Posts Tagged ‘scary stuff’

Today’s interview is a really special one. For over thirty years, this man has been making a name for himself through his publishing company, Cemetery Dance, as well as his stories and collaborations with other writers (including a certain Royal Scariness we all know and love). He’s got two new books out, The Girl on the Porch and Gwendy’s Magic Feather (the sequel to 2017’s Gwendy’s Button Box with said Royal Scariness). I can’t believe he’s here to talk with us! Ladies and Gentlemen, Followers of Fear, let me introduce Richard Chizmar!

Rami Ungar: Mr. Chizmar, welcome to my blog. Please tell us who you are, about your writing, and about Cemetery Dance Publications.

Richard Chizmar: I’m an old dude (early 50s) who lives with his wife and two sons in Maryland and has been really fortunate in life. I started a nuts-and-bolts small press magazine called Cemetery Dance while I was still in college. The magazine found a growing readership with each issue, and I never had to go out and get a real job. A few years later, I started publishing horror and dark suspense books. The rest is history. All the while, I was writing my own stories of horror and suspense, and a few years back in 2017, I co-wrote a book called Gwendy’s Button Box with my longtime friend Stephen King and became a thirty year, overnight success.

RU: Tell us about The Girl on the Porch and Gwendy’s Magic Feather. How did those projects come about?

RC: The Girl on the Porch was inspired by a real-life incident where a doorbell camera in a suburban neighborhood recorded a terrified woman with shackles on her wrists in the middle of the night. Once the homeowner’s discovered the footage, the woman was long gone and no one knew what had become of her. I saw the video footage online a number of times and it haunted me. I knew early on that I needed to write my own version of the story and furnish my own version of an ending.

Gwendy’s Magic Feather is a direct sequel to Gwendy’s Button Box, which I wrote with Steve King. I woke up one morning with a very clear picture in my mind of what Gwendy had been up to since the ending of the first book. I emailed Steve the idea early that day, with no real plan to pursue it, but he responded very favorably and encouraged me to write it. So I did. It’s due to be published in hardcover on November 19.

RU: You’ve worked with other authors before, including Stephen King, as we’ve both mentioned. How does that process work?

RC: The process differs for many writers, but in my case, in each instance, it’s just been a matter of emailing the manuscript back and forth until one of us typed THE END. Allowing complete freedom for both authors to rewrite each other, layering and blending the work until it becomes a third, unique voice. That’s the only way I know how to collaborate.

RU: What about horror and dark fiction draws you in and makes you want to write and publish those sorts of stories?

RC: I’ve always been drawn to the darker side of things. It’s strange. In real life, I’m a happy and optimistic person, but when it comes to entertainment (books, movies, comics), I’ve always liked the fantastic and scary stories. Despite my outward cheeriness, I tend to see most clearly in the shadows. I might be walking down a Main Street sidewalk on a sunny July afternoon, but it’s not the smiling mother holding her daughter’s hand or the laughing elderly couple waiting at the corner I see; instead, it’s the dark alley across the way that looks like it could be hiding a monster. In fact, are those eyes I see glowing in the shadows? It’s just the way my imagination works.

RU: Oh crap, he spotted me! *cough* I mean, as a writer and the editor/owner of Cemetery Dance Publications, do you see yourself as someone who’s significantly helping to shape the horror genre and its future?

RC: I’ve never really given much thought to that kind of big question. We’ve always been too busy hustling to stop and ponder whether we were having a large-scale effect on the genre. We’ve been around for over 30 years now and that’s what is most important—that we continue to survive and thrive and keep bringing readers entertaining stories.

RU: What are some upcoming projects you have in the works?

RC: After publishing four books in 2019 (the trade paperback of The Long Way Home, The Vault, The Girl on the Porch, and Gwendy’s Magic Feather), 2020 will be a bit of a break for me. I should have one of those nifty “Little Books” out from Borderlands Press and hopefully the sequel to Widow’s Point, co-written with my son, Billy. Not sure what else might pop up.

RU: When you’re not writing, publishing, or reading horror, what are you up to?

RC: Fishing, exercising, working around the house, fantasy football. Mainly just spending as much time with my wife and sons as I can. I’m fortunate to do the majority of my work at home, so my days and nights are interwoven with family lunches and dinners, attending the boys’ sporting events, movie and game nights, and whatever other adventures life throws at us.

