Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Loyalty (or Favorite Things Continued)


     As I mentioned yesterday, the subject of ‘favorites’ often overwhelms me, particularly when it pertains to books or movies.  I relate so deeply and personally to creative works, such as books, movies, or music that they become a part of me.  It almost feels like betraying a friend: choosing one to be elevated to the highest pedestal while lording it over the rest.  Since others are often fascinated by my choice of favorites, I am obligated to comply with social convention.  
     Last night, I tried to break books down by genre to reach my overall favorite.  I am not going to put any of us through that today.  Loyalty plays a big part in my choice for favorite movie.  Growing up, my family didn’t have lots of money.  I was ten years old when we finally got cable.  With only a handful of local channels, believe me, I looked forward to special feature movies.  I remember seeing The Wizard of Oz for the first time when I was about four years old.  I did not move from my seat for the entire two hours, not even during commercials.  These days, you can turn on TBS and watch The Wizard of Oz almost every week but back then; I had to wait for almost a year to see it again.  It became a ritual, every year around Easter.  I would plant myself in front of the television to be submerged in a magical land of talking creatures, wicked witches, and singing munchkins.  To this day, I will stop everything if it’s on…even though I own the limited edition, 70th anniversary collector’s box set on blu-ray.  Any movie, that can captivate a person for decades, deserves to be “the favorite”.  A true classic is timeless and, without a doubt, The Wizard of Oz is a classic.  It has something for everyone: fantasy, music, creepy flying monkeys, cursed shoes, opium fields and the mythical horse of another color.  The opening dedication says it all; a movie for “the young, and the young at heart”.  Go ahead, pop in the DVD and sleep well! 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Taking a Stand or My Favorite Things Continued


     Asking me to pick my favorite book is like asking a grandmother to pick her favorite grandchild.  It isn’t right.  I think of books as dear friends.  I never get tired of them and, as the years go by, our bond grows stronger.  Unlike people, my books are available day or night.  I don’t have to call first or schedule an appointment.  Now, thanks to Amazon, I can even order something new and it is loaded to my Kindle within seconds.  Speaking of my Kindle, the old, “if you were stranded on an island and could only have one book”, scenario is null and void.  I never travel without my Kindle.  Granted, if there was no electricity on this mysterious “island”, I’d be in a pickle when the battery died but until then, it would be heaven.  Still keeping with the island scenario, if I didn’t have a Kindle, I’d still try to cheat.  I’d find a compendium; jam packed with as many of my favorites as possible. 
     Still, the question was asked so I guess I need to narrow it down.  Maybe it will be easier to choose from a category, or perhaps a genre, rather than one overall winner.  For example, my favorite Dr. Seuss book is Oh, the Places You’ll Go!  My favorite Shakespeare play is Macbeth.  My favorite MG is The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.   
     Well, now I’ve done it.  I only got to middle grade and I’m already feeling guilty for leaving out some of my friends.  I guess categorizing doesn’t actually make it any easier.  It reminds me of that potato chip commercial, “Bet you can’t eat just one”.  Well, for me it would be, “bet you can’t choose just one”. 
     Okay, perhaps I need a new scenario.  If someone had a gun to my head and made me pick just one book to read for the rest of my life, I suppose I would choose, The Stand.  If you’ve been following my blog, you are well aware of my obsession with Stephen King, but this goes beyond simple fandom.  The Stand encompasses everything I love in a great book.  The characters are multi-dimensional and relatable.  The story keeps you on the edge of your seat while engaging all of your senses.  I can literally smell the decaying bodies as Larry blindly fumbles his way through the tunnel.  My body aches right along with Nick after he’s been beaten by those drunken rednecks.  Can’t you just taste Mother Abigail’s fried chicken with a side of sweet, corn on the cob and her homemade pies? 
     I love the way King depicts the battle between good and evil, both on a grand scale and on a personal level.  Each character must come to terms with the conflict waging within their own hearts, to choose their path for better or worse.  Some are deceived, some find love, and others are lost, but I can identify with their anguish and rejoice in the their triumphs.  I can see both my best friend and my worst enemy on his pages.  I’ve read The Stand so many times, I’ve lost count, but I find something new every time I open its well-worn cover.   In fact, I think it is time to bid you all goodnight so I can read it again.  Sleep well!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Comic Books vs Graphic Novels (or Favorite things part 2)


     I learned the difference between comic books and graphic novels the hard way.  In my youth, I accidentally called a graphic novel a comic book, in the presence of a devoted fan.  Big mistake!  I was subjected to a long and lengthy lecture and I hadn’t even signed up for the class.  His impassioned response made such an impact on me that I even found a way to pay homage to it in my first book. 
     I have no intention of writing a dissertation but it never hurts to pass on a few quick pointers.  First, graphic novels are issued a 13-digit International Standard Book number (ISBN) while comic books are given an (ISSN) International Standard Serial Number, which has only eight digits.  Other key factors have to do with length, completion of the storyline, and format. 
     You may be wondering why I we’re discussing this since I have not written either one.  Aside from the fact that both are exciting mediums, I was asked to discuss my favorite comics.  To effectively answer the question, I wanted to validate the difference between the two genres. 
     As far as true comic books, I have always been a Batman fan.  For that matter, I love all things Batman: movies, graphic novels, and pretty much anything else I can get my grubby little hands on.  I am particularly fond of my Batman flashlight that projects the Bat Signal, but I digress.  
     Graphic novels, on the other hand, make it harder to pick just one.  As I already mentioned there are Batman graphic novels, such as The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller.  Honestly, Frank Miller is amazing and I greatly admire his works.  So, we could also throw in Sin City and 300.  Let’s not forget The Walking Dead, which has brought a new level of respect to the genre.  However, if I had to pick just one, it would definitely be Watchmen.  It has everything: fully developed characters, social commentary, and plot twists galore.  It’s definitely a must-read for all fans of the genre. 
     On a side note, if you’re a little obsessive-compulsive, (like me) now that you know about ISBN and ISSN numbers, you’ll find yourself fact-checking every article you read about comic books and/or graphic novels.  Just an FYI, there’s a few boo-boo’s on Wikipedia but don’t let that keep you awake into the wee hours.  Sleep well.  

