Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween: Season of the Witch

I suppose that I should apologize for borrowing from the film, Halloween III: Season of the Witch for using part of their title for my heading; however, since that film is so universally [Censored by WW editorial staff], they may actually wish to offer us some residuals for bringing it up in the first place. In any event, I mean only to speak of the season that we are currently in, which is, of course, Halloween.

Now, being a church-going, Bible-thumping, Bible-believing kind of guy, I could easily write a very long post about several reasons why we should not want anything to do with such a date and the supposed thinning of the veil. Thankfully, this is not the forum for such posts, and personally I let this particular “holiday” pass by like water off the proverbial duck’s back. We have never really decorated our house or yard, but that wasn't because we had taken some concrete, unyielding stance or another. We just never have. My sons did go trick or treating. How else was my wife going to get her chocolate fix? Okay, I wanted some candy, too. I kind of like the whole ghosts and goblins long as there are no "real" apparitions to be seen in my house in the middle of the night. Some of you may know just how early I have to get up in the morning for my day-job; if there were some "things in the dead of night", I would definitely "bump" into them.

How about some of you folks? Are there any traditions that you enjoy, regarding this particular season? Do you decorate your yard or the inside of the house? Do you have small children or grandchildren that you dress up and escort about town, hunting for treats? The following photo is of Disney's Haunted Mansion after it has been transformed into The Nightmare Before Christmas. They do this for the holidays and not necessarily every year. Speaking of someone who has visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California quite often, it is spectacular to behold.

[caption id="attachment_3756" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Disney's Haunted Mansion"][/caption]There is one thing that I would like to do, but continue to fail at and that is hunting for horror films to watch. When I was a teenager, back when Nosferatu was a new film, I used to enjoy watching scary things (I was kidding about Nosferatu; I hope you caught that). I grew up with Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, John Carpenter films, and several other movies commonly regarded as Slasher Films. However, now that I think about it, I question whether we actually enjoyed those films, or simply partook of them because they were a bit of a taboo. Perhaps it was simply the thrill of watching something that our parents were barely allowing us to view, or that we were not allowed to do, but were doing so behind their backs anyway. Maybe it was a bit like that first drink, or the day we passed our driving test and could finally drive alone or our first [Once again,Censored by WW editorial staff] .

My problem now is I don’t think I have the stomach for senseless violence. I’m not terribly interested in something so formula-driven: several teenagers get together for drinking, doing drugs and having sex (yeah, I let that one go-the Censored joke had run its course) only to be hunted down, one by one, until the last one defeats the villain and survives; at least until the sequel. I’m not interested in torture porn, either. These days I prefer to be pulled along by The Sixth Sense or White Noise or The Silence of the Lambs or something that is more mentally frightening than physically disgusting.

How about you folks? Do you enjoy scary movies during this season of the year? If so, what are your favorites? Perhaps you may even help me by pointing out some films that I should really give a chance to. I’m always ready for a good ghost story, for example. Recently I have thought about watching certain films, The Messengers or The Skeleton Key come to mind, but I just never really took the plunge. Part of the reason has to do with having no one to view these films with; my wife can’t watch anything the least bit scary and my oldest son is barely at that age now. I let him watch Silence about a year ago and he sat there quiet as that lamb that finally stopped screaming when it was over, mind fully blown. When I have watched these films, I have had to do it on a laptop in the privacy of the back bedroom, so nobody else would see what they most definitely did not wish to see.

In any event, I am open, so what have you got? I would love to hear from any and all of you on this subject.

No matter how you view Halloween, may it be a safe one.

And if you must say Candyman or Beetlejuice, please refrain from saying it no more than twice…

…and never in my presence. I like all of my ghosts on the printed page.
[caption id="attachment_3757" align="aligncenter" width="198" caption="Watch out for hitchhiking ghosts."][/caption]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Halloween: From a Lost Generation Perspective

I recently found out I am of the 'Lost Generation'. Those poor souls born at the tail end of the baby boomers but didn't quite make the mark to be seriously considered for Generation X.

In other words, we are the generation who didn't have careers already established before computers came on the scene, and we are the generation who never got the computer training in school, because most of our schools couldn't afford them when they first started rolling off the assembly line.

However, I digress.

This piece is about a favorite Halloween memory. The backdrop is a time, not too long ago, when one knew their neighbors. When children actually played outside in the sunshine. When one didn't worry about what they ate, being politically correct or staying out after sundown.

The time was 1977.

I was in 6th grade that year. My mother had informed me that since I was on the cusp of becoming a teenager, this would be my last Halloween.

I was devastated.

You see, Halloween was really special back then. It wasn't all horror, gore, and Freddy Kruger.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="150" caption="devils nite kit, sans the rotten food"]

It was a time of bon-fires. Of hayrides, bobbing for apples and the Keetch's haunted corn maze.

It was who grew and carved the biggest pumpkin, salted pumpkin seeds warm from the oven and sharing fresh apple cider and homemade powder sugar donuts (that left nifty little white mustaches.)

It was of garages turned into haunted houses, complete with cold 'intestines' pasta, peeled 'eyeball' grapes, Jell-O 'for brains' and a multitude of gross food items that when blindfolded, could freak even the strongest of us kids out.

It was of Devil's Night; innocent pranks of robbing hen houses of eggs and gardens of their frost bitten tomatoes still the vine. Of toilet papering trees, soaping windows and smearing shaving cream on door handles.

It was ghost stories being read by a teacher, the homemade and very creative costume contests at school, of the parades through the high school classes to show off said costumes and of the party of candy before going out and getting more candy.

