the list – 2021

Every year, my partner and I make a list of horror movies to watch leading up to Halloween. In the past, I’ve given these list a theme. This year, though, I don’t know if there is much of a theme. For the most part, I think these films are fun.

And that’s really deliberate. Obviously, COVID brings a level of seriousness to every holiday. Last year’s Halloween was fine, but tough. This year feels like we actually have a taste of real life again. I didn’t want the list to feel serious. It should feel fun, especially for a year when it felt like we could finally have some fun again.

What follows are the films that we are watching. Some we have already finished. Others will be finished soon. And there have been some unexpected additions that have come into play. I didn’t expect Netflix to drop as many films as they have. But I should know better.

Anyway, the list is set and below:

  • Psycho Goreman (2020)
  • Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
  • Becky (2020)
  • The Strangers (2008)
  • Werewolves Within (2021)
  • Wrong Turn (2020)
  • The Hunt (2020)
  • The Conjuring 3 (2021)
  • A Quiet Place Part 2 (2021)
  • Get Out (2017)
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
  • Benny Loves You (2019)

In addition, I would add Midnight Mass (2021) if I allowed television series to come into play. So far, I think Becky has been the biggest surprise. It is brutal and unique in the best ways. I was thoroughly impressed.

The Strangers is a master class in tension. There’s a good ten minutes of that film where it’s hard to breathe. It’s masterful in suspense.

I remember The Hunt getting slammed when it was announced. The politics of the film were questionable to some people who enjoy trolling. But, overall, I think it is a good satire. Everyone gets their share of criticism and it’s a fun ride.

Like I said, we haven’t finished yet. I’ll write if there is anything else that really catches my eyes.

Otherwise, stay safe. Get vaxxed. And watch some scary movies!

ER

the first paragraph

So.

I am trying, once again, to write a novel.

It’s not an easy feat (understatement). I’ve tried on multiple occasions and failed on each of those attempts.

I think my failures have been twofold.

First, I have severe anxiety about the novel. I end up blitzed by the prolonged nature of the writing. It’s a long project and I have this feeling that I will fuck it up the longer I work on it. Continuity is a strange beast. There’s always a lurking feeling that I will forget the connecting points of plot and the entire novel will end up being a disconnected mess of thoughts.

Second, I find it hard to actually write the first paragraph. It’s strange. I can write a short story easily. The first page goes by quickly. The whole story comes out in a matter of days. I don’t have nearly any anxiety associated with writing short stories. When I sit down in front of the keys to write a novel, I freeze.

And I don’t know how to get beyond it. I’ve tried on a few occasions and any long form storytelling kills my creative energy. I end up locked in this interior fight between my own desire to challenge myself and my inability to actually meet the challenges that I have laid down.

I assume this struggle is something that all writers go through at some point. There was a time when I couldn’t start a short story. I got past that with practice and time. I would imagine that a novel needs the same amount of time and attention.

It’s just a matter of actually spending the time and energy to earn that practice.

If there is a message in any of this venting, it is that writing is a process built on practice and earned comfort with uncomfortable situations. It’s about continuing to pound against the wall until you break your way through.

So, maybe this post is more about admitting my own shortcoming so that someone else can benefit. Or maybe it is about venting frustration with my own process.

I’m not sure. The writing will continue as it always does. And I will continue to complain and train and try.

So should you.

ER

liner notes: lou’s version

I’ve always dug the liner notes. 

And I’ve always wanted to provide something in addition to the stories that I publish. I’ve seen some writers do it in their books. Well, I’ve got no short story collection. Just a few shorts out here and there. I figured Lou’s Version would be a good place to start writing some extras. It’s a favorite of of mine and it ended up on a podcast that I dearly love.

So, here we go.

The story itself is heavily inspired by a documentary titled, Rats (2016). I highly suggest it. If you dig the rats in the story, then I think you’ll get a kick out of the film. It’s terrifying. 

Lou comes from one of the people interviewed in the film. I think I may have even stolen his first name. That may have been an accident. My dad’s name is Lou and, regardless of any one in the film, I wanted to name my main character after my father. Some of the mannerisms are attributed to him (not the killing). If you’re wondering, he quite liked being the main character. In some strange way, he was honored.

Rats was the beginning of the idea. I’ve never found rats to be particularly terrifying. They pop up in Lovecraft (rats in the walls and all that) and there are some Stephen King stories that use rats effectively. For me, I never had the inclination to use them. They felt like an overused trope.

But then Rats and an idea. I can’t tell you much else about it. It’s just how it came out on the page. You’ll think I’m strange, but the story really wrote itself. Lou felt like a character I knew in my head. Even if I had avoided rats, I’ve always been fascinated by a killer’s confessions.

Which brings me to another major source of inspiration. The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer (1992). 

Whether it was good parenting or not, my parents must have watched The Iceman Tapes a dozen times when I was growing up. Richard Kuklinski. A true madman. As icy as his nickname. 

I don’t know why but I always remembered that old documentary. I don’t know that I ever meant to write a character like Kuklinski, but I can’t say that I didn’t either. He’s a giant piece of shit, but damn he’s compelling.

Lou Sheehan and his rats and his long kill-list is my Richard Kuklinski. A guy who murdered countless people and then had the gall to go on TV to brag about it. 

I wrote this story right before the pandemic. I kind of forgot about it. Now, I wonder if there are other stories for Lou. I don’t know. I never know.

The only other thing I can tell you is the trucking company where Lou takes his victims is based on a real trucking company. I grew up on a country road and a man named Schuck (Schuckie to the locals) ran a small trucking business out of a huge, decrepit old barn. In fact, I used to get the bus on the corner right on the edge of his lot. I figured something secluded and non-assuming would be perfect for the type of work Lou meant to do.

In the end, Lou’s Version is a big moment for me. I know it amounts to about 40 minutes of kick-ass narration. But it’s a story I love and one that really cemented for me that I could write. For better or worse, I could write.

I truly hope you enjoyed it.

ER

 

genre fatigue

There’s only so much of one subject that you can handle.

I consume horror novels at a pretty quick rate. I usually enjoy them and there is something to be said about the types of ideas that they give me in relation to my own fiction. However, there is a time to indulge in genre and a time to take a break from genre.

Reading only horror is not going to make you a good horror writer. Reading only sci-fi is not the key to making you a good sci-fi writer. It is in a diversity of different work that we find opportunity to inject new ideas, styles, or structures into our own work.

I am writing this ideology out on the blog to try and remind myself of its importance.

Lately, I have been back in love with fantasy-related fiction. I can’t get enough. I want to tackle huge, epic fantasy novel series. But I find myself becoming over-saturated with the genre. The tropes are too familiar, the ideas are starting to run together.

Reading widely and spanning genre in that reading is the key to a deeper understanding of the work. Like you should branch out in your writing style, you should always strive to branch out in your reading style. Don’t allow “comfortable” genres to take over. You need to be more diverse in your consumption.

This is a message to myself.

Break out. Find news genres and new authors. Read differing voices and differing styles and find new ways of literary expression.

Don’t fall back into comfort. Comfortable reading is beautiful, but it becomes passive reading if it is limited in scope.

The list of genres that I have been neglecting:

  • Crime
  • Mystery
  • Literary
  • Sci-fi
  • Western
  • Non-fiction

I need to break into something new. I feel sequestered by my focus on fantasy and horror. I’m writing it here so that I can hold myself to the standard that I am setting.

This post is self-serving. It’s a treatise on me and my habits. But I hope it makes you think about what you are reading and the places where you find yourself in literature-tunnel vision. So, break out. Find something new. Challenge yourself in your reading.

ER