Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Tag: i do reviews sometimes

Rediscovering Stephen King

I’m still in an odd place where I don’t really know what to write about here. I think it might help remedy that if I can stop thinking of this as my “author blog” and just see it as my blog. I also think the creative part of my brain largely went into hibernation for the winter. It seems to be starting to awaken, as gradually and as grumpily as my box turtle, Matilda, as I try to prod her out of the hole she’s burrowed in and into the light.

My creative mind hasn’t been in total hibernation — and neither has Matilda; she wakes up a couple times a week to eat and bang around her terrarium before burying herself again. Similarly, my imagination has woken up a few times a week, long enough for me to bang out a few hundred words on my current novel before it slips back into slumber. I started in in January, hoping to have the first draft done by my birthday, but eking out time to write my fiction is as difficult as mustering up the energy has been. As of now, I’ve got about 5 chapters done, just short of 10,000 words.

What it is, by the by, is the follow up to Restless Spirits, tentatively titled Intruder. If you’re signed up to my mailing list, then you’ve already been shown the first chapter.

So as my creative brain is trying it’s best to drag its crusty self into the sunshine, I’ve been trying to feed and water it and give it vitamins and exercise to get it energized again. I’ve been doing this mainly by reading, and what I’ve mainly been reading is Stephen King novels.

I was a huge fan of Stephen King when I was a kid. We’re talking teen years, probably 13 or 14 to about 18, the ages they market YA to now, which is why I can’t get too bent out of shape when somebody complains about a YA novel having content that might be too mature for their 15 year old. I mean, I was reading The Stand at that age. The unabridged version, even. I loved many books before my Stephen King phase, and I’d done some creative writing by then (I actually think I wrote my first short story in first grade — it was about a sentient, anthropomorphic football, I think), but I think it’s safe to say that King was the author who made me decide I wanted to be an author, too.

Back then, it was all horror. I was a pretty big horror fan in general (that also went back to surprisingly (disturbingly?) early in my childhood), so King’s stories fit right in. In addition to The Stand, during those years I read It (or tried — I was too scared to finish it), Pet Semetary (ditto), ‘Salem’s Lot, Misery and, among others, Danse Macabre (not horror, but it was about horror, so that was alright; what wasn’t alright was my twelfth grade English teacher assigning us book reports on nonfiction and then sniffing haughtily when I turned in my paper, insisting that Stephen King never wrote any nonfiction and giving me an automatic F without even looking at the book). I devoured them every chance I got.

Once I got into college, I decided I needed to diversify my reading more, so I read less of Stephen King, and even less as I progressed through my twenties and into my thirties. The newer books I’d read, including Dolores Clayborne and Rose Madder, just didn’t pack the same punch for me, and I wasn’t sure whether I was just outgrowing him or he was losing his touch. At any rate, by the time I got around to picking up a beat-up copy of The Gunslinger at a used book store about four or five years ago, it had been years since I’d read any of his work, not counting On Writing.

I read it then, and I enjoyed it well enough, but as far as epic fantasy series go I was too mired down in one of my every-so-often rereads of  A Song of Ice and Fire to commit myself to another one. So it was another couple of years before I found the second book, The Drawing of the Three, at the same book store and gave it a read. Of course, that was around the time A Dance with Dragons finally came out, so I forgot about Roland and company for a while. Last year I picked up the third book, The Waste Lands, and added it to the big stack of paperbacks on my nightstand to wait until my life settled down enough to allow me time for leisure reading once again.

If you read my last book post, then you know getting through that big stack of books was one of my goals for the new year. I finally made my way through the stack to TWL last month. Since then, I’ve pretty much been on a Stephen King binge. I devoured The Waste Lands, and now I’m speeding my way through the fourth book, Wizard and Glass. In between (because I had to wait until the bookstore got a copy of book four in stock, and because it was already next in my big book stack anyway), I breezed through Stephen King Goes to the Movies, a collection of stories that have been adapted for the big screen. This includes 1408, The Mangler, Low Men in Yellow Coats, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and Children of the Corn.

While I enjoyed the horror stories, particularly The Mangler (which reminded me a little of my short story Snack Machine), I’m finding that at this point of my life I much more enjoy his fantasy works and his more realistic dramas like Shawshank Redemption (in which the book’s narrator being described as a white, red-haired Irishman did not prevent me from hearing Morgan Freeman’s narration in my head as I read it). I particularly enjoyed Low Men in Yellow Coats, on which the movie Hearts in Atlantis is based, and which is part of the greater multiverse revolving around the Dark Tower.

