Genre & Character

 

Cradle medium

I’ve dabbled in many genres: erotica, drama, science fiction, fantasy, and my one-true passion – horror. I find I enjoy the writing process most when I blur the lines of genre, mix them up, and give a new bloody heart to them. Over the years it took to write The Angels of Autumn, I found a kind of giddy elation in twisting elements, weaving a story of murder, revenge, small town bigotries, and horror with a budding gay romance. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but Sirens Call Publications saw the potential and published it. I remain very grateful. The slow yet steady responses from readers have been very encouraging. People definitely seem to be getting it and understanding my perspective as a writer.

I love to write hardcore horror stories inspired by the foreign genre movies of the late seventies and eighties, but with contemporary themes. My protagonists tend to be LGBT. I’ve gotten great feedback for a transgendered character I created that wasn’t hindered by any stereotypical trope. She was emotionally complicated, brimming with confidence one moment and then uncomfortable the next, independent and commanding but tempted endlessly by the false boost of alcohol. She was profoundly feminine, yet sexually forceful. She was a vivid and complex character.

I wanted Radley in Cradle to be similarly drawn, not a stereotype, but a broken soul plunged into the depths of darkness by the loss of his partner. There is beauty in melancholy, and an intimate intricacy in the horror of it. I expose Radley in all his flawed glory and detail his misery with unflinching honesty. His story is not just about his emotional turmoil, but also about the gruesome fiend that haunts his house, one spoken of in whispers around town. And then there is Scotty, another broken soul but one twisted by abuse and neglect. He’s fascinated by the legendary ghoul in Radley’s house, a fascination that haunts him as much as the phantom haunts Radley. The two worlds will converge in shocking ways.

I strive to be different, and Cradle is definitely an unusual creation I’m very proud of. It doesn’t play by any rules and is unapologetic in its depictions of horror, sadness, and familial disregard. I pull no punches. I hope people will love the tragic beauty of it and appreciate the disturbing nature of it. I can’t wait to hear what readers think.

****

The Angels of Autumn and Cradle are both available on Amazon!

 

Signature Images

 

Cradle medium

I’m all about what I call Signature Images.

Provoking the imaginations of readers, inciting them to imagine in glorious detail the scenes on the written page, is the sacred duty of the writer. I take it very seriously. Not only should we intimately portray the thoughts and emotions of the characters, but we should construct their circumstances vividly, essentially granting the wish of the reader and provide for them a fantastical escape from the mundane world. This is certainly what I look for in authors, dream weavers who can whisk me away into their wonderful worlds.

Whenever I write, I dwell on the visual aspect. Sometimes I’ll spend hours on a single paragraph, days on getting passages just right. The words must be a conjuring, a spell cast over the reader to invoke the images contained there on the page. There must be literary equivalents of grandiose set pieces in movies. And I must surprise myself in order to surprise a reader.

It took several years to write my novel The Angels of Autumn. It had to be perfect. I had to get everything just right. From fanciful hallucinatory sequences to nightmarish monsters expressed in graphic detail, I wanted to give myself the chills as I wrote them. When I did, I knew the scenes would do their job. I remember clearly seeing those moments in my imagination, brought to extraordinary life in a small Pennsylvania town.

Cradle had to have signature images as well, the bizarre first encounter, the evil phantom in Radley’s house, psychic visions of crooked creatures in the snow, and the lurid charm of the forest. It’s a decidedly adult fairy tale, extremely grim and intensely emotional. What would a young man do when plunged into the worst possible relationship scenario? Would not the very nature of it force him to retreat into the shadows carving out an existence born of heartache? I imagined the darkest possible side of promises undone and presented it with some delightfully lurid signature images to the brave and curious reader.

****

Both The Angels of Autumn and Cradle are available on Amazon!