Oh - and speaking of the goody run, it was a time where you could expect EVERYONE to have their porch lights on. You could EXPECT to bring in a mother load of stuff to last you until January. You could EXPECT full size candy bars and not worry about needles and razor blades.

And it just wasn't about manufactured candy. There were Mrs. Brown’s popcorn balls. Mrs. Robertson’s sugar cookie ghosts with flooded white icing and smarties for the eyes. Mrs. Hunts Carmel apples - with or without nuts, your choice. Moreover, one could always expect a bottle of orange soda from the neighborhood "bachelors" (that's what we called the two gay guys that lived together since the Korean War.)

One time I brought home a real kitten in my sack of goodies. My parents where ‘thrilled’.

Another thing you could expect was at least three inches of snow to be on the ground. After all, Halloween night was only 15 days away from Open firearm Deer Season - a holiday in itself, as we got two days off from school to go to deer camp.

(Deer camp. Ahhh, yes. What good memories those days had – and a post for another time.)

Being that it was so cold out, it was hard to come up with good Halloween costumes that you could actually see and keep warm at the same time. Nothing was more disappointing than going to a door, yelling "Trick or Treat" through chattering teeth, and stand there for 10 minutes freezing your butt of while Old man George and his wife Helen tried to guess what you were.

This is where ingenuity came into play.

Some of my friends wore snowsuits, along with old electric guitars and painted their faces, KISS style. Others sewed a couple of old shiny raincoats coats together and looked like spacemen. Playing on the coat theme, some mothers would take old coats and turn them into furry-headed jumpsuits, allowing the wearer to go as a demented bear. Or werewolf, depending on the shape of the ears and tail.

My best buddy Bart dressed up as a woman in a mink coat for a few years. (He's also the one, during our last year of high school, wore a dress into a Marine recruiting office. And no, they didn't sign him up, but he did get a few dates out of the deal.)

[caption id="attachment_3749" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Men in drag, 1920s"][/caption]

My favorite costume I wore year after year? The mysterious dead hunter. It was an old, warm hunting jacket, donned with fake blood, a few 'animal' nail shreds, a ratted wig and hat, a pair of 'Blues Brothers' type sunglasses, a fake cigar, complete with a scruffy drawn on beard and mustache and a gun. (Yeah, this was back in the day where you could carry a reasonable look-alike weapon and not get a second glance.) Not only did this outfit keep my ' little naughty bits' toasty, but also I won several costume contests. Nobody could figure out who I was.

So why, after all these years, do I remember the Halloween of 1977 the best out of all the Halloweens there were?

Because it was the last one I ever celebrated.

Oh, and because on that last Halloween of my youth, I received my first kiss on the neighborhood hayride!

I told you that hunter costume was something else!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Psychic Ability 101

Today, I’m going to take the “Free-topic wild card”, but don’t worry, I’ll keep my post Halloween related.

In ancient mythology around the world, as well as in many New-Age religions, October 31st is the one day of the year in which the veil between the physical and meta-physical is thinnest. Many believe this is why ghost are able to walk the Earth on Halloween night. In addition to spirits passing between the astral plans, psychic energy is also able to move more freely on Halloween night.

Contrary to common belief, psychic “powers” isn’t something you’re just born with. Though some people are more naturally in tune to their intuition, the truth is anyone can learn to be psychic, should they choose. Psychic abilities are a skill and, just like writing or wood carving, require practice to develop. Today I’m going to give you all a small lesson in Psychic 101 that you can use to impress your friends and family with at you next Halloween party.

But first, you must understand some basics about psychic abilities. It helps to have an understanding of how psychic abilities work. Being psychic has nothing to do with a “sixth sense”. Developing your inner psychic is all about learning to take your five senses and turn them inward. For example, instead of using your eyesight to see the world around you, you would use your inner eye to see the world inside you. It’s all about learning to trust your gut instinct.

There are 3 ways in which people “see” or “use” their psychic abilities and they are, in fact, linked with the senses:

  • Clairvoyance: The ability to see images and pictures in your mind.

  • Clairaudience: The ability to hear with an inner ear.

  • Clairsentience: The ability to feel or simply know something with your inner mind.

Some people use a combination of the above. I, for example, am clairvoyant and clairsentient.

Now, how to use and develop your psychic ability? There is a very simple exercise for beginners that requires a deck of playing cards and a quiet space. Begin by getting comfy on the floor, sofa, bed, etc. Shuffle the deck of cards and then place them turned down in front of you.

Next, quiet your mind. If you’ve never done this before, Google Yoga meditation/breathing techniques. This part of the exercise may take several minutes for beginners, but try your best to keep your mind clear.

Now, pick up the first card off the deck. Without turning the card over, try to use your inner psychic to tell if the card is red or black. This exercise is easy because you have a 50/50 chance of getting it right, but you must resist the urge to simply guess the color. Really put an effort into focusing on your mind’s eye. What do you see/hear/feel? What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Usually your first thought or feeling is the correct one. Second-guessing or dwelling on the correct color for too long will mess up the process. Remember, developing your psychic ability is all about learning to trust your intuition.

A word about what you might see with your inner eye:  A large part about being psychic is learning to decode symbols. For example, even if you are clairvoyant, you won’t always see colors. Let’s say the card in your hand is red. You might not see red. You might see a heart or a diamond. Or you might see something completely random that you do not understand, but, in some way, symbolizes the color red. If you are clairsentient, you might feel heat when you touch a red card because red is usually a “warm” color. So even though you might not “see” what color the card is, do not think you’re doing it wrong. You just need to figure out how your unique inner psychic works.

