Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

I did say I would announce this when we got a bit closer to November. And my intuition, which is right about eighty percent of the time when it comes to this sort of thing, says now is the time to make the announcement.

As many of you know, I’ve been planning to take part in National Novel Writing Month for the first time since college, or about seven years. For those of you who are unaware, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a yearly challenge where authors try to write a novel of fifty-thousand words or more, just under seventeen-hundred words a day. This challenge is usually held in November, though sometimes authors will attempt to do it in another month when it’s more convenient for them (in which case, it’s known as Camp NaNoWriMo). I’ve been wanting to take a crack at it again for years, but college got busy, and things never quite added up in the years 2015-2018 for me to do it.

But since last November, just a few days after finishing a novel called River of Wrath at three in the morning on October 30th, I’ve been considering it. I even picked a novel out to write about. Since around early summer, I’ve been doing light research for this story. And in a little over a month, I’l be taking a bit of time off from work so I can devote as much time as possible to writing (and maybe de-stressing a bit while I’m at home). So without further ado, let me announce my next novel, a story I like to call Toyland.

Don’t let the name fool you, Toyland isn’t whimsical or cute at all. It’s a Gothic horror novel following students at a boarding school in southern Ohio. They start noticing some weird going-ons during their fall semester. A girl with dark hair, as well as strange creatures, are seen around the school. Several odd injuries, some close to fatal, fall upon students and even faculty. There even seems to be a world within the school, one in which the laws of reality have no say whatsoever. All of it seems to trace back to a children’s book discovered in the school’s library. A children’s book called Toyland.

How’s that for a setup? Granted, there’s a good chance it’ll veer away from Gothic fiction and straight into weird territory (trust me, I outlined the whole thing back at the beginning of the summer and have done subsequent drafts since). But I tend to enjoy writing stories that stray into weird territory, so it works for me.

Anyway, I’ve just about finished up the research for the book. I’ve even watched the 1961 Disney film Babes in Toyland just so I could make a comparison between that film and the kid’s book in the story.* All that’s left is to write it. And while I doubt I’ll get anywhere near the fifty-thousand word mark (I’m many things, but not a miracle worker), I do think when the first draft done, it’ll at least be a decent first draft. Maybe something worth publishing one day.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. There’s a bed calling me in the next room, and I so desperately want to sink into it for a few hours. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not? Whatever you’re doing, what sort of story are you writing?

*By the way, that was my first time watching that film, and I didn’t like it at all. Yeah, the setting looked spectacular and the villains and side characters were enjoyable, but the plot was really unfocused and the main characters were really boring. Hell, you can see the boredom on Annette Funicello’s face as she plays the female lead! She’s like “Oh my God, someone get me out of here so I can go make beach party movies. Anything would be better than this shiny lack-of-substance.”

Also, one or two of the songs feel kind of sexist nearly fifty years after the movie’s release. Especially the one where Annette complains about being unable to do her finances. Yeah, there’s a song like that. It’s kind of cringey.

And no, I won’t watch any of the other movie or television adaptations of the Babes in Toyland operetta. I won’t even watch the operetta! I suffered enough watching the most famous adaptation, thank you very much!

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Around November, stores across the world start putting out tinsel and cute little bulbs and emphasize snow and sleighs and candy canes.* At the same time, Christmas music is played from most loudspeakers and many radio stations, one of those songs being “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams (yeah, I didn’t know who sang that until today, either). And many people would agree. The two months leading up to Christmas, especially December, is the most wonderful time of the year.

However, there is a segment of the population who disagrees with that sentiment. Among that segment are people, and whatever I am, who say Halloween is the most wonderful time of the year. And since I don’t have a singing voice to advocate our views, I’ll do what I do best and write out why the Halloween season, starting anywhere from late August to early September and ending when October becomes November, should be considered the most wonderful time of the year.**

1. Halloween isn’t as cold. Okay, that’s probably not true south of the equator, but at least October isn’t as freezing in most places as it is in November. In fact, in Central Ohio, it can range from the 40’s to the 60’s (we have weird-ass weather). Whereas in December, it’s usually between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And that’s in a good year.

