Asian Horror Month – First Ever Ghost Story Game – Angela Yuriko Smith

First Ever Ghost Story Game

Happy Halloween!

Six authors got together to play an impromptu story telling game. Join us and laugh as we try to make up spooky tales on the spot. Thanks to Kate Jonez and Omnium Gatherum for helping bring the Ghost Story Game to life… and thanks for the brave participants: Geneve Flynn, Lee Murray, Austin Gragg, Ryan Aussie Smith and Eric Shapiro.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher, and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine with author husband Ryan Aussie Smith. For more information visit SpaceandTime.net

Chilling Chat Special: Eric Shapiro

chillingchat

Eric Shapiro is a writer and filmmaker. Called “the next Philip K. Dick” by author Kealan Patrick Burke, Shapiro is the author of six critically acclaimed fiction books, among them the novella “It’s Only Temporary” (2005), whichEric Shapiro appeared on Nightmare Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Horror Books, and numerous short stories published in anthologies alongside work by H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, and many others. His nonfiction articles have been published on The Daily Dot, Ravishly, and The Good Men Project. His first feature film, “Rule of 3” (2010), won awards at the Fantasia International Film Festival and Shriekfest, and had its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest. His second feature film, “Living Things” (2014), was endorsed by PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) and distributed by Cinema Libre Studio. In 2015, he won the 19th Annual Fade In Award for Thriller Screenplays. He was a founding partner of Ghostwriters Central, a writing and editing firm which has received positive notices from The Wall Street Journal, Consumers Digest, and the TV program “Intelligence For Your Life.” Eric has edited works published on The Huffington Post and Forbes, as well as two Bram Stoker Award-nominated novels. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Rhoda, and their two sons.

Eric is an intelligent and experienced writer. We spoke of writing, horror themes, and filmmaking.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Eric! Thank you for joining me today.

ES: Thank you for having me!

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

ES: Ohhh, I think I was about six or seven; my cousin Steve told me about Danny from The Shining, saying, “Redrum.” Firsthand, I think I was ten, watching The Lost Boys with my cousins Lauren and Jessica and my sister Stephanie. We weren’t expecting it to be so dark, but it was great.

NTK: Is Lost Boys your favorite horror movie? What is your favorite horror film?

ES: I think my first early favorite was Witchboard, which I saw a couple years later. I liked how tight and melodramatic it was. I’d probably still like it, but it’s been awhile. My favorite recent horror movie, as in from this century, is Martyrs, the original French version, which is a great movie regardless of genre. Maybe my favorite since the year 2000.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror TV series?

ES: I don’t! I’m so behind on series, and movies too since I became a dad nine years ago. I’ve just lately been catching up more during Covid.

NTK: Do you have a favorite horror novel?

ES: It’s absolutely Stephen King’s IT, which I read in 7th grade and which devoured me like no book before or since.

NTK: Who is your favorite character in IT?

ES: Well, I had to upgrade Stan Uris in my mind since I’m Jewish. He’s not the deepest character in the book, but I pictured myself as a more detailed version of him. I actually wrote some fan fiction in junior high from Stanley’s point-of-view, to get into him more. (laughs)

NTK: As a Jewish horror writer, how has your experience in the horror community been?

ES: Oh fine. The horror heads are generally very cool people, usually sensitive and looking for fun. I just became an HWA member after years of flirting with it, and everyone I’ve interacted with has been very welcoming and warm.

NTK: Going back to King, is he your greatest influence? What author has influenced you most in your writing?

ES: Pound for pound, it’s probably him, with Chuck Palahniuk as a close second. Or rather I should say that since Palahniuk came later, King is a more foundational influence. I actually prefer King when he wrote/writes as Richard Bachman—he’s tighter and less sentimental. I like that side of him. Palahniuk’s work taught me a lot about sculpting every sentence, though he’s not about narrative and suspense the way King is—and the way I usually am.

NTK:  What inspires you to write?

