Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

I’m glad I made the decision to only do these posts every now and then. They’re more special when I do, especially after I actually manage to publish something.

Anyway, welcome back to #FirstLineFriday, where I post the first one or two lines of a story I either might write, am writing, or have finished writing (and in some cases have published). As always, let me list the rules of this meme. On Fridays, you,

  1. Create a post on your blog titled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed/published story.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback and try to get them to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is encouraged but not necessary).

If it’s not obvious, I’ll be posting the first two lines of “Car Chasers,” the story that was featured in the recently-released anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II. I’m really proud of this story, so I’m going to do everything in my power to get people to read it. Enjoy:

There are many tales that come out of Shan Woods. Nearly all of them have to do with Chasers’ Run.

Thoughts? Did that opening grab you? Did you find it creepy? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And if you’d like to read the full story, check out The Binge-Watching Cure II. It’s a great anthology containing horror stories from a variety of authors, each one longer than the last (mine occupies the eight-thousand word spot). I’ll include the links below in case you want to check it out.

And in the meantime, I think I’ll tag thee, Priscilla Bettis! That’s right, YOU have to do this post next Friday for something you’re planning to write/are writing/have written. And there’s no getting out of it. Mwa ha ha ha!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll try to have something out again soon. Until then, have a good weekend and pleasant nightmares!

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback, Kindle

Cover for The Binge-Watching Cure II, from Claren Books

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the paperback edition of the new anthology The Binge-Watching Cure II, featuring my short story “Car Chasers,” had not yet been uploaded to Amazon. I’m pleased to say as of now, the paperback edition of The Binge-Watching Cure II is now available.

Now if you missed yesterday’s announcement, this is a really cool horror anthology. The Binge-Watching Cure II is written with stories becoming longer as you get further along in the book. The first story is the length of your average tweet, while the longest stories are upwards of ten-thousand words. This way, you can easily go for a shorter story, if you’re in the mood for a quick jolt of horror, or something a bit longer if you’d like something to kill time with.

My own story, “Car Chasers,” fills the eight thousand words spot, and is what happens when you turn Fast & Furious-style car races into a ghost story. I’m very excited to see it in the anthology, and I hope plenty of people get a chance to read it.

I also hope James Wan will direct a movie adaptation, but I won’t hold my breath.

Anyway, I’ll post the links for both the paperback and ebook versions below. For some reason, Amazon’s hosting both versions separately, like they did when Rose came out. Why they do that, I don’t know, but whatever. If you get a copy of The Binge-Watching Cure II and you like it, please leave a review. Doing so allows more readers to find the book, and encourages Claren Books to publish more anthologies like this one.

That’s all for now. I’m going to be working on the next chapter of Toyland this evening while watching the OSU-Clemson game (Go Bucks!). Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

The Binge-Watching Cure II: Paperback link, Ebook link

I heard first heard of Mr. Hamill and his novel after I came across his article on contending with the legacy of HP Lovecraft as a writer. The idea of his book interested me, so I put it on my reading list. Took a few books to get to it and a few weeks to get through it, but I read A Cosmology of Monsters from front to back. And with that out of the way, it is my pleasure and duty to review the book.

A Cosmology of Monsters follows the Turners, a family living in North Texas and running their own haunted house, The Wandering Dark. Told by the youngest member of the family Noah, the story begins with the meeting of his parents in 1968 and follows them as various tragedies befall the family throughout the decades, as well as the threat following the family through the years and generations.

Cosmology is literary horror at its finest.

Told in the style of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (which I’m told was a major influence on Cosmology and which I recommend as a read on its own) Noah Turner narrates how his family began, and through the decades the many hardships his family endures. It’s an engrossing way to tell the story, because every decision has far-reaching consequences on the Turner family. You also get a deep understanding of each character through this storytelling method, what their motivations and their troubles are, and how those play into the events of this story.

Noah himself is a fantastic narrator. He’s talking from the perspective of a grown-up looking back over fifty years of history, but he does a good job of calling up his childhood feelings of loneliness and isolation, of feeling alienated and not understanding why the people around him do what they do.

