Archive for Entertainment

8.6 Reasons to Buy In the Dark

In the Dark is available for preorder on Amazon, and I’d say an 8.6 out of 10 review is a pretty good reason to make with the clicky, no?

Featuring 368 pages of horror!

Featuring 368 pages of horror!

I was especially pleased to see the reviewer, David Henderson, mention my short story “All Things Through Me”. I felt the art by Mike S Henderson and colors by Jordan Boyd really made me look good, and David agreed:

This is one of the better stories in the collection thanks to the faith the two Mikes have in their story to let it play out how it does and even give it a heartfelt ending.

Score. Thanks for the kind words, David. And thanks once again to our intrepid editor, Rachel Deering, for putting this book together.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Princes, Paupers, and Authors

The article “From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author’s life?” by Robert McCrum over at The Observer sounds kind of scary at first: a couple of award-winning literary darlings have fallen on hard times due to the changing face of the publishing industry.

Oh, the horror! Maybe I should go back to selling electronics.

Then I considered the stories of the first two authors McCrum sites as examples. The first, Rupert Thomson, is clearly living beyond his means. The second, Hanif Kureishi, was “swindled out of his life savings.”

Are these sad stories truly the fault of the publishing industry? Either situation could easily befall anyone in any job situation. A McDonald’s employee could be swindled out of his life savings, too. Or consider the number of professional athletes who are bankrupt within just a few years of the end of their career. Consider the number of Hollywood celebs who find themselves in the gutter after their big break doesn’t pan out.

The gravy train is not a perpetual motion machine.

Yes, the publishing business can absolutely be fickle. Readers’ attention spans are short and shelf space (or prominent screen space) is finite. Editors change. Publishing houses merge or fall. Oprah’s Book Club will always have a new selection.

Writing sounds like a glamorous career, but it’s also a job. Like any other job, its situation is subject to change.

I don’t doubt these writers are intent on keeping up their word counts, but what are they doing outside of the actual writing? Get deeper into the article, and there are the usual woes of social media, self publishing, and Amazon. Are the authors leveraging these tools themselves? Or are they just waiting for an editor to come along and do it all for them?

It’s the creator’s job to stay relevant, not the industry’s job to keep him there.

The article then goes on to take a shot at the “information should be free” trend and the Google Print Initiative, and their combined threat against copyright. I get why some authors and creators aren’t fans, but again, times change. Situations change. Sure, it sucks when books show up on torrent sites. When books (and movies and music) are easier to publish, they’re easier to pirate. Does that mean give up? To pack it in? To not take advantage of Amazon’s incredible reach (while it, too, lasts)?

Pandora’s box has been opened. When the refrigerator was invented, the ice delivery guy had two choices: starve to death while cursing new technology, or find new uses for his delivery truck.

Adapt or die. This is also a time any one of these authors can take direct ownership of their work and not rely on a middle man. This is a time they can reach more fans than they ever could before, whether through direct social media interaction or a simple electronic newsletter. Writers today can be their own publisher and publicist. The job has evolved.

Finally, awards don’t mean shit, son. They may raise an eyebrow here and there, but in the big picture they’re just another blurb to put on a cover or in a cover letter. Awards translating into piles of cash is a public perception, not an insider’s reality.

Pick a successful creator in any medium. There are more than a few creators someone might point to and say, “he got lucky, he met so-and-so at the right time.” That may be true, but you know what? He was also hustling when so-and-so found him. He was working.

It’s natural to be jealous of success. It’s okay to feel sorry for great creators who have fallen on hard times. Just remember, when it comes down to it, their job is still just another job.

 

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

A Little Bird Valentine

Little Bird is more metal than you.

This is my daughter, the Little Bird. This photo is a few years old, but she’s still pretty bad ass.

Today she brought home the Valentine she created for me at school. Pretty standard, hand-written stuff. Heart on the front.

Then I opened it and read it.

One note before you get to feel the love:

She has a friend who has a goldfish. Little Bird came home after visiting said friend one day last week and asked if she could have one, too. Why not, right? What’s it cost, like ten bucks at Wally World to get her all set up? It’s a no-brainer for her next birthday present this Spring.

There. Now here’s the card:

Dear Dad,

You are the best dad ever. I like beating you at Candyland. It is fun beating you at every single game. It is nice of you to let me have a fish. You are the best dad ever when I beat you at games.

Love,
[Little Bird]

Translation:

You’re cool because I can beat your ass at games and you buy me stuff.

