Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

So yesterday I’m having a conversation with the receptionist at my doctor’s office while I wait for my appointment, and we get onto the subject of the stories I’m working on (because if you know me, after a while that WILL come up). I tell her about my WIP Rose, and what that’s about, as well as some of the themes in the story. When she hears that it deals with some pretty heavy themes like abuse, her response was, “Wow, I didn’t know horror could be so deep.”

And that’s a common response from non-fans, not just of horror but of speculative fiction in general. People who are on the outside of this genre tend to look in and see only a stereotypical surface: swords and wizards and weird humanoid species who make weird oaths with the names of oddly named gods for fantasy; funny costumes, silly effects, and incomprehensible in-universe technical jargon for sci-fi; and of course, people screaming and dying in gross ways for horror. And to be fair, a lot of these stereotypes do have examples in the genres that are just that, especially the slasher genre for horror. Whether they emerged as a result of the stereotypes or they were the influence that created the stereotypes, I’m not sure.

But, as any fan can attest to, any one of these genres can delve deep into very complex ideas and themes. And that includes horror, which is what I’ll be focusing on in this post (sorry sci-fi and fantasy. I love you, but you’re not my normal bailiwick). In fact, horror does this quite a bit, it’s just usually more subtext than overt. The reason behind this, obviously, is because horror’s main purpose is to scare, so having exploration of ideas take the forefront of the story over the actual scares and plot actually takes away from the latter, which causes the story as a whole to suffer. In novels, you can sometimes devote a few paragraphs or even a couple pages to that, but it still cannot be the main component of the story.

And because it’s often more subtext, the heavy bits are often overlooked by non-fans and even some fans, who are more likely to focus on how scary/creepy/unnerving the story was. This happens especially in movies and TV shows, which as visual mediums are very good at conveying the scare with their subtext.

A text full of great subtext.

However, even if it’s not obvious, the heavy themes and ideas are still present in the story if you look for them. A good example would be Dracula by Bram Stoker: on the surface, you have a Gothic vampire story. But go a little deeper, you see a commentary and criticism on Victorian ideas and fears. Dracula himself can be seen as a sort of twisted Jesus Christ, offering immortality through the drinking of his blood and the taking of the blood of others; the vampires themselves can be interpreted as corrupting sexuality turning good people, particularly women, into carnal monsters; and the vampires coming to England as a nod to English xenophobia, with Dracula and his kind, who speak and act strangely and must sleep in the soil of their native lands, representing the influx of foreigners to England during the later Victorian era and how they may not be suited to English society, according to some Victorians.

A story that’s more than just scares.

And this can be found throughout horror stories, particularly in novels where there is room to explore these heavy themes. A lot of times, you can see these themes embodied in some way in the supernatural forces that may threaten the character(s). Stephen King does this very well in many of his stories: while explicitly stated that the events of The Shining are supernatural in origin, on another level it’s a great story of a family breaking down due to stress, isolation, alcoholism, and old tensions arising, with the hotel simply being a stage for things to play out rather than a true supernatural entity. Likewise, It is a story about a supernatural force, but that same force is also a representation of childhood fears, what we fear in the dark as well as fear of growing up. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of this great novel.

You also see this in movies, with a great example being The Babadook. While the titular monster could be real, it could also be a form of shared delusion between a mother and her son, trying to work through their individual and collective issues. There are a number of articles that look at the film from a psychological perspective, and the arguments they make put the story in a whole new light from first viewing. The Babadook is a story laced with deeper meaning, if you just look beyond the surface.

So as we can see, horror is more than just people screaming and dying in gruesome ways. Like any story, it can have a deeper meaning, going into the psychology of characters, the beliefs of society, philosophies on life, death, love and so much more. You just have to pull back a veil and take a closer look, and you’ll see what’s always been there.



It’s been a while, but I’ve got a great interview for you guys. Today’s guest is all the way from the land down under. And no, it’s not Mad Max. This one’s way more interesting. No, she’s a fantasy writer originally from New Jersey who’s been writing since college, and making up stories well before then. Her current series is the critically acclaimed Shadow Stalker series, with three books out currently. She’s also a friend to other writers, helping them showcase and advertise their work on her websites. Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Renee Scattergood!

RU: Welcome Renee. First question: tell us how you got into writing, and what draws you to your current genre.