2. A stalker isn’t part of the central theme of Halloween. No, I’m not talking about Michael Myers. I’m talking about Santa Claus. I mean, think about it. You have an old guy in a red tracksuit watching you 24/7, but especially right before Christmas, and is judging your behavior. If you “behave,” you get gifts, but if you don’t, you get fossil fuels. Also, he can break into anyone’s home and we have no idea how well his workforce is treated. If this was any other person, they would be hit with investigations and possible criminal charges.

At least with Halloween, a little naughtiness is okay. It’s even encouraged. “Trick or treat,” after all.

3. There’s no need to be “perfect,” “well off,” or “good.” For a lot of people, Christmas is a time to show just how perfect your family is, or how pretty you can make your house look, or how deserving of gifts you are. A lot of people spend more money than they should just to show people they can have the “perfect” Christmas, or suck up their dislike of a disagreeable family member so as not to “ruin” Christmas, or give more to charity because “tis the season.” Shouldn’t the season to help the needy be all year? Not just when gifts are on the horizon?

Though if you are giving to charity during the Christmas season, good on you. Thanks for helping out the less fortunate.

At least with Halloween, you don’t have to go all out. A simple bedsheet with eye holes is a wonderful costume. A bag of penny candy is just fine. And if you gather donations to UNICEF, it’s not because “tis the season,” but just a nice thing to do.

Speaking of costumes…

4. Be whoever you want to be. Halloween is about changing who you are into who you want to be for a day. A princess, a vampire, a soldier, a superhero, it’s all up to you and what costume you buy or create. Or don’t. That’s valid as well. There’s no pressure, just as long as you’re having fun. Want to be a little macabre? Go right ahead. Want to just emphasize the pagan roots of the holiday? Perfectly fine. Just want to have a wild costume party to celebrate fun and monsters and changing your identity for one day? Go get ’em, cowboy! It’s your holiday, and as long as nobody’s getting hurt, you’re answerable to no one.

Again, during Christmas, a lot of people feel like they need to project a certain image of “perfection” or “being good.” Otherwise, your or others might believe you’ve done something wrong, or the season is ruined. I think of the mother from the movie Krampus a lot with this point. She’s dead-set on everything being “perfect” to the point she invites relatives over whom she and her own family don’t really like and comes up with all these complicated foods that nobody really asked for, just to maintain this image of a “perfect” Christmas in her mind.

Has that ever happened with Halloween? As long as you have fun, that’s all that matters.

Jack Skellington had one thing right: Santa Claus is scarier than at first glance.

5. So many reasons to get scared! Of course, for those like me, this is one of the biggest reasons. Horror movies, horror novels, haunted houses, music, costumes, parties and games. At Halloween, there’s so many reasons to get scared and have fun with it. The number of scary things to do at this time of year is endless. Whereas at Christmas, beyond either Black Christmas film, Gremlins and Krampus, there aren’t that many horror-related things associated with the holiday. Maybe a Christmas episode for a horror show, but beyond that, it’ not a holiday to indulge in anything scarier than fossil fuels from everyone’s tracksuit-wearing stalker. And to me, that’s a damn shame.

 

Now, this is just a small fraction of reasons why I prefer the Halloween season to the Christmas season. There’s probably a part two or three that could be written. But tell me, which season do you prefer? Why? Are there are any reasons I missed? Let’s discuss.

Just keep it civil in the comments, folks. Or I will delete your comment and then write you into a story.

*I think. I have no idea what Christmas looks like below the equator beyond the fact that it’s summer down there in December.

**That being said, I’m not trying to put down anyone who thinks Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. I’m not trying to wage war on Christmas or anything like that. I’m just representing an opposing opinion. That’s not the sign of moral decay or an anti-American or anti-Christian persecution. Having a spirited but civil disagreement where both parties respect each other’s views is the sign of a healthy and thriving society. If you feel Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, that’s okay with me. Just let me continue feeling that the Halloween season is the most wonderful time of the year in the meantime.

A lot of people have commented to me that they can’t believe we’re already in September. They just can’t wrap their heads around the idea that we only have a third of 2019 left. And honestly, I can sympathize. This year has gone by rather fast. Though in my case, that might be because so much has happened in the past eight months. Including back in June, the publication of Rose and all that has ensued since then.

Yeah, Rose has been out three months. And what a three months it’s been!

