Go Indie Now: The Latest Indie Trends

Indie is where you discover brave new adventures in creativity. My friend Joe Compton, author of Amongst the Killing and super fantastic supporter of all things indie, has started a website called Go Indie Now. It’s the place to be for live interviews, events, and more, all revolving around the latest in indie culture. Authors, musicians, movie producers, and loads of other indie artists are and will be featured constantly and consistently to give you your indie fix.

I was lucky enough to be featured on Go Indie Now’s very first podcast and YouTube video series! My chat with Joe was so much fun, you’ll feel like you’re sitting right there with us. Visit his video and comment so we can all discuss: https://youtu.be/taoN8PaU6Qg?t=48m53s. That link takes you right to my chat with Joe, but watch the whole video for more interviews, all so completely different: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taoN8PaU6Qg&feature=youtu.be. Don’t feel like watching a video? You can listen to the podcast of our chat: http://goindienow.podbean.com/e/goindienow-episode-1-interview-with-christie-stratos/.

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The next HUGE event is the weekend of April 8-10, when Go Indie Now will be having 72 hours of live coverage for the Brain to Books Cyber Convention. That’s 3 full days of interviews, chats, music, first-look book trailers, and all sorts of cutting edge things. Everyone will be talking about it, so be sure to stop by Go Indie Now’s site! I’ll be moderating a discussion between some amazing women in the publishing industry, and I’ll probably participate in more than one live event. Watch my blog for dates and times.

In the meantime, be sure to congratulate Joe on his wonderful support of all things indie!

Connect with Go Indie Now:

YouTube

Podbean

Twitter

Three Movies You Don’t Remember Involve Christmas

What defines a Christmas movie? In my opinion any movie that involves Christmas, even if loosely so. I don’t think a movie needs to revolve around it to count as a Christmas movie. That’s why I’ll be watching these movies in the countdown to Christmas. If you celebrate, what will you be watching?


My Reputation
(1946) Drama/Romance

I watch this movie about three times per year. It takes place during winter and has a lovely Christmas scene during which Barbara Stanwyck plays piano and sings with her family. Classic Stanwyck, she must choose between a man she loves who doesn’t fit into her social circles and the “friends” she feels more and more distance from after her husband’s death. Plus her kids don’t want her to remarry yet.

 

The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) Comedy

Clever, fast-paced comedy at its best, this multi-star movie takes wit to a new level. Set at Christmas time, a novelist slips and falls outside of an unfortunate family’s home, and he stays there until his doctor gives him the okay to travel again. He holds full conferences in their house without their permission, accepts a number of outrageous (live) gifts sent to him, orders people about, and insults everyone in sight. But the Christmas tree is beautiful and the spirit can be felt throughout! This stars Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Monty Woolly, and more.

The Lion in Winter (1968) Drama/History

Not a happy movie so much as an intense one, this involves a king who has imprisoned his queen but brings her back temporarily to spend the winter with him and their sons. He must choose an heir to his throne, a difficult choice among three sons who have very different strengths. This movie is all plotting, planning, scheming, and manipulating with a bit of medieval Christmas backdrop. The all-star cast includes Katherine Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, a very young Anthony Hopkins, and a very young Timothy Dalton. An absolutely brilliant movie.

Brutal Doom = Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

One of my favorite video games now has three number 2’s associated with it: today Doom 2 is 22 years old. I think that calls for a post!

Doom is a classic video game with many versions, and Doom 2 is my favorite iteration.

The first first-person shooter game I ever learned, I still love it, and now they have BRUTAL DOOM, a version more bloody with updated, more fluid controls, new fatalities, better weapons, and heavily updated graphics. It keeps the feel of the original and brings it into the 21st century.

Why am I telling you about this transition from 1990s cutting edge computer game to revamped and updated classic video game (with many versions in between)? Because it’s something happening constantly with books today. Take Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

This classic book has had many rebirths as films and through alternate tellings, including the strangely popular Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

This is a prime example of taking something people already love and giving it a spin that’s very popular today. I remember when everyone was joking about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but it became a bestseller and will be a film in 2016.

