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Robots Beyond

Meet robots both familiar and fantastic within this anthology.

Contains ”How Coyote Made Robot“ by John W. Oliver

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Eight or ten thoughts on sundry topics & miscellaneous doings

  • 10/07/15

    Fixing The Haunting of Whaley House


    The other night, I watched The Haunting of Whaley House. Rated at one-and-a-half stars on Netflix, I wasn’t expecting a great film, but since it’s October, I wanted to see a horror flick, and since the Whaley House is located in San Diego, I wanted to see how they interpreted a local landmark. I also had the intention of stretching my storytelling muscles, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses after the fact and endeavor to consider how I would “fix” the film. As my blog has been lying fallow for most of the year, I decided to share my musings.

    And in case you hadn’t figured it out, I will spoil the film. If you don’t care, read on. If you do, but you are curious – about the film or what I might say, take 90 minutes to watch The Haunting of Whaley House and come on back. I’m not going anywhere.

    To begin with, I broke the movie down into a single seven-point outline. This is same system Dan Wells uses to outline his work.  I suppose I could’ve broken it down into several, but I wanted to emphasize the main action of the film.  Also, you might notice I actually list eight points. That’s because the prologue is extraneous but still worth noting.

    • Prologue: Teens vandalize the Whaley House. One of them sees a ghost and is promptly hit by a car. Establishes the supernatural is real and there are repercussions to damaging the house.
    • Hook: PENNY is introduced. She’s a student doing tours at the Whaley House. She’s a skeptic and does not notice the weirdness happening around her.
    • Plot Turn: A tourist sees the ghostly activity Penny does not. The tourist goes into convulsions. Like the prologue, this scene helps establish the supernatural is real. Penny is given the house rules by the tour manager.
      1. Do not damage the house.
      2. Do not call out the spirits.
      3. Do not enter the house at night.
    • Pinch: Penny’s friends convince her to give them a night tour.
    • Midpoint: Penny can no longer deny ghosts are real. The first of Penny’s friends die.
    • Pinch 2: Everyone else dies. Penny is left alone.
    • Plot Turn 2: Penny is asked to join her ghost family, who believes she is the reincarnation of their daughter. She declines.
    • Resolution: Penny falls down the stairs and dies, but her ghost is forever bound to the house. She can never leave the house she’s been trying to escape.

    Of all the things about the movie, I like the ending the most. I love the irony and horror implicit in an eternity of imprisonment after all of her efforts to escape. She is denied what she wants the most. It’s how we get to this resolution that needs assistance.

    Another thing I enjoyed about the film was Penny’s connection the the house. It is implied she is the reincarnation of the Whaley’s daughter. Whether she is or not, the resemblance is established by the photo on the table and the remarks of her boss, BETHANY.  More importantly, her ghostly family appears to believe so.  Most of the allusions are pretty vague until the end of the film though.  It could’ve been stronger if the allusions had not been as enigmatic.

    That being said, here’s a laundry list of things that could’ve used improvement. This is not an exhaustive list. I wanted to focus on core issues instead of picking on every point.

    • Disjointed plots and characters: There are too many characters, and because of this, there are too many of plots. The story could’ve been paired down. Characters could’ve been combined and thus more dimensions added to the core characters, the psychic and ghost hunter in particular. I can absolutely see a ghost-hunter convincing their friend to give them access to a haunted locale they had been denied before.
    • Bethany had a lot of story potential that could’ve been followed up on. Her knowledge of the house. Her scars. Her suspicions about Penny.
    • The prologue could’ve been cut since it serves the same purpose as the Hook and first Plot Turn. That being said, a prologue involving a younger Bethany and how she got her scars, looking back at her night of misadventures, would’ve been great.
    • Comedy and horror go together like peanut butter and chocolate. It might be my personal taste, but the humor of the ghost-hunter, RAY, was over the top and fell flat at times. On the other hand, I liked the eccentricity of the character that stood out from the sameness of the other characters.
    • Though I love they tried to use the Whaley House, since I’m familiar with the legends and location, I found myself pulled out of the story more as I watched for these details. I understand they wanted to take advantage of the cachet of location, but it did not feel like they took advantage of the story being set in San Diego. It could’ve been anyplace, and perhaps, it would’ve been best of they made up a locale and merely based the story on the Whaley House.
    • There is a lot of extraneous killing in this film. Yes, it is a horror film, but there are characters who are introduced just so they can die, like the handyman and tourist. Their deaths have little impact to the overall film. Less deaths would’ve improved the impacts of the violence that does happen.
    • I was waiting for someone to accidentally damage the house, perhaps by knocking over something fragile, and we discover the cost of breaking the rules. Three rules had been set out at the beginning, and I was waiting for each to be broken and the resulting cost. Of course, the best movie to show the cost of breaking the rules is Gremlins. As it is, we only see this cost in the prologue, before we know the rules, and when the characters try to purposely break the rules, which has less impact.
    • I liked BOBO, the handyman. He provides a sympathetic confidant for Penny. I also like he was killed, working against the magical ethnic person trope prevalent in horror and fantasy. That being said, his death does not add to the story. I wished his character had a larger impact on story while skirting continuing to skirt the tropes.
    • Unnecessary breasts. Though I like the humor in how they were presented, the entire scene is only there to add to the body count.

