by Camela Thompson
Michael G. Munz started a trend in our household: Live tweeting horror movies. We pick movies based on the title and concept, and many of them have a very low rating. Sometimes I wonder if we are giving them a fair shot, but I know I genuinely want to find a hidden gem. I love horror movies. My current favorites are the improbable mashups of horror and comedy. This combination is brilliant when well executed and a side show disaster when it isn't. With all of the cliches in the genre, there are many opportunities to poke fun or make a throwback reference to an earlier work.
Other than material for tweet fodder, why would we do this to ourselves? There is actually quite a bit to learn from these movies as an author. Spoilers lurk ahead along with my findings.
The Mirror (2014)
The premise of the movie: Three friends purchase a mirror on eBay that is supposedly haunted and film the resulting chaos for a paranormal reality contest.
The positives: The acting wasn't bad.
The negatives: From the start, there was something hugely familiar about this movie. It took me about ten minutes, but I remembered Oculus, a horror movie my husband and I watched earlier this year. The concept is pretty much the same. A mirror possesses people. They do horrible things to one another. The main difference is that in Oculus two siblings are brought together to destroy the mirror years after witnessing massive carnage inflicted upon their family.
The issue wasn't the redundant material. As with many horror movies, there was a profound loss of logic. They didn't review the tape to determine who was shutting off the camera. No one went to the hospital when a reasonable person would go to a hospital. No one called the police to report a missing person... you get my drift. The inconsistent behavior stacked up until it was profoundly irritating. A friend joked that logic would lead to a shorter movie. I disagree. There are plenty of things that could still go wrong with a haunted mirror even if someone went to get stitches.
Review: I'd give it one star. The acting might nudge it to two, but the writing choices drove me up a wall.
The premise: Friends partying at a cabin piss off Aliens and all hell breaks loose.
The positives: Some of the classic horror constructs were followed while others were broken. The zany pot-growing neighbor with a nose for conspiracy theories was entertaining. It was funny to see the guy who played the jackass in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil play another jackass. I appreciated the references to prior alien movies and the surprise ending.
The negatives: Any time a movie highlights a dog getting hurt because they have a imbecile for an owner shoots me over the edge. There's a human death that just doesn't make sense, the aliens don't show up for most of the movie, and the construct is so intentionally classic that it's a bit irritating. At least The Cabin in the Woods had explanations in place for their choices that I found clever.
Review: Two and a half stars. I was entertained, but I would never watch it again.
Alien Uprising (U.F.O.) (2012)
The premise: Five friends binge drink and then wake up to Aliens on the verge of attack.
The positives: There were people in it.
The negatives: I couldn't list a single character I liked throughout the movie. Brosnan's character was hot-headed and irrational. The flashes to the future that happened throughout the movie were completely ineffective and annoying in their frequency. Flash forwards or flashbacks have to be executed sparingly and serve a meaningful purpose. These were neither (for lessons on effective scene overlay, look at Wayward Pines). Even progressive timelines were confusing. Aliens were scarce. The most egregious foul in this entire movie was a completely unnecessary sexual assault. It served no purpose in the plot and just plain didn't make sense.
Review: Zero stars. If I could award negative stars, I would.
If you want to check out some entertaining horror movies, I've listed a few I enjoy that aren't insanely popular. I'll be covering them in more depth in a future post.
If you want a mix of comedy and horror (heavier on the horror of course):
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
The Man Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
If you like straight up horror:
The Taking of Deborah Logan
Do you enjoy the horror genre? What is the best or the worst you've seen and why?
by Camela Thompson
It has been one month and one day since I decided to take an extended break from work. I can't say that I regret a minute of it. The day I made the decision, I made a list of all of the things I've wanted to take care of in the house but couldn't get to. At first, I felt guilty if I didn't make progress on my list items before sitting down to write.
Before the break, my day looked something like this:
6AM: WAKE UP
7:00: Walk the dog
7:30: Finish getting ready for work
7:50: RUN TO THE BUS!
