The LIES about me and The Dark Tower

Sirs Mikesalot Perriwinkle Ee-bock and Patricia Cornhole Hairy Son are a pair of fine writers. They come up with fantastical stories, beautifully and authentically written. Their stories and characters are believable even when they are so fantastical that you’d normally dismiss the notion outright. Such is the power of their prose.

So much so that they have manufactured an outright fiction that neither Lovecraft nor Machen before him could have conjured: the idea that I, the noble and dashing Chris Miller, liked the Dark Tower movie.

HA!

I can hear your chortles in harmony with my own. Ridiculous, isn’t it? There are even memes being generated online, not unlike a big studio campaign for its next summer blockbuster movie. There are stories about me saying I loved the movie, that I thought it was the best thing ever, all of it. And yet, for such a ridiculous notion, it somehow lives on.

The Dark Tower had already been out a couple of years by the time I finally saw it. I always said it should have been either a series of very long movies, or serialized into a TV show on one of the premium streaming services to do it right. When I realized they had taken the WHOLE series and melted it down into a single 90-minute experience, I wasn’t thrilled. I understand that the movie is meant as a sequel to the books, and with the circular nature of the series, I thought this could work in its favor for whatever necessary changes they had to make, but not trying to mash it all into an hour and a half. Once I saw that, I was turned completely off. But, my son wanted to see it, and I have a macabre sort of curiosity, so I picked up the blu-ray for $5 online. When it came in, me and the kids popped it in and watched. My daughter hated it (even without reading any of the books), but my son thought it was cool (mostly the slow motion bullet/action sequences).

But what did I think?

I said at the time, and I’ll say it again here: As an adaptation of existing material, it was pure shit. BUT, as ‘just a movie’, I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen worse. Read the words. Know them. Understand them. I’ve seen worse doesn’t mean it was good in any way. Like, sticking my hand in dogshit would be bad, right? But you know what? I’d rather stick my hand in dogshit than into a river of molten lava. Wouldn’t you agree? Dogshit will wash off, but with lava, you won’t have a hand to wash off (and let’s not even get into the physics of what would happen to your lungs or skin being so close to bright red lava that you could stick your hand in there, it’s just an analogy). Yet, somehow, this has translated into The Dark Tower being my very favorite movie simply because it isn’t my most loathed.

Huh?

So, even though the movie is a total mess, it does have some decent production quality in parts. Not all the way through. It’s incredibly uneven. Idris does a good job as Roland, but has little to do. Matthew as the Man in Black should have been utterly brilliant, but somehow he just wasn’t. Wasn’t even good, honestly, and he’s a great actor. Maybe it was the directing, maybe he was high, but he seemed completely lost the whole time and no one would tell him how to get home.

It was sad, really. There’s so much great material there to adapt, much of it ripe for cinematic interpretation, but it falls flat on every front. I think most of the hard core hate for the movie comes from the love the series has, how people had to follow it for around 30 years to finally see it come to its conclusion (well, not really a conclusion, but you get it), and so they had a certain expectation in their minds of what it ought to look like on screen.

The movie doesn’t even come close to that.

All of this said, have I seen movies that are worse? Yes. Yes, I have. Ed Wood made a string of them, and while they do have the benefit of unintentional humor, I think we all agree that TDT had a much more competent production, even with all its problems). The old Crawling Hand with Michael Caine. Jaws The Revenge (Jesus H. Christ). There are some real stinkers out there, and while The Dark Tower has certainly earned its place amongst them, it’s hardly at the very bottom of the pile. That is not to say I enjoyed it (Mikesalot and Patricia, I can see you plotting!), but merely taking a more realistic view of the movie (it cannot be called a film). It’s hated because the books are so loved. Were there no books, people would still have disliked the movie, but the psychotic vehemence with which they despise it would be absent. That’s a fact.

That’s. A. Fact.

So, that’s the true story. Patrica and Mikesalot are funny little fuckers, but they’re selling you “Fake News” here, and I feel it my civic duty to inform the public that you are being had.

Guys, I love ya. Now get bent.

Chris Miller 10-17-2020

Cerberus Rising in Audio

I’ve been listening to the various stories in Cerberus Rising by myself, M Ennnenbach, and Patrick C. Harrison III in audio, and it’s an understatement to say they’re good.

They’re freaking outstanding.

