Author Intro – Mitchell Tierney

So we thought it was time you got to know us writers. This week we start with our most prolific blogger Mitchell.

ImageName: Mitchell Tierney

Age: 34

Books published: Everdark Realms Book I

Books coming soon: Everdark Realms Book II, Book III. Heather Cassidy and the Magnificent Mr Harlow, The Devil Lives Beyond the Wall.

Top three authors: Stephen King, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (Joseph Delaney equal for third place)

Favourite colour: red

Favourite animal: Cats or Three Toed Sloths

Favourite quote: ‘We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.’ Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Top three movies (or movie series): Fight Club, Shawshank Redemption and Star Wars

Favourite reading genre: Weird fiction, non-fiction,fantasy

Favourite TV show: Sons of Anarchy, Amazing Race, Breaking Bad

If you could be any fictional character who would it be: Tyler Durden

Describe yourself in 30 words or less: Addicted to writing. Motivation to succeed in the publishing world. Driven to become a better writer. Always learning and setting myself goals. I have a red beard and glasses.

Do you have a burning question for Mitchell? Reply here or visit us at facebook or twitter @ouroborusbooks

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Published in: on January 18, 2014 at 12:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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Book vs Movie (TV edition) Under the Dome by Stephen King

Book vs Movie (TV edition)

Under the Dome by Stephen King

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Mostly spoiler free

Long time no see readers!  I thought I’d get us back in the swing of things by doing a book vs movie blog for you all of something that has been chewing away at my brain for the past five months. Now as some of you will know I am a big Stephen King fan. I’ve read almost every book and seen almost all the movies/tv series/mini series that have come from this mega writer and liked most of them. So when I heard they were going to be making his recent epic Under the Dome into a tv series I was rather excited by the news. It was one of the few books that I hadn’t got around to reading and therefore I set off reading as fast as I could. I demolished the 896 pages in a week the day before the tv show began.

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I was excited this was definitely the type of King writing that I loved – plots upon plots with a massive intertwining of characters, a veritable cast of hundreds, mixed with real life drama in a totally unreal situation. This will be perfect for tv! I said to myself with glee. It was a big enough book to easily get four or five seasons out of it and enough cliff hangers to make for awesome season closers.

I was so wrong. Now I know the King endorsed the series and approved the changes that were made. Don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with minor changes to translate to film media – it’s inevitable. Hey I loved The Lord of the Rings movies and they had MANY changes made for filming purposes (except for the exclusion of Tom Bombadil *shakes fist at Peter Jackson*) but the show that I turned on in June was not Under the Dome. Sure there was a dome (with very few characteristics shared) and the names of characters still popped up but even the main character, Barbie, who in the book is the ‘every man’ character that even though you don’t love him, you have to like him for trying his hardest, gets turned into a hit man who is a complete douche (no this is not a spoiler as its revealed in the first scene). There no one to love in the show and not even many characters left to like. The town select man Jim Rennie is a fluffy kitten in the show (albeit one with claws) than the total megalomaniac he is in the book.

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I fought it out for 9 episodes before giving up in exasperation. There was no trace of the book left to see. Every element that made it great was ripped out from under it.

I thought I’d ask a friend who hadn’t read it what they thought and they were just bored. The characters were bland to them and most of it made little sense (and not in a Lost style what the hell is going on because this is a mystery way) with none of the characters being believable.

 So if you want my opinion read the book. If you must watch the tv show, watch it first.

Book 8/10

Tv show 2/10

~Sabrina RG Raven

The Apprehensive Critic

ImageIt’s really hard for me to hate something if everyone else thinks it’s amazing. I feel like I might not be ‘getting’ it, or that I don’t understand it. For example, I had ordered a new graphic novel that had been given 5 out of 5 stars in almost every review it had. The write ups about it had been extremely positive and it appeared in all the horror website lists and so forth. On top of that, it was written and drawn by someone that I’ve admired for a long time.

When it arrived I flipped through it, eager to look at the art and contents inside. It seemed ok. Just a horror story with some splash art. Reading the first few pages, I got confused. It was as if it started in the middle somewhere. I had no idea why the character was where he was, why they were buying this house or why their dog suddenly ran off. The story didn’t progress steadily, like I would have hoped. Instead it staggered into the basement and became a mash of strange flashbacks that never explained enough to fully grasp a hold of what the story was about. The artist/writer tried to give you someone to hate, to give you the person responsible for the horror that you saw, but you never saw him in that light because he was in it for two, maybe three pages. It missed the mark by a very long shot. Also, every panel was splash art, up-close shot of faces and over layered with computer effects. The whole book seemed like it was missing something form the story, and the art was totally over done.