Creating a Unique Pseudo-Sequel

When I wrote The Angels of Autumn it was a purge of sorts. I’d dragged my partner and son with me across the country, leaving behind a plethora of friends and people that had become family in a major metropolitan area to an incredibly small backwoods town. I did this under the delusion of family loyalty. I wanted my son to grow up with cousins, an aunt, an uncle, a grandmother. I’d forgotten they weren’t much of a “family,” not in the true sense of the term. They were glorified strangers, and treated us as such. Their lies, bigotries, and disregard grew exponentially into something quite unforgivable… death itself. I’d also forgotten just what kind of place my “hometown” was, and it wasn’t a healthy place for a gay couple with a child to be… to say the least. Moving there was the mistake of a lifetime. Angels was my own personal exorcism.

Angels had very distinctive themes, not the least of which was bigotry, homophobic bigotry specifically. The reality of what my partner, son, and I faced in that small town became the seething undercurrent of my novel, albeit in a more fantastical way. Because it was such a personal journey writing Angels, a particularly vivid world, so much of myself woven within its characters and the darkness they become entangled in, it is my favorite creation. I knew I wanted to revisit the shadowed world of it, but not in any traditional sense. There were other demons to confront, explore, and purge on the printed page.

I’m a huge fan of sequels, I prefer them over remakes, but they have an unfortunate tendency to be unnecessary rehashes of the original storyline. I didn’t want to find myself snared in any kind of formulaic trap. I kept the themes of Angels in all their heartbreaking, disquieting glory, it is a horror story rooted in sublime human tragedy after all. As my beautifully broken Kincaid was the star of the first trip to the cursed Wren Township, he would usher in another equally beautiful and equally broken soul into the otherworldly realms of that terrible small backwater county where monsters hide behind human faces.

The sinister antagonist of Cradle is a fiendish mirror to the monsters of Angels, though arguably far more disturbing in its cruel nature. Not an identical twin, but a sibling from the same abyss roused to torment my newest characters, Radley and Scotty. Their journey into the shadowy world of Wren County is as disturbing as Kincaid’s, but not indistinguishable. I explored other themes as well: isolation, child abuse, and neglect, to craft a horror story beyond the envelope of what many might perceive the genre to be neatly tucked into. There’s nothing neat or tidy about Cradle, it’s fearless in its depiction of distressing deterioration inside and out. The Cradle is a kind of Hell on Earth where even the innocent suffer.

****

Cradle is available now from Amazon.

Honoring, Yet Defying Genre Standards

I don’t just write horror, I am an unapologetic and rabid fan of the genre! From Stephen King to Dario Argento, from Linnea Quigley to Jamie Lee Curtis, and from Dr. Orloff to Freddy Krueger I have a burning affinity for it all, a love which I am told is often very evident in my writing. I know the genre inside and out, a scholar of sorts as familiar with the psychological archetypes that make up the horror pantheon as I am the writers and directors creating them, the characters representing them, and the actors portraying them. I love everything about horror, frankly I always have, and I love being a genre writer.

Everyone knows the dominate three archetypes of the genre, the virgin, the doomsayer, and the fiend. I get a thrill from honoring yet defying these genre standards.

In Cradle you’ll find my deeply flawed, but no less heroic, protagonist from Angels, Kincaid, in a supportive role. He’s best friends with the new male lead, Radley, and becomes the genre’s archetype of the “doomsayer” as presented by me, of course. He’s not old, eccentrically weird, or unkempt in some way… homeless, impecunious, or crazy. Yet one might argue he fits those descriptions in charmingly idiosyncratic ways.

Just as in Angels, Kincaid represented the “virgin” and yet was actually the antithesis of that stereotype—not female and not actually virginal, Radley is the defiant protagonist in Cradle, again not female and not virginal. His journey into the darkness is ushered in the wake of Kincaid’s dire warnings which Radley has failed to heed. If only he’d listened to the forewarning, chose to follow his friend’s advise and not ventured to that damnable small town or taken up residence in the cursed abode known as Habersham House… if only. If. Only.

