one big bloody tent

The Guardian recently ran a piece about what it called the “post-horror” movement. Where the new films coming out were somehow different than what’d come before because, in the writer’s opinion – and I’m gonna simplify it for you – the filmmakers were relying less on blood and gore and more on a sense of dread and quiet scares.

Although it’s always great to see the horror genre being openly and actively discussed – which leads to open, active discussions in the community – I’ve noticed a trend, an annoying trend, that I need to discuss. And it’s basically this:

Horror is one big bloody tent. And to forget that simple, undeniable fact is a disservice to what we – writers, filmmakers, readers – do.

Horror is Saw. Horror is Get Out. Horror is Friday the 13th and The Others. Horror is The Fog and Hellraiser and Nosferatu and Phantasm. Horror is Alien as well as a documentary on the rise of Hitler and the chaos of World War II.

Horror is Anne Rice and Stephen King and dozens if not hundreds of writers – some known, many not – in-between.

Blood. Gore. Mysteries that lurk in the shadows. The creeping dread of something unseen but still felt. The terror of an unexpected, impossible sound coming from the dark. The fear of being surrounded by a group of strangers that could go from docile to deranged in a split second.

You see? Horror can be a great many things. That’s why it’s a genre I love and which speaks to me. You can do almost anything when it comes to horror.

So, instead of laying down a false marker by saying “Well, this was horror back then and this new stuff, now, is post-horror” doesn’t do justice to everything horror was, is and will be.

In fact, one could say that without Bela Lugosi there’d be no Lestat. Without The Texas Chainsaw Massacre there’d be no The Green Inferno. Without The Strangers there’d be no The Purge.

As disparate as these examples seem – and I’m well aware I’ve now become The Guy with All the Lists, but I’m proving a point – the earlier courage of one in some way gave birth to the other. Horror, as a genre, whether it be fiction, film, TV, short stories in magazines, whatever, it’s all tied together.

One drop of blood spilled years ago in some way, somehow, gives birth to a scream heard in the here and now.

That’s why, in my opinion, “post-horror,” as a label or, as I said earlier, some kind of marker, just doesn’t work. New-horror. Modern-horror. Those might work. Maybe. If we absolutely NEED to somehow play with Before/After and categorize things into a haphazard row of unnecessary boxes.

Or, heck, we could just KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid – and just continue calling it what it is:

Horror.

 

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myriad pieces of haphazard puzzles

I’m a relentless optimist. I’m also a no-bones-about-it realist. It’s a nice blend. Keeps me relatively stable and sane in what can be a career of dizzying highs (or so I’ve heard) and abysmal lows (first name basis frequent flier here).

And one of the things I’ve come to understand is you need both to effectively move through what can sometimes be the mystifying, frustrating process of being adapted from fiction to film (or TV).

And, believe me, I’m not slamming the process.

What most don’t realize is that moving a project forward in Hollywood, getting from A to B, is often dependent on a haphazard puzzle of myriad pieces somehow finding a way to snap together. It could take weeks. It could take months. It could take years. It could never happen. Some projects click quickly. Others less so. But the pieces need to come together, they need to fit and, as much as possible, they need to be perfect. And the one constant truth linking those two together, and everything in-between, is that you, as the writer, have zero say in how things inch forward. You just don’t.

Nor should you.

But this is the beauty of being a writer and one of the reasons I love what I do: when the no-bones-about-it realist starts to nag the relentless optimist, chipping away at his sunny disposition with perfectly reasonable doubts, the Writer gets to work.

Because not only am I a relentless optimist, a no-bones-about-it realist and a Writer (with that capital W), I’m also blessed with a creative mind that just…doesn’t…stop. The list of projects I have on my calendar currently stretch into 2020. And that’s not taking into account whatever projects land on my plate driven by other people, production companies, my publisher, anthologies, etc.

The Martuk Series. Eidolon Two. Eidolon Three. Eidolon Four. Eidolon Five. The third Martuk novel. A new project about magic and secret realms and dangerous monsters that lurk in plain sight, spanning different timeframes all at the same time. A potential three-book series centered around Mot from the Martuk books. Continued script adaptations for film, for TV.

So when I start to feel a bit grrrrrrrrrrrrr…I just flip it into work. And as I write, as words land on the page, hopefully stretching into paragraphs and then pages, chapter after chapter finally becoming a book or a short story or a screenplay or whatever, all those haphazard puzzles with their myriad pieces, something I can do nothing about, are putting themselves together. Bit by bit. Piece by piece. Phone call by phone call. Rescheduled meeting by rescheduled meeting. Email by email.

