Guest Blog Post: Ezra Barany

Posted in News with tags , , on May 23, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

This Weekend Only: The Insidious: Chapter 3 – Into the Further 4D Experience

By

Ezra Barany

Excited to see Insidious: Chapter 3? For those privileged few, you can get a feel for the horror film before it comes out. I’m not just talking about the movie preview, I’m talking about a full sensory experience, a kind of walk-through-a-haunted-house experience, the kind of experience where you need to sign a waiver first in case the evil inside kills you.

Insidious-Chapter-3-poster-1-570x805On the outside, the Into the Further 4D Experience “ride” is an innocent-looking truck trailer with the Insidious 3 logo written on the side. But honestly, after seeing the scary film Joy Ride, when are trailer trucks ever innocent?

Step up to the truck trailer and let the cheerful attendants guide you in with some instructions on what you need to do. Meanwhile, your buildup of fear scientifically cancels out your attention span so as you enter you ask yourself, “What door in the hallway was I supposed to walk through?”

How is it a full sensory experience? The ride starts by entering the side of the trailer which actually looks much more like the front door of the Lambert family’s new home. You’re inside with no turning back. Surrounded by what was once cheerful antique decoration, now just a reminder of the dead, you walk down the halls of the haunted home, followed by a ghostly presence. Escape into a bathroom and get locked in. Wait for an assistant to seat you in the living room and place a headset over your eyes and ears, much like the gas mask stored over the mannequin. This headset, a virtual reality Oculus Rift, provides a similar experience to the gas mask in the movie. Through sensory deprivation, you get a better connection to The Further, where the old woman doesn’t mince words about your predicament: The dead want your soul, and they’re coming.

Bummer. I was planning on using my soul for, say, the rest of my life.

With the virtual reality headset, I wasn’t confined to looking at one screen, I could hear a clamoring out of view, turn my head, and see an entire set of silverware flung at me by ghostly forces. I got the pleasure of seeing the ghosts all around me close in and the red-faced demon kill me.

Know what? Getting killed sucks. Now I’m just a soulless shell of a person.

Good thing for the attendants that they had me sign that waiver. I now understand that this free “ride” is just a ruse to collect souls across the nation. The cheerful attendants are only cheerful because they’re saying to themselves, “Thanks for giving us your soul.”

The Insidious Chapter 3 – Into the Further 4D experience is traveling through different cities. They’re collecting souls in San Francisco, May 23-24, then in Dallas, May 29-31, then in LA, June 5, opening day.

If you want a literally life-changing experience, check it out!

http://www.intothefurther.me/

Bio:

Ezra Barany started his career of freaking out readers with his suspense and thriller stories in college. In March 2011, Ezra unleashed his first novel The Torah Codes, which became an award-winning international bestseller. In his free time, he writes mushy love songs inspired by his wife and award-winning novelist Beth Barany. Ezra is also a physics teacher who tortures students with superposition, making them both alive and dead at the same time until someone looks at them. He lives in Oakland with his beloved wife and two cats working on his next book in The Torah Codes series. Ezra, not the cats.

Selah Janel: Bloody Snow

Posted in News on May 23, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

halogokidnapped

by Selah Janel

Along with everything else, I have more than a passing fancy for dark fantasy. It’s probably one of the subgenres I’m most comfortable in. I love the thought of faerie rules that only make sense to non-mortals, I love the chaotic rules that form a lot of fairy and folk tales. I also feel like there is such phenomenal possibility in the genre, especially in exploring characters. A few years ago a friend and I took a lot of little, odd shorts that we had and put them into a collection. Our idea was to get people used to exploring all areas of their imagination. Not all of the stories are one genre or another, not all of them are a genre the way you’re used to seeing. Not all the stories are even full stories. We want readers to take part in the book, to think and feel, and see where these tales take you. This is a piece I’m particularly proud of. I’m admittedly not a huge fan of Snow White, because it’s fairly narrative and fairly boring in the typical form we’re used to seeing it in. I became fixated one day, however, on the moment after the happily ever after, a moment that’s edited out of a lot of versions: the wicked queen being forced to dance at Snow White’s wedding in a pair of heated iron shoes. It got me thinking about how different the two women were, and then got me thinking about what would happen if they weren’t so different, after all…
Like so many of my other short work, this tale can be found in Lost in the Shadows
***
Bloodied Snow
She’d already been dragged across the floor of the great hall, garbed in her finest gown and draped with her largest jewels. Derisive faces swarmed around her as she struggled and clawed at the soldiers who struggled to hang onto her thrashing limbs. Weaklings. They could only hold her because the scales had tipped out of her favor. In another time and place, in any other battle, she would have been able to raise a finger and break the bones of every gathered dignitary in a hundred places.

