horror

All posts in the horror category

SJ Reads: Krampus Shadow of Saint Nicholas

Published December 11, 2017 by admin

Time once again to visit a holiday book for the season, and keeping with the inadvertent theme, we’re going to look at another graphic novel:

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Note that this is not a comic/novelization covering the same story of the movie, though it is set in the same universe. If you like the movie, you’ll probably like the comic, and vice versa. Honestly, I think this even fleshes out the movie a little bit and gives more of a reasoning to things that happen there – it kinda gives a slightly different vibe to the last scene, because you have more of a sense of the full scope of things that are going on (and although it’s mostly subtext, I felt like there’s more of a feel of why, too).

This is somewhat more like Trick R Treat than Krampus, in that it combines different narratives in an almost anthology feel, but does a better job of blending them into one narrative at the end. A down-and-out mall Santa, a cop who runs into the person who ruined his life, and a rich businessman each earn a visit from Krampus, and each have to do their part to ward off the anti-santa and his minions and save the town’s Christmas.

If you love the over-the-top aspects of the movie like the evil toys and elves and such, you get much more of that here. You also get to see more of the realm inside Krampus’s sack, and honestly I feel like the limits were pushed much further here at times than in the movie. You also definitely get a moral – this isn’t just bizarreness for its own sake. Though it does feel like it almost runs away with itself at times, the creators do a great job at reining things in toward the end and giving the reader a fulfilling, complete journey. Definitely a great companion to the film, though you don’t have to see it to appreciate the book. I honestly read this long before I saw the movie and loved it a lot. Probably best for teens on up and those who like horror/can have a sense of humor about the holidays, this is a fun title that’s every bit as quirky and creepy as the film it springs from.

 

 

 

 

 

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Free fic, reviews, and all that fun stuff

Published December 7, 2017 by admin

It’s time to see what I’ve been up to whilst I was Nano-ing last month!

Ghosts

No matter the time of year, this is a great read that combines family and the supernatural. As always, Raina Telgemeier weaves interesting plot with relatable characters. Read my full review for Books by Violet here!

 

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Also for Books by Violet, I talk about a manga series that would be great to introduce kids to the medium. What happens when Takuya has to help shoulder the responsibility of raising his younger brother, even though he’s still a kid, himself? A lot of feelings, a lot of growing up, and a lot of hilarity. If you like cute titles and are interested in giving manga a go, definitely check out the full review. 

 

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Because I will scream about this series until everyone reads it, I’m talking about Natsume’s Book of Friends on I Smell Sheep. Another great intro to manga, this series has more of a paranormal bent, but it also episodic so you can really start anywhere without feeling the pressure to hit every volume. Beautiful art combines with emotional plots, humor, and just the right amount of tension in this story about an orphan trying to repair his grandmother’s legacy and while learning to be more like a human and less like the spirits only he seems to be able to see. Read the full review here

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Back for another round of the Ladies of Horror flash picture prompt project! This was my image this month, and man did I have a blast coming up with a story to fit! Be sure to check out what I came up with!

 

 

Happy Krampusnacht!

Published December 5, 2017 by admin

It’s that time of year! By which I mean Krampusnacht.

And if you don’t know who Krampus is…SIGH. Here: This will help. It really pains me that there are so many amazing Christmas monsters out there (No, seriously, you have no idea. There are loads) and yet people really aren’t aware of it. While I’m still working on my campaigns for some of the others, I can totally help celebrate today.

If you didn’t click the link, basically in certain parts of Europe, Krampus is Santa’s malevolent helper who punishes the bad kids, sometimes by beating them, other times by putting them in his sack and dragging them to Hell, usually on the day before St. Nicholaus’s feast day. So,you know, festive. Basically he was the precursor to the whole coal in your stocking deal.

To celebrate today, feel free to check out an old flash/in progress bit that I’ll probably finish at some point: Krampus Waits. 

And, y’know, be good and all of that, because you never know who’s going to come knocking on your door this time of year…

 

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It pains me that we weren’t both wearing Santa hats in this.

 

SJ Reads Bonus: Tomie by Junji Ito

Published October 26, 2017 by admin

For whatever reason, I haven’t really been getting into too much that falls into the realm of horror this year, until very recently. A friend and I got talking about manga and I mentioned that I admittedly fall more into the shojo-type reader (for better or worse), and because he knew I really like horror and wanted to diversify, he recommended the work of Junji Ito. At the moment, Tomie was the first book by Ito I was able to get my hands on, so I brought it home with little expectations, figuring it might kill an evening during a stressful week.