The horror he encounters, that monster that goes bump in the night in the shadowed rooms of Habersham House, stalking his prey, once again defies the archetype of the genre’s “bad guy” while representing it perfectly. The demonic presence preys on innocence, even warping it in a disquieting conclusion that disobeys our often far-too coveted modern horror statutes. Sweet and twisted the journey. Put your thumbs out and hitch a ride with Radley to the deepest, darkest vales of Crepuscule’s Cradle and spend the night at Habersham House!

I like to distort the classic prototypes and make them my own, both preserving the traditional horror pantheon and skewing it in my favor. In Cradle, I’ve done just that.

Review: Heartshot

 

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Heartshot

Quantumcat Animation

Sleepy Creek Films

4 Stars

 

Thomas Nicol directs a unique script he co-wrote with Joseph Taylor, based on a story by Mike Byers. It took the prize for Best Short at the 2013 Portland H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. This dystopian-set narrative of a drug addict’s endeavors to procure his choice narcotic is a gruesome treat, and more than worthy of its accolades. Some clumsy dialogue aside, it’s well written, competently directed, and features pretty decent acting. For this level of filmmaking the special effects are impressive, particularly the unicorns.

Clocking in at thirty-three minutes, Heartshot is a mean-spirited story, I won’t lie about that. The exact details of which I won’t spoil here, but suffice it to say it delivers a gut punch when you realize what this guy is using to bait the mythological beasts. Isn’t that what horror is all about, horrifying? Thomas Nicol has delivered

There are artifacts, ghosting, and excess noise throughout the presentation, whether they are a result of the digital filming or the disc formatting, I’m not sure, but they are distracting. These flaws, however, are not so off-putting that you won’t enjoy the movie. I highly recommend it.

I believe the DVD-R is now out of print, but the film is available on VIMEO for three bucks. The disc contains commentary tracks from the cast, crew, and writer, featurettes about the digital and practical effects, and a bonus short titled “A Bear in the Woods,” which is just plain quirky, but in a good way.

REVIEW: The Challenge From Beyond 2014

 

The Challenge Grand Traviso 4From Beyond 2014

CreepyCult, Arkham Bazaar

Various Authors

½ Star

In 1935, H.P. Lovecraft, C.L. Moore, A Merritt, Robert E. Howard, and Frank Belknap Long participated in a round robin project known as “The Challenge from Beyond.” In 2014 an online fundraiser for the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon brought together a host of indie authors to do the same thing, attempting to honor Lovecraft with a story inspired by his mesmerizing universe. The resulting tale was released in a limited edition hardcover. Most of the copies went to financial contributors, but a few remain for the curious consumer and fanatical Lovecraft completist on the Arkham Bazaar website. Eight authors supplied the story. Mike Dubisch, Allen K., and Nick Gucker provided the fun, often fascinating, artwork for the CreepyCult release.

The authors were not credited individually by chapter so it’s unknown exactly who wrote what. The story begins commendably enough, though distinctly in the realm of children’s fare, call it Lovecraft for the Scholastic set, but quickly devolves into distasteful, decidedly adult (though immature and often misogynistic) ridiculousness. It’s so absurd, in fact, that subsequent writers even mention in their prose how stupid some of the previous chapters are. It’s disappointing that a few of the authors did not take the project seriously. Frankly, they should have been dumped in the editing process regardless of who they are or what their accomplishments had been up to the point of this venture. The apathetic approach of those few bad apples is an unforgivable insult to Lovecraft’s legacy, not to mention an affront to the enthusiasm and aptitude the other participants put into the project.

I cannot recommend “The Challenge From Beyond 2014” to anyone other than completists who want an added conversation piece to their collections, however brief and in absolute agreement with my assessment those discussions may be.

