Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Ravening

People who have preordered The Ravening through Amazon have received notice the books are shipping. It should also be available in some local bookstores. If you go to purchase it and the title isn't in, by all means march up to the manager, grab him by the collar, and express an urgency to see it on the shelves. Even if you don't want to read it and it isn't on the shelves, grab the manager by the collar and express this urgency---it will give the manager something to talk about and help him understand a nuance of customer service.

I am currently at work on the sequel, tentatively entitled Zagreus Swarm (Zagreus being the virus in the first novel).At any rate, I hope those of you who read The Ravening will enjoy it. Thanks to all who have supported me. Especially, my wife.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY HISTORY MONTH

My dear friends, I am calling on you to help me start a movement. This December, let us take another step in further promoting one of our great loves---Science Fiction and Fantasy. Let us declare December to be SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY HISTORY MONTH.

What? Why does it have to be promoted? you ask. Aren't we inundated with it? Isn't there more genre in film and on television than ever? Isn't the fiction market dominated by genre?

Perhaps, but as lovers of the genre, we owe it to ourselves to promote quality work and to invite the young into our fold ,giving them a perspective and understanding of the traditions and tropes of our literary world. Consider the political and cultural influence of science fiction and fantasy, and how it has helped us vent our angst, voice our identity, and celebrate our optimism.

I think this idea first hit me with a statement from a fan of the Twilight Series who railed against The Wolf Man because the creature depicted wasn't beautiful, like Jacob, and was able to be killed by a single silver bullet. I rolled my eyes, but it occurred to me that for many of the younger audience, this was their first and only exposure to such staples of fantasy as vampires and werewolves[and I include horror in the sci-fi and fantasy realm]. While many will argue fans of Twilight are actually fans of romance more than fantasy, the argument can be made that as people mature and cast about for different fare, they will find a wealth of rich fantastic literature and film, but only if we keep the memory of such work alive.

I worry who will read the work of Robert E. Howard, Joseph Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Donald A. Wollheim, Usula K. LeGuin, Anne Maccaffrey, Arthur C. Clark, Gene Wolf, and JRR Tolkein, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Leigh Brackett and their ilk some twenty years forward. The only way to influence the future of literature is to continue to promote the work of the past which we feels best represents that which made science fiction and fantasy such an important part of our culture and identity.

So spread the word, perhaps put a button on your blog..December is Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Gift Season

What do two old men do when they missed the time slot of the movie they were supposed to see? Why go and hang out at the local electronics store, of course! Yes, we played with the large 3d screens, bowled with the XBOX Kinnect, and played with the computers. It was sheer heaven. However, this got me thinking...what do writers want for Christmas from their local electronic stores? Allow me to deliver the writer's wish list, the top five toys for the writer in your family.

1. Kindle (or an ebook reader equivalent). The joy of carrying around a library in your book bag. I know there are those who will shriek at the idea of hastening the demise of paper based printing, but you can't deny the devices are here to stay and they are practical.  Especially for students who get weary of dragging a heavy book bag around.

2. Apple IPAD (or a notebook equivalent, and there are many on the way). How can you argue with such a practical toy...er, make that tool. Access the net, read the newspaper, write, etc. Like the Kindle, it's a perfect reading tablet, but it's so much more versatile.

3 I-Pen Digital Writer  This is a cool little item. It's sort of a mouse, but not. Actually, it's a writing utensil which immediately translates actions to the computer. Sounds complicated. Check it out. For forty bucks, some people might consider this a stocking stuffer.

4. The Live Scribe for people who didn't think the I-Pen was cool enough. The Live Scribe records everything you hear and write so you can recall anything with a simple click.

5. A Gift Card  Yeah, it feels like a cop out, but who doesn't like a gift card to their favorite book store?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Is It Greed or Memorex?

There's The Exorcist, then there's The Exorcist, the 25th Anniversary Edition, then The Exorcist (Extended Director's Cut), and The Exorcist (The Version You've Never Seen). Now you can also buy The Exorcist (Extended Director's Cut and Original Theatrical Version) for Blu-Ray.

I am not against people making money, but as consumers do we need this many versions and cuts of a single film? At what point do we take a stand and say "no more."

This week, Avatar is being re-released theatrically, with additional footage. You know what that means? the release for the three disc "extended collector's edition" has already been scheduled.

What about books? Will we ever see a point where additional chapters are added to an existing manuscript to further whore an author? Hmmmm. Considering we've already seen the unwarranted release of The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet), the answer is "yes."  

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Promotion

Heading out to the World Fantasy Convention, I come prepared, with a small stack of business cards that I did myself. Why not pay and have it done right? Mostly because I am not convinced people still use business cards. They don't fit anywhere, and in an age where everything is easily digitized, I think perhaps their time is at an end. Which means the most important information on a card is your email and blog address, as well as your web page.

Business cards---They're disposable. Hard to handle, easily lost, and quickly forgettable.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is It Scary?

A group of people in a former writers' group, a bad writers' group---er, a group of people who actually didn't write well---spent hours in meaningless discussion about what was frightening, or how to write 'scary' stuff. Often such a conversation would begin: "What's scares you?"

Of course the answer should have been an easy one. Since everyone is different, everyone is often afraid of different things. Although there may be some universal tropes.  What we should have been discussing was how to make character development in fiction more compelling. Why? Because unless we believe in and care for a character, we don't care what happens to that character. Stories are about people.

Some people writing horror make the mistake by starting off a tale by thinking in terms of the payoff, or the scare. They focus on the mood, throwing several stereotypical images at us, pausing after each one to ask "Scared now?.....what about now?  Now?"

Not that there's anything wrong with establishing tone and setting immediately, but when tone and setting are the major focus of your writing, you end up with something a modern reader is going to abhor. It's akin to sitting around a campfire while your Uncle Edgar says, "There was this guy, see? And he was on a date and they heard a sound, see? And the guy went to investigate and a hook killed him. See? And the hook is still out there!!! Scared yet?"

Of course, a young child hearing such a description will nod yes. Probably because Uncle Edgar is scary as hell. So is the night. And so are the other kids around the campfire who live to give wedgies after lights out. In this case the fear is driven by immediate survival concerns.

When I want to write a horror story, in my mind I begin with something like : "There's a guy. He's the first mate on a slave ship and he's had a terrible experience in the war. He is trying to live up  to his father's expectations and is having difficulty dealing with the cruelty and inhumanity of the slave ship."

