10 books

Posted: September 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

There’s a lovely little trend floating around Facebook these days asking people to post the titles of 10 books that have “stuck with them” over the years. They don’t have to be great works of literature, uplifting, or even quotable. They just have to stick out.

Well, here’s what sticks out for me:

Blade of Tyshalle – Matthew Stover

I really wanted to put the entire Caine series here, or at least the first book in the series, Heroes Die, but at the end of the day, it’s Blade of Tyshalle that really moved me. Caine is a badass, and the things he does in this novel–and in his other books–will have you cheering, but emotionally/spiritually, there’s no substitute for this novel. Stover takes his cockiest, heaviest hitter and makes him the underdog–and yet Caine doesn’t seem to notice.

The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

Truthfully, this book hasn’t been with me all that long, but when I read it, it changed everything I was looking for in fantasy literature. It’s my go-to example for world-building, magic, and mythology. You will digest it uncontrollably, like a fire, while simultaneously fearing it will end.

A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

The only book I’ve ever re-read. It is the quintessential YA adventure, and pulls no punches. With characters you actually care about and an adventure bordering on the metaphysical, Wrinkle is the one book that can start with “It was a dark and stormy night” and nobody will ever question it.

Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This book is a love song to books and mystery. Every page is like that feeling you get when you discover a really great used book store. To describe it in one word: lyrical. You’ll get it when you read it.

Revenge of the Sith – Matthew Stover

You didn’t think I was going to make this list without a Star Wars book, did you? Especially one written by one of my favorite authors of all time. Over the years, I’ve described this book as “written between the cracks” of the Episode III film. It’s really like Stover is writing around the events depicted in the film, filling in gaps, and doing more for the prequel characters in a few sentences than Lucas was able to do in any of the films. It also got me through a tough breakup and has the most hauntingly inspiring quotes you will ever highlight.

Vegas Knights – Matt Forbeck

Probably the most contemporary and recent read on this list, but Vegas Knights will always have a soft spot in my heart. I had more fun reading this book than anything I’ve ever read. It drops you right into the adventure and never looks back. So much fantasy seems to start about a thousand years before it needs to. It definitely inspired Coming of Mage and reminded me to write what I wanted to write, not go by a formula. I didn’t even know I wanted to write about wizards until I read this, then BAM! So imagine my thrill when Matt Forbeck wrote the blurb for Mage that’s proudly displayed on the back cover. Still unreal.

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Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card really nails emotion in all his books, but this is the first and only book that actually made me cry. ‘Nuff said.

Golden Compass – Philip Pullman

It took a YA book, which I read after college, to make me see the merit of analyzing symbols and metaphor in literature. This is truly a book to sink your teeth into. Depth like you wouldn’t believe. And, for being written by an atheist, made me weirdly spiritual.

Dragon of the Lost Sea – Laurence Yep

This book really unlocked my imagination. My 4th grade teacher read it to the class over the course of a couple weeks and something about the dragons in it really stuck with me. I’ve never been able to let go of dragons and find myself inserting them into almost everything I write. I have tons of unused concepts lying around in notebooks that have to do with dragons. It’s also got a villain that will make your skin crawl.

Fear Nothing – Dean Koontz

When I read this book, it jump-started my writing style. When I was reading Koontz and trying to mimic his incredibly readable style, I felt free. It was also the first thriller I ever read and really had my blood pumping. Christopher Snow is still one of my favorite protagonists of all time, and the rest of the characters really pop too. Koontz is the master, and don’t you ever forget it.

Honorable mentions: Mortal Coils, The Great Perhaps, Relic, Mamba Point, and My Teacher is an Alien.

I’m glad I got tagged to do this, so I’m going to keep it going and do some tagging of my own. Even if I don’t tag you, take a minute and think of the books that have really stuck with you, guided your decisions, inspired you, terrified you, or have never been absent from your bookshelf. What’s one book you can never let go off, mentally and physically?

In a fit of sugar-induced generosity, I received both books in the Jesse Sullivan series: the premiere Dying for a Living, and it’s soon-to-be-released follow-up Dying by the Hour, both written by the adorably feisty Kory M. Shrum. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I was in for something supernatural, but I purposely hadn’t read any blurbs. I was jumping in blind.

A few pages in, I realized a couple things:

1) I better pick my jaw up off the floor.

2) This wasn’t going to be like anything I’d read before.

I started with Dying for a Living (duh).

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Here’s the world we’re living in, folks: Necronites–sometimes derogatorily called ‘zombies’–are becoming more and more common. Afflicted with a disorder that won’t let them die, Necronites have adapted a smart business model: they’ll die for you. A federally-regulated bureau will use a psychic to predict the day of your death, assign you a death-replacement agent to monitor you, and then when the time comes, they’ll take your place when proverbial Death comes a-knockin’ and the universe is none the wiser.

Enter Jesse Sullivan, your snarky neighborhood protagonist and surprisingly-popular death-replacement agent. She’s smart, funny, sexy, harboring a dark past, and wears mismatched sneakers. Toss in a refreshing love triangle between her aptly-named personal assistant and landlord–Ally or Lane, which road should she choose?–and you have the makings of a killer series. The Afterlife and Times of a Death-Replacement Agent? I’d read it.

But that would’ve been too easy for Kory M. Shrum.

