Welcome to the week 1 recap!
What an interesting week it was. The week started off with a rainbow but also a death in the family. In times of grief, it’s easy to only see the negative, and this photo challenge helped to remind me of the beauty in our lives. The warmer spring weather also lent itself to playing outside with our dogs. You’ll see a couple of photos of our chocolate Lab, Ryker-Man. Our other Lab has the attention span of a fly on crack and usually won’t hold still. Getting a good shot of him will make a great photo challenge in itself! It’s been a varied week, but I’m happy with the visual results. I’m determined to continue this iPhone Photo Challenge until the end of April. It’ll be great to challenge myself with different types of photos.
Don’t forget to follow along on Instagram @valmakesmovies for daily photo updates! You can also check out more of my photography – both iPhone and DSLR – at Flickr. I’ll be back next week with another wrap up!
Say Cheeseburger in Paradise!
After reading the first two chapters of the book, “On the iPhone” by David Hume Kennerly, I’ve been inspired to do a photo-a-day challenge using only my iPhone. These have been around for years, but I’ve only done it a couple of times for Halloween during the month of October. The spring weather is helping to spark my creativity and this will give me even more reason to get outside (I hate wintertime) and practice my photography. I can’t say that I’ll do it every single day, or for how long, but I do promise to always have a story to tell about how or why I took that particular photo. Plus, this will be a great way to possibly “blog a book“, which I hoped to do in 2015.
Why the iPhone?
Sure, I could use my DSLR and my fancy-schmancy lenses, but there is something about the simplicity of the iPhone that I’ve always been a fan of. If you were to take a gander at my Flickr page, you’d see that the iPhone is a favorite tool of mine. Sometimes when I take a picture, I don’t need to think too much about what I’m doing. I just need to be like Nike and Just. Do. It. Capture the moment before it slips away. Believe me, I missed a wonderful candid moment several years ago that I’m still kicking myself over.
We were at a local fair and I had just taken a series of pictures where I needed to use manual focus. I’m sure you can guess where this is going. (I shoot in manual, but usually let auto focus do its thing to assist me.) We were walking through the crowd and I spotted a father who was about to hand a mustard covered corn dog to his young son who was reaching for it with all his little might. I knew it was coming. I readied my camera, framed the shot, and… Crap! It wouldn’t focus! I had forgotten that I had changed to manual focus for the previous shot and began fumbling with the camera. I ultimately lost the opportunity and was (and still am!) devastated to let that special moment pass by. Lesson learned!
Having a perfectly capable camera that I do not have to fumble with in my pocket at all times is a no-brainer. The iPhone is the perfect tool for the job. iPhoneography is something I’ve been practicing for a few years now, and I’m really pleased with what it can do and how it challenges me. I also believe that the limitations of the iPhone (which aren’t many) will force me to be more creative, to try different angles or focal lengths and use my body is the zoom. Plus, it’ll be fun to play with the various camera and editing apps I’ve accumulated.
Rather than post a photo per day on my blog, I’ll likely do weekly wrap ups here. However, you can follow along on Instagram @valmakesmovies to see the daily photos, and I may include other social networks, too (Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr).
To start things off, I’m posting a few random pictures here that I’ve taken over the last several years, and either a fictional story that the picture influenced or the actual story behind the photo.
And one for April 1st!
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the upcoming photo journey! It’ll be a wonderful challenge that I’m excited about. On a side note, I’ve got two writing projects in the works that I hope to spill the beans on soon!
* I realize today is April 1st, but this isn’t an April Fools’ joke. Today is a good a day as any to start this challenge! If you start yours, let me know in the comments!
“Monster Girl: Ghost in the Attic” (Book 2) is available NOW!!
“Monster Girl” book 2 is now available at Amazon!
Following the events of the first book in the “Monster Girl” series, Viki and Herman find clues that take them on a mysterious journey as they try to discover the identity of the ghost in the attic.
When Viki defies her parents by sneaking out of her house, she witnesses her sister, Suzy, in a compromising situation that puts Suzy’s life in danger. But if Viki speaks up, she’ll be ratting on herself as well.
Does Viki do the right thing and tell the truth before it’s too late to save her sister? And just how will the mystifying ghost in the attic play a part in what Viki ultimately decides to do?
Thank you to all the Monster Readers out there who have supported me in my writing adventure!
