My review of Chuck Wendig's DOUBLE DEAD. Goretastic. Goregasmic? Go to church to Goreship?

Double Dead
by Chuck Wendig

5 out of 5 stars. Imagine them.

First off, I'm gonna tell you all that Double Dead is not for the faint of heart. If you suffer from a severely overactive gag reflex, heart murmurs, are a nun, or you're just straight up noodle-necked (not a real thing), stay well back. If you don't fall into those categories, pick up the dang book. I give Double Dead 5 solid stars, and it deserves it.

Published Author Interview with Bryce Moore, the man behind VODNIK, available March 28th through Tu Books!

Out March 28th 2012!
Alright, I know March's Writer Interview is really late, but I have a good reason, I promise! Just give me a moment to explain! Last year I had the opportunity to meet Bryce Moore at Conduit 2011 (where I also met Peter Orullian, another author interviewee of mine who you can read up on here). We chatted a bit about his book Vodnik, which (I believe) he had contracted recently. A year later, it's finally coming out! Last month I contacted Bryce about doing an interview to help publicize Vodnik to some of my readers, and he agreed, 'cause he's a cool guy like that. He provided me with the ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy) so I could familiarize myself with it, which I did enthusiastically. You can read my review here. We decided to hold off on releasing the interview itself until Vodnik was closer to being available, in order to help with the initial sales effort. You all know how important the first few weeks of a book's release are, right? Right? 'Cause a book's first month is huge in determining the continued support of marketing dollars, and plays a large roll in how many retailers want to stock it.

Anyway, Vodnik is great; probably my favorite book of this last year. It's different than most others I've read, and totally refreshing. But I'll let you read my full review yourselves. Make sure to check out the link Bryce provided at the bottom of the interview, where you can purchase the Kindle version right now (in case you didn't know, most smartphones, definitely the iPhone, have Kindle apps. FYI). The hardcover of Vodnik will be officially released on March 28th. So pick it up; it's totally worth it.

A review of Bryce Moore's VODNIK. In short? Excellent.

My unofficial rating.

Every once in a while, I read a book that ends up being the equivalent to a tall, icy glass of water. Or better yet, Sprite. Just refreshing. I can think of several in my own reading experience (just to name a few): Harry Potter, Fablehaven, and most recently, Vodnik by Bryce Moore. Now don't mistake me, I'm not comparing these books to each other, or even grouping them up under some category, I'm simply saying they all gave me the same sense of excitement; the feeling that I was reading something new. With Harry Potter I was blown away in part because it was one of the first true Urban Fantasies I had read (not to mention a million other things, love that series). Fablehaven was bursting with simple imagination and adventure, something I really needed at the time I read it. Vodnik smacked me in my face and showed me that true wit, sarcasm, earnest story-telling, multi-layered plotting, grit, and fairy tales can all inhabit the same book.

Partial review of THE MUPPETS, focused on one specific area.

