2014.

“I was with Michael West at several events last year, and I couldn’t help but notice the slick marketing materials he was handing out,” R.J. Sullivan commented as to why he wanted to bring his work to Seventh Star Press. “I saw how Seventh Star had a personal presence nearby to assist at the cons. I realized that having the publisher at those events changes the convention vibe, which can otherwise be an isolated experience. I love that they produce interior artwork as part of their product–it shows an understanding of the genre and its readers. It’s clear Seventh Star understand the modern publishing world, and does everything they can to open up opportunities for the author to succeed.”

Bonnie Wasson, whose cover art and illustrations are featured in Seventh Star Press titles such as D.A. Adams’ The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, will be creating the artwork for the R.J. Sullivan novels.

Haunting Obsession will be released in limited hardcover, softcover (trade paperback), and several eBook editions, including versions for Kindle, Nook, the iBookstore, and Sony-compatible devices.

For further information on R.J. Sullivan and the upcoming releases, please visit www.seventhstarpress.com or the author’s site at www.rjsullivanfiction.com

Seventh Star Press is a small press publisher of speculative fiction located in Lexington Kentucky

Interview: Lucy A. Snyder on Switchblade Goddess and Beyond

Interview: Lucy A. Snyder on Switchblade Goddess and Beyond

With the release of Switchblade Goddess by Del Rey in late December, Lucy A. Snyder officially turned her Jessie Shimmer stories into a trilogy. In this blog interview, Lucy reveals that we have definitely not seen the last of Jessie Shimmer.

I am a raving fan of the first two books, and look forward to digging in to SG as soon as possible (the reading stack here at home, were it not mostly electronic, would have collapsed one of my walls by now, but I digress). Her first book, Spellbent, was nominated in 2010 for a Stoker Award in the category of Superior Achievement in a first Novel.  (Check out my review of the first book here). Previously, Lucy’s collection Chimeric Machines won 2009 Stoker for Superior Achievement in Poetry. But enough from me.

Congratulations on the release of Switchblade Goddess. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

Thanks, RJ!

Did you conceive of the Jessie Shimmer stories as a trilogy, or did the development come after Spellbent?

Spellbent emerged from a short story assignment that never happened. Some years back, I got a heads-up that there might be openings in the anthology Apprentice Fantastic, so I started working up some ideas to pitch to the editor. I got the idea for a story centered on a young apprentice who loses her master when a storm-calling goes wrong and has to face down a demon with just the help of her familiar. The anthology ended up not having any openings, but by that time, I’d gotten excited about the characters and slowly started working on the story, which became a a novella, which became a novel.

By the time the story had expanded to novella size, I was already thinking ahead to additional stories I wanted to tell about the characters, and also about the overarching plot that would be carried out over the course of several books. Of course I had no idea if I could sell the book, or if whoever bought the book would want a series, so Spellbent was written with a more “closed” ending than either Shotgun Sorceress or Switchblade Goddess. Which consequently resulted in my adding the prologue and epilogue to Spellbent.

And ironically enough, I haven’t managed to get to the events implied by the prologue in the series yet, so really I might as well not have included it! I need three more books to carry through with the main plot arc. Said novels, unfortunately, will probably not be released by Del Rey. My agent and I are in contact with other publishers; one way or another, I will write the rest of the Jessie Shimmer series and make it available to readers. But at the same time, I do have to keep a roof over my head, so if I end up writing the rest of the series without the benefit of an advance, it’ll take me longer than I’d like.

One of the joys of the trilogy is your portrayal of the sorcerers and witches existing as an open secret in the mundane world. Is this just fun extrapolation or do you think there are secrets hiding in plain sight in the real world that the average person has conditioned themselves to ignore? (Author photo by Doug Dangler)

Mostly it’s a fun extrapolation. At the same time, we humans aren’t built to be able to sense everything that happens around us: x-rays and magnetic fields are invisible, very low and very high pitches are inaudible, quarks and gluons untouchable. So who’s to say that there aren’t secrets hiding from us in plain sight?

One of the things I love about the series is the character of Jessie Shimmer. She rides a fine moral and ethical line in ways that I think will surprise uninitiated readers. Did you have a clear understanding of where she makes her stand in most scenes? Did anything raise a flag with yourself, your pre-readers or you publisher that you had to reconsider?

As a character, Jessie is a good person who wrestles with her own darker impulses. She’s quick to anger and her first instinct is to jump in and fight when the people she loves are threatened.  So, she wants to do the right thing, but a calmer, more dispassionate person might question the prudence of the things she decides to do.

