What music inspires you to horror?

Poster from Johannascheezburger.com via Halloween Mike's Horror Everyday on Facebook.
Poster from Johannascheezburger.com via Halloween Mike’s Horror Everyday on Facebook.

For the first time in a long time, I was listening to CDs on the car stereo as I drove back from Farmington (New Mexico) on the 14th, when I started feeling once again the latent but powerful emotions I associate with certain songs.  The songs in question were Puddle of Mudd’s “Spaceship” from Songs in the Key of Love and Hate and “Would?” from Alice in Chains’s Dirt.  When I was not that much younger than I am now, I used to listen to a broad range of music (from classical to hard rock to New Age and more) almost constantly.  Therefore it will not be surprising if I state that others that stir me range from ACDC’s “Back in Black” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” to  Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and, for a complete change of pace, to Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” and Michael Gettel’s San Juan Suite, both of which seem to stir not a tumult of emotions, but instead have the opposite effect and cause me to almost drift away on a sea of tranquility.

As I am sure is the case with most people, I find all my favorite songs enjoyable, but there were, and still are, some that stir me deeply and can even now resurrect feelings of intense excitement and passion as if I were reliving my “Glory Days” (which, by the way, is an excellent Springsteen tune that really hits home these days).

Out of those that stir my emotions the most, are a select group that have a certain je ne sais quois, a combination of primal rhythm, deep-toned vocalization, and soul-stirring guitar riffs,  that do not stimulate the intellect as much as they instigate remote, subconscious parts of the mind to coalesce into a riot of images shaping themselves into the essential kernel of some grim tale that I know I can nurture, expand, and carefully, painstakingly mold into a narrative that would enthrall Dante or Milton–had I the time or unswerving diligence to concentrate on its writing.

“Enter Sandman” by Metallica is an excellent example of this.  Even though the song is about the destruction of a family (according to Wikipedia), something about it compels me to write an intricate novel of espionage, assassination, betrayal, deception, and the inner horrors of the human psyche that paces back and forth in the recesses of my mind like a tiger in a cage, watching for an opportunity to spring forth into the light of day upon an unsuspecting yet willing audience.   I have probably  20,000-30,000 or more words in the current draft of this story and I will probably trash most of these the next time I sit down to tackle this task.    One day I will have to dedicate myself to finishing the story, because this is the only way I know I will be able to rid myself of the tiger’s pacing and of his relentless stare that bores into the back of my neocortex.  As my life stands now, between chores at home and working 50-60 hours per week at my day job, I can find little time during an average week to work on the various short stories, novelettes, and novellas I have started over the past year.

Sad to say, I have two or three good novels that have been waiting over a decade or more for their genesis.  Probably with each of them I associate some tune from my more turbulent past, if not with the entire work, then with at least some scene that plays over and over in my head like a teaser clip from a movie trailer.

For me, this is one of the delicious agonies of being a writer.  I have so many fascinating concepts whirling through my head that I just know instinctively can be great works and that I enjoy revisiting whenever I have a few seconds to daydream but the lack of time in my daily life stymies their creation.

My question to you tonight, is are there musical works that inspire you to create works of horror and terror?

“The Most Common Mistakes in English Usage”

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Unfortunately, I have been so busy lately that I have not had very much time to write or to post anything new of any substance.   However, to polish my writing skills I have been perusing The Most Common Mistakes in English Usage by Thomas Berry during some of my few free moments.  Although the book is nearly ancient by today’s standards (first copyrighted in 1961) and some of the advice is certainly well behind the times, I find it is still quite a useful reference, because much of the advice focuses on the exact meaning of words as well as the basics of English.

Unless you are a grammar aficianado, the book is by no means an exciting read, and I would not call it entertaining, but it can pique one’s interest with discussions of the subtleties in the meanings of common words, words I normally take for granted.  One word discussed that is undoubtedly used by writers of horror frequently is “sadistic”.  In his chapter “Words Commonly Misused” Professor Berry notes:

“The word ‘sadistic” refers to a form of sexual perversion.  Only careless writers and speakers use it to mean ‘strong interest in gory details’.”

Whether you agree with his assessment or not, it should be enough to pique one’s interest enough to ask yourself if you are using the nuances of the word to your advantage.

Another assessment I found interesting was that of “livid”.  According to Professor Berry:

“The word ‘livid’ means ‘a bluish color,’ ‘of the color of lead’, or the ‘black and blue coloring of flesh that has received a contusion’.  This word is commonly used to mean other colors. Also, the word ‘livid’ is absolute and consequently, one object cannot be ‘more livid’ than another.”

Other bits of sage advice that I find useful in giving my writing a poetic undercurrent concerns positioning modifiers in a sequence either by length or by logical order.

“Whenever possible, modifiers should be arranged according to length, with the shortest preceding the others.

Uneven:  It was a battered, worn, broken desk.

Better:  It was a worn, broken, battered desk. “

And

“Modifiers should always be arranged in a logical sequence.

Wrong:  As the days wore on, he became tired, bored, and exhausted.  (Wrong because he probably became bored before he became tired.)

Right:  As the days wore on, he became bored, tired, and exhausted.

Even if Professor Berry’s advice or attitudes may be out of date or not in line with current thinking, I recommend reading The Most Common Mistakes in English Usage if for no other reason than just to start the creative juices flowing and to start one thinking about how to maximize the use of the subtleties of grammar and meaning to their fullest effects.

Thoughts?  Comments?

My Poem “Faust” Will Be Reprinted

I just received word that my poem “Faust” will be reprinted in the July issue (#53) of Blood Moon Rising Magazine.  My many heartfelt thanks go out to Daniel Jones and the staff at Blood Moon Rising for publishing one of my favorite works.  Please visit their website whenever you have the opportunity.