Friday, August 30, 2013

Cakenweenie does DARK SHADOWS

CAKENWEENIE asked 100 artists to create cakes in honor of TIM BURTON's 55th birthday. Not sure what "100" has to do with "55," but whatever ... good work is good work.

The entries included Batman, Beetlejuice and, of course, characters from last year's DARK SHADOWS feature. SHAWNA McGREEVY of McGreevy Cakes opted for JULIA HOFFMAN, pictured right. "I cut Julia’s head, hair and torso from fondant and laid those pieces on top of an airbrushed background of fondant," she says. "I then used food gel pens, airbrush food coloring liquid, and petal dusts to ‘paint’ the fondant pieces and bring Julia to life. I’ve captured the process on video as a tutorial for how to create a fondant painting."

In Italy, KARLA CHUMPITAZ of Sweet K crafted a 10-inch tall BARNABAS COLLINS (top) made from modelling sugarpaste and handpainted with color dust.

Visit CAKENWEENIE to see the full gallery.


FRED OLEN RAY has launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance a short film titled SPIDORA.The cult film icon behind movies like HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS and BIKINI DRIVE-IN has convinced DARK SHADOWS alumnus JERRY LACY to appear in the film, which is seeking a modest $15,000 in funding (though any money beyond that goal would go toward promotion.) Here's the summary:
"SPIDORA is a dark journey inside the world of Dr. Graves' Palace of Illusions; a Museum of Human Oddities where mysterious creatures like Electra, Spidora and Mora, the Lobster Girl, command the stage. It is a world trapped between light and shadow where anything can happen... and does."

You can read more about the project at SPIDORA's official Kickstarter page, which you can find HERE.

Dynamite cancels DARK SHADOWS

This is sad news, but not unexpected. According to Dynamite's official solicitations, issue #23 of DARK SHADOWS will be the company's last. The series got off to a strong start, but was hobbled by unexpected creative changes before the end of the first story arc. The book just never recovered, and bullshit like DARK SHADOWS/VAMPIRELLA didn't help matters.

I'm mostly enjoying DARK SHADOWS YEAR ONE and will have a review of that series posted next week, but the demise of the monthly series will rob of us some great FRANCESCO FRANCAVILLA cover art. According to a recent Tweet from the Eisner award winning artist, his stint on DARK SHADOWS has been the longest of his career.

The final issue of DARK SHADOWS is scheduled to go on sale Nov. 27.

Terror Bytes: Horror news from around the web


* The soundtrack to the 1985 classic RE-ANIMATOR is available on 180 gram green vinyl and looks incredible.

* FRIGHTRAGS is offering a pretty cool collection of HALLOWEEN goodies. Limited to only 800 pieces, the set contains a t-shirt, screen-printed poster (above,) a "Judith Myers headstone" magnet and more. Via FRIGHTRAGS.

* NANCY A. COLLINS has revised the third novel in the SONJA BLUE vampire series. "Just finished proofing and sending in the revised & updated PAINT IT BLACK," she announced on Facebook. "I rewrote every damn sentence. It's got the same plot, it's got the same characters, it's (mostly) got the same ending. But it is not the same book."

* ELI ROTH's new film, THE GREEN INFERNO, has been slapped down by the MPAA for "aberrant violence," as opposed to the wholesome violence found in movies like THE EXPENDABLES.

* OK, this is NOT horror related. But GEORGE CALTSOUDAS, a DARK SHADOWS fan and friend to the Collinsport Historical Society, has a cool new comic that you should check out. Titled BARBADANGO, the series is tells the story of "a scrappy, cheating, alley cat with no friends and plenty of enemies who is given the chance to turn his life around when the feisty Autumn Gnome, Katrina, transforms him into the pyro-thrashing Red Knight." The first issues is available for download on AMAZON, and make sure you visit the book's official webpage.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Terror Bytes: Horror news from around the web

* This "rising prop replica" of REGAN MacNEIL from THE EXORCIST is actually kinda terrifying. Today is director WILLIAM FRIEDKIN's birthday, btw. Via Entertainment Earth.

* H.P. LOVECRAFT's hand-written notes for his novella, AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, are scarier than the actual story.

 * 7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly): "Zombies are dead meat. No arguing that; it's their one defining characteristic. But everybody focuses on that "dead" part like it's such a huge deal. They often forget about the meat. Do you know what else is dead meat? Steak, hamburger, possibly even that red grease mush inside of Taco Bell food." Via CRACKED

* LARRY COHEN's 1982 B-movie gem Q: THE WINGED SERPENT is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Come for the human sacrifices! Stay for the giant lizard monster! Via Amazon.

* Director UWE BOLL wants your money to make a sequel to POSTAL. Please don't give it to him. Via Kickstarter.

* A new trailer for CARRIE, the third adaptation of STEPHEN KING's 1974 novel, leaves little to the imagination. Should I live to see my 80th birthday, I calculate I'll have seen CARRIE remade a total of six times.

* ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE, a romance/psychodrama about two vampires, sounds like it could be an interesting flick. It stars TOM HIDDLESTON, TILDA SWINTON, JOHN HURT and ANTON YELCHIN, who are all awesome. Unfortunately, the movie is directed by JIM JARMUSCH, who I pretty much hate. The guy can cast the hell out of a movie but, as a storyteller, he seems to be trapped in his junior year of film school. ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE doesn't have a release date nailed down here in the U.S. (which screams VOD) or even an official website. Here's a review from The Hollywood Reporter about the film's screening at Cannes, which will have to suffice for now.


