Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Enough with the sleigh bells already

The Great Holiday Expedition of ’08 is finally complete! That’s just a lot of fanfare for two trips taken nearly back to back. The first was the Southern Flight into the Land of Mickey which was already documented here. The most recent was the Overland Excursion to the…uhhh….Kingdom of the….screw it. We drove down to St. Louis to see the family. Sorry, I kind of got caught up there.

The wife and I had a lot of fun. Megan’s sister was very accommodating by putting us up for a few days (thanks Jenny). It was also great to see everyone else and (as always) the food was excellent. We also paid a visit to a branch of my own family tree. Hi Mom & Bob!!! This trip was done in 3 tiers. First, we stayed a few nights in a comped suite at the Ameristar Casino just outside of St. Louis. Very festive, but Santa didn’t see fit to give me the jackpot I asked for. After that, it was a cozy Christmas Eve with a Mom-cooked meal. Then, we made the city rounds to Megan’s relatives. I guess they’re technically my relatives too, since we’re married and all, but you know what I mean. On the gift front, Megan made out like a bandit with clothes and a bracelet and all that. Me? I got some electric slippers! No, that’s not the name of a progressive synth band from the mid-80’s. They’re battery operated slippers that massage your feet. Very cool. And, using some gift cards, I finally picked up a box set containing all the Led Zeppelin CDs. Before now, I’ve had to make do with every album on cassette (for the younger ones out there…cassettes are plastic squares with tape in them that play sounds when placed in a big player. The last one I had was made by Magnorocks. HA! See what I did there? Instead of Magnavox. Like the Flintstones!! Maybe I’m still loopy from all the driving). Anyway, it’s great to hear Zep again without having to delve into an electronics history museum that includes mix tapes I made in high school entitled, “Jus’ the Good Stuff” volumes one through nine.

According to my ticker, there’s less than a month until the release of Skinners #1. I’m still very nervous, but in a good way. Some of our holiday gift cards were for Borders and Barnes & Noble, so we were wandering through the books and picking stuff out. Naturally, I drifted toward the fantasy / horror / sci-fi sections and wondered how the hell my book would keep afloat amid so much competition. Not only is there a lot of other stuff out there, but it’s a lot of great stuff! I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. I’ve already got my first signing lined up (as you can see in the newly-added section above the blog posting). Also, the local newspaper will be reviewing Blood Blade and interviewing me. I’m nervous about that as well, but they’re usually kind to a local boy like me. No matter what, I’m sure my stomach will be in a constant knot until release day. After that, it’ll probably be in several knots.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hard-wired response

So I'm watching Poker After Dark the other night. Snow's falling outside. A LOT of snow. It should only amount to about 3-6 inches and the ice should be cleared away in time for our road trip this weekend. Fine. Then, I see something roll across the bottom of the screen that triggers something in me that I didn't realize was still in there.
Schools are being closed.
MY old school district was closed...on a Friday!!!!!
That means 3 DAY WEEKEND!!!!! Right before Christmas Break!!!! It's like a present before getting more presents!!
I'm hip-deep into my thirties and I was getting genuinely amped up about my school being closed. The more I thought about it from a nostalgic point of view, the more excited I got. Then I had to remind myself that I'm not in school and I don't even need to drive to work. In fact, I still need to work today when I should be out throwing snowballs and watching The Price is Right during regularly scheduled Homeroom.
You know how I sometimes say that working at home is cool, but has it's drawbacks? This is one of 'em. No snow days. That just blows.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Game stuff

I took the last two days off in between the writing and editing phases of a current project. Needless to say, I did some gaming. First of all, just to make me feel special, Epic launched a new map pack for Gears 2 right when I had some time to try it out. It's pretty cool. Normally, I feel ripped off by most map packs...ok...Halo map packs. This is nothing to do with the quality of the maps. They're very cool and I really want to play them. I bought the last two, jumped into online multiplayer and got the same freakin' three maps over and OVER again!! Not even new ones. The same three we've been playing since launch. Then, when one of the new ones do come up, it gets vetoed. Admittedly, this is due to my lack of online friends than anything Bungie or Halo related. I've only got 4 total friends and one of them (my wife) doesn't like Halo. That makes it tough to form my own matches and pick whatever maps I want. The great thing with Gears is the ability to put bots into multiplayer matches. That's an answer to a prayer for losers like me who never played Gears 1 multiplayer online because I actually had to try and work with obscene, racist little kids who are even more socially awkward than me. Anyway, the new Gears maps are great. One of them has a wave of immulsion (basically, gold lava) rise up to cover some of the map. One match where one of my few friends and I were already dead, we watched as our AI partners crippled the last two opponents and then stood back to watch as the immulsion slowly rose to fry the crawling bastards to a crisp. I was laughing too hard to take a screen pic. It seemed really funny at the time.