A Few of My Favorite Things, Part 1


     The things we like, say a lot about who we are.  A few days ago, a Facebook follower requested that I answer some questions about my favorite things.  They asked for a review of my favorite books, movies, video games, and comic books.  I always try to accommodate requests from followers so it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me, for the next few days.  Okay, here we go!  
     I think I’m going to tackle video games tonight.  To be completely honest, I am not a huge gamer because, visually, I have difficulty playing.  However, there are some games that have such great storylines that I’ve taken to reading the books instead.  A perfect example is “Gears of War”.  Not only is Karen Traviss an excellent writer, the game developers created a compelling story with well-defined, fully dimensional characters.  Even if you’ve never played the games, the books are well worth a read.  Coincidentally, Karen Traviss has also written books for the Halo series.  From that I’ve seen, the Halo games are not quite as solid as the books.  In this case, I would definitely choose the book over the video game because both Karen Traviss and Eric Nylund have written compelling stories in Halo’s universe. 
     I’ve danced around the question for a while but, truthfully, if I have to pick one video game then I’m going old school.  For me, nothing beats the original Super Mario Brothers games.  In video games, like books, the classics are timeless. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Helter Skelter


 

   My strange fascination with Charles Manson started when I was just a kid.  I was around eleven years old and I was spending the night at a friend’s house.  We were camped out in the basement with sleeping bags, horror movies, and plenty of junk food.  It was great…until my friend fell asleep. 
     Since I wasn’t tired, naturally, I perused the bookshelves.  My friend’s parents had a small library downstairs but most of the titles were unfamiliar to me.  Apparently, Mrs. D. had a fascination with romance novels (definitely not my thing) and Mr. D. was a fan of biographies.  Then, I noticed a title that piqued my curiosity.  Helter Skelter.  Okay, I was just a kid so I thought it was about The Beatles.  Lucky me, it was even better!  
     Charles Manson was incarcerated long before I was born but his infamy will live on, long after I am worm food.  As I mentioned yesterday, even experts assert that Manson is in a category all by himself.  He had early forays into petty crimes but believed he had a bigger calling, to prepare the world for the upcoming race wars.  A master manipulator, Charles Manson cultivated a following of approximately 100 disciples, or “Family” members.  In an effort to shock the world from complacency and the 60’s love-fest mentality, Manson organized a series of gruesome murders.  The Tate and LaBianca murders were the most publicized but Manson has been implicated in the deaths of at least 35 people. 
     The fawning adoration by his family fueled Manson’s megalomania, but during his trial, he flourished under the media spotlight.  With a captive audience, his antics in the courtroom were front-page news.  An ill-conceived approval allowing Manson to represent himself resulted in outlandish objections, rambling tirades, and an overall disruption in the courtroom.  The judge quickly overturned the ruling and Manson was assigned an attorney.  Later, in an effort to force a mistrial, Manson waited until the attorneys had their backs turned then held up the front page of the newspaper.  The headline stated that the President believed Manson to be guilty.  Between the shaved-head family members outside the courthouse, trying to raise money, and Charlie’s self-mutilation there was plenty of fodder for the media.  Eventually, the X he had carved between his eyes morphed into a swastika and again his picture made front pages nationwide. 
     When the guilty verdict was finally read, Charles Manson had his say: "Mr. and Mrs. America--you are wrong.  I am not the King of the Jews nor am I a hippie cult leader.  I am what you have made me and the mad dog devil killer fiend leper is a reflection of your society... Whatever the outcome of this madness that you call a fair trial or Christian justice, you can know this: In my mind's eye my thoughts light fires in your cities.”  Though originally sentenced to death, his sentence was commuted to life in prison.  Since then, every single one of his appeals for parole has been denied. 
     And now for an odd pieces Manson Trial of trivia….  There were two judges that presided over the Manson trial.  One was dismissed after Manson filed an affidavit of prejudice.  That first judge, Judge William Keene, after retiring from the California Supreme Court, later presided over TV’s “Divorce Court” from 1984-1991.  
     Until tomorrow, sleep well.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Serial Killers and Mass Murderer, Part 5.