I think what’s surprising me as I read these stories is the quality of the writing. I remember King being a great storyteller, but I don’t recall his prose being such a joy to read. It’s fairly straightforward, as he tends to get to the point and not linger more on description than he needs to, but at times it’s almost poetic without being flowery. The other thing is, although these stories still have their little moments of horror and squick and punches right to the gut, they’ve also got a lot of heart, and characters who are loveable despite being complex and complicated and at times downright despicable.

And that’s how, after a gap of more than a decade, I can go back to labeling myself a huge Stephen King fan. And now I’m going to go back to reading Wizard and Glass.

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl

The long wait between new updates for Marble Hornets left me flailing about a few Sundays ago, scouring Youtube for a Slender Man fix (but not yet willing to commit to one of the other Slender Man series, because the last thing I needed was another thing to obsess over and eat up all my time). And somehow I landed on The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, which A) has nothing to do with Slender Man and B) instantly became a new thing to obsess over and eat up all my time.

Hi there, irony! Won’t you have a seat?

Something always happens with me this time of year. We get into the dog days of summer, and the weather is nasty hot, and I start yearning for fall like whoa. And then I start craving good ghost stories, because they put me in mind of Halloween and my favorite month of the year. So it’s no wonder that when I stumbled onto this little gem of a vlog about a teenage girl and her mom and the scary, paranormal goings-on in their house, it really hit the spot, and suddenly I couldn’t get enough.

The series is broken up into “seasons,” each with its own story arc. Like any show, some seasons are better than others, but they’re all pretty entertaining.  The current season (which I believe is the sixth or seventh) seems to be struggling a little to find its way, especially in the wake of a rather disappointing end to the prior season’s plot line, which was building to a pretty cool climax that would have taken the show into a really interesting direction before it suddenly got dropped in rather anti-climactic fashion. I can only guess that the direction they were headed in would have outstripped their budget and resources, so they had to re-think a few things. But regardless, Sunshine Girl remains entertaining, primarily because at it’s core it’s about the mother-daughter relationship and how they stick together to weather all the weirdness in their lives; and besides, the sometimes erratic storytelling fits better with the conceit that this is a reality vlog about real people experiencing real hauntings.

But it is, in fact, a work of fiction, despite the many, many YouTube commenters who insist it’s all real and will cut you if you dare to suggest otherwise. The brainchild of Coat Tale Productions, they set out to make Sunshine Girl a sort of Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity, and I think they’ve succeeded quite nicely. I think part of what makes it work so well is it’s rather unique nature as a blend of fiction and reality. The hauntings and situations are made up and plotted out in advance and the characters are played by actors, but the dialogue is entirely unscripted; the mother and daughter are such in real life and are basically playing themselves, so all that chemistry between them is real.

So is it scary?  Sometimes. I’d say not as deeply unsettling as Marble Hornets, but there are some genuinely creepy moments that might come back to haunt you when you’re lying in the dark. Otherwise, it’s good, clean fun, and its star, the bubbly Sunshine Girl, is about as engaging and charming a heroine as you’re likely to find.

Cabin In the Woods

This will be short, because there’s not really a whole lot you can say about this movie without spoiling it. But Husband and I celebrated Independence Day by finally catching this movie at the second-run theater before we missed our chance to see it on the big screen, and I’m glad we did. It’s gotten a lot of hype, both from Whedon fans and non, and it did not disappoint. Y’all, this movie is awesome.

Is it scary? Yes. Well, if you’re like me and you grew up on a steady diet of slasher flicks and are pretty much inured to the genre, then it’s more fun than scary. But if scary movies actually scare you, then there’s a good bet that this one will, because it plays the horror parts straight. I went in expecting over the top jokey horror a la Evil Dead 2, and although there is some of that, I was delightfully surprised at the parts of it that were straight up horror movie. If you are the sort who is bothered by that type of gorey slasher horror, then I’m hesitant to recommend this movie to you — although I’m also tempted to say that if you can at all stand it, then it’s completely worth it, because the last act takes a turn that is purely Whedonesque and fifty shades of awesome.

Of course, I can’t tell you what that is without ruining the whole premise of the movie. And so, naturally, I will do it behind a cut.