8:35: Sneak to my desk and pretend I got there five minutes earlier
12:25: Back to work
5:10: RUN TO THE BUS!
6:25: Get home and stare at Television
7:00: Have food appear in front of face
8:00: Marketing/schedule posts for next day
The highlight of my working day...seeing these two at the end
Where did the writing go? I couldn't figure that out. I tried writing on the bus, but more often than not there was standing room only. I tried writing during the thirty minute lunch break, but I spent that time figuring out where I was in the plot and got in a couple hundred words. When I got home, I needed the time I had to unwind and eat.
Not writing stressed me out. Not having the time to write except on weekends just wasn't working for me. I would have been able to figure out a better schedule eventually, but it would have been at a steep cost. I would have to give up working out and spend my spare minutes in the morning writing. Wake up a couple hours earlier. I made it work when I was getting up at 4:30. Getting home by three in the afternoon left me time to walk the dog, feed her, feed us, and then ignore my husband for a few hours while I wrote. This job was less flexible about schedule, so the writing would have been first thing in the morning instead.
For the last two years, writing slowly became a priority. Whenever a time consuming hobby morphs into another job, more time goes out the window. Certain things needed to go. Non-essential cleaning, yard work, complex meals. If I didn't do them, they didn't get done at all. I'm not trying to throw my husband under the bus - he still did plenty. He made sure dishes made it into the dishwasher so we had things to eat on, he does the laundry, and vacuumed if I asked nicely. I kept the bathrooms and kitchen clean, but that was the extent of my priority list. Paperwork piled high on the dining room table. I didn't stay on top of my husband's propensity for being a pack rat. Things started piling up. LIterally.
Part of someone's extensive shoe collection
When I first decided to take a break, I had no idea how many things had slid into the periphery. The next morning was a wake up call. That first week - I spent cleaning. Eventually, I had to stop and work up a plan to make things more manageable. Each week, I tackle a room in the house and break it up into sections. I write when I feel the words are ready, and I use cleaning as a time to work through plot and character issues. Scrubbing and sorting lets my mind work through problems. A day out of the week is spent on yard work.
What still surprises me is how easy it is to avoid writing altogether. There is so much to do, I could easily spend the next two months making the yard presentable along with sorting my entire house. I decided exercise needed to go beyond long walks with the dog and have started a Couch to 5k program. The dog consistently opts out, and I have to cajole her into the long walk. She is rather fantastic at helping me write, though.
Now days look more like this:
8AM: Wake up to dog hitting me on the head with her paw
8:10: Feed dog
8:20: Clean Kitchen
10:30: Write or clean
11:30: Walk Dog
12:00: Go for run
1:00: Shower & Eat
2:00: Run Errands
5:00: Start Dinner
6:00: Spend time with husband
9:00: Write again or watch TV
11:00 Go to bed
I thought I would spend all day writing. I think it will become more of a priority as this break nears an end, but for now, I'm just trying to be okay with what I get done in a day.
by Camela Thompson
I turned thirty-five last week on the same day I launched my second book, Blood, Spirit & Bone. The launch party was amazing and I had a lot of fun! Great authors took over throughout the event. I felt very lucky to be in such great company. I've linked their websites so you can check them out:
**Contest Closed** As I sat at my table after the launch, I realized I have copies of both books. Why not give away a signed copy of book one and two of The Hunted? Here are the books:
Congrats to the winner!
There are a lot of things happening in the next couple weeks. If you're in the Seattle area, please join Michael G. Munz and I for a reading at the Lake Forest Third Place Books. The event is May 28th at 7pm. The Facebook event is listed here.
