Dredding Monsters

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I hate when Hollywood tries to remake or sequel films. They rarely get it right.

You may remember Gareth Edward’s 2010 hit indie sci-fi film, Monsters. Filmed with only two actual actors, a camera guy, sound guy, and editor, and using local people as extras, this film raised the bar of indie films. With a budget of five figures (and low five figures, at that) this film is a testament to what can be done with brilliant cinematography, excellent acting, and minimal special effects.

I just read on iO9 that Misfits director Tom Green is to film a sequel, Monsters: The Dark Continent. The synopsis of Jay Basu’s script is thus:

Seven years on from the events of Monsters, and the ‘Infected Zones’ have spread worldwide. Humans have been knocked off the top of the food chain, with disparate communities struggling for survival. American soldiers are being sent abroad to protect US interests from the Monsters, but the war is far from being won.

Noah, a haunted soldier with several tours under his belt, is sent on a mission: an American soldier has gone rogue deep in the Infected Zone, and Noah must reach him and take him out. But when Noah’s unit and transport are destroyed, he finds himself with only a young and inexperienced cadet for company – the brother of the man Noah has been sent to kill.

The two soldiers must go on a life-altering journey through the dark heart of monster territory, accompanied by a young local woman to guide them. By the time the three of them reach their goal, they will have been forced to confront the fear that the true monsters on the planet may not be alien after all.

And this just feels wrong. Three paragraphs, and the only bit that seems true to the overall style and feel of the original is the very. Last. Line.

The whole success of Monsters was the simplicity of it, the basic get-home-in-one-piece plot, and the unbelievably low budget and method of filming. This sequel sounds to me like it is trying too hard to be a blockbuster by following Hollywood’s tired old formula of action, adventure, horror, heroes, etc. Everything Monsters wasn’t.

I may be proven wrong, and I certainly hope I am. But I predict this new sequel will fall flat on its face, purely because the filmmakers are trying to emulate the original’s success without repeating any of the elements that made it successful.

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What I am excited for is the forthcoming Dredd feature film. Now, I liked Sly Stallone’s take on it. Visually, for me, it was perfect. The uniforms, Lawmaster bikes, Lawgiver guns, everything looked good. Yeah, the plot had more holes than a pair of fishnets, but I still enjoyed watching it. However, Carl Urban’s Dredd looks to be much darker, harder, and more realistic, in line with recent hero film remakes as Iron Man and the Dark Knight trilogy. I can’t wait!

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I haven’t seen Prometheus yet. I’ll probably catch it on iTunes, I just don’t have time to see films at the cinema these days. But I am going to be trying to catch The Dark Knight Rises at some point.

What are you looking forward to this year at the movies? Tell me in the comments below.

Of Hamsters and Vest Tops in Darkness

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I’ve recently discovered the joy that is Apple TV. Not a toy for everyone, but great for procrastination. I have an iPad (3rd Gen) and its brilliant, so being able to AirPlay things is still novel enough to not be getting old anytime soon. I’ve also found Netflix. Yeah. So, first horror film review:

Darkness, starring Anna Paquin (True Blood) and Iain Glen (Game of Thrones) starts off well, family in a new home, middle-of-nowheresville, teenage daughter worried dad is going to have a relapse of his mental breakdown. Things get creepy as dad finds an old, boarded up room, the lights start flickering, and younger brother Paul begins losing pencils under his bed, suffering unexplained bruises, and drawing pretty gnarly sketches of dead children.

Unfortunately, as the tension mounts, the writers seemed to have got a little excited about the plot. Cue an Ouroboros (Our Rob or Ross anyone? Lister!) under the floorboards, creepy but helpful old man, devil worship, a forthcoming eclipse, and an overly long exposé as to the hows and whys. It could’ve lost nearly fifteen minutes here, and still been pretty clear. The ending is not too predictable, and suitably ambiguous.

I enjoyed the film, gave it a 4 star rating on Netflix, but it could’ve been better. Plenty of shots of Paquin running around in a strappy vest top (not that I’m complaining…) and Glen chewing the scenery trying to make the best of a bad job. Overall, good rainy-night fare.

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You may remember mention in the past of Reggie, the LitDen hamster. You’ll be glad to know he’s made the transition from the old forum to the new blog site well. LitDen Towers uses a lot of energy (I think that’s just Paul sending Darren Shan fan mail again, but I’m not sure) and Reggie has taken to his new job like a hamster to a… wheel. Huh.

