Getting to be a Habit

A quick note to say I’m appearing, yet again, on Cinema Smackdown in just a couple of hours. This will be my umpteenth episode. I’ve kind of lost count at this point. It’s probably only something like my sixth episode, but they all blend together into one big movie-talk blather. My old friend of 30-plus years, Michael, will be guest hosting (and judging), which always leaves me a freer hand to let my freak hang out with answers that might burn me on any other show. Last time around was something of a shambles. We’ll see if chaos will reign again tonight.

That’s 7:00 ET, live on CJLO.

2 + 8 Days Later

Ten days into release, Necropolis has already sold as many copies as my last two books combined. Raw and Other Stories still dominates on the Kindle Unlimited pages-read front. And sex may have sold Sex Tape, but not as much as urban fantasy sold Necropolis. I hope to see Necropolis, at twice the length of my collection of short stories, topple Raw in the pages-read category in the near future—not least because I ultimately make more money with the Kindle Unlimited program. Damn you, Amazon, and your tempting promotional programs that further establish you as a monopoly thanks to my willing complicity!

Last night I attended the launch part for ToonMarty, which is a new cartoon series that will air on Teletoon starting May 1st. I haven’t talked about screenwriting on this blog in a long time, but this is one of the shows I worked on recently, scripting three episodes of the first season. I’ll probably get around to linking them just as soon as someone records and illegally posts them to YouTube. Checking out my television-credits page, I notice there have been a number of episodes yanked since last time I looked. Getting called on copyright violations, no doubt. That’s unfortunate, considering YouTube has been the most convenient venue for me to see my own material for years now.

I was also informed that work continues on Chop Chop Ninja. This is the other series I worked on last year. I completed my contract on it in 2016, but if there are still unfinished scripts on the production line, I don’t expect to see that air until this fall at the very earliest.

Right now, it’s back to work on Epitaph, which is currently sitting at 66,000 words and counting. And another project that may involve just as many dots.

Drunk on the Air

At 7:00 pm ET, I’ll be back on the air for another episode of Cinema Smackdown on CJLO. I think this is something like my fifth appearance. They’ve all blended together after that three-hour Oscar Special last time around.

Because St. Patrick’s Day has devolved into some sort of week-long celebration of inebriation in Montreal, we’ll be talking about the Irish and the Irish curse for the whole show. I’ll be tying all my answers in with Irish actors, Irish directors, and Irish film topics. When necessary, I will be wedging some square pegs into round holes because, hey, on or about St. Patrick’s Day, everybody’s Irish.

Like we really need an excuse to drink ourselves piss-stupid in this town.

Listen live here.

Oscar Afterburn or: Hollywood Can’t Read

The Academy Awards gets it wrong all the time, but never so obviously, stupidly wrong.

In a clusterfuck that threatened to turn Warren Beatty into this year’s Jack Palance and host Jimmy Kimmel into the Oscar’s own version of Steve Harvey, the wrong movie won Best Picture. For about a minute. Then it was corrected, to everybody’s shame and embarrassment.

Apparently a second copy of the Best Actress envelope was handed off to Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway instead of Best Picture. During a long moment that looked like late-stage dementia, the two were left to interpret the surprising contents of the envelope that told them the Best Picture was, in fact, Emma Stone. In the spotlight, under the gun, they leapt to a reasonably logical conclusion that since Emma Stone starred in La La Land, the Best Picture they were trying to decipher must be La La Land. Only it wasn’t. And this was amended, to everyone’s mortification, mid-acceptance speech.

How could such a thing happen for the first time in nearly a century of Oscar awards, you ask? Simple. Nobody in Hollywood reads. Not the treatments, not the screenplays, and not even what’s printed in plain English on a damn envelope (check out “Underwriter” in Raw and Other Stories for more of my take on this phenomenon). Illiteracy in Hollywood is a terrible thing. It gets all sorts of awful movies made, and now it’s screwed up the climax of the great film-industry circle jerk, just when they were trying to reward the one or two half decent movies they accidentally made last year.

