eyE[before]Olivia Stocum

First off, allow me to apologise for my unexpected hiatus from eyE. I hadn’t planned it, but as the old adage goes, ‘life is what happens when you’re making other plans’. In between my aforementioned ‘life’ and trying to get BaCwS finished I’ve been a bit short on time, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to have an awful lot more time in the near future either. But nonetheless, I shall endeavour to continue posting when I’m able.

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Now, on to more important matters. As a reward for your patience, I was recently afforded the opportunity to interview the brilliant Olivia Stocum. Olivia is a historical romance author whose debut novel, ‘Dawning’, comes out in just a few days on July 17th. Many of you may know Olivia from her awesome blog, of which I am a big fan, titled ‘The Claymore and Surcoat’. Many more of you will get to know Olivia, through her fantastically impassioned portrayal of love and devotion set against the backdrop of the rolling Scottish countryside in the 16th century.

A lover, dreamer, archer and artist; the auspicious Olivia Stocum.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“When I was a kid my dad told me I had to start living in the real world, because my uncanny ability to fade into La La Land would get me nowhere in life. I saw this as a challenge. Once he said that, there was no going back. I HAD to turn my overactive imagination into something useful. Judging by how proud he is of me now, I have to wonder if he was using reverse psychology.”

As a writer of historical romance, how much research do you usually put into your story’s background? How do you find the balance between fact and interpersonal fiction?

“Sometimes history can get in the way of the story. When this happens, I think it’s better to tell an engaging story. To some degree you have to create your own reality when you write about a time and place 400 years ago anyway. There’s no way to know every tiny detail of your characters’ daily lives without having to fill in some blanks. Consistency is the key. Decide what’s right for your world and stick with it! Also, make sure you don’t make any obvious changes to the setting or history buffs everywhere will fall into a dead faint.”

As someone who has declared themselves an adamantly independent author, what do you think the advantages and disadvantages of the independent marketplace are for newcomers?

“The indie market evens the playing field. Now, anyone with an imagination and a willingness to work their arse off can make a go of it. No more emptying the bank account to hop a plane to some writers’ conference where you will have to lick shoes all week in hopes someone with a pie chart and a list of acceptable plotlines will confirm that you are, in fact, a novelist. The downside is that the market is flooding with writers who probably should have taken a few more workshops, or joined a critique group, before publishing.”

What do you think are some of the most commonly mistaken or misleading ‘rules’ you’ve been told about writing? What lessons have you learned from your own experiences?

“Oh wow. I’ve struggled with this a lot. At one point I allowed stringent contest judges (to) critique my work to a stagnant death. Sure, I had a clean manuscript, but it lacked the ability to elicit an emotional response in the reader. Take a look at some of the greatest writers throughout history. Guess what? They broke rules. Lots of them. But like many things, you have to know the rules before you can break them. I would tell any newbie out there to study the rules, but keep in mind that they’re really more like suggestions.”

If you could visit any place, at any time period in history, but could only do so trapped in the body of a marmoset, where and when would it be?

“A marmoset is some kind of monkey right? Let me see… little monkeys make me think of Indiana Jones because there was a little monkey in ‘Raiders of the Lost Arc’, which makes me think of Egypt, which reminds me of my belly dancing days… wait, what was the question?

“Oh yes, trapped in the body of a marmoset. Well, if I went to historic Scotland, I’d probably end up rotting in a cage because they wouldn’t understand me. (Not their fault, mind you). So I would stick with the Middle East, India, or Africa. I’d be the favourite pet of some young lady who dressed me up cute and carried me around with her all day long. Yes, I could do that, look cute, and have no responsibilities beyond that.”


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Once again, Olivia’s debut novel, ‘Dawning’, is officially released in paperback on July 17th, but can be pre-ordered on Amazon here. (EDIT: Olivia has corrected me, it will also be available on Kindle as of the 17th! :)) Also, make sure you check out Olivia’s blog, ‘The Claymore and the Surcoat for regular updates on her work. Thanks again, for your time, Olivia!

eyE[before]Justin Bog

JB2Allow me to suspensefully assault the drum before me as I introduce you to the exceptional Justin Bog.