Maybe I should buy her a piranha.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

In the Dark Now Available for Pre-Order

The In the Dark horror comics anthology will hit shelves on April 23rd, but you can preorder your copy today with Diamond/Previews order code FEB14 0452.

Featuring 368 pages of horror!

Featuring 368 pages of horror!

In the Dark had a successful Kickstarter campaign around Halloween last year and will be published by IDW Publishing. The backers already have their copies reserved, and now preorders are available to the general public. Simply stop by your favorite comic shop within the next couple of weeks, give the guy behind the counter the FEB14 0452 order code, and you’ll get your copy in April.

Don’t know where to find a comic shop? Check out the Comic Shop Locator Service.

Congrats to editor Rachel Deering on getting this monster anthology funded and published. I’m looking forward to reading it myself!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Anna Gunn’s Character Issue, and the Troll Problem

Take a moment to read “I Have a Character Issue” by Anna Gunn. It’s an op-ed piece about all the hatred and threats Gunn receives for her portrayal of Skyler White on AMC’s Breaking Bad. It’s unreal.

I understand the hatred of Skyler White, but at the same time, she’s a great character (and a very well-acted character by Gunn). She strikes me as a very real character, making tough choices as she’s trapped between her fear and disgust of what her husband has become and the love she still has for the father of her children. She has undergone her own transformation, albeit not as extreme as Walt’s.

On top of which people seem to forget Walt is the bad guy. Yes, he’s our protagonist, he’s become a badass, and on some level a lot of us can relate to him. But he’s also a complete anti-hero. If he were our own neighbor and we learned what he had done, we would be in complete fear of him, not awe.

Ladies, how would you react if this were your husband? Guys, how do you think your own wives would react if you were Walt? Whether it’s support for criminal enterprise or taking the kids and running, it’s going to be a strong, visceral reaction. She’s not going to turn into June Cleaver and bake you a cake.

As for this:

“I have never hated a TV-show character as much as I hate her,” one poster wrote. The consensus among the haters was clear: Skyler was a ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew, an “annoying bitch wife.”

This sexism is ridiculous. If women really behaved the way some of these idiots think they should, they’d have even less respect for women than they do now.

Then we have the hatred of Gunn herself. Holy shit how ridiculous is this? She didn’t write the character, she portrays Skyler as written and directed. Yes, Gunn absolutely brings her own strengths to the character and makes Skyler her own, but she’s not the one dictating Skyler’s actions. You hate Skyler White? Complain to Vince Gilligan.

It also demonstrates how people can’t separate the persona from the actress, and it’s a scary side of celebrity culture. People fall in love with characters and fawn all over the celebrities, without thinking the actor is very likely someone completely different from whom they are portraying.

Anna Gunn played a very different wife in Deadwood. Did she catch any flack for that one? If so, certainly not on this level. Do these same people expect Bryan Cranston to be Walter White or the bumbling Hal from Malcolm in the Middle? He can’t be both, but he’s a dude so he gets a pass.

I find a little comfort in knowing these same people wouldn’t have the stones to say things like “could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” if they weren’t sheltered by the anonymity of an online account and the distance of a keyboard. However, we need to squash this behavior. Our school band director has a great quote on the bulletin board in his classroom: “What you permit you promote.”

When the people managing these forums and comment sections don’t do something about the sexist idiots, and the other users let them run their mouths without confrontation, we’re telling them it’s okay. They get to think their little zinger was so awesome, and then they do it again and again.

If we want to change the behavior, then we need to stop letting it slide. We need to stop saying, “great, another troll,” and move on. How do you kill a troll? Expose them to light. Take away that anonymity. Make them eat the very shit they’re shoveling.

If we don’t, it’s only going to get worse.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

You Need to See Pacific Rim

The people who said Pacific Rim is too geeky for general audiences are morons.

Yes, there is plenty there for geeks, but overall it is a great, blockbuster action flick with plenty to entertain everyone. The effects are very well done, you can see everything that’s happening, and the 3D IMAX I saw was gorgeous.

Yes, the plot touches on some expected clichés, but it is solid and fun. Idris Elba has the standout performance, and Charlie Day and Burn Gorman are a lot of fun, but I really had no problems with the cast. If you like Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller, you’ll dig him as Raleigh Becket.

The flick opens with action, and every fight scene is escalated from the last. They are fun and brutal, and you get a real sense of the characters actually being in danger. There is a bit of exposition in the middle, but it moves quickly and moves the plot forward rather than bogging everything down in pointless detail.

