Horror Writing and Metal Music – Similar Process

I know. My pic makes me look like a priest, but I am a rocker through and through. I also write professional horror stories, and the mechanics of forming a metal band and writing a horror novel are eerily similar.

I was in a professional glam band in the 80’s, playing the same clubs as Skid Row, Cinderella, and Bon Jovi, so I know what you go through to get a band up and running. I realize that equipment has evolved, but please enjoy my antiquated examples for the sake of posterity.

Fall in love with rock. Choose your idols and study them. For me, it was anyone who invented a guitar sound immediately recognizable: Tom Scholz of Boston, Brian May of Queen, and of course, Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen.

Fall in love with horror. If you haven’t had a recent taste and books aren’t your thing, see the Jordan Peele films “Get Out” and “Us.” Yesterday. He puts on a clinic of utilizing the genre for the sake of aesthetics and social messaging in a way that is ultimately refreshing. For me, in my teenage years I was utterly sold when I saw Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978, and followed this up by reading everything Stephen King wrote. As for the former, no director had taken an image and made it so frightening (Michael Meyers in partial sightings with loud synthesizer stingers erupting when he entered certain shots) and in reference to the latter, no author got to the kernel of a character better than King.

Learn your instrument. For me, it was vocals, and I sang along with my records, practicing my moves out on the porch every single night with the windows giving me a “theater in the round” effect with the reflections. I also learned to play guitar, so that I could appreciate what my future musicians were going to be dealing with.

Learn the craft of horror writing. Learn to hide the monster, practice dialogue mechanics that avoid overuse of exposition, experiment with stories of different lengths, find your “voice” without being pretentious.

Find your band mates. Find a drummer who shines but doesn’t do “falling out of bed” fills that leave the band wondering where the cymbal crash is going to come at the end of a measure. Find a guitar player who enjoys the rhythm behind the vocal as much as his platform solo spots. Find a bass player willing to tether himself to that fucking bass drum and still have a personality.

Find your genre. If you’re a horror guy, write like a horror guy. If you like the detective strain, work out all the plot threads. If you’re a splatterpunk, make the scenes of climax majestic and poetic. If you’re into dark psychology, do your homework. Never follow a trend. In both music and writing, by the time you get signed, the trend will have changed. Be true to yourself.

Figure out whether you need a second guitar or you are going to go pure “power-trio.” If you have a second guitar, it fills in during the lead so you don’t sound like you just cut a huge hole in the music like a doughnut. It also opens you to more ego hassles and possible muddied verses if both guys are slamming the same power chord.

As a writer, try not to slam the same metaphorical power chord. Don’t spend so much time writing beautiful strange scenic paragraphs that bog down the story. Narrative summary, scene work, dialogue mechanics, and character descriptions need rhythm and balance. You are not trying to create a product that will have the reader say, “Gosh, the writer is good.” You are trying to create the platform that will act as a movie in the reader’s head, created mostly by the reader.

Avoid hyperbole. The worst thing a band can do is overplay their “popularity” in the moment. Don’t play a “Freebird” cover and say “How ’bout you?” Don’t dance like Mick Jagger. Own your space. Flaunt it in confidence, not arrogance. Hyperbole destroyed the 70’s and gave room for the God-awful intrusion of New Wave. We just got sick of going to Yes concerts and getting half hour solos by Rick Wakeman.

Horror writers should avoid hyperbole as well. Don’t have an antagonist stab someone “FIFTY TIMES!” Once is enough. Don’t have five chase scenes. Don’t over-explain the kill moments. Let the reader fill in some of the blanks, and for God’s sake SLOW DOWN! No one, repeat, no one speeds up to see a car accident.

Don’t let the sound man screw you if you are an opener. Their favorite trick is to give you no bass, no treble, and especially no monitors. Pay them off if you have to.

As writers, don’t let petty magazine editors break your spirit with the dumb shit. If they say first person voice is sloppy seconds to third person limited, write in first person and find a better editor. Flashbacks are good if there is a purpose and multiple viewpoints are a necessity. Don’t believe the hype. Many of these editors are jealous no-minds who can’t write their own way out of a paper bag. They spent a lot of money on an MFA, and basically just learned to write dumb-ass symbolic shit, like having a cow in a field staring at a microwave on a manure mound, just so their jealous, egotistical psuedo-intellectual classmates could argue all night as to whether it represents Marxism or totalitarianistic geo-politics…or some such lame horseshit.

Make a video. Lip sinc it and make it look live. Do it well. I know you hate it, but it is part of the game.

Writers, make a social media platform. I know you hate it, but it is part of the game.

Play loud, but control your stage volume. No use making the singer scream during the traditional vocal parts.