Review: White Zombie (2014)

 

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White Zombie (2014)

Rag N Bone Productions

Reviewed by Joshua Skye

3 ½ stars

 

The original film, White Zombie, is a nostalgic piece of vintage horror starring the eternally popular Bela Lugosi. It is often cited as the first zombie movie. It tells the eerie tale of a young woman’s transformation into one of the undead. It was a financial success, but a critical flop. Reception was not good upon its initial release, but time has softened opinion and it has become a cult classic. There was a sequel called Revolt of the Zombies. Both films are in the public domain and regularly available in large volume value packs from budget distributors, the quality of the print usually quite poor. Official, clean versions are also available. There have been a couple of remakes in the last few years, but Rag N Bone Productions version stands out among them. It’s a re-imagining with a specific goal, to surpass the source material while flourishing it with an intriguing steampunk aesthetic.

Written by Susan Sheppard and directed by Arthur Leo Collins, this 2014 production has been expanded to twice the length of the original film, some might say dragged kicking and screaming to two hours long. The story is basically the same, jealously and desire put a young bride in a tomb and, through voodoo rites, and no small amounts of alcohol and superstition, transforms her into a White Zombie. All is not quite as it seems here, however, and her bereaving groom seeks to rectify what has been wronged. Sheppard’s script is quite good for the most part, but occasionally bogged down by some truly cringe-inducing dialogue. A few twists keep the plot engaging, and though this is an altogether family friendly affair, low on violence and bereft of bloody gore, some allusions to necrophilia and other grotesqueries might just hold the interest of those who like their horror tinted with sexual depravity.

The steampunk embellishments are unfortunately more subtle than I would have liked and they will certainly disappoint hardcore fans of that sub-genre, but they do enhance director Arthur Leo Collins’ gothic intentions. He makes great use of costumes and sets, filming them with an expert eye. Scenes are perfectly balanced and very pleasing to behold when one can look beyond the obvious restraints of the low-budget and the choice to film with digital equipment. The limitations of the medium are most noticeable during scenes involving motion, especially fast movements. For example, the opening carriage ride in the dark has some issues, and there are conspicuous artifacts during some vividly lit scenes that distort faces. It can be distracting to some viewers. Whereas it seems the filmmakers took their time creating the first 70 to 90 minutes of the movie, the final act appears rushed.

The acting is, as they say, strictly on the level of community theatre. Some performers are better than others, but for the most part line readings are bland and almost comically clichéd, particularly sinister laughter. A couple of the actors are about as charismatic as cardboard, to be brutally honest. As with many horror films, such weaknesses can be easily overlooked when the movie has an unusually inventive plot, a really cool monster, or some unexpectedly freakish elements, White Zombie has none of those. What it does have is an obvious adoration of the material on the part of the filmmakers. There is no doubt this was a labor of love.

For me, the movie’s ultimate redemption, what makes it transcend all of its shortcomings, lies in the voodoo-like spell it weaves. It’s dark, moody, bathed in shadow. Wallowing in its gothic adornments, the movie perfectly reverences its vintage source material but adds elements from other, more modern, cult classics that elevate it. I could not help but be reminded of Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural, Arthur Leo Collins seeming to channel the creator of that film throughout. So too are there moments that bring to mind Suspiria, especially lighting choices early on. Bizarre and fantastical, the surreal quality lulls the open and willing viewer into a kind of trance, pulling them into the goings-on as one would be hypnotized by a fever dream. I love just such movies, the most famous of which is Phantasm.

This re-imagining of White Zombie is, through all its faults, pretty damn good. It won’t win over most horror fans, especially those only interested in blood, guts, gore, and overt sexuality. This is a homage to old school gothic cinema that might just rise above the genre as it reaches out, however inadvertently, to a more diverse fan base. You don’t have to be a horror junkie to like this movie, nor do you have to be a snobby cinemaphile. You simply have to be someone who recognizes the love, ambition, and behind the camera talent involved in the process here. It’s certainly flawed, but it is something that everyone involved with it can be proud of.