     As promised, we are finally moving on to Mass Murderers.  Many people confuse the terms serial killer and mass murderer.  To put it in the simplest terms, a serial killer kills over a long period of time.  Usually, there is a “cooling off” period in between the murders.  Mass murderers kill several people in one single event.  The common consensus is four or more victims at one time.  Often, it is the “massacre” that gains the media’s attention as opposed to the individual committing the murder.  For example, let’s look at the “Corvina Massacre” and “Luby’s Massacre”. 
     Bruce Jeffery Pardo opened fire killing nine people, on Christmas Eve, while wearing a Santa suit.   Unsuspecting residents of Covina, California, were celebrating at a Christmas Eve party when Pardo knocked on the door.  His former in-laws had approximately twenty-five guests at their home when “Santa” arrived, gifts in hand.  He had gift-wrapped a homemade flamethrower and also carried 9mm handguns.  After the shootings, he set the home on fire. 
     George Pierre Hennard, also called “Jo Jo”, drove his pickup truck through the front window of Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas while shouting, “This is what Bell County did to me”.  One inside the building, he targeted, primarily female patrons and employees, with a Glock 17 pistol and a Ruger P89.  He killed twenty-three and wounded another 20.
     Another interesting fact about the term mass murderer is that it often refers to political  and/or government officials.  Possibly the most prolific mass murderer, ever, was Adolph Hitler. Responsible for the death of millions of people, the painter/poet/vegetarian made it his life’s mission to rid the world of Jews.  His reign of torture and death was so vile and monstrous, I can barely conceive of horrors he ordered in the name of ethnic cleansing.  If you haven’t already seen it, Schindler’s List will give you a taste of the world under Hitler’s regime. 
     So, we’ve talked about serial killers and mass murderers but tomorrow we will delve into an evil unlike anything else.  Many experts believe he was neither serial killer nor mass murderer but a unique class all by himself….Charles Manson.  Until then, sleep well.      

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Serial Killers and Mass Murderers, Part 4


     For today’s Serial Killers and Mass Murderers entry, I’m taking a break from profiling the actual killers to talk about the influence they’ve made on Hollywood.  I’ve already touched on the obvious films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and one of my personal favorites, Silence of the Lambs.  Moviegoers and filmmakers alike love a good serial killer.
     I specifically planned to discuss one particular movie but before I do, I’d like to briefly shine the spotlight on a few “Honorable Mentions”.  First up: American Psycho a brilliantly satirical psychological thriller.  The key word is satire.  Do not go in expecting your typical slasher-horror flick.  Two others worth checking out are Citizen X, the made for TV movie about Chikatilo and Monster.  Actually, there’s a list of the top 45 Serial Killer movies on IMDB.  You really can’t go wrong with any of them… but I digress. 
     Today’s feature film is Copycat, an often overlooked, slightly dated, gem from 1995.  What I like the most about Copycat is the forensic and psychological peek into, to quote Dr. Helen Hudson, “the golden oldies”.  Our villain, Peter Foley, adopts the alias Peter Kurten in honor of the German serial killer often referred to as the “Vampire of Dusseldorf”.  Foley, on a mission to kill retired psychologist and criminal profiler, Dr. Helen Hudson, reenacts murders by other infamous serial killers, down to the tiniest details.  Taking cues from “The Boston Strangler” Albert DeSalvo; “The Hillside Strangler” Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono; “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz; Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, he recreates the crime scenes with obsessive attention to detail.  As if Foley didn’t already have enough material to work with, he also pays homage to a killer created for the film, Daryll Lee Cullem.  If you can look past the antiquated computer systems and other quirks that date the film, at its heart it is a captivating, suspenseful, thriller.  By today’s standards, the blood and gore factor is very mild.  In fact, I was surprised that it has an “R” rating but it is still fascinating so, if you have the chance, check it out. 
     Tomorrow, we will finally delve into the second half of our title: Mass Murderers.  Until then, my friends, sleep well.    

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Serial Killers and Mass Murderers, Part 3


     Fear not, (or perhaps fear more) serial killers and mass murderers are not restricted to the United States alone.  As we continue the series, today we are going abroad to Asia and Europe. 
     When one thinks of serial killers in Great Britain, typically, Jack the Ripper comes to mind.  Perhaps it was the gruesomeness of the crimes or because he was never caught but the slayer of prostitutes is not making an appearance today.  Dennis “Des” Nilsen’s, also dubbed the “British Jeffrey Dahmer” had tripled the body count of The Ripper by the time he was captured.  Nilsen preyed solely on men, typically drifters or the homeless, who were lured by the promise of shelter and a meal.  After strangling and drowning the victims, he ritualistically bathed then dressed them.  The bodies were kept for a while before dismembering and eventually disposal of the bodies.  Since he favored flushing the pieces down the toilet, it was a clogged sewer eventually led to his arrest.  He remains incarcerated with no chance of parole. 
     Andrei Chikatilo, better known as the “Butcher of Rostov” or the “Rostov Ripper”, rocked the Soviet Union with over fifty cases of murder, cannibalism, and sexual assault.  Because it was common policy, of their state-controlled media, to conceal crimes that would negatively reflect on their country, the propaganda essentially aided Chikatilo’s obsession.  Though his judge was notoriously blatant, in his assertion of Chikatilo’s guilt, during the trial, he did agree with just one of the defendant’s many objections.  Chikatilo insisted that it was the Soviet Union’s refusal to acknowledge that crimes, such as his, existed that contributed to his years of immunity.  His murder spree spanned more than a decade as he managed to evade charges.  He was known, particularly in his early murders, for slashing and even removing his victim’s eyes because he believed that his image was still imprinted on their eyes, even after death.  Too bad, that isn’t true.  It would make an investigator’s job so much easier!
     Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of “Serial Killers and Mass Murderers”.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Serial Killers and Mass Murderers, Part 2



