Posts Tagged ‘Toyland’

Fiction writers tell two types of lies. There are the more obvious ones, our stories, those big stories of a thousand words or more that readers (hopefully) come just because we wrote them to entertain them. And then there are the smaller lies that usually go unnoticed. The ones where we gloss over or totally ignore reality so our stories can continue in peace. Not big things, like the existence of shapeshifting clowns or the ability to turn a human woman into a plant creature with a magic book. I’m talking about the small stuff. Things so small, people usually don’t question them or their viability.

A common example: you ever see an action film and someone with a machine gun lets off hundreds of bullets at their enemies without pause? Maybe they’ll switch guns at some point, but each of those guns still seem to have millions of bullets inside their cartridges and can go shooting for several minutes at a time.

The reality is a lot more boring: a machine gun may shoot off bullets for stretches of four seconds at a time, after which you probably will have to reload the gun. Not to mention that if your machine gun actually did go for shooting sprees for the entire length of a fight scene, the barrel would probably explode into flames.

Another famous example are silencers. Don’t want your gun to be heard by nosy civilians? A silencer will turn that gunshot into a mouse fart! Not really. In reality, a gunshot is not easy to quiet. Even the best silencer will only turn a gun into a loud crack, which you can still hear from quite a distance.

And you know those scenes in cop and comedy movies where a cop gets tasered in the chest and then their body and limbs shake like mad? Okay, stun guns only work about sixty percent of the time at best, and you never want to aim for someone’s chest, because while they’re considered “less lethal” than guns, they can still cause some heart trouble if aimed at the chest. Most cops aim for someone’s back, and then if they’re lucky, the electric shock will paralyze the target. By lucky, I mean the lines hit home and most of the electricity penetrates further than the skin.

Action movies are huge offenders at this stuff. Still love most of the Terminator and Die Hard films, though.

And these are just a small list. Cop movies involving shoot outs and explosions rarely feature the staggering amount of paperwork those shoot outs and explosions require officers to fill out. Medical dramas going for crazy or risky procedures? Not without talking to the insurance company or finding a safer method first. Bulletproof vests? They don’t stop bullets, just catch them, and it’s still going to hurt like hell. Not to mention getting shot by a machine gun, even if you wear a vest, is probably going to leave you dead (sorry, Back to the Future fans).

I actually used one of these last night in the latest chapter of my novel-in-progress Toyland (for obvious reasons, I won’t spoil which one).* I had to do some quick research to make sure one of the above was being written right. And then when I realized there was no way to do that authentically, I was like, “Screw it. Who’s going to know? Even if they do, they’ll either forget or suspend their disbelief.” And then I wrote it how people would imagine the scene.

Why do writers do this? Simply because they can get away with it. The details are small, and even those in the know will usually just let it slide for the sake of enjoyment of the story. Rarely does it actually bug someone to the point they put the book down/stop the movie. Usually when they’re glossing over giant details do people in the know stop enjoying the story (happened to me with Criminal Minds after I found out what FBI profilers actually do on a daily basis).

So forget the little lies, and ignore the minor deviations from reality. You’ll enjoy the story more. Or you’ll stop watching Criminal Minds and move onto other shows. Either way, other people will still enjoy the story you’re telling.

Authors, what little lies in your stories have you told lately? Any you laugh about now?

*Speaking of which, Toyland‘s coming along well. I split some upcoming chapters in two for pacing, which means more chapters to write, but I’m still making progress. I may have to push the deadline back again, this time to the end of February, but it’s still going well. Also, the novel is over eighty-thousand words right now (for context, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is around seventy-seven thousand words). I have the feeling by the time I finish this book, it’s going to be close to one hundred thousand words. Not a whopper, but quite the literary feat.

How are you, Followers of Fear? I’m…I’ve been better.

Okay, it’s not as if things have been horrible lately. I’ve still got a roof over my head, a great job, a car I love (we’re monsters meant to be), and plenty going for me. It’s just that for the past couple years, the first full week after January, as well as the next couple of weeks afterwards, can get pretty hectic. And that’s been no exception this year. Last week, I often came home from work feeling exhausted, to the point where writing was a bit more difficult than it usually is.

It doesn’t help that this past weekend, I came down with a very nasty stomach virus that had me laid up all weekend. Yeah, that sucked. I’m over it for the most part, and I woke up this morning feeling pretty good. But today really drained me, and I spent a few hours this afternoon feeling a little less than ideal. To the point that eating did not seem like the best of ideas.