The Muppets seemed to be the perfect candidate with which to study narrative structure. After all, a beloved children’s franchise famous for also entertaining adults was more than likely to contain a Hollywood-style composition. It didn’t fail to deliver. It has most of what makes a good screenplay: conflict, clarity of plot, and a storybook climax. However, it lacks one very important thing, split into three subcategories: resolution against a believable, scary antagonist with clear motivations. This missing piece was its undoing, destroying the rest of the film and trivializing the conflict.
The story of The Muppets begins with a lighthearted montage highlighting the relationship between two brothers: one a puppet character named Walter who dreams of becoming a Muppet someday, the other a human named Gary played by Jason Segel. It establishes their appreciation of each other, and sets up one of the main conflicts: Walter’s growing dissatisfaction with his differences. Over the next few chunks of movie, we learn that they are setting out on a trip to visit Los Angeles for Gary and his girlfriend Mary’s ten-year anniversary, Walter in tow. The young puppet is thrilled to have the chance to visit the Muppet Studios where all the episodes of The Muppet Show were recorded decades ago.
Unfortunately, when they arrive they find the studio shut down, derelict, covered in dust, and strung with spiderwebs. Only a single, disgruntled tour guide remains, who takes them unenthusiastically to Kermit the Frog’s former office. We learn that the Muppets have been out of style for years, and after drifting apart, they were forgotten.
Walter wanders off and happens to overhear a convenient conversation between three suited figures, one of which is Tex Richman. He and his cronies discuss a plan to take over the Muppet Studios due to a small article within the “standard Rich and Famous” contract Kermit signed years ago. It states that Tex Richman has the rights to the property by a certain date, if the Muppets are unable to come up with ten million dollars. This is the point where we learn that Tex is the “bad guy”. Walter learns of the dastardly villain’s plot to level the studios and drill for oil (which is strange, considering the studios are located in the middle of the city…). Walter, of course, then sets out on a journey to reunite the Muppets so they can put on one last show, raise the money, and buy their studio back.
This seems like a relatively reasonable set up for the film that follows, seeing as most audiences would be accepting of such a simple plot. However, Tex Richman fails to live up to the image the film makers want him to have. He is never scary, seldom intimidating, and last of all, he has no reason to be doing what he is doing.
For a short time after the character is first introduced, Tex appears to be nice, pretending to be converting the Muppet Studios into a Muppet museum. Walter soon finds the real reason for the takeover by listening in secretly, at which point Tex tells his henchmen to perform a “maniacal laugh”. They do so, to the audience’s confusion. Much later in the movie, we discover that the reason for this is because of Tex Richman’s own inability to laugh, maniacally or otherwise. It’s an interesting quirk to give a villain, but the late reveal defeats the effectiveness, essentially robbing the audience of something to identify the antagonist with for the majority of the movie.
The only real encounter the Muppets have face to face with Tex is well before the climax, in the billionaire’s office, where a ridiculously embarrassing hip hop number takes place featuring the villain himself, rapping about how he does anything and everything he wants, because he is rich. Kermit sits bemused, while the audience covers their faces in shame. Any smidgen of intimidation previously present is very suddenly gone.
Even the climax of the film is lackluster (though it does have one of the only instances of much appreciated nostalgia). Tex attempts to shut down the power to the studio while the Muppets are filming a telethon meant to save them and raise ten million dollars. He rams his car into a power pole, severs a main power line, and eventually tries to cut live wires on top of the building with nothing but bolt cutters (never mind how deadly it would be if he succeeded). Through all of this, there is no contact with the heroes of the story. Eventually one of his own “turned-leaf” henchmen takes the bolt cutters from him, and essentially knocks him out by accident. The entire sequence only serves to make Tex look childish, incompetent, and utterly un-threatening.
One of the main downfalls of the entire plot was the lack of motivation Tex Richman had for doing what he does. By openly acknowledging the fact that even the film makers don’t know why he is such a bad guy, the audience is given nothing with which to reconcile the events taking place. We are told that Tex is bad because that is his nature, which only works for faceless Evil Overlords in their towers, not men in business suits. To essentially tell the audience, “Laugh with us, ‘cause Tex being a bad dude just ‘because’ is a joke,” doesn’t work. Mainly because it has been done before (and better) in The Great Muppet Caper, when Kermit asks Steve Martin’s character, “Why are you doing this?” to which the villain replies charmingly, “Because I’m a villain!”.
Also, the city of Los Angeles would definitely not allow oil drilling efforts to take place directly on top of the oil deposit. The red tape, zoning issues, and most of all, the local public’s involvement in the inevitable protests would be impossible to surmount. At very least, Tex would have to introduce an angled system to allow a long drill and line to access the oil from outside city limits, thus leaving the Muppet Studio untouched. This would be his only option, and hardly feasible. Thus the entire conflict of the story is fundamentally flawed in a large, very noticeable way.
All of the above aside, the conflict fails to resolve properly. Tex is not defeated or even shown up by the Muppets and friends (they fail to get the ten million dollars by the time limit). There are several resolutions across the board, from Walter’s inclusion into the ranks of the Muppets, Kermit’s reconcile with Miss Piggy, Gary’s proposal to Mary, to the resurgence of the Muppet’s relevance in modern media. However, they do nothing to overcome Tex’s “evil”, there is no comeuppance, and there is no resolution to his involvement. Almost as an afterthought, the film maker’s have Gonzo hit the (somehow) defeated villain with a bowling ball on accident, loosening a laugh from him for the first time, after which Tex decides to give the Muppets back their studio. It’s shoddy writing, and a huge let down, trivializing the efforts of all the characters involved.
Many people might say that all of these facts are pointless when applied to a kid’s movie. That a movie like The Muppets isn’t intended to wrap one’s mind in layers of mystery and plot. It’s meant to enjoyed, simply and quickly. Well, it came close to accomplishing that goal. But since the Muppets are famous for entertaining all age groups with different levels of humor and quality writing, it’s an excuse that doesn’t hold up. With just a little tweaking of the antagonist in three key areas, it could have ended as a much better film. Hopefully future Muppet movies take a cue from their older predecessors and focus on a good story first, and gimmicky characters last.

