You know, when the trailers for this film hit, the response was pretty lackluster. “Oh, it’s got Kristen Stewart in it and it’s a disaster film about an underwater sea base that’s about to be destroyed. They have to find a way to survive. Whoop-dee-freaking-do!” But then word among the horror community started saying…positive things. And later rewatches of the trailer made it look cool. So I decided to see it, though I couldn’t do so till this weekend because I was sick last weekend.

Underwater follows six workers on an underwater sea base seven miles below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, drilling for resources to bring above. However, a mysterious quake causes major damage to the base, meaning they have to navigate the failing base and find a way back to the surface or die. But there’s something else down there with them. And it’s not going to stop till they’re all dead.

I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to John Carpenter’s The Thing and Alien with this film, and I have to say, not only are the comparisons apt, they’re justified.

One of Underwater’s strengths is how it creates its atmosphere. Soon after the movie starts, we’re thrust into the destruction as we watch a residential section of the base succumb to water pressure and shifting earth. From there, we’re right in the middle of the action as the characters have to navigate dark and narrow passages filled with water and debris. And while the situation itself is urgent, the movie takes its time, allowing us to get to know these characters as well as building a feeling of tension and encroaching doom. Realistic sets and dirty water further the feeling of claustrophobia and the horrific death just beyond the walls. Somehow, that tension is kept up even when the characters are walking across the open seafloor in suits. Probably because those suits are a thin barrier between life and death as well. Add in some well-placed jumpscares that are never excessive, and it’s damn tense.

As for the creature or creatures in this film, they are the fun innovation that change this film from just another disaster film to a Lovecraftian horror fest. Their reveal is very slow, and even when fully revealed, the darkness of the sea leaves them with a bit of mystery. Fans of certain HP Lovecraft stories will recognize the creatures. Whether you do or don’t, however, there’s no denying how scary and deadly these creatures are, and they make the film worthwhile.

As for the characters, they’re serviceable for this film. For once, Kristen Stewart’s deadpan expression works pretty well with her character Norah Price, who defines herself as a cynic trying to get by. TJ Miller as weird, funny guy Paul does okay jokes. He and the character Rodrigo, played by Mamoudou Athie, both enjoy anime. Other than that, you can’t say much about these characters, but for the purposes of Underwater, that’s just fine.

That being said, the film does have its issues. There are a few moments where the tension reaches a lull, and during those moments I felt restless and a little sleepy (though that might be because I had to wake up earlier than planned this morning). And I would have liked to see what life on the base is like on a normal day. You know, when it’s not in danger of flooding and crumpling into dust. We only get a minute and a half of seeing the pre-destruction base at the beginning of the film, and that’s mostly filled by Stewart monologuing and saving a daddy long-legs from a sink.

Altogether though, Underwater is a tense, Lovecraftian thrill ride, a modern-day The Thing, almost.* On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4. If you have a chance, go to the theater and prepare to dive into a world of terror. Most likely, you’ll find yourself pleasantly entertained, and more than a little scared.

*And not just in quality. The Thing actually did poorly with critics and at the box office after its release. It didn’t become a classic until it hit home video. I have a feeling Underwater will go through a similar process, though I would like as many people to see it in theaters as possible.

How are you, Followers of Fear? I’m…I’ve been better.

Okay, it’s not as if things have been horrible lately. I’ve still got a roof over my head, a great job, a car I love (we’re monsters meant to be), and plenty going for me. It’s just that for the past couple years, the first full week after January, as well as the next couple of weeks afterwards, can get pretty hectic. And that’s been no exception this year. Last week, I often came home from work feeling exhausted, to the point where writing was a bit more difficult than it usually is.

It doesn’t help that this past weekend, I came down with a very nasty stomach virus that had me laid up all weekend. Yeah, that sucked. I’m over it for the most part, and I woke up this morning feeling pretty good. But today really drained me, and I spent a few hours this afternoon feeling a little less than ideal. To the point that eating did not seem like the best of ideas.

All this and then some has affected the progress of my novel Toyland. I’d hoped to have it done by the end of January, but we’re about two weeks into the new year and I only just started Chapter Twenty last night. And this novel is thirty chapters long. And this is turning out to be a long-ass book.

So I have to delay my deadline for finishing up Toyland. I had hoped I could get it done in three months, which would have been a record. But sometimes life throws you curve balls (or gastroenteritis), and you gotta adjust. The new date will be August 15th.

Just kidding! Man, you should have seen your faces. Yes, I can see your faces, and your disbelief mixed with your horror is rather amusing.

