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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My Hopes are High!



The trailer is moderately dissapointing, but if this movie is even half as good as Shaun, we should heap our love on it. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are hilarious together. My concern is that the U.S. is so saturated with violence, even in its smaller communities, that the humor of this situation will be lost here. It's gotten mixed reviews in England, so we'll see.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Some Movies, After the Fact…

As part of our Oscar catch up, we rented Babel, Half Nelson and Marie Antoinette. Loved the first two, but Sofia Coppola is getting on my last nerve. Just a question: Can Kristen Dunst actually act? Her sour face has maybe two expressions tops. Painful! But was the movie effective? By the end of the film, I was praying for someone to come in and kill them all (and yes I know how it turns out historically), but we are denied the brutality. Shame.

Babel rocked around its edges, the central story of a mistake deemed as terrorism is far overshadowed by Rinko Kikuchi's portrayal of a deaf girl grieving her mother's death and longing for love. Rinko rocks it naughty and we love her! The story of the Mexican nanny is at once heartbreaking and infuriating, shining a blinding light on the shortsighted American system. You want to jump in and garrot the border guards.

Finally, Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps are rock stars–one's a basehead, the other a dealer–and they earned those IFC Spirit Awards, five, ten, fiftyfold. Half Nelson was by far my favorite of the three. It took an original take on drug addiction and played that as merely a backdrop to a friendship. Made me want to take up crack! Joking?

That's all for now. It's snowing, dry, and sticking.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Back On Track

After a couple of weeks as a frickin' layabout, I'm finally rolling on the clean up of Undead Socialite. I think it's easy to get bogged down in the language and not notice those big chunks of missing backstory. It's like dwelling on a spot on the carpet when there's a hole in the wall (not a big hole mind you–you're so judgmental). So, I'm working on fattening up three of the secondary characters. Fun! And, that's not just facetious snark.

Now, what's that I hear in the background?



OMFG, there's like 5 whole people at the Nazareth Concert! When I saw it I laughed so hard I made a little pee pee. A couple months back, Supernatural ended a show with Hair of the Dog and now me and my wife can't help but screetching the chorus at each other inappropriately.

Temple of the Golden Shitney

The naughty kids over at Best Week Ever have determined that Britney's not blowing rails or listening to her voices, she's attained enlightenment. So y'all bitches best recognize. Ask it a question…

Thursday, February 22, 2007

All Work and No Play…

Did I tell you the transmission went out on my Volvo? No? Well it did, and let me tell you: Cabin fever sets in 5 minutes after my wife drives off to work. I can see the taillights dimming as they give me their final Ha Ha. It's been in the shop nearly two weeks. Talk about distractions, I don't think I've done anything productive since. But then yesterday…

Backtracking. Two days ago, I did the unity thing with my writing group and submitted a short story for the Pacific Northwest Literary Contest. The problem? Mailing. It looked nice enough outside, light grey, patchy blue, typical. So, why is it when I head out the door to walk to the post office, the weather changes. Mind you I'm a good four blocks from home when it makes the decision to hail. Lovely.

So…Yesterday, after the transmission guy puts me off for another day, I poke my head out to study the sky. It's blue, no wind, non-threatening clouds in the distance. I'm off to town. Now my town is new, brand new, under construction, actually and there are obstacles to getting to the pack of strip malls that substitute for a downtown. There are fences to climb, private property to trespass, etcetera. You don't expect me to trod the meandering sidewalk, when I can get there as the crow flies. Crows.

That brings me to my point, I'm crossing a leveled plat, pocked with an intrusion of scotchbroom (thankfully not blooming), when off to my left a hawk sets off hunting. Big one, beautiful. I stop to ponder (does that even sound like me?). From my right, a murder of crows, more like an army, sets off in the hawk's direction. They attack it. Actually dive bombing and shit. Oh my god, the big bird is a fighter. The crows are thwacked and jabbed and pecked and (many other verbs for f**ked up). It kind of rocked. The crows were totally sorted out and retreated.

Thus, there are benefits to cabin fever.

Next Essay: How I Broke the Crystal in My Watch, or Timeless.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Magical Minxes

Check out the Magical Minxes blog here. The characters of several paranormal series have escaped their writer's laptops into the pop culture fray of internet blogging. Because it's not enough to make fun of Shitney, you may actually need her blood. Enjoy.

Get Your Shit Together!