We have nine stories in all in this beautiful book of perfection. Three themes, three stories per theme, nine novelettes. They are:

Cabin Fever

Insides Out

Into the light

50 Words for Writer’s Block—a Decline

Letters

The Final Correspondence of Thomas Baker Wolfe

Baptized by Lethe

Blame Jonathan Swift

Chaos

The Incident at Barrow Farm

Taking the Loop

Day 69

We couldn’t be more proud of these stories…or so we thought. When we started hearing Daniel Caravetta’s readings of these stories, we saw them catapult into the stratosphere. They stand on their own weight, but the fine voice acting and inflection from Mr. Caravetta just sets them all apart in a way that you’ll have to hear to fully appreciate.

There are two stories left to be produced, but the other seven have been nothing short of brilliant. When you hear them, you’ll understand of what I speak.

Are you an audiobook fan? If not, why not? I’ve always loved to have stories told to me, even from childhood with my grandparents and parents, and hearing a skilled actor perform them is all the better. But that’s me. What are your thoughts? What are your favorite audiobooks, and who are your favorite narrators? Mine are Frank Muller, Will Patton, Mare Winningham, Rosario Dawson, Santino Fontana, Matt Godfrey, and, of course, Daniel Caravetta.

I’d love to hear from you. Actually, all three of us would love to hear from you. Send us an email or connect on social media or just respond here. You guys are the best. God bless.

And keep reading!

Chris Miller—10-3-2020

Criminal Leanings

I’ve got some things brewing I wanted to share with all you fine folks, if you’ll indulge me. I hope it sounds intriguing to you…

I am—and have been for a very long time—a huge fan of crime fiction. Novels, movies, doesn’t matter. I adore it. And I’m not talking about the Scorsese greats (though I love them too), but really gritty, not-Italian-Mafia-crime fiction. Think Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and Jackie Brown by Tarantino. Think Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Rock-N-Rolla by Guy Richie. Sexy Beast with Ben Kingsley. Narc by Joe Carnahan, and his visceral classic, Smoking Aces. How about some absolute favorites of mine like Fargo (both the movie and the series), Blood Simple, Suburbicon, Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men, Miller’s Crossing, and The Ladykillers by the Coen Brothers (and there are even more from that pair of utter geniuses). A History of Violence by David Cronenberg.

And many, many more.

I think you can see the kind of stories I’m talking about. It’s crime, some of it is gangsters, but it’s not like The Godfather or Goodfellas or Casino. A different element, something grittier. The Mafia movies usually are plenty gritty and grim, but these are guys in the life, usually competent in so much as one can be competent in such a role. But my favorite crime stories are the ones where there are strange and bizarre characters, people getting involved with criminal elements and getting in way over their heads as they watch what they set in motion careen off the rails, completely out of control. The crazier the set up, the characters, and the resolution are, the better. I like to call it “batshit crime”, my own genre invention.

And that brings me to the point. If you follow me, you know I’m an author. While I often tout myself as a suspense writer, most of what I’ve written falls clearly into the horror genre, and there’s a reason for that: I love horror. A suspense writer can have a great deal of fun with horror, and while most horror has some suspense, I usually want to see it cranked well past an 11 and settle somewhere around a 93 (on a scale of 10, mind you). Crime fiction, on the other hand, ONLY works when you can ratchet up the suspense and really get into who the characters are, likable or not.

One of my books, The Hard Goodbye, is just such an exercise. One of my most well-received but also least read efforts, it’s the one novel of mine that cannot be categorized as a horror story. It’s sprinkled with horror elements, but I think most people feel the suspense is horrifying, and so they will say it’s “kinda horror”, even though it really isn’t. There isn’t a single “likable” character, all of them are scumbags to varying degrees, and they’re all caught up in a sordid web of lies, betrayal, theft, and murder.

I love that kind of story. Absolutely love it. Crime, like horror, has the benefit of freedom in that you can show the worst side of humanity in bold, blatant realism. You don’t have to have a protagonist who is a good person, don’t have to have redeeming qualities in the characters, and you can cut loose with absolute chaos on the screen or page and it will entertain. I love the no holds barred approach to this kind of fiction, and I think that most horror lovers would/will as well if they dive into it and give it a chance.