I've also gotten a chance to sink into Fallout 3. Everything's already been said about this game. "Classic" "Masterpiece" "Amazing" All of it's true. Even the music is great.

The biggest surprise was just how much my wife has gotten into Left 4 Dead. First of all, she always said how much she hated 1st person shooters. Second, she is freaked out by zombies. I naturally assumed it would be a hard sell to get her into a 1st person shooter/zombie game. Turns out she loves it. In fact, she was the only one to survive one of the campaigns! It was one of those moments where I looked over at her and thought, "Damn, I'm lucky!" I got killed about a minute before the rescue chopper arrived---knocked off the top of a building by one of those huge tank dudes. Not knocked off the edge, mind you. One second, I was looking down the turret of a mounted machine gun and the next, I was seeing a view of the side of the building from about twenty yards away in empty air. Yowza!!! That was pretty funny at the time too. Jeez, I've got a weird sense of humor.

Played some more Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. Cheesy, sure. Still, very fun.

Now, it's back to work. Still, I can't stop thinking about how much more I want to get back into Fallout. I miss that bleak, ravaged wasteland. But I'm used to that sort of thing. I live in Nebraska. ZING!!!!!!!!!! Nothing personal, prairie. Just look at the other garbage I thought was funny.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fresh Snow & Instant Karma

We finally got our first real snow of the winter. YAY!!! Woke up this morning and the cars were all covered. The air is quiet, cold and calm. Everything feels cleaner. Can you tell I like snow? Anyway, I drove my wife around for some errands and such. During that time, I saw all the usual dipshits who don't bother to scrape off their windows, slow down on slippery roads or adjust their steering in the slightest due to the new white stuff covering the ground. It was a great day out. We went to Panera Bread for some french onion soup in a bread bowl (Best parts of that = big, fat croutons and scraping up the sloppy bread from the bottom of the bowl) and topped it off with a cookie. On the way home, we even saw some moron in a sports car speed through a red light and slam into an SUV. It wasn't serious. The SUV maybe got a dent, but the sports car got just enough damage to screw up his bumper. Ahhhhh. Sometimes you just need to stand back and wait for the dipshits to punish themselves.

Let the winter fun commence!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

You mean I could do this all along?

Every day, I need to flip through the DVR menu of stuff to be recorded so I can make sure overlapping shows don't push out things I want to see. I also need to make sure I have enough space on there to record anything at all. Yeah, there's about 50 hours available and I'm low on space. I watch a lot of TV. It's a problem. I know. Anyway, I saw Heroes was ready to tape and I got the familiar "ugh, I need to watch Heroes today" feeling. Then, I highlighted it and pressed "Do Not Record".

The DVR asked if I was sure I wanted to cancel that recording. I thought it over. Dare I make that leap? It's a big one. Then decided YES. I was SURE. I pushed OK and Heroes disappeared.

It just disappeared! Like magic. Out of my life. Poof! That felt good. I intended on giving it a chance when the new story arc picks up, but I don't know anymore. That felt SO GOOD to just dismiss it like that. Kind of like realizing there truly is an off switch to that annoying little brat who screams through movies or that jerk who parks in front of the apartments across the street, just so they can impress the neighborhood with the distorted bass coming out of their junk heap of a car. One press and...GONE!

My grandfather used to say some things were like pounding a rusty nail into your foot: They're worth doing just because of how great it feels when you stop.

Heroes = rusty nail.

Me - nail = happy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Brrrr. That's more like it!

Ok. Now I’m in the spirit. The temperature dropped about 40-50 degrees and is in the single digits. It’s gray and a little snowy outside, while it’s warm inside. The tree is up and lit. The Santa stuff is hung around the house. It feels good. Last night, I went to a Christmas party thrown by my wife’s work and had a good time. All in all, a complete turnaround from yesterday’s blahs.

I’ve been reading about the recession and how it’s supposed to hit the entertainment industry. There’s an actor’s strike upcoming, which seems like very poor timing on that union’s part. When the whole industry is expected to cut back anyway, this isn’t really the time to threaten to walk away on purpose. Closer to home, lots of publishers are making layoffs and cutting down. Since I’m not an executive or any sort of power player (I don’t even own stocks), all I can do is sit back like everyone else and just keep doing my job. Being a writer doesn’t exactly have much stability in the best of times, so we’re always half-expecting to get cut back or sized down or whatever other term is used for not having a contract anymore. It sounds depressing, but that’s just the way it goes. There’s not much to do about it but keep chugging along and hope for the best. It sounds like that’s pretty much how it’s going to be the story for most everyone for a while. Keep working. Keep hoping for the best. Keep dealing with what comes our way.

