CINEMA 13 – BEST OF 2012

People often ask one of four questions when they discover I write horror: 1) Where do you get your ideas? (my head never shuts up), 2) Would you ever want to write full time? (the answer is no), 3) What kind of books do you read (the ‘you’ inflected, as if I hold some sort of stereotype, in which case my answer is always everything, and in which case I typically add something clever like, “What do you people like to read?”), and 4) What kind of movies do you watch? (also with the implied ‘you’re a crazy person, right?’) So, the answer to question number 4 can perhaps be covered by listing / reviewing my top 13 movies of 2012. I’m a crazy person, I write horror, and this blog is my answer.

I have seen a lot of movies this year (none of them were horror, except for one). I like movies. I enjoy going to the theatre, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, sometimes my shoes making that sticky thwok-thwok-thwok sound with the floor as I find my seat. I try not to smell the burnt popcorn, and do my best to ignore those around me who should have stayed home. Movies are necessary escapes from reality. Anyway…

Below are my top 13 movies of 2012, seen in theatres (DVD/Blu-ray don’t count), ranked in an order that will make you shake your head one way or the other. The rankings are based on the overall movie-going experience: Was I immersed or pulled into the movie in a way that made me forget how shitty our world has become? Did the story and its characters move me? Did I care? (I write horror, so what should I care?) Was the writing (yes, movies are written) spectacular, as well as the acting, the dialogue, the pacing, the tension, the art, the score, the script, the cinematography, the direction? Was it fun? Was I disappointed to see it end? Did I stay through the credits contemplating?

Whether or not you agree with my list, I’ll try to justify each of my choices. And I will start at the top (because everyone else does it the other way around and I do things backwards):

1. Cloud Atlas

1_cloud_atlasWhat can I say? With a nonlinear mesh of storylines (sound familiar?) all told at once, spanning centuries upon centuries, Cloud Atlas is the top movie for 2012. Why? A slave ship on the Pacific Ocean (1850), love letters shared between a composer and his partner in Belgium (1931), a murder mystery in California (1975), a vanity publisher avoiding his gangster client in Britain (present), a dystopian future set in Korea (22XX?) involving “fabricants” and a post-apocalyptic / nearly-primitive society (unspecified date hundreds of years after the fall of the previously mentioned dystopian future). Yes, all of that. All at once. Souls rippling and re-emerging through time to inspire a revolution in a distant future. Consequence weaving through the past, present and future. This movie is an unsteady mix of history, romance, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Six storylines to follow, all at once, thrown at your face and then slowly pieced together through some amazing filmography. This is my kind of movie! And to top it off, each actor / actress plays anywhere between 3 and 13 roles. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Ian McKellen, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent… the list goes on and on. I must admit, I went into this movie thinking it would be a disaster (sounds like it from this horrible summary) because Cloud Atlas is one of my favorite novels by David Mitchell (Ghostwritten, Number9dream, Black Swan Green). This is the guy that got me into writing, so if you think my novels are convoluted, you can thank David Mitchell. Unlike the movie, where all six storylines simultaneously occur on screen (not really simultaneously, but snippet after snippet of one story to the next, rinse and repeat), the novel gives us the first half of each story in turn, with one in the middle, followed by the second half of each, in turn. The book is complex enough to warrant six separate movies, yet Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix) somehow pull it off in this nearly 3-hour epic masterpiece. I think that is the main reason why Cloud Atlas ranks #1 on my list. The movie did not hinder my appreciation for the novel, but expanded upon it. I watched this movie three times in theatres. Cloud Atlas is an incredible adaptation, probably one of the best original takes on an adapted screenplay I’ve ever seen. I only wish the movie were longer, or never ended. And, believe it or not, this is an indie film, and will probably get overlooked, especially for award nominations.

2. Django Unchained

2_django_unchainedQuentin Tarantino is the king of dialogue. Yes, he’s a cinematography copycat, but he’s the best at it, and he has a good taste in music and camera angles and the overuse of fake blood. If I could describe Django Unchained, I would probably call it a spaghetti western mix of Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, both Kill Bill volumes, Inglourious Basterds, and nearly every other movie he’s made. Django is ultra-violent and ultra-funny. And serious, believe it or not. Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Water for Elephants) is one of my new favorite actors (not new to acting, but somewhat new to acting in the US). He plays a witty German cowboy bounty hunter disguised as a dentist (you read that right), alongside Jamie Foxx, a freed slave in search of his wife, a slave owned by Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo plays a villain remarkably well, as does Samuel L. Jackson, a cutthroat slave trader (you read that right as well). The most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long time. And I may see it again. I’m not sure if this is one of Tarantino’s best films, but it’s one of the best films this year, which says a lot for his work. The supporting actors in this film should win some awards this year.

