Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Aftermath: Bright Days Ahead

Lately, I tend to start every blog post with an apology over how long it's been since I've written. Apparently, I'm doing it again. But that's OK, because it has been a long time. That may or may not change, we'll see. But for now I'm writing and you're reading and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

2014 has been a great year for me. It's not quite time for that End-of-Year post, but given all that has gone on, I wanted to put words to what has happened so far, for those of you who don't speak to me regularly, for those of you who don't speak to me at all, and for myself. Because it's good to get it all down and it's nice to have a record of things that I can look back on. For personal reasons, I've never kept a diary. This is the closest thing I've got. Even though it's public. Even though literally anyone can read it, friend or foe. Even though it might not mean much to most. It's mine. And it's yours, too. The words I share here I share in the truest sense of the word. I give them to you as I've given words to many others over the years. Sometimes they are the best gift I can give.

Words are powerful, as a weapon, as a tool, as a gift. Words can convey loss, hope, fear, remorse, sympathy, and any of the other emotions that make up the human condition. These words are given with joy, gratitude, and more optimism than I can ever recall feeling.

I'm engaged to an amazing man. The man of my dreams. I mean that quite literally. I didn't have the best home life growing up. Part of what got me through it was the hours upon hours spent telling myself that someday things would be different. Someday someone would love me, value me for who I was (weirdness, horror fandom, eccentricity and all), want to be with me and me alone. It might seem silly or sad, but that was and always has been my greatest dream.

And it came true. A little over 3 years ago, I met the man I'm going to marry. He's everything I could have ever hoped for and more. He's my partner. My partner in crime. My partner in business. My partner in life. He's my dearest friend, my closest ally, my most enthusiastic supporter. He's also an amazing human being with a fantastic sense of humor, an unending well of kindness and generosity, and one of the most useful people I've ever met. He is, unquestioningly, the man I want to spend the rest of my life with. I can't believe I get to marry him. For the first time in my life, I have a home and a family and all the love and support I could ever need. It's just as wonderful as I always dreamed it would be.

Also in 2014, my 4-plus year long legal battle finally came to an end. After years of struggling, throwing thousands of dollars I didn't have at a problem that seemingly wouldn't go away, and being reduced to tears of frustration, I am finally free. I can move on now. I can put the mistakes of my past behind me without any fear that they'll come back to bite me someday. It may have taken more time and money than I would have liked, but in the end it was worth it. There is no price too great to pay for one's freedom.

I'm working on a pretty amazing project, too. I'm having so much fun writing this thing. Even things like writers' block and random plot issues aren't detracting from how thrilled I am to be part of this. I just know it's going to be great and I really hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as I'm enjoying writing it.

Last (but certainly not least), my battle with cancer is at an end. It seems weird to refer to it as a battle, when much of what I did was lying still: for tests, for treatments, for IVs and exams and follow ups and specialist visits. And I was extremely lucky. My experience with cancer hasn't been nearly as horrible, long, or painful as what many people end up with. The last round of test results were good, as were the set before that. I didn't say anything after the first set to anyone outside my immediate circle of friends and family because I was worried that one good result might be a fluke and I didn't want anyone else on that horrible roller coaster of  "Hooray I'm cured!" "Oh, wait, not really." But now I can conclusively say that there are no cancer cells remaining in my body. Even better, the rate of recurrence for the types of cancer I had are low, less than 25%.


This isn't my Happy Ending, it's a happy beginning.



Saturday, January 11, 2014

Interview with Mike Lombardo


Mike Lombardo is the sick, sick man behind The Stall, My Friend Lawrence, and plenty of other films from Reel Splatter and Drunken Tentacle Productions. He's kind of twisted, a bit demented, and a lot of fun. He's also a super nice, friendly, and very cool guy in general. Recently, I had a conversation with him. Here's what happened:



Alyn Day: Let's get the cliches out of the way first... What's your favorite scary movie?

Mike Lombardo: I’d have to go with Hellbound: Hellraiser II



AD: Any particular reason?