But I’ll get into all that in a bit. For those who don’t know, Rose is a novel I wrote in college, and is the first book I published with a publisher. The novel is a Kafkaesque horror story revolving around a young woman who becomes a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). Yeah, I wrote a novel around that weird concept, got it published, and as of today, it has twenty-two reviews, the majority of which are four and five stars, across Amazon’s English-speaking websites, as well as some positive reviews from folks like Angela Yuriko Smith, editor of Space & Time Magazine, and Dead Head Reviews.

Honestly, I’ve been very happy with the responses I’ve gotten from the book. For one thing, not everyone who’s reading it and leaving reviews is a relative of mine or being blackmailed, which is always a nice change of pace. In fact, quite a few readers are people I’ve never met before. They heard about the book through my many different marketing strategies (including one sponsored YouTube video), picked it up, and have enjoyed it. Or been freaked out by it. That’s also been a reaction. Someone recently notified me through Facebook that she’s been having weird dreams whenever she’s read Rose before bed. To which I say, “Mission accomplished.”

With any luck, this will all lead to more people reading and maybe leaving feedback on the book, which might make things easier for the next time I publish something.

In the meantime though, the fun doesn’t stop! I mentioned in a previous post that an audio book of Rose was in the works. Today, my publisher sent me the first fifteen minutes of the audio book. Oh God, the shivers that went up my spine! I listened to it twice, and couldn’t move for either listen. I cannot wait for the full book to be available. Once it is, I plan to advertise from here to Timbuktu, and make sure as many people who want to check out the audio book can.

For now though, I’m leaving below the links for Rose below. If you’re interested, check it out, read the reviews, and maybe pick up a copy. And if you do read it, leave me a review with your thoughts. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it helps me out in the long run. And if you’re reading Rose right now, I hope you’re enjoying it! Can’t wait to hear what you think.

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

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

Once again, I am releasing my review of the first episode of AHS a day late because that show is on after ten, and I try to be in bed or getting ready for bed by that time because I get up early for work. My apologies if you were waiting with baited breath for my review or you think I’m too late to give my opinion. One day, God willing, I’ll be able to write full-time, and then I can stay up late and give my opinions on this show right after the episode airs.

AHS: 1984 takes place in California in–you guessed it–the summer of 1984. Several good-looking twenty-somethings, including the shy and sweet Brooke, played by Emma Roberts, take on jobs at a small summer camp to avoid the 1984 Summer Olympics. However, they don’t realize until they get there that the camp was the site of a horrific massacre by Mr. Jingles, a Vietnam vet who went mad and killed nine campers and counselors. Oh, and the one survivor is now the camp director. And the camp just happens to be opening the day after Mr. Jingles escapes from the hospital he’s been staying at since his trial.

So if it’s not obvious, American Horror Story is getting on the 80’s nostalgia bandwagon this season. But unlike everyone else taking up this trend, AHS is doing it not just by paying homage to the 1980s–particularly to slasher films like the Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp franchises, as well as the Halloween films–but satirizing it in a loving way that only AHS can deliver. One of the very first scenes takes place in a sexy aerobics class, which is then followed by discussion of the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, and then…well, I won’t spoil it. Let’s just say an equal mix of camp and horror, though without being as annoying as it was in Coven.

I will say though, it looks like this season is set up to be a camp slasher film told over ten episodes, during which the show will both follow and upset the normal tropes of this sort of film (looking at you, gas station attendant warning of doom trope). And so far, it’s good. The humor and horror worked well together, and you love all the 80’s music and callbacks to the culture of that decade. It’s like the show’s filmmakers are saying, “Yeah, we know 80’s is saturating everything, so we’re going to shove it in your face and have fun with it too.”

The acting isn’t too bad, either. I completely forgot Cody Fern was Michael Langdon, aka the Antichrist, last season, and totally believed he was Xavier, an aerobics teacher/aspiring actor. But really, the true stars are the female leads. Emma Roberts as Brooke is a nice change of pace from her previous roles in the series, usually bitchy characters or half-repentant con artists, and she embodies the quiet girl most likely to survive very well. Still, I’m betting there’s hidden depths to this character, possibly even bloody ones, and I look forward to seeing them. Billie Lourd and Leslie Grossman as Montana and Margaret, respectively, are also great. Lourd’s Montana is supposed to represent the party girl trope, while Grossman’s Margaret is a holier-than-thou uber-Christian type, but I can already tell, there’s more to these characters than meets the eye. Montana’s already proven that in the first half of the episode.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give the season premiere of AHS: 1984 a 4.5. There’s nothing that’s uber-scary or unsettling yet, but the premise and set up is strong and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next. And I think you will too.