RS: That’s an interesting story. I’ve always loved making up and telling stories for as long as I can remember, but it never occurred to me to write them down. Probably because I was terrible in English and thought you had to be good in English to be a writer. It wasn’t until I was in college, and my English instructor told me I should consider getting some of my work published that I started considering writing as a viable career. Still, it took me several years to build up the courage to do it.

As far as my draw to fantasy: well, as a kid I loved fantasy because it was an escape from the real world. What kid isn’t drawn in by magic and the possibility of the existence of fantastical creatures and worlds? As a writer, I love being able to create those worlds and allow my characters to explore in them. It’s a great outlet for my very overactive imagination.

RU: The Shadow Stalker series is about a girl who is destined to enslave the people of her world. How did you come up with that story idea?

RS: I wanted to do something different and write a story about someone who was a “good guy”, but had the potential to become the bad guy. This was long before I came up with the idea for Shadow Stalker. When I started developing the story for Shadow Stalker, the idea just popped into my head. Most prophecies are about a hero that will save the world. What if there was one about someone who was meant to destroy it? How would that person try to prevent that from happening…and is it possible?

RU: You have this main character named Auren. Tell us a bit about her?

RS: Hmmm… what can I say about her without giving too much away? She is very stubborn and determined. She is a free-spirit and doesn’t like to be contained. But she is in a position where these traits could lead her to do something she doesn’t want to do. Her determination makes her strong, though.


RU: Where do you see the Shadow Stalker series going? How long do you think it’ll be in the end?

RS: Well, I don’t want to give away the ending. That would just ruin it for everyone. I can tell you the entire serial is a total of 24 episodes that are about the length of a short story. It’s further broken down into four parts of six episodes. I’m currently writing Part 4, which is episodes 19 through 24.

RU: If you’re lucky enough to be read hundreds of years from now, what would you like people to take away from the Shadow Stalker series?

RS: That no matter what, each one of us carves our own paths in life and choose our own fates. Even if we’re meant to do something, even if it’s something we don’t really want to do, we can choose how we do it and how we will affect the world around us.

RU: Tell us how you approach writing. Do you have a routine or any ritual you follow to write?

RS: I have a daughter with ASD and ADHD, so routines as far as writing are non-existent. I essentially write when I have time to do it. I try to write every day, even if it’s just a paragraph.

RU: Who would you say your influences are?

RS: This is always a hard question for me to answer because I’m influenced in some way by every author I read. As far as my biggest influence, I guess you can say George Lucas is the one who sparked my imagination and love for storytelling when I was eight. After seeing Star Wars for the first time, I was hooked on the idea of creating my own worlds and characters.

RU: What do you enjoy reading when you’re not writing?

RS: I read mainly fantasy, and in the last couple of years I’ve read mostly self-published books. I’ve found that I have an easier time finding a good book written by an indie author than something that is traditionally published.

RU: What is some advice you would give to other writers, regardless of experience or background?

RS: No matter what happens, don’t give up. The only way you can fail as a writer (or at anything in life) is if you stop trying. If you have a bad experience, learn from it and move on. You can only get better, and eventually you will succeed.

RU: Finally, if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only bring three books with you, which would you take?

RS: Wow, that would be hard. I love so many books. Maybe the first three books in the Emperor’s Edge series by Lindsay Buroker. I can read those again and again and never get sick of them.

RU: Well, thanks for stopping by, Renee. Great to have you here.

If you would like to check out Renee’s stuff, you can head over to her website at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.  And if you would like to be interviewed, head to my Interviews page and leave a comment. I’m normally very happy to interview any author with a book or two out there.

Yesterday I had an appointment on Ohio State’s campus. This was my first time back on campus since I’d come back from Germany, so I decided to leave the house early and hang around on campus for a few hours before my appointment. Heck, college was one of the best times of my life (hopefully there will be many more to come), and I wanted to revisit the places and people that made that all possible.

You know the first thing that hit me when I got to campus? How much construction can make getting from point A to point B a bloody maze. Not kidding, I’d actually forgot that. I got off the bus near the north residential district of campus, and I thought it would be a quick matter of walking down the street. Little did I would have to take about three different detours due to all the construction going on in that district. And all to get to my old workplace!