All this and then some has affected the progress of my novel Toyland. I’d hoped to have it done by the end of January, but we’re about two weeks into the new year and I only just started Chapter Twenty last night. And this novel is thirty chapters long. And this is turning out to be a long-ass book.

So I have to delay my deadline for finishing up Toyland. I had hoped I could get it done in three months, which would have been a record. But sometimes life throws you curve balls (or gastroenteritis), and you gotta adjust. The new date will be August 15th.

Just kidding! Man, you should have seen your faces. Yes, I can see your faces, and your disbelief mixed with your horror is rather amusing.

No, the real new date will be February 15th. So it’ll still be somewhat of a record, just not the one I’d hoped for originally. And hopefully by the time February 15th has rolled around, life will have eased up a bit and I’ll have already finished the book. After that…well, I’ll save that for another post.

For now though, you’re not going to get anything more out of me other than this blog post tonight. I’m going to try to eat something and then hit the hay, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, be careful, because apparently there are some nasty viruses floating around out there right now, and pleasant nightmares.

Look at this cover! It’s freaking beautiful!

If any of you checked my Facebook page or my Twitter feed after my last post, I hinted that I might have some good news I would be sharing today or tomorrow. Three years ago, I wrote a story called Car Chasers, which I describe as a mash up of Fast & Furious-style races with a ghost story. About a year and a half ago, I announced that the story had been accepted into an anthology. And last night, that anthology, The Binge-Watching Cure II, was released by Claren Books on Amazon!

I’m very excited to let you know this horror anthology has been released. It’s a rather unique anthology, as every successive story is longer than the one preceding it. In fact, during the submission process, we had to submit our stories based on a certain word length and how close we were to fifteen percent of that word count. I was lucky enough to be considered for the eight thousand word spot, and after some deliberation, Car Chasers was selected as the story!

And after having Rose accepted by Castrum Press a few months previously, seeing this story accepted by Claren Books was a really big deal for me. I was still having some anxiety over the amount of editing I needed to do for Rose, so this was a boost to my confidence.

Where was I? Oh right. The Binge-Watching Cure II‘s stories range from 140 characters (just over the original size of a tweet), to twenty-five thousand words. So if you’re looking for something quick to digest, or something long to chew on, you’ll find it here. And there are some great authors here: Amanda Crum, Nick Youncker, Lana Cooper, Robert E. Stahl, and Armand Rosamilia, among many others.

Also this guy named Rami Ungar. Have you heard of him? Neither have I, but I hear he’s a bit of a weirdo. Hopefully the good kind of weirdo, right?

The only version available right now is the ebook, but the paperback will be out soon enough, so keep checking back to the Amazon page if paperback is more your jam. I’ll include the links below. And if you do get the book and read it, please consider leaving a review online where you can. Not just because we love to hear your feedback, but because reviews help more people find the anthology and get them to read it, which keeps the cycle going, as well as encourages Claren Books to put together and release more anthologies like this one.

Also, I’m hoping director James Wan, known for both Furious 7 and the Conjuring movies, will somehow come across the anthology, read Car Chasers, and want to adapt it. I doubt it will happen, but I can dream and encourage, right?

Anyway, thank you to Bill Adler Jr. and Sarah Doebereiner, as well as the rest of the team at Claren Books, for letting me be part of this anthology. And thank you to the other authors whose company I find myself with in The Binge-Watching Cure II. It’s an honor to join you.

And thank you, Followers of Fear. I hope you check out the book, and let me know what you think. And thank you for your continued support. One of the reasons I keep writing is because you keep supporting me, and I’m so grateful for that.

That’s all for now. I’m off to start a new chapter of Toyland, make dinner, bring in Shabbat and the latest night of Hanukkah, and chill out with some TV. Not necessarily in that order. Until next time, Shabbat Shalom and pleasant nightmares.

Link for The Binge-Watching Cure II.

Before I start this post, I just want to let everyone who read that title and got concerned, thinking I was going to talk about something negative like giving up on my dreams or whatnot, that that’s not what this post is about. It’s actually a happy post.

Anyway, as many of you are aware, I’ve been making tremendous progress with the novel I started last month, Toyland. If you are unaware, Toyland is a Gothic horror novel about a boarding school haunted by a ghost obsessed with a children’s book. Yes, I’m writing a story with a premise that bonkers. Bonkers premises tend to work for me (click here for further proof). And as I said, I’ve been making tremendous progress on it. Or as my Grandma told me on the phone last night, “You’re just zipping along with it!”