And at the very least, you’ll probably like this more than the Friday the 13th remake. Because as we all know, that was a crock of shit film out of Michael Bay’s ass and accented with the desperation of men who need to write boobs into a film in order to see them IRL. That’s right, I found another opportunity to make fun of that piece of crap film, and I won’t stop until we get a new Friday the 13th film that does the franchise justice! You’re welcome, Internet!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. As per usual, you can expect me to review the season as a whole after the final episode airs. Until then, and until my next post, I would like to wish you a good night and pleasant nightmares.

Normally I don’t voice my opinions or make calls to actions on this blog, but I feel like I have to say something on this one. Earlier this week, my stepmother, who works for Columbus’s library system, asked if I had any opinion on a petition the library was gathering signatures for to send to Macmillan Publishers. I did a little research, and what I found shocked me.

Starting this November, Macmillan Publishers, one of the biggest and oldest publishing firms in the world, will not allow libraries to purchase more than one copy of an ebook they publish for the first eight weeks after the book is published. For those unaware, many libraries these days lend e-books to readers who prefer reading on tablets to paperbacks using technology called e-lending, during which patrons have access to the ebook file for a short access period, after which they’re unable to access it without renewing or checking it out again. One ebook file equals one book to check out, so libraries buy multiple copies, especially for more popular books and writers. If this change goes through, libraries will only have one copy of an ebook for readers for the two months after release.

Now lest I be accused of being biased, Macmillan cites e-lending’s effects on book sales as their reason for why they’re doing it. According to a memo released by John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan:

It seems that given a choice between a purchase of an ebook for $12.99 or a frictionless lend for free, the American ebook reader is starting to lean heavily toward free.

First off, thirteen bucks for an ebook? Of course people are going to go for the cheaper option! The majority of people aren’t rich, you know. We hae rent and car bills to pay.

Second, let’s take a look at print books, which are still more popular than ebooks. Libraries order several physical copies of books by famous authors* months before they’re released. Upwards of hundreds of people reserve copies of those books and wait months to read them without having to pay anything. However, this doesn’t seem to affect publisher sales significantly enough to put similar measures in place. And if a publisher dared to, I imagine they’d face riots. I mean, what if libraries could only order one copy of the latest JK Rowling or Stephen King book, and were perfectly honest about why? I’d imagine the offending publishers would be visited by mobs of angry wizards and blood-soaked prom queens.

And finally, the word-of-mouth effect should have a counter-effect to anything e-lending can do to book sales. The more people who are reading a book, the more people are likely to talk about it. The more people who talk about a book, the more people who will want to read it. The more people will want to read, the more people who will read, which will repeat the cycle. Allowing access to more ebooks at libraries only helps this effect, so Macmillan is kind of cutting off their own digits with this move.

This and other reasons is why the American Library Association has launched a petition asking Macmillan to reverse their decision, a petition which I support. As of writing this, the petition has a little over twenty-thousand signatures, but it’s going to need a lot more to change CEO John Sargent’s mind. So I wrote this article to help change a few minds.

If you would like to sign the petition, please click here, and make sure to spread the word. The more people who are aware of this issue, the more people who will be persuaded to help. And honestly, for the sake of the many people who like to read, including our work on occasion, we owe it to them.

You can also read this article from Slate.com if you would like to further research this issue yourself.

Thanks for reading, Followers of Fear. I hope you decide to support the cause, and until next time, pleasant nightmares.

*AKA not Rose and/or anything else by me, though if you want to help me change that, I’d appreciate that.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been reading The Best Horror of the Year, Volume VIII, an anthology of horror short stories and novelettes compiled by one of horror’s premier editors, Ellen Datlow (I’ll be taking a break from it to read The Institute by Stephen King, though). As you’d expect from any anthology, some you like, some you don’t, and some you just don’t get. But of those that I like, I’ve been noticing a trend that I’m not sure I’ve noticed before.

These stories are not outright terrifying in a way that’ll leave you screaming or having nightmares for a week or so. But they do make you feel uneasy. Like a voice in the back of your mind is whispering, “Imagine if this scenario were real,” or “Imagine if this happened to you.” And then you shiver at the thought of what is occurring in the story occurring in real life. In your life.

