Thursday, December 29, 2005

Movies on DVD

I used to go to the movies all the time. Not anymore. I only saw a handful of films on the big screen this year – Batman Begins, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, King Kong, and Sahara. Why? A lotta reasons – for the price of a ticket and a soda you can buy a DVD, you don’t have some inconsiderate idiot talking on their cell phone or kicking the back of your chair, you don’t have to watch twenty minutes worth of commercials before the movie starts, you can stop the movie if you need a bathroom run. So most of my movie watching is on the big screen in my living room. Below are the ten DVDs I enjoyed the most. All versions noted were released in this year.


Batman Begins – This I saw in a theater and bought when it was released on DVD. Without a doubt, my favorite movie released in 2005. A kick-butt, cool story. Few comic book tales translate well to the silver screen. Superman I and II, Spiderman I and II, X-Men, Hellboy are the best. Batman Begins beats them all. This is how it should be done.

Deadwood: Season One – Television has an advantage over movies in that it can tell a story over an extended period of time. This western is incredible. It is raw in plot and dialogue and has a cast of well-developed intriguing characters. Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) is one of the best villains ever and he’s only at the top of the list. There’s Seth Bullock, Trixie, Alma Garret, Sol Star, Calamity Jane, Dan Dority, Doc Cochran, E.B. Farnum and a dozen others. I could go on and on about this show. But be warned, this is not like the westerns your grandfather saw. It is crude and profane and mesmerizing. Thank you producer David Milch and HBO.

Serenity – I never saw the Firefly TV series when it was on the air. I discovered it after it was on DVD and was hooked. I was and wasn’t looking forward to a big screen version. Most movies based on old TV series suck. There are a few exceptions – the Star Trek series (except the first one), The Fugitive and The Brady Bunch movies come immediately to mind. I was surprised and thrilled when I saw it. Good movie with several surprises. Yep, this is a keeper.

Cellular – this tight B-thriller with Kim Basinger and William Macy has better characters and more suspense than most major film releases. I know I really enjoyed a movie when it’s over and I wish I’d written it.

King Kong (1933) – Released for the first time this year. A classic. Not perfect but damn good for a 70-year-old movie.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Legacy Series Edition) – A classic movie based on Harper Lee’s American classic novel. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) was voted the Number One Hero in American films by the AFI. I agree.

Bambi (Disney Special Platinum Edition) – First saw this when I was a child with my mother and younger brother. Fond memories, timeless animated film.

Toy Story (10th Anniversary Edition) – What can I say? I’d rather spend time with Woody and Buzz than some people I know.

Seven Men from Now – A lean, tight Randolph Scott western that was released for the first time this year. Worth seeing just for Lee Marvin’s performance. Screenwriters should study the scene where Masters (Marvin) stirs the already tense pot by telling a story that’s "not" about the other three characters in the scene. This is how it should be done.

Desperate Housewives: Season One – There was nothing worth renting at the DVD store. I’d heard about this show but never seen it. Picked it up just to see what all the fuss was about. I was hooked. Terrific, entertaining characters and dialogue, good plot twists. This is only DVD on the list that I don’t own but I probably will.


There were a few DVDs I saw and I was glad I did but I won’t be adding them to my DVD collection: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Cinderella Man, Finding Neverland, Hitch, Hostage, Land of the Dead, Lost, March of the Penguins, Million Dollar Baby, National Treasure, The Notebook, Sahara, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Shall We Dance? and War of the Worlds. (This could change. As Christmas gifts I was given Cinderella Man and Revenge of the Sith.)


Saw a lot of films that I will never see a second time. Some had some nice moments but overall one word sums up my viewing experience. Yuck. In alphabetical order (except for the three I disliked the most): Alien vs. Predator, The Aviator, Cursed, Darkness, The Forgotten, The Grudge, The Pacifier, Ray, Saw, The Skeleton Key, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, The Village, and White Noise.