Instead, we meet Jesse Sullivan on the eve of her first death gone wrong. I mean really wrong. One minute she’s monitoring her latest client, the next minute she’s got a sobbing prostitute on top of her, slitting her throat–and, as you can guess, that’s the one death a Necronite can’t come back from.

From there, the already intriguing storyline shifts into high gear. An endless, twisty highway of crime, conspiracy, murder, betrayal, insanity, and doubt finds Jesse on the run from just about everyone, ranging from the Church to her employer, the FBRD.

This isn’t just a spin on the genre, it’s a cyclone, coming to a head in a scenario masterminded to scare a person that doesn’t even fear death.

In a world where sappy, dystopian, supernatural “thrillers” with flakey female leads are a dime a dozen, Dying for a Living stands out as an honest breath of fresh air. Exhausted with the status quo in this genre? This book will be a dose of adrenaline right to your heart.

Of course, I then read Dying by the Hour. Total gamechanger.

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How to I put this lightly? Umm…holy shit!

Dying by the Hour is everything a great sequel should be: darker, thought-provoking, and ever expanding the characters and world to which we’ve been introduced. And, much like her protagonist, Shrum pulls no punches.

We catch up with Jesse a year later, trying to put the troubling events of the first novel behind her. She’s still in the same line of work, still surrounded by the same friends she actually trusts, but in a lot of ways, she’s still searching for answers.

What happened to Caldwell?

Who is he, and what does he really want?

And why is Jesse’s memory so fuzzy?

Little does she know she’s on a collision course with those answers and more. Maybe too many more, as she goes deeper into the dark side of death-replacement, the Unified Church, and her own psyche.

But Jesse isn’t the only one telling the tale here. Dying by the Hour gives fans another narrator: Jesse’s best friend/personal assistant/sometimes love interest Ally gets her turn at telling her half of the story. If you read the first book, you know Ally is an instant staple. Beautiful, intelligent, and charming, Ally is the perfect yin to Jesse’s yang. Whereas Jesse is all spitfire shock, Ally is thoughtful and wildly resourceful. From page one of the first book, you’re drawn to the very likeable Ally, so getting her perspective this time around is a real treat for fans. But it’s more than just a writing gimmick–Ally has secrets of her own she’s been keeping from Jesse.

Dying by the Hour also gives the series a shot of Vitamin P, as in present tense. Not only does this style lend itself to the detective noir thing the first book had going on, but it also takes away the safety net of knowing what’s going to happen to the characters. Every step, every corner, every surprise is experienced in real time by both reader and character alike.

This is especially potent when Jesse goes missing…

With new characters, new answers, new questions, and even some new abilities, Dying by the Hour does not do wrong by its predecessor. Everything you liked about Dying for a Living is back and taken to the next level. The stakes are higher, the action is more intense…and the sex scenes are just a little sexier.

Dying for a Living is available now–and on sale on KindleDying by the Hour‘s official release date is September 2nd, but it’s up for pre-order on the Kindle here.

For more info on the awesome author, check out Kory M. Shrum’s Twitter, Facebook, and blog.

Emotions were running high for me this weekend because A) it’s me and B) beer was involved. I know what you’re thinking: sounds like breakfast as usual. Very funny. But this was far more epic than breakfast.

It was the weekend after the 4th of July which meant it was the Hopped Up Caribou Beer Festival in Lutsen, MN which, in turn, meant the beer was flowing like those infamous runoff waterfalls all along Highway 61.

For those of you out of the loop, let me see if I can sum this up: imagine your weekend starting with a Friday night mixer, imbibing craft beers with the brewers themselves, while munching on a menu of beer-inspired appetizers and desserts. Then you roll outta bed Saturday morning to find a hearty breakfast buffet complete with bottomless Bloody Marys. That’s just the ‘preliminaries’–the big show starts at 3 p.m. The band starts playing, the burgers and brats hit the grill, and brewers from all around Minnesota and the rest of the Midwest start filling your commemorative glass with craft brews, both classic favorites and festival exclusives.

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We call that the “Full Barrel” package, ladies and gentlemen. And it sells out faster than a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert. Why? Because Minnesotans know craft beer is a good investment.

I’ve been to all four of these things, and they just keep getting better. As a pessimist, that’s really hard for me to say. But, honestly, every year of Hopped Up has been a big upgrade, streamlining beer intake for hundreds of North Shorriors, both local and honorary.

I always start the day working. It’s my biggest bartending gig of the year–the Bloody Mary Breakfast Buffet. My restaurant, Moguls, already has a killer Bloody Mary; a chef’s secret recipe mix coupled with our infused vodka, soaked through with fresh peppers, onions, garlic, and a slew of other ingredients to give it an extra kick. Throw in a spread of gourmet garnishes–like tequila-lime jalapenos and red-wine-sun-dried-tomato baby corn–made by yours truly and you’ve got a breakfast of champions. Also there’s eggs and stuff there, or whatever.

It’s an invigorating morning that gets me pumped. People love the guy pouring the vodka. And, as a bonus, I got my Lesli back this year. This Peruvian princess and I used to the be the backbone of any wedding and banquet that passed through the Lodge. Even though she sold out and moved to the Cities, I won’t hold it against her.

Been a couple years since the Dream Team tackled a banquet, but we got right back into the swing of things.

Been a couple years since the Dream Team tackled a banquet, but we got right back into the swing of things.