Ehrrrmagrrrrd, you guys, Marble Hornets

I’ve got a new obsession, folks, and it’s taken me by surprise — if you had described this little Youtube series to me a few weeks ago and told me that I shouldn’t watch it because I would spend my days obsessively refreshing all of the relevant sites for updates and reading fan blogs and Tumblrs and what have you (and spending my nights being terrified of every dark corner…) I would have scoffed. And then I probably would have watched it anyway and been right where I am now.

The Dresden Files: Ghost Story

Dresden Files Ghost Story

I FINALLY read this book (seriously, y’all, sometimes I almost want to quit writing just so I’ll have more time in my life for reading, which is not easy to come by as it is). It was an enjoyable read, as always, with lots of tugging at the heart strings and wanting to give Harry a big ol’ hug. The ending was pretty much exactly what I expected, although I kept wondering throughout the book how it was going to end up there, and although unsurprising it definitely set up some interesting dynamics for the continuation of the series. I don’t really have anything to add by way of review, just some fan-girl babble that I will place behind a cut because it is somewhat spoilery and also, fan-girl babble.

Mid-Season TV Roundup

Once Upon a TimeThe TV season’s halfway over — okay, more than half. I’m a little behind on this — and that means it’s time to see which shows from my start-of-season roundup I’m still watching, which I’ve pulled the plug on, and which mid-season shows have made the lineup.

First, the breakups:

Survivor/The Amazing Race/America’s Next Top Model/The X-Factor

I never thought the day would come, but… reality competition shows just aren’t doing anything for me anymore. I know, right? I can’t believe it, either. But I just COULD NOT do another season with anybody from the Hantz family, or with Coach, or with “I used to be awesome but now I’m a whiny douche” Ozzy, for that matter, and I found myself paying less and less attention. And TAR, while not really irritating me the way Survivor did, just wasn’t holding my attention. The X-Factor also started to feel like a chore to sit through after the first few eliminations. The only reality show I watched all the way to the end of the season was ANTM, and then there was that hinky business with Angelea, and I just don’t have the energy for any more of Tyra’s shenanigans. I’m done.

Glee

I had already reached the point where I was just in it for the singing. I almost dumped it for good after that cracked-out Christmas episode, but then a preview of the Michael Jackson ep pulled me back in; but by the time the Valentine’s Day ep got here I wasn’t even enjoying the singing anymore, certainly not enough to endure Very Special Episode sermons about how my religion should feel about certain issues from Ryan Murphy. I couldn’t even get excited about finally seeing Rachel’s dads even though it was some of the best casting ever. I just didn’t care. Goodbye, Glee.

The New Girl

I only made it four episodes, none of which lived up to the hilarious pilot, before going back to my No Half-hour Comedies rule. Life is too short. Sorry, Zooey Deschanel. I still think you’re adorable.

Chuck 

I didn’t break up with Chuck, it broke up with all of us, and broke my heart a little in the process. I will always love you, Chuck.

 

The New Shows:

Once Upon a Time 

Technically not a midseason replacement, but it got a late enough start to not be included in my original round-up. Actually, I didn’t even know about it yet when I wrote my last TV post. But I’m glad I found out, because it’s my favorite new show by far. It’s a fairy-tale soap opera wrapped up in a Lost-style mystery, with a villain who is completely unapologetic and evil (with Jane Espenson’s involvement I suspect it’s no coincidence that the best TV Big Bad since Mayor Wilkins is… another Mayor! Shout-out!), and another villain who seems to possibly be poised for a redemption arc, and you know how I am about those. It’s not my favorite favorite show (yet), but it’s got all of the ingredients for getting there.

Sherlock

Matt and I actually watch this one together. The extremely short seasons are hella frustrating, but my word, is this show good. I always said that Doctor Who had a lot of Sherlock in him and now Sherlock’s got a lot of The Doctor in him. It’s smart, witty, sexy, and a pure fangirl delight. Do not miss this show.

Smash

This is filling the void in the Broadway geek part of my soul quite nicely. It has a great cast, the writing is good, and the musical numbers are making me want them to produce Marilyn the Musical in the real world. And I didn’t start watching AI until David Cook’s season, so I’m not a big fan of Kathryn McPhee (not to say that I don’t like her… I’m just not a big fan), so I keep rooting for Ivy.  Who is played by Megan Hilty who is an actual Broadway star and was a Galinda, so how could I not? She’s pretty awesome. You should look up her “Popular” performance on Youtube sometime. Also, Jack Davenport: Rawr.

