influences

All posts tagged influences

Influences Revisited: Remembering Brooke McCarter

Published December 22, 2017 by admin

December and I have a complicated relationship. I want to like it, I do like it, but I’m very aware of the other side of things, and things always seem to go sideways or fall apart during this month for me in some form or another.

But there’s the other side to that, too, because at a certain point, you begin to…or at least try to acknowledge the good even those moments and people have had in your life. For me, December is definitely that battle of realism vs wanting to still believe and fighting to maintain that belief.

I definitely know the agony of what it’s like to lose someone right before the holidays. The anniversary of my grandfather’s death (among a handful of other personal anniversaries I’d rather forget), always gives me pause every single year. And yet (like I said in the elf post), there are bright candle sparks in the night in those moments, too, especially if they help me remember people who touched my life and made it better. And I am extremely lucky to have met a lot of amazing people full of that positive, candle-bright glow during the course of my life.

So yeah, one of those days, and we’re going to do the revisit an old blog post thing to make it a little easier. Part of it’s practical – admittedly I always feel pressured to come up with content this time of year and that with everything else can take a toll (hence all the reposts so I don’t have to think as much). More than that, though, I just plain don’t like good people to be forgotten.

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Obviously those who inspire are important to me, and I want to touch on a special one today.

I went back and forth forever about this one.  I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to post when it happened. December is not an easy month for me anyway, and this was the thing that made me take a break this year. Also, as of a year and a half ago I’ve lost one of my best friends and mentors, two people who pretty much helped raise me, as well as one of the biggest influences of my life. I’ve been selective in what I talk about publicly because otherwise this would be the most depressing blog ever. And, there’s that little, insidious part of me that is aware that there are people who knew him way better, who were much closer, and what do my words really mean in the scheme of things anyway?

At the end of the day, though, that’s silly, and I’m also well aware that Brooke would tell me just that, so whether these words help remember him or are just for me, here they are.

So I’ve done a lot of posts on Lost Boys through the years. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about why it was a turning point for me, and that’ll happen at a later date. Let’s just say it influenced my costume design work and obviously my writing. Somewhere between those two time frames, though, Brooke McCarter became my friend.

It feels like ages, but I suppose it was only like seven years ago that I met him at a con. Meeting Brooke was like going from being completely intimidated to talking to  a good friend I hadn’t seen in forever in like twenty seconds. He has this gift to just really connect with people and I’ve always been somewhat blown away to watch that in action because it’s always genuine and from this beautiful, sincere place. We got to talking because I was near an area he’d grown up in, and I’ve got the most incongruous, out of the box collection of entertainment work experiences ever. A couple ideas were kicked around, and life went on.

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Happy Star Wars Day! or Thoughts on Leia Revisited

Published December 15, 2017 by admin

Since we’re celebrating Star Wars today, I thought I’d revisit this post, especially since Carrie Fisher is no longer with us.

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So while the world is doing their best of lists and talking about resolutions…eh, I’m just gonna do my thing. And that means talking about something near and dear to my heart.

I saw Star Wars the day after Christmas. The short version is while I get what some people are nitpicking over, I personally loved it. Having been obsessed with the franchise as a preteen, then falling out of love with it for various reasons, it’s nice to see something that feels like the universe I love again. What’s amazing to me is to also see so much inclusiveness on screen. This is huge for so many different people. From my own standpoint, if I had seen this Star Wars when I was eleven, seen women fighter pilots and First Order officers and wise aliens, and a protagonist who was confused by trying her best…yeah, I wish I had had that movie. So to that end…

woke up this morning to see Carrie Fisher firing back at accusations about her appearance in the film. Brava.  I love her so much for this, I can’t even tell you. It’s ridiculous that this is what people are focusing on, but it’s an unfortunately reality that she will always get more grief over something so silly over her male costars. Seriously? She looks great. She looks how many human women look as they get older, so way to go casting! I loved her in the movie. And to THAT end…

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2nd Look: Library Livin’

Published September 27, 2017 by admin

Besides teachers, I think sometimes we take for granted how much libraries and the communities they foster can really, truly encourage people, especially kids. So today’s look back deals with some of the libraries in my life.

