Friday, January 31, 2014

Samantha Reiss Character Sketch

I've been fooling around with some pencil drawings I've done recently for a couple of characters from my Paranormal Thriller novel, Try Not to Burn. So far, I've drawn Samantha Reiss and Jane Calrin. You can check out both pictures on the new page I added to the blog, currently called Try Not to Burn Art & Extras.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Citadel Review

A semi-autobiographical movie from Writer/Director Ciaran Foy, starring James Cosmo from Game of Thrones and Aneurin Barnard, Citadel is one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in years.

I was surprised to learn how much of this Irish import was based in real life when I watched the behind the scenes featurette, with Foy mentioning he’d been attacked with a hammer and a dirty syringe as a teenager, which led to his struggles with agoraphobia.  In the film, it’s the main character Tommy’s pregnant wife who gets attacked with a syringe in their high-rise apartment, while he can do nothing but watch from behind the faulty elevator door.  The culprits behind the attack?  Feral children clad in dirt-caked white hoodies. 

Not long after, Tommy is alone and raising his infant daughter, Elsa, all but crippled by the terror he feels toward the outside world.  To make matters worse, the children in the hoodies aren’t your typical punk kids, and they’re coming back for Tommy’s child.  And worse still, these kids can see his fear, honing in on it like a shark with blood in the water. 

The film is shot in a way to make you feel claustrophobic, getting up close to the protagonist as he delivers a spellbinding, believable performance.  The characters are as likable as they are vulnerable, which is the best way to create suspense, in my eyes.  As is having something to protect, and something to lose.  Rarely did I find myself worried about Tommy himself, but that’s not the point of the film.  It’s not Tommy who was attacked to begin with.  His fear springs from his inability to defend those he cares for. 

The plot felt a bit reminiscent of After Earth, the recent Will Smith & M. Night Shyamalan collaboration, which is all about overcoming fear, but in a much different manner.  In this movie, it’s understood that bravery doesn’t come from the elimination of fear, but in persevering despite it. 

If you like suspense, or if you just like well-crafted movies that draw you in and feature great performances, then definitely give this one a try. 

Favorite line from the movie: “If you don’t wanna get dead, hold my hand.”

Rating: 5 stars.  


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Indie Book of the Day Award Winner

Hey, I just found out I won an award!  That's always fun, isn't it? 

The fine people at just awarded Try Not to Burn as the "Best Paramormal Thriller to Listen to Enya to While Sipping a Latte".  Well, not really.  They awarded it as the "Indie Book of the Day" for January 25, 2014.  But that's still pretty nifty.  Now, I'm just waiting for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to hand me the key to Chicago and proclaim January 25th as the official "Try Not to Burn" day. 

Now, I just need the mayor to start returning my calls.  Guess he took that whole "You tried to include yourself as a write-in candidate and didn't vote for me" thing personally. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Sale on Kindle Version of Try Not to Burn!

$3.99 Kindle Paranormal Thriller Novel

It doesn't happen very often, but Post Mortem Press has seen fit to lower the cover price of the Paranormal Thriller, Try Not to Burn, for a limited time. Grab it while supplies last!  (Technically, it's an ebook, so supplies aren't really a factor, but...well, it's fun to say, isn't it?)

Mia Darien, author of the Adelheid Series of vampire novels, says, "I’m always fascinated by unique or different depictions of Hell and Purgatory, the darker and unusual settings. Matula provides an interesting scenario, blending the spiritual, the emotional, the physical; merging past, present, future; bringing religious concepts without necessarily any specific religion, so it has a general appeal and fascination without being “preachy.”  This book brings in another thing I love: characters living in the moral grey. You know from the start that our Main Characters would not be there if they hadn’t done something to earn it, but you root for them anyways; even after you learn what they did. You’re still there with them."

Angelika Rust, writer of the mafia-inspired fantasy novel, Ratpaths, calls the book, "A very well thought-out, action-laden story. I'm truly looking forward to the sequel."

