Posts Tagged ‘authors’

“It’s a movie about Nazi zombies.” From that description alone, you’d think you’d know Overlord inside and out. After all, this subject’s been done before, and it’s usually pretty silly, overly gory, and focuses on some buff action-hero types who cut through the zombies with guns and on as many cheesy deaths as possible. But then you hear JJ Abrams is involved. And that it’s gotten a 81% score on Rotten Tomatoes. And His Royal Scariness Stephen King praises it on Twitter, comparing it to the early work of Stephen Spielberg.

I went to go see it with my cousin today, expecting it to be just as predictable as the movies that came before. What we got instead, to our surprise and delight, was an above average and atmospheric horror film.

Overlord¬†follows Ed Boyce, an African American soldier who is part of a special mission to facilitate the D-Day landings in France in WWII. His unit has to destroy a Nazi radio tower in a converted church in Normandy so the Germans can’t radio for support during the D-Day invasions. However, when they get to the town, they find something weird is happening there. Civilians are being dragged into the church, and those that do come out seem to be changed, and not for the better. Boyce and his unit soon realize they’ve discovered a dark plot that could change the course of the war. Unless they stop it.

As I said, this isn’t what you’d expect with a movie involving Nazi zombies. In fact, the zombies don’t feature as heavily as they might’ve in another film. Rather, director Julius Avery decided to focus more on the horrors of war and the creepy atmosphere, rather than sensationalized gore and violence. And it is effective. Everything, from the war-torn town to the blood and gore, look incredibly realistic. Very little CGI is used, which only makes things more authentic and visceral. I especially liked the Nazi base of operations underneath the church. It’s use of shadow, space and overabundance of creepy and bloody medical equipment reminded me of some of the scariest parts of the video game Outlast.* And as I said, there is an attention to the horrors and privations of war and atmosphere that you really do feel without the zombies being present.

And when the zombies do show up, God are they scary! They’re slimy and bloody, they move spasmodically and growl like animals. The fact that they aren’t overused especially helps.

I also found the cast very believable. True, I couldn’t help but think “It’s Fitz from Agents of SHIELD” every time Iain De Caestrecker’s character was on screen, flawless American accent or not. But other than that, you really do believe these actors are these characters. Jovan Adepo is especially good as Private Boyce, who is affected every time he sees someone die or has to kill someone. You believe this guy is going to be haunted for years to come.

One critique I do have for Overlord is that it does get a bit predictable at the end. I mean that’s fine, it’s a great finale, but you could still see where the film was going to go at that point.

All in all though, Overlord is a good horror film and a much better film than you’d expect. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.4. Unnerving and powerful, it’ll stay with you for a while after you’ve left the theater. Take a look and see for yourself.

*BTW, if you haven’t played or watch someone play Outlast, I highly recommend you try it. Just be careful though, because that game is enough to leave me shaking.

Advertisements

I’ve mentioned things like “Lovecraftian horror’ or “cosmic horror” before on this blog, but I’ve never really gone into what those terms mean. And given that someone on the Internet is probably wondering what those terms mean and I need a break from trying to figure out how to end a short story, I thought I’d take a moment to look over what it means when horror fans call something “cosmic horror.”

I actually summed up cosmic horror pretty well last month with a little joke that I shared on my social media. Here’s how it goes:

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

Yog-sothoth.

Yog-sothtoth who?

Your mind couldn’t handle the answer.

Now you’re probably confused by that joke. But in actuality, it summarizes what cosmic horror is pretty well. Namely, there are answers and truths to questions that the human mind can’t handle. And not just answers, but even beings, beings that don’t fit into any sort of recognizable mythology or concept of good and evil. In this sort of horror, humanity is the equivalent of ants in the grand scheme of things, and if they come across any of the things that they shouldn’t–beings of unimaginable size and power, truths that go against everything we’ve ever believed, abilities and technologies that seem blasphemous to human viewpoints–the very contact could kill us or drive us insane. And even if our minds survived in some recognizable state, we would be forever changed. And probably not for the better.

