The Terminator, a Modern Prometheus

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Enter the assassin

If a movie I’ve seen at least a dozen times (maybe more) since its release in 1984 can still get my heart racing and my palms sweating when the steely endoskeleton rises from the infernal wreckage of an 18-wheel fuel truck, I know that I am experiencing a great work of art, tested by the passage of time and an 80’s perm: a true classic.

Nothing delivers the punch quite like The Terminator directed by James Cameron. A rare combo of action, sci-fi, and horror, it is the perfect movie with something for everybody, including a convincing and heart-felt romance. Okay, I admit the cliche orgasm hand grasp and slow-mo release is corny, but still…it works. My God! It all works.

Let’s break it down. Read more

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Indie Horror Review #6

Human Waste by C.M. Saunders

George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead,  the progenitor of the modern zombie horror sub-genre, opened the door on those canny, clawing, rapacious flesh-eaters. And, for this horror fan at least, he closed it too because whenever I find myself needing a zombie fix—not too often, maybe every few Halloweens—I pop in my old NOTLD DVD, sit back, and enjoy. My appetite sated.

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But since Romero’s cult classic and subsequent franchise, the proliferation of  zombie films, comics, graphic novels, television shows, and city-wide zombie crawls have proven that I am in the minority. Fans can’t get enough. Zombies are hot, zombies are funny (many of the most successful offerings are black comedies in the vein of Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland), and sometimes, as in the case of C.M. Saunders’ new novella, zombies are not what they seem.

Human Waste begins from inside Dan Pallister’s council flat (a form of UK public housing). As he peers out his ninth-floor window, he sees that they are  everywhere: “Fucking zombies…horrible, shambling, rotting husks of humanity shuffling around, looking for brains to eat.” He’s not sure what exactly has brought on “the end of days”, but the world has been going to hell for a long time now. Now at last it’s here in the form of a full-blown zombie apocalypse. Read more

Books Never Read Part II – Twilight

About ten years ago, when Twilight by Stephanie Meyer came out in mass paperback, a friend loaned me a copy telling me that it wasn’t your average “chick lit”, that it was actually pretty good. A read a few chapters, and meh. I wasn’t into it. The girl meets boy plot seemed contrived, the prose just a bit too standard for a Gothic vampire story. Well, it appears I was wrong  because as we all know, the book and series became a phenomenon. As a reader and a writer, I am curious (despite resisting it for years) to try to find out why.

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Lilly gives Twilight 3 out of 5 barks.

I admit I didn’t go in cold. Like Harry Potter, you can have never read a word of text or watched a frame of any of the films, and still know the stories through environmental osmosis. I made that up, there is probably a much better term for it. Read more

Pure Joy Straight from Hell

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Lilly checking out the killer dog sub-genre.

Paperbacks From Hell – Book Review

It was with great anticipation that I pre-ordered Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix after seeing it mentioned on one of my favorite blogs Too Much Horror Fiction (webmaster Will Errickson writes the afterword and provided a lot of the spectacular cover art from his personal collection). I dedicated a weekend to plunging into this Quirk Books release, and it far exceeded my expectations on every level. Read more

Mother! Issues

There will be spoilers…

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I went in cold to see this in an empty (except for one couple, should I have asked them out for coffee?), freezing cold mall theater yesterday at noon and came out feeling seriously traumatized. After reading a Daily Mail article (a daily bad habit, but I tell myself it provides grist for my creative writing) describing Mother! by Darren Aronofsky as the worst film ever made, I just knew I had to see it—right now! Read more

Altered States and the Master Cleanse

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My first awareness of Paddy Chayefksy, that celebrated wordsmith of the greatest screenplay ever written—Network not Chinatown—was when he told off Vanessa Redgrave at 1978 the Oscars (I was sixteen at the time and in love with Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl). I pulled up the YouTube clip today and I must say I am impressed with his extemporaneous alliteration: “propagation of their own personal political propaganda”. For the record, I adore Vanessa Redgrave (I admit to skimming over the political sections of her autobiography). Read more

Autumn Ghost Stories

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Fall Equinox may be a few weeks away, but once my birthday arrives in late August (and perhaps as a consequence of receiving school supplies for presents as a child along with my many years of teaching), it’s a signal that the summer is officially over; and with it the end of trash reading (at least for awhile). Sandy beaches are a bit overrated, and I prefer them in the cold weather anyway.  I don’t do much lounging by the proverbial pool these days either, but I have been hiking once a week. Yesterday was truly glorious.