(If she reads this post, she’s going to plotz over seeing herself mentioned here.)

I’ve noticed that zipping along myself, and I’ve wondered about it. Past novels I’ve worked on, as well as some short stories and novelettes, have taken months at a time to write. Occasionally, they’ve taken years (especially if I find myself stuck and have to take a break from the story). What’s so different about this one? A dark premise and some weird things occurring is not unusual for me, so it’s not the plot. And I’ve done National Novel Writing Month before, so that this novel started out as a project for that probably hasn’t affected much.

If I had to guess, I think it might be that I’m fooling myself by underestimating how long the chapters are going to be. Let me explain:

Although I’ve been writing this novel since January, I’ve been planning and researching it far longer than that. Going back months, or years, if you count when I started learning what constituted Gothic literature. Consequently, I’ve had some scenes in this story in my head for a while, and they always seem very short when I play it in my head.

What’s short in your head doesn’t necessarily translate as short once you put it down on paper. In fact, you can spend about twelve-hundred words or more describing a new setting, especially if it’s fantastical. Add in dialogue, action, exploring the characters’ emotions, etc. and what you’re imagining will be maybe sixteen-hundred words at most turns out to be nearly twice that! And yet, I still think to myself as I write, “Just a few hundred words more. Can’t be more than three hundred. Almost at the end.” Over and over, until the chapter ends, and it’s a lot more words than I expected.

Given that I’ve figured that out, however, there’s a chance that strategy won’t work for me after a while. I’ll know what to expect now and the spell won’t work. On that other hand, these past two months has been illuminating as to how much I can get done when I apply myself, so that may make up for it. At this time, I’m over halfway through the book, and on my way to two-thirds. A couple of years ago, this sort of progress in a few months would be confined to the realms of the imagination.

Now I know what’s in my imagination can exist in the real world.

If you need me, this is a great representation of what I’m up to these days.

In the meantime, I’ll use that knowledge, and keep fooling myself until I can’t anymore, and eventually, finish this book. As well as any story that comes after.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully post something again before December 31st, but if I don’t, thank you for everything this fantastic 2019!* Have a fantastic New Year, and I’ll see you next week/month/year/decade.** I’m off to go finish a chapter.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Fantastic on a personal level, anyway. On a national and global level, while there were signs of improvement (looking at you, Greta Thunberg), this year has been a bit of a dumpster fire.

**Yeah, let that sink in. After Tuesday next week, not only will it be a new month, but a new year and a new decade. Crazy, right?

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

17th century engraving of a bicorn and chichevache, courtesy of Wikipedia.

You ever come across something in your day-to-day life–a historical event, a movie with an interesting premise or character, a conversation that goes into weird tangents, etc.–and you think to yourself, “I want to write a story around that!” Chances are you have. And chances are you’ve sometimes struggled just to come up with that story based on whatever you’ve run into.

That happens to me all the time. I’ve got a huge list of potential bases for stories–my “idea fragments”–on my flash drive, over two-hundred bases, and only about half of them have been turned into ideas. I’ve been known to obsess over these fragments for weeks or months until I come up with something for them. And I’m obsessing over my most recent fragment quite a lot these days: the bicorn and chichevache.

Now, for those of you who don’t know much about obscure monsters from the Middle Ages (pretty much everyone), the bicorn and the chichevache are kind of the polar opposites of unicorns (the names of all three, by the way, are French in origin). They both have two horns, and are sometimes described as cow-like chimeras, though more recent depictions tend to show them as horses with two horns curved like a bull’s. The difference between the two is what they eat (and keep in mind, these creatures normally featured in satirical works. So remember, someone or their attitudes were being made fun of with these descriptions). Bicorns ate kind and devoted husbands and were often depicted as fat to the point of obese, while chichevaches went after virtuous and obedient wives and were therefore thin and starving.

Remember, this was probably meant to poke fun of someone. I’m guessing medieval views of men vs. women. This also goes against the depiction of the unicorn, a one-horned horse or goat that affirms purity, usually by letting a virtuous maiden pet or ride them. You know, instead of destroying them by eating them.

I first came across the bicorn in an anime I was watching, and was curious enough to do a little research. Thus I came across the bicorn’s counterpart, the chichevache, and then the creative fires were lit. This was back in October. And I still can’t think of a damn story for the creatures!