That feeling upsets the zen in your soul, and can put you off your day. It can make you afraid to think of certain places or names because you associate them with something evil and horrible. It leaves you afraid to be in dark places, or alone, or with people, or even in well-lit areas. Because who knows what’s hidden in your blind spot? Who knows what evil is bubbling in your coworker’s heart?

What you are feeling is disquiet. And that feeling drives a lot of shorter horror stories. Understandable: short stories and novelettes don’t have the word-counts to build epic worlds or have intricate plots involving five or six mind-blowing revelations. They’re short for a reason, and meant to be digestible as a way to save time and money. Or to quote Stephen King, “A short story is like a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger.”

I actually know what that’s like (don’t ask), and I’m not really surprised that King does, either. So I kind of get it: what the story does to you should be unexpected, but leave a powerful impression. The kind of impression where you look back years later and you’re like, “Wait, did that actually happen?” And in short stories, with horror, you do it with fear. You do it with disquiet.

So how does one create disquiet in their story? Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can answer that. It’s like how do you put horror in a story? You already know a monster is necessary, but what more is there? Not an easy question to answer. In fact, I’ve been writing horror since I was a tween, or trying to, and I’m still trying to figure it out. It doesn’t help that I’m better at novels and short stories are still something I’m figuring out how to do well (ironic, considering how many short story ideas I have lying around).

junji Ito will shake you every time.

In the end, all I can recommend is the old writer adage: read a lot and write a lot. In this case, read a ton of shorter works by a variety of different horror authors. Note how they make the story memorable, punchy, disturbing. Is it a specific twist? Is it in the scenario they set up? How do they set it up? Is it in a particular sentence or a paragraph? An element they included? The ending? Then try writing your own works and incorporating what you learned.

It seems obvious, but I guess we reiterate it for a reason.

Anyway, if you’re looking for recommendations, any of the volumes in the Best Horror of the Year series should work, as well as collections by most horror writers. I also recommend story collections from manga artist Junji Ito, if you want a more visual medium. And while it’s not literary, The Twilight Zone is usually pretty good at telling disquieting stories (or so I’ve heard. I really have to get on watching that show).

But tell me, how do you make your short stories memorable and disquieting? What are your thoughts on the subject? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Happy Friday the 13th, and if you see  guy wearing an old-fashioned goalie mask, RUN THE OTHER FUCKING WAY!!!

Some of you may remember that back in June, I attended a reading with fellow members of the Ohio chapter of the Horror Writers Association. It was a lot of fun, we had a few laughs, probably a few nightmares, plenty of guests, and maybe even a new fan or two. It probably helped that we were at a bar too, and there were plenty of drinks.

And now Ohio HWA is getting together again not once, but twice for the month of October! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year (and don’t worry, I will write a blog post before too long about why the Halloween season is the true most wonderful time of the year). And in the spirit of this time of year, I thought it might be a good idea to spread the word in case any of you are able to make it to either event. So without further ado, let’s get into it!

The first event is Evil at the Overlook Lodge in Cincinnati. This is being held at the Overlook Lodge, a bar modeled after the bar in the Overlook Hotel from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Now, as much as I dislike that movie (His Royal Scariness and I both agree on that), I have to admit, that sounds awesome. Not to mention, there will likely be a number of Shining-inspired drinks to be had.

The second event will be taking a bit closer to home: A Night of Horror with the Horror Writers Association, hosted by the Bexley Public Library (yes, the same location we did that book fair last month). Obviously this won’t have alcohol, but it will be held at a beautiful location in the suburb of Bexley, Ohio. I’ve been working closely with the Bexley Library’s staff to get this off the ground, and I can’t tell who’s more enthusiastic, them or us! Anyway, the artwork above is what they created, and it’s absolutely stunning. I’m so happy we have such great hosts to partner with.

Anyway, I hope you’re able to check at least one of the events out. And if not, I’ll hope you’ll be there to cheer us on in spirit. We have lots of talented writers within our ranks, and we’re always ready to terrify you with our tales.

That’s all for now. I’m going to get dinner on the table and then do some editing (though I might try to put out a blog post tomorrow if I’m in the mood). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!