Friday, March 1, 2013

REVIEW: The Mariner by Ade Grant



RATING: 5/5

The Mariner is lost at sea – has forgotten everything about his life before waking up on the Neptune, an old ship that was used to transport slaves – with nothing for company but some devils, foul thoughts and self reflections; they are his own, but are horribly confusing to him, as he can’t remember where they come from or why he has them (or why they make him feel the way he does). Lust plagues his entire being and, disgusted, he fights to control his urges. He comes upon many people and places – all a part of this new, Shattered world – that, while not quite as lost as he is, face the extremely difficult task of piecing together what’s happening around them; through religion, philosophy, science, and superstition, they all have their own understanding of what’s happened to the world and how to get it back to the way it was. We follow the Mariner on his – sometimes monstrous, sometimes heroic, sometimes disgusting – journey to discover the truth.

I haven’t felt so many wonderfully conflicting emotions while reading a book in a long time. This story is the wildest of rides – fast paced, energetic, unafraid, relentless, exhilarating, disturbing, and smart. I absolutely loved it. The plot was magnificent and revealed its points in such a way that was always exciting, always changing, always moving forward into some new territory. There are so many interesting ideas thrown into it that not only kept me entertained, but intellectually interested in what was being said. The language flowed beautifully; never overly flashy or showy though never simplistic or shallow, it doesn’t call attention to itself but adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the storytelling.

While reading, I truly believed in this world the author has created. I believed in all of the characters. Every single person in The Mariner had depth; their actions were authentic, and the things they said were real and convincing. Each one stood out from the others. There were times when characters would do something – something that I knew they were capable of doing – that would literally infuriate me. Or make me love them, or care for them, or despise them, or pity them, or empathize with them. I genuinely felt things for each and every character and I was fully immersed and invested into who they were as people, and where they were going.

There is a lot more that I could say about this book. I was so completely disturbed at times, and at others times I was disgusted. At times I hated the Mariner character – wanted to end his wretched life myself – and at times I empathized with him greatly, wanted to protect him. It was a very difficult book to read at times, though the story was so engrossing I couldn’t stop. And when the end came around – though still some things were left deliberately without answers – I was completely fulfilled and left the story, in my opinion, a better person than when I started.

The Mariner will undoubtedly force your morals into submission but – if you’re able to ride it out – will reward you for your courage tenfold. It is definitely not for everyone, but is very much worth it if you give it a chance. It is a story of the search for truth and oneself; a story of broken philosophies, of sexuality, of life, of death, of knowledge, of love and hate, and of collective consciousness. Honestly, The Mariner is one of my new favorite books, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more from this author in the future.

The Mariner is available at Amazon for $0.99 (and it's worth much more than that in my opinion).


***This review can also be found on Goodreads and Amazon.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Retraction: A Short Film, and Other News



Retraction tells the story of a grieving father who discovers he's erased his daughter's existence from everyone's memory, including his wife's. He struggles to find what tore his family apart, and whether or not attempting to restore what he lost is worth the consequences.

This is a film project I'm currently involved with. Previously titled "Painted Red", the director and writer have been working on revisions to the script constantly over the past few weeks - polishing it as much as possible - and plan to begin principal photography next month. David, the director, is also currently finalizing the cast of the film as we speak.

In one of my first blog posts, I mentioned that I had written a script - called Know Your Demons - and that it may be picked up for production into a short film. Unfortunately, my script was not chosen. I felt very disappointed for a while - this seemed to be an incredible chance to see something I had actually spent a lot of time and effort writing come to life - and I felt rejected. Alas, I had to face reality, in hopes that - maybe someday - I may be able to make Know Your Demons happen. I was, and still am, very proud of it.

Anyway, instead of working on the production of my own script, I've been made the editor of Retraction, which I'm very much excited for. Since we have such a small crew (this being an indie short film and all), I'll be on set as 1st AC and I'll be doing a lot of data managing as well - making it easier for myself when I go to edit it all later. I'm really looking forward to all of the experience this will give me. We're currently working on raising funds with a Kickstarter (any donations would be very much appreciated! Incentives include signed posters, DVD copies, etc.) to help with production costs.