Why were the next three films the worst? I turned them off a quarter way through. Had absolute no interest in wasting any more time on them. The Chronicles of Riddick, House of 1000 Corpses and Resident Evil 2.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Printed Page

I used to read for “pleasure” much more than I do now. Not enough time left in the day. Home life and work life keep using up the hours of the day. I no longer even have a current subscription to a daily newspaper. I find I’m reading more stuff on the web than ever before including news stories. That and I reread my own work more often – polishing, tweaking, and editing. But I did find time to read a few real hold-in-your-hands books. Not all were published in 2005 but all were read this year. They were (and I recommend):

Lords of Swords edited by Daniel Blackston – a heroic fantasy anthology from Pitch Black Books. Good tales, well-told.

Garden of Beasts by Jeffrey Deaver – a suspense thriller about an American assassin in Berlin during the 1936 Olympics.

Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell? by William Goldman – I reread these nonfiction books written by one of my favorite authors and screenwriters. Fun stuff and good advice for aspiring screenwriters.

Dean & Me by Jerry Lewis and James Kaplan – the story of the comedy team of Martin and Lewis seen through the eyes of “me” in the title.

Hellboy: Seed of Destruction by Mike Mignola and John Byrne – the speculative fiction graphic novel that inspired the movie. Cool new superhero.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume II by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill – speculative fiction graphic novel about the League’s second adventure. I hope there’s a third.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – enchanting romance about a time traveler and his soul-mate.

‘Tis Herself by Maureen O’Hara with John Nicoletti – autobiography of the talented and witty actress.

Apex Science Fiction & Horror Digest Volume 1 Issue 3 edited by Jason Sizemore – the third issue of a new speculative fiction quarterly. Terrific short stories (including one of my own).

Creature Features by John Stanley – a comprehensive film guide for science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies. I hope an updated edition is done soon.

Fire in the Hole by Richard S. Wheeler – a Western page-turner about an undercover detective in a wide-open and deadly boom town.

Sitting on my night table, waiting to be read, are Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson (nonfiction), Still Life with Crows by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child (thriller fiction), Seven Miles to Sundown and An Obituary for Major Reno by Richard S. Wheeler (western fiction). I also intend to pick up a copy of Elmore Leonard’s latest novel, The Hot Kid.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I hadn't checked the Zide/Perry web-site in a while. I hadn't because it simply stated that they were revamping their site and would be back soon with a newer and better one. Zide/Perry were producers for the American Pie and Final Destination film series. On their site, they accepted screenplays from novice writers. It was fun sending in scripts to them. They never accepted any of mine but it felt like I was actually touching the Hollywood gates when I sent a screenplay to them. Today the notice about revamping is gone and the server says that there is no such site listed. Another market bites the dust. I just hope that another producer and/or studio picks up this idea. Anyway, it was fun while it lasted.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


My buddy called and said he was invited along with the screenwriting class he teaches to visit the set where they were filming his latest screenplay, “Trapped in Perfection.” I thought it sounded like fun. Then he added that the day he was invited was the day they were shooting the S&M rave scene. Okay, I’m intrigued. Need to think about this. Do I want to go all the way to Hollywood on one of my rare days off to see a film shoot? A half-second later (perhaps not quite that long), I said to count me in.

The day arrived and four of us—Cindy, Drew, my buddy and me—drive up to the location. It almost didn’t happen. The day of the shoot changed then a couple other problems arose but all came together at last and I’m riding shotgun with the driving directions. All is cool. Then we miss the first freeway interchange. I swear I was looking for it. So was my buddy who was driving. We swing the wide way around and get there. The drive was an adventure in itself.

The first illusion to vanish immediately is the glamour of Hollywood. We’re on Alameda in an old, old (did I say old?) part of Los Angeles. We see homeless guys wandering the street including one in a wheelchair with a Santa hat and beard. I’m wondering if I should be carrying something other than my comb and disposable camera. Definitely don’t want to be here after dark. I write about places like this but I don’t need any “real life” incidents to draw upon. My imagination is enough.

