Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: Piranha 3D

My review of the cleverly stupid Piranha 3D is up at

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How much does a writer make?

Now playing on the iPod - "Jerry Was a Race Car Driver" - Primus

So how much DOES a writer make, anyway? I wouldn't know, as I've never been paid for my fiction or my reviews. The answer can be found courtesy of The Rejecter, and let's just say that it's a good thing I love what I do and don't need to be paid for it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Watch this now: A tribute to Ray Bradbury

Not your ordinary kind of tribute either.

Rachel Bloom's song "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury" has it all: proper awe for the master, recognition of the fact that talent is sexy, fangirl enthusiasm, just enough vulgarity to make things amusing, all wrapped up in a damned catchy pop song. Watch it now (though not at work, because of the naughty lyrics).

Friday, August 20, 2010

Review: Deception

Sometimes even imaginary boyfriends can't save a movie, as I make clear in my review of the tepid thriller Deception, now up at Horrorview.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Writing process idiosyncrasies, part 1

Now playing on the iPod - "White Punks on Dope" - The Tubes

Probably one of the toughest parts about writing over the long term is determining your process. What steps do you take or circumstances have to happen for you to write consistently and effectively?

Some writers create outlines. Some write on 3x5 index cards. Some use a certain kind of paper. Some write in the nude. Some can write anyplace or any time; others need to be in a certain place and can only write in the evenings. Some can listen to music while they write. Some create detailed biographies of characters.

What makes the process so problematic is that it's a highly individual thing, and none of the idiosyncrasies I've listed in the preceding paragraph are good or bad in and of themselves. What matters is: is it effective for that writer?

Writers need to find their idiosyncrasies for themselves. And this is tricky - it's often a trial-and-error process. You may try to emulate a writer you admire, but that's as open to success and failure as choosing a process at random. You have to find what works for you, and not worry when people say, "Gee, but [famous writer] wrote while standing on his head, eating a strict diet of corn dogs and gin-and-tonics. Maybe if you did that, you'd get published." If you know the head-standing and corn dogs/gin-and-tonics method won't work for you, don't do it. Do what works for you.

One of the things that works for me is creating what I've named "Soundtracks to Imaginary Movies." I got the idea from the novel The Bridge by John Skipp and Craig Spector, in which they provided a list of the various albums that they listened to while writing the book - music which helped inspire them. I started creating playlists for my books - if there were movies made of these books, these songs would be on the soundtracks.

I have a few oddball rules when creating these Imaginary Soundtracks (hey, it's an idiosyncrasy).

First, I try to avoid done-to-death songs (no "Gimme Shelter," no "Solsbury Hill," no "Knockin' on Heaven's Door") or songs that are indelibly linked with a particular film (Quentin Tarantino, I hate you for using "The Lonely Shepherd" before I could).

Second, I think of how the songs could be incorporated into the story in a "found" way - playing on characters' stereos or on jukeboxes (falling-in-love montages are generally avoided, but I allow the occasional "mopey" montage - see Sarah McLachlan's "Full of Grace" below).

Third, I take into account the characters - is this something they would listen to? I've rejected several songs that were lyrically appropriate - Joan Baez' "Diamonds and Rust," Public Image Ltd's "FFF," and the Gin Blossoms' "Hey Jealousy" spring to mind - because those songs didn't mesh with the characters' tastes and personality.

Similarly, the songs have to be appropriate to the setting. I had to nix a number of songs for a party scene when I remembered that the party was put on by a church (a very hip church but a church nonetheless) and the DJ probably couldn't get away with playing The Violent Femmes or House of Pain. That said, the jukeboxes in the KellyVerse are very well-stocked and eclectic - hey, it's my imaginary world and I get to make the rules.

Below are the Soundtracks for the Imaginary Movies of my four books. I've included YouTube links to songs when available. These aren't "concept albums" - they won't tell the whole story in song - but they will give you a feel for the book's dramatic arc and overall mood. And if you're wondering why Johnny Cash is the common denominator, it's because he is awesome.

Novel: Ashes
Garry Eister - Quintet for Glass and Strings, "Dance"
Jackson Browne - The Pretender
Tori Amos - Spark
Pink Floyd - Dogs
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Run Through the Jungle
Wilson Pickett - Mustang Sally
Liz Phair - Polyester Bride
Donald Fagen - New Frontier
Dave Brubeck - Take Five
The Everly Brothers - Devoted to You
Johnny Cash - Delia's Gone

Novel: Reckoning
Dennis James - Irish Lullaby
Sarah McLachlan - Full of Grace
Gerry Rafferty - Baker Street
Danielle Dax - Touch Piggy's Eyes
Sleater-Kinney - Entertain
Johnny Cash - Hurt
The Clash - Brand New Cadillac
Social Distortion - Ball and Chain
Golden Earring - Twilight Zone
Switchblade Symphony - Dirty Dog
Elvis Costello - Watching the Detectives
Oh Susannah - Johnstown
David Gilmour - A Pocketful of Stones

