Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 - The Year That Was (and Has Been)

Everyone's got their lists for the passing year - what was good, great, awful, and just plain eh.  Of course, I love to reflect on the passing year, reminding me what was so totally awesome and what to avoid in the upcoming year.  I've no doubt that heated discussions will arise by lists (they do that, don't they?) and I'm just asking that we avoid all Bill Maher-Bill O'Reilly heated debates.  'Kay? 

Here are my top ten films of the 2011 year and my favorite books of the passing year.  Read, watch, try something new!


Suprisingly 2011 was an outstanding year for movies.  The box office receipts don't indicate this, but it seemed that some of my favorites really amped their game.  Like Woody Allen, for instance, or the fine folks at Disney (not you, Pixar).  While the summer offered it's wealth of disappointments (that's for you Johnny Depp, aka corporate stooge), there was a lot of real gems scattered in the summer's offerings.

10. Winnie the Pooh.  This came out in July and was quickly headed to DVD.  Apparently Winnie the Pooh doesn't hold the same weight it once did.  Okay, more for me to enjoy.  The reboot was outstanding in every single way.  For starters, the casting of John Cleese as the very understated narrator was brilliant.  Zoey Deschanel's songs melodiously rebirthed thoughts of childhood folly.  But, more importantly, it was old school - no 3-D, no CG.  Just a near carbon copy of the 70's predecessor.  Outstanding and easily 4.5 out of 5 stars.

9. Captain America: the First Avenger.  Yes, it was a wonderful summer popcorn munch of a flick, but Joe Johnston captured a definitive style.  No surprise...this is the genius who brought us the underrated Rocketeer.  The eerie thing about this one was the timing.  What better flick to chew on than this, following the death of Osama bin Laden.  Chris Evans, Tommy Lee Jones, Dominick Cooper are America's super team.

8. The Devil's Double. Speaking of Dominck Cooper, let's flash to the Devil's Double.  This is the true story of the man forced to stand in as Uday Huessein's double.  One word: Fuck.  This film is rough to get through, but it is outstanding.  Uday was a freak and Dominick Cooper's performance of the duel men is nothing but brilliant.  Not sure who's doing publicity for this, but the fact that Cooper's getting no buzz whatsoever for awards is truly sad.

7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Absolutely brilliant.  As a fan of the books and the Swedish film, I was skeptical.  Fincher, though, demands your respect.  This is the sort of material that David Fincher does best with.  He never shirks away (you can almost hear Hollywood beggin him to do so) from the grit, and he gets a spectacular performance out of Rooney Mara, who until now I only knew from the crappy Nightmare on Elm Street remake.

6. Project Nim.  If you hated the Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which I didn't think was inherently bad), you might take a peak at this documentary.  Again, timing is interesting as this came out right before the Planet of the Apes prequel.  I typically love my documentaries, but rarely see them at the theatre.  This was the exception this year.

5. Drive. It was a great year for Ryan Gosling, and I'm proud for the kid.  Drive was probably the best of the wealth of films he gave us.  Not only does it feature an amazing Albert Brooks, but this was the gritty slow burn for a film that I haven't seen since the 1970's.  It easily could have been a clone of Scorsese's best and Coppola's best.  I loved it!

4. The Muppets.  I adore the muppets and was happy to see them return.  It's pure nostalgia; I got goosebumps when they did the actual show opening theme.  Is it cheesy?  Sure, but that's what the Muppets are.  And, it's pure and innocent - no potty humor, no pop culture references, no 3D and CGI.  Plus, the cameo by Jim Parsons was genius.

3. I Saw the Devil.  Probably one of the most uncomfortable films I saw all year.  This was something that was wickedly funny and shocking all at the same time.  Like Tarantino and Fincher, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to find amusement in such a dark little thriller.  Enjoy it now, 'cause I'm sure it will be remade for "Americans" who don't like reading subtitles.

2. Midnight in Paris.  Love is all I've got for this Allen film.  I adored ever single second.  Especially of note is Corey Stott playing Ernest Hemingway and Loki playing Fitzgerald (although Adrien Brody is pretty fun as Dali).  It's easy to imagine this being Hollywoodized with big special effects for a time travel film.  Woody Allen doesn't do that, though.  Again, this harkens to the 40's of Hollywood and it works.  It never feels fake. It just feels wonderful.

1. Beginners. This film will get Chris Plummer his Oscar...finally.  I've heard people gripe about this being that "gay film".  Not so.  It's moving and the romance between Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent is touching and real.  The relationship between father and son is also moving.  Like sa few others on this list, this film came out this summer and was virtually lost to all audiences.  Fortunately it's out on DVD in time for award season.


What to do with a year that featured no new releases from some of my favorite authors?  There were some great gems, though:

10. Devil Red by Joe Lansdale.  The latest in the trials and tribulations of Hap and Leonard.  Not only is it great, but it takes a much darker turn than the previous entries and Lansdale's the best when he takes it to the dark, dark places.

