Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cover page and all that jazz

When you start to put the actual book together, you realize that there are all of these little features in "real books" that you take for granted.  These little touches, like layout and a title page, usually fall to other people, who work for the publisher.  When self publishing, those other people just become you on a different day.

So, I recently dropped in a simple title page to our book.

You haven't seen the cover yet, but I think the title page sort of makes sense on its own and it definitely works with the illustrations within the book.

I'm no artist, I couldn't afford one and I wasn't going to impose upon my friends for this project.  Keeping that in mind, I wanted to do something simple.  I'm also keeping the entire interior of the book black and white on white pages to control the cost to the buyer and so that it will work well even on older ereaders.

With all of that explanation, here it is, the title page to "Off the Rails and Other Tales."

(c) 2012 Jason L. Liquori

Introduction to "Off the Rails and Other Tales"

I'll be finalizing the printable version of the book soon.  I'm really happy with the cover so far and for the most part the inside pages are pretty cool, with a few simple illustrations.  I wanted to give readers who need a little push some visual to get their imaginations started, but not so much so that interferes with people forming their own mental pictures.  I hope people like it.  I pretty much just put out there what I enjoy.

I've written a short introduction to let people know where I'm coming from with the book, why I put together this particular little collection of stories, thank some people who helped me and just introduce myself.  I'm posting a draft of that introduction here, in its entirety.  It is likely to need an edit or two, but for now this is how it will appear in the book.

Things are getting close, gang.

There may be some minor spoilers in this intro depending on how surprised you need to be, but I really tried to keep any surprising details out of it since I knew this would be appearing at the beginning of the book.

Read on:

There is a very good chance that you’ve never heard of Jason Liquori, the author of this book and the person writing this introduction right now. If you’re a fan of independent movies, I mean really independent, low budget, hard to find stuff, then you might know some of my work. Primarily I have written screenplays in the past and I hope that you’ll see the influence of that visual writing style throughout the stories contained on the following pages.
I usually produce and direct my own screenplays, so when my eye was having trouble for a time, I fell behind. The ideas, stories, characters and locations began to build up inside of my head. Since I wasn’t bound to be able to shoot them any time soon, I didn’t form many of these concepts into full scripts, but I wanted to get the ideas on paper for future use. I thought about writing them out as full treatments, but decided instead to write them out as short stories. It was a quick way to develop the characters and plotlines without the idea of “how will we afford to do that” hanging over me, as it often does with one of my scripts. This gave me the freedom to let loose a bit.
My style of keeping things simple still stuck with me when it came to not throwing too many characters into the mix and having the bulk of the story take place in a few main locations. It was a formula I learned early on from the old T.V. horror and sci-fi shows. Since the budgets were often woefully low, they had restrictions to help keep things in check and prevent a writer from getting too ambitious. I thought the formula would work well to help keep me from getting over my head while writing the short stories as well. I also think that the fewer characters involved with a story, the stronger the dynamic between those characters is bound to be.
There are five stories contained within in this book. Each is a different length, but all of them were conceived as movie ideas. The “Alien Vengeance” story was written more with the idea of being a short film and its style is a bit unusual. I figured, if you’re going to self-publish a book, might as well experiment a little. That is the point of being independent in endeavors such as this, isn’t it? Without the money of outside investors on the line you can risk trying new things that the public may or may not embrace. I hope those of you that take a shot on the book do enjoy it, but if not, there are four more, longer stories that will likely fit your idea of storytelling better.
Three other stories, “Banker’s Hours”, “Night Crawl” and “The Whole of Time”, are closer to each other in length and all contain some kind of creature. “Banker’s Hours” and “Night Crawl” fall more into the horror suspense genre while “The Whole of Time” is more of a sci-fi adventure. I do like my monsters and I think the first three stories mentioned here do a fair job of showcasing the beast or beasts involved. “The Whole of Time” concentrates more on the characters and the creatures aren’t so much monsters as they are just other players. In fact, one or two of the humans would be considered far more monstrous than the aliens in the story. All three of these tales were conceived as features and would need some fleshing out to achieve that goal onscreen. The characters and main points are there, but we run through them quickly within the pages of the book. This is largely because, when I read, I like things to happen quickly and keep moving, so I tend to write in the same way.
The final story, “Off the Rails”, hits on another of my favorite genres, the Western. I’m not sure when Westerns really took a hold of me again, but lately I’ve been obsessed with them. Maybe it comes from “Back to the Future III” mixing the genres of sci-fi and the Western in such a fun way or maybe it’s because so many of the great old cowboy shows and movies are available on cable now. Whatever the cause, I had to write a Western, it had to have a train and it had to be packed with action and suspense. What resulted is the longest story in this book and the one that claimed the main title. Also conceived as a feature film, it is one I could never hope to do justice with the budgets I’ve used in the past. Even the highest budgeted movie I’ve ever directed, Stopped Dead, didn’t cost nearly what I estimate crashing a train and being able to shoot around the wreckage would set me back. Within the pages of a book, however, those things merely cost some words. I had a lot of fun with this one, but, unlike the others, I decided to leave the unearthly, cursed or mutated creatures out of it. Our villains are a bit different, but not totally outside of the realm of what most people consider reality. The story was originally going to be about survivors trying to cross a desert while being chased by zombies, but, like so many of my stories, once I started writing it, the characters had different ideas. The first change I made myself. The zombies, which would have been supernatural creatures, became escaped lunatics. The rest of the major changes came from the characters within the story.
Honestly, I wasn’t even sure who was going to be on the train when I started writing. Early on, our main character, Sandra, steps into a passenger car and looks around. As she spotted the other passengers for the first time it was as if I was laying eyes on them for the first time as well. It was a bit surreal. From then on, the characters nearly had “free will”. For example, they surprised me by deciding to stay with the train instead of making a run across the desert. They found supplies I hadn’t previously thought of them needing and one of them was carrying something. Something that I wasn’t sure what it was until she revealed it late in the story. I know, this all sounds a bit insane, but read the story and you’ll see that it is.
I have a lot of people to thank for helping get this little project together. I’ll start with my wife, who has had to read every story in here, listen to me rant about the directions I was planning on taking and basically put up with me being obsessed with people, who aren’t real, for weeks or months at a time. She also often had to read unfinished products and was left with a cliffhanger while I tried to figure out what would happen next.
I also called upon two people to help me with proofreading and editing the stories. (Not this introduction, though, so all of the mistakes you find here are my fault). J.D. Vanna, a fellow writer working on her first novel and Patrice Athanasidy, my sister and a columnist for several publications each worked on separate stories. Both had to work their way through pages and pages of misspellings, typos, wrong words and missing words. When I let them, they gave advice on sentence structure, but I really didn’t give them reign over the stories themselves. Again, this is an independent venture, so with the stories, if you don’t like something, it’s probably my fault, however, most of the “golden moments” in sentence structure and wording are the result of their sage advice.
I’d also like to thank my dogs, Val and Xena, who had to put up with my writing at all hours of the night, often had meals and walks delayed and gave their help whenever they could. In fact, Val is sitting in my office right now waiting to be let out and Xena is taking a nap, keeping my wife company before I bother her to read this draft of the introduction.
I’d also like to thank all of you for taking the time to pick up or download this book. Thanks for giving my stories a chance and thank you for reading this introduction. I hope you enjoy yourselves in the following pages.
Your Humble Author,
Jason L. Liquori
P.S. If you’re a producer who’d like to develop one of the stories contained on these pages into a movie, I try to make myself easy to find. www.hocfocprod.com

Again, sorry about the loss of formatting when pasting.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Off the Rails Excerpt 1

The book I'm working on is titled, "Off the Rails and Other Tales".  As you may have guessed, "Off the Rails" is the main and longest story in the collection of five.  It's a Western with some horror or an action horror story that takes place in the Old West.  However you look at it, it's going to be a fun ride.

