About Mario

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Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mario Piumetti is a freelance writer of science fiction, horror, screenplays, and nonfiction. He has a bachelor's degree in English from California Lutheran University and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. An avid music lover, his work is heavily influenced by rock, punk, and metal. You can contact him at mario.piumetti.writer@gmail.com.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Updating Classics

I saw the trailer this morning for a new FX series called The Strain, and admit that I was a little perplexed.  The sun blots out over New York City and all we're told is that "He" is here.  But it's only a thirty-second teaser, so I can forgive that.  All I knew was that Guillermo del Toro was involved, and as a del Toro fan, I wanted to know more.

The Strain trilogy is a series written by del Toro and author Chuck Hogan about a vampire takeover of the human race.  The series, from what I've been able to piece together, begins with a vampire virus entering New York on a plane filled with dead passengers.

What really caught my attention was an interview that del Toro did a few years ago when he was still attached to direct The Hobbit.  In it, he said: "When Stoker wrote Dracula, it was very modern, a CSI sort of novel.  I wanted to give The Strain a procedural feel, where everything seems real."

Dracula didn't have any police officers, although there was originally meant to be a detective named Cotford in the novel who later appeared in the sequel Dracula the Un-Dead.  Van Helsing could be considered the novel's closest stand-in to a detective as the heroes use reasoning and clues to piece together a plan with with to thwart their adversary, much like in a police drama involving a serial killer.

So yes, I would consider The Strain to be a very loose retelling of Dracula, but del Toro isn't the first to do it.  The Stephen King novel 'Salem's Lot is essentially Dracula set in Maine and he described his other novel Dreamcatcher as his take on The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.

I, for one, enjoy updated versions of Victorian novels.  The War of the Worlds reimagined as the Roland Emmerich film Independence DayDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reimagined as the Hulk.  Dracula reimagined as The Strain.  These source novels have the staying power to endure for over a hundred years, and because they're in the public domain, everyone has the luxury of being able to take them and do what they will.  As Stephen King said when comparisons were made between Under the Dome and The Simpsons Movie, it's not whether or not something's been done before, but what you can do with it.  And in the case of updating a classic novel, it's really a matter of taking what was a very good story and breathing new life into it so that modern audiences can relate to it more easily.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Poor Execution

Working in my story analysis course, we pretty much distilled the success of a story down to two key factors: premise (the basic idea of the story) and execution (the unfolding of plot, dialogue, character development, and everything else used to express the premise).  If a story's premise is familiar, it could still be a good one depending on how the storyteller executes it.  If, on the other hand, the story is poorly executed, then nothing in the world is going to save it.  It's doomed to be regarded as brilliantly bad.  Doomed, I say!

My novella Undead and Inhuman is an example of the latter.  Faithfully giving it a generous share of attention, I've killed that project.  I can't help but feel a little bit of disappointment in that.  I tried making a novel out of it last summer, and then a novella in the fall, but it just didn't seem to work.

And it didn't work because I failed in its execution.  The premise was amazing.  The idea of vampires fighting aliens was a potent one, and everyone I talked to about it was receptive of the idea.  But then that's where the high ended.  The plot wasn't thorough enough, the characters too flimsy, and staying power of the first draft ultimately lacking.

I'm tempted to say that the project isn't fully dead and that I'll resurrect it at some point in the future, but, hey, fool me twice, shame on me, right?  Who knows?  Maybe I will go back to it one day, but I won't force myself into it.  Like many good things, it'll come around when I least expect it and when the timing is right.

Pavlov's Dog

To paraphrase Sinatra in the original Ocean's Eleven, I got news for you, some good and some bad.

The good news is that I've been offered an internship at Atmosphere Entertainment, the company that produced, among others, 300.  The ball on this got rolling through my course work in story analysis at UCLA, so I've very excited to see that bringing some results so soon.

The bad news is that while this is a mostly online internship, it looks like there would be some days when I'd have to go into their offices.  That in itself isn't necessarily bad.  What is bad is that I'm still tutoring in the afternoon and so I'd have to get the bulk of my day's writing done early in the morning.  Okay, so it's bittersweet news.

