Arrested Development Returns

NOTE: This is largely spoiler-free, but I do allude to some situations. It might also be clearer if you have seen the show. Proceed at your own risk.

Arrested Development 2013
Sunday May 26th marked the return of Arrested Development, and I, like many others, have spent the last two days getting reacquainted with the Bluth family. While watching I came to the discomforting realization that I sort of wish they hadn’t returned. Here are a few of my thoughts regarding “Season 4” of Arrested Development.

To begin with, there were many, many positives throughout the 15 episodes. It was obvious watching that the cast was delighted to be back working together again. The timing, chemistry and comfort of the actors was apparent onscreen. It is great to watch people enjoying what they are doing, instead of working for a paycheque, and this certainly looked to be the case. The writing was still strong. There were many funny lines and situations throughout the series. The trademark wit was still there, the memorable catchphrases (You’re a hot mess! and ANUSTART come to mind) and inspired lunacy was on display. I laughed, and enjoyed myself, but after awhile I stared to see some weaknesses.

I should preface this by saying I did not have unrealistic expectations going in. I enjoyed the first two seasons immensely, but I found the third season to be weak in comparison. I also thought that it resolved the story enough that I was left feeling satisfied, and did not need a continuation of the story. When it was “renewed” by Netflix I was curious and hopeful, but I was not expecting the second coming of Christ. I was just hoping it would be as entertaining as the earlier seasons, and perhaps the creative team would come back refreshed with a lot of great new ideas. This was not entirely the case.

One of the biggest problems I had with the show was one of the things I was most excited to see. The season was not in sequential order. Instead each episode was about a specific character, so the viewer would see the story for different perspectives. While this concept is not wholly original, it was quite a technically impressive feat, juggling multiple storylines across several characters, each adding a little bit to the puzzle that is the complete plot. I was excited and intrigued by how this would play out (indeed, the creator originally wanted to have the show be view-able in any order, each episode totally standalone, but was unable to do this to his satisfaction), but was underwhelmed with the result. Too often, especially nearing the final episodes of the series, I found myself feeling like I was watching retreads of the scenes. Sure, a small amount of information would come out, but often I felt as though I was watching the same scene again, with Ron Howard’s ceaseless narration filling in holes or reminding us of what had happened in the scene previously. It became exhausting and frustrating after awhile, and pulled me out of the story instead of pulling me further in. It also felt disjointed, certain characters would disappear for long stretches, and any narrative momentum in their story arc would be lost. I thought the story would feel much fresher if they were presented in such a way that the climax took place during the Cinco de Quatro celebrations. The way it was presented I didn’t think there was any climax, just a lot of stuff happening, most of it unresolved.

That was another issue I had with the series. As I mentioned, I thought the finale of season three wrapped up the storylines quite well. The 15th episode of season four left virtually every character in some form of jeopardy or unresolved situation. Indeed, it takes it to the extreme, cutting off mid scene between Michael and his son George Micheal. I understand the cliffhanger is a trope, used for years in storytelling, but to me it felt like a cheat. They had ample time to tell the stories they wanted to tell (each episode is about 30 minutes long), but instead they threw so many balls up in the air to juggle, and then left each and every one hanging. There is still no confirmation of another series or movie, so this move just appears calculated to cause a public outcry, to insist that there must be more to come. A canny strategy, to be sure, but deeply unsatisfying storytelling.

This is just my two cents. I would love to hear what you thought of the series, or if you are even going to bother watching it.

Amazon: Insane or Brilliant?

So probably the biggest news on Twitter (well, my feed at least, which includes a lot of writers and literary types) is that Amazon is getting into the Fan Fiction business with its Amazon Worlds initiative. I can safely say I never, ever saw that coming. I doubt anyone did. Fan fiction is like the redheaded stepchild of writing (I can say that as I am a red head, and who knows, maybe my mom will remarry, after my dad dies I mean). Although a lot of people produce it, and a lot of people read it, it does not very much respect in the literary community. Like none. Some people are dead set against it, and think it is the worst thing in the world. Personally I don’t care much either way. I have neither read nor written any fan fiction. But I think it can be successful.