Since it the longest story, I'll probably post more than one teaser here.  This is the first one.

For readers who prefer things that move fast to stories with deep chracter and plot development, this might not be the right tale.  I mean, it does take nearly 10 pages to get to the action I'm posting below, whcih starts off the whole adventure.


Excerpt from: "Off the Rails"

    Suddenly a terrible squeal filled the air and steam surrounded the windows of the train. The passengers lurched in their seats. Jackson tumbled to the floor. Mrs. Phillysworth screamed. The young cattleman clutched his father’s shoulder, holding the old man in his seat.
    “What’s happening?” Sandra shouted.
    “We’re stopping,” Fox said as he struggled to keep his balance and get to his feet. He peered out the window. “Or at least the conductor is trying to stop us.”
     Jackson picked up his hat and pulled it down hard upon his head. “We’re hours from the next station.” He leaned out a window to get a look ahead and shouted, “Well I’ll be dipped!”
     “What is it?” Sandra asked.
     “What’s happening?” Mrs. Phillysworth demanded.
      “Something’s blocking the tracks!” Jackson explained. “Looks like a landslide!”
     “We’re not going to make it!” Fox shouted pulling his head inside and dropping back into his seat. He turned to Sandra. “Hang on!”
      With a loud crash the train plowed into the pile of rocks and rubble. The impact threw the engine from the tracks and the two front empty passenger cars soon followed. The train’s forward motion halted and the other cars twisted into a shape like a slithering snake with nearly every car jumping the track. Finally, the passenger car with Sandra and the others toppled over onto its side. The windows shattered and boards snapped. Sandra could hear screaming and shouting just before she blacked out.


And for those who are helping to spread the word, here is the next teaser photo.  Do you notice a pattern?

Only Two teaser photos to go.  Can you guess what the last one will be?

Thanks for reading.  Keep checking back for updates.

PS. On the production side of things, I've been working on building up our "rubber monster" inventory for some very cool shorts, web series and feature movies to be done the second half of this year.  I've been on a role lately, but will be taking a break next week to edit the next episode of "The Simplest Things" and catch up on some CGM interviews.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Well, the fun part is over

So, the five short stories are written, re-written, edited and edited again.  The photos for the cover (some that you've been teased with) are shot, tweaked, and laid out into what I think you'll find is a pretty cool cover.  The "self-publishing" company is chosen and now the fun parts, the creative parts, are over.  The technical parts are just beginning.

The book needs to be laid out.  It's a pretty short book, but switching from the format I created it in to the format the printer needs, software wise, causes some unexpected changes.  It also needs specific boarders different from those you'd use to submit a book,  I have to create a table of contents to make it easier to navigate, but until I have the foreword or introduction or both or neither, I won't really know what pages things land on, unless I insert those BEFORE the contents.  I guess I can do that.

Will I put in illustrations?  Not sure if I can with the software I'll be using and I want to keep the page count to a place that the book won't be insanely expensive for the readers.  So, I'd like to have some simple illustrations because basically I'm a big a kid at heart, but I don't want anyone to have to pay for them.

I was really hoping to release the book in March, well, back in January I would have liked to have it done then, but I want to release something you'll all want to read, share and pass along.

So, as much as I hate the registering, paperwork and file working an reworking, I'll do it to present this book, that was supposed to be "easier" than making the stories into movies, to you in the best way I can.

Stick around.  It's going to be a bumpy ride.

P.S. To top it off, my two main desktops are both acting up and I think my Internet connection is going through slow downs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Teaser photo 2

Ok, gang, this is the second photo I'd like to start spreading around.  The first is in our previous blog.  The title of the Book is planned to be "Off the Rails and Other Tales" unless we run into some kind of trouble with that.  Doing the layout tomorrow.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Call to Arms....let's tease 'em

So, the past few blogs have been dedicated to excerpts from my upcoming book, "Off the Rails and Other Tales", an anthology of isolation stories, which all spawned from my twisted mind.  I've been telling you why I think they'd make good movies if I get the chance to develop them into scripts and dishing out little tastes of the stories the book will hold.  All in all it will have 5 stories of varying lengths.  The "mother ship" story (hey, I'm a sci-fi guy) will be "Off the Rails", which I'm finishing edits on now.

