Kidnapped Blog: Rebecca Besser

Posted in News on May 27, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

halogokidnapped

Undead Trending
By Rebecca Besser

Zombies are currently the most popular horror creature.  Why? That could be anyone’s guess. The popularity of The Walking Dead has definitely pumped up the fan base with people who normally wouldn’t give zombies a second glance. I think that’s partly because of the drama of survival.
People want to see who lives and who dies, and the how for both. They know there’s the threat of a zombie attack at every turn. They know that if someone does something stupid, someone will die. (There’s that death thing again.) So, zombie entertainment becomes about the survivors more than the zombies; it becomes about the people who live and how they deal with those who don’t.
Zombies are also popular because of the apocalyptic element they bring on their…puss trails. People understand and know that once everything gets so bad that something like a zombie plague breaks out that society will evaporate. This lends zombies a political angle.
How many people are happy about the way things are going in the world? I would say pretty much no one. And that leads us to crave a “reset” and that’s why any apocalyptic fiction is of interest. We love the art, we love the literature, and we love the shows/movies that depict what we crave.

 

We crave change. But we know it would be ugly. Zombies are ugly and violent. They are the perfect vehicle for our innermost yearnings of change.
Everyone imagines themselves as a survivor in the Z-poc, but most of us would be the shambling, rotting corpses that run around being the hardship of those who survive (those crowds of zombies had to come from somewhere). I don’t think anyone imagines themselves as a zombie for real. I mean, it’s fun to pretend to be a zombie at Halloween, but wouldn’t you want your loved one to shoot you in the head if you really were a zombie? I know I would.
Let’s all hope we never have to find out if we can survive…or if we’ll be just one in the horde of deadly change. Either way, we’re likely to die at some point and that terror of possible death lends to the undead horror that is the zombie.

**********

Rebecca Besser resides in Ohio with her wonderful husband and amazing son. They’ve come to accept her quirks as normal while she writes anything and everything that makes her inner demons squeal with delight. She’s best known for her work in adult horror, but has been published in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for a variety of age groups and genres.
Find out more about her: http://www.rebeccabesser.comhttp://rebeccabesser.wordpress.com –   https://www.facebook.com/events/105240559807325/ @BeccaBesser

©Rebecca Besser, 2015. All rights reserved.

Kidnapped Blog: Rebecca Besser

Posted in News on May 26, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

halogokidnapped

What is Horror?
By Rebecca Besser

If you do some research on what horror is, you’ll discover horror is the revulsion one feels when something terrible happens. That it follows terror, which is the anxiety and anticipation of something bad about to happen.

 

“The difference between Terror and Horror is the difference between awful apprehension and sickening realization: between the smell of death and stumbling against a corpse.” – Devendra Varma in The Gothic Flame (1966).
There are many vehicles in which horror is found: film, literature, art, etc. All of which use a mixture of terror and horror elements.
When people hear the word horror, they generally think about creatures such as vampires, zombies, demons, and other monsters. They also think about blood, pain, misery, and torture – psychological horror. The common denominator in all horror is death.
Death is the most terrifying thing that anyone can face – either their own demise or of someone they care about. Often, even a stranger’s death, seen up close, can impact someone in ways they never dreamed possible; it forces them to face the fact that they will die someday and there is nothing they can do about it.
Death, and what leads to death, scares everyone in some way whether they realize it or not. That’s the base root of all horror. Terror is what we feel leading up to the death we know is coming and horror is what we face when we are toe to toe with death.
What form of death scares you the most? Chances are that’s the kind of horror you like to experience the most, because it gives you that thrill of terror and most satisfying horror moments as it all pans out.

**********

Rebecca Besser resides in Ohio with her wonderful husband and amazing son. They’ve come to accept her quirks as normal while she writes anything and everything that makes her inner demons squeal with delight. She’s best known for her work in adult horror, but has been published in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for a variety of age groups and genres.

