A Great Article With Book Recommendations

21 10 2014

Reggie Oliver is way underrated, for example. He writes great suspense.

The Literature of Fear: 12 High-Quality Horror Books for Sleepless Nights





The Flesh Sutra

18 10 2014

“The Flesh Sutra” is a work filled with fascinating characters, surprising, sometimes horrific, events and a very sweeping, cinematic style.”
In Fin de siècle Boston, the mystic healer Alecsandri Keresh falls into the desperate embrace of his lover, Mrs. Olivia Spalding, as he is shot dead. In those final moments before the soul passes through the gateway of death forever, Alecsandri’s rage transforms his power and he forces his way back. But he does so through ghastly means and returns to life – as an abomination.

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Reading Ghost Stories As Research

15 10 2014

To prepare for a ghost novel I plan to write, I have read three contemporary ghost stories. “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters is the most classically gothic, set in a post-WWII English estate. “The Green Man” by Kingsley Amis takes the classical ghost story and updates it to swinging ‘60s England. Grady Hendrix brings the story to post-industrial Ohio to comment on our working world in “Horrorstor”.

“The Green Man” follows a traditionally alcoholic and rakish Amis protagonist as he runs a bed-and-breakfast in developing rural England. The character tolerates his family, drinks huge amounts of scotch, and works to connive ménage a trois with another man’s wife. He is turned into an anti-hero by his biting observations and the unsettling death of his father.
The B&B setting is haunted by a 17th century sorcerer. The protagonist’s obsession with the apparition drives the story to an end that’s more contemplative and less chilling. It’s an examination of death rather than the dead.
The book itself is only worth examination. The sorcerer is intriguing but Amis gives no thought as to what powers his work. Plot threads dangle and sway in the wind.
I found this useful only in how well Amis works with realistic characters.

I read “Horrorstor” all the way through in one sitting. I’ve enjoyed Grady Hendrix through Pseudopod.org’s readings of “Tales of the White Lodge”, farces in which a Carnaki-like adventurer spins tales of ghosts, booze, money, and racism. Hendrix also writes a very funny weekly takedown of CBS’ “The Dome” for Tor.com.
He brings his mix of morbid humor and social commentary to “Horrorstor”, a ghost story set in a furniture store styled like Ikea. As a ghost story, it owes more to Stephen King than M.R. James, with awesome effects over suspense.
I work in a Big Box store and sympathized with the young protagonist Amy in her retail job, dealing with customers, the cost of living, and corporate culture. In its own way, this book was its own cutthroat retail operation.
To keep the plot moving, Hendrix cut character development to the bone. For the plot to be plausible, he eliminated resources like custodial contractors, Asset Protection, and lighting to assist surveillance. To serve both humor and horror, the story effectively had two endings in which the villain is defeated but the innocent still suffer.
I’d like to be funny, chilling, and socially aware when I write. I like this book. It had some laughs and a few chills.

I learned that I want a conclusive ending and to keep as close to “real” as I can get. “Conclusive” can be tricky in the Gothic tradition, where hauntings could be ghosts, or hallucinations, or psychic projections onto reality. “The Little Stranger” by Sarah Waters uses artistic sleight-of-hand on the reader through limited and sometimes unreliable POV. A young man come of age in the shadow of an English estate, studies to be a doctor, and becomes physician and confidant to the estate family. The war has shattered the soul of the heir. The matron mourns a child long deceased. The independent daughter feels stifled by tradition. The house is falling into ruin. Who is setting the fires? Who is scribbling childish phrases in the most unlikely places?
Sarah Waters researches the hell out of her subjects. Her descriptions feel lush and full without slowing the plot. The suspense alone was enough to get me through the 500+ word novel, the first one of such length I had read in years.
From this book, I learned a couple of neat phrasings, and reinforced the idea of “adverbs should be placed after the modified verb, if they must be used at all.”

Overall, I think I gained only some focus through reading these novels. I discovered I want a conclusive, objective force powering the supernatural events. I gained a better sense of how to balance description and action. I still want to experiment with anomie versus physical isolation, and see if I can pull off the trick of “things walking in broad daylight”. I’ll be reading Peter Straub next, I think, and see what I can find.





Huge Disruption to Website On The Way…

14 10 2014

…as my publisher has persuaded me to change blogging thingee and provider.

This transfer is already taking up too much time.

The plan is to provide a website I can track with analytics and accessorize with neato flash stuff.

This may end in tears or be utterly brilliant.

 

 





STEAMPUNK SPARKLEZOMBIE REGENCY ALT-TEEN CTHULHU

8 10 2014

“Write your own magic system.”

That’s what Darryl Schweitzer told me years ago, after I had submitted a pretty egregious Lovecraft pastiche.

“If you do not get the details right, someone will make note. That adds an additional burden to your tale.”

That last part was a paraphrase, but I believe I captured the spirit. Maybe I even invented that part because I have learned that to be true: with a pastiche, the best you can hope for is building something impressive in someone else’s sandbox.

