Archive for the ‘Scary Stuff’ Category

As much as we make jokes about it, young adult fiction, or YA, is a massive and popular genre. Over ten-thousand YA books were released in 2012, read by both the targeted demographic, teens, and by an increasing number of adults. And among horror, there are writers who specialize in YA horror. But that leaves a question: when is a horror story a YA horror story? Does it have to star a teen or teens? Or is there something more to it?

I ask this because I have a project for National Novel Writing Month in November where nearly the whole cast are teenagers. And while I have nothing against YA or those who write/enjoy it (the amount of anime and manga I consume is primarily aimed at teens, which says something), it’s not a label I think this story should be given.

If you ask most authors and fans (and believe me, I have), YA fiction is usually defined as having teen protagonists and including themes prevalent around the teen years: first love, friendship, identity, and growing up. By that definition, many horror novels could be considered YA, even though they’ve traditionally been aimed at adults. A good example is Carrie by Stephen King. It fits both requirements–teens are prominent in the novel, and themes such as bullying and inclusion, first love, and becoming an adult are all present in the novel.

I even asked in one of my Facebook groups if other authors considered Carrie YA. I got over fifty responses in the course of a week, and it was divided almost evenly down the line. And while the opinion was split, many people admitted they or their children read it as teenagers. I myself read Carrie as a teen. So is it YA fiction then, like the Cirque du Freak books and last year’s bestseller The Sawkill Girls? And are other novels with teens in the lead role to be considered YA?

Well, here’s the thing: the above definition doesn’t include something very important that has to come into consideration. What is that? Marketing. Who is the book being marketed to? Marketing has always played a part in categorizing what is called YA and what isn’t. In fact, the demographic of YA fiction (it’s not a genre, no matter how much we think of it as one), was first defined by librarians in the early half of the 20th century who wanted to know which books were being read by the newly-defined teen demographic and why. It was later picked up by publishers when they realized how they could increase their sales by marketing certain stories to the 12-18 age group.*

So while Carrie has always been popular among teens, it was and has always been marketed at adults, as have all of King’s books. And that’s because King wrote it for adults, not for teens. Meanwhile, books like the Cirque du Freak series were always aimed at the teen demographic, from early writing stages to their eventual publication and marketing.

And that’s what we need to answer my earlier question: if my NaNoWriMo project has a teen cast and incorporates certain themes relevant to teens, is it YA? While I’m sure, if it gets published, some will categorize it as YA horror, I write for an adult audience. Everything from what I include in the story (including possible sex scenes) to just the word choices and the explorations of characters’ thoughts and feelings is through an adult lens.  YA, it is not.

So while a story may include teens prominently in the cast and feature themes and content relevant to teenagers, unless it’s written and later marketed for teens, it can’t necessarily be called YA fiction. Many may still slap the label “YA” on a story given its content, and they have every right to do so, if they feel that story fits their definition of YA fiction. But the intention of the story’s author will be the ultimate decisive requirement, whether in horror or any other genre.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thanks for reading this little piece I wrote just to get my thoughts out on this subject before I started writing in November. But tell me, what are you thoughts on the subject? What makes a story, horror or otherwise, YA? Let’s discuss.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

And look, I went an entire post without once mentioning Rose. I consider that an accomplishment–oh dammit!

*Thank you Lindsay Ellis for helping me research this article with a great YouTube video.

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Hereditary was one of the scariest films of 2018. It’s considered so unnerving and terrifying, watching it a second time is considered by some to be a masochistic act (believe me, I was called that when I watched it again a month or two ago). So when we all heard director Ari Aster was following it up barely a year later with Midsommar, horror fans everywhere get excited. We were even willing to forgive him diving back into the evil cult trope just because he did so well with it in Hereditary. With the bar set high, I went to the theater today to see if this follow up could measure up to its predecessor.

Midsommar follows Dani, a young woman who, after suffering a family tragedy, joins her boyfriend and his friends on a trip to Sweden for a summer solstice festival held in the childhood home of one of the friends. While at first things seem innocent enough–minus a bit of drug use, of course–it soon becomes clear that these rituals and celebrations have a dark side to them. And not everyone will survive the nine-day festival.

I can say this movie is weird and fucked up. But not in a good way.

Obviously, this movie’s going to be compared a lot with Hereditary. But you know why that film worked? Because everything in it, from the painful breakdown of the family to the supernatural occurrences–felt like one big domino effect or Rube Goldberg machine. And in the end, it turned out to be that way. And it was done by looking into every situation where horror could be derived and then exploiting it to its most effective length. There’s none of that here. It felt like Aster just took one of the most prominent factors in Hereditary–the cult aspect–and extended it with psychedelic imagery and as much weird stuff as possible, though with barely any rhyme or reason, let alone with a Rube Goldberg-like exactness.

