Friday, August 26, 2011

Movie Reviews! Troma: from Bad Bad to Good Bad

Before we discuss movies, some business. I understand that August is the worst sales month for books. Boy, do I now understand this. I understand it a little too well.

It can't be the weather keeping people outside doing fun activities away from their books and e-readers, because it's been the most miserable August ever, with 100+ temperatures every day. Kansas is getting more and more like Hell as time passes, such that soon the Devil will begin to send the sinners here and then I guess things might get interesting. Because right now it's like Hell, but full of a bunch of self-righteous Puritans (did you know I grew up in a dry county? Did you know that dry counties are real?!?!), which is way worse than real Hell. If you're going to suffer, you might as well suffer in good company, right?

Anyway, since it's not the weather, I guess books don't sell in August because the kids are home and they're so loud and annoying and needy and whiny and they won't give you a single goddamn second to think!

NOW THOSE STUPID KIDS ARE BACK IN SCHOOL SO IT'S TIME FOR A BACK-TO-SCHOOL SALE TO CELEBRATE THEM BEING GONE YAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!

Replace your newfound peace and quiet with the noise that's constantly inside my head, for the low price of $0.99 per ebook at Amazon for the next week. Click here and now, yo. And if you know anyone who might like my work but was put off by the prohibitive costs, maybe let them know?



Let's discuss two Troma movies that I've recently watched, each representing one extreme of Troma's history and quality.

Surf Nazis Must Die

If you love bad horror, you know Troma. I love bad horror. And yet, I've avoided watching Surf Nazis Must Die. Somehow, though I've been embarrassed about this obvious deficiency in my horrible horror repertoire, I've also avoided the easy fix of just watching the movie. And I like Troma quite a bit. So deep down, I must have known.

Well, I knew it was going to be bad. I mean, that's what I wanted, right? It's Troma. But it's got surfing and Nazis, and those surfing Nazis must die! I mean, look at that amazing cover.

So how is the movie so damn boring? It was so boring that I would have stopped it, except that I figured I'd better just get it over with. Ugh.


Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

But I come bearing tidings of good news and great joy: Troma's salvation has arisen from the grave, or rather the fryer. Heralds on high trumpet the arrival of Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, the most amazingly terrible horror movie you could ever hope to see. It's both self-consciously satirical and endearingly sincere. I don't know how that's possible, but there it is. It's one of the grossest, most playful, most offensive, most bestest movies I've ever seen. It's so undeniably fantastic that not even the stuffiest critics can hate on it. Check the reviews here and note praise from such publications as The New York Times, NPR and Variety.

Or even better, go rent it now!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lifting Milestone

Yesterday, I reached one of the most infrequent milemarkers in weight lifting: a 90lb interval. So I'm going to talk about it. I deadlifted 405 lbs.

First of all, that number is important because it's the first time I've lifted over 400 lbs. But that takes math to realize. 405, on the other hand, is a 45 lb Olympic barbell with 4 45 lb plates on each side. Each 90 lb increment has visual impact. At least, if I performed it in a gym instead of at home, where I don't own 8 45 lb plates, so it looks like this instead:
Look at that bar bow!

That's 4 45s, 4 35s and 4 10s. That's also about a decade of work represented right there.

Every lifter who does more than dabble has a lift. It's more often squat or benchpress than deadlift, but those are the big 3, because those are the powerlifting competition lifts. Shoulder press would be one of mine if I didn't have to perform them standing due to shoulder inflexibility and pain, and I never have a home gym with a ceiling high enough to do so. Anyway, everyone who's kind of serious about lifting has one lift that they stick with, and that they use as their strength gauge.

Mine is deadlift. I don't know exactly what it is about the lift. It has obvious advantages. It uses more muscles than any other single-movement lift. It is definite; either you can pick the weight up or you can't. If I hadn't been able to pick up that 405 lbs, it wouldn't be sitting there on that rack. But for me, there are disadvantages too. I have really long legs, but short arms. I'm not built to deadlift.

But I've stuck with it. I have a day every week dedicated to only deadlift. Push muscles get mashed together. So do pull muscles. But deadlifts get their own day. In fact, I've had more than a few hectic or lazy weeks in the past year where deadlifts were the only exercise I managed in an entire week.

