My husband and I like to live tweet bad horror with Michael G. Munz. On occasion we find a campy gem hiding behind low ratings. The three of us tried to watch Shark Exorcist this past weekend. Michael and I were done after fifteen minutes. Lance, my husband, doesn't give up on anything. Ever. The next day he watched the whole thing through just to see how bad it would get. From what I hear, it got pretty bad.
Camela: Thanks for guest blogging today, Lance! What was it about Shark Exorcist that made it so bad?
Lance: At the beginning of the movie, the acting was pretty terrible. This was followed up by the story itself having zero structure and random scenes that didn't really help or improve the theme.
To touch more on the acting, it was shocking how bad it was. Most of the shows we see were at least somewhat casted to find people who actually have some skill or promise in this area. In this case, it shows what would happen if you grabbed a bunch of people off the street or your friends and had them make a movie for fun. Also, it wasn't just one or two actor/actresses, it was all of them.
Camela: Tell me more about the story having "zero structure." Can you give an example of a random scene and why it didn't work?
Lance: Towards the end of the movie, a new character is shown going to a park, and being followed by a random creepy dude. She strips to a bikini and starts tanning, and then falls asleep. (As a side note on the low budget theme of the movie, it was cloudy the day they shot. This cracked me up). Anyway, the creepy dude then takes her phone and takes several close up pictures of her while she is sleeping, then spends several more minutes still standing there looking at the pictures he took.
She wakes up only to be stabbed by someone else, and random creepy dude has no other part in the film.
Camela: We talked about the terrible acting and the random scenes. You mentioned it was low budget. Can you give some examples of areas they might have improved despite the low budget?
Lance: They could have tried. I know it sounds mean, but they didn't do basic things they teach you if you're writing a paper in elementary school, or used basic common sense. What I mean by that is that they should have hired an editor to look through the story and notice scenes that didn't matter or were not needed. There is a reason that even the best authors have someone else look through their work.
Also, I mentioned the scene where they were someone was tanning when it wasn't sunny, but an even worse scene happened at the fair. They alternated back and forth between using shots they had filmed during the day and night, which made it very confusing to determine how much time had gone by. It was supposed to be just a few minutes, but if you went by how often they switched from day to night, it was several days.
Also, early in the movie, "Aly" was seriously injured from a bite with a shark. However, the special effects crew just threw a tiny amount of blood on her leg and called it good. It looked more like she had walked to close to a rose bush in shorts than was bitten by a shark.
Camela: It's funny to see you mention being mean. Everyone who knows us knows that you're WAY nicer than I am. On that note, I do feel a little bad sometimes when we live tweet and end up hating the movie. Sometimes actors, directors, and writers tweet back, and it makes me cringe a little.
How did you not give up? You consistently see things through that I just... At a certain point it seems like a waste of life. How do you do it?
Lance: Maybe that's why they kept throwing so many random scenes in, but I just wanted to see where the disaster was going to end up. Would they make a story that would go somewhere? It actually almost did. Would they find even more terrible actors? Would they bring back the actor of the guy who died back as someone else yet again? So many (well, three) questions were left unanswered!
Even after it ended, they had a scene that went way past the credits. I had to fast forward to see if they were going to throw in a twist. It should have been a twenty second scene, but it went for five to ten minutes. This part was so painful that it did require the fast forward feature to get through it.
Camela: I'm starting to wonder why we do this live tweeting thing... On to happier things. Do you have a favorite horror movie (counting highly rated movies we watched on purpose)? Have you found a horror movie you like doing this live tweet thing?
Lance: The Man Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon was excellent, and cracked me up the way it parodies the entire genre, but Tucker and Dale vs Evil ranks above that as my favorite. It's almost more of a comedy. While growing up, Nightmare on Elm Street was the best and scariest at the time.
I think my favorite movie to live tweet was Zombeavers. It was ridiculous, but fun.
Camela: Ugh. Zombeavers. Well, thanks for stopping by! Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Lance: I think that covers it. Thank you very much for having me as a guest on your excellent blog. :)
Camela: Aw. As my husband you kind of have to say that, but I'll take it!
by Camela Thompson
Today I met with J.H. Coates for his vlog/podcast (check out his channel on Youtube), and our conversation had my brain whirring long after we disconnected our video chat. In reading the synopsis for my book, he noticed my main character in All the Pretty Bones challenged the traditional role of female victim from the start. Olivia decides to hunt her stalker. He wondered if that was difficult for me because it flies in the face of some deeply ingrained cultural norms.
What an excellent question!
All the Pretty Bones was Olivia's first step into an evolution that (Spoiler) later leads her into a life as an apex predator. I desperately wanted to challenge the typical set up of normal, plain, boring girl meets wonderful vampire who sees something special in her despite her overwhelming normalness. Trust me, I've enjoyed those books, but I wanted something different. I wanted someone who had greatness locked inside of her, waiting for the right trigger into evolution. I wanted someone who had strength despite physical instability.