“She went too far! She had to have known she’d be punished.” The whispers around her turned her stomach. How stupid. She’d never once entertained a thought of failure: not when she stood naked in front of her mirror demanding its opinion on her beauty, not when she sent her faithful servant into the woods to butcher The Girl (she would not think of her as anything but The Girl), not when she sold her soul for a spell that would turn the apple of life into the fruit of demise.
She was tossed to the unforgiving stone floor in front of the wedding party, her long hair and skirts pooling around her as the entire court jeered. How fast their minds changed. How many times had they cowered in fear when she threatened to slaughter their children in front of them? How many times did they give her all their earnings for fear she’d slide into their houses as a fog during the night? The Queen had her ways. Everyone knew it and everyone had cowered until The Girl.

She stared up at her adversary, her dry and cracked lips turned down in disgust. The Girl was made up like a royal and like a saint. Her father would have been so proud, the silly fool. For a split second the former queen remembered how he had swayed when she’d hung him in the tower after removing his blood for a particularly complicated potion. He’d long since outlived his purpose and his love had grown boring and tiresome. His blood, however, had been his exquisite, final gift to her. It had dribbled down in rivulets and gathered in her pale, smooth hands. Drop by drop, it had flowed over her fingers: slick, hot life that was as red as the berries that peaked through the snow in the woods at wintertime.

Her exhaustion grabbed onto the meaty color as she fondly recalled the heart the traitor of a huntsman had brought back to her. He’d slaughtered so many on her behalf before. Why should The Girl be any different? Why? That moment when she’d thought she’d held the princess’s gushing heart in her own two hands had been glorious, a release far better than any lover she’d taken or any spell she’d performed. The crimson residue had quickly turned brown and sticky on her arms as she’d clutched it to her bosom. Its sweet, metallic tang had crept into her nostrils and had lingered in her robes until her lady’s maid had insisted that the gown needed to be washed.
And then she’d found out the truth. And then she’d had to dispatch her huntsman. He was probably still at the bottom of the dry well she’d sent him to. She hoped he was still half-alive or had gone mad enough to do himself in. It served him right for being weak.

She supposed it served her right for being arrogant, as well.

The heart in her mind’s hands contracted and rearranged itself until the gorgeous sheen of an apple skin was all she saw reflected in the polished hall floor. So close. She’d been so close! It had been so innocent looking: its shiny ruby peel covering virginal white fruit. Who would have guessed the secret it held? How many demons had she had to beguile to get that “unbreakable” spell? And for nothing!

Fury built in the broken, weary queen as she glared up at The Girl. How did she beat the spell? How? She stood there, adoring and clueless as she clung to her new husband, her hero and savior. She’d learn soon enough that men would promise the world and then quickly take it back. The brat didn’t deserve to live if she was that stupid and naïve. And the way everyone fawned on her so was disgusting! They’d be plotting her downfall as soon as she ceased to be the good little princess they could idolize. Fear was the only way to keep a kingdom in line. Fear and cunning. A little imagination didn’t hurt, either.

“I’m glad you could come to my wedding feast, Stepmother.” The Girl’s voice scratched down the older woman’s spine. She was still tired from taking on the form of the hag and the dutiful prince had had her sequestered in the dungeon for over a week without proper nourishment or sleep. Everyone had wanted to tromp through and jab at her with swords or beat the face that had inspired so much awe and dread while she was manacled. Did The Girl know how her husband had allowed anyone who had a grievance with her down to the dungeon? Probably not. The little slut was so oblivious to the ways of the world.

Goodness. That’s all it came down to. That’s why The Girl had won. Never mind that she was locked in a daydream. Never mind that life would run her over and she’d never see it coming. No, she had fallen into a happy ending and that was all she cared about, just like she’d fallen into safety with the dwarves and never once feared that they might have had other motives. The Girl had gotten lucky that they weren’t members of one of the old families.

It seemed luck, like goodness, followed The Girl like a dog. She was pure and the old queen was vile. The Girl was innocence and the queen was cynicism and malice. Light and dark. White and red. Untouched snow and savagely spilt blood. Of course they were destined to be enemies: qualities like that could never be friends.
“Thank you for coming, Stepmother,” The Girl repeated and knelt to make sure that the queen understood. She was dressed head to toe in white lace, her dark hair braided and piled on her head among pearls and jewels. Her wide eyes sparkled like clear pools in her cherubic face and her little mouth that had only been touched twice smiled tentatively.

The queen had never hated her more and if she’d had any strength left she would have reached out a hand to strangle her. “I hope you’ll join us in the festivities. You’ve missed the best food, but you shan’t miss the dancing.”

The queen raised eyes that were darker than the night. Trembling, she managed to work up enough saliva in her dry mouth to spit upon the stupid young royal. The glob of spit dribbled down The Girl’s train, clear wetness tinged pink with the blood from her cracked lips. Was she clueless? An idiot? A halfwit? Why did she think they could be friends? Was she that desperate for a mother at her wedding that she’d resort to the one who’d tried to murder her time and again?

“I detest you with my blood,” the queen rasped, barely able to speak. “I shall never dance for joy for a stupid, naïve cow like you. You know nothing.” If she couldn’t hurt her with spells or knives, she craved to hurt The Girl with words. Unfortunately, her flesh wasn’t up to the challenge.