Write big, but control your ego. You’re not writing to make Mom proud. You’re writing to create a story that will (hopefully) make you faceless.

Metal and horror are joined at the hip. I believe hard rock is part of this too. Both are directly linked to our formative years, thrills, and rebellion. Both are sweet and dark and often glorious.

 

 

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Social Media Basically Sucks

Of course I use social media, but it still basically sucks. Before discussing its uses (and misuses) as commercial and political conduits, let’s just look at what most people post. From my perspective, I am a small market horror writer and rock reviewer who loves metal, so my Facebook and Twitter pages have “friends” and “followers” who are fellow writers, musicians, and horror enthusiasts. I suppose it is a different story for someone who happens to be on one of my pages ( I have personal friends who fall into this category) for the sole purpose of sharing pics and thoughts with actual friends, but I just happen to scroll past such dumb shit every day (the minute or two I spend going through the feed) that I just have to speak out about it.

First off, we should all check the grammar. I see posts that are basically illiterate. You are allowed to edit yourself before posting. Do it. Posting stuff like, “Do anyone used Gibson les pauls anymore?” is similar to handing in a college paper done the night before. When can we learn that “drafting” isn’t necessarily good writing? You don’t need an MLA or APA guidebook to know when a sentence is goofy. Fix it.

The addition of the word “Go!” after requesting some sort of favorite list must end. Now. Since when does anyone think it is cool to say “ready, set, go” to adults, as if we are in kindergarten? I realize I have bitched about this before, but it is actually so annoying it deserves second mention.

I see a lot of trolling on music group pages, with set-up questions that are idiotic because of their obvious subjectivity. Not to start one of those psuedo-intellectual discussions about art versus craft versus garbage versus innovation, but really…how many times do we expect people to participate in ridiculous contrasting ultimatums, like “Anthrax vs. Slayer?” or “Priest vs. Maiden?” If people throw money at it, the shit is good. Music isn’t just math. If it was, I’d still be reading geometry textbooks for fun. If it gets you in the heart or the hips, it’s fucking good.

I see a lot of requests for prayers. Yes, I mentioned this before, but I think it is incredibly inappropriate to spill your hardships onto the net. Yeah…ok…you’re in the hospital…a loved one is sick…you’re down on your luck. This is PUBLIC (like this statement). Some things are not anyone else’s business, especially if they don’t know you personally.

Comedians. Yeah, I guess…Some pictures and little film shorts are, in fact, funny. A ton of them aren’t, and they reflect that we have become a film-clip generation who would rather see a chick fall into a basement stairwell staring into her phone than read a good book.

Sayings. Yeah, again…I guess. Quoting someone else’s “cute” saying doesn’t make you a prophet or modern day Ben Franklin. If you quote someone else’s quote, cite it. If it ain’t yours, don’t plagiarize. Here’s a thought. Why don’t YOU invent one?

Rap-metal just sucks. I listen to metal so I don’t have to listen to assholes like Kanye West. I like Drake. I like Eminem. Time and place. Leave my fucking metal alone.

Pictures of animals. Cute, yes. But we are spending our precious time when we could be working, creating, innovating…looking at…cats.

Politics. Hmm. I’ve never seen so much dumb ass shit, especially from the right. Conservative racism should not be tolerated and never given a voice. The biggest problem I have is with Fox News, which is not news at all, but hate rhetoric delivered in ridiculous snippets of bad propaganda containing such obvious logical fallacies, that viewers should be ashamed of themselves. Fox’s purpose is to divide the country and make Americans hate other Americans. Period. I have friends who are conservatives, and while I sometimes disagree ideologically, we have all come to the agreement not to post on FB our anger at the twisted current politics of the world. I am happier that way. I don’t watch CNN either.

The Internet as a conduit for sharing artistic endeavors is a slippery slope. Some may think posting about a new book we have out or a new EP we’ve produced is shameless promotion, but that is why I got on FB and Twitter to begin with. I certainly didn’t start up these accounts to post selfies or ask for comments answering kindergarten questions, prompted by the condescending, pretentious word, “Go!” I like seeing what people are creating. I think the problem is that book publishers nowadays, especially in the small market, look at my number of friends and followers and make an immediate assumption (and judgement) about my aesthetic process. I am fifty-seven years old. I’m not the best looking guy in the world, and I am no good at clever little puns and pics. I’m proud to say that I am a college professor, horror author, and rock reviewer, but a fifty seven year old writer doesn’t get the same kind of likes-quantity (and I honestly am not trying for them) as a twenty-year old country singer with long flowing hair, short jean shorts, and cowboy boots. Hey…not complaining. I write horror, and it is a small market, niche game. It just pisses me off that publishers and literary agents nowadays look at my likes and don’t give a solid read to new work. Social media is not the game. It is the mouthpiece FOR the game, and many are caught up in a blurry perception of this basic fact.