This happens a lot with movies too. I wanted to love Dark Knight Rises, I really did. But it just didn’t hit the mark for me. It was pretentious, over written and skipped a few key elements that needed to be explained a little better. A few people I know also didn’t like it, but then there are those who loved it and I often wonder if they are afraid to hate it, or to say so. I remember seeing Phantom Menace on opening night and walking out thinking ‘did I like that? Am I allowed to say I didn’t.’ When people asked me next day, I said it was great, but I knew perfectly well I didn’t think that. It was heresy to say you didn’t like a Star Wars movie, especially one we waited so long to see.

I’ve been reading the DC comics New 52 run of Batman. Written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Gapullo. Scott Snyder created, amongst others, American Vampire, which was awesome. There was even a short run where he wrote it with Stephen King. Currently Snyder is the big name in the comic writing field. I’d admit it, his writing is easy to read and the story chugs along nicely. Every twist and turn Imageseems to be well thought out and planned a long time in advance, which is what I like from writers. I believe that makes you a good writer. But saying this, issue 11 of Batman, which rounded off the year long story arc and had the big reveal was hugely disappointing. The entire run up to this point had revolved around an ‘underground’ group called the Court of Owls. For a start, I thought was pretty cool having ‘Owl’ vs ‘Bat’, but however, if you google a real bats enemy, you’ll find its main predator is the owl (also the hawk and snakes). So, it kind of left my initial impression in shreds as I felt that if I could find this out in three seconds, there wasn’t much pre-thought into the new Batman villain. Maybe not though? So, back to my point, I’ve picked up issue 11, and the big reveal is about to happen, who is this mysterious Talon that has been kicking Batman’s ass the whole year, turns out ***SPOILERS*** its someone who claims to be Batman’s brother. I wanted to slam the comic closed and throw it out onto the road for the vultures. For me, and this may be because I write a lot and read a lot, this was a stitch up. I felt robbed. This, in my opinion, was an easy go-to. This was the first exit door and was very obvious. But, can I tweet Scott Snyder and tell him? Nope. Too many people praise him and tell him he’s the new king of comic writing. I’m  guessing I’m not the only one who felt robbed of a good twist, but we are few and far between.

Since I’d read issue 11, I’m really not that keen on Scott Snyder’s work. I’ve looked him up on Goodreads and he’s given himself 5 out of 5 stars for every comic he’s ever written. To me that’s a sign of an egomaniac. However, I gave my book (Everdark Realms) 5 out of 5 also, but 80,000 people aren’t reading that every month. I find it hard to be a critic at times in fear of being wrong, even though an opinion can’t be wrong, it does feel that way. If I swap positions and someone is criticizing my work, I get defensive and Imagequite attacking. It’s part of being creative, it makes you vulnerable and overprotective. But saying that, if you’re in the spotlight, like Snyder, maybe negative feedback is what you need from time to time.

Mitchell Tierney

When Horror Was King

I was going to base this blog on the dwindling horror genre, but because my horror book knowledge is fairly limited, I had to do a little more research before I started talking about it. I knew horror had branched out into sub-genres, but what direction was I supposed to head? If horror literature is almost extinct, how could I possibly write about it? But little did I know, I had just answer my own question.

For research, I went to Dymocks book store in Brisbane city. I had been up there a few times before but couldn’t remember what their horror section looked like. Coming up the escalator I imagined isles of horror. As I rounded the boxes upon boxes of Hunger Games books and wondered through the sci-fi section, which was a full isle, I got to the horror section and couldn’t quite believe what I saw. It was maybe one metre long,  with only four shelves. I thought, ‘no, this can’t be all of it,’ so I walked around the isle to the other side into the fantasy section. That one, small, section was all the horror they had. What happened to the horror section? I went back around and stared at the books, just to see what they had. One and a half shelves were Stephen King, no surprise. Then it went to Dean Koontz, for one whole shelf. More than half their allocated horror space was dedicated to just two authors! The next half was Lovecraft anthologies and short stores. So that left one shelf, one meter long, for all other horror books. I couldn’t believe my eyeballs. I was sure the horror section was bigger when I was a kid and the sci-fi section was smaller. I kneeled down to look at what this last shelf had to offer, as it was the bottom shelf and if you were standing close to the books, you wouldn’t be able to see it at all. They had a few zombie books, one Walking Dead book and a few other horror titles that looked and sounded awful. Is this what horror had become?

Even the second hand book store I used to go to had a small horror section way at the back near the birdcage. This was where the owner used to sit and have his soup for lunch. Even then, that section was dominated by King and Koontz. Way at the front of the store was an equal sized section dedicated to twilight. I was mortified and disgusted, but also motivated.  I went home with the thought, ‘that’s it! I’m bringing horror back!’ For a few years now I’ve wanted to write a strict, down the line, horror book. A book that can’t be confused with paranormal, thriller or fantasy. Back to the root of all evil. I don’t have the time right now to complete a horror book, but I started it anyway, trying to make myself feel better. It’s called Sore Bones and I had made a mental list of all the things I wanted to have in it – a haunted house, a haunted lake with a dark past, creepy locals and the main characters should, at least once, run for their lives with an ending so horrific that it would make you wonder why you stuck with it all the way to the end when you should have slammed it shut and hid it in the bottom of your clothes hamper.