People like being comfortable. They like familiar characters and situations. If some writers out there can tap into what makes the licensed properties successful, they will probably also be successful. Currently the only properties licensed include Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and Vampire Diaries, so I doubt I will be throwing my pen into the ring anytime soon, but they promise more licenses will be coming soon. I don’t know if any major properties (Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter etc…) will ever fall under the realm of Amazon Worlds, but I am sure they can generate enough content with lesser known properties. And there will be a market for this. Amazon has just created it. Amazing.

Join the Colony

J.C. Hutchins will not rest until he has completely reinvented the way people interact with fictional narratives. His latest work, #StillHere is a transmedia storytelling experience unlike anything I have ever seen.

Crafted for the Discovery Channel show “The Colony”, #Stillhere takes you inside the narrative of a wold being devastated by the highly virulent “Nuclear Flu”. What makes it interesting that that it used Facebook as the medium. You log in to The Colony using Facebook connect, so your friends, relatives and coworkers all take centre stage as the Nuclear Flu runs rampant.  It’s horrific and immersive fiction at its best. Join the Colony and see for yourself.

From the Dark Side

I was recently given the honor of having my work appear in a charity anthology called From the Dark Side. Not only does this eBook have some of the best names in new fiction that I know, all of the proceeds are going to the Letters and Light Organization, a non-profit charity that promotes youth creativity. So, you can read short woks by myself, James Melzer, Jennifer Hudock, Jake Bible, Nicole Ireland, as well as poems by Kate Sherrod and Acadia Einstein, content in the knowledge that your hard earned dollars are going to help someone find their inner muse.

Go get it, please.

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Smashwords

The Dark Journeys Winner!

Hey people,

As you might remember, I promised a signed copy of my first novel, Lost Gods, to someone who went out and commented on the first pile of Dark Journeys interviews. Now that I have a second to breath again, I have taken the time to find the winner.

The envelope please.

Wow, this glue is strong.

What is this envelope made of, bamboo? It’s impossible to rip.

Does anyone have any scissors?

Yes, that Katana will do nicely, thank you.

The winner is Morgan Elektra!

Congrats, Morgan! I’ll be in touch via some manner to get your address so I can send you your prize!

Thanks to everyone who commented, or in some way supported Jenny and her blog tour!

Winking Existence Part 3 – Conclusion

This is the third part of a story, if you haven’t read part one and two, check out these links first:

Winking Existence Part One

Winking Existence Part Two

I was back in the safe room, I could feel cool, fresh air, the white of the walls was swimming into focus. “More power, shouted my assistant.”We almost have him. More fucking power!”

Well, it was nice while it lasted. I hit the pavement again, lay still for a minute, wondering which parts of me didn’t hurt. I lifted my head from the ground, looked around for my homeless friend. There was no trace of him, or the bike. I pulled myself up, blood dripping on the street beneath me. I was tempted to give up, find a nice comfortable place to curl up and wait for my inevitable death, but the stubborn part of me just wouldn’t give up. Stubborn and stupid are usually on the same page of most dictionaries.

Blood dripped from shoes as I shuffled along the street.I watched for something,anything that might help me,another bicycle, a wheelchair, even a scooter, but I saw nothing.

I had walked for at least an hour when I came to the crest of the biggest hill I had ever seen. It was at least half a mile long, and steep, going straight down into a valley, before going back up again. Four lanes of traffic had gone up and down this hill, but now there was as silent as a photograph. Once this had been a busy street, but now it was the pupae stage of a corpse, there would be nothing left here in a little over an hour. It would take me that long to just get down this hill and up the other side. And then I would be dead.