The Girl straightened as the chuckling crowds pulled back and two servants flanked by the royal guard entered the long hall. “Oh, but I want you to dance for me,” The Girl insisted. Maybe it was delirium or a sick sense of hope, but the former queen swore The Girl’s eyes changed. The twinkle was tinged by smugness, the innocence by a certain knowing. Somehow, some way…
Fear and admiration jolted the queen to her knees as the procession appeared at the prince and princess’s side. She’d seen it. She knew she had. She hadn’t been beaten by goodness or stupidity or dumb luck. She’d been beaten by someone who had known how to play the game all along and had played to win, even from birth! Deep, deep in the girl’s eyes was the spark of life. The queen had learned to look for it long ago in her victims. In the innocent it always burned as a bright white flame. The Girl’s burned bright, but it was tinged with crimson and sullied with dark shadows.
So shocked was the queen that she almost missed what was being said. “If you’re too tired to dance, perhaps we can convince you,” The Girl cooed, and her dimples were sly now. Oh, she was a clever one! She’d let her mask slip just enough for the queen to see, knowing full well that no one else would ever, ever believe! Even her strong young buck of a new husband didn’t have a clue! Her subjects didn’t have any idea that this child, this lovely and good little girl was far more sadistic than she! The Girl had simply bided her time from infancy, holding in her true nature until she could have her way. How gullible she’d been to not see it before! How perfect!
The servants parted to reveal two iron contraptions that were so hot they glowed. The lines of the metal were red-hot and smoldered like the metal gates to hell, the gates that were surely waiting to open for her. The queen shuddered, though it was half in fear and half in admiration.
“I had new shoes crafted for you to help you dance, Stepmother. It would please me very much to see you dance for my wedding.”

The crowd nodded and chuckled with The Girl, sure that it was probably the prince’s idea. They jeered down at her, so sure it was acceptable because the queen had been so despicable. They assumed the poor princess was probably forced into dishing out the punishment because she was so traumatized. If they only realized the monster that was hidden right under their noses!

Only the queen knew that those hideous instruments of torture, those beautifully constructed shoes of mutilation had been made simply because The Girl felt like it. It was all in her eyes, in the spark, as was the revelation that all her vengeful visitors had been invited by the new bride and not her husband. Oh, there was blood and darkness there, hidden behind the snow, just waiting for that pure innocence to melt away.

“So the snow is white no longer,” the queen rasped with a dry chuckle. Then the guards were on her and her mind was gone in a bright explosion of searing agony and humiliation. Her last coherent thought was that if she had to give up her kingdom, at least it was going to a worthy successor.

**********

Lost in the Shadows

Kindle        Amazon Paperback      B&N Paperback
Various Speculative Genres/Short Fiction: Flash, Complete Shorts, Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and others
Journey with authors Selah Janel and S.H. Roddey to a world where every idea is a possibility and every genre an invitation.
In this collection of forty-seven short stories, lines blur and worlds collide in strange and wonderful new ways.
Get lost with the authors as they wander among fantasy, horror, science fiction, and other speculative musings.
Shadows can’t hurt you, and sometimes it’s all right to venture off the path.