After the breakfast, I continue to “work” but that definition gets a little loose. Yes, I tear down, clean up, and move tables like a pro, but there’s only one thought on my mind–what’s a guy gotta do to get outta here and attend that sweet, sweet beer festival?!

This is the one day a year I’m an angel. Everything by the book. Santa’s coming and I gotta be a good boy if I want him to bring me endless pours of craft beer. Because once I get that first sip, every groan, ache, pain, and “lift from the knees!” is worth it.

All the rockstars of the brewing world were in place–Fitgers, Town Hall, Summit, and South Shore, to name just a few–along with some of the newer recruits like Third Street, and, for the first time, the very in-demand gang from Bent Paddle.

Fitger’s brought a rhubarb version of their 2-time-winning Hopped Up Favorite Apricot Wheat. Third Street infused their Rise to the Top Cream Ale with raspberries and vanilla for a “Raspberry Cream Pie” effect. Bent Paddle brought a cold-press-infused ale usually only available in their taproom to compete with Surly‘s classic Coffee Bender. Schell’s debuted a hoppy lager not even on the market yet.

And while it was fun to try special versions of my favorite beers, it was also exciting to try the fare of some of the breweries I never get a chance to visit, like St. Croix Brewing Company, with their cask-aged ale that’s a real gamechanger. Or Boathouse, out of Ely, who usually takes a placing with their delicious Blueberry Blonde, but I found their Off-Kilter Scottish Wee Heavy to not only be the best of their taps, but the best of the whole damn beer festival! Must. Get. A. Growler.

*Check out the full list of brewers here.

It was truly Beer Heaven. Sip by sip, as I made my way through the handy-dandy checklist, chatting with the real brewers–not some marketing rep that’s pushing product–I started to realize the level of camaraderie between midwestern brewers. It feels as much like a family reunion as it does a concert of all your favorite bands. And even though we hand out an award for favorite beer after all the votes are tallied, there’s no saltiness. No bad blood. Because–at the worst–everyone, brewer and drinker alike, still got to spend the weekend up north, doing what they do best.

Speaking of, this year Hopped Up was proud to give that illustrious tap handle trophy to one of the oldest microbreweries in Duluth, Lake Superior Brewing, for their tasty, citrusy, perfect-for-a-summer-day Rusty Nut Radler.

For the people, by the people, baby!

It was a good weekend. Not just because of the beer, but because of all the familiar faces that it brought home. Not only does beer taste good, it does good too.

The party lives on: #hoppedupcaribou

summer thaw

Posted: May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

Is this thing still here? Wow.
Seven months since my last post. Which was a birthday post, so…guess I’m almost 31. Double wow.
It was a busy winter, to say the least. Not for writing, or anything creative, but for the ski resort restaurant that keeps me busy. I get wrapped up in the ebb and flow of the drama every season, forgetting I’m a writer. This usually the time of year where I ‘quit’ writing. Forever.
For seven months.
This season was no exception, although it definitely felt more permanent than usual. Even when I ‘quit’ writing, I still usually write something. A Facebook status at the very least. I could count this winter’s statuses on my hand.
So, yeah, it was a rough winter. I hear there was also weather.
A lot has changed since my last post. Nearly all my friends/family/coworkers have quit the restaurant and moved on. Everywhere I look is a new face. In a secluded neck of the woods like I reside, you don’t realize how close knit you are with your coworkers. I rarely hung out with any of them outside of work, but now…the option doesn’t even exist. In a way–a very dramatic, absolutist way–it’s like the last few years of my life have been erased.
They say you should never go into business with family, but I think it’s for moments like this. I don’t care how amicable it was, it’s still too damn quiet around here.
But, there is a thaw happening. Both physically and metaphorically. The inspiration is coming back. The desire to create. The desire to even learn new forms is there.
For example, I’m about 2/3 completed on a screenplay. That’s a new one for me, and a gear I’d like to permanently shift.
I’ve also been stepping up my ‘art mode.’ Aspirations of getting a WACOM tablet and interning at Hasbro are dancing in my head. Even contacted my alma mater about furthering my education.
But I guess the lesson is the same every season: Writing is a muscle. Gotta flex it.

2013 in review

Posted: December 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,600 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 60 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

30 ain’t exactly a peach

Posted: November 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

This isn’t a Writer’s Block, it’s a Writer’s Fortress covered in barbed wire and turrets with missile launchers. And it’s on the other side of a moat. And a desert. And a minefield.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last Wednesday–the day before my 30th birthday–I opened up my current writing project to find 3 pages missing. 3 pages. 3 pages that took nearly 6 hours to write. Nothing crucial, or so I thought.

The pages hadn’t saved, even though I saved and double-saved them. Not only were they gone, but it’s like they never existed. My computer claimed I hadn’t touched the file for days, which I knew to be untrue.

I know I wrote those pages. But, apparently, I have no way to prove it.

Whatever, I told myself. I’ll deal with it after I’m 30. I moved on with my day, partied hardy for my b-day, read, watched The Office, did everything to clear my head and get positive. Come back to the whole thing with a fresh outlook.

I have been trying to ‘deal with it’ for 3 days now. I have rewritten and re-rewritten this scene and it’s not coming out the way it was. Which I thought I could accept. Everybody remembers that moment in college when they didn’t save an essay and had to rewrite it on the fly. Somehow it always came out shorter, didn’t it? Just a paraphrase of all those great ideas you had in the original, just enough to get it turned in on time.

