Lovecraft’s Tricks For Writing The Impossible: You Only Know One Of Them

24 01 2023

You know which one: “OMG it’s impossible!” Well, he had other tricks and a couple caught me off-guard. This is a useful YouTube channel, so maybe subscribe.





Publishing Update!

12 01 2023

Mentioned before that my publisher Noble Fusion Press will be releasing three of my novels this year. Two will launch at big deal conventions:

“Saints of Flesh” will launch at StokerCon in Pittsburgh, June 15 – 18.

“Fazgood and the Obstreperous Moosecrab Caper” launches at The World Fantasy Convention in Kansas City, October 26 – 29.

Cover reveals for both are forthcoming.

“The Flesh Sutra” releases soon in a third edition with some tweaking. You will be kept up to date on that as well.

My publisher will start a newsletter for me, probably by this summer. The newsletter will have lots of supplemental material: drawings; playable AD&D races, classes, and characters; stories published in the past and more!

This is an exciting year already! I’m glad you are here so I can share it with you.





Did You Write a Monster Or A Careening Semi?

3 01 2023

Lately, I’ve been tempted to write about the politics of our time. Or about issues in our zeitgeist. Or about the changes in our society. You know…Make A Stand About Something. Wield Art like a glowing sword, shining as a beacon, hacking through the darkness of ignorance.

Let’s overlook the fact that I, a Gen-Xish Provincial Liberal Straight White Guy, have neither the chops nor the lived experience to expand the cultural debate. I can write about my own experiences, of course, like John Updike but anxious, with more sentient body parts.

Over the past few years, I’ve encountered a few stories which address social issues. I’d felt that the monsters in these stories lacked agency, that these stories were parables with monsters in them, and weren’t truly Horror Stories.

I’d come to realize that this lack of agency wasn’t endemic to topical stories, but what I’d actually found were stories with weak monsters, and those monsters just happened to be used as symbols.

How do you know if your monster has little agency or lacks depth?

If you can replace your monster with a careening semi without it affecting the plot, your monster may need more.

Keep in mind that I respect these stories and other works by these same authors. It’s just that these particular stories share a common trait which hampers their emotional impact. That common trait is a lack of depth or agency in the story’s monster.

If you can replace the monster with a careening semi, then you have not written a horror story. You have a parable with a horrific setting.

Honestly, I forgot who wrote this first story, except that it is contemporary. A group of construction workers are part-way through building a house in a wooded development. The sun goes down. A werewolf appears and kills all the men but one. Though uninjured, the survivor suffers from the werewolf attack through weeks of guilt and misplaced sense of manliness. The story ends with the man back at the development screaming his anguish at the moon.

Do you see it? That the werewolf could be replaced by any catastrophe, by a careening semi, and the story would not need to change a whit? Many say “trauma transforms us as surely as lycanthropy”. I call this story a parable and not a story, then I imagine a story where his scream brings the werewolf back for something resembling an arc, then imagine another story where he looks to the moon and screams out the long blast of a big-rig airhorn. I set that last story idea aside to workshop.

Another recent novella is set in the early 1900s, in a rural community is threatened by a White Supremecist’s plans to create an armed enclave. The monster comes in the form the Gifters, three spectral women who visit those who disrupt their community. They present a gift to the interloper, a trinket meaningful to that person. Then the person explodes into a spray of gore. This story’s language, tone, and characters compel and chill, and it is a great story from a great podcast. But a careening semi could have done the job, and kicked the wrapped gift out of its cab door.

Think about popular stories with strong monsters like “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream”, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”, or “Dracula”. If a careening semi appeared, the plot would be dramatically difficult, especially “Dracula” as diesel rigs hadn’t yet been invented. These all have strong, decision-making, influential monsters.

Think about great works of literature. There are examples where the monster is a bit weak.

“The Grand Inquisitor” in “The Brothers Karamazov”: The Inquisitor interrogates the Prisoner and explains why he must die. The Prisoner busts out in a cloud of diesel exhaust and roars away to freedom.

“Moby Dick”: Some sort of submarine?

“Gunga Din”: Again with the air horn.

Keep in mind that I have a Bachelors in Communications and as such, know a little about everything.