Kidnapped Blog: Selah Janel #6

Posted in News on May 22, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

Putting Some Cake Under Your Icing: Writing Horror

by Selah Janel

A few years ago, I was sitting in a meeting where I was actually told something like: Come on, horror isn’t about the story, it’s about being scary!
Excuse me, I still have to take a couple of Advil any time I think about that anecdote. Okay, back, now let us carry on.
I’m paraphrasing that incident a little, but not by much. It also brings to mind a lot of the problems that come with writing horror, problems that really have no reason existing, problems that are probably encouraged by people wanting to bank on the “it” thing of the moment (not to be confused with It, which is copyrighted), or put out a lot of work fast, hoping that momentum will carry things the rest of the way.
I get variations of this every time I do horror panels, so it’s been on my mind a little more lately. A lot of people equate the genre with monsters, with over the top gore, with tense, insane sequences. I’m not saying those aren’t great, but to actually write horror, I mean that’s all icing.
At the end of the day it’s all about humans and fear. That sounds way more esoteric than it is, I swear.
A few years ago, I was sitting in a mask making demo done by Jordu Schell. He’s a fabulous person to watch work, and he really imparted some excellent advice. I want to say it was California that had just been through an intense earthquake, and it just so happened that we were next to a film screening room, so you could hear all the screaming and rumbling through the wall. It was interesting, because he just rolled his eyes and commented that all the stuff in the business…all the monsters and weird other worldly killers and ghosts and stuff weren’t really scary. Scary is not knowing if your house is going to be there at the end of the day, scary is that loss of control, not knowing if the people you love are okay, not knowing if you’re going to get out of a situation alive. He basically went on to say that there were so many things going on in the world that are horrifying and truly terrifying, that it was a little weird for people to get worked up over horror tropes beyond entertainment.
It’s an interesting concept, whether you agree with it or not. I think he definitely has a point. Let’s face it: the real world terror of being out shopping and suddenly someone could come around the corner and put a gun in your face is exponentially freakier than the possibility of a monster stepping on you.
However.
I think as a horror writer, it’s my job to use the emotions of a real world possibility and put it into whatever scenario I happen to be writing at the time. You can let your creatures, your curses, your whatevers be vessels for real world fear, and it’s probably a little easier in some ways to do that with the written word. This is where I feel like a lot of people depend too much on gore, too much on trying to be “edgy”, too much on trying to write “scary.” In the visual fields, this is the equivalent of five hours of blood geysers for no real reason. I get in film that’s a choice and there are debates if that actually is metaphor, but for actually developing a cohesive, reader-grabbing story, let’s go back to calling that icing for the moment.
I studied theatre in college, and a big part of that was acting. A professor of mine was a big fan of critiquing us when he thought we were too static, acting a state of being instead of a verb. Pretty much you can’t act “sexy” but you can make it your goal to seduce someone. You may not get what you want, but that’s an active pursuit. I think a lot of that is true of writing, too, especially genre writing. You can’t necessarily write “scary.” You might be able to get away with certain tricks more in film and more visual elements, but at the end of the day there has to be some soul, some core there, or else it’s all just icing. And yeah, there’s a fan base for that – I’m not saying don’t have gore – but effects tend to follow trends, so after a while you’re pretty much watching variations on a theme, and without a story that’s more than just a set up for violence, that can get a little old. Plus, think of it. In a book you maybe get two, three, five scenes of really intense violence before it becomes splatterpunk. There’s nothing wrong with the genre, but even the best of those writers (cough Clive Barker cough) still play a lot with real human situations and emotions.
In the actual story, you absolutely have to have justification for not just why things are happening, but why the characters are feeling what they are. Even if you intend for them to be stock characters and you know they’re going to die twenty pages in, there has to be something to connect the audience to them, even if it’s something primal like fear of the dark. Don’t knock darkness, man. Darkness hides things, and we have eons of conditioning to drive home the fact that predators can lurk in the dark, that they can see us and we can’t see them. That feeling you get walking through your house late at night with the lights out? Have some respect, that’s ages and ages of training there.
The best horror stories, for me, are ones that play it straight. They’re not necessarily trying to slant things to any type of fan. They take the reader and the characters seriously. In the context of the story, vampires absolutely should exist if that’s what your book is about. Only then can you set up a system where the folklore works well or the characters interact well with each other. If witchcraft is involved, your characters can question it at first, but you better commit to pulling it off well. Half-assing things just because they fall under “scary” tropes is insulting to a reader or viewer. They can tell if you’re not sure, tell if you’re phoning it in, and they tend not to like it. The real world feel of all the various relationships in The Hellbound Heart sell everything else that happens in Clive Barker’s world. It grounds the reasoning for the Cenobites to show up. The claustrophobia of dealing with growing OCD in Stephen King’s N adds a mounting dread when you realize that it’s up to that character to prevent something horrific from being unleashed into the world. All the horrible things Sonja Blue goes through prepares you for her entry into seeing what really makes up the world, and somewhat legitimizes her vampire personality when it goes apeshit all over everything. It also makes it that much more gut wrenching when she tries to have something nice and good in her life, and can’t.
In real life certain situations may not be possible, but within the world you’re crafting (even if it’s set in the “real” world)  it absolutely is real and the author plays on all the primal, real-world fears to get there. The fear of being picked off in a public place can easily be applied to some guy stalking campers or a lover turning into a creature if utilized well. The all-consuming love you felt for one of your first crushes can be used to develop the character of an obsessed stalker or killer. Evil for evil’s sake is never a good enough reason, after all. The characters in question usually don’t consider themselves wrong, but rather just doing what they’re predisposed to do. That’s what tends to make things really creepy. Your cannibals aren’t doing it for the sake of eating people, they’re doing it because it’s tradition and that’s how they’ve always lived and why are you picking on them when they’re good people and by the way they outnumber you? You have to find the truth in a situation to sell the lie (another great lesson that came out of acting class). Whether that’s by remembering how you felt in certain situations and playing on that emotion, whether it’s by developing some sense of logic to make your reader fall into your world and stay there, whether it’s some other technique, that’s really up to you as a creator. Sell your characters. Sell your world. Treat them with the respect you’d treat the world around you as you walk down the street any given day, don’t use them as a means to an end and just throw on a bunch of icing. That may work for a while, but sooner or later people will wonder why the hell there’s no cake under there if that’s what they’re paying for.
I think that’s why ghost stories and stories about demons and the like do so well. It’s not because they’re just scary creepy booga booga characters that jump out at you. It’s not even because they’re things that are unnatural and can reach you on an intimate, soul level that they shouldn’t be able to, though that’s getting warmer. Whatever you personally believe, there’s a huge history of belief systems there, and it takes just as much faith to say something terrifying doesn’t exist as it does to believe in something benevolent. Who’s to say if they’re real or not? That what if is a big fine line between reality and fantasy and stories that walk it well are amazing because they make us hesitant to question, yet hesitant to completely want to fall head over heels into things, as well. That is unnerving, and that’s exactly what you want to do to someone.
Above all else, though, take your audience seriously. If they’re sitting down and giving you their time, don’t assume that they just want a few over the top scenes or that just because your book is about zombies that it’ll sell itself based on that. There are a million zombie/werewolf/vampire/Cthulhu/Whatever stories. Either make your idea so original that people can’t look away or write it well. Better yet, do both. Treat the story seriously, and you’ll have something you can be proud of, and hopefully something your audience will enjoy.