Even worse, it wasn’t scary. Actually, at times it feels kind of comical. One guy in the theater laughed at out at one point, and I couldn’t blame him. What happened was ridiculous.

And the majority of the characters are flat as rocks. You can sum most of them up with a single sentence, and it’ll encompass all of them completely and succinctly. You have the horndog who’s pissed he’ not having sex every other minute; you have the scholar who only cares about the research; you have the boyfriend who clearly isn’t happy but is guilted into the relationship; and you have the friend who invited everyone and is obviously hiding a lot.

Oh, and there’s something involving disabled villagers which just…didn’t sit right with me. I won’t go into spoilers, but I’m troubled by it, and let’s leave it at that (if you know what I’m talking about, let me know if you were troubled as well in the comments below).

Was there anything good in this film? Well, there’s some beautiful cinematography, shots that take weird angles or go on for minutes at a time. The psychedelic imagery, at times, is pretty cool. There are moments where flowers seem to breathe, which is visually stunning. And Dani is not only a fully realized character, but one whose battle with anxiety and depression come across as very genuine. You really see this woman who has been beaten down by life, and is just trying to find some joy and happiness while on this trip. It’s really heartbreaking.

But on the whole, Midsommar feels like a promise broken after the gem that is Hereditary. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the film a 2. If you really want to watch this one, I’d wait until it’s on DVD or streaming. Either that, or watch either Wicker Man movie, because they deal with similar concepts. Or The Apostle or The Ritual on Netflix, because they have similar concepts as well and are done soooo much better.

Either way, Ari Aster will have to do a lot better with his next film to regain our trust.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Hopefully the next review I do is for something that really hits it out of the park. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

So it’s been about a week since Rose was released, and a few days since the paperback was uploaded onto Amazon (though those pages still aren’t linked for some strange reason. Jeez Amazon, what are you waiting for? A kindergartener to play a matching game?). And while I can’t be certain of how well it’s been doing, I can say the responses I’ve gotten so far have been overwhelmingly positive.

A lot of people have, of course, praised the cover. Not surprising, given the work of The Gilded Quill, the cover’s designer. It’s actually been quite the lure, if some of the comments I’ve gotten are anything to go by, as has been the excerpt I’ve been leaving on various sites. And according to Goodreads (a site I don’t use, but which I may have to start using), a lot of people are either reading it now or are going to read it. I’ve also heard from some friends and family and a few of my advanced readers, and those who have started the book say they’re enjoying and find it intriguing.

But biggest indicator of all is that Rose already has a few reviews! Yep, that’s right, we have reviews. Two on Amazon (one of which is also on Goodreads) and one on the website of a colleague of mine.

The first review came from one of my advanced readers, and someone who you may have seen in the comments sections of these posts. Priscilla Bettis gave Rose 4.5 stars (though Amazon doesn’t allow half-stars, so she gave it a 4) and had this to say:

This book starts with a surreal quality (I mean, human-plant thing, hello!), but even in the midst of that bizarre stuff it’s easy to follow. The protagonist, Rose, is turning into a rose. I kept thinking, “Oh, the poor woman!” And then the story turns into something so scary that I kept holding my breath as I was reading.

PROS:
The tension between Rose and Paris (and between other characters, too) kept me turning pages.

There is a disembodied laugh in the second chapter that ignites a mystery, and the mystery isn’t solved until almost the end of the book. It’s sort of a B-story, but more like a layer of the main story. I loved this added complexity to the plot.

The fight scenes are excellent! They are well-written, easy to picture, and full of excitement.

And then there’s the twist that I should have seen coming but totally didn’t. Fabulous fun.

CONS:
The book has a fem-lit overtone having to do with how men are supposed to treat women in relationships. Rose’s thoughts got a little preachy on the matter, so I took off half a star for that.

There are a few typos, like calling Chrissy “Christy” later on, and Paris comes out “Pairs” once. But the typos are few and far between and didn’t affect my reading experience. I didn’t take off any stars for this.

OVERALL:
Rose is a fun, scary, and crazy-imaginative book. I super enjoyed reading it. 4.5 stars!

Tension and twisty. High praise. As for the feminist tone, yeah, guilty as charged, but given some of the news stories out there, I felt like adding that overtone was necessary.

The other review came from Kimberly Napolitano, aka kimnappi, who said this in her 4-star review:

Rose is a wholly original story that has about everything horror and fantasy involved that it will satisfy every reader.

Rose wakes up in an unfamiliar home with her memory erased all of the past two years.. she’s in a panic because something is happening to her…

No spoilers, actually anything beyond that point would ruin the story for you. The action was fast, scare jumps perfect and plot twist? Absolutely! So if you love supernatural to creature feature. You got it all here! Enjoy!

Apparently that plot twist is popular. Good to know. I promise to not be M. Night Shyamalan and overdo plot twists in future books or insert stupid ones for no good reason.

