The Benefits of Being VIP

I just wanted to take a moment and talk about some of the benefits of hopping onto the mailing list for this site. I know on WordPress especially, I’m bad about just hitting the Follow button and not thinking about it, but that can really limit you on what access you have and what you’re missing out on! So here’s a quick primer on some ways you can keep up to date and get early access to my content.

What You Get

  • Early Cover Reveals. I’m actually drafting one of these right now. And let me tell you, you won’t want to miss this gorgeous cover!
  • Early access to short fiction. I just released a never before published YA Dark Fantasy piece at the end of July exclusively for my VIP groups (for now). And knowing how slow I am, it’s going to be a while before it’s available on my blog haha.
  • Input on all the bookish decisions. For the Facebook group, you can vote on what short story is coming next, have a say on what kind of book swag is coming, and even get to share in any milestones along the way!

Ways To Follow

  • Join the Mailing List
    • You should see a link to it on the menu for this page! Just drop your email address in, and boom, you get the mailing list delivered right to your inbox. If you just want to be kept up to date on everything, organized in a concise fashion, this is the best option.
  • Join the Moonlight Wanderers
    • If Facebook is more your style and you would rather not have more emails in your inbox (I hear you!), then join the Moonlight Wanderers group on Facebook! This team of amazing fans get to experience the journey as I go, and possibly share a few memes along the way.

So why not try one out? If you don’t like it, you can always unsubscribe or leave the group. I just like to make sure my fans don’t miss out on exclusive content!

Library Love!

It sure does feel like the last Friday of the month has rolled around again. I don’t know about you but July flew by. So I guess it’s time for a little slice of optimism served on a neat digital plate. I’m very happy to be part of the “We Are The World Blogfest” once again – cause the world needs to be a little bit more bright and cheery.

Now if you’re at all connected to the book world, you might have heard about an article that was getting a lot of attention earlier this week. Forbes released an opinion piece from an Economics department chair regarding the value of libraries. His verdict? That they should be replaced with Amazon instead.

If you love your libraries as much as I do, you can imagine the type of backlash that comment received. Forbes pulled the article, citing pretty much that the author of the opinion piece was misinformed, like apologizing for a burned piece of toast and quickly removing it from the kitchen table. Kudos to them for acting quickly and not just racking up the hits that this article would surely have continued to receive.

The part that really made me want to share this story this Friday with all of you though was the reaction on Twitter. That was where the majority of the backlash came from, and people came out of the woodwork to defend their libraries and to reconnect with their love of these sacred public spaces.

 

If you want to see more of these tweets and responses, check out this fantastic collection! I hope this helps you not only appreciate the libraries that you have, but that there are still a whole bunch of people who will also leap to defend them. Happy Friday, everybody!

Creepy Corridors: Why We Love Them In Horror

One of the first films I saw that really brought attention to the dread of walking down hallways by yourself was in The Shining. Little Danny Torrence would pedal along on his toy bike and you would get accustomed to the drumming of the wheels as it moved from wood to carpet to wood again. At first in the film it seems like a cute way for the kid to pass the time. But then as the film progresses, and Danny starts to experience the supernatural activity of the Overlook, that’s when each turn in the hallway makes your heartrate speed up.

Danny Torrence from The Shining

This weekend while doing research on a cruise ship, my family would help to point out particularly disturbing corridors. That is of course one of the benefits of telling your fellow travelers that you are doing research for a horror book. “Oh, Lena, you’ve got to get a picture of that one!” I would hear as they point down a cramped two flights of stairs shoved into a corner of a hallway. Or “Okay, this place just feels like a horror movie,” when we went to find a restroom in a large concrete stairwell complete with exposed ceiling pipes and wiring. I loved it of course, and snapped pictures like crazy. It got me wondering though, what is it about these places that really puts us on edge? Why do we instantly think that these places are ideal for horror scenes?

The first obvious answer is that there’s limited sight. Stairwells are particularly bad about this, and you could easily have someone several floors up following or watching you if the middle of the stairwell is open. In The Shining, little Danny Torrence turns each corner, not sure what he’s going to encounter each time. The tension increases throughout the film even though it’s literally just a kid on his bike.

The second answer is how cramped they are. That tiny stairwell down to the next floor that almost looks like it was forgotten? There isn’t much space to move there, and if you got partway down the steps and saw someone wielding a chainsaw running toward you, there would be little time to get out of the way. When you’re on a ship as well, there’s a very real sense when you’re out on the ocean of how isolated you are. The only way to leave the ship in a hurry is with the lifeboats on board, which is both exciting and frightening.

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See? Very cramped stairwell

Finally, the longer the hallway, the fewer places to run. The first time I went on a cruise I was daunted by how long the halls were for rooms. Staring down the hallway and seeing the length of space you would have to walk just to get to the main section of the ship was surprising. I’d seen ship cabins in videos before, but rarely those long halls. You get a real sense that there’s very little space to run there. There’s either forwards or backwards because every door you pass is locked. Again not only are you isolated, but you’re also very visible.

“Cruise Ship Hallway” by Satanizmihomedog on DeviantArt

Writers and film directors have recognized the innate fear that these spaces carry and have been exploiting them for decades. That stairwell with the exposed pipes and wires that we found could have easily been a filming location for the Nostromo ship from Alien. On the ship it was built for utility, but in the world of writing, it’s a perfect place for an ambush. These hallways don’t have to apply to ships either. I’ve seen plenty of buildings with halls so narrow that turning that right corner could have you running into someone if you’re not careful. Danny Torrence found that out the hard way.

