First up: confession. I have a deep connection with The Parody News Network. Not only am I friends with the awesome creator, fellow author Stephen Lomer, but I act and occasionally write for this series as well. Honestly, its the most fun you can have without running away to the circus.
Briefly, the Parody News Network asks the question: what would happen if the things that happened in movies were reported on the news (with a few jokes and gags thrown in?). And that launched hundreds of episodes, ranging from the classics like Singing in the Rain to Downton Abbey and Saw. There's a new episode each Friday (I don't know how Stephen does it, but he does!) and they're all super fun, bite-sized comedy goodness.
So why do I bring it up now? Because it's Christmas and every year, a new crop of Christmas movie classics fall subject to the wit of the Parody News Network team. There's the Hallmark episode, A Christmas Carol, Rudolph, and, yes, Die Hard is on the holiday list. My personal favorite is White Christmas (posted below) - but that may only be because A. Its acted to perfection and B. I wrote it (and there are sooo many inside jokes!)
PNN not only does Christmas, but movies the whole year round and Halloween is an especially good time to check them out. (My favorite character to play is Lenore, a Goth girl with no personality to spare.) But this holiday season, do yourself a favor and check out one of these videos. It'll give you a laugh and a lift.
Last year, at around this time, I had the honor of working the camera for Ryan David Roger's film, Anxietatem, which JUST released on YouTube this month. A sweet story about humanity, heart, and anxiety, this little film is a terrific example of the kind of stories I want to tell.
Needless to say, I am proud of the film and proud to know Ryan, who has tirelessly worked his way up in the filmmaking world from production assistant to running his own videography company making music and wedding videos, running his own film festival (seriously, who does that???), making his own films (humble-brag - I was in one of the first!!), and becoming a valued member of the New England filmmakers circuit.
Here, Ryan talks about inspirations, how anxiety inspired his new film (watch it here and below!), and all of the chaos that goes into creation. Check it out here and read onwards for Ryan's insights!
1. What got you into filmmaking?
Really looking back, I had a creative mind at a young age as I would draw and play around with my family's camcorder a bit. Although for a while, I was led off the stereotypical "What inspired me to make films" path because my mom kinda steered me down the road to the culinary arts. Ended up taking culinary classes my junior and senior year of high school as well. (No, she doesn't have a culinary background, why do you ask?)
Anyway, my junior and senior year of high school where I met this senior that was interested in creating an animated series and I wanted to help make it happen. Ultimately, the series didn't happen. The episodes I wrote never got made. He just gave up after a pilot episode. But he said he still had ideas for films he wanted to do. He ultimately moved to Arizona and cut all ties with me. But around that time, I discovered a YouTube channel called "Film Riot" that were making videos about every aspect of film productions. That has really helped with actually learning how to make films, especially when other resources about both the craft and how to get it out there started popping up and made it possible to get your work out there.
It was really also films from various filmmakers from different decades and different parts of the world that also helped inspire my love for the craft and keeps me going, even when it feels like it feels like it'll never happen for me. While I started actually getting on small time film productions in 2012, it wouldn't really be till 2018 till I started getting on film sets more regularly and ended up filming a wedding as well. Since then, I've been working towards more regularly getting hired to do sound on films, music videos, and live events such as weddings. Also started getting into photography a bit, but that's only like over the past few months.
2. Tell us about Anxietatem - What inspired it?
A good amount of it is based on some of the social anxieties I used to suffer whenever I went out dancing. Regardless of the number of people that turned out, it could feel awkward for me when I'm there most of the time if I'm sober. Too few people there, I have a hard time finding the vibe to dance. Too many people there and it's difficult to move around or dance without letting everyone acting like a can of sardines.
The Beatriz character is based off of a friend of mine that I met one night when I went out dancing back in October 2021. The events in Anxietatem never happened the way it did, but she and I called and text, call, and hang out regularly enough to where she told me that she refuses to date anyone that's not cool with me being her friend. We're pretty much the best of friends, especially since she has told me stuff I've vowed to take to the grave with me and that is not an exaggeration. While I do feel fortunate that people don't seem to be weirded out by me dancing, it doesn't exactly change how lost in my head I can get and start thinking that I'm being seen as a I'm being seen as a weirdo. So when I'm there with a friend and dancing with them, that feeling of being seen as a weirdo just isn't there.