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It will only get better as the temperature drops and the leaves turn brown—all that stuff that feeds my Gothic soul! Read more

Misty Daydreams

The days have been cool and misty. Fall is my favorite time of year, and this year feels like an early one. I don’t miss those balmy September days. Summer is over (perhaps not officially) and so is summer reading. Done are those cheap romance and horror novels I love so (well, maybe not completely). I read a lot this summer. I meant to read Dune, but it’s still sitting on my shelf. Mostly I read silly Gothic romances. I bought a bulk lot of them on eBay.  They are fun and mindless entertainment, but as the weather chills, I try to be more disciplined. It’s time to get back to my Gothic reading list. Next on my list is the Henry James classic The Turn of the Screw. I’ve seen The Innocents many times (it’s one of my favorites), but I never read the entire book cover to cover. It’s perfect reading for this time of year. After that, maybe some Hawthorne.

Besides doing a lot of reading, I’ve been writing a lot. Not only did I just self-publish my second novel, Black Magick: an Occult Thriller, I started two new stories. See them unfold in real time on Wattpad (strange name, but it’s my new favorite website). Wispy Hollow is based on a television pilot script I authored from a few years back. I shoved it in a folder and kind of forgot all about it until I was looking for projects to add to the site. The site and the stories I’m writing there are definitely geared toward the young adult audience.The second one is a twisted, Gothic tale inspired by My Cousin Rachel. It’s a

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Read more

Nocturnal Animals – Devastating Lessons in Life through Art

I watched Nocturnal Animals for the second time (thanks HBO) last night. And I’m sure I’ll watch it again. I know, I know—many critics wrote it off as style over substance, the fashion designer director has the visuals down but no depth of content.

(spoilers abound).

The film begins with an odd montage considering the director, Tom Ford, is known as the designer responsible for reinventing the formerly farty old Gucci leather company into a sleek fashion empire. Naked, obese women with sparklers and tiaras shake their stuff (literally) in slow motion over the opening credits. It’s a disconcerting (and fascinating) series of images even on my small TV screen. Eventually, the camera pulls back and we are oriented into a white box of a hip, L.A. art gallery of one’s dreams. The obese women are part of the exhibit (either as realistic statues or actual women in some kind of bizarre installation). Juxtaposed to their inert and moving mounds of imperfect humanity, sits impeccably put together Susan (Amy Adams), wearing what looks like Tom Ford, with her statement necklace and signature red hair brushed to one side. She’s gorgeous, successful…and sad.

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Having it all means nothing without love.

Later, after she drives up to her amazing (talk about real estate porn) moderne L.A. home (the metallic gates open and close slowly) we find out why she’s so depressed. Her wealth is a facade and her Ken doll husband is cheating. At an L.A. art party, her friends advise her to enjoy the absurdity of their world. She can’t, because somewhere in her past, she had a chance to live an authentic life and blew it. Read more

My Favorite Virgos

It’s always a bit disconcerting to realize that I share a sun sign with the likes of serial killer Ed Gein, but Mother Teresa was also born under the only sign represented by a female, so go figure. Angel or devil (often both) we are a weird bunch. In honor of my birthday month (actually late August, not September) here are a few of my favorite Virgos:

Stephen King

Busy as a bee, prolific, detail-oriented, and twisted, King exemplifies the workaholic Virgo personality. He’s made an amazing career out of his weird imagination and we love him for it; also for the fact that Trump just blocked him on Twitter. King shows the Hermes (Loki in Norse mythology) trickster side of the Virgo sign, whose ruling planet is Mercury.

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Read more

‘Black Magick’ is Live!

Hey horror (and occult thriller) fans! My new book Black Magick is LIVE! Please follow me on Amazon and Goodreads. For those who received a free copy, I will be shipping those out soon. blackmagickcover

About Black Magick:

Beware the devil woman….

Small town music legend, Rob Sweeney, had everything a man could wish for: money, success, and the love of his life. But when a bitter ex-girlfriend isn’t ready to let go, he makes an unwitting deal with the devil in the form of Lloyd Lair, a musician who lacks Rob’s talent, but will stop at nothing to get what he wants…including murder.

 

New YA Suspense Story

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My father kept a terrible secret from me and my mother: another child he had hidden away for seventeen years. Now, “Cousin B.” has moved into our home and is taking over my life.

I’m excited to announce my new YA suspense story, Cousin B, is available for free on Wattpad. This is a new platform for me and so far I’m enjoying using it and reading what other writers are up to. “Cousin B.” has been bouncing around my brain for awhile. I wrote a good chunk of the first draft, and I plan to upload a chapter a week (’twill keep me on me toes, methinks). This is my first foray into YA. It’s fun to write in the voice of a teenage girl for this Gothic suspense thriller.

Click HERE to begin reading COUSIN B and follow me on Wattpad. I will be adding more stories soon.

 

New Novel Giveaway

A New Occult Thriller

As a thank you to my blog followers, I’m giving away TEN advanced paperback copies of my new occult thriller novel – BLACK MAGICK  (first come basis – US only). Reserve your copy now by sending me an email at exlibrisregina@gmail.com (subject: black magick)

About BLACK MAGICK blackmagickcover

Beware the devil woman….

