Release Day and Contest!

While it may be a cliche, and minimizes the pain women endure, a book release is like giving birth. After months of gestating, it gets released, leaving the author in a state of exhaustion and relief.

That’s simply my long winded way of saying Life in Amber is now available! The paperback is exclusive to Amazon, while the e-book is waiting for you not only at Amazon, but every ebook retailer imaginable, including Apple and Walmart.

You may notice there’s a difference between the two covers of each version, and there’s a reason for that. The e-book cover, for whatever reason kept creating errors when uploading to Amazon. It was rejected 3 times and I finally had to redo the entire thing. I really want to change it to what it should be, but afraid to touch it. Anyway, I still like it, and will probably leave it as is.

That aside, I’m running a contest starting on Monday September 10th, 2018, and closing on Friday September 14th. The task you have is to name the 10 movies that had an impact on me, which I posted on Facebook, and then name the play I wrote, which I talk about on the next episode of The Imaginarium. Post your answer on my FB page and the winner gets an autographed copy of the book! Easy Peasy, right? In case of a tie winner will be chosen at random, through the old fashioned name out of a hat, Good luck!

You can also purchase this and my other books here 

Enter contest here

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Link for podcast 

http://www.podcastcity.net/the-imaginarium.html

Life in Amber: Excerpt

September 7th, 2018. Mark that date on your calendar as that is when my new novel Life in Amber comes out! Until then, here’s the Prologue to whet your appetite!

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Prologue

 

             It begins, as every thorough account of the paranormal does: with a dream. I’m sitting in an overstuffed chair in the lobby of a hotel. There’s not a soul around, aside from myself and the clerk. His back is to me as he does some paperwork, unconcerned about the lack of customers.

             A Mylar balloon floats by at knee level. It’s losing helium and is folding in on itself. There’s a cartoon on it, SpongeBob SquarePants. I watch it get taken away by the breeze from the air conditioning, and in a moment it disappears behind a column. I stand up, knees popping, and hips aching, to follow the low flyer. I have no idea where it came from; instead, I’m more curious about where it’s going. Air conditioning aside, it seems to move with purpose, as if it’s on a mission. There is a white string attached to it that drags along the ground like a shadow.

            I follow behind, walking carefully, almost afraid to make my presence known. No, not almost, I am scared. On the surface, there is nothing to fear. The hotel itself is unduly bright, the fluorescent lights bleaching everything of its usual color. The balloon is innocuous enough, yet…

 Yet…there is something still not quite right. It stops, slowly turning and pauses as if looking at me with the vast, blue SpongeBob eyes. I hold my breath, not wanting to make a sound. It turns to the side and floats down the left-hand corridor. The hum of the air conditioning stops, and the silence becomes pervasive, almost as if someone has stuck cotton balls in my ears. I trail behind as pressure begins to build inside my head. I clamp a thumb and forefinger around my nose and hold my breath to get my ears to pop, but this only seems to intensify the clogged feeling. At the far end of the corridor are double doors, the entranceway to a suite or conference room.

            The balloon seems to pick up speed, and when it bounces against the doors, they open gradually. A brilliant light starts to pour out, but it isn’t blinding; it is, if not soothing, then at least makes me feel a bit more relaxed. There’s a humming sound, not the air conditioning this time; it comes from inside the room as well, though it has a higher pitch and is faster. Rhythmic.

             The balloon disappears into the chamber, and I follow after. It takes my eyes a bit to adjust to the brightness, and when they do, I emit a soundless scream. I may as well be in the vacuum of space, as any noise I make is siphoned away.

            This is no conference room. It’s nothing I have ever seen before. Coffins made of amber line the expanse; they are all on stainless steel tables with drains beneath them. I look at one and see the remains of my Uncle Albert who had died decades earlier. His blue eyes bulge and his mouth opens and closes like the gills of a fish in its death throes. His gaze turns to me and pleads for me to do something. My heart sinks; Uncle Albert had always been my favorite Uncle. He was Uncle Al, the kiddies pal. While that may sound a bit creepy in today’s world, back then there was no malicious intent at all.