Holy. Balls.

This book…this book…

Tomie

This book had a slightly slow start for me, but once it got going, it really sucked me in. We begin at Tomie’s funeral, where we learn she’s been hacked to pieces by a psychopath, leaving behind her grieving friend and boyfriend. And the teacher she had an affair with. And other classmates who weren’t too fond of her. And by the way, it was her class that killed her after an accident. And then she comes back to class the day after her funeral like nothing has happened.

And that’s just the first story.

The really interesting thing about Tomie, is not just that she’s beautiful, but that she isn’t what I’d call a typical horror monster. I think she’s referred to as a succubus, but I don’t think that’s a really accurate term for whatever this thing is – if there is an actual term for it. There’s also a really clever, repeated use of her name throughout, so you don’t have to name her as a creature or thing – she’s Tomie. She’s not necessarily out to suck the life from someone or anything else…if anything, she craves other people’s attention. And the more they give to her, the more she wants, until she drives them so mad that they commit murder..which usually ends up being her.

You would not think you could fill a book with stories about this, but Ito does it. And they’re unsettling, uncomfortable, and diverse. You have two hikers who find her frozen while they’re looking for the one hiker’s missing brother. You have the two girls who find the strands of Tomie’s hair that one girl’s father has kept and end up infecting their whole class with bits of Tomie. You have medical experiments, a young boy torn between Tomie and his mother, a girl who is manipulated various times by her, a strange salesman selling bits of Tomie to create a mass amount of her to infect the world, a warped plan of vengeance….it just goes on and on.

Really, that’s where it’s effective as a volume. It wears you out. It just keeps going, and you can’t stop reading. You want someone to come out on top against her and just when you think it happens…the other shoe drops.

The art is magnificent for horror manga – Ito really pulls out all the stops. I will say, having become used to shojo style art, it was a little bit of a switch for me, but very quickly the art becomes more detailed and expressive once you’re let loose on the roller coaster. This stuff is over-the-top, dramatic, gory, and monstrous. The different forms Tomie takes, the way she regrows, or reforms herself, plus the variety of her deaths as people desperately fight back…it’s a lot to take in. The sheer amount of different ways Tomie regenerates and clones herself, the different expressions of people as they lose their minds, the different ways they try to rid themselves of Tomie through terror and love…it’s intense.

And really, for me, that’s where the horror came in. Story-wise, all the ways that love is shown to grow manic, obsessive, and toxic is deeply unsettling. The people that you want to cheer for turn horrible, or you just know in the pit of your stomach that they’re going to be victims and be touched forever once Tomie shows up, because once she does there’s no escaping her. There’s no underdog awkward girl coming out on top, no one getting the last laugh. As horrifying as the illustrations are, they were almost cathartic after the tension of watching Tomie manipulate people. She’s intensely cruel and apathetic in turn, her manipulations are really uncomfortable. You’re put in the horrible position as reader as not wanting to cheer for her death, but not quite blaming the other characters when they snap, either.

I think, in horror, it’s common to try to game the story, to have in the back of your mind what you would do, how you would ‘win.’ I just don’t think there’d be any way to win with this creature and the intense, obsessive emotions she provokes just by being around people. And that is absolutely terrifying, especially considering her desire to mutiply and go out into the world – the thought that these stories may not even cover all the multiple Tomies that were made in one of the stories just makes the whole concept even better (and thinking long-term on it so much worse).

What also bothered me with this is that, essentially, the monster is a young woman whose purpose is to get killed repeatedly, so does that propel misogyny and the whole succubus/evil woman stereotype in horror? Usually I’d give an immediate yes, but with this,  I’m honestly not sure. I feel like I should have something to say on that, and yet the story really says as much or more about how other people take to Tomie, about their own inherrent monstrous qualities that are lurking below the surface, as much as whatever she’s supposed to be. Really, no one is innocent in this book, no matter how much they claim to be. Tomie may affect people, but you also get the sense that that desperation is already there, and is drawn out rather than implanted. In some ways, she does have agency – it’s just incredibly twisted.

Still, it does worry me that so much of the theme of this is violence against a woman, even if she obviously is not human and is very much drawing out the reactions of others in a calculated way (you could argue that inciting her own death makes Tomie potentially grow and multiply faster, and as long as she’s not being ignored, she’s somewhat satisfied..if she’s ever satisfied). My own reactions to the book have given me a lot to think about, and I’d be curious to know if there’s supposed to be any further symbolism or anything there, or what the thought process was. This is a book that definitely makes you consider who you are and how you’re reacting to the material, so while I found myself entranced by the story, I was also highly unnerved that I was so taken by it, too. And you get the feeling that that’s the way the character would want it, which also mildly freaks me out.