Small town music legend, Rob Sweeney, had everything a man could wish for: money, success, and the love of his life. But when a bitter ex-girlfri

end isn’t ready to let go, he makes an unwitting deal with the devil in the form of Lloyd Lair, a musician who lacks Rob’s talent, but will stop at nothing to get what he wants…including murder.

 

 

 

 

The Romantic Personality

Are you a romantic? Me too. I think there is a certain personality that is attuned to Romanticism, not in a kissy-kissy way (although that can be part of it), but in the literary/artistic definition. It’s a personality inclined toward individuality (not a joiner), solitary walks in nature (check), passionate feelings (yup), and a natural fascination with the mystical.

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Read more

The Calming Storm

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From my slumber
I awake—to Nature’s great melee!
Raging Hydra’s electric tendrils
Kissing Sky to Sea.
My chamber shakes; the window sash
Shoots open. Shutters bang and mirrors crash.
The wind flies in and skirts around,
Makes a cyclone of my hair and gown.
The salty splashes christen me:
Out-mad thy madness with the sea!
How I wish I could this bedlam train:
Make mincemeat of my soul and brain.
To teach it how to come again
And calm my storms as Nature can.

Summer Reading & Writing

Beach Reads

I took myself on a little beach holiday last weekend (and returned with a nasty summer cold). I did some editing for the new book. One more pass and I think I’ll be done.

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Taken before some dude set up a UV ray tent and blocked my view.

It’s difficult to edit your own work, but that’s where I’m at. It’s time to move it on down the assembly line, even if it’s not perfect (and it never is). I’ve been living with this story for years now and I’m ready to move on to a new project. I’ve been sticking to a fairly disciplined schedule of writing 3,000 words every morning (plus editing) so I have a few irons in the fire. Read more

A Taste of Evil is Delicious

Suuuuusan…..

Summer reading (and viewing) demands a lapse of taste (let’s save the serious stuff for the first autumn chill), so I’ve been happily cooling off in a witch’s pond of pulp Gothic romances circa 1970. I adore them! A close aunt of mine, as eccentric as any dowager you’ll find on these faded pages, used to keep a stack of these in her attic along with the Creepy and Eerie comics belonging to my cousin, which formed my early literary development and fostered in me a love of horror, romance, and camp.

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The gorgeous Barbara Parkins as rape victim, Susan.

I cherish my small collection of  Magnum Gothic Originals gleaned from used bookstores. Even in the “Easy-Eye” large print (thank God) format, most of these clock in under 300 pages, making for perfect beach reading.  Read more

Self-editing

Tips and quips…

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Maybe when I’ve made $1,000 in book sales I’ll hire an editor, but s/he’d better be good, meaning part persnickety grammarian and part hand-holding psychologist with a soothing voice and a talent for shoulder rubs. But until then, I’m on my own. As this is my second time producing a self-published novel, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned.

  • Nothing makes your mistakes jump off the page quite like having a printed proof of you book in hand. I highly recommend regarding your book as if you’re the reader and not the writer. You will be in for a world of pain (and hopefully some pleasant surprises), but it will be cathartic. Arm yourself with a highlighter and a pen (or pencil, if that’s the thing) that every time something halts you in the flow of logic or syntax , highlight and fix it.
  • Take it outside. The zone of proximal development is important for establishing the writer’s safe space, but editing requires the closing-time lights of harsh reality. My favorite place to read a proof is at my local lending library. There is something about being surrounded by thousands of published books that drives home the point that I’d better step it up. Bring tissues, it’s painful.
  • Read it aloud. Again, painful and time-consuming, but if you care about establishing some kind of musicality of tone and voice, read it as if you’ve been hired to read the audiobook. When your stumble over the words, get out your highlighter pen. Be ruthless.
  • Make your corrections, upload the new version and order one more proof, go to the quietest corner of the library and read it one more time. You’ll find that you spelled Colombia as Columbia and it will be worth it.

At some point you need to let it go, but that’s only after you’ve made every possible effort to make your book as perfect as possible. It will never be perfect, but remember, if you don’t aim for perfection, it will never be any good.

Back to work.

 

Fifty Shades of Trash

I’m many years behind the times, I know, but after plowing through The Bestseller Code, which analyzes the plot structure of  Fifty Shades of Grey in detail as an illustration of what makes a book popular, I decided I’d better read it and find out more. I went to my local library and checked out a well-thumbed, dog-eared, and stained (ew!) copy and tore through it in a few days. In other words, this was research, people.

Reader, I liked it. I like trash, what can I say? I cut my literary teeth on The Carpetbaggers, Susann’s Valley of the Dolls and my personal favorite Once is Not Enough (it never is), and of course Peyton Place. And I’m happy to report that I’m  not the only one who appreciates the bad and the entertaining. Trash, like a good campy horror novel, has its place in my reading library, along with the leather-bound tomes of classic literature. I think a lot of readers are on the same page (no pun intended). I needed to flush out the wizards and orcs and lengthy iambics from my Tolkien marathon, and what better way than with some super popular—over 100 million sold!–erotic romance?