The main things as a writer that I’ve asked my editors and first readers for input on is the level of violence.  The violence and darkness in the books won’t be anything extreme to horror readers, but not all urban fantasy readers have been expecting it. Some people who read what’s marketed as urban fantasy are mainly romance readers, and they expect the urban fantasy novels they open to simply be a more action-oriented kind of paranormal romance. My books have a love story, but they are not romances and were not intended to be romances. Romance readers have a different set of expectations, and they often don’t expect the kind of violence that happens in my books.

And there’s issues with sex. Romance readers may usually expect sex scenes to mostly happen off stage. If the sex happens on stage, it’s supposed to fit with the plot, sure, but mostly it’s supposed to be hot. Some of the sex scenes I’ve written are supposed to be plotworthy and disturbing, or plotworthy and funny, or plotworthy and creepy. It doesn’t all titillate because it’s not all supposed to titillate.

Might we be seeing Jessie or the supporting cast of this trilogy in future stories?

Absolutely!  The story “Repent, Jessie Shimmer!” will appear in Apex Book Company’s 2012 anthology Southern Undead.  And there will be a set of new stories about Jessie, Cooper, the Warlock, and other characters in my forthcoming collection Orchid Carousals, which I hope will be out toward the end of 2012. I’m still working on the stories, which are all erotica; some of them may also be appearing in other anthologies, but that hasn’t been decided yet.

Thanks again, Lucy, and congratulations! I’m looking forward to checking it out.

Learn more about Lucy A. Snyder at these links.

http://www.lucysnyder.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lucy-A-Snyder/32362763073

Guest Blogger–Gary W. Olson on his new release Brutal Light

The Story Behind “Brutal Light”

It wasn’t until I looked back to the beginning, and saw the path I had taken–which had led me to a story and a world that felt mired in the weight of everything I was trying to cram into it–that I saw the path that would lead me out.  It was a path that meant leaving everything I thought defined the story behind, save its core, and starting anew with a resolute focus on that core–a hard thing, given how many years I had been trying to make it work.  But I took it… and at its end was what is now my debut novel, being published today–“Brutal Light”.

Identity, I’ve come to realize, has always been a central issue in my writing.  There are so many ways we cling to words and the ideas behind them–and often, any ideas that seem attached to them, whether or not they should be–and, for so many, a terror at having these words and ideas ripped away.  Who am I, underneath all the words I say define me, and am I really sure there’s any ‘me’ there?

On deciding to write my first novel, I drew on stories I wrote for Internet reader consumption in the nineties for inspiration, and wrote the draft at a blistering, NaNoWriMo-esque pace.  The end result was, of course, awful, as I’m told should be expected for such a first draft.  Unfortunately, I no longer have a copy of that draft, so I can no longer say how well the question of identity shines through.  But it was reflection on this quick draft that informed my next stab at a novel.

This new version featured a woman–a former subject of experimentation intended to end the ravages of nanobot swarms–whose change in a crucial moment caused the physical rules of the world to go haywire, causing dimensions to unravel, cities to burn in a perpetual dream state, and worse.  The story centered on her journey–along with that of her involuntary companions–across this strange and twisted North American landscape, pursued by those who want to take her power and those she has wronged.  It was strange and weird and full of spectacle–and it just did not work.  The storyline got completely lost in the second half, though I bulldozed on, convinced I could fix things in the next draft.

I certainly tried.  The next draft kept the general setup, but tried to focus the action and spectacle in a single ‘dreaming city,’ as if it had been the shifting locales in the previous version that had been the problem.  This draft shambled to a halt at the midway point, and another attempt at revision did likewise.  The story seemed dead in the water; for a while, it was.

In 2002 or 2003, a friend of mine asked if I would contribute a story to an anthology he was planning to produce, on the broad subject of heroism.  With little time to work, I looked back on my previous novel drafts for inspiration.  That was when I took stock, and looked back to see the path I had taken.  I realized I had lost sight of what the story was about, and that I had focused so much on the spectacle that I had lost sight of the characters beneath it.  Worse, I had let the character at the center of the ‘power’ issue become a cipher, viewed wholly through other eyes, where the ways she might contend with identity were obscured.

