Posts Tagged ‘Carrie’

IT’S OCTOBER!!!!! The best month of the year, when things start getting cooler, the nights grow long and you get a little more leeway in how spooky you can be! Or in my case, reveal a bit more of my non-human side. And on this month, my powers of darkness grow by a hundredfold! You can bet I will be raining terror upon certain heads this month. Just you wait and see!

In the meantime, I thought I’d talk to you about something that happened to me yesterday. I was at my mother’s house for a party, and as often happens when family and family friends get together, everybody wants to know what the latest news is with Rose and the anthologies I have stories being published in. Rose, for those of you who don’t know, is a novel I wrote in college as my thesis, and which is being published by Castrum Press, a publishing company based out of Belfast, North Ireland. The story follows a young woman who finds herself being turned into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems!).

I told them that I’d heard from Castrum on Saturday, and that they were hopefully going to get back to me on the latest draft of Rose some time this month. I expressed hope that when I heard back from them, they’d say I just needed to do some touch-ups here and there, and then we can set a publication date. My mom, who had been one of the most ecstatic and amazed people when I’d told her about Rose back in March (I still remember how she said “Oh my God” two or three times as clear as a whistle), remarked, “Wow, I had no idea the publishing process could take so long.”

And that’s the thing: the publishing process can take a long time. For any book. Not many people realize that, even among writers (including me at one point), but it’s the truth. Nowadays, technology and the Internet have helped speed some things along, but it’s always taken a long time for books to get out. Heck, even Stephen King had to wait a while for his books to come out early in his career. Yeah, now he can put one or two out every year, but that’s after nearly forty years of proven success. When he was still basically an unknown, Carrie took over a year before it got on bookshelves. And while I hope it doesn’t take that long with me, it may be a while longer before anyone gets to read Rose.

I’m not saying this to trash any publishing houses or complain about the publishing process. I’m just stating a fact. And if you think about it, this pace makes sense. After all, most publishing houses involve a few people handling projects from multiple authors. Any one project takes a lot of time out of the day, and while it would be nice if there was a single editor for each and every author contracted to a publishing house, I don’t even think even big publishing houses have a staff like that. So obviously each publisher has to juggle their projects, devoting time here and there to each one, deciding the order based on all sorts of factors. It’s an involved process.

But it’s also a process I’m grateful for, because it’s not just the number of books being published, but what’s being done to get them ready for being published. Each one is being polished and cleaned up, formatted and given the best cover art, strategized over and discussed ad nauseum. All to make sure that when the book finally does come out, it’s not just a great story, but one that’s free of typos and with words not falling off the page or some other unforgivable goof. I’m glad the process is slow, because I’d hate it if the process went by super-fast and when Rose did come out, it was full of errors and had terrible art. And I’m sure you would too.

So while it may take some more time before Rose comes out, I know the book is in good hands and I’m looking forward to the state it’ll be when it’s ready to be released. And I know that you’ll love it too.

In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of stuff to write and blog about (I might even have a new blog post tomorrow, depending on a couple of factors). And I can’t wait to share them with you. So until then, you all have a goodnight and pleasant nightmares, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to celebrate the month. After all, it is October. Plenty of material to review, plenty of stories to write, plenty of people to terrify senseless. I can’t wait.

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If it’s not obvious by now, I’m a big Stephen King fan (cue everyone who knows me saying in a torrent of sarcasm, “Gee, really? We had no effing idea!”). So when I heard some time last year that Hulu, JJ Abrams and His Royal Scariness Himself were collaborating to create a TV series set in his famous fictional town Castle Rock, you know I was interested. Fast forward to July 25th, and the first three episodes of Castle Rock premiered on Hulu. I didn’t write a review for them (I think that I was busy with a hundred other things that week), but I thought that the series had a strong start, and I was looking forward to seeing where the story went.

At the time I’m writing this, I’ve just finished Season One. How did it hold up?

