Intro to Alien Invasion: Book Signing (Newton, MA)

  

Intro to Alien Invasion by Owen King & Mark Jude Poirier. Illustrated by Nancy Ahn.

September 21, 2015 Book Signing at Newtonville Books, Newton, MA.

Review and Photos by Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline

Stretching their wings as a collaborative team, novelist Owen King, novelist/screenwriter Mark Jude Poirier and illustrator Nancy Ahn bound together to create Intro to Alien Invasion, available now via Scribner. The graphic novel is a humorous tale of college campus life at the fictional Fenton College in which college student and overachiever Stacey experiences a communication collapse on her campus just as an alien invasion is happening. With her friends in tow, they must battle to survive the unannounced visit of the aliens. 

The story is entertaining and well-executed, while the graphic design is beautifully crafted, easily interpreted and well-paced. As far as graphic novels go, this one is perfect for gift giving, bathroom reading or just general escapism at various points of your day. 

I was fortunate enough to attend a local book signing in which all three collaborators were present. Authors Owen King and Mark Jude Poirier read humorous manifestos recalling their own fictitious (I assume) recollection of the initial pitch to produce this novel. Illustrator Nancy Ahn provided the actual storyboard stills used in the novel for viewing to anyone in attendance. The three were all very informative, entertaining and charming. The project appears to have been a great deal of fun for the collaborative. I wish them luck with it. 

More details and purchase info can be found at Owen King’s Website

 

Nancy Ahn, Mark Jude Poirier and Owen King.
 
  

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5 Horror Films to Watch This Halloween Season! 

By Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline

It’s only my opinion, but I think you’ll enjoy most, if not all of these 5 underrated (some forgotten) horror films. In no particular order of importance, here is my recommended list. Also check out my 10 More Horror Movies to Watch.

  
Borderland (2007)

Selected as one of the “8 Films to Die For” at the After Dark Horror Fest, Borderland is based on the true story of Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, the leader of a satanic cult that practiced human sacrifices. The plot involves three American college students who travel down to Mexico for a week of strip clubs, prostitutes and debauchery. While their guard is down, being the naive travelers that they are, one of the men gets kidnapped and is held in a secret location as he awaits his fait during a human sacrifice. Keep and eye out for actor Sean Astin as he plays an uncharacteristically sadistic character. The film is very suspenseful, dark and gritty. It avoids the typical horror film stereotypes (as much as it can anyway) and keeps your interest throughout the film. 

  
You’re Next (2011, 2013)

This independent slasher film revolves around a family reunion at a big vacation house in Missouri. The family, suffering from their own dysfunction, is targeted by masked assailants who surround the home, allowing no one to escape. Each family member is picked off one by one by the unknown terrorizers and it’s up to the remaining few to band together for their survival. There is, however, a pretty clever twist at the end. So if you’re not wild about gory effects in movies, the payoff at the end may be enough to keep you engaged throughout the entire film.  

  
The Babadook (2014)

This creepy Austrailian psychological thriller is a film about a single mother and her young son who are tormented by an evil entity brought upon by a mysterious pop-up children’s book. In addition to the creeptastic tone of the film (like most Austrailian horror films), it also deals with sadness of losing a spouse, a child’s behavioral problems and deep psychological issues. It all swirls around a deep-thinking horror film that should be viewed with little distraction. You might be left scratching your head for a bit after watching this, but it has a way of staying with you until you’ve formed a solid opinion of the film. 

  
The Hearse (1980)

Looking for an old school, classic ghost story from back in the day but are tired of watching the ones you’ve already seen? This 1980 film went widely unnoticed but it still packs the punch of a creepy, haunted house film made with the techniques that only the late 70s/ early 80s could provide. A city woman moves into the country after inheriting her late aunts house in a small, yet suspicious town. She is immediately shunned by the community upon her arrival at the home, which was used by her aunt to practice witchcraft and other satanic practices. Little does she know, the house is filled with secrets and slowly but surely, haunted occurrences begin to unfold in this eerie, suspenseful film. 

  
Alone with Her (2006)

As if personal privacy hasn’t been a big enough issue already, this 2006 psychological thriller Alone with Her will creep you out at every turn. This part hidden camera, part POV shot film stars Collin Hanks as a twisted stalker who breaks into people’s homes, sets up hidden nanny cam-type spycams  throughout the house, and begins to obsess over his victims, studying them to the point of lunacy in attempt to make interaction with them based on his knowledge of the victim’s daily routines, interests and behavior patterns. This is exactly what happens when he obsesses over a young girl that he randomly discovered in a local park one day. The fact that she was completely unaware that she was being spied on is disturbing enough, but how he manages to enter her life is truly terrorfying. A must-see film that should serve more as a wake up call, rather than a an entertaining horror film. 