The River

Paranormal Activity in the Amazon. The execution isn’t perfect, but it has its moments. Besides, it’s only 7 episodes long, so it’s not a huge commitment.

Alcatraz

This is a solid show. I’m not all a-flutter over it yet, but it has a good cast, good writing, and enough intrigue to keep me coming back for more. And this is pretty much exactly how I felt about Fringe during its first season, so yeah, you can bet I’m going to give it plenty of time to find its crazy legs and become another Bad Robot masterpiece.

Speaking of…

Still watching:

Fringe

Oh, Peter.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that, other than that this is still my favorite US-produced show currently on television.

Doctor Who

… and I’m incredibly frustrated that it’s on hiatus until OCTOBER! Why are they torturing us? Why?

Supernatural

Although, the urgency is gone, and I’m several episodes behind. First Cas, then Bobbie, and I love my boys, but I also loved their family that they had built around them, and now they’re all gone. I can’t say I agree with the decision to keep going another season. But I just can’t quit them, either.

But dang it, I really miss Cas.

Castle

This show is as entertaining as ever, and I loves me some Fillion, but seriously, show: you cannot drag this will they/won’t they schtick out another season. Get them together already, or don’t, and make it stick. Sheesh.

Ringer

I’m still loving watching Buffy and Evil Buffy. And I’m impressed that this show has so much that could make it into pure camp, but it never crosses that line. It’s a good show, as nighttime soaps go, and SMG is as delightful as ever. Also, this rule is proven to still be true: if Buffy cries, I cry.

 

So that’s what I’m watching these days. What shows are you watching?

Jericho Addendum

Okay, so we finished the series, and I now feel obligated to say that yes, it did get better in the second season. A lot of that was due to the addition of Esai Morales to the cast, and you can’t help but make things better by tossing an Adama–any Adama–into the mix. The writing was still problematic, but that became less noticeable with a shift to more political action and intrigue, less “aw shucks, we’re just a small town fighting our way through a big disaster with a lot of persistence and pluck.” The production values also improved. I can’t think of one instance in season two where Matt paused the show to point out some visual gaffe (other than the fact that this small Kansas town appeared to be a mountain town, but I can get over that; mountains are pretty hard to hide).

With only seven episodes in the second season, it felt more like a mini-series follow-up than an actual season of the show, and it wrapped up enough of the major loose ends to provide a decent amount of closure. Even so, after going several days without, I’m actually starting to feel withdrawal pangs over this weirdly addictive apocalyptic family drama, and since finishing the series I can now understand where the fans who still pine for this show to make a comeback are coming from.

Jericho

I missed this back when it originally aired on CBS, but since Matt and I have been on a survival show kick lately and we needed something to tide us over while waiting for the second season of Dual Survival to show up on Netflix, we decided to give Jericho a chance. I think I initially avoided it because of its main premise, which is that most of the US is destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. I mean, I still have nightmares from watching The Day After as a kid, and giving too much thought to nuclear war tends to leave me holding myself while I rock back and forth. But I know this show had a rabid fan following, and I have a certain fondness for Skeet Ulrich, and like I said, we’re on a survival kick, and we thought, just maybe this show will have something to teach us.

Well, not so much. You guys, I really wanted this show to be great. I mean, the people who love this show really LOVE this show, and I wanted to love it too. But it’s… I don’t know. It’s like it’s not just the Hollywood version of a plucky small town full of plucky survivors living outside of the fallout zone of a post-nuclear wasteland, but it’s the CBS version of that, you know? And it’s this weird dichotomy of good actors giving straight-faced, heartfelt performances against cheap production values and lazy writing that’s full of plot holes and painfully obvious that the writers and producers couldn’t even be arsed to do a lazy Google/Wikipedia version of research about anything. And while I’m the sort who is normally able to suspend my disbelief fairly easily and overlook things like obvious stunt doubles (for “stunts” like walking out a door?) and palm trees and mountains showing up in Kansas (it’s like they’re not even trying to hide them), Matt is not that sort of person and it pulls him out of the story every time–and then he has to pause it and point out the gaffes to me.