First, the story. Taking place in the Stephen King multiverse, particularly in one of his frequent settings, Castle Rock, Maine, Castle Rock‘s first season follows Henry Deaver (Andre Holland), a lawyer who returns to his childhood town after receiving a call from nearby Shawshank Penitentiary after a prisoner (Bill Skarsgaard of IT fame) was found in its deepest depths, in a cage, with no name or other identity, only asking for him. Deaver, who left town after disappearing and then being found, only to be accused of murdering his adoptive father, tries to help this mysterious young man. But as he delves into this man’s case, as well as his own disappearance, he finds some strange connections between the two. And as violence starts building in the town, the race to figure out both mysteries takes on a whole new importance.

Okay first off, the cast is the best thing about this show! Every character utterly inhabits their character and make them feel like real people, some of whom you can imagine hanging out with (others, stay the hell away from). I especially liked Melanie Lynskey’s Molly Strand, a realtor with psychic powers and a history with Henry Deaver, and Sissy Spacek (yes, the original Carrie came back for another Stephen King story) as Ruth Deaver, Henry Deaver’s dementia-addled but still feisty and witty adoptive mother. And Scott Glenn as Alan Pangborn (maybe the only character who actually comes from a King story in this show) is a very sympathetic character, though he does come off at first as almost unlikable. Still, Holland as Deaver is the one who carries the story. We see things mainly through his eyes, and see how he struggles with all the baggage he carries as he tries to sift through all the confusion between events past and present.

I also liked the plot and how the story was told. It’s clearly geared towards people who are familiar with King’s works but still makes it accessible to those who haven’t seen the series. The writers also took the approach of a slow burn, taking their time to set up these characters and draw us in with the mystery while every now and then pumping things up to keep it interesting. And the writers weren’t afraid to take risks: two episodes are told entirely from the POV of a single character, and one of these episodes, through the eyes of Sissy Spacek’s character, is probably the best episode of the season.

Love Sissy Spacek in this show.

And finally, this does feel like a Stephen King story made for a television format. It’s not based on any particular story he’s written, but incorporates all of his stories, especially the ones set in Castle Rock, to give us a drama and a place that’s both familiar and new. Plus, you’ve got all the tropes you love (or in some cases, hate) from King: psychics, small towns full of secrets, religious fanatics gone crazy, sheriffs (or in this case, retired sheriffs), and of course, a whole bunch of weirdness that makes you go, “Say what? That works, but still, what the hell?”

Was there anything I didn’t like about Castle Rock? Well, a few things: one is that there’s a little too much weird. King’s been known to include a lot of odd concepts and sci-fi ideas into his work to varying degrees, and Castle Rock has a lot of that. The problem with that is, too much weird can lead to a lot of exposition and slow sequences where not much happens. Consequently, it also bites into moments where we could be totally terrified. And in my opinion, there weren’t enough of those moments, which is sad. Stephen King or Stephen-King inspired, his work is truly at its best when it features a shape-shifting clown hungry for children, or a Nazi war criminal burning cats alive in his oven,* things that make it hard for us to sleep. And that was lacking here.

On top of that, I didn’t like the season finale as much as I thought I would. It had its moments and explained a lot, but the climax could’ve been more epic, and I have mixed feelings on the final scene, both in what it featured and how it was told.

Still, all in all, it’s a great start to a series, and I’m looking forward to whatever they cook up for the upcoming season two (maybe something involving my man Leland Gaunt?). On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give Castle Rock a 4.3. Take a visit to the Rock, and hope that while you’re there, you come out with all your fingers attached.

That’s all for tonight, my Followers of Fear. Expect a review tomorrow for the season premiere of American Horror Story: Apocalypse (I’d review it tonight, but it ends after I should be in bed!). Until then, pleasant nightmares.

*I’m reading Apt Pupil right now, and that part had me frozen in my seat!

It’s a question every creator wrestles with from time to time. Writers are no exception. We wonder if anything we write is worth reading by anyone other than our family and close friends (who, most likely, will tell you they loved it because that’s what family and close friends do). We wonder if we’re just wasting our time sitting at the computer or in front of our typewriters or in our notebooks, trying to tell stories that range from the mundane to the fantastical and mundane.

In short, we ask ourselves, “Do my ideas suck?”