For those of you who haven't read the book, Olivia faces ten years of persistent trauma by her stalker only to be diagnosed with terminal cancer. With nothing to lose, she decides to hunt her hunter. My primary challenge centered around her illness. There are dramatic physical limitations that accompany her condition, which presented giant issues that stood in the way. I couldn't Rocky my way through the book. She couldn't train herself into peak physical condition and chase down her tormentor. How can she fight when she can barely function? How can she run away and avoid being cornered? Weakness, fatigue, and debilitating headaches are just the tip of the ice burg as many of us have unfortunately seen.
Asking for help is hard, but it's not a sign of weakness. Olivia does ask for help, and she asks it of a man. The majority of reviewers appreciate how its navigated, but not all. It was a very difficult balancing act. I didn't want her to depend on someone else, but I needed to approach the scenario realistically (I laughed at myself a little just then because VAMPIRES....but even fiction has to have some semblance of logic). In the end, she's forced to face her nature--on her own--before she's ever given the opportunity to tap into her power.
It was difficult to challenge the traditional definition of victimized women, but it wasn't at all for the reason I thought.
We are seeing more examples of strong female warriors in television, and this is a good thing. However, there is still a very long way to go. My friend and I decided to watch Tarzan together despite our reservations over the inevitable questionable messaging (she wrote a wonderful blog post on it here). While Jane showed intelligence, fortitude, and bravery, she was still the damsel in distress, relying on her husband to rescue not only her but all of Africa (big eye roll). In a bizarre twist, her spirit revved her captor's engines. Even her fortitude was sexualized.
Right about now my family would be rolling their eyes, but look at how women warriors are depicted in video games, comics, television shows, and movies. One day I will sit down a costume designer and explain to them why it isn't practical to run around in three inch heels with long hair flowing free and only leather panties and bra when fighting bad guys. If you doubt me, here's what a search for "woman warrior" turned up in PIxabay:
The search for "man warrior:"
Can we agree the clothing ratio is a little higher on the second search?
To be fair, there are some wonderful exceptions to the typical depiction of the woman warrior. Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Jessica Jones, Crimson Peak, Pan's Labyrinth, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are just a few that come to mind. There are male writers who write women well such as Joe Hill, John Green, Stephen King, and George R.R. Martin. Their secret? Writing women as three-dimensional characters who have motivations, needs, and an arc.
As an author, I view it as my responsibility to continue to challenge myself to overcome social tropes in my own writing. I haven't always succeeded, but I'm aware, and I'll keep trying. I encourage others to do the same.
Have you seen good examples of women warriors in mainstream media? Please share examples. I'm always looking for my next book, television show, and movie.
by Camela Thompson
I have a tendency to lurk in the Bookbub Paranormal Suspense section. It's a great way to read a high volume at low cost, allowing me to find authors to collaborate with on promotions without breaking my bank account. Most of the time I enjoy the books I find. Once in a while I find a book I can't finish or that simply wasn't ready for prime time. I don't review books I don't like (there is enough negativity in the world and I experience guilt because I know the work that goes into a novel), but I might whine a little bit on Facebook without naming names or titles. In one case, an author dedicated chapters to her heroine's bizarre and completely irrelevant profession. My friend's reactions surprised me. One in particular:
"You mean the books you get for free aren't of stellar quality? I'm shocked!"
I don't have a problem with free books, but that may be because I've experienced the pressure to do freebies. Free books are a way to increase readership with the hopes they'll enjoy the series and move to the next book. The strategy has solid logic behind it, but it doesn't take into account the reaction I run into. People are naturally suspicious of a deal that's too good to be true and the perceived quality plummets. A quick Google search turned up a few research studies that confirmed what I've witnessed while talking to friends.
Then there's the lack of investment in the book. I have friends who download dozens of free books but never get to them because they're busy reading the books they paid for on recommendation. If money isn't spent on a book and it's downloaded on impulse, it's easier to forget about.
Finally there is the issue of quality. While I've read quite a few free books that were great, there were the books that started this conversation. It only takes a few bad apples to confirm a suspicion in overall quality. A book must be professionally edited and formatted.
I've done a freebie for my first book, and despite the hundreds of books given away, I didn't see a lot of lift in reviews or sales. Participating in Bookbub in a heavily discounted sale, on the other hand, went very well. I moved a much higher volume and there were more subsequent sales and reviews. Then again, it was Bookbub. My last sale didn't move nearly the volume of the freebie. It's difficult to make a comparison, but I'm leaning towards sticking with heavy discounts over listing books at zero cost.
What do you think about free books as a reader or a writer?
by Camela Thompson
The day is finally here! The third installment of The Hunted has launched. When Lucian finds a video of a comrade’s gruesome death, he fears a mysterious assassin is targeting the Nobil Onorabil. With Olivia’s aid, he hopes to prevent his own death and the Dracal from resurrecting....
