There are scary movies – movies with scenes that make you jump and shriek. Scenes that make you cover your eyes – although that’s usually because somebody’s being dismembered onscreen.
Then there are movies that disturb you so deeply you can’t go home. That’s what happened to me back in 1983, when I had a solo movie night with THE ENTITY, starring Barbara Hershey. It’s taken from a supposedly true story involving a young single mother whose home was invaded by an invisible entity that raped her repeatedly over a period of months. In the film version, she enlists the help of a group of paranormal investigators who are at first skeptical… and then come to believe her.
Sometimes, when you live alone, the night gets very, very dark. I watched this movie at the theater knowing I’d need to go home by myself… in the dark. I don’t honestly believe in supernatural home-invading entities, but THE ENTITY got under my skin so deeply that I couldn’t face being alone. Instead, I went across the road to another theater and detoxed with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. That eased my fears somewhat, but I still slept with a light on that night.
I don’t know if the movie would have the same impact on a guy, but… maybe. Turn out the lights, make sure you’re alone, and give it a try. I dare you. 🙂
I’ve always figured, no one knows how to do “creepy” like the British – and that’s particularly true of this little book, which originally came out in 1963. I bought it five years later for the princely sum of 50 cents, and have held on to it as one of my favorites ever since.
OUR MOTHER’S HOUSE is the story of the seven Hook children, who are left on their own when their mother dies suddenly. Rather than take the chance of being sent to an orphanage, they decide to bury their mother in the back yard and pretend she’s still alive, supporting themselves with monthly trust fund checks that one of the boys endorses in his mother’s name. All goes more or less well for a few months… and then their mother’s shiftless ex-husband appears.
The story is eerie and disturbing, particularly when the children turn on one of their siblings for daring to interact with a stranger – and in the way they respond to the father they’ve never really known. It’s a tale that will grab you around the throat and hold on, so masterfully told that it will stay with you years later. It’s not available as an ebook, so you’ll have to buy a used copy for a couple of dollars – but it’s well worth the trouble. Turn down the lights, start turning the pages… and start wondering if you can really trust your kids. Or your siblings.
Even people much younger than I am know about The Twilight Zone. Some genre fans have probably heard about The Outer Limits. But there was another series on TV at around the same time – the supremely creepy One Step Beyond, hosted by John Newland.
Like its TV siblings, OSB was a black-and-white anthology series with a different cast and a different story in each episode. Unlike the other two shows, though, its host claimed that the stories being told had actually happened. Combine that with eerie music and a lot of characters terrified by hauntings, precognition, astral projection, and mysterious disappearances and you have a show that scared the bejeebers out of little grade-school me.
Nicely written and directed, featuring a roster of fine performers, the show holds up well 55 years after its initial run. Some of the episodes are more eerie than others, and the anecdotes the episodes are based on date back a long time – but if you’re intrigued by a man predicting the 1906 San Francisco earthquake the day before it happened, a house from which a number of people mysteriously vanished, a little girl who’s apparently possessed by the spirit of a dead neighbor, and a lonely woman who’s befriended by a man who died long before she was born, then the inexpensive DVD sets of this terrific series are a great investment for you! (There are a number of different collections available at Amazon – click the photo to see one of them – and you can also find the individual episodes on YouTube.)
Tomorrow, I’ll take a look at one of my favorite scary books!
It’s October – my birthday month, the month of Halloween, and the advent of longer, colder nights. What better time to blog about… what scares me? Actually, what’s scared me throughout my life in books, movies and TV shows. I’ll be reviewing a lot of creepy stuff, so turn on a couple more lights to ward off the shadows and dig in – I hope you’ll find some new scary goodies to enjoy!
Go ahead… tell me this picture isn’t scary! Especially so for a 6-year-old who happened to see a trailer for VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED on a black-and-white TV and had nightmares for weeks afterward.
It’s the story of a small town in England where suddenly, mysteriously, everyone passes out. Weeks later, all the women of childbearing age discover they’re pregnant – and they give birth to oddly platinum blond children with mind control powers. Where did they come from? What do they want? No one knows… and no one dares to upset them, because they’ll kill to protect themselves.
65 years after its premiere, VOTD is still nicely creepy, and worth curling up with on a rainy afternoon. The first 10 minutes or so, when outsiders are trying to figure out what’s going on in the village, are beautifully photographed and paced. After that, things get a little overly melodramatic, and the film never actually answers a number of questions. But that’s not the point. What VOTD does best is pose those questions: What if the place you thought was safe… suddenly isn’t? What if your child (who might not be your child at all) turns out to be a threat not only to you, but the entire town? And how far are you willing to go to solve the problem?
You can find VOTD on Amazon by clicking the poster image. (You can also find it on YouTube, if you don’t mind its being broken up into 15 five-minute segments.) Or, if the concept intrigues you, you could try the remake with Christopher Reeve and Kirstie Alley, although it just pads and pretty much goofs up a compact, eerie little movie. VOTD no longer terrifies me the way it did when I was 6, but it’s well worth a watch. So grab some popcorn, turn off the lights, and start wondering about your kids…
Apparently, there’s nothing I like better than going against the flow – ignoring all the rules and “must do”s when it comes to writing and publishing new books. So of course, this new one doesn’t follow the rules either.