Showing the food you are about to eat. Ok. Still, it usually it looks gross. Sometimes it looks cool and gives me an idea for the kitchen, but I would rather watch the cooking channel.

On the other side of this, there are some cool things I’ve seen on social media. Pictures of families, cool vacation spots, sports headlines, music videos, links for cool new books, movie shorts, nifty guitars and other musical instruments…all these are interesting. I also like the idea that through social media, I can actually talk to people I wouldn’t ordinarily have access to. I connected with fellow horror writers Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross through FB. (Tamara wrote the introduction to my second collection and gave the front cover blurb for the electronic version of my first novel, “Alice Walks”). I saw guitar goddess Sophie Lloyd first on FB, and after a brief (and very cool) communication w/her, I wrote an article for Metal Heads Forever. Through Twitter, I met DJ Metal Angel, and we created a music podcast. I also communicated with a number of bands as well as the awesome guy running the deathcore label Eclipse Records, Chris Poland.

I get it. Seeing “likes” releases dopamine in our brains. But altogether, what are we looking at? A public conversation creating a new awareness? Or is it just space-vomit? Personal graffiti advertising how low our standards have become…

 

 

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Review of Jordan Peele’s “Us.”

There is much to like about Jordan Peele’s 2018 horror film, “Us,” that which he directed and wrote. First off, many of the shots are meticulously filmed and delightfully choreographed. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (and beach) work quite well here, especially the latter, in the shot (for example) from overhead when the family walks on the sand casting shadows so lovely, they seem to come from a painting. The movie is filled with these “filmatic portraits,” ranging from zombie-doubles holding hands across the landscape, to rabbits in cages in strange underground hallways…illustrating for us that deliberate positioning of the camera and the texture of the pictures we see are more important aspects of a given film than its star-power or computer-generated effects. Typically, “horror movies” don’t offer us this kind of royal treatment, and trust me, it is refreshing.

As for a plot, and the movie as a whole, I am torn. The beginning and the end are spectacular. The middle sags. I actually got bored, but I think it is important to discuss why Peele loses the viewer between the bookends. His ending is such a twist, so glorious and majestic, that it explains the middle in a way that makes the spectator reevaluate everything. What we need to determine is whether or not the reevaluation is a “good witch” or a “bad witch.” In other words, when we go back over everything, is it an aesthetic and wonderfully pedagogical experience in itself, as offered with “The Sixth Sense?” Or does it simply make us say, “Wow. That was rich. Why did I have to go through the mud just to get to the good part?”

Again, I am torn. Without giving the plot away in a direct summary (gosh…that would be boring) it is more intriguing to explore here, one of those old (but always good) philosophical writing questions. If my ending justifies the middle, was the middle worth it if on its own, it fails?

I am more on the “no” side. With “The Sixth Sense,” I was captivated with the middle part as it was playing out in its own “real time.” The end was a cherry on top, and the general mechanics of this are simple. The story I thought it was, remained consistent with the parameters I was first given. Peele does not do this. He keeps changing “the base of the house” as we call it in Creative Writing 101. For those of you who never signed up for one of these, the universal “rule” or “truth” is that with fiction (or film) you can invent any world with any rules you like. However, you can not change the “rules” halfway-in to make your plot move forward. It cheats the reader or viewer, and there really aren’t any exceptions. The thing that often makes a piece move successfully, and retain viewer or reader interest, is sticking the protagonist in a metaphorical “box,” and seeing him or her work a way out of it…inevitably leading to another box until the climax. To continue this old metaphor, we confirm here that the box changes. The world containing it can’t.

Example. You can’t have a character terrorizing a family in a work of realistic crime drama, and then when our “clever antagonist” is about to be defeated, offer him magical powers. That is as “illegal” and as transparently bad as saying at the end, “It was all a dream.”

In “Us,” the viewer gets caught up in multiple bases of houses. First it is a one on one fear film. Then family on family, so far, ok, yet all too soon it turns into the idea that ALL the families suddenly have doubles, lessening the credibility and intensity of the initial players. If it happens to everyone, the family we have been sitting with is just one of the many. Plus, the other family we zone in on isn’t nearly as interesting, and so now we have a “zombie” template, where everything is just ugly target practice. Sure, there are still cool bloody kill shots and those jack in the box jumps and starts, but I started with intensive, psychological one on one, and broadened to dumb-ass mass monster stuff. In other words, the middle wasn’t scary.

That being said, the ending, again, is majestic. It does explain the multiples of doubles, making the gestalt absolutely brilliant. Problem? The center of this thing, before the unmasking, was horribly slow, regular, nondescript, generic, and almost comically poor. If you give us a cupcake with awesome frosting, yet a body that is stale, many of us won’t even get to the glorious filling in the center. And those of us that do, will still have crumbs on our face and a bad aftertaste in our mouths.

