Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monster Cereal Smackdown: Boo Berry

This third entry is part of a series that celebrates the return of the vintage packaging for the "Monster Cereals" from General Mills. This retro packaging was only available in the United States, but many industrious Canadians (like me!) found a way to get their hands on a few boxes. It's taking me a while to work my way through each of the cereals, but I'm pushing on, despite the constant sugar high and the adverse affect that so much artificial colouring is having on my, um, system.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dark Intruder (1965)

I recall watching episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974) on TV when I was a kid, but I didn't truly become a fan of the series until my adult years. This became the first in a long line of supernatural detective-type series that I've since enjoyed, which includes the likes of The X Files, Blood Ties and Supernatural. Prior to Kolchak, there were a number of one-off productions in the same vein, most of which were failed pilots. These included The Norliss Tapes (1973) and Dead of Night: A Darkness at Blaisedon (1969). I can now add another to this list!

Dark Intruder (1965) was the pilot for a failed television series to be called The Black Cloak, produced by Alfred Hitchcock's Shamley Productions for NBC. For some reason, the pilot was not shown on television, and instead was sold to Universal Pictures and shown theatrically (albeit in a limited release).

I was surprised by the quality of the story, and of its star, Canadian actor Leslie Nielson. He plays a supernatural detective in 1890s San Francisco, who investigates a string of murders that hint of the occult, which he learns are part of a larger scheme to bring forth a Sumerian demon.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

A Vampire's Guide to New Orleans

If you have ever walked the dark, rainy streets of the French Quarter at night, you have seen the voodoo shops selling their gris-gris and John-the-Conqueror Root.  You've seen the old woman in the French Market whose pointing finger foretells your death  And if you know the right person to ask and you ask in the right way, you'll be shown to the vampire clubs.

I've been in those clubs and seen people who believe with their heart, body, and soul that they are real, live vampires.  And some of the people in those clubs are scared to death of a select group of vampires who have only appeared there a few times, and always in the darkest of night.

By day, of course, the vampire clubs are closed and locked or turned back into regular tourist bars . . .

--Crazy Horse's Ghost

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Toronto Public Libraries: Help Stop the Bleeding!

More austerity is planned for Toronto's public library system in the 2014 City budget, unless we all act together to change it. Did you know that adequate funding of our public libraries would cost just two cents a day for each Torontonian?

However, the proposed 2014 budget shortchanges the TPL by refusing to fund their plan to make our public library more accessible, by expanding the number of hours branches are open. And, if the City’s budget proposal is approved as is, the TPL will be left vulnerable to the grinding effects of inflation that slowly eats away at its ability to serve all of us.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Alternative Movie Posters by Matthew Chojnacki

As author Matthew Chojnacki notes in his introduction, "film posters aren't quite what they used to be." Traditionally, they were the primary source of advanced promotion for movies, and these one-sheets often became highly desirable as collector items.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat

There are just three days remaining to contribute to the Indiegogo campaign for a 5-day writers retreat from October 23-27, 2014 (note: they've already reached their funding goal, however, their stretch goals include additional perks). R.J. Cavender is hosting this event at the historic and haunted birthplace of Stephen King's The Shining, The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Monster Cereal Smackdown: Frute Brute

This is the second post in a series that celebrates the return of the vintage packaging for the "Monster Cereals" from General Mills. Unfortunately, for us Canadians, the retro packaging is only available in the United States. But it's the first time that all five cereals are available at once, so it might be worth a trip over the border to pick up your own set (although you may only find them on ebay by now).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nonfiction Writing Resources

The following post covers basic questions about nonfiction writing in Canada, which was originally part of my notes for a panel discussion that I was a part of at Fan Expo 2013. Feel free to leave any questions or comments about this document.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A celebration of my mom, at Halloween

My enthusiasm for Halloween can be traced back to my childhood, which at times was a tough one. My father passed away when I was a young boy, leaving my mother to raise five kids on her own. I still can’t fathom how she managed, but she made ends meet, and was the glue that held our family together—in spite the enormous challenges she faced on a daily basis. She excelled as a single parent, and made damn sure her kids had the best childhood possible, despite our heartbreaking loss.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dracula on NBC: Renfield, we have a problem!

Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as Dracula, who's unearthed in Romania in 1881. Fifteen years later, he resurfaces in London, England, under the guise of Alexander Grayson, an American entrepreneur who wants to bring wireless electricity to Victorian society. His real goal, however, is to destroy the Order of the Dragon, a secret, nefarious organization noted for its "murder, torture, rape, and wholesale slaughter" that stretches back five centuries. The group was responsible for killing his wife, back when he was human and known as Vlad Tepes, the Romanian warlord. But as Dracula sets his plan in motion, he discovers that Mina Murray, a London socialite, may in fact be the reincarnation of his long-dead wife.

Much of this may sound familiar, because this pastiche of a story really doesn't offer anything new to the Dracula lore. And it's so far removed from Bram Stoker's novel that, except for some familiar faces and places, there's nothing at all to connect it to the original story. In fact, based on the pilot episode, it seems you'll only enjoy this "reborn" Dracula if you know nothing about the novel, nor the historical Vlad Tepes. And if you know anything about Victorian times, the rampant anachronisms throughout the production will drive you batty.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Monster Cereal Smackdown: Fruity Yummy Mummy

To celebrate the return of the vintage packaging for the "Monster Cereals" from General Mills, I'll be running a series of blog posts that explore each product. I was a kid when these cereals were first introduced, so they hold a lot of fun memories for me (even though I really only remember the first three produced). Being in Canada, I was lucky enough that one of my relatives was able to pick up all five vintage boxes at a Target store, since they're only for sale in the United States--and it's the first time that all five are available at once!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Universal Studios Monsters Scary Stories

Ever since Count von Count was introduced on Sesame Street, I've been interested in seeing how monsters are marketed to the younger set. One assumes that, by introducing friendly monsters to children at a young age, their innate fear of the unknown (monsters, the dark, etc.) will be lessened. The classic Universal monster movies were first marketed to adults, so it's fun to see how these same creatures have undergone a makeover over the years, and have now become part of children's stories. A prime example of this is Scary Stories, a four-book set featuring the film studio's most recognizable monsters.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Robin Hood vs. Dracula

Castle Dracula...err, Mortula
"Doctor Mortula" (1967) is one of my favourite episodes from the curious kid's cartoon Rocket Robin Hood, which originally aired on TV in Canada from 1966-1969 (and was in repeats for what seemed to be years afterwards). The series features characters from the Robin Hood tale of English folklore, albeit transplanted into the year 3000, where they live on New Sherwood Forest Asteroid, and have many space-faring adventures.

In this episode, the group faces a horde of classic Universal movie monsters--although they are watered down to make them more kid-friendly. It may also be considered one of the earliest animated adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula, after a fashion, and makes for perfect Halloween viewing.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising

Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising is a new book by actress Lara Parker, who's best known for her role as Angelique on the television series Dark Shadows, which aired on ABC from 1966-71. In 1998 she wrote her first novel, Dark Shadows: Angelique's Descent, published by HarperPrism (reissued by Tor Books in 2012). Parker followed this with Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch (Tor, 2006), which was also reissued last year.

Wolf Moon Rising is the second novel in The Salem Branch series, with a story that revolves around the werewolf Quentin Collins. Although the author definitely does justice to the characters and setting of the television series, the story features some elements that seem too out of place for Dark Shadows--and her writing style leaves something to be desired.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fan Expo: Where has all the horror gone?

Had another fantastic time at Fan Expo Canada 2013, which took place August 22-25 here in Toronto. This year, Hobbystar expanded the convention, taking over both the north and south buildings at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The big addition was a sports component, which was placed in the north building, and--much to the chagrin of retailers and fans alike--most of the celebrity signings were also moved to that location. But many, including myself, couldn't help but wonder: where has all the horror gone?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

They Came From Within

"Canada may one day be counted as one of the great horror-film producing countries or it may not, but after forty-five years of malevolent masks, cannibals, creatures, ghosts, diabolists, maniacs and mutations, it cannot be denied that the country has a genuine horror movie history."