    In spite of all my commentary about The Haunting of Whaley House, I am glad I watched it. I know I learned from it, and I know I’ll still be thinking about this for the next week. I know my thoughts would’ve transformed the film into something other than what it was, but that’s the nature of this kind of exercise.  If anyone has any thoughts or commentary about this film, please share. The more we can make each other think about it, the better for us all.

  • 01/01/15

    Painting and Social Media

    Early last year, I wrote about not succumbing to the lure of painting and persevering with my writing. Well, I have to admit I gave in to temptation and painted. I painted all year long.

    And I loved it.

    I enjoyed being able to immerse myself in the assembly and painting of a miniature. The fact that I would finish a figure over the course of days or weeks and be able to admire my work. Even more so, others could admire my work. I’m not an award winning painter, but I’m definitely no slob.

    This game has also taught me a bit about social media. I’ve always felt inhibited by my blog, because I want to sound professional. The problem with professional is I have a hard time deciding what to post.

    For my painting, I decided to start a Tumblr account as an online journal. I wanted to keep my writing life and my painting life separate. Whenever I finished something, I posted it. Well, over the past year, I’ve made over 140 posts. The results are I have a small following within the Tumblr community and beyond.

    If I can apply what I learned from talking about painting and applying it to my “professional” blog, I believe I’ll have a much better blog. Here’s to see what happens over the course of 2015.

  • 12/31/14

    New Story Published At SQ Mag

    Today, I had my redneck monster story, “The Calling,” published at SQ Mag, the International Speculative Fiction eZine. I’m happy to see this story out there for everyone to read, and I would like to thank Sophie Yorkston and the rest of the staff at SQ Mag for seeing fit to publish it.

  • 02/11/14

    The Danger of Hobbies While Writing

    Like anyone else, I keep busy. Between work, writing, the podcast and family, my life is rather full, and often the last item gets shorted. Once upon a time, I had time for gaming and painting. Yeah, I can catch an occasional board game when friends drop by, but I don’t GAME. Not like I used to.

    And I don’t paint. At least, not until this past month.

    Read More »

  • 01/29/14

    Breaking Out the Paints

    Once upon a time, on a desk long discarded, I started painting miniatures. They were Ral Partha figures, cast in lead. I painted them with Testor oil-based paints, the same paints I used on my model cars and trucks. I had no idea about primer or technique. No idea about lead exposure. I was a teen-ager and slapping paint on my figure of my thief made me happy. I didn’t need to know anything more.

    Once I got to college, one off figures wasn’t enough. Games Workshop caught my interest with Warhammer and Warhammer 40k. Playing was fun, but painting was better. I learned the importance of primer. The importance of a good brush. The techniques of pinning, cutting and sculpting. After college, I started ordering parts straight from GW as I converted my own figures. Miniatures transformed from lead to pewter. Less toxic I started with Chaos Space Marines, but I fell in love with the armor and troopers of the Imperial Guard. I painted Valhallans my own color scheme and called them Utgard.

    Read More »

  • 01/08/14

    Pushing My Writing Through Education

    One of the things I’ve discovered over the past couple of years is I spend a lot of time struggling with a story concept. I can spend weeks trying to make character, plot and setting mesh up into something cohesive, something that excites me, only to have it crumble apart in my hands. It’s happened to me time and again, and honestly, it’s frustrating. Once I can get those pieces to stick together and start to thread them into a story, it’s like magic.

    The challenge is getting it all to stick together.

    I’ve always wanted to do some big writing course/retreat, but honestly, I cannot take six weeks off of work to do something like Odyssey or Clarion. Workhops, even for a week, can get expensive. After finishing up my B.A. in Creative Writing, trying to take a community college class in writing is painful. I’ve tried it once, and I didn’t last the class. My only positive experience with something like this was at the University California San Diego Extension program where Nancy Holder taught a Short Story writing course. It was a fun class with a great teacher.