In better economic news, I snuck one by The Man today. Had a coupon for $20 off Mercenaries 2 for the Xbox at Best Buy. It went on sale and the coupon wasn’t supposed to work in addition to the sale price, but would still be a good deal if taken off the normal price. Lo and behold, I checked out and got $20 off the SALE price! YEAH!!! Take that, Recession!!!!

Hey, get your thrills wherever you can.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mandatory fun. Decorations required.

We've arrived at that point where my wife and I either need to put up decorations or throw up our hands and say, "Screw it. No tree. No nothin' this year. I quit." We only got to that latter point once so far, so we're putting up the tree and crap this weekend. Yeah, it's festive. Sure, it can be fun. It just all feels more like a homework assignment that winds up being kind of entertaining once you get into it. Nothing against Christmas, but I don't like being shoved into a situation where The Man tells me to ENJOY MYSELF!! Do it!!! NOW!!!!

I'll feel better once I hear the first few chords of my Johnny Mathis Christmas album. That's the one that truly puts me in the spirit. That guy can sing the hell out of Silver Bells! Plus, there's no snow on the ground yet here in Omaha. Once I see some snow, I'll be more in the mood to throw on the big snowflake sweater and sign some greeting cards.

Another thing that's keeping me from savoring the holiday is the promotional war path I've been on to gear up for the Skinners #1 release. I've been arranging signings, newspaper stuff, you name it. Along with that, I've been nervous about the release in general. A whole lot of excitement, huh? Not really. At least with the streaming Netflix movies on XBox Live, I've been able to catch up on gems I've always wanted to see. Like, for example, Beverly Hills Ninja.


Where's that spiked egg nog?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Another review

The other day was my birthday and, since a joint checking account removes a lot of fun from buying gifts for your spouse (Hey honey...your check just arrived. Don't buy that thing you wanted because I'm going to use the same money to buy it for you. Yaayy), we've agreed to just treat the birthday person to a day o' fun! And guess what? My day was pretty damn fun! Part of it was me dragging my wife to see Punisher War Zone. I bitch a lot about the whole theater experience and I was more than content to wait for DVD on this one, but I'm a big Punisher fan. Ever since I read my first issue back in '88 or so, I just can't get enough of the big, skull-wearing, murderous lug. I snagged a pirated copy of the Dolph Lundgren movie at a convention before it was released for real. Yeah! Awesome!! I was even one of the few people who actually thought the Thomas Jane movie wasn't half bad. Even with all of that, combined with my love for crappy movies in general, I was thinking War Zone looked pretty bad. Let's just say I caved. We went to an early show several days after release, so the theater was practically empty (cool). As far as the movie goes, it was fairly cool whenever Punisher was doin' his thang (ie - shooting/stabbing/punching people). Everything else was pretty bad and this comes from a guy who goes in hoping for the best. Jigsaw was cheesy, his crazy brother was beyond cheesy and there were a few things that I'm amazed made it into the movie considering Marvel is taking the reins for their properties nowadays. I'm willing to cut a movie some slack, but one thing at the end should never have been allowed to happen. I won't say what it is for those 3 or 4 of you who may actually pay to see it in the future.

On the bright side, some dialogue was so bad, it was great. For example:

Good guy who's dying: "I'll see you in Hell, Frank."

Punisher (Frank): "If I see you in hell, I'll kick yer ass up."

Yowza. There was one point where I felt it necessary to turn to my wife and say, "Ok. This isn't very good. Sorry about that." Not only did she smile and say it was fine, but she even said it wasn't as bad as she thought it would be. Apparently, her expectations were even lower than mine. Even better, after the movie, she baked me some peanut butter fudge brownies. I'm one lucky guy. Also, we picked up The Dark Knight on DVD and watched it while eating hot wings. What a freaking awesome birthday!!

PS - The only possible way for The Dark Knight to feel like an even better movie was to make Punisher War Zone its opening act.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

First Review!!!