So far I’ve cast aside revenge stories, a story where someone uses to prove that certain people in their community aren’t as upstanding as they thought, and a few others. I’ve tweaked the myth a bit here and there to make the creatures more viable in the 21st century, and I’ve focused on just one or the other. Nothing’s clicked so far. They don’t feel original enough, or fun enough, or like the sort of story I would write. I want a story that is different from the other stuff out there. If it feels too much like another story, what’s the point of writing it in the first place?

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to come up with the story, and I’m stubborn enough to keep at it till something sticks. Immersing myself in a book or TV show or audio book; working on Toyland (or, if I need a break from that, a short story idea I have in reserve); doing some other activity; or just enjoying life. Just living my life, I come across new things everyday. Perhaps something will cross my path and make my idea fragment into a full story idea. Preferably before someone else writes a story about the creatures and makes any of my ideas pointless, that is.

In the meantime, what do you do when you can’t come up with a story for an idea fragment? And have you heard of the bicorn and the chichevache before?

And while you’re still here, are you still looking for something for the lover of the macabre and the weird in your life this holiday season? If yes, might I recommend my very own novel, Rose? When Rose Taggert wakes up in a greenhouse with no memory of how she got there, she soon finds her life, and her body, irrevocably changed. Thus begins a Kafkaesque nightmare of intrigue, magic and violence as Rose fights not just for the truth, but for her own survival. Available now in ebook and paperback from Amazon (and soon to be available from Audible in audiobook form). Links are below.

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

Rose: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada

This has been long overdue. But as promised, I am doing another post on anime I like. After all, along with horror, anime is a huge influence on me and my life as well as my writing (anyone who’s read Rose can see that). So with that in mind, I thought I’d do another post recommending some anime I’ve enjoyed recently and that I hope other people would like to check out.

If you’d like to check out my first list, click here.

And with that in mind, let’s get onto the recommendations!

Princess Tutu

At first glance, this anime seems like it’s something aimed at little girls. A duck is chosen to become a human girl, and then become a magical girl named Princess Tutu, who uses the power of dance to restore a prince’s lost heart. And admittedly, the first couple episodes are light-hearted and comedic. But as you continue on, it becomes clear that this is actually a dark and emotional anime about fate vs. free will. The characters soon begin to realize that there are sinister forces manipulating their lives, and it becomes a struggle not just to restore the prince’s heart, but if they should restore it, as well as to find a path that allows them to control the course of their lives.

This is the sort of anime where you’ll look back at the first episode after watching the last and be like, “Holy crap? Did that just happen?” It’s a roller coaster, a thought-provoking anime that uses dance to create emotional struggle and to explore the idea of who controls our destiny. If you want a surprising fantasy anime using a beautiful art form to tell its story, you might enjoy Princess Tutu.

Also, this is an anime I watched as research for Toyland. Just saying.

The Helpful Fox Senko-san

An overworked and super-stressed office worker comes home one day to find a fox spirit in the form of a human girl in his apartment. This fox-girl introduces herself as Senko, and says she’s here to take care of and pamper the office worker. Thus starts the office worker’s new, and hopefully more relaxing, life.

At first, I was not sure what to make of this anime, or why I kept watching it. But then I had a long, exhausting, stressful day at work, and I realized the reason why I was drawn to this show. We’ve all had days where life has stressed us out and we want to scream to the heavens about our exhaustion. And on those days, we really wish there was someone waiting at home for us at home to take care of us and make things better. Maybe not a magical fox girl, but someone. Senko-san taps into that, and gives us a scenario like that. And rather than making us overly jealous, it actually relaxes you a bit. You relax vicariously.

If you’re interested in an anime that aims to soothe you (or you’re into ASMR, like I am), I highly recommend The Helpful Fox Senko-san.

Digimon Tamers

A lot of people think Digimon is a knockoff of Pokemon, but in reality they’re just very similar products that came out around the same time in the 1990s. In fact, at some points Digimon was more popular than Pokemon! Another thing people don’t realize is, unlike Pokemon, the anime is made up of several different anime revolving around the same concept, like how there are multiple coexisting versions of Marvel superheroes with their own separate universes.* And Digimon Tamers is, by far, the best of the various series.

In this version of the franchise, Digimon are fictional characters with a TV show and card game, kind of like our world at the turn of the century. However, certain children come across real Digimon. Unlike on TV, however, these are violent and wild animals who enjoy the fight and the kill as much as they enjoy the human world. As time passes, it becomes clear that a secret shadowy organization is watching the Digimon and trying to stop them as they emerge into our world. And if these kids aren’t careful, they’re going to lose more than their new friends.

