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Film Review: Byzantium

My first introduction to all things vampiric was at the hands of Anne Rice with her fiendish brat-prince Lestat and ever so melancholy Louis. Rice’s books laid the foundation for my love of the blood-suckers, a love which continued to grow thanks to the dark, grotesque and romantic writings of Poppy Z Brite. Given the recent YA rendering of the bloody beasties into sparkling boyfriend material and the rather ridiculous True Blood (I know I’m in the minority with that opinion) I’m still very much a fan of vampire stories ala The Black Dagger Brotherhood and even the Vampire Diaries TV series (which is only marginally less ridiculous than True Blood, but somehow far more compelling to me – I think it’s all Ian Somerhalder’s fault). Anyway, point is, while I’m still a fan of vampires, it takes something really fresh and well-done to impress me, something like the Swedish Let the Right One In for example, which is why I haven’t rushed to watch Byzantium. However, being rather enamoured with Saoirse Ronan, I finally sat down to watch.

*Mild spoilers ahead*

Byzantium-2012-poster

Residents of a coastal town learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort.

I don’t know who writes these IMDB descriptions, but could they get any more boring than this? How not to get viewers excited! Thank goodness the movie poster is stunning. With all that black on red, it just screams blood and horror and romantic vampire – yum! This movie started out by introducing us to a centuries-old, teenage-looking protagonist who writes down the story of her life and then literally tosses the pages to the wind. This almost cliche example of teenage angst made me a little squirmy. I know the girl is 16 but she’s been 16 for two hundred years, surely she’d be over teen angst and the inevitable coming-of-age existential crisis? I know the centuries-old teen is usually kept ‘teen-like’ in order to keep the character relatable for a YA audience, but it’s not very accurate. I can’t help comparing these characters to that of Claudia, Anne Rice’s child vampire who matures and ages, finally becoming frustrated that her physical appearance doesn’t match her psychological and emotional age. In Byzantium, however, the 200-year-old teenager becomes entranced by a very human teenage boy. I’m not even ten years out of my teens yet, and I’m already irritated/frustrated by teens and cannot imagine choosing to date one (aside from the potentially icky pedophilic connotations) as I simply don’t have that much in common with teens any more. I cannot imagine a 200-year-old vampire who has traveled extensively and lived through changing eras finding true love in a modern teenager, even if they are an ‘old soul’ – another tired trope often trotted out to justify the interest between immortal and hapless human.

Despite the cliches and the associated pitfalls, Byzantium had a lot going for it with the creepy vampire powers-that-be hovering menacingly in the background and the under-stated vamping that occurred. These vampires don’t tear out throats – they don’t even have fangs! – and the feeding they do is all rather sedate and civilized (wait, is that a good thing in what should be a horror movie?). The few moments of gore and horror in the film seem there merely for shock value without serving the overall aesthetic, which is rather disappointing.

Ronan shines in her role – as she usually does – and so does Caleb Landry Jones who plays her freckled love interest. Her mother, however, seems almost a caricature of the ‘bad mother’ stereotype, considering she’s a prostitute, who – despite two centuries of life experience – can’t think of another way to earn money. The rebellious teen-crappy mother dynamic seems totally contrived here. After two hundred years together, surely they’d be over that by now and would’ve established a more adult bond?

The way the plot unravels also wouldn’t be possible without Ronan’s character’s desperate need to establish her identity, to declare ‘I AM’ to the world and find herself – all very teen-like behaviours that are less convincing given that she’s two hundred freaking years old! The plot was definitely the weakest part of this film, a film that would’ve done better as an artsy character exploration with Lynch-ish overtones. At 2 hours long, the movie felt its length and was at times almost boring since there wasn’t a lot going on except for the angsting, and even when the menacing elder vamps did show up, their appearance was underwhelming and far too short lived to make an impact.

This movie could’ve been an intriguing character study keeping the paranormal stuff in the background, but at some point the film seemed to remember it was meant to be about vampires so cue the magical waterfalls of blood (literally) and ill-conceived, poorly explored paranormal arcanery. The explanation for the existence of vampires was paper thin and the lore the film tried to create was baffling and extremely sexist. I would’ve enjoyed this movie a lot more had we never found out how humans became vampires. Also, they’re vampires. They’re murdering, blood-sucking fiends – the attempt at moralizing them in this film didn’t add much except more confusion about the world-building. Last gripe? Voice overs. Can’t stand them, rarely need them, never ever want them in a film especially not when the voice over tells what’s been shown on screen anyway.

Dammit, Byzantium, I really wanted you to be brilliant. While the film was atmospheric and had some beautiful moments of great acting, overall I just didn’t buy the character dynamics or the world-building. This movie scores 2.5/5 ink-splats from me.