This may surprise you (I am Mr. Smiles and Jokes and Weird References to Demons and Monsters, after all), but I ask myself this question a lot. I often wonder if I’ll write anything that more than a few people will read in my lifetime, let alone afterwards. It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot more lately as I’m in the midst of rewriting a lot of Rose. Although I tell myself that I came up with these changes myself, and that both I and my publisher think they’ll do a lot to help the story and make it a better read, in the back of my head I’ve got this little voice whispering dissent and telling me that what I’m writing won’t amount to much.

And you know what? Sometimes I’m tempted to believe that voice. I mean, thousands upon thousands of novels are published every year, but very few of them gain the attention we wish them to have. Quite a few even get critically panned. It often seems like the field is too big and too difficult to really make a difference in. So why should we try?

But then there are a couple of things I keep in my mind that can, if not shut up that voice, then at least turn the volume down on it. Both of them, not surprisingly, involve Stephen King. The first has to do with his debut novel, Carrie. Did you know when King first started writing Carrie, he actually threw the first few pages into the trash because he was convinced it was trash and would come to nothing. He only kept at it because his wife fished the pages out of the trash, read over them, and said they were good and that he should keep at it. The novel was later published and as we all know, became a huge hit, inspiring two excellent movies (though I prefer the 2013 version), a meh TV movie, and a musical that I wish would get a proper revival and a North American tour. All from a story that King was ready to throw in the trash.

The second story is another King work, Thinner, which he wrote under his Richard Bachman pen name. If you were to give the story an elevator pitch (see my article on elevator pitches for more on that subject) it would probably be something along the lines of “A man is cursed to become thinner and thinner.” And just from hearing that, you might laugh. That sounds like a comedy involving some prissy housewife who thinks if she doesn’t stay a certain weight, her husband will cheat on her and then she starts magically losing weight. It doesn’t sound like a scary novel.

Thinner by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King); silly sounding concept, great payoff.

But from what I hear (I haven’t read any of the Richard Bachman books yet, though I know I should), it’s a pretty creepy story, one that inspired a movie (quality of the movie is debatable). All from a very simple idea of what happens when weight loss goes really, really bad. It sounds stupid, but it turns into an effective horror story.

And I could come up with tons of examples of this (did you know HP Lovecraft thought The Call of Cthulhu was only so-so? And now it’s one of his most famous works). But they all boil down to one thing: our ideas don’t always suck. In fact, they may only suck in our minds. To others, they may be great, mind-blowing, or even influential. And sure, not all of our stories will turn out to be great, but the vast majority of them, with enough work and a little bit of luck, can become awesome.

And I’m reminded of that every time someone expresses interest in reading Rose. People hear what it’s about, and they want to know more, or for me to tell them as soon as the book is out. If these people really do end up reading Rose, liking it and even letting people know they like it, then who knows? I might be able to shut up that little voice once in my head, at least for a little while.

So if you’re worried that you’re only writing crap, don’t pay your little voice any attention. Just keep writing and polishing and seeing where your story goes. Who knows? You may end up putting out something really amazing, and you’ll be glad you stuck with it for so long.

Before I give you the news I hope you’re all eager to hear–the latest on my novel Rose, which is to be published by Castrum Press–I want to first share something I was told recently. Now, I’m not sure if this is true and I haven’t been able to find any corroborating evidence, but according to someone I talked to online, in the first draft of Carrie by Stephen King, Carrie actually grew horns and sent bolts of electricity from her eyes at some point in the story. This was later dropped during the revision process of the novel.

Okay first off, I kind of want to see that version of Carrie, not just in book form but in movie form as well (I still maintain that the 2013 film is the superior adaptation, and you know the horns and lightning bolts would’ve looked awesome in that film). Second, it shows that even King’s works, including one of his greatest, require extensive revisions. And that made me feel a whole lot better about the revisions I have to do for my own story.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Rose, it’s a novel I’ve been working on since my senior year of college, when I wrote it as my thesis project. It follows a young woman who finds herself turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems).