3. Argo

3_argoHate what you will about Ben Affleck, but the man can direct. And act. And allegedly write, or at least “co-write.” He fell off my radar after co-writing and acting in the Oscar-worthy Good Will Hunting (one of Robin Williams’ best performances) alongside Matt Damon (How you like them Apples?), but reappeared on my radar when he directed his younger brother in Gone Baby Gone (co-wrote the screenplay), and then directed and starred in The Town (co-wrote as well), an adaptation of the novel Prince of Thieves by Chuck Hogan. This gave me high hopes for Argo, a movie about a joint CIA-Canadian operation to extract six American hostages out of a revolutionary Iran in 1980. Like the previous two films, I was pulled into this movie from the opening scene and was never let go until the credits rolled. And the tension is nail-biting. Although you already know how the movie ends before it ends, it still holds you on the edge of your seat with your heart palpitating. The characters played by John Goodman, Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) are still memorable. This movie deserves some best Screenplay nominations.

4. Prometheus

4_prometheusI don’t give a crap what you think about Prometheus. I loved it. And the original Alien, as well as the sequel, Aliens, are two of my favorite movies of all time. Someone once asked what my favorite horror movie was, and I blurted out Alien without thinking. There’s something about the setup of that movie that intrigues me. The fear of what you don’t see. I constantly hear complaints about Prometheus from both Alien and non-Alien lovers, mostly about a lack of aliens: “I was expecting to see more alien creatures, you know, like those in Alien and Aliens” or “This isn’t a direct prequel to Alien!” If you want to see a bunch of those little cat-like buggers, then watch the CGI-heavy / horrible Alien vs. Predator (AVP) movies and be done with it. Ridley Scott is a brilliant writer and director, and he brings his A-game (the A stands for ‘Alien’ in this case) to Prometheus, a story about the origin of mankind. And no, this is not a direct prequel to Alien. It could be considered a prequel of prequels, as we will most likely see a few more Prometheus-like movies in the future to fill that giant gap. My only gripe is that the Blu-ray version of the movie is disappointing and that all Charlize Theron had to do was run to the side… just sayin’. They changed the ending from the one I saw in theatres. The original ending is now considered a deleted / altered scene, which just pisses me off. Noomi Rapace (the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is amazing as the woman in distress and has an unforgettable scene in an automated surgeon tube, and Michael Fassbender (Magneto from X-Men: First Class) is stellar as an android named David, and Charlize Theron (Monster) is a downright evil bitch in this movie. Guy Pearce, however, was dreadful in his role as the old man in bad makeup. Overall, I dug it. A lot.

5. Looper

09_looperThis movie is probably one of the surprises to appear on the list of top movies of the year, probably because not a lot of people saw it in the theatres (similar to Cloud Atlas). Time travel movies rarely work. There’s always some kind of logic that ruins it for me. In Looper, set in the 2040s, time travel is invented 30 years in the future, but illegal, and only used on the black market by the mob because murder is nearly impossible in the 2070s. Whenever they need someone ‘gone,’ they send their victims 30 years into the past, where a hired gun, such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Brick, 50/50), takes them out. The Looper waits near an empty white sheet, a hooded body materializes, the Looper blows that person away (without hesitation) with a weapon called a Blunderbuss. The body is strapped with silver bars as a form of payment. There is also a villain known as ‘The Rainmaker’ who has been closing the loop on his hired guns by sending Loopers (from the future) to the past, tricking the Loopers into committing a 30-years-in-the-future suicide. Gold bars are strapped to these bodies instead of silver. A retirement fund to spend over the next 30 years before they no longer exist. When the main character (JG-L) is confronted with his older self (Bruce Willis), he hesitates, and chaos ensues from that point onward. His older self has come back to kill three little boys (one he knows will become ‘The Rainmaker’). This movie explores string theory, and explores it well. I sat long after the movie contemplating, and was reminded of Inception, one of my favorite movies from the year before. I can’t wait to see this one again.

6. Life of Pi

05_life_of_piAh, Life of Pi, another of my favorite novels. A boy on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with a tiger, a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a rat. What could go wrong? I remember finishing this book from Yann Martel 10 years ago, closing it, and saying, “This should be required reading in schools.” Well, I found out a month ago it was recently added to the curriculum at a few schools in California. Rightly so. The book is incredible. The movie industry will screw this one up. That was my thought going in to the movie. And then I remembered it was directed / produced by Ang Lee, so it was either going to be excellent, or it was going to suck. And then I remembered the cast was not composed of modern heartthrob-teeny-bopper-wannabees, but actors I had never heard of, so maybe Mr. Lee could pull it off. And then I saw the movie with a good friend of mine. Wow. Every frame of every shot is absolutely beautiful. Stunning, even. Life of Pi stayed true to the novel, for the most part, enough for me to enjoy the movie and place it in the number 6 spot. While I wish the movie focused more attention to symbolism and the orangutan’s importance, it was a great adaptation from book to film. Richard Parker (the tiger) deserves an Oscar for his performance.