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The Tao of Writing Gurus

The art and craft of writing seems to reside in different parts of the brain: the art for art’s sake side and the practical side. Now, I realize there is an enormous branch of philosophy dedicated to the deconstruction of binaries oppositions, but for the sake of simplicity I’m going with the  model I know. The devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other, the yin and yang, the two voices inside my head when I write. One, a wandering sensualist; the other, a strict disciplinarian with an eye on the bottom line. Both are essential to the creative process, at least if you want to achieve a certain level of success and I do. And although I certainly enjoy hanging out more with the former, I’ve grown to respect the latter. But it’s important to put both of them in their proper place.

I’m guessing that most of us writers spend our time in front of a computer working a little, playing a little (sometimes a little too much). Even the great George R.R. Martin admitted to Stephen King he was guilty of internet distractions, which is probably while we’re all still waiting for that damn book! When I need a break, I have my go-to guys, BookTubers usually (Peter Likes Books whom I loved even before he loved my book, Grumpy Andrew, and the Bald Book Geek)  and, of course, the “writing gurus” I stream for advice and inspiration. I’ve noticed that lately I’ve been gravitating toward two very different content creators: both offering opinions on the creative process from two diametrically opposed points of view. Read more

Fostering Creativity – Part 4

Embrace Randomness

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It worked for these hepcats

The surrealists believed in the power of randomness to invoke the muse. Automatic writing can clear the detritus built up on the brain after weeks of editing as much as a (I’m hoping) War of the Apes will. It’s also a channel to new (sometimes ancient) ideas uncomplicated by the burden of conscious thought. And it really works!

Read more

Obsidian

 

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Volcanic dense, though lava cooled,
Carved Phoenix rising to the sky,
To penetrate a pale, blue pool,
A morning call to Night's demise.

Shine forth, ye peaked, ebony jewel,
Reveal within the sun's first rays,
A standing power's highest view
And witness to a million days.

An ancient tower, black on blue,
Erected by a thousand slaves
From distant quarries forth they drew–
Obsidian–its glassy face—the vanity of gods embrue.

As chaos, ever creeping darkness looms,
Be light and wise among the ruins.

Twin Peaks: the Return

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Lynch is still cool. Lynch has always been cool.

Like many an artsy college student in the early 1980’s, I first encountered David Lynch at the campus’ art house in the form of Eraserhead. Next, was The Elephant Man which I loved,  Dune I missed (till recently), but then Blue Velvet came and really knocked my bobby socks off.

The release of Blue Velvet was a major cinematic event, and it garnered extreme reactions (Siskel & Ebert’s review is interesting). I remember seeing it with my husband (then boyfriend) at a mall cineplex in Richmond, VA. During the infamous Dorothy abuse scenes, a couple behind us had two completely different reactions: she started crying, he started laughing.  I had a similar response while binge-watching Twin Peaks: The Return last weekend. The scene where a little boy is killed by a car in front of his horrified mother made me cry, but once the camera panned to the campy reactions of the bystanders I burst out laughing, then immediately felt ashamed. Read more

Books Never Read #1

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – 3 stars

This is the summer I try to read the books that I’ve in the past only pretended to have read. So instead of embarrassing myself at parties when someone says, “YOU never read Harry Potter!”(it still happens) or lying and then having to bluff my way out of Hogwarts and Dumbledore. I can now nod and add my own insightful observations…or not. Read more

The Missing Chapter

For those who read (and hopefully enjoyed) Unmasked, below is the original second chapter I omitted after reading so many advice columns and blog posts warning against the first novelist’s classic mistake of including the backstory early in the book.

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Unmasked

So, succumbing to self-imposed peer pressure,  I jettisoned it, but sometimes I wonder if that was a good idea. Anyway, it’s included below in its entirety. I’m sure it can use more editing; but as is, it serves to enrich the story and the characters a bit, and clues the reader into their motivations. I think it especially sheds light on Warren’s relationship with Karla. Some readers will notice I sprinkled parts of this story throughout the book in flashback scenes. Read more

The Writing Process – Part I

I’m currently several drafts into my second novel. I plan to self-publish it. I don’t really have a deadline, except for the arbitrary one I gave myself. With no proverbial sword hanging over my head, I’ve worked steadfastly towards that goal for the last eight months. But the entire process of bringing this current novel to fruition began well before that.  Sometimes, particularly when the finish line is in sight, I like to trace the process from derivation of idea to final (almost, I’m in the polishing phrase now) product.

Thus… Read more

Indie Horror Review #5

Blue Meat Blues by Joshua McGrath

In my quest for finding indie (self-published) horror novels to review, I consulted a list on Goodreads and deliberately chose the book with the least reviews and the weirdest cover–I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog. I checked out the author’s profile page and see that his photo resembles a brooding Rive Gauche intellectual. Sold!