A darker take on the franchise, Digimon Tamers deals with the issues of what it’s actually like to have a connection with what is essentially a sentient wild animal that needs to kill its fellows to survive. It’s a slow burn story that grows more complex as time goes on, dealing with heavy psychological issues and even incorporating cosmic horror themes at times. If you want to see how a “kids show” can be more mature than some shows for adults, while at the same time evoking 90’s and 2000’s nostalgia, this may be the show for you.

*And for those unaware, the concept of Digimon revolves around children who befriend monsters made of computer data, and together they fight evil Digimon and try to maintain the balance of both the human world and the Digital World.

Flying Witch

Makoto is a young witch who moves out to the country to live with relatives. The goal is to attend high school in an area with plenty of nature while also nurturing her magic skills. Along the way, she makes friends, sees amazing sights, and collects a lifetime of memories.

Flying Witch is a relaxing, quiet anime that focuses more on interaction between its characters and making you laugh or feel good rather than building a big, magical world. The result is a mellow series that leaves you feeling relaxed while you watch it. If you’re just looking for something wholesome to melt your stress away, Flying Witch is probably the answer.

And trust me, it’s worth it just for the “Mommy” joke in the first episode.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

Madoka Kaname is your average middle school girl. That is, until she saves a mysterious creature from a transfer student in her class, and the creature offers to grant her one wish in exchange for becoming a magical girl and fighting evil entities known as witches. While at first it sounds like a great deal, Madoka soon learns that every wish comes with a price. And for some, it’s too much to pay.

Considered a classic of anime, Madoka Magica is a dark take on the magical girl genre, showing the psychological toll of trying to be a savior of humanity at the tender age of 14 can do to a girl. Combined with masterful twists and storytelling, beautiful backgrounds and trippy imagery, this is an anime that’s still being talked about today.

If you’re looking for an anime to surprise you (or you want to see one of the other anime I watched as research for Toyland), I can’t recommend Madoka Magica enough.

Cells at Work

You know that movie, Osmosis Jones? Imagine an anime version that’s a thousand times better, and you have Cells at Work, which portrays an anthropomorphized world full of cells working together in a human body as their city.

This series has been lauded for its accuracy as a portrayal of how blood cells actually work (albeit from a whimsical side) and has even been used as a teaching tool in universities around the world. Plus, it’s just fun to see a hapless red blood cell hanging out with a ruthless white blood cell, platelets portrayed as small kids going around and building things, and watching bacteria getting the shit kicked out of them.

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms

This is one of the most Ghibli-like non-Studio Ghibli films I’ve ever seen, and I mean that in a good way. Maquia is part of the Iorph people, a tribe of long-living humanoids with blonde hair, blue eyes, and youthful appearances. One day, after a powerful kingdom invades their homeland and Maquia is separated from her people in the ensuing madness, she comes across a human baby whose mother has just died. She adopts the child, and soon begins a journey that will change the both of them forever.

While I have some problems with how the movie explains the world it’s set in, I have to admit this is a beautiful tear-jerker of a film. It captures the struggles of parenting beautifully, while also adding in the pressures of being an eternally young mother. At the same time, it deals a lot with identity, extremism, and the things people are willing to do to survive. It’s a powerful film and may make you cry. If you prefer your anime more heartwarming and Ghibli-ish, I can’t recommend Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms enough.

Gonna be the Twin-tail

A parody of magical girl anime, Power Rangers, and the hairstyle of twin pony/pigtails (aka “twintails”) which shows up in 80% of anime, this is one of those anime meant to make anime lovers laugh!

A high school boy with a thing for girls with twintails is approached and tasked with a humongous task: aliens are coming to Earth with the goal of stealing the world’s twintails and other attributes that cause physical attraction! Why? Because they feed on that sort of thing, apparently! And this young man must stop these aliens from messing with his beloved twintails…while at the same time transforming into a redheaded girl with twintails named Tail Red.

Yeah, this series is weird. But for anyone who’s been around the anime scene long enough, it’s basically a goodhearted laugh at what makes most of us keep coming back to the medium. I wouldn’t watch it if you’re looking to explore anime for the first time. But if you’re already into the scene, and you need a lighthearted laugh, Gonna be the Twin-tail is the series for you.

 

What anime do you recommend? Have you seen any of the ones on this list? What did you think? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll have more posts out soon, believe me (though it may be another 6-8 months before I do a list like this again). And until then, goodnight and pleasant nightmares!