Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Decade’s Scariest?

Well it’s official. The zeros, the decade we’re finishing, is the decade of wimpy horror movies. At least that is, according to the Chiller channel’s list of the 13 scariest movie moments. The gore quotients went up, but suspense and fear took a nasty hit. Sad, sad, sad. Here’s their list, and what’s wrong with it.

#13. Drag Me to Hell: Although the gypsy curse plot is cliché, this movie was actually decent and should have been rated higher given the other listees. There’s a lot of slimy things here, with some genuinely revolting moments and some decent action. The ending raises the level too, and it reflects true horror. 3 out of 5 on the Gramlich Approval Meter.

#12. The Strangers: I wanted my money back. A couple is trapped in a farmhouse by 3 people intent on terrorizing and murdering them. Rather cliché, but could be OK. The problem is that the 3 “villains” are kids, with no guns, and there’s not an ounce of threat in any of them. The couple, who are far too stupid to live, even have a shotgun and other weapons but allow a couple of teens to own them. I know a lot of folks who would have wasted the 3 “mad-dog killers” inside of ten minutes. 0 of 5.

#11. Final Destination: This is really a remake, which means no suspense or tension since we already know the story. There were a few cool gory scenes but not enough to carry the movie. This one would come nowhere near my top 13. 1 1/2 out of 5.

#10. The Orphan: Didn’t see it so won’t judge.

#9. The Descent. Five women go spelunking and end up fighting monsters and each other. I liked some of this. There are claustrophobic moments I could appreciate, and the monsters, although typical mutated humans, were pretty nasty looking. 2 of 5. Maybe even 2 1/2.

#8. Hostel: No suspense, no fear. Lots of gore. This one is sometimes described as torture porn and I agree. Tourists are kidnapped and taken to a place where people pay to torture them to death. That’s about as slender a plot as I’ve ever seen. There’s one effective scene involving a woman and a train. 1 of 5.

#7. 30 Days of Night: I love the idea. Vampires tree a town near the arctic circle where it stays dark for 30 days. The vamps were appropriately nasty and there was some genuine tension as survivors hid for their lives. The middle sagged, though, and I didn’t buy the ending. 2 of 5, with an extra point thrown in for the concept. 3 of 5 total.

#6. Cloverfield: Oh, it was bad. A giant monster movie where you almost never see the monster. Shaky cam crap that ruins any chance to suspend disbelief. Characters that are realistic enough to be boring. I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. The only effective scene is when the Statue of Liberty’s head crashes down onto a New York street. 1 of 5.

#5. 28 Days Later: By far the best on the list so far. Essentially a zombie movie, but before the current glut, and this was the first movie to use fast zombies. That ratcheted up the tension, and the acting was really good despite a cast of mostly unknowns. 4 of 5.

#4. The Mist: Good acting and some moments of genuine tension as you wonder what lies in the mist. Some decent gory stuff. And, this one had the most horrific ending of any movie I’ve ever seen. The ending took guts and I loved it. 3 of 5, with an extra point tacked on for the ending itself. 4 of 5 total.

#3. Saw: Finally one that can stand up to the great old movies of the past. Passion and intensity. Wild twists and turns. This one had gore aplenty but it was well done and worked ‘with’ the storyline so well that you appreciated it even as you winced. A great horror movie. 5 of 5.

#2. Paranormal Activity: How this even registered as a blip on the horror field escapes me. The lamest movie on this list and nowhere near the top 100 of the decade, much less the top 13. You know that internet joke where you're watching a commercial and a zombie suddenly pops up? This is exactly the same, but it runs for over an hour before the monster pops up. I am ashamed to say I paid for it. -1 of 5.

#1. The Ring: This one deserves to be number 1. It scared the crap out of me, and that is not easy to do. Great twists and turns and the ending rewrites your expectations. 5 of 5.

Of the movies on this list, only The Ring, Saw, The Mist, and 28 Days Later are really good horror films. 30 Days of Night and Drag Me to Hell were worth seeing. Only The Ring and Saw match up decently with the best horror movies of the 80s and 90s, like The Exorcist, The Thing, Alien, and In the Mouth of Madness. Cloverfield, The Strangers, and Paranormal Activity aren’t anywhere close to good. The fact they made Chiller’s list could mean: 1) the decade really was a wimpy one for horror, 2) the Chiller folks who made the list don’t watch anything other than major Hollywood releases, or, 3) the folks who made the list are about the same age as the villains in The Strangers.

So, what is your vote for best horror films of the decade? Or of forever? How about the worst?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Season of Rust

Late at night the morbid thoughts creep upon me. I listen to a slow metal dirge that recalls the fetid summer. But now it is winter, and the iron cold sweeps down with blades of icicle-sharp. I hear the whisper of dead leaves stroking my windows; I hear the brush of the oak’s barren limbs upon my roof.

Outside in the night, I know the black horse rushes past on the Wild Hunt. And I know who rides upon him. I see his limbs, like sabers. I feel his eyes from the dark upon my face. They are curved like the stings of scorpions.

I wonder if I should put on my coat of silver. I wonder if I should set my mouth for war. The hunter and his wolves beckon, and in days past I would have joined his gathering and ridden fast to the vicious skirl of the horns.

