People’s Arts Festival 2010

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Doing the writing thing, you have to always been looking for ways to get your work out there and as an artist, you have the same challenge – how on earth do I get my work out there? Now, for years now I have been trying to bring my art with me to shows I am doing because it’s all part of the same thing, it comes from the same place, so it just makes sense to bring them along to shows. For a show like the People’s Arts Festival though it feels natural to have my art AND books on display and to share in the wonder of this two day festival.

This was my second year doing the PAF and it was definitely the show I was looking forward to all year. The conventions are fun and all but this is just a world all its’ own. I am going to post pics of this year’s show but it’s hard to really appreciate the feel of the thing unless you see it. The festival takes place on the grounds of the Russell Industrial Center which is this immense old factory complex with a beautiful water tower and what makes it all so special is that doing the show there is so wonderfully symbolic – amidst what looks like worn and ruined buildings there is such beautiful work being created and shown but it’s not always in the open, and sometimes you have to poke around a little to find it, but it’s there, and as vibrant as ever. The PAF is a mix of a music and arts festival so that you get painters, photographers, crafters, jewelry makers, music, DJs, and a dozen other things and all of it fills this space and creates what can only be called a bit of magic. In Flint we tried to capture the same sort of vibe with our Guerilla shows but what you can do in a small building and on the grounds of a huge industrial complex are a world apart.

Set up was a bear, as, having borrowed a canopy we didn’t really know how to get it put together, we struggled with getting the beast up but once Mandie figured out how to do it, we easily slayed the beast and got things set up. I did the same set up that I did last year, which is to have a small table with my books (and this time some photography), and another table with my paintings and some Meep Sheep shirts I had left over from a run they did for me at work. Amanda was set up to do tarot readings. I always go into shows like this with as much nervousness as excitement. I hate that to a degree I have to try to make money because I am still this struggling artist, so it’s hard to completely relax during the festival and just let it happen. Ah, but, it’s hard not to marvel at the sights, sounds, and vibe of the thing. It’s a living animal that seems always to be evolving into something different and more wonderful. At one point I took a walk around and heard one band on the main stage, near where we were, heard some guys in a tent making some impromptu music, heard some DJ working, then caught another band on the loading dock stage. How so much chaos happens so smoothly I can never say, but darn it’s impressive.

Day one was long. Man was it long. I think it was thirteen hours and that is a long time to stay ‘up’ and ready to interact. The heck of Saturday was that as great as the artists we met were, as great as some of the people we met were, man, there were some real jerks there. I got the fun of dealing with some of the dunderheads – “Are these children’s books?” ME – “No, the one is a fairy tale that’s good for all ages but the others are not at all.” HER – “They LOOK like children’s books.” People. Mandie got the worst of it though. Since she does her tarot card reading for free with the hope of tips people get it in their head that they’re entitled to a reading and that they have it coming. I know for one instance these old women were furious that she was taking a break and made sure she knew it. Another group were drunk as can be and one dropped her beer all over the ground of where we were set up. Awesome. The day had its little miracles though, and for me, it came in the form of a boy that came to see me. He was out last year and bought This Beautiful Darkness from me. I hadn’t wanted to sell it as he was ten and the book gets pretty rough but his family chipped in together to get it and, you know, it sorta says what it is on the book. Well, he came back this year, having read TBD twice already, and wanted another book. It was pretty amazing. He ended up buying Back From Nothing and was stoked to get an autograph. In all honesty, that kid made the festival for me. I heard from another friend there (Shout out to Jerry Shirts) that the kid was super stoked about the book and autograph. How can I not love that?

Like I said though, day one was long, and windy, and exhausting, and ugh. I didn’t really make anything so that weighed on me heavily all night and through the long drive home. And again, it sucks to have to be down about that but that is the economics of the ‘starving’ whatever you are. Ah, but as mediocre as the first day was, the second day was that much better and then some.

Sunday began with a pep talk from my favorite werewolf Mac, who was stopping by the PAF to introduce a couple of the bands. He stopped by to see how Mandie and I were and gave me a verbal shaking and told me I needed to stop looking on the dark side or it’ll effect how I do with these events. Something Mandie seconded completely. So, after that I started shakin’ my butt around to amuse Amanda and turned my frown upside down and started to really enjoy the event. The great fun of Sunday was hmm – talking to other artists, posing for ridiculous pics with a duckie (mine) for a pin up one of the artists wants to do of me, and just a more positive vibe than I had on Saturday. It was super fun because I sold some art, which was boss. Now, I will never go rich selling art like this, but it’s good to have the interest and good to find people who want the stuff. That I sold to artists is actually a little cooler. I didn’t really move but a couple books but sold enough random stuff to have a much better day on that end than Saturday, but, honest, Sunday was just about enjoying the place.