That person became Avery Tressler and the story became "The Others," published in the anthology High Seas Cthulhu.

In writing The Ravening I began with by creating this character, and fleshing him out in just a few strokes to get me going.

"Ken Tucker is in the woods, hunting for his family. He is a city dweller, feeling lost in his current environment. He is protective of his family, and devoted, but he knows in the new reality of a society beset by the Zagreus virus, that his current skills as urban dweller and teacher are probably insufficient for survival."

So, what's scary? It's scary that poor Tressler is being locked below decks with the slaves and thing stalking them. It's scary Ken Tucker, insecure family man, is beset by creatures that stalk his family. It's scary because we care and believe.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Time To Stop

I've noticed a sharp divide between horror and something else in film. I'm not sure what to call the something else---it certainly has horrific elements in it, but the sub-genre isn't entirely horror. In my opinion.


Back in 1931, when Todd Browning exposed the theater-going public to Freaks, the content of the motion-picture was considered so offensive and tasteless that it was banned in many venues. It wouldn't be truly re-discovered by the horror community until its re-issue in the sixties. And after thirty years it had lost something---it was still strange and depressing, but perhaps it had lost its ability to shock.


In the late sixties, with the Vietnam war coming into the living rooms of America, film makers would have to work harder to disturb jaded tastes. Shock is easy to affect, after all, compared to building suspense, character, and developing plot and theme. Shock is simply a matter of looking around the market place, seeing where the current lines are drawn, and then going a step further.


Hence, Texas Chain-Saw Massacre, Nightmare On Elmstreet, Friday the 13th, Last House on The Left, Halloween, etc. Now, I know some reading this list will shake their heads and say: "Those are classics!" However, I assure you at the time of their release, that across the film-going community they were often considered lacking of merit. They were evidence of the rot in society and the corruption of the teen audience they were often aimed at. Today many youthful audiences consider the above titles quaint.


In the last few years I've had the opportunity of watching films the current teen generation considers their own. Hostel, the Saw series, Cabin Fever, etc. Little more than snuff film. they are freed of the obligation their predecessors felt to pretend to be something other than a succession of violent images for a video game gobbling consumer. No longer do we have to worry about pacing or plot. Characterization is no longer an obstruction. This sub-genre of shock horror, this hearkening back to the sideshow is freed from any obligation or concern over consequence.


Which brings us to The Human Centipede. 


The plot is simple. Two women traveling through Germany break down and seek a phone in the middle of a rainy night. They are drugged by a demented scientist who is intent on creating a human centipede--surgically joining three people by joining mouth to anus and cutting certain ligaments so the co-joined victims must crawl. What is his motivation? None is really given? What do we know about the characters? Next to nothing. Suspense? None.


No. 


And to be honest, The Human Centipede, as disturbing as it was, doesn't disturb me. No. What disturbs me is what comes next. With the door being kicked open a little more, with the bar being dropped a little further, with an audiences' collective sensibility being further numbed by an appalling succession of images---what's next? That's what scares me.
And considering this, you should be scared too. In fact, it's possible Human Centipede has already been surpassed as the most tasteless and morally bankrupt film of all time. There is currently a film available entitled  A Serbian Film , wherein one of the characters is described as watching a film in which a man helps deliver an infant and then proceeds to rape the newborn. I haven't seen A Serbian Film, and I won't. 


It's time to take account of who we are and what we want for ourselves and our children in society.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Last Man Standing

Miranda from Battle Creek Michigan and Chuck Zaglanis were the winners in Conclave 35's LAST MAN STANDING trivia contest, and so they walk away with the prize---two death scenes in the upcoming sequel to THE RAVENING, a post-apocalyptic novel by Stewart Sternberg. And Miranda, I promise gore.
At the event, I read the passage from the upcoming novel where last year's winner, Jason Lindsey, bought the farm at the hands of the book's villain, Cameron Lowry.

The contest allowed a person to receive a question of a decade of his choice and, after hearing said question, either decide to answer or pass to someone else. Strategy, strategy, strategy. Since most of you couldn't be there, here are some of the trivia questions the winners had to fight over.


  1. One recurring character on Get Smart was an android, played by Henry Gutier. What was the name of the android?   
  2. What was the name of the atomic submarine in the television show based on the film “Voyage Beneath To The Bottom of the Sea”?  
  3. While the original Night Stalker was set in Las Vegas, and its sequel in Seattle , what town did the series take place in?
  4. This Quinn Martin, 1968 sci-fi series saw actor  Roy Thinnes portraying architect David Vincent, trying to warn the world about an alien presence?
  5. Dr. Sam Beckett is a time traveler in what series?     
  6. A dead cop is assigned by the devil to return 113 escaped souls to hell. Name the Fox show
  7.  The demon with yellow eyes is a recurring character in which CW television show?
  8. The Clone Wars television series has been extremely successful in ensuring a continued presence for Star Wars in popular culture. A new character was added to the canon, a padawan for Annakin Skywalker. What is her name?
  9. In what 1983 show would we see Dr. Jonathan Chase, crime fighter, transforming into different animals to bring criminals to justice?   
  10. Eternia is home to what sword wielding hero?










the answers are  below








answers.......
1) Hymie 2)Seaview 3)Chicago 4)The Invaders 5)Quantum Leap 6)Brimstone 7) Supernatural 8)Ahsoka Tano 9) Manimal 10) He-Man



Sunday, October 10, 2010

Find A Mentor

At Conclave this weekend, I had the pleasure of working with a writers' workshop, offering critiques and suggestions for unpublished writers. One of the discussion topics which emerged (a topic raised by author Lois Gresh) was the importance of finding a mentor.

Stewart Sternberg and friend at his author's reading
Lois explained that she had reached a plateau and invested money in work-shopping her work with an experienced author. She explained it was a critical point in her career. Rick Moore discussed being part of the mentoring program through HWA and receiving guidance from Gene O'Neill. William Jones, publisher and editor, has mentored authors both through the SFWA and HWA. There is also a mentoring program through the National Writers' Union, a member of the UAW.