I've worked on a few of my own short films in the past, mostly made for classes at MICA - as well as other small film and video projects. In 2011, I wrote, directed, filmed, edited, and wrote the music for my first short film "Give & Take". Honestly, it was awful - I had absolutely no experience with writing a script, wrote this script in half a day (and made no revisions to it whatsoever) and used people who have never acted in their lives. It was pretty ridiculous, but I'm fairly proud of some of the performances I got out of my lead actor, some of the cinematography, and the ambitiousness of the project; it was for my first video class and was only supposed to be 3-5 minutes long. Give & Take was 15 minutes long and challenged me to direct 7 people in one night of shooting, as well as editing the entire film by myself for the first time.

My second short film, Never Forget Me, was also done in 2011 and was slightly higher quality. Once again - I wrote, directed, filmed, edited, and did the music for it. I used semi-experienced actors and even gave myself a cameo. The script, unfortunately, was still absolutely terrible - I still hadn't taken a screenwriting course or studied screenwriting at all - and was written in less than a week, with very few revisions. I then shot the whole thing with a much more professional camera, professional lighting, professional sound equipment, a tripod, a dolly, etc. over the course of 4 days (3 in a row then an additional day later on). The look of this film was much better than Give & Take, but still suffered from my lack of experience in all aspects of filmmaking. I did enjoy the hell out of making it though - I even dabbled in some After Effects stuff (I made a building blow up) which was pretty cool (and very frustrating at times). The final product ended up being about 25 minutes long.

Sometime very soon I plan on putting together a demo reel of the things I've worked on and will be posting it under the "Film" section of this website ASAP. I've learned a LOT since those two short films - about script writing, cinematography, editing, etc - and am excited to use what I've learned on this project and future projects. I've been reading books like Making Movies by Sidney Lumet, On Directing Film by David Mamet, and The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje to get some more insight into the process.

Oh yeah, I'll also be posting an excerpt from Know Your Demons under the "Films" section soon. Keep a look out.

Thanks for reading and again, please check out and consider donating to Retraction's Kickstarter!

-Chris

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

REVIEW: Dark Passage by Griffin Hayes




RATING: 3.8/5


Last night I had a nightmare in which I was chased by several freakish creatures. My legs wouldn’t allow me to run away – they felt like pillow cases stuffed to the top with wet cement. The monster in my dream was not the same as the one from Dark Passage by Griffin Hayes, but I awoke in the morning immediately thinking to myself, “I’m sure as hell glad I’m not Tyson Barrett.” Anyone who has read Hayes’s novel could easily understand why.

Tyson – our sleep deprived insomniac hero with a deeply unsettling childhood (of which we get a glimpse at the beginning) – attempts to combat his restlessness and stress by testing a new drug called Noxil which seems (and quickly becomes) too good to be true. Tyson must overcome his anxieties and his nightmares, face the inevitable end of his failing marriage, and fight a monster he’s been afraid of his entire life. It’s quite a lot to handle for one man, and it shows. Meanwhile, we follow the story of the young Dr. Elias Hunter who has just begun work at the Sunnybrook Asylum and, more specifically, on the eighth floor of said asylum – the floor that houses Tyson’s mother, Brenda, who has fallen into a coma. Hunter works to solve the mystery surrounding Brenda that would, and at some point could, "rock" Tyson’s world.

This was a fast-paced, easy-to-read, fun and creepy story that I definitely enjoyed and recommend (though I have a few critiques). I found the premise to be very compelling and interesting, but found the characters were slightly lacking. A lot of this had to do with dialogue – there seemed to be a lot of exposition going on, which I felt could’ve been better handled if it were done through action, or something internal, rather than spoken by a character. The dialogue just seemed slightly unrealistic. I also had a hard time believing some of the character’s motivations, particularly those of the secondary characters and even our main character, Tyson, at times. I found Dr. Hunter to have the best characterization – his motivations and reasonings were shown through action and internal dialogue based in (sometimes twisted) emotional feelings, as opposed through exposition, which I really enjoyed. I also found the “monster” of the story itself to be slightly silly (for a lack of a better word) – though I enjoyed the characterization of the monster; its connections to Tyson’s past and the references to houseflies and the smell of pine trees was really nice.

All in all, this was a good read and I’d recommend it to fans of paranormal horror. It’s got a good amount of gore and grossness to it; not overdone by any means, though it's definitely there, and there quite often. The twist at the end was really nice and made me reflect back on everything I had read so far with amazement; there were so many telling things that I hadn’t noticed (until the twist was revealed), which made me like the book even more. I enjoyed Hayes’s writing style and will definitely be on the lookout for more from him in the future.