The only other productive thing I've ever been as consistent at is writing. That's 10 years. 20 years if you talk "artistic endeavors" instead of "writing," because I switched from drawing to music to writing. But the weird thing about weight lifting is that it's often not that fun, and at a certain point, it's not that productive. Basic lifting is healthy, but I'm more likely to injure myself at this point than get any benefits. And I lift alone. When you move more than 315 lbs at a gym, you'll get some people watching. Lift 405, and you can really get some attention. I've never been a member at a serious lifting gym, so I've never even seen anyone but myself lift a bar with 8 plates. But I lift at home now, so I don't get to show off. My dog doesn't even watch me lift.

It's a weird thing. I can't really explain it. Picking heavy weight up. Setting it down. Stubbornly. Relentlessly.

495 lbs is the next milestone of this sort. The air gets real rarefied around there, but I don't know if I'll ever make it. I'm closing in on age 32. In a few years I'm going to hit the age where my strength will plateau, then head downhill. I recently spent a year nursing a torn hamstring (I had to choose deadlifting or jogging. I've obviously made my choice). I think I can make 10 plates, but it'll require no more serious injuries.

Regardless, I'm going to try for it.

So weird.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I'm Writing About a Teen Girl...

...but people might not like it because she's not an obnoxious moron.

That sounds inflammatory, but I don't know what to think. I just finished reading a Spider-Girl comic. The thought bubbles are all in the form of twitter tweets. I'm dead serious.

Birds of Prey is so infuriating that, despite the fact that I read anything involving any of the Batman family (it includes Huntress and Oracle [the first Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, who Joker made a paraplegic]), I just don't think I can continue to read it.

When I was a kid, way back when, I don't remember there really being YA books. Maybe my perspective is skewed because I basically jumped to adult books at age 10, but I think that's what people did. Maybe not quite so young, but I think that people went from middle grade books to adult books.

But I'm remembering back to the teenage girls in those middle grade books, books like A Wrinkle in Time and Island of the Blue Dolphin and the Little House books, and they didn't seem like obnoxious morons. I guess I should check again, but those authors seemed to respect their characters, despite their being teenage girls.

I read The Hunger Games about the thick-headed, grating Katniss (even her name is obnoxious). I read the even worse Twilight about the non-entity Bella Swan (good lord, the names), whose only trait seems to be clumsiness and a very well-developed sense of entitlement.

I'm sure this doesn't represent the whole genre, but these books sold really well. Ugh.

I can't write about a character I don't respect. So while my teenage girl is suffering from extreme post traumatic stress disorder and is trying and failing to not turn into a relative she respected but wouldn't want to be, she's not obnoxious. She's definitely not stupid.

And her name is Jessica. I mean Katniss?!?! Bella?!?! Really?

(Disclaimer: some of fuel for this fire was also provided by a non-literary source: the film Triple Dog. It's like Mean Creek or Twelve and Holding, but HORRIBLEANDINFURIATING)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Movie Reviews! Meta-Horror Edition

 New Nightmare

This is the first meta-horror movie I remember. If you recall, the movie series is done, but it turns out that it was the only thing keeping the archetypal evil spirit represented by Freddie Kruger contained. So he bursts forth from fiction to wreak his special brand of havoc on the real world. I think I liked this movie quite a bit when it came out, though I remember watching it about a year ago and not loving it so much. But, it's an important one.

Scream

Now here's where it starts getting good. The premise of Scream is that there's a killer following the rules of a slasher flick, and if you want to survive, you'd better know the rules, too. This movie was loaded with 90's sassiness, but boy does it hold up.

Scream 2 increased the meta factor by having some action revolving around a movie based on the events of Scream called Stab. But upping the meta doesn't necessarily make for a good movie. The first scene was incredibly promising––one of my all-time faves––but the rest sucked.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Here we got the combination of the meta-horror movie with the also-self-conscious Blair-Witch style mockumentary. Brilliant! I'm not going to say they pulled it off perfectly, but it's an entertaining and smart flick. When it turns into a straight-up slasher it slips a bit, but still, very worth a watch.

Hack!

This movie shouldn't even be on the list with the rest. It offers nothing new, and it's incredibly bad. I mean, it's really bad, even for a bad horror movie. It does star Winnie Cooper, though. I thought she was some sort of genius. So what's up with this?

My Name Is Bruce

Man, I love Bruce Campbell. That's not exactly a controversial statement, because who doesn't?

Oh, all those people who have no idea who he is...

But we horror nerds, we do. We love him. WELOVEHIM. In this movie, the sort of ancient horror Bruce Campbell characters battle invades the real world, and his biggest fan captures him, believing Bruce contains some of his characters' badassity. Of course he does; he's fucking Bruce Campbell!

This movie is interesting, because while it's quite entertaining if you like Bruce, it's totally unwatchable if you don't. This brings up an interesting meta-movie quality: it can satisfy the knowledgeable without necessarily being good.