How one finds a mentor is sometimes a matter of earnest work and sometimes a matter of luck. Some mentors can be life-changing, and some can be a detriment. There are no guarantees. And a mentor doesn't necessarily have to be a published author, but perhaps a teacher, or a peer with more experience with whom you can through teamwork grow and mature as a writer. It's important to network and to learn from others, formally or informally.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Author-Publisher Relationship

I've always told authors that for the most part, they shouldn't worry when sending their work out to different publishers. My belief is that publishers and editors are basically honest and ethical people, and if they aren't they don't stay in business long. I've also maintained that the genre community is fairly close-knit, so if someone were to do something stupid to an author, like try and steal his writing, the community would rally around and stand together in protest.

Rick Ferrel Moore sent me a story some years back for critiquing. The story: "Electrocuting the Clowns." It was a good story. I made my comments and he accepted them with grace, and then wisely ignored most of my feedback. Imagine our surprise when his tale started appearing around the web with another author's name stuck on it. I won't go into detail about this here, if you want, read Rick's own account. I am sure based on Rick's efforts and others who have allegedly been wronged by this individual that he will eventually find it difficult to continue his scam. For instance, I am positive that a bookstore where he is scheduled to do a book signing, with this information coming to light, will cancel his appearance.

All this being said, let me return to my original premise...I don't think authors should fear for their work, especially in the age of the internet. While the net might make it easier to suck people in, it also makes it harder to hide. Search engines are a wonderful floodlight. My students have found that out. When they have attempted to plagiarize text in the past, all I've had to do was cut and paste a sentence or two of their writing into a search engine and voila,  I would be able to find out if they were cheating.

A friend of mine who taught English at the college level is fond of telling how his students, when given an assignment on Poe, would "google" the topic and sometimes copy information from an essay on a blog, rather than come up with their own thoughts and research. Unfortunately for them, the blog they would plagiarize belonged to their instructor.

I still maintain that as a whole, editors and publishers are a trustworthy lot. As authors we must submit. Bottom line. However, we can lower the chance of becoming prey for the unscrupulous by first checking where we are sending our material and by making sure we keep copies of email and cover letters. However, even the most careful author will get burned. It's part of the price of doing business. It won't make it any less painful. That being said, the writing community will continue to police itself and those who continue to lie and cheat will find themselves boxed into a corner until they are toothless and without credibility.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Autumn Song

The days have been getting cooler, and driving home, I see the first hint of color. The skies have changed, too, there is different feel to the clouds, a quickening that one doesn't see in the summer. This is my time of year, and as the days shorten and the fragrance of apples and pumpkin complement the whisper of leaves, I hear Melville...

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."

When I first read this opening from Melville's Moby Dick, many years ago, I remember it resonating with me. No, autumn doesn't make me crabby, but it does tend to push me toward the sea, or it rather it fills me with a sense of wanderlust. When the wind blows and the temperatures drop, I have an urge to strike out cross country, or just to move for the sake of moving. It's a primitive calling.

I'm fearless in autumn. I know when I die, it won't be in this season. While Spring may be a time of renewal for some, autumn is the season that gives me life.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

October? Must Be Time For CONCLAVE

Yes, I will be attending the upcoming Conclave. For those who may be attending, and by chance passing by this blog, I urge you to step up to me and say: "Hello, Stewart. Oh, hey...here's twenty dollars!" Although I may urge this, I'll be just as happy if you say hello and don't give me the money. Okay, maybe not as happy.

So, what panels will I be doing this time? Well, if Charles Zaglanis is to be believed, I'll be participating in those below. If you show up, I promise a surprise. And if you come to my author's reading, I have something extra in mind. Hint....no, no hint. Show up.

Podcasting for Fun and Profit
11:30am Ballroom 5 Daniel J. Hogan, William Jones, Stewart Sternberg

Writing Groups, Workshops and You
3:00pm Ballroom 5 Stewart Sternberg, Charles P. Zaglanis, Christian Klaver, Christine Purcell

Author Reading: Stewart Sternberg Saturday 6:30pm Ballroom 5

Monsters of Today: Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies 
9:30pm Ballroom 5 William Jones, Stewart Sternberg, Lois Gresh, Tim Curran
Writing Your First Novel
10:00am Ballroom 5 William Jones, Stewart Sternberg, Tyree Campbell, Lois Gresh, Tim Curran


Mercenary Wordsmiths
1:00pm Ballroom 5 William Jones, Stewart Sternberg, Lois Gresh, Tyree Campbell

Monday, September 06, 2010

Cheappucino Anyone?

Ever heard of cheappuccino? (the kind of coffee one would buy at 7/11 or McDonalds)What about geriatric bypass? (the act of denying one's actual age to give the impression of being younger) Lapflaps? (actually I would prefer the definition that came to mind when I first saw this word--that being said, the definition on record is "pieces of paper that fall out of magazines and into your lap").

Apparently the good folk at Urban Dictionary are keeping abreast of things so we won't have to and compiling lists of slang, along with definitions. I'm sorry, but I don't necessary buy that any living person uses "geriatric bypass" in a sentence. Although I will start saying Cheappucino, that's just spot on.

The site, which has been around since 1999, will send you words and definition to facebook, or twitter, or even an phone app. It's obvious meant as a bit of fun rather than a serious attempt to track changes in cultural linguistics. Give it a visit and see what HBIC might be, or what a "Stall stall" is.

Me? I plan on following on twitter. It's a chuckle. Be warned, sometimes it can be a bit risque.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

The Last Exorcism Reviewed

The first of my video reviews. I will be improving production values, I promise. Maybe makeup? Music? Maybe a wig? I will also try and do a better job finding a format where the synch between video and audio is matched better on Youtube.


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Sweet September

Apologies for my absence from here.

I hope with the new school year starting and the imposition of a schedule, that I can return to regular postings of at least twice a week. Much of my online writing has been posted elsewhere. For instance, I've been posting a good deal to Elder Signs Press. I've been encouraging others in the writing community to join me there. It's good for self-promotion and it's a wonderful networking opportunity.

I also completed a posting about vampires for The Innsmouth Free Press which should appear this month. In October I'll do another for them about Edgar Allan Poe. Hopefully, if they'll have me, I'll continue submitting to them once a month. The people there are a good deal of fun and worth reading. I also need to contribute something soon to SQT's site.

In addition to the above, I continue pounding away at the sequel to THE RAVENING ( which is available for pre-sale on Amazon and still set for a November release date). The sequel is called THE ZAGREUS SWARM. It is gelling more readily than the first novel, and I'm hoping fans will connect with it.