             I place my hand on top of the amber and feel it vibrate. His eyes widen and are the first parts of his body to explode. His blood and gore paint the inside of the coffin. I turn away, hand over my mouth. I look at the wall in front of me and see children pinned to it, the way you’d pin butterflies in a collection.

             Unlike the butterflies, these children are alive. There is one large pin through the abdomen and four smaller bolts in the hands and feet. Their eyes and mouths are sewn shut, and they wriggle weakly. In spite of the mutilations, I recognize them-they are classmates of mine from elementary school. The bullies, brats and hostile childrenbullies, brats and hostile children of divorce. As if sensing my presence their struggle intensifies, and while I can’t hear anything they mumble, I feel their emotions. The hate and judgment and blame are all directed at me as if I’m responsible for nailing them to the walls.

            There are six of them stuck to the wall. Each has on a white t-shirt with a number scrawled on it in their own blood? Ichor? It made no difference, as I memorize the digits, 6, 27, 32, 11, 47, and 52. There seems to be no discernible pattern to the almost randomly generated lottery numbers. As this thought enters and occupies my mind, the light in the room blossoms until I can no longer see. I’m hesitant to walk, not wanting to bump into the amber coffins. I shuffle along with my hands out in front of me, and I feel the balloon brush against my face. I’m finally able to let loose a scream, and it coincides with the balloon popping.

 

The sounds jolted me out of my sleep. Sweat covered my body and drenched the thin sheet over me, in spite of the chill in the room. I grabbed my phone, opened the note app and fumble typed the numbers I’d seen before I forgot them. I set the phone down and looked for a pack of cigarettes, forgetting for a moment I had quit two years earlier. I sat on the edge of the bed, a futon truth be told, and hugged myself, as the cold air dried the sweat on my aging skin.

 

I picked up my phone again and saw the date, September 13th. My birthday.

I was 50.

Stuffing my feet into my slippers, I rose, and began my day, even as the dream started to fade. It was time for my insulin. Birthday or not, diabetes doesn’t take a vacation. I could have been 10, or 20, or hell, even 80 for all that mattered, the fact was, I didn’t care.

Not about birthdays, not about me, and not about life.

 

Hellraiser: Judgment Get the Hell Out of Here

Anyone who knows me, even if just from the podcast, knows my favorite horror movie is Hellraiser. To be fair it’s one of my favorite movies period, and has been since I first saw it one sunny September day in 1987. It’s difficult to believe that was 3 decades ago, as the memory is still as fresh as if I had seen it only yesterday. I’d gone with a friend who was not fond of horror movies to say the least, and finally walked out after Frank’s classic, “Jesus wept,” line. I’m not sure he ever forgave me for dragging him along, but I couldn’t have been happier.

Everything about the movie appealed to me, and Clive Barker cemented himself alongside Stephen King as one of my idols. The idea of the Cenobites, their reason for existence, and Frank’s obsession with extremes was something that resonated with me, and has never been very far from my thoughts. With the advent of VHS players, Hellraiser became the movie to which I judged future friendships. If someone was able to sit through it, or even better, like it, I knew they’d be a keeper. It’s a test I still use to this day and has served me well.

I can’t say the same about the sequels. Even Hellraiser II, which some prefer to the original never had the profound effect of the original, and while I enjoyed 3 and 4-everything after that was nearly as painful as the implements hanging from Pinhead’s belt.  Even 3 and 4 weren’t especially great, but they were entertaining, and at least attempted to do something different, or expand the world that Barker had created.

When the rumblings of yet another sequel started rearing its head a couple of years ago (not to mention the remake which has fortunately not come to fruition yet), the news was greeted with an eye roll and shoulder shrug. Yet every time I read something about it, I have to say my interest was piqued more and more. Even when Doug Bradley said he wouldn’t be playing Pinhead, I still had hope.

