Monday, November 29, 2010

Just Read: I am not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

This is a book that picked me. Honestly.

I was wondering around Borders the other night, while waiting for a friend to be done with a job interview, and while milling around in the thriller section, I caught a book out of the corner of my eye.  When I read the title, I knew I was going to buy it, because frankly, in my mind, if it has serial killer it has to be good.  But I technically didn't judge the book by it's cover, because I did read the back and the first couple pages, and it seemed like it would be pretty cool, so I decided hell, I'll give it a try.

And to me, finding a new author to start reading is just about as good as sex.

I was immediately drawn into John Wayne Cleaver, the book's protagonist and I have to admit that I was very impressed about all the little compartments that Well's wove into the plot to make the character more appealing and frightening at the same time.  For instance, the child had an absent father, and lived with his mother who happened to run a mortuary, and to be blunt, the kid just couldn't get enough of dead bodies.  They put him at piece.  Then, take into consideration that the child was obsessed with serial killers, tortured animals at a young age, still wet the bed, and had a bad case of pyromania  --- well, we have the three main red flags are detecting a sociopath ladies and gentlemen! Plus Wells was careful to point out that our protagonist's name shared a striking resemblance to John Wayne Gacy, and that his last name is a renown murder weapon.  To me, it sounded like fate wanted John to be a serial killer, and it turned out...that's what John thought too.

I really like how John gave himself rules to follow so his rage and thoughts would never get out of control.  For instance, if he found himself staring at someone for too long, he would force himself to avoid that person for a week.  Same when it someone was picking on him or making him angry - he forced himself to give them a compliment so he wouldn't rip out their spleen; I liked the way his mind was like learning the boundaries in the mind of a killer. Very intriguing.  Plus add the fact that there was a serial killer prowling around his town, taking victims on a regular basis, and you know that John had to be in his glory.

Now I was sold on the plot from very early on in the novel, but when I figured out that there was a supernatural/ occult essence to the serial killer, I won't deny that I was greatly disappointed.  Where I wanted this book to go, and where Wells decided to take it were two completely different paths...yet while I didn't get the story I wanted, I still enjoyed reading his.  Plus, I got to learn a lot more about how the mind of a sociopath/killer worked, which is always interesting to one like myself.

Without giving away a lot of the book, there was one scene that I don't think I'll be ever to forget. At one point in the climax, John knows that he has to put someone in danger in order to lure in the killer, and as he is in the process of wounding the victim... he gets nervous because he can't stop.  He keeps fantasizing about their death, and the ways that he would do it, and to me, it really showed a stark contrast between the boy and the monster within; not that there were two personalities, but rather a buried side to him that he fought so hard to keep inside.  It was terribly frightening to see someone, especially a child, react to violence in that way.

Overall, I would say give it a shot. It's a good read.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Just Read: Snow- Part 2

Setting / Monster Analysis:

At first I wasn't sure if I was going to like the setting of the book, because it seemed to 30 Days of Night for me-- small town, covered in snow, lights go out, then the creature takes over.  But, I ended up liking the setting in the way that Malfi portrayed it, because he didn't just use the snow as the atmosphere but rather as the destructive force in the story (and not in a Storm of the Century way either)! He created his monster based off of the snow- using its characteristics to enhance its capabilities.  For instance, in horror, we normally look at a fog or a storm as a destructive force, but in this case, it's like Malfi combined them all into the snow, and allowed it to move swiftly and quietly into creaks and openings in the buildings.  Creepy!

BUT (yes there had to be one) I did think that the monster was kind of ...well, awkward.  I mean, I loved the fact that it would become solid enough to shove its blades into the shoulder blades of it's victims, using them as skin puppets (love that name!), but I feel like the monster was to all over the place for me. For instance, before you know it, the creatures turned their hosts into a type of zombie figure that went around feeding on flesh and blood.  In a way, I feel like it should have been one or the other, and I know that is squashing Malfi's creative process, but I found myself really confused a some points about what I was dealing with here. However, I really enjoyed that Malfi commented on the creature's attack on the children.  I felt like he was making a comment on how innocent a child's soul is, by not letting the creature take to their bodies.  They couldn't feed with them, but they did disfigure the bodies -- making them faceless, which I find particularly unsettling to be honest.