If you haven’t grasped why that’s so scary, let me use an analogy: imagine you’re a farmer living in England in 1066, and a man from the year 2166* comes by and tells you that the world isn’t flat, but round; that the Earth flies around the sun and not the other way around; and that space is a cold and mostly empty void rather than a sphere surrounded by God’s Heaven and angels. Well, you’d obviously think the man from 2166 was crazy. But then he takes you back to his time, and he lives on a ship orbiting the Earth. You see the round Earth below while you float weightless in space and see the dark void beyond Earth. And things like science, gravity, etc. mean absolutely nothing to you. And everything’s new and strange to you, lights too bright and shadows too dark, and the sounds you hear make no sense.

Can you start to see how this could tear at someone’s mind? That someone could be afraid of this?

A universe of incomprehensible beings and terrible secrets is the basis of cosmic horror.

And that’s why cosmic horror has been so popular since HP Lovecraft basically created it back in the early 20th century (which is why it’s also known as Lovecraftian horror). It basically takes the old Judeo-Christian concept of good vs. evil, God versus the Devil, etc, which is essentially a closed and somewhat understandable system, and throws it wide open to a universe where there are multiple forces, none of which are easy to grasp or empathize with, let alone categorize into good vs. evil.

But how do you write it? Well, it’s more than including big, powerful beings that drive people mad (though that is often a feature). They’re more a vehicle for the broader theme: a sense of helplessness, that the universe is big and dark and full of awful things, that humanity is inconsequential and our dealings with the big players never lead to anything good. That, and a sense of untapped mystery can’t hurt. Think the first two Alien films or a dark version of 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s aliens, and you might get the idea.

If you want a better grasp of cosmic horror, I’d suggest looking at some of Lovecraft’s stories.** I recommend The Temple, The Call of Cthulhu, and The Dunwich Horror. I also recommend checking out other writers who use cosmic horror, including Stephen King, Guillermo del Toro, and so many more. Heck, I’ve got a few stories that have some cosmic horror in them. If they ever get published, I’ll let you know.

Cosmic horror can be hard to wrap your mind around sometimes, but once you do, it can open you to all sorts of terrible worlds. And if you can stand what you find, perhaps you will delve deeper. Just be careful when you do. You might not be the same when you come up, after all.

Do you like cosmic horror? What cosmic horror works would you recommend to the unitiated?

*Assuming humanity lives that long, what with global warming and a rising population. You know it’s true!

**If you can stomach his racism. Yeah, I love his work and contribution to horror, but I hate what he believed. If he were around today, I’d either punch him, ignore him for being an asshole, or recommend he take some anti-anxiety medication, get some therapy and maybe some exposure to other communities.

You ever find yourself reading a story, particularly a horror story, and particularly one of the shorter variety, and it gets really tense? And then something terrifying is revealed? And then–that’s it. The story just ends there. And you’re like…what? What happens next?!

Yeah, this happens quite a bit in fiction, though I notice it more in horror stories than anywhere else. A famous example is Stephen King’s “Boogeyman.” The story follows a man who tells a therapist about how his three children were all killed by the titular entity. The therapist convinces the protagonist to come by for further sessions, but the moment the protagonist turns around, it’s revealed that the therapist is actually the therapist wearing a mask. And that’s how the story ends. No fight between them, no death. It just ends on that revelation.

Why? Why do authors do that? A story should have a beginning, middle, and end. Why does the end seem so abrupt? It can be really frustrating sometimes!

Well, I’ve done this myself a couple of times with my own stories, so I have a few ideas on that. One is to get the reaction I spelled out above. The “Oh my God, what happened next? Why is it stopping so soon?” reaction. Why? Because you’re more likely to remember the story with that reaction. You’ll keep thinking about it. Maybe you’ll even vent your frustrations to other readers, which may encourage them to continue reading. Or maybe you’ll continue the story from there in a fan fiction, one you may share with friends and blog followers. Or maybe you’ll finish the story in a blockbuster movie someday that pulls in millions of dollars at the box office (unlikely, but one can dream). The point is, the story ends that way because the author wants you to remember the story.