Find out more about her: http://www.rebeccabesser.comhttp://rebeccabesser.wordpress.com –  https://www.facebook.com/events/105240559807325/  @BeccaBesser

©Rebecca Besser, 2015. All rights reserved.

Kidnapped Blog: Jaq Hawkins

Posted in News on May 25, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

Displaying ComedyHorror.jpg

 

Laughing At Our Fears: The Rise of the Comedy-Horror

by Jaq D. Hawkins

 

Comedy-Horror films are nothing new. As far back as the 1920s people were making Comedy-Horror shorts, like Haunted Spooks (1920), The Haunted House (1921) and The Ghost Breaker (1922). However, these were invariably of the ‘Scooby-doo’ school of Horror where the ghost is eventually uncovered to be just faked hauntings by someone who stood to gain by getting rid of someone who stood between them and a coveted legacy.

 

By 1925, Dr. Pyckle and Mr. Pryde brought spoof comedy into the world of Horror. The plot concerns a scientist who uses himself as a guinea pig when he experiments with a new drug that changes him into a compulsive prankster, very like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but with practical jokes. This was still the era of silent films and several movies were unintentionally funny more through over acting than plot, including The Monster (1925) starring the original Lon Chaney.

 

Through most of the 1930s and 1940s, films continued to be of the unintentionally funny sort until in 1946, when the Bowery Boys starred in Spook Busters, a precursor to the idea for Ghostbusters. Comedy-Horrors had moved into feature length films by then and sound had been added, opening up new opportunities for comedy expression through sound effects as well as dialogue and music. Hammer Films had opened its doors in 1934 and the classic Horror films that defined an age were beginning to churn out, though they were not intended as comedies.

 

In 1948, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein marked a return to intentional Comedy-Horror, again, spoofing Horror films of the past as they meet Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man. The film must have been successful, as it was followed up by Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1953, followed by Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy in 1955. Also in 1953, Dean Martin and comedian Jerry Lewis starred in Scared Stiff, one of the first Comedy-Horror films that wasn’t a spoof of other films.

 

Comedy-Horror was given another nudge in 1964 with The Comedy of Terrors starring Vincent Price and Peter Lorre, and again in 1966 with Carry On Screaming, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and Munster, Go Home! But the mixed genre really came into its own in the 1970s, starting with The Werewolf of Washington (1973) starring Elvira, followed by The Cars That Ate Paris (1973), Phantom of the Paradise (1973) and Young Frankenstein (1973). Phantom of the Paradise, a musical starring Paul Williams that combined the concepts of The Phantom of the Opera with Faust, paved the way for Musical-Comedy-Horror and in 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show strutted its way into our collective media consciousness. This would prove a hard act to follow and the next few years saw more surreal Comedy-Horror in the form of Hausu (1977) and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978), then George Hamilton brought the laughter back to Horror spoofing with Love at First Bite (1979).

 

The 1980s were nicely set up for everything from Horror with a few laughs thrown in as in Motel Hell (1980) to the intentional Comedy-Horror that we see in films like An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Munsters’ Revenge (1981), National Lampoon’s Class Reunion (1982), Ghostbusters (1984), Gremlins (1984), Little Shop of Horrors (1986) and The Witches of Eastwick (1987). The original Little Shop of Horrors in 1960 was intended as serious Horror (No, really!), but the Comedy-Musical remake was intended as pure amusement. Elvira gave her acting career another comedy push in 1988 with her own film named after her series, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, and 1988 also saw the classic Comedy-Horror, Beetlejuice, come into fruition. The Comedy-Horror sub-genre had become well established.

 

It continued on through the 1990s with Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Frankenhooker (1990), Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), and some embarrassingly bad attempts at sequels, a musical about cannibals, and other efforts to keep the sub-genre alive. I must give a mention to Wolf (1994), starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer. Though the main plot is a poignant study of aging and business politics, the comedy elements in this one have Nicholson’s special touch and keep the film entertaining from the first bite.