Like I said, I thought I could accept that. I told myself a billion times it’s never going to be the same.

I never thought it would completely derail me like this.

I go to the coffee shop and stare at an empty word document for an hour before going home. In the morning, I lay in bed and replay the sentences, the turns of phrase, in my head. I have all the pieces, I just for the life of me can’t remember how the puzzle goes together.

It’s heartbreaking. I feel like I had this really delicate ornament, one of a kind, and I dropped it from the Space Needle. And now I need to replace it before I can move on with my writing career.

I realize I sound like the world’s biggest diapey baby. It’s just a scene. It’s three f**king pages. Get it together. But it starts to get existential. This isn’t the first time this has happened. I seem to lose a crucial chunk of every story I get really into. The thing that keeps me up at night is it a ‘higher power’ issue–something cosmic or fated that says I can’t finish a book? Or is it worse? Is my subconscious keeping me from succeeding? Deep down do I want to be a failure for the rest of my life so my goddamn hand didn’t click save?

Am I not meant to be a writer?

It’s scary where the mind goes. The leaps it takes. But this is where I’m at. The characters sicken me, the plot makes me roll my eyes. I…I just don’t care all of a sudden. And I want to. I want desperately to want to give a shit again. I pray every night that I’ll wake up so motivated that a tank couldn’t stop me from writing. But it certainly hasn’t happened the last few days. I wrote 3 paragraphs in 3 days, and deleted the whole thing. I moved onto the next chapter and got 3 sentences deep before writing this blog.

How? How do I beat this? Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing–that’s the usual equation. Keep at’er and eventually the training wheels will fly off and you’ll just be pedaling on your own. But everyday it just feels so forced. Like I’m writing with a pen that’s out of ink, but I still need to make the words show up.

Have I forgotten how to ride the bike?

This is how it goes, right? Irony. I have all the time in the world to write right now. I’m on Day 3 of a 4-day break from work, something I’ve begged the Universe for. I was going to get so much done. I have 3 f**king sentences. Pretty soon I’ll be back to work 5 6 7 8 days a week and I’ll have all these great ideas and no time. It’s a cruel joke, man.

Or is it a sign to give up?

And then one day, the boy woke up and thought, My God…I’m 30.

30. 30. Tomorrow, I’m going to be 30.

Stories aside, that might be the scariest thing I’ve ever written.  Today is the last day of my 20s.

In years past, I’ve done a reflection On My Last Day of Being such-and-such age. Sort of a time capsule of where I was at that point in my life. There wasn’t much difference between them–reading the same books, watching the same movies, eating the same pizza–but that’s usually how it goes, isn’t it? Day to day, year to year feels like a lateral move, not getting older.

But 30? That’s a milestone, man. A major highway marker on the road of life. People younger than you give you that Wow-You’re-Old look, and people older than you give you that You’re-Supposed-to-be-an-Adult look.

When I was young, 30 seemed ancient. In the Wild West, it was ancient. You were weathered at 30. Seasoned. Seen it all.

Now…I don’t know. 30 is still young, isn’t it? Maybe. But that number still whispers things to me.

You’re not going back to college.

You need a real job.

You don’t want to be a server at 30, do you?

Get your act together.

How’s your savings account looking?

Now that I think about it, 30 sounds a lot like my dad. I was 5 when he was 30. He worked a tough job everyday, and so did his wife, so they could pay for their house and son.

Last week I decided I was going to buy myself the Star Wars saga on Blu Ray. Then I checked my bank account. I decided to pay my rent instead, and have some pizza and beer with my girlfriend.

To be fair, it was really good pizza.

A couple days ago, I read Joe Meno’s The Great Perhaps. It was about one month in a family’s life where things seem like they might fall apart. Near the end of the book, Jonathan, the father, says:

Did you ever think, when you were younger, that your life would be so hard? Didn’t you think things would make sense? That it would somehow be easier the older you got?

It’s just sometimes hard to get a hold on everything. Do you know what I mean? It’s like a million things all coming at you. It’s hard to know where to look sometimes.

There’s a reason I don’t usually read the realistic existential fiction stuff. But Joe Meno is easily one of the greatest writers on the planet right now. He will flip your switch.

But, after that one, it’s back to wizard books for me.  I made it a point to start reading Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear before my birthday, since it was my birthday present last year. It’s a sequel and everyone waited years and years for it. Then I get it for a present and I nearly put off reading it for an entire year. “Put off” isn’t the right term. Saving it, like the plates you have for when the president comes to dinner. Or that bottle of wine for when you get your next book deal.

29 wasn’t the worst year of my life, by far. (That was 2009, if I’m not mistaken.) I became a published author. I started (and ended) a podcast. I moved into a great apartment with a very wonderful–and very understanding–girlfriend. I started eating kale. I put together a resume I’m actually proud of. I submitted another manuscript to a publisher. I kept up on my blog (3 of’em, if you want to get technical). I paid my bills on time. I took my dad to the State Fair. I saw him and my grandma more times than I have in any other year. I did my laundry and paid my taxes.

Tomorrow, I’ll be having a nice dinner and some Irish Car Bombs. My hair’s thinner and I definitely need glasses. I find myself muttering I’m too old for this shit more often. My reliance on coffee is at an all-time high (and I actually like the taste of it). I doublethink everything I write. Or, more specifically, ask myself should I have written it. Should I write this? Should I write this?

Should I write?