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I’ve talked about it off and on in interviews and the like, but I cannot stress how big of an influence libraries have had on me. I still remember going into my first one as a kid. It was built into a former residence in a small Illinois town, the librarian still lived above it, and it was magic. Rooms chock full of shelves, a lovely, open front room with homey windows and dark wood, just the stuff of story books. The very first book I ever was allowed to take home was There’s a Nightmare in my Closet, and even though I already knew the plot, the thought of plucking it from a shelf (it was misplaced in the adult shelves so that made it even more important-seeming) and taking it home all by myself was a beautiful feeling. I went on to do the summer reading programs there, get vacation packets for long car trips there, I was even able to check out puppets there, something that I’m sure fed my love of the art form early on.

My mom made a point of taking me to the library any time I was interested in something, and I give her a lot of credit for my voracious love of reading today. After every Reading Rainbow episode, we made a list of titles to go searching for. Anything that I wasn’t allowed to buy on the Scholastic book forms we put on the library list. There were times during the summer when we were there every other day. I was encouraged to read anything that took my fancy, although she quickly had to put a cap on the number of titles I could get at one time (I may still have problems with limiting my TBR pile…).

That was also the library where I was accidentally locked in during the librarian’s lunch hour.The children’s room was in the very back of the place, time got away, and there I was with my mother, completely panicked that I’d never get home again…for the first five minutes until I realized that I had All. The. Books. to myself (even if I had to share with my mother). I have a vague recollection of compiling a massive stack in the amount of time it took for her to fetch the librarian’s niece, convince her that we weren’t hiding downstairs on purpose, and get her to fetch her aunt so she could let us out.

To read on, click here

2nd Look: Of Stories and General Jerkishness

Published September 20, 2017 by admin

Another look back at the teachers who have helped to shape my life and kindle the creative spark. This time, we’re going to junior high English class.

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So to truly kick of this whole new world for you and me   direction where I discuss craft and influences a little bit more, I did hunker down and think a lot about where to begin. I’ve talked in the past about my mom being very pro-books, being a library fanatic to the point of getting locked in one as a kid, and growing up a Reading Rainbow addict.

There are other people, though, who may or may not realize the part they’ve played, who may or may not accept the role they played in not only my love of reading, but the formation of the gloriously weird person that I’ve turned into. Yeah, like I’m totally going to claim all of that as my fault. Please. I’m also not going to name names, because I feel like if people don’t have a public personality, sometimes shining a beacon on them is the last thing that they’d actually want, especially if they’re part of something as vast and sundry as the public education system. I’ll leave it up to them to call me out in the comments section or something, heh.

Back in Jr. High, I went through what one might have called a phase of being something of a royal jerk. We all have those phases, and it seems that the twelve and thirteen-year-old bracket is ripe for this part of personality development. Granted, my version of jerkishness was probably tame in comparison to a lot of other people, but I definitely had those smart-alecky moments. I don’t know if growing up a minister’s kid or if growing up in a community where my parents would know what I’d been up to by dinner finally made me lash out a bit at certain points. I don’t know if I was enabled by certain friends,…honestly there’s no point really blaming anyone or anything. It was a part of my growing up, and for the most part, I’ve grown out of it.

Granted, I can still rock the sarcasm when I need to, but I consider that a life skill.

There was one English teacher, in particular, my snark got leveled at. I have no clue why. I don’t know if it was because he was younger than a lot of my other teachers if he just seemed to rise to the occasion more, or if I was just that cranky by that point in the afternoon. Maybe it was because at that point in life I liked to get the last word, maybe it was because a certain friend and I both had him as a teacher, or maybe it was the sheer fact that he didn’t know my parents so the likelihood of me hearing about what a weirdo I was at dinner every night was less likely with that class.

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2nd look: It’s okay to stand up for yourself

Published September 13, 2017 by admin

Going to highlight another amazing teacher in my life this week, this time from junior high and in a class that I didn’t exactly excel at any given point:

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So obviously, I was a right gem in Jr. High. Honestly, I think a lot of my attitude and ineptness was residual issues that came with moving to a new area when I was like nine or ten. Unlike where I grew up originally, I didn’t have kids right across the street and I wasn’t as constantly enabled as I had been before. Sure, I had people at the church I went to and some friends at school, but tween years are that wonderful age where you can be friends and not friends depending on the day and time. Plus, my school friends weren’t actually in my class, or even my end of the building. Add to that a much younger sibling who I spent the bulk of my time around, vastly different interests than a lot of people my age, and no cable, and yeah, I’m sure I came across like a socially inept mutant a lot of the time. It’s honestly always been easier for me to connect with people younger or older than myself, and I know that didn’t help, either.  I had no concept of self at eleven. I knew how I wanted to be, and how I saw others, but I had absolutely no idea how to bridge the gap or lessen the tension. As I’ve said before, I wandered through the Forest of Awkward and bumped into every stinkin’ tree trying to find the way out.