THE FLIP SIDE takes a closer look at the Blue Whale's jukebox


BIG FINISH has released cast and story details for its next DARK SHADOWS audiodrama. Titled THE FLIP SIDE, the episode stars original DS cast members NANCY BARRETT, KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT, and LISA RICHARDS. Here's a quick synopsis:
"Carolyn Stoddard is lost. Widowed at an early age, she's the lonely rich girl, drinking her life away as her friends grow up and move on. But Carolyn's life is about to change. Because Carolyn is about to be given a set of choices. And those choices will determine whether she is allowed to live or die. It's closing time at the Blue Whale but for Carolyn Stoddard the night is far from over. It's time to face the music..."
The story, which focuses on the character of Carolyn Stoddard, was written by CODY QUIJANO-SCHELL, an author new to Big Finish.

“I'm a huge DARK SHADOWS fan and I love Carolyn,” says Quijano-Schell. “She's a whirlwind of a character. She transitions from being sweet and vulnerable to being a monstrous brat… often in the same scene. The moment she first appeared dancing in the Blue Whale is the exact moment I fell in love with Dark Shadows. The original instrumental pop music composed by ROBERT COBERT is phenomenal. The tracks gave scenes set in the Blue Whale such a distinctive texture. That’s why I was so excited to hear there would be a new original song written just to accompany my script!”

The story features a specially composed song by singer-songwriter SEAN McGHEE – one half of the band ARTMAGIC, with RICHARD OAKES from SUEDE, and shortly to go on tour with the legend that is Alison Moyet. “Sean's a very old friend, and an experienced songwriter and producer,” says co-producer David Darlington, “and when I saw that there was scope in The Flip Side for a specially-composed song, I knew that rather than bashing my own head against walls for days on end trying to come up with singable melodies and lyrics, I could get him to write it to order!”

“I don't usually write period pieces, but the chance to compose an imaginary 1970s radio hit for a ghost story was too much to resist,” says Sean. “I located my inner Carole King for the music and kept the lyrics close to the spirit of Cody's excellent script, and the result is a song called The Better Side. It's quite unlike anything I've done before... but that's part of the fun.”

Visit BIG FINISH for more details, and to hear a trailer for the upcoming episode. A full interview with Sean McGhee about his involvement in DARK SHADOWS can be found at

AFTER SHADOWS: Kathryn Leigh Scott and STAR TREK


There's a difference between the best episode of a show and the best representation of a show.  STAR TREK is not a series about hanging out in a 1930's soup kitchen, but that's much of what happens in one its most beloved episodes.  Still, if someone asked me about he essence of STAR TREK, I'd have to turn them to something like "Return of the Archons."  Misguided society?  Check. Led by a supercomputer?  Check.  Gets driven crazy by Captain Kirk. Done! 

Because that sometimes feels like every other episode. 

I'd often wondered and hoped about seeing more DARK SHADOWS alums on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, and I was always disappointed by the lack.  One exception is also one of the most quietly challenging (and successful) guest performances.  In season three’s “Who Watches the Watchers,” KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT delivers her finest impression of Vicki "I don't understand" Winters in what may be the quintessential representative episode of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION.  Unlike Vicki, her character actually figures things out and is the ideological (rather than circumstantial) hero of the story.  No — more than ideological.  Intellectual.  (Only on STAR TREK!)

Dramatically, Ms. Scott provides a mini-seminar of an active, thinking, present performance that has a clarity of watchable, real, and unpredictable choices and transitions.  When characters make decisions and discoveries, it is one of the most interesting things to watch. Executing those with commitment has always been Ms. Scott's greatest strength.  If the script weren't written for her, she certainly makes it feel as much.
STAR TREK is not about the future, nor has it ever been.  It's about now, just translated in a way that's wacky enough to be non-threatening to the public.  Sort of.  Kinda.  By 'Who Watches the Watcher,' clearly Gene (addled though he was) and company had had it and were running out of subtle.  If it's a thinly veiled commentary, then the shmata is Saran Wrap.  There was probably no other way to tell the story, although setting it on another planet was safer than having them go back in time and whisper in some seminal shaman's ear.

The topic is a favorite of Gene's: religion.  Despite slight equivocations here or there, it was well-established that the Federation and our pre-DS9 heroes are, um, post-theological.  (Largely.)  Gene often spoke of his disdain for religion, and on shows, usually by presenting the deity as and tell me if this sounds familiar an ancient computer or power-hungry alien.

In this episode, a group of hidden anthropologists is studying a vaguely iron age tribe of Vulcan-like people.  When the holographic 'duck blind' hiding the anthropologists goes down, a panicking passerby ends up knocked out with a near-lethal injury and is sedated and beamed up to the Enterprise for a sickbay visit.  Unbeknownst to Crusher and company, he awakens and sees the ship's interior, full of lights, unseen voices, and people speaking reverently of The Picard.

Returning home, he enthuses of his experience, reasoning that the only explanation is that he had died, been to the afterlife, and encountered God.  His society had been post-theological for many generations, but his testimony sways them, and they begin forming a religion. 

Picard is mortified when he finds out, seeing superstition (a convenient euphemism for religion) as a blight on an otherwise rational culture.  Viewing the situation as one in which the Prime Directive had already been broken, the Captain decides to open up a can of Dawkins on them and prevent the religion from growing.  Kathryn Leigh Scott plays one of the more, um, "evidence-based" and trusted tribe members, so Picard brings her up to the Enterprise and shows her that it's just a sophisticated machine staffed by fellow mortals.  And an android.

Shaken-but-convinced, Ms. Scott's character returns to the village and valiantly reasons with her peers, but when it doesn't work, Picard has to make some dramatic illustrations to prove the point.  A happy ending is had by all.  Well, all atheists, anyway.