It’s science fiction – no argument there. But is it YA? I guess you could say so, since one of the main characters is a 16-year-old girl. On the other hand, the other MC is a 30-year-old shuttle pilot. So if you like YA, there’s something here you might enjoy. And if you don’t like YA… there are other characters to follow. The best I can tell you is, it’s a story about family, and friendship – as are most of my stories – and following your best instincts. It’s a story about people. Tough to fit into a box… like most of us unpredictable humans!
For 16-year-old Emilie Hale, life has been good. She and the other residents of New Phoenix are confined inside the walls of their colony, but it’s a colorful place where very little ever goes wrong… at least for the humans. For the Uuvali, the planet’s original residents, things are a little more complicated. They’ve been working as helpers and servants for the past two hundred years, which they’ve been glad to do. They’re quiet, gentle and kind.
They’re also easy to blame.
To Emilie’s horror, when the colony’s infrastructure begins to break down, the adults around her begin to point to the Uuvali as the cause of their problems, calling them lazy, sloppy, and vindictive, and no one is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Not until a handsome supply shuttle pilot arrives for a visit does Emilie find an ally, someone who’s willing to ask questions – particularly of the woman he once loved, the woman everyone thinks is in charge.
Neither Emilie nor Fleet Lieutenant Gain Ford ever wanted to be a hero, but they find themselves thrust into that position when no one else will speak up. If they do nothing, New Phoenix and the thousands of Uuvali will fall victim to a madman… someone who would like nothing better than to see the entire colony burn to the ground.
Interested? It’s only 99 cents for its first 2 weeks on Amazon! Just click the cover image to go to the Amazon listing page.
I got some very cool news the other day – my book Wrapped Around Her Little Finger has been nominated for a 2015 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBooks Award!
To celebrate the nomination, the book is FREE at Amazon throughout Memorial Day weekend (through Monday)! It’s a collection of stories about a dad’s relationship with his daughter from birth to her wedding day – upbeat, sweet, and funny. Here’s a little excerpt:
“Day,” Annie says mournfully.
“Day,” of course, means “Daddy” in Annie-speak, which is something like Filipino. Or Hawaiian. Lots of extra vowels, or missing consonants, whichever way you want to look at it. Since Mike – who went through childhood with about eight thousand nicknames, some of them cute and clever and some of them bloodcurdling – will answer to pretty much anything, he’s never made an issue of the missing Ds. There are a lot worse things the kid could be calling him.
He considers the issue for a minute, the fact that nobody ever said, “Don’t turn on the lights.” What they (what Lindsay) said was, it didn’t make sense to have them on during the day.
Annie whoops and crows when Mike jams the plug into the socket and a thousand tiny lights come twinkling to life.
“You and me, sister,” Mike tells her conspiratorially. “If somebody asks, we’ve got no idea who did that.”
Check it out! (Just click the cover photo or the book title to go straight to Amazon.) I hope you enjoy it. 🙂
A story for grownups about the mysteries of growing up…
Everybody needs a friend. Eleven-year-old Billy Patterson and his little brother Charlie certainly understand that — until they meet Henry, they’ve got no one to hang out with but each other. Henry loves to explore, and the Patterson boys are more than willing to join him on his adventures. It’s the best possible way to spend a summer.
But there are problems: The boys have been told to stick close to their grandfather’s home. And, well… Henry’s not a typical little boy.
His name is Matthew. He’s an A.I. – artificial intelligence, an android who looks fully human. He walks, talks and interacts just like a human teenager. He has feelings, just like a human.
But that’s not enough for some of the members of the community he lives in, and it’s not enough for two visiting teenagers he’s been asked to escort. To them, he’s just a machine – which means they’re free to do with him whatever they choose, even if it means taking part in a game that might destroy him.
His name is Matthew, and he’s desperate to survive. Desperate for someone to care.
A few weeks ago, someone e-mailed me to ask if I’d do a blog post advising students how to succeed in the Big Wide World of Business. Should they learn how to “rock that interview”? Become familiar with the latest software applications? Et cetera, et cetera. I was too busy to do a post when the request came in, but I’ve given the subject matter a lot of thought.
Succeed in the working world?
Learn how to make the other guy look good. It’s not about what (or how much) you know, no matter what field you choose to go into. It’s — forever and always — about the other guy. Make their job easier. Help them look like the greatest bundle of awesome that ever awesomed, and you’re guaranteed a solid spot on the company totem pole. More than likely, you’ll score some rewards: raises, promotions, nicer Christmas gifts.
But where will YOU be? The real you. The authentic you. The you that you’ve always dreamed of being – the one who feels fulfilled, satisfied, content, happy. That’s the real challenge in the working world: is it possible to keep the other guy looking like a star without completely burying yourself in the process?