7. Moonrise Kingdom

6_moonrise_kingdomYou either love Wes Anderson, or you hate him. Understand him, or hate him. That seems to be the consensus with his movies (Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox). He writes, directs, and produces his films, and for whatever reason, I enjoy every one of them. Moonrise Kingdom is a love story between two twelve-year-olds who make a pact to run away together into the wilderness: Sam is running away from Camp Ivanhoe, while Suzy is running away from her parents. The film features offbeat performances by Scout Master Edward Norton, the boy’s parents, played by Bill Murray and Francis McDormand (Fargo) and small town authority, Bruce Willis. Like I said before, you either love Wes Anderson movies, or you don’t. And this movie screams Wes Anderson. The film is distributed by Focus Features. To date, I haven’t found a Focus Features… feature, that I haven’t absolutely loved.

8. Lincoln

11_lincolnDaniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood, Gangs of New York, The Last of the Mohicans) is probably the finest actor working today. With each of his movies, he transforms into his characters, and Lincoln is no different. He is not Daniel Day-Lewis playing Lincoln, he is Lincoln. And he doesn’t even have to fight off vampires in this one! This movie ranks up there with Steven Speilberg’s best history films: Schindler’s List, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, and Amistad. I went into the movie expecting one Civil War battle after another, something like a Civil War version of Saving Private Ryan. The typical “two sides clashing together in epic fight scenes” that have become expected in nearly all movies today. But Lincoln is different. The war takes place off screen. Lincoln focuses on the man, his family, and the politics behind his course of actions to do three important things for this country (all at once): ending the civil war, reuniting the nation, and abolishing slavery. Most of those in the 25-and-under range watching the movie were restless throughout, wanting explosions and action, and a few even left the theatre bored. But those are the same people that think Schindler’s List is boring. Lincoln, both as a movie and as a character, perfectly portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis, is incredibly engaging. Daniel Day-Lewis will win the Oscar for this movie. No doubt. There are also some other amazing performances: Sally Field as Mary Lincoln, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as their son, Robert, and Tommy Lee Jones pulling off one of his best acting roles to date as Thaddeus Stevens (stealing the show every time he appeared on screen). Lincoln is a film that should be shone in schools.

9. Les Miserables

10_les_misI have to tell you something about Les Mis. If the movie rating was based solely on Anne Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream,” this movie would be number 1. I would pay full admission price to watch her sing that song, over and over again. Anne is the perfect Fantine, which unfortunately means she’s not in the movie very long, but watching her sing “I Dreamed a Dream” will make the tears flow, make you hold your breath, make you do all sorts of emotional things. She is simply amazing. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean is equally impressive; his singing is incredible and makes you wonder why he ever left Broadway to focus on film. He should be recording music. There are some other standout musical performances by Éponine (Samantha Barks… never heard of her before), and the little boy. Helen Bonham Carter (Sweeney Todd, The King’s Speech, Alice and Wonderland) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Hugo, he’s even in Django) are quite comical as Madame and Monsieur Thénardier (the masters of the house). Russel Crowe as Inspector Javert was kind of abysmal (his singing, anyway), and Amanda Seyfried as Cosette had some good soprano, and some bad soprano. Overall, this is an amazing take on Les Miserables.

10. The Avengers

7_the_avengersThis is a Joss Whedon geek-fest, plain and simple. Whether or not you like super hero movies, The Avengers kicked some serious blockbuster ass. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hulk #3 (Mark Ruffalo, although Edward Norton would have rocked this character like before), Thor (sorry, Chris Hemsworth, but out of all of the Marvel movies, yours downright sucked; the modern-day stuff was entertaining, but your home world is on the lame side), and don’t forget Nick Fury (Samuel F. Jackson (the F. was a MF’ing joke, MF!), and Jeremy Renner (I mean Hawkeye)… and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and on and on and on. The plot’s lame, but there’s so much going on in this movie in terms of eye candy that who really cares if the plot’s any good? It’s The Avengers. Together. All at once. As long as a movie can pull you out of reality for a few hours, that’s all that really matters.

11. The Hobbit, part whatever

08_hobbitNow you hate me. Why isn’t this number 1? Why is it below The Avengers and all of those other movies? Well, if all three movies were out at once, and they were combined cumulatively to a 4-5 hour version of The Hobbit (instead of nearly 8-9 hours by the time this saga is over), it would probably be much higher in the rankings, but not number 1. The Hobbit, part whatever, reminded me of the first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring. It was slow, but entertaining, and the movie pulled me into J.R.R. Tolkien’s world easily enough… familiar territory now that we’ve lived through 10 hours of the Lord of the Rings (or 14 hours of extended cuts). The troll scene at the campfire was fun to see on screen (although their voices were a little high-pitched like Cosette from Les Mis), and Gollum once again made the movie, but I felt the film was more kid friendly (which, I know, it should be), and spent too much time with the line of dwarfs (dwarves or dwarfs? I can’t remember… I think Tolkien used dwarfs) marching along in the typical Peter Jackson zoomed-out landscape shot followed by zoomed-out landscape shot with awesome music in the background, or the more typical ‘everyone running at the same time through an impossible number of easily-defeatable foes that swarm like ants but part like the red sea when the good guys coming running with daggers and hammers and whatnot with Gandalf saving their hides every time the group requires him as their deux ex machina’ kind of scenes. Ian McKellen plays Gandalf well, and Andy Serkis hides behind the CGI to help create the best Gollum yet, but the movie was just… okay. The Hobit, part whatever, only makes my top 13 because I’m a Tolkien fan.

