I’ve taken the majority of this year off blogging, for various personal and professional reasons. The conclusion I’ve come to is that far too much of my time and energy has been spent on blogging in the last few years, instead of writing books. That’s changed. At the same time, I don’t want this blog to die.
In other words, I’m definitely back, but things are different. Honestly, I don’t know how often I’ll be blogging, whether it be once a week, once every other week, or once a month. I’ll figure that all out, eventually. For now, I’m just going to be sharing some thoughts, insight, and wisdom. Hopefully people find what I have to say useful.
Currently, I’m working on completely overhauling my first book, Shadow House. Seven years of writing experience has taught me much, and I’m applying that to the story. It’s a tale worthy of telling well, so that’s exactly what I’m doing. Unfortunately, I don’t have a release date for the second edition of Shadow House, but when I do I’ll definitely post the announcement here.
This post is about thoughts I’ve had about stories consumed in the past few weeks. Some are books, others movies and TV shows.
I finally read American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and it was a great ride. The grittiness of it was so potent, I actually had to put the book down for a time because of some personal issues in my life that were being affected by it. That a book could have such an effect on me as a reader is a testament to Gaiman’s craftsmanship.
Without ruining anything, Gaiman once again weaves a tale with a smart ending, and lets readers draw their own final conclusions. His use of old gods in a modern American landscape is genius.
Apparently there’s a TV show based on the book. I saw the trailer and it looks disappointing. In typical Hollywood fashion, gone is the rustic flavor of the tale, replaced with too much glitz and glamour. There’s a place for that stuff, but the main character Shadow is anything but a debonair man, so he shouldn’t be portrayed as a cover model for GQ magazine, wearing an Armani suit.
The Conjuring 2
I knew plenty of people who thought The Conjuring was a brilliant film. I thought it was okay, partly because I think the Warrens are full of it. In my opinion, the Amityville Horror was a bunch of hogwash, which has done considerable damage to legitimate claims of hauntings.
My expectations were pretty low for this movie. It had a fair amount of jump-scares, which is a cheap device used in far too many horror/thriller movies. The plot I thought was more original than in the first movie, but it went down the same preachy pathway. I’m of the opinion that as a storyteller, you shouldn’t be preachy, because it gets in the way of the story. Then whatever moral you were trying to communicate gets lost, and everything feels watered down and… preachy. So this movie could have been better if those elements were dropped, but they weren’t and what we have was something just north of mediocre.
I saw the movie through Redbox for free (thanks to a 7-Eleven promo) so I didn’t feel ripped off. I would definitely not consider buying it.
The Dreadful Fate of Johnathon York
I ran across this little gem of a graphic novel not too long ago at the library. It looked interesting, so I checked it out. Kory Merritt has real talent as a storyteller and artist. The tale is entertaining, funny, and communicates a great message about overcoming your fears. It’s also a quick read.
My kids read the graphic novel as well and loved it. It’s one of those rare stories where adults and kids will relish it alike . The graphic novel is on my list of future purchases, it’s just that good.
The Wolves in the Walls
Gaiman is one of my more favorite modern writers, and this book is great. I should warn it might be scary for younger readers, so read it along with smaller children and explain the moral of the story.
What this book teaches is great: just because the shit hits the fan, you don’t need to declare all is lost and give up. It’s actually the same lesson I reiterate in my first young reader novel, Gracie the Ghost Eater, so I can get behind this message wholeheartedly.
I will definitely be buying this book (I got it from the library as well).
After hearing so many good things about this movie, my wife and I checked it out at a Redbox. I can’t tell you how many horror movies I’ve heard are great, only to be disappointed in a huge way. Sadly, this was actually one of the more disappointing ones I’ve seen lately.
After probably less than 20 minutes we turned the movie off. There are lines you just don’t cross, and portraying the brutal slaughter or violation of a baby or child is one of them. Sure, there are movies that show a child’s been abducted or murdered, and as a parent that’s a pretty heavy concept to deal with. But that doesn’t mean you need to show how it happened, or even hint at the details. Sometimes, the best plot device is to leave certain things in that white space and let readers/the audience fill in the blanks.
