Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Welcome to Heartbreak (JLV: A Sort-Of Poem)


Today I got into an accident (don’t worry: I’m okay). I cracked open my skull is all, and then I broke my nose about two minutes later due to the concussion I thought I didn’t have, but that’s okay. Really, I’m fine. I’ll survive. But there was a point in which I thought that I was going to die; that my brain was swelling; that I was going to have permanent brain damage or that my nose—which I hadn’t yet seen, but felt like a bowling ball had crashed into it—resembled Owen Wilson’s. The way I looked at it was that I’ve lived a good life for the most part and nothing ever bad has really ever happened to me until three weeks ago; so something bad was bound to happen; and I was certain that BAD MOMENT had finally happened. And all I could think about was not seeing her face again. Her baby-thin hair, her blue eyes, her smooth voice, her many moles, her odd tattoos, her sort-of-large-but-perfect-to-me nose, the way she had very thin—impossible to see, unless you were really close—hairs branching her eyebrows together (no, not a uni-brow, but something majestic, mythical, imperfectly perfect), her habits, and her imperfections. Especially her imperfections: that’s what makes art art: if art was perfect, it would be science—or boring, at the worst. I thought I was going to die, and I wanted to see Justine Vandermeulen again. She was art to me.

But she was gone. Gone in the wind. Gone in the waves. Gone in the smoke of the bridges I had burned when I was hurt and pathetic and begged for her to stay but I really pushed her away. Gone. But not gone from my heart.

There’s a watershed moment in everybody’s life—a turning point, in other words. And that moment happened today when I realized I didn’t want to die alone. And I wanted to have her there. I almost cried sitting there in the hospital bed (when the doctors were gone, of course), thinking about the mistake I made when I pushed the love of my life out of my life. She wanted some space and I suffocated her with antispace, with neediness and begging her to stay stay stay.

Then she said goodbye.

But she’s out of my life now. And I’ll regret it until I’m in the ground.

If one day you—Justine Louise Vandermeulen—ever Google your own name and stumble across this, I want you to know that I thought of you when I thought I was going to die. I wish we’d never said goodbye. But chances are you won’t Google search your name, probably a guy will, a future date perhaps. Hey YOU who reads this, don’t you dare treat her unkindly if she ever gives you a chance (and don’t crack your knuckles either; she’ll pretend it doesn’t bother her, but it does). Justine Vandermeulen might not be perfect, but she’s the best thing you’ll ever have in YOUR life, so don’t screw it up. And if you have her, you’re the luckiest guy on the planet. I’m jealous it can’t be me.

 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award...

... you guys just don't get it, do you?

Please take that as constructive criticism, not a hateful, bitter statement. What am I talking about? you are probably wondering when you start reading this. In fact, it's probably going to be 2015, you probably just Googled "Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award" and found this blog entry and clicked on it.

Is that so? Keep reading, please.

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award ruined my life. I'm saying that as a fact. I had put my entire life on hold -- my relationship with my girlfriend, my friendships, my family, my job -- to work on writing and editing my entry The House near the Mountains (which I had specifically written for The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award; I had a coherent, horrifying nightmare, woke up in a cold sweat, and started writing the novel in a fit of feverish creativity and inspiration). I took off three days a week every month for half a year; I told friends I couldn't hang out with them; I didn't spend enough time with my girlfriend; I didn't have a life at all; all my time was dedicated on perfecting the greatest story I had ever conceived in my life, a story that I -- as a reader -- would love to read; a story that I -- as a movie watcher -- would love to watch on the big screen; a story that I -- as a believer -- knew that I was meant to write and would succeed if it was only published. I spent six hours on the novel every day -- editing, editing, editing. Finally, a week before the submission period, I had a perfect, concise 150,000 word horror masterpiece (no, I'm not saying it's a personal masterpiece; I'm saying that I believe other horror fans would agree: call this statement confidence or arrogance, it matters not). And then something happened...