12. Skyfall

13_skyfallSecond from last is Skyfall, which has received some stellar movie reviews from critics. I have no idea why. Believe it or not, The Dark Knight Rises ruined this movie for me. They have the same plot elements. As I was watching Bond, I was thinking, This is Bruce Wayne a few movies ago. They could have called the movie James Bond Rises. But, it’s a good movie. I like the Daniel Craig version of Bond much better than Brosnan, Connery, or Moore, which is probably some sort of 007 blasphemy to Bond fanatics. Skyfall has some of the best action scenes I’ve seen this year, such as the rooftop motorcycle chase and the opening train scene. The main reason why Skyfall makes the list is Ralph Fiennes (another brilliant actor), and Javier Bardem playing his creepiest villain role since No Country for Old Men. Judy Dench as M was annoying though. By the end of the film, I was wanting her character dead. Speaking of the end of the film: Home Alone. I couldn’t help but think of Macaulay Culkin barricading himself inside the house and setting traps. Like I said before, this is a great film, but I have no idea why critiques are praising it.

13. The Dark Knight Rises

12_dark_knightI watched The Dark Knight Rises in the theatre as the finale to a Batman marathon, which I believe is why it ranks last. Honestly, the first time I watched it, I didn’t like it at all. Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception, The Prestige) is one of the best directors / producers / writers working today, especially when he gets his brother involved, so there was a lot of expectations with this film. A repeat viewing on Blu-ray has bumped the film onto this list. The marathon started with Batman Begins (my second favorite in the series), the beginning to Nolan’s revamp of the Batman saga. The marathon then should have concluded with The Dark Knight, one of the last films featuring Heath Ledger, who gave us the best performance ever captured on film (my take, anyway) as The Joker. Then the marathon actually concluded with The Dark Knight Rises (a title that basically adds ‘Rises’ to the previous). I think the main problem with seeing all three movies in a row like this was the brilliance of The Dark Knight. That film is so good, it makes The Dark Knight Rises look paltry, or at least a strong downward curve of this three film arc, especially at 3:00am when the film ended. Truth be told, I could not get over Bane’s voice: sort of a mix between Sean Connery from Indiana Jones and Goldmember from Austin Powers. I kept expecting Bane to say, “Bat-man, we named the dawg Indiana, because I like Goooold.” But, after repeat viewings, I was able to get over the voice and enjoyed the movie more; although, Anne Hathaway ruins it for me as Catwoman. Her character had no place in this film (unlike her role in Les Mis). Christian Bale as Batman… a little rough in the second movie, but better in this one. The savior of this film is Joseph Gordon-Levitt (he’s in three of my top movies this year) as John Blake. He gave a certain human emotion that held the entire movie together, which makes sense if he’s going to take over as Robin.

So, that’s my top 13 for the year. Below are a few movies that either didn’t make the cut, or I haven’t seen yet.

Movies I enjoyed, but didn’t make the cut:
Cabin in the Woods (would have taken the 10 spot if I had seen it in the theatres), Expendables 2 (absolutely fun), The Grey (would have made the 13 spot if I hadn’t moved The Dark Knight Rises onto the list).

Movies I enjoyed, but found extremely overrated:
The Hunger Games, Dark Shadows, Snow White and the Huntsman, Ted, Spiderman.

Still want to see (expect to be good):
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Killer Joe, Robot & Frank, Arbitrage, The Master, Trouble with the Curve, End of Watch, Seven Psychopaths, Hyde Park on Hudson.

Still want to see (expect to suck):
The Campaign, The Bourne Legacy, Total Recall, Savages, Lawless, The Words, Woman in Black, The Raven, Taken 2, M.I.B. 3, Sinister, Flight, Killing Them Softly, Jack Reacher.

VIRAL MAD – PART 2

[ click to start voting ]

Chiral Mad is nominated for “Anthology of the Year” by This is Horror, alongside a list of splendid anthologies. Click the image above to see nominees for all categories in the This is Horror Awards 2012. The voting is simple. Email awards@thisishorror.co.uk with a subject line of ‘Awards 2012 Votes’. Write the category and your first and second choice for each award (or only one). I can only hope you vote for Chiral Mad, but it’s up to you. Below are the five nominees for anthologies, so you can get an idea of what the book is up against. Some fine company. Voting ends January 4th.

1. Chiral Mad, edited by Michael Bailey
2. Terror Tales of the Cotswolds, edited by Paul Finch
3. The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandemeer
4. The Best Horror of the Year Volume 4, edited by Ellen Datlow
5. The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, edited by Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan

I am more than honored to see Chiral Mad on the shortlist for this award, especially since This is Horror is based in the United Kingdom, which means the anthology is making its way around the globe. In fact, this blog for has already reached nine countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, Finland, South Africa, Switzerland, and Netherlands (WordPress has some nice built-in analytics).

