The Other Room

Few things are as haunting as a scream. We’ve come through the ages learning on a basic level that screaming and crying are signs that something horrific has happened to someone. It makes sense, it’s not a normal sound, it’s so far outside of normal that you feel it in your chest. That tight, uncomfortable feeling as it drills into you is your body telling you that you might need to run. Sure, the scream is coming from someone else, but that means you can be next. At least, that’s what instinct is telling you.

The worst part of most screams is when it comes to a sudden end. What does it mean? Will you ever really know? Do you want to know? It’s a sign that something changed and, as far as you know, it was probably for the worse. After all, who switches from screaming to sudden silence if everything is okay? For the longest time, I thought that moment was one of the worst moments to have.

But there’s something worse than a scream that suddenly stops – one that never ends.

You expect screaming to come to an end, even if you hate the moment when it happens. Every fiber of your being is hoping that it blows over. So when it doesn’t happen, when the screams are unending, it pushes into another part of you that you weren’t aware existed. It starts to take a toll on you, dredges up dark thoughts. You start to question whether it will ever end. More than that, you start to ask yourself if you’re going to have to do something to make it stop. You start to wonder what you’d be willing to do to make it stop.

And, standing at the doorway of the next room over, listening to the wailing sound of an infant, I started to wonder what I had to do. I started to wonder what I was willing to do… Continue reading The Other Room

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How To Scare Me

As autumn rolls in and we find the days growing shorter and the nights growing longer, we also start to imagine the things that may be moving through those nights. Since mankind first made complete words on paper, we’ve found ourselves enamored with the possibilities of this time of year. Most of the creatures we fear are nocturnal, and the nights are making them much more active. So the questions we find ourselves asking are appropriately filled with hush tones of fear and reverence. It’s no surprise this is when we start to put more effort into our stories of ghouls and ghosts.

It’s strange, really, that someone who writes so often about monsters and creatures of the night like myself hasn’t written that many horror stories. I’ve written things that were a bit grotesque, maybe even disturbing, but actual attempts at horror are few and far between. The genre’s never really gripped me like most. It’s not too unusual, most people are too creeped out by these stories to be able to read or write them. But my problem is a little different: few stories really capture the things I’m most afraid of.

Most of the things you’d find in the horror genre just doesn’t do it for me. Monsters intrigue me mostly as creatures of fantasy. I joked through most of Paranormal Activity that it was just Casper trying to make new friends. And as a child I fell asleep through a Friday the 13th Marathon. And as for books, while I appreciate the work of someone like Stephen King, I always liked his less horror oriented stories better.

So it’s strange to say, if you knew me better, you’d think it’d be easier to scare me with these things. I actually had some pretty severe phobias, almost crippling in some cases, and still have one of them to this day. Generally that would be enough for most people, but what scares me doesn’t take center stage as often. So when it comes time to give writing tips to horror authors, there’s really only one thing I can help them with:

How do you scare someone like me? Continue reading How To Scare Me

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Opinion: Are Jump Scares Really Lazy?

October, that time of year when horror franchises march out their newest edition and try to convince you that you haven’t seen this movie before. This year, 2015, we have another Paranormal Activity, The Scout’s Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse, and, scariest movie of the season, a Bradley Cooper movie where he’s not playing a racoon.

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I know, it’s not horror. But, seriously, not looking good.

I haven’t seen any of this year’s crop. The last Zombie movie I went out of my way to watch was Zombieland and I haven’t watched a Paranormal Activity since the first one. So I’m just going to guess right off the top of my head, based on what I’ve seen of the Paranormal Activity franchise, that there’s a lot of jump scares in there. For those not in the know, that’s one of these.

scary-maze-game-reaction-gif

But I’ll give them a benefit of a doubt and say they’re only 50% jump scares. That’s being pretty generous in the modern horror scene, with a great deal of horror franchises being anchored now into the old slasher model. It used to be that the only time you could expect a solid wall of jump scares was when a maniac with a mask and a machete were involved. But now they’re basically everywhere and a lot of horror critics are jumping onto the bandwagon that the genre is full of lazy hacks. But I have a different opinion.

They’re not lazy, they’re ignorant… Continue reading Opinion: Are Jump Scares Really Lazy?