It is a great honour to get the chance to interview Justin, who is based out of the San Juan Islands, north of Seattle. I was just recently afforded the opportunity to beta-read his newly released novella ‘The Conversationalist’ and am a big fan of his dark psychological thrillers. He currently has a short story collection in print titled ‘Sandcastle and Other Stories’ and his debut novel, ‘Wake Me Up’, will be published by Green Darner Press in 2014. Aside from writing fiction, Justin is also the Senior Contributor and Editor at ‘In Classic Style’, and he also maintains a blog over at JustinBog.com.

And so, here he is.

The perceptive, pensive, and e’er poignant Justin Bog.


What first made you want to become a writer?

“As a child, this want remained undefined until I found a typewriter in the attic. After that, I never stopped writing, but I didn’t share my work with others very much. Once I learned how to read, early in the first grade, I always had my nose in a book—this was much preferable to math studies, even though I enjoyed the puzzling world of mathematics as well. Because I loved books so much, I dreamed of working in bookstores. I never dreamed of owning one, just had my heart set on being in the fiction department of a cozy bookstore like the basement bookstore in my hometown. That dream did come true; I worked in one large bookstore throughout college and then for three terrific independent bookstores over the next twenty years before moving to the Pacific Northwest to concentrate solely on my writing. I applied to MFA programs two years after graduating from the University of Michigan, where I had taken three years of creative writing courses. I was accepted into two programs and chose Bowling Green State University because it has a small, almost boutique, program. There is also a Visiting Writer year and Dan O’Brien, author of ‘Eminent Domain‘ and ‘Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch‘, took over the writing workshop one term. Even though I moved away from Harbor Springs, Michigan in 1993, and ‘Between the Covers Bookstore’ has changed ownership, I will be doing a reading and signing for the new proprietor on July 10th. I can’t wait to go back to northern Michigan.”

‘The Conversationalist’ being your second publication, did you feel any of the ‘2nd book’ stigma that writers often complain hangs over them after their first literary foray?

“Not at all. ‘The Conversationalist‘, a novella, would’ve fit well as the final piece after ‘Train Crash’ in ‘Sandcastle and Other Stories’, since it also has a character who seems obsessed by trains and how destructive they can be. I’ve been ready to publish my first novel since 2011, but decided to postpone that until after I introduced my work through a short story collection. I’m very happy with the choice I made. People seem to like my dark off-center tales, and I hope they enjoy meeting my new characters in ‘The Conversationalist‘. This one has a more direct plot, and a main character who is just sketchy enough to make me want to write about.”

How important do you believe observation of people to be when writing a story focused on interpersonal relationships? How much do you borrow from real life?

“Observation is paramount in most of the stories I tell. Someone even called them observational tales. I try to reveal character through observation—get into the psychology of what motivates certain broken types, or even the person we all walk by in everyday life without a second glance (or even a first). Everything comes from real life, but that’s just a jumping off point. I don’t write about friends, family, or acquaintances. ‘On the Back Staircase’ (is) the most autobiographical (short story I’ve written) because it is set in my childhood home and has a similar family of seven people, including two sets of twins, (but it) is not about my siblings or parents. I just talked about this with my twin brother. It’s not us, I said, and I stand by that. There are touchstones in the tale taken from my past, but the characters are fictional. All the characters in my writing are usually created out of thin air.”

Do you believe digital media (e-books) have changed the execution, demand, and ultimately the public reception of short stories and novellas?

“EBooks have changed everything about publishing, and maybe make shorter work, short stories, ‘singles’ and novellas readily available to readers in larger numbers. Short story collections, in general, did not sell well when I worked in bookstores. I read them, and believe other writers are the ones who read short fiction. eBooks are beginning to change this, make shorter work appealing because people can read them on their iPhones when waiting in any office, or in line at the Post Office—I do this, and love it. I hope to discover many more authors’ work this way. I love reading eBooks and print paperbacks in even measure. There’s nothing like the feel of turning real pages, and that’s why I am not bemoaning the loss of “real” books just yet. I’ll always buy them.”

If you could have a conversation with anyone, real or fictional, from throughout the span of human history, who would it be (bearing in mind that you have to murder them upon the conversation’s completion to ensure the preservation of the existential continuum)? 

“A macabre question to finish this interview off is perfect. But first I want to thank you Ryan for allowing me to share my writing thoughts here on your blog—kind of you.