I’m young enough and egocentric enough to think I can do a good job on my own world building.

Mind you, when a writer is starting out, a writer MUST study and model the style of their favorite writers. But there is a difference between (to use a music reference) Brian Wilson studying The Lettermen and making their style into a new sound, and Noel Gallagher doing the same to John Lennon and making 2nd rate John Lennon.

A style comes with talent, practice, and aspiration. No writer can control innate talent. Writers can put in lots more practice and get plenty of rest and study other works to improve.

Aspiration is a whole ‘nother thing.

How distinct do you want your work to be?

How much of your own voice, that secret and heard only by yourself voice, is in your work?

Does your idea remind you of someone else’s idea? What new twist can you bring to that idea? A twist that gives you a thrill and makes you say “cool!” and “I’m not sure anyone else will like this.”

Does a character you write remind you of something you’ve read or that distinct person you know personally?

By writing your own world in your own voice, I believe you add to the dialogue of civilization. Your work can be both enjoyable to write and also challenging to yourself and to your reader. Editors tend to like stories that are different and provoking.

For the record: read and write whatever you want. Also, there are far better and more accomplished writers than me who write pastiches. One of my favorite stories is “A Colder War” by Charles Stross, a Lovecraft political parody.

But when one of the foremost Lovecraft scholars told me to swing for the fences, I’m inclined to listen. As a result, my writing experience has been more rewarding for me, has better impressed editors, and has gotten enthusiastic response from readers.





I Have A Goal & It’s Boss & Challenging!

26 09 2014

It is said among the writers that one could make a living if one has ten novels in print.
I’ve done research and found writers who have made that work.
Why them and not me?
I will write six novels in the next three years. Each novel will be from 50K – 80K words. So, a half million words in the next three years.
I am outlining three novels right now. I’ll let you know how they are going.

Novel 1: Haunted House Big Box Store
The alienation found in haunted house stories like “The Haunting of Hill House” can also be generated through anomie, or being lost in a crowd. I already have jokes in here. I will be using experiences gained through my part-time job at the Big Box store.

Novel 2: Real Politik Black Satire Fantasy Fiction
Set in the world of “The Mad Earl’s Homecoming”. The main character is an anti-hero who is part Elric and part Blackadder.

Novel 3: “Sour Crude Dead”
A new take on post-apocalypse zombies. The first chapter is done and I hope to sell it as a short story.





Horror Comedy Movie Reviews

24 09 2014

Netflix is a very good lay, in that it will show me only enough to keep me interested while scramming when I lose my endurance. I will not watch a movie that I find ridiculous in its first ten minutes. Life is too short and the internet is too, too tempting, even the parts without porn. Witness:

“Willow Creek”
Bob Goldwaith is an underrated yet frustrating director. He seems intent on taking the most extreme personal experiences and showing that dog-f**king happens to folks just like you and me. “World’s Greatest Dad” took a teen’s death by auto-erotic strangulation and turned it into another chance for Robin Williams to show his dick. “God Bless America” took spree-killing to its most rewarding targets, but failed to deliver the truly transgressive conclusion “They Deserved It.”
“Willow Creek” follows a troubled young couple on a quest to find Bigfoot in the wild. The premise is worn, and the movie’s found-footage format is wearing thin, but Goldwaith finds some golden moments in this production. The young couple is played by actors who share real chemistry and convey realistic emotion. The script allows the characters to develop and dares the viewer to be bored, even when waiting for those noises outside the tent. The conclusion is predictable, but still chilling.

 

“Jug Face” (not a comedy)
A stylized rural community sacrifices people to a monster in a hole. Too stylized for me to feel suspense for the characters. Tried for “American Gothic” (the TV series) and fell short in a way I haven’t figured out.

 

“Filth”
Turns “The Bad Lieutenant” into a he’s-really-an-okay-bloke comedy. No.

 

“Rigor Mortis”
Stylized the scary right out of a haunted tenement.

 

“All Cheerleaders Die”
Lucky McKee is another director who seems on the cusp of making a great movie, but needs some one (ME!) to give his scripts a last going-over. “May” took an obsessed teen seamstress in a predictable direction, gave the story a twist, and mistook the movie’s central event for an ending. “The Woman” took two tropes and ran them together in a surprising manner, then went overboard instead of using restraint.
(Please watch these two movies anyway. McKee’s strength is that he is a great Actor’s Director. Angela Bettis and Pollyanna MacIntosh by themselves are intense leads.) But “ACD” has too many characters, no clear magic concept, and lacks the courage of saying “yes, the magic that reanimated five four people is EVIL and not Wiccan”. The only PoC is the lead bad guy, who is also the most believable performer. This movie makes you appreciate Joss Whedon more, in that he knows that horror and comedy *alternate* scenes, and that jokes which digress from a scene ruin suspense, while jokes within the scene can heighten suspense.








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