ES: Lately it all starts with a character. It’s the psychology of a character interacting with the society around them. I have ideas all the time for worlds and stories but it’s usually the extreme characters I follow through on. Like I’ll picture a guy or a woman and get a feel for him/her, and want to see where it leads. I worked professionally as a ghostwriter for 17 years, though, and am still not completely out of the burnout. It’s been a gradual healing process of writing for joy instead of under pressure, and finding my own voice and insight again.

NTK:  Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?

ES: Total free will. I think I know where it’s going in general, but it often ends up nowhere close. And I’ve found that if I force them to do something it comes out stiff. If you let them lead, you end up learning their whims and instincts and limits, which brings them to life more.

NTK: What inspired Red Dennis?

ES: I co-own and write for a local newspaper in Silicon Valley and a local woman essentially tried to “cancel” me. It was all on the basis of my opinion-editorials. The attempt ended up backfiring. But it made me so angry that I started wondering how far I’d have to be pushed to lose my mind. Fortunately, I put the energy into something constructive! We always have that choice.

NTK: What is your favorite horror theme? Do you enjoy good vs. evil? Transgression horror? What interests you most in a horror story?

ES: I think it’s transgression. Psychosis. Cruelty. Blind ideology or selfishness. Also, I’m addicted to suspense. So, my stories are often about people who are running out of time. They have pressing deadlines to achieve this or that. That’s where a lot of my narrative focus goes: structuring a scenario where the protagonist is pressed for time or has a looming obligation or encounter.

NTK: You’re also a filmmaker and screenwriter. Which is more difficult? Writing a screenplay? Or writing a novel?

ES: Definitely a novel. You have to populate the whole world. Whereas a screenplay has less words per page and is a detailed blueprint for something else. As for making a movie, though…well, a novel is much easier, as least in terms of what it does to you physically…

NTK: You spoke of ghostwriting earlier. Do you feel ghostwriting helped you become the writer you are today? Was it easier to learn the craft writing under a different name?

ES: I think so. That’s where I got the 10,000 hours of experience. I was always stealing time to work on my own projects but couldn’t really go full-fledged, beyond novella-length, until 2019, when I switched to the newspaper full-time. That gave me time to work on my books over the course of months, as passion projects. And all the experience gave me a lot of confidence and discipline to push. Each day is always hard for writers, especially when starting off the day. But building up the muscle over time helps you feel more oriented and in command of the words.

NTK: Hemingway and Jack London worked for newspapers. Do you feel newspaper writing has also helped you in your writing?

ES: Absolutely. The reporting has muscled up my command of pure facts and research. The op-eds have fine-tuned my approach to persuasion and finding moral clarity in a piece. More people have read my work as a journalist than in any other form, which is ironic since I’m “known” for writing horror. People in my city will say, “Did you read his article? The horror writer’s?” But they’ve never read my books! But the journalism has sparked a new wave of awareness in the books, so it all works together.

NTK: Eric, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

ES: Good question! I just republished my whole backlist of six dark fiction titles, and Red Dennis was new this year. Also new this year was a nonfiction book to inspire people’s writing called Ass Plus Seat. Right now, I have a movie in the works with horror legend Greg F. Gifune, but it’s on delay due to the pandemic. I will say I’m acting in it, which I’m ridiculously excited about. We should be announcing more soon…

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me today. It was a pleasure!

ES: Likewise! Thank you so much, Naching!

Addicts, you can find Eric’s work on Amazon.

Help Wanted and Dark Blessings

I have read two anthologies recently that I want to talk about. The first one is Help Wanted: Tales of On The Job Terror from Evil Jester Press. This book is edited by Peter Giglio and has short stories by Joe McKinney, Gary Brandner, Henry Snider and many more. As if work wasn’t already scary enough, this book gives you more reasons to be scared. Help Wanted is an excellent anthology that includes some great stories by some master storytellers.