Thank you, Guillermo del Toro, for showing us that a big-budget action flick with a geeky subject matter does not have to be dumbed down or peppered with goofy comedy. With Pacific Rim, del Toro redeems Hollywood for putting out that piece of shit Devlin and Emmerich Godzilla flick.

Your move, Japan.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Venture Brothers

Watching season one on Netflix. I so regret not getting into this show earlier.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Back to the Grind

For the first time all week, it actually felt like Spring Break today. Too bad it’s back to the day gig tomorrow.

Let's go, Chiefs!

Behind home plate at Peoria’s O’Brien Field

A friend and I took our sons to their first minor league baseball game as the Peoria Chiefs hosted the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. I’m not a big baseball fan, but kids under 12 get in free on Sundays and our seats behind home plate were only ten bucks, so it’s tough to complain. The boys were excited because they’ve decided they’re St Louis Cardinals fans, and the Cards are the new owners of the Chiefs. Two Chiefs home runs in the first inning ensured we’d have an exciting game, and in the end the Chiefs beat the Timber Rattlers 7-2. After the game, the boys all got to go out to the field and run the bases.

Every year I find a new reason to like Peoria. I grew up near Chicago, and while I do miss a lot about the Windy City, there’s plenty to do in Peoria and it usually costs less. Cheap sports, a couple museums, some sites to visit, a water park and sports complex the kids love, an annual beer fest… all the benefits of the big city without all the traffic.

If only we could just change the Illinois weather.

It was nice to relax and just hang out all day. It was a refreshing change from all the running around I’ve been doing. Even the zoo trip the other day was part of a specific errand, and we didn’t get to stay long. Too bad it’s the last day of Spring Break.

It’s back to the grind on the writing projects, too. On deck this week: final edits on a work-for-hire project; the edits on Lie with the Dead; revisiting a short story; revisiting the Exit Strategy.

I’ve just realized I haven’t been reading much fiction lately, either. Time to correct that with Chuck Palahniuk’s new Kindle Short, Phoenix. Start short, then dive back into novels. I’ve been drowning in non-fiction lately.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

You Should Be Listening to Clutch

Whether we’re talking writing, art, music or filmmaking, word of mouth is key to a creator’s survival. Someone could write the most amazing piece of literature ever put to paper, but it won’t make a lick of difference if only three people read it.

Sure, advertising and marketing help, but they can only go so far. How many over-hyped blockbuster flops have we seen the past several years? Once word gets out the plot sucks, the acting is terrible, and the flick is just plain boring, it doesn’t matter how much money the studio threw at the advertising department.

What needs to happen is those first three people need to tell everyone they know how incredible the creation they just experienced is. Sure, I’ll settle for them telling three more people each, but if you finish the last track on an album and say, “Wow, that was awesome,” then you need to tell everyone. Remember the true meaning of awesome? Something that fills you with awe. Something awe-inspiring, not just, “Yeah, that was pretty good.”

Which brings me to Clutch. They’re not exactly a small band, but it surprises me how few people have heard of them. They have their own label, they tour like crazy, and they get some play on satellite radio, but I have yet to hear them on any terrestrial radio stations. They first came close to mainstream with their “Electric Worry” playing in the background of commercials for the Left 4 Dead game series.

They deserve more exposure. Their songwriting and studio work is damn good, but the awesome part comes during their live shows. These guys kill it on stage. No spectacle or flashy lights and pyro, just some damn fine playing, and most of the time in small, intimate clubs where you can get up close, like so:

BOW TO THE ALMIGHTY CLUTCH!

Suddenly I feel like a stalker

I first discovered them when they opened for Pantera fifteen or so years back at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom. They performed most of their first full-length album, and I distinctly remember “Rock & Roll Outlaw”. Even today it’s one of my favorite tracks, and it’s not unusual to catch my kids singing it. (For a while it was my middle son’s most-requested song in the car.)

I mention Clutch now because they just released a new album, Earth Rocker, last month. You need it. Their work is primarily rock, with their earlier work leaning toward hard rock, but they also have a strong blues influence that comes to the surface from time to time. Take, for example, “Gone Cold” off Earth Rocker:

Love it. Yet you still get their songs influenced by cars and science fiction, like “Crucial Velocity”:

I’m looking forward to hearing these tracks live. They’re going to be playing the House of Blues in Chicago on Friday, April 12th, but it’s not looking like I’ll be able to make it. Fortunately I caught them at a small club in Joliet back in November, so I at least got my fix.