I wanted to comment on two other points, and then I'll feel satisfied with these blog entries.  I personally loved when Todd, Kate, Fred and Nan met Eddie on the side of the street in the beginning, looking for his little girl, Emily.  Right away, I sensed that something  was off about him, just because I'm used to the genre, but he did convince me otherwise when he started to panic a lot when the others wouldn't listen to him.  Yet, when he was in the car, and wasn't speaking... I was just waiting for him to gash out someone's throat and swallow their innards, ha.  I think this was my favorite part in the book, because I liked all the drama this one small character started.  He instantly created drama, suspicion, fear, curiosity, etc. and when he ran into the woods and Todd caught a glimpse of his little girl, I erupted into a wicked smile.  Plus, for Malfi to end the book the way it began... I was very happy.  It was like watching the conclusion of SAW all over again (which I realllyyy enjoyed!!!).

I already mentioned how I felt about Todd and Kate's relationship, and how I felt about Molly's decision to not off herself...Egh. But let's talk about the journey to the computer.  While I'm sure everyone is waiting for me to bitch about them discovering the technology loophole, I actually thought it was quite clever.  Why you ask?  Well, because of  all the complications they had in getting it of course! Todd thought something grabbed him while climbing across the pond, and almost had a near death experience, Brenden got his throat gashed out, Bruce got seriously chased by those horrific creatures, and the computer didn't start right away.  SO, that works for me.  Plus, I really liked the car diversion because it showed the dumb yet animalistic of the zombie (like thing).

Ok, ok, ok!! You finally wore me  down.  I liked the book.  But I'm 70/30 on the monster folks.  That's the best I can do!

Just Read: Snow -- Part 1

I read Snow a week ago, and I haven’t blogged on it until now because I was still thinking about whether I liked the book or not, and how I wanted to respond to it on here.  I still don’t have an answer to that dilemma, so frankly, I’m just going to talk and see what comes out.

I thought the book was written very well, and that Ronald Malfi did a great job of imagery, and exposing the terror that was happening throughout the book.  I know my heart was beating hard at some points, and that I went through some unique turns of emotions; one minute I would be happy, then next I was destroyed, and at one time, I put the book down and stopped reading it for a while because I was so pissed off.   Would I read it again?  Probably not, but I would certainly recommend it to others.

Character Analysis:

I really liked the way the book opened in the Prologue because it immediately lured me in and raised my suspicions about what was happening.  I remember reading it twice because I wanted to get as much information as I could before I jumped into the story, because I wanted to try to figure out what was going on before I actually read it.  But nonetheless, I quickly fell in love with Todd and Kate. Todd, because of his tortured past, love for his son, his sympathetic and sensitive qualities….Kate for her bad ass attitude, crazy red hair, and quick comebacks.  Oh, how I rejoiced when they kissed! But at the end I was a little disappointed that they didn’t end up together, but I think Malfi made a good choice by ending it with Brianna and Justin sitting of Todd’s bed with him because it brought the story around full circle.

Now I mentioned earlier that I threw the book down at one point, and that was when Shawna died.  Out of all of the characters, she was by far my favorite, and when those creatures killed her off, I was beyond pissed.  She survived so much – killing her boyfriend, the people she grew up with, surviving in that Pack N Go for a week by herself – and then to just happen to walk into a room where a bunch of them are, and to get eaten alive… (Ah Breathe) I was not happy.  I wanted her to be the Amazon Woman of the book and to survive till the end!  I guess Kate took that place, which I am totally fine with, but I think Shawna should have gotten a little more attention in the book.  In fact, it seemed like her goal in the novel was simply to get the other characters on their feet, tell them all of the knowledge about the town and its new occupants (what they are, how to kill them), and then give them a plan to survive…and then she was useless and had to be killed off.  So yeah, as a writer I get that, but as a reader I wanted her alive!

As for the other characters in the book, I was pretty impressed with them.  I really liked Fred and Nan, and while this may seem cruel, I thought that their deaths were amazing.  I liked that Malfi had Fred get attacked right in front of Nan, only to have her corpse thrown through a stained-glass window in the church later on in the novel.  Impressive.  I think that both of their deaths served as breaking points for a lot of the characters in the book, especially Shawna because she had to witness both of them- and even see how Nan broke down when she saw Fred getting attacked.

Then towards the end, we got introduced to Molly and the kids (Cody and Charlie).   I hated Molly right from the start because of her attitude, and how selfish she was.  She didn’t care about anyone else except herself (and her baby) and Brendon, and could care less if everyone else died.  In fact, her blatant disregard for Cody and Charlie frustrated me more than anything because she would just let them wonder off throughout the station, not caring what happened to them, let alone having any concern for what they might do to put the rest of the group in danger, accidental or not.  Maybe because of my intense dislike for her, but I was happy to see that she was the one to have a breakdown in the end, and shoot Todd.  I kind of thought that she was going to turn the gun around and shoot herself, and was a little confused about why she didn’t in the end.  After all, like she said, she didn’t have anyone else, and I for one, couldn’t imagine going through a traumatic event like that by myself.  But that was Malfi’s decision, not mine.