More experienced writers, think about your favorite story. Does this test stand up?

Can your monster outperform a semi?





Movie Reviews: “heck” and “History of the Occult”

27 12 2022

You may have heard of “Skinamarink”, the new atmospheric horror coming out January 13. Or maybe you haven’t. It was shot in the director’s childhood home on some tiny budget, but it seems ready to redefine “atmospheric dread” in cinema. Two boys wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing and that their house has no doors or windows. Here is the trailer and man its got a mood:

It’s like a ’70s cheap horror directed by Lynch.

Man-oh-Manischewitz I am primed for this! I am even more primed for it for having watched “heck”. The director Kyle Edward Ball created a short movie to test his ideas and even this short movie is a dunk in cold seawater. This is “heck”:

There are no jump scares, no soundtrack, no worn-out tropes. Just a kid not understanding how badly things have gone wrong.

I got a free trial for Screambox. for a movie I’ve been wanting to see for a couple of months. This was the most popular horror movie in South America back in 2020, “History of the Occult”.

Art creates, the artist changes, the world , and what DID Karl Rove mean by “we make our own reality?”

In a retro Buenos Aires, reporters for a newsmagazine try to suss out a cabal of industrialists who are…what? In cahoots…doing something black magic? Their live interview show goes off the air at midnight, and each minute the stakes raise from the political to the Weird.

The movie takes ALL the ’80s Satanic Panic elements, secret societies, missing children, mystical corporate logos, all of it, mixes it with today’s strongman politics. It gives new context to Argentina’s “Disappeared Ones.” It even makes the trite phrase “The End of History” chilling. It has a few dangling threads. If one was to take a second, one could guess where the plot is going, but the plot is so quick everything hits in a wonderful surprise. There are a couple of pleasant turns against cliche. No gore. Just plain creepy.

I’ve been lacking inspiration lately, but these have helped me see that Yes, I like thought-provoking and creepy.





Jordan Peele’s Advice On Writing Thrillers

22 12 2022

Another comedy writer and performer making horror. I don’t feel comfortable giving advice, but this guy knows stuff!





If You Type “Horror Writing” Into YouTube…

15 12 2022

…you end up with a lot of advice. Who should you listen to?

Once I get over turning up my nose at writers I hadn’t heard of, I remind myself “YES.”

Listen to all of the advice. Apply what appeals. File away what doesn’t for sharing or for future use.

This writer gives useful advice not just for horror, but for all writing. It could be applied to humor or romance. Like “keep it medically accurate” could apply to pies in the face or to aroused body parts. Just saying.





Writing For Realism

27 10 2022

Have a look at these spooky stories on Jezebel.com. Every year, Jezebel solicits spooky stories from readers, stories that are supposed to be “true” and to “have actually happened”.

Which ones do you think are hooey?

More important, why do you think so?

Even more important, how can you avoid these writers’ mistakes and make your fiction seem more “real”?

I’ve been reading them every year for well over a decade. I can’t conclusively prove any story is fake. The editors and writers rarely suppose or reveal a fake story. The very idea of “fake” presupposes the events did not occur. It is possible the events are “true”, but the process of writing and editing the story, embellishing or rearranging those events, made the stories more traditionally compelling, but too pat, and not seem “real”.

Every year I eagerly go to Jezebel, read these, and grumble “fake, fake, fake…” Then “ooh that might have happened. Why do I think this one happened?”

This is what makes a story seem more “real” to me:

Avoiding traditional plot beats. Some of the Jezebel stories start out with small creepy events, build to disturbing occurrences, to finally burst into a decidedly frightful outcome. You know, just like a fictional spooky story. Reality seldom follows a beginning, escalate, climax. Reality is most often in media res: something’s been going on for a while, then the observer becomes involved. Or the events are disparate. Scattered. Happening to different people at different locales with the information of those events not being brought together until much later.

Mundane “cinematography”. Real life does not translate well into art. Few dramatic images. And real life never uses director tricks found in student films. Take the Jezebel story where the nurse is watching a surveillance monitor switching through camera feeds, or the story where the spooky thing gets closer each time the protagonist looks away. I know I’ve seen a movie with the feeds, and three movies with that spooky thing getting closer when you look away.