2.5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in Reviews

 

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Spotlight: Crystal Lake Publishing

Hey Guys and Girls, hope you’re all well! 🙂

I’m back with another spotlight post, this time bringing a great independent publisher of Dark Fiction and Horror to your attention. 🙂 I’ve also got the publisher himself, Joe Mynhardt, on the blog for an in-depth Q & A, after which I’ll be showing you the titles that Crystal Lake Publishing has released so far. 🙂

Logo

Ladies and gents, here’s the man who makes it all happen – Joe Mynhardt:

Joe

Does the name Crystal Lake Publishing originate from the Friday the 13th movies? Your favourite movie, perhaps?

I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite (I won’t even be able to choose one), but it was one of the earliest horror movies I watched growing up. Fortunately my parents didn’t mind me watching scary movies with them. Little did they know I snuck out of bed certain nights to watch that same movie again, alone – just me and a pillow to hide behind.

I was actually looking for a company name that not only paid homage to horror, but something that sounded professional, and in the long run didn’t tie me to just the horror genre, since you never know what the future holds. I’m quite happy with Crystal Lake Publishing, since it immediately brought the company logo to mind, as well.

Why do you love this genre?

Since a young boy I’ve always been interested in the supernatural. I loved scary movies. I didn’t care if there weren’t really any monsters creeping around in the dark. It was the possibility that excited me. You put two kids in a dark room with an open closet and each one will imagine their own unique monster.

I’d say the biggest turning point was when I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Final Escape episode. The twist in the tale story has been my favorite ever since. And let’s not forget The Monkey’s Paw.

As writers we quickly learn what grabs the attention of readers. Things like drama, action, conflict, strong characters, dire situations and an antagonist that wants the exact opposite of your hero. And if you look carefully at these aspects, you’ll see they all play a big role in all stories. Horror is in every genre: losing a loved one is a horrible event; standing on a stage in front of people; being laughed at; losing a fight; being dumped, getting married (just kidding).

Plain and simple, horror stories are exciting. You never know what to expect.

Crystal Lake Publishing has also just published Gary McMahon’s short story collection, Where You Live. McMahon has built up a solid reputation as one of the hottest horror authors around at the moment – how did you secure this coveted collection?

I met Gary through a project we were both involved in at Dark Minds Press (Dark Minds anthology), and he was the first person I invited for Crystal Lake Publishing’s inaugural anthology, For the Night is Dark. He was also the first to accept. I’m a 100% certain that some of the other authors joined the project to share the TOC with him.

We stayed in contact after that, and I’m of course a big fan of his work. He’s already working on The Outsiders with a few other authors, including Simon Bestwick, which will be out in 2014. He also recently wrote an introduction to Fear the Reaper (the 2nd anthology) and I think he was quite impressed with the quality of the book. It was then that he contacted me about republishing a sold out, limited edition book he had published a few years back with Grey Friar Press, including a bunch of new stories, of course.

How does the working day look like for Joe Mynhardt?

Okay. I get up at 6:24am, breakfast bell rings at 6:45. Because I live at the school where I work, I walk to school in under a minute – awesome. I get to school at 7 but only start teaching at 7:40. School comes out at 13:40, so I rush to get lunch, then greet my wife and dogs, as well as change clothes, before going to sport at 14:00 (what a rush). I coach soccer and cricket, depending on the season.

After hours of standing, marking, arguing and solving problems, I finally go home at around 15:30. Some days I come out a bit earlier. If it’s cricket season, a match can easily take you to 18:00.

I do my best to put on my publisher’s hat as fast as possible, so I can get some work done before my wife comes back from work at 17:00. Believe it or not, the hostel serves dinner at 5pm, as well.

Then, on two nights a week, I’ll sit in study hall for an hour, helping the kids with their homework. After that I get a bit more work done. I try to finish by 21:00 every evening, but it’s not always possible.

Then we either watch an episode of a series, or I read or listen to an audio book before going to be at 22:30.

All this happens on a good day. On a crap day I’ll have to drive around and do errands. I normally leave errands for Fridays, but things just don’t always go according to plan.

For those who might not know, once a book is accepted, approximately how long does it take for it to be published?

The big publishers can take up to three years, but they take on way too many titles, and have too many people working on one project, anyway.

There are a lot of factors that come into play. For example, some books require a rewrite in certain areas. Since the authors I use in anthologies are highly sought after, I give them 6 months to write their contributions; they have a lot of other deadlines to cope with. After that it takes about 2 months to edit the anthology, then I might need to send it to someone who’s writing an introduction. I also need a month or two to send out ARC’s for pre-launch reviews that I’ll use during the launch.