Novel: Undertow
Jethro Tull - Bungle in the Jungle
Liz Phair - What Makes You Happy
B. B. King - Slidin' and Glidin'
The Beatles - Dear Prudence
Rolling Stones - Far Away Eyes
Cheech and Chong - Basketball Jones (video not safe for work)
Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues
The Cure - Just Like Heaven
Motorhead - Ace of Spades
Elvis Costello - Pills and Soap
Bob Dylan - Ballad of a Thin Man
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Gold Lion
Soft Cell - Tainted Love
Tom Waits - The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)
Stone Temple Pilots - Big Empty
Marianne Faithfull - Incarceration of a Flower Child
Isaac Hayes - Walk On By
Concrete Blonde - Joey

Novel: The Day After Yesterday
Tori Amos - Pretty Good Year
k. d. lang - Crying
The Smithereens - Gloomy Sunday
Julee Cruise - Into the Night
Sleater-Kinney - Jumpers
Phantom of the Paradise Soundtrack - Faust
Grateful Dead - Brokedown Palace
The Mediaeval Baebes - The Coventry Carol
U2 - Bad
The Pogues - Sally MacLennane
The Cars - Drive
Elton John - Harmony
Harry Nilsson - Without You
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - People Ain't No Good
Robert Plant - Big Log
King Crimson - Matte Kudasai
Tanita Tikaram - Valentine Heart
Tears for Fears - Head Over Heels
Faith and the Muse - Willow's Song
David Gilmour - On an Island
Arcade Fire - Wake Up
Pink Floyd - High Hopes
This Mortal Coil - Song to the Siren

Bonus soundtrack for The Day After Yesterday (music for the Halloween party chapter)
Dick Dale and His Del-Tones - Let's Go Trippin'
The 5 6 7 8s - Woo Hoo
The Blasters - I'm Shakin'
Van Morrison - Wild Night
Shocking Blue - Venus
Marvin Gaye - Got to Give it Up
Adam Ant - Goody Two Shoes
ELO - Rockaria
David Lindley - She Took Off My Romeos
Michael Penn - No Myth
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen
The Primitives - I'll Be Your Mirror

Coming soon: Writing process idiosyncrasies, part 2!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A beauty comes to the shelves

I somehow - can't recall how - learned that a new edition of William Peter Blatty's novel The Ninth Configuration was forthcoming. Not just any new edition, but one that packages the novel with its earlier incarnation, Twinkle Twinkle "Killer" Kane, and includes an essay by film historian Mark Kermode (lifted from his intro to the published screenplay of The Ninth Configuration).

Just received the book and it's better than I had dreamed of. For one, it's a gorgeous hardcover edition that includes marvelous illustrations and a number of covers used for both Ninth Configuration and Twinkle Twinkle "Killer" Kane throughout its printing history. But the icing on the cake is that the book is a limited edition of 200 - each numbered and also signed by William Peter Blatty. My copy is number 20.

This is just amazing. I'll still keep my old paperbacks (so I can re-read the books) but this is truly treasure for the shelves. Thanks to the good folks at Centipede Press for putting this edition together.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Review: Galaxy of Terror

If you need a good, schlocky B movie, look no further than Roger Corman's Galaxy of Terror - review is up at Horrorview.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review: Fair Game

Now playing on the iPod - "No Myth" - Michael Penn

My review of the sad-and-lame-at-the-same-time black mamba "thriller" Fair Game is up at Horrorview.

Now that's what I call writing: Richard Yates

Now playing on the iPod - "Hey Jealousy" - Gin Blossoms

One writer I admire tremendously is Richard Yates. His style is very straightforward and without flash, yet he uses his unadorned style to portray lives of quiet desperation. I can't read his books too often because his characters are so sad, often without even realizing it - they are people who have dreams that will never be achieved, most often because they sabotage themselves or simply don't even recognize their dreams.

Disturbing the Peace is not one of Yates' best books, but even his lesser works have a great deal to offer. In one paragraph, he tell his readers everything they need to know about a character:

[Janice Wilder] was thirty-four and the mother of a ten-year-old son. The fading of her youth didn't bother her - it hadn't been a very carefree or adventurous youth anyway - and if her marriage was more an arrangement than a romance, that was all right too. Nobody's life was perfect. She enjoyed the orderly rotation of her days; she enjoyed books, of which she owned a great many; and she enjoyed her high, bright apartment with its view of mid-town Manhattan towers. It was neither a rich nor an elegant apartment, but it was comfortable - and "comfortable" was one of Janice Wilder's favorite words. She was fond of the word "civilized," too, and of "reasonable" and "adjustment" and "relationship." Hardly anything upset or frightened her: the only things that did - sometimes to the point of making her blood run cold - were things she didn't understand.

You can guess that Janice won't take it well when, in the very next paragraph, she learns her husband has had a nervous breakdown.

I highly recommend Yates' novels Revolutionary Road and The Easter Parade. (Caveat: Don't read them if you're looking for something to cheer you up.)