REAPER– Resource Exploration And Procurement Engineer Regiment
Welcome Citizen, to a new life of adventure, including meal plan and hazard pay! Because Grotto Corporation is heavily invested in exploration and military ventures there is always a place for stalwart citizens, twenty-five standard years or younger, willing to risk life and limb for incredible wages and a sense of accomplishment.
As a REAPER, your primary function will be to serve as foot soldiers and salvage specialists for militarized expeditions into regions of both mapped and unmapped space in search of raw materials ready to be exploited.
To claim or re-claim machinery, equipment, and building materials from former battlefields, space hulks, and otherwise abandoned facilities.
Base wages for training and transit time are nearly twice that of the average workforce assignment, and all recovery and combat duties come with additional hazard bonuses.
See your local recruiter for details.
“Honorable men, well, they die hard, but they still die.” — Nicola (the film Bunraku)
As an author I want to create a sense for the reader that, once the series is firmly established, anyone could die.
I have approached my scifi military series ‘Necrospace‘ with this in mind. I know that for the most part (unless I surprise myself at some point) my main protagonist Samuel Hyst is going to survive any given book so that he can be around for the next installment, because though we may visit some subplots, this series is his story.
Until it isn’t.
Do I plan on killing off my main character?
Not really, but I’m open to it, which is why I’m building up all the supporting characters. I don’t know who is going to get killed in this book or that book, because I’m following this story only a few steps ahead of my readers (keeps it fun to write!). Maybe there will come a point in the series where its time for Samuel to meet his end and for one of the other characters to step onto the main stage. In the first book ‘Salvage Marines‘ all of the supporting characters began on equal footing as far as development, though as we go into the second book ‘Dead Worlds‘ not all of the supporting characters survived the first story, and now new ones are taking their place in book two, though a core group of supporting cast have now managed to survive not only one but two installments. They are growing as characters, and while not to the degree of the protagonist, I am confident that I could, if I wanted to, kill off Samuel Hyst and pass the protagonist torch to a supporting character who is ready to take the lead.
As an author I like having that option, and as a reader that is exactly what I want out of a series. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Dresden Files, but I know that Wizard Harry Dresden is never going to die, at least until the author decides to write one last novel and call it quits (because final installments all bets are off!). I want to create a story where we have multitudes of characters who can take center stage when a protagonist bites the big one. I’m not writing from so many perspectives as George RR Martin or anythying, though I am certainly taking a page from his style and continuing in my Necrospace series without the certainty that it will always be “The Samuel Hyst Show”, and that he might die or disappear and someone else could take the helm.
I’ll miss Samuel, if he goes, the same way I miss several of the supporting characters in Necrospace who have already come and gone, but that is what I like about what I’ll call ‘risky fiction’, the fact that after the setting and the characters are established the crosshairs of mortality could come to rest on anyone, even the protagonist of an on-going series.
That’s the great thing about stories… those characters that you loved and hated can rise and fall over and over again, in all their glory.
“I live. I die. I live again!” — Nux (Mad Max: Fury Road)
“There is time enough for civilization when we are at war” — Wargir proverb
I love space marines.
Whether they are the genetically engineered super-soldiers of the Warhammer 40k universe, the Terran marines of the Starcraft games, the seminal warriors of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, or the hundreds of other incarnations of these future soldiers throughout sci-fi fiction, films, comics, and video games… I think they are awesome, and I have been meaning to contribute to this genre myself for a long time.
And so I give you the first installment of the Necrospace series … SALVAGE MARINES
It is the Age of The Corporation. The common man toils under the watchful eye of the elite and their enforcers. The rules of law have long been replaced by the politics of profit. The dark ages of feudalism have returned with capitalistic ferocity. There is no peace among the stars of mapped space and business is booming. Samuel Hyst is an indentured worker who seeks to better his fortunes by joining the ranks of a militarized deep space salvage operation as a hired soldier. The young man’s hope is to earn enough hazard wages to pay off his debts and expatriate his growing family away from the totalitarian industrial society ruled by Grotto Corporation. To reach his goals he must survive a grueling tour of duty in Necrospace, a name given to the abandoned scrapyard quadrants of a war-torn universe.