The second thing I forgot was walking around campus in below-freezing weather. You’d think I’d remember that–I was a student for four years and I’ve lived in Ohio for most of my life–but no, I was still shocked by how freaking cold I was and I really hated myself for forgetting my scarf. The cold is something you can taste, a dry taste that takes the air out of your lungs and skins your throat raw. Even a few minutes is bad enough that once you get inside, you need a few minutes of doing absolutely nothing so as to regain your body warmth without losing any more energy.

But besides a horrible maze of buildings and cold that feels like it’s ripping off your skin, being back on campus was a great experience. I got to see my old coworkers and had about the same conversation twenty times, telling people about Germany and what was going on in my life. Everyone at work agreed that the Student Financial Aid office was quieter without me, and that they missed my personality.

After that I visited a few of my old professors (it was the first day of classes at OSU, so nearly all the teachers I wanted to see were around). It was great running into them again. In one case I almost literally ran into a professor: on the way to see him, I came out of the stairwell, turn the corner, and nearly walk into him as he’s going to the bathroom. He was like, “Whoa!” and then he said, “Take a seat in my office, I’ll be right there.” We had a nice conversation after he got back.

Another professor I got to see was the teacher who taught two of my classes, including my science fiction literature class (yes, I took that and a History of Witchcraft course. Be jealous of me!). I gave her a book of early twentieth century sci-fi stories I picked up in Germany as a gift, figuring she’d get way more out of it than I did even if she was retiring at the end of the semester. She also told me an interesting story: during the previous semester, she was teaching about the “7 Beauties of Science Fiction”, and how there is a similar list for fantasy. Apparently one student did a Google search online about this, and found “an author who did posts on the beauties of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. And his name’s Rami Ungar.” My teacher was like, “I know him!” So like a ghost, I still haunt the school.

Walking on campus was an interesting experience, to say the least. While I’d been a student, I’d felt like a member of a giant mass of something big. And now, I’m an alumnus. Strangely, I felt a little weird walking among all those students. I was one of them, but I wasn’t. It was like being a big kid on a playground filled with younger children: you used to be part of that crowd, but now it’s a little weird, though I was probably the only one who saw it that way. I kept expecting someone to come up and say to me, “You’re no longer one of us.” It definitely was a new experience for me, but I think by the end of things I got a little used to it.

After that, lunch, and my appointment, I went to visit OSU Hillel, the Jewish organization on campus that I’d frequented at least once a week nearly every week for my undergraduate career, and it had barely changed since I left. Sure, there were a few new things here and there, but on the whole most of it stayed the same. Hillel’s like that, in a weird way: no matter the changing faces, it kind of stays static, as if to let people know that no matter how much time flies, OSU Hillel’s there for them.

Well, it certainly was a wonderful and interesting day for me. A real trip down memory lane, and I was glad to come back. It made me realize how much I missed OSU, not unlike how I miss Germany. And the good thing is, despite my weird feelings of being “too big” for campus, I felt like I belonged there, like this was still a home for me. I guess once a Buckeye, always a Buckeye, right? Like the blogging community or your circle of fellow authors, you know that even after a long absence you’ll be accepted back and given all the friendship and help you could possibly need. And I absolutely love that about Ohio State and its people.

And I’ll be back on campus tomorrow for another appointment. Given my impressions from yesterday, I’m likely to have just as good a time as yesterday. Until then, I’ve got things to do, so I’ll wrap it up here. Have a good day, my Followers of Fear.

Oh, and there’s only a few days left for the 2016 New Year’s Sale. You have till Thursday to get to Amazon, Createspace, or Smashwords to get a copy of any of my books at a great price. Trust me, this is not an opportunity you’ll want to miss.

Otherwise known as a pretty amazing Korean horror film.

I first heard about this film from Rare Horror and was very interested (they’ve turned me onto a couple of interesting films). It took a while, but I finally tracked down and got my hands on a copy of this very strange Korean fantasy/horror film, directed by Yim Pil-sung and starring Chun Jung-myung. I have to say, I’m surprised this one hasn’t been given an American remake yet. It’s definitely the sort of story that makes you think of the success of The Ring or The Grudge.

Hansel and Gretel (or in its Romanized form, Heljelgwa geuretel; don’t ask me for the Hangul, I  don’t know how to get it on this blog) is about a salesman named Eun-soo who has learned that has gone on a trip to visit his sick mother, which may also be an excuse to get away from his girlfriend, who is four weeks pregnant. On the highway he gets into an accident and wakes up in a forest. He meets a young girl who takes Eun-soo to her home, where he meets her parents and her older brother and younger sister. At first glance, they seem like a 1950’s TV family from Korea. But from the moment he arrives, Eun-soo has senses something very strange about the house and the family here, confirmed when the parents up and leave, asking him to watch over the kids. Unable to leave the forest, Eun-soo tries to figure out the mystery of the house and the children and find a way to escape. And when he finally finds out the secret, it’ll change him forever.