Still a solid yellow glow on my bracelet. I would not be getting home until I could further away from the epicentre. The cars didn’t run, but they could still roll. I traced a path down the hill. There were a few cars stalled, but most of them were pulled off to the side of the road, I would have  mostly clear path. The bottom of the hill was a different story, the pile of cars was enormous, the EMP must have gone off as people were fleeing down the hill. Suddenly without electronics, people would have rolled to the bottom, crashing and scraping into each other. I might be able to go around the pile and drift up the other side of the hill, if I was careful.

The biggest car near the top of the hill was an old Jeep. It was solid looking, with a roll bar, probably the safest vehicle around. I took a minute to figure out the controls, popped it in neutral, and slowly, ever so slowly, pushed it over to the top of the hill.

I was agony, my bruised and battered body screamed at me with every exertion. Sweat poured down my neck and back, spots swam in front of my eyes. I gasped for breath, but I made it. The Jeep started rolling.

I jumped into the driver’s seat, and just had enough time to get the seat belt on before the roll really began. I picked up speed quickly, the hill was just that steep. My knuckles where white on the steering wheel.

Faster and faster I went. I had to fight the urge to stomp on the breaks, I couldn’t give up any momentum. I raced down the hill, the landscape blurring in my peripheral vision. The pile of cars rushed up at me, tonnes of deadly twisted metal and glass, prepared to become my tombstone.

I wrenched the steering wheel to the right, pulling into a gas station. The jeep bucked as it hit the curb, I was tossed into the air, but still, I managed to hold on to the steering wheel.

I grazed the side of another car, bumping tit out of my way, giving up precious momentum. I was past the majority of the cars now, back on the road, on the other side, about to head up the hill.

I hit a pothole, the jeep lurched forward and tilted, canting at a sickening angle. The sound of tearing metal filled the air as the axle ripped from the chassis. I was thrown forward, seatbelt just stopping me from crashing into the steering column. However, I would have yet another bruise.

Finally the jeep was still. I clambered down, finding myself only a little way back up on the other side of the hill. I hadn’t made it as far as I had hoped, but still, I had managed to cover a lot of distance, with only some bruises to show for it. I was still alive, so that was a good thing.

The hill stretched before me, going up and up and up.  It wasn’t as steep on this side, but it was long. Very long. The sun was beginning to touch the horizon, I knew I had very little time left. I could hear the distant rumble of thunder, and I knew it was beginning.

The bracelet was still yellow. I had to move on.

I forced myself to trot up the hill, I couldn’t run, not in my state, but walking would not get me very far. I could taste metal on my tongue, feel static crawling up and down my skin. I passed under a bridge, and could see the crest of the hill before me.

Still I went on, pausing only to throw up.

At the top of the hill my bracelet started to glow green, a bright, solid green.

I looked back toward downtown. Black clouds spun in an ugly circle, lightening crashed in the sky.

The explosions started then. I fist of fire rose in the sky, engulfing downtown. The explosion roared in my ears.

My bracelet was still green.

I watched as the wall of fire came rushing at me, buildings turned to cinder, trees evaporated in the heat. All of Toronto’s history, destroyed in one freak occurrence. A storm, seeded with chemicals to break a longstanding drought, burst forth with explosive force. Thousands of simultaneous lightening strikes, more powerful than a  nuclear bomb, had destroyed the city and surrounding areas.

The wall of fire grew closer.

My bracelet shone green.

I waited.

Fiction Friday – Winking Existance Part 2

I know this is early, but I will probably be busy tomorrow. My son turns 5, so here we go!

If you missed part one, go here, then come back.

Bright lights, white walls, the safe room. I could hear my assistant shouting.

and then I was back in the store. Had I just dreamed that? Was is a hallucination brought on by stress? My bracelet glowed yellow now, the dim glow indicating that I had some connection with the device, a weak signal. Not enough to get me home safe. But it was nice to know that people were trying.

I discovered that my idea was not original, the bikes had been ransacked, only the smallest of child’s bikes remained,tumbled on the floor and crushed underfoot by an earlier stampede.I managed to find a bike in the back of the store. It was not a display model, it was banged up, with a warped wheel, but it would have to do. I dragged it outside and set off along the street, following the path of abandoned cars.