I have a contest linked at the bottom, but first let me show off my new cover and give you an excerpt.
Chapter 17 Excerpt - Josette's Flashback
Josette ignored the dirt staining her bare feet and the rips in her skirt. She had finally found happiness and did not want the signs of a desperate situation to kill her mood. On a night that had started with a pregnant silence, everything changed. By chance or driven by some instinct, she had moved inland. Even there, the explosion shook the ground.
Josette had run toward the screams. The smoke made it easy to move in the shadows. The metallic stink of blood egged her on. Lumber fell across soldiers and civilians alike. She drained them until she was blood drunk and tripping over her own feet.
Death was in the air, and joy floated in her chest. She had her fill and then some. Why not? The men were dying with or without her. She moved among their broken bodies like an angel of mercy, releasing them from their pain. Some of them were so burned, their blood was half cooked. She pushed past her aversion and brought them release. Some had even thanked her.
The fire leapt high while she danced around it, laughing at the way her shadow contracted and expanded. The contents of her stomach sloshed like the wine in the bottle she carried. If the humans gawking from the shadows wondered at her boisterous behavior or the stains on her chin, the alcohol could explain away much. Their assumptions were partly correct. She was most certainly drunk, but the wine hadn't done it.
Only a few soldiers wandered into the glow, gaping at her merriment. Toulon had been taken, and the buildings still burned. Ships had fled the harbor with their brothers at arms, but they had been left behind. Some muttered angrily. Others only stared.
The brine in the heavy, cool air was overshadowed by the scent of spent gunpowder. Black smoke pushed through the buildings. The sunrise would burn a blood red, and Josette wondered if the haze would be thick enough to protect her from the light. She stood still considering the possibility when a woman stepped into the glow of the fire.
The woman’s eyes narrowed and she raised a finger. “Foul creature.”
“Excuse me?” Josette flounced her curls.
Josette threw her head back and laughed. “You’re mad!”
“You insult us with your celebrations.” A man stepped from the shadows in a torn uniform. Blood stained the meatiest part of his thigh. He had been wounded.
“I celebrate life. As should you!” Josette tipped back the wine bottle and took a drink. “You survived. Is that not worth celebrating?”
The woman stalked closer. “I know what you are.” Her clothes were unremarkable, but something sharp in her gaze gave Josette pause. This was no madwoman.
“If anyone is a witch, it is you.” Josette stared at the men. One squirmed. Another averted his gaze. She was on to something.
“I know what you are. I know what you’ve been doing.” The woman’s hand shot up, her grip too strong, and tipped Josette’s head from side to side. Her thumb swiped the side of her mouth and she drew back, smelling the dark liquid. “Gunpowder and blood.”
“You mad cow. It’s wine.” She squinted at the smoke pushing skyward. “Gunpowder and wine.”
“You’re a revenant.”
“And you’re an old, mad witch.”
Two of the men crossed themselves. One disappeared. Others fidgeted uncomfortably. The man who worried Josette the most was the lone soldier who leaned against a stack of crates and narrowed his eyes, settling in to watch. She knew the type. A know-it-all who would wait to chime in when the most influence could be pressed upon the others. Intelligence carried a subtle but potent danger.
“Revenant. Succubus. Blood sucker. Demon.” The woman’s face burned orange in the firelight, bringing contrast to the grooves in her skin. “You are a stranger, frolicking on the night of our disaster. You rub our noses in our loss. You feed on pain.”
Josette shuddered. “I’m newer to this town than you are, but I’ve been begging and ignored for weeks. Stranded.” She pushed away the fear, remembering who she was. If she wanted, she could rip them all to pieces. She moved close to the woman and spoke in a soft but urgent tone. “You, on the other hand, are not new here. People have suspected what you are for many years. If you push me, I will remind them.”
The woman narrowed her eyes and lowered her own voice. “You underestimate me.”
“Perhaps.” The scent of blood grew stronger when the wind blew past the soldier leaning against the crates, but it carried a note of something else. Something sharp. “Continue and we shall both learn where you stand.”
Josette knew she had said something wrong when a slow smile spread across the woman’s lips. The smile vanished. She spun and raised her arms while she shouted. “She’s a revenant. Throw her into the fire.”
Absurd. “Well, if I’m a revenant, she’s a witch. Burn her!”
A man stepped away from the crowd, pointing his finger at them. “Burn them both!”
To her dismay, the group of men nodded and made noises of assent. Josette spun on the witch. “See what you’ve done? Fool.”
The woman paled and yelled to the crowd, “I’ll put curses on your families.”
Josette pointed and backed away. “She is obviously the problem.”
A child no older than twelve burst from the shadows and yelled, “Burn them!”