That being said…I still can’t get that awesome ending out of my head, so very clever, that I wish I could have been brilliant enough to come up with it. Altogether, yes, I am torn, possibly for good reason, maybe for what many would consider trivial, but I must say in the end, bravo on this one. Can’t wait for Peele’s next project.

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The Story Behind “The Tool Shed”

Re-blogging today about the inclusion of my short story, “The Tool Shed,” in Jason Henderson’s first anthology titled “Castle of Horror” (released on Amazon July 1st, 2019). I did talk about this more briefly on July 1st, but I thought I’d post this again if that’s cool.

First, about Jason…he’s an amazing artist who has branched out into many different parts of the playing field, authoring computer games, novels, and several comic book series. Most notably, Jason is the writer of the young adult novel series Alex Van Helsing, and I was pleased to meet him when I was a guest on his podcast, “Castle of Horror” a few years ago, first with the release of my second novel, “The Witch of the Wood,” (Hippocampus Press) and later, following the release of the electronic version of my first novel, “Alice Walks,” (Cemetery Dance Publications).

This past summer (late July) I was between projects, winding down the “Music Hell” series with Pure Grain Audio Magazine (I wrote semi-monthly short horror stories and horror novellas starring members of famous bands with new material being released: Trivium, Electric Wizard, Asking Alexandria, Anthrax, Slayer, Carpenter Brut, and finally, my favorite current band – Halestorm). I was still riding high from Lzzy Hale’s personal approval of the piece just put out, titled “Dream Fever,” through which I was a character meeting members of the band in scenarios taking on famous bad guys, (Jack the Ripper, Dracula, etc.), and I had decided I was going to write my fourth novel.

While charting out the first chapters in my head, I had another idea that had been swimming around for awhile about a haunted tool shed. In order to “clear space” for the upcoming project, I decided to hack out the story mentally and write the damned thing already. I wanted it to seem grainy and black and white, so I had it take place in the 1960’s. I wanted to be the opposite of romance-story settings in exotic places, so I went for a tool shed with a ghost buried in the floor under a thick, oak tanning table, and I invented an abusive father worth despising. I’d also been dabbling with the idea of murderers using acids to make bodies disappear (I’d done some work with this in the Slayer piece), and I got the thing written in about three weeks.

It was one of the few lucky breaks I’ve gotten in the writing biz, as I got an email from Jason literally a day after finishing the draft. He was putting together an anthology comprised of authors he’d interviewed on his podcast. I sent the tale to him immediately, and I don’t think he was expecting these things submitted that fast. Fortunately, he liked the piece, and so here it is in his first anthology!

 

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“Slender Man and Ghost Films in General”

I just saw the film “Slender Man,” originally released in 2018, based on the “creepypasta internet meme” created by “Something Awful” forums user Eric Knudsen in 2009. It features a tall, thin, faceless dude who mostly exists in the shadows of the woods and abducts children, in this case, high school girls.

The actual creation of the character as a computer meme makes this an interesting legend before it is put to film, and director Sylvain White does a good job in the film introducing the victims to the beast through a rumor and a website. There is a bit of the “Bloody Mary” countdown added in for spice, in the form of three gongs of a bell, and the theme that the antagonist is more a virus in one’s head, like computer malware slowly taking over the files, is extremely well played.

There were many things I liked about this movie, especially coming into it with only the mildest of expectations. The acting was adequate. That is huge, since these types of films usually feature poor scene to scene writing and performance, almost as if to give contrast and counterpoint to the raucous scare moments. Here, the female protagonists did a pretty good job being depressed, scared, and going “scream-o” when the moment was right.

There are some excellent scare moments to be sure. The best writing and camera effect combo, occurs when The Slender Man makes a video-call to one of the girls on her cell in her room in her house, showing what his phone is filming, which is an approach to her house. There is a great shot through which the girl is positioned at her upstairs window facing out, and sees herself being filmed on her phone right before her. Then, she looks out into the backyard where he would have to be located, and sees no one.

A wonderful game of smoke and mirrors, but in fact, the best part of this film exposes the worst part of this film. When we do finally get a good look at The Slender Man, he is an obvious computer generated effect that is not very scary. He’s a tall dude in a suit with a blank face and long fingers that look like tree roots. Ohh. I’d better go hide….