My World's Map. By Your's Truly.

I made this after attending a panel on mapmaking by Isaac Stewart at LTUE. Thought it might be fun to post. If you haven't realized, it's also my background.

Writing Is Uncertainty.

DISCLAIMER: I am not half as depressed as this makes me sound. Just keep that in mind.

I've been thinking lately about how I compare to other writers out there. I can't help but feel like I'm somehow different, broken, wrong. I always hear authors talk about how they doubted themselves back when they were writing their first five novels, but learned to get past it for the manuscript's sake. Kinda like a paralyzed dude triumphantly standing up from his wheelchair at the end of an inspirational movie. But then they leave it at that.

Well, I'm sorry to say, I'm not satisfied with that. I feel like I need to know more. I need to know if their pain (wow that's dramatic) is anything like mine, if their doubt is as soul-consuming. Do they struggle to understand their own writing's worth, like me? I'd like to someday see one of the authors I respect write about their issues, to really see if I'm so different and destined for failure.

Who knows if I'll ever get that wish. I guess they have a reputation to maintain, and such things would hurt it. Well, I don't have a reputation, so for what it's worth, here's my little list of things that I struggle with. If anything resonates with you, or you feel the same way, let me know, please.

I have no idea if I can write worth a crap.

When I write, the sentences often make me cringe.

I often hate my own imagination.

There are times when I look back at my day's writing, and feel a pit form in my stomach; I know I'll have to throw it all away.

I don't know who my characters are. I just hope to god someone else will. We talk all the time about building a strong personality with flaws and quirks, but at the end of the day, it means nothing to my brain.

As far as my own plot goes, it's all over my head, no matter how much I outline. I fly by the seat of my pants, praying I'll end up somewhere safe.

The concept of pacing completely eludes me.

I have no idea if my book is even the slightest bit original.

I don't know if my potential readers will get even the smallest bit of excitement from my action scenes.

When I try to write emotions, I feel they come off as corny and contrived.

When I post about writing, I feel like everyone is laughing at me. "Look at that idiot, he thinks he's an author!"

I don't know a damn about making people laugh.

I will never be a part of the "published author" community.

I don't have what it takes to get an agent or editor to like my books.

No one will ever want to read what I write.

Only spambots visit my blog.

When I look at all the people around me selling books, I know I'll never be as good as them. There are thousands of people writing, right now. I have no chance.

I'm wasting my life, doing this whole writing thing.

Everyone will lie to me when they read my book, tell me it's good. They most likely never read all the way through it.

I often feel like my family, of all people, care less than the strangers.

It's easy to end this by telling all of you to not let these things get you down. To keep going, and all that. I wish I could tell myself the same, and believe it. I won't stop writing any time soon, but I shudder to think that it will always be this way. Am I ready for a life of uncertainty?

Sprucing up a character.

I'm doing this right now. Hopefully some of my ramblings will make sense, possibly even be helpful if you're having the same problems as me. As most of you know, I'm in the middle of a second version of my book The Sometimes Sword. One of the main things I wanted to do this time around was inject more personality into everyone. I feel like so far I've been doing well. Most every aspect is a hundred times better than the first version: plot, descriptions, character voice, action, creepiness, etc. I can do even better though. I'm about halfway through with 61k words complete, but before I go any further, I want to go through and spruce up my main character Astrid.

She's always been the weak link. I've always been so focused on making her likable and relate-able. As I've been reading other books lately, I've been struck by how directly related character personality is linked to their foibles. They walk hand in hand. Therefore, it stands to reason that if Astrid lacks the proper amount of flaws, she also lacks an equal amount of personality. So I'm taking her back to the drawing board, re-evaluating her, and adding in some crap. We'll see how it goes.