Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: “Characters Come in All Shapes and Sizes” by Maynard Blackoak

guestblog2

Characters Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Maynard Blackoak

Modeling characters is one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing for me. There are many interesting characters, both real and fictional, which can translate well into literature. As a writer, it is my job to search my database of people to select just the right person to fit the characters in a story.

Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West is filled with characters modeled after some of my favorite people from history and film. As a fan of history, classic literature, and cinema, I had many models from which to choose. Sometimes, the vast array of choices made selecting the right person for a character a difficult task. Other times, it was a no-brainer.

One of my favorite characters was Sadie in The Culling. She is a brash, shoot-from-the-hip lady that does not mince words. As I considered her personality, Mae West stood out in my mind as the perfect model. Thinking back on her quotes and her own roles in film, I drew on the traits she displayed in life and the movies to pattern Sadie. Though her appearances in the story were limited, she makes a larger than life impression, much as Mae did in life.

Swede Hanson and Lou from The Devil’s Herds were patterned after slick talking, sleazy politicians. No matter which side of the political spectrum one falls, we all know of one or two such types that make us scowl with contempt when we hear them speak their rhetoric. These two characters were not modeled after any one person. Instead, I drew upon the qualities of several politicians both past and present to create their personalities.

One of my favorite actresses of all time is Bette Davis. Her portrayal of scandalous women was second to none. Such was her performances, oftentimes, I found myself rooting for her despite the questionable character of the women she played. A montage of several of her roles factored into the personality of Hattie in Deception at Skull Creek.

In The Jonah Herd, the actor, Arthur Honnicutt, greatly influenced the creation of the character, Hank. His roles were usually old, grizzled curmudgeon types that were never at a loss for words. He spoke his mind, whether it made sense or not. I pictured Hank much the same way.

As I created the character, Devileye Bobby Chambers in Collateral Winds, I considered many notable outlaw and Hollywood heavies before settling on Jim Davis as the model. Those familiar with him will remember him as Jock Ewing from the Dallas television show. He was also known for playing bad guys in westerns long before his role as the father of one of television’s iconic characters many people loved to hate.

Several other characters are modeled after historical figures and actors from the golden age of Hollywood. Some you might recognize. While others, you might not. There might even be a few characters that remind readers of someone real or created, from the past or present. That is one of the enjoyable parts of both reading and creating stories, projecting the image of someone to go with a character in a story.

Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: “Historical Inspiration for the Supernatural Story” by Maynard Blackoak

guestblog2

Historical Inspiration for the Supernatural Story

Maynard Blackoak

As a writer, I find inspiration around me. Somedays, it seems all I have to do is look outside the door. There are other times it is a task to find it. Sometimes it comes to me out of the blue, in an unexpected place. For example, listening to old legends and stories told by the elderly can spark the flame of imagination. From a simple tale that had been retold for generations, a new and harrowing tale is born.

Since I was a young child, I was told of the infamous gunfight in Ingalls, Oklahoma Territory. Many times, I have visited the old ghost town of weathered structures, and visualized in my mind what that fateful day would have been like. Often time, I would place a hand on spots that looked like decayedbullet holes, and believe I could smell the spent gunpowder.

It was a no-brainer the first tale I wrote for Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West was Claire Simmons, a tale that revolves around that legendary gun battle. I had relived the incident so many times in my head, it was as if I had witnessed it firsthand. I knew most the ins and outs of the story. I just needed to do a little research to fill in a few blanks. Throw in an eerie element, and the story took on a whole new perspective.

Spending a significant amount of childhood in Oklahoma, I was also exposed to many Native legends. One of those old tales made it into my collection in the story, Willows of the Mourning Dove. While I did embellish on the original folklore, certain aspects remained true to the story as I remember hearing it.

Another story, Deception at Skull Creek, was based upon various pieces of gossip I have heard throughout my life. I have often overheard women, and men too for that matter, retelling a story of a certain party. Sometimes the stories involved a granule of truth that somehow had managed to grow in depravity like a snowball rolling downhill. Though not one of the stories occurred during the time of the Wild West, it was not a stretch of the imagination to apply their sordid elements to a story of that era.