Somehow, Halloween (the original in 1978) is one of the few slashers that successfully hid the monster, then fully exposed him, never lessening the fear factor. Tons of films in the late 80’s and early 90’s “exposed” the ghost and failed miserably, depending on a computer generated effect to be our “wow” moment, only letting us off the hook. “The Blair Witch Project” was the ultimately successful argument against fancy effects, fancy filming, and showing the monster, and it accomplished this bold protest by scaring the living shit out of us with noises and poor home movie quality, making everything look like a real snuff film, NEVER finally showing the witch. Not that all movies from there on had to be like this or utilize the “Paranormal Activity” template (home video adding a special effect or two) to attain notoriety, but it did prove the weakness of the “payoff” in ghost films, and many of the other forms of horror.

The monster is scarier when we barely see him or don’t see him (or her) at all. For me, this is more than a problem for climaxes. It is also an issue in the scenes that do work, because they themselves become boring as hell. How many times can we hear something…turn sharply, see nothing, and still buy into the charade? I know. An hour and thirty-three minutes, as most horror ghost and fiend movies give us. Still, I would ask…how fucking successful are you as a genre? The best horror movies have some suspense of hiding the monster and also glorious exposures, those that don’t come off like a cheap effect, made by a dude who just came from the basement, smoking weed, and playing “Call of Duty” all day.

Michael Myers was scary and we saw him in full view as a child. We see him in full view in many shots in the film, especially at the end, when he is…God forbid…unmasked. Freddy Krueger is shown to us from the beginning, almost like a cartoon, but people love to be terrified by him. Hannibal Lecter is shown to us in full view, a little old man who scares the piss out of us simply saying, “Good morning,” and while I am not a fan of little things (“Leprechaun” ain’t fucking scary, bro), Chucky frightened one of my students so much a number of years ago, that when fellow students brought dolls to school, she hid in the bathroom and cried.

I believe my point is that the formula has to change. The idea that we “hide the monster,” is not limited to horror, if we go metaphorical. In romance, the best sex scene is often “hidden” until 2/3 of the way through, leading to a break up, and at the climax, a sweaty round of red-hot make-up sex. In mystery, the who-done-er shouldn’t be exposed until the end, and in the “Oh, she’s SO brave” films, the big test should be held off to similar later positions in the dramatic arc, where her buried demons meet her courage, as translated through a current, relevant conflict (an example of a grotesque failure here, would be “Wild,” where we are meant to believe this past drug addict will rectify her weaknesses and the death of her mother by hiking 2650 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. Then, somehow, we are supposed to fucking cheer her when she gets tired and takes a break in Ashland Oregon, showering, putting on makeup, seeing a tribute concert for Jerry Garcia (barf), getting laid, and sleeping in a comfortable bed. For me, this was the worst film of the decade, unless the monster the film makers were hiding, was that this tramp was worthless and weak all along, and the underlying message was that there has been nothing to cheer for after all (which would have been better if intentional, but the attempted manipulation was blatantly clear).

ANYWAY, I believe the point is that formulas need to be broken. I love hiding the monster. I appreciate a noise, a character spinning around, and nothing being there. But not fifty times, with the big reveal being something as disappointing as the side of a cereal box.

Why don’t we make our antagonists more interesting to begin with? Maybe if they were more than gaunt flesh-skeletons with black-hollowed eyes and deep dark leers, they’d frighten us more, and the genre would gain a bit of respect.

 

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Why Baseball is Different

For anyone who doesn’t like baseball, there are a couple of things that people don’t usually consider that make it stand out.

  1. Baseball is the only sport that positions the defense as the team in possession of the object.
  2. Baseball is the only sport without a time limit.
  3. Baseball is one of the few sports where the defense can’t “foul” you or “screen” your vision of the object.
  4. Baseball is the only sport where the player with the object (when pitching) aims not at the center of the target, but at its edges.
  5. Baseball is one of the few sports (the only one I can think of actually) that does not require good cardio for success. The longest one runs is in the outfield…sprints at most a hundred feet to the side or the back wall…and running the bases for a rare inside the park home run, altogether three hundred and sixty feet. Usually, it is a sprint to one base, which is only, of course, ninety feet.
  6. Baseball is the only team sport besides curling that doesn’t have a “man or woman “on” you.
  7. Baseball is the only sport where the offense does not see the plan of the defense until the release of the object. (Football is close, but defenses do have to finally position themselves before the hike, if even just for a split second. In baseball, the type of pitch is masked the entire time, as a signal from the catcher to the pitcher.
  8. Baseball is the only sport that does not require uniform measurements and angles on one of its boundaries (varied distances and shapes of outfield walls).
  9. Baseball is the only sport that allows a victory lap (home run) during the game.
  10. Baseball is the only sport through which the goal is to come home.
  11. Baseball is the only sport that houses the teams waiting to contribute offensively in small lean-to’s (dugouts).
  12. Baseball is the only sport that considers success 3 out of 10 times as good. (.300 batting average).
  13. Baseball is the only sport that has its own song that applies for every team (Take Me Out To The Ballgame).
  14. If we look at the world as would Anita Loos, baseball is the only sport with part of the playing field shaped like a girl’s best friend (diamond).
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Opinion Day

I find it interesting that sometimes new college students find it difficult to disagree with a source. It seems the social media culture attacks deconstruction, as when one gives a negative opinion about something on Facebook, those who oppose automatically feel “trolled,” and bash back even if it wasn’t their thread.