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

RC: Read as much as you can. Write as much as you can. Don’t tailor your work for the market; write about what moves you, scares you, excites you. No matter how small the story is. Don’t feel like you have to invent the wheel or write a high concept story to make your mark. Readers respond to a writer’s honesty and voice. Expect a long road ahead. Accept rejection and speed bumps as part of the process, almost like badges of honor.

RU: And what is some advice for writers who want to be published in Cemetery Dance? Asking for a friend, I swear.

RC: Read the type of stories and books we publish. Capture our attention in your synopsis and tell a story that is difficult to put down. Be persistent.

RU: Final question: if you were stuck on a desert island for a while and could only bring three books with you until you were rescued, which would you pick?

RC: IT by Stephen King, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon.

RU: I’ve read two out of three of those, and I really have to get on the third. Anyway, thank you for joining us, Mr. Chizmar. It’s been a pleasure.

If you would like to learn more about Richard Chizmar, you can check him out on his website and on Cemetery Dance’s website. If you want to read The Girl on the Porch or Gwendy’s Magic Feather, you can find both books on Amazon.

If you’re curious about other authors I’ve interviewed, you can check out my Interview page. And if you’re an author with something new out you’d like to broadcast, you can hit me up at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. I usually have time for an interview or two, so let me know.

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

Advertisements

Season 9 of American Horror Story decided to get on the 1980s nostalgia train and create its own love letter to the decade which produced my favorite music, particularly to the slasher films that came out during that decade. And the very first episode made sure to saturate us with bright colors, crazy hair, a fun playlist, a murder story told around a campfire that turns out to be true. It was both a homage and a satire that I enjoyed. And I was interested to see what the rest of the season would be like.

Turns out, AHS: 1984 decided to spend the next couple episodes playing up the slasher tropes, and then turn EVERYTHING on its head for the rest.

And that’s one of this season’s strengths. For the most part, the show knew how to give us everything we expected in the first couple of episodes, especially when it came to 80’s culture, and then found ways to make our jaws drop. Characters whom we thought were good people turned out to be bad and vice versa, the cause of all the horrors is first one person, and then another, and now we don’t know what to think.

Oh, and I love all the references to famous slasher films, especially the references to the original Friday the 13th film in episode 8.

I also really liked the characters, especially the three lead females. Brooke, played by Emma Roberts, turned out to be a surprisingly strong protagonist who developed very well over the course of the season. Leslie Grossman’s Margaret was a blast to watch once you found her hidden depths. And oh God, did I love Billie Lourd as Montana. I swear, Lourd can change characters and personalities and be totally unrecognizable in each incarnation, and that’s especially true with Montana.

Of course, our serial killers were great as well. John Carroll Lynch’s Benjamin Richter, aka serial killer Mr. Jingles, went from a rather one-dimensional slasher killer to a very sympathetic character. Zach Villa as Richard Ramirez was petrifying! I would not want to meet him in a dark alley! And oh, it was nice to see Dylan McDermott on the show again!

That being said, there were some issues with this season. 1984‘s final episode opted for flashbacks to tell the ending events of the main conflict of the season, and while that worked well in season 2 for the most part, it kinda fell flat like it did in season 5. When we already have an idea of how it’s going to shake out and is over-reliant on flashbacks, it can take some of the tension out of the story. Not to mention that I felt the show didn’t give Brooke the ending she deserved. And don’t get me started on the plot hole the last episode opened up with Richard Ramirez! All I’m saying is, they better fix that in a future season, or this is going to be a never-ending gripe among fans of the series.

I want Zach Villa as Richard Ramirez back, and not just because he’s freaking terrifying!

Oh, one more thing: the make-up used to make Donna and Brooke look older did not work at all! We could all tell they were waking make-up!

But all in all, this was a solid enough season, and it delivered on the promise to make the season a standout on the 80’s nostalgia that is so rife in our pop culture these days. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving American Horror Story: 1984 a 4.2 out of 5. A bloody, tension-filled season with twists to make your mouth drop and characters to draw you in and keep you watching. Get your shoulder pads and leg warmers and get ready to dive right in.

You’ll enjoy it more than the Friday the 13th remake. And no, I’m NEVER letting that go! Not until we get a better movie anyway.

Anyway, looking forward to season 10, whatever that is. I’m still hoping for an academy or orphanage setting. Maybe some references to J-Horror or K-Horror or some Lovecraftian elements too. And a fixed plothole from 1984 might be nice. Hey, a guy can hope, right?

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

So yeah, Toyland is going to be a lot longer than Rose, and way more than fifty thousand words. I always did like an expansive story.