Even if these particular tracks don’t catch your ear, check out some of their other albums. They have a real range to their music, and there’s sure to be something for everyone. In fact, I’ll leave you with another of my favorites, “The Regulator” off of Blast Tyrant.

That may actually sound familiar to some of you. Remember when I said their first flirting with the mainstream was “Electric Worry”? Well, “The Regulator” saw airtime during an episode of The Walking Dead.

Boom. Now it’s clicking.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Gone Digital

I’m responsible for the death of Borders and the decline of Barnes & Noble.

That’s right, me, and thousands of others like me who now do most of their reading in digital formats.

Some occasional research aside, I now do all of my reading through the Amazon Kindle app, Apple’s Newsstand, or digital comics apps like comiXology. I’ve gotten tired of the extra clutter on shelves and around the house, and of stacks of books I may or may not actually get around to reading. I like having my entire library available to me on demand at any time, so I can flip from prose to comics to magazines on a whim, and I never feel stuck with a book I’m not enjoying. Shopping for new material is a click away, and clipping a magazine article is a simple matter of grabbing a screen shot and pushing it over to Evernote.

I. Love. It.

I even appreciate simple gimmicks, like interactive ads. Take this one from an issue of MuscleMag, featuring a video:

A brain break to watch things get blowed up good.

A brain break to watch things get blowed up good.

For a product I’m interested in, I’m absolutely cool with extras like this. If it’s not something I’m interested in, I swipe on by as if I were turning the page on any other ad in a magazine. (One note: if these ever become pop-ups or autoplays, publishers, we’re going to have words.)

I’m waiting for it to be properly taken advantage of in the actual content. I could care less about digital extras in fiction. I’m there for the prose, not the gimmicks. However, things like maps and infographics in newspapers and magazines could be greatly enhanced with multimedia content, just like we’re starting to see in textbook apps in the education world. And have you ever seen some of the convoluted and clumsy explanations for simple movements in sports and fitness magazines? A simple, animated image would be great, and wouldn’t even require full video download. Something like a simple gif would be perfect.

Are there cons to going all digital? Sure. The big ones are the tales of entire Amazon libraries being wiped out, or hackers nuking digital accounts. Fortunately these incidents are few and far between, especially given the millions of Amazon accounts out there. I’m hopeful these are growing pains of the digital transition, and these companies are reviewing and updating policies as these incidents occur.

The rest of the cons, however, are far from insurmountable:

I need the feel of a hardcopy book when I read. I just feel more connected. Even the smell of the book is wonderful!

Get over yourself, precious. Yeah, I felt the same way for a time. Then I realized how much easier it is to hold a Kindle or a tablet. An iPad is a bit heavy if you like to lie down in bed and read, but no heavier than a fat hardback book. The 7″ Nexus—and, presumably, an iPad mini—is very comfortable to hold anywhere. iPod touch? The latest Kindles and Nooks? Cake. And anything with a backlit display means reading in the dark without a goofy book light.

In short: don’t knock it until you try it.

Those digital screens are just too small.

Teachers all said the same thing when I told them they would be getting 13″ MacBooks to work on. Since the MacBooks have been distributed, I have not heard a single complaint.

The problem isn’t screen size, it’s resolution. Digital displays of all sizes are now as sharp and clear as printed content, and their higher contrast makes them even easier to read for some people. A good friend of mine is legally blind and reads print books with his nose two inches from the page, but when I handed him an iPad with the Kindle app and turned it to white text on a black screen, he could read it from what most of us would consider a normal distance.

I used to say my cell phone was too small for long reading. While stuck waiting for something and bored out of my mind, I pulled out my phone and opened the Kindle app. Within just a couple of page turns, I forgot all about the fact I was reading on a tiny screen, and now I hardly know the difference.

And Whispersync saving my page between devices? Gravy.

I can’t read outside!

Again, not as bad as it used to be with anti-glare coatings and brighter displays. This is going to come down to personal preference, but I don’t read outside near enough to make this an issue for me.

I have to worry about battery life!

Poor planning is your problem. Yes, I’ve screwed up with the iPad. I just pick up the cell phone instead. And if you let an e-ink Kindle or Nook die, you clearly aren’t paying attention.

I can’t figure out all these new-fangled devices and all these passwords!

