About randomgauge

Andy Lockwood is a writer, an artist, and above all: a dreamer. He got his start in screenwriting and filmmaking where he discovered his obsessive love of storytelling. He is the author of two novels, Empty Hallways and House of Thirteen; a 12-part serial thriller, At Calendar’s End; and is a regular contributor to horror anthologies. He is always working on another piece of writing, whether it is a novel, a story, or something else entirely. When not slaving away at the keyboard, he spends his time buying books he does not have time to read, and delving into mediums he has no time to fully explore, but he dabbles in them anyway. He lives in mid-Michigan with his amazingly talented and entirely-too-supportive wife, a brood of cats, and a misguided idea of what it means to be an adult.

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.

Let’s review (well), shall we?

I’ve had this idea in the back of my noggin for a while. It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine from way back, and I’ve held it there because of my own terrible reviewing habits. Well, as I endeavor to become a better reviewer myself, I thought I might finally get this black stain off my mind as well.

Periodically, I’m tempted to write this because of some article that pops up – usually, a mention of coordinated efforts to one-star review something into oblivion, or I’ll be reading product reviews and come across a number of unhelpful reviews, which prompts me to consider this again.

I’m worried that people do not understand how to do for-real reviews anymore. Maybe they’ve forgotten how. Maybe they never knew and are just copying what they see. Maybe they’re trying to be clever in the wrong venue. I’m looking at you, Mr. Takei.

The point is that reviews are supposed to help the rest of us ignorant consumers make wise, informed purchases. It’s hard to do that when you have to wade through bad, misinformed, or satirical reviews to find the relevant ones.

A book review, for instance, is supposed to review the book. What was the pacing of the story? Was it written well? Are there any glaring errors or plot holes? These are the sorts of questions you should answer for a book review, not “Ugh, the stupid book didn’t even get here until after my vacation so I didn’t bother reading it. 1-star.” That’s not a direct quote.

We’ve all seen them. Whether it’s books, movies, kitchen products, or anything else, some reviewers seem to forget they are supposed to review THE PRODUCT ITSELF and another part of their experience.

Allow me to cite an example of my frustration:
John Green’s new book Turtles All the Way Down is expected to release October 10 (according to Amazon and Goodreads). Yes, in the future. Yet, GoodReads boasts 198 reviews and 525 ratings – for a book that hasn’t been released yet.JG_Turtles

Yes, a lot of them are, “I don’t even know what it’s about, or what it’s called BUT IT’S BY JOHN SO IT IS FIVE STARS!!!” That is a direct quote.

Now, yes, this falls to GoodReads for not locking down their review board until after the book has been released, but that would just be delaying the inevitable. This review would still happen, whether it was before or after release, whether it had been read or not.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the rallying cry of the unified for one reason or another. Whether it is Milo Yiannopoulos, Laurie Forest, or Lani Sarem, people (both for and against) are reviewing based on their beliefs, their opinions, or their feelings. Sometimes they are even basing their reviews on other reviews rather than firsthand experience.

That’s not how this works.

Now, let me get into a little fear-mongering so I can explain why this change needs to happen.

The less we use review boards the way they are supposed to be used, the less likely it is that people will use them for actual reviews. We will (and on some platforms, already have) become a society dependent on Likert scales to base our opinions. Behold the Likert scale:

Likert-scale-option-importance-response

We’ve all seen or taken something like this. Amazon’s five-star rating system is a basic Likert question. If you are anything like me, there is no way accurately explain your feelings about something into a single dot on a five or seven point system. It seems easy: “How much did you like this product? A lot, kind of a lot, sort of a lot, not a lot, or not at all.” Sure, you might be able to quantify your feelings about your coffee maker, or veggie slicer into one of those five dots, but can you honestly explain your feelings about a book or a movie with just those five dots?

I think Henry Cavill is a great actor, and he played a wonderful Superman. He deserves five stars. I also feel that Man of Steel wasn’t that great (don’t get me started), so I’m definitely not going to give the movie five stars. Can you honestly tell me that if I rate it two, or three, or four stars, that you actually understand what I am communicating?

I can’t. I honestly have no idea what you are thinking when you rate something. I assume you understand the scale the way I do, so when you rate something in a way I disagree with, my instinct is that you don’t understand what you experienced, and therefore your opinion is flawed. An actual written review might still be argued, but at least I can understand, without confusion, what your opinion is.