So go ahead, give it a try! Now’s the time of year when this neat little trick will be easiest. Don’t be shy. It’s lots of fun. And if you’re good at it and want to develop your ability further, try guessing if the card is a face card or a suite card. Once you get good at that, go ahead and try to predict if the card is a heart, diamond, club, or spade!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quelle horreur?

A time for confessions? Indeedy!

But, not only have I not read any Stephen King (not even his book on writing, Sharon), I have also not read Dean Koontz, James Herbert and that chap called Poe! (I have been warned off Shaun Hutson and Clive Barker – but, strangely enough, I had never heard of them in the first place. No loss there, then.)

He heard snarling, inhuman voices cutting through the ghostly blackness in front suddenly ... a man was beating a dog with a stick… [He] strained helplessly not to see or hear ... A small crowd watched. A squat woman stepped out and asked [the man] please to stop. "Mind your own business," the man barked gruffly, lifting his stick as though he might beat her too ...

Ooops…. Now where did that come from?

When researching for this post… “Research,” I hear you exclaim. Yes, research…

When researching for this post I recalled the one (horror) story that I read that must have appealed to me. Well, I recalled it, didn’t I?

When I was young, I had a collection of short stories – the only collection of short stories I had ever attempted to read, until I acquired a collection of Anton Chekov only last year… There I go, digressing again…

[He] quickened his pace to get away, almost ran ... At the next corner a man was beating a small boy brutally in the midst of an immobile crowd ... [He] recoiled with sickening recognition. He was certain he had witnessed that same horrible scene sometime before. Déjà vu?

Some digression! Now, where was I?

Ah, yes… a short horror story… Well, despite recalling it, I have no idea of who wrote it or what its title was; but its themes have stuck with me. If someone tries to engage me in a conversation about horror stories and writers, then this short story is about the only thing I can talk of… then I try and change the subject because I truly cannot recall the detail.

I do know that the story in question featured three inns on a desolate moor, three inn-keepers, copious quantities of darkness and fog, a traveller and various body parts – including some rather ornately carved “ivory-like” utensils, chair legs and some rather tasty soup… Just what a tired traveller on the desolate moor would look forward to! I believe one of the inns was called the Rest of the Traveller!
[caption id="attachment_3715" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="I could just do with a drink..."][/caption]

The yawning wound — was that a tube of slimy bone he saw running deep inside the gory scarlet flowed behind the twitching, startling fibres of weird muscle? — was dripping blood in several trickles, like snow melting on eaves, but viscous and red, already thickening as it dropped.

Urggghhhhhhhhhh……… too, much detail! Is that why I don’t read horror stories? My mother was a nurse, my sister is a nurse, and my step sister too… I’ve been in and out of hospitals (as patient and visitor) and I viewed the effects of knife wounds and gunshot… Do I really want to read about more of the gory stuff?

[His] undershorts… were soaking up blotches of blood on one side as though in thirst. [He] was stunned at how waxen and ghastly his friend’s bare leg looked, how loathsome, how lifeless and esoteric the downy, fine curled blond hairs on his odd, white shin and calf. The wound… [was] as long and wide as his hand, and too raw and deep to see into clearly. The raw muscles inside twitched like live hamburger meat.

I said… “DO I REALLY WANT TO READ MORE OF THE GORY STUFF?” It’s a good job I’m not a regular at MacD’s or (perish the thought) BK… (Live oysters are much more fun… they don’t twitch so much… well, maybe, if the lemon is particularly sharp! But that’s another subject entirely.)

Then he saw a sickening, gigantic hole in his friend’s ribs and watched helplessly as the man died before him, his insides spilled out all over him, revealing a secret.

“Look, this is beyond a joke…”
“This what?
“This interrupting my blog post with your constant glimpses of stuff I’m not interested in...”
“Ah! That STUFF! You mean you don’t like glimpses into…”
“Into what?”
“Stop interrupting”
“Pardon,” I exclaim, “you’re interrupting me! I thought? Now you’re getting me confused…”
“I should say!”

His teeth were chattering in horror. He forced himself to look again. Here was God’s plenty, all right, he thought bitterly as he stared — liver, lungs, kidneys, ribs, stomach and bits of...

“There you go again.”
“There. Interrupting me when I’m about to tell you what I’m up to.”
“You’re up to something?” I ask, sarcastically. “What do you know of horror?”
“More than you, it would appear!”
“If that’s horror, I’m not sure I’m going to change genres…”
“But what?” I snap.
“But didn’t you say… now let me think… last post, wasn’t it? Didn’t you say something about horror being found in reality?
“Well, yes I did, I guess. But this?
“Yes, this…”

"It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter; that was [his] secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was [his] secret. Ripeness was all"

“Where did you find this?”
“Don’t you know? I am surprised, David… it’s one of your all time favourite books, by one of your all time favourite authors.
[caption id="attachment_3710" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Tasty, this soup..."][/caption]“I just played with your mind a bit and changed the context.”
“Go on then, tell me.”
“No. Now sit there and eat your soup...” ;)
"What did you say the name of this inn was?
"I didn't..."

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Have A Confession to Make: I'm A Fraud

Yes, you heard right.

I’m a fraud.

I’m not the horror aficionado that you all think I am.

You may have thought that after reading For G.O.O.D., Collection and Black Man With A Gun, but, really I’m still a novice in this genre. I know Crawl (still playing out in serial format in the latest issue of Spectacular Speculations; by the way, the October contest for Speculations is closed) was written back in 2003, but it is mostly science fiction.

Even though I have been writing for more than 30 years and call myself a science fiction and horror writer, I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar with this week's topic -- my favorite horror novel or the one that influenced me the most.

