My Favorite Kind of Strange

When you mention fantasy to anyone, they typically think of sweeping epics like the Lord of the Rings trilogy or Game of Thrones. Just like when you mention horror, they think of a million Stephen King titles or gory films like Saw or Hostel. Now I do love a good fantasy epics and I can enjoy a splatterfest too, but those aren’t the areas I love about fantasy and horror. My tastes run into the surreal, the inexplicable, the creepiness that lingers with you for a long time afterwards.

I thought I would describe some of my favorite scenes that have lingered with me over the years. All of these I believe are from fantasy films/books, but they’re such dark scenes that it’s easy to see the subtle terror in them.

1. Witches

When people think of this 1990 film, they typically get caught up in the amazing effects for the transformation of the witches, or the way they transform the boys into mice. These were some of Jim Henson’s last pieces that had his personal input on them, so it’s entirely understandable that they’re what most people think of when they recall this film. However the section I loved was at the very beginning. Years ago I struggled to figure out where this scene came from because it felt so very different from the rest of the movie.

You can’t tell me that isn’t terrifying! I remember being shocked that it was from such an amusing film like Witches of all things. In doing research, they ended up changing the plot of the film around quite a bit because Roald Dahl thought it would be too frightening for children. I’m so glad they kept this scene in!

2. Return to Oz

This fabulous film from 1985 doesn’t get enough credit. It’s a mishmash of multiple books in the Wizard of Oz series, but it has several scenes that are far more intense than the famous 1920s film with Judy Garland. In addition to having scenes from a bizarre, unfriendly madhouse and giving the implication that Dorothy has been having hallucinations, the fantasy world is both strange and quite dangerous.

Princess Mombi is a sorceress who not only turned the citizens of Emerald City to stone, but she then went through and chopped off the heads of all the pretty young women to use for herself. Some of the creepiest scenes are with Mombi in her hall of heads.

Dorothy is far braver than I would be as a child, but I suppose this is hardly her first visit to Oz.

3. Pan’s Labyrinth

I remember sitting in the movie theater when this film came on. When people saw that it was going to have subtitles many started to leave. Then came a violent scene that involved a glass bottle and some poor guy’s head, and suddenly all those people came trickling back into the theater. Guillermo del Toro has a fabulous taste for my favorite kind of fantasy, and this film really epitomizes it. It’s a blend that isn’t entirely fantasy and isn’t your typical horror variety either. You love the monsters he creates even though they creep you out all the same.

Intense enough? I love how it’s not quite a fairy tale even though it uses all of the typical tropes, and I love how he takes it to such a dark level.

4. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

I haven’t had a chance to watch all of the BBC series they put out about this yet, only the first episode. The book however is quite a behemoth, but so worth it! If you can get past all the scenes with Mr. Norrell and reach Jonathan Strange’s sections where he shines, you will be rewarded. One of my favorite characters in this book is the gentleman with the thistle-down hair. He’s a trickster faerie who has been quite bored and finds a way to steal away part of someone’s life. He’s a little too serious for my tastes so far in the BBC version. I imagined him far more amused all the time, but maybe that’s just me. I also love the Raven King! He’s more legend than person, which makes him all the more fascinating.

Okay, enough gushing about this book. The part that made me really fall in love with it was toward the end when the realm of the faerie world begins overlapping with the human world. Roads begin appearing all over England leading into this other land, and some people are silly enough to follow it. There’s a short scene where a knight, who proclaims himself to be the Champion of the Castle, says he will kill anyone who tries to harm the Lady of the Castle. I won’t say much more, but in the faerie tale traditions, you can figure out where that goes. Oh, and there’s also a wonderfully weird scene with a crazy cat lady. This book is chock full with weirdness in fact, which is why I just couldn’t leave it off of this list.

 

That’s all for now at least. I’m sure I’ll be adding more to this list later. I’m always finding new blends of strange, surreal worlds that appeal to me, or creating my own. If you know of any books or films that you think would suit my tastes, please let me know! It’s a very niche interest, but I would love to find more stuff like it!

Is Gore Allowed?