I’ve mentioned before that my publisher asked me to do nix the many flashback sequences in Rose, essentially throwing out one-third of the book, and another third that was dependent on that first third. Although I was understandably more than a little disappointed about that, and it even brought my mood down quite a bit at times, I decided to try and find a new direction for the story that didn’t rely so heavily on flashbacks. Somehow, after a lot of head-scratching and extensive use of a method of brainstorming I’ve been wanting to try for a while (I’ll write an article about it for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors soon enough), I managed to find a new direction and plot for Rose that I thought made for a good supernatural thriller.

I sent a new outline for the story to my publisher, and just today they got back to me. I was really worried that they might not like the new direction, but the tone of the email was really enthusiastic. They just asked me to keep in mind some things about chapter length and a few other things, and wished me luck.

I can’t tell you what reading that feedback did for my confidence. The closest I can get to is by saying that it felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.

And since I’m on vacation for the first third of June (not going anywhere, I’m just having a relaxing stay-cation at home), now is the perfect time for me to get back to work on Rose. I plan on getting through at least the first seven chapters of the novel, and then start on the new material for the novel. All that, along with more than a few blog posts I’ve been wanting/meaning to write for a while, and of course the normal stuff one does while on vacation (sleep, watch TV & movies, read, hang out with family and friends, run errands, have tea and scones with a succubus you’ve been seeing on another plane of reality, etc.), should keep me pleasantly occupied during my vacation.

So as you can see, Rose is still coming along. It may take some time, but I still think we can get the book out before it starts to turn chilly again (though in my state, that can happen even in summer). And I think when I get it done and on the shelves, it’ll surprise more than a few people. Especially those who’ve read earlier versions of the story.

That’s all until morning, my Followers of Fear (got another post I need to work on after I’ve gotten my much-needed sleep). Until then, pleasant nightmares. I’ll see you soon.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’ll happen after Rose comes out. Specifically, what sort of stories I’ll work on once I’m done with Rose.

I know that’s a crazy thing to think about at this point. I’m still doing revisions on Rose for the publisher, and likely they’ll have me do more revisions before we get to publication, and then there’s the publication, and then a whole ton of marketing and other work just to make sure the book is read and sold and reviewed and whatnot. Thinking about future projects should be the last thing on my mind.

But of course, being “logical” has never been one of my strong suits, and dreaming about the future has been what’s helped me get to this point anyway. So why not wax on about what might happen after Rose?

Well, there are a number of short stories I’ve been thinking about working on. I very much want to edit Hannah, the ghost story I wrote back in January, and I want to write a few stories that have been circulating in my head for a while. I also want to eventually get back to the novelette I was working on that was giving me so many challenges, and see if I can get a bit further in that, if not finish it up entirely. It may end up becoming one of those stories where I revisit it every now and then to see if time has given me a clearer vision of how to improve and/or finish it (I’ve got a few of those). And I’d like a few months to spend on all of those, just to see what I can come up with, and if any of it is publishable.

And of course, I’ve been thinking about what sort of novel I’d like to write next, when I’m ready to write a novel. Probably, that won’t be immediately: Rose has challenged me in ways I’ve never been challenged by a story, and I want some time to refresh my mind before I make a commitment to a project that I could end up working on for years and years. But I have some ideas on what sort of novel I’d like to write next, when I am ready to make that sort of commitment.

For one thing, it won’t be a sequel to Rose. I could write one, and I have ideas I could develop into a sequel for Rose, but I don’t want to return to the world of Rose just yet. Especially when I can’t guarantee I can make the story better or on par with the original so soon after finishing the original.

For another, I’m not yet ready to return to the world of Reborn City. Yeah, I know there are a couple of big fans of that trilogy who want the final book, Full Circle, already (I know a few of you are probably out there), but I’m just not ready to get back to that yet.

And finally, I want to do something that’s different. Think of it like houses: I don’t want to try selling Castrum on a house that’s basically the same one they bought, just on a different block and with a different coat of paint. I want to sell them a house that’s just as good as the first one, but an entirely different design, while still retaining the Rami Ungar architecture (is this metaphor getting too weird/complicated, or does it still work?).

All these books are different from one another. I want to do the same with my books as well.

