When I grow up…

…I want to be a Book Slapper.Slapper

Source: gargoylesstandingonsuperheroes

On one side, it’s because as a member of the audience, I want to see the movie I deserve to see. On another, authors should not be asked to endorse a film they are not proud of. On a third, we could heal the rift between book lovers and movie lovers. You know how to stop every “the book is better than the movie” argument? You make the movie a reasonable adaptation based on the source material.

One of my favorite books that has ever been adapted is Stardust. It is one of few adaptations whose changes differ from the source, but do not change the story. It’s a charming story that I truly love (enough to incorporate in my wedding ceremony) and while I love the movie for different reasons than I love the book, I adore them both for the story that exists there, one both the movie and the book eloquently drive home.

Another is The Princess Bride, which wildly differs in many ways between book and film. However, I believe the key successes in this adaptation are William Goldman’s screenplay – the author adapted his own book to film – and Rob Reiner’s clear love of bringing this film to life. It’s a legacy piece that continues to withstand obsolescence.

This is what I see as key to adaptation, and why I think Book Slapping should be a highly regarded position in the film studio. These are people who, above all else, support the story’s heart and the intent so that it can be passed on to a wider audience. This is not an argument for 10-hour versions of your favorite stories so we can make sure every little detail is included (that’s probably more of a lobbying position – and you’re looking at a limited series then, right?). This is a position that works as a liaison between the studio and the author; a person who figures out what the actual story is, and ensures that when the film is finished, that story is intact.

Yes, this is a long-winded introduction to how frustrated I am with the Hollywood adaptation machine. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy movies. I do, and there are a number of movies I enjoy in spite of being bad adaptations, and still more I didn’t even know where books before I sat down to write out this rant.

And I will continue to see them because I continue to get excited about them. I get excited when books I like get adapted. It means exposure, it means a wider audience, it means a chance for the things I love to become more of the things I love. But instead, it usually means that I get frustrated over the changes – pointless changes, usually – that take away from the story that I came to see play out on screen.

Think about all the books you’ve read that have been adapted. How many were good movies? How many were faithful adaptations? How many were as good as the book? Better?

I’ve heard the conversation plenty of times: someone says “the book was better than the movie” and someone else always says “well, duh” or something similar. Why have we accepted that this is the way things are? Why are we not holding the entertainment industry to a higher standard?

“Fool me once,” the adage goes, but how many times can we be fooled? I’m sure I’m not done. I will be tricked again. Or, I will find out a movie was a book first and finish the book to find how different it was from its source material.

I wish I had an answer or some kind of solution. I don’t. All I can do is continue to demand better of Hollywood for authors and fans alike:

If you want to adapt a story, adapt it. Do it well. If you want to tell your own story, do that instead. Quit taking other people’s stories and changing them how you see fit. It plays on the fan’s desires for a good adaptation; that’s disingenuous. Be better. Do better.

…at least until someone hires me as a Book Slapper.

Another Big Goodbye…

We lost another legend this week. By the time I get this out, Stan Lee will already be looking down on us all from the Rainbow Bridge, standing proud and admiring the world he has left in his wake.

And even though I am sad that he is gone (because really, for a minute there, I thought he might be immortal), I can’t be that sad. You see, Stan planned ahead; he left us in good hands. His legacy is intact. He won’t ever be completely gone.

See, it started a long time ago. Stan, along with a bunch of other greats – Steve Ditko, John Romita, Jack Kirby – started telling stories that infected the minds of a generation. That infection spread, and not only did the comics spawn into cartoons, and later movies, but it did something else – it got into our imaginations. The legacy that Stan helped create is a keystone for so many creative people today. They’ve come out of the woodwork to celebrate his life through stories about how he inspired them all.

For me, Stan Lee was the guy behind Spider-Man, and Spidey was integral to my upbringing and the shaping of who I am. Spidey was a nobody who was given a gift, and he rose to the occasion without fail – even when the odds are against him. In the Sunday comics, on Saturday morning cartoons, and once (sometimes twice!) monthly at the comic shop, I watched a nerd accept Great Power and Great Responsibility and imagined how great it would be if such a gift was bestowed unto me.

I’ve never been given such power (it’s probably for the best). But what I failed to realize was what Stan was really showing me in those stories. Whether it’s Peter Parker, or Steve Rogers, or the Richards Family, when you discard the costumes and let go of the powers for a moment, what you have is a set of powers that any of us can wield:

Love, courage, kindness, tenacity.

Spidey never gives up. Cap never backs down. Johnny and Sue always have each other’s backs. All this time, I was reading comics to escape, and Stan was teaching me – and teaching his apprentices to teach us – that I had my own strengths. That I could be something more than I was, if I wanted to be. If I was willing to face adversity and keep getting up when things knocked me down. If I was willing to be one of the good guys.