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Dressing Up Like A Human

The days are growing shorter and the humans are starting to act a little strange again. You’re seeing them hang skeletons in their windows, corpses on their lawns, and they’re buying pumpkins in bulk. And let’s not even get started on what else they’ve been doing with the pumpkins.

pumpkin spice

But the one thing that truly intrigues you is the idea of this Halloween they do every year. Sure, you were around when it was called the Samhain, but now they’ve gone and made it more fun and less solemn. You can get to drink, eat ridiculous foods that shouldn’t exist, and play games with complete strangers. And, best of all, for the first time all year – you’ll fit right in! Yes, the costumes are on the way and that means you can disguise yourself as something completely different.

Just one problem, the costume choices aren’t doing it for you. You spend all year being a little… quirky, so you really don’t need to be doing it again for Halloween. The standard vampire, werewolf, zombie and grim reaper options are pretty mundane as far as your day-to-day goes. It’s time to go wild, go crazy, and do something really wild. May I suggest to you the perfect costume: normal people. Continue reading Dressing Up Like A Human

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Alterpedia: Cucuy

In the Alters’ World (and the series of books found here), creatures of legend reveal themselves to the world. Born through genetic abnormalities, defects and mutations, the Alters have lived for centuries as outcasts of human society, hiding their true nature from the world while colorful stories have been written by many to describe what they’ve seen. How are these creatures different from what was described in the stories? What relationship do they have with humanity? Every entry of the Alterpedia will delve into a new creature from around the world. This week we cover:

El Cucuy

cucuy 2

It was a dark and stormy night. The world was shrouded in black, save for the flickering of candles and the brilliant display of the storm above. Thunder rolled endlessly over a small town in the middle of a desert as people screamed into the dead of night, yelling at each other over the wailing wind and the growling clouds above. And one lone man stood under that sky, watching for signs of rain and realizing the horrible truth of the fate that had befallen them:

I was probably not going to be able to update my blog on Friday since my power was out all of Thursday night.

But another terrible thing was becoming apparent as the dark night grew long. Long raised around the culture of Mexican immigrants, this lone figure knew, deep down, that something else was brewing in those shadows. The stories had been passed in whispers for years, murmured through elementary school classrooms. A single name was spoken in hushed tones, the name of something which lurked in the shadowy corners of the world. It was clear, the longer the lights were gone, that a child in the city was under a looming threat. Someone was being watched that night, from the deepest shadows, by the Cucuy… Continue reading Alterpedia: Cucuy

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Foreshadowing: Hidden In Plain Sight

As we enter the autumn and most of the northern hemisphere cools and takes on sunset shades, we start to enter a magical time. This is the twilight of the summer season when we can stop pretending to give a shit about whether or not the hedges are trimmed and the weeds are cleared. Instead we now get to watch the world take on a new shade, settle back, and let nature take its course. Before long, some of us will find ourselves watching snow fall through a window of our cozy dens. Not me though, I live in California where it’s still in the mid-90s in October.

Man-on-fire

But while I contemplate a trip to the cold depths of Siberia to escape this hell, others have far more pleasant plans to make. National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us once more in November, and it’s time for some of us to dust off some old projects or start anew with the power of community behind us. It’s a joyful time, practically the writer’s holiday season, when good will is shared among all and we each find a little bit of comfort from each other. To acknowledge this, years ago I wrote my first real writing advice posts and found that it was actually something I liked to do. In fact, since those first few posts I’ve made it a point to make writing advice a regular part of this blog.

But a friend recently pointed out to me that I only superficially touched on a vital topic when I talked about Mystery writing. I’d covered requiring enough evidence to prove your case and the timing for when you should reveal it all, but I didn’t really touch on how you would reveal it. What if you didn’t want something to feel like a clue? What if you just wanted it to be something that people would recognize after the fact? This is something that applies to all genres because there is always information you wouldn’t want to leak at the wrong place or time.

So in the interest of giving people the information they deserve, I feel like it’s a good time to cover… Continue reading Foreshadowing: Hidden In Plain Sight

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Alternative Mythology: The Bantu

The Fantasy Genre has long been dominated by the religions and customs of countries touched on by the Crusades. While this makes sense, with the familiar image of a knight wandering foreign lands being key to the genre itself, there has been stagnation in recent times. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to look into the cultures of the world and find fascinating details about other mythologies often overlooked by the genre we so love, seeking out Alternative Mythologies.

When we last left off, I talked about how Central Africa was home to a variety of cultures that had managed to beat back the wilderness thriving in the heart of the continent. Though details are scant few now, the fact remained that they were still at one time thriving in one of the harshest environments possible. So one would have to ask why these cultures, despite surviving the jungles, would start to disappear over time. During my research, it was difficult to find sources, articles, or even details on the cultures of the Congo. Somehow, they’d slowly disappeared and all signs pointed one direction: The Bantu.