A longtime horror writer should have a wealth of books to refer back to. He should have favorite authors he can't count on both hands.

Sorry if you thought that about me.

I have committed some egregious sins in the horror field. I did not read Bram Stoker’s Dracula until about five years ago.

For shame!

Truth is, I’ve never been able to get through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus because I still compare it to James Whale’s classic with Boris Karloff.

I did not get enough desire to go find Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds until after I had gotten the 40th anniversary DVD edition of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful film version.

And, most serious of all, I moved away from Boston in the summer of 1982 without reading a single Stephen King story. Yeah, me, the guy who won an ACT-SO award for a chilling ghost story in 1981 did not read the Master of Horror while actually living in New England (the inspiration for the ghost story was The Screaming Skull, an absolutely dreadful film, even by my standards).

I saw Salem’s Lot on television and it did not lead me to a bookstore. When I was in high school in Texas, I found a copy of Night Shift and only then did I get into Mr. King. Oddly enough, I love his anthologies but have not been able to really read his full-length novels.

And I think I can blame it all on H.P. Lovecraft.

[caption id="attachment_3684" align="aligncenter" width="96" caption="H.P. Lovecraft, circa 1934"][/caption]


He was the one horror guy I did read at the library (and that was initially because of the fancy covers of his books). I found myself trying to get all of his books.

But, let’s face it, folks. H.P. Lovecraft was downright weird.

One glimpse into The Call of Cthulu, The Lurking Fear, The Colour Out of Space and The Shadow Over Innsmouth and you’d think you’ve entered another plane of reality (which you have). Fates you can’t escape, no matter if you’re a thousand years removed from the incident, deeply depressing circumstances and the inability for anyone to escape.

If I want that, I'll reread Thomas Tryon's Harvest Home.

To this day, I still can’t psyche myself into writing a Lovecraftian tale.

Thus, I read his books trying to understand them because it was a great challenge for a growing and maturing mind that had already dismissed the juvenile books about hot rods and wanted more than Johnny Tremaine. But, my brain was not up to the task yet and I made no trips to other sections of the horror shelves.

Finally, though, I was saved by Mr. King. Nightshift, a collection of the short stories he wrote and sold for various magazines in the 1970s, really got to me in a way that Lovecraft could not. I understood King’s stories, for one thing. Secondly, I could identify with the characters. Thirdly, King did not make New England into one horrible cesspool just a level or two above Dante’s Inferno like Lovecraft did (King was born in Maine; Lovecraft in Providence, Rhode Island).

King’s stories like The Raft where four horny teenagers get caught in the middle of a forbidden lake by a monstrous entity reminded me of my days as a horny teen sneaking up to Silver Lake in Halifax to watch Rachel and Michelle skinny dip (fortunately, the lake had no black gunk in it to spoil my experiences – there’s a joke in there but I’m not going to say it, you perverts).

Eventually, some of King’s works have found their way into my writing. Take a second look at For G.O.O.D. and you’ll see a bit of Quitters, Inc. in there.

The truth is, though, is that I’ve never really needed horror stories to influence my writing. I can look at everyday normal situations and think of some way they can become horrible and terrifying.

That’s how Palmetto bugs became the boogeymen of Red Herring.

And that scratching in the ceiling, is that from the squirrels running around in the eaves?

Or can it be something else?

Wait, I hear something more. More than just scratching. It sounds like…like…


My God, they’re gnawing through the ceiling. They’re coming after me.

They're...they're in the walls!

THE RATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Ah, another contest: Seems like I was just here. But, since my last contest went so well, I’ll take a cue from James and try again. If we can get some new reviews or comments over the next two weeks for at least one blogger this week and next, I’ll send the winner a copy of one of my favorite classic horror novels – Night Shift (Stephen King), The Birds (Daphne du Maurier), Pyscho (Robert Bloch), Stinger (James McCammon), The Keep (F. Paul Wilson) or Dark Tidings (Gregory Marshall Smith)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scary Fictional Creature

[caption id="attachment_3646" align="alignleft" width="247" caption=""It doesn't know we're here...""][/caption]

This was a most difficult topic to decide upon which character to write about. My first thought was to write about the fabled Sasquatch. Unfortunately, there was a sighting, so that canceled that notion. Then, because I was listening to “Synchronicity 2” by The Police, I decided to write about Nessie. You know the lyric, “…something crawls from the slime at the bottom of a dark Scottish Lake”. Sadly, a Twitter news alert came through that there was yet another sighting there, too. Delete, delete, delete.

[caption id="attachment_3648" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Nessie"][/caption]

Stymied yet again, I simply stared at the monitor while I awaited the muse. Eventually, she brought me something terrible, but incredibly useful. Glancing out the front window, I happened to notice perhaps the ugliest dog that I have ever seen, which sparked a memory. Here in the Americas we have this urban legend about wild reptilian dogs that attacks goats and other farm animals. They are called El Chupacabra. Just when I started getting all excited, juices flowing, fingers flying over the keyboard as if not really touching them, beautiful elegant prose singing across the monitor…the muse tapped me on the shoulder. She was pointing at the television and shaking her head from side to side, wearing a most disappointed frown. There, on a cable tabloid news show, a farmer in Texas was claiming that he had recently killed two of the creatures on his farm. It was then that I quoted the great John Hammond from Jurassic Park when he uttered arguably the most eloquent line ever heard on the screen, “Damn!”