But, and this is important, when I get that email or that text or that phone call or whatever by whoever saying “Hey, let’s talk” it makes all the waiting – and furious writing – worth it. It really does.

Because another constant thread with this business is the courage to take a chance. Yes, get those pieces together and make ’em fit. Do what you can to guarantee as much as possible the largest audience possible. (Talk with me ’cause Lord knows I got ideas) But at the end of the day, you’re still rolling the dice and taking a risk.

It’s just what we do.

What’s my point with this? Maybe nothing. I’m not sure.

All I know is, as a writer, I’m lucky I drive the bus and can turn whatever impatience, curiosity or whatever I feel into work. Work that might, at some point, end up being part of yet another puzzle with pieces needing to be put together.

Which will lead me into writing more.

It really is a gloriously vicious cycle, ain’t it? 😊

where the big stories are

I recently ran across an interesting – albeit brief – read about the current state of Hollywood. In it, the writers says

Part of Hollywood’s current decay was unavoidable. As a monoculture splintered permanently into niche groups, the idea of a film everybody sees and everybody can’t stop talking about fades further into the cultural past. The rise of cable networks willing to spend serious money on shows like “Game of Thrones” further dents Hollywood’s ability to be the main supplier of big stories.

The article then goes on to discuss how the business model they’ve created has painted them in a corner where heartfelt sincerity is out, out, out and big, big, big profits are in, in, in. Where audiences have, when it comes to summer movie-watching fare, either this superhero movie (where things explode, buildings crumble and people are saved -or not) or that superhero movie (where things explode, buildings crumble and people are saved – or not).

And if the superhero movies are all basically interchangeable and easily forgotten, where’s the magic in going to the movies? Short answer: there is none. Which is why people are staying home and watching Stranger Things or Game of Thrones or whatever.

Now, I understand the financial logistics of this. I know foreign markets (China, Russia, Israel, Germany) drive profit. That Hollywood, being a global business – as in the whole world and not just America, a fact we somehow forget here in the States – isn’t necessarily making movies just for the domestic audience which, in truth, feed less and less into their bottom lines.

Really, though, Hollywood knows films that are heavy on action, explosions, dudes in capes and light on dialogue are easily translatable for Chinese, Russian, German audiences. And if your business is making money – and Hollywood’s is – a film that translates easily regardless of borders is, or could be, the way to go.

But they’re forgetting one important fact. They’re ignoring the one thing that makes it harder and harder to get those butts in the seats:

Where are the big stories?

Really. Where’s the frickin’ magic? Why go to the movies anymore? Where’s that one film that slyly incorporates those special effects audiences love while giving us characters audiences care about, feel for and never forget? Because that’s the film this industry needs. Desperately.

Being the relentless optimist I am, I strongly believe you can have action and magic in a film without relinquishing heart and soul.

If you revisit franchises like Harry Potter or even The Hunger Games, those movies ticked a lot of boxes. Centered around strong narratives – remember those? – they both successfully blended the fantastic with emotion. They married action with heart. And they gave audiences necessary, important battles without abandoning reason or hope. Cities didn’t need to crumble, the universe didn’t need to quake and thousands of cars didn’t have to get trampled underfoot for those films to make their point and make an impact on audiences.

You see? If you have a true big story – not just a loud story – you can go simple. If you’re supported by a strong narrative peopled with unique, relatable characters, you can be quiet. And if those people are imbued with hope, heartache, anger, fear, helplessness, frustration, loneliness, doubt, strength, the story they tell, even without the predictable Armageddon, will be unforgettable.

Why? Because no matter how different that person on the screen is from those in the audience, they’ll be speaking the same language. A language which doesn’t rely on translation or destruction or annihilation. A language that can be felt in a place deeper than words.

Emotion.

If you really want to find the big stories in today’s Hollywood, the stories audiences are truly craving – reminder: everyone’s staying home watching cable — that’s where you begin. With what people feel. And if you can bring to life a solid story with a character who is blessed – or cursed – with the impossible and yet is still driven by their hopes and dreams, fears and frustrations, disappointments and dread, a person driven by their emotions, that’s where audiences will go. In fact, that’s where audiences will go again and again and again.