This book gets under your skin quickly and stays there – it’s definitely haunted me long after reading. A fast read, it also probably isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not one of the most unsettling horror books I’ve read, but I think the visuals help propel it to the unnerving category much quicker than a straight novel. I definitely recommend this one, but be warned – Tomie comes back, and she likes to stick with you.

Guest Post: Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Published October 25, 2017 by admin

So today we’re bringin’ back the guest post for one of my favoite fiends, Emerian Rich!

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What would you do if you could create anything your imagination could think up?
I don’t know about you, but as an artist, I’m often frustrated at the fact that I can’t create exactly what I see in my head. The disconnect between what we can imagine and what my artistic limitations are is something I struggle with as much as the next artist. No wonder artists create one master piece per 3-5 duds that are kept in the workshop, never to see the light of day (or possible purchased by mom).

I was so excited when I decided the gods of my world in Dusk’s Warriors would be able to conjure whatever their imaginations could think up. At last! I would be able to create out of nothing, everything I imagined. But as I sat in front of my blank page and attempted to put those words to paper, I drew a blank. Is the perfection of having carte blanche too much freedom? And how was I to now create in words what I could not create in art?

Once I slapped myself for putting too much pressure on, I figured out a way to bring the joy of conjuring to life. I closed my eyes, turned on my phone voice recorder, and pretended I was Severina, standing in front of her new world. As I imagined conjuring the land of Dusk in my imagination, I spoke aloud what I was seeing in my mind’s eye. I’ve placed an excerpt of conjuring from the book below.

So next time you are struggling with a project, be it art, writing, or music… Take a moment and think about it in another way. Could you write a poem about the piece to convey the emotion you feel? Can you create a song about a writing project? And when you go back after trying it another way, will it come more easily?

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Dusk’s Warriors by Emerian Rich

Heaven has opened up and welcomed the vampires of Night’s Knights into a new reality. As they struggle to find their place in their new world, trouble brews on Earth.

Demon servant, Ridge, is causing havoc by gathering up all the souls on Earth that have been touched by immortality. When he injures one of the Night’s Knights crew, he launches a war between the vampires of Heaven, the Big Bad in Hell, and a mortal street gang of vigilante misfits.

Will Julien, Markham, and Reidar be able to defeat the evil that’s returned, or will they once again need Jespa’s help?

Praise for Dusk’s Warriors:

“All hail, the queen of Night’s Knights has returned! Emerian Rich’s unique take on vampires delights my black little heart.” ~Dan Shuarette, Lilith’s Love

“A world of horror with realistic characters in a fast paced thriller you won’t be able to put down.”

~David Watson, The All Night Library

Praise for Night’s Knights:

“Fresh, original, and thoroughly entertaining.” ~Mark Eller, Traitor

“Emerian brought the Vampire Novel back from the dead.” ~C. E. Dorsett, Shine Like Thunder

Available now at Amazon.com in print and eBook

https://www.amazon.com/Dusks-Warriors-Nights-Knights-Vampire/dp/1544628803

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Emerian Rich is an artist, horror host, and author of the vampire series, Night’s Knights. She is the hostess of the internationally acclaimed podcast, HorrorAddicts.net. Under the name Emmy Z. Madrigal, she writes the musical romance series, Sweet Dreams and she’s the Editorial Director for the Bay Area magazine, SEARCH. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

 

 

The Dread is in the Details

Published October 12, 2017 by admin

There are a lot of things that make horror horror: certain tropes and cliches, different archetype/stock characters, playing up emotional reactions, gore, playing up the action and danger, writing what some people might call at least dangerous or sometimes taboo…

Those are all part of it. But let’s not forget the role of environment and description, hrm?

Admittedly, I love immersive fiction. I want to lose myself in a story, whether it’s something more or less happy like Little House on the Prarie (depending on which book you read), or something more along the lines of Clive Barker. A good book is a good book, and will put you right in the world.

And if it’s horror, it will make you want to run away from that world and hope you can escape before you can remember to just close the stinkin’ book.

Not that I have any experience with that. Ahem.