So as you’re probably aware by now, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, this month and I’m trying to write a fifty-thousand word novel before the month is out. This is my second time participating, and I’m writing a Gothic horror novel called Toyland about a boarding school haunted by a ghost obsessed with a children’s book. And while I’ve set myself a deadline of January 31st, I’ll try to get as much of it done this month as possible.

In my update last week, I wrote about how I was a little over eleven-thousand words and 3.5 chapters in. As of last night, I’m in the middle of writing Chapter Six and am currently at 21,566 words. So this story’s already into the novella word range, and it’s still going! I bet by the time I done, I bet this book will be four times its current length. Maybe more.*

And honestly, I’d be fine if that turned out to be the case. While it’s still a first draft and there’s still plenty of work to do (not even thinking about editing at this point), I feel like this is some of my most mature writing yet. By this, I mean my voice as a writer has matured. It’s reached a new level, gained from so many years of writing and editing and experimenting. I’m giving up the last of the clumsy bits that mark me as a new or young writer. I’m breaking out of my chrysalis.

Is this making any sense to you? I hope so, otherwise the points above are all meaningless.

Anyway, we’ll have to wait till the final draft comes out before we know for sure just how much I’ve improved as a writer. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying working on this story and seeing it take form. Even though I wrote an outline and I know what’s going to happen, I’m discovering new things with every word. Hell, what words I use are part of the discovery, and they come together to show me just how these scenes I’ve outlined actually shape out.

That’s all for the moment. I’ll be sure to update you all next week, but in the meantime, I promise there will be more than just a review in the meantime. I mean, there will be a review, but there will be more than that.

Anyway, until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

How’s your NaNoWriMo going? What’s the writing process for you been like?

*For context, the first Harry Potter book was around seventy-seven thousand words, so that should give you an idea of what we might be dealing with in the future.

Now let’s get one thing out of the way: the Doctor Sleep movie is based on the novel Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, which is a sequel to King’s previous novel, The Shining. The movie is also an attempt to reconcile the novels and Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, which King hates (and which I kind of agree with). And apparently King loved the script for this movie, as well as the final product. Everybody got that? Good.

Doctor Sleep follows Danny Torrance post-Overlook. He’s grown up to inherit his father’s issues with anger and alcohol, though once he arrives in a small New Hampshire town, he does sober up. At the same time, he makes a psychic connection with a young girl in a neighboring town named Abra Stone and who shines way more powerful than Dan does.* Which is good, because there’s a group of people known as the True Knot roaming around America in RVs, kidnapping kids with shine abilities and killing them to extract their power in the form of steam. In order to defeat the True Knot, as well as their leader, Rose the Hat, Dan and Abra will have to go someplace special to defeat them. A place Dan never wanted to revisit.

Well, I’m going to say this: it does feel like a Stephen King novel brought to film. In a good way.

So there are a lot of callbacks to the source material, as well as to King’s works in general. I had a private laugh at shots meant to pay homage to the Kubrick film, as well as to a field of corn and the number “19” showing up (folks who know King get it). And it’s really awesome to see the theatrical Overlook brought back to life (though degraded with age). And the novel does a great job of hybridizing the books and the Kubrick film in a way that would satisfy most King fans.

And the actors also do their jobs very well. I should mention that. The True Knot actors are particularly creepy when they’re sucking up steam or doing something else freaky, inhuman and cult-like.

That being said, there are some issues. For one thing, there is a lot of exposition, which in a novel we can get away with (especially in a King novel), but in a film it can slow things down. There are some things from the original novel that never made it to the movie that I would’ve liked to see, and there were some changes I didn’t care for.

And I didn’t find it that scary. I mean, there were a couple of moments where I jumped or was a little freaked out, but they weren’t enough to scare me. My criticisms of the Kubrick film aside, at least it’s unnerving to watch. But while the intent is there, Doctor Sleep can’t bring that unnerving feeling to life.

On the whole, I’m giving the Doctor Sleep film adaptation a 3.5 on a scale of 1 to 5. If you’re a big fan of the Kubrick Shining film, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re here for a horror movie, you’ll find it so-so. And if you’re a fan of King and the original novel, as well as interested to see how the film version can reconcile all the books and films, you’ll walk away satisfied.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to bed and getting into writing tomorrow. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Fun fact, I named a character Abra in my NaNoWriMo project Toyland after reading Doctor Sleep. No psychic powers though. Not a spoiler, just a statement of fact.