If I have one regret it’s that I have a terrible shyness that comes over me at every darn event I do so that I don’t go around and meet people and check their stuff. It’s horrible and I need to get past it, for realsies.

So, overall, a super fun weekend. I have ideas about the future, sort of What Ifs on what I may do or not do in the future. I want a canopy of my own but that’s an expense I cannot afford right now but perhaps some time. I need to get my art hanging so people can see it. People seem to dig on the stuff, or some do, and I need to display it better. I want to make the ‘tent’ something neat to enter. Give it personality. Ah, but that’s for ‘next time’. I need personality for my displays, and that is the next challenge. This year’s PAF was a wonderful event and the only thing I could criticize was the notion of shot girls at an art fest. Weird. Met some amazing people, saw some folks from last year’s Leon & Lulu book show, and just had a good time. I wish I could say I sold a ton of books but, alas didn’t. The frustrating part of that was that I got a lot of ‘nibbles’ but no real interest. So, I need to think about what to do to get that to change but for an end to the Summer season of shows, it was a great way to close it out for me.

Now it’s back to writing, promoting, and figuring out how to get my Kreepies, er, Meepies to invade the world. Mwahahaha.

c

My Genius Idea of the Day…

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So, this is more like YESTERDAY’s genius idea but still, I get credit.

I was sitting there thinking yesterday, wow, so these zombie walks are starting to take off, that’s pretty fun. But they need something. Everyone is doing their own thing, there’s no connector. There’s no sort of, I dunno, collective, no ‘family’. Ah, but it came to me. So there’s this group called the 501st, and they go to conventions dressed as Stormtroppers and other fun stuff from the Star Wars films and they do charity work and they’re a fun group. Well, what if there was a zombie equivalent that did horror shows and cons and whatever? Call them the Romero 666th Zombie Division or whatever. Or the Zombie Army. Something. But basically it’d be a similar thing where they got together, they did shows and stuff, organized the walks and basically just held the standard for the undead and all things ghoul.

Now, it’d take far more cooperation that most people could muster, but it’s a fun thought. I mean, zombies, marching around, but, their march is a shuffle. HA!

c

Winding Up a Busy Season…

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Phew, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind since the publication of The Meep Sheep a few months ago and I am still going strong. The thing that wears you out with the book process is the promotion, as I have said before, but it’s also some of the most fun you have. Getting the book out to people lets you gauge interest, lets you fire people up about the book, and lets you feel the satisfaction of selling something you made. It really reminds you how special writing (or any art, really) is. Man they are rough though. It’s lots of work to get out there, to talk up your book, and to tell people, over and over and over again what your book is. Me, I always go for the soft sell because, heck, if someone is interested in the book, then they will come to me, if not then I certainly don’t want to bully them into looking at something they are not into. Seems silly and I hate when people do that to me.

I have done a lot of shows during this ‘season’ and the last big one is coming up this weekend in Detroit. It’s The People’s Arts Festival and is a fantastic art festival near downtown Detroit. I did it with my girlfriend last year and we had a blast and I really moved a lot of books, which was great, as was meeting the other artists and seeing the amazing art on display. This year we go with a new book, a lot of new art and hopefully a little more wisdom on how to set up effectively. After this weekend though I go into the downward portion of the shows. I am hoping to get into a writer’s show I did last year that will happen in October and am going to be putting together the second  annual Halloween show that some friends and I did last year. Other than that it’s promoting the books online, looking for an agent for my Meepies, and seeing what lies ahead.

It really has been a busy Spring and Summer and I could use the break but will definitely miss meeting all the awesome people out there. For now though, we still have some time. Hope to see some of you on the trail before the journey ends.

c

World War Z – review

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    In your life, if you’re the reading sort, you will come across the books that will open your eyes to the world around you. Now, maybe they’ll be the ‘classics’, or perhaps something that is more modern, but over the years you will read books that will, in some way, change you. That’s powerful. Really powerful. Now, I definitely have books that have had that effect on me. Books that just blew me away in some way. I can happily say, I am adding a new one to that list – World War Z. And it’s interesting because this is a rare book that the writer part of me is adding more than the every day me is adding. I add World War Z to the list because it is simply one of the most fascinating novels I have ever read. Hands down.