Skinners #1 was sent out to a bunch of magazines and such for review and the first one just came out. I was especially worried about Publishers Weekly, because they can be brutal. Here's what they had to say:

Blood Blade: Skinners, Book 1 Marcus Pelegrimas. Harper, $7.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-146305-1
Seattle video game designer Cole Warnecki takes an extreme vacation in British Columbia and ends up hunting supernatural monsters in this campy, action-packed paranormal debut. After Cole survives an encounter with a nasty werewolflike Full Blood, he lands a job with the Midwestern Ectological Group, whose Skinners act as cops for the local supernatural population. They bring him to Chicago and pair him up with experienced Skinner Paige Strobel, who gives him sound advice like “Don't gawk at a woman's ass when she's carrying a shotgun.” Paige drags Cole into the front lines of MEG's war on insane vampire Misonyk, who infects people with vampiric spores and encourages them to drain victims dry, stealing their souls. Plenty of cinematic gore and wisecracks will keep readers coming back for future installments. (Feb.)

I was a little worried when I read the word "campy", simply because that can lead to some very unpleasant critical territory. It turned out pretty good, though. I'm so relieved I didn't get trashed on my first review. I was aiming for the good kind of campy and (at least with PW) it seemed to have landed.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Great. They're back

Remember how I was having that work done on the siding of my townhouse? That was a few weeks ago and I thought they were finished. Today, I look outside and nearly soil my britches when I find some dude in a hoodie standing directly outside my window. Thankfully, it wasn't a terrorist. After flying back and forth to Orlando and hearing all about the Orange, Red, Plaid and whatever other levels of alertness there are, I'm a bit jumpy. It's just another bunch of workers continuing to hammer and nail at the gutters.

Hey guys. Long time, no see.
Wait a second...it HASN'T been a long time. Are you going to be done? EVER?????

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fellow blogger

I was recently approached by a fellow blogger over at Popin's Lair to do an interview. I was surprised by the fact that someone was actually reading my blog and that, after reading all the crap on here, they wanted to hear even more of what I had to say. Check out the interview here and be sure to check out the rest of the site.

If Popin's reading this...thanks for thinking of me!

What I did when I wasn't eating

While on vacation, I caught up on some of my movie watching. Granted, these aren’t a bunch of classics that I’ve been meaning to see since my film-noir phase during college (of which, there was none). Mostly, these were movies that my wife and I picked up while wandering through an Orlando Blockbuster that fell into the “didn’t want to go to the theaters, but still thought it might be worth a look” category.

The first was Rattaouie..wait…Ratatoieel…Ratatouille. You know…the Disney movie about the rat that can cook. Hey, Disney movies are mandatory viewing while in Orlando. Anyway, I loved this one. Considering all the monsters, blood and general deathery I tend to write, this may come as a surprise to some folks. No matter how many bad-ass creatures wander through my brain, I just wanted to pick up that little rat and pinch his wittle bubble-gum nose!! Too far? Yeah. Still a very entertaining movie.

Next was The Kingdom. I think this was my dad’s attempt to shake me back into the real world by showing me some good old fashioned terrorism and the bleak, never-ending cycle of violence that goes along with a war that’s been raging for hundreds of years. Thanks pops. This was also a great movie. Jennifer Garner was in it and although she didn’t throw on one tight dress or hot, straight-haired club wig ala Sydney Bristow, she and Jaime Fox were excellent. It’s about an FBI team that goes over to Saudi Arabia to investigate a bombing and it shows how local law enforcement deals with terrorists over there as opposed to the American style. I didn’t even realize Jason Bateman was on the team until about 75% of the way through. That’s not a slam, but more of a compliment as to how non-Michael Bluth he was in this.

Then there was the Love Guru. Oh sweet Jesus, this was bad. My wife is a huge Michael Meyers fan and even she knew this one was gonna suck when we saw the first previews over the summer. We thought it was worth a rental and boy were we wrong. Just typing about it makes me feel dirty and wrong (not in the good way).

We also saw Hancock. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this, but I really enjoyed it. Of course the effects were cool, but Will Smith did a great job of being a hero and a jerk at the same time. That’s a tough trick to master. Just ask Steve Carrell while he’s in Michael Scott (The Office) mode. My dad asked who that blonde woman was in half the scenes.
Me: “That’s Charlize Theron, Dad.”
Dad: “Who?”
Me: “Charlize Theron. She’s won awards and has been in a ton of movies. You know. Charlize Theron!!”
Dad: “So she’s famous?”
Me: “Yes.”
Dad: “Oh. Whatever you say.”
I’m really not trying to give my dad any grief here (maybe just a little), but this was part of my movie experience. Plus, it was during Thanksgiving, which is all about family, right?