Learn by doing. Ask questions. This problem isn’t about age, it’s about stubbornness.

I’ve gone all digital, and I’m not looking back.

Which then begs the question, do bookstores and libraries still have a place in the digital age?

Yes, they do. But that’s a topic for another post.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

American Horror Story

This Fall has been insane, but I’m finally getting some breathing room. I reclaimed some time to catch up with some television, and when I found out American Horror Story Season 1 made it to Netflix, I put it near the top of the queue.

I’ve heard a lot of back and forth about the show, but a number of people I trust have really enjoyed it and they sold me on it. It’s also a rare beast: a successful, episodic horror television show on a network which will allow it to play to its strengths and earn an audience rather than strip itself down to appeal to anyone too lazy to change the channel from the previous show.

In the first season, a family purchases a house in Los Angeles. The couple’s marriage is on shaky ground, their daughter has become rebellious and distant, and now the house they’re hoping to establish their last chance in is haunted. So far, fairly standard horror fare, right? Maybe even a bit cliché.

Yet this is where the show shines. No, the haunted house story isn’t new, nor are a number of the tropes sprinkled throughout the season. Rather than trying to surprise us, I think the creators concentrated instead on making these tropes their own. They told a good story with characters I cared about, and I enjoyed the pacing of the show and the way they gave us a little more back story at the beginning of each episode.

In short, they sucked me in. Maybe not on the level I enjoy Justified or Sons of Anarchy, but enough I wanted to know what happens next.

Alexandra Breckenridge as Moira

And then there was this.

My only beef, in fact, came into play during the season finale. I didn’t dislike the way it ended, but I felt a significant portion of the episode lost the tone of the season. Instead of the constant dread and suspense we were treated to all along, it became fifteen to twenty minutes of black comedy. It made sense for the ending they chose (and the episode did climax on a dark note), but I felt like they may have given the audience the ending they wanted instead of the ending the show may have earned or deserved.

Of course, I have a bias toward a good downer ending. Your mileage may vary.

In the end, I give it a solid four out of five stars. Far better than I expected. Unless you’re a hardcore horror snob, I say give it a shot. If you’re a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscriber, it’s already waiting for you to click. (And no commercials! Bliss.)

I’m also glad to hear Season 2 is starting over with a whole new story. Carrying on the first season would have been a mistake, as the problem with tropes like a haunted house is it doesn’t take long to milk them dry. Season 2, I understand, deals with alien conspiracies, and that should also fit nicely within the confines of a single season without wearing thin (*cough*X-Files*cough*). My biggest decision will be whether to wait until it’s on Netflix or rent it through Amazon when time permits.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Halfway Halloween

The Oliveris had a good Halloween this year. The Rugrats loved the costumes they picked out, and they got to wear them to two Halloween parties and for trick-or-treating. We logged a little over two miles knocking on doors tonight, and this year Little Bird stayed in the lead most of the time. Twice we ran into little kids who got scared of the Rugrats’ costumes, and there were several comments from candy giver outers (it’s a technical term) about their scary costumes.

Ghost-Faced Killer

The Ghost-Faced Killer stalks his prey

However, our community fell short for Halloween this year.

This town has set hours for trick-or-treating, and even then kids are only supposed to knock at houses with the porch light on. This year, those houses were fewer and farther between than any year we’ve gone trick-or-treating. Even houses we knew usually participated had their lights off.

We also saw fewer trick-or-treaters out and about. The far side of one street is usually choked with traffic, and there are often cars driving all up and down the streets as parents watch their children or ferry them from block to block. This year? Hardly any traffic at all. We ran into a few small groups of kids, but never did we have to wait in line at some houses for other kids to move on.

In the end, while we did have a good haul of candy, it was around half the size of what we usually get, even in the years we walked shorter routes.

I wish I had an explanation for it. I can’t imagine it’s a religious objection, as it’s never been a problem in the past (at least, not a big one). The economy? Candy’s not that expensive. I suppose it could be an activity at the school, but we generally work around holidays (and even then, it would only affect the high school students). Even the cooler temps and chill breeze haven’t deterred trick-or-treaters in the past.

Whatever the cause, I hope it doesn’t become the norm. Halloween is the one holiday that hasn’t had the fun sucked out of it for one reason or another. The kids and I look forward to visiting the Halloween store for months in advance, and we know we’ll be home to go trick-or-treating.

If I find out in the paper tomorrow that some whackjob is trying to kill Halloween in our community, it’s going to be war.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.