There's only one week left before Urban Fantasy month, here at the Evil Burlesque theater. I'll be stage right, on a hard stool (not that kind) reading the six books chosen for the honor––well, it's sort of an honor. Here's the list:



I think it's a fair mix of horror, comedy, and supernatural adventure. Between the six, we've got vampires, werewolves, zombies and demons, even some fairy prostitutes. So, fair warning. If you'd like to keep up, I suggest you get on it and buy them or check 'em out from the library (I do, If I bought everything I wanted to read, I'd have to build a house from the boards and stitch the pages together for clothing).

I'm starting Bitten, right after the review for Kockroach goes up.

Book Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett



I'd been interested in this novel for a while, but my memory floats a bit and so when I came across it in the sad dollar bin, I rescued it. The book's title, Bel Canto, is a reference to both opera, its polyglot lead and the overall tone. I expected the hostage drama to be a brutal depiction of the event. I was wrong. Ann Patchett threads her work with tender unexpected moments that lull the reader into a fantasy world, where children carry guns and men love opera.

A powerful Japanese businessman has been lured to an unspecified South American country, in the hopes of building a business relationship. The bait is a private performance by his favorite Opera diva. The story begins at the moment terrorists sweep in to the party. Their goal to capture the president is thwarted (because he's at home watching his favorite soap opera), and so they settle in. And that's when the killing starts.

Wrong!

Where this scenario goes next is the key to Patchett's craft, most writers would take the story into the violent direction of killing off hostages, and focusing on negotiations. Instead, the author allows an aura of peace to float through the pages. I never even questioned when the standoff would come to an end, or how it would play out. Was there even a standoff? The Washington Post cover blurb reads, "Bel Canto is its own universe." It's entirely true. When the building is violently stormed in the last few pages it's a shock. Completely unexpected. How is that possible? With as many hostage standoff's that have played out on television, we know how they end. Ann Patchett's magic is building to that horror by making you forget it will happen. She creates such unusually likable characters and weaves the differences of language like cashmere. The effect is numbing.

Brava, bravissima! Isn't that what you yell to the Opera Diva?

Next Book: The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Breaking Tori News!


Tori's new album, American Doll Posse, is set for release on May 1st, followed by a supporting world tour starting on May 28th in Rome. It may not be popular to hold this lady in high esteem, but f**k it: I loves me some preachy faery redhead.

Those who've never seen her live, must go get in line for tickets, now. Amazing work at the piano. Amazing.

Update (2/21/07): Just noticed and have to add: PLUG IT UP! PLUG IT UP! PLUG IT UP!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Edit Lag

The editing is sapping my creative fluids. I can think of nothing else. I'm completely insane now.

I've been reading the same chapter in Bel Canto for three days. I refused to take a bath because the pillow deflated (we got a new one today). Tempermental? I don't think so.

My wife's obsessive MBA studies have forced me into a library study room on two occasions over the holiday weekend.

There is good news, Chapter 6 is done again. Oh, Chapter 6, may you rot in hell.

Anyway…

When are these guys coming out with a new album?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Loving the Undead? Uh…Yeah!


Loving the Undead, An Anthology of Romance…Sort Of contains my short story, An Acquired Taste. It's in preorder at From the Asylum.

The story marks the first appearance of zombie heroine Amanda Feral, and was the initial spark of The Undead Socialite's Guide to Nightlife. Check it out. Plus, it's the first thing I've ever had published, yo!

Celebrate!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Edit Schmedit (insert fart sound)

The ink situation sorted out, I'm fine tuning the manuscript. I've got til the 15th of March, then my editor will do his second read, make comments, suggestions. Apparently––heh, heh––there are typos, missing words, and poorly decorated chapters in the middle (I know just the ones, too–-see Chapter 6: Evil has a Name). At 75,000 words, I agree it's a tad slight. I've been told we writers come in two types: overwriters and underwriters. I'm clearly the latter. I'd much rather power through the story and work the details in later. There is an unfortunate titling issue (although I have been taking a lunch time poll on that and come up with some really fun stuff, none of which is remotely paranormally romantic). Here are some of the recently nixed (That's not bad there––Recently Nixed):

• Ghouls Gone Wild
• Happy Hour of the Damned
• Cocktails and Evil Spirits
• Zombies Anonymous

I'm off to a different room, deep in the bowels of this castle. Okay, it's a suburban nouveau tract home, but you get the idea. Jessica Morrell suggests playing tricks with your mind for the final edits (change room, fonts, read aloud).

Couldn't hurt. I'm giving it a shot.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

After the Boon, or Returning to Earth…

The past two weeks have blurred into a string of words: diarrhea, elation, fear, palpitation, sweat, congratulations, diarrhea. The inevitable realities of life intrude like they always do: transmission problems, black ink low lights, unfortunate weight gain.