3. What was the production like?
It was....an experience. The original plan was to film it in late September 2022, but I had to push it back a couple months simply for financial reasons. Surprisingly, everyone that was on board for the September shoot stayed on board when the shoot dates changed to late November. Until the script supervisor tested positive for COVID and had to drop out as a result.
With the production itself, it was originally scheduled that it would be 2 shoot days, 8 hours each; one day for interior scenes, one night for exterior scenes. That's not what ended up happening.
We got there right when the restaurant open (a little past 11am if I recall correctly) with the plan to get in there and get the equipment ready before the talent arrives.
That's what should've happened.
Instead, the opening staff had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what we were talking about. We had to wait till a bit past noon before one of the owners showed up and told us we had to be out no later than 3:30pm (we were originally in agreement about being out by 7pm). Essentially, we had about 3 hours to shoot about half of an almost 8 minute short film. Not impossible, but we ended up having to handheld for a vast majority of the shoot and throw out any elaborate shooting style we had planned out in pre production.
But, we were able to shoot everything we needed, and clean it up to make it look like we were never even there by 3:30pm on the dot (with me having a couple of well earned drinks after that).
Strangely enough, during that shoot I felt both stressed and not stressed. We were in a major time crunch, yes, but the entire flow of getting everything we needed in the time we had felt doable.
Day 2 rolled around and since we had to wait till it got dark out to start shooting, we were able to arrive at location later in the day and we had plenty of time to plan everything out and get everything we needed shot. With the streetlights and the lights from the various buildings at Eagle Square in Concord, NH, it really did give some pretty good production value on this.
But there was one catch to shooting exterior night scenes in late November: it was an exterior night scene....in late November. It was cold. Really cold. At various points, members of the cast and crew went inside to warm up while I decided to stay outside with the equipment and be ready to lunge at anyone that would try to steal it. No one tried to steal anything and I ended up being so cold that at one point during the production, I had to crouch down so I wouldn't appear in the reflection of one of the windows that Paul and Beatriz are talking in front of and I could not get back up on my feet the cold was starting to get to me.
After finally going inside to warm up for a little, we were finally able to wrap up production in around 4 hours (because, again.....really cold) and after taking my sweet time editing it together, it was ready to be seen.
4. In Anxietatem, a character often lapses into Latin. It's a really interesting character point - what inspired this? Why Latin?
Yeah, the idea behind it can easily be labeled as "pretentious art-house bs,", but I don't care.
The idea comes from this feeling of when your depression or anxiety hits, it can feel like you're speaking a different language at times and people might not fully understand. This might have been a subconscious thing with Sam and Katrina when they were doing the Latin, the way they approached speaking the lines does also add the sense that just because you understand what someone is dealing with, it doesn't mean you understand it exactly as the person that is dealing with it themselves.
But as to why that particular language, it simply has to do with it being a dead language; which is why I said the idea behind it could potentially be labeled as "pretentious". A lot of modern languages do have Latin origins to them, so it does add a bit to the idea as well. If it was a language that is actually spoken today (German, Korean, Spanish, ect), I don't know if it would've worked as well considering the set up, location, and length of the film. If it was something like Layover (The French/English language film set in L.A. by Joshua Caldwell), or something like that, then maybe a language that wasn't dead could've worked.
5. What do you hope people take away from Anxietatem?
While it may be nerve wracking to sometimes go out and try to enjoy yourself when your anxiety is starting to get to you, there are people that might understand what you're going through. There are strangers that are willing to give you the time a day and are willing to make sure you're okay when they feel something is off. There are people out there who care. You might not have met them yet and caring/worrying about a stranger's wellbeing isn't (and shouldn't) be seen as a bad thing. But maybe that's just the humanist in me talking.
Bonus! What is next for you and Thorndike Productions?
A few things. I've signed on to edit and help produce a feature film called "Drepper: The Happiest Man on Earth", which is a film about this guy being transported to an alternate world to help find the joy and gratitude in life. The film was about half way shot before I came on board, so I'm helping them get it finished, including working on launching a crowdfunding campaign to help raise the finishing funds. We're looking at a late 2024 release window. It's also being shot in a couple of different aspect ratios, which is a pretty interesting approach.
I'm also working on 2 different series. "Lycanitis": a 3-D animated mini series involving werewolves because I decided I'm going to learn how to use Blender by trying to make something a lot more complicated than a donut. The other is Sacha Kenton's "I Meow Back", a series about now this high schooler's life is essentially thrown way out of whack after getting diagnosed with chronic fatigue. We're going to be shooting a proof of concept short film early 2024 with both the short and series being written by Sacha.