ML: I’ve had an unhealthy obsession with Hellraiser since I was a kid. The vision of Hell they show is just so damn cool. I love the labyrinth and the all the surreal and grotesque imagery. The baby sewing its own mouth shut and the mime juggling his own eyeballs are particular favorites. Bob Keene’s skinned body make-up is among the greatest FX pieces in cinema history. The scene where skinless Julia emerges from the blood soaked mattress and kills the schizophrenic mental patient still haunts me to this day



AD: If you had to choose a way to die from a movie what would it be? 

ML:That’s a tough one. I’d have to go with a Technicolor meltdown ala Street Trash or a good old fashioned Hellraiser or Texas Chainsaw Massacre flensing. I’ve always had this weird thing about skin wearing, probably because of seeing those flicks as a kid.



AD: Favorite horror monster/creature?

ML: Without doubt the Xenomorph and Queen from Aliens. They are the most well designed/executed and terrifying creatures ever put on film. They are a nightmare vision of sex and death and violation. Just as likely to fuck you as they are to kill you. They are absolutely stunning pieces of FX mastery.



AD: What are your inspirations?

ML: I grew up on a steady diet of 70’s and 80’s splatter, Italian exploitation flicks, Troma, 90’s Nickelodeon and weird sketch comedy. The Adventures of Pete and Pete and Ren Stimpy were hugely inspirational to me, as were shows like The Kids in The Hall, The League of Gentleman, and The Upright Citizen’s Brigade. Tales From The Crypt and Are You Afraid of The Dark were playing non stop in my house when I was a kid (hell, I was just watching Are You Afraid of The Dark before I started typing this!). I was also inspired heavily by the films of David Cronenberg, John Waters and George Romero’s original Dead trilogy played a big part too.



AD: What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on?

ML: My favorite project would probably be Womb For Two. It was a gimmick sitcom parody we shot back in 2008. It was about a 16 year old fetus that still lived inside his mother’s womb. It was basically a love letter to Pete and Pete and Ren & Stimpy. It had cartoon logic and I got to build a huge womb set with a working tv and a bed and no joke was too weird to put into the script. We would just make up more and more bizarre shit as we were shooting and it was so freeing to be able to do that. It was definitely the most fun I ever had making a movie. If you’re interested in watching it, it’s on our first dvd, “SuburbanHolocaust: Reel Splatter Volume 1”



AD: Favorite horror prop?



ML:  My favorite horror prop that I’ve made is the skinned face mask “Lori”. I took a lifecast of a friend of mine and sculpted it out as a flayed face stitched to a torn off scalp complete with a full head of long blond hair. I entered a costume contest at a horror convention once wearing heels, a bloodsoaked leopard print dress, and that mask and I weirded out the judges big time. I wouldn’t break character until after the show. It was wonderful. I actually got offered a drag modeling gig by a fetish model while I was waiting to go on stage!



As for favorite prop from a movie I didn’t make, I’d have to say the puzzle box from Hellraiser. I would kill to own one of the originals.



AD: Favorite movie effect?

 ML: My favorite bit of FX work I’ve done is a tie between the tentacles from my new short, “The Stall” and buzzsaw evisceration I did for a short film that never got finished called “Til Death”. The scene started with a guy drawing a dotted line on a gal’s chest from neck to crotch, donning goggles (safety first!) and buzzsawing her open. There is a really awesome shot that I was particularly proud of where he spreads her chest open and the camera is inside looking up as the edges of her skin part to reveal his blood splattered face.

Favorite FX scene I didn’t do is the Norris Head Spider crab from John Carpenter’s The Thing. That whole sequence is just so fucking disgustingly realistic it almost hypnotizes you. You cannot  look away.





AD: Favorite makeup trick?



ML: My favorite make-up trick adding instant coffee to blood. It melts into a dark muddy red and looks like clotted blood. When I’m on set doing FX I always make sure I have a jar of instant coffee with me. I prefer the vanilla flavored stuff because it smells nice and it tastes a little better so the actor’s don’t mind it as much. I also like to add chocolate syrup to my blood to help darken it and cut down on the amount of food coloring I need which saves money and helps the blood not stain as badly. It also tastes great!