It’s a pity. It’s also pretty damn funny.

For more of my Oscar coverage (before it’s rendered utterly irrelevant by the passage of time, and nobody remembers who won what a day or two from now), read my epic live-tweet of the event where I burned through 70 snarky comments over the course of the evening. Or you can listen to my three-hour Cinema Smackdown appearance on their Oscar show, which has just been posted to their website.

Oscar in My Hand, Gun to My Head

God help me, I’ll be live-tweeting the Oscars again this year. Watching the #etalkRedCarpet pre-pre-opening blather is making me deeply regret this decision already.

Good thing I have plans to get drunk off my ass. Doing inventory of my home booze-stash I have…

Oh shit.

I have a bottle of champaign, a mini bottle of apple cider, and a quarter bottle of gin.

That’s all.

I. Am. Fucked.

Watch me comment on this train wreck at @Shane_Eyestrain, and join in my despair for the floundering film industry. Please. I don’t want to face this horror alone.

It’s Just An Honour to be Not-Quite Nominated

It was fun while it lasted, and I squeezed it for all it was worth.

The final nominees for this year’s Bram Stoker Awards were announced a few hours ago and “Raw” is not on the list. My story has been banished to the preliminary-ballot wasteland, where all the other also-ran stories wander aimlessly and, from time to time, kill and eat each other. It’s what horror stories do when left to fend for themselves.

Which doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t read “Raw.” After all, it was one of 11 semi-finalists in its category for the most prestigious literary horror award out there. Go get it, along with 19 other twisted tales I’ve concocted over the years. The number of sales and Kindle Unlimited page-reads have been heartening, making this my biggest eBook publication yet.

I can’t say the news isn’t disappointing. Plans to stalk the Stokers again next year are already afoot. Tonight, however, I will have to curl up with my Writers Guild Award, my Max-und-Moritz prize, and my sixth-grade public-speaking trophy, and cry myself to sleep.

The marathon episode of Cinema Smackdown went well last night. Despite being a guest short, we managed to blather on about the Oscars, cinema, and the state of the film industry for three solid hours with barely a break. I also got to make my argument that Boo! A Madea Halloween was snubbed by the Academy this year. I haven’t seen the film. I will never see the film. Regardless, I think it should be given a special Oscar for Best Financial Model.

Tentpoles running 200 to 300 million dollars are killing Hollywood. Budgets like that could very well wipe out even the most venerable studios if they suffer just one summer of flops. Gambling on 100k shoestring indies they snatch at Sundance won’t save them. There needs to be a return to mid-level budget cinema, and Tyler Perry is paving the way. Heed his example. The latest Madea film cost 20 million to make. It was marketed for about 30 cents (that’s rounded up) and took in over 70 million. That’s not a home run by Hollywood standards, but it’s a solid base hit. Enough of those keep studios afloat. The majors used to understand that, but now they’re swinging for the franchise fences with every remake, reboot, and regurgitated release—and it’s unsustainable.

Give unemployed filmmakers (especially John Waters) the 20 to 40 million they need to make their boutique films that are geared towards specific demographics. Fuck the international market. Not every film can appeal to everyone. Boo! A Madea Halloween barely cracked one million in non-domestic release, but it didn’t matter. It knew its audience, they showed up, and they loved it, even as every critic panned it.

Listen to reason Hollywood, and be saved.

Spoiler alert: they won’t.

Dead Air

This will be brief because I still have a lot of prep to do for tonight.

I’m back on Cinema Smackdown for a special three-hour Oscar episode this evening at 6:00 pm EST. Yes, three bloody hours. A few more hours and the show will be as long as an actual Oscar Awards ceremony.

Spoiler alert: There may be filler.

Tune in to CJLO to listen live as I struggle to help fill hour upon hour of dead air with inane movie-related babble. Apparently this is seen as preferable to clogging the airwaves with more electro-funk Muzak, which seems to be the station’s usual broadcasting mandate.