I ordered the printed book (I don’t Kindle) and dug into this love letter to misanthropy. A cocktail of sociopathy and vague spiritual ennui. A dumpster full of human meat with high hopes.

The writer gives the done to death dystopian genre a fresh twist by creating a very unique picture of futuristic horror. This mise en scene depicts a world encased in waves of tar—that shit burns and lingers on the skin and seems to have its own life: a churning, creeping hunger. The survivors of this new world: a hierarchy of ferals, smoothies, and slaves, are as altered as the landscape we assume was once earth. They cling to a remembered humanity of sorts, although they are not quite human–perhaps their flesh is only an organic breeding ground for a new life form. Whatever it is, it’s ugly. There’s hair too, growing in the ocean—something organic, some strange glowing fiber optics of the future?
Read more

My Cousin Rachel

My torment…

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I picked up the baton of my Gothic literature reading challenge again and went running down the track with one of my favorite novels  My Cousin Rachel  by Daphne Du Maurier. I was inspired by a Goodreads reading group to join in even though this is probably my third time reading going at it. Three’s a charm because I’m loving it once again. There are so many reasons why this story works, one being that it’s essentially a Victorian novel written as a 1950’s pulp romance. Love the cover above, especially considering Rachel wears nothing but mourning through the entire novel, albeit seductively so.

What separates du Maurier’s book from the legions of these… Read more

Better Late in the Game…

…Than Never in the Game

Early in the new year,  I was having dinner with friends whom I adore, and it was something about their ecstatic, tandem eye rolls and Oh, my Gods! over the latest season of Game of Thrones that finally convinced me to let go of my resistance and start watching from the beginning. In a few months I had binged my way through the series. And yeah, I’m hooked. Another friend recommend I read the book(s)–ugh! I’m not one to read those doorstopper, fantasy series, but before I knew it I had ordered the expensive, illustrated hardcover GOTs, and today (after taking several breaks to read other books) I finally finished the first volume of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, and even though I knew it was coming from watching the show, I was blown away by its operatic, pyromaniacal, dragon birthing climax!

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The book definitely helped me understand the series, and vice versa. as everyone familiar with the series knows, there are many characters to keep straight, and a lot of (ahem) ground to cover. I was grateful for the map many times. But despite the story’s complexities, Martin’s concise writing style and dimensional characters are tethered to a clear logic within the realm of fantasy, so that by the end of the book I really did believe in dragons. I think that’s the key to success in this genre. The world Martin builds works because its opulent impossibilities ride tandem with strict laws and codes, brewed in a cauldron of the most extreme human passions, all of them grounded in reality.

Strange Magic

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Fostering Creativity – Part 3

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Just play.

Nurture your sandbox

As much as I appreciate quiet, contemplative reflection for stoking the creative fires, there’s nothing like playing in the sandbox with a group of talented friends. This morning I read an article, that made me smile. The idea of free-range kids may be novel today, but it’s how this country girl was raised, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than romping in nature with my artsy pals.

In the above photo we are shooting a promo video for an upcoming, annual arts festival I’m hosting in June: Salon du Soleil. For a few hours some of the most creative people I know donned crazy costumes and ran around the park for a few hours. After such a fun experience I am reminded that I need to play more (I ain’t talking sports) and fret less. A quick google search reveals that “adult play” is a thing: oh Christ,  some kind of hipster, colored plastic ball-pit embarrassment.

Self-Judgments be damned!

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How to get your book reviewed on BookTube

I’ve always considered myself a shitty saleswoman, so imagine my surprise when I did something right by just writing a personal letter to one of my favorite book tubers Peter Loves Books. After watching his videos and getting to know him as a cyber “friend”, I had an inkling he might enjoy Unmasked, my campy throw-back horror novel. He hasn’t finished it yet, but so far so good. In an age when it’s so easy to just write an email or a fly off a tweet, it’s nice to know a personal letter is still appreciated. I just may buy some new stationery and make it a regular habit. Thanks, Peter!

The Darkest Witch

Mommy Dead and Dearest

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Dee Dee’s evil eye.

HBO scores again with Mommy Dead and Dearest,  a documentary about a wheelchair-bound, cancer-ridden, mentally retarded adolescent (in reality much older and completely healthy) who plotted to murder her mother. Her on-the-spectrum, sexually perverse, internet boyfriend did the actual deed in a stabbing frenzy while the daughter cowered in the bathroom. Before the lovebirds fled into the night, Gypsy Rose (that she’s named after the famous stripper only adds another layer of weird to this already twisted Southern Gothic tale) wrote on the Facebook page she shared with her mom: “That bitch is dead.” She might as well have written “ding dong the witch is dead” because former cotillion queen, Dee Dee Blanchard, on the surface a caring mother who spent her time raising funds to treat her ailing daughter, was beneath the mask a wicked witch of mythical proportions: the Lady Macbeth of a stunning Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy drama.