This is a novel that I have had simmering in the back of my mind for several years, and it finally clawed its way to the top of my list of writing priorities during the 2014 National Novel Writing Month. I worked with my favorite editor Terry Bland and we got this thing polished and ready for press as of last week. I’ve decided to set this book up for an Amazon Pre-Order, with the title being available on March 1st. If you pre-order then the ebook will be loaded to your Kindle/Cloud on March 1st. It will be DRM free so even if you don’t have a kindle device you can read it on your computer, and the print edition will be available on that same day.
Why a pre-order?
You aren’t a famous author OR even in brick & mortar bookstores, so why bother?
My answer is Reader Awareness.
I’ve been writing and publishing for some time now, and before that I was making movies and distributing them. One key element that I’ve never fully managed was a ‘proper release’ of any book or film. By the time a book gets finished I’m already moving on to the next project, and I haven’t given enough time and effort to promoting the book. Usually that shows in the sales numbers, and at the end of the day the sales numbers are just as important as the story… because if people are buying the book (or borrowing through Kindle Unlimited) then that means the Story Is Being Told. That’s right, I’ve realized that being an author, or more specifically being a storyteller, is just as much about the ‘gold’ you get from sales as it is the ‘glory’ you get from telling a good story.
The purpose of a story is to be told (in this case read) and the more people who read this story the more that purpose is realized, and as a storyteller that feeds my soul. What puts food in my belly (and my family’s) is that the people who read this story paid to read it. I know it sounds hilarious to even say it, but honestly it has taken me this long to see that increasing Reader Awareness in what drives sales, which feeds my soul and my belly. By giving myself a few weeks to promote the book before it is released gives me a chance to make sales, which boosts sales rank, which raises visibility on the Holy Grail of publishing (Amazon Top 100 in genre). As such here I am, working on a blog that I hope gives a bit more insight into the novel, to entice you to pre-order and experience the story in depth.
It feels Good to tell people about this story, because I think this one is worth sharing, especially in these troubled times. We live in a world not dissimilar to that of Samuel Hyst and his comrades, and we can see our own struggles reflected on the page (or kindle screen), even if in a more dramatic science fiction action kind of way. I see myself in this story, at various moments, behind the eyes of several of the characters, as I see other people I’ve known in my life. I imagine that you will too.
Space marine stories are generally rather grim, and this tale is no different, though it does have a unique element that sets it apart from most space marine genre fiction. Samuel Hyst has a choice. He is not defending earth from alien invaders, nor is he fighting the forces of some galactic evil. Samuel’s situation hits us closer to home because he is a debt-slave, and only marginally more dramatically than what we see reflected in our own modern world. Our protagonist chooses the life of a mercenary, a salaried corporate soldier to be exact. At any point in his troubled journey he can ‘opt out’ and return to his civilian life, unlike the average space marine protagonist in the greater genre. Samuel Hyst explicitly fights for money, that is his ‘gold’. He tells himself that he will use the money to escape the corporate world and find a new life, that is his ‘glory’. We must struggle alongside him to reconcile his dubious occupation with his humanity, his goals more elusive than he ever imagined, knowing that we don’t get the ‘easy out’ of saying that we are ‘defending earth’ or ‘fighting evil’. In many ways, the excerpt below illustrates the struggles, of both mind and body, that Samuel must endure as the story unfolds.
“The wargir waved an invitation to Samuel and the marine trudged up the dune hill to join the mercenary in surveying the battlefield. The fighting was all but finished, and for the first time that day Samuel began to feel confident about the mission.
“Well, uh,” Samuel wracked his brain for the other man’s name. Imago. “Imago. Looks like we won,” said Samuel off handedly as he sat down next to the mercenary, “Good day for Grotto and bad day for Helion. Can’t say it feels all that victorious though, a lot of bodies out there that belong to us.”
“Hyst Samgir,” the mercenary said, “you must understand that when war is stripped of ideology, all that remains is the simple reality that it is nothing more, and nothing less, than the violent redistribution of wealth.” He cocked his head at Samuel as they sat perched upon the burned out hull of a Helion battle tank. “Anyone who says differently is just trying to lower your pay rate.”