Somewhere in there the cover needs to be made, eBook and paperback formatting, scheduling a successful launch or blog tour and so on.

So I prefer about 9 months per project.

What we can expect from Crystal Lake Publishing in 2014?

Except for a surprise novella (which will then be combined into a collection later the year), there are quite a few books already lined up:

William Meikle’s Samurai and Other Stories.

The Outsiders (a Lovecraftian, shared-world anthology).

A yet to be named non-fiction eBook that’ll guide horror writers in the right direction, written by a host of horror authors.

Tales From the Lake Vol.1.

Children of the Grave (a zombie, shared-world, choose your own adventure collection, where each author writes a different direction).

And if everything goes well and things aren’t too hectic, I’ll be able to finish my second collection by the end of 2014, but it’ll probably only be out early 2015.

The second Tales From the Lake horror writing competition.

But you never know what opportunities will come along. I always leave a bit of room in case something big comes knocking. You see, always be ready when opportunity comes knocking.

Where can we find Crystal Lake Publishing on the internet?

Check out our website: http://www.crystallakepub.com

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/crystallakepub

Chat with us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Crystallakepublishing

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/107478350897139952572/posts

All our books can also be found on Goodreads.

And of course Amazon. But instead of barraging you with links, it might be better to just visit our books page. If you click on the book covers, you’ll find out more about each book, or you can just click on the Amazon buttons to follow the universal links straight to your country’s Amazon outlet.

I’m also very approachable, so don’t hesitate to contact me at crystallakepub@gmail.com. I’ll add you to the mailing list (which goes out with every new release), and if you’re an author, be sure to send me a bio and links to (or examples of) your work. I might just contact you for a project in the future.

When it comes to the invite-only anthologies you’re known to put together, are there any surprises and/or co-incidental similarities in theme that come about?

Surprisingly not. Each story is just so unique in its approach and symbolism. You see, I like to study writers and their work, then I bring a bunch of them together, a bunch I’ll know will not only fit nicely together, but bring out the best in each other.

Once the stories are submitted I’ll work with the authors to sharpen the story, and if I do ever find any similarities are will not benefit the collection, we’ll work on it together till everything evens out nicely.

Once I invite an author to an anthology, he/she is 95% guaranteed to be in that anthology. There will probably be a first someday, where an author and I will agree that the story isn’t going to work. Not all authors are easy to work with.

Do you prefer all out gore or psychological chills?

Definitely psychological chills. Without the psychological manipulation of a decent writer, the gore bits would mean absolutely nothing. No one would care about the character. With today’s special effects in movies, people have been a bit desensitised. That’s why some writers now feel they have to go overboard with gore scenes. Look back at the older movies, remember how they never actually showed the monster eat the victim. They just zoomed in on his approach and faded to black. Still scared the hell out of me and everyone who watched it. Why, because we cared about those people. The writer made us care. But, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing better than a perfectly timed bit of gore that makes you go, “Awesome!”

A great approach is to show the carnage the ‘monster’ or whoever has done, without actually showing him or it until the very end. That way you have the chills and the gore. There are great stories with only the psychological horror, but too many of them in a row tends to weaken a collection, in my opinion.

I tend to put a lot of gore into a story where the bad guy finally gets what he deserves. In the title story of my Lost in the Dark collection, I have a bad guy who gets the tendons behind his knees, ankles and arms severed (even his eyelids), then he gets tied to a tree and torn apart by wild animals. The timing was perfect, because by then the reader despises him for all the horrible things he had done, things much worse than what happened to him, and it made me go, “Awesome!”

What considerations to you take when it comes to cover art? Do you leave it up to the author or artist or do you take full control?

Most of the covers come either from a picture I had in my mind, or a part from a story in the collection. Artists Ben Baldwin likes to read a few stories to get the feel of the book. But when it comes to an author’s collection, I connect the author with Ben and they work it out amongst them. Ben knows what I like and I have 100% faith that he’ll create another masterpiece. From the start he’s always been able to bring the picture in my mind to life.

My initial love of books started with book covers. I’m a big fan of covers, whether it’s vinyl covers or DVD covers.

I’m a big fan of emotionally impactful covers. Covers that you can stare at for days. Every time the reader picks up the book, they’ll first stare at the cover before paging on. If you can make someone feel let’s say anger, fear, awe, curiosity or unease when they look at a cover, you’ve already set the mood for a great book.

Some of the covers might remind you of a childhood fear, or perhaps make you realise that you’re scared of something and you never realised it.

