THE NEXT BIG THING – Blog Meme for Authors

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on Tuesday, December, 4, 2012 by llsoares

Welcome back to GORY GOODNESS!

It’s been a long time since I used this old blog of mine. To be honest, between working, writing fiction,and writing/editing for Cinema Knife Fight, I don’t have a lot of time to write a regular blog anymore.

But I recently got an email from my buddy Dan Keohane tagging me for a “blog meme” called The Next Big Thing. What is this? Well, authors are blogging answers to ten quick questions, then tagging other authors they think readers should know about. The whole idea is to create a network through social media, drawing new readers through blog readerships, etc. So I’ve got to answer ten questions and tag at least five other writers. As it is, I’m tagging four. But that’s fine.

In the old days, they would have called this a “chain letter,” but now, with the Internet,  it’s somehow cool and called a “blog meme.” In all seriousness, this is the kind of thing I would normally have avoided. But Dan asked me to do it, and I figured, what’s the harm? Maybe it will make some new people aware of my work. So here are my questions and answers, for your reading enjoyment:

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1) What is the title of your next book/work?
Well, my next book is called ROCK ‘N’ ROLL and it’s my second novel. Currently in production, and hopefully coming out soon.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book/work?
I began with a title. I do that a lot. Strangely, this book has had a lot of different titles. When I first started writing it, it was called “Vomitorium.” I’m not sure why. I guess I just thought it was a provocative title. But I soon realized it was also —a bad title. Originally, early on, there was a scene where a character got physically ill and started rolling around on the floor, so I’m sure that had something to do with it.

Then it was going to be called “Purge,” because I had another novel called “Binge” and it was kind of a bookend to it. Or it was going to be. But it didn’t turn out that way. It went in a completely different direction and pretty much avoided the whole vomit/purge theme entirely. I guess I should be thankful for that. As it turned out, it’s about something else entirely.

It had a few other titles along the way that I can’t remember, until it ended up as ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, having just about nothing to do with my original concept. So don’t worry, this book won’t make you sick (I hope).

How’s that for an unusual answer?

3) What genre does your book/work fall under?
In all honesty, this is why it took so long for this book to find a home. I had no clue what genre it was. It wasn’t strange enough to be Bizarro fiction (I’d written it before that phrase became a genre all its own, anyway) and it wasn’t “normal” enough to be mainstream. There are some horror elements. And some scenes that are kind of surreal. It’s kind of in a genre of its own.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ryan Gosling might make a good Lash, the main character. I’m not sure who else I would cast in it.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A man rolls around and channels strange forces that affect those around him.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be published by Gallows Press and will hopefully be coming out in the next month or two. Currently, it’s in production. As soon as I have an official release date, I’ll announce it.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Probably about six or seven months.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I guess I’m kind of proud that there are no books that come to mind that I could compare it to. As I said, it’s kind of in a genre of its own.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned in answer # 2, I started it with a completely different idea in mind and it took off in a direction of its own. I hesitate to say the book wrote itself, because it obviously didn’t. I wrote it. But I cannot explain what inspired it. And it did go in directions I wasn’t expecting.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Well, there’s lots of sex in it.  Sex plays a big part in the storyline.

Well that’s it for me. I’ll be posting the link to this on Facebook and tagging some friends. I hope this has piqued your interest in ROCK ‘N’ ROLL.

And while you’re waiting for ROCK ‘N’ ROLL to come out, don’t forget to pick up a copy of my first novel, LIFE RAGE, published by Nightscape Press and available in all the usual places.

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What’s All the Commotion About the New MTV Show: SKINS?

Posted in Uncategorized on Sunday, February, 6, 2011 by llsoares

MTV recently started airing a new show called SKINS. It’s based on a British show of the same name. To describe it, it’s kind of a soap opera starring teenagers. Nothing new there. But I’m guessing the level of matter-of-factness that  the characters treat things like sex and drugs and drinking gets under a lot of people’s “skins,” especially parents.

I can appreciate that. At the same time, I went on OnDemand and checked it out for myself. Mostly because there’s been all of this commotion in the media about it, and supposedly sponsors are fleeing the show in droves. There’s even been talk of MTV canceling the show because it’s just offending too many people. And this is only after two episodes! I wanted to at least watch an episode or two before they pulled it and judge for myself. Was this show just dumb junk?

Frankly, after watching the first episode, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. It seems like a combination of the Canadian teenager drama DeGrassi High and Larry Clark’s movie KIDS. There is some behavior that might be considered shocking to some people, but it’s not portrayed in a shocking way. All this stuff is routine to these kids. They don’t give it a second thought.