Anyway, after we cross the train tracks with one steel guard arm missing, we find the building. The studio is on the second floor. The first floor is a real “couples” club. We find out that members of the club have been offered extra roles in the rave scene. Oh, yeah, they have to bring their own wardrobe. Hmmm…

We enter the building and are directed upstairs. Head down a long hall. The extras are everywhere. And I see more leather than at dairy farm. We reach the set. More people. But this group is the production crew. They are putting up lights and checking the props on the set. The set is a club with a bar, disc jockey station, booths, dance floor, a raised stage with poles for dancers, and several twirling disco lights. There’s also a statue of a smiling mustached red devil, a tall wooden A-frame to handcuff people to who want to whipped (or is the right term “flogged”?), a bench for people to bend over who want to be spanked, and a glass enclosed room with a bright red leather sofa. (No clue about the room’s function. Perhaps if the club music is too loud and your tush is tired of being paddled you go there for a little conversation.) We try to stay out of the way. These people are working. The first guy I talk to, briefly, is the sound guy. He’s watching a football game on his tiny portable TV. He’s ready so he’s just killing time until they’re ready to shoot. He says the best investment he ever made was in that tiny TV. Nice guy. They were all nice people even we were in their way.

My buddy finds the director, Michel Katz (California Myth). We’re introduced. He is a very friendly and affable man. He says he’ll catch up with us soon. He does but right then he needs to check on the set and get ready for the scene walk-through. Later, he tells us which room to go into so we can watch his monitor while the scene is shot. Cool.

We look around. There’re a lot of people working. It appears to be controlled chaos but everyone knows their job and is accomplishing it. My buddy talks to several different people. The other three of us just try to stay out of the way. I try not to trip over any cables or knock any equipment over. I succeed with this endeavor thankfully.
Elise Muller (Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy) sees my buddy and comes over. She is the lead in the movie. I think this is her biggest role so far. She greets all of us. She is a very nice person, warm and genuine. Okay, yes, she’s also a beautiful woman. She talks with us then poses for a few pictures. Don’t know what got into me. To get me into the group shot, Elise has to pull me over beside her. I thought I’d gotten over my shyness back in high school. Guess not. Once a geek, always a geek I reckon. I hear her talking to my buddy about her character’s motivation in this scene then she has to go. She checks on us a couple times during the day. Like I said, a very nice person.
Brien Perry (Tiger Cruise and The Wedding Video) comes over to us. Brien is the villain in the movie. He is very friendly and very pumped up about his part in the film. He jokes and laughs and his demeanor is contagious. My guess is that Brien is the center of attention at every get-together and party he attends. He’s the kind of person who sends off good vibes and people just like being around him for that.

It’ll be interesting to see how they play their roles in the finished film. I start thinking that Elise would be a good choice for Dr. Nicole Fairchild and Brien for Major Stephen Light in the screenplay that my buddy and I co-wrote, The Nest. I mention my thought to him. He just looks at me. He’s had over a dozen screenplays filmed. The Nest is my first. But I realize instantly that our screenplay has only been optioned, the financing has not yet been arranged and, if it does happen, the producer won’t ask us writers for our opinions on casting. Still I think they would be terrific.

Later we’re standing on the dance floor. One of the Assistant Directors (I’m lousy at remembering titles so he may have had another position but he was one of the director’s team) is there. This very tall blonde in black leather appears and says she a fire-eater. She goes on to explain what she does and the AD takes off to inform Michel. My buddy asks how she got into that. If I remember correctly she just thought it’d be neat to learn. She adds that when she was visiting Thailand she saw some five and six year-old boys doing the trick and they taught her. Soon the AD returns and they take off to talk. I didn’t get the impression that this woman and her talent was a planned shot in the scene but she’s here and they’re definitely going to take advantage of the fact.

Still on the dance floor, my buddy leans against a high-top table and quickly yanks his arm back. He says it’s sticky. No one says anything for a moment then we’re all chuckling. I think we all had the same disgusting thought.

We move back to the equipment/snack area just as the extras file in. It’s the United Nations in black leather and chains. Someone from every race and nationality seems to be represented. We have short skirts, long skirts, tight pants, baggy pants, short shorts, vests, jackets (some zipped all the way up and some zipped down to pierced navel), skin-tight tee shirts and halters. All in black except one big guy who is wearing black make-up around his eyes. He has the black shirt but these baggy electric-bright purple pants. All the extras are given masks to wear.