All of that said, I think I do kind of love this show. We’re almost finished with the first season, and I will say that the story–if not necessarily the writing–is getting better. The Touched By An Angel quality has diminished as the town begins to face actual hardship, and the fact that this town in the beginning seems extremely lucky and barely touched by The End Of The World As We Know It actually becomes a plot point. It’s a very character-driven show, and a little soapy, which makes it a little easier to overlook a lot of the implausibilities. It’s frustrating, because this show really could have been excellent if the production staff seemed to care half as much about it as the actors, but there are parts of it that are good, and parts of it that are so bad, and it’s a little bit unintentionally campy, but it’s all entertaining. And as much as we both complain to each other about this show’s problems, we’re still compelled to keep watching it. As much as I have to say that I can see why it was cancelled, I have a feeling I’m going to bemoan its cancellation regardless once I get to the end.

There’s still a hue and cry among this show’s fans for it to be brought back into production. What I would rather see is a remake — even as anti-remake as I usually tend to be — helmed by someone like J. J. Abrams or Joss Whedon or Ronald D. Moore or somebody who cares about making shows good. Regardless of your opinion of the original, tell me that that would not be pure awesome.

The New Girl

I gave up watching half-hour sitcoms years ago, after adding up all of the hours I spent watching TV every week and being appalled at myself, and I’ve never really looked back (the stuff I watch in syndicated re-runs sometimes, of course, doesn’t count). This decision happened back when Niles and Daphne had just (finally) gotten together, which tells you how long ago I broke up with sitcoms, and let me tell you, it’s left me out of a lot of discussions about a lot of popular shows over the years since. I’ve felt kind of bad about that, but I also can hardly keep up with all the hour-long genre and reality shows on my Must Watch list as it is, so… not TOO bad.

So of course, even though I adore Zooey Deschanel (does anybody NOT adore Zooey Deschanel?), I had no plans to check out her new sitcom on Fox. But the other day I was knitting and catching up on my shows, and I caught up before I finished my knitting, and there was a free advanced preview of The New Girl on Hulu, which was just the right length of time for finishing up my knitting project, so I figured, what the hay?

So I watched it, and then I LOL’d and LOL’d. I can’t say the show was great — not all of the jokes were gems, especially the ones delivered by the male roomies — and as long as I’m going parenthetical can I just take a moment to say how old it made me feel to go from “Hey, it’s Damon Wayans,” to “Wait– Damon Wayans Junior?!!” — and they had the annoying and all-too-common-these-days habit of explaining jokes that might have been funny if they had just let them be. But: Jess (Deschanel’s character) is hilarious, and sings about everything, and makes up theme songs for herself, and watches Dirty Dancing on repeat for days on end when she’s heartbroken, and she’s not afraid to look like a damn fool, and how can you not want to hang out with this girl?

I know I do, which is why for the first time in over a decade I’ll be letting a half-hour comedy back into my regular TV rotation. Let us hope that this won’t turn out to be my gateway crack.

Fright Night

Today we went out to the movies for my husband’s birthday. I’m pretty sure this was the first time we’ve actually gone to the theater to see a movie since Avatar (together, anyway — I have seen a a few movies with other people since then). We’ve been talking all summer long about wanting to see Captain America and Cowboys & Aliens and Super 8, so I was a little surprised when he told me the other day that he wanted to see Fright Night, although
he’s a bit of a Colin Farrell fan, so I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me that much.

I had pretty much written it off as yet another unnecessary remake of a beloved movie from my youth from the moment I heard that they were making it, so I didn’t bother to watch trailers or keep up with the development or anything. I knew David Tennant was going to be in it, so I figured at least I’d get to see my Doctor. Otherwise, I had pretty low expectations going in.

I liked it. It was much better than I expected. Of course, I had no idea it was written by Marti Noxon. I still have mixed feelings about her work on Buffy, but regardless, you could definitely detect a Buffy-esque sense of humor running through the movie, which made it fun. I liked Colin Farrell’s blue collar version of Jerry. At first I was irritated that they turned Peter Vincent into, basically, Chris Angel, but he turned out to be pretty funny, and also hot, and David Tennant really does need to be in all the movies from now on. Especially if he’s going to wear leather pants. Rawr.

So did I like it better than the original? No. Is that because the original was a better movie, or because I’m an old fogey looking at it through nostalgia-colored glasses? I really can’t say for sure. But the new Fright Night is respectful of the original and pays it homage in fun ways, while updating it and adding enough original material that it doesn’t feel like a retread of the same old story. As far as remakes of ’80s horror movies go, this is by far the best one I’ve seen.

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