Sometimes, though, the universe, fate, a higher power, whatever you want to call it, is looking out for you. And sometimes other people are, too.

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Becoming a Germ of the Wild, another look back

Published September 6, 2017 by admin

Since we’re at back to school time, I want to tip my hat to some teachers that forever shaped me (and who are probably regretting that now). These are actually past blog posts of mine, so I’ll give you the intro and then link you to the rest of the original post. Today’s look back takes us to senior year of high school:

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After fumbling through the beginning of teenagerdom in Jr. High, dealing with on and off friends, and all the other fun things that 80’s sitcoms didn’t fully prepare me for, high school was mostly uneventful. My freshman year was a little bit of an acclimation time. There was also a theme of me fast growing into a professional piner for dudes who I viewed as unobtainable and who probably wouldn’t have been good for me/would have been a let down had anything actually happened. Other than that, though, I kept my head down and avoided most drama. School work plus a growing love of theatre and music occupied my free time, and then there was college and the ever-important looming future to think about. Then senior year happened.

It’s not something I’m going to waste a lot of time talking about or fully get into, because at the end of the day it’s something that happened long ago, is minimal in the scheme of things, and bringing up specifics would turn into a they-said/she-said situation, and I don’t need that in my life. What’s important is that my reactions to it changed me forever as a person.

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Influences: The Lost Boys

Published August 31, 2017 by admin

Alright, back to vampires. Warning: long post, but I think breaking it up would just make the flow uneven.

I’ve had variations of this post in my head for a long time. I think it’s hard to put what things mean to you into words that actually convey those feelings.  I personally also have a bit of a hard time with the “pop culture saved me narrative.”I get it – I think everyone has defining moments that are connected to art and culture (I certainly do), I don’t know that I love giving them that kind of total power, because it neglects how much work the person involved and those around them puts in. I think situations can be complicated and putting it down to one specific thing can be somewhat trite. I don’t say that to take away from things that are important to people, and I’m not insinuating anything about fandom, but I think situations are just way more complicated than we tend to realize and remember.

That being said, I admittedly get my bigger influences from things that have affected me during times when I really needed something to identify with. Star Wars came about when I needed something to plug into when I was 11, Labyrinth opened up new worlds in my head at 16 or 17, Bowie made me feel like I wasn’t alone and helped me discover my creative soul at around the same time. I will always have vivid memories of hiding out in a bookshop reading Bradbury during the summer of allergic bronchitis and theater that kicked my butt constantly in my early 20s.

 

lost boys

The Lost Boys is tricky because it feels like it was always around but in different forms. I remember my dad being super excited when it came out. If you’re new to Selahville, it’s important to note that I was a complete gullible chicken as a kid (but also snuck off in video stores to read the backs of horror movie boxes. Figure that one out). I couldn’t even watch commercials for horror movies (but was fine with demonic possession in Care Bear movies. I don’t know, it was the 80s and they were sparkly and cute.) Somehow, I got it in my head that vampires could be a real thing and the vampires in the movie lived right down the road. I’m not sure if that idea was put into my head by a mischevious relative or if that was an overactive brain on my part, but for a long while I had this instant, Pavlovian terror response to Kiefer Sutherland’s face, which is probably a somewhat different reaction than he’s used to getting.

 

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The stuff of nightmares. Until adolescence hit.

 

Anywho. My memories from that time frame are vivid but fleeting, so I don’t think I even saw the movie all the way through until college. By that time I was reading Bradbury and Anne Rice and others, and I could look at Sutherland without screaming. I still have two conflicting timelines in my head – either I rented the movie on a weekend when all my roommates went home and I had to stick around for rehearsals, or I was working at a summer regional theater type gig. I do remember being painfully lonely – I’d had some heavy life changes. The first real, rough moments of my adult life happen a few months prior.  Everything was affecting me: I was oversleeping, I wasn’t eating well or taking care of myself, I had this sense that I had to prove myself right now or else, and being a natural introvert, I just plain wasn’t great at reaching out to even hang out with people or open up about what was going on. I can’t remember if at that point I’d not succeeded into securing grad school auditions (I’d opted to try the acting route instead of tech or design), but I suspect that this was that time period. I was also coming to grips with this feeling that I just created things differently than other people in my major.