So…I’m 30. Tomorrow. I’m older, not old. I wonder if there is such a thing.

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dehalloweenification

Posted: November 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

November 1st. All Hallows. Arguably spookier than its eve.

Meh, not really. That’s something I delude myself into thinking so that I can try to stretch out the magic of Halloween, but it never really works. My friend and I used to get up early to see if we could see any spirits returning to their graves after a late night out, but this morning I just slept in.

There is a sort of gloomy funk that settles in the day after Halloween. You take down the decorations. You put away your copy of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. You look at the leftover candy bowl, gulp loudly, and think, Uh-oh.

It’s the Dehalloweenification Process. Happens every year. But this year I can’t really complain. I had a pretty fulfilling October.

For starters, Kate got the decorations up right on the 1st, so I had an entire month of eerie, all-out Halloween decor.

I gorged myself on pumpkin-everything, as planned. Check, check, and double-check!

Probably for the first time ever I watched ALL the Halloween movies I wanted to watch–

  • ParaNorman
  • Frankenweenie
  • Hocus Pocus
  • It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  • The American Scream
  • Spooky Buddies
  • Trick’r Treat (a Halloween night tradition)

–not to mention I watched all The Office Halloween specials, a good chunk of Supernatural, and a little Long Island Medium, just for a good cry. Plus as I cooked Halloween dinner, I caught up on The Goldbergs‘ Halloween episode. That show is perfect.

What was Halloween dinner you ask? Spooky tacos, of course. I did spooky pizzas last year, but…I really wanted tacos. What made them spooky? Well, nothing really, although I was a little disturbed at how few leftovers there were.

Dinner ended up a little cold as Kate and I put our last-second decorations. The excitement that we might actually have Trick-or-Treaters this year really caught fire. Last year, we were out in the middle of nowhere. No Trick-or-Treaters…no ‘neighborhood’ for that matter.

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So although the grub wasn’t piping hot, and Trick’r Treat was being constantly interrupted by our just-delivered-in-time wireless doorbell, it was nice to actually hand out candy to costumed kids. Hadn’t done that in years. If I haven’t made it clear: I love living in town.

Grand Marais really comes alive for Halloween. Initially, the town seemed devoid of decor, but out of nowhere, the town was little up with creepy displays. Screams and giggles echoed all through the neighborhood.

After the movie concluded, we hightailed it down to the Fosters’ Mustache Bash for some healthy snacks, a lot of laughs, and an…interesting photo shoot.

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No comment.

Then I did something I haven’t done on Halloween ever. I went to the pub for a pint. Between having to work, not having the funds, or living too far away, that was something I’ve never been able to do. And even though it wasn’t the 1920s speakeasy of costumes and debauchery I expected it was, it was nice to cram another tradition into the last hour of Halloween.

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Long story short, the Dehalloweenification isn’t as as bitter this year. I tackled all my old traditions, and started some new ones. I spent it with people. I spent it on the North Shore. I spent it alive.

So, I guess the only really scary thing about November 1st is that I’ll be 30 in less than a week.

:/ 

Hell is: dreaming the real-time plot of a fifth Indiana Jones film (Starring both Harrison Ford and  Morgan Freeman) only to be woken up by your significant other’s tooth grinding. Grrrrrrrrr………..

So what am I doing up before 7 a.m. you ask?  Why, I’m outlining the movie of course. Luckily I have an outlet for these creative impulses. I knew I started this blog for a reason!

So, here we go.  My “treatment” for…

Indiana_Jones_logo

[working title]

Ext–Day–Australia, circa 1900ish

We open on a strange missionary church, built into cliffs along the ocean. This is Australia at the turn of the century. Inside the church, three missionaries–two women and a man–are unpacking boxes and making themselves at home in this rudimentary building. Lizards, snakes, large spiders; pretty much every poisonous denizen of Australia has come out to welcome the settlers.  As they try to clear the church of cobwebs and creatures, one of the women comes across a ragged doll with a bronze head. Thinking it may be worth something (and therefore required to be put into a fund for the church) she sets it aside for her next trip to town. The man, with a dubious look, snatches the doll, tears off the head, and examines it later under the scrutiny of candlelight.

The head is really a skull (like a Mayan version of C-3PO) and seems to whisper to the man. He pulls out a piece of parchment containing the name of a ship, a time, a strange brand, and directions to where the ship is docked. He takes leave of the church and dashes along the cliffs as stormy waters crash below, but not before he is discovered by one of the women.  She wakes the other and they both go after him.

The terrain becomes more treacherous, the waves more angry. Thunder rumbles in the distance. Desperate, the man ascends a steep rockface with the women on his tail. He is close to his rendezvous with the ship. As he reaches the last ledge, the skull starts to whisper to him. He takes it from his pocket. The women scream his name. The whispers grow louder. With a solemn nod to the tiny skull, he pockets the relic, takes a deep breath, and lets go of the ledge. In his fall, he clips the women, bringing all three of them to their doom.

Did they fall into the ocean? No. As the camera pulls away, lightning crashes, igniting a small island where their crumpled bodies landed. An island that looks oddly like the tiny skull…

Present Day–well, 1962–INT: Australian Pub

We find Henry “Mutt” Williams bellied up to the bar with his pal, Jesse.  Who’s Mutt you ask? Oh, come on. It’s Shia LaBeouf’s character from Crystal Skull, aka Indy’s illegitimate son. Sheesh.