 Christine Purcell and I are forging ahead on our collaboration of THE BREACH, a steampunk novel. Originally we had hoped to have it ready for submission by the end of October, but we're not sure if that's realistic now. No later than spring though. When we write it we write fast. We're hoping this is the first novel of a series.

And finally, I am still struggling to get a website together. I promise it is coming soon. I am also going to be appearing at Conclave in October, and will also be traveling to The World Fantasy Convention.

Whew!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Talking

In the last week I've been giving a good deal of thought regarding how people present themselves to one another. Without disclosing my own politics, I've communicated with several people from the other side, listening, debating, and in the end making a point of asking: "Would you vote for me?" And I was surprised each time by a "yes."

When I asked why, the people all responded that while they disagreed with many of my ideas, they thought I listened to what they had to say and would lead in a fair manner, making decisions based on ideas based on merit and not on my ideology.

I mention this because it reinforces the idea that we need dialog. We need to sit down with one another and not blast away at differences, but rather begin by finding commonalities and use that as a foundation for consensus. We must abandon our talking points, challenge our sources, and make a convincing argument from the left or the right by offering step-by-step solutions.

Don't get me wrong, I've been a political activist. I've shouted out my views, attacked my critics, and displayed my anger in t-shirts and on bumper stickers. And yet, I will bet you not one person from the other side ever looked at me, smacked his forehead and said, "You know, he's right. Gosh." Instead, all I've done is further alienate the people I should have been talking to.

People say, "We can't change society." We can, but it begins with one-on-one discussion and the change ripples slowly through the fabric of society.

This week in Royal Oak the Dream Cruise will see numerous folk from left and right trying to politicize the event. I'm not sure what gun control, abortion, gay rights, or climate change have to do with automobiles (okay, maybe climate change), but it's not the right venue and no one will be converted. People will stand toe-to-toe and the divide will deepen.

Me? I'll keep talking to people. One at a time. I'll try and control myself and not be stupid ( that's an enormous challenge for someone who enjoys drama and confrontation). Where conversation is pointless, where ideology refuses to yield to discussion, I will not engage, but give that person his or her time to find their own way.

It's not right or left, it's about people. We communicate (and that means listen as well as speak), or we surrender to the most base part of our natures.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Hollywood and Arkham

People who want Lovecraftian cinema usually have to settle for low budget, poorly conceived, poorly executed slush. While many out there will protest, screeching that The Re-animator was a cult classic, let's be honest, the pickings have been slim. Sure, we've eaten our popcorn, taken refuge in horror with Lovecraftian flavor, but seldom do we see an honest attempt from a major studio to deliver Lovecraft.

That may change. Apparently Guillermo del Toro will be delivering a large budget version of "At The Mountains of Madness." I'll remain skeptical until principle shooting is wrapped up and rumors have started leaking. Perhaps I'm still sour over stories about the Bond franchise (don't get me started), but past experience has dimmed my expectations over Hollywood and Arkham.

Until ATMOM's release (let me be the first to turn the title into an anagram), here is something which might amuse me. I'm actually looking forward to seeing this.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pesky Sentence

A writer recently suggested "the anatomy of a sentence" as a discussion topic for a writers' group. Yes, I responded in a pithy snarky manner, but I actually paused and gave this topic some thought. HEY!!!! STOP!!! Don't run away, it won't hurt. Let's talk about the sentence. I'll be brief.

A student recently read my work and said, "You use fragments and run-on sentences, why can't I?"
My response: "I'll fail you."

So how am I able to use single words as entire sentences and justify fragments? How can I abandon the subject+verb predicate structure. Mayhem! Craziness! People running naked in the streets!

If you follow a linguistic approach to grammar, you might say a sentence is merely an utterance, regardless of how it is constructed. An utterance is a natural unit of communication conveyed in a manner common between sender and receiver.

Still awake? Work with me here, people.

The sentence as a language unit, when it is part of an utterance, or is expressed as an independent utterance, has grammatical boundaries as well as grammatical completeness and unity.

The sentence "Hmmmm" for instance, is primarily an utterance and has none of the accepted grammatical elements we associate with a sentence, such as subject and verb predicate. It is merely an onomatopoeia. However, used alone as an utterance, it may be allowed a grammatical completeness and therefore has the grammatical boundary of the period. 
I'm not suggesting we abandon traditional grammar. However, writers need to pace their content, delivering words with a 'feel' or rhythm. Varying sentence structure, and how a sentence is delivered is critical in keeping the reader involved.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Country Exile

Writers note detail. We gather it in, and then selective expel it to create mood, or plot, or character. Observation is an important talent, and one which needs to be cultivated. I've worked at this skill, developing a stream-of-consciousness description of what I see.

It has driven many a student crazy.

Usually in an English class, I'll pounce on an unsuspecting teen, beginning a rapid commentary as they enter the room, describing out loud what I see and hear.

"John entered the room, shaking his head as he moved to his seat. He slumped into his desk, slightly red-faced, refusing to look up or acknowledge his teacher. 'Stop,' he said. 'Stop,' he said again, but more firmly."

Making the move from city to a rural area helped make me more aware of the importance of observational details, perhaps because the contrast is so stark that it demands definition.

For instance, in Detroit, I found comfort in the "whump-whump-whump" of an overhead police helicopter, or the lonely thump of bass from a passing vehicle with its radio turned up to deafen. Sirens? Let me roll over and return to snoring.

In the rural area there is usually deadly stillness. The world holds its breath. Oh, occasionally if you listen, you might hear something far off. Late at night, you can make out a low thrumming noise, which is a freighter moving slowly down the St. Clair River. Or if it's misty, you'll hear the fog horn as it passes. But except for the 4th of July, when every mother's son for miles around sets off firecrackers (it's their idea of 3D entertainment), the night brings a quiet that intimidates even the animals into muting their late night calls. Sure, there's an infrequent window of quiet in the city, when one can hear a car passing from a block over, or the hum of electrical wires, or the changing of a stoplight, but the stillness is punctuated by little sounds.

In the country, the stillness is punctuated by more stillness.