AD: Where have you gone that you think would make an excellent movie set?



ML: I spent a month in Rome, and pretty much any given street would look amazing on film. The coolest place though was The Bone Church, it’s a crypt that is decorated entirely with the skeletons of the monks who worshipped there. There was a child’s skeleton on the ceiling wielding a scythe made of pelvic bones and holding an hour glass made of bones. It was equal parts fascinating and disturbing to be in there surrounded by thousands of the dead. It would look absolutely incredible on film.





AD: What skills do you have that would help you survive the zombie apocalypse?

ML: Is owning a shitload of machetes and chainsaws a skill? I think my ability to operate under extreme pressure without losing my cool and leadership skills (both forged by 10 years of indie filmmaking) would be pretty helpful.



AD: What’s something about you that people may not know or would find surprising?

ML: One of my favorite movies is Toy Story. I have it on my shelf next to Cannibal Holocaust. Everyone assumes that all I watch is ultra violent horror films and it’s just not true. I honestly have more affection for comedy and just plain weird stuff than I do for disturbing, straight horror. People assume that because of the stuff I write about and the things I joke about that I’m a homicidal maniac. I’m really just a big kid at heart and I’m one of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.  I still watch cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the original 80’s show, not the latest abortion err incarnation of it) and Pinky and The Brain. 


You can find Mike on Twitter , Facebook or on Reel Splatter's website.


Review: The Stall

Reel Splatter Productions The Stall
Running Time: 13 Minutes
Release Date: October 31, 2013
Available from: Reel Splatter Productions
















     The Stall was, in a word, fun. In several words, it was an all-too-short amusement park ride full of pizza, the monotony of every day life, and Lovecraftian Horrors from Beyond the Stars. In other words, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Still from The Stall

      What really struck me about the film wasn't the acting, the plot, or even the effects (which were pretty cool, by the way), it was the cinematography and lighting. Generally speaking, you don't pop a movie about slimy tentacles invading a bathroom stall into Ye Olde DVD Player expecting artisty and depth... But that's what I got. Right away, I was struck by the director's skill with camera placement, angles, focus, and especially lighting. The beauty of the composure of shots is really something. The first few seconds of the film I sat there wondering if I'd accidentally played the wrong DVD. Not in a bad way, just in a "Wow, this isn't quite what I expected." kind of way.

Still from The Stall

     The set design is also very well done. The kind of detail that went into setting up every shot, placing every piece of the set meticulously, yet with the kind of haphazard everyday disregard that makes (most of) our homes look lived in was really something. Reel Splatter clearly cares about producing a quality, detailed film, even if it is about tentacled horrors overtaking a poor guy trying to answer a call of nature.

Still from The Stall

     While 13 minutes doesn't seem like a long time comparatively, it was somehow just enough time for Reel Splatter to tell a compelling story, make me care about the characters, give their audience something interesting to chew on (or to chew on them...) and to wrap it up with a pretty over the top yet understated ending. All in all, it left me wanting more in a really good way.

     I've seen other things by the deviants over at Reel Splatter before - Check out their short My Friend Lawrence - and while I've enjoyed everything else, The Stall was something different, something more. My favorite Reel Splatter film so far. And I'll tell you one thing: If 78154 is ever made into a short film, I want Mike Lombardo and Reel Splatter behind it.



5 Creepy, disgusting tentacles out of 5.




Monday, December 23, 2013

Christ-Message

Hello again, Dear Readers...

I know I don't write as often as I'd like to, or even as often as I should... But I'm sort of done making excuses about it, you know? I'd like to think we're adults, you and I, and as such, we know how life goes. Yes. Perhaps in the coming New Year, I'll write more. Perhaps not. Either way, I'm writing now and you're reading now, so let's just enjoy that while we have it, hmmm?


As some of you may know if you follow me on Twitter or have friended me on Facebook, I recently began a new job. So far, it has been pretty awesome. I work with a great group of people, have a fantastic boss, and support a company that does really neat stuff... and there are also some cool perks, like today being a half day from home. YES!