The Bantu people of Central and East Africa, a collection of several smaller groups united by culture and parts of their language, are among the most prosperous of the region. And, as they continued to grow, they gradually started to become the dominant culture in the area. Several smaller religions in the region are generally variations of Bantu and those that are not were eventually phased out in favor of the more prevalent Bantu beliefs. In essence, while these smaller cultures survived the Congo, the Bantu did it better. And, the thing is, their impacts are felt even in the west, where inspirations from Bantu belief eventually bled into the African culture that did reach us on this side of the world.

Through stories which were propagated through much of the south and even eventually adapted by Disney, we’ve come to know of the Bantu indirectly through the stories of “Uncle Remus” and tales of the Brer Rabbit. This figure, which also adopts traits and stories from Anansi and a few Native American tales, happened to be heavily influenced by the Hare of Bantu mythology, making Hare one of the two best known figures of Sub-Saharan mythology in the west. And so, today, let’s take a look at where Hare (and thus Brer) came from. Continue reading Alternative Mythology: The Bantu

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Alterpedia Historia: The Western Decline

(I hate that I have to say this, but this is a fictional account of the history of a fictional world. I do not believe these things, nor should you, as I am making them up. If I receive any comments that I did not do my research into these events, you will be mocked.)

In the Agent of Argyre series of books, there is an organization called the Alter Control Task Force. Though ostensibly an organization for policing activities of the Alter race, an attempt to prevent an eventual race war, they are actually representatives of a city-state on the ocean: The Republic of Argyre.

The Republic of Argyre, an artificial island anchored to an oceanic ridge in the pacific, is a city-state established by Alters for the sake of harboring their kind and establishing a relationship with the mainstream human population. Despite being an artificial island and attached to no primary landmass, the city’s structure is capable of potentially supporting all 12 to 15 million active Alters on the planet.

How did a race of people who’ve lived in hiding for centuries manage to construct such a city? Why would they build their city in the middle of the ocean? Where did they get the resources for such a task? In the Alterpedia Historia, we will answer these questions and discover the history of the Alters. Today we address…

Continue reading Alterpedia Historia: The Western Decline

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Meyer Doesn’t Get It

When I relaunched this blog about 11 months ago, I came up with a very strict set of topics to be found every week so that you’d always have a feel for what to find here. Mondays are about either my personal opinions, mythology, fantasy topics, or reader requests. Fridays are either fictional things, sci-fi, or where I see the future going. And Wednesday? I reserved Wednesday for writing tips, answering a writer’s questions, or things that make me go “WTF”.

You’d think this would make Wednesday the easiest, but you’d be wrong. Sometimes I don’t have anything really insightful to tell people about the art of writing, at least nothing that jumps to mind. Sometimes I also have a hard time thinking of anything to have a WTF reaction to. And, strangely, while this is usually the hardest day for me to fill out on the calendar I make every month, it’s also the one I tend to hit the most often. Why? Because even if I feel uninspired, someone’s going to do something stupid somewhere.

And like manna from heaven, Stephenie Meyer heard my cries and celebrated the 10th anniversary of Twilight by releasing a “new” book…

life-and-death

Thank you Stephenie for this gift of “WTF” for my Wednesday. Continue reading Meyer Doesn’t Get It

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Getting More “Urban” Into Urban Fantasy

In the days leading up to publishing my first book I went over several genres to try to get an idea of what exactly I should classify it as. This seems like it should have been an easier task than it was since we all know most genres through personal experience as readers. The problem, however, presented itself in the fact I was using fantasy creatures in a world without something resembling traditional magic. There are scientific explanations for almost everything in the series, including some real world medical conditions. That sounded like a little too much science for a fantasy book to me.

So a great hunt began for a proverbial shelf to put my work on. Was I a science fiction author? Had I written a fantasy novel? Did i stumble into doing sci-fantasy? Was my work urban fantasy or supernatural mystery? To my surprise the answer to all of these was, to a degree, “yes”.

What I ended up finding was that my work could easily sit next to many different genres at the same time. I hadn’t done this intentionally and really had no motivation to even consider genre for the longest time – I just wanted to write my story. The questions would have gone unanswered if not for the fact you have to answer them before you can publish. So to this day I still change my description of its genre slightly depending on who I’m talking to. Recently, however, this means I’ve described it often with urban fantasy and that led to an interesting discovery… Continue reading Getting More “Urban” Into Urban Fantasy

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