I believe if you can reach into someone’s heart, speak to that part of them that wants to feel – it’s why we go to the movies, right? – and reawaken that innate hope we all have being part of something bigger while still entertaining, still dazzling, still scaring and surprising them, they’ll come. They’ll leave their homes, come to the theater, make a night of it and see that film. They will. We’ve seen it happen before. And, god willing, we’ll see it happen again.

But that journey has to begin with the heart.

Because that’s where the big stories are.

 

Horror 201 … the book

It’s ready, folks. The paperback of Horror 201: The Silver Scream, Vol.2 now on pre-sale. So clickity-click right here and have a good laugh at me trying to sound smart.

Oh, go on, then. You know you want to.

horror 201 volume 2

First of Five

And so it begins.

In a rare confluence of events — think a massive meteor shower pummeling the earth while a rare comet circles the heavens around a total Solar Eclipse as we discover a Kardashian with actual talent — I’m going to have five book releases over the next three months.

I know, right?

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First up, Horror 201: The Silver Scream

The definitive guide to filmmaking and filmmakers by the best in the field.

Horror 201: The Silver Scream, the follow-up to the Bram Stoker Award nominated Horror 101: The Way Forward, delves into the minds of filmmakers to see what it takes to produce great horror films, from the writing and funding process, to directing, producing, and writing tie-ins.

It’s a tome of interviews and essays by some of our favorite artists.

That’s right, film legends and authors such as Wes Craven, George A. Romero, Ray Bradbury, Ed Naha, Patrick Lussier, Stephen Volk, Nancy Holder, Tom Holland, John Shirley, William Stout, and John Russo want to share their expertise with you through informative, practical, career-building advice.

These are the folks behind movies and novelizations such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, Dark Shadows, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural, Buffy, Resident Evil, The Stand, Sleepwalkers, Masters of Horror, The Fly, Critters, Tales from the Crypt, Child’s Play, Fright Night, Thinner, The Langoliers, Ted Bundy, Re-animator Unbound, Halloween, Apollo 18, The Eye, Night of the Living Dead, The Crow, The Mist, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Horror 201 also entertains. You’ll see a side of your favorite authors, producers, and directors never seen before – combining fun and entertainment with informative career-building advice.

Horror 201 is aimed at arming generations of authors, screenwriters, producers, directors, and anyone else interested in the film industry, from big budget movies to the independent film circuit, as well as the stage.

The definitive guide to filmmaking and filmmakers by the best in the field.

Whether you’re an accomplished author or screenwriter, writing as a hobby, or have dreams of writing screenplays or making movies, Horror 201 will take you on a behind the scenes tour of the Horror movie industry from Hollywood to the UK and Australia.

Horror 201 covers:

  • Horror as culture
  • Scare tactics
  • The evolution of the horror film
  • Viewer desensitization
  • Watching your story come to life
  • Screenwriting advice
  • Dissecting screenplays
  • A production company case study
  • Tricks of the trade
  • Writing tips
  • Advice on Producing
  • Advice on Directing
  • Information about funding and distributing a film
  • Entertaining tidbits and anecdotes

happy-face-GOT

But wait, there’s more!!!!!!!

Horror 201: The Silver Scream is perfect for people who:

  • are looking to delve into screenplay writing
  • want to write their first screenplay
  • are fans of the horror movie industry
  • like to follow the careers of their favorite directors
  • are planning on infiltrating a different field in horror writing
  • are looking to pay more bills with their art
  • are trying to establish a name brand
  • are looking to get published
  • are looking for motivation and/or inspiration
  • are seeking contacts in the film industry

Amazing, right?

How about a cover?

Horror 201

Honestly, I love how the red of the car echoes the red in the title and the red in that other car. And the silver of the screen? With the woman screaming? To me, it’s ever so slightly reminiscent of —

shut-up-and-take-my-money

So, one release down, four to go. And what are those other four books?

An essay in the second volume of Horror 201: The Silver Scream; Forever Dark, an award-winning short story in Tales from the Lake, Vol. 2; an essay in Writers on Writing, Vol. 2; and Eidolon Avenue: The First Feast.

All between now and January.

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It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

shocked-face-puppy

Okay, but, still, how cool is this!

Will update with links as the rest of these roll out.

 

Having the courage to miss

I have a lot of irons in the fire.

Finishing up what promises to be an amazing book for an incredible publisher (Eidolon Avenue for Crystal Lake Publishing in 2016). Digging into the script adaptation of Eidolon for a production company that’s shown interest in discussing the possibility of adapting it into a TV series. Still working to find a home for one screenplay (indie) while polishing a solid first draft of another script, this one the film adaptation of my first novel Martuk … the Holy (probably Studio).