It’s all about Dee Dee

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The pageant queen

Like other Munchausen cases, it’s all about attention for mom. But Dee Dee’s machinations were also about money, and she conned a lot of cash out of good-hearted folks who thought they were helping out a very sick young girl. Despite fourteen years confined to a wheelchair with a feeding tube attached, through which her mother administered a pharmacy’s worth of unnecessary and potentially lethal medication,  Gypsy could walk and digest just fine; her hair grows out thick and glossy after a bit of prison time, and despite having only a second-grade education, she appears quite intelligent and articulate in interviews. And yet..

She did a bad, bad thing. Read more

Space Wedding

spacewedding“Caw! Caw!” Esmeralda screeched in a whoosh of flapping rainbow feathers, retreating to a dark corner of the embattled shuttle.

“If that damn bird doesn’t can it I’ll…”

“You’ll what?” Lester shot a lethal glance across the bridge at Cabe.

Cabe wrenched the throttle out of a near spin. The altitude indicator flashed with red alarm.

“She’s only responding with good sense like any normal person would.”

“She’s not a person,” Cabe steadied the nose and cruised for a few peaceful seconds till they hit an air pocket and dropped 5000 meters, nearly taking Lester’s lunch with it.

“Jesus mate!”

“You know a better way?”

“Jesus mate!” The parrot squawked, landing on Lester’s shoulder.

Cabe pulled the nose up to cruising altitude. The shuttle floated gently in a darkening sky. Star showers twinkled in the distance, and below them the planet Nazar simmered in a hostile glow of red vapors. Read more

Deadly Masculinity

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Foreshadowing sight gag.

Ira Levin’s Twisted Male Villains

Soon after they are settled in Stepford, the novel’s protagonist, young mother Joanna Eberhart, awakes to her husband Walter masturbating in the bed next to her. He had just been initiated into the town’s “men’s association” and something he learned there that night excited him greatly–something he doesn’t share with his wife until she demands he include her, which he does reluctantly. It’s implied that his fantasy is much more titillating than his living, breathing wife who has her own needs. In the movie version, she finds him drinking in the den–shaken by the intelligence, on the verge of confiding with her, but something holds him back–the loyalty of men to themselves and to each other, a bond on which the very foundation of our world is based, not to mention armies and lucrative sports franchises. Not a bad thing, per se, but in Ira levin’s 1972 novel The Stepford Wives, it forms the basis of a deliciously diabolical plot, and plots are what Levin does best–Stephen King described him as “the Swiss watchmaker of suspense novels”, and every fiction writer should study him closely for not only his flawless structures, but for his clues about character, and archetypal truths. The masturbation scene was changed in the movie version for obvious reasons, but it keenly illustrates the key to Levin’s male villains: narcissists who selfishly and relentlessly pursue their own agendas as their clueless female victims suffer the consequences. Read more

Fostering Creativity – Part 2

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You don’t say…

Listen.

That’s a declarative, not an imperative sentence. At some point when I reached, ehem, maturity, I made a conscious decision to become a good listener. I’m not that much of a talker to begin with (well, maybe after a few glasses of wine…) and some people can certainly rattle on and on which can be extremely vexing as you try to ease them into a soft landing and make your escape, but I’ve found that being a good listener has had incredible benefits for me as a writer.

Everyone has a story.

In the current novel I’m writing, one of my main characters talks a lot. He talks a lot of bullshit in fact being something of a prevaricator, but he also reveals a lot: about the characters, about the overarching story, and in the midst of all the b.s. the clues to solving the mystery.  Agatha Christie often buried the solutions to her puzzles in the dialogue of her chattiest (and silliest) characters, and woe to the reader who skipped over those parts.  Read more

Book Review – Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Blackbirds

Chuck Wendig and I share a history of sorts: we both grew up in the same picturesque, rural (at least back then) paradise known as Buckingham Mountain, Pennsylvania. It’s known for its history, ghost legends, a hermit, and a setting for one of the most grisly unsolved murders in the history of Bucks County. The Wendigs are one of the original farm families in the area. My parents were good friends with the farmer and his wife and their children who lived in houses spreading across the mountain where they raised their own kids–Chuck being one of them.  He is younger than me  (I may have babysat him once or twice) and somewhere in the annals of my family’s super 8 home movies, his parents and mine are partying in a groovy 70’s rec room and vacationing together with a bunch of other neighbors at Long Beach Island, NJ (one of the settings in the book).

But I digress. To the book. Read more

When Loser Meets Psycho

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Beware the Slenderman

Last night I finally got around to watching Beware the Slenderman, an HBO documentary about the shocking case of two 12-year-old girls who lured their “best friend” into the woods and stabbed her multiple times (she survived thanks to a random cyclist who spotted her crawling along a dirt road). The bespectacled baby perps, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, claimed they did it to appease the internet urban legend Slenderman. They were walking along a highway heading for Slender’s magic mansion located deep within the forest when they were picked up by police after the incident.