So states author Caelum Vatnsdal in the closing comments of They Came From Within, which is an excellent overview of Canadian horror films from the 1960s-early 2000s--and a worthy addition to any horror fan's library.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Great Fright North

It's official! I'm well underway researching and writing my second nonfiction book, titled The Great Fright North. It's a survey of Canadian horror entertainment, in film, television, radio, theatre and comics--and will be published next year.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Strange Case of Gentleman Jekyll and Driver Hyde

In 1938, British documentary filmmaker John Grierson was tasked by the Government of Canada to study the state of films produced through its Motion Pictures Bureau, which was established in 1918. This department was originally founded to promote Canadian trade and industry, and to centralize all government film production. A year later, the National Film Act was passed--which was influenced by Grierson's report--and led to the establishment of The National Film Board of Canada.

Many early productions through the NFB were propaganda films supporting World War II, co-produced by Grierson under the banner Canada Carries On. After the war ended, the NFB expanded production and distribution; this included public service shorts, one of which may be considered Canada's first horror film: Gentleman Jekyll and Driver Hyde (1950).

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

LGBT Issues in Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy (Lillian H. Smith branch) recently hosted a panel discussion on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues as explored by science fiction, fantasy, and comics. Chaired by Chris Szego of Bakka-Phoenix Science Fiction Bookstore, the panel featured authors Gemma Files (The Hexslinger Trilogy, ChiZine) and J.M. Frey (TriptychDragon Moon Press), as well as Christopher Butcher of The Beguiling Books & Art. The discussion opened with a look at one issue, topic or story that was positive in this past year.

Christopher Butcher, Gemma Files, and J. M. Frey

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Scarefest: Canada's Haunted Attraction Convention

Attention fans of Halloween, and all things ghoulish: the 9th annual Scarefest Canada is taking place on Saturday, July 27th in Thornhill, ON. Brought to you by the Canadian Haunters Association, it's a one-of-a-kind show that caters to owners/operators of professional haunted houses, actors, home haunters, artists and halloween enthusiasts in the Canadian haunt industry. Admission is just $10.00, while kids 10 and under are FREE. For more information, visit the official website: Scarefest Canada.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Vampires in Variety Programming (part 3)

The following post is based on a paper I presented at TV Fangdom: A Conference on Television Vampires (June 7-8, 2013). There is much discussion devoted to modern vampires, in series such as True BloodBuffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries. But to truly appreciate today's bloodsuckers, one must explore how they evolved on television, a process that has spanned over sixty years.

In part three of this lighthearted look at TV vampires, I examine modern productions, from 1990-Present. (Read part one | Read part two)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Vampires in Variety Programming (part 2)

The following post is based on a paper I presented at TV Fangdom: A Conference on Television Vampires (June 7-8, 2013). There is much discussion devoted to modern vampires, in series such as True BloodBuffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries. But to truly appreciate today's bloodsuckers, one must explore how they evolved on television, a process that has spanned over sixty years.

In part two of this lighthearted look at TV vampires, I examine the "decades of decadence," from 1970-1989. (Read part one | Read part three)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Vampires in Variety Programming (part 1)

The following post is based on a paper I presented at TV Fangdom: A Conference on Television Vampires (June 7-8, 2013). There is much discussion devoted to modern vampires, in series such as True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries. But to truly appreciate today's bloodsuckers, one must explore how they evolved on television, a process that has spanned over sixty years.

In part one of this lighthearted look at TV vampires, I examine the pioneering years, from 1949-1969. (Read part two | Read part three)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Vampire Series: The Worst

After compiling a list of my top 10 vampire series, I thought it would be amiss if I didn't also come up with a list of the worst. I'm usually happy when I see a new vampire series go to air, because if it's successful, then there's a good chance that even more opportunities will arise for undead storytelling. That said, when a series comes along that is absolutely horrible, it doesn't help the cause. Thankfully, I could only come up with three such examples.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Vampire Series: The Best

As the TV Fangdom conference approaches (which I'll be attending!), I've starting thinking a lot about my favourite vampires on television. As such, I've decided to post a series of blog entries detailing the best and worst of undead TV--beginning with television series. Here are my top ten favourites:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fan Expo Vancouver 2013

I had the pleasure of attending the premiere fan convention on Canada's West Coast: Fan Expo Vancouver, which took place the weekend of April 20/21. The organizers for this event, Fan Expo Canada, also run Toronto ComiCon, as well as Fan Expo Toronto. The good news is that because the Vancouver event was so successful, they've decided to expand it to three days next year! The bad news: this convention isn't yet as author-friendly as it could be.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New Indiegogo project: Evil Jester Presents