I'm not sure that you could get away with this episode now.  Certainly not after 9/11.  I was astounded when I first saw it.  I'll let you decide where you stand with the politics, but none can deny its charged content.  When I interviewed Ms. Scott, I was extremely keen to ask her if there'd been any water cooler talk about the show among the actors... a cast that also included Ray "Leland Palmer" Wise*.  When she mentioned events at her church, I demurred. 

My intimidation toward that is a testament to the power of the story.  It's not something to bring up casually.  That is not only high praise for the gutsy writing, but for the pardon the word humanity that Ms. Scott brought to the role.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Terror Bytes!

* Rialto Pictures has announced the U.S. release of THE WICKER MAN – FINAL CUT, the definitive version of Robin Hardy’s 1973 thriller of pagan worshippers on a remote Scottish island. Famously known as CHRISTOPER LEE's favorite film (at least, among those he's appeared in) THE WICKER MAN has been released in several edits since its original release, with the "lost" footage presumably languishing in an unidentified film vault. I can't even imagine what this footage will add to the final film, but Rialto has my attention. The company will roll out the restored version beginning Sept. 27 at IFC Center, New York City, with runs in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and other cities throughout the fall.

* A re-mastered edition of THE MONSTER CLUB is coming to DVD and Blu-ray (!) on Oct. 1. It's an oddity, even among VINCENT PRICE's already strange list of credits. Clearly inspired by the "creature cantina" in STAR WARS, the film is an anthology of tales told by Price while having drinks in a secret club for monsters. Also appearing are DONALD PLEASANCE, JOHN CARRADINE, SIMON WARD and STUART WHITMAN. It's a cool little movie.

* JEFFERSON TWILIGHT, the "Blacula Hunter" from VENTURE BROS., will be available as an action figure in 2014. He's paired with PETE WHITE for reasons I can't even begin to speculate about.

* ROB ZOMBIE's latest film, THE LORDS OF SALEM, will be out on home video Sept. 3. I still haven't seen the film, but won a signed plate for the novelization a few months back. Based on my experience with the novel (written by Zombie with B.K. EVENSON) I can't really recommend the film. The story made little sense and was polluted with the usual Rob Zombie almost dialogue ... but, if SUSPIRIA is evidence of anything, it's that a movie doesn't need a functional narrative in order to "word."

* PAC-MAN meets THE SHINING, by the artist known as MR. WHAITE.


Here's something I've never seen before: A UK poster for HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, complete with dreaded X rating. While "X" was the strictest rating that a legitimate film could receive in Britain, it didn't carry with it the pornographic connotations it quickly developed here in the U.S. British censors were always more strict in regards to violence than sexual content, and HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS is a surprisingly violent film.

The image above was shared by WORLD OF FORD on Flickr, who says this about the two posters:
"Another poster rescued from the ABC cinema on Ferensway in Hull prior to demolition. Several of these posters had been used to line the inside of wooden staff lockers, facing inwards, it was only by chance I noticed them."
I've never heard of the other MGM film pictured above, 1970's THE TRAVELING EXECUTIONER. A quick perusal of IMDB and Amazon show it's got a terrific cast, even if the film isn't especially memorable.

Monday, August 26, 2013

COLLINSPORT SHIPPING: Magnificent Obsession

You may be wondering why every article I write is about Williefic and, I promise to expand my horizons soon, but in honor of my trip to interview John Karlen this week, here is the profile of another Willie writer, Mina225, the popular author of The Beginning, Restoration, and Return to Collinwood.

Just because I know almost nothing about fanfiction outside my little Willie Loomis World Series, doesn’t stop me from pretending that I do. Actually I have read other people’s Willie works, specifically the Sylvia Bond stories, Christina Pilz and Mary Overstreet. They were all well written but somewhat similar in tone, and inspired me to branch out and invent my own DS fiction personas just over a year ago.

After carefully plotting out stories 1, 2 and 3, I was doing research for #4, Changes, which was based on the brilliant notion of exploring what happened to Willie during the time he went missing. It is also the introduction of Barnabas, the big bad vampire.

Then reality reared its ugly head. Not only was my idea unoriginal, having been the subject of several other authors over the years, but another writer had recently beaten me to the punch. Some upstart named Mina225 was midway through a story at titled The Beginning, all about — you guessed it: The missing days.

My next mission was to plot the downfall of Mina225. Part of me did not want to read her fic under any circumstances, lest I be influenced by the piece and accidentally “borrow” her ideas. Another part of me could not resist seeing how another author handled the same subject matter. Perhaps, if our style and approach were different enough, there may be room for both of us on the Internet.

And so it was. Very different. Where I abuse alliteration and take a humorous approach, Mina leads her readers down dark passages of horrific imagery and page-turning suspense. Not page-turning — I meant to say down-scrolling.

I plowed through her first few chapters, trying to overlook her blatant disregard for commas. Finally, I sent the writer a personal message, explaining how much I enjoyed the story but that her lack of punctuation was driving me to Wyndcliffe.

Fortunately, she was not offended. From that point, Mina and I became friends and have enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial correspondence. We discuss our plot devices and offer assistance when one of us writes herself into a corner. She has taught me to go beyond character development and dialogue and actually tell a story, preferably one with a climax. I have taught her to use quotation marks, but she may be doing that just to humor me.

A short while ago, I asked Mina if she would consent to be interviewed for this column and threw a boatload of questions at her about her background and writing. I noticed that her answers have a lot more commas.

Tell me about yourself and what do you do when you’re not writing fanfiction?