And now after several postponements and some time in limbo, Hellraiser: Judgment will be available on VOD Feb 13. The short answer to the question of whether I like it or not is, “Well, it doesn’t suck!”  And while it’s probably the best of the direct to obscurity sequels, it’s not exactly a good movie.

 

The first 10 minutes or so is spent expanding the mythos that Barker began all those years ago, and it is easily the best part of the entire movie. We follow what turns out to be a pedophile to an abandoned house where he is strapped into a wheelchair. A tube winds itself from the victim to a typewriter, where The Auditor types his sins with blood flowing from the tube onto pages made from flesh.

Once completed The Assessor comes in, seasons the paper with tears of children and eats the paper, then vomits it into a funnel. The vomit then makes its way into a trough where The Jury, 3 women with their faces stripped away plunge their hands into the mess and deliver a verdict.

When that’s completed the pedophile is then strapped to a table where The Cleaners come in, lick his entire body then pour their spit into his mouth to cleanse the inside. The final step is when the Butcher makes his appearance, an obese dark Angel who carries The Surgeon on his back who filets the victim and strips his skin off.

The whole process is so fascinating; I really wish there had been more, as I was mesmerized and sickened by the process. Sadly, the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to this beginning, as we then get treated to a substandard serial killer/cops on the trail flick. Pinhead and the gang are relegated to the beginning and end with just a couple of quick scenes in between. Paul T. Taylor is a fantastic Pinhead however, and makes you realize a Hellraiser movie can succeed without Doug Bradley. This incarnation really hearkens back to the original movie. Pinhead here is all business, and scary as hell. His black eyes and calm, almost bored demeanor are a highlight for sure.

Director Gary J. Tunnicliffe also plays The Auditor and is also a highlight, and as I said, wish there had been more of him and his level of Hell in the film (he’s not a Cenobite, but another aspect of Hell). Heather Langenkamp, of Nightmare on Elm Street fame has a sneeze and you’ll miss it cameo, and I have to believe there’s a lot more of her on the editing room floor than in the movie.

This brings us to the “detectives” working on the case; a pair of brothers, played by Damon Carney and Randy Wayne, as well as a female detective assigned to the case, played by Alexandra Harris. These characters are easily the weakest link in the movie. You never believe they’re actually brothers. Let alone detectives, and in spite of solid performances, the script really lets them down. Harris does a fine job as well, but feels like she was thrown in there just to spice things up.

The biggest problem the movie has is the small budget. There are so many cool ideas that could have been explored but had to be cut because there simply wasn’t room in the budget for them.  The “detective’s” office looked more like a closet with some furniture thrown into it, and the finale takes place in an empty warehouse. I don’t blame the director for these choices, as you work with what you have, but still I can’t help but wonder what this movie could have been had they had a decent budget.

While I would have a hard time recommending buying the DVD/BluRay, I don’t think people will mind spending a few bucks to stream it. There are far worse movies out there, but in terms of Hellraiser sequels, you’ll find none that are much better. I just hope we get a proper sequel one day with more than a $1.98 budget, this franchise deserves more.

3/5 Pins

One Last Night at Camp Blood: Jason X

And here we arrive at the final proper entry in the F13 series. I decided not to include Freddie VS Jason or the F13 remake because they weren’t direct sequels. For those interested however, I thought F VS J was a lot of fun with some great over the top gore, and the F13 remake was awful, and shit all over the original. And if nothing else, all the sequels have made me appreciate the original F13 all the more (Kevin Bacon’s penis aside).

I suppose there were better ways to end the franchise than launch Jason into space, but when you get to the tenth entry, good ideas are hard to come by. That said, Jason X is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. Please, don’t mistake entertaining for good, as that would be a mistake-but in comparison to Jason Goes to Hell, this is a Fellini quality film. After all, David Cronenberg makes a cameo in it, so that counts for something (to me anyway). And as I should have said from the very beginning of this series, These are my opinions only. If you like what I didn’t, that’s great! Movies are subjective and all I can do is give my reaction to them. Many times they seem contradictory, but that’s part of being human. Anyway, let’s lift off!