I’ve published five novels now, and one novella. Of those five novels, only The Hard Goodbye is not a horror story, though plenty of horrifying things occur on the pages, starting on the very first. And lately, I’ve been watching and reading plenty of this type of crime fiction and, well…

You guessed it! It’s got me itching to get back to another crime story. Gritty, dark (The Hard Goodbye was called the darkest book ever read by more than one reviewer), but above all fun, I’ve wanted to come back to this type of story for a while, but with the weak sales of The Hard Goodbye, in spite of the extremely high praise it has received (Ray Garton and Jonathan Janz both enjoyed the hell out of it), it’s kept me focusing more on horror stories. And I haven’t run out of those, but I’ve had a list of several ideas building over the past couple years for more “batshit crime” fiction, and thus, this post.

I’m about halfway through a new story which will likely be a short novel (like The Hard Goodbye was) called WAKING UP THE DEVIL. There is nothing supernatural here, nothing horror, no monsters lurking beyond the veil, no ancient gods trying to reign havoc over the earth in the late 1870s, nothing like that. It’s small town, big crime.

And it’s mean.

I’m loving it, I’m loving how it’s coming together, I love the suspense, I love writing big action sequences, and I can’t wait to get it finished and into everyone’s hands. But I’m worried about it’s reception being like The Hard Goodbye was. I may approach crime-specific publishers with it as it is certainly a step outside of the horror community, even though that community would eat it up if they tried it. But more than just this new novel, I’ve got two more well developed ideas for other “batshit” crime novels, and a western that is the same type of crime story, plus two collaborations that both involve crime. That’s five new novels/novellas I’ve got brewing, and none of them are horror. Problem is, I’m an established horror author!

So, I’d love to hear from all of you. Seriously, here on the blog, on Facebook or Twitter, wherever. I want to hear from you. I want to hear your thoughts on this type of crime fiction and how you feel about it next to horror. Do you want to follow an established horror author who is “expanding” into crime fiction as well? Make no mistake, I’m not giving up horror at all. I’ve got some ideas for more horror stories, short and long alike, but they’re further out on the horizon. Jeff Strand, who is a genius prolific author of everything from YA to horror to comedy to crime (and sometimes a mixture of all), mentioned to me once that as someone much more established than I am (he writes for a living, which is the dream), when he writes something that’s not horror, his sales plummet. That’s not why we write what we write, but it is certainly a factor.

What I’m driving at is this: do you—horror fans—also like crime fiction of the sort I described at the outset of this post? Or do you specifically stick to horror? If so, why? Is it because you like the darkness, the terror of it all? What if I told you that crime fiction of the kind I’m speaking can be equally horrifying and intense? Would you be willing to follow your pal Chris into some of these stories?

I’m not a pen name guy. Chris Miller is my real name. And I’m not going to use a pen name for different genres. Part of that is vanity—I want credit for whatever I write—and part of it is simply I’m not going to start over from scratch building separate audiences. I see no reason why the two audiences can’t be one, or at least merged.

What are your thoughts? Again, I’d really love to hear from you. You can email me here, comment on this post, or comment on the links on social media. Give me your thoughts and your reasoning, for or against. Love you guys.

And keep reading!

Chris Miller—9-26-2020

Idiots

I’m aggravated. You could even say pissed off.

Well, Chris, come on, you can’t just say something like that and then not elaborate.

Yeah, yeah, I know. So, you want to know what pisses me off? What pisses off a writer in the so-called “community”?

Readers who equate a work of fiction to the author’s personal character. That’s right, and for once, it’s not my own work in question here. I’ve been called all sorts of names by reviewers who’ve read my books: psychopath, pedophile, homophobe, racist, you name it. And it’s all 100% horseshit. But when I see reviewers heaping that nonsense on other writers—especially in the horror genre—it, well…

It pisses me off.

Most people have no clue how much effort goes into writing a novel. They don’t know the months, sometimes years, dedicated to constructing the very best story you can. Sure, readers have every right not to enjoy your hard work, and they have every right to voice that they do not like it, but there should at least still be a little respect for the author’s efforts, even if it isn’t to your taste, and there should certainly be respect for the author as an individual. It’s entirely possible that the author failed on every front as a storyteller, and it’s fair to say so, but it is not fair to equate the thoughts, deeds, and actions of fictional characters to the personal character of the author.

When I see a brand new work of fiction come out and I begin reading, I’m learning about a person, but I’m not learning about the author, necessarily. I’m learning about a character or characters they have created. People who are not them. So when those people who are not the author do or say or think something off-color, cruel, or outright evil, my reactions to those behaviors are directed towards the character, who isnot the author.