... last minute change in the competition: the maximum word count was changed from 150,000 words to 125,000 words. I cried myself to sleep. But I didn't give up. I completely restructured my novel. And hey, the contest delayed the submission period for another month. So I did have time. And I made, in my opinion, a better story out of it.

Then I didn't make it past round one.

THE END.

But that isn't the end, because I have more to say. Look at the finalists each year. What do you see? Don't be afraid of making politically incorrect observations; nobody's judging (as long as you keep it to yourself). So, again, I ask: what do you see? Women. In their thirties to forties. Young adult-esque concepts. And one guy thrown in just so they don't appear "sexist." COME ON! That can't be coincidence on any level.

Where's the hope for the youth? Where's the hope for a guy like me? I want to put out stories that inspire people like me; I want to put out stories that I WANT TO READ! I don't want to read another Harry Potter-inspired series. I don't want to read the Mermaid's Sister or something that has a title of a movie you'd find on The Lifetime Channel. I want crazy; I was original; I want insane; I want brilliance; I WANT A REVOLUTION.

I want there to be long lines awaiting a midnight release for a book -- and I want there to be as many guys in this line as girls. I want something to inspire the youth in the United States to get out and read, not to sit on their asses and play Call of Duty all day. The books being chosen for The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award will not produce such a response to reading. I want to see the next Hugh Howey, the next Stephen King or Clive Barker or Robert McCammon or H.P. Lovecraft, the next George R.R. Martin or J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis, the next (*gasp*) Cormac McCarthy or William Faulkner; I want the crazy, zany underdog to get published rather than the play-it-safe-formula that you see in the finalists every single year. I want to see a novel inspired by Bioshock to get published, not a novel inspired by Percy Jackson.

Dear ABNA, clean out your judging panel. You're killing the youth of America. You're creating gamers, not readers. Give hope to guys like me, not discouragement. The whole point of having different genre categories is to have different types of books; all of the books that I've seen (and read samples of) could just as easily be Young Adult. If that's the case, simply make it a Young Adult contest. Don't mislead.

Dear ABNA, I'm not mad that you [temporarily] ruined my life, caused me to become [temporarily] an alcoholic, neglect my friends, family, and job for a dream that I've always had. I'm not mad that you've rigged the results (whether blatantly or obliviously) of the contest for whatever feminist agenda that you have...

... but I'm furious that your finalists don't reflect the types of books that will cause a revolution to make reading "cool" again.

THE END.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why Goodreads Doesn't Work

Goodreads is the Facebook for readers. At least, that's how I always looked at it before I started self-publishing my own short stories. When I became a "Goodreads Author," that all changed. At that point it wasn't just about finding books to read; it was about finding readers to read my book.

That within itself is a cool idea; indie authors (like Hugh Howey), or big authors (like Stephen King) can connect with fans of their books directly. Look at Stephen King's Facebook page: how many of those people who like his page are fans of his books, how many are fans of his film adaptations? Who knows. But at least Goodreads you know that people who follow you are fans of your books.

But Indie writers (not Hugh Howey, because he's actually a good writer) are making it almost impossible for readers to find good books. And that's where I draw the line and point out boldly the issue at hand. I don't mind unknown authors -- myself included (although I have a little bit of cred from writing Resident Evil: Red Falls, but not that much) -- having friends and fans score their books or vote their books onto certain lists. "Best Science Fiction Novels," "Best Horror Novels," "Best YA Novels with a Supernatural Element" -- you get he point; there are tons of Goodreads member-made lists out there which Goodreads members can vote on their lists. Heck, I allowed some of my Resident Evil: Red Falls fans vote on one of the lists that I had made called "Must-Read Books for the Aspiring Writer."

But I wasn't eager enough to vote any of my stories to the top, because there's no way LeanRx: Results May Vary, Lucifer's Tongue, The Bone Man, or The Monster at the Bottom of the Stairs are more significant than Stephen King's On Writing and Danse Macabre, or any of his fiction books like The Stand, or It, or the Dark Tower series.