I am 39 years old and grew up in a town right between Chicago and Milwaukee. I have been married for 15 years, have a daughter who is 11, and a year ago had no idea that fanfiction existed.

My educational background is pretty nerdy. I think I declared a different major every semester of my college career. Music, Art, Theater, Biology, Astronomy, Business, Nursing (that was a horrible disaster), but after five years of bouncing around, I needed to get out of school and start paying bills. I looked at what I had the most credits in and wound up a software engineer. I should have just started there. I took my first computer apart when I was 8 or 9 and the classes always came easy to me, so I used them as filler to keep my GPA up.

I’ve done a million different jobs related to that field, but today I am self employed as an independent consultant.  My job can be extremely demanding and stressful, and I spend my days traveling to different corporations.

I get bored pretty quickly, so consulting is perfect.  Different people and different places all the time, I like the change in atmosphere.  It also allows me to work from home a bit too, which is an added bonus, and one I am thankful to have.

Why do you write horror stories?

As a young girl, 6 or 7 maybe, I remember the other kids watching Saturday morning cartoons, and eating cereal in front of the TV, but not me. My dad would get up with me, and we watched old horror movies, the classics, and ate sardine crackers and cannibal sandwiches, and I LOVED it. 

I grew up with a great love of the Universal Studios monster movies and all kinds of pulp fiction. What really grabbed me was the artistry of the period, and as a pre-teen that love turned into art. While other kids were busy drawing pictures of rainbows and flowers, I was learning to play classical violin (including the theme to
PSYCHO) and drawing monsters, werewolves, wizards, ghouls—trying to emulate the covers of the pulp magazines. My mother thought perhaps I was in need of therapy.

Now, almost 40, that passion has not gone away. Over the past decade my job has taken me all over the world as an IT consultant, and I have been blessed to have had the privilege to work with people, and within their cultures, as opposed to only seeing the world on a tour bus. It has also allowed me to watch many of my favorite classics in other languages, and watch some international stuff that is really spectacular in this genre. In Singapore, I was lucky enough to find a movie channel playing JU-ON: THE GRUDGE, which scared the pants off of me. The Belgium film DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS was another great film. I watched it in a hotel in Brussels, while eating room service and drinking wine, little did I know that John Karlen would fuel a future obsession.

I can’t get into the thrasher SAW, HOSTEL movies. It’s just too easy to cut someone open and say, “look, it’s scary.” Instead I prefer FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN — I probably own every old horror movie ever made, If we are at dinner with a paper table cloth and a crayon, an image will emerge that will have my friends questioning what goes on in my brain. I admit that I kept my sketch book hidden for a long time.

I discovered DARK SHADOWS after the Johnny Depp movie was announced. That was the first I had ever heard of the soap opera (I, too, wonder how on earth I never heard of it before) and I was immediately intrigued. I began watching Netflix constantly. About 10 episodes in, I became fascinated with Willie’s character. I found that I couldn’t stop watching, and felt that somehow I must break this obsession, so I Googled something silly like “how to break a soap opera obsession” and stumbled on an answer that said: “embrace your obsession…and write about it”. 

And that led you to begin writing fanfiction?

I started to fish around and soon realized there was an entire world of writers out there creating alternate lives for their favorite characters. I read a few Willie stories, none of them had me over the moon, and none of them attempted to fill the giant gap where he goes missing, so I figured I would give it a try. I had always wanted to write, illustrations weren’t enough, and I wrote my first story: The Beginning. A new obsession was born.

I went on to write a second story, Restoration, curious to see if I could develop something new. Would anyone read it if I introduce an original character? Turns out they did, and I am now into my third story. 

I have since grown to love some other Willie stories out there too, I went down a Willie fanfic rabbit hole on the Internet and I love the many different versions that people have for his character. After finishing my second story, I found the Sylvia Bond stories, and they are wonderful. Another favorite of mine are the Mad Margaret stories. I have read just about all of them that I can find, and I prefer the ones with original story line that lean less on slash or Willie and Barnabas as a pairing.

How has your writing developed over the course of three stories?

I am not the best writer in the world; I abuse commas and grammar more than Barnabas abuses Willie, but I’d like to think I am getting better. When this last story is all done, Return to Collinwood, I am going to leave the DS world as a writer for a while and attempt something completely original.
Are you a closet writer, as many fanfic authors are?

This fanfiction world was a dirty little secret of mine for a long time. I wasn’t embarrassed of my obsession with John Karlen, or Dark Shadows. Everyone who knows me knows of my love of the genre, and my best friend thinks it is hilarious that I am in love with the guy from Cagney and Lacey.

No, it was the fear of the people close to me reading something that I wrote and hating it, or finding it boring and talentless. When you write, you expose yourself in a way that you normally wouldn’t, and that was unnerving, still is. Most of my good friends know, but do not read (I don’t think), and if they do, they keep it to themselves. My co-workers do not know of this hobby.

My husband wants me to kill off all my DS characters and start writing my own stuff, but I somehow think that a sudden alien abduction of my characters, and their disappearance into space, would leave my readers sending me a lot of hate mail. The readers have been wonderful and loyal and I owe it to them to finish up my last story with a bang versus having my characters eating spaghetti in some crappy restaurant only to have the screen suddenly go black. (Yes, that was a Soprano’s reference, which I have never once watched, but am very aware of the letdown at the end.)

If you kill off Willie Loomis, you will get hate mail. Just sayin’.

When I started writing The Beginning, I never intended to take it this far. It was the means to end an obsessive relationship with Dark Shadows. I was watching the original series and I completely fell in love with Willie (and John Karlen). I love how John Karlen made him so vulnerable and I instantly wanted to see more of him. I think I have seen everything John has ever been in.