The first episode revolves mostly around a long-haired, wimpy kid named Stanley. He’s the best friend of the popular guy at school, Tony (how the hell did that happen?), and Tony is determined to help Stanley lose his virginity. So he hooks him up with a “crazy” girl with a loose reputation. Things don’t turn out as planned, but overall this is a plot we’ve seen a hundred times before (actually, much more than that). The characters were okay – several are arrogant to the point of being assholes – and the story was interesting enough.

You can’t really judge a show on its first episode. Pilots and first episodes tend to be weak a lot of the time, as they are just setting the characters up, and we don’t really know them yet. This is true about SKINS, too. Watching the second episode, I found it to be a big step forward. I think the main reason I didn’t care that much about the first episode was that it was so much about Stanley, a character I didn’t care all that much about. In the second episode, the focus is on Tea, a girl who is part of Tony and Stanley’s group, who also happens to be gay. I actually found her story to be much more compelling and found myself getting into the show after this one.

I’ve read a lot about SKINS. Some people condemning it. Other critics dismissing it as junk. But I actually liked it. I don’t think it’s as shocking as the media is portraying it to be, but ultimately, a show rises or falls on its characters and its ability to engage us. And I thought SKINS did a good job fleshing its characters out, and I’ll be curious to see what happens to the show.

In the new issue ROLLING STONE, critic Rob Sheffield reviews the show (and is one of the critics who dismisses it as junk), but he does bring up an interesting fact. While everyone is screaming about SKINS and its casual attitude toward sex and drugs, there don’t seem to be many people outraged by another MTV show, Teen Mom, where pregnant teenagers suddenly find themselves thrust into the spotlight and just want to be famous. Somehow a fictional show pales in comparison to the message Teen Mom is peddling.

As Sheffield says “The whole point of Teen Mom is to promise the jackpot of celebrity to the underage girl who gets pregnant in the most colorfully sordid circumstances,” and “the true casualties are the screwed-for-life babies who can’t sign consent forms.”

I can see his point.

I heard that the audience for SKINS actually went down substantially with the second episode (which is a shame, because it’s so much better than the first one), and MTV may use this as an excuse to yank the show and avoid further controversy. But I wish they’d stand by it and give it a solid chance. I think this show is much better than the bad rap its getting lets on.

The Bias Against Horror Is Alive and Well

Posted in Books, In Sickness with tags on Sunday, February, 6, 2011 by llsoares

I wasn’t sure if I was going to post this, but it’s been bugging me.

There’s a certain book reviewer for the Boston Globe who I’ve always enjoyed. She writes a very entertaining column and often will bring up a book I haven’t heard of, but which sounds pretty good. Let’s say that I read her column regularly, so I guess that makes me a fan.

When my book IN SICKNESS came out, I sent her an email and asked if my publisher could send her a copy to review. However, I made the stupid mistake of saying it was “a collection of horror stories.” Stupid me. Her answer was quick and to the point – “I don’t review horror.” Suddenly, this woman who seemed so well-read and eclectic in her tastes dropped several notches in my estimation of her. I could have argued that several of the stories might also be considered “dark fiction” (a euphamism I should have used instead to describe it), but I didn’t bother. Her comment pissed me off just enough so that I didn’t feel the need to defend myself, or try to sell her on reading the book.

She gave me the name of the person at the Globe who was in charge of assigning books to reviewers, which was nice of her, and I promptly had my publisher send that person a copy. It’s been several months now, and nobody has bothered to review it. And I’m pretty certain at this point it has nothing to do with a backlog of books to review, but simply that the Boston Globe shares that original reviewer’s bias. I hardly ever see them review anything that might be construed as “horror,” unless it might be the new Stephen King novel, or a book by Joyce Carol Oates (a “literary” writer who doesn’t seem to share their bias against horror, since she writes a lot of it).

So, clearly, I’m not respectable enough to be reviewed in the Boston Globe.And it’s all because of the specific genre I decided to embrace. Certainly, the Globe and papers of its ilk are not opposed to all genres. Mystery books regularly get reviewed; there’s even a bi-monthly column on Sundays called “On Crime” that is devoted completely to mystery and crime fiction.The Globe also has book columns devoted to Children’s Books, Graphic Novels and even “Pop Lit.”

I guess I just fucked up by writing in a genre that’s looked down upon and dismissed with regularity by the mainstream press. It’s not just the Boston Globe, but it really pisses me off that I finally had a book out, and my “local paper” couldn’t even see fit to acknowledge it. Thank you, Boston Globe. For nothing.