The witch backed up as well, a pained expression on her pale face. Josette wanted to throttle her. “So, witch. Now would be a good time to do something powerful.”
“I don’t know. Burn them? Make a dragon out of the fire? Turn them all into toads?”
The creepy smile reappeared. “How about I make you do the fighting for me?”
“What?” Josette’s feet left the ground. She screamed and kicked her legs as she turned in the air. She was certain the old bitch was going to throw her into the fire. Instead, she flew at the group of men. The force of the impact sent them all sprawling. After untangling herself from a sea of limbs, she stood. The unnatural sight before her sent a shudder down her spine.
The witch blew air from her mouth, only it was not clear. Black smoke issued from her lungs. While the smoke was expelled, the woman aged. Grooves etched in her skin and the color leeched from her hair. The smoke wound around three adults before finding its target. The young boy.
His head fell back and his jaw sprang open as though a hinge had been flipped in the center of his skull. The black smoke sped through his mouth. When the smoke disappeared, the boy turned to survey the crowd with solid, black eyes. Gone were the whites and anything human.
A guttural roar, too low for his small throat to issue, rung Josette’s ears. With limbs and fingers stunted by malnourishment, it seemed unlikely he could inflict much harm. What he lacked in size, he made up for in strength. He launched onto the nearest man, latching to his torso like a monkey. With his legs wrapped around the man’s chest, the boy jabbed both thumbs forward into the adult’s eyes. Unhinged laughter of different pitches issued forth from his mouth, as though many beings expressed their mirth.
Get all three books in The Hunted for $0.99 each for a limited time! I'm also running a contest for a summer reading collection ideal for those of us who love speculative fiction. There's a little bit of Sci-Fi, a little science infused humor, a talking cat, and a lot of paranormal creatures. Enter to win below.
by Camela Thompson
I sat down to write a romance with a heavy dose of comedy. When I riff with friends, I can be funny. I like a smart romance where the heroine is witty and the hero is attracted to the full package (brains, people, her brains). It seemed like a good idea at the time and it would make my mom happy. She didn't envision her daughter as an author, but she heard that research trips are tax deductible. Why not pick somewhere she's always wanted to go? Provence, Tuscany, and Nice all sounded like reasonable options.
I could work with a setting in a new country. Maybe my characters are both bumbling Americans. She's taking a sabbatical after working since high school, through college, and burning out with spectacular flare at her corporate gig. He's taking a few weeks to deal with a death in the family in his own way. It isn't the right time for love, but that seems to be when the magic happens.
Two chapters in, things went horribly wrong. My heroine woke up covered in gore next to her inn keeper's remains with no memory of the events immediately leading up to her black out. Oops. That doesn't make her a very likable prospect, does it? I suppose the hero could be the only person who thinks she may be innocent--lacking the bias against Americans. Then I began cackling and plotting out the twist at the end.
I scrapped the chapter and started over. This time the heroine began to suspect the stranger sharing her flat had Munchausen by proxy and used poison to force her into "quality time at home." This stranger expected our heroine to react with gratitude after being so well taken care of in her sick bed away from home.
After hitting delete, I dug deep and created a lovely scene with a little bit of tension between our main characters. As they moved in close to share that important first kiss, some a**hole pushed a street artist in front of a bus.
My brand of "romance" is the one-sided
At about this time I realized that my streak of humor can be "off putting." Particularly if someone expects a romance and I deliver five dead bodies and a warped heroine that's marginally likable.
My family isn't sure why I write "weird stuff." I'm not either. I joke they made me this way, and a few of them took that retort to heart. At first my mom was convinced I write about grisly murder scenes and paranormal creatures because of an early brush with Satan and/or poor parenting. I've assured her many times that I do not walk the Left Hand Path, nor do I have any inclination. I also do not want to see, smell, or hear about exploded remains. I prefer my violence to be firmly based in fiction and shy from the news.
I get why my friends and coworkers look at me a little sideways after reading my stuff. Truly. I'd love to have lunch with Stephen King, but after poring over some of his work, I picture him as an odd guy. The stuff he writes is so psychologically twisted, it conflicts with people reporting how nice he is. Which is silly because...double standards. Then again, the people who really knew me weren't all that surprised. Well, maybe they were surprised by Olivia's hope chest, but only a little.
I can write paranormal. I can write straight-up suspense or horror or even romantic suspense. But the stories I write are the stories that won't go away unless I write them because something inside of me needs to get out.
I hear erotica is a great way to make money as an author. I'm told I should write more blogs or articles--then try to sell them. I've also heard I should change a book to hit the next big trend, or write more mainstream material to appeal to a wider audience. For now, I'm not sure it's a good idea to force my way into a romance. If the story isn't begging to be told, how can it be as good as the novels clamoring to be written?
Check out how some other authors feel about this topic:
Michael G. Munz
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.