One Happy Hybrid

You know what a hybrid is, right? In publishing, it’s someone who both self-publishes (as I did with Martuk … the Holy and Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche as well as The Martuk Series) and is published traditionally.

Well, as of today, I am now officially a hybrid.

From Crystal Lake Publishing:

After five months of reading 144 pitches and various sample chapter submissions (with the help of various sub readers – especially Ben Eads), Crystal Lake Publishing is proud to announce six projects chosen by us (and one surprise addition). We actually accepted seven, but we’re still negotiating with the author his novel. That announcement will be made at a later date.

In alphabetical order:

Theresa Derwin – GOD’S VENGEANCE novella
Mark Allan Gunnells – short story collection presently named FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER
Alessandro Manzetti – EDEN UNDERGROUND poetry collection
Patrick Rutigliano – WIND CHILL novella
Mark Sheldon – SARAH KILLIAN: SERIAL KILLER (FOR HIRE!) novella
Jonathan Winn – EIDOLON AVENUE, a collection of shorts stories and novellas

A sincere congrats to all these authors. The competition was extremely tough, and you truly deserve to be here. I hope everyone takes the time to congratulate these folks, as well as take the time to get to know the ones you’re not familiar with.
I’m also extremely happy to announce that we’ll be publishing the print edition of Taylor Grant’s DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL later this year. The eBook edition has been picked up by another excellent publisher, so more on that at a later date.

Here is a rough draft of our publishing schedule till end of this year (subject to change, of course):

May: THE OUTSIDERS
June: Kevin Lucia’s THROUGH A MIRROR, DARKLY
July: Alessandro Manzetti’s EDEN UNDERGROUND
August: TALES FROM THE LAKE VOL.2
September: CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE
October: HORROR 201: THE SILVER SCREAM
November: Taylor Grant’s DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
December: Patrick Rutigliano’s WIND CHILL

Thank you to everyone who took part in our very first open submission window, and all the best with your books. I’m sure we’ll have another open submission in the next year or so.

All the best,
Joe Mynhardt
Crystal Lake Publishing

So, there you have it! Huge congratulations to everyone.

I couldn’t be more excited to be working with the award-winning CLP and the fantastic Joe Mynhardt, a man who’s deeply respected and has an eye for talent. To have someone like him believe in what I was doing enough to say Yes is very exciting.

And that’s how you become One Happy Hybrid, my friends.

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of EL James

If Variety is to be believed — and it’s usually more right than not — “author” EL James has decided to write the script for the second Fifty Shades of Grey movie. Let me attempt (and I can’t promise my head won’t explode while doing this, but I’ll give it a go) to count the ways this is so very, very wrong.

A) Screenwriting, especially the adaptation of a book to film, is more than recording in script-form what happened in the book. If Miss James’ fiction writing is any indication, her work as a screenwriter will almost certainly lack the finesse, sophistication, pace and, oh I’ll just say it, SKILL that a screenplay for a major Hollywood movie needs. As I’m learning with my own spec adaption of Martuk … the Holy, you need to have a ruthless eye for what’s essential and what can be consolidated or completely chopped. It’s a very delicate balancing act, one that Miss James, according to first hand accounts from production, steadfastly refuses to do.

Listen, if Kelly Marcel, a gifted screenwriter with some very good films under her belt, can beat her head against the wall for months trying to turn Miss James’ first person present tense narrative-free drivel into something – ANYTHING – that might work onscreen and still come up woefully short (due, in part, to Miss James’ constant intrusion and obvious need for control), how in the hell does Miss James think she can pull it off?

She can’t.

B) The success of a book adapted for film is found in the creative team that works WITH the author to successfully help the story make the transition. In other words, the author needs to surround themselves with the best team possible and then let go and allow those who know what they’re doing get busy and do what they need to do. The goal should be having the film be a success for everyone, and that’s damn hard to do if a newbie keeps inserting his or her busy-body into every frickin’ decision.

Miss James’ unwillingness to take her hands off the wheel — and Universal’s head scratching (and, in hindsight, no doubt desperate) decision to give her unprecedented control — has taken what could have been a fairly good film based on an infamously bad book series and turned it into a hilariously bad movie (one that had a great opening weekend, but has seen a 60% drop since then).

Allowing a hack writer to pen what will most certainly be an amateurish script is asking for trouble. It’s putting a hopefully respectable and respected Director in a position of having to work with something that might be impossible to shoot, forcing a production team to work for many months on something that reeks to high heaven from the get-go, and cornering a Studio — A STUDIO — into putting a successful franchise in the hands of a first time (say it again with me, kids) FAMOUSLY PISS POOR WRITER. After the reviews of the first film, they NEED the second to be better. Period. Full Stop. End of story. And for a non-screenwriter to demand she write the screenplay …

My god, a gamble of that magnitude makes even MY head spin. And the clueless arrogance and hubris of Miss James … I don’t even know where to begin.