I’m not sure if it puts me back into a childlike mindset where everything is big and huge and intense, or if it’s just the mark of good writing preying on my human weaknesses, but either way, I dig it. I love that Neil Gaiman really goes into overdrive describing his Midwest settings and people in American Gods. Part of what makes Hellbound Heart and other Clive Barker titles sing is that he really digs in and describes the grotesque in almost loving detail. Part of Stephen King’s genius is really making sure you know all about the town of Derry in It – it’s history, geography, mythology. Plus, he makes sure every character is a full person – to an almost painful degree. That’s the only way we can really feel terrified for them, because if he wrote something to the extent of ‘So then the clown turned into a werewolf and chased after the kids on the bike..” Yeah, no. Granted, that summarizes a good few pages, but it really doesn’t convey the intensity of that scene, or the personal stakes.

When I have the wordcount, I really try to play certain sequences in my head. If I can see them, then translate that into words, I have a much better chance of getting my readers to feel the tension I’m feeling. Mooner more or less takes place in one room, but I made myself really go through that story bit by bit. Everything effects the mood: character description, dialogue and word choice, the phyiscal description of the title character, the emotions conveyed in the motivations for the final reveal…I want my readers to feel the freezing, barren winter, to really get a sense of how dangerous that time period was. Little things really mattered and sometimes made the difference between life and death back then, and it was important to bring as much attention to that as possible, so that when things do go down, the reader gets just what all is at stake.

Although Olde School is technically a mix of genres, I really wanted the scene where Paddlelump discovers dangerous things happening in his woods to be extremely vivid. The reveals just keep coming, so I mentally walked that path with him over and over and over, paying attention to what would be around him, under him, above him, and the thoughts that were going on inside him. You have to be somewhat hyper aware of setting and character and marry those together into something cohesive that also isn’t too bogged down by detail. Every leaf, every crunching footstep, every odd, dripping substance plays into winding up for the rest of the scene, and I picked and chose what to include through how they made me feel when I married to the action of the sequence.

It’s like how the cab of a roller coaster is slowly, slowly pulled up to the top of the first hill – that’s, essentially, what really good description does in horror – it gets you ready to have the bottom dropped out from underneath you and launches you onward through all the crazy stuff. You need the slow tug and pull to prepare you for what comes next. You need that description so you’re submersed enough that the horror elements do what they’re supposed to.

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Wanna see for yourself? Check out my 1800’s-era vampire story, Mooner, to see how details build a bigger picture.

If you’re more fantasy minded (or like some dark elements with your fantasy), then definitely check out Olde School.

SJ Reads Bonus: Afterlife with Archie

Published October 7, 2017 by admin

afterlife

 

Like I said, I can’t not talk about horror in October…

I touched on The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina a little while ago, so I can’t exactly ignore Afterlife With Archie. I picked the thing up because it looked so weird, I couldn’t really not read it. Even so, I left it sit around for a while, figuring that I’d be putting myself through a gag title, and did I really have time for that.

And then I opened it up.

Askfdajlfaj;dajlfdajldfs is a safe approximation of my reaction.

Seriously, it’s one of the best horror titles I’ve read in a long time, and I still don’t understand how the really good horror titles are coming out of the Archie properties. Not only are these things holding their own with other, more recognizable titles, but in a lot of cases their overall sense of story and character development is better. 

The basic premise is that Reggie hits and kills Hot Dog with his car. Despondant, Jughead has Sabrina help bring his dog back to life. Thus starts the zombie outbreak. I mean, this could easily go so many ways of stupid…but it doesn’t. There are moments of humor, but it’s definitely got its horrific side. I love how there are little moments with all the characters grasping at what’s going on and how it’s affecting their relationships, whether it’s Archie’s feelings about his dad, or Veronica’s thoughts on Betty and on and on. I’ve only read through volume one, but the thought that these kids are hiding out as the whole town falls victim to the contagion…it’s intense. And it’s never really played like ‘oh ha ha, look at these cartoon characters be victimized, pretty gross, amirite?’ There’s care taken with the different story lines. Granted, it had been forever since I’ve really delved into the world of Riverdale (the eighties cartoon series is about the extent of my knowledge), but it does a really good job of conveying the basics very quickly. I didn’t really feel like I was missing anything, and I felt like I picked up on all the subtext and things I was supposed to know about to get the full range of the title.

The art isn’t as malevolent as Sabrina, but in some ways that lends itself to a really surreal feeling. You kind of forget that you’re reading about freakin’ Archie, or you forget that this is a storyline that really shouldn’t be happening in this universe, until you sit back and it all comes together and hits you.

It’s a suprisingly good blend, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes.

Get vol 1 here