Last week, my amazing wife and I got to do something we've always wanted to try: go on a cruise. It was a short cruise, just a few days from California to Ensenada, Mexico, and back over my wife's fall break (she's a teacher). We had a blast, and I got to spend some quality time with the characters of the next Dark Crossroads Encounter (look for it next year next year!). On the way, I learned a couple of things:
On a cruise, "all you can eat" takes on a whole new dimension
I knew that food was one of the big draws of cruises. I did not realize that there were no limits, like, ever. It only took one night sitting with experienced cruisers to realize that you were able to order as many entrées, appetizers, and desserts that we wanted, not to mention the 24/7 pizza bar.
I'd like to say that we showed remarkable restraint and that we were conscious of what we actually needed, rather than eating everything in sight. Yup, I'd sure like to say that, all right.
Watching Poseidon immediately after a cruise may be harmful to your health
Lesson learned: Do not watch creepy thrillers about cruises after having just gone on a cruise. The only way it would have been worse would have been to watch it before the cruise or, heaven forbid!, during it
When we got home, the Amazing Jenna and I decided that it would be fun to watch one of the only movies about a cruise we own, so we sat down with our kids and watched Poseidon, the 2006 remake of the 1972 Poseidon Adventure. For the uninitiated, the basic premise of both films is that a cruise ship is hit by a massive wave that flips it upside down. A small group of survivors then attempts to climb through the ship and escape through the bottom, which is now the top.
Both the classic film and the remake are incredibly intense. The remake, which was directed by Wolfgang Petersen (The NeverEnding Story) has a few minor missteps (the CGI is pretty bad and I have a hard time believing that even the most adventurous child would wander off like the one in the movie does given the situation), but it is still a heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Our kids were royally freaked out. So were we.
"Characters, characters, characters" is the "location, location, location" of writing
It's an old truism that the three most important things in real estate are "location, location, location." Well, for writing, the same can be said about characters. Who the characters are make or break a story, and knowing the characters can help any author figure out what happens next, especially when they are blocked.
This week, I spent quite a bit of time getting to know the characters of book 2. I'd known them somewhat before, but after spending 4 days documenting everything about them in a process I call "note vomit," I feel like they are real. I can't wait to spend a year working with them to create another, spooky story.
Side note: I donated copies of both my books to the ship library. If you ever travel on the Carnival Inspiration, check them out!
Who else has been on a cruise? What was your favorite part?
Like many longtime fans of The Twilight Zone, I was thrilled when CBS announced the show's return. I am, admittedly, unfamiliar with most of Jordan' Peele's work, but that doesn't stop me from cheering the decision to bring the series back, especially at a time when much of our public life seems to bring it to mind.
The importance of The Twilight Zone when it comes to science fiction stories like Sorrow's Echo can't be overstated. It opened the door for smart, creepy, and weird sci-fi that has inspired countless authors, moviemakers, and fans throughout the decades. It also introduced the idea that science fiction and fantasy could be used to address current events and life problems in ways that normal television couldn't. It was, in essence, political and philosophical debate disguised as entertainment. Brilliant!
The show and its many revivals have spawned dozens of amazing episodes. Who can forget "The Eye of the Beholder," "Nightmare at 20,000 feet" and "I Am the Night—Color Me Black"? Each of those episodes were appropriately dramatic and frightening, but more important, they left people thinking for years and decades to come. Even more, they gave people a way to discuss controversial topics of the time without broaching the forbidden paths of politics.
We can only hope Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone will do the same. It is, perhaps, the one thing that would persuade me to pay for CBS All Access.
What are your favorite Twilight Zone episodes and why? Include a picture below!
September 22, 1998, was a special day. It was the day Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island was released. It was the movie that rekindled my childhood love of Scooby-Doo. From the iconic opening numbers to Scooby and Shaggy's passion for food to the monsters that always turn out to be men in masks, Scooby-Doo inspired my love of creepy stories and mysteries.
Next year, Scooby and the gang turn 50. In celebration, let's revisit the top 3 TV show versions of the beloved franchise.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
You can’t do a list of the best Scooby-Doo shows without including the original. Everything we love about Scooby started with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?: an epic theme song, incomprehensibly silly villain plots, masks, traps, the gang, constant eating, and more. Sure, a laugh-track for a cartoon is silly, but it still takes me right back to watching it as a child. And let's not overlook the gorgeous, extremely creepy backgrounds.
As a kid growing up in a mostly TV-deprived household (we only had 2 channels when we had TV at all!), one of the things I loved most about going to my grandparent's home was that we got to watch reruns of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? If I run across this classic, today, I will definitely kick back and watch.
What's New, Scooby-Doo?