     I honestly couldn’t wait to write today’s post because I knew exactly which killers I wanted to feature.  I was delayed in posting, because thunderstorms had knocked out my internet, but even that wouldn't stop me.  I had a little tribute planned for my hometown.  Both of the brutal murderers in today's post have a link to my favorite city...Philadelphia.   
     Ted Bundy.  The name alone conjures an image of a man who looked like evil incarnate.  Seriously, even in childhood pictures he looks liked the Anti-Christ.  Bundy spent the early years of his life, at his grandparents’ home, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Even as a young boy, he displayed bizarre and frightening behavior.  Though he admitted to thirty actual homicides, it is estimated that he may have been responsible for many more.  He would typically fake an injury or disability to gain sympathy from his victims.  With their guard down, he would assault, kidnap, rape, and then murder the women.  He favored women with long hair, parted down the middle, between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five and often targeted college campuses.  Unlike many other serial killers, Bundy traveled across the country, leaving a wake of terror and destruction behind him.  All over the United States, women lived in fear, never knowing where he would strike next.  Because he of the vast territory he’d claimed, it took state investigators a long time to realize they were all hunting the same man.  Many serial killers are deemed criminally insane and are remanded to State Hospitals but not Bundy.  He was sentenced to death by electric chair on January 24, 1989. 
     Our next Philadelphian is Gary Heidnik.  Though born and raised in Ohio, he moved to Philadelphia after being discharged from the Army.  When police raided Heidnik’s home, which the media dubbed his “house of horrors”, they discovered human remains in the kitchen and three half-naked women chained in his dungeon-like basement.  Initially, he had kidnapped six women.  One died from a combination of starvation, torture, and an untreated illness.  After dismembering her, parts of her were placed in the freezer under the label, “dog food”.  The rest was cooked and reportedly fed to his remaining hostages.  The next woman was killed during Heidnik’s electrocution torture.  Finally, one of the women escaped and called 911 which resulted in the aforementioned raid and Heidnik’s capture.  As of today, Gary Heidnik holds the distinction of being the last person executed in Pennsylvania…at least for now. 
     Come back tomorrow for our next installment of Serial Killers and Mass Murderers.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Serial Killers and Mass Murders, Part 1.


     I have to admit; I was so engrossed in the work on my book that time just flew by.  While I love days like that, it left me with a problem.  I hadn’t even thought about my post for today.  I opened up a new Word document and the blank page was glaring back at me.  My sweetie had gone to bed so I decided to change the channel.  Inspiration often comes to us in strange ways.  Mine was right there, perfectly gift-wrapped by the Biography channel.  They were running their “Crime Special” programs on Serial Killers.  Hello Ed Gein and John Wayne Gacy! 
     The horrific Ed Gein was the inspiration behind horror films like Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  He made chairs and lampshades from human skin while carving out human skulls to use as soup bowls.  He even attached specific parts of his female victims to his own body to “transform” into a woman.  From 1954-1957 the quiet community of Plainfield, Wisconsin was turned upside-down and held in the grip of terror until Gein was finally captured.  It was after his capture that the full extent, of his grisly crimes, was brought to light. 
     John Wayne Gacy is the serial killer I least like to talk about.  While I am not “afraid” of clowns, I really do not like them.  You can’t think about Gacy, let alone write about him, without picturing him as Pogo the Killer Clown.  Gacy’s crimes did not inspire the blockbuster films like Gein.  However, the made-for-television movie, Dear Mr. Gacy, offered a disturbing look into Gacy’s time on death row. 
     Tomorrow, and possibly even a few days more, we will look into other killers and their influence on Hollywood.  Until then, sleep well. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

With my heart in my throat



     This past week has been an exercise in torture.  Not only did I send out a couple of queries, I am also trying something new.  I’ve decided to throw my hat into the freelance ring.  I submitted an article to a site that I really love, hoping it will be shared as a “guest blog”.  I also joined a freelance group so, hopefully, I’ll get some articles published there too. 
    Recently, I did a post about medieval torture devices.  If you’re interested in a very effective, modern-day torture for the writer in your life, try this.  Make them step completely out of their comfort zone and write articles in different genres.  Make sure they send the articles out then, sit back, and watch the agony unfold.  In the meantime, I will be keeping myself busy working on my next book and, of course, my blog here.  If I come up with any other tortures, I’ll be sure to let you know. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Supporting Characters: Part 2


     Last time, you met Tyler.  Today, I’d like to introduce Sarah Wexley.  Though I never officially announced her name in, Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising, Sarah is often in the thoughts of the Wexley family.  She was Alan’s first wife and the mother of his children, Matt and Emma. 
     Sarah’s story is a tragic tale.  Her dream of becoming a concert pianist was shattered when she was diagnosed with Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome in her late teens.  Sarah felt as if her life was over but her doctors were confident that she would recover.  After a long battle, filled with countless physical therapy sessions, she rebuilt her strength.  Slowly, the paralysis diminished while function and sensation returned.  Statistically, the chances of a GBS relapse are very slim so Sarah hoped she would be able to leave her painful memories in the past. 
     A mutual friend introduced her to Alan Wexley, who, at the time, was working toward his doctorate.  After a whirlwind courtship, the couple married and Sarah was overjoyed.  Later, Alan earned his PhD and Sarah learned she was pregnant.  After giving birth to two beautiful children, she finally felt like her life’s true purpose was revealed.  Sarah was deliriously happy for several years but, when she least expected it, GBS reared its ugly head.  This time, the symptoms were rapid and aggressive.  The paralysis prohibited her breathing and she died before the ambulance could get her to the hospital. 
     It was the rare and sudden death of her mother that spurred Emma’s desire to become a doctor.  Though Emma speaks of it more, Matt’s heartache over the loss of his mother is just as palpable.  Alan tries to conceal his pain but his second wife, Jillian, does little to mend his broken heart.  The ghost of Sarah’s life and love will follow her family for the rest of their lives

Closet Geek

     In general, I probably do not fit into the stereotypical image of a geek.  I've never been a fan of Star Trek and I've never played Dungeons & Dragons.  I have never been to a Renaissance Faire and I wore contacts in High School.  Most importantly, I was horrible in math!  To compensate, I often use movie quotes and I generally have my nose stuck in a book.  I think the icing on the cake is that I really, really wish I was at ComicCon right now. 
     Thanks to Twitter, I am fully aware of everything I'm missing.  Two authors that I greatly admire are speaking in forums, signing autographs and giving away all kinds of free stuff.  While I'm not really an autograph seeker, I would totally be sitting in the front row, taking notes, during their forums.  These guys are masters in their fields and I can only imagine the pearls of wisdom they'll be sharing.  Maybe one day I will get there myself.  Until then, can anyone teach me how to play Dungeons & Dragons?    