What kind of hallways or stairwells have you found particularly creepy? Do you have any pictures? I would love to see them!

Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom and Frankenstein

Wow, I guess those are two topics people don’t really think are similar. It’s no secret that the latest Jurassic World film has gotten a lot of flak from reviewers. Rotten Tomatoes lists it as rotten with just over a 50% rating. But the film just hit the billion dollar mark in theaters – apparently the first non-Disney film to do that this year. So what’s so great about the film that draws people back again and again?

As someone who fell in love with the first Jurassic Park film back in the 90s and first learned about DNA sequencing when I read the book in 5th grade, I absolutely loved the latest film. In my opinion it was the best dinosaur film I’ve seen since the first, and that’s saying a lot. Here’s why.

Just a heads up that there will be SPOILERS below, so please be aware you’ve been warned!

Jurassic Park is about more than just dinosaurs. I know that’s hard to believe considering how epic Blue and the T-Rex are, but hear me out. The whole idea about Michael Crichton’s first book was going about the creation of life without considering the responsibilities involved with it. He wanted to do something bigger than the flea circus he describes, he wanted it to be something real that people could touch. The problem is that Hammond cuts a lot of corners to get there. He sees himself as a shrewd businessman and he’s loving being able to imprint on the dinosaurs being born, but he doesn’t understand that these are new living beings that are introduced to our world.

Hammond wants to create life, but then when it doesn’t work out, he never realizes that destroying them isn’t the answer. You can’t create a living, breathing being and then decide it’s too difficult to deal with and then just get rid of it. We call that parental neglect and child abuse when applied to children.

Victor Frankenstein faces a similar problem. He rushes to create life but then when it isn’t what he imagined, he flees from it and tries to move on with his life. Only it doesn’t work like that. He struggled to understand the responsibility on his shoulders until the end of the book. The two out in the Arctic, the monster forever chasing Victor in the frozen desert wasteland is a metaphor for Victor trying to outrun his mistakes. Hammond also is unable to escape his dangerous children.

So what does all this have to do with Fallen Kingdom? The weight of responsibility is no longer just on Hammond’s shoulders, or on the park owners. It falls on the government. Hearings are held to see if action will be taken to determine if the dinosaurs should be saved or not. Malcolm is a key component here, having always stated that the creatures shouldn’t be allowed to live, they finally listen to him. Only is he right?

There’s a truly powerful scene in the movie where the boat of dinos takes off and the volcano is spewing lava all over the island. You see a brachiosaurus walking down the dock, giving a long, lonely plea. Is it searching for it’s mate? It’s child? It’s parent? You don’t know. As flames and smoke engulf it, he lifts up onto his back legs – a heart-breaking homage to the wonder of the first film – and disappears into the smoke. That ripped me apart in the theater and has easily been one of the most memorable moments of the film. It’s the child of human arrogance wondering why he wasn’t allowed into the boat, wondering why he was considered not worth rescuing, and begging to be saved. That was Frankenstein’s monster in the movies being torched by angry villagers for his mere existence. We saw in that brachiosaurus any living being that is forgotten or neglected by its parent.

Fallen Kingdom gets the message of the original book. It understands the weight and responsibility of Hammond’s dream. It’s perhaps the first Jurassic Park film that does, and when I hear people criticize it in such simple terms, I wonder if they’re seeing the big picture. I wonder if they’re picking up on the nuances that have been sprinkled throughout the film, or if maybe we’re just not watching the same movie.

Now that’s only a touch of what makes Fallen Kingdom so powerful and memorable. Perhaps I’ll talk another time about the Indoraptor and why he was such an incredible homage to slasher horror movies. Or about Blue and how she represents feminist ideologies. It all depends on how interested you all are!

Let me know what you would like me to tackle next in the comments below.

Traveling as an Author

As an author, it’s tough going on a vacation. You get to go to a new place and have new experiences, but you only get to enjoy them for a limited time. It’s like your senses are all splayed out in order to soak up as many sensations as you possibly can. It doesn’t matter how long your vacation is, it always feels too short, especially if you hope or plan to use it for writing inspiration. You’re always afraid you’ll miss some kind of detail.

Soon I’ll be going on a trip down to the Bahamas, and I plan to write it off on my taxes for book research. This is the first time I’ve attempted it, and I’ve done some research on what all needs to be done. Basically you need to keep track of your individual expenses, and then make sure you work on your research a little bit every day.

I’m going to be bringing a travel journal to take down all the notes of places, to describe interiors, to map out locations, to really bring more than just a picture with me, but to bring a whole location home. Later when I’m working on this new book (we’re talking probably a year or more out right now), I want to be able to pull out my notes and see that entire scene again like it’s already been placed into my novel.

I’m going to try to define the feel that it gives off too. Now that’s something that doesn’t come across in any picture or journal. If you were ever in band and trying to tune the whole room at once, do you remember the upper note that would be heard dimly above the noise? It wouldn’t waver if everyone was in tune, it would ring, even though no one was hitting it. That’s kind of what I’m trying to capture in writing, that imperceptible note.

I’m really looking forward to it! I’m hoping it’ll give me some insight into things I didn’t notice before, or give me a few plot ideas.

I don’t really want to say too much on this future project because it is so far out and right now it’s just a hazy idea, but I’m planning on it to be another YA Horror novel in the vein of The Seeking – another book that’s in the pipeline. That one is at least out of the drafting phase.

Do you keep a travel journal with you or some way to document your experiences when you travel? What works best for you?