Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

I try to be a regular blogger, one or two posts a week. But since Saturday, I haven’t really had anything to talk about. Which is crazy, because I usually always have something to talk about. And sometimes, people like to read what I have to say.

But there’s just nothing these past couple of days I’ve wanted to get out there. There’s been no development with Rose or any of my other stories worth mentioning. I haven’t seen or read anything to review lately. I haven’t come up with anything involving the art of writing or the art of horror. There’s nothing big in my life that I feel like making announcements about. And there’s no issue or current event I feel angry enough to speak about (and before you mention “Cockygate,” I’m getting to that).

There were things I thought I might blog about. I finished rereading The Shining, the first time I’ve read it since my teens, but I didn’t feel like I had enough material to make a full post like I did with To Kill a Mockingbird. The same with a post about feedback from readers and magazines; I started it, but in the end, the words just wouldn’t come to me. Cockygate is still ongoing, but there hasn’t been enough new developments that I want to write a post. I have a post for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, but I’m saving that until after I’ve spoken with my publisher about some proposed edits for Rose. And I’m waiting on a few other things to happen before I do some other posts I’ve been thinking of writing.

I could do an entire post about how one of my favorite shows Lucifer was canceled (yes, that happened, and I’m very upset about it!). But that feels too clickbait-y for me, especially after devoting an entire post to Cockygate. That being said, it would do me and an entire fandom a huge favor if you could help us keep the hashtag #SaveLucifer trending on social media. As of the time I’m writing this post, it’s a trending topic on Twitter, with over three-hundred twenty-seven thousand tweets. Believe me, we don’t want this show to go anywhere, so please help us out.

But other than that, I really have nothing special to say at the moment. I’m as quiet as a mouse.

Except…

Except that I can assure you I am still working on stories. Rose is coming along slowly but surely, and I have other stories in the wings. I certainly haven’t run out of ideas for stories or blog posts. And I am as devoted and energetic towards these projects as I’ve always been.

So even if I drop off the blogosphere from time to time, know this: I will come back, and it’ll be with plenty of good news to share. So stay tuned.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, have a good weekend and pleasant nightmares.

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I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how Hollywood is coming to see big horror films are, and that they are looking into making more. It’s even been compared to the explosion of superhero films that came about after the Dark Knight trilogy and Iron Man showed how popular and profitable superhero films could be. Since I am a horror fan in addition to a horror writer, I thought I’d weigh in on the subject.

First off, this explosion in horror is not exactly out of the blue. Studios have been making horror films since the early days of film, and they keep making them every year. There’s obviously always been an interest and a profit to be made in horror. It’s just lately we’ve had a slew of horror films that have shown studios and audiences that horror can be extremely profitable, mainstream, and even deeply thematic. We actually first started seeing this trend years ago with films like the Paranormal Activity series, which kicked off a huge fad of found-footage horror films, and with Blumhouse Productions, which proved you can make horror films cheaply and still have critical and box office success. This is especially so with their Conjuring film series, which in itself is a cinematic universe.

But late 2016 and 2017 brought on a slew of horror films that really brought these points home. Split, with its surprise ending technically making it a superhero film, and Get Out, with its commentary on race on par with some Oscar-nominated films, brought horror into the mainstream in new ways. Later in 2017, Annabelle: Creation and It proved massively successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, and in 2018, films like A Quiet Place are raking in the dough and proving how powerful horror can be in creating terrifying atmospheres and emotional narratives.

And this is just scratching the surface: Stephen King stories are being optioned at record rates (where’s my adaptation of The Library Policeman?); some of Netflix’s biggest recent original films have been horror movies; and studios are developing more horror movies than ever before. It: Chapter Two starts filming this summer, and a new Halloween film is getting released this year. So while I may say yes, horror is kind of the new superhero film, it’s not because they suddenly became profitable. The potential has always been there, it just took some very specific successes with deeper cultural resonance to really bring that potential to the attention of studio heads.