As for KG Finfrock’s review, I won’t post it here but instead give you the link to check it out so you can check it out yourself. Just know, it’s very positive and I’m glad she enjoyed the book so much.

If any of this has convinced you to check out Rose, the links below lead to its Amazon pages. And if you do read it, I hope you’ll let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve a previous engagement to get to. Until next time, happy reading and pleasant nightmares!

Paperback Link

E-book Link

One of these days I’m going to get my own Annabelle doll. Not a Raggedy Ann like the real Annabelle doll, and certainly not the actual cursed doll (there’s not enough room in my home for two powerful demonic entities). No, I mean I’m going to get one of the collectible dolls based on the one in these movies. That would be a great addition to my ever-growing doll collection.

Also, did I mention I plan to name a major character in my project for National Novel Writing Month after this doll? Well, now I did.

Annabelle Comes Home follows Judy Warren, Ed and Lorraine’s young daughter; Mary Ellen, Judy’s babysitter; and Daniela, Mary Ellen’s best friend. Judy’s home alone one night, and Mary Ellen’s sitting, which Daniela, who is grieving the loss of her father, uses as an excuse to come over and explore the Warrens’ haunted collection of dangerous objects to try to contact her father. However, she lets Annabelle out of her case by accident, and the doll awakens all the evil in the collection, trapping the girls in the house for the most fateful night of their lives.

From a storytelling perspective, Annabelle 3 was decent. Nothing extraordinary, but it does a good job. The writers give Judy Warren her first major role in the series as a girl trying to come to terms with her parents’ work as well as her own paranormal gifts, and Daniela is given some depth as more than the rebellious friend who’s just looking for something fun to do (aka look through a collection of cursed possessions). There are some really tense moments, and the practical effects allow for some creepy and creative visuals.

And I loved Bob, the sweet boy-next-door interested in Mary Ellen and who goes by the nickname “Bob’s Got Balls.” He gets caught up in the horror and ends up stealing the show at times. Can we get a movie around him trying to be a cross between the Warrens and van Helsing? Maybe with Judy as his sidekick? You can make a whole series of horror/action films out of those two!

Sadly, I had a few issues with Annabelle Comes Home. The biggest is that, after seven (eight including La Llorona) films, the jumpscares in the Conjuring Universe are getting old. We know what to expect, and it’s getting repetitive. After one particular jumpscare, people started laughing in the theater! I’ve been saying since The Nun, they need to done down on the jumpscares and try to switch things up. If the series is to continue past The Conjuring 3 next year, it may need to try some new things or all the projects in development are going to get shelved (and there are a few of those).

I also had issues with one of the spirits featured in the film (who I’ve heard might be the villain in The Conjuring 3). It was animated with a lot of CGI, which was not that scary. In fact, the first time we see it looked kind of ridiculous. Look, I know CGI was probably easier to create it, but there were twenty different ways to make that thing scary, and I would’ve liked to see them.

And finally, there’s the friendly ghost in the film (yeah, there’s one). Given how little it was in the film, was it even necessary to include it? You could’ve given it one more minute of screen time, made the appearance worth it.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Annabelle Comes Home a 3. Not the best of the franchise, but not the worst. Fans of the franchise will love it, but others may need something with a bit more meat to it, if you get my meaning. But hey, at least it’s not The Curse of La Llorona. Anyway, let’s hope next year’s Conjuring 3 does better.

Well, it took nearly a week, and the pages still aren’t linked yet (jeez Amazon, get your act together!). But it’s here. The paperback version of Rose is finally available. And not a moment too soon, if you ask me.

For those of you who don’t know (though at this point, I’m not sure there’s anybody reading this blog who doesn’t know), Rose is my fantasy-horror novel that was recently released by Castrum Press. I started it as a college thesis project and spent five years editing and rewriting it. The result is this novel, which is summarized down below:

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form.

Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death.

But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.

As Rose struggles to understand what is happening to her, she must navigate Paris’s lies and secrets; secrets that Paris will do anything to protect.

Pretty cool, right? And while it’s only been out less than a week, there’s already been a couple of reviews (I’ll post about those when there are a couple more to showcase). So far, people have been enjoying the book. And now that the paperback is out, hopefully more people will be able to.

So if you wanted to read Rose but were waiting for the paperback, the link is down below, as is the one for the e-book. And if you do decide to read the book, I hope you’ll let me know what you thought after you finish. Positive or negative, I love the feedback I get from reviews, and they help me out in the long run in so many ways.

As to which page to leave your thoughts on, I’d do whichever one you bought a copy of until the pages are linked (hopefully in a few more days).