Remember those amazing horror comics you read as a kid? Well, working together, we can bring back those wildly imaginative and wonderfully creepy stories that all we loved. "Evil Jester Presents" is a gorgeously rendered graphic novel featuring stories from some of the biggest names and most exciting talent working in horror today.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Stephen King to Headline PEN Canada Benefit

Stephen King
(Photo credit: Shane Leonard)
Toronto, April 16, 2013 – Thirty-nine years, 50 books, and 350 million copies into his literary career, Stephen King will discuss the writing life with his son, first-time novelist Owen King on the opening night of the 34th International Festival of Authors.

In his only scheduled Canadian appearance, Stephen King and his son, Owen King, will headline PEN Canada’s annual benefit to take place on Thursday, October 24th, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. in the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto. Award-winning mystery writer Louise Penny will moderate the discussion.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Seminar: "Getting Published: Non-Fiction Books"

Last night I attended a seminar hosted by PWAC (Professional Writers Association of Canada) entitled Getting Published: Non-Fiction Books. Moderated by Nate Henley, the guest panelists were James FitzGerald, author of What Disturbs Our Blood: A Son's Quest to Redeem the Past; literary agent Hilary McMahon of Westwood Creative Artists; Derek Finkle, who founded the Canadian Writers Group, a literary agency; and Jack David, publisher of ECW Press. Overall, the 2-hour session was informative, and on par with other PWAC seminars I've attended.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Toronto ComiCon 2013

In early 2013, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that Fan Expo Canada would be providing table space for me at this year's Toronto ComiCon. This would be my first Con attendance as a published author, and I was thrilled about taking part--although there was a bit of trepidation, considering the event was primarily comic and Sci-Fi oriented. But I was glad to see that a handful of other local authors would be in attendance, as well as a bit of horror sprinkled (splattered?) throughout the weekend.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ultraviolet - new collector's edition DVD

In an earlier post, I provided an overview of the 1998 UK vampire series Ultraviolet, which was released on DVD in 2000. In this 6-part series, Detective Michael Colefield investigates the disappearance of his best friend Jack, and discovers that he's been turned into a vampire. Colefield reluctantly joins a paramilitary organization with ties to the Vatican, and learns that their mission is threefold: track vampires, discover their agenda, and eliminate them if necessary.

Now that several cast members have become bigger stars outside of the UK--namely Jack Davenport (Pirates of the Caribbean films), Idris Elba (The WirePrometheus, Thor), and Stephen Moyer (True Blood)--there's a shiny new DVD release for the series, which includes a new documentary about the making of Ultraviolet.

My interview with Rue Morgue

Upon the release of UN-DEAD TV in December 2012, I was interviewed by Monica S. Kuebler from Rue Morgue magazine. The edited Q&A appeared in issue #130; the full interview is below.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A-haunting we will go!

I recently watched two classic haunted house movies: The Haunting (1963) and The Legend of Hell House (1973). Both were produced in the United Kingdom, and featured one central Gothic location (the haunted house, of course!) with just four main cast members. What's really surprising is how well both films still stand up today, especially considering these pre-CGI stories leave much of the horror up to the audience's imagination.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

"The Red Knight" book launch

I stopped by the wonderful Bakka-Phoenix bookstore on Saturday afternoon for an ultra-secret, hush-hush book launch and signing for The Red Knight (Book 1 of the "Traitor Son Cycle") with someone who may or may not have been author Miles Cameron. All in attendance were sworn to secrecy regarding the event, despite the local publicity. Obviously I can't keep a secret.

I think Cameron was joking about the entire thing, but I thought it best not to document the event with photographs--the last thing I wanted was a rabid publicist cold-clocking me on the way to the subway and absconding with my camera.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

"TV Fangdom" conference

I just discovered there's an upcoming conference in the UK specific to vampires on television! TV Fangdom: A Conference on Television Vampires will be held June 7-8, 2013 at The University of Northampton (which is a couple of hours north of central London). The conference organizers are looking for contributions from scholars within and outside universities, including research students, and perspectives are invited from different disciplines.