Well, I think opinions are good and if you agree with everything, the world is boring.

  • The last season of “Game of Thrones” was awful. Everyone knows the battle scene in episode three was too dark, but my biggest issue was and still is, the death of the White Walkers. I realize the writers threw in the cheap foreshadowing that if you got the Knight King you got them all, but Arya jumping in at the last minute was a cheap twist. The dropping of the knife was comic book in a series that was otherwise Shakespearean in presentation, and the ultimate showdown of Night King to Three Eye’d Raven was stolen from us. CLEARLY, the better ending would have been the real hero of this saga, Sam, getting together with Cersei’s doctor and hand – Qyburn, he who experimented with mad genetics (example – The Mountain), and the two of them finding a way to make dragon glass air-born. Not only does this unite the two warring factions and cause all kinds of drama that way, but when they manufacture the “gas masks” for the humans, it makes for an amazing final war scene visually, as the masked heroes reign and the White Walkers drop from this disease as they are being bashed to shit.
  • The Queen movie has been compared to the Motley Crue film, and it isn’t even close. Even though the Queen film had some weird mistakes in continuity, the overall portrayal was top notch.¬† (“Fat Bottomed Girls” couldn’t have been featured on their first American tour, since that was promoting their third album Sheer Heart Attack and the songs “Now I’m Here” and “Killer Queen” in 1974. “FBG” came out on Jazz in 1978. Also, the film depicts the band writing “We Will Rock You” in 1980, when News of the World came out in 1977).
  • A negative statement about ME! I never heard of the rock group “Fanny.” I know…weird name reminding you of your grandmother or something, yet, watch some of their videos. For a band in the early 70’s (Pre-Boston, they who changed the game technologically), and Fanny playing LIVE, this all girl band was FAR better than The Runaways, and most other male projects. All four sing, all well, and they can really play. The songs are the perfect transition from the soulfulness of the 60’s to the smoky feel and harder-edged guitar sounds of the 70’s.
  • Horror is not a genre. It is a spice, present in all fiction and dramatic productions. It is a question of flavors, quantities, and levels. Schlocky horror movies simply fall too much in love with the flash and scorch of the condiment. Hey, some people like eating a bowl of hot peppers. I’m more a meat and potatoes guy, who likes a shit-load of hot sauce.
  • There has been a theory and practice in higher education floating around the last decade or so, that would claim students should learn composition (in remedial and 101 classes) without the “modes” or rhetorical structures. I have sat in on many a meeting where they push for this, yet, when the question is asked as to HOW we EXACTLY teach composition without building a student lexicon of narrative reflection, straight information, compare or contrast, analysis, and synthesis (the latter two listed in the core competencies no less), the given professor dances around the subject. This smoke and mirrors philosophy, to me, can only mean two things. First, the teacher is giving up, plain and simple. Second, the teacher is lazy. Framing the portions of a research paper, especially during argumentation, in these rhetorical structures, came from the classic Greeks. It was revived by the Puritans, and remains the template from which students can order their thoughts. If you are going to teach without the “modes,” please show your plan. Please.
  • While we are on the nerdy Englishy stuff…the Oxford comma is a must (MLA is wrong). In a three horse gallop (a short list), if you don’t put a comma before the last conjunction, the latter two items seem less important than the first.
  • Stop overusing semi-colons. While once in a blue moon it is stylistically cool to “boing” sentences off each other, too many looks like you don’t know how to cure run-ons. (Example: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Count the semi-colons and colons on the first few pages. What?)
  • The comma does NOT go after the conjunction, even though it seems “trendy.” Stop…it goes in front of it. Always.
  • Though Youtube has tutorials that claim conjunctions can, in fact, begin sentences, don’t think it doesn’t look grammatically inferior. If it is your stylistic choice (in an effort to appear colloquial for example) so be it. Don’t play that it is “good English.”
  • Never start a sentence with an “ing” word. Often, you get a fragment, but more often, a passive sentence. I knew a high school English teacher back in the day who GAVE HANDOUTS PROMOTING this shitty, fucked up, ass-backward form of writing. She claimed it gave sentence variation. Well honey, you went and fucked up a generation of kids, destined to “sound scholarly” by relegating the more important shit to the back of the sentence. Sort of like sitting in a beanbag chair in the basement all day playing “Call of Duty” instead of getting a job.