Another reason is that the author feels, for whatever reason, that’s a good place to finish the story. As my old high school English teacher Mr. Guinan would say, “A story is never perfect; it’s just done. You can’t do anything more to it to improve it, it’s just done.” In this case, the plot can’t be furthered or worked on anymore. To do anymore would be a disservice to the story and bring down quality. It’s just done, and that’s why the author finished the story at that crucial moment without giving the resolution a reader might be looking for.

And finally, the story might end there because the author themselves can’t imagine what comes next. They try, but for some reason, they can’t see beyond that critical moment: the reveal of the monster, the corpse under the stairs, the woman being pushed into moving traffic (man, I’m disturbed). It’s most likely the rarest reason, because authors generally have an idea of how a story will end when it’s published, but I’m sure it happens.

In any case, whenever an author does this, they don’t do it with any malicious intent. Authors often treat their stories like their babies, and want them to be the best they can be. So when you come across a story and it seems to end abruptly, don’t take it personally. Even if it frustrates you, just know that this is the author’s way of making sure their story is the best that it can be. Because if they’re not making sure their story is the best it can be, are they really doing their job?

At least blog posts don’t end that way. Imagine how frustrating it would be if you were reading a blog post, and it was getting to this important point, and then it just

As it gets colder and the nights grow longer, you can count on two things: my dark powers get stronger, and Anne Rice releases a new novel. This year it’s Blood Communion, the latest chapter in the new additions to her Vampire Chronicles that started with Prince Lestat in 2014. I was first at my library to get a copy, and I couldn’t wait to dive in. And despite a busy October (three words: work is insane!), I’ve been steadily making my way through the book. And this evening, I managed to finish the story. As is my self-imposed duty, I will review it. Even if it does mean staying up later than I meant to.

What can I say? I’m a bear for work. At least the kind I do for fun.

Blood Communion follows Lestat as his Court is finally beginning to look like an actual royal court. However, at times he finds his own desires and morals standing opposed to what those in his council desire or believe. As the Brat Prince tries to reconcile what he believes with what he must do as Prince of the Vampires, new threats to the Court arise. Old and new enemies resurface, threatening all he loves. And if he wants any of it to survive, Lestat will have to make some very hard decisions. What he decides to do will determine not just what will happen to the Court, but to vampires everywhere.

I feel like this novel, more than many of the others in the Chronicles, would make a great arc for a future season of the upcoming Vampire Chronicles TV series.* The story feels oddly suited to an arc for a show based off these books and characters.

But as a novel, I liked it. Written with Rice’s usual focus on beauty, sensuality, spirituality, and emotion and with that detail to language that makes her style so unique, it’s not hard to get drawn in. And as the central conflict of the story becomes apparent, you really get caught up in Lestat’s battle not only for his friends and family, but for the very soul of the vampire community. At the same time, seeing Lestat trying to figure out what is the right path for him and his new Kingdom of the Night is compelling. It’s a conflict we haven’t seen this famous vampire have to go through yet (and he’s met the Devil), and I’m glad that Rice decided to explore this new facet of Lestat and the issues that arise from what he’s trying to do.

My one criticism is that I wish that some of the new characters introduced could’ve been given bigger roles and perhaps allowed to surprise us more. I know that there was only so much room and there had to be focus on the main conflict, but I felt that these new characters could’ve been a lot more interesting if they’d maybe shown up with different purposes and goals in mind.

All in all though, this was a satisfying addition to the Vampire Chronicles and I’m sure that if the show gets far enough, it’ll make for a great season of television. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Blood Communion by Anne Rice a solid 4. Pick it up, and drink in the majesty of the beginning of a new era of the Children of the Blood. I’m looking forward to seeing the next book in the series has Lestat and the Court doing.

Though if the next book Ms. Rice produces involves werewolves, angels, or mummies, I’ll also be excited to read that. What can I say? I’m flexible.

*Yeah, in case you missed it, Hulu’s developing a TV series based off Anne Rice’s books and starting with a pilot penned by her son and fellow writer Christopher Rice. As you can imagine, I can’t wait to see it. And is it too much to hope that Tom Mison or Christopher Eccleston can get roles on the show?