Cimarron Rose was a story based partly on fact and partly on rumors of the time. Of course, imagination took the gossip to a whole other level to give it a taste of horror. Still, if not for stories I had heard about the real Rose of Cimarron, this story would most likely have not popped in my head. Besides, rumors normally make for a much juicier read than the truth.

Though, off the top of my head, I cannot think of another story in Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West that was inspired by folklore or gossip, I am certain one, or the other, or both, influenced a tale or two—at least marginally. After all, there is not much telling what lurks in the cobwebbed corners of my memories. Sometimes, they even reveal themselves subconsciously. One thing I do believe is readers of this collection will enjoy the strange ride through the Wild West.

Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: When Horror and the Paranormal Collide in the Wild West by Maynard Blackoak

guestblog2

When Horror and the Paranormal Collide in the Wild West

Maynard Blackoak

One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing horror is that it allows the imagination to run wild. Monsters and fiends come in all shapes and sizes, from the very real to the abstract and every combination in between. There are no wrong models to use when creating a frightening tale, only those not aptly given reality in words.

There are horrors to be found in everyday life. Tiny microscopic creatures capable of devouring a body from the inside out lurk in nearly every body of water. Beasts of nature prowl nearly every nook and cranny of the globe, ready to pounce on unsuspecting victims. Vile sociopaths walk our streets dressed in suits of normality. It is a dangerous world in which we live. Any of its many real terrors make for a frightening tale. When reality collides with the paranormal, a true tale of horror with a touch of plausibility begins to unfold.

When I wrote Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West, I took some of the real dangers of life in the old west and added an element of the supernatural. Some of the storylines borrowed heavily on old legends. Others trotted out tried and true monsters of lore. One or two added an element of mythology to give them more of a unique flavor.

Growing up I was, and still am, a huge Twilight Zone fan. Besides the odd and bizarre nature of its stories, the show also touched on societal fears of the times. Writing my tales, I could feel a Twilight Zone sway influencing me. As a result, many of the stories in my Wild West horror collection touched on the fears of that era and took on the eerie feel of that classic TV show.

Another aspect of writing horror that appeals to me is creating stories with a twist. It not only keeps a reader on their toes, but also leaves a lasting impression. Adding an unforeseen turn or two in a story jolts a reader and sometimes prompts them to reread from the beginning to ensure nothing was missed. Of course, a writer should be careful not to overuse twists in their tale. Too many turns can cause a story to lose its readability and actually make it a boring read.

It is definitely a challenge when a story unfolds to add an unexpected turn. My trick is to allow a story to basically tell itself until I reach a point where I believe the tale needs to slap the reader in the face with something they never saw coming. While many of my twists come at the end, some come earlier to take the story down another dusty trail. After all, my tales revolve around the untamed west of less traveled paths.

Writing Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West was one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had as a writer. I love horror and am fascinated by the old west. Combining the two was a rewarding experience for me. Each word that flowed from me felt like a tribute to my love of classic horror and my cowboy roots. If enough people enjoy these fourteen horror yarns of the dusty trail, there might be a volume two forthcoming in a couple years. I know this old cowboy would sure love to take another strange ride down some eerie trails.

 

 

 

Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: “Memorable Characters” by Maynard Blackoak

guestblog2

Memorable Characters

Maynard Blackoak

The enjoyable aspect, and sometimes the most challenging, of writing is creating characters with personalities that leap off the page. I tend to think of character development as adding flesh to words. If the people in the story do not seem real, the author has not done the tale justice. When the figures of a story take on a distinct life of their own, I feel like Doctor Frankenstein—instilling life upon a creature constructed from various corpses.

Another challenge of character development is to give each their own individual voice. As in real life, we all have our idiosyncrasies and personalities. It is what keeps the world from growing stagnant, and sometimes keeps it in conflict. Characters in a story should speak in different voices, even if the variances are slight or its reading will be monotonous.

Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West has many diverse characters, from despicable outlaws to sympathetic individuals. There are a few villainous figures that evoke mixed feelings. There are also a handful of seemingly good people whose actions are highly suspect. Choosing a personal favorite would be difficult at best. Still, a few stand out among the others.

First and perhaps foremost are the brothers, Kid Cooper and Cole the Younger from The Culling. To explain my affinity for these characters I should reveal they were modeled after my two grandsons. Using their personalities and the character of their parents as a basis, I aged them to adulthood and placed them in the old west. Perhaps I am a little biased, but I believe they made good cowboys.

Annie Shoulders from Willows of the Mourning Dove and Hattie from Deception at Skull Creek are characters that also stand out in my mind. Annie proves herself a strong woman with grit and determination. Hattie is as tough and clever as they come. Their characters are meant to showcase that strong women inhabited the wild west as well.

Some characters appear only briefly in a story, yet manage to make a memorable impact. Loki from The Most Killed Man in the West is one of those. He only appears twice in the story, though his final appearance will leave the reader with a grin.

For pure contemptible villainy, Boone Helm of Neither Friend nor Foe Wasted is as vile as they came in the old west. He cannibalized those he counted as friend and foe alike. Given that he was just as despicable in real life as he is in the story, makes him the type of character everyone loves to hate.

Rose Dunn from Cimarron Rose is a tragic figure from the Wild West. A star-crossed lover whose place in the world was unjustly removed, it is difficult to read her saga without hoping for the best for her. Her sad tale tugs at the heartstrings all the way to the final paragraph.

I am sure the readers of this collection will have their own favorites. With so many colorful and diverse characters from which to choose, I hope they find it as difficult to select a favorite as I did.

Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: Interview with Maynard Blackoak

guestblog2

Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West Interview – Horror Tree

1: What made you decide on the Wild West as a setting for these short stories?

I’ve always been fascinated by the old west. Plus, I come from a long line of ranchers and cowboys. Add in my own experiences of wrangling cattle on horseback and it was only natural that I wrote some kind of cowboy stories.

2: How do you find inspiration for writing?

Inspiration comes in many forms. Sometimes a song conjures images in my mind. Other times a story is written in the way the wind blows. There are times looking at an old dilapidated building makes me wonder about the folks who dwelt in it or the history it might have witnessed. There’s inspiration all around me. I just never know when or how it will strike me.

3: Why horror?

My first memories are of watching the old classic black and white horror films with my momma. I grew up loving them and later on fell in love with classic horror literature

4: Who are your writing influences?

I love Poe’s use of obscure words. I love the way Dickens paints images in the mind. Since I was young, I enjoyed the way Conan Doyle challenged my mind with his intellectual approach to storytelling. I’d have to say those three influenced me more than any others

5: You have a couple books under your writing career, these are much different than Wild West. What is your most favorite subject of the horror genre?

To be honest, I don’t have a favorite. Each is fun to write in its own right, but some off more of a challenge than others. Since I don’t prefer one over any of the others, it helps maintain a diverse imagination

6: Do you believe in aliens?

Only if they believe in me and buy my books

7: If you could tell your young writing self something in three words, what would you tell them?

Don’t be stupid.

And if I can add this: put down the pen in pursuit of the mighty dollar. It is possible to keep writing while pursuing a career in the corporate world.

8: What kind of music do you listen to when you write?

Like my writing, my taste in music is diverse. I listened to a lot of cowboy music writing my Wild West tales. Other times I listened to heavy metal and in others, it was goth music. Oftentimes, my playlist is filled with songs from many genres

9: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Being a cowboy, I’d have to be shot if I didn’t say a horse. Besides, there’s no better way to feel free than riding a horse on the open range

10: What should we look out for in the future of your writing?

Look for something totally different than the wild west. Maybe something more like classic literature of old. Also, there just might be something more contemporary and even a little depraved. You just never know what will spin through the splintered windmill of my brain.