In a little over an hour, this city was going to go up in a wall of flames. The mortality rate would be low, people had enough of a heads up and got out of the city early enough, but if I wasn’t gone be then, I would be one of those statistics. I pedalled on, zigzagging between cars. My knees screamed at me with each turn of the pedals, my hands throbbed as they held the handlebars, but I knew I had to push on.

At least there wasn’t much traffic.

The downtown streets had a numbing sameness to them, void of people they were void of personality. The stores were empty shells, without purpose or meaning. I grew numb, desensitized, watching only the pavement just ahead of the wheel, scanning for glass or other detritus that would ruin my fragile transport. A dull sound made me look up, just in time to see a bat swinging at my head.

I spun the handlebars of my bike and ducked, deflecting much of the force of the blow, but it was still enough to knock me from my seat. I sprawled on the ground, knees and hands once again taking the brunt of the pain.

I rolled away from the bike and got up quickly to spot my attacker advancing. He was dirty and dishevelled, long hair matted and tangled,twisted into his beard. His clothes were filthy and torn, his shoes were held together with tape.There was a cold, calculating look in his eye, though. I had a bike, he wanted a bike. He also had a weapon.

The bat swung through the air at me. I ducked backward, feeling it the wind of it on my face.

“You should just walk away, man,” my attacker said to me. “Just walk away and you might live. I just want the bike.” He twitched and juddered as he spoke, shoulders jumping and popping, the bat danced in his hand.

“I give you my bike, I’m as good as dead. Why didn’t you leave with everyone else?” I took a careful step back, trying to get out of the range of the bat in case he tried to hit me again.

He stepped forward, not letting me go far. “Didn’t know to go, was underground.  In the subways. More of us there. Lots and lots. But now I know. Gotta go.”  He held the bat over his head and swung down, I just managed to dance out of the way.  His face flashed with pain as the bat crashed against the pavement, the impact must have hurt his hands and wrists. I lashed out with my foot, kicking at the bat.It hurt a hell of a lot, but the bat went soaring out of his hands, I could hear it clatter and roll away behind a car. He grunted in surprise, but spun on his heel and aimed a punch at me. It wasn’t hard, but in my condition with was enough to knock me down. My head cracked against the pavement. Everything lost focus. The man was on top of me now, I could feel his weight on my chest, his rotten smell filled my nostrils.

“Stupid fucking prick,” he shouted, pushing his face into mine. “All you had to do was give me the bike. Just the bike. But no, you had to be a prick!” He started punching me, blows smashing into my face and head. I could feel blood pouring out of my nose.

And that’s when I winked out of existence.

Dark Journeys Contest Update

Hey people,

The Dark Journeys tour is still going strong, with Jenny heading all over the Internets, chatting with some of the best minds in fiction, audio, and audio fiction. I am holding off on the contest to give you all a chance to get out and leave a comment on all of the blogs, here is the original list:

May 2010

May 14, 2010: Jim – Yes, THAT Jim

May 17, 2010: Edward G. Talbot

May 19, 2010: Morgan Elektra of Trickster Moon Productions

May 21, 2010: Ramblings of English with Chandra Jenkins

May 24, 2010: Paddy’s Wanderings with Patrick Pillars

May 27, 2010: Drew Beatty

May 29, 2010: Scrivener’s Circle with David Sobkowiak and Laura Frechette

The Journey has continued, and she has also visited the following places:

June 2, 2010: Nicole Ireland

June 4, 2010: Mary Rajotte

June 7, 2010: Scott Roche

June 9, 2010: Superficial Gallery

June 14, 2010: Slushpilehero

June 16, 2010: Jason Warden of ShadowCast Audio

June 18, 2010: The Feckless Goblin

I encourage you to visit the rest of the tour, but to be entered in the contest, you ONLY have to visit and comment on the first group. Good luck, and play safe.