If you're an author and are planning a launch, I really recommend Facebook launches (click here for a more in depth post) as an easy way to connect with a lot readers across a huge geographic expanse. We chatted with people in the South, far north Canada, and Great Britain. It was great! There were contests, giveaways, and a lot of great conversation. I nearly fell out of my chair during the "in my pants" game courtesy of Alys Arden (list the book title you are reading right now and add "in my pants" to the end for a hilarious statement). If there is any advice I'd like to give you, it's this: Ask authors you admire to do takeovers even if you think they'll say no. I was stunned that a couple people said yes. It was awesome.
With a week of heavy prep work leading up to a solid day of online activities, I was exhausted the next day. It's amazing how shifting priorities can cause your house to look like a disaster zone. It's even more amazing that I didn't notice until it had gotten really bad. I was so thankful when my husband and mom showed up after the launch, pried the laptop out of my hands, and took me out to dinner. The emotions ran high. As we sat and talked and laughed, my shoulders dropped from around my ears. I relaxed a little. I even celebrated some.
Launching a book is a huge deal. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the things that MUST BE DONE instead of enjoying the experience. Perhaps one day I will learn that all of the things will be done eventually and not to panic. One day.
by Camela Thompson
There were some pretty choice rants about Mother's Day on my Facebook feed this weekend. I found it odd that the majority were by mothers. A few felt that those of us who choose not to be mothers are slighted by the holiday and are made to feel like we are less of a woman. As someone who has made this choice, I disagree. I also saw people talking about their estrangement from their mother or about how much they miss their mother who has since passed on. There are more women out there who want to have children and can't, or have felt a loss greater than I can ever imagine. It reminded me that all holidays are fraught with emotion--veritable minefields that dredge up memories that are both pleasant and horrifying.
This Mother's Day I felt profoundly lucky. I feel blessed to have a mother I am close with, and doubly lucky because I can still enjoy the day with my grandmother. That sounds bleak now that I've typed it out, but she has progressed through her octogenarian years with the same feisty humor I have always seen in her. All three of us are flawed. Some of those flaws have been unintentionally passed down. The wit, creativity, stubbornness, and weird twist we all put on the world are qualities that have served me well. I love them very much and am glad there is a day that reminds me to thank them.
My beautiful mom and I on vacation. The shades were fashion forward.
I will never have children. In a city where cats outnumber dogs and dogs outnumber children by nearly 2:1, it's not something I get a lot of flak about. Sure, there's always that friend who is so busy basking in the glory of her choice to be a mother that unintentional barbs get thrown out (my favorite? "you don't know what it's like to be a woman until you've gone through the miracle of childbirth"). For the most part, I've noticed women defending their choice to be parents. In a country hyper-focused on profitability and hours spent at the office, they have to fight for every day they get off. The work culture tends to mow over moms, and doesn't give them much room if something were to go wrong. I don't fully understand their pain, but I know their treatment is wrong.
There are a lot of reasons why we decided not to have children. I have systemic lupus and have had days where I needed help taking care of myself. I couldn't imagine hearing the cry of my child on a day where I couldn't even dress myself (that hasn't happened for a very long time *knock on wood*). The hormone fluctuations that come with having a child can knock lupus patients into a tailspin. My doctors have warned me that it would be best not to have kids, but they would support me if I felt I needed to have kids. The reason why I'm totally okay with all of this even though I pictured myself with a minivan and three kids by this age? I never caught "baby fever." The biological drive to procreate didn't crush me over the head. Occasional twinges aside, I am not maternal. I love my nieces and nephews fiercely, but that's enough for me. I thought my neighbor's squalling infant was a dying cat for God's sake.
My grandparents and one of my grandmother's paintings.
I don't feel that my decision not to have kids makes me any less of a woman. How I feel about this on a visceral level is what matters, not the opinions of others. I'm lucky that I'm happy with how things worked out. THIS is the heart of the matter. If I was miserable about the cards I've been dealt in life, it would be a different story. I'd also like to add that being able to spend a Saturday any way I wish without interruptions is pretty damn cool. I can sit and read FOR HOURS. I can play video games. My dog is happy to lie at my side and nap throughout. Every weekend contains personal holidays for me. I don't need a Woman Without Children Day.