Of course, there's always more and more stuff I want to be able to do and want to try to do, but there's only so much one person can do. So I need to be smart about what I do, how I go about it, and how much I try to do by myself before I turn to my friends and peers and see if they're willing to help me out with whatever insane idea I want to try and do next!
You can follow Ryan's filmmaking journey on Facebook and YouTube. Also, be sure to sign up for his newsletter !
From the first moment I met Kate Eppers, her vivacity, artistic drive, enthusiasm, and joie de vivre were as evident as her talent. We quickly became friends - you can't help but become friends with Kate - and it wasn't long before I realized that she was a singer, musician, and songwriter as well as an actress. She's written and recorded a solo album, collaborated on a metal Christmas album, and wrote the theme for a new indie film series, the Amber Oak series, all while raising a child and taking on the world. To understate the case, the kid has talent!
Here, she talks about the creative process and what she hopes her music will bring to the world.
1. When did you begin recording? What made you pursue music?
I had always sang in theater and in the choir my whole life, but I didn't start recording until 2014. Acting/theater was something I had done since I was eight years old, but music is my calling truly (if I HAD to pick). There is definitely a huge learning curve with recording (for the first time), but all these years later and now having our own home studio, it's a whole different game. It's still challenging because without being on the clock at someone else's studio you can spend FOREVER trying to nail those vocal takes, ect. At some point you have to declare your work is done, but it's easy to be a perfectionist and take way too long with something.
2. I love your album, The Wishing Well: its magical and feels both new and old-school. What inspires your music?
I am so inspired by musical theater (Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and West Side Story being my faves) and of course Disney. Not to mention all the 80s fantasy movies I grew up with that had the most magical of soundtracks (The Neverending Story, Return to Oz).
Plus, just like you, I was an avid reader and it kept my mind always going. I think the impact from all the fantasy books I read eventually formed melodies in my mind that stayed with me forever after. Some of the songs on my album were from a few of those melodies, others were written on my keyboard while living through some of the best and worst times (mostly best).
3. You write a lot about love and hope. What do you hope people get from your music?
I hope people can use the emotions from my songs to help them through a difficult episode in their life. My hope is that the songs speaks to them in some way. Whether it be therapeutic or just purely enjoyable. I hope I can put a melody in someone's head and have it stick, in a good way. My wish would be that my songs can paint a picture the listener can visualize or experience with me. That I can take them into my world.
4. You mentioned that you’re working on a new song – tell us more! What is your new song about?
I was working on an original song that was going to be about… shocker .. FANTASY and a beautiful fantastical woman in some far away dream land surrounded by magical creatures but I put it on pause for the moment. (It's going to be called The Princess Room).
Separately, I am focusing on music for my other project CHRISTMASFORCE, which is a Christmas themed power metal band I have with my fiancé, Brian Murphy. The season snuck up on us fast and we are working on getting new music out for December. With our love of both Christmas and power metal I'm surprised we didn't start this project sooner. Last year we covered the entire 60s movie Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer soundtrack and put out a couple music videos.
5. Not only are you a musician, but you’re also an actress and a model (with a wicked cool portfolio!). Tell us more about that! Does your acting and modeling inform your music?
The two are pretty separate, except I should mention I did become more heavily involved with fantasy shoots/cosplay as a result of music. I performed at a Comic Con and met my now great friend Robbie, the photographer behind Furnace Fashioned Photography. I was dressed up like Elektra from Daredevil during my set, and the rest is history.
6. BONUS! What’s next for you?
In the short term finishing up CHRISTMASFORCE music to release for this season, and then getting back to working on that new single. Someday I would love to do an EP of 80s music with a few originals complete with, of course, music videos. Acting is my other passion and with the birth of my daughter I have slowed down with that understandably, but I would love to keep doing indie films as well as completing a script for a comedic short I have been working on. So many dreams, so little time!
You can find Kate on her Website, www.kateeppers.com, Facebook and YouTube! And if you love Christmas and metal, make sure you check out CHRISTMASFORCE!
