Edward Owen – Author

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The Million Dollar Mentor

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No human being on this planet was ever born knowing how to do anything except cry. As babies, our survival depends on our ability to get food, shelter and our diaper changed. An argument could be made that crying is an instinctual behavior and not the result of conscious thought. That would mean that we are actually born knowing nothing and all of our behaviors are indeed learned. For the sake of argument (and getting to the point of this post) we’ll go with that premise.

At some point, someone taught you to read (a safe assumption given the nature of our current communication). Unless you were a prodigy, they didn’t just hand you a copy of ‘War and Peace’ and let you go to it. Or even ‘Fun with Dick and Jane’. Nope, most likely they read stories to you first. In my opinion, this is one of the most important things parents can do for their children. The fact that my mother read to me when I was little is the biggest single reason I’m a writer today. I was reading on my own before I started kindergarten. The point is, someone with a skill (reading) showed me how to do it. And I later showed my boys. Once we end up in school, our teachers normally take over this role.

Mentoring has many similarities to teaching. One person is passing along knowledge to another. However, whereas in teaching the student often has little or no ability at all, I would argue that a mentor is one who helps us improve skills we already possess. Let me explain.

If you are unable to write because you do not know how to spell words in the English language, you need to go to school and learn this basic skill. A mentor cannot help you improve a skill you do not have. To be a better writer, you have to be able first to write. Most of us can string words together into a sentence that can be read and understood by others. That’s writing as basic communication. Email messages fall into this category. (Although I have received a number of emails that were so poorly composed that I had to read them several times to figure out what the sender’s message was – and don’t even get me started on text messages.) Writing well implies that there are those who read your words by choice because they elicit some type of emotion from said reader.

If it is your desire to write in this way, I suggest you seek out one or more mentors to assist you in your most worthwhile of journeys. There are a number of ways you can do this. Critique groups are a type of mentor. If they are done correctly, you get the benefit of a wide variety of experiences and opinions. Whether they are online or in person, make sure the critiques are done in a positive and helpful manner. Honesty is crucial but harsh or cruel remarks are uncalled for. If you find yourself in such a group, talk to the leader/moderator. If their response supports this kind of behavior in any way, leave the group immediately and find a new one. (If you are in Los Angeles, CA; Portland, OR or Missoula, MT, look us up: Coffee House Writers Group)

Writing partners can be great mentors if they have some experience. At the very least you can bounce ideas off of them and they can keep you going through the stalls and bouts of writer’s block (I don’,t really believe in writer’s block. More on that in another blog.) Depending on their experience and skill level, they may even be able to help you improve a great deal.

We live in the age of communication. The internet is ubiquitous (nope, you have to look it up ha ha!) and a vast resource. One of my online mentors is Kristen Lamb. If you want to be a better writer, subscribe to her blog here. I have dozens of writer friends all over the world and they are always ready to help. Reciprocate. Offer your opinion and volunteer to be a beta reader. Not only will you be giving the author valuable feedback, you will be learning as well.

One person who has helped a great deal is Arial Burnz, a good friend and the editor for my short story collection, Nightmares and Body Parts Vol. 1 The Karma Collection. Yes, you can buy it. (Shameless self promo, see links on the side, I hope). Arial has not only helped with my writing but my website and the design of my book cover. Yes, it is awesome to have talented friends. In return I helped her and her husband repair part of their house. (Writing and Drywall, that will be the title of my autobiography.) Read Arial’s blog here. (She has a thing for hot Scottish vampires and writes about them.)

Mentors don’t have to have all the answers, just enough to get you over the hump and on to the next level. Pay attention to what they say. Stretch out of your comfort zone. Then pay it forward. My niece is in high school and she is a writer. I help her as often as she asks me to. Maybe she’ll mention me in her Pulitzer acceptance speech. Until next week, Dear Reader, dream of awesome mentors.

Ray Bradbury Challenge #21- Full Moon Fever (Fiona’s Adventures in West Hollyweird)

Today we get to meet someone from Fiona’s past

and another who may well be a big part of her future.hunk 01

 

Full Moon Fever

Fiona leaped over the bar, fangs bared and eyes black as onyx.

“Listen up, Sheamus ’cause I’m only going to say this once. You and the rest of the mutts wanna come in here you either play nice or I’m going to neuter the whole lot of you.”

The shaggy beast rose to its full height towering nearly two feet above her head.

“Oh, come on Fee, is that any way to treat a friend?” The combination of Irish brogue and werewolf growl was so comical it was all she could do to keep a straight face.

“Don’t play that ‘friend’ crap with me. I’m serious as a silver bullet. I know a guy who’ll give me two-fifty each for ‘wolf nads …” Fiona grabbed Sheamus’s crotch and extended her nails. “And I won’t use a knife either!”

The werewolf howled. Fiona released her grip and he crossed his legs.

“Damn lass, who pissed in your O-neg this morning? Fine and dandy, we’ll be on our best but cut us some slack …”

“Oh, no, don’t you even think about blaming this on the full moon. You can’t handle it then report to lock-up. I got customers waiting. We good?” Fiona bounced back across the bar without waiting for an answer. It was like this every month. Damn lychans … their cycles were worse than human females. The three hulking ‘wolves slunk to the back of the room with their tails between their legs.

“Brandon, can you clean up the mess out here, please?”

“S’up, Fee-dog?” said a grotesque figure at the end of the bar. The skin of the face was drawn tight over the skull which sported a skateboarder’s skully. The figure wore a sagging pair of jeans. Fiona rolled her eyes.

“Really? Doncha think two hundred is a little old to dress like a teenager?” she said.

“Aw man, don’t be dissen my cred, Fee. My peeps think I’m da bomb.” Brandon adjusted his hat.

“Yeah? Just how much cred does an unemployed zombie have these days?” Fiona snatched Brandon’s beanie and stuffed it in her pocket. “Dress code violation” she said over his protests. “You’ll get it back after your shift. Get busy.”

The bar was packed with customers all clamoring for drinks. Fiona was a blur, mixing, pouring and serving all manner of refreshments. A few even had small creatures immersed in foul smelling liquids. It was a fair bet that most would kill a human. By the time Brandon had cleaned up the shattered table and chairs she was caught up with all the orders.

“FEEEEOOOOOOOHHHNAAAAA!”

The cry reverberated across the club and caused Fiona’s fangs to extend to their maximum length. She looked through the crowd as a flamboyant woman in a flowing purple robe approached the bar. Several waif-like men and women following in her wake.