I just published my latest post on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. And I’m sure I’m going to be stepping on a few toes by posting this one: Writing a Sex Scene. Yeah, I went and wrote this article. I can already feel gray hairs sprouting on the heads of people I know who either still think of me as a funny, if somewhat wild child, or who just didn’t think I could find a way to give them cause to worry.

But I felt it was necessary to write this post. As much as we try to ignore or laugh (or even disparage) at any mention of sex in our media, it’s become quite common to depict sex in our work. And that includes our literature. Surprisingly though, not a lot of time is devoted to actually showing people how to write those scenes. Not as much as could be, anyway. I’ve written a couple of scenes involving sex, so I thought it would be good to write an article with some tips on how to write those scenes. And surprisingly, this article is cleaner than you would expect.

If you’re at all curious, please take a moment to check out the article. And while you’re there, check out the other articles on the site. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is a great site devoted to helping authors of all genres, backgrounds and experiences to write, edit, publish and market their work effectively and without spending a fortune on it either. I’m not just a contributor, I’m also someone who has been helped immensely by the site, so definitely check it out if you have the chance.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got plenty to do today, so I’ll check in another time. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

You ever find yourself doing something casually, thinking it’d be a fun hobby or just a way to pass a couple of hours, and then it ends up becoming something much bigger than you could ever have imagined? That’s happened to me a number of times. Reading Harry Potter as a child and then reading Stephen King’s It as a tween led me to become a writer and a horror writer, respectively, when I’d only been looking for something new and fun to read. Likewise, reading books about the Holocaust while traveling through Israel during the summer before senior year of high school led me to want to study the Holocaust along with creative writing in college.

And just recently, a story I started writing in-between drafts of Rose back in spring has quite possibly become my next novel. And I have no fucking clue how that happened.

Let me explain. Back in late winter/early spring, right after I’d finished another draft of Rose, I started a story I’d been wanting to work on for a while, both to pass the time and to experiment with writing by the seat of my pants. I didn’t think it would be a very long story, maybe twenty-thousand or thirty-thousand at most (so a novelette or novella), so I thought it would be a good side project. I named this story River of Wrath, as it deals with a certain aspect of Dante’s Inferno, and I went at it.

The writing by the seat of my pants didn’t work out so well, and I only got about nine-thousand words or so in before I had to do another draft of Rose (still impressive, but I felt like I could do better). I got that draft of Rose done, and then sent it to the imprint that would become my publisher. I worked on other stories while I tried to figure out how best to edit River of Wrath. After I sent the latest draft of Rose back to Castrum and did a few other stories, I decided to write an outline for River, and then go off that.

Whoo-boy, did that work! Writing the story went a lot faster, especially after I went through the initial thirty pages or so and tried to clean them up a bit. I was enjoying the story, and I found it challenging in a fun way, which is usually a good sign.

And then I got past ten thousand words.

And then fifteen thousand.

And then twenty thousand.

Thirty thousand arrived before I knew it.

I reached thirty-five thousand around Sunday.

And last night, I reached forty-six thousand. Yeah, I wrote around eleven thousand words over three days. I’m not sure how I did that either. On the bright side, I think I can do it again and write stories a lot faster now.

But back to point. Defining novels by word count varies from person to person. Mine is usually around sixty thousand (for clarity, the first Harry Potter is seventy-seven thousand words, give or take a few), but many people and quite a few publishers consider forty-thousand words or higher a novel. As I said, this novel’s upwards of forty-six thousand, so some would definitely consider it a novel. And I have a feeling River’s going to be at least fifty-thousand or higher by the time I’m done.

Like I said, I did not intend for this story to get so long. I thought it would top out at twenty-thousand. At the outside, it might reach thirty-thousand, too long for a magazine but perhaps good for a future short story collection. I never thought it would get this long! But parts of the story I thought would be short as heck became entire pages, complete with dialogue and inner thoughts and a couple of crazy scenes for people have to fight for their lives! And I felt that if I was going to do this story justice, I’d just have to go with the flow and write till I finished it.

