Sunday 30 March 2014

Authorpalooza at Dog-Eared Pages

Today, I hit a new milestone for Apocalypse Later: I participated in my first author signing event, Authorpalooza at Dog-Eared Pages in Phoenix. I sold as many books as you can count on neither hand, but I had a blast anyway, catching up with wonderful authors I already knew and discovering wonderful authors I didn't, learning all the way. Here's where it begins and I can build from here.

Dog-Eared Pages is a real discovery of a used bookstore nestled away in a strip mall in northeast Phoenix. The address is 16428 N 32nd St, Phoenix, AZ 85032. To make it even more awesome than any used bookstore is to begin with, it's run by an author, Anna Questerly, whose historical trilogy for young adults, The Minstrel's Tale, I bought a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed.

I found myself sat indoors out of the Arizona sun on what became known as the 'accent table', given that it housed one strange Englishman in a kilt and one lovely French lady, Vijaya Schartz, who writes novels that refuse to be categorised.

I loved how she described her sales pitch: her main series is 'science fiction with sex' to potential male buyers, but 'romance with science fiction' to the female equivalent. Really, she writes science fiction and romance all in the same book, unless she's writing historical, romance and fantasy, all in the same book. Why be pigeonholed?

The same could be said for Vijaya herself. Beyond writing over twenty novels, she acted on stage and television, sang in cabaret and exhibited paintings. She earned a place on the French national gymnastics team, obtained a black belt in Aikido in Hawaii and studied yoga in an ashram in India. In her spare time she has hosted a radio show and run most of the local author organisations. She certainly keeps herself busy.

While her covers range from hard science fiction to traditional romance, it's her Chronicles of Kassouk series, beginning with White Tiger, that stand out the most, with their elegant font and their striking images of the eyes of big cats. It's always these that people hone in on first.

I didn't check, but Vijaya may have written the oldest book being signed, as the earliest of her many novels dates back to around the year 2000. The author I've seen around the longest, though, is Kris Tualla, who we first bumped into at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire, a great place to meet local mystery and romance authors.

She writes several series of historical romance and suspense and is doing her best to put her setting on the romantic map. 'Norway is the new Scotland' she proclaims, having written a whole slew of novels about the Hansens, set as far apart as the 14th and 19th centuries. She's currently filling in the gaps in between.

Her newest books are A Discreet Gentleman of Mystery, the fifth in her Discreet Gentleman series, and the novella In the Norseman's House.
Emmy-nominated journalist turned contemporary romance author Morgan Kearns is a regular at local book events too. Her website suggests that she's approached 'random young hotties' to ask them to pose for her book covers, but I didn't get a second glance today. I'm only three words short of joining that company!

As the baseball jersey she wore today highlights, many of her romances tie to sports, which her Deadlines & Diamonds series suggests is apparently a popular combination. I'm not big on those wacky American sports, though, so I'm more likely to pick up her vampire playboy series, The Gossip of Mysterious Lane.

Sharing Morgan's table was a bubbly lady going by two names.

Under her real name of Sharon Arthur Moore, the one she taught under for 39 years, she writes historical fiction, women's fiction and culinary mysteries, a delightful genre if ever I've encountered one. I adore the title Mission Impastable, the opener for her Dinner is Served mystery series. It's followed up by Prime Rib and Punishment.

She uses the exotic pseudonym Angelica French for her steamier erotic romance novels, like Streetwalker and Sex for Sale, which feature Carrie, a prostitute who hates sex, and Harlan, who runs a bordello.

Another author I've seen before is Ethan Russell Erway, who I found at Phoenix Comicon last year, drawn in by the excellent covers of his two adventure novels for children. They centre around the character Michael Belmont, who I've heard described as 'Indiana Jones meets Harry Potter'.

He also writes science fiction, with his Bleeding Star Chronicles currently in its fifth volume, all of which are collected together in an anthology. I hope his steampunk series, beginning with the novella, Blowing Off Steam, makes it into print sometime soon, but we may need to wait for the whole series to complete first.

V S Nelson was a new name to me today, but she's been keeping busy turning out epic fantasies the size of doorstops. They're easily recognisable as the purple books, which works well, and they mix up genres in a similar way to Vijaya Schartz.