What's New, Scooby-Doo? is one of the most reverent takes on what made Scooby-Doo Where Are You? such a classic. The theme song is just as epic and gets stuck in your head just as easily. All the old tropes are there, as are many of the original voices. Even the animation style is similar. But the show also has a few things that set it apart in the best possible way.
First, it has been modernized just enough for current children to enjoy. Fred has ditched his notorious ascot and both Velma and the villains frequently use computers and other high-tech gadgetry that weren't even thought of in the original show. But, best of all, the show recognizes how silly many of its own tropes are. Most of the fun of What's New, Scooby-Doo? is watching the characters play off their own tropes, like Fred always wanting to split up or set a trap, and so on. Almost every episode has a solid, laugh-out-loud moment, often when its poking fun at itself.
A marathon of What's New, Scooby-Doo? was running on cable when I was laid up with a broken leg. The laughter and constant winking at the audience was just what I needed to get through the pain and boredom. It is a gem of a series.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated
Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated is both the weirdest and most controversial addition to this list. The show is a strange update to the Scooby Gang, adding a continuing storyline, forgoing the epic, lyric-filled theme song, and going full-on crazy by the end, not to mention the relationship drama between the characters (I'm sorry, but Velma is a terrible girlfriend) and how each character is turned into a bit of an exaggerated caricature of themselves. Also, for most of the series, it hard to tell exactly where it fits in with the rest of the Scooby stories. It feels like a weird, duck-out-of-water mismatch with all the other things we've seen from the gang over the years.
So what makes it one of the best? The end! The beautiful, glorious, end! There are some great episodes before they get there ("Stand and Deliver," which includes voice work from the incredible James Marsters as the Dandy Highwayman, one of the best Scooby villains with quite possibly the best payoff joke at the end) comes to mind, along with too many others to count, and there are some brilliant nods to Scooby-Doo of yore and other Hanna Barbara shows (the sidekick episode is one of the best as is the cameo appearance of Scrappy-Doo), but it is the very end of the show--the last five minutes of season two, in fact--that change this weird one-off into a masterpiece and elevate it above so many others. I won't spoil it, but for any Scooby fan, it will bring actual tears to your eyes. I've seen it 3 times, and it sill makes me a bit emotional
Do you agree with my picks? What is your favorite Scooby-Doo show? Comment below!
Predator isn't a great film. I'm not talking about the newest film that released last week to extremely mixed reviews or the one before that or Predator 2 or either of the Alien vs. Predator movies (though each of those have their own issues), I'm talking about the original, 1987 John McTiernan film complete with its badass future governors bursting with testosterone, its "get to da choppa," and its creepy alien. In fact, the movie is more than a bit cheesy and more than a little over-the-top. So why do we love it anyway?
While Predator may not be a great film, it is a very good one. In fact, it may be one of the best B-movies ever made.
One ugly mother...
First, hands down, the Predator is one of the most badass aliens around. With its dreadlocks, high tech armor and gadgets, cloaking technology, and, of course, its distinctive mandibles, it is perfectly designed.
Apparently, an offhand comment by legendary filmmaker James Cameron led to the addition of the mandibles in the Predator design. If that's true, then we owe him a debt. The mandible make the creature distinct and purely alien. The addition of cloaking technology and "Predator-vision" add to that uniqueness and make the creature damned near impossible to find, much less kill.
The end result is that the Predator is as scary as they come, and definitely not something you'd want to meet in a dark alley or the jungle.
The Most Dangerous Game
But perhaps the coolest thing about Predator is the fact that, at its core, it is a loose adaptation of Richard Connell's famous short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." In both stories, the hunters become the hunted for no other reason than sport. The Predator isn't scary just because it's a creepy-looking alien with cool gadgetry, it's terrifying because it has no sympathy for a species it considers less than itself. In fact, it revels in the kill as much as any human hunter revels in taking down big game.
This lack of regard for humanity elevates what probably should be a forgotten B-movie to something more frightening and make it linger with you after the final explosion and credits roll.
What is your favorite part of the Predator series? Remember not everyone (including me) has seen the new movie, so no spoilers!
Happy International Read an eBook Day! To celebrate, I'm releasing the first four chapters (and the Prelude) of my latest sci-fi thriller, SORROW'S ECHO absolutely FREE!
A beta test of a prototype, exploratory robot in the heart of the Arizona desert turns into terror when the engineering team discovers they are being hunted by an impossible creature that stalks them from the shadows of the rock. Intense and gripping, SORROW'S ECHO will keep you at the edge of your seat until its thrilling conclusion.
If you love Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, or Predator, you'll love SORROW'S ECHO.
"Unique antagonist. One type of entity I have never encountered in a book before." - Grumpy (Amazon customer)