Then the kids.  I felt so BAD for them throughout the entire book, and when Kate went to find them at the end of the novel, only to find them faceless like the rest of the monsters out there, my heart broke into a million pieces.  It was a great writing choice on Malfi’s  behalf, but I’ll admit that my heart plummeted a little on that one. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Boy Dressed as Daphne -- Oh the Horror!

A five year old is gay.  Seriously people?
Read this blog entry and watch this video

Seriously who would make fun of a kid in a Halloween costume??

This video really affected me on a couple of different levels not because of the topic, but because that the entire conflict revolves around a 5 year old boy.  I am a firm believer that people have a right to choose every aspect of their life without consequences, and to this day, I simply cannot understand why there is a problem with homosexuality.  People act as if it is a disease, or a malfunction, when all these people are doing is simply being who they are.  That is why I wear a bracelet ever day that says Erase the Hate, and it kills me to see that people are acting out against this five year old boy, when all he wanted to do was be Daphne for Halloween...because let’s be honest… if a little girl dressed up as Elvis, would she be getting the same treatment.  Probably not.  Everyone is so quick to jump to conclusions about men being gay, and the fact that there is such a double standard for women kills me; I seriously just can’t wrap my head around the fact that there were mothers seriously complaining about  this kid’s costume.  People! The kid is five and he loves Daphne from Scooby Doo.  I mean, Shaggy is  my favorite, so if I dress up as him for Halloween does that automatically make me gay?  I think the real problem in the scenario is that the mother is supporting her son, and the other parents think that she is encouraging him to be gay. 

I personally loved that Sarah titled her blog “My Son is Gay” only to finish that fragment with or he’s not. I don’t care. He is still my son. And he is 5. And I am his mother. And if you have a problem with anything mentioned above, I don’t want to know you. In this case, that phrase represents to me the entire issue at hand here: people are people no matter what their race, color, sexuality, etc. and that it doesn’t change anything about them or how they should be treated.  Plus, I want to reiterate that the child is five. Chances are he probably hasn’t made any type of advance to his sexual identity, and to put a child through this trauma isn’t necessary.  Plus, the horrific part about the situation is that at five years old, the child knew he had something to worry about; that people were going to judge him for his choice. Frankly that disgusts me, especially because when girls dress in boy’s clothing nothing is seen wrong in that.  Like Sarah said, if her daughter dressed up as Batman, no one would have said a thing.  Hello double standard!  I mean, I have played sports since I have been five, and half my wardrobe is boys clothing from Nike to Adidas, to Hanes shirts that I feel are just more comfortable to be in and to work out in.  Does that make me gay?  No?  Then why is it different for boys?

Oh, and as a senior in college, I would like to say that I have seen more straight boys dress up like girls for Halloween than gay guys dressing up like Lady Gaga.  So what about that?

Overall, the suicide rate for individuals that suffer homophobic abuse is sky rocketing, and whether Sara’s boy grows up to accept being straight or gay, he is always going to look back on this and see what both he and his family had to go through just because of what he wanted to dress up as for Halloween.  Also, I do appreciate the pun that Sarah has included on her blog regarding the connation and denotation for the word gay. I like that she calls attention to the fact that it the word also means happy, and that there is no denying that her son is happy in the picture that has traveled the web to millions of viewers.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Finished: Writers Workshop of Horror