The London Book Festival has just named Chiral Mad as the Winner of their Compilations/Anthologies category!

London Book Festival 2012[ click for results ]

Chiral Mad was also recently recognized as an Award-finalist for the 2012 USA Best Book Awards in multiple categories (Best Cover Design: Fiction, and Fiction: Anthologies). Click the award logo for a full list of winners and finalists.

The 2012 Halloween Book Fest Awards, held in Hollywood, California, also recognized Chiral Mad as an Honorable Mention earlier this year.

Bram Stoker Awards, you say? Why not? According to the official recommendation list, Chiral Mad has been recommended for the award by multiple parties, as well as three of the individual stories: Inevitable” by Meghan Arcuri, “Experiments in an Isolation Tank” by Eric J. Guignard, and “Some Pictures in an Album” by Gary McMahon.

The latest review of the anthology comes from the San Francisco Book Review: “Chiral Mad positively affects the world before negatively affecting your psyche.” The review specifically mentions “Need” by Gary Braunbeck, “Brighter Her Aura Grows” by David Hearn, and “Underwater Ferris Wheel” by yours truly. Read why San Francisco Book Review calls the anthology “the perfect book for fans of psychological horror, people who like to be truly bothered rather than splashed with blood and gore” in their four star review.

I would also like to thank Jack Ketchum for his continued efforts to promote this book. He has tweeted about the anthology on five separate occasions, and each time it has directly impacted sales. He has quoted lines from three Chiral Mad stories: “Mirror Moments” by Christian A.Larsen, “The Apologies” by Erik T. Johnson, and “There are Embers” by Chris Hertz, and has sent the following messages to his thousands of followers: “Want a copy of CHIRAL MAD? Check http://bit.ly/Tapp4o  for details. Did I mention all proceeds go to Down Syndrome charities?” and “Friday reads: CHIRAL MAD, solid antho edited by Michael Bailey. All proceeds go to Down syndrome charities — and I’m happy to be in it…” Jack Ketchum, you are incredible.

Last but not least, the money. I will post the amount on a separate line for impact…

$3,000 and counting.

Good work, everyone. Continue spreading the virus that is Chiral Mad. Many more reviews are one the way…

THE NEXT BIG THING

I was invited by both Erik T. Johnson and P. Gardner Goldsmith to participate in what is becoming a viral blog-eruption of talent. It is an honor to be thought of as “the next big thing” by such magnificent authors. You can find Erik’s blog at eriktjohnson.net/blog.html, and Gardner’s at gardnergoldsmith.com. I likewise consider each of these gentlemen “the next big thing” in speculative fiction, and I urge you to online-stalk each, regularly follow their blogs, and seek out their published works. I have had the opportunity of publishing short stories by both of these fine talents. Gardner’s “Sigil” and Erik’s “The Apologies” appear in my most recent psychological horror anthology, Chiral Mad, and Erik’s “The Inconsolable Key Company ” appeared in my first anthology, Pellucid Lunacy. Read the linked blogs!

Now, on to the questions:

1. What is the working title of your next book?

I am currently working on novel number three, Psychotropic Dragon.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Nearly twelve years ago, I dreamt about a girl with a tribal tattoo inked on her midsection. She was kneeling on the ground, naked, poised with her back arched and her arms held like a dragon unfolding its wings (attached pic). Without seeing the tattoo up close, I knew what it depicted. I awoke with that image burned into my mind. I somehow knew her as a troubled teen named Julie who took a psychotropic/hallucinogenic drug in the form of eye drops (even though none of this transpired in the dream). I rarely remember dreams, but this one stuck. This strange character has haunted me ever since. She wants to live on the page, and I haven’t let her. She showed some skin in my first novel, Palindrome Hannah, and she made an appearance or two in the follow-up, Phoenix Rose, and in a few of my short stories, but until now, I was afraid of giving her story life. Psychotropic Dragon is that story.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Horror. This one is a nonlinear psychological mind trip.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

The closest I’ve seen to a Julie lookalike would have to be Keira Knightly. The first time I saw Domino, I thought the main character looked familiar. There’s a drug dealer named Chase who could be played easily by a witty Woody Harrison or Kevin Spacey. Julie’s mother could be Carrie-Anne Moss, and her father by anyone who can pull off sinister. Julie’s friend Frankie could be played by Kandyse McClure.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Enhanced by a psychotropic drug taken through the eyes, a troubled youth unravels her dark fantastic past to shed light on an ameliorate reality.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will soon be looking for representation.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first “written” version of this story made it to paper in late 2009, and I’ve been editing and revising as I go along. I’m hoping to have a completed manuscript by early 2013. It typically takes me four years per novel, so I’m still on track.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

None that I can think of, which is sort of the point. I’ve been called the David Mitchell of horror, but that’s only because his work is extremely nonlinear like mine. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum comes to mind because of the brutality and pacing.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Julie. It’s her story. I’m the vessel.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Readers of my first two novels will recognize some of the characters that weave in and out of this novel, including Aeron Stevenson from Palindrome Hannah, who has a big role in Psychotropic Dragon, as well as Hannah, Julie’s daughter. Horror greats such as Thomas F. Monteleone, F. Paul Wilson, Douglas E. Winter and John Skipp have all helped in this novel’s early development.