So yeah, I’ve got another novel in the works, one called River of Wrath, and one I didn’t even know I was writing until it got as long as it did. And if I’m lucky, I’ll finish it by Halloween (which, coincidentally, is also when this story takes place). And afterwards? I plan to hand it off to some beta readers and do some edits, of course. And hey, if Rose sells well and Castrum wants to continue working with me afterwards, maybe they’ll take on River of Wrath and publish that as well.

But I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them. First thing’s first, I’m going to finish River. And when I do, I’ll celebrate with a drink and let you all know about it (whether or not you want to know or not).

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to get ready for bed and think of more scary stories to write. Expect a review of the new Halloween movie at some point this weekend. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

One of the YouTube channels I follow is Tale Foundry, a channel that breaks down how different genres and mechanics of storytelling work and then uses the lessons gleaned to write original short stories. They present themselves as robots in a foundry that works with fiction rather than metal (hence the name Tale Foundry). Their latest series of videos has been around worldbuilding in fiction, and their latest video, which I’ve embedded below, really got me thinking.

Now, if you didn’t watch the video for whatever reason, let me just quickly talk about one of the methods of worldbuilding they discussed: found design, which to put very simply is when you modify an aspect of the world in order to accommodate or address an issue (or “emergent concern,” as they call it in the video) that’s come up in the course of telling the story. An example would be if while writing your novel about a war between werewolves and humans who hunt them, your beta reader says that the conflict has been done before and that something needs to be added to make the story more interesting (other than a forbidden romance). The something required to spice up the story is the issue or emergent concern, and the integration of whatever you decide to add to the story (a threat to both armies, an original twist to lycanthropy, etc) is the act of found design worldbuilding.

Yeah, it’s a lot to absorb, but whoever said fiction writing was simple?

Anyway, this last method got me thinking, because that’s the method a lot of horror writers use while writing their own stories. As we all know, horror stories are more often than not set in our world, but with modifications to allow for the fantastical things that show up in it. Modifications to allow for something new to be added to the story and its world…sound familiar?

I call this the “build upon” worldbuilding method (if there’s an official name in academic circles, someone please let me know). You take an already-established world, one that many people would already be very familiar with, and add your own twists or details to it so you can tell the story you wish to tell. This is a method used by fanfic writers, anyone dealing with Arthurian lore, and of course, horror writers.

A good example of how this method works is with my own short story, “Car Chasers” (being released in late 2018/early 2019 in The Binge-Watching Cure II anthology from Claren Books). This story is set in a world similar to ours, except ghosts are capable of participating in illegal street races in this story. When I wanted to write that story, I had to not just modify the world so that it was capable of having ghosts (though if you ask me, our world has always had ghosts in it), but I had to add rules to these ghosts, how they interacted with the races/racers and under what conditions they participated in these races. Will all this be evident when the story is finally released? You’ll have to read it to find out, but whether or not it is evident, all that work in designing this world was necessary for it to be written, let alone accepted anywhere for publication.

So as you can see, it’s a handy method to build a world for your story. And if you’re into creating a shared universe across your stories, like Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, or I do, it’s pretty helpful in making that possible. All you need to do is make a slight tweak and you can find ways to connect your various stories together into a fantastic and varied world.

Of course, this isn’t the only method for building a world in horror. But this is the one that I use the most in my stories, and which I’m sure plenty of other horror authors use when they make their stories and their worlds. And it’s not hard to see why: it’s a wonderfully flexible tool for any storyteller, and helps in the act of storytelling every day.

Thanks to Tale Foundry for giving me the idea to write this post, and as always, I’m looking forward to your next video. And I encourage you folks to check out their stuff. From Lovecraft and Junji Ito to Celtic mythology and satire, you’ll find plenty of videos exploring the various aspects of storytelling and how they can be applied.

That’s all for now. I’m off to work a little bit on that novella again. In the meantime,¬†what are your thoughts on worldbuilding in your genre? Any methods that you find helpful?¬†Let’s discuss.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!