“I have to choose someone to speak with, and in doing so, execute this person . . . sad for him, and I will choose someone fictional since then the murder aspect isn’t criminalized… I would love to have dinner (adding a meal in since it’s this character’s last supper) with The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantès. His story, told to perfection in what is my favorite classic novel of all time, the very first suspense novel written, is so complex, I know there are many other stories he could tell, and the more he reveals over this really long dinner will help prolong the grim reaper’s appearance. I should’ve chosen Scheherazade. :)”


conversationalistbookcoverjpgJustin Bog’s new eBook ‘The Conversationalist‘ is available for purchase from Amazon.com here. His collection of short stories, ‘Sandcastle and Other Stories‘ are available in both paperback and eBook form. His debut novel, ‘Wake Me Up‘ will be out in 2014, and you can follow his blog, JustinBog.com, for further updates and information on the up-and-coming projects of this very talented author. Thanks again Justin for making the time to speak with us. 🙂

Arrested Development Lives (or ‘The Phoenix and the Ostrich’)

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I promised it. You ached for it. So here it is.

My review of Season 4 of Arrested Development.

This has been a long time coming for me. My family and I quote the old series of Arrested Development back and forth relentlessly. If you haven’t seen Arrested Development before, go out and watch it right now. For those of you that have indeed done this, you will notice that the end of the 3rd season falls a bit flat. This is because Arrested Development was cancelled during its 3rd season. As a result, it’s has been off the air for close to 8 years… until last week, when the prodigal show returned.

For more information on why you should care about this fringe-dwelling cult television series, feel free to check out the article I wrote for Warhol’s Children on this subject (‘Arrested Development Released and Why You Should Care‘). In the mean time, the question hangs – is Arrested Development, the show about the family everyone loves to hate, still reconcilable 8 years after its violent and bloody assassination?

After watching one or two episodes, it quickly became apparent that this was not the show we left behind those many moons ago. The format is changed to the point that it’s nearly unrecognisable, favouring a more modern, realistic style of cinematic development as opposed to the quirky sitcom-y leanings of the old show. The jokes reflect this too, favouring plot development instead of over-the-top humour and repetitive gag jokes. Truthfully though, I was ok with the fact that they branched out. I feel like I might have been disappointed if they’d tried to duplicate a formula that was nearly a decade old at this point. As the premise of this new series is the ‘evolution’ (or possibly the ‘devolution’) of the Bluth family, a more serious tone really does suit the story-line while also distinguishing the series from its predecessor.

Every episode we watch deals with one (or two) members of the Bluth family at a time, while weaving the other family members’ interlocking stories in and out of the on-going arc. It’s an ambitious endeavour, especially since there are 15 episodes and each episode is 35 minutes long (15 minutes longer than the most U.S. sitcoms). For the most part it works, though once or twice I had to wrinkle my brain to try and remember who did what when, and how it connected. Apparently, part of the reason the story-lines unfold this way is due to scheduling conflicts between the actors, hence why there is only one scene throughout the entirety of the series where they all appear simultaneously. I did find myself missing the Bluth’s interactions as a family for this reason (“Look at banner, Michael!”). Still, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, in the form of a feature film which we will hopefully see before 2015. So, all hope is not lost for a full blown Bluth reunion

Even with this slightly confusing, puzzle-like format that is so different from what I’ve known, I can’t help but love season 4. It’s like seeing a group of old friends get back together; none of them are quite as you remember them, and observing that change is a reward in itself. Aside from which, there’s a lot of rewatch value in the 4th season of this heavily nuanced show, ripe for being slowly dissected and analysed at length.

I think I just blue myself.

Final score; 4 eyEs and 1 socket. Check it out. 🙂

GAME-OF-THRONES-ARRESTED-DEVELOPMENTSpeaking of reviews, friend of eyE Justin Bog has just released a novella (which I’ve had the pleasure of beta-reading and can whole heartedly recommend), titled ‘The Conversationalist‘. Honestly, Justin’s dark, pensive rhetoric really brought this thriller to life for me; a thought provoking, macabre mental journey. Head on over to Amazon and get yourself a copy, kids.

Ani-Maybe

Not everyone is as big a fan of cartoons as I am, of this I am aware.