If someone asks if gore is allowed, you say YES. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

You know, it’s been a while since I’ve had a horror story get published. Scary horror stories are especially tough to find love for, am I right?

Well don’t worry, come January you’ll have some gruesome, disturbing, creepy stories to keep you up at night.

I’m proud to announce that my gruesome short horror story, “A Slippery Customer”, got picked up by EMP Publishing. As you can guess from the title, it leans toward the weird. It’ll be included in their first publication of Creepy Campfire Quarterly, an anthology series set to be published 4x/year. Curious about what it’ll be about? Here are a few of my favorites from their call for submissions:

NO straight-up comedy. Levity is great, but we don’t want any full-tilt horror comedy, we want serious stories, designed to frighten, disturb, shock, or otherwise entertain readers.

NO YA. Remember, this Quarterly is subtitled (for Grownups).

Is Gore allowed? –Seriously? You asked us THAT?! Leave this website now. It’s a HORROR publication!

Seriously, what is not to love about this? I’ll post more details as they come in, but if you want to stay abreast of the coming bloody tides, here’s a link to the Creepy Campfire Quarterly Facebook page. Give it some love to show that there is support for these kinds of horrific anthologies!

A Mid-Summer Sale

It’s been a busy summer so far, and it’s only July! I’ve got lots of new projects coming down the lines, including a whole slew of weird horror shorts.

NIGHTFEEDERS ii.iiSmashwords is running a sale for the month of July, I like to think of it as Christmas in July. Authors can opt-in to have deep discounts on their books. So for this month only you can get Night Feeders for FREE over on the Smashwords website, which means you can download it for whatever e-reader you prefer including Kindle, Nook, tablet – heck, you can even get it in PDF format.

All you have to do is go to the Smashwords listing and enter the Coupon Code on checkout: SW100. And if you’re interested in seeing what other books are on sale right now, check out the full July Summer/Winter Sale (you know, depending on what end of the globe you’re on).

And if you like it, I sure would appreciate a short comment or a quick rating on their site or elsewhere.

Fair warning though that this story has been known to give “stressmares” if read before bedtime…

4 Stories in 26 Days

Everybody likes charts and graphs, right? Well I just finished with Camp NaNo today, a whole five days before the deadline even!

Camp-Winner-2015-Web-Banner

This NaNo win was brought to you by a heaping helping of Earl Grey, Green Tea, and Oreos. Er, probably too many oreos in fact.

 

For this month I decided to try to write four short stories in a month, at around 5,000 words per story, or roughly 5,000 words a week. For somebody who usually spends a lot more time to squeak out a story, this was a challenge. The theme: all weird horror tales. It was actually a ton of fun too.

CampNano_Chart

Here are the stats on each story, and a short blurb on what they were about.

Just Too Sweet

Basically all about the dangers of ordering weird stuff online, especially edible weird stuff. Ultimately I’m hoping to try this over at Weird Ales, but it’s going to need some cleaning up first. Here are the stats though (courtesy of Writer’s Trail which I believe is still in Beta).

CampNano_TooSweet_ChartIt was the first story I did, and I kept up a pretty good pace on it for the most part. At this point I was still very much on track!

Lonely Road

The premise I used here was: what if a woman gave you a baby and told you to keep it safe? Only you find out that it isn’t the woman’s baby, and in fact she stole it from someone else? Our poor college student protagonist is put into a very uncomfortable situation.

CampNano_LonelyRoad_Chart

I was able to keep a good pace during this piece too for the most part. As luck would have it, I was feeling pretty confident up to this point as well. Two stories down, two to go – what could possibly go wrong? Then story #3 came along…

Thirteen Crows

I knew I was going to have problems with this story to begin with. On an earlier post, I talked about the kind of research I needed to do when I was writing these stories, and this one was more difficult emotionally. I’m a bird-watcher and a geek about wildlife in general, so having to find out all the ways that people catch and control crows was a painful process. It certainly gave me new appreciation for the variety of birds that thrive in my backyard. Ironically the inspiration for this story came from the comments of a Cornell Lab article, which strives to educate bird lovers on things like feeder placement, bird house construction, etc. So you can imagine the uproar when someone described the best way to catch house sparrows and snap their necks…

Anyway, this inspired this difficult to write weird horror story, and send me down paths on the internet that I would normally avoid. Of course, they do say it’s good to try to get out of your comfort zone occasionally in your writing, so I feel like I succeeded there.