Today marks the one year anniversary that I became a writer.
It could be debated whether the anniversary should fall on the day I started writing my first book or the day it was published, but I choose the former because it’s the day I took action.
Last Jan 12th was a mild winter day, very different from today’s rainy atmosphere. The sun actually peeked its warm face out from the clouds, and I found myself sitting on my deck relaxing with my dogs when the idea struck to write a ghost story.
I had been struggling to finish a movie script and was hoping to find inspiration to write anything and finish it. That was my one goal. Write a short book and FINISH it. Eight months later it was published and it sparked something that had been lying dormant inside me since childhood.
Notebooks filled with silly stories and poems written during my childhood and teenage years adorn my bookshelves. Those notebooks represent a time when I spent much of my downtime inventing my own worlds on paper. I guess I never really lost that. After all, we (my husband and I) have been writing and producing short films for seven and a half years now, but I needed more. Just days away from my 38th birthday and I finally know what I want to do with my life.
Writing a book has given me another way to tell stories and share them with others. A big THANK YOU goes out to everyone who has supported me, read my books, left a comment about what the stories mean to you, left a review, anything. It is appreciated more than you know.
I’m lucky to have many important people in my life, and one of those people was always adamant about two things: getting an education and reading. My grandfather isn’t with us anymore, but his efforts did not go unnoticed, which is why my first book is dedicated to him.
Viki and Herman will always have a special place in my heart since “Monster Girl” gave me new life, and I’m pleased today to share with you the cover and title for the sequel!
Monster Girl: Ghost in the Attic picks up a few months after the events of the first book. Full details are coming soon, but all signs point to a January release! Don’t forget, you can sign up to be notified about new releases. Now, I must go celebrate by polishing off the edit and writing 1,000 words in my third book!
Tis the season for top 10 lists! What’s great about them is that they expose us to gems we may have missed. Rarely do I meet someone who agrees with my tastes 100% of the time, but I enjoy reading why people liked the movies they did, and if it grabs my interest I’ll check it out. There are still several movies I wanted to see that I haven’t, but I had to cut it off somewhere. I’m sure I’ll tweet about them as I see ‘em.
One thing to know about my tastes is that despite my indie horror filmmaking background, I was raised on Spielberg and make no apologizes for it. So when a big budget studio picture comes along and wins my affection, of course it’s going on my list. Another thing to know about me is that I’m a huge horror fan, and horror takes up at least 85% of everything I watch. Sci-Fi and Action/Adventure take up the rest with a small dose of drama and TV to fill in the gaps.
This year has been an interesting one for horror. Horror on VOD/DVD won the battle against theater releases this year. I saw MANY more good horror movies from the comfort of my recliner, on my big TV, and eating my own yummy homemade popcorn than previous years. What’s even more interesting is that my top 10 favorites of 2014 contain more non-horror than I expected. Science-fiction/action movies really upped their game this year with big theatrical releases. I may be in the minority, but horror lost out to the more sci-fi fare of Godzilla and Guardians of the Galaxy. 2015 looks to be similar what with Jurassic World, Star Wars and the like coming out. As much as I love indie horror, I do miss those really great big horror releases of yesteryear. With that out of the way, here are my favorite movies of 2014!
1. Godzilla – I love this movie more every time I watch it. Bare with me. This mini-review will be as huge as Big G himself. There’s been a lot of hating on Godzilla lately. I get it. Not everyone is into the Big G. I’m not into torture porn or sparkly vampires. Most of the complaints have been centered around the fact that we don’t get 120 minutes of nothing but Godzilla. Don’t get me wrong, I would love that too, but there is such a thing as build up and suspense. Remember when we were kids and we had to *wait* for that coveted toy rather than get it immediately? When we had to wait for it, wasn’t it that much more exciting?
Part of the problem with the lack of suspense these days is that the current generation of movie goers are used to getting everything within a few seconds and with only a few screen taps. I’m guilty of this, too. Having things more accessible is cool. We can pull up a movie on our phones and start watching it within seconds. But I do wonder if the desire for instant gratification isn’t killing suspense in movies.
Monster fans whining about not getting more monster fighting in Godzilla had their chance to see just that in Summer 2013. It was called Pacific Rim, and yet no one went to see it. I highly recommend it, especially if you love big robots and giant aliens!