Perhaps the gift of being a writer and working on observational skills and detailing the world around you is that you see things with an appreciative eye. The world doesn't pass in a blur, it slows down and demands to be noticed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tongue

As an educator and a student of human nature, I am always trying to understand behavior trends. During the last school year, as I was trying to get together a series of photographs to represent my kids, I couldn't help but notice that almost every shot of someone's face had a tongue sticking out sideways. It was either that, or they were puckering their lips in a carp-like fashion.

What? I ask the kids about it and they usually shrug and give me the most succinct answer they can muster: "Dunno."

An anthropologist would say sticking out one's tongue is an early form of non-verbal communication. It can also indicate delayed physical development.

I've read some responses on the net trying to explain this behavior, all of them unsatisfactory. Usually a teen writing about it tends to use txt-speak, offering numerous emoticons and spellings like "gurl" "cuz" and "sez". The answers given are just as pithy:  "Cuz we're crzy!!!" "It's kewl."

Now I figure most of us are fairly bright. I'm interested in you trying your hand at an explanation...for instance: "Overexposure to chemicals is causing a regression to a primal lizard state." See? I can accept that. Or: "It's seizure activity."  Or even: "It's a new mating ritual designed to discourage procreation."

Just don't tell me "It's all good."

I know better. I've seen enough to know that just ain't true.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Five Most Chilling Film Moments

Two fun blogs (The Vault of Horror, and The Horror Digest)  have recently devoted time to discussing a potential list of the most chilling moments in horror film, or as they've put it: The Top Ten Willy Inducing Moments. As a lover of horror, I have to take myown turn at a similar list. I'll give you only five though.

1. "The Bag Scene" in Audition. Unfortunately, I can't describe the scene in this outstanding Asian horror film because it is a major spoiler. Let me assure you though, you could take seven or eight scenes from this work and put them on the list, Audition is that disturbing. You don't even want to know what is going on the picture on the left. For those who have Netflix, I do believe it is available on instant viewing.

2. The appearance of the ghost of Miss Jessell in The Innocents. An understated moment, and all the more chilling for its subtlety, the scene is filmed in daylight, and firmly establishes the link between the children and evil spirits haunting the estate, as well as developing the theme of the corruption of the innocent. This 1961 black and white film starring Deborah Kerr, based on Henry James' Turn of the Screw, is amazing for its unsettling atmosphere and sustained tension.



3.Some horror films take time to set the table, not revealing the horror until the tension has been firmly established. Night of the Living Dead establishes its eerie feeling over the opening credits, with cinematography looking as though the camera was first covered with burlap before shooting. Within minutes of the famous line: "They're coming to get you Barbara," the dead are on the move and the relentless pace continues until its depressing ending. Below, if you wish to peek, is an excerpt.



4.Interesting how so many of my favorite horror films are black and white. I suppose there is something about the ability of monochromatic cinematography to create an eerie sense of reality and fantasy. Hitchcock's Psycho has to make my list. Before the blood spattered cinema of today, Hitchcock worked to scare rather than shock an audience. Psycho's Norman Bates is creepy and threatening even by today's standards. My moment from this film? The shower scene. And by the way, let's stop and give a passing nod to the brilliant score by Bernard Herrmann.



5. I would have embedded this, but embedding was disabled by Warner Brothers. Here, instead, is the link, if you wish, to Merrin's arrival in The Exorcist. It's a short scene, but beautifully filmed and thick with tension when viewed within the context of the motion picture. Essentially, the scene involves a cab pulling up in front of the house at night. The Georgetown neighborhood's streets are damp and the air is dense with fog. This moment is moment of quiet, a brief respite from the horror that has come before it, but it is also a caution to the audience that something even more horrible is about to occur. The image was so powerful, it was used in many of the posters when the film was first released.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Man In The Hat

I am still working on my website, trying to make up my mind what I want. I am not sure though how different it is having a website than having a blog. Oh it used to be tremendously different, but with the advances in blogspot and wordpress, I keep asking myself if I should be so hurried to get it done. That being said, the first Stewart Sternberg newsletter should be coming around in the next couple weeks. You'll see a button on the right here, and eventually on my website, for those who want to sign up. Also, if you want to hear my daily rants, observations, whines, tickles, and exaltations, check out my twitter account.

Finally, I have been volunteering at eldersignspress.com as a blog editor. So far I've had folks such as Lois Grech,(post upcoming), William JonesLee Clark Zumpe, Stephen Mark Rainey, Charles Gramlich, Christine Purcell, Sidney Williams, Chris Welch, Charles Zaglanis, and Theresa Lucas contributing observations, reviews, and interviews. Come to think of it, we haven't had an interview in a while. And, there is always rumor that Ferrell Moore and the elusive Rachel Gray will become involved. Don't bother looking for Rachel, she is as invisible as the late J.D. Salinger. I will be adding more contributors in the coming weeks. If you have a mind to write about genre, and you don't mind keeping company with the above names, drop me a line and we'll talk. Always looking for more voices.

Visit Elder Signs Press' blog, and listen in on the site's twitter page.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vampire-Werewolf Triangle


So there I was watching Twilight: New Moon, and I get to thinking...what's with the recurring love triangle thing with werewolves and vampires. Laurell K. Hamilton has Anita Blake struggling with the triangle between hunky werewolf Jason and hunky vampire Jean Claude. Charlaine Harris has Sookie Stackhouse mooning over hunky vampire Bill and hunky werewolf Alcide (and several other shapeshifters along the way). Patricia Briggs has Mercy Thompson and her love triangle.

What the hell? Is there a struggle between being attracted to hairy guys, but wanting to wake up to Mr. Smooth? If this pattern happened once or twice, but it is a dominant trope or theme. Guys going to the bar take note..try shaving half your face, turn first one way and then the other when hitting on a woman, throw her off balance.

Movie Bob wrote: "The vampire is the slick sophisticated guy, the werewolf is the butch blue-collar guy, the girl can only pick one..."


Is that what is really happening, is there some sort of class statement going on? I find that hard to believe. However, if it is so, then I would be fascinated to see a detailed demographic of the fans of this twist in paranormal romance to see what their backgrounds are, politically and economically, as well as their ages. Are they twenty-somethings? Are they employed? Are they older women? 


Or is it something else. 


Is it instead possible that the vampire represents one type of sexuality and the werewolf the other. The vampire is slick, seductive, his lovemaking is slow and a form of wish-fulfillment. In his ability to reach into the psyche of the woman, he is the ultimate male --- sensitive to her needs, even the needs she never knew she possessed. On the other hand, the werewolf is a beast. He doesn't care about her needs, but is driven by raw lust. No real committment here, unless the commitment follows the path of the pack. 