Days from home, especially right before a big holiday, are good for a variety of reasons... Say, the sweet potatoes I'm roasting right now, the pie I made this morning, or the dozens of cookies I'll start on once the potatoes are cooling... Getting a jump on holiday food preparation is always a plus... But another benefit is that it gives me an opportunity to try out quaint local restaurants that my discerning boyfriend wouldn't appreciate. So I decided to work my morning shift, finish all my cold prep, and grab lunch at this little fast casual mexican place up the road. Good plan, right? I thought so...

Now while the weather outside *is* rather frightful, it's not snowing. No, it's more like if snow got angry at people for saying how fluffy and lovely it was and decided to funnel that fury into becoming icy little pellets of doom inside a frigid watery coating... somewhere between sleet and hail, and it was coming down in great cold buckets... But that's OK! I'm not driving a wussy little Civic any longer! I have a big durable SUV! BAM! Weather don't scare me!

So I called in my order (Buffalo Chicken Tacos, extra guac!) and scooted out the door, icy projectiles plinking off my leather jacket and sparkling in my hair like jewels. Nobody out on the roads, really, so I kind of assumed that I'd be in and out of the restaurant with my vittles in minutes flat.


WRONG. I get there, and their not-huge-but-far-from-tiny parking lot is FULL. Completely full. And there's really nothing else in the immediate vicinity with any kind of reasonable parking, either. Ok... That's fine.  I'm a patient girl. I can wait for a spot to open up. Surely there are other patrons just picking up their food. Someone should move in a couple minutes, tops.

5 minutes of driving around aimlessly later, a woman emerges with two little kids and begins the process of battening down their little hatches. I suavely pull over behind her (being careful to give her plenty of space for her withdrawal from my parking spot) and flip on my blinker - what I thought was the universal sign for "Dibs on this spot." She pulls out and before I can even shift into gear, an asswad in a black Mercedes sweeps in, honking loudly (In warning? An attempt to threaten me? Some kind of bizarre mating ritual?). He cuts me off and steals my parking spot. Nice, eh? I sat there for a moment, shaking my head in wonder. Did that really just happen? Even Ye Olde Soccer Momme looks stunned as she drives away. I back up to begin the slow drive around the lot once more as a greaseball in a business suit and an expensive coat gets out of the Mercedes and makes his way for the door, pausing only to open an umbrella for the 10 foot walk. Yep. What'd I tell ya? Jackass.

A short time later, someone else vacates a spot and I, at last, make my way inside. By now, my food has been waiting for me for at least 15 minutes. My cheese is probably congealing. Who CARES that I like it that way? That's beside the point. Anyways.

I walk up to the counter and see Captain Asshole in line behind some other chick. He's wearing an expensive mohair trench coat. His shoes could pay my rent. He has enough product in his hair to drown no less than nine seagulls and perhaps a pair of ducks as well. I stride up behind him and get in line for my food, noting that he smells like someone dropped a few bottles on the floor at an aftershave factory and forgot to clean up afterwards. The chick grabs her food and leaves, and DJ McJerkington steps up to the plate.

He collects his vegan grilled seitan burrito with extra salsa verde and goes to pay. He swipes his card like he was born with it in his hands, only to have the young counter girl in her perky orange visor smile apologetically at him. "I'm sorry, sir." she says meekly, "But your card is declined. Do you have another form of payment?"

As you may have guessed, Jerkwater does NOT have another form of payment. He angrily demands the poor young waif run his card again to the same result. He raises his voice another few decibals and I'm pretty sure he's going to start demanding managers and free food and first born children, when I intervene.

"It's OK." I say to the wide eyed teenager behind the register, handing her my own credit card. "I'll get this." Sultan Shitweasel turns to smile at me, no doubt to thank me for my generosity, when his plastered on grin dies on his face. He swallows. "You're the girl from the parking lot." he says, looking just a bit stricken. My smile doesn't falter. "Yes," I say, "I am. And I refuse to let the actions of others dictate my own." He stands there, eyeing me suspiciously, as the clerk hands me my receipt. Then he snatches his food and bolts out the door. "Merry Christmas!" I call after his mohair clad back.