I met with my writing group last night. Our goal is and has been, to each submit an entry to the PNWA literary contest. I intended to enter the novel, but the rules say no published work (heh heh, still weird). I waded through my short stories and Pink Flokati floated to the top. It is the story of a father emerging from a haze of despair through conversations with catalog representatives and obsessive hoarding. The due date for the entry is the 20th, so I'm listening to Dead Can Dance; they help me to find that moody grieving place necessary for this kind of story. What is it about faux medieval canticles, Lisa?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Fangs, Fur and Fey

The world has gone insane since last week. I was invited to join an online writer's community, Fangs, Fur and Fey. Which, turns out, is really cool and has put me in touch with other authors in the Puget Sound Area, as well as, urban fantasy authors from around the country.

Now…You too can reap the benefits of this arrangement.

I found this, on that site. Apparently, it maps authors with similar styles, to help readers find something new. So, it's pretty cool.

Whoa…Change Up!

March book reviews: In a big departure for Burlesque of the Damned reviews, I'm stripping down the subject matter to focus on Urban Fantasy novels. I plan on reading and reviewing the leading authors in the Genre (Armstrong, Harrison, Green), but could use a little help building my list.

So…

Here's the question: Who do you consider the best Urban Fantasy authors?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Is the Novel Ever Done?

The answer, of course, is a resounding no. Even if (when) it's published, you're bound to find a few regrets (lame words, funky sentences). I spent yesterday with the wonderful Jessica Morrell at her Final Edit Workshop in Portland, attempting to minimize the future bruising from kicking my own ass. The woman is a boiling cauldron of writing knowledge; the information just bubbles and sputters out of her. You can find out more about her work and where she'll be, at her website, The Writing Life. If you haven't had the chance to take a class from Jessica, or can't make a scheduled conference presentation, check out her book,Between the Lines: The Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing. Tons of helpful information.

The cover looks like this:

Friday, February 09, 2007

Top Nine Movies of 2006

This one has been a long time coming, as I'd wanted to check out Stephen Frears The Queen prior to solidifying the ten, and others of course (Little Children, Children of Men, The Last King of Scotland, Volver, on and on and on), but sadly no time. Much like my book list, I'm only including films I've actually seen, so, sorry, no Borat––I'll catch it on video. Anyway, I need some distraction, so here it is…

9. Nochnoi Dozor (Nightwatch)

Caught this gem up at a new theater in Bellevue with leather reclining seats and a circular layout. The film is straight up urban fantasy, but what go me was the subtitles. They were so integrated as to express their own emotion. The weretiger was f**kin' amazing. Can't wait for Daywatch to hit.

8. Casino Royale

So by now you know that this Bond is the real thing. Daniel Craig is gritty, scabbed and plays Bond like a martini drinking street thug. The opening action sequence is amazing, what movies were made for, really. I had room for one action movie and MI3, while the best of the series, lost out due to the sheer insanity of Mr. Denial.

7. Dreamgirls

Beyonce can prance and pretend that she underacted all she likes, but Dreamgirls is Jennifer Hudson's movie (no offense to Eddie, who rocked). She made you fall in love with her, and disregard all the flash. When Effie is in full '70s dress down and belting it out, you'd swear you were watching that other Jennifer.


6. The Descent


This chick flick dives straight into hell in the first five minutes and never comes back up. Completely trumps The Cave, and the monsters are creepy as shit. The DVD ending is much more in keeping with the flow of the film.

5. The Queen

Lets get one thing straight; this movie made the list based on the strength of Helen Mirren's performance. She's mesmerizing. The movie flips back and forth between her work and real tv footage of the events surrounding Princess Diana's death. There's a lot to be said of an actress that can have you saying, "Princess Di: what a bitch."

4. Little Miss Sunshine

I have a feeling this one is going to win the Best Picture Oscar. It's undeniably fun, when it's not being existentially morose and suicidal. But, seriously, what's not to like about a dysfunctional family road trip to a disturbing child beauty pageant?

3. Hard Candy


The winner of the most f**ked up plot of the year. Strangers really shouldn't talk to children, unless the chemotherapy isn't working for that nasty testicular business. This movie comes on slow and creepy, and then punches you in the nethers.

2. The Departed

One of the funniest gangster bad cop thrillers ever made, based on the Hong Kong film, Infernal Affairs. The cast is amazing, but Baldwin was robbed! Martin Scorcese's best movie since Goodfellas.


1. Pan's Labyrinth


That little girl right there is magical, in real life. The movie is simply fantastic. Much less a fantasy than your led to believe, it tracks the aftermath of Franco's fascists as they reek havoc on the lives of their compadres. And it's all for the kids…or not. A woman behind us in the theater must have recieved some bad advice, because she brought two eight year old boys (who loved the images I'm sure but not the subtitles), I heard the Mom whisper "Jesus," when a man has his mouth sliced to his ear. Much love to del Toro.