  • Back to artsy stuff…I didn’t like the latest season of Black Mirror. The interactive episode was a total ripoff, always leading you to see all the scenes anyway, all of them veering toward an inevitable “non-ending,” which was a cop out. The three regular episodes were rather bland. The one with Miley Cyrus was stupid in terms of the doll, that which was far from intriguing. The one with the kidnapping contained a social media statement we’ve been hearing forever and a hostage standoff so common it could have been a Lifetime Original. The best of the bunch was “Striking Vipers,” where two dudes acted out the latent homosexuality of dudes playing video games all night together, while also illustrating the interesting concept of being inside the game. Altogether however, I am still so in love with the depth and richness of episodes like “White Bear,” that I’ve become spoiled.
  • Music-wise, since I write rock articles, I am part of a few FB groups that love metal. Many of them treat the 70’s like I do the 60’s, as basically irrelevant. Both of us are wrong. First, the 60’s can’t be ignored for the blueprint. The 70’s gave us the full course meal. “Metal” to me is only a thread, not the whole suit. In fact, I don’t separate hard rock and metal. If they are good, they are good, regardless of the trimmings. Good music didn’t start with “The Big 4” (Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth, and Metallica), in fact, I played clubs in my glam metal band back in the 80’s and both glam and the speed metal made up the UNDERGROUND. The mainstream (and enemy) was New Wave, so I never made the distinction between the hair guys and the beautiful dirtbags. PLUS, I saw metal as the reaction to New Wave BASED on the music of the 70’s, whether it was pure metal (Saxon, Priest, Maiden, Sabbath) or hard-ass, awesome rock (Van Halen, Purple, Queen, Kansas, Styx, Floyd, even the softer stuff like Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles…and even the Southern stuff like Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, and The Outlaws). People. Music didn’t “begin” with speed metal. If you’re going to find a common denominator and starting point, make it The Beatles, and if you’re like me, you will defer to The Who, the band in the same era that translated better to the 70’s.
  • The growl vocal. Hmm. I have friends in the business who believe in and utilize the growl vocal in metal, so I must tread carefully here. Still, I must admit I don’t prefer it. I realize it is an art-form in itself and takes great talent to execute, but it doesn’t sound great to me. It sounds generic. It does not seem to reach the dramatic level it would imply either, as the “volume” translates more like static than something aesthetic. That said, I have heard it used effectively in counterpoint. The new band Meka Nism sports a front-woman with a lovely, almost operatic voice, so the brief explosions of the growl from her come off wonderfully dynamic. Oliver Fogwell of Our Last Enemy (Eclipse Records) has three or four different styles of the growl, all with varied flavors and tones that come off massive, and I will always love the song “Wash it All Away” by Five Finger Death Punch, exactly as is.
  • The news sucks. Still, if you lie on camera and the camera shows it, even your cries of “selective editing” can’t possible convince us that what we just saw with our own eyes was “fake.”
  • The Pokemon game people play online is awesome. It is also way too complex for me to bother learning. Might as well go get a Ph.d and get paid for the work.
  • There should be netting on baseball fields going all the way to both foul poles. How many little girls have to get hurt…
  • Women should be given the opportunity to play hardball through college. The only reason we don’t have women in the MLB is that the money (scholarships) is given for softball.
  • If you watch Fox News and think you are getting the truth, you are a willing, hateful idiot. If you watch CNN and think you’re getting the whole truth, you are a slightly smarter willing, hateful idiot.
  • We need new political parties. What we got is broke. Two scarred, fat junkyard dogs who only know how to bite each other.
  • If one more person on Facebook asks a stupid question, like “Favorite metal bands…” and puts the word “Go!” on the end of it like I am in kindergarten, I will slice my face up with razor blades.
  • If I change my profile picture on Facebook and get more than one like (as in from my wife) the world has gone totally mad.
  • The new Chucky movie looks awful.
  • The show The Office is raucous. I’d never given it a chance, but binged recently.
  • Email is not “work.” It is better than texts.
  • If you offer me couscous, humus, or anything “soy,” I will promptly vomit.
  • Light beer is good. Try Busch Light.
  • America’s sport used to be baseball. It is now football. I fear the only way to save baseball is to make it seven innings rather than nine, and re-work the count, as in two strikes and you’re out, and three balls and you walk.
  • King is still the best working author.
  • Seven is still a great film.
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Castle of Horror Anthology / July 1st

Jason Henderson, author of Van Helsing, computer games, and several comic book series, is delving into editing and releasing his own anthologies. In a few days on July 1st, his antho titled “Castle of Horror,” named after his podcast, is to be released on Amazon. I have a story titled “The Tool Shed” appearing in this book.