Farewell to HARVEY PEKAR

Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, July, 12, 2010 by llsoares

Back in the early 1980s, comic book writer Harvey Pekar started making regular appearances on Late Night on David Letterman (this is when Dave was on NBC after Johnny Carson). Right off the bat, Pekar was a real character. With his sandpaper voice, grouchy demeanor and seemingly limitless anger, Pekar played up his shot at minor celebrity status, and became a Letterman favorite. Unfortunately, he didn’t appear as often on Dave’s show when he went to CBS.

It turns out, Pekar had captured enough people’s imaginations in the 80s to build an audience, even if it was a cult audience. This all revolved around a comic book, AMERICAN SPLENDOR, which Pekar had been self-publishing every year since 1976. Magazine-sized, AMERICAN SPLENDOR was something unusual in the comics of the time. It wasn’t about superheroes, and it wasn’t as off the wall as the underground comics that had come into vogue in the 1960s and 70s. However, there was a connection to those old days. Pekar was a friend of underground icon R. Crumb, who illustrated a lot of those early AMERICAN SPLENDOR strips.

What AMERICAN SPLENDOR was about, was Pekar’s life. The everyday, hum-drum, steady momentum of one man’s existence. From silly one-page strips, to observations of his job a file clerk at a veteran’s hospital and his marriage, and various odd people he met along the way, AMERICAN SPLENDOR was a fascinating, often very funny, peephole into Pekar’s life. No costumes, no super powers, and yet it was riveting just the same.

The Letterman appearances increased the profile of the comic, and Ballantine Books put out some collections of the “Best Of” strips. Along the way, Pekar became a respected member of the comics community, and an equally respected jazz scholar. He adopted a daughter, struggled with bouts of cancer, and for awhile there AMERICAN SPLENDOR was bought by DC Comics and put out in regular comic book format (and more than once a year).

There was a AMERICAN SPLENDOR stage play at one point, and in 2003, Paul Giamatti starred in a movie version of AMERICAN SPLENDOR, which got a lot of critical praise and featured not only Giamatti played Pekar, but scenes of Pekar himself,. The movie was as unusual as its comic book source, and was a festival favorite.

Pekar died today at age 70. There are no details yet of his cause of death, but he had been “suffering from prostate cancer, asthma, high blood pressure and depression.”

Pekar was a big influence on me, and ever since the first time I saw him on Letterman’s show, I was hooked and followed his career regularly. A new AMERICAN SPLENDOR comic was always a good thing, and his comics and graphic novels (including titles like OUR MOVIE YEAR, and OUR CANCER YEAR) deserve a wider audience.

He’ll be missed.

American Splendor was collected in several BEST OF collections

BOOK TRAILER FOR IN SICKNESS

Posted in Books with tags , , , on Tuesday, June, 22, 2010 by llsoares

Well, IN SICKNESS, the story collection by me and my wife, Laura Cooney, is deep in production mode. Hopefully it will be out before summer’s end. This is the one that features stories by Laura, stories by me, and then a novella called “In Sickness” that we wrote together. I’ve been shopping this around for awhile now, and it’s gratifying to finally see it become a reality.

Our publishers over at SKULLVINES PRESS, Jerrod Balzer and S.D. Hintz, recently surprised us in two ways. First, they got the very talented artist Mechelle Sizemore to do several illustrations that will be appearing inside the book. And then they just created a very cool book trailer, featuring some of Mechelle’s illustrations, and music by Kevin McLeod. You can check out the trailer at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hl7ZoWgRAgc

Watching the trailer, the book finally feels like a living entity. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

HEXES AND REVIVALS

Posted in Movies, religion with tags , on Wednesday, June, 16, 2010 by llsoares

I ended up getting tickets to a free advance screening of the new movie JONAH HEX tonight. This doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does, it’s nice not to actually have to pay for movie tickets. I’m still trying to get a press pass so I don’t have to deal with this crap (for advance screenings I have to get there an hour beforehand and wait in line for seats), but it’s slow going.

We’ll be reviewing JONAH HEX for the next Cinema Knife Fight column, to be posted this Sunday night at midnight.

After I saw the movie, I went across the street to the Boston Common (the big park in the middle of the city – kind of a mini Central Park) and there was a tent up, with a sign that read “Old Fashioned Revival.” I couldn’t help myself; I had to check it out. I was hoping for ae fire and brimstone preacher, maybe even some healing or speaking in tongues, but no such luck. There were lots of folding chairs, but less than half were occupied. Of the people who were there, I’m guessing many were homeless people who just wanted a place to sit.