I watch mothers frantically hovering over their kids. The weight they carry is tremendous. Not only do they have to make sure their kids are safe and fed, but they also are responsible for growing them into a functional adult. Personalities and genetics can fight this outcome. Hard. And if it goes wrong, they are the people we blame in addition to the person who actually committed the crime. That is a hell of a lot of responsibility.
This non-mom encourages you all to celebrate the holiday as you wish. I choose to celebrate my mother and grandmother. This holiday was never about me, and I'm happy keeping it that way. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play video games without interruption.
by Camela Thompson
I’m not a big wine person. My husband and I are more likely to have hard cider with dinner than a glass of merlot. We don’t research wine and are just as likely to pick up an orally offensive bottle as a hidden gem. Intimidation aside, the main reason we avoid wine is because we are beer people. But there are times a bottle of wine sounds good, and a perk of living close to Woodinville is easy accessibility to tasting rooms. Tasting is a fun group activity, and it’s a way to test drive the wine before making a purchase.
There are two main areas in Woodinville to taste wine. A number of wineries have estates along 145th. For those of you who want gorgeous grounds and beautiful ambience with your wine, visit the estates and shop fronts. They offer the full tourist experience. If you just want to sample a ton of wine or are short on time, go to the Warehouse District.
My friend works at one of the wineries and invited me out for the first time this weekend. It was a blast. Dozens of wineries are packed in an industrial area. There are very few frills, and it’s obvious the main purpose for these shops is as a warehouse. A small tasting area is usually set up out front with a tiny bar and maybe two or three tables. The standard cost is $10 per tasting, and the amount of wine to sample varies from four to six bottles. Usually a purchase of one bottle to take home cancels the cost of a tasting.
Selfie or a check for the dreaded red wine mustache? You decide.
As you can imagine, it’s easy to get drunk quickly with so many wine tasting options. The food choices are extremely limited, so plan ahead and bring bottled water for when you are finished. I was complimented on my technique several times and a little proud of myself. I used the “proper” tasting method of only sampling a portion of the pour and dumping the rest. This got more difficult as the quality of wine went up. If the wine was really good, there was no way I was wasting it. The fourth winery (Matthews Cellars) had some really great wine. It was also the point we asked ourselves whether or not we should take a break.
We did not take a break.
Our little party continued on to Ambassador Winery for ladies’ night where we purchased a full glass and had snacks. I had a lot of snacks to go with a lovely 2011 Syrah. Then the hostess reminded our friend that she had a discount because she worked there and we should get a bottle. Once again, we asked ourselves whether or not we should stop and drink water or forge onward.
Onward! Oh, and stop live tweeting. I banned myself from social media.
A bottle of Grenache it was! I cut myself off a few sips into glass two (thank God). It was great. I think. By that time my palate was the drunk girl at the party dancing on a table. Anything would have tasted fabulous. But I’ve been told that the Ambassador 2011 Estate Grenache is fabulous by more than one knowledgeable wine snob. I just wish I could remember it a little better.
Our designated driver moved our party to Preservation Kitchen. I had the seafood stew and was amazed. Drunken taste buds were dazzled. It’s frankly a blur, and by the time we left I had the spins. I entertained Lance with stories, sobered up, watched thirty minutes of a movie, and fell asleep on my couch. I woke up and guzzled a couple pints of water.
Sunday’s light headache reprimanded me. I was prideful and for no good reason. My self control is laughable. However, I did have a great time. The wine was good. The company was better. The best time I had all afternoon was when one of the hospitality servers started hazing people. The wine was okay (one bottle-a limited edition Cabernet Sauvignon-was exceptional), but the entertainment will always be remembered. It goes to show that a little personality goes a long way. Next time family is in town we’ll have an excuse to go back and I’m already looking forward to it. We'll just take that last bottle of wine home for another night.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.