Hello, Followers of Fear! It’s been an entire week since I last posted. Did you miss me?

As many of you know, this year I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, this year. For those of you who are unaware, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write a fifty thousand word novel in thirty days, or about 1,667 words a day. There’s no prize for actually making the goal (and it’s doubtful the resulting novel will be any good, as it’s a first draft), but it’s a good way to see what you’re capable of and push yourself. At least, that’s how I look at it.

So this year’s project is called Toyland, and as you may remember, it’s a Gothic horror novel about a boarding school terrorized by a ghost obsessed with a children’s book. This is my first Gothic horror story, as well as my second time participating in NaNoWriMo. How’s it going so far? Well, as of last night, I’m a little over eleven-thousand words in over three-and-a-half chapters. Over a fifth of the way there!

That’s my update. See you later.

Just kidding. I have more I want to discuss.

I have to say, it was a good idea to take some time off from the office to work on this novel. I’ve had a lot more time to write, which means I was able to get through three chapters in just under a week. It might’ve taken a month to get the same amount of progress if I didn’t take time off work and just wrote in the evenings. If I do NaNoWriMo again next year, I may take time off again to get a good head start.

As for writing in the Gothic sub-genre, that’s been a learning experience. As I mentioned in my post on Gothic horror (click here to read the full article), the genre has a very particular set of tropes that sets it apart from other genres of horror. However, there is more to the genre than I had room to include in that article. For example, you have to devote a lot of space to describing your main location. After all, Gothic horror is very place-centric. Hill House, The Overlook Hotel, the house at Kill Creek, your mother’s house (yes, I went there, and in more ways than one). All those locations are described in detail. Lots of detail. Gothic tries to make you aware of the place the story is in at all times, especially the darker aspects of it.

In that vein, I’ve spent a good chunk of Chapter Two just describing Auckland Academy, the main setting of the book. And I’ll be further emphasizing the location as the book goes on, as well as in subsequent drafts.

Of course, I’m still early in the novel. Including the chapter I”m in now, I have twenty-six more to go, and plenty more to learn about Gothic literature. I’ll let you know how things go when we reach November 14th. Hopefully I’ll have made plenty more progress by then. Even if I have to go back to work on Tuesday.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got some errands to take care of, so I’m going to get on that. I promise though, you won’t have to wait a week before I post again. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? How’s it going for you?

I don’t have work tomorrow, and I wanted a horror film to watch on Halloween while still saying I went out for the evening. I’ve seen everything else playing that’s considered “horror,” so I went into this with low expectations. I only knew of it because of some commercials showing audiences reacting like Paranormal Activity and a promotional app popular among teenagers and young adults.

Countdown follows a nurse named Quinn who downloads an app she hears about from a patient, which supposedly predicts the very date and time of your death. When people try to change their fates based on the app’s predictions, they end up stalked by a demon that taunts them before killing them at the appointed moment of their death. Now Quinn has to find a way to cheat death or she and those dear to her will die in the worst possible way.

So, we’ve all seen this sort of movie before. It’s like a simple recipe. People take part in something that seems harmless, it turns out to be real, supernatural in nature and very deadly. Someone becomes affected, finds an expert to help them identify where the evil comes from and possibly how to beat it. After a showdown with a CGI evil and a few deaths, the protagonist manages to beat the evil, which lives on one way or another. Throw in some jumpscares and some creepy imagery, and you have a cheap horror film trying to get in butts in seats because somebody knows how hungry horror fans are.

But Countdown didn’t even manage to meet my expectations for this kind of poor horror! Everything was predictable, and at times, it felt like the cast and crew weren’t even trying. They indulge in a lot of tropes, and not even do it very cleverly. The one trope they try to change is to have the supernatural expert be a priest who, rather than being old and well-experienced with demons, is a young man who literally calls the Bible “the world’s greatest graphic novel” and geeks out over the possibility of stopping a demon. It’s supposed to be funny, but is kind of cringey instead.

There is one thing that sets this movie apart, however. There’s a subplot where Quinn has to deal with a doctor who sexually harasses her and then tries to ruin her career when she spurns him. Now, I’m all for exploring these sorts of subjects in media, including horror. I often feel that horror is a good lens to view societal problems, and horror is a fertile ground to explore women’s issues. However, I don’t know this was the right film to have this sort of subplot. It feels more like a gimmick and a bad one too.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I give Countdown a 1.5. There are a lot better horror films out there to watch on Halloween. I suggest you go find them, especially if you want to feel scared and that you didn’t just waste eighty minutes of your life.