SHIA_468x686

This will be the biggest obstacle in getting this movie made. We’ve all heard Shia’s little tirade badmouthing Crystal Skull and how Harrison told him to shut his mouth. But if IJ5 is going to happen, we have to work with the source material, which means bringing back Indy’s son. Granted, he’s a little older, wiser, and hopefully going by “Henry” or at least “Hank” by now.

Seems Henry/Hank/Mutt has followed in his old man’s footsteps and is now a grad student externing in the field of archaeology, which is why he finds himself in Australia having a drink with his new pal, Jesse, a local also involved in a prestigious program.

(For the record, I think Jesse should be played by Bruno Mars.)

Singer Bruno Mars poses in the press roo

Okay, so the two boys have had a few and are trying to work up the courage to approach one of their fellow students–the very blond, very sexy Cara Inglebrook (who happens to be a bit of a Brit, doesn’t she? Brilliant! Unless you get me Rachael Taylor, then we’ll make her a local too).

After a few more rounds of boy talk, and Jesse saying, “If you don’t go, I will,” Mutt is finally feeling brave enough to approach Cara. He uses that inherent Jones charm to win Cara over, but neglects to tell her who he is–or rather, who is father is. Mostly because through talking to Cara, he finds out she is wildly intelligent, passionate about archaeology…and totally obsessed with the legendary Dr. Jones to the point where she bites her lower lip whenever he’s mentioned.

Cara and Mutt head back to the student housing. The student dormitories are built into the same cliffs as the old church, though nothing remains of the missionaries or their brief home. On the way back, they see something glinting in the moonlight beneath the water. Hoping to impress Cara, Mutt dives in to retrieve the metallic object. It’s a tiny bronze skull. He brings it up, gives it to Cara, and she brings him back to her place to dry his clothes and offer him a nightcap. While in her room, Mutt realizes how obsessed she is with the little relic, hoping its discovery will escalate her career. She elaborates about how much she wants to be a famous archaeologist like the Indiana Jones, how he inspired her, blah blah blah blah….

While Cara fetches his newly dried clothes, Mutt fingers the skull. He isn’t too impressed with it, nor does he recognize its origin. He squints at it, begins to hear a sound like a whisper, then quickly pockets it as Cara returns.

His plan? Make some imprints of the skull, send them to his father, let him solve the mystery of its origin, and use the factoid to impress Cara with his archaeological knowledge–without letting her know that he literally “got it from his old man.”

The next day, Mutt makes the relative notes and imprints and addresses them to Dr. Henry Jones, care of the University of California-Berkeley. Before he heads to the post office, Cara calls him. She sounds worried, she’s made a discovery about the tiny skull, only to find out that it’s missing! Feeling guilty and not wanting to ruin things with Cara over petty theft, he agrees to meet Cara at the pub where he’ll return the skull and explain the whole thing–including coming clean about who his dad really is.

When he gets to the pub, Mutt finds Cara being dragged into the back of a car. Seeing Mutt approach, she smartly codes her desperate pleas, not letting her assailants know that she’s actually giving Mutt secret instructions not to try anything and just run.

Mutt fights his fighter instincts. Cara is taken with a black bag cinched over her head.

Angry, scared, but not without his wits, Mutt first continues to the post office before he moves on to planning Cara’s rescue. But instead of just mailing the notes, he mails the whole bronze skull to his father.

Nearly back to the dormitories, right around the pub where Cara was nabbed, a frantic Mutt runs into Jesse. Mutt tries to explain what’s happening, but is not sure himself. He sounds like a demented conspiracy theorist. Jesse tries to calm his friend down with soothing tones. Mutt finally does calm down, takes a deep breath, and looks down the street to the post office. Then stares helplessly down the alley where Cara was kidnapped.

That’s when Jesse produces a black bag and cinches it over Mutt’s head with a furious grin.

Fade to black.

University of California, Berkeley–1962

Finally, we get to our titular character: Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones is now a tenured professor at UC-Berkeley. We see that he is surprisingly content in the role of “aging mentor.” His wild oats sowed, Dr. Jones new adventures are in the classroom, in the hallways, in chair meetings, and in his office in the Dept. of Archaeology. We see him in said office, finishing up advising a student. As the student leaves, he asks the professor about the dying nature of the industry, the fact that archaeology as Dr. Jones knows it is falling to the wayside. All the treasures have been discovered, all the temples have been mapped–what role could archaeology possibly play in the future?

Dr. Jones response is cut short by a snide answer from Dr. Elijah Hodges (enter Morgan Freeman), a fellow professor of Archaeology who explains that “if what Dr. Jones does can be called archaeology, then the field has been in trouble for a long, long time.”

As Jones grits his teeth in classic Harrison Ford fashion, he reaches for his desk drawer, revealing a glimpse of his infamous whip. He decides against a fight. All the while Hodges elaborates on the future of archaeology lying in technology, and “archaeologists” like Dr. Jones will just have to hang up their proverbial hat–or fedora?–and take their proper place in history books.

In this moment, we see Indy’s new arena: soviets and Nazis aside, Hodges and the politics of the department are Indy’s new enemy.

The student exits and the showdown between Hodges and Jones is cut short by Hodges explaining he just dropped by because some of Dr. Jones’ mail wound up in the wrong box. Hodges produces the package sent hastily by Mutt. Though no return address, it has clearly been opened.