Avoiding conclusions or convenient supporting info. “Much later, I was told that a serial killer had lived in that apartment.”

Having emotional impact. Remember that story with the nurse and the cameras? She had been told about a priest coming to bless Room Four, but she didn’t know why. So a patient was put in this room. She saw a shadowy figure on the camera. The patient died of “heart attack”. She quit her job. No mention of that dead patient, though. Shruggy emoticon!

All of this year’s Jezebel stories, with the slight exception of the attempted kidnapping one, end with “shruggy emoticon.” No long term trauma or guilt because the characters have no life outside the story. There is no effort to create a sense of loss carried outside the story.

Let’s look at a found footage movie that I think gets it right, “Hell House LLC.” Writer/director Cognetti starts the movie “documentary” by telling the characters the Abaddon Hotel is haunted. Almost the first third of the movie is spent establishing characters. The prankster friend-cameraman finds the first weird events, but everyone believes his footage is faked. Tension builds due to the tight, twisting halls and stairs, not camera tricks. The climax builds due to the occult influences counting down to Halloween night. Look for this movie. No gore. No cheating. Just suspense. At the end, things get implausible but by then you’re hooked.

A traditional movie that seems “real” is “Session Nine”. At the end of the story, not a single character fully understands what has happened to them. The viewer does and it’s chilling. I wish I could write something like this.

I’ve seen short stories which eschew three-beat plots and get their chills from plausibility. Author Gemma Files seems to be making this style her niche and I encourage you to find her work online.

I’ll point out others who do really well whenever I can.





Tim Waggoner Writes Monsters. Here’s How!

18 10 2022

Prolific and award-winning author Tim Waggoner tells how he creates new monsters.

If I may add, I would advise taking an unsettling, compelling image you find and trying to animate it. For example, think of a garland of bright red roses. How might that be made into a monster? What would it eat? Would it crawl like a snake? Writhe through the vacuum of space?





Synopsis of What I’ve Been Writing

22 09 2022

SYNOPSIS OF “THE FLESH SUTRA” AND “SAINTS OF FLESH” 

In 1890s Boston, the mystic ALECSI KERESH is visited by THOMAS SPALDING and his wife OLIVIA CORMIER SPALDING. Thomas suffers from a life-threatening brain tumor. Alecsi has helped others banish serious illnesses.  

Olivia learns Alecsi’s mysticism. Alecsi is impressed with Olivia’s great talent. They fall in love. Thomas catches the lovers and murders Alecsi.  

Now a spirit, Alecsi forces himself into Thomas’ tumor. Alecsi gestates and births himself from Thomas’ eye. Alecsi has violated his beliefs by murdering and creating himself as a creature outside of nature. Standing over the homunculus Alecsi, Olivia declares that she is ready to learn everything. 

Olivia conceals the murder by burning down the mansion. She is cut off from the Spaulding fortune. She and Alecsi flee to California. She meets with an old family friend MRS. CARUTHERS, who mourns her husband. Alecsi helps Olivia contact his spirit. Olivia gains entree into San Francisco society. 

A noted stage magician courts her. Jealous, Alecsi seals the magician’s soul into a maggot in his mother’s grave. 

Olivia starts a school of spiritualism. Mystics travel from all over the world to learn.  

The school is denounced by a local Christian firebrand. Alecsi provokes the firebrand’s own mystic abilities. Olivia crushes the firebrand’s soul under visions of her hypocrisy. 

Public opinion turns against the school. Olivia sponsors a local politician and teaches him how to seem a champion in everyone’s eyes. Alecsi grows jealous. Conflicting perceptions of the politician wrenches him apart during a speech. Olivia is now a social outcast. She and Alecsi reconcile. 

Olivia flings the school into San Francisco’s artistic community. Students say that they see visions of a man with a bleeding eye.  

Alecsi realizes that Thomas’ soul is still bound to them. As an abomination, Alecsi is outside of karma. As long as he exists, Thomas must haunt them. Thomas’ appearances grow more threatening. 

Alecsi dreams of a teacher in an Asian jungle. The man calls to Alecsi, saying he can help Alecsi grow beyond his stunted, cancerous physique. A talented student who can transport himself to whatever location is in his line of sight. The student discovers Alecsi’s existence. Alecsi resolves to travel to Asia with the student.  