This is definitely an interesting film. The sets and cinematography are excellent, like looking at a Christmas tableau with a horror hidden within it (which makes sense, considering Christmas is a running theme in this story). And the acting, especially from the child actors, is amazing. I forgot that these were actors, but thought they were their characters. This film is practically gore-less (yay!), doesn’t have many jump-scares (sad, but whatever), and works hard on building an atmosphere of dread, which works for it (especially if you turn off the lights and watch it in the dark like I did).

There are only two things I don’t like about this film. One is that it’s two hours long and may feel like a drag to people who like fast-paced stories with plenty of jumps and scares.The other is that when we finally find out how this whole creepy thing gets started, it seems a little riddled with cliches. But other than that, it’s a pretty creepy film with lots of dark, fantasy-based beauty. There’s plenty of character development and growth, which can be rare in horror films, and in the end you find yourself being very impressed with this journey you’ve gone on with the character.

I’m giving Hansel and Gretel a 3.5 out of 5. It’s a very strange movie, a lot of fun, and if you get a chance, check it out.  It’s already given me a few ideas for stories, so that’s definitely a good sign. I’ll definitely check out a few more Korean horror films if I can find some. Should be fun and inspiring.

I come from a family where it’s typical for most of us to obsess over certain TV shows, books or movies. One of those things that we love is Harry Potter. Around my mother’s house you will find copies of each book (sometimes more than one), the movies on DVD or VHS, a couple of wands and my mother’s acceptance letter to Hogwarts (apparently you can get those), and a few other knickknacks. Plus two very strange cats. When I told my mom that on Pottermore I’d been sorted into Slytherin, she considered not talking to me for a while (but does that choice surprise any of you?). And at some point soon, my mom and her partner, my stepmom, will be heading down to Florida, where my mom plans to visit Harry Potter World.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re above poking fun at the thing we love or pointing out the flaws. For example, my family is pretty much in agreement that the fact that Harry grew up with the Dursleys and was such a good person despite the abuse and isolation he suffered is very improbable. As I finished the conversation one evening after a long car-ride discussing HP, “At the very least he should have some self-esteem and trust issues. At the very worst he should be a full-on sociopath to rival Voldemort in evil.”

“I grew up in a broken home. Don’t mess with me, baldy.”

One of these days I’ll have to revisit the trope of the righteous orphan in literature, but now is not the time or the place.

The point is, this small flaw is one of a few that people could point out and make a big deal about in the HP series. In fact, if you look at many different works of literature, TV shows, and movies, you’re bound to find something that doesn’t make sense if you really think about it. Even if you don’t count the prequels, there’s some stuff about the Star Wars films that don’t add up (*cough* Princess Leia’s adoption and royal status *cough*). All of Frozen could’ve been avoided if the King and Queen had actually tried to help their daughter instead of trying to shut up her growing powers (but where would the fun in that be?). And don’t get me started on some of the stuff that happens in some comic books and superhero films. Or Hunger Games.

And there are people who LOVE pointing out these flaws to audience, sometimes making it difficult to enjoy these things ever again. How It Should Have Ended, CinemaSins, Nostalgia Critic, so many more. These guys love deconstructing these things and pointing out their flaws. It’s enough to make you want to root out every plot hole you can find in your story so that you don’t get caught in the web of these guys. Or you might just be too afraid to write at all.

The thing is, no story is perfect. Harry Potter is one of the bestselling franchises in the world, yet it’s not free of flaws. And look at Doctor Who! I’m a huge Whovian, yet I’ll admit that it sometimes  falters in the stories it tells (honestly, I thought I’d throw a shoe at the TV after I saw Kill the Moon. What an awful story that makes no sense!). Heck, I’ll admit I have stories that aren’t problem-free. The latter half of Snake has been criticized in the past of being slightly a little hard to justify (though not outside the realm of possibility). And if I learned one thing from my creative writing class, my short stories “Evil Began in a Bar” and “What Happened Saturday Night/Frauwolf”, will need several drafts. Heck, the latter is going to need one more draft before I can even think about submitting it somewhere. Don’t even get me started on the former.