The way out soon became clear to me.  The characters had to become central again, even if it meant ditching the weird wild post-apocalyptic landscape I’d developed and situate events in a modern city where the rules were clear, at least on the surface.  My ‘power’ character became human again, and as I considered her relationship with the power–which, in this version, would sometimes act through her despite her wishes–the story grew, spawning other characters with their own identity issues.  And no matter how weird and bloody the story got–it plunges headlong into territory more twisted and dark than anything in the previous versions–it was anchored by who the characters were… and what they found beneath the words they had for who they were.

The anthology never saw daylight, unfortunately, but the short story became the starting point for a new first novel draft.  When I finished that draft, I knew that the story so long struggling to emerge from my fingertips was out at last.  The rest was denouement–editing, rewriting, polishing, and years of slinging it around at various agents and publishers until I found Damnation Books.

I learned a lot during this journey–not only in terms of storytelling and prose mechanics, though I certainly learned a lot about those.  I learned how to find the core of the story and how to preserve it from ‘spectacle creep.’  I learned how one of the most invaluable traits that aids in making it to publication is a persistence that would make a mule shake its head and say ‘damn.’  Most of all, I learned how to look beneath the words we use to define ourselves to the world, in both my characters and myself.

*

Blurb for “Brutal Light”:

All Kagami Takeda wants is to be left alone, so that no one else can be destroyed by the madness she keeps at bay.  Her connection to the Radiance–a merciless and godlike sea of light–has driven her family insane and given her lover strange abilities and terrible visions.  But the occult forces that covet her access to the Radiance are relentless in their pursuit.  Worse, the Radiance itself has created an enemy who can kill her–a fate that would unleash its ravenous power on a defenseless city…

Rhea Cole is also on the run, after murdering her husband with a power she never knew she had–a power given her by a strange girl with a single touch.  Pursued by a grim man unable to dream and a dead soul with a taste for human flesh, she must contend with those who would use her to open the way to the Radiance, and fight a battle that stretches from the streets of Detroit to a forest of terrifying rogue memories.

*

Excerpt from “Brutal Light”:

The light surrounded them, bringing the crushing hum Gordon remembered. His mind screamed with the sound.

He reached into Havelock as Havelock reached into him. At once he was in the forest outside, in the body of a wolf running hard through brush and foliage. Panic beat with the wolf’s heart.  Rage coursed through its nerves with each impact of paw against soil.  The wolf burst into a clearing and saw a boy’s mutilated body.

The wolf slammed to a halt, and Gordon felt himself thrown as if ejected through the windshield of a crashing car. An image of his body formed without his conscious will, and he flew over the boy.  As he crashed into the ground and rolled, he realized he had seen the boy just moments ago, peering through a window. He was almost sure the boy wore the same orange shirt now on the corpse.

Gordon was on his feet in an instant, facing the wolf. But the wolf was gone. Havelock stood in its place, staring down at the boy’s corpse. Horror and guilt surged through the emptiness that was in his expression only a second before. Gordon thought it was like watching him come out of a trance.

Light seethed beyond the trees and stabbed down through the green canopy. Things moved beyond the edge of the clearing, between the trees and the relentless glow. Some were bestial. Some had human shapes. All murmured with a delirious anticipation.

Havelock saw himself as a wolf—that much was clear. The question of why was not clear, and also of no interest. What Gordon wanted to know was why the memory of finding this boy, the memory Gordon triggered with his attack, had been powerful enough to make him drop his guard.

Gordon became conscious that his right hand gripped a handle.  He didn’t need to look away to know that it was part of a shovel, or that it was already drenched with blood. He didn’t need to think of why it had come to his hand.

Unlike Havelock, he knew his demons.

Gordon leapt at Havelock and swung the blade of the shovel at his throat.

*

Buy links for “Brutal Light”:

Amazon.com (Kindle edition)
DamnationBooks.com (.mobi, .epub, .lit, .pdf, .pdb)
Links for of all other vendors (continually updated): http://BrutalLight.GaryWOlson.com
Print ISBN (for ordering paperback via bookstore): 978-1-61572-539-7
Digital ISBN: 978-1-61572-538-0

*

Bio for Gary W. Olson:

Gary W. Olson grew up in Michigan and, despite the weather, stuck around.  In 1991 he graduated from Central Michigan University and went to work as a software engineer.  He loves to read and write stories that transgress the boundaries of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, while examining ideas of identity and its loss in the many forms it can have.

Away from working and writing, Gary enjoys spending time with his wife, their cats, and their mostly reputable family and friends.  His website is at http://www.garywolson.com, and features his blog, “A Taste of Strange” (http://www.garywolson.com/blog), as well as links to everyplace else he is on the Internet, such as Twitter (http://twitter.com/gwox) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/gary.w.olson.author).