At a salon, Mrs. Carruthers is shot by Thomas. Olivia’s oldest friend dies cursing Olivia. Olivia tells the police the student traveling with Alecsi is the murderer. The student and Alecsi go by ship to Asia. 

On the ship, Alecsi’s existence now bends the laws of nature. Ghosts torment the crew. The ship itself succumb to darkness. The student and Alecsi slip overboard and watch the ship sail into damnation. 

Olivia sees her abilities waning and that adds to her despair over Alecsi’s departure.  

Alecsi and the student find the teacher. Alecsi learns to compromise with his guilty conscious, allowing him to reshape his original body for hours at a time. Thomas appears and sends the student into space. Alecsi is captured.  

As Alecsi becomes more powerful, so does Thomas. Thomas brings Alecsi back to the now-corrupted school. Alecsi is kept in a basin of acid to keep him from growing. The now-malicious students bury Olivia alive, taunting her fear of death. 

Sensing Alecsi is near, Olivia overcomes her morbid terror. She projects her spirit in order to entrance her captors into disinterring her body. Olivia confronts her former students, who thanks to Thomas, can invoke horrors. Bloodied, she is victorious and saves Alecsi.   

The school lay abandoned. For as long as Alecsi lives, Thomas must remain. Olivia will never abandon Alexandri.  Olivia, Alecsi, and Thomas settle into a deathless detente, awaiting some new influence through the ages to break the impasse. 

At the start of “Saints of Flesh”, Olivia lives in the ruins of her school of spiritualism. She had mummified herself fifty years ago in the 1970s after her lover and guru Alecsi left her. She is haunted by the spirit of her husband THOMAS, who she and Alecsi murdered in the 1890s. Olivia wants Alecsi back and has been using her spiritualist abilities to find someone to help help her. GRETCHEN FIGGS responds to Olivia’s enticements. Gretchen has cancer, and she allows Olivia to possess her body to cure her disease. Now Olivia can use three keepsakes to locate Alecsi, and use Gretchen for any physical work.  

Gretchen’s possession is discovered by her friend DEVIN BAY, an occultist. Devin tries to provoke Olivia by performing a ceremony in her school, but is attacked by the unique toxic butterflies which brood at the school. 

Gretchen and Olivia discover that someone had stolen the keepsakes: a terrarium, artwork by Alecsi and Olivia, and a silver bowl.  

Olivia uses her tenuous psychic connection with the first keepsake to locate it with MARKO KRATOS. Markos uses the psychically charged terrarium to grow potent herbs. Marko had been using these herbs, as well as sending them to mysterious clients. Gretchen and Olivia discover Marko is guarded by a tupil, a psychically created creature. They defeat the tupil, resulting in Marko’s death. Olivia wonders, How did an herbalist know how to create a tupil? 

Olivia attempts to reduce Gretchen’s cancer but finds fighting the tumors an overwhelming task. She believes Alecsi will cure Gretchen when they find him. A still-living Devin Bay approaches Gretchen at the school. He is now possessed by Thomas, and they hint there is a vast power at work. They warn Olivia to cease her search. Gretchen realizes the butterflies have vanished, not only from the school, but from all record. What could twist reality enough to remove a sub-species? Olivia is dismayed, but persists in the search. 

Gretchen uses Marko’s electronic devices to uncover ELSIE MCDONOUGH, a psychic with a kitchy reputation. Elsie owns a museum of cursed objects. Gretchen and Olivia visit and discover the museum basement filled with items possessed by spirits who prophesize disasters. Olivia’s artwork cows the spirits into obedience. A spirit interferes, one looking like a much younger Olivia. In the fight for the artwork, Gretchen ignites a fire. The spirit withdraws. But Olivia and Gretchen accidentally kill Elsie. They escape the fire with the artwork. 

The spirits of the cursed items fled their incinerated objects and now possess Gretchen’s tumors. Olivia is distraught. How can she fight them? Who is this spirit, who Olivia calls the Imposter? How can she cure Gretchen?  

Worse, Thomas and Bay have returned. Thomas has gathered a demolition crew to level the school. Could Olivia exist without her school? 