Anyone could like Scream. In fact, that's what we horror fans have never forgiven it for. It invited preppies and jocks and other normal people into our basement club. It's more enjoyable if you know a lot about horror, but it's not required.

Behind the Mask is probably only going to be enjoyed by someone who's pretty familiar with the conventions of horror movies, but you don't need to be obsessive.

But My Name is Bruce? It's unwatchable unless you're a big Bruce Campbell fan. If you don't get the references, if you don't like the man, the movie sucks.

S&Man

Holy
Hellin'
Poop.

This is the most intense movie I've seen in a long time. It's very definite meta-horror. But it's not a mockumentary. At least, 80% of it isn't. It's a real documentary about the horror underground. These are film versions of splatterpunk: low-quality porn for violence fetishists. It's a smart documentary, but what makes it special is that as it interviews creators and academics who theorize, it puts those theories to the test by having one fictional component about a filmmaker the documentarian supposedly met while attending conventions who makes low-budget stalk-and-kill movies that are a little too real.

An academic talks about different theories of horror, and one she mentions is viewer-as-masochist, and this movie definitely tests that. But it's pretty brilliant. This is one of those movies that, even though it's pomo, challenges the notion that there's nothing new under the sun.

It's hard to say I enjoyed watching it, but if you're a horror fan, I don't know how you couldn't watch it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Seeing with My Mouth's Eye


You guys have seen the cover of Pulling Teeth. If not, here it is:


I use the cover as my facebook pic, but typically it gets cropped so only the top portion shows (created by Daisuke Kuroneko, who also makes the most incredible little micro-sculptures).

I like the cropped cover image. I think it's a really good representation of me as a writer. Yes, because my fiction is dark even when not straight-up horrific. But let's imagine for a minute the picture isn't disturbing, and just consider what it is: a mouth containing an eye.

That eye can only see when the mouth is open. This is how my fiction works.

When I write, I don't usually know where it will go. Not only don't I outline, but I basically have no ideas. I know a lot of writers talk about how they have more ideas than they can write about, and conversely others lament not having ideas and thus getting writer's block. I almost never have ideas, but it doesn't matter, because that's not how I work.

I take a few things, a picture, a quote, a cluster of words, and I let the associations between them build up in my head. Then I start writing and see where it goes.

What I love is that not only do I discover the story I'm trying to tell, but I discover how I feel about different things. I end up learning about myself and the world. I think that when I write, I try to convey truths, but they're not truths I already know. I learn them in the telling of the story.

Honestly, I don't think I'd write if this weren't the case.

So (imagining that I'm an oral storyteller), I see through my mouth. Until I open my mouth to describe the world, there's an eye that's blind to it, and it's the eye that sees past the superficial to the indistinct edges of the truth.

I'm not even going to undercut this post with a flippant remark.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Movie Reviews!

I'm noticing a trend in British movies of providing very un-Hollywood endings. Meaning the opposite of the resolution you expect. I'm going to talk about several British movies today, the ending deal-y applying to some and not to others, so not too much of a spoiler. It's crazy though. I feel like I don't know how these movies will end, and I always know how Hollywood movies will end.

Blitz

Let's talk about the good: Jason Statham is playing a different role than usual. He's been typecast very specifically. He's a tough, masculine no-holds barred action dude who's a great driver but who's also sophisticated at home and enjoys the finer things. Boy did that get old. The Mechanic is the most recent example of this that I know of, and I only really enjoyed Ben Foster's performance.

In Blitz, Statham is a bully cop with no sophistication. He creates his own villains through people reacting to his brutal abuse of authority. I already have a hard time empathizing with cops, so this movie totally lost me.

It's got a lot of other problems too, including a stupid villain, and a stupid name.

Stupid.

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980

Here's a good cop movie. And it stars the co-star of Blitz, Paddy Considine, which was kind of weird. I don't know why he did Blitz. Dude's a good actor.

I thought Amanda Seyfried starred in this. I didn't notice her.

The Veteran

I've been a fan of Toby Kebbell since I saw Wilderness, which is a pretty badass movie. He's good in this. Very intense. Because the atmosphere is very gritty and realistic, I had a hard time believing some of the plot, but otherwise this is a goody.

I love movies set in the London projects. I love how they look, tall and wide and with a landing on every level, and the chavs all hanging around ready to stick people with steak knives.

And there's a bruuuuutal shootout scene. Sweeeeeet!

Heartless

This is the second movie I've seen staring Jim Sturgess, but the first time I've really noticed him. He's a pretty good actor.