Friday Fiction – Winking Existence Part One

Hey people,

I started playing around with the theme of time travel. Here is the first part of my first effort. It’s rough, I’m not heavily editing it right now, but I thought it was worth a read.

I will post part two and three next week!

Winking Existence – Part One

I knew when my head slammed against a brick wall something had gone wrong. I fell to the ground on my hands and knees, broken glass tearing into me. I shouted in pain and pushed myself up, brushing the glass away. When my vision cleared, I could see that I was in a dirty alley, a far cry from the sealed safe room I was supposed to materialize in.

Something had gone very wrong.

I check my status bracelet. Not surprisingly, the thin silver band looped around my right wrist glowed a steady red. Danger.

My hands and knees were sliced up, but they were not life threatening injuries. What I needed to do, and quickly, was to figure out where the hell I was. The alley opened onto a deserted street, filled with abandoned cars, as though strewn there by some petulant god. The air was cold; I could taste it on my tongue, acrid and coppery. I felt an icy chill in my veins when I realized where I was and how much trouble I was in.

I pushed my hands in my pockets, trying to find some warmth, and retrieved a folded piece of paper. I scanned it, reading the message that my partner had left for me.

“If you’re reading this, be grateful you are not dead. I decided that we needed a more dramatic test of the device, so instead of sending you back five minutes, I thought 50 years would be more interesting. Sorry if you are disappointed, but rest assured I will make sure people remember you for your contributions to the project.”

Betrayed by my partner, left to die in the middle of history’s greatest disaster. I always knew that asshole was a fucking cliché, I should have sent him back.

There were two things I needed to do. The first was to get out of Toronto, the epicentre of the disaster. After that I needed to find some way to signal my assistant. As long as she wasn’t involved, she should be at the safe room, wondering where the hell I was. If I could get far enough away, I might be able to get a signal, might be able to get back to my time. If I lived that long.

None of the cars would start, that much I knew. The Canadian government had blanketed the area with electromagnetic pulse bombs, hoping to control the carnage. History would show that it was a terrible idea, but I was in the middle of history now, living through it. I figured I had about two hours left, if I could make it far enough away, I might just survive.

Most of the cars were pointed in the same direction, I assumed that the people who lived here would know which way to go. I ran along empty streets, dodging cars, broken glass from shattered windows underfoot. Even the greatest natural disaster in history did not dissuade looters.

Within a few blocks my knees were screaming, blood ran down my pants. I bent over, hands on my thighs, panting. I would not get very far by running. I had spent too much time in a lab, not enough time in the gym.

I had to keep moving. I had a deadline, and in this case, the word dead would be literal.

Up ahead, on the next block was a sporting goods store. Looters had smashed the windows already, so getting in was not going to be much of a problem.  I scrambled through the shattered glass, careful not to cut myself anymore, and looked for something I could ride.

That’s when I winked out of existence.

To be continued…

Introducing Jenny Beanses! AKA Jennifer Hudock

I believe she needs no real introduction. However, she is the author and podcaster of The Goblin Market, she is taking readers on a 12 part Dark Journey, she is one of the founders of The Creative Alliance, and is the editor of two upcoming charity anthologies, From the Dark Side and Farrago.

Without any further ado…

So, who are  you and what do you do?

I am an emissary from the Old Gods sent to Earth to monitor human behavior and report back in written form so they can plan the best way to wreak havoc on mankind… seriously. I’m a storyteller. I have been telling stories as long as I can remember. I write all day long every day. Some of it is actually fiction, but right now most of it is creative nonfiction and news commentary on a variety of online blogs.

You write a mix of horror, dark fantasy, and more traditional fantasy. As an author, how do you juggle the genres? Is there any genre you find more compelling to write?

There is something that has always appealed to me about making the unbelievable believable. I’ve seen a lot of weird and unexplainable things in my own life, so I like to mirror that type of craziness back into the world. No matter which genre I’m writing in, I’m primarily focused on creating intense characters that readers or listeners can relate to. Through their personality and the way they approach the events and situations in the stories, I have this hope that readers can feel them as people, someone they can relate to on a personal level.
What made you and James start up the Creative Alliance?