“Dahling, the place is a smashing success. It seems you’ve found your calling,” she said pushing several customers aside.

“What do you want, Claire?” Fiona made no effort to hide her fangs.

“Now, now, dearie, is that any way to greet your friends?”

“Lately my ‘friends’ have become pains in my ass,” said Fiona. “Good news for me since you and I aren’t friends by any definition of the word and I can be blunt. What the fuck are you doing in my bar?”

Claire’s smile vanished and her fangs slid into view.

“That attitude is exactly what landed you in this cesspool in the first place, Faeleneus.

Fiona bristled at the use of her family name.

Sensing her adversary’s ire, Claire smiled around her fangs.

“I’m guessing nothing short of a stake through the heart will change that.”

“You’re right, Claire. A stake through your heart would make me downright giddy.”

“In your dreams,” said Claire with a wave of her hand as if dismissing the matter. “I’m here because the Council wanted you to know that you’re no longer on your own.”

Fiona paused in mid pour and studied Claire’s face trying to get a read on her. It was a sure bet that any news she had to share would not be good. At least, not for Fiona.

“And what does that mean, exactly?” she said as she finished pouring the drink.

“It means that another clan member has been relocated to West Hollywood.”

“No fucking way! There aren’t enough humans here for one of us.” Fiona’s eyes turned black with rage. “And when you say ‘relocated, what you really mean is banished. I hope she’s ready to starve to death …”

Claire cut her off in mid rant. “Oh Fiona, you always were such a drama queen. She is a he and his name is Ricardo.” Claire motioned to someone across the room. A shadow pushed through the throng and materialized at Claire’s side. Dark eyes, sallow skin and a mane of raven hair adorned the most gorgeous man Fiona had ever seen, undead or otherwise. She clutched the front of the stainless sink with such force that her fingers dimpled the metal.

“Ricardo, this is Fiona. She’s a dear friend of mine.”

The man extended his hand. Fiona did the same and felt her knees buckle when he touched her. Sexual energy rolled off of him like a string of tsunamis. If she had had any strength at all she would have jumped over the bar and torn his clothes off.

“Ricardo, it is a pleasure to meet you.” Pleasure was an understatement.

“Good to meet you,” he said. “Wow, Claire didn’t tell me you were like so totally hot.”

Fiona’s heart fell. “How long have you been turned?”

Ricardo laughed. “Dude, it’s been like two months. What a freakin’ rush, right?”

Claire’s Cheshire cat grin ignited Fiona and she crumpled the edge of the sink.

“Well, you kids have fun. I have places to go and people to see.”

Claire turned with a flourish and left Fiona alone with Ricardo.

“So, you wanna hook up later?” he said.

… to be continued

Blessings by Design

My apologies for the lack of posts. The web series project has pushed itself to the forefront of my schedule, demanding my attention. I have managed to keep up with the Ray Bradbury Challenge. You can read yesterday’s offering here.

by design

Given that yesterday was Thanksgiving it seems only right that I show thanks for the blessings in my life. There are two types according to me (yep, because this is my blog). Blessings that come from the Supreme Being (as you believe), the Universe, Nature or the random kindness of strangers. IMNSHO, there isn’t a lot we can do about this type of blessing other than enjoy and appreciate them. The second category are what I call Blessings by Design. Let me explain.

One of the greatest blessings is my family. I had nothing to do with choosing my parents or brothers (some would argue otherwise but we aren’t going there today). Random blessings from on high. I also had no control over the fact that my wife showed up in the nightclub in which I was working as a DJ. Another happy accident. I did have the good sense to take her to breakfast after my shift was over. And a year or so later ask her to marry me. Blessing by design. (That she took leave of her senses and said yes is another happy accident.) It is sort of a corollary to the saying, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

It’s not always easy to see the opportunities to bring about blessings. What appears to be a stroke of luck one day can become a reversal of fortune the next. However, don’t dismiss your trials, tribulations and challenges too quickly. The term ‘blessing in disguise’ often applies to these situations. Keep your head up, your eyes peeled and your mind open. What we perceive as mistakes are more often than not a simple course correction by the Universe to get us back on track and/or teach a lesson necessary to the journey we are taking.

I am a firm believer in the philosophy that what you put out into the universe comes back to you. Helping others is a sure way to have the Fates smile upon your life. It isn’t something you can orchestrate with any amount of precision and it isn’t guaranteed, but it can set the wheels in motion. It also fosters an “attitude of gratitude” that is both motivating and contagious. For more on that subject please read Kristen Lamb’s blog on being thankful.

As a former engineering student and contractor I know that very few projects are completed successfully without some type of plan. You cannot build a house without blueprints (and building permits – and a huge roll of red tape to tie them all together. Sorry, had a flashback.) Life is by far our biggest project, yet most of us don’t plan much more than where we are going to have dinner and go on vacation, myself included. (I blame my ADD but that’s only part of – Hey! A cat video!) Okay, I’m back. Look for opportunities to bring blessings on you and the important people in your life. The Force is saying “Help me help you” (obviously a Jerry McGuire fan, and yes, my inner geek is showing.) It’s that time of year to appreciate what we have and help those who have less. Have a blessed week, whether by accident or design.

Until next week Dear Reader, dream of all your blessings and be thankful.

Everything You Wanted to Know About NaNaWriMo …

NaNo logo

NaNoWriMo

And Were Smart Enough NOT to Ask a Writer

Now that you’ve recovered from that sugar coma, you’ll be happy to know that today is November 1st. All Saints Day (the reason Halloween was started), last Friday before fall elections (Black Friday?) and the beginning of NaNoWriMo. If you’ve heard the term and wondered what sort of strange code your friends were speaking (yes, you just smiled and nodded and hoped no one would ask you about your own experience) what they were talking about was National Novel Writing Month (just NaNo if you want to be uber hip). Every November for the last thirteen years writers from around the world have cranked out 50,000 words or more in 30 days. For the arithmetically challenged, that’s 1,667 words a day. If you type 20 words per minute (remember, you’re composing)  it will take just under an hour and a half a day to meet your goal; barring writer’s block and your failure to turn off your inner editor. Actually, very doable for most writers.