A couple of nights later I happened to be walking past a Blockbuster video and peered in. Their horror section is massive, almost equal to, if not a bit bigger, than comedy. They had all the titles there, all the classics, the sequels and prequels and remakes. The romance section, on the other hand, was small. So, I thought, nodding my head, horror hasn’t gone away, it’s just transferred to movies. Look at Saw, or Scream for example, these might make alright books, but they’re not going to win any awards or stand out as best sellers. But as movies, they clean up. Scream cost 15 million to make and grossed over 161 million. It did have several sequels to follow, which were below average, but they still made a ton of money. Back in 1996 when Scream was made, the only popular romantic movie out were Jane Eyre, and that grossed 5 million. You also had Tin Cup and Bed of Roses, which don’t score very high on IMDB and didn’t make that much money. There really wasn’t much competition and there certainly wasn’t any supernatural fantasy heart throbs yet.

Horror movies, I believe, will be forever strong in the cinema. But the more sequels they make, and the dumber and more embarrassing it gets, the worse it gets for the horror book reputation. People may assume that if you’re a horror movie fan, your only watching it for the blood and guts. I admit, if there is a scene that is practically well done that involves something horrific happening, then I do appreciate good amounts of blood and guts, but books have a different appeal. It’s much harder to make a reader jump when they’re reading a book. You can’t simply film a scare scene where something jumps out, the writer has a lot more ground work to cover.

It’s been a few weeks now since I had that burst of motivation to write Sore Bones and nothing more has been written. What I have found out, or concluded, is that horror is hiding in other genres. A lot of kids books now days are horror, just toned down for their age group. Clive Barker, who wasn’t even in the horror section, but in fantasy, is mostly horror. Harry Potter and Hunger Games have hints of horror. So maybe it isn’t disappearing, but has broken up and merged with other genres. I still pray to the writing gods that horror will come back and be massive again because once King and Koontz are gone, we’ll have a legacy, but nothing new.

Mitchell Tierney

Take a Number and Get in Line

As I was coming up to the end of one book, I was thinking – which book will I write next? And did I actually have one to write? I do, in fact. I have many on the list to write, but it doesn’t work like that. If I count all the books that have some sort of story line, and all the books that have characters and that I’ve started because I was excited and stopped because it wasn’t time, I might have around four or five started books.

I can’t write a book on one idea, I need a few to meld together, and I can’t write a book with only one or two characters, I need a few to get started. This is where most of my books are at. I also can’t get started on writing a new book until it has a name. Weird as that sounds, it’s just something I have to wait for. The next book I was going to write was going to be called The Guardians of Unhow. I was a little sick of writing YA books where the characters travel into a different ‘worlds’ and have to get back. I had just finished one and have another yet to write, so I wanted to stay away from that. Unhow had some characters, a basic plot that could be fleshed out later but not a lot of magnetism that was drawing me to it. Next was a book that didn’t have a name. It was an idea I had a few years ago where kids band together to rid their street of witches. First it was going to be vampires, but as we all are, I’m over vampires for now. I had the characters, a basic setting and story line and it was ready to go, but I couldn’t come up with a cool name for it. I juggled some ideas around, but nothing sounded cool and would stick, so that got pushed to the side. I had started a book which had an awful, ‘for now,’ title of The Travelling Performers. I had decided that its story line and characters would be morphed with Unhow to create one book. So there were about three books floating around and I’m trying to jam them all together in one pot to have enough oomph to start writing. I think I may have been in panic mode.

So I left it alone. I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t have the next book lined up. I’d never taken an intentional week off from writing, unless I was away somewhere and couldn’t get to my computer, or moving, or someone was visiting. It’s like reading, I know what book I’m going to read next, if I have a few, and I do, I’ll start picking one about a week before I finish reading my current one. Should I read JG Bollards Concrete Island? Should I read the new Pratchett or King? What about the Spooks book? But then again, there is that autobiography by Zak Bagans? So many options. I have this mindset where I feel like I have to choose a book I can read fast, so I can get to other books. Which is the same way I’m currently thinking about writing. I have an epic book I know I have to write and it’ll take up a lot of time and energy, and I want it to be right, so I’ll just wait. For what exactly, I don’t know. I guess I’m waiting for the right time, if that exists at all. I had just come off the back of writing Monster Detention, which was about a year, maybe more and about 500 pages long, so I wasn’t ready to write another mammoth book. My next book I gave a 120 page limit, even though I knew this would be too short if it ever went to publication, but I could add to it later. I finished that and started on Everdark Realms Aquillians book II, which has an even shorter page limit. But even though I haven’t written an epic book in a while, I feel like I couldn’t commit to another one just now, so that leaves The Lost Book of the Blood Baron out for the time being.