How is it we have never discussed this before?

When I was watching the series I found I was only truly interested in Willie’s story line. I would fish out what episodes he was in and then order them on Netflix. All the while I had hoped that something would develop with Willie and Maggie, but I actually wound up disliking her in the end and I wasn’t too thrilled with the storyline for Willie either. I wanted to see Willie as the focus and see him get some love, and the more I watched the show, the more irritated I became with Willie getting the shaft all the time, and Maggie just started to annoy me.

So I decided to write the second story to create an OC (original character) and Abigail was born. I wanted her to be a little imperfect and bull headed, and strong in ways that Willie wasn’t, most of all I wanted her to be believable. My other enjoyment with an OC is the freedom to completely do anything I want. I’m not boxed into a character that already existed. It was fun to create her and bring her to life.

When I finished Restoration, I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters. I was, (and still am), deeply attached to them. So I added the epilogue and started on Return to Collinwood. I put an outline together and started writing. I publish each chapter as I write them, using the outline as a guide, and admittedly this has painted me into a corner at times. I think the overall story could have been better if I would have written it all out as a complete piece of work.

I am still amazed that you can post chapters to an incomplete story. That would scare the crap out of me. But then, it’s kind of like improvisational acting. The piece always seems like it was planned to end exactly as it does. 

There have been many occurrences where an idea pops into my head and I can’t use it because I have made it impossible based on something I wrote in a previous chapter.

About a quarter of the way through, I was drinking wine and chatting with a friend. He mentioned this crazy story about a mysterious “dog suicide” bridge in Scotland. The next thing I knew I was almost a bottle of wine down and my outline was thrown out the window. The new storyline took a left turn as the “Thin Bridge” was created. I have been flying by the seat of my pants ever since, and it has taken longer to get each chapter out. 

Where do you get your ideas?

Coming up with ideas for the story is done almost completely in my car, or on a plane, or based on some random conversation that I have. I get an idea and I run the story though my head and one out of every 100 ideas sticks and I write it down. Eventually I find some quiet time and piece all the fragments together into a new chapter. Many times I have an idea that, after thinking it through for my Willie stories, just won’t fit. But they are things I want to keep for a different story, so I have a laundry list of random ideas that will one day wind up in something that I write.

Research has definitely slowed down my writing. In Return, I have characters in the late 1700s, and I want make sure I do the time period
justice. I do most of my research online and I am sure that there are aspects that aren’t quite right.

You have a large fan following. Do you enjoy getting reviews and comments?

I have quite a few regular readers from all over the world, or so the stats tell me, and my first and second stories pick up a few new readers every now and again. There is definitely a steady group of core readers who will leave comments. I get private messaged with everything from personal notes to constructive criticism, and I really enjoy the feedback. I absolutely love to get reviews. I check often and I get excited when my phone pings me for new email and I see the little FanFiction tag.

Reviews are really the only way, as a writer, I know if I’m still entertaining the readers, or if I have lost everyone completely. When it goes quiet I start to question the story. Because I am writing and publishing each chapter as I go, the readers’ feedback can play a lot into the next chapter, and they really have an influence on where I take the story. It is almost interactive in a way.

What are your plans after Return to Collinwood is finished?

Looking back at my first story, I cringe inside at some of my writing. I plan to go back and re-do The Beginning so that it is more consistent in style with the others. Because I originally did it as a one-shot it loses the continuity to the other stories. I also plan to go back into Restoration and rewrite portions of that. No major story line changes, just fix some of the awkwardness that is in there. I think my writing has gotten better throughout the series, and I attribute much of that to the readers who are brave enough to reach out and point out areas of improvement. I don’t get upset with criticism, although if it were something like “I hate your stories” or “your imagination blows,” that would sting a bit.

I have really gotten a lot out of writing these stories on a personal level. As a kid, I was always making up tall tales and drawing my characters on just about any surface that I could. My love of the old movies and stories hasn’t waned, but somewhere along the way that desire to be the creator of images and stories got lost.

Writing fanfic has helped me find that kid again and I have been lucky enough to rediscover this passion. It has influenced my daughter too! She has been writing her own stories now and illustrating them, and we often work on our stories together.

What started out as a way to overcome an obsession has actually turned into an entirely new one. I am still in love with Willie and John Karlen, and my obsession has turned into a passion that I will continue to do. I will keep writing after Return is complete. I enjoy it far too much to stop. I have started some original stuff, but I admit that I have another idea for Willie and Abigail, too. I guess I’ll need to wait and see how the current story ends first.


Marie Maginity is the author of the six-part Willie Loomis World Series, and writes under the names Mad Margaret and Lizzie Bathory. She has a BA in Theatre and works as a professional actor, director and drama teacher. She has had many “straight” jobs, including bartender, gas station jockey, graphic artist, website designer, facepainter and film projectionist. Once, she bullshitted her way into a newspaper job as a reporter and, over the next eight years, became a copy editor, feature writer and assistant editor. She lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with one husband, two daughters and two cats.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Barnabas Collins by PATRICK DEAN

Part of the fun of collecting sketches at comicbook conventions is discovering new talent. PATRICK DEAN is not an artist I was familiar with before attending this year's HeroesCon in Charlotte, N.C. It was actually my wife who first spotted his work and asked him for a sketch of Dr. McCoy from STAR TREK. After seeing his take on "Bones," getting a sketch from him of Barnabas Collins became a moral imperative. Here's the final result ... what do you think?