My buddy asks if any of us wants to be an extra. Drew and I decline but Cindy’s up for it. One of the production assistants gives her a mask and takes her onto the set.

We look around while the extras are placed in their positions. Discover the Orgy Room that is decked out with mattresses and red sheets and red draperies. One of the set designers shows us a motel room he built. Looks very real. I swear I stayed in a room just like this one up near the Grand Canyon many years ago. It even had the same crappy bedspread.

Time to shoot the scene. We end up in a room with the director and his team. The fire-eater is there, too. The actors walk through the scene with the camera. Michel makes changes. Wants an extra in this spot or that. Drapes need to be added to one area. Discusses the best spot for the fire-eater. Decides that one of the pole dancers should be topless. Concludes that the woman flogging the guy on the A-frame won’t be a distraction. An assistant arranges it all. Elise comes into the room. She has a question about the line of dialogue she has at the end of the scene that she says to Brien. They start to discuss it. My buddy—his mind shifting into rewrite mode—speaks up. "Don’t say anything. Just look at him then walk away." They all agree that is much better and that’s what they’ll do. Everything is set. Smoke machines turned on. Camera rolls. They shoot the scene. Then Michel decides to do it once more. They do. Michel says “print.” One of the assistants yells “Lunch.”

All that work for a scene that will last probably one minute in the completed film.

We grab a quick bite with the crew. The room we eat in is a set. One corner is a law office and another is a radio station booth. The other half is a doctor’s office.

It’s decided that it’s time to leave. Long drive home. We thank Michel and everyone we met. We head out. Past two dozen more extras who have just arrived. I wonder if Michel will re-shoot the scene with more people in the background or use what he has. I understand they are a day or two behind shooting and Thursday is their final scheduled day. Don’t know.

It was a fun and interesting day. I hope the film turns out well for all those involved. Like I said, they were nice people and the film looks like it will be an intriguing erotic thriller.
I hope the next set I visit will be for the screenplay that my buddy and I co-wrote. No S&M raves in that story. Just a ten-story science research facility. Maybe I need to expand my scene locations. Hmmm…

Friday, December 16, 2005

Nude, uncovered, bare, unclad, undressed, au natural, denuded, exposed, disrobed, unguarded, open, unconcealed, stark, stripped and bare-ass.
Not much happening with me today. A fellow Zumayan writer, Erin OBrien, put a nude photo of herself on her web-site (well, kinda). Her blog has been hammered by visits and comments. I added a stupid comment myself to the list. Anyway, since I'm not as out-going as she is (and don't have the nerve) I decided just to list the word "naked" and some of its synonyms. I'm going to see if my visit and comment counter takes a jump. It'll probably turn out to be another lame idea in a long line of lame ideas. Whoa, probably shouldn't use the words naked and lame in the same paragraph.
Well, back to writing. Maybe I'll write while nude. Haven't done that before. Nahhh...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


One year long ago at the North Pole, Santa was having a lot of problems. Numerous supplies he’d ordered to build toys were backordered and, in some cases, cancelled altogether. Several hundred bags of mail had been misplaced. The Elves Union was threatening to go on strike if their new contract wasn’t approved. Rudolph had the flu and his nose wasn’t glowing at all. Prancer and Dancer had gotten into a major argument and flatly refused to be on the same harness team with the other. His doctor had sent him a curt note stating that he had to immediately cut down on his milk consumption. Then he forgot an anniversary from his dating days with Mrs. Claus and she wasn’t speaking to him.

As he sat at his desk, he muttered to himself, “That’s it. I’m at the end of my rope here. I can’t handle more one thing.”

Just then a cute little angel, dragging a Christmas tree, walked into the office and said, “Hey, Santa, what do you want me to do with this Christmas tree?”

