The War of Stories

During a conference I attended this last weekend I overheard a conversation in which someone mentioned that we’re living in a War of Stories. Of course, my mind turned immediately to thoughts of the War depicted in “The God of Battles,” my second novel, which shows what such a war might look like if the “stories” were, in fact, living beings on another level of reality. Whether or not such a level of reality exists, the human collective “mindscape” acts as if it does. We see skirmishes, we see theft of the tools (“weapons”) used by stories to propagate themselves, and we see individual, courageous acts that defy these psychic juggernauts.

It’s easy to find individuals who appear to be the primary agents of the stories at war in our world, but appearances can be deceiving. Everyone, from those in high office to people in the streets, is an agent of at least one story, and we are all profoundly influenced by our narratives.

Another person commented on how surreal things had become and on how dreamlike the world felt (or, perhaps, nightmarish is the correct term?). This sense of disconnect with reality is a symptom of psychosis; are we experiencing cultural psychosis? Or can it be that one of the stories has triumphed over the others, and those of us who do not belong to the dominant narrative feel disconnected from reality as a result? Is there even a difference between these interpretations?

Now, more than ever, we all need to learn how to both defend ourselves from the weapons of this warfare and how to craft our own durable stories.

Finally, it may seem as if there is nothing that one may trust, no source of “truth.” The fact is, we’ve always had to exercise diligence in testing the validity of information coming to us. But now, most of the streams of information, the memes, belong to a dominant narrative that has alienated many of us, casting the need for discrimination in a sharper light. This is when we should all be more conscious of our choices of what to incorporate into our personal stories. Like my dad used to say, “Believe half of what you read and nothing of what you hear.”

Amazon Tidbits

There’s a countdown deal for “The Soul Thief” on Amazon right now!

The Soul Thief

For those who’re subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, both this and “The God of Battles” are free to read.

The God of Battles

Enjoy!

Film, Books, and Some Thoughts

My wonderful actors, my sound man and I spent a few hours this last Monday shooting some pickup shots. They are meant to correct some errors in footage as well as provide improved continuity, and I think the shots are working very well. There’s still a lot of work to do, though. After I finish my initial edits, I will send the project to my color-correction software, where I will fix the color of each shot so they blend with each other well. After that, I will apply a ‘look’ to each scene, paying particular attention to the scenes shot in the Meadow, as they must have an Otherworldly feeling to them.

After color work is more-or-less done, I send the project back to my editing software and apply my special effects. Sometimes I think I bit off more than I should have, but I still believe this will result in a decent film. And Angela Cooper, half-gypsy shaman and brilliant psychiatrist, would probably agree!

Then on to the sound: first, apply filters to the sound so it doesn’t seem boxy or fake, as well as fix a few sequences where there’s too much background noise. Then I will edit for consistent volume.

Next, music: I will score the short film (it’s looking to be about 12 minutes all told). I’ve already begun work on “Angela’s Theme”, which I think has the feel that I want in it. After that’s composed, played, mixed and mastered, I will create the titles and credits, including my “Dancing Goat Studios” logo and title, which I hope you’ll enjoy ūüôā

Then, if it seems good enough, I will limit my screenings to private showings for the moment while I submit to various festivals. If it’s turned down, after six months or so I will put it up on YouTube. If it’s accepted by a festival, it goes on YouTube after that festival has shown my film.

Like I said, it’s a lot of work. But I’m enjoying it!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’m working on “The Diamond Angel.” I ran into some complications with the plot, but once those are resolved I plan on building my first draft over the next several months. It’s entirely possible that I’ll have something resembling such a draft by April or so. Then it’s on to revision after revision! Alpha readers! Beta readings for the writing group! Once it’s in good enough shape, it’s off to the editors. While all this is going on, I am commissioning a book cover from a fine artist I know. It ought to be gorgeous if her other work is any indication.

Which leads me to some thoughts: the original reason I embarked on this filmmaking project was to promote my novels. I wanted something that would draw readers in, and I wanted something more than a simple book trailer. I had no idea I would enjoy the art of filmmaking so much. Consequently, I am finding that the writing has slowed down quite a bit, which is troublesome to me as I enjoy it as well. So I’m pledging to myself, with all of you as my witness, that I will get back into the swing of writing immediately so that I may meet the goals of the schedule I’ve outlined above.

Onward!

Update on Straja, and some tiny fiction

The short film, “Straja,” is in post-production. This means that I’m busy piecing together all the shots and determining what needs to be fixed. I did find some shots that I wanted to re-do, but as someone once said, once the cast members have left the set it’s much harder to get them back together for that project.

So I’m working around the issues I found. I believe I can get two of the actors together for a few shots and some ADR (Automated dialogue replacement, to replace poorly-recorded dialog), but the third actor is unable to help for various reasons.

If I’m fortunate, I will be able to release the film early next year. I’m going to see about putting up some production stills in the meantime, so keep an eye on this site!

In related news, the third novel, tentatively entitled “The Diamond Angel,” is underway. I hope to publish this, the (probably) final installment in the story of Angela Cooper, late next year (2016).

Meanwhile, for your edification and amusement, here is some ultra-short flash fiction:

Cheap
For sale: Last remaining human, cheap.

Cheers!

Amidst the Fire

In the midst of the fires rampaging across Trinity County, I could have decided not to focus on art. However, this would have been a mistake; doing art is a relief from stress, and the less stressed I am, the more helpful I can be.