The preacher was standing up and shouting about how America and “godless” and how the nation was a “great drought.” He even jumped up and down a little. But it was no way as dramatic as I’d hoped. And after about five minutes of standing just outside the tent, listening, I got bored and moved on. The preacher, if he noticed me at all, must have figured I was some “lost soul” who wasn’t sure if he wanted to come inside. The truth is, I was just looking for entertainment.

Even old-fashioned tent revivals aren’t as fun as they used to be. Go figure.

Meeting a “Role Model” – JOHN WATERS

Posted in Books, Movies with tags , , on Tuesday, June, 15, 2010 by llsoares

(Left to right): Laura Cooney, John Waters and L.L. Soares

Last Thursday (June 17, 2010), director John Waters came to town to talk about his new book, ROLE MODELS, consisting of several essays about people he looks up to, from Johnny Mathis (“the polar opposite of me”), to Little Richard (whose mustache Waters freely admits he “stole”) to lots more unconventional choices, from lesbian strippers to outsider pornographers.

The Boston Public Library show was his last stop on the book tour (and the only city he visited that has outlawed “poppers”). Instead of simply talking to the audience, he was interviewed by novelist Scott Heim (author of the book MYSTERIOUS SKIN that was made into a film by Greg Araki). Scott covered most of the topics in the book, and Waters was very funny as he talked about his subjects. Then there was a Q&A session afterwards.

I think I was the first person there. The event started at 6pm and I was there before 4:00. I’d left work early intent on getting to the head of the line. This was good and bad. Good, because I had a front-row seat for the discussion, but bad because when it was done, it was announced that Waters would be signing books in the lobby. Suddenly, I was at the end of the line!

Over an hour later, I finally got to meet the man, but he was already a little bleary-eyed from meeting so many fans. I could also tell he was in a hurry to get it over with and head out. So I felt like to take up too much of his time would be intrusive. But there were a couple of things I wanted to tell him.

Back in 1988, when Laura and I got married, we wanted to do something interesting with our wedding invitations. So we had a pink flamingo on the cover and the tagline “Isn’t Love Divine.” This was a direct homage to Waters and his the star of so many of his early films, Divine. I’d wanted to send him a copy of the invitation, but figured I’d get to meet him at an event someday, and that it would be a great way to break the ice and talk to him about other stuff. So finally, after 22 years, I was standing before the man himself, showing him the invitation, and I realized how utterly unexciting it was. He’d probably seen stuff like this a hundred times before. He’d probably seen thousands of more interesting things before. Our little wedding invitiation probably didn’t register a blip on his radar. He asked if we wanted him to sign it. I said “You can keep that one, and we’ve got another one for you to sign.” He slipped the copy I gave him under the table (I bet there was a wastebasket under there. LOL). We got him to sign our copies of his books ROLE MODELS and a first edition of CRACKPOT, and even got a picture with the maestro. But so much for my big moment. I figured he’d be tickled pink by my little revelation, and it just wasn’t the case.

Of course,  there were a bunch of other things I could talk about. The time, about a year before his movie HAIRSPRAY came out, when I’d written to him and he’d responded with a terrific postcard with Squeaky Fromme on one side (to even bring this up would probably have elicited a yawn – how many people must he have sent postcards to over the years?). I was going to mention that Laura and I were horror writers and see if that picqued his interest. I could have mentioned I ran a movie-review site (Cinema Knife Fight), or that we air his “No Smoking in this Theater” promo weekly on the insane internet TV series LAIR OF THE YAK. But the invitation thing took up our time allotment, I didn’t want to be a rude or pushy fan, and it was time for us to move on.

I put my email address on the back of the invitation I’d given him, but why in the world would he write to me? He had no idea who the hell I was. And I’m sure the wedding invitation wasn’t cool enough to make him think, “Man, I gotta stay in touch with this guy!”

After thinking of Waters as one of my own “role models” for decades, and finally getting the chance to meet him in the flesh, the event was anti-climactic, to say the least. Not that I blame him at all. The book tour and the unrelenting parade of fans begging him to sign stuff must be quite tedious. And I’m sure I would have felt the same way (let’s just get this over with!). He was gracious and witty and very civil. The personification of good manners. But you spend years thinking “If I just met this guy and he knew who I was, we’d be great friends.” Yeah, sure. Life just doesn’t often turn out like that.

Chances are John Waters will never be aware of who I am. And I’ve just got to live with that.

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