Wanna date a werewolf? Hide the breakables.


The above ponderance about this triangle sounds flippant. However, I think it is something worth discussion. Maybe even on a panel at a convention, with Edward fans on one side of the aisle and Jacob fans on the other. As writers, it's worth analyzing audience behavior and understanding how to direct our narratives to reach an audience intentionally or unintentionally.

And what about zombies?



You notice no one is interested in bedding the zombie? It would be sort of like being married. Your husband watches TV and occasionally shows interest, but his performance is mundane and predictable. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Thinking About the Young Adult Market

I have written before about trying to anticipate trends in public taste where literature is concerned.

Who knew that the YA market would bleed into the adult arena to the point where so many readers of the Twilight Series were over the age of eighteen? Who knew the young adult market, energized by Rowling's Harry Potter series, would soar to such heights?

Some people in the market have posited that into the YA arena, there's a developing "literary" influence which I would argue has been there all along (I won't bore anyone with another tirade about "literary" fiction). Some have also pointed to the importance of that manufactured market as a way to instruct young people in issues related to social awareness and self-worth. Even with a book such as Twilight, which one would think of in terms of literary cotton candy, critics have found messages regarding female empowerment and a Mormon philosophy. Want to peek at the debate, here is a posting from The Motley Vision, a site on Mormon arts and culture.

 Like it or not, the YA market has been the fastest growing market on the shelves. Step back from discussions about vampires and zombies and see the venue in which they have been dominating audience. Vampires? At this time I would wager the audience is predominantly female, with the majority between 16-25 years of age. The venue? Books. Sure, we can fall back on Buffy and the film versions of Twilight, but instead consider how much adolescent literature being pushed through Barnes and Noble is centered around vampires. The world of wizards, fairly dominated by males, has just about run its course and been shoved aside.

And speaking about boys? While many may embrace the world of the vampire, I would argue the love of zombies is predominantly male, following the above age span of 16-25. I would also bet that while the vampire has strength in literature at this point, zombies have come into their own basically through cinema.

This is changing. One only has to look at the explosion of animated dead novels and short stories suddenly becoming available. How deep an impact will zombie's make? That remains to be seen, but probably not as deep as the vampire's indentation. The walking dead have a different and limited appeal. When writing The Ravening, a survival horror novel which features zombies, I knew the appeal wasn't an identification with romanticization of the monster, as it is in vampiric fiction, but instead with the people struggling to survive (also I should note The Ravening isn't YA)

I don't know where the future is in YA, or what will next grab the imagination of boy or girl audiences. Where is the next Eregon? The next Harry Potter? The next Twilight? I'm sure the corporations will let us know.

All this being said, I would argue that vampiric and survival horror fiction, will retain an audience. Even when the folk at Barnes and Noble relegate it to a back shelf, or take away its identification tag altogether, even when the vampire is no longer en vogue, the vampire will still sell, reclaimed by its original audience and beloved by those who prefer the shadow to the sunlight, the world of the weird to the mundane and hyper-real.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Silly Season Is On Fire This Year

In journalism the mid to late summer is sometimes referred to as "Silly Season". Mostly because the dog days of summer tend to offer up few major news stories and so serious media sometimes turns to something frivilous to hold reader interest. This summer, I think the season has started early. Bigfoot, Men In Black, UFO sightings, vampires, and other spirits of the night have all made appearances and we're only in early July.

Perhaps we need "Silly Season". With the other news so dreadful these days, especially with two wars, and suffering economy, and an oil spill which just keeps on giving, we can use some distraction.

So what "Silly Season" tales have been hitting the headlines?


One story which hit the press last week involved a woman who crashed her car by ramming it into reverse to avoid hitting a vampire. As I mentioned in tweet, thank god it wasn't a zombie.

Bigfoot? Of course there are Bigfoot stories revving up, one newspaper recently provided information of a sighting involving a 10 foot tall creature described as having "beautiful hair." I wonder if it was in a mullet? Another story, this one from North Carolina (no, I'm not going to insert a snarky comment here, it would be too easy and you deserve only snarky comments where they reflect wit and true snarkiness) involves a 911 call. It's a compelling listen. As hilarious as the caller is, asking: "Would I get in any trouble if I shot and killed this beast?", the 911 operator is priceless in her attentiveness.

The always reliable Fox News this June published this non-sensational headline for the discerning reading audience:  Vast UFO Cover-Up a 'Cosmic Watergate,' Says Nuclear Physicist.The headline says it all. Even the other, more reliable Rupert Murdock toy, The Wall Street Journal, recently jumped into the season with this headline: Italian MEP Worried About UFOs.To be fair, it was a covered by many different news sources.

In you were reading the Tucson Citizen this week, you would have seen a story about a haunting at a Bank of America. The banks have been haunting me for some time, so I was pleased to read this. Turnabout is fair playAnother newspaper, on a different haunting, led off with headline: Possible signs of ghosts found at museum. The story, run by the Washington Examiner from an Associated Press feed, was an account of a Mason Dixon Parnormal Society investigation.


Finally, I'll fess up to my own Silly Season tale. Below is from a blog posting a year or so ago.

In 1995, while living in Detroit, I remember turning on my radio in the morning and hearing that something had crashed in Windsor. Apparently a fireball had been seen over Ohio and travelled over Michigan before crashing into a trailer park there. Later that morning, a second story followed where a representative from emergency services told the press a craft had been found in the wreckage. He later denied this, claiming to have been joking at the time. By late afternoon the radio stopped broadcasting information about the story. News of the fireball was played down and the fires in the trailer park were instead attributed to arson.


I don't know what happened, but such a story was grist for Silly Season. It should have been plastered everywhere. And while CNN and few other sources gave mention to the incident, it received none of the attention one would have expected. It amazingly whispered into nothingness.


Some UFO enthusiasts have started calling this "The Windsor Incident"
One website even has a blurred videoclip.


Most Detroiters I talk to scratch their heads when I bring this up.

It was Silly Season, after all, and we all know what sort of stories play in Silly Season.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Long And Meandering Post About Writing

A warning.
What follows is a long and often meandering post about writing. I suspect people who write genre may find it of some interest. I'm not sure I'll be able to say the same for people who just want to pick up a book and have a good time. So with that caution...