Who do I consider “the next big thing?”

There are many names to consider. If I had my choice, I’d write a paragraph about all thirty who deserve such recognition, but I can only choose three, so here they are, in no particular order:

Christian A. Larsen. I discovered Chris after he submitted his story “Mirror Moments” to the Chiral Mad anthology not long ago. After falling in love with his story and its delicate prose, I searched his name online and found his exlibrislarsen.com website, where he blogs regularly (side note: a similar thing happened after discovering Erik T. Johnson for the first time, who signed me up for “The Next Best Thing”). I am proud to be in the same table of contents as Chris in the forthcoming Zippered Flesh 2, where his story “The Little Things” will appear alongside Kealan Patrick Burke, W.D. Gagliani, Jezzy Wolfe, and yours truly. I am eager to read his story “The Talent’s in the Bones” in The Ghost is the Machine, where he rightfully belongs with authors such as Joe Hill, Eric J. Guignard and Jonathan Templar, as well as his story “724” in For When the Veil Drops. I look forward to hunting down Mr. Larsen’s other work. He is that good. And I look forward to publishing more of his stories in the future. How good is Christian A. Larsen? Jack Ketchum recently tweeted a line from Mr. Larsen’s “Mirror Moments”:  Kids see things differently; that’s why they make such great victims.” Larsen conveys powerful prose with minimal words.

R.B. Payne. I met Richard a long time ago at one of the Borderlands Press boot camps, where we battled with red pens and bled over pages until we realized we weren’t only fighting on the same side, but sparring, making each other better. And then we kept battling throughout the weekend, and again at another boot camp a few years later. Only recently have I really dug into his work as a fan, seeking out his publications. I must say, I have enjoyed every word. Lovecraft-inspired The Shadow of the Unknown is the first anthology to publish Richard alongside yours truly, and his story “The Laramie Tunnel” is one to remember. I personally invited Mr. Payne to Chiral Mad and was sent a story called “Cubicle Farm,” one of my quickest decisions. A third of the way through the initial read, a voice in my head was saying, “Yes, I like where this one’s going because I don’t know where it’s going. This one is definitely in the anthology.” To date, there are three official reviews of the anthology; two of these have mentioned “Cubicle Farm” as one of the standouts. Look forward to Payne.

Meghan Arcuri. What can I say about Meghan Arcuri? The palindrome ‘wow’ comes to mind. Meghan and I have met twice in person: first at Borderlands, and second at AnthoCon 2012, where she participated in the official release of Chiral Mad. She read part of her story “Inevitable” and held everyone on the edge of their seats. She then shared that “Inevitable” was her first publication, and that it was her first reading. (side note: this is also her first horror story). This floored everyone. Over the conference weekend, many notable authors approached asking, “Where did you find her? She’s incredible!” and publishers asking “Do you think she’d send something to me?” She amazed Gary A. Braunbeck with her reading, as well as Charles Day. Both mentioned to me how much they enjoyed her story. Meghan is an amazing new talent and my final author to consider as “The Next Big Thing”. I am glad to have met her and we’ve shared many hours together discussing the art of writing. R.B. Payne is to blame for our relationship, and I thank him wholeheartedly. He sent an email prior to submitting his story, a warning of sorts, letting me know Meghan would be sending me something: “She’s heading someplace serious as soon as she gets more writing chops. Anyway, just sayin’”

So, those are my three. Follow the links and seek them out. You will not be disappointed.

VIRAL MAD – PART 1

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, viral marketing has played a major role in the success of Chiral Mad thus far. So, to keep the virus spreading, I’ve collected a plethora of information about the anthology here, including some awards, reviews, and other promotion. Read and spread. That’s how it works.

First, the awards. Chiral Mad was recently listed as an Award finalist for the 2012 USA Best Book Awards by USA Book News, and in two separate categories: Anthologies: Fiction, and Best Cover Design: Fiction. It was also a finalist for the 2012 Halloween Book Fest Awards earlier this year.

Second, the official reviews. There will be a lot of reviews coming in for this anthology in the near future (and I’ve been asked three times this week for additional review copies… one in Italy, even), so I thought I’d collect them in various blogs as they arrive to keeps things simple for those that are interested and want to follow along. For those that choose to skim, I’ve created some review cliff notes below, although I’d recommend reading the reviews in their entirety.

Horror World review of Chiral Mad
“Get this book… as win/win as it gets.”
“Little slices of life as seen through a gaze set firmly askew.”