It’s 2008, and there’s two things that may surprise you. The U.S. Government has captured Jason and holding him in a dank, damp cellar, at a compound in Crystal Lake. Why there would be a government installation there is anyone’s guess, but David Cronenberg is the head of it, so it’s all cool. Scientist Rown wants tofreeze dry Jason, however Cronenberg and company have other plans to study him and adapt his cell regeneration if possible. When they enter the area Jason is kept, they discover Jason has gotten loose and killed the guard on duty. Pretty soon, everyone but Rowan is dead.

She leads him on a chase and eventually traps him in a cryofreezing unit. Before she can escape, Jason punctures the until and manages to stab her, so they’re both frozen like some Birdseye veggies.

Almost 450 years later 3 students and their professor are on an expedition to the Crystal Lake building. Despite the fact no one lives on earth any longer, it having become too polluted, they still do some excavation. They find Rowan and Jason, and are excited by the find. After they bring them back to their ship they begin the process of thawing out and reviving Rowan (Jason being a lost cause they surmise). She’s brought back using nanotechnology, and also has her wounds healed as well. Jason is left in the morgue where he’s about to undergo an autopsy.

This leads up to the first kill on the ship, and probably the best of them all. Mr. V comes to life and sticks the techs head in some cryo freeze unit until her entire head is frozen, and then wham! Smashed against the counter. How Jason knows what it is and what it does though, is anyone’s guess. Apparently he’s not as stupid as we assume (fair to say, Jason’s smarter than most of the screenwriters).

There’s a minor subplot about the professor not wanting Jason dead because he’d be worth a lot of money, and he needs that dough. A security team is sent out to neutralize him, and as it goes, they’re all killed save the leader who shows up later at a most convenient time.

 

The more Rowan warns about Jason’s danger the less people seem to listen and the more chances they take. Even as they’re picked off one by one, no one really listens to Rowan. In space no one sees you do stupid things. The Android with the ragtag bunch of survivors gets retrofitted with some kickass power and that’s exactly what she does, kicks Jason ass. Then she does what I’ve finally waited for someone to do in every sequel-shoot him in the legs. Cut them off, kneecap him, something to at least slow him down.

They leave the Jason chunks where they are, and somehow the nano bugs come and not only put Jason back together but make the parts of him missing, metal-so he’s indestructible. The uber Jason while a ridiculous concept looks bad ass, so it’s only natural he die in a bad ass way, hurtling towards the earth and burning up on entry, only for the remains to land by, you guessed it, Crystal Lake.

Look, I’m not going to pretend Jason X is anything great, as it’s not. In fact, it’s pretty ridiculous, however it has one thing going for it the previous two didn’t: truth in advertising. We barely saw any of Manhattan and none of Hell. 95% of the movie is actually in space. Side note, simply being able to get a job that allows you to go to space doesn’t mean you’re smart enough to not get killed. Jason has always been an equal opportunity killer. Jason X doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is, a goofy roller coaster ride that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a good looking film, with some-not all-better than average acting, and a self referential script. If anything, it reminds me of the straight to VHS scifi movies I saw in the 80’s.

Why do I like this and not Jason Goes to Hell? Because X respects the source material, while Hell really shit all over it. You can take a franchise in different directions without retconning it the way Hell did. Yes the whole government installation and Jason being captured is ridiculous, as is his being made into an uber predator; but I was able to buy that more than anything in the previous film.

Jason X gets 6.5 machetes from me. Half a machete taken away for sending him to space.

 

And there we go, all ten movies in the F13 series. I was surprised by some, disappointed by others, and found some scary. All in all it’s one of the more consistent franchises of horror. Nothing ever came close to the first movie in terms of scares or surprise, though I think 2 came the closest. I also think it’s the one series that gets the least respect. Sure everyone loves Jason-the character, but the movies still have a less than positive reputation. Even 37 years after the original they get no respect. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.