As a defense logistics contractor and a self-published author, in many ways I feel as if I’m right there alongside our protagonist while I work to balance the Businessman and the Storyteller during my own quest for Gold and Glory.
WARNING: This post is meant to be entertaining. I hope you can laugh along with me.
As the director, a producer, a contributing writer, and overall core storyteller of the film I am duty-bound to take responsibility for the final product. Actors lacking good direction, a confusing script, shoddy post-production, all of these are on my shoulders. As a filmmaker I have been through some bad reviews in my time, and no film of mine has been so vilified as Fable, and no film so deserving of it as Fable.
The reviewer, Derek the Bard, made a scathing-yet-hilarious video review for his web-series “Chasing the Muse” about a year ago, and recently shared it with me. He got in touch and wanted to create a second review after reading my book “As Above So Below: And Other Unborn Cinema”, where I delve into the making of Fable in several chapters appropriately titled “Anatomy of a Trainwreck”. Using the book and some of our discussions he created a second, equally brutal and equally entertaining review, which I would like to share.
He is merciless, and you’ll be holding your sides laughing as much as you’ll be covering your mouth in shock at the film-ripping he puts on my movie, but after this review you’ll be loving to hate Fable: Teeth of Beasts along with the rest of us.
Consequently… you can shoot yourself in the cinema-face with the purchase of Fable from Amazon by visiting the “Tragedy” section of this blog, and you can check out the Unborn Cinema book in print or ebook Right Here.
Enjoy the review!
SPOILER ALERT: Walking Dead Season 3, Man on Fire, Voodoo Cowboys, and 300
Classically a ‘hero’ is a dead man, venerated because of wide fame, the compounding of great deeds, a particularly epic death, or some combination therein. I’ve always thought of myself as a fan of the ‘antihero’, that being someone who fills the role of the protagonist, though exemplifies more villainous qualities than traditionally heroic ones. Recently I have been watching the zombie drama series ‘The Walking Dead’ and like most fans I really liked Daryl Dixon, and I had a soft-spot for his older brother Merle Dixon, because those guys were rough around the edges and reminded me a bit of growing up in the south.
In the final episodes of Season 3 of the Walking Dead there is a scene where Merle has left one group of survivors and joined another, only to find that he doesn’t fit in there either. His final act is to launch a one man assault against a vastly superior force, and dies in the process. I found myself deeply moved by the character’s arc, and that after several seasons of him being a somewhat reviled character he has his moment of heroism. Upon watching this I started to think about the classical definition of heroes, and thinking back to other heroes I’ve felt a connection with who went out in a similar fashion.
As I sift through the list I begin to see a pattern, in which I find a particular interest in characters who lay everything on the line for one perfect moment. It brought me back to Battlestar Galactica, where Captain Adama talks about how “sometimes you just have to roll the hard six”. Its a gambling phrase, about beating the dreadful odds against and coming out with a victory. When I apply that hard six idea with heroes, I start to see some interesting beliefs that I apparently hold to in my own fictional works.
In the comic & film ‘300’ King Leonidas brings his Spartan warriors out into the open, instead of retreating into the hot gates where he can still fight, so that he can lure Xerxes within range of a well-thrown spear. When the trap is sprung all of the Spartans are killed, and though Leonidas wounds Xerxes, he fails to roll the hard six. Leonidas dies, but in such a heroic way his story is inspirational regardless of his failure.
In the Walking Dead Merle Dixon leads a horde of zombies into an ambush laid by the Governor, and under cover of the zombie attack Merle manages to shoot down eight of the Governor’s men before he is killed. For a brief moment Merle has the Governor in his sights, and fires, only to hit a man who crosses in front of the Governor at the last moment. Merle dies, having also failed to roll the hard six, but damn what a way to go.
In Man on Fire John Creasy is waging a war on the drug cartels in Mexico City, and is severely wounded early in the film. He fights his way through the film, all the while struggling with the increasingly debilitating wound. Somewhere deep down you as a viewer know he’s not going to survive, and you are ok with that, because he is too, so long as he can “do this one last thing”, which is save the little girl. Ultimately he rolls the hard six, and successfully trades his life for the little girl, managing to die before his captors can do anything worse.