I participated last year for the first time and hit just over 53K words by the end of the month. Yes, I have a full time job which includes a forty five minute commute each way to Los Angeles. This time last year I was still on a five day work week. That means I had an hour and a half of free time (except when it was my turn to drive the vanpool) plus my hour lunch break. My laptop was an ever-present fixture and that hasn’t changed much.  Regretfully (kind of) I am in the middle of  several projects this year and can’t sqeeze NaNo in to the schedule. I’m hoping to plan better next year so I can jump into the fray once again.

First of all, if you are a Morkplotter (one who outlines before they write) you have the battle all but won. Last year I spent most of October outlining my novel, “Death in the Middle of Nowhere” in Scrivener. If you aren’t familiar with what I consider the greatest piece of software ever written read this post. By the time November 1st came around all I had to do was fill in the blanks. Just so you know, I am by nature a pantser, meaning I normally write by the seat of my pants as the words come to me. Even if a hard core outline makes your muse whine like a corral full of Kardashians, jotting down the major plot points, story arc and character sketches (which even pantsers should be doing anyway) will help keep your story on track.

One last thing: Be bold, be brave, be ready to write the biggest cowpie of your literary career. NaNo has nothing to do with writing well, only with writing and FINISHING! Turn off that little voice telling you to change ‘that’ to ‘which’, correct your spelling errors (those red squigglies aren’t going anywhere) and rewrite that chunk of dialogue. Honestly, this is the way you should be writing anyway. If nothing else, NaNo will help you stretch your writer’s muscles and get you further down the road to becoming a better writer. Do it. It is an awesome experience.

FOR THOSE ABOUT TO DIE WRITE, WE SALUTE YOU!

Until next week Dear Reader, scary NaNo dreams.

From Kristen Lamb’s Blog- Asking “What If?” & Exploring the Unknown–A Final Word on Writing Horror

A huge thank you to both Kristen Lamb and Kevin Lucia (same initials … coincidence or conspiracy? Hmmm … ) for a truly awesome series on my very favorite genre. If nothing else it has forced me to take a look at my own writing and raise it a notch or two. It has been my pleasure to present this series (yes, and use the time to get caught up on some other projects).

Kristen Lamb, WANA, We Are Not Alone, WANA Commons

Debbie Johannson WANA Commons

Fear is the most important tool in any writer’s toolbox. Fear is the beating heart of conflict, no matter the genre. Fear of death. Fear of losing love, not finding love, not recognizing love. Fear of change. Fear of remaining the same. In Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novella The Road, the story was less about a fear of death and more about the fear of survival at the expense of one’s humanity. In The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan explores the fear of continuing generational curses.

In Winter’s Bone, Woodrell examines fear of family, what it takes to possibly betray family and risk death by turning on kin. In Virginia Woolf’s classic Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf probes the fear of being meaningless. Alduous Huxley’s Brave New World explores the fear of government, the tendency of the masses to devolve to mediocrity, and the dangers of society that only exists to seek empty pleasures and instant gratification.

Suffice this to say that I believe all great works (even outside of Horror) tap into our deepest primal fears, probe them, open them, expose them and maybe even (if we are fortunate) give us a glimpse of a cure.

Kevin continues today with a final word about horror.

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We’ve discussed many things in the past few days about why the horror genre is important, why writing it is important and hard, but I’d like to offer this final thought: if we expand our definitions of horror past chainsaw wielding maniacs and human centipedes, we find that horror, at the root of it all, is often about a quest into the unknown.

As I’ll detail in one of my workshops at WanaCon, almost all the horror plots involve some level of discovery, penetrating the unknown. So horror exists not only because of mankind’s universal fears and a desire and NEED to deal with those fears, horror exists because there exist those special folks – horror writers – who are consumed with the desire to KNOW things, to ask questions that others would never think of asking, or, as the case may be, never dare ask.

I’d like to leave you with this final thought from Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, about why some of us blessed (cursed?) folks are drawn to writing horror:

“As you get ready to leave, think about this…or brood upon it:

Unknown.

Unknown.

The Story of “Little Miss Nobody”

On July 6th, 1944, the Ringling Brother and Barnum & Bailey Circus was giving a performance in Hartford, Connecticut, before 7,000 paid customers. A fire broke out; 168 persons died in the blaze and 487 were injured. One of the dead, a small girl thought to be six years old, was unidentified. Since no one came to claim her, and since her face was unmarred, a photograph was taken of her and distributed locally and then throughout the U. S. Days passed, weeks and months passed, but no relative, no playmate, no one in the nation came forward to identify her. She remains unknown to this day.

The job of the fantasy writer, or the horror writer, is to bust the walls of the tunnel vision we develop as  adults, bust it wide for a little while, to provide a single powerful spectacle for the third eye (our imagination). The job of the fantasy-horror writer is to make you, (the reader), for a little while, a child again.

And the horror writer himself/herself?

Someone else looks at that item about Little Miss Nobody – still unidentified – and says, “Jeez, you never can tell, can you?” and goes onto something else. But the fantasist begins to play with it as a child would, speculating about children from other dimensions, about doppelgangers, about God knows what else.

It’s a child’s toy, something bright and shiny and strange. Let us pull a lever and see what it does, let us push it across the floor and see if it goes rum-rum-rum or wacka-wacka-wacka. Let us turn it over and see if it will magically right itself again.

In short, let us have our Fortian rains of frogs and people who have mysteriously burned to death while sitting at home in their easy chairs; let us have our vampires and our werewolves. Let us have Little Miss Nobody, who perhaps slipped sideways through a crack in reality, only to be trampled to death in  a rush from a burning circus tent.

“It’s the best set of electric trains a boy ever had,” Orson Welles once said of making movies; the same can be said of making books and stories. Here is a chance to bust that tunnel vision wide open; bricks flying everywhere so that, for a moment at least, a dreamscape of wonders and horrors stands forth as clearly and with all the magical reality of the first Ferris wheel you ever saw as a kid, turning and turning against the sky.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Greg Koenig

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Greg Koenig

“Someone’s dead son is on the late movie. Somewhere a foul man – bogeyman! – is slouching through the snowy night with shining yellow eyes. Boys are thundering through autumn leaves on their way past the library at four in the morning, and somewhere else, in some other world, even as I write this, Frodo and  Sam are making their way toward Mordor, where the shadows lie. I am quite sure of it.” ~Stephen King, Danse Macabe

This is the best way to end my series, I think. I’ve tried to say some very noble things about the importance of the horror genre, and how it’s just as valid as any other genre, and why writing good horror is just as difficult as writing the next Great American Novel.