No, the real new date will be February 15th. So it’ll still be somewhat of a record, just not the one I’d hoped for originally. And hopefully by the time February 15th has rolled around, life will have eased up a bit and I’ll have already finished the book. After that…well, I’ll save that for another post.

For now though, you’re not going to get anything more out of me other than this blog post tonight. I’m going to try to eat something and then hit the hay, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, be careful, because apparently there are some nasty viruses floating around out there right now, and pleasant nightmares.

I’m glad I made the decision to only do these posts every now and then. They’re more special when I do, especially after I actually manage to publish something.

Anyway, welcome back to #FirstLineFriday, where I post the first one or two lines of a story I either might write, am writing, or have finished writing (and in some cases have published). As always, let me list the rules of this meme. On Fridays, you,

  1. Create a post on your blog titled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed/published story.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback and try to get them to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is encouraged but not necessary).

If it’s not obvious, I’ll be posting the first two lines of “Car Chasers,” the story that was featured in the recently-released anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II. I’m really proud of this story, so I’m going to do everything in my power to get people to read it. Enjoy:

There are many tales that come out of Shan Woods. Nearly all of them have to do with Chasers’ Run.

Thoughts? Did that opening grab you? Did you find it creepy? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And if you’d like to read the full story, check out The Binge-Watching Cure II. It’s a great anthology containing horror stories from a variety of authors, each one longer than the last (mine occupies the eight-thousand word spot). I’ll include the links below in case you want to check it out.

And in the meantime, I think I’ll tag thee, Priscilla Bettis! That’s right, YOU have to do this post next Friday for something you’re planning to write/are writing/have written. And there’s no getting out of it. Mwa ha ha ha!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll try to have something out again soon. Until then, have a good weekend and pleasant nightmares!

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback, Kindle

You can thank this book for this latest post.

Back in August, fresh off the heels of Rose‘s release, I wrote a post about marketing a freshly released book in this crowded market. And now that my short story “Car Chasers” has been released in The Binge-Watching Cure II, as well as the audio book for Rose coming out recently, it’s high-time I got around to doing Part 2. As I said in the last post, it’s important to have a marketing plan in place and not expect your book will snowball into popularity. Books rarely just snowball into bestsellers, so a detailed marketing plan, one you actually act on, is essential.

And this time, I will be getting into practical tips, rather than just some food for thought to get you in the marketing mindset.

Of course, I will be plugging Rose and The Binge-Watching Cure II in this post, and including links at the end. Gotta get those stories in people’s hands, am I right?

First off, put together an ARC list. ARC stands for “advanced reader copies,” and ARC lists are lists of readers, usually volunteers, who are interested in reading an advanced copy of your book (usually digital, though sometimes physical or audio). Why would you want to give people an ARC? Because ARC readers will read your book, sometimes well ahead of the release, and drum up interest via word of mouth. Sometimes they’ll leave reviews on review sites or on their blogs, other times they’ll say something on social media. Either way, they tell people about your book, and that means more potential readers.

That being said, when you have ARC readers, there are a couple things you’ll want to do when compiling your list, besides getting their contact info, of course (gotta get them that ARC somehow, right?):

  • This is an act of volunteering and you want honest opinions. Don’t ask people to give you good reviews, don’t pay for good reviews, and don’t pay for reviews (this does not apply to blog tours though, which we will talk about later). ARC readers are doing you a favor, so don’t expect them to say nice things just for you. And if someone wants to be paid for a review, run the hell away!
  • Don’t ask family or close friends to be ARC readers. Sites like Amazon, from which most authors get their sales, can get suspicious if someone who might be a relative or a close friend leaves a review. This is because some authors have used their friend groups to boost their books, even if the friends haven’t read the book. Amazon is aware of this, and has developed countermeasures to combat this practice, which sometimes go overboard.
    So even if your mother is going to leave an honest review of your book, perhaps ask her to leave reviews only on Facebook. Sites like Amazon will strike down reviews and mess with your royalties if they suspect a fake or paid review.
  • Not everyone who volunteers to be an ARC reader will follow through reading and/or reviewing. This could be for a variety of reasons, but in the end, sometimes life happens, and they can’t follow through on the commitment. What to do about this? Well first, don’t get abusive towards people who can’t follow through on being an ARC reader. Believe me, sending them an email calling them lazy shits won’t get you anywhere, and can actually ruin careers before they start.
    Second, gather as many interested ARC readers as you can. I gathered over fifty interested people for Rose, and about nineteen left reviews on various sites in the first two months, close to twice the average number. So a large ARC list of people genuinely interested in your book is a good thing to have.
  • Finally, save your ARC readers when they follow through. If you have an ARC reader who read your book and talked about it, chances are they’ll do it again, so remember them and ask if they’ll be interested when the next one is nearing publication. Hopefully after a few books, you’ll have a decent list of ARC readers you can message when you’re ready to publish something.