**********

When Selah isn’t on her soapbox about genre, she’s usually trying to write it, hoping someone will take her seriously. Check out her blog, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

Come meet us at BayCon 2015!

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2015 by Emerian Rich

 Come to the Horror Addicts Guide to Life book release party!

Friday, May 22nd

@ Baycon 2015

8:30 PM in the Stevens Creek

Hyatt Regency, Santa Clara, CA

Freebies at the door and door prizes to boot!

Plus, don’t miss getting all these signatures on your very own copy of the book.

habayconbanner

Come meet Emerian Rich, H.E. Roulo, Laurel Anne Hill,

J. Malcolm Stewart, Loren Rhoads, Sumiko Saulson, and Lillian Csernica at

BayCon 2015

FinalFrontCoverHorror Addicts Guide to Life

Don’t miss the door prizes, favors, and your chance to see all these amazing horror personalities together in one place! :)

Books will be on hand for signing and purchase.

Kidnapped Blog: Selah Janel #5

Posted in News on May 21, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

halogokidnapped

SJ’s Top Ten: Vampires
I love vampires. I always have, even back in the day when I got it in my head that they lived in old barns off the sides of state highways where I grew up. That’s just one of the things that you have to know about me. I find that declaring love of fang is a loaded statement these days, because everyone’s so twitchy about the evolution of vampire from horror standard to weird emo love interest. We could debate how that happened and the cause/effect of that for like a month, and none of us have the time and the patience for that. So. To make it easy, let me just say that I like vampires that use their teeth and have minimal emotional issues about being a vampire. I prefer stories that use the folklore at least as a starting point, but also bring something new and interesting to the equation. Plus, people seem to forget that vampires were human once, so with that kind of monster you do have all the benefits of an actual personality. Part of the reason a vampire is interesting isn’t just the sex thing or the oral fixation, but the fact that they are versatile. They can be protagonists and antagonists, they can walk the line between love interest and stalker, they can use their looks to lure prey, they can be hunger-driven machines. There is a lot to work with, plus a lot of metaphor. After all, they’re the predator we don’t have to look over our shoulder and worry about because they don’t exist. The concept of animal appetite with human skin is terrifying, like Niestzche’s superman on crack.
It’s really hard to define what makes a successful vampire, so in the interest of keeping things diverse, I’m going to list out some of my favorites today. I’m also going in no particular order because I find it hard to choose and I really don’t have it in me to rank. I’m also only talking about things I’ve actively seen or read, so while I’ve heard Let the Right One In and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night are amazing, unfortunately I haven’t experienced it yet for myself, so I can’t put it on. I’m also one of like four people on earth that was unable to watch Buffy when it aired, so I can’t really cast my vote there, either. What can I say, there’s always something to catch up on. If anything, view this list as my personal love list of vampirism, and if it introduces you to something new, excellent.
Count Dracula, Dracula, by Bram Stoker – Probably one of the first to put a vampire in a modern setting (though he came after Polidori’s attempts), Dracula is still the vampire standard. Cool and sophisticated? Check. Suave and seductive? Yep. Cunning and violent? Checkeroo. No wonder the fixation with him has lasted so long. I think we also tend to forget that for the time, the themes and portrayals in the novel were pretty intense and that Dracula was that era’s equivalent of urban fantasy, as well, so of course he’s going to be influential to any vampire in a modern/urban setting, no matter what the time period.
Lestat, The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice – Probably one of my first introductions into the genre. I find that Lestat is one of those characters that people love or hate, and he actually does go back and forth and evolve during the course of the books. He’s unlikeable enough but you sympathize with him to a certain degree. He plays that fine line between killer and romantic antihero to the hilt. Plus, although his drama is somewhat less hyped up than Louis, he has his own issues to work through, especially regarding Claudia. He should be a character that doesn’t necessarily form attachments, he should be someone that we hate and regard as a villain, yet time and again he’s in the center of things and I always enjoy reading how he interacts with those around him. For me, he’s one of the strongest vampires in the series, and definitely has become something of the face of the series, and for good reason.
Claudia, The Vampire Chronicle, by Anne Rice – Child vampires are a tricky thing, and Claudia is genuinely terrifying. Not only is the concept of being an adult woman trapped in a child’s body somewhat horrifying, but her bottled rage is amazing. She’s not passive in how she reacts to her situation, and it says a lot that she’s affecting parts of the series even long after she’s gone.
Sonja Blue, The Sonja Blue Series, by Nancy A. Collins – Truly one of the most unique takes on the vampire I’ve ever read. The series as a whole is hardcore, badass, graphic, and not for the faint of heart. What happens when a girl is turned into a vampire, but still living? Sonja’s Other is expressed as a separate personality that comes out at certain times, all while she acts as a slayer and tries to take revenge on her sire. Her desire to live life and have relationships and her utter inability to do so is a really poignant battle, her snark is hilarious, and she is terrifying when The Other comes out to play. I feel like I have to constantly remind people this series exists, and it’s a shame, because it’s amazing. It’s probably an early take on what would become urban fantasy, but put through a violent, dark splatterpunk filter. You empathize with Sonja, you’re on her side as both something of a victim getting revenge and a protector of other victims, so it’s truly startling when her real nature comes out and messes with everything. Amazing read.