The Word is Out!

According to my new friend, Kim Harrington, a fellow writer of things sticky and dead, paranormal noir, if you will––and I think you might–– the deal for The Undead Socialite's Guide to Nightlife was announced on Publishers Marketplace.

I don't subscribe, but Kim got me the info:

8 February, 2007
Fiction: Debut
Mark Henry's THE UNDEAD SOCIALITE'S GUIDE TO NIGHTLIFE, about an ad-exec turned zombie trying to save a missing friend, "Shaun of the Dead" by way of Paris Hilton, to John Scognamiglio at Kensington, in a three-book deal, by Jim McCarthy at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (World).

That couldn't possibly rock more. I think I'm going to have to void.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Done Deal!

I feel like this…

I Made Another Squishy

At 7:00 this morning, my wife calls me and says, "You better check your email." I do. There's a message from my agent. It reads, "Call me." At this, my stomach rolls. I call him, leave message, grab cell and take my position on the toilet to unleash the bubbling witch's cauldron from my bowels.

Ten minutes pass.

The phone rings, area code 212. It's Jim with an offer from a publishing house other than Penguin. Very nice offer and three book deal. Now we wait for counter offers, from Penguin and one other. Deadline is close of the day. I'd better not eat anything.

Jesus!

PS. Upon telling my mother the news, and after her congratulations, she said, "Does the book have to have so many GD's in it?"

Let the critiques begin!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Watada Sighting!

It is possible you are following the story of Ehren Watada the Fort Lewis officer who gave the military a big f**k no to their Iraq party invite. Well, this story is playing out right in my front yard. Not literally, but DuPont is pretty small and you kind of notice the log jam of news crews.

So…I'm at the Starbucks drive-thru, getting my grande sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte with whip and cinnamon shake, 'cause they're really good, when who do I see on his cell phone outside the nearby hotel? You guessed it, Ehren Watada.

DuPont has been all a flutter about the celebs crawling through here. I haven't seen anyone yet, although there's a rally scheduled for Friday. Could be cancelled though since the Court Martial has been declared––Breaking News––a MISTRIAL.

Book Abandonment: The Shadowkiller

Read it if you like, but The Shadowkiller has been nixed from my reading list due to a pet peeve: Repetitive wording occurred within the first three pages. Suddenly this, and suddenly that, and suddenly I'm done. Too bad, I was so looking forward to a bigfoot thriller.

But…

Moving on. Next up is Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I've been looking forward to the hostage drama, for some time. In honor of the change, here's a clip from the band Bel Canto, a Norwegian group known for an '80s ethereal goth vibe, and whose lead, Anneli Drecker does in fact have a Bel Canto. The video is cheesy but the song is undeniably pretty.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Agent Update…

After less than a week from query to contract, I signed with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, totally lucked out. Right time, place, product, all that shit. I'm fucking excited––my mood ring is cerullean––so the experience has got me either happy or horny.

It is nice not to feel so burdoned by the sales aspect of writing. The agency has a decent literary blog on their website, too.

Check it out here.

Totally Kick Ass Flick of the Month: Battle Royale


Holy Shit! Have you seen this?

I remember the outrage about Battle Royale when it came out in Japan, in 2000. It was subsequently banned or boycotted by US stores or DVD manufacturers or something––Don't expect fact checking here, I'm the creative type. So, I didn't expect to find it at my local library, but there it was.

For those not in the know, Battle Royale is two hours of bloody mayhem perpetrated by and against 42 ninth grade kids. The setting is a future Japan. Adults have become paranoid of their children and the government has instituted the Battle Royale Act to scare kids straight, or just get rid of them. The film begins by introducing the winner of the last "game", a young girl pasty through bloody streaks. In this installment, the third "game," our heroes Nanahara, Noriko and Nobu are friends and classmates on a field trip, when the bus is gassed.

They wake in a classroom, metal neck cuffs installed. Their teacher explains the program with the help of a chipper neon Harijuku girl video. The plan: Kill each other, until only one is left, within three days, or the necklace will explode (and it does! Heavy on the arterial spray).


Think of the violence of Kill Bill, particularly the Showdown at the House of the Blue Leaves, but with children. The body count is massive; only two survive. It's exactly what you're thinking: sick and twisted. Some of the kids are itching to get down to the wet work, most are destined to be victims (just like in real life), and some are rebellious and smart. Can you guess which ones? The children are released on a deserted island and play out a bloody game of Survivor: Paranoia Island. Can you tell the movie has turned me into a quivering fan boy?