    Set in the rebuilding era after the world has fast its first ‘World War Z’, or first full global zombie outbreak, World War Z is a series of stories told to the ‘author’ in interview style about people’s different experiences before, during, and after the war. The book is presented as a historical document to show how this war changed not only the world but the humans that live on it. Featuring stories that range from the intimate, to the cold and calculating, and all have a dark poignancy that make them unforgettable. From a man telling his story of protecting the rich and famous from the dead in a compound to the story of a submarine captain’s abandonment of country and post to save  his family and crew, these are stories that could come from any time, and any war. Put together, this book tells the haunting story of a war that was almost lost, and the humanity that was lost in the process of finding victory. This is the story of the end of the world and the life that exists beyond it.

    In writing World War Z, author Max Brooks took what we genre fans have thought of when it came to the living dead and made it global and in so doing he took it deadly serious. There is humor here, very black humor, but the story is always about the people. What makes this such a shocking book for me is the level of detail Brooks went to in telling his story. He gets into tactical and technological issues of the war and treated this as if he were writing a historical text. Not once does Brooks treat this as a ‘horror book’ or simply resort to telling your standard horror story. This is, through and through, a telling of the most horrific war the earth had ever seen. And the terror comes from the people telling the stories, people who have seen humanity fail and have seen and fought walking nightmares. The most shocking moments are also the ones that come from the humans themselves and the horror that they create as civilization crumbles. This is not to say that the living dead are background players though. Far from it. In writing this and The Zombie Survival Guide Brooks has created his own zombie mythos and has made them a sort of horrible force of nature. They are never super powered or fast but they are ever persistent and ever present, waiting to take their prey. And if stories of outposts surrounded by a million zombies and fighting them off to survive until help comes doesn’t chill your blood then I don’t know what will.

    One of the special and wonderful things we don’t seem to get enough of in horror is the epic story, the story that has a scope and scale that is as good as it is ambitious but this is a rare treat in that case. Beautifully written and conceived, the story is always the king here, and the book never becomes a sermon on morality or politics but merely reflects that things that we have been seeing for decades.

    I cannot recommend World War Z enough to fans of horror literature and to fans of good stories in general. It’s rare that you get a book that lives up to the hype that precedes it but this does in every sense. I had resisted reading the book for so long and feel like a fool for it. Truly, one of the most important modern horror stories out, and a game changer when it comes to the zombie subgenre. A quick, brilliant read that will leave you cold for a lot of dark nights.

Snapper

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    Of all the things I like to do artistically I think photography is the one I am most self conscious about. I mean, writing, it is what it is. I have been writing since I was a teenager and while you never like it when people dislike what you are doing, you also have to come to terms with the fact that you do what you do as a writer and all you can do is try to become a more effective writer and let people think what they will. With painting I pretty much got the worst I will get this year when people told me I painted like a child. Now, while my style may be child like I think to call what I do childish is silly. Again, you have to accept that you do what you do and just work on getting better at it. I am just not interested in painting things that don’t make me smile. See, I can accept the limitations of my writing and painting but that’s because I have been putting both out into the world for a bit of time now, with photography, it’s still raw. Still new.

   The funny thing is that I have been taking pictures for pleasure for years now. five years at least. I am on my third digital camera and have gotten better over the years but am still finding my ‘voice’. Still finding how to do it. I showed my photography publicly for the first time this past Friday and it was pretty scary. I have posted stuff on here or online in general for years but there’s a difference. One is that I don’t really get a lot of traffic, especially random traffic, on this site, so only a few people are ever seeing it. It is also different to have someone in front of you and know they can just verbally vomit on something you have poured your heart into. It’s rough. Rough but fun.

   It really is fun to get your work out there. I will never be a full time artist. I don’t have the time or talent to hope for that, but I like to show the things I work on. Selling is fun, but sometimes it’s more valuable to show and not have to worry about the money of it all. And it’s fun to get the feedback. Generally people seemed to dig my stuff. Like my paintings I have to find a better way to display, but it was nice to get positive feedback. And even more fun to know that I freaked out a couple people with my pics that had fake blood in them. Mwahaha. Hilarious. Funny because that means they were effective, and that’s a good thing.

   I won’t ever go down as a great photographer, and when you know as many really good ones as I do it gets intimidating to try to even take pics, but I still love it just the same. I love having another outlet for my creativity. Another way to tell stories. And eventually I hope to find ways to get all three together for a party, the writing, painting, and pics.

For now, they’re happy to pass the light around and share the stage.