This is a great review of Chiral Mad by Horror World, and I couldn’t be happier. I am also noted as a recognizable name alongside Jack Ketchum, Gary Braunbeck, Gene O’Neill, Gary McMahon, Gord Rollo, and Jeff Strand, which is quite the honor. While I don’t quite agree I should be placed on the same virtual pedestal/ bookshelf as these amazing authors, it’s already been said and can’t be taken back! The review mentions Jack Ketchum’s “Amid the Walking Wounded,” (‘delivers the goods’), R.B. Payne’s “Cubicle Farm,” (‘hell of office drudgery examined with wonderful results’), Gary A. Braunbeck’s “Need,” (Braubeck never disappoints… weird and dark and downright depressing’), Gary McMahon’s “Some Pictures in an Album” (‘a reason to be frightened… plenty of paranoia’), and A.A. Garrison’s “The Bad Season” (‘a glimpse of a mad man’s mind’).

Hellnotes review of Chiral Mad
“Every contribution is well written and literate, most are highly compelling, and each is constructed with an entire test tube full of asymmetric molecules.”

Hellnotes offers another good review of Chiral Mad and I love the blurb. The review mentions R.B. Payne’s “Cubicle Farm,” Monica J. O’Rourke’s “Five Adjectives” (‘deceptively simple’), Gary McMahon’s “Some Pictures in an Album” (‘the ultimate tale of paranoid creepiness’), Gord Rollo’s “Lost in a Field of Paper Flowers” (‘punch-in-the-gut’), and Jeff Strand’s “A Flawed Fantasy” (‘quality snuff literature’). This review is kind of a mixed bag of tidbits, but it’s a good one.

Kirkus review of Chiral Mad
“A glimpse into the lives of people entering or already inhabiting the soul of darkness.”
“A compilation of entertaining, if often disturbing, stories.”
“Skillfully mixed and matched.”

Another good review (if you go by the blurbs above), provided by Kirkus Reviews, mentioning the many topics of horror and madness captured in the anthology: Monica J. O’Rourke’s “Five Adjectives” (‘things that can trigger madness’), Ian Shoebridge’s “White Pills” (‘tenuous perception of reality’), Meghan Arcuri’s “Inevitable” (‘sense of desperation’), Gord Rollo’s “Lost in a Field of Paper Flowers” (‘memories and the damage they can cause’), Chris Hertz’s “There are Embers” (‘sudden emergence of repressed memories’), Michael Bailey’s (yours truly) “Underwater Ferris Wheel (‘casually chilling’), Jeff Strand’s “A Flawed Fantasy” (‘gritty’), and Julie Stipes’ “Not the Child” (‘dreamlike’).

Third, fan reviews. Sometimes the best reviews are those by readers, so I’ve included reviews by both Goodreads and Amazon. If you’ve read Chiral Mad, I highly suggest that you write a review, even if it’s only a few words of positivity/negativity. Writers love reviews of all kinds. The more the merrier.

Goodreads reviews of Chiral Mad
“I’m not sure I’ve read another anthology that was as pleasingly edited as this one by Michael Bailey. It is chiral, by definition… There are thirty great reasons to buy this anthology. Twenty eight of them are the stories it contains, the twenty-ninth is the editing, and the thirtieth is because you need to be looking out for your fellow travelers on this planet.”

Amazon.com reviews of Chiral Mad
“A success story in the anthology department!”
“A perfect book for cuddling up with on a cold fall night. Each story is unique, spooky and thought provoking.”

There are currently two five-star reviews on Amazon. They specifically mention Gord Rollo’s “Lost in a Field of Paper Flowers,” Chris Hertz’s “There are Embers,” Gary Braubeck’s “Need,” Patrick O’Neill’s “Alderway,” P. Gardner Goldsmith’s “Sigil,” Jon Michael Kelley’s “The Persistence of Vision,” and Pat R. Steiner’s “The Shoe Tree.”

Fourth on the viral agenda are the various bloggings and tweetings, and facebookings:

Jack Ketchum has helped the virus spread by Tweeting a quote from the book (‘Kids see things differently; that’s why they make such great victims’ – Christian A. Larsen, “Mirror Moments”) and commenting on the book, calling it “a solid antho.” (thanks Jack!)

Speaking of Christian A. Larsen, he has been regularly blogging about Chiral Mad as well, which you can follow by clicking on his name. Not to mention some of the other contributors of Chiral Mad: John Palisano on his website and Erik T. Johnson at Yes Trespassing, Pat R. Steiner, A.A. Garrison at Synchroshock, Eric J. Guignard, Andrew Hook at Nitrospective, and the one and only P. Gardner Goldsmith.

Chiral Mad was recently featured on Darkeva’s Dark Delights Friday Fright Feature, mentioned as a well put together anthology for a worthy cause, with book information and a link to the book trailer.

If you are blogging about Chiral Mad without my knowledge and helping to spread the infection, I sincerely thank you, and I hope you reach out to me to let me know so I can mention it in VIRAL MAD – PART 2.