The Story: When popular podcaster Alix Summer meets Josie Fair, it seems like fate: both women share a birthday and, beyond this, both are deep believers in the power of reinvention. Alix because this is the subject of her podcast and Josie because this is what she wants more than anything else in the world: to leave her increasingly unhappy married life and start again. So Josie has a proposal - Alix should follow her as she begins the separation and reinvention process. It seems like a dynamite subject for a podcast and Alix agrees.
But all is not as it seems. Alix's picture-perfect life is flawed, but Josie's story... the deep Alix goes, the more she realizes that Josie is not at all what she seems either. The cat-and-mouse games begin as the two women begin to investigate each other, each learning more than they ever wanted to know. It's all perfect fodder for a top-rated podcast season - until the bodies begin to turn up.
The Review: Lisa Jewell is a master at the page-turner. The pacing here is terrific and I found myself unable to put this book down. The characters, especially the two leads (for they are very much both protagonists in this twisty little tale), are well-fleshed out and feel grounded in reality. Jewell also excels at family dynamics and, even when they are twisted (like they are here), you still find yourself saying, "Yeah, I've met people like this before."
I must confess, I guessed the major twist and the secondary twist pretty early on. But even so, this is immensely entertaining and surprisingly uplifting. Unlike a lot of modern thrillers, Jewell knows that there are good and decent people in the world and they are present and accounted for here. It's not a happily-ever-after book and it's definitely PG-13 rated for blood and domestic violence. But if you're after a very readable and relatable thriller, this is the one for you!
(Note about my reviews: As much as I love a well-written, witty critique or movie take-down (and I ADORE them!), I know all too well how badly it feels to be on the receiving end of a bad review. I will only post books here that I can speak well of - if I can't recommend it, I won't post a review of it!)
LogoSophia Magazine is an ecumenical musing on the religion, life, and culture. It's a quarterly magazine (with a weekly blog online) that delves into every aspect of life, from Sunday morning worship traditions to musings on the virtues featured in Sailor Moon. Each print magazine is centered around a theme (this summer, it was "God & Country - an Issue of Patriotism") and attempts to view any given subject from multiple viewpoints. It is heartfelt, respectful, and thought-provoking.
Helmed by the redoubtable Sarah Levesque and featuring contributors from all over and from every walk of Christian life, LogoSophia is one to watch. Submissions are welcome and, in a feature I particularly like, you can listen to the magazine, often read by the writers themselves.
I've contributed a few pieces in the past and have been interviewed with my sister on The Encounter Series. But beyond my affectionate regard for a publication that has published me, LogoSophia is well worth looking into, both as an example of ecumenism, but also as an example of strength, courage, and determination. Publishing a magazine is no easy feat - but these folks make it look easy!
LogoSophia Magazine is dedicated to creating and cultivating connections, unity and understanding between Christian denominations, under the leadership of an elected Editor in Chief.
- From the LogoSophia Magazine
Coming soon from Audible, the audiobook version of "The Monster of Deep Water Lake"!
With Kenneth Rahilly narrating, you'll be able to take this with you anywhere: in your car, on your morning jog, while you're cleaning house - it's the perfect story for anyone who loves monsters, gangsters, shoot-outs, and a touch of romance.
And if you haven't already, get the audiobook version of Tale Half Told here!
“A man must sometimes laugh at himself or go mad--Few realize it.
That is why there are so many madmen in the world.”
- Captain Peter Blood
This series attempts to answer the age-old question: read the book? Or wait for the movie? (This was previously published, but worth repeating. This has been edited and lightly rewritten.)
The Book: Captain Blood, (1922) by Rafael Sabatini.
The Movie: Captain Blood, (1935)starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone and directed by Michael Curtiz.
Plot: Doctor Peter Blood is an Irish adventurer who has retired to the peaceful English countryside to live out his days. Unfortunately for his plans, rebellion is in the air and he is drawn into the fray. Falsely accused of traitorous activities and condemned to slavery, he is sent to Port Royal, Jamaica.
In Port Royal, Blood's swift temper nearly condemns him to a slow death in the mines, but the lovely Arabella Bishop intervenes. Purchased by the cruel Colonel Bishop, Peter earns a reputation as a healer and is given privileges - but his longing for freedom only intensifies, despite falling for Arabella, the Colonel's lovely, kind, and strong-minded niece. When a chance Spanish raid on Port Royal offers Peter a chance to escape, he takes it and goes on to become one of the best known (and most principled) pirates of the Caribbean.
