I Fell Down a Hole

I have always considered myself an organized and responsible person. In college I never missed an assignment or flunked a test. After graduation, I worked diligently until I found a job and had a steady income. Nowadays, I rarely miss work deadlines, show up at least five minutes early to everything, and never run out of clean underwear.

I have also always believed that life is all about balance. No one can be organized and regimented all the time, me included. I am very responsible when it comes to work, exercise, and other household chores, but I am definitely not organized when it comes to my hobbies.

When it comes to my main hobbies, like reading, writing, crocheting, and horror movies, there is absolutely no gray zone. I swing between being completely obsessed with a book or project for days at a time and having zero interest in even thinking about it.

I recently came up with a name for my habit. I call it falling down a hole. giphy
A few weeks ago I was sitting with my coworkers outside, enjoying the sunshine and talking about books. We were talking about our favorite genres and, of course, I brought up my obsession with scary stories.

My coworkers, Stephen and Meredith, said that they had read some Stephen King, but can’t read a whole lot of his work. For every book of his they read, they have to read something light-hearted to “recover.”

In my entire life, I’ve never had to do that. When I finish a scary story, I don’t try to find some way to escape from my terror, I revel in it. I finish a scary story and then immediately search out the next scary story I can find. I can’t get enough. I need more, more, more. A few years ago I read my first novel by Jack Ketchum. It was gruesome and terrifying and stomach-turning and I immediately wanted more.

Can’t stop, won’t stop. That’s basically my policy when it comes to my hobbies.
Well, it is until the switch in my brain is suddenly flipped off and I lose all interest. And when I say a switch if flipping, I’m being very serious. It’s not a gradual thing. I put something down and then just don’t pick it up for months and months.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll finish a book if I start it and if I’m crocheting something for a friend I’ll always finish it. But if it’s something I’m just goofing around with then there’s a good chance I’ll put it on a shelf and just forget about it. I have so many partially finished novels and crochet projects just laying around.

You’d think for being the most organized person in my office I’d be more organized when it comes to my own hobbies, but nope! Apparently all of the energy I use to stay on track I use at work.

Fuck everything else in my life I guess.

-EMS

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All I Read is Stephen King

There’s something magical about reading a horror story. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching horror films. Some of my favorite movies are horror films. I am always down to watch Descent and House of 1000 Corpses, but given the option I would rather read a scary book than watch a scary.  

There’s just something wonderful about experiencing horror through the written word. I absolutely love Stephen King and have actually been on a binge this past month. I’ve read It, Christine, The Dead Zone, Dolores Clairborne, Desperation, and The Regulators to name a few. And let me tell you, it’s been great! I’ve literally been knocking out a book a week because I can’t put them down.

You asked me what my passion was and honestly, horror novels are it right now. When I think about what I’m looking forward to the most it’s hanging out with my baby ferret and reading. I can write about Fijit the ferret in my next post if you really want to know more about her.

Anyway, I think it’s because in my opinion horror novels are scarier to me. Now that I’m older, horror films don’t give me nightmares like they used to. My nightmares are usually about realistic fears, like finances and my career and crap like that.

But, I have had nightmares from a few scary novels. Salem’s Lot, Dolores Clairborne, and The Regulators are the ones that immediately come to mind. Now, none of these are about extremely scary things. Salem’s Lot is about vampires, which if you were a teenager in the early 2000s you know all about. Dolores Clairborne is about a woman who murders her husband, not incredibly groundbreaking. The Regulators is about an ancient god that takes control of a suburban neighborhood, which although it’s unique isn’t exactly realistic. Why did they give me nightmares? How could they give me nightmares?

Because, by reading these stories, I had the chance to create my own worst nightmare. In horror films, the monster is there. Someone else created it. It’s their worst nightmare, not mine. I talked a little bit about this in my last horror post. Horror really works when you give the viewer the chance to add their own spin on things.

stephen_king_salems_lot_01In Salem’s Lot, a tiny New England town is overrun by vampires. The people of the town keep disappearing and then mysteriously reappearing at night. I specifically dreamed about the little boy who was taken in the night. He reappeared in his friend’s window late one night, pale as a ghost with dead eyes, and asked to be let in. He didn’t demand anything, he asked if he could come hang out with his best friend.