What you have to keep in mind is that you can’t stress over the teeniest, tiniest detail and hoping there’s not something some blogger or YouTube producer or whatever is going to seize upon and make it into a reason to destroy the book. First worry about the big stuff. For example, if you have a plot that basically goes “In a world everyone has a gun but no one uses them, until someone does”, people are going to definitely look at that one and be like, “Say what?” Hash out the big details first. Then worry about the smaller ones. And know that you won’t get them all. Just try and make sure the ones you don’t get are ones that won’t really matter in the end.

“You are of questionable royal lineage and you will need to undergo a blood test. Take her away!”

Sure, Princess Leia’s adoption would probably draw some questions, maybe even the attention of the Empire. Doesn’t mean that it has to draw the attention of the Empire and Leia’s real father Vader. Or that Star Wars isn’t still one of the most awesome stories in the universe (and I count even the prequels, though I’m a little iffy on Episode III).

Keep that in mind for your own work as well. Nothing’s ever perfect, but it can still be great.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Hope you enjoyed this slightly-rambling post. I’m taking the rest of the night off. You have a good one, and remember to check out my big holiday sale. All books are marked down till December 31st, so check them out now while you got the chance.

Pleasant nightmares.

Some exciting news to share with you all. I’ve been holding off until I had some more details, but it’s out now and I’ve got to share it with you all.

Last month I received word from colleague and fellow author Joleene Naylor that she was putting together an anthology of horror/paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy short stories for a holiday season release and she was looking for submissions. Despite my crazy busy life I did some editing on two short stories of mine, “Buried Alive” and “Travelers of the Loneliest Roads”, and sent them in. I’m extremely pleased, grateful, and proud to say that they both got into the final anthology!

I’d like to thank Joleene for this awesome opportunity (you should seriously check out her blog, the link for which is above), and I’d encourage you to check out the anthology “Strange Portals”, which contains works from several different authors, including AK Stein, Adan Ramie, Roxanna Matthews, Jolene, myself, and many more. Right now the anthology is only available from Smashwords as an e-book (the link to download it is right here), but it’ll be available for Amazon soon (and I’ll be updating this post when it is, so keep an eye out for that update). Did I mention it’s free to download? Well, it’s free to download. So that’s even more incentive to check it out.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m really excited, as you can understand. I’m even listening to my go-to celebration song, “Voodoo Child” by Rogue Traders, playing now, that’s how excited I am. I’m taking the rest of the night off, my Followers of Fear. You have a good one, okay?

*Update: As of December 9th, the Amazon link was posted. It costs $0.99 because Amazon never does anything free, but what are you going to do? Anyway, the link is here if you want to check it out. I certainly will.

Man, am I in a good mood lately. Semester’s going well, work hasn’t been too difficult lately, and…oh yeah. I finished the first of two short stories for my creative writing class today. This one, called Evil Began in a Bar, involves a meeting in a dive bar in a magnificent city about certain decisions the city’s leader, known as Father, has made recently. As you get further along in the story, something extraordinary is revealed about the protagonist Luca, and the rest of the characters as well. That something extraordinary has a lot to do with this picture, which was the hint I used when I talked about my creative writing class the other day:


Can you guess what it is?

I’m actually pretty amazed at how quickly I finished this short story. It usually takes me a week or so to finish a short story, usually longer. I got this one done in three days, a record by my standards. The last time this happened was back when I was writing Addict for The Quiet Game, which I finished in a single day. I’m thinking that’s not just because I found the story exciting to write, but because of changes I’ve been making to my diet these days. I’ve noticed I’m a bit less twitchy and easily distracted, and feeling a lot more energetic too. Maybe I’ll be able to significantly speed up my writing process in the future. Who knows?

I’m really interested to hear what my class will say when they read this story. Like I’ve explained before, my teacher is looking for fiction that is interesting and doesn’t conform to conventions, and I think this story fulfills both of those requirements. It’s that little twist near the middle of the story that explains everything and throws it all into perspective that I think will really get them, but I wonder how many of them will figure it out beforehand.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now. I’ll hopefully have a chance to write a blog post tomorrow, but right now I’ve got to get ready for bed. Goodnight, my Followers of Fear. Have some pleasant nightmares tonight.