Remember, don’t do what The Mummy did. Not if you want your horror movie to actually be successful, let alone spawn a franchise.

So yes, the horror genre may be the new superhero film, with every studio wanting its own successful films, film series, or film universe. But to steal a superhero film quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” So while I have no pretensions that studio heads or directors or writers or whatever will see this post, let alone take its message to heart, I thought I’d offer some advice advice on getting into this horror boom. After all, as a horror fan and a creator, I want the horror boom to continue. The more good horror out there, the better. So here are some of my ideas for ways to make sure the boom doesn’t fizzle out:

  • Focus on telling a good scary story. This seems obvious, but some companies get so caught up in having a successful film or franchise, they forget to make a good horror film. Remember last year’s The Mummy? That film was convoluted, packed to the brim, and not at all scary. Not a good start for a film that was supposed to be the launching point for an entire cinematic horror universe. Which was the problem: Universal was so concerned with getting their franchise off the ground, they forgot what let Iron Man get the MCU off the ground: a good film in and of itself. If Iron Man had not led to the MCU, it still would’ve been an excellent superhero film. The Mummy should’ve been made that way, but unfortunately, it wasn’t, and now the Dark Universe is sunk.
    So remember kids, focus on a good story first, franchise a distant second. At least said franchise is up and running, of course.
  • Take chances on new/indie directors and stories. A lot of great horror films have come from the indie scene and/or from new/emerging directors. It Follows and Babadook were both very successful horror films from directors with less than three films under their belts, and the former was from the indie scene. Get Out was from Jordan Peele, who had never done a horror film before in his life.
    And all these stories are original plots. In an age where every other movie is a sequel, remake, or some variation on a familiar story or trend, adding something new to the horror canon has the ability to draw in a diverse audience, rather than just the smaller audience of devoted fans and some possible new ones.
    So take a few risks. It could lead to some big returns.
  • Adapt more than just Stephen King. Yeah, I’m happy for the many Stephen King adaptations being made (Library Policeman movie, please?). But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Even his Royal Scariness: I got sick of him back in high school because I read too much King and had to take a break for a few years. I still make sure to space out my dives into his stories nowadays. And if that could happen to me with his books, imagine what it could do to audiences with too many of his movies.
    The point is, there are a number of horror writers out there whose works should be adapted. Scott Thomas’s Kill Creek is one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year; Ania Ahlborn’s Within These Walls would make a great Blumhouse movie; Junji Ito has plenty of stories that could make great films; and as I noted in a previous post, HP Lovecraft is in the public domain and would make for great cinema. It’s something to consider.
    And before you ask, “What about your works, Rami?” I would be flattered if someone showed interest in adapting one of my stories. However, I don’t think that’s a possibility at this stage of my career, so I’m not going to get my hopes up. Still, I’d be flattered.

Horror is finally being given the attention it deserves from Hollywood, and I couldn’t be happier for it. However, it’s going to take a lot of work, and a lot of good stories, for horror to continue to thrive. I hope that filmmakers old and new are up to the task.

In my last update on Rose, I mentioned that I was probably going to do a whole lot of revisions and possibly a ton of rewriting, owing to the fact that the flashbacks were deemed unnecessary to the story and I had to throw them out or modify them. Well, I am rewriting a good chunk of the novel. It’s not what I’d hoped for, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. And while I’m still trying to figure out the final third of the novel, I have figured out the second third for the most part, as well as other things that I plan to include in the story. And one of those things I plan to use is something I call mini-anecdotes.*

Mini-anecdotes are something I’ve noticed a lot in fiction, particularly fiction aimed for adults. They’re not like flashbacks or mini-flashbacks, but they’re related. A mini-anecdote is when a character briefly thinks of a past experience, usually something that can be associated with the current moment in the story. It’s not a flashback, as it’s not going into the character’s past in order to show them something. It’s more like a quick summary of a flashback. A good example would be in The Shining (which I’m rereading now), when Jack is doing handyman work around the hotel’s playground and park, and thinks back to the park he went to with his dad growing up. This not only gives us a bit more on Jack’s past and who he is as a person, but also gives us a brief illustration about his relationship with his dad, which we learn further about in the novel.