Unfortunately, many seem incapable of taking the same approach. In the age of ‘cancel-culture’ and the constant hunt for what to be outraged over next, people have started to equivocate the content of fiction with the personal constitutions of creators of fiction. They take umbrage to a racist character in a book saying racist things. They take umbrage with characters written true to their station in life and geographic locale, the sort of locker room banter we all remember hearing growing up. But if you write those kinds of scenes accurately, you’re called a bigot. It’s insane, but it’s also very, very stupid. Sure, you have every right to seek outrage at every turn, but please know that the rest of the world is laughing at you and your pathetic sensitivity over MADE UP PEOPLE, for eff’s sake!

I’m getting even more confounded that the particular writing “community” that I’m involved in is the horror one, and for a group who supposedly loves scary stuff and lots of blood and guts, they sure will have a ridiculous hissy fit if an animal is harmed in a story. People? No problem. Even children? Mostly, though a dead kid still doesn’t rise to the level of outrage a harmed animal will in their minds. That’s sick. Not the fact that a HORROR WRITER wrote something HORRIFYING in their HORROR book, but that a reader can get so wound up over the content that they end up writing really shitty reviews (that take them all of five minutes to write as opposed to the months or years the author took in writing their novel) attacking the fact that there are HORRIFYING things in a HORROR novel.

Get bent!

If you don’t like horror, don’t read it. If you don’t like extreme horror, then don’t read that. If you personally have an issue reading about harm coming to children or animals, that’s a perfectly reasonable and understandable thing, and nothing to be ashamed of. But when you read something that isn’t a good fit for you and you review it, stick to the writing. If it’s poorly written, say so. If it’s poor character development, say so. If it’s just not engaging or exciting, say so. Maybe it just wasn’t a good fit for; say so. But stop going into reviews of books you didn’t like and attacking the author personally, or trying to equate them to the characters they created.

Somewhere along the way some idiot decided that characters have to be likable for a book to work. Bullshit. They have to be relatable, they have to be believable, but they do not have to be likable. Not at all. It depends on the story being told whether there will be any likable characters or not.

If an author writes a racist character who uses a racist slur, that is believable and realistic that a racist would use that sort of language. Same for a sexist character or any other kind of bigot. What do you want, Klan member characters written as being politically correct SJWs? What the fuck is going through your brains? Why is it so hard to recognize the difference between trying to write realistically for the story you’re telling and who the author is as an individual?

I don’t care if you like this post. I really don’t. I’m sick of seeing this happen to good people in the “community” (the quotation marks are there on purpose), and yeah, I’m saying something about it. Your mistake of reading something that doesn’t sit well with you or isn’t your cup of tea is your fault, not the author’s (I’m obviously speaking to books you dislike because of content, not the writing itself). I get that some people may not want to read about a character who is racist or a homophobe or a misogynist. It’s ugly stuff. That’s fine. If you come across that in a book, I can see it being a turn off and you should even make mention of that in your review, that it’s something you personally can’t handle reading. Fine. But don’t go call the author a bigot. Fuck you for that. Seriously.

Fuck. You.

Let me clarify once more here—this is not about me. It’s happened to me before, but it’s been a long while and that’s not what prompted this post. I’m not ‘defending my honor’, lol. It’s another author who I know, who I know to be a decent, kind, bleeding heart, getting a review that calls them a bigot. Them, not the character(s) in the book. And they are far from the only ones getting inundated with this nonsense. We all get bad reviews. I’ve gotten some really negative ones that are on my writing before. I have thick skin and I can take criticism and I use that to better my craft. But I’m real sick of being told what an author is “allowed” to write about, how “real” they can get. Eat a bag of molded hotdogs and get the hell out of here with that crap. You don’t like it, fine. But keep your self-righteous indignation and phony ‘outrage’ to yourself. It’s a book. It’s made up. Talk about the writing, talk about the characters and their development, talk about the pacing, the prose, the payoff. Is Stephen King considered a pedophile or a racist for having written IT? I mean it, go read that book, you self-important cretans. You going to throw him under the bus too because he wrote about awful characters doing awful things?

I didn’t think so. Anyway, my blood is up, I need to pick up groceries, and I’m starting to ramble. Eat my shorts. Love you guys. Well, some of you, anyway. The rest of you give this a second read.

Chris Miller—9-13-2020