You can see more of his work at his official website. He's got a story available to read for free called "Knocked 'Em: A Charming Tale Told Without Words of One Man's Journey Into the Night to Find Something Dear and Wonderful for his Wife Who Seems to Enjoy the Night Air as Much as He."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Collinsport News Bulletins

Artwork by the Demon Cartoonist
* LARA PARKER discusses the "blessing and curse" of TV tie-ins:
"Complicating the situation are the expectations of the fans. Any journey outside of the TV show’s canon is likely to annoy, if not antagonize them. The devotes’ fidelity to Dark Shadows so governs their responses that even the amazing talent, vision and, of course, financial resources of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp failed to impress them when they discovered the tone of the Warner Brothers film was bent into comic satire."
Read the entire editorial at SF SIGNAL

* The website MY BOOKISH WAYS is giving away a copy of Parker's new novel, DARK SHADOWS: WOLF MOON RISING.

* Guess what? Here's another story about LARA PARKER, written again by DAVID-ELIJAH NAHMOD. It's titled "Here's What Happens When the Hot Vampire Steps Off the Screen and Writes Her Own Damned Book."



In which Burke Devlin boards the Enterprise-D and proceeds to get his swag all over everything.

First off, this isn’t meant to be some kind of Old Trek/Nü Trek turf war thing. I happen to like STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, but the show sometimes had its head up its ass. Most people chalk it up to Riker's Beard, the appearance of which creates a fairly clear median line in the show's seven-year run. If you randomly watch an episode on ST:TNG and see a clean-shaven JONATHAN FRAKES, the reasoning, goes, then you should change the channel. But the problems with ST:TNG go a bit deeper than facial hair fashions.

Revisiting the show recently, ST:TNG (especially the early episodes) has a weird kind of detachment, like a Zager & Evans song come to life, only with less Spaghetti Western horns. More to the point, ST:TNG is like a DAFT PUNK song in that it feels like art made by robots for humans. All of the basic components of storytelling are there … they’re just a little off. It’s escapism for replicants. And here’s what finally tipped me off:

Have you ever seen a more synthetic family portrait? Someone made this, and it was supposed to represent sentimentality in the 24th century. THIS is what we’re supposed to be aspiring to: awkward Sears catalog portraits shot in front of a green screen. (And I’m pretty sure that’s a photo of Mitch Ryan's face from HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER added into the image, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Data is the true voice of ST:TNG. He’s a contraption that looks human, but isn’t. His primary character arc involves a search for what it means to be human, and it's telling that the show's other characters don't even understand the concept. Most of his crewmates were interchangeable, save for a single (sometimes abrasive) character element. Worf was angry, Picard was confident, Yar was humorless, and Riker ... played the trombone. Yeah, that last character flourish doesn't sound like much, but it's the kind of detail that stood in for "character development" during the first few yeas of ST: TNG. It took a while for the show to evolve beyond these growing pains (i.e., it got better once Gene left the show) but the first few seasons were trite and artificial.
The Icarus Factor, which first aired back in 1989, falls back on the hoary old “Daddy Issues” story cliche. Will Riker and his father, Kyle, haven’t spoken for a while, and have been estranged since the death of Mrs. Riker (I don’t recall them giving her a name in this episode, but I probably just missed it. Trek is way too OCD to let a detail like that pass.) All of this builds toward some kind of “judo” match that involves Mitch Ryan and Jonathan Frakes wearing BMX pads, helmets and visors, while swinging blindly at each other with American Gladiators pugil sticks and screaming Japanese non-sequiturs at each other.

This scene made me wonder: "Do actors actually know how fucking weird their jobs are?

The episode is wrapped up with no real emotional payoff. The two Rikers decide to put aside their differences because the credits were about to roll, and might as well have been ushered off stage by SANDMAN SIMS. Riker the Younger decides his dad’s not so bad after all, then takes his career out behind the shed and puts it down OLD YELLER style by turning down command of his own starship.

Oh, and Worf does some really stupid shit that involves letting Klingons taser him. Dude has issues.

Ryan and Frakes are surprisingly well matched as father and son. Both of them are alike in a way that doesn’t require either to study the others’ physical habits to convey familiarity. If you’ve ever seen DARK SHADOWS (and if you’re reading this, you probably have) then you know that Ryan has a unique way of entering a scene. It’s nothing like Frakes’ "Ima knock a wall down with my head" technique, but it’s close enough for horseshoes. These are two guys who really know how to occupy a scene, and it’s fun watching their natural gravities in competition with each other. This episode is worth checking out for their  performances.

Oh, and you also get to hear Burke Devlin say “Ferengies.” That’s just a bonus.

This isn't the first time the paths of DARK SHADOWS and STAR TREK have crossed. ART WALLACE, the guiding light behind DARK SHADOWS, wrote a pair of episode of the original TREK in the '60s (neither of them are especially good.) KATHRYN LEIGH SCOTT, who appeared opposite Ryan in the first episode of DARK SHADOWS (and many more after) appeared on the ST:TNG episode WHO WATCHES THE WATCHERS in season three.

(Note: an earlier version of this piece ran on BLOOD DRIVE, the Collinsport Historical Society's Tumblr feed.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Book Report: Stephen King's JOYLAND

Like it or not, STEPHEN KING is America's greatest-living author. Feel free to dispute that in the comments, but you'll be wrong. No other author in the last 50 years has had the impact on literature (not to mention to culture of literature) that King has had. He's a master of the short story, a role model for authors all over the world, and is capable of writing a 1,000-page best-seller while out of his mind on cocaine and booze. King's talent is not a gift as much as it is an affliction.