Kidnapped Week! Guest Blog: Spotlight “Eerie Trails….of the Wild Weird West”

guestblog2

maynardblackoak_eerietrailsofthewildweirdwest_frontcover_final

Synopsis:

Eerie Trailsof the Wild Weird West

In this collection of fourteen strange tales from the wild west, Cowboys and Indians face down supernatural beings of all varieties – from vampires and werewolves; to ghosts and vengeful spirits; to mythological creatures.

Saddle up cowboys and ladies alike, once the journey begins, Eerie Trails of the Wild Weird West will take you down a strange and bizarre path through the old west that you’ve never been on before.

Available on:

Amazon: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil |India | 

The Netherlands

Amazon Print: US | UK | Canada | Australia | Germany | France | Spain | Italy | Japan | Mexico | Brazil |India | 

The Netherlands

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Smashwords

CreateSpace (Print)

***

maynardblackoakAbout the Author — Maynard Blackoak is a freelance writer living in the backwoods of Pawnee County, Oklahoma. He draws upon the sights of neglect and unusual sounds around him for inspiration. A bit of a recluse, he can often be found strolling through an old, forgotten cemetery or in the woods among the twisted black oaks and native elms under the light of the moon.

Twitter: @maynardblackoak

Facebook: Maynard Blackoak

Kidnapped! Dystopian Nightmare by Jessica B Bell

halogokidnappednotdate

Dystopian Nightmare

Jessica B. Bell

One of my favourite books of all time is Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. It is at once cynical and hopeful, and made me believe that stories were worthwhile, even if sometimes people aren’t. Bradbury believed that TV was the beginning of it all – that our attention spans would drop substantially, and that political correctness would lead to censorship on the ultimate scale. Reading his 1953 novel in a modern age, one can see with eerie hindsight how prophetic his work was. He may have never seen a Reality TV show or surfed the Internet, but the entertainment diversions he described in his book were very much in the same vein.

There was a time when dystopian literature spoke to the ills of the day, and was treated as cautionary or satirical. Now, it’s become something of a setting. Write a story and set it in a post-war setting where personal freedoms and liberties have been suspended or done away with altogether. Aesthetic versus social platform.

I started writing the story that would eventually become H(A)UNTED several years ago. It started as notes in a book – character sketches, really – about a very diverse crew of participants in a game show shot in outer space. Only my characters were all caricatures, really. Each character I developed was more ham-fisted and soap-boxy than the next, each representing a current red-button topic. We had the woman who had over 100 abortions so she could sell the tissue for stem cell research. Then there was the man who claimed to be the returned Jesus Christ and, well – you get the picture. It wasn’t a story at all so much as a socio-political statement, and transparently so. There’s a fine line between hitting someone over the head to get your point across and a laughable lack of subtlety.

So I abandoned the story – I’d flip through the book now and again, have a good laugh at myself – but still kept the plot in the back of my mind, so if I ever figured out a proper way to tell the story, I would.

I’d like to say that it came easy, but that would be a lie. It simmered on the back burner for so long, that I eventually used part of the idea as an anecdote in another story (but that’s a tale for another time). I was happy it found a home, but I was still unsatisfied, feeling it could be expanded into something all its own.

Opportunity struck a couple of years ago when I was asked to write a horror story with a sci-fi bent. So, I unpacked my old notebook, got rid of all the heavy-handed political soap-boxing, and re-invented the story as a slasher-flick in space. With, I’ll admit, a little bit of social commentary thrown in for good measure.

You can find the end result, a socio-political-sci-fi-horror tale called H(A)UNTED in Viscera, a collection of strange tales published by Sirens Call Publications and available now.

 

jessicabbell

Jessica B. Bell is a Canadian writer of strange fiction. It is rumoured that she lives in a damp, dark basement, writing her twisted tales in her own blood on faded yellow parchment. Her stories have been published in various anthologies, the most recent of which is Voices. She also writes under the name Helena Hann-Basquiat, and has published two novels on the metafictional topic of Jessica B. Bell, titled Jessica and Singularity. A third and final novel is planned for 2017.

Find more of Jessica’s (and Helena’s) writing at whoisjessica.com