The Sekhmet's Guardians series are paranormal, romance, adventure, historical, you name it. Just don't blink or there will be another doorstop ready to go.

Braving the Arizona sun with a charming accent was Camelia Miron Skiba, who apparently writes multicultural romance. I never knew how many subgenres there were.

Her Dacian Legends series have covers that leap out, all black and white with a single other colour sneaking in to catch us unawares. Hidden Heart looks rather enticing too.

I was on something of a budget today, but I couldn't resist picking up a book from Fran Orenstein, a lady who may just write in a different genre for each day of the week, or at least for a differently aged audience.

Her titles are well picked ones that leap out: Death in D Minor, The Mystery of the Green Goblin or The Spice Trader's Daughter. Best of all may just be Fat Girls from Outer Space, which isn't what you think; it's a contemporary novel for tweens.

It was The Book of Mysteries that I snapped up, a collection of three fantasy adventure novels for young adults (The Wizard's Revenge, The Gargoyles of Gothica and The Centaurs of Spyr), because anything that revolves around a disappearing bookshop run by a magician has to be in one of my signed bookcases. The fact that the cover looks rather like a cyclops grichle was just icing on the cake.

Fran was nestled inside Dog-Eared Pages, just on the other side of the Bargain Books area, with a couple of other authors.

Science fiction author Alan Black's mother explained in one anecdote why Amazon reviews are so important. I've been told before that if a book reaches the 50 review mark, which is much harder to do than it sounds like it should be, Amazon will promote that book. When Metal Boxes reached that target, Black became the Amazon Author of the Week, and promptly sold 4,200 books during that period. That's like Easter, Christmas and Wookiee Life Day all at once.

Black's science fiction novels sound like throwbacks to the great stories I grew up reading, courtesy of my mother's home library. They're described as 'young adult science fiction military action adventure', but to me they sound like Heinlein's juveniles, which I recently re-read in entirety. Chewing Rocks is his other sci-fi yarn, but he also writes general fiction (the Ozark Mountain series, with Bernice Knight) and comedy (Chasing Harpo, about an orangutan on the lam).

Last, but certainly not least, was Kiki Swanson (who is not to be conflated with KiKi Swinson, who Google seems to want me to look at it instead).

Swanson is a former Presbyterian church leader who writes fictionalised versions of real historical stories. If I didn't have to get back to my own table to try to sell my own books, I could happily have talked to Kiki for the rest of the day.

Perhaps her books, like My Will Be Done and Yes, I Can!, could be best described as stories, as they sound like wells in which to dive and experience, the most enlightening of books to read.

And that wraps up Authorpalooza, except for that strange Englishman, the only author attempting to sell non-fiction today and clearly not finding the right audience. Just to make this post complete, I should mention my two books about film. The covers are at the top of the page.

Huh? An A-Z of Why Classic American Bad Movies Were Made looks at 26 different reasons why people thought it might be a bright idea to make movies and explains through 26 different movies why they weren't quite so bright after all.

Velvet Glove Cast in Iron: The Films of Tura Satana runs through every feature film and every episode of a TV show credited at IMDb that Tura Satana, the star of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! appeared in.

Many thanks to my better half, Dee Astell of Countess Chaos Creations, who took all the photos.

I've linked to each of the author's pages above, but here's a list for easy reference with fresh links.

Dog-Eared Pages:
Countess Chaos Creations:

Alan Black:
Ethan Russell Elway:
Angelica French:
Morgan Kearns:
Sharon Arthur Moore:
V S Nelson:
Fran Orenstein:
Anna Questerly:
Vijaya Schartz:
Camilia Miron Skiba:
Kiki Swanson:
Kris Tualla:

Saturday 15 March 2014

PFF and IHSFFF 2014

I'll be posting much more on these events in the future, as they're the cornerstone of film in the Phoenix area, but the schedules have been posted to the Phoenix Film Festival's website for both the Phoenix Film Festival and its sister event, now subsumed into it, the International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival.

As these pages are designed to help festival goers figure out how to schedule their day, the index pages I've posted to Apocalypse Later might help those also interested in the sweeping scope of the festivals, especially as I also link to the IMDb pages for each film. These will remain in place after the festivals finish for future reference. I'll link each title to my reviews as I post them.