I mean, look at Stephen King: he followed Carrie (a psychic girl who gets revenge on her psychotic religious mother and the bullies at her high school) with Salem’s Lot (vampires invade a small Maine town, and a writer and his allies have to stop them), and then went on to write The Shining (a family that includes a psychic four-year-old becomes the winter caretakers at an isolated hotel haunted by something dark and evil) before creating The Stand (a super-disease causes most of Earth’s population to die off, leaving the survivors to engage in an apocalyptic war between the forces of good and evil). None of those are carbon copies of the other, so I want to do something very distinct from Rose.

And I have a few novels I can choose from. I have more ideas than I know what to do with, so I have plenty of options, but there are a few stories I can think of that would make great projects. There’s one in particular I’d like to work on when the time comes, but it’ll depend on a number of factors, including if I have to pitch something to the publisher (I’m not sure if that’s something I have to do, but it’s something I’ve thought about).

Still, there’s plenty of time to think about all that. I just know that when the time does come to think about all that, I’ll have plenty of ideas to work with and consider. Hopefully whatever I choose, it’ll make for some good reading.

In the meantime, I’m off to work on Rose for a little bit. Here’s hoping I can make some good progress before I have to hit the hay tonight. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Before I Wake is a film that has been promising to come out since 2015. However the film’s distributor, Relativity Media, kept pushing it back and finally off the release schedule due to the company’s financial troubles and whatever decisions go on in Hollywood boardrooms. With only a promising trailer to go on, plenty of Americans were wondering if we’d ever see this film and if it would be any good if we did. However last year Netflix announced it had acquired the rights to the film, and this month they released it onto their streaming platform.

And as I’m sick today and didn’t feel like doing anything else, I decided to watch it and see if it would live up to my expectations (which was average at best).

*Sigh* I can see why it was taken off the release schedule by its cash-strapped distribution company.

Before I Wake is about Jessie Hobson (played by Kate Bosworth), who becomes a foster parent with her husband to young Cody Morgan (played by Jacob Tremblay) after their own son dies in a tragic accident. They soon learn that Cody’s dreams are able to manifest in the real world, and Jessie predictably starts using his powers so she can see her son again. However, Cody’s nightmares cause horrible things to happen, and Jessie must race to unravel Cody’s subconscious before it destroys everything around him.

And yes, I see the Nightmare on Elm Street influence, but let’s ignore that, shall we?

I’m not going to lie. This film was kind of disappointing. It does have its good points: Bosworth, Tremblay, and Thomas Jane as Jessie’s husband Mark have great chemistry. You really do buy Bosworth as a woman trying to fill the hole in her heart and sees Cody’s ability as a way to do that rather than Cody himself, and you also buy Mark as a man trying to be there for this kid and worried about his wife. And oh my God, is Jacob Tremblay some sort of prodigy? Because he is just amazing in this film. You really think he’s this earnest little boy who’s afraid of his powers.

And until we reach the last thirty minutes of the film, it’s decent.

But other than that, this film has some serious issues. The plot is kind of by-the-numbers despite the heartfelt emotions of the characters. The CGI monsters aren’t that terrifying after you get them into the light, and there’s more of a focus on this emotional connection than creating a scary atmosphere. And while I’m not opposed to focusing on a connection between characters, when you put more emphasis on that than on making a scary movie scary, you know you have a problem. Imagine if Carrie was less about a psychic girl using her powers to fix her life and then get revenge and more about two broken women trying to repair their relationship while psychic stuff happens around them and it’s still billed as a scary movie. You see my problem here.

And finally, that last half hour. That is my biggest problem of the film. Rather than trying to have a climax, it seems more like the film is concerned with wrapping up its story with exposition and trying to make us feel the warm fuzzies inside with a sappy ending. If perhaps they added an extra half-hour and tried to do some things different, maybe go in some darker directions, we could’ve had a better film. Instead we’re left feeling like the filmmakers got bored and just tried to finish up the film with an ending that sounded nice, rather than a good one.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Before I Wake a 2. Great emotional storytelling and a good premise, but the execution makes for a terrible horror movie. If you’re looking for something scary to watch on Netflix, I would highly recommend watching another film.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, I’m taking it easy while I continue to heal. Pleasant nightmares and have a good weekend.