Skinner Sweet, American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque – Originally a vehicle for Stephen King, the American Vampire comics should get huge kudos for reinventing vampire mythos and making it fresh in odd periods of history. Not only does it play with what powers what vampires have, but it also keeps evolving and changing the slayer vs. vampire dynamic. No one stays on the same side for very long, and this is especially true of Skinner Sweet, the original American Vampire. Formed by accident as an outlaw in the old west, Skinner was unlikeable to begin with and doesn’t get any more likeable. He’s hilarious, though, and there are odd moments when he does something that makes you drop your guard, so when he’s back to being vile, it makes it all that much harder to read. He really is a vampire’s vampire, and seeing him interact in the old west, 1920s Hollywood, 1930s Las Vegas, World War II, and other vignettes is a huge treat and one I never get tired reading. He’s become my go-to example for what can be done well with the genre.
Pearl, American Vampire, by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque – Pearl brings a distinct female energy to an otherwise violent series, but that’s part of the fun. A hopeful actress in the 20’s, Pearl finds herself at the mercy of a nest of Hollywood vampires and a frenemy who feeds her to them. Turned by Skinner, she spends the rest of the series dealing with not only her attraction/repulsion to him, but her love for her human husband, Henry, who is unwilling to be turned. Her conflict always comes across as real, and she is always having to recover from some amount of drama or pain being thrown her way. A tender and loving soul, it is a thing of dark beauty when she vamps out. Not only is her vampire character design off the chart, but as an American Vampire who is distinctly hard to kill, she tends to do a lot of damage.
Adam, Only Lovers Left Alive – Not horror, but it definitely has some dark moments. Adam is a character who strikes a good balance. You can believe that his thing about not killing people is more from finding it uncouth than it is having a huge reluctance to do it. His angst comes more from his frustration with seeing the human race be stupid than at what he is. He exudes the loner/rocker trope that works so well with vampires, yet you can believe that there is a thinking person under there. His devotion to Eve and friendship with Ian are also lovely things to see in a genre that tends to view vampires as either something that kills or something to kill. His ability to build things and his fascination with art and beauty are also really nice character touches.

 

 

Eve, Only Lovers Left Alive – It’s interesting to see the calm, collected older role go to a woman in this genre, and I really love Eve’s character in the film. Her husband’s decline is what really ruffles her, and their relationship really carries the film. Although they live apart, you know they love each other. She also has some really fascinating powers, and how she deals with the loss of Marlowe is heartbreaking and the presence of her sister is hilarious. There is also a sense of joy in her love of music, and through the cool exterior you get a sense of the person she started out as. Plus, even she has a decision to make by the end of the film, and how that’s handled is really fascinating, as well. Her sister is also a fabulous character to watch, but she and Adam truly make the movie, and it’s their reactions to everything going on around them that drives the film to its finish.
Supernatural – I get people either love or loathe the series, but there is some insanely smart writing and execution in it as a whole, especially with vampires. There’s not one character in this that totally stands out, but I really love the various portrayals of vampires. Really, you’ve got a little bit of everything: vampires having a family life, vampires trying to not kill humans, the argument about should vampires die just for being who they are, Gordon the hunter being turned into a vampire after he lost his sister to one, and of course, a group of vampires using the allure of a Twilight-esque book/movie series to lure prey and in turn make more vampires. Every vampire episode on the show is slightly different, and it really gives some intelligent viewpoints into the archetype of vampire and the folklore as a whole. Plus, the redesign of the teeth for the Supernatural universe is just lovely to look at in action. Admittedly it is one of the many things from that show I’m jealous of.
The Lost Boys – I have a deep love of this movie for various reasons. It was one of the first to really just go for putting vampires as that modern, sexy teen archetype that we’ve seen way too much of today. It is strongly grounded in folklore, and you actually get to see some of the vampires’ home life, so it’s the only one of the franchise to identify the vampire characters as actual characters and not just something to be killed. David, Paul, Dwayne, and Marko definitely use their looks to lure prey and they’re not afraid to use their fangs. Not only that, but it’s so refreshing to see vampires enjoy being what they are for once. You have your conflicted characters in Star and Michael, and you even get the sense that the gang has some empathy with the mere presence of Laddie. You also have Max, the head vampire, who is obsessed with family and is an unusual take on what a vampire love interest could be for the middle-aged crowd. This is definitely one of my personal favorites.