And that, boys and girls, is why the angel is on top of the Christmas tree.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Both my novels, Rebel Nation, and, The Inheritance, are listed at Amazon. I promote this when I send out my monthly newsletter. The novels can be purchased through Amazon or the actual printer Booksurge. Booksurge is faster but a lot people are nervous about ordering through companies they haven't dealt with before. Amazon is a known name and a more comfortable enviroment for ordering on-line.
My cousin calls the other day. Wants to order a copy of The Inheritance but Amazon says they have no copies. I check out Amazon and TI is listed as out of copies. On the RN page it says there is one copy at a used book store. I click on it. The book store is selling RN for 51 dollars and change. Huh? When did my novel become a rare collector's item? What does this book store know that my publisher and I don't? Amusing.
I wrote my editor, Liz Burton, and she responded with this email:
Here's the way it works:
1.Amazon runs out of copies.
2.Amazon notifies Booksurge.
3. Booksurge prints no. of copies requested and ships to Amazon warehouse
4. Amazon warehouse receives copies and updates book status.
Chances are if your cousin orders the book anyway he will get an email in a day or two that it's "shipping sooner than expected." That's whathappened to me with an order I placed where they'd run out of copies.
Cool. So, shameless plug here, order from Amazon anyway (or go to Booksurge or Both novels would make excellent Christmas presents for the reader in the family. RN is listed for $15 and TI for $13.
The Alternate-History Thriller
by Christopher Stires

“A chilling alternate history suspense novel …
Stires builds a memorable cast of characters that rivals the best of Turtledove.” – Apex Science Fiction & Horror Digest
"... a novel heavy in alternate reality and rich in character...
you forget at parts that this is not a history book or based on real events." -- EpicSFF
"... a twisting, intriguing and downright solid story that shouldn't be passed over." -- The Romance Studio
"This is an intriguing novel ... fast paced .. a lot going on .... I like the twists both in the plot and in the world." -- The Eternal Night (UK)

Winner of the 2003 Dream Realm Award for Horror
“… a very good first novel ... an excellent introduction to an author who shows promise for big things." -- Fangoria Magazine "In all, a very well written book reminiscent of my favourite, Dean Koontz." -- Eternal Night Magazine (UK) “Rarely do stories capture the reader's interest so absolutely, but this one does … sinister and chilling…” -- Timeless Tales

Have a great day. Happy shopping.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Two Short Story Successes

Short stories are a dying breed as are the publications that produce them but that’s for a different blog entry.

So, on with this entry: Find a story worth telling (a lot aren’t). Write it (sometimes the first draft is perfect – okay, I can dream, can’t I?). Then rewrite the story. Then rewrite it again and give it a good polish. Then push it out of the nest and send it to editors. Sometimes they return bruised and bloody. A lot of times they return with a “thanks for visiting but doesn’t fit in here.” Occasionally they return with notes on how they could be better (fifty-fifty whether or not the notes are helpful). And, once in a while when the stars and moon and sun are in perfect alignment, they are asked to stay at the house they were sent to.

Twice it has occurred this month for me. I’m pleased. Both are original stories (not reprints). It’s exciting and very cool when someone who is not a relative or friend likes the story you’ve created and they want to include it in their zine or anthology. It’s even better when they offer money to show your story. Yeah, it’s very cool.

I have about ten stories in the mail currently. The last couple of months have been pretty quiet. A few rejections have come but not many. Still I check my email and snail mail box every day. Okay, I check more than once a day.

A week ago, a new web-zine called Devil’s Work accepted a flash story I wrote. (Just in case you don’t know, a flash story is a tale under 1000 words.) My story clocked in at 360 words. I’m pleased. This acceptance marks my 80th acceptance. I use the word “acceptance” because not all my acceptances included money. Sometimes, especially in the beginning of my writing career, I accepted exposure with web-zines and payment in copies with print zines. I don’t regret a single sale. FYI, of the eighty, five were for non-fiction articles and 15 were accepted then the zine folded before publication. So 60 have been for fiction tales. Some were reprints which means I sold the same story more than once. Haven’t counted that group. That means my original sales are less than sixty. Long winded, ain’t I?