I met Jason a few years ago as a guest on his podcast talking about the release of my second novel “The Witch of the Wood.” He was a gracious and informed host. He’d read the book and asked about specific areas in it, going micro, which I always appreciate. I was also featured on a later podcast for the release of the electronic version of my first novel “Alice Walks” through Cemetery Dance, and I found the experience to be of the best on the “promotional” side of things.

Last summer he contacted prior guests on his show, asking if we had stories to contribute. It just so happens that I was winding down the “Music Hell” series with Pure Grain Audio, and had just finished this tool shed story, as in the day before. I sent it immediately, and was lucky enough to have a positive response. Here is the link for the pre-orders and orders. I believe it will be available on Kindle and in paperback.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QMBYLLG

 

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New Stuff

I’ve been busy.

In the last two months I have written rock reviews on Our Last Enemy, Avatar, Sifting, Lillye, High Priests, Ravenscroft, and a few others.

I wrote a bio and review for upcoming superstar and British diva, Phoenix O’Neill.

I published a short story titled “The Session” through the “Ghostlight” anthology.

I anticipate the publication of my campfire story, “The One-Armed Brakeman,” in S.T. Joshi’s upcoming anthology “Apostles of the Weird.”

I gained back the rights to all the stories in the collection, “The Voices in Our Heads,” and plan on revising them all while adding five or six stories in a new publication.

Last October, I landed a deal (on my own…I do not use an agent…they suck) with Cemetery Dance to publish the electronic version of my first novel¬†Alice Walks, available on Amazon with a fee app that puts the book on your tablet or phone. I am especially proud of this one because A) I had been trying to be published by Cemetery Dance for years, as they are an outlet for some important, yet under-the-radar work by Stephen King and B) I can now say that I have a book that came out through three different publishers in three different formats…something odd in today’s day and age when paperback and electronic so often must go together. (Hard cover version – Centipede Press, paperback – Dark Regions Press, and electronic to CD).

http://tinyurl.com/y9fkxjhv

It seems we are getting unusual late movement on my third novel, “Phantom Effect,” which was released in early 2016 through Night Shade Books. I have gotten mixed press on this, mostly because of the rebellious structure. Initially, this was my finger in the face to fucktard magazine publishers, usually some dipshit with an MFA, making up pretentious “rules” for submissions. There was talk in these “circles” that point of view had to be limited, first person was a sloppy second to third person limited, and flashbacks were for punks. I broke all the rules, and while I have been praised for the labyrinth by some, there has been criticism. I’ll take it. I never played with structure at the expense of character or story, and “Phantom Effect” remains one of my favorite works.

https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Effect-Michael-Aronovitz/dp/1597808466/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1522420439&sr=8-1&keywords=phantom+Effect

My “Music Hell” series with Pure Grain Audio music magazine is picking up traction. I never had the opportunity to do a series before, and I enjoy rising to the task. In this series, I write horror stories once a month starring the band members of a happening group. This gives me the opportunity to merge my two favorite things: horror and music (so far all heavy metal). Our latest release is the massive novelette I wrote about Thrash superstars, Anthrax, whose publicity department has been a dream to work with. I also got word that Frank Bello, the bass player, found the piece to be enjoyable and startling in terms of its detail. (Link Below)

https://goo.gl/eBPq9s

I recently wrote a short story called “The Tool Shed,” and I am presently looking to find a home for it.

The Eagles won the super bowl.

 

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Writing and the Future

I have spoken to many experts in the field of commercial and scholastic writing, and it seems formal composition must change. While there are some armchair philosophers that would claim our society lives in a current blur of ignorance, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The old die hards just can’t wrap their minds around the idea that “knowledge” isn’t measured anymore by the interpretive ability one might employ in analyzing a Shakespeare text. It isn’t even about retaining information at this juncture, but more, how fast one can access it.

We are living in the most literate society in history, where each morning citizens wake up and can publish their thoughts. Whether or not this is a dangerous thing, or more, something that exposes our lack of judgment and emotionality more than what would be better as our guarded (and self-edited) intellect, is finally a political argument for another day.

The fact is that books must change. Movies have already started to shift. Theaters have torn out the seats and put in those more comfortable in a clear statement that not so many are going to the movies anymore! It seems the one and a half to two hour film has become passe and the ideas are all based on copies of copies (how many fucking Spiderman movies can one really stand?)

Plainly, a lot of the good current writing is in series work on new platforms like Amazon, strange, when those same old die hards claim the youth is addicted to short texts and acronyms.

I propose that the genres have to merge. The next big thing is going to be music and story as true hybrid. My vote is metal and horror, though one can’t be the “real art” and the other the “cheap advertisement.”

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