Nothing was tapping me on the shoulder, like The Magnificent Mr. Harlow, nothing had excited me and I was starting to think maybe I had written too much in the last two years? I did two NaNoWriMo’s and a few other books and the Everdark books. I had written quite a few blogs and a few short stories – maybe my tank was finally running on low. Then this happened…

I was sitting at work, doing a very long data-entry task when two words appeared like a vision in front of my eyes – Elephant Stone. I must have read a word quickly, or got something jumbled up, but it appeared for just a brief moment. I could see its font, the white background and the general look of the book, then the flood gates opened. For nearly three days I wrote notes for this book. Each day I would type them up in the rough draft. I hadn’t been this excited to write something new for a while. It had all the good pieces from the other books that were already established but had nowhere to go.

Although, sometimes I feel like I’m writing for nothing because I spend my time writing and not concentrating on getting my finished manuscripts out there. I think, what’s the point of having ten books on the computer that no one will read? I always hope that each book is slightly better than the one before, in writing, grammar and style, that I grow as a writer one page at a time. But then I think, what if my big break does come and a publisher wants to see my stuff? Or if they ask me what types of books I have, I’ll have a range for them to choose from. I did think once, what if I stop writing? Just lose interest and take up another hobby? I don’t think I could do that now, looking through my files and files of books and stories, I’ve come too far and dug too deep to get out.

Mitchell Tierney

Postmodernism be thy name

I remember studying postmodernism in university and the upmost hatred I had at the idea that there is no such thing as a new idea. But when examined this truth becomes self-evident. There is no such thing as new ideas, merely a new way of looking at or telling the same stories over and over again.

It can be applied to any type of philosophy and industry but one where we see it prevalently is in literature (and film – however this is not a film blog). It is more than a matter of genres these days when we talk about the subject of books. Think about how often you describe a book by using other books as an example.

As much as vampires would be a perfect example of this, I know we seem to harp on about a certain series rather frequently so I’ll choose another course of action.  I have recently finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, as I didn’t want the upcoming movie spoil the imagery I would create for myself first.

The Hunger Games, for those who haven’t read it or seen the previews for the movie is a post apocalyptical, adventure, action, political and emotional thriller focusing on the life of Katniss Everdeen. The story is based around the event of the title, the Hunger Games where 2 children from each district are sent into an arena to battle to the death, the winner being given a life time of so-called luxury on winning. I won’t go into any more detail so I don’t spoil the story for those who are planning on reading it and/or seeing the movies (unless they totally balls them up and only the first one gets made), but when asked what it was about, the first thing that popped in my mind was it was like a cross between Battle Royale and The Long Walk.

Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル Batoru Rowaiaru)is a 1999 Japanese novel written by Koushun Takami, later made into a movie of the same name by Kinji Fukasaku in 2000. Although I haven’t read the book yet, the movie is about a group of school children pitted against each other on an island in a battle of life and death, the winner will be the only one allowed to go free. And although the situation is vaguely similar in the child vs. child battle to the death there is no similarity in characters and story.

The Long Walk is a short story by Stephen King under his pseudonym Richard Bachman. Again child vs. child who battle it out on, as the title suggests, a long walk. Anyone slowing below 4 miles an hour gets 3 warnings, and is then shot dead by the military that run the walk. The winner will get a life of luxury at the end. Although a less aggressive and more psychological version of the theme it still rings true.

If we look further this idea appears again and again. An earlier example is that of The Most Dangerous Game, a short story by Richard Connell, later adapted to film in 1932. A big game hunter ends up stranded on an island with an eccentric man who claims he hunts the most dangerous game. This is when the hunter becomes the hunted as he realises the man hunts humans on his island.

I’m sure there are many more examples of this story throughout literature and history as well, and this is but one example of postmodernism. Think of your favourite book; now think about how you would describe it to someone. Does the description liken it to another book or a film perhaps?

Postmodernism is a bitch but don’t let it discourage you. Sure no ideas are new and maybe even the way you look at it or approach it may have been done but people keep on reading the same stories over and over by different writers in different covers, and will continue doing so, because everyone tells a story slightly different to the next person. And it is the familiarity of theme combined with the spark of imagination needed to find the way to tell it that keeps us opening books and watching films etc etc even if we have seen them dressed in a different cover many times before.