    Recently, I considered going to a local writing conference. There are a couple that happen around San Diego in the winter. One on the San Diego State University campus and the Southern California Writer’s Conference. I even had a tab of one of these conferences open on my internet browser and was taking my time trying to decide who I wanted to submit my work to for their feedback. There was a few interesting choices, though no one who jumped out at me.

    Then I learned about David Wolverton’s new online courses over at

    David Wolverton, also known as David Farland, has been on my radar for a few years, not that he hasn’t been active as a writer much longer, it’s just how disconnected I was from the speculative fiction community. Not only is he the bestselling author of the Runelords series, he is also a former teacher at Brigham Young University and a Gold Award winner and current judge of the Writers of the Future. His resume and reputation is impressive.

    After reading through the courses he was offering–Pre-Writing, Writing Mastery 1 and Writing Mastery 2–I decided to sign up for his Pre-Writing course. Though a seven-part course, I can take the parts a week at a time, run through them quicker or take them a little more slowly. I’m offered a weekly opportunity to join my classmates and ask Mr. Wolverton questions. And if I need some extra help along the way, he is available via e-mail. Once I have an assignment complete, I turn it in to him and receive good constructive feedback. Feedback that challenges me.

    Though I’m only on the second module at this point, I’ve been at this course for about two weeks. I’m happy with the results so far. It’s just what I needed to push myself a little farther. To challenge myself more.

  • 12/16/13

    Comics Squee Podcast

    For those who do not know, my wife, Chriss Cornish, started a podcast over the summer called Comics Squee. It’s a panel-style podcast where three regulars and a guest each bring something they are excited about in comic bookland to the discussion, whether it’s old or new, and they tell the world how awesome it is. It was born out how much my wife loves the SF Squeecast, and her desire to see something similar for comics. I’m fortunate enough she asked me along for the ride. Read More »

  • 11/25/13

    Diverse Opportunities in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

    I have to admit. The Marvel Cinematic Universe excites me. The Iron Man series has made me excited about a character I’d otherwise been apathetic about. Captain America had a great nostalgic tone. Thor has been a fun romp. And the Avengers was full out four-colored awesome. Over the past year I’ve been curious to see what they would do next. One of the sets of characters I thought they could easily do was Luke Cage and the Iron Fist as Heroes for Hire. So when I heard the news about Marvel partnering with Netflix featuring Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Daredevil each in their own series, it most certainly made my day.

    I am very interested to see how these characters get re-invented in the MCU. In fact, I think there are opportunities in these series to feature more than white male characters in significant roles. Of course, we have Luke Cage as a street tough African-American, but that is part of the canon. How else could Marvel flex these other characters while remaining true to who they are? Read More »

  • 11/22/13

    Marvel Avengers Alliance Vs. the Magic Spreadsheet

    I am addicted to Marvel Avengers Alliance.

    It’s a game I discovered on Facebook that has me spending mindless hours in front of the computer putting my heroes through mission after mission so I can collect more heroes. I hate it at times. I swear the game cheats. It sucks the time out of my day. I have to spend at least a couple of hours a day on it to get all of the good rewards, and I have to get those rewards.

    On the other hand, I love the game. It taps into the obsessive compulsive collector in me that had me collecting all of the summer comic crossovers at the age of eighteen. I enjoy collecting the heroes I love, both new and old. I love to see how the game is going to implement their powers.

    Read More »

  • 07/22/13

    Changing Up the Editing Process

    Normally, I write either at my desk or at a coffee shop somewhere. The same goes for editing, only I feel more restricted as I like the tracking and commenting tools my computer has, but my mobile devices do not. As I start another pass on Grind though, I’ve done some major changes to my process. My plan? The changes will help me see my prose with new eyes and provide a more effective editing pass.

    The first thing I’m doing is reading the story a loud. Not just whispering it to myself, but trying to perform it as I would to an audience. Though not really groundbreaking, the process requires me to do this at home and in privacy. I’m self-conscious enough, that I don’t want any audience. It would be one thing is this was a finished product, but it’s not.

    More significantly, I’m doing this standing up. I don’t have a good standing desk set-up, so I’ve synced my MacBook Air through my AppleTV, so my primary display appears on the wall-mounted 26″ TV on the other side of the room (thank you, Black Friday). Below the television, I have a three-foot bookcase. That’s where I’ve positioned the wireless keyboard and mouse. This way, I can easily move from one side of the room to the other and use either set up. Fortunately, I didn’t have to burn any extra cash for this set up. It’s technology I already had available. It’s just a matter of how I’m using that technology.

    And it’s with these tools, I’m making my next pass on my Grind edits. How do others go about changing up their game when they edit?

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