CampNano_Thirteen Crows_Chart

You see how little I eked out on those days? Three hundred here, only a measly hundred there… it was like the words just didn’t want to come!

My protagonist in this piece is a jerk, and it was so hard to write about him to begin with. I’m still not entirely pleased with how he’s turned out in places, and I’m certain I’ll need to do some heavy editing down the road, but at least it’s finished. You can certainly see the way it took off toward the end as the suspense mounted, but it was an uphill battle getting there.

The Mirror

Of all the stories that I wrote this month, this one I kind of considered my baby. I talked about what inspired back in my research post, but I’ve been bouncing ideas around on this tale for quite some time and it shows. Basically it’s about a teacher who loses a student in a mirror, and she has to get him back.

CampNano_TheMirror_Chart

I wrote this in a whopping two days. I still don’t quite know how I did it. I can’t tell you the last time I wrote almost 5,000 words in one day, but I was floored that I was able to do it on a short story. The weird world that this feeds from is based on a place in an in-progress novel, so I felt like I had a lot of it already worked out in my head. I felt like I had a good amount of background to work from on the complex antagonist of the tale, which made the words slide along. Plus describing the creatures in this piece were crazy fun. Either way, I’m stoked that this was the tale I got to end on. If I had Thirteen Birds as my final story, I doubt I would have NaNo completed so early.

 

Needless to say, a lot of these titles will be changed before publication, and a lot of the numbers will change, but I thought you all would enjoy seeing the awesome word production (or less-than-awesome) over the past few weeks. I’m not ready to start shipping stories around yet, but I’ve got high hopes for this set. Here’s hoping I still feel so good about them when I pull out my editing chainsaw. 😉

Creepy NaNo Research

Camp NaNo is off to a great start, even if I am a thousand words behind right now. This month I’m working on writing four short stories, all weird horror pieces. I wrote back in March about some story ideas that I had, but looking back on them, I haven’t used a single one. That said, all of these had a loose to detailed outline to go along with them. I’ll give their tentative titles below and a bit of research I had to do for each of them.

  • Just Too Sweet – Not much research had to be done here, cause I already had a good understanding of beer, Twitter, and apartment complexes. 😉
  • The Odd House – Now this one needed quite a bit of research. I needed to know the name of a particular Interstate, I-16, that runs from Macon, GA down to Savannah, GA. I’ve had to drive this a couple of times, and running over 80 miles long with hardly any exits or rest stops, it definitely feels long, especially if you already have a lot of asphalt behind you. I’ve never had to drive this stretch of road late at night by myself, but I would give anyone who did plenty of respect. With the endless trees on either side of the two-lane road, I imagine your mind could get to you.
    I-16_Map

    I-16

    Another fun aspect of this story was finding some fun inspiration. This one especially caught my eye and the mood of my story. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any ownership info on it though.

    Mothman_Wallpaper_yvt2

    Really, it just wants hugs.

  • The Thirteenth Crow – This one hasn’t been written quite yet. I’ll be starting on it tomorrow morning, and it was certainly one of the more difficult stories to research. Not that it was difficult to find information on this, but it was difficult for me personally as a bird-lover.

    Yep, that's a crow trap.

    Yep, that’s a crow trap.

  • The Masked King’s Dance – I’ll admit, this was completely inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s The Trap, which I heard about from the HP Podcraft podcast (which is freaking awesome if you haven’t heard). Admittedly it isn’t a very good story, but the premise just really got my creative juices flowing. So many of Lovecraft’s stories do though. 🙂

 

So there are my plans so far! I’ve got some catching up to do still, but I doubt I’m the only one. With a total monthly goal of 20k words, I think it’s completely do-able.