Here's my index page for the 2014 International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

Here's my index page for the 2014 Phoenix Film Festival, now in its 14th year.

I'm buzzed to see some of the titles on offer, especially Mike Flanagan's Oculus, his widely acclaimed follow up to my favourite film of the last decade, Absentia, which won Best Horror Feature in 2011. Bizarrely, it's advertised as playing on the horror/sci-fi side of the event, but listed in the schedules as part of the mainstream side. Whichever side it's really playing on, I'll be there with bells on.

Other films I'm keen to see on the PFF side are the opening night film, Locke with Tom Hardy (though that will be tough to get into), The House That Jack Built from Henry Barrial, who made the 2012 Best Sci-Fi Feature winner, Pig and the enticing feature 45RPM. The competition features were so good last year, I can't wait to find out how the Phoenix Film Foundation have followed up with this year's selection.

On the horror/sci-fi side, there's Sion Soto's Why Don't You Play in Hell?, which beat out Oculus for the top honours at TIFF Midnight Madness this year, Fangoria editor Chris Alexander's Queen of Blood and The Sacrament, whose director, Ti West, will be there to present his film.

Sunday 2 March 2014

Running Wild Filmography

Regular readers at Apocalypse Later will know that my first review of every month is of a movie from Running Wild Films.

I just posted March's choice, which is Belly of the Whale, their entry into the IFP Phoenix Breakout Challenge. You can find my review here, and if you like what you read, you can watch it for free at YouTube.

This all started back in July 2012, when I was working through the Arizona Shorts selection from that year's Phoenix Film Festival. Purely by chance, my first review that month was Shine Like Gold, directed by Travis Mills, who had co-founded Running Wild Films with Gus Edwards. Even back in 2012, Mills had become a prolific filmmaker and it seemed like a laugh to review another of his films, The Ruffians, when August came around, and so on. After all, I'd catch up soon enough, right?

Well, a couple of years on and 21 monthly reviews later, plus reviews of a couple of features in between, I'm not remotely catching up. In fact, Mills is rocketing away from me, having set and achieved the insane target of making no less than 52 short films in the 52 weeks of 2013, all adapted from stories in the public domain. Those were screened en masse at a three day festival at Mariscos Vuelve a la Vida, a charming Mexican restaurant at 16th St & Roosevelt. It's hardly the first place you'd expect to attend a film festival but it was a memorable event.

Each of these 52 films can now be watched online through Vimeo on Demand. Cost is $26 to rent them all or $52 ($1 a film) to buy them all. They can be rented or bought individually too. I'll be reviewing all these films starting in July. If Mills can make 52 films in 52 weeks, I can review 52 films in 52 weeks, right?

One thing that Mills said during a Q&A session at this festival was that Running Wild Films had made around 80 movies. I knew he was understating the case immediately, given that the 52 films screening that weekend plus the 22 I'd already reviewed at that point come close on their own and there were many left for me to watch. The question was how many they actually have made and the answer wasn't apparent.

So I did some research and conjured up this list. It's entirely not official, but hopefully Mills or Edwards can give it a once over, then fix my mistakes and fill in the gaps. I've included links to my reviews and to the IMDb pages, where they exist, along with ratings from my better half and I, as per Apocalypse Later standards.

My current count is 103: 48 short films, plus the 52 from his self imposed 2013 challenge, and 3 features to boot. Others are in the works, of course, some of them completed but not yet available. Their next feature is Duel at the Mound, currently surpassing its target at Kickstarter.

For those interested, my favourite is still The Big Something, their quirky debut feature, while the best, in my humble opinion, is probably The Memory Ride, in the version that strips the original ending.