And then you have a person whom I won't name. Let's just say he's the most followed person on Goodreads, an author, and a Goodreads librarian (that means he's a moderator). When this fella voted his book to the top of my horror list, I changed the description to: "No offense, but just ignore #1. Voting oneself to the top seems kind of amateurish. I apologize for my boldness. It's not meant for an attack on any particular author."

So what did this author do? He abused his Librarian powers and deactivated ninety percent of the Goodreads members who had voted for my books. What a passive-aggressive move. And then he goes on to email me, pretending to be a typical Goodreads staff, that there "were a few members who had complained about your books having too many five star reviews" in so many words. So, he took away most of my five star reviews (from people that scored my books on their own). Meanwhile, his own books are nearly perfectly rated . . .

. . . and I wonder why (this is sarcasm). He -- being a Goodreads Librarian -- deactivates accounts who give him bad scores.

Goodreads needs to clean up their Librarian staff so authors can't be Librarians.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Resident Evil: Red Falls - Trailer #3





Trailer # 3 ladies and gents. Make sure you share it. We're almost at 200,000 YouTube views

Monday, December 9, 2013

WOOL (Review)


A lot of people will say that Wool is the greatest science fiction novel in decades. And then you’ll have the occasional straggler who says Wool is utterly overrated. The thing is, if you’ve discovered Wool prior to its Simon & Schuster-published release on March 12th, 2013, then you very likely specifically searched for dystopian or post-apocalyptic books—more likely than not, you found Wool on countless Goodreads lists or maybe a blog or two (plus, at the time, Wool’s Omnibus edition was quite cheap)—and with that being said, Wool delivers on its promise (and premise): it is an original science fiction book with dystopian and post-apocalyptic undertones.

 

What makes Wool so dang good is that I can actually see the world and people he describes; and I—despite the avid reader that I am—have trouble with some science fiction works within the last decade (Neil Stephenson’s The Diamond Age comes to mind: the concept is good, but its discombobulated with so many scientific terms and ideas that the characters and details are lost in the background; Wool’s characters and locations, on the other hand, are crystal clear). And Hugh Howey never lets the science outweigh the characters. We accept that the characters know what they’re doing; that’s good enough for the reader. Many science fiction writers tend to go overboard on the “science” part of science fiction, rather than the fiction.

 

The premise is simple. It’s not overly perplexed. People live in underground silos; to control their population, one person is sent out to die in a toxic world (which brings us to the plot of the novel, and the reason for the title—the people are given wool suits to wear; they are given the task to go out into the wastelands, clean the sensors—which are essentially cameras, so everyone else can see the landscape—and then . . . die), and then, after the cleaning, one married couple are given permission to have a child. This processed has gone on for hundreds of years.

 

Wool begins with a LOST-esque mystery which unravels over the course of a few chapters until we meet the main protagonist, Juliette. That’s as much of the plot that I’ll get into. Just consider Wool as Game of Thrones-esque drama in the confines of an underground silo.

 

Expect great things from Hugh Howey in the future because the future of science fiction (and self-publishing) is in his hands.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Gifts for the Serious Reader: Book Series

 
 
 
 
Firstly, this is a list of only five book series. In case I don't choose your favorite franchise, don't be offended. For this list, I mostly stayed away from young adult series (with the exception of Abarat), since young adult series seem to be blowing up pop culture lately; plus I really want to give recognition to series that are underappreciated (with the exception of A Song of Ice and Fire, but even so, I fear many will skip the books and just watch the masterful HBO series—but guess what? As good as the show is, the books are better).

Without further ado, I bring to you five series that would be ideal for the serious reader you know as Christmas gift.


ONE:// THE DARK TOWER SERIES

Stephen King—you’ve heard of him, I know you have. You’re probably familiar with his more popular works, such as The Stand, ‘salem’s Lot, and The Shining. However, horror isn’t all that Stephen King writes. A lot of people are blown away by the fact that he wrote Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.
Which brings us to the first gift for the reader you know: The Dark Tower series.