One of the stories includes Agnes: A Love Story by David C. Hayes, which tells the tale of a lawyer named Jack who feels unappreciated at work and by his wife so he starts a relationship with a photocopier. They get along well until the photocopier starts wanting the lawyer to kill for it. The thing I liked about this story was how the author makes you feel sorry for Jack. His two co-workers are happily married and love their jobs while Jack is married to a paranoid alcoholic and he hates and works at a job he can’t stand. You completely understand how he can fall in love with a copier because he is a lonely soul that no one understands except the copier of course.

Another story in Help Wanted is Work Life Balance by Jeff Strand. In this story a man works for a company that starts to let their employees do what they want at work. It starts with letting them come to work a little later than usual, then the employees are allowed to hug and kiss on the job. Things get really out of hand though when the company starts letting employees carry knives and stab each other, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their job. This story is meant to be more funny then scary but still has its scary moments. Jeff Strand does a great job mixing humor and horror in this story.

Another good story in Help Wanted: On The Job Terror is The Chapel Of Unrest by Stephen Volk. This is a gothic horror story that takes place in the 1800’s and has to deal with an undertaker who has the duty of capturing and embalming a ghoul who has been eating dead bodies in a graveyard. Stephen Volk through his use of  imagery in describing the graveyard, the chapel and the clothes of the time, transports you into an 1800’s gothic setting that reminded me of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

One more story in this anthology that I have to mention is Expulsion by Eric Shapiro which tells the tale of a mad man going into a office to kill his fellow employees. This is a very short but very powerful story that gets you into the mind of a disgruntled employee but manages to end on a positive note. Though there were stories I didn’t like in Help Wanted, all in all its a very good anthology. I highly recommend this book but if this one doesn’t appeal to you the people at Evil Jester Press have some other good anthologies available including: Evil Jester Digest Volume 1  and Attic Toys.

The other anthology I want to mention is from Biting Dog Press called Dark Blessings by John Paul Allen. Included here are short stories dealing with a road trip to hell, a child with an unusual appetite and a closet lover with deadly intentions. Dark Blessings was really a surprise for me, I hadn’t heard of John Paul Allen but I read some good reviews and decided to give it a shot.

The first story in this anthology is called Pit Stop at Hoo Hoo Hollow which follows a young couple on their way through West Virginia who have made a career out of scamming the elderly out of money. During  a stop at Poogan’s Pass they end up where they didn’t expect to go and pay for their misdeeds. While this story is not bloody like some horror stories, it manages to scare in away you wouldn’t think about and makes a point that even if you think you are going to get away with something, karma will get you in the end.

The next story in Dark Blessings is called Runs Like Rabbit and follows the story of a native american boy named Runs Like Rabbit that has to give up his heritage and move with his family so his father can take a job in the white man’s world. The family gives up their names and rejects the gods that they once worshiped in search of a better life. The family soon finds out its not easy to leave their heritage behind as they become isolated. Runs Like Rabbit leaves the family and they all pay in the end. The thing I love about this story is it makes you feel the pain and loneliness that Runs Like Rabbit feels but then the story leaves you with a surprise ending that changes your feelings.

Keeping with the theme of John Paul Allen’s anthology which seems to be that all humanity is good but there is a dark self destructive side to it that makes us suffer. My favorite story in this book a love story called Marquee which has to deal with mistreating the ones you love, paying for your mistakes and letting go. The story follows a man named Scott who mistreats a mentally handicapped person named Duffy, but later finds out that he is connected to him through past lives. Duffy holds the key to Scott fixing his relationship with his wife. To talk to much about this story would give it away, it’s a different kind of love story that shows that sometimes to prove you love someone you have to let them go.

Each story here is a gem and shows humanity at its worst and best. Another story here that I found disturbing but illustrates how good comes from something bad was Prader-Willie which tells the story of three boys left to watch a girl with special needs. The story shows that things aren’t always what they seem. Dark Blessings is psychological horror at its best and I look forward to reading more from John Paul Allen.