In my own film Voodoo Cowboys, a spell-slinger named Doctor John barely survives a battle with shaman-sorcerer Duvalier in which his comrades (Shaner and Reese) were killed. In order to gain the power with which to defeat Duvalier the slinger must make a magical bargain with a bloodthirsty god, exchanging his own vital life energy for the god’s favor in battle. Doctor John faces off high noon style with Duvalier and kills the shaman, then pays the price for his chance to roll the hard six and dies himself as he walks towards the setting sun.
In the third Star Wars film Darth Vader sees his son being tortured to death by Emperor Palpatine, and decides to intervene. After years of serving as the dark champion for the Empire Darth Vader chooses to abandon his duties and attack the Emperor, though doing so would surely mean his death. Vader fights through the deadly lighting coming from the Emperor and manages to kill Palpatine before succumbing to his own wounds. Then, to top it off, he survives long enough to tell his son “you were right about me”, and that there was some good still left in him, before dying. To me that sounds like the gold standard of hitting the hard six.
These are generally dark tales, with grim endings and hard choices, and I do love them so. One of my friends told me, after reading several of my stories, that I seem to kill all of the protagonists by the end of the story, and now perhaps I am beginning to understand why he was right. At the end of it all the way I see it is that whatever a person is, it’s that act of making the attempt to roll a hard six that makes you a hero, and the outcome, whatever it is, isn’t your concern, because you’ll most likely be dead anyway.
Warning… this post gets a little preachy… but fear not… we will return to our regularly scheduled Argo geek blog shortly…
Like any other American I sometimes get stressed about money, my physique, the opinions of others, and the state of my nation & the world. What I don’t do is worry about being the victim of ethnic cleansing, being put up on legal charges for blasphemy, or being starved out of my village by men with guns. My problems are First World, and I wanted to write a post today in thanks of that fact, because I know that this freedom didn’t come for free.
I enjoyed the life of a nomadic filmmaker for roughly five years, and it was glorious. I moved from city to city, bouncing from project to project as I followed a haphazard path through the film industry. I never really had any money of my own, yet I never lacked for food, shelter, adventure, and companionship. Through it all I worked hard, earning my stripes and paying my dues in the trenches of the independent film world. I didn’t have much to show for my labors, perpetually broke and holding half-finished films in my hands, and there was always the allure of going back to that desk job. For me it was the choice between being a white-collar office drone or a vagabond artist. When I look at the state of affairs in many other nations of this world I realize that while I was worrying about where to go next or how I was going to get there others cannot stand up long enough under the weight of their grinding poverty or political oppression to even consider such a choice. I live in a country where someone can decide to be an artist, and I can make films or write books or make music about whatever I want without fear of censorship or interference as long as I don’t hurt or exploit anyone in the process. First World Problems.
These days I’ve shifted from nomadic bachelor to family man. I work for the military roughly 4 months out of the year, then spend the rest of the year working on my films, books, and being a stay-at-home dad. My biggest concerns day to day are things like running out of laundry detergent, forgetting to put out the recycling, or changing out the diaper bin. When I worry about money its not a question of whether or not I can provide food, clothing, and shelter for my family, its more like picking 3 day shipping on an Amazon purchase instead of overnight, or whether to take a vacation now or later when there’s a bit more cash on hand. First World Problems.
For me a big creative outlet is cooking, and I like to experiment about ninety percent of the time. Unlike other art forms, like filmmaking for instance, cooking allows one to have an idea, prepare the ingredients, add the heat, and serve the meal all in one burst of energy. I enjoy going to the grocery store without a plan and just buying a cart full of assorted ingredients that I’ll find combinations for later. I don’t worry about the money most of the time, and the few times when I do its more a question of variety instead of quantity. Not once in my life have I ever worried about where my next meal is coming from or if it will be enough. My biggest concern when it comes to food is the variety of what I consume, not the quantity, because there is always enough. First World Problems.