When I read that scene, I could picture my old childhood room and I could see my elementary school friends, pale white and monstrous, hanging on my window. I couldn’t tell them no, they couldn’t come in. I loved them and I wanted to be with them. That’s what scare me.

alb-008In Dolores Clairborne, the main character murders her husband by getting him drunk and leading him to an old well. He fell down, but didn’t die instantly. When Dolores looked down, he was looking up at her and his eyes looked black. He was calling her name and, at one point, climbed up the side of the well, covered in blood and grinning.

I read that scene in bed and I got goosebumps. I could see his bloody, dirty face. I could see his creepy smile, a dead man’s smile, as he climbed up. I could feel Dolores’ panic as she thought about what to do next. What could she do? This wasn’t part of her plan. That feeling. That’s what I dreamt about that night.

theregulatorsLastly, in The Regulators, a little boy wanders down an abandoned mine shaft and stumbles upon the sleeping place of an ancient evil. A miner follows him in with a flashlight and when he finally catches up, his light falls on the boy’s face. The boy is grinning a freakishly big grin. His eyes are bugging out and the corners of his mouth are pulled all the way up to his ears.

When I read that, I could see his smile. I could picture a normal little boy’s face becoming freakish and deformed. I could see the way the whole space was in darkness and the way the flashlight bounced off the walls before landing on his face. Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying.

If I had experienced these stories are movies, I doubt they would have had the same effect. I would’ve been able to brush off the child vampire in the window as an actor in make up. I would’ve known that Dolores’ husband was just a guy covered in mud. I would have seen through the fake smile on the kid.

That’s what I like about reading horror. It gets under my skin, which is exactly what it should do.

-EMS

Waiting for the Hook

173I liked the show Stranger Things.

If you’re out of the loop, Stranger Things is a Netflix series about a small town right outside a secret government base. Something happens and people start to go missing and it’s up to the town’s residents to figure out what’s going on and save a little boy named Will.

Anyway, I really loved this show. It’s a wonderful blend of three very common horror narratives: children coming of age and fighting monsters, like in Stephen King’s It or the movie Super 8; high school hallway horror, like in any 80s slasher film; and adults fighting human monsters and government corruption, like Cabin in the Woods. Stranger Things combines all of these plots to create one cohesive, highly addictive story that had me hooked as soon as I started watching it.

Now, earlier this week you brought up the show and said that you HATED it. The first three episodes were so boring you got up to do laundry while you watched. You also hated the characterization, which to be honest was one of the reasons I liked it. Anyway, my response to this was asking how far you got. You said three episodes and I said “oh, it picks up after that. You just have to push through.”

Where in the world did this logic come from? Why in the world do we force ourselves through boredom or painfully bad acting in hopes that it gets better? That’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about since we talked about Stranger Things, Daniel. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it all depends on who told you to.

So looking back at my own life I’ve on multiple occasions pushed my way through something boring because someone I trusted told me it would get better. The best example I have is Parks and Rec, a show which I can say without any sarcasm actually changed my life. However, before you get to the wonderful, positive, hilarious bits of that show you have to sit through the first season, which oh my god. I could get through maybe an episode a day and that was it.

It took me maybe two weeks to get through the first season. I got through the next six seasons in maybe a month, that’s how much it picked up.

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If I had just given up when it got boring I would never have experienced the positivity and beauty of that show. Why did I not give up? Because my friend Meredith told me not to, and I believed her. If anyone else had told me to keep going, I might not have, but I respected Meredith’s opinion.

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Me reading about the Dursleys in the first chapter.

Another example is Harry Potter. Now, I don’t know if you remember this, Daniel, but I didn’t read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first. I tried, but the first few chapters were SO BORING. I just couldn’t get through it. Then, my wonderful older brother gave me Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He told me “it’s kinda like a scary story and you like scary stories.” I gave it a try and WOW. I had been missing out!

How do you feel Daniel knowing it was you who got me into Harry Potter? If you hadn’t done that, I literally might not be married right now. Let that sink in.

On the other hand, there have been plenty of instances where I heard that I had to stick with something and it would eventually get good and it never did.

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Wanna know something? These twins,  the most iconic twins in all of movie history, WEREN’T IN THE BOOK. OH MY GOD.