(editor's note: the writer had planned to post a photo of the Chupacabras, but since every one was so freakin' ugly, he decided against it. You're welcome, by the way)

[caption id="attachment_3650" align="alignleft" width="229" caption="I miss the West Wing"][/caption]

I knew in the back of my mind, were I to fail to decide on something to write about, that I had a couple of go-to characters that I could use: honest politicians being one of them. However, I felt that there were some others; I simply needed to keep my nose to the grindstone until I figured out what they were. Eventually it came to me: the flying monkeys in the classic film, The Wizard of Oz. Those things scared the heck out of me when I was a kid. Even now (Anyone else hear Manilow singing just now? "Even now"?), should I start to reach for the DVD in order to put it inside the shopping cart, it is the first thought that comes to me. I don’t remember exactly just what is was about them, but I have yet to forget them, even after all of these years.

Have you had enough of my futile attempts at humor?

Alright then, perhaps a moment of seriousness is in order. There are but two fictional characters that stay with me. Linda Blair’s demon-possessed Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist and the creature from the film adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Unnamable.

Being the church-going fellow that I am, nothing gets any worse for me than the works of the devil. I have mentioned many times across the blogs this year, and should be firmly on record, as having scared myself with The Exorcist on every occasion. Other than reruns on television with edited versions of the film, I had never really seen it until about ten years ago when I bought my first DVD player and began snatching up special editions of DVDs as fast as humanly possible, and much to my wife’s chagrin. I have seen this film another two or three times since then and it never fails to ruin my sleep for a couple of days. One might ask why I continue to put myself in such positions. You can ask, but I don’t have a good answer for that. Dropped on my head as an infant?

While I'm at it, I have a chilling anecdote which I have shared before on the blog of Wicked Writer friend, Carole Gill. The first time that I watched the film, I did so over a couple of days. I had an hour or so between the time that I got off work and the time when my mother would bring my young children home from school. I was across the living room from the television, sitting on a couch. Beside me there on the right was a large table and upon it sat a large potted plant. On the second day when little Regan's transformation was complete, the DVD froze and that nasty demon-possessed girl stared at me. During this moment while I was waiting to see whether the film would resume or not, one of the plant's leaves slid down the wall, making the most audible of rubbing sounds. I turned toward the sound with a jump that I'll not soon forget and yelled at the plant, "Don't do that!" Here's what I was staring at:

[caption id="attachment_3651" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption=""Your momma knits socks that smell!""][/caption]

The other film that I mentioned is one of those that I came across by accident in a video store. (What’s that, you ask? A video store? A topic for another week, perhaps.) Anyway, I had read some Lovecraft during that time and thought that I would give it a go. There is nothing creepier than laying awake at night, waiting for sleep to come upon you and suddenly imagining a terrible apparition or monster coming at you while you are unable to get away. That is precisely what I recall about this film. The characters investigate this house that had a terrible legend and they could not get away. See for yourself just how horrible it was:

[caption id="attachment_3653" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="I've got a name for it!"][/caption]

Well, that's my list. What might be on your list? We have seen many films this week, some gruesome and some laughable due to the passage of time. Sometimes the scare is real and fresh. Sometimes the scare feels all-too real but is decades old. Tell us what scares you this or any other Halloween.

Contest: My friends, now that I've got you all creeped out, I'm hosting our latest contest. Once again I'm offering an e-book copy of my first novel, Dance on Fire. I guarantee that it is much scarier than flying monkees, but not nearly as frightening as a demon-possessed Regan MacNeil. I hope you'll ask for it and give it a chance.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



[caption id="attachment_3661" align="alignright" width="100" caption="Pulp Fiction gone too far..."].



Yes, You read that right.

Clowns scare the holy crap out of me. They make me nauseous, cause me to tremble, and on occasion, if I'm caught unwares, I pee myself.

And it doesn't take Halloween for these things to happen.

A fun child icon for many, these painted prankster posers embody all I seriously believe to be depraved and nefarious.

Not only do I hate clowns, I despise them.


[caption id="attachment_3669" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Bozo does not make my day..."][/caption]


I abhor them.

I simply LOATHE them.

Can you say "coulrophobia"? It means a fear of clown and mimes, though, I can honestly say, mimes only annoy the hell out of me.

What could have brought on such an aversion to the bogus big nosed folks?

Was the seed planted when I was but a mere 7 years old, feeling quite naughty staying up way past midnight to watch a delightfully scary horror movie while Aunt Pauline laid snoring, the yellow popcorn bowl rising up and down on her belly with each breath? I don't remember any clown movies, but still...

Did it happen during a flu-fever induced dream, where I found myself at a circus where a psycho dressed in clown regalia took advantage of my innocent virtue by squirting his flower in my face, then mocked me in front of others, saying I was now marked by the monsters and he would come and get me?


[caption id="attachment_3670" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Steven King's IT"][/caption]


Perhaps it was during my adolescence, when all the news reports examined things in great detail, about how depraved men (like John Wayne Gacy) hid their insidious natures behind a mask of pure white makeup and frizzy, blood-like red hair and humongous lips, all the while living as a priest among his flock.

To this day, I'm not sure. All I know is that this phobia of galactic proportions has traveled through time with me.

As my children were growing up, if they received something with a clown in, it was thrown in the garbage. Do not pass 'GO,' do not collect 200 bucks.

Needless to say, we didn't do McDonalds. (Yes. Another way I ruined my son and daughter's childhood. They still lament about it.)

Whatever lanced my psyche has left me with a dark desire to be a professional 'clown hunter.'


[caption id="attachment_3671" align="alignright" width="104" caption="1988 - Killer Klowns From Outer Space"][/caption]


Yeah. I hate clowns.

But, why?