 

~ Sabrina R G Raven

Reinvention Be Thy Name

Many genres have had a reinvention, and it normally only takes one person to hack a new path through the jungle for the rest to follow. Take for example Danny Boyle’s film 28 Days Later,’ I would say he reinvented zombies. These zombies run fast, real fast. They never did that before. With George Romero’s zombies, they were always shuffling, moaning, and stumbling. But these zombies, they sprint like Olympic athletes. Boyle’s zombie flick spawned a whole new generation of zombie movies. It breathed new life into an otherwise dead genre (pun intended). Although, if I went to see a Romero zombie movie and they ran fast, I would be disappointed. Often you need the old as well as the new.

Sometimes the reinvention of a genre goes horribly wrong, take Twilight. Vampires were already cool and not many people changed them. You had Interview with a Vampire and Dracula, all still very decadent and blood thirsty, it’s how vampires had been and how they should have stayed. Look at Fright Night or ‘Salem’s Lot, they can walk among us almost undetected but still pack a punch when it come to sucking blood. Twilight vampires do not. Even Robert DeNiro as Frankenstein had its merits and the new Wolf Man movie wasn’t so bad, but did these movies make as much as Twilight? No. They never branched out from the cliché, they never challenged what had already been paved in stone. Instead of a reinvention, in was a reimagining, and that’s not what I want. Change something that has been done to death and show me, if it sucks, well ok, at least you gave it a go and came up with something new from something old. But if it works, then that particular thing will never be the same again. I suspect with the new sparkly vamps there will be a backlash and we’ll start seeing movies with hardcore vampires again. But there will always be that scar across the Vampire genre now.

Typically, I don’t like fantasy. Not the dungeons and dragons, elves and swords fantasy. For me, it’s just old and dated and only really appeals to hardcore nerds. Now, I know I may have offended some of you by saying that, but hear me out.

When someone told me about Game of Thrones, I was hesitant. I wasn’t into political fantasy with the occasional battle scene and with boring old men with long robes and beards, clasping tomes and dribbling. We (my girlfriend and I) ended up giving it a go, and couldn’t stop watching it. I remember thinking that I must have been under a rock for the last few years and not noticed that Fantasy could be kick ass. I mean, I’ve read Lord of the Rings and I even had that old board game Hero Quest, but that was a long time ago and I haven’t liked Fantasy since, but this was different somehow. I really loved the characters, they were unique and the story lines between the Kings and their rule was intriguing. Some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, ‘Jeez, this sort of Fantasy has been out for a long time.’ But I’ve never seen it. I avoided the whole Fantasy isle at the book shop because I just thought it was all relatively the same. I’ve now got three of the Song of Ice and Fire books and plan on reading them later in the year, plus I’ve pre-ordered the graphic novel to read and I also want the sword with the white wolves head on it for my wall.

Tolkien may not have invented many of the species or races he wrote about, but he invented the way we imagine them. As an example, elves are a certain way because that’s how Tolkien wrote about them. Then came the hundreds of copycat books where the Elves and Dwarfs are all the same. Terry Pratchett took this and held a mirror up to them, making a joke out of what they had become, or what was expected of them as ‘Elves’ or ‘Dwarf’s’. JK Rowling then took magic to a new era. I never really thought about the wand before, the last time I checked it was used by lame party magicians to pull rabbits out of their hats. But after watching/reading Harry Potter, I wanted to collect them and know more about them. I liked the way they were made and how they were used.

I’m down for reinvention. I say let’s move forward so things can evolve. Eventually it will come full circle, but we have to do that loop before we can go back to the ‘old school’ versions of things. These versions are what we fell in love with, and we will again, after tasting a few different flavours. If you can write about, for example, ‘Giants’ or ‘Imps’ in a new way, and make them unique, then I say your progressing the fantasy field and giving it that nudge that it needs. Sometimes a push is what’s needed to make something move, but all in all, I only want to read something new and interesting, but kept real. Good luck.

Mitchell Tierney

The Baseball Theory

I should have called this blog the Onion theory, but it didn’t have the same ring to it. There’s a band called Will Haven who I used to listen to who had a song called Baseball Theory about how a baseball has many layers, and as you unravel it, there are different types of fillings. I believe the singer was talking about his relationship, but I’m here to talk about books and writing.

I’ve struggled with being able to write to a certain level. I don’t want to be on the same level as the thousand other writers out there trying to make it in the publishing world. I want to be deeper, or higher, or whatever the analogy would be. I want someone to read my work and know I’ve practised, put effort into honing my skills and that my ideas are unique and my characters are real and might actually be your neighbours or friends. I used to call these layers 2D and 3D, (this is a little insight to how my brain works when writing and it might sound crazy, but I can’t help it). If I write a character that is bland, with no discernable features and has no background and my story is lacklustre, I think to myself ‘that was too 2D.’ I need it to be more 3D. I need it to have layers, sides, depth and be realistic. It’s not enough to make a ‘father’ an alcoholic, or a ‘mother’ overbearing. It’s too clichéd and predictable. In my NaNo (National Novel Writers Month) I made the daughter deaf. She’s in one scene that goes for about two sentences, but I was able to make her more 3D. I wanted to add a character that was a late teen goth, but dreaded the thought of what stereotypical template I would write about a teen goth, so I tried really hard to try and unravel her ‘baseball.’ I didn’t want her to have black eyeliner or fingerless gloves or listen to Marilyn Manson. She writes a weekly blog, listens to Norwegian black metal and I made her talk about a boy she dated who was severely into the Occult and that he got a little too close to the supernatural and had disappeared.