The problem with hating on Godzilla is that it shows we’re a society of instant gratification junkies. When studios read complaints about not enough of the good stuff, eventually that’s all we’ll get. The irony is then the good stuff won’t be the good stuff anymore. It’ll be the norm. Rinse. Repeat.
Regarding suspense, movies like Jaws and Jurassic Park did it right. They employed the “less is more” idea and used it to perfection. We don’t get the T-Rex in Jurassic Park until 45 minutes into the movie. And it was worth every minute of the wait. Ever hear anyone complain about that scene not delivering? Me neither.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy – Guardians is like Star Wars for the current generation. Everything about it is awesome. Guardians screams for future movies where we get to not only explore these characters more, but the beautiful worlds. I want to visit every world again and have whole movies dedicated to them. The richness is there. Let me also say that with few exceptions (Spider-Man and X-Men) I have never been a big fan of the Marvel superhero movies. It seems like ever since 9/11 we have had this insatiable need to be saved by a super-human being with magical powers. I miss the every man hero and the anti-hero. However, Guardians really turned that superhero mythos on its head and I’m totally happy it did. (The awesome James Gunn played a big part in that, as his style oozes into every scene.) I’m still waiting on a truly epic and awesome Ghost Rider franchise. Come on, Marvel, give an old comic book geek a bone, will ya?
3. Late Phases – We haven’t had a truly great werewolf movie since the 80s. Dog Soldiers and Ginger Snaps have come close, offering different spins on the tried and true legend. Speaking of the 80s, Late Phases really shows its appreciation for another great lycan movie that came before it – Silver Bullet. Affectionate nods are scattered throughout this excellent movie. Do not let this one get away. Top notch acting, creatures, and suspenseful scenes that are truly terrifying really set this one apart from the pack. (See what I did there?)
4. Exists – Here’s another tidbit about me. I absolutely abhor found footage movies and cannot wait until that fad is over. However, I absolutely loved Exists. But here’s the the thing. Just because found footage appears to be easier to make for indie filmmakers, it’s not. Found footage still requires focus (both narratively and literally, heh) and a good sense of how to tell a story. Exists was also directed by a found footage veteran director. Do I wish Exists had been shot with the more traditional narrative style of using a tripod? Absolutely. But I can’t deny its effectiveness as a well-made, suspenseful movie. My dvd is already pre-ordered.
5. Edge of Tomorrow – Here’s a gem of a movie that suffered from poor marketing. I disagree that the title was part of the problem. The title makes perfect sense once it’s clear what the premise is (which should have taken 10 seconds). That’s why I think the marketing failed. However, if you saw this one, you’re likely to agree that it’s a solid sci-if action movie, and if you haven’t, give it a chance.
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past – I really dig the X-Men movies. I never read the comic (I was into Ghost Rider instead), but was immediately drawn to these characters with the very first X-Men movie. All the subsequent sequels are also solid movies that can stand on their own, because this series doesn’t suffer from an overly emotional setup. Yet at the same time, fans get those emotional moments throughout the series. By comparison, I absolutely love the original Spider-Man thanks to its necessary, fun setup, and I miss that in its sequels. I enjoyed Days of Future Past despite two minor complaints. One is the under use of all the familiar characters from past movies. There’s no character development; they’re just there. It’s nice to see them, but it would’ve been even nicer to have gotten a little more. Especially with Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page’s character). She has an important job, and from what I understand, it’s even more important in the comic, yet there isn’t any development there. And two, I felt it could have used a bit more insight into Magneto’s younger-self. I only say that because I find good villains fascinating. After all, they are the heroes of their own stories. All that said, I’m curious what direction they will take the story after how this one ended. The main thing I enjoyed about Days of Future Past is how well connected it is to the rest of the series (including the Wolverine spin offs).
7. Ragnarok – An unknown Norwegian gem of a movie that has great acting, beautiful cinematography, a monster, and a lot of heart. Ragnarok is not only a beautiful and well told monster movie, but the best part is the modern-day filmmakers know how to use a tripod. That’s code for it’s NOT found footage. Netflix is currently streaming this and kudos to them for streaming this with subtitles. Think Indiana Jones with giant creatures and you have an idea what to expect.
8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – While it did not have the emotional impact that Rise did, Dawn is still a worthy entry to this franchise and I hope it continues. There’s a lot of social commentary here that doesn’t come off as preachy. And it goes without saying, but the animations are ah-ma-zing!