His daring exploits and clever campaigns become the stuff of legends, but Peter has left his heart behind in Port Royal. Can the man whose boldness and ingenuity is world-renown ever find a way to clear himself and win the heart of the girl he loves?
The Comparison: Unlike Sabatini's other pirate novel, Sea Hawk, the Captain Blood movie follows the book's plot very closely. Energetic acting by the charming leads, Curtiz's fast-paced direction and action-packed script doesn't attempt to hide the brutality of war, slavery, and piracy, yet still manages to make Blood a sympathetic character that you root for. In short, it's a great movie.
Naturally, time constraints caused some of the book's events to be edited out, including most of great pirate exploits in the book. Also, Arabella Bishop suffers in the movie. Sabatini wrote likable, strong women and Arabella is no exception: she is fair-minded and not afraid to stand up to either Peter or her peers, whether it's tending to sick Spanish soldiers or telling off some of the most powerful men in the room. She is as strong a character as Peter, though secondary. De Havilland's role is reduced to a somewhat petulant, one-note character, who is too proud to admit when she is in the wrong. A shame, really, when the real Arabella was a truly refreshing, smart character.
Conclusion: Toss-Up - You should Read and Watch it!
The book is epic and fun, and though it suffers a little in prose, the characters are engaging, the action exciting, and the plot is entertaining. The fact that I've read it three time might just show you how much I like it.
The movie is a classic - big ships, big action scenes, good fencing scenes, grand drama, star-crossed lovers, top-notch directing, a solid soundtrack by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and it made stars out of then-unknowns Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.
Both the movie and the book were enormously successful when they debuted and with good reason - solid entertainment like this doesn't come too often.
Today, I am interviewing friend and fellow author, Steve Van Samson. Steve is, among many other things, a podcaster who combines horror and nostalgia to great effect in his fun and funny show, Retro Ridoctopus. He writes gritty and memorable horror and his latest book, published through Weird House Press, is the horror western Year of the Rattlesnake. As anyone who knows me for longer than three minutes will tell you, I heart westerns muchly and, having read Steve’s Predator World vampire series (highly recommended, but do not read while you’re eating!), I can not WAIT for this one to hit the shelves!
1. You write horror, but usually with a twist that I haven’t seen before. For instance, Predator World is set in a futuristic Africa and features a vampire hellscape. Where do you get your ideas from?
Most of my book ideas are born of me trying to figure out a new angle to something. In the case of the first Predator World book “The Bone Eater King”, my initial thought was there was nothing more to say about vampires. But, I started thinking about it. Was there really no way to make this tired monster feel fresh or, more importantly, memorable?
I reasoned that the first thing to go was the typical settings and character tropes. No castles or cities. No sex-starved alabaster-skinned goth models. I wanted monsters, and I wanted them to face off against characters that were very different from the sort we usually get in these kinds of stories.
The darkened plains of Africa quickly emerged in my mind as the natural choice. One that accommodated everything I was looking for, but also came equipped with a wealth of dangerous natural predators (like lions, leopards and hyenas) that could add to the menace our characters were going to face.
2. I love westerns and cannot wait to get your next book. Can you tell us a little bit about Year of the Rattlesnake?
Sure! The idea was initially born from reading “The Dying Earth” by Jack Vance. For those who don’t know, that book is a collection of short stories that all occur in the same general area, around the same general time. What makes the book so special to me is the way that characters will appear in more than one story. Sometimes what feels like a small chance encounter with someone on the road, will actually serve as an introduction to the protagonist of a different story. You just never know who’s going to show up where.
At some point, it occurred that a western full of notorious wanted men, might be the perfect vehicle for trying out that linked-short story format I loved in “The Dying Earth”. I needed stories that would really stand out on their own, but with the knowledge that certain characters were going to show up again. I don’t expect every reader to catch all of the connections on their first read, but my sincere hope is that the stories are good enough to keep them coming back. Maybe discovering new things every time.
3. Horror can be tough to write – there are a lot of opinions about what does and does not make a good horror story and the challenge is always, apart from telling a great story with awesome characters, to scare or unsettle your audience. What drew you to this genre?
I was drawn to horror because it’s been in my blood since before I was allowed to consume it. I was that kid who was always always sneaking off to the horror section of the video store, ogling all the tapes I knew my parents would never rent in a million years.
4. Whenever I write a book, I create a playlist of music or I borrow a soundtrack from a movie that fits the feel of the book I’m writing (1980s The Changeling provided the background for Tale Half Told.) Do you have any writing rituals or rules?