And Top 500 Amazon Reviewer Kacunnin says: "A mash-up of 'The Matrix' and Dante's 'Inferno.' I recommend TRY NOT TO BURN for fans of epic horror stories set in strange and convoluted worlds chock-full of mind-bending rules and God-driven tests of faith and character. This is a very big story, even though the focus is on three very small people. In Dante's version of Hell, he reveals that the only way to salvation is through an understanding of sin. It's the same with TRY NOT TO BURN - only through immense and harrowing trials can Brand and his friends move beyond Hell City to whatever awaits beyond." 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Character Interview with Steve Minion from Hell's Super

Humor novel on Amazon by Mark Cain

Mike: Tell us a little about the book you’re in, and how you fit into the story.

Steve: This book is completely ridiculous. I'm Hell's Super, that is, Superintendent for Plant Maintenance. It's my job...well, in the interest of full's my eternal damnation to serve as Hell's Handyman-in-Chief. I hate Mr. Fixit jobs, always have, so naturally Satan stuck me with this assignment when I got down here. My author named the book Hell's Super. He thinks it's a clever play on words. Hmmph. He wouldn't feel that way if HE were Hell's Super, or if HE were in Hell, like me.

Anyway, in the book, Orson and I have to fix Hell's Escalator, which runs from Gates Level (Pearly and Infernal) all the way down to the Eighth Circle of Hell. Orson is my assistant. That's Orson Welles, and yes, he's THAT Orson wells.

I get help from some other famous historical figures, at least one mythological creature, and a large and lovable vampire bat. I get grief from devils and demons, of course, as well as some other historical figures who are, well let's just say they are not my friends.

Mike: What’s your background?  Is there anything people should know about you before they read your story, like where you grew up, or anything in your younger days that might have led you to this point?

Steve: I'm from New York. In life, I was a tenured professor of economics at Columbia. Being a professor, I suppose, led me to this point. I was the dissertation advisor for a grumpy graduate student, who blew my brains out with a revolver.

I hope that isn't too graphic for your readers.

Mike: How would you describe your relationship with the author?  For instance, is it a collaborative process, or does he tell you what to do?  And just between us—I’ll make sure to cut out this part, to keep it off the record—what are your personal feelings about him?

Steve: One thing I appreciate about my author is that he lets me tell my own story, in my own words. I'm a former economist, not a great writer, and I suppose he could have jazzed things up with lots of adjectives and all, but he didn't do that, or not too much anyway. (One exception: "mellifluous." The author stuck that in, but what the hell does "mellifluous" mean anyway?)

I'm a pretty strong personality, and I think he knows that. So generally I tell the story. I try to be informative by telling readers how things work down here, I keep things moving along, and I do my best to add some levity to the situation.

Between you and me, my author is like most writers. He thinks he's F. Scott Fitzgerald. He's not though. I know Scott Fitzgerald, Scott Fitzgerald is a friend of mine (he lives down the block from me in Hell), and I can tell you for sure, Mark Cain is no Scott Fitzgerald.

Don't tell him, though. He's writing a sequel and could make my afterlife even more miserable than it already is. Thanks.

Mike: If you could star in any other book or film, which one would you choose?

Steve: Probably Casablanca. I think Ingrid Bergman is really hot. Besides, I look good in a white dinner jacket.

Mike: Between adventures, what do you do to blow off steam?  Any hobbies?  Favorite vacation spots?

Steve: I don't get much time off, being damned and all. And the fire pits and Sea of Thorns are not exactly trendy destinations.

Occasionally I play poker with some of the boys, though I always lose. Funny, we all always lose. You'd think that wouldn't be possible, but anything's possible in Hell, as long as we're suffering. Oh, sometimes I play Twenty Questions with my neighbors, including Sam Morse. The games can get pretty tedious, because Sammy insists on using Morse Code. Ugh.

Generally, though, it's work work work. My workload is hell. Sort of by definition.

Mike: How has your experience been so far as a character in a novel?  Has it been challenging for you?

Steve: It's hard to be a hero when you're in Hell. You know, it's hard to win the day. Satan tends to frown on that. In the long run, all of us poor, damned souls are losers. Of course, that's to be expected.

Still, while I have a tough time being a hero down here, I have my moments.