 

The movie version of The Shining for instance. Stanley Kubrick ruined The Shining. He completely destroyed my favorite characters and stripped out all of the amazing characterization in order to prop up Jack Nicholson’s acting skills. I could go on, but I could write an entire spoiler filled post about how much I hate that movie.

The John Carter of Mars series was another. I read the first one. It was okay, but I kept hearing from people “oh, you have to read the rest! They’re amazing!” Actually, no they’re not. They’re surprisingly racist is what they are! I almost couldn’t finish them because I felt SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE.

When I think back to these two instances though, you know what the difference is? No one I trusted told me to give them a try, it was society that insisted these things were good. Everyone loves Kubrick so much so The Shining had to be a good movie! Wrong. Everyone adored John Carter of Mars so the sequels had to be awesome. Uh, no.

The point I’m trying to get to is that sometimes there are things that you have to “suffer through” to get to the good parts, but you shouldn’t use that logic for everything. Listen to the people who know you and follow your own interests rather than those of the masses. It will save you a lot of boredom.

Well, before I end this post I’ll just say, after some consideration, don’t bother trying to finish Stranger Things, Daniel. It tapped into my love of horror, which I know you don’t share so don’t put yourself through it. I will just be alone in my adoration of this show.

-EMS

Horror Makes Me Happy

Okay, so first of all, you’re lucky there’s even a post up. Michael and I just downloaded Pokemon Go and just spent the last three hours driving around Pullman trying to find a Meowth and Dugtrio. The only reason we’re back is because our phones were about to die. The couple that nerds together stays together, I guess.

Anyway, I really liked your last post. You touched on something that a lot of storytellers just don’t understand. You have to respect your viewer/player/reader and treat them like an adult, but you still need to give them enough to stand on when it comes to exposition. Never hold your audience’s hand, but at least light the path for them.

Finding the right balance in my writing has been one of my biggest challenges as an author. Sometimes I fall in love with my story and want to give my reader every single detail, which would just overwhelm them. As the author, it’s my job to immerse myself in the story, but only bring back enough so the reader can get their feet wet.

This concept is especially relevant in horror. I’ve always loved horror. I love horror novels, horror films, horror video games. I have since I was little and to create a scary story, you really need to find that sweet spot between giving enough exposition so the audience understands why they should be scared, but not so much that they can’t project their own fears onto the monster. That’s what makes good horror good, it gives you the room to add your personal fears to the story.

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It (1990)

I’m not sure why I’ve always liked horror. When I was little I used to read a ton of Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark. My favorite movies, outside of the Little Mermaid, were the made-for-television Goosebump shorts and Beetlejuice.

The only thing I can really pinpoint that may have started my love of horror is my birthday. As you know my birthday is right before Halloween so more often than not my birthday had a Halloween theme. I remember having a cake with a little graveyard on it. I remember going trick-or-treating with my friends and then having a birthday sleepover. I’ve always associated my birthday with skeletons, ghosts, monsters, and just creepy stuff. Therefore, Halloween has always been my favorite holiday just because it meant I would get presents.

Not sure if that’s the only reason I love horror, but it makes sense, I guess.

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House of 1000 Corpses (2003…wait, this movie is 13 years old?! Fuck.)

Nowadays, I’ve graduated from Goosebumps to Stephen King and Jack Ketchum novels. I still like Beetlejuice, but I also enjoy gorey films like House of 1000 Corpses, Aliens, and Hellraiser.

Why? Why do I like these things? These books and movies are just full of horrible imagery and people dying. Why in the world do I crave them?

Adrenaline, pure and simple. There is something so energizing about reading a good scary story. It makes me feel alive and in the present. It’s a feeling you can’t really get in day-to-day life without doing something expensive or stupid, or both.

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Heathers (1988)

I think this adrenaline addiction is the same reason I like getting tattoos and going on rollercoasters. During the event, it’s painful and terrifying, but when it’s all over your body feels electric. Horror movies and books do the same thing for me. I just get excited.

I also think I love horror because, in a weird way, it’s a way to cope with all the real horrors of the world. I can watch a movie with computer generated monsters and for a little while I can escape from the mass shootings, racism, and homophobia in our world. I can handle a fake monster because I know it’s fake. The real world isn’t so easy.

I’ll probably be a horror queen for the rest of my life, and I’m okay with that.

Now, I’m going back out. I need to catch me a Gastly.

-EMS