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Fine Line Between Love and Hate


     Obviously, everyone has different tastes.  If not, Baskin Robbins wouldn’t make 31 flavors.  Yet it never fails to amaze me when friends and family are so passionately opposed to a book or movie that I loved.  Or vice-versa. 
     I read an interesting article about the biology behind love and hate.  Scientists studied brain scans to compare and contrast the neurological responses to love and hate.  Surprisingly, both emotions activated similar regions of the brain.  Physically, we even experience the same symptoms: increased heart rate, sweaty palms and dilated pupils.  So, apparently, love and hate go hand in hand.  Contrary to what most people think, love and hate are not opposite sides of the same coin.  I suppose I could extrapolate that if someone vehemently hates something that I greatly enjoy, they are closer to my point of view than they realize.  It is not the exact opposite, not matter how much they argue.  In fact, the more passionately they respond, the more the brain patterns match.  I guess Elie Wiesel was right after all…“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reminiscing


     Ever since I shared the memory of reading my first book, I’ve been reminiscing.  The next logical topic of discussion is, of course, my first horror movie.  This was definitely a momentous occasion and could even be considered a pivotal moment in my life.  Actually, it was a double feature and I will never forget either movie, for as long as I live. The truth of the matter is I was far too young to be watching horror movies, even if it was on network television.  I was around six years old.   I know this because my little brother wasn’t born yet and he came along two months after I turned seven. 
     I will skip over the events leading up to the viewing and get right to the good stuff, the titles.  First up was the 1960 black and white classic, The House of Usher, based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher” and starring the legendary Vincent Price.  The next movie was the original, 1976 version of Stephen King’s Carrie.  In one gloriously frightening evening, I fostered a love of horror movies and cultivated a respect for the extraordinary talents of Vincent Price.  I also discovered the brilliant works of Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King which, for me, is more addictive than coffee.  Even though I didn’t sleep for a week, I was hooked.     

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances


     When I sat down to write my post today, I had every intention of writing about something dark and terrifying.  I had been working on my third book all day and my mind was full of bloody, gory, death.  Severed limbs and pulverized brains were definitely on the menu.  Inspired, I opened up my blog page and that’s when it happened…. My ridiculously cute, not in any way creepy or even slightly frightening, puppy hopped up on my lap.  She rested her head on my leg and licked my hand. 
     Well, crap!  My brain was overloaded with fluffy adorableness.  Apparently, she does not understand that I have an image to uphold.  One time, just for fun, I put her picture into my The Walking Dead, “Dead Yourself” App.  She was still insanely cute even with crazy undead human eyes and a rotted, stripped to the bone, mouth.  My sweetie was not very pleased.  I had posted the picture on my Facebook page.  One of my followers was very disturbed so I will not make the same mistake twice.  I am going to post a picture of her but not that one.  This is one of my favorite pictures of her, even though it isn’t the most recent.  We will all have sweet and adorable dreams tonight.   

Monday, July 15, 2013

Step Away from the Ledge



     We've all had those moments where we are absolutely positive cosmic forces have aligned, with the sole purpose of ruining our lives.  At every step our plans are thwarted and despite our best efforts, we just can’t seem to get ahead.  Take for example, Exhibit A: Cassandra Taylor. 
     Cassie moved to New York with hopes of making it big as an actress.  When we first meet the lovely Miss Taylor, in “Journal of the Undead: New York Outbreak”, she gets fired from her primary job as a waitress.  After a dreadful audition, she goes straight to her boyfriend’s apartment, only to learn he is involved with another woman.  Heartbroken and penniless, she attempts to walk home and gets lost.  She narrowly escapes a mugging and, when she finally reaches her apartment building, Cassie has to climb to the fourth floor on the fire escape to avoid her landlord.  Cold, wet and miserable she tears her skirt on an exposed nail before finally getting inside the building. 
     Compared to Cassie’s day, I suppose finding a typo on my query letter (immediately after hitting “send”, of course) isn’t so bad.  The important thing is to take a step back and breathe.  Things happen for a reason.  If Cassie’s day hadn’t been so horrible, she never would have went directly to Royce’s condo.  If she hadn’t shown up unannounced, she wouldn’t have known he was cheating on her.  If she had remained in the relationship, she never would have taken the time to meet her new neighbor, Ryan.  Without Ryan, chances are slim that she would have made it out of New York alive when the zombie apocalypse began.  We can’t always see the big picture but when we are faced with adversity, it is imperative to keep trudging ahead.  To quote the immortal words of Dory the fish in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”   