Could it be that clowns are psychotic? They pretend to be good when they are really evil. I mean, anyone who goes around with a smile painted on that wide is definitely hiding something. NOBODY has that much to be happy about!

Is it possible the clothes yank my chain? Brightly colored, mixed-matched, with oversized shoes, buttons, fluffy ruffles...

...and gregarious pantaloons that hide a multitude of malevolent wares - and he's just itching to use them on you.

Or is it that damnable makeup? All pure white, with exaggerated eyebrows and heinous grins? Folks that have to hide behind a greasepaint mask are truly demented.
I dunno.


[caption id="attachment_3676" align="alignleft" width="237" caption=""][/caption]


Yet, I can tell you, with all my love for werewolves, vampires, witches, ghosts, mummies, creatures and zombies, I have never been able to bring myself to watch a movie full of horrific, blood thirsty clowns.

So, it is with great surprise to myself that  I am entertaining the thought of penning a story or two about the dasterdly devils. I figure with a fear as impassioned as mine, the result can only be a strong story.

One never knows when a clown will appear.

Do you have something that scares the living be-jeezus out of you, which makes no sense?

Please share it with me, so I don't feel like such a wuss!

The Heeby-Jeebies

I have to be frankly honest with this post here and say I don’t like, read, or watch, anything horror. Never have. On the rare occasion I have been coerced into watching one horror movie or another and they still haunt me to this day. (Hellraiser 7 and Pet Cemetery being two examples of horror I was forced to watch.)

 This might sound funny to those who know most of my t-shirts have skulls on them and that my car accessories also have skulls. I also have an obsession with the dark side of things, barbed wire, knives, and guns.

 Now, I love villains that make my skin crawl and make me double check to lock my doors at night. The ones that are REAL. Like JD said yesterday, the real horrors for me are the real-life murderers, rapists, etc out there.

 Why do I love these types of villains that do such horrible things? Well, frankly because it’s real-real. (Oh yea, I said it.) I’m a big fan of mysteries and crime dramas because of this.

 Let me put it to you this way. I’ve never seen the Green Mile in its entirety. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I happened to just catch the scene where the man is being electrocuted and they did not wet the sponge. I freaked out!! I’m talking full hyperventilation. This scared me more than Pet Cemetery did (and I didn’t sleep for two weeks after seeing that one). Why? Again, the realism. The fact that is was more likely to happen in real life.

 “But wait Anastasia, are you saying you don’t believe in ghosts and paranormal scary things?”

 No. I do believe in ghosts and demons and other paranormal scary things. And I love a good ghost story every now and then. However, there is a line I prefer not to cross. The problem is that I normally don’t realize I crossed my comfort zone until it’s too late. Take Hellraiser 7 for example. I was told by my friend that it was a great thriller with lots of twists and turns. Evil demons, etc. I thought great! Oh boy was I wrong. I still have terrible nightmares from that movie.

After that, I just swore off horror all together. That way, I don’t ever have a moment where it’s too late.

 On the flip side, I have seen some ‘scary’ movies that made me wish I never paid to watch them. Like House of Wax for example. The only good part of that entire movie was when Britney Spears died. I was more grossed out than scared. Another cheesy ‘scary’ movie was Jeepers Creepers. *rolls eyes* Totally lame movie I think. It didn’t even scare me! I mean, isn’t that the point of horror/scary – to scare people?

So I’m a quandary I guess. I don’t like horror that doesn’t scare me (waste of time to watch it) and I don’t like horror that does either! It’s just the point that there is a level of “scared-ness” I don’t like to go to. Make me gasp and cringe a little, sure. Make me go into hysterics and want to pee my pants? No thanks.

 To actually mention the real topic of this week, I don't have a favorite scary creature. I mean, E.T. scared the pants of me as a kid but now I absolutely love that movie. Roger Rabbit traumatized me as a kid but now I find that movie hilarious! But they aren't scary anymore, so they can't really be my favorites. I guess I have to go with JD's point and say the more realistic the scary creature is, the more I'm apt to like it - just for realisms sake.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Boo! Scary Fictional Characters

Hello again, Wicked Writers. I apologize for my absences this past week or two. I’ve been very busy. Anyway, it’s October and that means pumpkins and candy and things that go ‘bump’ in the night. I love Halloween. Any of you going Trick-or-Treating this year?

The topic this week is: Favorite Scary Fictional “Creature” and why?

I’m going to be egotistical for a moment because my favorite scary fictional creature is the antagonist of my novel, the vampire King Apollyon. Why? Because this guy is a freak in a similar way that Hitler was a freak. Actually – Apollyon is my imaginations version of a vampire Hitler-type overlord. Don’t ask how I came up with this. I don’t want to think about it too hard.

But seriously, Apollyon is the kind of bad-guy that tortures women and children just for fun. Okay, okay, so not just for fun. He has a purpose, a goal – if you will, that he thinks makes his actions justified. You see, to him, us humans should be worshipping vampires like they’re gods. Before you think to yourself “but vampires are dead?” maybe I should explain that vampires are not undead creatures in my novel. Instead, I’ve made them a sub-species. A hybrid of humans and nephilim that have been feared and hunted for years and years, forced into hiding as the only way to co-exist on our planet. Only Apollyon thinks it’s his planet. Or their planet, at least.

In real life, it’s hard to think of a vampire as being scary, especially since they’ve been so romanticized by the media lately. Personally, I like them that way – romantic, undead, Fabios. But it does take a toll on the “scary” factor.