I feel like this movie uses its fantastic element to try to get at the dark heart of man, but that requires that you really aim at the heart. Instead, it feels like Sturgess's character is a pawn, being used to display whatever philosophical ideas the filmmakers want to display. I don't believe in his actions, and honestly, I'm pretty easy-going in that respect.

*Movie-trailer voice*
In a world where you've got a heart-shaped birthmark on your face, what do you do?

You stab people for Satan. 

Duh.



Movie reviews again already? Much like Michael Bolton, I am a major cinephile.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Day Job

So you might have been saying to yourself, "Where's that Alan Ryker been? I haven't noticed his DYNAMIC presence on the various social networks, and I feel the loss."

Well, I've got a new/old day job. Some of you might know that I got laid off from my job awhile back and rode out my unemployment. I've been looking for work, and it's been pretty damn depressing. There's not a lot to do when you have no skills and also refuse to work with other people (ie I won't talk to customers, or management, or engineers, or anyone on the other end of a phone), especially in the current economic environment.

What sucked is that, because my fiction publishing is not yet self-supporting, it felt very silly to keep writing on things I couldn't afford to put out.

But I'm working again.

I mentioned awhile back that I'm kind of a fitness dude, that I was a certified personal trainer for a bit and that that (plus my previous copy writing experience) qualified me to write for Lance Armstrong's fitness mega-site LiveStrong.com. I stopped writing for them because they ran out of things to write about. They get their content from Demand Media, and the way that Demand Media works is that they offer up a bunch of computer-generated headlines based on search engine BS and you claim the headline and write an article based off of it and a standardized article type (list, how to, topic view, blah blah).

So for awhile they had all the content they wanted and I got a normal job. They buy tons of articles and then release them in a trickle. I've checked with them occasionally and the situation hasn't really changed.

Until now... (OMGSODRAMATIC!)

Anyway, now they've got a bunch of articles to write. It's not the most creative or in-depth fitness writing. Like I said, they provide the topics. But it's basically what I like to do and basically about things I'm interested in, and for copywriting, the pay is good. Plus, no commute (KC is frickinfrackin huge and I HATE driving), no gas for the enormous vehicle I drive, totally open schedule, no boss. Freelancing is kind of awesome if you can hack it.

Of course, as with almost everything, there are drawbacks. There are only so many words I can write in a day, and the name of the game with them is volume. I've spent the last week getting accustomed to my new workload, and have barely written any fiction. But I made a major production breakthrough yesterday, and I'm very positive about my output going forward.

And soon I'll be able to afford to put out the paper edition of Psychomancer, and as I finish the 4 books I'm working on I'll actually be able to publish them. Imagine that!

Here's a photo of my work setup:


I use my laptop with an extra monitor. On one I keep my browser with research and whatnot, and on the other my word processing stuff. I was writing exercise articles this morning, so I've got my exercise books spread out and easily accessible. Pretty sweet.

So I may not be on the twitter and the fb and the boards as much, but I think I'm back on top of this blogging and fiction writing thing!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Movie Reviews!

Tucker & Dale vs Evil

I should have told you guys about this movie awhile back. It's AWESOME. It totally turns the psychotic hillbilly horror subgenre on its head. But it manages to be pomo AND entertaining.

You know those obnoxious city kids you always want to die? You still do.


Ironclad

This is the best swordy movie I've seen in awhile (edit: I forgot about The Eagle, which I liked a lot, and which is better). It's smaller scale than Troy or Braveheart. The dudes are defending one small castle. But it is BRUTAL, and if you like swordy movies, I can almost guarantee that you'll like Ironclad.

Ironclad stars a few of the actors who've somehow gotten typecast as swordy movie guys: James Purefoy, who looks incredibly constipated throughout, making the love scenes uncomfortable. Brian Cox, who I love. Some old guy who was a senator in Gladiator, I think. Mackenzie Crook, the pirate with the wooden eye in Pirates of the Caribbean. He barely gets a line but he has much more charisma and presence than Purefoy.

And Paul Giamatti, who is awesome as usual. I don't often buy the evil royalty dood. I mean, I hate rich people too, but it's just too easy. Evil usually is. But dudebro, he nails it. You buy it.

Your Highness

First in the list is a parody that's still a good movie. Second, a good swordy movie. Third, a failure at each, with some big names who apparently feel their reps are too good to be tarnished by this blip of a fart of a film: James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, and that freaky little dude who played Truman Capote in the Truman Capote movie that wasn't as good as Capote. Hey, Charles Dance is in this and Ironclad! Weird.