I also like how weird it can be sometimes (makes sense, since it’s me). The supernatural aspect of the story is very slight at the beginning and only gains prominence as you move deeper into the novel, and as you do, you find yourself with more questions than answers. Conventional monsters do play a part, so to speak, but there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes and it gets weirder with every layer revealed. It took me a while after I finished the book to really understand what all these revelations meant, and even now as I write this, I’m only half-certain I understand what everything meant.

All that said, there were things that I had issues with. There’s a section in the book where, instead of black letters against a white page, it’s white letters printed on a black page, and for some people, especially for people with certain eye issues, that might make things difficult to read (and why I don’t use my blog’s original theme anymore). And if you’re looking for a more typical horror story, with monsters popping out every five seconds or the supernatural aspect a constant presence in the story, this won’t be your kind of novel.

That being said, A Cosmology of Monsters is a mesmerizing read and one of the best books I’ve read this year. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.8. Grab your flashlight, and prepare to walk through a house haunted by the tragedies of the family. You won’t want to leave till you get to the very end.

And then you’ll want to think about both the deeper meaning of the book as well as what it’d be like to create your own haunted house attraction. Or is that just me?

So, I’m sick again. I didn’t want to be sick today, especially because I had some things I wanted to do today during and after work. Now, the only things I can really do is binge-watch anime and write. Thankfully, I didn’t let my lazy side take over too much and finished Chapter Fifteen of Toyland, putting me halfway through the first draft.

So if you’re not aware, Toyland is my latest novel, and started out as my project for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a Gothic novel about a boarding school haunted by a ghost obsessed with a children’s book. Or at least, that’s what it’s supposed to be. As predicted, it’s going from a Gothic horror story into weird territory the farther in I get. Not sure if that’s a good thing or bad at this juncture, but I’m sure if it’s bad, I can fix it in subsequent drafts.

As I was saying, I’m halfway through Toyland. Chapter-wise, anyway: I’m fifteen out of thirty (it was twenty-nine, but I split Chapter Thirteen in two for better narrative flow). So I think I’m still on track to finish the book by the end of January. Maybe a little longer if things get crazy between now and January 31st. Always a possibility when you’re trying to be an adult in today’s insane world.

I’m rambling, aren’t I? Blame it on the sickness.

Anyway, as of the completion of Chapter Fifteen, Toyland is 46,776 words long (for context, the first Harry Potter novel is seventy-seven thousand words or so). So my prediction that this first draft will be eighty-thousand or more words seems to be spot-on so far. I hope by the time it’s over, it’ll be a good first draft. Bonkers, but good too.

But until then, it’s time to call it a night. I’m going to work tomorrow, come heck or high water. Until next time, Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

The audiobook cover for Rose. Available now from Audible and Amazon.

Oh, one last thing before I forget. As you know, the audio book for my previous novel, Rose, was just released Tuesday. It’s the Kafkaesque horror story of a young woman named Rose Taggert who wakes up in a greenhouse with no memory of how she got there or why. Soon after, her life and her body undergoes a strange transformation. One that can’t be undone.

You can check it out by using the links below. Available in e-book, paperback and, of course, audio book.

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

And I thought the news story of today would be the fact that I’m sick. Yes, I’m sick. I even had to leave work early because of it. Don’t worry, I’m drinking tea and taking it easy. And this news definitely improves my mood and health.

So unless I’m delirious (which would go a long way to explaining why there’s a Swedish man named Hampus claiming to be my uncle in my apartment), the Rose audio book just went live on Audible and Amazon a little while ago! I have been so excited for this to happen, and now it’s finally here. I’ve already downloaded it onto my phone and plan to listen to it while I work on my dinner tonight.

Now if you’re unfamiliar with Rose, this is my first novel with a publisher, and follows a young woman named Rose Taggert. Rose awakes in a greenhouse with no memory of how she got there or why she’s there in the first place. She soon discovers her life, and her body, have been irrevocably changed. It’s a dark, Kafkaesque horror story and I’m so excited to listen to the audio book, as well as for all of you to listen to it as well.

Also, great timing on the release. Friday marks the six-month anniversary of the paperback and ebook’s release. One could almost call that synergy.