But let’s keep going down this rabbit hole of rating systems.

So, let’s assume that people are using the five-point system, and they frequent three points the most. Namely: most, least, and the middle. Why bother with a five-point system then? We could make things so much easier for the users by just reducing it to a three point system – but wait. That middle area is just “I don’t know how I feel” anyway. If we reduce it further – to a two-point scale – we can get actual data on people’s feelings!

No, we can’t.

A two-point scale is exceptionally misleading. It’s the internet equivalent of “Do you like me: Yes or No?” Dating apps thrive on the simplicity of this rating scale. It’s a binary scale that lumps you either with the love-its or the hate-its, regardless of your nuanced thoughts on the matter. It’s okay to not want such simplicity to define your opinions, as Netflix is finding out.

This brings me back to my original point (yes, I still remember what that is, and thank you for following me this far into the murk): we need to be better about reviewing. We need to remember that our reviews are less about grandstanding and soapboxing (although those are certainly incentives) and more about helping people make informed decisions for themselves.

Get out there and review, or we’re going to get stuck with Like buttons for everything.

Oh! The places we’ll go…

We are just over a week away from NerdCon in Portland, MI. If you haven’t had an opportunity to check out NerdCon and all of it’s wonderful offerings, please do so.

In the meantime, I felt like now is a proper time to remind you of all the other wonderful events that I will take part in for the rest of the year. You can also find all of this information at any time on my Events page.

August 12, 2017  Portland, MI
NerdCon – Author Panel  11:00am – 11:45am
NerdCon – Table  12:00pm – 4:00pm

September 10, 2017  Ann Arbor, MI
Kerrytown Bookfest  10:00am – 5:00pm

October 22, 2017  Clawson, MI
Books & Authors  11:00am – 5:00pm

December TBD, 2017  Lake Orion, MI
Giving Season Author Fair  1:00pm – 4:00pm

I am also working on a potential three events that are not listed yet. They’ll likely popup sometime in the last quarter (October – December) and I’m very excited to tell you about them… but I’m not going to until they are official.

I know, the anticipation is overwhelming.

No one talks about the research…

Actually, they do. Lots of them do. I tend to avoid those conversations because I don’t like to be distracted by research. A lot of my stories tend to be based on anecdotal experience and not proven facts, because that is how I live. My experiences are my own, even when other people have them as well.

In fact, there’s been more than one time in my life where I have that “I thought it was just me” moment. Sometimes it is a blessing, sometimes it is a bummer. Depends on the situation.

But research is both. I hate having to take the time away from the flow of my writing to look up that one word or object or something that I *need* for this part of the story. But it usually isn’t something I can just skip over, either. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m a pantser (as in they who fly by the seat of) and not a prepper. I don’t do the research ahead of time. I brew stories in my head, and when they start boiling over, they go onto the paper.

I’ve tried to explain this to more than a few people over the years and often, I’ve gotten that same look from people. You know the one, it says, “That seems like an awful way to do things.” And maybe they are right, but this is how it has always worked for me.

I don’t say that as in “this is how it’s always been, why should i change?” I have tried many different ways of writing. This process works best for me. But I digress…

I just finished the first draft on an 8k story submission and thought I would share the things I bothered to stop and look up. Mostly because I find it fascinating all the things that come together in a story:

  • Population density in cities
  • Average square space of a city
  • Emergency first aid
  • Symptoms of blood loss
  • Handyman tasks
  • Storefronts (pictures of)
  • Blinds
  • Leaded glass
  • Grip tape
  • Firefighter’s helmet
  • Fire ax
  • Ax or axe
  • Work shirts
  • Padlocks
  • a host of synonyms and antonyms after the fact

…and I’ll be honest, a majority of this research was all for minute details for a single scene. A ridiculous amount of detail that most people will simply move past as the tension builds. I’m not offended, it’s what has to happen.

Writing, like filmmaking, is supposed to look easy. You want the audience to think about the story, not the amount of work you put into it. If they’ve been thinking about how much research you did to come up with that one object a secondary character is holding, then they’ve lost the story and you’ve lost them.

Anyway, I hope to have more news on this story in the near future. For now, you’ll have to be entertained by your own imagination.