Other great examples of mini-anecdotes can be found throughout the Harry Potter books. In the first book, we learn how Harry’s life has been strange since he was small: ending up on the school roof, his hair growing back overnight, a sweater shrinking as his aunt is trying to force it on him. This isn’t a full flashback, but it gives us a very good idea of what Harry’s life has been like up until Dudley’s eleventh birthday, as well as what he’s like based on his reactions to the strange things around him. And in the third book, we get a brief glimpse of Harry’s relationship with his Aunt Marge, how she also mistreats him and spoils Dudley, and once let her dog chase Harry up a tree while laughing at his misfortune. It’s an illustrative moment on how awful Marge is and gives us an idea of what we can expect from her during her appearance in the story.

Now, I’ve only just started identifying mini-anecdotes in fiction, so I’m not an expert at using them yet. Just as you can”t really be a great writer even if you’ve read hundreds of novels, you can’t immediately use mini-anecdotes even if you’ve seen them in hundreds of books. However, I think I’ve identified a few things that might make using them in Rose a bit easier:

  • They’re brief. Seems rather self-explanatory, but it needs to be stated. Mini-anecdotes are usually only a couple of sentences or paragraphs at most. The longest may be only two pages at most, but they don’t go on for several pages. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a flashback, and as I stated in a previous post, flashbacks can be difficult to use effectively.
  • Little dialogue or details. Mini-anecdotes tend to be very bare bones. They may have a few lines of dialogue, but no long speeches. And certainly not enough detail like the shape of a building or all the thoughts going through a character’s head. It’s more summary, telling vs. showing, than anything else. Going into anything more would be going into flashback, most likely. And as I said, those have strings attached.
  • They’re connected to the present. Like Harry’s early experiences with magic or his aunt, these mini-anecdotes have to connect to the story’s present, either to illustrate a point, give us further insight into a character, or just to help us connect to them more. Having one for the sake of having one will do you no favors. After all, you wouldn’t want to have a romantic scene that suddenly goes into a character’s dislike of geese, do you?

While these won’t help a writer (let alone me) use mini-anecdotes well, they can be a starting point for their use. And if we as writers can learn to use them well, then we can use them to make our stories better and more memorable to readers. And in the end, isn’t that part of the reason we write in the first place?

Do you use mini-anecdotes in your stories? What tips do you have for writing them?

*At least that’s what I call them. I don’t know if there’s a technical term for them. If there is, please let me know in the comments below.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this, but Rose has a lot of flashback sequences and other dips into the past within the story, especially in the last two-thirds. I did this for a number of reasons: exploring the characters’s pasts; making them more complex; and just an opportunity to write some sequences to add to the horror element of the story. And there are a lot of horrifying things in those sequences, things that I can’t go into without revealing too many plot details, but they did make my beta readers gasp and stare at the page wide-eyed. They were horrifying moments in the story.

Not to mention, I think that flashbacks can be scary if done right. A good example of this is Gerald’s Game by Stephen King: while the protagonist’s current situation is scary enough, going into her past midway through the story and seeing how her father abused her as a kid was horrifying in its own right. Another good example would be the movie Oculus: that film flashes between the present and the past throughout its runtime, and it’s freaky no matter what year it is (see my Rewatch Review of that film).