Dark Passage is available on Amazon for $3.95.


***This review can also be found on Goodreads and Amazon.

Monday, February 11, 2013

REVIEW: Black House by Stephen King & Peter Straub



RATING: 4.8/5



Jack Sawyer – the loveable young hero from Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman – is all grown up. Ultimately the story of Black House, however, is not all about Jack which, in my opinion, makes this a much more successful piece of storytelling (though I’m sure most fans of The Talisman will disagree).

We find ourselves in the middle of a murder case in the small town of French Landing, Wisconsin; a murderer – affectionately labeled “The Fisherman” by scummy news reporter Wendell Green – is killing and eating children and writing nasty letters to their parents. Jack “Hollywood” Sawyer, now a retired coppiceman, is being swayed to join the case by his friends Henry – a blind radio show host with multiple eccentric personalities – and Dale, the town’s chief of police. We see this story unfold from multiple perspectives; we are, at times, with Jack, Henry, Dale, or Fred Marshall – a loving and caring father with a boy named Tyler (you might be able to guess what happens to him in the story) whom we also accompany from time to time, Judy Marshall – Tyler’s seemingly psychotic mother, Wendell Green, some of The Fisherman’s victim’s parents, the murderer himself, a bird named Gorg, and others.

That last one – Gorg the bird – is perhaps the most jarring, the one that might turn most people off from this book (at least those familiar with the authors’ other work and with The Talisman). The way in which this story is told is quite strange at times; King and Straub constantly break the fourth wall by referring to us as an audience (and our view of what’s happening in the story) directly. We fly, with the authors, high above French Landing as Gorg, observing bits and pieces of town life and the people there going about their daily lives. When we aren’t following Gorg, we are being shown (as if through some magical two-way mirror) the story playing out in its entirety right before us. The authors use this to their advantage several times later in the story to build suspense and tension; they show us something unknown to the character(s) we’re watching – something only we as an audience can see – and force us to witness it with our eyes wide open, unable to interfere or do anything to stop it. They are letting us in on the joke, one might say.

I thoroughly enjoy this. Most people won’t, but I do. I found it hard to follow at first, but I really got into it after a bit. The way it’s written, you can feel the banter between King and Straub oozing out of the pages– the interplay of styles and ways of describing things is very fun to read and, since we’re already watching the story from behind the fourth wall (which is now a two-way mirror, of course), adds to the telling of the story as a whole. We are at the authors’ mercy, and they love it.

This book is not for everyone. Not for every Stephen King or Peter Straub fan, nor for every Talisman fan. I like that this book is not just about Jack Sawyer. It’s not a quest book like its predecessor.  I love that it’s a study of a small town trapped in the middle of a crisis – one that very few have the privilege (or burden) of knowing is a part of a much more severe situation (yes, this book is basically a branch off of King’s Dark Tower series). I love how each and every character is fleshed out; by the end, I felt very strong emotions (good and bad) for every single one of them. They all have depth and, in watching them the way we did, we learn a great deal about who they are as people. There is, however, a very substantial amount of description; sometimes it can be tedious, other times thoroughly enjoyable. The way the story’s told is weird. It’s hard to get into initially. But it grabs you and makes you care about what you’re reading (or seeing, if you prefer, through that mirror).

This book is admittedly not for everyone, but I loved it.



***This review can also be found on Goodreads and Amazon.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

10,000 Words


Last night I finally reached the first big milestone in writing my novel, REAPERS. I've written 10,000 words. Actually, I kept going and stopped at a little over 11,000 words.

I've found that I'm actually a very slow writer; I can already tell I'll have finished my last semester of college, graduated, moved somewhere far away, and started on my first real full-time job before I'm even finished with the first draft of this book, which I started almost two weeks ago. I've also found, as time goes on, that I mind my speed (or lack thereof) less and less. I was hoping to release this book in the summer, but now I have no idea when it will be finished. This is fine; if I rush myself, I'll screw it up. I want my characters to be perfect, my structure to be perfect, my language to be perfect, and my plot to be perfect (at least as perfect as all this can be), because I love my ideas and I love my characters and I love my story. They all deserve my full respect and, to show that they have it, I must pace myself and make them the best they can be.