I think that’s it for now…

CHIRAL GLAD

CHIRAL MAD - COVER

Chiral Mad, the second psychological horror anthology by Written Backwards, has been out for just over a month now. Official publication date: 10/11/12. Unofficially, it was released at the second annual AnthoCon (hosted by The Four Horsemen) in New Hampshire exactly two weeks ago: 11/10/12, so it’s really only a few weeks old. We had a launch of the book with readings and signings by Gary A. Braunbeck, P. Gardner Goldsmith, Meghan Arcuri, Jon Michael Kelley, Patrick Lacey, and yours truly. To celebrate, 50 copies of the book were donated (purchased beforehand by a generous third-party, a $600 donation) and handed out via swag bags to the first 50 to register at the event. Nearly all of the copies I brought with me sold out, and there seemed to be a lot of buzz over the charity (Down syndrome), the cover, and the fine contributors of this project.

Gary A. Braunbeck gives quite the performance with his readings (I’ve had the opportunity to hear him read four times in my life), and likewise gave an emotional reading from his story “Need.” I had someone after the launch comment, “Man, that guy gives a performance…” Meghan Arcuri held listeners at the edge of their seats with her reading of “Inevitable” and shocked everyone in the room afterward by admitting it was her first publication, and her first reading experience. P. Gardner Goldsmith, as always, gave a memorable reading of his story “Sigil.” I would hire this guy to be the voice behind any of my works (audiobooks someday). In fact, since I’m not a fan of reading my work aloud, Gardner ‘volunteered’ to read my short story “Plasty” at a separate reading event, and had the crowd both laughing and holding back the bile in their throats with his audible charisma. Patrick Lacey was in attendance at the book launch as well and remarked that his story “Send Your End” was his first publication, which resulted in a round of applause. From reading his story, one would guess Patrick to be a veteran of the craft. We were limited by an hour for this reading/signing event, so a few of the authors, like Jon Michael Kelley, volunteered to instead discuss an important object in his story “The Persistence of Vision,” captivating the audience with his description of thaumatropes. Many authors approached me at the event and asked if they could submit something for the next project.

“How did you gather all of this talent?” I was asked regularly at the convention. “How did you get [fill in any of the following here: Jack Ketchum, Gary Braunbeck, Gary McMahon, Gord Rollo, Gene O’Neill, Jeff Strand] and all of these other awesome people into one anthology?” The answer I gave was simple, but longwinded: “These are all great people, in- and outside of publishing. Every one of them. I sought out 1/2; the other 1/2 came to me. I mentioned that all proceeds (every cent) from the anthology would go to Down syndrome charities, and gave a challenge of interpreting chirality, and they came to me.”

A month earlier, at KillerCon in Las Vegas, I was able to meet with seven of the Chiral Mad contributors, including Jack Ketchum, Gene O’Neill, P. Gardner Goldsmith, Eric J. Guignard, Monica J. O’Rourke, John Palisano, and Aaron J. French. There was a lot of early buzz for the project at this event as well, and we took some photos, signed a few things, and had a wonderful time. All great people, as I mentioned before. Not only do these individuals have immense pools of literary talent trapped in their minds that somehow find way onto paper, they are some of the finest examples of humanity.

Viral marketing is what really made this project take off. Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter and various blogs by contributors spread word of this anthology like the overused analogy of online wildfire. Creating a teaser book trailer (and later an official version) helped as well. The few days following the book trailer launch resulted in a couple hundred additional submissions. If you’re wondering, over 400 short stories were submitted to Chiral Mad. 28 made it into the book. 1/2 of the 28 were personally invited and submitted something extraordinary; the other 1/2 sought me out and submitted something incredible. All 28 authors tackled chirality differently, and all 28 created amazing stories.

So, where are we at after just over a month, or two ‘unofficial’ weeks? Let’s just say that the first charity anthology released by Written Backwards, Pellucid Lunacy, has raised a little over $2,300 to date. We’ve met that mark with Chiral Mad already, which is something incredible.

How do we keep the ball rolling and raise even more money/awareness for Down syndrome? Viral marketing. Word of mouth. Reviews (they are starting to surface). Social networking. Sharing. Blogging. Giving copies as gifts. Donating copies to libraries. Let’s spread some Chiral Mad.

BLOG BIRTH

So, WordPress…

This may be the new blogging headquarters of Written Backwards. I’m thinking of merging this website with the main site, or possibly even using this as the new nettirw homebase, but we’ll have to wait and see. It depends how well I end up liking WordPress. So far, I’m impressed at the simplicity. If all else fails, I can always setup a blog.nettirw.com and point it here.

Check out some of the titles in the top menu. I only have Palindrome Hannah and Phoenix Rose working as guinea pigs, but I’ll import/migrate the other titles soon.

Social-networkists can follow online at facebook.com/nettirw (there’s also a link to like the Written Backwards facebook page on the right hand side of the screen). If you’re one of those myspace people, you can follow me at myspace.com/nettirw, but be forewarned, I rarely go there because I hate myspace and it’s as readily used as Google+, which I don’t plan on joining anytime soon. Twitter? twitter.com/nettirw, but the facebook page and twitter pages are basically synchronized… or they should be. I’ll have to test that out again.

E-mail me anytime at written@nettirw.com. I’d love to hear from you.