I will wholeheartedly admit that I loved this book, and that it is probably going to be my horror writing bible that sits next to my bed from now on. Maybe it's still because I'm studying literature/genre or because I'm an undergrad, but I feel that I learned so much from this book about writing in general, even if we take a step back from the horror scene.  I think the most valuable lesson that I learned was how to understand my characters better, and for that I owe Gary A Braunbeck, because I'll be forever more thinking about how much milk my characters put in their cereal in the morning.. or heck whether or not they are a bagel person.  
Something else that I struggle with is dialogue, and this book really helped me concentrate on when enough is enough, and when I need more.  I got a better chance to learn about POV from people that have become masters on it, and I feel that it has really helped me in my writing a lot, this semester alone.  In fact, I found myself reading certain chapters several times and underlining parts that inspired me, and let me know that I'm not the only one that struggles with this stuff. 
I wish I could say that Maberry's chapter helped me with writing fight scenes, and while it did, I'll admit to still sucking and needing practice, but at the same time, I think after reading his chapter and then reading the Wolfman helped to put things into perspective for me. I'll also be checking out Patient Zero and Rot and Ruin for further reading/researching purposes. However, Jeff Strand's chapter on adding humor to your horror was fantastic and was my AHA! moment in my writing, to be honest.  Sometimes I find myself getting so lost in the dark world that I forget to shed some light for my readers so that don't get too stuck and quit coming back.
I loved the interviews at the end of the book, and after reading Clive Barker's I realize why I feel in love with him in the first place.  His entire interview was so inspirational to me, and I love that he is someone that is literally married to his trade.  He does it as expression and he does it for his self just as much as he does it for his readers.  I also think that it is a bold choice that he doesn't want to collaborate with someone because that would take away the fun for him.  I personally respect that a lot.  
These two quotes stuck with me:
  1. "II have no interest in being present, in interveing between you and the work.  My job is to be as invisible as possible.  My job is to say, 'Hey, I wrote this book and I'm on the cover, bye bye!' 
  2. "So you can't please all the people all the time.  All you can do is what pleases you, and hope that it pleases other people.  I love my readers and I respect my readers, but I'm not going to simplify or echo myself, copy myself, just so the sales will be better."
The above is really important to me because I think it speaks about me as a writer as well.  I, like Barker (primarily because he is a HUGE influence to me) use a lot of sexuality in my horror, and it really bothers some people, i.e. my parents, and at times I can still recall my dad asking me to please take something out because it was going to make people look at me differently.  Fact of the matter is... is that that my name is on the cover and that's it.  I'm not the character and its not my voice your hearing.  I'm not going to simplify my story because there is a chance that it might offend someone because then that's when disbelief comes in and no one will longer believe my work because it is uncharacteristic of me.  Once again, why I love Clive Barker and why he is the master of horror in my eyes (well, if we're not including Poe)!
And something that he wrote really helped me out, because like most of you I'm sure, I'm an avid reader.  I have a book on me 24/7 and if I'm not writing my head is def. in a book.  A lot of people criticize me for this, and say that I spend too much time reading when I should be writing, and for a while I thought that they might be right.  Barker, amongst other writers in this book, say that in order to write, you need to read the masters and you need to read your genre.  So if anything, I need to read more in order to understand how to ha, turns out I've been on the right track after all!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reading: Writers Workshop of Horror

Chapter 19: Michael Knost

The Aha! Moment is without a doubt the best feeling in the world.
I have been writing since I have been 8 years old, and I have tons of poorly written stories saved in a trunk at home, just to make me laugh when I get frustrated.  But it wasn't until I hit high school that  I became a writer...of journalism. If I had a bag right now, I would puke in it.

I'm not in any way shape or form dissing journalism, because funny enough, I still write it.  It was just that I was doing it because people said I was good at it, so I figured what the hell.  I wrote because that was what people expected from me, and sure I ranked up a ton of publications from newspapers and magazines, but I hated what I was doing.  And when I say hated... I mean hated. 

So then I came to college and got serious. I piled up so many rejection letters that it seriously broke my spirit... but I printed them all out, and let me tell you...when  I received my first acceptance letter, it was a feeling like no other.  Now don't get me wrong, I hate getting rejected, but I think I've gotten better at it.  Now it's more of a *sigh* and send out to another market feeling, than a *Oh, I clearly suck* feeling. 

Now in this chapter, Knost gives us a variety of examples of people having their AHA! Moments, so now I want to give you mine:

My first semester here at Seton Hill University, my professor, Dr.  Jerz, told me something that I will never forget: Murder your Darlings.    In other words, not every thing you write is gold, so get ready to chop it up.  Dear  lord, I was terrified.  And then I started submitting to horror magazines, haha.  There was one specific poem that I loved, and no matter what it would not get accepted clearly, I was a little flustered.  After numerous rejection letters, I sat down at took another look at it, and simply took the idea, and a couple of my favorite metaphors, and just re-wrote the damn thing.  I slaughtered bad similes and stabbed crappy sentences, and after I murdered got accepted.  Thank you Blood Moon Rising Magazine, and thank you Dr. Jerz.

So now, needless to say, I like to write my poetry, read it out loud, and then let it sit for a little bit before I return to it and give it another go.  Don't get me wrong, it's still very hard to take off the writer's cap and replace it with an editor's one...but it's worth it in the end to see that different hats still look good on you.