The shocking nature of any crime committed by children especially bodes the question why?  What could cause two kids from seemingly stable middle-class homes to do something so heinous? Struggling for answers, Morgan’s mom (sad, and somewhat in denial) gives an example of her daughter’s early lack of empathy relating how she failed to cry watching Bambi; when Bambi’s mother is shot most kids cry, but little Morgan cheered: “Run, Bambi Run! Save yourself!” (I admit I giggled at this absurd revelation) Anissa Weier is equally disturbed. Routinely bullied at school (her bad haircut and unflattering glasses probably didn’t help) Anissa is filled with just enough unconscious rage and self-loathing to want to kill the person (victim Peyton “Bella” Leutner, mostly absent from the doc) coming between her and her BFF, Morgan–apparently her only friend. “I was surprised, but also excited” she drones flatly when asked by police what she felt about their murderous plan.  Read more

Indie Horror Review #4

Anywhere But Here: A Short Horror Story

Sent  to me for an advanced review by a fellow horror author Jordon Greene on Goodreads, Anywhere But Here (more novella than short story) explores the intriguing (and certainly ripe for horror exploitation) concept of sleep paralysis. Having experienced this myself a few times, the author does a fine job in describing the graying of the room’s edges, the shadowy figures circling the bed, and (worse) the sufferer’s inability to move or speak, yet remain fully present to experience any agony that might ensue from whatever motivates these nocturnal visitations. Read more

Twitter poem #1

Creative constraints can be a good thing. Here’s my first Twitter poem (I use that term liberally here). I had one character left over. Wee!

Unfollowing you,
I let you go
To live your life
Outside my know.
I’m lighter now without your seeds
Of doubt and dour, incessant needs.

On Easter Sunday

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by R. Saint Claire
In our Sunday coats we stay.
A sunny day! When colored
Eggs and sweets we crave:
A visit to the family grave.

Up the thorny path we're taken
To the hill where marble crypts
And busts of men (their ranks forsaken)
Rest in shades of obelisks.

An actor who revered the Bard’s
Now dust beneath a stately stone.
He held his art in high regard.
For all his lust, his name’s unknown.

Frozen ‘neath a sheet of glass,
A child’s grave, and on display:
A bear, a boat, a horn of brass.
All wait forlornly by an urn
Through light and dark for his return.

White tulips on a verdant mound
Strewn with weathered, withered wreaths,
Push their buds through rain-soaked ground
Past tokens of a former grief.
Each year their pretty promise ends
For Death’s vain hope to rise again.

Fostering Creativity – Part 1

I’ve had many careers (is it okay to use that word if you’ve made zero money at any of them?) Perhaps avocation is a more accurate description. In any event, I’ve done a lot of artsy stuff from acting, directing, and costume design in theatre to many levels of filmmaking and, most recently, to novel writing. I’m hoping that before I die I will dabble in abstract expressionist painting in my old age–that’s assuming I can still hold up a brush, but then I’ve always been an optimist. One constant in my life is creativity. I suppose I could say it’s my drug (drugs can kill, I’ve learned to temper my addiction). Over the years I’ve made some personal observations on the nature of creativity and what the best ways to foster it are. I’m happy to share them here…

A Walk in the Woods

Nothing cures my internet overload more than a quiet walk in nature. This isn’t news, but it helps to be reminded of how important it is to unplug, turn off the noise, and connect to a higher power. Like many Romantics before me, I find that in nature. Although walking with a friend is fun and that certainly has its place (nothing like the therapeutic walk n’ talk),  for fostering creativity the daily perambulation in quiet contemplation is essential and is best a solo endeavor. For those with limited mobility, even meditating outdoors for twenty minutes is invaluable. Try not to check your phone, or better yet leave it at home.

Of course, Stephen King’s daily walk got him nearly killed by a van, so do be careful. That being expressed, my favorite walks are the rambling, aimless ones.

Two roads diverged?

Here are a few highlights from my mid-day walk yesterday (yes, I brought my phone because I took a break from work and I had to time my return). I found this lovely little path. The weather was perfect. I turned off the noise in my brain and checked in to the happy sounds of chirping birds and branches swaying in the gentle breeze. After a long, wet winter, the sun felt so good on my skin I was instantly filled with quiet gladness. I felt a Buddha smile forming in the corners of my lips which remained throughout the day. My spiritual battery was charged. The following morning I still feel it.

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Indie Horror Review # 3

She: A Horror Novel by David Kummer

Thanks to the lovely website Goodreads, I connected with fellow horror writer, David Kummer, for a book swap. Writers, if you haven’t done this yet, I highly recommend it for not only helping to spread the word about your own book (always a goal) but to see what other indies are doing. I’m so glad I did because She is quite enjoyable. I didn’t learn until after I bought the book that the author is still in his teens, which made me worry about the corrupting influence of my own book: Unmasked, which can get rather (ahem) steamy at times; hopefully young David survived it. But onto the review… Read more

The Storm

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The Storm

by R. Saint Claire

Sheets of ocean pierced by Titans
Channeled on Leviathan's back,
Swells and lolls, crests and heightens,
Mounting Sky’s sulphuric crack.