Yesterday, I worked out a schedule that would let me balance all three - writing, tutoring, and the internship.  I had the luxury of dictating my hours and dates.  10:00 AM to 2:00 PM Monday through Friday sounded reasonable.  On the day I'd have to come into their offices at Atmosphere, I'd have to wake up, eat breakfast, work on my novel and one other short fiction piece, exercise, and shower before having to leave a little before 9:30 AM.  On days when I don't have to go in, I get an extra forty minutes because driving time is taken out.  Finishing internship at 2:00 PM gives me an hour or two of writing and lunch before my tutoring appointments.

Trust me, I have this all planned out down to the last minute, all except the fact that I'm not much of a morning person.  That was probably why I asked Atmosphere for a 10 AM start time in the first place.  Don't get me wrongI'm rising earlier in the day and bedding earlier in the evening, but I'm still not quite at the point where I'm perfectly lined up with my schedule.

I still think I can make it work though.  I've got four days before my internship is supposed to start on Monday, so until then I've got to make like Pavlov's dog and condition the snot outta me.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Sick Days

Writing is an art, but it's also a job, a business, and like any business there's one thing binding them together in commonality.  No, not the Force.  The germs.

I've been doing well the last week keeping up a strong work ethic.  I'd wake up every morning, brew up some coffee, sit my ass down, and get my day's writing done in a few hours.  It feels good, accomplishing.  Yesterday, however, I just wasn't feeling it.  I sat down at my laptop and didn't feel quite the same, that feeling of slight fatigue from getting out of bed while also being energized by the thought of a chance to be productive.  So I took the day off from writing and focused on some paperwork instead, figuring I was okay because I was still getting things done.

Then I went to my tutoring job in the afternoon and quickly felt worse: body aches, weakness in the limbs, an increasingly scratchy throat.  No doubt about it.  I was sick.  I'm feeling better than yesterday, but I'm still quite out of it, so I'm giving myself a sick day.  Even Gillian was kind enough to give me the day off.  You guys remember Gillian, right?  So when I say even she's expressing kindness, it's a pretty earth-shattering thing.

Be good to yourselves, folks.  If you're too sick to write, then all you're going to produce is gibberish that you'll have to waste time redoing later on.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Updates - January 2014

Happy...*Checks calendar*...2014, everyone!  I hope you all had a great holiday and that the year's gotten off to a solid start.  I've been keeping busy and I just wanted to touch base on what's been going on.

I resumed work on my zombie novel In the Dust of the Earth the other day.  It's gone through a lot of plot changes since its incarnation as Frantic, but I'm not ready to talk about it.  Suffice to say, I'm working on a zombie novel, and that's all I can reveal for now.  Rather than doing the whole book in one go, I'm writing it chapter by chapter, at least for a while until I get to the end when I can look at the book as a whole.  I'll be ready to talk more about it when I get through the first chapter.

Undead and Inhuman is still alive, but there's no way I'll make it in time for the January 15th deadline for Blank Fiction.  I'm still working on the first draft!  But I'm not so worried about it.  If I can't submit it to Blank Fiction, there are still other places I can send it to.

I'm also working on a short story called The Roar Shack as part of a series of submission I want to send to Penumbra.  That's also been neglected over the holidays, but I still got a couple of months to make the submission deadline.  And it's a shorter piece, so it should be finished much faster.

I've also been slacking off on the Andrew Ursler series.  Man, if my writing were children, Child Services would be all over me right now!  I really want to get back on the horse with that project.  I think I'm going to try rotating between Undead and Inhuman, The Roar Shack, and the Andrew Ursler series, focusing on only one on any given day in addition to working on my novel.  I know it's fairly low on the priorities list, but even after over a year, a lot of it is still fresh in my mind, and I want to get it down on paper before I forget any of it.

Most of the writing I've done over the holidays has been for Carpe Nocturne as I try to meet my next deadline.  I've got a film review ready to go, two that I'm polishing up, and a book review that I've yet to get started on.  There's just a few chapters left before finishing the book.  I've just got to focus on finishing it in time for the deadline in February.

It all seems like a lot, but really it's mostly a pile of smaller works.