But all those comments come from my critical, analytical side (where I live every day as an English teacher), and all my own noble and worthy writing goals have become very rooted in my subconscious. What really pushed me toward the horror genre to begin with was the eternal, burning question: Why? and its inevitable follow up: What if…?

And for me?

The horror genre, the genre of the fantastic and strangely beautiful wonders and horrors, simply offered me the most room to play in. I could write a story about a father mourning the loss of his son, and, gripped by guilt, how he goes and sits next to a pond to watch the ducks, and maybe somebody rides by on a bicycle, and then through some heavy exposition – or through the symbolism of a burning sunset – our grieving father works through some resolution, gaining closure as he finally forgives himself.

But that’s just not me.

Cause I really like the idea of his dead son being on the late night movie, reaching through a very special and strange television screen….

Somewhere deep in my own little Twilight Zone.

******

THANK YOU, KEVIN! *does cabbage patch dance* Cabbage Patch Dolls. Talk about creepy (and yes I had them anyway).

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself holding back in your own writing? Afraid to go to the dark places? What other works (horror or not) do you think did a really fabulous job of exploring our fears? Why did they rattle you? What made you uncomfortable? Did you find relief at the end?

I LOVE hearing from you, and I know Kevin will, too. Ask him your questions. Tell him your fears. Comments for guests get double weight in the contest. Btw, I will announce September’s winner next week. Too slammed with WANACon right now to do it properly. Ah, the contest…

Which is…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror ChannelHis podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming November 2013 from Crystal Lake Publishing.

From Kristen Lamb’s Blog- Why Writing Horror Is–SHOULD BE–Hard Part 2

If you have not read the previous articles in this series, you owe it to yourself to do so. Kevin Lucia has some words of wisdom for all writers, not just us creepy ghouls authors of the dark genre. Go Kristen (it is her blog). BTW, this is post #100 for me. Very happy to share it with Kristen and Kevin.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Niki Sublime

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Niki Sublime

First, a quick announcement. For those who’ve been waiting, my new social media book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is now available in PRINT. Yay! *happy dance* Almost 300 pages and 1.1 pounds of AWESOME. All you need to build a solid author platform and have time to do the most important part of the job—WRITE MORE BOOKS.

All right. Since it’s coming up on October, it seemed fitting to delve into the genre of Horror, and not simply for those who write spooky tales, but for the rest of us as well.

Elisabeth Kubler Ros once stated:

There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.

This means, the more we understand fear, the deeper our writing becomes, the more meaningful, visceral, and profound. In love stories, fear might be of being alone, of never finding “the one” or even losing “the one.” Conflict is always generated by fear. The protagonist wants something BUT THEN… The more intense the fear, the faster the reader turns the pages.

Thus, who better to teach about fear, its necessity, primal roots and tools for generating fear than the horror author? Kevin Lucia (who will be teaching MORE about this at WANACon this weekend) continues….

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Here’s the thing: if you’re an ardent horror fan and budding horror writer, you’re part of a tradition. And as good fans, you’re aware of this tradition. You’ve been fed on it, raised in it, and the most natural thing for you to do initially is pay homage to that tradition in your work.

I’m not going to try and define horror here (because that could take forever, and I’d still never get close to a definition), but anyone who wants an insightful examination of the horror genre should check out Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror, or, Paradoxes of the Heart.

It’s a work that really maps out some excellent ideas about what the horror genre is and why people pursue it and this bit here made me feel a lot better about my early “trope” stories:

The creators and consumers of horror fictions are aware that they are operating within a shared tradition (emphasis mine), and this is acknowledged openly, with great frequency and gusto…the horror fiction of the present, though not lacking in energy, also refers back to earlier times, to classic monsters and  myths, as if in a gesture of nostalgia.

Noel Carroll, pg. 211

Helllooooo, there, Kiddies...

Helllooooo, there, Kiddies…

So those zombie and vampire and werewolf and big bug monster stories you’ve been writing? (And the creepy evil clown ones, too?) They’re nothing to be ashamed of, really. If you’re a horror fan, you’ve been raised on a certain diet, and our earliest efforts are unconscious or maybe even conscious attempts to pay homage to the horror traditions we’ve come to adore.

ZOMBIES!

ZOMBIES!

But there’s a difference between horror trope stories and horror stories. I’ve come to this belief through my reading as both a fan and as an editor at several different publications (Shroud Magazine, The Midnight Diner, Cemetery Dance Magazine). And, just like all of you, I’m still trying to write authentic, personal horror stories.

And that’s the first step in writing stories invoking the emotion of horror: searching deep inside yourself and writing stories that come from your GUT, not from your knowledge of the horror tradition. Like when Bradbury made a threshold discovery – ten years INTO his career, mind you – in mining his personal childhood experience while writing “The Lake.”

I can best sum this up in the words of Bram Stoker Award Winning writer and author Mort Castle:

“The best stuff, the stuff that lasts, comes from the late-night conversations we have with our very own selves.”

This hit me hard the first time he said it to me (in an email discussing my work) because it made me realize I was writing horror “trope” stories lacking any personal value. These stories weren’t born out of my own fears and anxieties, but born out of my (admittedly) healthy knowledge of horror’s traditions.

Again – I worked hard on those stories. I believe their craft is sound, to this day. But those stories were motivated and inspired by exterior motives – a vampire story, a ghost story, a haunted house story, etc. – not inspired by my heart or soul. So even though they were fine stories that some people liked, they weren’t living up to their fullest potential.

Also, horror trope stories often lack that sense of violation, transgression or inversion that really evokes the emotion of horror. A story evoking the emotion of horror must begin in some sort of “normal world” – or whatever passes for normal in your story – and there must be some sort of transgression in which the normal world of the protagonist is violated.

What they believe is normal and safe must be inverted and turned against them. Again – as a writer you can never account for all readers. How can you possibly know if the transgression or inversion in your story is really going to impact a reader? That’s nearly impossible to tell.

But when a story begins with an immortal vampire mulling over a warm goblet of blood his plans to overtake the city in a tide of bloodshed with his vampire minions…the emotion of horror is not invoked. This is a horror trope story. It can still be written just as well as any other story on a craft level and be just as enjoyable, but it has fallen short of invoking any emotion of “horror.”

Kristen Lamb, social media consultant, author consultant

Actually that vampire was mulling over Starbucks.