Admittedly, I may be judging them based on what often airs after or instead of the show.

The Plagueis Dogs

“Damn you, 2016!” shouted the mountain range of cocaine and the ocean of alcohol ingested in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Snickering between themselves, they slunk away to the back of the gathered mournful crowd, who were again lamenting how the cursed year had robbed them of another celebrated celebrity.

Remember when Groucho Marx died within a few days of Elvis Presley? Everybody was so upset about the bloated icon, destroyed at a young age by an overindulgence in drugs and fatty foods, they paid no attention to the passing of a true master of the language and a writer of extraordinary wit and intelligence. Thankfully the internet allows us to act as our own media filter now and we can focus on the stories that matter most to us, if nobody else.

Richard Adams, it was announced today, died on Christmas Eve at the age of 96. Hardly unexpected so late in the game, it’s still a blow to fans of his classic novels such as Watership Down and The Plague Dogs. I was thinking of him only a couple of days ago, noting his advanced age on his Wikipedia entry, not realizing he was already dead. Like a lot of celebrities who are less in the public eye—writers in particular—word of their passing often comes days after the fact, once the family or representation issue a statement.

Watership Down remains one of my all-time favourite novels. I haven’t actually read The Plague Dogs because I saw the movie (adapted by the same animation studio that made the brutal film version of Watership) and it kicked the shit out of me. In my 40s. I recommend exposing your children to Adams’s animal-centric stories as early as you can. They’ll be traumatized in all the important ways children should be traumatized while preparing themselves for a vicious, merciless world.

But, of course, stealing all the headlines is a competing celebrity death that eclipses all others. Because she was in Star Wars.

I like Carrie Fisher. I’ve read a couple of her books. She was a reliable Hollywood script doctor and occasional actor, who showed up for mostly small roles in a variety of non-Star Wars related films. But let’s be honest. We’re mostly surprised she lasted this long.

Back when it was popular to do so, Carrie Fisher snorted ALL the coke. Drank ALL the booze. Did ALL the rehab. It’s astonishing she survived the 20th century at all. And even though she was the picture of health in Rogue One (it’s like she hadn’t aged at all), the fact that her body finally gave out in the wake of all her old bad habits should shock absolutely no one.

Callously, my greatest concern is how much rewriting this is going to inflict on the current trilogy. Not that there was much story to The Force Awakens, but if the writers have been doing their job and stepping up their game for episodes VIII and IX, Leia may have actually been part of a real character arc, now cut short. It’s a bad blow to the franchise in general and, I expect, Fisher in particular.

Here’s my fix:

Because Star Wars is all about fan service (and Richard Adams and The Plague Dogs is fresh in my mind), cast Fisher’s pet Gary the Dog as Darth Plagueis. Seriously. Gary is beloved, he’s creepy looking, and we haven’t seen Darth Plagueis on screen in a Star Wars movie yet, so they can cast ANYBODY. Disney, I’m talking to you. You want to protect your four billion dollar investment, you need to do shit like this. Or at least cast Gary in a Yoda prequel. He’s a natural. He’s a STAR. Much more so than whatshisface and whatshername or whosthatguy you’ve got filling in the slots of the next generation. Run with him.

People will love you for it, you’ll be doing Carrie a solid, and Gary will have the cash he needs to feed his Milkbone habit. I’m nothing if not a problem solver. You’re welcome.

In other news, Harrison Ford is still alive. He was in a plane crash, the Millennium Falcon tried to eat him, he was trampled by elephants, shot by John Hinkley Jr., blown up in the Hindenburg, stripped to the bone by ravenous piranhas…and that was just today. The man is accident prone, but nothing can kill him. Except maybe his role choices since the ‘80s.

One final note. A word of warning in these closing days.

You have not yet survived 2016.

2016 is still out there. Prowling. Waiting. Hungry.

Watch yourself.