When I hear writers interviewed, especially genre writers, they are inevitably asked the question, "Where do you get your ideas from?" The author generally smiles beatifically and mush-mouthes his or her way through a response which is guaranteed to cause scores of readers to bleed from their eyes.


Stephen King once described writing down a list of possible titles and sticking it to his refrigerator. He then went down the list, title by title, ripping each one from the sheet as he went along, and fashioning a story for each entry on the list. I've actually tried this, and I must clearly pronounce---I am no Stephen King.


However I do try to find inspiration from different sources..hoping something will spark an idea to file away for later use. To be honest, I don't do much story writing now unless it is in response to a "call for submission". Not that the story will sell, but nothing motivates like the lure of the marketplace.


I recently read an article in Scientific American. with the intriguing title: "Is The Universe Leaking Energy?"


Without even reading the piece, I jotted down three ideas to later develop into something. God bless writer's groups (hear that Gwen?) for helping me develop the ability to create from prompts. The ideas?


1) An expedition sent to the fringes of the known universe finds reality breaking down as the energy that keeps it together dissipates.
2) A group of scientists find that their experiments at the sub-atomic level are somehow bringing about enormous changes in the far flung universe.
3) In deep space a prison ship escapes and heads into a wormhole only to be spit out at the edge of the universe, where different rules of physics are at work, stranding them in a vast dead zone.


Now, note the above are quickly jotted ideas. They aren't stories. Stories require the presence of characters. All fiction, all good fiction, is about people, after all. Still, looking at this process, finding one idea which might have potential (I sort of liked the third idea), one can now begin to actually plan a story, putting personalities in conflict, presenting obstacles to be overcome, internally and externally.


And since we're on the process of writing, let me refer to a little read essay by H.P.Lovecraft who described his process of writing. (not how he received his ideas, but the actual process). Below is a short description of his steps, in his own words.


1) Prepare a synopsis or scenario of events in the order of their absolute occurence--not in the order of their narration. Describe with enough fulness to cover all vital points and motivate all incidents planned. Details, comments, and estimates of consequences are sometimes desirable in this temporary framework.


2. Prepare a second synopsis or scenario of events - this one in order of narration (not actual
occurrence), with ample fulness and detail, and with notes as to changing perspective, stresses,
and climax.  Let additions and alterations be made whenever suggested by anything in the for mulating process. (Mulating???? Only Lovecraft)


3. Write out the story - rapidly, fluently, and not too critically - following the second or narrative-order synopsis. Change incidents and plot whenever the developing process seems to suggest such change, never being bound by any previous design. Remove all possible superfluities - words, sentences, paragraphs, or whole episodes or elements - observing the usual precautions about the reconciling of all references (my bold face---this is economy, Rick take note)


4. Revise the entire text, paying attention to vocabulary, syntax, rhythm of prose, proportioning of parts, niceties of tone, grace and convincingness of transitions (scene to scene, slow and detailed action to rapid and sketchy time-covering action and vice versa... etc., etc., etc.), effectiveness of beginning, ending, climaxes, etc., dramatic suspense and interest, plausibility and atmosphere, and various other elements.


These four points are great. Sadly, Lovecraft was an author who hated characterization, and his stories suffered for it. Instead, he proudly proclaims in this very essay that he feels his main purpose was not necessarily to tell a story, but to create an atmosphere in his work, a feeling of the weird. It's a shame he didn't feel the need to do this through character and conflict, working on an arc which allowed the reader a satisfactory catharsis.

The late Isaac Asimov discussed writing in his memoir I,Asimov. Looking at his explanation of his process and Lovecraft's, I tend to veer closer to Asimov's in my beliefs. Asimov wrote:


"Of course, it also helps if you don't try to be too literary in your writing. If you try to turn out a prose poem...I have therefore deliberately cultivated a very plain style, even a colloquial one, which can be turned out rapidly and with which very little can go wrong. Of course, some critics, with crania that are more bone than mind, interpret this as my having "no style." If anyone thinks, however, that it is easy to write with absolute clarity and no frills, I recommend that he try it."

Somewhere an MFA grad is shuddering. Shudder on, because I leave you with some thoughts on writing from another author considered an important figure in science fiction, Robert Heinlein. Heinlein had five rules for writers...

Rule One: You Must Write
Rule Two: Finish What Your Start
Rule Three: You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order(Okay, I take exception with this. I'll hope he meant one shouldn't keep endlessly playing with one's work before sending it out. Sometimes a story is done, and an author should accept it as complete and move on. Too many people get caught up polishing, polishing, polishing...)
Rule Four: You Must Put Your Story on the Market

Rule Five: You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Shill Game

I wrote the below blog posting a couple years back. At the time, Fox had just given four million dollars to a writer whose books were hardly tearing it up on bestseller lists to write a vampire novel. What irritated me was that this was not a genre writer, and had no track record in genre. That meant Fox would have to market the hell out of him, creating a bestseller and convincing a genre audience this was a must-have. I haven't read the The Passage. It might be an incredible novel. However, knowing the manner of its creation and marketing, it is somewhat tainted for me.


If you want to find out how many cds sell, if you want to find out how a certain film does in terms of box office receipts, this information is fairly available. Yet why is it that if you want to know how many copies of a certain book title passed through retail, the information becomes a bit more difficult to obtain.

Don't believe me? Go ahead and try and do a search of a particular title to see how many copies were sold. You can ask the publisher, but that's no guarantee that information is going to be forthcoming.

Now you're probably thinking: what about bestsellers lists like the New York Times' survey? You'll notice no number of books sold is detailed there.

If you want information, you have to subscribe to Nielsen. You know, the same people who magically rate your television watching. Nielsen keeps track of retail sales but you have to pay. It will cost about eighty dollars for one title, with discounts available if you want to see more. And even then, the information doesn't take into account some of the smaller presses' distributions.

Why is this important to anyone writing? Because we're basically masochistic people and the more we hear about how difficult it is to succeed in our profession, the happier we are. And also, at some point a writer needs to ask: how many copies of a book sold is a sign of success. It helps to be able to track other writers and titles and do comparisons. It helps too when writing and marketing a title. Shelf lives are short and retailers are picky about what risks they want to take with their floor space. Scratch that. Retailers don't take chances.