Review: Cinema of Shadows

Cinema of Shadows
Michael West
Cover and interior illustrations by Matthew Perry
©2011 Seventh Star Press
www.bymichaelwest.com

9/10 Arjays—because there’s nothing cooler than an Arjay

For the last several months, every review site on the web has taken a moment to heap praises upon Michael West’s Cinema of Shadows, his second novel and his first release through Seventh Star Press. Now it’s my turn. Cinema is a triumph—incredibly satisfying, offering the scares you hope for with an attention to detail, history, and a set of characters you like and root for, even knowing not everyone makes it through to the end.

And the movies. The book is a celebration of Michael’s love of movies.

The book begins with a couple of prologues, first about our main character Kim Saunders, then with a significant flashback within the Woodfield—the movie palace in which the bulk of the story takes place.

Michael takes us back to Harmony, Indiana, the setting of The Wide Game (which I awarded the coveted 10/10 Arjays, see review here). He’s taking us from high school to college, where follow Ms. Kim Saunders and her group of friends—her roommate Tashima, and Joss and Kevin. The four have been grouped into a “team” of wanna-be investigators all trying to earn a semester’s credit of paranormal research under the leadership of the infamous and very British Professor Geoffrey Burke.

Kim is chosen to communicate with the spirits. It’s clear from the start she has a talent in finding rapport with the other side. When she addresses them, things “happen.” Her friends don’t know (but the reader is let in) of her mysterious past and the encounters that have allowed this to happen.

Following a partly botched haunted house episode, Kim is taken to the emergency room and treated by Doctor Tyler Bachman. It’s hardly five minutes later that “Doctor Bachman” has discharged her, asks her out, and he becomes “Tyler” for the rest of the novel, and the budding romance falls into place.

Professor Burke has been offered the unique opportunity to investigate the soon-to-be-demolished Woodview Movie Palace for the weekend, and he recruits the student team most aggressively to join him. Everything clicks into place pretty fast, and soon the team is setting up at the movie palace, learning its ghastly history, uncovering its secrets, upsetting the spirits, and getting into all sorts of trouble.

At 278 pages the book moves fast, yet never feels rushed. For me, comparisons to The Wide Game are inevitable, so, compared to The Wide Game, the situation is simpler, more straightforward. While The Wide Game protracted the reveal, Cinema is about getting to the scares and whipping the plot along.

The book, about a movie palace, shows a distinct love for movies, and “unspools” like a movie. Lines that will read as throwaway detail to some will have film students nodding their head at the in-joke. For example, when Kim and Tyler take a late-night stroll, Michael makes a point to mention that the sidewalk glistened wet from a recent rain. Those familiar with cinema techniques know that cement photographs better when wet and is often hosed down prior to filming.

Much has been said about the scares in other reviews, and I won’t go on about that except to confirm that if that’s what you’re looking for, Cinema is full of scares, surprise reveals and action sequences. I want to take a moment to praise Michael on his characters and his ability make the reader care and root for each one, even the throwaway ones. (The stripper, Michael—how could you do that to the stripper? Like her life wasn’t tough enough?)

I’d like to also mention the Catholic Christian emphasis in both Cinema and The Wide Game. For several decades it seems to have become out of vogue to create horror stories in which the power of God and the name of Jesus Christ can affect the outcome of supernatural encounters. (The crucifix, in modern vampire fiction, is waved around more like a can of mace than a symbol of spiritual presence). Modern American spirituality tends to be removed or minimized from “mainstream” horror fiction and only handled (or mishandled in my opinion) in “Christian horror” fiction. Not so in Michael’s work.

Cinema offers us a group of sexually experimenting college kids, prone to use “bad” language, but some of which have a strong faith, and fall back on that faith in hopes to affect the outcome of the tale. As a result, Cinema becomes one of a few unacknowledged Christian Fiction horror novels, with Christian characters most American Christians would understand and relate to, but will never be found in  a Christian Bookstore. For me, and I suspect for others, Cinema and The Wide Game fill a gap in secular storytelling, and I applaud Michael and Seventh Star Press for making that stand.

Now I hear Michael screaming “why didn’t it get ten Arjays?” A rating of 9 should tell everyone that I loved Cinema of Shadows, but I related to The Wide Game on a personal level in a way that no author can control. And so, I preferred The Wide Game,  by a “smidge”, and had to rate the story in a way that reflected how each book affected me, the reviewer, personally.