Well, it looks like I didn’t do the flashbacks right for Rose. In the notes on the fourth draft from my publisher, they mentioned that all those flashbacks are just bad stuff happening to those characters, and while that stuff is horrifying, it’s not scary. I’ve had a lot of back and forth with them on this, and after a lot of thought, I can see where they’re coming from. After all, while in the real world “horrifying” can be a synonym for “scary,” especially in relation to current events, in fiction that’s not necessarily the case. Think about it this way: Harry Potter is horribly mistreated by his relatives, and what he goes through is horrifying. But if you ask any normal Potterhead what person or creature from the books they would be scared to face, the Dursleys wouldn’t rate very high on that list. The dementors, Voldemort and his Death Eaters, or the basilisk, sure. But the Dursleys? Considering most Potterheads are Muggle in biology and can’t perform magic, anyone who had to face them would probably be invited into Privet Drive and served tea and cookies in front of the TV!

So while showing how many terrible things happened in the characters’ pasts may be horrifying, it might not be scary. And considering how much experience my publisher has and how well-received their books are (have you checked out The Cronian Incident by Matthew Williams yet?), I’m taking this piece of feedback to heart.

I won’t lie, though, I’m a little disappointed, and I’ve been wondering where I went wrong. Or maybe to phrase it better, I’m wondering how I might have done the flashbacks better.

Well, in the case of Gerald’s Game, whose flashback is most similar to mine, they only do one big flashback sequence, not several. That way, it doesn’t become a repetitive cliche or trick. That, and its connection with the current events of the story: the protagonist’s abuse by her father is very much connected to her current predicament, on psychological and symbolic levels as well as literal levels. And with Oculus, the horror behind the story–a cursed/haunted mirror–is scary no matter when it happens. Spinning a tale of two siblings who experience the mirror both as children and adults, and then going back and forth between those two experiences, makes for some great psychological/supernatural horror.

And maybe that’s the thing: connection. In both those examples, the flashbacks, no matter how they’re staged, have very strong connections to what’s happening in the story’s present. Of the ones in Rose, while they do have connections to the characters’ pasts, only one of them has a direct correlation to the current events of the story. And that one’s told to us by the antagonist rather than shown in flashback. And that’s why the flashbacks in this story didn’t work as well as they could have.

So what’s next? Since so much of the novel is in flashback, I may have to do a whole lot more revising. Hell, I may even have to rewrite a good chunk of the novel. Which isn’t something I’m unfamiliar with: as many of you may recall, I had to go back and start over on the first draft back in college because the first attempt went in a direction that didn’t help the story.

Still, it’s a little annoying, and I haven’t figured out exactly what I’m going to do for these changes (though I have ideas). Hopefully, whatever I come up with, it’ll come out for the novel’s betterment, and bring it one step closer to publication.

Fingers crossed.

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!

Last Monday, I announced that my novel, Rose, is getting published by Castrum Press. And amidst all the excitement and a little extra alcohol (because of course I’ve been celebrating), there has been a lot of correspondence between me and the publisher (and how cool is it that I can say that now?). Some of what we’ve talked about is how the publishing process works, what each of us can do in terms of marketing, etc. But one of the big things we’ve talked about in the past week is the fifth draft. And trust me, there’s going to be a fifth draft. Because as nice as the fourth draft was, it’s still got a few problems here and there that can be cleaned up.

I’ll be honest with you guys: as excited as I am about all this, I’m a little terrified. Okay, maybe a lot terrified. Before last Monday, this dream of being an author with a publisher was just that: a dream. And as much as we want our dreams to be accomplished, when they’re still dreams, there’s only so much damage that can be done to them. But once they’re brought into reality, like when a publisher wants to release your book, then there’s all sorts of damage that can be inflicted: negative reviews and/or poor sales, the process to publication can be beset with difficulties, etc. (I don’t think that those things will happen, but my overactive mind tends to consider every horrible possibility out there).

On Friday, my publisher and I agreed to catch up again in mid-May to see how my edits are going. After that, we’ll see where we go for there. And I’m scared that when they see what I’ve done there, they’ll feel I haven’t lived up to their expectations and rescind the publication deal. Again, I’m pretty sure this is more my fear than an actual possibility, but like I said, I have to consider all possibilities. And that one has gotten kind of big in my head.