Which is why the announcement of a new STEPHEN KING novel remains a dubious pleasure. He's declared his retirement from writing on more than one occasion, only to punctuate those declarations with several new novels. Sometimes those books are ready for primetime ... other times they're not.

As a writer, he's a master craftsman, someone who can write prose that positively sings with emotion. As a storyteller? He's got issues. It's a long-standing trope that King has problems sticking the landing, but it's a reputation that's well earned. It's probably not as chronic a problem as some would like to believe; it's that his final-act blunders happen to be especially memorable.

So, STEPHEN KING has a new novel out? That's great, as long as we're getting fully developed material and not one of his rough drafts wrapped in a book jacket. While I'm happy to say that JOYLAND sticks the landing, as a story it's actually over developed. It would have made a pleasant enough diversion as a short story, but the novella just doesn't justify its page count.

Here's how the publisher summarizes JOYLAND:
"Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, JOYLAND tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever."
I'd say that's a fair assessment of the novel, which is much more restrained than the spooky story suggested by GLEN ORBIK's pulpy cover art. JOYLAND finds King feeling nostalgic. Even though it's part of the HARD CASE CRIME series, a smallish imprint of "hardboiled crime" novels that's been around since 2004, few would ever mistake JOYLAND as a JAMES ELLROY book. It's got much more in common with THE BODY, King's coming of age tale about the death of childhood innocence famously adapted in 1986 as STAND BY ME.

Nostalgia can be fertile ground, but King's lead in JOYLAND leaves much to be desired. The hero is aspiring writer (yes, again) Devin Jones, a young man who takes some time off from college to work at a North Carolina amusement park in 1973. His heartache, feelings of isolation and tendencies toward self absorption rings true in a way that made me actually feel uncomfortable. JOYLAND is a story of fading youth written for men approaching middle age. That's just an observation, not criticism. I'm certainly the book's target audience.

Unfortunately, the JOYLAND's youthful ennui is forgotten early in the story, leaving us with a protagonist who is the definition of a MARY SUE. Devin has no real character flaws and has hardly any impact on his own story. This wouldn't be such a bad thing if JOYLAND was interested in creating tension, but even the novel's central mystery has no urgency to it. The murder that sets off the mystery takes place several years before the start of the book and is peripheral to Devin's tale. King makes few token gestures to remind us that a killer is probably wandering around the story's pages, but these gestures only remind us how inconsequential it all is. If the murder remained unsolved, it would affect its characters not at all.

Much like the HARRY POTTER novels, Devin's friends do all the narrative work, pushing our not-that-bright hero toward a climax that still manages to leave him sitting on his ass as the story resolves itself. (Note: I'm not sure if Devin's friends, Erin Cook and Tom Kennedy, were intentionally lifted from HARRY POTTER's Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, but there's a definite connection.) Also, there's a lot of padding in JOYLAND, which sometimes reads like a dumping ground for the writer's research into carny life. These kind of details usually help to create believable worlds, but mostly feel forced here.

What works? Besides the emotionally devastating opening, King's commentary on our complicit relationship with illusion is sorta interesting. It's probably the dominant theme of the novel, and not just because it plays into how a murderer manages to go unnoticed for several years. JOYLAND's hero is a man experiencing the slow fade of his own youthful innocence, one that's mirrored by the fading appeal of amusement parks. Innocence (and faith) function in ways not unlike amusement parks: through willful surrender. More than one character in the novel comments on how otherwise bright, intelligent people will wander into an amusement park and willingly part with their money by competing in rigged games and artificial thrills. One of the book's lead characters is the daughter of a prominent evangelist who has become quite successful by applying these kinds of principles to the same effect, and is among the book's many manipulative illusionists.

But, some of those artificial thrills happen to produce real responses, and some of the book's illusions aren't illusions at all. Joyland's "Tunnel of Terror" attraction is actually haunted, though not in a fashion I'd describe as "spectacular." And, many of the artificial thrills offered by the amusement rides prove to be real enough to transcend the pain of a few of its characters. The novel's cynical attitudes toward entertainment have a hopeful streak, but it's a little unclear what King is trying to say with all of this. Is it a commentary on storytelling? Is it commentary on faith? I have no idea.

As with most STEPHEN KING novels, JOYLAND was published in June to the usual praise and condemnations. As a novel, it's heart is in the right place, even if its telling is overwrought. It's just not a book I can especially recommend to people.

Friday, August 16, 2013

DARK SHADOWS among "Most Riveting Moments in TV History"

TV GUIDE MAGAZINE published its list of the "60 Most Riveting Moments in TV History" in the Aug. 12, 2013 issue. At the top of the list was the birth of "Little Ricky" on I LOVE LUCY, the first appearance by THE BEATLES on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW, and McLEAN STEVENSON's nasty exit on M*A*S*H. The first ten were ranked in chronological order, with the remaining 50 published in alphabetical order (probably to avoid fistfights in the TV GUIDE bullpen, if such a thing still exists.)

Among those remaining entries was "Barnabas Collins arrives on DARK SHADOWS" in 1967." Thanks to VILA WOLF for the pic!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bret M. Herholz illustrates THE NIGHT WHISPERS

Artist BRET M. HERHOLZ, whose name is mentioned here from time to time, has posted a few pages of art illustrating the Big Finish audiodrama DARK SHADOWS: THE NIGHT WHISPERS. The episode marked actor JONATHAN FRID's only appearance as BARNABAS COLLINS following the cancellation of the original TV series in 1971, and co-stars JOHN KARLEN and BARBARA STEELE. Written by STUART MANNING, the episode won a Rondo award in 2011.