Swervedriver: Live at The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA. 9-6-2015

Pictures by Rob Watts. Follow @RobWattsOnline

 

Photo by Rob Watts
 
After playing at The Sinclair in March of this year, the English Shoegazers return for another evening of live Alt-Rock in the Cozy Cambridge, MA venue. Swervedriver took to the stage at roughly 9:45PM after the stage worthy warm-up performances of Boston- based rock band RIBS and Toronto’s Dearly Beloved

Opening with Autodidact from their latest album I Wasn’t Born to Lose You, the Brit rockers owned the evening, churning out classic after classic, such as These Times, Rave Down and Never Lose That Feeling. The band laid heavily into tracks from their new album (Read My Review Here) and graced us with the likes of Last Rites, Setting Sun, For A Day Like Tomorrow and I Wonder. Other than performing in front of a psycadelic themed backdrop, the boys let the music do the talking, with very little theatrical trickery. 

The band returned to the stage at the end of a two-song encore, bringing out Last Train to Satansville and Dual. A great show all around and it was apparent to everyone in attendance that a band can take a lengthy hiatus and come back sounding brand new. 

 

Photo by Rob Watts
 
 
Photo by Rob Watts
 

Authors: Be Original…Not “Kinda” Original.

  
Authors: Be Original…Not “Kinda” Original.

By Rob Watts.    Follow @RobWattsOnline.  Read my latest novel The Crooked Roads through Cedar Grove

Before you set out to write your first (or next) book, ask yourself this—‘Do I have something original to say, or am I simply writing my own version of something that already has commercial appeal‘, because if that’s the case, you should also ask yourself ‘Why am I spending so much of my time and energy writing a book that isn’t really coming from inside of me?‘ 

We see it everywhere in our everyday lives. In the world of foodservice, there is Five Guys Burgers, but then along comes Five Napkin Burger. On supermarket shelves, we see You Butter Believe It directly next to I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. One could easily fall prey to the unknowing purchase of an iPed for less money as opposed to an iPad. We see it all the time on TV, in the movies, when we listen to music—copycats are everywhere, and of course, we see it in print whenever we shop for something new to read. 

 

from the film Coming To America
 
While I won’t name names, there are a growing number of published books on the shelves (both physical and virtual) that bare a significant resemblance both in tone and storyline to commercially successful books in recent years. This is nothing new, of course—I mean, remember how many books flooded the market place with the name da Vinci in the title after the success of The da Vinci Code? Of course, one doesn’t need to look far to find a title on the shelves baring the words Fifty, Shades or Gray in the title. Whether or not you think the trashy, romantic book series by E.L. James is worthy of the many accolades it’s received, it’s obvious that many, many authors have jumped on the bandwagon in hopes to lure readers into their own fifty shades of bait. I responsibly exclude author Ruta Sepetes from this list, as she used the Shades of Gray moniker before James had. Not to mention, Sepetes’ Between Shades of Gray is actually a well-written book worth reading. 

Artists need to be true to themselves. Artists need to respect their artistry. While it may be tempting to cash in on the success of someone else’s original piece of work, you’re really just a copycat when all is said and done. At the end of the day, can you really look at yourself and your work with any sense of pride? Countless authors, both indie and traditionally published, fight tooth and nail to get their original stories seen and read by the public. Hours and hours which turn into months and sometimes years are spent working on something that is original—something that truly stands out because it’s never been conceptualized before. I imagine that an author who penned a book with Fifty Shades or Shades of Gray in the title has had more than a few awkward conversations at parties when they mention the title of their book and the other person replies “Oh, you mean just like the trashy book series and bad film?” 

So ask yourself, after all the time you’ve spent writing your book, after all the family time you’ve missed out on, after all the friendships that have suffered while you’ve slaved over your computer screen in hopes to churn out a memorable piece of work, would you rather it be something that came from your heart, or rather the ghost of someone else’s work? Personally, I’d rather fail with my own work than find minor success as an imposter. 

To The Indie Authors: It’s Your Way or the Highway!¬†

  

Indie Authors: It’s Your Way or the Highway!

By Rob Watts.    Follow @RobWattsOnline

Undoubtably, you—my indie author friends, have scoured the internet over such time in search of the magical words of wisdom from the self-appointed experts on the “proper” ways to publish and market your books. You’ve no doubt stumbled upon countless blogs that tell you YOU HAVE to be on such and such social media site. YOU HAVE to publish exclusively on Kindle. YOU HAVE to have your books available digitally accross every eBook distribution platform. YOU HAVE to design your book cover this way or that way. YOU HAVE to market yourself on Twitter between the hours of 8:43am- 11:27am. YOU HAVE to offer giveaways and special promotions, all before sundown on a certain date—and on and on and on! 

Look, there is a lot of great advice out there from authors who have dug through the trenches and fought the good fight in the publishing industry. I’m currently digging and fighting alongside the rest of you out there. The one thing I’ve learned along the way is that advice obtained from “experts” should be taken with a healthy dose of discretion. They don’t always have your best interest at heart, but rather your attention—especially at the end of their blog posts which direct you to the “this program is a $750.00 value but available today for just $250.00” link at the bottom of the page. 