"What was that all about?" The young counter woman asks as she rings up my food. "Oh, nothing." I smile, "He just cut me off in the parking lot and took my space." Her eyes get big. "And you STILL paid for his food?" she asks, nearly as gape jawed as he had been. "Yep."  She taps a few keys and hands me a receipt before I can give her my card. "This one's on me." She smiles warmly, genuinely.

"Thank you! And have a wonderful holiday!" I say as I empty what meager change I have into the tip jar.

Now here's the thing... Could I have stood there, reveling in the glory of karmic justice, as Jackass got embarrassed by not being able to pay for his food? Hell to the yes. Part of me wanted to. But doing so would have done me a disservice twofold... First, it would have meant that asshole would've won, and here's why...

I like to think of myself as a nice person. I'm the kind of girl that leaves cough drops and Emergen-C on a sick coworker's desk, even if he's a dick. I always have change for the Salvation Army guys (and sometimes hot coffee or cocoa if it's especially cold out) and, in general, I try to make the world a better place where and when I can. If it had been someone else getting their card declined on Christmas Eve Eve (say the Soccer Mom, perhaps), I would've paid without thinking twice about it. If I change my behavior because someone else did something rude, what does that say about me? How strong are my convictions if one petty, self important man can change them with one jerky act? Not very strong, I'd say... and that isn't who I am. That jerk doesn't get to control me or to change the way I act or think or behave just because he's a jerk. That would mean he'd won, and there is no way in hell that man is winning anything over me. I'll buy a Mercedes of my own first.

Secondly, do you really think he would've been as impacted as, say, the poor girl manning the cash register, had he been allowed to continue his ridiculous outburst? No. I think not. People like that tend to carry their self importance and self righteousness around them like luggage, clutching it to their chests as if it were precious beyond measure. If he'd continued, a manager would've been called and he or she would probably have ended up just giving him his food to get him to leave peacefully, and what kind of a message does that teach ANYONE? Be a bitch, yell, make a fuss, and people will give you things for free? These are NOT the kinds of lessons kids, like the few still in the restaurant, need to be learning. They aren't the kinds of things anyone should deal with, on any side of the equation. Instead, I hope that someone, maybe even the trenchcoated slimebucket, will repay my kindness sometime. Maybe they'll hold a door open for someone, or even just share a smile or a kind word with a total stranger, because someone did something nice for them, and they remember how it made them feel, and how good it feels to do good things for others. Because that's what being kind is all about. Doing good things because it makes you and others feel good. The world needs more kindness, more smiles, more people feeling good and doing good. That's why I bought that jackass his lunch.

And so, self important Mercedes driver, wherever you may be... I hope you enjoyed your vegan burrito.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Goals and Aspirations

Hello Dear Readers,

It's been a while, I know. I'm sorry for my absence. Things have been going on and I'm sure you know how that is. Stuff piling up, everything just sort of accumulates and you tell yourself there's time. You'll do it later! Only you look up and somehow six months has flown by and you've got nothing to show for it.

I haven't been writing much fiction lately, either... And, as those of you follow me on Twitter or have friended me on Facebook are aware, I haven't been posting nearly as much as of late.

I've been gone, but hopefully not forgotten...


But now it's time for me to get my head back in the game, so to speak. In order for me to do that, I took some time to really think about what I hoped to achieve with my writing career in mind. It helps to have clear goals and a clear vision of what you're working for, after all.

So I broke it down by topic. I asked myself, honestly, how I felt about each of the below topics. For some of them, my answers were instantaneous, for others, I had to do some serious soul searching.


Fame:

Do I want to be famous? No, not really. I mean, sure it would be cool to be at a convention 5, 10, maybe 15 years from now, be it as a guest or an attendee, and someone comes up to me with a battered copy of So Long And Thanks For All The Brains or Here Be Clowns and asks me to sign it with shaking hands... But I am not seeking to be the next Anne Rice.