I don’t want to overdo it and make every single character have a rich and meaningful/heartbreaking back story. Sometimes you can add a few layers by indicating things like smoking when they’re stressed, looking at junkies and being disgusted because their sister/brother died of an overdose. You don’t need to go in deep and reveal layer after layer, two or three is more than enough. Often, and I’m guilty of this too, I’m read entire books where the main character hasn’t the slightest depth at all. This happens in fantasy books often because the writer is too distracted with cool secondary characters and environments.  Take X-Men for example, who is the coolest, most badass x-men? Wolverine. Then who? Beast, Gambit, Jean Grey? Now look at the leader, Cyclops? All leaders are straight forward, square jawed with a simple power who has no flaws and are more annoying then enjoyable. This also happens with Images Cyberforce, Ripclaw was cool, Ballistic was cool and their leader, Stryker? Who cares? He has three arms on one side and a long blonde pony tail. Wolverine had a back story a mile long, he had several different comics going at the same time, but did they ever release a Cyclops comic? Nope. And if he did, would anyone have bought it?

When it came to team dynamics, there was always that formula of having one really, really large guy, example, (the Thing in Fantastic Four, Beast, Maul from WildC.A.T.s). The cool offsider  (Human Torch, Grifter), the slim and sexy female (Storm, Invisible Woman, Zealot). I say break this mould because it’s becoming tiresome and predictable, it stays two dimensional. I understand in the comic realm if you mirror something successful, you may get readers to come to your side for a carbon copy and then they’ll have two comics to read a month, instead of one.

Anyway, I’m getting off the point. Some characters always surprise me, and it’s always unintentional. I’ll write a side character needed for one chapter and I’ll like them so much I’ll bring them back into the story later on and give them a bigger role. Other characters that I try to build too much on become a struggle to write and I leave them. In the NaNo I’m writing now I have a character called Wickham who picks up one of the main characters (Fella Jack)  to drive him out to this massive hole they found. His whole purpose was to just have somebody tell him what they had done the night before when they were drunk and Fella Jack woke up on the front lawn. Wickham is stick thin with shoulder length blonde hair and he smokes and has an old car. That’s all the depth I gave him. He didn’t have any other purpose, but for some reason, I don’t know what it is, I like him. I want something to happen to him, get him involved. I gave Fella Jack’s wife a drinking problem (breaking my own rules, I know), she hates her daughter and leaves to go to bars to pick up other men. I thought her character was deep enough, but I haven’t been back to her since the first chapter and I’m 12 chapters in!

Sometimes unrevealing the baseball works, and other times just having it the way it is works too. You can never tell.

Mitchell Tierney

Inanimate Lessons

 I’m by no means a natural born writer. I have to work at it. Just like any profession or sport, practice will, inevitably, make perfect (or near enough). When I started writing, I had an issue with length. I was young and didn’t know how to structure chapters, so my chapters ended up being a page long. I’d write ‘Chapter _’ at the top and write to the bottom. Once I hit the bottom of the page, that would be the end of the chapter. I eventually was able to expand my chapter lengths a little, but it still wasn’t enough. My books would have 50 + chapters and the story didn’t seem to progress very far at any one time. So, I set my self a task – write a book about ten people. Each chapter will be about one person and it will be ten pages long. You will never go back to that person, so whatever happens in that chapter will have to be resolved at the end. I thought it was a good way to push my boundaries and get good length writing practice.

The story was simple enough, a body is found dumped in a drain, a young person who’s wearing a red cape. Slowly the news spreads and each chapter is about each persons reaction to finding out. I called it ‘Bloody Cape’ after a Deftones song. One chapter had the police officer receiving the call and going out to investigate, another was a man bound to a wheel chair who worked at an Adult Store and closed the store to go and take a look. I never planned the characters, but came up with them while writing each chapter. I thought, ‘Ok, the deceased person is wearing a cape because there’s a local comic book artist who draws a comic with a red cape.’ So the next chapter was the artist finding out the person died looking like one of his characters. It was hard at first to keep the ball rolling, because usually, for me any way, the chapter will end itself and you know it’s time for the next chapter to come. But when you’re writing to a set of rules, you can’t stop. I had to force myself to keep going. By the end of the book, I found my chapters were exceeding the ten page limit. I got used to writing long chapters. The only down fall was, every book or short story I wrote after that was long and I had to learn to cut them back a little.