If you want to get some kind of mental stimulation out of watching this, try to figure out how this is a parody of a sword and sorcery fantasy movie rather than just being a S&S fantasy movie. I think that's some of the problem.

X-Men: First Class

This is a bad movie. Some strange decisions were made that destabilized its basic genetic structure, turning it into a misshapen freak. See that? Go ahead and read it again.

Super hero movies already strain credibility. X-Men takes a bumbling group of teenage first-time heroes and drops them into a story of slick international intrigue and one of the most terrifying events in human history: the Cuban missile crisis. The result is that by contrast it becomes very apparent just how much less useful most of these powers really are than a gun, and how silly the whole thing is. And I love super heroes. I still read comic books.

This movie should have been about The New Mutants, and it should have focused on their personal struggles as teenagers coming to terms with simultaneously gaining power and becoming part of a persecuted minority, rather than the Cuban missile crisis. Jesus, how obvious is it that one movie couldn't support both?

Marvel is nailing it with the build up to The Ultimates, I mean Avengers. They should figure out how to do the same with their mutants. They had it for awhile, but recently, yeeeesh.



I've got an interview up at Down and Dirty Lusty and Flirty! I don't think I need to explain why I'm the perfect candidate to be interviewed there, considering my rap name is D-Dilf. I like hearing myself talk, but I like this interview extra much. Muchas Gracias to Tammy of Novel Opinion for the opportunity.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I'm Fine. How Are You?

I like blogging. I like running my fingertips about things. I have theories. I enjoy writing essays.

But in looking over the last month or so of blog posts, I realized that there's something I've been seriously neglecting. And it's kind of the most essential part of an author's blog: letting you know what fiction you can expect from me in the near future.

You know, building a bit of hype.

I've got a few different things going. I figure that's one way to get around writers block. Plus, I find it hard to think farther ahead than the next scene, and having different pieces I'm working on allows me to stop and imagine the next scene in one work while still producing the amount of new words I feel I should, spread across multiple pieces.

Blood Tells True
The sequel to Burden Kansas is moving right along. It just surpassed the length of Burden Kansas's 34,000 words, and it's still got a ways to go. I'm guessing it's going to end up somewhere between 50 and 60k, which is my favorite length for a novel.

The title is still a wee bit tentative. It works on two levels. The first is blood, vampires, yada yada. The second is the concept of a person trying to escape their family traits.

My first choice of title was Blood Will Tell, but that's been used about a hundred times.

I think the series name is going to be Vampires of the Plains, though I honestly don't know if I'll write a third book. This one offered me the challenge of writing an entire novel from the perspective of a 17 year-old girl suffering from severe PTSD. I'd need another challenge to work up the interest to write another book.

Butcher & Demon: The Devil's Assassin
This book is also currently about 35k words, and should also end up being between 50 and 60k when done. This is a hardboiled urban fantasy about a young man who accidentally sells his soul to the devil in return for the services of a powerful demon. The young man is a butcher and an ex-pro Muay Thai fighter in the city of Cleveland, which is an amazing place to set a hardboiled novel. It's culturally rich, but also gritty and, in certain areas, really dangerous. As the second Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism video says, "Don't slow down in East Cleveland or you'll die" (First video here).

So this poor dude has to try to get his soul back.

I'm seeing this as a series, too. The problem I'm having right now is that I want to tell the origin story of this character, but it's just not as dark as the series is going to become. Inconsistency like that can be a problem, enough that I was thinking of not releasing this as the first book in the Butcher & Demon series. But I'm really impatient, so I don't see that happening.

I love hardboiled detective novels, so I'm excited to have my own series, even though I don't think the first is reeeeeaaaally that hardboiled, since the Brandon "The Butcher" Carlisle is still bumbling around trying to figure things out.

This Effed Life
I've been writing little flash fictions after I get done with my main writing for the day. Each one is based off of an entry from the first page of F My Life. So they're 1,000 word tales of extreme awkwardness and embarrassment. They've been super fun to write. I don't think I'm going to try to get any published traditionally, so I'll probably release this book once I've got enough of them written. The title is tentative.

Pulling Teeth Volume 2
I'd like to release another collection of 25,000 words of my short fiction near the end of this year. Unlike my flash fiction above, I am trying to sell most of these stories, so the time frame isn't totally in my control. I already have the stories written for this book and Volume 3, but this project is going to proceed at the speed of publishing. Which means slooooooooowly.

Fedor vs. Hendo
And now I'm going to watch this event so that no one can spoil it for me!

So that's what I'm up to.