Fortune:

Do I want to be rich? Honestly, no. I don't. Don't get me wrong, like everyone else I've had daydreams about ditching the day job forever and doing what I want with my time, but rarely do those day dreams feature mansions, maids, butlers, or any other such finery. My dream car is a 2 door 1998 RAV4 convertible, for chrissakes. I don't exactly have expensive tastes. Well, unless you count books or sushi... But even then, no. I have no real desire to be wealthy. My real greatest desire in regards to money is to be comfortable, debt free, and able to provide for my family in case of emergency. Other than that, it's all cake.

Accolades:

Do I want to win awards? Sure, as long as I've earned them. I think it's far more important that my writing meet my standards, that myself and my fans enjoy it, and that it's something I want to do, and want to keep doing. I won't turn down any Stoker nominations, but I won't go kissing anyone's ass to get one, either. I'll do my best to turn out enjoyable, well written works and hope that they speak for themselves.

Career:

Do I want to write as a full time job? Well, now. This is the question I labored over the most. At the end of all that churning, roiling thought, my answer has to be no. No, I do not want to write as a full time job. The primary reason for that is that I do not ever want writing to be something I do because someone else tells me I have to. The moment that happens, the joy of it has been diminished. I want to write because I feel inspired, because something caught my eye and made me think, because I need to let the demons in my head come out and play for a while, but not because some publisher has me by the short and curlies. I do hope to finish at least one novel as well as another novella or two and a plethora of short stories, but I want to do it according to my own schedule and my own motivation.



So I guess at the end of the day, I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing: Writing, dreaming, and hoping for the best. And I hope you'll be there with me. Reading.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Death

It's very sad, that this and the preceding post are all about death and loss and the pain of missing someone, but sometimes that's the way things go.

This has been a tragic span of days for the Horror Community. On March 13th, the world lost David B. Silva, of Hellnotes and The Horror Show fame. Mr. Silva was immensely talented and a longstanding pillar of the horror community. He will be sorely missed.

Only a short week later on March 20th, James Herbert, writer of The Fog and The Rats among others, passed away as well. Mr. Herbert was also a brilliant writer, one whose vision, talent, and proliferation won him many awards, including World Horror Convention Grand Master in 2010. Mr. Herbert will be greatly missed as well.

Only a day after that, we lost the amazing Rick Hautala. The incredibly gifted Mr. Huatala passed away on March 21st. Mr. Huatala's works are numerous, and I haven't read nearly all of them, but his novels Twilight Time, Dead Voices, and The Mountain King are among my favorites and his short story, Knocking, featured in the anthology 999 made my flesh crawl in the very best way. By all accounts, Mr. Huatala was a wonderful man, friend, writer, and husband. He as well will be deeply missed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Farewell

Last night I took a drive. It was different than most other drives in that one passenger didn't make the return trip with us.

It wasn't a long drive, but it somehow managed to feel both like an eternity and a millisecond. I guess some things are like that.

As I manuevered the vehicle, I recited the periodic table in my head. Sort of the emotional equivalent of "thinking about baseball".

Hydrogen, helium, lithium...

I won't cry. I have to be strong. He's hurting and I have to be strong for him.

Beryllium... Boron... Carbon...

We will get through this. It's for the best.

Nitrogen... Oxygen...

I will miss her so much.

Flourine...

Last night, I said my final farewell to a friend. I hadn't known her very long, only about a year and a half, but she had a way about her of making people love her instantly. Anyone who met her fell in love, it was just the way she was. She was sweet and affectionate, warm, and playful. Her name was Lady and she was a beautiful white and brown pitbull/greyhound mix. She was always happy to see me, wagging her tail and coming to greet me when I got home, even if I was just returning from a 15 minute run to the grocery store, even towards the end, when getting up was hard for her and walking wasn't much easier. She cuddled beside me and shared the warmth of my laptop on the days I worked from home. She shared meals, a home, and a bed... she shared my heart.
 
Rest well, darling girl.
You are missed more than words can say.