***

Here are the books that are already available from Crystal Lake Publishing:

Where You Live - Smaller version

Fear the Reaper FB version

Things Slip Through by Kevin Lucia

for the night is dark final cover

Tricks, Mischief and Mayhem ebook version

sleeper(s)  smaller version

lost in the dark

Click on the covers to order your copies from Amazon. 🙂

And here’s a look at what’ll be coming your way in 2014:

25 January 2014

25 January 2014

May, 2014

May, 2014

 

July, 2014

July, 2014

September, 2014

September, 2014

As you can see, there’s plenty already available from Crystal Lake, and much more coming! 🙂

To get more info about the publisher, click here for their website; you can also connect with Crystal Lake Publishing on Facebook and Twitter. 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Spotlight

 

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Review: Meat by Joseph D’Lacey

Meat is one of the few novels, such as J. Robert King’s Angel of Death, that has not only hooked me on a specfic author after only one book, but which has also amazed, revolted and enthralled me. I’ve got Joseph’s Garbage Man, too, and will be getting into it as soon as I’ve finished two other books, a Fantasy and a SF novel.

The first thing that struck me about Meat is that in the opening passages I already felt uncomfortable, as if something ugly and fragrant and unlike-us was watching me and I was aware of its regard but not where it was – the opening passages introduce the main protagonist of the tale, but in a manner that makes you wonder just what the hell is wrong with him, where he lives, and why he’s doing what he’s doing when you meet him.

From there, the book becomes sinisterly relentless – the world in which he lives, a town in the middle of nowhere and nothing, grows with hints of what people believe, how they live and work, and while this world grows and the various characters are introduced, Joseph is slowly planting the seeds of a repulsive, incredibly shocking, and deeply affecting reveal. It’s at this point that I think many readers, if they have thought of putting down the book, will put the book down and stop reading and try and forget that they ever picked up the book.

In speaking to friends and customers about Meat, I used this scenario to describe it: imagine you’re on the road, driving, to work or wherever, and the road is busy; traffic starts to slowy back up and before long you’re inching along, fuming because of the heat and the fact that your plans have got to wait; as you inch along, you start seeing the evidence of an accident – a tyre lying on its side, rubber-stripes on the tar where the driver tried to stop, and then pieces of shattered glass here and there, splashes of what is probably oil – and as the evidence builds you can’t help thinking that this was a terrible accicdent. And as you approach the wrecked hulk of the car, you don’t want to look, because you know you’re either going to see the state of the car and your imagination will fill in the blanks or you’ll see the body, or bodies, or pieces of bodies, and even though you don’t want to look, as you reach the wreck, you do…

The subject matter of Meat punches hard, relentlessly and without mercy; Joseph doesn’t spare you. But he doesn’t only freak you out and unsettle you – the characters that populate the town are real and vibrant -sometimes sickeningly so- and Joseph shows that he has a real eye for the kind of personal dialogue and interactions that help you slip behind the eyes of the characters, making it so that understanding them and their point of view is effortless. Some of the characters I wanted to beat to death because they revolted me, others I was intensely curious about, wondering if they were, in fact, human, and still others I sympathized with even though what they were doing would spell trouble for everyone and everything later on. Like Stephen King, Joseph has an amazing ability to put the every-day man into srange, incredible and insane situations without forgetting the fact that he’s writing about people and telling their story.

Meat is an intensely unsettling book – it really shocked me and made me think, and Joseph’s afterword was perfectly fitting; this won’t be a book that will make you feel good, although you might crack a smile in some instances – this is the kind of book that will make you smile in a malicious way as you enjoy the fates of the some of the characters. And it’s also one of the most important reasons why this is such a damned good book – it doesn’t pull any punches, it explores the blurred line between depravity and getting used to something, between good and evil, and in a brutal, feverish and yet I-can’t-stop-reading manner.

Josepf D’Lacey is the kind of writer that might just make you retch and lose sleep, but he’s also the kind of storyteller that tells the stories you don’t want to, but need to, hear.

Read this book!

10 / 10

To order your copies of Meat, click here for Amazon UK, here for Amazon US, and here if you’re in South Africa (you can order the book in-store through Ingrams at any Exclusive Books or place your order online). To get more info about Joseph and his work, click here.

Until next time,

BE EPIC!

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Reviews

 

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Announcing a new SA Book Fair: BookEx!

Hey guys and girls, I’ve got some great news for those of you living in Pretoria or Jo’burg. 🙂 There’s a brand new book fair coming and it promises to be quite the kickass event!

Taken from the Book Ex website:

Gauteng is the economic powerhouse of the nation and Johannesburg its financial heart. Therefore it is only fitting that a sizeable book event should eventually find its home here. From November 2010 that home will be BookEx.