9. A Town Called Suckhole by David Barbee.  Hilarious and raunchy and deep fried.  Barbee's tale of rednecks with tech is easily an homage to Lansdale's southern-fried fiction.  It reads like a video game, which isn't a bad thing, and rarely disappoints.

8. Doc by Mary Doria Russell.  It could have been a biography, but wasn't.  I found this yarn about Doc Holliday to be insightful and almost educational.  Who knew that Wyatt Earp wasn't as big a fan of Doc?  Apparently Russell has more than Hollywood.

7. When Elves Attack by Tim Dorsey.  Yes, I'm a huge Dorsey fan, so I'll not apologize for this entry.  It is an inside joke of a book for fans of the Serge series.  If you're not a fan, you won't like the book.  If you're a fan, you'll eat it up a few times over.

6. 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  Yes, I had issues with this one a few weeks ago.  Not sure why it made the list, but over the past month, I've had it percolating in my noggin.  Is it great?  No.  It's definitely got flaws, but it's still a good read.  And, it has stuck with me ever since I read it.  Especially the ending.

5. The Exterminators by Bill Fitzhugh.  Pest Control is one of my favorite funny novels.  This book is not listed as being released until the 3rd of January, but it's currently already available.  Yay!  It's the long-awaited sequel to Pest Control and it's just as wild as the first one.  All the characters return, all the zany returns, all praise the return of a wonderful storyteller.

4. Drama: An Actor's Education by John Lithgow.  Not quite a memoir, but a look back at the man who gave Lithgow his devout love for performing - his father.  This is a wonderous achievment and reads like poetry.  Is there nothing that John Lithgow can't do?

3. Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean.  Damn, Orlean's created a massively amazing book on a Hollywood icon.  Screw Lassie, man.  Rin Tin Tin was the hero of the time.  I was a little young to capture the series, but this book does rip through all the myths and showcases true heroics.

2. Karaoke Death Squad by Eric Mays.  Yes, it's a shameless plug, but I've actually revisited this several times this year and it is funny.  Should you read it?  You know the answer to that.

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  Cline is a geek amongst geeks and his first novel is an homage to all things 1980's.  Beta players, D&D, and a wonderful debate about the two Ewok movies are just a few of the things that play here.  Basically, this is a modern retelling of Willy Wonka, and it's fresh, original, and entertains in very interesting ways.

Monday, August 22, 2011 yeah, it's been a little while.  A little while?  okay, call me out.  It's been a long while.  In fact, it has been so long that whales have become land mammals once more, the Conservatives have risen back to prominence, the dog and cat Magna Carta is now ruled defunct, fourteen children have received collegiate scholarships, and Sally Struthers is, approximately, seven pounds heavier.  It's been a long ass time.  And for that I'm sorry.

But, rest assured, there's tons to be excited about.  I wanted to post tonight because it is an excellent time to strike.  While I've been offline for more than a year, the time has hardly been wasted.  As you can see, I'm presenting a little something called "Karaoke Death Squad".  Well, actually, I'm more than presenting it.  I wrote the thing.  I wrote it, am proud of it, and want you to bask in it's nougety goodness.  It IS nougety good.

Karaoke Death Squad tells a portion of Homer's the Odyssey - the part with the retched sirens and Odysseus' crew being seduced, by song, to a shallowy death.  Of course, that tale's been told.  In this version, the sirens invade karaoke bars in Baltimore's nightlife, seduce men into horrid sexual malvesance, and make little demon-babies.  So, if you like demon-babies, Baltimore night life (which who does?), or classic lit, there are three reasons for you to purchase said book.  Need more?  Okay...

There is an underlying subtext to Josh Groban.  There also exists an underlying pop-culture for karoke and power ballads - one that I explored quite literally for years!  Karaoke Death Squad features a soundtrack that includes: Meat Loaf, Young MC, Divinyls, Gwen Stefani, Santana, Billy Joel, and Tony Orlando, among others.  Homer wishes he had as much to work with.

Okay, so it's going to be a matter of weeks before this thing goes live, right?  Let me whet your appetite.  S.G. Browne, author of Breathers and the bestselling Fated says: "Mays hits all the right notes".  And Greg Hall says something that cannot be repeated here.

Still need more?  Okay.  I have a story called "Nyuck Nyuck" in the Copeland Valley Sampler, which is now available via  It's a good story, biased as I am.  It's a Western, featuring the Three Stooges and Burl Ives.  PLUS, I've got a story emphasizing the evils of Celine Dion in the New Flesh.  It's a good time.

So I guess when all is said and done, all I need you to do is help a brother out.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Birthday Wishes and a Call for Help!