Jones glares at Hodges.

Hodges says, “Oops.”

The argument reignites, but is quickly doused by Hodges telling Jones to just have a look at what’s inside. Jones examines the tiny bronze skull, turning it over in his hands. He rubs his thumb in a small notch at its base.

Hodges goes on: “The craftsmanship–the bronze–doesn’t fit the origin.”

Jones: “What’s the origin?”

Hodges: “Oceanic Aboriginal.”

Hodges’ career emphasis. How convenient. Annoyed, Jones digs out the notes Mutt included in the package, and for the first time he realizes it’s from his son. He reads over the basic notes and diagrams, then notices something strange written at the bottom of the page in a different ink and in a shakier handwriting.

Please hurry.

This is unusual. Jones’ relationship with his son has been strained to say the least–what could possibly warrant a message like that? Jones dismisses Hodges, and makes some phone calls, finally learning that his son is studying archaeology in Australia. He tries to make the arrangements for the trip, but finds that between his duties and his dry funds, he cannot make it happen.

Enter Hodges (again). We learn that the rivalry between the two stems from a grant that Jones recently lost to Hodges. A grant that Hodges agrees to split with Jones if he’ll take him with to Australia to uncover the mystery of the tiny skull. Jones feels like it’s a slap in the face, but finds it the only way to discover what is going on with his son.

Dr. Jones agrees to Hodges’ terms and becomes Indy once again.

Queue the music, show the plane with the red trail spanning the ocean, and bam! There’s your intro for a new Indy flick.

Yada, yada, yada. Fill in the blanks.

Indy and Hodges play off each other charmingly, reminiscent of Ford and Connery in Indy III, or the infamous Willis/Jackson team-up in third Die Hard. Their search for clues surrounding the skull takes place in the relatively small city of Port Hedland, gloomy and dreary, and is more detective-like than Indy’s previous adventures. But there is no shortage of danger, gunplay, and car chases–especially as Indy realizes his son has been kidnapped. All the clues point to a city completely owned by a mysterious corporation known as Cold Core. Everything from meatpacking to the cab services seems to be a division of Cold Core Inc, led by a handsome entrepreneur. We’ll call him Devlin.

(And, if you’ve been paying attention, the Cold Core insignia is strangely reminiscent of a certain emblem scrawled on a piece of parchment shown earlier in the film.)

The gist? The little bronze skull is a key, so to speak. It is part of a larger device–located among the ruins of the coast–that mills human bone into powder. It is an ancient machine for human sacrificing, used for centuries by early aborigines, although its true origin is unknown. What’s so special about the temple-sized machine, besides its mysterious origin? Maybe nothing.

But the belief is that a series of crystals and prisms seals the spirit of the sacrifice into the bones as the body is processed. Thus, the bone meal produced is the essence of life, and can be ingested by others to ensure power, stamina, and near immortality.

And, as we all know, with immortality comes great wealth.

How does Devlin fit in? Well, even though the device was used for centuries by the aborigines, the Bone Mill was taken over by the first British convicts brought to Australia in the 1700s. Why? To gain power over the primal aborigines there, giving them the chance to thrive, and colonize the wilds of Oceania.

Of course, the key to the device–the skull–was lost for centuries.

Perhaps the spirits want the device lost to the white man.  Could that be why all the self-sacrificing whispers lead to its hiding? Hmmm.

Devlin, however, doesn’t have time for all that superstition. He is a descendant of the original convicts and desperately wants to utilize the device for gain over the “contemporary savages,” ie, the rise in businesses owned and operated by aboriginal descendants that have become more popular with Aussies in recent years.

Long story short, it’s all a trap.

Devlin–and his young apprentice, Jesse–have devised a plan. Not to discover the skull, of course–they already found that. They just had to plant it where a certain thick-headed son would find it so that a certain famous father would get involved. And with the surprise involvement of Dr. Hodges, Devlin now has two of the most brilliant archaeologists in the world working towards finding the long lost location of the Bone Mill.

The deal? Jones and Hodges find the Mill and Devlin spares his hostages: Mutt and Cara.

The mystery, the search, and the deception all bottlenecks at the Bone Mill temple, an ancient system of gears and cogs that has been activated by Devlin. His first sacrifices? Mutt and Cara. Why make good on his word when he can try out his new toy instantly? While the device has been initiated, Devlin must still reach a point at the top of the Mill in order to activate the crystals and prisms. The final lever, so to speak, which also needs the tiny skull key.

So as Indy races Devlin to the top, via a series of swashbuckling ups and downs, Hodges tries to convince Jesse to turn against his boss. Yes, Hodges knows Jesse shares aboriginal blood and deep down, he knows the young man doesn’t want to see Devlin rise to the top of his people using the ways meant for his ancestors. Plus, you know, human sacrifices are just wrong, dude.

Jesse is convinced, frees Mutt and Cara and intercepts Devlin at the top, seizing the skull and knocking Devlin out cold. Time to escape. But Jesse turns back, intending to throw the proverbial switch anyway.

What?!

Jesse apologizes, and warns the others they better start running.  Indy, Hodges, Mutt, and Cara do exactly that.

That last we see of Jesse is him staring at the skull with a solemn nod. He hears the whispers too. Instead of attaching the skull to the lever that aligns the crystals and prisms, he attaches it to a different lever–the self destruct, if you will. The whole place is comin’ down.