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Slowing Down for a Second…

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It all gets a bit overwhelming sometimes, the whole writing and promoting a book thing. This isn’t to say you regret any of it because every step, forward or back, is movement and movement is what it takes. When you stop moving you accept where you are at and that’s the danger. Once you accept where you are at then you start to set down roots that are awfully hard to get up again. But darn, it gets overwhelming. As many books as I can sell around where I live, and to friends and family I am still not making a mark in the world. And if you believe in your book, and brother you better, you have to get your work out to the big bad world.

It gets so that you feel like you are always promoting, always shilling your work, and that’s part of the game, of the process, but it also makes you feel a bit like a whore, as if your work is only there to be sold. And it gets dispiriting because if you start to judge your work via sales then you lose sight of the magic that was created as you wrote the book. Even the worst of books are created by some sort of strange magic, and if you lose that, if you lose the memory of that then you start to lose the reason you started writing in the first place. Sometimes you have to slow down, stop shilling, and remember why you are doing what you are doing, and what brought you there. Sure, you need to write. you need to promote, you need to sell, but more important than all of that is keeping the flame in you alive that made you want to write in the first place. You can’t force yourself to write (yeesh, don’t do that, for goodness sake. If you feel the dreaded writer’s block then get out and play, or draw, or dance, or do whatever it is you do when you don’t write and let the story come to you, and it will, you are just pushing too hard, silly!), you have to want to write for it to work. Sometimes ya gotta just slow down.
Take a breath.

So here’s me, taking a breath. Breathing in. Breathing out. And…rats, aren’t I supposed to be looking for an agent for The Meep Sheep? And for A Shadow Over Ever?

Rats.

Remind me to breathe later, it’s back to the grind for now.

c

Brainjacked – review

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Brainjacked

Oh dear, there comes a time as a reviewer when you are push, push, pushed to the limit of what you can stand but you forge ahead, you push on because darn it, you have a job to do. I dunno though kids, lately, well lately I am feeling the weight of this hobby. I love movies. Clearly. And I admire people who can put it all together to MAKE a movie. The thing is though that, as a fan of movies (and trust me when I say that I like some sketchy movies) I get very bored with films that are short on ideas and originality. You can make any movie for any price if you have the skill to tell the story simply (or grandly if you have that dough sitting around), alas, too many young filmmakers fall into the habit of making movies that are made more in the editing room than on their sets and which seem to put more thought into their promotional campaigns than the stories themselves. And so, I bring you Brainjacked.

The film opens with an angry young man waking with a searing headache. Living in his mother and stepfather’s home he soon finds himself kicked out when he refuses to play nice during a very interesting sex film shoot involving dear old mom. Now though, he is on the street and his headache is even worse. Enter Laney, a strange angel dressed more for a rave than an evening in an isolated park but she is perfectly suited for helping our young man with his problem. It seems she was discovered by a doctor after she had the same issues as he is having and he was able to help her as well as many others who suffered the same issue. Despite his attraction to her, he is resistant to her suggestion of his meeting the doctor, at first, but the lure of ending the horrible headaches is too much to resist so he follows her to what is essentially a commune with several other young people who all have scars on their foreheads and who all claim to have suffered from the same headaches as he did. The scars, it seems are part of the cure to their problem, something the doctor is very happy to do. The cure isn’t as easy or, well, bloodless as the kid may have hoped. You see, to cure the young people the doctor removes what we find out is a false hand and beneath is a drill which he uses to drill holes into the skull to relieve the pressure on the brain. Despite his trepidation about the trepanation (mwahahaha, come on, that’s pretty clever, no?), our lad goes through with the operation and to his gleeful surprise his headache is gone but with it he has also loses time. He will be in the middle of something and suddenly blink out and then will blink back into an utterly different moment which he cannot remember getting into. This becomes a problem when he awakens during a strange fight between the members of the doctor’s commune and another group, and suddenly things don’t look as pristine and safe in his new home. And as his suspicions grow, so does the danger and as the young man begins to learn the truth behind the doctor, his commune, and his surgeries, a truth that may cost him his life, and the life of the woman he loves.