Since I've been told I'm a visual writer I think maybe visuals will help sell the book more than even short clippings from each story will.  To that end I will be releasing 5 images over the next two weeks that hint at and then end with the cover art design we're considering.

My faithful blog readers, few though you may be, it is with this that i need  your help.  We need to get these story snippets and visual references out there before the book hits the Internet.  People have to be expecting it.  Wanting it.  Waiting for it. Needing it.

This is it.  You're my marketing team and these blogs are your tools.  Tell me if you need more and I'll do what I can to provide it when I deem it appropriate.

I thank you all in advance for you help.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Profreading Never Ends

Yes, I'm aware of the typo in the heading of this blog.

Doing these short stories for the anthology collection, "Off the Rails and Other Tales", I've found that not only is there never enough rewriting, but there never seems to be enough proofreading.  I've used outside help for editing and proofreading and even after I've given the stories a good once over (something I rarely do in my blog.  Sorry), they've found plenty of misspellings, grammar issues and typos to fix.  When I get the stories back I give them a once over again and occasionally still find things we both missed.  Twice!

So, when the book comes out, please realize, that we did put a lot of effort into making it read smoothly, or at least, as intended and any typos you may find snuck in under several passes of the radar.

One of the stories, "Front Window, An Alien Vengeance Short Story", is written in a format that throws a lot of people.  It's very short and I thought an appropriate piece to experiment with a bit.  I figure if you're going to self publish, you should do things a little differently.  It's sort of like making independent movies.  Part of the point of being independent is doing things a major company would be afraid to risk doing.

That last sentence didn't sound right.  Where are my proofreaders?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Night Crawl - Excerpt

Another of the short stories we'll be including in the upcoming book, "Off the Rails and Other Tales" is "Night Crawl".  It's a short about 3 young people, in their early to mid 20s, trying to find a safe place to wait out a disaster that has befallen Earth.  The world has suddenly become overrun with gigantic carnivorous insects.  Walt, Rachael and Harry have reasoned that moving North, toward a colder climate, might be safer than staying down South in Florida, since the bugs seem to shy away from freezing climates.  During their journey they become separated and in this segment Harry is trying to make it to the safety of a cabin before nightfall.  The bugs are photophobic and mostly swarm at night.

From "Night Crawl":

   It was just about dusk when Harry reached the cabin. He looked up at the darkening sky and realized that with all the tree cover the cabin was in that it had been out of the bright sunlight for quite awhile. The ground would already be starting to cool, signaling to the creatures that night was falling. Harry looked up and saw the small wooden cabin on top of the hill. There was an old pickup truck parked on flat tires next to it. He wondered if it still ran. Maybe he could make it back in time after all. If he could get air into those tires and get that old heap started…
   Suddenly, the leaves that covered the ground a few yards away from him rustled. Instinctively Harry reached for the shotgun that usually resided over his shoulder. It was no longer there. He watched the pile of leaves intently and they rustled again. Then a bulge grew beneath the dirt to the left of them. For a moment the ground all around him seemed to writhe. He looked to the cabin, took a deep breath and charged for the front door.
   As if thrown by a catapult a large black beetle leapt from beneath the leaves. Harry could feel dirt hitting his face and the back of his neck. He would have sworn the beast let out a war cry and he didn’t dare look back as he heard its six sharp feet pound into the dirt behind him. Harry jumped up the stairs to the front porch of the cabin and prayed that the door wasn’t locked. He turned the knob as his momentum pushed the door open. And then, in an instant he slammed the wooden door closed behind himself and thrust the full weight of his body against it. His 215 pound frame shook as the beetle struck the door a moment later. The door shook a couple of more times as the creature threw its body against it and then gave up. Harry reached into a corner and picked up the one-by-four that Walt’s Dad had used as a lock and slid it into the slats to bar the door.