In real life, I’m not afraid of any fictional character (except Apollyon) because they’re fictional. What really scares the pants off me is the REAL stuff – murders, rapist, war, natural disasters, spiders crawling on me in my sleep …

By giving Apollyon’s evil intentions a – in his opinion – justifiable motive, he becomes a little bit more real, and that much more terrifying. Because we know he’s not going to give up until he’s reached his goal, and we all hope the protagonist can stop him before then.

What’s your favorite scary fictional creature? Do you ever write about them or use them in stories? Have you ever used your fear or played off a scary experience to help improve your writing? Tell us about it, and have a happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

TEN FOUR… (and a competition, again)

No, this is not an Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International announcement in the affirmative. It is an oblique reference to our schedule and this week’s topic – scary movies. (Well, I did to a light double-check as, being a Brit, I wondered whether I could get away with suggesting I got the wrong date… Four Ten would have got me off the subject entirely!)

But first, this time... The Competition… which I find I am hosting again. Now, is this a new competition? Or is this week two of the competition in my last post? Questions, questions!

However, after my last post, I also wondered …dare I venture forth? Not one entry to win a copy of my book…  :(

Come on, guys, it’s not that bad! Honest. And just to show there are no hard feelings, the competition will remain open… and I will give away two copies, one each to the two best answers. So, come on, and give it a go!  Follow the link!The comp is at the bottom of my last post.
What next? Ah... The schedule! That’s what!"

Favourite scary movies? I wish it had been Four Ten! Or at least Four One – April 1st would have suited me better.


[caption id="attachment_3588" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Abandon hope..."][/caption]


I do recall, as a child, watching black and white talkies from the Hammer House of Horrors and other studios. I think I even recall mentioning the Pit and the Pendulum in an earlier post (but having been born with a mild case of something like Alzheimer’s, my memory has always been hazy).

Other titles seemed to revolve around the actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee – which just goes to show, I must have watched a few such films in my youth. I cannot remember many actors’ names at all! But, try as I might, I cannot say I have remained a fan of the genre or, indeed, continued to watch any scary movies of any age. (The one exception being, I suppose, Sean of the Dead – and only because someone told me it was funny!)

What gets me is that I find – letting my imagination run away with me – that there is enough in real life that is a good base for “scary”…  “suspense”… “thrills”… or whatever.


[caption id="attachment_3589" align="alignleft" width="112" caption="Interesting... tee hee!"][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_3590" align="alignright" width="150" caption="More interesting... I have an idea!"][/caption]


I do, though, have a confession. The conflation between real life and scary movies happened early for me… at the age of (ahem, clears throat… and mumbles incomprehensible sound). After the Pit and the Pendulum, I had a brilliant idea. I tied my younger brother to a soapbox cart in the cellar of our house (when no one else was there). He lay prone, motionless (relatively speaking) under the wooden beams of the floor above. I then proceeded to construct a pendulum from an axe and rope… (and before you call in social services, I was well trained in knots – being a Sea Scout).

I set the axe swinging and…"

Well, my brother is still around – I hasten to add. And he doesn’t seem too afflicted by the experience! Furthermore, following his Close Protection training with the Military Police and more recent Canadian Special Forces Training, I am unlikely ever to attempt such a stunt again!

I suppose, since recreating such a famous scary movie scene in the bowels of my mother’s house, cinematography has never really offered the same sense of reality. But that is my excuse. Now I just find it more challenging to create suspense on a less-is-more basis.

And I guess my brother might be thinking...
…it’s a good job we didn’t have computer games to play with in those days.”

So, who else out here in reader/writer land thinks that there is enough “scary” to be found in "reality"?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Horror You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

Can’t you feel the tension creeping into your very soul?

Just an innocent walk home after a long day of work and suddenly a hand comes out of nowhere, grips you by the throat and hurls you into oblivion. Soon you’ll feel the fangs in  your throat and the very life sucked out of you.

Or maybe you’re not at work. Maybe you’re enjoying the beach. Casually splashing about as you paddle around offshore on your inflatable raft. How can you possibly know that a killer is lurking beneath the surface, gliding silently, purposefully, ignoring all the other swimmers just to zero in on you?

How about some hill climbing? The villagers are desperate to show you the view from the top. How are you to know that a prehistoric creature, awakened by Man’s foolish atomic experiments, will stick its head over that hilltop and issue filmdom’s most frightening and memorable roar? You don’t care as you’ll be fleeing in abject horror from a creature that will soon turn thousands of your fellow countrymen – innocent men, women and children – into funeral pyres.

Might as well seek the peacefulness of the country. Nothing can go wrong there, right, not like in those big cities? Hmm, sure are a lot of cats and dogs missing. Should I leave my window open tonight? What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe an eight-legged neighbor and about a million of his closest friends will drop in?

Hello and welcome to the world of my nightmares, better known as the horror movies that inspired and influenced me.

If you haven’t guessed, I am talking about The Night Stalker, Jaws, Kingdom of the Spiders and Godzilla.

These films were highly influential on me as a kid and even as an adult. Each one had a different effect on me, effects that I now find myself using a lot in my horror and science fiction.

I remember not going into the water for a long time after seeing Jaws in 1975. An intelligent shark? Who would’ve thought it? I mean, getting Chrissy Watkins for swimming nude at night was one thing, but ignoring allthose people at the beach to zero in on the kid on the raft? Well, that did it for me. If I was really brave, I’d go out waist deep at Revere Beach or Cape Cod, and I had trouble getting close to the gunwales of the ferries on school field trips to Nantucket (where they really filmed Jaws).

Now, you’ll find me using that silent, creeping-up style of terror in my short stories like the prologue to Red Herring that I told everybody not to read right before bed. Are those cockroaches on your legs or just the wind caressing your hairs?