Hat Trick

I’m back on CJLO’s Cinema Smackdown at 7:00 pm EST again tonight. This will be my third appearance at the film-nerd Thunderdome, where I’ll attempt to crush all who oppose me once more and maintain my short but unbroken winning streak. Unlike the last show, I’ve had more than 30 minutes to prepare, so my answers will be carefully considered and cultivated. Two weeks ago, I won by throwing out the first things that came to mind. This week, find out if my over-prepared change of strategy will trip me up. Tune in online or at 1690AM in the Montreal area.

Silent Screams: An Anthology of Socially Conscious Dark Fiction is now available, not only as an eBook, but as a paperback as well. Twenty-six stories, each with an illustration by Emory Watts, awaits. And the dark fiction does indeed get dark. My own story, Raw, stands among the darkest things I’ve ever written. Grab a copy in your format of choice if you’re brave enough.

The Kickstarter for Holmes Away from Home: Adventures from the Great Hiatus marches on past the halfway mark. This terrific two-volume Sherlock Holmes anthology will be available in time for Christmas, with my story, The Adventure of the Melting Man, capping off the collection. Funding goals may have been met, but I urge you to support the Kickstarter, if only to get your copies sooner and cheaper than everybody else.

Post Mortem

The Halloweeny event is over and Hot Pennies (which did an extra free day tacked on the end) is back to the exorbitant price of $0.99. For those who are interested in numbers and data, I managed to hand out 1352 copies over a five-day stretch, with over half of those going out on the first official day of the group giveaway.

Reports from other authors who participated show numbers that dwarf mine—sometimes by multiples. But considering Hot Pennies was a brand new publication with no reviews to assure downloaders that it wasn’t a piece of crap, it did very well. It’s also an uncommercial short story. As such, I just can’t compete with the juggernaut that is shifter romance novels. There’s a huge market of readers who want to curl up with stories of hunky men who turn into hairy beasts and protect their chosen mates from any and all threats outside their cuddle-den. I’d try to write one to make a buck, but I know I’d fuck it up. I’d get a chapter or two in, and then my leading lady would come home to the manbearpig cave and discover her werewolf lover licking his balls in autoerotic fashion to a copy of Best in Show magazine. Then the rest of the book would descend into bitter arguments and accusations, and any hint of romance would shrivel up and die faster than if they’d been married for the last six books of the series.

Best to stick to morbid comedy, morbid horror, and morbid crime.

Speaking of which, Sex Tape has been released for Kindle. I’ll get around to designing the paperback sometime in the coming weeks, and arranging a proper launch for the eBook in the coming days. But for now, it’s yours for the low low (pathetically low) early-look price of $0.99. Reviews on Amazon.com are welcomed and encouraged.

In other news, I’m trying to participate in NaNoWriMo for no other reason than it’s November and I need to be working on the next book. It’s a sequel to one that isn’t even out yet—but apparently the market dictates that if you want to launch a series, you need to hit those readers with multiple installments early on.

Day One was mostly a bust. Already. I was about 600 words in when I got an emergency call, asking me to fill in as a guest on Cinema Smackdown. Since my first appearance went well, and this episode was all about horror movies, I agreed to get Shanghaied away in the back of an Uber. With only half an hour to consider what I was going to talk about before air time, I didn’t have time to tell anybody about it, mention it on social media, or otherwise tip off the world at large. Pity, as I crushed the opposition again.

The backlog of Cinema Smackdown episodes still hasn’t been updated on the CJLO website since April, so I don’t expect you’ll be able to listen to a rerun anytime soon. I’ll just mention that I successfully explained why being digested by The Blob is the worst horror-movie death, argued that the zombie virus counts as a character, and pitched a movie standoff between Dracula and Der Golem. I also chose to argue the indefensible position that Uwe Boll is the greatest horror director of all time—just to make things challenging for myself. I got zero points for that one, and demanded I receive no more than that. I would also have gladly accepted negative points. That’s how purposely wrongheaded my answer was.

Next time—and there may well be a next time—I’ll try to plug it in time.