Well, as groundbreaking as the story may sound, alas, it is far from that. Logic is tossed out the door so the filmmakers can embrace the absurdity of their plot. Yes, this is a film about people getting holes sloppily drilled into their heads to relieve headaches, which seems a bit odd since the drilling (despite a local anesthetic) would hurt a bit more. Perhaps I am wrong. But the idea of what the headaches are is never full explained, why the doctor is up to shenanigans is a bit cloudy, and why there is a sort of militia/gang out to get the doc and his kids is, well, weird. I mean, in a loose way it all works, in a loose, sloppy way, but in the end the film is all about quick edits, yelling, and a romance that has as much steam as frozen vegetables. The film moves quickly, sure, but it moves too quickly so that no characters are fleshed out and the villain of the film, the doctor, comes off as a laughable parody of evil. The fact that he has a huge drill bit for a hand is straight out of a bad spy movie. The direction is a bit flat, the acting is passable, the gore, when it gets going at the end, is pretty rowdy, but the film just feels like, well, a young filmmakers attempt at making a movie. I applaud the courage to take on a sci-fi story but wish more time would have been spent ON the story. In the end, what you are left with is a brash, in your face film that wants to be hardcore, wants to be rough, and wants to be edgy but which really ends up tepid, boring, and silly with an ending that is ridiculously nihilistic.

When officially released at the end of August 2010, the film will have a lot of extras such as commentaries, a short film, a behind the scenes featurette, and more. The film has a grainy look with a stereo soundtrack.

So, sure, it is watchable, and some will find it a fun show, but for me, it’s too much like a broke man’s attempt to do Cronenberg, and it just didn’t come together.

5 out of 10

For more info  – www.unearthedfilms.com / www.breakingglasspictures.com

Zombie Abomination/Zombie Atrocity – The Italian Zombie Movie Parts 1 and 2 – REVIEW

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For sick people like me, horror movies were a staple of my formative years. and when it came to zombie movies I loved the Italian stuff. This wasn’t to say that I didn’t love the films George Romero was making but for pure nastiness and weirdness the Italians were where it was at. The plots didn’t make a lot of sense, sure, but darn those were some fun movies. They were more about tone, and chills than they were about plot, but for them, it worked. With Zombie Abomination and Zombie Atrocity director Thomas Berdinski is trying to capture some of that lost Italian magic, while tweaking it a little as he does.

After the military buries the product of a failed experiment in the hopes of hiding what they were up to they only end up creating a dangerous threat to the world in the form of the living dead. Reanimated soldiers begin to rise and devour people in the most horrible of ways. When an ex-soldier’s twin brother is killed mysteriously he decides he will stop at nothing to find the truth behind his brother’s death. Little does he know though that there are forces working against him, forces that will stop at nothing to keep the secret of the living dead a secret.

Zombies, harlots, rednecks, militia, aliens – you name it and it is in there. This is a loving homage to the living dead films yesteryear, it is hard to deny the charm here. The character’s are named after actors or directors of the Italian genre classics, and some of the plot devices are clearly from some of the same films. Mixed in with the loving nods to the past there is a definite identity of its own that is created through the comedy that runs rampant here. This isn’t your average dour zombie movie but is one that takes stabs at itself and the rest of the genre. Sure, there is a lot of danger here, but much of it comes from the characters themselves, and it’s a wonder that any of them are left by the second film.

And it is fun, the characters are goofy, the gore is great, the zombies are very well done and have a creepy, unique look, and overall the film is well put together and well made.

The movies are not perfect though. Some of the jokes are a bit forced, some of the plot points are as clear as mud, and as fun as the movie is, it feels a bit long. As fun as the films were, it was just a lot to take in one bite. Sort of like going to a buffet with all kinds of food that you love and so you dig in and get a stomach ache from trying to eat it all at once. It is a heck of an achievement to have one movie let alone two, and it says a lot about director Berdinski and his crew that they were able to pull this off. And darn it, I give it up to anyone that can make a movie like this and not revert to useless and easy nudity. It says a lot about Berdinski that he didn’t fall into that trap and I commend him on that.

I can’t say that the Italian masters would appreciate the jabs that these two films take at them but they are done so lovingly that it would be hard for fans to take any of it to heart. Only a true fan can craft a film with such absurdity and madness as these movies. If I had a wish it would be that it all flowed together more smoothly but the ambition behind this makes you forgive the few quibbles I had. And man, there is like an ocean of gore here, so grab your sailing hats friends, and hit the seas for Italy, just be careful of those zombies, they got a nasty bite radius.

7.5 out of 10

If you want to read more about Zombie Abomination and Zombie Atrocity head here for a trailer, and tons of fun stuff.

A Little Fun…

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A couple months back I and a couple friends did something here in Flint called the Re-Birth of Flint Cool and it was a fun way for us to talk about writing and our books in particular. We filmed the entire event and I am trying to get that online in chunks (It was about an hour and a half, phew!) but first I wanted to share this with you. I read a story from my book This Beautiful Darkness and here’s the video of that. Hope you enjoy.

c