My point is that you never know what will inspire you to write, to imagine. And you never knowFeatured Image -- 1269 what piece of creativity is going to hit the mark with your audience. I’ve read historical fiction books for a long time, but I literally (and I mean that in the literal sense) never thought I would write historical fiction. My exact thoughts: I could never write historical fiction, it’s too complicated. Way too much research. And yet here I am. My first published book is historical fiction, and not only that, I enjoyed writing all the tiny historical details from life in the 1800s. I mean…wow. I went from “never ever” and “impossible” to having a 5-year publishing plan based almost entirely on dark historical fiction writing.

This should teach you one thing: never feel silly for hanging onto a kids’ book or playing an outdated video game. You just don’t know how it will positively affect your present – or your future.

 

Character Study: Psychopaths Are(n’t) Always the Same

I love studying the way different authors, filmmakers, and artists represent various kinds of characters, so why not share my conclusions with you? Sharing makes these things much more fun.

Let’s start with psychopaths. There are so many to choose from, but I have two particular ones in mind, and they’re not from books. My two favorite but opposite psychopaths are from films: Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death (1947) and Johnny Depp in Black Mass (2015). You’d never normally relate these two characters, but while they have major differences in their superficial characteristics, they are extremely similar in the core of what makes them psychopaths.

How they’re different:

  • Widmark often laughs his insane, maniacal laugh, even during and after his despicable acts, while Depp is very serious and rarely laughs
  • Widmark never carries a gun so the cops can’t pin anything on him, while Depp is unafraid of being caught with a gun
  • Widmark takes his sweet time getting around to eliminating snitches, while Depp moves quickly to get rid of them

How they’re similar:

  • Neither has any mercy or compassion
  • Both know how to avoid being caught for their many crimes, yet both have spent time in prison
  • Both are masters of vetting potential members of their gangs
  • Both have trusted men on their side but turn immediately on those who show a crack in their loyalty
  • Both enjoy violence and not only don’t shy away from it, but they take great pleasure in threatening and hurting others themselves
  • Neither have respect for women and are just as violent towards them as men

But the most fascinating thing of all is how these actors portray their psychopathic characters. Because the characters’ cores are the same, they are drawing from the same place within themselves to outwardly exhibit their mental state. Just look at these pictures and how similar they are, even with the characters’ superficial differences listed above.

Psychopaths Widmark vs. Depp

What does this say? That psychopaths can have their own individual ways of handling things outwardly, but their inner cores are duplications of each other. You can creatively toy with their methods and the cause of their madness, but there’s only so much deviation you can believably make to their psychology. This may sound limiting, but it’s actually really great because it allows for unique characters at the same time that you already know what they’re made of inside. So their baseline creates certain expectations that are always fulfilled. As you can see from the time periods of these movies (and real psychopaths throughout history), the basic psychology has always been the same, something dependable, although that’s a strange word to use to describe it!

Who are your favorite psychopath characters, whether from fiction or fact? Film or book?

 

Symbol Sample: All That Heaven Allows

From the title, All That Heaven Allows (1955) sounds a bit soppy, but there’s much more to this than the title suggests. In fact, this movie is loaded with symbolism and social critique from quite a lot of varied angles.

On the surface, here’s what we see: widow Cary has two children getting ready to graduate from college, only coming home occassionally. She’s lonely and has only superficial society friends who talk behind each others’ backs, but that’s the world she and her children know. She’s used to it, although she doesn’t seem to enjoy it. Cue the tall, handsome young landscaper, Ron, who veered off his expected path and is still single at a time when people married young right out of school. He does what he wants, doesn’t care for money, and ignores other people’s judgments of him. He is true to himself, which is a new concept to Cary and everyone else in her circles.

Sounds like a pretty obvious setup, right? Here’s what you need to know: the setup isn’t the point. It’s everything surrounding it that matters.

My favorite symbol in this whole movie – and there are lots of symbols in it – is the TV set. TV is mentioned several times
throughout the movie as a cure for loneliness, something to keep a woman company when she has no husband. It’s supposed to be a solution to the problem of having nothing to do and no one to talk to. I’m not going to give anything away about the movie, but when Cary’s kids decide to move on with their lives and leave her behind, they think a TV is the solution to everything. Now Mom won’t be lonely! With the turn of a switch, she can have all kinds of people in her living room, whether they’re on gameshows or dramas or commercials. Yes, the TV will take the place of the kids AND the dead husband.