Now I can see where that’s not a bad thing, but at the time I took it as a personal shortcoming. I liked what I was doing, but the department was really focused on straight plays that either didn’t have a lot of parts that I could play or didn’t speak to me from a design or build sense. Now, that’s just part of the job, but at the time it really made me wonder if I’d made a huge misstep. Everything began to bleed together for me, and I didn’t feel like I clicked with anything that was out there (the Internet was still developing and when you’re still pretty young and searching for connection with something, it’s hard to know what to even look for). I didn’t really have an outlet to paint with all the colors in the palette, or if I did, I didn’t know the words to ask for the opportunity.

I was pretty much holed up in my apartment, feeling like I’d completely failed at what I’d wanted to do most, failed at interpersonal relationships, failed at just even doing the day to day well. I can’t even describe the embarrassment I felt showing up to classes everyday, feeling like more and more like I was letting everyone and myself down. I went through the motions, but when I wasn’t required to be somewhere it was easier to hole up, beat myself up and blame myself than to go talk to someone or even ask for a neutral opinion or advice (at least on the art front). I was a swirl of negative emotions that festered and ate away at me as I hid out, trying to numb myself to it all.  It, admittedly, was not a great point in the Selahville timeline.

I honestly don’t know where things would have led if they had progressed on their own – I’d like to think I’d have come out of it because I’m generally stubborn and there were people around me in my classes and labs and rehearsals, even if I was beginning to wall myself off emotionally. I had rented some movies for lack of anything better to do, and for whatever weird reason (maybe I just wanted to prove to seven-year-old me that I could watch it), The Lost Boys was in that stack.

There are some things where you can admit that you like them or talk about why they’re good in an analytical sense, and there are things that just strike like a thunderbolt. Maybe the humor got me to pay attention, maybe it reminded me of my childhood in a weird way, but for whatever reason, I was entranced.

And then the tape broke right before the ending. I literally drove up the street to another video store right that second so I could watch the rest of it. I don’t know how many times I watched it that weekend (and beyond), but I was just really intrigued and began to look up what meager information there was online at the time.

It should be said that by that point I had just started getting cable and my theatre major schedule never had time for Buffy, so a lot of the concepts that became the sleek, cool urban fantasy vampire were brand new to me. Up to that point, all I’d really known was Anne Rice. The music fit perfectly, the performances were spot on, the story was tight. I was happy that it used folklore, and the production design just drew me in like none other. Since costumes were in my wheelhouse, I drank in everything. I think what also really struck me is that it felt feasible on a lot of levels, from performance to story to design. I

I could do that. That phrase kept going round my head, and I clung to it and refused to let go. It was an odd sense of validation (however slight), that maybe I could belong somewhere and there was a place for me. It was the mantra I needed, and if that’s the moment or the thing that saved me, then great, awesome, it tells a good story.

Granted, in my daily life where Chekov and Everyman and Tennessee Williams and A.R. Gurney reigned (nothing wrong with those, love ’em), I didn’t really get an opportunity to play with that sort of thing in a design or construction sense right out of the gate (this was further proven when movies like Hedwig and the Angry Inch came out  and my mind was blown again and I was left frustrated that I had nothing like that in my everyday). Still, I knew there were other avenues to explore and that I just had to keep looking to find where I fit. I definitely think the film gave me the courage to keep true to myself, and it opened up a ton of possibilities that got me reading and experimenting with different concepts. It got me to take a breath and go looking for what else was out there.

Costume-wise, it’s taken me a long time to grow into myself. I think we all go through that lean on influences phase until we absolutely can’t anymore. Theatre work turned into event and various seasonal work, I slowly got more confident and began being open to making stuff that was outside the norm. I had already been working on Halloween events and shoved into the role of coming up with walkabout scary characters. I think every so often when you’re working on things consistently, you suddenly have a level-up time period, where things really start to click and the synapses really fire up. For me, it was being brought in to create a gang of steampunk fairy tale characters. The interesting kicker was, though, that the images I was shown as reference of tone and concept were much closer to gothic rocker with some sci-fi thrown in.

I’d also become something of a budget-whisperer by that time, and was content on raiding storage and existing fabric (and slicing apart the pleather on like fifteen purses) to make other ends of the budget meet. While I didn’t necessarily go in with Lost Boys in mind, I kept that kind of rocker/put together/street rat bohemian look in the front of my brain. I’d  also developed the habit of taking whatever characters other people didn’t want to do, so I got mostly the male, non-prince ones. And I had a blast. I’m still really proud of how those turned out, because for once it felt like I’d formed a cohesive look, that all of the things I did could exist in the same dysfunctional world. It was also the first time in a while where I went on pure instinct and didn’t sketch anything out, but just built onto the dress forms with an estimation of people’s measurements. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did.