Also put together a list of places to send your book to/advertise your book with. You’d be surprised how many sites exist to promote certain genres, and which give reviews of books in those genres. Start compiling a list of these sites and publications, as well as what sort of stories they look for and how to contact them. When the book is published, keep an eye out and see which are accepting books at the moment. If you’re lucky, they may fit you into their reviewing schedule.

Look into the possibility of a blog tour. A blog tour is exactly what it sounds like: you go around different blogs to give interviews, write guest articles, or let them review your book. These are a great way to highlight your work among a huge audience, and if the blogs featuring you are in the same genre as you, it means the readers of that blog are more likely to want to check out your book.

I did a couple blog tours for Rose, and found them very helpful.

There are two ways to do a blog tour. One way is to organize one yourself by asking for bloggers to participate. The other is to work with a blog tour company, who act as a middleman to help you find blogs that’ll work with you for a small fee. This doesn’t count as paying for reviews, but instead is more like having an advertising department who help you get people to notice your book. Only these folks are contractors.

If you decide to go with the former option, put out an open call on your blog and social media for a blog tour, and see who responds. Also contact bloggers who may not be following you but may be interested in hosting you. For the latter, check with other authors to see if they have any recommendations, or see if there any that come highly rated on a website like Yelp or equivalent. If there’s a recommended one, see if they have any availability for you and start talking rates.

 

Well, that’s all for Part 2. I hope you found these methods to marketing your book helpful and may even share some methods you find helpful in the comments below. I’m not sure when I’ll do Part 3 or what I’ll focus on when I do, but I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it and give your two cents when you do.

In the meantime, if you would like to check out Rose or The Binge-Watching Cure II, I’ll leave the links below. Rose is my first novel with a publisher, and is a fantasy-horror story following a young woman who turns into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). The Binge-Watching Cure II is an anthology from Claren Books containing several short stories and novelettes from a variety of authors, each one longer than the last. My own short story, “Car Chasers,” which is like Fast & Furious-style car races with ghosts in the mix, occupies the eight-thousand word spot. Either one would be a great addition to your bookshelf, if I may be so bold.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback, Kindle

And welcome to my first review of 2020! As many of you in the horror community are aware, the Grudge film series is famous both in its homeland in Japan, where it is known as the Ju-On movies, and in America, where both the original films and the first remake are considered classics in terrifying people.* However, the sequel to the American remake was only so-so, and the direct-to-DVD Grudge 3 was awful. Thus ten years have passed since the last film was released. When word of a new film got out, people were skeptical, but some were willing to give it a chance based on the trailers. Including me.

2020’s The Grudge begins with a live-in nurse leaving the original house from The Grudge and heading home to Pennsylvania.** However, she brings the curse home with her, and ends up killing her family and herself, making her home and her family an extension of the original curse. Years later, a detective enters the house while investigating a possibly-related murder, setting off a chain of events that will impact her life forever.

So this is technically a side-story to the original Grudge remake, following a new family of spirits and a new community to torment with the curse. The filmmakers did this so they could hopefully reinvigorate the franchise.

And they failed miserably on that front. While the film is told in a non-linear fashion and has plenty of callbacks to the 2004 film, switching Kayako and the Saeki family out for a new family of spirits was a huge mistake. Not only do these new ghosts feel so generic that they could come from any other ghost-centered horror movie, Kayako is an iconic part of the franchise. You can’t separate one from the other. It’d be like calling a movie Friday the 13th and having it focus on Jason’s cousin Matthew Bellman, who wears a football helmet and kills people who enter an abandoned ski resort. It just wouldn’t work.***

Even if you don’t factor that in, the film leaves a lot to be desired. As I said, the ghosts feel like they could come from any horror film, and the rest of the film feels pretty lackluster. Most of the scares derive from jumpscares, which are there and then gone pretty quickly. Most of the plot and acting feels pretty phoned in, and Lin Shaye’s appearance is horribly wasted (good thing she’s had better roles in most other horror films).