There is a Family Guy episode where they mock Stephen King. They ask him what his next book will be about and he looks around the room frantically trying to make something up on the spot. He picks a lamp. ‘How about a Lamp? OOooooOhhh!’ I thought this would be another good assignment to set myself. Could I write something scary using an inanimate object? What would be the least harmful thing I could think of and make it terrifying? I thought of a cardboard box. It’s simplistic, everyone has one tucked away in their garage, spare room, shed, etc. They’re mostly harmless and also collapsible. A baby could knock one flat. How could I make this the main subject of horror? I thought about the cardboard box and what it’s use for. Moving and storing. I thought, what if the box had kept a serial killers belongings in it while he was in a mental ward? What if it stored all his ‘trophies’ or personal belongings? Could some of his energy or ‘mojo’ seep into the box? Why not? Sounds plausible. I figured I would write a trilogy about the box. Three short stories centred around the same box and how it brings each owner agonizing horror and misfortune. I was going to call the trilogy The Murder Box, with each story in turn called The Gore Box, The Flesh Box and The Horror Box. The first story was a mother and her two children moving from one town to another to escape their abusive father. They leave the box in the spare room to unpack another day and go to bed. At midnight, when the house is quiet and dark, the lid opens up on its own and a black, charred hand reaches out of it from the darkness. The daughter gets out of bed to get a glass of water and walks past the room, the hand disappears. As her back is turned, a dark, shadowy figure dashes across the hallway in the next room. I never wrote the second story because I had an ending where a young man escaping the law crashes his car and the box is burnt to ash in the fire. The young man laying on the road, bleeding to death, watches all the demons and monsters spill from the box and burn.

I tried this assignment again with one of the first short stories I wrote that I was proud of called The Tape. The story was based around an elderly man living on his own named Leo. One stormy night there is a knock at his door and when he answers it, it’s his neighbour Joe who is looking frantic and horrified. Joe says that he is leaving and Leo asks why he’s taking off in the middle of the night in the pouring rain? Joe doesn’t answer, but instead asks him if he wants his old stereo. Leo takes it and Joes runs off into the hammering thunder and drives away. Leo leaves it on the table, not knowing what he’s going to do with it. Later that night he goes to the bathroom to take a bath and takes the stereo with him to listen to music. He finds a tape inside the cassette deck and plays it. It’s an interview by a psychiatrist and a schizophrenic patient who talks about see a little girl in a dress wearing a pure white mask. After a few haunted experiences, towards the end, Leo is in the bathtub holding a razor when the lights flicker in the bathroom. He looks to the doorway and sees the young girl with the white mask. She then pushes the stereo into the bathtub.

From constant practicing and experimenting, and also setting myself assignments, I can work on the areas I think I need to be better at.

NaNoWriMo is upon us and that is always a challenge and a good way to learn how to write. You push yourself to finish and sometimes that it what is needed to get it done. Because most of us aren’t published authors with agents breathing down our necks for the next book, we don’t have that push to finish and sometimes the book can get lost along the way and forgotten, and that’s always a shame. Finishing a book is a big deal for any writer. Some people may only finish one book in their writing lives, others may finish many.

Whenever I pick up a book at the book store, I’ll flick through it and if I see the chapters are short, it appeals to me more. Only because I don’t have that much time to read, and when I do it’s normally half an hour to an hour at the most. So if I know I can get a chapter or two done before bed, it makes me feel like I’m still sticking with the story and getting it read. Early Terry Pratchett books didn’t have chapters and it always made me apprehensive about reading them because I hate stopping the middle of a chapter or I’ll lose the flow of the story, but his recent books have chapters now, much to my relief.

Mitchell Tierney

 

Book vs. Movie – The Mist by Stephen King

I was planning on writing about Planet of the Apes but I realised that I couldn’t remember most of the older movies so gimme a few weeks on that one. Now before I begin SPOILER WARNING. If you read through these book vs. movie columns and it spoils the ending of either then it is your own fault. Okay, now that that is over let us begin.

I was eight when I first experienced the joy and terror that is Stephen King. My mother was always pretty liberal on what I could watch and read (within reason of course) and she knew of my love for the odd, creepy and downright gross from an early age. At seven I had devoured most the Goosebumps books by RL Stine and by age eight or so I had moved onto Christopher Pike and other teen horror books. One night on a school holiday I was up late and watched the movie Cat’s Eye (which consisted of three short films: Quitters, Inc., The Ledge, and The General) and from that day I had to find more of this master’s works. Little did I know how much more I would love the books as my life progressed.

