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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Re-Watching Agents of Shield, and Hope in Horror

So, I recently started re-watching Agents of Shield. The reason? Well, at this point in my life, I've had my fill of horror which goes nowhere but degradation, desolation, and nihilistic "there's no point in anything and there's no good in the world" destinations. 

I'm sorry.

That's probably a bit on the nose.

But honestly, after watching such wonderful shows as The Haunting of Hill House, and the currently enjoyable Castle Rock, after loving Stranger Things...I just hit a wall, recently. I tried to watch American Horror Story: Cult...and found it completely unwatchable. 

Seriously.

At first, my hopes were moderately high (I've had a so-so experience with AHS so far) because, sure - looking at the recent political developments in our world; how everyone seems to be caving into their worst fears, and how the Powers the Be have sought to control those fears for their own ends - there seemed to be an ample opportunity for some culturally-relevant horror about what our worst fears do to us. What I got instead?
 

I'm not even sure. Honestly, Cult was practically unwatchable. It offered the worst political caricatures of all kinds, and I couldn't even take it seriously. I gave up after several episodes, tried to finish American Horror Story: Roanoke. I found the first half of that season decently engaging. However, I couldn't finish that either...as it moved from a desperate fight for survival to a rigged game offering nothing but carnage and betrayal.

I just couldn't do it.

Look, I'm not afraid of  "dark." The Haunting of Hill House was really dark, at times. But it had substance. Something for us viewers to root for. And, though it was dark with not a particularly uplifting message about how free will might be an  illusion, at least Black Mirror's Bandersnatch was interesting, both from a storytelling perspective (how can you NOT like a Choose Your Own Adventure Movie?), and from the concept of free-will versus predestination. 


And, hey - not many folks liked it, but even the television adaptation of Stephen King's The Mist had something to it. People struggling for something, to achieve something good. After trying to slog through AHS: Cult and the rest of Roanoke, I just gave up and decided to re-watch something  that had hope as part of the narrative.

Now, maybe this is just AHS we're talking about. The only season I really liked was Asylum - and that was because, for all it's darkness, characters in that series fought for something. They tried to find something. They clung to hope.

I'm not going much further with this, because you've already heard this, if you followed my blog for any length of time. I'm not sure what this means for my writing "career" - but I have a very low tolerance, anymore, for horror stories which offer no hope of any kind. Make it as dark as possible. Make it disturbing, so we look at things we'd rather not - it is, after all, the duty of the artist to not look away - but offer something, man. Some hope of something better. If not?

What's the point?

Okay. I'll stop complaining about the clouds, now... 

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

My 2018 Reads

As always, the list is varied...



It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Why I'm Not on Facebook Much Anymore

So, my wife and I enjoyed a nice getaway before Christmas for our anniversary. As a Christmas/anniversary surprise, I booked tickets for a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, which was AWESOME, by the way. We've always wanted to see them in concert, so it was an opportunity we couldn't pass up. 

Later that evening, we hit a really a nice pub (whose Buffalo Chicken Sandwich basically put Buffalo Wild Wings fare to shame), and took in some Christmas lights. The next morning, Abby wanted to see the Liberty Bell - which she'd never seen before - and I got the chance to mug next the Rocky Balboa statue outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was a great start to our holiday season.

And, the weather was very nice Friday night. Unseasonably nice, so hence the first part of the blog title. The second?

Basically, I've hit my threshold when it comes to social media. I don't think there's anything wrong with it per se. I think it's fine for other people. For me, right now, it's just not something I want in my life. 

No big, overwrought explanation why. Just a confluence of things, really. I've come to the belief that, at the moment anyway, it doesn't impact my writing "career" very much, and has very little impact on sales. As for building a "platform?"

I know scores of folks who'd say that Facebook and social media in general are essential to creating a platform through which authors connect with their readers, so while social media POSTS don't necessarily generate sales, the platform itself is essential in creating a "following." Heck, I've claimed the same thing myself, many times in the past.

The bottom line is this: I've gotten tired of it. Nothing drastic has happened. No violations of my privacy, no threat to my family, or anything like that. It just got to feel like a performance. Even saying "Hey, I'm just being me" started feeling like a performance. Posting about books. About writing. About pictures of our family. Goodreads updates. Foodie pictures. I just felt like I was performing, all the time.

Again, keep in mind: I'm not attacking social media, or those who use it. Just making a decision about what I want to spend my time on. After much deliberation, I decided to unplug and spend more time with my family. And, I'd rather write one or two blogs a month and try to build a platform through my newsletter - a newsletter folks have chosen to receive - than shouting into the wind on Facebook.

What does this mean for my career? I have no idea, but that's also become part of the problem. Concerns about my "career" have impacted my writing. So for now, I just want to write, and worry about what happens to my writing later. 

I hope everyone had a Happy Holidays, and has a great 2019!

Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Wells Fargo Center. AWESOME.

The Christmas Lights on Greeby Street, Philadelphia.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Review: The Siren and the Specter

The Siren and the Specter The Siren and the Specter by Jonathan Janz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another solid, entertaining read from Johnathan Janz, with plenty of unexpected twists. If Brian Keene, Richard Layman-esque horror is what you're looking for, this will be right up your alley.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Review: Behind the Door

Behind the Door Behind the Door by Mary SanGiovanni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent of course, as always. Mary's cosmic horror is of her own making. It's not Lovecraftian, it is, as I've often said, Sangiovannian. However, very reminiscent of Stephen King's Lovecraftian fiction (though Mary's prose is also her own), her cosmic horror is entertaining, too. As much I as enjoyed Thomas Ligotti's prose, his work almost shows an ACTUAL contempt for humanity itself. Mary's work certainly shows us the pitiless horrors of the cosmic unknown, but in contrast, it serves to show humanity triumphing in SPITE of those pitiless cosmic horrors. She gives readers something to root for, which is a tricky balance to maintain - portraying the horrors of cosmic entities which view us as fodder, while creating a story which pulls the reader in for the ride.