Now the escape has really become an escape, as the others struggle to leave the temple alive.

They do of course, and all is well. Including the estranged relationship between Indy and Mutt. But so many questions remain, including who built the strange device so far ahead of its time.

Who are the real Guardians of the Bone Mill?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

And more importantly, why do I dream in full movie plots?!

Obviously, this isn’t a real project (as much was we all want it to be) and all rights belong to Paramount. Or Lucasfilm. Or Disney. Just not me. Somebody else. I was just dabbling in their world.

But, Mr. Spielberg? Mr. Lucas? I’m more than willing to throw you a bone on this one.

What do you think, Indy fans?

a halloween warm-up

Posted: October 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

Fwoooooooooooooo!

That was me dusting off this blog. Sheesh, you think you just worked on this thing yesterday and it turns out the last thing you wrote about was the State Fair and how hot it was?! Pathetic.

In my defense, I’ve been busy. This month has been busier than any this whole summer at my restaurant, thanks in no small part to the North Shore’s beautiful fall colors–and the fact that they actually stuck around this year. In years past, I would joke about the “leaf lookers” but this year they were a blessing. After a summer of monstrous families sweeping through the restaurant like a hurricane onto the next activity, it’s nice to serve people that are so relaxed sometimes I’m not sure they’re still breathing. But then they order another glass of wine and we’re back in business!

When I wasn’t serving my pants off–that…didn’t come out right–I was polishing up a piece for submission to Strange Chemistry.

It’s been tough, man. Fun and tough. From a purely technical standpoint, I’ve been combatting this habit I have of putting two spaces after a period. When did that become a thing anyway? As far as content, this story, in its complexity, is pretty far out of my wheelhouse. Whereas Mage was so far in my wheelhouse, it was scary.

Except that it’s about dragons. And I know dragons. But the third-person perspective, the alternating character POVs, and the setup/knockdown twists that are staples of mystery writing take time to navigate.

Oh, yeah, it’s a mystery, by the way. And a thriller. And a comedy. And urban fantasy. With dragons. About college. And loss. And sex.

Try to make a tagline for that one, right?

But, anyway, I got it submitted in time. And then this email came back:

email

 

And all of a sudden it was real. Really real. No more proofreads, no more touch-ups. If it’s not perfect, it’s game over. And if it is…well, then, I gotta cough up a full manuscript. Gamechanger.

So cross all your fingers, send good vibes, use the Force…whatever it takes. This is the big one, folks.

Long story short: all that writing, coupled with business, multiplied by my need to ‘get off the grid’ a bit took me out of the blog game.

Then something brought me back.

As I walked down to the coffee shop today, a crisp chill bit at my neck, causing me to tighten up my hood. Parched, yellow leaves skittered across the street, following me like an army of spider legs. A house groaned in the wind.

15951_642000204841_5454645_nIt’s October, baby! The greatest month of the whole year. All spooky, all the time–leading up to the greatest holiday of the year, Halloween. Even without presents, it still takes the proverbial cake. I remember the thrill of trick-or-treating around my hometown, visiting the haunted house that my 4th grade teacher would put up every year, and racing back home so that I could still hand out some candy at my grandparents’ place.

By the way, everyone should watch The American Scream on Netflix. If you’re not in Halloween mode yet, you will be after this.

Anyway, what a realized is that I haven’t been going as Grapenuts about this season as I have in years prior. For example, I usually get it in my head to write a scary Halloween story, walk around outlining it in my head, then never get around to it. This year I toyed with the idea of a “blog anthology” where all my favorite writer pals would spend the month crafting a short story that takes place on Halloween night, with my blog serving as the index.

Remind me that’s an awesome idea next year around the end of September, will you?

(PS, Writer Pals, I’m still game if you are. A li’l flash fiction action? Just sayin’!)

In a pinch, I suppose I do have my spookiest tale available online. If you haven’t read my novella The Plate in the Attic, this is a great time of year. Plus, your Kindle screen will act as a nightlight if when you get scared!

Another thing that jarred my October instincts, was working on my other blog–Oh yeah, I guess I was busy with that tooVoice of the Mountain. Last week, I wrote about all the best pumpkin-flavored things.

OHMIGOD I LOVE PUMPKIN!!1! I just spend October bingeing on pumpkin stuff to dangerous levels, then I spend 11 months trying to avoid the sight of it. It’s my greatest tradition.

This week, however, no more fun, games, treatsies, cakesies, or piesies. This week, on VotM, I’ll be turning the spooky dial up to 11. I’ve been collecting local stories of ghosts. As in, from the locals. These ain’t no souvenir t-shirt ghosts either. These are the real-deal-from-the-horse’s-mouth tales of bizarre supernatural goings-on.

I’m pumped. These are my roots, man. Ghost hunting, paranormal investigation. My true calling. Next week marks the 8th anniversary of the infamous Haunted Hall Stakeout where my best buds and I spent the night in the supposedly haunted building on campus to report our findings for an epic story for the college newspaper.

And to paraphrase Kell’s ominous phone call to his girlfriend that night: we got results.

It feels a little like destiny that Kell is visiting the North Shore this weekend, especially since I have my sights set on a new haunted building here in town. Perhaps a paranormal reunion is in order?

So that’s what I’ve got on my plate. What’s on yours? Any Halloween traditions you’re gearing up for? Movies you just have to watch? What is it you people do?!?!

:)