Clues from a strange artwork created by Alecsi point to a village in a valley. Marko’s devices refer to an altruistic organization in a similar shaped valley. Olivia feels close to finding Alecsi. 

Gretchen and Olivia visit the campus. The campus is infused with the energy of the Imposter. A house in the mountains gleam with Alecsi’s aura. The members of the organization too are infused with the Imposter and Alecsi. They detain Gretchen in the house. Gretchen and Olivia discover that the Imposter herself is a tupil, one who was created by Alecsi himself. Alecsi stole the keepsakes to fuel this altruistic organization: Marko’s herbs were used to bolster Elsie and the organization’s abilities; Prophesies from the cursed items told where help was needed; The Imposter used the prophesies to guide the psychic energy. Alecsi provided the reality-ability energy by bathing in acid within Olivia’s silver bowl. His channeled agony powers the Imposter in twisting reality and thwarting the prophesies. 

Alecsi had been working with Thomas to dissuade Olivia from her quest. Olivia is devastated by Alecsi’s betrayal. Alecsi needs the prophetic spirits to continue his work. He needs the keepsakes at the school as well. The Imposter uses his energy to twist reality and capture Gretchen. 

Gretchen finds herself dismembered but still alive, a living shrine to the prophets. Gretchen provokes Olivia to action. Olivia realizes she too can control Alecsi’s wild energy. She brings Gretchen back to the School safe and whole. The demolition crew is readying their destruction. Olivia frightens them away. 

Betrayed, challenged, Olivia realizes she is more powerful than she has allowed herself to be. She realizes the Imposter’s weakness and defeats it. His creation defeated, Alecsi arrives at the school to get the keepsakes and the cursed spirits. Olivia twists reality to place the cursed spirits into Alecsi’s body.  

Thomas’ soul is released to reincarnate. Bay flees, terrified. 

Sometime later, Olivia restores her body. She and Gretchen entice a small-town tycoon to his doom. They provide a disturbingly organic jewelry to an aspiring businesswoman. Another chapter of Olivia’s life begins. 

END





A Horror Writing Idea Beyond My Reach

21 09 2022

Since I first read the article in 2017, I have been fascinated by YouTube marketing psychotic content to toddlers.

Did you read this article?

Something Is Wrong On The Internet by James Briddle

Or this more recent one from The Guardian?

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/sep/13/unboxing-bad-baby-evil-santa-youtube-swamped-creepy-kids-content

It talks about a bad thing brewing at Google. That bad thing would make a cool story idea.

It has body horror with the increasingly disturbing, dismembered videos. It has the occult via algorithms invoking a primal force. It creates a new mythos, one where Cognition is a destructive force.

I’ll explain how I see it. It is said that capitalism taps into the fundamental human drive toward survival (simplistic, but bear with me). It is said that babies see the world most clearly, without civilizing preconceptions. YouTube is letting these two primal qualities dialogue on a planet-wide scale with the merest filter of cartoons.

What zeitgeist will result? The adult world is already dealing with Identity becoming more fluid. Is some evolutionary force now easing us into swappable heads, swappable body parts, Frozen Elsa with chicken feet, Spiderman with a brain-belly? No matter the algorithm YouTube came up with, they had to fall back to creating “war rooms” to control increasingly disturbing videos.

One perspective would ask: is this content disturbed, or are we learning that post-humanism is a natural impulse? If there is an evolutionary goal, is our goal to surpass the flesh?

A spiritual perspective would remind that ads for “The Exorcist” often accompanied these videos.

My thoughts are half-baked. But there seems the germ of an idea that *by some design*, YouTube is invoking Something lurking beyond Consciousness. This Something is as eternal and fundamental as gravity, and it works to bring humanity back to a primordial precognizance. The results would look pretty damn cool. We would watch it for hours. Lose track of time. Forget to eat.

I want to make it a short story! Dangblastfurgozzlenamchazzlegumit!

Maybe from the perspective one of the content producers. They’d get a printout every morning from their computer, an AI which assembles a script based on scraping the most recent YT search algorithms. They would be puzzled, then amused, then be appalled at the script demands. But bills gotta be paid.

I'm noticing improvements. But there has been a physical cost.







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