But in those days my soul was quick; my youth was armor. Tonight, I fear, my weakness would make me prey.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Last December Post at Novel Spaces

After a few days off for Christmas, I'm back with my last post of the year over at Novel Spaces. This one is about the things I've learned from Bad Writers. Hope you can drop by.

And I hope everyone has had and is having a wonderful holiday season.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More Updates

You'd think I'd have more time to write information heavy posts since I'm off from school, but I've been spending most of my free hours lately working on the two Graphic Novel articles that I agreed to do. Good progress so far. The hardest part has been identifying other scholarly works that address the books, since graphic novels are only beginning to be taken seriously in the larger world.

So, here's another promo type post if you will, wherein I talk about myself. Egads, that sounds pretty boring even to me. But, there are some good things going on at the moment. David J. West has a review of Bitter Steel up over on his "Nephite Blood, Spartan Heart blog. Thanks to David for the kind words.

Also, Swords of Talera is now officially a "Nook Book," at $4.79. That's purty cool. At least to me. The second and third book in the series are scheduled to be released as ebooks eventually, probably in the new year.

I already mentioned here that Cold in the Light is also available as an ebook now, although apparently not yet for Kindle. It's available for only $2.84 at the Google Ebookstore. The link is here if you were wondering.

One of these days I'll put up another, more substantive post. I promise.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Already Sunday

It seems that when you’re working, time attacks you. It surrounds you, beats you down, and crows over your tormented body. Not so when you're off. Time flees like a teasing lover, leaving only a hint of gossamer behind to wet one’s desire for it.

In other words, how the hell did it get to be Sunday already? Thursday I posted here and then did various writing related and last minute school related business. Friday I wrote all day, Saturday most of the day. I made great progress, but not on fiction. I have articles due January 14 concerning two graphic novels, Bloodstar and A.D. New Orleans. I always kind of dread starting such articles but always enjoy them once I get into them. I will easily make my deadline and should have some time left for fiction.

Today I don’t plan to do a lot of writing. The Saints play the Ravens and I’m quite concerned about that. Lana also brought home the remastered versions of the original Star Trek episodes and I want to see those. We watched three of the earliest last night, “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” in which we learn that James Kirk’s middle initial is…R, “Charlie X,” about a teenage boy with super psychic powers developing his first crush, and “The Man Trap,” which is about the last surviving salt vampire.

Speaking of vamps, I dreamt about them last night. I was a scientist who had just been assigned to a research lab and they took me on tour. Behind one heavily locked door they kept some vampire subjects. On the left was a single fairly large vampire who was incredibly old. He was in a glass enclosed chamber somewhat like an oversized coffin. On the right side were 8 glass chambers, 4 on bottom, 4 on top, and this was where they kept the vampire experimental subjects. They were humanoid but only about half human size; they generally looked like demons with reddish-brown hairless skin, ridged wings, and clawed hands and feet. As we came in they started pressing their fanged mouths to the glass walls of their cages and beat their wings wildly.

Later, I needed to get one of the vamp subjects for an experiment but when I went into the holding chamber all the cages were empty. I woke up about that time so I didn’t get to have any adventures fighting off vampires. More’s the pity.

Now it’s almost time to go get some Popeye’s Fried Chicken and get ready to watch the pregame show. Let time be with me.

And with all my friends (you, that is) on this December Sunday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Day Off: Mostly

I’m away for a day and all kinds of things happen. Had to go into work early this morning to close out some stuff for the school year. Then the psychology faculty got together for lunch and a few beers in the French Quarter. I had a spicy rabbit stew, which was delicious but hot enough to make my tongue wince when the next bite was coming in. I cooled it down with some Bohemia, Negra Modelo, and Abita Amber.

While I was away from the net a number of things happened. First, Patricia Abbott posted my piece on writing Swords of Talera as part of her wonderful series on “How I Came to Write this Book.” You can find it here if you’re a mind to. Thanks, my friend.

Then I got a note from the talented Jodi MacArthur letting me know that I’d won a copy of what looks to be an awesome CD called A Pale Horse Named Death, and it’s autographed by Sal Abruscato. Thank you, Jodi. I’m looking forward to listening to this one.

Finally, I got word that Cold in the Light is now for sale as an ebook from the Google Ebookstore. I’d heard this was coming but didn’t expect it until next year. I actually have no idea what formats you can get it in. All I know at the moment is the link is here.

And now I’m going to try and visit a few of the 170 plus posts on my Google Reader. I won’t be making it all the way around before I crash.

Monday, December 13, 2010

On a Windy Day

The Horse Latitudes

I hear the wind
as horses racing through the tree tops.
Their hooves are shedding

For a moment,
I think of catching an air stallion,
of lying in wait up an old oak
with a dream lariat

He would be as blue as sky,
with a mane like a contrail,
and, oh, he would be fast.
We’d make thunder together

But maybe he’s better
running distances with his herd.
We humans have tamed so much.
Let the wild wind be


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Again at Novel Spaces

I'm posting again over at Novel Spaces today (12-11-2010). I've revisited a topic I mentioned here on this blog quite a while ago now. That topic is "resonance" in writing. I hope you can drop by over there for a visit.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Final Exams and a Review

Too much grading to do much posting of late, although coming in at six in the morning has allowed me time to visit quite a lot of blogs for the last couple of days. I give two more tests today and have a late meeting so will not be around tomorrow. I hope to have my grades turned in by Saturday. That would be heaven.