Rose-Paperback

Rose-Ebook

And while I still have your attention, if you missed What’s Write For Me with Dellani Oakes yesterday, here’s the link so you can listen. On this podcast, authors get together and talk about their new books, as well as writing and their genres. It’s a great show with excellent writers and I would love for you to listen and maybe discover your new favorite book or author.

Plus we somehow managed to work the Avengers movies into the show, so it’s worth a listen just for that.

What’s Write For Me

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope you have a good time if you decide to pick up Rose. So until next time (most likely Saturday, when I’ll post a new review), good night, happy reading, and pleasant nightmares!

Let me preface this review with a disclaimer: I’ve never been a fan of the Child’s Play franchise. I saw the original Child’s Play when I was too old to be scared of Chucky, and I never bothered to see any of the sequels. So I was not among the many people who raged at the thought of a redesigned Chucky, a new origin story for the character, or the concept of a reboot in general. However, I knew that there was a good chance this would fall under horror remakes we all wish we could forget would ever make. So I braced myself, bought a ticket, and went in.

Child’s Play follows Andi, a young deaf boy with trouble making friends. His mom finds him a used Buddi doll, a cross between your Alexa smart product and the worst of the uncanny valley, as an early birthday present. Unfortunately, neither of them realize that this particular doll was sabotaged by a disgruntled factory worker, and has all the limiters taken off. The result is a psychopathic stalker unhealthily obsessed with a little boy. And he’ll stop at nothing to make sure his best buddy stays his best buddy. Especially when he gains access to the network.

Okay, first off, I’m just going to say it. In what world does ANYBODY want THAT version of Chucky in their home? Give the original design its due, at least it looks somewhat adorable, something your child would want to play with. Take it from the guy who has a doll collection and his favorite is kind of creepy, this doll looks too creepy for the average family, let alone something people would allow into their home and pretend is their best buddy while at the same time handing control over their home devices.

There’s this thing called the suspension of disbelief. Don’t go too far with it, or nobody will believe your story.

Yeah, I wouldn’t trust this with my devices. Why would anyone?

And now that that’s out of the way, let’s just say it. Even if you can forgive all the changes from the source material, the Child’s Play remake is not very good. For one thing, it’s predictable. We’ve seen this story, the doll that comes to life and becomes too attached to its owner, again and again. Beyond adding the element of a doll connected to the cloud and the Wi-Fi and everything else, there’s nothing new to add. If you have a checklist for this kind of trope about what to expect, you can check every single one off and rate it as average at best.

I also disagreed with some plot choices. The worst was with Andi’s mom, played by Aubrey Plaza. She seems caring, but at the same time she’s like, “I could care less and want to go back to being a carefree teenager.” And then, in a scene where Andi displays some behavior that seems disturbing, she instead…takes him to work? How about a hospital to get his head looked at?

Oh, and talk about a waste of Mark Hamill. I totally forgot that was Luke Skywalker/arguable one of the best Jokers ever playing Chucky. The robotic voice mutes the actor’s distinct voice, making you forget who’s behind the character.

Was there anything good about this film? Well, the cast is okay. They’re not trying very hard, but they convince me anyway. Some of the sweeter, more heartfelt moments are decent at giving you the feels. And some of the moments of horror and dark humor are enough to terrify and gross you out. Especially with one scene in the basement.

But all in all, the Child’s Play reboot is a sad attempt at revitalizing a slasher franchise. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 1.8. Even if it somehow is a success at the box office (which, with a ten million dollars budget, could be done in a few weeks), it might not get a sequel just based on how bad it is. Only go if you don’t mind wasting two hours of your life.

Thank God it wasn’t a bad Friday the 13th reboot. Can you imagine how disappointing it would be if that happened? Oh wait, that did happen! And it’s still a shitty piece of filmmaking courtesy of Michael Bay’s toilet. That’s right, I found another opportunity to trash the Friday the 13th reboot! And I’ll keep trashing it until a better (or worse) Friday the 13th film is released, mark my words!

Short post today, folks. Yeah, I know it’s not about Rose, but hopefully I’ll have something on that very soon. In the meantime, I was lucky enough to be a featured guest on Kendall Reviews, a website dedicating to reviewing and promoting works of horror and the horror genre. A while back, they were soliciting authors to submit essays on why they write horror, with the goal of having at least one essay a week to publish. You know me, I wrote one as soon as I could get on the computer, and I sent it in, requesting that they only publish it when I had a release date for Rose.

Well, given today is the 20th of June, and Rose is supposed to come out tomorrow, you can guess how that request went. Anyway, that essay, Why Do I Write Horror?, is live now, and if you’ve ever been curious as to why I write horror (and trust me, it’s a lot more complex than you’d think), you can read it by clicking this link.

Thanks again to Gavin Kendall and the team at Kendall Reviews for featuring me. I’m happy to have contributed to your site and I hope we get to work again together someday. Maybe they’ll review Rose?

That’s all for now. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!