Writing-wise, I’ve probably done at least ten or fifteen blog and guest posts about the movie by now: themes of family, why the vampires work, my irritation at the missed ball with the lady characters, and on and on. If anything, that movie’ll keep me in article writing forever. Back when I first really watched it, I was drawn not only to the whole modern vampire concept but the open-endedness. You didn’t need to know their backstories to form an opinion of them. You didn’t need a huge amount of details, and it was better that way because it was really interesting to think on things and fill in the blanks for yourself. In a way, we’ve lost that trait as storytellers since the 80s, and I wish we’d get back to it because I think it makes an audience work more and appreciate things in a different way.

I also like that okay, yes, all the cues are there for you to paint the vampires as the bad boy antagonists, but honestly, they aren’t actually made the antagonists until the last act. Until that point you really just see them chilling out and being teens. If anything, it was bold to show both them and the humans in their home environments. I still will argue that they aren’t really the villains, because essentially they’re just reacting to an outside threat and were just doing what they were supposed to do (be vampires, make more vampires). To put a moral angle or the whole you’re a vampire so you’re damned angle on it actually robs the story of its more interesting possibilities. I’ll be thrilled when we can get away from the whole vampire must equal antagonist or sexy love interest thing we’ve got going on. Just have your characters be vampires and explore what that’s like for the characters. It ain’t hard.

Those kinds of thoughts circulated through my head a lot. I’d been writing in my spare time, but now I toyed with the genre and began to play with different types of characters and what it would really mean for any random person to become a vampire.  I began to read up on folklore, and I’m sure people thought I was losing my mind, but those sorts of explorations really balanced me out in a lot of ways as I worked to get back to myself. And then life caught up and I put it all away to get other stuff done.

And yes, in the meantime there are times when shared love of the movie has become awesome conversation starters (earned me cred in a Shakespeare class because I was the only person who had heard of Edward Herrmann), and yes, I’ve made friends through love of the film and that’s been amazing. In a bizarre twist of fate, I grew to be friends with Brooke McCarter at one point, and he definitely helped encourage me in ways that I will forever be grateful for. I’m not downgrading those experiences, but for me, personally, it tends to come back to something a little more personal than just being part of some fandom. It’s about the ideas that began to germinate in me and this bizarre notion that maybe I really could have an artistic career.

Ten million years later, I was starting to get published and had already put out a weird little ebook about vampires and lumberjacks and historical life challenges, when I was almost challenged to submit a vampire story that I had floated for The Big Bad anthology. John Hartness has told the anecdote about my failings on the whole submission process many times (in my defense I was writing the story mid-tech week), but I still blame him because I never would have submitted if I hadn’t pitched the basic idea of playing the vampire and human girl relationship straight without romantic cliches and ripping on vampire fangirls and been told that there was no story in it.

Never dare me with a story, dude.

Somehow those old characters that I had played around with came roaring back to life in different forms. I don’t really see Rave, Asha, Sin, and the rest as being Lost Boys-ish, but they definitely were inspired by the film and all the questions it brought to mind over the years. Characters like Amanda are probably me playing with Lucy with bad intentions, and the whole concept of Family and The Patriarch is probably what happens when Max’s concept of forming a vampire family is put on steroids. Through The Big Bad and The Big Bad II (and some other projects that never came to publication, but will likely be merged together in the future), I’ve gotten to play with concepts and character types and do them in my sideways way (and I must be doing something right because Hartness hasn’t disowned me yet). And there may very well be more of those characters coming in the future, but that’s a topic for another time.

I get why some people question devotion to the film. I’ve had that conversation a decent amount on social media lately – It’s a somewhat dated cult eighties movie with a lot of strange tone shifts and why can’t we just move on already. Ignoring all the ways that it’s influenced the vampire and urban fantasy genre for the moment, what can I say? Fandom is weird in general, but I think at its core it explores this need to belong that resonates with people. As far as saving me…maybe. It’s hard to say. At the very least, it pushed the snowball down the mountainside and got the ball rolling in multiple facets of my career, which is awesome, but it also really put me on the road to self-acceptance, which is even better.

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Mooner is the aforementioned vampires and lumberjacks story, which I have an admitted soft spot for.

You can also read up on my take on urban fantasy vampires in The Big Bad anthology and The Big Bad II.