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ghostly Night


     In the middle of the night, in your deepest sleep, you suddenly wake.  Your bleary eyes blink repeatedly as you try to focus on the glowing numbers, of your alarm clock.  A weary smile tugs at the corner of your mouth.  The alarm won’t go off for hours, there’s still plenty of time to sleep. Turning over, you fluff your pillow and ease into the softness.  As if weighted, your eyelids begin to droop.  Just as you are about to drift off, a fleeting image passes through your peripheral vision.  Startled, your eyes pop open and you scan the room.  Just as you are about to chide yourself for being silly, you notice a form.  A darker shape, in the center of darkness, hovers as if a shadow had been cast.         
     This is where you ask yourself what you believe..... There in the dark, while your heart is pounding, the soul searching begins.  When it comes to paranormal activity and/or disturbances, there are two types of people: believers and nonbelievers.  Do you shrug it off as a dream within a dream or do you keep one eye open, pulling your covers up to your chin?  In the morning, do you laugh it off as a figment of your imagination or do you spend the day trying to shake the feeling that you’re being watched?     
Do you believe?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Opening a Vein


     Often times when I sit down to write, Harry Potter immediately springs to mind.  No, sadly, I am a NOT wizard.  No, I do not have a quick quill. (Although it sure would help!)  I am referring to the particular scene in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” where the sinister Dolores Umbridge has sentenced Harry to detention.  He arrives at her nauseatingly cutesy office and is ordered to write lines.  The quill does not have ink but instead writes with Harry’s blood.
     At one time or another, most writers feel as if their life’s blood has been poured out onto the page.  Our hearts and souls are laid bare for the world to see.  Why not open a vein and skip the ink altogether?  Honestly, if it would get me a book deal, I would gladly handwrite the entire “Journal of the Undead” series in my own blood.  Maybe I should start stocking up on B-12 and Iron Supplements…

Sucked in by the hype


     Generally, I trust my instincts when it comes to movies but every once in a while I fall prey to the hype.  I hate to admit it but I was totally sucked into the build up surrounding “Sharknado”.  In spite of the awful reviews and Twitter-bashing, I just had to watch it.  Besides, my sweetie and I have a contest going for whoever can find the worst movie.  I was just awarded the undisputed title...at least for now.  I can honestly say, I have not laughed that hard in a long, long time!
     I have a rule.  I always try to find something positive to say when discussing someone else’s work.  In addition to having a good laugh, which then rolled over into a great evening, I also had fun picking out the “Jaws” references.  “Sharknado” was chock full of quotes and scenes giving a wink and a nudge to everyone’s favorite shark movie.  Just for fun, we broke into a rousing chorus of “Show Me the Way to Go Home” while watching.  Obviously, “Sharknado” isn’t going to be nominated for any Academy Awards but its ludicrously over-the-top premise was a laugh riot.  I'm glad I was "sucked in by the hype".  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Firsts


     Even before I learned to read, I had a passion for books.  If I couldn’t find anyone with spare time to read me a story, I would flip through my favorite books looking at the pictures, wishing I could just read it on my own.  I can remember the exhilaration I felt when I read my very first book, all by myself.  In fact, I can even remember the title of the book.  It was a Little Golden Book called “The Monster at the End of this Book” starring “Loveable, Furry Old Grover”.  I guess even back then I had a thing for monsters.  
     The Monster at the End of this Book” might very well be the closest thing to horror for a pre-Kindergarten reader.  In addition to a key element of suspense, the main character, Grover, is genuinely frightened.  To alleviate the growing tension of drawing nearer to his inevitable encounter with the monster, our protagonist concocts humorous and increasingly ridiculous methods meant to keep the reader from turning the page.  Because the book is meant for children, it does end have a happy ending but at the heart of the story, children learn that their own imaginations can fan the flames of fear. 
     Through the years, my affinity for monsters has grown.  I no longer need a funny, happy ending for my monster tales but I had the privilege of buying the same book for my youngest nephew last year.  Perhaps he will develop a fondness for monster stories too.  Many thanks to Jon Stone for fostering a lifelong love of monsters in me!  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Music soothes the savage....


     The oft misquoted line, “Music hath charms that soothes the savage breast” came to mind today as I was working.  Between the seemingly never-ending barrage of thunderstorms crashing loudly overhead and an exceptionally rowdy puppy making almost as much noise as the thunder, I needed to create a more soothing environment to calm my rambunctiously savage beast.  Usually when I am writing, I create a playlist that resembles a soundtrack for the scenes I am creating.  Sadly, zombie-smashing music was not going to help my furry little monster to settle down and take a nap. 
     Like most authors, I usually endow my characters with some of my own personal traits.  For example, Emma from “Littleville Uprising” has my vast and varied appreciation of music.  My iTunes library is an eclectic blend of virtually all genres of music.  Given my situation, classical was the clear choice.  After just a few beautifully melodic movements, my little ball of energy curled up and drifted off to sleep.  Amazingly, music soothes beasts as well as “savage breasts”. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Supporting Characters: part 1


     I’ve always rooted for the underdog.  I delight in seeing the wallflower get asked to dance or the water boy making his debut with the team during the big game.  I guess that’s why I want some of my supporting characters to get their day in the sun.  Some of them die, some are left behind and some just fizzle out, never to be heard from again. 
     Scattered here and there throughout my blog, I’d like to introduce you to some of these peripheral characters in my “Journal of the Undead” series so you can really get a feel for who they are.  Today’s featured character is from Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising, the first book in the series.  One of the first things the Wexley twins discover upon transferring to Lincoln High in Littleville, Pennsylvania, is that there is an abundance of students named Tyler.  This particular Tyler is featured more often even though his last name is never used. 
     Tyler is a seventeen-year-old junior at Lincoln High.  He is a wide receiver on the varsity football team and he wears number 14.  Sadly, he did not get to choose his number.  It was assigned to him his freshman year and he stuck with it.  At times, he is given to delusions of grandeur.  Tyler assumes that he will make it to the NFL, which would then open doors for him to be an actor.  Like most teenage boys, he loves fast sports cars, loud music and pretty girls.  Because of his affinity for brunettes, Tyler tries, unsuccessfully, to woo Emma.  A little known secret, one he would never divulge to his teammates or friends, is that he loves cats.  Also, when he baby-sits his younger sister, Tyler often sings along to the songs in her favorite Disney movies. 
                      So there you have it, a brief insight into what makes Tyler tick.     