Lastly, very simply…horror at its best comments on the human condition. For horror to live up to its fullest potential, it must SAY something meaningful and of substance about the trials and pitfalls and struggles and fears and nightmares about what it MEANS to be human, living in this flawed, cracked, all-too human and imperfect world.

It’s an overused quote by now, but I’ll reference Stephen King’s comparison (or someone’s comparison, even SNOPES isn’t sure WHO said it first) of Harry Potter’s legacy and that of Twilight:

“Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity… Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”

For the record, I’m a lover of ALL types of horror stories. I enjoy the often pulpy, thrill-laced horror trope stories of Robert E. Howard and Brian Keene right along with the atmospheric, literary stories produced by the late Charles L. Grant, T. M. Wright, Ramsey Campbell and Norman Prentiss. I adore the literary, gothic sensibilities of Peter Straub, and Dean Koontz simple morality plays are a guilty pleasure.

Writers like Norman Partridge have produced both kinds of stories, and younger writers such as Rio Youers and Ron Malfi have taken the horror conventions and twisted them to their own ends. And, in the end, we need to write what’s inside us, what we WANT to write.

But it’s an important question for all horror writers – especially new and budding writers – to consider. What are you writing? Horror trope stories, or stories truly invoking the emotion of horror?

And if your aim is the latter…go deeper inside yourself. Find your fears. Take normal characters and invert their lives, transgress their natural order and say something about what it means to be a human in this mean, bad old world of ours and then maybe, maybe you’ll write some of the “best stuff…the stuff that lasts.”

I know I’m still trying.

****

Thanks, Kevin! Wanna know my idea of a horror story that reflects society?

Aaaahhhhhhhhh!

Aaaahhhhhhhhh!

All kidding aside (okay I wasn’t kidding), what are your thoughts? Questions? I DO believe that fear is essential in ALL genres and ALL great stories. As an editor, one of the BIGGEST problems I see is the writer holding back emotionally. They fail to GO FOR THE GUTS.

Why?

Guts are sticky, messy, gross and leave us conflicted. THAT IS GOOD. Fiction is the opposite of reality. In reality we avoid fear, terror, conflict, but as writers—GOOD WRITERS—we should go right for the throat. RAISE THOSE STAKES! Scare the protagonist! Have them fear personal and LITERAL extinction of themselves, everyone they love and all they hold dear. MAKE THE READER WORRY.

It is our DUTY as authors to be sadists and saviors simultaneously.

How you like that for alliteration? :D

I LOVE hearing from you, and I know Kevin will, too. Ask him your questions. Tell him your fears. Comments for guests get double weight in the contest.

Which is…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror ChannelHis podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming November 2013 from Crystal Lake Publishing.

From Kristen Lamb’s Blog- Why Writing Horror Is–SHOULD BE–Hard Part 1

More from Kristen and Kevin on my favorite genre. This is great writing and has some real heart and soul behind it.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of normanack.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of normanack.

Whether one likes Horror or doesn’t, as artists, we can ALL learn to be better writers by studying what great Horror authors do well. Powerful fiction mines the darkest, deepest, grittiest areas of the soul. GREAT fiction holds a mirror to man and society and offers messages that go beyond the plot.

From the film, "I, Robot."

From the film, “I, Robot.”

Though not, per se, “Horror”, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot is an excellent example. The Spawn recently fell in love with the movie and I’ve seen it 78 times in the past week (and am oddly okay with that). I, Robot isn’t just a story about a guy battling robots. There are so many messages about society—the costs of relinquishing personal responsibility/accountability, the dangers of blind faith, the real price of being totally “safe”, the ugly price of “convenience,” prejudice, and even the nature of the soul.

This story is SO GOOD because it is deeply, viscerally terrifying. Yet, it isn’t “Horror.”

And it could happen.

Stephen King is one of the most legendary authors of our time, and not just for scaring us. I feel King’s ability to see and relate the dark aspects of human nature and society is what makes him an author in his own league. The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemptionand even Stand By Me weren’t horror stories, and yet they are some of his finest works.

Author Stephen King- "Yes, he is my hero." Edward Owen, Author

Author Stephen King

THIS is one of the main reasons I pursued a Horror expert to guest post and to teach at WANACon, because no matter which genre we write, the core tenets of good Horror are masterful guides to connecting to and affecting the souls of our readers.

Take it away, Kevin!

****

In my last posts I shared why I think horror is one of the most important genres, because – maybe more than any other genre – it has the potential to comment deeply on the human experience. In the right hands, horror can hold up a very unflattering mirror and show us what we really are: broken, scared creatures flawed and cracked, a species tragically ruled by fear, prejudice, insecurity, pride, anger, selfishness and cruelty.

And in the right hands horror also shows our better selves rising above our flaws.

Horror plays out supernatural battles between good and evil in the flesh; horror serves as a litmus test for a society or a nation’s conscience. What we truly fear reveals so much about our character, our true natures; as well as how we face those fears and either rise to meet them, or succumb to them.

That is why horror is – or SHOULD BE – hard to write. Emotionally, as well as spiritually.

That’s not to say that writing horror shouldn’t be fun or enjoyable. By no means. I’m not one of those folks you’ll see lamenting on Facebook about the awful “burden of being a writer,” that I’m a “slave to the muse” or that I “wish I wasn’t compelled to write.”

No, I get a kick out of making things up; especially making up stories about ghosts and ghoulies and monsters and those who face them. I feel immensely blessed to have the opportunity to contribute whatever little I can to the horror genre.

What does it “mean” to write horror?

But more and more, as both a writer and an editor, I’ve come to ponder what it really means to write horror, and the difference between a story that invokes that emotion we call horror and a story that merely utilizes horror tropes.

A clarification, first: I am not an elitist. I love reading and stories of all kinds too much to be a “story snob.” And stories utilizing horror tropes can be just as well-written as anything else. Excellent craft – prose, dialogue, characterization and character development – should be present in ALL fiction, regardless of genre.

A paranormal romance or zombie thriller can be just as well written as a wrenching ghost story about a father mourning the loss of his only son.

And also, I truly feel we are called to write certain stories. I’ve always thought writers experience a form of socially-acceptable multiple-personality disorder. A multitude of voices clamor in our heads for attention, characters who want their stories told. Some of those stories are horror stories. Some of them are not.

Some of them are quiet, creeping tales of unnamable dread, others are highly-charged, emotional, personal stories and still others…well…go splat a little more than the rest.