In the meantime, though, Evan Lewis has a nice review up over at Davy Crockett's Almanack about Write With Fire. Naturally I'd like to share it.

Thanks. Evan.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Kindle Reading; Holiday Books

I've just finished reading/listening to my 51st book on my Kindle, and have started on #52, a space opera by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I first held my Kindle in my hands on February 27, 2009, so I've had about two years. I currently have 34 books loaded on it, and about 75 more kindlized works stored on my computer to be loaded as needed. Among the books already loaded: some of the Dray Prescot works that were never "printed" in English, a couple of the "Shadow" pulp novels, several SF novels from the 40s and 50s, some books by friends like M. F. Korn and Ty Johnston, collections like Discount Noir, and such classics as The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ben Hur, and War and Peace.

I bought a fair amount of my kindle books from Amazon, but over two-thirds of the books I have and have read I downloaded free from Project Gutenberg and other online ebook sites. Many of these I downloaded as text files and then kindlized them, which is ridiculously easy. I just send a text file to my kindle email account and they kindlize it within seconds and either send it back to my kindle or to my PC so I can load it later at my leisure. I have found that I can improve my listening experience on Kindle with such books if I do a little editing on the text file first to make sure there are periods after chapter titles and so on.

Although the reading experience itself on Kindle is very good because of the lack of glare and the ability to increase font size, I've found the text to speech function to be one of my favorite applications. I let my Kindle read to me as I take my long daily commute, and although the voice is definitely mechanical sounding and lacks the voice qualities of a good audio book, I find that it doesn't matter much with a lot of books, such as the Shadow and Doc Savage Pulp stories. I tend to supply the intonations in my head as I listen along.

The Kindle has not meant an end to my long love affair with printed books. In fact, I've bought more "new" books in the past three years than at any time in my life. I've also bought printed copies of some of the books I've read on the Kindle just to have them on my shelves. It has complimented my love affair with reading, not complicated it.

And I'll end this little ode to the Kindle by mentioning a couple of my own works that can be found on Amazon for the Kindle. I’m talking about Killing Trail, and Chimes, of course. “Chimes” is actually a longish short story while “Killing Trail” is a collection of my western stories. They’re both pretty cheap, and I feel comfortable recommending the author to you. :)

Btw, Killing Trail is also available on Smashwords in different ebook formats and PDF if you should perchance prefer.

However, if you prefer to do your holiday shopping for printed books, check out Erin Cole’s Holiday Catalog, which includes Cold in the Light by yours truly, as well as many other wonderful books from up and coming writers who deserve your consideration.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Final Exams and Cutting Line

My first round of finals starts today and will run through the middle of next week. I hope to have final grades turned in no later than the 11th. I then have two articles that I’ve agreed to finish between the 11th and January 3rd. That shouldn’t be too difficult but it will certainly take time away from blogging. These are for a reference work on graphic novels and my articles will deal with two such works, Bloodstar, based on a Robert E. Howard story, and A. D. New Orleans After the Deluge, which is about Hurricane Katrina. The upshot is that I won’t be around the blogosphere as much as usual for a while, although I’m not abandoning it, of course.

Speaking of finals, I have to relate an experience I had yesterday. I generally eat at the school lunch room and it isn’t unusual for there to be some standing in line involved. I frequently get irritated at the students who cut in line in front of others. I sometimes say something and at other times don’t, depending on how far from the cut I am. Yesterday, I’d been standing in line for quite a while and was finally only two people back from being served when a student in one of my classes cut in front of me. I was somewhat taken aback but did mutter in a loud voice, “Oh come on.” The student did not make eye contact, and in fact I’m pretty sure she never even noticed I was there. I’ve realized through other dealings with the student that she is extremely self-centered and seldom notices anyone unless they can do something for her at that moment.

This student will certainly get the grade she earns in my class, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen her take short cuts and be inconsiderate of others. Although I doubt she will ask me for a letter of recommendation, if she did I would have to say no. It’s certainly not just the frequent cutting in line and inconsideration, but includes cutting corners in classes she’s had with me that makes me feel this way. Yesterday too, for example, she came to my morning class about five minutes late, (early for her), and after bumbling around disrupting the class while she got settled, she asked me a question I had actually been covering in the moments when she was trying to get to her seat. The look on her face when she asked the question seemed clearly to indicate that I was confusing her with my unclear presentation on the topic. Although I answered her politely, I must admit to a touch of irritation. And I thought to myself that there’s no way I’d feel comfortable recommending her for graduate school where she might eventually become responsible for other people’s welfare. Maturity and empathy for others counts.

And now for some happier thoughts, I’m putting up the links below to some books I’m hoping a certain loved one of mine will buy new for me for Christmas. She knows who she is and would never cut in line in front of me. :)