My point here is to be cautious. There are many bloggers out there looking to take advantage of hopeful authors in search of professional publishing, agents, Bestseller lists, and so on. Beware of the click bait. I don’t begrudge anyone making money, but there is a fine line between legitimate author services and charlatanism. 

Bottom line? You yourself know what’s working and what’s not. If your marketing on social media has grown stale on Facebook, try getting aquatinted with Twitter or GoodReads. If you only want to market and make available your book to Kindle exclusively, go for it. Many indie authors have found great success by doing this. If you want to branch out and use other ebook distribution platforms, by all means, try them out—as many as you can. Kindle is perfect for genre fiction and freebies, but iBooks is popular with fans of books with illustrations, graphs, and other useful reference material. EBSCO is a new service that makes your material available to libraries. FlipKart distributes to ereaders in India. It’s worth researching the marketplace. Your particular book might have an untapped audience elsewhere in the world—places where Kindle simply isn’t reaching. 

Don’t be a facsimile of someone else. Take the reigns of your writing career and be an individual who stands out. Pave your own way and do things that ultimately work for YOU…not what someone else claims will work for you. You’ll save a lot of money, time and ultimately, your sanity by carving out your own niche and comfort zone in the world of independent publishing. Good Luck!! 

My Peculiar Family: Crowdfunding Campaign 

 

“My Peculiar Family” Book Cover
 
My Peculiar Family: Crowdfunding Campaign 

Blog by Rob Watts.    Follow @RobWattsOnline

(August 2015

So I’d like to tell you about a new anthology project that’s in the works—I know, I know, another anthology, but hear me out and give it some consideration. Though I’m not a contributor to anthologies and I’m no fan of “anthology mill” publishers, I do feel strongly about what the good folks over at Sci-Fi Saturday Night have assembled for their debut publishing venture. 

A few years back, I was having lunch in downtown Providence, Rhode Island with a couple of authors and the cast of Sci-Fi Saturday Night during a break at a local convention. Dome, SFSN’s host and founder, began talking about a project about a group of authors each taking a photo from a recently discovered tintype of vintage photographs, and writing a unique story about that person. It sounded interesting but several months went by until the project was mentioned again, this time while in the early stages of production. Though I had no expectations of any involvement, I was thrilled to be invited to contribute a story for the anthology. 

The unique angle for the story lines was that each author received one of the many photos discovered in Dome’s in-laws attic. The author was given only a photo, a name of that person and an occupation. Although the parameters set for the author were sometimes limiting, it really is an author’s dream to be assigned a project that requires them to stretch their imaginations a bit further. I was up for that challenge and happily submitted a story for this particular anthology project. 

But I’m not really here to discuss my involvement as a contributing author so much as I am here to ask for your generosity. As many of you are aware, I’ve had a good relationship with Sci-Fi Saturday Night over the years. They were the first podcast to put me on the air, they’ve given me a lot of exposure to a new fanbase and they’ve just been all around good friends, both on and off the air. This is a passion project of theirs, but unfortunately (as many of us know) passion projects cost money. I can tell you first-hand that a lot of their time and energy went into this project up until this point. For a small group of pod casters who had zero knowledge of how to launch a publishing project, it’s very impressive how they’ve orchestrated this project thus far. 

The Kickstarter campaign is set to end in less than two weeks. There are many great incentives to donating to the project, even for as little as $7.00.  Every dollar contributed goes directly to the production of the anthology and to the authors who have contributed. Many talented authors such as Christopher Golden, James A. Moore, Stacey Longo, Jason J. Mooers, Robert Mayette,William Meikle, F. Allen Farnham, Samantha Boyette, Tracy Hickman, et cetera have contributed their time and talents to this anthology. I can say with 100 percent honesty that this is a crowdfunding campaign worth asking for your generous donations. I can’t say that about many other crowdfunding campaigns or mass-author anthologies. Please take a moment to visit the Kickstarter Page for the project, tell your friends and share this on social media. Help keep indie art alive and growing

Visit Sci-Fi Saturday Night’s Website

M.I.T. Museum

 

A hologram on display in the M.I.T. Museum
 
M.I.T. Museum located at 265 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, MA. MITMuseum Website

Photos by Rob Watts. Visit me at my Website and Follow me @RobWattsOnline

I recently paid a visit to one of the many local museums to me in and around Boston—the M.I.T. Museum in Cambridge, Ma. Located just over the the other side of the Charles River, this wonderfully inspiring technology museum is both fascinating and dare I say, awe inducing. From their 3D hologram exhibit to their robotics gallery, there is surely something for everyone to enjoy. The displays of the student’s recent tech projects are highly enjoyable and it’s a reminder that great technological advances and engineering marvels are always right around the corner. It’s a fun and inexpensive way to spend a couple of hours while learning and discovering something new.