Anyway, he’s now in the cellar, spinning the wheel that turns the generator that keeps us going. He’s well fed, I found a nest of gremlins the other night, and he doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between them and small children. Thankfully. So far.

So, I’d just like to warn all visitors not to venture into the cellar without me. He’s not caged anymore, just a reinforced titanium gate at the bottom of the cellar steps. You don’t want to lose an arm or a head, now do you? And please don’t complain about that awful whirring noise in the middle of the night. A six foot long hamster on a wheel the size of a double decker bus is gonna make a racket. Why do you think I sleep in the attic?

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Editing has begun on the new Anthology. I have stories already submitted last time, and a few new ones to be going on with. Email Paul if you’d like to be involved. No set time limits on this one yet, except I need all stories in by August 31st.

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I’m intending to split my posts up, proper reviews and writing discussion fortnightly, with other stuff in between. As with all plans, that may go tits up at any time. Watch this space. For now, that’s me done. A glass of brandy and a boom are waiting. I’m currently reading The Mammoth Book of Steampunk (ed. Sean Wallace). All I’ll say is: it’s brilliant. Also, Captain Brown gets about a bit, doesn’t he?

The Den Needs Writers

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While Andy and I attempt to get the Den back on its feet after a long hiatus, I’d like to take this chance to tell you how you can get involved. It’s simple, and I’ll need to tell you quickly: I can see this deadline whooshing past already!

Basically, we need bloggers. We’re not saying you need to be able to write a post on a given day every week, but even just the odd post every couple of weeks would be of benefit to us, and to you. I’m a firm believer that writing experience is vital for getting better, and that writing across different sites is the easiest way to get noticed without having to pull of some marketing tricks.

I write on Mondays, and Andy on Fridays, but we’ve got four more days’ worth of writing spots available – Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Before we used to have a blog a day. It made for a vibrant blog, and an active writing community. I’d like to see it come back.

And Wednesday? Wednesday is the day we offer to guest posts. If you’re on a blog tour, we welcome you to write for us. This little community needs writers, and if you read my last post you know it helps the writers who come along. I’ve made some amazing friends here, and I got to write an awful lot more, and to a wider audience, thanks to the group.

So what are you waiting for?

Comment below, or send me an email at literaryden@gmail.com and we can get you started. Andy will sort out the blog memberships. He’s into that sort of thing. And once you’re set up, we can welcome you to the family.

I can’t wait to hear from you.

Happy writing,
Paul.

PS Can you believe it? I left it until a quarter to midnight to write my post. Again. I’m a glutton for punishment.

The Den and Me

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Let’s make this short and sweet: this group was what made being a writer worth it in the early days. I was sixteen, only starting out, not that confident in what I could do, and nowhere near ready to really attempt writing all the time, for a living, or for any other reason.

What happened? I set up the Den back in the days when Bebo was cool and the Books section had just kicked off. I wanted us to be the place for writers to go to discuss their books. Unfortunately, Bebo sucked as a model, so a writer joined me in the running of the group and set up a forum. That forum became the centre for everything to happen in the Den. We had dozens of topics running at once, and we were really getting to know one another.

That was when someone suggested we do a book. An actual, for-sale, book. And we did. Five people volunteered to edit, with one taking the role as lead editor. Someone designed a cover, we all spread the word around, and within a year and a half of the group first appearing online, we had a book and we were connected to a charity in Yorkshire. I was seventeen years old, going into my final year in school, and from there things kicked off.

It was in the months that followed that I wrote the novel that stands out for me, Meet Sam. It’s not Fantasy or Science Fiction. It’s completely different to everything I’ve ever written. Friends who read it laughed out loud. That helped. That really did. It was written to be funny and light hearted, while hopefully engaging people with the life of the titular character. It was fun to write, and I did it in a month – my first attempt at NaNoWriMo.

When I joined Twitter in the March following, I was brave enough to declare in my username and bio that I was a writer. To this day, I still have that username and I openly tell people how many books I’ve written. If I hadn’t started this group, I wouldn’t have had that confidence. I reckon it was those little things about my Twitter profile that really got me a following.

Now, I have a writing job on an online magazine, I have a website, I’ve released an ebook and I’m set to release more this year. I’ve continued to meet new writers, and I feel I can actually engage in conversation with them.