C) The audience.

So, yes, let’s talk about the audience. The first movie had a smashing opening weekend. Driven by curiosity and, for fans, an almost knee-jerk need to defend something they like, people hit the theaters in droves. And if the reviews and audience feedback are any indication, the adaptation was a disappointing dud. One that made money, yes. But will it get repeat business, the cornerstone of every blockbuster franchise? Probably not. Will people be lining up as eagerly to see the sequel? That’s a big question mark.

Because if the sequel is as bad as the first one, the curious, having been sated with the first installment, may decide it’s not worth the price of a movie ticket and just catch it on PPV or Streaming. And the Fans Who Seek to Defend? Well, if they’re feeling disrespected — ANOTHER bad film of a book I love? Are they even TRYING? — they may reconsider.

Listen, the sequel NEEDS to be stronger. Period. And it needs a better script and less author intrusion. The chances of that happening if Miss James is in charge? Slim to none. And with her contractual control? Good luck getting her to do rewrites or agree to cuts that everyone agrees are necessary, but that she believes are fine.

Again, my head, it’s spinning, spinning, spinning with how off the rails this can go.

In conclusion, what remains is this: for writers like me who are just beginning their Hollywood journey into AdaptationVille, the willingness of a Studio to allow even the slightest bit of control in the future is hanging by a thread. What if so-and-so ends up being another EL James with his or her hand in everything? And they have no idea what they’re doing? And they’re bullshit slows down production and costs us money? Ack! They’d run for the hills.

You know, it kinda sucks that, as writers, we’ve had to work doubly hard to help readers see they deserve better than the stupefying pile of stinking shit that called itself Fifty Shades of Grey. And, as readers, we’ve had to sift through the mountains of atrociously written Fifty Shades wannabes that have spread through the publishing world like an unfortunately timed yeast infection.

Are we now, as screenwriters and moviegoers, going to have to pay yet another price for The Increasingly Poor Decisions of EL James?

God, let’s hope not.

Hollywood hearts Writers … No! REALLY!

Hollywood. Films. Remakes, sequels, franchises. Adaptations of books. And where are the “new ideas” from Hollywood?

Let’s talk about this.

What most of you — and I’m talking mainly about those in the States — don’t realize is that Hollywood isn’t making films for you anymore. The domestic box office is one of the smaller pieces of the pie when it comes to profits. These days, their money is being made in China, Russian, India. That’s their audience. That’s who they’re focused on when they decide what to put into development or what script/property to invest in.

So, when looking at what films to make and, more importantly, what films they can market effectively to the biggest audience while still ticking all their demographic boxes, they tend to go either for iconic properties (Superman, Dracula, Batman, other superheroes) or earlier films they hold the rights to that they can successfully reboot, remake, rework with a young cast and hot director into something that can be discovered by a new audience.

Why? MONEY!

Let’s face it. We can talk about art and beauty and films being an amazing thing, but, at the end of the day, Hollywood needs to make money. And, as mentioned before, it’s not being made in the States. It’s all overseas.

Wondering where your serious dramas went? They don’t play well in those foreign markets so Studios are a lot less likely to jump onboard and make ’em (unless they’re historical Oscar bait, like Selma, or have Meryl Streep in them). Romantic comedies? Nope. Again, it’s a cultural difference. What Americans find funny or romantic will confuse the heck out of those foreign markets. So, they don’t make ’em. And when they do, it’s usually a box office bomb. And, remember, they’re in this to make money, something box office bombs don’t do.

Now, when it comes to new ideas — and, yes, they do have them! — and especially adaptations of books (which need not be bestsellers, surprisingly), Studios tend to hope for a few things. Or at least that’s what I’ve discovered as Martuk … the Holy and Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche laboriously trudge their way to the silver screen.

1) Is it a franchise? Making one movie, and just one movie, isn’t in the cards. For marketing purposes, tie-ins, building an audience, etc., they’re really hoping you have a story that spans three books and can be told in six films. Having a reliable story they can tell over a decade or so is ideal.

2) IS THERE A STORY?????? Oh, and believable characters who actually talk like real people. Believe it or not, and this is something I hear time and again from friends of mine who are producers, a lot of the books suggested to them from agents and publishers HAVE NO STORY!!!!

Listen, Hollywood isn’t a big reading town. They read scripts and they read coverage (crib notes version of a script or book). But for those who DO read, they get downright giddy when it’s well-written (most books these days, even so-called bestsellers, aren’t) and feel like they hit the frickin’ jackpot when it has an actual story. Beginning, middle, end. Three acts. Pace. Intelligence. Something a screenwriter can actually work into a script because, MY GOD, that NEVER happens!

So, yeah, having a story in your book rather than a random series of events that just kinda happen helps.