Here's what Herholz has to say about the art:
Get THE NIGHT WHISPERS from Amazon today!
Frid's voice had aged a great deal when he took on the role again, but it sounded absolutely perfect for the story. You got the impression of an older graver Barnabas Collins. Long since freed from the vampire curse and living the remainder of his unnaturally long life in the Old House.

Stuart gave me permission to adapt a few of his marvelous play into comic book pages. You can see a few of the finished pages above.

Although, I didn't make Barnabas appear "older" because the opening dialogue mentioned him being "unchanged".
You can see all three pages art from THE NIGHT WHISPERS at the artist's blog. Meanwhile, Herholz has a pretty terrific DARK SHADOWS print for auction at Ebay. It's signed, and the auction ends soon. So hurry!

Monday, August 12, 2013



Get it from AMAZON.COM.
I'm not sure that I've ever read anything quite like LARA PARKER's new DARK SHADOWS novel, WOLF MOON RISING. Opening with a brief abstract illustrating the star-crossed relationships of its major players, the novel feels like a relic from the past. Not because of its period setting, but because it embraces the kind of fanatical pursuit of ideas that has fallen out of fashion in modern literature. The story is told with the unbridled, slightly unhinged energy of a writer who doesn't believe she's got the luxury of a do-over in her next book.

Even though WOLF MOON RISING would qualify as a gothic romance by anyone's definition, I was constantly reminded of PHILIP K. DICK throughout. Summarizing this novel is going to be a nightmare for critics, because there are no fewer than four stories humming along concurrently, each one of them laced with social and political satire that ranges from subtle to horrendously violent. There's a ton of backstory involved, not only from Parker's previous novel, but from the television series, as well. And GRAYSON HALL fans are probably going to be pissed.

In other words, there’s a lot happening in the book. Possibly enough to fill a year's worth of stories in the original series.

Minor spoilers follow. 

Picking up a few weeks after the conclusion of THE SALEM BRANCH, we’re introduced to a new status quo at Collinwood. Barnabas Collins is again a vampire, as is Dr. Julia Hoffman. As you might expect, Barnabas isn't entirely happy with the situation. He not only hates what he’s (again) become, but despises Hoffman’s submissive new role. The more she tries to please him, the more he resents her, leading to a shockingly cruel resolution to this conflict in the book’s early pages.

If that wasn’t enough, Barnabas decides to follow through on his plan to sabotage the happiness of Quentin Collins by destroying the magical painting that keeps his werewolf curse at bay, and provides him a unique form of immortality. Meanwhile, a man claiming to be the relative of Nicholas Blair arrives at Collinwood in search of a vampire, while David Collins and his haunted companion, Jackie Harpignies, take an expected trip back to Collinwood’s heyday in the Roaring Twenties.

While it all sounds simple enough, the level of absurd mayhem in WOLF MOON RISING is sometimes astonishing. While Parker has literary goals, she never lets go of the bizarre elements that made DARK SHADOWS special. The book can be quiet and lean when it wants to be, such as in Jackie’s increasingly lonely encounters with school bullies. But it can also go full CHAN-WOOK PARK, sometimes to its own detriment. The “1920s Flashback” doesn’t so much climax as it cascades, as bootleggers, organized crime and the Ku Klux Klan leave permanent scars on Collinwood in quick order. With DARK SHADOWS, it’s always hard to tell when too much is too much, and this leg of the story might actually bend credulity past its breaking point.

Then again, it might all have been worth it for the moment of a young Elizabeth (not-yet-Stoddard) Collins riding the sideboard of a luxury car, blasting away at mobsters with a revolver.

The novel also touches on some of the favorite themes of the original television series. While the daytime program had to abide by the nebulous standards of network censors, Parker's under no such restraints. As it turns out, Louis Edmonds' famous "incestors" blooper had some basis in fact. Yeah, the relationship between Barnabas and Carolyn (not to mention his relationship with Victoria Winters, since we were lead to believe she was also a Collins) was always icky. In WOLF MOON RISING, though, Parker calls it what it is. Jameson Collins, played in the 1897 story by a young DAVID HENESY, is a grown man in the 1920s flashback, and is furious by the previously unrevealed affair between his daughter, Elizabeth, and his immortal uncle, Quentin. The "I" word is used, and it's not not pretty.

And it's not even the biggest WTF?! moment in the novel.

The flashback sequence plays like a loose sequel to the 1897 story and is the novel's centerpiece. I suspect it's also going to be the most troublesome section for some readers. There are moments that contradict exiting canon, but the continuity of DARK SHADOWS got messier and messier in the years leading to its cancellation. Edith Collins, for example, died twice on the show. Her second death was either a product of editorial oversight, or was collateral damage created by the show's many timeslips.

The continuity errors present in WOLF MOON RISING suggest a third possibility: Parker had something she wanted to say with the characters and valued her story more than she did fan service.

As an author, Parker gets DARK SHADOWS better than anyone who's been allowed a crack at the material since it left the airwaves in 1971. She gets it better than Tim Burton, who loves the show without really understanding how it works. She gets it better than the various writers who have worked on the tie-in novels, comics and audio dramas over the years, even though some of those products have had moments of brilliance. And, I dare say, Parker gets it better the show's original mastermind, DAN CURTIS, who arguably began to misunderstand the appeal of his own show before it was even cancelled.

WOLF MOON RISING has some continuity issues, which a few fans of the show will unironically take issue with.  It can be a little unfocused at times as its ensemble cast fights among each other for prominence in the story. And it’s got a nightmarish sense of reality and structure that wouldn’t be out of place in a DAVID LYNCH movie. These elements might be a problem other novel, but only made it feel more like DARK SHADOWS to me.

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