Of course, me being me, I take what’s scaring me and turn it into a fuel for my confidence, motivation to produce good work, and a means to scare others (I believe psychologists call this sublimation). I even gave myself a pep talk a few minutes ago in front of the mirror, using a scary voice to convince myself how powerful I am and that I can accomplish what I set my mind too. And it worked very well. Weird what I can do when I tell myself that I am the Devil, Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, and Death all rolled into one, and that I can be my generation’s Stephen King while sounding like I’m possessed. Yes, I do that. Don’t judge me.

So I’ll get started on a fifth draft of Rose very soon, finishing up a couple of tasks before I do so. I’ll also be leaving for the library in a little bit to print out some of the editors’ notes. Hopefully I can take enough from those notes to better the manuscript before the deadline in mid-May. Fingers crossed.

As always, I’ll keep you guys informed of any developments that occur. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares! (I know it’s not even two in the afternoon yet. But that’s never stopped some people from having nightmares during the day.)

The great thing about three-day weekends is that there’s plenty of opportunities for catching a few flicks. So far I’ve watched Black Panther (really good, 4.2 out of 5), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (surprisingly decent, 3.5 out of 5), and this morning I caught the ninth entry in my Rewatch Review series, Mama. I honestly thought this film would be painful to watch, but…you know what, let’s get into the review.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: Mama is about Victoria and Lilly, two young sisters who disappear after their father goes on a murder spree after the 2008 market crash. They show up several years later after living in the woods all this time and are sent to live with their uncle Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel. Pretty soon they start experiencing weird things and find out that the girls weren’t exactly alone in those woods. Someone, or something, was there with them. And it’s come back to civilization too.

WHY I DIDN’T LIKE IT: You know, I honestly don’t remember. I just remember not liking it when I saw it back in college.

WHY I REWATCHED IT: The director, Andy Muschietti, produced 2017’s It, and that rocked. What the hell did I miss in Mama that made studio heads select him to be the director after Cary Fukunaga signed off?

THOUGHTS: Apparently I missed quite a bit. Mama‘s a great horror film.

For one thing, the actors put their all into their characters, and it works. You really see the arc of Annabel, played by Jessica Chastain, going from a carefree rocker girl who doesn’t want to be a mom at all bonding with the girls and growing into the role of a mother. And watching the girls adjust to civilization is fascinating for each one. And seeing these three very different and clashing people come together as a family is heartwarming, but in a way that doesn’t take away from the horror of the film (*cough* unlike Before I Wake *cough*).

Not only that, but the film does know how to set up a creepy atmosphere while also using jumpscares. I found myself hopping in my seat more than a few times. And as the film goes on, it manages to up the creepiness without showing too much of the titular Mama, who for a horror movie villain is actually kind of sympathetic once you get her backstory. It was genuinely scary.

Of course, the film isn’t without its problems. At times, while Mama’s design is creepy*, the CGI used to make her can be a bit distracting at times. And the music in the final scene kind of makes this really heartbreaking scene kind of melodramatic and sappy. I’m sure the idea was to heighten the sad emotions, but it backfires for me.

And hoo boy, that movie was loud. I turned down the volume and I was sure my neighbors would knock on my door and ask me to turn it down!

JUDGMENT: I honestly don’t know why I disliked the film anymore, and I can see why Muschietti was tapped to direct It.

Mama is a terrifying but heartwarming horror movie with a great premise and wonderful characters played by accomplished actors. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this film a 4.5 out of 5. I’m so glad my opinion changed on this one.

 

Well, that’s nine films rewatched. My last one might take some time to find, as it’s not usually available in the States. Still, I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are too. Until next time, pleasant nightmares, my Followers of Fear.

*And is probably the inspiration of the look for the abstract painting woman from It. Not kidding, look at those two side by side. They’re basically the same character with a different style…so there’s a King/Muschietti shared cinematic universe now? It’d make sense, this movie does feel like it would fit as a Stephen King adaptation.