The film easily deserves an NC-17, and would have received one had it been released theatrically. In July of last year, New Line snapped up the rights for a remake. But don't bother waiting for an American Battle. Our special interests groups will never allow it, as written. By the time it hits the screen, the actors portraying the kids will be college aged and portrayed by your favorite CW stars, and the violence will be watered down to garner a hard R. Soccer mom's just aren't ready to watch their 13-year-old daughters mutilate male genitals with hunting knives.

Watch this movie! It's not a suggestion.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Book Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy



At summer's end, a friend told me a story about her adolescent daughter. The girl and her friends went to see the film United 93. When asked their opinion, the consensus was: They should have changed the ending.

And, while that statement is funny and sad and horrifying and tragic, don't we all wish we could change the ending?

We wish and we wished. No such luck.

I've been thinking about the cold war and the fall of the Berlin Wall and nuclear disarmament. It seemed we wished it away, and it came back with a different concept, a new face. Cormac McCarthy must have been mulling over the rebirth of nuclear war for some time to draft The Road, a masterpiece in sheer gut punching horror and grief.

The novel brings to mind filmic depictions of our world's demise like Threads and The Day After, both horrifying to me as an adolescent, but unlike either, does something amazing. Now, I have to tell you, I'm a McCarthy virgin and the format in this book may be common to his work, but it was applaudingly effective. His prose is stripped down, and raw, consisting of brief passages like influenzic moments of wakefulness. Even the spare dialogue seems to draw the reader in to the story, as though whispered. Brilliant, really (I could never get away with it).

McCarthy's world is covered in a "carbon fog" of ash.

The title character coils and buckles out across a dead land. A nameless father and son trudge endlessly to an uncertain end. The few others shambling upon it have been sloughed of their humanity. I don't want to synopsize the story. If anything, I'd like this review to be about emotional reaction. There were times I was breathless and amber with anxiety, so terribly hoping, rooting for the family, only to be sunk through and tearful.

I'd like to say that, ultimately, the book is hopeful, but it's not. Nor should it be. This is the amazing thing. While those films from the '80s left the viewer with a sense that the human race could survive or should, The Road avoids that disservice. Instead, and rightly so, it shows us that a world capable of destroying itself, should be left without hope. If your going to take a look at the aftermath of nuclear weapons, then take a look, and learn something. The book should be required reading in our high schools, considering…

PS. This isn't my first draft of this review. I deleted that one, but reading this again, there's something sorely lacking. The relationship between the father and son in the novel, was heartbreaking. I was jealous of the connection. I wasn't expecting that emotion, nor was I initially willing to express it, but it's there. I suppose my reaction would have been different was I closer to my own father, or had I a child of my own. The duty in his care is so steely…

That's enough.

Next Book: The Shadowkiller: A Novel by Matthew Scott Hansen

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sarah Silverman is Resmarted

If you didn't catch the premiere of The Sarah Silverman Program, last night on Comedy Central, you should be wallowing in a puddle of shame. I'm sure it will be on ten times before next week's show, so please do WATCH it. I have to warn you, there were times I laughed so hard, I couldn't breathe. I counted two aneurysms and a little pee spot. This clip is an outtake from the show. But, if you're lucky, you might find your very own blood clot lurking in here somewhere.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Book Review: Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath



There are times, in reading, when you just have to mix it up. I mean, I want to read "serious" fiction (Castle in the Forest, The Road, and, to some extent, Wicked) but it's just so hard on the eyes. So I must express the joy of reading a book in one sitting. J.A. Konrath's Whiskey Sour is that book. It's just the jagged stab of nastiness I needed after the migraine inducing dissection of metaphoric political blah-blah-blah in Wicked.

Jack (short for Jacqueline) Daniels is exactly the kind of snappy bitch you'd love to hang with, and the killer, The Gingerbread Man, is a real nasty f**ker–and I mean that in a naughty literal way. Jack's partner, Benedict is a compulsive overeater (who isn't? food IS love and we all know it) and no straight man to her sarcasm. That's right! Two–count 'em–two smart asses in one book. Imagine the possibilities. The writing is spare, minimal and all about the tone.

The titular cocktail is Jack's mode of self-soothing. I'm assuming from Konrath's next books in the series, that Lieutenant Daniels is a fickle lush, or just experimental–hasn't settled on her signature drink.

The book was fun and f**ked up. I chose to read it after perusing an insane rant on Konrath's website. The reader called his book, "filthy." I was sold right there. Who wouldn't be?

Next Book: The Road by Cormac McCarthy