Rating System
1 - Abysmal | 2 - Bad | 3 - Poor | 4 - OK | 5 - Good | 6 - Excellent | 7 - Classic

Title Year H D Director(s) IMDb
The Big Something 2011 5 5 Travis Mills IMDb
The Detective's Lover 2012 4 4 Travis Mills IMDb
The Men Who Robbed the Bank 2013 4 4 Travis Mills IMDb

Short Films
Title Year H D Director(s) IMDb
Man/Woman/Motel Room 2010 5 5 Travis Mills n/a
The Night Life 2010 Travis Mills n/a
Hate 2010 Gus Edwards n/a
Encounter 2010 4 3 Travis Mills IMDb
Absolution 2010 Gus Edwards n/a
The Young Wife 2011 4 4 Travis Mills IMDb
The Gardener 2011 McKenzie Goodwin n/a
The Guitar 2011 Gus Edwards n/a
The Blind Man 2011 3 4 Travis Mills IMDb
Detective's Calendar 2011 n/a
Last Kiss at Sunset 2011 n/a
Five Things a Detective Does in the Dead of Night 2011 Travis Mills n/a
Two Voices 2011 Gus Edwards & Travis Mills IMDb
Night Train to Phoenix 2011 5 5 Travis Mills IMDb
Detective Shaves 2011 2 3 Travis Mills n/a
Augusta: The Plainfield Ghoul 2011 n/a
The Middle Toe of the Right Foot 2011 4 5 Travis Mills IMDb
Comanche 2011 Travis Mills n/a
The Sunset Limited 2012 3 3 Travis Mills n/a
Therapist 2012 4 3 Travis Mills n/a
A Month in Mississippi 2012 Travis Mills IMDb
Off Track 2012 5 5 Travis Mills IMDb
Just Cause 2012 5 6 Gus Edwards n/a
Dad 2012 n/a
The French Spy 2012 3 3 Travis Mills IMDb
The Memory Ride 2012 6 6 Travis Mills IMDb
Escort Driver 2012 3 4 Travis Mills n/a
Friday Nights Alone 2012 5 4 Travis Mills n/a
A Little Haven 2012 Travis Mills n/a
Itty Bitty Bang Bang 2013 5 5 Travis Mills IMDb
I Don't Even Know Your Name 2013 4 4 Michael Coleman n/a
1 2013 n/a
2 2013 n/a
Food in the Alley 2013 Travis Mills n/a
Boykin 2013 5 5 Travis Mills n/a
Wander in the Dark 2013 4 4 Boban Gligoric n/a
The MacGruffin 2013 Kyle Gerkin n/a
Banana Justice 2013 3 3 Travis Mills n/a
Star Babies 2013 6 5 Travis Mills IMDb
The Lady of New Orleans 2013 Travis Mills n/a
Ranch Hands 2013 Christopher Murray n/a
Perorities 2013 Colleen Hartnett IMDb
Spectacles 2013 William Long IMDb
Mozart/Beethoven 2013 Nathan Foley n/a
Catch the Frog 2013 5 5 Travis Mills n/a
Foster, You're Dead 2013 Kyle Gerkin n/a
Belly of the Whale 2014 5 5 Kyle Gerkin n/a
Little Man in the Boat 2014 n/a

52 Films/52 Weeks
Title Year H D Director(s) IMDb
The Sisters 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Bartleby 2013 Travis Mills n/a
Two Hearts That Beat as One 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
You Touched Me 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
An Encounter 2013 Travis Mills n/a
Araby 2013 Travis Mills n/a
A Little Hero 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
I Want to Know Why 2013 Travis Mills n/a
Two Gallants 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Head and Shoulders 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Other Woman 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Kiss 2013 Travis Mills n/a
The White Stocking 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
A Respectable Woman 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
A Desertion 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
A Painful Case 2013 Travis Mills n/a
The Bookkeeper 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Liar 2013 Travis Mills n/a
The Thief 2013 Travis Mills n/a
Horseshoes 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
My Roomy 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Harmony 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Useless Beauty 2013 Travis Mills n/a
Counterparts 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Return 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
A Mother 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Tennessee's Partner 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Catastrophe 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Three Strangers 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
A Lodging for the Night 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Cask 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Young Goodman Brown 2013 Travis Mills n/a
Berenice 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
A Watcher by the Dead 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Man of the Crowd 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Country of the Blind 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Grace 2013 Travis Mills n/a
The Captain's Story 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Test Case 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Devil and Tom Walker 2013 Travis Mills n/a
A Little Cloud 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Clay 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
A Pair of Silk Stockings 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Bum 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
After the Race 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
A Day in the Committee Room 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Eveline 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Boarding House 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Locket 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
Out of Season 2013 Travis Mills IMDb
The Dead 2013 Travis Mills n/a
A Piece of Steak 2013 Travis Mills IMDb