Initiated by Estoril Books, BookEx will be a book extravaganza where the public can find plenty of titles for sale under one roof and publishers can exhibit their ranges and parade their authors.

Here’s the full press release:

BookEx JHB 26-28 November
Powered by Estoril Books

‘It’s an initiative well worth supporting…see all you book lovers there!’ – Mandla Langa, 17 October 2010

Gauteng is the economic powerhouse of the nation and Johannesburg its financial heart. Therefore it is only fitting that a sizeable book event should eventually find its home here.

From November 2010 that home will be BookEx. Initiated by Estoril Books, BookEx will be a book extravaganza where the public can find plenty of titles for sale under one roof and publishers can exhibit their ranges and parade their authors.

Set to take place from 26 – 28 November at The Sandton Convention centre, BookEx will incorporate both a large sales to the public and exhibitions from large and small publishers. It will also feature special events such as the mini crime-writing festival, “CrimeWrite.”

BookEx is the brainchild of Mohan Kanjee of Estoril Books, who said that, “Our aim is to create a hub of book shopping ahead of the summer holidays and Christmas together with author participation. In addition we will be hosting a two day Crime Writer’s Fest “CrimeWrite” within BookEx that has been developed by Mike Nicol, Margie Orford and a number of other crime writers.”

Other specific platforms are also being developed to make this not just a glorified book sale but an all encompassing book event of epic proportions. There will be a large children’s section complete with child-minders and activities such as storytelling, face painting and colouring in etc.

There will also be a strong emphasis on local, independent authors and publishers to give them a huge opportunity to promote themselves alongside the big guns of the business.

While a central exhibition space will be open to the public (entrance is only R30.00 for adults), sales will take place in one place, upon exit. Special shopping trolleys will be available and qualified sales staff will be manning the sales points.

Mike Nicol – ‘BookEx Johannesburg is underway amid much excitement after a bad year for book sales. CrimeWrite – showcasing the best krimi writers we have on offer – will be part of the scene. See you there: November 26 – 28 at the Sandton Convention – 16 October 2010

This fair is looking to be one of the best events of its kind, with panels on practically all genres and subjects (see the full program here) – including Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.

That panel will have Louis Greenberg, Sarah Lotz and Lauren Beukes talking about SF/F/Horror, and I’ve been asked to chair the panel. 🙂 It’s the first time I’ll be chairing a panel on SFF/H and I’m really looking forward to it!

There will also be a Crime Writing workshop, the first-ever at an event of this kind; here are the details:

CrimeWrite At BookEx 2010

A very different and exciting component of BookEx 2010, powered by Estoril Books, will be the two day CrimeWrite festival developed by Mike Nicol, Margie Orford and other South African crime writers.

In a full two day programme of events, South Africa’s top crime writers will take their audience through how they do what they do, why they do it and the difference between their fiction and reality. In a series of shorter presentations, writers will also discuss smaller aspects of the genre and their own work.

BookEx attendees who register with CrimeWrite are then eligible to enter the CrimeWrite short story competition. Details will be given at the sessions. The grand prize includes books, a feature on Mike Nicol’s Crime Beat and the BookEx Website.

CrimeWrite takes place on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 November and includes live Skype interviews with South African authors abroad Deon Meyer, Roger Smith and Richard Kunzmann.

CrimeWrite is part of the inaugural BookEx event taking place at the Sandton Convention centre from 26-28 November 2010. BookEx is a book extravaganza where the public can find plenty of titles for sale under one roof and publishers can exhibit their ranges and parade their authors. Check out all the details at the BookEx site!

So scrap whatever plans you’ve made for Sunday the 28th, or for that entire weekend; if you’re a book-lover and are looking to spend the some well-spent time in the company of publishers and writers, come join us at BookEx.

Remember to check out the BookEx website for all the info you need (GPS co-ords included), and I hope to see you there!

Be EPIC!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 22, 2010 in Announcements

 

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Star Wars Deathtroopers Cover Revealed!!

Holy crap! You have to check this out! 🙂

For those who didn’t know, on Halloween of this year the first ever full-on horror novel, set in the Star Wars universe (yep, you heard that right), is being published! 🙂

Now, I am an unrepentant Star Wars nut (approaching 120 paperbacks in my collection, 12 hardcovers, and plenty more), I love the mythology and the characters, and even though the Star Wars saga is venturing into new territory here, I think it’s going to be awesome! 🙂 The cover is so kickass! 🙂

Looking forward to it! 🙂 Somehow, Mr Scheiber, I don’t think you will disappoint. 🙂

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 27, 2009 in Announcements

 

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