Mike: Of your co-stars, is there anyone you simply can’t stand to be around, or anyone you could see yourself being friends with outside of this story?

Steve: There are a couple of early Twentieth Century industrialists who I absolutely can't stand. They hate me, and I hate them. Louis Braille and Allan Pinkerton are friends of mine, as is Orson, of course. We would all be friends in any story you put us in, I think. Then of course there's Flo. I'm, well, I'm sweet on her.

Mike: Are there any actors who could do you justice in a movie?

Steve: I'd like to see Chris Pine play me in a movie. I don't look anything like Chris Pine, but I hear he's very popular right now, and I'd like to see the movie make a lot of money.

To give you an idea of my appearance, I once won third runner-up in a Jimmy Durante lookalike contest. You know: big schnozzola, male pattern baldness.

Mike: What are your plans for the future?  Any sequels you can tell us about?

Steve: I've been told that there's a problem with Hell's HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning for the uninitiated) system. If that's true, man, it will be a bitch to fix.

My author tells me he's going to call the sequel A COLD DAY IN HELL. Obviously he thinks this title is hysterical. Har. Har. Funny as a crutch, if you ask me.



Mark Cain, Author of Hell's Super, a humor novel
Mark Cain is a writer and musician living in the Austin, Texas area. His third novel, HELL'S SUPER, a comic fantasy, has been published this fall by Taylor Street Books. It is available as a Kindle eBook or paperback. HELL'S SUPER is volume one of a new series, CIRCLES IN HELL. Volume two, A COLD DAY IN HELL, will be published in the Spring of 2014.

HELL'S SUPER has been variously described as satire, comedy and comic fantasy in the spirit of Christopher Moore, Terry Pratchett, Tom Holt and Douglas Adams. The entire CIRCLES IN HELL series, including A COLD DAY IN HELL, takes the everyday frustrations of modern life and expands them to Hellish proportions. You never know who you will run into in Cain's cracked Inferno. You might encounter a great inventor, a movie star and, of course, more than the occasional devil and demon.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest 2014

ABNA - Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest 2014

If you're an author (chances are, if you're reading a writer's blog, you at least have some latent interest in putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard keys) then you've likely already heard of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, also known as the ABNA Contest.  Even if you have, though, you might be interested to know when it's all going down this year.

 Well, inquiring minds, the contest opens for submissions on Sunday, February 16, 2014. 

The contest is open to previously unpublished and self-published novels.  The grand prize winner receives a publishing contract as well as an advance of 50,000 buckaroos.  Four first prize winners will receive contracts with Amazon Publishing and an advance of 15,000 bones. (It does seem slightly odd that Amazon would pay in bones, but, you know...we're in a rough economy.)

In previous years, I believe they were open to submissions in January, but this year it seems like they've pushed it back a bit.  I wonder if this is to give people more time to polish up their NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) books?

 I remember scrambling to get a novel finished a couple years ago in the already woefully-stressful holiday season, just so I could enter the competition in January.  I ended up reaching round 2 and was given a pair of reviews in the round.  One review was absolutely glowing and uber-positive, and one was from someone with a distaste for the genre I'd written the book in.  Needless to say, the second reviewer put the kibosh on my chances of moving forward. Still, I enjoyed the overall experience, and it came at a time when that positive review really gave my sagging spirits a kick in the pants. 

Anyway,  here's a link to the full contest rules.

Good luck! 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lessons learned by writers who've had their work developed into movies.

On The New York Times' website recently, they posted an article featuring interviews with playwrights whose work has been adapted into films, including Tracy Letts of August: Osage County (the latter opened on December 27), David Lindsay-Abaire of Rabbit Hole, an Aaron Sorkin of A Few Good Men, amongst many others.

August: Osage County Wikipedia
If you've ever wondered what John Guare thought of casting The Fresh Prince of Bel Air himself, Will Smith, in 1993's Six Degrees of Separation (the phrase "I was entranced" was mentioned), then you might want to check out the article.

I found it quite interesting to see what the playwrights thought of the films, and I hadn't even known that some of the movies they discuss had actually started life on stage. 