Her characterization, as always, is spot on, and in this case, Sangiovanni deftly renders two characters as sympathetic to the audience - despite possesing terrible, revolting flaws - who could've otherwise come off horribly in someone else's hands. This shows Sangiovanni's insight and understanding of human nature.

Without a doubt, though I've thoroughly enjoyed all her works, this is my favorite of her new Kennsington/Lyrical Underground novels, and my favorite since THRALL.

View all my reviews

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Things You Need Holiday Sale!

My newest short story collection, Things You Need, is currently on sale for .99! Only until December 27th.  Get it while you can, and spread the word!

 The things we want are so very rarely the things we need.

Clifton Heights, a modest Adirondack town, offers many unique attractions. Arcane Delights sells both paperbacks and hard-to-find limited editions. The Skylark Diner serves the best home-cooked meals around, with friendly service and a smile. Every August, Mr. Jingo’s County Fair visits, to the delight of children and adults. In essence, Clifton Heights is the quintessential small American town. Everyone knows everyone else, and everyone is treated like family. It is quiet, simple, and peaceful.

But shadows linger here. Flitting in dark corners, from the corner of the eye. If you walk down Main Street after dark, the slight scrape of shoes on asphalt whispers you're not alone, but when you look over your shoulder, no one is there. The moon shines high and bright in the night sky, but instead of throwing light, it only seems to make the shadows lengthen. 


Children disappear. Teens run away. Hunters get lost in the woods with frightening regularity. Husbands go mad, and wives vanish in the dead of night. And still, when the sun rises in the morning, you are greeted by townspeople with warm waves and friendly smiles, and the shivers pass as everything seems fresh and new...

Until night falls once more.

Handy's Pawn and Thrift sits several blocks down from Arcane Delights. Like any thrift store, its wares range from the mundane to the bizarre. By daylight, it seems just another slice of small town Americana. But in its window hangs a sign which reads: We Have Things You Need. And when a lonely traveling salesman comes looking for something he desperately wants, after normal visiting hours, after night has fallen, he will face a harsh truth among the shelves of Handy’s Pawn and Thrift: the things we want are rarely the things we need.


 Blurbs & Reviews:

"This is sophisticated adult fiction. With an edge. At times, the book virtually becomes folklore: clever, witty, elegant folklore, with a sting – many stings – including moments of iconic dread." - Robert Dunbar, Bram Stoker Award Winning Author of THE PINES and WILLY

"This is Death of a Salesman written for the horror market. The stories are flawless and original, avoiding the usual, hackneyed tropes, with no weak links between them. A thoroughly enjoyable read for the longer autumnal nights." - Horroraddicts.net

"The way Lucia creates his worlds and their inhabitants is masterful.” - This is Horror

"...it would make for a gorgeous movie in the right hands." - Sci Fi & Scary

Monday, December 10, 2018

God and Me


So, I sat down and wrote this blog in a white heat last Spring. I saved it, closed it, and didn't look at it again until now. I read over it several times, realizing that I'd done the number one thing I despise the most.

Proselytize.

It was supposed to be a blog about how I've really had to ask myself some hard questions the past few years about my priorities. It was supposed to be a blog about how I've had to reorient myself in regards to my relationship not only with my family, but also with God and Christ. It was supposed to be a blog about letting go of my biggest dreams, about getting out of the way and seeing what God had in store for me.

Instead, it was more like a 2,000 word tract.

That's not what I want. At all. If you and I were sitting at a bar right now, and you asked me, “Hey, Kevin, how can you believe in a God?” or “Do you believe the Bible is divinely inspired?”, I'd be more than happy to while the hours away talking with you, sharing what I believe, and why I believe it.

But I have no desire to convert anyone.

There. I said it. I have no desire to try and prove other beliefs wrong. I want to talk about books. About horror. About good horror movies. Heck, bad horror movies. About writing. About comic books. About Stephen King. About the superhero movies and television shows I'll never get tired of. About raising a wonderful autistic son. About teaching. Yes, about Art and Faith and how they co-mingle. But I have no desire to convert anyone.

See, these last few years has been about me and God. Me and Jesus. My relationship with Christ, which, before the past few years, was lip-service only. I've looked inside and haven't liked what I've found, and am trying to  - in C. S. Lewis' words - lay down my arms and give up. Surrender.

What will this look like?

I have no idea.

I'm not going to suddenly becoming radically involved in politics, (I hate politics), or tell anyone how they should live. All that stuff is, quite frankly, none of my business. And to be honest? So many of the “loudest” Christians today are the least Christlike, in my opinion.

I'm not going to attack other people. Ever. What I'm trying to do, is give up. Not writing, per se, because I believe God made me a writer, and more importantly, I believe He made me a horror writer, and placed me in the horror genre. I'm not trying to give those things up.

But I am trying to give up my dreams. My goals. My plans. Three years ago, I had a lot of plans and dreams. I had a vision of how my “writing career” was supposed to go. Next month, I'll talk about how I've been trying to give up all those things, and get out of God's way, and see what He wants to happen.