So, my Gemini roots will be celebrating in a matter of days.  Yes, it's that glorious time of year when I embrace the fact that I'm moving toward the elderly end of the spectrum (and a reminder that I've yet to find a pharmaceutical fountain of youth).  Okay, forget the flowery chatter - it's my birthday!

Last year at this time something glorious happened.  I found out that I was going to be published through Eraserhead Press.  In fact, recently, I sent a "commemorative" email to editor Kevin Donihe, just thanking him, once again, for the opportunity.  This year, as the day approaches, I've had "Naked Metamorphosis" out in print for 8 months.  8!  Can you believe that?  Well, it's true.

This time around, I'm not celebrating the fact that I will be published.  I'm celebrating the fact that I am published.  It's a glorious feeling.  And, this year, I really want your help.  A few people have done the obligatory: "What do you want for your birthday?"  My typical response is: "Just gather, drink, and have a grand ol' time."  This year I have an answer; I have an actual birthday wish.

My exodus from the womb occurred 9 days from now.  And between now and then (ah, hell, through the first two weeks of June), all I want for my birthday is to sell some books.  See, the goings been pretty slim here lately.  Why?  Well, as most of you know I've been working on "The Authors Speak" (, which is great.  Work's been good, but good translates to busy.  And, I've probably not been carrying the promotions torch as high as it should be held.  I've also been dreading sounding too whorish online, consistently begging people to buy a copy of my book.

These first two weeks of my birthday month, I am asking for help.  Please, if you've not purchased a copy of "Naked Metamorphosis, do so.  It's $10, and that's a heck of a low price for a gift (unless you're unemployed, which I totally understand).  You can purchase it at  Just use this link:  If you've already purchased a copy for yourself, perhaps considering purchasing a gift copy for someone, or buying a copy for your local library.  If you'd like it signed or personalized, let me know.  I'll cover your shipping.

If you have purchased a copy, but haven't posted an Amazon review, please help a brother out and post a review.  I assure you it's rare that I get so down in the dumps that I need to re-read every good word said about the book.  Reviews are just a great way to cultivate sales from unknowns.  It really, really helps.

If you've done one or both of the afforementioned steps, it would be huge just to recommend the book to someone.  Pestering works, too, though it is a way to annoy and ostracize those you know.  So, be gentle.  But make your point loud and clear...

Exciting things are happening.  Recently the book has made the rounds to many, many minds.  Some were eager to read it prior to its release (for a blurb) and are just now getting to it.  Some are new friends and acquaintences.  Mary Roach has a copy (supposedly to read when she travels to Italy next month).  James Morrow's read his copy on the train back from Floriday to State College.  There's an electronic copy with Stana Katic (the actress that plays Kate Beckett on "Castle").  It's out there.  It's been well received.  I just need a little extra push.

This time next year, I'd like to celebrate a new book.  With a push like this, I hope that will be possible.  Can you guys help make a birthday wish come true?

Thanks...and happy birthday to me.  Cake and ice cream served in the lounge.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flattery Works so Well (especially when it's friggin' awesome)!

David W. Barbee is a pretty cool cat!  Man!  We met when our respective books - "Carnageland" and "Naked Metamorphosis" - were released by Eraserhead Press.  I'd already read "Carnageland" at that point and dug it.  Plus Barbee was coming from Warner Robins, Georgia, not too far from where I went to college. 

Needless to say, Barbee is a wonderful guy.  He even survived the Georgian blizzard of '10.  And, I've been flattered that he's producing some very awesome art featuring some of the characters from "Naked Metamorphosis".  Ah.

Well, if you've read "Naked Metamorphosis" you know the deal: it imagines a classic piece of lit (in this case, "Hamlet") when it's twisted by other authors.  In my novella those other authors are Franz Kafka and William S. Burroughs.  Well, David Barbee just wanted in on that action.  So the continuation of both our stories describes what it would be like if Barbee got his hands on "Naked Metamorphosis" and his characters from "Carnageland" invaded.  Confused?  If you'd read the books you'd not be.  What?  You've not read them?  Well, then go get them.  No, now.  I'll wait.  Go ahead and put them in your shopping cart.  Hurry.

There, now you'll understand what's going on.

Well, I've been writing a very small and short chapbook featuring these characters as if they were in an NCAA-style bracket.  The first round is posted here on the blog.  The second is posted over at Barbee's blog:  When you go to David's site, just ignore the creepy Jar Jar Binks-like thing giving you judgmental eyes.  He he he.

But he's drawing some pretty amazing art!  I love it.  I dig it.  I'm flattered by it.  And it's got me thinking about artists in general.  The term "starving artist" is a cliched and overused term, even if it's not too far from reality.  So, if you dig the art and you want to help real, true authors out, go and pick up a copy of our books at Amazon.  If you don't dig the art, just keep your opinion to yourself.  Let's keep the art alive!  Keep artists producing art!