Bottom line: Highly recommended for those who love action-oriented cinematic paranormal fiction.

See my interview with Michael West around the time of the release of Cinema of Shadows here.

Reflections of a Musical Magician

Reflections of a Musical Magician:
The adventures of JaN PuLSfoRD, aTHeNa BLue, Madame la Pulse, and JaNa KYoMooN

By Bob Sullivan
www.copybob.com

View this article on the artist’s site here.

Those familiar with JaN PuLSfoRD tend to describe her music in evocative terms. One fan says she provides “the musical notes my weary heart seeks to restore love’s light”; another calls her “an explorer in the world of music.” In describing JaN’s live online performances, fans say, “Your music is like therapy. It washes away the hardships of the day as it nurtures the soul.” Still another, “Your musical massage each weekend is the perfect way to let all stress disappear and to feel at one with the universe.”

As much magician as musician, JaN uses technology the way a wizard uses her wand, bringing  piano, synthesizers, sound loops, and other digital wonders to cast intricate spells. Sometimes her spells take the listener deeper into their mind, transports them to another world of the imagination, or compels them to hit the dance floor.  Reflecting upon her musical journey, JaN said, “I live on the edge of technology, always looking for new ways of getting my music out there.”

Throughout her career, JaN has served others as a cunning musical druid, the silent partner of many notables: the Thompson Twins, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love, from the pop of Steps to the jazz of Chico Freeman, and most famously, Cyndi Lauper, all talented vocalists and charismatic front men comfortable in the spotlight. And like King Arthur, they receive the credit and the accolades while their musical Merlin casts the spells behind the scenes. At the same time, her music is heard on TV stations all over the world, from MTV to BBC, Oprah Winfrey to Jerry Springer (!) and in independent movies and on line videos.

Given how the myth and modern fiction have credited the United Kingdom as the source of so many famous sorcerers and wizards, perhaps it’s not surprising that JaN was born and raised in Wales. Her parents supported her love of music at an early age: violin lessons at age 7; piano lessons shortly after. By the time she completed high school, she’d also learned the flute, cello, and clarinet. “Through high school I focused on the grades and exams required to get me into college with the goal of becoming a music teacher.”

Through perseverance, hard work, and dedication to her craft, JaN embarked on a successful career writing music for film and TV. Her early CDs of electronica are now collector’s items and her music won awards at the New York Film Festival. She also wrote the U.K.’s prestigious Song for Europe and played on countless sessions in the blossoming electronic London studio scene of the 80s. Eventually, JaN hit the road as the keyboard player for the Thompson Twins.

JaN reflects, “There is no such thing as overnight success. We make and discover our future, and are found by people who are looking for us in the same way we find people we are looking for. I have been jumping over hurdles all my life and when I fall, I dust myself off and start again. That is the trick—to get back up! I enjoy my feast or famine existence in the knowledge that I am true to my art, and still, after all these years, making a living with my music.”

Other established musicians took notice of JaN’s unique keyboard stylizations, and the demand for her talents grew. She moved to the United States and, in 1993, joined the tour band in support of Cyndi Lauper’s Hat Full of Stars.

During the tour, JaN shared with Cyndi her insight into the Arthurian Legend. They started writing new music, injecting their shared view of feminism and sisterhood as a creative power and exploring the various betrayals of that power in modern society. The result was Sisters of Avalon, Lauper’s sixth studio album. JaN not only provided keyboards and loops, but recorded, engineered, and mixed the final product (and afterward served as musical tour director on the road). A Christmas album followed, and their final co-creations were released as part of Lauper’s 2002’s Shine. Their partnership spawned twenty co-written songs between 1993 and 2001, and is arguably Lauper’s most artistic and critically acclaimed work.

YouTube Link: Sisters of Avalon album preview
At the same time, the internet sprang into the public domain, and JaN started her own Independent CD record label, Collecting Dust Recordings, to release music recorded by her production company under her alter ego “Madame la Pulse.” At English Valley Music Studio in the woods of Tennessee, JaN recorded, engineered, and released efforts for a host of talented musicians, including the late David Schnaufer, Kat Dyson, Felicia Collins, Sir Jam and Nigel Pulsford, her brother and lead guitarist from the rock band Bush. Most of the original ideas for Sisters of Avalon were recorded in this studio.