Is there anything good about the film? Well, there is a scene where the main character has to defend herself from the spirits in the dark basement of the police station that’s kind of tense, and a bloody scene with LIn Shaye that’s super-freaky. And John Cho as a realtor dealing with a crisis in his marriage is a surprising highlight of the film.

But other than that, 2020’s The Grudge is a poor horror film that was banking more on name visibility than actually trying. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one a 1.7. Only watch if you want to make a drinking game out of how many times you see the number 4 (which in Japanese sounds a lot like the word for death). Otherwise, watch either the 2004 remake or the original Japanese films, but definitely not this.

I’m off to get the remake from the library. I need my faith in the series restored.

This is a bad start to 2020’s horror films. Hopefully the other ones coming out this month are better by leaps and bounds.

*No joke, when I first saw the American remake, my sister asked me to watch it for her to let her know if she could watch it without getting scared. I watched that movie in our basement, and then I never let her near that franchise until I moved out of the house. As far as I know, she still hasn’t watched any of the films.

**Why a live-in nurse goes from Pennsylvania to Japan for work when her family is still in Pennsylvania is not actually explained, so don’t expect an answer from me. I can only guess that there was a sudden shortage in live-in nursing jobs and they were only available in Japan, because otherwise it makes no fucking sense whatsoever.

***And it would also be worse than the 2009 remake, as hard as that is to believe. Yes, I found another way to blast that horrific movie! Screw you, Michael Bay! Your horror movies are travesties and deserve to be erased from history!

Happy New Year, Followers of Fear! I said I wasn’t going to do one of those “the year ended, let’s talk about what happened and what might come” posts on New Year’s, because nobody really reads those.* Instead, I thought I’d post a few silly videos on my social media, including my YouTube channel, and then share them with you wonderful people.

And to answer the question you just asked yourself, yes, I have a YouTube channel. I don’t do much on it, especially when compared to my other platforms, but I do post a video there every now and then. Usually it’s related to horror or writing or ghost-hunting (that last category tends to be the most popular). You can check out the channel here if you like.

Anyway, the first video is a New Year’s message from me and my friend Ramsey Hardin, who’s come up to Columbus to celebrate the New Year with me and stayed over last night. We recorded this just after midnight, so the reminder about drunk driving may not be as relevant anymore, but we’ll put it out there anyway.

Aren’t we a pair? Also, yes, that’s what my voice sounds like. I wish it sounded like Sir Patrick Stewart’s too, but life is rarely fair.

The second video is…well, that’s the thing. I’m not sure how this happened, when or why. It’s really weird. It kind of happened in an Otherworld. And it involved me finding one of the Great Old Ones, the All-in-One and One-in-All Himself. Be warned, for if you watch this video, your sanity may be eroded forever.

With that in mind, please watch it and let me know what you think.

Yeah, that happened. It was strange. And it may have resulted in me opening the gate between this world and whatever’s beyond to let The Great Old Ones in. If reality is destroyed because of my actions, I humbly apologize.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope we all have a great 2020 and a great new decade. In the meantime, expect another post from me Saturday at the latest.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, Happy New Year and pleasant nightmares.

*Though if you do want to read a post like that, I did write one back in November. Here’s the link.

Cover for The Binge-Watching Cure II, from Claren Books

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the paperback edition of the new anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II, featuring my short story “Car Chasers,” had not yet been uploaded to Amazon. I’m pleased to say as of now, the paperback edition of The Binge-Watching Cure II is now available.

Now if you missed yesterday’s announcement, this is a really cool horror anthology. The Binge-Watching Cure II is written with stories becoming longer as you get further along in the book. The first story is the length of your average tweet, while the longest stories are upwards of ten-thousand words. This way, you can easily go for a shorter story, if you’re in the mood for a quick jolt of horror, or something a bit longer if you’d like something to kill time with.

My own story, “Car Chasers,” fills the eight thousand words spot, and is what happens when you turn Fast & Furious-style car races into a ghost story. I’m very excited to see it in the anthology, and I hope plenty of people get a chance to read it.

I also hope James Wan will direct a movie adaptation, but I won’t hold my breath.

Anyway, I’ll post the links for both the paperback and ebook versions below. For some reason, Amazon’s hosting both versions separately, like they did when Rose came out. Why they do that, I don’t know, but whatever. If you get a copy of The Binge-Watching Cure II and you like it, please leave a review. Doing so allows more readers to find the book, and encourages Claren Books to publish more anthologies like this one.

That’s all for now. I’m going to be working on the next chapter of Toyland this evening while watching the OSU-Clemson game (Go Bucks!). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback link, Ebook link