Monday, July 8, 2013

Classic Monsters


     Warning: the following content can be considered controversial.  There are some who will not appreciate my opinion but I’ve never been one to shy away from speaking my mind.  I have always found the classic Universal monster movies to be archaic and excessively chauvinistic.  There, I said it.  Even as a child, I found it wildly ridiculous that females had only two roles in those films, other than looking beautiful.  They either stood completely still, screaming their heads off, while the monster came at them or they fainted.  It’s pretty bad when a five-year-old is screaming, “Run, you dummy” at the television screen.  My dad had an affinity for the old black and white monster movies and I spent many a Sunday afternoon watching them with him. 
     With that being said, there is an element of those movies that I truly miss.  I long for the days when monsters were just monsters.  Vampires and Werewolves were vicious killers.  They did not want to befriend humans.  They didn’t have remorse or try to change their wicked ways.  Their sole purpose was to kill.  I am not slamming paranormal romance writers or their fans in any way.  There is nothing wrong with the genre.  Personally, I’d rather have my pants scared off but that’s just me. 
     Another positive of those classic films was the actors.  You could count on them to do their very best to strike fear into the hearts of their audience.  Even to this day, after seeing almost every vampire movie ever produced, when someone says Dracula, I immediately picture Bela Lugosi.  I miss actors like Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr. and Lugosi embodying our worst nightmares. 

Pervading evil

    
     In the darkest times of our lives, evil lurks at every turn.  Even those you’ve trusted in the past can literally transform before your very eyes.  It takes vigilance and awareness to avoid the pitfalls that befall many others.  Arm yourself with knowledge and truth.  Finally, at that moment when you are ready to throw in the towel, dig deep to determine your inner strength. 
     Are you a warrior who attacks his foe with ferocity?  Perhaps you’re the thinker whose smooth words will win over even the staunchest rival.  Can you enter the enemy camp as a double agent to thwart their plan?  Or are you the embodiment of a dancer’s spirit?  With grace, poise and flexibility to float above the adversity you remain unbroken and unscathed. 
      We can all spot the fiendish monster lumbering toward us with the sole intention of devouring us alive but are we as adept at seeing through the masks of the truly monstrous?    


*This was supposed to be posted much earlier but I goofed.  Sorry!*

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The infestation of social media


     I often wonder about the effects of social media on our society.  On one hand, it is an invaluable tool for artists to self promote.  Imagine a world where Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, or Jane Austen had been able to gain recognition and possibly success before their deaths.  Plenty of painters and musicians would have happily sacrificed an ear, like van Gogh, to get the kind of publicity that is at our command with a few clicks of a mouse.  Dying before having their dream realized is a particularly hellish torture and one I would like very much to escape!
    On the other hand, it can also elevate people to a celebrity status despite their unwillingness to contribute, in any way, to the enhancement of society.  Fame for the sake of popularity and notoriety for being infamous deflates the validity behind becoming a household name. 
     From what I can tell, it is a necessary evil for anyone looking to get one’s work published.  To honor those who missed the social media window, I fully intend to take every advantage afforded to me.  In addition to my blog, I have embraced social media.  You can now follow me on twitter @sg_lee_horror and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/SG-Lee/147919735388462?fref=ts.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing


     It seems like every time I check out the news, murder is the hot topic.  It used to baffle me when family and neighbors of the accused were interviewed.  I’d listen to their statements and it was as if they were all given the same script.  The murderer is always described as a “loner” or “quiet”.  They never saw it coming.  I found it extraordinary that the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” somehow managed to infiltrate civilized society and no one noticed.  I wondered how that was possible when logic insisted that there had to be signs. 
     All of that changed a few months ago.  I learned that I woman I used to work with was murdered.  She was kind and compassionate so I assumed it had to have been a stranger.  It wasn’t.  Her husband of over ten years murdered, not only, her but also their seven-year-old son.   She considered this man, her husband and father of their children, to be her best friend.  She lived with him but had no clue what kind of evil was lurking beneath the facade. 
     Even more disturbing, I had met the man myself.  Oddly, he really was quiet.  He smiled often and would say, “hello” whenever he stopped in to see his wife at work.  If spoken to, he would carry on a conversation, but he appeared painfully shy.  He looked perfectly normal.  In his mug shot he looks like a deranged lunatic but, then again, I could say the same about the photo on my driver’s license.  Even after the man confessed, I found it hard to believe he was capable of such a thing. 
     Perhaps, the truth is we all have evil deep inside of us.  But we all have the power to choose our path.  Each day we are faced with decisions and it is our responsibility to expose the “wolf” that lies inside our hearts and minds.  Our obligation does not end at merely exposing the evil; we must choose to destroy it before it destroys us. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day!

     Since Independence Day has been turned into national barbeque and fireworks day, I hope that rain has not thwarted your plans.  Please be safe, have fun and by all means, keep a watchful eye open!  One never knows when the Zombie Apocalypse will begin...... Assuming we all remain safe, I will catch up with you tomorrow. 