Terror

In Danse Macabre, Stephen King makes the distinction between three types of stories – tales of terror, (which he calls the finest emotion), tales of horror and tales of revulsion. Tales of terror never really shows you that thing that’s on the other side of the door. 

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 10.07.01 AM

Our reaction to it and how our fears change us and rule us is far more important than the actual thing itself; our imagination doing all the work. Two excellent examples would be W. W. Jacob’s classic tale “The Monkey’s Paw” and Shirley Jackson’s seminal novel The Haunting.  A really wrenching, emotionally-charged modern version of “The Monkey’s Paw” is found in “Forever,” the 17th episode in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 5.

Horror

The second tale Stephen King references are tales of horror. The only difference between the two, according to King, is that horror shows us what’s behind that door, and let’s be brutally honest, here. Sometimes we NEED to see what’s behind that door.

I adore Lovecraft’s work, but after awhile, I really need to see that unnamable horror, need to glimpse what that thing is.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 10.13.48 AM

An excellent example of a novel that shows us without sacrificing its power is Hell House, by the late Richard Matheson. We are shown the horror in that book.  Boy, are we shown, and to devastating effect. Also, the movie “Se7en” – staring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman – has become a classic film that’s been poorly imitated for years, and it succeeds by showing just enough (though it’s ultimate triumph – where its imitators fail – is never showing us what’s IN THE BOX, but that’s okay, because we KNOW. And that’s worse than seeing.)

Revulsion

The final tale is that of revulsion. In this tale, almost everything is secondary to that revolting image, serving as a means to that end and nothing more. Stephen King references the old EC horror comics here; I’m going to reference The Human Centipede.

Almost everything in that film serves only to deliver us the image of three people sewn together, mouth to anus. Prepped by the trailers for this, the audience is waiting for that moment, and when it’s delivered halfway through the movie there’s nothing left to wait for, the rest of the film becoming more of endurance test than an actual story.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 10.20.07 AM

However, revulsion still has its place and can be used effectively. In his treatise on the horror genre, The Philosophy of Horror, Noel Carroll asserts that part of horror’s true power lies in its violation of the natural order as we know it.

Revulsion used well (think of that X-files episode with the cannibalistic, inbred redneck family whose sons keep impregnating the bed-ridden mother), confronts us with a violation of what we know to be the natural order of things. An EXCELLENT recent example of this type of revulsion can be found in Kealan Patrick Burke’s acclaimed novel, KIN.

Another good example: William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” Because sometimes grief pushes us over the age into violating the natural order of things. Let’s admit; it’s hard to let go of a loved one.

Even when they start to smell…

Another clarification: as a writer, I’m just like all of you – struggling toward that elusive goal of refining my craft. I’ve written my fair share horror trope stories, and I’d like to think they’re good, solid stories. AND, I believe that writing horror trope stories is part of a horror writer’s natural development. But more on that next time ;) ….

****

Thanks, Kevin! What are your thoughts on all this? What stories (horror or not) have horrified, terrified or repulsed you? I know the recent Tom Cruise movie, Oblivion kept me up almost all night (and it’s sci-fi).

Why? Because I kept thinking, This could happen. And not necessarily from aliens. Technology-wise (I read Popular Science and Popular Mechanics) we are about 3-5 years from perfecting similar drones.

What if this technology landed in the wrong hands? With universal health care and the current trajectory of law enforcement, we could easily have a record of everyone’s DNA on file by 2020. What if our DNA could be programmed into a drone that could scan us and mark us friend or foe?

“Foes” get to be a red mist, btw *shivers*. As I said, TERRIFYING.

I LOVE hearing from you, and I know Kevin will, too. Ask him your questions. Tell him your fears. Comments for guests get double weight in the contest.

Which is…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror ChannelHis podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming November 2013 from Crystal Lake Publishing.

From Kristen Lamb’s Blog- Why Is Horror So Important?–Part Two

‘Borrowing’ from Kristen Lamb again. This series is so good I couldn’t let it pass and not share it with the three of you. Thank you Kristen for keeping Kevin ‘sequestered’ (hope your van has A/C).

Creepiest Twilight Zone Episode EVER!Creepiest Twilight Zone Episode EVER!

Yesterday, we explored the often overlooked genre of Horror with Author Kevin Lucia. Why are we fascinated by being scared? What purpose does the genre of Horror serve? Why is Horror vital to the human condition? Today, Kevin continues as guide into the dark realms of the human condition.

No need for two gold coins for passage. We’re classy that way :D .

And remember, Kevin will be teaching BOTH DAYS at our virtual writing conference WANACon next weekend along with writing legends like Les Edgerton and David Corbett, so get your seat! All the benefits of a writing conference without the hassles.

Take it away, Kevin!

***

Three years ago, on our annual vacation to the Adirondacks, at Enchanted Forest’s Water Safari, I made an awful mistake that’s haunted me ever since. To make a long story short: my autistic son discovered the kiddie water tubes that summer and fell in love with them. Embolden by this, I took my son – too young to know better – down one of the big slides, Black River Falls. What I wasn’t counting on?

The all encompassing darkness.

The water, which rushed MUCH faster than in the kiddie tubes.

And my son’s screams.

Now, I held my boy in a death grip and we survived, and more than likely we were never in any real danger. But it haunted me (and honestly, it chills me even writing this) wondering what could’ve happened if I’d let him go, my two-year old autistic son who didn’t understand WHAT was going on, much less know how to swim. And of course the shame I felt at my foolish risk nearly overwhelmed me. I felt irresponsible, a horrible father.

Two summers later, Lamplight Magazine solicited me for a novella. I wrote about that incident, imagining a scenario in which my worst fears had come true, and the consquences. And to date, it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written, and I think one of the best things I’ve ever written, because it hurt so much to write.

Perhaps one of the best reasons why horror is one of the most important genres is how it examines the human condition, by probing our worst nightmares and fears, as well as examining society and humanity – all our best and worst aspects – in close detail.

Good horror takes characters of depth and exposes them to their worst fears, watching closely how they either rise or fall…which speaks (no, SHOUTS) volumes about us as humans.

Though not strictly a horror series, this is why some of the best Twilight Zone episodes reverberate with a haunting resonance that simply won’t let us go. Episodes like Living DollThe MasksThe Shelter, I Am the Night Color Me Black – these aren’t just freaky, weird tales that leave us feeling chills down our spines for thrill’s sake alone.

No, these episodes in particular showed us the dark, ugly side of human nature…they held up mirrors that showed us all our most unsavory aspects.