For me, I have to have silence to write. My best writing rhythm is when I start first thing in the morning. I’ll get up an hour early and go make a cup of tea. Then I’ll sit down and force myself (whether I want to or not) to start typing. Even if I only type 100 words, this AM session forces my brain to start thinking about the story. Then it’s with me on my morning commute and by lunch, I’m ready to get back in and get back to the story. If possible, I’ll finish up with another two or so hours before bed to finish the day out. My daily word counts are never much compared to most professional writers, but on a day like that I can never feel like I didn’t give it my all.
5. The Year of the Rattlesnake is about to come upon us. What is next for you? Is there another book in the works?
I’m currently working on a novella for Weird House Press. After that, my plan is to get back into my original series and write the third Predator World book.
BONUS QUESTIONS! Okay, now the big question: Star Trek or Star Wars and why? Who are your favorite authors and what are you reading right now?
I honestly am a fan of both Trek and Wars, but Star Wars will always be my favorite. Favorite modern writers are Joe R. Lansdale, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, and of course, Stephen King. For classics, I love me some Robert E. Howard and Phillip K. Dick. And for authors you may not have heard of, Jonathan Janz, Ed Kurtz and Rob Smales are all incredible and should be household names. Currently I’m reading “Fright Night Origins'' written by the writer/director of the movie, Tom Holland. It’s like a director’s Cut of Fright Night and I’m loving every apple-chomping second of it.
The Story: Therapist and best-seller self-help writer Sarah Slade and her handsome husband have just done the unthinkable. They've bought and intend the ill-fortuned Renovate Black Wood House. Abandoned after bloody murder-suicide forty years ago, Black Wood House is more than just a neglected Victorian mansion - it lives. And it does not want to be changed or saved.
Soon it becomes apparent that there is more going on with the house and the neighborhood than Sarah previous thought. The neighbors are suspicious and hostile. There are threats and warnings everywhere. And Sarah's own life, perfect on the outside and built almost entirely on lies, is falling to pieces as she watches. Can she hold on long enough to discover the true secret of Black Wood House? Or will the truth kill her?
My Review: Truth be told, I almost gave up about a third of the way into this book. But I dearly, dearly love haunted houses, so I pushed on and I am so glad I did. Black Wood House is a terrifically creepy, gothic nightmare, set in Australia (for a change of flavor) and the house is almost a character in it's own right.
But the true fascination is watching Sarah Slade go from annoying media star who has it all to the girl who might just make it out alive. Sarah is not at all what she seems to be and, although unreliable narrators are very much a done thing now, Matlin paces her reveals very well and the trip is twisted, dark, and very entertaining. Warning for sensitive readers - there are plenty of triggers in this book. But for those of you who are looking for a creepy read this October, The Stranger Upstairs will do the trick.
(Note about my reviews: As much as I love a well-written, witty critique or movie take-down (and I ADORE them!), I know all too well how badly it feels to be on the receiving end of a bad review. I will only post books here that I can speak well of - if I can't recommend it, I won't post a review of it!)
If you're anything like me, you love to read - but things like housework, work-work, and life get in the way. Which is why I LOVE audiobooks, especially free audiobooks (my wallet appreciates the break!). And with Halloween right around the corner, I thought I'd share my latest YouTube obsession:
Classic Ghost Stories Podcast is just that - a podcast devoted to classic ghost and spooky stories, from Shirley Jackson to Bram Stoker and a whole host of short stories and spooky tales that I never would have found on my own. Tony Walker has a terrific British accent (gotta love that!) and a great reading voice - you'll be lulled into a false sense of security listening to him. And stay tuned after the stories are finished; often, he gives a little analysis or his own perspective on the story just read.
So if you're in the mood for spooky stories and you've got a bit of a drive or a long day of tasks in front of you, check this podcast out. It'll put you in the Halloween mood. Thus far, my top two videos are "The Haunting of Hill House" (above) and "The Birds" (below). Note of caution - do NOT listen to "The Birds" when you're driving alone through deserted countryside at night! (I tried it - it's a trip.)
Journalist Cecily Wong has a bad track record when it comes to mountaineering. But when charismatic and internationally famous mountaineer Charles McVeigh invites her to join his record-breaking final climb of the year on Manaslu, she knows its a potentially career-making opportunity. The only catch? No interview until she summits.