 I was around nine when I got my first Stephen King book, not having convinced mum to buy me any of my own just yet. I remember vividly that day mum and I went shopping with my aunt. We passed a second hand book store, that musty, dust smell wafting from the semi-lit doorway. I dragged at her hand, begging her to let us stop for a minute. Even at that age I was enthralled with the smell of old books. With a smile she let me run free into the stacks and overcrowded shelves. I emerged after a few minutes holding a thick paperback, its pages and cover dog eared and creased. The spine so bent you could barely read the title. Its cover held a cracked image of a skeleton holding a scythe and the title Skeleton Crew by Stephen King.

 It took a bit of convincing but I persuaded her to let me buy it with my pocket money for the pricely sum of $1.50 (that was a lot of money in 1991 especially for a nine year old). I started reading as soon as we got in the car and amongst all the gems there were two shining stars The Raft and one of the longer stories in the book, The Mist. I hoped to one day see either of them as movies so when they announced they were making The Mist  in 2007, I was stoked but apprehensive. I was a lot more discerning by that age and had seen how most of my idol’s books had been made into bad telemovies or just changed way too much.

 When I went to see it on the big screen it was at a small cinema with a few friends and the cinema was mostly empty as it was the end of the movie’s run. And I must admit I was pleasantly surprised. There were a few changes but only one that really split the King fans down the middle on opinion. I’ll get to that one soon.

 The Mist for those who haven’t seen/read it (seriously you should stop reading if you intend to) sees a thick, soupy mist begin to spread across the town of Bridgton, Maine, making it nigh on impossible to see more than a  few feet in front of you. In the movie the storm that brings the mist and the aftermath that leads to the story is very rushed through (albeit containing a an easter egg for King fans with a painting of a movie poster of Roland Deschain from the Dark Tower series), but the book, along with King’s usual demeanour, ambles along, showing the intricacies of the characters’ ‘normal’ lives. A tree has fallen in the storm and crushed the boathouse of our main character David Drayton (played in the movie by Thomas Jane) falling from his neighbour, Brent Norton’s  (Andre Braugher) yard. Despite the ill feelings between the two, they head into town for supplies together with David’s son Billy (Nathan Gamble).

Once at the store we meet a mixed group of people, from checkout chicks and bagboys, some soldiers from the military compound nearby working on a secret mission named the Arrowhead Project (the book hints at this being the cause of the mist, the soldiers following suicide being further hint of this. The movie straight up blames this project of ‘opening doors to other realms’ for the mist and the monsters from it – another Dark Tower reference perhaps), and the crazy Mrs Carmody. This is when stuff starts going pear shaped. Creatures start to attack from the mist.

I won’t give away too much of them away because it’s rather cool. But one of the other differences between the book and movie is Mrs Carmody. Although personally they both work well for me, the book Mrs Carmody is more strange crazy in the book than religious zealot crazy like in the movie. But as I said both work and by the end she had convinced most the people in the store that the mist is part of the end times and that God wants a blood sacrifice to appease him – in the form of David’s son, Billy. (For the fans: please note in the movie all the King paperbacks on the book shelves). Her getting taken down by a well aimed can of peas to the head certainly brought cheers to the people in our cinema.

Things happen more or less like in the book until the end, and this is the BIG change that personally pissed me off, but some fans loved it. In the book the end sees David, Billy, Amanda the checkout operator and an elderly, yet tough, school teacher Hilda Reppler, escaping in a car driving into the mist. The very last part reveals that they hear a single word come through the crackling radio, ‘Hartford’, giving them hope that there is something out there, and THAT’S IT. And I would love to have seen the movie end this way, but to placate the masses they gave it a ‘real’ ending.

There are still David, Billy and Amanda but swaps Hilda for Irene (same character as Hilda, just different name) and Dan. They drive over to David’s house to find his wife dead – victim to the creatures. Then they start driving away again. Eventually they run out of fuel and pull over. While Billy sleeps, they discuss their fate and with 4 bullets left in the gun David had they decide to end it, having not seen any other survivors on the way. David shoots Billy, Amanda, Irene and Dan and then resigns himself to the fate of the creatures ending his life. He steps out of the car when all of a sudden he hears the rumble of a truck. The mist begins to clear and he sees military personnel and survivors. He falls to the ground screaming realising how close they were to rescue and that his son and wife are now dead.

Yeah…

So my recommendation is read the book first. Get the Skeleton Crew book (because it’s full of awesome stories) and not the novelisation of the movie because it’s not the real deal.

Also if you’re new to Stephen King and his 1000 page epics of fear seem a little overwhelming, this is a great way to start, with bite size stories you can read in one sitting.

As for the movie, it’s good. Personally I stop it before the stupid ending so it’s more like the book but if you’re not a purist or you don’t intend to read the book, the movie is probably one of the better King adaptations.

~ Sabrina