And that’s the point of this post: I didn’t get all that confidence in being a writer from setting up the group. I got it from being part of the group. I learned to talk to other writers about the craft, and I’ve learned a lot from so many different people I couldn’t tell you how I know what I know. It’s the one bit of advice I would pass to new writers beyond “Just keep writing”. With a writing group behind you, you can engage with the people who have been at it longer than you, learn more about the craft and build up some confidence.

And who knows, if you join this group, you might even have a story in our next anthology.

I’ve made some real friends here, and I invite you to do the same. And in case you’re wondering if it really helps: it’s seven minutes to midnight as I write this sentence, having forgotten I had to write today. We’re just back to writing the blog, and look – now I’ve written something for the day. Admittedly this has been a rushed job, but at the end of the day this is what’s important, actually writing something.

What can you take from this post, then? Three things:

  1. Join a writing group. It’ll help. It really will. Join this one, even. We’re still looking for bloggers. Email me at literaryden @ gmail.com Simple as that.
  2. Write every day. It helps you to get into a good practice. Keep a blog on specific days is especially useful, because it forces you to write to a deadline.
  3. Everyone starts off small, but it’s possible to do things you didn’t think likely. Just write.

Happy writing, and I’ll see you next Monday. Maybe next time I’ll give myself more than eight minutes to write.

Music and mood

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I write creepy stuff. If you hadn’t already noticed… Well, you’ve not been paying attention, have you?

I like dark, macabre, spooky things. Things that will disturb and unsettle. Getting the ideas for this kind of thing is easy, you just haven to read the papers on a daily basis and you’ll have plenty of ammunition to prove people suck. Channel this suckiness into art (“Make good art!” Neil Gaiman’s recently impressed on the world. He’s right, as he usually is.) and you have horror. Or dark fantasy. Or science fiction with a dark, horror twist. That’s the easy bit.

But how do you write without going mad?

Poe said he suffered from insanity, with terrible periods of sanity. Perhaps this is par for a writer, but I’d rather not be locked up as a nut-job just yet. How to avoid it? Don’t get caught find a way to channel your energy.

Everyone finds their own thing; my thing is music. I listen to heavy metal, a lot. This is good, head banging is extremely good for getting rid of pent up aggression in a mosh pit. The lyrics and mood of the songs are good, too. But that’s okay for violence. But what about the scary, generally creepy stuff? Well, I’d been struggling until recently when I discovered a new artist to listen to. Her name is Charlotte Eriksson, she plays under the name The Glass Child. You can find her here.

Her music is decidedly creepy, heartfelt and soulful. Her voice is unique, and certainly not to everyone’s taste. But then, neither is Evile or Slayer or Jessie J or Eminem. You like what you like, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Listening to Charlotte’s music is really useful to me. It helps me relax. It puts me in the right creepy mood, almost melancholy, but not quite, to be able to write creepy, scary scenes without the violence. This is what I was looking for.

I’ve not had chance to see her play live yet, but I fully intend to. In the meantime, here’s her official video for her single I’ll Never Tell, which showcases a pair of fantastic dancers, Enza and Francesco Cara.

We all have ghosts and scars, they are a theme which runs in my writing and Charlotte’s music. I’m going to be blogging fairly regularly on Friday nights. I hope Fridays will be the dark, creepy day on the LitDen Blog, full of creepy shadows and ghosts and scars. I want to explore the darkness, and I’d like you to come with me. Don’t be afraid, I’ll hold your hand.

In the meantime, what music do you listen to that puts you in the right zone for writing? Do you have playlists for your stories, to go with the action? Or just a general theme for whatever you’re working on at the time?

2011 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

2010 in review

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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 52,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 84 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 120 posts. There were 71 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 15mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was May 17th with 693 views. The most popular post that day was Fame Whores.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, thedeadparrot.dreamwidth.org, en.wordpress.com, twitter.com, and critiquecircle.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for spongebob, spongebob squarepants, red carpet, spongebob pictures, and diary of a wimpy kid.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Fame Whores October 2009
9 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

Diary of a Reluctant Debutante October 2009
6 comments

3

The Jonas Brothers are Dead March 2010
22 comments

4

Chicken Soup for the Beauty Concious November 2009
6 comments

5

Justin Bieber is Dead: Bieber Fever, American Idol and why Glee is over-rated. March 2010
20 comments

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