Therefore, I would like to report that we’ve rehearsed a number of times for the new short film, “Straja,” featuring Dr. Angela Cooper and a deeply conflicted patient. This film is set on both earth (at the patient’s home) and in the Otherworld, and is shaping up very nicely. It will include special effects (primarily green screen work) and is going to be a blast to shoot.

Meanwhile, “Falling Rock” is in post-production, and though there may be a delay I am still aiming for a September release. I’ll post updates as they occur!

Straja

The next short film, “Straja”, is slated to begin shooting in August. The script has gone through several revisions and several rehearsals, and we have a full cast! I may seek some assistance from experienced crew, mostly to do things like hold reflectors or the mic boom.

This film is a prequel to the novels, and depicts an Angela who has not yet experienced real tragedy in the Otherworld. Though confident, she lacks the measured tone of her more mature self as seen in “The Soul Thief” and “The God of Battles,” and she has not yet seen some of the more bizarre or horrific things that can be found in the Forest of Souls.

This short film, depicting the Otherworld as it does, will make use of several special effects. No CGI! I don’t have that kind of budget. But it should be interesting, nonetheless, and in particular I am going to put some serious energy into the transition into the meadow of her patient.

As this film will deal with mental health issues (as do all the stories), I am particularly sensitive to the problems encountered by those of us who are not neuro-typical. Fortunately, I have an adviser who is atypical and who has gained the capacity to handle it. My adviser will help me steer clear of the more obvious pitfalls; my own experience with atypicals will further be of help. However, there may still be a mis-step here and there, hopefully not too egregious.

In the meantime, I am in post-production for “Falling Rock” and will be screening some very rough cuts for my cast and crew soon. I am still gunning for a September release! I am also considering creating a poster for the film as well as a thumbnail still that would show up when you see the film online. Please note, however, that if it seems like it would be good enough for a festival (it’s my first, so that’s probably unlikely), I will not release it publicly until I’ve submitted it to several festivals and either been accepted (and subsequently shown it) or been rejected. Film festivals want “first release” films that haven’t been seen in public yet…

Ta for now!

The Medium is a Message

Early this year I decided to produce a book trailer for “The Soul Thief.” My motivation was purely commercial: I wanted to experiment with promotional tools, and this was one that I thought I should use. I had no strong compulsion to work with video tools, no desire to explore visual storytelling, and absolutely no inkling of how much I would enjoy making that video.

It was fun.

In fact, it was so much fun that I began to consider doing more video work. At first, I considered just making a series of book trailers, using special effects and, perhaps, a limited amount of footage with actors. Then I shot that footage with actors, and my world turned upside down. Here were people, real flesh and blood people, playing the parts of my characters. I had to have more.

I spoke with a friend who had been making a short film of his own. He became excited when I told him I was considering getting into filmmaking in a limited way, and he urged me to skip the pretense and make films, period.

Now,¬†four months later, I’ve just wrapped up production of my first short film, “Falling Rock.” This film is not part of my “Gypsy Dreamwalker” series; it stands alone, a dark little story involving two brothers, a form of resolution, and a nasty twist at the end. If all goes well and the footage isn’t completely unusable (so far, it looks quite good), I will edit it, score it, and screen it by September. If it’s particularly good I may submit it to festivals; if my camera work isn’t up to par (by my standards), I will release it to YouTube, and I’ll be sure to post a link!

However, Angela fans¬†rejoice: I will soon be¬†shooting¬†a “Gypsy Dreamwalker” tale, starring Dr. Angela Cooper and a small (miniscule?) cast. It will be a short film, and I plan on starting production in a couple of months if all goes well.

Review: The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the Jinni
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a deeply immersive story. The setting and characters possess a texture that I rarely find in “fantasy” fiction. The titular characters are, naturally (supernaturally?), extraordinary, but they are immediately relatable because of the author’s attention to detail and the unique voices she gave them. About the only thing I can critique is the ending, which seemed somehow abrupt. It certainly completed the story, but I wanted a little bit more.

All in all, this is well worth the read. Prepare to linger over this one!

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Review: The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide: Part One Making the Extreme No Budget Film

The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide: Part One Making the Extreme No Budget Film
The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide: Part One Making the Extreme No Budget Film by Kelley Baker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aside from laugh-out-loud, brutal comments on some of the foibles of modern filmmakers, this book is stuffed full of practical advice. Written by someone who has been in the trenches for many years, it’s a welcome addition to any aspiring filmmaker’s shelf, but it’s especially useful for those of us who are operating on a shoestring budget. The numerous, dated references to (non-digital) film don’t detract from the work. Rather, they offer insight into the problem-solving skills that are generally useful in this work.

“Hire a publicist? You have got to be f***ing kidding me! I’m making a movie here.”
– Kelley Baker, “The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide Part One: Making The Extreme No Budget Film”

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Review: The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer

The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer
The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nanotechnological mythmaking

Starting out as a “conventional” dystopian cyberpunk novel, the story began to acquire a mythic depth as the key characters of Nell, Miranda and Hackworth entered the stage. I was swept inexorably into the parallel story lines of Nell and Princess Nell, each of which illuminated and impelled the other. This is a fantastic story that repays careful attention. If you buy the Kindle edition, be sure to include the audio book, which is narrated beautifully.

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