Rod Sterling

The Twilight Zone has its flaws, but this is why the series endures today in endless syndication: Rod Serling found that horror (along with fantasy and science fiction) provided an excellent vehicle for stories about social consciousness, stories he might not have been able to tell on television otherwise; and like Sterling, scores of horror authors believe their genre allows them to ask questions about that which most of us would rather not even consider:

“What I see is pain and isolation that empowers not the sufferers, but that which afflicts them. I
want a reason for this. I want a reason for babies born with cancer, for the endless supply of thoughtless cruelties both little and large we inflict on one another on an everyday basis, for old folks who are abandoned to die alone and unwanted and unloved.

I want an explanation, please, for all of the soul-sick, broken-hearted people who become so hollowed by their aloneness that they turn on the gas, eat the business end of shotgun, or find a ceiling beam that can take their weight. I want sense made of this. I want to know the reason why…and since none is forthcoming, either from above or those around me, I’ve decided to try and find an answer on my own. So far, the best – the only – way for me to work toward this is through writing horror stories.”

- Gary Braunbeck, To Each Their Darkness (Apex Publications)

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 10.05.52 AM

Horror. One of our most important genres, because it comments on our fears and nightmares, on the things that makes us weak, holds up unflinching mirrors to show our inherent ugliness, and dares ask questions about things the rest of us would rather ignore. And, like any other genre, SO many want to write in it.

But writing GOOD horror is hard. SO hard. And even I’m still struggling, myself. But I think I’ve begun to understand the key elements to writing GOOD horror, and that’s what I’ll share next time….

***

Thanks so much, Kevin! Did you guys grow up watching Vincent Price and those old Edgar Allen Poe black-and-white movies? Did you cut your story teeth on Twilight Zone, too? To this DAY I hate dolls and clowns because of the ventriloquist episode (on top of “It” and “Poltergeist”).

Have you ever had a similar terrifying experience like Kevin? One you later mined for a work of fiction?

As a personal aside, I know my short story Dandelion was written winter of this past year and published in the spring. As a mother, after Sandy Brook, my mind had to give resolution and make some sense of the sheer random horror of the event (for some reason, when I write NF I am very light and funny and my fiction goes DARK and Dandelion I think qualifies as a version of horror, so READER BEWARE if you check it out).

Have you ever had a piece you HAD to write because the sheer terror or emotion of it demanded action? What books, movies, shows influenced you the most as an adult?

I LOVE hearing from you, and I know Kevin will, too. Ask him your questions. Tell him your fears. Comments for guests get double weight in the contest.

Which is…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror ChannelHis podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming November 2013 from Crystal Lake Publishing.

Why is Horror Important?–Part One (Reblog from Kristen Lamb, Guest Kevin Lucia)

If you’ve never read Kristen Lamb’s blog, check it out here.

I truly cannot add anything but dribble to this excellent post, so I’ll shut up and crawl back into my corner.

http://warriorwriters.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/screen-shot-2013-09-25-at-9-40-37-am.png

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sebastian Dooris

Horror is probably one of my favorite genres and always has been. When I was a teen, we didn’t have YA. We had Dean Koontz, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker. My parents were thrilled I was reading. I wonder how they would’ve felt had they known what I was reading. Yet, growing up, I couldn’t get enough scary books or horror movies and not much has changed.

Even now, when life is stressful, out of control, or I’ve had a day that’s simply served me my own tail-end on a platter, what’s my favorite outlet? A good scary movie. Not slasher flicks, but horror; terrifying, well-thought stories. In a way, I find this strange, since I dedicate most of my waking hours to making others laugh, empowering them, teaching them and encouraging them.

So why, of all things, would I be drawn to something that could scare the wits out of me?

That’s a great question, and while I have my own opinions, I’ve decided to defer to an expert. Kevin is one of those rare blessings we can uncover with the Internet and social media. Though Kevin and I initially got off on the wrong foot, something akin to, “Kristen, please stop pirating my cable” which was a REAL trick since I live in Texas and he’s all the way in New York, we’ve become fast friends.

I quickly became fascinated by Kevin’s work, his writing, and the way he could explain a genre that’s intrigued me so much for most of my life. There are great writers and there are great teachers. It’s a great treasure to find someone who is BOTH (which is why Kevin will be teaching both days at WANACon).

That, and Stephen King has not fallen for the “free-candy-panel-van trick.” He’s slick that way.

But, I know you will greatly enjoy Kevin, so I am shutting up now and handing the show over to him…

****

Two summers ago on my family’s annual week-long vacation in the Adirondacks we spent a day in Lake George. After walking the sidewalks, I spied an attraction that of course piqued my curiosity:

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 9.34.02 AM

Obviously, this lover of all things spooky was intrigued. I tried to get my seven year-old daughter to brave the museum with me but she wouldn’t bite. So my wife told me to go ahead and they’d meet me after at a park nearby. I felt a little silly going alone, but several turns into the tour I felt a lot less silly.

And just a bit…disconcerted.

Uneasy.

Dare I say…afraid?

I’ll say this, those House of Frankenstein folks did a nice job, especially with a bunch of inanimate wax statues. The lights inside were very dim, but they let me see just enough to feel uneasy, even though I knew I was looking at wax statues. I’d round a blind corner, then a display would light up, startling me. I’d descend a flight of brightly lit, normal-looking stairs, expecting it to be over…turn the corner and once more find “things” shrouded in darkness.

When I finished that tour, the sun shined just a little bit brighter, the air felt warmer and I felt REALLY happy to catch up with my family; simply happy to be alive and healthy and not alone. Even for a guy who’d been writing horror for ten years or so, the experience proved to be a threshold moment: the darkness and disorientation and unpredictability (even though simulated) of that wax museum made me appreciate the light and the warmth and my family just a little bit more.

Anne Radcliffe, one of the first Gothic writers (The Mysteries of Udolpho) might’ve summed my experience up with her thoughts on terror, that it “expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life.”

Anne Radcliffe

This is partly why I believe Horror is one of the most important literary genres around. We read these stories or watch these movies and as we close the book or as the credits roll, we think: Thank God. Thank that hasn’t happened to ME. And that, of course, this what early Greek tragedians called catharsis: the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

I believe the last part of that definition is the most important, differentiating between horror and what I call exploitation. “Strong or repressed emotions.”