It’s not as easy as the comics make it look. Somedays, I don’t want to face the adversity at all. But I do it. I get back into the thick of it and I try to make the world better, whenever and however I can. It’s hard sometimes but I’m still trying. I’m trying to be one of the good guys.

And no, Stan doesn’t get all of the credit, but he’s inspired a lot of people who have inspired me, so he gets a solid mention in my life’s acknowledgements.

Here’s to The Man: his absence will be noticed, but so will his influence.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of awesome quotes from Stan himself:

“I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.” – from The Washington Post, July 23, 2010

“If we don’t blow ourselves up, the future will be wonderful.” – from an interview with Steve Aoki, Neon Future Sessions

“Another definition of a hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s well-being, and will go out of his or her way to help them — even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.” – from Cyberspacers

Excelsior!

stan

Cleaning house for 2018…

It really is close enough to just call this year done, isn’t it?

This year isn’t quite done, and I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me, but I thought I would take a moment and be a little better at updating than I have been…

…since my last post was my wedding day. In February. Oops.

Just a reminder that you can also follow my shenanigans on the Facebook page.

But on with the wrapup for 2018:

November 3
Just a couple weeks away, you will find me in Albion at Stirling Books. There will be six authors in total and should be a good time for all. Horror, romance, fantasy, all ages, get your read on!

November 11
The Monroe County Library System is hosting Writers on the River 2018. I will be there with a literal horde of authors, and you should join us! Authors from all walks (including a couple of my favorites) will be representing their books. This may be one of the last chances for you to get something wonderful for your favorite reader before the holidays are upon us.

November 17
The lovely people at the Scriptorium in Clawson have given me the opportunity to take over their delightful store for the afternoon. I’ll have my books on hand, and who knows what else will be happening that day, but I will be there and you should join me. At 2pm, I will be turning my reign of the store over to the imagination and talent of Andrew Lark. It would only benefit you to stick around and get his book too.
THIS IS MY LAST APPEARANCE IN 2018.

And for those of you who have patiently waited for my next novel, I can tell you now: The wait is almost over.

Threshold, a story that has been worming its way around my brain for years (literal years) is finally out, working through the process of edits, and getting everything polished. Threshold will be available for pre-order soon and will release on February 14, 2019. (Yes, there’s a reason I picked that day. I may even explain why at some point.)

Between now and then, I will be looking for a handful of brave souls to be my advance readership to make sure the book is ready for the general public. If you are interested, reach out and let me know. I’m looking for a few dedicated readers, and you may be expected to respond to a survey after, but you will be rewarded as well. More on this in the future.

I will have a short preview of Threshold at all of my November events for you to take home and hold close. A hope to cling to through the winter, if you will.

Now also seems as good a time as any to shamelessly promote my wife’s constant and reality-defying ability to take my stray and problematic storytelling and turn it into something people can actually enjoy. She’s worked with a number of wonderful authors and is always interested in meeting more delightful authors to work with (more work means more reading, right?). You can find out more at Just Ducky Editing.

And with that, I can start throwing dust covers on 2018…

By the time you read this…

…to quote the immortal words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. It’s nothing alarming, but it is an attention-getter, isn’t it?

Then again, maybe it is alarming – if your understanding of the world is based on certain elements of the universe behaving just-so. In that case, you probably shouldn’t have based your status quo on me. That was bad form. But I digress…

By the time you read this, I’ll have ventured forward on one of the last great adventures any being can have. By my calculation, there are only two or three great adventures left in this lifetime – lots of lesser adventures to be sure, and all completely worthwhile – but this is an adventure long overdue.

And even though I’m running out of great adventures, I’m a long way from the end. In fact, this is a brand new… chapter? Book? Whatever your analogy, today is the day that new part begins.

Today is the day that I say “I do” to my first-thing-every-morning, my last-thing-every-night, my ever-vigilant editor… my pretty-much-everything.

Today is the first day of possibly the best chapter of my life. Maybe because it’s no longer my life, but our life, officially. And no, this isn’t where we stop being solitary entities and become one of those congealed couples that cannot separate from one another. She has her solo missions, and I have my own. But we have many more together – because we like each other and want to have these adventures together. It’s part of the reason for the whole marriage thing getting done.

Anyway, sometime in your running around today – maybe even right now because it’ll be easiest, do me a favor:

Take three seconds out of your day, raise a glass, and wish us luck. It’s not that we need it, but I really want this to be an amazing adventure, so I’ll take all the luck we can get.

Thanks.