 

If you ask someone today what movies would fall into the Comedy-Horror category, they are likely to cite the Scary Movie series and Shaun of the Dead (2004). The original Scary Movie was released in 2000, with sequels appearing in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2013, each spoofing a different area of the Horror genre. Elvira pops up again in 2001 with Elvira’s Haunted Hills and the list of Comedy-Horror films released in the twenty-first century has grown longer each year, though few reach the popular notoriety of Shaun of the Dead. Obviously comedic titles like Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead and Stupid Teenagers Must Die! (2006) have increased exponentially with the age of digital filmmaking that makes it easier for independent filmmakers to produce their own visions of Comedy-Horror, though not all of them induce the mental imagery of titles like Zombie Strippers (2008), which I must admit is one of many that I’ve personally given a miss. It was actually in 2005 that I began my own foray into indie filmmaking which has resulted in years of learning film editing and the footage for two films in my hands; Graveyard Shift: A Zomedy of Terrors and Old Blood, both of which I hope to release in 2015-16. Both are Comedy-Horror features dealing with zombies and vampires, respectively.

 

Meanwhile, recent years have seen the release of a comedy approach to an old Horror soap opera, Dark Shadows (2012) starring Johnny Depp, as well as John Dies at the End (2012) based on the book of the same name, Vampire Academy (2014), which bears the tagline: They Suck at School, Ghostbusters 3 (2015) and a selection of dubious offerings which include another sequel, Return of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space in 3D (2015). I remember well the original Attack of the Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988). Whether it was intended as Comedy is perhaps debateable. If it had been made twenty years earlier, I would easily believe that it was intended as serious Horror in the same way that the original Little Shop of Horrors was meant to disturb a more innocent society.
I’m fairly confident, however, that the sequel will be made for Comedic value and that the combination of Comedy and Horror will only increase over time. We do love to laugh at our fears. As real life becomes more and more stressful and filled with genuine concerns for our continued safety in any number of ways, banishing those fears with laughter would seem the only way to stay sane.

**********

Jaq D. Hawkins was originally traditionally published in the Mind, Body, Spirit genre, but moved to indie publishing soon after releasing her first Fantasy fiction novel. She currently has five novels released which include the Goblin Series (Dark Fantasy) and The Wake of the Dragon (Steampunk Adventure). A dark science fiction novel is in progress, as well as further writings in occult subjects, some of which continue to be traditionally published while others are destined for the indie market.

Kidnapped Blog: Jaq Hawkins

Posted in News on May 24, 2015 by Horror Addicts Guest

 

Displaying AnthroMonsters.jpg

 

Anthropoid Monsters – Why Do They Fascinate Us?

by Jaq D. Hawkins

There’s an old cliché in the filmmaking industry about the “man in the rubber suit”. This is, of course, a reference to the monster in the movie; the anthropoid creature who frightens children so much that they have to sit in front of the television, watching old monster movies with their hands covering their eyes, so that they won’t see the monster pick up the girl who subsequently swoons helplessly… right into the monster’s arms.

 

Some of the scariest imagery to be found in Horror literature and movies starts with something vaguely shaped like ourselves, though the distorted features of other species can be very effective (see The Creature From the Black Lagoon). For example, a description of The Deep Ones from H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth reads thus:

 

“I think their predominant colour was a greyish green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs.”

 

Even Cthulhu himself is usually depicted with two arms and two legs.

 

Early monster movies might have used make-up and rubber suits to turn men into monsters because it was easier than concocting something bug shaped or so unlike anything we’ve seen before that we can’t relate to it, but it is the two-legged monsters who continue to frighten us the most, hence the popularity of slasher films that drive us to lock our doors against the scariest monsters of all; our fellow humans.

 

I once went to an amusement park where the most frightening attraction in the park wasn’t actually a ride, but a walk through a labyrinth lined with cages. Within the cages were young people, probably working for minimum wage, who wore masks reminiscent of known Horror films. One of the most frightening wore a hockey mask and rattled the bars with a hockey stick, scaring one twelve-year-old boy so much that he had to get out through the fire escape, in tears.