Because of this, I absolutely cannot recommend The Witch. Maybe the rest of the movie is compellingly good, but I’ll never know. That one scene killed it for me. I can deal with a lot, and I’ve seen more than most people, but that’s just a line I won’t cross for entertainment purposes, ever.
Changing gears completely, I’ve been enjoying Luke Cage on Netflix. It’s more of a slow burn than Daredevil and maybe even Jessica Jones, at least in some ways. Cage is definitely a resentful hero for reasons you learn about later. But he’s a hero you can get behind, because he’s just a good guy. That alone is a nice break from the anti-hero craze going on right now.
Luke Cage is the product of a botched science experiment. It left him with super strength and skin that’s basically impenetrable. Bullets bounce off his skin, knives bend uselessly, and he can crumple up guns like they’re made of bread. Cage also abhors cussing, so he says “sweet Christmas” a lot. He’s a three-dimensional character, not just a caricature of a hero.
Some people might be bothered by the overt political messaging in the series, but I wasn’t. Cage wears a hoodie quite a bit, which is an obvious reference to the Trayvon Martin slaying. There’s plenty of talk about high rates of incarceration, homicide and police brutality towards African American men in the United States. These are treated as realities, not prop pieces, driving the story forward instead of bogging it down. Some of the good guys are cops, while some are corrupt. But that’s the case in Daredevil and plenty of other superhero shows, so any accusations of the series being anti-cop I think are unfounded.
The plot of Luke Cage changes gears like a semi truck (they have a lot of gears). As a result, it might take some people aback that the show isn’t necessarily a careening roller coaster ride. I read many books, so it in many ways seemed more like a novel, which just doesn’t bother me.
Skinwalkers: The Navajo Mysteries
One of the topics I love to explore as a hobby is Skinwalkers. Most Caucasians understand little about Skinwalkers, equating them to werewolves, which is so off-base it’s not even funny. Because of my interest , I started watching this series on Netflix.
It really isn’t a series, but instead three made-for-PBS movies. There isn’t much about Skinwalkers in them, but I was actually okay with that. Instead, you’re treated to a pretty authentic portrayal of life on a Navajo reservation as you follow two tribal cops while they tackle tough cases. One cop is a medicine man in training, while the other used to live in the big city and has a college degree. They’re not quite like Mulder and Scully, but there are some parallels that make the movies interesting.
Also of interest is the collisions and strange blends that are created when Navajo culture contacts the surrounding world. This dynamic impacts the investigations and makes for an interesting backdrop throughout.
If you’re at all entertained by crime thrillers, this one is not only unique, but also pretty entertaining. The movies are based off an old series of books by Tony Hillerman, which I recommend as well.
I remember several years ago when this movie started making the rounds at film festivals, apparently wowing many people. I’m always cautious about such films, because they’re either incredibly good or incredibly disappointing. Sadly, the Babadook falls into the latter category.
I wanted to like the movie, but after trying to watch it all the way through on three separate occassions, I’ve finally given up. The “scary” parts are often comedic, the slow burn is annoyingly slow, and the mother/son are just not likable on any level. So, the Babadook is a bust.
Bless Me, Ultima
I’ve read this book so many times, my copy is starting to look pretty ragged. I’m almost finished reading it again, and the novel never ceases to hold me captivated. The magic wielded by Ultima is of course a big draw, and an inspiration for my first book Shadow House, but the internal struggle Antonio feels throughout the book also strikes a chord with me. That, and the novel transports me right back to New Mexico, the land where I grew up and still feel a deep connection.
Admittedly, part of the reason I started reading the book again was because I’ve been overhauling Shadow House for a second edition. It’s proven to be quite inspiring.If you haven’t checked it out, I give my hearty recommendation.