Putting her past failures behind her, Cecily joins the team. But when a climber dies under mysterious circumstances, she becomes suspicious. By the time the second climber dies, it's too late to back out now. Stuck in a mountain death zone , she has to battle her own self doubt, the elements... and a killer who is determined to leave no witness to tell the tale.
Breathless is both a survival story and a murder mystery and it literally gave me the chills. Cecily is an every woman, suddenly thrust, relatively unprepared, into the privileged, pricey, and competitive world of mountaineering, a world were death is not unusual and the biggest obstacle is not necessarily the climb. As Cecily prepares to tackle Manaslu, she also begins to learn about the people on her team and the various reasons why they climb. It's an insider's look into a club that I, frankly, had never thought to even try to join.
McCulloch's descriptions of the climb, the cold, the dangers, and the heights were bone-chillingly realistic. When one of the characters nearly falls through a crevasse, I found myself shouting aloud a warn. Honestly, I didn't know that my fear of heights could be triggered by a book. Turns out, it can. While the mystery itself is solved fairly easily (someday I'm going to write a book of rules for the amateur sleuth!), the book is still intense because of the duel nature of the threat - the human and the mountain.
This book was gripping and terrifying. I highly, highly recommend it. Unless you're planning on tackling Everest. In which case, maybe wait until after the climb lest you psych yourself out.
Robert Neville is the last human on earth. Or might be. He doesn't really know. What he does know is that a devastating virus has swept through the world, turning the inhabitants into vampires. Now Robert is alone, held up in a bunker that once was his home, king of all he surveys by day, trapped and surrounded by rapacious vampires by night. Can one man survive in a world of vampires?
Legend flips the traditional vampire story on it's head by putting vampires in the majority, with an outclassed humanity on the run. Neville is a man who has lost everything: his work, his wife, his child, his whole world. By day, he can sally forth outside of his house, looking for food and supplies, but every night, he is besieged by vampires literally starving for his blood, perhaps the last truly human blood on the planet. It's dark, it's claustrophobic, and, in a post-Covid pandemic world, this story strikes a little too close to home (but in the best way).
Oddly, this story didn't hit me as hard as Matheson's other fiendishly frightening book, Hell House. Perhaps, having lived through multiple lockdowns, I've become accustomed to the terror of it. And although Matheson does occasionally fall prey to certain story-telling tropes of the time (it AMAZING how many horny, well-endowed, under-clothed women survive the various holocausts, plagues, invasions, and disasters in the sci-fi worlds of the 1950s and 1960s - and how often they need the love of a good(read: available) man in the midst of said crisis #eyeroll), it actually works with the story here. The story is succinct, bloody, and well-reasoned, as well as a fascinating look at a man, struggling with loneliness, loss, and a world without meaning. It is not for the faint of heart.
I Am Legend is well worth the read for lovers of horror and sci-fi. (However, I would caution against reading it while in quarantine. ;) )
In a sleepy English village in the 1950s, a housekeeper dies. But was her death an accident? Or murder? Atticus Pund, a holocaust survivor and famous private detective, has nothing to go on and his own problems to deal with: a terminal illness is threatening to take him before he can finish writing his book. But then housekeeper's employer, Sir Magnus Pie, is beheaded in his own mansion. Can Atticus solve one last murder before his own clock runs out?
Meanwhile, in present day London, editor Susan Ryland receives the first draft of Alan Conway's latest Atticus Pund novel, she has no idea that her life is about to be flipped up-side-down. Not only is Alan about to kill off the most popular character in her publishing house's library, but the last chapter is missing - and Alan Conway is dead. Now she has to find the last chapter... and possibly solve a real live murder on her own.
At long last, the Time Travelers have arrived! You can watch it on Rumble and on YouTube - when you do, be sure to leave a comment about what time period YOU would want to visit!
Many thanks to everyone who worked on this film, including the fabulous cast and crew - visit the Time Travelers page for more information about all of them. We have more little films and books in the works, so stay on the look out for those!
I am so excited to announce that my new short film, The Time Travelers, is on its way into post production!
This past Sunday, a small group of enthusiastic filmmakers, actors, extras, and behind the scenes geniuses gathered together to shoot a short film set in 9 time periods. It was a packed day, but a fun one and I can't wait to share the film with you. This film is the first of my solo production (with Book Sisters Productions able assistance)!
Stay tuned! More fun is on the way!