 

We fear hiking in the woods with Bigfoot more than searching for Nessie at the loch side, falsely confident of Nessie’s restriction to the water while Bigfoot might well appear from behind a bush and tear us apart to eat raw. The stuff of nightmares too often wears a human form.

 

Therein lies the key to understanding our fascination with the man in the rubber suit, and with Horror in general. Children, even those with good childhoods and loving parents, have very little control of the circumstances of their early lives. Nightmares about monsters forcing them to do things are universal. Classic stories written for children to give their natural fears some catharsis are actually very horrific in their original forms. Most of us have seen whitewashed versions of such popular tales as Little Red Riding Hood and The Little Mermaid at some time in our childhood, but the original tales actually contain elements of cannibalism and disturbing sexual content, or mutilation, long-term suffering and suicide, respectively.1

 

As children grow older, they become aware that people do bad things to people. If they are lucky enough to escape first hand experience, the daily news is there to inform them of horrific acts of violence aimed at both adults and children somewhere else in the world. Even in the days before mass media, village gossip served almost as well to break the bubble of innocence. Word of mouth has always been an efficient medium. One heinous incident was enough to keep several neighbouring villages entertained for months in the old days.

 

Children who don’t have the protection of responsible parents too often have good cause to feel helpless against the adults who make decisions ‘for their good’. We’ve developed past the callous use of unprotected children for experiments like ‘The Monster Study’, which was conducted in 1939 by Dr. Wendell Johnson.2 For this experiment in the causes of stuttering, children in an orphanage were separated into two groups; stutterers and non-stutterers. Not all of the stutter group started out as stutterers, but by the end of the experiment, they had become conditioned to stuttering and never recovered normal speech. With some of the atrocities conducted by supposedly responsible adults through history, is it any wonder that we grow up perceiving monsters everywhere?

 

Once we are old enough to choose our own literature and films, the need to express hidden fears is well developed as a psychological catharsis. Fans of Horror fiction create an alternative to the heart-palpitating nightmares through reading or watching stories of monsters given flesh, though the most often used forms still walk on two legs. Even scary dolls are human-shaped and in many ways can take on the imagined characteristics of a crazed killer in almost comically embellished ways.

 

We are naturally drawn to the danger, and the monsters, because our original helpless feelings came from interaction with parents or other adults who we depended upon to be responsible for us. The recent explosion in romantic vampire stories has a basis that goes back even further than Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to the primal allure of the wolf who stands and speaks in the fairytale and the witch who eats children in her gingerbread house. Fascination and fear walk hand in hand in the imagination and the possibility of danger brings out a feeling of excitement. This sense of intrigue has lured many young girls to dating men who made them feel edgy, from the perfectly nice boy who happened to ride a motorcycle to charismatic cult leaders like Charles Manson. The same need to express mastery of one’s fears has led young men to join gangs or hopeless political causes. Would these young people have gone astray if they had read Horror novels to find expression for their fears?

 

When we separate fact from fiction, we are actually more frightened of a man running riot with a machete than scared of imaginary, formless alien monsters. Our innermost fears take human form. The scariest monsters, are us.

 

References:

  1. http://listverse.com/2012/12/05/top-10-truly-disturbing-fairy-tales/
  2. http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/blog/5-horrific-psychological-experiments-4-the-monster-study/

**********

Jaq D. Hawkins was originally traditionally published in the Mind, Body, Spirit genre, but moved to indie publishing soon after releasing her first Fantasy fiction novel. She currently has five novels released which include the Goblin Series (Dark Fantasy) and The Wake of the Dragon (Steampunk Adventure). A dark science fiction novel is in progress, as well as further writings in occult subjects, some of which continue to be traditionally published while others are destined for the indie market.

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,388 other followers