Right now the United States of America is a First World Nation, and for that I am thankful. Though it is important to acknowledge that not everyone in America experiences this country as a First World Nation. There are many here who struggle with financial problems that are dramatically more dire than being able to afford hobbies or vacations, and their education/employment situations are dire to the point that my own dilemmas seem silly to be stressed about. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, my only point is that most of us are truly enjoying the Good Life, and we should be thankful for it. My lady and I are starting a non-profit soon, in the spirit of putting our money where our mouths are. Which brings me to my real point (I know I’ve meandered, bear with me)…. being thankful is literally the least you can do. Being thankful is our biggest First World Problem, because to be thankful you’ve got to be looking at the other guy and realizing how good you’ve got it by comparison.
Turn that thankfulness into First World Action, because its the job of the folks who’ve got it good to pay it forward. We don’t all have to go become full-time activists or start feeling guilty for the success we’ve achieved. Just give a little back. Maybe volunteer one day a month. Donate some of your luxury cash to a charity, or fund non-commercial science (we all need to know more about hippos, and those researchers need that sweet grant money). Whether we realize it or not having First World Problems is a blessing, and we earn it by helping others, however we can.
Supernatural Activity….. a ‘found footage’ movie that WINS.
Being an independent filmmaker, a horror movie fanboy, and having worked for a low-budget horror distribution company, I have seen (or seen parts of) dozens of “found footage” movies.
Generally I am not a fan of that sort of style, given that much of my personal enjoyment of watching movies is the cinematography, and in a “found footage” movie I would hesitate to call the camera work (however immaculately shot & lit) to be ‘Cinematography’ as much as it is ‘Camera Operating’.
I don’t mean this as a sleight against the no-doubt talented cinematographers who work hard on (some) of these films, I’m just saying that the vast majority of films in this style (be it action, horror, sci-fi, whatever) are intentionally shot to look like a home movie and as a paying viewer that’s just not my thing.
To give credit where credit is due on the low-budget side there are a few honorable mentions like The Great American Snuff Film or Death of a Ghost Hunter (solid indie films you should also check out), while the vast majority of the low-budget found footage movies really SUCK and honestly are rather devoid of talent and originality. When you throw in larger budget films like Troll Hunter or Cloverfield then you start to win me back as an audience member, since the world they are taking their ‘found footage’ characters through is fabricated and pretty incredible.
At any rate, what I like about Supernatural Activity is that it faithfully parodies the ‘found footage’ movies, most notably Paranormal Activity, which had a brilliantly executed marketing campaign. Supernatural Activity also parodies the glut of paranormal or ghost hunter reality TV shows…. which is not expressly classified as ‘found footage’ though it is certainly shot in the same way, and has just as much of a contrived storyline as any feature film.
So for me sitting down to watch Supernatural Activity was a happy journey of jokes at the expense of both the found footage films and paranormal reality shows. Faithfully executed from the cast, the shooting style, the editing & presentation, and sheer silliness of the whole fad. Not to mention some heavy laughs brought on at the expense of Chris Angel.
If you love found footage movies and/or paranormal reality shows, or if you hate them, or if you love/hate them, or hate-love them, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Supernatural Activity.
A little slice of life from my time living in Arizona.
Cult Watch: Casa Grande
Based on true events.
Question 1: What made you decide to be a director? I FOUND THAT BEING THE DIRECTOR ON A FILM WAS THE MOST POWERFUL WAY TO CONTROL THE TELLING OF THE STORY, AT THE END OF THE DAY ITS THE DIRECTOR TO PUTS TOGETHER THE STORY, USING THE CINEMATOGRAPHER, EDITOR, COMPOSER, AND ACTORS AS TOOLS TO TELL THE STORY. How did you get into directing? I WAS A PRODUCER AND COORDINATOR FOR SEVERAL YEARS, AND DISCOVERED A LOVE FOR DIRECTING AND THE CREATIVE ASPECT OF FILMMAKING, SO SET ABOUT FINDING FUNDING FOR MY OWN PROJECTS.