Oh, and funny story: I found out about the release by accident! I went to Rose‘s Amazon listing while working on another blog post. When I logged on, I found a new listing under “formats.” You guessed it, it was the audio book version. Right away, I filed the first blog post away as a draft to work on later, posted on most of my social media platforms (several times on Facebook) about the good news, and started work on this blog post. I also emailed my publisher, who I might be as surprised as I was when all is said and done.

Anyway, if you want to check out the audio book for Rose, I’ll leave the link below. I’ll also leave the links for the Amazon webpages, so if you’re more interested in the paperback or ebook, you can check those out as well. And if you do check them out, please do let me know what you think once you’re done reading/listening to them. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and reviews help me out in the long run.

Also, thanks to Sara Parlier for giving Rose a chilling narration, and to Castrum Press, the company who took a chance on me and published this book in the first place. What you do means a great deal to me, and I can’t thank you enough for what you do.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to make phone calls, make dinner, and either write or just chill with Disney+. Depends on what Uncle Hampus and I are in the mood for. Also, is that a bicorn and a chichevache? Dammit, these delusions make it hard to tell what’s my mind and what are actual supernatural occurrences in my life!

Oh well, until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Audible

The original Black Christmas from 1974 is a beloved, if kind of weird, early member of the slasher subgenre. The senseless nature of the killer “Billy,” for whom we never get any sort of explanation, as well as the helplessness of the characters, still makes it terrifying forty-five years later. A 2006 remake tried to capture that terror, but it failed miserably, mired in too much exposition and cliches. So, of course, everyone was skeptical when Blumhouse decided to make another remake. But the trailers promised a new angle, so who knows? It could be good.

2019’s Black Christmas again follows sorority sisters trapped on campus and in their sorority house with a killer who appears to taunt them through messaging apps. But there’s more at play here, and it all leads back to a particular fraternity on campus and the university’s controversial founder.

Um…how do I even talk about this one?

As far as storytelling and scares go, this is pretty run of the mill for a slasher, especially ones where a lot of stuff is given away in trailers. Granted, a couple members of the audience did get freaked (one audience member did yell out “that ****er is smart!” when an antagonist did something pretty sneaky), but if you’re familiar with slashers, it all feels standard and a little pulpy. A bit more exciting near the late middle and the last third, but still pretty standard.

The one thing that sets this movie apart is its incorporation of feminism into the plot. And this is where I have to really think about what I type, lest readers get the wrong idea.

Now, let me say this outright. I identify as a feminist. I get upset when I read stories in the news where women are subjected to harassment and misogyny and they are the ones blamed or called into question rather than the men attacking them. I also work in an office whose job is partly to deal with harassment, misogyny, and assault in our organization’s workforce. So I support women breaking barriers and creating more equal places for them in society.

Black Christmas tries to explore these issues in what, considering some of our current events, could be considered timely. And unlike Countdown, which felt gimmicky with its use of the #MeToo movement (see my review here), there was no gimmick here. The film’s handling of feminist issues is well-done at times. There is a lot of discussion of campus rape culture and how we as a society should approach it. Two characters have opposing views on the subject: one says everything must be done to stop the systemic problem, including by survivors, while the other says that not every survivor is willing to be a warrior and may just want to move on. And both bring up good points.

Another scene where the theme is handled well is when one of the protagonists goes to report her friend missing, and the male cop is apathetic, even acting dismissive. Like he thinks the protagonist is making a huge fuss because she’s a woman, not because there might be an actual problem.

Still, there were some moments where I wondered if the inclusion of these themes, as well as some exaggerated aspects, were meant to check some boxes and make this a “woke” sort of film, not really explore the subject matter and allow for enlightening discussion. But then, as I got home, I remembered something that put the film in a new light.

Back in 2018, Jason Blum, owner of Blumhouse Productions which produced the film, made comments about women directors, especially in horror, that drew a lot of ire from the horror community. Blum apologized for the comments and promised to do better. Fast-forward to 2019, and Black Christmas is the company’s first film with a female director, Sophia Takal. Takal also served as a writer with another woman, April Wolfe.

So this film could’ve been Blum’s way of apologizing for his comments and showing that he’s progressive. Or, and I like this scenario more, Takal and Wolfe were given the freedom to make their own horror movie, they were very much aware of what Blum said and they made a film not just to talk about their own issues with the film industry, but also to remind Blum that he, along with a lot of other people and segments in society have to go to really make things equal between men and women. And if that’s true, I can imagine how much Blum squirmed in his seat.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving 2019’s Black Christmas an even 3. While not as bad as the 2006 remake and a nice comeback to Blum’s comments, it still has areas that could’ve been better.