I'm currently trying to to write my story out in the simplest language as I possibly can. I've been breaking each part up into sections - whether or not this will be the final form of the book is yet to be seen - and trying to write one section a day. I generally think about several sections at a time, take notes on them throughout a day, then write those sections I made notes on over the next few days. I take notes on plot points, conflicts, the point of these sections within the story, and even notes on fleshing out characters. Whenever I introduce a new character, I make sure I really know that character before I start writing about them.

I have no idea how long this book might be. Right now, at 11,000 words and based on where I am in the story, I'd guess that this draft could be up to 100,000 words. This is pretty intimidating to me, but I'm going to keep at it; I'm getting faster, more quick-witted, and with practice will hopefully crank this out at a nore comfortable pace. Whenever I finish this first draft, I plan to do "chunk revising" which I believe will best suit me.

My questions for any other writers are - Do you have any suggestions for someone who's a little slow when writing? How do you handle a first draft? What do you do to revise your first draft?

Thanks for reading!

-Chris

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

I Got My New Kindle!



Hello, everybody!

So, last week I bought this used Kindle Keyboard on eBay for a really decent price, in order to start checking out some of the ebooks (indie and not indie) that've caught my eye on Amazon! I'm really looking to support my fellow writers and hoping to become a part of this large community of people who have had their ebooks published, while I currently work on my first novel, REAPERS.


Currently I'm reading a book called Black House by Stephen King & Peter Straub. I love everything Stephen King does, and this book has been sitting on my shelf unread for quite some time (I got it as a gift a long while ago) so I decided to read it while I waited for my Kindle. I'm about 2/3 of the way through it, and plan to post a review for it when I'm done.

I thought I'd also share the list of ebooks that I have planned to read so far, most likely in this order:


  1. Dark Passage by Griffin Hayes
  2. The Mariner by Ade Grant
  3. The Guardian of Threshold by A.A. Volts
  4. Grace Lost by M. Lauryl Lewis
  5. Riser by Becca C. Smith
  6. World of Shell and Bone by Adriana Ryan
  7. In the Tall Grass by Stephen King & Joe Hill
  8. God Attacks! by J.R. Keifer
  9. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
  10. What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

I think ten is a good start for now. I believe some toward the bottom have yet to actually be released and, if by the time I get to them they're still not released, I'll read something else and come back to them.

I will be posting reviews for every one of these books - and all other books I might read - as soon as I finish each one. The reviews for each book, while being posted on this blog, will also be posted on the books' Amazon and Goodreads pages. 


My question for anyone that may read this list - based on what you might be able to tell I enjoy (horror, fantasy, suspense, mystery, thriller), do you have any suggestions for authors, or specific books, that you think I should check out? I'd greatly appreciate any input.

Thanks for reading!

-Chris

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Little More About Me


Hello, world!

I thought I'd begin my life on this blog by saying a little more about myself, for anyone who cares to know. I am 21-years-old, from Laurel, MD, and am currently living in Baltimore county. I have one semester left studying for a BFA in Photography, Video & Film Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. I've wanted to be a writer since age three - after reading small books and being read lots of books by my Mom - but, after taking a Photography class in High School, fell in love with Photography and pursued that when applying for college in 2009. Writing has, since then, been on the back burner for me (though I have written a few short stories, a few scripts, some poetry, and several essays throughout my college career). I've had several ideas for novels over the past several years, which I've been developing in my mind but haven't had time to write or outline or actualize in any way.

This past year I discovered the Amazon e-book publishing program, which has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me. I began to outline some of these ideas I've kept locked in my mind. One story in particular stood out to me; an idea I had been developing for almost 6 years. This idea was my baby - my favorite thing I had come up with so far - and it still is.

I am currently writing a novel titled "REAPERS", which is actually a prequel to that original idea. I hope to have it published sometime this summer. I am VERY excited about both novels; I truly believe this prequel will add new depth to that original story idea. I may not write or release the original story any time soon after REAPERS is published, though. I want it to be as perfectly written as it possibly can be. This means I must develop my skills as a writer to a higher level than they currently are. It is my baby, after all; it deserves the best.

I have also recently written a short, 17-page script titled "KNOW YOUR DEMONS", which is currently being considered for production and could be made into a short film. I'll find out next week whether or not its been accepted and, if it is, I'll be posting plenty of production photos and stories to Twitter (@inadreamscape) and this blog for people to follow.

Thank you for reading, and please stay tuned for more!

-Chris