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Photo by Watership Photography

Blooded and Bashed…

This past weekend, I participated in an event that was a number of firsts, even as I was starting to consider myself a “regular” as this event game…

  • This was my first convention as an author. I’ve been to other events where I wasn’t sure how books would be received, but never an actual convention. Fun fact: this won’t be my last convention this year, either. 😉
  • This was my first horror convention ever. Shocking as it might sound, I’ve never actually made it to a horror convention before.
  • This was the first convention I’ve attended on my own turf. Certainly not my first local event, but I’ll tell you: it’s nice to hear other people complain about the morning commute for once. Short drives could grow on me.

So what is Blood Bash? It’s an annual horror convention organized by the awesome people at MeggaXP that brings together fans, films, filmmakers, vendors, and a bunch of costumed (and plain-clothes) crazies for a day of celebrating the genre. In short: it’s a day of bloody good fun! (get it?)

The biggest difference between ALL of my previous shows and this one? Tone. Most of the time, people will walk by my table, take one look at my books and say, “That’s creepy.” They said it just as much at Blood Bash, but it was with more excitement than revulsion. It was a pleasant change.

Not that I’m opposed to bringing out such reactions in people. It’s amusing. It’s definitely what I signed up for when I decided I was going to write horror. But sometimes, it’s nice to be appreciated instead of just feared, you know? I definitely was not feared at Blood Bash.

There was a surprising number of authors roaming the convention – on both sides of the tables – including plenty of folks from the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers.

But here’s the thing about a horror convention – or at least my take on this one:

I have honestly never been surrounded by such a great group of people in my life. Everyone was nice, friendly, courteous, and just having a great time. There were smiles and laughter aplenty. More than I’ve experienced at any other function, and easily matching any other convention I’ve been to.

Horror fans are the best fans, if I can be so bold (and I can).

Seriously. The people who put on Blood Bash have so much passion for this stuff. All of the folks were appreciative of each other, regardless of your function at the convention. Whether you were an attendee, or a vendor, or an artist, or a volunteer, the energy in the room was delightfully positive and, long a day as it was, it was a good time right up until the end.

You can definitely expect to see me at next year’s Blood Bash. You may see me at other horror conventions, but I hesitate… this experience set a pretty high bar. I might be a little disappointed trying to compare this experience to another.

Besides, it’s not every day you get to feed your bookmark to a shark wandering the aisles…

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…and to All a Good Night.

I hope you give all the gifts you wanted to and receive all the gifts you deserve.

I hope you are warm, and well, and loved.

I hope you keep goodwill in your mind, and brotherly love in your heart.

And most of all, I hope you spend Christmas (or your chosen holiday) with those who make you happy and make you feel loved.

Christmas is a special time of year for me. It’s when I feel the gravity of the end of the year. It’s when the people seem to stress more and to care less, so I try to care more and stress less – and share that sentiment onward.

I thrive in the winter. I enjoy the cold, the dark, and especially the snow. It’s particularly easy for me to be cheery around Christmas, even easier when you throw all the holiday magic on top of my already delightful temperament.

But I know it’s not easy for everyone. And I know it can be a bear this time of year.

Not everyone has a family that makes them feel welcome and loved. Not everyone can handle the long, cold dark of winter. Not all appreciate the bustle of the holiday season.

To you most of all, I send my hope that you might end the year on a better note.

It’s not much, but I have a present for you. Plural, actually.

The first is a sentiment. Admittedly, it’s late in the season for it, but, as Bill Murray says, “It’s not too late.” Enjoy:

The second is amusement and cheer. A few friends and I exchange CD compilations periodically through the year. This time around, a Christmas compilation was in order. I have been enjoying it so much, that it didn’t feel right to limit the playlist to just the group. Without further ado:

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/1272665463/playlist/6TTcwQWEUfjsVHzAKmUrvt

Lastly, I share with you the secret of Christmas cheer:

If you still can’t find your Christmas spirit, hang in there. The new year is coming. In the meantime, please reach out for help. The holidays are not a time to be alone, especially if you are suffering or depressed.

Merry Christmas, from me to you.

Back to the Beginning of the End…

In case you missed it, I participated in my very first Facebook Live video earlier this week to announce the much-awaited collected At Calendar’s End: Omnibus. You’re very lucky you didn’t hear the squeal when I actually saw the book for myself.

TL; DW:
– It’s available currently through Amazon and Kindle.
– It’s 700 pages worth of story, collecting the serial installments of At Calendar’s End
– Both versions still include all 12 covers by Brian Ritson from the original installments, PLUS the new art for the Omnibus itself
– The first opportunity to see these in person (and get them signed) is Leon & Lulu on October 22.

ALSO: A short story of mine has been included in an anthology edited and organized by Samie Sands. Black Mass is the story of a man who has a recurring nightmare he can’t escape from… and why it might be better to just remain in the dream. You can find it hidden among the other creepy tales in Night Mares, available now on Amazon and Kindle.