“I was seeing the potential the internet held for independent artist/musicians,” JaN recalled. “Back then, the internet was still an untapped adventure. On the other hand, I was incredibly naïve. I really believed the music business was about music and soon found the hard way that it’s about business—on every level. I got chased around by CEOs who didn’t have a clue about music or technology but knew that what I was doing was part of the future. Negotiations to buy the company got silly and I walked away. Later, Collecting Dust collided with the mp3 revolution and music quickly became devalued. No one wanted to admit that filesharing was stealing a living from many creatives—it really hurt the small indie companies and songwriters.”

In 2006, JaN first encountered the medium where her music has been discovered more recently and heard by a new group of fans—Second Life (SL), the virtual world in which JaN makes regular and highly attended appearances to perform using her avatar alter ego JaNa KYoMooN. “My friend the ambient musician Tony Gerber had discovered SL and, as the avatar/musician Cypress Rosewood, was having the time of his virtual life. I followed him in.”

JaN recalls her first musical adventure in a virtual environment. “I was part of the Peace Park Trio in 2006-7 playing at the Music ALL Music Peace Park, a sanctuary I built as a place of inner and global peace through music and the arts. I remember the exhilaration of really doing something new and special. The mixture of electronica with dulcimer and Native American Flute was extremely successful.”

In the summer of 2008, JaN began performing in SL as a solo artist. “It was quite a daunting prospect for someone whose whole musical life has been spent at the back of the stage or on the other side of the glass. At first I was performing hard-hitting electronica music from my aTHeNa BLue project, but the more down tempo, meditative ambient music was getting the biggest reaction. When I realized the positive aspect of performing this kind of music, I decided to dedicate most of my performances in SL to this end.”

Now back in the U.K., JaN performs online two to four times a week, while a dedicated radio channel (Radio JaNa) streams her music 24/7, growing her followers and a new set of collaborators only possible through the modern technologies of cyberspace. “Each day is like being on the Star Ship Enterprise, hailing all frequencies as I converse and write music with my creative collaborators in Greece, New York, Chicago, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Italy, L.A., London and Nashville.  Where I have my address is of no consequence.”

And her performances in virtual worlds are indeed “live.” JaN explains, “I prepare sequences in Logic and have everything running live. With computer running sequences and me playing over them, there’s a feeling that anything could happen. There is a certain energy from playing music live that you can’t communicate from lip syncing with ready-made mixes.”

YouTube Link: JaNa KYoMooN plays “Silver Shimmers”

JaN PuLSfoRD, aTHeNa BLue, JaNa KYoMooN—the musical magician vanishes, changes, conjures new personas, creates new moods, evokes new aural landscapes. On SL, JaN can finally create the proper otherworldly venue to accompany her musical spells. Where congregating avatars have the floor drop out from under them (no worries; avatars float), where colors swirl and pulse to the beat, where the paintings move across the wall. Not to mention the big purple disco ball. Even magicians have to accessorize!

aMBieNT ReFLeCTioNS oF JaNa KYoMooN is her third collection of Second Life compositions to be released commercially, and JaN’s first release through the D-Pulse Ovrtone label. About D-Pulse, JaN enthused, “I worked with DPulse on a few remixes and live shows with my aTHeNa BLue project. I have always admired their commitment to electronic music and I am so delighted to have them involved!” Ambient Reflection of JaNa KYoMooN is available in CD or download at all major online music sites.

As the title suggests, JaNa is casting her calming spells, weaving otherworldly tones of blues and jazz to draw you inward and help you escape to happier places. If this is the first time you’ve surrendered yourself to the musical magician’s spell, you’ll be pleased to know she has a huge “spellbook” in her back catalog—from dance electronica to soothing lullabies and everything in between.

http://janpulsford.com
http://radiojana.com
http://musicallmusic.com
www.facebook.com/ Jan.Pulsford

Highlight Discography:

Merlyn’s Magical Music
Sketches of the Kyomoon
Reflections of the Kyomoon
aLiVe iN a SeCoND LiFe (As aTHeNa Blue)
ReTuRN 2 ZeRo (As aTHeNa BLue)
Plus over 20 albums of Production music available from Universal Music Group

Highlights of Collaborations:

Sisters of Avalon – Cyndi Lauper
Delcimore – David Schnaufer
Night of Peace – Darlene Love
Merry Christmas, and Have a Nice Life – Cyndi Lauper
The Thompson Twins Live
True – Jeff Oster
The Leaders – Chico Freeman
Kathy Raimey – Still Moving
Oxygen + Love – Charles Green
Pride Remixes – Julian Marsh
Various Dance Remixes – Junior Vasquez