Add to that the various TV specs I have floating around, the introductions I still reach out to make, and the relationships I’m happily building, and, yeah, there’s a lot going on.

And it’s terrifying. Sometimes. Because I aim high. I aim high and I miss. And then I restring the bow and aim high again. Maybe I’ll miss, but maybe not, you know? Either way, I’m still standing. But I always aim high because, hell, if you’re going to aim, it might as well be high, right?

But you have to have the courage to miss. Because aiming high leads to a mountain of No. An endless ocean of No. A flat-out, can’t get around it, frustrating road strewn with No, Nope, I don’t think so, and — the worst one — Silence. But is that enough of a reason to not try? Of course not. So I aim high, miss, aim again, make contact, get a No, restring the bow, and lather, rinse, repeat until I get that Yes. Or Maybe. Or, my favorite, Let’s Talk. Because if I do nothing then nothing happens.

Why am I talking about this? Because I’m following my gut and reaching out to someone, someone I greatly admire, for Martuk. Someone I think would

  • A) get the story and the complexities of the character
  • B) would recognize the opportunity inherent in being a huge part of a film franchise and, IMO, is perfectly suited to this project
  • C) has the courage to take this project on, wrestle it to the ground, and work with me to bring it to the screen in a way that accurately reflects, as much as possible, the book(s).

More importantly, I believe they would understand how much of a game-changer Martuk could be for their career.

Am I scared doing this? Yep. Will that stop me? Nope. Will I actually get a response or be lucky enough to have a conversation? Hell if I know. But I’m not going to let fear run me, I’m not going to let a potential No stop me, and I’m certainly not going to stop myself from even trying just because I’m afraid.

Because, at the end of the day, you gain nothing, absolutely nothing, by living afraid. So why do it?

Take aim, fire, and have the courage to miss.

Who knows? You just might land a bulls eye and get a Yes.

Modern Mythmakers

Joe Mynhardt over at Crystal Lake Publishing shows us once again why he’s quickly becoming One to Watch with his new release, Modern Mythmakers: 35 Interviews with Horror & Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers

Check it out:

Modern Mythmakers is a collection of 35 interviews from horror and science fiction’s most influential writers and filmmakers, including Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, Richard Matheson, John Carpenter, John Saul, Joe McKinney, the Night of the Living Dead crew (including John Russo, Kyra Schon and Russ Streiner), Elvira, Whitley Strieber, Christopher Moore, and many more.

Line-up: Foreword by Alan Dean Foster; Forrest J. Ackerman; C. Dean Andersson; Adrienne Barbeau; Ray Bradbury; Ramsey Campbell; John Carpenter; Dan Curtis; Elvira; Rusty Fischer; Neil Gaiman; Mick Garris; Laurell K. Hamilton; George Clayton Johnson; Jack Ketchum; Dean Koontz; Herschell Gordon Lewis; Thomas Ligotti; Bentley Little; Graham Masterton; Richard Matheson; Joe McKinney; Christopher Moore; Night of the Living Dead Crew: John Russo, Kyra Schon, & Russ Streiner; William F. Nolan; Ingrid Pitt; Linnea Quigley; Fred Olen Ray; John Saul; David Snell; Darce Stoker; Peter Straub; Whitley Strieber; Timothy Zahn; Afterword by The Amazing Kreskin.

“Interesting interviews, masterfully compiled…” – Horror News

“Modern Mythmakers is a horror-fiend’s dream – a bubbling cauldron of genre info straight from the mouths of the madmen and women we fans worship.” – Kristopher Triana, author of Growing Dark and head of Tavern of Terror

“I was struck by the skill with which Michael McCarty conducts himself. He should have his own nightly talk show or at least a radio program dedicated to his work.” – Zero Signal Magazine

“… beware the dark, and what lurks in the minds of those you read and watch in the wee hours. Highly recommended.” – Hellnotes

“Modern Mythmakers is a healthy-sized bowl of horror-themed Wheaties coated with inspiration that’ll fuel your writing and filmmaking passion. And for the straight up fan boys and girls, it’s full of spoonfuls of trivia regarding classic horror and science fiction film and literature.” – Horror Novel Reviews

And here’s a gander at the really cool cover. 🙂

Modern Mythmakers full cover - small