Today, Sunday, I received a very nice acceptance from editor Armand Rosamilia at Carnifex Press. He wrote that my story was the first he was accepting for his new anthology called Clash of Steel: Book Three – Demon. He added a couple more compliments. I’m tickled. Really. This will be a cool anthology to be part of. As for the story, “The Beast of Lyoness,” is my fourth Crusader tale. Patrick Novarro is the only character I’ve ever created that I’ve written one than more story about. I like him and enjoy sending him on adventures. About time for a fifth story in his saga to rescue the loved and loving Lenore.

In the meantime, I’m cracking open a fresh bottle of Mountain Dew and celebrating.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Amusing … at least to me … I think

The other day I made an appointment with my massage therapist. My body was one giant knot on top of another knot. A Swedish and deep tissue massage sounded wonderful. I’d been there several times before and I’m very comfortable with my therapist. Usually I’m the only client there. It’s a one-person office.

I arrive and Karen has just finished running my whirlpool tub. I strip, head down the hall and into the tub. The hot pulsating water is terrific. I nearly fall asleep.

The whirlpool ends, I dry off and head back down the hall to the massage room. I’m nude at this point. As I said I’m very comfortable at this office. Plus Karen has massaged 99% of my body over the years. No big deal to me or to Karen. Also I have discovered that being nude is relaxing.

I enter the massage room, climb onto the table, and cover myself with the sheet. Just before Karen comes in, I hear her talking to someone. Don’t think much about it. Karen comes in and the massage begins. I can’t fall asleep on the table this time (I have in the past) because Karen is finding knot after knot in my muscles. Slowly I begin to relax. At some point during the hour I hear sounds of someone in the outer office. It dawns on me that Karen wasn’t talking to someone on the phone earlier but to someone in the office. Uh-oh.

Massage finishes. My body feels better. Still knotted in spots but not like before. I get dressed. I walk into the outer office to pay my bill. There’s a woman sitting in the waiting room. She looks at me and her face turns bright red. Then she looks at her feet. Karen doesn’t mention anything but I realize, without a doubt, that this woman was in the office when I took my naked stroll down the hall. I’ve never “flashed” anyone before and that’s what I must’ve done by her reaction to me. I didn’t intend that. I pay my bill, Karen and I tell each other to have a nice day, I leave. Outside, I start laughing. Good grief. I guess I need to be a little more discreet next time. Or, at least, suck my gut in when I’m strolling naked down hallways.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Bought my Christmas cards today and located the Christmas CDs. Started thinking about my favorite films and specials from this time of year. Decided to share whether you want to hear it or not. These are my Top Ten:

10) Scrooge (aka The Christmas Carol) from 1951 with Alister Sim. At some point before Christmas I'll end up watching this one again. It was a toss-up between this version and the 1999 one with Patrick Stewart.

9) The Ref. This dark comedy with Denis Leary and Kevin Spacey is hysterical.

8) How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I may be one of the people who enjoys both the animated version and the Jim Carrey movie (and I don't normally care for Carrey -- maybe it's because he's hidden under all the make-up. Hmmm.)

7) A Charlie Brown Christmas. Yeah, I get sentimental and sappy sometimes and have flashbacks to my childhood.

6) Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. See above.

5) Miracle on 34th Street. The old b&w version with Maureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, and a very young Natalie Wood.

4) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Chevy Chase used to be in very funny movies and this one is funny.

3) It's a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Clarence the Angel. Now that it's not being shown a thousand times a month I can enjoy it again. "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his/her wings."

2) A Christmas Story. This movie cracks me up. From beginning to end. Go ahead, stick your tongue on an ice-cold pole. It won't stick. Wrap little brother in so much winter clothes he can't get up when he falls. And "You'll shoot your eye out."

and (drum roll, please) in the Number One Spot, my favorite Christmas movie of all:

Die Hard

Hey, back off. It takes place during Christmas. That's why Bruce Willis is in Los Angeles. To see his family for the holidays. That's why the company is having a party in the building. (At least I didn't say Lethal Weapon which also takes place at Christmas. That would've been sick.)