Speaking of family, unless your family is extremely cool with rampant swearing and jokes about limbs getting blown off or people getting obliterated by land mines, don’t watch Tropic Thunder on the couch with yours during Thanksgiving. I tried this and it was. . .interesting. I hadn’t seen Tropic Thunder (Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr in a comedy that’s like The Three Amigos meets Rambo), but I really wanted to. My dad likes comedies, so I thought this would be fine. Despite Tom Cruise saying he was going to shi*t down someone’s eye socket or Jack Black’s hilarious cocaine withdrawal, my dad refused to laugh. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop laughing which made me look like a foul-mouthed ghoul sharing a couch with a resident of the Magic Kingdom. To be fair, I shouldn’t have expected this to be a family-friendly comedy. My fault there. I thought Tropic Thunder was funny as hell in a stupid, raunchy sort of way. That’s pretty much where the movie’s sights were set, so it was a success. I gotta hand it to Downey for pulling off black-face comedy in a way that somehow didn’t seem racist. At one point, that white guy in black makeup had to put on a disguise that was more white face makeup. Moronic? Sure. Funny? Oh yeah.

Also saw Kung-Fu Panda (I don’t go to see animated movies in theaters anymore, so I tend to catch up on them in mass rentals). I could relate to the overweight dude collecting action figures. Saw Incredible Hulk again (Smash GOOD!!), as well as Get Smart (Steve Carrell playing Maxwell Smart was inspired casting. Yeah, I used the word “inspired” when talking about a movie also starring The Rock). We also rented Jumper, but didn’t get to see it. My dad and I actually share pretty similar tastes when it comes to sci-fi sort of stuff and he said he couldn’t make it through the first 15 minutes when he’d rented it earlier. Even if I could tolerate twice as much, that’s not very good. I took dad’s advice and passed. Of course, he may have just been trying to get me off the couch to help drag Christmas decorations down from the attic, but I digress.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back with a vengeance! Well...I'm back anyway

Just returned from Thanksgiving in Florida. No snow or cold weather, but plenty of food. It was a pretty good trip and I got to spend time with family. It just feels like I've been gone a REALLY long time. I've got a ton of work to do and another week-long vacation to plan around. Whew. I took my laptop with me to do some work and I'm constantly amazed at how much that cheap bugger can do. I got it on sale a few years back, hoping I could check email and tap out my Word documents. I never expected to play games on it, but I can watch video and everything! Considering 75% of the memory is taken up by Vista (yes...Vista. Ugh), I'm surprised I can do much of anything on it. The clunky guy did great, though, so no complaints.

Logging in to this page, I found the countdown clock for the Skinners #1 release date had dipped below 60 days. I doubt I'll have any fingernails left to chew once we cross into the new year.

All those plane rides gave me a chance to listen to the new Guns n' Roses CD. Seems like my predictions were mostly on track. There's NO WAY any CD could live up to 15 years or so of hype, so I didn't expect it to. All in all, I'd say this one hits more than it misses. There are some pretty cool tracks and a few that I could easily skip. Some had me scratching my head, but I got into them eventually. For example, If The World starts off with a funky guitar sound that was pulled directly from a 70's porno movie. Somehow, I found myself liking it after a while. Maybe that's because it reminded me of 70's porno. Heh.

I also got my hands on a copy of Fallout 3, so I will be playing that bad boy in a matter of hours. First, I need to unpack, get the mail and run some errands. Eh, who am I kidding? I probably won't unpack until I need that suitcase for my drive into St. Louis for Christmas.

This is what happens without editors

I'm Marcus Pelegrimas, author of the SKINNERS series. Here you'll find various ramblings about movies, video games, TV, and...oh yeah...those books I write. If there's anything you'd like to discuss, just let me know. I try to update whenever the mood strikes me, so feel free to leave comments. There may be some occasional foul language, but anyone who's too easily offended probably doesn't read my stuff anyway.

Free Stuff

Here's how it goes. As usual, I've got my truckload of promo covers from EOS Books. I'll be going to some conventions, so I hope to see you there and I'll gladly sign your books. If you can't make it to a con, just email me your name, address and any inscription so I can send you a signed cover.

BONUS ---> If you would be so kind as to write up a review for any or all Skinners books and publish it on a site like Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, or any other major review site, I can send you something extra. I made up some bookmarks (which I'll sign) and I've even put together some Shimmy's VIP passes (which I'll also sign). Can't guarantee the passes will get you into a real strip club, but I think they look pretty cool. Send me a link to your review along with your name, address and inscription, and I'll get these out to you as well.