3) A sense of mythology. And this one, to me, feels huge. Every successful book-to-film (talking about the tent-pole productions that anchor a Studio for the summer and are usually franchises) has come to the table with a world wrapped in mythology. And I’m not necessarily talking about an established mythology, Greek, Roman, etc. It can be one the author has created. Other worlds, ancient worlds. Gods, goddesses. Superhuman strength. Immortals and monsters. That gives a Studio so, so much to play with because, absent a very American story centered around love and life and drama, there’s now a narrative — one probably based on action, magic, struggle, and strong visuals – foreign markets will readily understand and enjoy.

I think that knowing all this will help you understand why Hollywood decides the way it sometimes does — it’s not about you anymore, sorry — and how you, if you’re a writer hoping to shift your work into film, can maybe hopefully perhaps possibly write something they might be more willing to maybe hopefully perhaps possibly consider.

Seriously, though, it’s a crapshoot. Whenever writers ask me how they can get a “Hollywood Deal”, I always tell them “Don’t. Just write your damn book, and then another, and another, and another, and another. Be a writer. And if you can be a good writer, a really good writer, maybe Hollywood will find you.”

At the end of the day, it’s one of the few things we writers can totally control. What we write and how well we write it. If Hollywood likes it, great! If not, then our Readers will still love us.

P.S. There are always exceptions to the rule, so the above thoughts aren’t written in stone. They’re just thoughts.

P.S.S. The opening weekend success of 50 Shades of Grey is an outlier when it comes to books-to-film (Americans living in a world lacking mythology). The success of the book IS the mythology. That’s what drove the Studios to adapt it to film. The fact that it had done so well as a book is what’s notable about that book series. It’s what they were counting on to get butts in the seat and post some strong opening week numbers. ‘Cause it sure as hell isn’t the laughably bad writing and bizarre lack of a story! And a huge kudos to screenwriter Kelly Marcel for doing what she could with piss poor source material.

Novel of the Year?

With a strong handful of glowing reviews and having cracked the Top 100 of Horror on Amazon, do you think Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche could be considered a “Novel of the Year”?

If so, please consider taking a quick second to email

awards@thisishorror.co.uk

by November 28th with the subject line ‘This Is Horror Award Nominations 2014′ and nominate it for Novel of the Year. Just write them and say something quick like

Novel of the Year — Martuk … the Holy: Proseuche by Jonathan Winn

And then we’ll all sit back and cross our fingers, right? Right. ;)

facing the sinister unexpected

From here on out, whenever I’m asked why I insist on combing horror with history, I’m pointing people to this guest post I wrote for the release of Proseuche.

But the humanity of who we are is the same. That’s a constant. The petty thievery of politicians. The lies husbands tell wives, and wives tell husbands. The dreams children dare to dream about their future. The frustration we have with Them, whether that Them is the wealthy or politicians or annoying neighbors.

And the monsters. We can’t forget about the monsters. Even those that look and talk and act like us. Those are the same, too. The fear of the unknown. The pit in the stomach one feels at the sight of a deep, dark shadow. Though separated by millennia, the quiet terror that makes our hearts thump when faced with a sinister unexpected never changes.

This is why horror works so well in a historical context. This is why I’m driven to take my dark fiction out of the comfort of this contemporary Here and Now and toss it to the wolves of 3rd century Antioch or 1st century Jerusalem.

You can read the rest over here. Enjoy! :)

Who am I without my ghosts?

Blog tours can be tough.

On the one hand, you’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity to introduce your work to (hopefully) thousands of new eyes. On the other hand, you find yourself navigating the same questions in the same interviews time and time again. Or struggling to convince your tired brain — which is probably still in shock from writing eighty thousand words and then turning right around to edit and rewrite those same eighty thousand words — to come up with an awesome, amazing, incredible Guest Blog Post.

Well, I don’t always hit a homer, but this is one of the few times I swung for the bleachers and won. Here’s an excerpt:

For a moment, I’d forgotten who he was, this Martuk. Had forgotten about his birth in the sun-blasted Zagros mountains one thousand years before Christ. Had forgotten the centuries he’d seen. The bloody chaos he’d caused and the agony he’d endured. Reminded myself that this was a man who’d had a long life, a long immortality, even before something as unremarkable as a cup of coffee even existed.

I gave him a moment. “If I may, why the second book?” I said. “Why Proseuche? Was it something as simple as the story continuing?”

“Nothing’s that simple.” He finished his espresso in one final swallow, his finger raised to order a second. A small nod from me, and a second finger lifted to indicate two. “Writing doesn’t excorcise the ghosts. It emboldens them.”

“So why write?”

A moment of silence followed by a brief shrug. “Who am I without my ghosts? In this world that changes yet remains the same, they are one of my few constants. Their anger, their rage. Their fear and regret and sorrow. These things, I know them. They are familiar. Even here, even now, they walk with me.

“They are amaranthine. A word I now love, by the way,” he said with a grin. “Endless and forever and constant.”

Lesson? When in doubt, take Martuk out for coffee where he’ll most surely talk about Proseuche.