Patrick Pillars and I were talking about the creative movement in our generation. How the Internet has really changed all the rules right now, and left a wide gap open for the creative world to mold and shape itself. As creators, we realized that in every memorable creative movement from the Romantic writers to the Beat Generation, it wasn’t just about one type of creativity, or just one memorable icon. It was a whole community of people who worked together on some level.

I talked with James about this extensively, and we started kicking the idea of putting together an online place where the people in the community we’re a part of could reach out and share their creativity, knowledge and approach to the changing times in an effort to make a greater impact as a group. So we set up The Creative Alliance.

We are working together as a community, not just for our own individual goals and such, which is a great thing.

What’s the deal with the Podcaturday Podcast?

Podcaturday, w00t! Acadia from Superficial Gallery has always been really cool about linking to people on his blog, especially on Saturdays. In fact, that was how I met him over a year and a half ago. Someone on Twitter said, “Get some free exposure for your blog today by sending this guy your link.”

One afternoon, Acadia asked me who I knew that podcatted (yes, podcatted) because he wanted to try and network with some podcatters and get them some more exposure. From there, he asked me if he was going to link to Podcats, if he should have a podcat, and he came up with an idea to record a 1 minute podcast about things he could say in under a minute.

Then we started playing around with, and came up with an idea to just ramble on about whatever popped into our heads, and Podcaturday: The Weekend Roundtable Discussion, was born. We hook up on Skype every Saturday morning and just talk about whatever comes up for about an hour. On our second episode, we invited James to join us, and the chemistry the three of us had was so good, we decided to make it a regular thing.

It’s just nonsense… but it’s good nonsense, and I hope more people check it out because we really have a great time doing it.

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the free vs. paid model recently. You give away the podcast of Goblin Market, and you sell your stories for a small charge. Can you tell us about these two different systems, and the advantages they have?
Giving away Goblin Market has definitely introduced me to a lot of people, both in a networking sense, and a fanbase sense. I haven’t put Goblin Market up on Podiobooks yet, but it’s still managed to get about 15,000 downloads just on my website, which is such a great thing. Giving it away for free is an investment in your fans. You give them a piece of yourself in its entirety, and in a sense, you prove to them that you can provide good content, or not, in some cases.

There is a hope that through establishing yourself and building a little credibility by giving away your work for free, they will in turn tell others about you. When you do publish work, whether it’s through a publishing contract deal, or on Amazon or Smashwords, people at least know what they can expect from you as a writer. It’s touch and go marketing, and it doesn’t always work in terms of selling your fiction, as a lot of authors have discovered, but everything is changing so rapidly we have to do what we can.

For me, I want to get my work out to as many people as possible because that is why I write. So I will keep experimenting with both models as long as it keeps getting my work out there to new readers and listeners.

Goblin Market is finished, and there are only a few more Dark Journeys left. What will be coming up next?

Well, I am working on the sequel to Goblin Market, Jack in the Green, and plan to start podcasting that sometime this summer. It’s not finished yet, and while I know a lot of people recommend finishing your work before you start podcasting, most of the people who recommend that don’t even actually follow that themselves. I have a feeling that having the pressure of putting out new episodes will help me stay on track with writing. I promised myself I wouldn’t start podcasting until it was at least halfway complete though, so I can get a good head start.

I am also editing two charity anthologies this summer: From the Dark Side, which all proceeds will go to the Letters and Light Organization, and Farrago. Farrago is an effort to help raise money for Michael Bekemeyer’s film project.

On top of that, I am working on a novel called Running Down the Moon, which I want to get traditionally published once it’s finished.

If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be, and why?

I would be an oak tree because the oak is a powerful symbol of my Celtic ancestry.
My thanks to Jennifer! If you haven’t already, go check out her work!