Embarrassing myself in public

Just posted my first video from my new camera.  In it, I read a sample of my book, make up a fake slogan for a doughnut company, and generally make an idiot of myself.  I did a few edits to the video using Windows Live Movie Maker, trimming out some of the parts where I went "Uh..." and completely blanked out.  There were more of those than I'd like to admit.  And seeing the parts that I chose to leave in, you'll know how bad it got.  Next time, I'll try to be more prepared. 

Anyway, I hope you like it, even though I can't see how you would.  Probably best not to watch it, I'd say.  If you do, though, have my pity.  And my thanks.  :)


Thursday, January 16, 2014

What's the scariest movie you'll ever see? Chances are, you've already seen it.

Hannah Al Rashid in V/H/S/2 "Safe Haven"
It's been a long time since a movie has pulled more than a couple of minor chills or a cheap jump scare out of me. I watched a new horror movie last night, hoping that it might do what so many others have failed to do to my adult psyche lately. I wanted it to scare me.

I took all the proper steps to immerse myself in the movie. I watched it in the dead of night, all by my lonesome, the lights in the house all switched off. Pretty scary already, right? Well, it would have been if I were ten, but I haven't been scared of the dark for quite some time. These days, I tend to be more afraid of microscopic threats—cancer cells, viruses—than I am by things that are now my size.

The movie I watched? V/H/S/ 2, a found-footage anthology. I'd seen the original V/H/S/ a few months ago. The quote on the cover had caught my interest, proudly proclaiming it as “The scariest, rawest horror movie of the year.” That movie itself didn't exactly inspire terror in me (and many of the characters were too misogynistic for me to actually care what happened to them), but I enjoyed it enough to want to check out the sequel.

Horror movie V/H/S/2
And while I appreciated the experimental nature of V/H/S/2's segments (and thought they did a much better job of crafting likeable characters than the first film), the only one that gave me a jump scare or two was Adam Wingard's episode about the man with the prosthetic eye. The other segments, albeit well-made and entertaining, were more gruesome and/or silly than they were scary. Of course, depending on your tolerance for gore, you might have more of a reaction to some of these other segments than I did. For me, gore often makes me less afraid of what I'm seeing. Don't get me wrong, I love R-rated horror, and something about seeing blood on screen does give me a thrill... (I probably shouldn't admit that, should I?). But it also makes me think things like, “Hm. Was that CG blood or was that practical? It looked CG, but I remember in the behind the scenes from the first V/H/S/ that they said all the blood was practical.” and so on, and so forth.

Which brings me to the main point of the post. The movies I saw when I was young—back before I knew how movies were made, and before I had built up a tolerance for not only gore, but real-life horrors—those really did a number on me.

The Shining messed with my head when I was a kid. Frankly, it scared the hell out of me. I couldn't watch it all the way through, and only built up the courage to try again when I was in high school. It probably didn't help that the whole father-trying-to-butcher-the-family thing didn't seem out of the realm of possibility to me, but that's part of being a kid. Almost everything seems possible. Almost anything could be out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to get you.

In recent years, I thought the Orphanage (a Spanish-language movie produced by Guillermo Del Toro) was very effective and had one moment that legitimately unnerved me.

But the scariest movie I'll ever see? I've already seen it. It's in the rear-view mirror.

And as many lights as I turn off, and as late as I wait up to watch the newest horror flick, I have a feeling that's not going to change.

Friday, January 10, 2014

CapriCon 34

Myself, along with two other Chicago-area authors, (Christian A. Larsen, author of Losing Touch, and Cynthia Pelayo, author of Santa Muerte), will be appearing at CapriCon 34 this February to hang out, have some fun, and sign some books.  I'll be bringing copies of my afterlife thriller, Try Not to Burn, as well as some copies of the vampire anthology, Wrapped in Red.  The event is located at the Westin Chicago North Shore in Wheeling, Illinois. 

"Chicagoland’s annual winter extravaganza of Science Fiction and Fantasy" is in its 34th year, and over the weekend, they'll also feature Karaoke singing and gaming.  (I think I saw something about a Catan tournament going on there, as well.)  If you're in the area, swing by and say hello, or just partake in the festivities.