Combining Science Fiction, Horror, Action, Western, Romance, you name it—it’s the Linkin Park of book series, you could say. And the books are incredibly written (The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass is my favorite novel of all time). The ending is similar to J.J. Abrams’ LOST—you’ll either love it, or hate it, but you’ll feel a whole storm of emotions overcome you.

And get this . . . the Dark Tower series connects to other Stephen King books, so if one gets hooked on TDT, they will have a very busy reading schedule in 2014.

Unfortunately, however, there isn't a set where you can buy all seven books. But I recommend buying the boxed set containing the first four books (which are considered the best in the series anyway).

Similar to: LOST (TV show), Fringe (TV show), Thor (film series)

PRICE: $26.05.
(not including the last three books)




TWO:// A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE (AKA GAME OF THRONES)

Yes, the HBO television series is great, but the book series is even better. A Song of Ice and Fire is the greatest fantasy series (by an American writer) of all time. Hands down. And nobody kills off characters better than George R.R. Martin.

Similar to: Lord of the Rings, Skyrim (video game)

PRICE: $27.47





THREE:// THE SILO SERIES

There's a lot of talk about Hugh Howey. If you haven't heard of him, then perhaps you've been living under a rock (or aren't into books; but this isn't about you, it's about whoever you're thinking about buying this series for for Christmas).

Hugh Howey is a self-published author. What does that mean? He didn't have an agent, a professional editor, or a publisher. The first book in the series, Wool, started out as a short story e-book; and then, over time, fans wanted Hugh to finish the book. And he's written two other books since, Shift and Dust.

A lot of people consider Wool as one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time; I concur.

Similar to: Fallout 3 (video game), Oblivion (film)

PRICE: $41.28




FOUR:// THE MATTHEW CORBETT SERIES

Robert McCammon is one of the most magical writers out there; nobody writes characters quite like him. From Swan Song (often compared to Stephen King's The Stand) to Boy Life (which has a perfect 5-star rating on Amazon.com) to Gone South, McCammon's characters really come to life. He creates characters that we understand, that we can see; there's never a moment where the reader thinks, People don't talk like that. (Trust me, as much as I love Stephen King, there are lots of dialogue that isn't natural.)

You won't be disappointed in the Matthew Corbett series. The series consists of: Speaks the Nightbird, The Queen of Bedlam, *Mister Slaughter, and The Providence Rider.*

Similar to: Sherlock Holmes, The Raven (film)

PRICE: $27.20 (*note: 2nd two books are only ebooks at the moment*)




FIVE:// THE ABARAT SERIES

Disclaimer: this is an odd book series full of odd characters with an overall very odd tone. Clive Barker wrote The Hellbound Heart (later adapted into the beloved cult classic Hellraiser); but this series isn't quite as dark. It's one of those series, while reading it, I couldn't quite tell if it was for young adults or for adults. But I certainly do recommend this series for young adults; fans of Harry Potter would definitely enjoy this series. Plus Clive Barker doesn't get nearly as much recognition as he deserves.

The Abarat series consists of three books so far: Abarat, Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War, and Abarat: Absolute Midnight.

Similar to: Neil Gaiman (author), Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and a really bizarre dream.

PRICE: $24.15




What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Glenn Howerton Always Gets Shot in the Head (in Philadelphia)

I am very surprised I'm the first person to blog about this (considering that the Google search I did, I got zero results). But it is interesting and therefore I'm going to pop the cherry on this intriguing matter. As the title suggests: Glenn Howerton (from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) gets shot in the head often.

1) In Serenity (2005):
 

2) In 2008's The Strangers (starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman):


3) In Crank 2: High Voltage this happens:

 
4) And then, in the It's Always Sunny episode called "The Gang Saves the Day," Dennis gets shot in the head while negotiating with a robber (I unfortunately couldn't find a clip) -- which is clearly a homage to him dying in other films. But it seems as though I'm the first person to publically discuss this.
 


It's also noteworthy to say that he's in the upcoming TV show, Fargo (based on the ultraviolent Coen brothers film) . . .

. . . and, considering he likely won't be a main character, I wonder how he's going to die in that show.