 

Also, honorable mentions should go to The Moth Diaries by Rachel Klein, 30 Days of Night, and Daybreakers. I honestly feel a lot of the conceptual work here is better than any vampire character per say, but all three do some really interesting things with the genre that are worth checking out, and all three are very different takes on what vampires are. Because honestly, that’s the thing. There’s no right way to write, act, or conceptualize a vampire per say, but it helps when you have a strong idea of the world they live in, or a strong view of who they are as a person. A little insight on some of the mythos goes a long, long way, as well.
It’s not that vampires can’t be romantic figures, but the fact that a lot of people want to take the sex appeal away from the fangs and general idea of what a vampire is unfortunately says a lot. You don’t get to a la carte your real life people or partners, so it’s sad that a lot of interesting creative opportunities are getting bypassed because blood and love apparently don’t go together. After all, if vampires can exist in the old west, if they can stay married on separate continents, if they can technically turn a child and be affected by it for ages afterward, yet still be portrayed as feral creatures, than surely it’s not wrong to assume that they still have something of the personalities they were born with. There’s no easy way out in really good genre fiction, and I think that’s what bugs me a lot with the genre. You can’t just take the killing aspect or just take the emotional drama aspect or just take the sex appeal…all three can go into making a vampire character that’s really cool and, heaven forbid, well-developed.
So what’s your favorite kind of vampire? Sexy? Murder machine? Share your examples with the class!

**********

Selah Janel writes all kinds of dark stuff, including vampires. Her story in The Big Bad: An Anthology of Evil features two teen vamps on the run, while it’s prequel in The Big Bad II showcases a 1950s vampire housewife cult. For something more historical, check out Mooner, which pits lumberjacks against a vampire and their own moral compasses. When she’s not writing fangs, she’s getting up to other hijinks and writing even weirder stuff.

Kidnapped Blog: Selah Janel #4

Posted in News on May 20, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

halogokidnapped

Sparkly Death: A look at childhood horror influences

by Selah Janel

Am I the only one who blames the eighties for how I am? I mean seriously, I don’t get why people are surprised when I say that I love horror and write it and other dark genres. I was kinda doomed from the start, honestly. I got back to thinking the other day about all the early influences I was bombarded with, and there are a ton. Here are some that particularly stick out for me, in no particular order:

Punky Brewster, The Perils of Punky – Yeah we’re starting out fast right out of the gate. I remember seeing this two-parter in kindergarten and being traumatized by having to wait to see the second episode. Basically Punky and friends go camping, get lost, take shelter in a cave, and start telling a story about a group of kids going camping…you don’t really get that what’s going on is part of the story within a story (especially if you’re five). You have giant spiders, evil spirits, people getting trapped into walls with glowing eyes and teeth…and keep in mind this was not the general tone of the series. This was like if Full House suddenly turned Exorcist for a week then never mentioned it again. Plus, as a two parter, you really had no clue if things would be resolved (again, I was a kid), the next week.  And, oh look, it’s on youtube. You’re welcome.
The Care Bears Movie – I don’t care how you slant it, there is a cartoon Necronomicon in this thing. And it is a Care Bears movie. See what I mean?! I was baited by sparkly teddy bears and thrown evil books as a child, of course I’m going to be messed up as an adult! If only Lovecraft had known about the power of caring, his mythos would have crumpled into ruin long ago. See the trailer here.
Care Bears II – This movie features the villain Dark Heart. It opens with him as a giant sea serpent and then moves to full on demonic-type possession of one of the main characters because of Dark Heart’s influence. And yet I remember watching this movie fifty thousand times growing up. This also brings up a sore point with me…I would write the BEST CARE BEARS CGI MOVIE EVER. Seriously, it would put so many through therapy, but think of the Dark Heart you could have with practical AND CGI effects. Someone please let me make this happen. Let me write you a Dark Heart that will destroy the future of filmmaking as we know it. Please. Also, think of how great it would be to have a Care Bears movie where the campers go full on exorcist because of Dark Heart’s influence. This should happen, just sayin’. I also find it slightly disturbing that the only way I found the trailer for this movie was to look up Care Bears Movie Possession.
There are too many to list, but episodes of Jem, Lady Lovelylocks, and probably more than I can remember had instances of sickness/comas that would cause someone to lose their soul/sleep forever/lose their personalities. Seriously, before there was Sam Winchester this trope was a staple of Saturday morning cartoons.
Likewise, episodes of The Ewoks continually featured the main characters being dragged into slavery, magical or otherwise. I vaguely recall something with a magic flute (a take on an old, old folk story) and some weird pond creature enslaving one of the female Ewoks, and the witch of Endor (heh) apparently enslaved the whole main cast of kids like every other week at one point.
The Real Ghostbusters – This just existed. Seriously. From the first episode about Mrs. Roger’s weird possessed house, I remember feeling like I had been hit by a train but liking it. There was something about the kid-friendly façade and the storylines that were fairly twisted that just really worked. Anyone else remember the episode where the Ghostbusters travelled to an alternate dimension where they met their ghost selves and were hunted and trapped by them?
The My Little Pony Movie – Nothing can stop the Smooze! That’s right. Before friendship was magic, my My Little Ponies were almost destroyed by weird ooze and it was awesome. I vaguely remember something about other dimensions, too, but I can’t quite recall which movie that was in and I’m not finding it.
Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure – technically this is from 1977, but this was still fairly popular when I was a kid, so you get to suffer through it with me. The Greedy, man. The Greedy still gives me nightmares. Just LOOK at it! You don’t know what it’s gonna DO!! But the song is catchy, and I just never know how to feel when I watch it, and…I think I need a moment to go cry, just a sec…
Anyway, I could go on and on. There were a lot of freaky movies from that era, and I’m sure I’m missing a lot of classic cartoon WTF moments. So, all you people out there with memories, what do YOU remember as creepy kid moments on shows, cartoons, or movies you loved? I didn’t even touch all the weird eighties movies, so let’s get a list going in the comments!