The Night Stalker was the highest-rated TV movie of the time when it aired in 1972. Of course, I was only 5 when it aired originally, so I didn’t see it for a few years. And then when I did see it, it was on late at night. Right before bed. Good timing, eh?

Darren McGavin’s stark, matter-of-fact narration and the vampire's running battles with the police certainly didn’t look like Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee’s Dracula.

Somehow, I think McGavin’s Carl Kolchak might have inspired me to become a journalist. I didn’t cover the weird, the supernatural or the horrible (no, I left that to the guys covering the Cubs) but I had the writing bug nonetheless.

Now, Kingdom of the Spiders could have fallen flat because of the hammy  William Shatner as the lead guy Rack Hanson. But, director Bud Cardos was

[caption id="attachment_3560" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="No beaming out of "Kingdom of the Spiders""][/caption]

able to overcome that with some tight direction, good camera work and  about 10,000 real tarantulas. Yes, folks, those actors and extras really were  covered with live tarantulas!

One particular scene that creeped me out was when the sheriff (played by the Marlboro Man) has to tell Altovise Davis that her husband, played by Woody Strode, has been killed by the tarantulas. As the scene unfolds, a tarantula sits on a fence, watching it. When she hears the news and bursts into tears, the spider slowly crawls away as if it had been waiting to see if the handiwork of its companions had the intended effect.

From that movie, I got the idea to use nature against Man and to do it in a way that could not be solved at the last second by the military or by some hastily-created weapon. William Shatner couldn’t overcome the tarantulas (and actually had to be rescued by Tiffany Bolling), so why should my characters in Crawl be one-man armies? That relentless wave of eight-legged horror (especially the scene where they’re leaping at the shoes of the little girl on the swing) was light years better than the CGI in Eight-Legged Freaks.

And, finally, last but not least is Godzilla. I’m referring to the American version with Raymond Burr.

You see, up until then, monsters created or affected by nuclear radiation threatened mankind only to be taken out by the military (Them!, Tarantula) or by science (Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, It Came From Beneath the Sea). But, here was Godzilla, a creature that withstood Man’s weapons and even wiped out a tank corps. He melted electrical towers with radioactive breath and burned thousands of innocent people to death. Yes, he was finally stopped by science, but the scientist responsible didn’t make it to the end nor did he get the girl. That never happened to Kenneth Tobey, Jeff Morrow or James Arness.

No giant monster movie has affected me like Godzilla. Not even Jurassic Park or Cloverfield. Those films were gimmicks or cliché plots about people trapped in confined spaces against monsters. Godzilla predated all of those “nature takes revenge on Man” films that have followed since. The black & white photography, the realism (the ship burned up in the beginning was based on the real-life incident of the Lucky No. 5 that wandered too close to the H-bomb test), Raymond Burr’s stark narration, the monster’s relentless assault on Tokyo, they all worked together to create a sense of dread and doom like no other, pushing a sense of helplessness.

Is that what we are truly supposed to feel when we watch horror? Are we supposed to feel helpless, like Dennis Weaver in that beat-up old car trying to outrun that maniacal trucker in Duel?

Is that my job as a horror writer? Am I supposed to yank away your security blanket and leave you hiding in the closet hoping, with baited breath, that the person opening the door is there to save you?

Well, am I?

Okay, okay, just relax, folks. These are all just movies. Nothing to really be scared about. In two hours or less, they’ll be over and we can all get back to the horror of the real word, right?


Oops, getting late. Better get ready for bed. A nice warm shower…ah, that hits the spot. See, all of the terror I created is washing down the drain.

Wait, did the bathroom door just open?

Hello, is anybody ther--

Monday, October 4, 2010

Long Live the King!

I groaned when I saw this week's topic. And I had no one to blame but myself since I arranged the schedule. This week we're blogging about what scary movies influenced our writing. But here's the rub - I hate horror movies.

They get into my brain. The images sear into my mind's eye and when I lay down to sleep they spring into full color to haunt me in the long dark hours of the night. Yes, I'm a wimp when it comes to movies with lots of blood and gore. If I can accept it, so can you.

The last truly scary stuff I've watched has been adaptations of Stephen King books. I'll put the disclaimer out there now that most of his work has not translated to the screen well. I blame it on the hollywood people, never the King.

If I dig deep inside myself I can say that perhaps the idea of the hotel could have sprung from The Shining. It may have been subconscious, but really my take is kinda similar. Deserted hotel in the middle of the winter with no hope of escape? Okay, so King doesn't write sex scenes and vampires, but hey, I can be creative.

I don't really develop the bad guy in my story well - he is kind of an absent or unknown tormentor for most of the book. Since the murder was always a subplot, I didn't spend much time on that angle. The whole thing was meant to be an enjoyable ride - not a neat category of Suspense, Mystery, Urban Fantasy, Romance or Erotica -- but a mix of them all. Which translates to sub-plots and undercurrents as the reader journeys through the novel.

I can say that the description of my bad guy fits well with famous crazed picture of Nicholson sticking his head through the door. We can all remember the hallway scene with the ax, the bar scenes with the ghosts, or the little kid saying "Redrum" over and over. I haven't seen it in so long I think I'll have to watch it again to refresh my memory.

When I combine the things I remember from The Shining with the super crazy person in Misery, I get my villain. Hey and I just realized something - they are both winter settings with no hope of escape. Hmm...  I guess I was more influenced by some classic horror films then I knew. Who woulda thunk it?

Have any classics or newer horror films influenced your work? And how? I'd love to hear.