Culturally, the idea of adult-oriented cartoons is still relatively new to the west and has only really begun to gain momentum in the last 10 years. As with all art-forms however, animation is ever gaining greater and greater degrees of refinement. Where we once were drawing boxy farm-houses with smiley faced suns, ready to be stuck on our parents’ refrigerators, we now paint broad spanning murals and Sistine-Chapel-esque visual epics which elevate the heart and expand the mind. And the development of this modern art form is prevalent nowhere more so than in Japan.

Though it’s sometimes graphic, often lewd, and almost always requires a heightened suspension of disbelief, Japanese anime plumbs the conceptual depths of what animators and animated-story-tellers are capable of getting away with. Still, perhaps the most inaccessible thing about Eastern cartoon culture isn’t the adult themes it perpetuates so much as the ‘culture-shock’ factor. There is no mistaking that there are some very distinct cultural differences between the post-imperialistic Western world and historically isolationist East Asia. Did you know that Japan actually only consented to open its harbours to the world at large a little over 100 years ago (under threat of bombardment by the U.S. naval fleet)? That may sound like a long time to we mortal specks of dust, but from a broader historical and anthropological perspective it really isn’t.

In the interest of mending this ancient cultural rift between intercontinental demographics, I have composed a list of my top 5 recommended anime titles. If you’re uncertain about getting into anime, here’s your jumping on point. Open yourself up to the idea of a potentially perpendicular cultural outlook and check some of them out.

And remember, maturity isn’t the same thing as getting old.

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  1. Death Note – I can’t say enough good things about Death Note. A dark, adult themed anime series which takes the focus away from the usual anime tropes of action and sex. Death Note is about a teenager named Light who finds a notebook which has the ability to kill anybody in the world when he writes their name it. Light takes on the power of a death god and begins punishing the wicked with his newfound power in a misguided attempt to make the world a better place. But the real battle begins when an investigator named L discovers Light’s existence behind the scenes, and a battle of wits commences…
  2. Princess Mononoke – Part of princess-mononokethe ‘Studio Ghibli’ collection of movies, Studio Ghibli have time and time again proven that they are capable of making enchanting epics which capture the hearts of adults and children alike. Princess Mononoke follows a young boy who is poisoned by a strange corruption. His journey leads him to discover the imbalance between the manmade and natural worlds, and teaches us all the value of respecting both the earth and ourselves. Once you’ve watched this, pick up any other Studio Ghibli film and drink it in. Think Japanese Disney.
  3. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood – Not to be fullmetal-alchemist-brotherhoodconfused with ‘Fullmetal Alchemist’, FMA:B is a reboot of an older series and is vastly superior to the original. It follows the story of the Elrich brothers, two young Alchemists who learn at a young age that you can’t make something from nothing. A thoughtful story with a heavy basis on medieval mysticism and religion, FMA:B is a well-made, well-rounded anime series I can happily recommend.
  4. Redline – A more recent movie, but no less deserving as a place-holder. Redline is set in a future where land-based transport has become all but redlineextinct, and the last of the land-racers compete in a race called the Redline; a winner-takes-all, turbo-charged, nitro-wracked dash to the finish. The eye-bleeding animation in this movie takes the genre to a new level. The solid plot and kick-ass action sequences help also. 🙂
  5. Ghost in the Shell – A cult classic that helped define the cyberpunk genre. Ghost in the Shell takes place in a dystopian future, and examines the evolution of technology and the moral implications cybernetics might have on the existence of a human soul. As good today as it was twenty years ago. Fun fact – the architecture in GitS is based on Kowloon Walled City, a tightly compressed architectural nightmare with so many sky-rises squashed in that the landmass was incapable of supporting it. As a result, the city had to be demolished. Great movie, with a stunningly designed backdrop.ghost-in-the-shell

Before I sign off, a couple of quick shout outs. E[b]E friend Dionne Lister is having a sale on her first book, Shadows of the Realm, which is down to $1.99 for the next week. The sequel, A Time of Darkness, came out last month making this a great jumping on point for any fantasy fans out there.

Also, our other friend (yes, all two of them :)) Charity Parkerson is having a sale of her book, The Society of Sinners (first book in the Sinners Series), which is down to $0.99. It’s a good time to own a Kindle, guys. 🙂