Except...

A story is circulating through the literary world about a bidding war that recently went down for a writer's unfinished manuscript about vampires in an apocalyptic setting. A bidding war? Who was the author? Stephen King? Anne Rice? Laurell K. Hamilton?

No.

The author's unfinished manuscript will be published under an unknown non-de-plume. And even if you did know the writer's name, chances are you haven't heard of him before nor read his prior work. The author is Jordon Ainsley (real name Justin Cronin). His prior work? A book you've probably not heard of: "Mary and O Neill", one of those literary pieces few people read which also manages to win the Pen/Hemingway Award. The what? And then there was also "The Summer Guest".

No history of genre writing. No track record with the fans.

And yet Mr. Cronin or Mr. Ainsley if you prefer, gets almost four million dollars for an unfinished manuscript in what will be the first of a vampire trilogy.

HEY!!!! FOX!!!!! If you want unfinished manuscripts and outlines, I got some for you!!! You want vampires? I'll give you vampires. If you want to read more about this go here.

The world of publishing remains a mystery to me. I guess my problem is that I see the world through left wing glasses. Maybe if I clean them and try putting on my "Capitalism Is Neat" basenball cap, it would make a little more sense.

Or not.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Modern Film Criticism: Part Two

Having just written a review for Charles Gramlich's Cold in The Light, I want to continue with the theme of an early post about reviews, initiated by SQT here. Essentially, what is the value of a review and why should we pay any attention to it?

Let's be honest, reviews can be and are bought and sold. When you have five major corporations dominating media, how can you trust a critic from The Wall Street Journal or any of the Fox networks discussing a film  produced by Fox? This was amazingly evident in the release of Avatar. Here was a brawling film with an anti-war, environmentalist theme to it, produced by a man who has openly called out several Fox personalities like Glenn Beck, and yet Fox's arsenal was amazingly silent. Had this film not been distributed by Fox, it would have been shredded by the Fox outlets. Don't believe me? Take a peek at how Fox dealt with Happy Feet.

Neil Cavuto, one of Fox's opinion folk said:
I saw this with my two little boys. What I found offensive — I don’t care what your stands are on the environment — is that they shove this in a kid’s movie. So you hear the penguins are starving and they’re starving because of mean old men, mean old companies, arctic fishing, a big taboo. And they’re foisting this on my kids who frankly more bored that it was a nearly two-hour movie. And they’re kids!

Now, compared to Avatar, Happy Feet was subtle in its underlying thematic content. However, Avatar, which killed at the box office, made a ton of money for Rupert Murdock. It would not surprise me to learn a memo went through the Fox offices cautioning all personnel to leave this film alone.

Using critics to protect the media and to maket titles is nothing new, but when you have so few corporations controlling what is out there, it's a dangerous thing.

Is Dancing With the Stars news? I ask because during the season, it was not unusal to find a five to seven minute segment on the local morning news affiliate about the previous night's show, treating it with the same enthusiasm and diligence that the crew would have given to local news coverage. What about American Idol? Or 24? Or Lost? While these shows are definitely powerhouses in popular culture, do you believe for a minute that the local news affiliates for the networks who produced both 24 or Lost didn't pollinate other shows to promote these television events?

Trusting a critic to give you an unbiased review is about you taking the time to do your homework. Reality is, you'll have to see what corporation that critic is aligned with, then read through past reviews and see which ones you believe best represented an honest assessment of a work of art.

When I critiqued Charles' work for Elder Signs Press's blog, I did so because I had just finished reading it and wanted to discuss the piece. I liked the work and expressed why I liked it. I have no affiliation with Invisible College Press, although I know Charles through online communication. While I enjoy his work, it didn't stop me from being slightly critical of how he began the book. However, in writing a review, it's important to give the reader a balanced understanding of what is good about a piece and who this piece is written for, and where it might fit in from a genre perspective (if that work is genre).

to be continued

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Urban Myths for the Casual Film Goer

Some of this is the stuff of urban legend, and it tends to be fun and helps boost DVD ratings. Most of the incidents described in the films below can be written off to coincidence ---  the law of probability as opposed to a supernatural influence.

What is a cursed film and when is it considered to be so?

 No fast rule applies to answer that question. Was The Exorcist cursed? What about Poltergeist?


Consider the anecdotal evidence paraded for evidence. The list below is for The Omen.
  • Scriptwriter David Seltzer's plane was struck by lightning.
  • Star Gregory Peck, in a separate incident, had his plane struck by lightning.
  • Director Richard Donner's hotel was bombed by the Provisional IRA .
  • Gregory Peck canceled his reservation on a flight. The plane he had originally chartered crashed, killing all on board (a group of Japanese businessmen).
  • A warden at the safari park used in the "crazy baboon" scene was attacked and killed by a lion the day after the crew left.
  • Rottweilers hired for the film attacked their trainers.
 I haven't researched the veracity of any of these claims. However, does the above, even if true, reflect anything out of the ordinary? A film is made over the course of two years and hundreds of people are often involved in production. Given those figures, isn't the likelihood of something terrible happening fairly hight?

Another old chestnut always cited when this topic is brought up around the digital campfire is Poltergeist (and when we speak of that film for urban legends purposes, we're including the two dreadful sequels). What could possibly happen to a crew doing a film about a family moving into a house over an old cemetery?

First and foremost, the incredibly tragic deaths of 12-year-old Heather Rourke (septic shock) and 22-year-old co-star Dominique Dunne (murder). The usual accidents and rumors pale beside the tragedy of the untimely deaths of these two young people.

Of course, there are some projects so cursed they can't even be made into film. Take a look at the novel A Confederacy of Dunces. This work by John Kennedy Toole was published ten years after the author's suicide. This wonderful piece of black humor is begging for an independent film treatment. Originally Harold Raimis saw the possibilities and cast John Belushi and Richard Pryor in key roles. Hmmm. When that fell through due to those actors' illnesses and subsequent deaths, comedic superstars Chris Farley and John Candy were considered. 

As recently as 2005, the film was recast by another film maker, Steven Soderbergh, with Will Ferrell in the lead role, along with Drew Barrymore, Mos Def, and Lily Tomlin (those who know this book should be salivating at this casting). That was back in 2005, there's been no progress on the production as of this time. Why? According to one source, Will Ferrell's response was "It's a mystery."