Thus ends the horror films of 2019, which, with a few exceptions, were either average or just bad. Here’s hoping 2020 is A LOT better. Until then, pleasant nightmares!

Last year’s premiere of Castle Rock on streaming service Hulu garnered lots of attention and love from critics and from viewers, both longtime Constant Readers and folks unfamiliar with King’s work. When word of a second season reached fans’ ears, we got excited. Which Stephen King stories would they draw on? Would the showrunners make every season different, like early American Horror Story? Would the different stories be connected by more than just a common location, like later American Horror Story? Or would it be a continuing story with the same actors and characters, like every other TV series out there?

We sat down and watched ten episodes over the course of eight weeks. And while I can’t vouch for the rest of the fandom, I can say this season far surpassed season one.

Season 2 follows Annie Wilkes–yes, that Annie Wilkes–as she and her teen daughter Joy find themselves stranded in Castle Rock after a horrific car accident. They’ve come at an interesting time, as Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot–yes, that Jerusalem’s Lot–are about to celebrate the latter’s four-hundredth anniversary, and the Lot’s growing Somali population are facing discrimination and threats of violence from the likes of Ace Merrill, nephew of pawnbroker and loan shark Reginald “Pop” Merrill. Annie just wants to have her car repaired and leave town before her past comes for her and Joy. But when someone finds out about who she used to be, events are set in motion that will bring not just Annie, but the whole town to the edge of sanity.

While Season 1 was more influenced by newer, weirder Stephen King, Season 2 was definitely more old-school King: visceral, terrifying, and at times very explosive. Drawing on elements from mainly Misery and Salem’s Lot, the storytelling is mixed with terrifying scares and fun twists (episode 7, am I right?). And even the things you see coming from a mile away (and there are a few) are told in such a way that you don’t mind seeing them coming. And you gotta love all the homages to and Easter eggs referencing King’s works, including a heartfelt tribute to The Body (aka Stand by Me) in episode 3.

Probably the best episode was episode 5, “The Laughing Place,” which gives Annie a new backstory. Honestly, I was a little unsure at first, but as the episode goes on, it just hits you with the weight of the story and the emotion behind it as Annie becomes the person she meets. Sure, Annie is changed from a metaphor for toxic fandom to a painful example of what untreated mental illness can do to a person, but here it works.

“The Laughing Place;” best episode this season.

The actors were also great. Lizzy Caplan’s Annie Wilkes is a wonderful forerunner to the character we meet in Misery, a woman trying to do right by her daughter even as she wrestles with demons that not even medication can fully contain. Tim Robbins (aka Andy Dufresne of The Shawshank Redemption) gives the character of Pop Merrill, in the books a greedy and scheming man, a human side with guilt and a history he’s trying to make amends for. Yusra Warsama is excellent as Dr. Nadia Omar, Pop’s adoptive daughter dealing with her world basically imploding due to what’s going on around her. And Barkhad Abdi and Elsie Fisher as Nadia’s brother Abdi Omar and Annie’s daughter Joy, respectively, give great performances as people trying to deal with their upbringing and at the same time move away from it towards something positive.

If there’s one thing I’m going to ntipick, it’s that I wanted to see more of John “Ace” Merrill. It’s not easy to explain this without spoiling anything, but basically we only get to see one side of the character for a single episode, and then it’s a different side for the next nine. And I kind of wanted to see more of that first side (though the second side is an excellent villain). Did that make sense? I hope it does.

Overall though, Castle Rock season 2 is a scary and tense thrill ride drawing from some of the best of King’s earlier works and then some. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the season a 4.8. Sit down and buckle up, you’re going places you never imagined going before.

And while no season 3 has been announced, I feel it’s only a matter of time before we get word on that, so let’s start speculating. Which characters will come back? What stories will be drawn on?* And can I please get a commission to write an episode for the show? Only time will tell.

*I’m hoping The Library Policeman, Needful Things and maybe Apt Pupil.

What did you think of Season 2? What do you hope to see in Season 3?