**********

Selah Janel writes weird stuff, has been weird from the start, and doesn’t mind it so long as she can be sparkly, too. Check out her blog, or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

Kidnapped Blog: Selah Janel #3

Posted in News on May 19, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

halogokidnapped

Part of why I love horror and dark fantasy is that I love the what if in a situation. Maybe it’s a safe space to let myself think on the terrible, or to let myself really think about all possibilities. Maybe I just really never grew out of playing pretend. I have no idea. Still, I find my brain going to the strangest places when I let it, and I quite like it that way. Think about it: around you at any given point are countless possibilities. Now, take out the restrictions of reality and you have infinitely more. It’s all fodder for a writer or an artist, all the time. It’s why I tend to hate it when people claim they’re not creative or they can’t think of an idea. Ideas are literally around you All. The. Time.
Years ago when I was just out of college I was temporarily living along the Outer Banks in an area that had a lot of history to it, a lot of it mysterious and some of it not so nice. It got me thinking about what would happen if all that energy layered upon itself into things, and what if all sorts of things existed but we as humans either didn’t share their reality or just couldn’t see them? What if for whatever reason they were there, but couldn’t quite get to us, and were just waiting for things to line up?
As you can imagine, I’m just epic dinner date conversation.
I scrawled out The Invisibles sometime after that, and it eventually went into my co-written collection, Lost in the Shadows. And now you get to read it because I enjoy making people suffer for my art.
***
The Invisibles

by Selah Janel

We make up the wind. Our tattered souls are stale breath and glass. We have been here forever, disfigured in agony. We wait and watch, always right beside you. The soft lilting breeze is the woman with protruding ribs. Her skin rips in a line from pelvis to chin.
The storms are children with wisps of limbs and piles of flesh for hands.
Our large, hollow eyes may or may not see you walk by. The scratch of bark and crunch of leaf? That is the creature with no gender, no species. Its opulence melts it into layers of streaming fat, forever bleeding. A bitter sigh becomes the skeleton woman. Her neck is sunken. What’s left of her hair is just bristles and thorns.
We live between what is real. We are the things never invented, the ideas never realized. We are the fears that never fully come to fruition, the things you’re nervous about for no reason. We are the almost terrors, the could-have-been horrors, the should–have-tried abominations. We are guilt and anger and frustration congealed into monstrosity. We break into pieces of stained glass and dirty water and ride the wind until we are reformed and left to agonize unseen. We are doomed to be reshaped yet never Real.
We are never seen, never heard. We are the ignored. But we are here, just the same. We feel, just the same. We hate what we cannot have, just the same. We are always there and have been for a long time. Our waiting only makes the fury and hunger grow stronger.
We are always here in the twilight, the dark, the dank air.
Gasping. Longing. Dying. Existing. Plotting. Waiting.
For you.

**********

Although it’s said Selah Janel lives in her own reality, you can usually find her at her blog, on Facebook, or twitter.

Lost in the Shadows

Welcome to the Shadows:
Journey with authors Selah Janel and S.H. Roddey to a world where every idea is a possibility and every genre an invitation. In this collection of forty-seven short stories, lines blur and worlds collide in strange and wonderful new ways. Get lost with the authors as they wander among fantasy, horror, science fiction, and other speculative musings.
Shadows can’t hurt you, and sometimes it’s all right to venture off the path.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,386 other followers