9. The Babadook – Even knowing going in that it wasn’t *really* a horror movie even though the critics (horror critics included) were passing it off as such, I was still disappointed. However, I do think it was a good movie – if I look at it as a dramatic piece and not a horror movie. Essie Davis did an amazing job and there’s nothing that can argue that. The cinematography was great, too. And yes, the kid was annoying, but he needed to be. That said, I really wish it was the horror movie everyone made it out to be – and the one I imagined in my head – because the Babadook character could have been so creepy and cool. Still, it makes my top 10 list because it is a solid movie – albeit very horror-lite. I’m looking forward to giving this one another viewing once it gets Blu-ray distribution.
10. Cheap Thrills – Violent movies for the sake of being violent aren’t really for me. (Give me monsters or ghosts any day!) However, Cheap Thrills really touched on something interesting. Who’s to say the, quote, bad guy, is really the bad guy? The commentary on social status and how far humans will go really blurs those lines. Solid movie.
Honorable mentions: Alien Abduction, The Taking of Deborah Logan, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Stage Fright, Blood Glacier, and Horns. I saw Horns after I had made this list, and it could have totally been in my top 10, but I couldn’t decide what to demote. See it for sure.
To resolve means to “make a firm decision, or resolution, to do something”. Typically, resolutions are made at the start of each new year and most, unfortunately, don’t get accomplished. I’m certainly guilty of it, too.
However, it’s important to make a list of goals that we’d like to see accomplished. There’s something about seeing it in writing that helps make it more real. And if it’s real, there’s a better chance of seeing them come to fruition. It’s also important to take a moment and make note of things we accomplished the year before.
In early Jan 2014, I set out to write and publish my first book. I remember that Sunday like it was yesterday. It was a mild, sunny winter afternoon. My dogs and I were relaxing on the deck in the sun with my writing notebook in my lap. Inspiration for a ghost story struck, and six months later I had a rough draft. Another three and “Monster Girl” was published. I’ve been riding that wave ever since. All I feel now is the desire to improve and write more stories! I’ve learned a TON during the first few months of being a published author. All that I learned will help me in the year ahead.
There are a few things I’d like to accomplish in the new year in order to see my writing career grow. They are:
1. Publish my second book – Recently, I announced the completion of the first draft for book 2 in the “Monster Girl” series. Now that I know that I can finish a book, it’s become an addiction. More details will be available very soon! It’ll be here sooner than even I realize.
2. Publish my books in audiobook format – I think this is an important area for stories and one I’m eager to dive into. It’ll be a slower publishing process, but I plan to initiate the transition in the first quarter.
3. Publish my first horror novel – This will undoubtedly be my third published book, as I’ve already begun the first draft. It will be darker and more mature in tone from previous books. My background is in horror, so it’s only natural that I take this next step.
4. Expand to other platforms – It’s important to reach readers who aren’t Amazon customers, and 2015 will likely be the year that I expand to other digital platforms like Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. I say likely because it will be beneficial to wait and make the move after I have at least 3-4 published works.
5. Publish another monster-themed book set in Draxon Hollow – I already have the outline for a book similar in scope to “Monster Girl” that will be even bigger and monster filled, and I cannot wait to write and share it! It’s basically a scary monster story I wish Spielberg had made when I was growing up!
6. Publish Halloween themed book of short stories – Halloween is my favorite time of year. It’s not just a single day; it’s a month-long celebration, and a book of short stories seems like a great way to show my affection! This book will happen whether it’s in 2015 or not.
7. Blog a book – To “blog a book” means to publish publicly, in blog form, the work (fiction or non-fiction) while it’s being written. Blogging a book is an interesting concept to me and one that I wouldn’t mind trying. It’s number seven on my list because, while I do want to experiment with it, it’s not a top priority. And when I do get around to trying it, it could be for a short story and not a book. (Thanks to Nina Amir for the inspiration!)
Whew! That’s seven big goals right off the bat! And I didn’t even mention the possibility of “Monster Girl book 3″. Oops, just did! Do I think all seven will be accomplished? Maybe, maybe not. Like every year, my goals grow and change as I do, and a revised list midway through the year may be necessary. Seeing these goals in written form gives me a solid jumping off point, and I’m very eager to take the plunge! Come along, it’ll be a wild ride!
Wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year!