I was part of the 9-to-5 thing for 38 years, beginning just a few weeks after I graduated from college. My dad had ingrained in me the rule that Thou Must Always Have a Job — not necessarily a great job, or even the right job, but A Job — so I was both pleased and disgruntled when a vacation at the lake was interrupted by a phone call that said Come now, and start working. That was the beginning of almost four decades of Making the Other Guy Look Good, and watching myself become more and more buried.
See… I’m a writer. I’m also a variety of other things (daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, consumer, viewer), but in my heart of hearts I’m a writer. A storyteller. I’m the most content, the most at peace, and feel the most complete when I’m writing. When I can’t write, I feel as if I’m being locked away from a loved one. So whenever I could, during those 38 years in the corporate world, I used little bits of time to tell stories. A day felt like a success not if I managed to put together a pile of legal briefs or sales flyers, but if I found the time to write a page or two (or twenty). Over and over, I searched for jobs that would allow me to write… something. During one job interview, I was promised that I’d be able to contribute to the company newsletter. Did that happen? It did not. The best I was ever able to manage was drafting boilerplate business letters — not at all an exercise in creativity.
I had a regular paycheck. I had “a good job.” (Actually, I had seven good jobs, not counting the soul-killing temp assignments, during one of which I had to pick up a Fleet Enema kit for a boss who seemed determined to make me feel Less Than.) But I never felt like a success. I tried my best to make all the other guys look good, because I was trained to fit into that age-old image of The Good Girl, the quiet, obedient helper and listening post and whipping boy(girl) — even when it was killing me. The whole time, I kept writing. I published two books and a long list of fanzines, shared hundreds of stories online… and no one really took that seriously. After all, it wasn’t my Real Job. It wasn’t the thing that brought in the cash.
Finally, I hit the wall. I’d been looking at retirement, figuring it was still a few years off, years I thought I could manage. But reality was looking me in the face. I was about to turn 60, a point at which we have to admit that what remains of the journey is much shorter than what’s already gone by. I started to ask myself, When do I get my chance? When do I get to nurture the real me? I didn’t know when that would be, and I started to panic. Literally: I had a panic attack. My hands trembled uncontrollably, and my vision got foggy. I had to struggle not to throw up.
That evening, I decided that enough was enough.
This past May, I said sayonara to the business world, to being constrained by office hours and limited space and other people’s needs and whims. I became my own boss. Now, the person I’m trying to make look good is me. And finally, I feel at peace. I feel like I’m nurturing the person I’ve always tried to be, the one who tells stories. Finally, I feel like a success.
So…what advice would I give to a student who’s about to enter the working world? Do you need to “rock that interview”? Do you need to become a master of the latest software? Sure. Go ahead. Do that. But at the same time, be aware of the most important person on your team: yourself. If you ignore who and what you really are, you’ll never be content. You’ll probably start marking time, and complaining to your family and friends that Oh my f-ing god, I HATE MY JOB. Which isn’t to say it’ll be easy to find work that fulfills you – or at the very least, doesn’t make you want to walk in front of a moving train. Chances are, you won’t find a job that makes you want to hurtle out of bed in the morning…but do look for something, somewhere in your life, that gives your soul a chance to speak. Find time for that. MAKE time for that. Write. Draw. Compose. Sculpt. Garden.
That’s how you succeed. That’s how you’ll survive. And with luck, you’ll find the right opportunity to shine on your own terms while you’re still sane enough to enjoy it. So go forth, young Skywalkers, and make the other guy look good. But don’t ever lose sight of yourself.
If you’ve kept up with my ramblings here at the blog, you know that most of my writing revolves around the theme of family – and relationships in general. The entire time I’ve been writing, what’s interested me the most is how we relate to each other, how we bring each other joy and sorrow, encouragement, fulfillment, or pain and depression. In examining that I look at siblings, friends, parents and children, and lovers, through the lens of contemporary life, science fiction, horror, supernatural mystery… basically, whatever seems to work best as a backdrop.
So when a good friend asked if I’d take a crack at a loving gay relationship, after a bit of thought I decided, “Why not?” I’ve had gay characters in the background of stories before, but this time, I’ve moved them front-and-center, and the result is If Not for Charlie.
A short, sweet gay romance, about summers of love and loss…
Jeremy Cole is a success, by anyone’s standards: he runs a popular online magazine, and two of his books have hit the best-seller lists. Though he’s quiet and a little clumsy, his family and friends adore him. But throughout his life, he’s known there was something missing – the person who would make him complete. Someone he met years ago, during a summer he spent at the lake with his grandparents. Someone who sent him postcards and dozens of little gifts, someone who led him on great adventures… and then disappeared from his life, only to return a decade later. Someone who comes and goes on a whim, chasing a goal Jeremy can’t begin to understand.
After his grandmother’s death, Jeremy is faced with selling his family’s treasured summer home – and with deciding, once and for all, what to do about Charlie, the only man he’s ever loved.
It’s been gathering a nice amount of interest since I published it yesterday, and I hope the readers who’ve picked it up are enjoying it. It’s not steamy; like most of my other work it’s… let’s say “safe for work.” There’s no salty language, but there’s a hearty dose of angst. And… oh yeah. A happy ending. Spread the word. 😉