In All That Heaven Allows, the TV set is something dead, something without a heartbeat, of course. Ultimately, if you watch and listen closely, you’ll find that it is equated to the superficial society group that also has no feelings and no care for anyone in the world but themselves. Just as a TV cannot take provide the warmth and comfort of human contact, people who care nothing for you can make you feel lonely in a crowded room. Both the TV and the false friendships are shallow and only for entertainment purposes. They are projections of life instead of actually living it. And so a physical object that is at your disposal 24/7 is just the same as humans following cookie cutter molds of what they think they should be, what makes them appear social and higher up on the class scale, but provides no warmth or depth, no love or true affection – no meaning to life. And the fact that Cary’s children are the ones who think a TV set will make up for their departure shows what she has inadvertently raised: more of the very society that shuns Ron, who is the essence of warmth, care, and living life to the fullest.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I recommend it not necessarily for the plot line but for everything surrounding it. I know that for film buffs, this is a major mark of where melodramas started in addition to several film techniques, but true to form my heart lies with the symbolism and metaphors in All That Heaven Allows. Tell me what you find in the film too! I’d love to hear your conclusions.

Symbol Sample: Harriet Craig

I am a HUGE fan of symbolism in every artistic medium. I always look for it in literature and movies specifically, and I always include it in my writing, no matter how short the piece is.  Symbolism is an essential part of my work, and the great thing about it is that a reader can choose to look for it and find it, or they can ignore it and still enjoy the piece.

I’ve had lots of people ask me how to layer stories with symbolism, some obvious symbols while others may not be so obvious. It might be best to answer this question through examples in both literature and film that I can show you through a series of blog posts. I’m going to start with an easy one: Harriet Craig.

The movie Harriet Craig (1950) with Joan Crawford and Wendell Corey is a prime example of good symbolism that doesn’t have to be noticed but adds to the enjoyment of the film. Quick synopsis: Harriet Craig is a cold, manipulative control freak wife who will lie to her husband, Walter, about anything in order to keep him all to herself and following her rules. She has no boundaries as to how far she’ll go to make sure her marriage stays in tact – and she covers her tracks well. Her husband is a trusting, loving man who doesn’t catch on to her scheming ways, though his friends and others see her for what she is.

That being said, Harriet has a lot of rules about her house and how it should be kept: make sure the blinds are closed by 11 a.m. every day so the sun doesn’t fade the furniture, keep the expensive vase away from the edge of the mantle, don’t sit on the arm of the chair, never throw anything (like a newspaper) down but instead place it neatly. She treats her husband more like a son and constantly chastises him. A couple of people mention that the house is cold and lifeless “like a thing that died and has been laid out”.

There’s a particular chair in the house that looks ornamental although it’s meant for sitting, but even more importantly it’s stiff and hard. If you watch
harrietcraigchaircarefully, you’ll see that Walter can’t get comfortable on that chair, even with a pillow. Harriet, however, feels perfectly comfortable on it. This is representative of their differences in personality. Walter is a warm person and can’t stand sitting in the stiff chair, but Harriet is a cold person and feels right at home on it. The only time Walter is able to sit on the chair is towards the end of the movie when he rearranges the pillows and lies down on it once he has decided to take back control of his house. He takes control of his comfort in the chair just as he is about to take control of Harriet.

Little things like this are easy to put into your story as light but still important symbolism. Think about what your characters have in common or their differences. Now think about their environments, even their work. How can you implement this same tactic to insert a layer of depth in your story? The good thing about this type of symbolism is that it can be stated relatively outright and still not seem out of place. You don’t have to worry too much about presenting it artistically if you don’t want to; the point of it is to be more towards the surface of the story instead of buried deep inside.

Black and White Film Micro-Reviews

I have a new endeavor! Just a mini endeavor, but I’m now doing micro-reviews of black and white films on my Pinterest page. Each pin includes the name of the film, year, main cast (usually two to three people), a “star” rating, and the reasons I liked and disliked it – all in something that will take you about 10 seconds to read. Just another way to hone the ol’ writing skills with fitting word choice and only the most important facts. I’m also an absolute old film addict, so this is the most productive outlet for my obsession.

Check it out here.

Hope you enjoy!