Obviously on the budgets we usually work with this story would be ambitious to say the least, but a slightly larger independent company could really do great things with it.  We keep the main characters limited, the locations fairly simple and the potential for big scenes is there.
As a reader there a few very suspenful sequences to read and one or two I don't suggest reading just before sitting down to eat.

Keep checking back for updates.  And please, spread the word(s).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

So, this is an old movie, but....

I did this short a few years ago, partially because we had finally gotten an HD Camera and I wanted to do something relatively simple to test it out.  Since then we used that camera on half a dozen features and now shoot on something much more sophisticated.  I also wanted to give my friend, Joel D. Wynkoop, a role he could sink his teeth into a bit more.  Joel had done quite a bit of acting for me before this, but the movies were always a bit tongue in cheek and he and I played the humor a bit over the top and self aware.  I knew he could do more dramatic stuff and had done it with other people.  I figured it was time I wrote a more serious role for him.

What brought this movie back to the surface for me is the short story I listed a paragraph from below.  The werewolf, the isolation, the father-child dynamic all come into play in "Shelter", although they play out very differently.

So, enjoy, for your viewing pleasure, "Shelter", starring Joel D. Wynkoop and Nicola Fiore.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Excerpt from : "Banker's Hours"

As promised, here is a short excerpt from one of the short stories that I'm considering putting in my book.  It wasn't originally part of the plan, but I wrote it a week or so ago for a contest online and it does fit the "could be a movie" thread of the book, which is really what connects all of the stories.  They are related mostly through the fact that they are written by me, but also because I'd like to see each of them be put to the screen some day.  Most of the stories deal with isolation and danger and "Banker's Hours" has the added coolness of a powerful monster who I will introduce to you in the excerpt.  It will ruin one surprise of the overall story, but not a big one, so read at your own peril.

                                                                     FROM: "BANKER'S HOURS"
                                                                               by Jason L. Liquori
                                                                           (c) Jan 29, 2012

   “Open the vault!” Tony insisted.
   “I can’t,” Brad said. “I need my keycard!”
   “Well where is it?” Jack screamed.
   Brad pointed to floor near his writhing son. The keycard was lying in a puddle of foamy drool. Jack grunted and charged to grab the precious card. As he crouched down Taylor looked up at him and roared. His eyes were bright yellow and hair was bursting forth from his neck and arms.    

   “What the Hell is wrong with this kid?” Jack shouted as he reached for the card.
   Before there was an answer Taylor swung his arm and sent Jack flying across the room. The large man crashed through some grey cubicle walls and sunk unconscious behind a desk.
   “It’s too late!” Brad shouted as he pulled a jail cell-like door closed between the alcove and the lobby.

“What the Hell are you doing?!” Tony said, pointing both barrels of the shotgun at the terrified banker.
   “Can’t you see what he is? It’s too late to get him into the vault! I just hope the bank can hold him.”
   Ron and Tony watched in terror as Taylor stood straight and tall. His now naked body quivered as his legs and arms extended and his neck stretched and contorted. Long claws burst from his hands and feet and fur grew on his body at an incredible rate. The boy’s face elongated and blood poured from his mouth as his teeth tumbled from his gums, pushed out by long, sharp fangs. In moments a tremendous Wolf, standing like a man, was looming in the center of the dark lobby where Taylor once stood. The creature was so large that his head nearly touched the low ceilings of the bank.
   Ron let out a weak gasp as he sunk behind the counter and hoped that the creature would forget that he was there.

   Sorry about the lack of formatting.  Some of it was lost from ".doc" file to here.
   I think this particular story would be great for a mid-range budget film crew.  It keeps locations to a minimum, is easy to flesh out a bit and relies on a small cast and one monster to get the job done.  You'll be able to read this particular story in its entirety online.  I'll post the link in the comments when it goes "live".