Well, that’s all for now. Halloween ends in forty-five minutes or so, and then something rather crazy will begin. I’ll let you know how that goes in due time. Until then, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares and Happy Halloween. See you again soon.

So it’s about three days till National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. For those of you who are unaware, NaNoWriMo (which at this point is an international event) is a yearly challenge held every November (though some writers do it when they actually have time for it), where writers will attempt to write a fifty-thousand word novel within thirty days, or just under seventeen hundred words per day. Anyone who actually manages to get that amount wins bragging rights and a sense of accomplishment.

Anyway, I’ll be participating this year, my first time since college. And with all that writing, there’s a good chance I’ll be blogging less during that time. I do plan to post regular updates on the progress of my NaNoWriMo project, as well as any reviews of movies/shows/books I feel I need to post. And if anything pertaining to my career pops up (like something getting published or released, God willing), I’ll post about that. But in case even that’s not happening much, I’d like to leave this post so people know what’s up with me and my work while I’m neck-deep in storytelling.

It’s possibly an exercise in narcissism, to think you all are interested in that, but hell, it’s my blog. I’ll do what I want here. Onward ho!

Toyland

The one-sentence pitch for my NaNoWriMo project is, “A boarding school is haunted by a ghost obsessed with a children’s book.” It’s a Gothic horror novel with hints of the weird, and I’m very excited to be working on it. The first chapter is already half-written in my head, as well as several other scenes. I’ve gone through the outline at least seven times, so I think it’ll be free of plot holes and other issues. Whether or not it’ll be any good, we’ll see. But I’m hopeful. After all, there were plenty of times I thought Rose was terrible. And it’s doing relatively well for my first book with a publisher.

NaNoWriMo

As I’ve stated in a few previous posts, I’m taking time off from work for the first third of November to work on Toyland. The plan is to get up around seven or eight each morning, eat breakfast, write, eat lunch and read, write some more, and then knock off for the evening. Maybe see a movie if anything good is playing. Of course, I’ll adjust these plans as situations evolve. You never know when I might need a run an errand or something along those lines. Or write a blog post. Or get drawn into anime or a horror television series and binge several episodes in a row (ah, the fun of ADHD and procrastination).

After I return to work, I’ll be spending a lot of time doing catch-up and whatnot, so I may have to work late some days and not get to write some evenings while I recover my equilibrium. However, the point of participating in NaNoWriMo this year isn’t to finish the book in thirty days, but just to give me one hell of a head start. So even if during the last twenty days of November I don’t get as much as I want done, if I get plenty done during the first ten, I’ll be satisfied.

River of Wrath

Unfortunately, my beta reader has not had much of a chance lately to finish this book. And unfortunately, I need their feedback on certain subjects before I can edit this story. So it’s going to be a while till I get to edit this novel (which, coincidentally, I finished almost a year ago. October 30th, 2018 at about one in the morning. That was a fun night).

On the bright side, by the time I get to it, I’ll have plenty of energy and desire to get it done. And maybe another book or two out. I can hope, anyway.

The Short Story Collection

I’ve been busy on that, believe me. These past couple of months, I’ve spent writing and editing short stories for the collection. I just haven’t been posting every time I finish one because I wanted some of them to be a surprise! As it stands, this collection is about ten stories long. I’d like three more, two short stories and maybe a novelette or novella. With NaNoWriMo and Toyland only a few days away though, I’ll have to put it off till I’m either done with the latter or ready for a break (hopefully done with it). Fingers crossed when that time comes, I’ll be done faster than you can say, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Rose

Yes, I have some news on Rose. As I said above, the Kafkaesque horror story of a young woman turning into a plant creature is doing very well. In fact, I got my first sales report a couple weeks ago, and it was very encouraging. With Rose getting so many new reviews in October, hopefully this’ll continue into the next quarter.

And in the meantime, the audio book is coming along swimmingly! As I said, I’ve heard the first fifteen minutes, and it sent chills up my spine! And last week, my publisher shared with me the cover art for the audio book. The way things are going, it could be out early or mid-November. And when it is, not only will I be the first to download a copy, but I’ll be making sure everyone else knows to check it out too.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in checking out Rose, I’ll leave the links for it down below. And if you do end up reading Rose, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

 

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If I don’t catch you around Halloween, I’ll catch you at some point during the first week of November. Until next time, pleasant nightmares and Happy Halloween!