Question 2: Why did you pick Voodoo Cowboys to make into a movie? VOODOO COWBOYS WAS A VERY ORGANIC STORY. IT BEGAN WITH SEVERAL OF US DECIDING TO MAKE A WEIRD CHEAP MOVIE ABOUT COWBOYS FIGHTING TOP HAT WEARING BAD GUYS IN THE ABANDONED SCHOOL, THEN THE IDEA GREW AS MORE PEOPLE BECAME INVOLVED, UNTIL SUCH TIME AS A SCRIPT WAS WRITTEN, AND 5 DRAFTS LATER WE ENDED UP WITH THE SHOOTING SCRIPT FOR THE MOVIE. What goes into the decision to make a movie? IT IS A BLEND OF THINGS… ONE PART BUSINESS, IN WORKING OUT WHAT KIND OF MOVIE CAN MAKE THE BEST RETURN ON THE INVESTMENT OF TIME/MONEY, ONE PART IS CREATIVE, IN THAT WE MUST TELL A STORY BOTH WORTH TELLING AND THAT WE ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT, AND THE FINAL IS ABOUT LOGISTICS… WHAT CAN WE MAKE WITH WHAT WE HAVE, OR WHAT WE CAN BEG/BORROW/STEAL 😉
Question 3: What is the hardest part about making movies? FINDING THE FUNDING, MOVIES ARE A RISKY INVESTMENT AT BEST, AND WITH THE ECONOMY IT IS TOUGH TO GET PEOPLE TO WRITE THOSE CHECKS, ESPECIALLY FOR INDEPENDENTS, WHO DON’T COMMAND A-LIST CELEBRITY CAST OR 35MM CAMERAS.
Question 4: What is the easiest part about making movies? THERE IS AN EASY PART?
Question 5: What goes into picking cast and crew for your productions? LIKE CHOOSING WHAT MOVIE TO MAKE, IT IS A BLEND OF FACTORS, THE FIRST BEING WHO IS WORTH WHAT SALARY (FOR CREW ITS EXPERIENCE/SKILL, FOR CAST IT IS CELEBRITY LEVEL & TALENT), THEN ITS THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN CAST/CREW AND THEIR COUNTERPARTS
Question 6: How do you decide the length of time it will take to make a movie? DEPENDS ON THE SCRIPT, THE FUNDING AVAILABLE, AND THE CAST/CREW, BUT USUALLY A RESPONSIBLE AMOUNT OF TIME TO PREP A FILM IS 6 WEEKS, SHOOTING IS 2-3 WEEKS, AND POST PRODUCTION (EDITING, SOUND, MUSIC, VISUAL FX) IS ROUGHLY 12 WEEKS
Question 7: What happens if you get behind schedule? YOU HAVE TO START SACRIFICING SCENES AND MODIFYING YOUR SCRIPT TO COPE WITH LESS SHOOTING TIME, LIKE TRIAGE, OR YOU GO RAISE MORE FUNDING AND TRY TO ADD MORE DAYS TO YOUR SCHEDULE
Question 8: What do you go through to find and use locations for sets? JUST A KEEN EYE FOR WHAT THE CAMERA WILL SEE… A LOCATION CAN LOOK AMAZING TO THE NAKED EYE, BUT LOOKS CRAMPED OR BORING TO THE CAMERA, ALSO IT IS A QUESTION OF ACCESS… BATHROOMS, DISTANCE FROM LODGING/OFFICE, THE SOUND OF THE AREA FOR AUDIO, TRAFFIC, BYSTANDERS… MAKING A MOVIE IS ABOUT CONTROLLING REALITY, SO WE HAVE TO PUT OURSELVES IN A SITUATION WHERE WE CAN CONTROL AS MUCH OF REALITY AS POSSIBLE WHEN IT COMES TO WHAT GOES INTO THE CAMERA
Question 9: What all is involved in pre-production? HIRING CAST/CREW, FINISHING THE SCRIPT, FINDING THE FUNDING, ARRANGING LODGING, CATERING, ETC Post-production? EDITING, AUDIO, MUSICAL SCORE, VISUAL FX
Question 10: What is involved in advertising and spreading the word about the movies you’ve made? FACEBOOK, MYSPACE, VIRAL ONLINE MARKETING, MAGAZINE ARTICLES AND ADVERTISING, FILM FESTIVALS AND MARKETS
Question 11: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about what you do and are involved with? THE MOVIE BUSINESS IS A COTTAGE INDUSTRY, SO JUST LIKE THE FRONTIER FAMILIES OF COLONIAL AMERICA, IT CAN BE DONE ANYWHERE