According to award-winning horror critic, editor and writer Douglas Winter: “horror is an emotion.” New York Times Best-Selling Author Ted Dekker once said in an aside at a conference, “Horror is one of the hardest genres to practice. To do it right, you have to be willing to make readers cry.”

But isn’t the world horrible enough? With our news sources glutted with stories of domestic and racial violence, school shootings and terrorism? Do we need the horror genre in a world filled with so much horror?

Yes. Yes, absolutely. In fact, we may need it more than ever.

In his masterwork analyzing the horror genre, Danse Macabre, Stephen King writes:

“Why do you (we) want to make up horrible things when there is so much real horror in the
world?

The answer seems to be that we make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones. With the
endless inventiveness of humankind, we grasp the very real elements which are so divisive and
destructive and try to turn them into tools – to dismantle themselves….the dream of horror is
in itself an out-letting and a lancing…and it may well be that the mass media dream of horror
can sometimes become a nationwide’s analyst’s couch.”Danse Macabre, pg. 13

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 10.07.01 AM

When we trace some of the horror tropes, even ones that seem silly, now (like giant bugs or a lumbering Frankenstein) reflect our nation’s anxieties. Through the thirties – during the Great Depression, when thousands of people felt alienated from society because of something they couldn’t control – horror movies focused on monsters cut off from society not because they CHOSE to be that way, but because they were.

Frankenstein is emblematic of this, when the monster – who was made to be what he was – falls victim to angry villagers brandishing torches and pitchforks, simply for being what his creator made him to be.

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 10.20.57 AM

Following this thought, is it any wonder the fifties saw scores of movies about irradiated monster spiders and bugs (during the Cold War and nuclear proliferation and testing) as well as armies of emotionless aliens (nice stand-ins for those un-American Commies) INVADING Earth?

And even movies like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (not its endless remakes) has its place, coming so soon after the Vietnam War, which shattered the “rules” of combat and exposed authorities as unreliable and untrustworthy.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

In Massacre, people are killed in the light of day, which had always been a trusted element of horror up until then: survive until daylight, and you’re safe. Not so in Massacre, which can very easily represent our twisted emotions and radically altered perceptions as a nation after staggering, battered and bloodied, out of Vietnam.

I read somewhere once about someone saying to Stephen King that he must have lots of nightmares, given what he writes. His answer? No, he doesn’t have nightmares – because he writes. So that catharsis goes both ways: providing not only a necessary release for the reader, but also – and perhaps more importantly – for the writer, too.

***

Thanks so much, Kevin! And we eagerly await the rest of this series. Not only is Kevin going to explore more about the purpose of Horror, but he’ll even offer insight on how to write this tough genre well.

No easy task in our spoiled-CGI-jaded world.

What are your thoughts? Do you gravitate to horror when you’re down like I do? What are some of your favorite horror movies? Why did they resonate? How did they speak to you? What is your favorite type of horror? Supernatural? Religious? Slasher? Reality (I.e. serial killers)? Why do you think you gravitate to that particular type of horror?

Are you like me and STILL remember episodes of the Twilight Zone? And this is why you HATE ventriloquist dolls? Or Jaws and still won’t swim in anything that isn’t chlorinated?

I LOVE hearing from you, and I know Kevin will, too. Ask him your questions. Tell him your fears. Comments for guests get double weight in the contest.

Which is…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror Channel. His podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is forthcoming November 2013 from Crystal Lake Publishing.

Interview with Author Ronald Edward Griffin

There is a knock at the door just as I pull a tray of chocolate chip cookies from the oven. It’s my Blog Hop guest, Ronald Edward Griffin. Coincidence? I think not. If there’s anything authors like as much as free promotion it’s warm, chocolate chip cookies. Good thing I made extra.

Armed with a plate of gooey goodness and two tall glasses of cold milk, we plop down at the kitchen table and begin.

 

blood stained lives cover

Blood Stained Lives Cover

Me: Is Ronald Edward Griffin your real name or a pen name?

REG: It’s my real name.

Me: (Good, he’s got nothing to hide. No black SUVs in my driveway today.)

Your latest book is titled Blood Stained Lives. What genre does it belong to?

REG: Paranormal fantasy. It’s the genre I write in most often.

Me: breathing a sigh of relief – if he would have said romance, I would have been screwed.

Tell me a little about it.

REG: Well it is a paranormal fantasy about this one man’s journey to become the hero he was born to be. He has many trials along the way that he must make it through.

Me: What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story?

REG: My Mom always had a passion for reading and we would always watch movies together as well. We would watch mostly fantasy movies like Legend, Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Krull, and many other movies and I believe growing up with such movies sparked my imagination. I started writing short stories when I was in kindergarten but they were usually based on cartoons. In middle school I started writing my own superhero story. It wasn’t until highschool until I started writing supernatural stories. It was then that I started writing some of the elements of this particular novel. Over the years I wrote many short stories and always wanted to write a novel but certain life events caused me to post pone. I have kids now and decided that I want to leave behind something that they could be proud of.

Me: (What a cool mom. Wonder if she makes cookies?)

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?

REG: The importance of friends and family. When you have them on your side anything can be done.

Me: What challenges have you faced in your writing career?

REG: Getting it started. I didn’t realize there was so much work in self promoting. I am just glad I have made some wonderful friends along the way.

Me: What does your workspace look like?

REG: My work place varies, sometimes I write from my bedroom, the dining room where I can look out the sliding glass doors, or the locations that are mentioned in my novel. Sometimes it is good to write from the actual locations.

Me: (Note to self – Great idea, except for that ‘Zombies From Hell’ novel I wanted to write.)

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

(Sane, sans the in-; and writer, used in the same sentence. That’s a first.)

REG: Take time for yourself every now and then. Do not let the writing consume you all the times because it can cause you lots of unnecessary stress and your story could suffer from it.

Me: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

REG: Don’t be afraid to ask friends for help if going at this alone.

Me: After this book, what is next?

REG: Writing a series of origin novellas building up to the release of the second novel for this series.

The cookie plate is empty and the milk glasses are dry.

(There’s more but he doesn’t know that)

Ron's pic 1

Ronald Edward Griffin

Ronald’s contact info is listed below in the event you would like to steal some cookies buy some books or just say hi. Until next week Dear Readers, scary dreams of self-publishing.

Your website? www.BloodStainedSaga.com

Your blog? http://ronaldgriffin.blogspot.com/

Other websites? www.facebook.com/BloodStainedSaga

 Where can your book be found? www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, www.smashwords.com