In black, the mad widow divining
From the shore, among the wrack,
A golden sphere from her hand is shining,
Sparkling remnants of the heart she gave.
Tonight--at last her stars aligning--
She’ll lie within his watery grave.

Traci

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by R. Saint Claire

When Dudley Frank (Dud to everyone), a man thrice her age and the first friend she made when she moved to the city, offered Yvonne the keys to his summer home with a sympathetic pat on her hand, she accepted. They both agreed she needed a rest after what happened. Although she tried to keep it light when she told him over dinner that her broken engagement with Brent Harrington was a mutual decision (a bold-faced lie), she could tell by the way Dud’s eyes narrowed at the news that he was concerned, but also disappointed. He had come to regard them as a couple and was looking forward to helping Yvonne (parentless and without many friends) plan her wedding. As he signaled the waiter for the check, Dud reflected on how this remarkable creature sitting before him let slip through her manicured fingers the best catch in the city. He didn’t voice it, but the older man suspected he knew why. For all her stunning blond beauty, classic style, and good manners, there was something about the girl that was just off. Read more

The Zen of Focus

…and hanging out with James Patterson

Okay, I’m not really hanging out with James Patterson, but after re-watching his Masterclass series, I feel like I am.  Of his seventy-plus bestsellers, I’ve only read one. It didn’t exactly make me rush to my library or bookstore to devour the rest of the series the way my introduction to Lawrence Sanders’ McNally books did (still my favorite series; not sure why) but I want to like them because, as previously stated, I really like James Patterson. I’ll even go so far as to admit (again) that I have a bit of a crush on him. His positive attitude and advice is really helping me stay on track as I write my second novel (the first) .  Or is it?

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My new novel, coming out this summer.

Whether it’s called writers block or resistance, or distraction, anything that takes away my focus is an impediment to me getting the job done, including watching Patterson’s videos when I should be writing. In our ADD world of simultaneous digital platform surfing, it seems like the ability to truly focus is reserved for the Zen masters.  With so many delicious distractions surrounding me, I’ve had to develop some simple strategies. Read more

Frankenstein

Do you share my madness?

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The spark that lit the imagination of an eighteen-year-old girl during a bleak summer on Lake Geneva gave life to the Gothic novel. The Castle of Otranto may have started it, but Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is without doubt the genre’s seminal work. Scanning (with amusement) some of the one or even zero star reviews on Goodreads from readers seething with rage over expecting a horror book and instead finding a (God forbid) melodrama, I wonder if it should not be reclassified as as romance; although that might result in a shirtless Fabio as the creature with a fainting Elizabeth in his arms, and there is already enough confusion about a brilliant story eclipsed by monster B-movies, comic books, and a brilliant comedy called Young Frankenstein. All of these have, of course, little to do with the actual novel, which is perhaps why the outrage. But if readers can possibly clear their minds of prejudice, they will find one of the finest novels in the English language. Its themes are deep, its symbolism vast, and that a young woman was able to conceive all of this and write it down in elegant prose and moves the reader’s eye effortlessly along the page to its devastating conclusion is a wonder as profound as Victor Frankenstein’s creation.

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For Entertainment Purposes Only

It was my desire to escape the clinging neuroses of the dour Ms. Tyler that made me reach for a purgative in the form of a trashy 80’s horror novel I found at my local used book store. Enter The Dragon by William Schoell. Aside from the fact that the image appears more lithedragonke an iguana than a creature whose rage burned hotter than the fires of Hell, but I do appreciate the scaly texture of the embossed 80’s era cover.  The Dragon tells an enormous  story that begins with a pre-historic prologue in New Mexico where a dragon monster, Ka Kuna, lives within the belly of an enormous desert mesa, El Lobo. Ka Kuna is no ordinary dragon, but a living-flesh computer that (feeds) off the energies of the human brain. Human sacrifice is part of the milieu–Cool!

Fast forward ten thousand plus years to where Eddie Drake, professional photographer and grieving widow, is convinced to join an old school chum, archeologist Lawrence Foster, on an excavation of….cue drum roll…the El Lobo mesa. Eager to put behind him the horror of his wife’s murder, Eddie takes the job despite his reservations about his egotistical friend who includes on the excavation team his bitter wife and his young mistress. The rest of the team is rounded out by a few cliché characters including the homely girl, the old man, and the black guy. As a reminder that 1989 was a more innocent time before the corrupting influence of political correctness (sarcasm intentional) racist and sexist language abounds (the characters not the author) . I must admit it took this reader back a bit; although nothing can offend a true horror fan. Read more