Embracing the Inevitable....


     I’ve read countless articles discussing fears and phobias.  Being a horror writer, I make it my business to know what frightens people the most.  In fact, you can find lists ranking the world’s most crippling phobias everywhere: magazines, websites, newspapers, blogs and so on.  We often hear that the number one phobia is public speaking but I wonder if that is really accurate. 
     I’m not trying to contradict scientific research or anything but I have my own theory.  For the most part, regardless of the trigger, the root of fear for most people is death.  Say for example, someone suffers from Aerophobia (fear of flying) ultimately, they are afraid that the plane will crash and they will die.  Likewise, Arachnophobia (fear of spiders) Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) or even Cynophobia (fear of dogs) center around being bitten, increasing the probability of dying.  Ultimately, if you factor in all of the potential causes of death that subsequently result in a phobia of its own, and combine that with Thanatophobia or Thantophobia (fear of death or dying) I think it will exceed the number of people who suffer from Glossophobia (fear of public speaking).  
     With that being said, I think that Agliophobia, (fear of pain) should rank the highest.  We all know and recognize that, in the end, we are mortal and we will eventually die.  The fear factor usually revolves around the pain we may have to endure.  Naturally, we would rather go peacefully, perhaps in our sleep, but no one wants to suffer a long, painful agonizing death.  I do not fear dying but when the time comes, I'd sure like it to be quick and painless. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Torture devices....

     So, I had to go through some medical testing today.  It surprises me that, even with modern advances in technology, some medical tests are almost as barbaric as Medieval torture.  As I was being poked and prodded, I started to consider the various devices used for torture.  Nothing freaks out a waiting room full of people like a Google search about torture devices! 
     Being the sick twist that I am, I decided to compare/contrast some of the most gruesome torture devices with present day medical tests, just to prove my point.  Frighteningly, some of them relate more to women than men.  Ladies, please accept my heartfelt sympathy because you definitely got the short end of the stick.   For the first (but probably not the last) time I think I need to post a disclaimer.  **Disclaimer: This post is purely for entertainment purposes and does not accurately portray any specific doctor, hospital, or facility.  Descriptions of tortures and/or medical procedures are not indicative of actual physicians and should not be used as an excuse to refuse medical treatments.** Now, let the fun begin!
     The Pear of Anguish/Colonoscopy/Pap Smear- The "pear of anguish" was a pear shaped device (hence the name) that was fashioned from metal shapes, similar to petals, which were joined by a hinge at one end and a crank on the other.  The "pear" was usually inserted into orifices in the lower torso but occasionally in the throat.  When the crank was turned, the petals would open and spread.  I think the comparison here is pretty obvious and needs no further elaboration but if you're not quite following: think speculum.
     The next one isn't quite as obvious so you might need to use your imagination a little more.  The Brazen Bull/MRI- The Brazen Bull was a hollow, formed brass statue with a cast door on one side.  To make it less grotesque for the audience, the statue was made to look like a bull.  The sounds of the poor tortured soul, locked inside and roasted to death, reverberated through the thick metal and supposedly sounded like the animal.  For those of you who are claustrophobic, an MRI probably feels like being stuffed inside the belly of a bull.  Sure, being strapped to the table and unable to move isn't quite as horrible as being permanently locked inside a flaming oven but sometimes it gets really hot in that little room.  Additionally, all of that banging and clanging of the machine probably sounds a little like a person trying to break out of the metal bull. 
     The "Breast Ripper"/Mammogram- I've actually heard some of my female friends and relatives refer to a mammogram as "the breast ripper" but, believe it or not, there really was a torture device with that name.  It was a metal claw specifically made to rip and shred the breasts.  Sometimes, the torturer would heat the claw until it glowed red and other times they did not.  The victim was tied to a wall then the claw would pierce and tear the flesh away from the body.  Again, I've never had this done but it doesn't really sound much different than the pulling and mashing during a mammogram.  The only difference being, they take pictures in the hospital.
     Even though I could probably keep going, I think I will stop there for tonight.  Please remember, any similarities to those living or dead was completely unintentional and no animals were harmed in the writing of this blog. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

What a character!


     I have to admit; I'm feeling pretty happy today.  I've been working on revisions for book two and I finally finished with the new content I was adding.  Part of that addition was fixing a flawed character.  I had planned to name a character after one of my friends.  He is one of the few that didn't actually ask me to do so.  Yet as the story progressed, the character took on a life of his own.  Sadly, he had developed into a big whiner so I actually changed the character's name.  I did not want it to reflect poorly on my friend. 
     If someone happened to be particularly funny or perhaps quirky, my mom would always say they were "a character".  Try as we might to prevent it, "mom-isms" and other odd little parental expressions infiltrate our speech.  This particular friend, I can guarantee, she would definitely call "a character" so I needed a character to live up to his personality.  Honestly, it had been bothering me for a while. I just couldn't seem to fix the character and make him reflect the image I was shooting for all along.  Finally, today, I made it work.  It really enhanced the story too, which is a relief, because the earlier version of this guy made me want to punch him for being such a..... I'll let you fill in the blank with whatever adjectives and/or profanities you choose.  In fact, I was so pleased; I even returned the original name to a now-worthy character.  
     It's kind of funny but as soon as my family and friends learned that I was writing books, I was inundated with requests.  It seems like everyone wants to be a character. (pun intended)  I guess I am really fortunate that I know so many "characters" or it would be a struggle to oblige.